Monday, January 22, 2018

women march...a continuum

somewhere near the maumee river
in downtown toledo ohio in 1956
my mother with her large handbag
over her shoulder and our hands
moving together like poetry
passing out flyers
for adlai stevenson
a small crowd would gather
     ya know my mother was a real looker
and then her voice would rise above the mumble
     "o.k. shopworkers, this is the time for change
     take a flyer & pass it on...and don't forget to
     support bud ashley for congress."

or the time my mother
     from the housewares department
& the women clerks from tiedtke's department store
marched out on strike for several days
because the company refused to renew
a contract with the workers
and my mom seeing every sales woman
from every floor pour out of the doors
and stand in the street
all heads up high
& my mom saying we're going to win
this one
and we did

so even though i walked with
mister zimmerman to shul on many friday nights
     he & his wife lived upstairs & owned the old frame house
     we lived in downstairs on moore street
i wasn't brought up with what you might call orthodoxy
in fact when i asked my cousin
     "well, what does your family believe in"
she gave me the most direct answer
     that's all?
yeah she answered
that's plenty

--- e b bortz

Saturday, January 20, 2018

earth note 557

for this morning moment
the ice still makes a bond
with the earth
a bond of physics
but also a bond of commitment

does anyone doubt this alliance

doubt at our own risk

before the invasion of turtle island
the hemlocks along the ohio valley
were a pathway to enlightenment

the hemlocks are mostly gone now
eaten by moneychangers
traded for bloodstained fur and airports

enlightenment can't be forced
the earth is more than a physical space
there's a river waiting for new direction

touch and taste are more than senses

--- e b bortz

Monday, January 15, 2018

under the crow wing

during the hot cold war
of the 1950s
the strategic air command
rattled every schoolhouse
in america with sonic booms & flyovers

our teacher ordered us
to hide under desks
& line up in basement hallways
stand straight & firm against

often i thought
where's the courage
to face down the nukes
at high noon with a smile on your face
and that last deep breath
of the earth on your lips
as you had come
to love it

'cause ya know a bomb shelter
is only as good as
its madison avenue deception

if you've got family jewels
don't bother hiding them

crows make their flight path
they're survivors     they'll find a way
the markets will crash on the plain
of inter-continental-ballistic-missile-claptrap

there's no more money
     in fear

--- e b bortz

Friday, January 12, 2018

earth note 556

wild mountain thyme, yellowstone

the clancy brothers & tommy makem
will lead you to the heather
     the origin of eternal awe
     looking for a holy truth
     rolling with the river
finding one
of many questions

--- e b bortz

Thursday, January 11, 2018

earth note 555

gros ventre to the grand tetons

you've been chosen
like the summer grass
waving and brushing your insides
there are butterflies
like an opening performance
is a buffalo

--- e b bortz

Monday, January 08, 2018

so you think you have a way of remembering

surat thani thailand, 1989

without the painful wince
     doesn't happen that way
it all originates
from a whole heart
     every cell
free to imagine
     every mango
where the sunset makes it
to the lip of the ocean
bloody at times
deep in orange tears
where the undertow
always draws you in

the language is soft
as a rubber tree
singing rice offerings
and small browning bananas

you drove the scooter with steady hands
your straight black hair blowing through
     to my face
weaving into every steamy back alley
& market stall
     i rode
     spooned in the small of your back

there was ginger and curry
rising off the streets

--- e b bortz

Saturday, January 06, 2018

quick tour

who would of thought
a couple of french women
would break off from a
hotel lobby full
of artist-hippie-proletarian french travelers
to ask me on an elevator
where's a good place for coffee

i know pickup lines when i hear them
and believe me
this wasn't one
my own non-expert palate
staying sheepishly silent
after the pissy new york coffee experience
     next door
which just about drove me
to abstinence

--- e b bortz

(published in earth notes and other poems, Least Bittern Books, 2015)

Friday, December 29, 2017

i don't fit in the russia box

where i can't breathe
and even if i'm adverse to violence
there's still a good left arm and fist
to smash a hole right on through
all the way to the senate paper tigers
cardboard mannequins
bought and paid for
filthy money so-called lesser-evil
saboteur foundations

the short bare-chested guy
needs to ride a real horse
like one of those wild free stallions
near the montana-canada border
like in a solzhenitsyn siberia winter

orange-hair can then double up
take up the rear
his mouth a completed anus
for everyone
childlike vicious
their trigger-fingers
a thumb
they can jointly
suck on

--- e b bortz

Saturday, December 23, 2017

earth note 554

winter solstice 2017

near the gulf shore
there's a misnamed
     backcountry trail
cleanly paved and all

so i take the deer path
when i see droplets
inhale the brush
the quiet beneath the traffic

fully exhaling
like a qi gong practitioner
might whisper

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

back in the day, hank williams lived a couple hours up the road

before elvis and long before dylan
when the roads were all two-lane
and the poverty shacks
jumped right out
to the pavement or gravel 
from the black soil
and if you look closely
it's all still there
more hidden
behind tall pines and sawmills
paper mills
abandoned cotton fields
trash burning power plants
     never getting the recycle message

every lonesome whistle voice
jabs you in the ribs
skinny ribs at that
that's not a twang you're hearing
but a moan
by the time summer comes
you won't be sweating
the small things
but looking for a
last-chance way out
from this downward spiral hell
they're trying to sell you
as so-called reform

when the fog finally lifts
hank williams will still be
yodeling from his grave
     in every whistle
     a long refrain

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


can mean a lot of different things
to a lot of different people
plant or animal

start at the beginning
with the original people
living on turtle island

one with the natural world
hands hard but free
until the guns and chains arrived

     if we cannot see this
     there is no purpose
     read no further

the original people
on this original land
were left with:  

flee     fight     reservation     assimilation

and then die
     in this
the original sin

so the malls and freeways followed
the corrupt money
from a world of dirty suits and charlatans

this gets you close to the real
real as the moon
bringing in the tide

where every border falls
on its own weight of deceit
     a natural balancing

walk back to the original forest
away from the chaos
where all else is secondary

where reckoning might begin

--- e b bortz

Monday, December 18, 2017

fog crawled in my inner ear

leaving a message
on the drum
i was expecting it
     the beat that is
so hard to decipher now
in the fog

words will never suffice

it clouds all memory
     the fog that is
not unlike the steam
from a rainforest
or a coconut cluster approaching ripe

you're never sure
when it's time

--- e b bortz

Sunday, December 17, 2017

earth note 553

fort morgan, alabama

traffic to & from the ferry landing
has taken on manic speed
just before the start
of sunday afternoon tv football games
     sweat and beer breath
inching toward kickoff
high stakes terrible towels
flapping in the wind
high rollers
and pay as you go pickup trucks
gunning it
thru the bicycle lane

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

the sun finally shines on mobile bay

to raise enough heads
out of the sand
to see the forest and the savanna
shake off years
of denial

--- e b bortz

Saturday, December 09, 2017

earth note 552

mobile bay

talk is cheap
keep your mouth closed
unless you want the sand
to brush your teeth

ice shears
like alberta clipper
not the best way
to get your coiffure

the sun

--- e b bortz

Thursday, December 07, 2017

earth note 551

gulf of mexico

great blue heron
on a fast break
before cold rain
sets in

each day comes
with mystery
love turns
on simple contradictions

a being is more
than a heartbeat
a wing is freer
than the wind

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

earth note 550

gulf of mexico, alabama

surf crashes home
after a night of southern drawls
and denial

beer is too easy to find
in the grocery stores
no plastic no paper we bring our own

so you give way
to the weakness
like the oil rigs got you by the short hairs

save your bottles
for the recyclers
the sand dunes grow and then disappear

--- e b bortz

Monday, December 04, 2017

summer 1966

a beat-up greyhound
made its way
for thirty-eight teenagers
awakened and restless
off steaming streets
northside pittsburgh
to washington dc
with our banners
jobs not war
right up to the white house
joined by a thousand more
drums and spirits

we were noticed
but not heard

and after the march
i found a ride to a
nearby state park
where we camped
under the biggest dipper
secret kisses
tingling all the way
to my toes
i can't remember too many more details
'cept to say it was

--- e b bortz

Saturday, December 02, 2017

earth note 549

alabama moonshine
takes the 800 ton gorilla
near the beach
at its word

a gas flare is not
a sign from the north church
but a few more paul reveres
or dolphins
might lend a voice

--- e b bortz

Sunday, November 26, 2017

earth note 548

when the soil becomes restless
as it does without warning
it pulls all warmth
out of each of us
digests the nurturing
and toxins alike
waits for an answer
in moonlight
chases the magic
of song
until it becomes
many visions
for the hedonist
to the martyr
from the sophist
to the mechanic

the trees stand limp today
this is a statement
not a fear
it's prudent to let the body
find its own solitude
drink its share
find its own grace

--- e b bortz

Saturday, November 25, 2017

on the anniversary of casablanca

there's a centrifugal storm
of dead and near-dead leaves
on the avenue
even showing up
in the shadows
where outlines blur
sometimes indeterminate
by whispers and intuition
like a fog
or a kiss 
from an old movie

--- e b bortz

Friday, November 24, 2017

earth note 547

eye to eye
wild flowers
find wings

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

every border that rises

is built on a lie
the river gives us water
not a bureaucratic line of demarcation
when was the last time
the first humans
scrawling figures on rock walls
the land and oceans
around them

what's so civil
about property

can ritual
and dogma
be separate

the sun will make us grow
or it will starve us

--- e b bortz

Monday, November 20, 2017

earth note 546

if this was a garden
in korea
it might unleash
a lush potpourri
given half a chance

--- e b bortz

Friday, November 17, 2017

earth note 545

4pm crows
speak loud
like they were getting ready
to flood out of a factory gate
on their way
to a boilermaker

there's usually at least one
that takes the highest perch
barks out directions
reminds everyone
that participation
is appreciated

--- e b bortz

Thursday, November 16, 2017

earth note 544

seoul, 1990

highways rumbled
with weekend escapees
college entry exams for the year
were over
families happy or resigned
to the outcomes

teachers had given it
and everywhere
along the han river
kites found the wind
heard the call
like a resurrection

--- e b bortz