Friday, March 23, 2018

earth note 572

loose tears in the snow
the roof of your mouth is dry
in spite of the sun

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

optimism is a false flag i've decided to burn

i finally said it
not that i've given up
on any just cause
if the song fits the feeling
keep me in the choir
my tongue
has lost a few steps
& there's an extra touch
of bitterness
     we've been unable
     to stop the carnage
and i'm not so sure
when or even if
this will pass

but i'm pretty sure
i've given up
on flags

--- e b bortz

Monday, March 19, 2018

if you could assign a mathematical curve

for a growing ecological awareness
versus a curve
for fossil fuel exploitation
& consumption

make no mistake
these are essentially
two diametrically opposed
human endeavors

at this moment in time
the dark exponential curve of the fossil
is dominant
smothering the gradual green curve
of rising social consciousness

look no further than the 'natural' gas 'fields'
of pennsylvania
or the coal-fired power plant construction of china

the world meets
the planet burns some more
congress is so obedient
they don't warrant a mention

the situation is dire
the curve has jumped off the page
a serial killer out of control
where are the public service announcements
for children and other living things

"don't leave home without your respirator"

--- e b bortz

Sunday, March 18, 2018

earth note 571

the river is a drum
every beat a signal
from the past
the direction of the flow
is not as important
as the origin

there were hands and clay
in the form of riverbanks
before the railroads
the hillsides were lush
campfires spoke
in their native tongue

when the river flooded
there was an exodus
and canoes
higher ground
was always within reach

crops came to the valleys
from original seed
rain brought sun
in perfect proportions
for every empty basket
there were full ones to share

the river is a drum

--- e b bortz

Saturday, March 17, 2018

i'm glad i didn't try & write a poem today

ya know
you're only as good as your last one
so i know when it's time to walk away for awhile
before you cast it
or throw it up
over the internet

sometimes making up bullshit
can be counter-productive
or counter-revolutionary
or both

though i've never seen it
i can imagine
how an apprentice or american idol
might just go on without caring
about ultimate consequences
     for every porta-potty
     there's an advertiser
     trying to sell you shit

but they're not the poets
they're not the stewards


--- e b bortz

Friday, March 16, 2018

recovering notes from the deep, part 17

d had olive skin
     imagine joan baez
but then deserting
her northside roots
for some guy
in the shady side academy

but before all that
she spoke to me
in the hallway
at oliver high school
asking me when i moved
to the northside
and how was it going

it wasn't
since being uprooted
once again
and never adjusting
to the fall hay fever season
and coal dust clouds
rising off the allegheny
monongahela & ohio valleys

everybody at oliver
seemed to have a chip on their shoulder
at one time or another
myself included

and it would be another year
before my attempt at track & football
trading in a trench coat
with the collar turned up
for eventually a letter sweater
with a big orange "o"
but all of that
too late
for d

--- e b bortz

Thursday, March 15, 2018

think then write

is what i've been told
by those in the know

'cept i usually stand it
on its head

with something closer to
write then think

if you keep at it long enough
it'll all shake out like a cobweb

or freewheeling
like a coffee klatch

without a compass
every direction is possible

without a hammer
the noise is never deafening

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

earth note 570

marshall trail

it's still too early
in the year
to tell
among the ravaged
who survived the winter
and who didn't make it

the tree line
looks broken in parts
gaps like missing teeth

broken branches and new buds
have joined the trail
crossing over
like a blended family

perhaps they'll find a nurturer
and take root

--- e b bortz

Saturday, March 10, 2018

earth note 569

the distance from the map
to the highway
is incalculable
and then
where the tall pines sway
just from the rotation of the earth
there's the little pend oreille river
sometimes called pond-du-ray
by internet french
or just a lazy listener
but make no mistake
the falls near route 20
might take you years to find
take nothing for granted
pack up your sorrows
as the song goes
and then fill your body
with the magic water

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

waitin for the messiah down on federal street

circa 1963, northside pittsburgh

by the end of november
there's a cow bell clanging salvation
just across from the kenyon theatre

as mouse & me stop at the crowded candy store
with the pinball machine that scarfs up
our last two nickels

from there it's just the wilderness
of the 6th street bridge
and the cold mist off the allegheny

but as we reach halfway across the water
a big pink cadillac convertible comes roaring thru
with the top down heading up federal street

we turnaround quick & see the top of a black fedora
& cigarette smoke blowing upward
like the sign of a new pope

this all stops us in our tracks
not knowing what this all symbolizes
digging into our pockets for loose change

which i swear was given up just ten minutes earlier
finding & flinging our offerings

off into the river

--- e b bortz

Sunday, March 04, 2018

recovering notes from the deep, part 16

it's a little less than a mile
from the bottom of buena vista street
to the top
where it meets perrysville avenue

a short distance
that pretty much follows
a very roundabout
fifty-year-plus journey

about halfway up
it becomes cobblestones
and steep
and it's right about there
that i remember
as a fourteen-year-old
climbing out from the third floor window
& sitting out on the flat roof
sometimes with a guitar
always with the heat of the summer
making the valley quiver in the distance

my dad & i lived in the single room attic
big enough for us
even with the clothes rack dividing
the living room-kitchen from
the beds

a social worker came one day
and asked us if this was a suitable place
for doing homework
'cause she was interested in me
getting into the first upward bound program
for under-achievers
and we said
it was a quiet enough place
and i wanted to try it

so the summer became
a dorm room at carnegie tech
& streetcar trips to parts of pittsburgh
i never imagined

during the fine arts portion
of upward bound
i learned how to meditate
and breathe
lying flat on my back
unraveling all the angst
stored in an adolescent mind

and it seemed every student
was having this kind
of transformation

when i graduated high school
i decided to move out
& get my own attic apartment
and wouldn't you know
this move was a whole quarter-mile
to a bluff off of buena vista street
called geranium

i ended up with roommates
a lot of partying
marginal jobs
refusing army induction
political activism
drifting in & out of commitments
and relationships
and just shiftless enough
to walk away from
a scholarship at pitt
though one of my roommates
did make progress
on his goddard college masters
while working at
j & L steel

but of course all of this
was somewhat irrelevant
since the revolution
was on its way

so where did all of this bring me
from a third floor window and roof
in the middle of buena vista street
to new neighborhoods
     mountains & forests      
     canyons & oceans
where even deserts can be sanctuaries
where i faithfully emote
between forgotten words
     as the sun is opening
     from gray to blue
     and only now
     the valley brings vision

--- e b bortz

Friday, March 02, 2018

recovering notes from the deep, part 15

march 1970, pittsburgh

ninety-one people arrested
on the sidewalk
in front of presbyterian hospital
during a hospital workers strike
and support picket line
mostly young
chanting & singing

the paddy wagons were lined-up
and idling ready along fifth avenue
and then quickly filled
from their cold hollow insides
with bodies
doors slamming
and rolling toward
the old allegheny county jail downtown

it was hard to believe
that the jailers would line us up
     bent over
and tell us to spread our cheeks

and then issue each
a loose fitting jumpsuit
and escorts to our assigned
cell block

by that time
it was evening
& the word went out
that there would be no judge or charges
until the next day
if we were lucky

so i had a cell to myself
with a lonely overhead light
a cold chain suspended bed
stretching out
     my arms tucked under my head

isolated from other prisoners
the night dragged on indefinitely
losing all sense of time
no familiar sounds other than
a rattling of steel bars once in awhile

my mind's eye
found solace
thinking of my wife
home and seven months pregnant

it might have been a morning meal tray
that woke me
and then deciding
it would be healthier to pass up breakfast

by late afternoon we were presented
en masse
to the judge in his robes & all
his mind made up that we were
obstructing something
by our peaceful protest on the sidewalk

i think the hospital workers union
absorbed the fines
we parted ways afterwards
with hugs & handshakes
gathering up our personal items
from the jail
on our way to our respective bus stops

the struggle went on

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

earth note 568

if the sunshine holds up today
i wanna walk the riverfront trail
     if it's passable
drying out from the flooding
leaving scraps of wood & plastic
strewn along the banks
the geese no doubt
will have something to say
about all of this

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 25, 2018

earth note 567

a cardinal takes the highest roost
on the power line
just east of the pole insulators
(industrial gray for a gray morning)

low-light hue covers the wings
     takes flight
     no time for cameras or tourists

--- e b bortz

Thursday, February 22, 2018

earth note 566

three pinus strobus
haudenosaunee tree of peace
planted seven years ago
     fused together
     like a family
     in a nor'easter
standing up twenty feet
by twenty feet wide
holding the hillside
in a cold rain

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 18, 2018

long after the bonna cross-country skis

left the farmhouse in minnesota
that would be close to forty years now
i still held on to the green and blue wax

(without any need for the red klister
if memory serves me right)

something comforting in having
the green and blue close to me

you just never know when there'll
be a need again

bonna is still all over ebay
as vintage from norway
'cause back then
the oily american corporate machines
had no use for anything unmotorized

but of course they've adapted
like an LL bean
wrapping themselves
in a rustic chalet mansion

some things you just can't fake though
like a wax with an experienced hand
or olympic gold
from norway

--- e b bortz

Friday, February 16, 2018

earth note 565

wetlands leave a shadow
there's a loving hand
in the grass
but it takes patience
an open wing
and then commitment

--- e b bortz

Thursday, February 15, 2018

violence eats the body politic from the inside out

like every young body
already knows this
reacting from the shock
as all eyes
look over their shoulders
change will begin
     when you start
     melting down the assault steel
students learn and lead
from their generational destiny
sacrifices paid by many thousands
in blood
economic conscription
unending wars

the bought & paid for mouths have no place to run
     not even the poets
the political flim-flam is up
for the tongues
mealy-mouthed and forked by social conditioning
built from 3d printers 
spitting out continuous fabrications
of empire personified
in cowboy garb
& winchester strapped saddles
     (free the mustangs)

the gig is up
when a generation takes to the streets
shuts down every schoolhouse
finds their voice
from sea to shining sea
gives up on the gray hairs
     let them rationalize
     their own so-called-free-market excuses

just walk away in a song
a dream
and no compromise

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 11, 2018

earth note 564

peter paul & mary
lift the fog
to find
a thaw in the air
mary brings a red hat

you think you understand
the web of life
how deep is it
whose reflection
is that

--- e b bortz

Saturday, February 10, 2018

earth note 563

this may look like a debate
but it's not
my skin has that uncompromising
ancient look to it
we found water just past
those western arches
the ones the tourists
like to photograph
we tried hiding there
but they're damn persistent
you shoulda seen the entry gate
this morning
cars backed up a half-mile
but at least they're getting better
at cleaning up their garbage
on the way out

step lightly & peace be with you

--- e b bortz

Thursday, February 08, 2018

earth note 562

black canyon of the gunnison

her hand opens
like an offering
from a cold rock
peace emerges
in a multitude of forms
even the river
speaks from the altar

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 04, 2018

i'm still lookin for the poems i lost

out on the frozen swamps & prairies
of northern minnesota
the red rock & scrap rock mountains
near swan lake
underneath the abandoned clunkers & tractors
ice fishing shacks & saunas
or inside the rhythm & meter of a flapping pole barn
the hay needn't rise anymore like it use to
     i understand that
but i'll look hard at the ground around
and try and find a seed or two
this isn't just another exercise in nostalgia
but a real effort this time
to make amends
and find
a missing root

--- e b bortz

earth note 561

ohio river

inhaling snowflakes
like a last gasp
just before
touching the water
     dark water
     dark morning

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

earth note 560

waiting on a youghiogheny spring
to break things wide open
     a straight trail
can fool you into believing
you've been following
the straight and narrow
     fess up right now
the pipelines can't be hidden
like the puppeteers in the white house
this ain't politics
so stop bullshitting yourself

--- e b bortz

Friday, January 26, 2018

earth note 559



 koh samui to phuket

near the equator
the transition between seasons
might escape you

i landed in winter
somewhat disoriented
but by the time summer came
i was fully acclimated
to the heat and moisture

from both east and west coasts
thailand is a bounty of fruit
and lush green
sweet steamy hills
and yellow grasses  

when a farmer or a welder
or a fisher has a day off
there's still the sweat
of mother hands
scrubbing out the laundry

the tides pull you
unconsciously toward the horizon
a blue-green theatre
which needs no script

you make your own

from bicycle wheels
to bob marley cassettes
bananas and mangos
sunday morning heat
leading to a waterfall in a rainforest
just before the monsoon

the road quickly becomes a mad hot river
i think i hear prayer wheels 
a singing bowl 
the brush of orange robes
or silence 
in the shadows

--- e b bortz