Phil Woods Poems: Negation, Blessings
Phil Woods is a former high school teacher, poet, and long time friend. Together we are in a book club which I refer to as the `burnt out lefty old guys book club’. The 6 or 7 of us have read a slew of books and had good discussions. Many of these books wind up on my recommended reading list for students at the University of Denver.
His latest collection of poems, Lucid Dreaming is available from Phil – firstname.lastname@example.org. He read some selections from it at West Side Books (on 32nd Ave and Lowell Blvd) in NW Denver about a month ago. I thought it was quite fine.
Here are two of Phil’s latest…
The first, called `Negation’ is a poem he read after getting depressed about reading our book club’s next selection `The Punishment of Gaza‘ by Gideon Levy.
The second poem is `Blessings’ about meeting an old friend in New Mexico. I like them both:
Waiting for phone that my truck is done
I set the book about Gaza down.
Collective punishment is against
International law & yet, it goes on & on.
I’m tired of human cruelty,
The first time I heard the story
Of the Good Samaritan I knew
It was true like gravity.
Our first black president
Becomes expert at symbolic gestures.
That’s what progressives get.
The money boys with the real power
Have a different kind of access.
To have grown old & see the world
Morally in such shape
Leaves a hole in your gut
As though the meaning of your life
Has been cancelled out.
It’s up to the young now
To go along or try to redirect
The failing project so many
Have given their lives for—
Human dignity, human freedom.
Sometimes life is a mocking bird.
Drove over to Abiqiu after fish tacos.
Enjoyed the drive, the blue snake of the
Rio Grande below its steep walls
As I crossed the bridge over the gorge.
Listened to a hodgepodge of songs
Loosely connected to coal mining.
“Mr. Peabody’s coal train hauled it away.”
Noticed the austere beauty of the
High desert foliage when I stopped
North of El Rito. All the grand,
Splayed yellowed stocks
Displayed just right, arranged
In the still life of winter.
The olive green juniper & pinion
Pine contrasting with these brown &
Yellow stalks & dead seed pods.
In the river bottoms the willows
Already carrying the red tint of
The emerging spring weeks away.
My friend & I talked in his living room.
At eighty he decided he must put in
His hearing aids which naturally
He doesn’t like. We covered a lot
Of ground, but when I told him
About our mutual friend, the French
Lay shaman, Jean, & how Jean
Made a corn meal Mandala when
We were camping. The Mandala
Told the story of creation through
Creation & constituted an ephemeral
Prayer. John leaped at this notion
So much like Tibetan sand painting.
He scurried over & handed me
A book of photographs of roadside art
In India as he related a story
Of hearing a lecture with slides
Concerning ephemeral art. He
Talked of once almost applying
For a Canadian grant to go to India
To do his own investigating. The sun
Was sinking lower as we talked
I came to the photo of Vishnu.
The caption said “preserver
Of the world.”
The haunting eyes
In the modest image spoke
That truth. Before meeting Jean
For dinner we agreed there is something
Good about enacting ephemeral blessings.
They are like the tender blessings
Of enduring friendships.
A Family In Gaza Two Years Later (by James Wall)