Howard Pugh Poems

“Portents of O’Brian” photo by Howard Pugh, copyright 2012


Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE To the Apocalypse

Poem (and photo) by Howard Pugh, copyright 2012

We shall forget all those we never met.
We shall rejoice in their absence when
the world is reborn, the land scoured clean.

It is not evil to burn fat by reversals in time.
It is not a harm done. The body gets stronger.
The memory awakens like melting ice,
a mountain thaw, we are young again, virginal,
shooting up tall like wild blades of grass.
It is time to dust off the furniture of unquestioned-beliefs.
It is awkward, like a forgotten nakedness:
gravity once felt good, reaffirming,
believing in things would run like liquid,
cascade from one shiny
calculus to another, and then.
The world became thick with ideas, too thick.
Navigation was hard-going through the abiding goo.
We’d arrive looking more like our surroundings,
camouflaged in degrees of transparency, confusion.
Who owns the food chain of our creations?
Who plucks their magic off the echoing walls?
No one here but us dwarves, us root-bound
drowned out by the multitudes:
Letting things grow and artificially complete,
harden painfully, like forgeries of coral.
Letting things go: the yard as it uncultivates,
the bailing wire of our human hand breaks,
springs free, death. Death in slow motion.
Comfort and neglect: the giddiness of dissolution.
But here along the soft banks of the western river,
here, at the end of the world, we build
and design and laugh and make love,
designate new gods:
a god of bathing,
a god for dreams.
But we are all like small gods now,
each of us explorers and makers,
mapping out wondrous strands
of the hallucinogenic unknown.
Our camp name is rekindled desire,
the river is history anew – daring us all
to take hold of vast nets across its maw,
feel the pride and pleasure tug as
we belong to one another once again.


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Pastoral Sketches (parts 1 and 2 out of 9)

 DECEMBER 23, 2012 • ( 0 )
Poem by Howard Pugh, copyright 2012
Out of the pulsing stream that glistens to fiery white, tormented
as it races down grassy shoulders towards anonymity of the lake,
Out of the heavy scent of pine that spills bright into tired lungs:
resin of forest memories, dark and brooding, spirit of menthol
percolating deep into muscle and vein, seeking like the meaning-
starved masses those quarries of old religion, veiled and mythic,
the bones washed clean like brook-stones at the confluence
the bones picked clean beneath cobwebs in a desert wash.

This sacred place of meeting,
this bleached-white locus,
holding me taut in its ancestral ribbons:
we are bound here you and I,
long have we exchanged vows –
in the egress of our tunneled birth:
we were forged in primordial trust,
before words came into regard,
before our minds were lit,
before the dialects of birdsong and howling:
our ancestors’ eyes came up just the same,
across the great horizon
like Venus and Jupiter, and still do.
The eyes of our race filling a
thousand rooms of memory like popcorn,
revolving over us in slow, silent care:
cooked seed that still holds the germs of longing.

But here,
behind the careful ferns and lonely stand of trees,
here, off the trail, down gullies and beds,
beneath the canopy of eternal decisions,
between bright needles of the pinioned sun,
under every frond where the poised shadows lay:
a song cantillates, never resting, always changing, yet
soft, like the flutter of a candle …

Secret talks between predator and prey
are taking place, everywhere.

Calmly, like the slow rituals of courtship,
quite equal, between large and the small:
they dovetail with petty visions of perfection
into a cumbersome reality:
laying plans for the wedding and feast.



Pastoral Sketches, No. 5 & 6: “Youth” & “Age” by Howard Pugh

Editor’s Note: These two Pastoral Sketches on “Youth” and “Age” represent one of Howard
Pugh’s ambitious series of interrelated poems — this time getting into the nexus of our
relationship with the old Gods, Nature and our modern selves.

(Pastoral Sketch No. 5)
by Howard Pugh
copyright 2013

Branches of an old oak
wend their way upward,
change colors as they multiply
–away from the possessive earth,
its opacity, its gums of inhibition–
upward until they thin and vein,
escaping all burden:
all the sister leaves and brother leaves glimmering,
iridescent, dreaming, lusting for childish paradise:

We romped through halcyon fields,
water-nymphs amidst the hyacinths,
cherubs smiling down atop clouds of gold,
moon-tones and innocence gilding the edges.

(Remember, it wasn’t a dream, it was real).

The sky bursting of blue
like a great tenor,
an aria so rousing it invites
the stars to peek through.
Whispers and confusion.
A great flock of birds.

(All life shoots out, a pro-
clamation of joyous deceit).

Blossoms opening to the sun,
mouth-like, slack-jawed,
barely looking up
so opiated with greed,
so fat and numb and breathless and trembling
in the transparency of desire.

(The earth always grows heaviest before the quake).

Fruit too, dangling and unadorned:

Each, accidental moments that can suddenly uncoil
before the mad rush of shame can cast its pall,
before the serpents of desire can smuggle away their joy,
and group into formations of something like semaphore.

Primary colors dancing around quite naked
dangerous in their simple-headed ways.
Enter the slobbering paw of my rough tongue.

Primary colors dancing around quite naked
dangerous in their simple headed ways.
Enter the slobbering paw of my rough tongue.

O welcome bosom,
O shiny eye and shining pelt,
O everything at once, gratifying and forgiving.

(The multiform theremins leach out beneath the rim,
run off with the future of everything.)

Pastoral Sketch No. 6
by Howard Pugh
copyright 2013

They say being from the country is a state of mind,
but this state of mind is more about far apart villages and far apart towns
and these towns have almost nothing but farmers
farmers that worry, that work and hardly sleep,
work until the ground is finally wrung-out and spent
and stats to boil up with bones of their ancestors
and these bones pile into hillocks and teeter and spill
and the children become fond of them, invent games
with lots of running and the making of forts. Until a day comes
when the bones start to disappear.

The bones are turning to powder,
a powder that, when mixed with rain, goes suddenly dark,
becomes a curious kind of lacquer:
a beautiful rusty bronze,
a beautiful tawny amber.
Which, when they paint everything, turns it historical hues.
Which, when they paint their dogs and children, casts them in a sepia tone.
Which, when they paint the buildings and hills, separates them even further:
into distances apart from each other and distances from time itself
and everything moves along even slower, and living is waiting
and an unwillingness to let go from the past.

Their Ulysses never came back home, it’s said.
He was a man that became a vision that
turned to rumors: an old snake that got
run over and left on the interstate.

March 18, 2013
painting by Lynn Rogers, poem by Howard Pugh
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Edit “Pastoral Sketches, No. 5 & 6: “Youth” & “Age” by Howard Pugh; “Boats to Gogh

Three Preludes, poems by Howard Pugh

AUGUST 17, 2011 • ( 1 )
by Howard Pugh
copyright 2011

I: Rumination on women who live in the sea

As though filled with her own amniotic fluid she calls the sea home.
Never far from a jump back in, never
commitments to ways of the land,
she resists language with it’s wind-burns, it’s chisel of old age.
The sea acts like the hand to a yo-yo,
always sending her away and calling her back.
The sea is statuesque,
makes marble out of sinew and bone,
makes solid the naked innocence of warm-milk and
protective caresses. Goddess mother of
day-long basking, going skinny in the summer, jumping
out of trees
into the sultry, deep, slow creek that shouldn’t be there,
but unexpectedly is.

II: The motors of consumption were made when we were young

Overfilling is what defines us:
we are always the beast charging past the barricades,
blood and nerve falling out our overhanging wounds, like vines.
We clamp on hard to diminishing pleasures, doggedly, like
an umbilical cord still pressed into service, long past birth and
What a great burden it becomes: these continuing expectations,
that from out of the jumble and fathomless circuitry,
from out of every corner of town and country, there must persist a
constant offering –long past infancy and the instincts for nursing–
an obligation, a provisioning: still those warm, nurturing, lactating breasts
staying in play: these were more than mere prototypes.
And when you grew older, you noticed mommy getting stretched,
pulled like taffy across the taut rim of the universe,
Mommy’s held-out bosoms, still on-call,
still waiting to be chafed by your ready-to-clamp-down mouth,
but now in different places, new places,
their likenesses now appearing in coffee shops, in alleyways,
their reputation for constant generosity holding true:
even mice partake in the hoopla, approach their mother’s belly on
all cylinders of suckling, milk at full throttle in the frantic prayer of life,
closed eyes, religiosity: the close quarters of nipples in sacrament
and holy communion … their mouths are the future. Our mouths, the great
tabernacle for receiving gifts –each day another Christmas– so that we
may grow, develop strong teeth, bite down and tear, become competitive.
—–One can never tell how outdated their car is, if all they do is drive.
And yet who can go too long without rebelling against the excesses
of travel, start to bow inward with rust and disregard?
Why are we not revered, tall and possessing the savvy of smiling gods?
Why can I not dine with friends, one short afternoon in utopia, discuss
what warbles down the streets of paradise, the dancers, naked, in perfect
The answer is not afraid of us. It approaches us in the marshes, trusting,
brushes up against us at the beach, rests its head in our laps, even
slides its fingers under our garments as it becomes our latest meal.
We hide truth by taking it into our body, our body becomes it, we are
truth digested, we are the children of wisdom, and have learned nothing.
Only the dullest routines herniate, finally, out into scrutiny,
turn around, visible, like steamy entrails ripped fresh from our flank,
stare up at us groggy from their long dark swim of slumber,
the anesthetic hums of our appetites cranking, plowing through,
prowling: all the switches still stuck to the on-position.
The pate of the planet harvested down to nubs
like the head of a newly recruited soldier:
it was thought, simply, if everyone were bribed,
things could return to normal, return, opaque,
to those meaty days of our youth.
The beast always crashes through the guardrails and
free-falls towards the sea, like the guy who’s always not
James Dean.
It ends with a click like a gas-nozzle shutoff, full.
It ends with flames that overtake the last crease of
finger-licking and euphoria.

Prelude III: The history of trying to cheat nature

Heidegger says that to salute the gods of Being
pour handmade wine from a vessel of earthenware,
drink in the sky and sun and labors of men, whence
come the ever-scrolling testimonial of the divine.
It isn’t my taking leave of paradise, it’s this confounded
shell game, it’s the ground of perfection that shifts away,
like quick-moving tectonics under the stillness of days:
the man at the science fair asked:
“can you count how many beans are in the jar?”
I find love moving like defiant children; trying to dodge cloud-
shadows as they drift across the plains, find the capacity for happiness
ever-more ephemeral, the growing spool of opinion only tangles
joy in its uncharted circumference. Gathering twine for the return
journey home, the means to innocence: O Theseus, betrayer,
the rebellious unknown was your friend; now slain by your shortcuts,
your gimmicks.
Like a census-taker we test each stone, question if this one
is a suitable outcrop for hanging on, then the next.
Always looking for the same waterfall and lingering pool
pocked by the cloven hoof-marks of summer,
or the childhood memories of the circus coming to town –
the salad days, nesting like Georgian dolls downward
into my tiniest likeness, curling like plant bulbs buried
where the earth first grew wet and sweet in
maternal stillness.
———-bio: Howard Pugh is a San Jose poet and photographer of considerable talent, depth and experience. He is currently working on a new book of poems called PSALMS FOR THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY.

A Paen to Nature:
A Review of Howard Pugh’s Poetry

by Bea Garth, March 2013

Note: poet Howard Pugh and Beat original Al Hinkle were featured at the March 28th, 2013 literary event “Exploring the Beat Spirit” at the Camden Community Center in San Jose–as well as new and veteran poets and fiction writers at the Open Mic..

Poet and photographer Howard Pugh has been creating a poetic world filled with richly playful while at the same time unabashedly merciless imagery featuring Modern Man and Woman’s psychological and spiritual struggle between Nature and Modern Life. Our sensual nature can lead us into (for instance) Classical Nature worship — but can it sustain it in the light of our often childlike and alternately hard competitive selfishness? Mr. Pugh at the same time explores our inherent need to reinvent ourselves and embrace the world (and each other) and thus rise above such petty difficulties. In the lovely poem “Credible Journey” Howard Pugh describes this very struggle:

“How our self-consciousness
learned to inflate mere air
intolerate claims of intimacy,
pen up whole menageries:
giant birds-of-paradise, brooding,
flexing muscle against bone and cage,
unaware they’re built only from balloon.“
In Howard Pugh’s “Octet” no. 1, “To the Apocalypse” (published in the late December 2012 edition of Eos: The Creative Context) he takes us to the next level:
“But here along the soft banks of the western river,
here, at the end of the world, we build
and design and laugh and make love,
designate new gods:
…..a god of bathing
…..a god for dreams.
But we are all like small gods now,
each of us explorers and makers,
mapping out wondrous strands
of the hallucinogenic unknown.

Our camp name is rekindled desire,
the river is history anew – daring us all
to take hold of vast nets across its maw,
feel the pride and pleasure tug as
we belong to one another once again.”

Howard Pugh’s poetry takes his audience to places many of us may have forgotten–where the unabashed spirit lives in its constant quest for inner truth while running up against the hard facts of Reality. He has taken on a noble quest–one which we may all benefit by following. Certainly he manages to surprise us in this journey with all its twists and turns: alternately exciting, sardonic and uplifting — displaying both the classical beauty of Nature as well as the grit of Modern Existence.

It is my hope viewers of this page will be inspired to read more of Mr. Pugh’s poetry both in this edition as well as the one from December 2012.

I also welcome you to come to the literary event March 28th at the Camden Community Center (listed above) to hear Howard Pugh read from the pages of his poetic quest. My feeling is that you will not leave without feeling greatly enlivened. What better thing to do at the beginning of Spring? And especially in the context of “Exploring the Beat Spirit” in a true contemporary sense–which really is what it is all about.

March 18, 2013

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