Ronald Baatz | White Tulips&

18 09 2013

Ronald Baatz | white tulips&

white tulips&

by Ronald Baatz

(c) Ronald Baatz. 94 haiku dedicated to Norbert Blei (1935 – 2013). Metropolis Press France.

White Tulips was originally published in a very limited edition by Leonard Seastone at Tideline Press in 2003. Also thanks to: BASHO’S ROAD | CULTURAL WEEKLY | DURABLE GOODS | FROGPOND | HARBINGER ASYLUM | ISSA’S UNTIDY HUT

All is emptiness
except where snow is piled
in a bird’s nest

Horny all night long
so when dawn’s light comes
I crave its untouched pinkness

The curves of your body
in the curves of mine-
when we are old and blind

Ronald Baatz | white tulips&

If you are interested in buying this book, please go here… or just click the images above.

Editors Note: Please allow 2 weeks for shipment. The book will be produced only on demand and is handmade from A to Z.





ronald baatz | devouring birds

31 08 2012

POETRY DISPATCH No. 381 | August 31, 2012

RONALD BAATZ

Editor’s Note: Access, accountability, attention… What is it about those writers who speak to us and those to whom we turn a deaf ear…because those who speak to us are what they write, are what we need to know (more) about ourselves? Only they open that door. Invite us immediately into their home, their heart, their life.

Paging through another new book by Ronald Baatz, I come across:

“I cannot read Williams tonight, but I can read Para.” I’m hooked immediately, knowing Williams, knowing Para…wondering where the hell is Baatz going with that line? With Para in particular? “Williams seems like a stranger while Para is like/a friend who has come to drink and spend the night.” Well, you gotta love that. … “But tonight I want to listen to Parra talk about being an old man./… “Should an old man living alone/have a dog?/Should the dog be old also? Would it be better if/the dog were to die first?…”

This is his BIG book (maybe Baatz’s biggest). 155 pages, New and Selected Poems. On the upper left-hand corner of very last page sits a tiny, untitled, final poem all by itself:

Orange peels-
the shadows of them
as I remember
the shadows of them
curling in childhood.

“curling” …brilliant. No poem without it.

Welcome (back) to Baatz’s world. A world of curling orange peels, of parents shuffling into the surrealism of age (the poet but a few steps behind)…of loneliness, birds, dogs, sheep, friends, world famous writers, artists, musicians who sustain a poet’s own words, women who come and go like Michelangelo…

Oh, hell. Open the door yourself. I’m still stuck in Baatz’s desert where I always thought I would find myself at the very end. – Norbert Blei

MOVING TO THE DESERT

I cannot live here when I am old.
It is too cold for many months out of the year.
As it is, I am having a rough time dealing with
the cold now. When I am old I want to live
in the desert. I suppose this is a common goal
for people who live in the cold. Although, thankfully,
this past winter was a blessing, so unbelievably mild was it.
The morning newspaper explains why
there is such an abundance of yellowjackets.
I was stung recently. I was sitting on the green lawn chair
at the back of the house, minding my own business, reading,
when suddenly I felt an itch on my leg. As I scratched this itch,
one of these yellowjackets let me have it. It had managed to crawl
up my leg, underneath my pants. After stinging me
it fell to the ground and walked away; for some reason not flying,
perhaps too exhausted from having stung me.
My first instinct was to kill it; instead I just moved away from it.
I will leave these heavenly purple mountains to the bugs and the bears
and whatever else wants to claim them as their own.
I do not want to be exposed to such cold when I am old.
I want to bake in the sun. I want to be like a dried fig.
If I had money, then living here would not be such a hardship.
I’d be able to defend myself from the cold with money.
But there is none, and there appears to be nothing I can do
to rectify this problem. I live where the winters are harsh and
I have no way of keeping myself warm. I am profoundly disappointed
in myself. I will not even have the money necessary to move
to the desert when the time comes. So why do I even talk about it,
dream about it. I have been pathetic at creating a decent income.
I will die in this lousy cold. I can see it all now: when I die
others will come to take my body away, my belongings.
They will make a thorough search of my room for money
that I might have hidden away, and they will find not a dime.
Then they will unearth thousands
of poems, and they will know why.

READING MARQUEZ

I find it is a good time in my life to be reading the autobiography
of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When Marquez was a child he was
able to gain the attention of adults by telling stories in which he
greatly distorted the details. As an adult he carried this
lovely habit into the writing of his books, even when it came time
to tell the story of his life. The beautiful, magical occurrences that
take place in this telling make it easier for me to accept the horrors
of Alzheimer’s that plague my father. His twisted, misshapen
memories, his hallucinations, his forgetting from one moment
to the next, his face contorting with fear; all this seems slightly more
bearable to me when I feel like a fish at the bottom of the sea
looking up at the stars crying in their infancy. Unfortunately,
Marquez is of no help whatsoever to my mother. His disease
might be the death of her before it is the death
of him. The amount of patience needed to interact with my father
is almost too much to ask of a person. Yesterday
she ended up in the bank crying to a teller. Crying
in public is becoming more and more frequent for her.
She doesn’t know from one day to the next what awaits her.
It’s questionable whether we will have a birthday party
for him this summer. Would he be able to play the role
of a birthday person with even a stitch of understanding
and joyfulness? Would he recognize who came to the party to
celebrate his being ninety years old? Would everyone
appear as a dangerous stranger? Would the gathering
cause him to be capsized in dark bewilderment and sorrow? But,
he has always said that he wanted to live to be one hundred.
Now this miraculous event might indeed come to pass, at
least in his head, since when he last spoke of the subject he
proclaimed that he will be one hundred on his next birthday. And
if he recognizes not a soul at the party, then it will no doubt
feel to him as though he has lived “a hundred years of solitude.”

A MORNING IN APRIL

I meet my mother at the lawyer’s office in town.
We thought it best to talk about my being given
health care proxy and power of attorney for
my father without him initially being present.
The lawyer’s on Main Street. He has new shoes.
He is a very quiet and accommodating man with overly
bushy eyebrows that might crawl off
his forehead at any second. His secretary, the older one,
performs all the small talk about the weather.
The younger is obsessed with eating a bowl of frosted flakes.
We are in there for a very long half an hour,
charged one hundred dollars which I find cheap. Afterwards,
I suggest to my mother that we have coffee together,
but she says she should get back to the house as soon
as possible since my father is being looked after by a neighbor.
So, crossing the street, I walk her to her car. She holds
onto my hand. Her hand is the hand of a woman in her eighties.
It is diminished and bony but still capable of being firm.
She was an exceptionally beautiful woman. Still is. I was always
so proud of the fact, when I was a kid, of just how beautiful
my mother was. Naturally enough, I could never understand how
my father had managed to actually have this woman in his life.
I lived with the suspicions that he could read such thoughts in
my eyes. But, I’m well aware of the fact that their love endures
on a level I may never know. I feel like weeping right here
in the street. I help her into her car. She makes a u-turn and
drives off in the direction rain is coming from. I stand there,
rooted in front of a closed movie theater in a decaying town
that lies between a river and a creek. It is a morning in April.
At some point Alzheimer’s could force us to put my father in
a nursing home. I don’t talk to my mother about this too much.
We know the possibility exists. I dread the day when
I’ll be responsible for separating them. It will be like
tearing the wings off a bird and throwing them up in the air and
expecting them to fly.

SHE LOVED MOZART

There’s a sadness to it, of course, my becoming more
and more isolated from the world. I remember, years ago,
when I was living at the motel, there was this woman who
used to come and go, sometimes staying for months at a time.
Every so often I’d go over to her room, sit around, and talk with her.
The room would smell from clove cigarettes and dirty wash.
Over the lampshades pieces of clothing were draped, to bring
the light down to the most remarkable dimness. This light
never failed to charm and attract me, as a moth would be
attracted to a bright light (although, I suppose moths are
drawn to dim light also). Anyway, I find myself steadily
becoming increasingly like this woman, and it’s not always
the most comfortable realization. Although, I cannot say
that I am living with dirty wash. No, this I cannot admit to.
If anything, I’m fanatical about washing clothes. My
clothing has worn thin, not from my wearing it but from
the continuous washings. But, my god, like this woman
I’m letting the house go dark. She died at the motel, from cancer.
Some nights I’d see her crossing the parking lot, meager flesh
on her bones, and she’d knock on my door and she’d ask me
to play Mozart on my stereo set. She loved Mozart.
In her youth she had been a very promising violist, but
injury and shock from a fire had made her a ghost
of her old talent, her old self. I used to feed her also,
the miniscule amount she was capable of eating.
She loved sharing a thin sandwich as much as
she loved Mozart. I told her it takes
a lot of solitude to write a poem.
She told me it takes a lot of solitude
to die.

[from: DEVOURING BIRDS, New and Selected Poems, Blind Dog Press, Australia,2012.]

More on Ronald Baatz can be found via his web page by clicking here…





ronald baatz | outside forever

16 08 2011

POETRYDISPATCH No. 349 | August 16, 2011

RONALD BAATZ

OUTSIDE FOREVER

I visit my mother at the nursing home.
She tells me her mother and her sisters
had visited earlier in the day.

She tells me this after I take her outside
in her wheel chair, while we are sitting
by a garden of many yellow flowers.

I have never noticed this before, that
all the flowers are yellow, and when I
mention this to my mother she says

that of course she knows this. Even
though blind and struggling with the
loss of memory, she casually says this.

Her struggle is unrelenting, and for brief
periods of time she is aware that her brain
is not functioning as it should be. She

questions me. She wants to know what
is happening to her. I do not have it
in me to tell her that when a person is

nearing death, often that person will sense
the closeness of those loved ones who
are already numbered among the dead.

Is there anyone who thinks I should tell her?
Should I tell her she is dying? She does not
speak of dying. She speaks of living.

She asks how her cat Mooche is doing,
if the tomato plants have been watered,
if I have fallen and hurt myself recently,

if I have been sleeping well, if I have had
another dream of my father, if in my dream
he was in his garden weeding without

a hat on to protect himself from the sun.
She asks if I am being faithful to my wife.
I say nothing about death. I ask her about

her mother and her sisters. I give her
a chocolate kiss which she rolls around
in her mouth and sucks on and chews with

no teeth. She holds my hand and presses it
close to her face. She tells me she would
like to sleep outside, that when I leave

it would be okay if I left her where she is.
She wants to sleep with a breeze on her. She
wants to hear the cicadas and the trains at night.

She tells me that she could stay outside forever.





norbert blei | a packet from henry denander | kamini press

29 01 2011

PoetryDispatch No. 341 | January 28, 2011

A PACKET FROM HENRY DENANDER
KAMINI PRESS

by
Norbert Blei

This makes my day, something new in the mail from Henry’s extraordinary small press, Kamini Press. www.kaminipress.com

One notices immediately the care he takes in the tight packaging alone. The parcel (usually cardboard, sometimes paper) a minor work of art in itself, enhanced with beautiful Swedish stamps, his own unique rubber stamps (planes, jazz musicians, musical instruments, the KAMINI PRESS logo, etc.); the blue foreign label: PRIORITAIRE 1:a-klassbrev… All of it. Everything, a joy to behold. You’re almost afraid to open it, mess it up in any way. It’s so satisfying as it is.

Should I look to see what little beauty of a book he’s put together now? Wait till later…this afternoon? Maybe tonight…treat myself in the late hours? Save it for tomorrow…or the next time I need a particular lift, since I know whatever Kamini Press does will make my day, my night…make everything in my writing world worthwhile?

Like that time one night I opened a packet from Henry and held BIRD EFFORT by Ronald Baatz in my hand…read it once, twice…three times, four times, five times…God, how many times? Till I fell asleep with a warm feeling like good red wine in me, the poet’s words still murmuring in my mouth:

So much light
so much darkness—
the earth crying out
like a clarinet
left behind

O lord
let me
stay drunk somehow
without all this drinking
now and forever amen

Digging
the canary’s grave
she catches the reflection
of lovely orange feathers
in the spoon

The stars over the lake
so old and brittle looking—
I stop rowing, rest my back
and think of how soft
my ashes will be.

Henry Denander…a one-man band. A singular focus. A testament to just how good, conscientious, a little press publisher can be if he has the vision, passion, energy, direction to publish a book for someone that he, the publisher-writer, would want for himself. It all comes down to that. The secret to successful small press publishing not enough publishers grasp. Would I want my name on this book? Would I love the way it looks, feels? Would I be anxious to put it in the hands of friends and strangers with a bit of a glow on my face? Would it hold a reader’s attention cover to cover in design, content, form?

Instinct. Insight. Style. Aesthetics. Not to publish anybody or anything for whatever or no reason except to be considered a publisher…slap any old crappy art or photo on the cover that says nothing. Some books, poorly envisioned, you almost don’t want to touch, let alone open and try to read. Contrary to old beliefs, you can judge a book by its cover… especially a Kamini Press cover, usually graced by one of Henry’s throbbing little watercolors.

Once you finally invade the perfect packaging I described, once you find each book carefully wrapped and taped tightly in white paper, once you unfold the paper in your hands…and hold the little book (all of them about 4”x6”) it seems to come alive to one’s touch. And there you have it: from Henry in Sweden to wherever you are in the world…the book feels like a good handshake. Welcome. Thank you. How beautiful the cover. Now, what’s going on inside?

How to Make a Rainbow on a Rainy Day

Locate, in the overcast, some thread of
involvement with backlit sheets of crayoned
manila paper vacuum sealed to the yellow
eyes of an elementary school. Open up the
floodgates to the eccentricities of leaves; find
an alcove, an unused entrance, to lean in,
noting the widening concentric circles in
standing water on pavements commissioned
by raindrops. Take the coins out of your
pocket and throw them, one at a time,
into the fountains of Trevi made by the
intersecting arcs of traffic and rainfall; permit
silver spray to have its way with your face.
Wonder at the beaded pearlescence at the
sides of warm Styrofoam. Internalize
windshield wipers and the lift of umbrellas.
Without going overboard, initiate eye
contact, return the wave.

–Tom Kryss

[from SKETCH BOOK]

72nd Birthday

Sitting on
the hill at
sunrise with
my coffee &
cigarettes
thinking
fond thoughts
of all those who
hate my guts.

–John Bennett

[from BATTLE SCARS]

Two Torch Singers (excerpt)

In high school, when I was discovering
That music could be sexy,
There were two torch singers
(Besides Judy Garland, of course)
Whose albums I played until the vinyl wore thin
And the needles went blunt
I don’t know whether I was more riveted
By Julie London’s throaty rendition
Of “Cry Me a River”
Or by her incredible rocket-launcher, film-noir,
Tightly sweatered bust on the album cover,
Not to mention her wasp-cinctured waist.
But she was too much woman for me,
Even in my fantasies. Scary!

–Gerald Locklin

[from TWO TORCH SINGERS]

False Starts

The birds have
already begun
their morning song
and I haven’t
yet been to sleep
the night
a series of false
starts, like the
many journals
I’ve kept over
the years—
one after another
abandoned before
anything was
ever said.

–Glenn W. Cooper

[from SOME NATURAL THINGS]

Childhood

Something out of childhood –
orange streetcars on
Ellsworth Avenue,
and every fifteen minutes an
orange earthquake
rattling my unsteady bed.

–Samuel Charters

[from THE POET SEES HIS FAMILY SLEEPING]

last clarksville train

washing down aspirins
warm blue ribbon suds
damp gray first light
jerry lee’s cassettes silent
black terminal loneliness
yesterday wife saying
“things got to change’
squeeze the trigger
gain methodist salvation
promised better life

–t. kilgore splake

[from THE POET TREE]

Unwritten poems—
so many of them
hanging like bats
inside the darkness
of me

–Ronald Baatz

[from BIRD EFFORT]

Confession. I truly envy what Henry Denander is doing. This is the way I intended to go when I got into small press publishing back in 1995. Do the little book, the little work, and do it well. Make is beautiful to behold. Something to glow in the dark.

Then I reflected on all the new and old writers with bigger appetites seeking, needing pages and pages for larger works. Novelists, short story writers, poets with books of poems…essayists, experimental writers, artists, photographers. They needed to be honored as well. There was not enough attention paid them.

Lately, given all I’ve done so far, thirty-four books, given my present circumstances–age factor, health issues, financial circumstances, limited time to write my own stories and books–I see again the beauty and attraction of publishing the little gift, and may in time (“simplify, simplify…”) honor that first dream…find my way down that road of small, fluttering white pages, words enough to lift the spirit in short, deep breaths. –Norbert Blei

Finally
winter is losing its grip—
in my sleep
I hear the pond’s spine
cracking

–Ronald Baatz, BIRD EFFORT





ronald baatz | envying the crows

11 12 2010

Crow Dreaming | Painting by Norbert Blei

Poetry Dispatch No. 336 | December 11, 2010

RONALD BAATZ

There is no end to the poetry, the satisfaction, the comfort of finding myself again in the poems of Ronald Baatz that hover about me, especially now-in-the-hour of my solitary darkness…late night, early morning hours… older …not much wiser…alone…aching to return to better health…snug in my chair…any new or old book of his always within reach…poems, a poet I can never say enough about, a poet I have read for—fifty years? What do you have to say to me tonight in my despair, old friend? Take me to the landscape, rural Americana, we both share—you in the east, me in the northern Midwest…the bountifulness, bareness of the seasons that become our nature…the bread crumbs…the frozen garden…the naked branches…the quiet house…the loss of parents…friends…the absence of love…the grimace of a smile buried in so seemingly simple a line…just how few, exact words it takes to make a prayer to light forever low, distant, desirous. Tell me tonight about your envy of brother crow…this brand new poem you sent today, fluttering about me, coming into vision…settling momentarily in my open hand…3 o’clock in another dark morning of the soul…comfort me in the shining darkness…the chance of snow… –Norbert Blei

ENVYING THE CROWS

A cold winter day spent
reading, collecting tinder.
But, my god, the loneliness
of the hours was overwhelming.
With age it becomes more and
more apparent that I need to be
among people. I have to stop living
like a monk. Although, it is true,
monks do live with other monks.
They pray, take their meals together,
and perhaps life at the monastery
is not such a burden. I would never
have to eat alone in such a place.
Earlier, I stood eating a can of sardines
and a piece of unbuttered bread.
I envied the crows. From the
kitchen window I had seen them pecking
at the leftover rice I had thrown out.
The crows, that had arrived in a group
and that had left in a group.
Same as the sardines.

–Ronald Baatz





ronald baatz | the elephants and everybody else

9 08 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 248 | August 8, 2008

RONALD BAATZ: The Elephants and Everybody Else

Readers familiar with this website and other writings know of my deep and long admiration for the work of Ronald Baatz. Some of what I have written about him can be found on this site. ( “Select Category”…scroll down to Ronald Baatz.) You will also find a wonderful poet, Mark Weber, and a book they both share.

Baatz and I go back to Marvin Malone’s lively WORMWOOD REVIEW, which began in the 60’s and had almost a 40-year run. What one man alone could do with one little mag in America is still beyond believable. (Check the first ‘Baatz Bibliography’ which I’ve included at the end of this piece.) The quality and diversity of writers Malone gathered together in each issue—truly a PhD thesis waiting to be written, if it hasn’t happened already. Something too for future little mag and small press editors/publishers to study. In the end, of course, it all comes down to a one-man/woman operation and obsession—to print/to share/to distribute what one senses is out there in the culture, the literary firmament… And no one mined that field better than Marvin Malone.

It was my intention with this Poetry Dispatch to write a longer, informative piece on Ronald Baatz and his latest book, THE ELEPHANTS AND EVERYBODY ELSE, which Cross+Roads Press recently published. I wanted to give new and old readers of his something close to a profile, almost as personal, true-to-life, and informative as the one on Curt Johnson, which appears at the end of his book, SALUD, Selected Writings.

Baatz seemed open to my suggestion at first. I followed with preliminary notes outlining specific areas of questioning I wanted him to think about, areas of art and life which might benefit both readers and writers. But I didn’t hear from him as quickly as I usually do. And then I knew, instantly, it wasn’t going to happen.

Baatz has always been a pretty private writer, and I sensed he was uncomfortable with where I wanted to go with the questioning, although I fully understood and avoided anything too personal. It was mainly the writing I wanted to deal with. A little history and insight here and there. I wrote back, gave him a chance to beg off—and he took it. So…we’ll leave it at that. I respect his right to let the work speak for itself. Though I am disappointed…and disappointed for readers and writers as well.

But what we have here in “The Elephants…” is one magnificent book (in my humble estimation and experience as writer, editor, publisher) which could have been, should have been published by one of our larger commercial presses in America, or one of our more distinguished, highly financially backed independent or academic presses…BUT, given the nature of ‘how it is out there,’ given the ‘influential’ games some folks play—it didn’t/wouldn’t happen.

And that’s where the very small, highly under-financed, unpredictable, insecure, over-worked, often unacknowledged, here-today-gone-tomorrow, small press comes in, to play the role it has always played (underground and out of sight) in seeing that these other voices be heard.

When people ask: “What kind of work does Cross+Roads Press publish?” I am more than proud to suggest any book on the backlist, or to turn to the latest: THE ELEPHANTS AND EVERYBODY ELSE by Ronald Baatz.

Just holding a copy in one’s hand…and you know it’s something special, quite out of the ordinary. I don’t have to say: This is what I want. This is what I’m looking for. This is what matters. This is the kind of writer I want to help and the only reason I keep going though, as always, I’m never sure how much longer.

Nor do I care to confess: I printed only 250 copies of it because that’s all I could afford, and I may not recover—again! Even sadder, there’s the possibility that fewer than half that many people will ever find the book. You never really know, the odds are always against you. But, on the other hand, I also know (sense, feel, etc.) “instant classic” about this book. That years from now (perhaps next year, or the year after) people will be looking for a copy of “Elephants” and it will be gone, hard to find, selling for considerably more than the cover price of $13 plus postage.

That’s the only faith the small press writer/publisher keeps.

Here are five poems from the book–of almost fifty poems. I will let them speak for Ron Baatz, everything and everybody else—and leave it at that. —Norbert Blei

THE STORYTELLER

Since the search for a new pen had been repeatedly put off,
he continued writing with the old one, even though it felt
thoroughly used up to him. He was correct in sensing that
as far as telling a story was concerned it had long ago run dry.
Finally, out of a mounting frustration, he grabbed his cane
and went out to buy a new pen, an expensive pen for a change,
a genuine fountain pen, since he had never owned such and
he suspected a wealth of new stories might come from one.
The problem was, he couldn’t go into a store to try one out.
They didn’t have ink in them. He would not be able to sample
the way words flowed from one that might excite his imagination.
The pleasures of even a simple sentence would be denied him.
But after hemming and hawing in front of a store window,
gawking like a child wishing sticky candy, he went in and asked
if he could hold one of the fountain pens. He felt
its well-balanced weight, its lustrous blackness, but also
he was pained at the awareness of the dry and wordless point.
He complained it was no better than holding a knife, an umbrella
or a baseball bat, which were all exquisitely useful when properly
applied to the world, but none was capable of leaving behind
a single utterance once they had accomplished their assigned task.
When it finally came to making a decision,
the bespectacled writer bought one of the pens.
The temptation to intimately know one was
just too much for him to resist. And so with
pen and bottle of ink he walked with anticipation
through the dark streets, in the direction of his house
where his wife stood impatiently at the front door,
worried sick over how late the hour had grown.
To make matters worse, instead of going directly home
he detoured to the outskirts of town, knowing
the earth was scheduled to collide with a meteor shower
the likes of which hadn’t been seen in ages. Beyond
the town’s glow, fields were abundant with wattle bushes
and tall dry weeds, and cicadas were in riot amongst them.
But as long as he stood there, not a single shooting star
was seen to scratch the sky. The ironclad pattern of stars
did absolutely nothing to persuade the writer to be optimistic
that his new pen would offer up even a single unique story.
Wagging his head he spit at the earth the cold spit of despair.
As a last resort, he took the empty fountain pen from the bag
and looking straight up at the brilliant stillness of the heavens
he connected a handful of the dots, creating the figure of a goat,
the very thinnest moon imaginable lodged tightly in its stomach.

THE INSOMNIAC

There was this elephant, a bull, who suffered from insomnia.
After nights of not sleeping, this elephant would find himself
at the edge of the town and there he would stand, transfixed
by aromas that would activate in him titanic fits of hunger.
Unable to satisfy this hunger, eventually the elephant would
meander over to the cemetery, where, in all likelihood, the
old gravedigger could be found working in the cool of dark
by the wavering light of a single torch. Well aware
of the nearness of his own death, the old man could be heard
mumbling grim sentences into the opening of the earth.
He would swear at himself too, at how foolhardy he had
often been in making his way through this tantalizing world.
He’d bemoan the bitter loss of loved ones; yet at the same time
he wished only to be left alone so that he might embrace
the unceremonious bliss of dying in peace. His death should be
as inconsequential as that of a moth dying in a cold mist.
He was old, and because he was old he was tired of being
invisible to the young, of aching bones, of trimming his
wiry beard, of praying to a deaf god, of getting drunk on
cheap wine, of being incapable of loving yet another woman,
of taking his teeth out, of putting them back in, of fearing
the panther in the garden, of hoping he’d mistake dying
for simply falling asleep. As he labored the gravedigger
would keep an eye on the elephant, trying to understand
what was going on in such an gigantic, gray, slow-moving head.
Did the elephant think that the man was digging his own grave
because he intended to commit suicide, only to back away
from this naked act of despair at the very last moment?
Or maybe the elephant thought the man was stealing soil
to take home to enrich his garden, to encourage new growth
instead of leaving the soil where its only role was to embosom
the dead. Or might the elephant suspect that the man was
digging up money he had hidden when being chased by the law
and now he needed this money in order to run off to America
to finally fulfill his dream of opening a French restaurant?
Having sized up the elephant, the gravedigger was relieved
that he did not have to dig graves for the likes of such a creature.
Although, with careful consideration, he had estimated that
he could get the job done in one night of nonstop digging.
As for the elephant, he could not begin to conceive of
being forced to sleep eternally in the dark of the earth.
Even though he was aware that his flesh would end up
in places like the belly of the vulture, still, he found
comfort in the fact that his bones would be left behind
as monument to the years of struggle he had waged.
Whenever the elephant grew bored with the digging,
he would go off elsewhere in search of distractions.
He would stop at the motel at the edge of town and
drink water from its swimming pool. Many a night
he could be seen spraying water rowdily up at the sky
as though trying to put out the moon and all the stars.

THE DOG KILLER

One elephant, an unusually large domestic bull, suddenly
got it into his head that he didn’t like dogs, and whenever
he came in contact with a dog he’d grab it and curl it up
in his trunk and then barbarically slam it to the ground,
more often than not killing the helpless animal. No one,
not even the owner, could say exactly why the elephant
was behaving as such, since none of the dogs had been
taunting the elephant. It got to the point where the owner,
an old man who made a living with this elephant by
taking tourists for rides, had to chain the elephant to a tree.
The elephant’s only consolation was scratching up
against this tree, predominantly with his forehead.
And when the old man took the elephant down to the river
every day for a washing and some recreation, he
simply made sure that there were no dogs to be encountered.
Naturally he made sure no children were around who
also might fall victim to the elephant’s unpredictable behavior.
While washing the elephant the old man would talk to him,
questioning his sudden dislike for dogs. As always
with the elephant and the old man, the elephant listened
as muscly drops of water fell from his huge eyelashes and
his trunk entered the water like a snake coming down from heaven.
The old man’s voice was the most familiar sound to the elephant;
and without that consoling, loving sound heard daily,
there’s no telling what the elephant might’ve done
in the way of destruction. The old man had been given
the elephant when he was a child by his father, and now
neither the man nor the elephant had long to go on this earth.
It was true that the old man had been bitten twice by stray dogs
and the elephant had been witness to these attacks, and
because of this there was some suspicion that the elephant
was now inflicting punishment on any dog they came across.
At a town hall meeting the people unanimously voted that
the elephant not be allowed to travel in the streets anymore.
What caused the old man many a sleepless night was
the question of how he could make enough in earnings
to feed both himself and the elephant if he could not
continue to cater successfully to the hordes of tourists.
It was a problem he dwelt on day and night. Eventually
he realized that setting the elephant free in the wild
was what he had to do; and as for himself, he would go
and live with his brother’s family in a nearby town.
This he did, to both his own sorrow and the elephant’s.
They did not die on the same day. Unquestionably
it would have made a better story if they had. The elephant died
a year after they had parted, a vicious stab wound
delivered by a young bull having been the cause.
Beyond that, the old man lived a few years of joy
and contentment in the company of loved ones.
Unlike the elephant he had a peaceful death, which
came in his sleep, the sweetness of his daily ration
of vanilla ice cream still lingering in his belly.

THE KITE FLYER

Late afternoon was when he preferred being alone
at the beach to launch a kite. On most days luck
would be with him and he’d locate a fine current of wind
suitable for his mission. Blue cloudless days were his favorite.
Actually, he didn’t like clouds on blue days or any other days.
Clouds proved nothing more than needless distractions.
Turning his hawklike nose and squinting eyes upwards,
he craved the possibilities of incalculable space.
With feet firmly planted in sand, he felt the tension on the string
linked him directly to the endless play of atmospheric forces.
This allowed him to forget, if only momentarily,
his everyday life. Once his kite was safely aloft,
he was able to forget clogged rain gutters, taxes,
his garden choking with weeds, high blood pressure,
stolen chickens, his rusting automobile, the grandchildren,
who, for some reason, didn’t seem to have a home of their own.
On mornings he brought one of his grandsons with him
initially the child would take interest, even joy, in watching
the kite slowly diminish in size as it rose higher and higher;
but before long the child would resort to his shovel and pail.
Thoughtfully, digging in sand, he would start asking questions,
bothersome ones about the sky. The man would end up swearing
to himself never to permit his peaceful kite-flying solitude to be
intruded upon again. The last thing he wanted to deal with
were words and difficult explanations. From being alive
for so many years, he understood words imposed limitations.
Not even from an innocent child could he tolerate words, and
he certainly had no intention of explaining why the sky was blue.
Eventually he would cut the string, permitting the wind
to take the kite wherever it pleased. He’d gaze up at the sky,
life’s frustrations evaporating like mist on green dreamy bananas.
Shielding his eyes from the sun, the grandson would also look up
and he would see his grandfather, a man lost in the desire
to be elsewhere. What else could he do but shovel sand
into his grandfather’s socks?

THE DRIFTER

She wished to show him the damaged cherry blossoms.
Being comfortable on the back porch with newspaper
and coffee, he put up a minor resistance. Not that he was
reading all that much, the last cool breeze of morning
having the desirable effect of helping him doze off.
Once she got him out to the orchard she handed him
some of the hail still remaining in shaded ground.
He rolled the balls around in the palm of his hand,
attempting to make them come to rest on the same line,
wondering what that line might be called. Even though
he knew she would probably know the answer, he did not ask,
aware that this was not where his attention was supposed to be.
He was supposed to be showing concern for how cruel
nature was capable of being to its own fine creations.
When she took him by the arm to return to the house,
he made sure to throw the balls of hail back in the shade.
If she were to ask him why he was showing concern
for the hail, he would not have been able to answer her.
Perhaps it was simply because he himself would have preferred
to remain in the shade, that if his life were to be leaving
his body he’d prefer to have it happen in the cool of the
back porch, newspaper on lap, none of the news being
of any importance anymore. If he were to mention this,
she no doubt would’ve accused him of dwelling
on his own death too much, when he should’ve been
at least mildly shocked at the damaged blossoms still clinging
to the hail-scarred branches. In a white cotton dress
she was without question a remarkably beautiful woman.
As much as this porch of hers was his place of retreat
from the undying annoyances of the world, he hated
being deposited there by her so that she could return
to whatever it was that she had been doing in the kitchen.
He wanted to chase after her and grab her by the arm
to tell her not to worry about the damage done
to the cherry blossoms. Of course he didn’t do this.
It had been her family’s farm before she had been born,
and now she was the only family the farm had left.
He heard her placing a large iron pot on the stove.
He thought about what it would be like to live with her.
The place was so calm and quiet. The time could be
used to think things over. He had no plans, no goals.
He was without ambition. At heart he was a drifter, but
his heart was growing weary of drifting. In the kitchen
he found her washing cabbage in a deep sink, in front of
a window that looked out onto a field that extended to where
a fence had collapsed in tall grass at the edge of the orchard.
He put his arms around her, and without turning she asked him
if he’d ever noticed how consoling the orchard was in
in the dying light of evening, more so than it ever was
in the light of dawn.

A Baatz Bibliography

  • ALL THE DAYS ARE Tideline Press 1974
  • AFTERNOON PLUMS RISING Tideline Press 1982
  • STRANGE BREAKFAST Permanent Press 1987
  • LUCKY SO BEAUTIFUL Wolfscat Press 1989
  • RAVAGED Clark Street Review Press 2000
  • MT TREMPER HAIKU Flypaper Press 2000
  • AT HERRING COVE Lockout Press 2002
  • WHITE TULIPS Tideline Press 2003
  • IN A CLAY PIG’S EYE Seastone Editions 2005
  • ON THE BACK PORCH Concrete Meat Press 2006
  • FISH FORK Seastone Editions 2008
  • BIRD EFFORT Kamini Press 2008
  • OUT OF HIS CHILDHOOD Zerx Press shared chapbook with Mark Weber 2007
  • CEMETERY COUNTRY Zerx Press shared chapbook with Mark Weber 2008
  • NEXT EXIT: SEVEN Kendra Steiner Editions shared chapbook with Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal 2008
  • THE COMPANIONSHIP OF THE PLUM Kendra Steiner Editions shared chapbook with Bill Shute 2008
  • THE WORMWOOD REVIEW three special sections issues: 104, 140, 144
    “Second Hand”, WR #104 1986; “Out in the Late October Garden”, WR #140 1995; “Every Winter”, WR #144, 1997
  • YELLOW SILK anthology of erotic arts and letters Harmony Books 1990
  • THE BOOK OF EROS anthology of arts and letters from Yellow Silk
    Harmony Books 1995
  • SEVEN HUNDRED KISSES anthology of erotic writing from Yellow Silk
    HarperSanFrancisco







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