Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In Garden Beds

This is the time of year when the stiff, sharp, green iris spears appear and lengthen, 
when the lawn still really doesn't look like much. Anticipation of blossoming iris, 
which is one of the best features of our Idaho yard, grows, too.
Here is one of the blue ones that grow down by the canal. 
It reminds S of the ones that grew in Bear Lake Valley when he was a child.
Many of the these were covered over when the work on the canal right of way was done.
Still, there are a few left and I am looking forward to their cheerful brightness!

                       After Georg Trakl

A pallid cuckoo calls in a loop
more insistently as afternoon fades.

In garden beds humid air
clings to the stalks of poppies.

Mosquitoes rise from layers
of leaves under grapevines.

A blue shirt sticks to your back
as you climb the ladder.

Thunder rattles a fishing boat's
canopy in the dry dock.

The storm silences crickets
chirruping under the mangroves.

Turbulence has passed.
A candle lights our dark room.

Outside calm, a starless night--
then the flame is extinguished,

pinched between a finger
and thumb. In the eaves, at nest,

swallows rustle. You believe
the swallows glow in the dark.

Light daubs our skin with shapes--
the crushed petals of red poppies.

Robert Adamson

Net Needle, Flood Editions, Chicago, 2015, pages 2-3.

Robert Adamson is a poet that is new to me, I think if I had lived in Australia, I would have known aboout his before this, as he has won many prizes and much recognition there. This poem, moving from outdoors to indoors, is nicely arranged in two-line stanzas. No sentence runs over into the next one; each two lines ends with a period. I think it is a fine blend of the natural world, the work world and the interpersonal world. And when I finish here, I will go into the other room looking for the Trakl.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Painting the Barn

Courtesy of the redoubtable Brownie Reflex Synchro Model (Introduced to the trade in May, 1940 and still available on EBay!) these slices of the past were saved for your delectation. Looks like my brother Robert is doing the painting and David is watching from the haymow door.
 Here, Robert had moved to another board, but David is still just watching,
You can see the lovely deckled edge that was part of our photofinishing then.

Painting the Barn

The ghost of my good dog, Alice, 
sits at the foot of my ladder,
looking up, now and then touching
the bottom rung with her paw.
Even a spirit dog can't climb
an extension ladder and so,
with my scraper, bucket and brush,
I am up here alone, hanging on
with one hand in the autumn wind,
high over the earth that Alice
knew so well, every last inch,
and there she sits, whimpering
in just the way the chilly wind
whines under the tin of the roof--
sweet Alice, dear Alice, good Alice,
waiting for me to come down.

Ted Kooser

Splitting an Order, Copper Canyon Press, 2014, page 70.

I found this poem last night and could not resist posting these pictures tonight, The poem makes a good model for combining a memory with the present time when you have set your self the task of making such a poem.
And it looks like Marjory got in on this, too, but dropped out. Her ladder 
is still standing in the other photos, but not much more is painted.
We moved to The Farm in the summer of 1950 when Marji was a toddling infant, 
so these pictures were taken in the mid-fifties. I left home in 1953, 
but before that I had painting the metal roof of the farmhouse 
and the entire back of the new wood on the house addition. 
(One coat linseed oil, then two coats of white paint.) 
My $1.00 per hour accumulated in the bank, so I had some cash to take to college.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The dream, like a minnow

Surely it must be time for wood ducks again, like these
from the late autumn just past.
They gathered under the willow 
and often arranged themselves like this,
facing in opposite directions.


How heavy it is, this bucket
drawn out of the lake of sleep
with a dream spilling over,
so heavy that on some mornings
you can’t quite pull it free
so let it slip back under,
back into the darkness where
the water is warm, even warmer,
but the dream, like a minnow,
has swum away and is merely
a flash in the murky distance,
and the weight of waking up
seems even heavier. But somehow
you lift it again, its handle
biting into your fingers,
and haul it out and set it down
still rippling, a weighty thing
like life itself, in which you dip
the leaky cup of your hands
and drink.

Ted Kooser
Splitting an Order, Copper Canyon Press, 2014, page 72

I went through this wonderful short book again tonight and wound up reading several poems aloud. This is the kind of elegant, unthreatening small book that would make an ideal gift for many sorts of people, perhaps most especially those like me who remember the zinc lids on canning jars! Or those like my daughter who taught herself to plow with a horse! I have marked a bunch more Kooser to offer on this blog from time to time!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A visit near the Pacific

Long, long ago, at the end of another century, my brother Dave 
and his wife Peggy brought Mom to California for a visit and
we all went up to youngest sister Marjory's place near Mendocino. 
Here we were looking out over the ocean and I looked back at them! 
I have always liked this picture of Peggy, who is a person 
who really knows how to create good fun wherever she is. 
My Mom loved this trip! 
I also like the way the light comes through the trees
in the background; it is very "California" and reminds me 
of woodcuts done by Western artists early in the 20th century.

Swinging from Parents

The child walks between her father and mother, 
holding their hands.She makes the shape of the
at the end of infancy, and lifts her feet 
the way the y pulls up its feet, and swings 
like the v in love, between an o and an e
who are strong and steady and as far as she knows
will be there to swing from forever. Sometimes 
her father, using his free hand, points to something 
and says its name, the way the arm of the
points into the future at the end of father.
Or the r at the end of forever. It’s that forever 
the child puts her trust in, lifting her knees, 
swinging her feet out over the world.

Ted Kooser
Splitting an Order, Copper Canyon Press, 2014, page 12.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Taking a Stance

Last night's post showed my father holding a baby in his arms in front 
of the houses on First Street in Scotia, where first our family grew.
That baby was my brother, Richard. Here, we have moved to the farm
and he demonstrates his sparring stance.
This picture is also very interesting to me because of the furniture 
I can see in it; my mother went to lots of farm sales for furniture. 
The large cabinet below the bellows hanging on the wall 
is a Victorian design called a Bonnetiere, because of the space
behind double doors at the top, where ladies could store their bonnets.
My father refinished this to the natural wood color; my brother Dave has it now.
Atop the Bonnetiere is a washbowl with a brown design, which
we later used in the front hall in Shaker Heights for incoming mail.
Robert wrote a poem about that called The Mail Bowl, which I must look for.
The heavy mahogany piece with the square mirror was cut in half by Dad. 
We hung the mirror in the hall, and kept boots and rubbers under the lid of the seat. 
My niece, Bethany, has it now, I think. 
Later, my father lifted the wide-sawn floorboards under Richard's feet. 
They were fastened with antique square-headed nails, which Mom made him save 
and straighten and use again on the floorboards, which he re-installed 
with the hundred-year-old boards turned over, unused side up.

Richard was the one of us who learned to play the piano well, 
although Susan did master Fir Elise. I have just learned that Tomas Transtromer,
one of my all-time favorite poets, has passed away. When a stroke robbed him of speech,
he gave his Nobel Prize lecture by playing music written for the left hand.


The silent rage scribbles on the wall inward.
Fruit trees in blossom, the cuckoo calls.
It's spring's narcosis, but the silent rage
paints its slogans backward in the garages.

We see all and nothing, but straight as periscopes
wielded by the underground's shy crew.
It's the war of the minutes. The blazing sun
stands above the hospital, sufferings's parking place.

We living nails hammered down in society!
One day we shall loosen from everything.
We shall feel death's air under our wings
and become milder and wilder than we ever were.

Tomas Transtromer

translated by Robin Fulton
The Great Enigma, New Directions, 2006, page 187.

Amazingly enough, this poem turns out to have both death and nails (probably not hand-forged ones) in it--after I picked it out.
Such are the things that happen when one plays with words. 
Look for Transtromer's poems, they are world-class!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hopper Family: the first four

This picture was taken about 1943. I think we posed here because we just bought the house that doesn't show to the left of the photo. The house we lived in since I was a baby is shown behind us; we rented the flat on the lower floor for $35 per month. (David found this out recently when they released the 1940 US Census.) The house we are buying (you can see just a bit of its stone retaining wall, which Dad will take down so Mom can plant a rock garden on the slope) costs $6000. My parents have been warned that they will never manage to pay for such an expensive house. Here is what they got: A two-apartment house with front porch, with a basement and attic on four city lots, which run through to Second street. Mature maple trees, rhododendrons, lilacs, daffodils, apple tree, Queen Anne cherry tree, garage, a row of four or five rental garages ($5 per month) When we sold it to move to the farm in 1950, we got $11,000. We have thrashed some things, like the upstairs apartment when the boys began to living in it. (Dad took out the stove, but the rest of the kitchen was still the same.) And Dad rewired the whole house. So there!
I am standing between my parents, Dad is holding baby Richard, 
and Susan and John are standing in front. There are three children still to come. Stay tuned.
When I looked up this house on Google Earth, the retaining wall had been rebuilt.


Every spring
I hear the thrush singing
in the glowing woods
he is only passing through.
His voice is deep,
then he lifts it until it seems
to fall from the sky.
I am thrilled.
            I am grateful.

Then, by the end of morning,
he's gone, nothing but silence
out of the tree
where he rested for a night.
And this I find acceptable.
Not enough is a poor life.
But too much is, well, too much.
Imagine Verdi or Mahler
every day, all day.
It would exhaust anyone.

Mary Oliver
A Thousand Mornings, Penguin Group, 2012, page 62.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Four Brothers, with boutonnieres

Left to right: Richard Butler Hopper, Robert William Hopper,
David Wendell Hopper, John Douglas Hopper.
Photo by famly friend Burns Hansen.

You can see that only John (born 1941) has escaped my father's neat-and-clean buzz cuts. Richard (1943) demonstrates how he has always been at ease in any situation and happy about that! Robert (1945) is looking at you shyly and wants to be your friend. David is jolly and probably That's a scab on his arm, as he was often wounded. And John, as the oldest, and a charmer, is probably up for anything!


Time--the lizard in the sunlight. It doesn't move, but its eyes are wide open. They love to gaze into our faces and hearken to our discourse.

     It's because the very first men were lizards. If you don't believe me, go grab one by the tail and see it come right off.

Charles Simic
The World Doesn't End; Prose Poems, 
Harcourt, Brace, 1990. page 75.

This is from a little book by Charles Simic that impresses me more and more. Reading these pieces quite makes my brain ringgggg.