Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The Greece of Books . . .


Looking out at the Aegean Sea in 2006 on the painting trip to Greece led by Robert Dvorak.


Houston, 6 p.m.

Europe already sleeps beneath a coarse plaid of borders
and ancient hatreds: France nestled
up to Germany, Bosnia in Serbia’s arms,
lonely Sicily in azure seas.

It’s early evening here, the lamp is lit
and the dark sun swiftly fades. 

I’m alone, I read a little, think a little,
listen to a little music.

I’m where there’s friendship,
but no friends, where enchantment
grows without magic,
where the dead laugh.

I’m alone because Europe is sleeping. My love
sleeps in a tall house on the outskirts of Paris.

In Krakow and Paris my friends
wade in the same river of oblivion.

I read and think; in one poem
I found the phrase “There are blows so terrible . . .
Don’t ask!” I don’t. A helicopter
breaks the evening quiet.

Poetry calls us to a higher life,
but what’s low is just as eloquent,
more plangent than Indo-European,
stronger than my books and records.

There are not nightingales or blackbirds here
with their sad, sweet cantilenas,
only the mockingbird who imitates
and mimics every living voice.

Poetry summons us to life, to courage
in the face of the growing shadow.
Can you gaze calmly at the Earth
like the perfect astronaut?

Out of harmless indolence, the Greece of books,
and the Jerusalem of memory there suddenly appears
the island of a poem, unpeopled;
some new Cook will discover it one day.

Europe is already sleeping. Night’s animals,
mournful and rapacious,
move in for the kill.
Soon America will be sleeping, too.


Adam Zagajewski,                     (Born 1945)
             translated by Clare Cavanagh

Mysticism for Beginners, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997, page 69.

Thinking about what is happening all over the world, as we wake or sleep--especially if we find ourselves far from home--is a universal interest. Where are you sleeping tonight, where were you five years ago???

Monday, April 04, 2016

The dawn, as yet . . .

Rose names are a little funny. In Idaho, we have a pink rose called
Barbara Streisand. We read that she insisted on a rose having a fragrance
if she was going to allow then to name it for her. 
But this, rose, Mr. Lincoln was named for Honest Abe
without his permission. and really has very little fragrance.
However, we think it is one of the best red roses
and the buds have this truly beautiful, urnlike form.

Vernal

Some things we believe cannot be redeemed.
But in a valley the Railroad finally forgot,
the silted sluggish ditch we would not eat fish from
runs again, a river, rilled as before
by clear water, not black. Grass grows back
between tracks and rails. Limestone spalls
hews from the mountain heal into soil.
Stumps heaped with live coals, split, and winched out,
in spring frail a new circlet of green.
Panthers are seen. A son is born blue, and lives.
Some things we believe cannot be redeemed,
but the dawn, as yet, is diurnal. The woods keep
a hushed vigil. then rustle with life we cannot see;
small ponds well from the ground when we sleep.

Rebecca Foust

Paradise Drive; poems. Press 53, 2015, page 82.

Here is another sonnet, very hopeful, from this poet 
so new to me. As much as I like sonnets, 
I have never tried to write one. Have you??

I am on Facebook with an group called American Rivers
which frequently publishes pictures of rivers that have been. 
or are being, restored. There are still some things to be happy 
about amidst all the environmental bad news.




Sunday, April 03, 2016

A Pleasant Attitude



Blossoming whitely and quietly by the front door now,
and beginning to show tiny spots of brown.
Waning spring. . .

Outdoor Photos

Find a quiet rain.  Then a green spruce tree. You will notice that nearly every needle has been decorated with a tiny raindrop ornament. Look closely inside the drop and there you are. In 
color. Upside down. The raindrop has no instructions to flip us right-side up. People, dogs, muskrats, woods, and hill, what-
ever fits, heads down like quail from a hunter’s belt. Raindrops have been collecting snapshots since objects and people were placed, to their surprise, here and there on earth.

Raindrops are fickle, of course, willing to substitute one image 

for another without a thought as we pass by them. Our spot 
taken by a flash of lightening or a wet duck. Still, even if we are only on display for a moment in a water drop as it clings to a 
pine needle, it is expected that we be on our best behavior, hair combed, jacket buttoned, no vulgar language. Smiling is not necessary, but a pleasant attitude is helpful, and would be, I think, appreciated.

by Tom Hennen     (born 1942)

Darkness Sticks to Everything; Collected and New Poems;
Copper Canyon Press, 2013, page 154.

I got this book because of the splendid review in the New York Times and the recommendations from Robert Bly and Jim Harrison. It is a wonderful treasure: the selected poems of someone who has been working carefully and paying attention for a long while. The prose poems are near the end of the book, and earlier poems have linebreaks. All the poems demonstrate the most careful attention to the natural world.





























Saturday, April 02, 2016

With the Earth and the Sky and the Water

In bloom today in our garden at Wallace Drive:
Heritage Rose (introduced 1925) DAINTY BESS!
This is my all-time favorite rose! I bought it in bloom
because I fell in love with the 5-petal shape
and the burgundy-colored stamens.
Look on the top petal for the bonus insect!


The Lover Tells Of The Rose In His Heart

All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my                                                                                                      heart.

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of                                                                                                       gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart. 


William Butler Yeats                       (1865-1939)

This is how they used to write poems! Imagine getting this on your valentine. Each of these eight long lines could easily be broken in half. Would that be wrong??

Friday, April 01, 2016

Looking back while drawn . . .

Here I am, in the late 1930s, reaching for a grapefruit 
on my grandmother's tree in Mesa. Arizona.
My mother has brought me on the train all the way
from Schenectady, New York -- to show me to her family in Arizona.



If Not, Winter

How the night air smells like Circe's island,
like frangipani, even the trees a species
of rose. Grapevines bound in precise chords
tracing contours of hills. Orchards knee-deep
in wild mustard along I-5, forget-me-nots
blue in the ruts. Silver chains of salmon
hauled up mountain streams. Live oak, wild orchid,
purple owl clover. Mt. Tam's cubist nude
in recline, alpenglowed. Persimmons hung
like bright lanterns after the leaves have gone.
Houseboat gypsy scarlet and azuls,
gray gulls, parchment egrets. Frail sculls
pulling diagonals on wide pewter water.
Looking back while drawn into the future.

Rebecca Foust  

Paradise Drive, Press 53, 2015, page 81.

This book of poems won this year's Press 53 poetry prize.
After 20 years of pursuing a legal and youth advocacy career, Foust has returned to writing and won several awards for her poetry. This book is all sonnets and they are terrific examples. Check it out! I love the California tropes in this poem, as I have grown to love California in the past 50 years.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Same Dream

 I wanted to use the poem by Su-Tung p'o, but have no river gorge pictures from China.
There is also a melancholy feeling to this road-travel picture from the Great American West,
taken through the car window a couple of years ago.


On a Boat, Awake at Night  (1079)
Faint wind rustles reeds and cattails;
I open the hatch, expecting rain–moon floods the lake.
Boatmen and water birds dream the same dream;
a big fish splashes off like a frightened fox.
It’s late–men and creatures forget each other
while my shadow and I amuse ourselves alone.
Dark tides creep over the flats–I pity the cold mud-worms;
the setting moon, caught in a willow, lights a dangling spider.
Life passes swiftly, hedged by sorrow;
how long before you’ve lost it–a scene like this?
Cocks crow, bells ring, a hundred birds scatter;
drums pound from the bow, shout answers shout.

Su Tung-p'o             
Translated by Burton Watson

(Line 12. Drums were sounded in the bow when boats were under way.) Translator's note.

Selected Poems of Su Tung-p'o; translated from the Chinese by Burton Watson., 
Copper Canyon Press, 1994, page 77.

Sometime, when you are alone at night, perhaps far from home, or from a lost home, let your mind wander over the landscape where you are, and write down whatever thoughts come up about where you are, what creatures are there, and what you think you know.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Where We Live

Here she is again, in closeup, the Blue Witch. 
Here she is a landscape plant seen on the Daily Walks. 
But she,or a close relative grows as a a native in nearby parks and reserves. 
She is a member of the large and important plant family called Solanaceae, 
which includes many cultivated plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, 
tobacco and chili peppers. 




AGAIN

Life has a repetitious feel,
continuing the yearly progression
                                      of one's history
                                in one place
                      change is subtle
                                     sometimes hardly noticed
                 and then a large gasp,
                               someone is gone, forever

                        The migrating flocks return
                the coast range changes color,
                   monarchs come back...
                       restless surface
                                   watching the minutes'
                     
                     Not too much happens       strands
                              of consciousness
                                     strands of dreams
                  precious, rare and mundane
                                                    where we live

                                  --Joanne Kyger

From: Again
Poems 1989-2000
(La Alameda Press, 2001)

I found this poem yesterday on a gift bookmark in a book 
I was putting away. The poem was printed as a gift 
from Poetry Flash
early in this century, perhaps near the time when 
there was all that fuss about Y2K.

It is printed in brown on pale brown cardstock.
I've just looked at the current Poetry Flash on 
the web. It is very handsome and a good resource
for poets in California and far beyond.

I like the way the words in this poem
are placed on the page; I also like
the Californianess of this poem.