Friday, October 31, 2014


This is the Mother of Nine with her late brood this year. 
I hope they are doing well; it snowed today in Alanson, 
so the winter is upon them! In the mornings 
we would see her taking them east through the meadow 
and in the late afternoons, she took them west 
and they disappeared into the woods. 
Sometimes one would leap into the air 
and fly a wingbeat or two and hit the ground running. 
Views of this little family were a special treat 
all during this late summer and early autumn.

Here is another of Galway Kinnell's poems; all of us poets are much saddened by his loss. 
This poem was mentioned by C. K. Williams in a remembrance in the New Yorker, October 30, 2014.


Sometimes we saw shadows of gods
in the trees; silenced, we went on.
Sometimes the dog would bound off
over the snow, into the forest.
Sometimes a tree had twenty
or more black turkeys in it, each
seeming the size of a small black bear.
We remember them for their care
for their kind ever since we watched the big hen
in the very top of the tree shaking
load after load of apples down to the flock.
Sometimes I felt I would never
come out of the woods, I thought
its deeper darkness might absorb me
or feed me to the black turkeys
and I would cry out for the dog
and the dog would not answer.

Galway Kinnell
The New Yorker, January 18, 2010.

Looking at Kinnell's poems again, I am struck not only by how much information is in his poems,
but by how much he leaves out, which results in a swift careening motion through the poem. I think, for certain types of poems, one should try to assemble as much information and relevant metaphor and thought, and then carve out much of it, moving more rapidly through the poem without so much explicit connectivity. Let's try it.!

On a side note, back in Idaho, by the Little Union Canal, my ducks
remembered and came running when I came out the back door.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Then I light the candle

Another landscape taken from the moving car on the recent trip.
A place, and lives, only passed by and imagined.

Tonight I picked up A Village Light, one of Louise Gluck's perfect volumes of poetry set in a certain slightly removed, place and time. These books (there are several of them, including Averno) have a unity that makes them a pleasure to read, only partly because of this unity. You enter another world, a world similar to the one you live in, and with many familiar features, but with a compelling character all its own. Tonight's poem is the first poem in the book, and I have already marked two others to share here later.


All day he works at his cousin's mill,
so when he gets home at night, he always sits at this one window,
sees one time of day, twilight.
There should be more time like this to sit and dream.
It's as hi cousin says:
Living, living takes you away from sitting.

In the window, not the world but a squared-off landscape
representing the world. The seasons change,
each visible only a few hours a day.
Green things followed by golden things followed by whiteness---
abstractions from which come intense pleasures,
like the figs on the table.

At dusk the sun goes down in a haze of red fire between two                                                                                                             poplars,
It goes down late in summer--sometimes it's hard to stay awake.

Then everything fall away.
The world for a little longer
is something to see, then only something to hear
crickets, cicadas.
Or to smell sometimes, aroma of lemon trees, or orange tree.
Then sleep takes this away also.

But it's easy to give things up like, this, experimentally,
for a matter of hours.

I open my fingers---
I let everything go.

Visual world, language,
rustling of leaves in the night,
smell of high grass, of woodsmoke.

I let it go, then I light the candle.

Louise Gluck, 

A Village Life, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, page 3.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Galway Kinnell has died

As with much poetry news, I got the information first from Facebook. I heard Kinnell read more than once when he came to the San Francisco Bay Area. He was a compelling reader of his mesmerizing poems. It is very sad to know that he has gone. When I told S, he mentioned a poem he had liked when teaching, and soon thereafter, one of my other Facebook friends mentioned the same poem, "St. Francis and the Sow." So that has to be the poem for tonight. Sleep well, Galway, we will remember you.

Here is a photo of Beniamino Bufano's statue of Saint Francis of Assisi that stands 
at the entrance to the Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley of California. 
The photo is by Bryan Nabong (Creative Commons License) made available on Flickr.

Also from Flickt, and by Bryan Nabong, this detail of the mosaic on St. Francas' robe. 
Photo is available for use via Creative Commons licensing. Thank you, Bryan!

Saint Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Galway Kinnell, “Saint Francis and the Sow” from Three Books, Mariner Books, 2002.

And here is my own photo of the sculptor Bufano's work, This bird stands in San Francisco and
posing for me is my beloved younger son, who now has four children of his own.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Asking the Sky

This is another of the changing light scenarios from the Trip West. 
I was fascinated by the shape of this butte.
And the cloudy light.

Tonight's poem is another from Bei Dao's book that I left on my end table in June.


tonight a confusion of rain
fresh breezes leaf through the book
dictionaries swell with implication
forcing me into submission

memorizing ancient poems as a child
I couldn't see what they meant
and stood at the abyss of explication
for punishment

bright moon sparse stars
out of those depths a teacher's hands
give directions to the lost
a shadow mocking our lives

people slide down the slope of
education on skis
their story
slides beyond national boundaries

after words slide beyond the book
the white page is pure amnesia
I wash my hands clean
and tear it apart, the rain stops

Bei Dao, translated by David Hinton
The Rose of Time; new and selected poems; 

edited by Eliot Weinberger, New Directions, 2010, page 121.

The poetry of Bei Dao is like a breath of fresh thought!
It causes one to think in all sorts of directions.
I am reminded ot the poem-memorization
common to Chinese culture for thousands of years.

Raindrops on the windshield, through Yellowstone,  turning to snow, two days ago.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Deep Skies

Through Idaho on the final leg of the trip today. Spectacular beauty all the way! 
We passed hayfields, cornfields, winter wheat coming up, and lava beds and other wonders.

And when we got here, a copy of Bei Dao's book by my chair right where I left it, 
with a bookmark at this poem. It's a good thing it is short, and will be easy to type
because I don't remember being this tired.
Glad to be here, the leaves are just turning, so I will have "two autumns"

I go
you remain
two autumns

(The famous haiku by either Buson or Shiki, depending on whom you consult.)


hawk shadow flickers past
fields of wheat shiver

I'm becoming one who explicates summer
return to the main road
put on a cap to concentrate thoughts

if deep skies never die

Bei Dao, translated by David Hinton
The Rose of Time; new and selected poems; edited by Eliot Weinberger, New Directions, 2010, page 107.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

About Skies

Traveling all day through Montana, then just into Idaho, and again 
thrilling to the display of skies. 
I thought of Wendell Berry; I don't know why 
and found this short sky poem by him

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Eye to Eye

The week before we leave, I go here and there, checking this and putting away 
that for the winter. Dachshund Cassie was on the porch with me. 
She kept jumping up at and barking at the covered propane barbecue. 
I lifted the one edge of the cover and found myself face-to-face 
She was behind and a little to the side of this nest. We just looked at each other.
And looked. Who was more surprised?
Then I put the cover back. Thinking: that little creature has carried every tiny bit 
of this nest material up the legs of the barbecue and made a comfy nest; 
Now I think I even see some mouse fur-lining in the lower part of the photo.
So I left it there for several days, but Cassie never again barked at the barbecue.
So the mouse had gone to look for a better location.
And I didn't have to decide whether to keep a vermin-nest undercover on my porch,
even when the vermin had such dainty white legs and is so incredibly cute!
This is a picture of the nest after I had scooped it out onto the porch floor.
Then I went for my camera! Then I heartlessly kicked it off the porch into the weeds.

Trip Note: We finished Day Four of the Trip West.,
Tonight we are at the Kelly Inn in Billings, Montana
watching Game Four of the World Series, which
was pretty bad, but now has suddenly caught fire.
And so good night!
No poem, just the poetry of baseball!