Monday, April 27, 2015

The Footsteps of Morning

Thinking about dawn tonight; I have many more photos of sunsets because I usually sleep late.
This was years ago as the sun come up over Lake Michigan at the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
I need to check out the dawn here at the Little Union Canal.

I have been looking again into Poet's Choice; poems for everyday life, 
selected and annotated by Robert Hass, Ecco, 1998.
Which led me to the transcriptions by Frances Densmore of Chippewa songs.
This one on page 100 is a current favorite.


The magpie! The magpie! Here underneath
in the white of his wings are the footsteps of morning.
It dawns! It dawns!

Frances Densmore also made notations of the music of these Native American songs. 
I wish I could hear them.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

April Sun on Young Fig Leaves

I have been wondering about my garden in the drought, since I am not there to see
the new leaves of the fig in springtime. This is how they were last April in bright sunlight.


The year's first poem done,
with smug self confidence
a haikai poet.

Longer has become the daytime;
a pheasant is fluttering
down onto the bridge.

The haiku post Buson also wrote longer poems. I don't know the source of this one or the translator.
But tonight it pleases me. Instead of a pheasant, I had a quail on the porch railing today. The grasses and the birds are waking up and the iris are budding beside the Little Union Canal.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

In another autumn

My brother Robert and my sister, Marjory gather autumn leaves in the mid-1950s 
at The Farm, on one of my mother's slides. We always enjoyed the bright autumn leaves. 
When we lived in Scotia, I remember my mother melting blocks of paraffin 
in a skillet and dipping in the brightest leaves to coat them with wax. 
Then Mom made arrangements with the orange bittersweet berries 
that grew beside the porch. How well I remember these striped T-shirts
that passed down from one brother to another. 
And how difficult it was to cut little blonde bangs as straight as this.

drawing near them
a sudden loneliness...
autumn leaves

translated by David Lanoue

Friday, April 24, 2015

Each Minute

                                                  photo by Olga Butler Hopper
We are at The Farm in Rexford. I am packing to leave New York State 
and attend the University of Arizona, a two-day train-ride away. 
In the heat of an August afternoon in 1953, my littlest sister is trying to figure things out. 
The striped suitcase in the foreground was my mother's and has her initials O.B. on it; 
I will never give it back, My outfit is a "squaw skirt," 
 (Note:apparently, one can still get squaw skirts on Etsy!)
 three tiers of gathers on a waistband,
 and a blouse I made to wear with it of black fabric 
and some of the dark-pink-flowered skirt fabric with a black ground.
I am wearing the first prescription sunglasses I ever owned;
my mother knew I would need them in Arizona.
I think we have just been outside for Mom to photograph me in this outfit;
she shot three rolls of film, because, she said, "You will never be the same." 


The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold 
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

Denise Levertov  (1923-1997)

A Book of Luminous Things, edited by Czeslaw Milosz, 
Harcourt, 1996, page 24.

This is a wonderful anthology; I cannot recommend it too highly!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Let me tell you this:

Here is another of my mother's scanned slides, cropped and changed to black and white.
Christmas in Shaker Heights: my beloved youngest brother, Robert, holds a book-gift and smiles
at the youngest of us, my sister Marjory. I think this is Christmas, 1962,
in the house on Lee Road in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I was in the hospital having my back fixed.
The classy French-style chair was one of a pair that never seemed to me to go with
any of our other furniture, except the French Provincial sofa that was purchased 
at the same time and still lives in Susan's house, I think.

You may forget but

let me tell you 
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us

translated by Mary Barnard

Sappho; a new translation,
University of California Press, 1958, page 60.

The story of the recovery of fragment's of Sappho's poetry on pieces of papyrus is wonderful. One fragment was discovered 
very recently. Many poets feel that these
versions by Mary Barnard capture 
the spirit of the Sappho's poems best.

Sometimes fragments are all we have: I recently posted

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mallards Taking the Sun this Morning

These green feathers shine and shine! Observe the curly tail feathers
which only male mallards wear. You can sometimes see hybrids
and know that they have some mallard background if you see these curls!
The necks are quite adjustable in length, too. This fellow raised his head
this morning to look around, while she rested more quietly.

Life List

Blear-eyed and solitary
I study the lake at dawn.
Binoculars and a black
notebook keep me company
in this dry blind, but nothing
stirs marsh reeds
or disturbs the gray air.
My tenth winter of willing
indenture to this listing,
I scan the ragged treeline 
and recall magpies pecking
litter from ash, a maverick
bunting fencing with his
image in a garden mirror or
the osprey's nest with its
cracked bough ready for
collapse. So many entries,
vigils, pretenses--I become
fir, or a barkless snag, 
an odd rock under goshawk
circles--anything to help 
me  blend in and eavesdrop,
any camoflage for my sly
voyeur's form. From habit
and instinct I follow my
field guide's advice on
habitat and music to catch
another bird's name, to
cage him on lined paper,
add a date beside cactus
wren, swamp sparrow, Bell's 
vireo with a red berry,
a wet gnatcatcher perched 
on the bent yellow limb.
Once a fishing spoonbill
spread roseate wings like
Victory, and I mis-stepped
and fell into a ditch. Once
a mockingbird pecked my head.
Wood duck, Sabine gull on
driftwood, a male kittiwake
soaring, or the anhinga with 
a meter wingspan--all have 
appeared beside thin birches
bright as birdsong or under
opalescent clouds. Each bird
gave evidence of such zest
and the pleasure of flight
I am drawn back to forest
and water for more sustenance.
Crouching now, I can taste
bacon grease and yearning
while a ruddy duck approaches,
then follows another cove,
awakening my old envy of all
grace and dazzle these beasts
harbor in their hollow bones,
lightness of mantle and scapular,
instinct's swift rituals,
and I am drifting myself, half
dreaming when the duck darts
to bare timbers shovering
in mist. Then his soft wings
oar the air, and I raise
the Zeiss to catch in round
lenses the low dip and levitation,
the sudden star of his wild
and transforming eye.

R. T. Smith

Hunter-Gatherer; poems by R. T. Smith, 
Livingston Press, 1996, pages 9-10.

There is a great deal of information from many different birding outings in this poem. It convinces me that the poet has really done some serious birding. One of the main things I noticed while typing it (I usually say it aloud, line by line, as I type) is the rhythm, which is quite strong and sometimes almost independent of the line. It is a much more "poetical" sort of poem than I had at first suspected.
Read it aloud.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Wood ducks often wander across the lawn in couples like this.

Northern Flicker; a haibun
aspens leafing out—
a flicker dashes headlong
against the window

When I found him—his upright claws clenched loosely around air—his folded wing cast a long shadow in the morning light, as if it could once again assume the shape of flight. All day he lay on the porch, bereft of life, cupped in a serene circlet of his own shining yellow black-tipped feathers. A pair of downy woodpeckers were nesting in a dead tree near the back door, but if the flicker had a mate, she did not show herself.

We bent to admire the brilliant red on the top of his head, his elegant speckled breast, and for our closest look, and look again, at the nictitating membrane, blue-white and half-closed from the bottom of his eye. It was hard to give him up: so curious and beautifully made. 

I thought at first of a tree burial, of walking deep into woods and placing him as high as I could reach. My grandson and I buried him, neatly folded into a section of the Petoskey News-Review, at the edge of a small pine grove. With formal care, we chose a gray boulder to mark his grave.After we had strewn it with dandelions and very small pale blue violets, I sang a hymn from my childhood religion.

in the leafing wood
woodpeckers drum all day
his funeral music

June Hopper Hymas

The dandelions reminded me of this haibun that I wrote many years ago. A haibun is short, compact prose with haiku included. It is a wonderful form for a memory like this. It is one of my favorite forms. jhh
And here he is, poor fellow!