Monday, September 22, 2014

End-of-Summer Pathos

When the outdoor pot of living decor at Mim's Mediterranean Grill looks like this, 
you can guess that the season is just about gone.

Inside is much more cheerful and my clam basket had so many fries that I couldn't eat them all.

I recently got an autographed copy of a book by my old friend and former cohort,
Gayle Kaune. It's got solid poems inside. I am very happy to have it.


As I click the camera,
light and dark are reversed on film
today's wind ghosts the hair
of children, now grown,
gathered for reunion.

I turn to photograph 
the past: empty swings
rock beside the blind tree
in an overexposed garden,
its statuary reminiscent of baby graves.

  *  *  *

It's all so real, these scenes of domesticity,
they must be photographed by family,
so intimate are the gestures.

In the background people
busy themselves with a violin or a meal.

But the pictures are taken by a poet,
whose only skill is words.
She doesn't realize how happiness
can destroy itself when placed
under glass--doesn't know to set
the meter, the mistake of too much light.

Gayle Kaune
All the Birds Awake
Tebot Bach, Huntington Beach CA, 2011, page19

There is quite a bit to think about as one follows the thought in this poem. I am still working on whether I agree or disagree. . .

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Feathery antennae

I thought it was a crumpled scrap of white paper underneath a chair in the bedroom. Instead of just vacuuming it up, I picked it up to see what it was, Then I very, very carefully carried it into the studio where I laid it on one of Dad's rock slices and took a picture with my iPhone. I cannot give you the species of the moth, nor the classification of the mineral, but the combination is good! I think I understood from what I looked up that male moths have feathery antennae to smell with, probably smelling for females! But maybe I didn't get that right. I do know, though, that if I hadn't taken a picture (this is an enlarged crop) I wouldn't have been able to SEE the featheriness 
with my naked eye. And could that be its brown, bulbous eye?

how still the white moth lying where it fell

June Hopper Hymas

I have just finished the first week of my Buson 100, writing ten haiku a day for 100 days.
I'm a little short now, because I skipped a day, but already I am learning quite a bit. I am revising the previous haiku each day as I go along, but I am not sure I will do this all the way. The haiku above is written in a one-line form, and is one of the haiku from this project.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"the air dry, sweet with goldenrod"

Fenceline rocks and a post; once someone farmed here; 
we go this way on the Daily Walk.

Garrison Keillor just read this poem on the radio. And I remembered those much-loved girlhood horse books where I learned that word: filly. How much I love both the poetry and the essays of Wendell Berry. This poem is in his New Collected Poems on my easy-to-bring-along Kindle. It is very much a this-time-of-year poem. Tonight we drove out for a sandwich and commented along the way on each maple that was barely beginning to turn. Then we were caught in a sudden fierce downpour and came home very wet. We ate the Subway sandwiches in the car so Cassie could share them. She would bark at a filly, should she chance upon one.

The Sorrel Filly

The songs of small birds fade away
into the bushes after sundown,
the air dry, sweet with goldenrod.
Beside the path, suddenly, bright asters
flare in the dusk. The aged voices
of a few crickets thread the silence.
It is a quiet I love, though my life
too often drives me through it deaf.
Busy with costs and losses, I waste
the time I have to be here—a time
blessed beyond my deserts, as I know,
if only I would keep aware. The leaves
rest in the air, perfectly still.
I would like them to rest in my mind
as still, as simply spaced. As I approach,
the sorrel filly looks up from her grazing,
poised there, light on the slope
as a young apple tree. A week ago
I took her away to sell, and failed
to get my price, and brought her home
again. Now in the quiet I stand
and look at her a long time, glad
to have recovered what is lost
in the exchange of something for money.

Wendell Berry

New Collected Poems, Counterpoint, 2012. Kindle Edition.

Each of the leaves on these aspens behind the house will turn gold 
and fall very soon, 
singly or in small showers
like bright gold coins dancing through the air!

Friday, September 19, 2014


 This competent mother of nine guided them all past again on the way to the trees 
where they spend the night,  I get so excited taking pictures through the window-glass 
that I talk to them, praising their beauty.

Here is a closer view of two babies, looking for bugs.

Tonight I want you to follow the trajectory of the poem below, which I just discovered in an old Paris Review, Summer, 2007, page 142. It is by one of my favorite prose-poem writers, Vern Rutsala.

Sorry Roads

Their sorrow is something like
buyer's remorse. They chose
their paths but now regret it,
realizing---too late---they could 

have gone to the seashore
or forests of sweet pines.
But there is one I like, ignored
by engineers, looking like

the sorriest of them all. It's off
the map in Idaho and rises
and falls, goes over rickety bridges,
seems almost to lose its way

completely but finally staggers
into the yard of the old farm
one sepia evening, the years
peeling back like stripping bark

from a willow. It's the time 
the old man cleared the land
for the homestead and hammered
the old house together

with his bare fists.
Tonight I catch the scent
of sawdust, the new siding still
white as stripped willow.

Vern Rutsala  (1934-2014)

Six short four-line stanzas, clean language--nothing fancy, take you along the road. But the journey is also one long journey backwards in time, carried forth by intelligent words that have freight, like sepia. Read it again and follow the pattern of the thought,

This remark about his writing is quoted in that obituaty:
"'I like to throw the blob of words on the page, then come back, maybe days later, to see what is still possible in the poem,' Rutsala said. "Then I'm able to shape it. Most language is trying to sell us something or deceive us. Poetry doesn't try to deceive."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"But also for the earth you stand on"

Today's splendid brief visitor, who pauses, just for a moment, to look in my direction.

To the Oak

If I love you
I won't imitate the morning glory
Borrowing your high branches to display myself
If I love you
I won't imitate those infatuated birds
Who repeat their monotonous flattery to the foliage,
Nor the fountain
With its solace of cool waters;
I won't even be those background vistas
That serve to make you more majestic.
Not even sunshine,
Not even spring rain,
No, none of these!
I would like to be a kapok tree
Standing beside you as an equal,
Our roots touching underground,
Our leaves touching in the clouds;
And with every gust of wind
We would bow to each other.
But no one else
Understands our language;
You have your branches
Like daggers or swords
While my big red flowers
Are heavy sighs.
Though it seems we are separated forever
We are eternally together;
This is great love,
This is fidelity.
Love ---
Not only for your splendid trunk
But also for the earth you stand on.

Shu Ting, translated by Carolyn Kizer in
Cool, Calm & Collected; poems 1960-2000, pages 481-482.

I have written here before, when I talked about Bei Dao and Gu Cheng, what clear memories I have of the reading at San Jose State by some of the Misty Poets, from China. That was the night I fell in love with Gu Cheng, who made his own hat! And watched Beo Dao, off to one side, look sardonically out at us all. Shu Ting was there, too, the only woman, with her translator, Carolyn Kizer, who seemed to be somewhat in charge of the whole event. (I can't remember everything! How I wish I had kept a journal, or at least an aide-memoire!) I remember Shu Ting as slight in person, and firm in presentation. And Kizer as majestic, like an empress. What amazing courage these young people had!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Long Clouds float over the trees"

This is the fawn outfit of this year. Can anything be prettier?
The Road

And where you see a green valley
And a road half-covered with grass,
Through an oak wood beginning to bloom
Children are returning home from school.

In a pencil case that opens sideways
Crayons rattle among the crumbs of a roll
And a copper penny saved by every child
To greet the first spring cuckoo.

Sister's beret and brother's cap
Bob in the bushy underbrush,
A screeching jay hops by in the branches
And long clouds float over the trees

A red cap is already visible at the bend
In front of the house, father, leaning on a hoe,
Bows down, touches the unfolded leaves,
And from his flower bed inspects the whole region.

     Czeslaw Milosz

This is one of a group of early poems
called The World, some of which appear in
New and Collected POEMS (1931-2001) Ecco, 2001, page 36.

They are just starting out on the Daily Walk the other day. 
One has to look hard for the dachshund who is moving toward the center 
of the photo on the end of the leash. Small dark spot.
This is one of those iPhone panoramas which seems to compress the distances here. 
The swing seems tp be more than 180 degrees from pointing eastward, to directly west.
It would have been better with more sky and less sandy driveway.
Of such small failures, many things are made.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blacktail, Whitetail

This little whitetail deer (photographed on my birthday two days ago) is still in the process of becoming. Ribs show, although winter is coming soon, sparse coat is partly shed and not yet fully renewed. Small antlers are still in velvet. And he has to get his sustenance from grass!

That excellent poet and friend, Lucia Perillo, lives west in the country of the blacktail deer.How delighted I was to find this poem in The New Yorker.


Like tent caterpillars, we cover the landscape with mesh
because of the deer, the ravenous deer.
They enter the yard with the footwork
of cartoon thieves—the stags wear preposterous
inverse chandeliers, the does bearing fetuses
visibly kicking inside of their cage. And who
can not-think of that crazy what-if: what if
a hoof tears through? Would you call
the dogcatcher or an ambulance?

The problem’s their scale—you might as well park
a Cadillac in the house. Or go be a hunter
inside a big plastic goose, a fibreglass burger
on top of a hamburger stand. The way they tiptoe
past the bird feeder, rattling the seed
the squirrels have spilled. Then they eat
something outrageous, like the pansy
all the way up on the stoop. Before they leap
into the ravine with a noise like cymbals!

But isn’t that how things end, with a cymbal crash? Leaving
you at the window with not even your rage.
Because you cannot rage at such delicate skeletons—
that is a social misdemeanor—though they have stepped
toward us the way the founding fathers
must have once approached the natives, with their arms
extended, though they bore disease.

Lucia Perillo
The New Yorker, August 25, 2014

Jays at the feeder, also on my birthday. Lucia would be more likely to have the Stellar's Jay.
On the news of the Buson 100: the first day was easy. but it gets harder each day! And I am only on day three! Wish me luck!