Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Blue Reaches of Heaven , , ,

Marilee says it's coming, and we should just get with the program. . .
It is a little harder for me this year, because we never made it back to Michigan
where they really put on a fantastic show for that season!

These pictures are from last year.
Above is the view from the house of the South Meadow.

And this is the view, from the porch, of the West Meadow and the Great Bowl of Sky!

And now I am putting Peter Everwine back on the shelf, reluctantly,
because the books don't travel. He is a new discovery this year;
I am very happy to have found him.

This morning, from under the floorboards
of the room in which I write,
Lawrence the handyman is singing the blues
in a soft falsetto as he works, the words
unclear, though surely one of them is love,
lugging its shadow of sadness into song.
I don’t want to think about sadness;
there’s never a lack of it.
I want to sit quietly for a while
and listen to my father making
a joyful sound unto his mirror
as he shaves—slap of razor
against the strop, the familiar rasp of his voice
singing his favorite hymn, but faint now,
coming from so far back in time:
Oh, come to the church in the wildwood . . .
my father, who had no faith, but loved
how the long, ascending syllable of wild
echoed from the walls in celebration
as the morning opened around him . . .
as now it opens around me, the light shifting
in the leaf-fall of the pear tree and across
the bedraggled back-yard roses
that I have been careless of
but brighten the air, nevertheless.
Who am I, if not one who listens
for words to stir from the silences they keep?
Love is the ground note; we cannot do
without it or the sorrow of its changes.
Come to the wildwood, love,
Oh, to the wiiild wood as the morning deepens,
and from a branch in the cedar tree a small bird
quickens his song into the blue reaches of heaven—
hey sweetie sweetie hey.

Peter Everwine
                                   (Born 1930)

Listening Long and Late, 
University of Pittsburg Press, 2013, pages 70-71.

My own father used to sing Annie Laurie,
about the braes which are bonny. Do you remember your father singing? jhh

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

My Grandmother in Groups of Three

My maternal grandmother, Susie Redd Butler, 
stands here between my sister Susan and myself; 
I think we are at The Farm near Schenectady, but I am not certain. 
it is maybe 1954. This is my beloved blue lightweight spring coat 
that I wore at BYU all winter (1954-55) in Provo,
adding a sweater underneath for the coldest days. 
My boyfriend, later husband, thought I should have a proper winter coat;
I loved this one and didn't understand or think anything about it.
The length and fullness of of the skirts at this time
(just coming off from The New Look after World War II)
was much favored by me. If anything, I made skirts a little longer;
I had to lengthen them anyway . . .
notice that the purchased coat is a little too short.
I loved the way the skirt fabric swirled around your calves,
and you could sort of swish and arrange it as you sat down!
I also loved that purse because it was "Arizona Style"
although it was stiff and not really useful, no pockets or slots;
and the pens would fall out if one laid it down carelessly.
Later my cousin told me that Susie was 4 feet, 10 inches tall!
No wonder my height was shocking to my parents. My mom was 5 feet, 2!

(Be sure to look at the great earlier picture of Grandma Susie underneath this poem.)

It Was Autumn

It was autumn
its iron gates darkening
with smoke and oils.

In the fields
the water turned in its nest,
the weed put down its plow and slept,
the minerals awakened.

In the heart of a tree
the moon was building a small fire.

And by its yellow light
the crickets assembled and read
from the book of crickets:

the generations
the labors
the black rains milling at sea.

Peter Everwine

from the meadow; selected and new poems, 
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004, page 33.

Stringham and Howarth of Manti and Salt Lake City, Utah, 
photographed this Carte de Visite. 
It shows my grandmother 
with her two younger sisters, Effie and Jennie.
This is a scan of a photocopy my mother had, so it could be clearer.
In this photograph, my grandmother is the tallest person.
At her funeral at age 96, the only two siblings left to attend it
were these two. They were tiny little old ladies, 
with hair completely white; the last remaining ones 
of the twelve children of their parents.

That's all tonight from The Book of Crickets!

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Hand

This seems to be a picture of my grandmother, 
Susan Redd Butler. with her seven children. 
I don't know whose hand it is, but I think it makes the shot!
Front, left to right, my mother, Olga Hopper, Grandma Susie, Marita Brimhall.
Rear: Wendell (Windy) lady in blue--is this Hazel? --it doesn't look like her, 
but she is the only one missing-- Karl Douglas, Louise, and Merwin.
I hope some of my cousins will clear this up for me.

Arizona sun--
the siblings line up
one more time

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Usually I pick the picture first and link the poem to it somehow. 
But I was putting the Kooser away when I noticed I had marked this poem, 
so I went looking for blue. Or dawn. This Lily of the Nile is blue;
soon I will come back to its garden, but I will have missed the bloom this year.
I have always liked the way the sun strikes the dried sepal in this portrait,
making it look like a piece of wrinkled tan silk.


Freely chosen, discipline
is absolute freedom.--Ron Serino

The blue shadow of dawn settles
its awkward silks into the enamelled kitchen
and soon you will wake with me into the long
discipline of night and day--the morning sky
startled and starred with returning birds.
You half-whisper, half-sigh, "This will never stop."
And I say, "Look at the constellations
our keys and coins make, there,
on the polished sky of the dresser top."

From what sometimes seems an arbitrary
form of discipline often come two words
that rhyme and in the rhyming fully marry
the world of spoons and sheets and common birds
to another world that we have always known
where the waterfall of dawn does not drown
even the haloed gnats where we are shown
how to find and hold the pale day moon, round
and blessed in the silver lake of a coffee spoon.

Mekeel McBride

in Ted Kooser, The Poetry Home Repair Manual; practical advice for beginning poets, University of Nebraska Press, 2007, page 141.

Bonus picture; an actual blue dawn-tinted sky in Michigan!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Behold My Red Eye

Most of the Wood Ducks have moved on. But this guy remembers, 
and sometimes comes and sits on the end of the stair-rail. 
He is a duckling-of-this-year and may even be one of the 13 ducklings
that were the first batch to hatch. You can see how his adult face-markings 
are not quite complete, and he still has some juvenile body-feathers;
but he is getting there! I was very happy to see him today 
and moved very quietly to take his photograph.

Keeping It Together

For a start you use
tea and talk, the day's
first dark headlines
and your dreams go
numb--that looming face
pretending to be a ripe
harvest moon stands still,
then fades to a dot 
like a TV turned off.
Next your delicacy gathers
in the eggs you carry
to the stove--the shells
are so thin these days,
they break into
such small pieces.
You drive over those pieces
to the delights of key,
office, mail and the heady
vertigo buried in
the heart of grammar.
(Oh, be with me now,
muse of the commasplice!)
Such rich incident carries
you to three, though the clock
is so hesitant, pausing so long,
as if holding its breath
before its nervous leap forward.
And finally the omens:
Scrawny birds on that 
skimpy tree out your window,
the exit marked Graceless,
and rain whispering
its million run-on sentences.

Vern Rutsala       (February 5, 1934 – April 2, 2014)

How We Spent Our Time
University of Akron Press, 2006, pages 41-42.
This book is also inscribed 
to the former owner in teensy writing: 
                                                                                                                 All the best, Vern Rutsala

This generation of poets is fast leaving the planet. If you meant 
to write any fan letters, now might be the time. 
I wish I had thanked them more...

Friday, August 28, 2015

a few words in my ear . . .

Shining white mother and child on a late summer afternoon boat ride 
with my grandsons on the Indian River, July, 2009.
On some days, the light is right and you just get lucky!
An idea came to me for a photograph . . .


An idea came to me
for a rhyme? A poem?
Well--fine--I say, stay awhile, we'll talk
Tell me a little more about yourself.
       So it whispered a few words in my ear.
Ah, so that's the story--I say--intriguing.
These matters have long weighed upon my heart.
But a poem about them? I don't think so.
        So it whispered a few words in my ear.
It may seem that way--I reply--
But you overestimate my gifts and powers.
I wouldn't even know where to start.
         So it whispered a few words in my ear.
You're wrong--I say--a short, pithy poem
is much harder than a long one.
Don't pester me, don't nag, it won't turn out.
         So it whispered a few words in my ear.
All right then, I'll try, since you insist.
But don't say I didn't warn you.
I write, tear it up, and toss it out.
         So it whispered a few words in my ear.
You're right, I say, there are always other poets.
Some of them can do it better.
I'll give you names and addresses.
          So it whispered a few words in my ear.
Of course I'll envy them.
We envy even the weak poems.
But this one should . . . it ought to have . . .
           So it whispered a few words in my ear.
Exactly, to have the qualities you've listed.
So let's change the subject.
How about a cup of coffee?

           It just sighed.

           And started vanishing.

           And vanished.

Wislawa Szymborska

Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak

HERE, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, page 11,13.

This delightful. light-touch-yet-serious poem about writing and inspiration by Nobelist Szymborska has an interesting structure. Almost every line is a complete sentence. And the line about whispering is repeated seven times, with three lines between each repetition after the first time. But I wish we had the poem that almost got written . . .

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Each Day

It is hard for me to resist playing with that Waterlogue app!
This is the Little Union Canal, one of the homes of my heart.


Forest shade, lake shade, poplar shade, highway shade,
backyard shade, café shade, down-behind-the-high-school
shade, cow shade, carport shade, blowing shade, dappled
shade, shade darkened by rain above, shade under ships,
shade along banks of snow, shade beneath the one tree in a
bright place, shade by the ice cream truck, shade in the new-
car sales room, shade in halls of the palace as all the electric
lights turn on, shade in a stairwell, shade in tea barrels, shade
in books, shade of clouds running over a distant landscape,
shade on bales in the barn, shade in the pantry, shade in the
icehouse (the smell of shade), shade under runner blades,
shade along branches, shade at night (a difficult research),
shade on rungs of a ladder, shade on pats of butter sculpted
to look like scallop shells, shade to holler from, shade in the
chill of bamboo, shade at the core of an apple, confessional
shade, shade of hair salons, shade in a joke, shade in the town
hall, shade descending from legendary ancient hills, shade
under the jaws of a dog with a bird in its mouth trotting
along to the master’s voice, shade at the back of the choir,
shade in pleats, shade clinging to arrows in the quiver, shade
in scars.
Anne Carson

The New Yorker, August 10 & 17, 2015.

This is an interesting poem, and I was very glad to find it in The New Yorker! Try making a list of something like this and using it as the basis for several different forms of poem!