Thursday, July 31, 2014

Two Blues

I have been thinking today about using this photo of Lake Superior last fall as the inspiration for a watercolor. Maybe use removable tape to keep the horizon so straight. And be sure to reserve the whites of the surf with a little preplanning. The soft-edged whites of the clouds should be easier to manage. The water is definitely a greeny-blue, like Thalo Blue Green Shade, and the sky looks like Ultramarine with a touch of red. The foreground and the darks should go in last and I might even use a Pitt pen for some of the twigginess of that tree. And things should be a little simplified. I might even try to do some different versions. I am planning to start my daily art project tomorrow. Today I definitely established that it is too windy to paint on the deck now. Maybe later in the summer when the weather changes and the air is still. (When it will probably be too hot. Given the state of the world today, I am glad to have only such minor problems right now.

I spent a lot more time with the Milosz Collected Poems (1931-2001) today. There is a whole section of early poems, The World, descriptions of childhood surroundings written in the middle of World War II, that are just about perfect--I plan to use many of them here, and to try some descriptions of my home in Scotia, New York from 1940-1950, if I can recall it in such concrete and useful detail.


Still one more year of preparation.
Tomorrow at the latest I'll start working on a great book
In which my century will appear as it really was.
The sun will rise over the righteous and the wicked,
Springs and autumns will unerringly return,
In a wet thicket a thrush will build his nest lined with clay
And foxes will learn their foxy natures,

And that will be the subject, with addenda. Thus: armies
Running across frozen plains, shouting a curse
In a many-voiced chorus; the cannon of a tank
Growing immense at the corner of a street; the ride at dusk,
Into a camp with watchtowers and barbed wire.

No, it won't happen tomorrow. In five or ten years
I still think too much about the mothers
And ask what is man born of woman.
He curls himself up and protects his head
While he is kicked by heavy boots; on fire and running,
He burns with bright flame; a bulldozer sweeps him into a clay pit.
Her child. Embracing a teddy bear. Conceived in ecstasy.

I haven't learned yet to speak as I should, calmly.

Czeslaw Milosz, Collected Poems; 1931-2001, page 429.
This poem is from his book Unattainable Earth, 1986.

Admire the motion of this poem. It contains much of the Twentieth Century in its single page. What a poet!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hold on while I find my camera!

Although he does have a couple of spikes (see them on his shadow?) this buck is still very small, as most of the deer here seem to be. I couldn't find the camera, so caught him with the iPad. He is the first deer I've seen this year and was already moving away as if he sensed me there, behind the window. Then far out in the bracken, I saw two little big-eared heads looking at me. So it was a three-deer morning.

Because the only customer I've had for the sunflower seeds has been a goldfinch, who keeps pushing them off the feeder in search of something more delectable, I got thistle seed today, and a new thistle-seed feeder--one of those with the insanely-fake yellow flowers made of plastic. But this afternoon, the goldfinch still was pushing sunflower seeds from the other feeder. In the woods, happily, there is always tomorrow, at least for two or three more months.

I have found more lovely poems today. It is nice to find some books with so many excellent things to choose from. For tonight, though, this short one from the Milosz book. It has been a somewhat tiring day.


The grass between the tombs is intensely green.
From steep slopes a view onto the bay,
Onto islands and cities below. The sunset
Grows garish, slowly fades. At dusk
Light prancing creatures. A doe and a fawn
Are here, as every evening, to eat flowers
Which people brought for their beloved dead.

Czeslaw Milosz, from 
New and Collected Poems (1931-2001) Ecco, 2001, page 526.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Light Leak

The days of loading cameras with film are mostly long gone.Although a few people (like the Brownie Camera Guy I follow on Twitter) are hanging in there. And sometimes (like tonight) when I feel a little blahhh, I can pretend I have just ruined most of a whole roll of film by using an app like Camerabag. Here is one result, looking at the aspens from my upstairs porch just today.

Big poetry news is that I have fallen in love with the many-faceted poetry of James Galvin, and through that, discovered two anthologies of farm poems: American and worldwide in translation. Galvin wrote the forward for one of them. I found some extraordinary poems today! Here is one of them from Galvin's collected poetry.


Evergreens have reasons
For stopping when they do,
At timberline or the clean edge
Of sage or prairie grass.
There are quantities of wind
They know they cannot cross.

They come down from the tundra
On waves of ridges and stop,
Staring out over open country,
Like pilgrims on the shore
Of an unexpected ocean.
The sky is still the sky, they know;
It won't understand ordinary language.

Meet my mother, twice removed,
Who could tell the time from stars.
She said everything is its own reward,
Grief, poverty, the last word.
Evening was her favorite time
And she walked along the shore of trees,
Carrying herself as if afraid
She might give herself away.
She called this being quiet.

Just inside the treeline, out of the wind,
Father built a handrail along the path.
She'd stand there like a sailor's wife
And stare at the high places as dark came on.
She said mountains may be islands
But the sky is still the sky.
She'd wait for the ranch lights
On the prairie to come out
Like a fallen constellation
She said waiting is its own reward,
The lights are only reasons.

James Galvin

from Resurrection Update: Collected Poems, 1975-1997
Copper Canyon Press, 1997, pages 71-72.

Lately I haven't been  fan of an initial capital letter on each line of a free-verse poem like this, regardless of where the sentences begin. But this poem ha made me change my mind. Look at the poetry of James Galvin; this is excellent and varied stuff!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Baler

Summer. More of the beautiful hayfields in front 
of the majestic blue-violet of the mountains on our trip. 
This photo was taken from the car-in-motion.

Here is another of the hay poems I have been collecting. I think I only have one more left, though.

The Baler

You tourist composed upon that fence
to watch the quaint farmer at his quaint task
come closer, bring your camera here
or fasten your telescopic lens
if you're too indolent; all I ask
is that when you go home you take
a close-up among your color slides
of vacationland, to show we pay the price
for hay, this actual panic: no politic fear
but tumbling wild waves down the windrows, tides
of crickets, grasshoppers, meadow mice,
and half-feathered sparrows, whipped by a bleeding snake.

Hayden Carruth (1926-2008).
from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991 (1992).

Sunday, July 27, 2014

House (Neruda)

The iPhone app that I used for this is called ToonPaint. When one takes a picture it renders things in this manner sort of like a faded color drawing. I think one might be able to manipulate the result but I usually like it the way it comes out. We are still neatening up this place in the Michigan woodlands, but also playing with our electronics now that we got the Invaluable Internet up and running. Usually S has the dachshund on his lap, but she decided to nap on the couch during this photo opp.

Here's a little more Neruda for tonight, and many other nights.


Perhaps this is the house in which I lived
when neither I, nor earth, existed,
when everything was moon, or stone, or shadow,
with the still light unborn.
This stone could then have been
my house, my windows, or my eyes.
This granite rose recalls
Something that lived in me, or I in it,
a cave, a universe of dreams inside the skull:
cup or castle, boat or birth.
I touch the rock's tenacious thrust,
its bulwark pounded in the brine
and I know that flaws of mine subsisted here,
wrinkled substances that surfaced
from the depths of my soul,
and stone I was, stone shall be, and for this
caress this stone which has not died for me:
it's what I was, and shall be---the tranquillity
of struggle stretched beyond the brink of time.

from Pablo Neruda; selected poems,a bilingual edition, edited by Nathaniel Tarn, HM, 1990, page 411

Notice the useful repetition of the word "stone" which is la piedra in Spanish. Also other words like granite and rock as well as castle and pounded carry forth this theme. Even the moon is rocky!

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Now, all along the edge of the meadow, a beautiful stand of timothy reminds me how my father taught me the word for this useful forage grass. So tonight, another hay poem. (I have found quite a few!)

At the Back of the North Wind

All summer's warmth was stored there in the hay;
Below, the troughs of water froze: the boy
Climbed nightly up the rungs behind the stalls
And planted deep between the clothes he heard
The kind wind bluster, but the last he knew
Was sharp and filled his head, the smell of hay.
Here wrapped within the cobbled mews he woke.
Passing from summer, climbing down through winter
He broke into an air that kept no season:
Denying change, for it was always there.
It nipped the memory numb, scalding away
The castle of winter and the smell of hay.

The ostlers knew, but did not tell him more
Than hay is what we turn to. Other smells,
Horses, leather, manure, fresh sweat, and sweet
Mortality, he found them on the North.
That was her sister, East, that shrilled all day
And swept the mews dead clean from wisps of hay.

Thom Gunn (1929-2004).
from The Sense of Movement, Faber & Faber, 1968.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Health of Poetry

The day lilies were already blooming when we got here, because we were later this year. 
I ran outside just now to get this picture before the daylight was gone.

Just before we left last year I bought Czeslaw Milosz's Complete Poems (1931-2001) Ecco, 2003. 776 pages! That's a lot of poetry! I left a box of poetry books for my return and picked up this one first this morning. And in just a short while, I had found my old favorite and marked several more to use on this blog. S says I can't just use one poet all the time; I was planning to spread them out, really.

At the insistence of his publisher, he wrote a forward. It is one page long. Here is the last about forty percent of it.

I think that effort to capture as much as possible of tangible reality is the health of poetry.Having to choose between subjective art and objective art, I would vote for the latter, even if the meaning of that term is grasped not by theory, but by personal struggle. I hope that my practice justifies my claim.

The history of the twentieth century prompted many poets to design images that conveyed their moral protest. Yet to remain aware of the weight of fact without yielding to the temptation to become only a reporter is one of the most difficult puzzles confronting a practioner of poetry. It calls for a cunning in selecting one's means and a kind of distillation of material to achieve a distance to contemplate the things of this world as they are, without illusion. In other words, poetry has always been for me a participation in the humanly modulated time of my contemporaries.

Czeslaw  Milosz, from the Introduction to 
New and Collected Poems. n p.

"Tangible reality" this has always seemed very important to me in poems and I was delighted to find such a clear statement of it here. Now it is full dark and I am off to bed. Good night!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Return to a meadow

Driving by the productive grasslands of the plains states on our trip East.

Still tired from the trip, I decided to take a nap. I picked up The Meadow from the bedside table. The first thing in it is this full-page epigraph for Galvan's book. I took it as a sign, having driven past so many meadows in the past week.

I think the form of two and three line stanzas taking turns, but not in a rigid manner, is interesting. And I have been fond of that dear nutty poet, Robert Duncan for many years. Many of my teachers spoke highly of his work. I heard him read many years ago and retain an impression of a sort if frail, fragile and mannered elegance. I wish now that I had written even a paragraph after each of the many poetry readings I went to in San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Mill Valley, Palo Alto in the 1980s. Who knew that four Nobel Laureates and so many other honored poets would be among them and that I would forget everything but stray impressions.

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind, 

that is not mine, but is a made place, 

that is mine, it is so near to the heart, 
an eternal pasture folded in all thought 
so that there is a hall therein 

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall. 

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am 
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved 
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady. 

She it is Queen Under 
The Hill whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words 
that is a field folded. 

It is only a dream of the grass blowing 
east against the source of the sun 
in an hour before the sun’s going down
whose secret we see in a children’s game 
of ring a round of roses told. 

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow 
as if it were a given property of the mind 
that certain bounds hold against chaos, 

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

Epigraph to The Meadow by James Galvan, Henry Holt, 1992.

by Robert Duncan (1919 - 1988) 
from The Opening of the Field, New Directions,1960.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Billowing clouds on the journey

Today we traveled the length of the Upper Peninsula, drove across the Mackinac Bridge and got to the meadow in front of the house in time for the late light. I am pretty tired and still unpacking, although the essentials are done.

The drive was beautiful, and the clouds were especially spectacular. Here is one of Issa's cloud haiku
as translated from the Japanese by David Lanoue at

in the depths of the lake
billowing clouds


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tongues of Flame

In this beautiful world we traveled under these Minnesota clouds and
others across the state and barely through a corner of Wisconsin and
just into Michigan. It was a beautiful day, but started out on an
extremely sour note. We were the last, I think, to leave the motel, but there was another car on the far side of the lot. A corpulent, coarse, red-faced angry man was yelling at a woman and calling her a bitch, bitch, bitch. (I couldn't look; this is S's description of him. I don't know why I didn't look; it seemed too private or too dangerous. Or I didn't want to know.) This went on a little as we got into our truck with the dachshund. The woman screamed back and then began to scream and flail at the two girls, who were sobbing. The group sort of eddied around their car; it wasn't clear if they were loading or unloading. The girls had long dark hair and reminded me of my granddaughter. We drove away. I have been thinking about this all day. Why do people act like this? How can children be protected? Why are men often so free with their anger? Why does it seem like public behavior has gotten more and more coarse while I have been watching it? There are many terrible things going on right now all over the world and so much suffering (much of it really unnecessary and related to greed) and I can make very little difference. How I wish I could! I don't know how all this goes with the Eliot poem below, but I think it does.    
Good night.

T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Section V.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple​tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half​heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always-
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in​folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Yellow Sweetclover

Many of the fields, hills and swales in North Dakota are brushed with golden color now from the small, abundant blooms of Yellow Sweetclover. This is another immigrant to North America--it was brought here as a forage crop more than 200 years ago. And made itself right at home!

As I thought last year, and I still think, North Dakota has untold possibilities for a photographer willing to give it some time and careful attention. But I love driving through twice a year even if I cannot stop. Today, driving on US 95 in a part of the state with very red soil we drove past a great deal of construction related to drilling for oil. Here were a few old wells that have been there for years and some very new ones working with a different type of machinery. There were also many upright cylindrical storage tanks I think are for oil. Many of them are bright red, which is very striking against the green fields.  In one place there was a large red-soil flat quadrangle preparing for a new operation. There were so many working pumps along this stretch that it made me wonder how much oil there is-- and can one suck it out from underneath one's neighbor? There was one red flat spot--without the machinery installed yet--that  looked like a giant paved red tennis court. It all made me sorry for the beautiful greening earth as we drove past in our big blue gasoline-powered Toyota.

This motel in Detroit Lakes MN has a broken internet so this is one-finger phone typing. And here is the first part of Derek Walcott's 


Silence asphalts the highway, our tires hiss
like serpents, of God's touching weariness,
His toil unfinished, while in endless rows
the cabbage fields, like lilies, spin in air;
His flags rot, and the monkey god's nerves rattle
lances in rage. Human rags tend cattle
more venal every year, and chrome-tooled cars
lathered like estate horses nose the shallows. . . 

Page 87

There is quite a bit more to this poem. I am really loving The Poetry of Derek Walcott on my Kindle. I am eating it in small bites. Walcott sets the poetry bar high. There are endless things to study and think about on every page. 

from the road tonight

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ulysses in the Badlands

Today we motored through Montana and as we got closer and closer to North Dakota, hints of badlands began to appear. This one of what I generally take from the freeway driving while the car is in motion. I call these fromthecar photos. I've been taking them for years and have found that different cameras give very different results and you learn certain things to try that might work better. This drive I am using the iPhone 5s and today I experimented with its square format. While we drove, Tennyson's poem called Ulysses came up. S remembered the first part and I remembered the end, but neither of us could say the whole poem. I found the text on the iPhone's Coast browser app (recommended!) and then wound up reading the whole history of Tennyson's life and work from The Poetry Foundation's web site to S as we drove. It was a little iffy as the phone service goes in and out and in again over this stretch of HWY 94, and I had to find the article and my place again. Now my throat is a little sore, unused to so much reading aloud. It is a very good article, and reminded us of so many things. And here is Ulysses himself. Instead of typing it myself, I copied it from the website because it is so long and I am tired from traveling. . .


It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Driving through Montana, I took pictures through the car window today. As always, I planned to travel for weeks and stop every few miles to take pictures of the beautiful American expanses.

I will come back

Sometime, man or woman, traveler,
afterwards, when I am not alive,
look here, look for me here
between the stones and the ocean,
in the light storming
in the foam.
Look here, look for me here,
for here is where I shall come, saying nothing,
no voice, no mouth, pure,
here I shall be again the movement
of the water, of
its wild heart
here I shall be both lost and found
here I shall be perhaps both stone and silence.

from Pablo Neruda; selected poems,a bilingual edition, edited by Nathaniel Tarn, HM, 1990, page 417, translated by Alistair Reid.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Driving east through Idaho, on the first day of our journey to Michigan, all day we traveled through the smoke and haze from fires burning all over the American and Canadian West. And long ago, Li Po wrote to another journeyer,


Autumn rains ending in this river town,
and wine gone, you lone sail soars away.

Setting out across billows and waves, your
family settles back for the journey home

past islands lavish with blossoms ablaze,
willow filigree crowding in over the banks

And after you've gone, nothing left to do.
I go back and sweep off the fishing pier.

Li Po from The Selected Poems of Li Po, translated by David Hinton. Kindle location 353.

I love the eight-line simplicity of this, and the sensible ending. I love that it has come down to us over centuries to be translated so many times. I also love the elegant simplicity of black and white photographs. This Quality Inn motel room in Rexburg, Idaho has three large ones (about 18x24inches) that are unsigned, so I don't know whose work they are. One is of a lone tree on an islet and its reflected image and two are arrangements of trunks (perhaps in the redwood forest) with the light slanting through. I resolve to work more with black and white images. Resolutions. . . .

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Best Thistle

This is my thistle of the summer. I have had special thistles here before; here's a link to some of them! I was a little surprised to find out how many! This one has been growing for weeks at the base of my David Austen rose. I like the shape of it and had many other weeds to pull, so I let it be. But I couldn't have it making a lot of seeds there, right by the sidewalk, so tonight I took its picture and then I pulled it. I could feel the spines come through a heavy leather glove, so I moved my hand up a little, smoothing the spines, as you would the hair of a stiff-haired dog. The plant was pretty shallow-rooted and came right up! I do admire its stiffly regular beauty and am a little sorry that it chose there to grow.

Oh Earth, Wait For Me

Return me, oh sun,
to my wild destiny,
rain of the ancient wood,
bring me back the aroma and the swords
that fall from the sky,
the solitary piece of pasture and rock
the damp at the river-margins,
the smell of the larch tree,
the wind alive like a heart
beating in the crowded restlessness
of the towering auracaria.

Earth, give me back your pure gifts,
the towers of silence which rose
from the solemnity of their roots,
I want to go back to being what I have not been, 
and learn to go back from such deeps
that amongst all natural things 
I could live or not live; it does not matter
to be one stone more, the dark stone,
the pure stone which the river bears away. 

from Pablo Neruda; selected poems,a bilingual edition, edited by Nathaniel Tarn, HM, 1990, page 473, translated by Alistair Reid.

Oh, how I love the oracular Pablo! I am thinking it would be fun to try each line as the first line of a new poem. If one did this, it would be enough for a chapbook. Let's call that the Pasture and Rock sequence.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


A Berceuse is a lullaby. I thought this was a peaceful landscape to go with a lullaby; it is an after-the-rain -photograph of the south shore of Lake Superior late last year. You might sing a lullaby to a child. Or you might fade into sleep singing one to yourself. There are things about this translation that I would like to compare with the Swedish, but sadly, this volume leaves out the original language. The original language is which a poem was written is always interesting to look at when printed in our familiar alphabet. There are cognates and correspondences in both Germanic and Romance languages that may inspire interesting lines of thought, or poems of your own. We plan to take off tomorrow morning, and pick up some extra medicine for the one remaining dachshund, Cassandra, on the way out of town.


I am a mummy at rest in the blue coffin of the trees,
in the perpetual soughing of cars and rubber and asphalt.

What happens during the day submerges, the lessons
      are heavier than life.

The wheelbarrow rolled out on its single wheel and I
travelled forward on my own whirring psyche, but now
      my thoughts have ceased going round and the
      wheelbarrow has acquired wings.

At long last, when space has turned black, an aeroplane
will come. The passengers will see cities underneath
      them glittering with Gothic gold.

Tomas Transtromer from Inspired Notes; 
Poems of Tomas Transtromer, translated by John F. Deane, Dedalus Press, 2011, page 49.

PS: I have to look up the pronunciation of sough and soughing every time I seem them. Sigh, soughing,

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

By Luck or Grace

The water is green from the trees, the water is blue from the sky.
 And the duck and her reflection is borne toward me by the current. July, 2014.

Here is Part II of last night's Wendell Berry Poem:

From Sabbaths  2013

Times will come as they must,
by necessity or his wish, when he leaves
his enclosure and his window,
his homescape of house and garden,
barn and pasture, the incarnate life
of his desire, thought and daily work.
His grazing animals look up
to watch in silence as he departs.
He sets out at times without even
a path or any guidance other than knowledge
of the place and himself as they were
in time already past. He goes among trees,
climbing again the one hill of his life.
With his hand full of words he goes
into the wordless, wording it barely
in time as he passes. One by one he places
words, balancing on each
as on a small stone in the swift flow
in his anxious patience until
the next arrives, until he has come
at last again into presentiment
of the Real, the wholly real in its grand
composure, for which as before
he knows no word. And here again
he must stop. Here by luck or grace he may
find rest, which he has been seeking
all along. Sometimes by the time's flaws
and his own, he fails. And then
by luck or grace he will be given
another day to try again, to go maybe
yet farther before again he must stop.
He is a gatherer of fragments, a cobbler
of pieces. Piece  by piece he tells
a story without end, for in the time
of this world no end can come.
It is the story of eternity's shining,
much shadowed, much put off,
in time. And time, however long, falls short.

Wendell Berry. 
from The Threepenny Review, Fall, 2013, page 5.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Leaf Art

Samantha and Logan make leaf umbrellas while sisters are in dance class.

Right now we are still getting ready to leave on the long drive East, and are waiting now for hearing aid repair. There is so much to read in a Threepenny Review (in addition to the group of excellent graphics in each issue) that I tend to leave them behind when we travel or carry them around with me looking for time and space to unfold the tabloid format. Thus I discover that I have yet to read the Fall, 2013 issue, which I left here last year. Here is a two-part poem in this issue by Wendell Berry, that lovely man. Here is Part I, Part II will be in tomorrow's post.

From Sabbaths 2013

This is a poet of the river lands,
a lowdown man of the deepest
depth of the valley, where gravity gathers
the waters, the poisons, the trash,
where light comes late and leaves early.

From the window of his small room
the lowdown poet looks out. He watches
the river for ripples, flashes, signs
of beings rising in the undersurface dark,
or lightly swimming upon the flow,
or, for a minnow, descending the deeps
of the air to enter and shatter
forever their momentary reflections,
for the river is a place passing
through a passing place.

The poet, his window. and his poems
are creatures of the shore that the river
gnaws, dissolves, and carries away.
He is a tree of a sort, rooted
in the dark, aspiring to the light,
dependent on both. His poems
are leavings, sheddings. gathered
from the light, as it has come,
and offered to the dark, which he believes
must shine with sight,
with light, dark only to him.

Wendell Berry. 
from The Threepenny Review, Fall, 2013, page 5.

The line "of beings rising in the undersurface dark" has, (in addition to one of my favorites, a compounded word) it seems to be, an almost perfect and very pleasing rhythm.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

New Watercolor Crayons

Grandchild art; the best. most serious kind. This is from the recent visit.

Recently I read a recommendation for the verse of British poet Wendy Cope. So I got a couple of her books. Here's an example:

The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange--
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave--
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.

Wendy Cope, 
from Two Cures for Love, Faber (U.K.) 2008, page 28.

OK. Three four-line stanzas, rhyming ABAB. A light touch; no fancy words.
Nothing that important, but one feels a little happier after reading it. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Duckville & Abiding-Integrity River

I went back this afternoon for some more late-light duck photos today. In this one you can see how this year's ducks are developing their adult plumage. The ones on the left are males (green heads) and the ones on the right are females with a dark line above the eye. I am trying to get packed for the long car trip, and making some progress, slowly. There was a BIG moon tonight, and also fireworks seen through the trees from the Eagle Fun Days family celebration.


I guide the boat in, anchor off island mist.
It's dusk, time a traveler's loneliness returns.

Heaven settles far and wide into the trees,
and on this clear river, a moon drifts near.

Meng Hao-Jan (689-740)

from Classical Chinese Poetry, an Anthology, translated and edited by David Hinton, Macmillan (Kindle edition) page 151.

This poem reminds me of the very first poetry class I was in at San Jose State. Robert Hass was the teacher and he began with assigning forms based on short poems from different traditions. We began with a one-line poem, then tried two-line call-and-response poems on an African model. Three line poems (natch!) were haiku. The four line poem was based on a Chinese model, like the poem above. He asked us to write a poem of four lines, each at least nine syllables long. It is a lovely practice!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Flotilla of mallards under the willow

Burley finished up today. Finding him to do this cleanup has been a real blessing. He has taken four trailer loads to the dump for compostables. Leaves, branches, dead limbs, cattails, cottonwood sucker-shoots, weeds of all descriptions. This willow had more dead branches than living ones. The ducks love it under the willow; look for them on the far side of the stream. And the willow is already beginning to put out new shoots  toward us from the parts trimmed a couple of weeks ago. I've just spent the better part of blog-hour resolving lost Internet connectivity. No matter how many times it happens, it is always shocking to see "this device is not connected to the Internet" on the screen.

Here is a Transtromer poem I have been saving since last year, when I left this book behind. Perhaps it will remind me that I haven't packed up that package to mail to my brother yet.


On the hunt for a letterbox
I took the letter through the city.
In the great forest of stone and concrete
fluttered the straying butterfly.

The postage-stamps flying carpet
the swaying lines of the address
added to my sealed-in truth
right now floating above the ocean.

The Atlantic's creeping silver.
The cloud-banks, the fishing boat
like a spat-out olive stone.
And the keel-wakes' pallid scars.

Here below the work goes slowly.
I often glance toward the clock.
The tree-shadows are black numerals
in the avaricious silence.

The truth is to be found on the ground
but no-one ventures to carry it off.
The truth is lying on the street.
No one makes it his own.

Tomas Transtromer, from Inspired Notes;
Poems of Tomas Transtromer, translated by John F. Deane.
Dedalus Press, 2011, page 64.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lighter Than Light

 In our meadow, with velvet antlers. JHH

Tonight's poem is from our new US poet laureate's new book. I am particularly fond of the reference to Mark Morris, whose dances are fresh and inventive, plus often outrageous.


Invisible, inaudible things,
Always something to hanker for,
                                                since everything's that's
Hankers alongside with them,
The great blue heron immobile and neck-torqued on the
         fence post,
A negative pull from the sun-swept upper meadow . . .
Eleven deer in a Mark Morris dance of happiness
Are lighter than light, though heavier
                                                    if you blink more than
There's light, we learn, and there's Light.

To do what you have to do---unrecognized---and for no
The language in that is small,
                                             sewn just under your skin.
The germs of stars infect us.
The heron pivots, stretches his neck.
He hears what we do not hear, 
                                              he sees what we're missing.
The deer walk out the last ledge of sunlight, one by one.

Charles Wright, from Caribou: Poems
FSG, 2014. (Kindle Edition page 4.

Fawn with wildflowers, Emmet County, Michigan. jhh

I think the poem is arranged this way on the page, and I like the little SHOT of emphasis the words that have fallen over the edge get, but I haven't seen them in the print edition.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Yesterday's Portraits

This is my baby sister M in her Brown Period.

Even though the world has come to such a pass, with greed, horrors and repression and stupidity everywhere, I continue to think that art is important in the life of humankind. I am so glad now to have these slides of several of my little sister's finger-painting sessions. They were photographed by my mother, who always provided art supplies.

I just got myself a bilingual edition of the poems of Pablo Neruda. Beautiful stuff! We are so lucky to have it. I love being able to look at the Spanish on the facing pages, even if I have only the barest acquaintance with any but the English language. The poem below was written many years ago, but you will notice that we still haven't gotten the lamentable remuneration part right.

The Unknown One

I want to measure how much I do not know
and this is how I arrive
casually, I knock, they open, I enter and see
yesterday's portraits on the walls, 
the dining room of the woman and the man,
the chairs, the beds, the salt-cellars,
only then do I understand
that there they do not know me.
I leave and know not which streets I walk,
nor how many men that street devours,
how many poor and tantalizing women,
working people of all races
and lamentable remuneration.

Pablo Neruda, translated by Alastair Reid

Pablo Nerdua; Selected Poems, Houghton Mifflin, 1990, page 473.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

faint stars and the silver leaves

When the weather is as hot as it has been this week, one can only long for nightfall when it gets somewhat cooler. I am fond of poems that tell a story like this one, a story that seems told out of sympathy and greatness of heart. Here in Idaho, just where we turn off the main road into the subdivision, there is an oddly-shaped remnant of pasture. Usually small groups of cattle are grazing there, going or coming, who can say? But since the Eagle Rodeo a couple of weeks ago, there has been a group of handsome bay horses. We notice that they graze together, and wherever they are in the field, they are close together, in a companionable jumble. The beauty of horses is different from the beauty of cows. Follow the rhymes and half-rhymes through this poem; never obtrusive, they add so subtly to its power and beauty.

The Cows at Night

The moon was like a full cup tonight,
too heavy, and sank in the mist
soon after dark, leaving for light

faint stars and the silver leaves
of milkweed beside the road,
gleaming before my car.
Yet I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist
of mountain-dark, among farm
so quiet, and the roadside willows
opening out where I saw
the cows. Always a shock
to remember them there, those
great breathings close in the dark.

I stopped, and took my flashlight
to the pasture fence. They turned
to me where they lay, sad

and beautiful faces in the dark,
and I counted them–forty
near and far in the pasture,
turning to me, sad and beautiful
like girls very long ago
who were innocent, and sad
because they were innocent,
and beautiful because they were
sad. I switched off my light.
But I did not want to go,
not yet, nor knew what to do 
if I should stay, for how 
in that great darkness could I explain
anything, anything at all. I stood 
by the fence. And then
very gently it began to rain.
Hayden Carruth in from snow and rock, from chaos, New Directions, 1972, pages 26-27.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Words the color of wind . . .

Michigan summer cloudscape, 2013.

---Even a chip of beauty
is beauty intractable to the mind,
Words the color of wind
Moving across the fields there
wind-addled and wind-sprung,
Abstracted as water glints,
the fields lion-colored and rope-colored,
as in a picture of Paradise,
the bodies languishing over the sky
Trailing their dark identities
That drift off and sieve away to the nothingness
Behind them
moving across the fields there
As words move, slowly, trailing their dark

***Charles Wright

More from our Poet Laureate's 
Zone Journals, Kindle location 320

I want you to notice especially tonight, the wonderful use of hyphenated word-compounds.
I'm still planning to start a daily 1/2 hour write on August First. Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Camels and all that

This is my grandmother on a camel in Egypt, while she was touring the Holy Land and Egypt at age 90. She had broken her hip the preceding year and my mother (who took this slide) promised her this trip as a reward for working on her recovery. I think one of these camel photos made it into the Mesa, Arizona newspaper.

Tonight I was reminded of one of the first poems (except Madeline) that I memorized. Because of the structure is an easy poem to memorize and retain. I found it in a school textbook; I thought the philosophy here was very DEEP. I was in junior high.

Here it is as it appeared in that widely-loved and oft-reprinted anthology, Palgrave's Golden Treasury.

Ozymandias of Egypt
I MET a traveller from an antique land 
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, 
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown 
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command         
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed. 
And on the pedestal these words appear: 
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:  
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" 
Nothing beside remains: round the decay 
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, 
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
**Percy Bysshe Shelley

from The Golden Treasury.  1875.
Francis T. Palgrave, ed. (1824–1897)

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Early morning, waiting to ride

Another Grandchild! My head is pretty much there after their visit. They drove away at 6:18 this morning for an all day drive home. While her dad was loading the bicycles on the back of the van, she sat in the golden light from the garage. I have been looking for a poem for tonight, but haven't found the perfect one. I'm still a little frazzled like the neighborhood fireworks we set off last night:

And now it is almost the Sixth of July! Sleep well, see you tomorrow.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Waiting for Fireworks

Happy Fourth of July! This is Logan; you have met him before. Tonight we were waiting for it to get dark enough to set off some neighborhood fireworks. It's been a lovely grandchild visit and they are leaving tomorrow. Sigh.

I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, 
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, 
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

The lines in this poem are too long for the blog, but I think it reads well as a paragraph, too. Blessings on our dear country,