Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Autumn Birds by John Clare

Autumn is clearly begun. This is the meadow south of the house; 
we often see deer and turkeys and sometimes other wild things here. 
In the morning they move from right to left 
and in the late afternoon from right to left. 
We assume that they are going to shelter 
in the woods for the night.

Autumn Birds

The wild duck startles like a sudden thought,
And heron slow as if it might be caught.
The flopping crows on weary wings go by
And grey beard jackdaws noising as they fly.
The crowds of starnels whizz and hurry by,
And darken like a clod the evening sky.
The larks like thunder rise and suthy round,
Then drop and nestle in the stubble ground.
The wild swan hurries hight and noises loud
With white neck peering to the evening clowd.
The weary rooks to distant woods are gone.
With lengths of tail the magpie winnows on
To neighbouring tree, and leaves the distant crow
While small birds nestle in the edge below.

John Clare (1793-1864)

John Clare loved and observed the birds in his part of Britain; he wrote about them many times. One of the distinct pleasures of reading John Clare is to delight in his antique and regional spellings and words, that are nevertheless quite understandable to the modern reader willing to make a very slight effort. For nearly 100 years, editions of his poetry would "fix" what editors regarded as a problem; now poems are printed in much more the way they were written. A good place to start would be Carolyn Kizer's edition The Essential John Clare, Ecco, 1995.

A bird that is not mentioned in the poem above is the Red Bellied Woodpecker. Today, I managed to get this one blurry shot before he flew. This is the first time I have seen him this year. A suet-fan of course. I've thought it was funny that this is another of the birds who seems to have gotten his name from a specimen which had been shot to examine. One bird book says the belly has a pinkish cast; another says it is "buff-colored." And you might be excused for thinking as it flew over your head that is was snowy white. And it is clearly a woodpecker. The red streak that runs down the back of his head is a large and vivid streak of pure red.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Autumn and Primavera and Words

I try to photograph this grove of Big-Toothed Aspen every year when the bracken yellows and the graceful trunks show at their best, still holding the silvery-green leaves. It is west of the house, where the woods begin. The photographs always remind me of Botticelli's Primavera. It is something about the similar rectangular format, the trees at the right of the painting, the pastel palette and just an overall general sinuous quality. I took this picture today during a gentle rain.

There are many fine poems here; this one, by W. S.Merwin is eloquent 
on  a subject which had occupied many people who write.

To the Words

When it happens you are not there
oh you beyond numbers

beyond recollection

passed on from breath to breath

given again

from day to day from age

to age

charged with knowledge

knowing nothing
indifferent elders

indispensable and sleepless
keepers of our names

before ever we came

to be called by them
you that were

formed to begin with

you that were cried out

you that were spoken

to begin with

to say what could not be said
ancient precious

and helpless ones
say it

—W. S. Merwin

And I can never decide whether to show more or less of the ferns.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Autumn; the middle sister, turning

In the back yard, the middle one of the young maples I named The Three Sisters is beginning to turn. It is flanked by two dead aspens that the woodpeckers visit on their progress to and from the suet feeder. I took this iPhone photo yesterday morning through the upstairs hall window; I love these soft pastels in the morning light. The embroidered half-curtain was designed by Martha Stewart (I think for K-Mart) in the days before both Stewart and K-Mart fell on hard times. Sometimes, I think about her and her brave choice to go to prison and get it over with, and how she taught other inmates to knit or crochet. One's mind is stuffed full of these (often unimportant) shreds of the past, our own pasts and the pasts of other people. Right now I am a little more than halfway through the giant biography of Nureyev by Julie Kavanagh. And, once again, I am glad not to be famous, or have to deal with famous, and or, rich people. The lifestyles of the rich and famous, or their personalities, as portrayed here, do not appeal. But the information on dancing is amazing: the discipline and the various styles and the daily attention needed to achieve high standards of repeatable skills. I don't think Rudi was a very nice person, and it would have been very stressful to be around him.

Speaking of things that are probably too long, like some biographies, here is an autumn poem by John Clare, the British nature poet.


The summer-flower has run to seed,
And yellow is the woodland bough
And every leaf of bush and weed
Is tipt with autumn’s pencil now.

And I do love the varied hue,
And I do love the browning plain;
And I do love each scene to view,
That’s mark’d with beauties of her reign.

The woodbine-trees red berries bear,

That clustering hang upon the bower;
While, fondly lingering here and there,
Peeps out a dwindling sickly flower.

The trees’ gay leaves are turned brown,
By every little wind undress’d;
And as they flap and whistle down,
We see the birds’ deserted nest.

No thrush or blackbird meets the eye,
Or fills the ear with summer’s strain;
They but dart out for worm and fly,
Then silent seek their rest again.

Beside the brook, in misty blue,
Bilberries glow on tendrils weak,
Where many a bare-foot splashes through,
The pulpy, juicy prize to seek:

For ’tis the rustic boy’s delight,
Now autumn’s sun so warmly gleams,
And these ripe berries tempt his sight,
To dabble in the shallow streams.

And oft his rambles we may trace,
Delv’d in the mud his printing feet,
And oft we meet a chubby face
All stained with the berries sweet.

The cowboy oft slives down the brook,
And tracks for hours each winding round,
While pinders, that such chances look,
Drive his rambling cows to pound.

The woodland bowers, that us’d to be
Lost in their silence and their shade,
Are now a scene of rural glee,
With many a nutting swain and maid.

The scrambling shepherd with his hook,
’Mong hazel boughs of rusty brown
That overhang some gulphing brook,
Drags the ripen’d clusters down.

While, on a bank of faded grass,
Some artless maid the prize receives;
And kisses to the sun-tann’d lass,
As well as nuts, the shepherd gives.

I love the year’s decline, and love
Through rustling yellow shades to range,
O’er stubble land, ’neath willow grove,
To pause upon each varied change:

And oft have thought ’twas sweet, to list
The stubbles crackling with the heat,
Just as the sun broke through the mist
And warm’d the herdsman’s rushy seat;

And grunting noise of rambling hogs,
Where pattering acorns oddly drop;
And noisy bark of shepherds’ dogs,
The restless routs of sheep to stop;

While distant thresher’s swingle drops
With sharp and hollow-twanking raps;
And, nigh at hand, the echoing chops
Of hardy hedger stopping gaps;

And sportsmen’s trembling whistle-calls
That stay the swift retreating pack;
And cowboy’s whoops, and squawking brawls,
To urge the straggling heifer back.

Autumn-time, thy scenes and shades
Are pleasing to the tasteful eye;
Though winter, when the thought pervades,
Creates an ague-shivering sigh.

Grey-bearded rime hangs on the morn,
And what’s to come too true declares;
The ice-drop hardens on the thorn,
And winter’s starving bed prepares.

No music’s heard the fields among;
Save where the hedge-chats chittering play,
And ploughman drawls his lonely song,
As cutting short the dreary day.

Now shatter’d shades let me attend,
Reflecting look on their decline,
Where pattering leaves confess their end,
In sighing flutterings hinting mine.

For every leaf, that twirls the breeze,
May useful hints and lessons give;
The falling leaves and fading trees
Will teach and caution us to live.

“Wandering clown,” they seem to say,
“In us your coming end review:
Like you we lived, but now decay;
The same sad fate approaches you.”

Beneath a yellow fading tree,
As red suns light thee, Autumn-morn,
In wildest rapture let me see
The sweets that most thy charms adorn.

O while my eye the landscape views,
What countless beauties are display’d;
What varied tints of nameless hues, —
Shades endless melting into shade.

A russet red the hazels gain,
As suited to their drear decline;
While maples brightest dress retain,
And in the gayest yellows shine.

The poplar tree hath lost its pride;
Its leaves in wan consumption pine;
They hoary turn on either side,
And life to every gale resign.

The stubborn oak, with haughty pride
Still in its lingering green, we view;
But vain the strength he shows is tried,
He tinges slow with sickly hue.

The proudest triumph art conceives,
Or beauties nature’s power can crown,
Grey-bearded time in shatters leaves;
Destruction’s trample treads them down.

Tis lovely now to turn one’s eye,
The changing face of heaven to mind;
How thin-spun clouds glide swiftly by,
While lurking storms slow move behind.

Now suns are clear, now clouds pervade,
Each moment chang’d, and chang’d again;
And first a light, and then a shade,
Swift glooms and brightens o’er the plain.

Poor pussy through the stubble flies,
In vain, o’erpowering foes to shun;
The lurking spaniel points the prize,
And pussy’s harmless race is run.

The crowing pheasant, in the brakes,
Betrays his lair with awkward squalls;
A certain aim the gunner takes,
He clumsy fluskers up, and falls.

But hide thee, muse, the woods among,
Nor stain thy artless, rural rhymes;
Go leave the murderer’s wiles unsung,
Nor mark the harden’d gunner’s crimes.

The fields all clear’d, the labouring mice
To sheltering hedge and wood patrole,
Where hips and haws for food suffice,
That chumbled lie about their hole.

The squirrel, bobbing from the eye,
Is busy now about his hoard,
And in old nest of crow or pye
His winter-store is oft explor’d.

The leaves forsake the willow grey,
And down the brook they whirl and wind;
So hopes and pleasures whirl away,
And leave old age and pain behind.

The thorns and briars, vermilion-hue,
Now full of hips and haws are seen;
If village-prophecies be true,
They prove that winter will be keen.

Hark! started are some lonely strains:
The robin-bird is urg’d to sing;
Of chilly evening he complains,
And dithering droops his ruffled wing.

Slow o’er the wood the puddock sails;
And mournful, as the storms arise,
His feeble note of sorrow wails
To the unpitying frowning skies.

More coldly blows the autumn-breeze;
Old winter grins a blast between;
The north-winds rise and strip the trees,
And desolation shuts the scene.

John Clare (1793-1864) from The Village Minstrel, 1821.

Did you get this far?? Not everything we love is new! I am particularly fond (to no useful purpose, I am sure) of the dialect and older English rural language in this poem. I have never seen a puddock, or a bilberry, or what scraps mice chumble about their nests, and the noun "shatters" survives only in other forms. And what a fine work is "fluskers"! I like "tipt" also. A long poem in quatrains is easy to deal with. Good night and good autumn!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Autumn Buck: Elegy

This fellow is in the prime of his life, strong and in good shape, nimble and delicate in motion,
(I am almost finished with the biography of Rudolf Nureyev, which I am reading on my Kindle at bedtime. This has made me pay attention to the structures of the body.) This young buck's ribs, other bones, and components of muscle and ligament clearly show. The whitetail deer are naturally graceful, like dancers, in the way they move about, scratch behind an ear with a hind hoof, and bounce off at a run into the forest. It is almost hunting season here, when convenience stores
all sport huge new tied-up banners: WELCOME HUNTERS! So, as I watch these few deer
browse my lawn, I am feeling elegiac.

There are more photos of deer grace below ths wonderful poem.

Elegy for the Giant Tortoises

Let others pray for the passenger pigeon
the dodo, the whooping crane, the eskimo:
everyone must specialize

I will confine myself to a meditation
upon the giant tortoises
withering finally on a remote island.

I concentrate in subway stations,
in parks, I can't quite see them,
they move to the peripheries of my eyes

but on the last day they will be there;
already the event
like a wave travelling shapes vision:

on the road where I stand they will materialize,
plodding past me in a straggling line
awkward without water

their small heads pondering
from side to side, their useless armour
sadder than tanks and history,

in their closed gaze ocean and sunlight paralysed,
lumbering up the steps, under the archways
toward the square glass altars

where the brittle gods are kept,
the relics of what we have destroyed,
our holy and obsolete symbols.

Margaret Atwood

Selected Poems, Houghton Mifflin, 1976, page 56.

Friday, September 26, 2014

September's Glory

This was taken last year almost exactly one year ago. The meadow is developing the same way now. The bare tree isn't quite bare yet and the red tree isn't red clear to the bottom. 
Autumn is The Season of Seasons in Northern Michigan 
and I am very grateful that I get to be here again this year.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver
This is her title poem from Wild Geese, Bloodaxe Books, 2004

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The beauty of feathers

This is another portrait of the Mother of Nine. I haven't seen her now for a couple of days, 
but I know she is still protecting her brood.

I have been looking at a collection of mini-essays by poets on "the line" called A Broken Thing; poets on the line, edited by Emily Rosko and Anton Vander Zee and published by the University of Iowa Press in 2011. It is a splendid idea for a book, but I haven't read enough in it yet to see how useful it might be to most of us. The epigraph to the book is from Kora in Hell by William Carlos Williams, a book I have rarely been tempted to pick up, much less actually read. But this is so great that it is tonight's poem, all by itself. I hope it has eight brothers and sisters, like the turkey family, and will have to go looking for them. It is on Kindle for 99 cents.

Thus a poem is tough by no quality it borrows from a logical recital of events, nor from the events themselves but solely from that attenuated power which draws perhaps many broken things into a dance giving them thus a full being.

William Carlos Williams, from Kora in Hell.

Notice that there isn't any punctuation, and that that makes one work just a little bit harder. Is that a good thing? A bad thing?

Always watchful, the Mother of Nine!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dragonfly, short, long, short

On the sandy trail where we take the daily walk, transparent wings of the dragonfly. The dragonfly has been featured in countless haiku. And here is Tennyson, besides.

the day is short
as is the life
of the dragonfly

Issa, trans. by David Lanoue on his Haikuguy website

The Dragon-fly 

Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.

     Alfred, Lord Tennyson

the dragonfly
can't quite land
on that blade of grass

Basho, translated by Robert Hass 
The Essential Haiku, ECCO, 1994, page 45.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

LOVE is the word

At one of our watercolor painting sessions, my granddaughter went into another room 
and came back with glue and glitter and ramped the whole event up a notch.

I've been reading a Nureyev biography on my Kindle. At one point a mention was made of Eugenia Semyonova Ginzburg's book Journey into the Whirlwind, with which I was not familiar. It was available on Kindle, pronto! The author was swept up in 1937 in the early days of Stalin's purges, and spent the next 18 years, first in prison, then in penal servitude camps in the far north. The level of scarcity of resources, cruel rules and barbaric treatment of all kinds as both the warders and the prisoners struggle for the barest survival is terrifying. This is an amazing book and a testimony to the human spirit! The author knew a goodly amount of Russia's great poetry by heart and called upon its resources to lift her spirits and the spirits of many of her fellow prisoners during her long ordeal. Here is one passage about poetry that moved me.

     I was consumed by the desire to survive the tragedy which had befallen our Party. More than ever I felt sure that they could not destroy it completely, that there were people in it who would stop them. Keep alive  . . . Keep alive . . . Grit your teeth . . . Grit your teeth.
     As I repeated these words to myself, I was reminded of Pasternak's lines in his poem "Lieutenant Schmidt";

     The indictment stretched, mile on mile,
     Pit-shafts marked our weary way.
     We greet our sentence with a smile--
     It's penal servitude! What bliss!

     Suddenly these words thrilled me with their aptness. It is only at such times that one realizes the true value of poetry, and ones heart fills with tender gratitude toward the writer. How could Pasternak have known so exactly what one felt, living in his "melancholy Moscow home?" I remembered other lines: "The rest were drunk with space, and spring, and penal servitude . . ."
     If only he could know how much his poem helped me to endure, and to make sense of prison, of my sentence, of the murderers with frozen codfish eyes.
     It was getting dark. Here, too, the window was covered with a wooden screen as well as bars. For some reason, they were late switching on the light. I could not wait to be back in Butyrki, away from this place where death stared at you from every corner. I rested my head on the table and mentally recited "Lieutenant Schmidt" from beginning to end. I was terribly moved by the lines:
     The wind, warm and selfless,
     caressed the stars
     With something of its own, eternal and creative . . .

     I was awakened by the ritual command: "Take your things!"   

Eugenia Semyonova Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind, translation by Paul Stevenson and Max Hayward, Harcourt, 1967, pages 175-176.

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!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Under the Roots of Maples . . .

On the Daily Walk, which I won't take now until my foot improves, goldenrod always catches me at this time of year. In this portrait, you get an extra: seed pods of the invasive spotted knapweed. (They look like little pineapples.) I think this weed came from the vast sweeps of Russia. Knapweed has the clever trick of putting a chemical into the soil that prevents the seed of other plants from sprouting, while knapweed seeds don't mind. Reminds one of the Koch Brothers.

Fall Grass

This is the season when the darkest grass
Flows in its deepest waves, on fading stubble;
The time of cattle brought to stable
At dusk; and moonlit water still as glass.

Smoke in the mornings, and always a crow caws
On wagging wings. Across the first strewn litter
Of leaves a squirrel scurries, and children loiter
In roadside pastures after ripening haws.

Time to be thoughtful: time to be getting on
With threshing and fall plowing: time to gather
Eelgrass, for banking house . . . A frail white feather
Of frost shines in the grass blades and is gone.

Slowly the days grow colder, the long nights fall;
Plows turn the stubble, fires are tended, and apples
Mellow in cellars; and under the roots of maples
Mice are burrowing. And the high geese call.

Charles Bruce  (1906-1971)

Open Wide a Wilderness; Canadian Nature Poems,
Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009, page 143.

Here in Northern Michigan one feels very close to Canada. And autumn grows to have a special meaning. I notice that this poet was born in the same year as my father, but did not live as long. So now I've looked him up and found the story of a man who went his own careful way. I have been moved. His "clear, direct, metrical" verse in The Mulgrave Road  won the Governor General's Award in Canada about 1950. There was one old copy left on Amazon. 
I have just ordered it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Brief Truce

And this yesterday, from when they paused in all their mock battling.
A single click will enlarge this photograph.

木の葉ふりやまずいそぐなよいそぐなよ   加藤楸邨
konoha furiyamazu isogunayo isogunayo
            leaves not stop falling
            don’t rush
            don’t rush
                                                Shuson Kato
from ‘Haiku,’ a monthly haiku magazine, August 2014 Issue, 
Kadokawa Gakugei Shuppan, Tokyo
Fay’s Note:  Shuson Kato (1905-1993)
I just copied this perfect autumn haiku with the citation, the kanji and the romaji from Fay's Today's Haiku web page.  This is a terrific blog, only takes a minute to read and you can think about it all day.
It has a good message for me because I got out of the chair too fast this afternoon and fell and twisted my ankle some. So remember not to rush; there's no point in it. Even the bucks shown above took a break from their wrestling.
I did start my Buson 100 today; more about that tomorrow.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Porch

This went on yesterday for two long sessions I viewed
through the big windows on the south side of the house.
The bucks didn't seem really serious; it was more like sparring or practice. 
I took about a gazillion pictures. Since they moved around 
and the light and backgrounds kept changing,
I have many images now to play with.
On this one, I cropped to a square and
then clicked the "I'm feeling lucky" button
in Picasa, which made something wonderful 
happen to the nondescript grasses in the meadow.
Best luck I've had in a long time!

The Porch

The porch whose doors face the west
Has large windows. The sun warms it well.
From here you can see north, south, east and west.
Forests and rivers, fields and tree-lined lanes.

When the oaks array themselves in green
And the linden's shade reaches the flower bed,
The world disappears behind the blue bark,
Engraved by leaves into motley patches.

Here, at a tiny table, brother and sister
Kneel, drawing scenes of battle and pursuit.
And with their pink tongues try to help
Great warships, one of which is sinking.

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 38.

Three straightforward four-line stanzas, which clearly bring back a world and a vanished way of life. Now I am thinking of our front porch on First Street in Scotia, NewYork-- and of the bittersweet my mother grew there for its autumnal orange berries. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

The lives of deer

Handsome fellow this morning in soft overcast.

Late August at the Mouth of the Fraser River

The wind pulls the full blackberries gently
from their stems, the way a woman
removes her earrings after a dinner party,
sighing as her tongue forgets the wine
and her cheek her host's kiss. Nearby 
in the boatless harbour, a muskrat swims
from darkness to moonlight, silk sliding
down the white flesh of a thigh, and on
the farther shore a pregnant doe steps out
of the woods to listen to the two red watches
ticking at two different speeds
between her tissue-paper ribs.

Silt from the mountains is filling the channel,
the slow current is making tails out of heads
on a coin dropped by one of Galiano's sailors,
and auburn is packing its only good suit
to go off on a journey through a million leaves. 
The moment calls for us, but we're staying here
to allow the world its own sweet company, to
let the berries drop on the grass, the musk-
rat reach home, and the deer time her pause 
by the water. Stay quiet a while, listen
to the ticking womb. Be in the world
while absent from it, like the sun,
the dead, the panting fawn.

Tim Bowling

Open Wide a Wilderness; Canadian Nature Poems,
Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009, page 430.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


The Daily Walk, end of August. High summer already gone.


Convictions, beliefs, opinions,
certainties, principles,
rules and habits have abandoned me.

I woke up naked at the edge of a civilization
which seemed to me comic and incomprehensible.

The vaulted halls of the post-Jesuit academy
where I had taken my classes 
would not have been pleased with me.

Though I preserved a few sentences in Latin.

The river flows through a forest of oak and pine.

I stand in grass up to my waist,
Breathing in the wild scent of yellow flowers.

Above, white clouds. As is usual in my district,
an abundance of white clouds.

By the river Wilia, 1999.

Czeslaw Milosz

from New and Collected Poems (1931-2001) 
Ecco. 2001, 2001, page 744

Try to follow the strategy of this poem with information from your own life; when you complete a sentence or a thought, start a new stanza.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I have been seeing quite a few turkey families lately. Most of the young of the year are teenagers, quite adult looking, feathered out, and nearly as tall as the attendant parents. But today in light rain, this mother brought her nine poults foraging back and forth across our meadow.  These poults were quite small. She was takng good care of them; we wondered, though, if they would be able to get the bulk they will need before winter. This is the largest hatch I have ever seen. It was lovely to watch them; they move about freely, yet together.

Here they all are; one had to look closely to see the two at the left and the moving one at the right. This is the only group shot that is at all sharp.

This shows what they looked like somewhat more clearly. 

Just a bit earlier, this handsome fellow was back. He has polished his antlers!


Cathedral of my enchantments, autumn wind, I grew old giving      thanks.

This one-sentence poem appears on page 650 of Milosz's New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001.
I want to write something on this model. 
Something that doesn't need anything else.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Buck-Filled Morning

No does, no fawns this morning, just six bucks, munching their way across the meadow. 
I had never seen the like. They weren't close enough together that I could get a group portrait. 
The rest were younger than this guy. I think I got his portrait a week or two ago, when his antlers were still in velvet. I remember reading about this process as a child (is it in Bambi?) how a buck had to rip the velvet off by rubbing it against trees. You can see from this photo what a violent process it must be, and long, and bloody.

Here is one of the younger bucks. In almost every picture I took of him, his tail is active.
I like the small sprinkle of white blossoms in this photo.


You ask why I've settled in
these emerald mountains,
and so I smile, mind at ease of 
itself, and say nothing.

Peach      blossoms     drift
streamwater away deep in mystery:
it's another heaven and earth,
nowhere among people.

Li Bai (Li Po) translated by David Hinton.

Here is another of those quietly lovely ancient Chinese poems, 
suitable for all nature-filled occasions. And so goodnight.