Friday, October 31, 2014


This is the Mother of Nine with her late brood this year. 
I hope they are doing well; it snowed today in Alanson, 
so the winter is upon them! In the mornings 
we would see her taking them east through the meadow 
and in the late afternoons, she took them west 
and they disappeared into the woods. 
Sometimes one would leap into the air 
and fly a wingbeat or two and hit the ground running. 
Views of this little family were a special treat 
all during this late summer and early autumn.

Here is another of Galway Kinnell's poems;
all of us poets are much saddened by his loss. 
This poem was mentioned by C. K. Williams in a remembrance
in the New Yorker, October 30, 2014.


Sometimes we saw shadows of gods
in the trees; silenced, we went on.
Sometimes the dog would bound off
over the snow, into the forest.
Sometimes a tree had twenty
or more black turkeys in it, each
seeming the size of a small black bear.
We remember them for their care
for their kind ever since we watched the big hen
in the very top of the tree shaking
load after load of apples down to the flock.
Sometimes I felt I would never
come out of the woods, I thought
its deeper darkness might absorb me
or feed me to the black turkeys
and I would cry out for the dog
and the dog would not answer.

Galway Kinnell
The New Yorker, January 18, 2010.

Looking at Kinnell's poems again, I am struck not only by how much information is in his poems,
but by how much he leaves out, which results in a swift careening motion through the poem. I think, for certain types of poems, one should try to assemble as much information and relevant metaphor and thought, and then carve out much of it, moving more rapidly through the poem without so much explicit connectivity. Let's try it.!

On a side note, back in Idaho, by the Little Union Canal, my ducks
remembered and came running when I came out the back door.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Then I light the candle

Another landscape taken from the moving car on the recent trip.
A place, and lives, only passed by and imagined.

Tonight I picked up A Village Light, one of Louise Gluck's perfect volumes of poetry set in a certain slightly removed, place and time. These books (there are several of them, including Averno) have a unity that makes them a pleasure to read, only partly because of this unity. You enter another world, a world similar to the one you live in, and with many familiar features, but with a compelling character all its own. Tonight's poem is the first poem in the book, and I have already marked two others to share here later.


All day he works at his cousin's mill,
so when he gets home at night, he always sits at this one window,
sees one time of day, twilight.
There should be more time like this to sit and dream.
It's as hi cousin says:
Living, living takes you away from sitting.

In the window, not the world but a squared-off landscape
representing the world. The seasons change,
each visible only a few hours a day.
Green things followed by golden things followed by whiteness---
abstractions from which come intense pleasures,
like the figs on the table.

At dusk the sun goes down in a haze of red fire between two                                                                                                             poplars,
It goes down late in summer--sometimes it's hard to stay awake.

Then everything fall away.
The world for a little longer
is something to see, then only something to hear
crickets, cicadas.
Or to smell sometimes, aroma of lemon trees, or orange tree.
Then sleep takes this away also.

But it's easy to give things up like, this, experimentally,
for a matter of hours.

I open my fingers---
I let everything go.

Visual world, language,
rustling of leaves in the night,
smell of high grass, of woodsmoke.

I let it go, then I light the candle.

Louise Gluck, 

A Village Life, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, page 3.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Galway Kinnell has died

As with much poetry news, I got the information first from Facebook. I heard Kinnell read more than once when he came to the San Francisco Bay Area. He was a compelling reader of his mesmerizing poems. It is very sad to know that he has gone. When I told S, he mentioned a poem he had liked when teaching, and soon thereafter, one of my other Facebook friends mentioned the same poem, "St. Francis and the Sow." So that has to be the poem for tonight. Sleep well, Galway, we will remember you.

Here is a photo of Beniamino Bufano's statue of Saint Francis of Assisi that stands 
at the entrance to the Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley of California. 
The photo is by Bryan Nabong (Creative Commons License) made available on Flickr.

Also from Flickt, and by Bryan Nabong, this detail of the mosaic on St. Francas' robe. 
Photo is available for use via Creative Commons licensing. Thank you, Bryan!

Saint Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Galway Kinnell, “Saint Francis and the Sow” from Three Books, Mariner Books, 2002.

And here is my own photo of the sculptor Bufano's work, This bird stands in San Francisco and
posing for me is my beloved younger son, who now has four children of his own.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Asking the Sky

This is another of the changing light scenarios from the Trip West. 
I was fascinated by the shape of this butte.
And the cloudy light.

Tonight's poem is another from Bei Dao's book that I left on my end table in June.


tonight a confusion of rain
fresh breezes leaf through the book
dictionaries swell with implication
forcing me into submission

memorizing ancient poems as a child
I couldn't see what they meant
and stood at the abyss of explication
for punishment

bright moon sparse stars
out of those depths a teacher's hands
give directions to the lost
a shadow mocking our lives

people slide down the slope of
education on skis
their story
slides beyond national boundaries

after words slide beyond the book
the white page is pure amnesia
I wash my hands clean
and tear it apart, the rain stops

Bei Dao, translated by David Hinton
The Rose of Time; new and selected poems; 

edited by Eliot Weinberger, New Directions, 2010, page 121.

The poetry of Bei Dao is like a breath of fresh thought!
It causes one to think in all sorts of directions.
I am reminded ot the poem-memorization
common to Chinese culture for thousands of years.

Raindrops on the windshield, through Yellowstone,  turning to snow, two days ago.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Deep Skies

Through Idaho on the final leg of the trip today. Spectacular beauty all the way! 
We passed hayfields, cornfields, winter wheat coming up, and lava beds and other wonders.

And when we got here, a copy of Bei Dao's book by my chair right where I left it, 
with a bookmark at this poem. It's a good thing it is short, and will be easy to type
because I don't remember being this tired.
Glad to be here, the leaves are just turning, so I will have "two autumns"

I go
you remain
two autumns

(The famous haiku by either Buson or Shiki, depending on whom you consult.)


hawk shadow flickers past
fields of wheat shiver

I'm becoming one who explicates summer
return to the main road
put on a cap to concentrate thoughts

if deep skies never die

Bei Dao, translated by David Hinton
The Rose of Time; new and selected poems; edited by Eliot Weinberger, New Directions, 2010, page 107.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

About Skies

Traveling all day through Montana, then just into Idaho, and again 
thrilling to the display of skies. 
I thought of Wendell Berry; I don't know why 
and found this short sky poem by him

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Eye to Eye

The week before we leave, I go here and there, checking this and putting away 
that for the winter. Dachshund Cassie was on the porch with me. 
She kept jumping up at and barking at the covered propane barbecue. 
I lifted the one edge of the cover and found myself face-to-face 
She was behind and a little to the side of this nest. We just looked at each other.
And looked. Who was more surprised?
Then I put the cover back. Thinking: that little creature has carried every tiny bit 
of this nest material up the legs of the barbecue and made a comfy nest; 
Now I think I even see some mouse fur-lining in the lower part of the photo.
So I left it there for several days, but Cassie never again barked at the barbecue.
So the mouse had gone to look for a better location.
And I didn't have to decide whether to keep a vermin-nest undercover on my porch,
even when the vermin had such dainty white legs and is so incredibly cute!
This is a picture of the nest after I had scooped it out onto the porch floor.
Then I went for my camera! Then I heartlessly kicked it off the porch into the weeds.

Trip Note: We finished Day Four of the Trip West.,
Tonight we are at the Kelly Inn in Billings, Montana
watching Game Four of the World Series, which
was pretty bad, but now has suddenly caught fire.
And so good night!
No poem, just the poetry of baseball!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Through the window of a moving car

Third day of six-day trip completed. 
Here are some iPhone pictures.
It's a beautiful country.

The Shores of Lake Superior

Michigan's Upper Peninsula villages

A church built of Ashland Brown Stone, which is quarried nearby, Ashland, Wisconsin.

A medical warning about chewing tobacco, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

Much of North Dakota looks this beautiful.

And it all seems to be about corn.

And then at the motel, unloading the car
in North Dakota late afternoon light.

I am working on a poem about the beauty of Prairie Potholes, 
but it is not yet ready for public view.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Revisiting September's Battles

Spent a couple of glorious days in mid-September watching these fellows 
have at it in my front yard. No one really got hurt, sort of like TV-wrestling, 
and the younger bucks tripped around outside the ring looking fascinated by the event. 
I have felt incredibly lucky this year to be where I can see deer, turkeys, 
the changing light and the changing seasons.
But I was getting slightly tired of the rain!

It was overcast today on Day Two of the westward trip, but not raining.
What have you been reading recently??


They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If anything like that turned up,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.

True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.

Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’d had enough of dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggles to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its diminutions.

Hence the indispensable

silver lining,
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.

Wislawa Szymborska

Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak.
This translation first appeared in Poetry, April, 2006

This is a nice example of the usefulness of listing (in this case behaviors from novels) to build up the idea of the poem. Notice that the list here is all in one lengthy stanza, increasing the effect of the listing. In this case, we find it quite funny, as we recognize many of the stock-events of fictions. And what better than to end with than the return of the dog??

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Frosty morning, turning to gold.

The fields were white with frost this morning; 
the poor pot of pansies was frosted on the porch. 
There was so much moisture in the air that the deer are in soft focus 
as they nibble on a strip of grass missed by the mower last time.
With a lot of help from our daughter, we finished loading the car 
and soon we were traveling past the big chicken in Levering 
and crossing the most beautiful bridge ever, the cream-colored Mackinac!

This really doesn't do it justice! But I am fond of the little cloud at the left.

Later we stopped at an overlook with a stairway to walk down to the edge of Lake Superior. 
You can see what a beautiful day it was!

Tomorrow the journey continues; we should stop somewhere in Minnesota.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"even more stunned by the world than I"

This is was taken just a few days ago, 
and today is the first day that the tree is completely bare, 
and golden leaves cover the earth beneath it.

Tonight's poem is from the Nobel Prize Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska.


When they first started looking through microscopes
a cold fear blew and is still blowing.
Life hitherto had been frantic enough
in all its shapes and dimensions.
Which is why it created small-scale creatures,
assorted tiny worms and flies,
but at least the naked human eye 
could see them.

But then suddenly beneath the glass,
foreign to a fault
and so petite,
that what they occupy in space
can only charitably be called a spot.

The glass doesn't even touch them,
they double and triple unobstructed,
with room to spare, willy-nilly.

To say they're many isn't saying much.
The stronger the microscope, 
the more exactly, avidly, they're multiplied.

They don't even have decent innards.
They don't know gender, childhood, age.
They may not even know they are---or aren't.
Still they decide our life and death.

Some freeze in momentary stasis,
although we don't know what their moment is.
Since they're so miniscule themselves,
their duration may be 
pulverized accordingly.

A windborne speck of dust is a meteor
from deepest space,
a fingerprint is a far-flung labyrinth,
where they may gather
for their mute parades,
their blind iliads and upanishads.

I've wanted to write about them for a long while,
but it's tricky subject,
always put off for later
and perhaps worthy of a better poet,
even more stunned by the world than I.
But time is short. I write.

Wislawa Szymborska, Here, translated by Clare Cavanaugh and Stanislaw Baranczak. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, pp. 23 and 25.

I love this poem! After reading it, I almost feel like saying, " Go thou and do likewise!" and might even say that except that I am still packing and we plan to leave tomorrow by 10 a.m. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 20, 2014

What we build

One strand of barbed wire, one fence post, two rocks moved to the edge of the homestead, to save the plow. These traces are all that is left more than one hundred years later, but the autumn leaves and gone-to-seed weeds are very beautiful.


To build a quiet city in his mind:
A single overwhelming wish: to build,
Not hastily, for there is so much wind,
So many eager smilers to be killed,
Obstructions one might overlook in haste:
The ruined structures cluttering the past,

A little at a time and slow is best,
Crawling as though through endless corridors,
Remembering always there are many doors
That open to admit the captured guest
Once only.
                            Yet in spite of loss and guilt
And hurricanes of time, it might be built:

A refuge, permanent, with trees that shade
When all the other cities die and fade.

Weldon Kees

from The collected poems of Weldon Kees; edited by Donald JusticeUniversity of Nebraska Press, 2003, page 161.

Because of Tim Bowling's book, In the Suicide's Library; A Book Lovers's Journey, which is partly about his investigation of the life of the poet, Weldon Kees, I have been reading about Kees myself. As you can tell from this poem, he was not really a merry person. Eventually he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, but his body was never recovered. His book of poems had to be edited by the fine poet, Donald Justice.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"more insubstantial over time"

Coming back from the Daily Walk past the majestic maple, 
a quick glimpse of the house today. 
Only two more days to get ready to leave; 
I am running somewhat behind. . .


In one corner of the room, beneath the open window, lies an unabridged dictionary becalmed on its stand. Pressed between its pages are buttercups, sage blossoms, several summers' lavender and rose petals, even a small moth that fluttered in haphazardly one evening just as the book was being closed. These mementoes have stained the pages brown, becoming light and friable, more insubstantial over time. The book itself is a code, a key, a lock, an implement that stands for an earlier time and other customs, containing only those things that need not exist, but do so nonetheless, carrying them forward as a maple seed is carried forward by the wind.

Roo Borson
Rain; road; an open boat; poems
McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, Canada, 2012, page 37.

I have just noticed what a lovely, euphonious word is "nonetheless" being triple in its person and pleasant in sound. I do admire the sort of prose meditation (in the short prose piece above) on a physical thing that opens out into something greater and thought-provoking. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Going, going . . .

The view of the west meadow from the porch this morning. 
The aspens have turned to gold and the maple leaves are falling even faster everywhere..
And it didn't rain all afternoon!
Absentee ballots came today from California and we did the voting thing.
The ballots are so heavy that it cost 91cents for each of us to send them back.

Tonight's poem is from a personal friend of mine, Gayle Kaune, who moved away a long time ago and I have not seen for ages.

The Explorer dreams of Sacajawea

soon he would be calling
her name the name the ghost
birds that fly south would speak
her name as they write his longing
across the shoulder of her blue
sky as river enters the heart
of her country it was all light
it seemed
and even shadow
had a geometry
that was pleasing
love and birds
are what kept him going small flutterings
in the grassy space of his mind
large migrations in the path
of his heart oh it was true
sometimes he knew that like
water he was more in touch
with longing than arrival

Gayle Kaune
All the Birds Awake
Tebot Bach, Huntington Beach CA, 2011, page 31.

Look! No stanza breaks, no capitals or punctuation, yet we follow the mind through the poem.
Note particulary the strategy of the longest line with its two parts, that just kept on going without stopping there. It is a rich book and well worth getting.

Same view a few days ago; look for the small conical pine in the center to orient yourself.

Friday, October 17, 2014

All Passion Spent

A little still life from the Daily Walk a couple of days back. 
All day today the golden leaves of the Bigtooth Aspen have been blowing 
across the yard, except when I went outside to try to take some pictures. 
Then the wind paused. 

This red leaf caught me in the center of the drive. 
I love the variety of rain-washed pebbles, 
the little green plants still springing up 
in the center of the two-track this late in the year, 
and all the rest of it. 
Daily Walks in other places are often less interesting. 
When I was uploading this picture and looking at the red leaf, 
the phrase "all passion spent" came into my mind. 
So then I had to look it up. 
Milton wrote it in Samson Agonistes
long before it was borrowed to title books, movies 
and TV series and who knows what besides. 

From 'Samson Agonistes'

ALL is best, though we oft doubt,
What th' unsearchable dispose
Of highest wisdom brings about,
And ever best found in the close.
Oft he seems to hide his face,
But unexpectedly returns
And to his faithful Champion hath in place
Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns
And all that band them to resist
His uncontroulable intent.
His servants he with new acquist
Of true experience from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismist,
And calm of mind all passion spent.

John Milton. (1608–1674)

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October; the road home

These are the final days of glory, so rich as to almost look fake. 
In a month this will be a bleak landscape waiting for the snow.
And like true snowbirds, we will have flown.

turning leaves
Daughter's white dog noses out
the garden skunk

This happened today, and John Clare's autumn happened many years ago. The turning year  . . .


The thistledown's flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.

The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.

Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we're eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

John Clare (1793-1864)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Grove of Maples

This is one of my favorite things to drive past. 
In a few places nearby, a grove of sugar maples 
has established itself in the middle of a pasture. 
The trees together form a large shape 
resembling one tree. 
The family that owns this one usually runs cattle in this field, 
but one year they put an electric fence around the grove 
and used it as a picnic ground. 
Made me jealous! 
We are here for one more week and already 
the leaves that turned first have fallen. 
I took this just this afternoon, 
so we still have some autumn color left and it is still raining
which seems to intensify how the colors shine 
even as it knocks some leaves to the ground.


     I'm thinking of the smooth green hills where writing comes from, leaf-tips barely peeking from twig-tips, cat's-eye green, the air cooly smooth against the cheek as a refrigerated egg.
     The new green hills are green, as green as memory, and as old. The house, as usual, a wreck, the first sowbug of spring advancing across the floorboards, beyond control, the millipede that rushes up, all summery, from the bathtub drain. Come Sunday we'll go out for dim sum again, the elderly at rest behind their newspapers, the young in party clothes, the moonwhite noodles thick and fragrant on the plate. That the living can feed upon such stuff. Dead matter, dead meat.
     If a word is repeated, let it be the contexts that rhyme. Not glibness, that party trick -- having to dunk one's head in a martini reciting "Skunk Hour" over and over, until you're sick. 
     No language now, only the day and circumstance. Not the pedigree of words, what they might be in French, or whether this is of significance.
     I'm thinking of the smooth green hills where writing comes from. Two kinds of thinking. What kind of writing when it rains.

Roo Borson, Water Memory, McClelland & Stewart, Inc, Canada, 1996, page 17.

Roo Boorson again tonight because I will most probably leave her books in my book room here. I do admire the movement and variety of thought in this poem. This discovery of her and through that anthology, other Canadian poets has been a highlight of this year.

And this is my own grove, which I will leave soon to manage itself until next year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Under the Great Bowl of Sky

My daughter's farm and her 120 year-old house that was the homestead for this tract of land
 that we wound up buying part of and later made into a Nature Preserve under 
the auspices of the Little Traverse Conservancy. It is beautiful country, in many ways 
similar to where I grew up in New York State near the Mohawk River. 

Tonight's poem is by one of my summer discoveries, Canadian poet Roo Borson.

Blowing Clouds

Some say the sky is the last great wilderness.
But the last great wilderness 

has always been the one just outside this door.
Never since the birth of the first person

has there been such a wilderness.
That person was never born.

The flowers we call baby blue eyes
can't even see us, so small and blue,

their blueness is lost in the meadow. Some
say the sky

is the last great wilderness,
that never since the birth of the first person

has there been a wilderness
that person was never born into,

a door so small and blue
the flowers can't see into it.

Lost and not lost, at home in the marvellous,

in the meadow's unbreakable blue.

One day in the ravine near my house I looked up into a sky so blue
it was as if a door had opened into another world. When I looked down again I noticed that baby blue eyes were blooming everywhere in the as yet uncut grass. Facing the sky again, standing amongst those flowers, that hidden near-mirror symmetry seemed a formal demonstration, a proof, as it were, in a style of logical argument now long obsolete.

Roo Borson, Rain, road, an open boat, McClelland and Stuart, 2012, pages 35 and 36. This book was the winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Let's take a brief look at some of the strategies of this poem. It is in two-line stanzas, except for the last line, which gives that line an emphasis. It does not have a metrical or stress pattern, but some fine attention has been paid to the linebreaks. Many of the poems in this book are partnered with, or interspersed with, paragraphs of prose relating, in some way, to the poem. It makes for a pleasant reading experience, and is a strategy I like very much here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Greenwood Cemetery

We went to the Greenwood Cemetery in Petoskey today for a simple graveyard service for the gentle man who helped me so much in my garden last year all summer long. There were many neighbors there who are members of his extended family. His family, perhaps from Poland, spell their three-syllable name at least four different ways, I wondered if that was from the time when the Ellis Island employees just wrote down what they thought they heard. It was amazing to see so many neighboring monuments standing near each other with variations of the same name. It was a beautiful day at the cemetery, probably at the most lovely time of year there. I would have loved to stay and wander around looking at markers and autumn foliage; I haven't spent much time in cemeteries. It had rained earlier, so everything glistened, but the sky was clear for the short speech and a prayer. The death had been sudden, violent and unexpected. I was introduced to many of his kinfolk, who were welcoming and friendly. I have been thinking about extended families ever since. 

My parents left Arizona with my father's work for General Electric in New York State. So my experience with extended families is limited to the families of my mother's brothers, who also moved East. We only saw them once or twice a year, most years.

turning leaves--
how he loved to garden
all his cut-short life


Sunday, October 12, 2014

"tell each other everything we can"

When the sun shafts peek through, Michigan is especially beautiful!
And soon it will be time for ice-fishing, Sigh.

A couple of nights ago, I stumbled upon this poem while I was looking for something else. There are a lot of New Yorker poems on their website. I didn't know about this poet, but he is in Wikipedia and has published seven books with good poetry publishers and won quite a few awards. Poets are flying under my radar quite a bit; a major reward of keeping this blog is finding out about new poets. Hicok spent most of his life in Michigan and now teaches in Virginia. I like the movement of the mind throughout this poem.

A Primer

I remember Michigan fondly as the place I go
to be in Michigan. The right hand of America
waving from maps or the left
pressing into clay a mold to take home
from kindergarten to Mother. I lived in Michigan
forty-three years. The state bird
is a chained factory gate. The state flower
is Lake Superior, which sounds egotistical
though it is merely cold and deep as truth.
A Midwesterner can use the word “truth,”
can sincerely use the word “sincere.”
In truth the Midwest is not mid or west.
When I go back to Michigan I drive through Ohio.
There is off I-75 in Ohio a mosque, so life
goes corn corn corn mosque, I wave at Islam,
which we’re not getting along with
on account of the Towers as I pass.
Then Ohio goes corn corn corn
billboard, goodbye, Islam. You never forget
how to be from Michigan when you’re from Michigan.
It’s like riding a bike of ice and fly fishing.
The Upper Peninsula is a spare state
in case Michigan goes flat. I live now
in Virginia, which has no backup plan
but is named the same as my mother,
I live in my mother again, which is creepy
but so is what the skin under my chin is doing,
suddenly there’s a pouch like marsupials
are needed. The state joy is spring.
“Osiris, we beseech thee, rise and give us baseball”
is how we might sound were we Egyptian in April,
when February hasn’t ended. February
is thirteen months long in Michigan.
We are a people who by February
want to kill the sky for being so gray
and angry at us. “What did we do?”
is the state motto. There’s a day in May
when we’re all tumblers, gymnastics
is everywhere, and daffodils are asked
by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes
with a daffodil, you know where he’s from.
In this way I have given you a primer.
Let us all be from somewhere.
Let us tell each other everything we can.

Bob Hicok
The New Yorker, May 18, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"family, or the fragile earth"

This is the shifting light of autumn; some other beauty anywhere I turn.   jhh

Last night I introduced you to Tim Bowling, the boy in the library at dusk who grew up to be the Canadian poet. Now, here is one of his poems. I am still thinking about Carolyn Kizer, too, so recently dead. I have always thought of her as sort of an Empress of Poetry, and was sad to learn that she had been suffering from dementia.

Meditation on a Fall Day

To be sad before the occasion of sadness --
the apogee of wisdom, or some sickness 
of the spirit, leaf gone to earth in summer,
the salmon spreading its milt far out at sea?

A social worker my brother once dated
summarizing our melancholy brood, looked deep
into his onyx eyes, with sympathy, and said,
"you're all in a state of premature grief."

Elderly parents so loved, one with kidney illness
and the other worn out from nursing and worry.
Yet can love be too much love that it makes us
immortally distant from the gift of our mortality?

Autumnal now the years and skies, autumnal the heart
that walks its fawn's fear over twigs and starts
at every sound that augurs the sound of absence,
a siren to my siblings, the shrill cry of a phone.

What binds us firm must pain us to the very quick
when it has gone, love, memory, the familiar joke
told in the comforting tongue. But until gone,
wisdom must contain defiant glee when flesh is warm.

So to revel in what we cannot bear to lose, family
or the fragile earth, is mortality made wisest: the sea
is salt but clear of milt that serves no purpose, the sky
is without leaf but cannot stop the ascent of the forest.

Tim Bowling, The Thin Smoke of the Heart, McGill-Queen's University Press, Canada, 2000, pages 26-27.

Friday, October 10, 2014

"at once the flame, the wick, the smoke and the char . . "

More playing about with photographs of my autumn woods and the Phone app Waterlogue.

A while ago, looking for another poem on the internet, I found this poem by Roo Boorson "Upset, Unable to Sleep, I Go for a Walk and Stumble Upon Some Geese". The name "Roo" pleased me and so did the poem, which I used on this blog. I looked her up. She's a Canadian poet. Looking for her work on Amazon, I found this: Open Wide a Wilderness; Canadian Nature Poems.  Since then I've been using some of these poems here and exploring other Canadian poets included in this anthology, most of whom were unfamiliar to me. One of these is Tim Bowling, a poet and bibliophile whose book, In the Suicide's Library: a book lover's journey, recently attracted me. (I had been following my interest in personal libraries and reading projects through several other books recently. Which is another story.) This particular book's journey began with his discovery of a book of Wallace Stevens' poetry with Weldon Kees' name inscribed on the flyleaf in Kees' characteristic bold hand. After talking about suicide for a long time, Kees had (many years prior to Bowling's find) most probably jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge at the age of forty-one. His body was never found, but his car was left nearby. Here is a passage from Bowling, this life-long reader, taken from early in the book.

"Here is a Saturday late afternoon in October. Twilight on the verge of darkness. Wisps of rainfall becoming visible in the street lamp light. I am the last patron in the tiny one-floor public library, moving down the skinny aisles like a Dickens urchin down the mews, or hunched over an open book like a gargoyle over a Seine of print. The elderly librarian smiles. She tells me it is time to go home, the library is closing, bring your books to the counter. As the darkness thickens, the glow of the library deepens, until the two of us are standing inside a lit jack-o'-lantern, safe and hidden, observing the strange world of which we are a part and not a part, looking at life through the ever-altering prism of ink, at once the flame, the wick, the smoke and the char, everything it is possible to be if you're human and can read, almost more than a single life can imagine, a chameleon in a world with no limits to touch and color."

Tim Bowling, In the Suicide's Library, Gaspereau Press, Canada, 2010, page 46.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

October Light

Today the October light changed every few minutes all day long. 
I was out on the porch any number of times to take more pictures.
This is one of them.

There is a Gold light in Certain Old Paintings


There is a gold light in certain old paintings
That represents a diffusion of sunlight.
It is like happiness, when we are happy.
It comes from everywhere and nowhere at once, this light,
And the poor soldiers sprawled at the foot of the cross
Share in its charity equally with the cross.


Orpheus hesitated beside the black river.
With so much to look forward to he looked back.
We think he sang then, but the song is lost.
At least he had seen once more the beloved back.
I say the song went this way: O prolong
Now the sorrow if that is all there is to prolong.


The world is very dusty, uncle. Let us work.
One day the sickness shall pass from the earth for good.
The orchard will bloom; someone will play the guitar.
Our work will be seen as strong and clean and good.
And all that we suffered through having existed
Shall be forgotten as though it had never existed.

Donald Justice
from the Paris Review Blog, December 1, 2011

This is an elegant poem in three six-line parts. The first is the visual idea, the second an old story that is related to it, and the third, the conclusions the poet reaches through his process of thought. This would make a nice structure to try with a poem of your own. If you would like to use a photograph to start the process, there is a wide variety here for you to download at my Flickr site. Photos are available for your personal use at no charge.

And this today in the back yard.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Another Chance

I got another chance at a photo session with the Red-Bellied Woodpecker today. 
See how he uses his tail to brace himself while he dines on the special suet de jour!
And this is another chance to play catch-up on the blog project.

We took Cassie for a short ride to the store and 
saw the End of the Rainbow on the way home. 
That's all there was, just the end.
And that's all there is to this post.
More tomorrow.

Horizons; a catch-up post

Late afternoon light over Little Traverse Bay from Room 256 of Northern Michigan Hospital 
in Petoskey. The bay waters meet the cloudy sky at a well-defined horizon. 

I was here to begin a multitude of tests of all my systems for a pain in my chest and delighted to have been put in a room with a view, after hanging out all day on a gurney in the frost-bitten underground emergency room. This was the first night I was in, and I didn't forget to take pictures, but I did completely forget about this blog. Never came into my mind that I know how to post from my phone; being hospitalized I had no other responsibilities. Distractions! I drifted off to sleep on the narrow bed with its scratchy sheets and inadequate pillows, The irritating beep-beep-beep of the nurse summons chime sang me to sleep. A young fellow woke me in the middle of the night to take my blood. I think they choose the most sensible nice persons to do things like this, because you really cannot get mad at them, they say such gentle, apologetic things!

S and I are in a Joan Didion period, since he listened to The White Album on Audible recently, inspiring me to get some of her older things on Kindle. These essays hold up quite well for current reading. This is only partly, I think, because I lived through the Sixties myself. Her observations are consistently interesting, her judgements usually sound and her prose is just so fine! I saved this little piece for myself the day before I went to the hospital. I am sharing it here; it relates to photography as well as to art. I forgot to save the exact source and can tell you only now that Joan Didion wrote this.

She was talking about moving to New York. Think about this. Do you agree??

The other thing I missed was horizons. I missed that on the West Coast, too, if we weren’t living at the beach, but I noticed at some point that practically every painting or lithograph I bought had a horizon in it. Because it’s very soothing.

Joan Didion