Sunday, November 30, 2014

In a country. . .

Twigs and lichen on young aspen, Emmet County Michigan 2014.
There is grass but you can't see it from here. 
Virtually all of Michigan's immense great white pine forests
were logged during the 19th century,


The young woodland remembers 
the old, a dreamer dreaming

of an old holy book,
an old set of instructions,

and the soil under the grass
is dreaming of a young forest,

and under the pavement the soil
is dreaming of grass.

Wendell Berry
Given:Poems, Counterpoint, 2005, page 4.

I was lonesome for woods tonight, and nature, and pure common sense, so I picked up a book by Wendell Berry. The poem I chose has eight short lines, two-line stanzas and regular sentence-type capitalization and punctuation. Many of the lines have 5 to 7  syllables as do the lines in haiku. I will try to write a short poem with a similar structure, I am dreaming it, , ,

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"beneath the surface a luminous room"

The water is shallow here right out to the markers;
it's a wonderful children's beach!
And it is a pictured evening, but I wanted something tranquil and watery
to accompany Mark Strand's poem.

Mark Strand (April 11, 1934--November 29, 2014)


I have carried it with me each day that morning I took
my uncle's boat from the brown water cove
and headed for Mosher Island.
Small waves splashed against the hull
and the hollow creak of oarlock and oar
rose into the woods of black pine crusted with lichen.
I moved like a dark star, drifting over the drowned
other half of the world until, by a distant prompting,
I looked over the gunwale and saw beneath the surface
a luminous room, a light-filled grave, saw for the first time
the one clear place given to us when we are alone.

Mark Strand
Collected Poems, 
Knopf, September 2014. Kindle location 3749

Three sentences, ten lines, a clear and meaningful moment from the poet's youth. Was there a moment you remember when everything opened out for you?  Mine came as I was walking east toward the Scotia Junior High School early in the seventh grade. I don't think I could give this clear of an account: cool, clear weather, the sun above the horizon, a globe of light within my chest.

Friday, November 28, 2014


This is a portrait of my father's father, John Rukin Hopper--- 
probably taken at about the time he asked the young schoolteacher, 
who became the grandmother I resemble, to be his wife.


Billions of faces on the earth's surface.
Each different, so we're told,
from those that have been and will be.
But nature---since who really understands her?---
may grow tired of her ceaseless labors
and so repeats earlier ideas
by supplying us with preworn faces.

Those passersby might be Archimedes in jeans,
Catherine the Great draped in resale,
some pharaoh with briefcase and glasses.

An unshod shoemaker's widow
from a still pint-sized Warsaw,
the master from the cave at Altamira
taking his grandkids to the zoo,
a shaggy Vandal enroute to the museum
to gasp at past masters.

The fallen from two hundred centuries ago,
five centuries ago,
half a century ago.

One brought here in a golden carriage,
another conveyed by extermination transport
Montezuma, Confucius, Nebuchadnezzar,
their nannies, their laundresses, and Semiramide
who only speaks English.

Billions of faces on the earth's surface.
My face, yours, whose---
you'll never know.
Maybe nature has to shortchange us,
and to keep up, meet demand,
she fishes up what's been sunk
in the mirror of oblivion.

Wislawa Szymborska

Here; translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and 
Stanislaw Baranczak, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, pp 7,9.

It is not difficult to ascertain why Szymborska was awarded the Nobel Prize. This poem jumps all over time and spaces, yet remains very clear. The echoes of things we know enrich our experience of the poem as we read. Here is another translation of the same poem; it wasn't clear to me from the web page who the translator was. Much can be learned from studying versions of the same poem by different translators! Because of the indexing, many of these works are now quite easy to find online.
And if you have even a slight acquaintance with more than one language, compare the original with the translations in editions that also present the original poem on the facing pages.

This young man made a strong impression on me when I went with my grandsons 
to the Odawa Powwow near Harbor Springs in Michigan
several years ago. It's a serious face.
I wonder what his life is like now.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving: a short list

Thankful For:
Wood Ducks.

The Open Road.

Western Expanses. 

Parmesan-crusted turkey avocado sandwich!

Willow Trees.

 Wood ducks under willow trees

Ice and water. Wood Duck.

The carwash after they salted the roads.


 Clouds, large and small.


Good mothers. 

 Birds of any feather.


And a camera in my hand.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Poetic Foot

It's the lifted foot I love on this fine Mr. Wigeon! 
This snow only lasted three days, 
Now there are only a few heaps of "remaining snow" 
which is a kigo (haiku season word) 
for late winter or very early spring. 
I think is is one of the very poignant kigo 
like "autumn deepens" or "spring melancholy" 
which are two of my very favorite season words..

The Backward Look

A stagger in air
as if a language
failed, a sleight
of wing.

A snipe's bleat is fleeing
its nesting ground
into dialect,
into variants,

transliterations whirr
on the nature reserves --
little goat of the air,
of the evening.

little goat of the frost.
It is his tail-feathers
drumming elegies
in the slipstream

of wild goose
and yellow bittern
as he corkscrews away
into the vaults

that we live off, his flight
through the sniper's eyrie,
over twilit earthworks
and wall-steads,

disappearing among 
gleanings and leavings
in the combs
of a fieldworker's archive.

Seamus Heaney
Wintering Out, Faber and Faber, 2011
Kindle location 269.

I was thinking about Seamus Heaney tonight because of a recent article "re-evaluating" his poetry. That's that writer's code for "devaluing" the work of this fine Nobel Prizewinning poet. And I say, "Balderdash!" So I went looking for something birdish to go with my duck. I am getting more and more poetry on my Kindle and finding it useful to have it so handy. 

I like the way this poem drapes itself handily across the four-line stanza; it is even willing to begin a stanza without a capital letter! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chickens; a dream

This is my oldest grandson in the mid-1990s. 
He had the good fortune to grow up with lots of animals and birds.
and I had the good fortune to be able to afford lots of film by then.
I must have taken a dozen shots of him with this hen.

Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens
Last night I dreamed of chickens, 
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,
they were pecking at my pillow,
they were hopping on my head,
they were ruffling up their feathers 
as they raced about my bed. 
They were on the chairs and tables, 
they were on the chandeliers,
they were roosting in the corners, 
they were clucking in my ears,
there were chickens, chickens, chickens 
for as far as I could see...
when I woke today, I noticed 
there were eggs on top of me.
Jack Prelutsky, 1940
from website

So I found the picture and went looking for a chicken poem. It wasn't hard to find and brought back wonderful memories of doing storytime in the Gilroy Library and using the poems of the rollicking Jack Prelutsky to make the children laugh. Thanks, Jack!

Monday, November 24, 2014


Today's lookouts by the Little Union Canal.

Lady Wood Ducks on lookout duty.

These lookouts reminded me today of the fairy tale cry of Mrs. Bluebeard, "Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?" And the repeated reply, " I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which is green." This call-and-response is repeated several times. Then she sees the dust, which is caused by a flock of sheep, and finally the dust caused by the coming of their two brothers on horseback, who will save them. I think poets could learn a lot from the varied repetitions in oft-told stories such as this one. I am partial to the Andrew Lang books of differing colors. And my favorite fairy tale books are English Fairy Tales and More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs. There are a wealth of the older editions of fairy tales of all nations available very cheaply on Kindle. I like these older editions because of their rich vocabularies and uncensored evil and bloodiness. They make recent versions designed to "protect" children and be easier for them to read seem very dull.


The television has two instruments that control it.
I get confused.
The washer asks me, do you want regular or delicate?
Honestly, I just want clean.
Everything is like that.
I won't mention cell phones.

I can turn on the lamp beside my chair
where a book is waiting, but that's about it

Oh yes, and I can strike a match and make fire.

Mary Oliver
The Blue Horses, Penguin Press HC, 2014
Kindle location 98

I thought to work with something shorter tonight because I am still thinking seriously about Philip Levine's poem that I put on the blog post two nights ago. And I don't want to overdo the mental strain. ..

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Just another itch to scratch

Even when this summer's doe was scratching,she managed a sort of grace.

I wish I could be graceful about saying that I have decided to skip a poem today.
Not entirely because last's night poem is still unfinished business with me. 
(S says I should write Philip Levine and ask him a couple of questions.
but I doubt I will go there.)

I hope this won't mean I will be starting to skip all the time . . . .

Saturday, November 22, 2014

By the waters . . .

Wood ducks under the willow, with their colorful reflections in the stream.

Tonight's poem is by another favorite poet, Philip Levine 
and was in The New Yorker that just came.

Two women and a small girl—
perhaps three or four years old—resting
in the shade of the fir trees.

From far off the roar of the world
coming back one more time.
First a few words tossed back

and forth between awakening men
and then the machines
talking to themselves in the language

they share with the heavenly bodies—
planets, dust motes, distant solar systems—
that know what needs to be

done and do it. So long ago,
you think, those days, so unlike these,
blessed by favorable winds

and forgotten in the anthems
we hummed on the long walk home
from work or the childish fables

we tried to believe. No one notices
the small girl and her caretakers
are gone and no one huddles

in the shade of the fir trees.
The air, brilliant and calm, stays
to witness, the single cloud lost

between heaven and here stays,
the mountains look down and keep
their distance, somewhere far off

the sea goes on working for itself.
By the waters of the Llobregat
no one sits down to weep for the children

of the world, by the Ebro, the Tagus,
the Guadalquivir, by the waters
of the world no one sits down and weeps.

Philip Levine
The New Yorker, November 24, 2014, pages 90-91.

The Llobregat is the second longest river in Catalonia, Spain. Its name could have originated in an ancient Latin word meaning 'dark', 'sorrowful' or 'muddy'. All the rivers named in this poem are in Spain, which reminded me of the Spanish Civil War, and of the brutal air raid on Guernica. I have been hanging out with this poem all day now, and I understand its invitation to weep for the children of the world. But there is much I do not understand; I am still working on it.

And then there is Psalm 137, not a happy story.

The Psalms, 137
(The Mourning of the Exiles in Babylon)

1 By the rivers of Babylon,
there we sat down, yea, we wept,
when we remembered Zion.

2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

3 For there they that carried us away captive 
required of us a song;
and they that wasted us required of us mirth, 
saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

4 How shall we sing the LORD's song 
in a strange land?

5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget her cunning.

6 If I do not remember thee,
let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

7 Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom
in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it,
even to the foundation thereof.

8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed;
happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth
thy little ones against the stones.

Published by The American Bible Society

This is terrible, I had only remembered the beautiful language in the beginning. 

Friday, November 21, 2014


I took this today through my bedroom window. 
When I turned on my camera, there were twelve wood ducks perched here. 
Wood Ducks sit on this fence all the time; they are tree ducks. 
The mallards are puddle ducks, or dabbling ducks. 
I have never seen a mallard sit on the fence before, but here she is!
It is a good indication of the size differences between the two kinds of duck.


The little Lap girl wanders around picking cloudberries
while the bluethroat sings one of his hundred songs.
There are tiny white flowers, too, angelica,
and the wild white ranunculus.
The reindeer eat lichen and moss under the melting snow.
Some of the lichen are a thousand years old
and do not recognize the modern world.
The geography lessons are young in comparison,
though this one is older than most, since
Lapland lies on no map and the little Lap girl
must be at least eighty by the looks of the book.
It is doubtful she remembers the day
of this photograph. The pencil-stroke of a birch
can be seen in the distance. Once in a while
she must still hear the bluethroat and think
of her childhood. Out of a hundred songs
he has not forgotten the one he sang
on an afternoon when the snow left and
the wild white white ranunculus took its place.
But he is the peripheral sort 
and not at the center of anything.

Mary Ruefle
Apparition Hill, CavanKerry Press Ltd., 2002, page 3.

I had a book like this many years ago. I used to look at the bright costumes in the illustrations and wonder what cloudberries tasted like. The reindeer/caribou looked friendly on the painted page.
When I think about Global Warming and The Sixth Extinction, I think about the changes in places like this. I need to find out about old lichen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Nobody dies, nobody goes hungry. . ."

Perhaps all this snow in the Treasure Valley 
has made me think again about summer. 
The other night, when I got up in the dark, the moon 
was directly overhead in the skylight here in Idaho.
This photo is our same moon as seen last year.
I was going to save this poem from Gluck's book
for the summer, but it has turned up in the Paris Review
and The American Poet, and soon I fear 
it will have been printed everywhere!


A cool wind blows on summer evenings, stirring the wheat.
The wheat bends, the leaves of the peach trees
rustle in the night ahead.

In the dark, a boy’s crossing the field:
for the first time, he’s touched a girl
so he walks home a man, with a man’s hungers.

Slowly the fruit ripens—
baskets and baskets from a single tree
so some rots every year
and for a few weeks there’s too much:
before and after, nothing.

Between the rows of wheat
you can see the mice, flashing and scurrying
across the earth, though the wheat towers above them,
churning as the summer wind blows.

The moon is full. A strange sound
comes from the field—maybe the wind.

But for the mice it’s a night like any summer night.
Fruit and grain: a time of abundance.
Nobody dies, nobody goes hungry.

No sound except the roar of the wheat.

Louise Gluck
Poems 1962-2012, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013, 
Kindle location 7916

There is an entire philosophy in this poem; it is terrifying, but real and clearly expressed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Feathered things

This fellow continues to please me. 
He visits daily for a cracked-corn snack, 
with a couple of his brothers and sisters
and stands out among the more-plentiful mallards.


Early fall, the light thin and brittle, and if
it's true that deprivation is a gift,
I accept the gift. I walk down
to Wallace Park to watch the swifts
that roost every September
in the Chapman School's tall
brick chimney. The charming swifts
with their long forked tails
and swept-back wings,
ten thousand of them swerving
and darting in the evening sky,
a flowing, expandable spiral
of birds, clearing the air of insects
and riveting the wandering
human mind. Tonight there mist be
three hundred spectators,
a whole hillside of us, ordinary people
whose wings fell off long ago,
who traded flight for speech
and have regretted it ever since,
sodden and earthbound as we are,
except for our lifted eyes, our oohs and aahs
that show we're still alive when
the peregrine falcon dives in 
and knifes one out of the ait,
which we boo or cheer,
sometimes simultaneously.
We love this passion play of form
and formlessness,
the birds' shifting patterns
flung out like a whiplash of water
or school of fish above
the stationary human school,
then drawn tight together,
a miracle they don't crash into each other,
a miracle of echolocation, until
you see them as they truly are:
a single organism, a body made mostly
of air and quick decisions, jagged
motions that gradually cohere---
a poem, in other words.
It takes the flock a full twenty minutes
to funnel down the chimney,
and it seems a living smoke
pulled back into a still and sleeping fire,
so beautiful I forget for a moment
my father's death, or I turn my mind 
away from it or no, I open
my grief to accommodate this wonder
and wonder what he might have thought of it,
were we standing here together,
the kind of thing we never did, and now
will never do, except in my imagination---
that unchanging inner sky where the swifts
take flight whenever I want them to
and my father cannot die.

John Brehm
The Gettysburg Review, Winter 2013, pages 627-628.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Something always comes through."

Ducks can hang out in very cold water, and were doing so this morning,
after we took my brother to the airport.
I love the monotones of this untreated color image.

In this icy time, I found a copy to purchase of Sarah Bernhardt's Leg, by David Kirby.
This is one of my all-time-favorite books of poems, but I had never owned a copy.
I picked it to buy for the Gilroy Library when it first came out--
I was attracted first by the title and then by the reviews. 
It is every bit as delicious as the title promises. Here is the first poem from the book:

The Bear

A bear came to our house one day in the spring.
He sniffed the seats of the chairs and put his head
in the refrigerator. We offered him pork chops
and hamburger patties, but he preferred cereal
and toaster waffles drenched with syrup.

We tried to interest him in an animal show on television,
but he wanted to watch a soap opera.
He sat with his paws in his lap and pretended not to cry,
but big tears rolled from his eyes
and dripped from the fur on his chin.

He stayed on until the evening,
and at cocktail time we poured him a saucer of gin,
which he lapped at cautiously at first and then with gusto.
He liked our bed because the mattress was soft,
so we slept on the floor.

As the days went by,
he grew more philosophical and introspective
while we became more bearish, rolling about sluggishly
or snapping at the slightest provocation.
After several weeks we moved out altogether.

All summer long we have been catching fish with our bare hands
and raiding bee hives. Now the leaves are beginning to turn
and we are getting our cave ready for the long sleep.
It will be our first winter, and we are apprehensive;
what if we don't wake in the spring?

Meanwhile, we shuffle down to the edge of the forest sometimes
and watch the bear go to work, dressed in my old clothes.
He has learned to drive,
though the car lurches and stalls a lot.
We have met some of his friends and we like them very much.

though several of them resent us.
thinking we planned the whole thing ourselves.
Yet we would have gone on forever in the old ways
had the bear not taken our place.
We owe everything to the bear---that much is certain.

Often at night we talk about the bear
and wonder if he thinks about us at all,
if he moves down the days with nothing on his mind
or looks up at the door from time to time as we did.
Now we know. Something always comes through.

David Kirby
Sarah Bernhardt's Leg; poems by David Kirby,
Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1983, pages 8-9.

It must take a very thoughtful and observant person to write a poem so full of so much understanding.

Video Madness

This is my treasured second son in a photo capture of the TV screen 
on which we viewed the videos.

The visit with my brother, D, was in large part trying to work with the family 8mm film clips that we recently had digitized. We spent this last afternoon and evening making a six page outline of the various clips and scenes. The filmic quality is horrible: violent bad panning, flares, extremes of light, a lot of pictures of the moon shot that were taken off TV. The stuff covers a span from 1935, when I was born until my Dad's retirement circa 1971 and shortly thereafter. No one will probably ever be interested in stuff that covers such a wide range of events in such poor cinematography, but my brother and I have had a lot of fun working on them. I also had a chance to send a kiss of the past to many loved people who are now gone.

And I'm too pooped to write a poem.

Today, D fed my ducks and I got a picture of this handsome widgeon:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My small brother

Today a wigeon in the snow!


The slippery green frog
that went to his death
in the heron's pink throat
was my small brother,

and the heron
with the white plumes
like a crown on his head
who is washing now his great sword-beak
in the shining pond
is my tall thin brother

My heart dresses in black
and dances.

Mary Oliver
Blue Horses, Penguin, 2014, Kindle location 74

Of course I am thinking about brothers, since two of mine are visiting. We watched a few hours of just-digitized 8mm films of our 1935-1945 childhoods. R just flew back to Colombia, where he lives, D will be here another day. I like this poem very much and agree with everything (and find it simply, but clearly expressed) except the last line, which I think is too easy. I remember that one of my haiku gurus used to say that some poems were "common thought haiku" meaning that the thought or the phrasing sounded as if you had already heard them several times before, perhaps in slightly other guises. A dancing resolution is too simple a resolution to such a major issue.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Beginning of winter is a kigo

Or season word to be used in traditional haiku. It looks like we are about there now.

all the fences
capped in shining snow
pale gray morning light


for the chickadees
putting out sunflower seeds
beginning of winter


Getting started on Instagram

My granddaughter is helping my brother, Dave, set up his first Instagram account.
It's a family visit extraordinaire that lasted all evening 
and was everything from this and silly jokes 
to serious discussions about reading and history. 
Another brother, Richard, is here from his home in South America, 
but he leaves at four in the morning, so this was our only night all together
with my son and his wife.

I just unpacked the last box I brought from Michigan,
and here is my beloved Czeslaw Milosz.


Crowds, streetcars stopped---is it a demonstration?
In the city of Oakland in the year 1919?
All of them, obviously, in hats, looking up
No, not at a speaker. It is a human fly
Who climbs vertically the wall of a building.

O miserable human fly, arms spread aloft,
You move inch by inch, resting a handhold.
And below, those hats. Will he fall? Or make it?

They stand in the photograph, lovers of plebeian games,
Of matches in a ring, acrobatics under the tent of a wandering circus.
Of catch-as-catch can, of blood in the arena.
I am not a lover of mankind, although I pretended,
As if my tender skin, my fastidiousness were no against.

---But these here, hot-blooded, how many eyes,
Muscles, varieties of chin, shapes of lips,
All must be dead.
They are shadows, no more.

---And it is just that such a short existence had been their store.

Czeslaw Milosz
New and Collected Poems (1931-2001), Ecco, 2001, page 614.

The more times I read this poem, the more there is in it.

And outdoors, snow decorated the Little Union Canal.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

American Wigeon

These leaves on the lawn were completely covered with snow last night. 
This is the very handsome Mr. American Wigeon in beautiful plumage. 
I was very happy to see him. Last year we had two pairs of wigeons,
and I have worried that we would not have them this year. 

I have been visiting with my visiting brother all day and haven't found a poem. So will skip that this night.
Sleep well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Bite

There is serious constant maintenance of status among yard ducks; here's an example.

kicking the bounty
of bright cottonwood leaves
--predicted frost


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dark Wings

Just folding his wings, the handsome wood duck
among wafer-crisp cottonwood leaves.


I love to lie down weary
under the stalk of sleep
growing slowly out of my head,
the dark leaves meshing.

Wendell Berry

Terrapin and Other Poems;
Illustrated by Tom Pohrt,
Counterpoint, 2014, page 29.

This book was made of Wendell Berry poems chosen by the illustrator 
to make an beautiful and simple book for children. I think it will make a lovely holiday gift!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Smell of the White Pine

By 1904, all of the great white-pine forests of Michigan had been logged-over in the previous 120 years, with the exception of Hartwick Pines (now a State Park and threatened with fracking from the edges underground) and the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, now also protected. The meadow above is one of my favorite parts of our place in Michigan, which has not been logged since then. The open space seems to have been created by two immense white pines growing there and shading out the other trees. Twenty years ago, when we first came, the edges of the two huge stumps were still quite visible there. They can still be seen when you get closer. One was in the center of this photo where the small bright tree catches the light, and the other is to the left, where two wild fruit trees (cherry and plum) have grown in a sisterly fashion.

Which leads us to tonight's white pine poem which I just found in the new issue of 
American Poets; the journal of the Academy of American Poets.

The Past

Small light in the sky appearing
suddenly between 
two pine boughs, their fine needles

now etched onto the radiant surface
and above this
high, feathery heaven--

Smell the air. That is the smell of the white pine,
most intense when the wind blows through it
and the sound it makes equally strange,
like the sound of wind in a movie--

Shadows moving. The ropes
making the sound they make. What you hear now
will be the sound of the nightingale, Chordata,
the male bird courting the female--

The ropes shift. The hammock
sways in the wind, tied
firmly between two pine trees.

Smell the air. That is the smell of the white pine.

It is my mother's voice you hear
or is it only the sound the trees make
when the wind passes through them

because what sound would it make
passing through nothing?

Louise Gluck
from Faithful and Virtuous Night, FSG
American Poets, Volume 47, Fall-Winter 2014, page 60.

This beautiful poem seems to me to be an almost perfect evocation of the lost-ness of the past. I wish I could write something that would thus evoke the years on our farm, or in our house in Scotia.

This picture was taken at the south end of the property, which is now 
the Hymas Woods Nature Preserve.
I think the largest trunk (center) is a white pine.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


I took this quite a while back---in rain, in the Feather River Canyon---
near my son's home, one of the world's beautiful places.

Tonight, another thoughtful, and playful, poem by Mary Ruefle.
Alert: I have several more marked in her Selected Poems, to share here. Get this book!
I also have Madness, Rack and Honey; collected lectures, Wave Books, 2012, which I must read in smaller bites, because the thought is so rich and compressed. Both of these books, as well as the small one of her erasure poems, A Little White Shadow, have the most beautiful, soft, simple, off-white paper covers. Lovely to hold in the hand! The same publisher has issued Lorine Niedecker's Lake Superior in a similar cover. Love it!

After a Rain

They noticed, you see, that I was a noticing
kind of person, and so they left the dictionary
out in the rain and I noticed it,
I noticed it was open to the rain page,
much harm had come to it, it had aged to the age
of ninety-five paper years and I noticed rainbow
follows rain in the book, just as it does on
earth, and I noticed it was silly of me to
notice so much but I noticed there is no stationary
in heaven, I noticed an infant will grip your hand like
there is no tomorrow, while the very aged
will give you a weightless hand for the same reason,
I noticed in a loving frenzy that some are hemlocked
and others are not (believe me yours unspeakably obliged),
I noticed whoever I met in my search for entrance
into this world went too far (but that was their
destination) and I noticed the road followed roughly
the route of a zipper around a closed case,
I noticed the sea was human but no one believed me,
and that some birds have the wingspan of an inch
and some flowers the petal span of a foot yet the two
are very well suited to each other, I noticed that.
There are eight major emotional states but I forget
seven of them, I can hear the ambulance singing
but I don’t think it will stop for me,
because I noticed the space between the waterfall and
the rock and I am safe there, resting in
the cradle of all there is, the way a sea horse
(when it is tired) will tie its tail to a seaweed
and rest, and there has not been, in my opinion,
enough astonishment over this fact, so now I will
withdraw my interest in the whole external world
while I am in the noticing mode, notice how I
talk to you just as if you were sitting on my lap
and not as if it were raining, not as if there were
a sheet of water between us or anything else.

Mary Ruefle
Selected Poems, Wave Books, Seattle WA, 2010, pages 132-133.
And from September in Michigan, deer graze in light rain. See how it darkens their coats?

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Crushed and Sparkling

This is the dainty Mrs. Wood Duck posing for me. 
It is often difficult, in all that flurry about cracked corn,
 to make portraits of individuals.
She doesn't dress showoffily like her mate, 
but there is a lot of color hiding beneath the wings and
I am always fascinated by the white oval around her eye
that reminds me of the makeup Elizabeth Taylor wore as Cleopatra.

Tonight's poem is by Mary Ruefle, whose work grows ever more interesting to me,
and whose poem I was extra-pleased to find in the 2014 Best American Poetry!


Everything that ever happened to me
is just hanging---crushed
and sparkling---in the air,
waiting to happen to you.
Everything that ever happened to me
happened to somebody else first.
I would give you an example
but they are all invisible.
Or off gallivanting around the globe.
Not here when I need them
now that I need them
if I ever did which I doubt.
Being particular has its problems.
In particular there is a rift through everything.
There is a rift running the length of Iceland
and so a rift runs through every family
and between families a feud.
It’s called a saga. Rifts and sagas
fill the air, and beautiful old women
sing of them, so the air is filled with
music and the smell of berries and apples
and shouting when a gun goes off
and crying in closed rooms.
Faces, who needs them?
Eating the blood of oranges
I in my alcove could use one.
Abbas and ammas!
come out of your huts, travel
halfway around the world,
inspect my secret bank account of joy!
My face is a jar of honey
you can look through,
you can see everything
is muted, so terribly muted,
who could ever speak of it,
sealed and held up for all?

Mary Ruefle
Best American Poetry, 2014 (at 57% mark of) Kindle Edition.

And this is Mrs. Mallard in an autumn portrait.

Friday, November 07, 2014


Today's cracked corn brought them winging up 
from their flotilla that glides under the willow.
I often try to capture them in flight, but it is tricky!

When I hang out outdoors, I often think of Wendell Berry. Here is one of his outdoor poems.

October 10

Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.

Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
beach whiter.

Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.

The calling of a crow sounds
loud---a landmark---now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.

Wendell Berry
New Collected Poems, Counterpoint, 2012, page 63. 
(Kindle Edition)

Two three-line stanzas, then two four-line stanzas, simple and effective. 
Sleep well as the nights grow