Thursday, December 31, 2015

Grandchildren Visit, Part Three, Saying Goodbye

A last minute pose from CNH and SRH.

SRH has mastered the thrill of pulling faces for photography; I never got a good one.

Logan poses holding his last-minute bag of swag from Grammy's Swag Box.


I plan to resume the Memory Thread in a day or two. June Hymas

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Grandchildren Visit, Part Two

 Here are all four of them, taking Grampy's special companion dog, 
Cassie, for her daily walk.

 Here are two of them, having a good laugh with their mother.

And here is the sky coming home from the walk.
The sky is very beautiful this time of year.
I will be sad when they leave.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Grandchildren visiting

Four grandchildren visiting. Almaden Lake Park now charges $6.00 per car to park
but it has several great climbing structures. Just that next time, we will maybe all go in one car. . .
We could have spent even longer than we did, but we got hungry.
So we came home and ate turkey hot dogs on white buns with ketchup, 
grapes, clementines, chips and olives, with peach yoghurt for desert.
Beautiful day! Almaden Lake looked like this as we were leaving.

They brought Christmas gifts: a big pine cone with peanut butter and bird seed.
I have already hung it up above the deck.
They also brought some of their healthy home-baked dog treats for Cassie!

probably won't find a poem tonight,
what with one thing and another. . .

Monday, December 28, 2015

Night came, and the moon with it

The last few days have brought rain at night and spectacular clouds
on the Daily Walk. This is from yesterday's Walk.
Today had surprises, and after all, no room for the Walk.

Today's mail brought me a new book by my favorite, Mary Ruefle. 
I am sorry to have to report that the soft creamy, art-paper cover 
as on her other books is no more. We have instead a nice 
orangey-red with white sort-of-handwriting that one cannot read 
running parallel to the spine of the book. But Mary is still inside, 
and I am looking forward to a few nourishing reads.


The classroom was dark, all the desks were empty,
and the sentence on the board was frightened to
find itself alone. The sentence wanted someone to
read it, the sentence thought it was a fine sentence, a
noble, thorough sentence, perhaps a sentence of
some importance, made of chalk dust, yes, but a sen-
tance that contained within itself a certain swirl not
unlike the nebulous heart of the unknown universe,
but if no one read it, how could it be sure? Perhaps it
was a dull sentence and that was why everyone had
left the room and turned out the lights. Night came, 
and the moon with it. The sentence sat on the board
and shone. It was beautiful to look at, but no one
read it.

Mary Ruefle      (born 1952)

THE MOST OF IT. Wave Books, 2008, page 55.

One thing I noticed about typing this is that the linebreaks
are very useful, giving a little shot of importance to words
at the ends or especially at the beginnings of lines. 
One task for us might be to try typing paragraphs of
our writing, or journal writing, to a certain point, and 
then breaking the line. One could look to similar sized lines,
as here, or . . .?  jhh

Sunday, December 27, 2015

I choose the star of salt . . .

This was the end of our Daily Walk today, looking 
at the hills you can see from the street
and at the wonderful clouds.

Our Star

Every day, whether we realize it or not,
we choose one of two stars to guide us,
a star as ephemeral as our life,
a star water can wash away. One star
is made of packed sugar, the other
of packed salt. Water melts both.
If we choose the star of sugar
we will follow all the sweet things
of the earth, the candied surfaces
that glisten, reflecting a honeyed light.
If salt, we will go the way of the seas---
restless, rossing broken dolls
and the timbers of drowned ships
onto everyone's shore.

                                     The way of salt
is the way of sorrow and loss,
for salt seeds every tear
before it blossoms, just as death
seeds every birth. Salt is the pillar
erected to those who have looked
when they were warned not to.

At night the star illuminates our sleep,
yet before dawn it is washed away,
so that each morning we must choose again.
The poor choose the star of salt.
They break it into pieces, grind it up,
and eat it with their rough bread.
Salt is the only star in their heaven.
It is no choice at all. Invariably
the rich choose the star of sugar.
Under its light they build roads
that pass the shanties of the poor
and lead to gingerbread mansions.

I choose the star of salt. I follow it
into grocery stores and factories.
The cashiers and barbers watch me
and the steelworkers and foreign pickers
bent over shovels or rows of lettuce,
They are silent, brooding, distrustful.
Each morning I choose their star
because it is my star also,
because it is the rich man's star,
although he doesn't know it, not yet.
Every morning I choose this star
because the salt grains hiss 
on the shore as the sea washes up
the ground bones of the starless dead.

Morton Marcus         (1936-2009)

Ploughshares, Spring, 1993, pages 25 and 26.

This issue of Ploughshares was edited by Al Young who
posts the most wonderful things on Facebook!
This is another find from looking at the table of contents 
as I am trying to throw away literary magazines
from 1980-2000, when I subscribed to dozens of them. . .
I have been fond of Morton Marcus for a long time, 
even before he chose my poems for the Second Prize 
in a Montalvo Literary Contest in the early 1980s. 
At the awards ceremony, he talked earnestly 
and in a focused manner about my work. 
It was a fine experience!

Saturday, December 26, 2015


In the new issue of the Paris Review that just came
there are translations of Mirlitonnades (Doggerels)
by Samuel Beckett. I was reminded of the sea-things 
that have accumulated in this abalone shell
since my sister gave it to me many years ago.
Beckett approved the translations from French
before he died, but they have not been published until now.

This is the English translation of one of six pairs
that also include the French.

alive dead only season mine
white lilies feverfews
vivid nests forsaken
silt of April leaves
frost fair hoar grey days

Samuel Beckett

The Paris Review 215
Winter 2015,
page 135.

Set yourself the task of writing
short groups of mostly nouns 
like this to enliven those
dreary winter evenings.. .

Beckett was born the same year as my father
and only lived a couple of years longer,
so I count them as members of 
the same generation.
It interests me to compare
the way poets are marked
by their times, with the lives
and times of family members.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Leaving Christmas Day

For Christmas Day, 
the flight of a duck over Idaho snow in 2013, 
snow on the pine, snow on the fences, 
on the small and leafless apple trees,
and Miller Williams' delightful romp 
through revised story tales.

On Word That the Old Children's 
Stories Have Been Brought Up to Date

The Farmer's Wife missed the tails entirely.
Jack and the Giant became the best of friends.
The boy cried wolf again and the people came
but didn't hurt the wolf, just sent it hence.

Young Ms. Hubbard's cupboard was full of bones.
Humpty Dumpty bounced like a rubber ball.
The woman who lived in a shoe was kind to her kids.
Ms. Muffet was not afraid of spiders at all.

So now does Icarus flutter down to the sea
and swim ashore? Does Cyclops keep his eye?
Doesn't Achilles worry about his heel?
Are there no consequences? Does no one die?

Is this what we say to the kids---You can be bad,
but, hey, its OK, nobody's going to get mad?

Miller Williams

The Ways We Touch; poems by Miller Williams
University of Illinois Press, 1997, page 19.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Neanderthal Bone-Flute Music

When making a daily blog, save everything! You never know when some
small bit out of the past might come in handy. How does this relate to tonight's
poem? I can almost hear you asking. Ah , , ,
This is an iPhone photo from three phones ago,
(Stuff happens!) (One forgets how one made this rainbow.)


Press one if you'd like to speak to Attila the Hun.
Press two if your Jacuzzi is filled with eels.
Press three if bitten by an animal you teased while it was eating.
Press four if being heartsore dulls you to the delights of this world.
Press five to put continents between you and a thriving former love.
Press six if your whiskey "fix" (that floaty limbo following on the          heels of your initial sip) is the high point of your day.
Press seven to hear actor Kevin Bacon explain the limbic system.
Press eight to be connected to an invertebrate.
Press nine to explore origins of the phrase "time out of mind."
Press ten to listen to Neanderthal bone-flute music (again.)

Amy Gerstler       (born 1956)

SCATTERED AT SEA, Penguin, 2015, page 36.

Amy Gerstler has published a LOT and gotten a lot of recognition.
The idea of this poem is delightful, I think. Some people might ask if it is really a poem. (I have a grandson who would surely disapprove. He stands for rhyming and metrics!)

To me, in a way, it is a pattern for a sort of poem I like. There are several poetic ways to assemble disparate items. This poet has observed the automated foolishness we may find ourselves involved in--when we had hoped to reach a HUMAN BEING! A SENTIENT MEMBER OF OUR OWN SPECIES, WHO SPEAKS OUR OWN PARTICULAR LANGUAGE CLEARLY!!

Write a list poem of ten items with a governing concept. You will have to invent the concept as part of your task. Allow yourself to be a little silly, or very, very serious. This might be a good time for some sort of word-play or sound-play. If you have time, feel a little sorry that the notation for music had not been invented (or indeed had much of any notation) and Neanderthal flute-music is most probably lost to us.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tiny Black Stone

I have given my heart to watercolor again as a result
of playing with the app called Waterlogue. 
Here is a little scene from our ride home 
last Thursday before 5 o'clock. It is getting dark
at this time of year and the sun is already going down.
I especially like the mysterious thing that has 
happened to the electrical tower on the right.

Those delicious tubes of melting color!
Those soft brushes!

all day long the thought
that wouldn't leave me alone
rinsing jasmine rice
the tiny black stone
at the bottom of the pot

        James Chessing

red geraniums
on the widow's balcony
in fading light
she talks to every bud and bloom,
each leaf that curls and browns

Beverley George

Mariposa 30; 
Haiku Poets of Northern California,
Spring/Summer 2014, both on page 19.

This poetic form is called a tanka and is modeled 
on ancient Chinese and Japanese five-line forms. 
It gives a little more room to express a short thought 
than a haiku, yet is very self-contained, and not show-offy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Night in the Neighborhood

This pollarded olive tree has been the standout in the neighborhood for many, many years.
It always emphasizes the shape of the tree, but the detail varies from year to year.

Across the street, edging the house and emphasising the tree.

Using the app Waterlogue on the photo, interestingly makes it glow.

This was harder to photograph because of the amount of blue light, 
from the small, heavily decorated tree.
I was trying to get the crescent moon (see it?) in the same shot. 
I was asking too much of my iPhone.
Don't we all? Ask too much?


Now the seasons are closing their files
on each of us, the heavy drawers
full of certificates rolling back
into the tree trunks, a few old papers
falling away. Someone we loved 
has fallen from our thoughts,
making a little glittering splash
like a bicycle pushed by a breeze.
Otherwise, not much has happened;
we fell in love again, finding
that one red feather in the wind.

Ted Kooser              (born 1939)

Sure Signs; new and collected poems, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013, Kindle location 903.

It was the "little glittering splash" that got me. That and a red feather for Mary-Marcia.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Front Yard, Back Yard

The Santa Fox
 Around the corner this Santa on the ground in deflated attitude 
on the Daily Walk a couple of days ago. I don't know if they turn on his blower
in the early evening and he comes back to life, or if he is really dead until
the air leak is patched. I thought at first he was accompanied 
by a fox, but now I see it is Rudolph's baby brother.

Patterns on Pale Grey Cement
About a month ago, I was stuck by the beauty of the shadows
on the sidewalk in front of the house, before the leaves fell.

Leaf fall in the Rain
These backyard leaves were blown away last Thursday by Rafael and his brother,
who has become Rafael's Brother to me as he is quite shy 
and I have forgotten his name. But there are nearly this many 
replacement leaves now--
it's a fruitless mulberry and provides excellent shade.
It's the kind of tree that has to be cut back every year;
Rafael and the Brother do that for us, too.

Last July Above The Little Union Canal in Eagle, Idaho.
By next July, we hope to be looking out at this same view.
Our ducks will recognize us, I am sure!


Some Bare Root Roses We Once Planted

In California, bare root roses get planted 
in winter, which is a lot of trouble.

My father has his khaki work plants on
digging by the picket fence in 1949,
when the Wignalls drop by. Dorothy
has a prognathous jaw and gives my mother
her family recipe for trifle.

Fred is tall, skinny, bald and always smiling.
Gay is tall and skinny, too, but not bald
and has her mother's jaw. Her name is strange
even then and we're supposed to be friends.

The Wignalls walk around back, Fred is smiling
and wears a white shirt. My father leans
his shovel up against the fence and offers a beer, 
but doesn't go inside and clean up or leave
the immediate scene.

Later, Dorothy says her husband was insulted.
"I'm sorry," my mother says, "but he only
had this one Sunday to put the roses in."
The roses later leaf and bloom profusely
because my father has prepared the beds
perfectly and with great care.

Laurel Speer               (born 1940)

Vincent, et al.  Geryon Press, 1985, page 15.

This is the poem that suggested to me that I use on this blog some of the pictures of my neighborhoods that I have been accumulating.
Notice that it has stanzas of a differing number of lines. In some ways it is more like a story. It also honors the poet's father in a particular way. Do you have a family story like this? Your task would be to make it into a poem about this length. Perhaps strive for lines that are a little longer, like many of these: about 11 to 13 syllables. I have found that this is a very good length for lines for this type of poem, counting out the syllables seems to help the memories to unravel!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Still Life with Doormat

Sometimes, a little bit of color in a corner shines forth, especially when I am very happy.
In this case, it made me even happier. Sometimes it doesn't take much.


A log shifts, sending a few sparks higher.
Outside, through the larches, an owl calls.
The dog's asleep. On the hearth near the fire,

carefully stacked, in a basket of woven wire,
wood for the night. A stick of kindling falls,
a log shifts, sending a few sparks higher,

changing the shadows in the room. A spire
of light glints on the clock's face in the hall.
The dog's asleep. On the hearth, near the fire,

he begins to whine, to become a far crier
among the hills, twitching his feathered paws.
A log shifts, sending a few sparks higher;

his ears prick: ahead some stark desire
steps forth, waiting to hold him in thrall.
The dog's asleep on the hearth, near the fire;

he is farther away now, part of a choir
of lost voices, He falls back, sprawls.
A log shifts, sending a few sparks higher;
the dogs asleep on the hearth near the fire.

Jared Carter         (born 1939)

The Laurel Review, Summer, 1995, Greentower Press, Page 18.

Yes, it's that same issue of Laurel Review that I was going to throw out. Four of the poems therein will wind up on this blog within the next little while. I just looked it up and the periodical is still going strong, with a website, electronic or paper submissions, and a very reasonable subscription price. I'm in! And I am thinking of sending them some poems again, for old times sake!

It's that interesting form the villanelle, again. The repeated parts give it a sonic richness, I think. Notice, in this case, how the punctuation of the repeated line--about the dog--shifts, and how the meaning gets a little nudge from that alone.
And you can tell what your task is now. Start working on your villanelle. I think it might be good to work on two of them at the same time, so you can move back and forth and they can fertilize each other. Sort of...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Writer's Cat

The people with whom I went to a wonderful party this afternoon weren't bad looking, 
but the cat was spectacular! This was a rescue cat which had taken quite a while to settle in--
used to spend most of the day (except mealtimes) under the porch--
not fitting in.

     "Writers know this when they are writing daily. With the first stroke, the hand may swim, the pen glide. The cool glass of the window brightens; the rug has a biography. Sweet tension of silent meeting throbs in the room. Unsaid words grow powerful, wish to speak out. Ideas gather their bones and rise up. A face becomes a life, a place a story. Everything speaks, or is powered by silence Everything dreams aloud. The pen grow numb with haste, or calm with plenty.
     Yes. there will be labor, and hours with sweat dripping off the elbows. Yes, the words will have to be tuned--but the pen! Already shouting, poised and happy."  

Kim Stafford (born 1949)

The Muses Among Us: 
eloquent listening and other pleasures of the writing life, University of Georgia Press, 2012, Kindle location 100.

I am gearing myself up for a writing project I have promised to do. This is part of that project; the kind of nourishment I got this afternoon with the creative people I was with will help. And the cat was spectacular! What projects will you be working on. Projects I start, or recommit to, at the beginning of the year have often been the most successful for me. What works for you??

Friday, December 18, 2015

Toyon Berries

Today we visited a friend high in Los Altos Hills. This is the view 
from her place out over the San Francisco Bay. It was a beautiful, clear day!
Behind me and all around, but unseen here, were Toyon bushes 
bearing the most spectacular crop of red berries I had yet seen anywhere.
Our friend told us that they were all descended from a gift that sprouted
in her mother's yard many years ago. And I was so busy talking 
that I forgot to take any pictures of the spectacular clusters of berries!


Today, three days before Christmas,
I had planned to cut some berries
From the toyon bush in the yard.
For three years it has not done well.
This is the first year it produced 
A decent crop. But this morning
A flock of thirty migrating 
Robins appeared, and before noon
Every berry had been eaten.
This year we will buy our foliage
As usual, and the symbols
Of incarnate flesh we tended
All year will be mingled
With pale hot bird blood, high over 
The barren Mexican mountains.

Kenneth Rexroth

The Collected Shorter Poems, New Directions, 1966, page 266.

I was reminded of this poem, which was given to me as a broadside gift at a Moe's Books poetry event in Berkeley in the late 1980s. Now this broadside has become a desirable artifact and is being offered for sale on the Internet. I must have mine somewhere, but where??
Your task: a fifteen line poem which mingles personal experience with an imaginative
extension; you might not need to go as far as the mountains of Mexico!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

History is like an Impressionist Painting

Three days ago on the Daily Walk, around the corner 
on the street with gingko trees, one yard has suddenly
burst into blossom! Whoever gardens there has planted out 
many colors of primrose and a few cyclamen, also in bloom.
These are never blooms one sees in December!
And it made me yearn for spring!
(Square iPhone photo, overcast day, no processing.)

The mail brought a new Paris Review today, 
but I haven't been able to look at it until tonight. 
It has five poems by Henri Cole, 
whose name I know, but whose poetry 
is only slightly familiar to me. I have seen some, 
and he has published many books, 
but I haven't paid much attention. 

Here is the first one:


On this tenth day of the year, I play Stravinsky
and sip vodka from a paper cup, taking in the view.
Tendrils twining, leaves rippling, guts absorbing nutrients,
brains processing information--all of it is dust now.
He, she, all of them lie under sod, men and women
no longer rivals in love. Bodies grow old and fester.
History is like an Impressionist painting, a variegated
landscape of emotional colors. As night falls
owls, bats and hedgehogs come out to hunt.
I take joy in considering my generation. I rewrite
to be read, though feel shame acknowledging it.
Scattered among imposing trees, the ancient
and the modern interact, spreading gems of pain
and happiness. I curl up in my fleece and drink.

Henri Cole   (born 1956)

Paris Review 215, Winter, 2015, page 218.

This is a 14-line poem, but t doesn't seem like a sonnet. The visiting of graves is interesting to me--
it is something I haven't been in a position to do, most often, my family graves were elsewhere, And the kind of travel where one visits graves of the famous, hasn't been the kind I have done. But naturally this makes me wonder where Lowell is buried. And I think it would be well for me to see who is buried around here. I seem to remember that there is a burial ground near New Almaden for the workers in the old mercury mines.
My husband's family always visited the village cemetery in Liberty, Idaho, on Memorial Day. They neatened up the grounds and the tombstones and maybe brought some decorations, and finished up with a smashing picnic!
My Facebook friend, the American haiku poet, Tom Clausen, who lives near Ithaca, New York, seems to take almost daily walks and bicycle rambles near his home. As is often true of places in the East that were settled earlier than here in the West, there are small burial grounds and family plots--many of which exist in a neglected state. He photographs in these places sometimes, and meditates on the people who are gone and the lives they might have led.
I think the owls, bats and hedgehogs are my favorite part of this poem. Have you written any poems about burial places? Tonight the final question on Jeopardy was about the French Pantheon, which became a burial place for the seriously important folk of France. None of the contestants answered correctly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Where the road winds; stop to listen

This another of the square pictures I took through the windshield on our recent trip
to Plumas County to spend Thanksgiving with our grandchildren.
There must be natural sound there, but I heard only the voice of the engine
and the tires on the road. 

When we are interested in poetry, we are naturally interested in sound
which makes up so much of the texture and appeal of poetry.
Until I read this article, I hadn't thought about this!

There is another book from the author of The Great Animal Orchestra, Bernie Krause! This one is called Voices of the Wild. It is on Amazon in both Kindle and print versions. Below is an except from an author interview published in OUTSIDE Magazine, that explains what Krause is recording and thinking about concerning natural soundscapes.

"OUTSIDE: What is soundscape ecology?

KRAUSE: Most of our writing and thinking about the natural world is visual. If it looks pretty, if it’s visually spectacular, that’s what we concentrate on. We have the descriptive language for that kind of reflection. But we have few words to describe in any great detail the sounds we hear when walking in the woods. Soundscape ecology is, in part, a response to this gap. It’s the study of the sound that comes from the landscape—urban, rural, or wild. I concentrate on the organisms in remote and still-untrammeled places. I call this the biophony: all the living organisms that vocalize in a given habitat, sounding together. There’s also natural sound in a habitat from wind in the trees and water in a stream. I refer to these nonbiological sounds as the geophony.

In your new book, you point out that these biophonies provide us with “numerous prisms through which to view our relationship to the non-human critter world.”
It’s so important that we begin to investigate these prisms and explore what they have to teach us—and soon. The natural soundscape is very fragile, and it’s disappearing very quickly.

Which sounds are the first to go?
Usually, it’s what’s called partitioning. In a healthy habitat, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals form acoustic niches, sonic territories that they establish so that their voices can be heard unimpeded by others. These partitions are critical to their survival. Their cohesion begins to break down in habitats that are stressed even in slight ways.

For example, there are logging companies that believe selective logging projects will have almost no environmental impact; you’re just taking out a tree here and there. But if you pay attention to the sounds of the living organisms inhabiting a given site, another story will often emerge. If you can get a baseline recording before the selective logging takes place, and then a follow-up recording after the first cuts have been made, you’ll likely hear some notable changes.

What impact has the drought had on the biophony around your home in California?
There was absolutely no birdsong this past spring or summer in Valley of the Moon, in Sonoma County. There were birds, and there were a few calls, but no song."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Constructing Things; Reminded of Glastonbury

The porch wasn't making it! This is at The Farm, Rexford, NY, probably in 1954 or 1955, 
after I went away to Tucson to go to college and learn about desert dust storms. 
Nothing is left here of the porch but the roof and even that won't survive much longer.
 I think Dad is building some forms for a concrete pour. 
Later pictures show Marji and some of her friends roller-skating on the cement. 
I think that is Marji in the doorway, wielding a broom. 
You can also see that Dad has been using a blowtorch on the front door 
to melt, scrape, and thus remove, perhaps a century's worth of paint down to the bare wood. 
Episodes of this story will continue appear in this Memory Thread from time to time. . .

Green Shade

The best rain announces itself long
before it opens up and drives the trees
a long, radiant green.
They remind me of Glastonbury, the lawn
beside the Abbey. Somewhere the monks had buried
gold that Henry VIII wanted
with a hard pale hunger.
They laid it in the ground
in a place intended as a joke, I swear,
at the foot of a stand of three trees, the center
taller than the others, the box covered by stone.
I don't know how I know this, I knew,
under the insistent rain that ground was heir to,
that the abbots, drunk on their own apple wine,
laughed like all hell as they dug at their wet plan.

John Wylam

The Laurel Review, Volume 27, No. 2,
Summer, 1993, page 63.

I found this poem yesterday as I was clearing out some shelves upstairs. In the 1980s and 1990s I subscribed to many literary journals. I had a particular fondness for the Laurel Review because they had published one of my poems. Which may be why this issue survived previous purges so I could find this poem constructed of two main parts! First comes the rain and the greenness where the poet is reminded of Glastonbury. And then the story of the monks and their gold-burial, with the poet's emotional participation in the monks' work. The poem, in 15 lines, without stanzas, strict rhyme or metrics, enters and exits on the poet's perceptions.

John Wylam lived in Pittsburgh according to the endnote in the Laurel Review. I cannot find a record of a book of his poems,
or of anything else, really, but this is a competent short poem.

Your task would be to allow some kind of weather, park, sea or woodland lead you into a reimagining of some historical event.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Her hardest hue to hold

Many years ago, the Monterey Aquarium had an exhibit of Dale Chihuly's art glass sea forms.
I took this picture then, and found it just now when I was looking for something else. 
It reminded me of the phrase "Only gold can stay" 
which I thought I must have heard somewhere. 
Upon looking it up I find the phrase differs (see the Frost poem below.)
And thus was constructed this blog post! Now I am thinking
about language and the vagaries of memory.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

"Nothing Gold Can Stay" is a poem by Robert Frost, written in 1923, and published in the Yale Review in October of that year. It was later published in the collection New Hampshire that earned Frost the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.Wikipedia

Your task: write a poem based on a color found in nature. I plan to work with green. . .

Ginkgo leaves for Mimi, San Jose, December 12, 2015. jhh

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Saying goodbye to Michigan

I always take farewell pictures as we head out of town.
This was October 28, 2014.

I did not write the poem below, but only wish I had written it.

Summer pushes the scent out of the pines and soon, I find 
myself stumbling along the trail. At a creek I veer off the trail 
and uphill until I lie down on a great granite face. I wake up 
to the whooshing of a warm breeze through ferns. Nearby a 
coyote grooms himself, but we haven't seen each other yet.

John Brantingham          (Born circa 1970)

The Green of Sunset. Moon Tide Press, 2014.
Kindle location 442.

This book is presented as
a series of paragraphs like this one.
Brantingham calls them poems
and each one is complete in itself.
Each paragraph begins with a
fancy capital letter on the first word.
They make wonderfully tranquil short sips of reading.

Now your task is to write some of your own, based on your life and the things around you.
Try to keep it short and simple, yet clearly written.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Writing, not writing . . .

Often, when testing a new camera, ot getting out a camera to take it somewhere  
with the intent to take pictures, I take a shot like this to test or begin a newly formatted
storage card.  When working with the photo files, 
it makes it easy when a new sequence is begun.
I could delete them later, but by then they have become part of the record. . . 
This is one such picture, taken last April, when I was trying once again to organize 
the table or desk space so I can write, work on haiku or poetry 
and revisions and sketch or paint little watercolors.
I really have too many hobbies and it is probably not wise
to start to make plans about deep change this late at night,
but I was reminded by this post of the poet Molly Fisk,
(whose writings and Facebook posts are my current favorites)
that reassessments are still necessary, however much
one tries to avoid them. I've already got a lot
of things to do that will keep me from sketching tomorrow. . .

I haven't posted a link to someone else's blog before. 
This is a first for me. If you don't know Molly, it makes
a fine introduction to her thoughtfulness. And now to bed,
after a long day without any sketching and very little writing in it!
Here's to tomorrow! Click the link right below!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Keeping things simple

An afternoon photo from the Highway to Eagle, Idaho. I took this from the car
and then ran it through the app called Waterlogue, which, in this case, 
reduced it to essentials. I wold like to make a drawing with
about the same proportion of white to black lines to smudges of blue.

Here is a haiku from the person who first taught us about haiku:

In deepest winter
I only think about it--
a hometown visit

Kiyoko Tokutomi

Floating Dreams, edited by Garry Gay. 
Two Autumns Press, 2001, n.p.

If you haven't tried writing haiku, give yourself permission!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Cordelia Slough

This is another square iPhone photograph I took on the day before Thanksgiving.
When you take pictures with the iPhone, it records your location; 
you can find out later where you were, by looking at the information 
displayed on Google Maps in Picasa. 
It wouldn't be a great idea if one were a spy 
or trying to keep a secret romance secret. 
But I loved finding out later that this is Cordelia Slough 
in Northern California as viewed from Highway 680, looking east. 
Looks like it might be a good place to go birding during migration season. 
I was quite struck with the way the plumes of these grasses 
arranged themselves so gracefully and caught the light so beautifully.
And by the scattered little gray clouds.


Not having been asked to write the inaugural poem, 
even though I am from Arkansas, I will take what’s here, 
the birds at the feeder, not saving the world but only 
being it, each kind of bird taking up its career 

to fill out some this-or-that of creation on a small scale, 
like this poem nobody asked for and few will hear. 
Cold birds, eating extra for warmth, finely detailed 
to catch the sun. Ridged out in friction-gear,
they jerk from position to position, as if the eye’s 
first impressions have been caught before the brain 
smooths them out. The chickadee clamps a precise 
seed and tosses its shell, nothing amazing. 

To start up a fanfare would be to see it as specimen, 
to deflect one’s attention from the exact life performing 
its dip, crack, toss. The long beak of the wren 
is extended by a thin white stripe traced full-swing 

down the head, so the wren seems half beak. I need 
to get these lines, delicate as a Chinese painting. 
Any poem would quiver with delight, with the chickadee 
in it, or wren, but wouldn’t want to do anything 

about it. That’s the hard thing about writing a poem 
that’s supposed to inspire the country at a crucial time, 
that’s supposed to hammer like a woodpecker. No one 
could hear, with its hammering red, black, white! 

It doesn’t bode well for the quiet poem, or the insect 
inside the bark, or the old tree crumbling to dust 
inside itself while the public word tree holds it erect. 
Still, I think when the bleachers no longer rise august 

along Pennsylvania Avenue and the meandering ocean 
of confetti has been swept up, it is good to cross a bridge 
in your mind, to something earlier, oblivious to emotion, 
something like wrens going on inside the language.

Fleda Brown

Breathing In, Breathing Out, Anhinga Press, 2002, pages 57-58.

Perhaps this poem appealed to me partly because of all the current noise about a presidential election still more than a year in the future. I'm not saying that the choice of US President isn't important. But there needs to be some limit (like they have in many other places!) on the sheer length of time, energy, emotional energy and money and human resources of all kinds that are expended on this one thing when there are so many things that need careful attention and repair.

Your TASK might be to imagine being invited to deliver a poem for some important event, and interweave your thoughts about that event and its consequences into a poem with the natural happenings in the place where you find yourself living now. Fleda's birds are those same birds that visit my feeder in Emmet County, Michigan, but you may be doing your birding near Cordelia Slough, a tidal slough, where the steelhead swim upstream to spawn. Arranging your poem, like this one, into quatrains will add  to its necessary form and seriousness.

Oh, joy! I have recently discovered that Fleda has a blog, like this one! Here is the link to the post in which she discusses writing on demand as a useful technique to generate something you can work with to make a poem.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

An Owl's Voice

Walking in Los Gatos, we pass 
a rack of sports bras 
in the open air.
Really? I say to myself. 
Has the world changed so much?
And I know that it has. . .

Out Back

Once I heard an owl
through a tunnel from the moon,
imagined it huge
in its eyes, floating down
from the woods toward the lake.

All things moved down,
the life of trees clawed
at the hill, roots rolled
downhill in rivulets
beneath the lantern.
Behind my back, the cottage
slid toward the water
like an ice cube melting.

"See the eyes of the owl,"
my grandmother said, holding
the lantern to the trees
where something stirred, but
even the eyes had closed
into the awful dark.

My grandmother stood lean
and erect, her hair already loose
for the night and waved down
her back like the real woman
in the fairy tale. She said
my name, which was also her
name, said it out at the night
to make me appear, and hold.

Fleda Brown Jackson

Fishing with Blood; poems by Fleda Brown Jackson, Purdue University Press, 1988, page 26.

My grandmother's names were later applied to my two sisters, and I was named for my mother's friend as a compromise choice. It seems like it would be nice to carry a slightly unusual name, like Fleda, forward for your grandmother.

When we are in Michigan, we often hear the voice of the Barred Owl, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-hoo-hoo. . . "