Saturday, May 30, 2015


At play by the creek on a visit.
Blog will resume soon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Father's Portrait Pedigree

My brother Dave, who is the family genealogist, recently found this picture pedigree
of my father's ancestors in our rich hoard of family papers.
The large inset family photograph is our family in 1953 
when my mother was chosen Mother of the Year for Schenectady County. 
I am at upper right.

a house for the spring
there is nothing more here but
 whatever is is


I know nothing more about the haiku poet Sodo, 
than that Cid Corman selected this single haiku by this poet
for inclusion in his book:

LITTLE ENOUGH; 49 Haiku by Basho, Sodo,
Ransetsu, Buson, Ryokan, Issa, Shiki,
and a tanka by Sokan, versions by Cid Corman,
Gnomon Press. 1991, #19.

Still, I think it is mysterious and lovely.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Raindrops on Roses

I took this yesterday after a rain sprinkle. Just now (about 11 pm)
there came a rattle and heavy downpour, When I looked it up, the weather people
had just spotted on Doppler radar, a hailstorm moving over Eagle, toward Boise.
There was a tremendous clatter for 10 or 15 minutes; 
I imagine rose damage, but won't know until it gets light.
Each year when the roses bloom, I remember the rose-loving fellow who 
lived here until he died. We bought from the widow;
and his roses and irises still delight us every spring!

it comes to  my shoulder
longing for human company
a red dragonfly

Natsume Soseki

Modern Japanese Haiku, Makoto Ueda,
University of Toronto Press, Toronto and Buffalo, 1974, page 46.

I can recommend his novel, I am a Cat!
He left a body of excellent work in many forms and 
for many years his face was on the 1000 yen Japanese banknote.
He is generally considered to be one of Japan's greatest writers.
It pleases me that he wrote haiku and took the form seriously.

Monday, May 25, 2015

By Lamplight

Just now, S and his dog, Cassie. 
Now you can understand the term "lapdog"

The Rosy Hearth, The Lamplight's Narrow Beam

The rosy hearth, the lamplight's narrow beam,
The meditation that is rather dream,
With looks that lose themselves in cherished looks;
The hour of steaming tea and banished books;
The sweetness of the evening at an end,
The dear fatigue, and right to rest attained,
And worshipped expectation of the night,--
Oh, all these things, in unrelenting flight,
My dream pursues through all the vain delays,
Impatient of the weeks, mad at the days!

Paul Verlaine

(translator not credited on the web page where I found this; 
I think it is from Verlaine's Romances Sans Paroles.)

Poor Paul! Ever since I read that book about Rimbaud, I imagine Verlaine's despair over that whole exciting mess with the talented boy. I understand that Verlaine's poetry shows an excellent command of the French language, classically used. This translation is in a regular form, which I am assuming represents the plan of the original. How I wish I had paid more attention to Miss Isabel Zimpel in French classes in 1951 and 1952! Can you read French poetry in the original? 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Forever comes to mind

Last night, when we were loading the groceries into the Tundra, the sky beyond the parking lot
looked like this! I had to stop loading a bit and take some iPhone pictures. 
Then we drove home and unloaded the groceries,
but this sky stays with me.


The meadow’s a dream I’m working to wake to.
The real river flows under the river.
The real river flows
Over the river.
Three fishermen in yellow slickers
Stitch in and out of the willows
And sometimes stand for a long time, facing the water,
Thinking they are not moving.

Thoughts akimbo
Or watching the West slip through our hopes for it.
We’re here with hay down,
Startling the baler, and a thunderhead
Stands forward to the east like a grail of milk.

The sky is cut out for accepting prayers.
Believe me, it takes them all.
Like empty barrels afloat in the trough of a swell
The stupid bales wait in the field.
The wind scatters a handful of yellow leaves
With the same sowing motion it uses for snow.

After this we won’t be haying anymore.
Lyle is going to concentrate on dying of a while
And then he is going to die.
The tall native grasses will come ripe for cutting
And go uncut, go yellow and buckle under snow
As they did before for thousands of years.
Of objects, the stove will be the coldest in the house.
The kitchen table will be there with its chairs,
Sugar bowl, and half-read library book.
The air will be still from no one breathing.

The green of the meadow, the green willows,
The green pines, the green roof, the water
Clear as air where it unfurls over the beaver dam
Like it isn’t moving.

In the huge secrecy of the leaning barn
We pile the bodies of millions of grasses,
Where it’s dark as a church
And the air is the haydust that was a hundred years.
The tin roof’s a marimba band and the afternoon goes dark.
Hay hooks clink into a bucket and nest.
Someone lifts his boot to the running board and rests.
Someone lights a cigarette.
Someone dangles his legs off the back of the flatbed
And holds, between his knees, his hands,
As if they weighed fifty pounds.
Forever comes to mind, and peaks where the snow stays.

James Galvin

Poet's Choice; poems for everyday life, selected and introduced by Robert Hass, Ecco, 1998, pages 126-127.

(This poem is from Galvin's book, Resurrection Update; collected poems 1975-1997, Copper Canyon Press, 1997.)

James Galvin has written a wonderful prose book called The Meadow. This very country, and this very Lyle are in this book. If you love the world and the things in it, it is well worth reading.

I love the specificity in this poem, and the irregular line and stanza lengths, Our task might be to write a poem about a place and an activity we know very well--in such an open form.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Apricot Iris

This afternoon, a short rainshower
and beautiful late afternoon light.

short interlude
the heart of the iris
after spring rain

June Hopper Hymas

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sit down . . .

Looking up from the lower garden space that I am developing now with Handyman B.
I am thankful every spring for the man who lived here first 
and left me all these irises and the roses in the front yard.
It is a fine place to sit and watch ducks and ducklings in the creek.
Amazing how the little ones swim, even against the current;
they cannot be more than a few days old.
I saw them again this morning.


           (to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
Wendell Berry

Poetry Magazine, January, 2001

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Viewing Herbs and Trees

Cassie is getting so fond of the daily walk that she reminds us to get going!
What we are noticing now in The Treasure Valley is that perennials are beginning to bloom.
We went and bought some for the front yard today.


To walk abroad is, not with eyes,
But thoughts, the fields to see and prize;
Else may the silent feet,
Like logs of wood,
Move up and down, and see no good
Nor joy nor glory meet.

Ev’n carts and wheels their place do change,
But cannot see, though very strange
The glory that is by;
Dead puppets may
Move in the bright and glorious day,
Yet not behold the sky.

And are not men than they more blind,
Who having eyes yet never find
The bliss in which they move;
Like statues dead
They up and down are carried
Yet never see nor love.

To walk is by a thought to go;
To move in spirit to and fro;
To mind the good we see;
To taste the sweet;
Observing all the things we meet
How choice and rich they be.

To note the beauty of the day,
And golden fields of corn survey;
Admire each pretty flow’r
With its sweet smell;
To praise their Maker, and to tell
The marks of his great pow’r.

To fly abroad like active bees,
Among the hedges and the trees,
To cull the dew that lies
On ev’ry blade,
From ev’ry blossom; till we lade
Our minds, as they their thighs.

Observe those rich and glorious things,
The rivers, meadows, woods, and springs,
The fructifying sun;
To note from far
The rising of each twinkling star
For us his race to run.

A little child these well perceives,
Who, tumbling in green grass and leaves,
May rich as kings be thought,
But there’s a sight
Which perfect manhood may delight,
To which we shall be brought.

While in those pleasant paths we talk,
’Tis that tow’rds which at last we walk;
For we may by degrees
Wisely proceed
Pleasures of love and praise to heed,
From viewing herbs and trees.

Thomas Traherne    

English-speaking people used to have the patience to write and to read carefully constructed poems like this. This poem reminds us that ev'ry word can be messed with to make a smoother transit through the poem.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Apricot Iris

The apricot iris always makes us wait until the others are almost finished blooming.
This morning it finally fully revealed itself. Looking beyond 
I see the first violet vinca bloom on this side of the fence.
And there the white chair I watch ducks from.
Burley has spread dark brown mulch where the weeds were.
It's a lovely season; I almost never think about politics here.

A Noiseless Patient Spider

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

Walt Whitman

In these wired and wireless times, it is easy to forget about the parents of American poetry, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Here is a reminder, especially to myself.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

View across the stream

This is where I put the bench I got such a great discount on two years ago. 
Burley put it together for me last week. It is very soothing to sit there;
and, when I am seated and stay quiet, the ducks swim right by!


What amazing lightness filled your body waking on summer mornings, the generous heat still tempered in those early hours, when you'd go outdoors drunk on air, over the ground where golden shadows danced and walking seemed on the verge of becoming flight. Winged almost, like a god, you met the sky.

A full day of doing nothing awaited you: the ocean in the first hours, a lucid blue still cold after dawn; the poplar grove at noon, its friendly shad shot through with glittering light; the back streets as the afternoon wore on, strolling down to the port until you found a little cafe to sit in. Such marvelous idleness, thanks to which you were able to live your time, the moment completely present, whole and without regrets.

A few jasmine or spikenard flowers, placed on your pillow to freshen the night, brought back the memory of the kids who sold them, the bouquets strung on prickly pear leaves, the vendors no less delicate, nor their brown skin less smooth, than the petals of the flower watching over your sheep. And you fell into the darkness with a pleasure equal to the one you felt when giving yourself to the light, the whole perfect day settling over you gently as a folded wing.

Luis Cernuda
Translated by Stephen Kessler

Written in Water; the Prose Poems of Luis Cernuda,
City Lights Books, 2004, page 58

Although we may not have lived near the ocean, or where spikenard flowers grew, there is in memories of childhood, places and weather, other people, another paragraph that you could write.
Send it to me!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mallards, napping in the sun

What's happening now? This is the equivalent of the mallard pool hall in early summer. 
All the females are hidden away, sitting on nests. The fellows wander around 
and spend a lot of time taking midday naps here on the streambank.
I love the way the photo caught him adjusting his sharp new wingfeathers.
One of them always tucks his beak into his back feathers,
most of them just face forward and close their eyes.

Sound of the Axe

Once a woman went into the woods.
The birds were silent. Why? she said.
Thunder, they told her,
thunder's coming.
She walked on, and the trees were dark
and rustled their leaves. Why? she said.
The great storm, they told her,
the great storm is coming.
She came to the river, it rushed by
without reply, she crossed the bridge,
she began to climb
up to the ridge where grey rocks
bleach themselves, waiting
the crack of doom,
and the hermit
had his hut, the wise man
who had lived since time began.
When she came to the hut
there was no one.
But she heard his axe.
She heard
the listening forest.
She dared not follow the sound
of the axe. Was it
the world tree he was felling?
Was this the day?

Denise Levertov

The Life Around Us; selected poems on nature, 
New Directions, 1997, page 14.

Levertov is a good poet to study for her masterful use of linebreaks and lines of varying lengths
which contribute to the music of the poem.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


This is another view of the sewing machine I found around the corner at a garage sale. 
I asked the sellers about the woman who owned it. It was a great story about an immigrant 
who used this very treadle machine to tailor men's suits! I have barely 
been able to do some mending on it, but I have used it!

This is a link to the post about Marie's sewing machine.

And here is the poem that reminded me about my machine.


In the sewing room
the mail-order Singer
with its chrome-rimmed
wheel and gleaming needle
was turned under
to make a desk while
mother started dinner.

I faced west where
the window shimmered.
For an hour I rehearsed
my letters, spelling
everything visible-
zipper and scissors,
thimbles and spools.
The oval mirror made
the wallpaper zinnias
flower still further,
and a mantel clock
held the minutes back.

The Eagle pencil
in my cramped hand
scratched fishhook
j or an i like a needle.
Late sunlight glazed
the holly leaves silver
beyond the peeling sill.
While I squinted hard
at the Blue Horse paper,
the twilight world
held perfectly still.

When I was finished,
each curve and flourish
set in disciplined rows,
fresh tea with ice
appeared at my elbow,
the yellow c of lemon
in the tumbler's perfect o,
and if mother had praise for what I had done,
I would shine all evening
bright as a straight pin,
while the new moon
with its careless serifs
cleared the trees and rose.

R. T. Smith

In the Night Orchard; New & Selected Poems by R. T. Smith,Texas Review Press, Huntsville, TX, 2014, pages 94-95.

This is an example of one of my favorite kinds of poems. This is perhaps because I have many things to remember that are from ordinary daily lives that are gone now. The details in this poem are GREAT! Your task: write a poem with concrete details of a room in your childhood home.

And look, from practicing all those letters, now he is a poet!

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Today, looking upstream and being glad I found that clematis in the weeds!


A man and a woman 
sit by the riverbank.
He fishes,
she reads.
The fish are not biting.
She has not turned the page
for an hour.
The light around them
holds itself taut,
no shadow moves,
but the sky and the woods,
look, are dark.
Night has advanced upon them.

Denise Levertov

The Life Around Us; selected poems on nature, 
New Directions, 1997, page 13.

"Levertov distinguishes organic form from free verse. Most free verse, she argues, aims for truth and precision particular to each line, but is inattentive to the relationship between lines. Organic form, on the other hand, attends first to the shape and rhythm of the entire poem, and individual lines may be shifted in accordance with that poem’s movement and shape as a whole."

From in the Introduction to Levertov's important essay, "Some Notes on Organic Form" (1965) The essay is available at this link.

Carefully examine the short poem above with this quotation in mind. And sleep well. . .

Friday, May 15, 2015

Late Afternoon, with Mallard

Today, at midday, Mother Wood Duck brought seven or eight very young ducklings 
up to feast on the seed the squirrel shakes out of the feeder to pick out the sunflower seeds.
They probably have already been swimming in this pictured stream.
But she saw me (with my camera) through the window and took them right away.
At this point, they can walk and swim, but cannot fly, so as she marched them away;
they followed her in a straight line. It was the first time I have seen wood duck ducklings!


The rain a river upended

The flowers plain pink or
cream striped with mauve
laundry left on the line

the outdoor cafe
except for the tables like lost cattle

a bird flies out of the corner of the eye
making the world
give a little shiver
making everything jump
one inch irretrievably
to the left

and in the green igloos of summer leaves
all the birds
are keeping mum

Roo Borson

A Sad Device, Quadrant Editions, Ontario, 1981, page 13.

I am still in love with Roo Borson! To think that Canada is such a short distance away, and I only found out about this poet last year!  In such a short poem, she makes perfect use of laundry, igloos and cattle as comparisons. And she just lays out the lines the way they need to be!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Rope Swing over Water

As the weather gets better and better, the creek draws me there frequently,
but this swing is for kids, not for me!
I have a bench or a chair to sit on, and if I sit quietly, 
a few mallard males will come and bathe at the far edge of the water.
The females are nesting, somewhere in the grassy verges, and not to be seen.

Today I got a pocket-sized book
of selected poems on nature
by Denise Levertov.
It is called The Life Around Us.
Right now it is making me happy!

The way the willow-bark
braids its furrows
is answered by the willow-branches
swaying their green leaf-weavings
over the river shallows,
assenting, affirming.

Denise Levertov

The Life Around Us; selected poems on nature,
New Directions, 1997, page 18.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Old Languages

Today's outdoor Idaho beauty, under a bright, clear sky!

House on a Red Cliff

There is no mirror in Mirissa

the sea is in the leaves
the waves are in the plants

old languages in the arms
of the casuarina pine

parampara, from
generation to generation

The flamboyant a grandfather planted
having lived through fire
lifts itself over the roof


the house an open net

where the night concentrates

on a breath
                   on a step
a thing or gesture
we cannot be attached to

The long, the short, the difficult minutes
of night

where even in darkness
there is no horizon without a tree

just a boat's light in the leaves

Last footstep before formlessness

Michael Ondaatje

the Hindu method of transmitting knowledge through a guru's answering a disciple's questions.

Handwriting; poems, Michael Ondaatje, 
Vintage; Random House, 2000, pages 67-68.

Every so often I return to the poems of Ondaatje, whose Running in the Family 
remains one of my all-time favorite memoirs. The different materials of the lives
of each poet often act, as here, to enrich the poems. Where did you come from??

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Iris and Mallards

Another quiet springtime afternoon near the stream.

Let the Earth Remain Forever

Let the earth last
And the forests stand a long time

Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin said this, traveling
The road to Tlaxcala
The road to Huexotzinco

Let field after field
Unfold with brown corn
Flowers of cacao

Let the earth last

Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin, English adaptation by Peter Everwine.

Poet's Choice by Edward Hirsch, Harcourt. 2006, page 31.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Silver Shimmer

I took my new toy, an iPhone 6+, down under the willow late this afternoon.
There was a silver shimmer on the water. It was very quiet.

The Invention of Heaven

The mind becomes a field of snow
but then the snow melts and dandelions
blink on and you can walk through them,
your trousers plastered with dew.
They're all waiting for you but first
here's a booth where you can win

a peacock feather for bursting a balloon,
a man in huge stripes shouting about
a boy who is half swan, the biggest
pig in the world. Then you will pass
tractors pulling other tractors,
trees snagged with bright wrappers

and then you will come to a river
and then you will wash your face.

Dean Young

Now and Then; the Poet's Choice Columns, 1997-2000,
by Robert Hass, Shoemaker & Hoard, 2007, page 236.

Another neat form to suit the matter of the poem: two 
six-line stanzas and a couplet. Something else to try. . . 

Sunday, May 10, 2015


It's the season! More beauty every day! 
I am hoping to plant a bunch more this year since they grow so well here.
The bee colony under the trees didn't establish. There are some dead bees 
and some beginning wax combs. We cleaned it all out and will start again
if we can get another queen and cohort.


All that is uncared for.
Left alone in the stillness
in that pure silence married
to the stillness of nature.
A door off its hinges,
shade and shadows in an empty room.
Leaks for light. Raw where
the tin roof rusted through.
The rustle of weeds in their
different kinds of air in the mornings,
year after year.
A pecan tree, and the house
made out of mud bricks. Accurate
and unexpected beauty, rattling
and singing. If not to the sun,
then to nothing and to no one.

Linda Gregg
In the Middle Distance, Graywolf Press, 2006, page 7.

Linda Gregg is a fine poet, with many published books to her credit. It would be interesting to me to see this poem in short stanzas of equal length, maybe four or five lines. I often like to try different kinds of line-groups with my poems. It can be useful to try breaking the work of other poets apart like this (without making other alterations) to see what effects you might get with stanza breaks, and how this might serve as example in your own practice.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

White Frills; listen!

Iris bloom just beginning now! And a quail stood on the fence this morning to call!
Instead of answering, I kept very quiet.

When I opened the door
I found the vine leaves
speaking among themselves in abundant
          My presence made them
hush their green breath,
embarrassed, the way
humans stand up buttoning their jackets,
acting as if they were leaving anyway, as if
the conversation had ended
just before you arrived.
                                        I liked
the glimpse I had though,
of their obscure 
gestures. I liked the sound of
such private voices. Next time
I'll move like cautious sunlight, open
the door by fractions, eavesdrop

Denise Levertov

Now and Then; the Poet's Choice Columns, 1997-2000,
by Robert Hass, Shoemaker & Hoard, 2007, pages 195-196.

This is perhaps the last poem completed by Levertov. It was the final poem in the looseleaf binder that she left unpublished when she died in 1997. The poems were published in a farewell volume, The Great Unknowing; late poems, New Directions, 2000.

The linebreaks in this poem are spectacular! Read it aloud; try reading it straight through without breaking, as if it were prose.
Then read it with clear emphasis on the linebreaks 
Good night, Denise! Well done.

Friday, May 08, 2015

To Mountains

Many years ago, a couple of my brothers and I took our mother
on a trip up Prove Canyon. Now, Mom is gone and Robert, 
my youngest brother, also It was a beautiful sunny day
and the pictures came out well. 
Because they are so clear and sharp, I remember that day
better than those on which I took no pictures.

I am going through Robert Hass's book of poetry columns again,
This one is called Poet's Choice and came out in 2007.
This time, I am noticing things that didn't register before.
Here, from page 15, is one of Ko Un's poems in translation.

To mountains at dusk:
What are you?

What are you, are you . . .

Ko Un

translated by Kim Young Moo and
Brother Anthony
in Beyond Self; 108 Korean Zen Poems,
Parallax Press, 1988

Thursday, May 07, 2015


On the last day of May in 2008, I watched the sunset on Mykonos
with my friends on the watercolor trip with Robert Dvorak.
I you look closely, you will spot the iconic five windmills
on the hill at the edge of the sea.

The Windmill

Behold! a giant am I!
Aloft here in my tower,
With my granite jaws I devour
The maize, and the wheat, and the rye,
And grind them into flour.

I look down over the farms;
In the fields of grain I see
The harvest that is to be,
And I fling to the air my arms,
For I know it is all for me.

I hear the sound of flails
Far off, from the threshing-floors
In barns, with their open doors,
And the wind, the wind in my sails,
Louder and louder roars.

I stand here in my place,
With my foot on the rock below,
And whichever way it may blow,
I meet it face to face,
As a brave man meets his foe.

And while we wrestle and strive,
My master, the miller, stands
And feeds me with his hands;
For he knows who makes him thrive,
Who makes him lord of lands.

On Sundays I take my rest;
Church-going bells begin
Their low, melodious din;
I cross my arms on my breast,
And all is peace within.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I chose this poem in memory of my father, who loved this kind of poem and could recite many of them that he learned in childhood. I have a set of small red volumes that belonged to his family when he was a child; his sister gave them to me. When I get back to where they are, I think I will look to see if this poem is in that set.

This is not the kind of poem that almost anyone writes anymore, although I have one dear grandson who firmly clings to the notion that only rhyming and metrical works like this are really poetry. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Shifting Image

Light on the pool where I went for Senior Water Exercise. It changed moment by moment.
I only took a couple of pictures, and wish now I had taken others. 
I like the lines within the shapes. I like the shapes.

Wind and Water and Stone

The water hollowed the stone,
the wind dispersed the water,
the stone stopped the wind.
Water and wind and stone.

The wind sculpted the stone,
the stone is a cup of water,
The water runs off and is wind.
Stone and wind and water.

The wind sings in its turnings,
the water murmurs as it goes,
the motionless stone is quiet.
Wind and water and stone.

One is the other and is neither:
among their empty names
they pass and disappear,
water and stone and wind.

Octavio Paz
translated from the Spanish by Mark Strand

Now and Then; the Poet's Choice Columns, 1997-2000 
by Robert Hass, Shoemaker & Hoard, 2007, page 50.

This poem's structure contributes to its lovely calm feeling.
Four regular quatrains made up of three-stress lines contribute to its even tenor.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The beautiful and the ugly

This is growing down by the stream, and I have seen it in other places 
along watercourses here. It looks awfully like the yellow flag or yellow water iris
 that is notoriously invasive; if given any chance, it will ruin wetlands. 
Yet it is still widely available in the nursery trade, and widely used in water gardens. 
This whole "invasive species" problem probably won't be solved 
until there are just two or three kinds of anything left. 
At least these yellow beauties stay put. If you want to read a worse horror story,
 just search "Burmese python" and Everglades." 
I am engaged in a losing battle with Knapweed, 
or Russian Thistle, which is forming a monoculture 
in my meadow in northern Michigan and driving out the grass and wildflowers. 
It puts a chemical into the soil that discourages 
any but its own seeds from germinating. . . .(sound of sobbing.)

At the Cafe at Night

All this uproar under the stars
Only art makes sense of. The houses
Pay no heed to the passing night,
The moon is an object--it takes art
To get to the bottom of it. Men
Hate one another. The uproar
Of consent tingles the pulse. This
Disbelieved, ask the next
Person. The noise assails the stars.

Let us refer to those two at the cafe
Sitting outside in the night, the electric
Bulb bare, the street past the chairs
Empty, they tolerate one another
Only because of Van Gogh's paint.

Ralph Gustafson  (1909-1995)

15 Canadian Poets x 3, Oxford University Press, Canada,
 Fourth Edition, 2001, page 34.

There is a lot going on here; the poem is not precisely syllabic,
but the syllable line-counts are close.
The Capital Letter at the beginning of each line
gives it a museum sort of formality, I think.
This is another example of ekphrastic poetry.  Take a close look at the painting.

Monday, May 04, 2015

He Folds His Wing

What can I say? It was another duck and dandelions day this morning.
"Night's animals, mournful and rapacious" are sleeping.
The mallard and his mate enjoyed the warm sun,
and so did I.

Houston, 6 p.m.

Europe already sleeps beneath a coarse plaid of borders
and ancient hatreds: France nestled
up to Germany, Bosnia in Serbia’s arms,
lonely Sicily in azure seas.

It’s early evening here, the lamp is lit
and the dark sun swiftly fades.
I’m alone, I read a little, think a little,
listen to a little music.

I’m where there’s friendship,
but no friends, where enchantment
grows without magic,
where the dead laugh.

I’m alone because Europe is sleeping. My love 
sleeps in a tall house on the outskirts of Paris.
In Krakow and Paris my friends
wade in the same river of oblivion.

I read and think; in one poem
I found the phrase “There are blows so terrible …
Don’t ask!” I don’t. A helicopter
breaks the evening quiet.

Poetry calls us to a higher life,
but what’s low is just as eloquent,
more plangent than Indo-European,
stronger than my books and records.

There are not nightingales or blackbirds here 
with their sad, sweet cantilenas,
Only the mockingbird who imitates
and mimics every living voice.

Poetry summons us to life, to courage
In the face of the growing shadow.
Can you gaze calmly at the Earth
like the perfect astronaut?

Out of harmless indolence, the Greece of books,
And the Jerusalem of memory there suddenly appears
The island of a poem, unpeopled;
some new Cook will discover it one day.

Europe is already sleeping. Night’s animals,
mournful and rapacious,
move in for the kill.
Soon America will be sleeping, too.

Adam Zagajewski; translated by Clare Cavanaugh

Now and Then; the Poet's Choice Columns, Robert Hass, Shoemaker and Hoard, 2007, pages 22-23.

Isn't "cantilenas" a beautiful word? The Polish poet taught one semester every year at the University of Houston for quite a long time. This meditation in quatrains brings the tso worlds into relation.

Sunday, May 03, 2015


Moon on the way down at 5:50 this very morning. 
I took many pictures through the trees, but this one
where the leaves look like a pair of deer 
is my current favorite. I love the moon!


I have forgotten English
in order to talk to pelicans
plunging into tomorrow
disturb the deep reverie
of herons standing
on yesterday’s shoreline
find the iguana’s secret
name embroidered
on his ruby brain
it is milk
it is moonlight
milk pouring
over the islands
stand in a doorway
I am drowning
in sky milk
and those soft murmurings
of moonlit vertebrae
these deciphered codewords
are spoken names
of island dwellers
they will not be repeated
pour on my bare shoulders
are small extensions
of themselves
as the manta ray bubbles
rising in water
gleams in moonlight
small fish tremble
I know I know
my speech is grunts
squeaks clicks stammers
let go let go
follow the sunken ships
and deep sea creatures
follow the protozoa
into that far darkness
another kind of light
leave off this flesh
this voice
these bones
sink down
                            Galapagos Islands
Al Purdy

15 Canadian Poets x 3; edited by Gary Geddes, Oxford University Press, Canada, 2001, pages 79-80.

I have a new anthology of Canadian Poets. My favorite, Roo Borson, is in it, but so are others new to me, like Al Purdy. I find the way this short-line, no stanza-breaks poem travels very appealing. And, of course, I always thought I would have time to go to the Galapagos Islands. Canada is so close to us, and a lot of the poets are writing in English. Take a look!

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Samantha's Sun

From the same painting session as yesterday
(I recommend using card stock, it is heavier; buy a large package of 8.5 x 11
at any stationery store--then issue a new sheet frequently during painting sessions.)
here is Samantha's SUN.
Where the heavy dark blue paint wasn't dry, it stuck to the painting above it;
that is the source of the small roundish dots--they were created when I pulled
the paintings apart to scan them. In this case I am trying to think
of them as a feature, not a bug!
Children love to paint; if you know any kids, give them a chance!

2 May

One feels Hitler's death is just rather pointless now. He should have died some time ago. I wonder how many people comfort themselves with thinking he's frizzling. The Italian news is grand, I wonder if they'll go on over the Brenner. I know this part of Austria, where the fighting is, pretty well, the Voralberg Pass, the Innthal, all so magic and lovely. I wonder what's happening in Denmark.
                                                        Naomi Mitchison

The Assassin's Cloak; an anthology of the world's greatest diarists; edited by Irene and Alan Taylor, Canongate Books, Great Britain, 2000, page 222.  (U.S. edition also available.)

(Apology: I posted this a day ahead yesterday. 
Below is the quote that should have been in yesterday's post.)

May 1, 

This morning's papers contained horrible photographs of Mussolini and his young mistress hanging upside down from the top of a garage in a Milan Square.
        Churchill in House said he would announce end of war when it came. But at 10:30 Mrs. Burden rang me to say programme had been interrupted to announce death of Hitler & appointment of Admiral Doenitz as his successor. Heard this at midnight. Three world figures gone in three weeks is too much to take in.
                                                   Vera Brittain

The Assassin's Cloak; an anthology of the world's greatest diarists; edited by Irene and Alan Taylor, Canongate Books, Great Britain, 2000, page 220. (U.S. edition also available.)

Friday, May 01, 2015

Ochre Sky and Diaries

I am not sure I remember which grandchild painted this 
during our wonderful painting marathon 
a couple of years ago. I have titled this one OCHRE SKY. 
It is really, in its power and varied bold freedom,
better than a Rothko. . . .

I have just gotten a wonderful British book which I hadn't known about before:
The Assassin's Cloak; an anthology of the world's greatest diarists; 
edited by Irene and Alan Taylor, Canongate Books, Great Britain, 2000.
(U.S. edition also available.)

Here are just a few of the diarists: Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Camus, Anne Frank, Andy Warhol, Che Guevara, Count Ciano, Anais Nin, Count Ciano . . . . .

And the genius arrangement is this: Beginning with January 1st, and continuing throughout the year, short passages from a few diarists are selected for each day. Each month begins with a short epigraph from a famous diarist.  Here is the one for MAY:

"Why has my motley diary no jokes? Because it is
a soliloquy and every man is grave alone.

I decided to read each day's entries (usually, about two pages) on the day. I started yesterday. Today and tomorrow I will give one entry from that day. Later, it depends on what I find.
Here is:

1 May
One feels Hitler's death is just rather pointless now. He should have died some time ago. I wonder how many people comfort themselves with thinking he's frizzling. The Italian news is grand, I wonder if they'll go on over the Brenner. I know this part of Austria, where the fighting is, pretty well, the Voralberg Pass, the Innthal, all so magic and lovely. I wonder what's happening in Denmark.
                                               Naomi Mitchison

Again, I plan to keep a diary, a project already doomed to failure, but a grand one, nevertheless. Do you keep a diary????  Why not?