Friday, July 31, 2015

Americans jump up on tables

This is the Set of Five who are the youngest ducklings of the year at this point.
Having a little snack in evening sun tonight. Young mallards.

Back in April, I planned to read the day's entries in  The Assassin's Cloak; an anthology of the world's greatest diarists; edited by Irene and Alan Taylor. Canongate Books, Great Britain, 2000, each day. I put the book on my bedside table and almost immediately put other books on top of it. Today it is back, and here is the entry I chose for you, one of three anthologized for today.

People always talk about climate, about good air. It's what's underground that counts, that influences us. Paris has good foundations, sand. New York has metal underpinnings. Pagnol says Americans try to get off the ground--they invent crepe soles and jump up on tables; they build skyscrapers. I work much more easily out at sea. In our villages, disease and madness come from underground. There are villages in the east of France (iron mines) where cases of insanity are past counting. In Milly, the subsoil is sand and water. It is important to be aware of the foundations where you live.         
                                                  Jean Cocteau   
                                                               (page 375)

Do you keep a diary? How faithfully? I wish I had, , ,
                  And what is underground where you are right now? Do you know?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

. . .the grass sliding upward. . .

The Canal catches some sky on a recent July afternoon.

The Field

I loved to lie in the grass when I was a boy. I'd lie on my back,
looking up through the tree branches as the sky flew away in its
blue and white robes.

But mostly I'd lie on my stomach, peering through the forests of
grass. Soon the ants would arrive, or a beetle on his way to some-where else.

The longer I lay still, the more birds and animals would appear
and the more I would feel less like myself and more like the field,
an expanse where bees and robins settled for a moment before fly-ing on.

Now I sense rustlings and quiverings everywhere around me, as
if tribes from the same valley were getting ready for a journey. The
tree branches resemble a spider web in which I am caught, or the
sky is, and when I turn over, the ants are already there, and behind
them the beetles picking their way over stones.

There are moments I can hear the weeds unfurling their wings
and the grass sliding upward, nudging aside acorns and leaves.

At such times I think this is all I can hope for. Not that the plants
or animals have come to greet me, but that they don't even know I
am there.

Morton Marcus

Moments Without Names; new and selected prose poems,
White Pine Press, 2002, page 200.

I am almost finished with the book Striking Through the Masks by Morton Marcus. It has taken me back to the poets I knew and followed toward the end of the last century and to my fascination with prose poetry. I may never forget Vern Rutsala's large overcoat as he stood by a gate after his reading. I have found extra copies (to use here in Idaho) of many of the books that came out then and am merrily sniffing through them, This is from a book that I got another copy of, so I could have one here.  I think tomorrow I will take it down by the creek and read the rest of these again there.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Such Beauty

I really loved wandering through the Eagle Saturday Market last week.
Now that I know which camera to use, I need to go back!


So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

Raymond Carver

Striking Through the Masks; 
a literary memoir by Morton Marcus, 

Capitola Books, 2008, page 284.

I have really been enjoying Morton Marcus's 2008 memoir of a life spent with poets and poetry. One of the neat things he does is to include a poem from many of the people he knew well, like this one by Raymond Carver, who is probably best known now for his short stories.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The year turns away

This is a picture from yesterday's walk. Today the sky was pure blue
and without a single cloud. I didn't take any pictures. The dog pulls ahead 
and I go with her, but you can see S coming along near the end of the sidewalk.
He's wearing blue, like the sky.


The year turns away from me.
I'm here,
on the other side of the hill,
where winds are flames,
blue wings in the meadow.
Tall steeples of ashes
diminish at the meadow's edge.
And far down the hillside
a deep chorus of boulders
is singing the pebbles awake.

Morton Marcus

The Santa Cruz Mountain Poems,
Capra Press, Santa Barbara, 1972, unpaginated.

I was reminded of this book by reading Speaking Through the Masks (Capitola Books, 2008) by Morton Marcus in which he assembles writings about a vast crew of characters in the Northern California Poetry Scene I knew in the 1980s (and before and after.) It is a wonderfully interesting book and seems to be very honest and fair to the topics and people he discusses. So I had to get myself other copies of some of his books I already had in California. This copy of the Santa Cruz Mountain Poems happens to be the first edition, different from the one I already had, so I can see the drawings reproduced in brown ink and the interesting cream colored paper. The account in Masks of the creation of this book --from many small,  nature-inspired writings that he had been making because of his love of the land -- is inspirational and very pleasing.
His account of Al Young, another Bay Area poet (who is blessedly alive and posting on Facebook!) is measured, affectionate and steady. I'll be returning here to things Marcus reminded me of.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Purple Loosestrife

Down by the Canal, the purple loosestrife is comng into full bloom.
This dread exotic invader is another scourge of wetlands all over America.
It crowds out cattails and interferes with the food sources of some insects 
and small animals. It turned up here farther up the creek two years ago. Last year
it was closer and across the creek. This year it took advantage of the space
at the foot of our yard where Handyman B. cleared away cottonwood shoots
and ragweed. Now it looks as if it had owned this space forever.
And I must admit it is very pretty!


They did or did not exist.
On an island or not.
The ocean or not the ocean
swallowed them up or didn't.

Was there anyone to love anyone?
Did anyone to fight anyone?
All or nothing happened
there or not there.

Seven cities stood there.
Is that for sure?
Intended to stand there forever.
Where's the evidence?

No they didn't invent the wheel.
Yes, they did invent the wheel.

Presumed. Dubious.

Never pulled out of the air,
or fire, or water, or earth.

Not contained in stone
nor in a raindrop.
Never fit to stand
as a serious warning.

A meteorite fell.
It wasn't a meteorite.
A volcano erupted.
It wasn't a volcano.
Someone was shouting something.
No one, nothing.

On this more-or-less Atlantis.

Wyslawa Szymborska
translated by Joanna Trzeciak

Miracle Fair; selected poems of Wyslawa Szymborska,
W. W. Norton, 2001, pages 105-106.

I love the fresh looks Syzmborska takes at so many of the "accepted" things we learned and read about--in school and elsewhere--in her poems. It's a sort of wry-and-sly acceptance of this-and-that which pleases me very much. I wish I knew what they sounded like in Polish! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Composing a Letter

This afternoon about 5:45 P. M. Things are growing!


I have been watching a Great Blue Heron 
fish in the cattails, easing ahead 
with the stealth of a lover composing a letter,
the hungry words looping and blue
as they coil and uncoil, as they kiss and sting.

Let’s say that he holds down an everyday job 
in an office. His blue suit blends in. 
Long days swim beneath the glass top 
of his desk, each one alike. On the lip 
of each morning, a bubble trembles. 

No one has seen him there, writing a letter 
to a woman he loves. His pencil is poised 
in the air like the beak of a bird. 
He would spear the whole world if he could, 
toss it and swallow it live.

Ted Kooser

The Poetry Home Repair Manual,
University of Nebraska Press, 2005, page 136.

Three five-line stanzas, a little fairytale in 15 lines, just barely longer than a sonnet.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The nerve's white avenues

A week ago I showed you the shadow of this painter's easel 
at the Paint-Out at the Eagle (Idaho) Saturday Market.
Here is a better view of his painting on that same day.
I am sorry that I didn't geet his name.


Coming awake in the cool dark,
I hear a truck idling in the street
and suddenly I am back in a boy's room--
a day unfolding in the alley behind his house.
In torn undershirt and pants,
Elmer, his teeth newly uprooted, leans far out
over the third floor escape, unwinding
a long bright rope of blood.
It ripples in the wind like a gossamer web,
I stand below him
in the loading bins of the A&P,
knee-deep in spoiled greens,
hearing the hard thump 
of Miller's sledge make Saturday's steak.
I'm waiting for rats to surface.
Elmer gags on his rope.
A truck door slams.

My window lightens into morning.
I rise and stretch into another day.
Closer by thirty years to heaven, I've learned
how steadily the eye shines with pain,
how stunningly the nerve's white avenues open                                                                                  out.
How did I reach this place?
Hand over hand,
as they said I would.

Peter Everwine

Collecting the AnimalsCarnegie Mellon University Press, 1972, 1999, page 44.

I don't know why it has taken me this long to find Peter Everwine!
This poem is in two stanzas only; the last stanza has eight lines.
I have corrected a typo in this printing by substituting "day" for "dey."

Somehow, we need to keep on painting and writing in the middle of all these giant preparations for an election still more than a year away!!!

Friday, July 24, 2015

A river that slips away

 The beautiful and deep Feather River Canyon in Northern California.
We drive through this canyon on the way to visit the family of my younger son.


This is how it is---

One turns away
and walks out into the evening.
There is a white horse on the prairie, or a river
 that slips away among dark rocks.

 One speaks, or is about to speak,
 not that it matters.
What matters is this---

It is evening.
I have been away a long time.
Something is singing in the grass.
Peter Everwine

Collecting the Animals, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2011, page 7.

I love these poems!!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bright Stones

This is from the day we started out on the trip west last October.
I took it through the windshield and, yes. I did boost the color a little.
We didn't stop at any canyon, but kept on driving.

Afternoon in the Canyon
The river sings in its alcoves of stone.
I cross its milky water on an old log—
beneath me waterskaters
dance in the mesh of roots.
Tatters of spume cling
to the bare twigs of willows.

The wind goes down.
Bluejays scream in the pines.
The drunken sun enters a dark mountainside,
its hair full of butterflies.
Old men gutting trout
huddle about a smokey fire.

I must fill my pockets with bright stones.

George Hitchcock

Striking Through the Masks; 
a literary memoir by Morton Marcus, 
Capitola Books, 2008, page 217.

I have spent the better part of the day reading the book above which I picked up about the time of Morton Marcus's death in 2009. When he was alive, I heard him read his poetry, and he was a judge who selected me for the Second Prize in the Montalvo Poetry Competition many years ago. At that awards reading, he told me privately that he liked my work very much and had considered quite a while over the choice of placement between the First and Second Prizes. When he introduced me, he said really lovely things about the language in the poem I read. 
In addition, he was very much a part of the scene with the poets I knew, studied with and heard read their poems in the Santa Clara/ Santa Cruz County/San Francisco/Berkeley poetry scene of the 1980s and 1990s.
The book is a compilation of a childhood memoir (the part I had read before) and chapters of reminiscence/reporting/evaluation on many people and some aspects of this poetry world. I think Marcus was a sharp and honest evaluator of these people and this time and I have been eating this book like candy for most of the day.
George Hitchcock was a sort of legendary Bay Area figure then, with his "collating parties" for his small magazine KAYAK. I was interested in reading about him because Pat Shelley always mentioned him as someone who published her poems early on.
Marcus often includes a poem he likes when discussing a poet, and this is the one for Hitchcock. It made me wish I had been to that canyon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Braids of Memory

This is my father, Jack Hicks Hopper, holding the arm of his mother, Marjory Ann Carr Hopper,  when she was on a visit to our farm outside Schenectady about 1956. All through my childhood, Dad wrote his mother a letter every Sunday from our homes in New York State to her home in Yuma, Arizona. I had left home by the time of this visit, but my youngest brother, Robert, spoke often about it. He would have been about 10 at the time. He grew very close to Grandmother then and used to sit and talk to her for hours. She was braiding rugs from heavy woolen scraps left from a project my mother had abandoned years earlier. Since her hands were old and she had cataracts, she had some trouble with this project; the rugs were lumpy and round with coarse stitching, never managing a nice oval shape, and only reaching slightly more than two feet in diameter. Later we had these rugs all over in the house in Shaker Heights, mostly near doorways where they functioned as dust catchers. Robert eventually scored two of them which he took to his home in Texas, and used them there until he died. He mentioned them fondly to me on every visit. 
So naturally this poem attracted my attention for a Memory Thread;
I most particularly love the "tiny fires."


In our kitchen was a rag rug
my mother bought for its bright mix of colors.
It was my task on cleaning days
to drape it over the line in the back yard
and, with a tool shaped like the wing
of a giant dragonfly, proceed to whack it
until a cumulus of dust swirled overhead,
earning my mother's approval.
Cleaning—what she called "redding up"—
was both industry and passion for her,
while I, in my arrogance, thought it foolish
and beneath my talents: The dust she chased
from one corner fled to another,
and then she, too, was dust.

Grown old now, I live alone
in a house Time traded me, house for house,
until I learned grief also is a kind of clutter:
Drive one grief out the door,
two others knock, seeking a place within.
And though too late, I ask for her forgiveness,
who hated whatever tarnished or made dim
the light and luster of common things:
lamp, glass vase, the figure in a photograph,
wood grain of table, braiding in a rug—
this rag rug I took from memory
and put into a poem, that I might see it, as before,
dancing its tiny fires into the morning's
early slant of light.

Peter Everwine

Listening Long and Late, 
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013, page 60.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sunlight on Lace

A back-lit Queen Anne's Lace from Michigan last year.
And the road home. . .

                    --- From the Nahuatl

What have you set in motion, Giver of Life?
A dark time, close-by and coming?
A hard-luck day I won't survive?

Even after my time
there will be spring flowers.
Even after my time fragrant blossoms 

will open---
field after field of marigolds
countless sun-bright petals . . .

Peter Everwine

Listening Long and Late
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013, page 8.

Peter Everwine is a recent discovery, through one of his poems in a Robert Hass collection of newspaper columns. In this book, he mingles his own poems and prose poems with his versions of Hebrew and Nahuatl poems. It makes a very pleasant and surprising reading experience.

Look at the shape of this poem: Three three-line stanzas,
with lines of varying lengths. I want to try something similar.

Monday, July 20, 2015

By what lake's edge or pool. . .

Here they are; this is the Set of Five young mallards yesterday, with their mother at left. 
They are now almost as large as she is. These fluffballs grow up fast!
There is a  wonderful freedom about a wild bird, 
even one that comes to eat your cracked corn!

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty Swans.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

William Butler Yeats

I suppose I should have waited until autumn to use this poem by Yeats;
but I remembered tonight how much I like it.
Yeats was quite a fellow! He left us some of our finest poems.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Imagine: a town

More from the Paint-Out at the Eagle Saturday Market yesterday morning.
This lady was also using a small brush to put on small amounts of color.
The urge to make art from life is a strong one.

Translation of My Life

I remember the past.
Before there were poems.
I was eight. The world
simple as a primer.
I lived in a small town
far from the ocean.
Home, then school,
then home again,
back and forth
on my blue bicycle.
In the summer, a blue pool,
white clouds sailing over,
and a song playing
on the jukebox.
Always the same song.
Then fall, with its burning
leaves. Thanksgiving.
Christmas. Over and over.
There are photographs,
yellow and crumbling,
to prove what I say.

Imagine: a town
in the same universe as this one,
with the same physical laws,
but no poets, no poetry.
No scribbling hands up late
at night writing words
they believed would save them.
No noisy fluttering pages
to disturb the peace
of the dreaming populace.
Understand, I was only a girl
living the days as they came.
I did not know then I would leave.
Though I had a secret
I did not tell and will not ever,
I did not know I would leave.

Elizabeth Spires 

The American Poetry Review

March/April 2008, page 18.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Paint-Out at Eagle Saturday Market

We walked through the Saturday Market this morning. Quite a few people 
were painting over an area of a few blocks. This painter was the first one we met, 
sort of an outlier before one actually reached the market square. 
He was painting the old bank across the street that now is a restaurant. 

I took a couple of cameras to test and the 
Canon Elph 100HS came out the clear winner. Pictures were sharp, 
the screen was much easier to see in the bright sunlight. It has a shorter zoom, 
which was plenty for compositions at these close quarters. The painter here
stepped away and I am surprised at how much I like this picture;
the shadow! I took other pictures of him painting.
I had two big surprises: one was what small brushes the artists were using.
There was a limited time to paint and it was a competition.
But I saw no one who chose to use a big flat brush and a big canvas,
every painter I saw was painting with a teensy brush on a small canvas.
It gave me a cramped feeling. But I am very glad I went,
perhaps because of one bright painting (on an even smaller canvas!) 
in the judging tent amidst all the cautious, muted, more natural tones of the others.
Also, there was fresh yellow-and-white corn on the cob
picked at five this morning in Emmett, Idaho!

Hand Shadows

My father put his hands in the white light
of the lantern, and his palms became a horse
that flicked its ears and bucked; an alligator
feigning sleep along the canvas wall leapt up
and snapped its jaws in silhouette, or else
a swan would turn its perfect neck and drop
a fingered beak toward that shadowed head
to lightly preen my father's feathered hair.
Outside our tent, skunks shuffled in the woods
beneath a star that died a little every day,
and from a nebula of light diffused
inside Orion's sword, new stars were born.
My father's hands became two birds, linked
by a thumb, they flew one following the other.
Mary Cornish
from Red Studio, Oberlin College Press, 2007

This is not the shadow poem I imagined, but it is the one I found. I did take my little notebook to the Marker, but I didn't write any poems. . . .

Friday, July 17, 2015

Gull Bits

I have been thinking a lot about STUFF. Three houses full of stuff.
Thousands of photographs, a few boxes of journals.
Lots of almost unused art supplies
Floppy discs; I think I have all the contents transferred.

Cloud Storage on Dropbox and Flickr.
About 8000 books. Three clothes closets and a cedar chest.
50 years of stuff and some of my mother's stuff, too.
Just last week, a Pismo clamshell that I had been using as a soap dish
cracked in two when I washed it under the hot water faucet.
I've been thinking.

Looking for something else just now in computer files I found this part of a poem
which I never finished. I might work on it now.
I love Pismo Beach and have only been there twice,
once overnight on the way to San Diego County to look
for Diane's new home. 
And once when I took my daughter and son-in-law--
and their toddler and the baby--
there on the way back from the audition for
Wheel of Fortune.
He wasn't selected.
Somewhere I have a photo of him wading in the shallow water with his young son,
and the baby on his shoulders..
We didn't know then (he was losing weight) that he already
had the cancer that would kill him in a couple of years.

He ran down Pismo beach
throwing bits of bread into the air for the gulls

the shapes of their wings were like the lightest patches in a quilt

Summoned, he returns to me
on the broad flat beach at low tide

huge white clamshells in the shallow purling surf
shocking wave-glints
light    light     light
June Hopper Hymas

That's what I found. I don't want to throw it away. Sleep tight. 
Perhaps you have already

Thursday, July 16, 2015

This Duckling Summer

The camera keeps focusing on the porch railing, and thus the ducklings
are not in sharp focus. These are from the Set of Five mallard babies.
There is a younger Set of Two, and many adolescent wood ducks, perhaps
the remnants of the Set of Thirteen. And other younger wood ducks, too.
Every night I put out about a quart of cracked corn scattered
in the grass; in the early morning, some of them will visit to check.
If I were to go out to take a picture,they would all run or fly away.
Watching them through the window is my favorite thing that is happening right now.

peeping, peeping
the lost ducklings wake
through the shadows

Ebba Story

How to Haiku: A Writer's Guide to Haiku and Related Forms,
Bruce Ross, Tuttle, 2014, page 148.

spring rain--
ducks waddle-waddle
to the gate

translation by David Lanoue
from his website:

Eat vegetable soup rather than duck stew.

From Basho's instructions on writing hokku,
"Learn from the Pine"
as it appears in 
The Essential Haiku by Robert Hass, 
Ecco, 1994, page 238.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In the Time of Roses

The cluster of buds I found while pruning a few weeks back now proves its worth.
In this glimpse, my sandalled toes appear and even a tiny slice of my rose-pink blouse.

Here are the words to a song Mrs. Louise Newkirk taught me when I was a teenager, in the early 1950s. I find now that it is a German song by a woman composer, which is not surprising, since Mrs; Newkirk ("a pupil of a pupil of Liszt") was a German refugee. She charged a dollar per lesson. Worth every penny!

In the Time of Roses

In the time of roses
hope, thou weary heart.
Spring a balm discloses
for the keenest smart.

Though thy grief o'ercome thee
through the winter's gloom;
Thou shall thrust it from thee
when the roses bloom

In the time of roses
weary heart rejoice!
Ere the summer closes
comes the longed for voice

Let not death appall thee
for beyond the tomb,
God himself shall call thee,
when the roses bloom

I know Luise Reichart wrote the music, but I am not sure about the words. 
I loved the song for the wonderful trills and embellishments 
that were quite easy to memorize and to sing, even though 
the essential sadness of the song escaped my young heart.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

As in a painting of a dream

I took this maybe thirty years ago off the Mendocino Coast when I was visiting my sister. 
I didn't know birds then, but, when I magnify this picture, these are shaped like cormorants.
The picture makes me feel earthbound.

Morning haze:
as in a painting of a dream,
men go their ways.


calligraphy of geese
against the sky--
the moon seals it


It seems to me that the haiku of Buson 
have exactly the right quality to go with this photograph. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

It is evening now . . .

From the ducks in snow time. I have always loved the way this is nearly
a black and white photo, and only when I upped the saturation,
could I see the red bills and a little other color.

Home from Duck Marsh

All day in the rain and sour reek
of the marsh, in the fluttering grass of killdeer,
all day I have been speaking\
in the tongues of duck---squalling in joy
of smartweed, watershield, salt hay,
as the green flash of mallards rode
in the high winds.

It is evening now, it is weariness,
it is the weight of the body deepening 
into pools of rain,
into the clear dark eyes of birds.
Around me the cities are stoking up for
the night, the furnaces singing of death
until the old are stunned with it
and the young, before their banked altars of sound,
hum like wires in the wastes of Kansas.

But it is evening now, it is weariness.
The bittern descends for the last time
and the egret closes its whiteness in the tall grass.
And in this quiet house of rain
I am the last sane man on earth,
sleep settling on my brow
like a great crown.

Peter Everwine

from the meadow; selected and new poems,
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004, page 22.

I found the work of Peter Everwine quite by chance, when I stumbled on one of his translations from the Aztec in an anthology. (He also translates poems from the Hebrew.) And I have found someone who has a rich language and a poetic gift that pleases me so much!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Praise: The day the deer danced in a circle

September 22, 2013, 5:22 a.m. (Camera date and time.)
I must have written about this before, but cannot find the blog post if I did.
I know I wished the light had been better. (That's the first bit of sunrise
glowing from the left, and the dance was over by then.) Some of the deer
have already returned to the forest beyond. These three are browsing
slowly in that direction and in a minute or two will disappear into the wood. 
This dance took place eight days after my birthday in 2013. I had just
turned 78 years old. I was up early and may have come downstairs to take
some pictures of the dawn. On the west side of the house, six deer were dancing
in a circle. Honestly! Some of the young ones jumped about, and did some
playful head-butting. The dance went on for a long time. I almost held my breath 
and was very careful not to make any noise.
Most of the pictures I had to take through the windowscreen since the dance 
was taking place in the West Meadow of our home in Emmet County, Michigan.
Later, I found a reference to a scientific paper on this sort of group-play 
that deer have been observed to do, but it was on a scientific site I did not have access to.
I could tell from the abstract that this behavior had been observed and studied.
In less than two months, I will observe my 80th birthday; it's a little scary.
And this was one of the very most unexpected and interesting things I have ever seen!


  in the ferns
    springing up
      at the edge of the whistling swamp,

I watch the owl
  with its satisfied,
    heart-shaped face
      as it flies over the water--

back and forth--
  as it flutters down
    like a hellish moth
      wherever the reeds twitch--
whenever, in the muddy cover,
  some little life sighs
    before it slides into moonlight
      and becomes a shadow.

In the distance,
  awful and infallible,
    the old swamp belches.
      Of course

It stabs my heart
  whenever something cries out
    like a teardrop.
      But isn't it wonderful,

What is happening
  in the branches of the pines:
    the owl's young,
      dressed in snowflakes,

are starting to fatten--
  they beat their muscular wings,
    they dream of flying
      for another million years

over the water,
  over the ferns,
    over the world's roughage
      as it bleeds and deepens.

Mary Oliver

House of Light; poems by Mary Oliver, 
Beacon, 1990, pages 46-47.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Nature's Blues and Greens.

View of the sky over the park on today's Daily Walk. 
It was still hot today, but not too hot--as it has been--to take a walk.
Now it is 10:30 at night and someone just began setting off firecrackers
across the creek. But our old dog is deaf and continues to nap.
We had another of those brief and violent wind-and-rain events late this afternoon.
And many families of ducklings visited for a cracked corn snack before that.
We Netflixed the movie Champs at our son's place. It was very interesting
and very depressing, too, to think about the lives of ghetto boys
 and incarcerated young men. There has to be a better system.


The sky began to tilt,
a shift of light toward the higher clouds,
so I seized my brush
and dipped my little cup in the stream,

but once I streaked the paper gray
with a hint of green,
water began to slide down the page,
rivulets looking for a river.

And again, I was too late -
then the sky made another turn,
this time as if to face a mirror
held in the outstretched arm of a god.

Billy Collins
Aimless Love; new and selected poems,
Random House, 2014.

Friday, July 10, 2015

When words were like magic

This week Ms. Mallard rests under the willow with her rapidly growing children.
That is she facing away in the duck-clump on the right. One of her children
stretches his neck in the center. In the wood ducks, it is often the male who raises
up and looks around like this, but I cannot tell the males from the females yet
in this batch. There is a larger group that are beginning to put on adult feathering now.
And it has only been a couple of weeks since I saw another mother with only two:
one completely yellow and one black-brown, and not more than a week or so old.
I love the way the willow turns the sunlight on the water green.


In the very earliest time,
when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to and an animal
could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.

That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen—
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this:
That's the way it was.

translated from the Inuit by Edward Field

an international anthology of poetry. 
Edited and with an introduction 
by Czeslaw Milosz, Harcourt, 1996, page 268.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Something Infinite

I'm still thrilled over the rain yesterday! I keep playing with the photos.

The Other Side of the River
                                                 (one unnumbered section, dated 2004)

*  *  *
It's linkage I'm talking about
                         and harmonies and structures
And all the various things that lock our wrists to the past.

Something infinite behind everything appears,
                                                             and then disappears.

It's all a matter of how
                                    you narrow the surfaces.
It's all a matter of how you fit in the sky.

*  *  *
Charles Wright

The Oxford Book of American Poetry, edited by David Lehman, Oxford University Press, 2006. page 921.

The layout of this poem on the page supports the text meaningfully. Wright is very good at this.
It is a technique I love. Try reading this short passage aloud. Sleep tight.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

When it rains, sometimes it pours

I don't suppose summer hear is gone forever after this first week in July,
but today's heavy afternoon shower was a huge relief to my garden.
The pale soft landscape across the creek reminds me 
of an English landscape painting by Constable.
All it needs is a cathedral in the distance.
A while later, I noticed that the creek was running deeper.

Is it showering?
A muddy cat is asleep
on a Buddhist sutra.

Natsume Soseki

This author is regarded as one 
of the greatest Japanese modern writers. 
His novel I Am a Cat has been translated and is delightful!
His face was on the 1000 yen bill from 1984-2004; 
I brought one back with me from Japan.
How I wish we had writers on some of our currency!

Modern Japanese Haiku; An Anthology,
compiled, translated and with an introduction by Makoto Ueda, 
page 39.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

so much surprising . . .

My two youngest grandchildren during their visit last month;
being modern children, they are looking at an electronic device.
I never ask them to smile for the camera, so I get images like this one!

leaving their cocoons
open their eyes
to so much surprising 

--Ed Bremson

from The Best of the Five Line Poems 2012,
edited by Ed Bremson, Kindle location 17.

This is a small book of  selected 5-line poems 
which were posted
on the Facebook Groups
"Five Line Poems" and 
"Tanka Poets on Site" in 2012, and offered 
as an Amazon Kindle Book for 99 cents.

If you like short form poems and enjoy writing haiku
or other examples, you might like tanka, too.
This small collection makes a good introduction,
and may inspire you to write some of your own.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Even if we are seldom the center . . .

The big quail came back today and posed against the light.
of the very late and very hot afternoon.


Loss too is ours; and even what we have
still has stature in the enduring
                                                 realm of change.
What we've let go of orbits; and even if we are
         seldom the center
of one of the circles: they describe all around us
         the holy form.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated from the German by Franz Wright 

The Unknown Rilke, Oberlin College Press, 1990, page 165.

This poem seems to me to be just about perfectly complete the way it is; I cannot think of anything the say about itt. Sleep well.