Wednesday, November 30, 2016

At Dusk

The places we call home. . . this is one of them, the one in Idaho.
Winter is coming on.

A new The New Yorker has the requisite two poems, 
a complex pantoum on a bad relationship, 
and this one, which I prefer.


She collected men the way a light left on collected
bugs. It was an old story---money, gravity, the right amount of cleavage. And yet the most successful root never stops fleeing the seed where it began. The cars of two drunks decide to kiss, the lit match gives in to the windy field. Here's a lesson: when people heard there was an albino deer in the woods behind our house, they set out the apples and corn. That was twenty years ago. The shotgun pellets stuck in our tree continue their slow ascent.        
                                  Charles Rafferty

The New Yorker, October 31, 2016, page 55.

Of course I love the part about the root fleeing the seed. But the shotgun pellets ascending is spectacular, too. There is a man who lives near the North Woods who takes many pictures of various albino deer near where he lives. He shows them on Facebook and makes an annual calendar of their portraits, but I don't think he tells people exactly where they live. He has given the deer names; one matriarch is known as Blue Eyes.

Your assignment tonight: write a 10 to 12 line prose poem that tells a story and has some philosophy in it, too.  jhh

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Out of a Crowd

A recent Autumn Dusk; the bird surprised me. Made with the Prisma app.


What happened to the ten lost tribes
is no great mystery:
they found work, married, grew smaller,
started to look like the natives
in a land nobody chose,
Soon you couldn't have picked them out of a crowd.

And if they'd stayed where they were, 
what happiness 
would they have endured!
We can't believe in it.

The face of the cities scares us,
day and night empty us, suddenly
we are no longer 
God's chosen.

                        We salvage
a pewter dish crosshatched as a bubba's face,
a bent spoon, but the sober

dance of the mouth and the eyes before
we knew we were smiling, a language
stripped and intimate---

For a while we camp out under the strange trees,
complaining, planning a return.
But we have taken out papers and will become citizens.

Chana Bloch

The Past Keeps Changing; poems by Chana Bloch,
The Sheep Meadow Press, 1992, page 27.

American poems by the children of exile have become easy to find and with the way things are going in the world now, there will probably not be a shortage in the future. Chana Bloch has had a long and didtinguished career as a poet and professor. 

This poem is varied in structure, and is almost as if the poet were talking to you across a lunch table. Yet the arc of its meaning is clear. Many of her books and translations are readily available, and will replay careful reading.  jhh

Monday, November 28, 2016

Beyond the Fence

On a recent overcast early evening I took a picture of the sky.
Later, I ran it through the iPhone app Prisma.
I may need a new box of crayons. . .


         Chena River, Fairbanks

Tundra swans twine necks
among snowflakes
vanishing into evening's

river. Past break uo,
tablecloths of rotten ice
nest along the bank.

Halfway, swan wings
open, then settle in
like second thoughts.

Maybe they flew
north over Minto
traced halos

over brooding ponds,
saw from far up
without touching

the world is hard
and will stay hard
a while longer.

Peggy Shumaker

Long Journey; Contemporary Northwest Poetry,
Oregon State University Press, 2006, page 238.

Six short three-line stanzas. You can do it!    jhh

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Weather: Goats Love Fog

The magic of Google Photos automatic panorama creation
made this from a recent dog-walk.
In the way of all beautiful weathers,
this beautiful weather has not lasted. . .


They try to watch themselves, drifting in a white sigh,
the boats and trees, and themselves, too,
when they think of it, spun from sheets of gauzy droplets
with which to tar the morning white and walk upon it.
The horizon yawns. The earth is liquid. They can feel
it, and not just it but the blanket meaning of it.
Here, bravado is the pretense of the immortal
before the infinite. There being no other side, 
they must surrender to this, seeing they cannot,
so far, find a door, hack a hole or mark a spot.
Goats love fog. Parked lovers and beachcombers
love fog, and those who fear the authorities, 
and the camera shy love it, and they adore it
who wish to be wrapped in beauty so delicate
one must step outside it to be able to see it.

Marvin Bell

edited by David Biespiel, Oregon State University Press, 2006, page 17.

Some of the best contemporary American Poetry is to be found in regional anthologies. My favorite line in this one might be,
"Goats love fog." and the poet does not elaborate, just goes on along, like a goat along the beach. 
I hope you are getting outdoors as much as you can; it is nourishment for the soul and the body. Your assignment:
make us a little weather poem.  jhh

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Plenty of Road

Isn't he pretty? He was here again today and at last there were four pairs
of wood ducks with him and his common companions. The pair of wigeons
didn't show up today, but they are back! All the way from the breeding grounds 
in the far, far, far, still frozen north!


It's another dream with no roads, but plenty
Of footsteps. One dark tree, a willow, the leaves
Still affected by the rainwater's wanting.
My body is shaped like a dog,
Lying beside a river, watching the grass
On the other side move. My body moves
In no particular direction.
I lie on my haunches and look at the tree.
Blind to the movement of clouds.
Deaf to the sounds of crow.
The tree is shaped like a woman who's crying.
Her daughter has been hot by a car.
Her leg is broken, the bone snapped.
She is screaming. She is pointing 
At her leg and stretching her head back.
A sudden wind and the tree bends. Branches
Stretch against the air, the returning rain.
It is not a woman, but a tree again.
No footsteps in sight, but plenty of road.

David Biespiel

Shattering Air, 
BOA Editions Ltd, 1996, page 34

And now it is time for us to write our dream poems. 
I think mine will also have trees in it!  jhh

Friday, November 25, 2016

That evening sun go down. . .

Today's walk; we took the long way, almost to the park. These skies are different every day.
And the sun goes down earlier in the Treasure Valley.


                                         two poems for my mother

Wind like a long question among us.
Even the pasture won't answer,
Remembering light that little by little
Evens the dusk, little by little crosses
The slow grass. Stars are migrants
Who pause at the river. They question the sky.
The breezes, like souls. Your mother
Sets down her bags to rest and fears nothing.
Blood still falls through her, still rises.
Touch her hand, stars blaze.
Touch her hand, light marbles.

Now wind, like a bird in flight, shifts
As if pausing inside a body.
In dreams, she walks among barley
Or wheat, blackbirds everywhere
On the ground, in flight. Or she's in a valley
Of poppies that are like red hands
Of the Lord, waving mildly. Now wind
Lets its wings down, through her hair.
Now she asks for water, still thirsty
From the last mornings of her life.

David Biespiel

Shattering Air; poems by David Biespiel,
BOA Editions, Ltd. 1996, page 57.

This poet is a recent discovery of mine, even though he has been around quite a while and has several books and a web presence. This is a two-part poem with one 11-line stanza and one ten-line stanza. The use of capital letters at the beginning of each line gives the poem a delicate formality that I like.

For the first time in a long while, I am thinking about a poem.
I am using this structure as inspiration. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

And in with the grandmother come bears

I love playing with Photo Apps; this one is called Prisma and is for the iPhone.
It's been one week since this photo was taken and I have raked up 
most of these cottonwood leaves of gold; 
each one a colored shard in this image.
It might be true that turkey dinners make you sleepy
and I am still looking for tonight's poem...
but all I have to do is pick up Ursula's book.

Read at the Awards Dinner, May 1996

Beware when you honor an artist.
You are praising danger.
You are holding out your hand
to the dead and the unborn.
You are counting on what cannot be counted.

The poet's measures serve anarchic joy.
The storyteller tells one story: freedom.

Above all beware of honoring women artists.
For the housewife will fill the house with lions
and in with the grandmother 
come bears, wild horses, great horned owls, coyotes.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Finding My Elegy; new and selected poems,
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, page 55.

I hope everyone had a satisfactory overblown Thanksgiving
and can give thanks for some blessings. . .

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Amethyst Mountains

A gorgeous day for a walk; you can see just a little purple mountain majesty on the right horizon.
The small dog, only two years old capers and tugs at the leash. The fourteen year old out-of-shape dachshund starts out slowly and needs dragging reminders for about the first forty percent of the walk. Then she limbers up and trots right along. We went three miles today: to the big park, but we didn't cross the street to play there this time. It is nice weather for walking at this time of year.

Almost and Always

Almost they were, the amethyst mountains
and the clear, faint bellowing of horns
in far forests over the twilight border,
and faded into daylight and the noise of traffic.

Always the half-guessed miraculous line
trembled on the edge of being
in this language, and was almost, and faded
into the expectable, ordinary poem.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Finding My Elegy; new and selected poems,
1960--2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, page 111.

I got this book of poems after reading her recent profile in 
The New Yorker. They are delighting me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Getting Outdoors

The dogs and I went to this park a week ago on the day of lovely clouds.
Going and coming, it is about a three-mile walk; and one can easily
rack up another mile on the circular paths inside the park.
We are moving toward winterish weather now; we may not see
another day as nice as this one was until springtime.
Wherever one lives, there will be something interesting outdoors and nearby.
Check it out!

A type of book I like and am always looking out for
is the book about the naturalist's author's home ground.
One such book is:

Wintergreen; Rambles in a Ravaged Land
by Robert Michael Pyle.

The home ground here is the Willapa Hills region of Washington State, 
a place of abundant rain that has been ravaged by logging,
but where nature is still fighting back.
Chasing Monarchs was the first of Pyle's books I found.

My recently discovered art form, the Triple Epigraph,
begins this book by one of my favorite naturalist authors.

Then let not winter's ragged hand deface
In thee sweet summer, ere thou be distill'd:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty's treasure ere it be self-killed.
     William Shakespeare, Sonnets

The lark, the bird of light, is there
in the bitter short days. Put the lark
then for winter, a sign of hope,
a certainty of summer.

     Richard Jeffries, "Out of Doors in February"

No one winterbook---no book---can find nearly
all that should be said of the West, the Wests.

      Ivan Doig, Winter Brothers

I haven't read the Jeffries, but Winter Brothers is a favorite book and Shakespeare's sonnets are at the top of any poetry lists. So your assignment tonight is to look for three epigraphs for a book of your poems.

(For triple epigraphs, see also this recent post:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Small Raindrops Merging

It has been nearly a week now since I took the small dogs for their walk. We had only 
just left our yard when a misty rain began to fill the air. 
The fallen leaves from our next-door neighbor's spectacular maple tree 
almost completely covered their front lawn and sidewalk. 
Each tiny raindrop sat separate from all the others. I put both dog leashes in one hand 
and got out my iPhone. But the dogs were tugging and I had trouble holding
steady and framing. I would have liked to do squares, but I decided 
to crop later. As I tried to hold steady and push the camera release,
the drops began to combine and enlarge. I found that the finger I had free
had a fingernail that meant the iPhone didn't recognize my click,
it wasn't fleshy enough, like justafinger, for the device.


We make too much history.

With or without us
there will be the silence
and the rocks and the far shining.

But what we need to be
is, oh, the small talk of swallows
in evening over
dull water under willows.

To be we need to know the river
holds the salmon and the ocean
hold the whales as lightly
as the body holds the soul
in the present tense. in the present tense.

Ursula Le Guin

Finding My Elegy; new and selected poems,
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2012, page 63.

There was a wonderful profile of Ursula Le Guin 
in a recent New Yorker. 

I hadn't realized she was a poet, as well as such a fine writer of fiction and essays. In everything one reads of her, her thoughtful, balanced wisdom comes through.  This selected poems is a treasure!
Many years ago I spent an afternoon with her and my friend who was her college roommate. We went to the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose, and walked around under the trees and watched the koi. She is gracious and soft-spoken; it was a memorable afternoon.

Tonight I read through the comments left over the ten years of this blog. I am restarting now (again) and have many bookmarks in slender volumes of poems I hope to share. jhh