Thursday, May 31, 2007

Smallest Rivers - Poetry Thursday

The PT prompt this week is simply the word rivers.


Without thunder,
twitching leaves
is the only sound
you make and
that is no sound at all.

Rain, so slight,
even the clouds
must be unaware
that you’ve come.

But you are persistent,
and I know
when you’re done
the featherless baby sparrows

born in the eaves
will be drowned, know
I will find one or two
beneath the drainpipe,

pressed into the dirt,
wings of skin extended
in grotesque flattened flight
while above, the sun

dries the remains of
their nest.
I am old and young then,
in these least rains,
where the smallest rivers flood.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Here Boy

Looks like we are finally going to get ourselves a little puppy - a border terrier. Like these pictured here courtesy of Google. He will be coming all the way from Indianapolis to Ohio. My God, the cuteness is unbearable.

No more cricket pets. Slug pets. You see, my son Whit has stray love (regardless of species and whether they're truly strays) which I completely understand. But the puppy's time has finally come.

Cernuda Tellier Anyone's Guess

A father son poem I have always liked.

Though, because my housekeeping is sloppy sometimes, I did not write down the poet. I think it is Luis Cernuda, or Jorge Tellier. Sorry.

The Never-Ending Tale
for my son

Sea and sky, indefatigable powers,
concur beneath the clearing light.
Only I, in the afternoon, am weary.

This intense blue imposes itself on all,
a blue arched toward its own calm,
just beginning to form
variations of the sea-spray.
Vague-bodied clouds
await the festival of twilight.
My eyes scan what they have always loved,
a vision even more seductive now,
fragile beneath the shadows
that lean across my gaze toward darkness.
If the years have given me their riches
yet they pile up their numbers
and the current that carries me
hurriedly toward my end
seems swifter.

It does not matter. The light counts,
ceaselessly recounts an adventure,
and does not end, does not end:
there is no conclusion.
The adventure of a sun and some men.
Extinguished finally,
lost as a sky closes over them.
The sky is immortal.
He is happy to whom it has fallen
to spend his ephemeral days—
like those of the yellowing leaves—
on this planet.
Am I more than a leaf
on a rustling tree?
A common destiny—
the only one?--unites us on the crust
of a planet always astir,
all of us caught up
in the motion that leads us
toward … is there perhaps no purpose?

The world which in me is waning
continues before me, intact
in its cool, fabulous air.

An open balcony,
a hidden shadow by the wall
along a street, in a summer doze,
streets, cities, fields, skies, infinite
lights … and man
with his terrible power,
and in the midst of the din,
among innumerable convulsive troubles,
the everyday miracle of an orchestra.

Memory cannot contain even one life.

Circles of friendships,
spirits who do not touch
history, or public,
woman, love, children,
our existence consummated fully
among good and evil.

In how many directions
does gratitude spill?
The compass rose unfolds.

Friends! The globe
flourishes with dialogues:
extraordinary flora
(mingling with the jungle
that is never destroyed)
among the diminutive histories
that preserve without dates
those supreme, most humble, instants.
The root of my being has kept them
to form the one I am. Richer,
full of breath, I give thanks.
Man among men,
sun among stars—
spinning round some consciousness?

I look back. Oblivion has blurred
so much of what I was!
Memory conceals its treasures.
How can one say good-bye,
a final good-bye, to the world?
And no one takes leave of himself,
except in the drama of suicide.
Being dead is nothing.
Dying is merely sad.
It will grieve me to leave you—
you who will go on here—
and to have no part in your life.
The tale does not end.
Only he who tells you the tale comes to an end.

Rexroth Poem

I would love to post more Rexroth, but can't find my faves online which means keystroking which I can't do just now ... until then ...


Lying here quietly beside you,
My cheek against your firm, quiet thighs,
The calm music of Boccherini
Washing over us in the quiet,
As the sun leaves the housetops and goes
Out over the Pacific, quiet --
So quiet the sun moves beyond us,
So quiet as the sun always goes,
So quiet, our bodies, worn with the
Times and the penances of love, our
Brains curled, quiet in their shells, dormant,
Our hearts slow, quiet, reliable
In their interlocked rhythms, the pulse
In your thigh caressing my cheek. Quiet.

PoTAYtoe, PoTAHtoe

.... a kind of poem that is a happening, not a poem which is just a discussion.
Louis Simpson

Art does not seek to describe but to enact.
Charles Olson

What they said.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More Famous Look Alikes?

Here is another Whitman look-alike. Actually, a lot of look alikes. I give it one thumb up.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Jaunty Hat

I see a lot of similarities between my Blog photo and the classic Leaves of Grass Whitman image.

The frosty beard, the hat (a hat I should say), the shirt unbuttoned in that inviting "let's sit in some warm shade and talk". Maybe while I am there someone's tongue will plunge into my ribs? My hands are, however, limp in my lap. My baseball cap is not tilted, cocked like a question made of cloth. Nor is my head tilted. What does that leave? An unbuttoned shirt, a beard?

Okay maybe the likeness is a s-t-r-e-t-c-h. Still, I feel today the way I imagine he feels in this picture. And who says a baseball hat can't be jaunty.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Work Is, Isn't

This book, being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence — to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as about accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations. To survive the day is triumph enough for the walking wounded among the great many of us.
Studs Terkel, Working, 1972

I'm still working today. Some friends of mine are not. This is for those who punched out early yesterday - not by choice.

Listening to Haines

John Haines is quiet these days.

I think his most recent book came out in 1998 or thereabouts: End of Summer. But even this collection was earlier work if memory serves. He wrote some of the quietest poetry I have ever read. Poems, reminiscent at times, of WCW’s painting and painterly poems. A bit like the poem below. It has a still life feel to it.

Haines was a big discovery for me. Beyond Wordsworth and Stevens, he was one of those poet that had me nodding through almost every poem mumbling “yes, yes, yes” to myself. Here was someone articulating for me the deep archetypal resonances I knew I had experienced, and continued to experience during my many hikes, hunts, and endless outdoor encounters. Someone besides The Smiths explaining another part of my life to me. I have never and will never homestead in Alaska, but have dwelled in my own version of humbling solitude. Not as epic as the Alaskan wilderness must have been. The silence of his landscape in poems from Winter News for instance, is a real presence, not merely a descriptive accent. Here is one of my favorite Haines poems.

Listening in October

In the quiet house
a lamp is burning
where the book of autumn
lies open on the table.

There is tea with milk
in heavy mugs,
brown raisin cake, and thoughts
that stir the heart
with promises of death.

We sit without words,
gazing past the limit
of the fire into the towering

There are silences so deep
you can hear
the journeys of the soul,
enormous footsteps
downward in a freezing earth.

In many of his poems, the end is punctuated with a sound, a sound that breaks the silence the poem works to create. I know from being married that listening does not always mean hearing. That’s one of the qualities in his poetry I so admire. That reminder to hear, not simply listen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tim McNulty

Tim McNulty's poetry, in many instances, has a kind of haiku purity I find very attractive. No ornamentation, no fanciful poet-making-metaphor surges. Clear and precise language.

Here's a short poem titled "Frost" in its entirety – I am sure the lineation will get all out of whack.

August blueberries, arctic cranberries,
gathered in a wooden bowl
(whole bushes uprooted where the bears
have been, branches sucked to the pith).
Already in the low carpet of tundra
a slight shift in color:
deep greens fading some,
faint tinges of red among the huckleberry
and fireweed,
and the lowest leaves of the dwarf willow
like the pages of an old book
left out too long in a shed

this from a single frost.

The language is slow and hypnotically lush, and except for “carpet" and the “old book”, nicely emptied out of simile and metaphor. I can imagine this is descriptive but boring to some readers. I am predisposed to liking it via the Chinese and Japanese classics, though, how the poem's energy and attention deepen along the way through this accumulation of descriptive detail without epiphanies, meditative lurches and outtakes, etc., until that last line: this from a single frost - an unforced observation that has real weight to me.

ABE - Advanced Book Exchange

I know all you poetry hounds out there on the hunt must know about ABE, a decent online book source ... but just in case, here's the scoop. ABE is a lot like Amazon in that they list matches lowest price first, and they seem to have a better selection on the whole. This week I was able to wallow in my newest poetry crush and got Mary Ruefle's The Adamant, Cold Pluto, Post Meridian and Apparition Hill. Cheapo. Check it out if you need some used, but like new books of poems.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy'

Inspired in a cock-eyed way by Brent’s Neil Young post, I was thinking about misunderstood song lyrics. I think someone put together a whole book of them if I’m not mistaken.

I’ll start with the two most painful "misunderstandings" I came up with and maybe you can add to the list:

1. Pretty little love song, ten feet tall.

Can you guess the song?

And …

2. Dirty deeds and the thunder chief.

Guess again?

Update: As much as I despise my profession (advertising) it does cough up some good lines and funnies here and there.

On the subject of song lyrics, I saw a campaign for speakers/sound quality a while back and the whole campaign was built around misunderstood song lyrics. By far, the funniest was:

Small common Walter, the fire engine guy. Think Deep Purple.

Do you have any doozies?

Billy Don't Be a Hero :(

I was tagged by Brent to put up 5 all time favorite songs. I really only have one all-time favorite song: Billy Don’t Be a Hero. But, I will play along Brent and put up some other tunes that float my boat.

1. Anywhere I Lay My Head (Tom Waits)
2. Wish I Was the Moon Tonight (Neko Case)
3. Salome (Old 97s)
4. Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Judy or Iz)
5. I Won’t Share You (The Smiths)

I tag RJ and Bill.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Emperor of I Scream You Scream

Here are a few lines I strung together from a handful of Stevens’ poems. I have always found him to be an infinitely playful poet, and the many child-like, song-like phrases he employs, as well as the outlandish titles, are part of what makes his poems so playful. If I were a real scholar I would know that maybe some of these lines, like the 'hey nonny nonny' he uses quite a bit, also harken back to the glory days of the Elizabethan Top 40.

Sing coo, sing cuck, cuckoo
The green goes from corn,
the blue from all the lakes

Reading Stevens is, at times, like listening to Pooh as he makes up and hums another sustaining song. What set me thinking about Stevens and the child-like accents in some of his poems (maybe not surprisingly) were poems by children. Tiger white purple cold. Ha ha ha! Ode to Watermelon. Pineapples ... the planet is on the lunch room table indeed. The poems are from grades 3,4, 5 - have a look.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Happy Anniversary

My wife Michelle and I were married 12 years ago today in the backyard of a friend's house in Battleground, Indiana - not too far from Purdue's campus. A small group of family and friends attended.

So much charity of heart that day. My wife's friend Patricia let us use her house and backyard for the wedding and reception. Lilacs scented the air and everything was green. A few musical friends formed a quartet and played as their gift to us. Neil Myers, from the creative writing program, had agreed to give his time and wrote up a ceremony around the vows we had written and married us.

During the ceremony, I read several passages from Wendell Berry's long poem the Country of Marriage to Michelle as part of my vows. The last line of this section in particular, about "going on" has much more meaning these days.


Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Blast from the Odd Rod Past

Man, I CANNOT believe I found these - though I don't know why I am surprised.

The paper thin, tile hard piece of powdered gum that came with each pack of these cards was awful but the stickers were so damn cool it never mattered one bit. Me and my buddies didn't have baseball cards we had Odd Rod stickers. Click on the link to see more. These were extremely popular in the mid-60's.

Me and Kipling

I go on about ocean a lot, and here I am going on some more ...

this is a stanza I love from a long Kipling poem -

Try as he will, no man breaks wholly loose
From his first love, no matter who she be.
Oh, was there ever sailor free to choose,
That didn't settle somewhere near the sea?

Persistance, Midwest - Journal Entry

Here is how I spent many of my weekends while in graduate school. Like the bear, I would go over the mountain to see what I could see. This is an old entry (note ref. to Iowa floods!) I pulled out based on my drives. [Along the way, I also bought a lot of wonderful fresh fruit and produce and pulled over to take some nice photos of broken down barns.]

Saturday morning, driving nowhere.

It's rained for months.There's a pond in every cornfield & in the distance trees tower like cracks in the sky.These field-trips save me, remind me of home, where scruffy towns skirt main roads like debris that fell from passing trucks & went to seed.

Just inside the city limits kids wave a sign scribbled in crayon: GARAGE SALE STOP. Their parents relax in lawn chairs. Chopped wood is piled on porches. On the tavern roof, four men, shirts off, sit on shingle packs, their backs glistening. In a field by a school the football team scrimmages. I realize, making these notes, I have been reading too much James Wright, and the world does not need another Autumn Comes to Martin's Ferry. But I keep writing.

I come to Lindy's cafe. Inside, footage of Iowa's obliterating floods on the television. A small boy on a stool asks his mother, how come they don't put fire on it? Nice idea, kid. I remember the kids I passed driving into town, three of them holding a single sign, all flapping arms & hopping together like birds of a shared wing, & the fattish parents lolling half-alseep, all so certain of the ground beneath them, while these poor bastards on tv just seven hours south, point at their roofs, all that's visible now, like pitched tents in the dark rivers of their neighborhood.

I know it'll all pass, and they'll go on however they can. But that brutal erasure of everything. I would call this town Persistance if that's not already its name.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Empathy Belly

I put this poem up a while back, and thought I would bring it back for the PT humor theme. I found the belly in what was called the Anatomical Products Catalog. Wish I still had it as there were a lot of interesting items. The poem begins with an epigraph: the best source of innovative & educational products on medicine, health & childbirth.


Waiting for the belly. This too
is practice. Instantly discover

what it feels like to be pregnant,
the catalog says. My Empathy Belly

is late, though. Fetal kicking, shortness
of breath, bladder pressure — the whole

nine yards sewn into one weighted vest.
I am close to worry, though. I think

the man in the ad for the belly, smiling warmly,
happily holding his belly, could just as easily be

well-fed as pregnant and I remember
my grandpa rising from the table

and holding his domed gut in the same satisfied way.
That these two conditions appear so similar to me

is disturbing. I fear this could confuse my pregnancy
experience, despite the product’s excellence.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

English at its Best: Wang's Colon

Here are a few choice headlines from the world of sports.

Devil's Slide: A Little Drop in the Big Bucket

I grew up Fostered alike by beauty and by fear …

and then, a little more fear than beauty maybe. Here is an old photo I found online of Devil’s Slide, a notorious stretch of highway along the coast of California where falling rocks and cars plunging off the edge were par.

I had to travel this road many times as a child whenever we went to and from El Granada to San Francisco and back. Southbound, I would have been in the passenger seat looking out my window at the edge, though mostly I could barely bring myself to look. The picture does not quite get you there, but for a child looking out the window the edge seemed a gust of wind away. And that terrible drop to the ocean and rocks below.

During my life in El Granada, there was no shortage of reports of cars going off the edge and families plummeting to their death. Give me a Wordsworthian cataract any day.


Our roofs are scaled
our fish our shingled -
we get everything from nature ..
mostly ... usually ...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Black Eye for Fenimore Cooper

My father is a huge Mark Twain fan, so I got a lot of hand me downs pretty early on. I have always loved the black eye he gives Cooper in The Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper. If you have not read it, it's worth a look. To a degree, the wit of it reminds me of William Logan - without the fangs of course.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Transformers Hype

Tonight, at approximately 7 o'clock, I will show my son these new photos of the movie versions of these Transformers. The pop you'll hear is me blowing his mind. If you are a fan, here's the site. A few more to see. Hmmm. I'm showing mostly bad guys.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Just Plain Lucky

Claw, bite, sting, scratch – I cherish the many wound words we draw from nature. Of course, nature sings as well as wounds. There are some one-hundred and seven sound verbs (where did I read this?) in our vocabulary that prove we love nature's bark as much as we love its bite. From wailing to whirring, humming to howling, I believe I've heard everything but a yarr or a troat.

I am thinking about language tonight, about nature. How language fails me, and me it, re: the experiences I've logged in the great and not so great outdoors and my efforts to pull those moments in all their sensory bliss (a blend of pain and awe) into poetry. How about you. What have you never captured in words that means so much to you? (Christ, that sounds like Mary Oliver doesn’t it?)

For me it is the Pacific ocean and more recently my son’s death. Two encounters so profound, they seem hopelessly beyond words to me. This seems contrary to the idea of experience as a guide, right? Intimate as I am with the ocean (or was) and my son’s death I am an unofficial expert, yet I feel both as subjects are more out of reach than I can say. I use the word expert loosely, but maybe for poor souls like me this kind of “expertise” works against the kind of objectivity I need to get at these two wonders. I feel at times like the foolish King who says no one is good enough to marry my child and hence no one comes. It is a beautiful mess in a way, this feeling that having experienced an aspect of nature so profoundly you also feel how beyond words it is but want desperately to find the lyric, the song in it. I enjoy the struggle.


I think of Wordsworth in Nutting, his cheek resting, sensuously kissing the moss cover on a rock. I find a kind of tactile and sensory honesty in poems like Tintern Abbey, Intimations Ode, The Prelude that echo my experience as a boy in El Granada, CA, the almost religious ecstasy of being outdoors in the hills above the bay, or on the shore of the ocean; of touching and being touched by nature.

Reading these poems, I recall the rather direct schooling I got in the language of nature. Yellow-jackets, for instance, taught me the word sting. As a boy, I couldn't leave the nests alone. Whether they were tree top, or underground under that blanket of dead, cinnamon colored pine needles. My record stands at 8 stings in one "incident" - one of those was in the eye, and one the penis (loose shorts); the other six were who knows where. Thirty plus years later, I remember vividly how my skin, corked with venom, swelled and a blotchy red circle appeared around the even darker dot where the stinger entered.

I learned the word bite from Garter snakes and Alligator lizards. The first time a Garter bit me I actually saw it coming, and anticipating the pain I nearly choked on adrenaline as it pinned its mouth to my thumb. But it didn't hurt. No fangs. After, I wanted more. I'd gently tap my finger at the mouth of alligator lizards I'd caught, teasing them to bite. They instinctively obliged. Feeling the pressure of their tiny mouths, the rasp of their teeth, squeezing down on my finger thrilled me in a way I still can't explain. This was the beginning of one weird kind of intercourse folks. Later, I'd read Robinson Jeffers and think if I had not moved away from California, I too might be sitting around sorry I could not feed the hawks with my body.

I learned the word poison from ivy, sumac, and oak. At times, the blisters on my hands were caked so thickly between my fingers that they were splayed apart, and I couldn't even make a fist. Blisters on top of blisters, bubbly sometimes as sacs of frog eggs.


The circus goes on and on.

The secretion salamanders released when held which made them more viscous to the touch, or the way toads jet their piss when you try to hold them. The pure energy of a snake spinning madly like a lasso in your hand as it tries to twirl itself free. I remember the thrilling feel of these scaly, smooth, or sometimes spiny bodies squirming in my hand to get free, how their heads shot side to side frantically trying to bite my hand, and when they did, how the tiny eruptions, welts, blisters, and bite marks were like a language tattooed on my skin by stinger, tooth or resin. Signed, Snake. Yellow-jacket was here. And always, I was amazed by the power of these small creatures to transform my body.

I began remembering the snake bites, stings, and others, years ago while working inside an office, inside a cubicle, inside a ten story building writing ad copy for local car dealers. There were no seasons four floors up where I worked. No true sense of the changing seasons. I was like the sad little plants that the watering service tinkled on every other week. Four years went by quickly in such a place. Milking the self pity for all I could, I wrote a poem about it once. Part Roethke (Dolor) part turd.

Here are a few well-intended, but painfully melodramatic lines:

I gaze out through webs
at faces in windows across
the street floating like fish
in bowls. We all long to dive
with the pigeon flocks that spook themselves
& break from building tops
all day.


The spiders, they happen
every June; but I don't marvel anymore,
I've become unimportant
to myself, grown jack-o-lantern-headed
with a fuck-you-middle-finger
burning like a candle
behind my eyes, & this tiny flame,
all I ever keep, only lights
the paperwork mating on my desk.


I'm being filed away here.


... elevator doors closing silently on
clusters of hard faces, making them
vanish. I want to scream, want to be the one
just for a day to draw my own blood.

Every June these great brown spiders appeared and took up residence in the windows of my office. One spider per window. It always seemed to magically happen all in a night's time. I'd go home and come in the next morning to find enormous web billowing within the each window. A grand, brown spider was always poised somewhere in the corner of the window trim. Bored or snagged on writer's block I'd sit at the windows and watch the spiders trundle up whatever insects crashed into the webs. It beat writing copy for doctor FosterSmith. Or about who had more horsepower.

The spiders reminded me of stings, bites, poison, reminded me that except for the Pacific, (which I'll remember even when I'm dead,) it has always been the smaller citizens of nature that wed me to my surroundings. Wood ticks for example. Many times I'd come home in El Granada from playing in the woods and find I'd picked up a tick or two. Having mom feel her way through my hair for ticks was as much a part of getting ready for dinner after coming in from play as was washing my hands. If she found one she'd twist it counter-clockwise. I remember feeling a small pop as a tiny rag of scalp broke away along with the tick. She'd then burn them with a match in a small ashtray. This was intimacy. My blood mingled in the flow. You might think of Stafford's blood flowing in the river after he's bitten. Nature was saying, you're in this too buddy, you're part of the web; today you're something's food, something's nourishment.


Two landscapes own my heart and imagination. One is the southern countryside of Michigan where I lived as punk from age 10 to 21. The other (which I mention above) is El Granada, a small coastal town in California located just over the hills from San Jose, and just South of San Fran. I lived there between ages of 5 to 9. I can think of no other word than paradise for this coastal place. Every day was spent in the hills above the bay playing among hidden ticks, chasing snakes, lizards, spying on nude sunbathers (hey, it was the 60s!), getting high on the heavy breath of eucalyptus, finding red-tailed hawk feathers, shooting it out with hornets. Or down at the ocean, running from high tide, digging sand crabs, goofing with anemones in tide pools. There I was doing my impression of Wordsworth before I knew who Wordsworth was.

I knew both landscapes intimately, though not the names of things. Only recently, while reaching for after the fact specificity in my writing, have I begun to research and name the plant and animal life of my childhood landscapes. We called the Michigan fields and woods I played in, the Back Forty. Now, though, I know I played in fields of yarrow, wild columbine, pokeweed. Sure, the names are fun to say, as colorful at times as bird names. Milkweed, teasel, chicory. The names fill the mouth like song. They make for musical diction in poems, some times to excess as in say Amy Clampitt's work. Here's what Audobon said on the subject of naming: "To focus on specific trees, birds, and the like--to memorize names for instance--would have diminished the joy of being outdoors by forcing me to step back and contemplate at the very moment I wished to plunge forward and participate. I had no desire to rationalize nature, to dissect that which presented itself as a seamless whole. I wanted immediacy. I still value more the instinctive approach of long ago". I like this thought and it speaks to some of the uneasy feelings I get re: naming, as if by naming we know a thing - its thingness.

Recently, I learned that the spiny lizard I frequently caught in El Granada is actually called a Western Fence Lizard. We dubbed them "swifts" because they were. The male of the species has streaks of the deepest blue on either side of its white belly. Swifts were part of the landscape's magic for me, a part that revealed itself to anyone who'd look closely enough. My father told me that if I held a swift on its back in my palm and gently stroked its throat and belly it would become hypnotized. This proved true. I once cupped a swift in my palm and traced my finger repeatedly down its throat and stomach. The eyes closed and the body became still. Perhaps, belly exposed and vulnerable, it was preparing for certain death. I didn't think of this possibility until years later. At the time, I thought in a stupid sweet way, I had hypnotized the lizard. How Orphic of me. What did I learn from this? Maybe nothing more that when I felt nature's tiny claws, teeth, & stingers, in and against my skin, I, too, was and have been ever since, hypnotized, and find myself closer to nature because of this. No, I never really knew nature by name. I knew nature by touch mostly; and by its toothy, pointed, blistering way of always touching me back. I am lucky for that. Just plain lucky.

Note: I found the images of these reptiles on Google. Funny I would come across someone else letting an Alligator lizard bite his finger.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


I thought I was supposed to relive my childhood through my son Whitman, but I am living his instead. I am totally hooked on Transformers. He has close to 40 of them now, maybe more. I do a mean MegaTron voice by the way when we play with the figures. For relaxation, transforming one is better than squeezing a stress ball. Looking forward to the movie with a little too much anticipation (for my age) I think. What the hell.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Sunday Fuzz or Daddy Gets a Ticket

Banking on Joseph Beth bookseller's reputation as being strong in literature/poetry, my wife and son and I drove up to Cleveland this weekend ready to blow some dough on books.

The poetry selection was measley. Wait, actually it was Measley (with a capital M.) Though (R.J. have you heard?) there was a Collected hard cover C.K. Williams on the shelf and I thought of all my friends for whom this will be a good thing.

My son got a cool Transformers book, my wife a bit of fiction, and I got a ticket from the fuzz for turning left against a no left turn sign to get out of the parking lot.

The ticket was pink, a good read but kind of dense. Minimalist I think. Kind of anemic on imagery, but it had nice flow. Line breaks were pretty novel. Often, rather than elipses or enjambment, the writer employed little boxes that were checked. It was also two-sided. Clever.

So, that was my purchase for the weekend.

Night Class, Basic Skills - Journal Entry

Three. Slow. Hours. Lugging around the bricks of punctuation, discussing degrees of pause, semi-commas.

Class is finally over, and when walk outside it's pitch and the weather tries to kill us. Freezing rain & snow blurs all our cars just ahead in the parking lot. Street lights are nearly choked dark. I walk beside Lisa, my oldest student. She wants to be an aide of any kind, "a Pharmaceutical asst.".

She explains how her southern husband learned to drive in snow on a night like this. It happened a little like this. She makes him ride in the passenger seat because he's drunk, and has never driven in snow. Already contracting she speeds the car toward St. E's & when labor crushes down, calmly she places his blabbering hands on the wheel, plays the car's pedals with her feet - fighting the urge to stomp the gas pedal when the contraction reaches its peak.

She finishes the story. We're both soaked by now with ice rain, our eyes blinking blinking. She is grinning, remembering. "I'm amazed my boy was ever born, she says, semi-colon, comma, period!"


... from Triumph of the Sparrow: Zen Poems of Shinkichi Takahashi:

Burning Oneself to Death

That was the best moment of the monk’s life.
Firm on the pile of firewood
With nothing more to say, hear, see,
Smoked wrapped him, his folded hands blazed.

There was nothing more to do, the end
Of everything. He remembered, as a cool breeze
Streamed through him, that one is always
In the same place, and that there is no time.

Suddenly a whirling mushroom cloud rose
Before his singed eyes, and he was a mass
Of flame. Globes, one after another, rolled out,
The delighted sparrows flew round like fire balls.

trans. Lucien Styrk

Friday, May 4, 2007

Weather Report - Journal Entry

Morning after New Year's eve.

A cluster of balloons is snagged in the branches above my street. Big blue fruit. This reminds me of Weather Awareness Week in grade schoool when the local weatherman came to our 4th grade class. He etched clouds on the board, made feathered edges with an eraser, translated each cloud into the weather we all knew & explained the difference. Suddenly it sounded like code -- clouds & wind the vowels of weather, & in thirty minutes it became complicated as math. I was happy for rain to stay rain, & clouds, clouds.

Using colored chalk we drew weatherscapes on the board all week. On our test: define stratosphere, atmosphere, Jet Stream, & draw cirrus, cumulus, & cumulonimbus clouds--the one I most remember because it meant rain.Friday, class gathered in the schoolyard, balloons on string in each hand. Tiny messages rolled like scrolls explaining, & asking how far? would you please return it? were tied to the string with an SASE.

We released them on 3, & and all stood pointing, trying to track our own among the slow swarm drifting away. For the next month, Miss Libby charted the responses: Concord, in a cow pasture. Another found floating in Lake Winnewanna by a fisherman. Only one left the state -- Pennsylvania.

Distance was everything. It mattered more than I can say that my balloons go far away and be found. This is not a need in me that's died; always, I am sending up balloons through starving trees.



Only this.

World Poetry Tour - Anghel Dumbraveneau

With a few exceptions, I tend to favor poetry in translation: Japanese, Chinese, Estonian, Spanish, Turkish, Swedish and on and on. I thought this week I would post a poem a day from poets around the world, each day building on this post.

Here is the week's last poem.


A great many things are no longer clear to me:
The poplar has left its place by my gate,
My spring has silted up.
To tell you the truth, I can no longer respond
To a woman's smile.
I'm haunted by the vision of a forest path
Very long ago
And I can remember
Only the rooms of the wind
Where I loved without shyness,
My waking up alone.

Anghel Dumbraveneau, Romania

... Thursday, Jaan Kaplinkski.

The house silent
water drippings
from a rinsed diaper
into the empty basin
everybody asleep

I forgot
a short poem that
came into my mind
sitting in the rocking chair
with my little daughter
in my lap

I did not dare
to take a pencil
and write it down
feeling this silence
and the sleeping child
has a meaning
deeper than words

Jaan Kaplinski, Esontia

... from Wednesday

A Hyphen

When you look into a biographical dictionary
you see entries such as So-and-so (1903-1950),
meaning the person was born in 1903
and died in 1950.
The hyphen signifies the person's lifetime.
The entry So-and-so (1909 - ),
with nothing following the hyphen,
means the person is still alive.
Whether one is listed in biographical dictionaries or not,
everyone alive has a line dangling from behind his back.
Though it is invisible,
it somehow makes me curious -
the blank after the hyphen.

... From Tuesday

From the Bodies

From the blue and black bodies
that walk at times through my soul
come voices and signs that someone intreprets.
It's dark as the sun
this desire. Mysterious and grave
as an ant dragging away the wing of a butterfly
or as the yes that we say when things ask us
--do you want to live?

Jaime Sabines, Spanish

... from Monday


A child sat
at the tide
at sundown

to the sea
saying sea

and all those
years later

what saying
nothing means.

Cid Corman
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