Sunday, March 01, 2015

Castle by the Lake

This is Logan again, and the fortified sandcastle his family had just constructed
beside Pickerel Lake on their visit in 2013.


To drowse away the summer on a lake
To feel the limitations of the lake
To count the lake's two colors
To feel that something is wrong with the lake
I really like the lake, said the woman next door
You push a lake out of the way, but it comes right back
A lake could mean the end of chaos
A lake swallows itself every night
I like this lake, too, I said to the woman next door
There once was a lake with only one wave
Fifty young men were staring into the lake
If you speak to the lake, you must ask yourself why
To test the true material of the lake
To dip the oars of sleep into the surface of the lake
To feel the lake give birth for words for itself
A lake could fall into the wrong hands
Even an artificial lake needs real water
Oh, the lake is beautiful, and meaningless, and I love it
What lake is that you're talking about
Is it the way a lake looks or how it feels that matters
No lake at all--I;m bad at remembering lakes
In that respect a lake is like a chair
The lake was full of stars, the moon, the tops of trees
Someone was playing a trombone across the lake
On this side of the lake a silence was building up

Mark Strand
Chicken, Shadow, Moon & more, 
Turtle point Press, 2000, pages 85-87.

The late Mark Strand was a favorite poet of mine; this is an entrancing small book which would make a great gift! An interesting task would be to to make a series of poems which each begin with one line of this poem.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Woodsman and the Crane

There  is something about cranes that always reminds me of Fairy Tales. 
Year before last for the few days they came down in the meadow, 
and I was able to get some photographs,
I fell in love all over again with their lanky, unworldly beauty.

The Woodsman and the Crane

A crane was standing in a stream, hoping to catch some fish. A huntsman was crawling through the bushes on the riverbank, and spotted the crane. He’d not caught anything that day, and carefully readied his bow and arrow. He took aim and sent an arrow flying towards the crane. The crane heard the movement of the arrow through the air, and raised her wings. Just as she was airborn, the arrow hit her in the thigh. She squealed, but was able to stay in the air and fly away. She didn’t get very far before the pain forced her down. She landed awkwardly in a clearing in the woods. A woodsman who’d been working there, gathering branches, found the poor crane. He took pity on her, and dropped his wood, and carried the crane to his hut. There he removed the arrow, and applied some herbs to help heal the wound. The woodsman took good care of the crane, he fed her and changed her dressing every day. As her wound healed, the crane fell in love with this kind woodsman.

Unbeknown to the woodsman, the crane happened to possess magic powers, and she was able to turn herself into a young woman. When the woodsman came home from his work that evening, he found the woman there, who had prepared a meal for him. The next day she went into the village and procured a weaving loam that she placed in one of the rooms. That night the woman explained to her husband that she’ll be weaving cloth for him to sell in the market. That way they can earn much more money than he can possibly make from selling wood. But she warned him that he must never come into the room when she is working, or something really bad will happen.

Weeks and months passed. Every day the man went to the market to sell the cloth and every evening when he arrived back home, there was a large quantity of newly woven cloth. They were now very well off, and they had a very good life. One day the man became curious, and he determined to see how his wife managed to produce all this very fine cloth day in day out. He set off for the market as usual with the cloth, but once out of sight of the house, he hid the cloth behind some trees, and went back to the house. Keeping very quiet, he crept up to the room where she worked. He could hear her working inside. He slowly opened the door, and peeked inside. To his great shock, there working at the loam was the crane he rescued! Immediately the magic spell was broken, and the crane returned to her natural state. Because he could not control his curiosity, the man lost his wife, and his income from selling the cloth she used to weave.

Jin Lou told this story to Frans Timmermans.

I got this story from  There are many fine tales there. In this one you can find out the difference between the Huntsman and the Woodsman. Next time you need some magic to put into a poem, look up Fairy Tales!

Friday, February 27, 2015

One White Hen

My widowed daughter moved to this small farm with her two preschool sons in 1992.
She was given this old horse, Charley, who came with harness and a year's supply of hay.
Here, she is learning to drive him. I don't know the hen's name. 
Look for the younger son who holds onto her skirt.

Miss Lucy Morgan Shows Me a Photograph
of Mrs. Mary Grindstaff Spinning Wool on the High Wheel

Miss Lucy tells that one day
a visitor asked Mrs. Grindstaff
"What are you doing?"

she said, "Spinning."

the tourist said
"Why doesn't it break?"

she said "Because I don't let it."

the charred heart does not break in Appalachia, they
have not let it . . .

the loom hums


Jonathan Williams

The Language They Speak Is Things to Eat;
poems by Fifteen Contemporary North Carolina Poets.
University of North Carolina Press, 1994, page 248.

This is another poem from one of my favorite anthologies. Many of these poets grew up in the old ways or rural living. I chose this poem to go with the photograph above because, later, this young mother raised some sheep and learned to spin and knit. She made wonderful warm and wooly socks, mittens and winter balaclavas for the boys.

Notice that the spoken parts of the poem receive regular capitalization and punctuation. Notice the simple structure of the poem and the use of space. Notice that it's not wordy; it has a short tale,tells it and reaches a conclusion. No padding.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

with a human voice

Ducks in the afternoon, wanting to be in a Japanese woodcut.

Returning to Earth

When Emperor Hirohito announced
Japan's defeat over national radio,
his divinity was broken, fell away
and settled in fine gold dust at his feet.

His people understood the gravity
of the occasion---a god does not speak
over the airwaves with a human voice, 
ordinary and flecked with static. A god 
does not speak in the common voice
of the earthbound, thick with shame.

At the station, my mother, a schoolgirl,
looked on as men in uniform lurched
from the platform into the path
of incoming trains, their slack bodies
landing on the tracks without sound.

Mari L'Esperance

For those of us who lived through these times, this small piece of history brings so much back. Is there something we remember about the times you lived through that can capture what it was like to be there? The form of this poem, stanzas of 4 lines, then six lines, then five, is simple and attractive.

The Darkened Temple, Prairie Schooner Press, 2008, page 16.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Puppet Show,with Shadows

My sister Susan makes a puppet show. 
That's my brother, Robert, 
with the light on his face 
and my brother, Richard, at the far right. 
This is one of those Brownie Reflex photos, 
perhaps taken by John, the oldest of the boys. 
I love the shadows; I love the doll-made-puppet. 
I love my family's whole messy child-filled life!
Perhaps this was taken after we moved to The Farm in 1950.
Or were we still in Scotia?

Here is a poem from a recent New Yorker:


Everyone can't
be a lamplighter.

Someone must
be the lamp,

and someone 
must in bereaved 

rooms sit
unfathoming what

it is to be lit.

Andrea Cohen

The New Yorker,
February 16, 2015, page 69.

Write a short poem on some formulation you have made up to sound like a proverb.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Sooty Shearwaters, Monterey Bay


I thought it had left me, but
it had only receded for a time--

Along the shore beads of moisture
cling to the snarled kelp

like mementos, little souls--

Mari L'Esperance

The Darkened Temple
Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2008, page 1.

A task for my self: make a very short poem 
linking nature and self with a strong place or image.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Evening Opens

Old streetlamps at San Jose History Park. 

There was a mystery to that childhood time when 
lamps were just coming on with that faint orangey glow. 
I had to quit rollerskating and go home then, for sure.


Streetlamps release an ivory light like sweet magnolias
Along the humid elms already the odor of autumn,
of expendability.
The leaves flutter like unsold tickets.

The evening opens, 
dragging you along, farther from earth
as far as your eyes will take you.
Telescopes aim and the sky fills
with sight like a spidery shadow.

in the air that twirls toward the nostril like a winged seed,
to some, happiness is a defect.
A fat man sits alone gulping ice cream.

What does it matter
which night this is? Or which, among all of us alive
I am.

Each day puts its arms around you,
each terrain with its infallible time-sense.
Ears, fingers, mouth. Everything that enters
splitting like light in a prism.

Roo Borson

A Sad Device, Quadrant Editions, Ontario, Canada, page 20.

As I have said before, the work of Roo Borson pleases me very much. I was just able to get a copy of another old title of hers. I picked out this poem to use tonight earlier today. When I went to type it, I saw that the bookmark has obscured that the poem was not over at the bottom of page 20, but continued for two and a half more pages. Too much to type. So I spent another hour looking for something else. In the end, I came back to this, because I like it so much. Everything doesn't always work out according to plan. . .