Thursday, May 21, 2015

Viewing Herbs and Trees

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Traherne    

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Apricot Iris

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

A Noiseless Patient Spider

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

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

Walt Whitman

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

View across the stream

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


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

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

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

Luis Cernuda
Translated by Stephen Kessler

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

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

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mallards, napping in the sun

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

Sound of the Axe

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

Denise Levertov

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

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

R. T. Smith

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

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

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

Saturday, May 16, 2015


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


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

Denise Levertov

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

Late Afternoon, with Mallard

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


The rain a river upended

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

the outdoor cafe
except for the tables like lost cattle

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

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

Roo Borson

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

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