Monday, July 21, 2014

Yellow Sweetclover

Many of the fields, hills and swales in North Dakota are brushed with golden color now from the small, abundant blooms of Yellow Sweetclover. This is another immigrant to North America--it was brought here as a forage crop more than 200 years ago. And made itself right at home!

As I thought last year, and I still think, North Dakota has untold possibilities for a photographer willing to give it some time and careful attention. But I love driving through twice a year even if I cannot stop. Today, driving on US 95 in a part of the state with very red soil we drove past a great deal of construction related to drilling for oil. Here were a few old wells that have been there for years and some very new ones working with a different type of machinery. There were also many upright cylindrical storage tanks I think are for oil. Many of them are bright red, which is very striking against the green fields.  In one place there was a large red-soil flat quadrangle preparing for a new operation. There were so many working pumps along this stretch that it made me wonder how much oil there is-- and can one suck it out from underneath one's neighbor? There was one red flat spot--without the machinery installed yet--that  looked like a giant paved red tennis court. It all made me sorry for the beautiful greening earth as we drove past in our big blue gasoline-powered Toyota.

This motel in Detroit Lakes MN has a broken internet so this is one-finger phone typing. And here is the first part of Derek Walcott's 


Silence asphalts the highway, our tires hiss
like serpents, of God's touching weariness,
His toil unfinished, while in endless rows
the cabbage fields, like lilies, spin in air;
His flags rot, and the monkey god's nerves rattle
lances in rage. Human rags tend cattle
more venal every year, and chrome-tooled cars
lathered like estate horses nose the shallows. . . 

Page 87

There is quite a bit more to this poem. I am really loving The Poetry of Derek Walcott on my Kindle. I am eating it in small bites. Walcott sets the poetry bar high. There are endless things to study and think about on every page. 

from the road tonight

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ulysses in the Badlands

Today we motored through Montana and as we got closer and closer to North Dakota, hints of badlanbs begana to appear. This one of what i generally take from the freeway driving while the car is in motion. I call these fromthecar photos. I've been taking them for years and have found that sifferent cameras give very different results and you learn certain things to try that might work better. This drive I am using the iPhone 5s and today I experimented with its square format. While we drove Tennyson's poem called Ulysses came up. S remembered the first part and I remembered the end, but neither of us could say the whole poem. I found the text on the phone's Coast browser app (recommended!) and then wound up reading the whole history of Tennyson's life and work from The Poetry Foundation's web site to S as we drove. It was a little iffy as the phone service goes in and out and in again over this stretch of HWY 94, and I had to find the article and my pace again. Now my throat is a little sore, unused to so much reading aloud. It is a very good article, and reminded us of so many things. And here is Ulysses himself. Instead of typing it myself, I copied it from the website because it is so long and I am tired from traveling. . .


It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Driving through Montana, I took pictures through the car window today. As always, I planned to travel for weeks and stop every few miles to take pictures of the beautiful American expanses.

I will come back

Sometime, man or woman, traveler,
afterwards, when I am not alive,
look here, look for me here
between the stones and the ocean,
in the light storming
in the foam.
Look here, look for me here,
for here is where I shall come, saying nothing,
no voice, no mouth, pure,
here I shall be again the movement
of the water, of
its wild heart
here I shall be both lost and found
here I shall be perhaps both stone and silence.

from Pablo Neruda; selected poems,a bilingual edition, edited by Nathaniel Tarn, HM, 1990, page 417, translated by Alistair Reid.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Driving east through Idaho, on the first day of our journey to Michigan, all day we traveled through the smoke and haze from fires burning all over the American and Canadian West. And long ago, Li Po wrote to another journeyer,


Autumn rains ending in this river town,
and wine gone, you lone sail soars away.

Setting out across billows and waves, your
family settles back for the journey home

past islands lavish with blossoms ablaze,
willow filigree crowding in over the banks

And after you've gone, nothing left to do.
I go back and sweep off the fishing pier.

Li Po from The Selected Poems of Li Po, translated by David Hinton. Kindle location 353.

I love the eight-line simplicity of this, and the sensible ending. I love that it has come down to us over centuries to be translated so many times. I also love the elegant simplicity of black and white photographs. This Quality Inn motel room in Rexburg, Idaho has three large ones (about 18x24inches) that are unsigned, so I don't know whose work they are. One is of a lone tree on an islet and its reflected image and two are arrangements of trunks (perhaps in the redwood forest) with the light slanting through. I resolve to work more with black and white images. Resolutions. . . .

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Best Thistle

This is my thistle of the summer. I have had special thistles here before; here's a link to some of them! I was a little surprised to find out how many! This one has been growing for weeks at the base of my David Austen rose. I like the shape of it and had many other weeds to pull, so I let it be. But I couldn't have it making a lot of seeds there, right by the sidewalk, so tonight I took its picture and then I pulled it. I could feel the spines come through a heavy leather glove, so I moved my hand up a little, smoothing the spines, as you would the hair of a stiff-haired dog. The plant was pretty shallow-rooted and came right up! I do admire its stiffly regular beauty and am a little sorry that it chose there to grow.

Oh Earth, Wait For Me

Return me, oh sun,
to my wild destiny,
rain of the ancient wood,
bring me back the aroma and the swords
that fall from the sky,
the solitary piece of pasture and rock
the damp at the river-margins,
the smell of the larch tree,
the wind alive like a heart
beating in the crowded restlessness
of the towering auracaria.

Earth, give me back your pure gifts,
the towers of silence which rose
from the solemnity of their roots,
I want to go back to being what I have not been, 
and learn to go back from such deeps
that amongst all natural things 
I could live or not live; it does not matter
to be one stone more, the dark stone,
the pure stone which the river bears away. 

from Pablo Neruda; selected poems,a bilingual edition, edited by Nathaniel Tarn, HM, 1990, page 473, translated by Alistair Reid.

Oh, how I love the oracular Pablo! I am thinking it would be fun to try each line as the first line of a new poem. If one did this, it would be enough for a chapbook. Let's call that the Pasture and Rock sequence.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


A Berceuse is a lullaby. I thought this was a peaceful landscape to go with a lullaby; it is an after-the-rain -photograph of the south shore of Lake Superior late last year. You might sing a lullaby to a child. Or you might fade into sleep singing one to yourself. There are things about this translation that I would like to compare with the Swedish, but sadly, this volume leaves out the original language. The original language is which a poem was written is always interesting to look at when printed in our familiar alphabet. There are cognates and correspondences in both Germanic and Romance languages that may inspire interesting lines of thought, or poems of your own. We plan to take off tomorrow morning, and pick up some extra medicine for the one remaining dachshund, Cassandra, on the way out of town.


I am a mummy at rest in the blue coffin of the trees,
in the perpetual soughing of cars and rubber and asphalt.

What happens during the day submerges, the lessons
      are heavier than life.

The wheelbarrow rolled out on its single wheel and I
travelled forward on my own whirring psyche, but now
      my thoughts have ceased going round and the
      wheelbarrow has acquired wings.

At long last, when space has turned black, an aeroplane
will come. The passengers will see cities underneath
      them glittering with Gothic gold.

Tomas Transtromer from Inspired Notes; 
Poems of Tomas Transtromer, translated by John F. Deane, Dedalus Press, 2011, page 49.

PS: I have to look up the pronunciation of sough and soughing every time I seem them. Sigh, soughing,

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

By Luck or Grace

The water is green from the trees, the water is blue from the sky.
 And the duck and her reflection is borne toward me by the current. July, 2014.

Here is Part II of last night's Wendell Berry Poem:

From Sabbaths  2013

Times will come as they must,
by necessity or his wish, when he leaves
his enclosure and his window,
his homescape of house and garden,
barn and pasture, the incarnate life
of his desire, thought and daily work.
His grazing animals look up
to watch in silence as he departs.
He sets out at times without even
a path or any guidance other than knowledge
of the place and himself as they were
in time already past. He goes among trees,
climbing again the one hill of his life.
With his hand full of words he goes
into the wordless, wording it barely
in time as he passes. One by one he places
words, balancing on each
as on a small stone in the swift flow
in his anxious patience until
the next arrives, until he has come
at last again into presentiment
of the Real, the wholly real in its grand
composure, for which as before
he knows no word. And here again
he must stop. Here by luck or grace he may
find rest, which he has been seeking
all along. Sometimes by the time's flaws
and his own, he fails. And then
by luck or grace he will be given
another day to try again, to go maybe
yet farther before again he must stop.
He is a gatherer of fragments, a cobbler
of pieces. Piece  by piece he tells
a story without end, for in the time
of this world no end can come.
It is the story of eternity's shining,
much shadowed, much put off,
in time. And time, however long, falls short.

Wendell Berry. 
from The Threepenny Review, Fall, 2013, page 5.