Monday, July 06, 2015

Even if we are seldom the center . . .

The big quail came back today and posed against the light.
of the very late and very hot afternoon.


Loss too is ours; and even what we have
still has stature in the enduring
                                                 realm of change.
What we've let go of orbits; and even if we are
         seldom the center
of one of the circles: they describe all around us
         the holy form.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated from the German by Franz Wright 

The Unknown Rilke, Oberlin College Press, 1990, page 165.

This poem seems to me to be just about perfectly complete the way it is; I cannot think of anything the say about itt. Sleep well.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Green Willow

This is Samantha Renee under the willow on the grandchildren visit a few weeks ago.
This morning I tried a new set of soft colored pencils 
on some of that wonderful rough paper that was made in Nepal from the lokta plant.
In the set, there were more green pencils than those of any other color.
So all day today I have been thinking about greens. 
It rained some this afternoon, and I sat out on the covered patio to enjoy it.
The rain made the cottonwood leaves and the willow's summer leaves
sparkle with greenness!
And in the late afternoon, the biggest, fattest quail I have seen yet
took a leisurely stroll along the deck railing.
I haven't been able to find a poem fresh enough yet tonight, so 
we might not have one!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Each drawer-front a different color

My best att books; my good friend's painting, a chest my husband let me impulse-buy.
and a textile sewn with mirrors that my mother brought back from India.
This is a room that gives me frequent quiet pleasure indoors.


Nothing is like something else. What is not wholly
alone with itself, what thing can really be                       expressed?
We name nothing. All we can do
is tolerate, acquaint ourselves
with a single fact: here a sudden brilliance
or there a glimpse momentarily grazes us
as if it were precisely that in which resides
what our life is. Whoever resists
will have no world. Whoever resists
will have no world. Whoever grasps too much
will overlook the infinite. Meanwhile,
during such huge nights we are out of danger,
distributed in equal, almost weightless
parts among the stars. How they urge us on.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated from the German by Franz Wright 

The Unknown Rilke , Oberlin College Press, 1990, page 108. 

I tend to like outdoor poems best usually, but I do like spending lots of time indoors. What is your preference? Write an eight or none-line poem about it, and send it to me Tonight is the Fourth, so the neighborhood is filled with popping sounds, even though it is almost midnight! Fortunately, our old dog is deaf.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Whispered Sighing

Near the day's end, the willow fills with sunlight.
The birds are quieter now.

At any moment in our life we are entangled in all the past of humanity, and that past is primarily language, so we live as upon a background of incessant chorus, and of course it is possible to imagine the presence of everything which has ever been spoken.
(Headnote by Czeslaw Milosz.)

Sitting over words
very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence

W. S. Merwin
(1927-    )

from A BOOK OF LUMINOUS THINGS; an international anthology of poetry. Edited and with an introduction 
by Czeslaw Milosz, Harcourt, 1996

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Pale Yellow Hollyhock; so this is Idaho

I think hollyhocks may have been more popular when I was young than they are now.
Recently, I haven't seen them often, except 
for the pink puffballs my daughter grows in Michigan.
So when I found this pale beauty last week on the Daily Walk, 
I was extraordinarily pleased!
 It really is a lovely soft color!

The heat continues and we haven't been taking our walk in these 100 degree temperatures;
the Only Dog is very disappointed. Should one of us rise from our chair, 
she rushes hopefully toward the door.

So This Is Nebraska

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop
over the fields, the telephone lines
streaming behind, its billow of dust
full of the sparks of redwing blackbirds.

On either side, those dear old ladies,
the loosening barns, their little windows
dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs
hide broken tractors under their skirts.

So this is Nebraska. A Sunday
afternoon; July. Driving along
with your hand out squeezing the air,
a meadowlark waiting on every post.

Behind a shelterbelt of cedars,
top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and bees,
a pickup kicks its fenders off
and settles back to read the clouds.

You feel like that; you feel like letting
your tires go flat, like letting the mice
build a nest in your muffler, like being
no more than a truck in the weeds,

clucking with chickens or sticky with honey
or holding a skinny old man in your lap
while he watches the road, waiting
for someone to wave to. You feel like

waving. You feel like stopping the car
and dancing around on the road. You wave
instead and leave your hand out gliding
larklike over the wheat, over the houses.

Ted Kooser

Sure Signs, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980. 

To test my feeling that the hollyhock is a rural flower, I decided to see if Ted Kooser had a poem with hollyhocks in it. Yep! And if the mice build a nest in your muffler, you might have more time to write poetry!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Celestial Thinking

Often, driving home in the evening, we are treated to a Treasure Valley
sky extravaganza like this one from last week. And, shoot, since I am not driving,
I can shoot through the windshield!

Writing in the Afterlife

I imagined the atmosphere would be clear,
shot with pristine light,
not this sulphurous haze,
the air ionized as before a thunderstorm.

Many have pictured a river here,
but no one mentioned all the boats,
their benches crowded with naked passengers,
each bent over a writing tablet.

I knew I would not always be a child
with a model train and a model tunnel,
and I knew I would not live forever,
jumping all day through the hoop of myself.

I had heard about the journey to the other side
and the clink of the final coin
in the leather purse of the man holding the oar,
but how could anyone have guessed

that as soon as we arrived
we would be asked to describe this place
and to include as much detail as possible—
not just the water, he insists,

rather the oily, fathomless, rat-happy water,
not simply the shackles, but the rusty,
iron, ankle-shredding shackles—
and that our next assignment would be

to jot down, off the tops of our heads,
our thoughts and feelings about being dead,
not really an assignment,
the man rotating the oar keeps telling us—

think of it more as an exercise, he groans,
think of writing as a process,
a never-ending, infernal process,
and now the boats have become jammed together,

bow against stern, stern locked to bow,
and not a thing is moving, only our diligent pens.

--Billy Collins

Aimless Love; new and selected poems, 
Random House, 2014, page 36

Source: Poetry (October 2002).

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


On a porch in Arkansas, my grandmother's extended family assembles. This is a scan of a bent photocopy of a copy, but you get the idea. My father's mother (Marjory Ann Carr) is at far right in the middle row, with the bangs and the row of buttons. Her arrow says "mother" She was born in 1874. Her father died when she was only six months old. Her mother died when she was nine, so I think these two sisters has already been orphaned when this picture was taken. Her sister, Lillian is on the far right; her arrow says "Auntie" which was what she was called by my father. Lillian never married and lived with her sister's family. Here is a passage from Marjory's autobiographical record:

"My Mother left Miss Co. soon after my father's death and went to Woodruff Co. Ark. She took her [his] three small girls Elizabeth, Lillian and Marjory Ann with her.

She bought a farm six miles from Augusta the County seat for Woodruff Co. The oldest girl Elizabeth died 
when she was 4 yrs old and was buried at a country grave yard near our farm.

My Mother Minnie Ann Carr died when I was 9 years old. After her death, my sister Lillian and I made our home with our mother's brother, Ollie Johnson's family who lived in Augusta.

I stayed there til I was 16 yrs old. I then took an examination and taught several country schools. Finally when almost 20 I took another examination and got a scholarship to enter Peabody Normal College in Nashville, Tenn. I boarded with my father's brothers family (Uncle [Niel] Carr) the three years I was in college. After I graduated I went to my old house in Augusta, Arkansas, 
and taught 4 yrs in the school where I went as a child.

During my stay in Augusta I met John R. Hopper and we were married in Nashville, Tenn June 12, 1901."


This is quite an inspirational story, don't you think? And probably no different than many other life stories of people who lived in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century in the United States.

I wanted to chose a picture of some vintage to go with this recent poem from The New Yorker. I think because of the old-fashionedness of the words "ingle" and "nook" which are combined in the word inglenook, which was produced from old words for fire/fireplace and nook, meaning a corner.

Notice how in the poem below, Mary Ruefle has made two new compound-words: face-wash and tooth-clean. I imagine my grandmother might have known this word: inglenook. It's a word I like and carries shreds of antiquity within itself. Make up compound words of your own for your poems, if you can,

I grew up in New York State and my grandmother lived in Yuma, Arizona, so I never knew her well. It's a loss, I think. Now I wonder if this is Ollie Johnson and his wife standing in the doorway of the picture above.


I live in the museum of
everyday life,
where the thimble is hidden
anew every week and often
takes five days to find.
Once it was simply lying
(laying?) on the floor
and I missed it,
looking inside my mouth.
A grease fire in the inglenook!
That took a lot of soda!
Free admission, but guests
are required to face-wash
before entering and 
tooth-clean before leaving.
Open daily, the doorknobs
are covered with curated
fingerprints, and pass
on the latest news.

Mary Ruefle
The New Yorker, June 1, 2015, page 64.