Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stick to the Square

On the way to spend several days with the Grandchildren in Quincy,
I took a couple of hundred fromthecar iPhone shots
but this time was the first time I used the square format 
and I quite like the results, but I won't be able to work with them
until I get back to a better Internet
and have no grandchildren to play with.

It was a beautiful day with spectacular clouds and
the traffic was not as bad as expected.
A win all round.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Juxtaposition of Swan

Too tired to post tonight, but I have always loved this phot of swans
that I took from a boat ride with my daughter and grandson
on the Indian Rived in Northern Michigan.
I must look up and see how many Indian Rivers thread our maps!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Berween the under and the upper blue

I have been missing the ocean ever since I left it--one week ago.
It was a glorious day, glorious!


Between the under and the upper blue
All day the seagulls climb and swerve and soar,
Arc intersecting arc, curve over curve.

And you may watch them weaving a long time
And never see their pattern twice the same
And never see their pattern once imperfect

Take any moment they are in the air.
If you could change them, if you had the power,
How would you place them, other than they are?

What we have labored all our lives to have
And failed, these birds effortlessly achieve:
Freedom that flows in form and still is free.

Robert Francis

Collected Poems: 1936-1976, 
University of Massachusetts Press, 1976, page 161.

Last night's poem by Robert Bly has only twelve lines also,
but in four-line stanzas instead of three-line ones. It is interesting to compare the two poems in terms of structure and tight construction.
What do you see??

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Snows of Yesteryear

After a snowfall five years ago, I stood on the porch to look at my blue shadow,
to see the beauty of the snowy woods and to think about what it meant to be spending 
the winter in Michigan for the first time, since we built by the woods in 1994.
We were staying to have my husband's sudden onslaught of atrial fibrillation 
reversed in early January. All turned out well,since it was reversed and has never returned.
They stop the heart and start it again--that was just slightly scary!
For a long time the mark of the paddle that delivered electricity 
could be seen in a red mark on his back.
The shadow on the snow really was this blue, I didn't enhance it.
The trees in the back of the house are mostly young aspens,
which grow in clusters and form lovely dancing patterns 
with their groups of graceful trunks.


This new snow seems to speak of virgins
With frail clothes made of gold,
Just as the old snow shall whisper
of concierges in France.

The new dawn sings of beaches
Dazzling as sugar and clean as the clouds of Greece,
Just as the exhausted dusk shall sing
Of the waves on the western shore.

This new strength whispers of the darkness of death,
Of the frail skiff lost in the giant cave,
Just as in the boat nearing death you sang
of feathers and white snow;

Robert Bly   (December 23, 1926--  )

Silence in the Snowy Fields, Wesleyan Poetry Series, 1962,   Kindle page 16.

I'll give you three guesses as to why I thought of looking into this book, which I have loved for many years,to go with this photo. The Wallace Stevens part is a little more tricky: many years ago, Li Young Lee read from his poems in San Jose. He was carrying, in addition to his book and manuscripts, a battered copy of the poems of Wallace Stevens. Before that time, I had been sort of repelled by the difficulty I had in understanding Stevens' poetry (that Cigar, that Snowman, that Blue Guitar, that Jar in Tennessee!) but since that time, I have read and considered it more and perhaps we will even have one on this blog soon! There is some pretty great stuff there!

Last week I was making up a bundle of magazines to recycle, when I found an old literary journal with the title of an article "Understanding Wallace Stevens" on the cover. So I saved that one and brought is downstairs to read. My first two tries failed, or I was interrupted, but here it still sits on my coffee table.

As for the Bly poem, I have two quibbles. There is really no reason to use the descriptor "frail" twice in such a short poem. And I think all poets should think twice before hauling death into every poem, willy nilly.   And now Good Night!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Painted Wagon

On Sunday, I left the YT Haiku Retreat a little early; I was very tired and didn't want to be driving home in the late afternoon beach traffic. South of Gilroy, I was tooling along at 65 in the slow lane when I scratched or rubbed my eye. Soon I saw that my contact lens (the one specialized for reading, not the long-distance one) was knocked out of place and was somewhere else either inside or outside my eye. This part of the freeway doesn't look easy to stop and get back on, so I continued to drive with one hand and try to reset my lens with the other. Didn't work and soon I saw a little blood on my finger.  Got off the freeway as soon as I could, and wound up on Bolsa Road (still south of Gilroy) and went on a while, looking for a good place to park, which turned out to be in the huge deserted parking lot associated with this sign. My lens was in my eye after all, and I put it back where it belonged. Aware that my nose was running, I got a napkin (thanks, Taco Bell, for giving too many!) out of the glove box and blew my nose. Blew loose a big blood clot; I have a nose bleed! My eye isn't bleeding! I am not subject to frequent nosebleeds, so hadn't thought of that! Pressing the side of my nose to be sure to stop the nosebleed, I looked around. I was parked right below this sign, which had an interesting Yesteryear Vibe, and I took a couple of iPhone pictures through the windshield.

Back home this was an irresistible target for Google. Right away I found someone else's photo on Flickr; it is almost identical to this one but taken in a different light. So much for my artistry. The other thing I found was the obituary for the man who built this motel (there is still an unused large building deep at the back of the lot) and named it for his wife, Senaida. His name was Jacob Villalba and his obituary is here.  He was quite an entrepreneur. I also found two photo sites recommending locations to take photographs in South Santa Clara County. Next spring I will try this. It's a plan.

Just Outside of Los Angeles

It's nearly midnight and Gary's backyard is dark,
and the police must be chasing someone because
the helicopter's spotlight turns it all into day.

The giant white light shows him everything,
his wife's plants, the kids' toys, his brother's dead car.
It's nearly midnight and Gary's backyard was dark

but he sees it all now and it seems that he never
noticed how little of him was there before
the helicopter's spotlight turned it all into day.

This life is his wife's, his kids', his brother's
and he, what is he? An afterthought? The cash?
It's nearly midnight and Gary's backyard is dark

again, and his groping hand finds his wife's tree,
and without thinking, he plucks a pomegranate.
The helicopter's spotlight turns it all into day

once more, and he sees the fruit in his hand, that
perfect red fruit, and he brings it to his nose to inhale.
It's nearly midnight and Gary's backyard is dark, but
the helicopter's spotlight has turned it all into day.

John Brantingham      (currently active, no Wikipedia article)

East of Los Angeles; poems by John Brantingham,
Anaphora Literary Press, 2011, page 63.

ON first reading, this may seem like a standard poem of male discontent, and that's not completely wrong, But look at the structure. It is a real villanelle, that doesn't announce that about itself, one has to figure it out. Here is a good description of this classic structure from  I have been meaning to try this for a long time and so might you!

I just found this! John Brantingham's website with a PROMPT every day!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Yellow Book

We will be going to visit her family for Thanksgiving; this picture
was taken nine years ago. Now she has two little sisters and a brother.
We always have a great time with them. Last time we visited 
they all took turns walking our dachshund, 
Tonight, I found out about a service called Flickriver, 
which helps you view your Flickr photos faster (the river!) and
in several interesting ways. In just a few minutes, I was reminded
of enough pictures to use on the blog for a week. 
I have 26,000 pictures on Flickr now, so it is useful to throw
them all up in the air sometimes (as in that card game)
and see how they come down.

Here is one of Basho's very observant haiku
about very young creatures:

Squeaking in response
to baby sparrows
a nest of mice


translated by Stehen Addiss, Fumiko Tamamoto, and Akira Yamamoto

Haiku; an anthology of Japanese Poems, Shambala, 2011, Kindle location 310

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Sunday Pose

In their church outfits, my two older children in the spring of 1961.
They are standing in front of a triple-decker apartment building 
a few blocks from downtown Provo, then called the Hilton Apartments.
which I, jokingly, referred to as The Provo Hilton.
Neither of these two-piece outfits was washable,
except for the shirt and blouse--I think the suits were shrinkable rayon. 
Dry cleaning was too expensive then.
On Sundays, I used to feed my children, dress them, 
take them to Sunday School, (insert photo op here) 
bring them home, change their clothes for washable stuff 
and feed them---in that order. 
By the summer after this picture was taken,
we had moved away from Provo. Forever.


The bright moon lifts from the Mountain of Heaven
In an infinite haze of cloud and sea,
And the wind, that has come a thousand miles,
Beats at the Jade Pass battlements....
China marches its men down Baideng Road
While Tartar troops peer across the blue waters of the bay....
And since not one battle famous in history
Sent all its fighters back again,
The soldiers turn round, looking toward the border,
And think of home, with wistful eyes,
And of those in the upper chambers
Who toss and sigh and cannot rest.

Li Po           (also known as Li Bai)  (701-762)

Chinese Poetry; Anthology of Li Bai (Li Po)
Various translators, Kindle location 439

I think the ancient Chinese poets (perhaps because the educated ones were sent all over as administrators) had it together about nostalgia. As we think about more foreign warlike excursions, I would like to call your attention especially to the lines:

And since not one battle famous in history
Sent all its fighters back again,
The soldiers turn round, looking toward the border,
And think of home, with wistful eyes...

as we hope and pray to end wars forever!!!