Saturday, October 25, 2014

Eye to Eye

The week before we leave, I go here and there, checking this and putting away 
that for the winter. Dachshund Cassie was on the porch with me. 
She kept jumping up at and barking at the covered propane barbecue. 
I lifted the one edge of the cover and found myself face-to-face 
She was behind and a little to the side of this nest. We just looked at each other.
And looked. Who was more surprised?
Then I put the cover back. Thinking: that little creature has carried every tiny bit 
of this nest material up the legs of the barbecue and made a comfy nest; 
Now I think I even see some mouse fur-lining in the lower part of the photo.
So I left it there for several days, but Cassie never again barked at the barbecue.
So the mouse had gone to look for a better location.
And I didn't have to decide whether to keep a vermin-nest undercover on my porch,
even when the vermin had such dainty white legs and is so incredibly cute!
This is a picture of the nest after I had scooped it out onto the porch floor.
Then I went for my camera! Then I heartlessly kicked it off the porch into the weeds.

Trip Note: We finished Day Four of the Trip West.,
Tonight we are at the Kelly Inn in Billings, Montana
watching Game Four of the World Series, which
was pretty bad, but now has suddenly caught fire.
And so good night!
No poem, just the poetry of baseball!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Through the window of a moving car

Third day of six-day trip completed. 
Here are some iPhone pictures.
It's a beautiful country.

The Shores of Lake Superior

Michigan's Upper Peninsula villages

A church built of Ashland Brown Stone, which is quarried nearby, Ashland, Wisconsin.

A medical warning about chewing tobacco, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

Much of North Dakota looks this beautiful.

And it all seems to be about corn.

And then at the motel, unloading the car
in North Dakota late afternoon light.

I am working on a poem about the beauty of Prairie Potholes, 
but it is not yet ready for public view.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Revisiting September's Battles

Spent a couple of glorious days in mid-September watching these fellows 
have at it in my front yard. No one really got hurt, sort of like TV-wrestling, 
and the younger bucks tripped around outside the ring looking fascinated by the event. 
I have felt incredibly lucky this year to be where I can see deer, turkeys, 
the changing light and the changing seasons.
But I was getting slightly tired of the rain!

It was overcast today on Day Two of the westward trip, but not raining.
What have you been reading recently??


They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If anything like that turned up,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.

True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.

Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’d had enough of dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggles to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its diminutions.

Hence the indispensable

silver lining,
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.

Wislawa Szymborska

Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak.
This translation first appeared in Poetry, April, 2006

This is a nice example of the usefulness of listing (in this case behaviors from novels) to build up the idea of the poem. Notice that the list here is all in one lengthy stanza, increasing the effect of the listing. In this case, we find it quite funny, as we recognize many of the stock-events of fictions. And what better than to end with than the return of the dog??

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Frosty morning, turning to gold.

The fields were white with frost this morning; 
the poor pot of pansies was frosted on the porch. 
There was so much moisture in the air that the deer are in soft focus 
as they nibble on a strip of grass missed by the mower last time.
With a lot of help from our daughter, we finished loading the car 
and soon we were traveling past the big chicken in Levering 
and crossing the most beautiful bridge ever, the cream-colored Mackinac!

This really doesn't do it justice! But I am fond of the little cloud at the left.

Later we stopped at an overlook with a stairway to walk down to the edge of Lake Superior. 
You can see what a beautiful day it was!

Tomorrow the journey continues; we should stop somewhere in Minnesota.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"even more stunned by the world than I"

This is was taken just a few days ago, 
and today is the first day that the tree is completely bare, 
and golden leaves cover the earth beneath it.

Tonight's poem is from the Nobel Prize Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska.


When they first started looking through microscopes
a cold fear blew and is still blowing.
Life hitherto had been frantic enough
in all its shapes and dimensions.
Which is why it created small-scale creatures,
assorted tiny worms and flies,
but at least the naked human eye 
could see them.

But then suddenly beneath the glass,
foreign to a fault
and so petite,
that what they occupy in space
can only charitably be called a spot.

The glass doesn't even touch them,
they double and triple unobstructed,
with room to spare, willy-nilly.

To say they're many isn't saying much.
The stronger the microscope, 
the more exactly, avidly, they're multiplied.

They don't even have decent innards.
They don't know gender, childhood, age.
They may not even know they are---or aren't.
Still they decide our life and death.

Some freeze in momentary stasis,
although we don't know what their moment is.
Since they're so miniscule themselves,
their duration may be 
pulverized accordingly.

A windborne speck of dust is a meteor
from deepest space,
a fingerprint is a far-flung labyrinth,
where they may gather
for their mute parades,
their blind iliads and upanishads.

I've wanted to write about them for a long while,
but it's tricky subject,
always put off for later
and perhaps worthy of a better poet,
even more stunned by the world than I.
But time is short. I write.

Wislawa Szymborska, Here, translated by Clare Cavanaugh and Stanislaw Baranczak. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, pp. 23 and 25.

I love this poem! After reading it, I almost feel like saying, " Go thou and do likewise!" and might even say that except that I am still packing and we plan to leave tomorrow by 10 a.m. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 20, 2014

What we build

One strand of barbed wire, one fence post, two rocks moved to the edge of the homestead, to save the plow. These traces are all that is left more than one hundred years later, but the autumn leaves and gone-to-seed weeds are very beautiful.


To build a quiet city in his mind:
A single overwhelming wish: to build,
Not hastily, for there is so much wind,
So many eager smilers to be killed,
Obstructions one might overlook in haste:
The ruined structures cluttering the past,

A little at a time and slow is best,
Crawling as though through endless corridors,
Remembering always there are many doors
That open to admit the captured guest
Once only.
                            Yet in spite of loss and guilt
And hurricanes of time, it might be built:

A refuge, permanent, with trees that shade
When all the other cities die and fade.

Weldon Kees

from The collected poems of Weldon Kees; edited by Donald JusticeUniversity of Nebraska Press, 2003, page 161.

Because of Tim Bowling's book, In the Suicide's Library; A Book Lovers's Journey, which is partly about his investigation of the life of the poet, Weldon Kees, I have been reading about Kees myself. As you can tell from this poem, he was not really a merry person. Eventually he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, but his body was never recovered. His book of poems had to be edited by the fine poet, Donald Justice.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"more insubstantial over time"

Coming back from the Daily Walk past the majestic maple, 
a quick glimpse of the house today. 
Only two more days to get ready to leave; 
I am running somewhat behind. . .


In one corner of the room, beneath the open window, lies an unabridged dictionary becalmed on its stand. Pressed between its pages are buttercups, sage blossoms, several summers' lavender and rose petals, even a small moth that fluttered in haphazardly one evening just as the book was being closed. These mementoes have stained the pages brown, becoming light and friable, more insubstantial over time. The book itself is a code, a key, a lock, an implement that stands for an earlier time and other customs, containing only those things that need not exist, but do so nonetheless, carrying them forward as a maple seed is carried forward by the wind.

Roo Borson
Rain; road; an open boat; poems
McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, Canada, 2012, page 37.

I have just noticed what a lovely, euphonious word is "nonetheless" being triple in its person and pleasant in sound. I do admire the sort of prose meditation (in the short prose piece above) on a physical thing that opens out into something greater and thought-provoking.