Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Poetic Foot

It's the lifted foot I love on this fine Mr. Wigeon! 
This snow only lasted three days, 
Now there are only a few heaps of "remaining snow" 
which is a kigo (haiku season word) 
for late winter or very early spring. 
I think is is one of the very poignant kigo 
like "autumn deepens" or "spring melancholy" 
which are two of my very favorite season words..

The Backward Look

A stagger in air
as if a language
failed, a sleight
of wing.

A snipe's bleat is fleeing
its nesting ground
into dialect,
into variants,

transliterations whirr
on the nature reserves --
little goat of the air,
of the evening.

little goat of the frost.
It is his tail-feathers
drumming elegies
in the slipstream

of wild goose
and yellow bittern
as he corkscrews away
into the vaults

that we live off, his flight
through the sniper's eyrie,
over twilit earthworks
and wall-steads,

disappearing among 
gleanings and leavings
in the combs
of a fieldworker's archive.

Seamus Heaney
Wintering Out, Faber and Faber, 2011
Kindle location 269.

I was thinking about Seamus Heaney tonight because of a recent article "re-evaluating" his poetry. That's that writer's code for "devaluing" the work of this fine Nobel Prizewinning poet. And I say, "Balderdash!" So I went looking for something birdish to go with my duck. I am getting more and more poetry on my Kindle and finding it useful to have it so handy. 

I like the way this poem drapes itself handily across the four-line stanza; it is even willing to begin a stanza without a capital letter! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chickens; a dream

This is my oldest grandson in the mid-1990s. 
He had the good fortune to grow up with lots of animals and birds.
and I had the good fortune to be able to afford lots of film by then.
I must have taken a dozen shots of him with this hen.

Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens
Last night I dreamed of chickens, 
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,
they were pecking at my pillow,
they were hopping on my head,
they were ruffling up their feathers 
as they raced about my bed. 
They were on the chairs and tables, 
they were on the chandeliers,
they were roosting in the corners, 
they were clucking in my ears,
there were chickens, chickens, chickens 
for as far as I could see...
when I woke today, I noticed 
there were eggs on top of me.
Jack Prelutsky, 1940
from website

So I found the picture and went looking for a chicken poem. It wasn't hard to find and brought back wonderful memories of doing storytime in the Gilroy Library and using the poems of the rollicking Jack Prelutsky to make the children laugh. Thanks, Jack!

Monday, November 24, 2014


Today's lookouts by the Little Union Canal.

Lady Wood Ducks on lookout duty.

These lookouts reminded me today of the fairy tale cry of Mrs. Bluebeard, "Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?" And the repeated reply, " I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which is green." This call-and-response is repeated several times. Then she sees the dust, which is caused by a flock of sheep, and finally the dust caused by the coming of their two brothers on horseback, who will save them. I think poets could learn a lot from the varied repetitions in oft-told stories such as this one. I am partial to the Andrew Lang books of differing colors. And my favorite fairy tale books are English Fairy Tales and More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs. There are a wealth of the older editions of fairy tales of all nations available very cheaply on Kindle. I like these older editions because of their rich vocabularies and uncensored evil and bloodiness. They make recent versions designed to "protect" children and be easier for them to read seem very dell.


The television has two instruments that control it.
I get confused.
The washer asks me, do you want regular or delicate?
Honestly, I just want clean.
Everything is like that.
I won't mention cell phones.

I can turn on the lamp beside my chair
where a book is waiting, but that's about it

Oh yes, and I can strike a match and make fire.

Mary Oliver
The Blue Horses, Penguin Press HC, 2014
Kindle location 98

I thought to work with something shorter tonight because I am still thinking seriously about Philip Levine's poem that I put on the blog post two nights ago. And I don't want to overdo the mental strain. ..

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Just another itch to scratch

Even when this summer's doe was scratching,she managed a sort of grace.

I wish I could be graceful about saying that I have decided to skip a poem today.
Not entirely because last's night poem is still unfinished business with me. 
(S says I should write Philip Levine and ask him a couple of questions.
but I doubt I will go there.)

I hope this won't mean I will be starting to skip all the time . . . .

Saturday, November 22, 2014

By the waters . . .

Wood ducks under the willow, with their colorful reflections in the stream.

Tonight's poem is by another favorite poet, Philip Levine 
and was in The New Yorker that just came.

Two women and a small girl—
perhaps three or four years old—resting
in the shade of the fir trees.

From far off the roar of the world
coming back one more time.
First a few words tossed back

and forth between awakening men
and then the machines
talking to themselves in the language

they share with the heavenly bodies—
planets, dust motes, distant solar systems—
that know what needs to be

done and do it. So long ago,
you think, those days, so unlike these,
blessed by favorable winds

and forgotten in the anthems
we hummed on the long walk home
from work or the childish fables

we tried to believe. No one notices
the small girl and her caretakers
are gone and no one huddles

in the shade of the fir trees.
The air, brilliant and calm, stays
to witness, the single cloud lost

between heaven and here stays,
the mountains look down and keep
their distance, somewhere far off

the sea goes on working for itself.
By the waters of the Llobregat
no one sits down to weep for the children

of the world, by the Ebro, the Tagus,
the Guadalquivir, by the waters
of the world no one sits down and weeps.

Philip Levine
The New Yorker, November 24, 2014, pages 90-91.

The Llobregat is the second longest river in Catalonia, Spain. Its name could have originated in an ancient Latin word meaning 'dark', 'sorrowful' or 'muddy'. All the rivers named in this poem are in Spain, which reminded me of the Spanish Civil War, and of the brutal air raid on Guernica. I have been hanging out with this poem all day now, and I understand its invitation to weep for the children of the world. But there is much I do not understand; I am still working on it.

And then there is Psalm 137, not a happy story.

The Psalms, 137
(The Mourning of the Exiles in Babylon)

1 By the rivers of Babylon,
there we sat down, yea, we wept,
when we remembered Zion.

2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

3 For there they that carried us away captive 
required of us a song;
and they that wasted us required of us mirth, 
saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

4 How shall we sing the LORD's song 
in a strange land?

5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget her cunning.

6 If I do not remember thee,
let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

7 Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom
in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it,
even to the foundation thereof.

8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed;
happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth
thy little ones against the stones.

Published by The American Bible Society

This is terrible, I had only remembered the beautiful language in the beginning. 

Friday, November 21, 2014


I took this today through my bedroom window. 
When I turned on my camera, there were twelve wood ducks perched here. 
Wood Ducks sit on this fence all the time; they are tree ducks. 
The mallards are puddle ducks, or dabbling ducks. 
I have never seen a mallard sit on the fence before, but here she is!
It is a good indication of the size differences between the two kinds of duck.


The little Lap girl wanders around picking cloudberries
while the bluethroat sings one of his hundred songs.
There are tiny white flowers, too, angelica,
and the wild white ranunculus.
The reindeer eat lichen and moss under the melting snow.
Some of the lichen are a thousand years old
and do not recognize the modern world.
The geography lessons are young in comparison,
though this one is older than most, since
Lapland lies on no map and the little Lap girl
must be at least eighty by the looks of the book.
It is doubtful she remembers the day
of this photograph. The pencil-stroke of a birch
can be seen in the distance. Once in a while
she must still hear the bluethroat and think
of her childhood. Out of a hundred songs
he has not forgotten the one he sang
on an afternoon when the snow left and
the wild white white ranunculus took its place.
But he is the peripheral sort 
and not at the center of anything.

Mary Ruefle
Apparition Hill, CavanKerry Press Ltd., 2002, page 3.

I had a book like this many years ago. I used to look at the bright costumes in the illustrations and wonder what cloudberries tasted like. The reindeer/caribou looked friendly on the painted page.
When I think about Global Warming and The Sixth Extinction, I think about the changes in places like this. I need to find out about old lichen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Nobody dies, nobody goes hungry. . ."

Perhaps all this snow in the Treasure Valley 
has made me think again about summer. 
The other night, when I got up in the dark, the moon 
was directly overhead in the skylight here in Idaho.
This photo is our same moon as seen last year.
I was going to save this poem from Gluck's book
for the summer, but it has turned up in the Paris Review
and The American Poet, and soon I fear 
it will have been printed everywhere!


A cool wind blows on summer evenings, stirring the wheat.
The wheat bends, the leaves of the peach trees
rustle in the night ahead.

In the dark, a boy’s crossing the field:
for the first time, he’s touched a girl
so he walks home a man, with a man’s hungers.

Slowly the fruit ripens—
baskets and baskets from a single tree
so some rots every year
and for a few weeks there’s too much:
before and after, nothing.

Between the rows of wheat
you can see the mice, flashing and scurrying
across the earth, though the wheat towers above them,
churning as the summer wind blows.

The moon is full. A strange sound
comes from the field—maybe the wind.

But for the mice it’s a night like any summer night.
Fruit and grain: a time of abundance.
Nobody dies, nobody goes hungry.

No sound except the roar of the wheat.

Louise Gluck
Poems 1962-2012, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013, 
Kindle location 7916

There is an entire philosophy in this poem; it is terrifying, but real and clearly expressed.