Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Such Beauty

I really loved wandering through the Eagle Saturday Market last week.
Now that I know which camera to use, I need to go back!


So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

Raymond Carver

Striking Through the Masks; 
a literary memoir by Morton Marcus, 

Capitola Books, 2008, page 284.

I have really been enjoying Morton Marcus's 2008 memoir of a life spent with poets and poetry. One of the neat things he does is to include a poem from many of the people he knew well, like this one by Raymond Carver, who is probably best known now for his short stories.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The year turns away

This is a picture from yesterday's walk. Today the sky was pure blue
and without a single cloud. I didn't take any pictures. The dog pulls ahead 
and I go with her, but you can see S coming along near the end of the sidewalk.
He's wearing blue, like the sky.


The year turns away from me.
I'm here,
on the other side of the hill,
where winds are flames,
blue wings in the meadow.
Tall steeples of ashes
diminish at the meadow's edge.
And far down the hillside
a deep chorus of boulders
is singing the pebbles awake.

Morton Marcus

The Santa Cruz Mountain Poems,
Capra Press, Santa Barbara, 1972, unpaginated.

I was reminded of this book by reading Speaking Through the Masks (Capitola Books, 2008) by Morton Marcus in which he assembles writings about a vast crew of characters in the Northern California Poetry Scene I knew in the 1980s (and before and after.) It is a wonderfully interesting book and seems to be very honest and fair to the topics and people he discusses. So I had to get myself other copies of some of his books I already had in California. This copy of the Santa Cruz Mountain Poems happens to be the first edition, different from the one I already had, so I can see the drawings reproduced in brown ink and the interesting cream colored paper. The account in Masks of the creation of this book --from many small,  nature-inspired writings that he had been making because of his love of the land -- is inspirational and very pleasing.
His account of Al Young, another Bay Area poet (who is blessedly alive and posting on Facebook!) is measured, affectionate and steady. I'll be returning here to things Marcus reminded me of.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Purple Loosestrife

Down by the Canal, the purple loosestrife is comng into full bloom.
This dread exotic invader is another scourge of wetlands all over America.
It crowds out cattails and interferes with the food sources of some insects 
and small animals. It turned up here farther up the creek two years ago. Last year
it was closer and across the creek. This year it took advantage of the space
at the foot of our yard where Handyman B. cleared away cottonwood shoots
and ragweed. Now it looks as if it had owned this space forever.
And I must admit it is very pretty!


They did or did not exist.
On an island or not.
The ocean or not the ocean
swallowed them up or didn't.

Was there anyone to love anyone?
Did anyone to fight anyone?
All or nothing happened
there or not there.

Seven cities stood there.
Is that for sure?
Intended to stand there forever.
Where's the evidence?

No they didn't invent the wheel.
Yes, they did invent the wheel.

Presumed. Dubious.

Never pulled out of the air,
or fire, or water, or earth.

Not contained in stone
nor in a raindrop.
Never fit to stand
as a serious warning.

A meteorite fell.
It wasn't a meteorite.
A volcano erupted.
It wasn't a volcano.
Someone was shouting something.
No one, nothing.

On this more-or-less Atlantis.

Wyslawa Szymborska
translated by Joanna Trzeciak

Miracle Fair; selected poems of Wyslawa Szymborska,
W. W. Norton, 2001, pages 105-106.

I love the fresh looks Syzmborska takes at so many of the "accepted" things we learned and read about--in school and elsewhere--in her poems. It's a sort of wry-and-sly acceptance of this-and-that which pleases me very much. I wish I knew what they sounded like in Polish! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Composing a Letter

This afternoon about 5:45 P. M. Things are growing!


I have been watching a Great Blue Heron 
fish in the cattails, easing ahead 
with the stealth of a lover composing a letter,
the hungry words looping and blue
as they coil and uncoil, as they kiss and sting.

Let’s say that he holds down an everyday job 
in an office. His blue suit blends in. 
Long days swim beneath the glass top 
of his desk, each one alike. On the lip 
of each morning, a bubble trembles. 

No one has seen him there, writing a letter 
to a woman he loves. His pencil is poised 
in the air like the beak of a bird. 
He would spear the whole world if he could, 
toss it and swallow it live.

Ted Kooser

The Poetry Home Repair Manual,
University of Nebraska Press, 2005, page 136.

Three five-line stanzas, a little fairytale in 15 lines, just barely longer than a sonnet.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The nerve's white avenues

A week ago I showed you the shadow of this painter's easel 
at the Paint-Out at the Eagle (Idaho) Saturday Market.
Here is a better view of his painting on that same day.
I am sorry that I didn't geet his name.


Coming awake in the cool dark,
I hear a truck idling in the street
and suddenly I am back in a boy's room--
a day unfolding in the alley behind his house.
In torn undershirt and pants,
Elmer, his teeth newly uprooted, leans far out
over the third floor escape, unwinding
a long bright rope of blood.
It ripples in the wind like a gossamer web,
I stand below him
in the loading bins of the A&P,
knee-deep in spoiled greens,
hearing the hard thump 
of Miller's sledge make Saturday's steak.
I'm waiting for rats to surface.
Elmer gags on his rope.
A truck door slams.

My window lightens into morning.
I rise and stretch into another day.
Closer by thirty years to heaven, I've learned
how steadily the eye shines with pain,
how stunningly the nerve's white avenues open                                                                                  out.
How did I reach this place?
Hand over hand,
as they said I would.

Peter Everwine

Collecting the AnimalsCarnegie Mellon University Press, 1972, 1999, page 44.

I don't know why it has taken me this long to find Peter Everwine!
This poem is in two stanzas only; the last stanza has eight lines.
I have corrected a typo in this printing by substituting "day" for "dey."

Somehow, we need to keep on painting and writing in the middle of all these giant preparations for an election still more than a year away!!!

Friday, July 24, 2015

A river that slips away

 The beautiful and deep Feather River Canyon in Northern California.
We drive through this canyon on the way to visit the family of my younger son.


This is how it is---

One turns away
and walks out into the evening.
There is a white horse on the prairie, or a river
 that slips away among dark rocks.

 One speaks, or is about to speak,
 not that it matters.
What matters is this---

It is evening.
I have been away a long time.
Something is singing in the grass.
Peter Everwine

Collecting the Animals, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2011, page 7.

I love these poems!!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bright Stones

This is from the day we started out on the trip west last October.
I took it through the windshield and, yes. I did boost the color a little.
We didn't stop at any canyon, but kept on driving.

Afternoon in the Canyon
The river sings in its alcoves of stone.
I cross its milky water on an old log—
beneath me waterskaters
dance in the mesh of roots.
Tatters of spume cling
to the bare twigs of willows.

The wind goes down.
Bluejays scream in the pines.
The drunken sun enters a dark mountainside,
its hair full of butterflies.
Old men gutting trout
huddle about a smokey fire.

I must fill my pockets with bright stones.

George Hitchcock

Striking Through the Masks; 
a literary memoir by Morton Marcus, 
Capitola Books, 2008, page 217.

I have spent the better part of the day reading the book above which I picked up about the time of Morton Marcus's death in 2009. When he was alive, I heard him read his poetry, and he was a judge who selected me for the Second Prize in the Montalvo Poetry Competition many years ago. At that awards reading, he told me privately that he liked my work very much and had considered quite a while over the choice of placement between the First and Second Prizes. When he introduced me, he said really lovely things about the language in the poem I read. 
In addition, he was very much a part of the scene with the poets I knew, studied with and heard read their poems in the Santa Clara/ Santa Cruz County/San Francisco/Berkeley poetry scene of the 1980s and 1990s.
The book is a compilation of a childhood memoir (the part I had read before) and chapters of reminiscence/reporting/evaluation on many people and some aspects of this poetry world. I think Marcus was a sharp and honest evaluator of these people and this time and I have been eating this book like candy for most of the day.
George Hitchcock was a sort of legendary Bay Area figure then, with his "collating parties" for his small magazine KAYAK. I was interested in reading about him because Pat Shelley always mentioned him as someone who published her poems early on.
Marcus often includes a poem he likes when discussing a poet, and this is the one for Hitchcock. It made me wish I had been to that canyon.