Rosebud

Going to rise, without saying anything, my wife stopped me; and, after a little angry talk, did tell me how she spent all day yesterday with M. Batelier and her sweetheart, and seeing a play at the New Nursery, which is set up at the house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which was formerly the King’s house. So that I was mightily pleased again, and rose a with great content; and so by water to White Hall, and there to the Council-Chamber, and heard two or three causes: among others, that of the complaint of Sir Philip Howard and Watson, the inventors, as they pretend, of the business of varnishing and lackerworke, against the Company of Painters, who take upon them to do the same thing; where I saw a great instance of the weakness of a young Counsel not used to such an audience, against the Solicitor-General and two more able Counsel used to it. Though he had the right of, his side, and did prevail for what he pretended to against the rest, yet it was with much disadvantage and hazard. Here, also I heard Mr. Papillion make his defence to the King, against some complaints of the Farmers of Excise; but it was so weak, and done only by his own seeking, that it was to his injury more than profit, and made his case the worse, being ill managed, and in a cause against the King. Thence at noon, the Council rising, I to Unthanke’s, and there by agreement met my wife, and with her to the Cocke, and did give her a dinner, but yet both of us but in an ill humour, whatever was the matter with her, but thence to the King’s playhouse, and saw “The Generous Portugalls,” a play that pleases me better and better every time we see it; and, I thank God! it did not trouble my eyes so much as I was afeard it would. Here, by accident, we met Mr. Sheres, and yet I could not but be troubled, because my wife do so delight to talk of him, and to see him. Nevertheless, we took him with us to our Mercer’s, and to the Exchange, and he helped me to choose a summer-suit of coloured camelott, coat and breeches, and a flowered tabby vest very rich; and so home, where he took his leave, and down to Greenwich, where he hath some friends; and I to see Colonel Middleton, who hath been ill for a day or two, or three; and so home to supper, and to bed.

I rise
a little angry heart
in the field

the rose
that you used to seek
all summer

I am a flower here
green for a day

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 23 April 1669.

The Procedure

She drinks straight from the bottle a full cut
of lemon and salt. It's supposed to make
her insides visible, so she can hold up a kidney 
leaf and pretend to read it like a tarot card, pluck 
a timeline from out of a beautiful garnet 
vein. She could do all this and more, but she's
content to finish only what's been allotted. 
There's a train that runs all over the countryside, 
but comes back to the same station.  As with any
ritual, timing is important. Measures matter, 
more isn't better. The ticket counter's painted 
a bloated grey. The ceiling fan's coated 
with dust. She's allowed to wait on a little 
bench on the platform. She can knit or read 
novels, write notes, have idle thoughts, 
nod off until she's awakened. When 
she does, it will be as if no time had even 
passed, though the clock on the tower 
will be wearing a different face.

April Diary 27: half steam ahead!

This entry is part 27 of 31 in the series April Diary

 

the sky clears a little just before sunset which i watch from the eastern ridge for once, among the oaks. there’s a breeze and the forest is full of voices. yesterday when it was so warm the oak buds got close to bursting but tonight’s gonna be cold so i’m glad they didn’t

one of those breezes that makes every twig tingly

clouds moving in on the sun accompanied by a distant low grinding

the more i write the less i see. but the more i see the more i want to write

shadbush blossom

what is this compulsion to record every thought and observation or it doesn’t count? it’s the guiding superstition of the cult of literacy: that writing things down makes them matter. what it makes of them generally is material, raw material to exploit

what if instead we let them matter on their own merits and in their own incomprehensible tongues. no ideas but in things as the man said

matter, mater, goddess etc

a tree just dropped a branch 100 feet away. the wind is bordering on brisk. given my distance from home and lack of a flashlight i should begin to amble back

you know that was an actual human voice on the wind. might be a PA system at some local sportsball thing

when i said the forest is full of voices i didin’t… hold on…

hermit thrush song just past sunset. i’m 100 feet away. a turkey is gobbling down the ridge. i’m having a ridge experience

except for this towhee. shut the fuck up you idiot. it’s not always about you

just slowly following the thrush

the whippoorwill starts up while the hermit thrush is still singing. there’s a conjunction i’ve never heard before

i guess this phone has a flashlight

when i’m too tired to talk i can actually get some good listening in #manproblems

today i read a number of poems poorly because i am sleep-deprived. what does that say about the quality of insight behind my own writing today – the usual morning porch thing, erasure poem, and a couple of haiku plus this nonsense all produced at half power or less

i feel like the only truly worthwhile things i did today were have a couple of interesting face-to-face conversations and get dad’s car inspected. and go for a walk after supper. glad i pushed myself to do that

i’m not saying it’s not important to be productive just to remember to keep that in perspective. products are in some ways incidental to the making. and it’s through making through doing through participating in larger things with other people or nonhuman others, it’s though all that that we tend to find fulfillment. not through being productive per se. though so many default to that for their measurement of self worth. well who am i to say they’re wrong

we poets need to own our wrongness and revel in it. stay away from the ideologues on all sides and just try to be cleverer fools like Charles Simic or Elaine Equi

i do believe in the ecopoetry project but that’s because i choose to believe that our culture let alone our species and the ecosystem can survive in the long term or even at this point the medium short term. if it can than it makes a great deal of sense to pour our efforts into trying to change the culture because the rule of law likely won’t survive in many places but if local people can be led to value local natural areas and common resources and have the vocabulary and ideas to back it up in what may well be a harsh and brutal time well that’s maybe the best we can hope for honestly

that was the depressing thinky thought i had at the start of my walk which prompted me to give myself a stern talking to and pay more attention to what the trees might have to say

about which i still have no clue of course. i’m not a real nature mystic i just play one on my blog

really what i most want to do right now is listen to the Talking Heads

Biblionaut

Up, and to the Office, where all the morning. At noon home to dinner, and Captain Deane with us; and very good discourse, and particularly about my getting a book for him to draw up his whole theory of shipping, which, at my desire, he hath gone far in, and hath shewn me what he hath done therein, to admiration. I did give him a Parallelogram, which he is mightily taken with; and so after dinner to the Office, where all the afternoon till night late, and then home. Vexed at my wife’s not being come home, she being gone again abroad with M. Batelier, and come not home till ten at night, which vexed me, so that I to bed, and lay in pain awake till past one, and then to sleep.

dinner and a book
in which I go far

parallel to the night road
I lay awake

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 22 April 1669.

The Window

"For every action in nature there is an equal and 
opposite reaction." ~ Newton's third law of motion


If the child says My window 
is a sheet of paper without anything 
written on it*, then it means it's ready 
to catch the moon's milky script,
the emerald peacock's  baby-cries or
its feathered drumroll.  If he says
The night light is a little boat no larger
than an apricot in a dark-blue ocean, 
right away I'll trawl the waters with
my upstretched hand to feel
the wind lick my fingers with its
warm tongue. Put a slice of lemon
in your mouth and smile around it.
Somewhere there are roads edged
with clover that no one forces against 
the teeth of a blade. Pine cones
collect like brown eggs in the grass.


* - Italicized line is from Oli!

April Diary 26: where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees

This entry is part 26 of 31 in the series April Diary

 

Dear April i can’t tell you what a thrill it’s been for me to listen from the morning porch to hermit thrush song, that most ethereal sound: imagine a woodwind made of crystal and inhabited by the ghost of a bell and you might get the idea

(i will never fully forgive TS Eliot for mischaracterizing hermit thrush song in “The Wasteland” which i see someone has written a paper on though as a non-academic it’s off limits to me. the quote is

Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water

TS Eliot, “The Wasteland,” lines 356-358

which he justifies with a quote from the great ornithologist Frank Chapman in a note:

357. This is Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, the hermit-thrush which I have heard in Quebec County. Chapman says (Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America) “it is most at home in secluded woodland and thickety retreats… Its notes are not remarkable for variety or volume, but in purity and sweetness of tone and exquisite modulation they are unequalled.” Its “water-dripping song” is justly celebrated.

but nobody but Eliot himself seems to have called it that)

they’ve never nested up here as far as we know despite occasionally attempting to set up territories as this one seems to be doing. the last time it happened, in 2020 up around the vernal ponds, i watched wood thrushes chasing him, and Mark and I thought maybe the limiting factor for us isn’t that we’re too low in elevation (1600 feet) for hermit thrushes but that we’re not high enough to exclude wood thrushes which out-compete their cousins

anyway Mark first heard this one on the 16th so he’s a persistent bugger. if our theory is correct, we may eventually get them nesting up here if wood thrush numbers continue to decline. so i should be careful what i wish for because i love wood thrushes too


putting Ripple Effect back on the shelf this morning i noticed i had another collection by Elaine Equi, 2013’s Sentences and Rain and i have absolutely no idea where it came from. must’ve picked it up secondhand somewhere

well so much for reducing the height of my current reads pile. but that’s a high-quality problem indeed. Ripple Effect was from 2007 and i was just thinking i should get one of her more recent books

i really dig the title poem:

Equi is certainly in that age-old tradition of the wise jester


well i just lost a fuck-ton of writing here because the WordPress iPhone app froze. i guess if i want to keep composing on my phone i’d better compose in Notes and paste it into the app when it’s done (i have been doing that to some extent already but not today obviously)


i stopped the car in Sinking Valley today on my way back from the Amish garden center to take a photo of our not-so-impressive mountain and captured what appears to be a UFO


putting up a deer fence, you do need to think like a deer. where they can push in, where they might be tempted to leap. if i were ever to move out west where they have mule deer instead of whitetails i’d have to start learning that stuff all over again. this is the kind of local knowledge one gathers over time. to the extent that old people can be said to be wise it’s because of stuff like this (not generally because of their politics, lord knows)

working in the garden after supper i can hear our neighbors out in theirs, a quarter mile away. well mainly the shrieks of their twin grandchildren, who are four years old and love living in the woods

there’s something really special about not only living where you grew up, but seeing and hearing other kids grow up there too. to use an old-fashioned phrase, it gladdens the heart

so i got the fence all moved and patched together and well as they say, a thing of beauty is a joy forever

also today i shot a brief video of a black rat snake pretending to be a rattlesnake which took me back to the first time i saw that, also on the powerline right-of-way, at the age of 12 or so and i thought it was a rattler ran all the way back to the house and either Mom or my older brother Steve went back with me and it was just a black snake being a jerk:

watch on Vimeo

Forest People

Up; and with my own coach as far as the Temple, and thence sent it to my cozen Turner, who, to ease her own horses, that are going with her out of town, do borrow mine to-day. So I to Auditor Woods, and there to meet, and met my Lord Bellassis upon some business of his accounts, and having done that did thence go to St. James’s, and attended the Duke of York a little, being the first time of my waiting on him at St. James’s this summer, whither he is now newly gone and thence walked to White Hall; and so, by and by, to the Council-Chamber, and heard a remarkable cause pleaded between the Farmers of the Excise of Wiltshire, in complaint against the justices of Peace of Salisbury: and Sir H. Finch was for the former. But, Lord! to see how he did with his admirable eloquence order the matter, is not to be conceived almost: so pleasant a thing it is to hear him plead. Then at noon by coach home, and thither by and by comes cozen Turner, and The., and Joyce, in their riding-clod: they being come from their lodgings to her husbands chamber, at the Temple, and there do lie, and purpose to go out of town on Friday next; and here I had a good dinner for them. After dinner by water to White Hall, where the Duke of York did meet our Office, and went with us to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury; and there we did go over all the business of the state I had drawn up, of this year’s action and expence, which I did do to their satisfaction, and convincing them of the necessity of providing more money, if possible, for us. Thence the Duke of York being gone, I did there stay walking with Sir H. Cholmly in the Court, talking of news; where he told me, that now the great design of the Duke of Buckingham is to prevent the meeting, since he cannot bring about with the King the dissolving, of this Parliament, that the King may not need it; and therefore my Lord St. Albans is hourly expected with great offers of a million of money, to buy our breach with the Dutch: and this, they do think, may tempt the King to take the money, and thereby be out of a necessity of calling the Parliament again, which these people dare not suffer to meet again: but this he doubts, and so do I, that it will be to the ruin of the nation if we fall out with Holland. This we were discoursing when my boy comes to tell me that his mistress was at the Gate with the coach, whither I went, and there find my wife and the whole company. So she, and Mrs. Turner, and The., and Talbot, in mine: and Joyce, W. Batelier, and I, in a hackney, to Hyde Park, where I was ashamed to be seen; but mightily pleased, though troubled, with a drunken coachman that did not remember when we come to ’light, where it was that he took us up; but said at Hammersmith, and thither he was carrying of us when we come first out of the Park. So I carried them all to Hercules-Pillars, and there did treat them: and so, about ten at night, parted, and my wife, and I, and W. Batelier, home; and he gone, we to bed.

who are woods to us
the summer is gone
to the farmers

I bury a finch
with eloquence
clod that I am

these people suffer ruin
and sing with joy
drunken pillars

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 21 April 1669.

Poetry Blog Digest 2022, Week 16

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. You can also browse the blog digest archive or subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader. This week, a very full digest (urp!) with all the great themes in play: love, death, time, war, NaPoWriMo, etc. I’m a little sad that there’s only one more week of April!


before coffee or cricket before
the bullfrog’s unholy racket
just a book a cat staring at me
with her bright constellations
and my wrist’s constant throb
it is in this quiet that I remove my
head arrange it among corn
flowers and baby’s breath
in the florist’s refrigerated
case breathe the promise
fragrance of gardenias in boxes
rose cramped arrangements
elephant shaped vases for the ill
I’ll return for you at nine
I tell my empty skull
don’t worry I tell my blue
blue eyes I’ll always come back
I lie without blinking and close
the soft fleshy door

Rebecca Loudon, April 20.

Dear Camilla,

Fingers crossed this letter finds you in good health and still enjoying poetry!

I’m afraid I can’t quite remember your face from my reading at the New Park Centre four years ago, though I do just about recall resisting a dodgy joke about the royal family while checking the spelling of your name and signing your brand-new copy of The Knives of Villalejo. However, I’ve been thinking about you a lot these past few days, ever since my friend spotted that very copy at the Oxfam shop in Chichester last week and whizzed a photo of it over to me.

On the one hand, I hope you enjoyed it and then passed it on, rather than regretting your purchase. And then, of course, I hope that you yourself chose to give it to Oxfam. Far too many books in charity shops are from personal libraries that have been dispersed by relatives (see my blog post about Peggy Chapman-Andrews from a few years back).

And on the other hand, I’m writing to thank you for granting me this poetic rite of passage: the first time my book has been spotted at a charity shop. I’m pleasantly surprised not to feel annoyed at all that it might have been discarded. Instead, I’m excited to wonder about the prospective new life it’s been granted. As soon as I get back to Chichester, I’ll be popping in to the Oxfam shop to find out whether it’s found another owner.

In other words, I’m proud of joining the ranks of the charity shop poets. I’ve always loved second-hand books, and my collection’s now among them! For that, Camilla, I’ll always be grateful to you.

All the best,

Matthew Stewart

Matthew Stewart, A letter to a reader

iii.
After salt, tap water
tastes almost sweet, still
like nothing, flavored
with memory more
than with anything.

iv.
From the living room,
giggles (cat like tread,
is everybody
here?), the playlist faint
and set on repeat.

PF Anderson, 5 Answers

I wanted to write about writing about being in love. I thought I could write something grateful and insightful and intelligent. It turns out I can’t. In the end you simply have to sit down and do it and let it be what it will. This I learn from the to and fro of Kim Moore and Clare Shaw egging each other on to stick to their NaPoRiMo challenge via Facebook. They are each distracted by children or by work or by tiredness and still they do it. A couple of days ago each of them posted a piece for which the prompt was the challenge to write a love poem. […]

And that was the year
I made you paper hyacinths in a paper box
painted with hyacinths , and a poem for its lid.

I suppose I was thinking of cruel months
and hyacinth girls, and unexpected rains.
I was thinking of surprises. I was not thinking at all.
I was in love, and in various ways I am, still,
and thinking how we have assembled things around us
and cannot bring ourselves to throw away anything.
These cards, those bits of ribbon, these fragments.

John Foggin, Words of love

April 21st (Thursday just gone) was World Curlew Day. Curlews (or Eurasian Curlews to give them their full name) are one of my favourite species, but sadly are in steep decline. In the last few years, they’ve disappeared from a couple of areas where they previously bred on my old local patch, and the news isn’t generally good elsewhere. Related species such as Whimbrel also face pressures, and of course the Slender-billed Curlew has effectively gone extinct within the last 20 years.

All of which means World Curlew Day is a thoroughly good thing. One thing I learned on Thursday was that the date was chosen, according to the Welsh Ornithological Society, as it’s the feast day of the 6th century Welsh saint Beuno, who blessed the birds and said that they should always be protected. That sort of thing is a bit of a recurring theme with Dark Ages saints – St Cuthbert, for example, was supposed to have protected Eiders, and was also tended to by Ravens and Otters, among others.

Among other things, St Beuno is supposed to have been to have been so appalled to hear the English language being spoken that he went as far west as he could (the Llyn Peninsula) to found a monastery and get away from the uncouth Germanic invaders. I wrote a poem about it, that appeared in my second collection, hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica.

PS I’ll try to post the poem some time soon, but I’ve mislaid my copy of the book. 

Matt Merritt, World Curlew Day

Joseph Bathanti’s new poetry collection Light at the Seam, published by LSU Press during Lent, could not have arrived at a more propitious, or more precarious, time in our lives. Though we have just retraced, in faith, Christ’s journey to death and still behold in wonder His mysterious rebirth, we remain threatened by ruinous instruments of our own making; amid what we take for granted, air and water, birds and game, the earth that feeds us, we are too often oblivious to how the “[s]undial / casts its shadow on the hour” (“Sundial, West Virginia”). We have forgotten our charge to be caretakers of daylily and webworm, thistle and Queen Anne’s lace, snake and vole, “whole kingdoms of. . .whirring ethnographies of insects” (“The Assumption”).

Fundamentally a personal response to, even an indictment of, Appalachia’s coal industry and the destruction that continued mining wrecks upon the Appalachian landscape, a place “almost Heaven— / but decidedly not heaven” (“Limbo”), Light at the Seam is, ultimately, a gesture toward resilience, renewal, and hope.

The collection comprises four aptly named sections whose religious connotations are deliberate: The Assumption, The Windows of Heaven, Limbo, and Light at the Seam. These sections suggest not only only glorious beginnings and hard endings but also the in-between “imaginal phase” (“My Mother and Father”) of the likely or inevitable, be it disastrous runoff and floods, clouds of powdered coal that catch the air on fire (“Oracle”), slurries streaming toward once-pristine rivers in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, or the simple sign “No Trespassing / [that] impends / a large red / caution” (“Keyford”). Bathanti sources in these sections the workings of both the human and the Divine, drawing unmistakable contrasts: between the beauty on earth, where [f]ireflies torch the night” and “flowers shrive, and prick eternity” (“Blessed Thistle”), and the ugliness of mountain-top removal that renders a creek “sick // green-brown in slabs of sunlight— / dull as a gorged serpent” (“Postdiluvian: Mingo County, West Virginia”); between the holding of Creation as sacred, and therefore ever-lasting, and the ill-served-taking by humans by authority and assumption, “men [not] beholden / to words on a page” (“Sentences”) who exact what’s “beyond our ken” (“Boar”); between the clarity of witness and the dark acknowledgment of our “sin black as bituminous” (“Glad Creek Falls”); between loss and the possibility of regeneration. No matter the place named, whether Mingo County, West Virginia, or Dubois, Pennsylvania, how we “look upon the earth” (“Floyd County, Kentucky”), the poet indicates, is how we map our fate and our future. But, “make no mistake: // you are permitted entry through grace” (“Daylily”), the poet reminds us, adding, “Life is more than fable, // but never stops stunning earth” (“April Snow”).

Maureen E. Doallas, Joseph Bathanti’s ‘Light at the Seam’ (Review)

On the screen, the men abduct the women willingly into sailboats and helicopters and Yves St Laurent dresses. They emerge immaculate from baths scented like money and lavender. Honey in their voices, the way they hold their coffee til it goes cold. The neat fold of their sweaters in drawers. The author’s inheritance was a patch of weeds in a meadow surrounded by smokestacks and rusted out cars. The author’s inheritance was worry, that slipped into her bed each night like a cat beneath the covers.

Kristy Bowen, napowrimo #22

and do you find
you asked after
the first bottle
(hesitantly because
this reunion shared
only the fumes
of a maybe past)
that tears come
more readily
these days?
oh yes i agreed
barely a day
goes past without
you looked
into your glass
lachrymae rerum
you pronounced
man’s relentless
cruelty to man
as the default state
and far too long
of trudging that
same old road
more like riding
that same old train
i said
only this time
it’s terminus bound
with only the last
few stations to come
ah
our waterloo
you smiled
kings cross for me
i said
and we laughed
earlsfield
you declared
potters bar
i countered
vauxhall
you intoned
finsbury park
i whispered
and we laughed
to tears
as we used to laugh
back when the line
stretched far ahead
and impatience grew
as each platform
glided to a halt
and we yearned
for the turnstiles
and the streets beyond

Dick Jones, stations

I eat my toast and look at a news website.
It says twelve hundred homeless people died in Britain in 2021.
The reporter writes of the homeless problem.
The homeless are not the problem.
The system that makes them homeless is the problem.
The people who make the system are the problem.
I see somebody has decided April will be National Poetry Month.
I click on the link. National Poetry Month would not be possible
without the support of our sponsors.
It lists them.
On twitter two poets complain they are suffering from PPD,
which apparently stands for Post-Publication Depression.
On the TV news it’s time for sport.
I hear the phrase A rain-affected day in the cricket,
switch off.

Waiting.
It will take our new friends twelve or thirteen hours to reach the border.
Train stations are sometimes bombed.
I have their photographs, open the folder and look at them
smiling, not knowing.

Bob Mee, WAR POEMS

I’ve lived an interesting life and have often been asked if I was planning to write a memoir. The events that seem to be of interest to others are sometimes personal (getting kicked out of high school, having an illegal abortion, delivering my son in a hotel room in Kabul Afghanistan, losing my best friend to AIDS), sometimes political (protesting the American war in Vietnam, being tear gassed by police at Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, running a feminist abortion clinic, being a member of ACT UP NY, co-founding a lesbian press). I always deflect the question. I’ve told the story of the birth of my son many times, but something always rang untrue in the telling. If you read memoir or listen to true stories as spoken on The Moth Radio Hour, there is always a central drama and some sort of resolution; it may be something learned or revealed; settled or accepted; reconciled or forgiven; avenged or rejected. The problem I faced was that I couldn’t name the central drama in my life’s story, so how could it possibly be reconciled? I write, but I’ve always hidden my sadness in poems, not in stories.

So, when it revealed itself, it was as if my entire life needed to be rewritten. The event that encumbered me, that I didn’t tell—or spoke of rarely—was losing custody of my son to his father when he was five. Facing that fact now, trying to undo the effects of the shame I have carried for decades, has made it possible for me to want to tell this story. A story with an omission in it is a story untold. And yet the omission itself, once revealed, is only a small part of the story.

Risa Denenberg, Coming Out of Hiding

It’s too late to become a philosopher. I don’t have the stamina now to do mountains of difficult reading. I’ll have to accept — as I never did, as a reader of literature — secondary sources and summaries, watered-down versions adapted to the meanest understandings. Well, bring it, then. I’m not reading the complete works of Kant and Heidegger at this time of my life. But I may need to know something, at least, about what they meant. I don’t aspire to be a figure of any sort, literary or philosophical — which is all to the good — but I still aspire to understand: I still aspire to live a life that might mean something. I still aspire to take a bit of the edge off my own suffering, and other people’s, in whatever way I can.

It’s not just reading, of course. It’s practicing. It’s meditation, contemplation, prayer, visualization. Mushrooms. Being a damned fool, or even a blessed one. And it’s writing poetry, and possibly even making art.

I don’t see what else I can do, honestly. It’s no just that there’s no other path forward. There’s also no path back. 

Dale Favier, No Path Back

If, as you wrote, to die is truly                         to become invisible,

then perhaps                     this isn’t possible. A dram of single malt,

the waves of which                               

have crashed. These poems, carved                  from bread and butter,

shorelines, secrets             , tundra                   : something brittle,
ancient                    , deeply human. Stone                

as old as wine.

rob mclennan, Requiem for Steven Heighton

The first thing I thought of when I saw that the Russians had attacked Lviv was Adam Zagajewski’s poem “To Go to Lvov.”  In fact, the only things I know about Lvov/ Lviv come from his poems, and from his prose  book Two Cities, about Lvov and Gliwice.  Zagajewski was just a few months old when his family was forced to leave Lvov, a beautiful old, cultured town, a World Historical Site, for Gliwice, an industrial German city traded to Poland at the end of World War II.  Zagajewski’s family kept the city they’d had to leave alive with stories, and the poet absorbed their vision:  “My grandfather, despite walking right next to me in Gliwice, was in Lvov. I walked the streets of Gliwice, he walked the streets of Lvov.”  This in turn made me think of poems where place looms large–real places like Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey, Frank O’Hara’s New York City, Alice Oswald’s Dart, about the river.  But I also think of wholly imaginary places, like Xanadu in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” or Dante’s vision of Hell in the Inferno, or the metaphorical ship in Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck. And then the places in between–actual places summoned up in memory, like Zagajewski’s Lvov.  The place could be as small as a room or a garden, as large as a city or mountain range or ocean–Frost’s “Once By the Pacific.”

Sharon Bryan, Poems of Place

a moose came out of the woods and
stepped on my heart, yes
a moose, horns like driftwood oaks
came out of the forest and
stepped on my heart
a moose or maybe an elk hard to tell
given my position and the fact that
the moon was radiant, glowing, but
behind clouds and I was lying down
curled in fetal position and
holding my head in my hands

Gary Barwin, a moose came out of the woods and stepped on my heart, yes

Robert Fillman: Thank you, Meghan, for taking a moment to chat with me about your ambitious debut collection, These Few Seeds, which I loved! The book covers a lot of ground—Brooklyn, London, Greece, California, New England, Texas—was your intention to evoke place (and a range of places) when you set out to write this collection? Or did you have some other governing principle in mind? 

Meghan Sterling: It is a whirlwind, isn’t it? A big part of my life has been traveling the world—it was actually in Peru that I decided to have my daughter. As my first collection, I wanted to give it the breadth of my life, all that came before that delivered me to my daughter, as it were, that made me the person who could be her mother, who could mother at all. Traveling also gives me a broader sense of grief about what we are losing to climate change. And she may not take after me, but if she does, I hope she can travel a world that still has sacred and pristine spaces.

Diane Lockward, Terrapin Books Interview Series: Robb Fillman Interviews Meghan Sterling

Two deer coming down out of the woods
each foot a needle sewing

footprints to the dew.
Two Roe adults the colour

of last year’s leaves,
picking through the headstones

gentle as mist

Wendy Pratt, Twelve

Unfortunately, the Monday after our celebratory Easter weekend, I was due for a long-postponed brain and spine scan. I always feel a little wonky after brain MRIs – sinus infection? magnetic allergies? – and so I was a little down and out this last week. I also found out some good news (no new brain or spine lesions) but also a little bad news – a thyroid node pressing on my jugular vein and carotid artery I need to have an ultrasound on, and terrible degenerative disc disease in the neck, which I guess is why my neck hurts all the time – as well as a pinched nerve. That’s how it always is, right? As we get older – a little good news – my MS hasn’t gotten any worse – with a little bad news – age related arthritis in the neck, something I need further testing on the thyroid (which, let’s face it, my thyroid has been wonky since I was a teen.) The funniest part of the test was the front desk person, as she was handing me my MRI on disc, said to me “Your hair is the same color as the cherry blossoms – you have to take a picture with them!” So I did.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, National Poetry Month, MRIs and Upcoming Birthdays and Publications, and Signs of Spring

I walked streets
past closed shops
stood on the beach

the wind raised waves of fine sand
until it combined with the rain
to send us all indoors again

the cracked pavement
a broken mirror
reflecting the street lights up to the stars

Paul Tobin, BETTER DAYS

I’ll write more about the retreat later. I am trying to get ahead with both grading and seminary work, since I do have an appointment with a hand surgeon on Thursday, and I don’t want to get too far behind. We are at the end of the semester for both my teaching and my seminary student work. When this semester started back in January, I worried about the new Omicron variant, and I worried that my job might keep me from being successful with my classes.  A broken wrist was not on my radar screen of things to worry about. I am aware that I often worry about possible negative developments only to be blindsided by something else. Breaking that habit of worrying about the future may take more years than I have left.

Again I realize I am very lucky. I am grateful for the voice recognition that I have with my version of Word, for example.  I am grateful to be able to be at this retreat, broken wrist and all.

Kristen Berkey-Abbott, Broken Wrist Woes and Gratitude

I was told little girls don’t howl like banshees. They don’t go around with messy hair and dirty ragamuffin faces. They say please and thank you. They keep their elbows off the table.

I heard for goodness’ sake, stop harping about not being hungry. There are plenty of children in the world who would be happy for what you’ve got. Don’t get smart with me, you know you can’t share your supper with them. You will clean your plate, missy, before going back outside. No need to panic because your friends are waiting. And no hiding food in your napkin. If you think that will work you’ve got another think coming. That’s quite enough backtalk from you.

Not till I’m grown do I learn:

Banshee comes from my Irish kin, meaning a female fairy or woman of the elves.

Ragamuffin comes from Ragamoffyn, the name of a demon in a 14th century poem.

To harp comes from harpies, winged half-human half-bird creatures in Greek mythology representing hungry wind spirits who steal food.

Happy comes from my Nordic kin, from heppinn (fortunate) and hap (luck).

Panic is related to sudden terror when woodland god Pan lets loose fierce cries, causing enemies to flee and saving his embattled friend.

I am glad to live for goodness’ sake. But hair messy, elbows on the table, I fly beyond what I used to call remembery, toward a world where another think is, indeed, coming.

Laura Grace Weldon, Backtalk

It was in the golden hills that I stopped holding your death in my arms. Your corpse, my soul. Where one stopped, the other began, fifteen years passed that way. In dreams you would come to me, miserable, suffering. And as you could not explain your life to me when you lived, you could not explain your death. Why you embraced it so. Was death the key to your cell? 

In the golden hills that I stopped holding your death in my arms. I walked along the Yuba River for miles. Purdon Crossing, Edwards Crossing, and I left the trail and went down to the water, and there I covered your death with rocks. I balanced one rock on top of another. And again. And again. And I climbed back up to the trail and left your death behind me. 

It was in the golden hills that I stopped holding your death in my arms. And that was years ago, over thirty years now since you swallowed the pills with vodka. Your corpse, my soul, for so long they have gone their own ways. You, in the light. Me, in the world. I’m just on the edge of getting old. And I like it, Cathy. I still like life. 

-for Cathy Kochanski, 1954-1983 

James Lee Jobe, the suicide of Cathy Kochanski

how it is to be
deep in league with the plants
incessant rain

Jim Young [no title]

I confess to the usual nerves about whether all this would line up right. I know the tone of book promotion is supposed to be all yay-yay-gratitude-everything’s-going-dreamily–a beautifully produced book is a really lucky thing. It’s also a really frigging hard thing: to plan, to write, to revise revise revise, to find a publisher and revise again. Then tossing the published book at the world so that it produces even a tiny guppy-size splash is hard. I find myself riding peaks and troughs. Just so it’s clear, I spend way more time fighting anxiety and inertia about this promo stuff than feeling triumphant.

This week I read the tarot cards on the future of the book and they told me, eh, false starts, disappointment, it won’t go as you hoped. I then did a consolation reading next about something lower stakes–how about my May trip to Budapest?–and they said wow, amazing, the world (literally The World) is at your feet! Um, thanks, cartomancy.

Lesley Wheeler, Poetry’s Possible Worlds for pre-order–so there, Three of Cups reversed!

Forget the vowels. Speak only
in consonants. Thick-soiled
like freshly plowed earth,
thick-soled & thick-souled.
Forgive me. I held a word
all morning like a limp-necked
bird in my hand. Would
that it drank. That it opened
its one lidless eye. That it sang.

Romana Iorga, NaPoWriMO Day 19, 2022

“Ambiguity is the world’s condition.…As a ‘picture of reality’ is it truer than any other.  Ambiguity is.”  So says Charles Simic.

In that spirit, I submit spring.  Yes, spring is a bouquet pulled and given from the dark dead closet of winter by a surprise lover — and yes, spring is a wide sky of clotted clouds and warty trees.  Yes, canopies of white cherry blossoms making the city street into a wedding lane, and yes, wondering if those branches that scratch the blue sky are dead or slow or what?  

Yes to bemuda shorts and flipflops, yes to down vests with down parkas.  Yes to breath-scented bacchanalia; yes to depletion and childhood colds that repeat every season.  

Yes to People of the Book celebrating religious holidays like overlapping dinner plates; yes to fractricidal wars.  Yes to moral imperatives that command and consume us; yes to the audaciousness of hope.  Yes to too much, yes to breath.  

Jill Pearlman, Ambiguity, Thy name is Spring

The ears, two snails stuck out of habit
on either side of the head. The nose,

windbreak in a field no longer at war with
itself. Declension of the chin that in the past

rested too long in the bowl offered by the hand.
Citadel of shoulders from which no doves

cry at twilight. The knobs on the back
which at night still flutter toward the idea

of wings.

Luisa A. Igloria, Dream of the Body as Strandbeest

The collection ends on a sequence, “Political Poem 2.0”. Part VI,

“I say poetry is
not escapism.

But I had not yet
understood how

to sit at a table and
drink a glass of water,

gratefully,
watching clouds pass.”

Poetry, regardless of the poet’s intent, is often read as autobiographical in a way that fiction isn’t. Whenever the lyrical “I” is used, some readers assume the poet is speaking which isn’t always the case. The opening two lines suggest poems are not read for the reader to escape their lives yet the remainder of the poem undermines this. The reader has not matured to understand how a simple pleasure: stopping for a drink of water and watching, being present in that moment and noticing only what is happening in that moment allows the speaker to temporary ‘escape’ other pressures and concerns. The next poem, VIII, observes a desert hawk,

“For you know
there is neither

beauty nor play
without sustenance,

and nothing, truly
nothing

without water.”

Water is life, both its source and the force that keeps life going.

Thoughout “and then the rain came”, water is literal, metaphorical and sustaining. A force that enables life, weather that revives the natural world and sustenance, not just physical but spiritual and mental. Edward Ragg has created a pamphlet of complementary lyrical and narrative poems linked thematically but experimental in approach, using language as a fluid probe.

Emma Lee, “and then the rain came” Edward Ragg (Cinnamon Press) – book review

I am playing the little game with the flowers.
This one droops to the left.
This one droops to the right.
Another has leaves like bowtie pasta.
Another has leaves like questioning arms.
I match this flower to its companion,
these leaves to their mates across the board.
As each match is made, both halves disappear:
Isn’t that the way of the world?
Eventually even the little filigreed borders are gone;
nothing is left but empty white boxes.
I press Play Again, spawn
another version of the board,
as if I’d never been there.

Jason Crane, POEM: Tiles

When I opened the carton stamped D R I V E on the side and held this carefully-made object in my hands, for the first time, I felt the impact of the oddity of the image, combined with the title, making a poem of the cover. I was holding a poem. Like a parent with several children, who loves each one differently, and who is not supposed to have a favorite (but does), I’m forced to admit that, when it comes to the cover, Drive is mine. And, here’s why. I’ve always wanted a book whose cover makes you to want to pick it up. With Drive I like the feel of the matte finish. The slightly smaller-than-standard width, made to complement the short lines in the poems––the whole glove-compartment-size of the book––makes sense. Katherine Bradford’s artwork invites the reader to reach for the book, to look, and look, again, to ask questions like: what does that airborne woman have to do with the word drive? […]

Among the notable covers of poetry books from last year is Diane Seuss’s, almost unbeautiful Frank: Sonnets. Here is a book whose shape and size fit the poems inside, the width expanded to accommodate the poet’s long lines, the cover is in evocative/provocative conversation with the poems, and the image, personal to the author, to the title, integral to how this happens, making it a perfect cover. I’ll stop there, as the discovery of how this happens is one of the many pleasures to experience in the reading of this book, and a lesson in how to judge (and appreciate) a book by its cover!

Cover Stories: Judging a Book by Its Cover – guest post by Elaine Sexton (Trish Hopkinson’s blog)

Sometimes I drag my husband to art-house-y films and when someone asks, “Was it good? Should I go see it?” I hesitate. Yes, definitely good. Also, scarred me for life.

That’s how I feel about this amazing, abrasive, challenging, brilliant book of poems by Diane Seuss. It is like nothing I’ve ever read. Your mileage may vary.

From the back cover: “Every poem in frank: sonnets is an example of the incomparable Seussian Sonnet, where elegy and narrative test the boundaries of the conventional form” (Terrance Hayes). “…an ambitious, searing, and capacious life story. The poems themselves use an ecstatic syntax to unite Seuss’s lyric leaps from one wretched sweetness to another….narratives of poverty, death, parenthood, addiction, AIDS, and the ‘dangerous business’ of literature are irreducible” (Traci Brimhall). In short, it was a little like reading a memoir—bizarre, fragmented, mesmerizing. When I first purchased this book and read a poem here and there, I was missing the point.

I’m trying to pluck out a few sentences to illustrate (but some of these untitled poems, always 14-lines but with unbridled-lengthened-lines, are all one sentence). Maybe this one about her son: “I’d authored him in my bones, he was my allegory, analogy, corollary, mirror, I forged / his suffering, his nail, his needle, his thrill” (p. 66). And, often, provocative statements that I don’t quite know what to do with: “All lives have their tropes over which we have minimal control” (p. 83); “I fell in love with death” (p. 80). Or in a poem beginning, “Thirty-nine years ago is nothing, nothing,” this ending:

I was nothing, I knew nothing then of nothing, its shacks shawled
with moss, its bitter curatives and ancient hags redressing my narratives. (p. 60)

Traci Brimhall sums it up brilliantly: “It’s a book to inhabit, to think alongside, to rage and laugh with, to behold the ways beauty is both a weapon and a relief.”

Bethany Reid, Diane Seuss: Frank

Ana Silvera is a fabulist – a teller of fables. I heard her first on Radio 3’s The Verb on 28 February 2020 and have been haunted ever since by her song Exile, with her own sruti-box (Indian harmonium) accompaniment. It starts one and a half minutes into the broadcast. Tree seeds carried in the mouth – what a strange and potent image. I carried her song in my mouth, and found myself writing new words to the tune. I sent the words to Brittle Star, a magazine that consistently published excellent poetry and prose until about 18 months ago. I was overjoyed to have my song accepted and published.

Ama Bolton, The Fabulist

Coming off
the mountain

I can say things
I cannot say,

the old monk says.
That’s why I go.

Tom Montag, THREE OLD MONK POEMS (182)

We went to the Peak District for half term, we had a lovely time in among the snow, the wind, the rain (as a Twilight Singers fan I’m now duty bound to link to Feathers, even if I am slightly misquoting the lyrics), but the weather sort of curtailed our outings. This did give me time to complete and submit my review of Stewart Carswell’s first collection, Earthworks, for London Grip. My thanks, as ever, to Michael for taking it and being so quick to publish it.

I really have to start saying no to reviews, but some how I still have 4 to do. I did start another while I was away. It’s only 350 words, and I got half way through and now I think I have to start again. Get on with it, Riches.!!

I woke up to some ace news yesterday, a mag that I have admired for a while have agreed to take one of my poems (pending acceptance of edit suggestions). I am working through their totally sensible suggestions at present, and hopefully it will all be good. I’ve gone from rarely getting editorial feedback to having a fair bit (albeit not massive) of late. I like it, I think. More news on this soon, I hope. No chickens are being counted in the making of this paragraph.

I also had the chance to catch up on some* reading while I was off. I say some, it was nowhere near enough. Every time I finish a magazine, a new one arrives, and that seems to take the place of reading the books that are piling up. It’s not exactly the end of the world though, is it?

Mat Riches, (Inspiring) Carpets

The Italian place I remember
had dark walls, and candles
in cut-glass red votive bowls.
I thought the owner was Polish.

He and my dad were buddies,
talked business, smoked cigars.
I wore black-patent Mary Janes,
drank Shirley Temples, feasted

on baskets of crusty bolillos:
French bread reimagined
into perfect torpedoes
by Mexican hands.

That’s where Dad taught me
how to relish soft-shell crab,
and the names of big wine bottles
like Jeroboam and Methuselah.

All I knew about Methuselah
was that he lived a long time,
maybe forever. I thought
Dad would too.

Rachel Barenblat, Fine Dining

To be clear: Like any love–perhaps, especially, a late-in-life one–it’s not all rainbows and confetti. Every person who’s lived a good chunk of time carries baggage, and unpacking mine has meant coming to new terms with aging and mortality and the passing of time and dreams.

In the past two months, I’ve become grounded in the reality that my body has changed and is changing. That I am going to get old and die. For real. Not in some abstract, “some day” sort of way, but in a concrete, wow-I-can’t-do-things-I-could-do-just-a-few-years-ago sort of way. In my head, I’ve still been mostly the same physical being I was in my mid-30s or so. Sure, I’d gained a few pounds, but I could still do all the same things, right? Ummm, not exactly. Now, in both my head and body, I know I’m not the same physical being I thought I was. (If you want to know how old your body really is, take up a sport you haven’t played since you were a tween. You’ll know, too.)

I know this might sound kind of grim–and I’ve had my moments of feeling fairly terrible about it all–but it’s really not. It’s becoming the foundation for a kind of gratitude I’ve never felt before. Yes, I’m going to die, but I’m not dead yet. A thing I thought was lost to me has come back. (What else might this be true for?) My body has deteriorated, but not so much that I can’t embrace this opportunity. The ladies I skate with tell me I’ve come back just in time; I’m still young enough to regain many of the skills I once had, but if I’d waited even a few more years that might not be the case. For the first time since–well, since about the time I quit skating, really–I’m feeling more gratitude than resentment toward my body.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Becoming a unicorn

Listen to the whirl of guitar & drum riding
on the breeze with whiffs of
The Big River & roast beef po boys
Listen to the rustle & crunch of
people clapping, feet dancing
in a crush of bodies & fun
Watch nimble fingers plucking strings
of steel, hair flying like freedom on fire
Watch an elderly gentleman, dapper
in dark suit & bowler hat, mesmerized
by musicians’ whirl & pop, a whisp
from his cigarette jigging overhead.

Charlotte Hamrick, NaPoWriMo 2022 day 24

The Path to Kindness is another anthology by James Crews, who also put together How to Love the World which I referenced in this post on reading poetry and on always carrying something beautiful in your mind. There’s a line from Danusha Laméris in the intro where she says, “kindness is not sugar, but salt. A dash of it gives the whole dish flavour.” Kindness is connection, and connection is something I think most of us are craving right now. It’s a good book to have on your shelf. I sort of forget who I used to be two years ago, someone who I would have described as a kind person. And this book helps me remember that. It’s also helpful to remember that kindness isn’t sweet or saccharine. It’s salty. […]

The last book in my stack is by Teju Cole: Golden Apple of the Sun. I really admire his book Blind Spot, which I’ve written about before. His latest has been well-reviewed in various places including: in Musée magazine, and Art Agenda. (Worth clicking through to see the photographs). You know I’m always up to read a book about still lifes and this is a good one. The photographs are that lovely balance between studied and unstudied. They feel natural even if they had been quite arranged. There’s just some good breathing in the photographs. A kind of very deliberate calm which is reassuring. They remind me a bit of some photos you see in recent cookbooks, but also not quite, because they’re not trying to sell you on anything other than the shapes and forms, on the experience of enlivening dailiness. If I were to use the word poetic to describe them, it would be the poetry of Derek Walcott, maybe. Precise, in control, but not without humour, not without flourish.

Shawna Lemay, Sustain the Gaze

What if everything we tell ourselves about why we feel a particular emotion at any given moment is nothing more than another story we’ve learned to compose as a way to soothe ourselves? To control one another and keep the world predictable?

Kids wake up happy without questioning their sanity or looking for the reason for it. I know there are some adults who do this, too. I have heard people talk about them and rationalize it by describing these adults as “simple-minded”. Or “special”. Unexplained cheerfulness is definitely anti-social behavior. It makes us giggle nervously. I’m not sure if it is a named archetype, but it should be. (Note to self to look it up when the headache subsides).

What if all art is just an act of unlearning? Resisting. And that our ideas of what poetry is can get in the way of that? What if art should start where we are familiar and then chisel at it until it leaves us speechless. What if instead of giving us more stories related to our own stories, it tears down every story?

What if it is the “made thing” that shows us the artifice in all made things? Even our own stories?

Ren Powell, The Artifice in Made Things & the Pleasure in Dis-Order

I know a woman that can turn a bullet into a church bell.

I know a child that can transform ill will into cotton candy bombs.

I know a man that swears it’s quarter till heaven and half past hell whenever he checks his watch.

I know enough to know I’m not even close to knowing everything.

But I do know that when I refer to my fret hand, I mean the one that plays guitar

instead of the one that worries over the weight of the world.

Rich Ferguson, Fret Hand

Now I rise like a heron in the midnight pond.
My spine is infinite, my bones divine.
Upon re-entry, I find my flesh
intact. It is worshipful, this vessel. Its
storm of neurons, its earthen feet, the prayer of my hips, my
heart’s cauldron. My ribs engorged with grief. My belly a safe house.

I shocked the clocks into obedience. In time, I will rise and
rise again,
come to rest in this spawning ground.

Kristen McHenry, Poem of the Month: The Odyssey

Monological

Up; and to the Office, and my wife abroad with Mary Batelier, with our own coach, but borrowed Sir J Minnes’s coachman, that so our own might stay at home, to attend at dinner; our family being mightily disordered by our little boy’s falling sick the last night; and we fear it will prove the small-pox. At noon comes my guest, Mr. Hugh May, and with him Sir Henry Capell, my old Lord Capel’s son, and Mr. Parker; and I had a pretty dinner for them; and both before and after dinner had excellent discourse; and shewed them my closet and my Office, and the method of it to their great content; and more extraordinary, manly discourse and opportunity of shewing myself, and learning from others, I have not, in ordinary discourse, had in my life, they being all persons of worth, but especially Sir H. Capell, whose being a Parliament-man, and hearing my discourse in the Parliament-house, hath, as May tells me, given him along desire to know and discourse with me. In the afternoon we walked to the Old Artillery-Ground near the Spitalfields, where I never was before, but now, by Captain Deane’s invitation, did go to see his new gun tryed, this being the place where the Officers of the Ordnance do try all their great guns; and when we come, did find that the trial had been made; and they going away with extraordinary report of the proof of his gun, which, from the shortness and bigness, they do call Punchinello. But I desired Colonel Legg to stay and give us a sight of her performance, which he did, and there, in short, against a gun more than as long and as heavy again, and charged with as much powder again, she carried the same bullet as strong to the mark, and nearer and above the mark at a point blank than theirs, and is more easily managed, and recoyles no more than that, which is a thing so extraordinary as to be admired for the happiness of his invention, and to the great regret of the old Gunners and Officers of the Ordnance that were there, only Colonel Legg did do her much right in his report of her. And so, having seen this great and first experiment, we all parted, I seeing my guests into a hackney coach, and myself, with Captain Deane, taking a hackney coach, did go out towards Bow, and went as far as Stratford, and all the way talking of this invention, and he offering me a third of the profit of the invention; which, for aught I know, or do at present think, may prove matter considerable to us: for either the King will give him a reward for it, if he keeps it to himself, or he will give us a patent to make our profit of it: and no doubt but it will be of profit to merchantmen and others, to have guns of the same force at half the charge. This was our talk: and then to talk of other things, of the Navy in general: and, among other things, he did tell me that he do hear how the Duke of Buckingham hath a spite at me, which I knew before, but value it not: and he tells me that Sir T. Allen is not my friend; but for all this I am not much troubled, for I know myself so usefull that, as I believe, they will not part with me; so I thank God my condition is such that I can retire, and be able to live with comfort, though not with abundance. Thus we spent the evening with extraordinary good discourse, to my great content, and so home to the Office, and there did some business, and then home, where my wife do come home, and I vexed at her staying out so late, but she tells me that she hath been at home with M. Batelier a good while, so I made nothing of it, but to supper and to bed.

the night and I
had excellent discourse

but the gun had a bullet
to point with

and guns talk
of other things

able to undance
the evening out

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 20 April 1669.

April Diary 25: migration time

This entry is part 25 of 31 in the series April Diary

 

Dear April it’s odd you don’t hear people rhapsodize about the first spiders of spring

there’s nothing like watching a low-angled sun glistening on gossamer threads between the bare shining branches of mid spring

out on the porch i debated whether to dip into Charles Simic or John Stevenson. settled on the latter, read a couple pages and came upon a haibun that could’ve been written by Simic:

the temperatures are due to climb into the low 80s today. glad i got some greens planted yesterday but i’m champing at the bit to get all the other early things in. but it’s blog digest day and besides the Amish-run greenhouse where i hope to get most of my seedlings won’t be open on a Sunday

Amish understand the concept of a day of rest though it’s a luxury most non-Amish can no longer afford. it’s a shame that such things get thrown out as society gets secularized. even so i wouldn’t support bringing back the blue laws. i’d just like to see a cultural shift on the work/life balance — which the pandemic response did seem to spark but it will take a hugely revitalized union movement to really change society-wide ingrained habits

or so the brilliant Maximilian Alvarez argued in a video editorial which i watched during my lunch break on Friday. it made me realize yet again how lucky i am that so much of my time is my own. of course i have to live with the trade-off: no life as most people understand it meaning no wife or kids or career or mortgage or pickup truck. #blessed

anyway here’s Max


cool summer morning
I take my thoughts
out to the porch

John Stevenson with Seneca Kennedy

out at 10:30 for a less strenuous version of my usual walk but i use the time more to plan out my vegetable garden than to focus on what’s around me. i walk right past the trillium patch without remembering to look and i have to backtrack. (they’re still not fully out but probably will be by tomorrow)

walking up Rhododendron Trail I hear my first black-throated green warbler of the year and on the bench in that ravine have a spectacular view of a singing blue-headed vireo making his rounds while another sings 100 yards away

the distant sound of church bells—must be noon

iced herb tea for the first time this year. it was worth the hike

and here’s Stevenson proving that senryu can be just as deep as haiku:

jampackedelevatoreverybuttonpushed

hawk going over high i presume a broadwing since my brother mentioned this morning it was a big day for them (he saw six at once)

discovered a great way to get rid of flies: rather than swat them try photographing them instead, they’ll disappear immediately

two more high hawks drifting northward. i see what Mark meant

living on a mountain that’s part of a linear ridge system hundreds of miles long means we’re on a highway for migrants

(which 200 years ago would’ve been used by human migrants too as part of the Underground Railroad)

finally a blooming shadbush! i was beginning to think we weren’t going to see any this year. of course if it continues warm like this we won’t have them for more than a few days, which will be sad. seeing those little white clouds on all the mountainsides is one of my favorite things this time of year

weezaweezaweezaweezaweeza! black-and-white warbler


i can see why death metal started in south florida—humid heat sends my mood straight to hell

black metallers think that despair is a thing of the cold but no. especially on a rapidly warming planet

(just to clarify this is still what they’d regard as a cool day in south florida, i’m just a wimp)


working on the poetry blog digest I love this typo from Kristy Bowen: “I feel more string as a poet than I ever have”

(no disrespect to her of course—it’s always astonishing to me how much she gets done and still makes time to blog. understandable that copy-editing the blog might be low on her list of priorities)


speaking of south florida, my mother informs me that she and Mark had a brief sighting of a swallow-tailed kite zipping along the ridge just after noon. this was accepted by eBird because Mom had had one other sighting many years ago… and doubted her own sanity until other birders verified that the bird does sometimes wander very far afield from its usual range

and even more warblers are back than i heard on my walk, indifferent birder that i am. also the first wood thrush apparently. which according to family lore always used to return on the day we planted peas. if i were planting peas this year, this would definitely be the weekend to get them in


when i went to open my bedroom window and let in the evening cool, i saw that the cardinals had hatched: blind, naked, trembling, but quick to open their beaks for food when they hear a sound above them—the ersatz shutter on my camera phone

here’s something i wrote back on March 24 about the tree the cardinals are nesting in:

Standing outside my front door on this rainy night is the closest thing to a son or daughter I’ll ever have: an eastern red cedar tree, which I found and transplanted when it was one or two years old back in 1993, and has since grown into a bit of a monster, towering over the house. The old place in Maine where we lived till I was five had a number of juniper bushes in the former pasture, where I used to play a lot, and I think that’s what appealed to me about having a closely related species right by the door. And sure, I knew it would turn into a tree rather than a bush, but I still thought it would stay on the small side. It hasn’t — much to the delight of roosting songbirds. I have to prune branches that rub against the roof, but still, on stormy nights, I hear it thump, thump, thumping against the house.

evergreen
adding our darkness
to the night