White hair

Somewhere in NJ

One day someone killed Sam the Mindreader. I found him squashed and dried up. I stayed there for a long time just looking and listening to the creek running across the rocks. Suddenly I was left with a name in the emptiness, a name I didn’t know what to do with.

The mind-reader’s name
seemed hollow after his death —
just me, rambling.

*

simply wait

That night I dreamed of my first home, of the trees outside the closet-sized room with the pink rose wallpaper where I spent my childhood, and the scent of lilac in the spring. In the next room my parents argued and loved, dreamed and worried. Our lives there, now vanished, seemed as solid and indestructible as those tall oaks and catalpas outside my window.

In a hospital bed
with a view of bare branches,
dreams of long-lost homes.

*

Feathers of Hope

This creature emerges from decomposing piles. [drawing]

Placed on a white page,
the maggot looks anything
but white.

*

frizzyLogic

It grew cold, and the cold grew on all surfaces.

Lovely white hair
that crumples in the sun:
frost on a rose hip.

*

Burning Silo

We found the remains of dead seabirds and a sea lion, along with bits and pieces of crabs, clam, oysters and fish. The Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) and various species of gulls seemed busy as they poked between rocks and patrolled sandy beaches.

Skull of a seabird
washed up before the sea was half-
finished with it.

*

the cassandra pages

But something about these little, simple solids delights me: the way a few little flat sheets of paper become something so firm and beautiful.

Fed up with the blank page,
it’s so satisfying to make
a paper airplane!

*

tasting rhubarb

[photos of ice-skaters]

In a world of ice,
imagine how we would flock
to a walking rink!

*

Clouded Drab

Some serious lumps of beef on sale at Borough Market.

Red and gold foil,
a glistening side of beef:
Christmas at the butcher’s.

Windshield frost

frizzyLogic

We crawled cautiously, semi-sighted, across junctions and around corners until, on the slope by the park, we turned head on toward the sun. That first lick of low light was enough to temper the ice which now slid softly sideways under the rhythm of the blades.

The first touch of sun
and the windshield frost is gone —
so clear a view!

*

Light Verse for a Heavy Universe

Most of the numbers in the world are wrong and always have been. Government agencies ceaselessly and shamelessly revise their figures. Scientists and engineers “refine” theirs. Economists “massage” their data and finally turn the charts upside-down or sideways to make the numbers match reality.

Counting to 10 can help prevent a row —
is having a number better than having a cow?
Our days are numbered, we think, but we don’t know how.
Clocks make us forget that every moment is now.

*

Twitter [note on login page, 11/16]

You’ll be able to access Twitter again in just a second. We’re just shuffling a few things around. Just hang tight… [emphasis added]

Just
an adjustment, but so un-
just!

*

One Word

I didn’t write today. I cleaned.

Last week sucked mightily.

I have the next three days off.

This is not a poem. This is how my brain is working now.

I want D to be happy. I want Moby to be happy.

Moby is easier. He got to lie in the sun on a curl of red wool today.

This is not a poem.
This is how my brain is working now.
I want D to be happy.

*

bird by bird

Here’s the Cordelia resident snowy egret, which perches on pens and pools and knows how to get free food…

At feeding time
for the de-oiled waterfowl,
a snowy egret.

*

Watermark

I am twenty, walking home from work in Billings. A man in a car calls me over to ask directions. When I get to the car, I see that he is exposed, masturbating. I turn away, thinking this did not happen. I hear the words: this did not happen. I even see the words pass by my eyes, like the ticker on the bottom of the CNN screen (cable news, which hasn’t yet been invented): THIS … DID … NOT … HAPPEN.

Penis in hand,
he calls a woman over
to ask directions.

*

box elder

…and, of course, button-eyed frogs. I say of course, because, in truth, my sister is a frog phobic (and I will leave it to you to find out the correct Greek-rooted word for that), and as so often happens with phobias, the object has become something of a motif in her life and work!

Buttons for eyes
on the bestiary quilt —
you’ll find them at night.

*

{ Never Neutral }

I spend long hours staring at the computer. Autism redefined. Suddenly, an eyelid starts to twitch, then the biceps, or the triceps sometimes, starts to pulse, like a heart, like a rabbit inside a magician’s hat, like saying, take me out of here, “remember me”. The ghost is not in the machine, but in the body enslaved by the machine.

There on the glass
when the monitor goes dark,
my own sad face.

Some good news, ending in cat vomit

That new anthology of poet-bloggers I mentioned two weeks ago is out, from the new, Montreal-based Phoenicia Publishing.

Writers and artists have always formed groups for mutual support, commentary, and encouragement, sometimes collaborating on public projects from group shows to hand-printed literary magazines. But while one tends to think of local writers hanging out in Paris cafés in the 1930s, or on the lower East side of New York in the 1950s, how does that desire for communication and creative inspiration translate into today’s online world?

You can browse the Table of Contents and read sample poems (including two of mine that you might recognize) at the Phoenicia site, then follow the link to order a copy or two. It’s a beautifully designed book, and should make a classy (and very affordable) Christmas, Hanukkah, or Solstice present.

UPDATE: Rachel Barenblat, one of the two co-editors, does a much better job of describing the book.

*

I’m guest-blogging at Blogging Blog (say that three times fast!) on Blogs as a medium for online literary magazines: lessons from qarrtsiluni. And yes, I committed what I always thought was a cardinal sin for bloggers: using a colon in a title. Ack!

*

Last night, I got some very exciting news from a blogging friend of mine, the multi-talented Natalie d’Arbeloff (also included in the aforementioned anthology, by the way) whose Blaugustine I have linked to so many times. Natalie was one of six finalists in a huge competition sponsored by the Guardian newspaper to win the right to edit their women’s pages for a week. Natalie didn’t learn until she attended the party last night that she had won! Be sure to stop by (November 8 entry – no permalink) and congratulate her.

*

If I were serious about getting more readers and links for Via Negativa, I guess I’d be leaving these comment haiku far and wide. But that’s not the point of the exercise; I simply want to respond more thoughtfully to the blogs I already read. Sometimes I can’t think of a haiku, but the effort translates into a more substantial prose comment than I might’ve come up with otherwise. And lots of times, still, I nod in silent appreciation and move on.

Marja-Leena

stained glass of
rusty red and yellow
birch leaves on wet skylight

Leaves on wet skylight:
this must be what a snail sees
from inside its shell.

*

Dr. Omed

In this series of nude photographs of the frankly obese-and-proud-of-it women of the Big Burlesque and Big Bottom Revue, he fights the good fight against the ‘tyranny of slenderness.’

The yin-yang tattoo
on the fat woman’s back has grown
as big as an apple.

*

Theriomorph

cold walk in the dark
dog in circle of flashlight
home a distant light

First snowfall melts
on contact with the ground. Only
the fallen leaves turn white.

*

frizzyLogic

It’s always been difficult to describe the colour of the carpet that runs along the corridor, up the stairs and along the upper corridor of this house. Not mustard, not buttercup. Sunrise? no. Baby-shit comes close. But now, thanks to Cat, I know the exact hue. It is cat-sick-bile coloured.

A mixed blessing:
the color of the cat’s vomit
matches the carpet.

False spring

Meanwhile, back in the holler

So there are lilacs blooming in the dooryard, and it is November.

I also saw peaches, pears and hickories in bloom on the way home from Gallatin the other day.

Trees blossoming
even as their leaves turn yellow:
it hurts to look.

*

box elder

And this is a picture of my left big toe, getting over familiar with a sea anemone. Mostly because I just posted this today on our family blog, where the subject of feet has come up, and it was all shrunk and ready to go. (The photo, not my foot).

Toe to tentacle
with a sea anemone,
what nacreous nails!

*

Burning Silo

The first morning after arriving, we found many Pelicans gathered on the wharf in a section of the harbour. By the next morning, the numbers had multiplied to the point that almost every square foot of wharf was occupied by these birds.

Pelicans on the wharf
waiting out the storm all face
the same direction.

*

Theriomorph

Beyond the glass, two white-tails head downstream;
one walks the north bank, the other the south.

Dead deer in the creek:
a vulture rises from its perch
between the antlers.

*

tasting rhubarb

The ‘cells’ were my favourites: intricate, enclosing, troubling dolls’ houses for grown-ups where I could have lingered, playing mind-games, for hours.

In the bush by my door
it’s the second winter now
for that cocoon.
__________

Oddly enough, a WordPress “child” category can only have a single parent. So I guess I’ll place this new category for comment haiku under Poems & poem-like things, though it could just as easily go under Blogs and blogging.

A Canadian visitor

eagle talons

My friend and co-editor at qarrtsiluni, Beth Adams, has yet to visit Plummer’s Hollow. But other part-time residents of Quebec fly over twice a year, and sometimes they drop in for a quick bite. This one did, and got a bit more hospitality than she bargained for. See the complete story here.

*

It looks taller, now,
that little pine where the eagle
straightened her feathers.

New wrinkles

Haiku comment week continues after a two-day pause. Actually, I might make have made this a permanent part of my blogging, and retire have retired the Smorgasblog. We’ll see.

My theory of why haiku in English work: it’s the three lines, and the fact that the middle one usually has one more stress than the other two. That, and the lack of direct metaphor — that reticence. The spaces at the end of each line prepare us for the space afterwards, which is needed to do the extra work that haiku require of a reader, if they’re any good (and some of mine aren’t, I realize).

*

chatoyance

[photo]

Slipping through a crack
in the shed wall, the sun finds
the one round thing.

*

Light Verse for a Heavy Universe

What isn’t wrinkled? Plastic. Glass. Chrome.
Unless, through a microscope, you discover
the scandalous truth.

A verse must be light
to traverse the hidden depths
in every surface.

*

the cassandra pages

Tonight, the priest on his right listened, raised his eyebrows, smiled, and didn’t say anything; B. smiled a bit more broadly, enjoying ruffling the feathers. The question is actually timely: while traditional Catholic and Anglican parishes all the province are emptying, groups of young people are forming their own house churches, sharing bread and fellowship, prayer, meditation, and community.

Steady presences:
a friend, a journal, the smile
of a silent priest.

*

Blaugustine (Nov. 2)

The transition from canvas to camera to computer to website to internet doesn’t allow for accurate reproduction. Never mind, at least you can follow the changes. I don’t know if any more apples are going to appear.

Even the vase
on the windowsill wants
to be an apple.

*

Riverside Rambles

Tucker and I walked over to Dogbane Corner, one of my favorite neglected patches of weedy vegetation. The dogbane pods have burst and I took these shots.

On the weedy lot
near the new jail, dogbane seeds
loosen in the wind.

*

The House & other Arctic musings

What? One hundred and thirty-seven Nunavut bloggers?

Bloggers vanish
in the long Nunavut winter
as their fingers go numb.

*

Marja-Leena Rathje

I also learned, to my great surprise, that ‘marraskuu’, the Finnish name for this month, means ‘month of the dead’. But wait, it may not be like Dí­a de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead as celebrated in Mexico. It’s thought to come from the earth being ‘martaana’ or in a state of death.

All Souls Day:
the dead hortensia speaks
in a thin whisper.

*

bird by bird

Red-legged partridges are not native to the Americas. This one obviously belongs to someone. We tried to catch it but it flew onto the roof. If it isn’t careful, it’s going to belong to the red-tailed hawk that’s been flying around all day, calling…

Christmas already?
A red-legged partridge on the roof,
a red-tailed hawk.

Shine or shimmer?

Haiku comment week continues. Today’s relatively small haul of half-baked haiku shows what happens when I prioritize my own blogging and going for a walk instead. Even without the extra effort to write haiku, it’s always hard to know how to balance writing with reading, commenting, and linking.

Velveteen Rabbi

How can I separate
from the insidious desires
of the temporary self, that voice

which whispers “today I want
warmer socks and a box of truffles
and praise from the people around me
and an easy shortcut
to everything I don’t yet know?”

It’s shine or shimmer,
sunspots on the camera lens
or my own shadow.

*

Creek Running North

There are pomegranates in the refrigerator, untouched, and persimmons ripening on the tree. On Sunday a boisterous dog covered my shins in mud. She paid close attention to me in a way instantly familiar and wrenching…

Left in the fridge,
slowly turning sweet —
pomegranates.

*

Dharma Bums

We forgot to bring the Sibley’s Bird Guide with us (that and a bunch of other important things like the telephone, the modem, the cat’s kibble), so the new birds we are seeing in the creek are unknown to us. It’s like the good old days, when we just looked and couldn’t identify anything.

I like a café
where nobody knows my name:
I can eavesdrop.

*

Somewhere in NJ

Most important is the sea and a beach empty of people. Shorebirds wheel in the far distance trailing their shadows along the shoreline. The haze at the horizon suggests gannets or scoters tumbling into themselves above the breakers.

Shadows on the surf,
reflections on the wet sand:
black skimmers.

*

Factory Town

White stands for purity.
Maybe that is not appropriate.
Use a different color.
I myself would not use a plaid cloth.

The red pillow case
I use for an altar cloth
never shows the dust.

Behind the Trees

trail junction
Click to enlarge

Haiku Comment Week continues.

Up!

The five-pointed star inside each apple. The pattern of roots beneath the soil. The fetus sucking her perfect, tiny thumb. Blind fish in the depths, the ultraviolet messages flowers send to bees, all the colors hidden in white, the fossils buried deep in solid rock.

This morning
I saw behind the trees
the first bits of sky.

*

The Rain in My Purse

somewhere there’s a beard with my name on it
a nest for crumbs and smoke
because life comes at you from all directions
when you’re a man

You can have mine
when I’m done with it — right after
I rob a bank.

*

Pines Above Snow

Lucky Charm and his successors became my ambassadors to the outdoors, drawing me away from my books and literally carrying me into the woods and fields. On Lucky’s back, I chased foxes, watched a snake swallow a frog, and developed my first hostile relationship with an invasive species–bull thistle–due to its impact on bare legs.

Every young dreamer
should be issued a horse
just for the thistles.

*

Riverside Rambles

Often these wisps of spider-silk travel through the air at an angle of around thirty degrees to the ground. This is because the lower trailing end is gripped and weighted down by a small spider traveling to a new home.

To see ballooning spiders,
stand in the trailing shadow
of a tree.

*

The Middlewesterner

The farmer with flowers at Five Corners is parked there looking at them; as I pass through the intersection he pulls away.

The first morning back
on Standard Time, the farmer
checks on his flowers.

*

box elder

[photos]

The first fire
sprouts from a pine cone’s cluster
of crackling tongues.

*

Blaugustine

Couldn’t stand to look at that miserable excuse for a painting another minute so I changed my position, sat close up to the table, grabbed my palette knife and attacked.

With three empty chairs
and only two apples, this life
can hardly stay still.

All grass is flesh

I hearby declare October 28th through November 3rd Haiku Comment Week. Almost all of the comments that I leave at other blogs this week will take the form of haiku (which for me means approximately 17 syllables arranged in three lines and containing some element of surprise or grain of insight). I’ll collect them once a day and re-post them (slightly edited in some cases) here at Via Negativa, with links to the posts that prompted them, along with brief quotes.

Why haiku comments? I read a lot of blogs, but rarely take the time to leave substantial or interesting — or any — comments, in part because I tend to do my blog-reading at the end of the day, when my brain is tired, and in part because I’m a slow thinker in the best of circumstances. Also, I’ll admit I sometimes skim even the better blog posts rather than giving them the close attention they deserve. Americans in particular are schooled in unhealthy patterns of consumption, assuming that if a little of something is good, a lot of it must be even better, but in most cases that’s simply not true. I need to slow down. Composing haiku is a way to try and get myself to come up with thoughtful responses to posts I like.

I seem to have had grass on my mind today…

*

Fragments from Floyd

How would you describe what a breath of late October air feels and smells like where you live?

Grass blades edged in frost
for the first time since April:
a sharpness in the nose.

*

Dick Jones’ Patteran Pages

Landlocked,
she is a continent
without roads, without cities.

Maps are redundant:
all directions lead
to polar north.

Are there tides on the moon?
The Sea of Tranquility
looks darker tonight.

*

Jackrabbi

Everyone knows that people write poems, but what’s a little less obvious is that poems write people too.

The keeper of spells
killed & buried in the bog
turns to bitter parchment.

*

Roundrock Journal

With luck and a clear sky, Pablo will be out at Roundrock today, enjoying the seasonal color and the mild weather. Nothing much on the agenda, which makes for the best kind of visit.

I was asked if I had any news to report about the decay of the shopping bags. Alas, I haven’t been out to my woods since the day I placed them. Maybe I’ll be able to report now.

Nothing to do but sit
& watch empty shopping bags
break down in the sun.

*

In a Dark Time

Lael also seemed rather drawn to this statue, even arguing with another little girl who said it was HER family.

A girl climbs into
the sculpted circle & gazes
at the father’s zero face.

*

Pocahontas County Fare

I was never sure whether “Kitchener” should be capitalized, or why the seamless grafting technique had that name, but yesterday, while looking for something else, I discovered the answers to both these questions.

The perfect suture
may wear a general’s name,
but was he the knitter?

*

3rd House Journal

One day after work before we moved, I drove over and parked at the end of our street, got out and hiked up the embankment to see the reservoir — a grassy mound surrounded by a high railed fence. Where’s the water??

A tall fence surrounds
The underground reservoir.
Why not a moat?

*

chatoyance

Where is the Pratyekabuddha?

Where did it get
such a perfect pair of lips?
The grass isn’t saying.

*

One Word

…a bound to appreciate,
Rub his face in the sprouting wheat he’ll be
hawking up later…

The cat feasts on grass,
& just like a ruminant,
brings it all back up.