Friday, May 26, 2017

A Beautiful Sight

Our parking lot has been full of HAPPY nine year old kids playing together and a few supervising mothers from their apartment windows. Yesterday I saw two kids playing basketball in the rain. These kids are all about the same age and they are from neighborhood apartment buildings. It's a beautiful thing. We still worry about the unregistered cars that get planted back here and messed with in the mysterious garages but the majority of activity has been about happy kids and for this we are GRATEFUL. This is a dream come true. These kids are getting the best aspects of urban living: friends to play with, basketball hoop, corner candy store, and a visiting ice cream truck. Cheers to team WOONSOCKET! It takes a village and we are an amazing one.

Dorthea Lange

Today is the birthday of photographer Dorothea Lange, born Dorothea Nutzhorn in Hoboken, New Jersey (1895). She contracted polio when she was seven, and her left leg was noticeably weaker than her right for the rest of her life. She came to see that as a kind of blessing: “[It] was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me, and humiliated me.”

“You know, so often [photography] is just sticking around and being there, remaining there, not swooping in and swooping out in a cloud of dust; sitting down on the ground with people, letting the children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands, and putting their fingers on the lens, and you let them, because you know that if you will behave in a generous manner, you’re very apt to receive it, you know? People are very, very trusting; and also, most of us really like to get the full attention of the person who’s photographing you. It’s rare, you don’t get it very often. Who pays attention to you, really, a hundred percent? You doctor, your dentist, and your photographer.”
- Dorthea Lange
source: The Writer's Almanac

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Approachable Small Steps

I'm so relieved that it's raining today because the neighborhood is quiet for the first day in weeks. Amen to that. After lingering at my desk this morning, I was hesitant to swim but I reminded myself that one lap is enough. I had a transformation during the swim and kept going. Then later I was reluctant to play my horn and I reminded myself that one song is enough and I had an enjoyable practice.

Receive mode is a slog but when I steady myself in a routine and proceed in spite of my mood I feel a subtle reward. Perhaps it's from following through on the commitment to myself. Occasionally I am surprised at the transformations that occur for example when I am resisting the most and I go ahead and try anyway, like today.

I read an article about a guy who wanted athletics back in his life. So asked himself to do one push-up each day and little by little he was able to make a fitness routine for himself but he had to start with just one pushup to make it approachable.

Perhaps receive-mode feels so damned and transmit-mode feels so inspired but both scenarios are irrelevant distractions better known as moods. It's just that I feel them both so vividly. I need to muscle through the blanket of mood with a firm loving-kindness so I can learn to trust my strength and courage.

The tricky balance for me is not allowing these activities to become weapons of judgement to earn approval and self-respect. I must remind myself that they are both tools and a privilege. This is why one step has to be enough.

Wayne Thiebaud

“I often feel that I’m always starting over, in a way.”
- Wayne Thiebaud

“I think I’m lucky – when I started painting food I thought it would be the end of me. I take it very seriously: I didn’t know if anyone else would.”
- Wayne Thiebaud

“Most good painters that I know always question their work. It’s a wonderful, enduring and lifelong challenge.”
“I make my students criticize the work! At first they’re very hesitant to do it, but people know more than they think they do about criticism. Our bodies tell us empathically what is or is not ‘good space’, that something feels bad or does not belong.”
- Wayne Thiebaud


The Sound of Rain

I am so glad to hear the rain this morning. The world has been too loud lately. Perhaps this will postpone the noisy and industrious racket for a few days. As an introvert I find spring agonizing. At least it's quiet underwater.

Private Library

“Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads - at least that's where I imagine it - there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in awhile, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live forever in your own private library.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

An Unquiet Mind

“Manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it, an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering and, not infrequently, suicide.”
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

“I am tired of hiding, tired of misspent and knotted energies, tired of the hypocrisy, and tired of acting as though I have something to hide.”
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Beyond Solace

“When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. ‘This is my last experiment,’ wrote a young chemist in his suicide note. ‘If there is any eternal torment worse than mine I’ll have to be shown.”
― Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

Kay Redfield Jamison's Memoir of Moods and Madness

There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you're high it's tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting people. Sensuality is pervasive and the desire to seduce and be seduced irresistible. Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence, and euphoria pervade one's marrow. But, somewhere, this changes. The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends' faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against-- you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Kay Redfield Jamison

I compare myself with my former self, not with others. Not only that, I tend to compare my current self with the best I have been, which is when I have been midly manic. When I am my present "normal" self, I am far removed from when I have been my liveliest, most productive, most intense, most outgoing and effervescent. In short, for myself, I am a hard act to follow.
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Stone by Stone

“We all build internal sea walls to keep at bay the sadnesses of life and the often overwhelming forces within our minds. In whatever way we do this--through love, work, family, faith, friends, denial, alcohol, drugs, or medication, we build these walls, stone by stone, over a lifetime. ”
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Kay Redfield Jamison

Which of my feelings are real? Which of the me's is me? The wild, impulsive, chaotic, energetic, and crazy one? Or the shy, withdrawn, desperate, suicidal, doomed, and tired one? Probably a bit of both, hopefully much that is neither.
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Celebrate Emerson

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Always do what you are afraid to do.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson in His Journals


“The most important thing we learn at school is the fact that the most important things can't be learned at school.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running


“I look up at the sky, wondering if I'll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don't. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn't be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well. Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature. My own individual, stubborn, uncooperative often self-centered nature that still doubts itself--that, when troubles occur, tries to find something funny, or something nearly funny, about the situation. I've carried this character around like an old suitcase, down a long, dusty path. I'm not carrying it because I like it. The contents are too heavy, and it looks crummy, fraying in spots. I've carried it with me because there was nothing else I was supposed to carry. Still, I guess I have grown attached to it. As you might expect.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

To the Fullest

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they'll go to any length to live longer. But don't think that's the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Cozy, Homemade Void

“All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

An Exercise and a Metaphor

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running


“In other words, let's face it: Life is basically unfair. But even in a situation that's unfair, I think it's possible to seek out a kind of fairness. Of course, that might take time and effort. And maybe it won't seem to be worth all that. It's up to each individual to decide whether or not it is.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Clouds in the Sky

“Sometimes taking time is actually a shortcut.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

“The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

“Being active every day makes it easier to hear that inner voice.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

“To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running


Your Catfish Friend

If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, “It's beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,”
I'd love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
at peace,
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them.”

― Richard Brautigan, The Pill vs. the Springhill Mine Disaster

Excuse Me

“Excuse me, I said. I thought you were a trout stream.
I'm not, she said.”
― Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America


I saw thousands of pumpkins last night
come floating in on the tide,
bumping up against the rocks and
rolling up on the beaches;
it must be Halloween in the sea

― Richard Brautigan, The Pill vs. the Springhill Mine Disaster

That is My Name

“If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago:
Somebody asked you a question and you did not know the answer.
That is my name.”
― Richard Brautigan, In Watermelon Sugar

One Day

One day
Time will die
And love will bury it

― Richard Brautigan

Picnic in a Dream

“I’ll affect you slowly
as if you were having a picnic in a dream.
There will be no ants.
It won’t rain.”
― Richard Brautigan, Loading Mercury With a Pitchfork


I will be very careful the next time I fall in love, she told herself. Also, she had made a promise to herself that she intended on keeping. She was never going to go out with another writer: no matter how charming, sensitive, inventive or fun they could be. They weren't worth it in the long run. They were emotionally too expensive and the upkeep was complicated. They were like having a vacuum cleaner around the house that broke all the time and only Einstein could fix it. She wanted her next lover to be a broom.”
― Richard Brautigan, Sombrero Fallout

Richard Brautigan

Karma Repair Kit Items 1-4.

1.Get enough food to eat,
and eat it.

2.Find a place to sleep where it is quiet,
and sleep there.

3.Reduce intellectual and emotional noise
until you arrive at the silence of yourself,
and listen to it.

― Richard Brautigan

A Distant Star

“Sometimes when I look at you, I feel I'm gazing at a distant star.
It's dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago.
Maybe the star doesn't even exist any more. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything.”
― Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun


“I dream. Sometimes I think that's the only right thing to do.”
― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

The Storm

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


“A person learns how to love himself through the simple acts of loving and being loved by someone else.”
― Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

Introversion vs Social Anxiety


Haruki Murakami’s Memoir

“I’m the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on it, I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I’ve had this tendency ever since I was young, when, given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself.”

“After I left college I ran a bar, so I learned the importance of being with others and the obvious point that we can’t survive on our own. Gradually, then, though perhaps with my own spin on it, through personal experience I discovered how to be sociable. Looking back on that time now, I can see that during my twenties my worldview changed, and I matured. By sticking my nose into all sorts of places, I acquired the practical skills I needed to live. Without those ten tough years I don’t think I would have written novels, and even if I’d tried, I wouldn’t have been able to. Not that people’s personalities change that dramatically. The desire in me to be alone hasn’t changed. Which is why the hour or so I spend running, maintaining my own silent, private time, is important to help me keep my mental well-being. When I’m running I don’t have to talk to anybody and don’t have to listen to anybody. All I need to do is gaze at the scenery passing by. This is a part of my day I can’t do without.”

“In certain areas of my life, I actively seek out solitude. Especially for someone in my line of work, solitude is, more or less, an inevitable circumstance. Sometimes, however, this sense of isolation, like acid spilling out of a bottle, can unconsciously eat away at a person’s heart and dissolve it. You could see it, too, as a kind of double-edged sword. It protects me, but at the same time steadily cuts away at me from the inside.”

- Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Deep Wells

“She waited for the train to pass. Then she said, "I sometimes think that people’s hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what’s at the bottom. All you can do is imagine by what comes floating to the surface every once in a while.”
― Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman


“Here she is, all mine, trying her best to give me all she can. How could I ever hurt her? But I didn’t understand then. That I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. That a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair.”
― Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun


“What happens when people open their hearts?"
"They get better.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood


“Whatever it is you're seeking won't come in the form you're expecting.”
― Haruki Murakami

No War

“Listen up - there's no war that will end all wars.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Sputnik Sweetheart

“I have this strange feeling that I'm not myself anymore. It's hard to put into words, but I guess it's like I was fast asleep, and someone came, disassembled me, and hurriedly put me back together again. That sort of feeling.”
― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart


“Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Be Sure

“Be sure that whatever you are is you.”
― Theodore Roethke


“Nothing would give up life:
Even the dirt keeps breathing a small breath.”
― Theodore Roethke

A Mind

“A mind too active is no mind at all.”

― Theodore Roethke, The Selected Letters of Theodore Roethke


“Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries.”

― Theodore Roethke, Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke


“What we need are more people who specialize in the impossible.”
― Theodore Roethke


“Deep in their roots all flowers keep the light.”
― Theodore Roethke

Theodore Roethke

My Papa's Waltz

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

― Theodore Roethke


“I lose and find myself in the long water. I am gathered together once more.”
― Theodore Roethke

“The visible exhausts me. I am dissolved in shadow.”
― Theodore Roethke

The Darkness

“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”
― Theodore Roethke

“The darkness has its own light.”
― Theodore Roethke

“Over every mountain, there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.”
― Theodore Roethke

At the End

“How body from spirit slowly does unwind, until we are pure spirit at the end.”
― Theodore Roethke


“Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It's what everything else isn't.”
― Theodore Roethke, On Poetry and Craft: Selected Prose

Inventing Myself

“I understood that I was inventing myself, and that I was doing this more in the way of a painter than in the way of a scientist. I could not count on precision or calculation; I could only count on intuition.”
― Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stay Skeptical

“[T]he longer you stay skeptical, doubtful, intellectually uncomfortable, the better it is for you.”
― Joseph Brodsky


“If there is anything good about exile, it is that it teaches one humility. It accelerates one’s drift into isolation, an absolute perspective. Into the condition at which all one is left with is oneself and one’s language, with nobody or nothing in between. Exile brings you overnight where it would normally take a lifetime to go.”
― Joseph Brodsky

An Approach

“Poetry is rather an approach to things, to life, than it is typographical production.”
― Joseph Brodsky


“Snobbery? But it's only a form of despair.”
― Joseph Brodsky

Towards Language

“For a writer, only one form of patriotism exists: his attitude toward language.”
― Joseph Brodsky


“Try not to pay attention to those who will try to make life miserable for you. There will be a lot of those--in the official capacity as well as the self-appointed. Suffer them if you can’t escape them, but once you have steered clear of them, give them the shortest shrift possible. Above all, try to avoid telling stories about the unjust treatment you received at their hands; avoid it no matter how receptive your audience may be. Tales of this sort extend the existence of your antagonists....”
― Joseph Brodsky

Vocabulary and Violence

“What concerns me is that man, unable to articulate, to express himself adequately, reverts to action. Since the vocabulary of action is limited, as it were, to his body, he is bound to act violently, extending his vocabulary with a weapon where there should have been an adjective.”
― Joseph Brodsky

Brodsky on Boredom

“When hit by boredom, let yourself be crushed by it; submerge, hit bottom. In general, with things unpleasant, the rule is: The sooner you hit bottom, the faster you surface. The idea here is to exact a full look at the worst. The reason boredom deserves such scrutiny is that it represents pure, undiluted time in all its repetitive, redundant, monotonous splendor.

Boredom is your window on the properties of time that one tends to ignore to the likely peril of one's mental equilibrium. It is your window on time's infinity. Once this window opens, don't try to shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open.”
― Joseph Brodsky

Darkness Restores

“For darkness restores what light cannot repair.”
― Joseph Brodsky

Joseph Brodsky

“The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even—if you will—eccentricity.”
― Joseph Brodsky


I dreamed that I wandered into a tiny church and inside there was a video playing of a couple performing traditional Polish folk dances. It fascinated me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What We Want

by Linda Pastan

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names --
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don't remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there.

― Linda Pastan, Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems, 1968-1998

Linda Pastan

Across the street on benches,
my grandparents lifted their faces
to the sun the way the blind turn
towards a familiar sound, speaking
another language I almost understand.

- Linda Pastan, excerpt from poem Market Day from Carnival Evening

Jane Kenyon

“A poet’s job is to find a name for everything: to be a fearless finder of the names of things.
― Jane Kenyon

“The poet's job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way, that people cannot live without it.”
― Jane Kenyon

“Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.”
― Jane Kenyon

Sunday, May 21, 2017


My Month-at-a-glance calendar has WINTER BEGINS printed in an extra tiny typeface in today's square. No wonder why it only cost two bucks at Joblot.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alexandra Petri

and this too.

Paris Spleen

“The devil's finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.”
― Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen

Innocuous Dreamer

“A friend of mine, the most innocuous dreamer who ever lived, once set a forest on fire to see, as he said, if it would catch as easily as people said. The first ten times the experiment was a failure; but on the eleventh it succeeded all too well.”
― Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen

Mr. Suspicious

When I opened the back door to take Lily for a walk a suspicious young man was walking through the parking lot. I lingered for a second and he flashed an artificial smile. I was walking behind him with my dog down the drive. He flashed a hand signal at Sleepy the drug dealer who was on the stairs across the street. When Mr. Suspicious turned left I saw his two buddies were waiting for him. I walked by with my dog and they were walking behind me. At one point my dog was held up sniffing something and the three guys walked past me. That was when I noticed Mr. Suspicious take a bowie knife out of his front right pocket and put it back in. I turned at the next block and walked back home.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stand By

Box Elder, door knob, sex pot, road kill, pig Latin, weed killer, snow man, hedge clipper, bank robber, mind reader, fortune teller, garbage man, blow hard, tin man, straw man, dead man, word play, fore play, fast food, slow food, train ride, end table, dead end, pants suit, wheel barrow, garden snake, chimney sweep, mini skirt, picnic table, library book, lamp shade, fire man, table top, book ends, book case, turn table, washing machine, desk top, stove top, top less, paper clip, tax forms, bird cage, ground swell, mustard gas, stove pipe, anti freeze, butcher wrap, corn husk, motor car, train wreck, postage stamp, free way, sleeping pill, cruise ship, anti body, bio sphere, income tax, whipped cream, chocolate fudge, layer cake, dish soap, ironing board, hair cut, banana peel, stone soup, ice cube, run away, shaving cream, belt loop, bell hop, belt buckle, tow truck, car wreck, hair net, lip stick, nail file, Moby Dick, Lester Young, yin yang, voo doo, Captain Crunch, Chesapeake Bay, type face, ear lobe, ring leader, circus tent, brief case, shoe horn, boat horn, police car, siren scream, screen door, nose bleed, sound track, race horse, hat rack, mouse trap, bird's eye, race track, race car, purse snatcher, horse thief, ground cover, odor eater, air conditioner, stand by.

Amy Gerstler

Poem: Fruit Cocktail in Light Syrup
Poem: Bon Courage
Poem: In Perpetual Spring

Thursday, May 18, 2017

She Won't Mind

On the Monday after Mother's Day I saw a man off in the distance wandering though Precious Blood cemetery holding a rose, stem wrapped in white paper. The weather was gray and drizzly. I met up with him on my way out. "I'm looking for my mother's grave," he said, "And I'm a day late."
"That's okay, she won't mind," I said.


Empty shopping carts surround Santa Claus
Someone is knitting peppermints at the bowling alley
Do you know where your cat is?
Stop licking dead president stamps
And put on sandals

Monday, May 15, 2017

Charles Simic

A Book Full of Pictures

by Charles Simic

Father studied theology through the mail
And this was exam time.

Mother knitted.
I sat quietly with a book
Full of pictures.
Night fell.

My hands grew cold touching the faces
Of dead kings and queens.

There was a black raincoat
in the upstairs bedroom
Swaying from the ceiling,
But what was it doing there?
Mother's long needles made quick crosses.

They were black
Like the inside of my head just then.

The pages I turned sounded like wings.

"The soul is a bird," he once said.

In my book full of pictures
A battle raged: lances and swords
Made a kind of wintry forest
With my heart spiked and bleeding in its branches.

Charles Simic

The Partial Explanation

by Charles Simic

Seems like a long time
Since the waiter took my order.

Grimy little luncheonette,
The snow falling outside.

Seems like it has grown darker
Since I last heard the kitchen door
Behind my back
Since I last noticed
Anyone pass on the street.

A glass of ice-water
Keeps me company
At this table I chose myself
Upon entering.

And a longing,
Incredible longing
To eavesdrop
On the conversation
Of cooks.

Charles Simic

The Initiate
Charles Simic

St. John of the Cross wore dark glasses
As he passed me on the street.
St. Theresa of Avila, beautiful and grave,
Turned her back on me.

“Soulmate," they hissed. “It’s high time.”

I was a blind child, a wind-up toy . . .
I was one of death’s juggling red balls
On a certain street corner
Where they peddle things out of suitcases.

The city like a huge cinema
With lights dimmed.
The performance already started.

So many blurred faces in a complicated plot.

The great secret which kept eluding me: knowing who I am . . .

The Redeemer and the Virgin,
Their eyes wide open in the empty church
Where the killer came to hide himself . . .

The new snow on the sidewalk bore footprints
That could have been made by bare feet.
Some unknown penitent guiding me.
In truth, I didn’t know where I was going.
My feet were frozen,
My stomach growled.

Four young hoods blocking my way.
Three deadpan, one smiling crazily.

I let them have my black raincoat.

Thinking constantly of the Divine Love
and the Absolute had disfigured me.
People mistook me for someone else.
I heard voices after me calling out unknown names.
“I’m searching for someone to sell my soul to,"
The drunk who followed me whispered,
While appraising me from head to foot.

At the address I had been given.
The building had large X’s over its windows.
I knocked but no one came to open.
By and by a black girl joined me on the steps.
She banged at the door till her fist hurt.

Her name was Alma, a propitious sign.
She knew someone who solved life’s riddles
In a voice of an ancient Sumerian queen.
We had a long talk about that
While shivering and stamping our wet feet.

It was necessary to stay calm, I explained,
Even with the earth trembling,
And to continue to watch oneself
As if one were a complete stranger.

Once in Chicago, for instance,
I caught sight of a man in a shaving mirror
Who had my naked shoulders and face,
But whose eyes terrified me!
Two hard staring, all-knowing eyes!

After we parted, the night, the cold, and the endless walking
Brought on a kind of ecstasy.
I went as if pursued, trying to warm myself.

There was the East River; there was the Hudson.
Their waters shone like oil in sanctuary lamps.

Something supreme was occurring
For which there will never be any words.

The sky was full of racing clouds and tall buildings,
Whirling and whirling silently.

In that whole city you could hear a pin drop.
Believe me.
I thought I heard a pin drop and I went looking for it.

-Charles Simic, The Book of Gods and Devils, published by Harcourt Brace & Company, 1990.

Friday, May 12, 2017


I dreamed of a number ten can of bloody hands.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Driving Around

By Charles Simic

And then there is our Main Street
that looks like
an abandoned movie set
whose director
ran out of money and ideas,firing at a moment’s notice
his entire filming crew,and the pretty young actress
dressed for the part
standing with a pinched smile
in the dusty window
of Miss Emma’s bridal shop.

The Infinite

By Charles Simic

The infinite yawns and keeps yawning.
Is it sleepy?
Does it miss Pythagoras?
The sails on Columbus’s three ships?
Does the sound of the surf remind it of itself?
Does it ever sit over a glass of wine
and philosophize?
Does it peek into mirrors at night?
Does it have a suitcase full of souvenirs
stashed away somewhere?
Does it like to lie in a hammock with the wind
whispering sweet nothings in its ear?
Does it enter empty churches and light a single
candle on the altar?
Does it see us as a couple of fireflies
playing hide-and-seek in a graveyard?
Does it find us good to eat?

Simic Poem

To Boredom

By Charles Simic

I’m the child of your rainy Sundays.
I watched time crawl
Over the ceiling
Like a wounded fly.
A day would last forever,
Making pellets of bread,
Waiting for a branch
On a bare tree to move.
The silence would deepen,
The sky would darken,
As Grandmother knitted
With a ball of black yarn.
I know Heaven’s like that.
In eternity’s classrooms,
The angels sit like bored children
With their heads bowed.

Charles Simic

My fantasy goes like this: a reader, in a bookstore, browsing in the poetry section. They pull out a book and read a few poems. Then they put the book back. Two days later they sit up in bed at four o’ clock in the morning, thinking—I want to read that poem again! Where’s that poem? I’ve got to get that book.
- Charles Simic


Monday, May 08, 2017

She Told Me

She told me she thought I was avoiding her. How could I be avoiding you if I haven't seen you? I said, smiling. We both laughed.
"I quit my job, broke up with Roger, and started drinking," she said.
"I'm sorry to hear that. May is a tough month for many of us."

Gary Snyder

"True affluence is not needing anything."
-Gary Snyder

Having a Place

“Having a place means that you know what a place means...what it means in a storied sense of myth, character and presence but also in an ecological sense...Integrating native consciousness with mythic consciousness”
― Gary Snyder


“The size of the place that one becomes
a member of is limited only by
the size of one’s heart.”
― Gary Snyder


“Nature is orderly. That which appears to be chaotic in nature is only a more complex kind of order.”
― Gary Snyder


“With no surroundings there can be no path, and with no path one cannot become free.”
― Gary Snyder, Practice of the Wild

Dig In

“Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.”
― Gary Snyder


“O, ah! The awareness of emptiness brings forth a heart of compassion!”
― Gary Snyder

Being the Stream

Meditation is not just a rest or retreat from the turmoil of the
stream or the impurity of the world. It is a way of being the stream,
so that one can be at home in both the white water and the eddies.
Meditation may take one out of the world, but it also puts one totally
into it.
― Gary Snyder

Our Elders Are Books

“In Western Civilization, our elders are books.”
― Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild: Essays

Friday, May 05, 2017

Søren Kierkegaard

“In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant… My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known — no wonder, then, that I return the love.”
― Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: A Fragment of Life

“Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”
― Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

“The most common form of despair is not being who you are.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. - is sure to be noticed.”
― Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuilding and Awakening

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Horace Mann

"Education is our only political safety. Outside of this ark, all is deluge."
- Horace Mann, The father of American public education

“Books are the windows through which the soul looks out. A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up his children without surrounding them with books, if he has the means to buy them. It is a wrong to his family. He cheats them! Children learn to read by being in the presence of books. The love of knowledge comes with reading and grows upon it.”
― Horace Mann

“Seek not greatness, but seek truth and you will find both.”
― Horace Mann

“Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.”
― Horace Mann

“Habits are like a cable. We weave a strand of it every day and soon it cannot be broken.”
― Horace Mann

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Viktor Frankl

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
-Viktor Frankl

Emotional May

Receive-mode is back. I always think I can learn enough to have it not happen or at least not be so painful. But there is progress when I think back on other times. It still hurts emotionally and it's the opposite of cozy. I try to be kind to myself and remember that it's a cycle. I feel emotionally agitated and anxious. "Make good use of it. Be physical. Find your new home inside this new head." These are the things I tell myself. It takes about a week to ten days to settle in. Reading and walking downtown takes on a new meaning. "My backdrop has changed color," I tell my husband. "But you are still you!" he reminds me. I feel like I am on a strange safari in my regular life. I feel shame to feel emotional pain when the trees are blossoming.
This morning a young woman I see occasionally downtown, was at the bus stop when I was walking Lily. She told me she tried to commit suicide. "I wasn't supposed to live, with the amount of sleeping pills I took," she said. I hugged her. "I'm sorry. I'm glad you're still here. You're my favorite character," I said. "Even though the trees are blooming, May is a tough month for some of us," I said.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness

“One is reminded, at a level deeper than all words, how making a living and making a life sometimes point in opposite directions.”
― Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

Sitting Still

“Sitting still as a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it;”
― Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

A Comfort

One of the things I have living here is a daily sense of a downtown city village. Thanks to my daily walks I see some of the same people and the gentle repetition is a comfort.

Pico Iyer: Sense of Community

“A lack of affiliation may mean a lack of accountability, and forming a sense of commitment can be hard without a sense of community. Displacement can encourage the wrong kinds of distance, and if the nationalism we see sparking up around the globe arises from too narrow and fixed a sense of loyalty, the internationalism that's coming to birth may reflect too roaming and undefined a sense of belonging. ”
― Pico Iyer

Adventures in Going Nowhere

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”
― Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

Finding a Sanctuary

“Finding a sanctuary, a place apart from time, is not so different from finding a faith.”
― Pico Iyer, Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World

Open Road

“The open road is the school of doubt in which man learns faith in man.”
― Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
― Pico Iyer


“A person susceptible to "wanderlust" is not so much addicted to movement as committed to transformation.”
― Pico Iyer


“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, in dimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”
― Pico Iyer

How Alive

“It doesn't matter where or how far you go - the farther commonly the worse - the important thing is how alive you are. Writing of every kind is a way to wake oneself up and keep as alive as when one has just fallen in love.”
― Pico Iyer

The Books on My Shelf

“What more could one ask of a companion? To be forever new and yet forever steady. To be strange and familiar all at once, with enough change to quicken my mind, enough steadiness to give sanctuary to my heart. The books on my shelf never asked to come together, and they would not trust or want to listen to one another; but each is a piece of a stained-glass whole without which I couldn’t make sense to myself, or to the world outside.”
― Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer

“Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.”
—Pico Iyer

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Yesterday 50, Today 54

I've returned to the pool and counting laps is a meditative exercise. I swam fifty laps in an hour yesterday and 54 today. 64 laps is a mile in this pool.

The pool is very warm! I swam without my cap to stay cooler. I walked home in my wet bathing suit with my dress worn over it, carrying my flippers. There is nothing that calms me down like a long distance swim.

I have anxiety when I am in receive-mode. Swimming is the cure!


I had a nightmare on Friday night. I woke up at three AM. The nightmare was that my sister was renting my parents former house to the Mafia.

Preventive Medicine: Zoning Enforcement

Our beloved City of Woonsocket needs to protect the citizens who live here and beef up its zoning enforcement. I say this from the bottom of my heart. I love my city but this is a blind spot that needs to be looked at.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

a lone long sleeve shirt

This morning a lone long sleeve shirt hangs at the clothesline gallery.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Clothesline is a Short Story

Clothesline Gallery 4th floor porch across the street just got colorful! It was all black dad clothes this morning. Now we have a turquoise shirt, and a red one and a gold one and blue and white striped one. The daughter.

Why do I love clotheslines? They are short stories.


I did it again. I picked up the scissors and started snipping and snipping and snipping and running my fingers though my hair and snipping, snipping, snipping. I filled three bags with curls. I shocked my husband. "But it FEELS amazing!" I say. I never thought I'd do it, the soccer mom haircut but I never realized I'd be in a perpetual state of overheating. When I saw all the hair in the bag I realized how much heat it was holding. Now I can swim and shake like a dog and walk home. It does mean I can't hide anywhere. I have always been able to hide under my Medusa curls. Now my clown face is fully revealed.

Spring into Suicide Awareness: April+May

I have lost countless people to suicide.

Another article
Important book about suicide.Night Falls fast by Kay Jamison

Don’t Pretend that this is Normal

Paul Krugman Article

I can't read about Mr. Chief Narcissist without being transported to my childhood. Christmas Day my mother humiliated me in front of 27 people at the holiday table. She was free associating, but directing it at me, something about masturbation as a toddler. It was the madness of King George just like what's happening in the White House. None of my siblings or relatives or family friends came to my defense. Were they all stunned to silence? I believe so. They knew they were dealing with a powerful narcissist. I don't know which is more painful what my mother said or the silence that followed. I got up and packed my bags and left, driving my little blue VW bug back to Rhode Island. No more holidays.

When I was in high school my mother announced a family vacation to Spain to visit my sister who was studying overseas. "You're staying home because you're no fun to be around!" Again, nobody came to my defense. My powerful father ran his own advertising graphics business in midtown Manhattan but at home, he was powerless. The implications of a family holiday without me still resonate to this day.

I never went back to my original family and I'll announce proudly to anyone who wants to know. "I ran away from home!"

Dara Torres

“The water doesn’t know how old you are.
-Dara Torres

Age Is Just a Number: Achieve Your Dreams at Any Stage in Your Life by Dara Torres
Dara Torres has set three world records and has brought home twelve Olympic medals, including four golds. She is the first American swimmer to have competed in five Olympics. She lives in Florida.

Diana Nyad: Find a Way

I am telling everyone about the Diana Nyad memoir,Find a Way. It is an amazing book! I finished it last night savoring the journey. Not only is she an amazing swimmer she is a beautiful writer.

James Baldwin is a Vitamin

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

― James Baldwin

Most Important Decision

The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.
— Albert Einstein

The Reed

Who is luckiest in this whole orchestra? The reed
Its mouth touches your lips to learn music.
All reeds, sugarcane especially, think only
of this chance. They sway in the canebrakes,
free in the many ways they dance.

-Rumi, Essential Rumi, Constant Conversation (p94)

Definition of canebrake. : a thicket of cane.


“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden


“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
― Henry David Thoreau


“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden


“There is no remedy for love but to love more.”
― Henry David Thoreau


“I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”
― Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Influence of the Earth

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden


“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
― Henry David Thoreau


“Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Henry Davis Thoreau

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.
-Henry David Thoreau

Bob Hicok Poem

by Bob Hicok

Anas and I had Oreos this morning, as we do

once a week, on the bench outside his store,

sharing them so we don’t get fat

(ter). Now and then, for a change,

Nutter Butters. Anas keeps a picture

of his mother above the register.

Right before he was shot three years ago

by a thief, he focused on her face.

Asked weeks later by a cop

what the man looked like, Anas thought

but didn’t say, Home. He told me that.

I told my wife, who told her mother,

who told her mother, who said, How lovely.

Even in her senility, her eyes sparked

to the word home. Anas’ wife is dead,

his mother, grandmother, but I’ve leant him

three generations of women

admiring his thoughts. Below

being a man, he’s Anas. Beneath

being Syrian, he prefers Paris.

Under wanting to get even, he doesn’t.

Retribution is like playing catch

with an egg. How far would we get with war

if every man first asked his mother,

Can I kill? Most of whom would say,

“It’s may I kill. And no, you may not.”

Bob Hicok's most recent book is Sex & Love & (Copper Canyon, 2016). Hold will be published by Copper Canyon in 2018.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Robert Bly, Talking into the Ear of a Donkey: Poems

“It's all right if people think we are idiots.
It's all right if we lie face down on the earth.
It's all right if we open the coffin and climb in.”
― Robert Bly, Talking into the Ear of a Donkey: Poems

“Don't ask why the elephants wear such large shoes,
And why the kangaroos are reborn kidnappers,
And why the sailing birds are all Romantics.”
― Robert Bly, Talking into the Ear of a Donkey: Poems

“We have never understood how birds manage to fly,
Nor who the genius is who makes up dreams,
Now how heaven and earth can appear in a poem.”
― Robert Bly, Talking into the Ear of a Donkey: Poems


“Zeus energy, which encompasses intelligence, robust health, compassionate decisiveness, good will, generous leadership. Zeus energy is male authority accepted for the sake of the community.”
― Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men