Monday, November 30, 2009

Kenneth Patchen

When We Were Here Together

When we were here together in a place we did not know, nor one another.

A bit of grass held between the teeth for a moment, bright hair on the wind. What we were we did not know, nor even the grass or the flame of hair turning to ash on the wind.

But they lied about that. From the beginning they lied. To the child, telling him that there was somewhere anger against him, and a hatred against him, and the only reason for his being in the world. But never did they tell him that the only evil and danger was in themselves; that they alone were the prisoners and the betrayers; that they–they alone–were responsible for what was being done in the world.

And they told the child to starve and to kill the child that was within him; for only by doing this could he become a useful and adjusted member of the community which they had prepared for him. And this time, alas, they did not lie.

And with the death of the child was born a thing that had neither the character of a man nor the character of a child, but was a horrible and monstrous parody of the two; and it is in this world now that the flesh of man’s spirit lies twisted and despoiled under the indifferent stars.

When we were here together in a place we did not know, nor one another. O green the bit of warm grass between our teeth–O beautiful the hair of our mortal goddess on the indifferent wind.

-Kenneth Patchen

Kenneth Rexroth

At Least That Abandon

As I watch at the long window
Crowds of travelers hurry
Behind me, rainy darkness
Blows before me, and the great plane
Circles, taxis to the runway,
Waits, and then roars off into
The thick night. I follow it
As it rises through the clouds
And levels off under the stars.
Stars, darkness, a row of lights,
Moaning engines, thrumming wings,
A silver plane over a sea
Of starlit clouds and rain bound
Sea. What I am following
Is a rosy, glowing coal
Shaped like the body of a
Woman - rushing southward a
Meteor afire with the
Same fire that burns me unseen
Here on the whirling earth amongst
Bright, busy, incurious
Faces of hundreds of people
Who pass me, unaware of
The blazing astrophysics
Of the end of a weekend.

-Kenneth Rexroth


I have always loved naming things and I'm fascinated by the meaning and impact our names can have on us. Look what I found today when I Googled the genie box!

from Wikipedia
In Judaism, someone's name is considered intimately connected with his fate, and adding a name (e.g. on the sickbed) may avert a particular danger. Among Ashkenazi Jews it is also considered bad luck to take the name of a living ancestor, as the Angel of Death may mistake the younger person for his namesake (although there is no such custom among Sephardi Jews). Jews may also have a Jewish name for intra-communitary use and use a different name when engaging with the Gentile world. Chinese children are called insulting names to make them appear worthless to evil spirits. They receive a definitive name as they grow up.[citation needed] Chinese and Japanese emperors receive posthumous names. In some Polynesian cultures, the name of a deceased chief becomes taboo. If he is named after a common object or concept, a different word has to be used for it.

Rumi poems translated by Coleman Barks

The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere,
they're in each other all along.

Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

When I am with you, we stay up all night,
When you're not here, I can't get to sleep.

Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.

Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

A Smile and A Gentleness

There is a smile and a gentleness inside.
When I learned the name

and address of that, I went to where
you sell perfume. I begged you not

to trouble me so with longing. Come
out and play! Flirt more naturally.

Teach me how to kiss. On the ground
a spread blanket, flame that's caught

and burning well, cumin seeds browning,
I am inside all of this with my soul.

Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,
absentminded. Someone sober
will worry about things going badly.
Let the lover be.

Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks


from Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison (album)

My bills are all due and the babies need shoes,
But I'm Busted
Cotton's gone down to a quarter a pound
And I'm Busted

I got a cow that's gone dry
And a hen that won't lay
A big stack of bills
Getting bigger each day
The county's gonna haul my belongings away,
But I'm Busted

So I called on my brother to ask for a loan
'Cause I was Busted
I hate to beg like a dog for a bone,
But I'm Busted

My brother said, "there's not a thing I can do,
My wife and my kids
Are all down with the flu
And I was just thinkin' about callin' on you,
'Cause I'm Busted."

Lord, I ain't no thief, but a man can go wrong,
When he's Busted
The food that we canned last summer is gone,
But I'm Busted

Now the fields are all bare
And the cotton won't grow
Me and my family's gotta pack up and go
But I'll make a living, just where, I don't know
'Cause I'm Busted

Sandwich Dreams

I woke with the song BUSTED in my head! Our ensemble band performed it last winter in our Johnny Cash Carter Family Show. This morning I woke from a dream that I was making a spaghetti sandwich and then I got this image of a person eating his own toes between two slices of bread, while still attached to his body!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coleman Barks

Coleman Barks describes his real training as a poet:
You get trained by other people whose writing you love.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

John Steinbeck

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.
-John Steinbeck


Yesterday morning I took a walk to Cass Park and Lily ran like lightning in big graceful circles. She doesn't need to chase a stick or a ball to enjoy running. She just loves to run circles in the field. As I was leaving it started to rain hard and my maroon cotton coat got dotted, and then soaked with rain. I was warm wearing my rain boots and layers of shirts and fleece pullover under my coat. By the time we got home I didn't want to stop walking so we continued on to Precious Blood Cemetery and Harris Reservoir. I liked the quiet feeling walking through the neighborhoods.

Too bad I'm not a novelist, the cemetery is filled with great names for characters. One of my favorite names is Silas D Bunker. Every time I go by his stone I get a vivid picture of him wearing overalls. Speaking of character names, my wet, smelly dog made me think of the name Dinky Staug. This morning I dreamt of a chocolate Labrador that looked like Bullwinkle the cartoon moose but with a black circle for a nose. In the dream I told the owners they should call their dog Moosenose.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Drop The Knife

Once a young woman asked Hafiz, "What is the sign of someone knowing God?" Hafiz remained silent for a few moments and looked deep into the young person's eyes, then said, "Dear, they have dropped the knife. They have dropped the cruel knife most so often use upon their tender self and others."

“Drop the knife. Those are profound words to me, for they encapsulate and distill the essence and goal of spiritual aspirants, and anyone who has entered a recovery program. Surely every human wants to avoid suffering, though self caused afflictions are complex. Most everyone is a kid in God's chocolate factory (this earth) with a belly and soul ache and gas. There is a poem in "The Gift" where Hafiz says "I have found the power to say no to any actions that might harm myself or another." Think about that a moment. My take is that one's experience of God - one's joy, one's creative potential - is in direct proportion to the ability to no longer harm oneself and others physically, mentally, emotionally spiritually."

-Daniel Ladinsky, The Subject Tonight is Love

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nin Andrews

The winter her body no longer fit, walking felt like swimming in blue jeans and a flannel shirt. Everything stuck to her skin: gum wrappers, Band-Aids, leaves. How she envied the other girls, especially the kind who turned into birds. They were the ones boys hand-tamed, training them to eat crumbs from their palms or sing on cue. What she would have done for a red crest and a sharp beak, for a little square of blue sky to enter her like wings. But it was her role to sink so the others could rise, hers to sleep so the others could dance. If only her legs weren't too sodden to lift, if only her buttons were unfastened by the water she kept swimming through, and she could extract from the shadow of her breasts a soul as soft as a silk brassiere, beautiful and useless, like a castle at the bottom of the sea.

-Nin Andrews

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mashed Potatoes

Last night I took a walk with Lily to Precious Blood Cemetery just as the sun was setting and then I kept going toward the reservoir. It got dark but I didn't mind. I was starting to warm up and I was on familiar streets. I stepped from one circle of light into the next. There were very few cars out. It was comforting being able to glimpse into peoples' lives. Their homes were like doll houses in the dark. I spotted a lamp in one house, pictures over the mantle, bookcases, a fridge covered in magnets, a chair with a coat on it. Another house was completely gutted and being worked on. As I walked by it, a woman on the porch said "mashed potatoes." She was talking loudly into her cell phone. I figured it was what she was bringing to Thanksgiving. As I turned the corner I heard her say, "We're at my brother's house, the one he bought. We're here helping him fix it up." On our way home Lily and I said hi to all the lonely dogs that were outside in their yards.

Alice Hoffman

Perhaps what people said was true, that any man who lived long enough would eventually realize that the way in which he was cursed was also the blessing he'd received.
-Alice Hoffman

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lily And Dudley

Yesterday on the way home from the Big Apple orchard we took a side trip to Cass Park to let Lily run in the fenced-in baseball field. We chatted with a young couple who had a white Labrador puppy wearing a red harness. Their dog had us picturing what Lily must have looked like as a pup. The couple said he was 11 weeks old and that they had just gotten him three weeks ago. He had a pink nose and pink pigment around his green eyes. They said he was a Dudley Labrador, which is the name for a Lab with this albino-like pigmentation. His fur was like a bunny's, so soft, and his skin was loose. I said I would give birth to Labradors myself if I could, laughing.

While we spoke, five boys showed up and began a game of football. I asked them if we could share the field for about three minutes to let Lily run in circles. They said okay! I unhooked Lily's leash and she ran full throttle in exuberant graceful circles around the field, ignoring the kids who continued to play and watch Lily run at the same time. I admired Lily's long thin muscles on both sides of her rib cage. The boys were amazed at her running speed and grace too, as she ran top-speed through their football game. After a few minutes she had tired herself out. I thanked the boys and we left, closing the gate.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hafiz Poem


If one
Is afraid of losing anything
They have not looked into the Friend's eyes;
They have forgotten God's

The jewels you get when you meet the Beloved
Go on multiplying themselves;
They take root

They keep mating all the time
Like spring-warmed

Hear watchdogs inside of His

And run.

-Hafiz, from The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Now Is The Time


Now is the time to know
That all you do is sacred.

Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.

Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child's training wheels
To be laid aside
When you can finally live
With veracity
And love.

Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon.

My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?

What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time
For you to deeply compute the impossibility

That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.

-Hafiz, from The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky



We speak
Becomes the house we live in.

Who will want to sleep in your bed
If the roof leaks
Right above

Look what happens when the tongue
Cannot say to kindness,

"I will be your slave."

The moon
Covers her face with both hands

And can't bear
To look.

-Hafiz, from The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Monday, November 16, 2009

Andrea Barrett

I think science and writing are utterly the same thing. They are completely rooted in passion and desire, if they're any good at all. You can fall in love with the natural world in the same way you fall in love with a person. There's that same sense of helplessness, of lacking control over how much of your life you want to devote to it.

-Andrea Barrett


This morning when I was walking Lily I was consumed by money worries, and thinking that I should just let go and cry about it. Then I looked down and there was a folded dollar bill sitting on the storm drain. I reached down and picked it up. It was damp. I put it in the front pocket of my jeans. Then I crossed the street, and spotted another folded dollar bill in the gutter, so I picked it up. It was also damp. Two damp dollars that warmed up in my pocket.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Martha Brooks

Each book takes me where I never expected to go. For this reason the process is organic rather than planned. I don't plot. The energy is all in the internal workings of the character and the external workings of place.

-Martha Brooks

Think of yourself as a writer who is navigating in a larger playing field than maybe you have dreamed about. Other writers struggle with words in Memphis and Paris and Beijing and Berlin - just as you are doing in your own corner of the world - so you are part of a big family. Language is the most important thing we own because it tells others who we are, what matters to us and what we need. As such, it is sometimes the only ticket we hold to freedom.

-Martha Brooks

Reading Outdoors

Today was amazingly warm and when I stepped out to walk Lily I saw the woman across the street sitting on her second story porch wearing a blue terrycloth bathrobe reading a book. Then when I got to the bottom of the hill I saw the man who lives in the pale yellow house sitting on his porch reading too. I have seen these neighbors for years but have never seen them reading.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Each Day

Each day I feel like a bird hopping off a branch, hoping my wings will open.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

André Aciman

Not a sound could be heard on the empty road except a faraway dog and the rickety squeaks of our carriage, whose horse, for some unknown reason, knew Brahms horn trio well enough to let his leisurely footfalls stamp to the rhythm of the music.

To be dead meant that others could come into your room and never know it had once been yours. Little by little they would remove all traces of you. Even your smell would go. Then they'd even forget you had died.
-André Aciman, from Out Of Egypt

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Shift

The three month shift has arrived.

I am in the other house. Everything is upside down compared to the last three months. I wake up and take Lily for a very long walk, trying to lift energy up into my body from the chilly damp earth. After a few miles I am smiling again, feeling my leg muscles working hard as I walk Lily with the sun on my face.

During the other season I am walking to bring energy from the sky down into my body. Same challenge, opposite source. My body is my anchor.

In this house fear and worry are amplified inside my head, and the sensory impact of the tastes and sounds of words has dimmed. I don't want to get swallowed in worry but instead make use of this house. I'm sitting in one place for hours reading memoirs again, instead of poetry.

Nature made the variables and I am a perfect specimen.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dog Bath

I just gave Lily a long over due double shampoo using the extension hose in the bathtub. She was very tolerant about it when I lifted her in! Giving her treats helped. Bathtubs are always frightening for dogs because it's hard for them to get a grip and if they struggle they slip. She did jump out at one point and shake while I was bending over to scoop the clumps of hair blocking the drain. So I lifted her back in, first her front paws and then her hind quarters and continued the final rinse. She was very good about it all. And now she smells so clean I can't stop hugging and petting her. I used the free sample herbal pet shampoo we were given when photographing the doggie parade this summer.

Edward Said

All families invent their parents and children, give each of them a story, character, fate, and even a language. There was always something wrong with how I was invented and meant to fit in the world with my parents and four sisters.
-Edward Said

Josephine McKee

No matter how energetic I felt, writing made me focus and relax. It interested me. I understood something in it, and so there was a chance I could resolve problems. Then maybe pain would disappear.
-Josephine McKee