Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wheatena

When I discovered I could make my own Wheatena cereal I was ecstatic. The results were a million times tastier than the store bought cereal. It's so simple. Place a thin layer of wheat berries on a baking pan or in a large cast iron skillet. Put them in a preheated 350 degree oven. As they bake take a spatula and redistribute the berries so they get toasted evenly and they don't burn at the edges of the pan. Stick around, they toast fast and they can burn easily. When the wheat berries darken a bit they are toasted. Let them cool off and then grind them coarsely in a hand cranked grain mill. I don't know myself but it might be possible to grind them in a coffee grinder or a food processor. Boil the cereal in water and salt. Enjoy! You can use the toasted wheat berries in bread and soup too. You can cook up the cereal and serve with vegetables as a supper dish or make a Middle Eastern tabouleh!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Bake

I just walked through Oak Hill cemetery and then played in the snowy Bouley ballfield with Lily and three kids from the neighborhood while my leftover potatoes and onions were baking in the Dutch oven. As we entered the park the boys spotted a fluorescent lime green softball stuck up in the bare tree. I found a stick and poked at the ball and it fell out of the tree. Then we all took turns throwing the ball for Lily. It sank into the foot-deep snow and Lily ran like a bunny chasing it and the boys raced after her as she fished it out of the deep snow. This game was repeated for over an hour! Sometimes Lily couldn't find the ball but the boys did. They made snow angels too. This morning Lily ran with the neighbor's black Labrador, Xena, running in high speed circles in our snow-filled backyard. Hurray for the crescent moon on the shortest day! And a warm supper and warm dry socks on a cold night.

Sugary Snow

Lily is a leaping snow leopard! We walked to the baseball field in the foot-deep snow last night before sunset and she ran and ran. She eats the snow as she runs to cool off, then she wakes up at three AM to pee! Today is the shortest day and the longest night. The snow makes the streets and bushes look like they are covered in confectioner's sugar.

Poetry

There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either.
-Robert Graves

The poet... may be used as a barometer, but let us not forget that he is also part of the weather.
-Lionel Trilling

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.
-Carl Sandburg

Stéphane Mallarmé

It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things.
-Stéphane Mallarmé

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Night Abraham Called to the Stars

By Robert Bly

Do you remember the night Abraham first saw
The stars? He cried to Saturn: "You are my Lord!"
How happy he was! When he saw the Dawn Star,

He cried, ""You are my Lord!" How destroyed he was
When he watched them set. Friends, he is like us:
We take as our Lord the stars that go down.

We are faithful companions to the unfaithful stars.
We are diggers, like badgers; we love to feel
The dirt flying out from behind our back claws.

And no one can convince us that mud is not
Beautiful. It is our badger soul that thinks so.
We are ready to spend the rest of our life

Walking with muddy shoes in the wet fields.
We resemble exiles in the kingdom of the serpent.
We stand in the onion fields looking up at the night.

My heart is a calm potato by day, and a weeping
Abandoned woman by night. Friend, tell me what to do,
Since I am a man in love with the setting stars.

-Robert Bly

Peter Conners

A Man Learns to Fly

In his younger years his father had toted him out to the bird feeder. It was brown, bent, speckled with white droppings - angled against all seasons. No mix was sufficient to keep the lesser birds away: Old bruise-colored grackles arrived on the scene. Meager starlings. Rusty female cardinals. At each new mix, elated, they waited, but the loveliest of feathered winds never blew their way. And so the father taught him to love the ugly ones. Named them after earls and dukes, invested them with flight patterns to shame the baldest of eagles.

In the boy's front yard, truly, the meek had inherited the earth.

Such is the ornithology of family.

A boy flew away one morning to return a man to find his father turned to ash beside a bag of grainy seeds. And this note: Help me to fly.

-Peter Conners, Of Whiskey & Winter

Mark Halliday

CHICKEN SALAD

Everybody’s father dies.
When it happens to someone else, I send a note of sympathy
or at least an e-mail. It’s certainly worth the bother.
But when my father died, it was my father.

*

Three hours before he died
my father felt he should have an answer
when I asked what he might like to eat.
He remembered a kind of chicken salad he liked
weeks ago when living was more possible
and he said “Maybe that chicken salad”
but because of the blood in his mouth
and because of his shortness of breath
he had to say it several times before I understood.
So I went out and bought a container of chicken salad,
grateful for the illusion of helping,
but when I brought it back to the apartment
my father studied it for thirty seconds
and set it aside on the bed. I wasn't ready
to know what the eyes of the nurse at the Hospice
had tried to tell me before dawn, so I said
“Don't you want some chicken salad, Daddy?”
He glanced at it from a distance of many miles—
little tub of chicken salad down on the planet of
slaughtered birds and mastication, digestion, excretion—
and murmured “Maybe later.” He was in
the final austerity
which I was too frazzled to quite recognize
but ever since his death I see with stony clarity
the solitary dignity of
the totality of his knowing
how far beyond the pleasure of chicken salad
he had gone already and would go.

*

Everybody’s father dies; but
when my father died, it was my father.

-Mark Halliday

Carmen Hererra

I do it because I have to do it; it’s a compulsion that also gives me pleasure.
-Carmen Herrera, painter, age 94

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jeanette Winterson

And art is always about relationship — to the material, to the self, and to the world in all its chaos and intrusion, its terror and its glory.
-Jeanette Winterson

Spontaneous Breasts

My mother sat me down at age 13 and told me I guess I won't be getting big breasts like my father's tall sisters all did. I didn't particularly care, in fact I didn't understand why she was forecasting this. Was she looking for proof that I was Tom's daughter? I began having dreams that I woke up one day with large breasts. Meanwhile in real life I gave up eating nearly everything. I was living on apples and grapefruit juice blended with ice cubes in the blender. I shriveled down to scarecrow size. Then I ran away one winter to Rhode Island and got a job as a carrot juice maker and whole wheat bread baker in a health food restaurant. A few months later I woke up with breasts. My sister came from NY to visit me and it was the first thing she noticed when I opened my apartment door. You've got breasts! she said. They popped overnight just like my dream told me they would.

Transmission

I was walking Lily home from Turbesi park when an ambulance rushed by with all the sirens blaring and lights blinking. I held my ears with the leash in my left hand. Lily began to howl as the vehicle drove by. Her voice was transmitted across the green leash, through my orange gloves, and into my black hatted head.

Blonde Envy

All of my long-legged blondes envy is showing. I need to take pinup photographs of my dog Lily for a holiday card. She is much more photogenic than me with her pink nose and black eyeliner and svelte build. My friends call her a super model. I am in love with Lily's muscles, the chiseled ones in her thighs and the slender ones running down each side of her gigantic rib cage. They catch the light when I run her in the park as the sun is going down.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Edna O'Brien

I opened it to a section from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the Christmas dinner scene, with the blue flame over the Christmas pudding. Up to then, I had been writing rather fancifully, with a lot of adjectives. When I read that, I realized one thing: that I need go no further than my own interior, my own experience, for whatever I wanted to write. It was truly, without sounding like St. Paul, an utter revelation to me.
-Edna O'Brien

Monday, December 14, 2009

Left and Right

In kindergarten I made the same painting every day. I painted a full round yellow moon with a dark ultramarine blue sky surrounding it. The blue tempera paint sat in a pint-sized glass jar on the long wooden table. I painted with a two inch brush onto a huge piece of white construction paper taped to the table top. It was always still wet when my mother came at noon to pick me up.

Some days Miss Estep had us sit in a semicircle in our short wooden chairs behind her. She would stand with her back to us in her long bumpy wool skirt. She would point and say left. Then she would point and say right. Years later, as I drove a friend around town, he confessed he'd never properly learned left from right. I told him that in order for me to know which way to turn I have to picture Miss Estep, my kindergarten teacher in her Wheatena skirt, in the center of the room, with her back to me, pointing and saying left and then right.

Walking Around

This morning I heard a few men standing in the Elks Club parking lot next to The Castle Luncheonette talking about me. "I see her walking her dog everywhere!" "The dog is walking her!" They didn't realize I could hear them from across the parking lot. The moist air carried the sound perfectly.

Last night I had almost 12 hours of sleep. I woke up eager to put my pants on. This morning, when I took out the trash, the garbage can lid was frozen shut. But now the sun is out! It's warming up. Hurray!

Coffee With Milk

It is very deep to have a cup of tea
Also coffee in a white cup
with milk
a hand has to go around the cup
and a mouth to take it in
it is very deep and very good to have a heart
Do not take the heart for granted
it fills with blood and lets blood out

Good to have this chair to sit in
with these feet on the floor
while I drink this coffee
in a white cup
To have the air around us to be in
To fill our lungs and empty them like weeping
this roof to house us
the sky to house the roof in endless blue
To be in the midwest
with the Atlantic over there and the Pacific on our other side

It is good this cup of coffee
the milk in it
the cows who gave us this milk
this
simple as a long piece of grass

-Natalie Goldberg, Top of My Lungs

Chinese Proverbs

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.

Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.

If you want happiness for a lifetime - help the next generation.

To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch a fish.

One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade.

Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come.

To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without root.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Walk

I walked through Precious Blood Cemetery, overlooking the pond, and then kept walking to Turbesi Park. I moved the big white plastic trash barrels to block the baseball field entrances so I could let Lily off the leash to chase a stick. Nobody was around. Then we walked toward the reservoir, taking a path through the woods next to the junkyard of a million cars, stopping to visit the lonely coon hound, the chocolate Lab, the lively Jack Russell terrier, and the cocker spaniel. I love the gray weather. The bare trees stand out in crisp contrast to the white snow. The clean cold air is a delight to breathe.

Gustave Flaubert

I can imagine nothing in the world preferable to a nice, well-heated room, with the books one loves and the leisure one wants.
-Gustave Flaubert

Kenneth Patchen

Think enough and you won't know anything.
-Kenneth Patchen

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread

The use of leavening in a cake is first recorded in a recipe for gingerbread from Amelia Simmons's American Cookery, published in Hartford in 1796; I guess you could say it is the original great American cake. Early-19th-century cookbooks included as many recipes for this as contemporary cookbooks do for chocolate cake. This recipe, from Claudia Fleming, pastry chef at New York City's Gramercy Tavern, is superlative—wonderfully moist and spicy.

Ingredients

* 1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout
* 1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 2 tablespoons ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* Pinch of ground cardamom
* 3 large eggs
* 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 3/4 cup vegetable oil
* Confectioners sugar for dusting
* a 10-inch (10- to 12-cup) bundt pan

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into bundt pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Serve cake, dusted with confectioners sugar, with whipped cream.

Cooks' notes:
- This recipe was tested with Grandma's brand green-label molasses.
- Like the chocolate decadence cake, the gingerbread is better if made a day ahead. It will keep 3 days, covered, at room temperature.

-Gourmet Magazine

Great Blue

Yesterday we walked to Cass Park and let Lily poke around the baseball field. Her paws were still too tender for her to run like crazy. We only stayed for a few minutes but as we were walking out of the park we spotted a great blue heron on the far side of the pond, standing on the thin ice. His wings were blue-gray and he looked like stone. He almost disappeared into the landscape. As we got closer he lifted himself up in graceful slow motions like a pterodactyl dinosaur.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Raw Paw

Yesterday I walked Lily in the hard blowing wind and sunshine, to the snowy baseball field. She loved running and ran and ran! The snow was crusty but she managed to stay on the surface even though she is 78 pounds! When we got home she was licking the side of her paws. They had gotten a bit raw from the rough snow. Perhaps I need to ask the shoemaker if he would make her booties!

I Object To Violence

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

-Mahatma Gandhi

Bad People

A man told me once that all the bad people
Were needed. Maybe not all, but your fingernails
You need; they are really claws, and we know
Claws. The sharks - what about them?
They make other fish swim faster. The hard-faced men
In black coats who chase you for hours
In dreams - that's the only way to get you
To the shore. Sometimes those hard women
Who abandon you get you to say, "You."
A lazy part of us is like a tumbleweed.
It doesn't move on its own. Sometimes it takes
A lot of Depression to get tumbleweeds moving.
Then they blow across three or four states.
This man told me things work together.
Bad handwriting sometimes leads to new ideas;
And a careless god - who refuses to let people
Eat from the Tree of Knowledge - can lead
To books, and eventually to us. We write
Poems with lies in them, but they help a little.

-Robert Bly, Morning Poems

The Glimpse Of Something In The Oven

Childhood is like a kitchen. It is dangerous
To the mice, but the husband gets fed; he's
An old giant, grumbling and smelling children.
The kitchen is a place where you get smaller

And smaller, or you lose track. In general
You become preoccupied with this old lady
In the kitchen... She putters about, opens oven doors.
The thing is the old woman won't discuss anything.

The giant will. He's always been a fan of Aristotle,
Knew him at school. It is no surprise to him
That the Trojan War lasted ten years, or how it
Ended. he knows something you don't.

Your sister says, "Say what's that in the oven?"

-Robert Bly, Morning Poems

Friday, December 11, 2009

Conversation With The Soul

Conversation With The Soul

The soul said, "Give me something to look at."
So I gave her a farm. She said,
"It's too large." So I gave her a field.
The two of us sat down.

Sometimes I would fall in love with a lake
Or a pine cone. But I liked her
Most. She knew it.
"Keep writing," she said.

So I did. Each time the snow fell,
We would be married again.
The holy dead sat down by our bed.
This went on for years.

"This field is getting too small," she said.
"Don't you know anyone else
To fall in love with?"
What would you have said to Her?

-Robert Bly, Morning Poems

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two Sisters

Pomegranate and corn,
Colorful kernels, juicy flesh.
Skin husk peeled in layers
Or thick round red elephant skin torn open.
Complicated insides, hairy belly button
Or oblong, green, layered wrapper with silk tassel.
Both born to be eaten!

I Work Standing

I work standing because my body is my antenna and I need to feel my feet flat on the floor. My buttocks, spine, and ribcage hold me upright while I think. Words flow through my soles, toes, ankles, shins, kneecaps, thighs, and rise through my groin, pelvis, abdomen, spine, lungs, and fly out the top of my head.

Orange

I dreamt I was at a Tibetan summer camp
I was looking around,
Hoping to see the color orange.
I saw white soup bowls, black clothing.
There was no orange at all.
Everything was black and white.

Sharon Olds

The Daughter Goes to Camp

In the taxi alone, home from the airport,
I could not believe you were gone. My palm kept
creeping over the smooth plastic
to find your strong meaty little hand and
squeeze it, find your narrow thigh in the
noble ribbing of the corduroy,
straight and regular as anything in nature, to
find the slack cool cheek of a
child in the heat of a summer morning—
nothing, nothing, waves of bawling
hitting me in hot flashes like some
change of life, some boiling wave
rising in me toward your body, toward
where it should have been on the seat, your
brow curved like a cereal bowl, your
eyes dark with massed crystals like the
magnified scales of a butterfly's wing, the
delicate feelers of your limp hair,
floods of blood rising in my face as I
tried to reassemble the hot
gritty molecules in the car, to
make you appear like a holograph
on the back seat, pull you out of nothing
as I once did—but you were really gone,
the cab glossy as a slit caul out of
which you had slipped, the air glittering
electric with escape as it does in the room at a birth.

-Sharon Olds

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bathing in Your Brother’s Bathwater

Bathing in Your Brother’s Bathwater
by Nin Andrews

Bathing, Miss De Angelo informed us in health class,
is very important, especially once you become a teenager.
In fact I can smell many of you this very day,
so I advise every one of you girls
to go home and take a good long bath tonight.
I know some of your folks like to skimp on water,
but consider it homework.
Say Miss De Angelo assigned it to you.
But Girls, let me warn you.
Never take a bath in the same water as your teenage brother.
Why?
Just picture this:
all those tiny bubbles settling on your legs
when you sit in a nice tub of water.
If you could count every itty bitty bubble,
that would be only a fraction of how many sperm
stream from a single man.
Even if he doesn’t touch himself,
the water does.
And it only takes one.
One fast moving whip-tailed sperm.
And you know how easy it is to catch a cold,
how quickly that little virus races clear through you.
And once that happens,
no one will believe you’re any Virgin Mary,
no matter what you say.

-Nin Andrews

Nin Andrews

Being A Writer In Your Later Years

My father was a talented pianist. But as he aged, he lost his ability to play. Or so he said. His friends didn't believe him, and sometimes at parties they would ask him to perform. I remember the late time he obliged. I was in grade school, and on this particular night, he played one piece after another with such zeal. I liked to watch his hands race over the keys, so I went to stand by his side. It was then that I noticed a sprinkling of blood on the keys. A small sprinkling, to be sure. But I announced it to the room. My father stopped suddenly, wiped the keys with his handkerchief, and sat down.

He was on several kinds of medicine then. I don't know which or what diagnosis he had a that time, but I do know he always said his skin was thin. And he would often mix his meds and take more than was recommended.

After he sat down, the room felt so quiet. A bleak mood hung over the room. That was when Eleanor Ross Taylor, a poet and friend of my parents, turned and said to me in her quiet voice: being a writer is one of the kindest arts. You can do it well even as you age. In fact it can become your friend in your later years.

I've always taken comfort in her words.

-Nin Andrews

Mario's Magic

We are having a beautiful storm, snow falling rapidly wrapping every branch. Last night Mario fixed our oven which had suddenly stopped working Sunday night when I was about to bake a cornbread. I had been worried; what if we can't fix it? Mario showed up at 4 PM as promised. He took a look. Then he asked me for a short stool. Then he asked for a towel to protect the top. He spread the towel out over the top of the stool. I said are you going to perform a magic trick? Do you need a black hat and a rabbit? He laughed. Then he pulled our vintage 1960's Thermador in-the-wall oven out of the birch cupboard. It looked like major surgery to me, but he was not worried in the least. Lily-dog refused to move from the spot on the turquoise linoleum at Mario's feet. She is in love with Mario, as we all are. Mario found the dead wire in the cupboard behind the oven. He replaced it in a few minutes. I am celebrating by baking through this morning's storm.

Poet Nin Andrews

I am always unhappy if I'm not writing. And when I am writing, I am not finished yet, and so I am wanting to write more and finish. But I never ever want to be finished because then I am not writing.
-Nin Andrews

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Adrian Mitchell

I find it hard to talk about the things I care about most, even to my family and friends, and poetry is my way of telling them what I feel. I try to approach an audience as if it's made up of friends, or people who would be my friends if we knew each other. 'No communication is possible except between equals' as Illuminatus! teaches us. I write my poems for love - love of language, love of my family, friends and animals, love of the planet, love of life, and I'd be a damned fool if I didn't.

-Adrian Mitchell, Adrian Mitchell's Greatest Hits

Swamp Man

Twice I've seen him walking around town. Once in the Park Square parking lot walking into Job lot, and again on Cass Ave walking into CVS. He has long dreadlocks, down to his knees. He stares like he's plugged into dictation from Neptune. He walks like Frankenstein's brother, a remote control robot, lifting his knees very high with each slow step. He wears no shirt with his overalls, even in winter! His tan skin isn't even chilled. He actually drives a car! My husband assures me he isn't reading this on his laptop back in the swamp.

Kenneth Rexroth

In that hour I have seen
The long white gleaming throats of mountains
With faces lifted
To the moon.

-Kenneth Rexroth, A Lantern and Shadow

Albert Camus

We have preferred the power that apes greatness- Alexander first of all, and then the Roman conquerers, whom our school history books, in an incomparable vulgarity of soul, teach us to admire. We have conquered in our turn... our reason has swept everything away. Alone at last, we build our empire upon a desert. How then could we conceive that higher balance in which nature balanced history, beauty, and goodness, and which brought the music of numbers even into the tragedy of blood? We turn our back on nature, we are ashamed of beauty. Our miserable tragedies have the smell of an office, and their blood is the color of dirty ink.

-Albert Camus

Monday, December 07, 2009

Winter Soup

Last night at supper I was too lazy to leave the house and shop for groceries. I found a quart of pork stock that we made in August in the freezer. I put the stock in my largest pot with a quart of water, a big bag of frozen corn, four carrots and four stalks of celery and one large onion all chopped, a pound of rinsed lentils, and a dollop of olive oil. I brought it up to boil, then let it simmer. In another big pot I boiled nine potatoes. After the potatoes were done I fished them out and kept the water they boiled in.

The vegetable lentil soup got thick as it simmered. I thinned it with the potato stock, added some more olive oil, along with salt and red pepper flakes. It was out of this world. We ate it with my latest molasses raisin sourdough bread, slices of cornbread, and the naked potatoes. I looked out the window and saw an inch of snow was already accumulating on the ground. The wind was blowing hard and the wet snow clung to all of the branches, outlining them like shadows in reverse. A beautiful sight on a wintery soup night.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Cowgirls

Today I drove to Wright's Dairy for fresh milk and eggs and visited the cows in the barn. I saw a big momma cow with four black polka dots the size of dimes on her pale pink nose. The tag on her ear said Apple. I would have named her Polka-Dotty, or Dot!

I saw my favorite cow named Blue with her black eyeliner and her white fur with the black flecks that make her look blue. She was in the maternity barn, she's expecting! Mr. Wright said I could have a baby calf, but I live in the city.

The bare trees looked like glass, blown with snow, shimmering with ice in the sun. I felt like a cowgirl stomping around on the muddy smelly farm in my boots, loving it. The fields were white with snow and the tires holding the tarp down on the manure pile were all white, like a hill of sugared donuts.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Snapshots

I have never seen a bad photo of President Obama. How does he look so good from every angle? I'm serious. I hate the way I come out in photos. I usually cry over it too. Bill says, "It's because your face is always moving!" Since he told me this I have calmed down and now I come out better in photos. My family always took an annual formal family portrait as a Christmas card, and it's funny how as a kid I was always doing something weird with my hands.

Meredith Monk

. . . After a while, okay, you've worked twenty years or twenty-five years. Okay, so you've got this many grants, you've got this long resume, you have these people that hate you, you have these people that love you, you've done this piece, that piece, this piece, that piece . . . and then you go to your grave. And what do you think you have - a piece of paper that tells you all the pieces you've done? So what? The only reason for doing it is that you might have the joy of discovery on a day-to-day level. The only reason for doing it is really that you love doing it . . . What it gets down to is: how do you want to spend your time on Earth?

-Meredith Monk


I always think of the way that I work as similar to making a soup. You have vegetables and then you put them in the water and then the vegetables stay vegetables for a while. You just allow them to be separate — the carrots are carrots, the peas are peas and everything is just simmering. You're working very slowly, and little by little the vegetables start boiling down, and then little by little the soup becomes absolutely essentialized. That’s what I really think the process is about. And that takes some time and patience.

I think I still have some confusion about the critical mind. But it seems that there’s a difference between the critical mind, which is a kind of judgment, and has a harshness built in, cutting off impulses before they can develop, and discriminating intelligence, which can differentiate between what is authentic or genuine and what is contrived or forced. That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity. So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something.

-Meredith Monk

December 4th

It's a summery 55 sunny degrees today. Which is a delight for us but I'm afraid it's not good for the polar bears and melting ice-caps. Lily and I walked to the library, and I got three gigantic books of poetry, two by Kenneth Rexroth and a book of prose poems, while Lily patiently waited for me. Then I walked to the shoemaker and brought him my other pair of worn out clogs, the ones with the gaping holes soles. He said he could fix them!

When I arrived at the park there was nobody but Lily and me, and we played fetch with the muddy-pink ball. I worked on her sit-stay-fetch skills, giving her little triangles of cat food from an old pocket-sized tea tin. On the way home I looked for the jumping fish, but the sun was not on the water, so the fish was not jumping. I did see a bright sun dog in the sky when I was nearly home, in view from East School Street. It was amazing!

My pal Rachel stopped by to pick up Daniel Ladinsky's book of Hafiz poems and have a cup of coffee. I was so thrilled she was coming that I vacuumed the whole house even under the bed! I opened all the windows to bring in fresh air. Perhaps this bout of spring weather has brought on spring allergies and spring cleaning. I washed Lily in the backyard, rinsing her with the green rubber hose. She was very tolerant. She even let me trim her dew claws which seem to grow very fast.

I made a big yellow cornbread for supper which we ate with the last of the turkey soup. I slow-roasted two trays of almonds. And I shipped a painting to its new owner. A good day indeed.

Mary Karr

That summer I fell into reading as into a deep well where no voice could reach me. There was a poem about a goat-footed balloon man I recited everyday like a spell, and another about somebody stealing somebody else's plums and saying he was sorry but not really meaning it. I read the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and fancied myself running away to Africa to find just such an ape man to swing me from vine to vine.

-Mary Karr,Cherry

Friday, December 04, 2009

December 3rd

Yesterday it was rainy and it cleared up this morning. Then the sun came out and it was 65 degrees!! It's hard to imagine that it's December, people were buying Christmas trees last week! It reminded me of winter days when I lived in North Carolina. This afternoon I walked to drop off my clogs at the shoe repair man. The heels had worn off and the metal was showing through. I brought Lily into his shop. He loved her!

His shop had moved to a teal-trimmed Elm Street storefront halfway to Cass Park, so I continued walking to the park's fenced-in baseball field. A woman showed up with a huge, muscular, tan male bulldog the size of Lily. Lily established territory and then they ran in big circles having a blast exhausting each other! A young girl and her mom showed up with a little Boston Terrier who was running all around. The girl was throwing a pink tennis ball but the dog was happily distracted by all of the dogs and so he ignored it. Then Lily drank from a mud puddle, and then the male bulldog lay down in the mud puddle, flirting. When he got up he looked like he was wearing waders made of mud! Sexy to me, I thought. The girl with the pink ball wanted to play in the mud puddle too. She jumped in and stamped her feet splattering mud on her bare legs and summery dress. A tall lady arrived with a sweet white dog with spotted ears and tightly curled tail. She told me of her adoption of her dog. She said that it had been abused and kept in a cage for four years. The dog is new to playing, she said, and one woman chimed in, She's doing great! There arrived a brindle puppy bulldog, he looked like a tiger! His owner was a young delicate woman with dark hair and skin white as milk. She received a phone call while we stood around admiring our dogs and then hurriedly had to leave, telling her friend it was an emergency and that her father would come get her dog. The dogs and people all were getting along enjoying the unusually warm weather. I had a knapsack full of plastic poop bags I shared with people. The tall woman filled her dog's water bowl. All the dogs lined up to have a drink, then she gave all of the dogs treats. I called her the dog treat fairy! For a brief moment we were a little community. Then we slowly broke apart, hoping to meet again. People got into their cars with their dogs and drove away. I picked up the abandoned pink tennis ball which was no longer pink.

As I left the park, I looked back and noticed the sun reflecting on the rippling pond. I saw motion in the water. I stopped. I saw it again, I stopped and stared. I saw it a third time, it was a huge fish jumping ten inches into the air into the sunshine! It looked just like a miniature dolphin leaping for joy! I watched amazed, hoping it would happen again, hoping to share the experience with someone walking by. I saw three teenage boys coming down the sidewalk. Have you seen the jumping fish before? They laughed at me saying I was making it up. I was beginning to wonder if I had. Maybe it was a sight meant just for me.

Dawn

Some love to watch the sea bushes appearing at dawn,
To see night fall from the goose wings, and to hear
The conversations the night sea has with the dawn.

If we can't find Heaven, there are always bluejays.
Now you know why I spent my twenties crying.
Cries are required from those who wake disturbed at dawn.

Adam was called in to name the Red-Winged
Blackbirds, the Diamond Rattlers, and the Ring-Tailed Raccoons washing God in the streams at dawn.

Centuries later, the Mesopotamian gods,
All curls and ears, showed up; behind them the Generals
With their blue-coated sons who will die at dawn.

Those grasshopper-eating hermits were so good
To stay all day in the cave; but it is also sweet
To see the fenceposts gradually appear at dawn.

People in love with the setting stars are right
To adore the baby who smells of the stable, but we know
That even the setting stars will disappear at dawn.

-Robert Bly

Listening

The goose cries, and there is no way to save her.
So many cheeps come from the nest by the river.
If God doesn't listen, why are we listening?
Very deep water covers most of the globe.
Whenever I see it, I think of St. John.
There is no remedy for deep water but listening.
The King and Queen already know about love;
—They search for each other through the whole deck.
While we play our hands, they are listening.
The day we die, we'll each be like the fish
Abruptly jerked out of the water.
For him, it is the end of all listening.
Like thousands of others, I'm eating beet soup
In some Russian inn. People write letters
To me from Heaven, but I'm not listening.
The hermit said: "Because the world is mad,
The only way through the world is to learn
The arts and double the madness. Are you listening?

-Robert Bly
from The Night Abraham Called to the Stars

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Mailing a Poem

I love that a poem can be slipped into an envelope and stamped and mailed for pennies, delivered through a slot in the front door, landing on the wooden floor. The dog barks at it, the black cat looks up from her red cushion in the window sun patch. My friend comes home and finds a letter, and reads a poem that is equal to a hug and a kiss.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Call and Answer

Call and Answer

Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?

I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”

We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.

Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence? If we don’t lift our voices, we allow
Others (who are ourselves) to rob the house.

How come we’ve listened to the great criers—Neruda,
Akhmatova, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass—and now
We’re silent as sparrows in the little bushes?

Some masters say our life lasts only seven days.
Where are we in the week? Is it Thursday yet?
Hurry, cry now! Soon Sunday night will come.

-Robert Bly

Jane Hirshfield

Optimism

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.
A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs--all this resinous, unretractable earth.

-Jane Hirshfield

Mirabai

The Coffer with the Poisionous Snake

Rana sent a gold coffer of complicated ivory;
But inside a black and green asp was waiting,
"It is a necklace that belonged to a great Queen"
I put it around my neck; it fit well.
It became a string of lovely pearls, each with a moon
inside.
My room then was full of moonlight, as if the full
moon
Had found its way in through the open window.

-Mirabai, from Mirabai, Ecstatic Poems, translated by Robert Bly and Jane Hirshfield

Sweet Dreams

I was having a fabulous dream. I was hosting a two-night Brave Combo dance party at an inn somewhere and everyone I knew was there. My friend Karen from high school was there too. I was remarking to my friend about having just seen my first cobalt blue Scottish Terrier. The dog looked like a toaster! I said, remembering the year all kitchen appliances were cobalt blue, and fire engine red.

I woke up in the early morning dark. The moon was full and sitting right over the backyard. Yesterday Lily and I had had two three-mile walks and a run in the fenced-in baseball field. A perfect day is prelude for a perfect dream.

Elephant Eternity

Elephant Eternity

Elephants walking under juicy-leaf trees
Walking with their children under juicy-leaf trees
Elephants elephants walking like time

Elephants bathing in the foam-floody river
Fountaining their children in the mothery river
Elephants elephants bathing like happiness

Strong and gentle elephants
Standing on the earth
Strong and gentle elephants
Like peace

Time is walking under elephant trees
Happiness is bathing in the elephant river
Strong gentle peace is shining
All over the elephant earth

-Adrian Mitchell

Adrian Mitchell

Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people.

-Adrian Mitchell

Human Beings

HUMAN BEINGS

Look at your hands
your beautiful useful hands
you’re not an ape
you’re not a parrot
you’re not a slow loris
or a smart missile
you’re human
not british
not american
not israeli
not palestinian
you’re human
not catholic
not protestant
not muslim
not hindu
you’re human
we all start human
we end up human
human first
human last
we’re human
or we’re nothing
nothing but bombs
and poison gas
nothing but guns
and torturers
nothing but slaves
of Greed and War
if we’re not human
look at your body
with its amazing systems
of nerve-wires and blood canals
think about your mind
which can think about itself
and the whole universe
look at your face
which can freeze into horror
or melt into love
look at all that life
all that beauty
you’re human
they are human
we are human
let’s try to be human
dance!

-Adrian Mitchell

Mother Of Bread

When I mix up dough I become the mother
of fermented yeast and fresh wheat
rising in my kitchen overnight.

I bring forth loaves from my hands,
breasts and loins.

The next day loaves bake on hot stone
the aroma fills the house.
I am the midwife bringing forth the golden babies
tapping the bottom of each
listening for the hollow sound of being done.

I arrive at a dinner party with my newborn
still warm, wrapped in a blanket.
The hostess becomes shaken, frightened of her own infertility.
She snatches the bread from my arms
and burns my child in the oven.

She produces a pale impostor
made by robots on some distant planet,
something her children will prefer, she assures me.

But her children delight in the slicing and eating of a warm
homemade loaf smeared with fresh butter.
Even a naked slice is good.
There has never been a child who didn't love my bread.

-Emily Lisker 12/2/09

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Wendell Berry

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

-Wendell Berry


What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

-Wendell Berry


A Warning To My Readers

Do not think me gentle
because I speak in praise
of gentleness, or elegant
because I honor the grace
that keeps this world. I am
a man crude as any,
gross of speech, intolerant,
stubborn, angry, full
of fits and furies. That I
may have spoken well
at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is.

-Wendell Berry

Rexroth

The conscience of mankind went to school to learn methods of compromising itself.

- Kenneth Rexroth