Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Margaret Atwood

Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also, and if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once.
-Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye

Wind, Rain, Flooding, and a Full Moon!

I can't stay inside for too many hours no matter what the weather is. Bill and I put on our antique yellow fisherman's rain overalls and raincoats yesterday and walked Lily in the windy rain through two cemeteries. People were out driving around to catch a view of the gushing tea-colored waterfalls and swollen reservoirs. It was impressive. The Governor had declared a state-wide emergency for Little Rhody, and President Obama declared the whole state a disaster area. Many RI schools had been closed, in Warwick the sewer system was shut down, and electricity lost in parts of the state. The National Guard was called in. Our pal Andy Dickerman is out there shooting photographs for the Providence Journal and the AP. They are warning people in Providence not to walk on flooded streets because the manhole covers have been washed away and you could fall in.

Robert Frost

The best way out is always through.
-Robert Frost

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flannery O'Connor

Not-writing is a good deal worse than writing.
-Flannery O'Connor

The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.
-Flannery O'Connor

Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.
-Flannery O'Connor

A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.
-Flannery O'Connor

I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.
-Flannery O'Connor

I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both.
-Flannery O'Connor

I write to discover what I know.
-Flannery O'Connor

The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.
-Flannery O'Connor

The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode.
-Flannery O'Connor

A Dog Named Ralph

I dreamt I was a graduate student moving into a huge painting studio with southern sky lights and a long couch. I was imagining I would roast from the sun pouring in, in the summer. Along with the couch the studio was filled up with books and paints and brushes and chaotic clutter everywhere and it came with a little black and white dog, a Jack Russell terrier named Ralph. Bill said I don't know about the dog. I said let's see how he gets along with Lily. I woke up to the sound of our leaking roof, water dripping into plastic buckets.

Huxley, Miller + Cassavetes

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
-Aldous Huxley

You live fruitfully in tension. To to be under tension. Paradise is a state of inertia where nothing happens. It is a form of death. Tension is necessary. Once it's over you drop dead in six months.
-Arthur Miller

The most difficult thing in the world is to reveal yourself, to express what you have to. As an artist, I feel that we must try many things -- but above all, we must dare to fail. You must have the courage to be bad -- to be willing to risk everything to really express it all.
-John Cassavetes

A Musician's Day

by Erik Satie

An artist must regulate his life. Here is my precise daily schedule. I rise at 7:18; am inspired from 10:30 to 11:47. I lunch at 12:11 and leave the table at 12:14. A healthy horse-back ride on my property from 1:19 to 2:35. Another round of inspiration from 3:12 to 4:07.

From 5:00 to 6:47 various occupations (fencing, reflection, immobility, visits, contemplation, dexterity, swimming, etc.).

Dinner is served at 7:16 and finished at 7:20. Afterward from 8:09 to 9:59 symphonic readings out loud.

I go to bed regularly at 10:37. Once a week I wake up with a start at 3:14 A.M. (Tuesdays.)

I eat only white foods: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals, rice, turnips, sausages in camphor, pastry, cheese (the white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish (skinned).

I boil my wine and drink it cold mixed with fuchsia juice. I have a good appetite but never talk when eating for fear of strangling.

I breathe carefully (a little at a time) and dance very rarely. When walking I hold my sides and look steadily behind me.

Being of serious demeanor, it is unintentional when I laugh. I always apologize very affably.

I sleep with only one eye closed; I sleep very hard. My bed is round with a hole in it for my head to go through. Every hour a servant takes my temperature and givens me another.

For a long time I have subscribed to a fashion magazine. I wear a white cap, white socks, and a white vest.

My doctor has always told me to smoke. He even explains himself: 'Smoke, my friend. Otherwise someone else will smoke in your place.'"

-Erik Satie, The Banquet Years by Roger Shattuck

George Orwell

Why Are Beggars Despised?

by George Orwell

It is worth saying something about the social position of beggars, for when one has consorted with them, and found that they are ordinary human beings, one cannot help being struck by the curious attitude that society takes towards them. People seem to feel that there is some essential difference between beggars and ordinary "working" men. They are a race apart--outcasts, like criminals and prostitutes. Working men "work," beggars do not "work"; they are parasites, worthless in their very nature. It is taken for granted that a beggar does not "earn" his living, as a bricklayer or a literary critic "earns" his. He is a mere social excrescence, tolerated because we live in a humane age, but essentially despicable.

Yet if one looks closely one sees that there is no essential difference between a beggar's livelihood and that of numberless respectable people. Beggars do not work, it is said; but, then, what is work? A navvy works by swinging a pick. An accountant works by adding up figures. A beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose veins, chronic bronchitis, etc. It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course--but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless. And as a social type a beggar compares well with scores of others. He is honest compared with the sellers of most patent medicines, high-minded compared with a Sunday newspaper proprietor, amiable compared with a hire-purchase tout--in short, a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite. He seldom extracts more than a bare living from the community, and, what should justify him according to our ethical ideas, he pays for it over and over in suffering. I do not think there is anything about a beggar that sets him in a different class from other people, or gives most modern men the right to despise him.

Then the question arises, Why are beggars despised?--for they are despised, universally. I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a decent living. In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modem talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except "Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it"? Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised. If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately. A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a businessman, getting his living, like other businessmen, in the way that comes to hand. He has not, more than most modern people, sold his honor; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.

-George Orwell

Society for the Deceleration of Time

Monday, March 29, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.
-Edgar Allan Poe

I have great faith in fools.
-Edgar Allan Poe

There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm.
-Edgar Allan Poe

William Hazlett

The more a man writes, the more he can write.
-William Hazlett

Truman Capote

I always felt that nobody was going to understand me, going to understand what I felt about things. I guess that's why I started writing. At least on paper I could put down what I thought.
-Truman Capote

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make.
-Truman Capote

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.
-Truman Capote

A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That's why there are so few good conversations.
-Truman Capote

Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.
-Truman Capote

Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.
-Truman Capote

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Henri Rousseau

Today I am looking at the paintings of Henri Rousseau, a childhood favorite and still a favorite.

From Wikipedia:
His best known paintings depict jungle scenes, even though he never left France or saw a jungle. His inspiration came from illustrated books and the botanical gardens in Paris, as well as tableaux of taxidermied wild animals. He had also met soldiers, during his term of service, who had survived the French expedition to Mexico and listened to their stories of the subtropical country they had encountered. To the critic Arsène Alexandre, he described his frequent visits to the Jardin des Plantes: "When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream."

In 1893, Rousseau moved to a studio in Montparnasse where he lived and worked until his death in 1910. During 1897 he produced one of his most famous paintings, La Bohémienne endormie (The Sleeping Gypsy). In 1907 he was commissioned by artist Robert Delaunay's mother, Berthe, Comtesse de Delaunay, to paint The Snake Charmer.

When Pablo Picasso happened upon a painting by Rousseau being sold on the street as a canvas to be painted over, the younger artist instantly recognized Rousseau's genius and went to meet him. In 1908 Picasso held a half serious, half burlesque banquet in his studio in Le Bateau-Lavoir in Rousseau's honor.

After Rousseau's retirement in 1893, he supplemented his small pension with part-time jobs and work such as playing a violin in the streets. He also worked briefly at Le petit journal, where he produced a number of its covers.

Rousseau exhibited his final painting, The Dream, at the 1910 Salon des Independants a few months before his death on 2 September 1910 in the Hospital Necker in Paris. At his funeral, seven friends stood at his grave in the Cimetière de Bagneux: the painters Paul Signac and Manuel Ortiz de Zárate, the artist couple Robert Delaunay and Sonia Terk, the sculptor Brancusi, Rousseau's landlord Armand Queval and Guillaume Apollinaire who wrote the epitaph Brancusi put on the tombstone:

We salute you Gentle Rousseau, you can hear us,
Delaunay, his wife, Monsieur Queval and myself.
Let our luggage pass duty free through the gates of heaven.
We will bring you brushes, paints, and canvas
That you may spend your sacred leisure in the Light and Truth of Painting
As you once did my portrait facing the stars, lion, and the gypsy.

Authentic Feeling

Sentiment, authentic feeling is what we live by. It is what makes us human. Sentimentality in life as in art kills the authentic by setting up a screen against it, the screen of the expected and the commonplace. It is therefore in life the enemy of growth and understanding and in the arts the enemy of reality and imagination.
-May Sarton, Selected Letters 1955-1995


Last night we passed a house in Blackstone, opposite Precious Blood Cemetery. It's a house I pass every day, just down our street. I saw a dozen chickens of all styles in their small backyard garden. These are the folks who roto-till their side and back yards every spring in preparation for their big summer garden. I bet they can their own vegetables and make their own jams and jellies. But they've never had chickens before. The woman who lives there has a strong Eastern European accent. They have a big wooly black dog with a brown dot over each eye, and a cat that sits on the tin roof of what is now the chicken coop. In the winter I see the husband out plowing snow from all the neighborhood parking lots. In the summer I sometimes see the wife reading in the garden, sitting under the big beech tree beside the row of onions and leeks in her aluminum beach chair. One night walking home from the reservoir with Lily I could see right into their living room picture window. I saw, opposite the flickering TV, shelves full of books.

House By The Sea

All we can pray is to not outlive the self. Yet my guess is that we make our deaths, even when senile.
-May Sarton House By The Sea, page 72

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Anaïs Nin

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.
-Anaïs Nin

There is not one big cosmic meaning for all,there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.
-Anaïs Nin

There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.
-Anaïs Nin

We are going to the moon, that is not very far.
Man has so much farther to go within himself.
-Anaïs Nin

...nothing changes the nature of man. I know too
well that man can only change himself psychologically,
and that fear and greed make him inhuman, and it
is only a change of roles we attain with each revolution,
just a change of men in power, that is all, the evil remains.
-Anaïs Nin

The personal life deeply lived always expands into
truths beyond itself.
-Anaïs Nin

Friday, March 26, 2010

Khalil Gibran

On Marriage

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

-Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 25th

This scrubby, windy, sunny, bare-tree weather is perfect. I could walk a hundred miles. Any warmer and it's too hot for me! Today I walked towards the sunshine, going by the outdoor cafe tables at the coffee shop near Saint Ann's, and got to visit with Roland the former city dump manager and Don the former WWII park ranger. They both were hanging out. We talked about how great it would be if we could have a city dog park. Then I crossed the river on the footbridge and walked between the new twin middle schools over to the Rivers Edge Park. When I looked up I saw a huge sun dog in the sky. I pointed it out to a couple who were walking with their baby in a stroller and they were amazed. There was a huge rainbow arc below the sun. It was gone in a few minutes. At the canoe launch further on, Lily stepped into the river to cool off. On my way out of the park I met a Boston terrier who was adorable, with a black patch around his eye. He was very muscular and ran in circles around Lily, flirting. His ears flattened back every few seconds just like a horse. Sometimes I wonder if I could ever live in the country. I would miss walking everywhere in the chaos of the city, but I would most certainly adopt a Jersey cow.

F. W. Nietzsche

We have Art in order that we may not perish from Truth.
- F. W. Nietzsche

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


by Nin Andrews

Today in the news there is an article about salt.
It says don't eat so much of it.
It says salt is bad for your heart.
You will die younger
and young of heart
if you eat loads of salt.
Ah, but what if you love salt?
Heart and soul? I mean, what if
you REALLY LOVE salt?
When I was a girl, I loved salt so much
I would pour it on my hand and lick it.
I'd lick the tops of crackers
or suck them just for the salt.
I liked the taste of sea water.
And sweat.
If I wouldn't eat something,
my dad would pour salt on it
and I'd suck it right down.
I'd even lick the salt blocks
in the cow pasture.
Those are for the heifers, Mom would say
whenever she caught me.
After a while she just said,
those are for the heifers and Nin.
(She never worried
when I shared things with her cows.
She liked us about the same.)
She figured we were farm kids,
immune to germs, unlike those delicate urbanites
in their antiseptic homes.
What do they do in there,
she'd ask sometimes when we drove
through the burbs, the TV lights flickering.
We didn't own a TV.
And Mom could never sit still anyhow
or stay inside.
She liked being in the garden or fields.
And she liked cows.
I never understood how anyone could like cows.
They're dumb and smelly.
They fart and shit and eat all day long.
But Mom used to say
we have a lot in common with cows.
We, too, like to eat and eat and eat.
All day long we like to eat.
And we like salt.
She admitted she liked salt too.
Once I even got her to lick a salt block
herself. Admittedly it was a new block,
not one that had been in the fields yet,
not yet softened and smoothed by cow tongues.
She said it wasn't so bad.
She even agreed when I said salt licks
are some of the best-tasting salt ever.
I suggested we could serve something like it
as an appetizer. Little cubes of cow salt
for guests. I thought about it for years.
How you could hold the cubes in your mouth
and suck them down like sugar.
That way I, for one, would be sure I died
when I was still young at heart.
Who wants to die with an old heart?
Not having enjoyed the salt of life?

-Nin Andrews

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Urban Garden

I am thinking that if I grow tomatoes and basil in buckets on my porch, gardening might be defined and approachable. I still will spend hot summer days working barefoot, baking bread, and hiding indoors next to the fan with my dog. I will swim, but I love privacy and solitude even more. I might take up moonlight ocean swimming with Lily. She glows in the dark like a real polar bear.

Today it is pouring. I wish I could borrow a policeman's raincoat, those yellow glow ones that reach to the ankles. I've got rain boots. Or maybe I'll just get soaked like Lily and dry off when we get home.

May Sarton

Solitude shared with Animals has a special quality and rarely turns to lonliness.
-May Sarton, House by the Sea

Marion Cunningham

In my family, we were all terrified of being sickly. My mother had tuberculosis as a child and so we were brought up on castor oil, and government pamflets. I was a hypochondriac at 45, an insomniac. I went to the library to look up "anxiety neurosis." I gave up alcohol and got migraines. Now that I am older and somewhat wiser, when I have a pain I know that it means I am alive.
-Marion Cunningham

Monday, March 22, 2010

More Oscar Wilde

Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.
-Oscar Wilde

A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
-Oscar Wilde

Anyone can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend's success.
-Oscar Wilde

The youth of America is their longest tradition. It has been going on now for three hundred years.
-Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Wilde told a host that he'd toiled strenuously that day. "I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma," he said.
"And in the afternoon?" she asked.

"In the afternoon," responded Wilde, "-- well, I put it back again."

-Oscar Wilde from The Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde by Ralph Keyes

Piano Lessons

by Billy Collins

My teacher lies on the floor with a bad back
off to the side of the piano.
I sit up straight on the stool.
He begins by telling me that every key
is like a different room
and I am a blind man who must learn
to walk through all twelve of them
without hitting the furniture.
I feel myself reach for the first doorknob.

He tells me that every scale has a shape
and I have to learn how to hold
each one in my hands.
At home I practice with my eyes closed.
C is an open book.
D is a vase with two handles.
G flat is a black boot.
E has the legs of a bird.

He says the scale is the mother of the chords.
I can see her pacing the bedroom floor
waiting for her children to come home.
They are out at nightclubs shading and lighting
all the songs while couples dance slowly
or stare at one another across tables.
This is the way it must be. After all,
just the right chord can bring you to tears
but no one listens to the scales,
no one listens to their mother.

I am doing my scales,
the familiar anthems of childhood.
My fingers climb the ladder of notes
and come back down without turning around.
Anyone walking under this open window
would picture a girl of about ten
sitting at the keyboard with perfect posture,
not me slumped over in my bathrobe, disheveled,
like a white Horace Silver.

I am learning to play
“It Might As Well Be Spring”
but my left hand would rather be jingling
the change in the darkness of my pocket
or taking a nap on an armrest.
I have to drag him in to the music
like a difficult and neglected child.
This is the revenge of the one who never gets
to hold the pen or wave good-bye,
and now, who never gets to play the melody.

Even when I am not playing, I think about the piano.
It is the largest, heaviest,
and most beautiful object in this house.
I pause in the doorway just to take it all in.
And late at night I picture it downstairs,
this hallucination standing on three legs,
this curious beast with its enormous moonlit smile.

-Billy Collins

Joan Didion

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
-Joan Didion

Richard Bach

The opposite of loneliness, it's not togetherness. It is intimacy.
-Richard Bach

Eden Ahbez

I am a being of Heaven and Earth, of thunder and lightning, of rain and wind, of the galaxies.
-Eden Ahbez

Now Heaven and Earth are older than the temples, and older than the Scriptures.
-Eden Ahbez

The earth is my altar, the sky is my dome, mind is my garden, the heart is my home and I'm always at home- yea, I'm always at Om.
-Eden Ahbez

The greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love and be loved, just to love and be loved.
Eden Ahbez


What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.
-Fyodor M. Dostoevsky

W.H. Auden

Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.
-W. H. Auden

Man in Space

by Billy Collins

All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making his point
even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,

and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
their breasts protected by hard metal disks.

-Billy Collins

Graham Greene

Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human condition.
-Graham Greene

-It is impossible to go through life without trust: that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself.
-Graham Greene

-The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You're there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing. Everything is useful to a writer, you see -- every scrap, even the longest and most boring of luncheon parties.
-Graham Greene

However great a man's fear of life, suicide remains the courageous act, the clear-headed act of a mathematician. The suicide has judged by the laws of chance -- so many odds against one that to live will be more miserable than to die. His sense of mathematics is greater than his sense of survival. But think how a sense of survival must clamor to be heard at the last moment, what excuses it must present of a totally unscientific nature.
-Graham Greene

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Among Children

by Philip Levine

I walk among the rows of bowed heads--
the children are sleeping through fourth grade
so as to be ready for what is ahead,
the monumental boredom of junior high
and the rush forward tearing their wings
loose and turning their eyes forever inward.
These are the children of Flint, their fathers
work at the spark plug factory or truck
bottled water in 5 gallon sea-blue jugs
to the widows of the suburbs. You can see
already how their backs have thickened,
how their small hands, soiled by pig iron,
leap and stutter even in dreams. I would like
to sit down among them and read slowly
from The Book of Job until the windows
pale and the teacher rises out of a milky sea
of industrial scum, her gowns streaming
with light, her foolish words transformed
into song, I would like to arm each one
with a quiver of arrows so that they might
rush like wind there where no battle rages
shouting among the trumpets, Hal Ha!
How dear the gift of laughter in the face
of the 8 hour day, the cold winter mornings
without coffee and oranges, the long lines
of mothers in old coats waiting silently
where the gates have closed. Ten years ago
I went among these same children, just born,
in the bright ward of the Sacred Heart and leaned
down to hear their breaths delivered that day,
burning with joy. There was such wonder
in their sleep, such purpose in their eyes
dosed against autumn, in their damp heads
blurred with the hair of ponds, and not one
turned against me or the light, not one
said, I am sick, I am tired, I will go home,
not one complained or drifted alone,
unloved, on the hardest day of their lives.
Eleven years from now they will become
the men and women of Flint or Paradise,
the majors of a minor town, and I
will be gone into smoke or memory,
so I bow to them here and whisper
all I know, all I will never know.

-Philip Levine

A Woman Waking

by Philip Levine

She wakens early remembering
her father rising in the dark
lighting the stove with a match
scraped on the floor. Then measuring
water for coffee, and later the smell
coming through. She would hear
him drying spoons, dropping
them one by one in the drawer.
Then he was on the stairs
going for the milk. So soon
he would be at her door
to wake her gently, he thought,
with a hand at her nape, shaking
to and fro, smelling of gasoline
and whispering. Then he left.
Now she shakes her head, shakes
him away and will not rise.
There is fog at the window
and thickening the high branches
of the sycamores. She thinks
of her own kitchen, the dishwasher
yawning open, the dripping carton
left on the counter. Her boys
have gone off steaming like sheep.
Were they here last night?
Where do they live? she wonders,
with whom? Are they home?
In her yard the young plum tree,
barely taller than she, drops
its first yellow leaf. She listens
and hears nothing. If she rose
and walked barefoot on the wood floor
no one would come to lead her
back to bed or give her
a glass of water. If she
boiled an egg it would darken
before her eyes. The sky tires
and turns away without a word.
The pillow beside hers is cold,
the old odor of soap is there.
Her hands are cold. What time is it?

-Philip Levine

Tell Me

by Anne Pierson Wiese

There are many people who spend their nights
on the subway trains. Often one encounters
them on the morning commute, settled in corners,
coats over their heads, ragged possessions heaped
around themselves, trying to remain in their own night.

This man was already up, bracing himself against
the motion of the train as he folded his blanket
the way my mother taught me, and donned his antique blazer,
his elderly, sleep-soft eyes checking for the total effect.

Whoever you are-tell me what unforgiving series
of moments has added up to this one: a man
making himself presentable to the world in front
of the world, as if life has revealed to him the secret
that all our secrets from one another are imaginary.

-Anne Pierson Wiese

W.H. Auden

A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.
-W.H. Auden

Drama is based on the Mistake. I think someone is my friend when he really is my enemy, that I am free to marry a woman when in fact she is my mother, that this person is a chambermaid when it is a young nobleman in disguise, that this well-dressed young man is rich when he is really a penniless adventurer, or that if I do this such and such a result will follow when in fact it results in something very different. All good drama has two movements, first the making of the mistake, then the discovery that it was a mistake.
-W.H. Auden

Evil is unspectacular and always human,
And shares our bed and eats at our own table.
-W.H. Auden

It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practicing it.
-W.H. Auden

Friday, March 19, 2010

W. H. Auden

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
-W.H. Auden

Brighter Shade of Red

Today it is 65 degrees. I walked to Cass Park and all Lily did was hunt for goose droppings. So I headed out to the Aylsworth ballfield around the corner from Cass Park. I went down a residential street and Lily met a lovely sleek black Lab only two years old. Her owner was washing a cobalt blue car while talking on the phone. His wife corralled the dog. I invited them to join me in the park at the end of their street but a garbage truck was beeping and backing up as we talked, coming right at us, so they took the dog inside but not before the dog teased and flirted with Lily. Sometimes I think I should have a dog-walking service like you see in NYC, the woman with eight leashes in each hand, going through Central Park. As long as I could occasionally stop and take notes while I walked and could afford the rain gear, I think I would enjoy it. I noticed the city had repainted all of the fire hydrants an even brighter shade of red. Now they remind me of those large ceramic cookie jars for dogs biscuits. The sidewalks were so sandy it was like the Sahara Desert. Lily loves the new ball field. It's the home of the East Woonsocket Little League. The metal signs on the chain link backstop with names of sponsors whip in the wind with a huge noise that always makes me jump. Lily doesn't notice. If I lived across the street I'd be out there in my pajamas tacking them on tight so I could sleep. I threw a baseball I had found - it already had teeth marks in it. I threw it right out of the ball field into the brook. We went and got it and Lily lay down for a cooling break. She drank from the lounging position. On my way home from the ball field I saw a tiny stone house for sale. Someone could really love this house I thought, it looks like a little Irish house. Then we walked past the soon-to-be-replaced firehouse, and I fantasized about living there, too. What a view that would be of Mount Saint Charles and the water tower, but I'd miss our residential neighborhood. I do enjoy my neighborhood characters.

Bee Hives are Legal in NYC

I picture all of New York City
with its infinitely tall buildings full of rooms and corridors,
closets, stairs, and elevators -
combs full of worker bees making honey, making money,
buzzing in their waxy geometric cubicles.
the Queen Mayor oversees her hives,
driving through the sticky streets
in her limousine.

Happy Birthday Lily

Today is Lily's birthday. She was born three years ago today to Murphy and Addie somewhere in rural Kansas. Who knew she would grow up to become the urban amazon canine of Woonsocket, the forty-foot woman, the Lauren Bacall of the dog world.

Although I was given a make-your-own-doggie-treats cookbook for Christmas I know what her favorite treat would be - a cat-poop cupcake with goosepoop frosting.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Learning to Write the MFA Poem

by Nin Andrews

I’ve heard people argue that there’s an awful kind of poem
called an MFA poem, and usually these people
who hate MFA poems have never earned an MFA,
so the MFA poets argue vehemently in defense
of their craft and their MFAs, and I, an MFA poet
try to agree and say, I’m on the MFA’s team.
We’re right and they’re wrong. Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.

But the truth is, well,

there is a certain kind of poem I was taught to write
when I was earning what my husband calls my mail-order degree
from a low-res program in the Northeast. And I guess
I would call this kind of poem an MFA poem,
though the truth is, I never learned to write one very well
(though this is one of them, or is trying to be),
but I do see them everywhere now, these MFA poems,
which I despise, not because the poems are bad
but because I was taught how to write them
by this asshole professor (he was such a creep)
who was abusive to women, mostly,
fucked with their heads if not their bodies,
you know the type. Back then
the women took whatever he dished out
because he was famous I guess.
I hated that, and how he would write poems
about being an asshole, which he was and is,
and about everything and anything else
because, he would explain, everything is happening at once,
so everything is happening in his poems, and happening so fast,
that the past, present, and future are all there in the poems
though nothing is ever really happening
because the poems are usually in some static place

like an airplane seat, where he is safely buckled in,
or a dream, or a therapist's office or a hospital room . . .
He was so often in hospital rooms
because he had just had an appendectomy
or a case of gout or a kidney stone
or gangrene or hemorrhoids or who knows what else,
hypochondria maybe, and usually there was a TV on
(this is America, after all, and everything
is always happening on TV, he said),
and so the I of the poem is always watching
scenes of violence and destruction from far away
while obsessing about himself
and thinking of what the I really wants
which is usually pretty predictable:
a shower, a cup of Starbucks,
a few martinis, a really good fuck.
Yes, he smirked, a good fuck is always nice,
and it’s nice to fuck or use the word, fuck,
in a poem as often as possible

while on TV people are drowning in the mud
at the Grande Island at Angra dos Reis
or being tortured, bombed, or raped in South Waziristan
or maybe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
or they are being massacred in Conakry, Guinea
or dumped into mass graves in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero . . .
and somehow the poet usually picks which crisis
to write about, depending on the sound of the name
of the place. The poet likes the name of the city of Sarajevo,
for example, because it sounds like music on his tongue
and reminds him of his first love, Sarah De Angelo.
Yes, Sarah De Angelo. He says her name aloud
as he wonders whatever happened to the lovely Sarah De Angelo
whose name still feels like an ache in his gut,
whose name still fills him with longing and angst,
even now so many years later, even in this hospital room
with horrible scenes of death and disaster playing over and over again,

he thinks only of Sarah De Angelo, and he remembers
the first time he saw her. He was eleven years old
and new at Saint Charles School in Toledo, Ohio,
and she was wearing a pink frock, pink socks,
and pink ribbons in her yellow hair. Yes, frock,
he thinks, now that's a word no one uses much
anymore. Maybe the poem should include
a few more words like that, like slacks perhaps.
Slacks aren’t nearly as nice as a good frock, of course.
But maybe the poet remembers when the girls
were first allowed to wear slacks to school . . .
and there was that distinction, carefully explained
in the dress code manual, between pants and slacks,
between trousers and slacks,
and as far as he was concerned, slacks
were a big mistake. No one should ever be allowed
to wear slacks, those polyester twills
that made the girls look shapeless and manly . . .
Even Sarah De Angelo looked like a penguin in black slacks.

And at some point (who knows when, but it was never soon enough)
the poet realizes that his poem is getting a bit too long,
and he also notices that the nurse on night duty is wearing slacks
beneath her white gown, and he can't help thinking
of Sarah in a silk white blouse with ruffles and black slacks,
and how he wouldn’t mind if the nurse would linger
a while longer and maybe ask him how he feels for once,
and pretend she gives a fuck about him,
and he then begins to wonder what it would be like
to release the nurse from those double knits.
Maybe he could do her a favor or two,
make her smile, laugh, sigh . . .
but when she rolls her little tray up to his bedside
and hands him a pink pill and a plastic cup, she just says, Take this,
and he does. Yes, he takes whatever she gives.

-Nin Andrews from The Secret Life of Mannequins, Kattywompus Press, 2011

Trevor Young

In my paintings, the room represents a mental space, and with every blank canvas, I am moving into a new room. I have to choose potent symbolic elements to “decorate” these areas and convey a narrative. I have incomplete visions that can only be clarified through a process of shifting, adding, and taking away. I fumble awkwardly through dusty boxes of thoughts and emotions, mislabeled and stacked haphazardly, grasping stubbornly for the right language to tell my story. Through this process, a painting becomes a pastiche of historical embellishments, psychological metaphors, and emblems of transience.

-Trevor Young

Have a peek at Trevor's latest paintings:

Sleep is Medicine

There is an Italian proverb - Sleep is medicine. I got a full eight hours of sleep last night and feel grounded again. Blowing off the long walk in the past two days due to distractability was a hazard to the gravitational forces that keep me on the earth. Lily jumped up at four AM, placing her paws and head on my chest. I stroked her ears for 20 minutes and then she was happy to return to her bed on the floor. Maybe she was having a nightmare! Later in the morning I dreamt about huge spiders in tangled webs hanging in a room - the spiders were the size of Barbie dolls. I was terrified trying to walk around them without waking them. I asked myself, aren't spiders this size only in warm climates?

Yesterday the five-year-old girl next door was dressed in green camouflage shorts and plaid green mary janes (it was St Patricks day). She was riding around the parking lot, driving her pink SUV Barbie Cadillac, gunning it with her friend aboard. Her dad told us, this thing goes five miles an hour! Jeffrey, the boy who looks like a line drawing of a boy, was her passenger, and Jewel, their sage 11-year-old white German shepherd, was following them back and forth. Our neighborhood parking lot catches the sun in summer. It is large and paved, and protected by the tenements and school house and our house surrounding it. Every Spring through Fall it becomes a make-shift park for the kidlets and dogs who live here. Time to get out the sidewalk chalk.

Aylsworth Ave Ball Field

Lily's birthday is Friday--she'll be three. Tonight we had a dog play run in the park on Aylsworth Ave, in the no-goose-poop little-league field. It's my new favorite field because at night it is lit up by the neighboring public tennis courts. After ten minutes of playing fetch we tired her out and then she found a plastic water bottle 1/2 full of water and she loved running and playing with that, crunching it in her mouth. It's very satisfying to see her so happy. Now she is e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d.

Marc Chagall

My book Dreamer from the Village Came out in Russian! I got my copy yesterday. I must remember to show my brother-in-law Bob. He can read Russian! I wonder if the Russian "Black Sea" bookstore in Brighton Beach would carry it?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Annie Dillard

I do not so much write a book as sit with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours, I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hold its hand and hope it will get better.

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the doors to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, 'Simba!'

One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time.

Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better.

These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give away freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
-Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grimy Guy

Today the brook was swollen with tea-colored water as Lily and I crossed the white wooden footbridge to play in the muddy ballfield. I wore my black hat and red scarf but I forgot my gloves. My fingers were chilly by the time we headed to the library. On the way, I spotted two tiny red knitted gloves facing each other as if in prayer hanging in the shrubs outside the bank. I thought maybe they could stretch to fit, but I didn't want to wear them without washing them first. I took them and stashed them in my pocket.

When I got to the library, I tied Lily to the lamppost out front and went in. I watched her through the window while I waited at the circulation desk. I saw Grimy Guy walk up to her and pet her while she jumped into his arms. Grimy Guy works on boilers and chimneys and any odd job that he can get. I think most people are scared of him because he is often grimy and missing teeth and parts of his fingers. But he is smart, kind, hilarious, and a good artist. After greeting Lily, he came in to the checkout desk and announced, "That dog is a menace to the community, she is towing the library and has already moved it a few feet."


In winter I live
like a potato in the earth,
growing eyes in the dark.
I breathe in dirt and worms,
rain black tears.

Bare branches have fallen
in the rainstorm.
My ancestors' hands,
litter the brown ground.

It's not Spring yet,
but the birds have arrived.
I am waiting
for the warmth
and the green buds.


Harder Thing

To straighten the crooked
You must first do a harder thing -
Straighten yourself.

-The Dhammapada

Poet Nizar Quabbani

I knew when I said
I love you
that I was inventing a new alphabet
for a city where no one could read
that I was saying my poems
in an empty theater
and pouring my wine
for those who could not
taste it.
-Nizar Quabbani

Nizar Quabbani

A Lesson In Drawing

My son places his paint box in front of me
and asks me to draw a bird for him.
Into the color gray I dip the brush
and draw a square with locks and bars.
Astonishment fills his eyes:
"... But this is a prision, Father,
Don't you know, how to draw a bird?"
And I tell him: "Son, forgive me.
I've forgotten the shapes of birds."

My son puts the drawing book in front of me
and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.
I hold the pen
and draw a gun.
My son mocks my ignorance,
"Don't you know, Father, the difference between a
wheatstalk and a gun?"
I tell him, "Son,
once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks
the shape of the loaf
the shape of the rose
But in this hardened time
the trees of the forest have joined
the militia men
and the rose wears dull fatigues
In this time of armed wheatstalks
armed birds
armed culture
and armed religion
you can't buy a loaf
without finding a gun inside
you can't pluck a rose in the field
without its raising its thorns in your face
you can't buy a book
that doesn't explode between your fingers."

My son sits at the edge of my bed
and asks me to recite a poem,
A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.
My son licks it up, astonished, saying:
"But this is a tear, father, not a poem!"
And I tell him:
"When you grow up, my son,
and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins
and the Arabic poem
is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers."

My son lays down his pens, his crayon box in
front of me
and asks me to draw a homeland for him.
The brush trembles in my hands
and I sink, weeping.

-Nizar Quabbani

Monday, March 15, 2010

Virginia Woolf

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery.
-Virginia Woolf


I dreamt I was in my childhood bedroom. Tacked onto the walls were color photocopies. I realized that they were all facsimiles of the original pictures, in the exact spots where the originals had hung on the walls.

Henry Horenstein

After 30+ years of studying and teaching photography, this may be the most important lesson I’ve learned. Some teachers explain technique and others crit work; some inspire and others offer sound advice. But the most critical thing a teacher can provide is support — to be on their students’ side.
-Henry Horenstein

Photographer Philip Perkis

Photography provides a window through which we can see things that we
fear or do not want to have contact with directly. It’s not just about
seeing things that are not available or no longer exist such as Abraham
Lincoln or the Hidnenberg.
-Philip Perkis

Sunday, March 14, 2010

May Sarton

Loneliness is the poverty of the self, solitude is the richness of the self.
-May Sarton

Begin here. It is raining. I look out on the maple, where few leaves have turned yellow, and listen to Punch, the parrot, talking to himself, and to the rain ticking gently against the windows. I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my "real" life again at last. That's what is strange - that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life, unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone here and "the house and I resume old conversations."

The ambiance here is order and beauty. This is what frightens me when I am first alone again. I feel inadequate. I have made an open place, a place for meditation. What if I cannot find myself inside it?

Now I hope to break through into the rough, rocky depths, to the matrix itself. There is violence there and anger never resolved.

My need to be alone is balanced against my fear of what will happen when suddenly I enter the huge, empty, silence if I cannot find support there. I go up to heaven and down to Hell in an hour, and keep alive only by imposing on myself inexorable routines.

-May Sarton Journal of a Solitude

Friends and Lovers

Friends we allow into our company, lovers we allow into our solitude.


I need poetry more than bread, water and sunlight.

Rainfall and Vines

. . . my true / self is underground like a potato. At the opera
I will think of rainfall and vines. In my dreams
all my corn may grow short but the ears will be
full. If you kiss my forehead on a dark moon
in March I may disappear - but do not be afraid -
I have taken root in my grandfather's
fields: I am hanging my laundry beneath his trees.

from the poem Fields by Faith Shearin, from The Owl Question.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bovine Bits

I write in order to attain that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk.
-Henry Louis Mencken

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.
-Dennis Wholey


The other day I was wondering if there were such a thing as giant Schnauzers. There must be, but I had only heard of miniature Schnauzers. Of course I pictured them to be the size of King Kong stomping through the neighborhood and maybe that is why we never hear of them. It turns out there are giant Schnauzers and they can weigh 70 pounds! But why do dogs get bred into miniature? I can understand people wanting small dogs. I love Boston Terriers, they always make me laugh. Is a miniature Doberman vicious? Doesn't the high-pitched bark ruin any chances of serious intimidation? Do they play in fields of miniature corn? I had a neighbor, years ago, a rotund elderly man who walked his tiny long-haired black dog. You could never see the dog's face or determine where exactly its head was. The man looked like he was walking his wife's hairdo on a leash. I'd like a miniature cow about 75 pounds (the size of Lily), small enough to be an urban bovine, or maybe a miniature elephant. A miniature hippo or giraffe would be cool too.

Chihuahua eyes

I was sick of going to the same old haunts and Lily eating goose poop so yesterday I decided to visit the other fenced-in baseball field I know - the Aylsworth baseball field. I was there a year ago when I found it by accident one day just after I had adopted Lily. I noticed the gates had been tampered with and they wouldn't close all the way. So I tied Lily's green leash to hold the big double gate closed, and took a log I found near a bordering brook and wedged the small back gate shut with it like a Soho police lock. Then I let Lily run loose. She ran happily, chasing the spinning sticks I threw. She was exhausted in no time. There was a big lady with a bread-loaf-sized miniature Doberman outside the back fence which was at the end of her street. I feared she might scold me for running my dog in the field but she said she likes to run her dog in the field too. We chatted a bit. Her dog had Chihuahua eyes.

Season In Silence

People always ask me, "Is painting hard?" It certainly is for me. Here are a few things I try to keep in mind.

If my schedule allows, I try to paint at the same time each day. The 24-hour body clock has a good memory and sometimes my body can lead me when my mind is lagging.

I have a half dozen canvases or panels kicking around so I can switch over when I am stuck or wish to start anew.

I try not to be so fast to critique myself. I'll put the day's work aside and begin fresh the next day without looking at the previous painting. I'll let a picture season in silence for a few days or weeks out of view. My eyes and brain get a rest.

Procrastination is an inevitable part of the process. Rather than fight it, I try to make it nourishing. My psyche is often telling me it's time to "take in." I'll write in a notebook, walk the neighborhood with my painter's eyes, read poetry, sketch, play music (on an instrument), or set up a soup to simmer while I work.

Most advice for writers applies to painters. One piece of advice is to paint what you know - your shoes, your dog, the house next door, a friend wearing a hat. Writers write about their process but not many painters do. I have a library of books on writing to help me with my painting.

I resist using photographs as reference, preferring to use my own eyes, because photographs are translations. Cameras cannot see as deeply and uniquely as my own eyes can, and there is a danger that the poetry I am able to see will be missed if I rely on a photographer to "see" for me.

Habit is the muse. Just as with walking the dog, or baking bread, repeat action greases the wheels.

I never expect hours of uninterrupted concentration. Painting a picture is not the same as pouring concrete to make sidewalks, or building a deck, or fixing a car engine. I might have laser-beam focus for only 90 minute spurts, but that can add up to a finished picture over a week.

It can help to show others my works-in-progress, but I don't invite just anyone into my studio. I try to choose wisely, to protect my efforts.

Dawn Harvest

Lily is my dream machine. She starts licking her paws at dawn and I roll over and have dreams. She's my seventy five pound dream catcher.

Ski -Jump Nose

I dreamt I was in a tiny NYC convenience store packed with stuff. A few people had brought in their dogs. There was a guy with a St. Bernard, and a Great Dane was sniffing Lily. I guess I brought her in too! There was a gray bunny but it didn't have the wiggly nose. I looked closely and saw that it had a tiny human-like ski-jump nose! I stood in the doorway taking it all in. I could see hands flipping pizza dough across the street in a second floor window. There was a pizza restaurant up there.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I dreamt a woman I know had plucked her eyebrows but her left eyebrow was much more plucked than the right one. I was extremely distracted by this wondering what I should say, knowing I mustn't say anything.

Dog Diary

There's a man I see at the park every day with his two forty-pound dogs orbiting him. Yesterday he had only one dog with him. I asked where the other dog was. He said he had to have her put to sleep. She had bladder cancer and the vet said she wouldn't last the week. I knew she wasn't long for this world. She was ancient. Her name was Pinky and she was all white with a pink nose.

Luscious Lily is sprawled at my feet patiently waiting for her walk. Yesterday she ran like a locomotive after two big geese standing in the fenced-in baseball field at Cass Park. They flew away just in time. She loves to eat goose poop and gets into a frenzy when she finds it. She stops being interested in chasing the ball and won't pay any attention to me. She goes into snack-hunting mode!

Lily looks so lovely whenever she sits next to Bill's banjo. I'm not sure why. I should make a photo portrait. Bill and I are both singing. We have a few songs to sing together for our next show in Ivoryton Connecticut at a Congregational church. We'll be playing music with five of our band mates, performing music of the Carter family. Bill will play banjo and I will play my red baby Hohner accordion in this show. For once we'll be traveling light

Have you ever been to the dog park in Sharon? It's in the woods. We took Lily there once. She was trying to get the dogs to run with her. All the dog owners stood around drinking coffee and talking while most of the dogs were standing around sniffing each other and not running.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sally Ashton

Armchair travel is the ability to look farther on beyond the curtains of an ordinary day, or over an entire mountain range that stands between here and desire. Poetry provides just such a journey for the lucky traveler, a door to another world.

-Sally Ashton

Vita Sackville-West

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?

-Vita Sackville-West

Faith Shearin

What The Dead Don't Need

No need for shoes, of course, or closets full of empty
dresses. No need for the shade of trees or the approval
of parents and friends. They don’t care about the objects
of this world: a new computer, a house overlooking
the sea. The place they occupy may or may not contain
a window to all they’ve left behind. We, the living, think
of them without knowing who or what they have become.
Ghosts? Dust? Butterflies? Wind? Other mysteries —
puberty, sex, childbirth — are the business of life, and
anyone can tell their story. On the matter of death: only
a closed box and the silence of earth or ashes. When my
daughter was small, my disappearance behind a blanket
or curtain seemed permanent. How could I exist if
I was not visible? When I returned, she was grateful:
laughter and kisses, her hand on the roots of my hair.

-Faith Shearin

Artist Jane McTeigue

Check out Jane McTeigue's FABULOUS tin work!

Click here for the website.

Faith Shearin Poem


My father, in middle age, falls in love with a dog.
He who kicked dogs in anger when I was a child,
who liked his comb always on the same shelf,
who drank martinis to make his mind quiet.

He who worked and worked—his shirts
wrapped in plastic, his heart ironed
like a collar. He who—like so many men—
loved his children but thought the money

he made for them was more important
than the rough tweed of his presence.
The love of my father's later years is
a Golden Retriever—more red

than yellow—a nervous dog who knows
his work clothes from his casual ones,
can read his creased face, who waits for
him at the front door—her paws crossed

like a child's arms. She doesn't berate him
for being late, doesn't need new shoes
or college. There is no pressure to raise her
right, which is why she chews the furniture,

pees on rugs, barks at strangers who
cross the lawn. She is his responsible soul
broken free. She is the children he couldn't
come home to made young again.

She is like my mother but never angry,
always devoted. He cooks for his dog—
my father who raised us in restaurants—
and takes her on business trips like

a wife. Sometimes, sitting beside her
in the hair-filled van he drives to make
her more comfortable, my father's dog
turns her head to one side as if

thinking and, in this pose, more than
one of us has mistaken her for a person.
We would be jealous if she didn't make
him so happy—he who never took

more than one trip on his expensive
sailboat, whose Mercedes was wrecked
by a valet. My mother saw him behind
the counter of a now-fallen fast food

restaurant when she was nineteen.
They kissed beside a river where fish
no longer swim. My father who was
always serious has fallen in love with

a dog. What can I do but be happy for him?

-Faith Shearin, from The Owl Question

Michael Heffernan Poem


I'm going to go out and walk around a little,
because it's a nice day, in the seventies,
after a night where the temperature dropped
just below freezing. There isn't much here
in the anteroom of the self, I don't think,
so why should I go on investigating
what last night's dream meant, or the subtleties
of the numerology of the soul as evidenced
in cryptanalytical encodings in the poems
of Bertran de Montségur? I'm out of here,
and off on a little walk in the neighborhood,
but first I'd like to tell you I appreciate
your letting me share. It meant a lot to me.
Quite candidly, I'm not sure what to do
on days like this, or any day, really.
It all runs together, into a place
the good seem to have occupied as their own
and spruced up so nicely others of us who aren't
so good, but not the worst of citizens,
can't help but feel a little out of pocket,
as the saying goes, and I for one would like
to reach into my pocket and pull out
the ruby medallion my mother gave to me,
which fell out of my coat into the grate
by the front tire of the bus I'd waited for
across the street from the Shubert Theatre
in Detroit in 1959. I'd say,
to anyone around inclined to listen,
here is a little something you can have.
I hope you like it. Why don't you just keep it
and give it to another good person some day.
Tell them it used to be Bertran's, who came here once
on a horse all spangled with rubies and golden bells.

-Michael Heffernan from The Night Breeze Off the Ocean

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Weldon Kees

Now, sometimes I wake in the night
And hear the sound of dead leaves
against the shutters. And then a distant
Music starts, a music out of an abyss,
And it is dawn before I sleep again.

-Weldon Kees, from the poem The Musician's Wife

Carrie Latet

Without a pen I feel naked, but it's writing that is my exhibitionism.
-Carrie Latet

Monday, March 08, 2010

Canine Comedians

Yesterday Lily ran in the baseball field at Cass Park. There were two young men walking their pitbulls near us but outside the fence. The dogs and their owners seemed friendly, so I asked them if they wanted to bring their dogs inside the gate to play with Lily. They said sure. Lily was assertive about getting the dogs to run with her. Lily loves running-mates. The two male pitbulls tried their best to keep up with Lily's long-legged stride. It was fun to watch them running in high speed circles. The smaller pitbull ran like a bunny. The big pitbull was fast. Get 'em tired, a tired dog is a happy dog, I said. The owners were laughing. We were all happy that the dogs were having a blast. After a few minutes they were exhausted. The bigger of the two brown pitbulls was panting and smiling broadly. He lay down in a shallow mud puddle and had a dark brown butt when he got up. I laughed. We left the field, and I brought Lily over to the brook a few yards away. She stepped in, lay down, and then sprawled. She cooled off by drinking water from this lounging position. What a bunch of canine comedians.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


I dreamt a friend was telling me that he joined the Erik Satie running club. I said I love Erik Satie. Do you listen to his music? No. Do you discuss him? No. I wondered what the running club had to do with Erik Satie.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Squeaky Swings

Today was a sunny and warm 50 degrees with bare trees. It feels like Spring but there are no bright colors yet. The grass is brown and it makes things look scrubby. There is so much sand on all of the sidewalks. I walked Lily to the park. There were kids everywhere! All the swings were squeaking, a few boys were playing basketball. There were four boys playing touch football in the baseball field. I asked them if I could let Lily run around for a few minutes. I said she's friendly and she won't bother you. They said okay. I could see one boy was scared, but Lily ran in a big circle on the inside perimeter of the fence while the boys played in the center of the field. She paid no attention to the boys, just ran and ran and then dove into the swampy puddle along the fence and lay down in it to cool off. When she got up she was completely muddy and smelled like a swamp! On the other baseball field there were two men and two women standing in a tight group with their four black barking Chihuahuas running loose around them. They would call their dogs' names whenever the dogs ran too far. If I imagined the dogs as Lily's size it made the owners seem like they were twenty feet tall. I snapped on Lily's leash and thanked the boys for sharing the field with us. I walked over and said hello to the people with the Chihuahuas. Lily wanted to play with them but I knew the size difference was probably dangerous to the Chihuahuas. One of the men said Lily was a riot, lying down in the mud puddle like that. She loves water, I said. I asked if their dogs were all related, and the blonde woman said the dogs were siblings. The dark-haired woman picked up her Chihuahua and held him inside the front of her sweater like a bosom with a dog head. Then I walked home and washed Lily using water from the outside hose. It was ice cold but she was very tolerant. She loved the towel rub-down. Now she is exhausted and clean.

Homemade Blueberry Jam

Last night I dreamt I was in a supermarket and there was a display of blueberries on a pallet. I stood on the berries and mashed them between my toes. My friend and her nine-year-old daughter were there. I said to the daughter, "Look, you can make jam!" and she said, "I don't think so!" Just as she said that I toppled the pallet, flipping it over, and fell on the blueberries. When I got up, my whole back was stained purple. I ran out of the store. I turned my pullover inside out to hide the blueberry stains.

I was walking fast along a country road. Then I remembered that for some reason all of my musical instruments were packed up and waiting back at the store, and I had to go get them. When I returned there were supermarket guys mopping up the blueberry mess. My white T-shirt had a purple stain on the left shoulder. They will know it was me, I thought. A woman cop appeared holding her shiny metal handcuffs while asking me to explain myself. I noticed she wore red fingernail polish. I explained I didn't think I had done anything wrong because the berries were all brown and obviously old. I had decided to show my friend's daughter how you could make jam. I hadn't realized this was not okay until she had reacted negatively. I kept tapping the policewoman on the arm to emphasize my story while repeating "You know what I mean?" and she kept backing away. I thought I am only convincing her that I am crazy, but she was listening to me carefully, if warily. I woke up before she could arrest me.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Lost and Found

Today the sun came out for the first time in a bunch of days. The weather was warmer than it has been, too, but it was still in the 40's. It seemed like everyone was outside. I passed odd-shaped sand-covered chunks of snow under the shrubs on Clinton Street as I walked with Lily to the library. They looked like styrofoam props made to resemble boulders. Lots of people were out walking. I saw people with their dogs, babies being wheeled in strollers, kids playing tag. I walked Lily to the reservoir, and we stopped at the park and played in the fenced-in baseball field on the way home. I threw a stick for her and she was prancing and running. She geared up to a high speed and then ran through the gigantic puddle which today was a duck pond with two ducks swimming in it. Lily splashed right through the water and the ducks flew up and away.

When we exited the park I saw a small young female boxer with a purple collar running loose. The dog was sweet and approached to meet Lily. The dogs ran in circles, spinning around me as I held Lily's leash, spinning like a top to keep from getting tangled. I got dizzy! The boxer then ran off, going from yard to yard and coming back to see us as we walked along the empty street. I called the dog over and looked at her tags to see if there was an address, but the dog slipped out of her collar. I tied up Lily and called the dog to me and she came back. I slipped her purple collar back on, held on tight, and examined the tags. I saw she had a Blackstone dog license tag and a rabies vaccination tag from the nearby veterinary hospital, but no address or phone number. Not knowing what to do, I let the boxer go. As cars approached the intersection, I motioned to the drivers to watch out for the dog. It was running around all the little side streets. I was afraid it would get hit by a car, so I called the dog to me again and held her by the collar. I brought the dog over to the next corner where a few mechanics were working on cars in a driveway back from the road. They were friendly, so I asked them if they had a piece of rope because this dog was loose and I didn't want it to get hit by a car. They hunted around and found me a piece, apologizing for it being greasy. I thanked them and made a leash for the boxer. She slipped out of her collar again and I called her back, fastening her collar once more. I was thinking that I'd bring the boxer home and start making phone calls.

We started to walk back out to the street and I saw an adult at the corner draping his jacket over the shoulders of a very small boy about three years old. "This is a missing boy," the adult yelled to me, apparently meaning that the boy was wandering alone. Then I heard another person ask whether anyone had a phone. I said these guys do, motioning to the mechanics. Do you know of anyone missing a child? the adults asked me. No, but I found a lost dog, I told them. The man who gave me the rope said the boy lives here, pointing to the big multifamily house on the same property. Just then a very young woman came out of the house and said to the men, have you seen the baby? He's here, I said. One mystery solved. I continued on my way home.

I said hello to a woman walking her dog, asking her if she recognized the lost puppy. I recognized her dog from the neighborhood. When she came over Lily ran to her husky and they sniffed each other. I explained how I found the boxer. She's got tags, I said. The woman had a cell phone with her and volunteered to call the police. While she spoke, the husky was whimpering over Lily. It was nearly impossible for me to hold both dogs and keep the puppy from squirming out of her collar. It was crazy. The lady explained to the police that I had found a loose dog, and described which intersection we were at. The police said they'd send someone over. The woman apologized for having to head home, but she had to leave.

Back where the mechanics were there had been a big black couch on the edge of the yard, presumably put out for the trash. I went back to sit and wait for the police. Lily sat on the sidewalk, and the puppy as well as the mechanic joined me on the comfortable couch. The dog officer finally showed up about an hour later. I thanked the man who had been so kind to wait with me, holding the puppy and playing with her the whole time. The dog officer picked the dog up, tightened its collar, and promised to find its owner. It was getting dark as Lily and I walked home. What an adventure. I had wondered if I'd have anything to write about today.