Monday, January 31, 2011


I think these difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way that so many things that one goes around worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.
-Isak Dinesen

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.
-Aldous Huxley

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.
-Carl Jung

Great minds have always seen it. That is why man has survived his journey this long. When we fail to wish any longer to be otherwise than what we are, we will have ceased to evolve. Evolution has to be lived forward. I say this as one who has stood above the bones of much that has vanished, and at midnight has examined his own face.
-Loren Eiseley

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you're the easiest person to fool.
-Richard Feynman

All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.
-Blaise Pascal

Baba Ram Dass

In India people greet one another by saying, Namaste. It means: I honor the place within you where, if you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.
-Baba Ram Dass

Allen Ginsberg

Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does.
-Allen Ginsberg

Marge Piercy

Work is its own cure. You have to like it better than being loved.
-Marge Piercy

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have.
-Marge Piercy

Sleeping together is a euphemism for people, but tantamount to marriage with cats
-Marge Piercy

Khalil Gibran

The lust for comfort murders the passions of the soul.

-Khalil Gibran

Madame Anne Sophie Swetchine

In youth we feel richer for every new illusion; in maturer years, for every one we lose.

-Madame Anne Sophie Swetchine, mystic (1782-1857)

Belle Haywood

Be Gentle. You are who you are speaking to.
-Belle Haywood

Hilma Wolitzer

Writing fiction is a solitary occupation but not really a lonely one. The writer's head is mobbed with characters, images and language, making the creative process something like eavesdropping at a party for which you've had the fun of drawing up the guest list. Loneliness usually doesn't set in until the work is finished, and all the partygoers and their imagined universe have disappeared.

-Hilma Wolitzer

Alan Lomax

We now have cultural machines so powerful that one singer can reach everybody in the world, and make all the other singers feel inferior because they're not like him. Once that gets started, he gets backed by so much cash and so much power that he becomes a monstrous invader from outer space, crushing the life out of all the other human possibilities. My life has been devoted to opposing that tendency.
-Alan Lomax

Norman Mailer

Over the years, I've found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.
-Norman Mailer

It's very bad to write a novel by act of will. I can do a book of nonfiction work that way — just sign the contract and do the book because, provided the topic has some meaning for me, I know I can do it. But a novel is different. A novel is more like falling in love. You don't say, 'I'm going to fall in love next Tuesday, I'm going to begin my novel.' The novel has to come to you. It has to feel just like love.
-Norman Mailer

I used to have a little studio in Brooklyn, a couple of blocks from my house — no telephone, not much else. The only thing I ever did there was work. It was perfect. I was like a draft horse with a conditioned reflex. I came in ready to sit at my desk. No television, no way to call out. Didn't want to be tempted. There's an old Talmudic belief that you build a fence around an impulse. If that's not good enough, you build a fence around the fence. So, no amenities. (But for a refrigerator!) I wrote longhand with a pencil and I gave it to my assistant, Judith McNally. She would type it for me and the next day I would go over it. Since at my age you begin to forget all too much, I would hardly remember what I had written the day before. It read, therefore, as if someone else had done it. The critic in me was delighted. I could now proceed to fix the prose. The sole virtue of losing your short-term memory is that it does free you to be your own editor.
-Norman Mailer

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Paulo Coelho

At every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss.
-Paulo Coelho

The great aim of every human being is to understand the meaning of total love. Love is not to be found in someone else, but in ourselves; we simply awaken it. But in order to do that, we need the other person. The universe only makes sense when we have someone to share our feelings with.
-Paulo Coelho

Pain and suffering are used to justify the one thing that brings only joy: love.
-Paulo Coelho

Considering the way the world is, one happy day is almost a miracle.
-Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

You have to take risks, he said. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. Every day, God gives us the sun--and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. Every day, we try to pretend that we haven't perceived that moment, that it doesn't exist--that today is the same as yesterday and will be the same as tomorrow. But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover that magic moment. It may arrive in the instant when we are doing something mundane, like putting our front-door key in the lock; it may lie hidden in the quiet that follows the lunch hour or in the thousand and one things that all seem the same to us. But that moment exists--a moment when all the power of the stars becomes a part of us and enables us to perform miracles."
-Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

Our true friends are those who are with us when the good things happen. They cheer us on and are pleased by our triumphs. False friends only appear at difficult times, with their sad, supportive faces, when, in fact, our suffering is serving to console them for their miserable lives.
-Paulo Coelho, The Zahir

Haters are confused admirers who can’t understand why everybody else likes you.
-Paulo Coelho

Love like rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with a soaking joy. But sometimes under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must nourish from below, tending to its roots keeping itself alive.
-Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

You are someone who is different, but who wants to be the same as everyone else. And that in my view is a serious illness. God chose you to be different. Why are you disappointing God with this kind of attitude?
-Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die

Borges said there are only four stories to tell: a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power and the voyage. All of us writers rewrite these same stories ad infinitum.
-Paulo Coelho

Sorrows do not last forever when we are journeying towards the thing we have always wanted.
-Paulo Coelho

Stalling for Time

I am reading Stalling for Time; My Life a an FBI Hostage Negotiator by Gary Noesner. The stories are amazing.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Anne Lamott

Hers was a face anyone would naturally want in the kitchen, a combination of fresh peach and aged potato. You could see the weight and warmth and softness of her cheeks - that tender part a mother would cup in her hands - now grown so old. I love that she loved fats too much, and cheeses; I love that she would not let you eschew either. She was just about the last of the food people who did not get caught up in any modern madness, insisting instead on staying in the luxuriousness of taste and texture and communion.

Anne Lamott, M.F.K. Fisher A life in Letters

Fertility Clowns

Send in the Clowns

by Stephen Sondheim

Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Just when I'd stopped
Opening doors,
Finally knowing
The one that I wanted was yours,
Making my entrance again
With my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
No one is there.

Don't you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want -
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Quick, send in the clowns.

What a surprise.
Who could foresee
I'd come to feel about you
What you'd felt about me?
Why only now when I see
That you'd drifted away?
What a surprise.
What a cliché.

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer?
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother - they're here.

-Stephen Sondheim

Hilma Wolitzer

Embarking Together on Solitary Journeys

Teachers Wounds and Powers

If we want to improve the quality of college teaching, a million workshops on methodology will not be enough. Good teaching does not come from technique. It comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher. If we want to teach well, we must learn more about the human dimensions of our craft-about the inward sources of our teaching, about the claims it makes on our lives, about our relations with our students, about a teacher's wounds and powers.
-Parker J. Palmer

In the Company of a Well

by Vanessa Valliere

There’s a party going on out here in a long rolling field and the women are wearing bright dresses. Their hems float just over the tops of the green grass. The mens’ laughter clinks with the ice in their cocktails. There is music for dancing and a table covered in big purple grapes and bread and little cheeses with toothpick flags. The bread is still warm. Some people are dancing on large rocks with their eyes closed and there is a couple rolling down the hill.
I am shouting into a well, “Isn't the weather fine?” I'm asking. And: “Isn't the breeze nice?” And here comes my strained echo, pushing up from the bottom and trying to find its way out.

-Vanessa Valliere

Vanessa Valliere

My marriage to failure was arranged from birth. Of course I couldn't have predicted what the future held for me. But. It’s a marriage and I am one of the lucky few who has a partner who is devoted. I won't complain but I also won't say it has always been easy. No. I won't say that. But I can say that Failure has surprised me in ways I couldn't have imagined. A freedom I never expected.

-Vanessa Valliere

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rescue Me!

Saving one animal may not change the world, but, it will surely change the world for that one animal!

Aberration Nation

My interview!

Beautiful Alien: Emily Lisker

Rick Bursky

I don’t know about heaven or hell, but this world is a great place for a poet.
-Rick Bursky

I believe a poet has to live an inspired life. You have to be fully engaged in life, love and art. Be part of the world, not a passive voyeur.
-Rick Bursky

There's a wonderful question in "The Hypnology": Isn't this the best use of night, / to make us afraid, make us uncomfortable, / make us stare at the ceiling until morning. / Is sleep a skill or a prize? Do you try to answer such questions, or do you, like Rilke, think more is to be gained by living them?
-Rick Bursky

One of the things I love about poetry is the way our own poems have the ability to amaze us and teach us things about ourselves. Sometimes I write a poem and wonder, Where’d that come from? “Is sleep a skill or a prize?” is for those who read the poem to answer for themselves. If you twist my arm right now I’d say it’s a prize. Tomorrow my answer might be different.
-Rick Bursky

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lovely Bones

When I was little my favorite gerbil, Silky, died. He had lived a very long time for a gerbil. I dug a hole in the backyard and buried him in the ground under the white pine tree. About ten days later I started to uncover him, expecting to find a clean white skeleton I could show to my friends. I was horrified instead to reveal the matted, wet fur of an intact corpse. I screamed, jumped up, and ran away trembling. I felt so much shame for years over this. I felt that I had violated the privacy of my favorite pet, cheating him out of a dignified death and decay. Only years later did I realize that it was alright to have wanted a beautiful white skeleton of lovely bones. I just needed to wait a lot longer.


Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.
-Henry David Thoreau

Square Wheels

Some people go through life driving a car with square wheels.

Tuesday 9:00 AM

by Denver Butson

A man standing at the bus stop
reading the newspaper is on fire
Flames are peeking out
from beneath his collar and cuffs
His shoes have begun to melt

The woman next to him
wants to mention it to him
that he is burning
but she is drowning
Water is everywhere
in her mouth and ears
in her eyes
A stream of water runs
steadily from her blouse

Another woman stands at the bus stop
freezing to death
She tries to stand near the man
who is on fire
to try to melt the icicles
that have formed on her eyelashes
and on her nostrils
to stop her teeth long enough
from chattering to say something
to the woman who is drowning
but the woman who is freezing to death
has trouble moving
with blocks of ice on her feet

It takes the three some time
to board the bus
what with the flames
and water and ice
But when they finally climb the stairs
and take their seats
the driver doesn't even notice
that none of them has paid
because he is tortured
by visions and is wondering
if the man who got off at the last stop
was really being mauled to death
by wild dogs.

-Denver Butson, Triptych

Denver Butson Interview


Denver Butson

It’s possible to live a life devoted to and in service to your art, without compromise. It may not be the prettiest, most comfortable life, but then again if it were, what kind of art might come of it?
-Denver Butson

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Power Monkey

My mother always brought a Steiff monkey puppet to The Bronx Zoo. She would go over to the large glass window in the monkey-house and animate the puppet madly and all of the spider-monkeys would go nuts. People would gather, amazed at her power.

Haunting Photos

The Chernobyl disaster was 24 years ago today. Haunting, amazing photos at this web site. Click here


This week I saw that Stop and Shop had Maseca brand masa harina corn tortilla flour in the bargain aisle. On impulse I bought the 4.4 pound bag and just made a batch of tortillas. They came out great! All you need is masa, salt, and water. You start with a golf-ball sized piece of dough. My first few tortillas stuck to the tortilla press, but then I finally I followed the directions and used plastic wrap on the tortilla press and they came out perfectly. You can also use a rolling pin or a bottle as a rolling pin. Roll them out between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper. Then, when flattened, place the tortilla on a hot skillet and cook for a few minutes on each side. This is a fast and simple and healthy food.

as the credits rolled

by Denver Butson

at the end of this movie I dreamt
in which I was a bicyclist in the Wild West
and you were the pretty girl with a fast gun

the sunset was the color of smoked salmon
and the mountains looked like paintings
of mountains

I said if I'm really the hero
I should ride this here bicycle into that sunset
and you said what bicycle?
and shot it out from under me
with your lightning-fast six-shooter

and I said I reckon I could walk
and I started walkin'
and you caught up to me holstering your smoking gun

while Ennio Morricone himself
sauntered out from the green room
behind the mountains

humming a song so longing
so beautiful
we couldn't help wishing
that this was our forever
this sun this music
and those ushers down there
dragging their trashbags
silently through the aisles.

-Denver Butson

Monday, January 24, 2011

August Wilson

I don’t write particularly to effect social change. I believe writing can do that, but that’s not why I write. I work as an artist. All art is political in the sense that it serves someone’s politics.
-August Wilson

For me, the original play becomes an historical document: This is where I was when I wrote it, and I have to move on now to something else.
-August Wilson

I first got involved in theater in 1968, at the height of a social tumult. I was a poet.
-August Wilson

Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.
-August Wilson

It ain't nothing to find no starting place in the world. You just start from where you find yourself.
-August Wilson

All you need in the world is love and laughter. That's all anybody needs. To have love in one hand and laughter in the other.
-August Wilson

Blacks in America want to forget about slavery -- the stigma, the shame. That's the wrong move. If you can't be who you are, who can you be? How can you know what to do? We have our history. We have our book, which is the blues. And we forget it all.
-August Wilson

Regardless of the medium, rewriting and more rewriting is still necessary. No one gets anything right the first time, and since I don't write with a hammer and chisel, it's relatively easy for me to change. It's just words on paper. Words are free. You don't go to the store and order a pound of words, or five hundred words, and pay your three dollars. They're free.
-August Wilson

I might be a different kind of fool, but I ain't gonna be the same fool twice.
-August Wilson

I know some things when I start. I know, let's say, that the play is going to be a 1970s or a 1930s play, and it's going to be about a piano, but that's it. I slowly discover who the characters are as I go along.
-August Wilson

You can only close if you opened.
-August Wilson

What comes forth from you as an artist cannot be controlled. But you have responsibilities as a global citizen. Your history dictates your duty. And by writing about black people, you are not limiting yourself. The experiences of African-Americans are as wide open as God's closet.
-August Wilson

The way I see it, the stage tells the story for the ear, and the screen for the eye... On stage, you can't really control where the viewer's eye goes; there's a whole stage picture there, and the viewer can be looking anywhere. But with the camera, if you want the viewer to look at something in particular, you can put their eye there.
-August Wilson

Ice Picnic

My inner cowboy wants to go ice fishing - just to be out there on the iced pond prairie. I want to make a fire on the ice and sit on my wooden kitchen chair and have a picnic with my dog.

Egyptian Sarcophagi

The oblong snow piles in front of the row of eight garages located behind our house look like Egyptian Sarcophagi.

Jack Lalanne

Would you give your dog a cigarette and a doughnut for breakfast every morning?
-Jack Lalanne

Edith Wharton

The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.
-Edith Wharton

To be able to look life in the face: that's worth living in a garret for, isn't it?
-Edith Wharton

Life is always a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope.
-Edith Wharton

True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.
-Edith Wharton

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
-Edith Wharton

I don't know if I should care for a man who made life easy; I should want someone who made it interesting.
-Edith Wharton

In any really good subject, one has only to probe deep enough to come to tears.
-Edith Wharton

The American landscape has no foreground and the American mind no background.
-Edith Wharton

When people ask for time, it's always for time to say no. Yes has one more letter in it, but it doesn't take half as long to say.
-Edith Wharton

The only way not to think about money is to have a great deal of it.
-Edith Wharton

I have sometimes thought that a woman's nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.
-Edith Wharton

He had to deal all at once with the packed regrets and stifled memories of an inarticulate lifetime.
-Edith Wharton

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I love being up at 4 AM when the world is still asleep and the coffee pot is set up and I can hear it churning out nasally noises, and then when it's done I hear the ticking sound of the hotplate switching off and on while I listen to the radio, to Jazz with Bob Parlocha. Hello Bob, are you really there or was this show taped weeks ago, just wondering. Is it the middle of the night where you are, too? Are you in sunny California or wintry New England or somewhere in between? Hey Bob, I rescued a cat this week, and I almost rescued a little brown boy on skates yesterday. He was crying. He was with a large white lady who looked like she was hired to help him have fun, and he was crying very hard. She was not exactly nurturing, just persevering, pushing him while he held on to a two-tiered tower of red and brown plastic milk crates. I wondered if he too needed to be rescued. Then I pictured him 14 years from now, tall, maybe handsome, and wondering why a lady in Woonsocket, herself a stray, had added him to her collection of strays. And I thought, Bob, maybe rescuing the cat was enough.

Edward Hirsch

Read ... poems to yourself in the middle of the night. Turn on a single lamp and read them while you're alone in an otherwise dark room or while someone else sleeps next to you. Read them when you're wide awake in the early morning, fully alert. Say them over to yourself in a place where silence reigns and the din of the culture — the constant buzzing noise that surrounds us — has momentarily stopped. These poems have come from a great distance to find you.

-Edward Hirsch


Yesterday we went to the city rink to skate, and the ice was bumpy! The Zamboni wasn't able to smooth it. The recent snowstorms had created a new challenge for the outdoor rink. It was fun to be out anyway and watch kids pushing milk crates across the ice. Its fun to watch their total physical determination - even when their skates are falling off they continue to propel themselves around the ice - and witness future hockey stars and daredevils in the making. There were two teenage girls, each wearing a mismatched pair of striped and polka-dotted leggings. One girl was in sneakers and the other in skates, and they were holding onto each other. The sneakered girl was munching cheddar-cheese Doritos out of a black plastic bag. Occasionally I'd find a dayglow orange triangle on the ice.

When we came home we were hungry. We had hot coffee and fresh bread while we warmed up food and made more coffee. We made toast and added leftover ham and mustard. Then we heated up a half-gallon block of ice from the freezer that was homemade vegetable soup. I have a terrible memory, so digging out frozen leftovers from the freezer is always a treasure hunt. The soup was labeled Beans and Greens 11-2-10, but it was even more elaborate, with tomatoes and other vegetables.

Sammy our cat is enjoying exploring the house. Lily is cool as long as Sammy doesn't step into the kitchen while we are cooking or eating (which is most of the time). Luckily the linoleum slows Lily down. For her, running on linoleum is like learning to skate.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


The days are stretching out a bit. I noticed it last night at sunset and this morning at dawn. Things are brightening. I like the dark days even more than the bright ones. I would enjoy living in Iceland, Sweden or Finland in the winter.

I am fascinated by igloos and tipis, especially the idea of visiting tipis in the snow.

How to Make an Igloo

Aryn Kyle

I can only loaf around for so long before I start to feel pent-up and anxious, before I feel a skittish energy begin to build inside of me, and then I know it's time to get back to work.
-Aryn Kyle

Friday, January 21, 2011

January Storm Number Four

The stocky old gray and white pitbull with the gigantic head was smiling and tugging a small tot on a plastic red sled. Everyone was out and laughing, all the kids were shovelling in all directions. Another snow day. I was at my studio window.

In the afternoon I went out in my orange sweatpants and day-glow "onion bag" highway-department-style vest. The neighbor girls asked me if I was a crossing guard. I said no, I just wear this when walking my dog at night so I don't get run over. I explained that these colors and the reflective tape show up brightly at night. They said they were building a fort. An igloo like the Eskimos? We talked about igloos and tipis and the ice motel. Then their brother came and decided to help me shovel out. The girls were playing house in the snow. I overheard them talking about packing their snow suitcases. I heard the street plow go by making a three-foot icy pile of snow at the end of the driveway, and I was glad I didn't live where I'd be snowed in miles from other people. When I came inside after an hour of shovelling I was hungry for leftover hambone 'n' pea soup!

Here's a cheap fun cat toy: I found a life-sized plastic Easter egg, filled it with a few pieces of cat kibble, closed it up and rolled it - Sammy went nuts! We're calling our new cat Sammy "The Pez" Perez.

Urban Rainbow

Languages spoken in the Worcester public schools:
Albanian, Vietnamese, Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

Window of Meat

We wandered along William Street and came across this glorious sight in the window of Golden King BBQ restaurant. We’re proud carnivores and were powerless to resist the savoury siren song of the window of meat.
- The Food Pornographer

Link here.

More From Glasgow Poet-Policeman

12:54 p.m. — Lucky Finds Antiques reports that a man who has an oxygen tank just tried to take "a bunch of antique money" valued at over $1,000. It is unclear from the log if the tank was to alleviate a medical condition or to facilitate an underwater escape.

7:44 a.m. — A wee red dog with a curly tail has taken off from Brenda Lane (the name of a street and not a female) — hey, now the pooch is home again.

9:04 a.m. — At a local school, students are allegedly firing snowballs at a young girl who is blind in one eye, which makes her mother fearful that the other eye might be damaged. (Let's hope school authorities move on this one.)

11:53 a.m. — A soggy wallet, found in a car wash, is handed in.

9:58 a.m. — A small gold dog with short ears and lacking a tail is running free near Studley's.

12:05 p.m. — A homeowner, who has the property for sale with a realtor, is surprised to see it for rent on Craigslist.

11:48 a.m. — A lady has spotted a cat at the side of Highland Street and wonders if it is dead or alive. The ACO finds it is dead. It is not a cat though, but a shredded black plastic bag.

2:20 p.m. — There is a pile of TVs in front of a Front Street residence. Been there for weeks. Maybe months.

4:55 p.m. — A man who left Bootlegger's in a Pontiac Grand Am with front end damage has got away with boots priced at $109.

8:35 p.m. — A female is "flipping out" at Dunkin' Donuts on South Main.

11:45 p.m. — A man is staring hard at a Winter Street building and creeping out a woman within.”

5:20 p.m. — A woman reports that her daughter's father has threatened "to put her through the wall."

6:22 p.m. — A man reports that he gave a cat to a woman who answered a Craigslist ad. The woman has since called to say the cat is a female and pregnant, which is odd because the cat he gave her was male and neutered. Anyway, he said he would come and pick the cat back up tomorrow, whereupon her boyfriend came on the line and said if it was not picked up tonight, he would kill the cat. The original cat owner tells police he has no problem retrieving that cat at once, but now fears a confrontation. Police help ensure the peaceful return of one cat.

7:51 p.m. — Speaking of cats, a large one is behind the women's toilet at the Lilac Mall, and "looks scared." Police are able to "let it go."

Cat Toys

I hung up a long lavender cord with a defunct purple scrunchie tied to its end, and my new kitty bopped it back and forth, amusing himself. I enjoyed watching him and the complementary color theory in action. Then I gave him catnip and showed him the hemp-rope covered pillar that our previous cats loved to claw. I rubbed a pen along the pillar to alert him, and he raced up it, climbing it like a tree. He loved it, and sharpened his claws on it. It looked like it felt good. Then he ran back to bop the scrunchie a few times again. He's self-entertaining!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

To You

Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me,
why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?

-Walt Whitman

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Three boys who should have been in school scoop slush madly with plastic orange, blue, and red shovels from around the tires of their mother's fat American car. The mother sits smoking a cigarette in her heated vehicle with the windows up while she spins her wheels, trying to climb the hill.

Glasgow Poet John Nolan's Police Log

from the Rochester Times of New Hampshire

Click here and look for the Rochester Police Log.

2:55 p.m. — There is a neighbor dispute in Walmart. One party is in electrical and the other in sporting goods.

9:15 p.m. — A black vehicle pulls a child on a sled down Lafayette Street. The child falls off and the sled goes under a truck. Police are on the spot pretty quickly, but black vehicles, juveniles and sleds have vanished.

2:25 p.m. — Graffiti has arrived on a Wakefield Street building.

12:12 p.m. — St. Mary's Church reports the theft of their baby Jesus statue.

12:16 p.m. — James D. Lehoux, 38, of 3 Henry Ave., Sanford, Maine, is charged with three counts of theft by unauthorized taking.

12:43 p.m. — A gray, double-pawed tabby cat has been found on Estes Road.

3:30 p.m. — The public works sidewalk snow blower machine has apparently clunked a vehicle on Lafayette Street. A "verbal disagreement," sometimes known as a blazing row, is in progress with a citizen.

8:14 p.m. — A Pleasant Street man reports the presence of a crazy uncle. Police find everything fine when they get there.

9:51 a.m. — Two tires have been slashed on Pleasant Street.

8:33 p.m. — Near Frisbie there's a carcass in the middle of the street, Magoo says it's a deer or biggish dog, an officer investigates, when his report's complete, there's just a piece of cardboard on the log.

2:30 a.m. — Completely blocking Lowell Street there is a mighty limb, forty nine needs forty six to come and assist him.

10:07 a.m. — A large branch hangs menacingly over Crockett Street.

7:45 p.m. — Yelling and banging breaks out in a Sunset Arms hallway.

9:17 p.m. — The log records a large tree on Salmon Falls Road. It is so big, it stumps an officer and he leaves it for a different branch of city government.

4:37 p.m. — A Pine Street man asserts his wife, from whom he is not quite divorced, has taken and sold his vehicle. He is advised to take the matter to civil court.

5:25 p.m. — A mysterious set of keys has wound up in the same River Street yard where a mysterious wallet was found last week.

6:16 p.m. — A 16-year-old runaway juvenile is taken from the library into protective custody.

2:29 a.m. — A suspicious person is reassessed as a newspaper deliverer.

10:38 p.m. — On Pickering Road a woman is hit in the face and has her hair pulled by her mother-in-law.

3:56 p.m. — On Milton Road, there is a large white bird stuck to the ground, frozen into a puddle, in fact. Its legs are damaged and good-hearted police arrange for it to go to the Wildlife Refuge in York, Maine.

4:18 p.m. — A lady's ex-boyfriend threatens death to her and her friends and predicts that if she gets a restraining order against him, "it will be the last thing you ever do." Police travel to Lafayette Street and issue a restraining order.

6:53 p.m. — On Wakefield Street, a man in a knitted hat, bearing two bags and possibly a skinful of drink, reportedly has the look of someone who "might want to relieve himself."

11:20 p.m. — Friendly's is closed but, oops, staff have forgotten to lock the door. In comes a large, intoxicated and disheveled man to cause trouble. Plus, his pants are falling down.

10:06 a.m. — A caller asks that school children are spared the sight of a dead kitty on Rochester Hill Road.

9:46 a.m. — A woman walks her dog around, spots lots of condoms on the ground, at Pickering Pond, and a car's there, with folks who might be partly bare.

Freak Show

I have always been enamored of circus freak show art. Starting next week I'll be working with teens at Beacon Charter School inviting them to make their own circus side show backdrops. I can't wait!

Adrian Mitchell

One of the main reasons I grew up was so I wouldn't have to go to school. But I sometimes visit schools - if they're interested in making magic - I mean poetry.

-Adrian Mitchell

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Redheaded Teenage Kitten

Saturday we found a stray orange teenage kitten on our walk through the thirty-acre cemetery on our street. Stray cats have been showing up a lot lately. Sadly, with this economy and full animal shelters, people are dropping animals off in the cemeteries. On Thanksgiving weekend we found a mother cat and her four kittens at the cemetery in Blackstone Mass, also on our street. We were able to capture two of the kittens, and our friend in Blackstone got them neutered and placed in a home together.

The caretaker of the nearby cemetery said the orange cat had been outside fending for himself for a few weeks in the snow and cold. He is very sweet and seems healthy, a purr bomb who loves affection! He has a lovely coat of short orange-and-white fur which makes a Rorschach pattern of a smiling clown face on his back. Once you see it you can't NOT see it! His belly and legs are white. He's laid back and has even let me trim his claws with no struggle. He and Lily-dog get along fine as long as no food is out. We have fed him and given him fresh water. He has a hearty appetite for both! We're trying out a bunch of names; Yammy, Oscar, Jasper, Apricoon, and others. We'll figure it out soon. We're teaching him about the cat box. He seems unfamiliar with it, and when we bring him to it he just wants to lounge in it luxuriously, like at the beach!

Grandmother Wisdom

When I don't get a full night of sleep I feel like an observatory with my head open to the stars. I used to think my need for sleep was a weakness, like my desire for food, chocolate, coffee, or meat! Instead of listening to my body I would reinterpret or ignore the signals. In my fiftieth year I realize it is helpful not hazardous to trust your body's wisdom. Happiness comes from listening to your body, even when you wish it were telling you something else! My body carries grandmother wisdom within me.

Shovel Lodge

The other night while we were eating supper after our big snowstorm, I said to Bill, "This is like having supper in a ski lodge," and Bill replied, "Except it's a shovel lodge!"

Official Forecast

Expect poor conditions for fishing.


Last Saturday morning I had a dream that there was a woman newscaster at my bedroom window. She was wearing a red shirt. Her head and shoulders were in the window frame, and she was facing into the room, speaking. She asked me why I was staring at her. I pulled the shade.

Sunday morning I dreamed I was with Lily escaping a fire in the mill buildings on Hazel Street. The buildings were exploding, and Lily was pulling me to safety. I woke at 4:30AM

Monday I dreamed my half-brother was trying to set me up on a date with David Macaulay. I also dreamed that a mini Holstein cow was standing up and hugging me like a person.

This morning I dreamed I was on stage wearing only a black leotard and tights. I was performing, singing back-up for two or three other women who were singing lead. I was supposed to play my bari sax at some point, but I realized that my horn was still packed up in the case, and the show had already begun!

Monday, January 17, 2011


Yesterday we went skating at the city's free outdoor rink at River Island Park. It was the first time we've skated in a few years. The rink was full of kids who were rosy-cheeked and having fun. We saw the thirteen-year-old girl from our neighborhood who we call "the prettiest girl in the world," and her equally adorable friend. It was their first time skating. There were lots of young kids in colorful padded snowsuits pushing red, brown, and blue plastic milk crates stacked up on the ice for support. I almost knocked over a blonde-haired girl with a pink hat who held onto me for support. We did a little dance, spinning around a few times, both laughing while trying not to fall over. Then she got her younger brother and attached him to my right hand. She resumed her grip on my left. They were both about six or seven years old, trying to stay upright. They were wobbly and slipping and I was doing my best to keep us all vertical. It was hilarious and sweet. The rink attendant lit a fire in the big outdoor fireplace and people gathered to warm their mittens. The late afternoon sun shone through the bare trees, making long shadows across the park. The city's green John Deere tractor has been converted into a mini Zamboni. I accidentally called it the Spumoni, which left me imagining a vanilla-strawberry-chocolate ice cream rink for skating and tasting. This is how Lily enjoys snow, she eats it like ice cream as she's playing in it.


In moments of joy all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.
-W. H. Auden

Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend.
-Corey Ford

William Matthews

. . . pain and joy eat off each other's plates . . .
-William Matthews

Sunday, January 16, 2011

We've Been Calling Him Yammy!

He's the orange of freshly cooked yams with a white belly and striped orange and white tail. I visited Yammy three times today with food and love. He and Lily got along well touching noses on my third visit. He's fearless! Even if Yam and Lil' didn't get along ten degrees was going to be too cold for him to be outside. So I went over to the cemetery and called for him in the dark. He came out meowing and I carried him home! Now he's luxuriating in the boiler room with water and food. He was thirsty! He's purring up a storm.

Mr. Peaches and Cream

We met a sweet orange and white kitten in the cemetery today. He's another FEARLESS orange cat. He came over even though Lily was with us and barking. I picked him up and he was not afraid. He purred like a motorcycle while rubbing his whisker pouches on my hand. Lily was not too happy about this! I know we can't afford another animal (not to mention my asthma!) but we may have to make an exception . . . or at least find him a good home. It's supposed to be ten degrees tonight! I will go back out and check on him later, and bring him some food. He is beautiful, he looks like a creamsicle! I am in love!

Paul Burgess

Once in high school a friend flipped a nickel and told me to call it in the air, "heads" or "tails." Just to be contrary, I called "rims." The nickel landed and came to rest, standing upright on its rim. Most implausible thing that ever happened to me.
-Paul Burgess

Her Life Is A Trap

Her life is a trap
she resets every day
putting out the bait;
the smoked ham
and runny cheese
and brined beef,
lovingly placed at every door
and window
and some near the garden shed for good measure.

She polishes her silver,
tucks in her linen napkin,
sips her tea,
and pleasantly goes about the day
capturing herself.


Fame is the thirst of youth.
-Lord Byron

Fame is a bee. / It has a song / It has a sting / Ah, too, it has a wing.
-Emily Dickinson

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
-Albert Einstein

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.
-Henry David Thoreau

With fame, you know, you can read about yourself, somebody else's ideas about you, but what's important is how you feel about yourself - for survival and living day to day with what comes up.
-Marilyn Monroe

The image is one thing and the human being is another...It's very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.
-Elvis Presley


It is detrimental for a painter to rely solely on photographs to make paintings because the camera's eye is already a translation.
-High School art teacher

I never paint from photographs. The idea of accident or surprise is very much a part of it. I’m putting myself where there’s no guarantee of a return trip. You hope your painting looks like the subject, and mine seem to do that. When I paint paintings of people, I really get them. It’s very important to me to capture the soul of the person.
-Julian Schnabel

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

. . . .When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer - say traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep - it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best, and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them...
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Nevertheless the passions, whether violent or not, should never be so expressed as to reach the point of causing disgust; and music, even in situations of the greatest horror, should never be painful to the ear but should flatter and charm it, and thereby always remain music.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Julian Stannard

Soup is God's younger brother.
Soup is Corinthians.
Soup is patient, soup is kind:
it does not envy, it does not boast

-Julian Stannard

Max Frisch

I live, like every real man, in my work.
-Max Frisch

There are all sorts of ways of murdering a person or at least his soul, and that's something no police in the world can spot.
-Max Frisch

Jealousy is the fear of comparison.
-Max Frisch

Strictly speaking, every citizen above a certain level of income is guilty of some offense.
-Max Frisch

If anyone has a conscience it's generally a guilty one.
-Max Frisch

Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it.
-Max Frisch

Nothing is harder than to accept oneself.
-Max Frisch

There is no art without Eros.
-Max Frisch

Claudine Langille

JEALOUSY (song) by Claudine Langille

Jealousy you snake you'd better come around no more
Don't need you in my dreams, won't let you in my door
I must acknowledge your existence, but you'd better keep your distance
My love's a golden angel, my champion in this war.

When you courted me before I was enthralled by your suggestions
Acknowledged possessions grew accustomed to your sting
When my love was falling down you wrapped around me to destroy me
You left me with a memory to guard me in this round


You come again to haunt me, this time I won't allow you
Effect my happy outlook deprive me in my joy
This time my love is stronger in the end I will defeat you
It will laugh at you and eat you if you try your tricks once more


We may not have all the answers trying to perfect them
No longer ruled by grief or slaves of selfishness
Jealousy you snake you are confined to your own pit
Go away for this is it we can make love without you now.


-Claudine Langille

Adelaide A. Procter

by Adelaide A. Procter

He was the first always: Fortune
Shone bright in his face.
I fought for years; with no effort
He conquered the place:
We ran; my feet were all beeding,
But he won the race.

Spite of his many successes,
Men loved him the same;
My one pale ray of good fortune
Met scoffing and blame.
When we erred, they gave him pity,
But me -- only shame.

My home was still in the shadow,
His lay in the sun:
I longed in vain: what he asked for
It straightway was done.
Once I staked all my heart's treasure,
We played -- and he won.

Yes, and just now I have seen him,
Cold, smiling, and blest,
Laid in his coffin. God help me!
While he is at rest,
I am cursed still to live: -- even
Death loved him the best.

-Adelaide A. Procter

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Benjamin Franklin

I am indebted to my notebook for the happiness of my whole life.
-Ben Franklin.

Pablo Picasso

Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.
-Pablo Picasso

Without great solitude no serious work is possible.
-Pablo Picasso

Action is the foundational key to all success.
-Pablo Picasso

Everything you can imagine is real.
-Pablo Picasso

Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.
-Pablo Picasso

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.
-Pablo Picasso

Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.
-Pablo Picasso

The world today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?
-Pablo Picasso

I have a horror of people who speak about the beautiful. What is the beautiful? One must speak of problems in painting!
-Pablo Picasso

One does a whole painting for one peach and people think just the opposite - that particular peach is but a detail.
-Pablo Picasso

One must act in painting as in life, directly.
-Pablo Picasso

Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?
-Pablo Picasso

Inhale Deeply

Yesterday I realized I had dropped my asthma inhaler somewhere. It must have landed in the snow on my jaunt through in the cemetery with Lily. I even went back to look for it, but neither Lily nor I could find it. Years ago I had a black and tan coonhound and when I accidentally dropped my keys one day we returned to the cemetery and she picked up our scent and was able to find them. Perhaps I should carry my inhaler inside a duck decoy, perfect for a Labrador retriever! I was a little worried about my lungs so I made several pots of tea, which is an excellent bronchodilator in a pinch, and that held me over until I could get a new inhaler a few hours later. I never take breathing for granted anymore. While I was waiting I made a new inhaler pouch by salvaging the back pocket of an old pair of black denim jeans. It's a perfect pocket pouch! There's just enough friction to keep it from sliding out of my coat pocket and I can wear it around my neck in the summer.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mark Twain

The piano may do for lovesick girls who lace themselves to skeletons, and lunch on chalk, pickles, and slate pencils. But give me the banjo . . . When you want genuine music—music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey . . . ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose—when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!

-Mark Twain

Cowboy Song

I wanna be a cowboy
tall and lean, drive

a rusty white truck and eat
kidney beans from

an open tin can squeezed
between my thighs with

the music on the radio,
sad and high. I

will drive down the road with
my tablespoon and

my dog in the seat and
the big round moon.

Frying Pan

I woke up dreaming about my twelve-inch cast-iron frying pan.
I was drying it with a blue dish towel so it wouldn't rust.
After ten years it is finally black, shiny, and seasoned, a culinary
Football field for onions and garlic, tackled until exhausted and scooped
On my toasted bread. A fast pizza for an impatient home cook who eats her lunch
Standing in the kitchen.

How can I be a painter, I have no attention span past twenty minutes?
My energy is focused, then zing.
This has always been true.
The dyslexic editor, the stuttering actor, the newscaster with a speech impediment;
We are attracted to our most difficult challenges.
It takes years to be seasoned enough
For things to cook fast.

We Slept Inside the Chicken

I sold a painting, and the check finally cleared last night! We ran out and bought a spiral-cut ham, 2 big cans of coffee, orange juice, sauerkraut, a head of cauliflower, two heads of broccoli, a bag of fresh spinach, a bunch of sweet potatoes, a fat roasting chicken, dried split peas, and dried red kidney beans. We cooked the chicken for later in the week while eating spinach salad and ham. The strong scent of the roast chicken rose all the way up to the bedroom. In bed we felt as if we were sleeping inside the chicken.

The Silent A

We played hangman.
I was six.
I tried and tried to guess your word.
You were 32 years old and looked like Jackie O,
Determined to beat your daughter.
You won!
I'll never forget it,
And how to spell

C.S. Lewis

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
-C.S. Lewis

You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
-C.S. Lewis

What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what kind of a person you are.
-C.S. Lewis

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.
-C.S. Lewis

Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.
-C.S. Lewis

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.
-C.S. Lewis

Out Shovelling

We were out shovelling the two feet of snow when the two neighbor boys from North Carolina, Jake and Josh, came over to join in. "Do you own this whole house?" Jake asked. "Yes," I replied, "and I've lived here 15 years. How old are you?" "Twelve," said Jake. "Wow! I was living here when you were negative two, back when you were a cloud or a star or . . ." "A strawberry!" Jake volunteered. "What kind of strawberry? A supermarket strawberry or a wild strawberry?" Jake thought a moment. "A wild strawberry! And then a worm ate me, and then I became me."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reflections On A Small Parade

When I see the little Buddhist scouts
Marching with their Zen mothers
To tea ceremonies at the rock garden,
I shake my head. . . . It falls off.

-Bob Kauffman, Cranial Guitar

Snow Storm

The snow storm has made everything so curved and white, shapes just like Jean Arp's sculptures!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Kahlil Gibran

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.
-Kahlil Gibran

A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?
-Khalil Gibran

If the other person injures you, you may forget the injury; but if you injure him you will always remember.
-Khalil Gibran

If you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work.
-Khalil Gibran

If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. And if they don't, they never were.
-Khalil Gibran

Wolfgang Von Goethe

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.
–Wolfgang Von Goethe

Rhyme and Punishment

Rhyme and punishment in Maine police logs

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network talks to John Nolan, the 17-year veteran of the Glasgow, Scotland police force who now edits The Rochester Times and writes the local police logs (in verse).

His logs have been running for 22 years to a mostly appreciative audience. Besides his rhyming skills and humor, its his keen observations of what the crimes tell us about our ordinary friends and neighbors that really grip his audience.

Nolan makes sure to pump up his vocabulary. Windows are smashed, not broken. Music isn’t turned up, it’s cranked. And he loves his puns. “On Winter Street a lady pushes a gentleman through a window to air a grievance.”

The line makes you smile until you think about what actually happened. Was it sexual assault? Was it a break-in?

Not everyone in his community thinks that crime should be treated so lightly, but then they are conflating the act of committing something to poetry with not taking it seriously. There’s a darkness and “gallows humor” in the lightest of Nolan’s light verse.

“I think you’ve got to almost take a sympathetic view of the other side of things. You know, if you can soar up above it a little bit and look down at the whole human condition you can make it a little bit more sympathetic, I think.”

Nolan expresses that with powerful sentences that capture moments in still life. “5:47 p.m. With only a crescent moon, teens fight under a street light.”

-quoted from

Albert Einstein

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. -Albert Einstein

Satchel Paige

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?
-Satchel Paige

Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines.
-Satchel Paige

Flash Poem from the 11:00 News

She has lit
her boyfriend's clothing
on fire

Friday, January 07, 2011

Emily Dickenson

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.
-Emily Dickenson

Carlos Santana

The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.
-Carlos Santana

Victor Hugo

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.
-Victor Hugo

Sharon Olds

by Sharon Olds

The year of the mask of blood, my father
hammering on the glass door to get in

was the year they found her body in the hills,
in a shallow grave, naked, white as
mushroom, partially decomposed,
raped, murdered, the girl from my class.

That was the year my mother took us
when she told him to leave; so there were no more
tyings by the wrist to the chair,
no more denial of food
or the forcing of foods, the head held back,
down the throat at the restaurant,
the shame of vomited buttermilk
down the sweater with its shame of new breasts.

That was the year
I started to bleed,
crossing over that border in the night,

and in Social Studies, we came last night
to Auschwitz. I recognized it
like my father's face, the face of the guard
turning away - or worse yet
turning toward me.

The symmetrical piles of white bodies,
the round white breast-shapes of the heaps,
the smell of the smoke, the dogs the wires the
rope the hunger. It happened to others.
There was a word for us. I was:  a Jew.
It happened to six million.
And there was another word that was not
for the six million, but was a word for me
and for many others. I was:
a survivor

-Sharon Olds, Satan Says

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Nowhere Fast

I dreamed that there was a law, we weren't allowed to travel anywhere in the country with urgency. Urgent travel would bring you under suspicion of terrorism. You had to prove that you weren't a terrorist by demonstrating that you weren't in a rush. If your mother was dying and you lived on the East Coast and needed to fly immediately to the West Coast, you had to register with the government that your mother was really dying.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.

-Jean-Paul Sartre

James Baldwin

I remember standing on a street corner with the black painter Beauford Delaney down in the Village, waiting for the light to change, and he pointed down and said, “Look.” I looked and all I saw was water. And he said, “Look again,” which I did, and I saw oil on the water and the city reflected in the puddle. It was a great revelation to me. I can’t explain it. He taught me how to see, and how to trust what I saw. Painters have often taught writers how to see. And once you’ve had that experience, you see differently.
-James Baldwin, Paris Review

Francine du Plessix Gray

. . . even at the beginning of a fictional text, when it’s no more than a vapor, a perfume in my head, there’s a whole world hovering by me, a most protective and consoling presence.

-Francine du Plessix Gray, Paris Review

Sharon Olds


by Sharon Olds

My mother
the magician
can make eggs
appear in her hand.
My ovaries
appear in her hand, black as figs
and wrinkled as fingers on washday.

She closes her hand,
and when she opens it

She pulls silk scarves out of her ears
in all colors, jewels from her mouth,
milk from her nipples. My mother the naked
magician stands on the white stage
and pulls her tricks.

She takes out her eyes.
The holes of her sockets
fill with oil, it seeps up,
with bourbon and feces.
Out of her nostrils
she pulls scrolls
and they take fire.

In the grand finale
she draws my father
slowly out of her cunt and puts him
in a tall silk hat
and he disappears.

I said she can turn anything
into nothing, she's a hole in space,
she's the tops, the best
magician. All this

I have pulled out of my mouth right
before your eyes.

-Sharon Olds

E.L. Doctorow

A writer's life is so hazardous that anything he does is bad for him. Anything that happens to him is bad: failure's bad, success is bad; impoverishment is bad, money is very, very bad. Nothing good can happen. Except the act of writing.
-E.L. Doctorow

Ray Bradbury, Paris Review

When you look back over your career, is there one moment that stands out as having been particularly exhilarating?

The first really great thrill was when I was twenty. I submitted a short story, “It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Hu—,” to Rob Wagner’s Script magazine. One day in August I got a letter from Wagner saying that it was a lovely story and that they would publish it immediately. I yelled and my mother came running down to the front yard and I showed her the letter. I was twenty years old, and we danced around the yard. They didn’t pay me anything, but they did send copies of the magazine so I could show it to all my friends and prove that I was a writer. That first sale is so important. The psychological effect of it lasts for a year! Maybe you’re not going to sell anything else for a year, but my God, you did it once.

Do you write for an ideal reader or a particular audience?

Every time you write for anyone, regardless of who they are, no matter how right the cause you may believe in, you lie. Steinbeck is one of the few writers out of the thirties who’s still read, because he didn’t write for causes at all. He wrote human stories that happened to represent causes indirectly. The Grapes of Wrath and his other books are not political treatises. Fahrenheit 451 is in a way a political treatise, but it isn’t, because all it is saying, emotionally, is: Everyone leave everyone else alone!

Does literature, then, have any social obligation?

Not a direct one. It has to be through reflection, through indirection. Nikos Kazantzakis says, “Live forever.” That’s his social obligation. The Saviors of God celebrates life in the world. Any great work does that for you. All of Dickens says live life at the top of your energy. Edgar Rice Burroughs never would have looked upon himself as a social mover and shaker with social obligations. But as it turns out—and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly—Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.

Why do you think that?

By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special. That’s what we have to do for everyone, give the gift of life with our books. Say to a girl or boy at age ten, Hey, life is fun! Grow tall! I’ve talked to more biochemists and more astronomers and technologists in various fields, who, when they were ten years old, fell in love with John Carter and Tarzan and decided to become something romantic. Burroughs put us on the moon. All the technologists read Burroughs. I was once at Caltech with a whole bunch of scientists and they all admitted it. Two leading astronomers—one from Cornell, the other from Caltech—came out and said, Yeah, that’s why we became astronomers. We wanted to see Mars more closely.

I find this in most fields. The need for romance is constant, and again, it’s pooh-poohed by intellectuals. As a result they’re going to stunt their kids. You can’t kill a dream. Social obligation has to come from living with some sense of style, high adventure, and romance. It’s like my friend Mr. Electrico.

That’s the character who makes a brief appearance in Something Wicked This Way Comes, right? And you’ve often spoken of a real-life Mr. Electrico, though no scholar has ever been able to confirm his existence. The story has taken on a kind of mythic stature—the director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies calls the search for Mr. Electrico the “Holy Grail” of Bradbury scholarship.

Yes, but he was a real man. That was his real name. Circuses and carnivals were always passing through Illinois during my childhood and I was in love with their mystery. One autumn weekend in 1932, when I was twelve years old, the Dill Brothers Combined Shows came to town. One of the performers was Mr. Electrico. He sat in an electric chair. A stagehand pulled a switch and he was charged with fifty thousand volts of pure electricity. Lightning flashed in his eyes and his hair stood on end.

The next day, I had to go the funeral of one of my favorite uncles. Driving back from the graveyard with my family, I looked down the hill toward the shoreline of Lake Michigan and I saw the tents and the flags of the carnival and I said to my father, Stop the car. He said, What do you mean? And I said, I have to get out. My father was furious with me. He expected me to stay with the family to mourn, but I got out of the car anyway and I ran down the hill toward the carnival.

It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I was running away from death, wasn’t I? I was running toward life. And there was Mr. Electrico sitting on the platform out in front of the carnival and I didn’t know what to say. I was scared of making a fool of myself. I had a magic trick in my pocket, one of those little ball-and-vase tricks—a little container that had a ball in it that you make disappear and reappear—and I got that out and asked, Can you show me how to do this? It was the right thing to do. It made a contact. He knew he was talking to a young magician. He took it, showed me how to do it, gave it back to me, then he looked at my face and said, Would you like to meet those people in that tent over there? Those strange people? And I said, Yes sir, I would. So he led me over there and he hit the tent with his cane and said, Clean up your language! Clean up your language! He took me in, and the first person I met was the illustrated man. Isn’t that wonderful? The Illustrated Man! He called himself the tattooed man, but I changed his name later for my book. I also met the strong man, the fat lady, the trapeze people, the dwarf, and the skeleton. They all became characters.

Mr. Electrico was a beautiful man, see, because he knew that he had a little weird kid there who was twelve years old and wanted lots of things. We walked along the shore of Lake Michigan and he treated me like a grown-up. I talked my big philosophies and he talked his little ones. Then we went out and sat on the dunes near the lake and all of a sudden he leaned over and said, I’m glad you’re back in my life. I said, What do you mean? I don’t know you. He said, You were my best friend outside of Paris in 1918. You were wounded in the Ardennes and you died in my arms there. I’m glad you’re back in the world. You have a different face, a different name, but the soul shining out of your face is the same as my friend. Welcome back.

Now why did he say that? Explain that to me, why? Maybe he had a dead son, maybe he had no sons, maybe he was lonely, maybe he was an ironical jokester. Who knows? It could be that he saw the intensity with which I live. Every once in a while at a book signing I see young boys and girls who are so full of fire that it shines out of their face and you pay more attention to that. Maybe that’s what attracted him.

When I left the carnival that day I stood by the carousel and I watched the horses running around and around to the music of “Beautiful Ohio,” and I cried. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I knew something important had happened to me that day because of Mr. Electrico. I felt changed. He gave me importance, immortality, a mystical gift. My life was turned around completely. It makes me cold all over to think about it, but I went home and within days I started to write. I’ve never stopped.

Seventy-seven years ago, and I’ve remembered it perfectly. I went back and saw him that night. He sat in the chair with his sword, they pulled the switch, and his hair stood up. He reached out with his sword and touched everyone in the front row, boys and girls, men and women, with the electricity that sizzled from the sword. When he came to me, he touched me on the brow, and on the nose, and on the chin, and he said to me, in a whisper, “Live forever.” And I decided to.

-Ray Bradbury, Paris Review

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Umberto Eco

When you imagine a character, you lend him or her some of your personal memories. You give part of yourself to character number one and another part to character number two. In this sense, I am not writing any sort of autobiography, but the novels are my autobiography. There’s a difference.

-Umberto Eco, Paris Reviw

Ray Bradbury

I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt. When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school.

You have said that you don’t believe in going to college to learn to write. Why is that?

You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices. They may like Henry James, but what if you don’t want to write like Henry James? They may like John Irving, for instance, who’s the bore of all time. A lot of the people whose work they’ve taught in the schools for the last thirty years, I can’t understand why people read them and why they are taught. The library, on the other hand, has no biases. The information is all there for you to interpret. You don’t have someone telling you what to think. You discover it for yourself.
-Ray Bradbury, Paris Review

I don’t believe in optimism. I believe in optimal behavior. That’s a different thing. If you behave every day of your life to the top of your genetics, what can you do? Test it. Find out. You don’t know—you haven’t done it yet. You must live life at the top of your voice! At the top of your lungs shout and listen to the echoes.
-Ray Bradbury, Paris Review

Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad-you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.
-Ray Bradbury, Paris Review

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Emily Dickenson

To shut our eyes is Travel. The seasons understand this.
-Emily Dickenson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Under every deep a lower deep opens.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson


My idea of Hell is to be young again.
-Marge Piercy

With 60 staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and a definite hardening of the paragraphs.
-James Thurber

It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it.
-W. Somerset Maugham

Youth has no age.
-Pablo Picasso

I want to die young at a ripe old age.
-Ashley Montagu

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.
-Henry David Thoreau

Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked.
-Pearl S. Buck

People like you and I, though mortal of course like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live...[We] never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.
-Albert Einstein, letter to Otto Juliusburger

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.
-Anais Nin

Age does not protect you from love, but love to some extent protects you from age.
-Jeanne Moreau

Julia Child

Life is the proper binge.
-Julia Child

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Light tomorrow with today!
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Monday, January 03, 2011

Jiddu Krishnamurti

The major cause of violence is that each one of us is inwardly seeking security.
-Jiddu Krishnamurti

Albert Camus

Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.
-Albert Camus

Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.
-Albert Camus

Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.
-Albert Camus

I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day.
-Albert Camus

Jean-Paul Sartre

If you are lonely when you're alone, you are in bad company.
-Jean-Paul Sartre

Life begins on the other side of despair.
-Jean-Paul Sartre

There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.
-Jean-Paul Sartre

Doug Bell


There's a girl, trapped inside a woman
The woman, hides the little girl
There's a pearl in a locket, in her pocket
She hides the key
C'est la vie, c'est dommage, say bonne nuit
Say anything you think will keep you safe at sea

Ships, passing in the night
Flashing you a light, seems so safe and warm
Ships, passing in the night, bolts of flashing light
A perfect storm
There's a boy, trapped inside a man
The man, hates the little boy
There's a toy broken in his pocket
A little rocket, no wind up key
C'est la vie, c'est dommage, say bonne nuit
Say anything you think will keep you safe at sea

(chorus) Ships, passing in the night

In a world, made of man and woman
Pearls and rockets, locks and keys
Love's the pickpocket, picks the locks and lockets
Empties all the pockets, throws away the keys
Throws away the keys

Words and Music by Doug Bell, Half Seas Over Music

performed and recorded by Bellvue Cadillac
reprinted with permission from the author

Sunday, January 02, 2011

André Breton

One publishes to find comrades.
-André Breton

Love is when you meet someone who tells you something new about yourself.
-André Breton

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Bad Waitress

When I was nineteen I followed my boyfriend to North Carolina and landed a job as a waitress at a cool BBQ joint in Chapel Hill called Crooks. It had a big pink plastic pig on the roof. They sold purple t-shirts with yellow typewriter type printed across the front: "Pig In The Sky."

I remember wiping down the big round black and chrome-edged tables while David Bowie's "Let's Dance" was blasting on the jukebox. I loved Bowie's music. I was a pretty good cashier because I could count backwards and remembered to line all the presidents up. One day I told them I could waitress, though I never had. One waitress was going back to art school to study photography, and she said she'd recommend me. I thanked her and applied for the position.

After I got hired I ran out and found a 1940's crepe pink-and-blue A-line dress and vintage alligator pumps. On my first day a fellow waiter, older, tall, with wire-rimmed glasses, warned, "You don't want to be out-dressing your customers!" I had nothing else to wear. All I owned in the world was a VW bug, a dog, and a few pairs of t-shirts and shorts. I lived in a tipi. I swam in ponds every day after work to bathe. (I was constantly getting ear infections because hot NC pond scum is overpopulated with bacteria.)

One day I was serving a family and they needed more BBQ sauce. Our very distractingly-handsome gay boss made it clear that we must always carry a tray even if delivering just a spoon. So I placed a tall narrow bottle of BBQ sauce on the tray and rushed back out to the table, holding the skinny bottle on the tray up by my ear. This is a lot harder than just holding it in your hand, and requires some practice! I lost control, and the bottle made a double forward somersault in the air and landed, spinning, madly spraying thick red sauce across the floor onto a customer's bare ankles. I apologized profusely, and the woman said, "I'm fine, but look over there." I turned around and saw the back of a very large man in a huge white shirt. He had a red stripe of BBQ sauce down his shirt like a stripe in the road. I turned away pretending I didn't see it, because after all he hadn't noticed yet.

After my shift, as I was walking across the gravel driveway to my blue VW bug, the boss ran out and told me not to come back. I was fired. I cried over my failure, the rejection, my posing revealed. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because soon after I packed up and came home to my beloved Rhode Island. But I never forgot how bad I was at waitressing. I never got better at it, which is also a blessing. And to this day I never try to balance tall skinny bottles of anything on trays. I'm happy to use my grubby little hands.


Whenever I consider suicide my first worry is that I'll either be reincarnated as a cockroach or I'll be permanently banished to Hell, which would be the land of dryer sheets, tuned mufflers, and leaf blowers. So I usually decide to stick it out. My second thought is that I could never do this to my dog! I joke a lot about ending it all, which is why there isn't a danger I will do anything. It's when I stop joking about my pain and anguish that you should worry! Really.

Jack Kerouac

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"
-Jack Kerouac

Frida Kahlo

Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?
-Frida Kahlo

I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.
-Frida Kahlo

I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.
-Frida Kahlo

Einstein & Bernstein

The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man.... Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.
-Albert Einstein, letter to Hoffman, 1946

I believe that man's noblest endowment is his capacity to change. I cannot rest passively with those who give up in the name of 'human nature.' Without growth, without metamorphosis, there is no godhead. If we believe that man can never achieve a society without wars, then we are condemned to wars forever. This is the easy way. But the laborious loving way, the way of dignity and divinity, presupposes a belief in our capacity for change.
-Leonard Bernstein

Howard Thurman

Don't worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. What the world needs is people who have come alive.
-Howard Thurman