Saturday, May 13, 2017

Maze poem

I came across this one yesterday and decided to post it:

Reflections on Walking in the Maze at Hampton Court

Published in British Magazine, 1747, author unknown


“What is this mighty Labyrinth – the earth,

But a wild maze the moment of our birth?

Still as we life pursue the maze extends,

Nor find we where each winding purlieu ends;

Crooked and vague each step of life we tread, —

Unseen the danger, we escape the dread!

But with delight we through the labyrinth range,

Confused we turn, and view each artful change –

Bewildered, through each wild meander bend

Our wandering steps, anxious to gain the end;

Unknown and intricate, we still pursue

A certain path, uncertain of the clue;

Like hoodwinked fools, perplex’d we grope our way

And during life’s short course we blindly stray,

Puzzled in mazes and perplex’d with fears;

Unknown alike both heaven and earth appears.

Till at the last, to banish our surprise,

Grim Death unbinds the napkin from our eyes.

Then shall Gay’s truth and wisdom stand confest,

And Death will shew us Life was but a jest.”


Friday, May 12, 2017

from wood to field to sky

Here is a very puzzling and enigmatic poem by the great British poet Stevie Smith:



Why is the word pretty so underrated?

In November the leaf is pretty when it falls   

The stream grows deep in the woods after rain   

And in the pretty pool the pike stalks


He stalks his prey, and this is pretty too,   

The prey escapes with an underwater flash   

But not for long, the great fish has him now   

The pike is a fish who always has his prey


And this is pretty. The water rat is pretty

His paws are not webbed, he cannot shut his nostrils   

As the otter can and the beaver, he is torn between   

The land and water. Not ‘torn’, he does not mind.


The owl hunts in the evening and it is pretty

The lake water below him rustles with ice

There is frost coming from the ground, in the air mist   

All this is pretty, it could not be prettier.


Yes, it could always be prettier, the eye abashes   

It is becoming an eye that cannot see enough,   

Out of the wood the eye climbs. This is prettier   

A field in the evening, tilting up.


The field tilts to the sky. Though it is late   

The sky is lighter than the hill field

All this looks easy but really it is extraordinary   

Well, it is extraordinary to be so pretty.


And it is careless, and that is always pretty

This field, this owl, this pike, this pool are careless,   

As Nature is always careless and indifferent

Who sees, who steps, means nothing, and this is pretty.


So a person can come along like a thief—pretty!—

Stealing a look, pinching the sound and feel,   

Lick the icicle broken from the bank

And still say nothing at all, only cry pretty.


Cry pretty, pretty, pretty and you’ll be able   

Very soon not even to cry pretty

And so be delivered entirely from humanity   

This is prettiest of all, it is very pretty.                                                          Stevie Smith

I am writing about this poem for a presentation at a critical seminar on Stevie Smith at the West Chester Poetry Conference in early June.  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

End of the Semester

It's exam week.  I've finished grading all the papers, and now am beginning to grade the finals.

In other words, it's a busy time.

Here are a few cartoons/memes about this time of year:


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

All on a May Morning

I have never been so glad of May!   Not sure why, but it is true.

Today I was thinking of all the old folk ballads set in May.  Most of them tell stories of lost love, but they are beautiful.

Here are a few:

Banks of Claudy

'Twas on a summer's morning all in the month of May
And through some flowery gardens I carelessly did stray
I overheard a damsel in sorrow to complain
All for her absent lover that ploughed the raging main

I steppe'd up unto her and put her in surprise
I swear she did not know me, I being all in disguise
Says I, My handsome maiden, my joy and heart's delight
How far must you then wander this dark and dreary night

Just to the Banks of Claudy if you'll be pleased to show
Take pity on a fair maid, it's there I have to go
In search of a faithless young man, and Johnny is his name
And on the Banks of Claudy I'm told he does remain

These are the Banks of Claudy, young maid whereon you stand
But do not trust your Johnny for he's a false young man
No do not trust your Johnny, he will not meet you here
So come with me to the meadows and nothing need you fear

If Johnny he were here this night he'd keep me from all harm
But he's in the field of battle all in his uniform
He strives in the field of battle his foes he will destroy
Like a royal king of honour that fought on the banks of Troy

'Tis six long years or better since Johnny left this shore
He's cruising the main ocean performing billows roar
He's cruising the main ocean for honour and for gain
But I'm told his ship was wrecke'd on the cruel coast of Spain

Oh when she heard this dreadful news she fell in deep despair
A-wringing of her milk-white hands and a-tearing of her hair
If my Johnny he be drownded no man alive I'll talke
Through lonesome groves and valleys I'll wander for his sake

When he saw her love for him no longer could he stand
He flew into her arms saying, Patsy I'm your man
I am your faithless young man who you thought lay slain
Now since we met on Claudy Banks we'll never part again

As sung by Alex Campbell




On A Bright May Morning

Top of FormBottom of Form

As I roved out on a bright May morning
To view the meadows and flowers gay
Whom should I spy but my own true lover
As she sat under yon willow tree

I took off my hat and I did salute her
I did salute her most courageously
When she turned around well the tears fell from her
Saying, "False young man, you've deluded me"

A diamond ring I owned I gave you
A diamond ring to wear on your right hand
But the vows you made, love, you went and broke them
And married the lassie that had the land

If I'd married the lassie that had the land, my love
It's that I'll rue till the day I die
When misfortune falls sure no man can shun it
I was blindfolded I'll ne'er deny

Now at nights when I go to my bed of slumber
My thoughts of my true love run in my mind
When I turned around to embrace my darling
Instead of gold sure it's brass I find

And I wish the Queen would call home her army
From the West Indies, America and Spain
And every man to his wedded woman
In hopes that you and I will meet again

on Amazon Music

Padstow (the May Morning Song) by Rankin Family

Unite and unite, oh let us all unite

For summer is a'coming today

And whither we are going, we all will unite

In the merry month of May.

Oh, where are the young men that now here should dance

For summer is a'coming today

Well some there are in England and some are in France

In the merry month of May

Oh, where are the maidens that now here should sing

For summer is a'coming today

They're all out in the meadows a flower gathering

In the merry month of May

The young men of Padstow they might if the would

For summer is a'coming today

They might have built a ship and gilded it with gold

In the merry month of May

Oh where is Saint George, oh where is he oh

He's down in his longboat upon the salt sea oh

Up flies the kite, down falls the lark-o

And Ursula Birdwood, she had an old ewe

And she died in her park-o

With a merry ring and joyful spring

For summer is a'coming today

Oh happy are the little birds and merrily do they sing

In the merry morning of May

Unite and unite oh let us all unite

For summer is a'coming today

And whither we are going we all will unite

In the merry month of May

In the merry month of May




 and of course,  Barbara Allen:


Twas in the merry month of May
When green buds all were swelling,
Sweet William on his death bed lay
For love of Barbara Allen.

He sent his servant to the town
To the place where she was dwelling,
Saying you must come, to my master dear
If your name be Barbara Allen.

So slowly, slowly she got up
And slowly she drew nigh him,
And the only words to him did say
Young man I think you're dying.

He turned his face unto the wall
And death was in him welling,
Good-bye, good-bye, to my friends all
Be good to Barbara Allen.

When he was dead and laid in grave
She heard the death bells knelling
And every stroke to her did say
Hard hearted Barbara Allen.

Oh mother, oh mother go dig my grave
Make it both long and narrow,
Sweet William died of love for me
And I will die of sorrow.

And father, oh father, go dig my grave
Make it both long and narrow,
Sweet William died on yesterday
And I will die tomorrow.

Barbara Allen was buried in the old churchyard
Sweet William was buried beside her,
Out of sweet William's heart, there grew a rose
Out of Barbara Allen's a briar.

They grew and grew in the old churchyard
Till they could grow no higher
At the end they formed, a true lover's knot
And the rose grew round the briar.

Image result for painting    green buds swelling

Monday, May 1, 2017

Catholic Imagination Conference

I returned from this conference yesterday afternoon.  It was the first time I had been to New York City since 2008 -    overwhelming for this country bumpkin!  

The conference was located at the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University.  The weather was beautiful and the campus was amazing to me:  so much nature and loveliness amid the skyscrapers.
Here are some photos of it taken by my fellow poet, Kate Bernadette Benedict:

The hotel where most of us stayed was the Empire Hotel, just two blocks from the conference. Across the street was Dante Square!

We ate our meals in the little atrium in the same building as the conference:

I was on a panel on "Women's Voices"  with Kathleen Hill, Mary Gordon, and Angela Alaimo O'Donnell:

and read a poem of  mine at the kickoff to Presence - A Magazine of Catholic Poetry:

Dana Gioia was there, and read a poem of his, too!

All told, it was a splendid weekend!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Looking forward to this conference

I'm driving to Harrisburg on Thursday morning and taking the train to New York City!

Will be at this conference until the 30th!

Schedule of Conference


Thursday, April 27

Welcome Reception and Banquet
5:00 p.m. / 12th Floor Lounge, Corrigan Conference Center
Keynote Lecture and Reading
7:30 p.m. / Pope Auditorium

Dana Gioia
Introduction: Angela Alaimo O’Donnell

Friday, April 28

Continental Breakfast
8:15 a.m. / Lowenstein
Welcome Greeting
9 a.m.
/ Pope Auditorium

Concurrent Session I : 9:15 - 10:30 a.m.

  1. Contemporary Catholic Fiction: ‘Making Belief Believable’
    Pope Auditorium
In one of her essays, Flannery O’Connor addresses one of the central challenges of the Catholic / Christian novelist writing in a secular era, stating that it has become “more and more difficult in America to make belief believable.” This panel explores this challenge, raising the question of whether it is possible to create credible characters and an authentic contemporary fictional world that takes faith seriously and makes it tenable to readers who do not necessarily hold those beliefs.
Mary Gordon (Barnard)
Ron Hansen (Santa Clara)
Paul Lakeland (Fairfield)
Moderator: Paul Contino (Pepperdine)
  1. Biography and the Catholic Literary Legacy
    McNally Amphitheatre
Every writer labors in the hope that her books will outlive her. In many ways, the literary legacy of Catholic writers is determined by the biographers that record and pass judgment on their lives and their work. This panel explores the key role played by biographers in crafting, shoring up, and challenging the literary reputations of key Catholic writers, both those well-known and those whose voices might otherwise be lost.
Dana Greene (Emory)
Michael McGregor (Portland State)
Mark Bosco, SJ (Loyola Chicago)
Moderator: Angela Alaimo O’Donnell (Fordham)

Concurrent Session II : 10:45 a.m. - 12 p.m.

  1. Irish Incarnations of the Catholic Imagination
    Pope Auditorium
Featuring four award-winning novelists and poets and a scholar of Irish drama, this panel explores the rich contributions made by Irish and Irish-American writers to contemporary literature and the variety of ways in which the Irish-Catholic Imagination informs the work of many writers of Irish descent, including their own.
Peter Quinn
Alice McDermott (Johns Hopkins)
Micheal O’Siadhail
Kathleen Hill (Sarah Lawrence)
Moderator: John Harrington (Fordham)
  1. Catholic Memoir and Spiritual Autobiography
    McNally Amphitheatre
Ever since Augustine’s Confessions, Catholic writers have engaged in telling stories of their moral, intellectual, and spiritual formation. This panel brings together practitioners of the genre who will discuss the challenges, pleasures, and risks of writing about one’s life & loves, sexuality & sexual orientation, friends & family, faith & doubt, neighborhood & nation.
Mary Gordon (Barnard)
Carlos Eire (Yale)
Richard Giannone (Fordham)
Moderator: Ken Garcia (Notre Dame)
12 p.m./ Lowenstein Atrium

Plenary Poetry Reading
1 - 2:15 p.m.
/ Pope Auditorium
Philip Metres
Angela Alaimo O’Donnell
Introduction: Paul Contino (Pepperdine)

Concurrent Session III : 2:30 - 3:45 p.m.

  1. Beyond The Sopranos: The Ethnic Catholic Imagination
    Pope Auditorium
This panel engages the work and contributions of ethnic Catholic writers from the practitioner’s, the critic’s, and the reader’s perspective. Panelists will explore the influence of ethnicity on a writer’s work, both in terms of form and content, and the role Catholic writers play in shaping perceptions of the ethnic groups they belong to as well as the particular flavor of the Catholicism they have inherited.
Philip Metres (John Carroll)
Carlos Eire (Yale)
Dana Gioia (USC)
Thomas Kelly
Moderator: Angela Alaimo O’Donnell (Fordham)
  1. Theory and Theology: Religious Criticism and the Catholic Literary Tradition
    McNally Amphitheatre
This session will explore various intersections of literature, theology, spirituality, and critical reflection. Drawing on “sources and resources” of the Catholic literary tradition, the panelists will reflect on the Catholic imagination as a cultural production and will also illuminate arts and fictions themselves as theologies. The panel will engage both traditional and 21st century approaches to texts and topics.
Michael Murphy (Loyola Chicago)
Amy Hungerford (Yale)
Phil Klay
Moderator: Mark Bosco, SJ (Loyola Chicago)
  1. Form andContent: The Art of Good Writing
    Law School Lecture Classroom 3-09
The goal of the session is to emphasize the elements, life experiences, and skills that lead to strong and effective writing and to successful publication. Of the four participants, all of whom have published multiple books and articles, one is a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist, another is a publisher and literary columnist for America, another has just published the investigative biography of an American nun murdered in El Salvador, and the moderator is the America book editor who has taught journalism for 40 years. He will call upon Hemingway and Orwell for inspiration.
James Dwyer (New York Times)
Eileen Markey
Jon Sweeney
Moderator: Ray Schroth, SJ (America)

Concurrent Session IV : 4 - 5:15 p.m.

  1. Catholic Women’s Voices
    Pope Auditorium
This panel will consider the role of Catholic women writers in shaping literature of the past and present. Panelists will discuss their own writing along with the work of their predecessors who have influenced and encouraged them to find their voices amid a church culture—and a secular culture—that has not traditionally valued women’s voices or perspectives.
Mary Gordon (Barnard)
Kathleen Hill (Sarah Lawrence)
Anne Higgins DC (Mount St. Mary’s)
Moderator: Angela Alaimo O’Donnell (Fordham)
  1. Ecumenical Perspectives : Spirituality and Contemporary Literature
    McNally Amphitheatre
This panel features four writers who are editors of journals and presses that are not explicitly Catholic but publish writing by Catholic authors. Jill Peleáz Baumgaertner (poetry editor of The Christian Century), Nathaniel Hansen (editor of The Windhover), Mark Burrows (poetry editor at Arts, Spiritus, and Paraclete Press), and Kim Bridgford (founder and editor of Mezzo Cammin) will discuss the role writers of faith play in contemporary literature, the contributions of Catholic and Christian writers to the publications they edit, and the challenges they themselves face as writers and editors.
Mark Burrows (Protestant University of Applied Sciences)
Jill Peláez Baumgaertner (Wheaton)
Nathaniel Hansen (Mary Hardin Baylor)
Moderator: Kim Bridgford (West Chester)
5:15 - 6:15 p.m. / Lowenstein Atrium

Plenary Lecture / Reading
6:30 p.m.
/ Pope Auditorium
Ron Hansen

Saturday, April 29

Continental Breakfast
8:15 a.m. / Lowenstein

Concurrent Session I : 9 - 10:15 a.m.

  1. The Catholic Poet in the Secular World
    McNally Amphitheatre
In her celebrated essay, “The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South,” Flannery O’Connor explores the conundrum of writing as a Catholic amid a culture that seems alien to her belief. What she reveals, ultimately, is that her culture has shaped her work as much as her faith has. This panel explores similar terrain, posing the question, “What does it mean to be a Catholic poet in a secular culture?” Can the contemporary Catholic poet succeed in writing for readers who share his/her belief and for those who do not? What are the challenges of being true to one’s Catholic vision while writing for a universal (or small “c” catholic) readership? Panelists will draw on their own experience as practitioners and readers.
Dana Gioia (USC)
Paul Mariani (Boston College)
Angela Alaimo O’Donnell (Fordham)
Anthony Domestico (SUNY Purchase)
Moderator: Paul Contino (Pepperdine)
  1. America and Commonweal: National Catholic Magazines and the Flourishing of the Catholic Imagination
    Pope Auditorium
This panel features editors of two long-standing American Catholic journals in conversation about the role of the Catholic press in creating conditions under which good Catholic writing can flourish. Led by veteran editor and journalist, Margaret O’Brien Steinfels, Matt Malone and Paul Baumann, along with their assistant editors, will discuss the role each of their magazines has played historically and continues to play in creating a Catholic lens through which to view the events in our world and conditions of our culture, and in highlighting and promoting the work of Catholic writers.
Matt Malone, SJ (America)
Kerry Weber (America)
Paul Baumann (Commonweal)
Dominic Preziosi (Commonweal)
Moderator: Margaret O’Brien Steinfels (Commonweal)
  1. Curating the Catholic Imagination: Editors’ Roundtable Discussion
    Law School Lecture Classroom 3-09
This panel features a gathering of editors of Catholic/Christian journals and presses in conversation about the state of Catholic publishing today. Each editor will discuss the audience, mission, and contributors to his/her publication(s) and also address larger questions about the role of publishers in creating conditions wherein the Catholic Imagination might flourish.
Angela Cybulski (Wiseblood Books)
Wendy Galgan (Assisi)
Bernardo Aparicio Garcia (Dappled Things)
James Keane (Orbis Books)
Jon Sweeney (Ave Maria Press)
Moderator: Mary Ann B. Miller (Presence)

Concurrent Session II: 10:30 - 11:45 a.m.

  1. Panel 13 Scorsese, Silence, and The Ignatian Imagination
    Pope Auditorium
One of the finest works of the Catholic Imagination in recent memory is Martin Scorsese’s film, Silence. Based on the novel by Japanese Catholic writer, Shisaku Endo, Scorsese’s film follows the plight of two young Jesuits who travel to Japan in the 16th century during a time of persecution of Christians. The work is powerfully informed by the Ignatian imagination as the men undergo a trial of their faith and everything they believe in. Fr. James Martin, who served as spiritual director to the actor who plays one of those Jesuits, Andrew Garfield, and Paul Elie, who conducted a lengthy interview with Scorsese for the New York Times, will address the influence of the Spiritual Exercises and the Jesuit ethos on the film and the ways in which Scorsese’s work bears the mark of a Catholic Imagination.
Paul Elie (Georgetown)
James Martin, SJ (America)
Moderator: Kathryn Reklis (Fordham)
  1. Catholic Writers : The New Generation
    McNally Amphitheatre
This panel features younger Catholic writers who will discuss their work and its relationship to the future of the Catholic literary Imagination. These award-winning writers will engage in conversation about what it might mean to be a Catholic writer today along with the influence of their faith and religious background on their work.
Matthew Thomas
Phil Klay
Kathleen Donohoe
Philip Metres (John Carroll)
Moderator: Anthony Domestico (SUNY Purchase)
  1. Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry Reading
    Law School Lecture Classroom 3-09
This panel features short readings from new work published in the newly-founded journal of Catholic poetry, Presence. Contributors will read poems from the inaugural issue and discuss the vocation of writing in the Catholic Literary Tradition.
Moderator: Mary Ann B. Miller (Caldwell)
12 p.m. / Lowenstein Atrium

Plenary Poetry Reading
1:15 - 2:15 p.m.
/ Pope Auditorium
Micheal O’Siadhail

Concurrent Session III : 2:30 - 3:45 p.m.

  1. Catholics Writing for the Stage and Screen
    Pope Auditorium
Expressions of faith in art come in many genres and forms. This panel features award-winning screenwriters, television writers, producers, and playwrights whose work is informed by a religious imagination. Led by dramatist Fr. George Drance, Tom Fontana, Thomas Kelly, and Karin Coonrod will discuss their writing in light of their formation (including the experience of Jesuit education) and its influence upon their work.
Tom Fontana (St. Elsewhere, Homicide: Life on the Street, Oz)
Thomas Kelly (Bluebloods, Copper, The Get Down)
Karin Coonrod (texts&beheadings/ElizabethR, Everything that Rises Must Converge)
Moderator: George Drance, SJ (Fordham)
  1. The Legacy of Dante in Art, Literature, and Culture
    Law School Lecture Classroom 3-09
This panel explores the cultural foundation and the influence of Dante’s poetic imagination on contemporary thought and the arts. Participants will discuss Dante's reinterpretation of the Christian tradition, its role in the development of Dante's poetics, and the legacy of Dante's visionary experiment in the Divine Comedy on the contemporary imagination, from pop culture to literary criticism.
Giuseppe Mazzotta (Yale)
Kristina Olson (George Mason)
Dennis Looney (Modern Languages Association)
Moderator: Susanna Barsella (Fordham)
  1. New York Novelists: The Voice of the Boroughs
    McNally Amphitheatre
This panel features novelists who hail from and set their stories in the boroughs of New York City: Mary Gordon (Queens), Peter Quinn (Bronx & Manhattan), Kathleen Donohoe (Brooklyn), Matthew Thomas (Queens), and Eddie Joyce (Staten Island) will discuss the challenges and pleasures of bringing the local to life in the pages of their books and making the world of urban Irish Catholics accessible to a broad readership.
Mary Gordon (Final Payments)
Peter Quinn (Banished Children of Eve)
Kathleen Donohoe (Ashes of Fiery Weather)
Matthew Thomas (We Are Not Ourselves)
Eddie Joyce (Small Mercies)
Moderator: Keri Walsh (Fordham)
Plenary Poetry Reading
4 - 5 p.m.
/ Pope Auditorium
Mary Gordon
5:15 p.m.
/ The Church of St. Paul the Apostle
405 West 59th Street
New York, NY 10019
Celebrant, James Martin, SJ (America)
Deacon Ron Hansen (Santa Clara)
6:15 - 7:15 p.m. / Lowenstein Atrium

Plenary Lecture / Reading
7:30 p.m.
/ Pope Auditorium
Alice McDermott

Sunday, April 23, 2017

All this juice and all this joy

Yesterday's all day rain has given way to the breathtaking beauty of today.

I love this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –         
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;         
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush         
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring         
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush         
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush         
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.         

What is all this juice and all this joy?         
   A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,         
   Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,         
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,         
   Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.  


Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Road Grows Wet With Light

I have only recently come across the poetry of Brigit Pegeen Kelly (  1951-2016) who died when she was only 65. Her poems blend weird and disturbing mythic images with stunning evocations of human emotion and experience.   Here is one of them, called "Visitation."  I am not sure what it's about, but I really like it:

Visitation               by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

God sends his tasks
and one does
them or not, but the sky
delivers its gifts
at the appointed
times: With spit and sigh,
with that improbable
burst of flame, the balloon
comes over
the cornfield, bringing
another country
with it, bringing
from a long way off
those colors that are at first
the low sound
of a horn, but soon
are many horns, and clocks,
and bells, and clappers
and your heart
rising to the silence
in all of them, a silence
so complete that
the heads of the corn
bow back before it
and the dog flees in terror
down the road
and you alone are left
gazing up
at three solemn visitors
in a golden cage
beneath that unbelievable chorus of red
and white, swinging
so close you cannot move
or speak, so close
the road grows wet with light,
as when the sun flares,
after an evening storm
and you become weightless, falling
back in the air
before the giant oak
that with a fiery burst
the balloon
just clears.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Springtime is calling a love song of now

Here are some photos I took today at the university where I teach...

The lyrics are from a song I wrote about 48 years ago.

Leave all your books of past burdens and sorrows
closed on the white open page of tomorrow!
Springtime is calling a love song of now,
Springtime is calling a love song of now.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What if God breaks my heart again?

painting:  Christian Schloe   The Heartache

I just read this poem by Sandra Cisneros on another poetry site, and it blew me away!

God Breaks the Heart Again and Again Until It Stays Open
after a quote from Sufi Inayat Khan
But what if my heart is a 7-Eleven after
its third daytime robbery in a week?

What if my heart is a piñata trashed to
tissue and peppermint shrapnel?

What if my heart is a peeled mango bearing
an emerald housefly?

What if my heart is an air conditioner
weeping a rosary of rusty tears?

What if my heart is Sebastião Salgado’s
sinkhole swallowing another child?

What if my heart is Death Valley in
wide-view Cinemascope?

What if my heart is a chupacabrón
chanting, Build the wall?

What if my heart is the creepy uncle’s
yawning zipper?

What if my heart is a Pentecostal babbling
a river of tongues?

What if my heart is the cross-eyed Jesus
bought at the Poteet flea market?

What if my heart is El Paso, Texas, in bed
with the corpse of Ciudad Juárez?

What if my heart is unhinged from the
weight of its lice-ridden wings?

What then for an encore, oh my soul, when
you have blessed me a


Monday, April 17, 2017

Global Warming

This photo was taken of my on the morning of my first Communion, which was about May 20 of 1956.

Note the tulips.

Today, April 17, 2017,  the tulips are just about done, and the lilacs are blooming.

Spring arrives a month sooner than it did 60 years ago.

I'm glad for the Spring,   but I worry about this.

It means that Summer will also arrive a month early, and probably stay long and hot a month longer.

This is such a small example, but with the violent "weather events" of the last year, I sense that we are creeping toward catastrophic climate change.

Enough of the Doomsday tone on this truly magnificent Monday.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Morning

Here's an Easter poem by Richard Wilbur, one of my favorite poets. It's a poem about his long grief over his little brother who died as a child, but it's about so much more:

Easter Morning

I have a life that did not become,
that turned aside and stopped,
I hold it in me like a pregnancy or
as on my lap a child
not to grow old but dwell on

it is to his grave I most
frequently return and return
to ask what is wrong, what was
wrong, to see it all by
the light of a different necessity
but the grave will not heal
and the child,
stirring, must share my grave
with me, an old man having
gotten by on what was left

when I go back to my home country in these
fresh far-away days, it’s convenient to visit
everybody, aunts and uncles, those who used to say,
look how he’s shooting up, and the
trinket aunts who always had a little
something in their pocketbooks, cinnamon bark
or a penny or nickel, and uncles who
were the rumored fathers of cousins
who whispered of them as of great, if
troubled, presences, and school

teachers, just about everybody older
(and some younger) collected in one place
waiting, particularly, but not for
me, mother and father there, too, and others
close, close as burrowing
under skin, all in the graveyard
assembled, done for, the world they
used to wield, have trouble and joy
in, gone

the child in me that could not become
was not ready for others to go,
to go on into change, blessings and
horrors, but stands there by the road
where the mishap occurred, crying out for
help, come and fix this or we
can’t get by, but the great ones who
were to return, they could not or did
not hear and went on in a flurry and
now, I say in the graveyard, here
lies the flurry, now it can’t come
back with help or helpful asides, now
we all buy the bitter
incompletions, pick up the knots of
horror, silently raving, and go on
crashing into empty ends not
completions, not rondures the fullness
has come into and spent itself from

I stand on the stump
of a child, whether myself
or my little brother who died, and
yell as far as I can, I cannot leave this place, for
for me it is the dearest and the worst,
it is life nearest to life which is
life lost: it is my place where
I must stand and fail,
calling attention with tears
to the branches not lofting
boughs into space, to the barren
air that holds the world that was my world

though the incompletions
(& completions) burn out
standing in the flash high-burn
momentary structure of ash, still it
is a picture-book, letter-perfect
Easter morning: I have been for a
walk: the wind is tranquil: the brook
works without flashing in an abundant
tranquility: the birds are lively with
voice: I saw something I had
never seen before: two great birds,
maybe eagles, blackwinged, whitenecked
and –headed, came from the south oaring
the great wings steadily; they went
directly over me, high up, and kept on
due north: but then one bird,
the one behind, veered a little to the
left and the other bird kept on seeming
not to notice for a minute: the first
began to circle as if looking for
something, coasting, resting its wings
on the down side of some of the circles:
the other bird came back and they both
circled, looking perhaps for a draft;
they turned a few more times, possibly
rising—at least, clearly resting—
then flew on falling into distance till
they broke across the local bush and
trees: it was a sight of bountiful
majesty and integrity: the having
patterns and routes, breaking
from them to explore other patterns or
better ways to routes, and then the
return: a dance sacred as the sap in
the trees, permanent in its descriptions
as the ripples round the brook’s
ripplestone: fresh as this particular
flood of burn breaking across us now
from the sun.