Monday, October 24, 2016

As the days grow short

"Shedding"  photo by Cylvia Hayes

“Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.”

Sunday, October 23, 2016

We Store Our Youth Within Us


I had a wonderful time at my 50th high school reunion.  However, it was so strange to see these men and women I knew as young and lithe with color in their hair and smooth taut skin...

Some of them I did not recognize at first. Then, looking deeply into their faces, I saw the young faces still in there - the eyes, nose, and mouth revealed them.

Joseph Conrad said this:

“We wander in our thousands over the
face of the earth, the illustrious and the obscure, earning beyond the
seas our fame, our money, or only a crust of bread; but it seems to me
that for each of us going home must be like going to render an account.
We return to face our superiors, our kindred, our friends--those whom we
obey, and those whom we love; but even they who have neither, the most
free, lonely, irresponsible and bereft of ties,--even those for whom
home holds no dear face, no familiar voice,--even they have to meet the
spirit that dwells within the land, under its sky, in its air, in its
valleys, and on its rises, in its fields, in its waters and its trees--a
mute friend, judge, and inspirer.”
Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim    

I don't know the author of this one, but I like it:

“They waited awhile before lighting the candles; the gloom allowed the past to slip cozily into the present. But the memories were of a time that was gone and didn't overshadow the present. But the memories were vivid, and they made the friends feel both young and old...When Chrsitanne finally lit the candles and they saw one another clearly again, she was happy to see in the old faces of the others the young faces they had come across in their memories. we store our youth within us, we can go back to it and find ourselves in it, but it is past--melancholy filled their hearts, and sympathy, for one another and for themselves.”
The Weekend

and this:

The thing is, when you see your old friends, you come face to face with yourself. I run into someone I've known for 40 or 50 years, and they're old. And I suddenly realize I'm old. It comes as an enormous shock to me.
 Polly Bergen

I have been searching for a quote I heard a year or so ago, and I can't find it, and I can't quite replicate it. I  says something about being able to see one's younger self reflected in the eyes of one's old friends.  I felt that at this reunion.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Reunion Time

This afternoon I am driving East to my hometown to attend the 50th reunion of my high school class.

I've been to several class reunions over the years, but this one is a milestone.  I hear that many of my former classmates are attending, and I am so curious to see who shows up.

I loved that school, and have many happy memories.

 I didn't stay in touch with most of them, but we shared a history together of the growing up years.

The lyrics of a John Denver song come to mind:

 What a friend we have in time
Gives us children, makes us wine
Tells us what to take or leave behind

And the gifts of growing old
Are the stories to be told
Of the feelings more precious than gold

Friends I will remember you, think of you
Pray for you
and when another day is through
I'll still be friends with you

Babies days are never long
Mother's laugh is baby's song
Gives us all the hope to carry on
Friends I will remember you, think of you
Pray for you
And when another day is through
I'll still be friends with you

Friends I will remember you,
Think of you, pray for you
And when another day is through
I'll still be Friends with You

Friends I will remember you,
Think of you, pray for you
And when another day is through
I'll still be Friends with You

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I am Waiting for a Rebirth of Wonder

I am also waiting for this election season to be over.  Twenty-one more days!

In the USA, as we approach the most frightening national election in my memory, I find this poem by the Beat Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti to be appropriate:

I Am Waiting               by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

Monday, October 17, 2016

St. Luke's Little Summer

Full Hunter's Moon  on October 16... photo from Energiaradio

Tomorrow is October 18 , the feast of St. Luke, the Evangelist.  Here's some interesting lore about this day:

St. Luke's Little Summer

Lovely, summerlike days that occur around October 18 are called St. Luke's Little Summer in honor of the saint's feast day. In olden days, St. Luke's Day did not receive as much attention in the secular world as St. John's Day (June 24) and Michaelmas (September 29), so to keep from being forgotten, St. Luke presented us with some golden days to cherish before the coming of winter, or so the story goes. Some folks call this Indian Summer, but that officially occurs between November 11 and November 20.

It certainly felt like summer here today -  the loveliest, mildest of summer.  The Ladybugs have invaded  too, just suddenly appearing all over the door of Bradley Hall, where my office is located.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Argument

Here’s a poem by Jane Kenyon:

The Argument

On the way to the village store
I drive through a down-draft
from the neighbor’s chimney.
Woodsmoke tumbles from the eaves
backlit by sun, reminding me
of the fire and sulfur of Grandmother’s
vengeful God, the one who disapproves
of jeans and shorts for girls,
dancing, strong waters, and adultery.

A moment later the smoke enters
the car, although the windows are tight,
insinuating that I might, like Judas,
and the foolish virgins, and the rich
young man, have been made for unquenchable
fire. God will need something to burn
if the fire is to be unquenchable.

“All things work together for the good
for those who love God,” she said
to comfort me at Uncle Hazen’s funeral,
where Father held me up to see
the maroon gladiolus that trembled
as we approached the bier, the elaborate
shirred satin, brass fittings, anything,

oh, anything but Uncle’s squelched
and made-up face.
“No! NO! How is it good to be dead?”
I cried afterward, wild-eyed and flushed.
“God’s ways are not our ways,”
she said then out of pity
and the wish to forestall the argument.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Wrapped in our Loneliness

Balcony Figure      painting by Marie Fox
Here's a poem about poets  by Nikki Giovanni:
poetry is motion graceful
as a fawn
gentle as a teardrop
strong like the eye
finding peace in a crowded room
we poets tend to think
our words are golden
though emotion speaks too
loudly to be defined
by silence
sometimes after midnight or just before
the dawn
we sit typewriter in hand
pulling loneliness around us
forgetting our lovers or children
who are sleeping
ignoring the weary wariness
of our own logic
to compose a poem
no one understands it
it never says “love me” for poets are
beyond love it never says “accept me” for poems seek not
acceptance but controversy
it only says “i am” and therefore
i concede that you are too
a poem is pure energy
horizontally contained
between the mind of the poet and the ear of the reader
if it does not sing discard the ear
for poetry is song
if it does not delight discard
the heart for poetry is joy
if it does not inform then close
off the brain for it is dead
if it cannot heed the insistent message
that life is precious
which is all we poets
wrapped in our loneliness
are trying to say

Noia at the Window     painting by Salvador Dali

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Value of October

painting by Marike Scholtents

Here's a poem by Robert Frost:


O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Autumn Rain Covers it with blessing

Finally, the drought is over. We're having days of rain.  My garden is so thirsty. It seems like weeks that I have been watering it, one pitcher at a time, morning and night.

Here are some rain poems by others much more gifted ( or hard working) than I.

Autumn Rain         by D.H. Lawrence

The plane leaves
fall black and wet
on the lawn;

the cloud sheaves
in heaven’s fields set
droop and are drawn

in falling seeds of rain;
the seed of heaven
on my face

falling — I hear again
like echoes even
that softly pace

heaven’s muffled floor,
the winds that tread
out all the grain

of tears, the store
in the sheaves of pain

caught up aloft:
the sheaves of dead
men that are slain

now winnowed soft
on the floor of heaven;
manna invisible

of all the pain
here to us given;
finely divisible
falling as rain.
and from Psalm 84
As they go through the bitter valley,
they make it a place of springs.
The autumn rain covers it with blessings.
They walk with ever growing strength
They will see the God of Gods in Zion.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Why Google?

Tonight when I should be reading my students' work, or when I should be packing for the weekend ahead, or when I should be doing my laundary, or taking a shower,  I catch myself staring at the screen, searching for people I knew almost fifty years ago.

One of my Facebook friends posted something about the Drama group "Sock n' Buskin" which was active at Mt. St. Mary's fifty years ago, and to which I belonged.  I then found myself looking at Wilbur Wills' ( another old Sock n Buskin player) Facebook page, and then searching for Rick Scanlon on Google.  It looks like he has his own theater company in New York City now, with its own website, but no photo of him.  And would I recognize the 70 year old face? My own boyfriend at the time was a friend of Rick Scanlon's and we went to Rick's wedding in Connecticut all those years ago.  It was the same weekend as Woodstock.

I've been sucked into these aimless Google searches many times.  I wonder if other people my age do this.  

What am I really searching for?

One of the first plays I saw Sock n Buskin produce was "The Fantastiks"  in which Rick Scanlon played the young man lead.  I don't remember the young woman!   One of my favorite all-time songs is from that musical:

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh so mellow
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a young and a callow fellow
Try to remember and if you remember
Then follow
Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow
Try to remember when life was so tender
When love was an ember about to billow
Try to remember and if you remember
Then follow
Deep in December it's nice to remember
Although you know the snow will follow
Deep in December it's nice to remember
Without a hurt the heart is hollow
Deep in December
It's nice to remember
The fire of September that made you mellow
Deep in December our hearts should remember and follow

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Stumped by Physics

The word for today's Daily Prompt was "Stump."   I decided to use it in reference to the tragic events of Sept.11, 2001.

In school, I was intimidated by Math and Science. To escape Science, I took German instead of Chemistry and Physics.  Now I am still stumped by Science, but Physics fascinates me.
I found a book called Physics for Poets, by Robert March.  I tried to read it, with great difficulty, but still it haunted me.

On this day, the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center , I post this poem that I wrote a while back and recently edited:

Physics for Poets


The realm of quantum theory is the very small-

Relativity deals with the very large or the very fast-

Gravity is the central mystery of our created universe.


I see the man falling the falling man  from the World Trade Center.

Terminal velocity-

I don’t  understand it, but

I hear his body hit the roof of the Atrium,

 hear the shocked cries of the people there that day.


I think of Acceleration in terms of objects… my car, hurtling down Route 95…

In the absence of resistance,

all falling bodies experience

the same constant acceleration.

That falling man,

that man falling head first, arms close at his sides

in his business suit,

from the World Trade Center

in the absence of resistance.


The buildings fell as the man fell,

Straight down,

Floors like dominos

Surrendering to the jet fueled fire,

an engineer’s nightmare.


Temperature is not the same as heat.

Temperature is intensive –

it does not vary with the quantity of material.

 Heat , however, is extensive –

it does vary with the amount of material.



No time here for anything but soot.


The falling man did not have time for fragrance…

Within the hour he was vaporized.



Monday, September 5, 2016

Why my Pere Lachaise poem doesn't work

I'm teaching Creative Writing this semester.  The man who usually teaches it is off on sabbatical, so I get to teach it, which I thoroughly enjoy.

I have a delightful group of students- 17 of them- and they are enthusiastic and engaged in the class.

I am learning as much as I hope they are.

The assignment for tomorrow's class is to read and discuss Chapter  2 and Chapter 8 of our text,
The Making of a Story.

I am using Tom's syllabus and texts, and this is a great one.  It's loaded with wonderful stories as models as well as evocative prompts and exercises.
Anyhow...  In reading Chapter 2, titled "The Splendid Gift of Not Knowing,"  I was reminded of Richard Hugo's great book  The Triggering Towns, which I own and read about twenty years ago.
So the author of our text quotes Hugo's observation that in poetry there is a "triggering subject" and then there is the "real subject."
I knew that.
But it hit me tonight.  I thought of my poem  "October in Pere Lachaise" and knew I had never been satisfied with it, although I included it in my book  Vexed Questions.
It hit me that the poem describes the triggering subject, but never touches the real subject... and what is the real subject?  Death?  Death and Fame?  Death and Memory?  Something there that I must think about more.
Here is the poem.  I have a feeling that I will be revising it extensively.
October in Pere Lachaise
“Like all true stories, it begins and ends in a cemetery”
  The Shadow of the Wind
Walk through the wide gateway
on an October afternoon. Notice
golden  dust motes  rise from cobblestones,
 dry leaves underfoot, faded green overhead
in slant afternoon light.
The living visitors unfold their maps.
Stand above the concrete slab where
Simone Signoret and Yves Montand lie together-
Try to say goodbye. Everywhere, stone
men with handlebar mustaches guard
crowded city of the dead,
tombs like row houses.
Black iron bat spreads wings on somebody’s gate.
Move  living lips as you recite
the names of artists and  writers
under these cobblestones,
litany of pens and brushes:
Balzac ( head on a platter)
Saint Saenz
Colette, Corot, Callas,
Gustav Dore over there,
whose specters haunt the pages of the Inferno-
Dante and Virgil, like the
Black and White Magpies, big as crows,
complain and flap away, startled, as you
approach the chapel gazebo
where Abelard and Heloise
 lie side by side ,  stone effigies like medieval monarchs
in Westminster Abbey.
Remember her words to him:
We fluctuate long between love and hatred
before we can arrive at tranquillity,
 and we always flatter ourselves
 with some forlorn hope
that we shall not be utterly forgotten.
Is that Theodore Gericault, that
 prone stone  man with brush and palette
reclining on top of the tomb, young, swirling shirt,
 staring out over the headstones
 thinking of what to put next
on the canvas,
what color to apply to the roiling grim
Raft of the Medusa?
Contemplate the concrete context of
Raspail: veiled figure reaching up
to grasp the grille of the mausoleum,
his widow, yearning to join him…
urns upheld by angel faces, while winged skulls
 bolster the four corners.
Bronze Victor Noir,
killed in a duel,
laid out in his best suit,
boots with square toes,
top hat by his side,
prostrate on top of the slab that
contains him.
Sunday wind busies itself,
searches among the crunching leaves,
clusters of trees,
evergreen shrubs,
layers and hills throughout this largest public park in Paris
and its narrow sidewalks.
You come across a
boy with dog stretching forepaws into his lap, another
boy with laced up shoes, hair in ringlets like Fauntleroy,
young nude man and woman lying on their backs
side by side, heads inclined to each other,
while another woman
kneels above them on one knee,
one step above them.
She stretches out her arms like wings.
Trip on an oak tree
growing out of tomb,
roots crack the concrete slabs. Lift your eyes to the
monumentally casual man whose huge toes
curl around the edges of his platform.
Tread the tangle of streets and alleys:
Who named them?
Avenue lateral du Nord,
Branches of Chemin Bourget,
Avenue du Puits,
Chemin du Coq,
Chemin du Pere Eternel,
Chemin Moliere et La Fontaine,
Chemin du Dragon…

Despondent cherub
elbow on stone, hand holding up his chin
regards the early deaths:
stone baby, stone pillow under curly head,
left arm bent at elbow and pudgy hand curled
round a rattle,
right arm at side –
someone has put a living red rose there…
his left leg bent at knee,
head turned a bit,
sleeping in stone.

There’s more of this:
Concrete young mother reclining
with her baby in her arms,
baby at her breast,
Smile on her face,
Buried together

Who still gets flowers?
Sarah Bernhardt
Rosa Bonheur
Edith Piaf
Oscar Wilde
Gertrude Stein
Chopin, with seated girl, head bowed,
holding a cross and stone flowers in her lap.
Living pink begonias bloom on Modigliani.
Jim Morrison, awash in roses,
daily visited by aging Yanks.

You see originals and copies:
Angel models from Chartres and Notre Dame
Angels from the vision of a 19th century carver
One concrete slab with two black bronze arms
punching through the lid, hands clasped,
begging for escape.

With the flapping Magpies,
squawk your eulogies
Into the warm golden air.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Vice and Villains

I’m thinking of the vice of greed.  It’s a key characteristic of so many villains in both literature and real life.


Sartre’s play about bad faith, where so much of it is about the lust for power over the other.  One character says “Hell is other people.”

Then, there’s the greed for money that drives one person to embezzle and impoverish many others:

This is Bernie Madoff, the face of much financial disaster in the US, and at least partially/indirectly to blame for the economic meltdown of 2008.
Then, there’s the greed for land,


added to the greed for power.  This drawing comes from the era of the Irish Potato Famine, when Irish people were evicted from their land by the British landlords.  The starving refugees could just as easily be the people in Aleppo today.
Enough said.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In the Frame

This week's  DAILY POST picture prompt was  FRAME.
The noun "frame" made me think of the murder mystery by Dick Francis, IN THE FRAME.
As it's described in GOODREADS,
"Charles Todd—a renowned painter of horses—is shocked when he turns up at his cousin Donald’s house for a weekend visit to find his cousin’s young wife dead on the floor—and Donald the police’s prime suspect. Determined to prove Donald’s innocence, Todd trails a set of clues from England to Australia to New Zealand, only to realize that someone is trailing him. Someone with every intention of taking him out of the picture for good… "
All of Dick Francis' novels have something to do with horses. In this one, it's a painting of a horse.
and that made me think of other great detective novels which have something to do with paintings.
One of my favorites is an old one: A CLUTCH OF CONSTABLES by Ngaio Marsh.  The Constables in the title are paintings by the 19th century British painter John Constable.

GOODREADS describes it by quoting from the novel:
"Five Days Out of Time...that was how the ad had described the Zodiac cruise on the “weirdly misted” English river. The passengers were the usual, unusual lot: a couple of unpleasantly hygienic Americans, an aloof Ethiopian doctor, a snooping cleric with a wall-eye, an artist running away from her success… But they were not all what they seemed. For Inspector Alleyn knew that one of them was the faceless “Jampot”—the ruthless killer who could take on any personality, whose thumb was a deadly weapon. The problem was, which one? Alleyn had five days to trap him, or the other passengers would pay with their lives—and one of those passengers was Alleyn’s wife! "

A Clutch of Constables was Marsh's 25th novel.  Amazing!

School has started, and I should not be continuing to read murder mysteries.  However,  this semester I am teaching Creative Writing, so somehow that gives me an excuse!

Right now I am reading the wonderful Henning Mankell.  It seems that I read his   Firewall  at some time in the past, but now I don't remember it at all. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Learning to Read

A good meditation as school begins.


I teach “Freshman Comp” to first year college students. One of the readings with which we begin the year is the passage from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, when he describes how he learned to read, and how important it was to him. Douglass was a slave; the wife of his master began to teach him, and then her husband stopped her.  He said that slaves should not learn how to read; reading gave them too many ideas! There’s much more to this narrative – you should read it!

I believe that most of us take our ability to read for granted.  We shouldn’t; it’s one of the keys to freedom – freedom on all levels.

I grew up in a household where both parents were readers. I remember how eager I was to learn to read. I would pester my mother to read to me until one day she said “I can’t wait for you to learn to read, so you can read these books yourself!”   I totally agreed.



Here’s a poem I wrote about learning to read. It’s not philosophical at all!



Pick it up and read,

sang the child’s voice beyond the wall.

The first word was SAID.

Three children –

a boy and two girls,

played with a dog and a cat.

White children with brown hair

whose plain names excited me

to hear in the air from my own mouth.


I had trouble telling

through from thought,

though from thorough.


My father picked me up at school.

We walked by the statue of Saint Agnes,

through the cement arch

from schoolyard to street.

I thought about knowing how to read SAID

though, by itself, it was lying alone in a corner,

but put it behind someone,

and it opens its mouth to a thorough coverage

of the news of the day.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Julie Zickefoose and the Bobcat

Julie took this photo in her back yard in Whipple, Ohio.

I have been following her blog for several years.  She's a wildlife painter and a poet and a naturalist and a bird/bat rehabber. She's also married and the mother of two teenagers and a loveable Boston Terrier named Chet Baker.

Her blog is so interesting!   The latest entry is about the appearance of this bobcat in her back yard.
Her narrative, and her photography of this event just enchanted me.

You can find it here:

About a month ago, she had some great entries about rehabbing a fledgling Black-billed Cuckoo.

Here he/she sits, just ready to fly back into the wild:

Anyway... I highly recommend this delightful woman and her blog.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

In the Heaven of Hopscotch

The Daily Prompt for today, which sometimes gets me writing, is Youth.  So much to say! 
What came to me to post about was one of those childhood games: Hopscotch.
Seems that it has been around for centuries.

Anyway, here's a poem I wrote about my memory of playing it :
  In the Heaven of Hopscotch
It is always two o’clock on a June afternoon
School is out
And I’m standing in the middle of Gay Street in the broad shade
Under a large full,
never pruned maple tree,
Gay Street near Everhart,
in front of a large lawn
where Kathy Corcoran
draws the hopscotch map
in chalk
on the macadam street.
I’m wearing the cotton sleeveless blouse my favorite – white with vertical stripes in rainbow colors.
I know that at home my mother, off from work for the summer,
 energetic and serene, is making peach cobbler for supper,
and my father will be home at 6.
They are always 42 years old,my parents,
and that a box of Whitman’s floral mints
– my favorite candy –
sits on the dining room table.
No verb exists in its own moment