Saturday, September 11, 2021

When the world as we knew it ended


It's been 20 years since the planes flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center,  and then, the Pentagon, and then, a field in Pennsylvania.

I wasn't writing a blog in 2001.  But I remember the day vividly.

Here's a poem by Joy Harjo:

When the World as We Knew It Ended


We were dreaming on an occupied island at the farthest edge

of a trembling nation when it went down.


Two towers rose up from the east island of commerce and touched

the sky. Men walked on the moon. Oil was sucked dry

by two brothers. Then it went down. Swallowed

by a fire dragon, by oil and fear.

Eaten whole.


It was coming.


We had been watching since the eve of the missionaries in their

long and solemn clothes, to see what would happen.


We saw it

from the kitchen window over the sink

as we made coffee, cooked rice and

potatoes, enough for an army.


We saw it all, as we changed diapers and fed

the babies. We saw it,

through the branches

of the knowledgeable tree

through the snags of stars, through

the sun and storms from our knees

as we bathed and washed

the floors.


The conference of the birds warned us, as they flew over

destroyers in the harbor, parked there since the first takeover.

It was by their song and talk we knew when to rise

when to look out the window

to the commotion going on—

the magnetic field thrown off by grief.


We heard it.

The racket in every corner of the world. As

the hunger for war rose up in those who would steal to be president

to be king or emperor, to own the trees, stones, and everything

else that moved about the earth, inside the earth

and above it.


We knew it was coming, tasted the winds who gathered intelligence

from each leaf and flower, from every mountain, sea

and desert, from every prayer and song all over this tiny universe

floating in the skies of infinite



And then it was over, this world we had grown to love

for its sweet grasses, for the many-colored horses

and fishes, for the shimmering possibilities

while dreaming.


But then there were the seeds to plant and the babies

who needed milk and comforting, and someone

picked up a guitar or ukulele from the rubble

and began to sing about the light flutter

the kick beneath the skin of the earth

we felt there, beneath us


a warm animal

a song being born between the legs of her;

a poem.


"When the World  as We Knew It Ended" from How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems:1975-2001 by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2002 by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.,



Wednesday, September 8, 2021

I am interested in shadows moving across our courtyard.

view from upstairs in September 2017.  I didn't record the time I took this photo, but most of the courtyard is in full sun.

overhead view on March 29 2020... Star Magnolias blooming... cloudy day, no shadows to compare

 Need to take some photos of those movements .

I noticed this morning that at 7Am the courtyard is still in full shadow.  I remember that last June

the sunlight had already reached the inner ground on the western side.  Of course it's the world turning, not the sun.  But still...

I don't have as much time in the early morning or at the golden hour to work in the garden,  clearing up the spent stalks.

Poets are snobby about the work of Helen Hunt Jackson, but I think she wrote some lovely and evocative poems.  Here is one of them:


"The golden-rod is yellow;

The corn is turning brown;

The trees in apple orchards

With fruit are bending down.


The gentian's bluest fringes

Are curling in the sun;

In dusty pods the milkweed

Its hidden silk has spun.


The sedges flaunt their harvest,

In every meadow nook;

And asters by the brook-side

Make asters in the brook,


From dewy lanes at morning

The grapes' sweet odors rise;

At noon the roads all flutter

With yellow butterflies.


 By all these lovely tokens

 September days are here,

 With summer's best of weather,

 And autumn's best of cheer.


 But none of all this beauty

 Which floods the earth and air

 Is unto me the secret

 Which makes September fair.


T'is a thing which I remember;

To name it thrills me yet:

One day of one September

I never can forget."

-  Helen Hunt Jackson, September  



Sunday, September 5, 2021

My mind moves in more than one place

 but my  thoughts are September thoughts, as I begin to clean up the spent blossoms in the garden.

It's a metaphor for everything.

Oer Wout    September in my soul

Here are the words some wonderful poets choose to use:

"Lord, it is time. The summer was very big. Lay thy shadow on the sundials, and on the meadows let the winds go loose. Command the last fruits that they shall be full; give them another two more southerly days, press them on to fulfillment and drive the last sweetness into the heavenly wine."

-     Rainer Maria Rilke


"Further in Summer than the Birds

Pathetic from the Grass

A minor Nation celebrates

Its unobtrusive Mass.


No Ordinance be seen

So gradual the Grace

A pensive Custom it becomes

Enlarging Loneliness."

-   Emily Dickinson


"I have come to a still, but not a deep center,

A point outside the glittering current;

My eyes stare at the bottom of a river,

At the irregular stones, iridescent sandgrains,

My mind moves in more than one place,

In a country half-land, half-water.

I am renewed by death, thought of my death,

The dry scent of a dying garden in September,

The wind fanning the ash of a low fire.

What I love is near at hand,

Always, in earth and air."

-  Theodore Roethke, The Far Field

Friday, September 3, 2021

The breezes taste of apple peel


September along Route 15 South 

After the hurricane floods, yesterday came with sunshine, lower humidity, and beautiful cool air. Today it's more of the same.  I was up early both days, joyfully gardening.  Lots of overgrown plants to cut back, time to pull up the sunflowers and watch the butterflies. Yesterday, a new Monarch - you can tell by the sharp bright colors of its wings.  Also, a Black Swallowtail, a Great Spangled Fritillary, and lots of little golden Skippers.

Here's a September poem from John Updike:

"The breezes taste

Of apple peel.

The air is full

Of smells to feel-

Ripe fruit, old footballs,

Burning brush,

New books, erasers,

Chalk, and such.

The bee, his hive,

Well-honeyed hum,

And Mother cuts


Like plates washed clean

With suds, the days

Are polished with

A morning haze."

-   John Updike, September

I am right now eating a newly picked Gala apple from Pryor's Orchard just down the road.


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Dialect of Hurricanes


Hurricane Ida has devastated Louisiana,  and , moving inland and upward, is drenching Maryland with rain right now.  

Here's a poem by  Franketienne:

Dialect of Hurricanes


Every day, I use the dialect of lunatic hurricanes. I speak the folly of colliding winds.

Every evening, I use the patois of furious rains. I speak the fury of flooding waters.

Every night, I speak to the Caribbean islands in the tongue of hysterical storms. I speak the hysteria of the roaring sea.

Dialect of hurricanes. Patois of rains. Language of storms. Flow of the spiralling life.

Life, fundamentally, is tension. Towards something. Towards someone. Towards oneself. Towards the threshold of maturity where the old and new and death and birth untangle. And all this partially happens in the pursuit of one ’s double, a pursuit that might even become confused with the intensity of a need, of a desire, of a continual quest.

Some dogs go by – I’ve always been obsessed by stray mutts – they bark at the outline of the woman I’m chasing. At the image of the man I’m looking for. At my double. At the hubbub of fleeing voices. For so many years. Thirty centuries, it seems.

The woman has gone, with neither trumpet nor drum. Along with my dissonant heart. The man did not even proffer his hand. My double is always encroaching on me. And the unhinged throats of nocturnal dogs yowl horribly with the cacophony of a broken accordion.

It is then that I become a storm of words that bursts the hypocrisy of clouds and the falsity of silence. Rivers. Storms. Lightning. Mountains. Trees. Lights. Rains. Savage oceans. Carry me to the core of your frenetic articulations. Set me free! A pinch of clarity would suffice so that I might be born a viable being. Because I accept life. Tension. The unyielding law of growth. Osmosis and symbiosis. Set me free! The noise of a step, of a look, of a stirring voice would suffice, because I live happily in the hope that waking is still a possibility for mankind. Set me free! How little it would take for me to speak of the sap that circulates in the marrow of cosmic joints.

Dialect of hurricanes. Patois of rains. Language of storms.

 I speak the flow of the spiralling life.


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A vest of bombs


Here's a new poem by a friend of mine, Jeff Hardin:

Someone’s always trying to destroy someone else.
Actively. Without remorse. With a vest of bombs.
With rumor, innuendo. With mischaracterization.
A network, a think tank, an issued report. More often
than not succeeding. Civilians flee. Borders close.
A lawsuit moves forward. A colleague resigns.
Self-interest competes against self-interest. An
invisible hand, a shaping force, a deity. Words are
arranged for maximum effect. In speeches. Prayers.
Interrogations. This new freedom. This new gospel.

and a quote from Thomas Merton:

Monday, August 30, 2021

Everything Falls Away

 This very humid and grey August weather is really getting to me.  I go to garden and am overwhelmed by the enthusiastic weeds.  A mosquito bites me on my back, and I give up and go back inside.  Hurricane Ida, which just hit poor New Orleans,  is barrelling northeast into the country and heading toward us with drenching rains expected to arrive by Wednesday.

Here's a poem by Parker Palmer that I love:

Sweet Nathalie Dahlia -  need this in my garden

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Tolle Lege


On the feast of Saint Augustine,  I've decided to post excerpts from my long poem Pick It Up and Read,which was published as a chapbook by Finishing Line Press in 2008.  I am posting the pieces that related particularly to Augustine, and then spin off into something more personal.

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.

Pick it up and Read  (II)




You hated that your

father saw your teenaged body

in the bathhouse,

bleated greedily about



Even then, your joy was not in the pears, their taste,

the juice running down your neck,

not in the picking,

but in the stealing,

the stealing,

then, the thought of stealing.


Pick it up and read

Pick it up and read,

sang the child's voice beyond the wall.


Don't leave that garden

until you remember

those tears from your body.


The stirrings stayed

never left you

haunted you with dreams

of sweaty couplings,

 ragged cries of delight.



Pick it up and read ( III)



In October, I thought the paper lied

about Nickel Mines and the one room school

where the milkman

lined up ten Amish girls

in front of the  classroom

and shot blood and brains

on the blackboard.

My red-haired cousin, eight years old,

the one with garden genes like me,

the one who shared a grandfather,

fell still alive, though,

a bullet through her jaw.


Pick it up and read,

sang the child's voice beyond the wall.




Augustine and his mother, Monica






What a friend we have in Time


45th reunion of the Class of 1970   Saint Joseph College, Emmitsburg Maryland

Misty Sunday morning, I was listening to this song by John Denver:

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

Yesterday I attended the Memorial Mass for a well-loved colleague who died at age 70 of colon cancer.  I knew her for all the twenty-one years I have been at the Mount; so many of the colleagues from those years were at this funeral that I felt as though I were in one of my "convention dreams" come to life.

Time tells us what to take and leave behind.  It made me think of all the friends during all these 73 years of my life... who I've taken with me, and who I've left behind.

artist: Charles Courtney Curran

Friday, August 27, 2021

Better Late Than Never


I took this photo of a Monarch caterpillar in the garden in 2017.  Don't have a good photo of the ones I've seen this year, but at last they are here!

Much later than previous years,  at least three weeks later, the caterpillars are showing up in the garden.

They lift my spirits  in the midst of suicide bomb killings in Afghanistan, as thousands of Afghans and Americans rush to the airport to leave the country, now that our soldiers are leaving.

So much is wrong and divided and hostile and downright crazy in the world, but still we have caterpillars.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Things Fall Apart; the center cannot hold


The poem from our Modernity class today:

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


   The Second Coming,  (1919)


Turning and turning in the widening gyre

    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

    The best lack all conviction, while the worst

    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;

    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;

    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know

    That twenty centuries of stony sleep

    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

 Yeats wrote this poem in 1919....

the falcon cannot hear the falconer








Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Time's excuse to frighten us


Georgia O'Keeffe       Sunrise 1916

Here is the second poem in my Modernity students' Poetry Packet:

The Future     Rilke



  The future: time's excuse

to frighten us; too vast

a project, too large a morsel

for the heart's mouth.


Future, who won't wait for you?

Everyone is going there.

It suffices you to deepen

the absence that we are.



Tuesday, August 24, 2021

We are here as on a darkling plain

 Today is the first day of class for me for this semester.  I have 24 students -  mostly junior and seniors - none of them English majors.  To think that these young men and women weren't even born in the 20th century!

I begin this Modernity in Literature class with Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach."  I talk about the changing way that we thought about many things from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries.

Dover cliffs by moonlight

Dover Beach                             by  Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) 


The sea is calm tonight.

The tide is full, the moon lies fair

Upon the straits; on the French coast the light

Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,

Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

Only, from the long line of spray

Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,

Listen! you hear the grating roar

Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,

At their return, up the high strand,

Begin, and cease, and then again begin,

With tremulous cadence slow, and bring

The eternal note of sadness in.



Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought

Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow

Of human misery; we

Find also in the sound a thought,

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.



The Sea of Faith

Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.

But now I only hear

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

Retreating, to the breath

Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear

And naked shingles of the world.



Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.


Dover beach in 2020

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone...


I'm being followed by a Moon Shadow...

report from  Yahoo:

August full moon will be a blue moon and a sturgeon moon

A full moon unlike any other in 2021 to rise this weekend ... Bright moonlight will fill the night sky during the weekend when a seasonal blue moon rises on Aug.

The most common type of blue moon is the second of two full moons appearing during the same calendar month. While that scenario played out last October, when we had a full moon on Oct. 1 and another full moon on Halloween, that’s not the case this month.

Although most sky watchers will be calling this the August blue moon, its most common nicknames are the “sturgeon moon,” the “green corn moon” and the “grain moon,” according to the Farmers’ Almanac and the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Here are two poems about the moon which most do not know:

Amores (III)

 - 1894-1962
there is a 
moon sole 
in the blue 

             amorous of waters 
blinded with silence the 
undulous heaven yearns where 

in tense starlessness 
anoint with ardor 
the yellow lover 

stands in the dumb dark 

love i slowly 
of thy languorous mouth the 


Will You Come?

 - 1878-1917

Will you come?
Will you come?
Will you ride
So late
At my side?
O, will you come?

Will you come?
Will you come?
If the night
Has a moon,
Full and bright?
O, will you come?

Would you come?
Would you come
If the noon
Gave light,
Not the moon?
Beautiful, would you come?

Would you have come?
Would you have come
Without scorning,
Had it been
Still morning?
Beloved, would you have come?

If you come
Haste and come.
Owls have cried;
It grows dark
To ride.
Beloved, beautiful, come.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Afghanistan concedes to the Taliban

 I read in one of the many essays about this situation that after 9/11 the US should have (1) routed the Taliban and (2) taken down Osama Bin Laden,  and that was it.  No nation building.  But we stayed and tried to help the Afghans with nation building.  And as soon as we pulled out ( happening now)  the government collapsed.  So much for our efforts.

One of the frightening things about this situation is that it seems to have history repeating itself.

Some Facebook friend posted this meme the other day, and it really hit me: