Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Poems

found these on Tweetspeak Poetry:

Theme in Yellow
I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.
—Carl Sandburg

Some One
Some one came knocking

At my wee, small door;

Some one came knocking,

I’m sure—sure—sure;

I listened, I opened,

I looked to left and right,

But nought there was a-stirring

In the still dark night;

Only the busy beetle

Tap-tapping on the wall,

Only from the forest

The screech-owl’s call,

Only the cricket whistling

While the dewdrops fall,

So I know not who came knocking,

At all, at all, at all.
—Walter de la Mare

The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly
Once I loved a spider
When I was born a fly,
A velvet-footed spider
With a gown of rainbow-dye.
She ate my wings and gloated.
She bound me with a hair.
She drove me to her parlor
Above her winding stair.
To educate young spiders
She took me all apart.
My ghost came back to haunt her.
I saw her eat my heart.
—Vachel Lindsay

Continual Conversation with a Silent Man
The old brown hen and the old blue sky,
Between the two we live and die —
The broken cartwheel on the hill.
As if, in the presence of the sea,
We dried our nets and mended sail
And talked of never-ending things,
Of the never-ending storm of will,
One will and many wills, and the wind,
Of many meanings in the leaves,
Brought down to one below the eaves,
Link, of that tempest, to the farm,
The chain of the turquoise hen and sky
And the wheel that broke as the cart went by.
It is not a voice that is under the eaves.
It is not speech, the sound we hear
In this conversation, but the sound
Of things and their motion: the other man,
A turquoise monster moving round.
— Wallace Stevens

and from Louise Gluck:

All Hallows


By   Louise Gluck

Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here

Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.

"All Hallows" by Louise Glück, from The First Four Books of Poems. Copyright © 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1995 by Louise Glück. Used by the permission of HarperCollins Publishers,


Friday, October 23, 2015

Skin Cancer

I am paying for all those years of baking in the sun as a teenager and young woman.

Here I am in 1966, baking on the beach at Ocean City New Jersey:

Fifteen years ago, I had heavy-duty surgery to remove a deep-seated basal cell carcinoma on my nose. Since then, I've had several much more superficial removals on arms and legs.

You can see the scar on my forehead and the white circle on my nose, from this photo from 2002. I'm wearing my forehead on my nose.

However, this year another basal cell turned up on my face, on my right temple:

Yesterday, I had Mohs micrographic surgery to remove that basal cell.  There was a lot more of it underneath than there was on top, as evidenced by the stitches and the swelling:

I wrote a poem about the scar from the 2000 surgery:


Although the rain ran like a canal

in the creases of the windowsill,

more of it pouring in, filling every crevice

of the screen,

dripping down the lip’s ledge to the floor,

the woman welcomed the wet of it

to her house.

She said, There’s too much danger in the sun.

It’s lied to me for years, she said,

while it crept up and turned its key in my face.


Friday, October 16, 2015

In the Time of Burning Trees

tree outside my window today

On this glorious October day, I was able to retrieve the words of a favorite song from my memory.
I don't have the cassette tape anymore, and can't find any recording of it online, and the little group who recorded the album has disappeared into obscurity, but I never forgot the song.  It's not as good without the music, but all the same, here it is:

The Burning Tree


Group:   Different Shoes      Album Title:  One Size Feets All


Summer has gone

And the days growing cold

Far away honk some geese in their flight.

Here down below

We start thinking of snow

And the quiet of long winter nights.

And even though times will get harder

And the darkness can make you feel old

There’s a good harvest stored in the larder

And the tree’s now arrayed here in red orange and gold.



And I run through the leaves

In the cool Autumn breeze

Feeling warmed by the fire in me.

Though it’s said they don’t talk

I still learned a lot

In the light of the burning tree.



So many times

When I’m driving, I’m blind

Thinking something  that I’ve got to be

First in the line and my teeth start to grind

Like the cobblestones down by the sea

But yesterday morning at sunrise

Where the highway dips down to the sea,

The quiet of dawn was reflected

In the leaves of a tree

That was beckoning to me.


( refrain)


Here on the ground

I heard a voice with no sound

Saying this is the reason to be:

To make your own place

In the whole human race

And to find it will set your heart free

So even though times will get harder

And the darkness will make you feel old

There’s a good harvest stored in the larder

And the music you hear in the trees is your soul.


Photo: Burning Tree   from


Sunday, October 11, 2015

On Being: Mary Catherine Bateson

October's bright blue weather... leaves just beginning to turn. The air is wonderfully crisp.

Another long gap... today I want to play with the words Anchor/Anger....Mystery/Misery/Ministry...

a student misread some word as "misery" and I'm trying to remember what it was.  Not sure , but possibly "Ministry."

I'm making my annual retreat here in Emmitsburg and should probably not be writing here, but it feels right, especially since I listened to the episode of ON BEING on NPR this morning.  It was aired last week, and featured a wonderful interview with Mary Catherine Bateson.

I read her book  Composing A Life  back in 1997 or 98, and it had a large impact on me.  This quote particularly stays with me:
"Because we are engaged in a day-by-day process
 of self-invention - not discovery,
for what we search for does not exist until we find it -
 both the past and the future are raw material,
 shaped and reshaped by each individual...
These are lives in flux,
 lives till indeterminate
 and subject to further discontinuities.
 This very quality
 protects me from the temptation
to interpret them as pilgrimages
to some fixed goal,
for there is no way to know
 which fragments of the past
 will prove to be relevant in the future.
Composing a life
 involves a continual reimagining of the future
 and reinterpretation of the past
 to give meaning to the present  (Bateson  280-30)."
Her interview this morning was very powerful for me to hear.
Until this morning, I hadn't known Bateson was the daughter of Gregory Bateson and the Samoa lady, anthropologist Margaret Mead.  They were atheists, but Bateson is a fallen away, then "returned in her sixties" Roman Catholic.
One of the things she says in this interview is about what she calls "Active Wisdom:"
"When you have the harvest of a life of learning and thinking and observing, and at the same time, you're still active... I have to ell you, it's wisdom on the hoof."
More on this tomorrow ( I hope)