Thursday, December 22, 2016

Our calm hearts strike only the hour

Woman inside Bird  by Yuko Hosaka
My heart is not calm, but the prompt on the "Daily Post" page is the word "calm."
I found this wonderful poem by Jane Kenyon, and had to post it on this page, too:

Notes from the Other Side


 By Jane Kenyon, 1947 - 1995


I divested myself of despair

and fear when I came here.


Now there is no more catching

one’s own eye in the mirror,


there are no bad books, no plastic,

no insurance premiums, and of course


no illness. Contrition

does not exist, nor gnashing


of teeth. No one howls as the first

clod of earth hits the casket.


The poor we no longer have with us.

Our calm hearts strike only the hour,


and God, as promised, proves

to be mercy clothed in light.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Darkest Evening of the Year

5:10 PM Eastern Standard Time in the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA... gorgeous peach and strawberry colored sunset.

I feel that the year is turning toward the light after this night.  I hope my country is , too, and the rest of the world.

I've been posting on the Wordpress blog of this same name, but those entries are very impersonal. They are mostly poems and pictures responding to the Daily Prompt.  But they are still good poems.

I've been preoccupied with endings.

 It seems that so much of what I have been involved with in my adult life has either closed, ended, or is about to.  My beloved college, which closed in 1973... but  the places where I taught:  Saint Luke's Elementary School, Seton High School, and now, Seton Keough High School.  At least my own alma maters, Saint Agnes Elementary in West Chester, and Bishop Shanahan High, are still alive and flourishing.  But I am also thinking about my religious community.  Three of our youngest members left the community in September and October. True, two new members joined us,  but it's nothing to compare with the forty something women who left this earth for their eternal home.  You don't replace  forty with two. 

My friend and fellow artist, Sister Janet Gildea from the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, wrote a compelling entry in her blog about this topic: she called it "Completion."  Reading her thoughts concretized my own thoughts.  Among other things, she said:

"...Now there are only three Sisters of Charity in the city. It takes no stretch of the imagination to realize that soon there will be none. What heartache! In my mind, I counted the remaining SCs in the cities "up the line" from Albuquerque to Denver: fewer than 20. Behind the driver's seat we carried a large wood-carved statue of St. Francis from Catholic Charities in Albuquerque honoring the ministries of our sisters. I honored them in my heart, remembering so many stories they shared with me when I came to New Mexico just after first vows in 1986. I love our history here in the Southwest and I am grateful that I was able to experience the years of its completion.

...St. Joseph Sr. Carol Zinn (SSJ) used that word "completion" in her remarks to the Resource Center for Religious Institutes, saying that it is not a question of "if" but "when" congregations in Europe, North America and Australia will complete their stories.

She is hopeful, though:

"...What new "expression of religious life," as Zinn said, will meet the demands of ministry not just today but tomorrow? Who knows? I believe that our newest members have the eyes for those horizons. Reading even a few recent titles from GSR's Horizons writers gives a sense of what they see: "A crash course in organizing: Overcoming fear," "Building soil, cultivating peace," "A consistent ethic of life is as relevant now as it was 30 years ago," "I don't know black," "Living, loving and leading in fog," and "An experiment in hope." These young sisters are expressing how consecrated life will evolve. When they come, they may be new to the culture of congregation and even cultural Catholicism but they are often well-equipped with skills for collaboration, networking, appreciating diversity, community living, sustainability, and, of course, technology. And they are quick learners...


"We readily acknowledge that we live in the tension between what is and what is not yet. Most congregations have set processes in motion for the transition of sponsored ministries, stewardship of resources, and care of the elders. We have all known the delicacy of convening gatherings of those sisters of a certain chronological age to have the critical conversations about the future. We have worked so diligently towards inclusion and consensus that we can hardly consider a process that leaves anyone out. I wonder, though, if this is somehow a way that we resist the inevitable completion that Carol Zinn dares to name."

Maybe these thoughts are coming because of my age.  Such an increase in the number of people I know/knew  who have crossed to the other side...

And then I get to thinking that my own nation is facing its end... the end of representative democracy as we knew it... the end of its position as
"leader of the free world..."   Not to mention the end of its beautiful environment.  The end of Robins and oak trees, of clean rivers and streams...

In the language of my Boomer generation , this blog entry is a downer.

Readers, you probably gave up reading to the end of it several paragraphs ago.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Time doesn't stop

The novel Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry was published in 2004.
I have been teaching it to my freshmen since the Fall of 2012.
I am presently reading it again, in preparation for discussing it with my 2016 freshmen.
I am blessed to be reading it again.  Each time, this book says something deeper to me about my own life.
I know I can't put old heads on young shoulders, but I will try to tell my 18 year olds some things I certainly was not ready to hear when I was 18 years old - things that Hannah, the title character and the narrator, says at age 78.

She observes: "Time doesn't stop. Your life doesn't stop and wait until you get ready to start living it.

She talks about her love for her first husband, Virgil, who went missing in World War II:
 "I went into love with Virgil, and of course wer were not the only ones there. To be in love with Virgil was to e there in, in love, with his parents, his family, his place, his baby. When he became to to our living love in this world, by knowing what it meant to me I couldn't help knowing what it meant to the others. That was our kindness. It saved us, but it was hard to bear."
In these recent years I have thought more and more about my aunts and uncles and cousins, the siblings of my mother and father.  I bitterly regret not asking more questions of my parents about them, stories about their growing up years.  My parents were taciturn people, but I really wasn't interested in their families, and so I didn't push them to tell me stories.  God, I wish I had.
This beautiful novel makes me wish I had.
I want to tell my students:  talk to your grandparents and aunts and uncles!  Get them to tell you the stories of their times together!
It also occurred to me that my parents and their siblings and their parents were all people who did not talk much about their feelings.  This was much like the people in Hannah Coulter's story, from the 1940's in the country in the United States.  It was equally true in many or most of the people in Europe of this same time.  
When did that change?  When did people start to "spill their guts" on TV shows like Oprah?
When did people ask each other: "how did you feel about.....?"
This disclosure of feelings and emotions marks a huge cultural shift, I think.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Age Is Better

One of my blogging friends, "English Lit Geek", recently posted this poem by Rod McKuen:

Age is Better

Age is Better
Rod McKuen, 1933-2015

I have been young,
         a fresh faced sprout,
with agile legs, a muscled arm and smile
to charm the world I went through
         in a rush to get a little older, sooner.

Catching my reflection while passing past
         a looking glass not long ago
I discovered I was older, even old. There was
no sudden melancholy or regret, and yet
some sadness in the wonder that it happened
         while I wasn’t watching,
No pause to proudly ply the autumn into winter

Nothing changed.
I run as fast. I think a little faster and yet forget
at times what I went after there as I left here to
get it. This while crossing half a room
         not half a lifetime.
So I’ve been young and I’ve been old and have
         determined old is better.

Youth unfolds like coy Cleopatra from a rug
spilling all its golden wonders at the foot of age
who seems to envy everything, especially spring.

           The young
pledge anything to get an audience. Delivering
sometimes, most times not, on their way before
         the promissory note comes due.

 Can you blame them as they hurry off, afraid
another runner may beat them to The Score ahead
         leaving nothing to be scored?

Age is oft times bitter, feeling in its failing health
that wealth of life eluded it. Apologize somebody or
some thing for leaving me to find the way I never
found or could not find because it was not there
         or never was.

But having seen the surge of youth, the sag of age
in breast and chest and everything, I still say spring
         is overrated. Age is better.

 Less is expected of the once firm chest that drags
a little lower, the robust voice reduced to murmur
         speaking slower.

Age can finally say aloud what it really feels and
         thinks in after dinner company or crowd.
         No one blinks. If they do, no matter.

 Age erases pretence; replacing it with honesty.
Age is proof you got from there to here.
         Alas so many that you loved
did not complete the journey. You mourn them, yes,
and always will, but age is such a triumph over youth,
again, because you moved across the years to here.
Leaving there where it belongs
         for youth to come along and re-discover.

God, I love this poem.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

On Falling

One of our sisters who is 86 years old and up until last week was robust and sharp and in control of her life, is now dying.  She had a very very bad fall about two months ago; she fell flat on her face, walking on the sidewalk outside of her house. She sustained some broken bones, most notably her cheekbones, and was in rehab.  Then things went downhill from there.  She came up to our skilled care floor up here to continue recovering, but developed blood clots in her legs.  Two days ago she became very confused, disoriented, and was even hallucinating. They took her to the hospital for a brain scan and discovered a new and ongoing brain bleed.  Now she is unconscious and is on hospice.
It happened so quickly that we are all in shock.

She's not the first. I've known of at least five other persons who have fallen , with bad results, in the last year.

This brings me to an article I read recently in Slate  about how dangerous falls are , especially to senior citizens.    I'm quoting from it here:

"...All too often, this is the wrong reaction. The one-year mortality for patients who are admitted to the hospital after a fall is a staggering 33 percent. A fall bad enough to warrant hospital admission can carry as poor a prognosis as some stage IV cancers that have metastasized to the lungs and brain. Of course, the people who are hospitalized after a fall are much more likely to have a higher mortality rate anyway. (They’re going to be older, and have more comorbid medical conditions, but falls still pose a bigger risk than other conditions.) By comparison, the one-year mortality for older patients admitted to the hospital for pneumonia hovers around 21 percent...
"...Why are falls so dangerous? There are short- and long-term risks. In the short term, falls that involve trauma to the head can cause life-threatening intracranial bleeding. Broken bones have their own risk, including lung embolisms in which tiny fragments of broken bone make their way into our circulation and reach the lung, causing impressive and often life-threatening damage. But falls that cause broken hips and legs can cause death and disability even well after the acute phase. Blood clots to the lung are more likely in the months after surgery or prolonged periods of immobilization. People who become more sedentary are more likely to develop a host of other problems, including heart and lung disease...
" powerful prognostic information on fall comes from a careful assessment of the foot. Foot health, much like dental hygiene, provides tremendous insight into a person’s functional status and access to healthcare. The presence of nonhealing wounds imparts significant fall risk. But the biggest predictor of those who are least likely to fall is simply the ability to cut one’s own toenails. Even previous falls or near falls are less predictive...
"...You can also limit your risks by modifying your own environment and behavior. This hasn’t been empirically tested, but in my opinion, the most important thing an elderly person can do to protect themselves from the worst outcomes from a fall is to carpet their home. We often think about babyproofing the home. But geriatric-proofing them is not a bad idea either. Additionally, as we age, it is important that we realize our limitations. The older we get, the more we get up at night to use the restroom. This may sound silly, but turn on the lights. Your spouse may grumble, but it’s worth it so you don’t trip and fall. This happens all the time. Get up slowly, especially in the morning when you haven’t had anything to eat or drink in many hours. (Dehydration-related falls and even loss of consciousness are common in emergency departments.)
 Committed to staying in shape by taking the stairs? Fine, but try to only go up the stairs. Taking the stairs downward provides little exercise, and the momentum of a fall is far worse..."
This information is important to me, and unnerving too.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

What is Late November Doing?

This morning I re-discovered T.S. Eliot's poem sequence  Four Quartets.

It's been a favorite of mine since I first read it fifty years ago in college.  In fact, when I gave the welcome address at our commencement ( NOT the valedictory!)  I spun my speech from its words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Today when I read the whole sequence again, I saw so much that I have missed in it over the years. Maybe I had to be this old to see it.

For now, just look at these lines:

What is the late November doing

 With the disturbance of the spring

 And creatures of the summer heat,

 And snowdrops writhing under feet

 And hollyhocks that aim too high

 Red into grey and tumble down

 Late roses filled with early snow?

 Thunder rolled by the rolling stars

Simulates triumphal cars

 Deployed in constellated wars

 Scorpion fights against the Sun

 Until the Sun and Moon go down

 Comets weep and Leonids fly

 Hunt the heavens and the plains

 Whirled in a vortex that shall bring

 The world to that destructive fire

 Which burns before the ice-cap reigns.


TS Eliot East Coker



It quite describes the sixty and seventy degree days we've been having, which finally have given way to northwest winds and thirty degrees. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

On the Feast of Christ the King

also, the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year

At the Vigil Mass tonight, the cantor sang my favorite Alleluia, the one from Weston Priory. He sang the third verse:

He it is in whom we have found

the light of truth,

source of our hope, abiding gift of God’s love.

Through that love we pass and are born in life unending:

Jesus, our Lord,

the fullness of our joy

Through that love we pass...

Which leads me to another appropriate song for this feast, one of my favorites from Taize:

Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom,
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Losing Hope

I feel the way the woman in this photograph looks.   I'm glad the bear is there to comfort her. I don't seem to have a bear nearby,

Perhaps it's because I've been sick for three weeks: one week with a  "barf your guts out" stomach bug, followed by two weeks of really bad sinus infection and bronchitis.  I am still taking the antibiotics.  This physical state tends to depress a person.

However, the news in our country has also caused me to lose hope.  I see a huge ( as our president-elect would say) crash coming.  The prosperity he has promised to his followers, the really poor and disadvantaged working class white people in the middle of the country, is just not going to happen.
In the meantime, if the Republicans do away with Medicare, old people are going to be dying in the streets.

That's the catastrophe I see coming.  I hope I am wrong, but that's almost the last hope I have tonight.

And in my religious community, the three youngest members left a few weeks ago; not together, but one after another.  What does that mean for the future of our province?  I don't have much hope there, either, and I feel guilty feeling that way.

So I am going to post some pictures I like right now, just to have something more colorful.

That was a truly marvelous moon the other night:

This one is titled "Hypocrisy":


Friday, November 11, 2016

It went downhill from Sunday

Sunday November 6 was a lovely day.  Even though I had come down with a bad head cold, I still was able to speak.

I drove through beautiful sunny November country, through Lancaster county, the land of my ancestors,  down to West Grove, Pa, where I gave a poetry reading as a fundraiser for the West Chester Poetry Center.  So many old friends were there!   They liked the poetry, and I had a good time, too.

I stayed overnight with my friends in West Chester.  By Monday morning, the cold had gotten much worse, and I had no voice.

I drove back to Emmitsburg and had a car crash on Rt. 30  about ten miles west of York.
A three-car rear-ender.  I was the third vehicle, and the other two were large heavy pickup trucks.
I was unhurt, but the car was totaled.

Thus began hours of police, towtrucks, waiting for the sisters to get there to pick me up.

Then, of course, Tuesday was Election Day, when Trump and the Republicans won everything.

A lot of my friends were weeping all over Facebook about this.  I was not.  I was not completely surprised, even though the polls were so wrong.  Too many people in this country hated Hillary.

I cannot imagine what this means for our country. I hope it means all the good things that those who voted for this  think will happen:  more jobs and better economic opportunity for so many who have felt so dismissed and ignored .

Then , on Wednesday I went to the doctor and found I have some really nasty upper respiratory infection.  I'm loaded up with a heavy duty antibiotic called Keflex ( she even gave me a huge shot of it in my behind in the office!) and five days of Prednisone.

Then, yesterday,  Leonard Cohen died.

I have loved his music and poetry since I bought his first album in about 1968:

I loved him when he looked like this:

and I loved him more recently, especially as he was on his Live from London tour in 2008:

I can't decide which one is my favorite song.  The first one I loved was "Suzanne"  but more recently
it is "Halleluiah."

I used to sing "Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye"

Goodbye, dear Leonard.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Asteroid

This truly brutal and cruel election season in the USA is over, and Donald Trump will be our next president.


It was fairly close; in fact, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but Trump's electoral votes were over and above what he needed.


I've read some articles which explain this to me.


However, I am still worried about what will happen to our country during the next four years.


I feel the truth in this remark by the comedian Stephen Colbert:


"It seems like we're trying to avoid an apocalypse, and half of the people are voting for the asteroid."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

All Souls Day

I love this poem by Jean Nordhaus:

With Their Wings
by Jean Nordhaus

                    —for Delia

On the evening you were born,
after the tremendous churning
that brought you forth, an owl
flew onto the rail of the balcony
where we sat, as darkness bled
from backlit hills into the sky.
In twilight, she perched on the ledge
measured us with wide, light-

gleaning eyes, then sailed off
on soft wings. Shades of my mother,
I thought, half-believing—the wide-
set eyes and level gaze.

For those who say the dead
have no more truck with us
are wrong. The dead are all around us
feathering the air with their wings.
They see in the fertile darkness
that surrounds this sac of light.
And in these hours we call them back
to steady us, who live in time.

"With Their Wings" by Jean Nordhaus from Memos from the Broken World. © Mayapple Press, 2016. Reprinted with permission

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