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.