Friday, March 31, 2017


On this very rainy final day of March, here is a somber poem about a passport. It was written  by the Native American poet Sherman Alexie:



Last night, I dreamed that my passport bled.
I dreamed that my passport was a tombstone
For our United States, recently dead.
I dreamed that my passport was made of bone—


That it was a canoe carved out of stone.
“But I can’t swim,” I said. “I will drown
If I can’t make the shore. I’ll die alone
In the salt. No, my body will be found



With millions of bodies, all of them brown.”
I dreamed that my passport was a book of prayers,
Unanswered by the gods, but written down
By fact checkers in suits. “There are some errors


In your papers,” they said. Then took me downstairs
To a room with fingernails on the floor.
I dreamed that my passport was my keyware,
But soldiers had set fire to the doors,



To all doors—a conflagration of doors.
I dreamed that my passport was my priest:
“Sherman, will you battle the carnivores
Or will you turn and abandon the weak?


Will you be shelter? Or will you concede?”
Last night, I dreamed that my passport was alive
When it entered the ICU. It breathed, it breathed,
Then it sighed and closed its eyes. It did not survive.



©2017, Sherman Alexie

painting  "The Stone Canoe" by Alan Sliyboy
poet Sherman Alexie

Thursday, March 30, 2017

There but for Fortune

Today's "Daily Prompt" from Wordpress is Fortune.  My first thought was of Phil Och's song from back in the 1960's:

There but For Fortune     by Phil Ochs


Show me a prison, show me a jail
Show me a prisoner whose face has gone pale
And I'll show you a young man with so many reasons why
And there but for fortune, may go you or I

Show me the alley, show me the train
Show me a hobo who sleeps out in the rain
And I'll show you a young man with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, may go you or I

Show me the whiskey stains on the floor
Show me the drunken man as he stumbles out the door
And I'll show you a young man with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, may go you or I

Show me the country where the bombs had to fall
Show me the ruins of the buildings once so tall
And I'll show you a young land with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I -- you and I
I sang many of Phil's songs in those days. My favorite was "Changes" but I'll talk about that one another day.
I want to cut and paste some paragraphs from an article in the Washington Post a few months back, titled
Why Phil Ochs is the obscure ’60s folk singer America needs in 2017
“…It isn’t often that Ochs, who died four decades ago and is mostly unknown to those born since the 1970s, gets even a brief moment of mainstream recognition. Yet as we enter the Trump era, and as a new mass protest movement begins to take shape, his music would be worthy of a revival. Taken together, his songs offer an exceptionally compelling tour of the deepest questions currently confronting liberals — questions about democracy, dissent and human decency in a grim political age.
“…“The War Is Over” suggests how political resistance in any age can be enlivened, refreshed and perhaps even galvanized by jarring notes of artistic creativity. Yet it isn’t close to being Ochs’s most philosophical work. Take, for instance, “There but for Fortune,” the most beautiful song ever written about the natural lottery. To a series of tragic circumstances — “show me a prison man whose face is growing pale,” “show me the country where the bombs had to fall” — Ochs attaches a simple refrain: “There but for fortune may go you or I.” It’s a succinct reminder of the ethical basis of modern liberalism: that in a world with no level playing field, we have sizable obligations to those who are less lucky. And it’s an overarching message that Democrats, after a campaign in which their nominee tended to favor discrete policy proposals over sweeping moral vision, would be wise to rediscover.
By Richard Just     in Washington Post


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Questions to Answers

This morning when I went to work, I was greeted by robins, cardinals, titmice, bluebirds, and mockingbirds all singing their mating songs.

It made me think of this poem by my much-loved poet, Marvin Bell:

Questions to Answers


For my unique voice,

for my solitary vision,

I was given the song of a bird

outside my window

and all the of the songs that answered to it.

For my way with words,

for my unusual behavior, listen,

I was given an essence of chocolate

which only made me desire

all other chocolates.

For my individual grief,

for my perfect isolation,

I was given maps to mass graves

on every continent

and still for my feet I was given shoes

and for my hands gloves in winter

and now if I ask

whose shoes otherwise and whose

gloves if not mine

I offend those who liked my poems

for a while.

And this is why I have come to believe

That there are, to my questions,


After all.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Poem from Jeff Hardin

This poet isn't well known,  but he should be.

He won a big poetry prize last June, and I heard him read and loved his work and bought his book, which is titled    Restoring the Narrative.

Here is the first poem in the book:


I'm full of words but indiscriminate
so that I'll reach for almost any reach
of sound stretched out to touch this shapely world,
the single, nailed-down consonants -  straw, crow -
the sturdy pairs - barn door, hard rain, cornstalk -
to feel the heart stopped stunned to be alive,
stilled with hearing itself hearing the stillness,
the song of being filled with more and more.

And then the dance of many syllables
-sequoia, susurration, chincherinchee -
requiring of the voice a lightened rush,
a reverence for being pulled along
the voweled dips and runs, the dipthongs in
their dialectic
                      singing in accord.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tweeting Trump

During this month of March, I have taken to tweeting back to President Trump on his Twitter page.
I've tried to cut and paste his tweets and my replies ( he doesn't reply to me!) but it's been difficult .
Nevertheless, here are some pieces of the tweets and replies:

Him-  General Kelly is doing a great job at the border. Numbers are way down. Many are not even trying to come in anymore.

Me:  Maybe because they don’t want YOU as their president.


Him:    Thanks you for all of the Trump Rallies today. Amazing support. We will all MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

Me:  All you care about is your own reputation.


Him: Happy #MedalOfHonorDay to our heroes! …

Me:   Good to see you focus on these heroes instead of your own blaming and whining.


Him:Today, I was thrilled to announce a commitment of $25 BILLION & 20K AMERICAN JOBS over the next 4 years. THANK YOU Charter Communications!

Me:  Good. Keep those jobs coming

:Him:Today, I was pleased to announce the official approval of the presidential permit for the #KeystonePipeline. A great day for American jobs!

Me:  Yeah, right. About 35 jobs.


Him: Spoke to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May today to offer condolences on the terrorist attack in London. She is strong and doing very well.

Me: Glad you did that. Your son, however, didn’t do our country proud.



Him:  Thank you Louisville, Kentucky- on my way! #MAGA

Me:  On your way to what? To stop spending taxpayers’ money on your trips to Florida? To getting jobs for the Rust belt?


Him:   North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been "playing" the United States for years. China has done little to help!

Me: If you get us into a nuclear war, don’t try to blame anyone else. You’re going to kill us all. (3/17)


Him:Just watched the totally biased and fake news reports of the so-called Russia story on NBC and ABC. Such dishonesty!
 Me:  You are just trying to deflect attention from the investigations into your contacts!
Him: Why isn't the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russian, Russian Speech...
Me:Because YOU are the president now. You're the one we worry about now.

Me:  The real story is how much taxpayer money is spent on your family! 

Me:  The election was over four months ago. What are YOU doing now besides running off to Florida?   ( 3/20)

Me: You spend more of our country’s money on your family than any other president in history.  ( 3/18)

Me:  Of course the Democrats didn’t support it! It was a terrible healthcare bill! It cut out the poor and the elderly!

Me: Always blaming someone else. Your incompetence and impatience killed that bill. (3/26)

Me: Terrible plan!  Rich old man ,it doesn’t affect you except for your ego.

Me: Don’t you have better things to do, such as getting jobs for the workers in the Rust Belt states:  Do your job!


Me:  Terrible plan for the poor and the elderly. But you don’t care about them, do you?

Me: Rich old man, you care nothing for the sick poor.



I feel that I can refer to him as an old rich man because I too am old - virtually the same age as he is . I feel that I could be his infuriated same-age relative, albeit a poor one, giving him some straight talk.

I know nothing about the game Angry Birds, but this picture is how I feel:



Friday, March 24, 2017

Mary who mattered to me

"The Virgin"  painting by Joseph Stella
Tomorrow is the feast of the Incarnation, when the Church celebrates the Angel's announcement to the Virgin Mary.

Here is a poem by Mary Szybist, from her collection  Incarnadine.


Mary who mattered to me, gone or asleep
among fruits, spilled   

in ash, in dust, I did not   

leave you. Even now I can't keep from
composing you, limbs & blue cloak   

& soft hands. I sleep to the sound   

of your name, I say there is no Mary   
except the word Mary, no trace   

on the dust of my pillowslip. I only   

dream of your ankles brushed by dark violets,
of honeybees above you   

murmuring into a crown. Antique queen,   

the night dreams on: here are the pears
I have washed for you, here the heavy-winged doves,   

asleep by the hyacinths. Here I am,   

having bathed carefully in the syllables   
of your name, in the air and the sea of them, the sharp scent   

of their sea foam. What is the matter with me?

Mary, what word, what dust   
can I look behind? I carried you a long way   

into my mirror, believing you would carry me

back out. Mary, I am still   
for you, I am still a numbness for you.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Passing of Ezra


I'm pasting this from the Cornell website:
The devastating news is now posted on the Cornell Webcam page - Sad News From The Bird Cams: Ezra, Beloved Red-Tail At Cornell, Is Dead March 21, 2017
As some of you may know, Ezra has not been seen on the Cornell Hawks cam or on the Cornell campus for the past several days, and worries have been mounting. We are extremely sad to have to share the news with you that we learned this evening that Ezra has died.

On Saturday, March 18, the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center received an injured Red-tailed Hawk who we now know was Ezra, and who had been found near the A. D. White House on campus. After examining him and taking X-rays, veterinarians determined that the severe wing fracture could not be repaired and flight would never again be possible. They made the difficult but humane decision to euthanize him on Sunday. Meanwhile, “Birders on the Ground” (or BOGs) Cindy and Karel Sedlacek had grown increasingly concerned about Ezra’s absence and contacted us here at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

We reached out to the Wildlife Health Center to ask whether any hawks had been brought in, and were able to confirm through his leg band numbers that this bird was Ezra. We will share any other updates we receive after a final necropsy is completed. Ezra has touched our lives and the lives of millions of people of all ages ever since we started watching him and Big Red in 2012. He inspired us with his beauty and personality as well as his devotion and success in working with Big Red to raise 15 nestlings in just the past five years.

I've been watching Ezra and his mate, Big Red, since 2011 or 12.... Their nest has been up on an 80 foot iron floodlight tower on the soccer field at Cornell.  Each year they have mated and hatched and raised at least three young ones.  The excellent cameras on those towers have provided me, and thousands of others, a view of a wild family "up close and personal."

This beautiful bird was at least 12 years old.   How we will miss him!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Perfect Dress

Today is International Poetry Day.   I'm posting a poem I love by Marisa de los Santos:

Perfect Dress



It’s here in a student’s journal, a blue confession

in smudged, erasable ink: “I can’t stop hoping

I’ll wake up, suddenly beautiful,” and isn’t it strange

how we want it, despite all we know? To be at last


the girl in the photography, cobalt-eyed, hair puddling

like cognac, or the one stretched at the ocean’s edge,

curved and light-drenched, more like a beach than

the beach. I confess I have longed to stalk runways,


leggy, otherworldly as a mantis, to balance a head

like a Fabergé egg on the longest, most elegant neck.

Today in the checkout line, I saw a magazine

claiming to know “How to Find the Perfect Dress


for that Perfect Evening,” and I felt the old pull, flare

of the pilgrim’s twin flames, desire and faith. At fifteen,

I spent weeks at the search. Going from store to store,

hands thirsty for shine, I reached for polyester satin,


machine-made lace, petunia- and Easter egg-colored,

brilliant and flammable. Nothing haute about this

couture but my hopes for it, as I tugged it on

and waited for my one, true body to emerge.


(Picture the angel inside uncut marble, articulation

of wings and robes poised in expectation of release.)

What I wanted was ordinary miracle, the falling away

of everything wrong. Silly maybe or maybe


I was right, that there’s no limit to the ways eternity

suggests itself, that one day I’ll slip into it, say

floor-length plum charmeuse. Someone will murmur,

“She is sublime,” will be precisely right, and I will step,


with incandescent shoulders, into my perfect evening.


Marisa de los Santos



Monday, March 20, 2017

A Light Exists in Spring

Even though we're halfway through March, I still love this poem by Emily Dickinson, and find it appropriate:


A LIGHT exists in spring
  Not present on the year
At any other period.
  When March is scarcely here
A color stands abroad        5
  On solitary hills
That silence cannot overtake,
  But human nature feels.
It waits upon the lawn;
  It shows the furthest tree        10
Upon the furthest slope we know;
  It almost speaks to me.
Then, as horizons step,
  Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,        15
  It passes, and we stay:
A quality of loss
  Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
  Upon a sacrament.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Modern life's aggressive haste

I have come to love Maria Popova's "Brain Pickings Weekly" - her compendium of articles, quotes, and ideas posted each Sunday. Now, having signed on to Twitter, I find that she posts daily there in "Brain Pickings."  I usually "retweet" her postings for later reading. 

The irony of the closeness of "retweet" to "retreat!"

But today I was reading something she posted about "Breaking the Trance of Busyness."

She quotes Herman Hesse, who laments how modern life's
"aggressive haste” — and what a perfect phrase that is — has “done away with what meager leisure we had.” He writes:

Our ways of enjoying ourselves are hardly less irritating and nerve-racking than the pressure of our work. “As much as possible, as fast as possible” is the motto. And so there is more and more entertainment and less and less joy… This morbid pursuit of enjoyment [is] spurred on by constant dissatisfaction and yet perpetually satiated.

Noting that he doesn’t have a silver bullet for the problem, Hesse offers:

I would simply like to reclaim an old and, alas, quite unfashionable private formula: Moderate enjoyment is double enjoyment. And: Do not overlook the little joys!
Even in these days when I have so much less to do than I did fifteen years ago, I still fall into the mindless busyness mode so easily.
But I don't overlook the little joys!
The latest little joy for me has been the discovery that those six or seven garden plants I was so worried about have survived the freezes and snows of last week!
Another daily little joy is to tune into the Service Dog Project's website and see what's happening there:

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Bright Shillings of March

On Saint Patrick's Day,  I share a poem by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh:


My black hills have never seen the sun rising,
Eternally they look north towards Armagh.
Lot's wife would not be salt if she had been
Incurious as my black hills that are happy
When dawn whitens Glassdrummond chapel. 

My hills hoard the bright shillings of March
While the sun searches in every pocket. 
They are my Alps and I have climbed the Matterhorn
With a sheaf of hay for three perishing calves
In the field under the Big Forth of Rocksavage. 

The sleety winds fondle the rushy beards of Shancoduff
While the cattle-drovers sheltering in the Featherna Bush
Look up and say: "Who owns them hungry hills
That the water-hen and snipe must have forsaken?
A poet? Then by heavens he must be poor."
I hear, and is my heart not badly shaken?

-Patrick Kavanagh
Copyright © Estate of Katherine Kavanagh

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I am so worried about our country on many levels...

...especially what will happen to poor people and elderly people.

The proposals that Donald Trump unveiled are so upsetting to me:

And I'm cutting and pasting this from the New York Times today.  True , Trump calls them his enemy, and "fake news"  but I believe them:
"We have now passed the 50-day mark of the Donald Trump administration and one thing is clear: There is no new Trump.
There is only the same old Trump: Dangerous and unpredictable, gauche and greedy, temperamentally unsuited and emotionally unsound.
If you were trying to create in a lab a person with character traits more unbecoming in a president, it would be hard to outdo the one we have.
He continues to have explosive Twitter episodes — presumably in response to some news he finds unflattering or some conspiracy floated by fringe outlets — that make him look not only foolish, but unhinged.
"And when he’s not making explosive charges, he’s taking destructive actions.
He has signed a slew of executive actions to demonstrate his power and signal his administrative direction.
As Business Insider pointed out, as of March 6, “The 45th president has signed 34 executive actions so far, with far-reaching effects on Americans’ lives.” These included “16 executive orders in 45 days.”
In addition, federal agencies and the Republican-controlled Congress have “delayed, suspended or reversed” more than 90 regulations in the short time since President Trump took office, according to a tally by The New York Times.
The Times’s report continued: “The emerging effort — dozens more rules could be eliminated in the coming weeks — is one of the most significant shifts in regulatory policy in recent decades. It is the leading edge of what Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, described late last month as ‘the deconstruction of the administrative state.’”
"Now, Trump and congressional Republicans have locked arms in an effort to ram through a disastrous Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan — attempting to cast doubt on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in the process — that promises to be a boon to insurers and the rich and a bane to the poor and the elderly.
Trumpcare would likely not only be more expensive and cover fewer people, but some people currently in need of care to extend their lives would no longer get it.
Put quite simply: This plan is not only bad, it could be deadly.
Add to these destructive policies the fact that this president and his family are burning through taxpayer funds like it’s Monopoly money.
"As The Hill reported on Saturday, “President Trump paid a visit to one of his golf courses again Saturday, marking apparently his ninth visit to a golf course in the seven weeks since he took office.” The site pointed out, “Trump has made several weekend trips to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., as well, calling the property the ‘Winter White House.’ ”
In February, numerous media outlets pointed out that Trump was spending on travel in a month nearly as much as what the Obamas spent in a year. This doesn’t even include the travel and security costs of Trump’s children or the cost of Trump’s wife and son remaining in Trump Tower in New York, at least for now, which is estimated to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousand of dollars a day.
This was particularly jarring because Trump had been a chief critic of the amount of money the Obamas spent on vacations. Indeed, Trump tweeted in 2012: “President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars — Unbelievable!”
No, what is unbelievable is the staggering nature of the hypocrisy of Trump and his current spending and the near silence of Obama’s conservative critics.
Trump appears to view the Treasury as a personal piggy bank and the presidency as a part-time job.
I think any who have been holding out hope that Trump will eventually change into someone more polished, professional and amenable than the man we have come to know must simply abandon that hope."
These words come from Charles M. Blow in the March 13 New York Times.
One of my biggest fears, though, is that the crazy man running North Korea is going to provoke a nuclear war, and that will be the end for all of us.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March Snowstorm

I am worried about several of the plants in the courtyard.  I planted them last summer:  a Gentian,

eight Phlox plants that should look like this when they are fully blooming:
and also, two Hydrangeas and an Oriental Poppy.
They were tricked by several 70 degree days we had in late February, and they've sprouted their vulnerable green leaves.
They don't stand much of a chance with 19 degree temperatures, which we've been having for a number of nights.
I have been covering them up with burlap and blankets, and now they are blanketed by a foot of snow.
I hope they make it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mid March

We've had terrible weather swings. Some of the summer-looming perennials have begun to emerge, and then the temperature plummets again.  This morning, it is 19 degrees.  I'm covering the most tender ones up overnight, hoping they survive.

Here's a sprightly poem by Richard Kenney:

Sky a shook poncho.
Roof   wrung. Mind a luna moth
Caught in a banjo.

This weather’s witty
Peek-a-boo. A study in

Blues! Blooms! The yodel
Of   the chimney in night wind.
That flat daffodil.

With absurd hauteur
New tulips dab their shadows
In water-mutter.

Boys are such oxen.
Girls! — sepal-shudder, shadow-
Waver. Equinox.

Plums on the Quad did
Blossom all at once, taking
Down the power grid.