Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The voice of its winds

painting: A Walk in the Park    by Karen Mathison Schmidt

Some words from Wendell Berry:

"As I age
in the world it will rise and spread,
and be for this place horizon
and orison, the voice of its winds.
I have made myself a dream to dream
of its rising, that has gentled my nights.
Let me desire and wish well the life
these trees may live when I
no longer rise in the mornings
to be pleased with the green of them
shining, and their shadows on the ground,
and the sound of the wind in them."

-   Wendell Berry, Planting Trees  


Monday, November 26, 2018

Drunk Turkeys

Another November poem, this one by Robert Pack:

"Wild Turkeys in Paradise"

Just down the slope from my own deck,
two apple trees I planted years ago,
now fully grown, stretch out their arms
as if they were enjoying the late warmth
of the November sun.
They bore so many apples that
I let them ripen unplucked on the branch
and fall, according to the rhythm of the year.
Such bounty piled up on the ground
the grazing deer could not
consume them as they rotted and turned brown,
and I could smell their pungency
when the wind blew from the east
until the first snow came and covered them.

Last Sunday, strutting stupid from the woods -- as if
no hunters stalked Vermont --
six turkeys gathered by the trees,
bobbing their jowly heads beneath the snow
to slurp the apple nectar, so fermented that
just twenty minutes later
they were reeling, and their eyes
blazed with amazing knowledge that transported them,
within their bodies, into paradise.

Despite their drunkness,
despite the ice that kept them shifting one foot
to the frozen next,
they kept their balance in a dance
of bumping lightly up against each other,
circling, brushing wings, and then --
as if their inner music paused --
they'd dip their heads back underneath the snow
and lift them up so high
their necks stretched out to twice their length
to let the trickling juice prolong their ecstacy.

And thus unfolds a moral tale:
To be plain stupid is
to be divinely blessed, and lacking that
transcendent gift, an animal as advanced as I
requires a holiday
to cultivate stupidity, to choose
one Sunday morning to know
nothing of ongoing hunger but
my body trembling in the sun,
drunk on itself, so that right here on earth,
right now, I tasted paradise --
as, so to speak, in talking turkey, I now do.

My pilgrim mind has taken flight
and then returned to join
my body stomping in the snow; and so
I raise a toast to say:
I give thanks in behalf of six dazed, drunken birds
that grace the icy view
beneath my apple trees today!

--Robert Pack


Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Face of Grief

Former Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower at JFK's funeral, just after the service at St. Matthew's Cathedral.

I came across this photo today on Twitter. Michael Beschloss, whom I follow, posted it.  He said that
according to , this picture was taken after they saw young JFK Jr. salute his father. On this day, Truman and Ike ended their 11-year feud.

I am expecially struck by the look on Eisenhower' face. He must be looking at the little boy. It speaks volumes.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

President Kennedy has been shot

I was fifteen years old in November of 1963, and I remember that announcement by our school principal as though it were yesterday. 

Over the years , it became a questions we would ask each other: Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated?

It joins similar questions over the generations: Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
Were you at Woodstock? Where were you when the first man landed on the moon?
Where were you on 9/11 ?   

The whole thing about witnessing history.... Were you there?   Then I remember that song we sing on Good Friday:  "Where you there when they crucified my Lord?"

Ten years ago or more, I wrote a poem the spins from that question:

Were you there?

Everything must change.
Put yourself on any road, and something will show itself to you.
Seeing with glasses the first time,
I looked across the street and saw each
leaf on the tree in the rainy October afternoon,
each leaf significant and clear,
each leaf straining for its clarity in the October air.
Specific, yellow, red ,brown and green,
sharp and present.
Even the meanest, most rain beaten leaf
My last apartment had a bay window,
high ceilings, shutters,
and polished wood floors.
It was like a small ballroom
On the round wood table, a vase
with one tawny pink peace rose,
unfolded in the afternoon sun.
I have a way of seeing through my hand.
A silent dark world running parallel to this one
where we stand upon the lawn
and watch the bright stars
dancing overhead.
The air is thick with voices,
as the students write,
one pen writing in the other's ghost.
Without my glasses I have two right hands
twin figure skaters as they hold a pen
so I must touch to see which one is real.
The morning dove speaks deep within her throat.
The river flows by like a giant' s dream,
and if I dipped my hand in, what would come?
An ordinary gesture
carries tremendous weight,
hands on my neck and in my hair.


Whose wealth do I want?
Whose power do I want?
Whose name do I want in my mouth?
Everything was spilled.
Now I am not there again.
I am somewhere clean and orderly,
where everything happens on the inside,
where it can't be seen
in a long anonymous
of paper towels and long hallways.
I remember the years
vivid with stains,
witnesses to messiness,
where everything was out of place,
everything was touch, everything was spilled.
I was somewhere else,
swinging on a swing
in the cold November afternoon, sick of watching
the funeral on television.
The weekend of Woodstock,
I was at a wedding
in a yellow striped circus tent
on an elegant lawn,
a glassed in world,
champagne glasses and butlers, white linen napkins.
When the plane disappeared into the building,
orange chrysanthemum of death
and catastrophe,
I cancelled my trip to the discount store,
watched numbly the man dive headfirst
to the pavement.
It was not before my time,
but it was not in my place.
Just don't ask me to touch those wounds.
They will stain me with your passion
worse than mulberries,
worse, worse than wild blackberries,
worse even than black walnuts,
and I cannot look at my hands like that.
Wine has an undercurrent running through its taste
which makes it wine.
You can see lights through it. There are lights in its taste.
I remember
before I went to school, when I was three,
visiting my mother's ancient aunt
in the Masonic home,
in Elizabethtown Pa.
My father and I walked the foggy
misty gardens.
Many steps,
smell of boxwood.

How does boxwood smell?
Sharp as goldfinch comments,
intimate as bodies close up, crunchy and green,
dark green, that's how boxwoods smell.
And we heard the sad murmur of the mourning doves,
flutelike and saying,
everyone dies, everyone gets old,
most of us get blind.
In the dark hemlock of age,
arbor vitae of love,
blue spruce of winter,
boxwood of borders,
a name that means twin.

I don't want to put my fingers
into the holes in your hands,
and even less do I want to put my hand
into the wound in your side
that speaks death to me like
a misplaced mouth.
I will be glad to say that I believe you are back
from the dark,
and I will be glad to say I believe them when they tell me
they have seen you.








Friday, November 23, 2018

What has changed in 28 years?

Notes from way back
I don’t even remember the year I took these notes, or the topic of the workshop, but before I discard the legal paper, I’m typing them here.

On reading them, I believe this workshop took place before I moved to Emmitsburg in 1999.  Sometime in the early 90’s, I  bet.
Level 1   Myth   Where vision occurs. A non-rational process


Stories ( who formed you? Who called you into religious life?)


Feelings  ( Have they tyrannized us? Have they disabled the mission? Dealing with conflict)




Fears ( that what I have committed my life to will cease to exist)


Level 2:  Belief

The Rational: why are we here? If the Daughters were in charge…

Our challenge: to deal with the mythic level


Identity – purpose before structure

Four ways of looking at change:

1.       Fine tuning; incremental improvements

2.       Adaptation: small changes that occur reactively ( not proactive)

3.       Re-orientation: orient yourself to your founding purpose and make changes and redirections

4.       Re-creation: strategic changes necessitated by life-changing events… radical departure  e.g. emergence of DCNHS
Attend to re-orienting phase. Leadership must raise questions . There must be an incentive to change.  Young people are not interested in the status quo.

Leadership’s function is not therapy.

Enabling and mobilizing the group to fulfill its purpose.

If there is no sacrifice to this life, we will not draw people because they can achieve this elsewhere.

Motivation among caring people. ( Dr. David McClellan)

A motive of one-ness, affiliation…achievement….intimacy
Components of Religious Life

Unfolding of new arms of charity

Special sense by which the qualities of the life of the Daughters of Charity can be seen.

What will the community be like in 2010?

The future of the DC ‘s: elements central to the future of the DC’s

Asked us to draw something.

I drew:  flower gardens in the city.

Distinct: part of their earth, flowering from within them.

God’s grace will transform.

There will be dramatic change.


Authority structure will enable quick response to human need.

Not to be controlled by institutions. Mission effectiveness: are the conduits of the mission and ministry of St. Vincent de Paul?

Avoid the trap of de-institutionalizing…. When they de-institutionalized, they lost the base.

Live the tensions between institutions and mobility.

Some strategy, purpose, and direction…

Does the structure continue to fulfill the ministry?

Leadership: mobilizing people to do adaptive work.

N.B. “I’m for you before you say anything.” That was fostered in our seminary.


Befriend the need – the need to shout!

Vincent had a need to shout!

Realistic assessment of what the needs are and how do they fit in this life.

The Danger of Rationalization.

Come to a greater knowledge of my needs… my vulnerability to authority or anger.

Attitude of fear of the future..

God pledges to meet me all the way along the way.

Reservoir vs. desert spirituality: fill up in the beginning ( reservoir) Desert- I can depend on sustenance all along the way.

The shape of my needs is going to change.

We are vowing in a world and in a self that is changing.

“Dealing with it” – the cards I have are the only game I have. I can’t sit there and say “I don’t like these cards.” The trick is to keep being creative. That’s what dealing with it means. I spend my energy in trying to adjust to what’s in front of me – to keep moving and building some quality in the hand. Is  God  the one who will give me something helpful to work with. Something that will give me life?

God is the one who gives me the power to adjust – the creativity and insight to move things around so that in some way they will start to help me.

I deal with what is given me.

God will be out there in the future with new, life-giving moves.

I am the living stone in the building. Living stone grows in predictable messy life.

Present: dealing with things the way they are. Jesus found God in the midst of things – through reality.


·         Make sense

·         Enmeshed in world

·         I want fullness

·         Life is good


·         Not total sense

·         Not totally world

·         Delayed gratification

·         More

Consider the vows as a form of praying…

Entering into Jesus’ passion for God.

Any prayer extends itself beyond the prayer time.

Openness to the passion of God toward me.

All of life has to grow to…..

To what?  That is the end of my notes. Did I  stop taking notes, or have I lost the rest in all my moves?

Still trying to figure out when I took these notes.  At one point the notes refer to the starting of the DCNHS ( Daughters of Charity National Health System).  When did that start? I think in the early 1990’s.  I know the DCNHS became Ascension Health in 1999 when it merged with the Sisters of St. Joseph system… DCNHS started around 1986.  That would be right.  In 1986, I moved from Charleston SC to  Baltimore. From some other things, then, I deduce that this meeting took place in 1990, and was some kind of visioning for the future.  Oh, little did any of us know how the world would  change, how healthcare would change, and what impact the shrinking number of available Daughters of Charity would affect ministry choices.

So... from 1990 to 2018...  I was 42 years old then, hale and hearty and not looking ahead at all, either at myself or at my religious community. I can't begin to list all the changes.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

There my choices can make some difference

Here's a Thanksgiving poem by Carl Dennis:

Thanksgiving Letter from Harry

I guess I have to begin by admitting
I’m thankful today I don’t reside in a country
My country has chosen to liberate,
That Bridgeport’s my home, not Baghdad.
Thankful my chances are good, when I leave
For the Super Duper, that I’ll be returning.
And I’m thankful my TV set is still broken.
No point in wasting energy feeling shame
For the havoc inflicted on others in my name
When I need all the strength I can muster
To teach my eighth-grade class in the low-rent district.
There, at least, I don’t feel powerless.
There my choices can make some difference.

This month I’d like to believe I’ve widened
My students’ choice of vocation, though the odds
My history lessons on working the land
Will inspire any of them to farm
Are almost as small as the odds
One will become a monk or nun
Trained in the Buddhist practice
We studied last month in the unit on India.
The point is to get them suspecting the world
They know first hand isn’t the only world.

As for the calling of soldier, if it comes up in class,
It’s not because I feel obliged to include it,
As you, as a writer, may feel obliged.
A student may happen to introduce it,
As a girl did yesterday when she read her essay
About her older brother, Ramon,
Listed as “missing in action” three years ago,
And about her dad, who won’t agree with her mom
And the social worker on how small the odds are
That Ramon’s alive, a prisoner in the mountains.

I didn’t allow the discussion that followed
More time than I allowed for the other essays.
And I wouldn’t take sides: not with the group
That thought the father, having grieved enough,
Ought to move on to the life still left him;
Not with the group that was glad he hadn’t made do
With the next-to-nothing the world’s provided,
That instead he’s invested his trust in a story
That saves the world from shameful failure.

Let me know of any recent attempts on your part
To save our fellow-citizens from themselves.
In the meantime, if you want to borrow Ramon
For a narrative of your own, remember that any scene
Where he appears under guard in a mountain village
Should be confined to the realm of longing. There
His captors may leave him when they move on.
There his wounds may be healed,
His health restored. A total recovery
Except for a lingering fog of forgetfulness
A father dreams he can burn away.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

the pollen's traceless retreat

It's the eve of Thanksgiving in the United States. So much to worry about. So much to pray about.
So much to give thanks for.

It's 4PM and already getting dark.

Here is a poem by Jane Hirschfield:

"The November Angels"

Late dazzle
of yellow
the simplified woods,
spare chipping away
of the afternoon-stone
by a small brown finch --
there is little
for them to do,
and so their gossip is
idle, modest:

the Earth-pelt
dapples and flows
with slow bees
that spin
the thick, deep jute
of the gold time's going,
the pollen's
traceless retreat;
enter their kingdom,
their blue crowns on fire,
and feast on the still-wealthy world.

A single, cold blossom
tumbles, fledged
from the sky's white branch.
And the angels
look on,
observing what falls:
all of it falls.

Their hands hold
no blessings,
no word
for those who walk
in the tall black pines,
who do not
feel themselves falling --
the ones who believe
the loved companion
will hold them forever,
the ones who cross through
alone and ask for no sign.

The afternoon
lengthens, steepens,
flares out --
no matter for them.
It is assenting
that makes them angels,
neither increased
nor decreased
by the clamorous heart:
their only work
to shine back,
however the passing brightness
hurts their eyes.

--Jane Hirschfield

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Dark Matter Hurricane is headed our way

I stumbled across this article on the CNN news website.  I won't put it all here, just the gist of it:

A dark matter hurricane is headed our way

By Don Lincoln   posted on CNN

"According to a recent paper, the Earth is caught directly in the crosshairs of a cosmic hurricane. A swarm of nearly 100 stars, accompanied by an even greater amount of dark matter, is aimed directly at our stellar neighborhood and there's nothing we can do to stop it; in fact, the vanguard is already upon us.

.... But is it a danger? Well, actually, no. Not at all. But it's potentially incredibly fascinating, with lots of interesting scientific interconnections. So, what is really going on?

...One of them, called S1 (for stream 1), consists of nearly 100 stars of similar age and composition, orbiting the Milky Way in a direction exactly opposite that of normal stars. It's kind of like a handful of cars driving the wrong way down the highway, except with a much greater distance between them and with no likelihood of a collision. These stars are spread out over a few thousand light years and they will pass through the solar system's neighborhood over the course of a few million years.''

I have no idea what this means.  To compound my mystified mind,  I found this snippet from a 2013 article in the Atlantic monthly by author Megan Garber:

You're Interacting With Dark Matter Right Now   

... But scientists have no idea how.


"Hold up your hand.

Now put it back down.

In that window of time, your hand somehow interacted with dark matter -- the mysterious stuff that comprises the vast majority of the universe. "Our best guess," according to Dan Hooper, an astronomy professor at the University of Chicago and a theoretical astrophysicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, "is that a million particles of dark matter passed through your hand just now."

There's a poem in here somewhere.

Monday, November 19, 2018

On Defenestration

What a great word!   Taking down the window...

Taking down the forest...

I have a soft spot in my heart for Garrison Keillor, even if he has been fired by American Public Radio for sexual misconduct.  

He saved me from dying of depression during those two years I lived in Charleston SC in the 1980's, teaching in a school that didn't appreciate me, living in a convent that smothered me. I retreated into National Public Radio ( and American, and International) and listened to the entire Hobbit/Lord of the Rings saga there, and , every Saturday, the Prairie Home Companion.  Not to mention "Car Talk" , "Songs for Aging Children," "Desert Island Discs" and other great shows.

Anyway... this morning on Facebook, he had a long post, and it included this part:

"At the moment, my house is in chaos because we’re moving from a big roomy house to a smallish apartment, which has brought us face to face with decades of materialism. We now see that we own a great deal of stuff that (1) we don’t use, (2) we have no attachment to, and (3) we need to rid ourselves of. Truckloads of stuff have gone out the door and there is yet more.
My particular problem is the compulsive purchase of books. Shelves of heavy tomes, classics of Western civilization, dozens of dictionaries, atlases, the complete works of great authors, two bookcases of biographies, enough books to occupy all my waking hours until I am four-hundred-and-one years old. I bought them myself, bag by bag, out of the lust for breadth of knowledge and now I am loading them into boxes and hauling them to the car.
I thought it’d be painful, the defenestration of my library, but it is exhilarating --- to feel the burden of my pretensions lighten as I drop my long-running impersonation of an educated man and return to being just another elderly barefoot peasant, one who loves his fireplace on a chill November night and a warm supper with his good wife across the table and some light gossip and then the great pleasure of undressing in the dark and slipping in under the covers and lying next to her and taking her hand. I do not take the complete essays of Michel de Montaigne to bed with me; I would rather have her.
I think it was Montaigne who said that the best sign of wisdom is cheerfulness. I read that when I was in college, at a time when we ambitious literati felt that the true sign of brilliance was agony and desperation, and so we attempted to impersonate it though we were children of privilege --- even I, the postal worker’s son, had the great luxury of an inexpensive college education, financed by me washing dishes in the cafeteria, a liberal arts education that encouraged me to imagine myself as an artist, a novelist. And so I surrounded myself with books.
I think it was also Montaigne who said that you cannot be wise on another man’s wisdom. I could reach for my phone and Google it and get the exact words but I don’t want to let go of her hand. She has spent a busy month clearing out the house and playing viola in the pit at the opera. I was away from home most of last week and she was plagued by insomnia, and now she is falling asleep. A month ago I was an intellectual striving to make intelligent comment on the new world of 2018 and now I am an elderly peasant whose physical presence helps his beloved to sleep. Some would see this as a loss of status; I do not. I lie in the marital bed, her hand relaxes, which makes me happy, and I turn out the light. I imagine myself back to 1948 and Uncle Jim’s farm. He lifts me up onto Prince’s back who is hitched to the hayrack along with Scout. My face is against his mane, my arms around his neck. Off we trot to the meadow to rake up hay, the harness jingling, Uncle Jim clucking to the horses, the sweetness of new-mown grass in my nostrils, and that is all there is, there is no more."

I have written before about the small space in which I live; small in comparison to my childhood friends and college classmates who live in large houses. But at age 70, we all have the need to
declutter... defenestrate.  Like Keillor, my clutter involves books. 

But I just wanted to post his words here, so I can return to them later.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

There is a Languor of the Life

I keep coming back to Emily Dickinson.

Adrienne Rich, in 1975, wrote a powerful essay about Emily Dickinson called "Vesuvius at Home:
The Power of Emily Dickinson."   I have been re-reading that this past week. It came to me to re-read it after my Intro to Poetry class had a 75 minute class/casebook study of some of her poems and some of her letters and some letters about her.  She has been on my mind ever since.

Listen to this passage from the Adrienne Rich essay:

“….Dickinson was convinced that a life worth living could be found within the mind and against the grain of external circumstance: “Reverse cannot befall/ That fine prosperity/ Whose Sources are interior—.” (#395). The horror, for her, was that which set “Staples in the Song” —the numbing and freezing of the interior, a state she describes over and over:

There is a Languor of the Life
More imminent than Pain—
’Tis Pain’s Successor—When the Soul
Has suffered all it can—

A Drowsiness—diffuses—
A Dimness like a Fog
Envelops Consciousness—
As Mists—obliterate a Crag.

The Surgeon—does not blanch—at pain
His Habit—is severe—
But tell him that it ceased to feel—
The Creature lying there—

And he will tell you—skill is late—
A Mightier than He—
Has ministered before Him—
There’s no Vitality.

For the poet, the terror is precisely in those periods of psychic death, when even the possibility of work is negated; her “occupation’s gone.” Yet she also describes the unavailing effort to numb emotion:
Me from Myself—to banish—
Had I Art—
Impregnable my Fortress
Unto All Heart—
But since Myself—assault Me—
How have I peace
Except by subjugating
And since We’re mutual Monarch
How this be
Except by Abdication—
Me—of Me?
This numbness is something that holds me . It's a true comfort zone. But it keeps me from writing poetry with the depth it deserves.   Give me some of your single-minded courage, Emily.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Stone Dog

It's the middle of November, now, and so I am still posting poems about death and remembering the dead:

This one appeared in my book  Vexed Questions:



The Stone Dog


My father and I
wander the Protestant cemetery
examining tombstones. Gravitating toward
a door sized flat stone
with a life sized Labrador
keeping watch
over the bones of his owner.
I’m small enough to ride him,
and I do, while the brown leaves flag me,
while my father smokes and waits.

Even in his absence
I have roamed cemeteries:
Emmitsburg Blandford Kinzers
Mount Saint Mary’s
Oaklands again, Saint Agnes,
West Chester Friends ,
The cemetery of forgotten birthdays
The cemetery of rejected poems
The cemetery of bad choices

Now I stand before my parents’ grave
on a blue sky April day,
gusty winds cough
on the hill high bluff above
Route 100, where
cars fly by.
They're glad to lie there
by the road they rode so often,
the road to Exton
to Morstein
to Atglen
to Gap.
More at the glen, gaping
at a stone dog I searched for last week,
where someone had stolen him.


Friday, November 16, 2018

The moon never beams without bringing me dreams

Painting "Annabel Lee"  by Christian Schloe

Edgar Allan Poe is a favorite with my Intro to Poetry class, and this highly musical poem is in their text.  The painter Christian Schloe is a favorite of mine.

The poem:

Annabel Lee
It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Unbroken forehead from the east

First snow of the season today.

Here's a great snow poem by Emily Dickinson:

It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, —
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.

It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil

On stump and stack and stem, —
The summer’s empty room,
Acres of seams where harvests were,
Recordless, but for them.

It ruffles wrists of posts,
As ankles of a queen, —
Then stills its artisans like ghosts,
Denying they have been.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

After a Line from Ezekiel

Happy to say that this poem, published in Synaeresis-Art and Poetry in June 2018 ,  has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize:

After a Line from Ezekiel 


I keep my Distance from Congress,

from joining this dance,

this trance of doublespeak fast talk,

this prance of  smug smiles.

This tense keeps my future in my past.


Oil of wintergreen, of tic tac,

Interrogates a protein,

Questions if a teenaged temper

Will bring on another war.

What will be the next diaspora?

What spores and spondees

What spontaneous combustion?


These are the remaining tribes:

Secretive Roma gathering their bright shawls of sunset

Apricot and rose colored, gold gleaming,

Silent birders clutching their binoculars,

Stalking the Pine Siskin,

The meadowlark in the tall weeds by the highway,

Shadowy softball girls clothed in their muddy uniforms,

Weeping aides from the crumbled hospices,

Wheeling the loved ones still living.

Shivering Syrian children

Who chew their shoelaces.

These are the exits of the city:

Behind the bombed out grocery store,

Under the ivy shrouded billboard,

Where woods meet river.




Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Acorns and Oaks

Thought for today:

"Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns; but that is of interest only to pigs.  Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we can become oak trees."

-  E.F. Schumacher

Monday, November 12, 2018

Philip Roth Predicted This

Philip Roth

This book was published in 2004; Roth described it as an “exercise in historical imagination” Roth died in May of 2018.
I read the following article in this week's New Yorker  about this book, and how chilling a read it was!
The author is Paige Williams.
I am cutting and pasting the entire article here:
Prescient     by Paige Williams
In Philip Roth’s novel “The Plot Against America,” it is 1940; the famed pilot Charles Lindbergh becomes President and secretly launches a pogrom against Jews. A foreign power, Nazi Germany, interferes in a U.S. election. Journalists are targeted with violence. The Roth family, of Newark, agonizes over the nation’s escalating anti-Semitism. As Hitler decimates Europe, Lindbergh pursues an “America First” policy of nonintervention. Roth said that “Plot,” which was published in 2004, was an “exercise in historical imagination”: he wondered if what happened in Europe could happen here.
Earlier this year, Bernard Schwartz, the director of the 92nd Street Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, contacted Roth and proposed staging a reading of “Plot.” Schwartz would invite nine actors to perform the novel, each delivering an abridged chapter. Roth, a skillful reader of his own work, embraced the idea. He’d watched the election of Donald Trump with horror, telling his friend the New Yorker writer Judith Thurman, “What is most terrifying is that he makes any and everything possible.”
Roth often talked about “the terror of the unforeseen,” Schwartz said. “That terror transcends the perils that continue to face the Jewish community, and extends to any group that finds itself made more vulnerable: Muslim Americans, immigrant populations, poor people, elderly people.”
In May, with the show’s planning under way, Roth, who was eighty-five, died. Then, twenty-seven hours before the performance, scheduled for October 28th, a man with an AR-15 and three handguns killed eleven people during Shabbat services at Tree of Life, a synagogue in Pittsburgh. He told a SWAT officer that “all these Jews need to die.”
In New York, Schwartz added security. Just before 1 P.M. the next day, nine hundred people streamed into the Y’s Upper East Side auditorium, past a guard with a black Labrador retriever. The performance was dedicated to the Pittsburgh dead. The actor Michael Stuhlbarg walked to a lectern onstage and delivered the novel’s opening lines: “Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear. Of course no childhood is without its terrors, yet I wonder if I would have been a less frightened boy if Lindbergh hadn’t been President or if I hadn’t been the offspring of Jews.”
The audience absorbed the novel’s descriptions of the Roth family: the father, an insurance agent; the mother, a PTA leader; the older brother, who can draw. They live in a second-floor flat on Summit Avenue, near genteel Union County, “another New Jersey entirely.” In the darkened auditorium, people chuckled.
Lindbergh, campaigning for President, makes proud declarations about “our inheritance of European blood.” A “rabid constituency” develops, “flourishing all across America.” On the night the Republican Party makes him its nominee, the Roth children are awakened by neighborhood fathers shouting “No!” from “every house on the block.” Stuhlbarg intoned, “The anger that night.”
Chapter 2: President Lindbergh travels to Iceland to meet with Hitler, whom he calls “a great man.” It was impossible not to think of Trump’s meetings with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. The playwright Ayad Akhtar read a passage about “Lindbergh’s spirit hovering over everything.”
In the greenroom, the actors who were going to perform the remaining chapters reviewed their scripts, which had been abridged by the Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro. Shapiro was on hand, occasionally stepping out to gauge the audience’s reactions. The actress Jennifer Ehle sat beneath a wall-mounted monitor showing the performance, marking up her pages. Jon Hamm made coffee.
Maggie Siff, who plays the psychiatrist on “Billions,” studied her chapter, “Bad Days,” which mentions a synagogue bombing in Cincinnati. “The anti-Semites so emboldened,” she read when it was her turn, and “soon my homeland would be nothing more than my birthplace.” On page 122, she’d marked an insertion, made by Shapiro the night before, that mentions “the mayhem in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Buffalo.” Shapiro told Siff, “I realized we can’t cut Pittsburgh now.”
“Every day, it feels like another level of . . . ” Siff started to say.
“And who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Shapiro said. “For a novel to be this prescient is extraordinary. Or maybe the rest of us just didn’t see it coming, and Roth did.”
A stage manager said, “Five minutes.”
“Be right back,” the actor John Turturro said. He went out and read Chapter 4, in which the Roth patriarch tells a Lindbergh-supporting relative, “Not so long ago you couldn’t bear the man either. But now this anti-Semite is your friend. The stock market is up, profits are up, business is booming—and why?” When Turturro returned, Hamm gave him a thumbs-up.
André Holland, who acted in “Moonlight,” read a chapter in which the older Roth brother gets a chance to visit the White House. “I am not impressed by the White House!” his father screams. “The person who lives there is a Nazi.” Hamm, drinking his second cup of coffee, said, “When I read this book, I was, like, When was this written? The parallels are right there.” He added, “I think Roth died from grief.”
Schwartz came in and reminded the actors “There’s no curtain call.”
“Is anybody going to say anything?” asked the actor Scott Shepherd, who was given the book’s final chapter to read.
“No,” Schwartz said.
“Good,” Shepherd said. “Let Roth have the last word.” ♦
This article appears in the print edition of the November 12, 2018, issue, with the headline “Prescient.”
·         Paige Williams, the Laventhol/Newsday Visiting Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 2015.