Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday in Spring

painting: Creek in March on a blustery day   by  Hilary England

Two poems for the last day of March


"Each leaf,
each blade of grass
vies for attention.
Even weeds
carry tiny blossoms
to astonish us."

- Marianne Poloskey, Sunday in Spring 

What I Pray For
 by Dennis O’Donnell

Sacks of rocks
I have gathered from the beach,
 some of which I used to toss
my own I Ching,
 stones representing
fire, water, wind, and the rest,
 some of them with strange,
man-like markings, like circles,
probably formed by little pools of sea water,
 dried by the sun,
 leaving behind a round stain of salt.

 Stacks of poems,
sacks of rocks,
 milk crates full of books
full of baloney:
I can’t let them go, not yet,
 but I lie in bed and plead with God
 to empty out my past, all of it,
 at least all of the bad,
set me free,
flush out
all the shame and rage and heartache,
 but please, not the finger-paints,
 not baseball and my best friends.

 Deal, He says,
 but all the rocks must go.
 No tarot cards, and no metaphysical bull.

 Fine, I say.
 I have a look at my bookcase.
 I see Rumi, Suzuki, Lao Tzu, and two Bibles.
So: who will throw the first stone?

Source:  “What I Pray For” by Dennis O’Donnell from America Magazine

Saturday, March 30, 2019

A Tattered Penitence

Black Bowl   by George Seeley

.Here's a wonderful poem for Lent, by William F. Bell:

Night Thoughts         by William F. Bell

 It is our emptiness and lowliness that God needs, and not our plenitude. —Mother Teresa

Somehow by day,
no matter what,
 I patch myself together whole,
 But all my effort can’t offset
 The nightly nakedness of soul
 When angels in a dark descent
 Strip off my integument.

 I am a cornered rebel pinched
Between night’s armies and my lack,
 And when inside the bedclothes hunched
 I feel the force of their attack,
 I hardly know what I can do,
 Exposed to God at half-past two.

 I once believed my being full,
But night thoughts prove that it is not.
Waking scared and miserable,
 I scrape the bottom of the pot
 And then must bow down and confess
 Totality of emptiness.

Kings once ventured, it is said,
To offer gold and frankincense,
 But I send nothing from my bed
Except a tattered penitence,
 So very little has accrued
From years of doubtful plenitude.
 God who tear away my cover,
 Oh, pour your Spirit into me
 Until my emptiness runs over
 With golden superfluity,
 And I bow down and offer up
 Yourself within my earthen cup.

Source: “Night Thoughts” by William Bell from America Magazine,  Vol. 187 No. 18

Friday, March 29, 2019


I am increasingly convinced that email , Facebook, and my iPhone use are shortening my attention span and making me even more prone to distractibility.  This must be true of many Americans.
The memes are funny, but the effect on citizenship are frightening.

Here is an essay about distraction from the Washington Post from the summer of 2017.  I think it still applies:

Everything is a distraction from something much, much worse


By Catherine Rampell Opinion writer    Washington Post


July 13,2017

"Americans, you need to start paying attention. Like, really paying attention — to the issues that actually matter.

Stop getting distracted!

Take this Russian collusion nonsense. Lots of Americans are obsessed with it, but it’s just a shiny distraction.

Yeah, sure, it looks as though members of the Trump campaign lied repeatedly, including on live TV and in Senate testimony and on security clearance forms, about their contacts with Russians. It looks as though they may have been eager to get their hands on possibly illegally obtained information from a hostile nation. “I love it,” Donald Trump Jr. wrote when offered dirt on Hillary Clinton explicitly offered as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

But that’s merely what the nine-dimensional-chess players in the White House want you to be obsessing over.

Focusing on the terrible things Team Trump did during the campaign and transition conveniently distracts you from all the terrible things Team Trump is doing during the presidency.

The administration is repealing consumer and environmental protections left and right. The Education Department is making it easier for for-profit colleges to defraud students. The Environmental Protection Agency has delayed an air pollution rule that the agency had determined would likely prevent the poisoning of children.

The Trump deregulatory team is rife with former lobbyists and others who have conflicts of interest. President Trump and his family members likewise appear to be financially benefiting from his role in the White House.


Yet fussing over regulatory decisions and vaguely sleazy behavior is itself a distraction from an even more important issue: the fact that Republicans are trying to remake one-sixth of the U.S. economy, largely in secret, while ripping health insurance away from 22 million Americans.


They’re laying out changes opposed by insurers, providers and patient advocacy groups.  They are doing so with no hearings and no expert input, and reportedly with a scheme to sideline the one neutral referee of the law’s potential impact, the Congressional Budget Office. Attention must be paid!


However, all the noise over “health-care reform” is itself a ruse intended to distract voters from Republicans’ real policy agenda: tax cuts for the rich.


The entire point of the Obamacare repeal, at least for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), is to pave the way for tax cuts. Slashing Medicaid and tax subsidies for people on the individual insurance market would help offset the costs of repealing taxes on rich people imposed by the Affordable Care Act.


The latest Senate health-care bill has complicated that plan somewhat, but plans for major tax cuts for rich people and corporations are still advancing behind the scenes and garnering precious little news coverage.


What scant awareness is being given to tax cuts, however, is diverting the public’s deficient attention from a far more insidious scheme: efforts to systematically undermine democratic values and institutions.


There’s the Election Integrity Commission’s fishing expedition for state voter data — which may have been deliberately bungled in an attempt to distract voters from Republicans’ real, secret goal of dismantling the National Voter Registration Act, or “Motor Voter” law.


There are also the unending attacks on freedom of the press and other First Amendment rights. This includes a fight picked with MSNBC hosts, which White House aides lamented as a distraction from the far more important fight with CNN.


But wait. All of this silliness is really a form of misdirection so that Americans will forget North Korea recently fired an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting Alaska. And that no one is even nominated for critical diplomatic and national security posts, such as ambassador to South Korea and assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation.

But worry about such personnel vacancies is of course a distraction from the fact that the man at the top of the food chain is impulsively tweeting out provocations to both enemies and allies.


And Trump’s tasteless Twitter feed is also cleverly designed to distract you from noticing that an iceberg nearly the size of Delaware just broke off Antarctica.


Getting drawn into a debate about whether climate change is to blame, and whether American global leadership could make a difference either way, would surely sidetrack us from the vital question of whether our president is in hock to Russia.


And second verse, same as the first.


Welcome to 2017, the ouroboros of distractions, where every terrible thing is a head-fake for a ruse for a diversion for a misdirection from something else much, much worse."

Thursday, March 28, 2019

next to of course god

This poem, written in 1926 by e e cummings, reminds me of Donald Trump:

 "next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

These are just a few of the great political cartoons.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Forty feeding like one

I am depressed today because Donald Trump is gloating over his seeming reprieve from the Mueller report, and because he is planning so many life-destroying actions which will benefit the rich and make life so much worse for the poor.

I pray for his conversion and for our country.

In the meantime, though, it is Spring...   and here are two more March poems. This first one is from
William Wordsworth:

"The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter,
The green field sleeps in the sun;
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one! 
Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The Plowboy is whooping-anon-anon:
There's joy in the mountains;
There's life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
The rain is over and gone!"

-   William Wordsworth, March

and this one, from Rilke:

"Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows' wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tendernesses,

hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees."

-  Rainer Marie Rilke, Early Spring  





Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A light exists in Spring

photo by Martin Dolan

Two more March poems, the first, by Emily Dickinson:


"A light exists in Spring
Not present in the year
at any other period
When March is scarcely here."
-  Emily Dickinson 

The second one, by Christina Rossetti:

Gone were but the Winter,
Come were but the Spring,
I would go to a covert
Where the birds sing;

Where in the whitethorn
Singeth a thrush,
And a robin sings
In the holly-bush.

Full of fresh scents
Are the budding boughs
Arching high over
A cool green house:

Full of sweet scents,
And whispering air
Which sayeth softly:
We spread no snare;

Here dwell in safety,
Here dwell alone,
With a clear stream
And a mossy stone.

Here the sun shineth
Most shadily;
Here is heard an echo
Of the far sea,
Though far off it be."
-  Christina Rossetti, Spring Quiet 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The month of expectation

Two more March poems, the first, from Emily Dickinson:


"March is the month of expectation,
The things we do not know,
The Persons of Prognostication
Are coming now.
We try to sham becoming firmness,
But pompous joy
Betrays us, as his first betrothal
Betrays a boy."

-  Emily Dickinson, XLVIII


 the second, from Grace Paley:

"This hill
crossed with broken pines and maples
lumpy with the burial mounds of
uprooted hemlocks (hurricane
of ’38) out of their
rotting hearts generations rise
trying once more to become
the forest

just beyond them 
tall enough to be called trees 
in their youth like aspen a bouquet 
of young beech is gathered

they still wear last summer’s leaves  
the lightest brown almost translucent 
how their stubbornness has decorated  
the winter woods"

-  Grace Paley, A Walk in March


Art:   Moon Tree  by Lupi

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Scarcely the day to take a walk

photo by Chris Cheadle

Two more March poems, this one by John Clare, many centuries ago:

"The spring is coming by many a sign;
The trays are up, the hedges broken down
That fenced the haystack, and the remnant shines
Like some old antique fragment weathered brown.
And where suns peep, in every sheltered place,
The little early buttercups unfold
A glittering star or two- till many trace
The edges of the blackthorn clumps in gold.
And then a little lamb bolts up behind
The hill, and ways his tail to meet the yoe;
And then another, sheltered from the wind,
Lies all his length as dead - and lets me go
Close by, and never stirs, but basking lies,
With legs stretched out as though he could not rise."

-  John Clare, Young Lambs

and this one, much more like the weather today, by Elizabeth Bishop, from the 20th century:


"It was cold and windy, scarcely the day
to take a walk on that long beach
Everything was withdrawn as far as possible,
indrawn: the tide far out, the ocean shrunken,
seabirds in ones or twos.
The rackety, icy, offshore wind
numbed our faces on one side;
disrupted the formation
of a lone flight of Canada geese;
and blew back the low, inaudible rollers
in upright, steely mist."

-  Elizabeth Bishop, The End of March 

photo by Martin Ruegner


Friday, March 22, 2019

Equal Dark, Equal Light

full moon March 20

"Equal dark, equal light
Flow in Circle, deep insight
Blessed Be, Blessed Be
The transformation of energy!
So it flows, out it goes
Three-fold back it shall be
Blessed Be, Blessed Be
The transformation of energy!"
-   Night An'Fey, Transformation of Energy 

"The word 'March' comes from the Roman 'Martius'. This was originally the first month of the Roman calendar and was named after Mars, the god of war.  March was the beginning of our calendar year. We changed to the 'New Style' or 'Gregorian calendar in 1752, and it is only since then when we the year began on 1st January. The Anglo-Saxons called the month Hlyd monath which means Stormy month, or Hraed monath which means Rugged month. All through Lent the traditional games played are marbles and skipping. The games were stopped on the stroke of twelve noon on Good Friday, which in some places was called Marble Day or Long Rope Day.  The game of marbles has been played for hundreds of years and some historians say that it might have been started by rolling eggs. In the past, round stones, hazelnuts, round balls of baked clay and even cherry stones have been used."
Facts About March  


Monday, March 18, 2019

First Time Solitaire Player

I have been subscribing to the wonderful Jacquie Lawson online cards for at least four years now.
One very inexpensive yearly charge and I can send an unlimited number of these on any and every occasion.  And they are so inventive and lovely!

So just in the last week, I sent in $5 and purchased her "English Garden"  , an interactive - what shall I call it?  Delightful fantasy garden setup. It includes a number of games/activities as well, and one of them is Solitaire, or "Patience" as the Brits call it. 

I have reached the age of 70 without ever learning to play this card game.  So now I am learning, and losing every game!  It's quite addictive; I am glad I never played it before!   However, it is a good game to play while recovering from surgery!

here is part of the English Garden scene.
Here are the rules
Here is the game.   By playing this, I hope to keep dementia at bay! I hope also that a poem or two comes out of my struggle.

Here's a piece about it that John Updike wrote in 1972:

The New Yorker, January 22, 1972 P. 26
A man sits playing solitaire. He has reached a point in his life where there is nothing to do but play solitaire. It is the perfect, final retreat, with nothing beyond it but madness. Only solitaire creates that blankness into which a saving decision might flow. He has to choose between his wife and his mistress. The week after he graduated from college, he returned to the Vermont farm where his mother sat playing solitaire every night. He was already married. As he sat that night playing cards, he drew a straight line from that night to the night of his death and began walking on it. He rapidly gave his wife children, to make his escape irrevocable, and because he wished them a less solitary life than he had had. He hoped that his mistress and his wife would dissolve into each other, become one person, so that he would not have to make a decisions The only way left to choose is on the simple turn of a card, for he is faced with a problem without solution. There are two cards remaining in his hand. He turns one over. The ten of hearts for his wife, a strong card. He tears up the other, only then noticing that it is the black ace he needs to win the game. But he is not a superstitious man. He will not change his mind. He sits and waits for grief to be laid upon him.

And here's a poem about it by Sam Riviere:


I think I always liked the game
because it sounded like my name
combined with the concept of alone.
(My name really does mean “alone”
in Slovenian!) We don’t actually care
if it’s true, but we want to know
the person telling us is telling us
the truth. Say his name is “Hank,”
as in, “of hair.” (It’s not.) My upbringing
was classically smooth/chaotic, apart
from traumatic events I’ve never detailed,
even to myself. Traumatic but methodical.
But why say what happened even.
In the tech block the blinds were down
and I cleared my way to the final marble
under the indistinct gaze of an indistinct
master. My success had allowed me
to become the bastard I always knew
I could be. What did it mean, to clean
the board like this, counting down to one?
By these gradual and orderly subtractions
my persona was configured. The goal
was to remain single. Sometimes telling you
the truth wouldn’t be telling you anything
much. For a while I’ve felt torpid and detuned,
as if I want to share a view with you,
so we can both be absent in one place.
Look, the sky is beautiful and sour.
I’m not here, too. I’m staring out of this cloud
like an anagram whose solution
is probably itself. I am only the method
that this stupid game was invented to explain.

Source: Poetry (October 2014)                   
I'll see what I come up with.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

The bright shillings of March


For St. Patrick's Day, here's one from the 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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

On this day last year

I took the train from Paris to Chartres.  It was a Friday in Lent, and on those Fridays, they take the chairs off the Labyrinth, which is designed right into the cathedral floor.

Not too many other people there.  I walked it.

Later, I wrote this poem:


Thin Place


I walk the labyrinth at Chartres.

The subtle knife can cut the veil.

I hear the whisper on the other side.

I stretch my hand and touch the air.


The subtle knife can cut the veil

where walls are thin as plastic wrap.

I stretch my hand and touch the air.

Heaven and earth just feet apart


where walls are thin as plastic wrap.

So glad to have the eyes to touch

heaven and earth just feet apart,

where eerie ears can hear the veil.


So glad to have the eyes to touch

a humming in the silent air

where eerie ears can hear the veil

the place itself has called to me.


A humming in the silent air

I hear the whispers on the other side

The place itself has called to me

I walk the labyrinth at Chartres.


In his essay  "Touching the Veil of Thin Places", Jean-Paul Bedard said:
"The Celtic Christians believed that there were mystical spaces, called “thin places,” where the veil between the holy and the human is traversed. A place in which the physical and spiritual worlds are knit together, and if we are so attuned, we can transcend the ordinary for a glimpse of the infinite. I’m sure you’ve been in such places jarring with kinetic energy, and simply by your presence, you are in someway changed.
"Thin Places are not necessarily sacred places, or peaceful places. I consider them to be places of dissonance, or transformational plateaus. The energy that flows through me is an experience that leaves my heart open — more grateful, more empathetic, and less alone. It’s a disarming feeling of being brought to your own attention, knowing that you are forever changed by the experience. "




Friday, March 15, 2019

Terrorist Attack in New Zealand


My poet friend Mary Ann Corbett posted this:

I fall back on Auden when the news is too awful to bear.
Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.
If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.
There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.
The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.
Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.
Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A mild March afternoon

Kosachek       The art of slowness

Here's a March poem from Antonio Machado:


"The afternoon is bright,
with spring in the air,
a mild March afternoon,
with the breath of April stirring,
I am alone in the quiet patio
looking for some old untried illusion -
some shadow on the whiteness of the wall
some memory asleep
on the stone rim of the fountain,
perhaps in the air
the light swish of some trailing gown."

-  Antonio Machado, 1875-1939
   Selected Poems, #3, Translated by Alan S. Trueblood

Shuang Li      First Sign of Spring

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

That's how the light gets in

Emerson's Cup      painting by John Slaby

Here's one of Leonard Cohen's wonderful songs:




The birds they sang at the break of day Start again,

I heard them say, Don’t dwell on what has passed away or what is yet to be.


The wars they will be fought again The holy dove be caught again bought and sold and bought again; the dove is never free.


Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.


We asked for signs the signs were sent: the birth betrayed, the marriage spent; the widowhood of every government – signs for all to see.


Can’t run no more with that lawless crowd while the killers in high places say their prayers out loud. But they’ve summoned up a thundercloud.

They’re going to hear from me.


Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.


You can add up the parts but you won’t have the sum You can strike up the march, there is no drum. Every heart to love will come but like a refugee.


Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Out of what immense goodbye

Joseph Stella      Another Dance of Spring

I love this poem by Li-Young Lee.  It's called "Nativity" but is about inner birth, which I associate with both Lent and Spring:



Li-Young Lee


In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world?

just to hear his sister

promise, An unfinished wing of heaven,

just to hear his brother say, A house inside a house,

but most of all to hear his mother answer, One more song, then you go to sleep.


How could anyone in that bed guess the question finds its beginning in the answer long growing

inside the one who asked, that restless boy, the night's darling?


Later, a man lying awake, he might ask it again, just to hear the silence charge him, This night

arching over your sleepless wondering,


this night, the near ground

every reaching-out-to overreaches,


just to remind himself out of what little earth and duration,

out of what immense good-bye,


each must make a safe place of his heart, before so strange and wild a guest as God approaches.

Monday, March 11, 2019

I am drowning in a stormier sea

Here's a poem/prayer by Oscar Wilde:

E Tenebris[1]



                Come down, O Christ, and help me![2] reach thy hand,             

                            For I am drowning in a stormier sea  

                            Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee:[3]

                The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,             

My heart is as some famine-murdered land,

            Whence all good things have perished utterly,                       And well I know my soul in Hell must lie   If I this night before God’s throne should stand.     

“He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,  

                            Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name

                            From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.”[4] 

Nay, peace, I shall behold before the night,  

            The feet of brass,[5] the robe more white than flame,[6]             The wounded hands, the weary human face.

Eleni Dadi     Christ Calming the Storm