Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Definition of Gardening

painting:   In the Orchard    by Frantisek Dvorak

I love this poem by James Tate:

The Definition of Gardening

Jim just loves to garden, yes he does.
He likes nothing better than to put on
his little overalls and his straw hat.
He says, "Let's go get those tools, Jim."
But then doubt begins to set in.
He says, "What is a garden, anyway?"
And thoughts about a "modernistic" garden
begin to trouble him, eat away at his resolve.
He stands in the driveway a long time.
"Horticulture is a groping in the dark
into the obscure and unfamiliar,
kneeling before a disinterested secret,
slapping it, punching it like a Chinese puzzle,
birdbrained, babbling gibberish, dig and
destroy, pull out and apply salt,
hoe and spray, before it spreads, burn roots,
where not desired, with gloved hands, poisonous,
the self-sacrifice of it, the self-love,
into the interior, thunderclap, excruciating,
through the nose, the earsplitting necrology
of it, the withering, shriveling,
the handy hose holder and Persian insect powder
and smut fungi, the enemies of the iris,
wireworms are worse than their parents,
there is no way out, flowers as big as heads,
pock-marked, disfigured, blinking insolently
at me, the me who so loves to garden
because it prevents the heaving of the ground
and the untimely death of porch furniture,
and dark, murky days in a large city
and the dream home under a permanent storm
is also a factor to keep in mind."

"Shroud of the Gnome" and “The Definition of Gardening” from Shroud of the Gnome by James Tate.  Copyright © 1997 by James Tate.  Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Source: Shroud of the Gnome (The Ecco Press, 1997)

The Green Lung of the Planet

I don't know if this video can be pasted here, but I will try:

mmmmm.   didn't work

But here are some photos and art:

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The prescience of Immanuel Wallerstein

from Wikipedia:
Immanuel Wallerstein (/ˈwɔːlərstiːn/; born September 28, 1930) is an American sociologist, economic historian and world-systems analyst, arguably best known for his development of the general approach in sociology which led to the emergence of his world-systems approach.

He  gave this as an Address to the President's Forum, "The End of
Modernity,"B ucknellU niversity,S ept. 30, 1993. 

This is just part of the address, but it really hit me.  He describes what's happening now, in 2019,
especially the last two paragraphs, about the ecology and the migration issue:

At the very same time, the socioeconomic underpinnings of the world-system have been seriously weakening. Let me just mention four such trends, which do not exhaust the list of structural transformations.

First, there is a serious depletion of the world pool of available cheap labor. For four centuries now, urban wage laborers have been able repeatedly to use their bargaining power to raise the portion of surplus-value they can obtain for their labor. Capitalists have nonetheless been able to counter the negative effect this has on the rate of profit by expanding, just as repeatedly, the labor pool and thereby bringing into the wage labor market new groups of previously non-waged laborers who were initially ready to accept very low wages. The final geographical expansion of the capitalist world-economy in the late nineteenth century to include the entire globe has forced an acceleration of the process of deruralization of the world labor force, a process that is far advanced and may be substantially completed in the near future. This inevitably means a sharp increase in worldwide labor costs as a percentage of the total cost of worldwide production.

A second structural problem is the squeeze on the middle strata. They have been correctly perceived as a political pillar of the existing world-system. But their demands, on both employers and the states, have been expanding steadily, and the worldwide cost of sustaining a vastly expanded middle stratum at ever higher per personam levels is be-coming too much to bear for both enterprises and state treasuries. This is what is behind the multiple attempts of the last decade to roll back the welfare state. But of two things one. Either these costs are not rolled back, in which case both states and enterprises will be in grave trouble and frequent bankruptcy. Or they will be rolled back, in which case there will be significant political disaffection among precisely the strata that have provided the strongest support for the present world-system.

A third structural problem is the ecological crunch, which poses for the world-system an acute economic problem. The accumulation of capital has for five centuries now been based on the ability of enterprises to externalize costs. This has essentially meant the overutilization of world resources at great collective cost but at virtually no cost to the enterprises. But at a certain point the resources are used up, and the negative toxicity reaches a level that it is not possible to continue. Today we find we are required to invest heavily in cleanup, and we shall have to cut back in usage not to repeat the problem. But it is equally true, as enterprises have been shouting, that such actions will lower the global rate of profit.

Finally, the demographic gap doubling the economic gap between North and South is accelerating rather than diminishing. This is creating an incredibly strong pressure for South to North migratory movement, which in turn is generating an equally strong anti-liberal political reaction in the North. It is easy to predict what will happen. Despite increased barriers, illegal immigration will rise everywhere in the North, as will know-nothing movements. The internal demographic balances of states in the North will change radically and acute social conflict can be expected.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Loneliness of Donald Trump

This is a beautifully written essay.  It is also frighteningly true.  I'm cutting and pasting the whole thing because I want to keep it.

There's also some boxes from LitHub which I can't find a way to delete!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


I love this poem by Naomi Shihab-Nye


 - 1952-
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Intimacy of the sleeping bee

Bee     by Rhonda Lynn

I have seen a bee asleep in the blossom of a cosmos flower... so

I love this poem by Heid Erdrich:

Intimate Detail
Late summer, late afternoon, my work
interrupted by bees who claim my tea,
even my pen looks flower-good to them.
I warn a delivery man that my bees,
who all summer have been tame as cows,
now grow frantic, aggressive, difficult to shoo
from the house. I blame the second blooms
come out in hot colors, defiant vibrancy—
unexpected from cottage cosmos, nicotianna,
and bean vine. But those bees know, I’m told
by the interested delivery man, they have only
so many days to go. He sighs at sweetness untasted.
Still warm in the day, we inspect the bees.
This kind stranger knows them in intimate detail.
He can name the ones I think of as 
shopping ladies.
Their fur coats ruffed up, yellow packages tucked
beneath their wings, so weighted with their finds
they ascend in slow circles, sometimes drop, while
other bees whirl madly, dance the blossoms, ravish
broadly so the whole bed bends and bounces alive.
He asks if I have kids, I say not yet. He has five,
all boys. He calls the honeybees his girls although
he tells me they’re 
ungendered workers
who never produce offspring. Some hour drops,
the bees shut off. In the long, cool slant of sun,
spent flowers fold into cups. He asks me if I’ve ever
seen a 
Solitary Bee where it sleeps. I say I’ve not.
The nearest bud’s a long-throated peach hollyhock.
He cradles it in his palm, holds it up so I spy
the intimacy of the sleeping bee. Little life safe in a petal,
little girl, your few furious buzzings as you stir
stay with me all winter, remind me of my work undone.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Fifth Risk

In his book The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis talks about five risks:

1. An accident with nuclear weapons
2. North Korea
3. Iran
4. The electrical grid - risk from cyber-terrorism
5. the risk we don't imagine: Project Management Program

In its review of the book, the New York Times noted:

In “The Fifth Risk,” Lewis'  heroes are federal bureaucrats.
Why these departments? Well, they are enormous data collection and analysis factories. And Donald Trump either doesn’t care about them or understand what they do, or doesn’t like what he imagines he understands, and has sent minions intent on crippling their work. Lewis believes that essential government functions like protecting nuclear waste (Department of Energy), food safety and feeding the poor (Agriculture) and predicting the weather (Commerce) are under threat. Early on, he introduces us to John MacWilliams — a classic Lewis character — a former investment banker with expertise in the energy sector who is cajoled by Barack Obama’s splendid energy secretary Ernest Moniz to go to work for the government. “Everything was acronyms,” MacWilliams recalls. “I understood 20 to 30 percent of what people were talking about.” But the people were impressive. “There were physicists everywhere. Guys whose ties don’t match their suits. Passive nerds. Guys who build bridges.” And they certainly weren’t in it for the money.
MacWilliams’s job at the D.O.E. was risk assessment. ... At the D.O.E., the risks are potentially cataclysmic — preventing dirty bombs from exploding at the Super Bowl, tracking nuclear weapons so they don’t get lost or damaged (they’re called “Broken Arrows”), preventing plutonium waste at the government’s facility in Hanford, Wash., from leaking into the Columbia River. Lewis asks MacWilliams to list the top five risks. The first four are predictable: Broken Arrows. North Korea. Iran (that is, maintaining the agreement that prevents Iran from building a nuclear bomb). Protecting the electric grid from cyberterrorism. But the fifth, most important risk is a stunner: “program management.” Hence, the title of this book.
“If a hurricane is another night in a bad marriage,” he writes, “a tornado is a blind date.” A metaphor lurks here: Donald Trump is a tornado, witlessly devastating the world that Michael Lewis has come to love and chronicle.

I read this book and I can't stop urging others to read it.  That fifth risk, I think, is the most dangerous part of the Trump "administration" -  their neglect of these crucial government agencies.
One doesn't have to be a spy or a colluder to be a bad president.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Unsettling, Amazing paintings of Andrea Kowch

I came across this woman's art by chance, and I love it.  I have a hankering for paintings on the magical realism spectrum, She fits it.  And they are mostly of midwestern farm women and birds.

Here are a few:

"in the Hollow"

"Light Keepers"

Saturday, August 17, 2019


photo by Kimberly Raadt Higgins

School starts this coming Monday, so even though we have another month of summer, we're on the edge of the new season.

Here's a short poem by Howard Nemerov:

When in still air and still in summertime
A leaf has had enough of this, it seems
To make up its mind to go; fine as a sage
It's drifting in detachment down the road."

-  Howard Nemerov, Threshold 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Feast of the Assumption

Here are some poems for the Feast of the Assumption:

What does it mean, this assumption?
For her it was simply a matter of following
Her son to where his lights led her,
Follow before the worms got at her
Or that musty underground smell.
She followed him to a portico near the big stars
To look out over a night and a universe also.
They sat there in silence deep as a well
As they once sat in Nazareth counting the stars.
They watched and saw an old star sputtering
And a new star spinning out into the spaces
That lapped her like cool black waters.
Her son said, "This is for ever"
And she, with heart listening,
Sought to believe him.
– Edward Seifert. Emmanuel. July 1985, page 311.

Assumption - Mother of All on High, Pray for Us Yet
Nothing is left me here. The world's a corridor,
vacant, echoing the great ones' passage through.
It is closed doors in rows: behind them, murmuring
of a second generation's other businesses.
Once I felt the kick of God within:
nothing else seemed great once that had been.
Your will is done,
and henceforth I will be
a silent smiling lady in a tapestry.
Your will is done,
and henceforth I am known
as a painted tiptoe figure in a pointed arch of stone.
Your will be done:
henceforth I watch with all
God's heroes in their sad unsleeping vigil
for earth's ball.
– Timothy Chappell. New Blackfriar, June 1996, page 287.

A Middle English Poem about the Assumption:

Crist sayde to hur:
“Com, my swete, com, my flour,
Com, my culver, myn owne boure,
Com, my modyr, now wyth me:
For hevyn qwene I make thee.”
Then the body sat up, and lowted to Crist, and sayde:
“My swete sonne, with al my love
I com wyth thee to thyn above;
Wher thou art now, let me be,
For al my love ys layde on thee.”

Christ visited the body of Mary, and said:
“Come my sweet, come my flower,
Come my dove, come my bower,
Come, my mother, now with me,
For heaven’s Queen I make thee.”
Then the body sat up, bowed to Christ, and said:
“My sweet son, with all my love
I come with you to heaven above:
Where you are now, let me be
For all my love I lay on thee.”
tr. Thomas L. Macdonald