Saturday, April 17, 2004


I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled--
Some thousands--on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies;--
Death is but one and comes but once,
And only nails the eyes.

There's grief of want, and grief of cold,--
A sort they call 'despair;'
There's banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly, yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross,
Of those that stand alone,
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.

-Emily Dickinson

Friday, April 16, 2004

La Poésie à Clef:


Viens, mon beau chat, sur mon coeur amoureux;
Retiens les griffes de ta pate,
Et lasse-moi plonger dans tes beaux yeux,
Mêlés de métal et d'agate.

Lorsque mes doigts carressent à loisir
Ta tête et ton dos élastique,
Et que ma main s'enivre du plaisir
De palper ton corps électrique,

Je vois ma femme en esprit. Son regard,
Comme le tien, aimable bête,
Profond et froid, coupe et fend comme u n dard,

Et, des pieds jusques à la tête,
Un air subtil, un dangereux parfum
Nagent autour de son corps brun.



Come, my beautiful cat, rest on my loving breast;
Pull you claws back into your paw,
And let me dive into your lovely eyes,
Flecked with metal and agate.

While my fingers take their time in caressing
Your head and your elastic back,
And my hand grows drunk from the pleasure
Of touching your body electric.

I see my wife in spirit. Her gaze,
Like yours, agreeable beast,
Deep and cold, cuts and pierces like a dart,

And from toe to head,
A subtle feeling, a dangerous scent
Swims about her dusky body.

Any appreciation of cats worth its salt wouldn't be complete without at least one entry from Old Possum's, now, would it?

The Naming Of Cats
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover--
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

Thomas Stearns Eliot

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I wonder, particularly, about my girl cat - she's an odd combination of grouchy and dainty. She doesn't seem terribly bright. Though her Christian name is Ampersand, we all call her the Angry Mop. She doesn't care for female humans (maul'd too many times by maids' fists?), but loves males to distraction. The best way I can describe her relationship with my roommate is, to quote another great literary figure, 'a love that goes against fate and ban.'


Cat! who hast pass'd thy grand climacteric,
How many mice and rats hast in thy days
Destroy'd?- How many tit bits stolen? Gaze
With those bright languid segments green, and prick
Those velvet ears- but pr'ythee do not stick
Thy latent talons in me- and upraise
Thy gentle mew- and tell me all thy frays
Of fish and mice, and rats and tender chick.
Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists-
For all the wheezy asthma,- and for all
Thy tail's tip is nick'd off- and though the fists
Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,
Still is that fur as soft as when the lists
In youth thou enter'dst on glass-bottled wall.

-John Keats

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I'm a bit disappointed. I just received my National Poetry Month poster from the Academy of American Poets. (Yes, two weeks late, but what do you expect? Firstly, they're poets, not businesspeople. Secondly, you get what you pay for, and this was free.) Milton Glaser Designed this year's offering, and beautiful it is. The problem is, it's not very descriptive or evocative. In fact, one could argue that, given the word arrangement and the color scheme, it's rather difficult to read. Not very good if you're wanting to promote poetry or the reading of poetry.
It would stand to reason that, being a single female over 30, I'd have more than one cat, wouldn't it? I'm not the only one to revere my soft-pelted but prickly-personalitied companions, either.

The History of One Tough Motherfucker

he came to the door one night wet thin beaten and
a white cross-eyed tailless cat
I took him in and fed him and he stayed
grew to trust me until a friend drove up the driveway
and ran him over
I took what was left to a vet who said,"not much
chance...give him these pills...his backbone
is crushed, but is was crushed before and somehow
mended, if he lives he'll never walk, look at
these x-rays, he's been shot, look here, the pellets
are still there...also, he once had a tail, somebody
cut it off..."

I took the cat back, it was a hot summer, one of the
hottest in decades, I put him on the bathroom
floor, gave him water and pills, he wouldn't eat, he
wouldn't touch the water, I dipped my finger into it
and wet his mouth and I talked to him, I didn't go any-
where, I put in a lot of bathroom time and talked to
him and gently touched him and he looked back at
me with those pale blue crossed eyes and as the days went
by he made his first move
dragging himself forward by his front legs
(the rear ones wouldn't work)
he made it to the litter box
crawled over and in,
it was like the trumpet of possible victory
blowing in that bathroom and into the city, I
related to that cat-I'd had it bad, not that
bad but bad enough

one morning he got up, stood up, fell back down and
just looked at me.

"you can make it," I said to him.

he kept trying, getting up falling down, finally
he walked a few steps, he was like a drunk, the
rear legs just didn't want to do it and he fell again, rested,
then got up.

you know the rest: now he's better than ever, cross-eyed
almost toothless, but the grace is back, and that look in
his eyes never left...

and now sometimes I'm interviewed, they want to hear about
life and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed,
shot, runover de-tailed cat and I say,"look, look
at this!"

but they don't understand, they say something like,"you
say you've been influenced by Celine?"

"no," I hold the cat up,"by what happens, by
things like this, by this, by this!"

I shake the cat, hold him up in
the smoky and drunken light, he's relaxed he knows...

it's then that the interviews end
although I am proud sometimes when I see the pictures
later and there I am and there is the cat and we are photo-
graphed together.

he too knows it's bullshit but that somehow it all helps.

-Charles Bukowski

Here's a bit of catblogging, too.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Let's hear it for Opening Day! We weren't able to go to Friday's game, but on Sunday, Hal caught a few innings at Fenway. He made it home maybe halfway through the game, though, since it was so cold out. We listened to the rest on Sports Radio.

Happily, at the bottom of the 12th, Ortiz took the advice I hollered at the radio and sent one over the Monster. The Sox beat the Jays 6-4.

I know that it's too early in the season to be jaded or disillusioned, and I'm not. But to be a Sox fan is to be a fatalist. I'll always love them, but I'm prepared to have my heart broken.

Casey at the Bat

(A Ballad of the Republic. Sung in the Year 1888).

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought if only Casey could but get a whack at that --
We'd put up even money now with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake.
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat.
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Johnnie safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place,
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile on Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped --
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, bleak with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm waves on a worn and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone in the stands,
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, "Strike two."

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and the echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clinched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh! somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville -- mighty Casey has struck out.

-Ernest Lawrence Thayer
When Pablo mentioned the sonnet #130 from the Dark Lady series - my mind immediately flew to this 'hymn' Neruda wrote to his wife. There is no flowery language, no hyperbole in describing her, just like Shakespeare's work. She is not the most beautiful in the world, certainly not perfect. Just perfect for him. Yes, I'll admit it. My heart flutters when I read these words.

La Reina

Yo te he nombrado reina.
Hay mas altas que tu, mas altas.
Hay mas puras que tu, mas puras.
Hay mas bellas que tu, hay mas bellas.
Pero tu eres la reina.

Cuando vas por las calles
nadie te reconoce.
Nadie ve tu corona
de cristal, nadie mira
la alfombra de oro rojo
que pisas donde pasas,
la alfombra que no existe.

Y cuando asomas
suenan todos los ríos
de mi cuerpo, sacuden
el cielo las campanas,
y un himno llena el mundo.

Solo tu y yo,
solo tu y yo,
amor mio,
lo escuchamos.

-Pablo Neruda

The Queen

I have named you Queen.
There are others higher than you, higher.
There are others purer than you, purer.
There are others more beautiful than you, more beautiful.

But you are the queen.

When you wander the streets,
no one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown. No one sees
the carpet of red-gold that you step on
when you pass by.
The carpet that does not exist.

And when you appear,
Ripples form in all the rivers in my body.
Bells rattle the skies
And a hymn of praise fills the world.

Only you and I,
Only you and I, My Love,
Hear it.

-my translation
First is another Shakespeare Sonnet with commentary from Pablo.

One of the "Dark Lady" sonnets, which are about an infatuation with a woman who is alluring but not conventionally beautiful. A satire disavowing the conventional hyperboles of sonneteering (which the poet nonetheless indulges in elsewhere). See Sonnet 21 for another such satire.

To understand the last line, read "she" as a noun meaning "a female," so that "any she" is the object of "belied."

More commentary on this sonnet.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.
Easter sort of trumped everything this weekend, so you're getting a three-fer today! Happy Monday! Happy Spring!