Thursday, April 30, 2009

My, how the month flew by. Figured that I'd close up shop for another year with a favorite Shakespeare Monologue:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." — Jaques (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166)


Until next year!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There have been many almost unbearably beautiful days this Spring. Have been reveling in the gorgeousness.

God's World

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart. Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year.
My soul is all but out of me, let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


(this morning

i had a banana,
two apples,
and a spoonful of
damson plum jam;

was a good start for a hot day.)

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

- William Carlos Williams

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Poem about Law, as opposed to 'justice' (whatever the hell that means nowadays).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been!”

A sad one from my dad.

Maud Muller

Maud Muller, on a summer’s day,
Raked the meadow sweet with hay.

Beneath her torn hat glowed the wealth
Of simple beauty and rustic health.

Singing, she wrought, and her merry glee
The mock-bird echoed from his tree.

But when she glanced to the far-off town,
White from its hill-slope looking down,

The sweet song died, and a vague unrest
And a nameless longing filled her breast,

A wish, that she hardly dared to own,
For something better than she had known.

The Judge rode slowly down the lane,
Smoothing his horse’s chestnut mane.

He drew his bridle in the shade
Of the apple-trees, to greet the maid,

And ask a draught from the spring that flowed
Through the meadow across the road.

She stooped where the cool spring bubbled up,
And filled for him her small tin cup,

And blushed as she gave it, looking down
On her feet so bare, and her tattered gown.

“Thanks!” said the Judge; “a sweeter draught
From a fairer hand was never quaffed.”

He spoke of the grass and flowers and trees,
Of the singing birds and the humming bees;

Then talked of the haying, and wondered whether
The cloud in the west would bring foul weather.

And Maud forgot her brier-torn gown,
And her graceful ankles bare and brown;

And listened, while a pleased surprise
Looked from her long-lashed hazel eyes.

At last, like one who for delay
Seeks a vain excuse, he rode away.

Maud Muller looked and sighed: “Ah me!
That I the Judge’s bride might be!

“He would dress me up in silks so fine,
And praise and toast me at his wine.

“My father should wear a broadcloth coat;
My brother should sail a painted boat.

“I’d dress my mother so grand and gay,
And the baby should have a new toy each day.

“And I’d feed the hungry and clothe the poor
And all should bless me who left our door.”

The Judge looked back as he climbed the hill,
And saw Maud Muller standing still.

“A form more fair, a face more sweet
Ne’er hath it been my lot to meet.

“And her modest answer and graceful air
Show her wise and good as she is fair.

“Would she were mine, and I to-day,
Like her, a harvester of hay

“No doubtful balance of rights and wrongs,
Nor weary lawyers with endless tongues,

“But low of cattle and song of birds,
And health and quiet and loving words.”

But he thought of his sisters proud and cold,
And his mother vain of her rank and gold.

So, closing his heart, the judge rode on,
And Maud was left in the field alone.

But the lawyers smiled that afternoon,
When he hummed in court an old love-tune;

And the young girl mused beside the well,
Till the rain on the unraked clover fell,

He wedded a wife of richest dower,
Who lived for fashion, as he for power.

Yet oft, in his marble hearth’s bright glow,
He watched a picture come and go;

And sweet Maud Muller’s hazel eyes
Looked out in their innocent surprise.

Oft, when the wine in his glass was red,
He longed for the wayside well instead;

And closed his eyes on his garnished rooms
To dream of meadows and clover-blooms.

And the proud man sighed, with a secret pain,
“Ah, that I were free again!

“Free as when I rode that day,
Where the barefoot maiden raked her hay.”

She wedded a man unlearned and poor,
And many children played round her door.

But care and sorrow, and childbirth pain,
Left their traces on heart and brain.

And oft, when the summer sun shone hot
On the new-mown hay in the meadow lot,

And she heard the little spring brook fall
Over the roadside, through the wall;

In the shade of the apple-tree again
She saw a rider draw his rein.

And gazing down with timid grace
She felt his pleased eyes read her face.

Sometimes her narrow kitchen walls
Stretched away into stately halls;

The weary wheel to a spinnet turned,
The tallow candle an astral burned,

And for him who sat by the chimney lug,
Dozing and grumbling o'er pipe and mug,

A manly form at her side she saw,
And joy was duty and love was law.

Then she took up her burden of life again,
Saying only, “it might have been.”

Alas for maiden, alas for Judge,
For rich repiner and household drudge!

God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes;

And, in the hereafter, angels may
Roll the stone from its grave away!

-John Greenleaf Whittier

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sure does feel like Summertime right now. (whew)


And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry

One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky

But till that morning
There's a'nothing can harm you

-George Gershwin

Gosh, I love Mike Brant's version. (sigh)

Friday, April 24, 2009

The ocean is such a short ride, heck, even walk away, and yet I never seem to have the time or energy to visit. This is ironic, given how much better I feel after having spent time in it or beside it.

maggie and milly and molly and may

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

- e. e. cummings

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread
nibbled away, the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.
Water is another matter,
has no direction but its own bright grace,
runs through all imaginable colors,
takes limpid lessons
from stone,
and in those functionings plays out
the unrealized ambitions of the foam.

-Pablo Neruda

There's been plenty of water from the sky the past few days. The sun is out now, though, so we're going in search of some other water. Will be back in a day or two.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lots of rain the past couple days. That's okay; we kind of need it. This year's April has been kind of a dry one.

As I sit up here in my little garret, can hear the drops pattering on the skylight windows. It's a very comforting sound, this. Reminds me that I'm safe and secure; brings me back to a time when I was little and everything was okay. It will be easy to sleep tonight wrapped in such comforting feelings and surrounded by such soothing sounds.


As the falling rain
trickles among the stones
memories come bubbling out.
It's as if the rain
had pierced my temples.
streaming chaotically
come memories:
the reedy voice
of the servant
telling me tales
of ghosts.
They sat beside me
the ghosts
and the bed creaked
that purple-dark afternoon
when I learned you were leaving forever,
a gleaming pebble
from constant rubbing
becomes a comet.
Rain is falling
and memories keep flooding by
they show me a senseless
a voracious
but I keep loving it
because I do
because of my five senses
because of my amazement
because every morning,
because forever, I have loved it
without knowing why.

- Claribel Alegría
Translated by Margaret S. Peden

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The forsythia, primroses, pansies and crocuses will soon give way to cherries, azaleas, daffodils and lilacs, which will then fade into the background for the dogwoods, roses, wisteria and peonies. So goes this natural progression of blossoming, going to seed, then lying dormant until the next Spring.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

-Robert Frost

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Patriots Day. You know the drill.

Paul Revere's Ride

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower, as a signal light, --
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison-bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade, --
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay, --
A line of black, that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now gazed on the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British regulars fired and fled, --
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, --
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Enjoy the day!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

In Spring, this girl's heart goes a-pitter patter for a good patter song -

Advent of Spring

Under the beechful eye,
When causeless brandslings bring,
Let the froddering crooner cry,
And the braddled sapster sing.
For never and never again
Will the tottering bauble bray,
For bratticed wrackers are singing aloud,
And the throngers croon in May!

The wracking globe unstrung,
Unstrung in the frittering light
Of a moon that knows no day!
Of a day that knows no night!
Diving away in the crowd
Of sparkling frets of spray
The bratticed wrackers are singing aloud,
And the throngers croon in May!

Hasten, O hapful blue,
Blue of the thimmering brow,
Hasten to meet your crew,
Theyll clamour to pelt thee now!
For never again shall a cloud
Out-thribble the babbling day,
When bratticed wrackers are singing aloud,
And the throngers croon in May!

-W. S. Gilbert, from the Bab Ballads.

From what I've read so far in a book I picked up the other day, the Bab Ballads are considered to be Sullivan's major work. The edition that I have contains the full collection of songs accompanied by his wonderfully farfelu drawings. All of it is a bit redolent of Edward Lear.

Saturday, April 18, 2009



and now

Friday, April 17, 2009

There is no limit to how high our spirits can soar if we only allow them the freedom to do so.

To Althea From Prison

When Love with unconfined wings
Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at my grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair
And fettered with her eye,
The birds that wanton in the air
Know no such liberty.
When flowing cups pass swiftly round
With no allaying Thames,
Our careless heads with roses crowned,

Our hearts with loyal flames;
When thirsty grief in wine we steep,
When healths and draughts go free,
Fishes that tipple in the deep
Know no such liberty.

When, linnet-like confined,
With shriller throat shall sing
The mercy, sweetness, majesty
And glories of my King;
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how great should he,
Enlarge'd winds, that curl the flood,
Know no such liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage:
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

- Colonel Richard Lovelace

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I don't know. Maybe it's that I've always felt myself more able to take care of myself after a rejection. Maybe it's the thought that I don't merit or maybe don't even want to deal with too much of another's ardor.

The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,

- W. H. Auden

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Instead of worrying about impending deadlines, have been spending way too much time among the Romans lately, revisiting Aeneas's exploits, and other events leading to the founding of the city which so influenced what we are today.

Have really been getting into reading history lately as, not only can you move about location-wise, you can jump from age to age. Talk about great escapes.

There is no frigate like a book

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

-Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

-Langston Hughes

(Am a bit overwhelmed; don't know how everything that needs to be done will be done. One, maybe two dreams are keeping me afloat right now.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stood outside in the near freezing morning to admire my violas and pansies. Small, unassuming, but able to withstand an unexpected chill, they are weathering very nicely and infusing a not particularly charming place with a bit of much-needed cheer.

The Violet

Down in a green and shady bed
A modest violet grew;
Its stalk was bent, it hung its head,
As if to hide from view.

And yet it was a lovely flower,
Its colors bright and fair;
It might have graced a rosy bower,
Instead of hiding there.

Yet there it was content to bloom,
In modest tints arrayed;
And there diffused a sweet perfume,
Within the silent shade.

Then let me to the valley go,
This pretty flower to see;
That I may also learn to grow
In sweet humility.

-Jane Taylor

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Across the street at the hospital, I saw the first blooming cherry tree of the year. Brave thing to put its blossoms out on such a chilly day.

A Shropshire Lad, II

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

-A. E. Housman

(Happy Easter.)


Ralph Vaughan Williams set a number of Houseman's poems to music in his cycle On Wenlock Edge. Though the above is not included here, found this recording interesting for the historical context it gives.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spring Cleaning.

Among other things, I did 12 loads of laundry. Am so looking to curling up in the crisp cotton sheets that make their appearance this time of year.

Ode to Ironing

Poetry is white:
it comes from the water covered with drops,
it wrinkles and piles up,
the skin of this planet must be stretched,
the sea of its whiteness must be ironed,
and the hands move and move,
the holy surfaces are smoothed out,
and that is how things are made:
hands make the world each day,
fire becomes one with steel,
linen, canvas, and cotton arrive
from the combat of the laundries,
and out of light a dove is born:
chastity returns from the foam.

-Pablo Neruda
translated by Stephen Mitchell

Friday, April 10, 2009

At three minutes to midnight, I was desperate for a poem to post for today.


a lot of
it's not
either to
or even to

-Charles Bukowski

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dusting needs to be done here a couple times a week due to our surfeit of cat dander, people dander, plaster dust (the house being a work in progress) and urban grit. Will probably have achieved some sort of enlightenment when I can be so graceful about this activity; it's easily my least favorite chore.


Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.

For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.

My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.

-Marilyn Nelson

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Though a lot of where I live is green and thriving, there are many places that are not. My walk to school brings me through a particularly blighted area, an area where the only green one might see is from the weeds pushing up through cracks or perhaps a sickly tree that put forth a few leaves. Gray and black is the dominant color scheme.

The soundscape is dominated by car horns and the roar of 18-wheelers.

Sometimes, however, I am surprised to hear a few cheerful notes from the sparrows who seem to be the only birds (aside from pigeons) hardy enough to manage this environment. The sight and sound of one one of these little fellows perched on a chain link fence either calling to a mate or marking territory does much to make the walk more bearable.

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

-Thomas Hardy

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tonight I'm knitting a mesh bag from recycled cotton to pass on to a lady in Atlanta as part of a group effort to promote sustainable living. (That sounds pretty Cambridge to me.)

the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls

the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls
are unbeautiful and have comfortable minds
(also, with the church's protestant blessings
daughters, unscented shapeless spirited)
they believe in Christ and Longfellow,both dead,
are invariably interested in so many things-
at the present writing one still finds
delighted fingers knitting for the is it Poles?
perhaps. While permanent faces coyly bandy
scandal of Mrs. N and Professor D
....the Cambridge ladies do not care,above
Cambridge if sometimes in its box of
sky lavender and cornerless, the
moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy

-e.e. cummings

Monday, April 06, 2009

While putting together yesterday's post, I got to read a fair bit about Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I knew that she married later on in life and I knew that her husband was younger than her, but had no idea about a lot of the details.

What strength of character and courage it must have taken for her to leave her family, to escape the clutches of her authoritarian father at a time when this just was not done. How wonderful that, at what was middle age then, she was able to live happily with her love, regain strength and start a family. Such perseverance, such patience on her part:

My Letters! all dead paper... (Sonnet 28)

My letters! all dead paper, mute and white!
And yet they seem alive and quivering
Against my tremulous hands which loose the string
And let them drop down on my knee tonight.
This said—he wished to have me in his sight
Once, as a friend: this fixed a day in spring
To come and touch my hand. . . a simple thing,
Yes I wept for it—this . . . the paper's light. . .
Said, Dear, I love thee; and I sank and quailed
As if God's future thundered on my past.
This said, I am thine—and so its ink has paled
With lying at my heart that beat too fast.
And this . . . 0 Love, thy words have ill availed
If, what this said, I dared repeat at last!

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And Robert's:

Meeting at Night

The gray sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low:
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, through joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

-Robert Browning

Sunday, April 05, 2009

We're working on our bird songs now. So far, I only know a few: the robin, the cardinal, the jay, the sparrow, the titmouse, the chickadee.

This afternoon, was sitting out in the yard listening to the mad chatter and trying to isolate the individual songs. I think I got a few correct, anyway.

Closed my eyes for a bit and, while listening to the songs, got to thinking about Pan's flute. According to Edith Hamilton's Mythology, The satyr fell in love with a nymph called Syrinx. Terrified of him, she fled. Just as he was about to catch her, however, her sisters turned her into "a tuft of reeds." Not one to give up, Pan created a shepherd's flute from the reeds that Syrinx had become and beeswax.

A Musical Instrument

What was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban,
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragon-fly on the river.

He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,
From the deep cool bed of the river:
The limpid water turbidly ran,
And the broken lilies a-dying lay,
And the dragon-fly had fled away,
Ere he brought it out of the river.

High on the shore sat the great god Pan
While turbidly flowed the river;
And hacked and hewed as a great god can,
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed,
Till there was not a sign of the leaf indeed
To prove it fresh from the river.

He cut it short, did the great god Pan,
(How tall it stood in the river!)
Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,
Steadily from the outside ring,
And notched the poor dry empty thing
In holes, as he sat by the river.

'This is the way,' laughed the great god Pan
(Laughed while he sat by the river),
'The only way, since gods began
To make sweet music, they could succeed.'
Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed,
He blew in power by the river.

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Lots of folks say that we don't actually get a Spring here in Massachusetts, that we go straight from Winter to Summer. I don't really agree with that. Granted, the indicators are bit more subtle here than where I grew up, but there's still a clear buffer between the two extremes. For example, there is a gradual change in the angle of light in addition to the lengthening of days. And the quality of the breeze that hits one's back - it goes from needle-like cold to soft and warm with a nice, green watery scent to it. Bird calls and behaviors change as they move from survival to reproductive mode. The ground goes from gray and crumbly to wet, dark and, eventually, studded with silvery-green spikes of new life.

It's all there if one just takes the time out to observe.

Spring is like a perhaps hand


Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.

-e.e. cummings

Friday, April 03, 2009


The second half of my life will be black
to the white rind of the old and fading moon.
The second half of my life will be water
over the cracked floor of these desert years.
I will land on my feet this time,
knowing at least two languages and who
my friends are. I will dress for the
occasion, and my hair shall be
whatever color I please.
Everyone will go on celebrating the old
birthday, counting the years as usual,
but I will count myself new from this
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift,
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder,
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road.
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed,
fingers shifting through fine sands,
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet.
There will be new dreams every night,
and the drapes will never be closed.
I will toss my string of keys into a deep
well and old letters into the grate.

The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river, rain
soaking the fields, a hand
held out, a fire,
and smoke going
upward, always up.

-Joyce Sutphen


Happy Birthday Pavel, and happy start of your new life!

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Have recently been reading about the confusing and awful period just after the French Revolution to about the Franco-Prussian War. It is here that we to see the birth of Communism, the second French Empire (under Napoleon III), the unification of Italy and, of course, the clashes between Austria and Prussia.

Political maneuverings and eventual communication breakdowns were abstractions to the leaders, moves on a chess board. Not so much for those charged with the dirty work, however.

The Crimean War is somewhat analogous to the American civil war largely in that it was a clash that pitted modern technology with classical (now outmoded) tactics. Missteps and miscommunications, mainly on the British side, resulted in harsh criticism and a series of reforms both in the military and in the nursing profession.

One particularly egregious miscommunication occurred during the Battle of Balaclava; the brave actions of the soldier executing their incorrect orders was immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
'Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Some one had blundered:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wondered:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre-stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!


(A wax cylinder recording of Tennyson reciting his poem can be found here.)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In some places, today is April Fool's Day. In other places, one celebrates with an April Fish. Given this, I thought that perhaps it would be good to start things off with a little something pertaining to fools as well as fish:


Fish Crier

I KNOW a Jew fish crier down on Maxwell Street with a voice like a north wind blowing over corn stubble in January.
He dangles herring before prospective customers evincing a joy identical with that of Pavlowa dancing.
His face is that of a man terribly glad to be selling fish, terribly glad that God made fish, and customers to whom he may call his wares, from a pushcart.

-Carl Sandburg, from Chicago Poems

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April Again.

Und was gibt's?

Well, all this month, I'm going to try to put down a poem (or two) a day with a bit of commentary. If you would like to contribute (and I love it when folks do!), please drop me a line either in the comments or via email (see right sidebar).

There you have it.