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.