Friday, April 22, 2011


I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

By John Masefield (1878-1967).
(English Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.)

(From my dad, again, who used to sail when he was younger.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sea Change.

We're off to the shore for the only two not-gray or -rainy days predicted for the week. I really look forward to this yearly pilgrimage.

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Some Doggerel from my Dad for a Dreary, Damp Day:

Here is an old one. I have seen it in several places with no attribution like most of these things from ‘olden’ times.. Try to say it fast.

A skunk sat on a stump.
The stump thought the skunk stunk.
The skunk thought the stump stunk .
What stunk the skunk or the stump?

Here is another better known:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
A pack of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?


(Oh, what the heck. Here're a couple of my favorites in French:

Trois gros ras dureront rarement.

As-tu oté ton thé?)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Patriots' Day!

(Happy Marathon Monday, too!) Am sure that folks know the drill by now:

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 sombre 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, and 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 he gazed at 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 sombre 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, black 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 meadow 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 farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats 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 for evermore!
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-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

-Henry Wadsworth Longellow

Enjoy your day! (It's a beautiful one here.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011


It's interesting, but I've never actually *hated* anyone. Have held strong dislikes. Have had relationships that felt like the dream sequence at the start of 8 1/2.

Haven't felt hate, though. At least not as described here, anyway:

Hate Poem

I hate you truly. Truly I do.
Everything about me hates everything about you.
The flick of my wrist hates you.
The way I hold my pencil hates you.
The sound made by my tiniest bones were they trapped
in the jaws of a moray eel hates you.
Each corpuscle singing in its capillary hates you.

Look out! Fore! I hate you.

The blue-green jewel of sock lint I’m digging
from under my third toenail, left foot, hates you.
The history of this keychain hates you.
My sigh in the background as you explain relational databases
hates you.
The goldfish of my genius hates you.
My aorta hates you. Also my ancestors.

A closed window is both a closed window and an obvious
symbol of how I hate you.

My voice curt as a hairshirt: hate.
My hesitation when you invite me for a drive: hate.
My pleasant “good morning”: hate.
You know how when I’m sleepy I nuzzle my head
under your arm? Hate.
The whites of my target-eyes articulate hate. My wit
practices it.
My breasts relaxing in their holster from morning
to night hate you.
Layers of hate, a parfait.
Hours after our latest row, brandishing the sharp glee of hate,
I dissect you cell by cell, so that I might hate each one
individually and at leisure.
My lungs, duplicitous twins, expand with the utter validity
of my hate, which can never have enough of you,
Breathlessly, like two idealists in a broken submarine.

-Julie Sheehan

(Thanks to her friend Monsieur Coh-lin for this one. Mentioned that he read it aloud at a poetry-reading once and found it amusing in a passive-aggressive way.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011


A friend sends this poem written by his ancestor highlighting the lot of those who put their money where the government's mouth was. Written after the American Civil War (the 150th anniversary of its start being this month), it is unfortunately not a dated piece:

The following was written by J. H. Whitney in a book entitled "War Time Ballads". He was my Grandmother's Great-Grandfather and served for the State of Massachusetts in the Artillery during the Civil War. After the war he became a Methodist Minister and moved to Wisconsin. The poem is called "Bob Ridley":

Yes, I am Bob Ridley, who once wore the blue,
Or what there is left of the comrade you knew;
I've lost my discharge, and cannot tell where,
Just look in the record and see if it's there.

Just forty-one winters ago to a day
Bob Ridley enlisted in Company "K,"
Signed his name with a flourish, and swore to defend
The Flag, 'til rebellion should come to an end.

Three years in the face of the vigilant "gray,"
And never off duty, not even a day!
Never wounded, though bullets with devilish glee,
Through twenty odd battles seemed calling for me.

That was luck; but as soon as they mustered me out,
I lost the old vigor, and wandered about.
Somehow I'm a failure - and scarcely know why;
Doomed to live, when it's harder to live than to die.

These hands lose their cunning - my steps are too slow;
Into camp for the winter, I'm anxious to go,
Unable to labor, too weary to roam,
Please help me to enter the Veterans' Home.

A pension? Oh, no sir! The trouble with me
Is, lack of the hospital record, you see;
No proof in my case, though freely I gave
The best of Bob Ridley, the country to save.

They say that a soldier should never complain,
Whatever the struggle, whatever the pain.
Such a gospel is easy to preach; but the one
Who gives this advice never carried a gun.

We are told that the thing for a soldier to do,
Is, to stand to his gun for the good and the true
With no hope of reward for the victory won,
Except the remembrance of what he has done.

I sought no return for the life of my youth
But the glory that comes from defending the truth;
When in battle I prayed that the standard we bore
Might always be honored, I asked nothing more.

But now I am weary, and longing for rest,
And the comforts of home in the land we have blest.
Is this claiming too much? But I must away.
Remember Bob Ridley, of Company "K."

(Thank you, Nick, for sharing this.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Marichiko is the pen name of a contemporary young woman who lives near the temple of Marishi-ben in Kyoto. Marishi-ben is an Indian, pre-Aryan, goddes of the dawn who is a bodhisattva in Buddhism and patron of geisha, prostitutes, women in childbirth and lovers.[...]

-from One Hundred More Poems from the Japanese,
Kenneth Rexroth.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shami Mansei flourished in the early eights century. His lay name was Kasamaro. Governor of several provinces, he became a high court official and the next year became a monk.

-from One Hundred More Poems from the Japanese, Kenneth Rexroth.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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


(Hard to keep track of these things, but I think they're knitting for Japan, now.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


—for Elizabeth Bishop

Tuwee, calls a bird near the house,
Tuwee, cries another, downhill in the woods.
No wind, early September, beeches and pines,

Sumac aflame, tuwee, tuwee, a question and a faint
But definite response, tuwee, tuwee, as if engaged
In a conversation expected to continue all afternoon,

Where is?—I’m here?—an upward inflection in
Query and in response, a genetic libretto rehearsed
Tens of thousands of years beginning to leave its indelible trace,

Clawprint of language, ritual, dense winged seed,
Or as someone were slowly buttoning a shirt.
I am happy to lie in the grass and listen, as if at the dawn of reason,

To the clear communal command
That is flinging creaturely will into existence,
Designing itself to desire survival,

Liberty, companionship,
Then the bird near me, my bird, stops inquiring, while the other
Off in the woods continues calling faintly, but with that upward

Inflection, I’m here, I’m here,
I’m here, here, the call opens a path through boughs still clothed
By foliage, until it sounds like entreaty, like anxiety, like life

Imitating the pivotal move of Whitman’s "Out of the Cradle,"
Where the lovebird’s futile song to its absent mate teaches the child
Death—which the ocean also whispers—

Death, death, death it softly whispers,
Like an old crone bending aside over a cradle, Whitman says,
Or the like the teapot in Elizabeth Bishop’s grandmother’s kitchen,

Here at one end of the chain of being,
That whistles a song of presence and departure,
Creating comfort but also calling for tears.

- Alicia Suskin Ostriker


The cardinals and robins are out now, establishing territory and calling for mates. Some days, it starts as early as 3:30-4:00 in the morning. Being woken up by this used to annoy me, but have gotten used to it. Now that the weather's warm enough, have taken to wrapping myself in a blanket, sitting down (hopefully out of view of everyone high enough to see me/be threatened by me) on the floor of the top-level balcony and just listening to what they're saying. Eventually, am going to have to compare what I'm memorizing with Cornell's birdsong archive to get an idea as to what's going on.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Coincidentally enough, picked my favorite oyster-eating partner at the Airport today.

The Chef
-Michael Hettich

I can't help gleaming
as I marvel at the oysters
I gathered this morning
from the airport, for you -

because they are the muscle
of the ocean, the flavor
of tide, the life
inside my own body

and yours. Taste
with your whole mouth,
taste beyond yourself,
swallow the muck

of this brief eternity
and fill your body
with luck, and pleasure!
There is no other world.

-for David Bracha

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Had a Lovely day today hanging sheets out (where the birds couldn't cr@p on them). Planted my lettuce seeds. Knitted an awful lot. Got a bit pink-cheeked while thinking about the fin'amor friend who brought this bit of beauty to mind.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Another Rosebud from a Friend:

"I have been browsing, and find it very good for me. The title of this caught my eye as my puppy (not so much of a puppy at 13) is named Corinna. I also thought it was really fun. I hope you enjoy it."

Corinna’s Going a-Maying

Get up, get up for shame! The blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colours through the air:
Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangling herb and tree!
Each flower has wept and bow’d toward the east
Above an hour since, yet you not drest;
Nay! not so much as out of bed?
When all the birds have matins said
And sung their thankful hymns, ’tis sin,
Nay, profanation, to keep in,
Whereas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring sooner than the lark, to fetch in May.

Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green,
And sweet as Flora. Take no care
For jewels for your gown or hair:
Fear not; the leaves will strew
Gems in abundance upon you:
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept.
Come, and receive them while the light
Hangs on the dew-locks of the night:
And Titan on the eastern hill
Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth! Wash, dress, be brief in praying:
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying.

Come, my Corinna, come; and coming, mark
How each field turns a street, each street a park,
Made green and trimm’d with trees! see how
Devotion gives each house a bough
Or branch! each porch, each door, ere this,
An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove,
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
Can such delights be in the street
And open fields, and we not see ’t?
Come, we’ll abroad: and let’s obey
The proclamation made for May,
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;
But, my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.

There’s not a budding boy or girl this day
But is got up and gone to bring in May.
A deal of youth ere this is come
Back, and with white-thorn laden home.
Some have despatch’d their cakes and cream,
Before that we have left to dream:
And some have wept and woo’d, and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
Many a green-gown has been given,
Many a kiss, both odd and even:
Many a glance, too, has been sent
From out the eye, love’s firmament:
Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick’d: yet we’re not a-Maying!

Come, let us go, while we are in our prime,
And take the harmless folly of the time!
We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty.
Our life is short, and our days run
As fast away as does the sun.
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain,
Once lost, can ne’er be found again,
So when or you or I are made
A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
All love, all liking, all delight
Lies drown’d with us in endless night.
Then, while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.

-Robert Herrick


Another thing in common: I have a Corrina in my life, as well. She's a 65+ year old Mediterranean tortoise and, just this week, she's been let out of her box in the basement to go a-maying in her garden. (Happy Spring!)

Friday, April 08, 2011


The flesh of cannibals is said, by some,
to have the richest flavor.

Each fiber drawn from proteins like itself,
marbled with familiar fats,
this muscle draws iron
up the food chain
from dumb dirt
through lithe grasses
and quick victims
of four legs, then to.

Though traces concentrate
of what was sprayed on crops
or gathers, gamey, in flesh
shot through with fear,

a different compound
interrupted skin,
detained quick blood,
cleaved sinew and bone
to carve this steak,
this rare opportunity.

Thus made bold,
take, eat
so that others
might enjoy this taste.

-J D Smith

(Okay, probably not the best menu choice for a Friday in Lent.)

Thursday, April 07, 2011


When I grow up I plan to keep
Eleven cats and let them sleep
On any bedspread that they wish
And feed them people’s tuna fish.

-Maxine Kumin

A huge thanks to Kathy in Michigan (who tells me that this is a favorite fun poem of hers) for not only having introduced me to Maxine Kumin, but to have saved everyone from my normal Rilke mourning weeds.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A translation of something very poetic, as I'm more of a translating type than a poetical one.

...Then came the third siege of the city which carried his name. In 860, while the Slavs were battering Constantinople, Constantine, on the Olympus of Asia Minor, was laying a trap for them. In the silence of his monk’s cell, he created the first letters of their alphabet. First, he invented rounded letters, but the Slavic language was so savage, so wild that the ink could not contain it as such – so he constructed another alphabet with bars, thus caging this strong-willed language like a bird. Later, when it was tamed and taught Greek (for languages do learn other languages), the Slavic tongue could be confined within the original, glagolithic letters…

Daubmannus relates this story on the creation of the Slavic alphabet. The barbarian tongue would not let itself be tamed. During a brief, three-week autumn, the brothers were sitting in their cell, trying in vain to trace out the letters that would later be called “Cyrillic.” The task was a difficult one. From their cell, one had an excellent view of mid-October, and the silence was the length of an hour’s walk by the breadth of two hours’.

Methodius directed his brother’s attention to four vessels sitting on the window sill just outside their cell, on the other side of the bars.
”If your door were locked, how would you bring one of those vessels over here?” he asked.

Constantine shattered one of them, then brought it bit by bit through the bars and glued it all together again with a mixture of saliva and the packed earth underfoot.

Thus they proceeded with the Slavic tongue: They broke it into pieces, put it into their mouth by passing it through the bars of the Cyrillic letters, then reconnected the fragments with their saliva and the Greek earth beneath their feet...

CYRIL, entry from the Red Book – Dictionary of the Khazars
-Milorad Pavic

Monday, April 04, 2011

We've been a little down and out lately. Paul was more unhappy than usual at the prospect of his birthday, too, which was yesterday. As it seems so short in supply, figured I'd offer a gift of hope this year:


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

-Emily Dickinson

(Happy Birthday, Buddy. Things will get better. Honestly, they will.)

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Cat Whisperer

I could serve dinner on his back
he is so bent over. Once
I offered him a ride
from Food Lion where he bought a sliver tower of gourmet cat food.
He limped along Route One
two plastic bags
his ballast in the cruel March wind.

-Liz Dolan

(Wish I could find more about her.)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Wow, it's amazing how quickly April's rolled around. After a couple weeks of lovely, almost unseasonably warm weather, too, we ended up getting fooled with a snowstorm that blew in from the northeast.

I'd not been round for this year's apparently long, hard New England Winter, so found the storm refreshing. None of my friends or neighbors were happy to have to lace up their boots, to slip on their overcoats, to revert to the Winter Mind:

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

-Wallace Stevens

(Happy Eighth Poetry Month here! Hopefully happy continuation of Spring, as well.)