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.