Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No One Starves to Death at the Hospice House

Jim couldn't eat anymore.
His cancer ate him instead as he watched the Food Channel.

He fed me one-liners when I checked on him every  hour.
"Been dying to see ya, babe," he whispered.

After evening rounds I took him some hopeful pie and coffee,
and sat on his bed to help with the cup.

"You finish it for me, sweet," he said, after a polite effort.
I held his wasted hand.

I held his hand and we talked about his life,
while nearby a ghostly Julia beat eggs into a distant pan.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Ants Go Marching

An Ant (family formicidae) we’ll name Antonio
swaggers into my kitchen where he is

obviously scouting a path to the other side of the world. 
Behind him come cohorts, friends, and (as I’ve just discovered)
a whole host of sterile females,
making my protagonist into Antonia
(who is still swaggering).

Our heroine sends no journals back to headquarters—
there are no wired requests for money or extra troops. 
Only this line of big black ants moving into my kitchen.

My left brain swaggers like Antonia Ant,
it understands that I am bigger than the ants,
could  mash them with one swipe of my meaty hand,
remembers that I’ve used bleach successfully
to get rid of them in the past, that I used to use pesticides
but now am concerned about the biosphere. 
My left brain understands
that ants are on every bit of this blue world,
and that they have been here a long time. 
My left brain struggles with survival of the fittest, and
occasionally wonders who will win this protracted
battle between the ants and determined housewives.

My right brain welcomes these small bits of life with excitement
and some subtle recognition that in their coming and going,
the east and west of their movement,
the touching of antennae and the determination of their march
is the determination of all life.
My right brain gets it that our communal progress
toward something—toward the light,
toward the big good thing,
toward satisfaction and standing hand in hand
‘neath a warm sky with stars wheeling overhead—
that our communal progress moves
like ants coming into a kitchen despite
the meaty hand of despair hovering just overhead.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour

Go then,
See in your heart
A glimpse of ages past
            and glories lost.
This inner territory is worth
            the price of ticket:
A slow steamer and then
            weeks on horseback.
Visit the ruins—send back postcards.
Marvel at the beauty and
the romance and
the graveyards and
the detritus of life.

See where Cain first saw Abel and counted
his ten perfect toes.
Touch the high water mark from the Flood.
It’s all there in many languages,
            and while you may no longer speak them all,
they are all yours.



The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary. It served as an educational rite of passage. Though primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy landed gentry, similar trips were made by wealthy young men of Protestant Northern European nations on the Continent, and from the second half of the 18th century some American and other overseas youth joined in. The tradition was extended to include more of the middle class after rail and steamship travel made the journey less of a burden, and Thomas Cook made the "Cook's Tour" a byword.

Monday, August 22, 2011


In grassy fields, boys and girls gather every summer
to swim in the long days of baseball--
this game of rules and certainty.

In winter we may carve up the world
and whittle our own hearts to dust,

but there was a diamond moment
of learning to wait for the ball
to fall easily into the glove,

while fathers in black and white shirts
called out,  "Safe."

Called out, "Home."


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Don't let them disappear

Once you have met 
a true human being, 
let him not disappear 
    from the horizon of your heart.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

This Train is Bound for Glory (ya gotta hear the harmonica player!)

I’m waiting, waiting
for an overdue train to wisdom.

The dirt road under me goes exactly nowhere,
and I’m hoping for a locomotive with a smooth easy ride.

Better find the tracks first, I say to myself.

Better look for a city,
a city full of song and all-aboards,
instead of this long country lane
going round another corn field.

I’m sitting here waiting, waiting for that damned train. 

Better get up and walk, I say to myself.

Better find a pair of shoes to take me home in three clicks. 
Home where a rocking chair waits.
Home to dinner and a place to pee.

I sit in the grass, and think maybe I hear the clickity-clack
the clickity-clack of an iron horse. 
The ground trembles. 
My bare feet sparkle with a ruby light
and a man full of straw jumps from the corn field,
holding his open palms to me.

This train is bound for Glory, we sing
as we dance down a dusty golden road
toward those lights in the sky. 
This train…

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pied Beauty, by Gerald Manley Hopkins

(I love stealing words from this guy...)


Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Traveling in the Astronaut

 We travel in our body, a rocket
with velocity of 67,062 miles per hour,
feverishly adjusting dials, monitoring life support,
imagining in our fragile cockpit that—

—we are standing still in a wooded glade
while around us leaves drift down and
we say, Thank God for Dappled Things
and then walk on, pondering the impermanence of life
and the good smell of leaf mould.

Meteorlike, it hits us that we have course
corrections to make, and calculations
to double-check, and a crew, and
a destination—

—but a brown bird whistles while we
shuffle through golden mounds.
Bounding deer startle us into
motionless delight.

And all the time glowing numbers
track a steady countdown as our spaceship
continues its relentless journey
toward the center.
Toward home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I'd like to introduce a favorite author

One could not pluck a flower 
without troubling a star.  Loren Eiseley

Loren Eiseley (September 3, 1907 – July 9, 1977) was an American anthropologisteducatorphilosopher, and natural science writer, who taught and published books from the 1950s through the 1970s. During this period he received more than 36 honorary degrees and was a fellow of many distinguished professional societies. At his death, he was Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.
He was noted as a “scholar and writer of imagination and grace,” which gained him a reputation and record of accomplishment far beyond the campus where he taught for 30 years. Publishers Weekly referred to him as "the modern Thoreau." The broad scope of his many writings considered such diverse topics as the mind of Sir Francis Bacon, the prehistoric origins of man, and the contributions of Charles Darwin.
Eiseley’s national reputation was established mainly through his books, including The Immense Journey (1957), Darwin's Century (1958), The Unexpected Universe (1969), The Night Country (1971), and his memoir, All the Strange Hours (1975). Science author Orville Prescott praised him as a scientist who “can write with poetic sensibility and with a fine sense of wonder and of reverence before the mysteries of life and nature.“ Naturalist author Mary Ellen Pitts saw his combination of literary and nature writings as his "quest, not simply for bringing together science and literature... but a continuation of what the 18th and 19th century British naturalists and Thoreau had done."
According to his obituary in the New York Times, the feeling and philosophical motivation of the entire body of Dr. Eiseley’s work was best expressed in one of his essays, The Enchanted Glass: “The anthropologist wrote of the need for the contemplative naturalist, a man who, in a less frenzied era, had time to observe, to speculate, and to dream.”[1] Shortly before his death, he received an award from theBoston Museum of Science for his “outstanding contribution to the public understanding of science” and another from the U.S. Humane Society for his “significant contribution for the improvement of life and environment in this country.” (from Wikipedia)

Monday, August 15, 2011

To the Photographer

Photographs of ancestors cover my walls,
their solemn faces hoping for one moment of eternity.

My ancestors don’t contemplate the night sky, or the work of their hands.
Instead I see their eyes widen as you call for them to hold very still,
to please hold very still while you light a fire in the flash pan,
while you illuminate a small tunnel for me to peer through.

There you are.  Reflected in their eyes.

And in that endless hallway of reflection
between their eyes and yours,
I catch a brief glimpse of myself, 
staring at an impossible thing.

The butterfly of existence. 
The dark matter of existence.
The strong cord of existence.
The smoke and mirrors of existence.

The courage of existence.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Alone, by Maya Angelou

by Maya Angelou
Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

world, a-borning

I wonder if suffering’s harvest can fit into one poem,
if a child’s last, abandoned cry
can inhabit a finite number of words?

Did you know that when a mother feels the squeeze of her labor,
when she allows her muscular womb its mighty scream,
she calls forth winged endorphins to soothe her baby’s passage?
Did you know that when she refuses the pain
she gifts her child with a first taste of hell?

Here the suffering can be quantified,
can be given measure and meaning. 
Here it gathers light and possibility. 
Here there be metaphors aplenty.

But in small homes around the world—
homes smelling of rancid oil and offal,
homes made of castoffs and cardboard,
children lie awake at night
worrying about their parents,
or their lack of parents
or their siblings
or their empty stomachs.
They grow hard shells around their little hearts to keep out the rain
and they grow into hard people who build small houses full of offal. 

Here I lose the string of the poem. 
The metaphor roams through crooked streets
and I can’t find the map.
I want to find some sweetness
even on mean streets, but I fall helpless   
at the feet of all those little children.

And as I fight to keep this pain out of my life,
do I also keep small winged creatures from
flying out into a world a-borning?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The river isn't quiet today

The river isn’t quiet today.

In Indiana, floods have covered streets,
washed out seed corn,
frightened old women
who watch muddy water
bubble out of holes in their driveways.

The river wants to go home.

It’s tired of silt-laden bends
and lazy fish floating in shady nooks.
This river dreams of mighty ocean swells,
of oxygenated layers deep under the surface
where fancy jellyfish spin in delighted bubbles.

The river will have what it wants
because it wants what it surely will have.

If it wanted world domination,
or a mansion in Miami,
it might learn to live with disappointment or regret.

But this river only wants the ocean.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


(can you find the days of the week in here?  They aren't in order.)

Birds flew by on the lemon day, when skies
were bright and yellow kites flew in serried array,
marshaled by orderly winds.  Day by day
I waited for you, twisting long grass in empty hands
while skaters danced in hip-hop, pop-up, rag-tag,
ones and twos.  Daylilies skirted the pond looking for you:
I had asked them for this one small favor.  Thirsty children
threw water balloons from the highest arc of swinging,
flinging rainbows to the four directions, but where were you?
I brought a dream of a picnic, a spread for the hungriest soul:
apple pie, chicken (fried!), acorn squash baked with berries.
Cherries.  Fresh cream.  It was your mouth I hungered for.

My house is in Saturn’s day and sadness will furnish each room.
You are not at the park
but I will bathe in the fountain tonight,
and let the moon kiss my perfect, silver skin.
I will wait here a week for you, my dearest light—
dancing until I feel some new day begin.  
 (rhonda palmer)

Friday, August 5, 2011

This Fractal Life

We groped our way along a dark path, hoping for any shelter before
the horror found us.  The roads were narrow with high walls.
Finally there was rest, we thought, in a castle on the craggy cliff.

But as the gate closed solidly behind us and the light inside dimmed,
we realized our error.  Out there we had been unsafe but free.
Here we were trapped and captives of our own making.  We could not get out.

There was nightly roaring, howling, and the days contained pain.
Others found a way to our prison and we were no longer alone.
We sang little songs to lift our spirits.  We shared stories.

Soon enough we were comfortable and became not just inmates
but keepers of others.  Soon enough we forgot about the trees and the road.
                                                                           But one night you disappeared

Then I went to the front gate to scream and plead but the gate was gone—
how long had it been gone?  I walked out into a forgotten world
and was overcome by leaf, and open air, and the surprise of it all.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

“I am amused!” yelled Harlan Ellison

After the alien invasion, Sylvie had time on her hands—lots of time.  She found she could weave it like yarn, making it go backwards or forwards.  She asked her friends, “What’s the deal with this time thing?”  They decided to open a shop where customers could order up good times, or even unravel a bad life and knit up another.  They called their shop, “A Stitch in Time.”

                                       The aliens were, of course, pleased.
(by Rhonda Palmer)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

gossiping about Vincent Van Gogh

A weird sort of thing happened to one of my posts.  It had this title (Gossiping about Vincent Van Gogh) and is actually one of my favorite poems, sort of a post modernistic glimpse of Vincent from my own perspective of total fantasy.  I had joined it to some pictures from the web of a few of Van Gogh's more obscure works and somehow it was getting hundreds of hits a day, many from the former Soviet Union.  Who knew?  While the poem was good, I'm guessing that it might not hold up all that well in Russian.  My guess is that it actually had something to do with the pictures and so I've taken the whole thing off my blog,  and hope to see what happens.  Sadly, my number of "hits" will probably go way down, but I'll have a truer picture of how many readers there really are.

Speaking of readers, I love knowing that anybody reads this stuff.  Thanks.  Your eyes are beautiful.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Leaving Africa

Several million years ago,
a small upright biped convinced her starving family
to leave Africa,
convinced them of green fields—
plump, slow game—
Milk.  Honey. 

Mesopotamia called, or maybe southern France.

Perhaps my wide-eyed, darkest ancestor already knew
the longing for hot drinks served near lavender and sunflowers.
It could be that, tired of foraging for wild-greens
and small comestables for her hungry clan,
she had already developed a genetic predisposition
for Jane Austin and fancy sandwiches served on lace.

I gaze back as far as possible into her restless eyes,
trying to find a trace of my own future
written coiled and ready to spring out
into an endless night sky.