Thursday, January 31, 2013


I dreaded that first robin so,
But he is mastered now,
And I'm accustomed to him grown,--
He hurts a little, though.

I thought if I could only live
till that first shout got by
Not all the pianos in the woods
had power to mangle me.

I wished the grass would hurry,
So when 't was time to see,
He'd be too tall, the tallest one
Could stretch to look at me.

.....the day is warm and I just got back from driving to Portland...I seem to have no tolerance for the traffic, or much interest in hanging out up there these days...and I feel dead from all the sitting in the car.  However, the day is peaceful and there's things to look forward to...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Story I wrote about visiting my brother in dc a few years ago

I stepped out of the taxi and into the rain, relieved to be moving after a day either sitting around or in traffic.  I had actually wanted to get out a block earlier, as the car was stuck in traffic, but the driver, an African that was driving me crazy with a long rambling dialogue to his wife in a language consisting of some English words that he would only describe as an "African dialect" or "pidgin", said that it was a very violent neighborhood and I should stay in the car, so since it was only another block to my brother's house, I acquiesced.
  I took a moment to admire the solid brick of the house that somehow gives that feeling of lasting sturdiness and a classic sense of history.  It reminded me of an elaborate painting of a building on the wall of a co-op I had lived in as a student.  Every brick was painted with painstaking detail.

  brick and mortar
  a sure and even hand

  Those rowhouses were build between 1890 and 1905, and were not in danger of falling down.  The door was an old deadbolt that I opened with a square key and carefully locked behind me.  Depositing my excess baggage, I headed out rapidly again down the street, bound for Dupont circle.  Many of the streets in DC run at a 45 degree angle, which makes for some very bizarre intersections.  I walked warily for a few blocks, and failed to detect much danger other than the traffic.  The street was quiet, and although the Howard University area was not much to look at, it was a calm street and things gradually improved as I walked.  North of Dupont was clearly a high rent area, and to the right the land rose slightly and looked as if it got even pricier.  I headed south and enjoyed the hustle of an uban district, but continued west toward Georgetown University.  I hardly know what to expect, but after crossing the parkway and admiring the trees wet with rain, the sidewalk turned to brick and the houses were beautiful.

  walking out in the dew
  the trees
  the drops of rain

  The university buldings were phenomenal, many looking European in age.  The library was a new and bland structure, and I had little hope of getting in, not being a student, but was admitted after showing a picture identification.  To my surprise, they did have a number of books in Japanese, so I went to look them up.  They were on a quiet floor, students sitting around with laptops.  An old card catalog was near the wall, but may have been there just for nostalgia.  The stacks were those kind that move when a button is pushed as a space-saving technique.  I keep imaging the headlines: "Scholar crushed to death by moving bookshelf", but I figured them out and after much hassle photocopied a couple of stories.  By that time I was starving and headed out of there eating a ham sandwich.  Flocks of students hung around outside on their cellphones, looking well-heeled and preppie.  I passed therough the commercial district again, but elected to head back to Dupont, where I figured there would be an older crowd in the cafes.  The light was dimming by the time I got to a cafe.  I ordered my coffee.
  I sat and read the paper, watching the busy people walking by.

  people on their cellphones
  The walk back involved a gourmet grocery store and a sideways street filled with cars and a man stumbling around on burgundy wine.
  The next day I came upon a nice little Japanese import store full of those amazing ceramics.  They had some of the strange and wonderful Japanese candies.  A book called "A Zen Wave", on Zen and Basho, contained a quote saying essentially that meditation can bring one to where anything can bring the joy of enlightenment, perhaps the "divinely superfluous beauty" mentioned by Robinson Jeffers.  There was a book of essays by R.H. Blythe, a scholar who wrote what is still the most amazing set of books on haiku.  I walked out of there and considered the day a success, having seen many things not seen in my everyday small town existence.
  a car passes by
  a foot reaches out
  the curb drops
  the foot lands

  I think we went out and saw some show by Sterolab after that, some French group that did not have a whole lot going for them.  I continued to have to endure the taxi driver who would not get off his phoen.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

two poems...

I cannot live with you-
It would be life-
And life is over there-
behind the shelf

The sexton keeps the key to
Putting up
Our life-his porcelain
Like a cup

Discarded of the housewife
Quaint-or broke
A newer sevres pleases
Old ones crack..

I could not die-with you
For one must wait
To shut the Other's gaze down
You-could not

And I-could I stand by
And see you-freeze
Without my right of frost-
Death's privilege?

Nor could I rise-with you,
Because your face...
would put out the sign..
that new grace..

Glow plain-and foreign
on my homesick Eye
Except that you than he
Shone closer by-

Wow, I don't understand half of Dickinson...and this poem in particular is tricky to figure out.  She's done some other great ones...many great ones.

Lean out the window,
I hear you singing
A merry air.

My book was closed.
I read no more.
Watching the fire dance
On the floor.

I have left my book,
I have left my room,
For I heard you singing
Through the gloom.

Singing and singing
A merry air,
Lean out of the window,
--james joyce

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

poem 12, Sonnets to Orpheus, Ranier Maria Rilke

Hail to the spirit that can unite us;
for we live really in figures.  Always
go the clocks with little strides
along with our intrinsic days.

Without knowing our proper place,
we act as if from true relations.
The antennae feel their sister-stations,
and the emptiness of space

bore...pure tension.  O music of forces!
Aren't the interruptions turned away
by the indulgent affairs of the day?

However the peasant works and sows,
he never reaches those deep sources
where seeds turn into summer.  Earth bestows.

-translated by C.F. MacIntyre, University of Berkeley press, 1960.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Solitary Reaper-wordsworth

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!

Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more huble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain
That has been, or may be again?

Whate'er the them, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;-
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Patty, by John Clare

Ye swampy fall of pasture ground,
And rushy spreading greens;
Ye risings swells of brambles bound,
 And freedom's wilder'd scenes;
I've trod ye oft, and love ye dear,
  And kind was fate to let me;
On you I found my all, for here
'Twas first my Patty met me.

Flow on, thou gently plashing stream,
O'er weed-beds wild and rank;
Delighted I've enjoy'd my dream
Upon thy mossy bank:
Bemoistening many a weedy stem,
I've watch'd thee wind so clearly;
And on thy bank I found the gem
That makes me love thee dearly.

Thou wilderness, so rudely gay;
 Oft as I seek thy plain,
Oft as I wend my steps away,
And meet my joys again,
And brush the weaving branches by
Of brairs and thorns so matty;
So oft reflection warms a sigh,
Here first I met my Patty...

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

Even as a handy sheet of paper
sometimes catches a genuine master-stroke,
so, often into themselves the mirrors
take the one blessed smile of girls who awoke

and tried out the morning, alone-
or in the attendant lights' glitter
and where the breath of their real faces shone
there falls but a mere reflection, later

What have eyes once seen in the blackening coals
slowly cooling upon the hearth?
Glimpses of life, forever lost.

Ah, who knows the losses of the earth?
Only one, who praises nevertheless,
Can sing the heart born into the whole.