Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Green Tea

by Dale Ritterbusch

There is this tea
I have sometimes,
Pan Long Ying Hao,
so tightly curled
it looks like tiny roots
gnarled, a greenish-gray.
When it steeps, it opens
the way you woke this morning,
stretching, your hands behind
your head, back arched,
toes pointing, a smile steeped
in ceremony, a celebration,
the reaching of your arms.

herons in ice

Herons in Winter in the Frozen Marsh

by Mary Oliver

All winter
two blue herons
hunkered in the frozen marsh,
like two columns of blue smoke.

What they ate
I can't imagine,
unless it was the small laces
of snow that settled

in the ruckus of the cattails,
or the glazed windows of ice
under the tired
pitchforks of their feet—

so the answer is
they ate nothing,
and nothing good could come of that.
They were mired in nature, and starving.

Still, every morning
they shrugged the rime from their shoulders,
and all day they
stood to attention

in the stubbled desolation.
I was filled with admiration,
and, of course, empathy.

It called for a miracle.
Finally the marsh softened,
and their wings cranked open
revealing the old blue light,

so that I thought: how could this possibly be
the blunt, dark finish?
First one, then the other, vanished
into the ditches and upheavals.

All spring, I watched the rising blue-green grass,
above its gleaming and substantial shadows,
toss in the breeze,
like wings.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Onward we go...


by Gary Johnson

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels singing overhead? Hark.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the truth


by Anne Porter

Nobody in the hospital
Could tell the age
Of the old woman who
Was called Susanna

I knew she spoke some English
And that she was an immigrant
Out of a little country
Trampled by armies

Because she had no visitors
I would stop by to see her
But she was always sleeping

All I could do
Was to get out her comb
And carefully untangle
The tangles in her hair

One day I was beside her
When she woke up
Opening small dark eyes
Of a surprising clearness

She looked at me and said
You want to know the truth?
I answered Yes

She said it's something that
My mother told me

There's not a single inch
Of our whole body
That the Lord does not love

She then went back to sleep.

Monday, December 14, 2009

let it snow!

My stepdaughter & husband picking out a tree as it snowed. Picture perfect.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

a wintry snippet from John Updike

"The days are short,
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

they float like one stippled star

Starlings in Winter

by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A November Sunrise

by Anne Porter

Wild geese are flocking and calling in pure golden air,
Glory like that which painters long ago
Spread as a background for some little hermit
Beside his cave, giving his cloak away,
Or for some martyr stretching out
On her expected rack.
A few black cedars grow nearby
And there's a donkey grazing.

Small craftsmen, steeped in anonymity like bees,
Gilded their wooden panels, leaving fame to chance,
Like the maker of this wing-flooded golden sky,
Who forgives all our ignorance
Both of his nature and of his very name,
Freely accepting our one heedless glance.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Knitting conundrum solved. Simply.

Simply Embracing Simplicity

Several years ago, I finally took needles and yarn in my fists and applied the lessons of my grandmothers. I learned to knit. Like many, I began with the simple scarf in stockinette stitch. I don’t know what it was, but after several false starts in previous years, this time I was hooked. Soon I was pouring over my McCall’s Needlework Treasury and teaching myself different stitches and trying new patterns. I moved on to hats, mittens, and finally socks. Last year I even successfully knit a baby sweater.

If I’m sitting still, I’m clicking away with needles. While watching movies, visiting with family and friends, in the car, and on occasion, even in the dark! I’ve taken to keeping my headlamp, normally used only for camping and backpacking, in my knitting back. Just in case. I know I’m not the only one.

I love to peruse knitting sites like ravelry.com hunting for new, more challenging patterns. Like many of you, I am not content to knit the same pattern over and over. I want more difficult projects, pushing myself to try new things, to become a better knitter.

But recently I’ve been pushing harder and the needles have been clenched in frustrated fists, yarn knotting in thick snarls. I’ve frogged (rip-it! rip-it!) more sorry socks this past few weeks than ever before. And they were not a tough pattern, either. Annoyed and uninspired to pick up projects that were only bound to cruise toward disaster, I actually watched a couple movies, and the only stitches were in my ribs! When I did pick up my needles and yarn, I only knit a few rows before putting it aside. This was not right.

Then one day a friend hinted that I’d promised him a hat. I’d been putting off this simple project for too long. Knowing I’d be seeing him soon, so I grabbed some favorite worsted-weight wool from Scarecrow Farms in mountain berry red. Perfect for the avid backpacker who would wear it.

As I cast on the familiar number of stitches, I noticed a difference right away. The tension I normally hold in my shoulders eased immediately, I got into a relaxing rhythm of knitting. It was good. I finished the hat just in time to give it to my grateful friend, who put it on right away, smiling. It looked great on him, and I loved how the pattern of simple stitches let the nuances and more subtle hues of the red wool shine through. It was good.

I will never cast aside the simple knitting pattern again. There is just as much to admire in a lovely roll-rim hat as in a cabled sock. And that is perhaps one of the greatest beauties of knitting.

Check out other great fiber arts at Fiber Arts Friday!
(Original post at Hudson Valley Fiber Webs)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

by James Merrill

Then when the flame forked like a sudden path
I gasped and stumbled, and was less.
Density pulsing upward, gauze of ash,
Dear light along the way to nothingness,
What could be made of you but light, and this?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Autumn Waiting

Autumn Waiting

by Tom Hennen

Cold wind.
The day is waiting for winter
Without a sound.
Everything is waiting—
Broken-down cars in the dead weeds.
The weeds themselves.
Even sunlight
Is in no hurry and stays
For a long time
On each cornstalk.
Blackbirds are silent
And sit in piles.
From a distance
They look like
Spilled on the road.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Cautionary Knitting Tale

Originally written for Hudson Valley Fiber Webs


(Or, Second Sock Syndrome: A Cautionary Tale)

Many of us have been there. We start off with so much enthusiasm, revelling in luxurious yarn or challenged by a swoony new pattern, and stitch along merrily. Maybe we finish it quickly, triumphantly binding off in record time. Hurrah! Soon our needles or hooks cool and our giddy euphoria begins to ebb. And our condition becomes quite clear. Quite. This is only the first of a pair of mittens, gloves, or slippers. In my case, it’s a sock. I have (to be mumbled with all due gravity)

((( Second. Sock. Syndrome. )))

I’ve only felt the symptoms of this vile virus a couple times, normally grounding myself with regular reminders. This is the first of two. Binding off the first toe is only the halfway point. And even on my spindliest size-two needles, the socks go quickly. Both of ‘em.

But oh my, this time I’m mired in it. I started these socks for my father-in-law back in August and knitted my way through sock one with gusto. It was a simple pattern, and I used some nifty self-striping yarn in browns, I enjoyed watching the pattern come together as I knitted. Bit all the while I heard a little voice, a shrill whistle in my ear. This yarn has no give! No stretch! They will be tooooo smalllll! But I knitted on, tuning out the warnings, because after all, I’d already turned the heel. There was no going back, right? (Oh, and I might be a bit stubborn.)

So, um, that cautionary screech? She was so right. When my father-in-law tried on his stripedy sock, he could hardly fit his foot into the heel. Arrrg! Foiled! At least I didn’t cry. Instead, I cast on for a new sock, adding 10 stitches. Happily, I bought an extra skein, so I have plenty of yarn and one less thing to worry about.

So this time, all through sock two, which is really sock one, a murmuring worry rumbles as I knit and purl, increase and decrease. I just finished the gusset and am hopeful that this one will be the right size. Maybe by the end of the weekend, I’ll be starting sock three, which is really only (long sigh) sock two.

For encouragement, I promised myself that I can start knitting with my POEMS SOCK yarn when I finish these beleaguered, belated birthday socks. Ah, it occurs to me that I should also start my Christmas knitting, but I’m not sure anyone is getting socks this year.

Check out other knitting projects on Fiber Arts Friday

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is it better to be a cat than a human?

Two Cats

by Katha Pollitt

It's better to be a cat than to be a human.
Not because of their much-noted grace and beauty—
their beauty wins them no added pleasure, grace is
only a cat's way

of getting without fuss from one place to another—
but because they see things as they are. Cats never mistake a
saucer of milk for a declaration of passion
or the crook of your knees for

a permanent address. Observing two cats on a sunporch,
you might think of them as a pair of Florentine bravoes
awaiting through slitted eyes the least lapse of attention—
then slash! the stiletto

or alternately as a long-married couple, who hardly
notice each other but find it somehow a comfort
sharing the couch, the evening news, the cocoa.
Both these ideas

are wrong. Two cats together are like two strangers
cast up by different storms on the same desert island
who manage to guard, despite the utter absence
of privacy, chocolate,

useful domestic articles, reading material,
their separate solitudes. They would not dream of
telling each other their dreams, or the plots of old movies,
or inventing a bookful

of coconut recipes. Where we would long ago have
frantically shredded our underwear into signal
flags and be dancing obscenely about on the shore in
a desperate frenzy,

they merely shift on their haunches, calm as two stoics
weighing the probable odds of the soul's immortality,
as if to say, if a ship should happen along we'll
be rescued. If not, not.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


by Louise Gluck

It's autumn in the market—
not wise anymore to buy tomatoes.
They're beautiful still on the outside,
some perfectly round and red, the rare varieties
misshapen, individual, like human brains covered in red oilcloth—

Inside, they're gone. Black, moldy—
you can't take a bite without anxiety.
Here and there, among the tainted ones, a fruit
still perfect, picked before decay set in.

Instead of tomatoes, crops nobody really wants.
Pumpkins, a lot of pumpkins.
Gourds, ropes of dried chilies, braids of garlic.
The artisans weave dead flowers into wreaths;
they tie bits of colored yarn around dried lavender.
And people go on for a while buying these things
as though they thought the farmers would see to it
that things went back to normal:
the vines would go back to bearing new peas;
the first small lettuces, so fragile, so delicate, would begin
to poke out of the dirt.

Instead, it gets dark early.
And the rains get heavier; they carry
the weight of dead leaves.

At dusk, now, an atmosphere of threat, of foreboding.
And people feel this themselves; they give a name to the season,
harvest, to put a better face on these things.

The gourds are rotting on the ground, the sweet blue grapes are finished.
A few roots, maybe, but the ground's so hard the farmers think
it isn't worth the effort to dig them out. For what?
To stand in the marketplace under a thin umbrella, in the rain, in the cold,
no customers anymore?

And then the frost comes; there's no more question of harvest.
The snow begins; the pretense of life ends.
The earth is white now; the fields shine when the moon rises.

I sit at the bedroom window, watching the snow fall.
The earth is like a mirror:
calm meeting calm, detachment meeting detachment.

What lives, lives underground.
What dies, dies without struggle.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Pick

The Pick
by Cecilia Woloch

I watched him swinging the pick in the sun,
breaking the concrete steps into chunks of rock,
and the rocks into dust,
and the dust into earth again.
I must have sat for a very long time on the split rail fence,
just watching him.
My father’s body glistened with sweat,
his arms flew like dark wings over his head.
He was turning the backyard into terraces,
breaking the hill into two flat plains.
I took for granted the power of him,
though it frightened me, too.
I watched as he swung the pick into the air
and brought it down hard
and changed the shape of the world,
and changed the shape of the world again.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

a little rhyme for a change

The Wild Swans At Coole

by William Butler Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodlands paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A poem from the vaults...

The Good Listener








the stiff


of cartilage,


its smooth


and circling

the warm



But still, you only listen.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Laura's Lavender

Some sprigs of fragrant lavender from my friend Laura's garden.

Monday, September 14, 2009

a life in names

Heard this poem read on on of my favorite radio shows, CKUA's The Road Home

by Wendy Cope

She was Eliza for a few weeks
When she was a baby-
Eliza Lily. Soon it changed to Lil.

Later she was Miss Steward in the baker's shop
And then 'my love', 'my darling', Mot

Widowed at thirty, she went back to work
As Mrs. Hand. Her daughter grew up,
Married and gave birth.

Now she was Nanna. 'Everybody
Calls me Nanna,' she would say to visitors.
And so they did - friends, tradesmen, the doctor.

In the geriatric ward
They used the patients' Christian names.
'Lil,' we said, 'or Nanna,'
But it wasn't in her file
And for those last bewildered weeks
She was Eliza once again.

Friday, September 11, 2009

home by now

Home By Now

by Meg Kearney

New Hampshire air curls my hair like a child's
hand curls around a finger. "Children?" No,
we tell the realtor, but maybe a dog or two.
They'll bark at the mail car (Margaret's
Chevy Supreme) and chase the occasional
moose here in this place where doors are left
unlocked and it's Code Green from sun-up,
meaning go ahead and feel relieved—
the terrorists are back where you left them
on East 20th Street and Avenue C. In New York
we stocked our emergency packs with whistles
and duct tape. In New England, precautions take
a milder hue: don't say "pig" on a lobster boat
or paint the hull blue. Your friends in the city
say they'll miss you but don't blame you—they
still cringe each time a plane's overhead,
one ear cocked for the other shoe.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy birthday, Mary Oliver


by Mary Oliver

I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It's like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

and the one after that...

In My Next Life

by Mark Perlberg

I will own a sailboat sleek
as fingers of wind
and ply the green islands
of the gulf of Maine.
In my next life I will pilot a plane,
and enjoy the light artillery
of the air as I fly to our island
and set down with aplomb
on its grass runway.
I'll be a whiz at math, master five or six
of the world's languages, write poems
strong as Frost and Milosz.
In my next life I won't wonder why
I lie awake from four till daybreak.
I'll be amiable, mostly, but large
and formidable.

I'll insist you be present
in my next life—and the one after that.

Friday, September 4, 2009

County Fair Time!

And what is more iconic of the beloved county fair than the ferris wheel?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The poetry of socks

My sister (not a knitter, I must add) spotted this skein when we were in NH a few weekends ago and knew immediately that it was meant for me. The jewel colors are my favorite, indeed, but with the name POEMS SOCK (colorway "Grape Arbor") by Widsom Yarns, it nearly sprang from the basket & into my eager hands. This will be my next project, after I finish some socks for my father-in-law. Will I wear them to write poems? Read poems? Merely wax poetic? Stay tuned.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"as common as the reddest wine"

Detroit Annie, Hitchhiking

Her words pour out as if her throat were a broken
artery and her mind were cut-glass, carelessly handled.
You imagine her in a huge velvet hat with great
dangling black feathers,
but she shaves her head instead
and goes for three-day midnight walks.
Sometimes she goes down to the dock and dances
off the end of it, simply to prove her belief
that people who cannot walk on water
are phonies, or dead.
When she is cruel, she is very, very
cool and when she is kind she is lavish.
Fisherman think perhaps she's a fish, but they're all
fools. She figured out that the only way
to keep from being frozen was to
stay in motion, and long ago converted
most of her flesh into liquid. Now when she
smells danger, she spills herself all over,
like gasoline, and lights it.
She leaves the taste of salt and iron
under your tongue, but you don't mind.
The common woman is as common
as the reddest wine

Monday, August 24, 2009

what goes on in the garden

Vegetable Love

by Barbara Crooker

Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth's tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos.
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth's voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Forty years!

My parents on their wedding day, 40 years ago.

Just as in love today...

Photo 1 (then) by their wedding photographer.
Photo 2 (now) by my mom.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

one of the best parts of summer

A Summer Night

by Kate Barnes

A summer night. The moon's face,
almost full now, comes and goes
through clouds. I can't see
any stars, but a late firefly
still flicks his green lamp on and off
by the fence.
In this light
that is more illusion
than light, I think of things
I can't make out: milkweed opening
its millions of flowerets, their heavy heads
smelling like dark honey in the night's
darkness; day lilies
crowding the ditch, their blossoms
closed tight; birds asleep with their small legs
locked on twigs; deer stealing
into the uncut hay; and the young bay mare
kneeling down in the pasture, composing herself
to rest, as rounded and strong
as a meant prayer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009



by Ellie Schoenfeld

My country is this dirt
that gathers under my fingernails
when I am in the garden.
The quiet bacteria and fungi,
all the little insects and bugs
are my compatriots. They are
idealistic, always working together
for the common good.
I kneel on the earth
and pledge my allegiance
to all the dirt of the world,
to all of that soil which grows
flowers and food
for the just and unjust alike.
The soil does not care
what we think about or who we love.
It knows our true substance,
of what we are really made.
I stand my ground on this ground,
this ground which will
recruit us all
to its side.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Watch out for the oft-surly adjectives!

The Student Theme

by Ronald Wallace

The adjectives all ganged up on the nouns,
insistent, loud, demanding, inexact,
their Latinate constructions flashing. The pronouns
lost their referents: They were dangling, lacked
the stamina to follow the prepositions' lead
in, on, into, to, toward, for, or from.
They were beset by passive voices and dead
metaphors, conjunctions shouting But! or And!

The active verbs were all routinely modified
by adverbs, that endlessly and colorlessly ran
into trouble with the participles sitting
on the margins knitting their brows like gerunds
(dangling was their problem, too). The author
was nowhere to be seen; was off somewhere.

Monday, July 27, 2009

summer sustenance

Green-Striped Melons
by Jane Hirshfield

They lie
under stars in a field.
They lie under rain in a field.
Under sun.

Some people
are like this as well--
like a painting
hidden beneath another painting.

An unexpected weight
the sign of their ripeness.

"the uses / And uselessness of hope"

'Tis Yet to Come

by Willard Spiegelman

The night is clear; the air is full of fall.
The trees begin to think of changing shape,
Of losing leaves, of stripping down to bare
Essentials. No need to strut autumnal
Beauty when everyone already knows
What lies in store for all of us. The oaks,
The maples, lindens, and the rest have been
Through this before, and yet for you and me
Each season brings the sense of something new.
"Hope springs eternal," as the poet said.
It springs through summer, autumn too, and then
Hope falls eternal, failing every time
To bring whatever once we thought it could.
Our equilibrium demands that we
At least attempt to think that seasons come
And go with energetic forcefulness.
We can't believe in random change, in change
With nothing other than itself in mind.
Our god is teleology, our creed
The sense that progress moves in only one
Direction; good will triumph after all.

What pattern can we find in autumn's change?
From summer's green to stubble fields, Keats knew
That harvest takes us all in by the time
We have sown and reaped and gleaned—that harvest
Reaps the reapers too. We are taken in,
Feeling we might last another season
Or even several more, until we think,
Like autumn's bees, warm days will never cease.
Homer had it right: the generations
Of men are like the leaves that fly about
And then descend, obliterating, then
Obliterated. Triumph? What folly.

Day breaks, but night falls, like the autumn leaves
That mark our universal downward path.
Descent is our design as well as our
Direction. Now the drop in temperature,
The trees' divestiture of foliage,
Demand that we encapsulate ourselves
In woolens, sweaters, proper covering
For self-protection. All to no avail:
The warmth in which we reinvest ourselves
Each winter cannot keep us safe or sound
Or insulate us from the final fall
We've been foredoomed to take, if not in fall
Then in whatever season falls on us.

The trees don't really change their shapes. They just
Reveal to us their skeletons as they
Disrobe. They neither strut nor think of what
They have to do. We watch in disbelief,
And shock, and awe, and even something like
Gratitude for what they have to teach us
About the uses and the uselessness
Of hope. It springs; it falls; it comes and goes.
We ourselves do not. Having come, we go
And having gone, do not return. The spring
Will do its best to cover up our fall.
The day will hide our having been at all,
And our evaporation not be felt
Or known by those who spring up in our place.

We move, indeed, in one direction. This
Focuses our thoughts when all around we
See how nature wants to move in circles,
Contriving repetition. And, alert
To seasons and their unabating joys,
We finally give up and then give in
To linearity, knowing that we
Too shall pass. This grants us final comfort,
A clarity that brightens and redeems
Us as we fall into our final change.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

one memory

(poem in progress)

You Ask for One Memory of You

After a night of shiraz and smokes

and people I hardly know,

you walk me home

through the thinnest hours

before dawn and snow,

so cold

our teeth might freeze to our lips

if we dare smile.

On the icy sidewalk

outside my apartment

we shake hands

through thick mittens.

That is as close

as we ever get

—wool on wool—

and it is enough.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

poetry in black stones

Black Islands

by Martin Espada

for Darío

At Isla Negra,
between Neruda's tomb
and the anchor in the garden,
a man with stonecutter's hands
lifted up his boy of five
so the boy's eyes could search mine.
The boy's eyes were black olives.
Son, the father said, this is a poet,
like Pablo Neruda
The boy's eyes were black glass.
My son is called Darío,
for the poet of Nicaragua
the father said.
The boy's eyes were black stones.
The boy said nothing,
searching my face for poetry,
searching my eyes for his own eyes.
The boy's eyes were black islands.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

dark summer jewels

By Mary Oliver

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.

Blackberry Eating
by Galway Kinnell

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry -- eating in late September.


The Place I Want To Get Back To

by Mary Oliver

is where
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
the darkness

and first light
two deer
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let's see who she is
and why she is sitting

on the ground like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can't be repeated.

If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The NiverMoores tempt the wrath of Mt. Greylock?

This is a trip that started weeks ago. We had not been backpacking together in 7 years (!!), so Mt. Greylock was our destination. It was the weekend of our fourth wedding anniversary. The weather was perfect, and we were only miles from the trailhead. Perfect weather, love, and soon...trail! Until...the car conked out. Would. Not. Start. We were too far from the campsite to rationalize hiking up the much longer, more strenuous trail, so we called a tow truck, settling in for what would be 5 hours of waiting. Luckily, I had my knitting.

Fast forward: After several rainy, humid weeks, the wet streak finally broke. Behold! There was sun! Sun! It was some kinda windy all weekend, but it made for great clouds.

From Greylock

We drove up to the Sperry Road lot (SKIPPING the visitor's center, the site of our last attempt's failure) and quickly hiked in to our site. We were there after maybe an hour or so, without incident. This was Zoe's first backpacking trip, and she handled it beautifully!

From Greylock

From Greylock

The camp sites were great! They were clean, verdant, and (best of all) secluded. We could hardly hear or see our neighbors. Perfect! They had compostable privies up the camp road, but one of them never seemed to have tp.

Munching on GORP (pepitas [pumpkin seeds], roasted almonds, sesame sticks, raisins, and dark chocolate peanut M&Ms), we set up the behemoth tent; and with the threat of rain not quite out of the question, Ryan set up an extra fly over the picnic table, even notching a branch for center support. Nice job!

From Greylock

From Greylock

Soon hungry hikers demanded dinner...Pindos Mountain Pasta: angel hair pasta with basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta (from Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'. YUM! I made three servings for my generally starving family, but it was WAY more than we could eat. I could have gone with two and still had leftovers. We decided that we made enough to feed four starving backpackers or, as Zoe said, “Five ravenous raccoons.”

With bellies too full for dessert and some daylight to spare, we hung the bear bag (Ryan's aim was very fine indeed!), and hiked up to Stony Ledge for sunset. The clouds were rolling through at quite a pace, but the near-full moon was often in sight. Unfortunately, I had to go easy taking photos, realizing one of my batteries was not fully charged. I knew there was something more to do before I left! Hmph.

From Greylock

We hiked back to our tent by moonlight. It wasn't late, so Ryan started a campfire and we settled in, reading and chatting. Zoe roasted marshmallows, too. It wasn’t long before we zonked out. The wind howled all night long, but it didn't rain.

After a warm breakfast of Freezerbag Cooking's rice pudding (made 1.5 servings) and coffee, we packed up a lunch and headed to Cataract Falls. Only a mile in, it was not a bad hike. I may have complained about all the recent rain, but they sure highlighted the falls! We stayed there for a couple hours, me taking photos, Z rambling around on the rocks. We enjoyed a lunch of LVB "Grunch," a tasty spread made from peanut butter, honey, vanilla, and graham crackers. We also gobbled some Gold Coins, flaky cheddar crackers that I know a certain girl will be asking for in the future! More GORP was consumed, too.

From Greylock

From Greylock

We hiked back to camp in the afternoon, Z telling us all about a story she had started writing, complete with character and setting details. WHAT an imagination! Knowing we would hike to Greylock's summit in the evening, decided to relax. We ALL fell asleep for a long summer's nap. I drifted off reading and watching the dappled sun on the sides of the tent. Decadent!

We awoke and decided supper was in order, so we would have plenty of time to make our way to the summit. We made burritos using another LVB recipe of Time-Traveler's Tamale, corn tortillas, and cheddar slices that melted on the hot tamale. Everyone ate a couple! Again too full for dessert, we decided to wait and enjoy it up at the summit.

We headed up the Hopper Trail and made good time to the intersection with the Overlook Trail.

From Greylock

What's this? Time to spare? We took the Overlook trail. Glad we did, because the view was lovely!

From Greylock

It was a tough hike up to the summit, but we made it in plenty of time to head up the tower for an amazing panoramic view.

From Greylock

We poked around, checking out some nifty stones.

From Greylock

But the wind was whipping. We took advantage of the empty Thunderhead Shelter (but sadly with windows busted out and firewood stolen), and enjoyed some of One Pan Wonders' Bailey's Mousse with some adaptations. They did not have vanilla mouse at the store, so I used dark chocolate mousse (oh, a tragic substitution indeed!), and we used an Irish cream syrup instead of Bailey's owing to the 10-year old among us. We brought graham crackers and dipped them in the mouse. Delicious!!! Another winner!

After licking our lips and our spoons, we headed back up to the summit to check out the fireworks. We layered in fleeces and raincoats, pulling up hoods, and burrowing hands deep into pockets. It was NOT feeling like July! Zoe and Ryan trekked back up the tower to see the light show from up there, but I stayed down to set up the tripod and get some photos. It was so windy that I had to hold the tripod, lest the whole rig go flying! Only got a few blurry photos before my battery conked out on me.

From Greylock

Plenty cold, we decided to begin the trek back down when the fireworks began to wane. Ah, it felt good to be out of the wind. The trail was slick, so it was slow going for a while. About a mile in, we crossed the newly paved road and decided that although it would be a touch longer, we'd take the road. With thankful knees and ankles, our pace picked up nicely.

Apparently, I was feeling a little overconfident once we hit the camp road, because one second I was walking, the next I was splayed on the ground! What?! I showed Ryan and Zoe my hands to prove I was trying fend off a bear, but for some reason they're not buying it. (Hmmmm....) We got back to camp in good time and hit the bags.

We woke to the morning sun for the best weather yet! After gobbling the rest of the rice pudding, we packed up camp and headed back out. I can't believe the things people lugged in. On our way out, we saw two guys trying to roll out a huge canopy, cooler, and other assorted stuff. They had to give up and leave most of it on the side of the road as they carried the canopy (yes it took both of them) back to their car.

Z was definitely tired and Ryan's knees were bugging him, so we voted to hike the paved road back to the parking lot. Unloading the gear, we talked about some day hike options. Lunch was on our minds, and Z was looking forward to LVB Fabulous Fry Brownies! As we drove out, the car began to act up again. Ugh! What was this? The wrath of Greylock once again?! Not wanting to tempt fate, we headed toward home. We found a nice park in Williamstown and ate lunch by a creek. I wanted to make Smokey Lentil Pate, but we ate it all on the last "trip" and I didn't have time to make it again. Z played for a while in the creek and at the playground before we drove our tired, dirty, happy bodies home.

All told, we hiked about 13 miles this weekend. My ankle fared very well, and I'm pleased! Zoe did a great job, and Ryan was a good sport, considering he took the bulk of the gear in an awful, borrowed pack. Must remedy that! We learned that most backpacking recipes make way more than we can consume...at least until we start putting in more miles.

For more photos from our weekend, click here

"small jewel shining in space"

Lonely Lake

by Joyce Kennedy

It was the name given it on our hiking map. Intrigued,
we followed a narrow, rising trail flecked with autumn,
aspen leaves beneath our feet, young trees leaning across
as if to guard the integrity of loneliness. At the end,
we found the lake, small jewel shining in space, not
obviously frequented, although there was a rickety
dock and on it, a battered rowboat and dented canoe.
No paddles. We sat, one in rowboat, one in canoe,
the loneliness of the lake pared down to bare essentials—
shore lined with thick, dark pine, intense and cloudless sky,
sun flaring on water's changing surface. A hawk dipped
down to startle the peace while two ducks rode the ripples
unperturbed. Stunned by beauty, we reached across—
boat to canoe, canoe to boat—to touch hands,
our own lonely selves connecting as lightly and effortlessly
as the dragonfly wing that earlier brushed against my face.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"Weeks follow each other like books"

Under the Elm

by Pierre Martory
Translated from the French by John Ashbery

Under the elm for a long time
I've been waiting for you, O my soul.
Weeks follow each other like books
Perused, my thoughts elsewhere,
Full of music that's distracted too
Full of a deep buzzing where words images
Perceptions dwell in the jumble of memory
Of which our mind is composed.
And nothing comes to assert your coming
No other sign than smoke.
Is it you that we should have welcomed
When tenderness filled our hearts?
You that we should have discovered
On the shores of pity or of love?
I have not been taught to notice your presence
Even when reveille raises the limbs
Of a future happiness; even when
Tired of a long day I seek
Silence in the immense dark where I jettison
What differentiates the sun from death.
Hours accumulated, absurd riches,
I am ready to give up the trees and the cities
But I still hope to receive you, my soul,
Laden with my own eternity.
You who are me, who resembles nobody,
You that I must give back some day to who knows who.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Finished this last night. Each chapter is its own flavor, some appealing to me more than others. Overall, a good, interesting read about one of life's tastiest morsels!

View all my reviews.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Oh, the ghosts of English teachers past!

The Effort

by Billy Collins

Would anyone care to join me
in flicking a few pebbles in the direction
of teachers who are fond of asking the question:
"What is the poet trying to say?"

as if Thomas Hardy and Emily Dickinson
had struggled but ultimately failed in their efforts—
inarticulate wretches that they were,
biting their pens and staring out the window for a clue.

Yes, it seems that Whitman, Amy Lowell
and the rest could only try and fail
but we in Mrs. Parker's third-period English class
here at Springfield High will succeed

with the help of these study questions
in saying what the poor poet could not,
and we will get all this done before
that orgy of egg salad and tuna fish known as lunch.

Tonight, however, I am the one trying
to say what it is this absence means,
the two of us sleeping and waking under different roofs.
The image of this vase of cut flowers,

not from our garden, is no help.
And the same goes for the single plate,
the solitary lamp, and the weather that presses its face
against these new windows--the drizzle and the
morning frost.

So I will leave it up to Mrs. Parker,
who is tapping a piece of chalk against the blackboard,
and her students—a few with their hands up,
others slouching with their caps on backwards—

to figure out what it is I am trying to say
about this place where I find myself
and to do it before the noon bell rings
and that whirlwind of meatloaf is unleashed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Recent knitting shenanigans....

Hurry Up Spring Fingerless Gloves for Lou,
who (well, come fall) needs warm hands but free fingers
to deal with her two (beautiful!) babies.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quick Guide to the Apostrophe

With many thanks to Teresa for bringing this gem to my attention.
(click image for a larger view)

Monday, June 8, 2009

finding night

Night in Day
by Joseph Stroud

The night never wants to end, to give itself over
to light. So it traps itself in things: obsidian, crows.
Even on summer solstice, the day of light’s great
triumph, where fields of sunflowers guzzle in the sun—
we break open the watermelon and spit out
black seeds, bits of night glistening on the grass.

Friday, June 5, 2009

snow in night

Untitled [Toward night]
by Kevin Goodan

Toward night, frail flurries of snow. Fingernails of willows scratching frost from the edges of the kitchen window where I watch the field beyond the fence where once corn was taller than a man can reach but now I gaze into the kitchen of the next farmhouse and watch the man with a bad leg hobble from sink to table to feed his mother with a spoon. I keep the lights off and study snow to augur from the flakes what fortune I may. The furnace does its duty and cars pass, swirls of flurry captured in fading prisms of red. If I stood on the road it would glow and crackle beneath my feet. The air would be muted, my own breath sounding as though it came from another body, a shadow leaning faintly toward me as though to whisper any comfort. Animals would unshelter themselves to stand waiting at the fence. Snow would settle everything. I would cup my hands, realizing I had become what it was I wanted to be. The body beside me would breathe on. The two of us.