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.