Wednesday, March 31, 2010
You can ask me anything, but don’t ask me to distinguish between the real, the virtual, and the imagined — especially when it comes to friendship. Were I to do that, I would be worthy of none.
My thanks to all who have signed on recently as followers of this blog. I encourage everyone to click on the profile images in the “Circulation” area and follow the links wherever they lead. You’ll find it a source of nourishment and surprise.
Note: The title of this post is a poem I heard this morning while I was in the kitchen making coffee.
In the Forum: he ignored his slumbering bottle.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Time and again, I’m amazed by the talent, and moved by the kindness and grace, of the people I meet online. When I began my Web sojourn back in 2001, I began it as I begin all things: by throwing caution to the wind, and setting my sights on an imagined, ever-changing horizon. All my life I’ve traveled thus, adventure now, the details later, sink or swim — shown, and shown again, that the details are the adventure.
One such detail is this glorious new portrait by a wonderful painter and person I admire, Laura Tedeschi. I’ve been following Laura’s blog, nouvelles couleurs, for quite some time now. Laura lives in Vienna and writes in Italian. I live in Salem and write in English. She knows English well enough to understand the comments I make on her colorful paintings, which strike me as a form of music and poetry on canvas. And she knows it well enough to understand not only the meaning of what I write, but what drives me to write the way I do, so often long in pain and short in words, and with a smile that shows no teeth.
Laura, I think, paints the same way. Her light is touched by sorrow, and her brooding overflows with brightness, gratitude, and joy.
Thank you, Laura, for this beautiful surprise. Your painting is a treasure, and it will remain so long after I’m gone.
3.30.2010 #1 (new poem and recent links)
You’ve noticed, I suppose,
that the flesh knows precisely
when two minds meet.
Recently Linked: My thanks to metalchica, aka Annie McDermott, for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Annie shares her thoughts shyly and demurely in her blog, Unfiction. Thanks, also, to Lynn Behrendt for including my recent dream, A Distant Realm, in the Annandale Dream Gazette.
“Between Us” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: a capital idea.
Monday, March 29, 2010
I set off down the sidewalk in a warm, light rain. I had no umbrella. The rain felt good on my face. The sidewalk ended at a busy road. Across the road was a flooded field. Before my eyes, there materialized a rising river. To the west lay higher ground. To the east, the road followed a downward slope. The river crashed onto the pavement in great waves. I thought it might alter the course of the road. A young couple approached. The husband was much taller than his wife. As if we’d known each other all our lives, he said, “I hear there’s trouble by the gates.” And I replied, “Yes, in that distant realm.”
Recently Linked: A friendly welcome to Dillie, who has just signed on as a follower. Thank you, Dillie. My thanks, also, to Chris Jarik, a talented young artist from Holland. Chris is the thirteen-year-old son of another friend and artist I admire, Momo Luna. Be sure to visit his new blog, Chris Jarik Art. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
In the Forum: before after, after before.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
After a brief engagement
they fell in love
burned their uniforms
sang until dawn
let their guns
rust rust rust rust rust
“An Imagined End to War” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: establishing a middle dog.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
It rained last night. But that didn’t stop the neighbor’s young tom from yowling on the roof outside our bedroom window. The harder it rained, the louder he yowled. And the wind — I imagined it was violet. I was also dreaming in that color. I had started some kind of painting business, having to do with old furniture. My equipment consisted of a violet paintbrush and a can of paint, a neatly folded drop-cloth with a menacing violet blotch, and a clay pot filled with violets. “Violets,” I thought. “In from the field. We each in our way must do what we can.” But I had no business — and suddenly it dawned on me that I would never have any business, because business was not, and had never been, the business I was in. And I was glad.
Recently Linked: My thanks to onedaneplace for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Welcome!
In the Forum: a test run.
Friday, March 26, 2010
The difference between reality and imagination is itself imagined. What need for a dividing line at all? To spare us the fear of knowing we don’t know?
Note: I posted this as a “Note” on Facebook yesterday. Little by little, I’m getting used to things in that new environment. But of course much remains to be explored. I have met a lot of interesting new people — readers, writers, poets, artists — and look forward to meeting many more. There’s so much fine work out there to stimulate the mind and senses — that is, if the mind is not a sense itself, and the senses don’t have minds of their own.
In the Forum: an arbitrary middle leads to a conclusive beginning, but not until you reach the end.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
What I really wanted were the two tall bookshelves that wouldn’t fit in the trunk. Now I need them that much more.
Recently Linked: It’s a pleasure to welcome artist Mark Webster as a new follower of Recently Banned Literature. As a glance at his profile shows, Mark maintains an extensive online presence. I’ll note two links here to get you started: his website, and one of his blogs.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Vision cursed by seed disbursed from shepherd’s purse
on mossy wall.
Recently Linked: My thanks to Bill Vallicella for linking to my main website from his blog, Maverick Philosopher. It seems he hit a snag at Borders the other day — one I can certainly identify with. I’ve added a link to his blog in the “Reading Room” for future reference.
“Capsella bursa-pastoris” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: looped fiction.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Uncertain until further notice, unsure as an unpaid profession, unknown as a way of life underlying universal concerns, unpaid bills unable to sustain attention, ubiquitously alluvial, friable, unterraced and unable to damn expressions unexpressed, a pale flower pressed between unread pages, undying love unforgotten, unrequited, unless...
Recently Linked: It’s a pleasure to welcome Inkpunk Artworks as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Inkpunk also has an Etsy page.
“Passage” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: jumping to conclusions.
Friday, March 19, 2010
I can’t get over the amount of paperwork piled up here on my desk. Bills, statements, receipts, tax forms, lists, notes, reminders, a census form... and now that I’m out of shelf space, stacks of books. When I type, my left elbow rubs against the nearest stack. And almost all of this has accumulated in the last two weeks.
Granted, of necessity, I’m responsible for two family accounts other than my own. My mother’s has its complications. I should really have a separate desk for hers alone. Come to think of it, this is her desk, and the drawers and typewriter well are already stuffed with documents and memorabilia. (Grr... I just made another note, to correct a misspelling in the original website entry of yesterday’s post. I can’t believe I missed it. And it’s been there for years.)
Am I disorganized? No. Lazy? Well, there’s some evidence, at least, to the contrary. What happens is this: I take care of everything, get it all paid, sorted, filed, and put away, and then I go out to the mailbox and bring in another load. Occasionally, a dump truck arrives with more. Men in hardhats. Women in business attire. Bitter children. Dogs, cats, slugs — all delivering paperwork. Just imagine what would happen if I were disorganized.
Of course, I could simplify. But I’ve simplified so many times over the years that about the only thing left I have to throw overboard is writing. True, an argument can be made that writing is where my trouble really begins. If I didn’t write, I wouldn’t have a website, blog, or Facebook page to maintain. If I didn’t write, I wouldn’t have letters to answer and comments to respond to. If I didn’t write, I would have time to do all the other things I don’t have time to do, but that I do anyway. In short, if I didn’t write, and if I didn’t communicate with others, I would be miserable. I would be consumed by efficiency from the inside out — which reminds me, although I don’t quite see a connection at the moment:
The other day, after I left the hospital emergency room, I saw one of our old neighbors — a boy in his early twenties now, who fell in with the wrong crowd while he was still in junior high school. As I drove away, he was walking slowly toward me on the sidewalk with a vacant stare, obviously fried on drugs. He was going nowhere — indeed, I doubt he knew where he was. When our eyes met, I saw in his a brief glimmer of helpless recognition. As I left him behind, framed in my mirror beside a cherry tree in blossom, I wondered how long I would remember what I was seeing, and what part the image would play, if any, in the days and weeks to come.
Well — I see the connection now. And will you just look at the time.
Recently Linked: My thanks to John Legaspi, for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.
In the Forum: great endings in a minute or less.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I posted this as a note on my Facebook page yesterday and thought I’d present it here as well. It’s one of my earliest Notebook entries. And I didn’t think of it until now, but its length is symbolic of its subject matter.
Written back in 2002, the following piece is a page taken directly from my traumatic childhood, which will probably never be made into a movie. The psychological torment I endured at the hands of my grandfather has left lasting scars, but you will be glad to know I don’t hold it against him. He did what he had to do, as all men must. And I did what I had to do. In his later years, we were good friends. In fact, I used to mow his front and back lawns — no easy task, because they were huge, and because he fertilized them so heavily. When we were done, we always ate a big lunch prepared by my grandmother. Paralyzed by the good food, I sat at the table and listened to familiar talk of the old days. Later in the afternoon, when I returned to the real world, I felt calm and serene. It was a good time — as all times are, or at least as all times try to be, if we are open to the idea.
The picture sits atop our piano. I am about three years old, and I’m sitting on my mother’s clothes hamper near the laundry tray and homemade mirror my father uses when he washes his hands and shaves. I’m holding a shaving brush with a large wooden handle. Leaning over me with electric barber shears in hand is my grandfather — my father’s father, Haroutiun Michaelian, born in 1896 in Armenia. I’m smiling. My grandfather is concentrating. It’s a wonderful scene, a picture for the ages.
Until I was about twelve, my grandfather was my barber. Unfortunately, he knew how to cut hair only one way: short. He ran the clipper close to my head, treating it like a pumpkin or melon, which is to say he turned it around roughly between his hands as if he were checking for ripeness and defects.
By the time I was nine, as much as I liked my grandfather, I hated his haircuts. I felt stupid going to school with my head buzzed. I used to beg my father to let me have longer hair, and to go to one of the real barbers in town. He always said, “We’ll see. Maybe this winter. It’s too hot now for long hair.” Trouble was, we were living in the San Joaquin Valley, which, translated into English, means “It’s Always Summer.”
The years went by. Eventually, I began to rebel. One afternoon, when my grandfather drove into our yard, I went outside and hid. He lived only a quarter-mile away, at the east end of our vineyard. Every other time he came to our house he was on foot. He only drove for the haircuts. So when he parked in the shade under our big mulberry tree, I knew he hadn’t come to visit. When he got out of the car, he even had that certain “haircut look” I had come to recognize. It was a look that was grim, purposeful, and business-like all rolled into one — a look that said, “All right, we can talk later, but right now we have work to do.”
I don’t know. Maybe he was as tired of giving me haircuts as I was of getting them. Anyway, by the time he was at our door and my mother was letting him in, I was in the vineyard behind the house hiding behind a wall of dusty growth and spider webs. At first nothing happened, so I waited. Finally, when I heard the back door slam, I crawled two or three rows deeper into the vineyard. When I heard my mother call my name and tell me it was time for my haircut, I got up and ran.
This response, I knew, was a big mistake. If I had popped out of the vineyard with a smile and gone into the house for my haircut, everything would have been fine. But I couldn’t help myself. Something inside me snapped. Or, maybe I figured since I could run faster than everyone else, I could just keep on running — as long as it took, forever if necessary.
Near the north edge of our property, I stopped running. A few minutes later, after I’d caught my breath, I heard voices. It was my mother and my grandfather. Somehow they had guessed where I was. Walking along the main avenue that divided one half of our farm from the other, they had stopped within about forty feet of where I was hiding.
I heard my mother apologizing. Then my grandfather said, “He should know better,” in a voice loud enough and serious enough for me to believe he was right. My mother called my name. “Why don’t you come out now?” she said. “Don’t keep Grandpa waiting. It’s hot out here. Come back to the house, and after your haircut we’ll have some lemonade.”
The lemonade sounded good, but not the part about the haircut. I kept quiet.
“Your father’s coming.”
Sure enough, I could see a cloud of dust as my father approached in his old pickup. He rattled up and turned off the engine. “I could see you from the road,” he said. “What are you doing way out here?”
My mother told him they were looking for me so I could have my haircut.
“What?” My father got out of the pickup and slammed the door. “Come out now!” His voice thundering over the vines made my heart pound.
I came out. I walked between the two rows of vines until I reached the end, then reluctantly joined the others.
My mother looked mad, but I knew she wasn’t.
My grandfather looked hot. He also looked like he was ready to give me my haircut right there on the spot with his bare hands.
My father was mad. He said to my grandfather, “Cut it all off this time. Leave it an eighth of an inch long.”
The men got into the pickup. My mother and I got in back. My father turned the pickup around and drove us all back to the house.
That day, I had the shortest haircut of my life. It wasn’t the last haircut my grandfather gave me, but it was almost the last. A few months later, my father took me to his barber in town and told him he should leave enough hair on my head to comb. Imagine — until that time I didn’t even have a comb. I had no use for one. I was elated.
My elation, however, was only temporary. Maybe it was the shape of my head, but I soon found out that my father’s barber wasn’t able to cut my hair the way I liked. Also, I found his approach to cutting hair rather boring, as it lacked the decisive vigor I was used to in my grandfather’s haircuts. Then there was the matter of this stranger’s artificial smell, which was a rudely upsetting combination of powder, doughnuts, and aftershave. I preferred my grandfather’s smell — the smell of perspiration, and earth, and our family’s familiar cooking.
I suffered with my father’s barber for another three or four years, until I was in high school and had a little more control over how I looked. Knowing I was miserable, one day my mother kindly offered to cut my hair for me. I agreed, and she cut my hair for the next couple of years, learning as she went, until I moved to Fresno, got married, and became the shaggy, bearded person I still am today.
Now I’m well into my forties. The twentieth century is over. My grandfather is dead. So is my dear father. The vineyard, too, is gone, gone to silence. But I still remember those days, as does my mother, a wonderful woman who turned out to be a pretty darned good barber.
A few days after I had run away, she told me that no one had really been mad, even my father. In fact, she said he had laughed out loud about the episode that night after I had gone to bed and fallen asleep.
I appreciated her taking me into her confidence, but remained doubtful. “Then why did he tell Gramp to cut off all my hair?” I said.
“Oh, I don’t know,” my mother said. She looked at my bald head and smiled. “Probably because it’s so hot and he thinks you will feel cooler with short hair.”
So much for family wisdom.
These days, my wife cuts my hair — though I confess it’s been a good eight months since my last haircut. For whatever reason, the shaggier I get, the better I seem to feel.
And I used to cut hers, but the unpredictable nature of my work finally drove her to seek professional help — a move I understand all too well.
In the Forum: filming under a microscope.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
We were there five hours. She ate her crackers and cheese. I ate her baby carrots and apple slices. Before her first nap, I spooned five bites of pudding into her mouth. Then I begged coffee from a yawning nurse.... Where was I living when I died? she asked somewhere beside the old clothesline I’d resurrected in her mind — 1965, our sheets baking beneath a harsh blue sky.... Is Mother still alive? bright petals falling from my hand, one for her father, one for mine, one for each dead sister.... By the time transport arrived, she was covered by flowers.... Two strong men, suitably kind. A warm blanket from the dispensary. Things are going to be fine, Mom, just fine. Good-bye? Across how many years? How many acres of cold, blind linoleum? They turned at the corridor. She went home. I was alone again.
“Emergency Room” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: tossed out through the saloon doors.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Fingertips seek, hand decides, head along for the ride.
Recently Linked: My thanks to Börje Johansson for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature, and for linking here from his new blog, Raybörje’s Happenings. His profile statement is quite inspiring, I think: “Academia and wine is my life.”
“Frosty Window” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
Monday, March 15, 2010
I have to highlight my Forum exchange with John Berbrich earlier this morning. For those who don’t know, John and his wife Nancy publish and edit the literary quarterly Barbaric Yawp in upstate New York. Way back in 2001, John interviewed me for the magazine, and then in 2002 I interviewed him. Ever since, we’ve continued our conversation on my main website — the source of my frequent Forum updates.
Last night, I pointed John to the wonderful portrait by Cassandra LaMothe I posted recently. Here’s what he had to say, followed by my reply:
JB: Wow, that woman can really draw. The picture makes you look solid & kinda mean. Certainly formidable. Could be an author in a remote century, sitting in a garret or a dungeon, your face illuminated by a flaming torch. You’re wearing scratchy wool, & I can hear people outside calling sheep & tramping through the mud. Someone’s preparing gruel for supper & there’s a religious earthquake about to start shaking things up somewhere to the east. But you’ve got your literary & philosophical work to do & can’t be bothered w/ these mundane happenings. Am I close?
WM: Closer than you might imagine. Because now I have a confession to make: this is actually based on a photograph of my great-grandfather, Lev Mikhailovich Wilstoy, an obscure writer and philosopher who babbled and wrote nothing but gibberish the last three decades of his life. He was so hard to understand, in fact, that some say he was a precursor to Joyce.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been carrying on like this almost every day for over seven years. It explains a lot, I think. Maybe too much.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I’m absolutely amazed by this. Cassie, as I’m sure some of you are aware from her blog, writes some terrific poems. But she is also quite the artist — a fact she’s very quiet about. Now, I don’t want to drag her kicking and screaming into the limelight. But for a work like this — and so appropriately titled! — she should at least have to endure a few moments in the lemonlight, don’t you think?
Cassie, I’m honored. This is a beautiful thing you’ve done, and it’s something I’ll treasure all my life. Thank you.
3.13.2010 #1 (dream)
I was peddling a one-speed bicycle seventy miles an hour on a freeway with my wife and grandson aboard. We had one piece of luggage strapped to the frame: a leather saddlebag. Confused by the signs, I took the wrong exit and went up a hill. We got off in a flat graveled area surrounded by leafy trees. There were no cars or bicycles in sight. Several people were milling around, not at all impressed by how we’d arrived. Up ahead, on higher ground, there was a large round concrete tank. Hovering just above it was an empty wooden rocking chair, turning slowly in the breeze.
Added yesterday to the Annandale Dream Gazette. My thanks, as always, to Lynn Behrendt.
Recently Linked: It’s a pleasure to welcome JRonson as a new follower. A young artist from Lisbon, Portugal, JRonson has dreams of being a famous painter. Judging by his blog, PlasticFreak World, he is well on his way.
In the Forum: Depression smokes.
Friday, March 12, 2010
While I’ve yet to reconnect with any childhood friends, my new foray into Facebook has me thinking about them just the same:
There was an immense Italian stone pine that shaded our graveled driveway. It was quite tall but also round, with layer upon layer of branches that tended to spiral, and which formed perfect steps for pulling oneself up and climbing at the main trunk. I spent a lot of time in and under that tree, listening to its music and savoring the privacy and shade. But whenever friends or relatives were over, the kids all scrambled up, usually one or two at a time, constantly blinking to prevent bits and pieces of bark from landing in our eyes. A cousin my age, whom I haven’t seen in years and who is a new Facebook friend, climbed higher than any of us. I wonder if he remembers. Being smaller and much more agile, he once managed to reach an area where the branches were smaller and closer together, until he was virtually pinned between them and I was wondering if I should call for help — as if either of our hairy full-grown fathers, busy laughing and shouting in the kitchen through a cloud of cigar smoke, could have shimmied up to the rescue. Besides, there was a matter of pride involved. I remember, though, how things suddenly became serious, and then for a time desperate, as we both held our breath, I just a few feet below him imagining each precarious step downward a dozen times before it was taken. Again, I wonder if he remembers — and if he does, if he remembers it as such a dramatic event. Maybe not. Busy with other games and adventures, we never spoke of it afterward.
There was a party under the tree once — a little summer affair that attracted four other boys from our farm neighborhood. Two were my age, and the others were two or three years older and from rougher backgrounds, although they were essentially good kids, and wary descendants of the Dust Bowl. One died of a heart attack back in the Nineties; the other I lost track of after high school, although one afternoon his older brother did drive his car drunk into a nearby irrigation ditch....
In any case, we had a party. I remember distinctly that I had orange soda, and that we were eating potato chips that cost thirty-nine cents for a big bag. When they went up to forty-nine cents, my father flipped: “Forty-nine cents for a damn bag of air?” — and after a brief chip moratorium, he started buying them at the new price. I don’t remember what the others drank. Probably Coke and root beer, which was really my favorite at the time — Hires, or Dad’s.
One thing my mother didn’t like about the kid who died young was that his nose was always running, and that his only attempts to deal with it were made with his tongue....
Another of those kids ended up falling in with the wrong crowd and wasting away after blowing his mind on drugs. I used to receive twenty-page letters from him. They were handwritten on both sides of lined yellow sheets in an almost indecipherable scrawl, and contained insistent, paranoid, pie-in-the-sky nonsense interspersed with flashbacks to our childhood — common ground impossible to sanely share in the present. And then a few years ago his letters stopped. What else do I remember about him now? Picking grapes together on his father’s farm; throwing clods at each other from behind a manure pile; playing in the water under his ancient, aromatic magnolia tree....
Recently Linked: My thanks to Cassandra Lotus for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Cassandra has her own blog going, Live Righteously — something I thought about while I was there reading her thoughts, with Janis Joplin playing on her jukebox. A friendly welcome, also, to Dibakar Sarkar, a thinker who writes, but who has no wish to be a writer....
“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.
A link to my new Facebook page added to my contact page and News and Reviews.
In the Forum: road apples vs. barn biscuits.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
As some of you already know, I joined Facebook the other day. I even set up a “badge” linked to my account, which you’ll find in the sidebar in my newly named “Circulation” section.
Follow it if you care or dare,
and if you’re a member, remember,
one can’t have too many friends.
My thanks, meanwhile, to everyone who has responded to my friendship requests. Thanks, too, to those who have kindly requested mine. My modest goal is to meet everyone in the world — at least those like-minded souls with computers. Of course, this won’t keep me off the sidewalks, away from the racetracks, out of the bars and alleys, or any of the other time-honored meeting places — except, perhaps, barbershops....
In the Forum: lollipop, lollipop.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Recently Linked: My thanks to Kenneth Griggs for linking to Recently Banned Literature from his blog, the ken. A link to the ken can also be found in the “Reading Room.” Thanks also to deep for signing on as a follower; deep’s Turkish-language blog, dervish’s way, can be found here.
“Lost and Found” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: roadside joints.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
A quick note to say that the previous post, Frustration, has been updated to include a fine poem by Conrad DiDiodato. Thanks, Conrad, and thanks to everyone else who has commented.
In the Forum: You never really know about the Yawp until you’ve smoked a copy.
Monday, March 8, 2010
March 8, 2010
#2 Pencil on 4 x 6 Index Card
[click to enlarge]
March 8, 2010
#2 Pencil on 4 x 6 Index Card
[click to enlarge]
Strung tight, my
eyes scream—by which
I mean to say I see
by Conrad DiDiodato
eyes scream—by which
I mean to say I see
by Conrad DiDiodato
Inspired by “Frustration” and Laura Tedeschi’s post
(see comment section)
(see comment section)
3.8.2010 #1 (recently acquired)
A Book of Great Autobiography. “Lives of Eight Famous Men and Women.” Christopher Morley, Joseph Conrad, Selma Lagerlöf, Helen Keller, William McFee, W.N.P. Barbellion, Walt Whitman, Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto. Doubleday, Doran & Company, Garden City, New York (1934). 1,334 pages. $3.95.
Note: Out of shelf space again; considering removal of parlor couch.
In the Forum: his and hers monogrammed zine covers.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. Translated by Edward William Lane. Revised by Stanley Lane-Poole. With Introduction, Notes, and Illustrations. Dr. Eliot’s Five-Foot Shelf of Books (Harvard Classics). P.F. Collier & Son, New York (1909). 460 pages. $1.50 (two for one).
The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. The Lives of John Donne and George Herbert, by Izaak Walton. With Introduction, Notes, and Illustrations. Dr. Eliot’s Five-Foot Shelf of Books (Harvard Classics). P.F. Collier & Son, New York (1909). 424 pages. $1.50 (two for one).
A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, by H.W. Fowler, Joint Author of The King’s English, The Concise Oxford Dictionary and The Pocket Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press (1950). Fourth printing. Printed and bound in the U.S.A. by H. Wolff, New York. 742 pages. $1.50.
In the Forum: a period of artistic balances.
Friday, March 5, 2010
I was surprised to discover yesterday that I haven’t talked to my cousin in six years. I know it’s been six years because I wrote about his telephone call in the March 4, 2004, entry of my journal, One Hand Clapping. And in that entry, I made mention of the fact that prior to that, we hadn’t seen each other since 1990. Growing up, we were very close. We still are. I guess this proves it.
March 4, 2004 — I was jolted from my torpor yesterday evening by a phone call from a cousin I haven’t seen since our grandmother’s funeral in 1990. He was on a business trip and was calling from a hotel room in Washington, D.C. Fairly early in our conversation, I asked him if he still smoked. He said he had quit seven years ago with the help of nicotine gum, but that now he was hooked on the gum and thought he might have to take up smoking again in order to break the habit. This struck me as an extraordinary piece of information. In exchange, I told him about the time I took our grandfather to the grocery store, and looked on while he dismantled a large display of cantaloupes to get at the ones he wanted. He was about eighty-eight at the time and walked with a cane. When he got his hands on a shopping cart, however, he put the cane in the basket, leaned on the cart, and sped all over the store with his load of melons and sale items. It was almost impossible to keep up. While we were on the subject of melons, I also told my cousin that during the Depression, Gramp was one of the best-known watermelon pickers in the San Joaquin Valley. Yes, in those days, one could be known for such a talent. That’s why I miss those days, even though they happened before I was born. But Gramp was not merely a great watermelon picker. He was a watermelon consultant. They didn’t call it that back then, but that’s what he was. When a farmer was having trouble getting an already-picked load of melons past inspection because too many green melons had been picked, Gramp was called in to separate the green melons from the ripe melons. This is not as easy as it might sound. It is one thing to judge a melon’s ripeness while it is still attached to the vine, within its natural setting and context. It is entirely another when you are faced with thirty tons of melons stacked together. To most people, they all look alike. And you certainly can’t thump them all, because that would take forever. No, in a situation like that, what is needed is an understanding of melons. Gramp knew the degree of a melon’s ripeness at first glance. He didn’t have to stand there and think about it. My cousin was amazed. I said, “Yes, we also have this in our blood. It is something to be proud of.” When he said sheepishly that the melon-picking gene seemed to have passed him by, I encouraged him with, “No, you have the talent, it only needs to be awakened.” While he mulled this over, we chatted about other things, until we finally realized the conversation had run its course. I found this tremendously sad. It was almost as if a door had miraculously swung open, only to slam shut again.
In the Forum: a period of artistic discrepancies.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
I have been a star all my life
the firefly said
and then he grew old
as all things do
and one day
fell to the ground
Call me foolish, call me sentimental, but it seems this little poem, which is really about the brave firefly inside us all, would make a nice inscription for a book. And so I’ll make this offer: to the first person who asks in the comment box, I will send the book of his or her choice, inscribed with this poem. Simply browse the sidebar; you can choose from The Painting of You, No Time to Cut My Hair, Another Song I Know, and Winter Poems. Don’t be shy — I’ll be happy to send the book anywhere in the world. You can send me your address in a private email. My contact information is at the bottom of the page.
3.4.2010 #1 (poem)
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
after peeling ten potatoes, six carrots,
one onion, and four cloves of garlic
March 3, 2010
[click to enlarge]
after peeling ten potatoes, six carrots,
one onion, and four cloves of garlic
March 3, 2010
[click to enlarge]
Like my writing, my drawing seems to be on its way somewhere, never quite finishing one phase before it moves on to the next.
3.3.2010 #1 (Recently Received)
[click to enlarge]
A couple of weeks ago, the wonderful and very generous Dutch artist Momo Luna and I worked out a little trade: one of my crazy black books in exchange for this beautiful “recycled” postcard. The back has four short lines for the address, and a box where the stamp goes — but rest assured, this is one card that will never be mailed!
[click to enlarge]
And I found something else in the package: my very own limited edition copy of Momo Luna’s Strange organic worlds — a nice glossy perfect-bound little book filled with a sampling of “accidental art” that came about while she was playing with a drawing program on her computer. It contains thorns and blossoms, flight, fright, and moonlight — and even a black old sun.
My thanks to the Momo Luna, and congratulations to everyone else who participated in the trade.
In the Forum: an editor mails a woodpile.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Those familiar with my Robert Burns page know I can’t resist a good glossary. And I guess I’m not the only one, because the page has received a steady stream of visitors since well before it was completed. Imagine my delight, then, to find a glossary in my recently acquired copy of Tess of the d’Urbervilles. It’s not nearly as extensive, but there are several gems that appeal to my mind’s eye and ear:
apple blooth, apple blossom
ballyragging, bullying, badgering
clipsing and colling, clasping and embracing
crumby, plump, handsome
get green malt in floor, get pregnant
hontish, proud, hostile
’hores-bird, illegitimate child
mops and brooms, being drunk
pipe rolls, pipe-like rolls containing tax records
pummy, crushed apple after juice is pressed out
rozums, odd-thinking fellows
squint and glane, look sneeringly at
thimble-riggers, sleight-of-hand swindlers
thistlespud, spade to cut thistles
withy-bed, willow woods; a stand of willows
Now, as it turns out, not long after I finished typing these selections, I visited Conrad DiDiodato’s blog, where I found this lovely poem he’d written about Tess. It’s best enjoyed, I think, if you read it aloud. That’s what I did my second and third times through, and will again, no doubt.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy
Illustrations by Gene Sparkman
Afterword by Katherine C. Hill-Miller
Reader’s Digest Association (1985)
383 pages. $3.99.
Recently Linked: My thanks to fantacious2000 for signing on as a follower. Welcome!
Monday, March 1, 2010
old possum, one last trip
behind the woodpile
before her long trek home
beside the lawn
den of leaves and mold
damp fur smell
more hot coffee in the dark
father gone mother
dreaming all is well
spring rain falls
one drop one drop
at a time
“morning-possum blues” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: Poets House.