Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

I read, therefore I am


Picking up where we left off last year, here is a list of the eighty-two books I read in 2013. Like the days themselves, what a comfort, joy, and challenge they have been.

~

Thy sayings sweet,
The which, as modern usage lasts,
Shall make their very ink-marks dear to us.

~

The Complete Works of Shakespeare
Volumes VIII, IX, X
(Ten Volumes)
by William Shakespeare

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
by Thomas de Quincey

The History of Gil Blas of Santillana
(Three Volumes)
by Alain René le Sage

The Irresponsibles
by Archibald MacLeish

More Poems
by A.E. Housman

Six Moral Tales from Jules Laforgue
by Jules Laforgue

The Decameron
by Giovanni Boccaccio

Peter Ibbetson
by George du Maurier

Riders to the Sea
by J.M. Synge

The Garden of Epicurus
by Anatole France

Paolo & Francesca
by Stephen Phillips

Ellen Terry & Bernard Shaw: A Correspondence
by Ellen Terry and George Bernard Shaw

As They Seemed to Me
by Ugo Ojetti

An Anthology of American Poetry: Lyric America, 1630-1930
Including Supplement, 1930-1935
Edited by Alfred Kreymborg

A Japanese Nightingale
by Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton)

Poems You Ought to Know
Edited by Elia W. Peattie

Boswell’s London Journal, 1762-1763
by James Boswell

The History of Mr. John Decastro
and His Brother Bat, Commonly Called Old Crab,
the merry matter written by John Mathers,
the grave by a Solid Gentleman
(Two Volumes)
by Anonymous

The Memoirs and Anecdotes of the Count de Ségur
by Count Louis-Philippe de Ségur

Astrophel & Stella
by Sir Philip Sidney

Exemplary Novels of Cervantes
by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas

A Sentimental Journey Through France & Italy
With Selections from the Journals, Sermons & Correspondence
of Laurence Sterne
by Laurence Sterne

The Poet at the Breakfast-Table
by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Ballad of Beau Brocade and Other Poems of the XVIIIth Century
by Austin Dobson

bride of sorrows: a prose poem in 14 stanzas
by Paulette Turcotte

The Works of James Russell Lowell
(Eleven Volumes)
by James Russell Lowell

The Shadow on the Dial and Other Essays
by Ambrose Bierce

Marked Men: Poems by Joseph Hutchison
by Joseph Hutchison

The Works of Aretino
by Pietro Aretino
(Two Volumes)

Venus in Furs
by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

Painted Veils
by James Huneker

The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt,
Prince of Adventurers and the Most Indomitable of Lovers
by Giacomo Casanova
(Two Volumes)

Charles Dickens, The Last of the Great Men
(Charles Dickens: A Critical Study)
by G.K. Chesterton

Life and Art by Thomas Hardy:
Essays, Notes, and Letters Collected for the First Time
by Thomas Hardy

The Penn Country and The Chilterns
by Ralph M. Robinson

The Autobiography of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury
With Introduction, Notes, Appendices, and a Continuation of the Life
by Sidney L. Lee

Four Comedies
by Carlo Goldoni

The Quest of Great Celtic Mystery and other stories
by Jonathan Chant

~

THE FRENCH IMMORTALS
(Twenty Volumes)

:

Madame Chrysanthème
by Pierre Loti

The Red Lily
by Anatole France

Fromont and Risler
by Alphonse Daudet

Cosmopolis
by Paul Bourget

A Romance of Youth
by François Coppée

An “Attic” Philosopher
by Émile Souvestre

A Woodland Queen
by André Theuriet

Monsieur de Camors
by Octave Feuillet

Jacqueline
by Madame Blanc (Marie Thérèse Bentzon)

Gerfaut
by Charles de Bernard

Cinq-Mars
by Alfred de Vigny
(Two Volumes)

The Confession of a Child of the Century
by Alfred de Musset

Monsieur, Madame, and Bébé
by Gustave Droz

The Ink-Stain
by René Bazin

The Abbé Constantin
by Ludovic Halévy

Serge Panine
by Georges Ohnet

Conscience
by Hector Malot

Prince Zilah
by Jules Clarétie

Zibeline
by Phillipe de Massa

~

She Stoops to Conquer; or, The Mistakes of a Night
by Oliver Goldsmith

Cyrano de Bergerac
by Edmond Rostand

The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter’s Tale
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Eugénie Grandet
by Honoré de Balzac

Marius the Epicurean: His Sensations and Ideas
by Walter Pater
(two volumes)


Dante. Purg. XXVI. 112-114




Thursday, December 26, 2013

Places


Snow in the churchyard
and you

giving your old black coat
to a stranger frozen

and still

its weight
on his shoulders

known only to him

his wings showing
through

his joy

again



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The gift was a word


I don’t remember the year.
But I was quite small.

The gift was a word.
I’m unwrapping it still.



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When object warms the hand it loves


When object warms the hand it loves
and hand the heart it holds,

by eye is said what tongue conceals
of love that ever flows,

in peace a song past marble rows
a name no haste reveals,

to find below those wings above,
as winter comes, and winter goes.



Monday, December 23, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

I remember one


I remember one, a snowflake
it might have been,

turned out to be
a child’s hand

melting in my own,
as winter coaxed

the last leaf
down.



Thursday, December 19, 2013

The year it’s been, the life it is


Stake your claim
and fertile be thy bones

a passing train
soon gone

your hat
in the wind

a place
by the road

your face
a field

to loving
hands



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Carol


Were I the bird
you seek

far out
upon a limb

with the grace
to plead

no sweeter way
to end


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Canvas 331


The greatest fiction is the face:
true in each detail,
yet impossible
to trace.



Canvas 331

December 10, 2013


[click to enlarge]




Monday, December 9, 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Canvas 329



Canvas 329

December 8, 2013

[click to enlarge]




There is a difference


There is a difference between cold, the visitor,
and cold, the companion.

The visitor wears fine clothes
and knocks before entering.

The companion is present always,
and confesses our end.

Such a faithful friend, yet,
we would abandon him.

But we shall not speak of death
this bright winter dawn.

We shall not, for something, or someone,
is making a sound.

Our gaze on the door, our hand
to the knob.

If out must be in, then in
must be out.



Saturday, December 7, 2013

She bestowed candles


She bestowed candles on the statues
and lit them well.

“Winter, my soul. Behold.”

It was a song, and as she sang it,
the candles burned low.

“Soon. Very soon. Soon, she will know.”

The statues grew cold. But oh,
how they loved her. They loved her so well.



Friday, December 6, 2013

Snow


And you in your long black coat,
talked about by crows:

You in the way a child looks out
upon the stones in rows:

You in haste who turn about,
surprised by what you know:

Is this the name you’re looking for,
the one that is your own?



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Canvas 328



Canvas 328

December 5, 2013


[click to enlarge]




The rain, a hand through it


The rain, a hand through it,
the mist, a veil — as if memory were arriving
and departing at the same time, and thereby
leaving its firm imprint — a face? — no,
something far more real than that: love?
yes, love — else why the chill,
and the fever it leaves
behind?



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Timo e basilico


What better way to learn Italian than reading about food
prepared by a dear friend and favorite artist?

Congratulations, Laura,
on your beautiful new blog,



Fallen


One last apple, still frightened by its dream of teeth.



Monday, December 2, 2013

Faint light, still palm


I’m not sure yet what this means, but I like the way it sounds;
of course, sound, too, is part of what it means.

Faint
light

still
palm

feint
life

save
none



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Monsieur, Madame, et Bébé


My Dear Droz :

Now surely you must see,
that if a man can weep over words
written a hundred fifty years ago,
there is hope for us
still.

*

The French Immortals,
Vol. XIV



Winter flight


When, restless as any other,
she forsakes that statue
too old and cold
to march,

where will
that poor soul be?

And what, then, of we?



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bare tree, bright star


Bare tree, bright star,
grave child, thy kingdom
in what your mother knows
when the last leaf
blows.



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Colors


New in my website Archive:
an excerpt dated October 14, 2006,
from Songs and Letters.



Friday, November 22, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Canvas 322



Canvas 322

November 20, 2013


[click to enlarge]




Canvas 321



Forever coming, forever gone, so sudden, so soon.




Canvas 321

November 20, 2013


[click to enlarge]



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Almost winter


Almost winter; rain;
and what do I remember?

A pomegranate tree
in flower.

The arrival
of hummingbirds.

Love; pain.

Seeds.



Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I was the angel


I’ve been walking this route for years, stretching my muscles and expanding my lungs after nightfall. Alone in my dreams and affairs, I watch the clouds and the moon and the stars, listen to the houses, and yield my primitive self to the scented air.

Yesterday evening, just as I was passing by, an old man fell in the street near his mailbox. I was the angel who rescued him. In the dark, near the sidewalk, blood running from a scrape above his eye, I made a quick, reassuring assessment of his condition. We were immediate friends. Perhaps now he no longer remembers me. All the better.

Ninety if he was a day, I went to the house for his wife, let myself in through the door in their garage, called out, tried not to startle her with the strangeness of my voice. She, not much younger than he, back curved, trusting, followed me to the curb.

“I think you’d best call an ambulance, my love.”

It was that “my love” that made an angel of me.

Help arrived. One last touch of the hand.

The moon took me home.



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Émile Souvestre


Fifty-seven pages to go. And such is the miracle of reading that a writer, long dead, enters one’s life and thoughts, and stirs them for the better with grace and humility; indeed, for what are mere centuries between friends?




An “Attic” Philosopher
A Journeyman’s Journal


The French Immortals



Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran


What I recall is an old friend
sobbing at the sound of “Machine Gun.”

What I know is that the gun,
the sob, and the song
remain.



Saturday, November 9, 2013

Quarter-mile


Those autumns he sowed barley by hand
between the vineyard rows, just to see it sprout
and grow, and plow it in come spring:

You should have seen him
gaining strength:

Each quarter-mile
another galaxy.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Quest of Great Celtic Mystery


It’s no mystery that a friend would wish to write, and with such evident pleasure. The mystery lies, rather, in that subtle synthesis and transformation of the Great Mystery of which we’re all a part, and which thrives and changes between the ears.



The Quest of Great Celtic Mystery
and other stories

A new undated chapbook
by Jonathan Chant

Cover Image: Su Joy



Doctor Gargoyle and the Stethoscope
Doctor Gargoyle placed the end of the stethoscope in the middle of his forehead. He wanted, after a busy morning that brought many grave anxieties, to hear himself think. At first there was nothing to hear. Then there was a clicking sound like an old-time film projector.
Where had he heard that sound before?



Monday, November 4, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Enough mist to say


Enough mist to say
the page could be a street

the day the way
fingers please

a face



Friday, October 25, 2013

One month later


For all the world, that last evening, a few hours before Mom died, she seemed like a proud old ship ready for one last voyage. She was safe; she was strong — safe, strong, safe, strong — as if safety and strength emanated from her in greens and blues, as sleeping she declared herself to the tide.

I thought, perhaps, she would not sail until it was light the next morning. But she couldn’t wait that long. At two-thirty, the telephone rang, and I was given the news that she was gone.

Moments before, I’d been awakened by a noise in the house: a rafter creaking, a wall settling, a fir cone landing on the roof. And so I stayed awake, waiting for the call, knowing it would come, and it came.

How she loved her home. How we love it still. What a joy, like her, to be here and passing through.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Visual Response by Steven McCabe



An image within a poem will grab me
and set off a trail of associations…




And I love where the trail leads....




Royal Song
by Steven McCabe

(first in a series of companion images)


Warm thanks to multidisciplinary artist, Steven McCabe,
for his sensitive treatment of my 2011 poem, “The Chosen Ones.”

Such a fine series. I couldn’t be more pleased.





Wednesday, October 16, 2013

You don’t know me but



Her grandmother, too,
made quilts every bit as fine,
and with the same deliberate patience;
we still have them, and will, long after
the wind has blown the rose.



This image was sent me by a friend
who visited my mother’s grave
a few days after her burial.

I haven’t met this friend; I know her only
through the letters we’ve exchanged
during the past several years.

This is part of what she said:

“I hope you don’t mind — I took the liberty of paying my respects to your Mother… attached is a picture of the homemade offering of two small roses we placed at her resting site. I also saw your father’s headstone and at one point stood in-between them and started my you don’t know me but story… and proceeded to tell them how we came to cross paths… what a lovely resting spot.”



Monday, October 14, 2013

Spiritual Epic


Here for the record are some more observations on the life and testimony of an old friend of mine, Stephen Monroe. That testimony, of course, can be found in the tenth anniversary authorized print edition of my novel, A Listening Thing. The following note was written by Maryland writer, Curt Finch. From personal correspondence, I share it here with his kind permission:

I finished your book and what an amazing experience! As I was reading it, I was reminded especially of Emerson’s famous saying, “The ancestor of every action is a thought,” as I think Stephen, as a character, is like a man that time forgot, an optimist trying to survive in a dying world where thought, and its cousin common sense, seems to have flown out the window. Like Joyce and Dante, you understand that epics are often told in the quotidian, and I think A Listening Thing is a fine example of the spiritual epic, in much the same vein as St. Augustine’s Confessions or Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis. We are what life makes us (no matter how hard we beat against the current, the stuff of life always wins), and I think Stephen’s “conversion,” his acceptance of himself and the multitudes he contains, allows him to move past the day-to-day-drudgery of material concerns and give voice to the poet within. And for a writer, that’s what it’s all about.


A Listening Thing
Tenth Anniversary Authorized Print Edition


With new Preface & Afterword by the Author,
Extensive New Interview & Materials
from the Original Unpublished
& Online Editions

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-3-5
232 pages. 6x9. Paper. (2011)





Saturday, October 12, 2013

And be counted


In her infinite calm she hardly looked her age. Her skin was smooth and her mouth was held just so, as if she’d fallen asleep while trying to hold a sneeze, and the instant had turned into a century.

There were flowers all around, gracefully arranged. On a small table nearby were two pictures: a portrait taken during her senior year of high school, and a snapshot of her smiling on her eightieth birthday, secure in her home among cards and flowers and all the things she loved.

In her visitation book were the names of several old friends, people who had driven miles to pay their respects and see her one last time — who had left home, left work, and braved the traffic with that thought foremost in their minds. Little did they know that when we arrived after driving seven hundred miles from Oregon, their presence would still be felt in the room.

In the office, I signed papers and took care of matters related to her burial.

And then the time came for the lid of her casket to be closed forever, and the short journey across the street to her graveside.

The smell of newly cut grass arrived straight from my childhood.

For half an hour, there was a glorious general commotion as friends and relatives greeted each other and gabbed after not having met for many years. This sound she would have loved.

“I’m sorry we had to meet under such sad circumstances.”

“No,” I said, time and again. “This is beautiful, just as it should be.”

One cousin hugged me so hard he almost broke my glasses. I took them off to see if he’d twisted the frame.

Familiar hands slid the casket in place.

We were seated. The service began. She was spoken of kindly with reverence, remembered truthfully and without exaggeration for her patience, ability, unselfishness, and love. The eulogy I’d written was read. The soil once blessed, her three sons filled their right hands, and then emptied them slowly onto the lid, directly above her head.

The service came to an end.

The hubbub began again, more gently this time, softly, sounding both distant and near, as if more were speaking than were there.


In memory of my mother and friend, Laura, who passed away from causes related to Alzheimer’s disease at the age of ninety-one on the twenty-fifth day of September, in the two thousand thirteenth year. Peace.



Friday, October 4, 2013

Behold


Gazing at a painting
in a niche high above our heads,
I tell my father,

When we’re
on our knees,
the stars come out

And we marvel at this change
the master wrought,

His name long lost,

The surrounding bricks
of interest,

For red knows the best way
to and from our hearts,

Just as dreams like this
gently raise the dead,
then lay them down again.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Here I am


I still don’t own a cell phone, or whatever they’re called these days. The first time I laid hands on a computer, I was thirty-seven years old. I didn’t venture online until I was forty-five.

All through my growing-up years and well beyond, everyone I knew, I knew in person; and those I didn’t know personally, I knew by sight. When we met on the sidewalk, whether or not words were exchanged we acknowledged each other with a smile or nod. Such was life in my hometown.

Now I am fifty-seven. And while my existence is seldom acknowledged on the sidewalk, I am as ready as ever to look others in the eye, and to let them know that I know they are there. It’s a matter of common courtesy — and I mean that in the profoundest sense, because each day, each opportunity, could be our last.

These thoughts I trace to my mother’s passing — as I can most every other thought I’ve had, and action I’ve taken, these past few days. The day after she died, I was surprised once to realize that it had been only a day — so much I had done, and so many miles I’d traveled in my mind. It felt, without exaggeration, like a month. I had to stop and look at the calendar.

I know this scenario will be familiar to some, while others will grasp it through different avenues of their experience. But I think everyone will understand a dream I had last night, in which I dialed my mother on an old rotary telephone, and heard her laughing on the other end and saying she had company and was wondering what she should cook for them. For some odd reason I said, “Cabbage?” and with that the line went dead. When I was sure our connection was broken, I thought it best to go directly to her. But the way was difficult, through old buildings and along high railings and cliffs. Finally, in an elevator, my eyes opened and there the dream came to an end — except for the part of it where I now say, “Here I am.”

I’ve written her obituary. I’ve written a eulogy. I’ve composed a short ineffective verse for her little service booklet. I’ve made numerous calls, sent countless emails, signed papers, and spoken with helpful strangers. All that remains is a long out-of-state drive and her funeral — except, again, for the part where I look up and say, “Here I am.”

And I am just one of her sons, just one member of the immediate family. Each of us has traversed these last few days alone, together, while giving help and attending to details.

It’s beautiful, very much as it should be and must be. For, as my mother’s dear friend and mine, Kahlil Gibran, once said, The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. And indeed, this has been my experience going back a great many years.

May it also be yours — and I say that with all love and affection, and stand by you whatever your loss, joy, or travail may be.