Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Second Act

This poem was written after I awoke one morning from a troubling dream I couldn’t quite remember, and with a terrible sinus headache. If the dream was the first act, the poem is the second, and reading it is the third. Or maybe writing the poem was the second act, and the poem itself is the third, making reading the fourth — unless the poem is all of the acts combined.

Lights. The stage and theater are empty, except for an unopened letter on a table near the entrance.

The Second Act

He felt like a letter that arrived
after the person who wrote it died.

“Love? Are you all right?”
was the knife that cut him open.

“The Second Act” and the preceding introduction were added yesterday to Collected Poems.

In the Forum: an ancient map of migrating continents.

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Belief

Part of believing is believing that you believe. Part of not believing is believing that you don’t believe. And yet it’s possible to believe that you believe when you don’t, and it’s possible to believe that you don’t believe when you do. That, I believe, is at least part of what I believe about belief.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I was by there yesterday
Someone left a light on in the house
Does the neighbor have a key
Or was it someone else

                              Mercy me

Her poor lilies look like folded hands

From Songs and Letters, originally published May 27, 2007.

In the Forum: a naturally occurring hive of bearded esoteric cave-dwelling chanting hermit saints.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


“The duende . . . . Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.”

By Federico García Lorca, from Theory and Play of the Duende, translated by A.S. Kline (2004).

Image: Federico García Lorca (click to enlarge).

Note: I love the way one thing leads to the next. This entry was inspired by a recent exchange of comments on this post at Brian Salchert’s blog.

In the Forum: the Society of Living Saints.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Morning Detail

He looked at himself in the mirror;
still tired, he didn’t know
he’d been in someone else’s dream.

* * *

Poem. n. 1. That which inspires and cannot be defined. 2. Anything that has been directly observed. 3. A flower that thrives in barren soil. 4. The sudden realization that the other shoe has been dropped. 5. A potent type of manure that is generally avoided, but prized by those who can tolerate its smell.

The following sleep-related note added to You Don’t Say: dustman. In folklore the genius of sleep, so named because a sleepy child will wink and rub his eyes as though he had dust in them. Also called sandman.

In the Forum: Bonum vinum laetificat cor hominis.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Until We Meet

What if we think of words as bells,
each with a sound that’s just arrived
from a great distance — across fields,
down mountains, over graveyards,
swept along alleys and streets,
and of we who ring them
as angels without

From Songs and Letters, originally published September 24, 2008.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Family Album

“It must seem funny to be a picture on the wall,”

                           my mother said. And who would disagree?

              Then, trying to complete her thought:

                                          “What keeps things alive?”

From a conversation that began many years ago, and which now wanders of its own accord.

Recently Linked: I would like to thank the authors of the following blogs for linking to Recently Banned Literature, and, in some cases, to the main page or specific areas of my website. I truly appreciate it, and I hope readers will take the time to see what these talented poets, artists, and writers are up to:

A Common Reader
Another Poem
Armenian Poetry Project
Caught in the Dawning
Fenny’s Bla Bla Blog
The Perpetual Bird
The Secret Chest (Farsi)
Silliman’s Blog
Stealing Fire
The Teacher’s View

In some cases, these links will also lead you to other blogs by the same authors. If I’ve accidentally left out someone, please let me know.

A note on “ignis fatuus” added to You Don’t Say, my “compendium of odd words and literary references.” The name means “a foolish fire,” and is also called “Jack o’ Lantern,” “spunkie,” “walking fire,” and “Fair Maid of Ireland.” This Wikipedia article includes a section on the term’s usage in literature.

In the Forum: the pitfalls of reliability.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Two birch leaves, yellow before the rest —

                            a different name

              on every


From Songs and Letters, originally published September 22, 2008.

A very large, very old house; stairs, garrets, passageways; crawlspaces; a spacious sitting room with the furniture covered; tasseled lampshades; no windows anywhere; a calm, almost casual feeling of certainty that I have been there before, and that I am helping a loved one, possibly my wife, find her way out. The sound of my own footsteps; at one point, proceeding on my hands and knees, the pleasant coolness of the hardwood floor against my palms.

Posted today in the Annandale Dream Gazette. My thanks to Lynn Behrendt.

As the Conversation continues, confusion, joy, and smoke arise from an unruly encyclopedia.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Haiku Advice

Imagine life without language, and being a poet anyway.

Recently Received:
Barbaric Yawp
July 2008
Volume 12, Number 3
BoneWorld Publishing
John & Nancy Berbrich, Editors

James Babbs, Brent Badders, John Berbrich, Dave Church, Ralph Dranow, Andrea Fekete, John Field, Lee-Ann Hardy, Rik Hunik, Charlotte Jones, Beth Konkowski, Karl Koweski, Tamara Kreutz, Michael Kriesel, Peter Layton, Kevin Leal, James Lenfestey, Stephen Lewandowski, Gregory Liffick, Gene McCormick, William Michaelian, Loreen Niewenhuis, David C. Orsheski, Greg Schwartz, Joesph Serra, Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz, Anna Sykora, C.C. Thomas, Greg Watson, Patrice M. Wilson, Christine Yurick, Neal Zirn.

In the Forum, we learn that the earliest haiku were conceived as miniature sun dials, to be worn on the wrist.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


To be an autumn leaf
pressed between the pages
of a lover’s notebook
and hear her say

“He must be gray by now.”

From Songs and Letters, originally published September 20, 2008.

Note: “Diary” was also published today in the Armenian Poetry Project. My thanks to Lola Koundakjian.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Meaning Escapes Me

Very early this morning, I awoke with the distinct image of a poem in my mind. The poem had short lines, was divided into four verses, and the verses themselves were separated by a one-point rule that was as long as the line of type above it. The first verse contained one line of three words; the second verse contained two lines identical to each other in length and of five or six words; the third verse contained two lines also identical to each other in length, but a word or two shorter than the lines in the preceding verse; the last verse contained one line of two short words, making it the shortest line in the poem.

For what felt like a few seconds, I knew exactly what the words were and what the poem meant. And I thought to myself — or maybe I was still dreaming — “As soon as I’m up, I’m going to write this down.”

And then, just as quickly, the words became meaningless blocks of type, and I could see nothing but the form.

Posted yesterday in the Annandale Dream Gazette.

As the Conversation continues, we go forth with haiku lanterns.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Where Poems Come From

My mother, in the hallway, up early from a dream,
asking, “Am I supposed to go home today?”

And then the next night, calling out, “Are you there?”
followed by my dead father’s name.

(first publication)

Recently Acquired:
Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Introduction by Dr. C. Bruce Fergusson (1951)
Nimbus Publishing
Halifax, Nova Scotia (no year given)

Thursday, September 18, 2008


To be that poem you wrote, and to have someone find you many years later in a book and say, “Ah, here it is.”

A fourteen-word poem, “Crossing,” added to Songs and Letters.

In the Forum: a rational fear of being “normal.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Hobo’s Ice Jar

An old scraggly hobo asked for water. But my wife and I had no water, because we were in the process of clearing out the kitchen. The cabinets were empty, the faucet was missing. “That’s okay,” he said. “I’ll get some ice.” And he took a wide-mouthed quart canning jar from the counter under the window near the sink and left the room. I felt bad that we didn’t have ice. I knew we had metal trays for ice cubes. I could see them in my mind, sitting shiny and empty in the empty freezer compartment in the top part of the refrigerator. They were the same metal trays we had when I was a kid, with metal dividers and handles to crack and free the ice cubes. . . . And then I pictured myself dropping ice cubes into a drink glass, and remembered the cheerful, sociable sound of the ice landing in the glass, the sound that meant we had company. . . . Now I was thirsty, and the hobo’s ice jar was back in its place beside the sink. It was wet, sitting in a little icy puddle. I picked it up and held it to my mouth, wondering where on earth he had found ice. . . . Across the room, my wife had turned into a misty painting. I thought, “Has someone put us in a picture? Is this the artist’s idea of fun, turning us into paper?” And the paper was a sturdy, laid stock, yellowed with age. . . .

Posted yesterday in the Annandale Dream Gazette. My thanks, as always, to Lynn Behrendt.

A short note about Rachel Andrews’s colorized interpretation of my bearded countenance (see Image Archive, lower left) added to News and Reviews.

Talk in the Forum also turns to the subject of dreams.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Powder for Cleaning the Teeth

Powder for cleaning the teeth and whitening them in a few days , so that, no matter how discoloured they may be, they will appear like ivory and the breath will smell sweet.

Take three drachms each of crystal, flint, white marble, glass and calcined cuttlefish bone and small sea-snail shells, half a portion each of pearls and fragments of gemstones, two drachms of the small white stones which are to be found in running water, a scruple of amber and twenty-two grains of musk. Mix them well together and grind them into the finest powder on a marble slab. Rub the teeth with it frequently and, if the gums have receded, paint a little rose honey on them. The flesh will then grow back in a few days and the teeth will be perfectly white.

From The Elixirs of Nostradamus, Nostradamus’ original recipes for elixirs, scented water, beauty potions and sweetmeats, translated from Dr. Hiermemias Martius’ 1572 German translation by Guy Slatter, edited by Knut Boesler, Bloomsbury, Great Britain (1995).

Image: Nostradamus by his son, Cesar (click to enlarge).

A new poem, “Fragment,” added to Songs and Letters.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Today I will carry
this bright yellow leaf
and call it my

From Songs and Letters, originally published September 14, 2008.

* * *

My thanks to Rachel Andrews, publisher, candlemaker, medium and artist, for her colorful portrait, which I’ve just added to my Image Archive (lower left). Rachel is a creative, restless spirit. If I may quote from her profile:

I work in a different way from most people, I start with an intention/inspiration and just sit, draw really fast, and see what appears. It’s really exciting to watch but sometimes I feel like it isn’t me who is really the artist. If I am drawing a face the image usually tells me what to do... and sometimes I think I am done with a piece and it tells me to add more....

Thanks also to Joseph Hutchison for including a link to Rachel’s site in his blog, The Perpetual Bird.

In the Forum: The Odyssey as ancient Mediterranean culinary arts emporium.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Common Speech

Common speech is what we hear when we do not listen. Common words are what we use when we do not think. Everything else is poetry — the restless, bountiful, uncommon common. And the poem itself is a reminder, a way of changing “I’ve heard it all before” to “I may never hear this again.”

In the Forum: the Odyssey as museum.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Notes from the Asylum

I love the way sound carries early in the morning. At this very moment, there’s something strange and mechanical echoing in the distance, which I imagine to be a giant using a pogo stick, or a god banging on an anvil inside an aluminum warehouse three acres wide, as the new daylight streams in upon him through a window high in the eastern wall, smoke, soot, dust, ashes — yes, this is one heck of a sound. Those nearer its source have already gone mad, and the madness is rapidly spreading. Poor souls, who will survive, who will tell our story?

From a new Notebook entry, in which I expand on a short vivid dream posted yesterday in the Annandale Dream Gazette.

Note: In comparing the Notebook entry and another of my dreams posted two days earlier, I see they both contain images of a warehouse and the morning sun shining through a window in the eastern wall. I wonder what that means.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Poet. n. 1. A rare bird, distinguished by its ability to sing after death. 2. A term often used humorously to designate a person who rejoices and starves.

“Another Question,” a poem of three lines, nineteen words, twenty-eight syllables, eighty-four letters, three punctuation marks, and sixteen spaces, added to Songs and Letters.

In the Forum: a frightening culinary version of Scylla & Charybdis.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Classic Typewriters

Ah, what noble architecture. I could look at this for hours. According to Wikipedia, this Smith Premier typewriter (click to enlarge) from the late nineteenth century was found in Bodie, California. My mother’s mother grew up in Bodie. She might have seen this typewriter, heard it being used, even touched it.

For more about classic typewriters, I recommend Richard Polt’s site, The Classic Typewriter Page. It contains facts, history, photos, links, typewriter tributes by working writers, and more.

* * *

Note: Lynn Behrendt has kindly added another of my dreams to the Annandale Dream Gazette (see September 10 entry).

“Cold Jeans” is the newest entry in Songs and Letters.

In the Forum: cubbyhole dwellers knitting and stapling words, while their hair rapidly grows and turns into spaghetti.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remnants of a Bearded Aimless Poet

This is my first experience with Wordle — a representation of this blog. I love the accidental combinations of words: dream photos, esoteric door, useful buttons, burned color, Annandale train, weathered paint, explained to uncle, turned white, God heard good poet, someone brought back different paper, worthless toy, etc. It doesn’t mean a thing, and yet I can imagine myself lost in such a world, and liking it.

Image created by: http://wordle.net
(click to enlarge)

As the Conversation continues, we pause to examine the term “recycled water.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Heart Trouble

I have a neighbor who looks like a worried beet with white hair. If I didn’t know he had heart trouble, I would think he’s been out of the ground too long. The other day when I was outside exploring my empty mailbox, an ambulance roared by and stopped at his house up the street. Two men jumped out and trotted with their equipment and beet monitors to the neighbor’s door. The neighbor’s wife let them in. A few seconds later, one of the men went back to the ambulance to get some salad dressing. Then he and his partner carried the neighbor outside on a gurney and parked him in the middle of the lawn. With his wife standing helplessly by, they sprinkled salt and pepper on him and covered him with dressing to hide his withered red skin. But it wasn’t enough. The three looked at him as if he were the only thing left on a plate after someone had finished his meal in a restaurant. And as they did, a weak February sun shone on them through the bare branches of a maple tree, as if to say, Death is near, oh yes, Death is near.

From Songs and Letters, originally published February 14, 2008.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Trick

The trick, one poet said to another,
is to make your long lines seem short
and your short lines seem long —
then, let your words echo like freight cars.

That’s no trick, the other poet replied,
it’s just plain common sense.

The talk that followed
was drowned out
by the sound
of a passing train,

thank God.

(first publication)

In the Forum: Banjo-playing, detail-oriented plumbing interns wanted for ambitious study conducted by bearded, esoteric loons.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Remnants of a Dream

Although I was quite poor, somehow, a new shirt had come into my possession. The shirt had beautiful buttons, no two of them alike.

Having heard good buttons were valuable, I presented the shirt to a large, pale, flabby man standing behind a counter, hoping to exchange the article for a useful sum of money. The man glanced at the shirt, told me he had all the buttons he needed, then handed it back to me.

I had also brought a book. I had written the book myself. I no longer remembered what it was about, but I knew it was a good book — a book people would love to read, if only they had the chance. I gave the book to the man. Without bothering to open it, he explained that there was little need anymore for that kind of book — people liked different kinds now.

The man handed me the book. It had weathered considerably, and now there was a dirty thumb print on the cover.

I turned to go. The door, only a few feet from the counter when I had come in, now seemed miles away. After I had covered part of the distance, I stopped and looked back at the man who had deemed my book and my buttons worthless. He seemed familiar, like someone famous whose picture I had seen long ago in a newspaper or magazine, and whose life had since turned into an aimless cloud. That happens to people sometimes. Usually they don’t know it until they bump into a mountain, or get burned by the sun, or someone on the ground shoots holes in them with a toy bow and arrow.

I wish people wouldn’t do that. I wish they would feel pity for aimless clouds.

From Songs and Letters, originally published August 21, 2006.

Image: Remnants of a Dream, #2 pencil on plain white printer paper, September 6, 2008 (click to enlarge). Alternate title: Aimless Cloud.

* * *

In an unfamiliar room, I come upon a slide show of old family photos, some in color that shouldn’t be, progressing slowly on a large TV screen. And then a blank space, voice only: my father’s poet-painter uncle, singing — something I never heard when he was alive.

Added yesterday to Annandale Dream Gazette. My thanks to Lynn Behrendt.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Artistic Challenge

To watch a leaf fall, and then paint its descent.

A note on Ibycus, a Greek lyric poet of the sixth century B.C., added to You Don’t Say.

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie . . . The Burns Glossary: added two lines beginning with the letter U, twenty-three lines beginning with the letter W, and four lines beginning with the letter Y, thus finishing the Index of First Lines.

In the Forum, our discussion of bearded, esoteric cubbyhole dwellers continues on a new page.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Oak on 32nd Street

The little girl was holding a leaf.
I wish all the buildings were trees,
she said, when we reached the top floor
of the oak on 32nd Street. I agreed,
the city looked better from there,
like a dream just before it
turns into a painting.

From Songs and Letters, originally published September 4, 2008.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Said the panama hat to the fedora

I like hats, and can’t resist the idea of them talking to each other like grizzled old poets shooting the breeze. The poem is by Carl Sandburg.


            Said the panama hat to the fedora:
            “Sins have different prices in hell.”
            Said the fedora hat to the panama:
“Yeah, nickel and dime sins, silver-dollar sins,
sins setting you back a century, a grand,
sins you can’t settle under a million bucks,
tin and aluminum sins, brass sins, copper, old gold,
pint and bushel sins, inch and mile sins,
calculated little teapot sins and roaring tornadoes.”

From Honey and Salt, by Carl Sandburg, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York (1963).

They snool me sair, and haud me down . . . The Burns Glossary: the last fourteen lines beginning with the letter T added to the Index of First Lines.

In the Forum: weather predictions, cowboy hats, and little stick horses.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Inside the flower, down the stem,
into the roots — a dark hum:
that’s where we learn about desire,
that’s where the sun can’t hear
what we’re whispering.

But I have other ways of finding out

And the wind blows, and it leaves us
with nothing but hard, dry clods,

pale lips, coffin wood . . .
and no flowers to lay upon them.

I wrote about it in a letter once;
it came back unopened,
like a pack of unclaimed seed.

I tore off the end;
the sun was laughing . . .

I cursed until it rained.

From Songs and Letters, originally published September 2, 2008.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

At the Flower Show

A child’s hand shakes rainwater
from a bright yellow dahlia,
scatters jewels on the ground.
I look up . . . the child is grown.

From Songs and Letters, originally published September 1, 2008.

Note: Emerson said, “Every word was once a poem.” I would add, “And what if poems are flowers?”

Monday, September 1, 2008

Love Is a Deep and a Dark and a Lonely

I found this poem in a little paperback edition of Carl Sandburg’s Honey and Salt. The book was published in 1963 by Harcourt, Brace & World when the poet was eighty-five.

Love Is a Deep and a Dark and a Lonely

love is a deep and a dark and a lonely
and you take it deep take it dark
and take it with a lonely winding
and when the winding gets too lonely
then may come the windflowers
and the breath of the wind over many flowers
winding its way out of many lonely flowers
waiting in rainleaf whispers
waiting in dry stalks of noon
wanting in a music of windbreaths
so you can take love as it comes keening
as it comes with a voice and a face
and you make a talk of it
talking to yourself a talk worth keeping
and you find it to be a hoarding
and you give it away and yet it stays hoarded

like a book read over and over again
like one book being a long row of books
like leaves of windflowers bending low
and bending to be never broken

* * *

Recently Acquired: Honey and Salt, by Carl Sandburg, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York (1963); U.S.A. (trilogy includes The 42nd Parallel, Nineteen Nineteen, and The Big Money), by John Dos Passos, The Modern Library, New York (1937).

There’s braw braw lads on Yarrow braes . . . The Burns Glossary: the first nine lines beginning with the letter T added to the Index of First Lines.

As the Conversation continues, bearded, esoteric, half-drunk curators tend to the unruly manifestations of their brains.