Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lost and Found

Heirloom dishes
and my cousin’s dented trumpet

my mother tore her sisters’
picture yesterday.

From Songs and Letters, originally published June 29, 2009.

Elsewhere: My thanks to Lola Koundakjian for quoting my definition of Poet in the Armenian Poetry Project.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Abstract Dejectivism

Abstract Dejectivism
June 28, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

Recently Linked: My thanks to Rudhi for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. You can see some of his artwork at his blog, Rudhi - By Chance, which is also linked in the “Reading Room.” And there is much to explore at his main website, here.

In the Forum: multiple Willipedias.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

Between sneezes, I’ve been finding some interesting things in the cardboard boxes I stashed away years ago in our eldest son’s closet — papers, folders, notebooks, and other remnants of my writing “career.” One such oddity was a yellow folder containing the second part of a handwritten collaboration with a friend in high school — a totally ridiculous story about a preacher prone to heart attacks, his devoted but simple-minded, drug-addled wife, and the “good” doctor who keeps them both in a state of frenzy as he tries to do away with the preacher and win the wife for his own. This was after the preacher’s big lecture tour, of course, which was also interrupted by several heart attacks. Ah, yes — those were the good old days.

Another thing I found is the typescript of a children’s story I wrote in 1992, I believe, called “Old Grandpa Moon.” One night many years ago, a friend of mine and I were walking in the neighborhood of his apartment in Fresno when he looked up and said, “There’s Grandpa Moon.” And he talked a little bit about spending time with his grandfather in the village where he grew up in Western Turkey — about going out into the field together and spending the night with him outdoors near a fire he had built. The image stuck with me, and a few years later I wrote the story, although it is set inside instead of out.

When I have time, I just might re-type the story on the computer and share it with the world. What I would really love to do, though, is find an illustrator — in this case, my wretched self-portraits simply won’t do — and publish it together as a children’s book.

“One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure” is the newest addition to my Notebook. Past entries can be found here.

In the Forum: HG Wells, Rebecca West, and Anthony Panther West.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Carpenter and a Madman

I’m in a strange house with strange rooms oddly juxtaposed.
Doors are where they shouldn’t be; some open onto walls.
I ask the carpenter why this is so.
Muscular and old, he answers with a smile.

Now we’re outside, walking through an old industrial area.
I see trucks; workmen; the smudged rear windows of warehouses.

The carpenter is no longer a carpenter.
His work apron is gone.
Now he’s a madman with twinkling eyes.

Who knows what he knows.

Added yesterday to the Annandale Dream Gazette. Also added: “Comfort,” previously posted here.

In the Forum: HG Wells and Gorky’s secretary, Moura Zakrevskaya.

Friday, June 26, 2009


This morning the crows
are in an uproar; I switch
from blue ink to black.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: My thanks to Chris Lott for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Chris writes the blog Cosmopoetica and is currently posting work from his Poem-a-Day project.

“Crowku” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

As the Conversation continues, HG Wells meets Yevgeny Zamyatin at Maxim Gorky’s place in St. Petersburg.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


My grandmother’s uncle was upset that no one recognized him. I touched him gently, affectionately, on the side of his face. His angry expression melted away. He closed his eyes. When he opened them he was still very old, but he was himself again.

In the Forum: indexing Heaven.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Window Seat

Attached with a small safety pin,
a note in my mother’s hand:

one stained and worn mattress pad
that fits a double bed.

From Songs and Letters, originally published June 23, 2009.

Recently Linked: Proving once again that he has a sense of humor, Jason Bulger, the publisher of Cosmopsis Books, has signed on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. You can read Jason’s ambitious “The Nabakov Assignment” here.

My thanks also to Aleksa, for linking to my dream file at the Annandale Dream Gazette from her blog, New Times Arrived.

In the Forum: “Big Rock Candy Mountain.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lightning Strikes

Running down a gentle slope scattered with old dry oaks, dodging circular bolts of lightning thrown by someone whose smile tells me he’s just having fun. The one aimed at my head wakes me up.

Added this morning to the Annandale Dream Gazette. My thanks, as always, to Lynn Behrendt.

As the Conversation continues, we realize that smokeless bars can be likened to a whole lot of other things.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Here’s looking at you, kid

William Michaelian
June 21, 2009
Photo by Vahan Michaelian
(click to enlarge)

New photo added to Main Page and columns rearranged.
Changes to Main Page recorded in News and Reviews.

6.22.2009 #2
6.22.2009 #1


A sudden rain
has silenced
the crows;

by the back door,
my wife’s wet shoes.

(first publication)

“Pause” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: sleeping in a mortuary.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Loose Ends

My uncle’s shoe polish
from the army.

His stripes and hat
and purple heart.

His letters home.

When I think what would happen to her if I don’t ... I ...

A picture of a cross in Italy.

From Songs and Letters, originally published June 20, 2009.

In the Forum: corned beef without the cabbage.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


June 20, 2009

6.20.2009 #2
6.20.2009 #1

Morning Detail

Ghostly scented rooms:
last night’s shower
has awakened
the grass-seed fields.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: A friendly welcome to Aleksa, who has signed on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Aleksa has two blogs.

“Morning Detail” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: shadowy characters on a Dublin side street.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hall Closet

Two fine suits . . .
why is my father buried
in his uncle’s blue
sport coat?

From Songs and Letters, originally published June 18, 2009.

In the Forum: a belated Bloomsday note.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Haiku June

With my very own eyes — a ripe strawberry picking a little girl.

(first publication)

“Haiku June” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chris Lott: Three Short Poems

Here are links to three short poems by Chris Lott,
author of Cosmopoetica:

          My Dead Father Speaks

Very nice. The poems are part of Chris’s Poem-a-Day project.

6.17.2009 #3
6.17.2009 #2
6.17.2009 #1

Write A Friend

A special thanks to poet Russ Allison Loar for sharing a bit of my insane correspondence with him in his new blog, Write A Friend. When you’re there, be sure to read his invitation. If you take him up on his offer, your time will be well spent.

6.17.2009 #2
6.17.2009 #1

Two Mirrors

Yesterday I found two mirrors buried in a closet at my mother’s house. One was my father’s shaving mirror — a square glass in a wide, smooth, slightly rounded wood frame that he repainted each time he painted the kitchen. The mirror hung on the wall to the left of the washtub. To the right of the tub was the washing machine. Over the tub was a window that looked out on the carport, until the carport was turned into a bedroom for my brothers. Then, the window became an open-air medicine cabinet — a place with shelves for Dad’s mug and brush, his Old Spice shaving lotion, toothpaste, and my brothers’ early Sixties hair grease.

From behind, I watched him shaving in the mirror. I watched him so many times that the mirror became a picture — so many times, that I could see him in it even when he wasn’t there.

The same thing happened yesterday.

The other mirror, a heavy frameless rectangle, used to hang over the chest of drawers in my room. The chest of drawers was a simple piece, purchased in unfinished condition, and also repainted many times. In the top drawer, I kept sticks, rocks, leaves, feathers — anything that captured my attention on the farm and seemed too valuable to leave behind. At any given time, there were also two or three of Dad’s worn out dollar pocket watches, which, when I was lucky, I could coax into ticking.

Sometimes, when I was looking at things in the drawer, I’d glance up and find someone looking back at me from the mirror. I was sure he knew something I didn’t.

The same thing happened yesterday.

From Songs and Letters, originally published June 16, 2009.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Mike Miliard for quoting from and linking to my review of Ulysses in his Bloomsday article yesterday in The Phoenix.

In the Forum: a San Joaquin Valley notebook.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Harbor mist
a gray that smells of fish

Dianthus blooming
by the steps.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: My thanks to Galina Nikolova for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Galina is a wonderful artist. A link to her blog, PALITRA, can be found in the “Reading Room.”

“Inland” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: every road, stick, and landmark.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mountain Road, Aerial View

Mountain Road, Aerial View
June 14, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

In the Forum: bouncing a black widow spider in the palm of your hand.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I’m beginning to think
like this jade plant in the mist

a jeweled leaf for each
passing kingdom.

From Songs and Letters, originally published November 16, 2008.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Jean Spitzer for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. A link to Jean’s excellent blog, Jean’s Paintings, can also be found in the “Reading Room.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

RBL Open Interview

I’ve been thinking lately that it might be fun to devote an entry to random questions from readers. I see it as an expanded version of the comment feature that would make it easier for visitors to ask questions and make comments not necessarily related to the content of regular entries — sort of an online Q & A. If it works, it could become an ongoing interview and a conversational exchange of ideas. If no one is interested — which I realize is a distinct possibility — I’ll quietly sweep it under the rug and that will be that.

So, what do you think? If you would like to ask or tell me something, simply use the comment box and I will give the best response I can. While I don’t mind being challenged, rules of common courtesy do still apply. But by no means do questions and comments have to be serious. I love what I do and am serious about it, but not so serious that I can’t also see how ridiculous it is, and how ridiculous I am.

Progress Report, Saturday, June 13, 2009
My thanks to everyone who has contributed so far, and to those who have followed along. I’m thoroughly enjoying the conversation. I would be happy to answer more questions, so please don’t hesitate. Also, for future convenience, I’ve placed a link in the “Reference Section.” Feel free to add questions and comments at any time, days, weeks, months, or even years from now. (Note: If I’m dead, response time might be a little slower.)

In the Forum: cut-rate souls and fat cheap cigars.
In the Forum: The purchase of 10,000 bees is casually mentioned.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Poor Man’s Song

Knotty in his labor, the poor man creeps the fieldpath down to where many stones apply themselves to his breaking, and where he will one day die if he is not careful, at least after the fashion of his father, his father before him, and their fathers enumerable beyond, who gallantly bore truce to the stones in grand recognition that they were older and wiser in their mosshewn countenance handed down from God the almighty merry mastermaker of sweatborn humor and spleen, and thereby lived to laugh another day, albeit in little wealth and in woeful vegetation, but man is granted what he is granted, as the saying goes, a pennyplot for thistles and cabbages, clustered bricks for his bentwife’s oven, embattled windrows in the alwayswaitforrain terrain until deluge comes to wash away their crimbling soils.

Earthentones he wises them, faces he espies them as he knobs his knees to bone, an inch to an inch he footfancies in order to feed his evergrowing brood. Better for the birds, and for the manifested wrigglewarm worms, effortless stumpshade grown. Better for the snakes in glorious relief, littleseen and neverheard. Better for the spiders, if there are any, and for the sandyfox and squirrel, and for the nightscreech whateveritis strangeclaiming dreams in the canopy starstrewn.

I know my way down, sings he, but never up, nospending of time to dig my grave, no, I am not ready for that with so many beaks pecking in the yard, noodled behind happy mouths and eyes, babblesong gifters of hillsides and shepherds’ flutes, how I love them, how I cry, how I bless them eagerwilling, and their nobleyearning mother more fruitful than ever is this numbforsaken earth, arms enfolding and scented mad. Crumbling break these petrified tears, these hardbaked skeletal remains! Gnarls on a lizard’s back! Rooted wishes off a drybridge from land to land. I have no name, but I know where I have been. Rock to quarry and back again. Rock to quarry and back again.

From Songs and Letters, originally published January 7, 2006.

In the Forum: Rory Gallagher.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


In this early hour, our urinating guest sounds like a small wind chime.

(first publication)

Note: Silly, perhaps, or even a little crude, yet accurate, and in a way so precious; in my mind, or what is left of it, this is a tiny journal entry.

“Tinkling” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Notaléymé. Every so often, a word like this will introduce itself to me and ask to be written down. I usually comply, though not always. Sometimes I just say hello and smile. If the new word persists, we enter into a conversation which might go on for a minute or an hour. Some of our talks are musical and sound like old men humming at a mossy table in a park; others move forward laugh by laugh, as if we were two children imitating the cadences of a rocky stream:

Notaléymé pardumé buascal,
Mi ni mool, pahnda si doshool.

Or the word might be expressed as a question: Notaléymé? in which event I might spend an entire morning trying to find an answer. Sometimes the answer becomes a poem, sometimes a brightly crumpled piece of paper.

Notaléymé would make a lovely name.

Notaléymé is a little girl who lives forever. She is very kind, and moves like a spirit from heart to heart. Notaléymé is the sparkle in the eyes of a young bride, the wisdom in the gaze of an old woman. She is an apparition in the night, at once wounding and strengthening the hearts of men.

Notaléymé, nah nah sélumé,
Why are you alone in this misty hour?

From Songs and Letters, originally published January 31, 2006.

In the Forum: stomping and thumping.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why Noah Drank

He still heard them
on the ark.

From Songs and Letters, originally published June 18, 2008.

Image: Why Noah Drank, June 7, 2009, #2 Pencil on Index Card.

As the Conversation continues, we try to wake up the band.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

June Rain

Blown by the breeze, a raindrop landed on the bare foot of a child sitting in his mother’s lap on their porch. The boy laughed and pointed at his foot. His mother smiled. When a man walked by with his umbrella, their bright faces turned into flowers. Further along, the man stopped and became a tree. And so he remained, solemn and wise, until the end of that welcome June rain — the rain that changed everything.

(first publication)

“June Rain” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Slide Bone Willie’s first gig.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Thank you, brother crow,
for pruning my dogwood tree;
feather in my loom.

(first publication)

“Portent” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: where have all the phrenologists gone?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Heart Inside the Heart

The Heart Inside the Heart
Poems by Joseph Hutchison
Chapbook, 32 pages (1999)

Not long ago, I ordered a copy of House of Mirrors (1992), a collection of poems by Joseph Hutchison. When the book arrived, I was delighted, but not really surprised, to find that Joe had tucked The Heart Inside the Heart into the package as “a bonus book just for grins.” When it comes right down to it, most of the poets I know are generous souls, and Joe is clearly one of that number. And so I am the lucky recipient of much more than I paid for, both in poetry and in spirit.

The two of us are like kids in our enthusiasm for poetry and printed matter. Joe, though, is also a wise, widely read, and well spoken advocate for writing that is comprehensible without being plain, different without being obscure or obtuse, and effective for reasons not necessarily or immediately clear. When a poem seems to work despite itself, when it stops him in his tracks or strikes a nerve, he is eager to share the news.

I feel the same way. While I am still reading both books, I can say that Joe’s work has the depth and polish I would expect from someone who writes and thinks so well. If I would criticize him for anything, it would be for not isolating just a few of the images and revelations in his longer poems, which, in my mind, at least, are poems in and of themselves. And yet they are also needed exactly where they are. His work is richer and more lush because of them, and his shorter poems, such as this one from The Heart Inside the Heart, are made all the more effective:

          At Bottom

          This dream
          life, gold

          as mescal
          burning clear

          in a bottle;
          and at bottom:

          the cleansing

A statement of philosophy, perhaps; certainly a moment of inspiration and clarity captured by a man who loves words, and who finds joy in setting them down.

Image: cover art and book design by John C. Ransom (click to enlarge).

In the Forum: beware the double downstairs.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Haiku Window

“Good-bye, Daddy,”

                          and her father zooms away

              in his little red car.

(first publication)

Note: This poem happened yesterday morning, on the fourteenth anniversary of my father’s death. About three hours later, on the way home from having coffee with a friend, I happened to glance at the odometer in my mother’s eighteen-year-old Lincoln, which was the last car my father owned. At just that moment, it read 99,999.9 miles. Half a block on, it hit 100,000.

Elsewhere: My thanks to Lola Koundakjian for adding my poem, “Summer Advice,” to the Armenian Poetry Project.

“Haiku Window” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

As the Conversation continues, Li Po drowns in the moon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Man Who Lost His Head

The Man Who Lost His Head
June 1, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

After planting some geraniums in the newly reclaimed flowerbed under the big front window of my mother’s house, I went into the backyard to plant six impatiens in an old wine barrel. As I was getting started, I noticed a dead bird several feet away on the lawn. It was limp and missing its head. I don’t know what kind of bird it was. It was about the size of a scrub jay, but without any blue markings. There were no stray feathers in the area, and the head was nowhere near, unless it was hidden in the ivy somewhere along the fence. Oddly enough, the neck was not a bloody mess; instead, it seemed to be soft and downy, almost as if the bird had lived long enough after its mishap to begin to heal and grow some new feathers — until the absence of its head took its final toll, possibly due to the warm, humid weather we’ve been having.

When our kids were small, my wife and I used to read them a delightful book from the library called The Man Who Lost His Head. Published in 1942, the story was written by Claire Huchet Bishop and masterfully illustrated by Robert McCloskey. It’s about a man who has lost his head, and all the trouble he goes to to compensate for its absence. I remember quite vividly how he looks when he puts a parsnip where his head is supposed to be, how poorly his hat fits as a result, and the expression on the parsnip’s face just above the knot in the man’s tie. A truly fantastic book.

Instead of burying the bird, I picked it up with the blade of a hoe and set it down as gently as I could in the ivy near the trunks of two white birch trees. That way, if the head should return, or if another head presents itself, there will still be a chance for a miracle to occur. An owl’s head would be nice, if a bit extravagant. But if a goat’s head arrives, or the head of snake or chimpanzee, it could spell trouble. The same goes for their bodies.

Sick. In fact, this sounds like I’m missing one or the other myself. Or maybe they’re missing each other.

“The Man Who Lost His Head” is the most recent entry in my Notebook. Past entries can be found here.

In the Forum: parenthetical proof of Pound’s brilliance.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer Advice

Kiss each other
in the shade

after you’ve

a juicy
ripe peach.

No shade,
imagine the tree.

No peach,
imagine the taste.

No one, no one
with a heart

of reach.

(first publication)

“Summer Advice” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: out for a Pound.