Friday, July 31, 2009


A short pier over a mossy backwater. I throw in my line. An immediate strike bends the bamboo pole in my hands. Beside me, a smiling companion I don’t recognize. I walk past him onto higher ground, trying to land what I think must be the biggest fish of all time or a refrigerator. It turns out to be an eel with a flashlight for a head. The light is on. The light is its eye. It blinks its slimy lid.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sô Chôngju: Two Poems

Azalea and Gull

Azaleas, azaleas on the hill
longing for the distant sea
mimicking the gull’s voice
call through the hills;

and gulls, the gulls on the sea
with the voice of azaleas
call across the sea
to the distant hills all around.

Black-haired Girl

The black-haired girl in the dark of night
walks the night road all alone.
The night tells how very glad it is,
and the stars say they are not lonely.

Yi T’aebaek, after writing a poem
in jet ink, went and found a ghost.
“Better than mine,” it said in admiration.
“Nicer composition,” is what it said in praise.

The black-haired girl has gone in marriage,
and the gourd flowers smile on the roof.
Beyond the hedge, the stream composes itself,
and the breathing of the skies grows calm.

Note: I found these poems in the Quarterly Review of Literature 50th Anniversary Anthology (1993), another recent used book acquisition. The translations are by David R. McCann.

Quarterly Review of Literature
50th Anniversary Anthology

Editors: T. & R. Weiss

Princeton, New Jersey (1993)

561 pages

Sô Chôngju biography and poems

In the Forum: If I should die in NYC: the full report.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wild Carrots

It just occurred to me that wild carrots have sprouted only once on the slope near the sidewalk in front of my mother’s house. That was about three years ago. My sons and I noticed them while working in the area. The roots were a pale cream-color, nicely formed, quite small, and aromatic — carrot and soil and something heavenly and elusive combined, like a memory grown ripe in waiting.

Before pulling them out, the idea of letting the plants go to seed flitted through my mind. But I knew from experience that doing so would not guarantee their proliferation, or even their return. In an instant, the decision was made to satisfy our curiosity, to be wild ourselves in honor of our ancient human past.

The carrots of our minds were made manifest. We became alert. The sun shone a little brighter. Our senses rejoiced.

The carrots were startled at first, but they grew calm when they heard our voices filled with admiration. They yielded, and were delicate in our hands. I thought of clouds, and wondered how much soft white goose down the biggest ones of my childhood might have contained. When they became snagged on power poles beside the road, feathers would scatter and be lost on the breeze. So would dreams.

I tasted one of the carrots, felt the tip of the root on my tongue. The flavor reminded me of the newly found face of a friend.

From Songs and Letters, originally published August 15, 2006.

In the Forum: Ben King’s Verse.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Save As

Now that Songs and Letters is finished, I have some ideas I’d like to pursue in the realm of photography. The problem is, I don’t have a camera. My son and I looked at some the other evening, and the one I would like to have costs about $250. While I could write it off as a business expense, at present I can’t really justify such an expenditure, because we’re in the process of replacing the old and now dangerous gas range in the kitchen, and removing a fir tree that volunteered too close to the retaining wall in front of the house near the street.

Meanwhile, in order to verify my ideas and take mental pictures, I’ve been using my fingers to form a frame, and my feet as a substitute for a 15x zoom lens. I usually dispense with the clicking sound. I can store hundreds of images in my brain — even more if I save them as black-and-white. In fact, about the only drawback is that to share these images online, I must upload them in text form.

Of course, some might find this a poor substitute for photography. But the truth is, much photography is already a poor substitute for photography, just as much writing is a poor substitute for writing, and much living can hardly be called living at all.

I also like the idea of not needing expensive tools or equipment to make art. I love using a computer, but a computer isn’t needed to write a poem, or to draw a picture, or to learn to play an instrument. Even an instrument isn’t needed. A couple of days ago, a man happened by in the grocery store as I was playing some striped seeded watermelons grown in Hermiston, Oregon. He was quite amused. “Everyone has their secret,” I said. “The trick is to play all of them.”

He didn’t realize, of course, that I had just taken his picture and filed it next to the image of a mossy irrigation ditch. His distinctly Japanese voice, which sounded just like the Japanese voices I grew up hearing in the San Joaquin Valley, is saved in a .brn (brain) audio file.

“Save As” is my newest Notebook entry. Old Notes are archived here.

Recently Linked: A friendly welcome and my thanks to Edith for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.

In the Forum: Dick Cavett’s interview with George Harrison.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Nuevo Diccionario

Recently Acquired:
Appleton’s New Spanish-English
and English-Spanish Dictionary

By Arturo Cuyás
Revised and enlarged
by Antonio Llano

Third edition, with supplements

Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc.
New York (1940)


Approximately 1,200 pages of musty paradise, “containing more than six thousand modern words and twenty-five thousand acceptations, idioms and technical terms not found in any other similar work: with a pronouncing key and the fundamental tenses of irregular verbs.”

Note: I like the idea of being fundamentally tense.

In the Forum: The Buckinghams, Gary Puckett, and Three Dog Night.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Front Street

Front Street
July 26, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

7.26.2009 #2
7.26.2009 #1

Ben King’s Verse

Recently Acquired:
Ben King’s Verse
Edited by Nixon Waterman
Introduction by John McGovern
Biography by Opie Read

Forbes & Company
Boston & Chicago (1902)

Copyright, 1894, 1898
by Aseneth Bell King

Eighth printing, November 1902,
completing twentieth thousand

276 pages

If I Should Die

If I should die to-night
     And you should come to my cold corpse and say,
     Weeping and heartsick o’er my lifeless clay—
     If I should die to-night,
And you should come in deepest grief and woe—
And say: “Here’s that ten dollars that I owe,”
     I might arise in my large white cravat
     And say, “What’s that?”

     If I should die to-night
And you should come to my cold corpse and kneel,
Clasping my bier to show the grief you feel,
     I say, if I should die to-night
And you should come to me, and there and then
Just even hint ’bout payin’ me that ten,
     I might arise the while,
     But I’d drop dead again.

This entry added to And I Quote.

Changed information on Main Page and in Flippantly Answered Questions, my “friendly site guide & FAQ,” to reflect the completion of Songs and Letters.

In the Forum: Al: Señor P.H. Misfeldt / De: Joaquin Jaramillo / Rio grande Septembre 1951.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Far Too Little, Far Too Much

The biggest difference between living at my mother’s house and the rented house we left behind is that, even though we lived there twenty-two years, I always knew we’d be leaving. Now I don’t. And I confess, it bothers me a bit to think I might die here. Not that it matters where I die, or even when. But whether it happens tomorrow or thirty years from now, if it is here, it will be among the whispering heirlooms and antiques, old photo albums, and family memorabilia that life and circumstances have ushered into my responsibility and care.

Fourteen years ago when my mother moved here from California, this house was just a house. Now it is a living museum, and the only place our scattered family members have that ties us together — a place to go, a place to convene, a place to meet and converse amongst things with which we have all been familiar since childhood. It is a wonderful home — not one thing about it is fancy, or ostentatious. The furniture is comfortable and well worn. The kitchen is simple and convenient. The bathrooms need painting and their counters should be replaced. I still have to worry about my hair clogging the shower drain, and I have a typical list of indoor and outdoor repairs. As such, I recognize our good fortune and I am happy and grateful to be here.

But. But? Is there somewhere else I would rather be? Am I not still free to travel, or at least to look forward to traveling? Am I not free to amass a fortune and buy a second little house on the Oregon coast, or in the mountains to the east, or both? Time will tell, I guess. Time will tell how free I am. It will tell how free I allow myself to be. Because it isn’t hard to imagine being shackled by this place, or chained to it, or succumbing to the inertia of the objects it contains and the memories associated with them. I have lived here before: those three years I spent taking care of my mother taught me something. I know far too little, and far too much. The evidence is here, in this book.

Note: And so ends Songs and Letters. After working on this book for four years, this entry caught me by surprise. It shouldn’t have. How could it have been otherwise?

A few brief thoughts about the end of Songs and Letters added to News and Reviews.

As the Conversation continues, books are mentioned for the first time in a good long while.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Given As I Am

Given As I Am
July 23, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

In the Forum: tea and crumpets.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Finishing Touch

I needed only to tie a ribbon around a nice flat box from a department store, but the lid came off, the box fell from the table, and the contents shattered on the floor. In that brief moment, the table turned into one of the old wooden trailers my father and I used in the vineyard on our farm many years ago. The trailer was covered with things that have been in our family for ages. Some were broken, others were oddly distorted. There was one wrinkled envelope on which my mother had written, as a reminder to herself, that my father had died. I started putting the bits and pieces into a brown paper grocery bag.

Added yesterday to the Annandale Dream Gazette.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Red Light

Three little girls waiting at a corner,
one just old enough to worry.

Their mother pacing,
calling someone


with her cell phone.

(first publication)

“Red Light” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: a trumpet, not a sousaphone.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Front Walk

Instead of graves, why don’t we scatter like these geranium petals?

(first publication)

“Front Walk” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: underwater trumpets.

Monday, July 20, 2009

First Impression

Up in time to find a dove confessing to a weightless sliver moon.

(first publication)

“First Impression” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: form versus substance.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rudhi: Schönbildschauer & Liebe Sei Dank

Recently received as part of another lucky book exchange — two lovely volumes from Austrian artist and writer Rudolf Rüscher (Rudhi):

Ein lyrisches Kaleidoskop

2008, Books on Demand, 19x12cm, 2.Aufl.
Pb., 76 Seiten, 53 Gedichte, 12 Abb.
(Tusche-Gemälde und Fotos des Autors)
Mystische und teils gesellschaftskritische
Gedichte zum Nachdenken;
Hier&Jetzt offenbart sich eine inspirierende
Suche nach dem Lebensglück durch poetische

ISBN 978-3-8370-0306-2
Preis: 15.- Euro

Begegnungen mit Albert Hofmann

2008, Books on Demand, 21,5x13,5cm
Pb., 168 Seiten, 11 Abb.

In Memoriam Albert Hofmann
Begegnung mit Dr. A.H.
Wiedersehen mit A.H.
Eine Reise ins Ungewisse
Meditation und Drogen
Das Wesen des LSD (Radix-Analyse)
Ballade Hundert Jahre A.H.-Wunderkind
Biografie des Autors

ISBN 978-3-8370-6663-0
Preis: 20.- Euro

In the Forum: 3-D adjustments.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sitting At My Mother’s Desk

That pleasant, nagging feeling
that I should have changed by now —
or that I already have,
and will never

(first publication)

“Sitting At My Mother’s Desk” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: a bar of soap, a cigar, and a trumpet.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sneezes and Avalanches

There. We moved. All I need to do now is figure out what, where, when, why, how, and who. In the meantime, between sneezes and avalanches, I think I’ll visit my favorite blogs. I’m anxious to see what folks have written and painted while I was away.

New Forum page added.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

One Last Thing

One Last Thing
by Rachel Andrews
July 11, 2009

Thanks, Rachel, for the wonderful surprise!

In the Forum: At long last, after talking nonstop for six and a half years, we have a chance to stand up, stretch, and visit the bathroom.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Empty cupboards
and bare walls:
did you know
that we had gone?

What did you feel
that first long night alone?

A sigh at every window,
gray hands upon each knob.

And when strangers hurried on?

I drove them mad with groans,
made their fires all go out.

A wise approach. And now?

I’m as mad as anyone.

From Songs and Letters, originally published November 15, 2006.

Note: We’re in the process of moving to my mother’s house. We won’t have an Internet connection there until Thursday, July 16. The connection in this house will be on through that date, but I don’t know how practical it will be to work on the floor in the corner of a dusty bedroom — and yet, it’s tempting to try....

A short note about our historic move added to News and Reviews.

In the Forum: anti-smirk training.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let It Be Folly, Let It Be Prayer

There is no deep, brooding reason I work in the dark, aided only by the glow that emanates from my computer screen. I open the blinds and leave the light off simply to watch and absorb the arrival of dawn. I used to do the same thing, in effect, when we lived on the farm. I loved to be out before the sun was up, and to observe the solemn outline of the barns and trees and orchards and vines. City or country, to me, a day begun in this manner seems to have a better chance of being productive, fulfilling, and right.

I also like to work with the lights off at dusk, glancing occasionally out the window as the landscape fades and the neighbors’ lights come on. And I like to work during the day, when sunlight floods the room and brings colors to life and objects into focus. I like to work through storms, both meteorological and mental.

I like to work when daylight turns to honey,
the streets to cold black water, the earth to chocolate,
the sun to lemon, the stars to tears, the leaves to hands,
the shadows to friends, the mountains to myth,
the rivers to veins, the gravestones to miles,
the warmth of flesh to a cure.

I like to work knowing my life could end at any moment, and that the words I spend will glimmer, then fade. I do not want to live forever, but I already have. Or, if I must, then let it be for a short time. Let it be now, alone, together, distant, and near.

Let it be folly. Let it be prayer.

From Songs and Letters, originally published October 22, 2006.

In the Forum: P.F. Flyers, the sneaker encyclopedia.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Shadow Knows

A man’s shadow refuses to cross the street. After arguing about a shadow’s rights and responsibilities, the man decides to cross anyway and is killed by a speeding car before he can reach the other side. A crowd gathers around his body. The shadow joins them. A policeman arrives, and after a quick count places the shadow under arrest. Filled with remorse, the shadow dies in prison before it can be brought to trial.

Note: File under Marginalia and/or Poems, Slightly Confused.

In the Forum: trying to remember old encyclopedia names.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

River Incident

At a dangerous turn in the river, a raft loaded with farm animals hits a snag. Several fall off — sheep, pigs, goats, cows — and are swept into the current. The air is filled with heartrending cries. Those still on board jump in the water after them. One, however, a large tan-colored pig with black spots, calmly climbs ashore and starts foraging in someone’s brightly colored vegetable garden. The pig doesn’t notice when the others slip beneath the surface.

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

As the Conversation continues, we marvel at the simple wonder of Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Full Circle

My father’s birthday once again,
and what do I remember?

The uncharted stillness
of his hands, and how our grapes
began to ripen at this time
of year.

From Songs and Letters, first published July 2, 2007.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Cedar, who writes the blog Cedarflame, for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.

In the Forum: the famous Funk and Wagnalls backpack.

Monday, July 6, 2009

First Try

Old crow, you sound like
my father’s outboard motor —
ten horses, no tails.

(first publication)

“First Try” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: all Willipedia, all the time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July Rain

Dying is such old work — I settle the dust in our yard with a hose.

(first publication)

“July Rain” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: rhubarb redefined.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Time and Space

That’s interesting. Out of habit, I just stepped around the empty spot next to my work table where, until two days ago, a chair used to be. I wonder — what else do I unconsciously avoid?

7.4.2009 #2
7.4.2009 #1

At the Armenian Home

Even after his stroke and up to his death at the age of ninety-three, my grandfather never did forget who we were. Many at the Armenian Home in Fresno, where he chose to spend the last few years of his life, weren’t as fortunate. This short poem was inspired by our many visits there, and by the vineyards we used to pass on the way.

At the Armenian Home

He remembers
his old muscat vineyard,
but not their names.

Their faces are familiar,
like sunflowers
on wide, crooked stems.

The blue sky
above his field
is warm and clear.

His grapes are sweet,
with seeds like
small, hard stones.

He asks them to stay,
so they can enjoy
the abundant fruit.

Introduction and poem from Collected Poems, circa 2005. “At the Armenian Home” first appeared in Ararat (New York).

As the Conversation continues, an index is generated on the fly.

Friday, July 3, 2009

So I Hear

So I Hear
#2 Pencil on Dimpled Index Card
July 3, 2009

Recently Linked: A pleasant welcome to Mark Marcarian, who has just signed on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Thanks, Mark.

7.3.2009 #2
7.3.2009 #1


Treasured belongings:
when you have to move them
the things you own
own you.

But not only then
and not only

it’s true.

From Songs and Letters, originally published July 2, 2009.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Gerry Boyd and Stepanos Keshishian for signing on as followers of this blog.

In the Forum: Crassus’s favorite poet.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

High Tide

The sound of the freeway
is the surf,

the trucker’s brake
a spouting


(first publication)

“High Tide” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Crassus and rhubarb, according to Willipedia.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sidebar Notes

Following this morning’s exchange of comments in the RBL Open Interview, I thought it would be a good time to mention once again that links to that page can be found under the “Departments” heading and in the “Reference Section.”

Also, the names of two blogs in the “Reading Room” were changed by their authors some time back. Russ Allison Loar’s blog “Another Poem” is now Writing A, and Kevin McCollister’s “The Jimson Weed Gazette” has become East of West L.A. The URLs of both, however, remain unchanged.

7.1.2009 #2
7.1.2009 #1

Up Here On the Hill

The poem you’re about to read came into being this way: Last night, after I turned off the lamp beside the bed, I decided it would be fun to try to compose a poem before I went to sleep. But before I could think up a single line, I was asleep, although I didn’t find that out until later, when my eyes popped open at about four a.m. and an entire poem was looking out at me from the wall. Ah-ha, I said — there you are. And then I marveled at the poem for about two minutes. But the poem you’re about to read isn’t that poem, because I fell asleep again, and when my eyes popped open the second time the poem was gone, just as if it had never been written — which, come to think of it, is exactly the case. How do I know the poem you’re about to read isn’t the poem that came to me in bed? Simple: that poem was a lot better than this one. I wrote this one when I was awake, and, as most people already know, I am not nearly as sharp awake as I am asleep — not that I can always tell the difference.

Up Here On the Hill

Well, the story goes,
they buried me
up here on the hill
but I went right on talking,
pretty much to anybody
who comes along —
put a scare into some
of ’em, too, figuring
I am dead and all,
and the truth is I can’t
explain it myself,
whether it’s the location,
maybe, and all that nice air
up here on the hill,
and the grass that grows
and the flowers that bloom,
or I ain’t really dead
though I seem to lie here
awfully still, or just restless
in my head like I always
been when a storm is comin’ in —
whatever it is, I sure wish
some of ’em would answer,
’cause for a man in my place
that would be a thrill,
and life ain’t all it oughta be
up here on the hill.

Introduction and poem from Collected Poems, circa 2006.

In the Forum: the LSD of encyclopedias.