Monday, January 31, 2011

John Levy: A Mind’s Cargo Shifting

Interspersed lately with my readings from the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, I’ve been enjoying daily doses from John Levy’s new book, A Mind’s Cargo Shifting, just out in January from First Intensity Press. Levy, a fine poet and lover of words if there ever was one, continues his quest for clarity in a humorous* vein, this time in gentle “fictions” and “definitions” in which Sterne meets Bierce and both spill their coffee only to turn around and cipher the stains.

I especially like “Sponges and Sieves” — probably because that’s the piece I just finished reading. The adventure begins thus:

Is the opposite of a sponge a sieve? Not a living sponge, immersed in water, but a dead or manufactured sponge. Both a sieve and a sponge are solid masses that bring together holes. Sponges and sieves are anthologies of holes.

It ends with this poignant scenario from an imagined television series that, even in its pilot, leaves “SpongeBob SquarePants” high and dry. “CharlieSievers” is about a sieve who lives in a kitchen in a space shuttle and whose best friend is Sally, a ladle:

CharlieSievers is a fatalist. But, nevertheless, he loves Sally (platonically) for her generosity, her incredible knowledge of astronomy, and her wide lovely face. CharlieSievers and Sally are chained to the kitchen counter because there is no gravity and they float, often near the thick window to the stars, when they engage in their comic dialogues and their adventures with the other inhabitants of the kitchen. Chained near them is Lenore, an ice cream scoop, who tends to wobble off to the side. It’s Lenore who almost always alerts CharlieSievers and Sally to each episode’s crisis.

But of course I won’t give away the actual pilot, because there’s big money at stake. The last thing I need now is a lawsuit — not because I have anything of value to take, but because it will cut into my precious reading time.

Thanks, John.

* But not always, and that is the beauty of it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I am listening now, fully aware that I might not be able to finish this sentence.

From “Listening”

Please click on the images for a larger view.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

And so it was

And so it was
until a lone twig snapped

his heart had not
been broken.

Note: Leaves of Grass finished; now into Mountain Interval (unabridged Dover republication retitled The Road Not Taken and Other Poems).

“And so it was” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

1.29.2011 #3
1.29.2011 #2 (new poem)
1.29.2011 #1 (old books)


When my secret lives have secret lives
and know they can’t explain, so the boughs
of winterwood are silent in their name.

“Winterwood” added to Poems, Slightly Used. Also, I was surprised to see that this is the second “Winterwood” I’d written. I’d quite forgotten the first.

1.29.2011 #2
1.29.2011 #1 (old books)

Celebrated Tales from Blackwood

Celebrated Tales from Blackwood

Tales from “Blackwood”
Being the most Famous Series
of Stories ever Published
Especially Selected from that
Celebrated English Publication

Selected by H. Chalmers Roberts
Illustrated by Jess. Emily Brangs

Leslie-Judge Company, New York

Four volumes. Vol. 1, 194 pages; Vol. 2, 188 pages; Vol. 3, 198 pages;
Vol. 4, 176 pages. $4.95 each.

Note: No clever symbolism intended in the second photo; I just needed something to keep the book open. Although, that is my father’s old ashtray, and that is his brother’s old briar pipe. Click on both images for a larger view.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Robert for highlighting my comment on his beautiful memory collage (for lack of a better term, for really, his work is much, much more than that, as you will see as you travel around his site), young couple of yesterday.

Friday, January 28, 2011

If I had not fallen from my horse

If I had not fallen from my horse
she might never have licked my face

hay on her breath
ice through my back

a shout to the hearse
at the edge of the pond

go home our tongues are on fire


the mere fragment of a day blessed by silence,
gray hat-adorned, solitude resounding to the touch,
rejoicing in the light on winter graves

Another note:

Have been reading, the past two days, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in the original 1855 edition. Everyone should, but at the right time. And when is the right time? When you remember, for the first or thousandth time, that even you, in your pleasure and health and grief and woe, might not survive the day.

“If I had not fallen from my horse” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Canvas 172

“Canvas 172”
January 27, 2011

[click to enlarge]


Look at him. He just sits there all day, writing and drawing. What good is keeping him in a cell if he doesn’t even know he’s a prisoner?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


So far this year, I’m doing fairly well in the reading department. In addition to finishing Proust, which my son and I started reading on the first day of August last year, I’ve made my way through Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and Oliver Twist, as well as about 250 pages of Montaigne’s Complete Works. And I’ve enjoyed them all immensely. The act of reading is so satisfying and complex. I mentioned yesterday the distance traveled while I draw; the same goes for reading, just as it does for writing. All are limitless, exhilarating, exhausting. I don’t read to escape. I read to understand, and to feel and live more deeply. I read to alleviate my ignorance. I read to be in the company of minds whose power and breadth is an immortal force. And I write for the same reason. The mind itself, beyond its myriad individual peculiarities, is also a shared force; mine is not inferior to Proust’s or Twain’s, only different — or so they allow me, by their good graces, to believe.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The first was drawn two days ago; the other seven were done yesterday in rapid succession. But the time traveled and the distance involved is another matter entirely. Childhood, departed friends and family members, the restlessness of the unborn — call it therapy, if you like, or call it art; to me it feels like song.

Please click on the images for a larger view.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Feathers painted
before their birds arrive

souls revived
in pristine

“Breathless” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The scent of lilac when

The scent of lilac when the bush is bare
and frost is on the ground —
that’s how old
I am.

“The scent of lilac when” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Canvas 160

“Canvas 160”
January 22, 2011

[click to enlarge]

1.22.2011 #3
1.22.2011 #2 (drawing)
1.22.2011 #1 (drawing)

Canvas 159

“Canvas 159”
January 22, 2011

[click to enlarge]

1.22.2011 #2
1.22.2011 #1 (drawing)

Canvas 158

“Canvas 158”
January 21, 2011

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: a thin, ungainly beard.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Look again

The blame on your hands
could be flour, in which case
I advise you, make bread.

“Canvas 157”
January 20, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Recently Linked: My thanks to Erin for her beautiful response to yesterday’s entry. As I mentioned then, it could just as well have come before. Thanks, also, to Rudhi, the inimitable cover artist of One Hand Clapping, for thinking of my “portraits” in conjunction with his ghostly watercolor.

“Look again” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Of friendship

In the friendship I speak of, our souls mingle and blend with each other so completely that they efface the seam that joined them, and cannot find it again. If you press me to tell why I loved him, I feel that this cannot be expressed, except by answering: Because it was he, because it was I.

Michel de Montaigne
The Complete Works
Page 169

“Canvas 156”
January 19, 2011

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: the Dickens, you say.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An honest trade

“Well, well,” said the old gentleman, composing his features. “Don’t be afraid! We won’t make an author of you, while there’s an honest trade to be learnt, or brick-making to turn to.”

Oliver Twist
Chapter Fourteen

“Canvas 155”
January 18, 2011

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: a reading rampage.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Escape is a cage

Escape is a cage, but only a tiny one;
the sound of a horn that warns of nothing,
bleating its own indifference —

and out I fly, for the hinge between ribs
has broken, and my wings scatter
seeds to the floor.

Give me an ocean;
a basement;

the last blind expedient;
a subway’s flash and roar;
fists against glass;

mountains lost in love;

strange disciples;

the gallows;

a puppy from my childhood.

Between pillars that keep the sky from falling,
sense is dead on the step —

as if someone says, “Mom! Birdie is gone!”

and I wish how I wish, how I wish how I wish

to be back in.

“Escape is a cage” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Canvases 153, 154

“Canvas 153”
January 16, 2011

[click to enlarge]

“Canvas 154”
January 17, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Accidental Observer

These poems of longing and grace are the kind we pass from friend to friend. How wonderful to find them in three languages, each proclaiming their own bright joy:

[click to enlarge]

The Accidental Observer
A collection of Armenian poems
translated into English and Spanish

by Lola Koundakjian

Armenian Poetry Project
ISBN: 978-0-578-06618-9

Lola Koundakjian is the founder and curator of the Armenian Poetry Project. Most recently, her work was translated into Spanish for the 20th International Poetry Festival in Medellin, Colombia, where she read her work in July 2010. She resides in New York City.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Evil as he was, I thanked him

Evil as he was, I thanked him, knowing full well we would still have to contend with his vicious dogs before we reached the gate. I opened the front door and he watched us go, sitting on his throne. It was an antiseptic room. He had no hair. His skin was smooth. The dogs sniffed the ground. They began to growl. I addressed the most menacing one: “Nice puppy,” and he smiled as we eyed the gate. Another: “Hello, puppy,” with the same result. But the third made an awful sound deep in its throat. I whispered to my wife that we should continue to move ahead as slowly as we could — one sudden move, I said, and the dog would spring. All the while, I waited for him to bite my leg, wondering what it would feel like when his teeth penetrated the cloth and met the bone. But all he did was growl. The man — where had I seen him before? With my son, it was, after we’d escaped an empty factory with grain on the floor. I’d wrestled a rusted grate from its hinges and we crawled through a narrow chute until we came to a river. The water was low. We could have crossed it by stepping on the exposed rocks scattered everywhere. We came to a bend, then turned around. Where the chute had been was now a wild narrow canyon. “Flash flood,” I said. And we heard the sound.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Canvas 152

“Canvas 152”
January 15, 2011

[click to enlarge]

1.15.2011 #3
1.15.2011 #2 (drawing)
1.15.2011 #1 (old book)

Canvas 151

“Canvas 151”
January 15, 2011

[click to enlarge]

1.15.2011 #2
1.15.2011 #1 (old book)

The Child of My Wife

[click to enlarge]

The Child of My Wife
by Charles Paul De Kock
Introduction by Jules Claretie
English translation by Edith Mary Norris

The Frederick J. Quinby Company
Boston, London, Paris (1903)

“Edition Limited to One Thousand Copies. Number 667.”

249 pages. $7.95.

Friday, January 14, 2011

How my mind rushes

I love how my mind rushes ahead,
then greets me upon my arrival.

I love how my body breeds haste in my mind.

I love how they fall silent
when asked which is quicker, stronger
of the three.

I love how they leap
at the beating of wings.

“How my mind rushes” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: Sawyer and Finn.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Canvas 150

“Canvas 150”
January 13, 2011

[click to enlarge]

1.13.2011 #2
1.13.2011 #1 (two drawings)

Canvases 148, 149

“Canvas 148”
January 12, 2011

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“Canvas 149”
January 12, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Dawn, n. 1. In summer, the time when one side of a tree is awake,
the other side asleep. Some say enlightenment begins this way,
then spreads, leaf by leaf by leaf. In winter, when the branches
of many trees are bare, they resemble the open arms of loved ones;
in spring, belief; in autumn, secrets kept for years. 2. An uncanny
explanation of the night. 3. That which follows grief. 4. A vast distance
measured in heartbeats or by the rhythm of wings. 5. The riddle
of an empty street. 6. What a child knows, but cannot tell.

From Songs and Letters, originally published August 12, 2007. Also appeared in Barbaric Yawp, September 2007, and here July 16, 2008.

In the Forum: an elf clutching a spatula.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


[click to enlarge]

by George Moore

Privately printed for subscribers only
by Boni and Liveright, New York (1919)

“1250 copies of this book have been printed of which this is number 38.”

313 pages. $8.95.

In the Forum: eternal sage advice.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Canvas 147

“Canvas 147”
January 10, 2011

[click to enlarge]

1.10.2011 #2
1.10.2011 #1 (drawings and excerpt)

Canvases and Faces

These three were drawn on January 8, in one brief sitting. The piece that follows, “Faces,” is from Songs and Letters.

“Canvas 144”

[click to enlarge]

“Canvas 145”

[click to enlarge]

“Canvas 146”

[click to enlarge]


The trees are still bare, but their branches are a different color. The sky has changed, and although trees are not mirrors, I think they must reflect the images and light they do not absorb. Their sap, too, is rising, like blood just beneath the skin.

We know, of course, that even the moon reflects the light of the sun. Rocks, soil, terrain — moonlight is sunlight, gracefully transformed.

The sidewalks speak in this same manner, the rooftops, chimneys, and walls of houses, the highways, streets, and bridges that link one city to the next, the fields in between — nothing is silent, nothing stays the same. Everything is changing, and as it changes, it is being born again as something else.

The face you see in your mirror is another miracle. It is a reflection of a reflection — of your life and times and the place you live, and wherever else you roam. It is a reflection of what you think, of what you believe about yourself and about others, and of what it means to you to be alive.

A face is a story, told without words. It is a history that continues to unfold.

Yesterday I saw a man waiting at a crosswalk for the light to change. He was in his fifties and quite tall, and dressed nicely but in worn out clothes. My first thought on seeing his weathered, alcoholic face was that he was an unknown poet, a man who had been pushed by society and pushed too far, until the only thing he could do was wander around town with his latest manuscript tucked inside his coat pocket. This was his comfort and his pain — to hold the truth against the warmth of his own body, and for that truth to remain hidden.

To whom could he show his manuscript? And yet his face was his manuscript, and it was there for the world to read. He was proud; he had not given in; he had endured. He was still enduring. Once again, his need for affirmation and sunlight had driven him from his room into the street. I wonder — what did he see reflected in the faces of his own kind?

March 4, 2006

In the Forum: ibid, ibid, ibid — splash.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lost in the luxury

... it was a divine gift, a tumbling into the dough of being alive.

While the following poem from Songs and Letters was posted here quite some time ago, I want to offer it again in conjunction with Erin’s beautiful piece, Considering Hands. Thank you, Erin.


Imagine a world
where faces and voices
are all the same,
and people
know each other
by reaching out
and touching
their hands.

Imagine these hands
as living records
of character,
sorrow, and joy.

Some of the hands
are warm, gentle,
and forgiving,
some are scarred
and wise, a blessing.

Other hands are cold,
the kind of hands
no other hand wants
to touch, the kind
that do not want
to be touched,
that hide themselves
in pockets or pretend
they are busy with
some important,
empty task.

Imagine the moment
when hands first meet.

Imagine your hand
caressing the hand
of a stranger,
and his hand or hers
caressing yours,
and the miracle
that unfolds
when both hands
quietly yield.

Imagine the distance
two hands might travel,
the valleys and the roads,
the river beds, meadows,
and burned out woods.

Imagine the granite
of experience
as it melts and runs
like fragrant honey
down your arms,
penetrates your skin,
your heart, your mind.

February 25, 2006

1.9.2011 #2
1.9.2011 #1 (quote from Huck Finn)

Out of the nest

It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened—Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many. Jim said the moon could a laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn’t say nothing against it, because I’ve seen a frog lay most as many, so of course it could be done. We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they’d got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.

Mark Twain
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Page 158

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Rare Confession

A Rare Confession
January 8, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Yes, I am a tree. If that is hard to see,
then simply chop me down.

I’d sooner bear the scar you leave
than be a stone that sleeps

at the bottom of your pond.

Canvases 142 and 143 (morning and evening)

“Canvas 142”
January 7, 2011

[click to enlarge]

“Canvas 143”
January 7, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Friday, January 7, 2011

Face the Enemy: A Reply to Gabriella Mirollo

And when your face begins to disappear, who are you?

Dear Gabriella, please forgive the brevity of my thanks. Your recent blog entry is one for the ages, and your honesty is its own eloquence. But it’s universal as well, because in revealing the truth about your physical malady, you have transformed it into a deeper, spiritual gift for all; that is to say, you have shown those of us who are willing to stop, look, and listen the face — or, as so often is the case, the many faces — we all keep hidden. You are the gift itself. And for this reason, the beauty and effectiveness of your communication, at least in my mind, far outweighs the courage it took for you to write it. Your story is a lantern that you bear, whereas your courage is simply a reflection of your self-knowledge. And that’s why I cherish our growing friendship, and look forward to each new thing you weave and write.

1.7.2011 #2
1.7.2011 #1 (recently acquired)

Gareth and Lynette, etc.

From our recent expedition to Powell’s Books (third volume from the top):

[click to enlarge]

Gareth and Lynette, etc.
by Alfred Tennyson, D.C.L., Poet Laureate

Strahan & Co.
56 Ludgate Hill, London (1872)

136 pages, many of them still uncut, plus 10-page list of books
published by Strahan & Co. $5.50.

In the Forum: an hour, a lifetime, an æon etched in gold.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I catched a glimpse of fire, away through the trees. I went for it, cautious and slow. By and by I was close enough to have a look, and there laid a man on the ground. It most give me the fantods.

Mark Twain
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Page 50

1.6.2011 #3
1.6.2011 #2 (drawing, recently received)
1.6.2011 #1 (new poem)

Lange nachdem ich gegangen bin

Canvas 140, Revisited

1.6.2011 #2
1.6.2011 #1 (new poem)


Long after I am gone — the roots I leave behind, the crooked plow, the rutted ground, the sacred well, the wind that blows dust into my eyes — you will say, He was one of us, our own, as if all were known of this great, gray world in which I roam, and my answer will not be a song, but a gift, a drop of blood, an ache, a thorn in your soul.

“Tomorrow” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: reading twenty-four hours a day.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Canvas 141

“Canvas 141”
January 5, 2011

[click to enlarge]

1.5.2011 #2
1.5.2011 #1 (drawings)

Canvases 139, 140

“Canvas 139”
January 4, 2011

[click to enlarge]

“Canvas 140”
January 4, 2011

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