Thursday, March 31, 2011

It depends on how you look at it


Timeslide is nice, but I think I like Mosaic the best. Then again, Snapshot isn’t bad either.


Besides mother, father, grandmother, and little-big brother, there was someone else in the room. Her name is Blue. She’s a hound who knows. Before it was time to go to the hospital, she knew our daughter’s time had come. And when she was let in to see the newest member of the family, what she so eagerly and shyly understood of him with her nose was immediately recorded in that wise, empathetic head of hers. When she greeted me afterward, she proclaimed the news. I answered with my heart. She knows that too.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Owen Louis

Last night I held our new grandson for the first time. Twenty-seven hours into his journey, given into the hands of a man himself not grown, into a voice familiar from the womb, and a scent so strange of bread and stew. Drowsy, now. On the lips, almost, the petal of a rose. “Owen out,” his brother said, in words inspired by their use.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Canvas 222

“Canvas 222”
March 26, 2011

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“My Parade”

In the Forum: print by the pound.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


So rich in abundance —
then you find it around your neck,
the lone companion
to her scent.

“Life” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Canvas 221

“Canvas 221”
March 25, 2011

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“Walt? Is that you?”

The Annotated Proverbs of Hell

A Memorable Fancy

As I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity, I collected some of their Proverbs; thinking that as the sayings used in a nation, mark its character, so the Proverbs of Hell, shew the nature of Infernal wisdom better than any description of buildings or garments.

When I came home: on the abyss of the five senses, where a flat sided steep frowns over the present world, I saw a mighty Devil folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock, with corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now perceived by the minds of men & read by them on earth.

How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?

— William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, ca. 1794

Proverb 18

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.

Near the temple is a garden;
Near the garden is a window;
Near the window is a pond;
Near the pond is a stone;
Near the stone is a road;
On the road is their approach;
They rest upon the stone;
The fool a pebble casts;
The pond is thus disturbed;
The wise man laughs;
His laughter is a window;
Near the window is a garden;
Near the garden is a temple;
Through the temple is a wind that blows.

From Songs and Letters, Vol. 16, The Annotated Proverbs of Hell.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I have never begun a novel with more misgiving

New Arrival

The Razor’s Edge

The Blakiston Company


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With thanks to Gerry Boyd, who is traveling light these days.


Ticknor and Fields


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Two more two-volume sets from the Waverley Novels.
The man in the shop said, “I remember you.”

Library Notes: Lord of the Flies; The French Revolution; One Hundred Years of Solitude; The Crossing; Cancer Ward.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Happens Again

I’ve seen it before:
an old building
comes down,
but the sky
doesn’t rush in
to take its place.

A loved one dies,
but I can still
see the lines
on his face.

I can count
the bricks
that were there,
feel the warmth
in his hands.

Desire lingers
in a doorway
where light
never ends.

What happens
happens again:
places we’ve been,
people we’ve known,
dreams we are in.

From Songs and Letters, originally published November 18, 2005.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

The moon on daffodils

The moon on daffodils in muddy shoes.
Yellow singers storm the hills.
Bless us all, this ship has lost her anchor.

“The moon on daffodils” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


The grapes were ripe again on the northwest corner of our farm. I showed them to a friend. Wise old men, I said, use the blood to color their homemade wine. Hearing this, he smiled. Across the way, we kicked clods in the neighbors’ open ground. I told him
of the time their house burned down. Now, their breakfast light was on.

Library Notes: From “A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare”: King John; Anthony and Cleopatra; The Merchant of Venice; As You Like It.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

The News

Blossoms in the wind

my old Japanese
school friends

children once again

Library Notes: Added four-volume set of Tales from Blackwood (1912). First volume here. Entire LibraryThing collection to date here.

“The News” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: dim wattage, dim wittage.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

If I Were a Carpenter

The spirits? They make of us windows and doors,
then run laughing through the room.

And if I were a carpenter, I would build this house
on the broad, strong back of the woman I love.

But as my vessel knows, I am a sailor,
and she is the open sea.

There is a saying: Believe in me.
But no one is saved who isn’t free.

And no one sees, who will not embrace the storm.
For we must be blind, to seek the shore.


“If I Were a Carpenter” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Today I am a rock

Today I am a rock on a hillside.
Did you know I can make it rain?
No cloud can refuse me.

How they cry to see
me anchored so

as if I were
not free
to go

as if an eon hence
I will not be,

an avalanche.

Library Notes: Added books by Upton Sinclair, Dylan Thomas, Carolyn Wells, William Thackeray, and John Greenleaf Whittier.

“Today I am a rock” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rainy Day People

Buckets and buckets of rain here in Western Oregon lately — a perfect time to welcome some more new friends:

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The oldest of these was published in 1777. The most recent, and the only volume from the twentieth century, is dated 1900. If you’d like to know more about a particular volume, just ask.

Monday, March 14, 2011


March 14, 2011

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Recently Linked: A special thanks to Conrad DiDiodato for including my poem, “Disaster,” in his thoughtful new post focusing on responses to the earthquake in Japan.

Canvas 219

“Canvas 219”
March 10, 2011

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“In the big-time I wailed, Jack” added to Poems, Slightly Used.
In the Forum: the bleached skeletons of readers who didn’t make it out alive.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Far away, in an alley,
the earthquake
of one fallen

“Disaster” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In the big-time I wailed, Jack

In the big-time
I wailed                      Jack

now I nod and fold napkins
put on records until one

slips my mind
lands crying

on the floor.

Play it wap Play it wap Play it wap Play it wap wap wap




In the big-time wap I was the man wap behind the door.

3.12.2011 #3
3.12.2011 #2 (canvas, books)
3.12.2011 #1 (poem)

Canvas 218

“Canvas 218”
March 9, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Library Notes: 

3.12.2011 #2
3.12.2011 #1 (poem)


              In the marketplace a wise man said,

“Would that to children we did entrust our coins;

                       Then shall we know the value of the things we buy.”

                       And, upon hearing him, the people turned away;

Such was the tumult in their minds,

              That their script writhed like vipers in their hands.

Library Notes: Eight Lines and Under (Cole); Armazindy (Riley); Complete Poems (Lowell).

“Commerce” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Friday, March 11, 2011


                            Most of all,
the sky and the way
she changes her clothes,

               behind mountains,
                    under clouds.

Library Notes: Saroyan; Poe/Doré; Van Gogh; Renoir.

“Confessions” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Old Books, New Friends

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Do you like these four canvases? Very much as if he meant it, the man at the shop said, “William, I love these, I think they’re beautiful.” With Easter approaching, he was especially drawn to the Christ-like image at the center of this picture, and said he knew my customers would pleased. I thanked him and said I didn’t have any customers, and that these canvases were an experiment of sorts. What I didn’t say was that I view them all as self-portraits. Crucified? Oh, yes. Daily. And then raised up, again and again, by friends.

The four books standing upright are from the Household Edition of the Waverley Novels, by Sir Walter Scott. They were published in 1857. The one lying flat is the 1920 third printing of First Plays, by A.A. Milne.

In the Forum: Robert Burns, how he could spin a rhyme with a leer.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Everyone Please Rise

Jury duty. What an ordeal. But I’m glad I was called, because it gave me the chance to observe myself and others in a situation no one but the judge and a handful of the prospective jurors seemed to enjoy. In the end, there were three reasons, I think, that I was finally excused. First, my black attire and shaggy appearance was a distraction. Second, writer and poet that I am, I was distracted. I was distracted by the courtroom itself — the paneling, the lighting, the plastic water pitchers, Oregon’s state insignia, the box of tissue near the judge, and everything else that made up the atmosphere — colors, scents, sounds, my heartbeat. I was drawn to the gray and white clouds visible through the high, north-facing windows. Everyone, it seemed, was held fast by anchors, and I wanted to fly. Third, I didn’t appreciate the judge’s jokes. Many people laughed, but I never did. And I know he noticed, because he was a man who paid attention, and also because I wanted him too.

My biggest problem, though, was not the judge, or the courtroom, or my beard. As the judge and opposing attorneys asked questions of the prospective jurors — I was ushered in third and seated in the jurors’ box itself — I found it harder and harder to concentrate on the issues at hand. My way of thinking and looking at things is so different than that which was being applied. A juror would raise his or her hand and give an opinion on subjects spanning government, race relations, law enforcement, even popular television shows. By the time the person had finished speaking, I had little or no idea what had been said. And then, as the attorneys and judge would scan our faces, I could feel mine being scrutinized and misunderstood — for there was no way I could tell them how difficult it is for me to set aside my need for privacy and solitude; there was no way I could tell them that what I’m working on night and day at home is all-consuming, and that the very nature of the work itself is, with all due respect for their own talents, beyond the ready realm of their experience; there was no way I could tell them, because there simply was no framework in which such things might be addressed, that in the time it was taking them to mentally discard and manipulate the answers according to their need and benefit, I had visited my father’s grave and attended two of my best friends’ funerals; I had relived the birth of my first child, and heard the voice of my three-year-old grandson calling me by my nickname, Papa.

Several times, the plaintiff and I made eye-contact. Would I be able to help him? Could I be used? What on earth was going on in the head of so preposterous-looking a juror? His attorney spoke to me. I remember his pale-white skin, the veins in his nose, but only one or two words of what we said. Where did the others go? Out the windows, I guess. To the clouds.

The case, the judge happily warned at the outset, would take five days to complete. That I do remember. That, the clock ticking, and the feeling of my life as it drained out through my fingertips. Oh, yes. They knew. Send that man home who neither shakes his head or nods in our presence. Send him home, so that justice may properly be served.

“Everyone Please Rise” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A little shy of thirty

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And here I am again, on my way to a funeral in the only suit I’ve ever owned. The photo was taken by my wife in our house on the farm back in the mid-1980s. The suit still fits — that is, it would if I cared to put it on. I don’t think I’ve worn it since then. The hat, Luxus size 58, was purchased for eight rubles in Echimiadzin, Armenia, in 1982. I still remember it with snow on the brim. Now the snow is in my beard and hair.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

In passing

Yesterday morning, in the middle of a big typing project, I looked out the window to rest my eyes and there it was, a haiku-in-progress:

A bare white birch
and starlings that could be leaves —
daylight constellation

And then my hands, again, were on the keys.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I’m Telling You All I Know

If it hasn’t happened already, there will come a time, I think, when I will have said enough. I hope I recognize it. Or, in looking back, I hope I’m able to see it, and brave enough to declare my silence retroactively, and then watch as my mountain of words goes up in flames or is swallowed by the mist.

In the meantime, here are six more recent acquistions, the first four of which were part of a two-for-one sale and purchased for $3.75:

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The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot. Signed, “With Best Wishes To Anna Gustafson From Anna Bloom Nov. 1911.” Chicago and New York: Rand, McNally & Company, Publishers. 503 pages.

Tobacco Road, by Erskine Caldwell. “Ex Libris ~ The Worthingtons.” Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, by arrangement with Duell & Sloan, Inc., New York. 241 pages. Feather-weight unabridged war-time edition, copyright 1932.

Eight American Writers. An anthology of American literature. Poe, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Clemens, James. General Editors: Norman Forester & Robert P. Falk. W.W. Norton & Company (1963). 1,609 pages. First Edition.

An Anthology of Famous English and American Poetry. The Modern Library (1945). 961 pages.

Nine Greek Dramas. The Harvard Classics. F.P. Collier and Son, New York (1909). 466 pages.

Faust, etc., by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The Harvard Classics. F.P. Collier and Son, New York (1910). 431 pages.

Note: I now have seventeen volumes from this particular set of the Classics.

Library Notes: Three volumes added: Robert Burns, Edna St. Vincent Millay,
Walt Whitman.

In the Forum: the Zen of reading: voyages, wastelands, magic spells.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


She was at the most three feet tall, and looked down on me from a granite mound that slowly revolved, like a mystic in a cake display. In the dim outdoor light, I could see only the whites of her eyes. Her face was framed by a delicate white cloth. She seemed young and old, and in her I sensed both malice and good will. My fate would be her decision. Then the scene shifted, and I found myself sitting beside him at a table in a busy restaurant. She was a now a young man from India, fingering, at every word, a long black goatee. Along one side of the table were three dark rugged men in suits — thugs, I thought, mindless petty assistants. The restaurant was missing one wall. From the open side, there arrived a flat transport, pulled by a little airport tractor. It was carrying new books. The books were shiny and black, and not the ones he had expected. This upset him. While he and his men were distracted, I slipped outside. And there, beyond the shade of the north wall, my wife was waiting for me in an open field.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011