Sunday, July 31, 2011

Farm Ballads

Farm Ballads

Harper & Brothers, Publishers
Franklin Square
New York


159 pages. $6.00.

[click on images for a larger view]

Off this morning in search of more books...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Behind the Building

We hid. Talked. Laughed. Smoked cigarettes.
Drank rum and coke. Made promises.
Kept each other warm. Lied. Tried. Cried.
Said good-bye. Came back a thousand times.
Then one day the building was gone.
And everyone in town could see us there.
It was cruel. That’s what it was. Some froze.
Others ran. A few held up our hands.
Now we’re gone too. Scattered to corners.
Crevices. Behind the baseboards. Under the sink.
Bars. Offices. Stores. Mental wards. Cemeteries.
Wherever people go when light shines hard upon them.
To hide while their shells harden. Or to sing.

[From Songs and Letters, first published September 11, 2007.]

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Narrow Road

The long path
by the waterfall

fifty-five years
to see these flowers

Narrow Road
July 27, 2011
[click to enlarge]

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gabriella Mirollo: Studies in Contrast

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

Studies in Contrast
by Gabriella Mirollo


“I have long wrestled with issues and ironies
of concealment and disclosure, isolation and connection,
and the play of light and dark in my life and work.”

These thoughts and more, insightfully explored in black-and-white.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Laughing Matter

By the time I inherited my brothers’ three-speed bicycle, the odometer had already recorded more than 3,000 miles. Unfortunately, I don’t know how many miles I added myself, because the odometer stopped working shortly after I began riding. If I had to guess, I’d say I traveled another thousand before the bike finally disintegrated.

Although I usually rode the bus, I did take the bike to Wilson School one morning when I was in the fourth grade, to participate in a bicycle safety program. It wasn’t until I was pedaling my way through an obstacle course of orange traffic cones that I realized just how broken down the thing was. The seat squeaked steadily, the spokes clicked, the tires were ancient and cracked, the reflectors were missing, the chain and lower part of the frame were caked with dust and used tractor oil, the paint was gone, the glass on the speedometer had disappeared, and the metal basket attached to the handlebars looked like it had been used to haul bricks.

The situation provided some amusement — to those in charge, as well as several of my schoolmates who lived in town and owned shiny bicycles that had never been off the pavement. Having lived an orderly, civilized life, they had no idea what my bike had been through — the number of puncture vines that had been pulled from the tires, the clouds of gnats and dust it had passed through, the uneven ground strewn with sticks and weeds it had been made to navigate. And so they laughed. And because it would have been ridiculous to feel offended, I laughed with them and told them they were jealous, then offered to sell the bicycle to the highest bidder.

I had no trouble passing the part of the test devoted to skill, but the bicycle itself was deemed unfit for use on the road. One of the reasonable adults on hand gave me a checklist of the things he said needed my immediate attention. I looked at it politely, folded it, put it in my pocket, and threw it away when I got home.

I saw the matter this way: The bicycle had served faithfully for years, and was still good enough to ride down Avenue 408 past the ditch by Joe Mulford’s house, then across Road 80 by the Miamoto place, all the way to the far side of the open field where the Schwabs grew melons and packed them in a little wooden shed full of black spiders. All told, it was almost three-quarters of a scenic mile, the entire distance of which I was gloriously free.

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

I will go on singing

of mothers giving birth
and the blind ache fathers feel
when a baby cries
or a whistle


My voice will rise
from mounds of trash
and common stone

from trees and fields
and empty rooms


Even the birds will approve


I Will Go On Singing
July 24, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Is it the absence of color,
as sometimes said?

Does it call forth
the presence of the dead?

Or is it just the thread
that keeps these stars

to my coat?

December 20, 2010

[click to enlarge]

Drawing first posted here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why a book? (8)

For all the times they climb into your lap and make you read it back.

[click to enlarge]

(A child can’t chew on an electronic file.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gray Sunrise

As soon as we say it or see it, it becomes something else.

Gray Sunrise
July 17, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


“When she rests in the apple tree —

                              that’s when we’ll harvest the moon.”

       And they took great care with the ladder,

                      not to

              make a sound.

“Son? Do you see her face? Why are you looking down?”

       And that is what he remembers,

                              this day in the burial ground.

       (for a friend whose father has passed on)

First, Love

They looked at one another
as if each had swallowed silence,
and were forbidden the use
of their hands.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why a book? (7)

It’s much harder to deny physical evidence.

[click on images for a larger view]

Sunday, July 17, 2011





some are



their hands

Saturday, July 16, 2011


We say there must be more — more to this world than we think,
or dream, or are able to perceive. Then we prove it with our imaginations.

When I was growing up, my father taught me a day didn’t start
until I’d splashed cold water on my face.

I had my doubts at first, but soon enough
I found the method worked.

It still does. And now I see us at the washtub by the mirror,
pleased with who we were, and all we were imagining.

But is there more? Or am I, perhaps,
the more that he was seeking?

My guess can only be imagined. We have the mirror;
I wonder what it thinks when we’re not there.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Brian Salchert: I wish that I might know

Back in April, I updated this entry to include information about Brian Salchert’s burial, which was graciously provided by Brian’s sister, Jean. Since Brian’s burial is today, I’m posting, with Jean’s kind permission, this link to the text of the service. Those of you who knew Brian, as a poet or as a friend, will immediately recognize him in these words of his:

I wish that I might know the fullness of who I am and that that fullness be a blessing for humanity.
Do not place a premium on social acceptance, and never let the lack of it depress you or warp your psyche with a smoldering anger. Be: ever civil, ever creative, ever courageous, ever constant, and ever humble. If you must be a king, seek not to be the king of thought but the king of effort. With deep motivation, then, dream, and test your dreams rigorously; yet never without a sense of humor pass the hours, for to paraphrase Dostoyevsky: it is our ability to laugh that makes us human.

May we come to see ourselves in them as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One day, a boy riding a bicycle

One day, a boy riding a bicycle came upon a philosopher sitting beneath a tree. “Good morning,” said the boy. “How are you?” “I’m fine,” the philosopher replied. “I’m trying to figure out this tree.” The boy looked at the philosopher, then at the tree. “What’s wrong with it?” he said. “Nothing,” the philosopher said. “Nothing at all. But it’s here, and that’s what I am trying to understand.” Once again, the boy looked at the philosopher and at the tree. “I think it’s an oak tree,” he said, trying his best to help. The philosopher smiled. “Ah, yes. An oak. But why is it an oak? Why isn’t it a walnut tree, for instance, or a maple? And why is it a tree at all, instead of a person, or a cat, or a dog?” The boy stared at the philosopher in disbelief. “Because it’s an oak,” he said. The philosopher sighed. “If only it were that simple,” he said. “But why isn’t it?” the boy said. “I don’t know,” the philosopher said. “That’s another question entirely. Down through the ages, many great and learned men have wondered that very same thing.” “Well,” the boy said, “what did they decide?” “Nothing,” the philosopher said. “Not a dad-blamed thing. When it comes to simple things, the learned men of this world are as dumb as a post — myself included.” Just as the philosopher finished making this statement, an acorn fell from the oak tree and landed on his head. This puzzled him even further. Before long, he forgot to notice the boy’s presence, and began mumbling into his beard. The boy got back onto his bicycle and rode away. He had to. He still had a life to live.

From One Hand Clapping, dated July 14, 2003.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011


In the horse barn at the fair, among those rich and complex lives, no words I said or thoughts I had were worthy of their eyes. And by their measured blows, and echoes from the walls, I knew exactly what they meant: “We don’t want you here. Go back.”

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

St. Joseph’s School for Girls

It gives me great pleasure to send you to a collaboration with a dear friend of mine, Robert Willson.

Thank you, Robert, for trusting me with these haunting, beautiful images of yours.


Meaning where there is none, fat as a ripened plum.

“Canvas 275”
July 6, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


A little farther on were spirits singing.

And I wondered what it was

made them

so glad to mourn.

“Canvas 274”
July 5, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


“Canvas 271”
July 4, 2011

[click to enlarge]

“Canvas 272”
July 4, 2011

[click to enlarge]

“Canvas 273”
July 4, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Monday, July 4, 2011

Play Me

Today is my mother’s eighty-ninth birthday. Her grandmother, too, was born on this day, back in 1859. Amanda’s old clock, the one I wrote about in The Painting of You, is still running. I wound it again two days ago. Amanda’s husband’s name was Lars. He was born in 1849. I was born in 1956. We’re giving Mom a basket of flowers this year. She loves flowers, but I think she might love baskets even more. Her garage, in fact, is still full of them. On Saturday, I went to Goodwill. They have a whole aisle piled high with baskets. I lingered there quite a while, thinking of what I might say someday about the little Mexican child in the store whose mother had given him a plastic music toy that was playing Mozart. I go to Goodwill to touch old things, things that have been worn and used in the act of daily living. I saw an image of Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, affixed to a nicely varnished piece of wood. On the back it said the piece was hand made in 1974 and given as a gift to a friend. It broke my heart to see it there. But I was happy — happier than I would have been, happier than I could have ever imagined, if I had not been born in 1956 and lived long enough to spend several years with my mother as her life and mind were being rearranged by Alzheimer’s. I didn’t bring a single thing home. I left The Blue Boy right where he was for someone else to see. And if I were a plastic music toy, I too would say, “Play me.”

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Extraordinary Friends

For the second time today,
a response from someone who graciously forgives
my bountiful not-knowing.

July 3, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Earlier: Ordinary Gods

Ordinary Gods

Thank you, Dwight. Your beautiful reminder is a perfect example of what makes us ordinary gods — or, to use a more familiar term, human. Whatever we call or feel ourselves at any given moment, may we aspire to go on listening.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Life in the woods

Some of us refuse to burn


We are meant to stand
and consume ourselves instead


“Canvas 270”
June 29, 2011

[click to enlarge]

Friday, July 1, 2011