Thursday, November 26, 2015


from "Why I Might Go to the Next Football Game" by Denis Johnson

                                              i thought
that i would make a fine football-playing
poet, but now i know
it is better to be an old, breathing

man wrapped in a great coat in the stands, who
remains standing after each play, who knows
something, who rotates in his place
rasping over and over the thing

he knows: “whydidnhe pass? the other
end was wide open! the end
was wide open! the end was wide open . . . ”

* * *

from These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The wind was blowing, but not too hard, and everyone was so happy and gay for it was only twenty degrees below zero and the sun shone.

* * *

from "Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons" by Diane Wakoski

The relief of putting your fingers on the keyboard,
as if you were walking on the beach
and found a diamond
as big as a shoe;

* * *

from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

But Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Under moonlight last night the crust of snow on the grass glittered the way water does in a sheltered cove--just the faintest shiver of motion. Yet really there was no movement, no change, no shiver. I wonder why eyes are so prone to invention.

Now, in these moments before sunrise, the world has gone dark, and the temperature has fallen to ten degrees. In the little house a red blur flickers against the window of the woodstove. Two clocks tick out of rhythm.

The house is so quiet now, but later today it will overflow with noise and bustle--my parents, my sister and her husband, my young nephews, my smiling college boy and his friend, my giant high school boy, the happy old dog, the shocked young cat. I will cook and Tom will play records. Dark will close in on us again, and I will forget to look at the moon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In case you missed it the first time around: Vox Populi has reprinted my recent blog post, "Dear Presidential Candidates: A Modest Proposal." It's funny how well that post went over. As I told you before, it's by far the most-read post on this blog, and I wonder how it will do among a larger readership.

* * *

My friend Maureen mailed me a beautiful letterpress chapbook of Joe Bolton's poem cycle Breckinridge County Suite, recently released by Tavern Books in Portland, Oregon. I have read these poems before (they are included in The Last Nostalgia), but seeing them in this format is surprising and, for some reason, very moving. You know how much I love Bolton's work, but I haven't often concentrated on the shape of his poems. Now this version is pressing me to consider their visual arrangement as an element of power. Thank you, Maureen, for such a remarkable gift.

* * *

My friend David, so prescient and patient with words, sent me this picture from Canada: "Tonight taking out the recycle, a jet vapour trail in the night sky. It looks like the ghost of one, but just above it the pinpoint of light of a star, and for a moment this little geometry in the sky is not clinical but warm and lovely, imperfect in its bending as it fades. A delicate thing."

* * *

from "I Walk Out into the Country at Night" by Lu Yu, translated by Kenneth Rexroth

I come home late. The night
Is half spent. I stand for a
Long while in the doorway.
My young son is still up, reading.
Suddenly he bursts out laughing,
And all the sadness of the
Twilight of my life is gone.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving dinner is at my house this year. Eleven people will cram themselves into my hot little kitchen, and I am so pleased. The crowd will include meat eaters, vegetarians, adults who don't like adventurous food, adults who love adventurous food, and fussy children.

Much as I enjoy making desserts, I decided to assign that job to my guests. Pies and cookies are easy to transport but take a lot of extra planning in a kitchen with only one oven. So I am focusing only on the savory part of the holiday.

Yesterday I made two kinds of small dinner rolls: one plain wheat-rye sourdough, the other a sourdough base mixed with pecans, currants, and dried cranberries. They went into the freezer, and I'll thaw them before dinner on Thursday.

Next on the make-ahead list is a good strong vegetable stock. The turkey will be the only meat item. I want the vegetarians to be able to enjoy everything else, including the gravy.

You'll notice I mentioned turkey: Tom and I wanted to have Cornish hens but couldn't find them in the local stores. So turkey it is--a smallish bird, roasted with lots of garlic and rosemary.

Cornbread is another make-ahead item: I've always wanted to make cornbread stuffing, and I found a lovely recipe that includes chopped prunes and apricots flavored with fennel seeds.

The vegetarian main dish will be whole-wheat lasagna with goat cheese, zucchini, and fresh tomatoes.

As side dishes, I've settled on beets in pistachio butter; twice-baked potatoes with scallions and parmesan; cranberry relish with apples, oranges, and ginger; and an as-yet-to-be named green vegetable . . . possibly Brussels sprouts, possibly a spinach salad.

Meanwhile, Tom is making a table big enough to seat everyone. Whether or not it will fit into the tiny room is another question.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The End of the Season

Dawn Potter

I drive into the dark.
The World Series sputters on the radio.
In the backseat my son weeps
and a girl holds his hand.

It is late autumn.
The eyes of cats glint along the roadside.
Jagged clouds frame the setting sun.
The sky is a riot of colors—lemon, salmon, plum—

and now soccer season is over.
The winners have taken their victory laps across the field.
Our losers have scattered into cars,
stunned and deflated.

Startled sparrows fly up from the grass
as my car rattles westward.
Chimney smoke threads from window-lit capes,
from tidy ranches and collapsing trailers.

at the strike of a shovel,
the earth will ring like a tamped bell—
muffled, ironbound.

The season is over.
My son weeps in the backseat
and a girl,
dear tender apprentice of love,

quietly holds his hand.
Oh, the small tragedies.
In the moments we live them,
they are blacker than roads.

[first published in Cardinal Flower Journal (September 2015)]

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cold rain is pounding roofs, spattering windows, puddling up in dips and hollows, threading quick rivers down the glossy asphalt.

The cat lazes in a chair by the fire. The kitchen is scented with coffee and toast.

And I am thinking of the poems of Betsy Sholl, especially this one, which broke my heart when she read it aloud last night.
from Prisoner Bonhoeffer 
Executed April 9, 1945, Flossenburg Concentration Camp 
Better be wordless, he thinks, better Bach's swell
and diminuendo, cantus firmus, not quite drowned out 
as notes rise and fall, until--is this it?-- 
the rising and falling are one, God in the midst,
not on some edge beyond, but in--

[from Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014)]

Thursday, November 19, 2015

* Tonight, Betsy Sholl and Lee Hope are reading at Common Street Arts in downtown Waterville, 7 p.m. Come down if you can. Betsy is a former poet laureate of Maine and an all-around wonderful poet and friend of poetry. Lee is a fiction writer who formerly directed the Stonecoast MFA program and is now editor-in-chief of the Solstice Literary Magazine.

* I am glumly watching local teenagers snipe at each other on Facebook. The fact that they are arguing about Syrian refugees does not make me feel any better.

* This morning, the daybreak sky was a matte lavender and the ground was a pulsating orange. The air between them was fraught but still. The overall effect was ominous, like a tornado warning. And then everything faded to drab.

* * *

Laura looked at Pa, who was greasing his boots. His mustaches and his hair and his long brown beard were silky in the lamplight, and the colors of his plaid jacket were gay. He whistled cheerfully while he worked, and then he sang:
"The birds were singing in the morning,
And the myrtle and the ivy were in bloom,
And the sun o'er the hills was a-dawning,
'Twas then that I laid her in the tomb."
It was a warm night. The fire had gone to coals on the hearth, and Pa did not build it up. All around the little house, in the Big Woods, there were little sounds of falling snow, and from the eaves there was the drip, drip of the melting icicles.

--Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods

* * *

Strong women
know the taste
of their own hatred
I must always be
building nests
in a windy place

--Audre Lorde, "Portrait"

* * *

Cher shopped for clothes to escape the pressure of our uncertain career.

--Sonny Bono, And the Beat Goes On

* * *

Great fame can be obtained
By routing an army
With oxen carrying
Burning straw on their horns.
But after all, it is
No more important than
The tracks of sandpipers.

--Lu Yu, "Autumn Thoughts," trans. Kenneth Rexroth