Sunday, July 31, 2016

Friends who are interested in a shared poetry reading project: Please check out the comments earlier this week. Right now, two names are surfacing: Rilke and Geoffrey Hill. There are poems by both men available online, so dip into what you can find and see if either of these poets ignites your curiosity. Then we can make a decision and move ahead.

Friends who are trying to write Amazon reviews of Vagabond: There is a glitch in Amazon's customer review program: reviews appear on my author page but not on the book page. I am trying to make the behemoth solve this problem, but getting its attention is not so easy. I will persevere. In the meantime, keep trying to post reviews and let me know what is happening.

Friends who like to hear about what I ate for dinner last night: Homemade sausage with green garlic and sage, topped with sauteed chanterelles and parsley. Buttered potatoes tossed with baby peas. Tiny green beans roasted in olive oil. Cucumber and kelp salad with sesame oil. Giant bowls of raspberries with cognac-flavored whipped cream. Afterward, we reclined on the couch and torpidly watched The Rockford Files.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Yesterday I stayed up too late in a bar while playing rock and roll.

I worked on a poem but reached the stage at which I had to admit that two-thirds of it is garbage.

I was happy, happy, happy to see Tom again.

I read a newspaper article about the mother of one of my son's K-8 schoolmates, who has been arrested for trying to burn down a house while her estranged husband was inside sleeping.

Hold onto your ho-hum delights, my friends. Arson makes things a lot worse.

Friday, July 29, 2016

When I was little, I imagined being many, many things when I grew up, but being president of the United States was not one of them. Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan . . . these were the figureheads of my childhood. A bundle of fist clenchers and jowl shakers. A pack of old-man trading cards.

This year I voted for Sanders in the Democratic primary. Another old-man for the pack of trading cards, yes, but I like progressives, and I wondered what would happen if enough of us tried to have a voice. And interesting things did happen, but that is a story for another day. Because he was beaten by a woman.

A woman!

I did not expect to be so moved by this, so incredulous. After all, I grew up thinking that presidents were the most boring people on earth. I imagined being Dickens, or Menuhin, or Keats, or Baldwin. I did not imagine being Gerald Ford.

But a woman! This morning I feel, for some reason, ten feet tall. Look! One of us! Look!

I keep reminding myself, "Surely you would not feel the same if Sarah Palin were in this position. What's with this happiness? You didn't even vote for Clinton."

What I am imagining is the joy of the Grimke sisters, of Lucretia Mott, of Susan B. Anthony, of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Anti-suffragette postcard, 1925

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Well, today is my oldest son's 22nd birthday, and he is celebrating by moving to Chicago to start a job at a TV show. It is a big moment for him, and for all of us--grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, childhood friends . . . everyone who has loved him over the course of his life.

Good teachers work to teach themselves out of a job. Family goals are not so stark, but still, most parents do know, from the beginning, that the best-case scenario means that a child will eventually leave home. My hope has been that my sons would go forth into the world at moments when they were overflowing with excitement, ambition, curiosity, confidence, affection. And in fact, that has happened with James. Tom and I somehow managed to produce a man who loves to work hard, has tremendous social skills, is clever with his hands, and has an artist's eye. He also tells jokes, makes good coffee, is a master at political sarcasm, reads Dostoyesvky, adores dogs, rides his bike, does dishes without being asked, plays ping-pong with little cousins, knows how to set a mousetrap, and says "I love you" when he's talking to his mother on the phone. What more could I ask for?

Godspeed, dear boy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I have to get up from this chair now and go mow grass, before the temperature climbs to 90 and I risk killing myself. I tell you: it's been years since I've gotten so much use out of my summer clothes.

Anyway, as I procrastinate over this last cup of coffee, I'll mention a couple of things. First, my band Doughty Hill is playing music on Friday at Pastimes in Dover-Foxcroft, 6:30-9:30, should you be local and/or capable of transporting yourself across time and space.

Second, this is to those of you who responded with interest to a poetry-reading project: As you know, I am loath to post copyrighted poems on this blog without permission. It is not only illegal but also unfair to the copyright holder. As we did for Tu Fu, we would have work around that situation, either with our own hard copies or by using poems that are easily available on, say, the Poetry Foundation site.

In my opinion we've done just about all we can do with Tu Fu, and one respondent has suggested shifting to Rilke. We did read his Letters to a Young Poet together last year, but his poems are a whole different kettle of fish [I do love that phrase]. There is a translation issue, but Stephen Mitchell's The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke is a good version that is readily available.

Another option would be to consider individual Rilke poems that are already online. Each person involved could take turns leading the discussion of a chosen poem from the Poetry Foundation site. The poem leader could email me some opening commentary about his or her chosen poem. I would post it here, and then the comments section would be open for response. Personally, I like this idea because it takes me off the dais. How do the rest of you feel?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Political Post

I did not listen to the speakers at the Democratic National Convention last night. I sat in my yellow chair beside a rainy window and worked on a new poem. Then I read a few pages of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters. Then I watched part of The Sting. Then I went to bed.

I am deeply cynical about the Machiavellian machinations embedded into every side of the American political story. I am weary of publicity galas and wary of quotable enthusiasms. I'm glad that my liberal friends were so happy about the speeches last night, but I was unable to watch them.

Still, there is no question about whom I will vote for this fall. Whatever discomfort I feel with the Democrats and with the general awfulness of American grandstanding pales beside the stark monstrosity of the future: Donald Trump must not become president of the United States.

I am no fan of Ted Cruz, but I know he's right when he asks, "How can I support a candidate who ridiculed my wife and made false claims about my father?" Voting as his conscience directs him means not throwing his own family under the bus. And he gets booed for this? What is wrong with our nation?

Likewise, certain supporters of Bernie Sanders are deriding their chosen candidate because he has told them that his own ambitions are now less important than the fate of the country. How can they be such idiots?

Donald Trump must not become president of the United States. We, the voters, cannot allow a fascist to take power. That's the emergency issue we are dealing with. Everything else is just glitter.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Tom spent the weekend fixing things--peeling trim, a broken barn door, a rotted-out panel beside the bulkhead. I spent the weekend mowing grass and harvesting garlic and sorting through books . . . always a terrible job because owning too many books is my only packrat symptom. I was ruthless (for me), so the A-P shelves are looking somewhat airier this morning, and the Goodwill pile in the basement is looking large. But Q-Z has yet to be tackled.

Last week I also gave away most of my canning jars, all of my chicken-rearing supplies, and a bunch of extra garden tools. I feel as if I am shedding a skin.

So far, though, no one has even looked at our house. The shedding may be pointless.

Today: dog groomer, dentist, grocery store, post office, bank. Then home, and mowing and picking beets and sweeping floors and editing an academic book and copying out The Duino Elegies and trying to find a new doorway into my own writing. I am not in the zone, to put it mildly; and I have not been there for a long time. Everything I do manage to crank out is so beastly to make. It would be a relief to enjoy myself again.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Last night, for a dinner party, I made a peach pie; and though this sounds like hubris, I think it really may have been the food of the gods. What a pie it was.

So here I linger, in the humid morning, drinking black coffee, letting the breeze sift across my shoulders and thinking about the second peach pie, uncut, that still sits in my refrigerator.

And I'm thinking, "Tom's home for another whole day!" And that I will walk out into the woods and hunt for chanterelles this morning, before the torrid sun gets busy.

Three dahlias in their tiny jars. Wind through an open window. A robin singing. Summer.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mundane question: Would you consider reviewing The Vagabond's Bookshelf? Even writing an Amazon review? Or maybe interviewing me about the process of writing the book? Or maybe asking me to read from it or lead a workshop? This would be such an enormous help, especially any kind of review, so thank you, thank you. Let me know if you need a copy, and I will tell the publisher.

Less mundane question: Does anyone want to go back to reading poems together?

The opposite of a mundane question:
Every angel is terrifying. And yet, alas,
I invoke you, almost deadly birds of the soul,
knowing about you.

--Rilke, "The Second Elegy"

Friday, July 22, 2016

Last night, after dinner, I started copying out Rilke's Duino Elegies. It felt good to have a project again. I sat by the open window, listening to a wasp mutter at the hummingbird feeder, listening to the Red Sox mash the Twins, listening to the cat complain that I was sitting in his chair, and I wondered if these extraneous sounds would be good or bad for my relationship with Rilke. I eventually decided they would be good. I've spent so many years writing and reading in the interstices of other people's lives, and losing that has been one of the most difficult transitions of the summer--how can I get accustomed to existing in empty air? So it was cozy to be sitting in the cat's chair, letting Rilke fall from my fingers, as a semblance of the world went on around me.

Here's a bit of what I copied from "The First Elegy":
                   Ah, who can we ever turn to
in our need? Not angels, not humans,
and already the knowing animals are aware
that we are not really at home in
the interpreted world. Perhaps there remains for us
some tree on a hillside, which every day we can take
into our vision; there remains for us yesterday’s street
and the loyalty of a habit so much at ease
when it stayed with us that it moved in and never left.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I had another power outage yesterday but finally the winds have died down and I'm all ready for a hot day and a long nap. That's because the stupid cat decided to stay outside all night, which meant that I spent all night composing a painful imaginary letter to my son explaining that his cat had disappeared, and fretting over the dog's heartbreak over losing her little friend, and wondering what I would do without my favorite menace.

And then, at 5 a.m., "Yowl, yowl, yowl": yes, the cat came back, smug and insouciant. And then, by 6:30 a.m., I had to throw him out again because he wouldn't stop stealing the dog's special old-folks breakfast.

Just another day in the life of a cat owner. [Remind me to tell you someday about coaxing him to climb down a ladder at 4:30 a.m. As you can see, many of our busiest interactions take place at the most godawful hours.]

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I didn't write to you yesterday because my power was out for 24 hours. Midafternoon on Monday enormous thunderstorms rolled through the region, smashing crops, tearing out trees, busting up powerlines. Oddly the only thing that happened in my yard was torrential rain, but other parts of town are a mess.

I spent my electricity-free day finishing up the book review I'm writing for Beloit, so that's one task I can x off the list of things to do. And now I'm back to the enjoying the comforts of a wealthy industrialized nation--e.g., running water and refrigeration. It's too easy to forget what a gift cleanliness can be.

So here I sit, in the fat lap of luxury. Hot coffee, cold water, lamps in a dark room. A laptop for writing, and a thousand books for reading. Music, a telephone. A freezer that freezes, and a stove that heats.

And people who think of me. This past week I played music with a friend, was invited out to dinner, went for a walk with a friend, had another stop by for a drink. People sent me email notes and I got a card in the mail. Everything conspires to make me feel less lonely.

Plus, today is my wedding anniversary: 25 years! Of course we can't spend it together. In fact it's probable that Tom has forgotten all about it. I only barely remembered it myself. The day has never been that big a deal for us, though we do love birthdays. Still, 25 years married, 31 years of attachment. We met when we were 19, and here we are, still speaking to one another. How strange! So even though he won't be reading this letter, I will leave a small present for him here. If there's a greater love poem in the language, I don't know it.

The Sun Rising
John Donne

Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

She's all states, and all princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus.
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

Monday, July 18, 2016

I have been awake since 4 a.m. because Tom has been awake since 4 a.m., but now he has driven off into the mist and I am here with myself for another week.

The yard is weighted in rainwater and cloud. Everything in sight is soaking wet, and the air is as thick as chowder. I am sitting at the kitchen table looking at the poems of Rilke, but not reading them yet. Sweet williams nod in their vases. The washing machine grinds a load of towels. A hummingbird buzzes the feeder, and now a glint of sun forks its way through the fog.

In "The Ninth Elegy" Rilke writes:
. . . truly being here is so much; because everything here
apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way
keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all.
I see what he means, but I also don't see what he means. It is so simple to feel unnecessary, yet here I am: the feeder of an old dog, who would die without me. Here I am, coaching an 18-year-old, via cryptic text message, on how to negotiate the vagaries of middle school canoe-campers who have decided to compose a comic song about him.

Pointless but not pointless. Or as Rilke writes:
Perhaps we are here in order to say: house,
bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window--

Sunday, July 17, 2016

So far this morning the cat has gotten stuck on the roof but the dog has not had an accident on the rug, which I guess means that we're starting the day with a 1-1 tie. Outside the air is green and wet; a robin is singing; a chickadee is chuckling to itself; a red squirrel is cursing at the cat. I am slowly getting ready to go play brunch music at Stutzmans' Cafe in Sangerville--by which I mean I am sitting upright at a table and drinking coffee and reading a book but not doing anything about getting dressed or eating breakfast.

If you're considering buying my house, you can see pictures here. The dog at the top of the stairs is not for sale.

If you're in the market for a Maine poet, you can see pictures here. I have no idea how I sound in this video as I have not been able to bring myself to listen to it. I will tell you that my hair is shorter now.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The murky air has thinned. It's cool enough to wear a bathrobe this morning, and even the Aged Poodle managed to sleep for eight hours straight.

Tom came home yesterday evening and brought squid, shrimp, and scallops so I could make ceviche. Earlier that day I'd unearthed a cache of chanterelles in the woods, our first of the season, so we had them too--cooked down with olive oil and minced garlic scapes, then tossed with whole-wheat orzo, fresh peas, and cherry tomatoes and served as a salad. We drank cold rosé and played cribbage and listened to the Red Sox hit home runs against the Yankees, and it was a summer night.

No one was arrested. No helicopters circled the house. No bodies were carried away.

Friday, July 15, 2016

from A Song on the End of the World

Czeslaw Milosz, trans. Anthony Milosz

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.

Warsaw, 1944

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cooking for one on a hot day:

Shell all the peas while watching an episode of Star Trek in a cool dark room.  Quickly steam them. Now wonder if you should put them in the freezer or eat them for dinner. Leave them in a bowl on the counter and tell yourself you'll decide later.

Boil a few yellow-skinned potatoes and let them cool in their jackets on the marble bread board while you talk to your husband on the phone and he describes the odd scene at the mall where he is presently trying to buy t-shirts. [Sports Authority is going out of business; all the fixtures are for sale, including a row of naked male mannequins that would normally be demonstrating Speedos and bicycle shorts and such; fortunately he has his camera with him.]

Putter out to the garden and notice that you have too many garlic scapes and too much cilantro. Decide that "too much" is the perfect amount for whatever you might be planning to cook, and harvest recklessly.

Peel the potatoes and cut them up into chunks. The potatoes are still too hot, but fortunately your hands have many protective callouses, thanks to all the lawn mowing you do.

Notice the shelled peas still sitting on the counter and pour them over the potato chunks. Admire their beauty.

Find two hardboiled eggs and two radishes in the refrigerator. Chop up the radishes and add them to the peas and potatoes. Get distracted by how pretty the salad is looking, all pink and white and green. Forget to add the eggs, and discover the next morning that they're still in the refrigerator waiting to be used up.

Chop up the garlic scapes. Consider their strange combination of textures: tender seed pod, rubbery tip. Remember you are reading a book about 1950s English people who are afraid to eat strange foods such as garlic but are fine about serving canned lamb tongues for tea. Feel relieved to be living in a better time.

Quickly saute the garlic in olive oil and pour the mixture over the salad. Answer the ringing phone. Someone with an "unknown number" wants to speak to your son. "There is no message, ma'am," he says. With the right sort of background music, this moment would be ominous. However, there is no background music available, only the sound of an old dog noisily snorfing up a dish of canned meat.

Chop up the too-much cilantro. Feel sorry for people who dislike it. Add it to the salad. Dig out a bottle of red-wine vinegar and splash some in. Recklessly salt and pepper and toss.

Scoop potato salad into your favorite blue Chinese-import bowl. Arrange the table carefully with a cloth napkin and a fork and a drink of water in your favorite Memories of Florida glass. Make sure you can see the flowers in their vases, in case you get lonely. Make sure you have a book to read, and that it's not the sort of book that you're only carrying around because you think you ought to read it.

Look at the clock and remind yourself that it's far too early to go to bed. Also, far too hot. Try to think of something to do. End up eating more potato salad and reading another Conan Doyle short story. The phone rings. "Unknown number."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The cat is stalking across the kitchen floor and yowling to himself. Crows are arguing, and somewhere in the near distance a woodchipper is whining and gnashing its teeth. The air is murky and portentous.

Today will be hot, hot. Fortunately I finished weeding the vegetable garden yesterday afternoon, so all I'll need to focus on on, yard-wise, is mowing and pea picking. [Note the invisible ironic emphasis quotation marks around all.] In the shade I'll have a manuscript about Thoreau to edit, and band practice to prepare for, and a book review to keep writing.

Speaking of that review: I've found myself taking a new (for me) path into writing an essay--basically following the travels of my mind as it figures out how to absorb a book I have no preconceptions about. In other words, how do I approach a book innocently? How does my mind teach me to engage with it? Does that sound reasonable at all, or even interesting? But perhaps reasonable is the wrong word here. Perhaps interesting is the wrong word. Don't contemporary book reviewers tend to efface themselves in service of the books they discuss? . . . [Here, I picture Virginia Woolf rolling her eyes and lighting another cigarette. Efface herself. Fat chance.]

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Today, unless something strange happens, I should finally be able to finish the enormous editing project I've been working on for the past several months. That will be a relief. Though I do have a few smaller editing tasks in the queue, the next big thing on my to-do desk list is to write a book review for a literary journal. I'm hoping the venture will go well: it's been a while since I've done a review, and this is supposed to be a long one, not one of those capsules slotted in the back of a magazine. At least this means I will have room for digression. If nothing else, I've learned that writing an essay depends, as much as anything, on recording the ways in which my mind accidentally wanders away from a topic.

After a cold weekend, the temperature will rise into the 80s and 90s this week. I've refilled the hummingbird feeder and made ice tea, and I'm catching up on the mowing and the weeding. I've got a patch of beets to thin today, so there will be beet greens and baby beet salad for dinner tonight. Maybe I'll toss in some feta and mint, and eat peaches and blueberries for dessert.

I also have poem drafts to consider. I also should try to sell my new book. My friend Tom wrote me a note about it yesterday: "It's as much autobiography as criticism which I suppose is why you had such a tough time finding a publisher. . . . I guess because I know a little of what's happening in your life these days I couldn't help but see it as a farewell to a time and place (parenthood, that reliving of childhood that comes with parenting, and Harmony, where it all went down)." I think he's right about the farewell, though that arises more from the timing of the book's release than from actual intent. When I wrote the book, I felt as if I would be the person I was then forever.

What I saw, as I was preparing the chapters for publication, was the way in which my writing style has evolved. My sentences have shortened (somewhat). My rhythms have become more clipped (somewhat). But even though I was tempted to rewrite, mostly I left the original versions alone. Can't the sound of a sentence also be the memory of a time and place?

Monday, July 11, 2016

And here we are again, the dog and I, sipping our coffee from cups or licking up our water from steel bowls, sneezing in the early morning sunlight, forgetting to finish our breakfasts. There is much to do but we cannot remember what comes first. We lift our noses to the edges of windows; we grope for the scent of the people we love, who may come back. Our rheumy eyes weep without cease, but we are smiling. That is the way our faces are made.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

It is 8 a.m. in western Massachusetts, and I am watching the heavy raindrops spill from the oaks down onto the paving stones below. Brilliance hovers at the bird feeder: male and female cardinals, a male goldfinch, an indigo bunting. All are unreal in the wooded gloom. How can these colors exist? How can such motion fill the air? The birds are like the fairy tale.

We drive back north today. And tomorrow our house officially goes up for sale. The prospect feels so strange. Where do I live?

In the meantime: Words, words, words. And garden and grass. And sorting out books and tools and clothes and dishes.

I am reading Christina Hutchins's collection Tender the Maker. In it she quotes Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus: "Every glad aperture is a child or grandchild of a parting / through which pass the astounded." It seems pertinent, given these birds, this rain, these silent ticking clocks.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Turkey, Bangladesh, Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and now Dallas.

What is one to say? All the words are pointless.

Meanwhile, what we have are words.
We are prepared for evil.
In our fathers' voices
we smell the loose, wet earth on the shovels,
the wide pit
being dug. 
--from Christopher Bursk, "The Only Thing Worse Than the Terror Itself Would Be the Silence Afterward."

Thursday, July 7, 2016

First thing this morning I learned that someone has just ordered my new book, so that was pleasant news . . . though of course comic also, because why am I so pleased that a single person ordered it?

Anyway, better to be cheerful than mopey--when it comes to sales, anyway. And at least I have a publisher who wants to sell books, which is more than I can say for the publisher of one of our Frost Place guest poets, who refused to send us any books to sell at the conference. (As a side note: If there had been any books, the poet would have sold them all.)

But back to my book: As always, I'd love to read in your town, talk in your school or library, offer a workshop on poetry or essay writing, etcetera, etcetera. Vagabond is not poetry so conceivably you could even convince your book group to read it. That would be a novelty--for me, anyway.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

I edited a manuscript, I worked on a poem, I picked peas, I went to the grocery store, I read a book, I cooked dinner, I listened to a baseball game, I fell asleep, I dreamed I was in a small room trying to put on on a dark-blue dress that was shredding under my hands.

The kitchen table is spread with fading rose petals, an open magazine, a white cup of black coffee. The dog rattles her breakfast dish against the tile. The cat stealthily licks gravy. Three peaches rest in a bowl.

No wind. The trees are sentinels under the bright sky. A car slides past. A bluejay screams.

The stars are invisible.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

It was a good weekend--quiet yet social, busy yet restful. It was a pleasure to be together after two weeks apart. Tom painted trim; I mowed grass and worked in the garden. We spent time with two sets of friends at two separate dinners, but there was no entertainment fuss.

And now we're apart again, and now I am returning to my old lonely editing life. At least I have two poem drafts for company, and two rows of peavines loaded with peas, and two companionable animals, and two feet, and two hands.

The washing machine is churning towels, and soon I will carry them out to the line and pin them up. For now the air is cool, but the sun will break through the grey, and the temperature will rise, and the day will be July in the northcountry: an inland sea of green and gold, pink and yellow, white and pale blue; a sky of birds and insects and pollen; heat with a recollection of cold.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Six Poets on Independence

Five men and one woman. Four white poets and two poets of color. Five dead poets and one living poet. One formal poet, one half-formal poet, one prose writer, three vers libre poets. Three poets of place. Two poets of terror. One poet who forgets the existence of another poet. Six declarations.

from Resolution and Independence

William Wordsworth

There was a roaring in the wind all night;
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.

All things that love the sun are out of doors;
The sky rejoices in the morning's birth;
The grass is bright with rain-drops;—on the moors
The hare is running races in her mirth;
And with her feet she from the plashy earth
Raises a mist, that, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.

* * *

from The Ballad of the Children of the Czar

Delmore Schwartz

I am my father’s father,
You are your children’s guilt.

In history’s pity and terror
The child is Aeneas again;

* * *

from In Defense of Small Towns

Oliver de la Paz

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I could be anywhere,
staring at a hunk of asphalt or listening to the clap of billiard balls

against each other in a bar and hear my name.

* * *

from Preface to Leaves of Grass, first edition (1855)

Walt Whitman

The Americans of all nations at any time upon the earth have probably the fullest poetical nature. The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem. In the history of the earth hitherto the largest and most stirring appear tame and orderly to their ampler largeness and stir. Here at last is something in the doings of man that corresponds with the broadcast doings of the day and night. Here is not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations. Here is action untied from strings necessarily blind to particulars and details magnificently moving in vast masses. Here is the hospitality which forever indicates heroes. . . . Here are the roughs and beards and space and ruggedness and nonchalance that the soul loves. Here the performance disdaining the trivial unapproached in the tremendous audacity of its crowds and groupings and the push of its perspective spreads with crampless and flowing breadth and showers its prolific and splendid extravagance. One sees it must indeed own the riches of the summer and winter, and need never be bankrupt while corn grows from the ground or the orchards drop apples or the bays contain fish or men beget children upon women.

* * *

from my dream about time

Lucille Clifton

a woman unlike myself is running
down the long hall of a lifeless house
with too many windows which open on
a world she has no language for,

* * *

from [as freedom is a breakfastfood]

e. e. cummings

worms are the words but joy’s the voice
down shall go which and up come who
breasts will be breasts thighs will be thighs
deeds cannot dream what dreams can do
—time is a tree (this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you
just so long and long enough

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Bats flitting after moths, tiny frogs bouncing across a gravel road, granite boulders erupting from the earth like enormous eggs, a slit of sunset between an arch of trees, baseball on the radio, a hand on my knee--

I am still so tired, but recovering. This morning I sit next to a vase of pink roses, a skim of black coffee in my cup, and wonder, What now? The question is neither plaintive nor impatient, merely there. I feel fragile, as if I am living inside a soap bubble. Something about this past week has peeled back my skin and replaced it with vibration.

"The blood jet of poetry," Plath wrote in Kindness.

The blood jet.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

In my yard this is the year of the rose and the year of the pea. The roses--pale pink, dark pink, white--are tiny dance dresses; the bushes, wet and heavy after last night's storms, toss their long hair into the grass.

And the peavines, the acrobats of the garden--dense with supple leaf and flower, pods fattening, tendrils trembling like spiderwebs in a doorway . . . last night, our first taste, like eating a bowl of metaphor: the story of green, say, or the smiles of babies, or the sweetest Supremes song you know.

Friday, July 1, 2016

This morning I am nearly speechless with exhaustion, so forgive me for being so sparing with my words.

I will say that I think this week at the Frost Place may have been the best I have ever experienced. There was a sense that all of us, all of us--faculty and participants, books and air, ground and silence, mountain and cloud--were hearing the same ghost language. For now, I cannot explain the moment any more clearly.

Afaa Weaver. Kerrin McCadden. Rich Villar. Teresa Carson. And all of those glowing faces in the barn.

What I feel is an enormous humility. What I feel is: I will learn how.