Back in commission

It’s funny that we say “out of commission,” but rarely the opposite. In my case, I just had hip replacement surgery, and had a lot of worrying to do beforehand. I mean a LOT. But it turned out to be so much less invasive than I imagined. I was up and walking within hours, and went home the next morning. In any case, I am back, and here is your belated poem selection for the week:

Learning How to Write the Beginning

I’d want it to be early autumn,
a day like today, still green,
but gold around the edges,

our old yellow lab lying at your feet,
a Red Stripe beer
on the redwood table.

The sky would be as soft and faded
as that shirt you used to wear,
and it would be quiet, not even birdsong,

nothing to betray
what led up to the middle
or happened in the end.

I’d want it to be early autumn,
a day like today, still green,
but gold around the edges,

our old yellow lab lying at your feet,
a Red Stripe beer
on the redwood table.

The sky would be as soft and faded
as that shirt you used to wear,
and it would be quiet, not even birdsong,

nothing to betray
what led up to the middle
or happened in the end.

by Judith Waller Carroll

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Frogs on Monday

I attended a poetry workshop on Saturday, and my favorite poem of the day was by Terry Lucas, the new Marin County poet laureate. I said in the workshop that I had recently read that by writing about a bad experience one was able to shift one’s relationship to it to that of witness. I think this poem does that perfectly.

Dear Frogs of Pinckneyville, Illinois

Forgive me for all the times I forced you
into Welch’s Grape Jelly jars filled with cotton balls
soaked with ether from my father’s starter fluid can

he sprayed into dead diesel engines 
on frozen December mornings. I am truly sorry
for not throwing you higher. Please know that I wanted to

put you into orbit like Belka and Strelka, the first
warm-blooded animals to trick gravity and return
alive, but my nine-year old arm wasn’t strong enough

Continue reading
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The Exemplary Sentence

There is a new book of Bette Howland’s stories out, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, and I immediately purchased a copy. Since posting about her last year, I have come to know her son, Jake, and was so pleased to see a review of this book last weekend, and see him quoted about her. The new book contains some of the stories from Blue in Chicago, and some I hadn’t read.

It contains the same quality of writing that I loved so much in the earlier book. Here’s a sample, talking about a walk through the park in Chicago peopled by the old and the minders. I love the quality of her observation, and how she paints a picture that ends in beauty:

“They come from the Shoreland, the Sherry-Netherland, Del Prado, Windermere–hotels once famous for the ballrooms, dance bands, steak houses, now providing package care for the elderly. My favorite of these couples is an old gent with a hooked back, houndstooth check cap and plus fours and his young pregnant nursemaid. He likes to get out of his chair and push; she dawdles at this side. Her belly lifts the front of her coat; her legs look gray in white stockings. Meanwhile the great yellow maple is shaking its branches, squandering leaves. They scatter like petals. It’s raining beauty; the air is drenched with gold.”

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Memorial

The Marin Poetry Center held a memorial for Linda Gregg last week that was very moving. Forrest Gander spoke of visiting her in New York in her small, very spare apartment near St. Marks Place. She had just gotten home after a chemo treatment, and had no one, as he said, to make her a bowl of soup or a cup of tea. But she was uncomplaining.

It made me think of this poem of hers:

Staying After

I grew up with horses and poems
when that was the time for that.
Then Ginsberg and Orlovsky
in the Fillmore West when
everybody was dancing. I sat
in the balcony with my legs
pushed through the railing,
watching Janis Joplin sing.

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Sunday breakfast

I cut out a recipe from the Wall Street Journal on Saturday and modified it for breakfast this morning. Essentially, you soft boil eggs and cool some eggs, fry sourdough bread lightly in olive oil, sear some asparagus in the oil and lay it on the toast. Cover with burrata or ricotta mixed with herbs, lemon zest and salt. Open the egg on top:


I had to take a picture. Then I had to eat!

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Correction!

Here is last week’s poem as it’s supposed to be:

Trespassing

Teens, the street, night nothing to do so they split
off in two’s, find an ark  like Noah’s, unfinished.

A wooden-frame, all two-by-fours and exposed pipe
dreams, she won’t go in but he takes her hand.

They wander, imagine walls, windows, become temporary
residents in a sketch of someone’s future disappointment.

A playhouse, rehearsal, with him as Man, her as
wife mother daughter, every living thing of all flesh.

Then on the plywood floor, it’s just a boy pounding a way
and a girl, her quiet cries turning stars into doves inside.

Lisa Mecham

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Monday poem

I was led to this poem by through essay. I love the ending especially.

Trespassing

Teens, the street, night nothing to do so they split
off in two’s, find an ark  like Noah’s, unfinished.

A wooden-frame, all two-by-fours and exposed pipe
dreams, she won’t go in but he takes her hand.

Continue reading
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Mother’s day

Rebecca Foust host a column on poetry every Sunday on Women’s Voices for Change, and this week, my poem about parenting is featured. A group of poems I’m happy to be a part of.

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A terrific essay

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Ted Gioia, an essayist who is right up there with my favorites. In “Bach at the Burger King,” he writes about the “weaponization of classical music” as well as the damage caused by its use as advertising enhancement. Worth a read!

Ted is the son of the poet Dana Gioia, so he comes by his prose style naturally.

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No poem today

But the story of Annie Edson Taylor, who had her 15 minutes of fame in 1901, when she was 62, going over Niagara’s 160 foot Falls in a barrel of her own design, pumped full of oxygen and stuffed with pillows, and lived to tell the tale.

This is the woman, who when her stagecoach was robbed refused to disclose the $800 tied in the seams of her dress. A widow, facing poverty, she went over the falls as a way to make some cash, and succeeded for awhile, before she lost it to unscrupulous managers. It was hard to make and keep a buck as a woman in 1901.

It seems like a good story for a poem; let me know if you write one.

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