Activism and perspective

It was great to participate in the Women’s March this past weekend, and I am planning to follow through with Indivisible, going to my senators’ local district offices on Resist Trump Tuesday. If you want to know more about this, check out www.moveon.org/indivisible.

Here are my grandson and daughter-in-law who also marched in Oakland.

But it’s also good to keep it all in perspective. In this I am helped by this little gem by Sara Teasedale:

 There Will Come Small Rains

There will come soft rain and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Continue reading

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James Richardson

From a new book, a gift from a friend:interglacial

Little Answer

Light swaying
and straightening, like reeds. It has been
everywhere. The waves
sidling up the shore are strung with it.
If I bend I will spill
a great blaze.

Gulls, the cry
of nights  hung out to whiten.  Sand,
what of the sun has slowed. Wind,
what has already happened
remembering us. There is no such thing
as solitude, though we
are what comes of it.

from Reservations, selected in Interglacial

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Answer to mystery poem

Randall Jarrell

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Poem mystery

I came across this poem in a book of essays on poetry and read it first, without knowing who wrote it. I was very surprised by the author. Can any of you poets out there guess?

Next Day

Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Food-gathering flocks
Are selves I overlook. Wisdom, said William James,

Is learning what to overlook. And I am wise
If that is wisdom.
Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves
And the boy takes it to my station wagon,
What I’ve become
Troubles me even if I shut my eyes.

When I was young and miserable and pretty
And poor, I’d wish
What all girls wish: to have a husband,
A house and children. Now that I’m old, my wish
Is womanish:
That the boy putting groceries in my car

See me. It bewilders me he doesn’t see me.
For so many years
I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me
And its mouth watered. How often they have undressed me,
The eyes of strangers!
And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile

Imaginings within my imagining,
I too have taken
The chance of life. Now the boy pats my dog
And we start home. Now I am good.
The last mistaken,
Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blind

Happiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm
Some soap and water—
It was so long ago, back in some Gay
Twenties, Nineties, I don’t know . . . Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,

My husband away at work—I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them. As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing:

I am afraid, this morning, of my face.
It looks at me
From the rear-view mirror, with the eyes I hate,
The smile I hate. Its plain, lined look
Of gray discovery
Repeats to me: “You’re old.” That’s all, I’m old.

And yet I’m afraid, as I was at the funeral
I went to yesterday.
My friend’s cold made-up face, granite among its flowers,
Her undressed, operated-on, dressed body
Were my face and body.
As I think of her and I hear her telling me

How young I seem; I am exceptional;
I think of all I have.
But really no one is exceptional,
No one has anything, I’m anybody,
I stand beside my grave
Confused with my life, that is commonplace and solitary.

Author provided later this week

 

 

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from The Pigeon Tunnel

Larry is reading The Pigeon Tunnel, a collection of memories by John le Carre. Over breakfast yesterday he read this excerpt to me about the transition from the Soviet Union to Russia, which made me laugh out loud:

…in 1993, criminalized capitalism had seized hold of the failed state like a frenzy and turned it into the Wild East. I was keen to take a look at that new, windy Russia, too. It therefore happened that my two trips straddled the greatest social upheaval in Russian history since the Bolshevik Revolution. And uniquely–if you set aside a coup or two, a few thousand victims of contract killings, gang shootouts, political assassinations, extortion and torture–the transition was, by Russian standard, bloodless.

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Does anyone say it better?

robert-hassAfter the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa

New Year’s morning–
everything is in blossom!
xxxI feel about average.

Robert Hass

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Happy Holidaze

xmas 2016

img006

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Monday poem

dunnI don’t know why I haven’t posted anything by Stephen Dunn before. He’s a wonderful poet. You might think of this if you happen to be at a tedious holiday party:

Don’t Do That

It was bring-your-own if you wanted anything
hard, so I brought Johnnie Walker Red
along with some resentment I’d held in
for a few weeks, which was not helped
by the sight of little nameless things
pierced with toothpicks on the tables,
or by talk that promised to be nothing
if not small. But I’d consented to come,
and I knew in what part of the house
their animals would be sequestered,
whose company I loved. What else can I say, Continue reading

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More art, more women

Monday in NY, a little rainy but not terribly cold. I am going to see the Agnes Martin exhibit today at the Guggenheim, a museum I have enjoyed since I was a teenager first coming to the city on my own.

I am thinking about all the foremothers, today, the poets, authors, artists who blazed a trail with their creativity, despite the contempt they often encountered. Like Amy Lowell, who was often derided, but wrote, wrote, wrote.

lowellLacquer Prints (by Messenger)

One night
When there was a clear moon,
I sat down
To write a poem
About maple trees.
But the dazzle of moonlight
In the ink
Blinded me,
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After the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?

picksimg_splashThis is a line from Mirele Laderman Ukeles’ Manifesto, written in 1969. Part of the avant-guard art scene in New York in the sixties, after having her first child she noticed there was no time for art–only maintenance: diapers, cooking, cleaning, dressing, undressing. The basic idea of the manifesto is that maintenance is art. You can see the full Manifesto here. It includes these intriguing paragraphs.

“C.        Maintenance is a drag; it takes all the fucking time (lit.)

The mind boggles and chafes at the boredom.

The culture confers lousy status on maintenance jobs = minimum wages, housewives = no pay.

clean your desk, wash the dishes, clean the floor, wash your clothes, wash your toes, change the baby’s diaper, finish the report, correct the typos, mend the fence, keep the customer happy, throw out the stinking garbage, watch out don’t put things in your nose, what shall I wear, I have no sox, pay your bills, don’t litter, save string, wash your hair, change the sheets, go to the store, I’m out of perfume, say it again—he doesn’t understand, seal it again—it leaks, go to work, this art is dusty, clear the table, call him again, flush the toilet, stay young.

D.          Art:

Everything I say is Art is Art.  Everything I do is Art is Art. “We have no Art, we try to do everything well.” (Balinese saying)…

E.         The exhibition of Maintenance Art, “CARE,” would zero in on pure maintenance, exhibit it as contemporary art, and yield, by utter opposition, clarity of issues.”

I was so intrigued by these ideas (having spent most of my adult life in Maintenance) that I came to New York to see her 50-year retrospective at the Queens Museum.

sanit18n-2-webThe photo above is of Ukeles standing inside an arch she created from used, signed workers gloves, walkie-talkies, subway straps, valves, lights, gauges, etc.  It’s one of the more visceral pieces at the Queens Museum show. Because most of her work is performance pieces–washing a stage or floor or wall and engaging others to participate, a ballet of sanitation trucks or snow blowers or other heavy equipment, a piece where she invited workers to see one of their eight hours of work as maintenance art and photographed them–much of the work is shown as video or photo with documentation.

In 1977, Ukeles became the artist in residence for the New York Department of Sanitation. Although her residency was unpaid, the title gave her a platform to conceive and find funding for a wide variety of projects. In her project  Touch Sanitation she went to all five boroughs to shake the hands, thank, and talk with every one of NYC’s 8500 sanitation workers.

22SANTIARTIST4-master675

touchsanOther projects, such as a visual bridge of recycled materials overlooking the dumping of garbage onto barges at the 59th street pier, were never funded.

Recently, she has been engaged in the transformation of garbage “our garbage, not their garbage.” She has created hallways of recycled garbage, videos of the garbage process and proposed radical redesigns for expired garbage dumps, most notably Fresh Kills, on Staten Island.

Her ideas about the invisibility of maintenance workers, maintenance art as revolutionary, and garbage as an essential concern of art seem visionary to me. I’m only sorry that I won’t get to meet her in February, when she will lead a tour of the Fresh Kills project.

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