Here’s a poem by Mark Strand that deals with that old question of does the tree falling in the forest make a sound if no one is there to hear it–or more specifically the relation of the listener to the event itself.
Man and Camel
On the eve of my fortieth birthday
I sat on the porch having a smoke
when out of the blue a man and a camel
happened by. Neither uttered a sound
at first, but as they drifted up the street
and out of town the two of them began to sing.
Yet what they sang is still a mystery to me— Continue reading
With the recent rains, I’ve been working a bit most days in the garden, weeding, mulching pruning, planting.
The chickens love the weeds, and the garden loves the attention.
Favas, blueberries, lots of green:
Remember those paper bags of asparagus I planted in the wet dirt? Here are a few little tips poking up:
Just got back from a week in Hawaii–a vacation spot that’s NOT overrated–that luscious warm ocean. It was a week without news for me, such a luxury. Now the papers blare again each morning.
Here’s a poem from another vacation, another election year. I love the turn it takes at the end.
Poem for Adlai Stevenson and Yellow Jackets
It’s summer, 1956, in Maine, a camp resort
on Belgrade Lakes, and I am cleaning fish,
part of my job, along with luggage, firewood,
Sunday ice cream, waking everyone
by jogging around the island every morning
swinging a rattle I hold in front of me
to break the nightly spider threads.
Adlai Stevenson is being nominated,
but won’t, again, beat Eisenhower,
sad fact I’m half aware of, steeped as I am
in Russian novels, bathing in the tea-
brown lake, startling a deer and chasing it by canoe
as it swims from the island to the mainland. Continue reading
I have been reading Italo Calvino on “lightness” in writing. How about this for an example?
the way a fox steps into one side
of your headlights and carrying his tail
(like a pen running out of ink) slips
out the other–
James Baker Hall
Because of the beautiful, day-after-day, much needed rain, I had a gardening problem. My bare root asparagus arrived in the mail, and it was too wet to plant. I came up with the idea of planting the 10 roots in individual brown paper bags. I set up a doubled lunch bag, filled it with dirt, and gave it a try. The bag almost immediately split. So I got plastic bags to act as sleeves to hold the paper together.
Poetry has the ability to transcend time, as this short lyric by Constantine Cavafy, a Greek poet who died in 1938.
Without consideration,without pity, without shame,
they have built big and high walls around me.
And now I sit here despairing.
I think of nothing else: this fate gnaws at my mind;
for I had many things to do outside.
Ah, why didn’t I observe them when they were building the walls?
But I never heard the noise or the sound of the builders.
Imperceptibly they shut me out of the world.
C. P. Cavafy
Translated by Rae Dalven
I want to post a few photos from my New York trip.
The first two are from the Fischli and Weiss exhibit at the Guggenheim I posted about last week. A photo of their credo, “How to Work Better,” and a clay sculpture of a pig and a book entitled, “The Reader” from their Inventory of Everything. As for the credo, I’d make one edit: “Say it Simply,” not “Say it Simple.” (More about the exhibit here.)
Then from the streets. Someone came up with the brilliant idea of chopping up discarded Christmas trees and using them for mulch. I saw this everywhere–around trees, in window boxes. All around the city. Then a blow up rat holding fliers advertising a union meeting. (Fischli and Weiss would have loved this, as one of their alter egos was a huge rat.) Continue reading
In this loving, quirky tribute, my favorite line is “she believed in heaven / as I beleive in wing nuts.”
An incidental report on my grandmother’s divinity
My grandmother had fourteen children,
56 grandchildren, 57 great and one
great-great and a packet
of coffee in her coffin and a love
for the church that anyway had the roof
tarred on the day of her funeral.
She was 87 and weighed
82 pounds and one of her children
asked where the will was and another
did the stations of the cross
for the first time in 32
years, a journey familiar as breath. Continue reading
The Guggenheim Museum is showing the work of two collaborators, Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The highlight of the show for me is a 30-minute video, The Way Things Go, of a series of objects interacting in an extended chain reaction, one object moving in a way that propels the next. But unlike most assemblages of this sort, this one is often excruciatingly, deliciously slow, as one object grows or turns coming closer and closer to affecting the next. It is a delightful exploration of balance, motion, and fire, with explosions, suds, clouds of steam, old tires, bottles of flammable liquid, moving blocks and ladders. You can see an excerpt here. Continue reading
At the beginning of a book by the same name that I haven’t read, I found this poem by Gerald Stern, now in his nineties. He came and read to a full house last year in the Bay Area:
Another Insane Devotion
This was gruesome—fighting over a ham sandwich
with one of the tiny cats of Rome, he leaped
on my arm and half hung on to the food and half
hung on my shirt and coat. I tore it apart
and let him have his portion, I think I lifted him Continue reading