Friday, April 4, 2014

'it was never real'

Danger of Death (1954) - Artist: Hans Arp

But What Will Replace It
but what will replace it

the wings drop from the summit of the table
like leaves of earth
before the lips
it is night in the wings
and between the wings the chanting chains are missing

the skeleton of the light empties the fruits

the body of the kisses will never awaken
it was never real
the sea of the wings cradles that tear
the bell speaks with the head
and the fingers lead us across the fields of the air
toward the nests of the eyes
there the names melt

but what will replace it
in the height of the skies
neither sleeping nor waking
for the tombs are brighter than days

~ ~ Hans Arp

[poem written in 1929]

Revolted by the butchery of the 1914 World War, we in Zurich devoted ourselves to the arts. While guns rumbled in the distance, we sang, painted, made collages and wrote poems with all our might. We were seeking an art based on fundamentals, to cure the madness of the age, and find a new order of things that would restore the balance between heaven and hell. We had a dim premonition that power-mad gangsters would one day use art itself as a way of deadening men's minds.     
        ~~ Jean (Hans) Arp, in "Dadaland" (1938). 

Today's "power-mad gangsters" use media and entertainment to "deaden men's minds". 

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death ( Penguin, 1986).
Digital distraction, addiction to social media, a marketplace glutted with "must-have" trendy new products, you barely notice the play of the real as play, because the play has become the real.  Dada yesterday; ad ad today.  Define your 'real'.  Lots of people still reading and writing and making art; less and less, perhaps, thinking anything they can say or do or create could "cure the madness of the age".  I was particularly struck by Arp's phrase "find a new order of things to restore balance" because the new world order intended by the Powers That Be is anything but balanced, and one wonders, echoing Arp's words here, should that not work out and things collapse and turn even more chaotic - what will replace it.

Musings on a late, chilly afternoon in April, waiting for the snow to melt away.

Friday, March 28, 2014


awynfoto-Mar. 28, 2014

Its resistance to departure manifests in
slanty flaked reminders
of tenacities -
        its to hold on,
            yours to hold out,
till Time decides
it's time.

Spring waits,
on hold -

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Salut, Bill Knott 1940-2014

 Bill Knott - Untitled

One has different reasons for one's initial response to a poem.  It might excite, confuse, entertain, disturb, appall or bore you.  Some of Bill Knott's poems made me laugh out loud.  Others made me cringe.  Many I simply couldn't understand what the heck he was talking about.  A significant number of them, however,  resonated. . .  astonished . . . stunned.  Certain ones just blew me away, and I found myself going back to them, again and again.

Knott frequently posted rough drafts on his blog, working and reworking a poem over and over - repeating, deleting, soundscoping,  wordchipping, rearranging whole lines.  Many he simply titled "Poem" or "Untitled".   I wondered how he kept track of them.   A word here, a line there, an arresting image, a compelling metaphor--I marveled at Knott's sheer bouts of creativity.

I  first contacted Knott in 2011 to ask permission to share one of his poems on Salamander Cove.   "Surely you could find a poet who isn't a now-forgotten oddity to feature on your site," was his reply.  Nevertheless, then--and several times in the years since, he graciously said yes to my using "any of" his verse or paintings.  I was just to spell his name correctly, "Knott, with two T's".

I had a brief email exchange with Knott back in 2012 when I approached him with the idea of doing a single-poet issue on Salamander Cove to showcase 52 of his poems and 37 of his paintings as a first Special Feature  (later desktop-pubbed as a 74-page booklet A Pocketful of Poems and Art by Bill Knott, sent to him as a thank-you).  Knott encouraged me in a separate early project, and half a year later, one day he emails me out of the blue, asking "Well, so whatever happened to your project?"  and to my procrastinatey excuse at the time, his blunt response was: "What are you waiting for? Just DO it!"  A much-needed verbal jumpstart that got me back working on it again.

Bill Knott - Horses of Time
I learned a lot from some of Knott's blog posts over the years. For example, he once provided 25 different translations he'd collected of Verlaine's Chanson d'Automne.   I found it invaluable comparing these translations, noting  how some felt plodding and pedestrian, while others better grasped the nuance.  I wondered how much time it'd taken Knott to find  these dozens of examples, then type them all out, one by one.  On the blog he'd sometimes critique a poem he admired (or hated), the examination of which got me to look more carefully at word choice, sound,  and form in a poem; how the slightest substitution could utterly ruin, or bring it to life.  Thanks to works mentioned I began reading poems I might normally have bypassed because of their "type".

Knott's syllabic verse inspired me to experiment, rework prose poems into sonnets, reduce a flash fiction to haiku.   I  began pushing myself to go beyond my comfort zone to try new ways, for example,  to resurrect a failed poem I'd long ago given up on.   "I fly with my wings stuck up my ass [a line in a Knott poem declares] but at least I try."  He would no doubt be amused, if not downright appalled, at my taking this one line out of context (not to mention that  I can't even remember which of his poems it actually came from!).   How a single word or line of something can inspire.   Knott was constantly trying - Let's see where this goes; wonder what happens if I put this word here instead of there,  let's purposely make it only so many syllables in so many lines.   Let's completely rewrite.

Bill Knott - Knotthead with ball
Knott wrote poems and songs and verse and plays, did translations, taught poetry, mentored students and new poets, selfpubbed his own books, and made paintings, later multiventuring into the blogsphere, always with the same recognizable voice.  What really fascinated me was Knott's originality and prolific imagination.  His poems continually surprised me, the phrases that would emerge!, the intuition they hinted at, the insights they sometimes  led me toI found myself using the word "Brilliant!" or a quiet little "wow" escape my lips after reading certain poems, where with certain others (especially the very long and  confusing ones) my eyes would simply glaze over.  The poems Knott wrote that 'stayed in mind'--those that get revisited, remembered--fall in the dozens.

I liked the way Knott experimented with language, giving objects emotions (or motives), verbing nouns or nouning verbs; combining, stretching, tweaking, rewiring, constantly re-inventing.  A  word would jump off the page from one of his poems as THE perfect word as used (even if made up) --  'Yawnwaving', 'twinmatism', 'stigmontage'  . . 'inbetweenities!!' 

Cartoon-like scenes would rush to mind's eye, of a stick figure "escaping blackly down its boundaries" or "a mustache that'd lost its urge to duel."  These playful splurts of Knottivity continually surprised, delighted, engaged.  It showed me you don't have to understand another's language to hear the message/discern the meaning in a poem; or be afraid to resculpt your tongue to express the way you see a thing.

Bill Knott - Knotthead Squared
Knott was remarkably generous, as has been mentioned by others.   (Last fall I ordered and bought from him two small books of poems.  Imagine my surprise when what arrived in the mailbox were not two, but nine (NINE!!!) of his books all packed together into one box.)   He placed images of all his art work up on line, as a visitable archive, adding that because of illness he had given up painting. But he kept on poeming, to the very end, even though he'd also grumpily proclaimed, from time to time, that he was no longer going to write any more poems.  His unpredictability became almost predictable.  It's as if, however, he couldn't not keep doing so, and so he resumed, still "broken-winged", as he once deemed himself, still believing nobody cared and that his poetry didn't matter.  (On that account he would be wrong.)

More than several bloggers, in their mention of his passing have quoted this poem: 

Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.
They will place my hands like this.
It will look as though I am flying into myself.

Bill Knott- Drowning
I don't know where we 'fly to' when we die but I can imagine Knott aloft, tossing little homemade copies of his poems out to any willing takers as he soars on past.  He wrote a poem about a balloon once, titled "Aloft", starting with a question a little kid might ask, "When a balloon bursts, where's all the air go to?", jumping quickly into what it's like to try to secure one's "whoosh-hold":

why strive and huff just
to stave off death
to survive
to be a substance a stuff

A poem about balloon air suddenly becomes a poem about  . . . Death. 

to live life as a pocket
a cluster
a cloud
to maintain your interior

I can understand
that having once been
contained in bouyance
you'd want to retain
that rare coherence

you'd pray to stay a one
to remain a unity an
entity a whole in
this unencased heaven

[The balloon as us-- "whistlewhiffed", "kisspuffed", "flimsy-flacked" us, desperately chasing oneness.]

up into the sky goes
two lungs worth
of earth
the exhaled
soul of a boy a girl


This is one of those poems I come back to, again and again.  I pray Knott won't go lost (in Knott-speak:) in the unencased heavens whoosh-buoyed into some incoherent cluster-cloud. What irony that the books he put up on Amazon for less than four dollars (" the lowest price allowable"), of which so few sold,  are suddenly going for $99.99 (only one copy available, gobbled up for reselling) now that Knott's not here.  How kind of him to have posted the pdf's to his poems on  his blog, generous to the last.

I am grateful to Bill Knott for his kindness in allowing me to share so many of his poems and artwork, for introducing me to the work of other poets and translators; for giving me, by example,  the inspiration--and courage--to experiment, to get inside words and the spaces around them, see where it leads.  It's true,  that "most of us remain unfinished".   [Another remembered line from a Knott poem].  Maybe in the end it's not so important what didn't get finished, but what did.

Soar on, Knott.  Salut.

Bill Knott (1940-2014)

A few Blog posts from friends, colleagues, former students, readers, and other poets,

Rose Kelleher at Lost in the Forest [many links to anything by, about, and in honor of Knott]
Robert P. Baird in  The New Yorker
Elisa Gabbert at The French Exit
Mixhael Lally at Lally's Alley
Kathryn L. Burton at Kathryn
Jessica Goodfellow at Axis of Abraxas
J. Hope Stein at Poetry Crush

Joe Hutchison, at Perpetual Bird
R. M. O'Brien, at Illuminated Hypertext

A poet at A Retail Life After the MFA
Conrad Didiodata at Word Dreamer Poetics 

Lyle Daggatt at A Burning Patience"
David Bonta at Via Negativa
 Bob Arnold at Longhouse Birdhouse>/a>
Open Letters Monthly
Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post

Jan Vafidis at Vol. 1 Brooklin
John Cotter at The Poetry Foundation
Louis Mayeux at Southern Bookman
Folks at Cold Front Mag
Grant Clauser at Ulabic

Jack Kimball at Pantaloons
'tribach' at An Unambitious Blog

Ken Tucker at Muck Rack
Thurston Moore at
Michael Robbins at Michael Robbins Poet Blog
Rob McClennan at his
Stephen Kuusisto at Planet of the Blind
Vitro Nasu at Iconoclastic Incubator

Paul Belbusti at Dead Language Blog
Alex Gildzen at Arroyo Chamisa

 Richard Hell on YouTube
Staff at Emerson College
Staff of Harriet
Sydney Hermanson at Ploughshares Magazine
Folks at Book Forum

Obituary in The Boston Globe and here.

"My River"

~ ~ Bill Knott

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A place I went to often

Mozart - Clarinet Quintet in A, K. 581 [complete]

Waiting for D.
     Thinking of D.
           Yearning for D.

D. is gone.  Those years are gone.
     Both dead, like Mozart.

A place  I still go to,
not just to remember who he was
but who I was
      and still am
and be reminded of what,
like certain music in life
(it's not all noise)
      is always there.

Nostalgia attack!  It all
comes flooding back
But you don't want to go back,
even if you could.
(Exchange it for the now?  Who would? and how?)
You're not the same, 
      and yet you are
. . .  mostly.

Saved-up scenes from flecks of  past
murmur out between the notes.
How sad and melancholy then,
how absolutely wrong at times,
as if I somehow knew but didn't; and when
finding so, look back and think,
despite it all
I've no regrets.

Rehear the melody, close the book.  It's done.
The Now, of which the Then is part,  all one,
layered, accessible,
turnonable or offable,

Monday, March 10, 2014


Hanging Out in the Playground with Words

The sung word, the hung word, the shouted word, the touted word,
the whispered word, all silenced in a hush.
The seen word, the mean  word, the heard word, the blurred word
the written word, in pencil, pen, or brush.

The saved word, depraved word, deleted word, completed word,
the word on every otherbody’s lips.
Remembered words, dismembered words, forgotten words, begotten words,
and those thrown out in little, static blips.

The vowed word, too-plowed word,  misperceived, or ill conceived;
one’s first and final word a thing of note.
Words so succinct, or indistinct, or flashy, brashy, gone-in-a-blink
you’d think one wrote from necessary rote.

Fly off the page, in seething rage, or hide inside a voice-blocked cage -
no way to sing a sorrow, joy or bliss.
Our words escape, in search of shape, or form or norm to lurch and scrape
the edges of one’s always-there abyss.

Words delay us, and betray us, might refine us, oft define us;
we can twist and turn them into rhymes.
They elude us, they intrude, plus make us think, drive us to drink,
and yes, go platitudinous at times.

Words enflame us, or defame us, sometimes shame us (if not blame us),
shock and mock us as we ply our trade.
Word-enraptured, we’re script-captured, 'ere afflicted, word-addicted
in love with love of words both sought and made.

One tries in vain to ride the plain, resize the brain; abide, refrain,
then airs the stiffened fabric just to breathe.
Only then can kept-words flow; as new ones come that you don't know.
(Does it matter how they judge the weave?)

So this was just an exercise where I have come to realize
this rhyming’s fun.  But poetry it’s not.
It’s just a bunch of lines in synch,to pass the time and make me think
‘bout words and sound abounding in the lot.

That songs we sing and words we write, so often ring as Truly Trite
(we cringe at just how bad it sometimes gets)
does not mean that we’ve lost our way or gotten stuck in too-much play.
or given up, deep-sunk in past regrets.

The snow is falling, I am stalling (should be working, 'stead of lurking).
Time to leave the wordpen; say goodbye.
Singsong's fine and yes, it rhymed, but really, now, this babblejow
is no excuse for not reaching more high.

Back to work, you.



The above is, as noted, 'playing' with words and sound. Initially undertaken merely as an exercise, in retrospect it seems to have gotten away with itself, unable to stop, unaware of its own impending monotony, where to the reader it becomes almost trance-like, just sounds, in rapid succession, echoing one another, the meaning elusive or forced.   I say that after just landing on William Michelian's blog and seeing his little rhymed poem on a wished-for spring bud.  Now that's poetry!  In the end, it's not, I think  about not reaching for something higher. It's about not getting stuck in the sandbox of play, where play becomes a substitute for doing more than just "reaching".  

Apropos this, I have, recently, become really interested in 'word sound' - looking at the phenomenon of sung (as opposed to recited) poetry vis-a-vis transmission and recognition of meaning .  I wonder if anyone's ever done an anthology of sung poetry (complete with audio).  I can think of three or four examples that should absolutely be included.  Is anyone collecting such examples?  It would be interesting to find them.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Guests at the door today


And yet the world is different from what it seems to be
and we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings.

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

~ ~ Czeslaw Milosz

Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ ~ Rumi

(translated by Coleman Barks) 

Friday, March 7, 2014

What the hell am I doing here?

                                           The weather is terrible. It’s freezing cold and rainy. 
                                           The clouds hang low, and there’s snow in the valley. 
                                           Bundled in an anotak, I stomp up a rocky slope, further into the mist.   
                                           What the hell am I doing here?

I'm an armchair traveler and today I'm virtually visiting a  remote outplace high up in the Swiss Alps, checking in at the Hotel Furkablick. 

I'm in awe:
On a wooden deck in the Furka Pass

Anneke Bokern, who's actually been there, writes:

When I ask for a room the man explains that the hotel is closed. It’s a sealed time capsule. “Nothing has changed in the rooms since the hotel’s opening in the year 1900,” he says quietly.  "They all remain in their original condition, with chamber pots and washbasins.  Because the facilities are too old fashioned, we haven't received any star guests. And we therefore can't charge enough money to make a profit from overnight stays. The pass is only open three months of the year. And its as good as impossible to find employees who want to work up here."   [1]

   If you stand on the balcony, you'll see

One would think, if you're surrounded by snow and it's still bitter cold everyoutwhere, that the virtual-travel destination today might be towards a warmer clime.  But Uncube arrived in my emailbox this morning, I took one look at those photos, and I couldn't resist.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Out of the Loop

 Family Communication

What's new? he calls
or emails, and is surprised
no one's told him X was sick
        or  that Y had moved.

"Well, if you were on Facebook,"
they say.  Which he's not.
So he doesn't get the news like
        EVERYbody Else
as soon as something happens.
I mean, who has time
to send out individual emails
when EVERYbody's already all connected
with EveryOtherbody already all connected
24/7 on Facebook?
Seriously.  Get with it.
This is the 21st century.

They find it weird that he goes Facebookless.
Disconnected from The Hub,
he's left in the dark,
not part of The Club.
"Come look at my photo!", a cousin invites -
on her Facebook page, of course, which
he can't see unless   . . .
he signs up to join Facebook.

"Er . . . Can you just send the image to me by email?"  he asks.
and gets the reply:

He does get their "forwards", though.
The multiple-recipient kind, group targeted, of
endless jokes about old age,
funny videos of animals that talk, or fart, or dance,
cute images of puppies or kitties  or babies,
stunning landscapes, set to music, overlaid with prominent proselytizing soul-talk script,
emotional reunions of complete strangers, to uplift him,
more jokes about aging bodies, stubborn beer bellies, stupid sayings, senior moments,
an invitation to pass along a chain-letter message to 20 close friends to show that he has empathy.

Not that  he doesn't occasionally enjoy such gifted entertainment  It's when
their habitual, knee-jerk, sent-out lookee-sees substitute for actual, personal contact.

UnFacebooked, he sinks into Looplessness -
Deconnectivitis NonIntendo.
Totally curable, though, they tell him
He just needs to, well,

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Just once

La grande Sophie - "Quelqu'un d'autre"

Everyone wants to be somebody else,
to live another life
just once in their life.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A matter of trust

Bye bye, Google Search.

Hello, DuckDuck.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In a quiet space, listening

Habib Koité

He sings about love and peace and happiness, one's roots, family, friends, neighbors, playing soccer, the pleasure of being at home, the love of one's country; that though we're all different, what unites us is our humanity.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Whimsical and the Practical

Now I ask you, is that a friendly face, or what?! I braved the latest snowblast to go pick up some needed items and popped by the Dollarama, which was still clearing out their Valentine's Day stuff, replacing it with Easter stuff. This goofy green frog caught my eye. He shared a piece of cardboard with another, identical frog, "2 for $1.00" .   I couldn't resist.

He's bend-and-twistable and the smile is permanent. Here he is atop a piece of driftwood from  a beach I used to bike to around Lake Champlain  in Vermont. The frog was in the Garden section of Dollarama. He's actually a tomato plant tie.

The tomato ties I'd used the past few years were little, hard, plastic thingies you wrap around the pole to  secure the plant stems, but once locked shut, they became hard to remove at season's end.  Some years I just used cut-up pieces of cloth, whose knots were easier to untie.  Why have I never considered bendy, twisty pipe cleaners for this task before?!!

 You can get a pack of 25 in "moss green" for about $1.40 online. Or - a pack of 40 in multi-colors for $1 from the dollar store, use and save for each year. The colors could also work as identifiers for the various types of tomatoes planted. Cool!
moss green, they'll blend right in

Stores here are bringing out all the garden stuff already because March 19th is St. Joseph's Day, and that's the day most folks here start their indoor planting.  I remember one year we couldn't even think about starting our outside gardens until mid-June. Last year by late September some of my tomatoes had not yet turned red, so I just wrapped them individually in newspaper and put 'em inside in a basket till they did.

Spring cannot come soon enough for me.  From every window -- winter!

[Click on to enlarge]

Friday, January 31, 2014

TPP Shout Out Day

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)  is a proposed trade agreement under negotiation by the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
 Negotiations have been carried out in secret and documents remain unavailable to Congress, despite repeated requests for disclosure, while 600 corporations have advisors with access to the draft of the TPP and corporations such as Chevron, Halliburton and Comcast have been made privy to the agreement.  Why can't Congress get access to the same documents so readily available to these corporations?

Today's "Day of Action" is to call attention to the fact that this fast-tracked free trade corporate power grab by multinational corporations, will:

          -  Allow corporations to sue governments if a country's laws interfere
             with their corporate profits;

          -  Further hijack  power with regard to food safety, the environment,
             workers rights and access to health care;

          - Three judges on the tribunal appointed by the corporations themselves
            would have authority to overrule laws of the United States.

So, those are just a few of the reasons many people are upset and want to be heard, since it will affect all of us. 

This is what Democracy looks like. (While we still can.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Where have all the flowers gone?"

I don't have a hammer
I can't find a bell
and I can't sing
for beans, heaven or hell

But I heard the message
and I've got a yen
for Pete Seeger's music
from way back when

telling us to

Hammer out justice
Ring freedom's bell
 Remember what's 'gone'
and sing, write, or tell

about love towards
our brothers and our sisters
over the land

R.I.P.  Pete Seeger (1919-2014)


Pete Seeger
In this video, "Pete Seeger performs "This Land is Your Land" with Farm Aid board artists John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and Neil Young live at the Farm Aid concert in Saratoga Springs, NY on September 21, 2013. Farm Aid was started by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985 to keep family farmers on the land and has worked since then to make sure everyone has access to good food from family farmers."

About mid-way in the video he tells the audience he has a verse we've never heard before: 

New York is my home
New York is your home
From the upstate mountains
Down to the ocean foam. 
With all kinds of people
Yes, we're polychrome!
New York was meant to be frack-free

(On October 21, 2011, at age 92, Pete Seeger was part of a solidarity march with Occupy Wall Street to Columbus Circle in New York City.  In January last year he joined over a thousand anti-fracking protestors to plead with Governor Cuomo not to allow fracking in New York State.)

Seeger was still as active as ever, out chopping wood ten days prior to his death

Friday, January 24, 2014

Birthdays of our Departeds

Today is my mother's birthday.  Had she lived she would have been 94.    On this day every year my sisters and I remind each other it's her birthday and we speak not just of her but to her.  Happy birthday, Mom!

Coincidentally the first email I received today was from another person celebrating the birthday of a departed one today--poet Robert Peake, whose poems continue to speak of and to his deceased son, James, who would have been eight years old today.

I first met Robert online, when I stumbled on his website and found a poem I really loved and asked permission to share it.  Four years ago I was gathering poems to post in a then-upcoming issue of Salamander Cove, which is not usually theme-based, but I'd decided to try something a bit different that time.  I wasn't sure how readers would react.  The theme was loss of a child, through miscarriage, stillbirth, illness, suicide,  accident or war, where these particular beings' not being there anymore--their strongly felt absence--profoundly affected these particular eight poets.  Six of them wrote about their own loss, two on the loss of others' children.

 The poems held a special meaning for me as well.  I hesitated, wondering if it might seem. . .  well, too depressing to group together this collective grief and lay them out, one by one. I went ahead anyway.  The poems were just so compelling.  The poets themselves were supportive of the idea.  Occasionally I'd find that a reader had shared the "Loss" posting with a grief support group, that some readers found comfort in the company of these poet-parents and could relate to their experiences.  Thank you again, Chris Agee, Anna Ross, Dave Jarecki, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Jim Murdock, Robert Peake, Charles Bernstein and Jamie Dedes, for allowing me to share your poems back then 

I'd like to put a plug in here today for Robert's chapbook published last year titled The Silence Teacher.   I knew the background, as it were, and some of the poems were already familiar to me, but what stunned me was the continuity of the sheer Poetry of his poems.  There is poetry and there is Poetry.  It was not just the retelling of a deeply personal journey, it was a realization of  the craft and elegance and care with which each word was chosen..

Don't just believe me - here are some other reviews.

 Birthday dates remind us that our beloved departeds are not here anymore.  And yet they still are.

And so to my mother, Happy Birthday!  I will keep celebrating you. 
And to young, little James Valentine Peake, Happy Birthday as well.


Thursday, January 23, 2014


Guy and his sister

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mad as Hell

From the Cultural Slagheap, words of reason and rage from Eric Waggoner, a former West Virginan, about the recent contamination  of the drinking water for nine West Virginia counties by a leak from a chemical company, whose tanks had not been inspected for over 20 years.  There was no plan for what to do if one of the containment tanks happened to be breached.  Kind of an Alfred E. Newman  attitude. ("What? Me Worry?")

The spill dumped 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) into the Elk River, a mile and a half upstream from the intake pipes for West Virginia-American Water, a company that serves nine counties.  

As a result, 300,000 residents were told they could not drink, cook with, bathe in, or wash their clothing in the water. FEMA trucked bottled water in. Schools were closed and some businesses had to temporarily close down.   Six days, forbidden to use their tap water.  Pregnant women are still being advised not to drink it.

"This was not the rational anger one encounters in response to a specific wrong, nor even the righteous anger that comes from an articulate reaction to years of systematic mistreatment.  This was blind animal rage, and it filled my body to the limits of my skin," writes Waggoner.

"It’s essential for state and federal governments to consult with scientists—actual, real scientists, in spite of this area’s long and fierce tradition of anti-intellectualism when it comes to public policy—and provide a regulatory apparatus for maintaining safety standards and making sure things are up to code, and that there’s a protocol in place for when systems fail.  That’s what a society does to protect the people who live in it.  Or the people who live in it will—should, anyway—naturally come to the conclusion that their health and safety mean zero in the calculus of industry and politics."

Waggoner's blog posting has since been going viral.  You can read it in its entirety here.  Judging by the overwhelming response in the comments section, he is not alone in his reaction.   Now if only the Powers-That-Be would take note and stop allowing corporations to voluntarily regulate themselves,  answering to no one.  Instead of spending taxpayer money on increased surveillance of every citizen, how about hiring more inspectors to ensure the safety of the nation's water, food, and environment?

(AP Photo/The Charleston Gazette, Chris Dorst)
 The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has a $10.55 million annual budget,  but "is stretched thin and must decide which of the 200 or so 'high-consequence' accidents that take place in the United States each year merit its attention."  They've made innumerable proposals, according to a spokesman, asking for additional investigators, "for years".   Congress, they say, "has been unwilling to come up with more money."[1]

Not so for the "visitor control center" ($10.55 million) and security at the NSA's new $2 billion Utah Data Center (over $10 million). [2]   Apparently, this massive new complex to manage and store data for the intelligence community had zero problem being funded.   It even has its own water treatment center.  Sounds like the water's very well managed there.

As to corporations that ignore regulations, lobby to have them reduced or removed entirely, when a major mishap occurs for which they are responsible,  they simply apologize and pay a fine. Where is the justice?  The United States Supreme Court has declared that a corporation may be recognized as an individual in the eyes of the law.[3]  Why are these 'corporate persons' not being held accountable?

Something's changing, though.  People are not just taking it anymore--this being lied to, surveilled, having their health compromised, unable to get anyone to listen long after the news cameras and cleanup crews have departed and the illness they've been left with is not going away.  Ask the victims of BP's horrendous oil spill in the Gulf three and a half years ago, how their health is today. [4]

Doctors in Pennsylvania  are forbidden to share information with patients exposed to toxic fracking solution because those chemicals are "proprietary", meaning they must remain secret.  This law that became effective in 2012 benefits the corporations, lets them off the hook, you might say.  In effect, Sorry,  people, because of this gag order, doctors won't be able to discuss how many other patients in your region suffer from the same symptoms, which began appearing right after the frackers came, because somebody might determine it's a cluster - why, then you all might  get together and file a class action lawsuit, no we can't have that, no indeed. 

Anyway, people are mad as hell, and they're speaking out.  The more that do, the louder it'll get.   One day it will become impossible to ignore.  Maybe then real change will come.  Because it must.  How long can one keep holding one's breath?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014




                                                      I wonder
                                                      how it would be here with you,
                                                      where the wind
                                                      that has shaken off its dust in low valleys
                                                      touches one cleanly,
                                                      as with a new-washed hand,
                                                      and pain
                                                      is as the remote hunger of droning things,
                                                      and anger
                                                      but a little silence
                                                      sinking into the great silence.

                                                      ~ ~ Lola Ridge

Saturday, January 4, 2014


-30 C    here for the past few days
Cabin fever.

There's always music

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Through a Glass, Waterly

When watercoloring, the colors sometimes run.
When rainwater splots 'cross your windshield the view gets skewed,
lines blurrr /wigggle/ waver, form smudges.
The rust-colored edifice could be a watercolor,
(were this a watercolor) -
its stalwart companions  a shimmery mirror.
I'd call it
"Concrete Glass Towers
Contemplating Themselves".


*Photo taken in downtown Boston en route to South Station, 2012

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

First Day's Reading

where, in Miles David Moore's The Boy Who Killed Saddam Hussein, a band teacher is accused,
by one of his students, of being a terrorist . . . and
What will they tell you today?
What will they tell you tomorrow?

are questions David Wiley asks in his poem, dedicated to Lawrence Ferlinghetti,
titled Aux Barricades!


We Go

into the new year
head who knows where
feet first

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blue says

 2014 will be better
in all ways
for all.

Monday, December 30, 2013


About a year has passed. I've returned to the place of the battle,
to its birds that have learned their unfolding of wings
from a subtle
lift of a surprised eyebrow, or perhaps from a razor blade
- wings, now the shade of early twilight, now of state
bad blood.

Now the place is abuzz with trading
in your ankles's remnants, bronzes
of sunburnt breastplates, dying laughter, bruises,
rumors of fresh reserves, memories of high treason,
laundered banners with imprints of the many
    who since have risen.

All's overgrown with people. A ruin's a rather stubborn
architectural style. And the hearts's distinction
from a pitch-black cavern
isn't that great; not great enough to fear
that we may collide again like blind eggs somewhere.

At sunrise, when nobody stares at one's face, I often,
set out on foot to a monument cast in molten
lengthy bad dreams. And it says on the plinth "commander
in chief." But it reads "in grief," or "in brief,"
or "in going under."

   (1985; translated from the Russian by the poet)

Sunday, December 29, 2013


this trek is wearying some
times you're forced to stop and
stay in place, which place can keep you
'placed' but doesn't mean the journey's over

or that trekking's done
by boot alone


*Photo is of a figure walking through woods being confronted by a storm, sculpted on a panel on the wall outside the entrance to a local inn. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

today, more snow

and the shovel is in the shed

Monday, December 16, 2013

Snowblizzed, Part II

He shovels.
I watch.
My turn now.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Quotable Quoties

George Carlin (1939-2008)
Keep in mind, the news media are not independent; they are a sort of bulletin board and public relations firm for the ruling class--the people who run things. Those who decide what news you will or will not hear are paid by, and tolerated purely at the whim of, those who hold economic power. If the parent corporation doesn't want you to know something, it won't be on the news. Period. Or, at the very least, it will be slanted to suit them, and then rarely followed up.

Enjoy the snooze.

~ ~ George Garlin (Brain Droppings, 1997, pp. 112-3).

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalistic democracies--the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions.

Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures. A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in the calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who would manipulate and control it.

In their propaganda today's dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationalization--the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationalization of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State. As the art and science of manipulation come to be better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless learn to combine these techniques with the non-stop distractions which, in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrelevance the rational propaganda essential to the maintenance of individual liberty and the survival of democratic institutions.

~ ~ Aldous Huxley ( Brave New World Revisited, 1958).

George Orwell (1903-1950)
 Take for example the well-known passage from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government. . .

It would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping to the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up in the single word crimethink. A full translation could only be an ideological translation, whereby Jefferson’s words would be changed into a panegyric on absolute government.

~ ~ George Orwell (1984, Appendix)