Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

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)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Snow Shadows Dancing

brief shadows on snow
  old memories come visit
grow fainter,

*view outside my kitchen window yesterday afternoon

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Human Rights Day today

Today is the 20th anniversary of Human Rights Day.
For 20 years, on this day, governments and organizations and agencies and activists and world citizens and those suffering from the lack of basic human rights have been repeating the message:

"Humans are entitled to basic human rights!"

For me this means:
    persons with physical and mental disabilities, not to be discriminated against
          persons of conscience, not to be censored/ monitored /targeted/ threatened or imprisoned
          for voicing an opinion
            detainees, not to be tortured
                the elderly, not to be abandoned, neglected or deprived
                    children, not to be starved, abducted, trafficked or abused
                        women, not to be considered unequal to men
                            prisoners, not to be waterboarded for information
                                 soldiers, not to be denied medical treatment when they return from war, damaged
                                        citizens,  to not be given a say or choice, not to be dictated to
                                                anyone, not to be chastised for what they believe or don't believe.

It means freedom from:
    bullying, physical coercion, forced marriage, being spied upon
           cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment
                 abduction and/or enforced disappearance
                        arbitrary detention
                            discrimination because of race, religion, gender, class,
                                   or sexual orientation or cultural background

It means having the freedom to:
                         own property,
                                have privacy,
                                      make choices.

As of last spring, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had 74 signatories and 167 parties.[1]

Some of them signed and ratified
some signed but didn't ratify
some signed, ratified, but later stated they wish to withdraw.
Some neither signed nor ratified.

Some of those who signed and ratified, continue to abuse those rights.

[ratify:  To approve and give formal sanction to; confirm; to make (a treaty, agreement, etc.) official by signing it or voting for it]

Covenants, Conventions, Convocations, Committees, Commissions,  and Councils; International Summits and formal  "Declarations" that are "non-binding".  Programs of Action where no action is taken.

20 years of trying to get humans to respect other human beings'  basic human rights. Human Rights Day, December 10th, is an opportunity to reflect on the gains and losses of the human rights 'movement'.

Some just talk the talk -- some walk the walk.  Some do neither.  Individual, international, and group activism abound.  Now if only the Powers That Be could be brought around.

What does it mean for a country to signify its support for human rights but refrain from "embarrassing" another country accused of violating those rights because even the gentlest of  reminders might be considered "undiplomatic", "politically inexpedient", "improper",  "currently inadvisable"?  Individuals have given the ultimate sacrifice--their very lives, defending human rights.   We honor them today.

The whole purpose of setting aside this one day out of the year, is  to remind people that all humans have certain rights and that every human should respect those rights.

20 years of shouting out/ "reflecting on"  the same message.

Tune in next year, same day -- December 10 -- to see how many governments or heads of state

sign and ratify
sign but do not ratify
sign, and ratify, but decide to withdraw
refuse to sign or ratify
or reneg 
a piece of paper signifying that they agree
that all humans have a right
to have their rights

Meanwhile - keep speaking out, in whatever capacity, and not just on Human Rights Day.
It's your right.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Where we're from, who we are, what we write and sing

Photo by portiagay, June 2007

Where I’m From

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride,
I am from the dirt under the back porch,
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
            from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
            and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! And Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
             with a cottonball lamb
             and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemis and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
            to the auger,
the eye my father lost to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments—
snapped before I budded—
leaf fall from the family tree.

~ ~ George Ella Lyon

Black Star Mountain [from Harlan Travel Guide]
George Ella Lyon was born in Harlan, a small coal mining town in eastern Kentucky in the Appalachian mountains.  I had not known of this poet/writer/singer/activist/teacher before, but feel an instant affinity. Of words:

Words amaze me. EARTH, for instance.  Do you see how it has EAR and ART inside it? 
And that's not all. If you take the H from the end (from the ends of the earth!) 
and put it at the beginning, you get HEAR and HEART! That's a whole poem in one word:


I believe that's what we're doing when we write or dance, sing or draw or practice any of the arts: we're listening to our hearts and expressing what we hear. And on the other side of the experience,  when we are the readers or the audience  for what's been created, we hear someone else's heart speaking, which helps us hear our own, and feel how we are all connected.[1]

As a girl she loved Black Beauty so much she ate raw oats to taste what it was like to be a horse.

In an interview at the Appalachian Center, she talks about "what is me" intrinsically and  "what is me" from the nurture and place where she grew up; and the songs and stories that come to her wherever she goes.  "Where you are from is not who you are," she tells the interviewer.  The mountains are her "voice place", where her primary stories come from.  The woods are still the place she feels most at home, but "I'm also a citizen of the world; I was brought up to be that."

For George Ella Lyon, poetry is "a spiritual practice, when I feel in touch with the mystery of it all. It's a way of experiencing that mystery, and expressing that mystery."  She writes about letting one's voice come out,  about voice and its power and place. Author of 40 books of poetry, children's books, novels and plays, she says she "felt the call" to be a writer back in high school.  "I wanted to make a difference," she says.  (I'm always intrigued by the response to the question "Were you born to be a writer?", because that suggests writing  is something you're somehow destined to do.  How many writers start out feeling that way, and just . . . don't follow through.  How many more go through life unable to not write?   And how much does it matter to those who feel "born to" anything, if what they felt they were inherently born-to-be doesn't get borne out?

I discovered the poet George Ella Lyon by googling "Harlan", a place name found in the title of a song  I intended to post this morning of the McGarrigle sisters, folk singers from Montreal.  Some mornings you start the day in silence, have your coffee, read the news, prepare the day, etc. sans sound.  Some days you just feel like a little music in the background . . . and today, folk music--and those mountains--beckoned again.

 Kate and Anna McGarrigle
with Emmylou Harris

Anna wrote (and here sings) the song, with guitar.  Emmylou Harris is in the middle  Kate (on the right)  plays the banjo.  [Kate passed away in 2010 at the age of 63.] "Harlan" refers to Harlan, Kentucky,  which also happens to be the birthplace of poet George Ella Lyon.

 Goin' Back to Harlan

There where no cuckoos, no sycamores.
We played about the forest floor
underneath the silver maples, the balsams and the sky.
We popped the heads off dandelions
assuming roles from nursery rhymes,
rested on a riverbank
 and grew up by and by,
and grew up by and by

Frail my heart apart
and play me a little shady grove.
Ring the bells of Rhymney
till they ring inside my head forever.
Bounce the bow, rock the gallows
for the hangman's reel
and wake the devil from his dream
I'm goin'  back to Harlan
I'm goin'  back to Harlan
I'm goin'  back to Harlan

And if you were Willie Moore
and I was Barbara Allen
Or Fair Ellen all sad at the cabin door
A-weepin' and a-pinin', for love
A-weepin' and a-pinin', for love

Note:  "The song is a longing for a childhood of playing in the woods, made more poignant by "growing up by and by". They played at being characters from old Anglo/Irish folk songs like "Willie Moore, Barbara Allen and Fair Ellen". The McGarrigles are from a tradition of singing old-timey songs as a family activity. All those references in the lyrics are to the names of old fiddle tunes: Shady Grove, the Bells of Rhymney, Bounce the Bow, Rock the Gallows, the Hangman's Reel, and Wake the Devil"  [a YouTube commenter]

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Amplified World of Apps

Excerpt from a poem posted yesterday by Linh Dinh over at his Detainees blog.

            To Fisher-Price, a newborn can now be strapped
            To a seat, and forced, his head tilted up, to stare
            At a relentless screen, with its bright and anxiety-ridden,
            Sped-up world, so that his eyes will cloud over and roll
            Away from this mind rape. Drooling, he will utter a series
            Of terrified near-words, which his iPad-hooked parents
            Will interpret as pleasure. Raised in apptivity, kids
            Will eschew walking, talking or eating while looking
            At their food, or sex that isn’t on demand. Like now.
            Hooked on porn and apps, we will not rebel.

The pervasive encroachment of technology from Day One of our lives, and into our language as well. Who doesn't know nowadays what "googling" means?  Google seems to have the monopoly on instant google product name recognition here.  You don't often hear anyone refer to searching for information on the Internets [sic] as "yahooing" [it just plain sounds funny, and possibly derogatory to yahoos everywhere]--though "scroogling" and "binging" are catching up. The big thing now seems to be apps. You show me your apps, I'll show you mine.  Betcha I got more'n you.  A not infrequent, non-imaginary conversation.  Just sayin'.

I'm a word junkie and the continuing evolution of language that reflects how we relate to trends that morph into obsessives, fascinates me.  Being a dinosaur that doesn't even own a cell phone, I'm often chuckled at because I mis-say the terminology.  An emerging SpoofLexis tumbles to mind.

[Not to take away from the import of Linh's poem.  Writer, poet, photographer, political analyst, he has an acute understanding of what's imploding in our society, culture, environment, economy, and government. He travels the country documenting the "downslide", talking to people the Powers-That-Be have forgotten, sharing their stories on his blog and  State of the Union photo series.  But he also often 'pokes fun at', and his word "apptivity" in the referenced poem got me thinking about words we shorten or slangify to describe our now times].  So, a few suggested new app words, of an app-lexistical nature:

A Mini AppLexicon

 Apptivity – the act of apping
 Appify – what you can do once your appinstall gets apptivated
Appadiction – when there’s no app you don't already have
Appalicious – recipes in your Appicubby
Appaholic – one who suffers from extreme appadiction
Appnoxious –  physical aversion to the overappopulation of appaholics
Appless – what you become when your appholder falls down the toilet
Appageddon – when you discover one of your apps has been secretly monitoring you
Appfullness – when you have so many apps you can’t keep track of them all
Applack -- when you can't find the app you really really want
Appapt – able to app in your sleep
Appfickle – unable to decide which app to appload
Applode  it happens, when your  appware malfunctions
Appatune – appifying a musical appjingle in your apparchive
Appkeep - as opposed to the ones you appchuck
Appalingo  another name for appspeak
Appalistic – appaddicts who compulsively collect applisties
Appcitis – a condition that sometimes afflicts appaholics
Appicide – when an app self destructs
Appmapnegate – app maps that purposely mislead
Appmobile – the opposite of appinertized

Okay, enough    Apologies to avidappers everywhere, from an unappologetic appnisaurus antiquus.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Being Where You Are


A man passed by on his bicycle in the wee hours of the morning,
gloveless – and I know the bite of winter’s sting - so wondered
how long it would take him to get to where he’s going.

Maybe, while he peddles, he imagines himself elsewhere,
on a desert island perhaps, warmed by the sun, listening to the waves.
How hard it is, with time, to continue to “Be-where-you-are”
if your ability to Be
depends on where you are.

Thoughts arriving after reading this  poem I saw back in November:

If only
I could learn

to be
where I am

and not
where I want

to be.

   ~ ~ Tom Montag

Of course it all depends on what one means by "be".  And maybe, sometimes, the being Here or the being There turns out  the same, that 'everywhere you go, there you are' -  or are still not.  Come winter--in this neck of the woods, at least--a lot of folks just want to be in Florida.  These migrateurs en bon francais, or "snowbirds", as they're called, flock there by the thousands (between January and April, 700,000 Quebeckers head to the US to escape the snow.)

Once, while walking a neighbor's dog on a frigid January morning, my fingers and toes went numb and I began stomping my boots and punching my hands together, frantically  trying to get the circulation back. I was expending a lot of energy just reacting.  The phrase "Be the cold" arrived in my head and I suddenly stopped and calmed down.  I would get home soon enough, but for a brief moment I let go, as it were, and became the snow.  And everything changed.  Hard to explain, and I realize this sounds corny (becoming snow),  but the numbness suddenly seemed less painful, the fear of frostbite less pervasive; my focus swept from the panicky stomping to ... the snow-covered landscape, the bright blue sky, the crazy little dog now chasing a black squirrel. And I walked, not ran, on back home.  And the winters got easier.  Maybe it's all in how you see a thing.

The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.
~ ~ Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception
I believe I am in Hell, therefore I am.  ~ ~ Arthur Rimbaud 

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.  ~  ~ Oscar Wilde

 You can observe a lot just by watching.  ~ ~ Yogi Berra

I kinda got sidetracked here with the quotables..  My favorite Yogi Berra quote is:

If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

It calls to mind another oft-heard saying, "When in doubt, continue driving" (rather than just randomly turning left or right  not knowing if, but hoping, you'll somehow get unlost) . Imagine yourself coming to a fork in the road ... and continuing just driving forward.  No one would, of course.  But not knowing if you should do this or that is a kind of fork in the road, and if you just keep going (Yogi's "taking the fork"), you're opting to not stay stuck.  You keep moving, but perhaps differently, more conscious of  when not to panic, when to stay the course, when to let go, when to get on with be-ing.  (Or something like that.). 

Thoughts on a  cold gray cloudy day, waving bye to some snowbirds.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Upstairs hallway of a house E. bought
 at an auction last year for $1.00

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fencing with Words

From Foil Fence Sketches, by Luis  Lázaro Tijerina

A friend recently showed me some sketches which form part of a sketch series intended to honor the Soviet fencer Vladimir Smirnov and Hungarian fencers Aldár Garevich and Katalin Izsò.

I  was struck by how many of the terms used in this sport describe strategies one might intentionally or inadvertently use in conversational wordings.  In fencing,  "conversation" is 'the back-and-forth play of the blades, composed of phrases (phrases d'armes) punctuated by gaps of 'no blade action'.  In real-life exchanges, of the verbal variety, words or  phrases are sometimes inserted into conversations, that alarm or emotionally maim.  ("Rattling one's sabre" comes to mind.)   The recipient is sometimes caught by surprise, and responds as if cornered, unable to effectively "foil".   They thought they were having a simple conversation.  At what point did it become necessary to mount some sort of defense?

Fencers learn specific actions to block, confuse, delay, deceive or elicit a predicted response from the opponent. Not every conversant is aware that they're the 'opponent' or that it's sometimes a game where one party does not intend to lose.  Word battles and staged battles, the goal is to win.

Fencing is a kind of graceful battle dance sans music where one is given a special type sword to pit his/her fighting skills against an opponent . The words "dance around the issue" dances to mind, where one strategically or creatively waffles, eludes, dodges or sidesteps, to avoid, rather than confront the 'Other.'  The object of a fencing match is to defend oneself and emerge the victor.  Verbal matches often end in compromise.  It was not so much the final outcome but each respective situation's relation to strategizing that tweaked  my interest.

Verbal parrying, while it can be somewhat likened to a fencing tactic, differs in that it is often carried out solely to exhibit one's expressionistic largesse, such as a bloviating speechifier holding restive, reluctant listeners captive, not by his imagined vocal eloquence but the inability of his listeners to effect a significant riposte.  (That last sentence may well qualify as an example of bloviatism.)  What I meant to say was, we all 'fence' in a way, with or without training, with or without rules, with or without expecting to win..

Poetic challenge of the day:  Write a warning poem about those incorrigible, indefatigable,  thoroughly unrepentant lippyversifiers, pontificators, scribbleholics, or talkerhighnesses, whose web you may have inadvertently found yourself being sucked into, using terms from the Fencing Glossary.    Here goes:

En garde

Worders invite us to engage -
which for some is just a "warming up"
fencing us in for what is yet to come.
Parrying at high octave, they resist all
attempts to counter this relentless  wordpoking, jabbing, piercing
at each's defensive mask,  to
capsize/mesmerize/ . . . effectuize
displacement, one
                        at a time   . . .  until
even the most determined leaver
abandons any thought of fleching,
astounded at the worder's sheer,


*No apologies for including made-up words (such as the nonexistent adjective "balestric",
derived from the noun balestra, which in the Fencing Glossary means "a forward hop or jump"--or for making a verb of the noun fleche (in fencing, "an attack in which the aggressor leaps and attempts to make a hit, then passes the opponent at a run").  And yes, there is no such word as "effectuize", but "effectuate" got rejected by Caps and Mesmer for not having an "ize" ending.   The majority ruled in that line, what can I say.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Goodbye to an old friend

Dr. Kimbwandende kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau 
(Apr. 9, 1939 - Nov.  29, 2013)

Not everyone gets to visit an old friend again to say goodbye before they pass.
I thank the universe  for the opportunity,  some days ago, to have been able
to say my respects, one last time.

Rest in peace, Fu Kiau.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Poets that Dance

I visited the Milk and Honey House in Meligalas today.  Virtually, via YouTube.   I suspect Greece is a tad warmer now than here in Quebec.  I felt like going to Greece this morning for some reason, but not as a tourist.  So I looked up a poet who lives there because we share something in common.  We both love poetry, we both blog, and I remembered this little living room dance video he once posted way back when.  Vassilis was one of my first blogger friends when I'd just discovered 'blogging'.

Some poems "After Vassilis Zambaras's "Traces, inspired by this video:

[meaning, I ingested some of his original poems but re-poemed them here into an imagined scene where I'm sitting with friends at some public venue, I hear Greek music in the background, and just feel like getting up and dancing. . . but don't.  Not all situations welcome such unabashed gleeful spontaneity. So it's saved for alone times, in one's own living room or kitchen, with nobody but the cats to witness.  Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I tried but am not on the same level as Vassilis. But I love the way he so carefully chooses each and every word in his poems, weighing their precise placement, which sometimes elicits multiple meanings that make you go back and re-see them.  I learn from this. So with apologies in advance, for re-"aftering" some of your formerly blogged  poems, Vassilis, here're some dance-scene-inspired interpretations, or "word re-choreographing" of some Trace poem excerpts.

No Stage Directions

Sitting in place

all stay.
Enter the muse.

None go, listening
but only his limbs
leap to.

One's enough -
group participation

Reel life

Take Two

No director here
just two legs starting to move
to a sudden rhythm.

The scene calls for
a dance.


looking over
across the room


Each dances alone,
all together


the dance was always there when
I needed it

until I forgot the steps.

Some things are just so in you -

you automatically


Σας ευχαριστώ για τα ποιήματά σας, Βασσίλης

Friday, November 29, 2013

Value and the 'Firsts' of . . .

A copy of the first book to be printed in America, sold for $14.2 million on Tuesday.

It was printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Boston's Old South Church sold the Bay Psalm Book from its collection to cover the cost of building repairs and to fund its ministry.

Its value lies not in who its author was, or its content, but the fact that it was "the first" of something, and that it still exists.

Anybody remember the first mobile phone? 

Motorola was the first company to produce a handheld mobile phone, tested in 1973.  The prototype weighed 1.1 kg and measured 23 cm long, 13 cm deep and 4.45 cm wide, offering a  talk time of just 30 minutes and took 10 hours to re-charge.[1]  
How about an original Vought Berger Company wall phone from 1903-1906, complete with insides and original key, that may still work, for sale recently on EBay as "a museum piece"?  Only $1,200 as a Buy Now item.

Historical objects we preserve as valued mementos, or toss out or donate to Goodwill, depending.  Value assigned for being "the first" depends on the what.   Ever notice that firstborns are generally  more prolifically  photographed  during the first months than say, the fifth born?   It's not that non-firsts are any less  loved  but there's something about documenting that 'first' one, because you've never experienced this  before.  It's all new and unfamiliar and you're overattentive,  no burp or drool from this new little creature goes unnoticed; whereas with succeeding births, while you delight in all the same infant milestones reached, you don't feel the need to register Every, Single, Little. Thing. or  photograph every gesture, facial expression or outfit worn.  Eventually, quantity gets trumped by quality--you continue to highlight the special moments, and while the experiences differ raising each child, you know a bit more than when you did when the first one came.  (Mothers also tend to compare all subsequent pregnancies with the first.  It may get easier or be harder but you never forget what it was like the first time.
Just like . . .

you never forget your first love.  Your child's first word.  Your first car, your first job, your first poem, even if you now cringe in embarrassment at the latter.  So, 'firsts' are special. 

Books signed by the author are more valuable than unsigned ones.  Used anythings are usually less valuable than new anythings, unless it's an antique, original, or 'first of".

Been thinking about 'value' lately, vis-a-vis books as objects.  Some we tend to  keep, no matter what the age or condition, even though replacements are easy to find and their content now available digitally.   So it's not just the words, it's the type of container that houses them, and our relation to that type container, born of habit or preference, that determines its perceived value.  For many, a newer, more 'advanced', more accessible, more convenient something will always be 'better'.  A decades' old paperback with crumbling, yellowed pages and broken spine, with favorite passages highlighted in the gentlest of faint pencil markings,  coffee ring stain or turned-down page corners--well, yes you can replace the book with a crisp new copy, but you'll still consider that first copy the more 'valued' one.  No one, of course, will pay you anything like a million dollars for it, no matter what the contents--unless it happens to be the first ever of something.. Which it likely isn't.  But . . .

I find it interesting that the decision to sell that valuable first-book-ever-published-in-America was   ... the need for money.    A  church in my neighborhood here can no longer afford its heating bills and was forced to close down, ready to be scooped up by developers to tear down and replace it with new condos.  One could salvage a brick or hunk of stone or piece of wood as a memento but all its parishioners have left is a remembered experience of that particular building, and while they can read its history, or retain photos of it, for them it's just not the same.  The object they remember will soon no longer exist.

I've  kept an old rag doll my son played with as a child, heaven knows why.  His name was Bobo and he was a clown.  My son took him everywhere. Somewhere along the years we lost his clown costume; Bobo got tossed into the washing machine with something dark red and came out orange.  He once had a beautiful, full head of hair.  An arm has disappeared, chewed off by Harry the dog, perhaps.  The poor thing's literally in tatters now  And yet I can't bring myself to throw him out.
So he perches on the wall above a stack of books next to a piece of driftwood from Lake Champlain in Vermont.  Sea stones from a beach in Greece, lake driftwood, my child's first 'friend'--valued objects of no value to anyone but me.  None of them exactly 'firsts', but by museuming them in my book room, they've become singularly cherished archived 'things'.

As for that first poem, all I remember now is that it was an ode to a bicycle spoke, and that I'd probably die of embarrasment to read its words again.  So some firsts can be let go of, and probably also should.

Bobo the Hobo/Book Guy

He sold half his books
so he could pay the rent
then sold the other half
to heat his rooms
but unable to stand the emptiness
he bartered an old, too-large pair of slippers
for the well-loved book of poems he'd sold to a friend,
bought back  because
selling that one had been a
Big Mistake.

Fast forward thirty years, his house
houses two other houses
you're going to ask about that book now
aren't you?
Well . . .

A poem even worse than the Ode to a Bicycle Spoke, open ending into question marks, ha ha.    But it might make a good short story someday.  Things that mean something, and things that .... don't anymore.  Stay tuned, smiles Bobo from the wall.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Handpainted wordcard for Moogie the cat

He's actually a lot heavier than depicted here.  I slimmed him down a bit.

Friday, November 15, 2013


sometimes you have to go away
just so that when you come back you
can finish the things you couldn't
because you needed to get

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Be spoofin'

 Thoughts after stumbling on a chakra energy consultant's advice on 'How to Program Your Crystal':

We're told  to "Create your own reality".
That  repetition of verbal affirmations will manifest the reality I desire.  
What if my reality clashes with your reality?  
Get real.  All is illusion.  Listen up:

-You are what you Eat.
        -Be careful what you wish for.
             -As a man thinketh, so he goeth.
                   -What you fear comes to you.
                          -Do what you love and the money will follow.
                                -Money is an illusion.
                                       -Think Success.  Think Thin.  Think Rich.  Think SNOW!
                                              -So you think you can dance.
                                                   -Don't think.  FEEL!!
                                                             -You are one in a million.
                                                                     -We are ALL ONE.
                                                                              -The answer lies out there, in service to others.
                                                                                        -The answer is WITHIN you.
                                                                                                -You do not need to know the answer.
                                                                                                        -Just BE.


My favorite quote from Hesse's Steppenwolf --

(Mozart to Harry Haller, in the Magic Theater ("For Madmen Only - Price of Admission: Your Mind")

"You are to listen to the cursed radio music of life
and to reverence the spirit behind it
and to laugh at its distortions."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day of Remembrance


I was young and childless at the time and had decided to "adopt" a little 7-year-old Vietnamese girl.  Not a real adoption but the kind where you send money every month to a charitable agency and about once a year they send you  a little note from the child thanking you for your support.

On the news:  War planes!, Evacuation!, photoed bodies of screaming civilians Agent Oranged, Chaos, Crisis.

I get a letter from the charitable agency telling me they have lost track of "my child".  So do you want to adopt another in another country, they ask.  Here are the forms.  Pick one.  But all I could think was, "What happened to 'my' child?"    As if these kids were interchangeable, like when your pet dies and people tell you to go out right away and get another one. Never mind a substitute, I wanted to know what happened to that child.  That one with the shy, thin, unsmiling face, the one who wrote that squiggly note the agency forwarded, my first and only personal communication with her.   The one I wasn't allowed to send packages to, or get to know except through generic, periodic agency reports.

I kept her picture for the longest time, on my desk, afterwards.  I don't remember what happened to the photo, nor even now, her first name, except that it started with an "L".   She disappeared from my life, without ever having really been in it, a casualty of war, an adoption that  wasn't a real adoption, where I got to play Pretend Mother while I dreamt of someday being a real one.  Maybe she got a bit more to eat because of my little monthly donations.  Where did that old photograph go?  Why can't I remember her name?  Whatever happened to her?

Veteran's Day, where you remember the men and women who "served" -- who fought and got sent home physically and mentally damaged, or lifeless,  flag-draped in a box.  War Memorials should also honor the victims of war, whose lives were also forever shattered, or ended entirely.

Did you survive? I want to ask her. For one brief year I thought of you as my child--"my" child--and I hate that they lost track of you.  That I will never know what happened to you.

I sympathize with the families who remain in the dark.  It's the Not-Knowing that's hardest, for those who've  'lost' someone in a war. The ones that never come back, the ones whose whereabouts you don't ever learn.  Your brother, your husband, your son.  Your pseudo-adopted foreign stranger child.  You honor their memory.

Today,  I was reminded by the calendar, Oh, it's November 11th -- Veteran's Day--and though I know some who've fought in several different wars, still suffering the consequences, they are not just in my thoughts only on  Veteran's Day.

But this little girl, for some reason,  today she revisited, leaping into my memory, now so faded as to have 'lost track of' certain important details.  Like her first name. My little perpetually aged 7-year old,  missing 'adopted'  child, who are you now?  Where did you go?  Did you survive?

Why can't I see your face anymore?

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Dubious Meatball, and the prison that you know

I hesitated posting today because, what started out as a single topic has suddenly morphed into a vast melange of whatever, and I fear it may prove of little interest to anyone popping by just looking for a quick read, on the way to other else's.  If this sounds a bit strange, it's because I'm under the weather, so to speak, not fully functioning, even minor habitudes needing to be readjusted.

I seem to have come down with an inner ear infection, causing extreme vertigo, nausea and imbalance.  I've only ever felt this horrible before once, years ago at sea on a freighter bound for France where I and a few others were rendered incapacitated by waves of seasickness and twice, after coming out of surgery as a reaction to the anesthesia.  So the feeling was familiar but initially not knowing the cause, I headed for the clinic.

I went prepared for the long wait, equipped with a book,  pencil, sketchpad, bottle of water and a granola bar.  When I arrived at 8:30 a.m. there were already around 40 people in Waiting Room "A" and an equal number in Waiting Room "B".  Several others had brought books, lunch bags, crossword puzzles, things to occupy their time, but most just sat there, patients patiently waiting their turn.  We all know the drill.

Much is made, sometimes, of the shortage of doctors here in Quebec, of whole days spent waiting in the waiting room, of the long waits for appointments for certain medical procedures for elective surgery, etc., and while there are definitely problems, my experience here has been, on the whole, positive.  The staff at our clinic is competent, professional and caring,  and of course, it's all free.  I got prescribed some medicine and was given a number of exercises to get things back to normal, though one of the side effects of the medicine mimics the condition it's supposed to alleviate and the exercises cause you, at first,  to re-experience the vertigo and  nausea in strong bouts until things get regulated again.  In short, it's gonna take time, getting back to what for me is 'normal'..

What has all this got to do with dubious meatballs or prisons, known and otherwise?

Well, it came from  the book I took with me to the clinic--an old paperback from the '70s that I'd grabbed from the bookcase as I left the house.  I love Graham Greene's writing   Later, sitting on the black plastic chair in Waiting Room A, along with now only 37 other fellow 'waiters', I settled into the story of Maurice Castle, and the dubious meatball reference made me smile, took my mind off, completely,  the scene at hand, the dizziness and nausea.

Greene's protagonist, a 62-year-old government employee (er, spy), in conversation with a bachelor colleague, is commenting on the benefits of marriage, one being the halving of the cost of living.

"Ah, but those awful leftovers," his friend replies, "the joint remade into shepherd's pie, the dubious meatball.  Is it worth it?"

The hours pass, the granola bar long finished, the water bottle empty, I'd now already read through a hundred pages.  I no longer noticed the time.  Words or phrases jumped out at me, peaking my interest, because they always lead to reflections, where I want to suddenly jot something down as a reminder but actually don't, then later wish I'd had.  Greene's novels are full of such little verbal attention grabbers. 

The days of the guerrilla had returned, daydreams had become realities.  Living thus with the long familiar, he felt the security that an old lag feels when he goes back to the prison he knows.

Re: a mother, rearranging her sick child who's sprawled out on the bed ,so as not to wake him:  She handled his body with the carelessness of an expert.

". . . blue, serene, unshockable eyes."

"Flippancy was like a secret code, of which he didn't possess the book."

"He felt like a man who was departing into a long exile, and who looks back from the deck of a ship at the faint coastline of his country as it sinks below the horizon."

"Scruples of cleanliness grew with loneliness like the hairs on a corpse."

And random bits of information, like the fact that aflatoxin, a mold produced when peanuts go bad, is a highly toxic substance that can kill liver cells.  A discussion ensues where one fictional character describes the reactions in animals and humans, hinting of its potential use for eliminating a suspected mole, ending with the less determined of the two voicing an uncomfortable:   "Sometimes, Emmanuel, you give me the creeps."

I'm thoroughly enjoying a re-read of an old, barely-held-together paperback from a stack of former reads I can't seem to part with.  So different from that other, recently published action-packed, overdialogued, predictably formulaic novel I devoured a few weeks ago trying to make long hours on several buses pass more quickly.

An aside (and example of the morphed 'whatever' melange)--I was noticing on EBay this morning  that within the same price range, original artworks that were especially accomplished, technically proficient and aesthetically appealing, often had no bidders (none!), while some silly comical avatar or hasty squiggle that could have been done by a four year old, of say, a purple fish with a gigantic mis-shaped eyeball, had 7 people bidding for it.  Go figure.  No accounting for taste, in art or reading, what's popular and what's "real" this or that, everything an individualized  'Perceived'.'  Which grammatically you're not supposed to do--make verbs into nouns.  But if you can say "That's a given" or "That's a go", why can't one say, "That's a Perceived?"

"I'm more of a cod," one character says in The Human Factor.     "Don't talk to me about cod," says his conversation partner, who prefers trout.  I tried to imagine what characteristics one must possess (or not possess) in order to view oneself as a cod.  Anyway, I will end with another little passage that chased the sickness away while in the clinic's waiting room, in the seventh hour before they finally called my name: 

The protagonist is at the bookseller's, to whom he turns to have books recommended for reading.

"Recommend me something to read that isn't about war," he says.

"There's always Trollope," says the bookseller.   (Another small smile escapes.  I was soooooooooo into the story at this point, ha ha.)

According to Wiki, this novel focuses 'on the psychological burdens of the pawns in the game, doubt and paranoia bred by a culture of secrecy, the sophisticated amorality of the men at the top, and above all, loyalties'.

Pawns in the game.  Doubt.  He was being played, this aging bureaucrat.  As perhaps we all are, questioning being the first sign of awakening.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Glass, Wall and Road

Recent trip pics. 
Downtown Toronto, from the upper-deck window of the Megabus.
 It took us 45 minutes just to get out of the city, due to traffic.

It takes approximately 1 hr 42 min by car from Toronto to Buffalo,
but due to traffic and long wait at the border,
(processing over 100 people, one by one,
in line behind two buses waiting ahead of us),
we got in four hours later than expected.

Mural on Main Street (theatre district),
Buffalo, New York

Into the Pennsylvania mountains
no more glass city
no more brick walls
only road

Sunday, October 6, 2013

geese going


                                    That time of year again.
                                          They honk goodbye.
                                                 Another leaf dislodges itself
                                                            from the yellow birch tree,
                                                                    sails past on its way to 
                                                                             the ground.

                                               Ah, Autumn.
                                                        Awe . . .  again.

 "To Life"

 late turners, these
green leaves are stronger,
leave later,
 last longer  -

not unlike
late bloomers, who
 need more time to ponder,
get there slower,
hang on, to hang onto

 Time cycles replaying - Look,
another year, and 
         you're still here,
    to see,

to Be.

Friday, September 20, 2013


J'ai lancé un autre site -
moments de plaisir dans l'expérimentations de l'art

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Peat Fire

Photographer: Carl Purcell

The Peat Fire  (Considering Seamus Heaney)

I don't know what I expected--
a smell of old and strange earth
so unexpected, so strong
that my very eyes would tear up
my heart tumescent with
thunderstruck recognition
that here, now, I was reunited
with that from where I
through my ancestors sprang
those centuries ago,
here, now, in the land itself
hinted at in my mother's maiden name.

But none of that happened--
the fire whispered,
warming the room
indifferent to my disappointment,
its slight scent joining the others
in the warming air,
as I joined my cousins,
commonly descended from this,
here, now, our
words in flattened, modern accents
our thoughts recognizing only
that the only recognition
possible, desirable,
here, now,
was that of our humanity 
Thunder Bay, Ontario


I first discovered the poetry of retired literacy instructor/freelance writer Peter Fergus-Moore by following a link on Tom Montag's blog.  One of Peter's poems, as well as one of Tom's, will be featured in the upcoming September issue of Salamander Cove, around mid-month.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wall Flower

Saw today, on a wall at the side of a private residence
on a street downtown where we were lucky enough to find a parking spot
on the way to the Festival of Fall Delights at the Parc Portuaire.