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.