Saturday, May 31, 2014

To Be Like the Blackbird

a red wing blackbird clings
to a slender blade of grass
swaying to the syncopation
of a steady wind

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Benign Bear

Because I walk the same route day after day I notice change-- a new mushroom, polypores clinging to tree trunks, flowering weeds, tramped down areas, turtles emigrating to the pond.

The time of day, the slant of the sun, and the shadows alter what I observe.

Today I spotted a bear. Not a soft cuddly bear. Not a bear with one paw in a honey pot.

I walked up an incline to take a closer look at a four foot high wood carved bear.An anonymous artist added a bit of whimsy to a rather ordinary slope.

Surprises-- life's full of them.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

An Allegory

Did I mention that I'm back on the Red Sox bandwagon? Suddenly they are battling for runs. The team has developed a chemistry and they are fun to watch.

What type of fan am I? A real fan doesn't lose interest when everything seems to be going south.

Is the ability to stay the course, to believe in someone even when they err something that's an inborn trait? Is it part of our DNA?

I like the team when they are winning and lose interest when they are mired in a losing pattern. Is this a character fault?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's on the Menu

the calendar's going backwards,
spring stopped in for a few days--
winter hung out waiting to return,
now it's time to move beyond
cold rain and hot soup
let's feast on gazpacho

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


The building needed repairs, the boiler strained to heat the sanctuary, and the exterior needed paint. And the number of active parishioners dwindled down to thirty or forty.

It's a neighborhood church and twelve years ago we decided to stay in our town and attend a local church within walking distance. From the beginning the fit wasn't right, but we stayed for sixteen months.

The minister, from Zimbabwe, was a mixture of Southern gospel and African charisma. Praise and Worship services late Sunday afternoon drew a larger crowd. Amens and Hallelujah, raised arms.

Tonight I passed the glass case right outside of the church: CHURCH CLOSED, THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES.

We left because it really wasn't the right church for us, but I learned a great deal about faith in that church.


praise songs, syncopated hymns
projected on a white screen
jesus, jesus
oh yes jesus, hands raised
swaying as the refrain picks
up momentum, oh yes jesus

emmanuel bawa came from zimbabwe
and said i’ll tell you a story

there was a man, a poor man
a man so poor that he stole a chicken
one day someone whispered
pay me a dollar of your pay
but i’m a poor man
oh poor man—remember the chicken
the poor man paid
and he paid
remember the chicken
just you remember the chicken
at night the chicken
appeared like a ghost
the poor man lay locked in the dark
until dawn then went to his boss
i am a poor man who stole a chicken
his boss listened hard
he heard the man’s body bend
with the words remember the chicken

the minister from zimbabwe
stopped his words
held his story cupped in his hands

now the poor man waited
unable to look up from his feet
what you did was wrong
the poor man waited
like a man already knowing
will you do it again
the poor man shook his head
go back to work and i will
forget the chicken
still the poor man waited
you’re forgiven, go back to work

at the end of the day
the other man whispered
where is my dollar
the poor man walked away

the words remember the chicken
shadowed the man

the minister
from zimbabwe
held his hands together,
his voice shook the pipe organ

the poor man turned
and spoke quietly
i don’t have to remember the chicken

the minister from zimbabwe
stepped out of the story
raised his arms
praise God
oh praise God

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Is peace a word that isn’t in our lexicon?
How many years must we add names to town memorials?

You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.
Jeannette Rankin

Sunday, May 25, 2014


I recently heard an actor say that he resided in nostalgia.

Yet as Virginia Wolff noted--memory is unreliable. As our perspective changes our memories alter.

Doris Lessing posed the question-- why is memory so selective ? She wasn't referring to cataclysmic events or those events we desire to repress.

Given that memory, an illusive presence that hides as well as reveals, leaves out so much it cannot be fully trusted.

We weave together a patchwork, snippets of recall, a sampler of the past. A fictive past emerges spun with the woof and waft of imagination.

So to reside in nostalgia, to be homesick for the past, may be to engage in wrapping memories in the swaddling blanket of fictive autobiography.

Yet, nostalgia no longer carries a stigma. It is no longer associated with feelings of melancholy.

John Tierney reported in a 2013 New York Times article about recent research, " people tend to have a healthier sense of self-continuity if they nostalgize more frequently..."

So live forward, but it's fine to stop and reside in nostalgia.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Red Sox, May 2014

You're losing in a thousand different ways. If it isn't the pitcher, it's the offense. Last year everything went your way. This year you can't buy good luck, a lucky chance, a call that goes your way. The karma left and all that remains is a threadbare jacket that hangs too loose on your shoulders.

You wonder where it's gone, whether we'll keep hanging out with you or slink away.

Think of yourselves as a metaphor for life. When you climb that mountain it seems as if you found a comfortable perch. Then there's a tremor, loose pebbles, worn out treads, and you start slipping down. Soon you're on the bottom looking up and the top seems so high and far away. Besides that all the other climbers are almost out of sight.

The only thing you can do is pick yourself up and start climbing.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Openings and Underlinings

I just read an article about someone's shelf of poetry books and journals. Rather than spin out a litany of titles he referred to where the book opened up-- almost on its own.

That sent me upstairs to my own shelves of poetry. Would any of my books open to a favorite or to a poem I returned to over and over?

How many books take up space-- rarely opened after the first reading?

I had underlined a line in Linda Pastan 's poem " Meditation" We grow in such haphazard ways.

Now that's a line I could use as an epigram.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I Hear You, I See You

Why purchase any electronic device when it becomes obsolete the moment you walk out of the store? I like to be on the cutting edge and that's not possible. Actually I am unaware of that edge.

Do I really want glasses that connect me to the Internet? If I did, I missed an opportunity in 2013. Google extended a chance for 8,000 residents of the United States to try the glasses. There was a $1500 fee.

I imagine these glasses might be perfect for those who eavesdrop.

Low tech: I overheard a woman at a Verrill's Farm say to her friend, " Concord has too much nature for me."

My only regret-- I wasn't quick enough to take out my ITouch and sneak a candid photo.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Staff of Life

I received a zine from an English artist —titled Barmpot. If you're English then you know that a barmpot is a silly person.

But a barm is also a specific type of bun—round, soft bread—often with a dusting of flour.

In Australia rather than calling someone a barmpot you might say, "he's a nong". According to an Australian dictionary it's a mild and /or endearing insult. Someone who is foolish or incompetent may be a "nong".

Barmpot may also allude to the pot "in which barmcakes are baked, stored or kept wam."

I couldn't find a local bakery selling barms, but I did find a recipe and another linguistic discovery. Soft, floury bread is often called baps.

With a bit more digging I discovered a litany of English names for bread varieties: bloomers, cobs, cottage loaves, Kenish huffkins, Sally Lunns, stotie cakes, buttery rowies.

Karen Booth, a food blogger from England, writes—"...we have over 200 types of bread in Britain."

Britain celebrates National Bread week every April.

We have National Escargot Day May 24th.
National Vinegar Day June 16th
National S'More Day August 21st

And the list goes on and on—but the closest we come to Britain's celebration of bread occurs on April 1st when we honor Sourdough Bread.

National Sourdough Bread Day unfortunately is an "unofficial" national holiday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Problem With Words

I must be getting old or too old for some of what I read on the Internet?

Am I a fossil because I think that the English language contains a plethora of words to describe myriad situations?

On Sunday I drove into Harvard Square and found myself mired in gridlock. At some point, because of my hesitancy, I missed the green light and inherited the lead car position when the traffic light turned red. To my right a street fed into Mass Ave. The drivers and their cars all poised and ready to sprint-- lest I showed any glimmer of indecision.

Just then the sound of a fire engine pierced the sound barrier.

"Where was this behemoth?"

We looked in the rear view mirror, but saw nothing?

Then I heard someone yell, "Move your f---ing car."

I moved. After the fire engine passed and the remaining din consisted of several honks and a few screeched brakes a car, going way too fast, wove in and out of traffic yelling, " Get your.....out if here."

The language he used made the first shout pale by comparison.

Now an acquaintance, who loves science, posts items on a website called I love f---ing science.

Maybe I'm a prude or worship at the feet of the OED.

Monday, May 19, 2014


If I'm my brother's keeper
I'll need to keep up with the news.
And it doesn't look good.

Then there's grace.
Grace bypasses headlines.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Memory fills my body
as much as blood and bone.
The Testament of Mary Colm Toibin

I step into them each day
and they linger
in dreams. They wait
for a chance to
retell their story.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sweet Memory

Over dinner four of us began to recall how things differed in the 1980s. Those were the days when it was an act of treason to the feminist movement to shave your legs. Capitulating to the male establishment.

Now nobody considers the act of shaving tantamount to giving in to the titans of capitalism, who create needs that only their products will assuage.

We have been tamed, assimilated, and dress appropriately. Gone are the days of heavy work boots, or a dress tweed jacket. I held on to my jacket for years-- too short, too tight, and no longer in style. I loved the elbow pads.

What happened to those ubiquitous buttons that stated Question Authority?

Friday, May 16, 2014


One hummingbird
frenetic in his mid-air ballet
disturbed the languid air

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Sometimes I hit my golf ball
long and far —for me,
other times it drags along
the ground like an earthworm,
sometimes I draw a tree
and you recognize the type,
other times my tree resembles
a stick with protrusions

it’s that illusive consistency

sometimes I sit down to write
and everything falls into place,
other times I worry each word
and wonder where I’m going
and the chances of my getting there

intermittent reinforcement
keeps me trying—for
one long drive off the tee box,
one birch tree that doesn’t
resemble a stalk of bamboo,
one good sentence
that sings

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Did the two Canadians who came up with the idea of Trivial Pursuit anticipate the wild popularity of the board game?

In 1984 Americans purchased over twenty million Trivial Pursuit games— a phenomenon—akin to the hula hoop sales of twenty-five million in the first four months of production.

In 1984 I couldn't find one Trivial Pursuit game in the Boston area. I bought a game in Philadelphia for scalper's rates.

Everyone became a trivia fanatic. You learned American social history simply by osmosis —or memorizing some of the cards.Who knew that The Perils of Pauline, 1933, was a remake of a silent twelve episode silent film? Or who knew the name of the author of Bring 'Em Back Alive?

Some of the questions scraped the bottom of trivia possibilities. I never knew any of the television questions.

One of my favorite questions—"What did Walter Raleigh's wife carry in her bag for twenty-nine years?"

The answer—her husband's embalmed head. After Sir Walter was beheaded his body was buried save for his head. His wife, Elizabeth Throckmorton, kept his head in a red leather bag. When she died their son became the caretaker of the head. The story continues. Eventually the head is returned to its rightful owner.

It wasn't that Sir Walter Raleigh received specialized treatment. The embalming of the head of someone beheaded and the subsequent presentation of the head to the wife was a common practice in the early 1600s.

Of course there's still speculation about where the head really resides.

All this knowledge gleaned from a game—and a little reading.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


When a group of people selected the loveliest words in the English dictionary cacophony didn't make anyone's list. Actually it is on one list— the list of Literary Devices.

As a writer, if you use strong abrupt words that jar and have dissonant sounds and create an uncomfortable setting then you are utilizing the literary device of cacophony.

If you contrast the loveliest sounding words with a list of harsh, ugly sounding words— then cacophony is often selected, as is unctuous.

Yet, cacophony—with its hard k sounds—is the only word to describe the flock of wild turkeys. I don't know if a rafter of domesticated turkeys carry on in the same loud rambunctious manner.

This morning six turkeys—four males—settled down in front of our house. Even with the windows closed their sounds penetrated into every room.

A cacophony.

Monday, May 12, 2014


You're here
and then gone
Maybe you leave
a footprint

In time you'll
be on a family tree

So while here
stomp around

Leave prints

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Whitman's Sampler

Mother's Day. Do we really know the history behind Mother's Day—before Hallmark got into the picture? According to a National Geographic article ," It was founded for mourning women to remember fallen soldiers and work for peace."

It wasn't always roses and pretty cards? It's now about 133 million cards annually.

My father always bought my mother a box of Whitman's Chocolate Sampler—with a wide variety of possible choices—and a card. He purchased the box at our local pharmacy. This was an era before Whitmans sold light chocolates and Weight Watcher's Chocolates.

This was the same pharmacy we went to when something happened to the television.

My father put all the television tubes in a brown bag and we tested each tube on machine that was in the front of the store. When we found the bad tube we purchased a good tube and that usually fixed the problem. Occasionally the pins needed a cleaning.

If you got something in your eye—which always happened to me—the pharmacist took it out with a cue tip.

I once convinced my father to buy a small box of Godiva chocolates. My mother, reared on Whitmans, missed the Sampler Box.

You shouldn't tamper with what works. Mom, you're not here now, but I did love sharing that box with you. I recall how we figured out which chocolates contained the cherries, the coconut, the solid chocolate , the carmel. It didn't take us very long to go through a box.

But we only did that once a year. Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Continued Story

To want something isn't always a selfish desire, nor is it always an altruistic one. It hovers between some rather complex needs.

If I listed all my wants and then arranged them in some sort of order I'd probably find that I needed categories. How can one mix a want of a micro pen that is waterproof, doesn't skip, and rarely clogs with a desire to be a consistent golfer?

How do I create a hierarchy of wants when the issues are bigger than a bread box and out of my control?

Then the personal wants require their own page—they too may be out of my control—but it doesn't alter seeing them as wants.

I think you can't get stuck, refuse to move on, wipe the dust off your sandals.

Some wants you treat like touchstones—checking in on them and then moving on. Familiar, like a canker sore that you keep checking with your tongue. To feel its rawness reminds you that the want is real, palpable, and still able to sting.

And that may be enough.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Art Mimics Life

"Draw slow."
" Notice every detail."
" Leave nothing out."

The assignment: draw your kitchen, or part of the kitchen.
My first inclination--put everything away.

That stainless steel teapot-- how will I show the sheen?

It's a metaphor. Hide what you don't want to see. Move impediments. Clean up and only show the best side.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

On Drawing

The sketchbook assignment -- draw an animal, live or stuffed. At first I thought of going to a museum where I might find some accurate replicas . I imagined myself drawing a wooly mammoth or saber toothed tiger.

Growing up in New York City I often visited the American Museum of Natural History. I still recall the Hall of African Mammals where the artists who constructed the dioramas used molds of leaves and bark to increase the accuracy of the landscape.

The display of dinosaurs captured my imagination. I remember one scene of a meat eating dinosaur attacking a herbivore.

Instead of selecting a museum where my drawing skills might garner the attention of a group of school age children, I chose to draw a local animal.

A small herd of Belted Galloway cows reside on a farm two towns away. Growing up in a city, my experience with cows falls on the limited side of the scale. I like the cows I encounter on Ben & Jerry ads.

I thought that Galloways might be easier to draw since they have a distinctive belt of white around their midsection. Some people refer to them as Oreo cows.

No matter how many times I erased the face and redrew the face it never resembled a cow's face. At first it had a human look and later on it took on the likes of a large dog's face. One ear did come close to looking bovine.

The body, I thought, came closer to a cow like contour although the hoofs turned out to look like spats. In fact on close examination the cow appeared to wear trousers.

I think I'd do better drawing a mouse or a ladybug.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


A slim space between needs and wants. When you have what you need then it's easy to begin to see some of your wants as needs.

Once a week the Wall Street Journal has a section aptly named Mansions. It's where you see photos of kitchens that cost more than most houses,closets that include lounge chairs, wine bars, and televisions.

Indoor and outdoor pools, as well as indoor and outdoor kitchens are necessities. People buy and sell houses for twenty or thirty million dollars. Now their needs and my needs differ.

I'm always amazed when I read of a five bedroom house with ten bathrooms.

Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester, believed that evil spirits were loosened by the death of people shot with Winchester repeating rifles. The death of her husband and child convinced her that evil spirits haunted her and her family.

Sarah relied on the advice of psychics and it was that advice that set her out on her building plans. The spirits would help with the building. For the good spirits the house meant a place to rest. The construction would befuddle the evil spirits,

She began construction in 1884. Rooms, built and rebuilt, staircases that led nowhere, staircases with steps with two inch risers,twisting hallways that created a labyrinth difficult to navigate, windows that opened to walls.

The house is now a museum with tours and a warning not to wander because finding your way back might take hours. Over 600 rooms were constructed and remodeled, " dismantled or sealed over. Only 160 rooms remain. "

Upon the completion of a room Mrs. Winchester attended to the decor.

From The Winchester Mystery House publication : " one craftsman worked for thirty-three years doing nothing but building, installing, and tearing up the parquet floors."

The construction went on for thirty-eight years-- continuously, day and night. According to the material available at the house, Mrs. Winchester believed that she was providing a place for the spirits to visit so that they would do no harm.

She lived alone, but servants and workmen as well as her long time foremen were in the house.

According to some stories she never slept in the same bedroom two nights in a row.

Sarah Winchester's reasons for the building project seem a bit absurd , but they made sense to her. I wonder what reasons the owners of the modern day mansions give for their needs?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Your Choice

                           It will be new

whether you make it new
or not

   --Alice Fulton, Poetry

I found the lost postcard under several bills, six one cent postage stamps, and a note to myself.

The poetry lines are neither like a koan or inscrutable.

Choice. We can choose to see, or wear blinders. What we do will not change the truth or the words.

New. Primordial. Birth.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Ordinary Marvels

Poetry magazine sent me a postcard with a quotation and a request to subscribe. I saved the postcard because the words, like a koan, appeared both enigmatic and clear.

The gist of this preamble-- the postcard, although saved, is now lost.

While I don't remember the exact wording I do recall the essence of the words. The poet spoke of everything, whether object or experience, as always new. No matter how often you pick up the coffee mug, or read the newspaper, or travel the same road, or engage in repetitive tasks, they are always new.

If I fail to recognize how every moment, each person, every thing seen or heard, is different and new -- I miss out on the wonder, mystery, and often the inexpressible.

Eugene Peterson wrote, " The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this very day... "

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunday Breakfast Out

If you don't do something on a regular basis then you miss out on the pleasure of playing hooky. There's something seductive about changing direction, taking a holiday, creating change.

Change, that necessity for growth, allows for replenishment. It creates the time needed to miss something, but it also acts as an impetus.

Sometimes I need to clear my plate so that I can see the design imprinted on the plate.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

A Birthday Celebration

did we always speak of
what to eliminate from our diets?
did we always follow the
latest news about supplements?
did we always wear step counters
to make certain we walked
the correct number of steps a day?

when did we all begin to read
about strength training and flexibility?

Friday, May 02, 2014

Back in Time

Until I received an email telling me that an acquaintance had an article in the latest issue of Sinister Wisdom, I thought that journal had disappeared years ago. Without a women's bookstore nearby it's easy to lose track of what's still being published.

I ordered one issue.

It came yesterday and I put on my Birkenstocks, sat down and read. A strong feminist perspective in each article propelled me back in time—to a time when my poem appeared in Sinister Wisdom. Not knowing who might pick up the magazine and working in a public school, I published the poem using my first and middle name.

So many of us moved away from radical feminism—we sought assimilation.

After reading a number of articles I realized that I want to order a subscription because I love the edge some of the writers bring to their pieces.

My poem appeared in a 1988 fall issue—twenty-six years ago. I'd like to submit another poem under my full name.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Oh to Celebrate

On Saturday, California celebrates their first ever California Bookstore Day. Ninety independent bookstores- " across 80 zip codes"-- plan to celebrate with store wide parties, readings, prizes, trivia games, performances, and I expect some store will even ask patrons to dress up as a favorite character.

Also on Saturday people across the globe celebrate World Labyrinth Day. Everyone close to a labyrinth is invited to walk at 1:00pm "joining others across the globe to create a wave of peaceful energy washing across time zones."

The organizers realize that not everyone is close to a labyrinth or able to participate so they suggest other ways to participate. One way-- " Walk or trace a finger labyrinth on paper or using a tablet or smartphone."

Practically everything has a day of celebration. If you don't want to celebrate Labyrinth Day and you 're too far away for California Bookstore Day and the weather is pleasant try Garden Meditation Day.

Also in the month of May--Roast Leg of Lamb Day, Lost Sock Memorial Day.

One of my favorites-- National Pi Day. In 2009 " The House of Representatives" supported the designation of March 14 as National Pi Day.

 Pi Day originated at the San Francisco Museum. In fact some of the staff began "celebrating Pi Day in 1988. "  What was initially a small gathering has ballooned into a "Pi" procession. According to an article on the CNN web site, Everyone taking part gets a number from 1-9 and they " line up in the order of pi's digits: 3.14159265... The day ends at the "Pi" shrine-- a Pi symbol with digits spiraling around it embedded in the sidewalk, which was unveiled last year."

Princeton University makes a day of  it starting with a reading by a physicist, a walking tour of Einstein's neighborhood, a pizza- pie making contest, and a pie eating contest.

Not to be accused of being frivolous there are a number of serious events. If you spent the year memorizing digits you can participate in a contest. " The winner among 7-13 year olds can take home a cool Pi-hundred, $314.15."

9000 people participated in events.

MIT celebrates at 3:14 pm with a plethora of Pi activities.

There's even a site on Facebook called : The Only Pi Day of Our Lives-- Saturday March 14,  2015. The entire explanation is on their Facebook page. Only one person seems to post, but hundreds of people comment.

Days receive their designations when the House or Senate sponsor the day or week or month. We just finished Poetry Month. New rules now limit each member of the House to only two resolutions a year.

Of interest...

S.Res.295- A resolution expressing the support for the designation of October 20, 2013, as the National Day of Writing.

The senate considered and passed the resolution without any amendments.
Unanimous Consent.

Perhaps this can grow as popular as Pi Day.