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On the Fifth Day of Christmas

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I brought some new color into my house in the form of two poinsettia plants left over at church.

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However, these two cream-colored plants are not the interesting story here.  It’s the plant in the middle that is most surprising to me.  At this time last year it was a typical red poinsettia.  The surprise is that it has continued in good health for a full year; I’ve had to trim it back a little once in a while.  In the past, I’ve been pleased if my Christmas poinsettia lasted until Easter.

I don’t know why this one lasted, but I hope it is partly that I paid more attention.  I have only this year made it a habit to check my houseplants every morning.  It has become part of my routine, while my morning tea is steeping, so I don’t forget and let them go dry.

Will I remember to report back on how the new plants do?

Happy second half of Christmas and I wish all a good new year.

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A Tanka for the Solstice

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The shortest day here has ten hours of sun, making eleven hours of daylight.

At my house the sun comes up over the mountain at 7:20 a.m., nearly fifteen minutes after the official sunrise for the city.  There is still light at 5:00 p.m.  This is a nice place to spend the winter, though it has been a bit cold lately; any day the morning temperature goes below freezing feels cold to us.

On good days I am at my desk before the sun shows up.  I watch the increasing light on my back yard tree and bushes.  Here’s what I see:

Signals on stone, light
through gaps between branches as
sun clears the mountain,
friendly wave of a morning
walker not breaking his stride.

What else do I do to honor the solstice?  I close out my summer/fall writing folder and start one for winter/spring.

The Best Stories

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As I set up the creche this week, it occurred to me, as it does almost every year, that no one has ever asked me why there are five kings.

P1010187The reason is that two sets have been combined, one we had in my childhood at home, and a second smaller one my mother got when we found ourselves in Rome for most of a year when I was twelve.

P1010183So there are not only extra kings, there are two Marys and two Josephs.  It’s interesting to note the fixed iconography of these figures.  Though their poses differ, their clothes match: Joseph in white and brown, Mary in pink and blue, with a white head covering.  And all the figures are on green bases, as if they were out in a field.

It’s easy to deal with the extra Mary and Joseph.  They become the innkeeper and his wife.  Has anyone told this story from the perspective of the Innkeeper’s wife?  I’m not aware of any, but it seems a logical extension.

P1010185The proper question then, should not be “Why are there five kings” but “Why aren’t there six?”  How did one get lost?  I have no idea.  And I wonder if anyone has ever done a story about a king getting lost (not, like Monty Python, sending them all to the wrong house).  What would become of the astrologer who read the stars differently and went off in another direction?  What might he discover?

The best classic stories offer new avenues to explore.

Time and Time Again

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Last Sunday was Christ the King Sunday.  We sang one of my favorite hymns (I admit, I have many) “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” The last verse begins, “Crown him the lord of years, the potentate of time.”

That phrase, “the potentate of time” is marvelous in sound, with its string of “t”s, its long vowels. its strong iambic rhythm.  But what is a potentate of time?  After it stuck with me awhile, I decided to explore the idea in a poem:

The Potentate of Time

As CEO, I cannot allow loss
of minutes dropped by badly
calibrated clocks, seconds

split by timers racing after
ever faster miles, or precious
nanoseconds sliced, spit out

by precision machines: all
the clumsy human attempts
to alter time.

I dispatch work crews to
sweep corners and gutters, sift
bits from curbs and drains,

bring their gathered goods into
my laboratory where skilled
artisans sort, stitch, splice.  My

expanding universe requires
recovery, repair, reuse
of every particle.

I chose to put this poem in first person in order to leave it to the reader to decide for her- or himself whether the potentate is male, female or beyond gender.

Paley front coverThis poem is included in my book, Made and Remade, which has a whole section on the theme of time, as is fitting for a collection that starts with a text 200 years old.  (More info on the Books page.)

 

Now the cycle of church seasons moves on to Advent, another year begins, and Sunday by Sunday the Christian story is told all over again.

In My Yard

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It’s nice that the weather has cooled enough to be able to spend much of the day outdoors, when other things don’t interfere.  But these pictures are about the edges of the day.

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The purple grass in late afternoon.  The heads are purple.  A splendid mix of color in the leaves, as they age at different times.

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The chamisa flowers are so bright that they seem to be catching the sun even though the sun isn’t up over the mountain yet.

‘Tis the season to catch up on weeding.  You can see I’ve made some progress around the edges of the plant — or perhaps you can’t since you don’t know what it looked like before — there’s always more to do.

Editing Sin Fronteras Journal

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The editors of Sin Fronteras Journal have read, chosen and ordered the poems and prose for Issue #24.  Due to an accident and surgery Joanne Townsend, who was one of the editors for issues #22 and #23, had to withdraw this year.  We were fortunate to have Alice Wallace step up to assist me and Frank Varela.

Alice_1023Alice is a Las Crucen who regularly participates in the open readings at Palacio Bar on the third Tuesday of each month.  Three minds seem to be the right blend to come up with a good mix of material.

The action moves over to production now, and to the choice of cover art, which is the specialty of Helen Stork and Michael Mandel.  Then the responsibility returns to the word people for proofing.  With luck, and no more accidents, the issue will be out by the end of February.

Booklover: That’s Me

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In a “one of these days we’ll have to move” mood recently, I began sorting through some folders of old poems.

I found early drafts of poems which ended up in Made and Remade, some of which I didn’t recognize until I looked up the final version.

Some of the poems in Made and Remade originally appeared in Ascent, the book I and four colleagues put together as “Five Southwestern Women Poets”  (Both of these books can be obtained from me through contact on this blog, by the way).

One poem in Ascent did not make it into the later book.  It says more about me than was fitting for the material in the book, the writing of William Paley..  It was fun to find the poem again.  It was even more fun to tighten it up – my sense of craft is stronger now than it was when this was first published.

Here’s a poet’s self-image:

Booklover

First editions, clean and jacketed?
I prefer those lived with,
lived in, a note card
slipped between pages.

I see myself in a used bookstore,
on a back shelf, loose cover,
yellow pages, among books not
classified: is it history, is it

romance, is it worth the paper
it’s printed on? The bookseller
does not come to dust.

I lean against another
volume, convinced there are
worse ends than this.

 

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