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Spring Is Here

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The first poppy has appeared in my back yard.

first poppy209

Photo and Poem

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Actually, the poem came first.  The photo is an illustration.  It shows approximately the view through the window by my desk, which inspired the poem.

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Rest

Rock walls bound my back yard,
the gray of weathered wood
or a sensible suit, the no-color
of dust on the long disused.
At first, planting my garden,
I thought the walls dull, conceived
a plan to paint their flat stones
southwest yellow or Mexican red.

My limited skill prevented me
from adding such loud color.
The company of a young tree,
tall grasses, suits this border;
I’d have ruined a place of rest,
the calm of gray without pretense.

 

Poem on Line

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I have a new poem on line.  It’s called “Spice Shelf” and can be found at: http://south85journal.com/issues/fall-winter-2015/poetry/spice-shelf/spiceshelf681

The poem began from a prompt: “begin with an ordinary object and see where it goes.”  Why the spice shelf came to mind, I don’t know.  When it did, I went to look at mine and had wonderful ideas about seeing the spices as dwellers in an apartment house, going in and out in yellow or green coats and keeping their passion inside.  Very little of this remained in the final poem as mundane but important matters of flavoring and feeding took over.  Spices offer a wonderful opportunity for naming colors.

South 85 Journal does a very elegant presentation of the few poems they choose for each “issue” on line.  I’m pleased to be among them.

Happy Feast of Brighid

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I thought of calling this post “Stupid Groundhog” but why be so negative?  That “Will there be six more weeks of winter?” question was meaningless back in Pennsylvania, where I knew I couldn’t get out in the garden until late March – and then only on good days.  It is equally meaningless here in the desert southwest where this is the beginning of spring.  But I suppose there must be some place where the question is worth asking.

I’ve celebrated the Feast of Brighid instead for several years now.  She is a Celtic goddess who is also a patron saint of poetry and smithcraft,  I use this date as a moment to consider what I’ve accomplished since the solstice, and ask whether there’s anything I’d like to do differently in the approximately six weeks until the spring equinox, that official start of spring.  Working for myself, I don’t have any deadlines to speak of, so a check-up point seems like a good idea.  But, since an artist never really knows where she’s going, it is all approximate.

One thing I do know.  This is the date when I realize that once again I am behind on the garden work.  So many plants should be cut back in January, I never get to them all.

Close up of rosemary branches that need to be cut back.

Close up of rosemary branches that need to be cut back.

Looking at the Sky

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I caught the almost full moon rising this past Friday.  It is a full moon in Gemini with the sun in Sagittarius.  Gemini is an air sign, Sagittarius is fire.  Air relates to ideas and intellect, Fire is energy, action.  This should be a great time for getting things accomplished like communicating, or – as one of my sources says over and over again – learning new internet skills.moon cropped

I have been following the signs, and especially their elements, for a year and a half now.  It didn’t take long to discover that because of the way the elements are assigned, there are only two full moon/sun combinations.  It’s either air and fire or earth and water.  Earth connects to all things physical, water to matters of feeling.  The moon is never full in a water sign, for instance, when the sun is in an air sign.

I’m beginning to find this structure a problem.  Why can’t we have a powerful water and air combination?  Would that mean storms, wind and rain?  Perhaps, but it would also mean that the intellect and feelings would be strong together – in other words, a combination of head and heart.

And why not air and earth?  This could be an appropriate time to apply our heightened thinking skills to the very down-to-earth problems of homelessness and hunger.  My sources suggest that the compassion of an earth/water combination should lead to this.  It hasn’t happened so far.  I guess we’ll have to solve these critical problems without the aid of the stars.

Some Words and their Innuendos

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Warning: This post gets political.  As we approach July 4, a couple of words have struck me with unusual force.

July 4 Parade, 2013

July 4 Parade, 2013

“Democracy and capitalism have both been hacked.”  Al Gore writes this in The Future, his current book.  I realize it is the first time I’ve seen “hacked” in serious writing without reference to computers.  So the elites who, whether from greed or ignorance, want to preserve the status quo are “hackers”?

Dictionary.com gives the original meaning of “to hack” as “to cut, notch, slice, chop, or sever (something) with or as with heavy, irregular blows.”  From this, it is clear that computer hackers were seen as cutting or chopping into (or breaking and entering) computer files.

The statement about democracy and capitalism, then, seems to mean that certain parties are bent on destroying the very structures that have made it possible for them to get where they are.  Like Jack, cutting off the beanstalk from above.  Being in the clouds may distort the perspective.

The second word example is a pair of words.  The word “iniquity” appeared in one of today’s scripture readings; it was a passage from that difficult book , the Letter to the Romans.  The reader did not pronounce the word quite clearly enough: it came to my ear as “inequity.”  What a difference a single vowel makes!  It turns out, however, that while “iniquity” is taken usually to mean wrong-doing, and “inequity” has to do with a lack of equality, both go back to the same root―Latin for not equal―and the base meaning for both is a lack of fairness.

Many of us, especially those in the middle or at the bottom economically, know that structural inequity is iniquitous. How could one make that vivid to those who have not been paying attention?

And how do you stop hackers who are supported by the Supreme Court?

Tanka on Childhood

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Our dolls and bears
bicker and pout
as we play our way
toward understanding
adult antagonisms.

This tanka is for Sally.  It was sparked by the discovery, last year, of letters from our childhood.  We wrote to each other about the adventures of our stuffed animals, of which we each had a whole community. I put the poem of this long ago experience in the present tense because I hope it continues to be part of children’s growing up.bear party

The picture shows a gathering of my bears and dolls, my brothers’ bears, and my cousin Linda’s bears and dolls.  I have been trying to remember whether she came to our house or we went to hers to create this version of “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.”  I’m thinking the chairs must be ours, because my cousin had no siblings, but I don’t recall.  An interesting case of what we remember and what we forget.  And the way photographs both help and confuse the issue.

Playing with the Tradition

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I’ve been doing practice exercises from Mary Kinzie’s The Poet’s Guide to Poetry, a big, thick book full of good information about the effects of rhyme, rhythm, stanzas and repetition.  It has a short set of suggested exercises in the back which are particularly good for someone like me who has resisted rhyme (end rhymes, that is) and meter in my own work.

One of her exercises, however, is called “Linked Form Using Lines by Another.”  By “linked forms” she intends any of those forms which use repeated lines, such as the pantoum, triolet or villanelle.  I may have overdone things by creating a triolet using lines from two others.  You will probably recognize the two different sources:

Thank you god for most this amazing day.
It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil
in a Greek press.  Grey dawn filtered each ray
with thin clouds that thickened slow.  I say
thank you, God―for most this amazing day
has filled to spilling our wells, our spirits, our soil.
Thank you god for most this amazing day.
It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil.

It seems to me that this device is rather like a musician doing variations on a theme by one of his or her predecessors.  It is a sign of appreciation of the other’s work.  It doesn’t happen as much in writing.juniper

We had a day today that showed signs of spilling out rain for our wells and our soil, but there was barely enough to settle the dust for a bit.  Summer is when we get our good rains.  And in this sunny desert, those are the days that have a greatness to them.

Another Step on the Way

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The Bridge Outside Paley's Door

The Bridge Outside William Paley’s Door

Today I submitted the corrections for the printer to the publisher for Made and Remade, my book responding to William Paley and his Natural Theology.  The cover is in process and I hope to have an image of that soon.

Paley wrote:  “suppose I had found a watch upon the ground . . . the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker . . . .”   His book presents his case for creation by design, based on the intricacies of eye, ear, and other parts of the body and of nature.

My poems respond in many ways, including these thoughts on Paley’s watch, from “Time Past, Time Present”:

What’s the time on Paley’s watch?
Without hands it would still be
a watch.  It’s mechanism matters
to him: springs and metal, not hours,
minutes.  His present so long
past, timeless in comparison
with ours, has he a gift for the now
in which we’re timebound?

The realization of how different Paley’s sense of time and the watch were from mine was one of the moments that made my dialogue with his writing so interesting to me.

Poetry in Las Cruces, February 22

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Do you remember when we celebrated Washington’s birthday on February 22?  This year February 22 is Poetry Day in Las Cruces, as one of the For Love of Art events that fill the month.  We are calling it “For Love of Lit.”

Where: Branigan Cultural Center, Swarz Room

When: 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 22.

Eleven local poets will read their work: Dick Thomas, LeeAnn Meadows, Frank Varela, Christine Eber, Tim Staley, Ellen Roberts Young, John Muir, Joanne Townsend, Gerry Stork, Sarah Nolan, and Joseph Somoza.

Come hear a variety of voices and styles, in celebration of the art of poetry.

Dick Thomas reads at the event in 2013.  Photo by Susan Gomez

Dick Thomas reads at the event in 2013. Photo by Susan Gomez

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