Thursday, November 1, 2012

Poems at The Blue Lyra

Many thanks to Matthew Silverman, editor at The Blue Lyra for publishing two of my poems.  The fall issue includes work by B.Z. Niditch, Yvette Moreno, and Yehoshua November.  (I don't know the artist who painted Orpheus playing his lyre near the blue-green ocean.  He's all one here before the maenads tore him to pieces.)

Vega, one of the brightest stars in the sky, is in the constellation Lyra.

Orpheus beheaded, by Redon.   

            And as they floated down the gentle current
            The lyre made mournful sounds, and the tongue murmured
            In mournful harmony, and the banks echoed
            The strains of mourning.
                                    — from Metamorphoses, Book 11 (tr. Rolfe Humphries)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Our street is under construction.  Rain washes brick dust into the street.  I doubt I could make anything as rich as these colors and shapes.

We're lucky to have new fire hydrants.  I wonder what they cost.

These marks signify something underground, something to take care not to disturb.

Is there any point to making art when there are such satisfying finds?

Yes.  I'm glad to find this artful sentence from Chekhov: "When one thinks of food, one's heart grows lighter."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Callie Crossley Interviews Photographer Melissa Shook

Melissa Shook spoke about her book "My Suffolk Downs" in a radio interview with Callie Crossley.  It was clear that Crossley had carefully read the book, and clear that Melissa Shook had made the invisible workers at the track visible.  Please tune in.

The talented Melissa without her camera.

Callie Crossley

Friday, September 21, 2012

Autumn White

'Season of mellow fruitfulness,' wrote Keats.  Mellow--we think of orange and red.  Yet there's plenty of white this time of year.   These whites seems to transcend any season: flowers, antique auto, striped crossing, Emily Dickinson's dress.   When winter comes I'll be looking for red.    

White autos are rare in New England.

Stripe on stripe.

A dress that is supposed to have belonged to Emily Dickinson.  You can see it in the family manse in Amherst.  The dress is smaller than it appears in this photo.

Here are some strong lines from Dickinson:

The Mind lives on the Heart
Like any parasite--
If that is full of Meat
The Mind is fat--

Her work always surprises me.

Crumbling is not an instant's Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation's processes 
Are organized Decays--

'Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An elemental Rust--

Ruin is formal--Devil's work
Consecutive and slow--
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping--is Crashe's law--

Time to sweep out the cobwebs!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Drawing with Melissa Shook


Melissa Shook and I have been drawing together at the dining room table.  "Parallel play," someone called it.  Play for the sake of play, without ambition, trying to do justice to the tomatoes, onions, and pear.  We never got to the potatoes.

Melissa likes to work with  pen and ink.  The lines build up and gather mass.  The color is from oil pastels.  Melissa brought a dandy set.

She's fearless with brown.

We left the porch door open.  The breeze came in.

The ball chair is good for the back.  Melissa's dog Bogie kept us company.

I was happy with onions.

Onions and a single pear.

I want to you see these marvelous tomatoes!  We ate it with dinner--the large red one.  Another friend joined us.  First big big green olives and Vovray, then corn chowder made from Rebecca Loudon's recipe, followed by the tomato with olive oil, garlic and basil, ice cream sandwiches for dessert.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bumming Around & Taking Pictures

There are few things better than bumming around.  The other day J. and I went to Mt. Auburn Cemetery.  ''It's so beautiful here," I said to J., "death doesn't seem so bad."  "I keep death and nature separate," J. answered, meaning, I believe, that sky, trees, birds were in one category and death in another.  The sky was dramatic.

Here is a tall ship sailing in stone.

Yesterday A. and I walked through Robbins Park and admired the fans hanging from the trees.

They caught the wind.

And here are a few lines about taking pictures:

Keep still! I say to children
but let cattails shake, asters shiver,
oak creak,  hawks dive,
branches crack, leaves silver,
storms rip, so the world reveals
secrets and my picture blurs.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Reflections: Honor

The reflections of cattails, trees, sky are ephemeral, discarnate, bodiless, weightless, yet accurate and delightful.  When I gaze at them, for a moment I too feel weightless--well, almost weightless.

The arbor vitae seems frosted.  Or is this juniper?  If I had crushed one of these berries to get the scent I would have known.  Juniper is unmistakable.  Sniff gin and you smell juniper.

I hope the zinnias will go on until the first hard frost.  The colors are so intense they seem hot enough to melt frost.  Red admiral butterflies are feasting on the zinnias.  (I'll try to get a picture of them.)

It's lucky to have these sights so close to home.  Classic forms in New England.  Those loops of handles are generous!

The sculpture at the base of the Town Hall flag pole have a wonderful shine.  The child's hand resting on the mother's is a familiar gesture.

There are four words carved at the base: honour, liberty, patriotism, obedience.  We hear a lot about patriotism and liberty ("freedom" is the word favored now) but hardly anything about honor or obedience.  According to Wiki, Samuel Johnson, in his A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), defined honor as having several senses, the first of which was "nobility of soul, magnanimity, and a scorn of meanness.  An elegantly written definition.  I wish our public figures possessed such honor.  Mitt Romney was dishonorable when he played up to the Birthers, who insist that Obama was not born in America,  by saying in a recent speech in Michigan, that no one asked to see his birth certificate.  

As for me, I hope to be obedient to a code of honor, and thank Samuel Johnson for his clarity.  "Scorn of meanness."  Meanness here meaning lack of generosity.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Neighborhood Pleasures

It's been far too long away--away at my desk, putting together a new book, away taking art classes with M.S., away to the pond.  A few days ago J. and I went to the Cambridge Public Library and took the elevator up to the children's floor.  There's a delightful corner with a view and a carpeted area in which to sprawl and loll with books and toys.

The carpet is sculpted.  I could feel the soft humps through my crocs.

The giant zinnias are coming into their own.  Tomorrow the magenta ones should open.  Magenta!

Turtles come up to sun themselves, always the same rocks, always their heads facing the same way.

Another neighborhood sight--a rare one in this liberal area.  I smile whenever I see it.  Why does this display give me so much pleasure?  The fixed, frozen quality, I believe, the display of foolishness.    

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Embrace on the Beach

"Coney Island"
Photo by Morris Engel

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Too Young to Die

Writer, film director, journalist Nora Ephron died at seventy-one.  Too young! I thought.  But is there any good age to die?  Do we say, 'Eighty-nine is a good age to die?'  Or forty-nine, or fifty-two?  As long as one is not screaming in agony, as long as one is getting some pleasure out of life, there is no good time to die.   June, 2012--the  cherries have been delicious this year, and with them I like to drink dry white wine.  A Graves is good.  

I am not calmed by eastern religion or friends who quote serene-sounding classical Chinese poets, who seem to accept death, not that I'm all for raging against the dying of the light in the manner of Dylan Thomas.  Rage and you burn yourself out.  

One of these Chinese poets writes that losing a tooth is a marker of mortality, a sign that you will soon die.  It will take more than a loss of a tooth to convince me I'm about to die.

And please, no one tell me after the death of an old person, 'She had a good life' or 'He lived a long life.'  Save those dull so-called reassurances for someone who can bear banality.    

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spring Beauties

I'm a sucker for red.  These roses blaze as summer gets closer.  There's no such thing as too much when it comes to flowers.  These have no perfume.  We'll have to imagine a scent--a sweet scorch.  These are Meidiland roses developed in France.

This dainty plant finds a foothold in a tightly mortised stone wall.  It doesn't need much.  Somehow it's found soil in the cracks and enough nutrients to bloom--bloom small.

Bold and dainty surprised me on my neighborhood walk.  Fresh beauty is close at hand.  Why not look?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Plumed Hats & Scarlet Cloaks

Seventeenth century artist Stefano della Bella drew this man in a plumed hat.  It would be marvelous to see men in such hats now, a change from the common baseball hat we see everywhere.  (Isn't "della Bella" the perfect name!)    

Here in Boston, in the 18th century, well-to-do men wore scarlet cloaks woven from fine wool dyed from cochineal made from the shells of an insect that feeds on cactus.  On Sunday we saw two scarlet cloaks on display at the Concord Museum.  Now in Boston men wear drab colors: gray, dark green, brown.  (I first came across the word "cochineal" in a poem by Emily Dickinson, in which she describes the arrival of a hummingbird: 'a revolving wheel of cochineal.')

Gathering insects for making cochineal.

Men wearing flamboyant clothes would probably not improve society but would make for a lively scene, a scene on the street and subway.  First we have to get people out of their cars.  Men, put on your scarlet cloaks and plumed hats and strut!