{pf: unable, for a moment, to see the world cancelling itself}

Arise, Go Down

It wasn’t the bright hems of the Lord’s skirts
that brushed my face and I opened my eyes
to see from a cleft in rock His backside;

it’s a wasp perched on my left cheek. I keep
my eyes closed and stand perfectly still
in the garden till it leaves me alone,

not to contemplate how this century
ends and the next begins with no one
I know having seen God, but to wonder

why I get through most days unscathed, though I
live in a time when it might be otherwise,
and I grow more fatherless each day.

For years now I have come to conclusions
without my father’s help, discovering
on my own what I know, what I don’t know,

and seeing how one cancels the other.
I’ve become a scholar of cancellations.
Here, I stand among my father’s roses

and see that what punctures outnumbers what
consoles, the cruel and the tender never
make peace, though one climbs, though one descends

petal by petal to the hidden ground
no one owns. I see that which is taken
away by violence or persuasion.

The rose announces on earth the kingdom
of gravity. A bird cancels it.
My eyelids cancel the bird. Anything

might cancel my eyes: distance, time, war.
My father said, Never take your both eyes
off of the world, before he rocked me.

All night we waited for the knock
that would have signalled, All clear, come now;
it would have meant escape; it never came.

I didn’t make the world I leave you with,
he said, and then, being poor, he left me
only this world, in which there is always

a family waiting in terror
before they’re rended, this world wherein a man
might arise, go down, and walk along a path

and pause and bow to roses, roses
his father raised, and admire them, for one moment
unable, thank God, to see in each and
every flower the world cancelling itself.

“Arise, Go Down” from The City In Which I Love You. Copyright © 1990 by Li-Young Lee.


Poetry Friday today is hosted at Reflections on the Teche.

{robin’s song: reprise}

robin’s song

“to the artist, to make the most of time”

a little bird once laid on me
intelligence in four short words
“be here right now.” philosophy
astonishing if not absurd –

we’re always Here. we’re always Now,
but humans linger in the past
endless Regretfuls we allow
to turn Today to overcast

so mindfulness in pithy phrase
may Zen-pretentiousness suppose,
but practice it – the mind’s malaise
will fade to nothing, decompose

friend Robin sang and told a True
I strive for all my waking days:
“take risks! make messes! and pursue
both Love and Art, without delay.”

I carry the card I received from Robin Smith at the end of April, and read it from time to time. “Are you writing?” she asked. That’s how she ended every note, email, or card. Am I writing? Yes. It’s hard some days, and I think, The market is so weird right now; I’m not going to sell this, no one wants to hear this type of life…, but that isn’t her question, is it?

Are you writing? Are you refusing to do anything but be in the moment, and put it on the page? Then, you’re doing the job.

Our Jules did Robin proud in a profoundly moving Horn Book tribute. Sometimes having the right words is itself a gift. ♥

{poetry friday: the p7 shovel gold}

When they invented the sestina, indeed, the resultant yowling by Aquitanian poets throughout Europe was no doubt noteworthy… but that was before they invented the Golden Shovel…


The Golden Shovel’s title enlarges the idea of tribute, of “shoveling” the golden bits of another poem for reuse. First, a poet takes an admired line, then, keeping the words in order, uses the words from this line as line endings in a new poem of their own creation. Finally, the poem reveals their new creation, and credits the old.

We chose the hardest poem to work with, Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Pied Beauty.” You remember the tongue-twister that you utterly failed to memorize in the seventh grade for speech class?

Yeah, that one. (What? Was it only me?):

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
        For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
        And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
        With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                Praise him.

~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877

Once I got over the shrieking horror of How am I supposed to work with compounds like ‘chestnut-falls’??? Is that one word, or two???, I began to figure out what this poem was – and what it was not. Foremost, it was not a rewrite of Hopkins’ original. In Terrence Hayes’ original poem, “Golden Shovel,” based on Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool,” (1959) he took her words and whipped them into a whole new dish. The poignancy and bravado of a nameless black boy cresting the hill of adulthood is certainly there, but he’s not leaning heavily on the bravado of school-skipping adolescents hanging out at a pool hall. Once I stopped trying to rewrite “Pied Beauty,” my process cleaned up a whole lot… though I was still tempted by it. As you can see, I took for use the first line of Hopkins’ exultant poem:

Photos via Wikipedia

lilium fatale

there blooms the lady, gaudy in her glory
as a trumpet blast. Bright freckles massed might be
music, presaging summer’s solo. Oh, to
grace a garden, now that spring is here. Does God
dream in stargazers? Let no beauty be for
gotten: strumpet striped, dewy, sunlight dappled;
dizzy, drenched, these senses! delight in all things.

   ~ after Gerard Manley Hopkins

Moving past my usual squeamishness about blank verse, with its resultant no-rules/no-brakes feeling, I wondered, next, if it was possible to add a little lightness to these poems. Oddly for a tribute form, most I’ve seen are quite serious in content. While the rules in a Golden Shovel freed me from the tyranny of end-line rhyme, I found that thematically, with this poem specifically, thematic variance was nearly impossible. (I’ll be interested in seeing how my other Sisters managed this — I could not.) I’m just not sure how else I could have used these particular lines, although the second half of the poem might have .

star talk

“we’re made of star-stuff.” this, a dazzling sendup of us all;
humanity made luminosity. great, glowy things
reactive (con)fusions, ticking like a Geiger counter,
our radiance cosmic, scintillating & original
yes, we’re stars… but, mostly quarks: odd parts in a box marked ‘spare;’
we broke the mold. we’re distinct, authentic, genuine… strange.

   ~ with genuine affection for the brilliantly strange Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

My one regret is running out of time to try for the last two lines (despite what Laura was told, the last two words constitute no challenge at all, thank you) – but maybe someday!


With such a busy month, we had zero time for collaboration, so like me, I know you’re dying to see what Sara (who is in NM with her kids just now, so may post later next week), Tricia, Laura, Kelly, & Liz are shoveling up this week between commencement, travel, and other ceremonies. Andi’s not with us this month, but we know she is reading and being filled. She will be back. More Poetry Friday goodness to dig your teeth into is found at Buffy’s Blog.

{pf: p7 attempts instruction poems}

Offensive Mugs 2

Ah, welcome, beautiful May! Now, let us go back to bed.

Another month, another Poetry Project assignment. Laura’s assignments are always bound to be a challenge, as she is a poetry teacher, and can back up her suggestions with lesson plans. This month, we were tasked with writing instruction poems relating to springtime. From my observation, ‘Things To Do’ poems are typically unrhymed lists with at most some internal rhythm, but mostly descriptive turns of phrase. They’re close enough to blank verse for me to get twitchy, so I, of course, quickly imposed some rules.

I am not the only flouter of custom, I hasten to point out. Tricia uses rhymed couplets to weave a perfect poetic circle. Sara’s stunning beauty just goes its own way entirely. October is organized by Kel, while Laura gives summer that style it so clearly lacks (swanning in at half-past July, draped in spidersilk). Liz joins in to celebrate May, while Tricia’s take is beautifully bittersweet. This month, Andi joins us in spirit.

This week, I tried to enter my Zen and not murder-flail any poor creatures to death, because the moths and mayflies, they are thick just now. Unfortunately, the first being my Zen met was a black widow which somehow joined me on the front room couch. Tech Boy dispatched this whilst giving a brief biology lecture on how to recognize venomous spiders. Right. Back to the murder-flailing.

what to do if you’re a house desirous of spring cleaning

Settle in, so doors scrape open oddly,
& windows stick. Array awkward angles
– ceiling, sills – in webs. S c a t t e r c l u t t e r b r o a d l y.
Jam junk drawers. Stir cables into tangles.

Beneath the beds, bale downy puffs of dust.
Cultivate, in corners, the crisp carapace
of beetles, long expired. Mice are a must –
a nest works best. (Tuck in two, just in case.)

Spatter grimy glass with fingerprint stamps,
& construct shapes – like clouds – in carpet stains.
Attracting arachnids, or mildew from damp
Counts as a coup in a cleaning campaign.

Today’s Poetry Friday is hosted at the heart-lifting alphabetical blog of Jama-jams Rattigan, home of the cute, and the cookie. Beware of her Tuesday posts; she will bankrupt us all.

{#npm’17: still babbling & strewing flowers}

It has been weeks since we’ve gone a week without moisture. An afternoon shower. An overnight sprinkle. A heavy mist which turns into precipitation. We drove through the much talked-reported on desert bloom. This picture was taken on the Grapevine, which was colored up and gorgeous. April showers bring May flowers, mayflies, and allergies. Not complaining though. Just shaking my head that they forecast a return of this in autumn. Wow.

Central California Driving 46

parting gifts

an ill-behaved child
el niño, with moods fractious
leaves scattered blossoms

making a play for the golden state

rain-kisses valleys
’til her hills sport team colors
poppy gold and green

A good way to close out Arbor Day weekend as well as National Poetry Month. Check in next Friday for the Poetry Seven attempting yet another assignment poem… so far it’s going… interestingly!

{#npm’17: while we’re waiting}

One of the Mr. Rogers songs I remember from when Niecelet was tiny was something along the lines of “let’s think of something to do, while we’re waiting.” A very simple song for impatient little people who want everything now – allegedly it’s a song for small children. Realistically, impatient people? Are most of us.

It’s been almost six months since Tech Boy hasn’t had full-time work. We’re blessed to be in a position that it’s okay, but it does make us more careful, which is a necessary pain. Waiting is part of the job, for him. For me, that’s the case as well – waiting to see who will say what about a manuscript. Waiting to see if I have new idea, or can finish the one I just started. Waiting to see if I can pull of this miracle one more time.

I loathe waiting.

untidy mind

awash in a sea of paper slips
my desk is discovered:
the dictates of the day
          groceries
          cumin, chamomile, mint – ?
          allergens to milk and strawberries?
retain reminders
          email Sara:
          call Dr. M
          what is cousin jupiter’s real name?
of the chaotic contents contained
a planned productivity –
administered order,
borne on the backs
of envelopes

Today, it’s cleaning off my desk. Tomorrow, my purse… Monday, the world. Or something like that.

{#npm’17: subtraction & excuses}

I realized the other day that the last book-related event I attended was… in…2010. I tend to make lightning visits to the library, I’ve missed the last two readings I was meant to attend, for reasons of illness, hailstones (no, really), and plain forgetting; I didn’t have a book out when ALA was forty minutes away, I knew the author but I didn’t quite know where I was going… The list goes on; “reasons” sounding a great deal like excuses.

I’m going to a book-related thingy today, though – because I’m being carried along by Tech Boy’s enthusiasm. I really don’t want to. And yet, I know this of myself: I hate the idea of going; the pangs of dread as I get dressed, the dismay as I accessorize, the teeth-grinding anxiety on the drive down… and usually, most of the time with rare exceptions, I find something to enjoy. Once I arrive and hit the last hurdle, forcing myself to walk through the door into a room packed with voices and people, things are fine – I’m entertained, I’m amused, I’m relieved that I went. It just takes wading through the other things my brain throws at me first.

Sometimes, it just doesn’t feel worth all of that effort, and I find myself deleting, subtracting one thing, two things, three, and soon I’ve managed to take everything away from myself. Introverts do like people and social situations, just in measured doses, so all the erasure doesn’t make me happy, either (it makes the neurotic anxious me happy though, but that’s another story). Sometimes this subtraction is just too easy to continue once you’ve started…

That Will to Divest

Action creates
a taste
for itself.
Meaning: once
you’ve swept
the shelves
of spoons
and plates
you kept
for guests,
it gets harder
not to also
simplify the larder,
not to dismiss
rooms, not to
divest yourself
of all the chairs
but one, not
to test what
singleness can bear,
once you’ve begun.

– Kay Ryan

I’m finding this goes for packing, too…