Monday, July 31, 2006

Beginning of Miracles

... the third day there was a marriage in Qana of Galilee,...and there were set there six waterpots of stone...and Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them to the brim...When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine and knew not whence it was (but the servants which drew the water knew)...This beginning of miracles did Jesus at Qana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory.... (John 2:1-11)

This is the second mistaken bombing of civilians in Qana. In 1996, the accidental bombing of a UN base there killed 105 people. Lord, we need another miracle.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


At dawn today a refugee shelter in Qana, Lebanon, was bombed, killing at least 55 people, 34 of them children. When will it stop? This is tearing me to pieces.


And then there was a gap
where my life used to be ...

The light on Chestnut Hill never dims.
I hesitate to tell the people there
that somewhere else
the sun is broken,
that somewhere else
my dad tells me
--so earnestly he could almost believe it--
that it will be alright,
that, miraculously, our building still stands,
and that he ventures home still
every once in a while,
to feed my sister's cats.

I don't tell him it's the cats
that make me cry,
that the thought of them cowered
in the stairwell,
not even meowing,
as the world's face is peeled
is all I can handle ....

--Ashraf Osman

(Please see the poem in its entirety at

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Summer, 2006 ~ Grandkids

Once upon a time we were all born,
popped out like jelly rolls...

Good morning life, we say when we wake,
...Good morning life.

--Anne Sexton

Friday, July 28, 2006

Quote of the Day

"I don't know how I ever got a Nobel Peace Prize, because when I see children die, the anger in me is beyond belief."

--Betty Williams
Nobel Peace Prize Winner

In her acceptance speech, Ms. Williams said of the violent deaths of four young people on a Belfast street, on one sunny August afternoon: " Perhaps it was the fact that one of those children was a baby of six weeks in a pram pushed by his mother made that tragedy especially unbearable. Maybe it was because the three children from one family, baby Andrew, little John and eight-year-old Joanne McGuire died in one event which also periously injured their mother Anne, that the grief was so powerful. Perhaps it was the sheer needlessness of the awful loss of life...

And we do not forget the young republican, Danny Lennon, who lost his life that day. He may have been involved in trying to shoot soldiers that day and was himself shot dead, and some may argue that he got what he deserved. As far as we are concerned, every single death in the last eight years, and every death in every war that was ever fought represents life needlessly wasted...

We know that this insane and immoral unbalance of priorities cannot be changed overnight. We also know that it will not be changed without the greatest struggle, the incessant struggle to get the human race to stop wasting its vast resources on arms, and start investing in the people who must live out their lives on this planet we share...."

(And the sad thing is, this speech was given 30 years ago.)

Someday we must take seriously the words of Carl Sandburg: "Someday there will be a war, and no one will come." Obviously that day is not today.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

IN WILLY'S HOUSE--Poetry Thursday

In a dim sparkle of light
hoarfrost in patches
hangs beadlike from cobwebs
in wet berry bushes.
The star
just left of the gate post
goes out, and a magpie
flits down the meadow.

Willy hears biscuits
rise and go in the oven,
hears sugar and nutmeg
shower into the Lumpy Dick
and purple chokecherry jam
come out for bread'n'with it.

The rasp of ashes
scraping coal bucket
makes goosebumps on his skin
as he lifts a chunk with the scuttle.

In Willy's house
there is (sometimes) a harvest
of sweet soup,
prunes, raisins, currents
boiled and spread in thick dark masses
on pancakes, with cream.
soggum candy boiled to cracking,
a harvest (sometimes) of pine nuts.
Always dried rounds of pumpkin,
potatoes, parsnips in the cellar,
long strips of salted beef
hung on the clothesline
like longjohns to dry.

After dark,
when the oil lamp burns low,
and smoke clouds the hot glass chimney,
Pa brings out the fiddle
and he plays
Hey the merry
Aye the merry
Hey the happy Mormon!
And Ma reads pages from
the Tales of A Thousand and One Nights:
Ali Baba, Sinbad the Sailor, and
Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp.

O bless me, Father,
bless me,
bless this house,
bless Pa,
bless Ma,
bless this food
that nourishes our bodies,
bless these pages and this music,
in Jesus Name,

A tallow candle
lights his way to bed,
and Willy climbs into the flannel softness
of his nightshirt,
and in the dark
(the candle blown)
he sleeps.

(From: In Willy's House). Keeping to a theme, from the previous post!


July 24th, in Utah, is always sweltering. This year the temperatures have been triple digit, but they haven't stopped the celebrations. July 24th, in Utah, is Pioneer Day, a day to rival the 4th for parades with floats and marching bands, clowns on bicycles, beauty queens, children dressed in sunbonnets and cowboy hats, horses, and waving dignitaries. It's the 4th largest parade in the country. Flags fly in everybody's front yard. In the afternoon, people picnic in the canyons and in parks and backyards. The air smells of barbecues. We had tacos at our house, and apple pie and ice cream. The night sky is filled with fireworks blooming in stadiums and parks and front yards. We did ours in the front yard, clapping and whistling as each one sputtered and flared and shot off its showers of colored sparks. The grandkids chased each other in the dark, stopping only to admire them.

This is the day when, in 1847, Brigham Young climbed out of his wagon as it began its descent out of Emigration Canyon, gazed across the valley, and announced, "This is the place," which was good news for all those thousands who followed, having buried loved ones in shallow graves, pulled handcarts through a few thousand miles across rivers and deserts and mountains. Children today sing: For some must push, and some must pull, as we go marching up the hill, merrily, merrily on our way, until we reach the valley-o! and Pioneer children sang as they walked, and walked, and walked, and walked, and walked...

My own great-grandfather, Jesse Benjamin Robinson, born in the Gulf of Mexico on the steamship William Nelson, was just eight years old when he walked and walked and walked. His parents were emigrants from England, his father a weaver by trade. They couldn't force him to join the Confederate army, but they did force him to work in the cotton mills in Mississippi. Jesse wrote, "My only recollection of the war was that a soldier came to our home and tried to take my father's alto horn. I ran up to him and put my arm through the coils of the horn and held on to it. The soldier dragged me outside, but I held on tight. Finally he said, 'Take it, you damned little Rebel!' As soon as we could leave the south," he wrote, "we sailed on a riverboat up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to St. Joseph, where we outfitted with an ox team for our journey across the plains. I remember a few incidents which occurred. Oft times at night, it would be necessary to clear the snow away and build fires on the ground to warm a spot for our beds to be made upon. Priceless as our few blankets were, we awoke one morning to find that hot coals had burned several holes in them."

Jesse was just one of many of my people who came to America, most of them from England or Wales, and crossed the plains. Some of them married on the way, in Nauvoo, Illinois, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Some of them had babies. Some died. Most of them had been ostracized by the families and friends they had left behind.

This day, and this post, is dedicated to them: William (the Sweet Singer in Israel) and Susannah Robinson, Horace Austin and Laura Ann Skinner, Solomon Michael and Lucy Jane Barkdull, Richard and Elizabeth Hatton, and all their children, Jesse Benjamin only one among them.

William Stafford wrote in a poem called A Presence:

A shadow dawns inside my shadow,
and a voice my voice contains; a hand has
curled like a glove on my strengthened hand--

A charge--a surge in color and sound,
that world in a heightened curve--has come,
force in the season, an enhancement of being.

I hear an interval that isn't a storm
calling: that voice commands the legions
of snow, and all my allegiance follows.

I swing into knowledge and fall, all
the way into tomorrow, away from friends,
thin voices that fade in this new dawning.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

POETRY THURSDAY, Morning Glories

Okay, let's try on something cheerier, like sex in the morning. This one is a syllabic poem, eleven syllables to a line, but I don't know how it will line up here....


We have shared beginnings, books, babies
and beds, from California to the Rocky
Mountains. And wonder. Now we grow old. The gray
proliferates innocently like dande-
lions through our hair, inch by inch, and sometimes
I am fearful. God knows why the wonder stays,
but it does. Nothing is easy but love. I
celebrate you within me, I turn my head
at the pillow into your hair, clean, smelling
of lemon soap, and all the bright pain inside
me drowns. My breath stops, and all is curve, cleft, and
arch, sweet caught breath, and morning glories in fresh
profile at the open window, on the sill.

(Painting by Georgia O'Keeffe)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

WAR is not healthy for children...

and other living things. So said an old poster of the Viet Nam era. Ashraf Osman is an architect from Philadelphia living in Lebanon, who wrote today: "When I was a teenager I lost my faith in God. This week I lost my faith in humanity. And they both don't care."

He is also a poet, who writes of this photograph:

See, I am petty like you,
I care about what's mine like you
and like you I am human at the core...

I have waited and waited and waited
for a better poem to present itself,
for others to say it more delicately than I;

...I have waited for words
more lyrical, more eloquent,
more subtle than this.

But there is no lyricism in death.
There is no eloquence in death.
There is no subtlety in war.


Monday, July 17, 2006

June Allyson & Me

America's Sweetheart, June Allyson, has died at 88. I feel I must say something about her death, since I fell deeply and irrevocably and eternally (as much as a person can, at the age of seven) in love with her. I had just seen Little Women, in which she played the role of Jo. I was totally charmed. In all, she made 25 movies for MGM. Her "perky wholesomeness," her husky voice, her cheerful smile, her eyes, made her famous. Those eyes. How they glistened when she wept. How they sparkled and crinkled when she laughed! I wrote her a letter, detailing my love for her, and she sent me an autographed photo of herself. (One of thousands, I'm sure, but I didn't know that then.) I returned the favor by sending her a picture of me, this one. I found out that her birthday was on October 7th, and I sent her a necklace paid for from my own stash of money. (This gift went unacknowledged, but my love never waivered.) I haven't seen or heard of her in ages, I had almost forgotten her. Now she has died. RIP, June. You were one-of-a-kind!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Energetic Starlight

The starlight from Merope (just off the upper left of this Hubble photo) is slowly destroying this lovely wandering cloud. Look fast -- it may be gone in another 100,000 years!

Credit: Hubble Heritage Team, George Herbig & Theodore Simon, NASA

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

25 Things About Me*

* Inspired by lynn at sprigs (check out her 25 -- see my bloglinks! And while you're there, click on her 25 peeps picture a couple of times.)

Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. In his Nobel lecture he said, "All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are." So, here's my 2 cents worth.

1. In dreams I am often young and thin with long blonde hair.
2. In real life I am no longer young, or thin, or blonde.
3. My back hurts.
4. I hate to sleep alone. (Fortunately I doon't have to!)
5. My great grandfather had 2 wives at once.
6. I wish I had more self-discipline. (I was once fired from a teaching position in a private school because they said I was "too unstructured and undisciplined." --Who, me??? Naaaahhh....)
7. I do not blame my parents for this. Once, at a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me my little boy was "spacey." We ALL are, I told her. The whole fan damily is spacey. She thought I was kidding. I wasn't.
8. I used to travel with a theater repertory company. My parents weren't happy about this.
9. My mother was afraid that I would run off and paint flowers on my cheeks and live in a commune, and grow vegetables. I once smoked pot. ONE TIME.
10. I don't drink or smoke. (Or swear, much. Well, I drink milk, and water, and orange juice, and stuff. Cocoa. I love Pepsi.)
11. I once visited the Statue of Liberty with a boyfriend named Jim, who whistled the Russian National Anthem the whole time we were there. I wonder what ever became of Jim?
12. I love the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (and Vivaldi, and Corelli and most Baroque music). Bach had 31--or something--children. I wonder how he ever found time to compose all that music???
13. I also like Bluegrass.
14. My favorite actor is Mel Gibson (!) My favorite actress, Meryl Streep.
15. I grew up in the Mojave Desert. This makes me a Desert Rat, although I was born in the Year of the Rabbit. I am a Taurus, with my moon in Aries and Aquarius rising, which supposedly saves me from total Bulldom. --but makes me unstructured, and undisciplined. An astrologer friend told me I am "Split right down the middle,"--half of me "very straight-arrow, and the other half off-the-wall crazy." Half Albert Schweitzer, half Mickey Mouse.
16. I have blue eyes.
17. I have 5 sons. And 7 grandchildren. One of my sons has a Master's of Social Work degree, works as a therapist with children, and has a black belt in Karate. He can kill with his bare hands! Three of my sons are attorneys. One lives at home, works with mentally handicapped people, and exists in an alternate techno-world of video games. All of them write and perform their own music. And march to their own drummers.
18. I survived melanoma.
19. I miss my mother and father, and my grandpa and grandmas. I hope to see them again sometime.
20. Annie Dillard is my favorite writer. (tho' I really love too many others to mention.)
21. My favorite poet? Walt Whitman. No, let's see...Dylan Thomas. Or, William Stafford. Maybe. It used to be Edna St. Vincent Millay. Could be TS Eliot, or Elizabeth Bishop, or....
22. I want to understand quantum physics. If there are eleven dimensions, I NEED to know ALL ELEVEN. I wonder if there really ARE unnumbered alternate universes? Is string theory TRUE?
23. I will probably never know these answers. But, maybe I will. It's something to look forward to when I die.
24. I don't want to die.
25. I've published 3 books--a novel, a book of poetry, and a poetry textbook. And some loose poems, here and there, and lots of articles. And a couple of short stories. I have a lot of stuff laying around in boxes gathering dust.

PS. My teeth aren't teeth, but pearls. In spite of the "Uncle" thing, I enjoy being a GIRL!

(BTW, today is Pablo Neruda's birthday. Celebrate!)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Poetry Thursday--QUATRAIN

Jack, eating rotten cheese, did say,
Like Samson I may thousands slay;
I vow, quoth Roger, so you do.
And with the self-same weapon too.

--Benjamin Franklin

(I didn't know Ben Franklin was such a cut-up, did you?)


Drink to me only with thine eyes--
That's one way to economize.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Dark Sizzling Sun

Another cool pic for a hot summer day: this is the sun, photographed in three colors of ultra-violet light. Its surface bubbles as hydrogen streams along looped and tangled magnetic fields. Doesn't this make you want to pack a picnic and head out for the beach?

Click it!

Credit: TRACE Project--Stanford-Lockheed Institute for Space Research, NASA

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Welcome, NANAY!

My daughter-in-law's sweet Nanay arrived yesterday, a couple of years after her first try for a visa was scrubbed. This time it involved a very long bus ride (14 hours) to Manila, a round-trip (2 hours each way) on the back of a motorcycle to the emigration offices, a three day wait for the physical, another long bus ride back to her hometown to pack up her stuff and say her farewells to family and friends, the 14-hour ride back to Manila, the long jet ride over the dark Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles, waiting for several more hours in customs, and another short sprint on JetBlue to Slick City, Utah! It involved months and months and months of official paperwork, lots and lots of pesos, but finally, she is here! We are so happy, we love her so much. She is an elegant and beautiful lady who, I'm sure, will find our American desert much different from her green homeland, but we are oh so glad
to have her with us for as long as she wants to stay! Welcome, Nanay!

Such endurance and perseverance, and patience, at a time when so many others think an illegal crossing of borders assures them a "right" to what she waited so long and worked so hard for, legally.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A New Song for Babycat

...Mama, make your mouth move. Sing to me!

Words from an old hymn:
...And with the morn
Those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since,
And lost awhile.

So, RIP 'til morning, when we all "come back like birds," because we are "counted, one by one."

(Photo: The Cat's Paw Nebula, visible in Scorpio. Credit and copyright: Robert Gendler and Martin Pugh)

Friday, July 07, 2006


Would the real DARTH VADER please stand up???

Thursday, July 06, 2006



We come whirling down
like lopsided angels, each of us
a riddle on the family tree.

All our Sunday faces
are strangers to a mother
who cannot remember

the hour of our singular births.
I know we must not show her
how many hearts beat under our ribs

or she will wrinkle
and burn away.
Your computer cannot integrate

our baby parts
with its thin blue lines
or its darting cursor

sewing all night
with a long string from belly to mouth.
Each of me is a basket

filled with bedsheets
& bone flakes
& inkwells.


She is three-in-one
A sort of trinity
Observe the three of her
That live here sometime
Sprouting like mushrooms
From a damp cave floor
Innocuous most of them
Most of the time

Fleshy umbrellas
Wild or edible or deadly
These are the two
She calls sister
Thrusting the silver rootlets
Of their lives
Into her body
She would gather them
With her fingers
Long knives
A harvest to be canned
Frozen or dried
Or squeeze them until they burst
Like puffs of smoke

The three of her
Feels everything
Pick one
Eat her with meat
While she is fresh
Before her babies come

She thinks she is real
Steps among the luscious caps
Carefully not to crush
The wild flesh of her
The edible flesh
The poisonous flesh

What are they doing for lunch
Stuff the three of her
Into your brown bag
Tell her to fuck off
Swallow her cold


Janus had but two heads
For God's sake

And I have three--
One wood, one salt, one fire
Making demands, giving orders

Fire tells wood how to die with grace:
Stretch out under my red hands
Spit out your black widows

Grow daisies.
Salt tells fire:

I will smother you with crystal hands
Stop your red mouth
Ears, throat and belly with my white rocks.

When I come down
One of us is left.
She is not me. She will dissolve

And leak out with my tears, sweat, and menses
She will not get old
She will never see our skulls.

photo (c)2002 Distinctly France

Poetry Thursday--HOMAGE TO MY HIPS

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
pretty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved.
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man
and spin him like a top!

--Lucille Clifton

Photo: JKerr Ellen's Hips

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

EARTH -- A new Perspective


If Earth's population was shrunk into a village of just 100 people with all the human ratios existing in the world still remaining, what would this tiny diverse village look like?

That's exactly what Phillip M. Harter, a medical doctor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, attempted to find out. This is what he found:

57 would be Asian
21 would be European
14 would be from the Western Hemisphere
8 would be African
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be nonwhite
30 would be white
70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian
89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual
6 people would possess 59 percent of the entire world's wealth, and these 6 would be from the United States
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death
1 would be pregnant
1 would have a college education
1 would own a computer


Thanks to Erin M., in NC, to Bart, a "slightly insane, very tired, but reasonably perceptive guy" in the Netherlands, and to the folks at for this post.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


...for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain....

Happy Fourth of July, folks!

Monday, July 03, 2006

For My Grandchildren

The Fourth of July, a day of purest sizzling gold, of hot dogs and cold watermelon in the grass, lemonades and Eskimo pies, wax mustaches and cannon blasts; wading in the creek in water so clear and cold it makes your teeth ache; parades and flags and brass bands; an evening of fireworks. Enchanted children, barefoot and sunburnt, write their names with sparklers on the summer dark. Fire-flowers bloom in the night driveways, bottle rockets whistle up the sky and fade. Fountains of fire fly up and breaking, drip showers of red, white, and blue. We pop corn and spread our blanket across the front yard grass at night and lie flat out with the earth spinning under us and the stars spinning above. I am reminded of scorching summer nights on the beach where Mark and I walked hand-in-hand, trying not to scare the sandpipers in their dark search for sandcrabs, and stepping carefully across the dozens of silent bodies entwined on blankets, making love, as if we were invisible.

The news this morning said as asteroid called 2004XP14, one of the largest to have flown past the Earth in the last few years, and estimated to be a half-mile wide, zipped past us late last night or very early this morning. Amateur sky-watchers with good telescoes could see it as a small moving dot. It was no threat.

Cosmic immensities perplex me. I grope to define undefinables, to participate in the insistent solidity of rocks, in the unfamiliar air and inviolable patterns of cells and fossils, in the enormous silences of stars. I hear "it" as a deaf person "hears" music by touching a radio and feeling the vibrations. What a marvel is this whirling, clockwork universe! That we are, in fact spinning like a Fourth-of-July pinwheel at incredible velocities. We live in the neighborhood of Perseus, and Auriga, and Orion, and toward the center of our galaxy lies the great starcloud of Sagittarius. I want to shout to the people picnicing on the grass,"Open your eyes! This is our home!"

When you think of the vastness and enormity of the universe, and of the billions and billions of planets and stars, doesn't it make you feel small and insignificant?

Me neither!