Wednesday, October 31, 2007



(Photo from paper artist Peter Callesen: "Halfway Through." Check out his awesome paper cuts at his site at


Ghost Head Nebula

Credit: Mohammed Heydari-Malayen, ESA & NASA

Monday, October 29, 2007

WI: Haunted

Noodles, my old dog (gone to her reward) and a ghost haunting our living room a few years ago. Here it is, from two different angles, unseen by me, the photographer, but looks to me like she saw something scarey.

What IS it???

I think it might be the ghost of Richard Nixon. Or Jimmy Durante. (But you guys are all too young to remember Jimmy Durante....)


And finally, a poem, an old one, but, whatever....


This house is all enchanted.
Wild things disturb the air
behind the polished cupboard doors
and underneath the stairs--

a tremolo of whisperings
of drowsy, sleepy love,
a hungering of haunted springs
that foam and boil above

the gentle whorl of fingertips
on cups of tea, the toast and jam,
a fever under lock and key
that burns a withered epigram.

This house is all enchanted.
Wild things disturb the air
behind the polished cupboard doors
and underneath the stairs.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Words Twisted Skyward

(This mornings newspaper had a story--back on page 8--headlined FEMA is sorry it staged briefings and it continues to say that the Agency's No. 2 official Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson apologized Friday for leading a staged news conference concerning the California wildfires, in which FEMA employees posed as reporters while real reporters were barred from asking questions. "We are reviewing our press procedures and will make the changes necessary to ensure that all of our communications are straightforward and transparent," he said in a four paragraph statement. "We can and must do better, and apologize for this error in judgement." "It was absolutely a bad decision," continued John "Pat" Philbin, FEMA'S Director of External Affairs. "Certainly...I should have stopped it."

But he didn't. And it was not simply "a bad decision," or an "error in judgement." It was a deliberate, outright LIE. This, trying to reestablish their credibility and integrity after their debacle in managing Hurricane Katrina. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino then said, "This is not a practice that we would employ here at the White House."

Yeah, right! "They should ALL be in jail," sez I. And it should have been on the front page.)

Two Gallants Waves Of Grain Lyrics

Pray betray the deceased,
such an infamous freedom, such a militant peace.
How dare they distrust, do they know who we are?
And Your progeny's brave,
their tract houses waiting, pre-plucked and pre-paved:
To the ends of the Earth, wife, kids and a car.

But oh no, no, I see them falling.
Let's all pray for rain, Let's all pray for rain.
And all your children are reared by panic and fear.
But what when all your fields are rotten,
your waves of grain, amber waves of grain?
And your word is yet done: Inbreed us 'till we're all the same.

And Your collection of tongues,
you keep framed in your parlour, with your bibles and guns,
the fetus of Christ with a fistful of scars.
And your vision is clear,
while you blind your own kind in a curtain of fear,
your words twisted skywards distracted by stars.

But oh, no, no, the sky is falling.
Let's all pray for rain, Let's all pray for rain.
And you pour out your prayers and weep 'cuase you care.
But what when all your fields are rotten,
your waves of grain, amber waves of grain?
And you hide the dead while my friends head to die in your name.

And This playground is yours
spoke God when you met, behind closed doors.
Gesture your hand and the pawns shall subside
And though you play alone,
you never get lonely, you never get bored.
Who needs a friend when God's on your side?

But oh, no, no, I see them falling.
Let's all pray for rain, Let's all pray for rain.
And even I can't pretend we're not near the end.
But what when all your fields are rotten,
your waves of grain, amber waves of grain?
When your days are done, I hope you've had fun with your game.

And you accepted as fact:
Behold a white horse, with you on it's back,
a bow in your hand, a crown through your hair.
And the oceans shall rise
and slap on the shores of mountainsides.
Great waves of progress shall wet the air.

But oh, no, no, the sky is falling.
Let's all pray for rain, Let's all pray for rain.
And you fools in the back with your heads in your hats,
What when all your fields are rotten,
your waves of grain, amber waves of grain?
And my words won't be done, they'll never be done 'till the end.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rocking Horse Rider: Totally Optional Prompts

The Rocking Horse Rider

When he was three or so
his Pa whittled a flute
slipped the willow bark to wood
smooth and white
as cream in a brown bucket

At twelve
too tall for his stallion
he remembers the secret bones
of his small hands
stretched to match
the long wooden bones

Rocking he sang
John Daddle he dreamed
that his daddy was dead
and his daddy he dreamed
that John Daddle was dead....

He remembers shadows
of clustering leaves
across the scrubbed walls
of his house
rising and falling like dark fish
in clear water
he remembers a whistling
of barn owls
blinded by sunrise
remembers the wooden horse
lifting him far beyond the horizon
of cornfields
on wind whistling over the hills
like a slip-bark flute

From: In Willie's House. The photo is of my dad, taken circa 1910.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

WI: Strangers

Anniversary: Keep Away

After forty years
Your face is one
I no longer recognize
Among other half-remembered faces
Of children grown
Lovers gone
Friends departed

In your endless rage
I know only
The red wilderness
Of burnt Mercury
I would be glad
For some small thing of Earth
A red carnation

Once keep-away
Was something children played
Now I listen to you breathe
You sleep in pieces
This part of you
That part of you

I think how as a boy
You hid a pocket knife
In the top of your Commando boots
Had a nosebleed at Grand Canyon
And threw your unsold newspapers
Into gutters

Now you lie buried
Belly down in pillows
Mouth open
The outlines of your dreams
Of Guam, of flight, of Halley's Comet
And the end of the world
A trailing current
Of your death

Leaving no notes behind
No messages


Monday, October 22, 2007

All I Want For Chrithmas...

...ith my two front teeth, my two front teeth, my two front teeth....


Monday, October 15, 2007

WI: Message in a Bottle

To My Daughter

Blood of my blood
your name remains unwritten
on church records
school rollbooks
letters of intent
or love or sympathy:


I write it here
a message in a bottle
cast out
with the wild grace
of my hope
all that's left
before your veiled eyes
flickering down the dark
carry it away with them


Sunday, October 14, 2007

What a Surprise!

Look what's growing in the pumpkin patch!!!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Walk in the 'Hood


I have been lurking around the neighborhood with my camera the last few days. Here are the mountains to the east I see every morning, waiting with Simon for the school bus, waiting for the sun to rise. Now that there is snow on the tops they turn bright pink at sunset. There is the church, a few blocks to the north, where (until this last year) I taught various Sunday School classes, where my children were baptised, where, in the hush that followed the choir's performance of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus one Christmas, my four-year-old stood up on the bench and announced in a loud voice, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! What a DUMB song!" --where most of the neighborhood gathers for wedding receptions, basketball games, summer bar-b-ques, Halloween parties, Christmas dinners, the blessing of babies, funerals.... The canal, its banks lined with willow trees and weeds, runs just east of the church.

People in the neighborhood are beginning to decorate for Halloween. Pumpkins sit in doorways, people are mowing their lawns for what is probably the last time this year before it snows. They're fixing their roofs and driveways, and jogging through the leaves on the road. The giant sunflower in my backyard has become a banquet for the birds. Just seconds before I took the photo, there were three or four birds feasting and scattering shells everywhere. My neighbor whose house is just across the fence suffered a stroke two weeks ago that weakened his right side and took some of his memory, but lately he has been out sitting in the sun, watching while his wife and two of their grown daughters put his vegetable garden to bed. My beautiful rose reminds me of the rose in Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince, with only her thorns to protect her when the snow flies next week....

The streets here are named Village Green, Greenfield, Meadow Downs, Meadowbrook, Willow, Dawn Drive. I live on Cloverdale.

The boys were excited to get their new Halloween costumes the other day and were anxious to try them on. Simon is Black Spiderman. Jake is Darth Vadar (who he calls "Hopper" because of the sound he makes when he breathes. Inhale: HAAAAAAAA Exhale: PERRRRRRRRR...go ahead, try it! Worn out, Jacob sleeps on the end of my bed, his walking stick on one side, his other arm around the dog.

To be truthful, the two boys in the leaf piles are my grandsons who live far away in Minnesota, having fun in THEIR front yard. The pictures are from their dad, via the miracle of the internet. All the rest are mine. I had other pictures in mind-- my weathered birdhouse, filled with acorns Simon collected and brought home in a bucket--but my card was full! I'll save that one for another day.


Monday, October 08, 2007

WI: Renewal

My grandson Simon is six-years-old. He recently lost a loose front tooth, and if you look carefully, you can see the new tooth emerging to take the lost tooth's place. The body has a remarkable ability to defend and repair itself, it even has a magical ability to renew, in that, at a cellular lever, we are constantly dying and being reborn. Heraclitus is supposed to have said that one can never step into the same river twice, and this is because the water is constantly being restored by new water rushing in. And this is true of the body. Deepak Chopra tells us that 98% of atoms in our body at the moment were not there a year ago. "The skeleton that seems so solid was not there three months ago," he writes. "The skin is new every month. You have a new stomach lining every four days....It is as if you lived in a building whose bricks were systematically taken out and replaced. If you keep the same blueprint, then it will look like the same building. But it won't be the same...." Eventually, entropy takes over.

Physicists use the phrase "The Arrow of Time" to explain the fact that events in time can only move forward, and can't be reversed. When a glass shatters on the floor, says Stephen Hawking, it can't pick up its pieces and rebuild itself into a whole glass. There are some things that cannot be fixed. "Not for all our piety, nor wit, nor tears." All in all, I think simply being alive is a miraculous achievement. When I woke this morning, I thought of the tremendous change in my life once the powerful catalytic agent CANCER was introduced. I've come to feel a certain indifference to the few dark horrors that my mind occasionally offers up. Things go on. No one on earth can give me a signed and notarized certificate saying that I still haven't got this damned disease. But I can adapt. Every change requires some re-ordering to accommodate it. And I find a certain tenacious peace-of-mind in prayer--not as a greedy child whining to an indulgent parent, nor as a beggar, but as a sort of opening up of cosmic pathways into my mind.

A note I discover among some old papers: Adversity helps men to rise above themselves. Is that true? I think so.

Doctor Lewis Thomas writes in The Lives of a Cell: Statistically, the probability of any one of us being here is so small that you'd think the mere fact of existence would keep us all in a contented dazzlement of surprise. We are alive against the stupendous odds of genetics, infinitely out-numbered by all the alternates who might, except for luck, be in our places...Each of us is a self-contained, free-standing individual, labeled by specific protein configurations at the surface of cells, identifiable by whorls of fingertip skin, maybe even by special medleys of fragrance. You'd think we'd never stop dancing.

(Most of this was written years ago, taken out of my book CHRYSALIS. And I am still here to tell the tale. The book ends like this: So, this is a portrait of a birth. The butterfly is finally emerging. The book is finished, and I am painfully anxious that it be good. I stayed up until two or three in the morning for weeks trying to finish the final draft. Now I need to move on to something else. Maybe I'll just think in iambic pentameter for awhile. Maybe I'll write another book, a children's book this time.

I am full. Let me stay like this forever, lullabied by family, by friends, by an unrolling of irrevocable love and intoxicant life. I hold it as carefully as mortal fingers will allow. Thanks. Everything is as it should be, and nothing will change, not ever, I tell myself. Encircled by sleepy children, Mark sings:

And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.


Friday, October 05, 2007

While We're At It....

A mere 20,000 light years from our Sun, is the nearby Carina spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy's birth chamber of open stars, (I feel funny calling it OUR Milky Way, now that I know we might have been--kidnapped, actually STOLEN away like Sendak's ice baby--see previous post) that contains thousands of stars far bigger than our own Sun.

Surrounding this nursery are "natal clouds of glowing interstellar gas and...dust, sculpted by energizing stellar radiation and winds."

Photo by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Collaboration, J Maiz Appellaniz, et al, and David de Martin.

*Sigh* It would've made an awesome picture for the family album. Oh, well. Click it for a truly amazing view!



We're Not From Around Here!

We were not born here! All this time we've believed the Milky Way galaxy was our home. All this time we've assumed that we're family.

We have wondered why we are not oriented to the galaxy's ecliptic, like everybody else, but hey, it's like having blue eyes when all the relatives are brown-eyed, right? Nothing but a pesky annoyance. Well, it turns out we're adopted.

You heard it right. Some scientists are saying we're adopted. The Milky Way is not our parent galaxy. We are from another galaxy entirely, one in the process of joining with the Milky Way-- being eaten alive, as it were. We actually belong to the
Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy. This explains why, according to Steven Majewski, head of a project called 2MASS (the Two Micro All Star Survey) going on at the U. Va. and the University of Massachusetts, the Milky Way is always sideways in the night sky! That odd angle shows our Sun (and us) are influenced by some other system, and for the last 2 billion years our real parent galaxy is slowly being consumed. We exist in a trail of debris surrounding the outer edges of the Milky Way.

Who knew? And, what d'you think?


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

WI: The Journey


60 miles above Midway
The silica tiles glowing
At 2300 degrees Fahrenheit
With a red light, or white
Or blue like any other early
Star, and somewhere
Off the coast of Florida
The sun rises and a flight
Of pelicans waits inland
For splashdown
36 sunrises after ignition
The blue-flame engines burn
Meteorlike, it falls

The birds fall and rise
Above the blue-green glitter
Of the tide
6-tenths of a second after
The last bird dives into a wave
The slight deceleration
The last roll reversal at Mach 2.6
A tail of flame and a double
Sonic boom
Followed by a whir
Of wings

(Photo: Brown Pelicans in the Sunrise, by Shuttershrink)