Showing posts from August, 2009

For Those Too Young to Understand Our Great Respect for the Remaining Kennedys (Yes,That's You, CollegeGrrrl)

by Bob Greene
Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a best-selling author whose new book is "Late Edition: A Love Story."

(CNN) -- Richard Nixon had been president for less than two days, I was 21 and visiting Washington for the first time, and I decided that I'd like to see what the United States Senate looked like when it was in session.

I had come to Washington to watch the inauguration; this was in January 1969, and after the political turmoil of the year before, it seemed like it might be interesting to travel from the Midwest, where I was a college student, and witness the swearing-in. Now that was over; Nixon was at work in the White House, and before departing town I made a stop at the Capitol.

I don't know what I was expecting when I stepped into the visitors' gallery of the Senate -- maybe something filled with drama, like in a movie. Maybe high-decibel, finger-wagging debate, with all 100 senators standing and asking for the floor.

What I encount…

6. News Will Arrive From Far Away

by Dana Gioia

News will arrive from far away: the phone
rings unexpectedly at night,
and a voice you almost recognize
will speak. Soft and familiar,
it mentions names you haven't heard for years,
names of another place, another time,
that street by street restore
the lost geography of childhood.
Half asleep you listen in the dark
gradually remembering where you are.
You start to speak. Then silence.
A dial tone. An intervening voice.
Or nothing. The call is finished.
Not even time to turn the lights on.
Now just the ticking of the clock,
the cold disorder of the bed.

Saturday in CinCity

From Here to There

by Brad Leithauser

There are those great winds on a tear
Over the Great Plains,
Bending the grasses all the way
Down to the roots
And the grasses revealing
A gracefulness in the wind's fury
You would not otherwise
Have suspected there.

And there's the wind off the sea
Roiling the thin crowns of the great
Douglas firs on the cragged
Oregon coast, uprooting
Choruses of outraged cries,
As if the trees were unused
To bending, that can weather
Such storms for a century.

And—somewhere between those places,
Needing a break—we climb out stiff
From our endless drive to stand, dwindled,
On a ridge, holding hands,
In what are foothills only because
The neighboring mountains are
So much taller, and there are the breezes,
Contrarily pulled, awakening our faces.


by William Stafford

South of the bridge on Seventeenth
I found back of the willows one summer
day a motorcycle with engine running
as it lay on its side, ticking over
slowly in the high grass. I was fifteen.

I admired all that pulsing gleam, the
shiny flanks, the demure headlights
fringed where it lay; I led it gently
to the road and stood with that
companion, ready and friendly. I was fifteen.

We could find the end of a road, meet
the sky on out Seventeenth. I thought about
hills, and patting the handle got back a
confident opinion. On the bridge we indulged
a forward feeling, a tremble. I was fifteen.

Thinking, back farther in the grass I found
the owner, just coming to, where he had flipped
over the rail. He had blood on his hand, was pale—
I helped him walk to his machine. He ran his hand
over it, called me good man, roared away.

I stood there, fifteen.

On the Homefront

I've got the paint for HoneyHaired's room. Now I'm just waiting to finish my cuppa coffee and let the caffeine kick in before I begin. She said one night at dinner that she wanted to paint one wall of her bedroom bright red. We said,"Oh, that sounds fabulously fun. Let's do it." And we did. Now it's time for the rest of the room and I come to find out she hadn't thought about those walls. Mama probably should have been the more far-sighted one in the group.
So HoneyHaired took some kind of paint-personality test online--always very perceptive and how I've come to learn that my "Hood" name is Ray-Ray--and it marks her as Exotic Traveler with pictures out of Scheherazade. Now I have a bag full of Yellow Haze, Orange Sunset, and Terrapin Green. We shall see...and, after all, it's only paint.

(please note: above photo does in any way even remotely look like HoneyHaired's room, except they both have a bed. Hers is unmade and has a cat …

Dancing For One, Please

I'll be spending today in another hospital's waiting area while my mother has surgery. I've got books packed to take with me, comfy clothes to wear, a bottle of water, and a plan for lunch, but think I might want to take a pair of dancing shoes just in case...


by Helen Conkling

Some boys captured garter snakes
to bring to the country schoolroom
of forty-six children.
"Can we keep them?"
I was the teacher. I said yes.

The snakes had arrived in cages
but during the day they came sliding,
through wire mesh, to coil on the cool floor,
gaze and then sleep.

Children stepped around. I stepped over and around.

Those who wished to draw pictures of snakes
could come close and observe
snake mouths, snake eyes, tails and scale-
patterns, curves of the bodies.

Pressing hard with their crayons, they made bright black,
green, brown, stripes of pale yellow.
This was their work. They did no other work that day.

And they signed their pictures before showing them:
Estella, David, Miguel, Douglas, Linda, Dennis, Mateo, Lee Ann.

Then Raul refilled the snakes' water bowls
and I opened all the windows so they could sense the rain
and it was time to go home.

During the night the janitor came.
He wrote on the chalkboard, "Miss,
Get rid of them snake…

Drinking Beer in East L.A.

by William Archila

This is how he always wanted to remember himself:
leaning against the green Impala, something brown and juicy,
like Willie Bobo blowing out of the speakers,

sweat steaming down the eyebrows, his buddies
hanging out like lions in the heat, spread out over the hood,
watching the sun melt the asphalt,

the boulevard glowing with a line of low riders, puffing,
bouncing all the way down to the bald,
yellow mountains, where the outline of smog thickens
and the rickety houses wait for a can full of rain.

He would hook the bottle opener to the neck,
pop the cap off—a geyser of foam—a shot
for the lady tattooed on his back, his throat
ready for the long, cool rush of a false god.


by Jo McDougall

Growing up in a small town,
we didn't notice
the background figures of our lives,
gray men, gnarled women,
dropping from us silently
like straightpins to a dressmaker's floor.
The old did not die
but simply vanished
like discs of snow on our tongues.
We knew nothing then of nothingness
or pain or loss—
our days filled with open fields,
turtles and cows.

One day we noticed
Death has a musty breath,
that some we loved
died dreadfully,
that dying
sometimes takes time.
Now, standing in a supermarket line
or easing out of a parking lot,
we realize
we've become the hazy backgrounds
of younger lives.
How long has it been,
we ask no one in particular,
since we've seen a turtle
or a cow?

This Longing

by Martin Steingesser

... awoke to rain
around 2:30 this morning
thinking of you, because I'd said
only a few days before, this

is what I wanted, to lie with you in the dark
listening how rain sounds
in the tree beside my window,
on the sill, against the glass, damp

cool air on my face. I am loving
fresh smells, light flashes in the
black window, love how you are here
when you're not, knowing we will

lie close, nothing between us; and maybe
it will be still, as now, the longing
that carries us
into each other's arms

asleep, neither speaking
least it all too soon turn to morning, which
it does. Rain softens, low thunder, a car
sloshes past.

After the Marriage

by Laurie Zimmerman

Here I am in the yard
standing at the edge of the garden—
this used to be yarrow
tangling the stalks of black-eyed Susan
and the purple fizzed Joe-Pye weed,
and this, pink-cupped mallow,
over there a profusion of wild geranium
I would pull to relocate all summer.
Here I am before the shrubbery
of ragged forsythia, roots
crusted into a muck of fall leaves,
rake loose in my hand—
this used to be grass under my feet
and this, a marigold bed,
over there a yellow dog, two white chairs
turned toward the road.

A Summer Night

by Kate Barnes

A summer night. The moon's face,
almost full now, comes and goes
through clouds. I can't see
any stars, but a late firefly
still flicks his green lamp on and off
by the fence.
In this light
that is more illusion
than light, I think of things
I can't make out: milkweed opening
its millions of flowerets, their heavy heads
smelling like dark honey in the night's
darkness; day lilies
crowding the ditch, their blossoms
closed tight; birds asleep with their small legs
locked on twigs; deer stealing
into the uncut hay; and the young bay mare
kneeling down in the pasture, composing herself
to rest, as rounded and strong
as a meant prayer.

please note: art by Marcia Wegman


by Jane Hirshfield

Day after quiet day passes.
I speak to no one besides the dog.
To her,
I murmur much I would not otherwise say.

We make plans
then break them on a moment's whim.
She agrees;
though sometimes bringing
to my attention a small blue ball.

Passing the fig tree
I see it is
suddenly huge with green fruit,
which may ripen or not.

Near the gate,
I stop to watch
the sugar ants climb the top bar
and cross at the latch,
as they have now in summer for years.

In this way I study my life.
It is,
I think today,
like a dusty glass vase.

A little water,
a few flowers would be good,
I think;
but do nothing. Love is far away.
Incomprehensible sunlight falls on my hand.

please note: art by Rachael Malloch

Walking to Oak-Head Pond, and Thinking of the Ponds I Will Visit in the Next Days and Weeks

by Mary Oliver

What is so utterly invisible
as tomorrow?
Not love,
not the wind,

not the inside of stone.
Not anything.
And yet, how often I'm fooled-
I'm wading along

in the sunlight-
and I'm sure I can see the fields and the ponds shining
days ahead-
I can see the light spilling

like a shower of meteors
into next week's trees,
and I plan to be there soon-
and, so far, I am

just that lucky,
my legs splashing
over the edge of darkness,
my heart on fire.

I don't know where
such certainty comes from-
the brave flesh
or the theater of the mind-

but if I had to guess
I would say that only
what the soul is supposed to be
could send us forth

with such cheer
as even the leaf must wear
as it unfurls
its fragrant body, and shines

against the hard possibility of stoppage-
which, day after day,
before such brisk, corpuscular belief,
shudders, and gives way.

please note: photo by

Health Care Reform and the Chamber of Secrets


Death Panels. Pulling-The-Plug-On-Grandma Clauses. An enemies list. Home health care nurses coming to take away poor families' babies.

Seriously? Is there ANYONE out there who really believes this?


You know, back in the day, decisions whether or not to place a patient on dialysis went through a committee. And, more recently, decisions whether or not a patient met the criteria to receive a heart transplant went through a committee. The decision of whether or not a brain dead patient meets criteria to be an organ donor goes though a stringent algorithm and a committee. And for that matter, the brain death exam itself must be carried out by two different physicians from two separate services. A committee of two, although there are many, many others in the room. Committees are all over the damn place, and they make life and death decisions day and night. In a teaching hospital doctors travel in packs.

For those of us actually doing the work of health care Sarah P…

Saturday in CinCity

Ex-boyfriends in Heaven
by Gwen Hart

Ex-boyfriends never go to hell,
no matter how many times
you suggest it. No, they ascend straight
to heaven, where they speak French,
wear matching socks, and always,
always arrive on time, with a full
tank of gas and a bottle of wine.
They never curse your cat
or your mother, never call you up
drunk doing Arnold Schwarzenegger
impressions, never say Hey Rita
if your name is Tammy,
never say Hey Tammy
if your name is Joan.
They're better trained than dogs
and they smell better, too, better
than Twinkies or camellias, better
than anything on earth. Once
in a while, they take a holiday,
drive their Porsches down
through the clouds
in one long line and ring
the doorbell in your dreams,
offering tender apologies, tender
chicken cutlets, tender love.
But before you take one sack
of groceries, before your lips
graze a clean-shaven jaw,
before you let one polished
Oxford loafer through your door,
remember that as soon as they cross
the threshold, the truth will slip
in behind…

The Heart Under Your Heart

by Craig Arnold

Who gives his heart away too easily must have a heart
under his heart.
—James Richardson

The heart under your heart
is not the one you share
so readily so full of pleasantry
& tenderness

it is a single blackberry
at the heart of a bramble
or else some larger fruit
heavy the size of a fist

it is full of things
you have never shared with me
broken engagements bruises
& baking dishes

the scars on top of scars
of sixteen thousand pinpricks
the melody you want so much to carry
& always fear black fear

or so I imagine you have never shown me
& how could I expect you to
I also have a heart beneath my heart
perhaps you have seen or guessed

it is a beach at night
where the waves lap & the wind hisses
over a bank of thin
translucent orange & yellow jingle shells

on the far side of the harbor

...We are stardust, we are golden...

Sorry. I'm a Day Late and a Dollar Short

Ard na Mara

Fred Marchant

Catherine and John said it meant beside the sea.
I thought it meant above,

because the house was above a pasture swooping down
to the tide, a thirty-foot drop.

You'd step through layers of grass and manure-smell
to the red, leathery weed splashed

across the rocks, and then looking up, you'd feel dwarfed
by the one wall left standing—

a fragment of Sweeney's castle—just a stone wing-blade,
but you got the idea: fortress,

and the fear of raids. Later when I first read the opening
of the Agamemnon, I thought

the Greek signal fires must have been lit on points like this,
the war won but not over,

the flames a signal to begin learning the next thing to dread.
The Dobbyns long ago had turned

the hayloft into a room to let. There was a shred of linoleum,
a cot with spring, and a low sink,

the kind to bathe a baby in. Knives, forks, butane,
and windows on three walls.

A red door with a latch opened onto cement stairs l…


Ode To Woodstock

As an older Boomer now with a bit more perspective under my belt and a better knowledge of history I can well imagine what our parents were thinking and feeling...I would never send my kids off to something like this. But our parents' generation--not as micro-managing as we are.

The music festival at Woodstock would have been completely off the radar for those men and women who survived Normandy and Hiroshima, who fought back tyranny. For us, it made perfect sense. One big perfect, innocent valentine to life, and we'll not see it's like again.

Advice to a Pregnant Daughter-in-Law

by Charles Darling

Avoid sharp things like corners, scissor points,
words and blades and cheddar cheese. Eschew
whatever's heavy, fast, and cumbersome:

meteorites, rumbly truck and stinky bus,
hockey players, falling vaults, and buffalo.
Steer clear of headlines, bank advices,

legal language, papal bulls, and grocery ads.
Every morning, listen to baroque divertimenti,
romantic operas, Hildegarde von Bingen hymns.

Evenings, read some lines from Shakespeare's comedies;
do a page of algebra; study shapes of clouds
and alchemy; make fun of your husbands feet.

Practice listening like a doe at the edge
of the earth's deep woods, but learn to disregard
most everything you hear (especially your father

and father-in-law). Learn some Indian lullabies;
speak with magic stones beneath your tongue.
Finally, I wish, avoid all tears—except

that the world and time will have their way
and weep we must. Perhaps enough is said
of grief and happiness to realize

that any child of yours will live a lifetime
utterly b…

Saturday in CinCity

Wasting away again in Neurodramaville...

I think Health Care Reform should involve a "house band." You know, for the therapeutic milieu. Always thinking about what's best for patient care, don'tcha know...


by Barton Sutter

The anxious agony of raising kids
Drains the life from parents, who must grow
From cradling to tug of war to slowly letting go
And learn to live with worry till they're dead.
When I fell in with you, I felt both joy and dread
Because you came with two small girls in tow.
I said, "I do." I'm glad I did, even though
I sometimes feel I married them instead.

It helps me to recall that gauzy, green meadow
Where we saw a tawny fawn duck under
The belly of its watchful, patient mother
And deliver two hard headbutts to the doe,
Doing what it took to get the milk to flow.

Words To Live By

Spend the afternoon.
You can't take it with you.

-------Annie Dillard

This Remains a Work in Progress


and a most companionable moon followed me
home from my shift at the human industrial plant
where I repair bad brains and injured lives.
We drove as partners
through the curving streets of the neighborhood,
yellow-flamed windows beckoning
as the dust of the day loosened
and lifted,
landing on the half opened car window
before blowing back into the world.
We passed the last dog walks of the evening.
I raise a hand in greeting to all
knowing how quickly their arcs too could be felled.
The moon, my constant, and I leave with him
the remains of this day
for illumination.

A Friend’s Umbrella

by Lawrence Raab

Ralph Waldo Emerson, toward the end
of his life, found the names
of familiar objects escaping him.
He wanted to say something about a window,
or a table, or a book on a table.

But the word wasn't there,
although other words could still suggest
the shape of what he meant.
Then someone, his wife perhaps,

would understand: "Yes, window! I'm sorry,
is there a draft?" He'd nod.
She'd rise. Once a friend dropped by
to visit, shook out his umbrella
in the hall, remarked upon the rain.

Later the word umbrella
vanished and became
the thing that strangers take away.

Paper, pen, table, book:
was it possible for a man to think
without them? To know
that he was thinking? We remember
that we forget, he'd written once,
before he started to forget.

Three times he was told
that Longfellow had died.

Without the past, the present
lay around him like the sea.
Or like a ship, becalmed,
upon the sea. He smiled

to think he was the captain then,
gazing off into whiteness,
waiting for the w…

How Can It Be August Already??


by Cecilia Woloch

And these are my vices:
impatience, bad temper, wine,
the more than occasional cigarette,
an almost unquenchable thirst to be kissed,
a hunger that isn't hunger
but something like fear, a staunching of dread
and a taste for bitter gossip
of those who've wronged me—for bitterness—
and flirting with strangers and saying sweetheart
to children whose names I don't even know
and driving too fast and not being Buddhist
enough to let insects live in my house
or those cute little toylike mice
whose soft grey bodies in sticky traps
I carry, lifeless, out to the trash
and that I sometimes prefer the company of a book
to a human being, and humming
and living inside my head
and how as a girl I trailed a slow-hipped aunt
at twilight across the lawn
and learned to catch fireflies in my hands,
to smear their sticky, still-pulsing flickering
onto my fingers and earlobes like jewels.

please note: photo by Lila Byrd

by Ted Kooser

This is the pipe that pierces the dam
that holds back the universe,

that takes off some of the pressure,
keeping the weight of the unknown

from breaking through
and washing us all down the valley.

Because of this small tube,
through which a cold light rushes

from the bottom of time,
the depth of the stars stays always constant

and we are able to sleep, at least for now,
beneath the straining wall of darkness.

please note: photo by way of the Hubble Space Telescope

Saturday in CinCity


by David Budbill

You can see him in the village almost anytime.
He's always on the street.
At noon he ambles down to Jerry's
in case a trucker who's stopped by for lunch
might feel like buying him a sandwich.
Don't misunderstand, Ben's not starving;
he's there each noon because he's sociable,
not because he's hungry.
He is a friend to everyone except the haughty.

There are at least half a dozen families in the village
who make sure he always has enough to eat
and there are places
where he's welcome to come in and spend the night.

Ben is a cynic in the Greek and philosophic sense,
one who gives his life to simplicity
seeking only the necessities
so he can spend his days
in the presence of his dreams.

Ben is a vision of another way,
the vessel in this place for
ancient Christian mystic, Buddhist recluse, Taoist hermit.
Chuang Tzu, The Abbot Moses, Meister Eckhart,
Khamtul Rimpoche, Thomas Merton—
all these and all the others live in Ben, because

in America only a dog
can …