Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday in CinCity--Three Years Gone


by Amy M. Clark

My seatmate on the late-night flight
could have been my father. I held
a biography, but he wanted to talk.
The pages closed around my finger
on my spot, and as we inclined
into the sky, we went backwards
in his life, beginning with five hours
before, the funeral for his only brother,
a forgotten necktie in his haste
to catch this plane the other way
just yesterday, his wife at home
caring for a yellow Lab she'd found
along the road by the olive grove,
and the pretty places we had visited—
Ireland for me, Germany for him—
a village where he served his draft
during the Korean War, and would like
to see again to show his wife
how lucky he had been. He talked
to me and so we held
his only brother's death at bay.
I turned off my reading light,
remembering another veteran
I met in a pine forest years ago
who helped me put my tent up
in the wind. What was I thinking
camping there alone? I was grateful
he kept watch across the way
and served coffee in a blue tin cup.
Like the makeshift shelter of a tent,
a plane is brought down,
but as we folded to the ground,
I had come to appreciate

even my seatmate's breath, large
and defenseless, the breath of a man
who hadn't had a good night's rest.
I listened and kept the poles
from blowing down, and kept
a vigil from the dark to day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday in CinCity

Our Friends in Minnesota

by Amy M. Clark

A woman (I would be her) says
to a man (he would be you),
"Let's go stay with Ted and Jan."

And what are Ted and Jan?
Ted and Jan are our friends
who live by the lake in Duluth.

They have beautiful teenage daughters.
Tanya, the older one, plays the cello.
Shelly captains the Irish dance team.

Ted and Jan have invited us up
to sail with them anytime we want.
Late June is good. In the evening,

we play cards on their screened deck.
Crickets. Cocktails. Tanya comes down
and drapes over the back of Ted's chair,

her arms around his shoulders. "Daddy,
I see you're losing again," she teases.
"Where's the love?" Ted says, and Jan

flourishes another full house. Her cheeks
are reddened from the day on the boat.
Later, we listen to Ted strum the guitar,

and we talk of food and people we know.
When Shelly isn't in by eleven, we hear
of the boy she's taken up with,

the one who threw up in the lilac bushes
outside their window. "He's a good kid,
though," Ted says. Jan arches one eyebrow,

as she's always done. But here's
Shelly now, chiming, "I'm home."
Is it too much to say I'm happy,

viewing from my deck chair, my arms
around my knees? Tucked in the attic bed,
you and I hold hands and giggle and talk

about Ted and Jan. I made them up,
and I made up you. The old boards
shift and settle, as dreamers do.

Friday, May 28, 2010


by Richard Jones

When I went home to visit my sister
in the stone house by the river,
I couldn't sleep, and so I rose early,
before dawn, and entered the quiet
temple of the living room to sit
in simple meditation. Palms up,
legs crossed, shoulders squared,
I took a minute to relax my body,
then began to count slow breaths,
attentive to the task of emptying
the merest thought from the mind,
as if sweeping cobwebs from corners.
Moment by moment my heart grew
calm. The windows filled with light
and birdsong announced the morning.

Out of nothingness, light and birdsong.
With eyelids almost closed, I imagined
a peaceful sky free of drifting clouds—
heaven's immaculate, eternal blue.
As I sat, time passed, like the river
quickened by wind. Sun-diamonds
sparkled on wind-shirred water,
and all around the house red azaleas
blossomed, burning like a fiery moat
as towering pines swayed high above.
Perfectly still, quietly alert, I sat
and I breathed—the mind balanced.
Then I heard the soft yet distinct
notes of a distant trumpet.
I did not move, or open my eyes,
but only listened—yes, a trumpet.
The soaring notes entered my being.
My first thought was of angels on high—
the Lord coming on clouds of glory.
But the next instant brought the truth:
not a trumpet, but a bugle—a soldier
at the fort upriver, sounding reveille.
How could I have forgotten the fort,
having grown up among soldiers and war?
How could I have forgotten the battlements,
the armaments I've known since childhood?
And so like my father, a soldier,
I rose to defend the day,
to praise the light in song
like any bird or poet,
knowing this could be the very day
when angels blow their trumpets
and wake everyone.

please note: art by Randy Webb

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday in CinCity

Some wadded up clump of denial has washed clear of my psyche and I am finally peaceful with the fact that my children are not ever going to use the set of encyclopedias, old Life magazines, multiple maps of the world, books about the presidents, How Things Work, and The Human Body that I thought they might someday need and use for a report. It is an internet world of information for this generation. So, I am tossing and bagging and schlepping, and otherwise clearing spaces for new adventures. What a fun ride it was with little ones in the house.

It helps that some items can be moved up to our place on the lake. Treasure Quest, James Herriot's Treasury for Children, and Wind in the Willows. The Friends Trivia Game. What I may lack in denial I more than make up for in immaturity.

Boy Blowing Bubbles

By Deborah Pope

They erupt
with the suddenness
and ease of his laughter,
rising like the high,
wobbly syllables
of his singing.
Shimmering, drifting,
perfect in their roundness
as planets in a book,
they issue forth
from his lips
where he breathes
through the wand
like a birthday candle
he is wishing on.
they ride away
in the curve of leaves,
scoop of sky,
rolling without wind
through midsummer,
his gaze steady and lifted
as any creator
to the beautiful,
mortal world
he can still take
into his heart
without misgiving.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday in CinCity

The Secret of Life

by Ellen Goldsmith

I grabbed the streetcar from Fisherman's Wharf
to the Ferry Building to save my feet for later.
My dollar bill, wrinkled and worn, resisted disappearing
into the slot. I stuffed the transfer
in my pocket without looking.

As the streetcar rounded the Embarcadero,
I called my mother-in-law with mother's day wishes,
imagined the conversation
I'd have with mine, were she alive.
On exiting, I asked the conductor
how long the transfer would last.
I gave you extra time, he said.
Just show it. Hardly anyone looks.
It's good until it's taken away.

please note: photo by Chris Gulkey, Embarcadero Pier

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Enkindled Spring

D.H. Lawrence (1916)

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

As Far As I'm Concerned, It's Summer!

HoneyHaired is out of school for the summer!!

First Year Teacher to His Students

by Gary J. Whitehead

Go now into summer, into the backs of cars,
into the black maws of your own changing,
onto the boardwalks of a thousand splinters,
onto the beaches of a hundred fond memories
in wait, where the sea in all its indefatigability
stammers at the invitation. Go to your vacation,

to the late morning cool of your basement rooms,
the honeysuckle evening of the first kiss, the first
dip and pivot, swivel and twist. Go to where
the clipper ships sail far upriver, where the salmon
swim in the clean, cool pools just to spawn.
Wake to what the spider unspools into a silver

dawn dripping with light. Sleep in sleeping bags,
sleep in sand, sleep at someone else's house
in a land you've never been, where the dreamers
dream in a language you only half understand.
Slip beneath the sheets, slide toward the plate,
swing beneath the bandstand where the secret

things await. Be glad, or be sad if you want,
but be, and be a part of all that marches past
like a parade, and wade through it or swim in it
or dive in it with your eyes open and your mind
open to wind, rain, long days of sun and longer
nights of city lights mixing on wet streets like paint.

This was playing on the car radio on the way home from picking her up at school. Sunny day, warm breeze, windows rolled down and our dog, Brutus, sticking his head out smiling...

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Man Alone

by Stephen Orlen

I hated breaking up and I hated
Being left, finding myself in an apartment
With an extra set of silverware and a ghost,
Impatient to be gone. Then to summon up
Who I was before the bed was full with woman.
To shift the street-mind from getting to
To slowing down and window shop. In the bar down the street,
To let my eyes simplify again, and make no judgments,
And breathe in the smoke that drifts
Through one body then another,
And find myself close enough
To whisper into a woman's just-washed hair
And inhale that ten thousand year old scent.
To memorize a phone number.
To learn to say goodnight at her door.
To keep my hands in my pockets, like a boy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday in CinCity

Talking to Ourselves

by Philip Schultz

A woman in my doctor's office last week
couldn't stop talking about Niagara Falls,
the difference between dog and deer ticks,
how her oldest boy, killed in Iraq, would lie
with her at night in the summer grass, singing
Puccini. Her eyes looked at me but saw only
the saffron swirls of the quivering heavens.

Yesterday, Mr. Miller, our tidy neighbor,
stopped under our lopsided maple to explain
how his wife of sixty years died last month
of Alzheimer's. I stood there, listening to
his longing reach across the darkness with
each bruised breath of his eloquent singing.

This morning my five-year-old asked himself
why he'd come into the kitchen. I understood
he was thinking out loud, personifying himself,
but the intimacy of his small voice was surprising.

When my father's vending business was failing,
he'd talk to himself while driving, his lips
silently moving, his black eyes deliquescent.
He didn't care that I was there, listening,
what he was saying was too important.

"Too important," I hear myself saying
in the kitchen, putting the dishes away,
and my wife looks up from her reading
and asks, "What's that you said?"

please note: art by Susan Dory, Deliquescence

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday in CinCity

With kids in school the month of May becomes hectic with end of year details and deadlines. And exams. And dance productions. So, while it is a glorious day(and I do not use that word lightly, although I am a bit loose with "fabulous")with sun and soft breezes and no humidity, HoneyHaired and I will be inside a studio or at the dining room table with papers galore. She'll be the one sticking her head out the car window like a young Golden Retriever while we drive up and down Central Parkway. I will vigorously attempt to restrain myself.

Her shows are next Friday and Saturday after a week of exams, fittings and rehearsals. I have a gazillion page evaluation to be filled out by this Sunday which is difficult to start for many reasons, one being "clustershag" is not BigFatTeaching Hospital approved terminology. Such is life.

I'd like to think that you all are hiking around some beautiful nature trail enjoying this May Day, but I suspect many of you are in exactly the same boat as me. Enjoy...

Crossing the Loch

by Kathleen Jamie

Remember how we rowed toward the cottage
on the sickle-shaped bay,
that one night after the pub
loosed us through its swinging doors
and we pushed across the shingle
till water lipped the sides
as though the loch mouthed 'boat'?

I forgot who rowed. Our jokes hushed.
The oars' splash, creak, and the spill
of the loch reached long into the night.
Out in the race I was scared:
the cold shawl of breeze,
and hunched hills; what the water held
of deadheads, ticking nuclear hulls.

Who rowed, and who kept their peace?
Who hauled salt-air and stars
deep into their lungs, were not reassured;
and who first noticed the loch's
phosphorescence, so, like a twittering nest
washed from the rushes, an astonished
small boat of saints, we watched water shine
on our fingers and oars,
the magic dart of our bow wave?
It was surely foolhardy, such a broad loch, a tide,
but we live—and even have children
to women and men we had yet to meet
that night we set out, calling our own
the sky and salt-water, wounded hills
dark-starred by blaeberries, the glimmering anklets
we wore in the shallows
as we shipped oars and jumped,
to draw the boat safe, high at the cottage shore.

please note: photo by Arjun Gobinath

Thursday, May 13, 2010


by Louis Jenkins

All those things that have gone from your life,
moon boots, TV trays and the Soviet Union, that
seem to have vanished, are really only changed.
Dinosaurs did not disappear from the earth but
evolved into birds and crock pots became bread
makers and then the bread makers all went to
rummage sales along with the exercise bikes.
Everything changes. It seems at times (only for
a moment) that your wife, the woman you love,
might actually be your first wife in another form.
It's a thought not to be pursued….Nothing is the
same as it used to be. Except you, of course,
you haven't changed…well, slowed down a bit,
perhaps. It's more difficult nowadays to deal with
the speed of change, disturbing to suddenly find
yourself brushing your teeth with what appears
to be a flashlight. But essentially you are the
same as ever, constant in your instability.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Go Flo...Still Remembering Your Name and Your Great Works

"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." --Rob Siltanen of Chiat Day

(Nightingale's diagram of deaths incurred in Crimean War, those in blue thought by her to be preventable.)


and now...

The Real Florence Nightingale

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Speaker

by Louis Jenkins

The speaker points out that we don't really have
much of a grasp of things, not only the big things,
the important questions, but the small everyday
things. "How many steps up to your back yard? What
is the name of your district representative? What
did you have for breakfast? What is your wife's
shoe size? Can you tell me the color of your
sweetheart's eyes? Do you remember where you
parked the car?" The evidence is overwhelming.
Most of us never truly experience life. "We drift
through life in daydream, missing the true
richness and joy that life has to offer." When the
speaker has finished we gather around to sing
a few inspirational songs. You and I stand at the
back of the group and hum along since we have
forgotten most of the words.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sunday in CinCity--the Mom's edition

Family Garden

by Hank Hudepohl

Tell me again about your garden
Tell me how you planted, in the small
flat of mountain land, corn seed

and bean seed, how your finger poked the soil
then you dropped in three dark bean seeds
for every yellow seed of corn.

Trees and mountains collared your land,
but the fenced garden opened freely
to sun and warm summer rains.

Your potato rows bulged in July. You ached
from digging them up, your hands down in dirt,
the cool lump of a tuber, brown-spotted,

just recovered, a greeting, like shaking hands.
Baskets full of bumpy brown potatoes filled
your basement until fall, until you gave

away what you could, throwing out the rest.
You gave away honey from the white hive too,
that box of bees beside the garden,

honey stored in Mason jars, a clearest honey
nectar from lin tree blossoms and wild flowers.
The bright taste of honey on the tongue

spoke of the place, if a place can be known
by the activity of bees and a flavor in the mouth,
if a person can be known by small acts

such as these, such as the way you rocked
summer evenings from a chair on the porch
tending your inner garden, eyes closed.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beautiful Dreamer

The Speaker

by Louis Jenkins

The speaker points out that we don't really have
much of a grasp of things, not only the big things,
the important questions, but the small everyday
things. "How many steps up to your back yard? What
is the name of your district representative? What
did you have for breakfast? What is your wife's
shoe size? Can you tell me the color of your
sweetheart's eyes? Do you remember where you
parked the car?" The evidence is overwhelming.
Most of us never truly experience life. "We drift
through life in daydream, missing the true
richness and joy that life has to offer." When the
speaker has finished we gather around to sing
a few inspirational songs. You and I stand at the
back of the group and hum along since we have
forgotten most of the words.

please note: art by Ricardo Valbueno--Figures Walking, Light Fog

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Saturday in CinCity


by Julie Cadwallader Staub

I am 52 years old, and have spent
truly the better part
of my life out-of-doors
but yesterday I heard a new sound above my head
a rustling, ruffling quietness in the spring air

and when I turned my face upward
I saw a flock of blackbirds
rounding a curve I didn't know was there
and the sound was simply all those wings
just feathers against air, against gravity
and such a beautiful winning
the whole flock taking a long, wide turn
as if of one body and one mind.

How do they do that?

Oh if we lived only in human society
with its cruelty and fear
its apathy and exhaustion
what a puny existence that would be

but instead we live and move and have our being
here, in this curving and soaring world
so that when, every now and then, mercy and tenderness triumph in our lives
and when, even more rarely, we manage to unite and move together
toward a common good,

and can think to ourselves:

ah yes, this is how it's meant to be.

please note: photo by Stephen Cotterell, singer-unknown, found on YouTube