Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dramatis Personæ

by Aaron Fagan



Once upon a time,
Books began this
Way—the O of once let
The reader beware up
Front that a story as
Ornate and colorful as
We are would follow—
And not for any of us
To be shocked to find
We must return and
Stand for what we are.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Woman at the Window

by Theodore Deppe


Like a woman in Vermeer, she ironed
by the kitchen window, blue towel turbaned
about wet hair, three-quarters of her face
suffused in sun. From the cellar doorway
I called to her, unwilling to descend
those nightmare stairs alone, unable to compel her



to join me. Mother gazed out at the sky.
Ignored the televised warnings.
With terrifying calm, flapped a shirt
and spread it flat. Strange about beauty,
how it lives on the best of terms
next door to nothingness: if a twister came

she wanted to see it.
If I could paint that 1950s scene where
nothing finally happened, I'd have to crush
her best pearl and blend the powder in my palette—
how else catch that kitchen's luster?
A tiny wisp of vapor to suggest the hiss

as the white shirt's pressed
and the silvery iron becomes a curved mirror
in which a boy is captured and diminished as he calls.
Or perhaps I'd leave myself out, let that glossy surface
reflect only the blue plume spiraling up
(she sometimes smoked while Father traveled).

As in a waking dream, the iron glides down a sleeve
and there's no tornado, only warnings and warm sun
on a young woman's cheek and shoulder,
only the way the ordinary light of morning
ravishes her as she stares off
at something beyond the frame.

please note: art, not by Vermeer, but by Edgar Degas, Woman Ironing Against the Light

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Secret

by Dorothea Tanning

On one of those birthdays of which I've had so many
I was walking home through the park from a party,

pleased that I'd resisted mentioning the birthday—
why hear congratulations for doing nothing but live?

The birthday was my secret with myself and gave me,
walking under all those trees, such a strong feeling of


satisfaction that everything else fell away: party sounds,
the hostess who stared and as suddenly disappeared

on seeing her husband walk in with a young(er ) friend;
another guest examining garment labels in the room

where I went to leave my jacket; one of two waiters
balancing a trayful of foot-high champagne glasses;

a bee-like buzz of voices I ought to have enjoyed
but heard as foreign babble, so remote it was from

a birthday, so empty of import nothing would remain.
I got my jacket, waved from the hall, pressed Down.

In summer the park, for an hour or so before night,
is at its greenest, a whole implicit proposition

of green leaves, a triumph of leaves enfolding me
that day in a green intimacy so trustworthy I told

them my secret: "It's my birthday," I said out loud
before turning away to cross the avenue.

please note: art by Martin Beek on flickr

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday in CinCity

Horizon of Feet

by Philip Dacey


"I hate dancers. Well, I don't really hate them,
but they're not musicians. They just count beats,
oblivious to the music. They wouldn't know a theme
if it bit them. They're arithmetician-athletes."

We're sitting, cooling off, after racquetball,
and I've asked the principal flutist of the New York
City Ballet Orchestra, Paul Dunkel,
to solo in words, to talk about his work.

"Musicians are there to serve the music, not
vice-versa, as with dancers. Think of us
as the composer's lawyers, and our job's to put
forward for our client the best possible case.

"But playing for dancers we're little more than
drummers in a circus, just there to highlight
with sound the dog whose trick it is to run
and jump through a flaming hoop: drumroll, rimshot.

"Likewise, some composers think they're tailors,
writing to order. They make the music fit
the dancing. Four extra steps? Then add two bars.
I call that music-as-Armani-suit.

"The truth is dancers and musicians live in two
different worlds. They're like passengers and pilots
on an airplane, and the conductor's the steward who
talks to them both and connects the dots.

"But Balanchine combined those two worlds with ease.
Russian-trained dancers learn music, and Mr. B.
played both viola and piano, would get ideas
at the keyboard for his choreography.

"My girlfriend used to dance, and when we go
to dance performances we disagree
on everything. She'll say the music's too slow,
I'll say the dancers are too fast; I see

"with my ears, she hears with her eyes. Or I'll say
a female dancer's too thin, and she'll say not.
But one thing we agree on: in his heyday,
Edward Vilella was just right; that is, hot.

"A guy's guy. Tough. I never heard Eddie whine.
He boxed—and learned fast footwork in the ring.
Was always revved, a Harley-Davidson.
Just did his work; let his feet do the talking."

"Vilella could be one of Whitman' s roughs,"
I say, and imagine the poet's ghost, eyes
wide, front row, watching the dancer do his stuff
while partnering Patricia McBride in Rubies.

"Walt leaned and loafed, didn't he? Like the faun.
In fact, we're rehearsing Afternoon today.
Setting the tempo's the catch. The dancers want one,
the musicians want another. They'll win, we'll play.

"Speaking of time ... " He stands to check the clock.
"Those games were long. I'm late. And outta here."
He waves, heads down the hall, then stops, turns back
and adds a coda before he disappears:

'I'm titling my memoir Dancing On My Head.
That sums up playing for dancers in the pit.
Once, I didn't recognize a dancer who said
she knew me. I told her, 'Let me see your feet.'"

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Marriage

by Barry Spacks

Clear now
of our long struggle
I can hear your voice, its strength
the sweet coldness
of river water.

And I can see you
as in the photograph
with your father and sister,
tall pretty girl,
pigtailed and freckled,

led, misled,
until you doubted
your beauty, body,
that you were one among us,
a person, like any other.

And, given distance,
I think of you
becoming smaller,
but cheerful, the way
the old are

with short white hair
and an easiness
you'd never know before,
and me, incredibly,
not there.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Paying Attention in CinCity




School began again here in CinCity on Tuesday. I continued to deny it for a couple of days because I was working, but today I have driving duty and my September-May routine slid automatically back into its groove.

I'll have to pay closer attention this year since one of these morning drives will be my last. I won't know it though until weeks or months later. HoneyHaired has her temps. She's working on her driving hours. Once she gets her license some crazy work schedule conflict will arise which will just make it simpler for her to drive to school and that will be that. I remember many days of driving CollegeGrrrl back and forth, up and down and round and round, but I had no inkling that it would end so suddenly and so completely. Even as I write this I know I won't realize it this year either for that is the nature of baby birds leaving the nest.

So, I will strive to follow the words of wise men and yogis far and wide to BE PRESENT, and to pay attention, because, you know, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”--Yogi Berra


please note: art by Patrick Glover


To A High School Senior
by Pat Schneider

Don't go. Don't stay.
Daughter. Morning after afternoon
the last year slips away.

Singing all the old songs, you will go
(ambivalence of moon, certainty of sun)
we know

only half of what we are.
The earth is earth to us, star
perhaps

if apprehended far enough away.
Daughter – don't go.
Don't stay.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Roots

by John Pillar


It's easy to believe you can go back
Whenever you desire, jump in the car
And drive, arrive at dusk—the hour
You recall most vividly—and walk
Among the buildings spread across the farm,
Out toward the pastures, woods, and fields.
There is music in the leaves, in the dense
Columns of green corn. The wind lays down
The tune. You can play it, too, simply
By walking with eyes closed, arms
Stretched out, lightly striking the stalks.
Who wouldn't desire, like the children
Lost in so many similar fields,
To sit down on the turned earth and drift
Away on the rhythms of his own
First possible death? Rescuing
Voices come closer, veer off.
Flashlight beams
Strobe over your head. You do not care.
Each building you remember—hen house,
Sheep shed, corn crib, barn—caved in upon itself,
The walls and roofs collapsing with a final
Percussive clap, since you last walked those fields.
No one you will ever know works that land now.
It is as green as Eden.
Life rises in the roots, in the leaves.

please note: art by bronte17

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday in CinCity. The Dog Days Edition.




I suspect there will come a day not too far in the near future when I shall be sick of rain and dark dreary days. It t'ain't today, though. The heat wave is in full bloom and the weathermen keep promising a break to the high temperatures "Sunday and the beginning of next week...," but they are bloody, bloody liars sipping lattes in air-conditioned comfort. I think I might actually hate them.

I have a wedding to attend this evening. A joyful occasion for those of us who love the bride and love to see her happy. While searching for just the perfect visual aide I came across this photo from blueridgeblog. The photo and the blog are both too delicious to not share...



A Wedding Poem
by Thomas R. Smith

Bright faces surround the woman in white,
the man in black, the sweetness of their attention
to each other a shine rising toward the high ceiling.
The men watch the groom, and the women
the bride, as they speak their candle-lit vows,
as if there were something in it for us personally.

Worn by the distances we the already-married
have traveled down the road on which these two
are setting out, we leave the dust of the journey
outside the door of this house where tonight no word
is casual, no posture undignified, and each
becomes again handsome in them, beautiful in them.


please note: first photo by Robert Kruh, hummingbird by blueridgeblog

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Falling Stars

by Rainer Maria Rilke


Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes--do you recall? And we
did make so many! For there were countless numbers
of stars: each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Any Case

by Wislawa Szyborska



It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Closer. Farther away.
It happened, but not to you.

You survived because you were the first.
You survived because you were the last.
Because alone. Because the others.
Because on the left. Because on the right.
Because it was raining. Because it was sunny.
Because a shadow fell.

Luckily there was a forest.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a frame, a turn, an inch, a second.
Luckily a straw was floating on the water.

Thanks to, thus, in spite of, and yet.
What would have happened if a hand, a leg,
One step, a hair away—

So you are here? Straight from that moment still suspended?
The net’s mesh was right, but you—through the mesh?
I can’t stop wondering at it, can’t be silent enough.
Listen,
how your heart is beating in me.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday in CinCity




Our neighbor died this week. Truth be told, I didn't really like him all that much. He was a bit rude, perhaps just socially inept, but enough times and in just the right spots to be hurtful. The couple's about 15 years older than we are. Too old to be similiar to older siblings, not quite old enough to be the next generation, but not Baby Boomers either. Who knows...maybe we're those pesky younger cousins coming in to disrupt the status quo of the street.

But lately, when his wife would see me walking the dog or in the grocery store she had questions about his chemotherapy and gave me the latest numbers on hemoglobin and hematocrit, platelet counts, number of units of packed red blood cells, and corresponding blood pressures. She confided she was ready for hospice, but he wasn't. And unasked, but clearly standing right next to us, how long do we have?

Hubby and I went in when asked with wheelchair assistance and that last evening to help position his head to ease his breathing. It wasn't till his eulogy that I had any knowledge of this gentleman's history. His barfight at seven in the morning during the early 1950's and a subsequent visit to a New Orlean's jail till he could come up with two hundred dollars. His sister-in-law's delight in being "always treated like a lady" by him, constantly opening doors for her, bringing food to her. His wife bought him flying lessons as a gift, because "he wasn't a very good driver, too distracted. I thought this would be good for him." He didn't enjoy music, unabashedly slept during the symphonies, but had a soft spot for musical theater.

He was a guru to my hubby and some of the other men on the street because he always had a home project going on, ones that were usually considered very impractical by the neighborhood wives, but by God, he was going to have them done.

His favorite song was the postlude at his memorial service. I don't believe I'll ever hear it quite the same way again.


They Sit Together on the Porch

by Wendell Berry

They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes--only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons--small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them, now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.


please note: photo by CheyAnne Sexton, newmexicomtngirl on Flickr


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Shells

by Elaine Terranova



In the heat, in the high grass
their knees touched as they sat
crosslegged facing each other,
a lightness and a brittleness
in their bodies. They touched
like shells. How odd

that I should watch them say goodbye.
What did it have to do with me?

There was my own stillness
and the wasps and the tiny flies
for a long time taking stitches
in the surrounding air and

a comfort I felt, as the wind
tore through, to find the trees
miraculously regaining their balance.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Think That I Shall Never See...

Illustrated Guide to Familiar American Trees

by Charlie Smith



I don't get it about the natural world.
Like, greenery,
without people in it, is supposed to do what?

City sunlight, I say, how can you beat it—
the walk to the pool after work, shine
caught in the shopkeeper's visor, bursts.

I see myself moving around New York,
snapping my fingers, eating fries.

My ex-wife's out in California.

I wish she was over on Bank Street,
up on the second floor,
and I was on the way there
to call to her from the sidewalk.

There's a cypress on that block, two honey
locusts and an oak. I love those trees
like my own brothers.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Wolf's Postcript to 'Little Red Riding Hood'


by Agha Shahid Ali



First, grant me my sense of history:
I did it for posterity,
for kindergarten teachers
and a clear moral:
Little girls shouldn't wander off
in search of strange flowers,
and they mustn't speak to strangers.

And then grant me my generous sense of plot:
Couldn't I have gobbled her up
right there in the jungle?
Why did I ask her where her grandma lived?
As if I, a forest-dweller,
didn't know of the cottage
under the three oak trees
and the old woman lived there
all alone?
As if I couldn't have swallowed her years before?

And you may call me the Big Bad Wolf,
now my only reputation.
But I was no child-molester
though you'll agree she was pretty.

And the huntsman:
Was I sleeping while he snipped
my thick black fur
and filled me with garbage and stones?
I ran with that weight and fell down,
simply so children could laugh
at the noise of the stones
cutting through my belly,
at the garbage spilling out
with a perfect sense of timing,
just when the tale
should have come to an end.

please note: art by Richard Hermann Eschke


Can't read that without this...:>)