I’m thrilled to announce “Lifting Stones” is available for pre-order now. Publishing is set for June 8 in print and E-book formats and available world-wide. It is also going to be in catalogs for bookstores and libraries to place orders through normal channels.
Published by Rootstock Publishing in Montpelier, VT, a website is now up with background information on the book and a link to pre-order.
Early reviews are starting to come in and they are looking good. A sample: “…There is humility and there is enormous bravery. Within the pages of Lifting Stones there is no finite limit to Stanfield’s poetic skill, nor to his quality….”
I came from a place of fireflies,
where men were reasonable and tall,
where people knew me by who my grandfather was, and his, and his.
Where farmers didn’t block views with trees,
To quickly see at a glance from the kitchen window
How the corn was doing, the soybeans.
Where cemeteries were so old they had no one living who cared
and the raspberry bushes
And groundhogs had taken over;
Where being a child meant living outdoors, year-’round.
Where you waved at a passing car
Because they probably knew your parents:
And you didn’t want to hear at church on Sunday about being rude.
I came from a place where my nearest playmate was a cousin, a mile away;
Where going to hang out meant
Riding the old fat-tired-hand-me-down bike,
With one gear, but was great for
Popping the tar bubbles on hot summer days;
And watching the big grasshoppers and flies whiz by,
the birds calling from the trees,
And watching my dog chase another rabbit.
I came from a place of spirits, haunted by the land,
by deep roots down five generations;
Where uncles and aunts would come over
for summer dinners after the milking,
And sit outside after dark in our yard talking,
And how those adult voices murmering made things
Safe somehow as
My cousins and I would chase each other
through the darkness, making up games
Hiding in the bushes and the darkness
on the edge of safety,
Thrilling in the freedom to roam, to be children;
In awe when the fields and grass would
Erupt in a billion fireflies, and we would put
dozens in quart canning jars
For study, and marveling at yet another mystery.
I came from a place, a very common place, that had an order
Of season and harvest, planting and animals, birth, death, renewal;
A place where the farm animals taught
about sex very early, but also about stewardship,
pragmatism, kindness and death;
There were the late nights wading through
snowdrifts to the barn in February’s lambing season,
Fields draped deeply asleep in white under hard,
cold moonlight and wicked winds;
Of helping with the births—which only seemed
to come in bitterest cold—
cleaning newborn lambs off with
old burlap feed sacks
Holding the newborns under heat lamps
until their mothers licked them clean,
Made sure they found the teat and began to nurse,
coats still steaming, tails wiggling.
It was there I learned about birth, and
the miracle of it.
I came from a place that has slowly died since then.
I feel an ache of loss of a place
that gave me my sense of who I was,
Where the places I roamed with my dog
are now owned by Arab sheiks,
where even bigness did not guarantee survival.
It is a place where the invisible glue that once
nurtured communities evaporated from
change and neglect and globalism and meth and, now, heroin,
Where people stay inside and hide from themselves,
Surfing the web for porn, and never once see the
Fireflies rising up in the June nights,
calling children to mystery but with
fewer there to hear the answers.
In every life,
there’s a moment, or two.
The curve of your neck
out of that corduroy man’s shirt,
of autumn; change.
How unaware you were
that our child-like lives had just changed.
That’s not quite the right word.
They rearranged themselves
Into a new pattern, the right one.
Like random iron filings on paper
Which, when a magnet comes near,
Spring instantly into order,
Obedient to the
Truth of an invisible force.
I felt for a while that grief would undo death.
But I believed it might, if it were deep enough.
My cynic friend laughs at me.
Life is a fatal condition, my friend. Don’t you get that yet?
All the bandages in the world, all the disinfectants, all the healthy diets
can never heal that gash we’ve had since the first moments,
Three Fates. One
fate, with three faces.
‘We strut and fret our hour on the stage
and then are heard no more’
Everything has a time limit here.
Such a gloomy cynic! You take away all hope.
Not at all. You don’t have to turn this into something.
You don’t need to get upset.
Think of yourself as dead already,
that you’ve lived your life.
Now you’re free to take what time is left and
live it as it should be lived.
It just takes being indifferent to what makes no difference.
And most of what we say and do is not essential.
Listen. Just do this.
Go out into the desert just once.
Lie down look up at the stars,
At a blackness so filled with light
it seems alive
Let it bewilder you,
You shiver, but it is not the cool air,
but an angel who has lain beside you.
you’ll know then that something
beyond your imagining
Are we to be lovers, or companions, or strangers?
(Not that one is better in some tedious way.)
I do not know myself.
I go dark and am of dark.
My journey takes me there.
And back again, but sometimes…
Is it moral to get better,
if I see things as they really are?
True is true— a little epiphany—
But so is hope a triumph.
And I have that male instinct
to penetrate, to impregnate with
A true, whatever it is,
but also hope.
So what shall we choose?
And are they different?
For the search for love does not cease in this world.
Shared from “Oldest Daughter and Redheaded Sister”
this morning’s noises echo
facts of summertime dwindling.
a crow’s call to advance
spur last night’s crickets,
still rubbing within the window well.
my heart swells with hope
which confuses me,
and the neighbor lady sweeps her deck.Noise
I can’t go home, not yet.
Home is still moving,
When it stops, maybe I’ll rejoin it.
But this moment is real;
I can feel your lips,
and join you with
such easy passion.
I know the heat, the
weight, the wetness of you
In the dark,
or pressed against me
at a dock, oblivious
to jealous eyes,
saying a goodbye,
me what feels right.
Sensing it would not last.
melts in the natural
grace of you.
Stay with me a while, dancer.
For these precious moments.
Let’s walk on the beach,
look in the sands for courage,
We’ll stroll to breakfast
just after dawn,
sit in the temporary
the unworldly turquoise
of the sea
knowing the tide
but, with luck, comes again.
pile of poems,
a scattering of short stories,
a minor mess of manuscripts,
all in a state of perpetual preparation.
I wait to see
what will happen today.
These things, bits of a lonely soul,
Hopeful of attention float into
New Orleans, on a random Saturday morning.
Jock and Michelle
play a mix of the classics
in the next patch of shade.
Lovely, dark Michelle on the violin,
Jock, recently of Columbus,
sits in on the keyboard.
Buffalo, the veteran, hair strapped
by a black cloth band, plucks
a soulful strain from Mozart
on a battered guitar.
Its case is open on the dirty concrete,
a few coins and bills
coaxed from a family from Iowa,
will buy one or two meals,
a share of a dump on
Decatur Street, when he’s
not enjoying the wonders
between a girlfriend’s thighs in
a ratty old apartment in the Tremé.
His trio, assembled for the day,
seem barely out of
high school, or some music program
up north. Each wandered to NOLA
to live the mythical life of music,
for the joy of it, happy
with friends, happy to live
rough, running from gig to gig,
earning a street corner on Thursdays
to seduce tips from tourists,
getting thinner and gradually
realizing that love alone will
not feed the bulldog.
But oh, there are times, just
like this morning, as tourists
walk by and glance at my books
thick air moving into
the square from the river,
the magnolias in bloom,
the smell of overflowing
dumpsters, junkies sliding
along the alleys, looking to score.
And then Michelle,
long black hair gathered in a bun, bare
arms in a small black dress and almond-eyed,
raises the violin her father
bought her for her
promise, for respectable concert halls,
far from the dirty streets
of New Orleans. She
closes her eyes and summons
The voices of angels
to earth to move
among we the lost, but crying to heaven.
The ache and purity of the sound freezes
everyone nearby, even the junkies,
by something holy,
just for a minute.
And my heart remembers what it hungers for.
The stars were out
shockingly clear and bright.
I couldn’t sleep, again,
as a bed is best kept for two things (not counting dying),
I slipped into clothes and went outside,
my dog curled up beside her, protecting.
It was an hour or two before first light,
a rare time here without clouds,
Venus rising in the East
like the Star of Africa on the paw of Leo.
To the south,
Orion’s three gems shine on his belt,
Betelgeuse on his upraised club arm,
Rigel in the buckle of
his raised left foot as he leaps into battle.
There is a universal beauty,
a unity of all creation,
a clear, subtle illumination
of the magnificence of life, and death
always there, like the stars,
beacons of creation,
in that last hour of darkness, when
the clouds slide away toward
Idaho, and dawn approaches,
a rare time without hidden things,
here in the kingdom of water.
by Carl Sandburg
You come along. . . tearing your shirt. . .
Where do you get that stuff?
What do you know about Jesus?
Jesus had a way of talking soft and outside of a few
bankers and higher-ups among the con men of Jerusalem
everybody liked to have this Jesus around because
he never made any fake passes and everything
he said went and he helped the sick and gave the
You come along squirting words at us, shaking your fist
and calling us all damn fools so fierce the froth slobbers
over your lips. . . always blabbing we’re all
going to hell straight off and you know all about it.
I’ve read Jesus’ words. I know what he said. You don’t
throw any scare into me. I’ve got your number. I
know how much you know about Jesus.
He never came near clean people or dirty people but
they felt cleaner because he came along. It was your
crowd of bankers and business men and lawyers
hired the sluggers and murderers who put Jesus out
of the running.
I say the same bunch backing you nailed the nails into
the hands of this Jesus of Nazareth. He had lined
up against him the same crooks and strong-arm men
now lined up with you paying your way. Continue reading “To A Contemporary Bunkshooter”
By Mary Oliver (2003)
I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It’s like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
full of moonlight.
Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.
The sky was cold December blue with great tumbling clouds,
and the little river
Ran full but clear. A bare-legged girl
in a red jersey was wading
in it, holding a five-tined
Hay-fork at her head’s height; suddenly she darted it down like
a heron’s beak and panting hard
Leaned on the shaft, looking down passionately, her gipsy-lean
face, then stooped and dipping
One arm to the little breasts she drew up her catch, great hammered-
silver steelhead with the tines through it
And the fingers of her left hand hooked in its
gills, her slender body
Rocked with its writhing. She took it to the near bank
And was dropping it behind a log when someone said
Quietly ‘I guess I’ve got you, Vina.’ Who gasped and looked up
At a young horseman half hidden in the willow bushes,
She’d been too intent to notice him, and said ‘My God,
I thought it was the game-warden.’ ‘Worse,’ he said smiling.
‘This river’s ours.
You can’t get near it without crossing our fences.
Besides that you mustn’t spear ’em, and . . . three, four, you
That’s the fifth fish.’ She answered with her gipsy face, ‘Take
half o’ them, honey. I loved the fun.’
He looked up and down her taper legs, red with cold, and said
fiercely, ‘Your fun.
To kill them and leave them rotting.’ ‘Honey, let me have one
o’ them,’ she answered,
‘You take the rest.’ He shook his blond head. ‘You’ll have to pay
a terrible fine.’ She answered laughing,
‘Don’t worry: you wouldn’t tell on me.’ He dismounted and
tied the bridle to a bough, saying ‘Nobody would.
I know a lovely place deep in the willows, full of warm grass,
safe as a house,
Where you can pay it.’ Her body seemed to grow narrower
suddenly, both hands at her throat, and the cold thighs
Pressed close together while she stared at his face, it was beautiful,
long heavy-lidded eyes like a girl’s,
‘I can’t do that, honey . . . I,’ she said shivering, ‘your wife
would kill me.’ He hardened his eyes and said
‘Let that alone.’ ‘Oh,’ she answered; the little red hands came
down from her breast and faintly
Reached toward him, her head lifting, he saw the artery on the
lit side of her throat flutter like a bird
And said ‘You’ll be sick with cold, Vina,’ flung off his coat
And folded her in it with his warmth in it and carried her
To that island in the willows.
He warmed her bruised feet in
She paid her fine for spearing fish, and another
For taking more than the legal limit, and would willingly
Have paid a third for trespassing; he sighed and said,
‘You’ll owe me that. I’m afraid somebody might come looking
Or my colt break his bridle.’ She moaned like a dove, ‘Oh Oh
You are beautiful, Hugh.’ They returned to the stream-bank.
While Vina put on her shoes-they were like a small boy’s, all
stubbed and shapeless young Flodden strung the five fish
On a willow rod through the red gills and slung them
To his saddle-horn. He led the horse and walked with Vina,
going part way home with her.
Toward the canyon sea-mouth
The water spread wide and shoal, fingering through many channels
down a broad flood-bed, and a mob of sea-gulls
Screamed at each other. Vina said, ‘That’s a horrible thing.’
‘What?’ ‘What the birds do. They’re worse than I am.’
When Flodden returned alone he rode down and watched them.
He saw that one of the thousand steelhead
Which irresistible nature herded up stream to the spawning-gravel
in the mountain, the river headwaters,
Had wandered into a shallow finger of the current, and was
forced over on his flank, sculling uneasily
In three inches of water: instantly a gaunt herring-gull hovered
and dropped, to gouge the exposed
Eye with her beak; the great fish writhing, flopping over in his
anguish, another gull’s beak
Took the other eye. Their prey was then at their mercy, writhing
blind, soon stranded, and the screaming mob
Young Flodden rode into them and drove them
up; he found the torn steelhead
Still slowly and ceremoniously striking the sand with his tail and
a bloody eye-socket, under the
Pavilion of wings. They cast a cold shadow on the air, a fleeting
sense of fortune’s iniquities: why should
Hugh Flodden be young and happy, mounted on a good horse,
And have had another girl besides his dear wife, while others
have to endure blindness and death,
Pain and disease, misery, old age, God knows what worse?
each day the path of courage
I fail, often.
say this with bravado;
I do not feel brave.
If I could choose something
easier, I would.
But it never gets easier.
But to make the choice each day,
Each minute, to turn and
face the sadness and suffering,
of the world; the pain and joy,
Each on it’s own terms
and not be defeated by it—
That is something that
Must be chosen again,
It is the job of poetry.
It is not a choice of pleasant fictions,
A diversion of entertaining nothingness;
Nor like the fog of opium that
Leaves us still breathing,
Each night, darkness does not fall.
That is the wrong image.
Rather, when the earth spins away
From the sun it rises up from deep places
From the earth and the oceans, from
Caverns and the bottoms of rivers and lakes and seas.
A deep exhalation.
A time for alternatives. Continue reading “Passion, Courage”
The following are selections from columns originally published in the Polish newspaper Literary Life. In these columns, famed poet Wislawa Szymborska answered letters from ordinary people who wanted to write poetry. Translated by Clare Cavanagh, they appeared in slightly different form in our Journals section earlier this year.
To Heliodor from Przemysl: “You write, ‘I know my poems have many faults, but so what, I’m not going to stop and fix them.’ And why is that, oh Heliodor? Perhaps because you hold poetry so sacred? Or maybe you consider it insignificant? Both ways of treating poetry are mistaken, and what’s worse, they free the novice poet from the necessity of working on his verses. It’s pleasant and rewarding to tell our acquaintances that the bardic spirit seized us on Friday at 2:45 p.m. and began whispering mysterious secrets in our ear with such ardor that we scarcely had time to take them down. But at home, behind closed doors, they assiduously corrected, crossed out, and revised those otherworldly utterances. Spirits are fine and dandy, but even poetry has its prosaic side.”
To H.O. from Poznan, a would-be translator: “The translator is obliged to be faithful not only to the text. He must also reveal the full beauty of the poetry while retaining its form and preserving as completely as possible the epoch’s spirit and style.”
To Grazyna from Starachowice: “Let’s take the wings off and try writing on foot, shall we?”
To Mr. G. Kr. of Warsaw: “You need a new pen. The one you’re using makes a lot of mistakes. It must be foreign.” Continue reading “How To (And How Not To) Write Poetry”
The photo is mine, but the words are Louise Erdrich’s and I turn to them often when I forget why I’m here.
The quality of these trees, green height; of the sky, shining, of
water, a clear flow; of the rock, hardness
And reticence: each is noble in its quality. The love of freedom
has been the quality of Western man.
There is a stubborn torch that flames from Marathon to Concord,
its dangerous beauty binding three ages
Into one time; the waves of barbarism and civilization have
eclipsed but have never quenched it.
For the Greeks the love of beauty, for Rome of ruling; for the
present age the passionate love of discovery;
But in one noble passion we are one; and Washington, Luther,
Tacitus, Aeschylus, one kind of man.
And you, America, that passion made you. You were not born
to prosperity, you were born to love freedom.
You did not say ‘en masse,’ you said ‘independence.’ But we
cannot have all the luxuries and freedom also.
Freedom is poor and laborious; that torch is not safe but hungry,
and often requires blood for its fuel.
You will tame it against it burn too clearly, you will hood it
like a kept hawk, you will perch it on the wrist of Caesar.
But keep the tradition, conserve the forms, the observances, keep
the spot sore. Be great, carve deep your heel-marks.
The states of the next age will no doubt remember you, and edge
their love of freedom with contempt of luxury.
–Robinson Jeffers, 1887-1962
Come with me, I said, and no one knew
where, or how my pain throbbed,
no carnations or barcaroles for me,
only a wound that love had opened.
I said it again: Come with me, as if I were dying,
and no one saw the moon that bled in my mouth
or the blood that rose into the silence.
O Love, now we can forget the star that has such thorns!
That is why when I heard your voice repeat
Come with me, it was as if you had let loose
the grief, the love, the fury of a cork-trapped wine
the geysers flooding from deep in its vault:
in my mouth I felt the taste of fire again,
of blood and carnations, of rock and scald.
by Pablo Neruda
My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.
Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.
Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.
No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he’d keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.
Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean’s spray.
Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.
There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.
So now he’s gone and I buried him,
and that’s all there is to it.
Translated, from the Spanish, by Alfred Yankauer
My life has been the poem I would have writ
But I could not both live and utter it.
–Henry David Thoreau
by Raymond Carver I want to get up early one more morning, before sunrise. Before the birds, even. I want to throw cold water on my face and be at my work table when the sky lightens and smoke begins to rise from the chimneys of the other houses. I want to see the waves break on the beach, not just hear them break as I did all night in my sleep. I want to see again the ships that pass through the Straight from every seafaring country in the world— old, dirty freighters just barely moving along, and the swift new cargo vessels painted every color under the sun that cut the water as they pass. I want to keep an eye out for them. And for the little boat that plies the water between the ships and the pilot station near the lighthouse. I want to see them take a man off the ship and put another up on board. I want to spend the day watching this happen and reach my own conclusions. I hate to seem greedy—I have so much To be thankful for already. But I want to get up early one more morning, at least, And go to my place with some coffee and wait, Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.
He Who Learns Must Suffer
In our sleep, pain
which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon
the heart until,
in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom through
the awful grace of God.
—Aeschylus, “Father of tragedy”
c. 523 BCE- 456 BCE
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
n/aSource: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)
by Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967)
I give the undertakers permission to haul my body
to the graveyard and to lay away all, the head, the feet, the hands, all:
I know there is something left over they can not put away.
Let the nanny goats and the billy goats of the shanty
eat the clover over my grave
and if any yellow hair
or any blue smoke of flowers
is good enough to grow over me
let the dirty-fisted children
of the shanty people pick these flowers.
I have had my chance to live with the people who have
too much and the people who have
too little and I chose one of the two and I have told no man why.
And I guess I just got in the way.
Doin’ OK, though.
“I think everyone must love life more than anything else in the world.’
‘Love life more than the meaning of it?’
‘Yes, certainly. Love it regardless of logic, as you say. Yes, most certainly regardless of logic, for only then will I grasp its meaning. That’s what I’ve been vaguely aware of for a long time. Half your work is done, Ivan: you love life. Now you must try to do the second half and you are saved.”
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Please consider picking up a copy of “Snowflakes & Ashes…” at Amazon or Barnes & Noble online. The links are below. It’s not a beach book, I’m afraid. But that’s not all bad this time of year.
But don’t take my word for it. From one of the reviews.
August 9, 2018
By Elizabeth Hardwick
Those with the least gift are the most anxious to receive a commission. It seems to them that there lies waiting a topic, a new book, a performance, and that this is known as material. The true prose writer knows there is nothing given, no idea, no text or play seen last evening, until an assault has taken place, the forced domination that we call ”putting it in your own words.” Talking about, thinking about a project bears little relation to the composition; enthusiasm boils down with distressing speed to a paragraph, often one of mischievous banality. To proceed from musing to writing is to feel a robbery has taken place. And certainly there has been a loss; the loss of the smiles and ramblings and discussions so much friendlier to ambition than the cold hardship of writing.
–from “Its Only Defense: Intelligence and Sparkle,” in The New York Times in 1986
Robert Frost held a special place in President Kennedy’s intellectual pantheon. Frost died in January 1963, at age 88. The following October, Amherst College held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Robert Frost Library. Kennedy traveled to Massachusetts to deliver this speech; a month later, he, too, was dead.
(Did the headline catch your eye? Maybe pissed you off? Sorry. This is a political post, not really about poetry. But it is about poetry’s relationship to power, and how one president used to be. And how that compares to today.)
“Our national strength matters; but the spirit which informs and controls our strength matters just as much. This was the special significance of Robert Frost.
“He brought an unsparing instinct for reality to bear on the platitudes and pieties of society. His sense of the human tragedy fortified him against self-deception and easy consolation. Continue reading “The Purpose of Poetry”
A gentle reminder for July’s sales (going gangbusters!.. probably): if you meant to get a copy of “Snowflakes & Ashes….” and haven’t yet, it’s available through several channels, including Barnes and Noble.
(It’s in stock at the State College (PA) B&N store near the mall, by the way. Or, you may order from B&N online and pickup at a store near you instead of home delivery.)
It’s also on Amazon, both paperback and e-Book. It is helpful if you leave a review and rating, as they use that for the algorithm to determine how visible it is. Thanks in advance. Now I can tell my marketing department I did my bit. 😉
Bulk orders for book clubs are available. Just email me with quantities and location so I can get you the discount price with shipping.
Oh, and I mentioned other channels. Your local small bookshop or library can order this one if you ask them to: ISBN: 978-1-64237-194-9
I’m happy to announce that I’ve just published (via Gatekeeper Press), “Snowflakes and Ashes: Meditations on the Temporary.” It’s still being propagated through the internet, but Amazon (paperback and Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook) have it up already. Distribution will also be through independent bookstores, libraries and academic users.
For now, you can take a peek at https://amzn.to/2kpYDLC
Steve Jobs said once that we can’t connect the dots of our lives looking forward. It’s only later, after the journey has a few miles on it, that one can look back and draw some conclusions and see the patterns that are usually invisible at the time. Some things we know, but some things are surprises. I wrote this out of the jumble of my own life, but have the conceit that my experiences and accidental insights are probably similar to some of yours. I hope so. (Solitary journeys can be lonely. Glad to have some company.) I’ll be posting some promo codes as soon as I get them if you can’t handle buying a book at the moment. I am gladly welcoming reviews, however.
by St. Thomas More
Grant me, O Lord, good digestion,
and also something to digest.
Grant me a healthy body,
and the necessary good humor to maintain it.
Grant me a simple soul that knows to treasure all that is good
and that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil,
but rather finds the means to put things back in their place.
Give me a soul that knows not
boredom, grumblings, sighs and laments,
nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called “I.”
Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humor.
Allow me the grace to be able to
take a joke to discover in life a bit of joy,
and to be able to share it with others.
A brief note as an update… my wife has left the hospital and transitioned to the Hospice program at home.
Doubt is my most trusted traveling partner, that “curious questioner” who comes in the night, that voice that says what I’ve done is not what it should be, that I’m not what I should be. And it is then—out of a last-ditch, almost reluctant refusal to betray myself— that everything comes of which I am most proud.
Doubt is my friend and lover. Doubt need not be fear’d, but endured and embraced as a means to an end. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way I became strong enough. Strong enough…. If I can, you can, too.
I too have—
I too have—felt the curious questioning come upon me.
In the day they came.
In the silence of the night came [they] upon me
It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also,
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre?
Nor is it you alone ho know what it is to be evil,
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
blabb’d, blush’d, resented, lied, stole, grudged,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I cared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant,
The world, the snake, the hog not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting,
Was one with the rest, the days and haps of the rest. …”
—”Leaves of Grass, ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’ briefs, p. 219.
I’ve been reluctant to post some personal news here, but because just disappearing without an explanation seems odd, at the least, here goes.
Starting in November, my wife started coughing, and kept coughing. A blood test and then some scans detected a tumor in her lung, and some additional spots on her spine and pelvis. Biopsies confirmed these were Stage IV lung cancer, metastasized to 5-7 spots on vertebrae, the lungs, and pelvis.
She had radiation therapy to knock back the bone pain in her back, then had one chemotherapy infusion. Within 36 hours of that, we both came down with the flu that everyone’s getting. But it hit her very hard because her immune system is severely compromised. She ended up in the hospital for the flu as one very, very sick girl, and then for the pneumonia that followed. She recovered, although unable to eat much, was at home for nine days, then pneumonia returned and then she spent another week in the hospital. She’s on a feeding tube now and is regaining her strength.
I’ve been well occupied with all of this, obviously, and thought that a few of you would appreciate knowing what’s been happening. I’ll probably be absent a lot over the next months, as what’s ahead is going to be rough. I miss writing and reading your creations, and hope to be back. Until then….
“I like grit, I like love and death, I’m tired of irony. … A lot of good fiction is sentimental. … The novelist who refuses sentiment refuses the full spectrum of human behavior, and then he just dries up. … I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass.”
― Jim Harrison
I asked for the superpower of “Folding” for my birthday.
It cuts out the middle man:
Gimme a calendar with tricky bits, I said.
I’d fold weeks, months, years, centuries together,
jump to any time, past or future.
The first would be hanging with
the first human band to walk out of Africa .
I’d wait in the shade of a date palm, by the Nile,
bounce rocks off crocodiles, watch the south trail.
I’d cook hot dogs and hamburgers,
and have beer chilling on ice.
History’s first tailgate.
I would show them an iPhone, photos, movies.
Order something from Amazon—
Wouldn’t that be a good trick!…
Maybe a slinky, some bows and arrows and knives.
A chemistry set. Aspirin. Cargo pants,
broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
Trail mix. Snickers.
It’s in our interest that they survive the trip.
I’d tell them to be kind to one another,
Let them think I was the Great Spirit, then disappear.
by Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Carl Sandburg, 1878-1967
I remember once I ran after you and tagged the fluttering
shirt of you in the wind.
Once many days ago I drank a glassful of something and
the picture of you shivered and slid on top of the stuff.
And again it was nobody else but you I heard in the
singing voice of a careless humming woman.
One night when I sat with chums telling stories at a
bonfire flickering red embers, in a language its own
talking to a spread of white stars:
It was you that slunk laughing
in the clumsy staggering shadows.
Broken answers of remembrance let me know you are
alive with a peering phantom face behind a doorway
somewhere in the city’s push and fury.
Or under a pack of moss and leaves waiting in silence
under a twist of oaken arms ready as ever to run<
away again when I tag the fluttering shirt of you.
I’ve seen it, several times,
although much later in my own life.
It’s in the eyes
of men who
all had owned real estate
on the hopeless end
of Rockbottom Drive.
I didn’t want to find out
for myself what
was behind that look, though.
My dad made sure, as
He let me visit the address once.
If I were a Beatle
the quiet one–
From “Our Town,” by Thornton Wilder
“..Yes, now you know. Now you know! That’s what it was to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those … of those about you.To spend and waste time as though you had a million years.
To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another.
Now you know that’s the happy existence you wanted to go back to.
Ignorance and blindness ….
If you knew your work would never be read by anyone else—would you still write?
Look, I’m not getting much sleep lately,
so chalk this up to grumpiness, if you want.
Or the back spasms…
And I’m no prude, believe me.
But I am a man who’s old, so most
of you would’t notice me on the street.
I’m a tad bitter about that, you might say,
but have learned what’s important.
Maybe, you could just listen.
I get it: Sex sells,
fantasy sex sells cars and everything else..
All those selfies of you on FB, Instagram,
You posed coyly just to show your good side,
your amazing boobs or butt, the come-hither look.
(And yes, I notice. ) Continue reading “Dear Ladies”
by Leonard Cohen
It’s au revoir
My once so bright, my fallen star
I’m running late, they’ll close the bar
I used to play one mean guitar
I guess I’m just somebody who
Has given up on the me and you
I’m not alone, I’ve met a few
Traveling light like we used to do
Good night, good night, my fallen star
I guess you’re right, you always are
I know you’re right about the blues
You live some life you’d never choose
I’m just a fool, a dreamer who forgot to dream of the me and you
I’m not alone, I’ve met a few
Traveling light like we used to do
It’s au revoir
My once so bright, my fallen star
I’m running late, they’ll close the bar
I used to play one mean guitar
I guess I’m just somebody who
Has given up on the me and you
I’m not alone, I’ve met a few
Traveling light like we used to do
But if the road leads back to you
Must I forget the things I knew
When I was friends with one or two
Traveling light like we used to do
I’m traveling light
by Jim Harrison
The old Finn hadn’t washed his cup
in fifty years. “It ain’t dirty,”
he said, “there’s just been coffee in it.”
His wife and baby both died in childbirth
fifty-seven years ago. Inside his cabin
there’s a dust woman near
an unused cradle he made by hand.
TRANSLATED BY ANTHONY MILOSZ
On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.
A new (to me) poet:
We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn
A red wing rose in the darkness
And suddenly a hare ran across the road
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago
Today neither of them is alive
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going?
the flash of hand, streak of movement,
rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
“Darkness” is a poem written by Lord Byron in July 1816. That year was
known as the Year Without a Summer, because Mount Tamborahad erupted in
the “Dutch East Indies” (the highest peak on the island of Sumbawa in
Indonesia), casting enough sulphur into the atmosphere to reduce global temperatures and cause abnormal weather across much of north-east America and northern Europe. This pall of darkness inspired Byron to write his poem.
Worry about me later, for barbarians are coming over the hills, carrying long pikes and angry words, searching for reasoning they do not possess. My sleepless nights are a gene inside me, melatonin leached from my skin, my fascination with the moon, my dark monarch taking flight to greet the lamps lighted.
Learning is, almost always, amongst the holliest and purest of time allocations. We must know so very much to know we know nothing. Though schools can harm this at times, it is worth reminding ourselves of this. The same way a puppy is reminded of the horrors of nature when a lightning strikes. No matter […]
This is a bit thick to read, but if you’re publishing books, this is a look inside the seamier side.
“…Nowadays, you can make the bestseller list with about 5,000 sales. That’s not the heights of publishing’s heyday but it’s still harder to get than you’d think. Some publishers spend thousands of dollars on advertising and blogger outreach to get that number. Everyone’s looking for the next big thing and that costs a lot of cash. For the past 25 weeks, that big book in the YA world has been The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a searing politically charged drama about a young black girl who sees a police officer kill her friend, and the fallout it causes in her community.
Through publisher buzz and exceedingly strong word of mouth, the novel has stormed to the forefront of the YA world and found thousands of fans, with a film on the way. Knocking that from the top of the NYT YA list would be a major deal, and this week it’s going to happen. But something’s not right….”
by Carl Sandburg
The shadows of the ships
Rock on the crest
In the low blue lustre
Of the tardy and the soft inrolling tide.
A long brown bar at the dip of the sky
Puts an arm of sand in the span of salt.
The lucid and endless wrinkles
Draw in, lapse and withdraw.
Wavelets crumble and white spent bubbles
Wash on the floor of the beach.
Rocking on the crest
In the low blue lustre
Are the shadows of the ships.
“You let your higher self rule
and your truer self grieve,
and the world will still strip away
all you ever hoped to achieve.’
by Amy King
Shame on you for dating a museum:
Everything is dead there and nothing is alive.
Not everyone who lives to be old embraces
the publicity of it all. I mean, you get up and folks
want to know, How did you get here? What makes you
go? What is the secret? And there is no secret except
there are many things that build the years out.
They are not vegetables every day and working out
but a faith that all of these things add up
and lead us to some sum total happiness
we can cash in for forever love in the face
of never lasting. That people along the way
keep disappearing in a variety show of deathbed ways
is also the sheer terror that it may not hold for us too.
That we may outlast everything and be left
alone to keep going, never Icarus with wax melting,
never the one whose smoke & drink undid
the lungs that pull our wings in then out and the liver
that keeps chugging the heft of Elizabeth Cotten’s
“Freight Train” with her upside down left hand guitar still
playing in videos past her presence. I have become a person since
I reorganized my face in the mirror and the world is my inflation.
But this testament offers no sound or silence since
nothing is proven yet and you are still here,
the dead stars’ light landing on your rods and cones
in a vitrine of cameos building—blink.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Continue reading “The Second Coming”
This is what parents mean when we say “you’ll understand when you have kids,” and your son or daughter looks at you with that angry blank, frustrated look teenagers reserve for the stupidest people they know.
“You’ll find out. I live in constant terror for you. And you can’t understand. I’ve seen things, and you haven’t. So you don’t know what I mean.
“But you will. If you survive all the dangers of the world. If you do. I would die to make sure you do. “
After Our Daughter’s Wedding
by Ellen Bass
While the remnants of cake
and half-empty champagne glasses
lay on the lawn like sunbathers lingering
in the slanting light, we left the house guests
and drove to Antonelli’s pond.
On a log by the bank I sat in my flowered dress and cried.
A lone fisherman drifted by, casting his ribbon of light.
“Do you feel like you’ve given her away?” you asked.
But no, it was that she made it
to here, that she didn’t
drown in a well or die
of pneumonia or take the pills.
She wasn’t crushed
under the mammoth wheels of a semi
on highway 17, wasn’t found
lying in the alley
that night after rehearsal
when I got the time wrong.
It’s animal. The egg
not eaten by a weasel. Turtles
crossing the beach, exposed
in the moonlight. And we
have so few to start with.
And that long gestation—
like carrying your soul out in front of you.
All those years of feeding
and watching. The vulnerable hollow
at the back of the neck. Never knowing
what could pick them off—a seagull
swooping down for a clam.
Our most basic imperative:
for them to survive.
And there’s never been a moment
we could count on it.
“After Our Daughter’s Wedding” from Mules of Love. © 2002 by Ellen Bass. BOA Editions Ltd. (buy now)
Technically, yes. It has been five years since I registered the account, but I didn’t start posting right away. Still, it has been fun and I’m very happy to have done this and to have met all of you. Thank you for hanging around.
by David Herbert Lawrence
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before
He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.
He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.
And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.
But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?
Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.
And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!
And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.
He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.
And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.
I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.
I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.
And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.
And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.
For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
And I have something to expiate:
It applies to poetry, too.
“We are American writers, absorbing the American experience. We must absorb its heat, the recklessness and ruthlessness, the grotesqueries and cruelties. We must reflect the sprawl and smallness of America, its greedy optimism and dangerous sentimentality. And we must write with a pen—in Mark Twain’s phrase—warmed up in hell. We might have something then, worthy, necessary; a real literature instead of the Botox escapist lit told in the shiny prolix comedic style that has come to define us.” – from the Paris Review Joy Williams, The Art of Fiction No. 223
- There are more planes in the ocean than there are submarines in the sky.
- If the wings are traveling faster than the fuselage, it’s probably a helicopter — and therefore, unsafe.
- When one engine fails on a twin-engine airplane you always have enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash.
- What is the similarity between air traffic controllers and pilots? If a pilot screws up, the pilot dies; If ATC screws up, the pilot dies.
- Never trade luck for skill.
- The three most common expressions (or famous last words) in aviation are: “Why is it doing that?”, “Where are we?” and “Oh S#&t !”.
- Weather forecasts are horoscopes with numbers.
- Airspeed, altitude or brains. Two are always needed to successfully complete the flight.
- A smooth landing is mostly luck; two in a row is all luck; three in a row is prevarication.
- I remember when sex was safe and flying was dangerous.
- Mankind has a perfect record in aviation; we never left one up there!
- Flashlights are tubular metal containers kept in a flight bag for the purpose of storing dead batteries.
- When a flight is proceeding incredibly well, something was forgotten.
- Just remember, if you crash because of weather, your funeral will be held on a sunny day.
- Advice given to RAF pilots during W.W.II. When a prang (crash) seems inevitable, endeavor to strike the softest, cheapest object in the vicinity as slowly and gently as possible.
- If you’re faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible.
- If an airplane is still in one piece, don’t cheat on it; ride the bastard down.
- There is no reason to fly through a thunderstorm in peacetime. (Sign over squadron ops desk at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, 1970).
- The three best things in life are a good landing, a good orgasm, and a good bowel movement. The night carrier landing is one of the few opportunities in life where you get to experience all three at the same time. (Author unknown, but someone who’s been there)
- If something hasn’t broken on your helicopter, it’s about to.
- Basic Flying Rules Try to stay in the middle of the air. Do not go near the edges of it. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of the ground, buildings, water, trees & interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly these areas.
It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to
by Thomas Hardy
Forty years—aye, and several more—ago,
When I paced the headlands loosed from dull employ,
The waves huzza’d like a multitude below,
In the sway of an all-including joy
Blankly I walked there a double decade after,
When thwarts had flung their toils in front of me,
And I heard the waters wagging in a long ironic laughter
At the lot of men, and all the vapoury
Things that be.
Wheeling change has set me again standing where
Once I heard the waves huzza at Lammas-tide;
But they supplicate now—like a congregation there
Who murmur the Confession—I outside,
On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts. The Kindle Store is officially broken. This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed […]
Sometimes the bright sophistry of earnest souls of unlearned but much practiced minds shines its own light on the tangled feet of those so eager for the lie, the one that promises a job a meal a summer tan in every garage and two shiny objects for the elderly I’m sure, if there is […]
(Hi. I’m still around, just not posting much. My life lately feels like the scene in this poem. I’ve got a manuscript for another book making rounds at publishers, hat in hand. And I’m mulling, reading and writing sketches that could be one of three book ideas. One’s a murder mystery, one’s a time-travel, sci-fi love story, and the third is hard to describe. Maybe it’s a memoir by the alien who makes first contact with humans and barely escapes by nuking the east coast. You know, cheerful stuff.)
by J.T. Knoll
Speed popping, long haul truckers stretch, yak, and
drink coffee with locals searching for pancakes or bacon
and eggs after a night of drinking, dancing, gambling, and
making whoopee at nightspots like the Tower Ballroom,
Saddlehead Sam’s, the 69 Drive-In, Barto’s Idle Hour
and the VFW. The haggard and the high class together.
No place else open. Roy Orbison belts out Candy Man
from the neon and chrome Wurlitzer. Cigarette smoke
curls around the horseshoe bar beneath a large, stuffed
deer head. Three a.m., crowd gone, fry cook leans over a
newspaper. Waitress rolls a nickel from her tip pocket
into the juke, punches in her selection, slides wearily
into a booth, puts her feet up, and lights a Pall Mall. Elvis
begins to sing. She closes her eyes and mouths the words,
Are you lonesome tonight? Do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart?
“Graveyard Shift At Ace’s Truck Stop” by J.T. Knoll from Others Like Us. © 39 West Press, 2016. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
“…So just how easy is it to arm yourself in America? I posed myself a little test. I am a Vietnam veteran. How much would it cost me to equip myself, and arm myself, as I was in Vietnam? And how long would it take me to answer that question?…”
I teach in Belleville, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis. Belleville is the home of James Hodgkinson, the man who opened fire on congressmen and staffers at a G. O. P. baseball practice Wednesday morning.
As I write, Rep. Steve Scalise is in critical condition. Several others are recovering.
My university students Wednesday night were, to say the least, upset. Many expressed a certain gratitude that this is not seen as something peculiarly Midwestern or particularly partisan. Knuckle-dragging gun nut socialist hoosier, that sort of thing, that would only add more sadness to the almost unbearably painful. It’s sad enough that this is what it is, a sick man, our neighbor, caught up in a culture of violence. As near as anyone can tell, Hodgkinson just got a gun, went to Washington, and shot folks. Easy as that.
One of the people he shot wants to make it even easier…
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