A dream home in a dream landscape, this tiny Victorian-style cottage used to be a hunting cabin in the Catskills. The amazing transformation was the work of one woman, Sandra Foster, who used vintage columns, flooring and wavy glass windows, and completed the carpentry herself. Most of the items were found at yard sales or crafted by her own hand. A stream runs between Ms. Foster’s cottage and the trailer that she and her husband live in. Some people don’t wait for their dream homes; they make them instead.
Music by Daughter, “Lifeforms”
Of the Surface of Things
In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
hills and a cloud.
From my balcony, I survey the yellow air,
Reading where I have written,
“The spring is like a belle undressing.”
The gold tree is blue,
The singer has pulled his cloak over his head.
The moon is in the folds of the cloak.
Poets, come out of your closets, Open your windows, open your doors, You have been holed-up too long in your closed worlds. Come down, come down from your Russian Hills and Telegraph Hills, your Beacon Hills and your Chapel Hills, your Mount Analogues and Montparnasses, down from your foot hills and mountains, out of your tepees and domes. The trees are still falling and we’ll to the woods no more. No time now for sitting in them As man burns down his own house to roast his pig. No more chanting Hare Krishna while Rome burns. San Francisco’s burning, Mayakovsky’s Moscow’s burning the fossil-fuels of life. Night & the Horse approaches eating light, heat & power, and the clouds have trousers. No time now for the artist to hide above, beyond, behind the scenes, indifferent, paring his fingernails, refining himself out of existence. No time now for our little literary games, no time now for our paranoias & hypochondrias, no time now for fear & loathing, time now only for light & love. We have seen the best minds of our generation destroyed by boredom at poetry readings. Poetry isn’t a secret society, It isn’t a temple either. Secret words & chants won’t do any longer. The hour of oming is over, the time for keening come, time for keening & rejoicing over the coming end of industrial civilization which is bad for earth & Man. Time now to face outward in the full lotus position with eyes wide open, Time now to open your mouths with a new open speech, time now to communicate with all sentient beings, All you Poets of the Cities’ hung in museums, including myself, All you poet’s poets writing poetry about poetry, All you dead language poets and deconstructionists, All you poetry workshop poets in the boondock heart of America, All you house-broken Ezra Pounds, All you far-out freaked-out cut-up poets, All you pre-stressed Concrete poets, All you cunnilingual poets, All you pay-toilet poets groaning with graffitti, All you A-train swingers who never swing on birches, All you masters of the sawmill haiku in the Siberias of America, All you eyeless unrealists, All you self-occulting supersurrealists, All you bedroom visionaries and closet agitpropagators, All you Groucho Marxist poets and leisure-class Comrades who lie around all day and talk about the workingclass proletariat, All you Catholic anarchists of poetry, All you Black Mountaineers of poetry, All you Boston Brahmins and Bolinas bucolics, All you den mothers of poetry, All you zen brothers of poetry, All you suicide lovers of poetry, All you hairy professors of poesie, All you poetry reviewers drinking the blood of the poet, All you Poetry Police— Where are Whitman’s wild children, where the great voices speaking out with a sense of sweetness and sublimity, where the great new vision, the great world-view, the high prophetic song of the immense earth and all that sings in it And our relation to it— Poets, descend to the street of the world once more And open your minds & eyes with the old visual delight, Clear your throat and speak up, Poetry is dead, long live poetry with terrible eyes and buffalo strength. Don’t wait for the Revolution or it’ll happen without you, Stop mumbling and speak out with a new wide-open poetry with a new commonsensual ‘public surface’ with other subjective levels or other subversive levels, a tuning fork in the inner ear to strike below the surface. Of your own sweet Self still sing yet utter ‘the word en-masse’— Poetry the common carrier for the transportation of the public to higher places than other wheels can carry it. Poetry still falls from the skies into our streets still open. They haven’t put up the barricades, yet, the streets still alive with faces, lovely men & women still walking there, still lovely creatures everywhere, in the eyes of all the secret of all still buried there, Whitman’s wild children still sleeping there, Awake and sing in the open air.
Kromlauer Park is a gothic style, 200-acre country park in the municipality of Kromlau in the Görlitz Gablenzgasse district in Germany. An incredible attraction of the park is the Rakotzbrücke, more popularly known as Devil’s Bridge.
The impressive arch bridge was built around 1860. During its construction, other peculiar rock formations were built on the lake and in the park. Devil’s Bridge is no longer open to the public to ensure its preservation. A unique feature of the bridge is that its reflection on the water’s surface creates a flawless circle, regardless of which side is being viewed.
“We were hunters and foragers. The frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the Earth, and the ocean, and the sky. The open road still softly calls. Our little terraquious globe as the madhouse of those hundred thousand millions of worlds. We, who cannot even put our own planetary home in order, riven with rivalries and hatreds; Are we to venture out into space? By the time we’re ready to settle even the nearest of other planetary systems, we will have changed. The simple passage of so many generations will have changed us. Necessity will have changed us. We’re . . . an adaptable species. It will not be we who reach Alpha Centauri and the other nearby stars. It will be a species very like us, but with more of our strengths, and fewer of our weaknesses. More confident, farseeing, capable, and prudent. For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness. What new wonders, undreamed of in our time, will we have wrought in another generation? And another? How far will our nomadic species have wandered by the end of the next century? And the next millennium? Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds through the solar system and beyond, will be unified by their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that whatever other life there may be, the only humans in all the universe come from Earth. They will gaze up, and strain to find the blue dot in their skies. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of raw potential once was. How perilous, our infancy. How humble, our beginnings. How many rivers we had to cross before we found our way.”
“I was in doubt that I could make something of myself as a writer until I met two people who were very important to me: one was Gaston Lachaise and the other was E. E. Cummings. Cummings I loved, and I love his memory. He did a wonderful imitation of a wood-burning locomotive going from Tiflis to Minsk. He could hear a pin falling in soft dirt at the distance of three miles. Do you remember the story of Cummings’s death? It was September, hot, and Cummings was cutting kindling in the back of his house in New Hampshire. He was sixty-six or -seven or something like that. Marion, his wife, leaned out the window and asked, ‘Cummings, isn’t it frightfully hot to be chopping wood?’ He said, ‘I’m going to stop now, but I’m going to sharpen the ax before I put it up, dear.’ Those were the last words he spoke. At his funeral Marianne Moore gave the eulogy. Marion Cummings had enormous eyes. You could make a place in a book with them. She smoked cigarettes as though they were heavy, and she wore a dark dress with a cigarette hole in it.”
Twice in my quickly disappearing forties
someone called while someone I loved and I were
making love to tell me another woman had died of cancer.
Seven years apart, and two different lovers:
underneath the numbers, how lives are braided,
how those women’s death and lives, lived and died, were
Does lip touch on lip a memento mori?
Does the blood-thrust nipple against its eager
mate recall, through lust, a breast’s transformations
sometimes are lethal?
Now or later, what’s the enormous difference?
If one day is good, is a day sufficient?
Is it fear of death with which I’m so eager
to live my life out
now and in its possible permutations
with the one I love? (Only four days later,
she was on a plane headed west across the
Men and women, mortally wounded where we
love and nourish, dying at thirty, forty,
fifty, not on barricades, but in beds of
tell me, senators, what you call abnormal?
Each day’s obits read as if there’s a war on.
Fifty-eight-year-old poet dead of cancer:
laid down with the other warrior women.
Both times when the telephone rang, I answered,
wanting not to, knowing I had to answer,
go from two bodies’
infinite approach to a crest of pleasure
through the disembodied voice from a distance
saying one loved body was clay, one wave of
mind burst and broken.
Each time we went back to each other’s hands and
mouths as to a requiem where the chorus
sings death with irrelevant and amazing
~ Marilyn Hacker
A Morning in April
I meet my mother at the lawyer’s office in town.
We thought it best to talk about my being given
health care proxy and power of attorney for
my father without him initially being present.
The lawyer’s on Main Street. He has new shoes.
He is a very quiet and accommodating man with overly
bushy eyebrows that might crawl off
his forehead at any second. His secretary, the older one,
performs all the small talk about the weather.
The younger is obsessed with eating a bowl of frosted flakes.
We are in there for a very long half an hour,
charged one hundred dollars which I find cheap. Afterwards,
I suggest to my mother that we have coffee together,
but she says she should get back to the house as soon
as possible since my father is being looked after by a neighbor.
So, crossing the street, I walk her to her car. She holds
onto my hand. Her hand is the hand of a woman in her eighties.
It is diminished and bony but still capable of being firm.
She was an exceptionally beautiful woman. Still is. I was always
so proud of the fact, when I was a kid, of just how beautiful
my mother was. Naturally enough, I could never understand how
my father had managed to actually have this woman in his life.
I lived with the suspicions that he could read such thoughts in
my eyes. But, I’m well aware of the fact that their love endures
on a level I may never know. I feel like weeping right here
in the street. I help her into her car. She makes a u-turn and
drives off in the direction rain is coming from. I stand there,
rooted in front of a closed movie theater in a decaying town
that lies between a river and a creek. It is a morning in April.
At some point Alzheimer’s could force us to put my father in
a nursing home. I don’t talk to my mother about this too much.
We know the possibility exists. I dread the day when
I’ll be responsible for separating them. It will be like
tearing the wings off a bird and throwing them up in the air and
expecting them to fly.
“What do you know about yourself? What are your stories? The ones you tell yourself, and the ones told by others . . . I suppose the truth is that we begin more than once; we begin many times. Over and over we start our own tales, compose our own stories, whether our lives are short or long. Until at last all our beginnings come down to just one end, and the tale of who we are is done.” ~ Cameron Dokey, from Before Midnight
Monday early evening. Partly cloudy, extremely humid and hot, 87 degrees.
Part of a comment in my spam folder: your broadcast offered shiny transparent idea. I like that: shiny, transparent idea. Probably the best compilation of words I’ve seen in days, and of course, not mine.
Spam comments are sometimes worth perusing, if only to find the nuggets above. I’m not making fun of the broken English comments. After all, if someone is speaking broken English, that means he or she speaks another language. How many of us English-speaking Americans can say the same?
Anyway, I don’t promise this will be a lucid post. I’m coming off my second night of insomnia. I have no idea as to what has caused this latest bout, but it’s a serious one. The dogs are snoring, Corey is snoring, I’m thinking about tile.
Let me explain: Corey has decided that we’re going ahead with the bathroom renovation in the next few days. I agree that it’s time. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, it has to be a total gut to see what water damage we have, which means tile, faucets, tub, sink/vanity, toilet, tile . . . The idea of doing this doesn’t scare me. What scares me is making sure we’ve budgeted for every possible scenario.
Too many numbers, measurements, and finishes are roiling about in my brain; hence, the inability to shut it off and go to sleep.
“The mind is constantly trying to figure out what page it’s on in the story of itself. Close the book. Burn the bookmark. End of story. Now the dancing begins.” ~ Ikko Narasaki
So at three in the morning I had a sudden realization that the tub we had agreed on wouldn’t work because it was a drop in without a skirt. Drop-in means we would have to build a supporting frame and create an attractive skirt. I kid you not, I got on the computer at 3 in the morning to research the difference between drop-in tubs and tubs that come with an apron or skirt.
Then I realized that the original tile configuration I had come up with was going to be too expensive, so back to the pages and pages of tile choices. This is what happens when you have OCD—every detail becomes a challenge. If only I approached my writing with the same verve. No. I save that for tile.
In between the dashes to the computer, I would try to determine which medicine I could add to my nighttime meds that might induce sleep without putting me into a coma. Somewhere around 4:30 a.m. I drank a shot of Kahlua and cream. Whatever.
“Living with one’s passions amounts to living with one’s sufferings, which are the counterpoise, the corrective, the balance, and the price. When a man has learned—and not on paper—how to remain alone with his suffering, how to overcome his longing to flee, the illusion that others may share, then he has little left to learn.” ~ Albert Camus, from Notebooks, 1942-1951
Finally a made myself leave the computer, set a short playlist of soft music, and planted myself in bed. Perhaps sleep . . . no, not sleep as a particular song on playlist began to take my mind someplace I really didn’t want to go, back to my early 20’s, driving up a mountain road with friends in tow, going to New River. I think Dicky Betts was on the radio. I was never a Southern rock aficionado, but I had select favorites, especially the songs with girls’ names: “Amy,” “Melissa,” and “Allison.”
The playlist I had selected was mostly bluegrass, and I remembered another time, with my ex, when we used to listen to a bluegrass program on the radio every Sunday night. The radio. A little clock radio with the added bonus of a cassette tape player. Big deal once upon a time.
Then it all came back, fast, an oncoming onslaught that I could not have predicted and that I could not temper with a different set of memories from a different point in time. I don’t speak highly of my ex, and there are reasons, but to deny that we had some magic once would just be unfair to both of us. Mostly the magic was in the early days when we were poor students surviving each month on less money than you can imagine.
Poverty makes you creative. You rely on friends, free things (like New River and the Cascades), and mix tapes as the soundtrack to your days. There were cookouts, big pots of stew, a bottle of wine that had to last two weeks.
“Something aches at the very core of me, something ancient and deep and stronger than words: the filament that joins each of us to the root of existence, that ancient thing unfurling and resisting and grappling, desperately for a foothold, a way to stay here, breathe, keep going.” ~ Lauren Oliver,Delirium
I have been poor a few different times in my life. It’s not a preferred state. And I know that it is easy to romanticize the past, to forget all of the horrible exchanges of bitter words and all of the resultant tears. Time allows those things to soften, and if you are really lucky, allows you to forget most of the bad. I’ve never been good at the forgetting thing.
But last night, or rather, early this morning, as I watched the room change from dark to light, as I listened to the birds, I remembered riding up a mountain in a really raggedy Toyota. I remember singing along to bluegrass and sipping cheap cold beer from a can.
I had everything in front of me, bad and good. The kids, the careers, the friends, and the lovers. Corey wasn’t anywhere near my orbit because he was too busy growing up in Ohio. All of the possibilities were still there. All of the dreams were still waiting to be dusted on the wind. All of the words had yet to leave my brain.
My writing back then was so maudlin, so juvenile . . . hearts, flowers, love. No depth. No strength. I hadn’t seen even half of what life would deal me; how could I possibly write about it?
“I need words that mean more than they mean, words not just with height and width, but depth and weight and, and other dimensions that I cannot even name.” ~ Lois McMaster Bujold
So while the world outside was moving minute by minute into the future, I was lost somewhere in the past, somewhere on a narrow mountain road, and life was like a juicy ripe peach, there for the taking. I’m fairly certain we were at the Narrows, New River.
The air was so clean that you could smell the green. The water that pooled around my bare feet was clear enough to see the pebbles on the bottom. Occasionally, the train passed by, a grey line among the green, a sound among the natural silence. Those were the days long before parasailers and kayakers and whitewater rafting groups. Fewer people, more nature. It was a good day. We stayed for hours until the sun began to set behind the mountain, and a chill crept into the air.
But this is why I was left so damned melancholy: I will never have those days again. I am closer to my last chapter than one written in my beginning. Yet I remember feeling everything so acutely, embracing life so completely, inhaling the very essence of the day.
Words are beginning to fail me now. I fear that I my writing is broaching on the clichéd. But for a few hours between dawn and daylight, I was there, and it was richer than anything I have glimpsed with my tired eyes in too long, and I fell asleep with a dull ache in my heart and a very tired soul.
More later. Peace.
All images are used under creative commons license.
Music by Mindy Smith and Matthew Perryman Jones, “Anymore of This”
The Heart Under Your Heart
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
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
the lighthouse beacon
shivers across the black water
& someone stands there waiting