Honoring the trees today (Arbor Day, April 29, 2016)

Optimism

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.  A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs–all this resinous, unretractable earth.

–Jane Hirshfield, American poet, born 1953

From: http://www.poetseers.org/contemporary-poets/jane-hirshfield/janep/optimism/index.html

What did the tree learn from the earth to be able to talk with the sky?
~ Pablo Neruda

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He who plants a tree
Plants a hope.
~ Lucy Larcom

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Earth, Earth, Earth Day ~ April 22, 2016

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Morning Song

Day breaks open artlessly

across a field of switchgrass tossing

wild and easy in the windswell.

The weedy fastness gives way to a widening

brim of eastlight blazing the mist.

Spring is the dangerous season, awakening

this bee-crazed meadow to overgrowing—

and in me awe, and ache, avid to begin

like birds and the earth all over.

— Don Colburn, poet and journalist

 

For more about Don Colburn go to: http://doncolburn.net/

 

 

William Stafford

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Poet William Stafford (1914-1993) was born and raised in the American Midwest (Kansas) and in his adult life lived in the American West (Oregon).  Reflecting an awareness of where he lived, his first book of poetry is entitled West of Your City (1960). Stafford’s mode of language is considered, for the most part, straightforward and his poems readable.

It was only recently that I was introduced to Stafford and his work.  To critics and those knowledgeable about literary culture, he has the distinction of being one of the more widely known poets in the U.S., having had his poems appear over the years in popular magazines (Reader’s Digest, for example).  While Stafford often focuses on nature and this is why it is believed his poems are considered accessible, his imagination and mystical views also give his work a deeper context.

 Climbing Along the River

Willows never forget how it feels
to be young.

Do you remember where you came from?
Gravel remembers.

Even the upper end of the river
Believes in the ocean.

Exactly at midnight
Yesterday signs away.

What I believe is,
All animals have one soul.

Over the land they love
They crisscross forever.

— William Stafford (from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems, 1998)

Simple Talk

Spilling themselves in the sun bluebirds

wing-mention their names all day.  If everything

told so clear a life, maybe the sky would

come, maybe heaven; maybe appearance and

truth would be the same.  Maybe whatever seems

to be so, we should speak so from our souls,

never afraid, “Light” when it comes,

“Dark” when it goes away.

–William Stafford (An Oregon Message, 1987)

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A Sense of Place…the Lone Star State

First Saturday Morning: Beaumont, Texas                                            

On oyster shell and palm tree lanes,
our new neighbors’ trailers, humpbacked

mildew-streaked beached wanderers,
surround ours, muddy with road-splash.

Sunlight bright on ocean air, mid-morning,
country music blares through screen doors.

Mama, in pink curlers, hums along,
sets terra-cotta pots of peppermint

carnations on our trailer hitch.
Daddy with long-handled scrub brush

hoses down the roof.  From above,
his footsteps’ hollow thrum,

swish, splash of brush and water.
My sister rides bikes with her new friend,

singing her way toward seesaw and swings.
In the space between friends,

I sit in black walnut tree shade,
bark scratching through my shirt,

drone of heavy-winged bee, black-striped
yellow fur against blue hydrangea,

damp earth cool brown, smooth
under saw-toothed leaves, remember

last Saturday’s desert-dust front yard,
my best friend’s laughter out her kitchen window,

West Texas sunset-streaked sky, turquoise,
one silver star rising from evening’s deep horizon.

–Sharon Darrow, American poet & author

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April is here and this man in the suit is a poet…

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Not Ideas About the Thing
But the Thing Itself

At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.

He knew that he heard it,
A bird’s cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.

The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow . . .
It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep’s faded papier-mache . . .
The sun was coming from outside.

That scrawny cry—it was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

–Wallace Stevens, American poet (1879 – 1955) from “The Collected Poems” (published 1954)

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A love poem

A Zorro Man

Here
in the wombed room
silk purple drapes
flash a light as subtle
as your hands before
love-making
Here
in the covered lens
I catch a
clitoral image of
your general inhabitation
long and like a
late dawn in winter
Here
this clean mirror
traps me unwilling
in a gone time
when I was love
and you were booted and brave
and trembling for me.
--Maya Angelou, African American woman poet (1928 - 2014) from her first volume of 
poetry, “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie” (1971)

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The Jar with the Dry Rim

The mind is an ocean . . . and so many worlds

Are rolling there, mysterious, dimly seen!

And our bodies? Our body is a cup, floating

On the ocean; soon it will fill, and sink . . . . .

Not even one bubble will show where it went down.

The spirit is so near that you can’t see it!

But reach for it. . . Don’t be a jar

Full of water, whose rim is always dry.

Don’t be the rider who gallops all night

And never sees the horse that is beneath him.

–Rumi (Jalal ad-din Rumi, 1207 – 1273)

 


 

Christmas Bells

ChristmasBellsDec2015       For some reason this year I’ve read more than one time the back story concerning the poem “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” written by American poet/author, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in December 1863.  The story behind the writing of this poem is that Longfellow had been in a prolonged depression when he wrote it.  What precipitated his depression was his beloved wife, Fanny, had died in tragic circumstances in summer 1861 (her dress caught fire, and unable to remove it, she died from the burns).  In the years and months leading up to Fanny’s death Henry and Fanny had been married for 18 years, living happily in Boston and had five children ranging in ages from 5 – 17.  Fanny was not only a devoted wife and mother, she was a close confidant of Longfellow’s, sharing many of his literary and cultural interests as well.  After Fanny’s unexpected death, Henry was in a funk for months and unable to compose anything other than brief written correspondence to family and friends.

Three years later, to compound his sorrow, Longfellow’s eldest son, Charles, who had gone off to fight in the Civil War, was badly injured in a battle in late November 1863.  When the war began in 1861, both Henry and Fanny had hoped their son wouldn’t join the Union army and fight, and yet this was something that Henry was not able to prevent.

One of the compelling aspects of this poem “I Hear the Bells on Christmas Day” written on Christmas 1863 is in it Longfellow’s bleak outlook takes a turn eventually toward hope.  Additionally this poem went on to become a well-known Christmas song after being set to music in 1872 by British composer, John Baptiste Calkin.

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882)

 

A building built for books

I ran across some photos recently from the 1930s and 40s of a library branch that was part of the Trenton (NJ) Public Library system for 80 years. A fairly small city system, prior to 2010 the Trenton Public Library had a Main downtown branch and four neighborhood branches. Now only the Main downtown branch remains open.

The Skelton Branch, actually initially established in 1917 at the old Franklin School in south Trenton, was built on the corner of South Broad and Malone Streets in 1929. Named after Dr. Charles Skelton (1806-1879), a generous benefactor who was a proponent of free public school education and libraries in Trenton, the Skelton Branch featured high arched windows, a staircase that led to the Children’s department on the second floor and locally crafted tilework that surrounded the children’s room fireplace.

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My favorite photo is an undated one from the late 1930s/early 1940s that depicts the Skelton Branch’s 2nd floor busy Children’s Department. The book one of the boys standing on the right in the photo is holding is the Boy’s Book of Pirates by Howard Pyle originally published in 1908 (click on this photo as well as the others for a clearer view).

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Soundtracks

I like to watch now and again movies that I saw some years ago when they were first released. If it’s been a number of years (25 or more), I often remember the film’s basic story line and not much of the details. Some movies I like to see more than once after it’s been a long time. A movie that I just saw for about the 3rd time since its initial release is quite full of music from an era of time when the film’s characters first met.

At this 3rd viewing of the film I thought about all the songs that are featured in it and thought of what my two top favorite songs are among them all.

Here are the songs that appear in the 1983 film “The Big Chill” that have emerged as my favorites:

“The Weight” by the Band

I wasn’t really aware of the Band until they broke up. I think it was the 1978 film “The Last Waltz” that introduced me to their music in a complete way, and ironically it was a film about this group’s final concert. “The Weight” is a song that has grown on me over the years.

“Gimme Some Lovin’” by Spencer Davis Group

I have loved this song and it’s uptempo beat since it was first released. This a song that will make a person want to dance! (and shout “hey!”)

In the film “The Big Chill” this song is played when there is a backyard touch football game going on.

I’m just realizing here that “Gimme Some Lovin'” is actually a fairly short (time-wise) song.