Sunday, February 22, 2009

Inside the Tulip

For all of you, hungry for color, this rainy Sunday morning:

Inside the tulip:
six matches and a burst of yellow flame.
The eye's own solar flare unfurls,
burning away distance,
reaching into red.

This is not the way my mind usually works, turning an image directly into words. But the poem arrived in its own unbidden fashion, just this moment. I'm not going to question it. Here, it's yours.

The photo was taken in my kitchen last week. No "real" tulips yet. Click on image to enlarge.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I Cast a Shadow on My House

Meandering, looking for something intriguing to catch my eye, I caught a glimpse of my shadow trailing along the side of my house. How fleeting, how insubstantial: a blue-gray silhouette always on the cusp of disappearing. I let it rest for a moment against the sun-warmed wood siding, then pulled it over the edge and across the snow-patched lawn.

This afternoon I revisited "Light," a wonderful, shadow-filled prose poem by David Lazar from his newest collection, Powder Town:


What is the morality of light, I wonder, years after it might have made a difference?

A shadow spills from a man with a fedora onto a pavement that is whiter than it should be. But the shadow stands between the man and the sun, and by the angle of his hat, I'm not sure if the man has gotten away with something. But the shadow knows.

For years I went around not understanding the meaning of "opaque." I tried to bluff every once in awhile, but always had the feeling that others could see through me.

We played a game called silly silhouettes. We mimed everything from the first moments of Paradise to playing a quick game of blackjack with someone's skull. We did this as a kind of light amusement to pass the time. Until Primavera mimed Johnny Three-Fingers taking a long hard fall. That was just a little too real.

One afternoon, my girl and I were in the country when the light struck. It was that brilliant late afternoon light that makes you so happy it's scary. It's a memory light, a light that seems to hold everything. And I realized that it reminded me of a day when I was young when the same light hit and reminded me of a day when I was younger. By the time it passed, and all it takes is a shade of difference to lose the effect, I realized my girl was nowhere to be seen.

-- David Lazar

Doesn't that ending just hollow you out?

I love that late afternoon light, those searching gold fingers of light that suddenly hold up your life for you to see. Light that sends such long shadows writhing from your feet.

"Light" was reprinted here with permission of the author, David Lazar. It can be found on page 17 of Powder Town ( 2008) from Pecan Grove Press, San Antonio, Texas.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ice Lace

The melting ice reshapes itself into lacy galaxies, volcanic peninsulas, and bubbled glass swirls.

The ice was found on the road at the top of my hill. Click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Nest Book

My friend, Shiela Hale, artist and thinker extraordinaire, just won first prize at the Contemporary Confrontations exhibition at Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, New York. Her piece, "Nest Book I," invites the fascinated viewer into its nest of altered text. I love the way Shiela's mind gathers and reshapes elements from nature and language into something stunning and meaningful. Quoted in The Record-Review, Shiela says "Nature and culture are frequently presented as opposing forces. I am questioning that adversarial relationship and suggesting the possibility of a mutually enhancing alternative."

The exhibit runs through February 22, 2009. Over 800 artists entered the competition. 126 were chosen. Nan Rosenthal, former senior consultant for modern and contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was the juror. Congratulations, Shiela!

For more information on Shiela and her work, click here: Shiela Hale.

The photo was taken last week at the museum. Looking through the lens made me admire the assemblage even more.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


All we could do is stare in awe at this fabulous, feathered display. This afternoon, Tom turkey strutted his stuff along the side of the park road, leaving behind prehistoric claw prints in the snow. In all his inflated glory, he was the highlight of today's hike. (And what an eerie garbled gobble!) Check out the flashy black and white patterns of his feathers, the perfect fan of his tail, and the surprise of his pale blue eyeshadow against his crimson head and neck. For several minutes, his strange and bold beauty shook us out of ourselves into the vivid day.

Here are the final four lines from R. S. Thomas' poem, "The Calling":

.... Learn the thinness
of the window that is
between you and life, and how
the mind cuts itself if it goes through.

This is another piece from The Poetry of Our World: An International Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, edited by Jeffery Paine with Kwame Anthony Appiah, Sven Birkerts, Joseph Brodsky, Carolyn Forche and Helen Vendler, from Harper Collins Publishers, 2000. R. S. Thomas is from Wales. Click on image to enlarge.

I just remembered -- in October, I wrote a "postcard" about wild turkeys for wigleaf . Click on the magazine title to read it. You can also read my flash fiction piece, "One-Handed Prayer," by clicking on the link at the bottom of that page.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Inky Meditation

Late the other night, I told my younger daughter that I felt like drawing. She said "DO IT!" So, after a stretch of not drawing, I got out my dipping pens, India ink, and an old watercolor pad. I needed to draw. I needed to watch that crisp black line grow across the white paper. The three drawings only got as far as a form of doodling, a warm-up act: some twitchy, loosening patterns and cartoony creatures. Surface play, yet with potential to set out dark roots and bristled vines, to dig into deeper territory.

Meanwhile, it was lovely to get lost in the line. To discover where it led, to follow its meandering path into strange places, to adorn it with little explosions of cross-hatching (had to find that delicate crowquill pen), to enter its spiraling landscapes.

I like it when a sudden face grows out of the black swoops and waves. We look at each other with both surprise and recognition. The outer world drops away. Good inky meditation.

Thanks for the cheerleading, Emma. Oh, and the paper was really white, not the blah gray of the above photograph.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


So much glittering ice this winter. The stairs, the brick walk, and the steep driveway are all treacherous runways leading to slapstick crash landings. Especially in the dark. Today: thaw at last. Just saying February sounds warmer. (Parallel mood thaw?)

Here are several selected lines plucked (not in order, sorry -- just wanted that first one first) from Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska's poem "Under a Certain Little Star," translated by Magnus J. Krynski and Robert A. Maguire:

Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing now and again.

Let happiness be not angry that I take it as my own.

I apologize to time for the muchness of the world / overlooked per second.

I apologize to the cut-down trees for the table's four legs.

I apologize to the big questions for small answers.

This piece appeared in The Poetry of Our World: An International Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, edited by Jeffery Paine with Kwame Anthony Appiah, Sven Birkerts, Joseph Brodsky, Carolyn Forche, and Helen Vendley. (Harper Collins Publishers, 2000)

The photos were taken yesterday, right here inside my own personal ice. Thanks to Thea for the miniature creatures. They make me laugh.