Nov 25 2009

Susan Loy Calligraphy


In addition to the most excellent Redhead clogs, Carhartt jacket and FUDGE, Roger surprised  me with my favorite Shakespeare sonnet in calligraphy by Susan Loy.  We saw Ron Loy at the NCTE Convention in Philadelphia, and he and I talked about the Loy White House Easter Egg print that I have framed in the hallway.  Her work is so detailed and beautiful that it can’t be described.  You have to see it.  The picture of my poem is from her catalogue on line.  Visit her website at

True Minds

Oct 23 2009

Septic Woes


Garrison Keillor chose today’s poem with Roger and me in mind!  It makes light of all of our water and waste troubles.  It fits well with the septic soliloquies I’ve delivered thus far.


by Louis Jenkins

It turns out that the drain pipe from the sink is attached to
nothing and water just runs right onto the ground in the
crawl space underneath the house and then trickles out
into the stream that passes through the backyard. It turns
out that the house is not really attached to the ground but
sits atop a few loose concrete blocks all held in place by
gravity, which, as I understand it, means “seriousness.” Well,
this is serious enough. If you look into it further you will
discover that the water is not attached to anything either
and that perhaps the rocks and the trees are not all that
firmly in place. The world is a stage. But don’t try to move
anything. You might hurt yourself, besides that’s a job for
the stagehands and union rules are strict. You are merely a
player about to deliver a soliloquy on the septic system to a
couple dozen popple trees and a patch of pale blue sky.

“Gravity” by Louis Jenkins from Just Above Water. ©

Aug 24 2009

The August Garden


Despite the tomato crisis and the cucumber mystery,  I have loved this garden–my first real experience growing something that didn’t come already potted  from WalMart or HomeDepot.  When I read this poem in the “Writer’s Almanac,” I thought of the day I wrestled the carrots out of the ground.  After the experience of coaxing a carrot from the soil, I can’t imagine willingly eating a packaged baby carrot ever again. 

“Vegetable Love”
by Barbara Crooker

Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth’s tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth’s voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.

Aug 8 2009



The top two political news stories last week appeared to be the Republican/Democratic opposition concerning health care and their split over the confirmation of Sonya Sotomayor.  It seems that nothing productive can be done in the name of CHANGE that doesn’t include the test of who can shout his point of view (whether it’s right–and often it’s very wrong) the loudest.

I saw this poem on The Writer’s Almanac and decided that this is the kind of patriotism I want to support.

Patriotism  by Ellie Schoenfeld

My country is this dirt
that gathers under my fingernails
when I am in the garden.
The quiet bacteria and fungi,
all the little insects and bugs
are my compatriots. They are
idealistic, always working together
for the common good.
I kneel on the earth
and pledge my allegiance
to all the dirt of the world,
to all of that soil which grows
flowers and food
for the just and unjust alike.
The soil does not care
what we think about or who we love.
It knows our true substance,
of what we are really made.
I stand my ground on this ground,
this ground which will
recruit us all
to its side.

Jun 13 2009

A Plea for Mercy


Leo stopped by this morning.  He gave us grief for not going to church.  Now, I am a believer in going to church; however, I am also good at excuses.  I liked this poem from “The Writer’s Almanac.”  Since I will be needing mercy, it fits my attitude.

A Plea For Mercy

by Anne Porter

When I am brought before the Lord
What can I say to him
How plead for mercy?

I’ll say I loved
My husband and the five
Children we had together
Though I was most unworthy

I’ll say I loved
The summer mornings
I loved the way the sun comes up
And sets the dew on fire
I loved the way
The cobwebs shine
On the tall grass
When they are strung with dew

I’ll say I loved
The way that little bird
The titmouse flies
I’ll say I loved
Its lightness
And beauty.

“A Plea For Mercy” by Anne Porter, from Living Things Collected Poems. © Zoland Books, 2006.

May 3 2009

“In Blackwater Woods”


This morning’s Writer’s Almanac poem is by Mary Oliver.  After reading some of the books in Roger’s collection and knowing that she is  a particular favorite of host Garrison Keillor, I was pleased to recognize some of her signature language, theme and style.  I love the powerful observation of the final lines. 

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Apr 30 2009

Time to Stare


Lately, Roger and I are frustrated by how little time we have to watch our plants grow, appreciate the beauty of spring, and talk aimlessly.  This morning’s “Writer’s Almanac” poem is by William Henry Davies.  It reflects my frustration.  No wonder that our ideal idea of a summer vacation is a week of absolute uninterrupted peace.

LeisureWhat is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Apr 22 2009

Paper, Scissors, Stone


OK, I know it’s a stretch, but it does mention gardening in the first stanza, and it seem so appropo for these times.  Swiped from this morning’s Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keilor, used without permission.

Paper, Scissors, Stone

by Tom Wayman

An executive’s salary for working with paper
beats the wage in a metal shop operating shears
which beats what a gardener earns arranging stone.

But the pay for a surgeon’s use of scissors
is larger than that of a heavy equipment driver removing stone
which in turn beats a secretary’s cheque for handling paper.

And, a geologist’s hours with stone
nets more than a teacher’s with paper
and definitely beats someone’s time in a garment factory with scissors.

In addition: to manufacture paper
you need stone to extract metal to fabricate scissors
to cut the product to size.
To make scissors you must have paper to write out the specs
and a whetstone to sharpen the new edges.
Creating gravel, you require the scissor-blades of the crusher
and lots of order forms and invoices at the office.

Thus I believe there is a connection
between things
and not at all like the hierarchy of winners
of a child’s game.
When a man starts insisting
he should be paid more than me
because he’s more important to the task at hand,
I keep seeing how the whole process collapses
if almost any one of us is missing acheter cialis sur internet.
When a woman claims she deserves more money
because she went to school longer,
I remember the taxes I paid to support her education.
Should she benefit twice?
Then there’s the guy who demands extra
because he has so much seniority
and understands his work so well
he has ceased to care, does as little as possible,
or refuses to master the latest techniques
the new-hires are required to know.
Even if he’s helpful and somehow still curious
after his many years—

Without a machine to precisely measure
how much sweat we each provide
or a contraption hooked up to electrodes in the brain
to record the amount we think,
my getting less than him
and more than her
makes no sense to me.
Surely whatever we do at the job
for our eight hours—as long as it contributes—
has to be worth the same.

And if anyone mentions
this is a nice idea but isn’t possible,
consider what we have now:
everybody dissatisfied, continually grumbling and disputing.
No, I’m afraid it’s the wage system that doesn’t function
except it goes on
and will
until we set to work to stop it

with paper, with scissors, and with stone.

“Paper, Scissors, Stone” by Tom Wayman from The Face of Jack Munro. © Harbour, 1986. Reprinted without permission.

Mar 19 2009

A Dog Poem


Before I met Roger, I had no idea I would be a dog person.  Now, I can’t imagine life without all four critters.  I’ve learned that real love is being willing to clean up all sorts of dog and cat accidents. This is a great poem about life borrowed from the Writer’s Almanac.

The Meaning of Life

by Nancy Fitzgerald

There is a moment just before
a dog vomits when its stomach
heaves dry, pumping what’s deep
inside the belly to the mouth.
If you are fast you can grab
her by the collar and shove her
out the door, avoid the slimy bile,
hunks of half chewed food
from landing on the floor.
You must be quick, decisive,
controlled, and if you miss
the cue and the dog erupts
en route, you must forgive
her quickly and give yourself
to scrubbing up the mess.

Most of what I have learned
in life leads back to this.

“The Meaning of Life” by Nancy Fitzgerald from Poems I Never Wrote.

Mar 6 2009



Natalie and I really struggled with Jane Hirshfield at the Dodge Poetry Festival last Fall.  Honestly, she got on our nerves.  But maybe that was a challenge to our graciousness…or to be more open-minded  In any event, here’s a nice poem of hers that I like a lot, lifted from the Writer’s Almanac:

Bees, by Jane Hirshfield

In every instant, two gates.
One opens to fragrant paradise, one to hell.
Mostly we go through neither.

Mostly we nod to our neighbor,
lean down to pick up the paper,
go back into the house.

But the faint cries—ecstasy? horror?
Or did you think it the sound
of distant bees,
making only the thick honey of this good life?

“Bees” by Jane Hirshfield from The Lives of the Heart. © Harper Perennial, 1997. Reprinted without permission.

Mar 3 2009

To a Robin in Lent


A perfect poem in honor of the fat robins I have seen this week.

You were the first one back,
the first one back.

You clung to a bare black branch,
your habit to choose Sundays in March,
wind whirling around you,
sky grey as a shroud, and wet,
to sing to the flowers, not there yet.

You were not loud.
No, not at all.
But you knew what you were doing.

by Elizabeth Spires

Posted by Natalie, not Roger

Feb 14 2009

Weeping Willows


I saw another first sign of the arriving season (perhaps just wishful thinking).  A nearby weeping willow had transformed from brown to pale gold, wearing its first spring dress.

I was 8 or 9 when my uncle died. I stayed at my aunt’s house and met my New Jersey cousins for the first time.  I remember the four days of visiting as a glorious time of climbing the willow trees and cutting branches and weaving baskets and any other shape we could master.

One of my favorite AP Literature prompts is “The Centaur.” While my students struggle with the imagery and rhythm, I see it as an ode to the imagination and willow trees.

The Centaur
 by May Swenson  

The summer that I was ten –
Can it be there was only one 
summer that I was ten? It must

have been a long one then – 
each day I’d go out to choose 
a fresh horse from my stable

which was a willow grove 
down by the old canal.
I’d go on my two bare feet. 

But when, with my brother’s jack-knife, 
I had cut me a long limber horse 
with a good thick knob for a head,

and peeled him slick and clean 
except a few leaves for the tail, 
and cinched my brother’s belt

around his head for a rein, 
I’d straddle and canter him fast
up the grass bank to the path,

trot along in the lovely dust 
that talcumed over his hoofs, 
hiding my toes, and turning

his feet to swift half-moons. 
The willow knob with the strap 
jouncing between my thighs

was the pommel and yet the poll 
of my nickering pony’s head. 
My head and my neck were mine,

yet they were shaped like a horse. 
My hair flopped to the side 
like the mane of a horse in the wind.

My forelock swung in my eyes, 
my neck arched and I snorted. 
I shied and skittered and reared, 

stopped and raised my knees,
pawed at the ground and quivered. 
My teeth bared as we wheeled

and swished through the dust again. 
I was the horse and the rider, 
and the leather I slapped to his rump 

spanked my own behind.
Doubled, my two hoofs beat 
a gallop along the bank,

the wind twanged in my mane, 
my mouth squared to the bit. 
And yet I sat on my steed 

quiet, negligent riding, 
my toes standing the stirrups,
my thighs hugging his ribs. 

At a walk we drew up to the porch. 
I tethered him to a paling. 
Dismounting, I smoothed my skirt

and entered the dusky hall.
My feet on the clean linoleum 
left ghostly toes in the hall.

Where have you been? said my mother. 
Been riding, I said from the sink, 
and filled me a glass of water.

What’s that in your pocket? she said.
Just my knife. It weighted my pocket 
and stretched my dress awry.

Go tie back your hair, said my mother, 
and Why Is your mouth all green?
Rob Roy, he pulled some clover 
as we crossed the field, I told her. 

The bark of willows was used as medicine for fevers and aches.  It contains salicylic acid, used in aspirin.  A magnificent tree!