Portraits of silence

[Close up in the arb. Lichen?]

April 11 2017

Portraits of silence


Be quiet. Sit still.
Don’t make a fuss.
Keep your hands to yourself.
Follow along.


Quiet now. Sit still.
Breathe deeply in
and out and feel the breath
rush through your limbs.


Listen hard, quiet your eyes,
Withhold judgement,
extend faith. Offer your hands
in communion.


Simmer and steam,
put the lid on the pot and hold
on to your soul. Haul in the flags and fury
and wait another day.


Raise your eyebrows. Wait out
the bubble and noise of crowds.
Don’t make a fuss; hold your hands high
and speak on it.

Found poetry

April 10 2017

It’s my brother’s birthday AND Sibling Appreciation day! What a wacky convergence! Seems like a great day for found (maybe slightly massaged) poetry. Today’s comes from a culling of the Carletonian Weekly security blotter of April 7 2017.

No Fire

Burnt toast caused the fire
alarm. No fire.

Burnt food caused the fire alarm
to go off in a hall
way. No fire.

Bacon burnt well leads to alarm:
no fire, no bacon.

No fire, no burnt food.

Just curiosity about the button
on the fire

Now we know. All alarm,
no fire.

two poem Sunday

IMG_0664.JPG[You know. Fungus. On a tree. Looking like drab butterfly wings. In the arb. April 9 2017]

April 9 2017
Late night yesterday, so two poems today. More and more I can’t even go through/think through the litany of political events. I’m trying really hard not to turn away fully, just to take a slight break and anchor myself in the people, practices, and ideas that matter to me.

A Chorus of Frogs

Early spring swamps sing
a frogs’ chorus;
on the path I see no sign
of them. Their calls
echo like the claims of a siren.

sometimes the body falls apart
in such quiet ways: a minor muscle
strain or a slight pain
behind the eye

sometimes the body explodes and de-
composes in an instant: the cracked
bone or the skin torn
apart by a

and sometimes the body has its own
design to fail you: murmurs of heart
or mind that you never minded never heard
until the moment when
you fall


April 7 2017

Friday should be for gratefulness, I think. Thank heaven it’s Friday, after a long week, sure, but also there are a lot of people in my life to thank.

Gratitudes day 38

For smiling listeners; for embracing friends;
for the fifth-grader who taught me Howard Shore;
for the salt that is more than salt and simply salt;
for the postcard signed love.

For the laughter without words,
as we imagine fugitive futures;
for the jam and the honest talk;
for the chance to be real.

Breaking Down

April 6 2017*

Today has been full of good stuff–I gave a talk that landed well; I got to go honor my 5th grade mentee for the amazing work she did on her research project; I had a chance to dig into big topics with thoughtful students.

But the bookending of the day has been … hard. This morning I read one of those brief, harrowing reports of the chemical attack in Syria:

Abdel Hameed is in very bad shape,” his cousin Alaa said. He’s being treated for exposure to the toxin. “But he’s especially broken down over his massive loss.”

Then, coming home this evening, I learned that the U.S. (Trump, without Congressional approval or oversight) decided to bomb Syria.

Breaking Down

Toxins invade my body; my skin crawls
and shreds in the wake of the incursion.

Blood splinters, liver fails, nerves fray:
my body breaks down but nothing

compares to the emptying
of my hands

the way they will never hold
my children again.


*I’ve missed a few days. I have good excuses for them… and it still bothers me.

Spring’s breath

April 2 2017

I’ve missed two days. Sigh. Friday was busy busy busy; Saturday I was in the doldrums. I attribute my state mainly to feeling too frazzled after a long week, not to any atmospheric shifts.

On my run today I was thinking about Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

I’ve told my students the story of how long it took for Pound to find the concision and density he wanted:

The “one-image poem” is a form of super-position, that is to say, it is one idea set on top of another. I found it useful in getting out of the impasse in which I had been left by my metro emotion.

I wrote a thirty-line poem and destroyed it because it was what we call work of the second intensity. Six months later I made a poem half that length; a year later [1912] I made the following hokku-like sentence:

“The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals, on a wet, black bough.”

In other words. In other words, it took Pound 18 months to make the poem we know today, that takes us from metro station–a peopled and high tech image–to the incredibly abstract and simultaneously concrete petals. What kind of petals? What kind of tree? We don’t need to know anything more.

Today’s poem – well, I don’t have 18 months for it. It’s just another imperfect poem, reminding me of what it feels like to make images.


—A photo I took in the arb Thursday morning. I’m fascinated by logs, dead trees, fungus.

Spring’s Breath

Spring blooms crocus and grape
hyacinth, peeks of color, promising
rebirth, just like every damn spring.

Damp dewy logs sprout polypores,
blooming shelves, shapes that promise
that from one death comes new ecosystems.

addendum: oh the stories those logs and fungi could tell!


March 30 2017

Today was one of those long, busy days where so many voices and data points and demands stretch at your attention and tug on your focus that you’re (by which I mean I’m) left with deep wells of need for whiskey and ice cream at the end of the day.


Some days language spools in my brain
and flows gracefully through my lips
making delicate word clouds in the air
that portend great things, name vague
theories, crystallize the inchoate.

Some other days–though often those same days–
words clump in corners and resist,
they hide in tangled bilingual masses,
they stumble and glower and refuse
my requests and then they laugh
at my clumsiness.