Written in Snow

My brother is out here. Yes, yes, I haven’t seen him since the Eisenhower administration

But holy Giacomo Bala, he’s up there with the streetlights, circumflex and mercury,

Quicksilver in the sub-zero Iowa night. Don’t give me that look—

I can’t help it the alphabet is insufficient to your utter joy.


How Love Works

The thing about packing up the contents of a house as you prepare to move is that it’s possible to stumble on things you forgot you have.  I recently stumbled on this poem, written for me by Steve.  I don’t recall when.  I posted this today, December 5th,  just before leaving our old home in Worthington, OH, where we raised our two teenagers, to drive to our new home in Iowa City, where we’ll settle in as empty nesters.  There, I’m sure we will find "the new green of fresh belief".   There we’re going to create magic. 

~ Connie

How Love Works

Sometimes if you’re lucky you get to write something
For someone you love. This is a magic circumstance.
Like going to the lakeshore and tossing in a feather and a stone.
The stone floats of course, and someone you haven’t seen in years
Turns up at your door–and the dear light of spring spins through the poplars
And the neighborhood is filled with the new green of fresh belief.
Birds are part of this. Victory tailed swallows and the marsh wren
And the happenstance birds without names, all stray
Into view though you weren’t searching for ideas
Or magic or forgetfulness —
Love without direction or sense –winged love
Stirred by impossible light.
Small things hove into sight. Wings. leaves. houses
Where once you were happy, will be
Then happy again
There at home in the lessons and days of love.

–for Connie


Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Mark Your Calendars!

At about the same time I stumbled on this post which neatly summarizes the Split This Rock Poetry Festival now being organized in Washington, D.C., we received an e-mail from Sarah Browning, the Festival Coordinator.  The excitement over this event is building and I thought it time to mention it to our friends so you can mark your calendars.  Steve has been asked to participate in this event and what an honor that is.  Just look at this list of featured poets, will you!

The dates chosen for this event coincide with the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
The only "glitch" is that Easter turns out to be very early this year, falling on March 23, 2008, the last day of the festival.  Easter, spring in Washington, D.C., poetry – could be lovely!

Blue Girl, here’s your chance to soak up a lot of poetry!  See you there?

Georgia?  Lesley?  Andrea and Zac?  David?  See you there?

~ Connie

Writing Poems for Friends

Writing Poems for Friends

Younger he wished
The catalpa
Or flowering Judas,
Or a path
Of washed stones—
These would bring true hearts
To his gate…And hymns
Wholly Russian,
Pepper and lamb,
Wormwood in vodka,
On the phonograph,
Clouds coming close…

Now he’s less invitational
And more the resigned diarist.
Reads late at night in Finnish
The word for song: laulu,
The word for island: saari
And the phrase: kevat simfonia,
Which means, essentially,
A little symphony for your shoes…


Dreaming in the Mountains

My New Hampshire house faces the Ossipee Mountains and I find that my dreams are more intense when I am here. Lately I’ve found myself having those rare dreams in which one finds oneself among total strangers all of whom seem to be acquainted with the dreamer. People come and go in a casual manner like relatives in old home movies.

I take comfort from these dreams. "My father’s house has many mansions." Here in New Hampshire, sleeping on the island, I sense my kinship with other dreamers.

Carl Jung believed that it’s possible for all sleeping people to share the same dream. His vision of a "universal unconscious" also worked across time: Jung thought it was possible for people to dream of the past and future. He surmised that all cultures throughout history are connected by means of the universal unconscious.

Jung got some of the impetus for this idea from Jacob Boehme, the 16th century German mystic who wrote a treatise on the invisible but present energies of God entitled "The Signature of All Things". A "signature" is, among other things, the stitching that holds the binding of a book together. Boehme saw that God holds everything together, both visibly and invisibly.

The American poet Kenneth Rexroth wrote a remarkable three part poem called "The Signature of All Things" which you can find in the Collected Poems of Kenneth Rexroth, edited by Sam Hamill and Brad Morrow, and published by Copper Canyon Press.

My dreams by the lake are influenced by the forest and perhaps by my nightly swims. Perhaps the feeling I want to share is best conveyed by these opening lines from Kenneth Rexroth’s poem.

I will go now for my nightly swim.



My head and shoulders, and my book

In the cool shade, and my body

Stretched bathing in the sun, I lie

Reading beside the waterfall–

Boehme’s "Signature of all Things."

Through the deep July day the leaves

Of the laurel, all the colors

Of gold, spin down through the moving

Deep laurel shade all day. They float

On the mirrored sky and forest

For a while, and then, still slowly

Spinning, sink through the crystal deep

Of the pool to its leaf gold floor.

The saint saw the world as streaming

In the electrolysis of love.

I put him by and gaze through shade

Folded into shade of slender

Laurel trunks and leaves filled with sun.

The wren broods in her moss domed nest.

A newt struggles with a white moth

Drowning in the pool.

The hawks scream,

Playing together on the ceiling

Of heaven. The long hours go by.

I think of those who I have loved,

Of all the mountains I have climbed,

Of all the seas I have swum in.

The evil of the world sinks.

My own sin and trouble fall away

Like Christian’s bundle, and I watch

My forty summers fall like falling

Leaves and falling water held

Eternally in summer air.

What is Poetry?

What is Poetry?

A friend relates that she once asked an English professor "What is poetry?" with the additional disclosure that at least in that class, the answer was not forthcoming. 

Most of us suspect that poetry can’t be defined.  This is why we continue to ask the question.  We are all similar to children who want the answer to something ineffable.

Walt Whitman saw that while we can’t define a poem or a blade of grass, we have choices about how to live and that these choices are essential to the work of intelligence.  Poetry is the art of consciousness and it is conveyed in language that celebrates the astonishing mysteries of our physical and spiritual curiosity.  I do not know of a better definition of poetry as a life force than these justly famous lines from "Leaves of Grass":

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier

Life In Wartime

There are bodies that stay home and keep living.

Wisteria and Queen Anne’s Lace

But women and children too.

And countless men at gasoline stations.

Schoolteachers who resemble candles,

Boys with metabolisms geared to the future,

Musicians trying for moon effects…

The sky, which cannot expire, readies itself with clouds

Or a perfect blue

Or halos or the amoebic shapes

Of things to come.

The railway weeds are filled with water.

How do living things carry particles

Of sacrifice? Why are gods talking in the corn ?

Enough to feel the future underfoot.

Someone is crying three houses down.

Many are gone or are going.



Happy Birthday Sam Hamill

I suppose if I stop and think about it I am the kind of person they like to call a "public intellectual" which means that people who don’t make their living in the academy have had the opportunity perhaps far too frequently to eat rubber chicken and listen to me.  I’ve spoken to Rotary Clubs; Lion’s Clubs; the Masonic Temple of Manhattan; a Texas Association of Ophthalmologists; bankers; lawyers; civic planners; museum curators; engineers; radio executives; rehabilitation counselors;  police groups; dog handlers; tourism experts; alumni associations of all kinds; I’ve spoken to jogging societies; church groups; politicians; taxi drivers; I’ve spoken to groups that are concerned with the art of public speaking; I’ve even spoken to a group of Austrian Dadaists who were assembled in a cave inside a mountain in the middle of the city of Graz.

For the most part I don’t really like the word "intellectual" as a marker of identity.  I remember when ex-Beatle John Lennon snarled to a Rolling Stone interviewer that he was too intellectual "even though I’m not really an intellectual."  I was 16 at the time Lennon said that, but I knew that I didn’t want to be part of a revolution that excluded dancing.  (And yes, I’d also heard that quip from Emma Goldman around that time…)

Still I think more and more of the price that we all pay in our contemporary and largely anti-intellectual culture if we don’t declare ourselves to be critically engaged with the honorable traditions of the Enlightenment.  In turn I believe that this means that here in America we must fight ardently for freedom in all its forms: social and economic freedom, freedom of expression, and yes, the freedom we call human rights.

I believe that we are losing the war in Iraq because we are largely perceived as a nation that is not fighting for freedom either domestically or internationally.

I’m not the first person to say this and I won’t be the last.  But I’m wagering that not one of the 11 GOP representatives who met privately with President Bush raised this essential point.  We are losing because of Guantanamo Bay and because of the prison scandals inside Iraq.  We are losing because we aren’t fighting for freedom.  We can’t even seem to deliver it here at home.  This is the most bitter pill of all: we are not fighting from a position of virtue as we did in the second world war.  History shows that nations that do not fight to protect human rights always lose.Hamill_2

Yesterday was the 75th birthday of my friend, the poet Sam Hamill who among other things has been one of the most ardent protestors of America’s military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Sam’s been involved with Poets Against War and he continues to travel widely and speak out about the injustices that are being committed in our nation’s good name.

Thank you Sam.  Peace!


Oh Dave. Thank you.

I am a
lucky poet to have a friend like Dave whose blog Into My Own has published
interviews and reviews of my work.  I
have given him some new poems to post during national poetry month and you can
visit his site and check out his terrific work on behalf of American poetry and
see my small contributions to Pegasus there as well. 

Here’s to
poetry month and to poetry readers and writers across the nation.

Thanks Dave!


Tap, Tap

I walk with a guide dog for the blind most of the time. Some days I travel without him. I tap the pavement with a long white stick.

Once, in Dublin, Ireland, I worked my way through the long airport and swept my cane before me and a woman grabbed me by the arm without warning.

"Where do you want to go?" she asked. She was wearing serious perfume.

"I want to go to Paris," I said.

"Oh," she said, "that’s where I am going!"

"Ah," I said, "but I don’t want to go to Paris today."

"Why not?" she asked. She was still clutching my arm.

"Because Paris is the city for restlessness," I said, "and I am not restless."

We were standing in a crowded Irish airport and for a moment we were perfectly still.

"Today," I said, "I am headed for the sea where I will become actual, sharing the form of motion."

She let me go and walked away, lost in her own body of thought.