Dedication: Poems for a Horse

I am in Iowa City, Iowa where tonight I will read poems from my new book at Prairie Lights Books, one of the nation's premier independent bookstores. I am hereby announcing that my brief reading is dedicated to "Luigi" who is pictured below. For my blind readers Luigi is a thoroughbred "off the track" former race horse who entered our lives when my wife and I moved to Syracuse a year and a half ago. My wife rides Luigi and I feed him apples. Why dedicate a poetry reading to a horse? Because he has soul, he's a talker, and he has the kindest eyes of any animal I know. Sounds like poetry to me. And here is James Wright's amazing poem "A Blessing" because its one of the best poems I know:
"A Blessing"

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,

Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.

And the eyes of those two Indian ponies

Darken with kindness.

They have come gladly out of the willows

To welcome my friend and me.

We step over the barbed wire into the pasture

Where they have been grazing all day, alone.

They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness

That we have come.

They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.

There is no loneliness like theirs.

At home once more,

They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.

I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,

For she has walked over to me

And nuzzled my left hand.

She is black and white,

Her mane falls wild on her forehead,

And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear

That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.

Suddenly I realize

That if I stepped out of my body I would break

Into blossom.

–James Wright

 

The Scene from Iowa City

As I write I am reminded of the old story of the Finnish fisherman with a leaky boat who observed that owning such a thing is better than having a sunken boat, etc.

Connie and I are doing just fine here in "river city" (yes, Iowa City is the spawning ground of "The Music Man") and we are safe and dry.Flood

The good news is that according to the Army Corps of Engineers the Iowa River has "crested" and we should now begin to see the flood waters recede from the University of Iowa’s buildings. At present 19 buildings on campus are either flooded or are damaged.

But mercifully no one has been hurt and we have much to be thankful for.

I know I speak for many when I say I am thankful to the thousands of Iowa City citizens who worked tirelessly to save the University of Iowa’s library from the floodwaters. While several adjacent buildings to the library have been flooded the library is still operational as of this afternoon. Perhaps its just the student and scholar in me, but I feel great sentiment about the library and the sight of over 2000 people erecting a wall of lumber and sand in the service of saving our books, well that’s a very powerful thing to behold. The spirit of our students and staff and of the local friends of the University of Iowa has been evident all over this town.

If the weather forecast is right, and if the Army is correct, then we should begin to see the waters receding soon. It will take a lot of work to put the U of Iowa back together but I know that the Hawkeyes will succeed.

S.K.

LINKS:

More Photos…

Protecting the Soul

Last night my wife read to me from the local paper. It seems that an ultra right wing group of Baptists from Topeka, Kansas will be descending upon Iowa City to stage a protest at the funeral of a local family—a mass murder and suicide tragedy that has rocked our community and which has made the national news. Briefly, the husband murdered his wife and four children before killing himself. The Baptists from Topeka are using the funeral for this family to protest the fact that Iowa City is known as a “gay friendly” town. They plan to picket the funeral this Saturday outside St. Mary’s Catholic Church and share their view that this family’s tragedy has something to do with God’s judgment on Iowa City which, as I’ve already said, is a supportive environment for gay citizens as well as trans-gendered people.

Now I’m no theologian, but the last time I looked it doesn’t say anything in the Sermon on the Mount about a reduction of love for certain kinds of neighbors. Well of course we live in ugly times. But religious intolerance offers a particularly virulent brand of ugliness because it’s always driven by a profound misunderstanding of God’s love.

Remember Love? Love is all you need.
Forgiveness is the hardest thing about Christianity. I will endeavor to forgive these people from Topeka because they know not what they do.
May God forgive us all. My prayers are with the Sueppel family and their friends and neighbors.
I have yet to achieve universal forgiveness. My heart is made from wormwood and cloves. Milk and iodine flood my arteries.  But hate is the victory of skinheads and holy fanatics as well as terrorists and militarists.
I’ll take forgiveness as the path. Walt Whitman and Prozac are helpful.

The Sermon on the Mount?

Priceless.


S.K.

Talking to the Walls

I am staying at the home of friends in Iowa City while "transitioning" into my new life here.  My friend Gary has a large finished basement with ample guest quarters and I am living in pretty good style.  But the funny thing is that Gary is a "dyed in the wool" fan of Ernest Hemingway’s works, and accordingly he has lots of animal heads mounted on his walls.  There’s a Caribou "thing" above the sofa that my guide dog Vidal likes to talk to.  I want to tell him that the Caribou won’t be talking back anytime soon, but then I remember that dogs can hear things the rest of us can’t.  I wonder if the Caribou is saying: "Please, oh please for the love of God, just scratch my nose?" Surely this is why Vidal stops occasionally to bark at the thing?

S.K.