my birthday present

my birthday present
My awesome birthday present 1/26/11 (see story under my first post)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

This was on Writer's Almanac but it so aptly describes my feelings I just had to post it here too.

Stuart Dischell

She plans to be a writer one day and live in the City of Paris,
Where she will describe the sun as it rises over Buttes-Chaumont.
"Today the dawn began in small pieces, sharp wedges of light
Broke through the clouds." She plans to write better than this
And is critic enough to know "sharp wedges" sound like cheese.
She plans to live alone in a place that has a terrace
Where she will drink strong coffee at a round white table.
Her terrace will be her cafe and she will be recognized
By the blue-smocked workers of the neighborhood, the concierges,
The locals at the comptoir of the tabac down the block,
And the girl under the green cross of the apothecary shop.
She plans to love her apartment where she will keep
Just one flower in a blue vase. She already loves the word apart-
Ment, whose halves please her when she sees them breaking
The line in her journal. She plans to learn the roots
Of French and English words and will search them out
As if she were hunting skulls in the catacombs.
On her walls she'll hang a timetable of the great events
Of Western History. She will read the same twenty books
As Chaucer. Every morning she will make up stories....
She looks around her Brighton room, at the walls,
The ceiling, the round knob of the rectangular door.
She listens to the voices of the neighbor's children.
A toilet flushes, then the tamp of cigarette on steel,
The flint flash of her roommate's boyfriend's lighter.
When she leaves she plans to leave alone, and every
Article she will carry, each shoe, will be important.
Like an architect she will plan this life, as once
The fortune in a cookie told her: Picture what you wish
To become, if you wish to become that picture

"Plans" by Stuart Dischell, from Good Hope Road. © Viking, 1993.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Good Fun

I am desperate for some humor, how about you? This was on Writers Almanac. I am not familiar with Ron Padgett but this poem reminds me of Billy Collins, one of my favorites. I love his line "it is interesting not to know something everyone else knows." Makes me feel a whole lot better about myself.

The Swiss Family Robinson

Ron Padgett

I never quite understood who
the Swiss Family Robinson were.
The inversion of their name
confused me at an early age,
just as the name of Mary Baker Eddy
sounded as though she started out
as a woman and turned into
a guy named Eddy. At Walt
Disney World there is an attraction
called Swiss Family Robinson that
involves a tree house, so I assume
they lived in a tree. Why they did
I don't know. It sounds rather
stressful to me, the fear
of falling out. I could look up
the Swiss Family Robinson
in a reference book, but
it's interesting not to know
something that everyone else knows.
However, I would like to know if there
are many people named Robinson
in Switzerland. If there are,
I would know something that
most people don't know. 

"The Swiss Family Robinson" by Ron Padgett, from How to Be Perfect. © Coffee House Press, 2007.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Awesome video

This video by Mojebory, a Polish videographer, is quite moving. I suggest giving the video some time to stream (allow the gray bar to advance at least 3/4 of the way) before you attempt to watch it to avoid breaks.

The Dali Lama speaks his incredible wisdom through the first half then Dinah Washington sings This Bitter Earth. I have posted here the words to the song.  Enjoy.

This Bitter Earth
Clyde Otis

This bitter earth
Well, what fruit it bears
What good is love
mmmm that no one shares
And if my life is like the dust
oooh that hides the glow of a rose
What good am I
Heaven only knows

Lord, this bitter earth
Yes, can be so cold
Today you’re young
Too soon, you’re old
But while a voice within me cries
I’m sure someone may answer my call
And this bitter earth
Ooooo may not
Oh be so bitter after all

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Here's Howe

This poem is very effective in reminding me that life is about today, not those events we look forward to in the future. The outstandingly beautiful experiences and the profound challenges provide a break  in the routine, but to recognize the value of the ordinary,which we experience day in and day out, is the way to get the most out of life. As the Buddhists say, all you really have is the here and now.

Marie Howe was interviewed on Krista Tippet's show On Being. here is the link. I really enjoyed listening to it. click here watch or listen. On Being with Marie Howe

The Gate
Marie Howe

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world
would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man
but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,
rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.
This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.

from What the Living Do Copyright © 1998 by Marie Howe
And here is her poem about the power of words. I have experienced words changing my life, in particular, words of poetry.

The Meadow

As we walk into words that have waited for us to enter them, so
the meadow, muddy with dreams, is gathering itself together

and trying, with difficulty, to remember how to make wildflowers.
Imperceptibly heaving with the old impatience, it knows

for certain that two horses walk upon it, weary of hay.
The horses, sway-backed and self important, cannot design

how the small white pony mysteriously escapes the fence every day.
This is the miracle just beyond their heavy-headed grasp,

and they turn from his nuzzling with irritation. Everything
is crying out. Two crows, rising from the hill, fight

and caw-cry in mid-flight, then fall and light on the meadow grass
bewildered by their weight. A dozen wasps drone, tiny prop planes,

sputtering into a field the farmer has not yet plowed,
and what I thought was a phone, turned down and ringing,

is the knock of a woodpecker for food or warning, I can’t say.
I want to add my cry to those who would speak for the sound alone.

But in this world, where something is always listening, even
murmuring has meaning, as in the next room you moan

in your sleep, turning into late morning. My love, this might be
all we know of forgiveness, this small time when you can forget

what you are. There will come a day when the meadow will think
suddenly, water, root, blossom, through no fault of its own,
and the horses will lie down in daisies and clover. Bedeviled,
human, your plight, in waking, is to choose from the words

that even now sleep on your tongue, and to know that tangled
among them and terribly new is the sentence that could change your life.
from The Good Thief by Marie Howe. Copyright © 1999 by Marie Howe.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Jane Hirshfield is one of my favorite poets.  I have her book Given Sugar, Given Salt. It is a very small book but each poem is very powerful. In surveying the TED talks web site I ran across a new section of short videos in the section called TED ED. Here people are putting together videos to present a concept or short lesson. Hirshfield created a lesson on metaphors and I think it the most effective lesson on metaphors I have ever seen. I used it with my 6th graders and they loved it. You can watch it here. TED ED Simply type the word "metaphor"s in the search box. You may want to look around a bit for other topics that may interest you.

I am posting two of her poems. I would be interested to hear if you prefer one over the other, if so why. Marie, who faithfully responds to my posts suggests I encourage more people to make comments. It would certainly make the blog more interesting if we can  hear your thoughts. If you have difficulty posting just send me an email and I will place your thoughts in the comment section if you like.

This Was Once a Love Poem

by Jane Hirshfield
This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.

It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie. Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet
in a river side by side with the feet of another.

Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen. It spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.
Under its chin, no fold of skin softened.
Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat.
What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall.
An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks.

The longing has not diminished.
Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat,
the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus. Yes, it decides:
many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots.

When it finds itself disquieted
by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life,
it will touch them-one, then another-
with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame.

"This Was Once a Love Poem" by Jane Hirshfield,
from Given Sugar, Given Salt.
© Harper Perennial, 2002.


The Key
by Jane Hirshfiled

Morning unlocks the lake
as a woman with many keys might
come to open a house
where others are sleeping.
Enjoying the quiet possession.
Wiping the shelves of the mountain
with a lemony rag until they catch.
It is not hers. Those who live
there will claim it with raised voices,
with the closet doors' casual banging.
But for now, a single rowboat
drifts on the silvery water.
The oars are banked, the one sound
drips from the blades and widens
toward the enormous, dark-held shore.
There, the house is dreaming:
a red barrette on a wooden dresser,
somehow important. 

"The Key" by Jane Hirshfield, 
from The Lives of the Heart.
© Harper Perennial, 1997.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


This poem by Marie, one of my faithful readers, reminds me of  the importance of feeling  included, to be part of something bigger than myself, to identify with something admirable.  When the groups I identify  with disappoint me  or come up short, I am more aware of a longing to be part of something noble, to be a player in a movement that I feel is going to make a difference and or give me the opportunity to stand for something important. I don’t understand exactly the Basque identity she talks about, but I do understand how it feels to be outside the circle I want to be in. Thanks for sharing Marie.


I am a Basque who doesn't speak
Who can never be spotlessly inscribed into
The red, green, and white of the
Basque banner

Who doesn't know the drumbeat
Of a tongue that should be mine

Who should eat with wise voracity Irrintzina──
The sinuous scream of Euskadi
Irrintzina. Euskadi. Basque. Mine.

Who doesn't know the xistu notes
That should glimpse at my soul
And then kiss it and ever so gently
Open her up like a grotto
To the sonorous cadence
Of black consonants and red vowels──
Letters strong and cavernous like a mystery

I have learned three tongues
French that tastes like wine sauce
And Voltairian smiles

Spanish that leaves on my palate
The savor of my Grandfather's name—
English that runs lightly with the fluidity of morning air
For some the language of dollars
For me the water that opened the knot in my throat

Those three wondrous tongues
Are but a distant trinity
And I cannot pray
English. Spanish. French. Not mine.

Basque.  Mine.
But this tongue is tied.

     Marie Jose Fortis