About Me

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As the poet in residence at EcoHealth Alliance, my verse finds inspiration these days in topics of ecology and public health. I am reappraising the sonnets of E. A. Robinson for my dissertation at LMU's Amerika-Institut, where I tutor composition and edit @poetrytuesday. I also teach at MHVS and Amerikahaus.

20161124

Thanks

by W. S. Merwin

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is

20161108

The Makers

by Howard Nemerov,
recited by Hillary Rodham Clinton



Who can remember back to the first poets, 
The greatest ones, greater even than Orpheus? 
No one has remembered that far back 
Or now considers, among the artifacts, 
And bones and cantilevered inference 
The past is made of, those first and greatest poets, 
So lofty and disdainful of renown 
They left us not a name to know them by. 

They were the ones that in whatever tongue 
Worded the world, that were the first to say 
Star, water, stone, that said the visible 
And made it bring invisibles to view 
In wind and time and change, and in the mind 
Itself that minded the hitherto idiot world 
And spoke the speechless world and sang the towers 
Of the city into the astonished sky. 

They were the first great listeners, attuned 
To interval, relationship, and scale, 
The first to say above, beneath, beyond, 
Conjurors with love, death, sleep, with bread and wine, 
Who having uttered vanished from the world 
Leaving no memory but the marvelous 
Magical elements, the breathing shapes 
And stops of breath we build our Babels of. 

Election Day, November, 1884

by Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,

‘Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi’s stream:
—This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name—the still small voice vibrating—America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d—sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20161101

The Strength of Fields

by James Dickey

... a separation from the world,
a penetration to some source of power
and a life-enhancing return ...
              Van Gennep: Rites de Passage 



Moth-force a small town always has,   

          Given the night.

                                                What field-forms can be,
         Outlying the small civic light-decisions over
               A man walking near home?
                                                                         Men are not where he is   
      Exactly now, but they are around him    around him like the strength

Of fields.    The solar system floats on
    Above him in town-moths.
                                                         Tell me, train-sound,
    With all your long-lost grief,
                                                         what I can give.   
    Dear Lord of all the fields
                                                         what am I going to do?
                                        Street-lights, blue-force and frail
As the homes of men, tell me how to do it    how
    To withdraw    how to penetrate and find the source   
      Of the power you always had
                                                            light as a moth, and rising
       With the level and moonlit expansion
    Of the fields around, and the sleep of hoping men.

       You?    I?    What difference is there?    We can all be saved

       By a secret blooming. Now as I walk
The night    and you walk with me    we know simplicity   
   Is close to the source that sleeping men
       Search for in their home-deep beds.
       We know that the sun is away    we know that the sun can be conquered   
   By moths, in blue home-town air.
          The stars splinter, pointed and wild. The dead lie under
The pastures.    They look on and help.    Tell me, freight-train,
                            When there is no one else
   To hear. Tell me in a voice the sea
         Would have, if it had not a better one: as it lifts,
          Hundreds of miles away, its fumbling, deep-structured roar
               Like the profound, unstoppable craving
            Of nations for their wish.
                                                                    Hunger, time and the moon:

         The moon lying on the brain
                                                                    as on the excited sea    as on
          The strength of fields.  Lord, let me shake   
         With purpose.    Wild hope can always spring   
         From tended strength.    Everything is in that.
            That and nothing but kindness.    More kindness, dear Lord
Of the renewing green.    That is where it all has to start:
         With the simplest things. More kindness will do nothing less
             Than save every sleeping one
             And night-walking one

         Of us.

                         My life belongs to the world. I will do what I can.




20161031

The Song of the Witches

Double, double toil and trouble; 
Fire burn and caldron bubble. 
Fillet of a fenny snake, 
In the caldron boil and bake; 
Eye of newt and toe of frog, 
Wool of bat and tongue of dog, 
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, 
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing, 
For a charm of powerful trouble, 
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. 

Double, double toil and trouble; 
Fire burn and caldron bubble. 
Cool it with a baboon's blood, 
Then the charm is firm and good.

William Shakespeare
Macbeth: IV, i, 10-19, 35-38

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20161030

Autumn Song

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Know'st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the heart feels a languid grief
Laid on it for a covering,
And how sleep seems a goodly thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

And how the swift beat of the brain
Falters because it is in vain,
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf
Knowest thou not? and how the chief
Of joys seems—not to suffer pain?

Know'st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the soul feels like a dried sheaf
Bound up at length for harvesting,
And how death seems a comely thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?


Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20161029

To Autumn

by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; 
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; 
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, 
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, 
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease, 
      For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells. 

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? 
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find 
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, 
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep, 
   Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers: 
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 
   Steady thy laden head across a brook; 
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look, 
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours. 

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,— 
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; 
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft 
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; 
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft 
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.