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Monday, 18 June 2012

Pass By Blue Stone


File:Bog Bean growing at the Baney Hole, Barrmill.JPG

Buckbean or Bog-bean (Menynthes trifoliata). The Baney Hole near Windyhouse Farm, Barrmill, Ayrshire, Scotland. An old quarry or bell pit: photo by Roger Griffin, 24 August 2010

Pass by Blue Stone Well in sun's first day in March
where the fox roams upon paw and tries advance the whitewashed fence.  Rank

red fox smell for the setter.
Blind rattles in the dry
bush.  Brown-leaf.  Clearwater the runnels.

1st day of Spring March 21st advance
Introduction of animals to the West
.....Pasture today begins.  By

the low water
.....a buckbean shoot
shining in the mud.

.....Bless the weather
the green
.....dung.  The Spring
.....The yellow loosestrife yet
to come.

TC: Pass By Blue Stone, from Poetry Vol. 105, No. 2 (November 1964)


 Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), male, Horsefly Peninsula, Quesnel Lake, British Columbia: photo by Alan D. Wilson, 2006

Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris), found in prairie along flood plain by the South Saskatchewan River: photo by SriMesh, 1 August 2008


Wooden Boy said...

A holy poem.

I wish I could look with such attention. A great painter would look at the scene like this; a unruly set of living signs with the stench coming off them (I do love the red fox smell with all that expectation in it).

Yesterday, we went walking on Wenlock Edge and Karen was forever having to call me back to look at the dog roses, the wild strawberries, fat plates of fungi.

The big brute of a city boy was there to stretch his legs.

manik sharma said...

In passing we saw a lot along with you...bless your vision...

TC said...

Manik, this forms the beginning of an excellent small traveling company. Helpful to have a friend on each side for support in the wobbly patches.

WB, a splendid day that must have been, and by the by, tell no one but we'd already heard a bit about it, secret sources and all.

As it happens, over the past twenty four hours (not quite coincidence) we here have been vicariously enjoying the
view of Wenlock Edge from Eaton
, and have even ventured out on a virtual long-distance walk following Wenlock Edge -- in the company of A.E. Housman and Vaughan Williams, as well as of course our Wooden Friends.

As to this verse, one had only just turned 23 at the time it was penned, thus still possessed the vigour to hike about the bogs and fens, maneuver the stiles and actually pay a bit of attention to what was about. Especially the things wild and living. That is the holy world of course. One's best response simply to be silent and attend. So one would like to think and/or faintly remember, through the shadows.

And now one learns belatedly that our industrious archivist could have been spared the trouble of typing up the archaic memorabilia as it's all out there on the net anyway, courtesy of that pharmaceutical fortune which latterly bought all that fine office furniture and created all those websites & c.

And learns too that one was honoured (though had totally forgot this honour) to share those pages with five poems by the wondrous Stevie Smith, who was sensibly biding her time with her aunt in North London all the while this eager contender was bumbling about the bogs and fen-lands.

Also in the issue in question, two poems by our friend Gerard Malanga, who provided the ring which Edda Angelica the Archivist wore on her ill-fated wedding day. Gerry had bought the ring(s) to consecrate his vows with the legendary Benedetta Barzini. Whereas "the ones you bought had been stolen by the junkies," EA the A reminds. Really one had lost all that memory and probably ought now deny its veracity altogether.

And now those times and towns and days and vows all lost (well no, some vows still hanging on) but for the memory... and the memory too all but lost. Really the foxes up Wenlock Edge have it all over the humans when it comes to these things. (Which things were those, again?)

Susan Kay Anderson said...

It is fresh to see a fox alive and yes, managing so well around people.
"blind rattles in the drybush" tell of something else. I like the "advance" parts, extremely innovative and fox-like.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

You know, Tom Clark, you have had a wild life. All these people you've met and known, all the writing you've done and are now doing--amazing inspiration for me to kick aside the rocking chair.

TC said...

Would that one could recall a bit more about those blind rattles in the drybrush.

Perhaps an issue better left to all tomorrow's foxes.

You know, Susan, when it comes to variety, I am certain my life is not a patch on yours.

So many things always happening when we are not looking. Many questions, few answers, on the really important matters.

For example:

Who Killed Brown Owl?

(This is one of those mainland Mysteries which ought to be pursued slowly, in full screen. Do let me know if you turn up any likely clues.)

Susan Kay Anderson said...

clue: vulnerability
everyone, everything

Anonymous said...

the fox and the green...wonderful!!

ACravan said...

Echoing others' thoughts and words, this really is splendid, red foxes, loosestrife and all. One of my favorite rock band names has always been Bern Elliot and The Fenmen. (They were pretty good.) So that's Benedetta Barzini. Curtis

TC said...


The Fox and the Green might make an excellent name for a wayside retreat high in the Andean Altiplano.


Gerard had written the Benedetta Barzini poems, and plans for the real-life union were evidently afoot, then dashed, so that we became the beneficiary of the rings of the intended pair, thanks to Gerard's kind intervention at the last moment -- my charming downstair neighbours at 14th & B having vacated their intimate needle park long enough to clamber up the fire escape while A & I were downtown securing a marriage license. Thus was anything that appeared of value, lost -- some things that had remained in A's family through the trials of flight from the old World, and those rings I had bought. Oh well, as I say, I had totally forgot.


Of course one keeps seeing clues everywhere, until finally it becomes clear that the pleasant contemporary pastoral dream of a secure blandness is but a thin and frail veneer over incipient madness.

Brown Owl probably never knew what was coming before it hit him/her.

I think Trollope meant something a bit like this when he cooked up the ultimate all-purpose good-for-any-period novel title, The Way We Are Now.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Perhaps Trollope did, but I can assure you this post together with its photographs made me feel much better than I did yesterday.

-K- said...


I like that word.

TC said...

By the way, the Desperate Optimists, Lawlor and Malloy, who were responsible for the astonishing composed tracking shot that constitutes "Who Killed Brown Owl?", have done a good deal of other interesting work as well. You could look it up.

Vassilis, having spent much of this long and rather chilly night with my one remaining intact ear full of the agonies of your nation (piped in via BBC world service overnight), my thoughts have been with you.

If it's any consolation (and of course how could it be?), perhaps the only economy in worse shape right now than that of Greece is that of California.


Yes, runnels, interesting word, apparently derived as it would sound, from running -- Middle English rynele, from Old English rinnan, to run; rei- in the Indo-European root. A brook, rivulet, narrow channel for water.

"... in Victorian self-effacement. She never speaks above a whisper, and to call us to dinner--at one O'clock promptly--she rings a tiny bell. She spends much of the morning in the kitchen, making roly-poly puddings and custard, toads-in-the-hole, and blancmange. If I go through the kitchen about lunchtime the greedy walls are sweating fiercely, little runnels of steam trickling down near the stove, and Mrs. Aslett shuffles around in her pink apron, flushed and almost cheerful in her work."

-- Esther Dyson: A State of Welfare, 1972

Curious personal association with the word, as a lad I was a fierce baseball fanatic, worked at ballparks in Chicago in the 1950s and in the course of such employment made the acquaintance of a skinny and unassuming Texas-born infielder named James "Pete" Runnels, a slick-fielding second baseman for the erstwhile and lowly Washington Senators, later traded over to Boston where he twice led the American league in hitting -- .320 in 1960, .326 in 1962 -- and would have won a third batting title had it not been for the fact that on the final day of the 1958 season, when the always consistent Pete again hit .326, his teammate Ted Williams had a big day and beat him out by six points.

No one remembers Pete now, but he was one of those oldtime, undernourished, no-larger-than-life figures with thin wrists and ankles much like those of the average working stiff who populated major league diamonds back in the day when even a batting champ was doing well if he made as much money as a truckdriver or shop foreman. He was what was then known as a "Judy", that is, a batter with a good eye, a good ability to put bat on ball but no power at all. One year he won the batting title while driving in but thirty runs, a record for heroic weakness that stands to this day.

ACravan said...

I remember Pete Runnels. I thought of him when I read the (unforgettable) word here. Curtis



"Bless the weather/ the green . . ."

I'll show Johnny this picture of Reddy Fox when I get home.


grey whiteness of cloud above shadowed
walls of buildings, black line of wire
in foreground, sound of cars in street

overlooked three paintings,
in which his features

birds of various kinds, one
morning, until became

sunlit white cloud in pale blue of sky,
shadowed red brick wall across from it

TC said...


Here are some more foxes for Johnny.


Ah, thank your for helping me to feel, here, in the frigid darkness, just a tiny bit less insane. (Or would the operative word be "old"?)

And for the dim memories of the diminutive hero:

Pete Runnels, Washington Senators 1954

Anonymous said...

I'm very late to the party on this post, but I wanted to record for the sake of posterity, that final stanza is sublime. Well, the entire thing is wonderful, but that -- and the resplendent buckbean shoot -- will linger for while.