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Sunday 31 May 2009

Up the Creek

File:Blue Jay Creek3.JPG

Had been trying to find its course for years

sans mechanical intervention

toward some thought somebody had had about something

but on the way kept getting lost in the tall weeds

and forgetting its purpose must have been

to arrive somewhere not to stay to splash

File:Codornices Creek.JPG

Blue Jay Creek in Allegheny National Forest: photo by Ivo Shandor, 2006

Codornices Creek at Live Oak Park, Berkeley, California: photo by Coro, 2009

Friday 29 May 2009



Her voice is heard, and then the child’s
who is her daughter, and they both sound
very young, they are both young girls
and they are talking in the garden
under the pear trellis, and their
hair shines in the sun, and the pear
petals snow on them, and they are one
person, going down through linear
time, but apart from it, parallel
and talking, and breathing again
and flashing and moving along that line

Pear blossoms, California
: photo by Elf, 2008

Progress of the Colors of the Sky (Keats in Rome, November 1820)

File:Piazza di spagna.gif

Piazza di Spagna
: Giambattista Piranesi, 1748 (from Illustrations de Antichita Roma)

John Keats' last surviving letter to Fanny Brawne, August 1820

Black the hue of mourning robes still drapes the air
Over the Spanish Steps, till dawn slips on marble
Lions aboard Bernini's broken boat
A white cloth they wrap the dead in;
Through this pallor a pink of conch shells seeps,
Then blue flames consume the whole of heaven.

Noon blasted by bolts of brass and gold
Steeps my brain in a dreamful fever-sleep
Wherein I labor beating out the links
Of fate, link after link, an endless chain
Of sorrows and sweats and nervous tossings.
When I have the strength to prop myself up

Beside the window next, the air appears as
Corporeal tissue decomposing, like
Dusty carcasses of animals that hang
A week at market, darkening by degrees
From a faded terracotta red -- the color
Of the roofs of Rome still saturated

With the sun's warmth as the dying day cools
The pope's dome to a dark grape in lemon dusk
And with twilight one star lifts itself above
The city, pauses and plunges downward --
Into an overflowing well of
Violet, the shade of separation.

File:9059 - Roma - Cimitero acattolico - Tomba John Keats (1795-1821) - Foto Giovanni Dall'Orto, 31-March-2008.jpg

Protestant cemetery in Rome: John Keats' grave
: photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 2008

File:Crane Protestant Cemetery.jpg

The Protestant Cemetery in Rome: Walter Crane, 1873 (Keats' gravestone in foreground)

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Linnaeus' Flower Clock


File:FloralClock ChCh gobeirne.jpg

Floral Clock, Victoria Square, Christchurch: photo by Greg O'Beirne, 2004

Hortus Botanicus, PARADISUS dictus, alat plantas numerosissimas.

-- Philosophia Botanica: Carl Linnaeus, 1751

6 AM Spotted Cat’s-ear opens 

7 AM African Marigold opens
8 AM Mouse-ear Hawkweed opens
9 AM Prickly Sow-thistle closes
10 AM Nippleworth closes

11 AM Star of Bethlehem opens

Noon Passion-flower opens

  1 PM Childing Pink closes
2 PM Scarlet Pimpernell closes
3 PM Hawkbit closes
4 PM Small Bindweed closes
5 PM Water-lily closes

6 PM Evening Primrose opens

Linnaeus leaned forward on his hands
in a rhapsody of taxonomy
outside the medical faculty hall at Uppsala University
and knew the hour exactly
simply by glancing down at
the frail town-hall clock

Imagine a universe with at its stem tip five small flowers
four encompassing its perimeter
like the four faces of a clock
the fifth pointing straight up at
the sky habitation
of a tidy clockmaker god on whose star circuits this whole vivid time garden was modeled


Floral Clock, Geneva: photo by Sudhanwa Dindorkar, 8 March 2008

How well the skilful gardener drew
Of flow'rs and herbs this dial new;
Where from above the milder sun
Does through a fragrant zodiac run;
And, as it works, th' industrious bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flow'rs!

--The Garden:
Andrew Marvell

After the Squall (for Robert Duncan)

File:Rainbow2 - NOAA.jpg

How the arm moved
Throwing the poet’s

Ashes out of the boat
How it all comes back

To where it started
How the whole story

Form of telling curves
The story around

Impossible corners
How brief lives

Have eternity

In recursive

How the stars swam
How the moon

Was dying down
Out over the water

To loosen out into
Those big quiet waters

Little pieces of

The whole story

Are floating on
After the squall

Robert Duncan
d. February 3, 1988

Rainbow after a squall
: photo by Saperaud, 2005

Monday 25 May 2009

Desert Flowers: You (V) (After Hölderlin)

O Earth Mother, who consents to everything, who forgives everything
don’t hide like this
and tell

Her Power is sweetened in these rays, the Earth before her
conceals the children
of her breast in her cloak, meanwhile we feel her,

and the days to come announce
that much time has passed and often one has felt
a heart grow for you inside his chest

They have guessed, the Ancients, the old and pious Patriarchs,
and in the secret they are, without even knowing it,

in the twisted chamber, for you, the silent men
but still more, the hearts, and those you have named Amor,
or have given obscure names, Earth, for one is shamed
to name his inmost heart, and from the start however man
when he finds greatness in himself and if the Most High permits,
He names it, this which belongs to him, and by its proper name
and you are it, and it seems
to me I hear the father say
to you honor is granted from now on
and you must receive songs in its name,
and you must, while he is distant and Old Eternity
becomes more and more hidden every day,
take his place in front of mortals, and since
you will bear and raise children for him, his wish
is to send anew and direct toward you men’s lives
when you recognize him
but this
directive which he inscribes in me is the rose

Pure sister, where will I get hold, when it is winter, of these
flowers, so as to weave the inhabitants of heaven crowns

It will be
as if the spirit of life passed out of me,
because for the heavenly gods these signs
of love are flowers in a desert

I search for them, you are hidden

Desert flowers (sunset): Tom Clark
Desert flowers (dawn)
: Tom Clark

Saturday 23 May 2009



The plum-lacquered woven Japanese basket Phil
Lately back from Kyoto gave us,
Juliet’s baby bed on Nymph and Cherry,
The year Phil dwelt over on Larch with Don A.
Beyond the shimmering silver dollar eucalypti,
Still packed away in the basement to this day.

Sometimes strolled two dirt road blocks to visit.
People mad at him if he came over, or if he didn’t,
He averred. Even in paradise poverty is a bother.
Tones if not words are always recollected.
Portly Bodhidharma mendicant
Toting his laundry downtown, two sad sacks.

Later on he camped down on Terrace tender
Dear heart crotchety and all alone as a song
In the same town with his vivacious Muse,
The elusive butterfly diva, Joanne K.,
Not quite on the outs and not quite on the ins with her,
Impatient amid nasturtiums as the day was long.

Time fills in the holes, cement in the ocean,
Dark parts of memory shading into bright.
One day when on acid the eucalyptus tilted,
A circus of silliness shimmering into play,
Phil sternly informed me, Thomas Clark,
Poetry will never get written this way.

File:Apple box leaf and flowerbuds.jpg

File:E.sideroxylon, branchlets, stems, leaves, capsules & buds.jpg

i.m. Philip Whalen 1923-2002

File:한련 꽃 가까이 2.JPG

Eucalyptus tree with sun shining through its branches: photo by DO'Neil, 2005

Leaf and flower bud cluster of Australian
Eucalyptus angophoroides: photo by Benjamint444, 2008

Eucalyptus sideroxylon, leaves, stems, petioles, branches, buds & capsules: photo by HelloMojo, 2007

Tropaeolum majus
: photo by Dalgial, 2008

The Watch

A ginger tabby
Perched on a log
And a black and white

As Egyptian
River gods on a barge

The windmill cats of Kinderdijk
Keep an eye on things
in the lumberyard

Remembering in their blood
It may be
The great Elizabeth Flood

Of the terrible winter of 1421
When as the humans say
A cat kept a child's cradle

Balanced on the waves
A cat and a cradle
A bit of dyke

A bit of fiction
Along with a bit
Of handed down history

Stranded through time
In sienna
And black and white

A tuxedo
Alongside a ginger tabby
Perched on a log

Beneath a windmill
By a canal

As the world floats past

Sientje Molenkat: photo by Hans Masius, 2007

Die Molenkatten in de winter: photo by Hans Masius, 2007

The Great Sphinx

doing his thing by yvetteAL.

The great Sphinx who rests solemn and enigmatic with paws folded across
his beauteous white breast

Mister Twister who astonishingly back-flexes his neck as if upon a swivel so
as the better to rearward gaze with benign wondering eyes

Old Cow able to jump over the moony night at will

Big Panda nuzzling shyly with snout and head butts and bumps reserved for those he loves

Big Bounder who comes running and leaps headlong upon tables and through doorways

Snowy Belly Boy who gazes at you blinking as if from another world

Big Penguin whose excellent black and white coat is made more splendid by careful grooming
and whose intricate and industrious pedicures are a thing of joy

Moonface Boy whose large round head contains sublunar thoughts sly and ever fleeting

Society Boy
who always wants to keep his friends company and whose friends
never want to say goodbye

Doing his thing
(tuxedo cat): photo by YvetteAL, 2009

Thursday 21 May 2009

Happy Talk


The ability to accept physical
Expression without mediation, is
Not this genius of a kind? Deep breathing,
Forepaws kneading, eyes squeezed shut in pleasure squint,
Dark Sister forms herself into a comma,
Thick brown belly fur cradling my plying hand
To bring forth this low down voicebox motor hum
That keeps on coming -- happy talk, nature's speech --


Tobysittingfunny: photographer unknown

Tortoiseshell cat: photo by Esiegel76, 2007

R.I.P. Dark Sister, 1987-2009

Suicide with Squirtgun in Happy Valley


File:Paul Gauguin 113.jpg

Like the departure of the calved sections of a glacier into the surrounding ice, a sound disengages itself from the others, and the music stops. Day is done for Daffy Duck and Beethoven. The Kreutzer Sonata echoes through the Germanic trees of suburban Appalachia. Out come the Super Soakers. Works of art collude with the apparition of evening. Laocoon and an opossum glide upon pools of reflected light that gather upon the face of the ponds that in six moons will commingle to form the Happy Valley Ice Rink.

While apparition is the instant of illumination and of being touched by something, recording and preserving it is another trick entirely: turning this timeless moment into an aesthetic instant, which is something that has duration. This is no easy task, like trying to keep a firefly's glow in a bottle without the firefly. Through the long sleeping summer nights Happy Valley is ablaze with submerged dreams of such substitutive creations.


The transcending element in works of art is something momentary. Their entrance into time is always a tight squeeze requiring the shoehorn of an "art experience," which fits them into such and such temporal dimensions. To escape these confines they flee in dreams far beyond the boundary dolmen of Happy Valley.

Works of art flower into images, which create instants out of mere moments. Then again, art is like a soft explosion, as when the hero in the Happy Valley Community Summer Theatrical kills himself with a squirtgun while standing under some tremendously dark and emotive trees, as the sadness of the river landscape in the backdrop announces the arrival of dusk in the valley.

The bodies of the low dense trees cease to stand out from the darkening forest beyond, and once again the world disappears behind its false veil of transcendence. A river flows through the forest to where the land opens out into a delta of green and copper sand.

The long day of Happy Valley closes. There is a sigh from inside nature, as all the durations that have unfurled suddenly begin to fold themselves up, like huge petals closing, almost without making any noise. Yet the forest creatures remain alert.

File:Marc-deer at dusk.jpg

The Day of God (Mahana na arua): Paul Gauguin, 1894 (Art Institute of Chicago)
A Small Town at Dusk: Aert van der Neer (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest)
Watergun: photo by Nathaniel Paluga, 2009
A Walk at Dusk: Caspar David Friedrich, c. 1830-35 (Getty Center, Los Angeles)
A spray bottle: photo by Hustvedt, 2008
Peasant Girls Bathing by the Sea at Dusk: Edgar Degas, c. 1875-6 (private collection, Northern Ireland)
Deer at Dusk
: Franz Marc, 1909 (Lennbachhaus. Munich)

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Old Canton in the Days of the Fur Trade


Fresh from the savage wilderness how strange

Old Canton! The terraced hongs
With their great go-downs out in front
Screening foreign-devil eyes from the Forbidden City,
Before which flows the Pearl River, bearing dreams!

Mandarin boats move up and down the river slowly
Barging into vision with gay pennants flying,
Propelled by double banks of oars
Moving up and down in hypnotic, stately cadence,
Like pagodas sailing into a busy paradise.

File:Guangzhou Harbor.jpg

Great tea-deckers, topsides brightly lacquered yellow and red,
Squares of brown matting rigged out for sails,
Hauling Souchong, young Hyson and Bohea,
Pass down the aisle of darting sampans,
Each one housing an entire family of floating tradespeople.

Twilight falls, as clouds of red and orange spill across the sky,
Driving the boat people to their moorings,
A simple bamboo pole thrust in the oozy bottom.
Paper lanterns diffuse a soft glow over the river,
Blunt prows of opium skiffs begin to bump against the ship’s sides.

Canton Factories c. 1780: artist unknown
Canton harbor crowded with sampans: photo by William Henry Jackson, 1895
Pearl River in Guangzhou: photo by Daniel Berthold, 2005

Tuesday 19 May 2009

The Rebel Against Dogs


Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars
With memory of the old revolt from dogs,
He reached a middle height, and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he looked and sank.
Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable paws.

Siberian Dogs in the Snow: Franz Marc, 1909/1910 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Heaven Up Here

Waiting Room for the Beyond

Beyond nostalgia
And expectation all life
A process
Of removal from life

Into whatever's out there
Or isn't
Air or aether
Entering celestial clouds
In the moment of liftoff

A light feathery moment

In which
To depart is to arrive

Violet shadows glow
As if filled with nutrient
Of the afterlife

Blue avenues of ozone
Blank atonal diffused
Through the reflected square
Of sunlight
On the floor beyond the waiting
Room chair

Wouldn't it be nice
Like leaving the room
Without leaving your chair

Though I haven't yet been convinced
I'll be so gently
Into that floating world

Waiting Room for the Beyond: John Register, 1983 (Modernism Gallery)

Sunday 17 May 2009

Out of the Fog


Sleep addressed me familiarly, calling

She takes a third of our lives and when
we come back this way a second time
doesn’t recognize us

traipses to the curtains to let
in the broken glass light of clouds


read the sign on the dream shop door
the battered mouse a gray dust ball
about two days dead

roared about lost innocence
to a loose sock on the closet floor

ripped anew

out of the upside
down canoe

(sleep’s protection)

A Woman Asleep at Table: Johannes Vermeer, c.1657 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

A Boor Asleep
: Adriaen Brouwer (Wallace Collection, London)

Another Obscure Reverie

File:Emperor Gum Moth.jpg

Kitties came and went all night long
2:30--5:30 a.m.
as in a curious furry nightmare
moth fluttering around the room in the dark

way too late for the radiant world... or is it?

That's the sphere of the lux and
the lumen, spurned
at your own risk --
the dark and the strange, or luminous

and unlucky

Emperor Gum Moth (Opodiphthera eucalypti)
: photo by Fir0002, 2004

Moth Dance: Arthur Dove, 1929 (National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)

Origin of the Speechless

Inconstant and strong
Unsettled and wandering
Impossible to control

Irresolute, fickle
Willful and restless
Wavering in purpose

Whimsical, capricious
A curious mimic
Never exhausted

A good deal of thoughtless
Swinging through the trees
Followed by

An even longer era of
Somewhat ruefully
Thinking It Over

Tropical Forest with Monkeys
(details): Henri Rousseau, 1910 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)



Raccoon on roof, early morning: photo by Carsten Volkwein, 2007

Ascension of Venus
better late than never low in the southwest

Full moon a half degree wide
just after sunset peeping

Later still, indigo cheesecloth night

Redwood cloaked in fog
raccoons moving from floor to floor,
from room to room
in the fog,

with a sound like thin paper tearing

Raccoons in a tree: photo by Gary J. Wood, 2006

File:Raccoon (Procyon lotor) 2.jpg

Raccoon (procyon lotor): photo by Darkone, 2005

Friday 15 May 2009

All Thought

File:Monarch flock.jpg

What's all this commotion, as of
king-wings in migration
a strange fluttering in the boughs
in the great night of souls

In the little oak grove
out back the dying
plum is choked out
by the young oak

Above, the vast blue
climbed by a cloud-wall
suggests all thought's

Monarch flock: photo by Jeremy Kemp, 2005

Monarch butterfly spring migration: photo by Adriane Grimaldi, 2009

Inside the Redwood

Floating tiers and worlds
a green heaven doll house

dense microwood spaces
needle masses stretch out

big rain shroud wings over
air runways imagined solid

as clouds flown through in planes
thick stacked tufted landings

branch bales piled up feathery
no sky shows through

in there the greens so dark
like blacks with orange edged

light lower lift-ups
of needle tip droopers poised

to move up and down in
the water weighted wind

Fog in Redwood National Park
: photo by Scott Catron, 2003

Tree Talk

File:Trees and sunshine.JPG

Tree talk is the party line of the intelligent listening forest
Whether the smooth voiceless no breeze whisper rustling
Inside green upper tiers of a fogbound blue spruce
Or the deep aether growth song stirring
Down in each tender quiet working sub-earth redwood shoot

Sunlight shining through redwoods in Muir Woods: photo by Rich S5812, 2007

Family ring: ring of coast redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) sprouting from stump of older tree: photo by Edward Z. Yang, 2005

Message in the Forest

Aim high
like the sequoias --
aspire to
our most wild dipthong,

one solitary
sooty grouse

File:Dendragapus obscurusMPCSL10519B1.jpg

Sequoia sempervirens, Redwood National Park: NPS photo, 2008

Blue Grouse (Dendridagapus obscurus), male, displaying, Mount Rainer National Park
: photo by Patrick Coin, 1995


High over my head
long after I'm gone

Older and
wiser and
prettier by far

Closer to God
what future

Del Norte Titan, Grove of Titans, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
: photo by Mario P. Vaden, 2008