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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Life Notes


Mount Tamalpais, Marin County, California: photo by Brent Peters, 8 July 2008

Like a big tired buffalo
or ox
Mount Tam kneels beneath
a glittering ceiling
her blue and green
flanks rest, her shaggy
head settles
and drinks from the lagoon.
The fur of her underbelly is burnt and brown
cars wind down it
like ticks. The top
of her head is yellow and balding
except where a few squiggly redwood tips
crest it. She rests, in the blazing
light of a June afternoon, as I do.

Life is not conditional. IF
is only a
A whole life –- yours, mine, anyone's –-
can pass by in an instant. Hers
continues, like a music without notes,
unless you really strain
your ears to hear them, and maybe even then.


Laura Gamache said...

found your site through Galatea Resurrects and will now ask non sequitor question: did you go to Lewis & Clark in the early 70s? I was there 1 qtr 7 wks. Laura Fulkerson (now Gamache).

TC said...

Hi Laura,

I'm not the Lewis & Clark Clark (wish I were, it would make me two decades younger than I am!), but I like your blog, so I'm glad we tangled wires.

Left a comment for you at your place about the lovely word "do hickey" in your post of today

Lovely word, far superior to its equally venerable siblings "thingamabob" and "whatchmacallit".

Today, alas, we are left with only the one size-fits-all "thingy".

Stu said...

'cars wind down it

like ticks'

- was the image that brought this poem vividly to life for me.

Everything 'fell into place' from that... the feel of being there.

u.v.ray. said...

It would make you two decades younger, Tom?

I thought the Lewis & Clark expedition was towards the end of the 1800's.

Sweet baby Jesus & the orphans!

I know you were into your writing career when I very first started getting into the little magazines but... Just how far back do you go then?

Just kidding of course!

But speaking of little magazines - I still haven't gotten out of them.

billymills said...

Little mags are life's blood for poetry, even still. Have you come across Damn the Caesars? Fine mag edited by a fine poet, Richard Owens

u.v.ray. said...

Billy Mills,

I haven't come across Damn The Caesars. Is it an American rag? I am in England and mostly published here. A few in a few countries including the States but not too many outside of the U.K. I see you posted a link. Thanks, I'll take a look.

Anonymous said...

“What are men compared to rocks and mountains?”

There is nothing like singing to what has always been there, before our existence and after we are gone. We are utterly delighted by these formations but hardly ever stop to think how they view our passage through this Earth. Do you think they even notice us?

Delia Psyche said...

The metaphor above the "invisible hinge" (Bill Matthews) is cleverly extended. Too near-fetched to be called a conceit, perhaps, and definitely not a mere doohickey. But ingenious.

"Doohickey" is a toothsome word, yeah. Sometimes I want to festoon a poem with garlands of such gewgaws.

Laura Gamache, I like the blog name "Alley Chat." C'est astucieux. T.R. Hummer has a good one: "Mindbook." Simple but memorable, like a good band name ("The Thingies").

human being said...

every mountain has got a peak and every story a climax... and each life a...

TC said...


... Each life a half-life? Yes, so many conditional Ifs these days.


You have a good eye. That's where it's always switched on for me too. The shift starts with the "burnt" "brown" of her underbelly being further violated when "brown" turns the linebreak corner into the shock of "cars" (a fire could be natural, a car could not), and then four words later the technological insult to nature reverses back into what can/must (?) be viewed as an acceptable process--those vehicles may be annoying, but the annoyance is only minor, she will survive them. As she has survived many things.


"There is nothing like singing to what has always been there, before our existence and after we are gone. We are utterly delighted by these formations but hardly ever stop to think how they view our passage through this Earth. Do you think they even notice us?"

This is a question to which no one knows the answer, but I may I have just attempted an answer with that last sentence to Stu. Or let us say, the less they are forced to notice us, the better. The Andes where you are have probably not been subject to as much noticeable crawling of automotive seekers of recreation. (The American poet Edward Dorn once composed a bumpersticker poem: "Recreation / wrecks the Nation.")

"Life Notes" poem was written forty years ago in the relatively idyllic setting of a small coastal village of dirt roads and curious unsorted populace. From our homestead upon the promontory of the mesa above the town that great gently rounded mountain shape was constantly visible. And for that matter it is still visible to the moguls and multimillionaires who have now discovered and acquired this particular paradise.


It did occur to me I was letting myself open to that one! But you know you are not far from wrong. Once when dwelling in the above mentioned village I wrote a book of poems with my nearest neighbor out on that little plate of rock above Duxbury Reef. His name was Lewis Macadams. So we called our (unpublished!) book: Expeditions by Lewis & Clark.

A brief excerpt gives a picture of "Our Town" in that epoch:

Faded army blankets stretched over the tops of

some huge fallen eucalyptus trucks

might not sound like much of a house

unless you are from the outskirts of Rabat

but that's how some folks live in Bolinas.

What we call a Condo's three or four wrecked chevrolets

strung out along a dirt road...


Yes, it's interesting to consider great blog thingies... I mean blog names. My favorite, perhaps because I love double-takes inordinately, remains "A Collection of Thoughs".

Ed Baker said...

Rich Owens was with us at the Lorine Niedecker 100th
in 2003

here is a photo of him with Cid...

I do believe that just after he returned to Maine he started-up
Damn the Caesars

Rich drove his little red pick-up truck straight through from Maine