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Wednesday 31 March 2010

Anna Wickham: The Fired Pot


File:Scapa Flow, British pottery shard  (RLH).JPG

In our town, people live in rows.
The only irregular thing in a street is the steeple;
And where that points to, God only knows,
And not the poor disciplined people!

And I have watched the women growing old,
Passionate about pins, and pence, and soap,
Till the heart within my wedded breast grew cold,
And I lost hope.

But a young soldier came to our town,
He spoke his mind most candidly.
He asked me quickly to lie down,
And that was very good for me.

For though I gave him no embrace --
Remembering my duty --
He altered the expression of my face,
And gave me back my beauty.

File:Scapa Flow - Churchill Barrier 1 -  kingsley - 29-JUN-09.JPG

The Fired Pot: Anna Wickham, from The Man with a Hammer, 1916

Broken shard of WW I era British Naval pottery, retrieved from Scapa Flow, Orkney: photo by Richard Harvey, 2003
View of Scapa Flow from atop Churchill Barrier #1, between Lamb Holm Island and mainland Orkney Island: photo by Gregory J. Kingsley, 2009

Tuesday 30 March 2010

In Bolinas (1970-1971)


Each of the two adjacent clocks reads 3:27, but both are needed. One is large and has huge hands. It is intended for persons with poor vision. The other is tiny and has no hands at all. It tells the time only to the small white puffy clouds that float by in a large upturned basin of powder blue sky.

Fog lifted by blmurch.

From far off in the woods that flank the upper left-hand edge of the mesa, a voice is heard, quite clearly, cutting across the fog of this early morning: a female voice quite easily understood: "I believe! I believe in you!"

Duxbury Reef at High Tide by blmurch.

Under the shadow of Duxbury Reef he is not really thinking. A moment of peace. He raises his hand in a gesture of blessing, made slightly silly by the impertinent grin on his face. Slowly the fog lifts as another timeless morning goes by.

Falling trees on cliff by blmurch.

The land, sprinkled with humble dwellings, slowly detaching from time, gradually falling off the cliff.

Young Fawn by blmurch.

The young deer spend most of the day off in the bushes, watching the future studies cars go by from concealed positions. They dare to prance on the road and browse in the adjacent grasses only when there's no traffic. This occurs when the future takes a break.

Lots of surfers by blmurch.

"We were the first on the beach. The sets were rolling in at four to six, with occasional eight-footers. We waxed up and waited for a break."

The wet suits shine like black ceramics under a porcelain sky.

Each perfect day the same as every other perfect day. Some also imperfect. Nothing is ever anything but itself.

All of my friends are in another world.

Poetry: a whistling in the void, with fifty years spent listening for the echo.

Landing pelican by blmurch.

Always important to keep old hat in closet and to forget location of closet. This a.m. as I run by, a great nation of pelicans fishing on the awakening lagoon.

Dark Hummingbird by blmurch.

The orange and purple flowers welcome you to town, Bolinas. The hummingbird bids you an all too soon farewell. Since your arrival so much, or little, time has gone by.

Puffy clouds, Bolinas: photo by blmurch, 2007
Fog lifting over Bolinas mesa, from the ridge: photo by blmurch, 2007
Duxbury Reef at High Tide: photo by blmurch, 2007
Falling trees on cliff, near Duxbury Reef: photo by blmurch, 2006
Young fawn: photo by blmurch, 2007
Surfers, Bolinas beach: photo by blmurch, 2007
Pelican, Bolinas: photo by blmurch, 2007
View of Bolinas: photo by blmurch, 2007
Seagull, Bolinas: photo by blmurch, 2007
Pelican landing, Bolinas lagoon: photo by blmurch, 2007
Dark hummingbird: photo by blmurch, 2007
Twilight on Bolinas lagoon: photo by blmurch, 2007

TC texts writ 1970-1971, revised 2010

(With great thanks to Bea Murch, who grew up in this place)

John Ashbery: At North Farm


La terre rouge: photo by Guy Néchois, 2007

Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you,
At incredible speed, traveling day and night,
Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through narrow passes.
But will he know where to find you,
Recognize you when he sees you,
Give you the thing he has for you?

Hardly anything grows here,
Yet the granaries are bursting with meal,
The sacks of meal piled to the rafters.
The streams run with sweetness, fattening fish;
Birds darken the sky. Is it enough
That the dish of milk is set out at night,
That we think of him sometimes,
Sometimes and always, with mixed feelings?

At North Farm: John Ashbery, from A Wave (1984)

Cat Telephone


I have made the surprising discovery that cats are telephones that come and go as they please and have an appetite for milk and fish. It takes a while to understand that these are special beings, wireless phones like walkie-talkies; and that we too are special, in our imperceptiveness, because it took us so long to understand this.

Given that this state of misunderstanding goes back beyond antiquity, it's apparent that humans lack the code that would allow us to comprehend these messages, their origin, and the nature of those who are sending them to us. We don't know whose number is being called, or what the caller is trying to say...

Text freely adapted & English'd from Julio Cortázar: Cómo pasar al lado

Cats: photo by arudhio, 2009

W. H. Auden: The Fall of Rome


File:Benitachel, Spain.jpg

(For Cyril Connolly)

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extoll the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.

File:Herd of Caribou.jpg

The Fall of Rome: W.H. Auden, from Nones (1961)

Benitachel, Eastern Spain: photo by Sebastian Vaida, 2008
Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), Suomi, near Ihari, Finland
: photo by Lukas Riebling, 2005

Sunday 28 March 2010

Wyo-Booming, 1979 (I)


File:Rock formations Great Divide Basin2.jpg

Robert Smithson Would Have Loved It

Coming around a corner
to one's first vista
of a big carbon extraction scene
like the Belle Ayr Mine
in Campbell County, Wyoming
is like stumbling
into the Nile Valley
during the building of the Pyramids

File:Coal mine Wyoming.jpg

The Biggest Little Mine in the USA, 1978

Despite losing one-third of its production
during an August conflagration
the Belle Ayr operation
still sucked out 15 million tons

File:Male Antilocapra americana.jpg


Executive class townhouses are the first thing to grow out of
the empty cliffs around Gillette since the inland sea left.
The buffalo and antelope still play amid these grasslands,
but they look a little diminished next to the Minoan scale of the open pit mines.


Population Control in Gillette

The coal trains go through all night long
with a racket like all of hell being unleashed as noise.
A first, as you lie in bed in your motel room or mobile home,
it merely disrupts your sleep, your nervous system. Later you kill your dog and wife.


Uranium District in Wyoming

Driving through the yellow scorched vastness of the Gas Hills
you roll your windows up tight & try not to breathe
any harder than that cow skull lying along the road is breathing.
The road curves involuntarily into the Rattlesnake Range.


Jeffrey City

In Jeffrey City the snow piled up higher last winter
than anything in town except the CD sirens.
But when the sirens sounded, it was good to know
every web-hat in town could drive his house out from under it.



Life along the Overthrust Belt is Lonely. Fours by fours with
rifle racks, six packs, Willie & Waylon, Miller's & a shot
can't defeat the ultimate meaning of
having to drive 200 miles in a different direction every morning to get to work.

File:Rig wind river.jpg


The '77 shootout at the Red & White Cabins
took more than the 2.8 lives the U-dust
of 25 years ago snuffs every year. Besides these mines
are safe now: says a nervous fire inspector
who's waiting get this month's rad badge
back from OSHA, so he can work next month.



Perhaps it's because it's such a threatening space
what with its great expanse of unaffectionate sky
that workers in this boom region travel from
job to job with their housing intact
& never further than ten feet behind them.

File:Dave Johnston Power Plant.JPG

S.E. Wyoming

The great trans-synaptic stack flashers
of the coal-fired electrical generating plants
that tower over the Badlands across the Platte River
may provide useful power to all the Dakotas
but to the traveler they are purely retinal messengers


"The clouds steely..."

The clouds steely off over the mesa to the East
suggest twisters in the Badlands have taken away
what was owed them by the pilgrims there
and now are moving off to test the northern settlers,
or were those twisters we saw merely the swirl above the tipples?

They won't be there to pay if they can help it.
There's no lack of character in fleeing in the teeth
of the prop wash, particularly since the new
type of technological thresher advances only in reverse.

File:Wyo snow at sunset.JPG


Coming down out of Ten Sleep Canyon into Worland
where they still haven't cleared the dust away
from last winter's thirty foot tall drifts
which just melted down and left puddles of
everything that blew through Worland since last Fall


Breakfast in Moorcroft

Where Ed stiffed on a rail crew thirty years ago, has a new
cast of drifters now, not railroad but coal
but equally transient, the only thing (pancake shop included) really local
going on is the generally surrounding & impoverished Short Grasses

File:Bouteloua gracilis 2004-08-22.jpg


The big bluestem has roots six feet deep
Indian grass grows with the bluestem;
switchgrass also ripples there in the wind.

Going west you get less rain:
the little bluestem grows waist high, and so does
the side oats grama, and the bearded needlegrass.

Further west, the short grass of the Plains grows:
the blue grama, knee high; and the buffalo
grass, which grows up to the ankles.

File:Bouteloua curtipendula.jpg

"Grasses are a complex..."

Grasses make up a complex life which does not recover
so easily from mining and drilling as the apologists of
"reclamation" would have us believe, it now turns out

Wanting to "improve" the land is always a hit or miss
proposition depending on your definition of how said
land should be used

File:Hawk Springs 2199.JPG

Checking Out

Across this whole part of the continental table
Time falls away & all that's left is the dusty light of
motels in the West thirty years ago, laughter of
women somewhere off in the distance, crickets
in the violet dusk & a lonely horizontality
against which the beast shadows of the rigs are painted.


What the Pioneers Always Wanted To Do Was Arrive

Which meant getting across the mountains alive
But then what? You lost track of the lessons
of the journey when the beginning fell out of sight
beyond the black unreeling truck lane of eternity

Out the window it helps to sing, Goodbye
to the pronghorn, & the buffalo
drops his shaggy head into the unreclaimed sage
unremarking our mechanized passage

File:Buffalo Roaming.jpg

Rock formations, Great Divide Basin, Wyoming: photo by MONGO, 2005
Coal mine, Wyoming: photo by Bureau of Land Management, 2004
Pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana), male: photo by Michael Lemmon, 2007
BNSF train headed north, Platte County, Wyoming along Interstate 25: photo by Xnatedawgx, 2008
Killpecker Sand Dunes, Red Desert region, south central Wyoming: photo by Bureau of Land Management, 2007
Aspen Mountain, Wyoming, from Aspen Mountain Road, south of Rock Springs: photo Millonica, 2008
Interstate 25 southbound near exit 14B, Converse County, Wyoming: photo by Xnatedawgx, 2008
Natural gas drill rig on the Pinedale Anticline, just west of Wind River Range, Wyoming: photo by Bureau of Land Management, 2007
Oil refinery, Evansville, near Casper, Wyoming: photo by Tara Crooker, 2006
Dave Johnston Power Plant east of Glenrock, Wyoming: photo by Xnatedawgx
Route sign along southbound Interstate 25 near McKinley, Wyoming: photo by Xnatedawgx, 2008
Wyoming snow at sunset: photo by Leila Monaghan, 2008
Interstate 25 southbound at exit 151, Ayres Natural Bridge, Wyoming: photo by Xnatedawgx, 2008
Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis), High Plains prairie shortgrass, single-sided inflorescence: photo by Curtis Clark, 2004
Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), perennial prairie shortgrass: photo by NRCS Plant Materials Center, 2005
Looking west at Bear Mountain mesa during sunrise from Hawk Springs Recreation Area, Goshen County, Wyoming: photo by Xnatedawgx, 2007
Interstate 90 eastbound at Montana-Wyoming state border: photo by Xnatedawgx, 2008
Bison roam with Teton Range in background, Wyoming: photo by refractor, 2004

Wyo-Booming, 1979 (II)



At times along the road from the mines into Gillette, Wyoming, you can spot grazing buffalo, their heavy blunt heads dipped to the purple sage, ignoring the 80 m.p.h. barreling of rush-hour pickups. It's that Wyoming time warp again: the past and the future, both incongruous in the hopelessly undiscriminating and democratic light of the present.


Gillette at night: the motel lady replies to a request for directions downtown with a scowl.

"You don't want to go there."

"Why, what's down there?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all you'd be interested in."

In the Center Bar, about a dozen taciturn workers and cowboys and two longhaired Indians are lined up on stools, impassively watching reruns of Earnie Shavers pounding on Ken Norton. On the jukebox in the background, Waylon Jennings explains how being crazy kept him from going insane. The lady bartender does double duty, pouring drinks and operating a package service out of a side window with a sliding panel of wood. Most of the faces framed when she opens the window seem young, bare and happy-drunk. It's Friday night. Their radios are loud.

The bar lady turns back to the bar to talk about working through the epic, minus 85 degree wind-chill nights and days of the winter just past.

"Oh, and of course we had a lot of snow," she says. "The coal mines and the oil rigs they just go on in any weather. They go right on working with whoever shows up, shorthanded. But back in January when it got at its worst, nobody came to work at all. So the oil people used helicopters. First time I ever saw that happen. They flew the boys out from Gillette in helicopters and then flew them back, just like over in Vietnam."

The jukebox stops playing and the talking lady's voice rings through the bar. A cowboy elaborately disengages himself from his bar stool and goes over to feed the jukebox money.

"Not much of a crowd," the bar lady says. "They're pullin' a lot of the rigs out of here."

"Oil people?"

"That's right. A lot of 'em are already gone. They're down in Wamsutter and Rawlins and over in South Dakota now."

"Do they come back?"

"Oh, sure, they'll be back up here in the fall." She laughs dryly.

"Oil people come and go?"

"Well, right now the boom's starting to fade in oil, so they're lookin' someplace else. But the coal, that's gettin' better and better. They've got three new mines goin' up right now, big ones. You aim to find work?"

"Could be."

"You won't have no trouble finding it around here."


A two-mile-long unit train runs on a new spur down an embankment. On the other side of the road, a dozen mule deer browse in the gentle wooded breaks. Down the road there's an ancient log-fenced homestead. The topsoil of the open pit mine has been dumped on both sides of the road into giant eroded mounds. A new freeway is being built next to the old road, along which the litter of cans and bottles is as dense as you'd find at Coney Island.


Saturday night in Gillette. The main drag's full of fair-haired kids, fat women and guys in webbed baseball hats. The back end of a magazine and souvenir store turns out to be a weapons depot. Big glass cases full of Smith & Wesson .357 Magnums, Ruger .44s, Colt .45s -- some of the biggest handguns in the movies.

Saturday afternoon at the Center Bar is watching two Indian girls beat the dickens out of two wildcatters in a game of nine-ball.


Billboard along southbound Interstate 25 near Douglas, Wyoming: photo by Xnatedawgx, 2008
East Hart Street as seen from Interstate 25 looking west, Buffalo, Wyoming: photo by Xnatedawgx, 2008

A Trophy


File:Nature (133848833).jpg

Chipmunk: photo by arudhio, 2006

He raised the gun

and fired, and fired

again -- a certain

satisfaction, then,

to leave

the bodies of the dead

animals there, to stain

the snow with

red -- colour

of triumph.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Billboard Mirage


File:Gallup NM - street scenery and  clouds.jpg

Throaty aggressive garble
of spoken Navajo
only thing truck radio
picks up
as we pass down
the main drag
of Gallup, New Mexico

Haven't been through
in thirty years
still the same big yellow
sandstone buttes
to the north of town

A werewolf traversing
the highway
in the dark
on the way down to
wraps his fur tight and
looks both ways
before dashing across
the precariously wavering
neon lit
billboard mirage

File:Neon light.jpg

Street scenery and clouds, Gallup, New Mexico: photo by Wolfgang Staudt, 2006
Neon sign: photo by Rolf Süssbrich, 2005

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Edward Dorn: The 6th


File:DSCN6179 bearlake e.jpg

I know a man, in the west too
in Idaho, oh, there are indians there
but you've never heard of them, they're Bannocks
and very poor, always were.
Well, riches are obvious things and then it depends
on what routes they were subsequently on.
But this man, not the man I shall tell
you about later but another; a man named Swen,
who came from Sweden to study
the language
and they asked him repeatedly --
why he stayed so long (ten years).

Two months ago, in February, would you believe it
that far north the weather was so mild we could
walk about the hills, slight snow on the ground
and be very comfortable but maybe it was the fire
in our hearts because we were tramping for a house
site, one I knew I would never use, but the weather
I tell you was so perfect and the warmth of my friend
was like the weather, all in February. Very far below
was Pocatello, a miserable accidental town even the
Union Pacific abandoned in the forties. But the hills
and the moon at night on the snow all around that bowl
and at night too Pocatello wasn't Pocatello but a jewel
the red and the blue, something you could never narrow down
to gas in glass tubes. That afternoon with our backs resting
against the vertical rocks there were... well I had to follow
him there, to know land and love it, is a great thing few
people are as lost as I am. And I love this man because he loves Idaho.
He wanted me to build a house somewhere near and I wanted to
but he you see, lives in a closed world but is very damn kind,
he is very great I like him more than it is easy to say
and it wasn't easy to disappoint him, but I think he knew,
he went on anyway describing the possibilities, that's love,
in the mists of indifference. But I just can't build houses.
At all. Although I dig the juniper and think the hills swing,
you know how very much my world is not closed but open, open.
Everywhere I am, I feel I am everywhere else. But that man in the sun
last February, with the western hat, and whom I shall not see for many
years to come, the Idaho and the snow there and the huge
purple bitter juniper berries.

File:Juniper berries q.jpg

The 6th: Edward Dorn, from Yugen #6, 1960

Bear Lake, southeastern Idaho, after snowfall: photo by Matthew Trump, 2004
Juniperus virginiana, berries: photo by Quadell, 2009

Tuesday 23 March 2010



File:Odocoileus hemionus 5531.JPG

Some things remain true, as creation labours on. Sky's still up -- no, it's all around us. Or is that just fog, all colours perpetually dissolving, in it? Atmosphere too dissolving, then re-forming, all around, yet seldom seen, never quite touched. Just hanging there, this veil, ambient, bathing us. And then beyond, the bright half moon appears suddenly over the Bay, out of a deep blue-black night sky.

Days. An uncertain relation to time. And everything.

This atmosphere, transparent medium of souls. Carrier of the mystery, conduit for the dead to reach out and not quite touch us. Containing invisible particles, blown how many thousands of miles. Medium in which we are continually immersed, indispensable agency, instrument to the moment-by-moment maintenance of these awkward, unwieldy lives. A layer of gas which extends above the planet, following the global curvature. Sometimes producing a vaulted impression, made visible by stacked layers of cloud. A veritable ceiling sloping away in all directions around us, right on out to the horizon and beyond, over the ocean, where night starts falling. And never stops.

Another night, slowly scale the hill to where the view opens out over the Bay, distant glittering lights. Some of them perhaps moving, or is it just my eyes. One forty-five in the morning, Kensington Village. A soundless envelope, the emanation of rich people sleeping. Two large deer, full grown, appear, stock still, in the middle of the road. I pause. They pause. And leap the low metal road divider. And are gone. Into thin air, into the atmosphere.

File:The Oakland Bay Bridge.jpg

Odocoileus hemionus columbianus: Columbian Black-tailed Deer, Coast Deer female in fog: photo by Walter Siegmund, 2008
San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge: photo by Nadia Prigoda, 2003

Alternating Current


File:Hasegawa Tohaku, Pine Trees.jpg

In your head a light is speaking, a tiny desirous bud.

Inside the glass bubble, a wire does all the work. Itself puny,

It reads the book for you, representing you to the light.

File:Pine Trees.jpg

Pine trees (six-folded screens, left and right): Hasegawa Tohaku, 16th c (Tokyo National Museum)

Andrew Marvell: By the River Wharfe



Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss): photo by Ken Hammond/USDA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)


Oh what a Pleasure 'tis to hedge
My Temples here with heavy sedge;
Abandoning my lazy Side,
Stretcht as a Bank unto the Tide;
Or to suspend my sliding Foot
On the Osiers undermined Root,
And in its Branches tough to hang,
While at my Lines the Fishes twang!

Andrew Marvell: from Upon Appleton House, in Miscellaneous Poems (1681)

Henry Vaughan: They are all gone into the world of light


They are all gone into the world of light!
And I alone sit lingring here;
Their very memory is fair and bright,
And my sad thoughts doth clear.

It glows and glitters in my cloudy brest,
Like stars upon some gloomy grove,
Or those faint beams in which this hill is drest,
After the Sun's remove.

I see them walking in an Air of glory,
Whose light doth trample on my days:
My days, which are at best but dull and hoary,
Mere glimmering and decays.

O holy hope! and high humility,
High as the Heavens above!
These are your walks, and you have shew'd them me
To kindle my cold love.

Dear, beauteous death! the Jewel of the just,
Shining no where, but in the dark;
What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust
Could man outlook that mark!

He that hath found some fledg'd bird's nest, may know
At first sight, if the bird be flown;
But what fair Well, or Grove he sings in now,
That is to him unknown.

And yet as Angels in some brighter dreams
Call to the soul, when man doth sleep:
So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted theams
And into glory peep.

If a star were confin'd into a Tomb,
Her captive flames must needs burn there;
But when the hand that lockt her up, gives room,
She'l shine through all the sphere.

O Father of eternal life, and all
Created glories under thee!
Resume thy spirit from this world of thrall
Into true liberty.

Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill
My perspective (still) as they pass,
Or else remove me hence unto that hill,
Where I shall need no glass.

File:Cloud in the  sunlight.jpg

And no one knows the wheres or whys: photo by Lucy in the Sky, 2010
Cloud illuminated by sunlight, Maldives: photo by Ibrahim Lujaz, 2006