Friday, August 23, 2013

The screened porch at dawn, the Milky Way, any comets in our yard


You can have the grackle whistling blackly
from the feeder as it tosses seed,

if I can have the red-tailed hawk perched
imperious as an eagle on the high branch.

You can have the brown shed, the field mice
hiding under the mower, the wasp’s nest on the door,

if I can have the house of the dead oak,
its hollowed center and feather-lined cave.

You can have the deck at midnight, the possum
vacuuming the yard in its white prowl,

if I can have the yard of wild dreaming, pesky
raccoons, and the roaming, occasional bear.

You can have the whole house, window to window,
roof to soffits to hardwood floors,

if I can have the screened porch at dawn,
the Milky Way, any comets in our yard.

Patricia Clark

Sunday, August 18, 2013


"Prior to his arrival Jean conducted a workshop on his marvellous poem ‘Wintering’ (below). I loved its internal music straight away, all those flinty ‘i’ sounds in the first stanza (‘picture’, ‘him’, ‘flitting’, ‘splints’, ‘rib’, ‘kindle’) setting up a spine of sound that pulses through the entire poem like returning waves of grief (‘listen’, ‘kitchen’, ‘calling’, ‘him’, ‘fizz’, ‘mizzle’, ‘things’, ‘winter’)."

This is exactly how I relate to poetry, I listen to its "internal music".  Thank you, Anthony Wilson.


If I close my eyes I can picture him
flitting the hedgerow for splints
or a rib of wood to kindle the fire,

or reading the snow for whatever
it was that came out of the trees
and circled the house in the night;

if I listen I can hear him out
in the kitchen, scudding potatoes,
calling the cat in; if I breathe

I can smell the ghost of a fire,
a burning of leaves that would fizz
in the mizzle before snow.

There is in this house now
a stillness of cat fur and boxes,
of photographs, paperbacks, waste—

paper baskets; a lifetime
of things that I’ve come here
to winter or to burn.

There is in this world one snow fall.
Everything else is just weather.

Matthew Hollis, from Ground Water (Bloodaxe, 2004)


So the unwanting soul
Sees what's hidden,

and the ever-wanting soul
sees only what it wants.

Mystery of all mysteries
The door to the hidden.

Tao Te Ching

Page 174, ‘Finding Beauty in a Broken World’, Terry Tempest Williams

Friday, August 16, 2013


"You know how hard I tried
to make a bridge, to make a tunnel
between the human and divine in both of us
between spirit and animal.
that I failed is beside the point."


Independence Day. Independence. Which so many are sceptical about. While so many are giving up their lives for what we take for granted. Remembering the old man at the Tibetan Refugee Camp.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

There’s no duck behind this couch

Spike Milligan: Goon, Loon, Manic Depressive Comic Genius

"His comic influences were Jacques Tati, WC Fields ("the voice of insincerity") and the Marx brothers.

"An example. Groucho was singing a love song to Margaret Dupont. She was a very tall woman. ‘I love you my dear I always will.’ Suddenly there’s a knock on the door. She says: ‘Duck behind the couch.’ So he went behind the couch and the husband came in, and Groucho stood up and said: ‘There’s no duck behind this couch.’

And may it be endlessly Saturday

The Other Life
i.m. Emily Riall

I want to wake up in a house
where the ghosts have recently departed,

persuaded to leave by prayer
infused with wordless singing,

its roomy silences punctuated
by waves and far-off bells.

I want to visit a village,
its market infecting the alleyways

with tables groaning with cheeses,
gossip and outdoor coffee,

where they call me my childhood nickname;
may I know and taste the air there,

a whiff of salt and apples
a backnote of conker and dog;

and may it be endlessly Saturday,
the bonfires yet to start drifting towards the blue.

Anthony Wilson

Near-death experiences are 'electrical surge in dying brain'

"A lot of people thought that the brain after clinical death was inactive or hypoactive, with less activity than the waking state, and we show that is definitely not the case.

"If anything, it is much more active during the dying process than even the waking state."

What can a brain scan tell about free will?

Will scientific progress undermine our sense that we have free will? Will it eventually lead us to conclude that free will is an illusion?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Trying to remember you
is like carrying water
in my hands a long distance
across sand. Somewhere people are waiting.
They have drunk nothing for days.

Your name was the food I lived on;
now my mouth is full of dirt and ash.
To say your name was to be surrounded
by feathers and silk; now, reaching out,
I touch glass and barbed wire.
Your name was the thread connecting my life;
now I am fragments on a tailor's floor.
I was dancing when I
learned of your death; may
my feet be severed from my body.

Stephen Dobyns

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


"I’m beginning to think I will never see you again
that I will never see anything again
but the twenty yards or so of visibility
in stark panorama around my broken sled."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Let’s Celebrate

the moments
where nothing happens.
The moments
that fill our lives.
Not the field bright with poppies, but
the times you walked, seeing
no leaves, no sky, only one foot
after another.

We are sleeping
(it’s not midnight and
there is no dream).
We enter a room – no one is in it.
We run a tap,
queue to buy a stamp.

These are the straw moments
that give substance
to our astonishments;
moments the homesick dream of;
the bereaved, the diagnosed.

Mandy Coe, from Clay (Shoestring Press)

Lifesaving Poems

"I was struck by a remark of Seamus Heaney in an interview he gave some years ago now. He was musing on how many poems can affect the life of an individual across that person’s lifetime. Was it ten, he said, twenty, fifty, a hundred, or more? This is the question that has underpinned this pet project of mine since I began it in July 2009.

Since then I have been copying out poems into a plain Moleskine notebook, one at a time, in inky longhand, when the mood took me. Allowing myself no more than one poem per poet, I wanted to see how many poems I could honour with the label ‘lifesaving’."

Anthony Wilson

An amazing collection of poems, a veritable feast:

 My moleskine notebook, this blog, life-saving.

Turning Things Over

Lifesaving Poems: Simon Armitage’s ‘To His Lost Lover’
Anthony Wilson

Now they are no longer
any trouble to each other

he can turn things over, get down to that list
of things that never happened, all of the lost

unfinishable business.
For instance… for instance,

Ethics & Land

"The first ethics dealt with the relation between individuals; the Mosaic Decalogue is an example. Later accretions dealt with the relation between the individual and society. The Golden Rule tries to integrate the individual to society; democracy to integrate social organization to the individual.

There is as yet no ethic dealing with man's relation to land and to animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like Odysseus's slave-girls, is still property. The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations."

Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac, 1949
Page 69, ‘Finding Beauty in a Broken World’, Terry Tempest Williams

The Whole Picture

"In The Brothers Karamazov, there is a chapter on labor and what men do for their own pride. It shows what men are capable of when they are motivated.

"Men inherently want to work and be part of something larger than themselves. That's what multinational corporations have taken away from people. It's the compartmentalization of the workforce. They've taken away the whole picture. People today see only a fragment of the picture. 'They feel insignificant, invisible, not part of a team. They don't feel they are accomplishing anything real."

Page 84, ‘Finding Beauty in a Broken World’, Terry Tempest Williams

Extending Our Idea of Community

"I offer my opinion to The New York Times, on Groundhog Day, 2003, just weeks before we invade Iraq:

.....As we find ourselves on the eve of war with Iraq, why should we care about the fate of a rodent (the prairie dog), an animal many simply see as a "varmint". Why should we as citizens of the United States of America with issues of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, racism, and a shaky economy care about the status and well-being of an almost invisible animal that spends half of its life underground in the western grasslands of this nation?

Quite simply, because the story of the Utah prairie dog is the story of the range of our compassion. If we can extend our idea of community to include the lowliest of creatures (call them the "untouchables") then we will indeed be closer to a path of peace and tolerance. If we cannot accommodate "the other", the shadow we will see on our own home ground will be the forecast of our own species' extended winter of the soul."

Page 89, ‘Finding Beauty in a Broken World’, Terry Tempest Williams

Saturday, August 3, 2013


after Montale

You lie through midday in the shade
of a sun-baked garden wall, pale,
absorbed by the crackle of blackbirds, the rustle
of snakes in the dry sticks and thorns;

you try to decipher the red lines of ants that scrawl
through the climbing plants, down through the ruts
of the scorched ground, to break and braid
and break again over the tops of their little mounds;

you might see, through the leaves, the distant pulse
of the sea, the distinct green scales of the waves,
while the churning of cicadas rises,
chiding and fricative, up from the empty heights.

And then you will walk, sun-blinded,
into the slow and bitter understanding
that all this life and all its heart-sick wonder
is just the following of a wall
ridged with bright shards of broken glass.

Robin Robertson

Prairie Dog Grammar

“Biologist Constantin Slobodchikoff, in his twenty years of researching communication patterns among prairie dogs, has proven that they have the most sophisticated animal language decoded so far. Not only do sentinel prairie dogs warn the colony of impending danger from a predator, they have different calls for different species of predator, be it a badger, a red-tailed hawk, or an eagle. They can incorporate descriptive information about the individual predator including size, color and how fast they are traveling.

Focusing primarily on Gunnison’s prairie dogs near Flagstaff, Arizona, he has also found variations within prairie dog speech – call them dialects – that differ from region to region.  But studies have shown that they do understand one other. Their use of language includes not only nouns, but modifiers, and the ability to coin new words. To date, one hundred words have been identified among Gunnison’s prairie dogs. And now, with the use of advanced technology, Dr. Slobodchikoff is in the process of deconstructing prairie dog grammar. “A short chirp, about a tenth of a second, is analogous to a sentence or paragraph… If we dissect the chirp into a bunch of different time slices, each slice has some specific information in it. Time slices become words and the assemblage of an idea appears.

"...One of my Ph D students did a comparative study of the alarm calls of all five species of prairie dogs, calling for her when she was wearing a yellow shirt or a green one. All fives species had distinctly different calls for the two colors of shirts. Also, each species had different vocalizations for each color, suggesting that each species has its own language, but the languages differs from one another, much as German, French and English differ."

Page 54, ‘Finding Beauty in a Broken World’, Terry Tempest Williams

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