Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanks, Laura D. for this Merwin Reminder

W. S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow for the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions.

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
looking up from tables we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Some Stray Gratitudes

for his profile for the bones of his hands for those best cowboys eyes
for patina for running at night in winter
the white of your breath the lightest thing

for seahorses for early morning rain for last winter in love

fireflies February the fifth thing we promised jukeboxes colored lights
for wigs

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

For Space Heaters and the Quiet of Mornings

the days before holidays. When I lived in Alabama I always loved how my little neighborhood cleared out during holiday breaks. There was a stillness to things and something open that made me feel like the town belonged a little to me.

All my new music arrived yesterday so it's space-heater, soup-making, coffee-bread (oh yes, it will be mine) all newly-soundtracked around here.

I love ridiculously-fancy dinners on a random Tuesday night. (I mean, in case anyone asks.) And I love that I get see Headquarters, My Daddy, Tootsie, Teenee-Bug and company very soon. And Lady Kathrine and Karima Curly-Haired Girl. To Columbus I leave the wistful blown-kiss.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I'm going home soon and all my family will be there plus Karima (after all of these years--ten, more? since last we saw one another) and Kathrine newly-back-home to hold its place and our first year with Joey as official bro (and so-welcome)and peaceful days with my Antonia and time to grieve together for P & C. This has been a year for being reminded of lots of things like how certain I was that I could not get the degree without some boy or other's help (so there!) or the certainty that things promised forever might really be so when most needed or cherished, or that I like things wildflower-beautiful, inadvertantly-so, not studied or re-tailored but real and good because they simply are--like cats. Some of the most enormous things that will ever happen to me happened this year--sort of quietly but huge. I feel lucky for the things in my world just now and hopeful about the rest and sad for some of the losses but sad the way you have to be to learn how to hold what you hold dearly.

Sorry gang for all the philosophy but it's been a time of big losses and gains. (And I'm not even factoring in football Columbus, sorry.)

And last night I dreamt about a wedding gown white as marshmallow fluff--that chemical white that spits back blue and in the dream I was stunned at the way the gown made me look so...blaringly-bride. I can't remember if it was for a wedding, if the groom I had in mind is the usual boy I mourn not marrying in dreams or if the gown was an artifact in itself because I kept remembering (in the dream) the creamy, old, heavy with cold glass beads and light chiffony-silk of the bodice all so vanilla-bean or nearly-custard in the vintage or eggshellish distincitively off-whiteness that I had purchased (in real life too) in a thrift store in Colorado and I was wondering why anyone should have two wedding gowns but again, I don't know what or who or if I was marrying anyone or anything. I remember feeling pleased at the girl in the mirror and that, rare thing, felt nice.

And because of that bride marrying even maybe amazement and because Cynthia lived just this way, I post a poem that will make one dear bear's teeth hurt but that I have to post because it will mean something to the people like Cynthia who wasn't a poetry-snob or a music-snob but just liked things that underlined really living each day which is why she married the amazement she did and why they loved the way we can only hope to get to love.

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement,
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

-Mary Oliver

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saddest Saturday Morning News

Four times around the fire
Seven steps I took
With you by my side

Nine trips to the houses of healing
Sixty miles from our temporary home
Fighting, yes, but mostly letting go
(Figuring out that the journey
Is about today, and today alone)
Discovering in my idleness
Your love, a revelation
And that nothing is done
If not intended

Cynthia Saeli Kudva
May 20, 1965-November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Three Roses

were brought to me yesterday. A pink, a yellow, a pale orange--all in a lovely purplish vase and hanging out now on my mantle just beneath the sand painting of a girl foolishly hungover on song or something like that. Anyway, the flowers were brought to me by my Wednesday morning poetry crew ages 6-13. They are some of the smartest, most self-possessed, well-mannered but wildly imaginative people that I know. I gave them all image notebooks with Rilke quotes from "Letters to a Young Poet". Because they are that amazing and they will record their images, because they don't fail themselves in their goals the way adults do. This week's lesson: be more like A, A, G, M & Q. (The names are awesome, too.)

We are having a reading in December. With invitations, chapbooks and broadsides and some of that pineapple cardamon bread I sent home with them yesterday. With chairs gathered (can I find enough?!?!) in the Zelda room.

Because we are this week (we six young poets) working on some poems that we have labeled The Gratitudes, and I am working on mine on my early graduation gift that has two nicknames, one of which is The Gizmo and is the world's greatest clutch purse of a keyboard (the envy of all) and serves to remind me what I am grateful for and what I am grateful for regardless. Certain things you thank for happening at all much less to you. In honor of all types of gratitude and every type of Gratitudes I post this for you:

POEM 655 (circa 1862)

Without this— there is nought—
All other Riches be
As is the Twitter of a Bird—
Heard opposite the Sea—

I could not care— to gain
A lesser than the Whole—
For did not this include themself—
As Seams— include the Ball?

I wished a way might be
My Heart to subdivide—
'Twould magnify— the Gratitude—
And not reduce— the Gold
Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dancing on the Ceiling

First, Obama, then the degree and now: The Southern Review just accepted the title poem to my next book: The Rub. It's a poem that matters to me immensely and which I have worked and re-worked for years and never sent out much as I wanted it to be really good and to go somewhere really good. I could not be more pleased. If snow falls from the sky tonight I will think it confetti!

For All the Boys Who've Sung Dead Flowers

I want to change my name to Little-Susie. Legally.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why So Sad Buttercup?

Does the weather undo you the winds and unwindings? What left
its residue on the porcelain? What charged singings
make veils in the cold? When cold windows
don't let winter and sharp. When too many songs undo.
Back in the city of a left, right, left
heart, back in the March of another year. Back to words
and what hammock they afternoon hang us through.
Somewhere between the hanging and the nap. Somewhere
between relax and retire. Between adopting another's
belief and the sweet surrogate lovers
that breed nothing but the next day and the way
to meet it. Back to work-a-day
and next week and the exfoliation of skin cells
sufficient to amnesia. Better to crawl out of our hides
a little at a time than to skin ourselves
alive just to forget, just to forget a touch.

Monday, November 17, 2008

All My Well-Wishers

Thanks you, thank you.

There's only one shout-out that would have made today complete. Just one but mighty.

Thank You

How many of the persons this addresses will ever see it is hard to say. But I woke up early, a little sappy at this day's significance and how and who helped make it possible.

Thank you my friends, my little Clifton village, my family and my teachers. An era ends but not my gratitude.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just Have to Underline Our Coolness

still the best thing about my world lately.

Gray Skies, Salt Roses, the Great Unblooming Everywhere November

I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

Pablo Neruda, from One Hundred Love Sonnets

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


for Honeya
After the stroke all she could say
was Venezuela, pointing to the pitcher
with its bright blue rim, her one word
command. And when she drank the clear
water in and gave the glass back,
it was Venezuela again, gratitude,
maybe, or the word now simply
a sigh, like the sky in the window,
the pillows a cloudy definition
propped beneath her head. Pink roses
dying on the bedside table, each fallen
petal a scrap in the shape of a country
she'd never been to, had never once
expressed interest in, and now
it was everywhere, in the peach
she lifted, dripping, to her lips,
the white tissue in the box, her brooding
children when they came to visit,
baptized with their new name
after each kiss. And at night
she whispered it, dark narcotic
in her husbands ear as he bent
to listen, her hands fumbling
at her buttons, her breasts,
holding them up to the light
like a gift. Venezuela, she said.

Dorianne Laux

Columbus in the Early Hours

and me all lugging laptop and bundled up like it's the dead middle of winter.

Still, it was nice--not the flat-tire that created the walk-opportunity but the walk. Not the weight of this laptop but the cool air and hot coffee, the homemade bread with peanut butter that I had for breakfast before I left. And now here, the familiar office with my cool plexiglass desk and my nice people and soon a roomful of students. Feels very November.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Calling Tryfon Tolides


Come to the point where, fi nally, you are lost,
wayside-sitting, wind-gazing, train-whistle-listening,

if you want to converse with the invisible presence,
continual, sustained, indwelling, be lost,

be abandoned, so that the heart, the mind, as big
as God, come to the place where you are lost,

so that all your days and the shuttering of each day’s
light and the blue magnetic incomprehensible

jumping and motionless blue of twilight and the fi ne
blackening after, around the incomprehensible

waiting and breathing of trees with their delight-inducing
cloud-depths and freedom-shapes and darting birds,

happen in pure glory, in ineffable joy of consciousness,
so that your senses overfi ll to beautiful muteness,

so that mere being becomes the form of your praise.

Tryfon Tolides

This poetry is spare, direct, empty only in the Stevensian sense of acknowleging the nothing that isn't as well as the nothing that is. I say this to strike back at some criticism I read about the big prize, the blurbs, etc. Come on, Bitter Poets. From Pricilla Becker to Tryfon Tolides and so on, quit saying that deserving poetry didn't deserve the prize based on who was judging, or what nepotism may or may not be at play. Attack the judges if you feel you have to bite someone.
I sent my book around for ages before winning a contest judged in the highly ethical and careful Wick competition and by a judge that I had never met. If anyone might look back over all the entry fees, postage, photocopy fees and general effort and concern, I would be high on that list. But there are so many ways to win fairly or unfairly and so many times that I disagreed with why something "should or should not" have won. It gets crazy-subjective and comes down to the aesthetic of reader and writer. As for the true cases of judges choosing their own, critique that not the poet whose poems, whether they're your kind of thing or not, matter. It's low to go after someone's work and make it seem incompetent because you think a judge knew the poet.

But back to Tolides whose poems are sound and true. Their music is so honest and as Tolides said in an interview regarding his village: The place was full of spirit and tsakna and manitaria and foties and provata and tsoknidhes and kalives and moures and tiria and psychically rich people and the cemetery was alive at night, the presence of the living people always had the effect of making the dead more living, too, they were always in the air and in the houses with us and the animals.

That kind of care in seeing and saving is not ordinary and there is nothing empty about paying attention that way. Check him out. Get ready for a living and dying landscape and breathy cemeteries. And don't say I said these because he's my homeboy. I rarely endorse Greeks. But this one has read my favorites: Seferis, Elytis and Ritsos and even my beloved Tomaz Salamun. He mentions those Greek boys more than he does Cavafy (whom I think is over-rated compared to Elytis, Seferis and Ristos). Take that.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

birthday w.s. merwin

Something continues and I don't know what to call it
though the language is full of suggestions
in the way of language
but they are all anonymous
and it's almost your birthday music next to my bones

these nights we hear the horses running in the rain
it stops and the moon comes out and we are still here
the leaks in the roof go on dripping after the rain has passed
smell of ginger flowers slips through the dark house
down near the sea the slow heart of the beacon flashes

the long way to you is still tied to me but it brought me to you
I keep wanting to give you what is already yours
it is the morning of the mornings together
breath of summer oh my found one
the sleep in the same current and each waking to you

when I open my eyes you are what I wanted to see.

While We Still Have Hands

I think it will be winter when he comes.
From the unbearable whiteness of the road
a dot will emerge, so black that eyes will blur,
and it will be approaching for a long, long time,
making his absence commensurate with his coming,
and for a long, long time it will remain a dot.
A speck of dust? A burning in the eye? And snow,
there will be nothing else but snow,
and for a long, long while there will be nothing,
and he will pull away the snowy curtain,
he will acquire size and three dimensions,
he will keep coming closer, closer . . .
This is the limit, he cannot get closer. But he keeps approaching,
now too vast to measure . . .


If there is something to desire,
there will be something to regret.
If there is something to regret,
there will be something to recall.
If there is something to recall,
there was nothing to regret.
If there was nothing to regret,
there was nothing to desire.


Let us touch each other
while we still have hands,
palms, forearms, elbows . . .
Let us love each other for misery,
torture each other, torment,
disfigure, maim,
to remember better,
to part with less pain.

We are rich: we have nothing to lose.
We are old: we have nowhere to rush.
We shall fluff the pillows of the past,
poke the embers of the days to come,
talk about what means the most,
as the indolent daylight fades.
We shall lay to rest our undying dead:
I shall bury you, you will bury me.

(Vera Pavlova
translated, from the Russian, by Steven Seymour)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Handsome This Day

Sitwell's and Lisa's infectious enthusiasm and 'Rackin' Diaquiris.
My student who dreamed that we watched the election as a class and that when Barack's victory was announced we all cheered and cried together.
My mom's crazy happiness and renewed sense of belief in some sort of justice.
That I live in Ohio now, after years of living in Alabama and Utah where casting my vote was like taking vitamins: something I would see more effects perhaps from not doing than I would likely ever know in the doing.
That so much is so right about this moment and the fall trees driving through Ohio seems more Fall-gorgeous than ever and Lucinda William's new c.d. was worth the splurge for songs like Honeybee with its perfect sexiness and If Wishes Were Horses for the so-shared sentiments and the idea that I too would have a ranch. But today I'd be one pony shy--the one called That-Our-President-Could-Be....

At the heart of it all and thriving...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Last Poem

Dear, there's not much more I can do:
the rugs are beaten clean,
my passport's in the mail.

I can follow you with a paper towel
to wipe your traces off each door-knob and spoon.

I've kept your books for you,
and I keep my patience still
in the whirl of a fish tank.

All the plants have died, but
I consider them disposable.

Once this plan was a pas de deux
but my dear, I've come down with stomach flu
and a motorcycle rumble.

I've fixed many things here with crazy glue,
but my red cup dropped in the basin.

Soapy knives and forks swim the way sharks do.
A lemon peel floats by, there's water in my shoes.
I've developed a twitch from the ringing phone.

My dear, I checked the catalogue
and it seems the vine along our redwood siding

—why, it's called "The Wandering Jew"!—

ripped the handles off the doors
(I replaced them with bells).

If I want to go outside for a new point of view
I'll have to chew my way through this neat wood frame
but I don't mind teeth marks, do you?

Copyright © 2008 Camasin Middour

Monday, November 03, 2008

> > > > > W E L C O M E B O U L D E R B O O K S T O R E! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

What have we here? What haven't?
A whole bookstore around you and yet, this is what you read... I knew I was brilliant!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Why I love my job

because a student passed this poem along to me. Because two of my students (one of whom also passed this poem along) went to see Eleanor Wilner and I didn't even dangle the extra-credit biscuit out for enticement.

All my things made it off before or super-well-before their deadline. I celebrated with a tofu wrap and an afternoon soda with a pretty boy. Well, and maybe a little trinket or two, if you must get technical about it. And a filmy vintage shirt all spinny with ballerinas: peach, lemon, babiest-blue. A shirt of delicousness. Celebrated I have. And so should you.

Wishing you all the sundaeist Sunday and poetry:
A Boy's Guide To Arson
Pinch of Chinese gunpowder.
Strike-on-box match. So cheap
Even strangers might ask you
For a smudged sketch of hell.

A little poison now and then
Makes for agreeable dreams.
It's how the spirit becomes a camel,
The camel a lion, the lion a child.

String the bow of regret.
Shoot the arrow of longing.
Learn to speak falsely;
The more you learn the less

You'll crave joy. To whom
Do we owe these convulsions,
These raptures of transport? Sick people
Have always been among us.

Preachers of the afterworld preach
Death. You could spend all night
Pulling off their fright wigs, it ends
The same way. Touching the firewall

With fingers of pyromaniacal intent?
Now that's something to consider.
Stars are ashamed of their ebb, and nothing beats
The ravenous tang of gasoline.

--Jarret Keene