Saturday, June 30, 2012

Vermeer : Poem In Your Post

Taking what is, and seeing it as it is,
Pretending to no heroic stances or gestures,
Keeping it simple; being in love with light
And the marvelous things that light is able to do,
How beautiful a modesty which is
Seductive extremely, the care for daily things.

At one for once with sunlight falling through
A leaded window, the holy mathematic
Plays out the cat's cradle of relation
Endlessly; even the inexorable
Domesticates itself and becomes charm.

If I could say to you, and make it stick,
A girl in a red hat, a woman in blue
Reading a letter, a lady weighing gold . . .
If I could say this to you so you saw,
And knew, and agreed that this was how it was
In a lost city across the sea of years,
I think we should be for one moment happy
In the great reckoning of those little rooms
Where the weight of life has been lifted and made light,
Or standing invisible on the shore opposed,
Watching the water in the foreground dream
Reflectively, taking a view of Delft
As it was, under a wide and darkening sky.

                                   - Howard Nemerov

Vermeer's "View of Delft" (circa 1660)

Just. Plain. Lovely. Both.


p.s.  More on the venerable Howard Nemerov on

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pacing the Cage : Poem In Your Post (Words & Music Edition)

Pacing the Cage

Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it's pointing toward

Sometimes you feel like you live too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage

I've proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip's worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And every one was taken in

Powers chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage

I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing

It's as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you'll wind up
Pacing the cage

Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can't see what's round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend

Today these eyes scan bleached-out land
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage
Pacing the cage

                                      - Bruce Cockburn

I simply had to pull out this Bruce Cockburn classic today.  Won't you give it a listen (video below)?

There's a new documentary out about this extraordinarily prolific and socially engaged Canadian musician, and his website's as solid as any for a singer-songwriter.  You can sample many of his tunes there.  And may I urge you to attend his concerts whenever he wanders your way?  I may, and I shall.

Back to words-only poems next week (maybe.  It's summer, so we might enjoy a wee musical interlude for a week or two, who knows.)  And I'm waxing a tad creative with the punctuation as well.  Ah, freedom, sweet freedom, thou art nearly mine!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Cesar's Rules : What She Read Review

Cesar's Rules by Cesar Millan
Amazon link.  Or Indiebound link.

I always learn plenty from Cesar, and this book offered not only his particular advice on helping one's canine companions integrate happily with their human families, but also explored a variety of methodologies for 'training' one's dog. Two thumbs up for providing the sort of background info. that I thrive on, and for making the frequent distinction between teaching a dog "commands" or tricks and helping a dog to become a calm, confident, easy-going, and rewarding companion. Trust me, these are two different, although not mutually exclusive, things.

With this book, Cesar helped me to clarify what I really needed from and wanted for my newly adopted five-year-old dog, CJ, and encouraged me to focus on what's really important: not so much the commands she knows, but how she integrates into our day to day life so that all of us are fulfilled by our relationships, and how we human pack leaders can clearly and consistently establish our leadership and trustworthiness, so that she will follow our lead in new or challenging situations. He also reminded me of the power of finding balanced, confident doggy pals for play-dates so that she can learn confidence and social skills in the most natural and effective way possible: from her canine peers.

My Action:  Simple and extremely rewarding, yet certainly time-consuming.  I'm working with 'The Ceej', day in, day out, to keep introducing her to new environments and situations, and I'm seeking the companionship of as many fabulous dog/human combos as I can to join us on walks and hikes and hanging out in busy places with new (and for previously not-so-socialized CJ, fairly scary) distractions.  Luckily, there are plenty of extraordinary people with wonderful dogs where I live and my friends-with-dogs tend to enjoy 'double dates' as much as we do, so it's an absolute pleasure to take action in response to this book!
If you favor Cesar's Dog Whisperer television show, you will likely enjoy and learn from this book. If you don't agree with some of his methods, you might actually come to respect him a bit more by reading this book, because he clearly acknowledges the potential efficacy of other types of approaches.
MFB, with CJ and Cesar,

CJ: Our spritely new pal.  Growing more
confident by the day, and no slouch on
bringing the cute, either. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Tip of the Iceberg : Poem In Your Post

The Tip of the Iceberg

Say language really does what it says it does:

That the bird in your hand
is really a bird, that it takes two
to tango, that whoever digs
his own grave will have to sleep in it.
Say you have a fool for a friend,
feckless and dissipated and greedy
beneath the stars, and that it takes one
to know one.  Say that might
makes right, that the best offense
is a good defense, that fools rush in
where trepid angels stammer
in front of the doormats.  Say
that life's unfair, that that's
the way it is, that someone tells you
"Have a nice day" and really means it.
What would it be like: the word,
reticent and calm, urged out
once more toward its true meaning?
What would it mean if "till death
do us part" really meant till all breath
leaves me, love; if "forever" meant
until the tides cease?  What would it signify
if "love" could only mean love once more,
not just the tip of the iceberg, sinking,
and in all sincerity.

                     - Michael Blumenthal

A darkly funny poem for a drizzly melancholy day.  Michael Blumenthal's one of my favorite poets for his clear relish of a jauntily turned phrase and for his almost-always accessibility and for the stark truths - some heartening, others sobering - around which he builds all his poems.

You can enjoy twenty of his poems on his Poetry Foundation page


p.s.  Not every choice is autobiographically motivated, so don't read too much into mine today; I'm just feeling a tad anxious, a tad world-weary on a weekend when I'd much rather wax airy or rapt or even smugly content.  This poem suits my mood, but not my circumstances.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Sonnet for Ray Bradbury : A Poem In Your Post

But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away;
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee.
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me.
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead,
The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife,
Too base of thee to be rememb’red.
 The worth of that is that which it contains,
  And that is this, and this with thee remains.

All of you in the book blogosphere likely heard of Ray Bradbury's passing this week.  My students and I just finished reading and discussing Fahrenheit 451 and began Hamlet this past week as well.

Although we were, of course, saddened by the news that a giant of twentieth century fiction had departed the physical world, somehow the blow was much softened by the closely present memory of his novel.  Surprising to me:  all my students passionately took up his cause in favor of books.  Not one questioned Bradbury's championing of knowledge via the written word.  And this is not a group of people who would be shy of respectfully expressing their opinions, even if they contradicted "authority" (another theme in F451).

I thought that all of you who read this blog would be happy to know that Bradbury's legacy - in this one regard at least - lives on in the spirits of our young people, hungry for the world and for the written word.

RIP, Ray; long live Clarisse and Montag!


p.s.  Yes, the poem's a lovely Shakespeare sonnet - not all that often trotted out among his most popular - that I thought apt for the occasion.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Brian Age Seven : Poem In Your Post

Grateful for their tour
of the pharmacy,
the first-grade class
has drawn these pictures,
each self-portrait taped
to the window-glass,
faces wide to the street,
round and available,
with parallel lines for hair.

I like this one best: Brian,
whose attenuated name
fills a quarter of the frame,
stretched beside impossible
legs descending from the ball
of his torso, two long arms
springing from that same
central sphere. He breathes here,

on his page. It isn’t craft
that makes this figure come alive;
Brian draws just balls and lines,
in wobbly crayon strokes.
Why do some marks
seem to thrill with life,
possess a portion
of the nervous energy
in their maker’s hand?

That big curve of a smile
reaches nearly to the rim
of his face; he holds
a towering ice cream,
brown spheres teetering
on their cone,
a soda fountain gift
half the length of him
—as if it were the flag

of his own country held high
by the unadorned black line
of his arm. Such naked support
for so much delight! Artless boy,
he’s found a system of beauty:
he shows us pleasure
and what pleasure resists.
The ice cream is delicious.
He’s frail beside his relentless standard.

                                       - Mark Doty

Happy Birthday, L-!  You'll be seven soon too.


p.s.  Find more of Mark Doty's work (poems, essays, audio) at his page on or hop back to my earlier post of his "New Dog" for more links.
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