Saturday, July 27, 2013

One Train May Hide Another : Poem In Your Post

(sign at a railroad crossing in Kenya)

In a poem, one line may hide another line,
As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.
That is, if you are waiting to cross
The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at
Least after the first train is gone. And so when you read
Wait until you have read the next line--
Then it is safe to go on reading.
In a family one sister may conceal another,
So, when you are courting, it's best to have them all in view
Otherwise in coming to find one you may love another.
One father or one brother may hide the man,
If you are a woman, whom you have been waiting to love.
So always standing in front of something the other
As words stand in front of objects, feelings, and ideas.
One wish may hide another. And one person's reputation may hide
The reputation of another. One dog may conceal another
On a lawn, so if you escape the first one you're not necessarily safe;
One lilac may hide another and then a lot of lilacs and on the Appia
     Antica one tomb
May hide a number of other tombs. In love, one reproach may hide another,
One small complaint may hide a great one.
One injustice may hide another--one colonial may hide another,
One blaring red uniform another, and another, a whole column. One bath
     may hide another bath
As when, after bathing, one walks out into the rain.
One idea may hide another: Life is simple
Hide Life is incredibly complex, as in the prose of Gertrude Stein
One sentence hides another and is another as well. And in the laboratory
One invention may hide another invention,
One evening may hide another, one shadow, a nest of shadows.
One dark red, or one blue, or one purple--this is a painting
By someone after Matisse. One waits at the tracks until they pass,
These hidden doubles or, sometimes, likenesses. One identical twin
May hide the other. And there may be even more in there! The obstetrician
Gazes at the Valley of the Var. We used to live there, my wife and I, but
One life hid another life. And now she is gone and I am here.
A vivacious mother hides a gawky daughter. The daughter hides
Her own vivacious daughter in turn. They are in
A railway station and the daughter is holding a bag
Bigger than her mother's bag and successfully hides it.
In offering to pick up the daughter's bag one finds oneself confronted by
     the mother's
And has to carry that one, too. So one hitchhiker
May deliberately hide another and one cup of coffee
Another, too, until one is over-excited. One love may hide another love
     or the same love
As when "I love you" suddenly rings false and one discovers
The better love lingering behind, as when "I'm full of doubts"
Hides "I'm certain about something and it is that"
And one dream may hide another as is well known, always, too. In the
     Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve may hide the real Adam and Eve.
Jerusalem may hide another Jerusalem.
When you come to something, stop to let it pass
So you can see what else is there. At home, no matter where,
Internal tracks pose dangers, too: one memory
Certainly hides another, that being what memory is all about,
The eternal reverse succession of contemplated entities. Reading
    A Sentimental Journey look around
When you have finished, for Tristram Shandy, to see
If it is standing there, it should be, stronger
And more profound and theretofore hidden as Santa Maria Maggiore
May be hidden by similar churches inside Rome. One sidewalk
May hide another, as when you're asleep there, and
One song hide another song; a pounding upstairs
Hide the beating of drums. One friend may hide another, you sit at the
     foot of a tree
With one and when you get up to leave there is another
Whom you'd have preferred to talk to all along. One teacher,
One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man
May hide another. Pause to let the first one pass.
You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It
     can be important
To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.

                                                   - Kenneth Koch

So much to ponder here, you'd better read it again.  And again. 

I admire Koch's ability to infuse subtle humor repeatedly here, and yet to reveal - via this parade of images, this multi- freighted train rounding a long bend - many layers of truth.

You might begin your own relationship with Koch at his page on (watch out for one poem that hides another and mind the gap).


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Compassion IV : Poem In Your Post

The human realities of the living are now
As close to me as my own—oh, see how
Dusty that plant gets when you don't clean
It! The rippling day is a fabulous lesson,
My pants are too loose, and yet. Bon nuit,
Mes chéries!
All over the whole neighbor-
Hood, your fluid legs move—you are all
Permission and flounce, and your stockings
Catch in the mere light. Perfection, wholeness
Is what I see now in everyone I touch. That
Day when two men came in from the stream,
Wet, bothered, the windows were blackened,
And the cats ran around. Rain came, but
Also sunlight, and the years of hard living
Dissolved. A blanket of verbs crosses the
Threshold. Poetry, you are mine, and I will
Go anywhere with you. A gap in the mind,
A spangled street, my spine, perfectly erect now,
Chooses these words, yet it is as if I have no choice.

                                          - Noelle Kocot

A gem.  Now go outside and embrace the day.


Find more of Noelle Kocot's work through this link to

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Illusion of Separateness : A "What She Read" Review

Look inside at Amazon; find it at all the usual places.
What is it?
The richly textured and profoundly resonant new novel from Simon Van Booy.

Why is it unique?
Multiple voicings weave this novel of WWII Europe and contemporary America into a gorgeous chamber concert on the page, and its non-linear structure provides tension as we readers, invested in all its richly dimensional and concisely developed characters, solve the mystery of how they are all connected and how they've impacted each others' lives.  And for me, the fact that its title springs from the writings of Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is just icing on the proverbial cake.

Do you recommend it?
Yes, I do.  I gave it ***** on Goodreads, which is rare for me.

There are plenty of thoughtfully wrought novels out there, but few address such a crucial issue in our world today:  the illusion of separateness.  Our culture in the U.S., and quite a few other cultures in the world, emphasizes individuality and competition rather than interconnection.  This novel offers us a clear, utterly believable reality, sprung from a true story, that subtly demonstrates how each of us influences others, often in unintended and surprising ways.  Van Booy also takes care to chronicle only the pivotal moments and revealing reflections of his dimensional, imperfect characters' lives.  Thankfully, he is an expert craftsman, so we readers discover the truth of the title for ourselves, no preachyness or heavy-handed theme-pounding necessary.

For whom?
Mature teens and up who care about their world and who require excellent storytelling and characterization will admire this slim but resonant novel.  I will be recommending it to WWII buffs particularly, but I speak from personal experience when I say that those of us who aren't particularly devoted to that period will likely share my enthusiasm for this novel; I read it in a day because the writing and characters were so engrossing, but I kept kicking myself because I knew that savoring it chapter by chapter was my true desire.

Where can I find a copy?
It's available at Indiebound, Amazon, or your local bookseller.  You can find a Kindle version at Amazon, and you can get it on iBooks for your Apple products.  Want a peek at the prose?  Try the Amazon "Look Inside" feature for a sample.

What action will you take in response to this book?
I will write a short fiction based on a photograph.  It's been years since I dipped into fiction writing, and this book has inspired me.  (A photo provides one point of information and potential connection in this story, and is linked to one central plot line.)

And, as you might guess, I'm going to put all of Simon Van Booy's past works into my TBR pile.  I might even suggest The Illusion of Separateness for my book group, which is chock full of teachers who will thoroughly appreciate both its content and Van Booy's craft.

Once again, I'm indebted to the fine folks at TLC Book Tours for introducing me to this novel.  For additional responses to The Illusion of Separateness, you might hop by the other blogs on this tour.



Saturday, July 13, 2013

While Love Is Unfashionable : Poem In Your Post

While love is unfashionable
let us live
Seeing the world
a complex ball
in small hands;
love our blackest garment.
Let us be poor
in all but truth, and courage
handed down
by the old
Let us be intimate with
ancestral ghosts
and music
of the undead.

While love is dangerous
let us walk bareheaded
beside the Great River.
Let us gather blossoms
under fire.

                     - Alice Walker

You may know her as a novelist, but clearly she's a fine poet as well.  Visit her website, Alice Walker's Garden.  My gratitude to Inward/Outward for posting this poem on their site on Friday.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This Is Paradise : What She Read Review

Pick it up at your local bookseller or Amazon.

What is it?
A new collection of realistic, contemporary short stories set in the islands of Hawaii.

Why is it unique?
As with many memorable and worthwhile short story collections, This Is Paradise offers readers the uniquely intimate internal experiences of its characters at pivotal moments in their lives.  And what this author provides that few others can is a glimpse into the psyches of native Hawaiians and Hawaiians returning from lives in the mainland U.S.  Ms. Kahakauwila consistently shows us that paradise for tourists is just like any other place for those who are born and raised there.  For me, this will be the enduring intellectual shift produced by Ms. Kahakauwila's well-crafted and solidly paced stories: the reminder that - even in paradise - betrayals, casual cruelties, tortured relationships, and deaths - both accidental and expected - sweep into our day-to-day lives as reliably as the waves rolling in at Diamond Head.

Do you recommend it?
Yes, I do.  I gave it **** on Goodreads, which is a high mark for me.

These stories achieve that fine balance between the utterly specific (one centers around the long-held grudges and loyalties among members of a local cock-fighting ring, another illuminates "The Old Pianola Way" of Hawaiian cowboys, while a third allows us into a funeral where we experience Christian religious ceremony mingled with Hawaiian familial and social traditions) and the broadly recognizable - yet often quite subtle - nuances of relationships.  Be it the ambivalent allegiances within girlfriend-groups or the tension between honoring one's parents or siding with one's lover, most readers will recall moments in their own lives in these stories and receive or revisit insights about the intricacies of these interactions.

For whom?
Fans of the short story genre and of the novelette will appreciate this collection, and certainly those of us we've been fortunate enough to visit any of the Hawaiian islands will find this "insider's tour" fascinating as well.

Where can I find a copy?
It's available at Indiebound, Amazon, or your local bookseller.   You can find a Kindle version at Amazon, and you can get it on iBooks for your Apple products.   Want a peek at the prose?  Try the Amazon "Look Inside" feature for a sample.

What action will you take in response to this book?
I will start planning for another trip to Hawaii.  I've visited Maui twice now, and keep dreaming that I will return "next spring", but never follow through.  Recently added - and often relatively inexpensive - local flights plus the potential for a free stay in a friend's timeshare make the Big Island a possibility and these stories made me yearn to view aspects of Hawaii beyond what a tourist would normally encounter, so I'm eager to visit an island with a more pronounced urban center.

Also, I might contact Ms. Kahakauwila, who is a professor at Western Washington University near me, to offer my congratulations on this collection and to find out whether she might be willing to visit my classes for a conversation or a guest lesson on incorporating local cultural and familial traditions into our writing.  Wish me luck!

Once again, I'm indebted to the fine folks at TLC Book Tours for introducing me to this collection.  For additional responses to This Is Paradise, you might hop by the other blogs on this tour.

MFB in Hawaii,


Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Green Crab's Shell : Poem In Your Post

Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze
preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like—

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws'

gesture of menace
and power. A gull's
gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber
--size of a demitasse—
open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.
Though it smells
of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case
comes with such lavish lining!
Imagine breathing

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer's firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into this—
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
revealed some sky.

                        - Mark Doty

Yes, it's double Doty month.  Enjoy this breath of the fleeting summer and I'll see you next week.

MFB at the beach,

p.s.  Find more of this fine poet-essayist-memoirist's work at his website: 
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