Why this?

The occasional piece of my own and a generous helping of others' creations I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


I'd settle for this one!

R to the C

Oh, man. What I wouldn't give to get my hands/eyes on this.

RC's first collection (pamphlet) of poems, published clear back in 1968.

I'm working my way through his newish brick of a bio, which I'm completely engrossed in. Just read about Near Klamath; apparently an autographed copy was going for $7,500 two years ago.

Okay--back to fantasizing about stumbling upon a copy in some dusty old bookstore in a town w/ a name like Caribou...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


From window seat,
wing stretching steel-
bold into blue.

I wonder who here
is leaving, how
many returning,

and a little about
the difference
between the two.




This morning was something. A little snow
lay on the ground. The sun floated in a clear
blue sky. The sea was blue, and blue-green,
as far as the eye could see.
Scarcely a ripple. Calm. I dressed and went
for a walk--determined not to return
until I took in what Nature had to offer.
I passed close to some old, bent-over trees.
Crossed a field strewn with rocks
where snow had drifted. Kept going
until I reached the bluff.
Where I gazed at the sea, and the sky, and
the gulls wheeling over the white beach
far below. All lovely. All bathed in a pure
cold light. But, as usual, my thoughts
began to wander. I had to will
myself to see what I was seeing
and nothing else. I had to tell myself this is what
mattered, not the other. (And I did see it,
for a minute or two!) For a minute or two
it crowded out the usual musings on
what was right, and what was wrong--duty,
tender memories, thoughts of death, how I should treat
with my former wife. All the things
I hoped would go away this morning.
The stuff I live with every day. What
I've trampled on in order to stay alive.
But for a minute or two I did forget
myself and everything else. I know I did.
For when I turned back I didn't know
where I was. Until some birds rose up
from the gnarled trees. And flew
in the direction I needed to be going.

--Ray Carver


This is the time you'd like to stay.
Not a leaf stirs. There is no sound.
The fireflies lift light from the ground.
You've shed the vanities of when
And how and why, for now. And then
The phone rings. You are called away.


I know for a while again
the health of self-forgetfulness,
looking out at the sky through
a notch in the valley side,
the black woods wintry on
the hills, small clouds at sunset
passing across. And I know
that this is one of the thresholds
between Earth and Heaven,
from which even I may step
forth from my self and be free.

--Wendell Berry

I love the central message in these three poems--the acknowledged value, the rarity, the beauty, in climbing outside one's head long enough to really experience. To truly exist *in the moment*, if only for a minute. Tough, that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

More WB


Can I see the buds that are swelling
in the woods on the slopes
on the far side of the valley? I can't,
of course, nor can I see
the twinleafs and anemones
that are blooming over there
bright-scattered above the dead
leaves. But the swelling buds
and little blossoms make
a new softness in the light
that is visible all the way here.
The trees, the hills that were stark
in the old cold become now
tender, and the light changes.

This poem is so great. I've experienced that left-out-of-nature feeling. I love Berry's way of seeing.

Loving Wendell Berry


The dust motes float
and swerve in the sunbeam,
as lively as worlds,
and I remember my brother
when we were boys:
"We may be living on an atom
in somebody's wallpaper."


Why all the embarrassment
about being happy?
Sometimes I'm as happy
as a sleeping dog,
and for the same reasons,
and for others.


What is one to make of a life given
to putting things into words,
saying them, writing them down?
Is there a world beyond words?
There is. But don't start, don't
go on about the tree unqualified,
standing in light that shines
to time's end beyond its summoning
name. Don't praise the speechless
starlight, the unspeakable dawn.
Just stop.

Well, we can stop
for a while, if we try hard enough,
if we are lucky. We can sit still,
keep silent, let the phoebe, the sycamore,
the river, the stone call themselves
by whatever they call themselves, their own
sounds, their own silence, and thus
may know for a moment the nearness
of the world, its vastness,
its vast variousness, far and near,
which only silence knows. And then
we must call all things by name
out of the silence again to be with us,
or die of namelessness.


Given the solemn river,
given the trees along the banks,
given the summer warmth,
the evening light--what
could have foretold the sudden
apparition of these two
speeding by as if late
for the world's end, their engine
shaking the air, breaking
the water's mirrors?
The trees and the sky hush
with dismay, and then,
upon the return of reflection,
with sorrow. How many years
of labor to become completely
anomalous everywhere?

What a consolation it is, after
the explanations and the predictions
of further explanations still
to come, to return unpersuaded
to the woods, entering again
the presence of the blessed trees.
A tree forms itself in answer
to its place and to the light.
Explain it how you will, the only
thing explainable will be
your explanation. There is
in the woods on a summer's
morning, birdsong all around
from guess where, nowhere
that rigid measure which predicts
only humankind's demise.

We travelers, walking to the sun, can't see
Ahead, but looking back the very light
That blinded us shows us the way we came,
Along which blessings now appear, risen
As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,
By blessing brighly lit, keep going toward
That blessed light that yet to us is dark.


The cherries turn ripe, ripe,
and the birds come: red-headed
and red-bellied woodpeckers,
blue jays, cedar waxwings,
robins--beautiful, hungry, wild
in our domestic tree. I pick
with the birds, gathering the red
cherries alight among the dark
leaves, my hands so sticky
with juice the fruit will hardly
drop from them into the pail.
The birds pick as I pick, all
of us delighted in the weighty heights
--the fruit red ripe, the green leaves,
the blue sky and white clouds,
all tending to flight--making
the most of this sweetness against
the time when there will be none.


Let me be plain with you, dear reader.
I am an old-fashioned man. I like
the world of nature despite its mortal
dangers. I like the domestic world
of humans, so long as it pays its debts
to the natural world, and keeps its bounds.
I like the promise of Heaven. My purpose
is a language that can repay just thanks
and honor for those gifts, a tongue
set free from fashionable lies.

Neither this world nor any of its places
is an "environment." And a house
for sale is not a "home." Economics
is not "science," nor "information" knowledge.
A knave with a degree is a knave. A fool
in a public office is not a "leader."
A rich thief is a thief. And the ghost
of Arthur Moore, who taught me Chaucer,
returns in the night to say again:
"Let me tell you something, boy.
An intellectual whore is a whore."

The world is babbled to pieces after
the divorce of things from their names.
Ceaseless preparation for war
is not peace. Health is not procured
by sale of medication, or purity
by the addition of poison. Science
at the bidding of the corporations
is knowledge reduced to merchandise;
it is a whoredom of the mind,
and so is the art that calls this "progress."
So is the cowardice that calls it "inevitable."

I think the issues of "identity" mostly
are poppycock. We are what we have done,
which includes our promises, includes
our hopes, but promises first. I know
a "fetus" is a human child.
I loved my children from the time
they were conceived, having loved
their mother, who loved them
from the time they were conceived
and before. Who are we to say
the world did not begin in love?

I would like to die in love as I was born,
and as myself of life impoverished go
into the love all flesh begins
and ends in. I don't like machines,
which are neither mortal nor immortal,
though I am constrained to use them.
(Thus the age perfects its clench.)
Some day they will be gone, and that
will be a glad and a holy day.
I mean the dire machines that run
by burning the world's body and
its breath. When I see an airplane
fuming through the once-pure sky
or a vehicle of the outer space
with its little inner space
imitating a star at night, I say,
"Get out of there!" as I would speak
to a fox or a thief in the henhouse.
When I hear the stock market has fallen,
I say, "Long live gravity! Long live
stupidity, error, and greed in the palaces
of fantasy capitalism!" I think
an economy should be based on thrift,
on taking care of things, not on theft,
usury, seduction, waste, and ruin.

My purpose is a language that can make us whole,
though mortal, ignorant, and small.
The world is whole beyond human knowing.
The body's life is its own, untouched
by the little clockwork of explanation.
I approve of death, when it comes in time
to the old. I don't want to five
on mortal terms forever, or survive
an hour as a cooling stew of pieces
of other people. I don't believe that life
or knowledge can be given by machines.
The machine economy has set afire
the household of the human soul,
and all the creatures are burning within it

"Intellectual property" names
the deed by which the mind is bought
and sold, the world enslaved. We
who do not own ourselves, being free,
own by theft what belongs to God,
to the living world, and equally
to us all. Or how can we own a part
of what we only can possess
entirely? Life is a gift we have
only by giving it back again.
Let us agree: "the laborer is worthy
of his hire," but he cannot own what he knows,
which must be freely told, or labor
dies with the laborer. The farmer
is worthy of the harvest made
in time, but he must leave the light
by which he planted, grew, and reaped,
the seed immortal in mortality,
freely to the time to come. The land
too he keeps by giving it up,
as the thinker receives and gives a thought,
as the singer sings in the common air.

I don't believe that "scientific genius"
in its naive assertions of power
is equal either to nature or
to human culture. Its thoughtless invasions
of the nuclei of atoms and cells
and this world's every habitation
have not brought us to the light
but sent us wandering farther through
the dark. Nor do I believe
.artistic genius" is the possession
of any artist. No one has made
the art by which one makes the works
of art. Each one who speaks speaks
as a convocation. We live as councils
of ghosts. It is not "human genius"
that makes us human, but an old love,
an old intelligence of the heart
we gather to us from the world,
from the creatures, from the angels
of inspiration, from the dead--
an intelligence merely nonexistent
to those who do not have it, but --
to those who have it more dear than life.

And just as tenderly to be known
are the affections that make a woman and a man
their household and their homeland one.
These too, though known, cannot be told
to those who do not know them, and fewer
of us learn them, year by year.
These affections are leaving the world
like the colors of extinct birds,
like the songs of a dead language.

Think of the genius of the animals,
every one truly what it is:
gnat, fox, minnow, swallow, each made
of light and luminous within itself.
They know (better than we do) how
to live in the places where they live.
And so I would like to be a true
human being, dear reader-a choice
not altogether possible now.
But this is what I'm for, the side
I'm on. And this is what you should
expect of me, as I expect it of
myself, though for realization we
may wait a thousand or a million years.

--Wendell Berry

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Papa's Waltz

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

--Theodore Roethke

Monday, July 12, 2010


I know the moon is disturbing,
to stand beneath the shower of its brilliance
and have absolutely nothing in your pocket
except maybe, pocket lint or the few pennies
you've managed to collect off the cold concrete,
hoping because they're heads up something
about your life might change irreversibly,
& how enough of those pennies might buy
you something, or nothing, an air-conditioned
bus ride into the next town where men and women
pass you by while pressing their coats against their bodies,
as if you were nothing more than a cold breeze,
how if you stood beneath the moon it might convince you
there's just not enough beauty in the world to go around.

--Angel Garcia


"Early copies are already circulating, and some sceptics out there are poking fun at what is, possibly, the most laudatory quote ever attached to a book, which comes courtesy of the novelist Nicole Krauss. 'Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same. Walls have been pulled down, barriers broken, a dimension of feeling, of existence itself, has opened in you that was not there before. To the End of the Land is a book of this magnitude,' she writes. 'David Grossman may be the most gifted writer I've ever read; gifted not just because of his imagination, his energy, his originality, but because he has access to the unutterable, because he can look inside a person and discover the unique essence of her humanity.'"

Does seem a tad excessive.

100 Days of Poetry

"This changes the whole way of poetry," Morice said. "I'm hoping people will see there's a lot of different things poetry can do."


Love this line--

“But I gotta tell you, I just think to look across the room and automatically assume that somebody else is less aware than me, or that somehow their interior life is less rich, and complicated, and acutely perceived than mine, makes me not as good a writer. Because that means I’m going to be performing for a faceless audience, instead of trying to have a conversation with a person"

--from this book.

I've thought of it often since initial-read. Good stuff.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

You Are There

You are there.
You have always been
Even when you thought
you were climbing
you had already arrived.
Even when you were
breathing hard,
you were at rest.
Even then it was clear
you were there.

Not in our nature
to know what
is journey and what
Even if we knew
we would not admit.
Even if we lived
we would think
we were just

To live is to be
Certainty comes
at the end.

--Erica Jong

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Issues Involving Interpretation

The word has no life of its own
despite what the writer tells you.
Behind the sword is no quivering
hand worn into life's hilt, no arm
swaying the wind in dying movement.
There is only the word, sword.

Outside, the trees live without language
and tip toward whatever sun manages
through a thinning atmosphere of dust,
ice, and vapor. The life of each branch
balances on what the tree affords it. The soil
holds the tree without language or pity.

But there is no tree in this poem, only
the word, tree. There is no speaker who
entreats you to imagine the tree standing
solitary in a green field, specked with clover
rising up in tufts of almost transparent cream.
There is no field. There is no clover, no green.

But you listen, anyway. Hear her voice
follow you into the afternoon, imagine language
crosses a clearing, the stark way a thing reveals
when thinned clouds expose better light. You
are the tree, tip toward words as they overcome
absence, bring outward your inner forms.

--Ruth Ellen Kocher

"The word, sword," "live without language," "soil holds the tree without language or pity," "tip toward" (both references), and that conclusion...

Swoon. Such music.

Monday, July 5, 2010


I love this blog: http://nopomolly.blogspot.com.

M and I went to skoo together. As wee lasses. Way back. Jefferson Elementary School-back.

There are many things to love about NoPoMo: M's voice, her creative output, the wise quotes she notes, her take on all things health & nutrition...

A recent post reminded me of another blog I also adore, for its attention to things old/neglected/storied...

So much out there to be inspired by right now. Thankful.

Tune in Tokyo and then some

Yo. If you're local (or reasonably so), come on out!

Tim'll read from this, and I'll stumble through this. There will be music and probably pie.

While you're at it, buy T's book! It's hilarious. Take it from me--I edited it.


Friday, July 2, 2010

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more, they begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

--James Wright

Beyond the Pane

The frescoed cloister is closed.
No echo of omniscience
escapes to wind or metaphor.
A cottage holds three bowls,
earthen and chipped, on a table
made of planks smoothed by the surf.
One holds buttermilk;
another, tomatoes pale as moons;
the third, eggs the color of sand.
On the sill you would place a globe
of ivory roses to echo
the dolphin skull beyond the pane,
and think how sonorous, how bold,
this science of solitude.

--Greg Hewett

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On slush fatigue, etc.

"So even if things shake down as Scott predicts, we'll still wind up with a literary marketplace in which a handful of blockbuster names capture most of the sales and attention, personal connections are milked for professional success, and relatively few authoritative voices have the power to lift some artists into the spotlight while others languish in obscurity. Writers who are charming in person and happy to promote themselves and interact with fans will prosper, while antisocial geniuses may fail. (It's unsettling to wonder how the Salingers, Pynchons, Naipauls and David Foster Wallaces of tomorrow will fare in a world where social networking and glad-handing are de rigueur. Why should extroversion be required of a great novelist?) The result: not a whole lot better than the system we already have, but also (hopefully) not much worse."


From Against Happiness

p. 66
"Some of you probably remember the weirdness of long roadtrips. You loaded up in a rumbling old sedan. Once you left the precincts of your town you quickly found yourself on an old highway. The pavement was everywhere cracked and frequently pocked with potholes. As you jostled over the uneven surface, you didn’t think about grading the asphalt with fresh blacktop. Instead, you were mesmerized by those leaning and crazed-looking establishments on the road’s shoulder. You wondered what on earth could be in those buildings with chipping paint and rusty doors. You at least knew that it would be a little dark inside and that you would probably smell old burlap sacks and the faint odor of tar. You could definitely get some strange-shaped rock candy and maybe some cold chocolate milk. Behind the counter was probably a shadowy man smelling of wintergreen. Beyond those probable things, you had no idea what was inside that gas station or that tourist shop of that diner. You might find anything—pig’s feet or painted chicks or the skulls of cows or bullwhips or tough jerky or comics from forgotten wars or posters of Roy Rogers or a dried-up bat. You might recoil from these strange elements, but you would never forget them, not in a lifetime. You would also recall the melancholy atmospheres of those places, redolent of musty decay."

p. 105
"Melancholia is the profane ground out of which springs the sacred. Our hope that this claim is valid is what keeps most of us tenderly disposed toward the sadness of others, no matter how indulgent, and the gloom of our own hearts, regardless of the pain. We have a faith that the dejection will lead to affirmation. If we go on living without this embrace of the darkness, then we are left with the most horrific of situations: suffering is meaningless. If this were true, we likely could not long persist. We need to believe that our shadows generate the light. We must hold to this position. It is consent to the given, a graceful grasp of gravity, a yea to the thunderous no.

Creating doesn’t make us unhappy; unhappiness makes us creative. To create is to live, and in living, we want only to create more, to set our foundations deeper and reach higher toward the sky. If sadness is what makes us creative, then sadness is nothing else but life. Frowning is flourishing. The grouch is the 'ought,' the impetus to vigor. Plumb down into your interiors. There find the sullen ruler of the underworld. On his face is an ambiguous grimace. It is possibly a clenched product of the somber darkness. But it is more likely a squinting before the amber glow growing before his eyes."

--Eric Wilson

From Born Standing Up

p. 80
"Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up w/ delusions between moments of valid inspiration."

p. 111
"What if there were no punch lines? ... What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do w/ all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick out their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation. This type of laugh seemed stronger to me, as they would be laughing at something they chose, rather than being told exactly when to laugh."

p. 141
"Finally, I understood the cummings quote I had puzzled over in college: 'Like the burlesque comedian, I am abnormally fond of that precision which creates movement.' Precision was moving the plot forward, was filling every moment w/ content, was keeping the audience engaged."

p. 143
"On the road, the daylight hours moved slowly, filled w/ aimless wandering through malls and museums. But at night, onstage, every second mattered. Every gesture mattered. The few hours I spent in the clubs and coffeehouses seemed like a full existence.

When I had new material to try, I would break it down into its smallest elements, literally a gesture or a few words, then sneak it into the act in its shortest form, being careful not to disrupt the flow of the show. If it worked, the next night I would add the next discreet packet until the bit either filled out or died. I can remember bailing out of a bit because I didn’t want to be trapped in it for the next five minutes. The easiest way was to pretend I’d gotten distracted by something and then completely change tack."

--Steve Martin

From The Unbearable Lightness of Being

p. 20
"... The secret strength of its etymology floods the word with another light and gives it a broader meaning: to have compassion (co-feeling) means not only to be able to live with the other's misfortune but also to feel with him any emotion—joy, anxiety, happiness, pain. This kind of compassion therefore signifies the maximal capacity of affective imagination, the art of emotional telepathy. In the hierarchy of sentiments, then, it is supreme."

p. 31
"There is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one's own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels w/ someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes."

--Milan Kundera

Parents' Day

I breathed shallow as I looked for her
in the crowd of oncoming parents, I strained
forward, like a gazehound held back on a leash,
then I raced toward her. I remember her being
much bigger than I, her smile of the highest
wattage, a little stiff, sparkling
with consciousness of her prettiness—I
pitied the other girls for having mothers
who looked like mothers, who did not blush.
sometimes she would have braids around her head like a
goddess or an advertisement for California raisins—
I worshipped her cleanliness, her transfixing
irises, sometimes I thought she could
sense a few genes of hers
dotted here and there in my body
like bits of undissolved sugar
in a recipe that did not quite work out.
For years, when I thought of her, I thought
of the long souring of her life, but on Parents’ Day
my heart would bang and my lungs swell so I could
feel the tucks and puckers of embroidered
smocking on my chest press into my ribs,
my washboard front vibrate like scraped
tin to see that woman arriving
and to know she was mine.

--Sharon Olds


Hmm. Maybe I'll expand the breadth of this thing a bit. To include the writings of others--wurds that get me all dizzy & excited & stuff.

Yes, I think I'll do that. 'Cause, frankly, I've missed blogging (used to lay it down here), though picking up where I left off just has failed to make sense in the months since.