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.

Monday, January 30, 2012


This is the spot:—how mildly does the sun
Shine in between the fading leaves! the air
In the habitual silence of this wood
Is more than silent: and this bed of heath,
Where shall we find so sweet a resting-place?
Come!—let me see thee sink into a dream
Of quiet thoughts,—protracted till thine eye
Be calm as water when the winds are gone
And no one can tell whither.—my sweet friend!
We two have had such happy hours together
That my heart melts in me to think of it.

--William Wordsworth

We Dogs of a Thursday Off

The wine of uncharted days,
Their unsteady stance against the working world,

The intense intoxication of nothing to be done,
A day off,

The dance of the big-hearted dog
In us, freed into a sudden green, an immense field:

Off we go, more run than care, more dance—
If a polka could be done not in a room but straight

Ahead, into the beautiful distance, the booming
Sound of the phonograph weakening, but our legs

Getting stronger with their bounding practice:
This day, that feeling, drunkenness

Born of indecision, lack of focus, but everything
Forgiven: Today is a day exposed for what it is,

A workday suddenly turned over on its back,
Hoping to be rubbed.

--Alberto Ríos

Wednesday, January 25, 2012



And yet I cannot stop. [throws up hands]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Gesture

On the dog's ear, a scrap of filmy stuff
turns out to be
a walking stick, that jade insect, this one scarcely sprung
from the pod of the nest,
not an inch long. I could just see
the eyes, elbows, feet nimble under the long shanks.
I could not imagine it could live
in the brisk world, or where it would live, or how. But
I took it
outside and held it up to the red oak that rises
ninety feet into the air, and it lifted its forward-most
pair of arms
with what in anything worth thinking about would have seemed
a graceful and glad gesture; it caught
onto the bark, it hung on; it rested; it began to climb.

Beside the Waterfall

At dawn
the big dog--
Winston by name--
reached down

into the leaves--tulips and willows mostly--
beside the white
and dragged out,

into plain sight,
a fawn;
it was scarcely larger
than a rabbit

and, thankfully,
it was dead.
looked over the

delicate, spotted body and then
the beautiful flower-like head,

breaking it and
breaking it off and
swallowing it.
All the while this was happening

it was growing lighter.
When I called to him
Winston merely looked up.
Grizzled around the chin

and with kind eyes,
he, too, if you're willing
had a face
like a flower; and then the red sun

which had been raising all the while anyway,
clear of the trees and dropped its wild, clawed light
over everything.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

That language tries to conceal, heal

But even before the flexibility afforded by free verse, the line was used to restrain sense, to bottle it under such an extreme pressure that its overflow was palpable--we feel it viscerally in the vertiginous suspension of pure end, with its thrill of weightlessness, that split second before the eye returns to the left margin, and thought flows again. The line-break enacts the rift between sense and language that language always tries to conceal, tries to heal.


While the line-break is giving site to the incommensurability of sense and language, it's also using its capacity as a fissure to serve as an interstice through which the unsayable can enter. It cracks open the sealed facade of a finished expression and allows it to exceed itself, to emanate without the need to articulate. Ironically, this fissure is also what allows the reader to enter. It's the gesture that says, "This is not finished," with its implicit invitation to the reader to do, if not the finishing, at least some additional work. Thus the line-break is a gate; it both lets things out and allows things in. It's the point of permeability, the point of exchange between two worlds, not an inner one and an outer, not a constructed one and a real one, but simply two words that slip in and out of each other, and in the act of deep reading, become indistinguishable."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Snowshoe Hare

The fox
is so quiet—
he moves like a red rain—
even when his
shoulders tense and then
snuggle down for an instant
against the ground
and the perfect
gate of his teeth
slams shut
there is nothing
you can hear
but the cold creek moving
over the dark pebbles
and across the field
and into the rest of the world—
and even when you find
in the morning
the feathery
scuffs of fur
of the vanished
snowshoe hare
on the pale spires
of the broken flowers
of the lost summer—
fluttering a little
but only
like the lapping threads
of the wind itself—
there is still
nothing that you can hear
but the cold creek moving
over the old pebbles
and across the field and into
another year.

--Mary Oliver

Eye as measure

"The sense of line in my own work is something dynamic, to find what suffices in any given situation, though I must admit that, speaking of geometry, the eye is the measure by which I generally lineate. Within me is an inner carpenter who seeks to plane lines consistently throughout the course of a stanza or poem. While I love and advocate messy and serrated music, it takes conscious effort on my part to craft lines longer or shorter than the ones that come before it. I think this is related to my sense that as poets we are crafting something that when well-made can be held in the palm of the hand like an inlaid box. Ultimately, I have little use for a box that resembles a drunk rhombus or a ragged sleeve--I may look at such artifacts curiously, but I'm certainly not going to store anything in it." --Tim Seibles

Harmony in the Boudoir

After years of marriage, he stands at the foot of the bed and
tells his wife that she will never know him, that for everything
he says there is more that he does not say, that behind each
word he utters there is another word, and hundreds more be-
hind that one. All those unsaid words, he says, contain his true
self, which has been betrayed by the superficial self before her.
"So you see," he says, kicking off his slippers, "I am more than
what I have led you to believe I am." "Oh, you silly man," says
his wife, "of course you are. I find that just thinking of you
having so many selves receding into nothingness is very excit-
ing. That you barely exist as you are couldn't please me more."

--Mark Strand

The poems become funnier

"I was very surprised to find out, as my poems pick up more and more of the past of human beings, the ancient culture, more and more of the grief and the suffering of human beings--the poems become funnier! I don't understand that, but I love it. I feel that there's some way that as the mind gets more mature, in the midst of a lot of grief, it's able to dance a little." --Robert Bly

More excellence from A Broken Thing

"Play no tricks on the readers, and exact no requirements. Readers do not have to do anything, which includes reading the next line in order to understand the line they are in. If you have to tell your reader, just keep reading, it'll all get clear in a moment, then you are writing prose, which is dependent on progressive clarification--a device called 'plot'--rather than singular and memorable elucidation." --Alberto Ríos

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Short Panegyric

Now that the vegetarian nightmare is over and we are back to
our diet of meat and deep in the sway of our dark and beauty-
ful habits and able to speak with calm of having survived, let
the breeze of the future touch and retouch our large and hun-
gering bodies. Let us march to market to embrace the butcher
and put the year of the carrot, the month of the onion behind
us, let us worship the roast or the stew that takes its place once
again at the sacred center of the dining room table.

--Mark Strand


Sunday, January 8, 2012


I strolled through the neighborhood of beautiful houses
All of which I had written

Down the long dark street
Past the cemetery

Where all the tombstones
Had my small white face.

Over my shoulder burned the lamp
Of the moon.

The pages, in the wind, flew, were fluffed and ruffled
Like water by stones into a tune.

I watched the horse and the rat
The rabbit and fox

Leaving their tracks
On the snowy drafts.

The fox looked like me
Had my face

A long sharp chin
A shifty eye.

The wind riffled its beautiful pelt.
My spelling faltered

Under the spell of myself.

--Lynn Emanuel

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line

Good read. To wit:

"When a line is perfect, it has the completeness of a highway on-ramp--it has its own structure, its own intelligence, and it transports the reader to something larger." --J.P. Dancing Bear

"Many waves rhyme with each other, meaning they resemble other waves in sound and appearance. One of the things that calms people who visit the shore is this sonic regularity, as well as the swelling of momentum as water gathers force before coming to the locus of return, the tide's break point, the shore. The same goes for a poem. The ear enjoys a good rhyme at the end of a line because we enjoy they rhythmic and sonic regularity those rhymes support. And we enjoy a line that swells and builds momentum as it moves toward its line-break, its moment of physical return." --Camille Dungy

"Sentences cannot be emotional because they do not require the reader to perform acts of integration and combination, which are the actions of mind that provide the complexity necessary for emotional investment. However, the lineated sentence requires the reader to integrate and connect each line with the lines that come before and after it, engaging the meat of the poem in the very substance of emotion: connection." --Karla Kelsey