Thursday, November 29, 2012

An Ant and a Grain of Sand

The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon
by Sir Edward John Poynter (1836 - 1919)

"Learn how to live
a joyful and constructive life in this world,
like ants. . . . The secret of a meaningful life
is not in the long-gone throne of Solomon and the like."

Sa'eb Tabrizi (1601 - 77)

Thanks to my nephew - in - law, David Kimbrel for calling my attention to this great quotation from Sa'eb. Sa'eb's reference to Solomon's "long-gone throne" reminds me of the statue of Ozymandias:

" . . . Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies . . .
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my words ye Mighty and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822)

The kingdoms of Solomon and Ozymandias did not endure, their vast achievements dwarfed by an ant and a grain of sand. For more connections on the existential dilemma of time, size and perspective, see my new

Fortnightly Blog Post:
"Like An Ant"

featuring . . .

additional poetry by Mary Oliver & Earnest Sandeen

additional fiction by Padgett Powell & Samuel Beckett,

additional painting by Leonard Orr

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Post - Thanksgiving - Post

Post - Thanksgiving Moon

"And friendship had other charms to captivate my heart.
We could talk and laugh together
and exchange small acts of kindness.
We could join in the pleasure that books can give.
We could be grave or gay together.
If we sometimes disagreed, it was without spite,
as you might differ with yourself,
and the rare occasions of dispute
were the very spice to season our usual accord.
Each of us had something to learn from the others
and something to teach in return.
If any were away, we missed them with regret
and gladly welcomed them when they came home.
Such things as these are heartfelt tokens
of affection between friends.
They are signs to be read on the face and in the eyes,
spoken by the tongue and displayed in countless acts of kindness.
They can kindle a blaze to melt our hearts and weld them into one."

from Augustine's Confessions, Book 8

~ Counting my Blessings, from distant sisters ~
Thanksgiving Candles from Di & China Tea Cup from Peg

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Let Us Eat Quickly


So often it seems that artist Grant Wood (1891 - 1942)
is known only for American Gothic, but in fact there is so much more!

This one called
Dinner for Threshers
is perfect for Thanksgiving!

And it's also the perfect image
to go along with Linda Pastan's poem . . .

Home For Thanksgiving
The gathering family
throws shadows around us,
it is the late afternoon
Of the family.

There is still enough light
to see all the way back,
but at the windows
that light is wasting away.

Soon we will be nothing
but silhouettes: the sons'
as harsh
as the fathers'.

Soon the daughters
will take off their aprons
as trees take off their leaves
for winter.

Let us eat quickly--
let us fill ourselves up.
the covers of the album are closing
behind us.

Linda Pastan, American Poet (b 1932)


Previous Posts
. . . on "American Gothic"
Grim and Gram
Indiana Gothic
American / British / Indiana Gothic
. . . on Linda Pastan:
Your Poem
Kiss Today
Emily From Different Angles
What Do Writers Want?
Lucky Rock

Monday, November 19, 2012


A few brief excerpts from Jan Donley's story, "Blind"
and T. S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
available on my latest
Fortnightly Blog Post:
"There on the Edge of Autumn"

After having his manuscript of Sons and Lovers rejected, D. H. Lawrence exclaimed: "Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, belly - wriggling invertebrates, the miserable, sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulse - less lot that make up England today. God, how I hate them."

Now, I realize that publishers and copyright attorneys are not one and the same. Still, I have to wonder if Lawrence would approve of how difficult and costly it can be to obtain permission to quote from his work. It certainly was for me anyway, back in the late 20th Century, though times are quickly changing (e.g., "The Captain's Doll" ~ on line!).

When I came across Lawrence's outburst on a page of literary insults, I was struck by the irony of the literary establishment's initially rejecting -- only to now so fiercely protect -- his work. The issue also came up recently when writer Jan Donley told me of the difficulties she was having in placing her short story "Blind": "I have not posted it because I was trying to get it published, only to find out that I need permission from Eliot's publisher to use the quotations in the short story. Sigh."

I could certainly commiserate with Jan about the copyright requests. Getting those permissions was one of the most disedifying experiences with publishing my doll book (dissertation) 10 years ago. Some were so kind, but others . . . not so much! Can you guess who was the meanest and the most costly -- The D. H. Lawrence Trust. So it looks like a similar crowd of Dickensian attorneys must have control of Eliot's work as well.

Another irony that has stayed in my mind -- one of the easiest to deal with and at minimal cost was the Angela Carter Trust, even though Carter had died young (at age 51, in 1992) and left behind a child, who deserved and could no doubt use the profit from his mother's work for his own education -- but no one was asking that from Carter's readers. On the other hand, there were no living relatives in receipt of the D. H. Lawrence money -- just some rule - bound law firm holding his work hostage and extorting the reading public!

I shortened the Lawrence passages as much as possible (not easy, since his short story "The Captain's Doll" was the focus of an entire chapter), but even then it cost me $250. And even though I had a "real" publisher (Assoc. Univ. Presses), I was responsible for paying the copyright fees (thank goodness for the McCartney Foundation!).

I called one of my advisors to be sure that I wasn't being hoodwinked by the copyright people, and he said, no, it's heinous, but that's the way it's done, and just bite the bullet and pay up, frustrating though it is! Really, I ask myself, is that what T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence wanted? What would Jesus do, etc. etc. Still and all, I remain yours in scholarship, stumbling blocks and all!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Edge of Autumn

"The sun shone down from the western sky
and pieces of light through the branches
made stripes along the shaded ground. . . .
there on the edge of autumn looking out toward winter."

All of the connections on my new
Fortnightly Blog Post:
"There on the Edge of Autumn"

are drawn from the writing and photography of my friend Jan Donley. References to Jan's work have appeared several times on both the Fortnightly and the Quotidian right from the very beginning. Previously:

Lucky Rock
Lost & Found
9 / 11 Retrospective [also on Quotidian Kit]
Dagmar's Birthday [also on Quotidian Kit]
Everyone Loves Stories

Sleight of Hand
The Little Door
Savor September!
Happy Birthday Coyote!
"I am a leaf!"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pumpkin Pumpkin Pumpkin

I grew up in a nearly symmetrical family: big brother & big sister; my twin brother and me in the middle; followed shortly by little sister & little brother. The biggest age difference was the six years between my older sister Peggy and "us four little kids." So, as you can imagine, Peg got landed with a lot of babysitting. Now, I could be wrong about this, but she nearly always seemed to love it!

She took us shopping and to the movies, helped us bake cookies and plan parties, played Peter Pan with us and let us jump on the bed, wrote out treasure - hunt clues for us and took us for walks past the haunted house in our grandparents' neighborhood. Not to mention teaching us all the best old childhood songs like "Pony Boy" and "On the Good Ship Lollipop," and playing "Heart and Soul" duets on the piano with us whenever we wanted.

She also had a unique punishment for those times when we were not getting along nicely. The guilty culprits were required to sit on the floor with crossed legs, look each other in the eye, and say, "Pumpkin Pumpkin Pumpkin." We might resist the first time through, but before long our begrudging smirks gave way to giggles and laughing fits: Pumpkin Pumpkin Pumpkin!

I don't know where Peg came up with this magic formula for making kids behave -- I've never read about it in any book or seen it in a movie or known of any other family who subscribed to the "Pumpkin Pumpkin Pumpkin" methodology. But it charmed us every time and remains one of my best childhood memories ever! Thanks Peg!

Happy Birthday to my big sister Peg -- always there for me!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

94 Years Ago Today

Header from the Philadelphia Press
Monday, November 11, 1918

You can go to google for a wide variety of well preserved
Armistice Day Headlines such as this:

But -- even better! -- how about this well - worn historical document that Gerry unearthed from a drafty crack in the basement of our house on 48th Street? Our guess is that those early twentieth - century West Philly occupants must have set aside the front page for their family archives, then relegated the remaining sections to be used as makeshift insulation, which is where we discovered this crumpled segment 80 years later!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Memory of Summer

The mums from Happy Hollow School are always last the longest!

"Some of the days in November
carry the whole memory of summer
as a fire opal carries the color of moonrise.
These are the days I especially love,
when the air lies soft and quiet over the dreaming earth;
it is a reflective and thoughtful time."

from Stillmeadow Daybook, 161
by Gladys Taber (1899 - 1980)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Choosing Day ~ The Hour is Real

Taking His Time!
~ Great Grandfather Benjamin Franklin Relaxing ~
Whimsical statue on the campus of
The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Those Elders of the Great Tradition & the Rest of Us
It's as if they dreamed their knowledge
and what they dreamed is what we know.
Who can blame them? They could hardly
have believed this sequel to themselves,
that all their wisdom is really happening.

Yet how can we endure these great grandfathers
of the best we know, who still must sit on every
of our thought, who interrupt
our counsels with their wise irrelevancies?
They take their time too, having at their leisure
all history while for us the hour is real.
[emphasis added]

Notre Dame Professor and Poet
Ernest Sandeen (1908 - 1997)
from the Collected Poems

~ More Great Grandfathers ~
Sitting on Every Committee!
Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, Lincoln
Mount Rushmore, Keystone, South Dakota

Election Day, November 1884
If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
’Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyserloops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi’s stream:

—This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name—the still small voice vibrating — America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen — the act itself the main, the quadrennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d-sea-board and inland-Texas to Maine — the Prairie States — Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West — the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling — (a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:

— Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.
[emphasis added]

Renowned American Poet
Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)
from Leaves of Grass (first published in 1891 - 92 edition)

The Countless Snow - Flakes Falling!
[well, actually, countable!]

Monday, November 5, 2012

On the Eve of the Election . . .

. . . I like to think of Harriet Tubman:

Harriet Tubman, 1820 - 1913

I Like to Think of Harriet Tubman

I like to think of Harriet Tubman.
Harriet Tubman who carried a revolver,
who had a scar on her head from a rock thrown
by a slave-master (because she
talked back), and who
had a ransom on her head
of thousands of dollars and who
was never caught, and who
had no use for the law
when the law was wrong,
who defied the law. I like
to think of her.
I like to think of her especially
when I think of the problem of
feeding children.

The legal answer
to the problem of feeding children
is ten free lunches every month,
being equal in the child's real life,
to eating lunch every other day.
Monday but not Tuesday.
I like to think of the President
eating lunch Monday, but not Tuesday.
And when I think of the President
and the law, and the problem of
feeding children, I like to
think of Harriet Tubman
and her revolver.

And then sometimes
I think of the President
and other men,
men who practise the law,
who revere the law,
who make the law,
who enforce the law,
who live behind
and operate through
and feed themselves
at the expense of
starving children
because of the law,
men who sit in paneled offices
and think about vacations
and tell women
whose care it is
to feed the children
not to be hysterical
not be hysterical as in the word
hysterikos, the greek for
womb suffering, not to suffer in their
not to care,
not to bother the men
because they want to think
of other things
and do not want
to take the women seriously.
I want them
to take women seriously.
I want them to think about Harriet Tubman
and remember,
remember she was beat by a white man
and she lived
and she lived to redress her grievances,
and she lived in swamps
and wore the clothes of a man
bringing hundreds of fugitives from
slavery, and was never caught,
and led an army,
and won a battle,
and defied the laws
because the laws were wrong. I want men
to take us seriously.
I am tired, wanting them to think
about right and wrong.
I want them to fear.
I want them to feel fear now
as I have felt suffering in the womb, and
I want them
to know
that there is always a time
there is always a time to make right
what is wrong,
there is always a time
for retribution
and that time
is beginning.

by American Poet Susan Griffin (b 1943)

[performed by Christian Wolff]

The most important thing you can do on Tuesday, November 6th is choose your polling place and cast your ballot. Do not neglect to vote! Do not abstain! Fulfilling this civic responsibility is the nearest we can ever come to thanking the men and women in our history who have given no less than their lives in order that we may vote freely and uninhibited. We owe it to them.

We owe it to Harriet Tubman

You've seen the prize - winning photographs: people the world over standing in line for hours and hours (even this very day, right here in the United States of America!) in order to exercise the dearly won privilege of dropping their ballots in the box. We owe it to them. We owe it to our children. We owe it to our President, Barack Obama.

Honor your right to vote by using it!

The Underground Railroad's Best - Known Conductor
Harriet Tubman Google Doodle Honors Black History Month
February 2014

Friday, November 2, 2012


Cempasuchil ~ The Marigold

On a day like today, you can find many beautiful images of the marigold (flor de muerto) and its celebratory role in observations of the Mexican Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). The displays range from a modest vase or basketful to elaborately woven wreaths and floats . . . to the entirely unintentional, as was the case a couple of days ago when my friend Eileen and I pulled together our very own found art arrangement in the aftermath of the World Series parade.
Eileen finds everything we need!

Black and orange ticker tape filled the sky and the streets of downtown San Francisco, but what caught our eye a few blocks off the beaten path was a humble pile of crushed marigold petals right there on the sidewalk. Nearby were a couple of stems that had remained intact and, to complete our I Spy photo shoot, a bright orange plastic disc featuring a "G" for "Giants" . . . or is that merely a Gatorade lid? Well, no matter, we were ultra - pleased with our arrangement and left it behind for those who followed in our footsteps to admire!
Whatever else you may think about the Giants,
you have to admit that they've definitely
got the right team colors for
a Halloween Day Victory Parade!

Photo Album:
San Francisco, Giants Parade, Halloween, All Souls

Previous Posts for Día de los Muertos:

2009: "Day of the Dead"

2010: "All Souls, Never Alone"

2010: "From Dust Thou Art"

And a Thought for the Day from Socrates:

"To fear death, my friends,
is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise:
for it is to think that we know what we do not know.
For anything that we can tell, death may be
the greatest good that can happen to us:
but we fear it as if we knew quite well
that it was the greatest of evils.
And what is this but that shameful ignorance
of thinking that we know what we do not know?"