Monday, April 29, 2013

Broken and Beautiful

"Whenever I see abandoned houses I wonder about the family that used to live there. The excitement when the house was first built, the children who ran through those rooms, the meals that were served and shared. The happiness and even the pain. Oh, if walls could talk!"
~ Maggie Mesneak Wick ~

When my cousin Maggie sent me this photograph and I read her caption, I couldn't help thinking of "The House With Nobody In It" by Joyce Kilmer.

The House with Nobody In It

Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.

I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.

This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside.

If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.

Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.

But a house that has done what a house should do, a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.

So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.

by American poet Joyce Kilmer(1886-1918)
best known for the occasionally parodied poem, "Trees"

This poem and more on my new post:
"Broken and Beautiful"
on the
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ripening Like A Tree: Arbor Day

Being an artist means: not numbering and counting,
but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap,
and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid
that afterward summer may not come.
It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient,
who are there as if eternity lay before them,
so unconcernedly silent and vast.
I learn it every day of my life,
learn it with pain I am grateful for:
patience is everything!

from Letter Four
23 April 1903 [Shakespeare's 339th Birthday!]
by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)
in Letters to a Young Poet
[click to read online]

Additional Excerpts
from Letters to a Young Poet:

Mental Beauty
Live the Questions
Gender Equity
Rilke and Maso
Holiday Thoughts

P.S. StoryPeople for Arbor Day

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our Birthright:
The Bright Wild Circus Flesh

Happy 449th Birthday to William Shakespeare!
b. 23 April 1564
d. 23 April 1616

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind."

~ Shakespeare ~
A Midsummer Night's Dream ~ Act I, scene i, 231 - 32

The Circus Rider ~ Marc Chagall

Chagall & Shakespeare just seem to go hand in hand!
[see also last year's post: "Happy 448th"]


A birthday poem . . . for Shakespeare . . . and for all of us!

When I Went to the Circus

When I went to the circus that had pitched on the waste lot
it was full of uneasy people
frightened of the bare earth and the temporary canvas
and the smell of horses and other beasts
instead of merely the smell of man.

Monkeys rode rather grey and wizened
on curly piebald ponies
and the children uttered a little cry--
and dogs jumped through hoops and turned somersaults
and then geese scuttled in in a little flock
and round the ring they went to the sound of the whip
then doubled, and back, with a funny up-flutter of wings—
and the children suddenly shouted out.

Then came the hush again, like a hush of fear.

The tight-rope lady, pink and blonde and nude-looking,
with a few gold spangles
footed cautiously out on the rope, turned prettily spun round
bowed, and lifted her foot in her hand, smiled, swung her parasol
to another balance, tripped round, poised, and slowly sank
her handsome thighs down, down, till she slept her splendid body on the rope.
when she rose, tilting her parasol, and smiled at the cautious people
they cheered, but nervously.

The trapeze man, slim and beautiful and like a fish in the air
swung great curves through the upper space, and came down like a star
--And the people applauded, with hollow, frightened applause.

The elephants, huge and grey, loomed their curved bulk through the dusk
and sat up, taking strange postures, showing the pink soles of their feet
and curling their precious live trunks like ammonites
and moving always with a soft slow precision
as when a great ship moves to anchor.
The people watched and wondered, and seemed to resent the mystery
that lies in the beasts.

Horses, gay horses, swirling round and plaiting
in a long line, their heads laid over each other’s necks;
they were happy, they enjoyed it;
all the creatures seemed to enjoy the gameiIn the circus, with their circus people.

But the audience, compelled to wonder
compelled to admire the bright rhythms of moving bodies
compelled to see the delicate skill of flickering human bodies
flesh flamey and a little heroic, even in a tumbling clown,
They were not really happy.
There was no gushing response, as there is at the film.

When modern people see the carnal body dauntless and flickering gay
playing among the elements neatly, beyond competition
and displaying no personality,
modern people are depressed.

Modern people feel themselves at a disadvantage.
They know they have no bodies that could play among the elements.
They have only their personalities, that are best seen flat, on the film,
flat personalities in two dimensions, imponderable and touchless.

And they grudge the circus people the swooping gay weight of limbs
that flower in mere movement, and they grudge them the immediate,
physical understanding they have with their circus beasts,
and they grudge them their circus-life altogether.

Yet the strange, almost frightened shout of delight
that comes now and then from the children
shows that the children vaguely know how cheated they are of their birthright
in the bright wild circus flesh.

~ D. H. Lawrence

Added on Len's birthday ~ 30 June 2015

Chagall's Homage to Gogol

Cry of the Masses
~ D. H. Lawrence

Give us back, Oh give us back
our bodies before we die!

Trot, trot, trot, corpse-body, to work.
Chew, chew, chew, corpse-body, at the meal.
Sit, sit, sit, corpse-body, at the film.
Listen, listen, listen, corpse-body, to the wireless.
Talk, talk, talk, corpse-body, newspaper talk.
Sleep, sleep, sleep, corpse-body, factory-hand sleep.
Die, die, die, corpse-body, doesn't matter!

Must we die, must we die
bodiless, as we lived?
Corpse-anatomies with ready-made sensations!
Corpse-anatomies, that can work.
Work, work, work,
rattle, rattle, rattle,
sit, sit, sit,
finished, finished, finished--
Ah no, Ah no! before we finally die
or see ourselves as we are, and go mad,
give us back our bodies, for a day, for a single day
to stamp the earth and feel the wind, like wakeful men again.

Oh, even to know the last wild wincing of despair,
aware at last that our manhood is utterly lost,
give us back our bodies for one day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wrapped in Earth


from Nemean Ode VIII
Some pray for gold, other for boundless land.
I pray to delight my fellow citizens
until my limbs are wrapped in earth --
one who praised what deserves praise
and sowed blame for wrong - doers.

But human excellence
grows like a vine tree
fed by the green dew
raised up, among the wise and the just,
to the liquid sky.

We have all kinds of needs for those we love --
most of all in hardships, but joy, too,
strains to track down eyes that it can trust. (lines 37 - 44)

Pindar, 522–443 BC

"April scatters . . . April changes . . ."

The Months

January brings the snow,
makes our feet and fingers glow.

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.

March brings breezes loud and shrill,
stirs the dancing daffodil.

April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daises at our feet.

May brings flocks of pretty lambs,
Skipping by their fleecy damns.

June brings tulips, lilies, roses,
Fills the children's hand with posies.

Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots and gillyflowers.

August brings the sheaves of corn,
Then the harvest home is borne.

Warm September brings the fruit,
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.

Fresh October brings the pheasants,
Then to gather nuts is pleasant.

Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves are whirling fast.

Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire, and Christmas treat.

Sara Coleridge, 1802 - 1852

The Months
January cold desolate;
February all dripping wet;
March wind ranges;
April changes;
Birds sing in tune
To flowers of May,
And sunny June
Brings longest day;
In scorched July
The storm-clouds fly
August bears corn.
September fruit;
In rough October
Earth must disrobe her;
Stars fall and shoot
In keen November;
And night is long
And cold is strong
In bleak December.

Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 94

Friday, April 19, 2013

Be a Loving Friend

Jan & Kitti

A few days ago, my sweet thirteen - year - old niece Kiyah sent me the thoughtful meditation below, and it seemed like the perfect message to share with my friend Jan on her auxiliary birthday!

The tragic events in Boston earlier this week reminded me of this happy day five years ago when Jan and I visited the Boston Public Library with our friend Jes. At sad times like these, a heartfelt blessing such as Kiyah's might be just the thing to restore some of our shattered faith in humanity.

Loving Friends: Jan, Kitti, Jes
At Boston Public Library, May 2008


~ Kiyah's Message ~
Trust me:
this will put a smile on your face,
make your day, or help you:

Every night, someone thinks about you before going to sleep,
At least ten people in this world love you.
The only reason someone would ever hate you is because
they want to be just like you.
There are at least two people in this world who would die for you.
You mean the world to someone.
Someone that you don't even know exists loves you.
When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good comes from it.
When you think the world has turned its back on you, take a look.
Always remember the compliments you've received.
Forget the rude remarks.
Be a loving friend.
Help someone out!
Make someone else's day!
Help put a smile on someone's face


I hope it puts a smile on Jan's face, knowing that I am observing her birthday today, no matter how many times she tells me that she was born on April 6th. Years ago, I somehow got it into my head that her birthday was April 19th,
and it's just too late to change back now!



My great - niece Kiyah & my sister Peggy
{Kiyah is Peg's younger grand - daughter

P.S. This is not the first time that Peg & Jan
have appeared together on a birthday post!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Forsythia Connection

Forsythia Along Our Driveway
[Taken by me ~ 12 April 2013]

Painting of a Drop of Seawater
I always wanted to be that random style of writer
Writing about things which have no connection
In reality but they are connective only by the ingenuity
Of his genuflection; the circumvention of his
Circuitous routing, his plaintive perturbing petulance
Which insists on stacking things of different orders
Flying birds together of different species
If I could write something of the ticking of clocks
Not as though the ticking were of premeditated duration
Embedded in metal tracks around perimeters
Of prevaricated die-cast hours; but as though the ticking
Were only a random fixture of a theoretical day
In which random clocks ticking played a minor role
During the still life of which a poet happened along
And copied it all down dutifully, not caring if
Ticking clocks were related to pitchers of Forsythia
Or falling off of cliffs into the Aegean;
The only task of the poet to capture it all
And let the reader sort it out later
In the random tracks of his circuitous brain:
Whether the pitcher was full of sea
Or the sea was stealing into the pitcher
One blue, serendipitous drop at a time
And where no clocks were keeping time.

~ by Patti Masterman

Amazing Rain Drops Powerpoint
[Not taken by me!]
My friend Jill shared this slideshow with me just a couple of hours after I photographed the forsythia in our yard, following an afternoon of rain. I had a hunch that the two images -- mine (above) and these yellow blossoms from the sildeshow -- were related . . . somehow . . . randomly.

When, later that same night, I came across this poem about forsythia and water drops, I knew for sure that they were "connective . . . by the ingenuity" of the poet!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

La Cucaracha


Remember this game we used to play:

And this song we used to sing:

La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha!
Running up and down the wall!
La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha!
Me, I love you not at all!

And Archy the incredibly clever typing cockroach:

" . . . i would not consider
it honorable in me as a
righteous cockroach to crawl into a
near sighted man s soup . . . "

For a more serious view of the cockroach in poetry
and poems by Martin Niemöller and Muriel Rukeyser
see my new post:
"La Cucaracha"
on the
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Confidence in Confidence

Seasonal Inevitability:
All Souls Day at the Cemetery in West Lafayette
My friend Beata* and I found this wayward arrangement,
apparently from the previous Easter,
blown into a bank of dry autumn leaves and rubble.

Writing earlier this week of The Unbearable Lightness of Being (click or scroll down) brought to mind the following beautiful Easter meditation taken from the pretend Diary of Emily Dickinson, actually written by Jamie Fuller.

It's Sunday 21 April 1867 -- a late Easter that year -- and instead of attending church with the family, Emily stays home and writes her own sermon. (I'm often tempted to do the same, with so much excellent material at hand, as well as the inclination to liven thinks up a bit: shed a little doubt, spread a little worry, a little realism, a little heartbreak.) In her Easter contemplation, the fictional Emily Dickinson writes not of an unbearable lightness but of a bearable heaviness, the "weight" of "the seeker's burden":

"Morning came with reluctance -- and the sky still mingles tears with hope. We like a vivid Easter -- but Nature -- remembering the first -- chooses a more fitting compromise. The family are at church -- where presumptuous bonnets vie with Faith -- but I prefer to spend this morning with my Bible -- to hear again the story of that Day -- that taught us how to suffer. The Gospels promise permanence but remind us of our evanescence. Even he who died for Truth -- the greatest blasphemy -- could not escape fulfillment of that ageless Prophecy.

"We read the tale -- admonishing the Followers -- but the cock crows many times in our hearts and Thomas sets our example. Faith itself is our cross -- We stumble under it's weight but cannot put it down. How much lighter the step of those who do not bear the seeker's burden"
(p 33).

As a poet, Dickinson forgoes the (perhaps unbearably) "lighter . . . step." I'm struck by Dickinson / Fuller's image of the cock that crows "in our hearts," where doubt resides, and her conclusion that "faith is our cross," cumbersome but bearable. The dual burdens, one of doubt and one of faith, call to mind my favorite passage of the conflicted father in the Gospel of Mark: "I believe. Help thou mine unbelief" (9: 24). Doesn't that say it all? Especially for a Gemini and a doubting Thomasina, what's the difference really? Belief / unbelief: they go together. Doubt / faith: which is heavy; which is light?

As a wise spiritual teacher (I'm not sure who) once said,
“The enemy of faith is not doubt.
Doubt is faith’s friend.
The enemy of faith is fear.”

Not to shock the shy and modest Emily, but I can't help thinking of something irreverent here, one of Stephen Colbert's characteristic quips: "Ladies . . . show a little cleavage. It lets a man know that you're confident enough to show some cleavage!" Not much of an option for the unendowed such as myself; yet I grasp the concept. Of course, the circularity of Colbert's suggestion is laughable; yet, on the serious side, it bears a resemblance to the Easter idea -- we need faith to have faith, confidence to have confidence. As Julie Andrews sings in The Sound of Music, "I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain . . . I have confidence in confidence alone."**

Or the courage to have courage, like Stephen Dedalus when he says, "I will tell you also what I do not fear" -- and then goes on to list the things he is afraid of, the things he summons the courage to deal with every day.

In closing, another wise teacher (this one I do know) said,
"Fear is an important consultant, but a lousy leader.
You can listen to its advice, but you must not let it lead.
Courage is a wise leader. You should follow it."
Noam Shpancer
from his novel The Good Psychologist (78)


**Such excellent lyrics!
I must include the rest of them here:

I Have Confidence
What will this day be like? I wonder.
What will my future be? I wonder.
It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free
My heart should be wildly rejoicing
Oh, what's the matter with me?

I've always longed for adventure
To do the things I've never dared
And here I'm facing adventure
Then why am I so scared

A captain with seven children
What's so fearsome about that?

Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries
If I don't I just know I'll turn back
I must dream of the things I am seeking
I am seeking the courage I lack

The courage to serve them with reliance
Face my mistakes without defiance
Show them I'm worthy
And while I show them
I'll show me

So, let them bring on all their problems
I'll do better than my best
I have confidence they'll put me to the test
But I'll make them see I have confidence in me

Somehow I will impress them
I will be firm but kind
And all those children (Heaven bless them!)
They will look up to me
And mind me

With each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine
They'll have to agree I have confidence in me

I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring will come again
Besides which you see I have confidence in me

Strength doesn't lie in numbers
Strength doesn't lie in wealth
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers
When you wake up -- Wake Up!

All I trust I leave my heart to
All I trust becomes my own
I have confidence in confidence alone

(Oh help!)

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have confidence in me!

sung by the character Maria in The Sound of Music
by Rodgers and Hammerstein

*Beata & Kitti ~ 2 November 2012

With a few minor changes,
this post also appears on
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker ~ March 15, 2023

Monday, April 8, 2013

Eternal Return

Long ago she had decided that history does not repeat itself;
but perhaps when a thing was true
it went on returning in different likenesses,
borrowing from what went before,
finding new ways to declare itself.

from Miss Garnet's Angel, 330
by Salley Vickers

Coming across this passage near the end of Miss Garnet's Angel reminded me of the opening of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Every time I read it, my being is filled with mystery and -- I think -- lightness:

The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that every thing recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum! What does this mad myth signify?

Putting it negatively, the myth of eternal return states that a life which disappears once and for all, which does not return, is like a shadow, without weight, dead in advance, and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime, its horror, sublimity, and beauty mean nothing. We need take no more note of it than of a war be tween two African kingdoms in the fourteenth century, a war that altered nothing in the destiny of the world, even if a hundred thousand blacks perished in excruciating torment.

Will the war between the two African kingdoms in the fourteenth century itself be altered if it recurs again and again, in eternal return?

It will: it will become a solid mass, permanently protuberant, its inanity irreparable.

If the French Revolution were to recur eternally, French historians would be less proud of Robespierre. But because they deal with something that will not return, the bloody years of the Revolution have turned into mere words, theories, and discussions, have become lighter than feathers, frightening no one. There is an in­finite difference between a Robespierre who occurs only once in history and a Robespierre who eternally returns, chopping off French heads.

Let us therefore agree that the idea of eternal return implies a perspective from which things appear other than as we know them: they appear without the mitigating circumstance of their transitory nature. This mitigating circumstance prevents us from coming to a verdict. For how can we condemn something that is ephemeral, in transit? In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.

Not long ago, I caught myself experiencing a most incredible sensation. Leafing through a book on Hitler, I was touched by some of his portraits: they reminded me of my childhood. I grew up during the war; several members of my family perished in Hitler’s concentration camps; but what were their deaths compared with the memories of a lost period in my life, a period that would never return?

This reconciliation with Hitler reveals the profound moral perversity of a world that rests essentially on the nonexistence of return, for in this world everything is pardoned in advance and therefore cynically permitted.

If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It is a terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make. That is why Nietzsche called the idea of eternal return the heaviest of burdens (das schwerste Gewicht).

If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives can stand out against it in all their splendid lightness.

But is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid?

The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously the image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to earth, the more real and truthful they become.

Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.

What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?

Parmenides posed this very question in the sixth century before Christ. He saw the world divided into pairs of opposites: light/darkness, fineness/coarseness, warmth/cold, being/non-being. One half of the opposition he called positive (light, fineness, warmth, being), the other negative. We might find this division into positive and negative poles childishly simple except for one difficulty: which one is positive, weight or lightness?

Parmenides responded: lightness is positive, weight negative.

Was he correct or not? That is the question. The only certainty is: the lightness / weight opposition is the most mysterious, most ambiguous of all.

~~ first two chapters ~~
from The Unbearable Lightness of Being
by Milan Kundera

~ Full Moon ~ Eternal Return ~
~ 28 March 2013 ~

Friday, April 5, 2013

Go Over!

One - lane Bridge Over the Wabash River
Prophetstown, Indiana

"Now, who here likes a good story about a bridge?"

A couple of connections . . .

1. Ridiculous:
Click here for a few seconds of Family Guy entertainment.

2. Not so ridiculous:
On Parables

by Franz Kafka

Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have. When the sage says:

"Go over,"

he does not mean that we should cross over to some actual place, which we could do anyhow if the labor were worth it; he means some fabulous yonder, something unknown to us, something too that he cannot designate more precisely, and therefore cannot help us here in the very least. All these parables really set out to say merely that the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and we know that already. But the cares we have to struggle with every day: that is a different matter.

Concerning this a man once said: Why such reluctance? If you only followed the parables you yourselves would become parables and with that rid yourself of all your daily cares.

Another said: I bet that is also a parable.

The first said: You have won.

The second said: But unfortunately only in parable.

The first said: No, in reality: in parable you have lost.

[See also my post "First Friday"]

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Illusion of Control

On a wall in Kiev:
a sculpture of the cat Behemoth
from the novel The Master and Margarita

Professor Woland: "I'm sorry . . . but in order to be in control, you have to have a definite plan for at least a reasonable period of time. So how, may I ask, can man be in control if he can't even draw up a plan for a ridiculously short period of time, say, a thousand years, and is, moreover, unable to ensure his own safety for even the next day? . . . Yes man is mortal, but that isn't so bad. What's bad is that sometimes he's unexpectedly mortal, that's the rub! And, in general, he can't even say in the morning what he'll be doing that very night."

from The Master and Margarita
by Mikhail Bulgakov
translated by Diana Burgin & Katherine Tiernan O'Connor


And an excerpt from To A Mouse
by Robert Burns

But, Mousie, thou art
no thy lane, [not alone]
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley, [go oft astray]
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my eye
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

i.e., Control is but an illusion.

P.S. See also "Take This Quiz" & "Transfixed"

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fools

That Was a Joke!


Some good advice for April Fool's Day
[Sandburg didn't mean to be sexist; this advice goes for girls too!]

A father sees a son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son? . . .

Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.

~ Carl Sandburg ~

See previous post for entire poem.