Monday, February 29, 2016

It's Different Out There

Happy Leap Day! ~ Do something different!
Photo by Gerry McCartney
"I account it high time
to get to sea as soon as I can. . . . "

~ Herman Melville ~

" . . . for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die."

~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson ~

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way
where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

John Masefield (1878 - 1967)
British Poet Laureate from 1930 - 1967

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Climb Inside!

Thanks to my brother Bruce for this Reading Poster!

A few holdovers from 2015, including
Two Thought Provokers & Three Mysteries

Read more on my latest book blog:
"Climb Inside and Live There"
@ Kitti's List

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Your Poem, My Poem

"If this moon doesn't change you . . .
Not enough for me
that this moon shines in your eye . . .
I want this moon to be in your mind . . . "

See also "Your Poem, Man . . .

by Christopher Logue

If this book doesn’t change you
give it no house space;
if having read it you
are the same person you
were before picking it up,
then throw it away.

Not enough for me
that my poems shine in your eye;
not enough for me
that they look from your walls
or lurk on your shelves;
I want my poems to be in your mind
so you can say them when you are in love
so you can say them when the plane takes off
and death comes near;
I want my poems to come between
the raised stick and the cowering back,
I want my poems to become
a weapon in your trembling hands,
a sword whose blade both makes and mirrors change;
but most of all I want my poems sung
unthinkingly between your lips like air.

[Now, try substituting the words
"Moon or Photos" for "Book / Poems"]

See also "What Do Writers Want?"

by W.S. Merwin

. . . reader I do
not know that anyone
else is waiting for these
words that I hoped might seem
as though they had occurred
to you and you would take
them with you as your own

by Linda Pastan

Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods . . .

And the words are so familiar,
so strangely new, words
you almost wrote yourself, if only

in your dreams there had been a pencil
or a pen or even a paintbrush,
if only there had been a flower.

. . . or a moon . . .
Such as this one by Jay Beets,
whose photographs are guaranteed to change you!
As my friend Burnetta wrote, in response to
The Last Full Moon of Winter:
"Why do we long for the winters of our youth?
(At least I do, the winters of my imagination.
Were they even real?)"

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Surprise and Wild Connections

~ Yet another post drawn from my Sketch Pad ~

Your Poem, Man . . .

unless there's one thing seen
suddenly against another--a parsnip
sprouting for a President, or
hailstones melting in an ashtray--
nothing really happens. It takes
surprise and wild connections,
doesn't it? A walrus chewing
on a ballpoint pen. Two blue tail-
lights on Tyrannosaurus Rex. Green
cheese teeth. Maybe what we wanted
least. Or most. Some unexpected
pleats. Words that never knew
each other till right now. Plug us
into the wrong socket and see
what blows--or what lights up.




Tell it like it never really was,
and maybe we can see it
like it is.

by American Poet Edward Lueders (b 1923)

Lueders was well - known in the 1970s as one of the editors of Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle... and other Modern Verse, a popular poetry anthology for young adults. That book was on my shelf -- still is -- but the collection I much preferred was Some Haystacks Don't Even Have Any Needle, which included his poem, "Your Poem, Man . . . ."

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Pursuit

My nephew Jerrod writes:
"A drawing I did for my favorite poem,
'Pursuit,' by Stephen Dobyns.
Not terribly original, but I like it."

I like it too!
Jerrod, don't underestimate your originality!
Thanks for sharing!
Each thing I do I rush through so I can do
something else. In such a way do the days pass—
a blend of stock car racing and the never
ending building of a gothic cathedral.
Through the windows of my speeding car, I see
all that I love falling away: books unread,
jokes untold, landscapes unvisited. And why?
What treasure do I expect in my future?
Rather it is the confusion of childhood
loping behind me, the chaos in the mind,
the failure chipping away at each success.
Glancing over my shoulder I see its shape
and so move forward, as someone in the woods
at night might hear the sound of approaching feet
and stop to listen; then, instead of silence
he hears some creature trying to be silent.
What else can he do but run? Rushing blindly
down the path, stumbling, struck in the face by sticks;
the other ever closer, yet not really
hurrying or out of breath, teasing its kill.

by American Poet Stephen Dobyns (b 1941)
from his book Cemetery Nights © Penguin Books, 1987

Jerrod's drawing and favorite poem
made me of think of a painting
from my long ago sketchbook
and a somewhat less sophisticated poem
that I was fond of back in the 1970s:

" . . . They've known it for a thousand years . . . but never changed the pattern . . . yet . . . not yet . . . but some day soon . . . "

Tongue in his cheek, Youth climbs the path
That leads atop the hill Success,
Too well aware that he will find,
When he has reached the crest

A crazy, topsy - turvy world,
With people fighting bout on bout
For everything they do not want
But dare not do without.

~ poem by Helen Doremus ~
opening remark by Ted Malone
found in his American Album of Poetry (p 137)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Galileo, King of Insight

Happy 452nd Birthday Galileo Galilei
15 February 1564 ~ 8 January 1642

[born the same year as Shakespeare (1564 - 1616),
but lived 26 years longer]

You just can't beat this song, from the amazing Indigo Girls:
Galileo's head was on the block
The crime was lookin' up the truth
And as the bombshells of my daily fears explode
I try to trace them to my youth

And then you had to bring up reincarnation
Over a couple of beers the other night
And now I'm serving time for mistakes
Made by another in another life time

(Chorus) How long 'til my soul gets it right
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light
I call on the resting soul of Galileo
King of Night Vision, King of Insight

And then I think about my fear of motion
Which I never could explain
Some other fool across the ocean years ago
Must have crashed his little airplane


I'm not making a joke
You know me I take everything so seriously
If we wait for the time till our souls get it right
Then at least I know there'll be no nuclear annihilation
in my life time ~ I'm still not right


I offer thanks to those before me
That's all I've got to say
'Cause maybe you squandered big bucks in your lifetime
Now I have to pay

But then again it feels like some sort of inspiration
To let the next life off the hook
Or she'll say look what I had to overcome from my last life
I think I'll write a book

How long 'til my soul gets it right
(Til my soul gets it right)
Can any human being ever reach the Highest Light
(Til we reach the highest light)
Except for Galileo
(God rest his soul)
King of Night Vision, King of Insight

How long…
(Til my soul gets it right)
(Til we reach the highest light)
How long…
(Til my soul gets it right)
(Til we reach the highest light)
How long

Written by Emily Ann Saliers

Galileo lyrics © EMI Music Publishing
Universal Music Publishing Group

Glad the outside tree was still up
for the Valentine's Day Snowfall
Indigo Girls ~ Holly Happy Days! ~ "There's Still My Joy"

Friday, February 12, 2016

Taught to Love Lincoln

Flag in Winter ~ Partly Cloudy

In The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell reminisces about "that first, great, artsy - craftsy age when Americans learn about Abraham Lincoln. How many of us drew his beard in crayon? We built models of his boyhood cabin with Elmer's glue and toothpicks. We memorized the Gettysburg Address, reciting its ten sentences in stovepipe hats stapled out of black construction paper. The teachers taught us to like Washington and to respect Jefferson. But Lincoln - him they taught us to love" (8).

Sometimes I miss the old days when we -- and a few decades later, our children -- colored in a picture of George Washington or made an Abraham Lincoln Log cabin out of popsicle sticks, and observed their birthdays separately and never stopped to ask if these leaders were ever anything other than absolutely heroic at all times.

By Sam ~ 1997 ~ age 4

I was already in college by the time the Bicentennial came along and basically missed all the big events and fireworks due to working long hours for little money at a stupid restaurant (of course, I should count my blessings, as those were the days when you could actually work your way through college by means of such a job). Vowell (b 1969) who grew up to become one of our most enlightened and beloved American historians, was still a little kid that summer and recalls a happier celebration:

" . . . I can’t help but notice that only one of my formative experiences, the Bicentennial, came with balloons and cake. Being a little kid that year, visiting the Freedom Train with its dramatically lit facsimile of the Declaration, learning that I lived in the greatest, most fair and wise and lovely place on earth, made a big impression on me. I think it’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of President Lincoln. Because he stared down the crap. More than anyone in the history of the country, he faced up to our most troubling contradiction—that a nation born in freedom would permit the enslavement of human beings—and never once stopped believing in the Declaration of Independence’s ideals, never stopped trying to make them come true.

"On a Sunday in November [2000], I walked up to the New York Public Library to see the Emancipation Proclamation. On loan from the National Archives, the document was in town for three days. They put it in a glass case in a small, dark room. Being alone with old pieces of paper and one guard in an alcove at the library was nice and quiet. I stared at Abraham Lincoln’s signature for a long time. I stood there, thinking what one is supposed to think: This is the paper he held in his hands and there is the ink that came from his pen, and when the ink dried the slaves were freed. Except look at the date, January 1, 1863. The words wouldn’t come true for a couple of years, which, I’m guessing, is a long time when another
person owns your body. But I love how Lincoln dated the document, noting that it was signed “in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.” Four score and seven years before, is the wonderfully arrogant implication, something as miraculous as the virgin birth happened on this earth, and the calendar should reflect that
" (167 - 68).

Born 12 February 1809
President of the United States of America
from 4 March 1861 – until his death, 15 April 1865

Patriotic Cat ~ James B. Fuqua

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bird Watching

Bird watching on a very cold day!

This photo received so many likes on facebook,
I just had to turn it into a blog post.

I especially appreciated Len's observation that
"Bird watching" = Subject + Verb!

And his comment: "Of course, the bird is watching you
(and noted "Kitti" in his lifetime person-log)."

On a more serious note,
some sobering bird thoughts from

Voices from Chernobyl
by Svetlana Alexievich
Winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature

"Question: Is the world as it’s depicted in words the real world? Words stand between the person and his soul.

"And I’ll say this: birds, and trees, and ants, they’re closer to me now than they were. I think about them, too. Man is frightening. And strange. But I don’t want to kill anyone here. I fish here, I have a rod. Yes. But I don’t shoot animals. And I don’t set traps. You don’t feel like killing anyone here."

~ Monologue About Repentance
(p 66, emphasis added)


"A strange thing happened to me. I became closer to animals. And trees, and birds. They’re closer to me than they were, the distance between us has narrowed. I go to the Zone now, all these years, I see a wild boar jumping out of an abandoned human house, and then an elk. That’s what I shoot. I want to make a film, to see everything through the eyes of an animal. 'What are you shooting?' people say to me. 'Look around you. There’s a war on in Chechnya.' But Saint Francis preached to the birds. He spoke to them as equals. What if these birds spoke to him in their language, and it wasn’t he who condescended to them?"

~ Sergei Gurin, cameraman
(p 114, emphasis added)


"You felt sorry for everyone there. Even the flies, even the pigeons. Everyone should be able to live. The flies should be able to fly, and the wasps, and the cockroaches should be able to crawl. You don't even want to hurt a cockroach."

~ Nina Kovaleva, wife of a liquidator
(p 174, emphasis added)

Back in September . . .

. . . and October

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Las Vegas:
Gerry On the Job ~ Working from the Hotel Room

New York City:
Christmas Version of Gerry's Favorite Vegas Pose

Texas: Me too!

As I was grouping these photos, a friend emailed to say that I should read Jan Hoffman's article, "A New Vision for Dreams of the Dying." Not only is the topic mesmerizing -- otherworldly yet grounded -- but it is also accompanied by this uncanny photograph, which, if you ask me, bears a timely resemblance to the chiaroscuro of my window sequence:

Photo of Dr. Christopher W. Kerr, a palliative care physician
taken by Brendan Bannon for The New York Times

Advice from Dr. Kerr on the therapeutic role of patients’ end-of-life dreams and visions: “[Adult] Children will see their [elderly] parents in an altered state and think they’re suffering and fighting their dying. But if you say: ‘She’s talking about dead people, and that’s normal. I’ll bet you can learn a lot about her and your family,’ you may see the relative calming down and taking notes.”

Related article: "How we used to die; how we die now"

Also somewhat related: World of Tomorrow
Only 17 minutes long: Watch now!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Colored Panes: Flaubert & Pearce

Doorway and Window at the Villa Majorelle

Briefly on this blog, and at greater link on my Fortnightly site, and most recently on my book blog, I have mentioned the lovely but sadly omitted stained - glass window passage from Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1857). This segment is not easy to locate, in print or online, so I'll include it here for future reference, in case you would like to slot it into your reading of this classic French novel:

Omitted Scene #5
"Emma and the Colored Window Panes at Vaubyessard"
Wandering at random, she reached a small wood, where she stopped in amazement before a little low house . . . . It was a retreat for summer days, a place for meetings, where, hidden from all eyes, but viewing the horizon through a break in the trees, lovers must have come many times in the still hours to pass the melancholy moments of love against the murmuring of the water. . . .

Diamond - shaped panes had been set into one of the two windows. She looked out at the countryside through the colored glass.

Through the blue pane everything seemed sad. A motionless azure haze diffused through the air, lengthened the meadows and pushed back the hills. The tips of the trees were velveted with a pale brown dust, dotted irregularly here and there as though there had been a snowfall, and far off in a distant field, a fire of dry leaves someone was burning seemed to have flames of wine alcohol.

Seen through the yellow glass, the leaves on the trees became smaller, the grass lighter, and the whole landscape as though it had been cut out of metal. The detached clouds looked like eiderdown quilts of golden dust ready to fall apart; the atmosphere seemed on fire. It was joyous and warm in this immense topaz color mixed with azure.

She put her eye to the green pane. Everything was green, the sand, the water, the flowers, the earth itself became indistinguishable from the lawns. The shadows were all black, the leaden water seemed frozen to its banks.

But she remained longest in front of the red glass. In a reflection of purple that overspread the landscape in all directions, robbing everything of its own color, the trees and grass became almost gray, and even red itself disappeared. The enlarged stream flowed like a rose - colored river, the peat - covered flower beds seemed to be seas of coagulated blood, the immense sky blazed with innumerable fires. She became frightened.

She turned away her eyes, and through the window with transparent panes, suddenly ordinary daylight reappeared, all pale with little patches of skycolored mist. . . . all at once, the white sunlight leapt into the closed room . . . . Exhausted, she sank down on a cushion.
(pp 268 / 38)

Writing a century later, British author Philippa Pearce described an incredibly similar scene, from a child's perspective, in her mystical young adult novel Tom's Midnight Garden (1958):
Tom and Hatty looked through "the coloured panes that bordered the glass panelling of the upper half [of the doorway of the greenhouse]. Through each colour of pane, you could see a different garden outside. Through the green pane, Tom saw a garden with green flowers under a green sky; even the geraniums were green-black. Through the red pane lay a garden as he might have seen it through the redness of shut eyelids. The purple glass filled the garden with thunderous shadow and with oncoming night. The yellow glass seemed to drench it in lemonade. At each of the four corners of this bordering was a colourless square of glass, engraved with a star.

"And if you look through this one -- " said Hatty. They screwed up their eyes and looked through the engraved glass.

"You can't really see anything, through the star," said Tom, disappointed.

"Sometimes I like that the best of all," said Hatty. "You look and see nothing, and you might think there wasn't a garden at all; but, all the time, of course, there is, waiting for you."
(pp 76 - 77)
Stained Glass Suncatcher from Beata

For another old house book by Philippa Pearce
see The Children of Charlecote

For more on Tom's Midnight Garden and other YA titles,
check out the latest post on my book blog:
"Young Adult"

For further reading on Flaubert:

1."Madame Bovary or the Book About Nothing" by​ Jean Rousset in
Flaubert: A Collection of Critical Essays by Raymond Giraud

2. investigate this Nabokov connection

And this one: "One of the latticed squares in a small cobwebby casement window at the turn of the staircase was glazed with ruby, and that raw wound among the unstained rectangles and its asymmetrical position -- a knight's move from the top -- always strangely disturbed me" (from Lolita, 192).

And this one: " . . . the reflections of the many-colored panes formed paradisal lozenges on the white-washed cushionless window seats" (from "Christmas," 35 in Short Fiction on Faith).

3. Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes:
"And then there are the colours. When he was researching for Madame Bovary, Flaubert spent a whole afternoon examining the countryside through pieces of coloured glass. Would he have seen what we now see? Presumably. But what about this: in 1853, at Trouville, he watched the sun go down over the sea, and declared that it resembled a large disc of redcurrant jam. Vivid enough. But was redcurrant jam the same colour in Normandy in 1853 as it is now?

. . . We look at the sun through smoked glass; we must look at the past through colored glass."
(92, 94)

For further reading on colored windowpanes:

Willa Cather: "The sunlight, flashing on the window-glass of the big red barns, drove him wild with joy. . . . the orchard was riddled and shot with gold; light was the reality, the trees were merely interferences that reflected and refracted light." (150, O Pioneers!)

Alice Munro: "She came and caught me looking through the little panes of colored glass around the front door. She put her eye to the red one. 'Yard's on fire!' she said . . . ." (48, Lives of Girls and Women)