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Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century, or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully, as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
I have never
seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere,
Maybe I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.
– Mary Oliver
Been a difficult week. After spending most of it parsing data and creating a detailed worksheet, found out yesterday afternoon that the information that I had been fed was wrong.
I thought of this line, “The best laid plans…”
When I repeated it to someone, they didn’t understand. Then I realized, that although I knew this fragment, I didn’t really know where it came from other than it was an old poem.
So I looked…and found Robert Burns’ To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough (Scot’s Tae a Moose).
Here are the last two stanzas (original and modern translation):
It’s Friday…keep moving…
There’s no magic here. Painting, photography, writing, sculpture – it’s work. Physical, frustrating, frightening, and often discouraging work. It’s ours – and hours – alone.
The creative act is also incredibly fragile. It’s a small spark – a word, a phrase, a bit of light, a small spot of color. It comes and goes quickly. It’s emotion. Something to be felt, seen, or smelled.
Then comes the sheer joy of movement.
Don’t get hung up on the instruction books, the special lenses, the right brushes and paint, the moleskin notebooks that guarantee an “experience.” The only way to start is to begin.
Give it time, give it space, give it opportunity. The words will out.
(Kenyon panel above inspired by The Writer’s Almanac…)
Passing Through a Small Town
by David Shumate
Here the highways cross. One heads north. One heads east
and west. On the comer of the square adjacent to the
courthouse a bronze plaque marks the place where two Civil
War generals faced one another and the weaker surrendered.
A few pedestrians pass. A beauty parlor sign blinks. As I tum
to head west, I become the schoolteacher living above the
barber shop. Polishing my shoes each evening. Gazing at the
square below. In time I befriend the waitress at the cafe and
she winks as she pours my coffee. Soon people begin to
talk. And for good reason. I become so distracted I teach my
students that Cleopatra lost her head during the French
Revolution and that Leonardo perfected the railroad at the
height of the Renaissance. One day her former lover returns
from the army and creates a scene at the school. That evening
she confesses she cannot decide between us. But still we spend
one last night together. By the time I pass the grain elevators
on the edge of town I am myself again. The deep scars of love
already beginning to heal.
[from Shumate’s book, High Water Mark: Prose Poems, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004]
From Tom Clark’s Light and Shade: New and Selected Poems –
Horologium Florae (“flower clock”)
A garden plan hypothesized by Carl Linnaeus,
Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist
Reading center clockwise from bottom (English translation):
It is open in the morning • It close in the afternoon
From the NY Times obit:
Rodney Marvin McKuen was born in a charity hospital in Oakland, Calif., on April 29, 1933. He never knew his biological father, and he was reared by his mother and an abusive alcoholic stepfather. After making several attempts to run away, he left home for good at 11. Over the years, he worked throughout the American West at a series of odd jobs that might well have come from the pages of a John Steinbeck novel — ranch hand, disc jockey, railroad worker, rodeo cowboy and newspaperman.
Settling in San Francisco in the 1950s, he began writing poetry, delivering his work at readings alongside the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg; Mr. McKuen also sang at Bay Area nightclubs and was briefly a contract player at Universal Pictures. He later lived in Paris, where he became a close associate of Brel’s.
Mr. McKuen, who died at a rehabilitation center, had been ill with pneumonia, his half brother, Edward McKuen Habib, told The Associated Press.
People have secrets – and one of mine was Rod McKuen. There’s good reason why I attained the later nickname of “sentimental bug job” on the city block I grew up in.
I collected his books – I remember them being these undersized hard covers – and his albums. His voice always sounded a bit hoarse with no attempt at the high notes and somehow his music leaned more towards spoken word. It may have been the first time I heard a writer read his own work.
McKuen was considered more of a pop artist than a poet but he wrote simply with just the right amount of imagery. At least for me. The fact that he read his poetry alongside Jack Kerouac, who was to become one of my later obsessions, somehow seems to justify my indulgence.
There are certainly other writers and poets and artists that the critics feel should come further towards the head of the line. But his poetry and music was perfect for a boy in Brooklyn whose hormones were beginning to pop with the heavy lessons and attractions of romance.
Sad to know he’s gone – but glad to have seen him when he was here.
– from As You Like It, William Shakespeare, Act II scene i
Shakespeare Portrait Print
via Immortal Longings
© 2014 – Elizabeth E. Schuch