Straight to the quarter

changeWhy are we bothering with pennies, nickels and dimes? For everyday use, the quarter is the only meaningful coin. And both pennies and nickels cost more to produce than they’re worth! Insanity. We could keep odd amounts for electronic transactions but just STOP making any other coins and round up or down. I know all those charities, vending machine and nickel slot machine folks are going to be upset. But hey, get with it. Admit reality. Adjust!


ammonsDriving up I-5 from LA yesterday, spring had come to California. The hills are briefly green and gold, and the orchards all in bloom. I thought of this poem by A. R. Ammons, and was surprised to find I haven’t posted any of his work.  Here’s a poem to remedy that:


It was May before my
attention came
to spring and

my word I said
to the southern slopes

missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see: Continue reading “Eyesight”


Larry battingLarry had a great softball game yesterday. He hit for the cycle, that means a single, double, triple and home run in one game.  He caught everything playable, and had five hits and seven RBI’s.  This was his writeup on the Creakers’ web page:

“For the hard fought victory, the major domo big banger award goes to Larry, Mr. BeBop, Basher who hit for the cycle Plus….a crushed homer to deep left, a ringing triple, (2) doubles and a single driving in a bevy of runs.” Continue reading “Bragging”

If you want to mark up a book, buy it

As longtime readers know, I love libraries. Just now I have about six books from the UC Library, three from Berkeley and another four or five from Contra Costa.  But when I opened The End of Beauty, by Jorie Graham from the UC Library, I found that a previous reader had heavily underlined, parenthesized, exclamation pointed, and otherwise defaced the poems.


Continue reading “If you want to mark up a book, buy it”

Sharon Olds on Monday

slug6I had forgotten this wonderful poem by Sharon Olds. Then I saw, after the rain last week, one of these big banana slugs in the garden and went to look for it. It didn’t disappoint me:

The Connoisseuse of Slugs

When I was a connoisseuse of slugs
I would part the ivy leaves, and look for the
naked jelly of those gold bodies,
translucent strangers glistening along the
stones, slowly, their gelatinous bodies
at my mercy. Made mostly of water, they would shrivel
to nothing if they were sprinkled with salt,
but I was not interested in that. What I liked Continue reading “Sharon Olds on Monday”

The exemplary sentence

zagajewskiI picked up a book of essays by Adam Zagajewski, called In Defense of Ardor, an elegant title. The title essay discusses the role of irony in modern writing, and makes a case for less of it, more engagement. It’s worth reading in it’s entirety if that subject interests you.  But the quote today is from the essay “The Shabby and the Sublime,” about the act of writing.

“Maybe we’re not altogether alone in our empty room in our workshop: if so many writers love solitude it may be because they’re not really all that lonely. There really is a higher voice that sometimes–too rarely–speaks. We catch it only in the moments of our greatest concentration. This voice may only speak once, it may make itself heard only after long years of waiting: still, it changes everything… Continue reading “The exemplary sentence”

Contemporary poetry

a-e-stallingsI went to a poetry reading at the incomparable University Press Books bookstore (support it!) this weekend, and the subject of accessibility came up. One reader, Rebecca Foust, mentioned that her mother, who never went further than high school, memorized and loved Robert Frost’s poems. Though his poems, to a poet, are layered and complex, Rebecca said her mother went to them for simple comfort.

This is very hard to achieve today, when we have largely shed form, and the adjective “accessible” often denigrates a poem. But here’s a great example of a layered, accessible contemporary poem by A.E. Stallings that includes rhyme, poetic and prosaic allusions, and humor:

Pop Music

Musicfor a new parent

The music that your son will listen to
To drive you mad
Has yet to be invented. Be assured
However, it is approaching from afar
Like the light of some Chaldean star. Continue reading “Contemporary poetry”


Labyrinth_optJust before the rainy days, I managed to finish weeding and replanting the labyrinth for spring.  Lots of spinach, sorrel, herbs, and mustard greens remain and self seed each year. And this year some blue honey wart, too. Not to mention my friend’s statue.

And meanwhile, this by Robert Shiller from today’s paper, read to me by Larry, on the labyrinthine world of finance–the path through that is more convoluted:

“Governments…use expanded credit in a desperate effort to placate a dissatisfied electorate. Credit expansion can create housing bubbles and an illusion of wealth for many people, for a while, at least. ‘Let them eat credit.’ “

Here’s that rainy day

Finally! This song has been happily playing in my head, sung by my favorite jazz singer, Molly Holm. You can’t hear a recording of her doing it, but you can hear Rosemary Clooney sing it.

tumblr_lckuc65Fei1qbyf2jo1_1280Meanwhile, we’re in Calistoga, where we spent the night, about to take a mud bath. Ever done it? It’s a unique experience, sort of like floating in warm chocolate pudding, and a delicious rainy day experience.

I’ve been reading Keats’ selected letters, and have a few gems for you:

“An extensive knowledge is needful to thinking people–it takes away the heat and fever, and helps, by widening speculation, to ease the Burden of the Mystery…

…axioms in philosophy are not axioms until proved upon our pulses. We read fine things but never feel them to the full until we have gone the same steps as the Author.”

These excerpts from a letter almost 200 years old seem more vibrant to me today as any contemporary tweet!

If you want to try some poetry by Keats, I recommend “To Autumn,” “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” and “La belle dame sans merci,” for starters.


Here’s an odd little poem I came across:


We know there must be consciousness in things,

In bits of gravel pecked up by a hen

To grind inside her crop, and spider silk

Just as it hardens stickily in air,

And even those things paralyzed in place,

The wall brick, the hat peg, the steel beam

Inside the skyscraper, and lost, forgotten,

And buried in ancient tombs, the toys and games,

Those starry jacks, those knucklebones of glass

Meant for the dead to play with, toss and catch

Back of the hand and read the patterns of,

Diversions to beguile the endless time,

Never to be picked up again…They’re thinking,

Surely, all of them. They are lost in thought.


Mark Jarman, from To The Green Man, Saraband Books