Correction!

Here is last week’s poem as it’s supposed to be:

Trespassing

Teens, the street, night nothing to do so they split
off in two’s, find an ark  like Noah’s, unfinished.

A wooden-frame, all two-by-fours and exposed pipe
dreams, she won’t go in but he takes her hand.

They wander, imagine walls, windows, become temporary
residents in a sketch of someone’s future disappointment.

A playhouse, rehearsal, with him as Man, her as
wife mother daughter, every living thing of all flesh.

Then on the plywood floor, it’s just a boy pounding a way
and a girl, her quiet cries turning stars into doves inside.

Lisa Mecham

A terrific essay

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Ted Gioia, an essayist who is right up there with my favorites. In “Bach at the Burger King,” he writes about the “weaponization of classical music” as well as the damage caused by its use as advertising enhancement. Worth a read!

Ted is the son of the poet Dana Gioia, so he comes by his prose style naturally.

No poem today

But the story of Annie Edson Taylor, who had her 15 minutes of fame in 1901, when she was 62, going over Niagara’s 160 foot Falls in a barrel of her own design, pumped full of oxygen and stuffed with pillows, and lived to tell the tale.

This is the woman, who when her stagecoach was robbed refused to disclose the $800 tied in the seams of her dress. A widow, facing poverty, she went over the falls as a way to make some cash, and succeeded for awhile, before she lost it to unscrupulous managers. It was hard to make and keep a buck as a woman in 1901.

It seems like a good story for a poem; let me know if you write one.

From the NY Times Sunday Magazine last year

A friend sent me a copy of this poem by Nathan McClain, and I am just now getting around to posting it.

He has some other interesting love elegies on his publications page, cited above.

Love Elegy with Busboy

The whole mess —
pair of chopsticks pulled apart,
tarnished pot of tea,
even my fortune
(which was no good) —
we left for the busboy to clear.
I’d probably feel more
guilty if he didn’t
so beautifully sweep our soiled plates
into his plastic black tub
and the strewn rice into his palm.
The salt and pepper shakers
were set next to each other again.
A new candle was lit.
You’d never know
how reckless we’d been,
how much we’d ruined.
With the table now so spotless,
who’s to say we couldn’t just go
back? Who says we can’t start over,
if we want?

Nathan McClain

New, not necessarily better

I read the Wednesday food section of the NY Times and occasionally try one of the recipes. This week, I tried a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi for moussaka. I’ve been making moussaka for years based on a recipe by Craig Clairborn from the old NY Times Cookbook. That recipe calls for slicing and salting the eggplant and setting it in a strainer to drain for 15 minutes or so, which reduces the liquid in the eggplant and takes away the bitterness.

Then you fry the eggplant slices in olive oil first before adding them to a casserole with a ground lamb tomato sauce and covering with a bechamel that includes fresh ricotta. It’s delicious, reliable, and a bit fiddly to make.

I decided to try the new recipe because it was much simpler: cube the eggplant, add the lamb, onions, tomato, etc. to a pot and roast together, then top with a mix of yoghurt, cheese and egg yolk.

But I’m always wary when they leave out one of the ingredients in the prep instructions–in this case, they left the garlic out of the big roasting mix. Also, on tasting, I had to add a little honey to offset the bitterness the salting hadn’t taken care of.

The resulting moussaka wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t nearly as good as Craig Clairborn’s recipe, and really not that much easier. So here is a link to the old standby if you’re feeling like some moussaka.

What we think we know

I have read this poem by Heather McHugh several times in several places, but most recently as part of an essay in Sewanee Review.

She says this about it: “I’ve read this poem now a hundred times to audiences…but I revisit it to relive it, to remind my own tenacious habits how a nourishment abides inside its stubbornest unknowns, inside another person’s mind.”

What He Thought

for Fabbio Doplicher

We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the mayor, mulled
a couple matters over (what’s
a cheap date, they asked us; what’s
flat drink). Among Italian literati

we could recognize our counterparts:
the academic, the apologist,
the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib—and there was one

administrator (the conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone narrated
sights and histories the hired van hauled us past.
Of all, he was the most politic and least poetic,
so it seemed. Our last few days in Rome
(when all but three of the New World Bards had flown)
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he’d recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?)
to whom he had inscribed and dated it a month before.
I couldn’t read Italian, either, so I put the book
back into the wardrobe’s dark. We last Americans

were due to leave tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant, and there
we sat and chatted, sat and chewed,
till, sensible it was our last
big chance to be poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked
                                             “What’s poetry?”
Is it the fruits and vegetables and
marketplace of Campo dei Fiori, or
the statue there?” Because I was

the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn’t have to think—”The truth
is both, it’s both,” I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest to say. What followed
taught me something about difficulty,
for our underestimated host spoke out,
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said:

Continue reading “What we think we know”

Elegies

I have been working on arranging a memorial at Marin Poetry Center for Linda Gregg, and also received word that my old friend died this week. So elegies are on my mind. Here is a beauty by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Elegy, Surrounded by Seven Trees

              for Michele Antoinette Pray-Griffiths


Ordinary days deliver joy easily
again & I can’t take it. If I could tell you
how her eyes laughed or describe
the rage of her suffering, I must
admit that lately my memories
are sometimes like a color
warping in my blue mind.
Metal abandoned in rain.

My mother will not move.

Which is to say that
sometimes the true color of
her casket jumps from my head
like something burnt down
in the genesis of a struck flame.
Which is to say that I miss
the mind I had when I had
my mother. I own what is yet.
Which means I am already
holding my own absence
in faith. I still carry a faded slip of paper
where she once wrote a word
with a pencil & crossed it out.

From tree to tree, around her grave
I have walked, & turned back
if only to remind myself
that there are some kinds of
peace, which will not be
moved. How awful to have such
wonder. The final way wonder itself
opened beneath my mother’s face
at the last moment. As if she was
a small girl kneeling in a puddle
& looking at her face for the first time,
her fingers gripping the loud,
wet rim of the universe.

Back on track

It was a crazy week, including travel to the writers conference in Portland, so I missed the Monday vitamin for all of you. But here you go with a lovely poem by Julie Bruck.

Blue Heron Walking

Not one of Mr. Balanchine’s soloists had feet this articulate,
the long bones explicitly spread, then retracted, even more
finely detailed than Leonardo’s plans for his flying machines.
And all this for a stroll, a secondary function, not the great
dramatic spread and shadow of those pterodactyl wings.
This walking seems determined less by bird volition or
calculations of the small yellow eye than by an accident
of breeze, pushing the bird on a diagonal, the great feet executing
their tendus and lifts in the slowest of increments, hesitation
made exquisitely dimensional, as if the feet thought themselves
through each minute contribution to propulsion, these outsized
apprehenders of grasses and stone, snatchers of mouse and vole,
these mindless magnificents that any time now will trail
their risen bird like useless bits of leather. Don’t show me
your soul, Balanchine used to say, I want to see your foot.

Julie Bruck

Two deaths

Two amazing poets died this week, W. S. Merwin and Linda Gregg. I have posted several of Merwin’s poems before. Somehow though, I never have posted a poem by Linda Gregg. Here’s a sample:

Death Looks Down

Death looks down on the salmon
A male and female in two pools
one above the other
The female turns back along the path of water to the male 
does not touch him and returns to the place she had been 
I know what Death will do
Their bodies already sour and ragged
Blood has risen to the surface under the scales
One side of his jaw is unhinged 
Death will pick them up 
Put them away under his coat against his skin 
and belt them there
He will walk away up to the path through the bay trees
Through the dry grass of California to where the mountain begins
Where a few deer almost the color of the hills will look up until he is under the trees again 
Where the road ends and there is a gate
He will climb over that with his treasure 
It will be dark by then
But for now, he does nothing 
He does not disturb the silence at all
Nor the occasional sound of leaves
of ferns touching 
of grass or stream
For now he looks down at the salmon 
Large and whole 
Motionless days and nights in the cold water Lying still 
Always facing the constant motion

Linda Gregg

Continue reading “Two deaths”