Something like a poem

I am writing. Honest, I am! –This is what I tell myself. I have dribs and dots and bits of ideas, crumbs, atoms, iotas, shards and dabs of images and sentence-starters and such. The writer feels stuffed full of goodies; but the work schedule has “het up” (as my great-grandmother used to say), and the weather shows hints of warming (so there is seed starting I must set up).


Perhaps 150 steps too many
or too steep a descent or the sun too hot,
not enough water to sip maybe just too old now
for such exertion viewing the falls of Rio Olo
Fisgas de Ermelo where the chestnut leaves
provide a bit of shade


interstices. pine’s seeds.
its imbricate bracts, reptilian.
interlaced. at each base
the offer of replication.


…fat possum eating our birdseed two hours past dusk
in the faint light–what’s left of the moon’s crescent
and what the neighbors’ lamps cast up the hill
dimming everyone’s view of the stars. One dry oak leaf
skims the slate. Tumbles onto the lawn. Not unlike
the gray and white omnivore whose naked tail, sinuous,
wraps the step after the rest of it has slipped
away from the sunflower seed, into the dark.


Not anywhere near to poetry, yet bookmarks for what I may yet compose.


Meanwhile, I have been reading William Gass and thinking about the roles of listing (ah, specifics and details!) in prose, poetry, and in fiction, and the uses and limits of wordplay (which can be off-putting to some readers) and allusions and dialect or arcane or jargon words. Seamus Heaney–so good with the occasional archaic Irish term! Robert Macfarlane, giving me the beautiful word “clarty” which, during the muddy months of 2018, so often applied. Can I keep them in my vocabulary? Dare I use them in poems?


Found poem, from a dictionary of geological terms:

Lateral Moraine

Ridge-like moraine carried on and
deposited at the side margin
of a valley glacier.

Composed chiefly of rock fragments
derived from valley walls
by glacial abrasion and plucking,

or colluvial accumulation
from adjacent slopes.

Well, it’s something like a poem.

Buddhism, philosophy, consciousness (poetry)


Sometimes, a startling morning.

A few minutes that feel time-free, when the phrase “Be here now” inheres in the body, the air, the mind, the moment.

Free to recognize consciousness as a grounding, not as an end-in-itself. Part of the world, part of the cosmos.


Reflecting, I realize another thing: poetry does that for me, hands me a moment. When I listen to or read a poem, it moves me into a moment suspended in “now-ness.” I am with Seamus Heaney’s father, digging; I watch the horses in Maxine Kumin’s field. The poems that move me do so by allowing me, the reader, to enter that moment or that consciousness, that perspective, which I may or may not relate to, and may or may not layer through perspectives of my own. Yet there I am, in a real way.

~excerpt from “Digging” (see this link for the whole poem, and audio)~

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down


Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.


The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.


By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

objects, stories



Sometimes the momentary sense of time-free, liberated unity occurs on its own, smacks me by surprise. Or it may arise from mediation, contemplation, or during “mindless” work–such as digging.

Philosophy and criticism tend not to evoke that sort of free consciousness. They require the brain to operate in a different way, a distancing from one-ness; but I like that sort of brain-work because the intelligent and inquisitive people who write, or write about, philosophy, neurology, psychology, and criticism of all kinds offer insights I would not likely find on my own. They ask the interesting questions (it doesn’t matter to me if they do not have the answers).


So there’s a balance, right?


Poets also ask the interesting questions. Through reading a good poem, I am there in the poet’s moment, curious and uncertain. It is a kind of contemplative practice to read, with an open mind and an open heart, poetry.

(The criticism and the analysis come later. Let them wait!)