Monday, November 5, 2012

vote

Whatever your politics, however sick you are of the non-stop electoral nonsense, however discouraged, VOTE! To keep our power to choose, we must exercise it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nomination!

  I can't say I've never won anything. I've won a few bucks on scratcher lottery tickets (once it was $30, I think; another time, $100., but belatedly, after I had already thrown out the ticket after being assured that despite appearances, I hadn't really won at all), but I've never won a poetry contest, though I've entered my share. I have never been nominated for such an award either, until now.
 This morning I got a note from my publisher, Karen Kelsey Davies, that she was nominating my poem "Pranayama Lesson," forthcoming in her journal Victorian Violets Press, for a Pushcart Prize! I have followed the Pushcart nominations of friends for years, since the infamous edition years ago of the Pushcart anthology that thumbed its nose at the rest of us with its title: All of Us, and None of You. And I have voted for nominated poems from journals I have published in. But it is wonderful to finally see myself among the nominated!
Maybe my luck is turning?
Also, I am hoping to attend the L.A. book Launch for the anthology, The Poetry of Yoga, in which 4 of the poems from Balance will appear. I will paste the blurb for this anthology below:

The Poetry of Yoga is a ground breaking book anthology expanding the literary tradition of yoga to include the cultural perspective of the 21st century. A modern day collection compiled and edited by artist, poet, and yogi HAWAH, this second volume is distilled from over 1,900 pages of poetry, submitted from 19 countries.

Shiva Rea calls the book project, "A great victory... through which we get to see the somatic power of consciousness."

The Yoga Journal writes, "Perfect for solitary contemplation... this anthology is full of yogic wisdom."

Volume 2 contains a special foreword from Jivamukti's own Sharon Gannon and features writing from: Hemalyaa Behl, Jeffrey Cohen, Seane Corn, Angela Farmer, Ana Forrest, Dr. James Gordon, Judyth Hill, Faith Hunter, Alanna Kaivalya, Victor Van Kooten, Prem Lakhoti, Jason Nemer, David Newman, Panda, John Schumacher, Cameron Shayne, Dave Stringer, MC Yogi, and many more!

Fifty percent of ALL book sales are donated to the non-profit organization, 
One Common Unity. Their pioneering work brings non-violence through arts & music to inner-city youth. 

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tebot Bach reading, Oct. 26, 2012

  Tonight was delightful not only because it was my actual birthday, but because I discovered a wonderful writer, Charlotte Innes. Charlotte read her poems  at the monthly meeting of Tebot Bach, located in a dark and dingy room in Huntington Beach, CA. We didn't notice the darkness at all this time because Charlotte's work was so wonderful, so smack you between the eyes beautiful that my attention didn't stray for a moment.
  After her reading, Richard and I read at the open reading. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and had an appreciative room of fellow open readers, for the most part, though Robin and Manny did show up and neither were readers, as well as a few other people out there in the room.
  Charlotte and I traded chapbooks and talked about meeting again to explore other reading venues in San Diego and elsewhere.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me--Dinner at Thuyen Vien

  Last night, eight of us met at a Vietnamese Vegan joint  a few blocks from Disneyland to celebrate, though in truth my birthday isn't till Friday. I decided to go for a vegan place because although I adore Vietnamese food, I feel queasy about consuming certain pork products that this cuisine uses, such as "congealed pork blood" or the like. Yes I know that would probably be frowned on in haute cuisine circles or even among those who aspire to genuine authenticity, but I am who I am, and being Jewish, I never got used to eating or enjoying this sort of stuff, despite the fact that I do not keep kosher. Eating vegan or vegetarian food makes me feel free. I can order anything from the menu with the thought that there is nothing in it I would not choose to eat, given a clear idea of what went into the dish.
  I thought for a while we would never get to this place. It was rush hour, and the freeways were monumentally crowded, cars shuffling along in a parade or protest march all the way there, despite the fact that we tried to avoid the rush by not taking the freeway till we were about a quarter of the way there. It was the other 3/4 that took all the time, and the surface streets were also clogged with traffic made even slower by the inexorable and untimely traffic lights that snagged us just as we were about to roll free of the crowd for once.,
  Add to the difficulty the unreliable Google Maps we were using. There's is a lot of construction going on in Anaheim, and these changes had apparently not been noted on those maps. So we never did find the road we were supposed to get onto after we exited the freeway. And then my hapless map illiteracy didn't serve us well when I sent us in precisely the wrong direction, away from the restaurant, rather than toward it for miles and miles, because I was holding the map upside down.
  But eventually we found the restaurant. We arrived about the same time, most of us, and all but one of the invited guests who had rsvped showed up.
  Then the fun began. The menu, as is often the case in such places, was enormous, so we followed the lead of the Yelp reviewers and ordered recommended dishes. We began with a couple of orders of eggrolls (wonderful!) and spring rolls (very good, though I like my own rather lumpy ones just as well, as far as taste goes). Then we got our main dishes. Several of us, me included, got garlic "chicken," which was very convincing, having the mouthfeel, texture, and taste of real chicken. It did become cloying after half a plate though because the dish included no vegetables. They were much missed.
  Others at the table got a soupy sort of dish called "chicken and rice," which was more varied, and one person got a nori hand roll that was delicious. Yes, I know this isn't Vietnamese, but it was good all the same.
  Richard got a caramel shrimp and pork dish that was absolutely delicious!
  We didn't get any of the special drinks on the menu because the costs were mounting up, but we did spring for a couple of vegan flans at the end of the meal, shared around. Delicious!
  If I ever get back there, I will definitely order the pho,  Vietnamese noodle soup, usually made from offal, assorted parts of the cow and pig, but here obviously not. That dish is supposed to be really wonderful.
  I love discovering "new" ethnic restaurants, and this was an excellent discovery.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New Gig

  My loyal reader, Marly Youmans, reminds me to tell the world that I have been appointed one of the editors of a journal of science and literature, Slippage. I have already had the opportunity to speak out about the new journal's aesthetic and to make a judgment about some poems. Today I also received a short story and an unidentifiable hybrid. I look forward to learning tons about publishing a journal and am sure that I will gain a new perspective on what it is like to be on the other end of the publishing game. Perhaps this will help me when I send out my own work. Perhaps not...
 But I'll keep you posted on the progress of the journal and will post a link to the first issue!

Weekend Adventures

   My birthday week has opened with some travel. Because there are so few genuine bookstores and poetry venues behind the Orange Curtain, we decided to accept the invitation by a poet friend, Nicelle Davis, author of the chapbook, Circe and editor at Connotation Press, to share her reading up in Ventura, at Bank of Book.
   Ventura is over 100 miles from us, so this would require an overnight stay, but since we hadn't done any travel up the coast in some time, we were up for that. So we booked a stay at a motel with a free breakfast bar and apparently immaculate rooms that was still within our rather meager price range and traveled up the twisted freeway ramps of LA and beyond to Ventura.
   Luckily, it has cooled down quite a lot from last week's 95 plus weather, so the beach wasn't mobbed. We scored parking in a central place and walked to the bookstore, which turned out to carry mostly used books with a few local writers' books of poetry and fiction.
  Unfortunately, the bookstore hadn't publicized the event, so there was no one there except us, Nicelle, her 4 year old son J.J., and 6 of Nicelle's friends, two of whom were the children of her friends. There was really no place to put more people anyhow... just two rather worn sofas and a few folding chairs. Nicelle had made  some chocolate covered cherries, but otherwise, there were no refreshments.
  Nicelle is quite a performer. She sews costumes and brings props to her readings, and this one was no different. Because of the large percentage of children in the audience, she didn't read her own poems, but rather performed Lear's "Owl and the Pussycat," and invited the children to take parts in the performance, which was charming and sweet, particularly one little boy who played the ocean, waving a blue streamer along the floor.
  But she had to spend most of the time pursuing her son during this event, and didn't get to listen to us read our poems.
  Nicelle lives in the desert, in Antelope Valley, and it turns out that she is friends with some old friends of mine who also live and work out there at the community college. It was a pleasure to see them again and to hear one of them read his wonderful poems. Since I last saw him, he has been up to all sorts of adventures and has written 9 books!
  Despite the small turnout, we had a wonderful time, and I sold a couple of books too. The bookstore also took some on consignment and invited me to contact the new store in Malibu to do a reading and signing there. Because that is considerably closer than Ventura, I think there will be more of an audience there, so I will call, as the bookstore manager suggested, in a month or so and sort things out.
  This morning, after a fitful night's sleep, we ate our free breakfast and drove down to the Getty Museum in LA, where we had a wonderful visit. The ride up the hill to the museum on the tram was spectacular, with all of LA below us like a model train village, with its constant flow of traffic inching up and down the roads and nary a person in sight.
  We took a spectacular tour of the museum's highlights, then walked down to the sculpture garden, carefully crafted to offer not only harmony of color and texture, but also olfactory stimulation. The flowers and foliage seemed spectacularly bright, though I think it was mostly the judicious combination of plants and contrast of colors that created this effect. I particularly liked the graceful vase-like  metal vessels that trained bougainvillea plants to grow like trees. I will look for a picture to post here.
  Then we returned home, where I found tons of emails waiting for me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Dinner to Remember

   I have always loved Vietnamese cuisine. There are many fine restaurants of that sort in this area, especially up at Little Saigon, where more Southeast Asians reside and have businesses (many of them restaurants) than anywhere in the world outside of Southeast Asia. So maybe that's why I haven't cooked much Vietnamese food at home up to now.
But since we aren't going to restaurants as much as we used to these days (especially since the price of gas has gone up to $4.50 per gallon again as of today in our area, and that's at the cheap place!), I decided to try a dish rather like one we had once at a restaurant and loved.
A friend was coming to dinner. I planned four courses--vegetarian spring rolls with dipping sauce; Vietnamese spinach cooked in the same sauce as the dipping sauce named above; turmeric fish with dill; and banana fritters. Everything was fabulous, though my spring rolls were a bit misshapen.
The meal took a day and a half because of the cutting and chopping, assembling, and cooking. But that aside, I can't really say it was difficult to make, just time consuming.
The fish was so beautiful. I wish I had figured out how to use my new camera (bought at a yard sale a few weeks back) so I could have posted the pic here, but I can describe it.
On an oval black platter, I had covered a bed of thin rice noodles with fresh basil and mint leaves.The fish was filet of sole (very thickly cut), in chunks.These were marinated in a mixture of galangal, finely chopped , turmeric, red pepper powder, garlic, shallots, and a bit of oil. Then I browned some garlic in a half cup of oil, and cooked green onions and white onion wedges in the resulting oil, adding half the chopped dill to that. Then I took that out and browned the fish pieces in the oil. It was slow because there were a lot of pieces and I had to do them a few at a time. And the marinade tended to stick, so it took care not to break the pieces to bits. Then I put the onions/dill together with the fish, added a little fish sauce and the rest of the dill, and it was done. I poured it on top of the noodles, added a bit of chopped peanuts, and dinner was served.
The balance of spices was so good and subtle, I was quite proud of myself, and impressed that the recipe came from online.
The dessert fritters were wonderful too. I cooked them to order because with fried food, that's what had to be done. The halved bananas were coated in the batter, rolled in flour, and fried, becoming creamy. I meant to top it with vanilla frozen yogurt, but I forgot to use it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

More To Dos on the List

   Now the holidays are over, and I've got to do all the things I put off for after the holidays! There are two people I promised to fix suppers for, poems to write and send out, and several events. Tonight is Tebot Bach, and I am going to fix and donate some cookie bars to make up for not being able to donate generously to the organization. Sunday is a birthday potluck where I have been requested to make double portions of my savory pie, one of those tomato gallettes I made before and also a mushroom pie to go along with it. I might end up making two tomato gallettes instead since I found lovely heirloom tomatoes at the farmer's market.
  I am also studying up on copy-editing, since that's the next direction I'll be looking for work. I am not such a wonderful speller though. That worries me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

End of Day Reflection

   For a day during which we are supposed to reflect on our failings or what we are owed from others in the way of apologies, it was a very very busy time. I was with the choir or the congregation every second, not like usual, when I have time to do some yoga or sit quietly in some forgotten corner.
  But I enjoyed the day all the same, particularly the talk by the 103 year old psychotherapist, Hedda Bolger. She was totally amazing.
  It wasn't just that she was 103, or that she still practices her profession 4 days per week and teaches on the 5th, though that was something, since she evidently loves doing her work. It was that she is still learning, that she sees no reason to stop doing that and that she spoke about people from her past I have only read about, like Annie Besant and Krishnamurti. Fascinating.
When asked what was her favorite moment in her life, she said, "Right now." We should all be that eager to live.

Finding What's Lost

   It's Yom Kippur again today. For those who aren't sure or just don't know, that is the day when Jews mull over all the promises they haven't kept in the past year, the apologies they need to make, the things (like relationships, personal potential, resolutions of the past) they have let slip or the apologies they would like to get from others and try to scratch these off the list by taking action.
  Most of  notions about the New Year we have in the secular world of the west come from this holiday, New Year's resolutions, for instance. But like Ramadan, the holiday features fasting. We're lucky: in comparison to Ramadan, it's only one 24 hour period, not a whole month, but it's bad enough. You realize just how connected to the body you really are when you let the fuel run down. By the end of the day everyone is dull-eyed and listless, weak, leaning against the seat fighting to keep eyes open.
  For me, it's always been a spa-day, to think and sing (I'm in the synagogue choir), to listen to beautiful music, to engage in discussion with others and apologize for the inevitable failings. I'm grateful for it.
  But something happened last night at service that seems to me emblematic of my life at this time. It's a tough period for me. I don't know where I am, this late in my life, not feeling or being useful, anxious to find a place for myself where the odd, assorted skills I have gathered will be valued.
  As we were preparing for the service to start, sitting up in the choir section on the bimah (the stage of the synagogue), someone drew my attention to a small object on the seat behind me in the tenor's section. It was an iridescent silk kippah (yamika, skullcap). It happened to be the exact mingled tones of the tallis (prayer scarf, with fringes) I wore, which I bought for my bat mitzvah perhaps 7 years ago. I had lost that matching kippah almost immediately, and had gone through a series of various kippot. At the moment though, I was without one. On this holiday, everyone who has a tallis and kippah is required to wear one. In most kinds of synagogues, it's only men who are required to. But in our Reconstructionist shul, women do it as well, if they wish to.
  "That looks like yours," said Steve, pointing from the tallis to the kippah.
  I shook my head. "No. It's beautiful, but it belongs to someone else."
 In answer, Steve picked up the cap and put it on the back of the chair in front of me, where I scooped it up and put it on my head.
  I have decided it means something. Maybe all the things I believe I have lost are not gone at all. They are all around me, waiting to be re-found. I will take it as a message from the universe, and I am grateful.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

It has been a while since I have written in this blog. Today is a good day, since we have entered the new year (at least the Jewish one!) and are about to experience yet another Yom Kipper.
I have been feeling down since my online class ended and nothing else has come up to take its place, but last night, I had an experience that should remind me that the unexpected can happen.
My friends the Genestas have had a run of very bad luck, losing their business, their home, their health insurance, and, unfortunately, their health as well. They are self-employed artists, so that makes things doubly difficult. But it was so amazing to see their community step into the breach, giving a benefit concert and silent auction so that they can pay for the 6 operations that were necessary when John fell off a ladder earlier this summer, breaking his neck and back in several places.
Though he is a Vietnam veteran, the VA didn't pay for his care because they couldn't accommodate him at the VA hospital. John was the person who took the cover photo for my book, so I auctioned off a couple of copies of the book (after hiking the price) and donated the proceeds to the cause.
I don't expect this sort of do, but perhaps the essential decency of many human beings will come through in my case as well. I hope it is soon.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A lovely Saturday

   Today I accompanied Liz on a pre-birthday outing (her birthday, not mine!) to Denise Thibault's studio for her monthly 2 1/2 hour workshop, Pune Daze. It is always a wonderful class, and this was even more special because it consisted of the notes she took from Mr. Iyengar's classes at the Iyengar Institute in Pune India during her most recent trip this summer.
  The brand of English spoken by the Iyengars is always interesting and fun. Geeta's command that we must "shoulderize" when we stand on our heads has become de rigeur in the yoga classes I take. How else would one say this, in any sort of an economic fashion, after all? Mr. Iyegnar's latest words of wisdom are more mysterious and quirky. We are constantly reminded to turn back our "knee knobs," to transform the half-moons of our heels into full moons, to make our ankles "sharp." This, according to Mr. Iyengar, must be done "profoundly."
  As we endeavor to decipher these frequently repeated instructions, we focus on the pose, which is no doubt Mr. Iyengar's intention to begin with. We forget that our toes are cramping, our legs are tired, or that we are hungry for lunch.
  Afterwards, we stopped at the Loving Hut, a vegan joint not far from the studio, for a wonderful vegan lunch. If I knew how to make dishes like the ones I get there everyday at home, I would certainly become a vegan! I have the feeling it wouldn't be so simple though.
  Though we went out to eat, I left my teacher Denise with a fresh tomato galette (not vegan but vegetarian) for her own lunch, if her husband hadn't eaten it all up by the time she finishes her pranayama class. I will post a picture of it above.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Almost the End

  The end of the semester is swiftly approaching in my online class. I have gotten used to the routine of commenting on the discussions and forums and grading the papers online. In fact, I like that sort of online grading quite a lot. It is a lot easier than hard copy, particularly since the posted grades go straight to the grade center without me having to post them, and the comments are easy to edit or to delete if I change my mind before exiting from the program. I also don't have to worry about my awful hand-writing! I hear though that the school is going to institute vocal comments on the papers. I'm not sure that's the best idea. I don't know that if I were a student, I'd like to hear some teacher's snarky comments expressed in her own voice though the tone might communicate shades of regret,irony, or humor that are not possible to discern otherwise.
  I have enjoyed working with these graduate students and introducing them to the discipline. It was interesting to recall being in their place when I began graduate school, studying critical theory for the first time. I never thought I'd be teaching that class, but I found it came flooding back, and I was lots more ready to do it than I had imagined. Even those theories I had not read because they only came later, after I had graduated, made lots of sense because of the ones I was already familiar with.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Music in the Dark

   Last night I went to the Great Park, a would-be future Central Park West, in Irvine. They have a free summer concert series, though admittedly they are now charging a $10. parking fee to boost the fund for completing the park, which is apparently and predictably coming in at way over the estimated cost of construction.
  Liz and I went to see Solas, an Irish-American band of some fame. I had never heard of them before, but it was instant engagement for me. I sometimes don't have the patience to sit through concerts. This happens a lot, in fact. But I have always liked traditional Celtic music when it is done well, and it was done well here.
  First, the Great Park is at this point a bit more built up than it was last year, but only a tiny bit. There is now an experimental farm, where vegetables and fruits are grown, much of the yield going to local food banks. There were pumpkins, yellow squash, strawberries, and that was only what I could see from behind the fence, in the half dark.
 A couple of buildings and a merry-go-round have joined the huge orange hot air balloon that sits beside the outdoor stage where the music was performed. As the band played, the balloon rose up and down, tethered to the ground by guide ropes, taking people on rides to see the world from above. I have never gone on one of these rides. The lines are always too long, and my innate fear of heights probably has something to do with it as well. The band leader remarked on this enormous "red planet" that he no doubt could see and feel in the background as the band performed.
 The band is an appealing assortment of personalities, two of whom still live in Ireland (plus the visiting vocalist), while the other two have immigrated to the States. The fiddle player lives in New York (Far Rockaway) while the band leader resides in Philadelphia.
  I particularly was interested in the fiddler, a young woman with strong arms and shoulders and a tendency to hop up and down on stage, her bow strings flying like unruly hair, in all directions. She was the only one of the band who did not sing, at least not in the capacity of lead singer, on any of the songs.
  I don't remember the band members' names, or I would name them here. They are tremendously energetic, as this style of music requires, and I was amazed by their precision, how the music, in all its variety, stopped and started so sharply, as if the notes were chiseled into rock.
  They also write their own music, and the band showcases its members' compositions, which reflect their disparate though harmonious personalities. As a group though, they have recently been engaged in writing a CD about the historical link between Ireland and Montana, where the band leader's great uncle immigrated in the 19th century to work in a copper mine owned by a countryman, and perished a few years later. The family never learned what exactly happened to him.
  After some research and help from fans in Montana, they learned how the uncle had died and where he was buried, and they began writing songs to celebrate not only this man's experience but that of thousands of other Irish immigrants who came to Montana to work in the mines.
  It was perhaps the most memorable evening of music I can recall.

 
 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dog Days

   August and September are the hottest times of the year in these parts, as in most. All summer, and it has been a very hot, dry summer for most people I know, I have read others' complaints about the parched grass, the unrelenting heat beating down on them, and felt immune, sheltered by sea breezes and the perpetual early summer of coastal southern California, but now, the heat has arrived, and the heat holds me in its fist, threatening to squeeze me into nothingness, a wet spot on the sheets.
  It is an in-between time, but unlike so many years in my earlier life, when I awaited the beginning of the school year as teacher or student, I am not waiting for anything in particular to unfold. Jewish New Year arrives in mid-September, I believe, and all the color of that season, crowded with celebrations.
  I am looking forward to the heat lifting, to being able to breathe again.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Crossing Over

  No, no one has died since the last funeral, at least not anyone I know. We have crossed the continent by air though, and it was a lulu of a trip.
  The travel took up two days. First we drove to Charlotte, where we stayed with R's cousin, a oenologist who sells wines to restaurants, stores, and hotels in his region and lives the high life in what a new version of the old south.
  After that trip to another cultural milieu, Jeremy and I flew the first leg of our flight the next morning to Houston. Then things went south, so to speak.
  Our flight was supposed to leave at about 11:30 and get to CA at 1:00 PST. But the flight was first postponed a few times and finally cancelled. After standing in line for nearly 3 hours, we finally got a flight to LAX. It was our own problem how we would get home from there. The airline didn't give us a voucher for land travel, just $10. each to buy dinner at the Houston airport, which yielded only a tremendous case of heartburn.
  J's friend picked us up at the airport, but today, J has to pick up the bags at the airport here. Our bags went there without us, on the next flight out.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Free Light Show

  In California, we don't have many thunderstorms. But visiting here in VA, I have been seeing lightning and hearing occasional thunder the whole time I've been here. It hasn't rained much, or at least it didn't until last night, when the dry lightning and thunder picked up and there was a real storm that lighted up the sky and blew heavy rain into the house. We had to close the window, despite the heat and humidity, which was too bad. The breeze from the storm had been welcome.
I used to run down the driveway naked as a small child in the summer when it rained heavily, hoping, in vain, to get cool. Thunderstorms were a regular part of my life then, but I had forgotten how the whole sky lights up and the windows shake during such a storm. It woke me up and scared me that the thunder sounded so close and the lightning flashed so brightly I thought it was time to get up.
  Soon I'll be back home, trading these green hills for the brown ones of Orange County.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Belated

  It has been a while since I have posted here. For one thing, I have been out of town in Floyd, VA, where my husband's elderly parents make their home.
  His mother is not well, and he went to see what needed to be done and when it is likely to need doing. His parents manage quite well, despite their age and the size of the house, etc., but it is clear that they need R's help. He has been chopping scads of wood for the winter, cleaning up, shopping, and has eye on larger jobs that will need doing.
Despite the fact that I cared for my parents for 5 years before their death (though I didn't live with them, and they had 24 hour a day care), I am not terribly useful here. I don't do the kind of cooking, cleaning, or domestic work that would require doing. They don't need the sort of help (trips to the doctor, banking, clothes shopping and the like) that my parents required. There is no place to take them for entertainment out
here in the boonies, and they aren't interested anyhow.
The town of Floyd has changed enormously since I was last here, about 4 years ago. Then, it was beginning to pick up a little bit of tourist traffic because of the Friday night music Jamboree, local musicians gathering to play on every corner and on the stage at the Country Store. This was even publicized on NPR.
There had always been a hippy sort of vibe here, way past the heyday of that time, and I knew there were co-ops, artists' communes, and the like tucked back in the hills. But now the downtown is crowded every weekend with traffic. There is a radio program here (I haven't heard it yet) to send all the vagrant picking and singing out over the wires. Movies use the town as a location, etc.
It still isn't my ideal for a place to live because I am a city girl, who practices a relatively obscure form of yoga and Judaism, enjoys ethnic food, and wants to see the latest movies. But it's interesting to visit and to contemplate the way it used to be when almost the only stores to be found downtown sold farming implements and bibles.
It has been fun. We have gone to a family reunion with many far flung relatives I had never met. We spent an interesting afternoon and evening sitting by a pond in the growing darkness watching the fireflies I have missed seeing for all of these years and chatting with an 12 year old about going to middle school.
Soon I will be on my way home again to the other end of the continent.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

End of an Era

  Yesterday the choir buried its elder statesman, David Shore. Actually, David wasn't the oldest in the choir. Even at 85, there was someone else with a claim to that title. But he was the voice of the choir, in more ways than one.
  David would have stood out anywhere. It wasn't his appearance, though a more dapper, strong and straight-backed 85 you never could find. It was his unmistakable personality, his generosity, his spirit and humor that marked him.
  He was always singing, and although he had alzheimers and didn't know where he was or probably who we were most of the time, you'd never have known it. He knew every word, every note, and sang with the choir until very recently.
  David was the one who always took out his checkbook when emergencies arose or when there was an event requiring a gift. An optometrist, he built a successful business and gave back to his former employees, his friends, his synagogue, his community. I too have been the recipient more than once of his gifts.
  He was a friend to whomever needed one. And he was always good for a laugh.
  At the funeral, his youngest son, a youthful 40 or so in a family of grizzled brothers much his elder, regaled us with hilarious stories of his father's adventurous spirit and willingness to say anything to anyone at any time. David never held anything back. He was a man after my own heart for honesty, though he went much farther most of the time than I'd have dared to.
  Like my father, he loved life with a fierceness that one would have to have seen to believe it. It had been only a month or so since he was placed in a memory-care facility when a broken hip and subsequent operation felled him.
  Though I am sad to lose him, I have to say that it is probably best for his sake that he was not permitted to languish, to lose his zest, to disappear altogether into the darkened corridors of a broken mind and spirit.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Women's Connection Potluck

Last night I drove the gentle hills of Irvine to get to a potluck given by a group of women from the synagogue who plan events throughout the year. Though I am too broke to take advantage of most of these right now, occasionally there is something I can do, like this event.
There are lots of good cooks among this sizable group, and I planned to lend my own cooking prowess to the lot.
For the occasion, I had saved a recipe clipped from the paper about a month ago, in anticipation of this dinner. The recipe was more a technique than anything else, for it gave me a versatile template I can use to develop other dishes.
This was a rustic tomato tart. The recipe for the crust was extremely valuable to me, as in the past, I have found pie crust hard to work with, but this variety, with a secret ingredient, was different. As usual, I erred by not reading the recipe through all the way long before the day when I was going to prepare the dish. It seems I was supposed to make the crust and let it rest in the fridge overnight, but it was very forgiving, actually. After an hour and a half  in the fridge, even after breaking into hard pieces on the baking pan, it turned out fine. All I had to do was press the pieces together and slip the resulting disk onto the baking pan. The edges melded together, it was not hard to get the edges to fold over the filling.
The secret ingredient, added to the usual flour, stick of butter, 1/4 cup of shortening (in my case canola margarine),  and ice water, was a tablespoon and 1/4 of cider vinegar, which made the crust easier to work with and stronger all around. Though the dough smelled strongly of this ingredient, it was not at all evident in the finished product.
A rustic tart is supposed to look home made, with the filling barely contained within a triangle of thick crust, folded over at the corner.
This particular tart contained the simplest of summer ingredients: thickly sliced tomatoes marinated in olive oil, with diced kalamata olives and garlic, fresh oregano,olive oil, and salt and pepper. The fruity taste of these ripe summer tomatoes came through beautifully. They didn't need anything else to shine, except a shower of fresh basil on the top.
But I was thrilled by the prospect of adapting the recipe, trying other fillings, like roasted vegetables (zucchini, asparagus, sweet yellow and red bell peppers, or several varieties of mushrooms).
I was glad I changed my mind at the last minute about the overly-fussy vegetable tart I had been planning to make, with its paste of artichoke and roasted garlic and whole wheat crust.
In all probability, it would have fallen apart.
Simplicity is best, as it bespeaks summer, when, in any case, the ingredients are at their peak and no fuss is truly necessary.
The tart disappeared almost immediately, as a series of eager women dug in to its still warm crust to excavate a slice. There were plenty of other tasty dishes at the event, but this one stood out. I will certainly be using the recipe again soon.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Over the Moutains and Down the Lane

   Today we drove out to Riverside, we being Richard (at the steering wheel of the trusty Corolla), Liz, and me, where I took part in an amazing reading at the Arlington Branch of the Riverside Public Library. It was the kickoff for the Litlandia Reading Series, organized by Cati Porter, founding editor of  Inlandia and Poemeleon, literary journals where R and I have had poems published.
   We had to drive the tollroads and freeways over the mountains, where there were many more cars than I had imagined would be out there on a relatively cool Saturday, with only one cloud in the sky and a light breeze ruffling the palm trees.
   Though I had a few minutes anxiety, thinking we were late, we reached the library building, the only piece of history on a stretch of highway packed with taco joints and tattoo parlors. It was evidently part of Riverside's past, yet inside, was well refurbished, with a terrific room for readings and ample restrooms. The air conditioner was unfortunately set several degrees below arctic, but the poetry was so hot, I barely noticed.
  I was the first to read. The lectern was so enormous that it swallowed me up, but I had little choice. I had to stay behind it because otherwise no one would hear me! I read 10 poems, including 3 of the yoga poems (at the very end). The rest were from newer material. It went well, and I sold several books.
  The second poet was Larry Eby, a young guy who was very accomplished. He had impressive publications, a new book, and his own press. His work was wildly imaginative and interesting.
   The third poem was Nicelle Davis, who carried her own props (a home-made velcro board with puppets and other small figures she had crafted out of feathers, buttons, and other assorted materials). She wore a long frilly dress, a vintage prom dress from the 70s, and looked like a vision of purity, but her poems had quite an edge to them. Again, she is a really interesting and accomplished poet, with several books to her credit, despite her young age.
   Finally, Brendan Constantine read. I had heard about his poems and about his performances. But he still came as a wonderful surprise. All of his poems were incredibly original and his style of reading, if you can really call it reading, since he rarely glanced at the page, was amazing.
   A brief open reading followed, where R read an improvised short poem he wrote just moments before and the poem he had published in the issue of Inlandia where I had also had a poem last summer.
   Then we headed further up into the hills where my friend Lavina, a friend of many years, lives with her husband David. I knew Lavina was a serious painter, but I didn't realized just how serious until I saw her many canvasses stacked and hung all over the large house.
   Her husband treated us to a vegan Chinese dinner, and then we headed back behind the Orange Curtain, feeling  a bit sad that our day in the hills had ended.

Friday, July 6, 2012

4th of July

   This 4th of July, we drove up to Long Beach for a party at Murray Thomas' house. We had wanted to host him here for dinner, but he was already planning a bbq in his back yard near the beach, which is about 40 minutes away by freeway.
  We didn't quite know what to expect either of the party or of L.B. in general. Years ago, when I first finished the M.F.A. program at UCI, I worked for a year or so at California State University at Long Beach. It was my first teaching job outside the University.
  Because I took the bus, I didn't get to explore Long Beach very much, but it was clear from the characters who wrote the buses that it was a blue collar town, rather like Philadelphia, except that it was by the beach. Perhaps something like Atlantic City before the casinos yuppified the place.
  But when we revisited the town yesterday, we found that while it definitely had an edge to it and appeared somewhat seedy in parts, there was a comraderie, a feeling that this was a small village where everyone said hello, and the barriers usually erected between kinds of people, social strata, and ages had come down. Young and old, male and female, blue collar and white collar mixed freely.
  Murray lives with three other guys, musicians, who are members of a band that practices in the sound-proofed shed out in the back yard. When I stepped into that shed, I was transported back into the 60s. It was dark, with only a small window high up on the wall, which was covered with black soundproofing material.
  The room needed only dayglo paint to reproduce the effect of the clubs where I listened to Janice Joplin and Ten Years After play their music to open-mouthed crowd. The room was just as small, the music just as loud. I was lots older though.
Richard happily played his harmonica with the band, finding it easier than he had imagined to improvise, though this was a new generation of music, one he wasn't familiar with.
 I happily sat outside the shed, swapping stories with poets and yogis, musicians, and assorted folk from the neighborhood as fireworks started their first sputters of the holiday.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Richard's Retirement

   Yesterday, R's retirement started in earnest. The first day out, Friday, he wandered about a bit lost. If I hadn't had work to do on the class, it would have been a good day to take off on a jaunt to the zoo or museum or aquarium, all things we mean to do this summer and in the days beyond.
  I thought he would not be at a loss since he has so many hobbies he loves that work was merely an interruption and a nuisance to him, it seemed.
  He plays harmonica, and has become quite adept at it over the years. He plays billiards on the table in our garage... though there's some question as to whether we shall be permitted to keep the table there if the new, unfortunate policy in our community of demanding that two cars be parked in the two-car garage goes through. Of course, there are others who have two car garages and live alone, and we might be able to pay those people to allow us to keep the table there. It will be inconvenient, to say the least, but I think doable. Then he also plays golf, whenever he can afford to, and hits balls at the range when he can't afford to. There's something he will spend a lot of time doing in Floyd, when he goes there in a few weeks. And of course, he writes, and he now says he will work on a manuscript in earnest, which I was happy to hear!
  But he wanted to talk, and I stopped my work a few times so we could do that. It's going to take some getting used to for both of us, but it's nice to have him back.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Trying Something New

  The only way I seem to leap into the breach and try something new and scary is when I am forced to by circumstances. Now I am teaching a graduate class in critical theory online. True, it's nothing like the sort of graduate class I had at U.C.I. . Well, the material is the same, but the methods, being online, are looser and much more forgiving to the student.
  I don't think that's a bad thing. This material should not be reserved for the elite, the way it was when I went to graduate school. But of course, it isn't cutting edge anymore, as it was then, so it's infiltrated everywhere. All grad students probably get an opportunity to be exposed to it.
  Its practical use is questionable, but for a writer, it gives me a different way to think about the endeavor of reading and interpreting literature, and that is welcome. And perhaps, material for poems.
  I am meaning to write an essay about the way writers tend to feel about theory. When I first began graduate school, I felt it was a sort of adversary. After all, Derrida and the Deconstructionists insisted on the irrelevancy of the author, the author's death or non-existence, and unraveled all the beautiful skeins of language, insisting they were powerless against entropy and lack of meaning.
  But the truth is, he was just another writer, putting language through its tricks.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Live, at the Mug!

  Last night I made my way over to the Ugly Mug's poetry night to hear my poetry friend John Buckley give his farewell reading. John is an obsessive writer. During the open portion of the Mug's readings, he constantly scribbles notes, listing who read, how many poems, titles, and how long each person took at the mic. These he has posted on his poetry blog, which I have never visited, but knew of as a sort of treasure trove of information about poets and would-be poets in Orange County and thereabouts.
  John is funny and gifted. His readings resemble nothing so much as a one-act play or stand up routine. He writes obsessively, and lately, much of what he sends out has been accepted. He brought with him last night a few copies of a tiny chapbook, small enough to fit in one palm. I didn't get a copy, but Robin has one, so I will have a look at it. He also read with his collaborator on a long book-length poem that will soon be published. His energy and humor will be missed at the Mug and elsewhere.
  I didn't mention that it is his successes that are taking him from Orange County: though he has a couple of degrees, he is going to the U of Michigan to their MFA program, where he hopes to take a break from teaching for a little while and work on another book.
  I wasn't feeling all that well last night. But I wasn't going to miss this reading after I had not been able to make it to his others, which were too far afield, in Long Beach. Though I had to leave early, I was glad to be there, and hope to return soon, to announce my featured reading in Riverside, on July 14, at the Arlington branch of the Riverside Public Library.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Irony

  I was pondering life's irony today after trying to teach Structuralist theory to a group of online students. When I first arrived at U.C.I., those many years ago, I had never seen or heard of critical theory of any variety before. I distrusted and disliked it, and was in turn viewed as a "stupid writer" by some of the faculty and most of the PhD students. The harsh and difficult language of the post-structuralists just made me angry, and I didn't take Derrida's class when he was teaching there for that very reason.
And here I am now teaching the stuff, or trying to. Ha!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Doldrums

Not much is brewing since I last wrote in this blog. I went on a lovely hike on Sunday, up to the Vedanta Monastery, up and up a steep hill covered with poison oak. I huffed and puffed, and was utterly last, except for the cautious hike leader, a curious fellow from India named Harish. He always has interesting stories. That day, he told us about growing up in India, where the cows slept with his family. I thanked my parents for being Jewish and for living in the U.S., where the worst kind of stuff I had to clean up as a child was dog poo. Imagine the constant hassle of having a cow, nay, half a dozen of the blighters, in your house? I do.
But Harish said he had a favorite calf. I forget her name, and he would paint her face and put bangles on her legs. He said she was very vain and very intelligent, turning her big ears toward the speaker whenever she heard her name.
Last night we went to a Shakespeare festival at a local theater. After I found it (I had to drive around for quite a while before I did), we chose seats in the front row, overlooking the playground/stage, where the play would be put on.
It was Taming of the Shrew. I never felt this way about the play before, though it is famously sexist, but I found it hard to watch, even though the casting was perfect, the use of the playground clever, and the improvised bits of physical business brilliant, creating a constant subtext in the play. I am sure it was thus during Shakespeare's time.
Richard got to play a small part in the play, despite or probably because of the fact that he had said before the play started that he hoped this wasn't one of those interactive plays, where the audience had to take part.
A bit player ran straight to him and shoved a sword in his hand. He had to get up and fight, though we never could figure out why. Everyone was quite amused, especially me.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Mouth on Me

   I have inherited from my family a tendency toward impulsive and tactless speech. I always tell the truth as I see it, but sometimes not at the most opportune time. I don't edit myself. It is odd because I totally recognize the importance of words, as a writer, and do not want to hurt or wound people with them. But often I do. Sometimes I just wound myself, get myself in trouble. Too often.
  A couple of days ago on the online workshop I belong to I commented too freely on someone's work. This person has talent as a writer, but he is apparently very green. I knew from the way he had responded in the past that he didn't have experience in workshops. But I was very blunt about a couple of his poems and now, I fear, have made enemies of him and perhaps everyone in the workshop. I did write a response to his angry letter explaining how I saw the purpose of a workshop and how everyone I knew had been dragged through the briars in a poetry workshop at least once. It isn't personal. But I will have to tone it way down. That's not a bad idea at all, actually. If I can tiptoe a bit more and still tell the truth as I see it, I will not hurt feelings or make enemies. I can't afford to make anymore enemies, for sure.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Visit

  Today I visited a friend in the hospital. He had the misfortune to become dizzy while climbing a high ladder, and fell, breaking his spine in three places as well as his neck and a rib. Amazingly, he did not become paralyzed, and has already begun the long task of regaining mobility.
   I visited him on Sunday, but he was completely out of it, so I left, and didn't have the opportunity to return till today, when I found him much improved. That is to say, he was awake and aware, and though he was obviously in some pain, we were able to have a long conversation before the phone started to ring and nurses arrived to take vital signs and bring his lunch.
  He complained a little about the indignities of the body, which refuses to behave like the well-domesticated animal it usually is, regressing to a form of infancy that requires him to be tended and coddled.
  It may be the last time I can visit him in the hospital because he is about to be transferred to a VA Hospital too far away for me to get to, so I'm glad I saw him. I will try to make time to go tomorrow too.
  It is the 2nd anniversary also of my mother's death, but going to the hospital didn't bring the rush of emotions it had on Sunday. Maybe that's because mom never went to this hospital. She was hospitalized far less frequently than dad altogether, in fact, though she had cancer that we discovered when I took her to the hospital (a different hospital) to have her broken arm treated and went back on a regular basis for chemo until she could no longer tolerate it.
  Though both of them died the same week, my father first, I feel far more regret about my father's death than my mother's because she had dementia, and it was only getting worse, and she could not leave the bed because of her broken leg. My father, on the other hand, still loved life and had the strongest desire to enjoy it of anyone I have ever known. It felt as though I had already lost my mother long ago, while, in one way, I had only just gained my dad during the 5 years at the end of his life, when he was treated for his bipolar disorder, and could live a happy and relatively normal life. Still, it was a difficult, terrible time, and it affected me far more than I realized at the time, leading to all kinds of unforeseen consequences in my life that are still in fact unfolding in a way.
  Not all of these are bad. In a way, I was able to break loose as far as my writing was concerned much more than before. Maybe it was because of all the emotions roiling around in there that made it possible for me to write more effectively than I had before, and gave me time and space to work on this.
  I hope for my friend and his family that positive changes come about for them, despite the exceedingly difficult and painful period that lies before them.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Shrimp from a Shrimp

  Everyone who knows me knows I am small, a shrimp, so to say. But though I enjoy eating some seafood, especially shrimp, I never was able to cook the stuff well, or at least to my satisfaction. They would get overcooked or seemed tasteless, and the time spent processing them was hardly worth the result.
  At last, I have prepared a shrimp dish I really thought was excellent. First I should say that I am not used to cooking seafood, except fish, and never saw my mother prepare it because I am Jewish, and seafood, aside from fish with scales, is verboten for Jews who keep kosher. Though I don't follow the laws of kashruth,  I feel a bit ambivalent about the stuff. It is just not what I am used to, and, like many Jewish people, I have allergies to certain kinds of seafood--scallops and lobster, which seem to be too rich for me to digest well.
  However, after reading Saturday's meager offerings on the food page, I got an idea for a dish. In an offhand kind of way, the writer mentioned a combination of ingredients that sounded very good: shrimp, chives, shallots, and mayonnaise. There was no recipe. I was left to imagine all the various ways to combine these. First I thought of Hong Kong dim sum, which frequently combines juicy, succulent shrimp with mayonnaise, as in shrimp with carmelized walnuts, one of my favorite Chinese restaurant dishes. Then, of course, the obvious shrimp salad.
  When I had made shrimp salad in the past, it was tasteless and watery, but I was inspired to try it again. First, I combined extremely fresh shrimp, with head off and shell on. I boiled the water and dropped the shrimp in whole, unshelled and uncleaned. Boiling them for only a couple of minutes, just till it turned pink and no longer, I quickly scooped them out and ran them under cold water in a colander, so they would stop cooking, shelled, and cleaned them.
  Then I cut up a large shallot very fine, squeezed in a Meyer lemon (my favorite kind because of their sweet spiciness!), and spooned out about 1/2 cup of olive oil mayonnaise. I decided to throw in some capers too,  and a few fronts of chopped fresh dill, and scattered the pale green Chinese chives on the top before I mixed the whole thing to produce a lovely salad, which tasted as good as it looked.
  On the side, I served some asparagus roasted in the toaster oven with garlic and freshly ground sea salt and some orzo pasta mixed with more lemon juice, parsley, and a taste of olive oil.
  It looked and tasted restaurant worthy! I guess watching all those cooking shows is paying off.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Good News!

   I will be teaching a graduate class in critical theory online. I never imagined that I would be teaching online, thinking that my power as a teacher was a matter of personal chemistry in front of the class, but the truth is that I spend so much time online, and I express myself far better in writing than any other way. I am probably a natural for teaching online.
  I remember about 5 years ago, I once lost my voice for a day and had to write everything I wanted to say to my class on the board. My hand got sore and tired, but it was not as hard otherwise as I had assumed it would be.
  I guess teaching online will be something like this, except that the students, located all over the world or at least all over the country, will not be in the same virtual room I am in when I am there, necessarily.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Anniversary of My Mother's Death

   My parents died two years ago, four days apart. On the first day of June, it was two years since my father's death. My mother followed him, four days later. She said, even as he lay dying next to her in his bed in their shared hospice room, that she heard him calling to her.
  To all appearances, he could not call anyone, and, being totally deaf and almost wholly oblivious in her dementia, she could not have perceived any such literal call, but all the same, I am sure it was true,
and that he guided her away from the wreck of her body to whatever was to follow.
  I could not be sorry that she had left because I knew she didn't prefer to delay any longer her leavetaking. But all the same, of course, I was overwhelmed by the loss, not the least because of these mixed feelings.
  Today I honor her memory, though I will wait to formalize that till Friday when the synagogue will mark their yartzeit, the anniversary of their deaths, according to the Hebrew calendar.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Busy Day

  Today I went to hear Erwin Chemerinsky speak at the synagogue. He is a famous lawyer on matters related to the Constitution and is the Dean of the law school at U.C. Irvine.
  He is a brilliant speaker and I'm sure teacher as well, so it is a pleasure to listen to him at any time, but today, what he had to say was very compelling on its own terms. His subject was the current Supreme Court, which he dubbed as "easily the most conservative court since the 30s." He qualified that statement by examining some important cases of the last few years, and analyzed how the outcome came to be what it was.
 Like the U.S. as a whole, the Supreme Court is split between liberals and conservatives, with only Anthony Kennedy as buffer zone between the two. He generally goes with the majority in the case of 5/4 splits, Chemerinsky told us, but that means that he most often sides with the conservatives.
  On the basis of this analysis, he made some projections of how the upcoming cases might be settled, but seemed not to be able to make such a call in the case of the Affordable Care Act. He did say that he was quite sure that if they overruled the mandatory coverage element of the law, the statute against pre-existing conditions would also fall. And he was quite sure it would be, as everything else is right now in this country, a matter of polarized ideologies. Sigh...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Back to the Trail

   This morning I did a short hike with my friend, Judy, from the choir. It was too far for me to drive, at Oak Canyon at Caspers Park, and we had to take a rather hairy rural highway to get there. But it was worth it.
  There were still many flowers blooming out there--mariposa lilies and cactus flowers in all colors, devil's paintbrush and Jimson weed, assorted and (to me) nameless blooms of all sizes and shades.
We didn't see any wildlife, and for this I am actually grateful, since this is rattlesnake season, and there are several species of the beasts in those hills.
  My hip has been troubling me, so I was a bit concerned about how I would fare on the hike, but it was only 4 miles or so, and the only part that really challenged me was the first bit, a big long hill that left me and most of the others panting.
  Tomorrow I am scheduled to go on another hike, again with Judy, and have to leave very early in the morning because it's a long drive, at least 1 1/2 hours. That's quite a bit longer and more challenging, but this hike leader has ankle problems and goes very slowly, which is good for me, especially now with my hip acting up.
  I enjoyed the hike, and hope it goes well tomorrow and that I'm not being unrealistic about what I can manage. I think I'll skip yoga class today though, and not push my luck.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dreaming Again

  Supposedly, we all dream every night, though we may not remember it. Dreams last only a few moment of intense REM sleep, though they may feel as though they have gone on for hours.
  I had one of those dreams last night, in which I was visiting a campus in some other state, something like a cross between Florida and Indiana... bizarre hybrid! I had with me my son, who was about 11 or 12 and my mother, who did not have dementia in the dream though she did in real life, but had a broken hip and difficulty walking (she never had a broken hip though, that I recall, in real life).
  I was in the bookstore buying something, and the cashier told me to take care of my son. I looked around, and he was gone. I didn't seem too worried about it though.
  I ran into my mother, having a snack at the cafeteria outside, and I just left her there, went out and got on a bus, though my car was parked somewhere. A block later I realized I had left my son and mother behind, and jumped off the bus, but found I was in a completely unfamiliar part of the campus. I started going into all the buildings, but never found the ones I had been in before, where my son and mother might be. One building was the gym. It was particularly strange. To get into it, one had to climb a wooden staircase that moved and swung loose in the air as one climbed. It was frightening, and I didn't make it more than two steps before I jumped off. I knew that wasn't the right building anyway.
  One place that looked like an underground garage was actually a florist's shop, where, in the half-darkness, thousands of flowers glowed. I never did find either my mother or my son.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Profile on Boston Literary Journal

  Writer and editor Robin Stratton has published an interview with me about Balance on her magazine, Boston Literary Journal's site. You can find it here:http://bostonliterarymagazine.com/sum12interview.html
Visit and see!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Voice is Missing

   Last night, the choir sang at services. There were not many present. The evening was billed as a
Town Meeting on Israel." Apparently, people are feeling rather queasy about that subject right now. Of course, I have long felt that way. Although I was almost born in Israel, and my parents met and married there right before the original War of Independence, I always knew that the land people regarded as uninhabited was far from being so at that time.
  Be that as it may, the set went well. These were two old favorites, songs I have been singing with the choir for many years. But something sounded different... David was missing in the bass section.
  We have long known that David has Alzheimer. It was hard to miss, even though he would always remember there was a performance, arriving attired immaculately in suit and tie, no hair out of place. For too long, he even drove himself, though he could barely remember his own name. And he never forgot a word of the music we sang either. But his kind elbowing was beginning to transform into something else. The disease was changing him, and his wife, at age 90, could no longer manage a man who was still physically quite strong, though mentally reduced.
  Now he has moved into an assisted living place for people with Alzheimer and dementia. We hear he is adjusting fine, but we can't visit him just yet, not for a while.
  I know the choir will never sound quite the same to me without his cheerful, sweet voice.

Friday, May 18, 2012

No Numbers

I just don't think in numbers. I cannot remember them, even getting my address wrong at times and forgetting my phone number at inopportune times. Now I have done it again. I've been touting my poems in Balance as having 15 lines (15 poems of 15 lines each). While that sounds good, the poems are only 14 lines each (sonnets, if line numbers make them that). I counted them, as I was being interviewed and one of the questions was about the number 15. Good thing I counted them! It made me realize that it has been 4 years since I've written those poems, though the book was published only this past February. Amazing! So much has changed. I am trying to figure out now how to get to Riverside, where I have been invited to read. The train goes there, but only in the evening. It means I'd have to stay the whole weekend! What are these schedulers thinking?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What would I say to 16 year old me?

Stop trying so hard, and calmly go on with being yourself. You're in the wrong place at the wrong time, but soon, in a few years, you'll stumble into a place where you belong and are happy. You'll meet people you want to know for the rest of your life and leave behind the misery of living in a place where you have to keep the curtains closed tight even on the steamiest days of summer, sans air conditioning. Where people jeer at you because they always have, reflexively, in a way that has nothing to do with you. You exist only when you read, the grey Kansas of your life becoming technicolor when you open the pages of Bishop and Keats and Tolstoy. When you enter the branch library across the street from your house, someone, the librarian, Phyllis, is glad to see you. This is your true home. You are embarrassed by a body that is too mature for your mind, one the boys in your class furtively ogle, and the girls ridicule. How to hide it in a time where skirts skim the tops of your thighs? Your hair flies everywhere, unruly, in curls that never go in the direction you'd like. You fancy yourself a radical, get yourself nearly killed by going places you know you don't belong, riding a subway deep into neighborhoods where taxi drivers won't go, even in the daytime, 4'8" you. You join the S.D.S., and find that the others in the group are silly and worse, insisting that Manson is "cute," having little understanding of the consequences of their actions. You are a writer who hasn't yet learned the skills you need to know, but you will. Be patient. Keep being who you are. The world is bigger than you know.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Beyond Baroque at Last

No, I didn't get a featured reading at the place, as I've been trying to do. But I did attend my friend Lavina Blossom's reading, along with two other, more published writers, at Beyond Baroque. The reading was part of an interesting series called Hitched that puts together three poets: one without any book and few publications; one with a book, chapbook, and some assorted published works, and one accomplished, even distinguished poet, with several books and other honors to her name. This time, it was Lavina in the "emerging" spot, with Cati Porter, editor of Poemeleon, who also has a hand in making the journal Inlandia, and Judy Kronenfeld as the distinguished writer. I had heard Judy read at the Mug, and greatly admired her book Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, winner of the Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize, 2007, as the cover informs me. She has a new book, Shimmer, which I haven't read yet. I sold three books last night, after doing a bit of a Mother's Day open reading (2 poems), and traded that money up for this book. Lavina and I have been friends, albeit ones who don't see each other all that much, for years and years, since 1980, when both of us came to UCI's MFA program. If we hadn't met here, we were apparently destined to meet elsewhere, for we had applied to the same MFA programs, but both chose this one, lured by the mystique of Southern CA. Lavina is from the exotic (to me) realms of Upper Peninsula Michigan, hailing from a poor farm family. She writes sharp, incisive poems, but doesn't send them out, and has managed not to gather up a manuscript. She also paints, and has worked on and off on stories and a novel. She and I began taking Iyengar yoga many years ago, and for a while, she taught yoga. Now she practices at home, nursing her injured back. I can't convince her that doing yoga with a good teacher might help that. Though she works at UCI at the library, and has for many years, she lives in Riverside, so we don't get to spend as much time together as I'd like. It's a long way to OC from there. The other two poets on the schedule are her pals in Riverside. They lead a regular workshop she takes part in, and work with her on Inlandia, where Lavina is the poetry editor. It is a very long way to Venice from OC, I can tell you. The ride went on and on, using up half a tank of ridiculously expensive gas. However, we easily found parking on the street, and found the Beyond Baroque building, a well seasoned edifice that is filled to the proverbial gills with arts activities. When we arrived, there was a group of kids and parents taking part in a theatrical group of some kind in the same room we would occupy in an hour or so. No one was around save one lone administrator perched at the very top of the building. I introduced myself to her, and asked where the reading would be. At around 5, a very small group, composed mostly of the poets, us, and a few administrators from Beyond Baroque, showed up. It was clear there would not be a large audience. One person whom I recognized, though I could never quite figure out from where, showed up. She knew Judy from somewhere. I re-introduced myself to her too. The reading was good. Lavina read a group of poems she had shown to me a couple of months ago. I thoroughly enjoyed how they sounded when she read them. I hope she will start sending out, as she is a gifted poet. Cati's poems I think would read better on the page. They are complex. One sestina was hard to get my mind around when she read it aloud. I look forward to taking a better look at them sometime. Judy's set was much the same one she read at the Mug. She is such an accomplished reader that it was amazing just to examine how she presented each poem, now that I knew them from hearing and reading many of them on the page. I know she works over the reading, and I'd love to know more, so I could put some of those techniques to work myself. After the reading, just as it ended, a familiar looking person arrived, breathless, bike helmet in hand. It was Peter, our old friend from UCI. Lavina and I were in graduate school at the same time as Peter, years ago. He had the wrong time for the reading, and missed it, but we spent some time together, talking. I got to read two poems about "mothers"--one about my mom that I had published in Caesura in 2008, and another, suggested by Bob, my yoga teacher, about shoulder stand, the mother of all asanas, according to the Iyengars and other Indian practitioners of yoga. As Richard says, I am completely shameless when it comes to self-promotion, so I was thoroughly enjoying myself. It was a great Mother's Day! Hope yours was good too.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sleeping In

I have always gotten up extremely early in the morning, and seem to have inherited this from my parents. My father used to wake me with a kiss before he went off to work on weekdays. For years, he worked as a milkman and pieman, delivering fresh supplies to far off towns. He would leave at 3 AM or so, rattling around in the kitchen before he set off into what was often forbidding weather. On weekends, unable to stay in bed, he still got up about 5, and would ask me to join him as he took the dog for a walk. I don't remember whether my mother was up at that point, or whether she was getting ready to get up. We had only one bathroom in that house. Even now, I still get up at 5 or so. The cats insist that I do it, even on weekends. They want to be fed, want me to throw open the shades so they can stand watch from the window. There might after all be some lizard they could stalk from their vantage point on the six foot cat tree, or a neighbor's dog they could growl at from the safety of their perch near the door. This morning though, for the first time I can remember, after feeding them at 5, I went back to bed and got up quite late. It feels as if the morning light is already well used, softened, like a much worn shirt.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Invitation I Can't Accept

Since I began driving, perhaps 12 years ago, I have ranged the county far and wide. Without driving on freeways though, going beyond the county, to L.A., San Diego, and even Long Beach, is not really feasible. When I lived in the Northeast and Southeast, driving an hour was seen to be a really long haul. Here, it is an everyday jaunt to the market or yoga class. Things are spread out, as they are not back there. If one were unwilling to go that far, s/he'd never go anywhere at all! But since freeways are not in the picture for me (too fast, too many lanes, too much going on for me to feel I can safely manage it), I cannot accept the invitation to take part in an open reading in Long Beach this evening. It would take over 2 hours each way for me to get there on surface streets. That is just too much to be driving late at night, when these things inevitably let out. And it feels rude to get up and leave partway through the reading, when I have had a chance to read, but others have not. Though I would be willing to drive to someone's house and get a ride from there, if I knew that person fairly well, that hasn't emerged as a possibility. People live too far away from me, too close to that far northern part of the county to make much of a difference anyhow. And on a weeknight, people want to be in early, so they wouldn't go from this part of the county anyhow. Oh well. I hate to turn down invitations, which might lead to a featured reading sometime, there's not much I can do about it!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Writer's Night at University Synagogue

I have been a member at the synagogue for many years. During that time, I have come to recognize many people by sight, have talked to a number of them, have become friendly with them. But most do not know me as a writer, except in the very most abstract way, because poetry does not generally come up in the course of any ordinary conversation. But for the first time, the Rabbi decided to tap the writers in the congregation and have them present one piece each. It started with me. The Rabbi had read my book, Balance/ and admired it. He wanted to find a way to introduce the congregation to my work, to help me get the word out. But it still needed to be a service fit for a Friday night. So he decided to open it up to anyone in the congregation who had a Jewish-themed or spiritual piece (poetry or prose) to present. The group quickly grew to unmanageable numbers, and soon there were 14 people who thought they were going to do 3-4 poems or one good-sized work of prose each. As it turned out, we each got to do one piece each, except for last minute additions, one of whom waltzed up and did TWO good sized pieces, when it should have been clear that we were limited to one. Still, it was an interesting experience. I got to read first (my favorite position), doing one short poem, a new one, "Benediction to the Earth." Afterwards, though many people came between me and the end of the reading, many people came up to me full of enthusiasm for my work. I gave out a lot of cards featuring the book. I sold one that will be given to the synagogue's library. I met another writer who teaches in a low-residency creative writing program, and told her I am very much in the market for such a position myself. It was a good evening.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Another Evening at the Mug

Everytime I go to a featured/open reading at the Ugly Mug, I meet new people and make new connections. Last night the featured reader was an extremely accomplished young poet, Dina Hardy, who has racked up honors and prizes right and left during her writing life as well as making her living as a freelancer at the very top of her game. Dina was kind enough to trade her beautiful chapbook, Selections from The World Book, published by the Convulsive Editions, for Balance. Though I haven't had time to sit down and read the book yet, I will perhaps write a more complete and formal review when I have. The book, which the writer plans to turn into a full collection eventually, stems from her fortuitous acquisition of a 1947 set (incomplete) of the World Book encyclopedia. She chooses pages of the book and researchers the items on them, linking them into a poetic network. I can say that her reading was wonderful, and I enjoyed learning of her work. In addition to this poet, I also was pleased to be introduced to the work of Neil Aitken, editor of Boxcar magazine. He is a passionate poet whose work I admire. Perhaps I can get hold of his first book, The Lost County of Sight, which won the 2007 Phillip Levine Poetry award. He told me that at that time, this was the last contest he planned to enter, having spent untold amounts on fruitless efforts to win elsewhere. He asked me to send one of my poems, "Duet," about the whale/human connection, to the journal he edits come June, their open submission period, and recommended a press to which I could send my manuscript (Persea). We had a long conversation following the reading, and though it was very late, and Phil, the owner of the Mug, couldn't wait to turn out the light and go home, we spent a long time talking about our lives and work and the people we mutually knew. Another wonderful evening. I wish I could stray further from home, where most of the readings happen, in Long Beach, Venice, and L.A. But I am happy to have this opportunity to extend my world.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Old and Sad Memories

A hospital emergency room is not a good way to spend a Sunday, or any day, for that matter. But I had to do that, again, like in the old days with my parents, because my son, Jeremy, has contracted some noxious bug that began, a few weeks ago, with a high fever and coughing that I thought would never go away. Then, a brief quiescence, and now, for the past few days, a terrible sore throat. I quelled the pain yesterday with a warm drink my parents used to make for me when I was a small child. It is a Russian drink, muggle guggle, made with milk, a touch of vanilla, and a splash of brandy or whisky. I don't remember whether my parents put an egg in the drink too, but I didn't. Also, I used soymilk because that's what I keep in the house. Jeremy found that it really helped him, so drank an entire carton of soymilk! Generally the thing lasts for a month. There was very little alcohol in the drink, so I didn't worry too much. After all, my parents made it for me when I was a wee tot of 2 or 3. But today, the pain was worse, and he didn't sleep all night because of it. In his desperation, he took at least double the dose of cold medicine, and that does contain some drugs that could be dangerous, so I worried a lot about that. So when he got up out of bed early this morning looking rather like a version of the living dead, I fed him what breakfast he could get past that sore throat, told him to get dressed, and set off for the urgent care. R and I belong to an HMO a few towns north of here that doesn't make us wait long for medical care, and it is generally good and reliable. I tried a couple of years ago to transfer Jeremy from another HMO we used to use when he was a small child. But I could never get him to go to the doctor and see the new provider, so, without my knowing it, the insurance was switched back to the old place. That means when we got to the Urgent Care, which was pretty empty, perhaps because it was a lovely day, and people had taken themselves elsewhere and had things other than sickness on their minds, we had to stand in line with only one other person. But the people at the registration desk said that he would have to pay full price, which could be up to $500., for using the service, since his medical card said he belonged to the old HMO and not this one... this after I had been told the week before that he was registered at this one. So after going off the rails a little and yelling at the person at the desk, I put the kid back in the car and headed for the emergency room, where I had spent so many hours with my parents. That place was relatively empty, and when they hustled Jeremy back into the bowels of the E.R., I nourished hopes of a quick exit, but it was not to be. It took about 4 hours to get back the results. No, he did not have strep throat. And thus, no medication or other assistance would be forthcoming. Meanwhile, I had been reading every scrap of printed matter in the waiting room. When I set off this morning, I never intended to end up in the E.R., so I didn't bring the paper (and there were piles of it waiting for me when I came home) or Marly's new novel either. Instead, I conversed with a older woman, a retired professor, as her husband also was, who had come there this morning with their schizophrenic son. Partway through Yale, he had suddenly lost his mind, and refused to take medication. He was both suicidal and, occasionally, homicidal, and apparently blames his parents for his misery. Periodically he spends time in various hospitals, but is always released in 10 days to the care of his parents, who miserably take up the apparently hopeless case once more. I felt bad just being there, worse seeing Jeremy suffer without help for another 10-14 days, according to the docs, but worse still contemplating this poor couple's fate. Plus, I had missed yoga for the day, when generally, I attend more than one yoga class on Sunday. I have in fact missed a few days this week, and that contributed to my low mood as well. Another week is coming up, one in which I hope I will not be returning to the ER.

Spreading the Word

This past week I've had some good news about bookstores that are selling my book. It was already for sale at the Red Room bookstore, at least theoretically. A friend who tried to order one there said he didn't get any response. Perhaps they aren't really set up to do print-on-demand books. Also of course, I sell the book on this blog. Besides Amazon, where I don't see any of the proceeds, the book is also available at U.C.I. Bookstore (though they have unfortunately ordered through Amazon) and Small World Books, which has ordered through me. I may also be selling it via a new online zine, Elvia. So these are good things. Speaking of which, I need to order some more books.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Upcoming

Next week, the synagogue will host its first writer's night. There are many people who write, most quite casually, as a sideline to their ordinary gigs. But there are also a few, a very few, like me, who are writers who write and publish and are serious about the whole affair. Friday nights are few, and most are already scheduled long before they roll around, as much as a year ahead of time. But I guess there was a spare one, and the Rabbi decided to fill it with writers. At first he said to give him 4 poems or a short piece of prose that was related to Judaism or spirituality. I did. But he had also read my yoga book, and wanted me to read one of those too. Soon there were 12 people on the schedule. Having been to my share of open readings, I could have told him that wouldn't work too well. Too many people; too many pieces. Today I got a note that we were down to one piece each. Well that's okay. Though of course I'd love to be the featured reader,or at least to read the 4 pieces I chose for the occasion, I'll just sit tight till the open readings I take part in remind people that I exist, and they'll give me a feature. Hope so.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poem in My Pocket Day

I never learned Spanish, although I have lived in Southern California for over 30 years. However, I have come to love Neruda's food odes, though I have seen them only in translation. For Poem in My Pocket Day, today, I have chosen one of these to share, taken from my virtual pocket: Here is the link: home pablo Neruda/ POETRY/ THEATRE/ NOVELS/ Literature Main art and food Pablo Neruda The Great Tablecloth film and food music and food photography and food Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair - amazon.fr THE GREAT TABLECLOTH A Corner of Wheat When they were called to the table, the tyrants came rushing with their temporary ladies, it was fine to watch the women pass like wasps with big bosoms followed by those pale and unfortunate public tigers. The peasant in the field ate his poor quota of bread, he was alone, it was late, he was surrounded by wheat, but he had no more bread; he ate it with grim teeth, looking at it with hard eyes. In the blue hour of eating, the infinite hour of the roast, the poet abandons his lyre, takes up his knife and fork, puts his glass on the table, and the fishermen attend the little sea of the soup bowl. Burning potatoes protest among the tongues of oil. The lamb is gold on its coals and the onion undresses. It is sad to eat in dinner clothes, like eating in a coffin, but eating in convents is like eating underground. Eating alone is a disappointment, but not eating matters more, is hollow and green, has thorns like a child of fish-hooks trailing from the heart, clawing at your insides. Hunger feels like pincers, like the bite of crabs, it burns and has no fire. Hunger is a cold fire. Let us sit down to eat with all those who haven't eaten; let us spread great tablecloths, put salt in the lakes of the world, set up planetary bakeries, tables with strawberries in snow, and a plate like the moon itself from which we can all eat. For now I ask no more than the justice of eating. Translated by Alastair Reid - Wuthering (1988) Pablo Neruda is unquestionably South America's most significant poet and a writer with universal appeal. Poetry was his passion, his vocation throughout his long life. Inexhaustibly various, he left behind an enormous volume of work - including poems of love, praise, politics, nature, myth and history. Neruda's favourite translator Alastair Reid celebrates the achievement

Back to Ugly Mug

Last night, despite warnings of a storm and threats of waterspouts by the northern shoreline, I headed north a ways to downtown Orange, a block from Chapman University, to the Ugly Mug for their weekly poetry fest and open reading. This is such a well-run affair, with two genial hosts, game for almost anything that comes up, real lovers of poetry who know how to craft a welcoming evening. On the schedule for last night, there was a cryptic phrase "explaining" the featured reading for the night--it used the acronym "OPP." It turned out to mean "Other People's Poetry." While sometimes open readings can be dreary affairs, this reading, with its guarantee of various, generally very accomplished, mostly published work by "other poets," famous and non-famous, led to a fascinating and fun evening of comedy and drama. Scarcely a clunker in the group. Not knowing till I got there what "OPP" meant, I read three of my own insect/animal poems, and I think they went over very well. One fellow said he had written a spin off inspired by one of my poems as I was reading it, and wanted to send it to me. This place truly is like Cheers... after being there once, everyone knows my name, and one person bought a book. Everyone is so friendly and warm and helpful. A wonderful community. It was great too to be accompanied by my friend and fellow-poet, Robin Hudachek, and her husband Manny. I am just waiting for her to step up to the podium and share some of her own work, which, I can assure her, will be received warmly.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

L.A. Times Festival of Books Today I had an adventure. I rode up on the Amtrak train to L.A. to attend the L.A. Festival of Books. Although it has been going on for years and years, this is the first time I have managed to get there. This is because I have a fear of driving on freeways, and Richard doesn't like to drive to L.A. either. Can't really blame him. The freeways are mobbed, and once you get to L.A., the streets are worse. Parking is obscenely expensive too. But luckily, the Festival folks offered a free shuttle from Union Station, so I hopped on the train, and took the shuttle to the U.S.C. campus! The schedule of panel discussions, readings, and exhibits was listed online, as well as in a program published in last week's Sunday paper, so I was able to buy my tickets (only $1.00 per session) before I left and check in easily at each session. The first session started at 10, almost as soon as I arrived on the campus. It was a panel including three fantasy/science fiction writers, including Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians and The Magician Kings, among other books. You may recall that I wrote a review of his novels that was published in The Hollins Critic. I couldn't carry his novels up there to be signed, so I took a copy of that, since it was just a little pamphlet, easy to carry, and he signed it after the session. The other two guys were interesting too, and I want to read their books. They were John Scalz1 and Frank Beddor, author of The Looking Glass War. The discussion was about the provocative issue of "world-making" and whether all fiction was essentially world-making or just this particular genre of fantasy and science fiction. I think they came to the conclusion ultimately that all reading was world making too since we all make or remake the book out of our own experience and inclinations. Then I went to a poetry reading by Carol Muske-Dukes, which I liked very much. She told stories before all her poems that were much longer than the poems were. And after that I headed over to the food tents in order to eat, and ran into a woman who lived near me. When I told her my name, she said she knew that name from somewhere. It turned out that she had heard about the time I won runner up in Worst First Line of the Novel, many years ago (at least 27 years ago), and there was an article about it in the paper. The line was for an imagined western. This is it: "A cowboy should know his horse, but the podners down at Triple Q Ranch thought that Vernon McChew had gotten too close." She asked me whether I had ever been in the paper, and I told her about this. She immediately said that a friend of hers had recently quoted that line to her, and that it had made her day! I was stunned. It seems that when we put things out there, even something as long ago and casual as this, they may touch others in ways we cannot imagine. I had a good day, and am feeling quite positive as I write these words about the small world we all live in, made even smaller by the community of writing and reading that so many of us belong to.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I have been avoiding the "new" format at Blogger for some time. Now it has, of its own accord, forced itself upon me and I have to figure out how to get to my dashboard, now that there is no longer an option by that name. I have been told in the past how to find unmoderated comments, but I'd be much obliged if someone could tell me again how I might find them. Though I all too seldom write an entry for this blog these days, I wrote one for my friend and former Philadelphia neighbor's blog, Hot Flashes, about Balance and my practice of yoga. You can visit it at . As I said, I plugged the book, but I also mused about how unlikely it might seem to people who knew me back then, when I was an awkward, skinny kid in Philadelphia, to find that I had turned into a regular practitioner of yoga. Though I was constantly racing around on roller skates (the old kind, with the key that looked like a pop top for a can of peas) or on my bike or chasing the dog, I was always the last one chosen for any team sport, who never paid attention to the action and inevitably flubbed the play. I'm sure no one would be surprised that I became a poet and writer, but a yoga practitioner might (yuk yuk) seem a stretch... .

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Smelling the Past

This morning I went to yoga class in Laguna. The studio is across the street from the lovely Mirage resort, overlooking a gorgeous stretch of ocean. But generally the air doesn't smell particularly beachy.
Today though, as I got out of the car and also as I came out of the studio and got back into the car, my olfactory sense plunged me back into the past as surely as Proust's madeleine sent him back to his childhood. Though the beach was different and the ocean a different one (the Atlantic to today's Pacific), I was there, a momentary visit to another world.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New/Old Publication

The thing about poems is that they don't generally have a "sell-by" date. Unlike baked goods, like the cinnamon raisin bread I toasted this morning to eat with my yogurt, they keep quite well.
Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate riding the Frankford El in to college in Camden NJ (Rutgers Camden), I wrote a poem with a section for each stop between the start of the line and where I got off in town. This is in Philadelphia,PA, where I was born and grew up, but left at about age 20.
I polished this poem up and put it in my MA thesis and perhaps my MFA one too. Now it has been polished some more and published in a new Philadelphia journal, Northern Liberties Review. Here it is:


The Frankford Elevated Train

Robbi Nester

“I realized intuitively that the subway
was a harbinger of an entirely new
space-time relationship of the individual
and his environment.” Buckminster Fuller

Boarding, I am
full of voices,
turning in my seat
to watch the river,
the Delaware’s brown flow.

Fairmount
Two dull-lipped women
find a seat. They speak,
something muted
with movement.
Their hands
are spoked with veins.
At the river’s edge,
garbage trucks grind.

Girard
Dark labyrinths of windows,
one still face.
Courtyards, a church
and a school. Outside,
the sky closes,
a circular wave.

Berks
Tarred roofs.
Spires and antennae
rise in narrow rows.
Close enough to touch,
a fretwork of windows,
open or broken open,
the hum of someone
singing an old song.

York and Dauphin
The wires stretch like swimmers,
speak a secret tongue, black
and flat, crackling leaves.
Though it is summer,
the pool waits, an empty mouth.

Huntington
Here a man boards, without eyes.
His face holds light.
Rain falls in flat wet drops.

Somerset
The name I always
read wrong—Summering,
Somerfield, Something.

Allegheny
Banks on both sides.
I sit on the edge of my seat,
reading “Dr. Cool #1” on all the walls.
Someone beside me slips out.

Tioga
Trees.
Ginkos’ frilled leaves,
a thousand luna moths.

Erie-Torresdale
The day the train fell
it was here.
People clutched at legs,
falling poles.
One second before the ground,
the last smoke.

Now when I pass here,
the train shifts and slows.
On the track ahead, workers
wave us past.

Church
Broken windows, stained
with soot. A steeple
with no bell. The train
screams by.

Margaret and Orthodox
Unloading.
I turn once more, eying
faces pressed like wings.

No wheels now.
The circling slatted door,
the stairs, then the street’s
long spiral, a track.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April Showers

As mild (or even boring) as the weather generally is here in Southern California, when it decides to take a turn for the worse, it can be extreme, like much else in this place of earthquake and mudslide. We sit precariously on the continent's edge, oblivious as lizards doing pushups in the sunshine much of the time, but when the rain pours down all at once, loosening the rocks on the furrowed hillsides like molars, or when piers shake loose in sustained gusts of wind, rain, and fist-hard hail, or when water spouts join the earth and sky like Melvillian cetaceans out for revenge, then we know truly this place we inhabit.
I was supposed to attend a wildflower event in Casper Wilderness Park today. Even though it is not raining now and the event is still going forward, I do not want to go. For one thing, the sky looks somewhat doubtful, and it is cold. The ground must be soupy from yesterday's storms. Regretfully, I will sit out this dance, though it has been some time since I ventured out onto the trail.
Summer is coming soon.