Poems and Pictures

Reply Fri 18 Jan, 2008 01:22 pm
No sweat Rebecca. It was a nice picture.

Miklos writes-

He not busy being born is busy dying. --Bob Dylan

How do you interpret that famous line? It's one of the pieces of wisdom I live by and it was certainly not original in 1965 although it was declaimed with more power than hitherto. It's not that smooth a ride.
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Reply Fri 18 Jan, 2008 02:30 pm

A similar mystery of origination surrounds another favorite Dylan line, "The queen of hearts is always your best friend." That must have predated 1965--or its quotation by The Eagles.

As for "being born or dying," I take this to mean, among other possibilities, that, if one stands still, instead of looking for new ideas and experiences, he is not truly resting (one can do that while asleep), but he is actively contributing to his early demise. Physically or intellectually, the process seems to work the same. When my beloved stepmother reached 95--and was still living in her own house and still driving her own car--I asked her if she had thoughts about why she was so full of zip while other contemporaries had long been in the ground. "Yes," she replied, "it's because I never sit down." She died suddenly, after having driven herself to a hair-dresser's appointment--and on her way to the umpteenth bridge game of the week. She also was a very heavy reader. Wish I had her genes, although longevity is not heritable. Besides, I'd rather live well, as she did, rather than merely long.
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Reply Sat 19 Jan, 2008 06:49 am
Miklos- The first time I had fiddleheads was at the first Easter dinner I had in Maine. This couple in the neighborhood had lived in Maine for over twenty years, but weren't native Mainers, and they had annual Easter and Thanksgiving gatherings for other "flatlanders" as eveyone in the area I lived in called anyone not originally from Maine. Anyway - they were prepared just as you described- and I loved them. I took the kids out the next day to search for them in the woods across the street from our house.

It's funny you mention your stepmother here and right at this time. I'm waiting to hear this morning if my friend Fritz is still with us or not. He sounds similar (in terms of his energy) to your stepmother. I met him when I was eighteen or nineteen because my older sister married his son.

We hit it off immediately - he was just happiness embodied. Of course I only ever saw him at parties and weddings and such- and he was always sort of liberally lubricated, if you know what I mean (who knows what he was like at home sitting on his couch)-but for me, any gathering that included Fritz was special. We used to go to his annual father's day picnic- all of us, including my dad who is a pretty serious minded fellow - (teetotaling Baptist deacon to be exact), and I'll never forget- one year Fritz was standing behind my Dad, facing everyone and he'd had a bit to drink and my father was telling a joke that he found particularly funny, and Fritz winked at us, ruffled my Dad's hair, kissed him on the cheek and said, "Hey, we better cut this guy off- he's starting to have way too much fun..." My father grinned sheepishly - we all died laughing...it was perfect....that was Fritz.

Mainly, when he and I got together, we'd talk about food. He and I both love to cook, and I loved the language he'd use and to watch his face and hands animate as he talked about what he was planning to make next. I have all these napkins with Fritz's recipes written on them.

But I never really saw him eat very much- he'd just make these incredible dishes and take pleasure in serving them to you. When you went to his house, you didn't sit at a table. You sat in a comfortable chair with a plate and he'd bring you these delicate morsels, one by one, and watch your face as you tasted them...he was just delightful.

He was diagnosed right before Christmas with lung cancer that had spread to his brain. It progressed really quickly...I was planning to go down last night to see him (as I preferred to say goodbye to him while he was still alive) but Paul told me he's already gone in all practicality. He hasn't been conscious for the past two days. He said, "he had a good run- eighty-four years old and never sick or unhappy a day in his life, until last month, so stop crying...and hey you forgot to wish me a happy birthday," which was his way of moving the conversation onto something more pleasant. In alot of ways Paul's just like his dad.

Anyway - I'll miss Fritz. There aren't enough people like him in the world, and I wasn't ready for him to leave. He was always busy being reborn- probably thinking, "What can I do next to make this (whatever it was) more pleasant and interesting." Just a happy, gentle man.

(My sister just called to say he died last night at 11:30 pm).

For Fritz: Peace
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Reply Sat 19 Jan, 2008 08:32 am

So very sorry to hear that you have lost such a splendid friend. When the world loses someone like Fritz, a very rare person, whose idea of a good life is seeing to it that others have a good time, it's a major loss. If it's any consolation at all, think of all the people, including you, whom he made happy. I wish I had known him, and I greatly regret his premature death.

In deepest sympathy,

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Reply Sun 20 Jan, 2008 08:33 am
Thank you Miklos-

Here's a picture, so you can know him a little bit:


Look at those eyes- they were usually laughing and filled with mischief.

There are some interesting dynamics in my family- two very distinct and separate personality types. My father, older brother and sister, and my sister who is just younger than me- are all very serious, responsible, and don't go in much for silliness.

My mother, me, and my youngest sister indulge in all the silliness we possibly can- we're always looking for the next laugh.

So whenever I think of Fritz at a family gathering- I picture my sister, Catherine and I giggling at something totally irreverent that Fritz has just whispered in our ears.

I'll miss that-
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Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 05:18 am

Snow Day

We woke in the morning
to air
which felt different-
solid and silent and
padded with something soft-
charged with expectation
and what felt like a promise.

The bedroom walls bloomed wildly-
dusky pink and yellow roses
bathed us in a shower
of light and blossoms,
the thin morning sun
each petal from within.

White light poured in the window
through the panel of lace
which was stuck to the pane-
its movement hampered by
motionless air and a layer of frost
penetrating the glass
and clinging smooth, slick and
shimmering, like a new skin.

We looked out onto ice-covered fields
framed by bare and black branches.
The liquid amber tree, whose red and gold
star-shaped leaves had colored my
dreams as I napped under younger skies
now stood sad and denuded
and stripped of its solace.

In the yard, Larkin
walked over the fence-
Four feet of pickets buried
in snow -leaving a vast white
and newly uncharted landscape,
blank but for his paw prints.

And as we watched-
our dog walked out of the yard
on a piece of earth whose surface
had risen overnight
And the earth continued
turning outside an ice-covered window
in a room filled with roses.

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Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 07:40 am
Good morning, Aidan

SNOW DAY is a really fine poem--and I greatly enjoy the accompanying pictures. The heavy, wet snow on the tree is just the consistency of what arrived here last night. Typical transitional-season precipitation. Looking to our next season, I am deeply grateful that it never rains mud!

The second stanza of SNOW DAY is very good; to me, it's as if the flowers on the wallpaper are asserting new life as the morning sun breaks through the clouds towards them.

In stanza four, I'm not sure that you need the words "liquid" and "now." If you do decide to remove the "now," that action will change the rhythm of the last two lines. You then might wish to write:

stood sad and denuded,
stripped of its solace.

Stanza five is simply lovely.

Stanza is equally beautiful, but you might want to change the rather generic word "piece" to something more specific. "Layer"?

SNOW DAY has so much going for it: great topic, rich imagery, good choice of words, fine rhythm. Brava, Aidan!

Stanza three, unlike the other parts of the poem, employs a few words with slightly unwieldy connotations. "Panel" is used correctly in the broader sense, but here the lace is likely thinner than "panel" suggests. You might try a word like "scrim" instead of "panel." Similarly, "stuck," though generally accurate, seems heavy in connotation used with the light "lace." Thinking of fabric-related words, you might try a line like "spread across the pane." Again for their heavier connotations, you might strike "its movement hampered by/motionless air and" and try something like

which spread across the pane:
a layer of frost
penetrates the glass
and clings , smooth, slick and
shimmering, like a new skin.

You are a really good poet, Aidan! The suggestions I make are minor. I like this poem a LOT.
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Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 11:57 am
Miklos- THANK YOU...your suggestions are so helpful and I can hear in your rearrangement of my words what I was striving for.

YOU"RE the good poet...I just have these ideas and these pictures in my head or that I've seen that I want to describe....and sometimes I feel I come close, but never totally get what I'm aiming for-but I'm so happy you're here to help me hear how I can do that more poetically. I am someone who is able to listen and learn and I will learn if someone is willing to take the time to teach me.

So again, thank you so much for your time and effort in terms of this. I so appreciate it.

Our road is just so beautiful today and I was thinking as I drove home for lunch that I will go out again with my camera this evening...and hoping that the light would cooperate, that I'd be able to get home in time to still have an hour of daylight in which to walk.
But I also was thinking that I would so love to be able to find the words to describe the black bark of the trees with the pure, almost blindingly white layer of snow- it is delicate and fragile looking and lacy- and very Japanese looking - haiku would suit it.

I wish I could take the class you give.
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Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 08:19 pm

Thank you very much for the kind words. I'm so glad my suggestions were useful. This is not always the case!

Please do try that haiku on the snow and tree bark. This is, indeed, a perfect subject for a Japanese verse form.

Still snowing lightly here, though my wife did manage to land at Bangor Airport this afternoon. Hooray.
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Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 11:49 am
I know you're happy to have her home safe and sound.


When this place becomes
Past to me, I'll remember
Silence, white, cold, peace.
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Reply Tue 11 Mar, 2008 01:55 pm

This is a very handsome pairing of verse and image. The scene conveys all the virtues of the landscape that you remark upon in your poem. Bravo!

I believe that the verse works quite well as is, but I'll point out one detail you might think about further.

The poem is comprised of one subordinate clause followed by a main clause. The subject of the main clause is "I." As the verse is short, and there's not much likelihood of misunderstanding references, you might consider dropping the phrase "to me" as redundant; in other words, the POV would remain "to me," even if it's not written out.

If you drop the prepositional phrase, the rhythm of the second line goes off a bit:

"Past, I'll remember."

However, this problem is easily finessed by moving "past" to the first line.

"When this place becomes past,
I'll remember
Silence, white, cold, peace.

The verse is no longer haiku, but there's nothing wrong (even to the Japanese) about slightly sprung haiku. They, the originators of the form, write them constantly. The idea is that a specific form must make a bit of way in return for a more powerful aesthetic effect.

Your key stressed words are now "past, remember, peace." Little change in emphasis, and you still have a lovely trio.

Many good poems--even very short ones--have a pivot point around their middle line. "I'll remember" works very well as such a pivot. Also, you gain a longer pause after "remember," contributing a slightly contemplative (and, therefore, appropriate) tone that leads into the quiet beauties of the final line.

But, hey, as I noted earlier, this is rather picky stuff I'm pointing out. If you like the poem better in your original version, I'd stick with it.

Good poem, Aidan. And the picture is very fine, too!
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Reply Thu 13 Mar, 2008 04:23 am
Miklos - I can't express how appreciative I am of your help with my writing (such as it is).

I've taken creative writing courses, but I can't remember having another teacher who was able to explain exactly WHY an arrangement of words might work better than another to the extent that you do.
It's so helpful and makes me feel hopeful about any talent I might possess in this regard (or lack thereof).
You said once that that ability to write was not genetic - it could be learned. I had always looked at it as primarily a gift that was for the large part either inherent in a person- or not- although I knew it could be fine tuned.
I'm beginning to see what you mean- and this is encouraging to me.

I do want to record the images of winter I'm getting while I'm here, and to (as I said in the poem) remember how I felt when I was among such scenes.
I'm glad you're enjoying the images.
Thank you for your help and kind words.
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Reply Thu 13 Mar, 2008 03:59 pm

Thank you for your very kind words. I am delighted you find my remarks useful. You definitely should feel encouraged--you're good!
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Reply Thu 27 Mar, 2008 04:36 am


As evening gathers
In Spring's early infancy
Light dies stubbornly

*Miklos- Thanks for your help and encouragement. I tried to come up with a tanka for this - I wanted to mention something about "edges"- how the bird is standing alone at the edge of day and night and at the edge of the precipice between winter and spring- but I just couldn't get it right. Any ideas?

Also - what do you think about the line, "light dies stubbornly"? I like it - but I don't know if it makes sense. I'm trying to say - it dissipates slowly - as if clinging to life. Is that how you would read it?

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.
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Reply Thu 27 Mar, 2008 06:40 am

I think this is a really fine haiku.

First of all, it sounds all of a continuous piece; it's not the least telegraphic. The only word that is a long chop-and-stretch is the last, "stubbornly," and, in that instance, the sound is deeply appropriate, because the light is leaving unwillingly and incrementally, "clinging to life"--and because the word "stubbornly" has a falling rhythm: it fades to black.

The only change I'd suggest is very minor--dropping the capital "S" from "Spring." You've already personified the season by referring to its infancy; therefore, capitalizing it's name is probably redundant.

The edge topic you mention is a good one, but I wouldn't try to build it in here, even if you expanded the haiku to a tanka. There would be too much of equal importance going on in a small space, and such a poem might sink of its own weight. But, hey, how about another haiku, or a tanka, that explores the edge you mention?

Again, I find this an excellent poem. Hard to build this graceful a haiku. You should feel pleased.

P.S. Great picture and picture-poem pairing, too!
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Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 04:12 am

(for my brother)

You're my favorite door
to go through
I enter you purposefully
always knowing what I'll find-
dusk and it's balanced possibilities
before 'what was' became 'what is'
and we were free to wonder.

You live suspended there
Between the day and night
I enter sleep in search of you
I know how and where to dream.

And you are always driving-
taking me from here to there.
Radio murmuring, heated air filling
cold spaces and waiting silences-
the palm of your hand on my cheek.

You look at me and smile-
and what's perfect and aloof in repose
transforms- accessible.
And as our stolen time unwinds
I look at you and say,
"Go slow-drive slow-
I never want to get there."

(I dreamed my dream about him last night)
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Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 06:44 am

This is a deeply beautiful poem, quiet and ever so powerful.

Your opening lines gently pull the reader in, and you never let him go. The reader, too, begins to feel "I never want to get there."

So many great lines:

"Dark and its balanced possibilities." (This line embodies another poem!)

"I enter sleep in search of you
I know how and where to dream." (WOW! Shades of Orpheus.)

"Radio murmuring, heated air filling
cold spaces and waiting silences
the palm of your hand on my cheek." (gorgeous sound and gesture)

You have taken the reader with you on your dream; you have become the reader's guide to a place of peace--and sanctuary from the waking world.

Very, very impressive in concept, tone, line breaks, effect. Brava, Aidan!
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Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 11:06 am
Thank you Miklos- this is the time of the year that I last saw him (eighteen years ago now). He visited me at the beach in North Carolina where I was living, Easter of 1990. He died that year in June.

For some reason - Christmas and the time I last saw him (instead of the time around his actual death) are the times of the year when I most consciously (and unconsciously) think of him. He LOVED Christmas- so childlike in his delight. I still have the wreath he sent me for Christmas the last year he was alive. We were close - he was one of my favorite PEOPLE (of any person) in the world - much less in my family. His death was my first real experience with the death of someone close (I've been lucky in that regard). I truly don't think that any other death will ever be as hard for me to bear. And I have to say that I was finding it hard to cope until I had this dream....and from that point on- I've always known that he's all right.

So I'm glad he visits me in this dream- which I have had on occasion since the month after he died because it does bring me peace - I told my mom about it and it brought her peace as well (she has never dreamed about him that she can remember, so she told me she appreciates experiencing him vicariously through my dream).

Anyway - I'd posted this before on its own - but took this picture the other day in an old abandoned house down the road from where I lived and I bet you anything that's what triggered this dream (along with the time of year). I looked the poem back up and edited a few lines...

I found this wonderful old falling down homestead which is a mine of evocative scenes to photograph. So many aspects of it reminded me of my family- especially my grandmother.
I'm always stimulated by the visual - I think I'll be writing more poems now.

Thanks again for your kind words (and listening ear).
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Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 05:13 pm
Ooh - she was scary...I get it now though - April fool's day - thank goodness she's not permanent.

Forget I said anything.
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Reply Fri 11 Apr, 2008 04:25 am
For my father
Half a life-time ago when I was still undefined
You taught me definitions
'Strength' 'grace' 'God'
Now, as the light grows brighter
And you face the night
I want you to dream
Remembering light
And how it felt to be running
through an East Texas field-
your mother's voice just over
the rise and pain not even
thought of yet.


Fields of Joy
(Lenny Kravitz)

Lets wander slowly through the fields
Slowly slowly through the fields
I touch the leaves that touch the sky
Just you and I through fields of joy

All trouble slowly fades away
Slowly slowly fades away
I hold your hand inside my hand
Across the land through fields of joy

The sound of music that we hear
The blend of colors in the air
All cities, mountains disappear from view
All truth and beauty near to me and you

With you through the fields
With you through the fields
With you through the fields
The fields of joy
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