Her World Never Knew A Yard Un-Dogged

ancient rock painting

 

The Dog

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

Ogden Nash

De’an

by Heid E. Erdrich

Dogs so long with us we forget
that wolves allowed as how
they might be tamed and sprang up
all over the globe, with all humans,
all at once, like a good idea.

So we tamed our own hearts.
Leashed them or sent them to camp’s edge.
Even the shrinks once agreed, in dreams
our dogs are our deepest selves.

Ur Dog, a Siberian, dogged
the heels of nomads,
then turned south to Egypt
to keep Pharaoh safe.

Seemed strange, my mother sighed,
when finally we got a hound,
. . . a house without a dog. 

Her world never knew
a yard un-dogged and thus
unlocked. Sudden intrusions
impossible where yappers yap.

Or maybe she objected
to empty armchairs,
rooms too quiet
without the beat
of tail thump or paw thud.

N’de, Ojibwe say, my pet, 
which also suggests ode, that spot in the chest,
the part you point to when you pray,
or say with great feeling—great meaning,
meaning dog-love goes that deep.


There is ancient rhythm to the dance between dogs and humans.   It could be asked, who domesticated whom?   Did our canine brothers and sisters see as an unruly, unorganized clan in need of fostering and decided to bring us into their fold, as their own lost “tribe” as it were, or do we still persist in believing the myth in the manifest destiny of man?   Ask a dog, they will tell you the truth.

I have no doubt that dogs write poetry.   After all what is poetry?  An emotion the author creates within ourselves, and dogs are masters at creating emotions within us.  If we are looking for examples of unconditional love in our midst, most of us would not have to look farther than a dog in our household. God Dog may be the oldest and shortest palindrome in the English language other than I. I do think that this is a coincidence as language arises from our subconscious more than it does our conscious times when it comes to creating names.  Don’t believe me, name a new puppy sometime.  So next time you are petting your dog who has lovingly put he or she’s head on your knee and you feel your heart rate slowing and your mind becoming calmer, give thanks that this ancient bond is alive and well in your life.   Soak in the unconditional love and loyalty that is connected to you.  And then ask what can I do to wag my appreciation?


Lost Dog

by Ellen Bass

It’s just getting dark, fog drifting in,
damp grasses fragrant with anise and mint,
and though I call his name
until my voice cracks,
there’s no faint tinkling
of tag against collar, no sleek
black silhouette with tall ears rushing
toward me through the wild radish.

As it turns out, he’s trotted home,
tracing the route of his trusty urine.
Now he sprawls on the deep red rug, not dead,
not stolen by a car on West Cliff Drive.

Every time I look at him, the wide head
resting on outstretched paws,
joy does another lap around the racetrack
of my heart. Even in sleep
when I turn over to ease my bad hip,
I’m suffused with contentment.

If I could lose him like this every day
I’d be the happiest woman alive.

Stunned, Tantalized And Famished

IMG_5847
The starveling world around you burns.

 

I was dreaming in my dreaming
God knows a purer view
As I surrender to my sleeping
I commit my dream to you
The power to dream to rule
To wrestle the world from fools…

Fred Smith/Patti Smith

First Dream of You

by T. A. Fry

First dream of you, since your sudden passing,
I spied you walking briskly in a throng,
Signature bobbed hair brown, youthful, classy,
Talking to a friend, moving merrily along.
I tried weaving through the teeming crowd
To greet you. Such joy welling in my throat.
I can see you laughing, but it’s too loud
The city noise drowning out those pleasing notes
The surrounding clamor another shroud.

I shouted, waved increasingly concerned
This chance meeting, so vivid, might soon be gone.
While the starveling world around you burned
In your brightness, as it had always done.
You turned, looked into my eyes, then vanished
I awoke stunned, tantalized and famished.


 

I enjoy how a single word can set my writing in motion.  Its been over three years since my Mother died.  But it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I had my first dream of her after her death. I woke up completely aware of that fact and it made the experience even more vivid.  I thought about the dream that week and over the course of a couple of days this sonnet emerged.  The first couple of lines came quickly and it stalled.  Then I came across the word “starveling” in a book and the rest came together.  It is not an error that this is 15 lines.   I wrote multiple drafts in which I kept it to the standard 14 lines, but in the end I preferred the pacing of this one.   It is not the only 15 line sonnet I have written.  Sometimes you have to let the words decide.

There are many pictures of my Mother where light seems to be radiating from her.  She had that way of bringing energy into a room with her presence.  Her birthday is today. She would have been 87.  Fourteenlines.blog is 2 years old this week as well.  Thank you to all who visit and share my love of poetry.

 

We Buy A Fish. We Are Fed.

 

Keillor
Garrison Keillor

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” .

Julia Childs

Supper

by Garrison Keillor

You made crusty bread rolls filled with chunks of brie
And minced garlic drizzled with olive oil
And baked them until the brie was bubbly
And we ate them lovingly, our legs coiled
Together under the table. And salmon with dill
And lemon and whole-wheat cous cous
Baked with garlic and fresh ginger, and a hill
Of green beans and carrots roasted with honey and tofu.
It was beautiful, the candles, the linen and silver,
The sun shining down on our northern street,
Me with my hand on your leg. You, my lover,
In your jeans and green T-shirt and beautiful bare feet.
How simple life is. We buy a fish. We are fed.
We sit close to each other, we talk and then we go to bed.


I have recently been forced to take my diabetes seriously.  It’s a bit like an alcoholic telling everyone he’s an alcoholic.  By doing so he hopes that everyone else will hold them accountable.  The problem with diabetes, at least for me, is because I wasn’t diabetic for 54 years, everyone seems to think if I would just exercise a bit more, lose a few pounds and eat right it would be fine.  I wish it was that simple. There is nothing simple about my diabetes.  I wake up and before I have eaten anything my blood sugars are so far above my target that I start the day feeling like I can’t eat anything.  If I use my blood glucose monitor as the green flag for actually eating there are days I completely fast and never get in the target range.   It’s no way to live.

I like to cook, I like to eat.  I am a decent cook.   My relationship with food has completely changed in the past 3 months, and I feel betrayed.  I feel like I can’t enjoy the simplicity of bread and cheese and a glass of wine unless I am going to ignore my blood sugars and the nagging of loved ones that something which was perfectly normal until recently is now some kind of violation of being a good person.   Eating normal food in moderation is not a moral failing for diabetics. But the only way to be seen as virtuous is to deny myself even the most simple of things.  Diabetes is like becoming a Catholic priest and having to swear an oath of celibacy, but in this case its swearing off the occasional treat of peanut M and M’s.

I refuse to be defined by my diabetes. I am going to make an attempt at trying to get it mostly under control, but my experience is doctors are only too happy to play the blame and shame game and watch your A1c climb year after year without really giving you all the tools to manage the disease because type II diabetes is considered a life style disease. But I’m not overweight.  And I don’t eat a lot of sugars. My body just doesn’t make insulin anymore. So, I can decide to live like a monk and stop enjoying food or I can accept that this disease is likely going to kill me eventually. The good thing is its going to kill me really slowly, plenty of time to enjoy life and eat lots of great food.


Fairy Bread

by Robert Louis Stevenson

.           . Come up here, O dusty feet!
Here is fairy bread to eat.
Here in my retiring room,
Children, you may dine
On the golden smell of broom
.            . And the shade of pine;
And when you have eaten well,
Fairy stories hear and tell.

Look Upon This Verse

ea poe.jpg
Edgar Allen Poe

Sonnet 71

By William Shakespeare

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O! if, I say, you look upon this verse,
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay;
Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
And mock you with me after I am gone.


Was Edgar Allen Poe life as unconventional as his poetry and writing or has time allowed for Poe to be re-imagined in his own words?  Poe’s life certainly would not fit into the conventions of today.  He married his first cousin when she was 13 and he was 27.  I think we would call that a pedophile today, not an eligible bachelor.  She died eleven years later from tuberculosis.  Poe died only two years after following her death under somewhat murky circumstances.  In 1849, Poe went missing for five days and was found incoherent and delirious.  He was taken to a Baltimore hospital where he died soon after at the age of 40.   Typical of the time, No autopsy was performed and the cause of death was listed as a vague “congestion of the brain” and he was buried two days later.  This rather unusual description opened the door for crack pots and scholars, (or are those the same thing?) to propose everything from murder, to carbon monoxide poisoning as the reason for his death.  It doesn’t really matter, dead is dead.   Poe doesn’t get enough credit for the quality of his writing and the varied contributions he made to literature.  Poe grew up in desperate poverty and he wrote in true fashion as his vocation and made a living at it.   I think he deserves more credit than he sometimes receives as a poet and writer.


Death

by Edgar Allan Poe

It is not death, that some time in a sigh
This eloquent breath shall take its speechless flight;
That some time the live stars, which now reply
In sunlight to the sun, shall set in night;
That this warm conscious flesh shall perish quite,
And all life’s ruddy springs forget to flow; —
That verse shall cease, and the immortal spright
Be lapp’d in alien clay, and laid below: —
It is not death to know this, but to know
That pious thoughts, which visit at new graves,
In tender pilgrimage will cease to go
So duly and so oft, and when grass waves
Over the past-away, there may be then
No resurrections in the minds of men!

 

 

I Am

 

Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom (1930 – 2019)

“We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; Yet the strongest, most authentic motive for deep reading….is the search for a difficult pleasure.”

Harold Bloom

I Am

by John Clare

I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky


Harold Bloom, a fellow lover of sonnets, passed away this week.  Bloom was a literary critic of legendary status, who loved words.  Bloom was first and foremost a devotee of reading, though he did suffer from a bit of snobbery on the subject. Someone who enjoyed reading as much as he did, should have promoted reading for reading’s sake regardless of whether he agreed with another’s readers tastes, but Bloom felt all of us needed to be exposed to the genius lying in wait for us between the covers of the great books of literature. Bloom espoused the idea many times that reading was a way to explore what makes us human in ways that go beyond our solitary thoughts, by learning about some of the greatest minds of all time through their art, their ideas.

“It is hard to go on living without some hope of encountering the extraordinary.”

Harold Bloom

Bloom compiled many lists over the years of the essential canon of English literature.  You can find several variations on that theme on the internet with a casual search. However, the best list of his on poetry that I have found is shared on the Floating Library.  I have included a link below.  Check it out.   Of course the two poems today come from his list.  Rest in peace Harold.  I promise to do my part and keep up the good work of reading and making our way slowly through your list of gems, and even add to your list along the way a ripping good limerick or two you might have missed.

Harold Bloom’s Recommended Poems


We Grow Accustomed To The Dark

by Emily Dickinson

We grow accustomed to the Dark –
When light is put away –
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye –

A Moment – We uncertain step
For newness of the night –
Then – fit our Vision to the Dark –
And meet the Road – erect –

And so of larger – Darknesses –
Those Evenings of the Brain –
When not a Moon disclose a sign –
Or Star – come out – within –

The Bravest – grope a little –
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead –
But as they learn to see –

Either the Darkness alters –
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight –
And Life steps almost straight.

In The Midden Of My Mind

Climbing-Trees

“Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories.  And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.”

Stevie Wonder

Motown Cross

(Excerpt – Sonnet #3 in the crown of sonnets)

by Patricia Smith

Silk where his throat should be, and growling grace,
Little Stevie made us wonder why
we even needed sight. His rhythm eye
could see us click our hips and swerve in place
whenever he cut loose. Ooh, we’d unlace
our Converse All-Stars. Yeah, we wondered why
we couldn’t get down without our shoes, we’d try
and dance and keep up with his funky pace
of hiss and howl and hum, and then he’d slow
to twist our hearts until he heard them crack,
ignoring what was leaking from the seams.
The rockin’ blind boy couldn’t help but show
us light. We bellowed every soulful track
from open window, ’neath the door—pipe dreams.

If you want to check out Smith’s entire crown of sonnets Motown Cross published in Rattle in 2010, check out the link or video below.

 


The best known crown of sonnets is John Donne’s La Corona that begins, “Deign at my hands the crown of prayer and praise.”   It sets the standard by which all others are measured.  If you are not familiar with a crown of sonnets or sonnet sequence, it is a poem containing anywhere from seven, eleven or thirteen sonnets, written around a theme.  Modern sonnet sequences are not always in rhyme and do not necessarily follow the supposed “rules” of a crown of sonnet, but I am impressed that Patricia Smith went old school in her poem Motown Cross and followed the structure of Donne, in which the first line of the first sonnet is the last line of the last sonnet, the last line of the first sonnet is the first line of the second sonnet, and so forth with successive sonnets until the end.  The challenge in this structure is figuring out a rhyming sequence that you can continue from the end of one sonnet to the next and not have repetition and still carry the narrative forward. It provides a bigger canvas in which to work in the sonnet structure but that larger size carries with it it’s own unique set of challenges.

Like Smith, when I sat down and wrote a crown of sonnets, I looked sentimentally to the past.  She focused on music that shaped her, I focused on memories of growing up.   The entire sonnet sequence, In the Midden of My Mind, started with the word midden.  I came across it and it’s association with storage cupboards and sailing ships immediately conjured thoughts about climbing trees as a child, a place of mystery and serenity that still exists in my memory. I grew up in the 1960’s in a suburban landscape on a dead end street with a forest of mature trees at my door step  to explore and climb.  I had my favorites that I knew the route that I could climb to the very top and peer out over the entire world and hide from my sisters and my mom if I chose. I spent many happy summer and fall afternoons climbing trees. The act of climbing a combination of strategy, knowledge of trees,  athleticism, experience, upper arm strength and some courage.   I never fell. I have visceral memories of being at the top of swaying trees and seeing a perspective of the world that looked completely different than being on the ground.

Stevie Wonder’s album, Songs in the Key of Life was one of the very first albums I ever purchased.  It came out when I was thirteen and I listened to it over and over as a teenager.  Patricia Smith, a black woman from inner city Detroit and me a white man who grew up in suburbs of St. Paul, couldn’t in some ways be more different in our experiences, but we both danced to Stevie Wonder in our converse All Stars and we both somehow gravitated to writing a crown of sonnets to capture the mood and rhythms of our past. It took me more than six months to write In the Midden of My Mind. There were many starts and stops along the way, trying to maintain a consistent voice throughout and articulate something genuine.  In the end, I let the rhyme and sentiment both have the upper hand and though it is not one of the best things I have ever written, it has held up over the test of time in that I don’t cringe when I read it.   It still says what I want it to say. Nostalgia does not always translate well to others, our own sentimental journeys best kept as personal, but it is a way to share our common experience that connects us in ways that remind us that the human condition has more similarities that bind us together than differences that divide.


In The Midden of My Mind

By T. A. Fry

In the midden of my mind, it lies
Unbidden: the flagship of my boyhood home.
A relic hidden under bluest skies.
Where childhood’s ghosts are free to roam.
Danger beckoned me to its lofty realm
Bound by vistas from the tallest tree.
High in oaks and elm, I was at the helm
Of  tall ships sailing effortlessly.

Oh, to climb into youth’s panoply,

The dappled greens of windy murmur.
The swaying solitude of the canopy,
Above the scrambling of terra firma.
Though nostalgia’s pastel does not grow dreary,
The past’s colors blend until I’m leery.

 

The past’s colors blend until I’m leery.
It bends, then fades to form a rosy veil.
What once was real becomes more a theory,
In retelling tales that time assails.
Those days when marbles were like Midas gold,
Jewels handed down to daughters and sons.
When aggies, clears, cat-eyes and shooters rolled
To clack, smack and crack, nothing less was fun.

In long grass we played, our days unbroken.

While wildflowers buzzed with a winged milieu.
A place where kindness, if it went unspoken,
Was felt in the warmth to see us through.
A timeless landscape that shall never lapse.
When all the marbles were within my grasp.

 


When all the marbles were within my grasp.
Some gained, some lost, but all in fair play.
Until one day I turned to find the hasp
of my chest broken and all in disarray.
Death’s screech hailed me beneath a tire
Revealing the flash by which souls burn.
Chance disrobed the vagary of death’s attire
That clothes the nakedness from which we learn.

There lay crumbled before me what had been

An electric grey kitten who filled my days
With boundless play and purry naps, but in
A dash, his companionship was torn away.
Death’s design is a bloody valentine.
Is it childish to wish to turn back time?

 

Is it childish to wish to turn back time?
Life’s an endless game between gain and loss.
Death picks breath’s pocket. Yet there’s no crime.
For pure gold is smelt alongside the dross.
Are words fit crucibles for our stores?
No matter what preciousness is poured.
The past sounds hollow, when its essence roared.
Or cold metallic, when by warmth adorned.

My first real kiss from a neighbor girl.
Her lips wet and sweet, like an apple core.
Shining sun bronzed hair, not a hint of curl,
With gentle fondness, it was a thrill.
Is it any wonder I ponder still?
Soft fingers alighting on emerging will.

 

Soft fingers alighting on emerging will.
Awakened chords to songs I’d yet to sing.
Her hazel eyes afire with new found skills.
Planted bouquets of flowers I’d yet to bring.
My garden grew more bold and lush.  By what
Bewitching alchemy does love distill?
Young men from boys and with it cut
The last apron string that holds them still.

In the midden of my mind is always lit,

A candle kindled by my Mother’s grace.
It’s held in a stanchion, a sturdy kit,
Iron my father forged along its base.
By loving hands honor is embraced.
In trusting arms confidence is encased.

 

In trusting arms confidence is encased
Despite the clumsy sack-race of boys to men.
Bumbling, stumbling – ignorance is erased.
Only at the tape to hear it’s jeers again.
I drank the cold brew from which poise streams. 
And ate the fruit that falls from laughter’s tree.
I ventured far beyond green childish dreams,
With ungainly strength to go forth and be.

I unearthed proud mystery in this world.

In dominion o’er my body and my mind. 
I watched sun and moon around me swirl
And mulled how tempest winds unwind.
I made few inroads into golden plains.
But not all my wandering was in vain.

 

 

Not all my wandering was in vain.
I said “I do” before those hazel eyes,
Declared “I do” twice more as children came.
In praise of Gods that be with grateful cries.
As victory and failure filled my sail.
And first kisses gave way to wayward sighs.
Through it all I heard love’s warbling wail.
Though time forgets all the whats and whys.

As epitaphs replaced old love songs sung.

Despite all that’s happened love prevailed.
White hair the vanguard of immortal young
Who listen politely to our wistful tale.
For as I look back with old thankful eyes,
There, in the midden of my mind it lies.

And Now My Heart Is Sore

trumpeter_swans
Trumpeter Swans

Wild Swans Near Gladstone

by James P. Lenfestey

A pair of swans lingers in the bay
opposite the freeway in upper Michigan in summer.
“Mated for life,” I point out to my wife,
“Mute swans,” she says, not looking,
“no need to talk.” I note the graceful mute life,
she driving her quiet Prius, me a quiet guest.
When her eyes, weary, reluctantly offer me
the wheel, it is like relinquishing a broken
sword into tall grass after a day of battle.
Now my turn to drive, and my mind wanders
over the pair of elegant swans seen every time
we pass the curve of the bay together, or alone.


I don’t think the titles of these two poems are a coincidence.  So how does that connection add greater complexity to Lefenstey’s poem? And does it equally impart a different layer of meaning to Yeats’ poem?  In my opinion, time is not linear in literature, time is only relevant to the reader.  Does Homer change with time, with every new novel and poem written does Odysseus become a new man?  Or are we the only ones who become renewed and the love of wild swans remains eternal?


Wild Swans at Coole

by W. B. Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?