I was raised to understand that patriotism is placing the welfare of the whole – community, nation, society – above personal interests, trusting that service to others becomes, in the end, service to ourselves. Those ideas seem lost amid public expressions of individual freedom that grow louder and more ostentatious each year.
They say birthdays cease to have meaning after a while, and I always thought that was a comment on the passage of time. Now I’m not so sure.
This year on the Fourth we have plans to celebrate family birthdays –
except for Uncle Sam’s – he’s been acting so strange of late
we feel like we don’t know him anymore, which is saying a lot
because we have a pretty high tolerance for strange in this family.
Most of us are afraid for him – his health, his stability – but some
are afraid of him, of what he might do next. We don’t really know
how to talk about any of this – with ourselves, let alone with him –
but he doesn’t seem to be listening anyway. So we’ll have cake
and ice cream, and candles but no fireworks – not even sparklers –
and sing “Happy Birthday” and open cards and maybe a few
gifts. Then we’ll sedate the dog and turn in early, burying our heads
in the pillows to muffle the sounds of gunfire and other explosions.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) from my yard
This was inspired by the paintings of Carolyn Young Hisel, seen in Luminous, a 50-year retrospective of her work at the Headley-Whitney Museum. My poetry circle took a field trip at the end of April to see the exhibition, which was amazing.
A woman is leaving
A red piano waits to carry her
on notes we cannot hear; a red boat
is moored at world’s edge
like a patient pony. She will dance
to the threshold, draped in lace;
she will step into the green wave
where the sun sets. Her head turns
to the luminous door, to the view
beyond the open window.
(Reposted from the Lexington Poetry Month website: https://lexpomo.com/poem/a-woman-is-leaving/)
Bearded iris and English daisies, my yard, early May
This is pretty much how my day begins, every day. Most days I manage to respond before we reach DEFCON 1, but sometimes I don’t move fast enough and the cat has to pull out all the stops.
soft whisker kisses
and delicate snuffling
on my nose, eyes, lips
with faint, most intimate
vigorous edge and corner
rubbing on bedside table
and pile of books that slithers
to the floor with muted
deliberate stroll along headboard
to select, with care, which items
will be batted onto my head
and which will be sent
soft thump as the bed is abandoned:
final stage has been triggered
silence long enough for me to drift
back to sleep, then unnaturally loud
sounds of moist mastication
and plastic, followed by
I am up
(Reposted from the Lexington Poetry Month website: https://lexpomo.com/poem/alarm-cat/)
…butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth…
I took today off from work, which means I had a little time (and a little inspiration) for some writing of my own.
Overheard at brunch
I don’t like to wait
if I don’t have to.
not a boast
but a moment of candor
free of bluff or bravado
a quiet revelation within
the safe circle of breaking
bread and morning coffee
(Reposted from the Lexington Poetry Month website: https://lexpomo.com/poem/overheard-at-brunch/)
Insect damage on a old log
Today is lucky 13, the day I finally get back to writing and posting a little poetry! That pesky work has been getting in the way (not really; I’m working on a couple of very enjoyable editing projects, but they do necessarily take precedence over my own writing). I guess I need to manage my time a little differently so I can do both things I love…
Necromancy of the everyday
the dead are not as gone as we think
nor as quiet – their bones rattle
us when we least expect – early
asparagus in the produce aisle, the vigorous
bowing of a double-bass, pipe smoke
drifting from an open window
no incantation can settle our minds’
restless associations, the constant
monkey quest for pattern – past and present
overlaid until the light that shines
through or the shadows that fall
between trigger recognition
(Reposted from the Lexington Poetry Month website: https://lexpomo.com/poem/necromancy-of-the-everyday/)
Storm-downed burr oak leaves at Woodland Park, Lexington
I saw a charming aphorism on Facebook this morning and was intrigued by the double-meaning possibilities. The copy editor in me insists on due diligence (the saying was both misquoted and misattributed), and a little fact-checking took me down quite the rabbit hole. You can follow the trail yourself here: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/01/11/what-lies-within/.
In the marketplace of wisdom
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
– Henry Stanley Haskins
“What lies follow us and what lies
precede us are nothing
compared to the lies within us.”
Without qualm I misattribute
this misquote to Dr. Phil, who misread
a website dedicated to Henry
David Thoreau, misremembered
the source as Ralph Waldo
Emerson, and misreported
it thus: “What lies behind us
and what lies in front of us pales
in comparison to what lies within us.”
(Reposted from the Lexington Poetry Month website: https://lexpomo.com/poem/in-the-marketplace-of-wisdom/)
While in New York, I visited the American Folk Art Museum and saw a number of portraits from the early days of the republic, including that of a prominent Quaker merchant named Preserved Fish.
Reflections of a certain Fish, Preserved by name
Preserved I am
in a state of grace
from untimely death
on a whaling ship.
Preserved to become
a trader in whale oil
and a trans-Atlantic
Preserved to partner
with the aptly named Grinnell,
also known as the bowfin, which stalks
its prey in the shallows at night.
Preserved to be remembered
as obstinate, generous, and eccentric;
Huguenot, Quaker, and Episcopalian;
yet pardoned above all.
(Reposted from the Lexington Poetry Month website: https://lexpomo.com/poem/reflections-of-a-certain-fish-preserved-by-name/)
Portrait of Quaker shipping magnate Preserved Fish at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City
For more information on the distinguished Mr. Fish, visit his Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preserved_Fish) or read this biographical sketch from The Merchants’ Magazine and Commercial Review of 1846 (https://www.geni.com/people/Captain-Preserved-Fish/6000000003937839955).