Tuesday, March 29, 2016

FREE LEONARD HAIKU

FREE LEONARD HAIKU

Old Free Leonard sign
on a road at rush hour clogged
with measured justice.

Sign says Free Leonard
in red paint, old scab wounds
a detour of justice.

Old Free Leonard sign
nailed to a tree, cruciform
a framed reminder.

Decades of vigil
keeping memory alive
Leonard Peltier.

In the minds of few
he lives on, this tree proclaims
his freedom to all.

But who remembers
Wounded Knee, a stigmata
of blood on our hands.

Nothing says freedom
like a clogged road at rush hour
how progress is measured.

NEIGHBOR HAIKU


Old man sneaks a smoke
in his car, thinks he's fooling
the emphysema.

He hides evidence
from his daughter, he lights up
his first cancer stick.

First smoke of the day
greedily he sucks it down
old habits die hard.

LONG-WINDED QUESTION

Filibustering
man verbally develops
his thesis on foot.

Hot air rises up
to the surface and stonewalls
unanswered questions.

What was the question?
Rubber band string theory, an
incredulous weir

of words leading to
nowhere in particular.
Flibusted man.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Remembering Marty Kent


Facebook is like one vast John Guare experiment. Guare wrote the play, Six Degrees of Separation. The idea that we are merely six degrees separated from everyone. Say, Kevin Bacon. Facebook periodically brings that idea home.

Someone posted on a Marin page, a book that she had found, and wanted to know more about it. I was surprised to discover that I knew the poet as I had worked for her family a long, long time ago.

I worked for Roger and Alice Kent during the early 1970s. One of my jobs was running the office for Western Star Press. I remember the name Marty Kent. Still trying to line up a face. I can almost see her.

A floodgate of faces: there was Neili, Kenny Kent's ex-wife... There was Molly Kent & Max, who had two kids. Max was an architect, and turned a squash court into a cool house. And there was Molly's baby sister, Alice, but we called her PeeWee.

So how did Marty fit in? It took a while to place Marty, but by happenstance, somebody told somebody who told somebody who told Marty's daughter about the post, who enlightened us. It turns out Marty was a cousin.

Marty's daughter, Littlest Alice and I struck up a Facebook friendship. It turns out that Alice and I both worked for Western Star Press. We began to swap stories. One thing led to another, and lo! and they've a few copies of Marty's book, and she'll mail me a copy.

How small and lovely the world, that which separates us also brings us together with few degrees of separation.

Splitting Hares and Rabbiting on


A young hare, watercolor, 1502, Albrect Dürer —Wiki
A photographer, hoping to sell prints, conflated rabbits with snowshoe hares calling them Easter Bunnies. Augh! For the record, hares are not bunny rabbits. They're not even distant cousins either. They may look alike, but it's convergent evolution. It's a great herbivore model. But they are a very separate species, even more divergent than sheep are to goats. More like gazelles and sheep. Different genus, Genius!

The Easter Bunny was a rabbit. In the Middle Ages they were called cunnys, which rhymes with bunny and hunny. Baby cunnys were called rabbits (or kits), but that word cunny was later changed to coneys, because prostitutes were called... well, you get the picture. Coney Island. Rabbits, or....?

European cunnys/conejos (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are not native to most of Europe, they came from Iberia, they're not native to Northern Europe or Britain. Some historians think rabbits were brought to Northern Europe and Britain by the Romans. But the Romans preferred to eat doormice. So, this speculation may be wrong.

Other historians say that rabbits were introduced to Northern Europe in the middle ages. Maybe the Normans brought rabbits to Ireland. Or not. But cunnys were easy dinner fixins'. Which led to population growth, and some weird Medieval manuscript drawings of battling hares (not bunnies) well armed with lances and arrows.

Hares do not make good pets, they're not domesticated, and share few traits with rabbits. They're solitary creatures, prone to boxing and brawling. The term "mad as a March hare" came from observing their combatative breeding nuptials. (Don't preach to me about the "wrong" use of combatative vs combative. Just. Don't. It's in the OED.) How mad? Go ask Alice.

Lewis Carroll's Alice and the Mad March Hare (a European hare)—Wiki

There are 32 species of hares, and not one of them can crossbreed with rabbits (they have 48 chromosomes vs. rabbits' 44 chromosomes.) Probably a good thing too, otherwise we'd have Monty Python killer hares running amok armed with swords and whatnot whacking the bushes and kneecaps.




European explorers were terrible at identifying Old, and New World animals so there were bound to be mix-ups. Take our native hares, for example. Jackrabbits are not rabbits. They're hares. Hares are larger, have longer ears, and hind legs, and are positively antisocial as compared to cuddly wabbits.

According to H. L. Menken, "Zoologically speaking, there are no native rabbits in the United States; they are all hares." I guess he never saw a cottontail. Or perhaps fuzzy logic was involved. What he probably meant was there are no European rabbits (Oryctolagus) vs. native rabbits    in America. Which is true as cottontails (Sylvilagus) are a separate species.



Rabbits and hares from the Leporidae family (not its sub-order, Genus), which is a sub-branch of the order Lagomorpha, which includes rabbits, hares and pikas (sometimes called rock hares). Got that? It's a Kings Played Chess On Fine Grain Sand ss moment... Order, Family, Genus, Species: it goes Lagomorpha, Leporidae. And that's where the semblance ends.

North and South American cottontail rabbits Sylvilagus are the ONLY rabbit that doesn't burrow, like the hare. They're sort of a straddle-the-difference species niche. They're not Old World rabbits. They're more rabbitish than rabbity, at this point, I'm probably splitting hares. Sylvilagus xx— (13 species) are not European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus—there can be only one!), starting with its tail, and its habits. But I'm not about to list all the burrowing/ feeding differences, let alone, weird kinetic skull differences. You'll have to look them up yourself hare

BTW, since I know you're dying to ask, cottontails (Sylvilaguscannot interbreed with domestic European (Oryctolagusrabbits. Though they can do the down and dirty, and even produce embryos, European rabbits have 22 pairs of chromosomes, while native wild cottontails have 21pairs of chromosomes. Score one for DNA! At least that gene pool's clean.

Despite its name, a jackrabbit is a hare. Short for jackass-(who looks like a)-rabbit. Got that? Jacks and Jills are hares, not rabbits. A Belgian hare is not a hare, it's a true rabbit bred to look like a hare. A cottontail, on the other hand, really is a wabbit. Rabbits are social animals and make great pets. Think Peter Rabbit. Not Jack, or he'll smack the shit outta you. That goes for Jill too. Especially Jill.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

AT THE BOTTOM OF FALLEN LEAF LAKE, rev

AT THE BOTTOM OF FALLEN LEAF LAKE
 
Ancient submerged trees
3000 year-old forest preserved
beneath the surface.

In icy waters
dead trees still reach for the sky
a green blob hiding

between the branches
the last holdout of algae
neolithic bloom.



3/20/2016
From a much shorter poem

Fallen Leaf Lake

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Avocado vs Squirrel

Mr. Squirrel shows us how to chow down an avocado

Avocado vs Squirrel. Our neighbor's avocados are far too enticing a treat for the street squirrels. All that fat. They know there's a huge nut embedded inside the unripe fruit. No matter that they can't eat that giant mother of nuts, as it contains a potent toxin, persin—when mixed with cornmeal and lard, is used as rat poison in Latin America. Don't know how effective it is.

Squirrel never got the memo that unripe avocados too are toxic, or so the internet says. Horror stories abound—people feeding pet squirrels avocado, rodents croaking within days. No such luck in our urban neck of the woods. Squirrel (who is a non-native redhead) and equally stubborn, tries an avocado each day to see if it's edible. Every day he peels a new avocado. Maybe this time. Sometimes it's a three-avocado day. 


We’ve taken to putting some of his discarded meals in the elongated swan-shaped dish nailed to the fence. He nibbles most delicately on the ripening fruit, peeling the avocados as he goes. He drapes his tail across his back like a feather cloak, shimmies and flicks it to show his pleasure. When he’s done noshing, he strokes his cheek along the enormous avocado nuts, scent-marking them for later. Funny, because avocado means testicle in Nahual, and Mr. Squirrel has some big nuts. He speaks fluent chatter.



Avocados are a bit of an evolutionary anachronism, as the original seed transporting avocado tree’s sole desire, was an extinct megafaunal species, a gomphothere, a snouty elephant-like monster with a shovel mouth and a friendly GI tract. A farmer of the first degree, he gombed down the tasty fruits, and pooped all over the place. Until he became extinct. The avocado didn’t get the message. The Cenozoic nut should’ve gone the way of the dodo, according to a Smithsonian article.


Lately I've been rescuing Squirrel's discarded avocados. They usually split upon impact, but I douse them liberally with lime to prevent oxidation, the squirrel chew marks too, and the avocados usually ripen. Unless they don't. Into the compost they go. Sometimes Squirrel scoots down the tree to balefully stare at me eye-to-eye when I steal his ill-gotten treasure. It's a bit of a standoff. Then he races back up the trunk to pluck another, scolding all the while.
 
Needless to say, we have gleaned his previously taste-tasted avocados. We are swimming in mangled avocados, avocados on the counters, in the fridge door, me, tending them like babies, searching for signs of softness. I'm inventing weird new recipes daily—from the usual guacomole, to fetttuccini primavera with avocado sauce, and avocado key lime pie. 

The neighbors are too lofty to take Squirrel's discards. They toss perfectly good avocados into the trash. And the myth of the poisonous unripe avocado has them flummoxed. Good neighbor deterrent, but Squirrel, himself, is another story.


another squirrel joins us

Junior!


Sunday, March 13, 2016

LOST POSITIVES


Is gruntled the opposite of disgruntled?
she grunted, mucking about with language,
making a pig out of a sow's ear.

It made her feel so disconbobulated.
Can one conbobulate, or bobulate?
And who was Bob, anyway?


She couthily worried about
all those lost negative prefixes:
un- im- in- dis- de- non.

It was not (h)eveled and acculate verbage 
she sook in the land of lost positives.
But it was evitable she persed.

3/13/2016

rev 3/21




more on lost positives here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

PET WORDS


Yesterday's small children
petted me like a soft kitten
as we wrote poetry in an inner city school.
I wear 2nd-hand cashmere sweaters
because I am allergic to sheep wool.
(Cashmere is goat). Their petting me,
and its tactile feedback, reminds me
of the difference between their world,
and mine.


3/8/2016



There's a haiku embedded in there somewhere.

Monday, March 7, 2016

What's in a Nickname?


Remembering my childhood name, my cousin Dave posted this photo on my Facebook Wall.

I replied: I am The Baba! It was a name I kept well hidden from my classmates, because they teased me and sang the nursery rhyme.

Baa baa black sheep have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
One for the master, one for the dame,
One for the little boy who lives down the lane...  

Aside from the fact that I endlessly puzzled over the identity of the little boy who lived down the lane and and wondered why did he need a big bag of black wool? What use was it to him? I'm sure he would've much rather have had coin, or chocolate or a toy sailboat. Besides, I didn't like being compared to a sheep. All that baaa-ing about. I figured out early on I was the black sheep. Trust me, I didn't trust Mother Goose either.

Who knew the nursery rhyme was a complaint against the the Great Wool Tax of 1275? Or that the master who was the evil Plantagenet King—Edward Longshanks, at that, the dame was the greedy church, or that the wool-sack itself was a symbol of power of the Lord Chancellor?

Now do the math—66% went to Church and State, and 33% went to the sheepherder. And if it was black wool, it was more valuable, as it didn't need to be dyed, therefore subject to higher taxation. No wonder there was a rebellion. And now the rhyme has been blacklisted for being politically incorrect. Talk about dyed in the wool. But I digress.


Then there's the meaning of teacher as in a monastic siddha leader, or father. Baba Muktananda, or Neem Karoli Baba. You can imagine what confusion that caused me during the dawn of the New Age.  By 1970 there were more babas out there than I could count. A swami from Miami? No, Marin.

Since one didn't have to be a believer or profess anything to be a follower of Baba, I followed myself. I had no mother, she was off joining communes, and no father either. By that time my own father had slipped truly, madly, deeply into the deep well of Seagram's. None of this I only drink what's in the neck stuff. His middle name was DUI.

I was a self-raised swami baby. Baba means baby in Irish. I was the first grandchild. My grandparents called me Baba.We were a multi-generational family under one roof. Halcyon days. Then my grandfather died. Hell arrived with its hand-basket of tithes. My grannie sold the house and moved to the country with me in tow. And she grieved. That's how I was raised as Baba, wagging my tail behind me.


Now it's a sharp nostalgic sensation, a whiplash to the past when someone calls me Baba now, as it's such an old name, known only by family and close friends. But it is the only name I answered to for ages.

Maureen usually meant I was in deep trouble. Or at school. Or both. At the same time. Guess that's why I grew to like the nickname Mo... A name where I was not in trouble, or about to get into trouble, or be called on for the right answer in class that I didn't know, or did know, but was too shy to answer. So much pain associated with a given name, my mother's name, she who was crazy and unpredictable right up to the very end. Enough to drive one to drink. Did I mention I'm allergic to wool?



Sunday, March 6, 2016

YESTERDAY'S CHILDREN


Yesterday's children petted me like a soft kitten
as we wrote poetry in an inner city school.
I wear the castoff cashmere sweaters of the affluent
because I am allergic to sheep wool, but not goat.
Their petting me, and the tactile feedback,
reminds me of the differences
between their world, and mine.

3/6/16




There's a haiku embedded in there, somewhere.