Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Epic snowpack fail

I have never seen Cloud's Rest snowless in March. After four years of drought, the snowpack is now at 6% of normal and 2014 was freakishly warm—the warmest year on record. Less snow runoff equals less hydroelectric power which means that utilities have to replace that electricity with natural gas-fired power plants. So much for reducing our carbon footprint.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


When I have a heavy teaching load, and am under too much stress, I keep a bottle of rosewater in the car and I spray my face between classes as a pick-me-up. It works wonders for me, One day I had a tough class, someone brought roses and a 3rd grader said, you always smell of roses. I love that smell. It reminds me of you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015



I stood at the massive gates 
of mighty Caernarfon Castle
one sultry summer evening, 
my back to Avalon, and the Holy Isle. 
I marveled at its tawny leonine beauty, 
reflected on twilight's indigo shoulders,
crowned with stars wavering in the moat.
But it was a fortress built by the enemy, 
with shackled native hands, for Longshanks, 
an agent of suppression, along with Beaumaris,
a triune kingdom on the edge of Anglesey.
Conwy Castle to the north, was once called
Aberconwy Abbey, founded by Llywelyn the Great,
the Prince of Wales. It was settled by English squatters,
where the Welsh were forbidden upon pain of death.
Such a gentle, pastoral word: colonization.
Images of sheep gamboling in green pastures.
Fields strewn with a hard culture of white bones.
And then the turbulent tide in the Menai Straits
began whispering a jumble of older names: 
Cair Segeint, the Roman garrison, Segontium,
or Cair Custoient, where stood the fort of Constantius,
he who begat Constantine the Great,
and Caer Aber Sein, the fort on the River Seiont.
And what of the hammer of the Ordovices?
In this rugged pasturage of bone, Caratacus still walks.
Not even Agricola launched the last sling and arrow.
In the kingdom of Gwynedd, the dream
of Macsen Wledig may have called me home
to the mouth of the River Seiont,
but the natives are still restless,
two dragons still fight in Dinas Emrys.
Owain Glyndŵr, the last prince of Wales,
returned and turned the bloodied tide,
a sleeping hero awaiting the klaxon call
of sword against stone—once and future king.
In my grandmother's house, the name
Longshanks, Hammer of the Scots,
was a curseword, along with Cromwell.
I found the dark road leading
to the bailey gate paved over
with the historical intent
of oppression.

3/24 and 4/1/2015



Sovereign Medbh
of the Welcoming Thighs
was a force to be reckoned with. 
Ask the Ard Rí, 
Tara's honeyed hills were her breasts; 
the sacred wells, and the harvest, her gift. 
Watch for the white mare. 
She knows where the sacral kings lie.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

First Day of Spring

Sunlight falling on an antique plate nailed to the wooden fence took my breath away, but I was posting photos, and so, let the image go back into the void...then I saw a photo of early morning light and wished I'd snagged that moment. But it is indelible, in the mind's eye.



First day of spring,
an eclipse of the sun.
Annealed grief rains
in the form of ash
drifts over the River Foyle.
David Best's temple burns
the troubled past.
I remember Sunday,
Bloody Sunday.
My grandmother sobbing
as she cradled the radio.


Drought Diaries

Drought Diaries: Yesterday's bathwater, destined for the two-gallon flush, missed the toilet, only to hit a Costco package of toilet paper rolls, which promptly swelled up, doubling in size like a tight school of bloated pufferfish holding their collective breath.

I won't mention finding knives and forks in the flowerbeds after dishwater is recycled to thirsty plants feeling a bit peckish for water. A good thing I don't have any real silver! Otherwise it'd add another layer of dimension to seeding the clouds with silver to make it rain.

Almost no coverage on David Best’s temple in Londonderry

What? No photos of David Best's temple burning in Derry? All the British newspapers are strangely silent. Even the BBC and the Guardian. The temple burned nearly 12 hours ago. Bloody Sunday.
What's with that? Aha! The Irish Independent covered it. Great pix.

Derry, today: Presbyterian minister the Rev Graeme Orr has said he fears the burning could leave people open to the influence of Satan.

"If this is paganism then I am Donald Duck," said David Best.

Apparently Donald Duck is yellow. And Catholic. Or the devil. Or both. But his soul is white as the driven snow.

Ouack, quack, quack. You said it, David. What's with these rainy day parade Presbyterians, anyway? Do they go looking for evil under rocks and sticks?
Annealed grief in the form of ashes
drifts over the River Foyle.
I remember Sunday, Bloody Sunday
My grandmother crying as she cradled the radio.

At least the Shropshire Star covered it:
Personal messages on the Londonderry bonfire remembered victims of  tragedy: babies;  suicides;  a young policewoman killed in a crash;  those who died during the 30-year conflict.
Among the fire  starters were people whose lives were blighted by one of the most  infamous events of the Troubles - the Bloody Sunday shooting dead of 13  demonstrators by soldiers.
One message said: "Happy birthday daddy, watching over us all."
Another said: "Baby Kath, we look forward to meeting you one day."
Around  60,000 people have visited the 70ft tower made of carved plywood which  has been erected over the past two months in the Waterside area of  Derry. Many have left personal messages remembering loved ones.
Artist creator David Best said: "It is an incredible gift people are sharing with you.
"We had a father bringing his son's picture, it was a picture of his son who had hung himself, and trusting us to put that up.
"It is an incredible gift betrothed on us."
He  said there were probably 40,000 names on the bonfire, etched into its  wood or pinned to its structures on handwritten notes, some with flowers  and photos.
The oldest visitor was a man of 89, who came to leave a tribute to his wife of 40 years who died from cancer.
Mr  Best added: "There is a baby's picture in there, those are tough. I  have spent a lot of time talking to thousands of people about loss and  they don't seem to mind it."
He said one man's relative was killed  at Bloody Sunday, in January 1972, when British paratroopers opened  fire on innocent civil rights marchers in Derry.
"They have all moved on, Ireland has made peace, you don't see any machine guns or barbed wire here.
"What  I was building was a piece of celebration, that people of Ireland have  come to grips with the Troubles and this is a place for them to  celebrate their accomplishments."
The fire was lit by Tony Doherty  and his son Rossa, among others. Their relative, married father-of-six  Patrick Doherty, was 31 when he joined the march. A report by Lord  Saville said he was unarmed and unjustifiably shot.
Flames from an  inferno at the base streaked up the steep sides of the structure,  starkly highlighting its supporting beams in vivid shades of orange and  yellow until the tower collapsed, prompting a roar from thousands of  people gathered on the hillside overlooking Derry.
Within half an  hour most of the structure was gone - transformed into flames  illuminating a city with the snaking River Foyle at its centre.
Presbyterian minister the Rev Graeme Orr has said he fears the burning could leave people open to the influence of Satan.
But Mr Best said he believed it would help the bereaved end their pain. "If this is paganism then I am Donald Duck," he said.
The  aim behind the temple was to bring together the artist from the USA's  Burning Man Festival in Nevada and the people of Derry to offer an  alternative perspective on bonfires.
It was brought to the city by  Artichoke, the London-based company behind the Lumiere lights festival  which was a highlight of Derry's year as UK city of culture in 2013.
Mr Best said his work could help heal families for generations.
"If  I am challenging the church and contemporary religion it is only  because they have got to do their job; if they are not out there helping  people and lending a hand with the issues in the country and our world  then it is their problem."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Corned beef & cabbage came out of Hell's Kitchen

Corned beef & cabbage came out of Hell's Kitchen—the cheapest cut of meat was brisket from the Jewish butchershops, and cabbage with potatoes is an Irish staple. A NYC mixed-marriage made in heaven, or rather, in Hell's Kitchen.

The ancient Irish didn't eat much beef (unless a cow died)—cattle were the equivalent of thousand-dollar bills. The ancient Irish ate pigs. A ham hock or saltpork and cabbage would have been traditional fare. A traditional Irish saying, You're on the pig's back now, preserves the idea of luck being associated with pigs and plenitude.

The ancient Irish figured out how to salt-cure beef during the first millennium A.D., but it was a luxury item. Never kill the cash-cow! Salt-cured beef was first mentioned "in print" in the 12th century gluttony poem called the Vision of MacConglinne in the Land of Cockagne—with 77 mentions of milk products, from buttermilk to ropy milk. So the concept of corned beef wasn't entirely alien to the ancient Irish.

Salted beef was considered a luxury as it required so much salt to prepare it—kernels, or corns of salt—a very expensive luxury in the ancient world. Salt sal salary salad...same root word. Salzberg/Hallstat—Celtic salt mines. In the days of no refrigeration, the salting/brinebath was the only way to preserve large chunks of meat. 

Pork takes well to smoking, beef doesn't.  Ancient Irish didn't eat much beef as it was their cash cow. Believe it or not, pastrami is the same cut as corned beef—brisket, an otherwise inedible form of beef. Salting makes it edible. 

Pork is LEAN! (Fat is on the outside of the muscle). Beef is marbled with fat throughout the muscle—thus needing another form of curing—or it would turn rancid. Mutton needs to be stewed outdoors or the house will reek of tallow for a season or longer.

Potatoes are a New World food, so parsnips, aka Celtic carrots—would've been the starchy vegetable. And any form of brassica as well. But it didn't all come together as as traditional dish until they all met up in Hell's Kitchen.

St. Patrick's Day is an American invention. The Day itself, a holy day of obligation, is not an invention the parade and drinkfest is an American invention.

Ireland: Why We Have No Corned Beef & Cabbage Recipes

Friday, March 13, 2015

Shetlandish Escape Artists

My Shetlands were a mighty pint-sized force to be reckoned with. Talented escape artists. I got so desperate that I'd hobble their front legs as they were grazing, (a long lead was useless), but they'd nimbly hop over to the neighbor's lush lawn. So I hobbled their back legs too. They GALLOPED in double spancels, then I cross-tied the hobbles and the little frickers stag-leaped their way down the road, looking like little Lippizanners in Airs Above the Ground. I was so desperate, I considered hog-tying them. Don't mention electric fences. Already been there, done that. They simply dove right through electric fences. Not like Ralf the Cow who got her udder hung up on the wire. My aunt called them the Little Shits. My vet eventually bought them, they were a matched pair, and I had to laugh, as he spent the next decade or so chasing them all over Bear Valley and Olema.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dread virus and earthquakes

The dread virus is back. It hit last night like freight train—with a vengeance. Aches & chills. My hands ache too, so even typing is challenging. It's a nightmare of a virus. The other night I was coughing so hard my ribs hurt. Now I'm merely voiceless.

I feel like Cesar Vallejo's Thursday poem in the rain. They beat him hard with a stick... I hurt so much last night from every joint, I dreamed in B&W, about the strength of earthquakes robbing all color from the world. Most of my dreams are muted. Rarely do I have B&W dreams. Especially ones that make a point of going from color to B&W like a slow strobe.

So there really was a 3.0, earthquake at 7 Am, with the epicenter in San Leandro, on the Hayward Fault. So I wasn't dreaming after all. I thought it was the virus. OK, then, the quake was practically under my pillow. I found some kitchenware knocked on floor. An apple went gamboling about. Some plastic bowls fell off shelf and an avocado went on walkabout on the kitchen floor. And there was another earthquake on the San Andreas Fault in Soledad. Carry on. Where's my cough syrup? My hot toddy?

added, rev. 3/2017

Friday, March 6, 2015



Chestnut-backed chickadee
viciously dukes it out 
with his own reflection 
headbanging his beak
in 4/4 time, day after day, 
chattering a storm of outrage, 
with his mate in the sidelines,
egging him on to drive 
that cheeky impostor off
so they can just get down 
to the business at hand.

He's so exhausted from fighting
I scoop him up and hold him
in the hollow of my hand
giving him a "time out"
but as soon as I release him
he's back at the mirror
banging away in a frothy rage
at his doppelganger
his mate, a grass widow, waits
for a time that will never come.


Q is the loneliest letter

¿Quien sabe? Because Q, number 17 in the Latinate lineup, 
is one of the loneliest letters. Only Z is lonlier—so it picked up a French tail to compensate. Call it a Qu cluster. Blame the dangly bits.

Q rarely ventures out without its sidekick, U. It's a Geminid twinning. It's an Indo-European thing. But there's another IE pairing nobody ever wants to talk about. Q & P. Yep. Qoppa and Phi Φ are deep-throated soulmates. Fraternal twins, I think. Or maybe it was the milkman. Certainly Indo-European.

There's a reason why Q and P are 16 and 17, roommates in the Latinate lineup. Joined at the hip, or maybe at the back of the throat and lips. It was a weird palatovelar land grab. But then they split up, both keeping their dangly bits. They were both a bit queer. Or maybe Q just had a digraph breakdown constantly switching between languages like that (or bad scribes), and lost its courage or its dangly bits. Or both.

Then Q expanded its horizons, it became Latinate triplets: C, K and Q were all one sound. One thing. But Q had this thing for  voluptuous rounded vowels. Why, you might ask? Ask Verisimilitude. Or Carol Doda. She knows. UU.

See, K had this exclusive thing going on with pointy A, it only had eyes for A. Especially two AAs in a row. K also coveted its neighbors cows. Forget about wives. No one had the heart to tell K the As were olly-olly oxen bhoys. Good for a ploughman's lunch. We all have been known to revise history to suit our needs.

And so, C, an omniglot at heart, took all other juicy vowels hostage. Especially E. But I'm off task. We were discussing (or maybe cussing) Q and U. Always parters in crime. perhaps a little QU-QU. Say it isn't so! It was U too. QU and double U! (2Us). Out, out damned digraph!

Rules are rules. But Q had a bad gamma cough, (Qôp), it peed its pants in church (remember the dangly bits?) and ran off with U. Forever partners. Except for the Etruscans, they used QV, but hey, there was no V yet. Let's not quibble. Once F carded wool. But F was a rake. F was a cad. (Forget about carding wool. Sheep lie.) 

Why? Por quoi?  See, F had other plans. F was raking chaff from straw, and busy sowing wild oats. The problem was that U was a bit of a johnny-come-lately to the literacy scene. F was U and V's father. So the Etruscans should've used QF. I dare you to say it three times out loud on a crowded train.

And, there you have it. U was the progeny of F, yes, F. That's faw, or waw, if you insist (mind your Ws and Vs). F was a bit of a rake. F got around, F begat almost as many children as Robbie Burns or Niall of the Nine Hostages (and none of them kids in the feckin Irish alphabet, I might add). F was ancestor of UVW and Y. Don't ask me why. F needed a lot of progeny to tend the fields.

A deep throated sound: uvula vulvula. Yeah, when the soft C crept into Church Latin, it was hell inniu, I mean in a handbasket for those hard Cs expectorating on the church floors throughout the liturgy. No more Celts but selts. Ask the cwen. Incunabula quern, quunt. The quack in the cosmic egg.

Because gimel was once a camel, a ship of the desert, and kappa was the hollows of the hands, as if scooping water from the stream, it held an offering of water. I heard that BUT! We're not discussing Arabic here. Besides, there's no one sound to which that Arabic sound corresponds, we get Qoran, or Koran.

And the poor monkeys of Gibralter were so lonesome for the wine-dark sea, that one skull turned up in someone's crannóg hillfort in Navan. An archaeological mystery, or mishap by sea. Blame the Phoenicians. Quoph = monkey. That poor monkey must've froze his brass baa's off In Ireland, in winter, like that. Did they make him a little fur coat? Did he pick up Irish? Meanwhile the Irish scribes were busy inserting blank spaces between all the words. The Oirish also invented lower case letters and paragraphs too. Probably invented punctuation too. OTHERWISEWEDSTILLBEREADINGTEXTSLIKETHISNOWONDEREVERYBODYWASILLITERATETHETEXTSWERESHOUTING.

And what about Hannibal's elephants queueing up to cross the alps, did the Cisalpine Celts knit them tall sweaters amid the snow flurries? Ah, snow.

It all comes back to those white maidens of Delphi, the flurrying snow, Brennius's downfall, and CuChullainn, himself, fighting the waves with his sword, after he slew his only son in battle. Prophecy biting the ass it begets.

I don't think the Etruscans had any say in the matter. QV That's a bit of a red herring. There was no V yet. Blame the Phoenicians, maybe. All on the QT, of course. But they discovered all that tin at the end of the world, nuggets of tin in the riverbeds of Wales, to make faence and blue glass to ward off the evil eye. There was a great need to ward off the evil eye. So Q got around. Flip sides of the same coin, heads or tails?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Old Photo Found in the Woodrat Nest

Found in our basement last weekend, among the rubble and woodrats' nest made of twigs and shingle scraps, some old photographs. The woodrats also hauled up all the old plastic Christmas ornaments too. Shiny! Must've been the braces on my teeth that attracted them to this picture. Grandma, my cousins David, Sinead and me sporting a tin-grin in Forest Knolls ca. 1971-72. Photo says August, but it's clearly not, the grass is too green, so that must be when the roll was developed. But I do know it was late afternoon, the shadow of the bishop pine. Grandma's Manhattan in hand, nearly drained. Sinead's elbow is freshly skinned, she must've been crying, so I picked her up. but somehow, she'd gotten too big for me to hold. Why the woodrats wanted a family photo to add to their treasure trove of beer caps and church keys is a mystery.  They also stole a few of our Holy Family lithographs too. Perhaps they found religion as well.

Lost Car Keys

Monday, March 2, 2015


I am the flame of light
I was the one who invented love
I dreamed of riding the sun
to tomorrow’s beginning and end.

Mar 2015
Gomes Elementary School