Sunday, December 31, 2017

MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2017


Dear Ones,

Thank you for stopping by and reading my ebook reviews. I am primarily interested in women's fiction and the well-crafted murder mystery genre. I delve into historical fiction, and cozy mysteries, sometimes even alpha make action adventure series, but I am no fan of chick-lit Regency bodice rippers, nor am I a fan of sugary cupcake who-dun-its, though I will read them if there's nothing else to read.

End of year writing stats


So I washed my hair at noon
making ready for the New Year,
I wasn't expecting it to be freezing all day.
Only to say, Stay cold, Pony Boy.
Of my 137 entries for 2017, at least 60 to 90 are poems (some posts have multiple poems), a few are prose poems, a few are themed haiku. I try & tag all my poems. I'm not always successful. Standard poems have BLOCK CAPITALS for titles.

My Facebook words aggregate 2017

Dear Facebook, stop blocking me


Dear Facebook:

Nearly every time I post a link anywhere on Facebook these days, it is marked as spam. Your newest spambot algorithm sucks. Usually it is a link to one of my own blog posts that sets it off, and now even a friend's very benign YouTube link was marked as spam.

Zima, Russian winter, trading sides


When I was doing a big poetry and art exchange with the former USSR, we collected poetry from the people (vs State-sanctioned poetry), and translated it. We remarked upon the fact that so many poems were filled with images of snow and winter (zima), for the winter of their discontent was still upon the Soviets in 1990, then the putscht brought a thaw of sorts. Then the NEA Jesse Helms-Mapplethorpe art scandal. My Soviet friends laughed and said, this is how it begins, and they said that the US and the USSR were trading places. What strange times we live in, trading sides like that. We are reliving the winter of our discontent, brought on by the Republicans, who were once so rabidly anti soviet, they blackmailed a whole generation of artists, and executed the Rosenbergs for treason—for conspiring with the enemy. Pogo was right. We have seen the enemy, and it is us.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A MADRIGAL FOR THE MILLENNIUM


The conch sounds
calling the distant sailors home.
The waves curl and beckon.
The sailors chant. 
The gulls dive and weave 
the air into nets.
The fish rise, 
they rise up 
and gather in the clouds.
Something holy and profound—
the clouds part.
I tell John Godbeams 
pierce the sky's heart,
in Gregorian time
while roses bloom midwinter.
Milagros de Guadalupe!
A madrigal for the millennium
an open mind of music.
Insects practice percussive 
dance steps. The scent 
of roses in an empty room.

12/20/17
Winter Solstice
CATHEDRAL OF SOUND
Last time 

CATHEDRAL OF SOUND


Bird voices find the wind
speaking in tongues.
The trees shake off the night,
stretches a little closer to the sky.
The clouds shed their tears,
the memory of water,
a rainstick takes us deeper
into the cathedral of sound.
Peace comes dropping slow.

12/20/2017
Winter Solstice
A MADRIGAL FOR THE MILLENNIUM
Last time

Friday, December 8, 2017

RED HERRINGS


RED HERRINGS
—for Sara Menefee

our iPhones
seeking shoals
of lost words
to compose small poems
catch unschooled fish
inappropriate
placeholders
leading us astray.

12/8

She gathers
purse seine nets
on the city streets
where the homeless
tell her stories
small poems
flashing a silver
currency
of hope
in the gutters
of despair.

SINGING BETWEEN THE LINES


Because there weren't enough altos in the choir
my high school music teacher, Mr. Parker,
shipped me off to the meager alto section
where I sang Handel's Messiah in monotone riffs 
like a scald crow, or a ploughman at the fields.
Never the white dove soaring in the vaulted sky.
Decades later, after an accident, a punctured lung 
left me breathless, my therapy was to join a choir, 
where I discovered that all this time that
I was a soprano. I felt cheated at both ends: 
I was given no melody line when I was young,
singing a supportive third below the gilded flock 
who preened their swansong feathers, 
& screeched high notes because they could.
Mr. Parker's nose was as red as that fictional reindeer,
as he spiked his coffee with endless libations.
And now, with no way to reach the upper arpeggios,
I stagger between the two parts, a switch hitter
baying out all the song lines.
No wonder I was always trying to braid 
the alto and soprano lines together all at once, 
splitting the difference between the sour notes. 
No wonder I still can't sing to save my life.

12/8/17

No alto, I sang
the Messiah in flat notes
no melody line

to soar in the vault
of the soprano songbirds
preening their voices.

12/8/17


Friday, December 1, 2017

Firestorm of Words reading in Healdsburg

I'm still feeling a bit under the weather, after a week of intense headaches and earaches. Smoke inhalation takes its toll. Trying to muster energy to drive to Healdsburg for our big Firestorm of Words reading at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts, organized by Penelope la Montagne to honor Brian’s dad,  Monte Kervin who died in the Tubbs Fire. 

Bea & Fran Hawkes in the 2017 anthology, Singing the Feathers of Freedom. 

I was almost about to cancel, but as Sean Folsom flagellated me on Facebook, and said, The show must go on. So, I girded my loins, I rallied the ponies and had a great time. My Alexander Valley students were stellar. A good reading all round, and I wasn't as tired! I went back to Nicasio and spent the night there, as Sinead was driving. Emotional times.

Alexander Valley School students in both California Poets in the Schools 2016 & 2017 poetry anthologies!

Historic Alexander Valley Schoolhouse by Frances Hawkes, 1st Grade

WAITING FOR LAUNDRY


Waiting for laundry: the clothes in the dryer 
go round & round, round & round, 
round & round—they don't dry any faster 
no matter how hard I watch.

Internet again!

Yay! After three days of no internet and no landline phone, Elvis from Romania, I kid you not, got us up and running at top speed. You vant I should fix, yes, he asked? I looked at his shoes. Blue. Suede. You have got to be kidding. He shimmied up the pole, cleaned out the cruft. Voilá, dial tone, internet again. AT&T insisted the problem was at our end, blamed faulty house wiring. Elvis is now a personal friend, Neil gives him a CD after a mini concert in his honor. Our little ponies are happy. The squirrels, less so. Private acorn stashes and squirrel larders in power boxes may have been involved. Yes, AT&T, that’s it, always blame the customer—we often shimmy up the telephone poles late at night and stuff our nuts into the cable boxes. We’d love to shove yours instead. Reciprocity, and all that.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

At the Babi Yar: eating the dead

 
I have stood at the palisade of the Bibi Yar. The Babi Yar was "the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust." I mis-heard it as Bibi Yar, as there wasn't much available information about it in 1989. 

So much of what I learned was in the oral tradition from the Ukrainians themselves. During the height of Glasnost, they began to speak of the dark secrets of the land. I wonder if it's Ukrainian vs Russian sp.? Baba as in babushka. Babii, plural. The grandmothers' ravine. Yar, A Turkish word. A multi-cultural name. 

 It wasn't just  a mass grave of Jews. Armenians. Tsigani/gypsies. Ukrainian dissenters, students, poets, musicians. Any Nazi dissenter, and later, Stalinist dissenters as well. 

My friends spoke of the massive bonfire funeral pyres that reached to the Ukrainian sky because there were too many bones to hide. Stalin was sweeping it under the rug, so to speak. That summer, Ukraine's golden wheat fields were a carpet of shame. Bone ash fertilized the crops—the Ukrainians were eating their dead for decades to come. 

But the dead were speaking through the mouths of the living—a vast hunger for truth. And so they began to raise the Ukrainian flags for the first time in nearly a century. A vast blue sky over golden fields nourished with bones.

I remember standing at the rim and weeping. It was so visceral. So real. The wind in the trees whispering. Yet there were only a handful of us, there was no memorial. No visual markers to tell us how to feel, like at other holocaust memorials. Just the deep sorrow of the ravine. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

BUD-JET TRAVELER


If I sneeze any harder,
I will be residing in the next county.
Or offshore, say, near the Farallones.
Maybe pee my pants in the process,
I seem to be leaking at all ends.
I'm like a crawdad shooting backwards
out of danger. I scoot into a corner, 
or prop my back for a tuck and roll.
We're not talking petite parakeet sneezes
women seem to manage in public.
But bull-roaring tonsil severing sneezes
that would threaten any crown or filling.
I've heard of people breaking ribs
or rupturing a disk. Seems extreme 
just to get a bowl of chicken soup.  
But a jumbo-sized glass of wine
seems to have quelled my sneezing fits. 
Offers me some form of respite.
Sure, I could take some Sudafed 
to dry up the dripping faucet, 
but then I can't sleep at all. 
Besides, wine's much more fun. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Dancing on the Brink


Last day of the year, 2015: the Farallones, 20 miles  from Point Reyes

On the last day of the year, the Farallones, 20 miles out from Point Reyes, seemed so close, I could almost touch them. A pumpkin sky and ominous black islands. A last gasp from a dying camera; its swan song.

Farallón means "pillar" or "sea cliff," they were once known as "Devil's Teeth Islands," for the treacherous shoals. Part of the Sierras, a block of rifted granitic continental crust thrusted up. A place where I though the dead dwelled. I had no idea that the islands were the abode of spirits, called "Islands of the Dead" by the Ohlones.

The Farallones are home to 400 species of birds, many of them rare, or endangered. I once saw a tufted puffin wing his way off Point Reyes. A small clownish football of a bird winging home with a beakfull of fish.

Vizcaíno's friar, Antonio de la Ascencion, called the islands los Farallónes, the place of cliffs. Probably why San Francisco Bay was never discovered by Vizcaíno, or Drake, who called them the Islands of Saint James. A place of treacherous shoals. A place of many shipwrecks. Not to mention the thick summer fog.

The American whalers, and Russian explorers built sealing stations there, manned by Alaskan Kodiak Islanders, until there were no more northern fur seals left. Whether Northern, or Guadalupe fur seals, we will never know. One of the largest seabird colonies in the U.S. Then the Gold Rush—millions of seabird eggs (500,000 a month) collected, led to the San Francisco Egg Wars.

When I was a child I loved the mournful sob of the bouys when the thick fog rolled in at night. Classmate Ingrid's great-grandparents, the Cains, were lighthouse keepers on the Farallones. The other lighthouse keeper's wife, Wilhelmina Beeman delivered Ingrid's grandmother, Farallon—a child named after the sea cliffs. They moved to the mainland before the 1906 quake, and lost everything. Only a photo of her grandmother in a basket on the porch, in a book, was what survived.

Then the island was Rum Row during the Prohibition. Then we turned our backs on the islands. The shoals were a nuclear waste dump during the 1940s to the 1970s; 50,000 radioactive drums, and 44,000 shipyard containers were scuttled, and are still rusting away—we still don't know what is in them. But it can't be good. Stories of massive sponges growing in the littoral zones.

Yes, and here we are, still dancing on the brink of the world. Words from the lost Ohlone language:
uxar-at kai pire.
On the cliff, on the edge,
on the brink of the world,
we are dancing.
Day of the Dead, All Soul's Day, The beginning and the end of the Celtic year. My grandmother, brother and mother all died right before Samhain. So, Samhain, All Souls' Day, and El Dia de los Muertos is a three-fold sorrow. Thinking of my mother who wanted her ashes scattered off the Golden Gate, to drift to the Farallones. Maybe I should give her back to the sea.

Fitting image for El Día de los Muertos.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

SFSU survey may have got more than an earful from me

A SFSU alumni survey may have gotten more than an earful from me, I wrote lengthy diatribes, so I saved my responses (below). (Say how ya really feel, Hurley...)

Name one person who made a positive impact: Advisor and mentor, English/ Creative Writing teacher, Prof. Dan Langton, who went out of his way to assure that I was able to transcend the process of being a returning student; he helped to keep things relevant, and offered community credit for work I was already doing; he was not a bureaucratic hoop jumper as so many teachers I encountered at SFSU have been.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

GERRIT VAN HONHORST'S MUSE

    —with thanks to Sean Folsom for posting the painting
A woman playing a viola, Gerrit Van Honthorst

A young gambist gamboling about 
with her viola da gamba, not a viola á' amare,
caught firmly between her plush thighs. 
Titillating how that fine-drawn bowstring 
is playing more than one drawn out note
as she frets the long neck of her instrument
in the key of C.  She rubs her bow 
across the basso string, and plays underhand 
in the German style.

In a primeval dance between flame and air 

the only candle in the tavern wavers, divine light
threatens to gutter, but flares up before the finale.
The gamblers lean in as she reaches the crescendo.
Who cares what she's playing? She plays them well
with taut bow strings thrumming a primal tune
drawn on chiaroscuro and lace-nippled light.
She's about to have an epic wardrobe fail.

She's wearing the same dress in The Matchmaker.
Clearly she's hot. Perhaps she's having hot flashes.
By contrast, the Man with a Viola da Gamba
is sensibly dressed in a teal silk tunic and lined cape.
They're playing the same scroll-headed instrument.
In Musical Group on a Balcony, her chemise slips
off her shoulders in hopes that the wind will pick up,
under her skirt, a glimpse of a gartered red stocking.
Isn't that her nippled visage in Granida and Daifilo?
Is the painter's wife cavorting with shepherds too?

Dutch painter Gerrit van Honthorst was nicknamed
Gherardo delle notti, as he was in love with the night.
Gherardo Hollandese was a master of nocturnal light.
It all must be true as Rubens painted our Gerrit
as the one honest man Diogenes sought by lamplight.

I am reminded that gamba is Italian for leg, or thigh. 
As in: She had a pair of great gams. 
Also the word for ham comes from gamba. 
We can't see her gams, as she hams it up,
but she has some mighty fine yams.
Caravaggio would have been proud 

of this most opulent display of her finest fruits
escaping the fragile loom of her corselet.
And there you have the entire gambit.

10/29/17

Friday, October 27, 2017

Last time I saw Steve Tristano, and Scott Huntsman


Last time I saw Steve Tristano was at the old Forest Knolls train depot (now a bus stop) in the 1970s, it was their hang-out. Scott Huntsman, Johnny Kaufman, Mike Frank and Steve were the four muscateers. Thicker than thieves. I learned that Mike had died a while back, but I didn't know about the heart attack. At the age of 42, that seems harsh. What does one know about life at 42? I know Scott Weaver died about the same time. I assume it was drugs. It was his flat horizon line. Neal, and David Weaver, long gone. An with their passing, something of our youth died too. Only Kent survived. I was surprised that Johnny Kaufman made it into the 1980s and beyond...another classmate I thought was long gone—drugs required their mordida.

What I remember about Scott Huntsman, was that despite his silver tooth, he smiled a lot. (How did he lose his tooth?) He was steadfast and kind (though there were a lot of bullies at Lagunitas School in the 1950s). He was very self-conscious, sometimes awkward within his body, he never knew how we envied his thick mane of long black hair. Probably the only thing that saved him was the hippie movement, he could move into becoming who he was, without reserve, without judgement. He became one of the cool ones. Generous with his time. I lost track of him after high school. (As I did with most of my classmates).

When the Gundlach-Bundschu winery burned down during the fires, Phil Bundschu's name came up. I remember a poetry reading we did there sitting on hay bales, on a bluff, overlooking the vineyards, reading to the westering sun, in late fall, and incongruously, Phil, crippled by polio, was there, all golden, on his winged motorcycle. A blast from the past.

Last time I saw Johnny Kaufman, he was sitting on the ground in front of the old bus stop in—I guess he was still strung out. Like Jimmy Bohman. Morphos never let go her grip. But Steve Tristano, I was just writing a music review of his father, Lennie Tristano's album on the indie music site, AmieStreet. Steve's half-bro, Guy, saw it and we corresponded for a while. He sent me a photo of Steve. He said Steve got clean, moved to Oregon, still played a little guitar. I was so glad to hear of it. I always liked Steve, the boogie woogie man of my childhood. But then, I heard he died in 2015. I never got a chance to say hello in there. How's it goin'? Didn't see much of them at Drake High School. but then, we were all playing hooky one way or another. And now, I heard Scott Huntsman has joined the heavenly bus stop choir. All aboard!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Viva Che! O'Hara & Fitzpatrick!



The iconic Viva Che! image by my Facebook friend, Dublin artist Jim Fitzpatrick, is now commemorated as an Irish postal stamp, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the death of the revolutionary leader, Che Guevarra. Jim never received a dime for his print
, one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. And now it's a €1 stamp! Can't lick that.

Jim Fitzpatrick is best known for his detailed illustrations inspired by the Irish Celtic tradition. Jim produced most of the album artwork for Irish rock group, Thin Lizzy, and Sinéad O'Connor. His most recent work includes commemorative portraits of Ireland's 1916 revolutionary heroes. However, his singlemost famous piece is the 1968 iconic two-tone portrait of Che Guevara, based on a photo by Alberto Korda.
A note on the Che poster, from Jim Fitzpatrick's website:
In 1967 I was outraged by the manner of Che Guevara's execution while a prisoner of war in Bolivia and it led me to create this now world-famous image.
I have now also made this image available for free download so that it can be used by everyone -including those who cannot afford my prints or canvas of El Che: the unemployed, the oppressed, the victims of banker-imposed austerity here in Ireland, the EU and elsewhere, those who fight against the legal/political elite and the corrupt banker cartels who think they rule us -and those who rage against injustice.
This image is yours. Use it!  No resale or commercial usage please -it has been exploited enough. Please remember I do NOT ever license this image for commercial usage. Misuse this image or resell any reproductions thereof and you will be liable for a fine of $10,000 per item sold or for any violation of my copyright of this image.
Time to RECLAIM CHE! Free usage for leftist causes under Creative Commons Licence. No fee for leftist/socialist political usage.—JIM FITZPATRICK. ARTIST. IRELAND.
Jim Fitzpatrick holding up the controversial Che postage stamps.

BTW,  the postage stamp is taking some heat:
That the Viva Che! postal stamp is very much a celebration of one of the most important pieces of twentieth century Irish art, Jim Fitzpatrick’s Viva Che!, seems to have passed many commentators by.
In an Irish context, Guevara is very much associated with Fitzpatrick’s iconic artwork and the words of his father, who proclaimed following his son's death that “the first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels.” They were powerful words, even finding their way to the painted gable wall of a Derry house in time."  from  A Dubliner encounters Che Guevara in Havana, 1959.
and
The postal service described Guevara, killed by CIA-backed Bolivian soldiers in Bolivia in 1967, as “the quintessential left-wing revolutionary.”
It said demand for the stamp has rivaled that of its two previously most popular releases, commemorating the sinking of the Titanic and Ireland’s 1916 Rising against British rule.
But it was quickly reminded that Guevara remains for many symbol of the violent abuses of Cuba’s communist government, with one Irish senator describing Guevara as “a barbaric interrogator, jailer and executioner of hundreds of supposed ‘class enemies’.”
Cuban-American radio host Ninoska Perez Castellon joined the fray urging listeners to write to the postal service to ask for the stamp to be scrapped. Irish postage stamp homage to Che Guevara stokes criticism
Controversial or not, said Fitzpatrick, "The stamp sold out in less than a week. I'm so proud to have had this happen at all but the response has blown me away! Amazing! They say An Post are going to reprint them as the demand was 'unprecedented'." It's also selling like hotcakes on eBay.

Monday, October 23, 2017

FOUNTAINGROVE ROUND BARN


Round barn, red as the setting sun,
doubly vibrant against the fresh green
of spring grass where countless horses
once grazed, tearing away the past 
with each mouthful, their hunger 
is now the fodder of sorrow
for what the eye is missing.

If I tilt my head just so, I can still hear 
the ghost horses whinnying from the stalls 
of that venerable redwood barn 
now returned to silica and ash.

10.23

Will Chubb's photo of the iconic Red Barn


Perhaps the one thing I will mourn the loss of most is the Fountaingrove Red Barn. A photographer is offering prints of it free.

Will Chubb Photography wrote: "Many of you are requesting a print of our beloved Red Barn. Just email me at rwc@sonic.net, or @WillChubbPhotography, and I will send in the order to Costco, free of charge, just let me know what size you want. It will be printed on photo paper. All you have to do is go to Costco and pick it up. If you want a metal or canvas print, I'll let you pay for it."


Sunday, October 22, 2017

LOVE IN A TIME OF FIRE


LOVE IN A TIME OF FIRE

Some blamed the hot Santanas
while others cursed the Diablo winds.
howling at 75 miles per hour.
Whatever you call it, a maelstrom
devoured Santa Rosa de Lima's namesake.
The city blanketed in a layer of ash
so a friend left red roses on all the cop cars.
What else was there to do in a time of fire?
We became the light in a darkened land.

10.22.17
Forthcoming in Molly Fisk’s Fire and Water poetry anthology 2020


Friday, October 20, 2017

Facebook Rant, Tubbs Fire


For all you naysayers who can't fathom the enormity of the Tubbs fire, and are making senseless remarks about people not saving their animals, you are pissing those off who actually witnessed the devastation.


In case you're impoverished in imagination, here is a description of the fire. Imagine embers the size of golf balls falling from the sky, dropped from the next county over (12 miles away). Imagine a tornado of fire touching down, lifting cars up, and tossing them around like toys. Imagine walls of orange fire that sucked all the oxygen out of the air. Imagine everything reduced to ashes in minutes.

This firestorm was so powerful it generated 157 MPH winds, flames several stories tall, traveling faster than people could run, than cars could drive. It was estimated by one of the fire scientists that the fire was traveling at 258 feet per second. Animals were incinerated in their tracks, in mid-run. 

All this happened in the middle of the night, with no warning, no official evacuation notice, and most people, who were fast asleep, had five minutes to evacuate. The Tubbs Fire is ranked as the singlemost destructive wildfire in California history.

You have no idea what it was like. No one had advance warning, no evacuation notices were issued. At midnight, the fire was still in the next county over. Twelve miles away. People had no leisurely warning of smoke. Nada. This is nothing like what anyone has ever experienced before.

Note that the terrain is extremely mountainous, there are few roads (except through the canyons—where several deaths occurred because people couldn't outrun the fire). The fire began in Napa, the next county over. It climbed several ridges and came down the other side of the mountain range into Santa Rosa, while roaring through Porter Creek. Meanwhile a vanguard of sparks and embers driven by fierce winds lit the way. The Tubbs fire moved at astonishing speed, growing exponentially larger by the minute.




























I wasn't there either, but I was following the Napa Atlas fire via Mike Thompson on Facebook. At 1AM, the Tubbs/Calistoga fire hit Santa Rosa, I warned Mike Thompson that no one was reporting alerts for Sonoma Co. All hell was breaking loose, when I started posting what info I could find on his wall. Mike jumped into the fray and we posted fire and sheriff notices until dawn.

Evacuations began at 1:30AM. By 2AM the fire winds were hurricane force. By 4:30AM, entire neighborhoods disappeared. Fire tornadoes whipping faster than 100mph, super-heated roaring winds combusting everything in their path, including hurling cars over.

The fire traveled so fast, it leapt the freeway, and my cousin and aunt escaped with only the clothes on their backs, another friend wasn't so lucky. He never even made it out of bed. Cadaver dogs found his bones where his bed would've stood. You naysayers weren't there. You haven't a clue.

There should be a special kind of hell for people like you, carping on others' misfortunes. YOU WEREN"T THERE. 

Think before you post. We are all grieving and we don't need your wanky BS hypotheses, what you'd do. You weren't there. You don't know what you'd do.

Hindsight is 20/20. So bend over and kiss your own heinies goodbye before you unthinkingly post your blanket condemnations. You weren't there. You weren't there. You weren't there. You don't know what you're talking about.

HOW TO SURVIVE AN ANXIETY ATTACK:


Find five things you can see:
His old guitar leans on the stand,
body like a leathern curragh of the saints,
strap curled up like a cat's tail. Silent as death.

A corduroy dog my grandmother made,
something from my childhood.

A friend's mother's ornate framed mirror,
a bejewelled beveled arch, a portal to the past.

A vase of wing feathers from the wild geese
long since departed from this clement shore.

My latest gift: a soapstone carving
of Chaak-mool waiting for the sacrificed heart,
something that I already gave away long ago
to a man who didn't want it.
After the cancer scare, he cleaned out the past.
Thought I might want it as a memento mori
to remember him by.

Four things I can touch:
An old sheepskin rug on the couch,
once a seat cover I made for my first car.

The polished floorboards of an old house
built before the Crash,
built before my mother was born.

A dead poet's worn Balouch rug
hides the futon couch where I sit in the sun,
where a splash of rainbow light hovers,
an ephemeral gift from a crystal in the window.

My latest favorite tea mug, empty,
yet filled with unspent grief. I still cannot eat.

Three things I can hear:
The incessant tide of freeway traffic,
everyone hurtling down the road in all directions,
but going nowhere. Growling trucks.

The tinnitus in my ears,
like midsummer crickets,
distant caroling of bells.
Imaginary sleighs.

An early robin yelling Chock!
at the squirrel burying his acorns
in the water bowl. Again.

Two things I can smell:
Faint lavender odor from a cashmere sweater,
but the moths had their way with it.

Acrid dust, the silica souls of trees,
houses, the sum total of people's lives,
reduced to base metal, carbon and ash.

One thing I can taste:
Bitter gall on the tongue
the aftermath of fire,
mixed with salt tears.

I've grounded myself in the past.
But the muscles surrounding my heart ache,
the obsidian blade cannot sever the pain
from time present.
So I offered it up to Chaak-mool.
Then the blessed rains fell,
and the skies wept.

10/20/2017

THE MAN WHO LOVED FALCONS

               —for Monte Kirven 1936-2017

We never knew what to believe:
his tall stories and epic fish tales,
cliffhangers woven into tapestries.
This man who helped to ban DDT.
After the dinner guests had departed,
the falconer shuffled off to bed, sated—
but an inferno raged, a river of fire
swept though Larkfield and Wikiup,
flooding the vast Santa Rosa plain.
No time to escape with his bird, still caged,
while my own kin fled a funereal pyre.
May the lone pern in the gyre
lead him onward to ride
the thermal updrafts
of those wide
 open skies.

Oct 20, 2017



Much love to Brian Kirven during this time of grief and sorrow.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What is the most random thing you grabbed when you evacuated?


In the heat of the moment, people grabbed the oddest things. A cat tree. A hole punch. An eraser. Homework.

Yesterday,
Shana Berger Van Cleave a pediatric dentist at The Children's Dental Health Center, in Santa Rosa, posted a question to a Facebook group, Santa Rosa Firestorm Update
She asked the group: What is the most random thing you grabbed when you evacuated?
The Facebook post took off like, er, wildfire. Shana got more than 2000 hits on her question in less than 24 hours. Most people's responses were hilarious. I was laughing hysterically well into the night as I read the posts, and decided to pull a few. But soon I had hundreds. Single shoes, inappropriate clothing, sex toys, electronics. These are a few of my favorite things in no particular order. (It's been shared 1.2k times, just about breaking the internet) thus proving that laughter is the best medicine.
Some of my favorites:

Monday, October 16, 2017

LAWN THIEVES


All is quiet on the eastern front
and no more Nixles. A good sign.
Someone said the lights are still on
in much of Oakmont, a ghost town,
which is still under evacuation.
Another good sign. There is still power.
We all live from sign to sign.

Being a Depression era baby,
one old woman worries
about all her food spoiling.
Others fret over whether or not
their homes are still standing.
The pages are full of so many lost pets.

When there was nothing else left to do,
one vintner returned to his vineyards.
and said, fires be damned,
he brought in the last ton of grapes.
Said it'll be a hell of a vintage
with smokin' overtones.

A woman said thieves stole her lawn.
How do you even steal someone's lawn?
She shrugs: They left the trampoline?
Why would looters take my lawn?
Both front and back! The only green spot.
At least her house is still standing.
Someone said: watch Craigslist
for a plotless lawn for sale.

With the news of cannabis farms
going up in smoke, I'm betting
those lawn thieves are dumb enough
to think they'll get a good price
for their grass on the open market.

10.16

After a week of wildfire, what phoenix rises?


There's no way I can even begin to process this last week of hellfire. I can only hope that the words will come. I am desperate enough to turn mindless Facebook questionaires (at bottom) into poetry. I removed all the questions and worked on that skeletal poemography. Then, I revised, tosssed some lines, and reposted it. Because it's a random assortment of bland facts, it forces the mind in different directions with odd juxtapositions. I came up with this:


Yes, I dislike blue cheese but I once shot a Luger.
It kicked my shoulder back into last week.
My ears roared for days. Like an inferno.
Forget coke. Forget Pepsi. Or Dr. Pepper.
Look, I barely passed the electric candy Kool-aid test.
Wish I could say Jack Daniels or Four Roses
but I don't like the taste of whiskey, or whisky.
I don't like hot dogs either. Give me haggis any time.
I never could shake the image of Atticus Finch
standing up to the mob like that in To Kill a Mockingbird.
I wear my Celtic necklace and amethyst rings as talismans.
I don't have hobbies, I do everything full tilt,
as if my life depended on it, I'm an artist and a writer.
Am I ADD? Yup, and/or dyslex.... What? Ohhhh. Shiny!
I can't add either. Forget long division.
Even Archie Williams couldn't teach me algebra.
I don't know which I prefer, Roadrunner or Coyote. Meep-meep.
The past week I've posted countless Facebook PSAs, and wept.
Then I wept some more. Salt tears of grief. For no reason.
Not enough to douse the flame inside.
Daily I drink tea, milk and wine. Definitely need more wine.
This year's harvest is ruined, and next year's too.
And the year after that as well. No more good cheap wine.
I worry about fire leaping across the valley,
my cabin in Forestville, and the literary memorabilia in it.
Letters from Seamus Heaney, Galway Kinnell, Dave Brubeck, etc.
Yeah, well, I dislike .45. Celebrate the new year? Why?
Didn't bother. What's the point? Like I said, .45.
Yes. I miss the mountains, and the sea. The sea, the sea.
I love violet skies, with a side bar of royal blue
tinged by distant cerulean dreams.
I would like to visit Ireland, again, and the Baltic.
The moaii of Easter Island. Maybe the Caribbean.
Go back to Angermeyer's farm on the Galapagos.
Forget satin sheets. Overrated. Give me flannel sheets
or give me a sleeping bag. Or a lawn any time.
I can put my lips together, and I can blow,
but I can't whistle. However, I can drool in tune.
Where am I? At home. The air is toxic with smoke.
The statue of the Cotati accordian-playing mayor 
wearing a smoke mask made me laugh out loud.
He was a nice guy, Jim Boggio, the mayor of Cotati,
whom I once met on a swingset in the park.
We talked until dawn rasped its fiery claw on the sky.
Yes, I love cats and horses. And red-tail hawks.
What about all the animals? Who will survive?
Someone spotted a giraffe ungulating in Larkfield.
I fear that all the birds are dead. What about the deer and mice?
When I tore my knee. When I had a kidney infection.
When I tore all the muscles on my lower back.
When I smashed my nose on a rock
doing a faceplant on the Continental Divide,
that day, my blood ran in both directions at the same time.
It all hurt. And keeps on hurting. Like this fire.
I'm an orphan. All my aunts and uncles are gone too, save one.
I'm the last generation of my family, and the eldest grandchild.
Sometimes it seems that I am channeling my grannie, 
who was both mother and father to me.
Yes, I loved to dance, but you see, my knee....
Of course I love life. Mightily. With a passion.
My advice? Become the light in a darkened land.

Oct 14, 16




(This was from Liz Haas' questionaire, Oct 11)
Then I turned it into a poem.)


Today, I cried useless tears. California is burning.
Ashes fall like daisy chains and pikake leis.
I want the soothing coolness of ice cream.
Chocolate, coffee, or vanilla will do. Or an iceberg.
I can't read, I can't write, I can't think,
even a road trip of the mind won't do.
All I can do is listen to is fire updates, and worry
about what I cannot control. Acts of God, they say.
Everybody praying, what good is that? 
Thoughts and prayers don't rebuild a life.
After a fiery sunset, the angry sun 
dipped into the ocean to cool off.
I long for the indigo supplication of clouds and rain.
My hair, redbrown embers, my eyes swollen with grief.
Even salmon, and chocolate cannot assuage this pain.
Thanksgiving and my birthday is coming soon
(but no one remembers, the turkey, center-stage, again).
I open another bottle of Chardonnay.
Why not? The vineyards are burning.
Soon the wine will run out. and the bitter harvest 
of ember and ash will be our distillation for years to come.
These days, I am both night owl and morning person,
burning the candle at both ends. Afraid to sleep.
After a week of wildfire, what phoenix rises?

10/16


Sunday, October 15, 2017

HURRICANE OPHELIA


I deign to say that the latest hurricane
is expected to hit Ireland full force.
Evidently, Hurricane Ophelia wasn't satisfied
with a simple "Me too" on her Facebook page.
She plans to take revenge on every hamlet.
After all, the original story was set in Ireland.

In Yougal, the Celtic Sea heaves and pitches
like an exuberant lover beneath lace curtains.
Stabs the land with a parry and a thrust.
Rusted scabbards. Cars leap sea walls like stags.
Fortinbras in the wind. What army of pints
lined up along the bars, into the dark night?
Iron-age bodies were unearthed at Forlorn Point,
Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford. The sea
uncovered an ancient burial ground.

My cousins talk about the weather
while venerable trees let go of this earth,
a fallen army across the roads of Bantry.
With all the lashing and smirring,
that is general all over Ireland,
will anyone even notice the hurricane
flogging the coast along the Wild Atlantic Way?

10.15

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

GIRDING THE LOINS (haiku)


Girding up our loins
for the next catastrophe—
a permanent state

of being ready
for what comes next, calling it
an Armageddon,

of sorts, we prepare
for the worst, another onslaught—
day still follows night.

Call it storm, or fire,
or earthquake, mass shootings—
oh tenuous life.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Facebook censorship in a time of crisis, Tubbs Fire

Facebook, now is NOT the time to decide we are spamming. We've got an emergency in Sonoma, and Napa counties, and your spambots are not helping. We're trying to be dead accurate with our information. Lives may depend upon it. So yes, we do revise our posts for accuracy. I'm trying to respond to a post plea getting 56 horses out of Chalk Hill and you keep blocking my posts. 

Facebook has tried to block my posts, including a link to a surreal photo of a loose giraffe sighting in Wikiup/Larkfield, north Santa Rosa. A bewildered giraffe looming over the burned foliage, no joke. An escapee from SafariWest. Glad their rhino isn’t running on the randan. The story of how Pete Lang saved all his animals, including newborn Mr. Tubbs, a baby lechwe antelope. There’s a photo of an emu trucking down the road, another photo of firemen petting the rescued rhino. So far, they’ve rescued horses, cows, chickens, bunnies, goats, llamas, and seven YAKS? A pony stuffed into a Honda. Then there’s the story of Odin rescuing his goats. Facebook considers all this as spam.

I posted news that the landmark Fountaingrove round barn built of first growth redwood is gone, along with the daft hotel. The Round Barn: the last remnants of an utopian dream. I never went inside. One of Emperor Hirihito's mythical white Arabian stallions was horsed in that barn. Our history is going up in flames. The Luther Burbank Center is charred, but standing. Historic Stornetta dairy is gone. I posted mandatory evacuation notices and lists of shelters. Ten dead, 10,000 displaced, not to mention all the animals. We’ve lost Coffey Park, the Snoopy Ice Arena. Mark West, Glen Ellen, Paradise Ridge, all gone. Fire is at zero% containment. This is what Facebook has deemed as spam. Epic Fail, #Facebook. 


Facebook please turn off the spambots. Every time I correct a post comment I am blocked. Every single time I make a correction or clarify a comment, I get this window. Yes, I complain, early and often to an empty room. FB wants me to post less often, and it sure wants me NOT to edit my posts. Another window tells me I'm posting too fast. I'm not a fast typist, but I'm a fast errorist. So I might revise a comment 2 or 3 times before I get it right. I'm also dyslexic. This is such a punitive algorithm.

If I am too quick in my editing, it grays out my post and blocks it so I can't repost it with corrections. It's a flawed algorithm. It somehow thinks I'm abusing the system. How?

It's a numbers game. Once I post too many comments in a certain unnamed timeframe (variable, within an hour), then the blocking begins, and lasts for days. Once I post something, I can't make changes, or add to it or correct it...which drives me crazy because I'm a terrible typist and a great revisionist.

Complaining to Facebook does no good as our complaints go to bots. No humans. I once did get a response and they said it's an algorithm flaw. It's not supposed to do that. Clearly nothing I post could be construed as spam or hate mail—except maybe toward FB, that is. Sometimes I save my responses to FB. Just because. But, TG I've found a workaround, as soon as that happens, I copy the post with changes, and repost it as a new post, and delete the offending post.

TO compound and confound things  even more, FB alsk keeps locking my posts to an audience of Only Me. I needed to move a post over to my page via iPad so I sent it as private, so I could edit it later. And FB turned off ALL my posts! Took some time to track down why. I'd make my posts, which are important PASs, public several times over, and Lo, 'twas a miracle, they would revert to locked down status, to be viewed by Only Me. Not a particularly useful feature during this time of crisis. You can see why my language might become, erm, flowery. I realize that this rant will fall on deaf ears. Or no ears at all. But documenting this travesty is important. What about the next time?