Sunday, May 20, 2018

Memorial flowers, Penelope la Montagne, drawings

When it came to writing a memoir about Penelope, no words came, just these two drawings.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Today was a two-bluebird morning.
They swooped at dawn, then crashed
into the bay window where I sat
blearily typing up student poems—racing the clock.
Fallen on the bright grass, they were archetypal.
I picked them up, cradled them in my hands,
I held them, and my breath,
I was literally holding the heart of the sky in my hands,
Then they awoke, and flew off into the mist.
I was not the same person I was a few minutes ago.

rev. 5/20

I never got around to writing the poem. Too busy meeting deadlines.Two bluebird morning. As I typed poems, they crashed into the window where I sat, I held the heart of the sky in my hands, then they flew off. Two pieces of the sky, a pair, the male was indescribably blue. The female, drab. Scared the shit out of me, I saw them out of the corner of my eye right before they struck, coming straight for my head, like kamakazi pilots, then kabam! We've been having some earthquakes so loud noises are always suspect. Duck and cover? They were both stunned, with wings spread on the grass, they seemed almost mythical, so I cradled them in my hands to keep them warm, and calm them until they recovered. I now have tiny feathers down the front of my sweater. No way to get a photo of them as my hands were full of birds with racing hearts.

Ethan Hay said  those poems are beginning to affect the Earth's magnetic field. Best get them typed up quickly and distributed, for the sake and continued health of your local flora and fauna. It is an incredible blue, isn't it? As if a piece of the sky had sprouted wings and taken flight. Yet the sky was never so warm, so soft, so vulnerable to panes of glass.

5/15/20 I love Facebook memories. I find bits of writing that never made it to my blog. A fleeting moment from two years ago still brings back the magic. Maybe this time I will write that poem. But I need to teach in a few moments. Some thing remain the same. Who could ever have imagined we’d all be sequestered like this two years later?

Carynxes on my mind

Imagine a Roman legionary encamped in enemy territory, awakening to the otherworldly Gallic sounds of war. As myriad carnynx tongues flutter eerily in the predawn mist, you are reminded of the saying, The enemy of your enemy is my friend. Visiting UC Berkeley scholar, musicologist Simon O Dwyer made a replica carynx and when he played it for us, my hackles rose. I tried to play it, they're hinged, on a pivot, mid-point, and are exceedingly heavy. You need serious upper body strength to carry and play them. The sine curve is well balanced. Let's just say I lost my balance and went careening off into the walls, for a mad Monty Python moment, but I managed to not crash the instrument. Pretty much. Any composure I might have had was lost. The looks on their faces, their mouths and eyes, silent white Os. I always meant to transcribe my notes but got hopelessly lost, they were so convoluted.

video where musician John Kenny demonstrates a Celtic carynx. You can also see Celtic warriors playing  the carynxes on the Gundestrup cauldron. And on this rare Celtic gold coin that depicts both a chariot and carnyx.

"Fig. 2 Gold quarter stater of Ambiani tribe. On one side is the head of Apollo with a lyre hidden in his curly hair. On the other we see a Celtic hammer-god driving his chariot across the sky. He has long flowing hair and holds a large hammer in his right hand. He may be Sucellos ‘the good striker’. A big bee – the Celts made mead with honey – buzzes before the horse’s snout. Only one other specimen of this coin is known and that is in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. The above coin will be sold by auction early in March." The link is dead.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

GYPSIES, TRAMPS, AND THIEVES: Cultural appropriation?

by Parris Afton Bonds

Cultural appropriation? Irish Travellers are not Roma Gypsies
By MoHurley on May 12, 2018

I guess I'm a little more than concerned that Irish Travelers, who are NOT, I repeat, NOT Roma, in any way, shape or form, are conflated into this story.

There are a handful of Roma people in Ireland, it's a recent migration, but we're talking less than 3000 people in all of Ireland, in 2004, it was 1700 Roma.

The real Irish Travelers, formerly called Tinkers, probably date back to Neolithic times. But they are Irish. Today there are about 40,000 Travellers in Ireland. There is some thought that they arose as a distinct class of people during the Cromwellian, or during the Famine. Some Irish Travellers immigrated to Scotland, as well as America. Eddie Izzard portrays an American Irish Traveller grifter in "The Riches."

Irish Travellers are NOT Roma. Recent DNA analysis has proven this beyond a doubt. It's bad enough that Irish cobb horses are now called Gypsy vanners, and this latest conflation will only serve to further confuse people. Cultural appropriation at its worst. Just don't.

The author writes: "True gypsies, Romany folk and Irish Travellers, were adept at storytelling. For a thousand years, although most of the Gypsy clans could neither read no write, they had kept historical records of their odyssey by word of mouth." Bonds conflates Roma with Travellers. She couldn't be more wrong. She makes no attempt to untangle the two distinctly genetically different peoples. Being itinerant does not make them gypsies.

"The [DNA] study clearly showed there was no significant genetic contribution made by Roma Gypsies to Traveller DNA. This disproves a view held by some that the two groups were genetically related." —Irish TImes

Thursday, May 10, 2018

CPITS teaching journal

I always tell the kids I can teach you simile, but I can't teach you metaphor, it has to come from within you. That's the real poet's work. Then Josiah wrote: Our friendship is a rope that can't be cut. I about died. Today's poem. Hot off the press, as it were. If I can't get original language from them, then what am I doing teaching them?

One first grader was lost in daydream-land, I got tired of prompting him and threatened to have a tantrum like a baby kicking and screaming. And the class began to chant: do it! do it! do it! Teacher threatened to join me. I laughed so hard. Stand-up comedy for first graders. A tough crowd to please. Kids were rolling in the aisles laughing.

The daydreamer came through with flying colors & finished his poem. Wrote a second one. I guess the thought of us screaming away on the floor was way too visual. The things we do for poetry.

Beyond knackered, I am. I've read, commented upon, and typed up 3 classes' worth of poems. But can't seem to begin the 4th class. Frog brain. Ribbit.



I awoke to the clattering
of hooves on pavement,
the jingle of halter rings,
the secret whispering of horses 
as they cropped the moonlit grass 
still damp and glistening with dew, 
their coats, silken in the velvet night. 
The bright stars dazzle my eyes 
with their icy glint, and breath,
the scent of new mown hay
and that primal animal warmth
rises up to tickle the senses.



I was a wild child, raised by horses. 
I chewed on grass sweet at the knuckle 
and nibbled upon molasses oats. 
I pawed at the ground and whinnied
collecting my gait at the canter 
and hand-gallop. A pencil for snaffle bit 
a belt for surcingle, and ribbons for reins.
We believed we were circus ponies 
we pranced to invisible music 
and we bowed to an invisible crowd.



Stephanie who always met 
kindness with kindness 
and anger with kindness,
her abiding love for animals 
carried her forth
until the day of no return 
that brought a deep abiding sadness.
The mother who died too soon, 
the fire consuming more than dreams. 
I remember how we
used to sneak into the barn 
with a box of cake mix
and water it down 
and slurp it up like a frosting 
our sweet tooth
making us petty thieves. 
And the time I got a pet rat 
a spotted baby,
my grandmother said No 
so I took it to Steph's house 
and we made a pact,
we kept it in a shoebox 
but it ate its way through
the cardboard to freedom
and one night it escaped
to the sweet beyond.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018


View from my base camp for one more week. Alpenglow. The ever-changing face of the goddess. And poetry, of course.

This evening, as I ambled up the hill to the water tank, to take photos of wildflowers; sunflowers, blue-eyed grass, Ithuriel's spears, brodiaea, vetch, owl's clover, a bevy of small birds, I stumbled and  ground-nesting fledglings, perhaps wrens, tumbled clumsily about my feet, having cascaded down the bank at the base of a bay tree, from their nest.

I stood stock still, afraid to step, as the fallen angels found their way to safety, their parents uttering their one-note call of distress, like the clacker that the nuns used to cue us up as we prepared for conformation. 

The mosquitoes drilled deep to quench their bloodlust, and ate me alive. I stumbled again, thinking it was my crocks, not the earth itself. This time the earth quivered like a horse with sensitive skin. The bevy of birds huddled in the tall grasses.

I marveled at the perfect circle, the ground nest lined with soft grasses, like a basket. The pattern is at hand. Then, the grand finale, the carcass of a rattler, fresh kill, vivid diamond patterns, like a basket woven pattern, at my feet.

Sometime you just have to step outside the circle, if only for a few moments, and everything changes, yet remains the same. 

A holiness within.

(as I was walking back in the gloaming, I stumbled, almost lost my footing, blamed it on my crocs, but it was a series of jolts from The Geysers. A 4.0, and a 4.2 back-to-back, plus several tremors in the 2 range. The geysers are just around the corner to the left of the photo.)

Monday, May 7, 2018


Hummingbird, bumble, and honeybee
take turns sipping lemon blossom nectar.
Lizard zips in for a consultation.
Mosquito takes more blood samples.


A HOUSE MADE OF LEAVES, CPITS poem after Juan Felipe

1. Go to where the wind endures
the teething rocks on the horizon.

2. Soothe the wild grasses
and braid their dreams into stories.

3. Listen to the heartbeat of birds
conversing in foreign tongues.

4. Record the endless beauty
that shall always go unnamed.

5. Arrive all out of breath
to see a house made of leaves.

6. I said count, count the words. 
When I'm stressed, it soothes me,
this sublime numbering of days.

CPITS poem after Juan Felipe

Sunday, May 6, 2018


My tire has developed a slow leak,
it hisses like a snake in search of a snack,
will it make it through the night?
Will my aging chariot transport me
to Healdsburg in the morning
to teach poetry to little kids?
or will I be writing tire shop odes 
to the road not taken?



It all began with the tremors,
the earth shaking beneath their feet,
then the massive dancing 'quakes.
She tossed a feathered boa of pink smoke
into the sky, she was stepping out.
The fissures opened like zippers
to reveal her molten skin and her hunger
devoured the cat scratches of civilization.
Pele's stepping out for a leisurely stroll
and she wants all her treasures back,
every single rock the tourists stole.
Will they never learn, she wonders,
throws a fiery shawl over her shoulder
and tends to her garden of fire.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018


     after Neruda

She used to
braid my hair
in class
like a pony
I was
ground tied.
I couldn't move.
She brushed
and yanked
my hair so hard
it was as if I was
strung up
like a marionette.
The teacher got mad,
said, Leave her
hair alone,
but it was the only way
I could get the girl
to tell me a poem.
She said the wind
is like a rose
flying across my mind.
She said my mind
is like the earth.
She said my heart
is like the sky
playing in a garden of stars.
She said beyond the sky
is my life.
I said only the birds know
the song of the air.
And my hair took flight
across the sky
for a girl
with the name
of flowers.

Emerson ES


Carpenter bees shred
the sage blossoms trying
to swill sweet nectar.

Angrily they buzz,
squeezing their girth into size
zero red dresses.

Yellow shawl thorax,
taut abdomen shines like jet
beads caked with pollen.

Pollen pantaloons,
fishnet stockings, tiny heels
they're decked out, on the town.

Nectar wasp dangles
delicate honeysuckle
sips frilly blossoms.

The bombadier bee
prefers the tight red trumpet—
it's all about color.

It chases the bees off
No honeybees, no matter
how sweet, will dine here.

No bumblebees either.
Flower market is crowded
with desperate shoppers.

Surreptitious bee-
flies sneak in to steal the show
make off with the goods.

Swallowtail swoops down
to find the pantry empty,
flits off in a huff.

Cabbage moth could care
less, she has other errands
to run, like laying some eggs,

While the skipper flits,
it careens from leaf to flower
just because it can.

Hungry hummingbird
misses out, and lets me know
that it's all my fault,

Squawking and flitting
her tail in indignation,
with ruby throat aflame.



Towhees are like little chickens,
they like to pecks and scratch.
They think our kitchen floor
is the happy hunting ground.
I remember my grandmother
sitting by the stove, coffee mug in hand
while the towhees pecked at her feet.
Lately our drab towhee has taken a shine
to the Afghani rug in the living room
that matches her orange ass.
Perhaps she looking for a place
to nest, or she's the nestling
I once raised in the lemon bush.
Today she examined the floorboards,
dragging her wing along the molding
as if making a statement
about my housekeeping habits,
then exits, singing an aria of disapproval
with her one-note song.



My biology teacher Dr. Fat 
from Finland used to say:
Rrrrushes are rrround,
and sedges have hedges.
Tight, compact.
Easy to remember.

Someone says, 

I thought sedges 
had wedges!
That too works.

It's an open field 
when it comes to 
remembering the grasses.
We could add:
grasses have sheathes  
all the way to the ground
and knobby knees.
grasses are jointed, 
all the way
down to the ground
Grasses, like asses,
have holes and grow
right down to the ground.

With all these variations,
no wonder I couldn't remember
the mnemonic memory aid for grasses.
Where is Mnemosyne when you need her?
I can't remember.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Last time

While doing CPITS paperwork for John's CAC grants, I found two poems scrawled on foolscap. Then I realized it was the last poem I will ever write with John. It was the last time I ever saw John alive. It was the last time I hugged and held him and said I loved him. It was also a hellish class at Emerson, I was supposed to take over in January. I dreaded it. The kids were all over the place. John was very patient. We wrote to music from Chiapas, the kids were crazy with the thought of freedom and Christmas vacation looming on the horizon. Little did I know that the new year would also bring such loss and sorrow. I am sad beyond despair. I still cannot believe he is gone. Gone. Just like that.



Deep in a slot canyon, where the Trümmelbach creek 
drains the meltwaters of three mountain glaciers,
you can hear the primal orchestra of the falls
but you can't see the ten waterfalls 
because they're hidden deep inside the mountain.
You have to enter the darkness to see the molten light 
of the subterranean falls, gilded with pale rainbows.
One's mind wanders to the idea of orcs 

and goblins hiding out in the limestone folds.

The Trümmelbach drains the Lauterbrunnen Valley,
once called in claro fonte, or the Liuterbrunnon,
or the place of bright or clear springs.
or perhaps the place of many loud springs,
people still argue over the origin of the name—
the Helvetii Celtic name is as lost
as the single Roman coin found in the Blumental—
The creeks drain to Zweilütschinen, the place of two rivers,
where the Weisse Lütschine joins the Schwarze Lütschine
and the mixing waters turns an aqua tint
a color like you've never before seen,
it's as if that blueness from inside glaciers
was painting the river with the memory of the sky.

When JRR Tolkien first hiked into this deep valley,
he modeled Rivendell, the Middle Earth dwelling place
of Elrond and the half-elves, after it.
But it is said that the villagers on the Schwarze Lütschine
were so dirty that they stained the river black,
but the villagers on the Schwarze Lütschine
claimed the Weisse Lütschine never bathed at all,
so the other river remained perfectly clean.

It all boils down to magic in the end.