Merry Summer Solstice!

Merry Summer Solstice!
El Sol

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

French Horn

For a few days only,
the plum tree outside the window
shoulders perfection.
No matter the plums will be small,
eaten only by squirrels and jays.
I feast on the one thing, they on another,
the shoaling bees on a third.
What in this unpleated world isn’t someone’s seduction?
The boy playing his intricate horn in Mahler’s Fifth,
in the gaps between playing,
turns it and turns it, dismantles a section,
shakes from it the condensation
of human passage. He is perhaps twenty.
Later he takes his four bows, his face deepening red,
while a girl holds a viola’s spruce wood and maple
in one half-opened hand and looks at him hard.
Let others clap.
These two, their ears still ringing, hear nothing.
Not the shouts of bravo, bravo,
not the timpanic clamor inside their bodies.
As the plum’s blossoms do not hear the bee
nor taste themselves turned into storable honey
by that sumptuous disturbance.

Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monsieur Pierre Est Mort

My seventh grade French teacher, Mademoiselle Torrosian, kept a pet rock, Pierre, who looked like an average potato. She made occasional mention of him, basking in his round holder on her desk, if it meant including him as an example for that day’s lesson. “Monsieur Pierre voudrais du bifteck et les pommes frites” if we were learning to order a steak and fries. Or “Monsieur Pierre aime Juillet mais pas Janvier” if we were learning to distinguish between the months. Mademoiselle Torrosian dressed as a tablecloth, wearing a checkered yellow top above her dull brown pant legs. She had short hair and wide glasses, though I once caught her stepping out of Kramer Gifts, a shop at the mall where you could buy dirty decks of cards and fuzzy dice. A neighbor of mine, Kev Wilson, cooked up the plan to kidnap Monsieur Pierre, out of boredom, maybe, but it was easily accomplished: I slid the rock off its pedestal into my bookbag during the confusing crush at the end of class, and we had him. I’m not sure that Mademoiselle ever let on that Monsieur Pierre had gone missing, until we left her the first of our many ransom notes. Kev and I had cut the alphabet out of numerous magazines, the way we saw in the movies, and glued odd-shaped letters to construction paper, saying, in terrible French, “Nous avons Monsieur Pierre” for “We have Monsieur Pierre,” and if she’d like him back unharmed, she’d give everyone in the class an “A.” Mademoiselle Torrosian took to reading the notes out loud, correcting our French as she went, and then would utter pleas for his return. She would say, in earnest, “Monsieur Pierre est mon bebe, mon petit oiseau bleu, mon chanson et mon danse” or something like that, and the class would stare ahead without much sympathy. We, in turn, would write more and more perverse ransom notes, describing that we were cutting off Monsieur Pierre’s ears, or putting out his “oeil” or breaking his nose. Mademoiselle Torrosian’s brow would darken each time she entered the classroom and saw a new note lying on her chair. It was a small class; fifteen or twenty kids, and she probably guessed it was me and Kev, but then again, there was always that dickwad Marvin DeLeo, that girl, Angie, who always pronounced “besoin” as “boz-wan” and was always peeved when Mademoiselle corrected her, and Overman, too, that big, crazy, silent loon of a timebomb just waiting to throw someone out the window. Meantime, Monsieur Pierre resided in my backyard, in a regular area where many other rocks lived, and sometimes Kev and I would have a hard time distinguishing him from your typical shale, or quartzite, or whatever we were learning in earth science. One time, I put him in the oven, after my mother had begun baking a load of potatoes and she freaked when she tried to stab him with her big fork, scratching him mightily. Kev and I used him as a hammer once, when we were trying to build a wooden ladder in the backyard, and there we chipped him, but the coup de grace came when we were tossing Monsieur Pierre back and forth in a game of “you’re it” and he fell onto the patio and cracked in half, perfectly. We vowed to superglue him back together, a clear thin line of paste at the fissure, and soon afterwards, I snuck him back into position, on his little round holder beside Mademoiselle Torrosian’s grade book, even as Mademoiselle erased the blackboard. “Oh la la,” she said, turning around a minute later. She held him up to the light, smiling, at first, then dropped him into the empty metal trashcan, where he landed with a good boom. “Monsieur Pierre est mort—dead,” she said, then barked: “Ecoutez!”

Daniel Gutstein

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Almost a Conversation

I have not really, not yet, talked with otter
about his life.

He has so many teeth, he has trouble
with vowels.

Wherefore our understanding
is all body expression—

he swims like the sleekest fish,
he dives and exhales and lifts a trail of bubbles.
Little by little he trusts my eyes
and my curious body sitting on the shore.

Sometimes he comes close.
I admire his whiskers
and his dark fur which I would rather die than wear.

He has no words, still what he tells about his life
is clear.
He does not own a computer.
He imagines the river will last forever.
He does not envy the dry house I live in.
He does not wonder who or what it is I worship.
He wonders, morning after morning, that the river
is so cold and fresh and alive, and still
I don't jump in.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Often I Imagine the Earth

Often I imagine the earth
through the eyes of the atoms we’re made of—
atoms, peculiar
atoms everywhere—
no me, no you, no opinions,
no beginning, no middle, no end,
soaring together like those
ancient Chinese birds
hatched miraculously with only one wing,
helping each other fly home.

Dan Gerber


[the snow is melting]

The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
with children.