In Praise of the Younger Generation

I was recently with a group of Baby Boomers who were intent on bad mouthing the current young–sometimes known as Millennials. There were the usual complaints against texting, tats, and unprofessionally dressed slackers. And this from those who hardly spent their twenties in business suits.
I find this both sad and surprising. I love this generation, which includes my only child, my seven nieces and nephews, the children of my friends, and the majority of my students. I find them cooperative, honest, funny, and caring. And considering the problems of the world they inherit, this is saying a lot.
Mostly, I’m amazed they like me. They hold the door for me, comment on my cute socks, suggest movies and books, and wonder if I need more magnesium in my diet. Would Baby Boomers rather be scorned than loved? That is, do we prefer generational warfare just because it is familiar?
However, we Boomers are becoming increasingly dependent on the young as we age. So why not see their virtues–including the virtue of youth itself?

To be continued.

Two Poems by Terry Mulert

The original
I walk on legs
of parasites
feet of rotten pears
with the tongue
of a perfect hibiscus
my fingers have come unglued
my hands are stitched together
bags of horse hair
my eyes
are rose colored
perfume vials
my dreams have begun
to win arguments
sometimes at night I climb onto rooftops
and watch myself sleep
between the rows of corn
that have taken my name
and not apologized.
If we knew
We have grown
deaf to colors
and the names
of unknown things
the tangled beauty
of our darkest pain
is the unseen purple
root parting with the sky
we have bargained
light for a deeper place
where wings turn
into the good taste of earth.

At The Age of 59 1/2 I Climb Through a Window in Iceland

At The Age of 59 1/2 I Climb Through a Window in Iceland

because the key sticks in the lock
and we can’t figure it out

my 24 year old daughter
who spent her childhood
squeezing through a cat door
and ruining a window screen
letting boys in and out
immediately climbs to the sill
unlocks the pane, and departs.

I, on the other hand, larger, more frightened
sit, one leg in the house, one in the yard
squeeze my hiking boot
through gingerly
land on a cellar door.

the administrator of the guest house
is displeased with us
gives us a strict Icelandic lesson
in locking and unlocking
blames the weather–of course–
for the swollen jamb
and us for our incompetence
but with grudging admiration
for our initiative.

as for me, I’ve been re-born
onto a windy street by a windy bay
where everything seems content
to knock me over
and the sun
sits on the horizon
patient and intent
as a midwife.

Library of Water

Roni Horn created an amazing installation in Iceland. Wikipedia says “In 2007 she undertook Artangel’s first international commission, creating Vatnasafn / Library of Water, a long-term installation in the town of Stykkisholmur, Iceland. The installation is made up of water collected from Icelandic glaciers.[11] “Weather,” observes Roni Horn, “is the key paradox of our time. Weather that is nice is often weather that is wrong. The nice is occurring in the immediate and individual, and the wrong is occurring systemwide.”[12] The “Library of Water” is housed in a former library building in the little town of Stykkisholmur on the west coast of Iceland. Roni Horn noticed the building during a trip through Iceland in the 1990s. It is located at the high point of the town, overlooking the harbour and the sea. The architecture is influenced by that of lighthouses. It was conceived by Horn in 2004 as a sculpture installation and a community center, offering both a space for quiet reflection and a room for meetings and gatherings.”


I haven’t seen it live, but would love to.

A Ghost Story by Ana Consuelo Matiella

Perkins Street Ghost

I have never believed in ghosts but I grew up near a family, the Madril’s, who moved into a haunted house on Perkins Street in Nogales, Arizona.  A woman had been murdered there and after the killing, the woman’s family boarded up the house and let it begin to rot.  It was an old light blue house with a long inviting porch.  The door had an oval beveled glass window that you could look through.  The lace curtain was tattered and the screen door was dusty and full of dead spiders and flies.
We were not allowed to go near the place. But when we were bored and brave, and before the Madril’s moved in, we would peek through the old doors and windows and run hard if we heard a sound. My friend Johnny Tovar would tell scary stories about the place, about the screams the neighbors heard the night of the murder, and about the sorrowful sounds they could hear at night or in the middle of a hot afternoon. 
Everyone in the neighborhood said the house was haunted by the lady who was killed there. She would cry because she wasn’t ready to die when she did. So young. I wanted to know what happened to the killer. Was he caught? Did he go to prison?  Johnny said they never caught him and that he ran through the hills and crossed the fence over to Mexico.  Last he heard he was living in Cananea.
I told Johnny I didn’t believe in ghosts, and he called me a liar.  He said not to worry and that ghosts don’t appear to big chickens like me because they were mostly nice but tortured souls. They didn’t really want to scare anyone.  They just needed something and they would only appear to people who they thought could get them what they needed.  I was relieved about that because I knew I had nothing to offer that ghost. 
My dad worked with Mr. Madril at the Complete Auto and Home Supply Company and when he came home and told my mom that the Madril’s were moving into the old Teyechea  house, my mom said, “Poor things.  The rent is probably pretty low.” And then she added that she wouldn’t live there if it was free.
The Madril’s were a large family in more ways than one.  There were  12 brothers and sisters, a giant mother, a giant father, and a tiny grandmother who always wore  high stiletto heels.  The kids were some of the biggest kids I’d ever seen and we come from big people, so I know big. They were mostly tall, not fat,  and just extra- large.  And they took up a lot of space.  I remember Sundays when our parents would wake us up for mass, my father would say, “Hurry up and get there before the Madril’s ,if you want to find a seat.”  If you got to mass before the Madril’s got there, you would always hear some kind of ruckus when they all came in.  They made up a crowd. And not one of them was less than 5 feet tall, note even the little ones.
Another thing to know about the Madril’s is that they were generous and kind.  They were like a storybook family of large nice people.  Mrs. Madril was always smiling and two of the older kids, Sergio and Bea, were around my age.  Sergio was this super big guy who defended Bea and made sure nothing bad happened. 
When the Madril’s moved in to the old haunted house, everyone on Perkins whispered about the ghost.  We were all waiting to see how long they would last.  Who would want to live in a house where someone had been murdered and where the ghost still lived?
I waited until Bea and I became friends before I told her about it.  She said they already knew about the ghost and  that her parents said the ghost was harmless, just sad on account of being killed so young. Bea said the best thing to do when you heard the ghost sigh, giggle or cry was just ignore her, pretend she wasn’t there.  Sometimes the ghost  slammed the door on the way to the back yard but that was because of the rusty spring the screen door had to keep the flies out, and not because she was angry. 
After Bea told me all that, I reluctantly accepted several invitations to come and eat dinner with the Madril’s.  Nothing fancy, mostly chorizo and beans but the  granny, who was the only little person in the family, made these gigantic flour tortillas that looked like sheets.  And we would eat them with beans or butter and jam, and  sometimes, with this special kind of syrup the old lady made out of this thing that looked like a rock and was called piloncillo.
My mom was embarrassed when I went over there to eat because she said, “How can you be so rude to go there around dinner time?  Of course they will invite you in, but don’t you see how many mouths they have to feed?”
 I said, “They invite me all the time, and even when I say I have to go home, they say, ‘well have a tortilla with butter and jam first.’”
Mom would just sigh and shrug, and say, “That poor woman is a saint.”
Serge and Bea didn’t mention the ghost much. Once in a while I would ask about her and they  would look at each other and say she was fine and that it was no big deal.
“Do you every see her?”  I asked one time, feeling bold.
And Bea said, “I’ve never seen her but I’ve heard walking through the back door.”
Serge just looked down at the ground like he didn’t even hear the question.
Then Bea said that the granny had seen her a few times outside by the clothesline at night. 
I said, “Oh boy am I glad I’ve never seen her,”  and they just looked at me like I was the odd one.
One late afternoon when I smelled the tortillas and came in for a visit and they were all sitting around their long table,  I heard a loud scrape from behind me and it made me jump and they all laughed.  It was Mr. Madril pulling a big wooden crate up to the corner of the table so I could squeeze in and eat my bean burrito.
Granny Madril said, “So you’re afraid of the ghost, eh?”
I nodded yes.  I couldn’t speak with my mouth full. 
She padded my hand and said, “She won’t hurt you.”
And the way she said it, I believed her. After that I didn’t ask so many questions about the ghost. 
The Madrils lived in the old blue house with the ghost for the rest of the time we were in elementary school, and when they bought a new house out in the development near the old Nogales Highway, I asked Bea, “What happened to the ghost, Bea?  Was she sad to be left behind?”
And Bea said, “Oh, no.  She didn’t stay behind. She came with us.”
Bea said that the ghost was staying in her granny’s room and that they had become good friends.
When I told my dad about it he said, “What?  There weren’t enough of them already that they had to take the ghost?”

Kathleen Lee Translates Jamie Sabines

My friend Kathleen Lee writes prose–but here is her translation of a Jamie Sabines poem. This was done as a project in an SFCC Spanish class. You can find more by looking at Phil Levine’s translation of a book of Sabines’ poems – Tarumba – in a bilingual edition published by Sarabande.

La primera lluvia del año moja las calles,
abre el aire,
humedece mi sangre.
¡Me siento tan a gusto y tan triste, Tarumba,
viendo caer el agua desde quién sabe,
sobre tantos y tanto!
Ayúdame a mirar sin llorar,
ayúdame a llover yo mismo sobre mi corazón
para que crezca como la planta del chayote
o como la yerbabuena.
¡Amo tanto la luz adolescente
de esta mañana
y su tierna humedad!
¡Ayúdame, Tarumba, a no morirme,
a que el viento no desate mis hojas
ni me arranque de esta tierra alegre!

por Jaime Sabines

The first rain of the year drenches the streets,
unfurls the air,
freshens my blood.
I feel such ease and melancholy, Tarumba,
watching the rain fall from who knows where,
over so many and so much.
Help me to see without mourning,
help me to rain over my own heart
so that it grows like chayote
or yerbabuena.
I love so much the youthful light
of this morning
and its tender sultry air.
Help me, Tarumba, to not die,
don’t let the wind blow away my leaves
or drag me from this bright earth.

3 Questions for Grant Clauser

3 Questions for Grant Clauser For Miriam Sagan’s Blog

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

I guess you could say I’m a fan of the poetic line. It’s a tool, like a hammer, and it can be used carefully, even delicately or brutally. I’m often suspicious of prose poems (though I’ve written them, so I’m a hypocrite) that don’t take advantage of such an important tool. The line is as much a part of the poem as the rhythm, sound and sense. I tend to use enjambment a lot, which doesn’t help a listener much, but can be a guide for the reader. I’m also a fan of the medial caesura, mostly as a tension-builder/breaker.

How I use them… there are probably multiple ways, but one rule I have for myself is to try to avoid ending lines with throw-away words. You don’t (at least I don’t) have a lot of space to work with in a poem, so make every word do as much work as possible. If you’re going to call special attention to a word by putting it at the beginning or end of a line, then make sure that word deserves the attention. Sometimes there are tradeoffs, judgments to make. I’m also a fan of balance in poems, so I try to keep lines reasonably equal in meter and length. I like that decisions like that can be so important to us.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

I can’t say I really do. I’m mostly projecting outside myself, rather than inside when I’m writing. Physically I need to be comfortable and in a quiet space while writing, though I’ve done some writing on cramped airplanes (I travel a lot for my job), though not often. I prefer the tactile feel of typing a poem on a computer to writing it out by hand, but that’s probably more out of habit (and the ease of editing) than anything else.

I have a fairly comfortable relationship with my body. It does what I need it to. Now that I think about it, I feel pretty much the same way about my poems. I’m happy with them, but they can always use a little improving. As the years go on I know that eventually the body won’t hold up, but I hope the poems do. 

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

I guess I don’t like that I can’t (or don’t feel comfortable) talking about being a poet with my non-poet friends and colleagues. My day job isn’t at a university, so poetry isn’t something that comes up a lot in conversation. If I mentioned at a lunch meeting that I was into sword swallowing or bug eating, I still think I’d get weirder looks for telling people I did a poetry reading the night before. Even most people I know who were former college English majors haven’t read any poetry since it was required of them in British Lit 2.

While I wish poetry received more respect in our society, I’m very happy with what poetry has done for me. Poetry forces introspection and focus at a level most people don’t bother with. Poetry requires an awareness of things, a study of relationships, an ability to translate situations into precision. I don’t think I’d be doing those things if poetry hadn’t created the habit in me.

From Necessary Myths:

Two-headed Calf at the Farm Show

We came for sights and smells,
distractions of giant beets
and blue-ribbon goats,
but at the taxidermy tent we find
a body mounted, badly stitched and
held into a suckling pose
by wires hidden in the neck,
a calf that may or may not
have been more than we expected,
and who expects these things?
Not the calf as it entered the world
watching itself watching itself
slide out onto the sharp padding
of straw, strong hands pulling
at its legs. One heart, one spine
branching like a river
with two mouths to the sea
and for a brief moment
they both gasp, breath
struggling down a pair
of clotted throats, a god’s
joke that let the gentle eyes
open long enough to see
each other’s own lovely brown eyes
slowly close, the one heart too shocked
to bring legs up for balance
and finally those farmers hands let go.
So now under a sun hot tent
we reach out to touch it,
holding hands but looking away,
thinking of the big coffee eyes
the moment one person knows before the other
that the fight for air is over
when one heart’s not enough
for both of us.


Grant Clauser’s latest book new book, Necessary Myths was the winner of the 2013 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize from Broadkill River Press ( He’s also the author of The Trouble with Rivers and has poems in or forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, The Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Cortland Review, Seattle Review, Tipton Review and others. In 2010 he was Montgomery County Poet Laureate. By day he writes about electronics and daydreams about fly fishing. He teaches poetry writing at conferences and Musehouse and runs the blog