I’m Still Here–How Are You?

It’s cool and windy and too dry–classic New Mexico spring. Looks like the apricots have made it from blossom to fruit nub without freezing. Nice news although not that thrilling for our yard–our trees produce pretty mealy apricots, loved by earwigs.
Sometimes I look at my house and wish I could start fresh in something new and conventional–a white box. Yet usually I don’t. A festive new bedspread and a rag rug for the pantry help spruce things up. The cat is REALLY old. My friend Kathleen told the cat “you are really old, but this is a good house for an old cat.” She was remembering my gray tabby Cassandra who lived to be a creaky 19.
I’m not young myself.
I feel like I’m living from project to project, and that isn’t bad. The 1/4 mile of art opens April 10 (reception 4-6 pm) on SFCC campus. Isabel and I are working on our suminagashi project–Japanese marbling or spilled ink. The technology of getting text on it is the challenge. We’ll do a run of 10 for the campus poetry posts. Then in July I’m at Salem Arts in upstate New York–I’ll have 24 suminagashi pieces from Iz, then will add “a poem” an hour for 24 and post them on a laundry line or tree. A bit of performance anxiety here.
My friend Devon and I are going to Cape May and we’ll “dry run” some sand poems, using molds. I’m looking forward to collaborating with her, and getting it to look like something that isn’t a sandpiper track. In December, I’m on my own at the grand Betsy Hotel in Miami doing a five day poetry sand project.
I’m happy, worried, scared. I like being off the page.
Rich found me something truly cool–the opportunity to write in Thoreau’s house in Concord (where he was born) for two days. It was on the great site “Bidding for Good” and we won!
I’m worried about many things–ill or frail friends and family members. The Crimea. Global Warming. My bad right leg. My students make me happy, and even after 19 years I love the parking lot at community college–love walking in the door. Really love the “coffee cart” which is now a counter with Carol the coffee lady. I figured out how to add a shot of sugar free hazelnut syrup to pretty much anything. And, don’t laugh my local friends, I finally figured out that Rabbit Road is a much nicer and faster route to work! These things keep me going.
It is surprising, gratifying even, to have been blogging here for so long. Long enough to have fallen in and out of love with it numerous times.
What do you want to read? What shall I write about? What do you want to write? I bet I’d love to publish it.

Genghis Khan Bar and Grill Versus The Lincoln Diner

In my travels I’ve been struck by eateries named for outlaws, heroes, and combos of the two. Robin Hood’s Tavern seems a natural (although don’t closely examine “steal from the rich” to give to the owner.) But Pancho Villa’s taqueria caught my interest…Pancho Villa is hero to some, bandit to others, and outlaw heroes make attractive signage. So what about Genghis Khan? Founder of the Mongol nation and great conqueror or pillager of civilization? Sort of like the Vikings. His name is on thousands of hot pot restaurants worldwide. And I won’t even google Viking Bar and Grill.
So how about despots, dictators, and villains? There is Godfather (outlaw hero) pizza but I doubt there is a pasta joint named for Mussolini. Or much named for Stalin. (Prove me wrong if you know!)
All this to say, The Lincoln Diner in Gettysburg seems a safe bet for eggs and pancakes.

Graveled and Quarried by Bonnie Schwartz

Graveled and Quarried


Sugar rained into the yard. Dogs and children, mouths agape, gulped.


Ancient ruins and ziggurats, configured in a trine, surround a field covered in fresh, short grass. Someone must mow it, the speaker thinks, but whom?


Bones under sand and clay, excavated near the ruins. They show signs of disease, frailty, attacks. The speaker asks: To whom do these relics belong? The speaker demands: How old were the custodians of these bones when each of them succumbed?


In the jungle the mysteries are hidden. Plants and roots, too much rain, obscure answers that lie beneath. Hidden like family histories, too shameful to reveal.


His teeth: yellowed and cracked, straight lines from top to bottom.


So many bones in the feet. Tiny, frail bones. Easily crushed.


Birds fly up from up soil, white flowers of bindweed. A nuisance plant, the yard man says. My daughter picks the white flowers, hands me a bunch, insists I put them in water.


What is there to say about the sun? It is not the sun about which I wish to speak.


Seagulls, rats of the aviary, scavenge the beach for Cheetos. Broken shards, ancient ruins, cloudbursts. Voices of screaming children.


We rode our bicycles there, rickety and rusted. Wondered about the blood staining the earth beneath our feet.


Sacre coeur. Marie de France. Do you want to play?


Invite me to your swimming pool, s’il vous plait.


Fractured, these neighbors. Graveled and quarried. Kidnapped child wandering through fields.


It was not political, the neighbors say. It was about the money.


A mother stands quietly in front of a large picture window framing a slice of desolate street. She is looking for parked cars containing strange men, sitting alone, waiting.

Bonnie Schwartz

What a publisher/editor wants to hear.

This says it all! Thank you, Kate. I know my readers will appreciate this.

Kate Gale: A Mind Never Dormant

kkk 006

1. I write well.
2. I’m willing to edit my work.
3. I’d like to be a lifelong conversation with someone I can learn from.
4. I’m aware that I have a lot to learn.
5. I am committed to selling my book and being an advocate for this press in the world.
6. I like this press and I respect how hard you work.
7. I’m not just writing one book, this is my life.
8. I am willing to spend money to travel, to promote the book.
9. I’m willing to go anywhere and to be charming when I get there.
10. I feel grateful to have ideas and be able to write them and to be talking with you.

What we often get instead:

1. I’m cool? Don’t you think so?
2. I need to make money as a writer; you can make that happen for me.

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Ralph Melcher on “Black Boy” by Richard Wright

In the past several months I’ve been listening to lectures and reading course materials associated with the Open Yale Courses online program, which is one of the most valuable educational resources I’ve ever come across (and it’s free). The latest course I’ve been following is one on The American Novel Since 1945 taught by Amy Hungerford. Having been perennially behind in my reading of serious contemporary fiction (other than Thomas Pynchon and Don Delillo) I thought I’d use this as my guide to the genre. The first book addressed in the course is Black Boy, an autobiographical text by Richard Wright (author of Native Son). 

This book is one of the most emotionally powerful documents I’ve ever come across. I would compare it to another book about growing up black in America, The Autobiography of Malcolm X as a riveting account of the travails of coming of age and reaching maturity in a hostile social environment. I found Richard Wright’s memoir in it’s eloquence and introspection even more effective in conveying to me the intensely claustrophobic experience of an intelligent black man coming of age in a culture that regards him as somewhat less than human, with a distrust that is amplified by projected guilt. At times the narrative is almost agonizing in its depiction of the maze of obstacles, both concrete and psychological that make it almost incomprehensible that anyone could survive, let alone escape the pre-ordained assumptions establishing a social order based on racial prejudice.

The book was written during the first half of the twentieth century, a time after the legal abolition of slavery but when the presumption of white privilege went mostly unquestioned by both parties in the racial equation. Richard Wright in his account, not only relates the circumstances of his environment but offers deep and penetrating analyses of the psychological structures that form the bulwarks supporting the world he describes. 

I found the following passage profoundly accurate in its description of the tortured dilemma that lying at the core of the American character and still reverberating through our political culture today. Published in 1944, these words are not only descriptive and relevant in relation to our history, but prophetic in their description of an America torn apart by the arrogant and simplistic assumptions of exceptionalism and denial reinforced by religious bigotry and jingoistic bombast, making it all but impossible for us to deal effectively with even the most obvious situations presented by the real world:

“…I feel that for white America to understand the significance of the problem of the Negro will take a bigger and tougher America than any we have yet known. I feel that America’s past is too shallow, her national character too superficially optimistic, her very morality too suffused with color hate for her to accomplish so vast and complex a task. Culturally the Negro represents a paradox: Though he is an organic part of the nation, he is excluded by the entire tide and direction of American culture. Frankly, it is felt to be right to exclude him, and it is felt to be wrong to admit him freely. Therefore if, within the confines of its present culture, the nation ever seeks to purge itself of its color hate, it will find itself at war with itself, convulsed by a spasm of emotional and moral confusion. If the nation ever finds itself examining its real relation to the Negro, it will find itself doing infinitely more than that; for the anti-Negro attitude of whites represents but a tiny part – though a symbolically significant one – of themoral attitude of the nation. Our too young and too new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists on seeing the real world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness. Am I damning my native land? No; for I, too, share these faults of character! And I really do not think that America, adolescent and cocksure, a stranger to suffering and travail, an enemy of passion and sacrifice, is ready to probe into its most fundamental beliefs.”

To read more by Ralph Melcher:http://arclist.org/

Blue Moon Diner

I’m a great fan of artist Tim Prythero’s work. Every time I see a piece I want to write a poem. Here is his new piece “The Blue Moon Diner,” with photographic setting done by Bob Christensen.
It is so evocative:
And a source of inspiration:

The Blue Moon Diner

has a closed sign
in the window
but if it were open–
and life sized–
I might be inside
half spinning
on the cracked red vinyl of a counter stool

To read the entire poem, go to Versewrights.