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Thursday, December 1, 2016


Having examined three years that were historically important to me, 1510, 1892, and 1964 , I considered it only fair to examine 1962.

I don't know why I chose 1962 except fair, yes, maybe because there was  a World's Fair in Seattle that year. Here is a memory-photo of The Space Needle under construction. For some reason, or not, I always imagined they started it at the top and built downward with steel and prestressed concrete legs. This is how it looked in in my brain:

There was a restaurant up there in the saucer that rotated so diners could get a good look at the city. However, when we drove up from California, the line to get a table extended halfway to Oregon. It is now 54 years later and I'm pretty sure some of those people haven't been seated yet.

We stayed on the ground and had sodas and hot dogs that didn't agree with each others company, then got on the monorail which aggravated the argument. But we were kids, and kids are like hearts; they rest between beats and recover. We ignored our stomachs and rode an elevated  train that swung around on one rail. It was very futuristic.  Since then I have participated in many futures and learned to know when I am in one. They still make me queasy sometimes.

We are in a future right now. Best I can suggest is concentrate on some fixed point, like a mountain or big idea, or a pretty little rock and draw a doodle of it:
Settles the jumps right down; welcomes us all into December --a time of renewal and good will. I shall turn 67 this month and part of me remains in 1962. It seeks astonishment in a world's fairest dreams.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Blogger Enigma!!!

Dear companion bloggers,
This evening I was prompted to accept some changes in posting procedure by Google Blogger --little boxes with arrows that said things like this:
"Blogger Buzz

A first few tweaks toward a better Blogger

A Googler at Blogger Buzz - 36 minutes ago
From New York to Jakarta, Blogger is one of the most popular ways to publish the things you’re passionate about. Still, we’ve heard that there’s more we can do to make the platform a better place to have your unique voice be heard. So we’ll be making some adjustments over time to bring you a faster, easier to use and more beautiful Blogger. To kick things off, we’ve taken a crack at simplifying Blogger’s dashboard so that it’s easier for you to get right to the tools you need. Now, whenever you open Blogger, you’ll be taken right to your blog with the most recent post, putting you o... more »"   

I clicked a couple to get them clear and things went fine for a while.  Later, I found I had no administrative access to my 2 poetry blogs: Gardening With Geo,and Invalid's Workshop I don't know what Google is trying to do here but I resent it, and urge you not to click on prompts as hastily as I did --that's five hundred pages of my poems that seem to have been written in disappearing ink --like much of this strange century's written record. I still have some control over this blog, Trainride Of The Enigmas, but have no idea how long that will last or if my poetry blogs will be restored.  Yes, I have run a virus/malware etc. scan on my computer and it's clean. This is Google-doings.

If anyone has a suggestion as to what I might do to correct the problem, I'd be most appreciative. Until then, I'll ask your patience.

How Poems Get Their Titles

Below is a Normaphoto of me this past Wednesday writing a poem on a little tablet (at right elbow) furnished free by the Hospital. For reasons perhaps discernible to keen observer, I had tentatively entitled it Not My Finest Hour --but found myself scribbling it around a better title, also furnished free, "Quehaceres", Spanish for Tasks, subtitled "To do..."
Here is a picture of the first draft of "Quehaceres":

Then it occurred to me that it was a to-do list that got me into the fix I was in. It was Tuesday, the 15th, and I decided to attack the most frightening problem in the most frightening room of this crazy old farmhouse. The old w.c. wax flange had spread and failed. Water got into the subfloor. If that could be corrected before the holiday, there would be sincere thanksgiving ahead. I went out and bought a new neoprene gasket to replace the old wax one, some lumber and --in case of protracted inconvenience-- a "Lug-a-loo", much used and roundly hated by campers.

I only neglected some minor details. I am in my late 60s, asthmatic and run on a pacemaker tuned to music to relax by. It was well into evening before everything was braced up and tightened down --functional at least-- and I settled at the kitchen table to read a bit, kick back and gasp for breath.  Many years ago, a therapist taught me a breathing technique she guaranteed would make panic attacks impossible. It always worked too, so I tried it and had a panic attack. About 1 a.m., I was feeling a bit restless and decided an ambulance ride might calm me down --and, what the heck, why not visit ER for a few hours and see how things are going in ICU until Thursday?

Couple days ago, a perceptive and valued commenter at one of my poetry sites recognized neglect there and opined it was suffering from "drought".  This surpassed prior estimates (including Acidosis)  and was adopted as the title for the poem:            


Drought, it hides 
Out underfoot
In tortured roots,
Science, in art,
And doubt, faith
And overhead in
Dry trees where 
We seek the living
Sky from our knees.
So, let's remember, there's nothing wrong with "to-do" lists, but at certain stages of age and caducity their authors will find themselves rewarded by careful editing before leaping into action -- and thus avoid overdoing.  Or one might simply hire a contractor. In neither course can the effect of bathroom repairs on the enigma of poem titles be measured accurately without a survey of the entire universe. Something to keep in mind when tempted to "do-it-yourself". 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Nature As A Second Language

Now that the election is over with --or is it?-- it is time to turn our attention to nature --yes, that area between the front door and the car. Norma sent me coverage:
"Hello there, what're you?"
"You're the dominant species. You tell me."
"Off hand, I'd say you're an Agraulis vanillae."
"Typical arrant pedantry, up with which I shall not put. I'm a Fritillary.
"Not the same thing?"
"From Latin, human, it's a long way to Fritillary." 
"You can learn from Latin."
"Publilius Syrus said, 'An angry man is again angry at himself when he returns to reason.'"
"But I'm a butterfly, not a man. Look!"
"Where'd you go?"
"Put your glasses on and look carefully. I only turned sideways."
"Oh, there you are! What are you trying to teach me?"
"Look in your mind. What do you see?"
"Well, butterfly, this surprises me. I see my 1830 edition of Whelpley's dissertation on the importance of historical knowledge, A Compend Of History, open at illustrations of Fabricius and the Elephants and Cornelia's Jewels."

"And what similarities do you notice?"
"Good heavens, the book-spine and your head, thorax and abdomen..."
"My wings?"
"Your wings and the book's pages..."
"Constitute what, human?"
"Information systems of identical construction!"
"Indeed. Each butterfly is a four-page history of butterflies."
"Dear butterfly, I have been reading since Eisenhower took office but realize I have barely begun!"
"Learn the language, human. Learn the language!"

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

Above is the Great Seal of the USA. I held a dollar up to the webcam to capture it, and show why it looks less like a seal than an eagle to me --no flippers, talons. Its head is pointed toward an olive branch clutched in its talon, so it must be peacetime. In time of war, its head faces toward the arrows in the other talon. Every now and then, I check my wallet to see what sort of hat or helmet to wear.

There is a ribbon in the creature's mouth inscribed with the motto, "E Pluribus Unum"--from many, one-- in reference to the states constellated  up top. When the continental congress was trying to come up with a good motto for this country, Benjamin Franklin insisted on "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” However, the committee was not completely satisfied and their report to Congress was tabled. This pretty much set the standard for committees ever after --good thing too!

Let's fast forward to today, a lively example of USA's quadrennial enigma. For those unfamiliar with American politics, it is election day, after which votes will be counted up and result in Coronation Day, which is observed by royalty and rabble taking turns beheading each other until we have a president. We have spent the year listening to  the sizzle of promises dissolving in vitriol and are now well-enough informed to vote according to personal prejudice.

Yes, of the two choices,  I confess to simply favoring the candidate more easily identifiable as a mammal, and have voted for her. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Spectral Encounter

This being Hallowe'en, and having made my mind up to make good on a decision to expatiate  a mention made weeks ago about spectral encounters (yes, Jon) I began to doodle yesterday. I have had two such experiences, 34 years apart, and will address the first.
I was four years old, standing beside my mother in the back porch as she operated the wringer washer. The inner doorway gave onto the kitchen. I looked in and saw the figure above appear from the south wall, glide through the woodstove and table as if they weren't there.

She looked more like a 3-d shadow, walking alone, than figures I was used to seeing. I could discern some features. She was young, younger than my mother but older than my sisters --who were soon to be teenagers. She was upholstered in a longer, translucent, version of the black bombazine dresses my elder relatives wore sometimes, and was veiled, hat to waist.

She then passed through the north kitchen wall into my sisters' room. I told my mother: "There's a pretty lady in the kitchen..." Mama shut off the washer, asked me what I'd seen,  took me into the rooms on the figure's trajectory. Nothing disturbed, nothing there. She then held me close and I got chocolate milk.

I won't go into my second encounter with a ghost. It took place in the summer of 1988 --34 years later-- and involved someone I knew. I'm concerned that the manifestation was meant personally, not intended for repetition. But the point is, despite my inimpeachable adherence to rationalism and concession to ghostly sightings being annectotal, there is an axiom I have long been trying to substantiate: The absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence. 

But, Hallowe'en is also the e'en of an election month, and I can't ignore the terms of Ovid. We have all, all parties, despaired with a grand old --and dignified-- faction and wept with Echo for the absence of Narcissus . Let the lessons of Rome, Nature, Supernature and the promise of chocolate milk guide us into the coming month.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tide, Time and Poetry (Revisited)

I was called to substitute for your regular pastor at an inopportune moment and had no sermon prepared. However, I found this Antijeremiadic McWhirtle on which to improvise.
Like all humans, I contain several tablespoons of salt --a ratio I share with my weight in seawater because both are made on earth. Earth, in turn, was assembled by electric and gravitational attractions various compounds in outer space exerted upon one another. Throughout these compilations there remain attachments to forces among shifting stars. Like sound aimed at a microphone element they stir the oceans and make them speak. We hear it on the shore when currents collide in waves. We hear it when wind scrapes treetops. We hear it in our brains when we are very sleepy. Here is a little poem about that:

The ocean is always
In you and in me,
Where gravity dreams,
Fictitious forces swirl,
Marmoreal seams pitch
Into air.
What is too far
And ancient to see
Can at least be
Heard there.

Let's see what rolls out of the waves, shall we?

Certainly technology-heavy genres have their distances and drawbacks. Heavy Metal and Rap always sounded like rhythmic tantrums to me --a parent shouting its wit's short end, a child stomping off, the heart beating over one's foetal head. When the beat stops I expect to hear: NOW GO TO YOUR ROOM!!, glass breaking or a door slamming. But that too is part of the poetry of our time, the rhythm of waves. We ignore it at our peril. I've never been an avid e.e. cummings fan either, but discovering "i sing of Olaf" at a crucial time impelled me to leave no authority unexamined and saved my life.

Next wave: In 1968, I drove a hop truck in the late summer harvest. When possible, I'd stop for lunch at Flora's place. She had a poster there of a Robert Frost quote, "Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I'll forgive Thy great big one on me." Flora was a retired school teacher who knew poetry and I was a hick who needed to know more. Reciprocity, especially in forgiveness, opens poetry --and working hops without it was just hot and hard. I kept learning and prospered.

I could go on anecdotally  about how poetry redirected me in positive ways, but these two successive waves suffice. Thought is very random enterprise, like the vast universe that sets it up and sends sunlight to fuel it. It generates safeguards of common sense that make us find beaches not with little whiney trumpet exhaust or subwoofing cars but in ancient hop trucks. It also furnishes an ocean in our heads, portable oceans, which cuts metaphorical driving considerably. I am reminded of the old Masefield poem, which I learned over a half-century ago but can still recite inaccurately from memory:

"I must go down to the sea again, to the Coney Island sand,
And all I ask is a traffic jam backed up to Disneyland..."

John Masefield, as you know, was a writer for Mad Magazine who became the British Poet-Laureate.

I am still a hick. Help! Amen.