Sunday, December 3, 2017

candle studies: wax from an old book

The Chemistry and Technology of Waxes, by Albin H. Warth, published in 1947 by Reinhold Publishing Corporation in New York, popped up somewhere in one of the several wax research studies that lately I have been perusing online. I became keen to own a copy of the book as originally printed and bound. Amazon offered three options ranging in price from $95 (“used – acceptable”) to $500 (“used – good”). AbeBooks offered modern-day reprints for about $15 to $20, and, lo and behold, one old, original book, used, in good condition, a former library book, $22.

The book arrived in the mail this week. A bookplate informs that it once belonged to the Walter Schroeder Library of the Milwaukee School of Engineering, presented to said library by Fred Portz, Sr. A quick Google search led me to Mr. Portz’s son’s obituary (or so I believe), and I stopped to wonder why I was googling Fred Portz. Better to look up Albin H. Warth, Chemical Director at The Crown Cork and Seal Co., Baltimore, Maryland, but, wait, isn’t it too early for a side trip?

The Table of Contents alone of The Chemistry and Technology of Waxes tells us much. The chapters are organized by type of wax (natural; fossil, earth and lignite paraffins; petroleum; synthetic, etc.) and the list below each heading tells us what to expect. For example, in the chapter on natural waxes we will learn about beeswax, cotton wax, cranberry wax, wool wax, and others. Among the fossil and earth waxes we will discover algae wax and peat wax. There seems to be a regular plethora of waxes.

The book’s “Introductory” (Chapter 1) was short and easy, and I appreciated the etymology.
Wax is as old as man. The English term wax is derived from the Anglo-Saxon weax, which was the name applied to the natural material of the honeycomb of the bee. When a material of similar resemblance was found in plants it also became known as weax or wachs, and later wax.
At the start of Chapter 2, “Chemical Components of Waxes,” my gears stalled and my eyes glazed over.

I spent some time mulling over the word tautomer, then skipped ahead to Chapter 3, “The Natural Waxes,” and found myself understanding perfectly well this bit on page 40.
Coloration of Beeswax. Vansell and Bisson143 of the California Agricultural Experiment Station made a study of the coloration of beeswax. Freshly secreted beeswax is white, but it readily absorbs colors from various sources. Some pollens carry yellow substances, which are liberated to the beeswax in either solid or liquid state. A cell in a new bee comb, as well as the walls of the adjacent cells, becomes very yellow when melted (in glass) with fresh pollens collected from various plants. For example, the color imparted to white beeswax by the golden pollen of the sunflower, Helianthus bolanderi, is a bright orange yellow; that of the golden pollen of the California poppy a brilliant orange yellow; that of the bright yellow dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, Weber, a bright yellow; that of the brown pollen of the white clover, Trifolium repens, L., only a trace of yellow; that of the pollens of alfalfa, flax, hollyhock, and many others, none.

Much of the crude beeswax imported from Cuba and other Caribbean countries is distinctly brown. It has a strong beeswax odor, masked to some extent by a tobacco-like smell. The pollen of tobacco plants is said to be responsible for both the off-odor and off-color of this wax.
Before long, though, I was once again at a loss. Here it is, plain as day, the chemical composition of beeswax, and yet to me it appears almost completely meaningless.

The sub-section that ends with this big reveal begins with the claim that “For the past century the chemical composition of beeswax has been a subject of discussion … ”.

I see there’s a long way to go. (Coming up: liquid animal waxes such as mutton bird oil and “Sperm oil from the blubber and the cavities in the head of the sperm whale … ”.) Much mystery lies ahead.

Time for a Side Trip

At the end of the beeswax section in The Chemistry and Technology of Waxes, the National Farm Chemurgic Council is mentioned.
The National Farm Chemurgic Council has reported that beeswax is being used in connection with the manufacture of at least four hundred articles—from ammunition, cosmetics, and medicines, to protective coatings on airplanes.
I insisted on googling “chemurgy” and found an interesting article in the “Journal of Industrial Ecology,” Volume 7, Issue 3-4, Version of record online: 8 Feb 2008. In Old Efforts at New Uses: A Brief History of Chemurgy and the American Search for Biobased Materials, Mark R. Finlay writes:
Basing the name of their movement on the root words for chemistry (chemi) and work (ergon), chemurgists contended that the chemicals found in farm products could provide industry with needed raw materials. … Chemurgists had three principal goals: to develop new, nonfood uses of existing crops; to develop new farm commodities useful to industry to grow in lieu of surplus commodities; and to find profitable uses for various agricultural wastes and residues. Moreover, because most chemurgists were unabashedly economic nationalists, most hoped their programs would drastically reduce U.S. dependence on foreign markets.
Born in Dearborn, Michigan, in the mid-1930s out of a meeting of like minds (including Henry Ford’s, whose company in 1935 “used 1 bushel of soybeans for every car it manufactured”) and directly linked to the experiences of and aftermath of World War I, chemurgy and its emerging councils had an impact which lasted until the Second World War and somewhat beyond, fading throughout the 1950s and 1960s until the councils, if not the ideas behind them, unraveled. As with all movements, I suppose, proponents varied in their intensity of belief. William J. Hale, referred to as “the father of chemurgy” in his New York Times obituary (August 9, 1955) and described in Finlay’s article as a “Michigan chemist linked by marriage to the Dow Chemical Company, and chair of the U.S. National Research Council’s Chemistry and Chemical Technology Committee,” was perhaps on one end of an extreme.
… the chemurgists’ isolationist politics came under increasing scrutiny, and Hale’s writings, which included strong praise for the self-sufficiency schemes of Nazi Germany, became increasingly irrelevant5 (Wright 1995).

Saturday, November 18, 2017

candle studies: a wish, a vapor

“ … a wish that you may, in your generation, be fit to compare to a candle; that you may, like it, shine as lights to those about you; that, in all your actions, you may justify the beauty of the taper by making your deeds honorable and effectual in the discharge of your duty to humankind.”

Michael Faraday
From Michael Faraday’s Christmas lectures of 1860, “The Chemical History of the Candle.”
The original transcript of the lecture (or at least a version thereof found online) uses the words “your fellow-men” rather than “humankind,” the latter appearing in the book “Michael Faraday’s The Chemical History of the Candle with Guides to Lectures, Teaching Guides & Student Activities” by Bill Hammack and Don DeCoste.
Following is an excerpt from the original Lecture I.—A Candle: The Flame—Its Sources—Structure—Mobility—Brightness:

FIG. 56
There is another condition which you must learn as regards the candle, without which you would not be able fully to understand the philosophy of it, and that is the vaporous condition of the fuel. In order that you may understand that, let me show you a very pretty but very commonplace experiment. If you blow a candle out cleverly, you will see the vapor rise from it. You have, I know, often smelt the vapor of a blown-out candle, and a very bad smell it is; but if you blow it out cleverly you will be able to see pretty well the vapor into which this solid matter is transformed. I will blow out one of these candles in such a way as not to disturb the air around it by the continuing action of my breath; and now, if I hold a lighted taper two or three inches from the wick, you will observe a train of fire going through the air till it reaches the candle (FIG. 56). I am obliged to be quick and ready, because if I allow the vapor time to cool, it becomes condensed into a liquid or solid, or the stream of combustible matter gets disturbed.

Friday, September 15, 2017

death brings a poem

sometimes i wonder who we are
walking around in garb
that shapes us, defines us, protects us
walking around naked

and sometimes i wonder who we are
that we stay, linger, never budge
or flit, flee, fly off in a snap –

& sometimes i wonder who can we be
that others may keep us, buy us, sell us, steal us
(we don’t know)
and i wonder who we are
that we wrap ourselves
in flags and totems and rainbow displays
demanding that we be seen
– for who we are –

who are we?
plasma and bone, dust to dust?
psyche and ego and soul?
miasma of heavens, dregs of hell?
the strength of nations?
lonely victims of wind and rain
raging seas, islands of emotion
do we die at the hands of others
do we die at the hands of ourselves
do we die by the whims of gods

sometimes i wonder who we are
that we don’t even know
who we are
yet we know all this
we know all that
we know you, me
right, wrong
what should be, what shouldn’t be
and we know
what is

& we know today
you wear
a new cloak

Friday, August 18, 2017

there is no president

august 16, 2017
and beyond
somewhere in america

i feel there is no government
                        no president

  - preserving -
     standing up for
         all that is precious
             - my country -

to inhabit our cities our towns our homes our markets our fields
pursuing sustenance
without threat      (visible, hooded, cloaked)
that all are created equal
no matter the circumstances wide, varied
no matter the gross frequency of failing to live out
this ideal
still we honor the ideal
we protect the ideal
we defend the ideal

and now     we see
no president to care about this
                  no president respecting, even
masses (huddled)
– our selves –
– our children –
– our dignity –
the list
the list
the list
is endless
the depth of feeling

and so this is the way
i understand now
so many americans have always felt
– been made to feel –
hey ! no one gives a damn,
no one gave a damn,
about their lives, about your lives, about our lives –
so i
          now, in a very small way
know the same

there is no president

there is, though, us
– we the people –
to defend, protect
the truth self-evident
created equal
you and i
me and you
my god
nazis march up and down streets
carrying guns
assault rifles
calling out
these streets our streets
How ridiculous.
They look so ridiculous
their panties must be in such a twist,
pulled so tight,
hasn’t anyone ever told them:
wear boxers
don’t they know - ?
they could walk these streets
these very same streets
these american streets
without their guns
without their chants
without their slogans
and emblems and flags
without hate
and for instance, buy an ice cream,
have a seat,
wherever you like,
chill out,
talk with stranger or friend
or just take in the sights
Me guns I must carry!
My right! My right!
Look at me! Look at me!
I am Su-per-i-or-i-tee!
I shoot! I shoot!
I am a big stupid galoot!
… with tiki torch

Maybe … should there have been an offering?
garlands of flowers,
tropical drinks in coconut shells,
a ukulele band,
Hawaiian shirts,
          hey ! welcome to america, guys!
hula dancers
Would hula dancers have done the trick?
Made them look sideways,
So, correct me if I’m wrong:
Nazis walk through America
with assault rifles to rile people up
and they have permission,
they are allowed, and
they are openly, repeatedly,
protected and defended
- complimented? -
by a president
who is there          – for some –
abandoning all others,
the dead, the living,
abandoning this country


Sunday, July 2, 2017

the turtle and the duck and the eternal question

I was driving home from the corner store, about five miles up the road, when I saw a turtle ahead in the middle of my lane. I slowed down and swerved left, just a bit, in order to place the turtle more precisely between the wheels of my car rather than underneath one. It was just a middlin’ size turtle heading east, going from one large chunk of woods and farmland, creeks and rivers, to another. His head was out, his neck stretched its full length. I passed over him. When I looked in the rearview mirror I could see his head was retracted and the truck behind me was slowing down, swerving slightly to the left. The truck behind that? I could not tell. I can only hope that the turtle survived, got where it wanted to go.

I have been known to stop for turtles to help them cross the road, but last night with two trucks behind me and an ice cream cone in my right hand that turtle was on its own. The only reason I had gone to the corner store was for the ice cream. They started serving cones this spring. The first time I saw the sign—Now serving Jilbert’s hand-dipped … —I came near to braking, swerving into the store’s gravel parking lot right then and there. I should have a bumper sticker: I stop for turtles and ice cream. But I don’t.

Yesterday had been a good day. On the way home from the market, as I was passing the turn for The Drive-In, I thought about turning and stopping at The Drive-In for a fish sandwich, French fries and root beer float, but I had it in my head that I had to get home and now I don’t remember why. I couldn’t remember why yesterday, either, once home, and the thought of the taste and smell and grease of those French fries lingered, eventually morphing into the reality of a Mackinac Island Fudge waffle cone at the corner store that dripped a bit as a turtle crossed the road directly in front of me halfway between here and there. It made me think of the ducks.

That morning, on the way to the market, on US41/M28 alongside Teal Lake, a mother duck waddled across the road followed by her ducklings. There were six or seven of them. I caught them out of the corner of my eye. The road is undergoing construction, the two Marquette-bound lanes reduced to one, the speed limit reduced, I was listening to Hamilton, Act I, and the ducks were nearing the lane I was in but not quite there yet, they were heading for the lake, single file, one right behind the other, waddling along, cute as could be, I was leading a pack of cars, I saw the ducks, I slowed down, I could not stop. I watched in the rearview mirror as the car behind me slowed, did not stop. I kept looking, could no longer see the ducks, but I did see that the truck that was behind the car slowed down, stopped.

Up ahead was a stoplight. It was red. I crept toward it while continuing to look in the rearview mirror. I couldn’t see but felt sure the ducks were crossing safely in front of the truck that had stopped, were waddling by single file, still cute as could be, looking as if they owned the joint. But there were more lanes to cross, oncoming traffic—one lane? two? with construction, I don’t remember—but the light was red. All oncoming traffic was back there, on the other side of the red light, waiting. Could it be? Could it really be that life was this orderly? This kind? This aware? So thoughtful? People waiting at red lights? People in trucks waiting for ducks? Could there truly be on one early morning enough time and good happenstance for a mother duck and her string of ducklings to cross what is normally a four-lane highway with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour without losing a step, a web, a feather, a bill? As I had passed that mother duck she had not paused and pulled her head in like a turtle, no, as far as I could see she had continued heading straight to the lake, no stopping, no turning back, no matter what, waddling on. Did that really happen? Did she have time to get across? Did her ducklings have time? And why do ducks and other animals do this crazy stuff? Why do they cross the road?

Somehow, I think it’s on Facebook somewhere. There’s a picture of a mother duck (I’m guessing a mallard) leading her ducklings across US41/M28 at Teal Lake. Traffic is stopped. Someone takes a picture. Someone tells the story. Someone tells a joke about ducks crossing the road to get to the other side, and there’s a happy ending. And if there’s not a happy ending, I’d rather not know.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

every button tells a story don’t it

here is my maternal grandmother, her mother, her brother
they crossed an ocean
came to america
went to work
went to school
worked hard
raised families
on & on

here is my father
saw the great depression
served in WWII
raised a family
worked hard
had fun
he was a journalist
he was an editor
a love for words
respect for words
on & on

here is my mother
you bet she persisted
thank god
women do

and here is my home
the ground i walk on
the air i breathe
the water i drink
more than a home
my world

& here is my humor
sorely tested, overworked, given so much fodder, too much fodder.
but the others.
he has demeaned, insulted, endangered them all
now, then
will do so again
on & on
life goes on

i am a person
an american citizen
looking for
fellow citizens

for kindred spirits
for kindred souls
for kinder hearts

for intellect

& the world i find
is full

Many thanks for an Etsy shop called Buttons for the People, where all these buttons I bought came from.

By the way, when’s the last time you heard someone complain: Boy, this net neutrality jazz really sucks! Anyone? Well, the head of the FCC, duly appointed by our president, Donald Trump, who dubs the free press an enemy, who demands loyalty or else: YOU’RE FIRED!, thinks net neutrality sucks. So he’s going to fix it. He is going to get rid of it. Perhaps you’ve heard it called a “regulation” so Hoo boy! That’s gotta go! Wrong. Net neutrality is what you enjoy every time you go online—it’s the freedom to mosey around unrestricted by your internet service provider. A lot of people and businesses like net neutrality, including Etsy, where I have a shop. Etsy has been encouraging me to write to the FCC chairman asking him not to repeal Title II of the Communications Act, in essence to plead for my continued ability to compete on the Internet, and it reminds me of how I have always been amazed that anyone ever found my small candle shop—let alone this unbeholden blog—in the first place. But, don’t worry, Trump will fix that. And this is totally unrelated, I’m sure, but did you know that 86% of Etsy shop owners are women?

So thanks again, Buttons for the People! Glad I found you. It was fun.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

words matter: as inspired by the news

the Word of the Week is, of course, “covfefe,”
uttered first through the dry failing fingers of
an old man as he lay struggling against
incoherent thoughts,
thoughts – and we use the word loosely,
for it has not been determined
that this old man thinks, the jury is out,
the doctors are studying,
the people are scratching their heads,
the fools are applauding his new regal robes – but, anyway –
incoherent thoughts,
thoughts usually doused
with vehement spit but now,
with “covfefe,”
a “thought” – aha! –
a so-called thought! –
dribbled through
weak sagging lips
dragged down
by too many frowns
(too little sleep)
just a spool of white spittle
slithering along
a thought, by god!
sent out into the world.
… covfefe ...
Our Presidential Word of the Week.

The Hero* of the Week is a Poet.
     *and no, he does not want to be thought of as a hero –
         his reasoning thoughtful
He stood on a train in Portland.
He stood on the front lines in Portland.
He transformed words – his words(could I do the same?)
into action, and he survived.
         Others did not.
No, others did not.

It all happens so fast,
it happens so fast.
A word.
The blade of a knife.
The instant of sleep.

In a cruel world – just a word.
In a cruel world – just a thought.
But by god, just think.
Monuments to slavery tumbling down.

Men standing up against mad men.
And all the while a president sleeps …
or is that – tweets?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Laced with skunk miasma: it was that kind of morning. On the porch, late spring, that long, slow promise of dawn. That vague, uncertain light. The sky an array of greys like suede brushed this way, that way, melting orange sherbet, pastel pink. I inhaled. Somewhere out there on the road nearby a dead skunk. Or somewhere out there in the woods nearby an animal caught in a net of cologne, shot out of fear, clinging like a halo of black flies.

A few hundred yards out the driveway, down the road, near the farm a half-mile south, a brown figure swiftly moves across the road, disappears, a field of fog. A dog, a coyote, a wolf, an other, an unknown, but, slowing down, I see deer. To the right, one deer in a swirl of ground fog looking toward the road. To the left, two deer in a swirl of ground fog looking toward the road.

Another half-mile, now through “town,” now south of “town.” Approaching a crossroads, a deer flashes across my headlights. I proceed slowly. To the right, standing in the middle of the crossroad, a deer, facing east. To the left, standing in the middle of the crossroad, two deer, facing west.

Over the river, past the churches, past the graveyard, onto the highway, moving eastward toward another town, a real town. We crest a low rolling hill and a deer leaps across the road, into the woods, away. Slowing down, watching it disappear, looking left to see if there are more to come. Standing on the edge of the highway two deer. I travel on. A car passes moving in the opposite direction and I watch in the rearview mirror to see … brake lights come on. Another car passes heading in that direction but I lose sight, round a slight bend.

In town the highway ends at US 41. I turn left, heading to the cheap gas station a mile north. I think briefly if I floored it, headed straight, maybe I would end up in the bay, but there are ditches and brush and perhaps too much land—I would not make it so far. Gas is $2.24 a gallon and when I turn around, pass by the gas stations in town, I see prices there are $2.38.

Add nine-tenths of a cent to each gallon.

Rounding the head of the bay, sun rising, a hot orange ball blazing through stillness, still grey, I head east, the sun is north, to my left, across the bay, the bay like glass, a mirror of sky scratched with two dark lines, parallel, cut by geese.

Winding up and away from the bay, between the ceiling tile plant and its mounds of sawdust and the dirt road that leads to the four-thousand-pound copper statue of a Jesuit priest and his snowshoes, a deer lies dead in the middle of the road. We slow down, we move on, we travel an hour or more, see no deer, no other cars, just alongside the road white flowers, trillium, perhaps, blooming in jaunty waves. I wonder if before being slaughtered by a car a skunk sprays its scent.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

off we go

The deer are here!
A whole herd I see,
browsing through grass.
Wait—I’ve nattered on before
                                          about that.

The river’s risen!
All melting snow, not too much rain.
We watch it flow.
But that you know.

Birds flit and fly,
crows raise a ruckus.
The air feels alive,
same old jive.

Spring in its glory,
mud, bud and dead grass.
Nothing too gory.
But you know the story.

Life springs from death,
on and on it goes.
When we’ll be back,
nobody knows.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

there’s no need for a big production

So one evening Josie, Elliott, and I are sitting around musing, commenting, looking back on the day, looking ahead, you know how it is, a day wanes, it feels nice to pause, reflect, unwind, share thoughts, and all of a sudden, out of the blue, Josie says:

What do you call it when a misanthrope anthropomorphizes?

Later, we sang and danced to “Suppertime.”

Sunday, March 19, 2017

lettin’ turkeys dance

Sittin’ on the broad front porch,
hell fire danglin’ from hand,
I know the beauty of life at last,
of life at last unmanned.

I’d done my time a’grapplin’ with a gun,
shootin’ goop in thin straight lines,
bullets goin’ astray of course but
I took it as no sign.

The foam a different matter, squirtin’
– some might say released –
then growin’ twice its size in hollers
and before my eyes – increased.

I had tackled a job now five years old
– now cold long enough –
self-punishment? I do not know,
I just hate all this caulkin’ stuff.

But it’s part of the grander project, you see,
on which I prefer to muse,
while sittin’ on the broad front porch
and guess what? There is no other news.

No wait! There goes Josie –
chasin’ a trail of wild turkey.
A flock passed through a day ago,
gave a show slightly quirky.

First two then three then five then nine
atop the frozen marsh gathered.
They circled and scurried and gobbled and cooed,
one puffed his feathers in a lather.

Then of a sudden they trotted away,
left me wonderin’: Did they get it worked out?
For they had pow-wowed and parleyed, discussed and talked.
Hey, what are these turkeys about?

Just leavin’ behind a trail and a tale
for Josie to chase and explore.
And me I watch from the broad front porch
not a’wantin’ too much more.

Sittin’ on the broad front porch
a hell-fire a’danglin’ from hand,
lettin’ music and sunshine and turkeys dance
across this crazy free land.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

diary picklin’: turkeys, a gale of wind, star wars, a dash of weird al, and ¡viva italia! it’s the world baseball classic

We discussed everything we knew, during the first fifteen or twenty minutes, that morning, and then branched out into the glad, free, boundless realm of the things we were not certain about.
Mark Twain in A Tramp Abroad

So many turkey tracks around the cabin, down by the river, I wonder if I am living at the White House or on the grounds of Mar-a-Lago.

Plates of ice edge the river, edges lacy thin, snowflake patterns, and where the river rounds a bend one thick, opaque plate juts out over the water, the river flowing below and occasionally up against the underside of the ice. The color of the ice changes. Images rise and fall. Flowing patterns, varying shapes, fluid images, the river rises up, touches the ice, makes it dark, brown, grey then falls back making it light, white, grey, unpredictable, shapes passing by, random, but I wonder. Is there predictability? A scientific formula that if applied … I watch as dark amoeba spidery shapes form, flatten, fatten, recede, reduce to skeletons, disappear, reappear, flow, again, anew, and I appreciate the fluidity of pattern on that which is immobile but fragile, liable to break, cast off, drift away, any time, soon, random shapes, outside pattern—

The hillocks wear caps of snow two to three feet thick. Like top hats, bowlers, or something I’ve seen in a Star Wars movie but again—

A grey morning with shirring clouds, a battering wind, spits of rain, delicious and mild. Elliott, unaware of the virulent forecast, spent the night out. I woke to the thrumming noise of wind against metal punctuated by an occasional riff of rain against glass. I pushed Josie away from the curl of my belly to stumble through the dark to the door, opened the door to a gust of wind and rain, called for Elliott. Once. Twice. Turned on the outside light, waited, went back to bed, curling around Josie. Meow. Meow meow. I got up, stumbled through the dark, opened the door to a gust of wind and rain and a jumpy, soggy Elliott. Wrapped him in a towel. Dried him off. Went back to bed curling around Josie.

I am curious about this World Baseball Classic.

Windbound—wind remains so strong with gusts so powerful we stay in lest we blow around and away like kites. Yesterday a full bucket of beeswax water flew 500 yards across the yard, down the drive. Now even heavy things are battened down, and this morning the wind whips around with highlights—teeny tiny spikes of snow. We crank up the fire, shut it down, a beautiful glow.

I watch the World Baseball Classic.

I make plans for a Cubs game. I learn it is Star Wars Day. One thing leads to another.

icy windswept snow
wandering fields

light on past through present changes
present light by history changed

Sub-zero wind chill watching Mexico v. Italy in the WBC. First game for both. I had already planned to root for Mexico, overall, just because, but now I wonder if I should have picked Italy, in honor of my Italy-loving sister, but, too late. Israel is my second favorite—they’ve got the mensch on a bench. (Mexico leads off with a home run.) And I like the Netherlands. “The Netherlands” has always confused me. Netherlands, Holland, the Dutch—all one and the same? I see no connection in the words. Shouldn’t people from Holland be “Hollanders”? And if they live in the Netherlands, why not “Netherlanders”? What does “Dutch” derive from? I should look this up. (Italy’s second batter hits a home run.) Differences between this game being played in Jalisco, Mexico and the ones I watched played in Seoul and Tokyo are 1) there is a crowd, and 2) they are outdoors, no dome. There are some odd rules for these games, including the Early Termination Rule, which I like because it sounds slightly sinister, exciting: Who will be terminated early? Mercy. Also, Italy is just Italy. Cuba just Cuba. No Cubs, Giants, Indians, Spaghetti Kings.

And just as I am befuddled by the Dutch being from Holland and, or maybe or, The Netherlands, what is the relationship between WikiLeaks and Wikipedia? None.

While on Wikipedia I might as well delve into this Holland thing. Aha! It begins to clear. Then they introduce Belgium, Flemish, the pot muddies. Perhaps it is complicated because it is complicated. But, the Dutch Caribbean (Caribbean Netherlands, BES islands, Isles of Holland, etc.) explains a lot when you look at the Netherlands roster.

¡Oye oye! ¡Otra vez carrera! ¡Viva México!

Italy answers: Fuori campo! Fuori campo!

El juego está knotted quatro a quattro in il quarto.

The top of the fifth and I’m making breakfast so it takes a while to realize Italy has brought in a two-handed pitcher. I mean, the guy throws right-handed and the guy throws left-handed and he’s got a special two-thumbed glove he can wear on whichever hand is not pitching. He switches which side he pitches from according to the batter’s handedness. Just like a switch-hitter. But I’ve never heard of a switch-pitcher. So what happens when a switch-hitter faces a switch-pitcher? Is that the definition of infinity? Perpetuity? Are there rules for this thing? (Of course, this is not new news.) Pitching left-handed, this guy strikes out Adrian González. But, overall, he gives up three runs, which is unfortunate, because by this time I’m rooting for Italy.

In the bottom on the ninth, down 9-5, Italy leads off with three quick doubles. Score, 9-7. Then: A bobbled grounder at short, man on first and third. Maggi at bat. Palla foul, palla foul, full count, palla foul, palla foul, (potential perpetuity?), palla foul … Camminare! Bases loaded! Nobody out … pitching change. -respiro profondo- Then: Line drive to right-center—caught?—no! 9-8! Then: A sharp grounder … it shoots off the second baseman’s glove … one run scores … another … Maggi slides across home plate body surfing over chalk-lined dirt … run scores! … Italia vincere!

¿Or should I say Vincere Italia!?

Oh Day What a.

The world she will blow
or so I’ve been told
but please wait a minute
I’ve a ballgame to finish.

Moonlight on frosted trees.
Morning so cold
there is no temperature.

Yesterday a six-hour, ten-inning marathon that started in the afternoon, stretched on into the evening, Josie took a break to bark, and bark and bark, and bark and bark and bark at full moon rising; in the end, Italy lost to Venezuela 11-10. Italy plays again today against Puerto Rico, a must-win to advance to the next round, continue this madness, and now I must catch up on last night’s other games—Puerto Rico v. Mexico, Cuba v. Israel—and this morning it’s Japan v. Netherlands.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

spring does not arrive in february

At fifty-five degrees old snow shrivels like old soap in the sun we leave the door open going and coming, coming and going as we please sitting in the sun replenishing Vitamin D the sky, blue again, seems immense its lid off and drips large and small from the roofs of snow entertain, mesmerize, refract the light, plop plop plop and plink-a-plink inside Josie gets a bath, winter fur curling, waving, smelling sweet – does he feel new? washed clean? – locks released glowing in the sun blowing in the breeze and that night Elliott sneaks a dead mouse into the kitchen and I listen to the crunch crunch crunch and a slow motion fly

Lunchtime and an ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE shows up in an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show.


I see I’ve been indoctrinated since I was a youth.

A New York Times obituary tells me of a dancer who plopped down for life in the Mojave creating a theater and something you can’t quite name and in an interview somewhere this dancer who lived in this desert town population two, maybe three, was asked, well, don’t you ever get lonely? and she says something like no, I have my imagination.

Extended family informs new music as always now listening to those old familiar tunes and melodies and words familiar and in them sometimes hearing something new / I like to believe that / but here now true new
and perhaps you see: good drivin’ tune.

seems to me

When a member of That Group There shoots ’em up, bombs ’em down, claims the same: We must delete All of Them All of Them quit being bleedingheart goody2shoos open your eyes
get them outta here!

But when a member of This Group Here shoots ’em up, bombs ’em down, claims the same: Well, you know, He was just an Extremist, He was just a Nut.

I am glad my heart is full of blood and yes bleeds sometimes because hearts are blood not stone not turnips and for sufferin’ shufflin’ feet two good shoes are a must
Nice to see grass again, the green and the mud and the slime and the mold that heralds spring, tracks of turkey and rabbit and weasel across the thin old snow, Josie studies each track with staccato snorts but it is false fake spring, we learn to discern, wind resumes bitter North howling spewing ice chips, pillow down. Spring does not arrive in February. Not yet, anyway.
Give it time.

And as my ancestors head west in a covered wagon Spring 1837 Sheldon, Fidelia, and baby boy James relying on horsepower and taverns and whiteness to get to their future, a bob-bob-bobbin’ along free and unfettered paving the way over those in chains and those who lay bleeding and mostly those who are just plain gone and praise the lord for small favors: food for the belly, water for the thirst, the beast for the burden, safe travel and a clean board for a travellers’s rest, pleasant visages all around, rivers and lakes and prairies dehabited, occasional congregations
for prayer.

But what if – those who had settled before in these roads and along these roads and despite these roads had not been savaged, dismissed, gathered up, labelled up, tied up, lied to, cheated, deleted, removed? What if – the people had not been forcibly

Where would I be?

We keep removing people 
as if we are a plague

                        this child never chained but for those quirky social mores, expectations, of a white 1960s semi-religious intact suburban household where Dick Van Dyke played on the idiot box and never ever really moved by much except

Would I be swaying gently covered wagon moving forward pious temperance, prayer, I listen to the plop plop plop plink-a-plink of winter softening just a bit and notice this false fake spring bringing forth clusters of catnip in the garden it invades.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

flurry of flowers & the potato has eyes

Flurry of Flowers
The other morning
I was reading
the weather forecast
to Josie and Elliott
because this is how
we get on with our day
that begins with a flurry
of fun
as they eat, they poop,
they jostle for position
in front of the fire –
cats and dogs being this way –
and me, I just drink tea
and the sun rises
I read the forecast aloud.
blah blah blah snow flowers.
– pause –
I mean, snow flurries.

For those yet befuddled by Donald Trump’s presidency, I suggest reading the first few chapters, more if you like, of A People’s History of the United States 1492 – Present, by Howard Zinn.

Potato Poetry
with gratitude for a press conference
that explained everything
He said:
The news
is fake
so much of
the news
is fake.

I thought:
The sky
is blue
so much of
the sky
is blue.

The grass
is green
so much of
the grass
is green.

The world
is round
so much of
the world
is round.

The truth
is hard
so much of
the truth
is hard.

The world
is flat
so much of
the world
is flat.

And I thought:
is cold
so much of
is cold.

The lie
is easy
so much of
the lie
is easy.

is intolerable
so much of
is intolerable.

is a gas
so much of
is a gas.

is false
so much of
is false.

Later I thought:
The light
is bright
so much of
the light
is bright.

The way
is long
so much of
the way
is long.

The poetry
is madness
so much of
the madness
is poetry.

The day
is glorious
so much of
the day
is glorious.

I had an idea:
The idea
is great
so much of
the idea
is great.

The news
is real
so much of
the news
is real.

The man
is crazy
so much of
the man
is crazy.

The woman
is beautiful
so much of
the beautiful
is woman.

is wrong
so much of
is wrong.

is deadly
so much of
is deadly.

I could not stop:
The speech
is hilarious
so much of
the speech
is hilarious.

The person
is alien
so much of
the person
is alien.

The sorrow
is sad
so much of
the sad
is sorrow.

Shouldn’t it stop?
The hair
is fake
so much of
the hair
is fake.

The gun
is blameless
so much of
the gun
is blameless.

The woman
is man
so much of
the woman
is man.

The man
is woman
so much of
the man
is woman.

The man
is woman
so much of
the woman
is man.

The heart
is heartless
so much of
the heart
is heartless.

The bald guy
is bald
the bald guy
has no hair.

The baby
is fat
so much of
the baby
is fat.

The truth
is the truth
so much of
the truth
is the truth.

The poem
is rhymeless
so much of
the rhymeless
is poem.

And the orange
is orange
so much of
the orange
is orange.

The potato,
has eyes.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

eave of construction

was it picasso who rang?
sat on the roof
made me a woman

was it walt
who fell from the sky?
quick! duck!

was it zero?
fiddling around
switching up letters

or aazhawigiizhigokwe
drawing on
power of snake

ah ginger,
i recognize you:
wild rhythm / woman / within 

you move through
this impoverished land

Sunday, January 29, 2017

old trails fresh snow: embedded poetry

The river flows rich dark brown dark and rising
fooled by a semblance of spring
a wide foreboding and welcoming spring
that vanished
and josie and i tumble along the river
following an old path renewed
in the softening
that i realized held dangers
but josie insisted
more fleet-foot than i
so i gave in as much as i could
while retaining my wisdom
and yesterday in snowshoes
caught up in branches
in that tricky spot downslope
and the branches they congregate
there at the bottom
and once in a while
trip me up
so i went kerplunk and forward
face down in the snow heading downbank
with a belly flop
and snowshoes flying up behind me
making a cross
and i’m pretty sure it was all cartoon-like
so i must be ok and got up
and josie, ahead, stopped, looked back, and
i pretended he was concerned / i waved and shouted
“i’m ok! i am okay!” and so traveled on, trailing behind,
like always, like always, thinking about the poem
Ode to Solitude
Alexander Pope, 1688-1744

Happy the man, whose wish and care
   A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
                            In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
   Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
                            In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
   Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
                            Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
   Together mixed; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please,
                            With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
   Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
                            Tell where I lie.

as it is the poem my mother said could be read
at a memorial service
if there were a memorial service
and that was ok with her that there be a service and maybe,
if we wanted,
we could sing something like “summertime” and read
“ode to solitude”
and the poem kind of surprised me that this
is what my mother said was ok and not, say,
   the owl and the pussycat went to sea
   in a beautiful pea-green boat

which i’ve heard is the last poem
she responded to, gave a cackle at,
not long before she died.
Not a bad way to go.

Now temperature reclaims its wintry rights and
crust of snow withstands average weight of 150
pounds or more per square foot (or thereabouts)
josie, weighing 18, zigs and zags, curlicues, backtracks,
surges ahead at will at
behest of scent, mind, whim, fiddle-faddle.

The sun shines. For a moment.

I mince along the icy terrain with no such freedom
following his tracks, as always, as always,
his tracks like japanese etchings in a quarter-inch of
snow, fresh, whitewashing the old impressions of
sunken hooves, piles of scat, as if whitewashing
the crust of days, as if this were a different day
and one could erase
sail away
try again.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

landscape of gratitude

Thank you to the women who walk. Thank you to all those who march and run and strut and stroll and hobble along for the rights and dignity of women, all women, all people, everywhere.

I missed the signs, the cues, you see, so I was not there, I should have been there, walking, one place or another, with you, saying, Hey, don’t you dare minimize me or my sisters our mothers our daughters our husbands our brothers our wives our people our families. Don’t you dare twist my arm and ridicule me, say you speak for me. You may drown out our voices, you may mock us, ignore us, but you can never silence us because we speak from our hearts and it is heartening to know there are so many different voices still out there that speak loudly, speak softly, speak to me—voices measured with intelligence, voices deep with experience, voices strong with conviction reaching out with compassion believing America, that people, can aspire to something much greater than what you have offered.

You see, a woman started talking to me about knitting a hat. I had just entered the library wearing a hat I had knitted, it was blue, but I was in my own world, have been in my own world, safe there because sometimes it feels not so safe elsewhere, and then it was a pink hat she was hoping to make, a pink hat with ears, and then this was about the march, the protest, oh no, she said, the “demonstration,” we have to call it a “demonstration,” and I said heck, let’s call it what it is: a protest. I protest. You protest. We all protest. Right? She agreed. And there was a bit more, lots of buses from here going, but I wanted nothing more, was just looking for a book for my mind to sink into.

Thank you to all those who walk for human dignity, for respect, for freedom of choice and freedom of movement. Thank you to those who stand up not only for themselves but for all.

I shirked my responsibility.

And how I’ve wanted to walk these past few days, maybe that was a clue, just get out and walk up or down street after street taking random turns at random corners, no plan, no destination, just walk, like I sometimes used to walk in the city, but here there are not the streets for that nor the intersections, the choices, so many choices, so Josie and I we wandered into the woods in the rain, and the rain fell on the snow.

I found the book I needed, a perfect one it seemed, and maybe even it was a clue: Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Living with a Wild God.” – I have known people who are duller than trees, as well as individual trees that surpass most people in complexity and character. –

I tuned out the world readily, gladly.

I am grateful for those who stay tuned in, those who face the world and walk in protest.

Guess it’s time to get some pink yarn, knit a new hat.

Looking at these photos, my favorite sign for right now shows up in Salem, Oregon.

The Marquette, Michigan walk.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

procrastination prattle

Thought I might start with a poem but decided to skip it.

What’s that? I’m no poet!

Over the course of last year, I did less and less writing by hand, noticing it late in the year but thinking nothing more about it other than a slightly curious and rhetorical “why?”. Then one recent day as I sat at my desk—the desk that is all fairly newly put together and just organized—ready to embark on a legitimate tome—oh yes! Legitimacy! A Tome!—I knew not where to begin—of course, it’s already begun, a piece here a bit there, photos on the wall, photos of all those people whose lives inspire, encourage, mock—so I took out one of my new pens and an old, mostly used-up pad of yellow legal paper, and I began a letter to a friend. Once it was finished, folded, put aside to await its envelope, address, and stamp, I lingered, hands and thoughts in mid-air. How I wished to have another person to write to, by hand.

So much writing is procrastination.

The thousand and one things that get done and thought about, even written about, while preparing to write, but not writing—not writing that one thing you want to write, anyway, or at least think you want to write. Feel you must write.

Ancestors whisper from the wall.

Because it’s destiny.

The friend I wrote to is the kind of person who uses the word “prattle.” What a great word! As I was prattling along in my letter to him, I became increasingly distracted by the piles of photos on my desk. I thought a great title for something or other might be: Prattle & Old Photos. Now, doesn’t sound so good. Maybe: Old Photos & Prattle. Or: Prattle & Letters & Old Photos. Or just: Prattle. (The Prattle of Pea Pickle Farm.) If it were a song: Shake, Prattle, and Roll.

Prattle & Tea
Just You & Me
The Shade of a Tree

Prattle on, merry folk!

So much of writing is procrastination.
presidential prattle
On the fence — it’s not a fence. It’s a wall. You just misreported it. We’re going to build a wall. I could wait about a year-and-a-half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which will start immediately after we get to office, but I don’t want to wait. Mike Pence is leading an effort to get final approvals through various agencies and through Congress for the wall to begin. I don’t feel like waiting a year or a year-and-a-half. We’re going to start building. Mexico in some form, and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. That will happen, whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment — probably less likely that it’s a payment. But it will happen. So, remember this, OK? I would say we are going to build a wall and people would go crazy. I would then say, who is going to pay for the wall? And people would all scream out — 25,000, 30,000 people, because nobody has ever had crowds like Trump has had. You know that. You don’t like to report that, but that’s OK. OK, now he agrees. Finally, he agrees. But I say who is going to pay for the wall? And they will scream out, “Mexico.” Now, reports went out last week — oh, Mexico is not going to pay for the wall because of a reimbursement. What’s the difference? I want to get the wall started. I don’t want to wait a year-and-a-half until I make my deal with Mexico. And we probably will have a deal sooner than that. And by the way, Mexico has been so nice, so nice. I respect the government of Mexico. I respect the people of Mexico. I love the people of Mexico. I have many people from Mexico working for me. They’re phenomenal people. The government of Mexico is terrific. I don’t blame them for what’s happened. I don’t blame them for taking advantage of the United States. I wish our politicians were so smart. Mexico has taken advantage of the United States. I don’t blame the representatives and various presidents, et cetera, of Mexico. What I say is we shouldn’t have allowed that to happen. It’s not going to happen anymore. So, in order to get the wall started, Mexico will pay for the wall, but it will be reimbursed. OK?

donald trump
Now wait a minute — Is this guy on drugs or what? We don’t need no hopped up on speed & ego prattle here! No mind-bending self-serving nation-destroying prattle, please!

If I taught a course in writing, Lesson One would be: Procrastination: Embracing the Prattle.

But we’d never get there.

Or: Kill the Prattle!

Or maybe: Survive the Prattle.
Someday you will learn, my children: seventy-five percent of life is prattle. Though recent studies indicate that percentage is rising at an alarming rate, some going so far as to warn of a pending prattle plague in which life as we know it will be reduced to nothing but prattle within six days.
I lean back, stare at this wall of photos, my ancestors whispering: this too shall pass.* My mind expands. I feel momentarily at ease.

We’ll get to it.

* The idea of ancestors whispering this too shall pass is lifted from an India.Arie song—“This Too Shall Pass.” Here is her latest—“Breathe.”

Sunday, January 8, 2017

send help

Very cold and snow snow snow. Plus, sleep. Sleep is solid. Dreams, interesting. The night before last, one week anniversary of Mom’s passing, I dreamt I was sleeping on a bench in a train station. I was on my stomach. I woke up to find a baby on my back. A black baby swaddled in blue. I was surprised. Delighted but concerned. I managed to get up while holding the baby. The baby was wet, a soiled diaper soiled all the way through, dripping. I went next door, through a door, to find a social worker. I thought how wonderful it was that there were social workers right next door. A pale young woman with short black hair, all dressed up for New Year’s Eve, about to leave, stopped to help me, stopped to help the baby. As she bustled about she made pleasant, efficient noises like OK, time to do the job. I was holding the baby—the blue of the blanket, the wet of the blanket—and suddenly the baby dropped to the floor, almost as if thrown. A momentary feeling of panic. But the baby, flat on its back, seemed to be all right. Stared up at me as I knelt down, came close, looked into the big round eyes, eyes which seemed slightly alarmed, maybe just questioning, dark brown eyes in a big round face, the beautiful brownish black skin, the deep blue blanket.