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NauenThen

Poem of the Week

The Day the Cheering Stopped

 

was the day the looting began

by young white men in bandanas

who knew they'd soon be masters,

they riot to let everyone know

they will get their way

darkness descends

on America or maybe it's a summer rain

how much I want everything

to be easy (how easy I have it

if I can want that) every day

I go to the roof

& look farther, longer

 

let's sleep till it's over

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Crime scene

A brick ... a bird ... a body... 

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Mr Milton

A joy to hear "Paradise Lost" last night, thanks to the Red Bull Theater and my friend Carol, an actor who told me about & participated in this reading. Actors performing poetry often go against the language or lean on the rhythm in order to be dramatic. This group understood that the language IS the drama; they spoke clearly & understood what they were saying. Part 2 in 2 weeks. 

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Monday Quote

You can build a throne with bayonets, but it's difficult to sit on it. 

~ Boris Yeltsin

 

And yet, strongmen through the ages try & try & try.

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Men I love

When I'm not in bed, they are generally in this mirror posture. Johnny loves Lefty. Lefty loves Johnny. Sleeping. 

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Nell Blaine

Strolled over to Tibor de Nagy gallery to get a burst of spring in the flower paintings & watercolors of Nell Blaine (1922-1996). She had polio as an adult & had to relearn to paint, left-handed. Imagine that! Show is there till April 24.

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The Painter and the Thief

The Painter and the Thief is a recent Norwegian documentary that is put together so neatly that I had to stop it a couple times to check again that it wasn't scripted. On the spur of the moment, a young man and an acquaintance cut two of Czech painter Barbora Kysilkova's large paintings out of their frames in a Oslo gallery. Somehow she meets him & they become friends. Of a sort. It is interesting to see a woman artist with a male muse, his attempts to get clean, their attempts to be honest with one another. In a way they are both serious artists, although she has found a medium to pour herself into & he has only drugs. 

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Karate

A few of us wearing the headbands Jun Shihan Alisa gave us as a thank you for keeping her spirits & training up. 

Every once in a while I want to say here that karate continues & it's great. Mostly I'm part of an informal black belt review, & I've grown to appreciate our coterie more & more. In regular classes there's not much personal interaction—we follow the teacher—but since this isn't a class, we chat more, assist each other with karate, celebrate non-karate successes & events. Rank, which is usually very rigid, is relaxed so everyone gets to be competent & helpful when they know something. I love karate now more than ever before. 

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Grandma Alice

The past is our favorite place to go. ~ Edward Foster

Happy 136th birthday to my grandmother, Alice Woodland Phillips (1885-1982), on the right in this picture with her four sisters, Nellie, Jessie, Eva, and May. I knew all of them. I was at Eva's 100th birthday party in 1979 in Cowbridge, just outside of Cardiff. She had one of those chuckle-laughs that made everyone around her laugh along. Auntie May I visited many times in Cardiff—I adored her. We had a real friendship. Jessie & Nellie I didn't know as well. Their mother was Annie Spruce, who married Bill Woodland and had 10 or 11 kids, all of whom or all but one of whom survived into adulthood. Annie, known as Nana, lived to be 100 or thereabouts & most of the others lived into their 90s. In my family someone is "taken so young," always said in hushed tones, if they only make it to 80. 

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Monday Quote

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.

– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

 

I find this so profound & am unable to say why it appeals to me so much. Maybe it's that I love the world in all its quotidian glory, & don't need supernatural or spiritual explanations to be awed by everything around me. 

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KOFF!

So funny to see this for sale, at a ridiculous price. Though anyone can charge whatever they want; it doesn't mean they'll get it or that the magazine is worth it. What is worth what? Oh, don't get sidetracked. Here's this little magazine we did 40+ years ago, with construction paper covers &—delicately not mentioned here—a nude male poet as a centerfold. We thought poetry was boring so we should spice it up. I mean, we loved poetry but still, wouldn't it be better with naked men? Eventually we did a calendar with 12 naked poets & then that was the end of it. Even I had had enough of naked men. 

 

Buy it & join the fun! Not that we get a cut. 

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Gary Lenhart (1947-2021)

Ah, they all hurt but this death is really cutting me up. Gary was part of our small coterie of same-generation poets at the Poetry Project from the late '70s into the 80s. He was a peer, a friend, part of my daily life, a mensch, a soft-spoken guy who I can't remember ever being angry or rude. Once, early on, I told him it was my birthday (it wasn't) & he bought me a hamburger at the Grassroots bar on St Marks, where we all hung out after readings. When I fessed up, he was completely fine about it. He didn't feel tricked or taken advantage of. Never working the angles or caring if anyone else did. No reproach. I hadn't seen him a lot since he & Louise moved to New Hampshire, at least 25 years ago, but it always seemed like he would be around & we would pick up where we left off. A nice guy and a good poet. 

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Poem of the Week

Halldis Moren Vesaas (1907-1995) and her husband, Tarjei Vesaas, are both totally great. Here's one of her best-known poems, followed by a version by me based on the Norwegian & 2 translations, neither of which satisfied me. You can listen to it here (the clip is mislabeled). A bit of it was featured in a 2019 Norwegian movie I liked a lot called Barn (in English, it was called Beware of Children although "barn" means just "children"). 

 

 

Ord Over Grind

 

Du går fram til mi inste grind 

og eg går òg fram til di. 


Innanfor den er kvar av oss einsam, 


og det skal vi alltid bli. 

 

Aldri trenge seg lenger fram, 


var lova som gjaldt oss to. 


Anten vi møttest titt eller sjeldan 


var møtet tillit og ro. 

 

Står du der ikkje ein dag eg kjem 


fell det meg lett å snu 


når eg har stått litt og sett mot huset 


og tenkt på at der bur du. 

 

Så lenge eg veit du vil kome iblant 


som no over knastrande grus 


og smile glad når du ser meg stå her, 


skal eg ha ein heim i mitt hus. 

 
 Read More 

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March

Nearby on Houston Street.

March seems to be going out like a lion AND a lamb. It was sweltery in the morning but it's supposed to get rainy & cold by evening. At last, some predictable weather! It is spring, after all. I strolled through Tompkins Square Park, daffodils, flowering pear, and more. Spring is happening & pushing fear & repression out of the way. 

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New art!

I still can't figure out how to photograph art. Can you see how alive these are? I told the artist, Shanee Epstein, that if we ever move to the country it will be her influence. I'm so happy to have these two pieces brightening up my house. And I love that Johnny said let's get 'em both! He never holds back when it comes to art. 

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Chag sameach Pesach

Happy Passover everybody! I'll be off Sunday & Monday but you can enjoy your own seder (under 4 minutes!) here

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Yikes the subway

Johnny & I took the subway to Brooklyn today (more on our errand another time) & I was shocked at how crowded it was & how many people wore masks under their noses or under their chins. One guy had no mask at all, because he was enjoying snacks. I said nothing because... Well, I guess I didn't think it would do any good. And frankly, now that I'm vaccinated, I wasn't as worried as I would have been a few months ago. Since it was my first ride in a year, I wasn't sure what the protocol of reprimand is. But sheesh, you try holding your breath from the 4th Ave stop in Brooklyn to the 2nd Ave stop on our corner. 

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Discontinued

Much as I've lamented the passing of many restaurants near me, I'm just as sad to see some products disappear. First off, Wallaby kefir, especially mango & peach. The company has stopped making it to concentrate on yogurt. Yogurt! There are dozens of good yogurts but no one else made good kefir. The comments on their Facebook page agree. It seems a strange business model to quit making something people clamor for to focus on something people are indifferent to. Next, Chimes ginger chews. My go-to store hasn't had them for a while, but they are known for not restocking popular items. I think Chimes still exist but I want to walk a block not send away for them. Odwalla bit the dust a year or 2 back. It was terrific when you could only get it in California, less flavorful when it got bought by Coke. Pretty much every flavor of tea I've ever liked is no longer sold. Amy's Bowls aren't discontinued but they've been hard to find lately. There are more. I had better go buy my Passover supplies now. 

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Poem of the Week

Petrifed Cactus: a poem of the pandemic

 

he's an innocent bystander

in his own life

 

so many invisible things

to not think about

 

& one that I think about all the time

& I long for the day

 

when that line will need a gloss

Buster's ashes & my father

 

are invisible things

but one that won't go away

 

naming them

inflamed them

 

perhaps America will have an idea

perhaps not.

 

perhaps Melville is

as much evil as I can face

 

is Lefty black inside?

is culture the past?

 

if nothing follows

can we live it up?

 

like the people with AIDS who spent everything

& then didn't die

 

I can't get over the wall because I only ever learned

to go straight at it

 

I need to be

no longer dead

 

 

May 2020

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Spring!

The Marble Cemetery just now. 

Oh yeah it's really here! Real warmth in the sun. Training outside without flinching. Stopping to chat. Sun still out when I go home. Remember all of that? I never do. It's a pleasant surprise every year. I just strolled over to the Marble Cemetery on 2nd Street ~ only a few days short of massive blooms (hard to tell in the photo). Met a woman who volunteers(? works?) there, who used to cook for & I think own Boca Chica, the terrific Latin restaurant on the corner of 1st & 1st that has become a burger joint. She said she lived in the building—the one with the beachhouse on the roof. She had to move out when it got sold & now lives in Jersey City. It makes me so happy to have a free hour to hang out & see what happens. 

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Monday Quote

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.
~ Benjamin Disraeli

 

I remember hitchhiking down the West Coast, from Hoquiam, Washington, to San Francisco. In Hoquiam I was visiting a girl named Gail who I'd met when we were the Bus City Tribe in Colorado. She lived with a guy who never wore shoes & some dogs in a station wagon. Gail was very self-conscious about being 25, 5 years older than me & older than everyone else in the confederation. I kept winning at pool because the guys kept scratching, even though I am pretty sure I didn't sink a single ball. Later, I remember getting dropped off during the night, falling asleep a little ways off the road & waking up under a giant redwood. I don't know if I do remember that or dreamed it or read someone else's memory or was told it by someone. I don't know any way to factcheck it. I've dropped the story from my repertoire, & the pool one wasn't that interesting. Gail, whatever happened to you? Do you still know my name? Am I in any of your stories of those days? 

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Bob Hershon (1936-2021)

I am shocked at the death of the poet & publisher Bob Hershon. He was an unyielding monument. Die? Not Bob. He published Hanging Loose, magazine & books, for over 50 years. He published my first full-length book (American Guys) & those of so many others. We had had a long falling out but were friendly again as of a couple of years ago. I hope that pleased him. This is a good piece, by John Yau, that sums up his life work. This is going to take a while to sink in. 

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A New York story

That's family friend Paul, my brother & sister-in-law, & me at Target Field in Minneapolis. The undomed Twins ballpark is great but it sure can be cold in April. These hats with fleece flaps were a godsend that day & I've been wearing mine ever since. I was coming out of the grocery story the other day when one of the delivery guys barked, Hey Twins! I whirled around & we had one of those classic baseball conversations rattling off games, players, alliances. He likes Jeter because his son was born Derek's rookie year. He too has no truck with the Mets. 5 minutes & we're best friends. Then I did it. Why I felt I had to be honest, I don't know, but I said, "I just want to say that I don't hate the Red Sox. I lived in Maine for 3 years so I couldn't." He looked at me, as I knew he would & said, Oh we were getting along so well but this tears it. Still in fun, still with the enjoyment of meeting a fellow fan & whipping through the shorthand of baseball history & pleasures, but now I was not quite kosher. Then he had to go back to work. 

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Popularity

My whole life I was the only Elinor, & even more so the only Elinor spelled the (Welsh) way I do. Suddenly, Eleanor/Elenor/Elinore/even Elinor is a mini-trend. I know (of) quite a few under the age of 10. 

 

"Eleanor has reach the top 10 most popular girls name 2 times, and has reached the top hundred names 67 times. Eleanor has been used in the United States ever since 1880, with over 298,124 girls given the name in the past 200 years," according to this site. There were only 4x as many Eleanors born in 2020 as the year I was born but I'm guessing it's a more popular East Coast name now than it was in South Dakota in the '50s. Which is why I seem to have run into so many.

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Luck o' the Irish

May God grant you blessings

   on your walk today;

 

May you feel God's presence

   each step of the way!

 

My old friend & junior high English teacher sent me this quote for St Paddy's Day. Johnny made fun of my Irish accent this morning & whipped off a highly credible "top o' the mornin' to you." When I first met him I was incredulous that he dropped the "h" in words like thing & through — he went "true" doors rather than through them. Then I saw The Quiet Man, I think it was, which we went to at the Film Forum several St P's Days, & I realized it was an Irish habit & was charmed at his link to the Ould Sod, where both of his parents came from & to this day he has never been. 

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