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Poem of the Week

The Alphabet's Dilemma


For want of a bee the hive was lost

For want of the sea a ship was lost

For want of a gee the wonder was lost

For want of an I the novel was lost

For want of a jay the aviary was lost

For want of an ell privacy was lost

For want of Em Dorothy was lost

For want of a pea the soup was lost

For want of a queue no time was lost

For want of tea the afternoon was lost

For want of you I was lost

For want of a why the philosopher was lost

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Monday Quote

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives. 

~ Toni Morrison

My birthday twin (same day not the same year!)


I hope this is true.

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Mt. Zion Temple in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, celebrated its centennial this weekend & my sister took this picture of a newspaper article about Sukkot on the prairie. 

It's hard to write a light account of a bad week. There was Buster (who's doing better! long saga); & September 11 anniversary (for some reason more talked about this year than of late); a friend with a sudden (benign!) brain tumor (diagnosed the day before they were leaving on a month-long birdwatching & Galapagos trip) (she had surgery the next day & seems like it'll be fine); & a horrific gun/domestic-violence tragedy involving a family I'm tangentially aware of (too awful to be in this list except as part of a tough week). 


Well, there was one little bright spot (right): Yours truly as a member of the largest consecration class ever at Mt. Zion. It's pretty easy to tell which kid grew up to be a pawnbroker, isn't it? I had a crush on him when I was 5 because he tanned so dark & fast. What a great trick! How'd he do that?

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Second income

That's my fency 1970s handwriting. I suppose I was trying to decide what name to use or maybe whether I would be at that address long enough to get a reply. I didn't have a first income so not sure what second income I was thinking would do me any good. And why this card turned up in a box the other day is yet another story. I moved to NYC with all my belongings in a couple of paper sacks, & I kept that? 

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A recent picture of my loving little man. 

In 2012 my beloved cat Dante died. I was devastated. We had such a bond that I didn't think I would ever love another cat as much. And along came Buster... big-hearted, loving, cuddly Buster. When Johnny was in rehab all those months, I was so relieved to have Buster to come home to. I've never known a cat with a sweeter personality. He came when I called & purred nonstop. We have had such an easy friendship. He's at the vet right now but it doesn't look good & he won't be around much longer. He's not happy right now & if some of the easy treatments don't work, we'll have to decide that hard thing. Right now I can't bear that thought of sending him on ahead of me, but I will have to, I know. A month or year, I count the hours. 

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Monday Quote

Pray for a brave heart, which does not fear death, which places a long life last among the gifts of nature, which has the power to endure any trials, rejects anger, discards desire… If we have common sense, Chance, you are not divine: it is we who make you a goddess, yes, and place you in heaven. 

~ Juvenal, (10. 357-360, 365-366), epigraph to Pray for a Brave Heart by Helen MacInnes


I love the books of spy novelist Helen MacInnes because they are wholly unmemorable, yet exciting while you're reading them. I'm rereading one now, which I only realized because I ran into a passage I had underlined. Nothing—not the characters, scenery, or situation—is familiar the second time around.


Or too familar: all the men are handsome, strong, quick-witted & educated, except for the villains who have squints or cold, cold eyes; the women are either beautiful, strong, quick-witted & educated, or plain, with cold eyes. This isn't a criticism, merely pointing out that she uses a formula, which she does very enjoyably. I've read several of her books published in 1940 or 41 & even that early in World War II she was well aware of what was going on & condemned it in no uncertain terms. We should all be so sure of the moral high ground & so willing to stay on it. 

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For Ted Berrigan

Vase by George Schneeman, collaboration by George Schneeman & Ted Berrigan, Valentine's Day 1966. 

For Ted Berrigan


We were afraid of everything except kindness. We made a cult of generosity. We slapped them silly who weren't witty or lovely. We wanted better boots, better polish, better hair. We thought about country diarists without leaving our rooms on 23rd Street. We bought one expensive handcream that someone else paid for. We knocked down screens to see a woman wash her back. We ate Krishna feast. We found soft wool undershirts on the street & said they were Patti Smith's. We called her Patti. We said Bob, & people were supposed to know we meant Dylan. We won prizes & forgot to pick them up. Our teeth broke. We checked into the hospital to rest. No one we voted for won. We were Black Jacobins. We recognized beauty & nothing else. Nothing else mattered.



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In the neighborhood.

Photo of Tom Carey & me by Joseph Carey.

It was great hanging out on the block today. Johnny ran into Uncle Father Tom Carey with Joe, so they came by & we stood on 5th street reminiscing & laughing. Then Johnny & I sat in the Village View playground & read our summer poem (Beowulf, in the Seamus Heaney translation). Coming back we ran into Sandy from Dolphin & the 6th St synagogue. When I did my laundry, I had an actual conversation with the tiny & old lady in the babushka who once walked around a tree in front of the bench where I was sitting, cursing me. I discovered she’s Hungarian but lived in Yugoslavia & her English is actually very good. The weather was late summery with a hint of hurricane. The kind of day that makes me happy without its being memorable.

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Home again II

Happy to be home, but happy to continue to sprinkle in Cuenca photos. Detail of large Illescas painting (see August 28).

I think it's that I was gone long enough that I'm entirely happy to be here. I had over 2 weeks to enjoy the beautiful city of Cuenca & it satisfied me. The weather in New York isn't the horrible heat/humidity I left & I feel strong from training at 8.200'. That's a perfect vacation, no? One you enjoy thoroughly & are happy to return from. Johnny missed me, Buster missed me, & I missed good bread. 

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Monday Quote

Everything you don't want to hear is a lie. 

~ Helen MacInnes, spy novelist of the 1940s & 50s, in Pray for a Brave Heart


How readily we wriggle out of hard truths. How easy to simply deny what's said. And believe we never heard it. 

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