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What a cutie! I've seen so few photos of Johnny as a kid.

Visiting Johnny's sister & family, and came upon this in a batch of family photos. 


In case of accident, don't call 911 or an ambulance or his parents or the police. In Case of Accident, Please Call a Priest. 

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Meet the new heat, same as the old heat

Totally great to be here with our wonderful nieces and Johnny's terrific sister. I love this family ~ they are so kind & supportive to each other, and get more beautiful & deep by the year. I even went outside for 5 minutes. And wilted. Meanwhile, Liz had a session with her trainer, & Gary went for a run in the heat, & Mo, who's almost 90, drove off in a jeep with no doors. What a wimp I am. Johnny beat me ~ he didn't set foot outside. Tomorrow we are going to drive past a battlefield or 2. 

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Headed out

We're going to Fredericksburg, Virginia, this (Wed) morning for a few days to see Johnny's sister & a few of her 7 kids. I'm writing this on Tuesday & hope to say more day by day but if not, you'll know why.

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Tales from the Pound

Lucky lived on the top floor & after Bobby died was pretty isolated. We finally managed to get him to get hearing aids, which gave him a new life for his remaining 5 or 6 years. He was able to get a phone & a TV. He also had an aide, who by the time she heaved herself up to 4 flights of stairs was unable to do any of the cleaning or shopping she'd been hired to do. So they sat around gossiping & cackling & playing cribbage, unless she gave it up, as I did, because he was such a notorious cheater & gloater. Except for that he was a wonderful person, who spent all year combing through catalogues to find the perfect gifts for his "nieces," me & Maggie. He made borscht & gravy for Thanksgiving and looked out for us & the building. 

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Monday Quote

I always thought that an artist's was the hardest life of all. Its rigor—not always apparent to an outside observer—is that an artist has to navigate forward into the unknown guided only by an internal sense of direction, keep up a set of standards which are imposed entirely from within, meanwhile maintaining faith that the task he has set himself to is worth struggling constantly to achieve. This is all contrary to the notion of bohemian disorder.
~ Lucian Freud


A lot of us were fooled by the myth that we needed to derange our senses to be true artists. Those who figured it in town got some real work done, or those with a sense of self-preservation that overcame the distractions. 

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Despite & to spite the heat

I feel like I did nothing since I got run over by the heat-truck but I went to a karate class, had a lunch, went to services, thought deeply, dropped off & picked up Johnny's laundry, did my laundry, went shopping at Key Foods, & did some $$$ work. It's 93° right now. The adjectives ~ brutal, unbearable, inhuman ~ hit like a truck. It only takes a couple of degrees above normal to destroy the brain. 

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Heat wave

Nothing else to talk about. Do we need to adjust the calendars like they did in the 16th century & make the months match their weather? June has become August, & August is October. And it may never snow again.


Thank goodness for the vegetable plate at Westville ~ something to live for! 

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It's like a heat wave

It is a heat wave.


I remember that I used to like the heat blanket because it made a perfect excuse to do nothing, which was what I was going to do but I also wanted to justify lying around & reading books & not being productive, not that lying around reading books isn't productive. Then I moved to NYC & got sharp. And now I'm back to lying around & then I remember that I don't have to justify a damn thing. 

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Yehuda Amichai


Part of the greatness of Amichai is that people write brilliantly about him. I meant to distill this essay by Adam Kirsch but there's too much of it. Like a poem, you can't condense or summarize & keep any of the flavor. 


Here's a line I liked: 

The Jewish vocabulary of Amichai's poetry doesn't mean that he is a believer. On the contrary, the deep pathos of his religious verse is that he has achieved a kind of sublime intimacy with a God who does not exist, at least not as the tradition conceives Him.


I always return to Amichai. 

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Tales from the Pound

My birthday was a couple of weeks after I moved in (the same month as Jimmy Carter's inauguration). I was excited to get a card or 2 to my new address & when I saw the mailman I ran across 1 Av to ask when he would be hitting my side of the street. Which was when I discovered that was a different zip code. I was 10003 and the east side of the avenue is 10009. What I don't remember is whether I got any mail that day. 


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Monday Quote

Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.

~ C. S. Lewis


And sometimes the opposite is true ~ everything changes every day but in the end, we're simply & still us. 

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New Jersey adventure

We four old friends, who worked together many years ago, decided to get together. We live on the Jersey shore, NYC, upstate NY, & Pennsylvania. Chatham, NJ, turned out to be 1 hour & 4 minutes from each of us. After a few days of crowing about exploring the dark wilds of the Garden State, I realized a friend of mine lives in Chatham. It did seem suddenly more possible to get there. 


And I did. And we hugged & laughed & told stories for a few hours, & decided not to wait so long again. Even though we know each other as colleagues, all the stories we told were personal: getting caught in a flood, one of us on crutches, that sort of thing. It's how we know we're friends not merely coworkers, & why the afternoon was so pleasant. And that each of us was central ~ not a star & 3 acolytes. No one had aged, which was weird, but there was a lot we'd forgotten, which eventually did make me believe how long it had been. Although I do NOT believe it's been 30 years. 


A deeply restorative afternoon in a cute town. Is it the suburbs if it's an hour away on the train? 

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Flag Day

It was an old-fashioned holiday even when I was a kid. Maybe because we were out of school by then? 


Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.


"We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity, representing our liberty."

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Off for the holiday

Taking Wednesday & Thursday off to enjoy the blintz-&-cheesecake holiday of Shavuot. 

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Old cars, old dreams

I don't know where this photo came from or where it is but it's so many places I've passed through or lived. The gravel road, the summer sky, the waiting cars. I belong there. 

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Monday Quote

I have never done any work cold. I have always worked with my blood, so to speak. Those who see these things must feel that. 

~ Käthe Kollwitz


Loved her show at MoMA. Hard to choose a single image to represent her work. An artist who works with her blood.

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Poem of the Week: from The Alphabet's Dilemma

I'm a little goofy, what with the satisfaction of a new book, the hot weather, the effort to avoid a whirlwind of anger at the endless stupidities, many of them mine. Here's another poem from my new chapbook, which you can order from the publisher if you'd like. It's a very New York book. 


On the Block


What's Spanish for suitcase? Simon asks Sylvie

Su…casa? she tries


        Diana from the corner walks by.

        She's been in LA for two years!

        She holds my hand

        & tells me she's here for jury duty

        & how much she likes Jackie Chan

I love my block: the secret world

where I don't have to be new


& I run into everyone & they're reading

spy novels & eating chips &

the babushka Hungarian lady curses me:

I am a gonna fetch you!

esa paloma

came too close

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Summer has a'come in

I might be farting like the billygoat but it's too frigging hot (already) to be singing merrily.


Sumer is icumen in


Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu
Groweþ sed
and bloweþ med
and springþ þe wde nu
Sing cuccu


Awe bleteþ after lomb
lhouþ after calue cu
Bulluc sterteþ
bucke uerteþ
murie sing cuccu


Cuccu cuccu
Wel singes þu cuccu
ne swik þu nauer nu


Sing cuccu nu • Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu • Sing cuccu nu

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Poem of the Week: from The Alphabet's Dilemma



How about a poem from my brand-new chapbook



Happy Poem


stately pigeon

Mayan face

sunshine & 

one-handed cloud



now that I'm old

I'm invisible as an elephant in a bar

the air so bright I can't see my dreams

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Is "delightful" a compliment (said about my new book) or is it like "extraordinary," my famous backhanded compliment. Delightful was followed by "It brought me a lot of joy today" so I take it as positive. And in fact, I too think it is delightful in a bright, cheerful sort of way. I think a lot of poets wouldn't like to have their poetry called that. "Extraordinary" is ambiguous, delightful isn't. I'm just having those new-book quavers....

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Tales from the Pound: Burying Ubu

When Maggie's cat Ubu died, she was hard put to know what to do with his body. She was working nights at the time, so she took his frozen body to work, which was driving an ambulance as a paramedic. She figured she'd dig a little grave in Central Park. They were always busy, however, & a few days bringing him home every morning & putting him back in the freezer harshed her mellow. I said why don't you tie him to a concrete block & toss him into the East River ~ if that's good enough for the Mafia, it's good enough for Ubu Dubris. He was kind of a Mafia cat anyway ~ you didn't turn your back on Ubu. Then we thought we would bury him in the Marble Cemetery on 2nd Street. We went out around midnight one night. The minute we started climbing the tall fence, window after window was slammed open. Hey! Get away from there! I'm calling the cops! We'd forgotten that midnight in the East Village is high noon. Anticlimactically, he ended up in a friend's parking lot on Clinton Street, which I suppose is a fancy restaurant these days. 

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Monday Quote

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
~ James Russell Lowell


I've told this story before, but I like it & here it is again. I went to Lowell Grade School, one of the very first schools in Sioux Falls, in fact. Our Lakeside Dairy milkman was Jim Lowell, and not only was he the only man you saw in the neighborhood during the day, which made him exotic, he actually let us kids ride in his milk truck. Standing up! Only for a few feet & creeping along more slowly than might seem possible but it made a huge impression on me. So I wasn't surprised at all that they named my school after him. 

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"Sleeping Dragon Plum," an image copied by Van Gogh. 

I have seldom been as blown away as I was by the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum that I saw the other day, Hiroshige's 100 Famous Views of Edo. Beautiful, profound, intense, light-hearted, informative.... I will have to go back a few times to be able to take it all in. I got so excited I stopped being able to see it. I can't wait to go back & see everything again.



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