Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Want to Make a Poem out of This

Woman Hit By Lightning While Praying in Storm

DAPHNE, Ala. (May 29) - Worried about the safety of her family during a stormy Memorial Day trip to the beach, Clara Jean Brown stood in her kitchen and prayed for their safe return as a strong thunderstorm raged through Baldwin County.

Suddenly, lightning exploded, blowing through the linoleum and leaving a pockmarked area on the concrete. Brown wound up on the floor, dazed and disoriented by the blast but otherwise uninjured.

"I said, 'Amen,' and the room was engulfed in a huge ball of fire," she said. "I'm blessed to be alive."

Full story here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lemon and Olive Oil-Roasted Artichoke Quarters

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I made this the other day, and it is really delicious! It's a lot of work cutting away all the parts of the artichoke you don't use, but the heart, roasted this way, is exquisite!

from Quick Cooking With Karin:
"Roasted artichoke hearts are an indulgence I savor when big, unblemished artichokes appear in my supermarket. The first "in-season" artichokes usually begin appearing in early February, with their peak months being March and April.

When I'm presented with perfect artichokes, I like to get to the "heart" of the matter, stripping off all of the tough outer leaves, removing the inner fuzzy choke, peeling the stem and cutting the hearts into quarters. Tossing the prepared artichokes in lemon juice keeps them from turning brown, but I like to use the lemon juice as a flavor component in my Lemon and Olive Oil-Roasted Artichoke Quarters.

Here, the artichokes are drizzled to your liking with olive oil, and are seasoned with coarse sea salt, ground black pepper and fresh thyme. Quartered garlic cloves infuse the oil with flavor, and the roasted cloves make yummy nibbles alongside the artichokes.

The artichokes are a wonderful addition to an antipasto platter, or can be served as a plated first course. At my house, they don't often make it to a plate or platter, as my family grabs them steaming hot right out of the Viking Sauté Casserole in which they're roasted.

Lemon and Olive Oil-Roasted Artichoke Quarters

4 unblemished artichokes
Juice from 1 medium-large lemon (about ½ cup)
Olive oil (about 3 tablespoons)
Sea Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh Thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove tough outer leaves from artichokes. (Remove all leaves that are dark green, but do not remove leaves that are green at the top and yellow on the bottom.) Cut top of remaining leaves at the point where the green and yellow come together. Dip cut end in the lemon juice. Cut off bottom tip of stem, and peel away green layer of stem until white inner layer is exposed. Cut the artichokes in half and remove the inner fuzzy choke and any small prickly leaves. Slice in half again and toss with the lemon juice. Pour the artichokes and lemon juice in a casserole dish, drizzle with the olive oil, season with the salt, pepper and thyme and add the garlic. Stir and place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring once during cooking.

Makes about 6 appetizer servings."
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Monday, May 29, 2006

I Wish I'd Written This Poem

Goldsboro Narrative #27

The dark and heavy coat she always wore hid
From her as much as anyone

What grew her belly out one thought at a time.

And she who did not know her body,
Who was surprised to feel it

Created with some boy she'd barely met,

Ignored the word so much a shock
She was someone who used to be herself.

She was stunned as anyone to learn

A newborn was found inside
A trash bin, a trail winding it's way back to someone

We all thought we knew.

Forrest Hamer, from Ploughshares 32:1 edited by Kevin Young

I love the density of the language and images. And I love the daring subject matter, how compassionately it is explored. And the shock of the line break: "A newborn was found inside/a trash bin." This small poem conveys so much information, but doesn't tell us everything, leaves a fair amount of the mystery intact. It reminds me a little of Edgar Lee Masters' epitaph poems in The Spoon River Anthology. I really wish I had written this.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Happy Memorial Day

In honor of this day (or is it a "Weekend?") I'd like to share this poem from Mary Karr, about remembering someone . . .

Delinquent Missive

Before David Ricardo stabbed his daddy
sixteen times with a fork — Once
for every year of my fuckwad life
— he'd long
showed signs of being bent.
In school, he got no valentine nor birthday
cake embellished with his name.
On Halloween, a towel tied around his neck
was all he had to be a hero with.
He spat in the punchbowl and smelled like a foot.
His forehead was a ledge
he leered beneath. When I was sent to tutor him
in geometry, so he might leave
(at last) ninth grade, he sat running pencil lead
beneath his nails.
If radiance shone from those mudhole eyes,
I missed it. Thanks, David
for your fine slang. You called my postulates
post holes; your mom endured
ferocious of the liver. Plus you ignored —
when I saw you wave at lunch —
my flinch. Maybe by now you're ectoplasm,
or the zillionth winner of the Texas
death penalty sweepstakes. Or you occupy
a locked room with a small
round window held fast by rivets, through which
you are watched. But I hope
some organism drew your care — orchid
or cockroach even, some inmate
in a wheelchair whose steak you had to cut
since he lacked hands.
In this way, the unbudgeable stone
that plugged the tomb hole
in your chest could roll back, and in your sad
slit eyes could blaze
that star adored by its maker.

— Mary Karr, from Sinners Welcome

Thursday, May 25, 2006

How To Throw a Poem

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First wedge the poem by kneading against a hard surface. Pat the poem into a round form, ready for centering. Center the poem on the page, and mold it roughly into a shape. Make the initial depression in the poem. Wet your hands and start to form the lines by turning the page at a steady rate. Never touch the poem unless the page is spinning. Pull out the lines. Grip the sides and begin to form a stanza. Bring up the margins and thin out the stanzas using left and right hands. Continue to raise and thin out, giving a shape to the poem. Form the belly. Form the neck. Use collaring to squeeze and smooth out the neck. Cut out any uneven rhyme. Refine the lines and the phrasing. Finish the lower curve (note how the left hand is steadying the right hand). Remember: the most pleasing poem is not necessarily a perfect poem. It can take years to learn to get the imperfection just right. When you have shaped the poem the way you like, remove it carefully from the page. A sharp wire string is ideal for this. Quickly and evenly bring it toward you while the page is spinning. Allow the poem to dry thoroughly before firing it. Then apply a layer of glaze to give your poem a finished look.

(for Michelle G)

Ekiwah Means Warrior

One of the highlights of the Skagit River Poetry Festival was meeting and reading with Ekiwah Adler Belendez. He's a poetry prodigy out of Mexico, bilingual English-Spanish, who had his first book of poems published at age twelve. He has cerebral palsy, and recently had spinal surgery, and is wheel-chair bound. You can read more about him here. Before I met him, I was skeptical; after meeting him, I was won over by his poems, his wisdom, and his reading voice.

Here is a poem he wrote at age 15 or 16, before going in for spinal surgery, from his book The Coyote's Trace. I believe he said he dictated it to his father as he was under the influence of the pain medicine, and about to go under the knife:


I am in the white prison
of those with disjointed feverish limbs,
yet, when there is no noise
I become the white prison —
snow of white and clean ideas,
a white shark
in a sea of mercy.

Around me luminous hands
open a wound,
the metal they temper
makes the strongest sword.

I see an emerald fire in me,
in this sweet hour I discover
by being a still
single-minded snake,
I am the warrior.

NYC, December 16, 2003

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Blue, Joni Mitchell, 1971

Sitting in a park in Paris, France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn't want to stay here
It's too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh, but California
California I'm coming home
I'm going to see the folks I dig
I'll even kiss a sunset pig
California I'm coming home

I met a redneck on a Grecian isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell
Oh the rogue, the red red rogue
He cooked good omelettes and stews
And I might have stayed on with him there
But my heart cried out for you, California
Oh California I'm coming home
Oh make me feel good rock'n'roll band
I'm your biggest fan
California, I'm coming home . . .


PS: Though "Levon" sucked this time, I pick Taylor to win.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Deviant Chic Ode

Saw The Da Vinci Code with Dean yesterday afternoon at Columbia City Cinema, a new movie house located in a restored old theater in the Columbia City neighborhood near our house. I have not read the book, so have no idea how it compares. But I enjoyed the movie, especially all the codes and anagrams and word-play that were part of the plot. But it's really not much more than a good made-for-TV movie. And a really good one, at that. My favorite character was the Grail history expert played by Ian McKellan: a great mix of erudite academic, gay sophisticate (with his conniving male butler), dirty old man and double crosser. My second favorite was the albino monk, though it was a little hard to watch his Opus Dei-fueled self-flagellation and scratchy thigh bracelet. Ow! Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou make an interesting couple in the lead roles, but jeez . . . could there have been less romantic tension between them? And the lukewarm hug at the end? I mean, if Jesus was human and had a child with Mary Magdalene; couldn't his heir at least get jiggy with a professor?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Home from the fest. Had a great time, and bought way too many books. More highlights:

Peggy Shumaker and Kesler Woodward presenting from Blaze, their collaboration of paintings and poems. Woodward's paintings of birch trees, their torn, wounded, sensuous, fragile bark, from all seasons, in Alaska, are amazing. And Peggy's poems paired nicely with them.
Linda Hogan reading from The Books of Medicines, a poem about her father being in a hospital ward, and hallucinatig that the doctor is reading from a magical book.
Sharing a panel with Elizabeth Austen on "Word Play and the Workplace:" her poems were stunning, and I had great fun sharing my word play stuff and medical poems, and a few that blended the two.
The "Poetry and Politics" panel with Kelly A and Allen Braden. Great audience participation with that.
Chatting with Carol and Geo about the strange and mysterious Indian cemetery across the Rainbow Bridge.
Sharing a burger and a glass of wine with Dean on the deck overlooking the Swinomish Channel, as the sun came back out, and boats drifted past.
Going to sleep at the guest house, listening to a chorus of frogs in the meadow pond sing us to sleep.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Skagit River Poetry Festival

Having a good time at the festival. My favorite moments so far:
The Writers in the Schools presentation Thursday evening: So nice to hear about their work with students the past year.
Jeff Crandall's amazing art exhibit at the Museum of Northwest Art. His hanging sonnets, one syllable on eac shard of glass, are amazing.
Sharing palindromes with Billy Collins. His: "I Love Me: Vol. I" Hehehehe.
Presenting with Ekiwah Adler Belendez and Pat Mora on Poetry as Medicine. Ekiwah is amazing: Only 18 years old, and wise beyond his years. A terrific reader of his poems. Like a reincarnation of Pablo Neruda.
Going to the "Real Men Write Poetry" presentation by Carlos Martinez, Allen Braden, and Tod Marshall. Great stuff. Especially enjoyed the goth high school student in the audience, with his black cat's ears, sipping mineral water from a silver goblet.
Lovely cocktail party at the home and garden of the Bruce's. Such gracious hosts!
Dinner with Kathleen Flenniken and her husband at Kerstin's. Great conversation, and good company. Yummmy!

more later . . .

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Poetry Garden Martini

Went to the Jeannine Hall Gailey-Martha Silano reading at Open Books in Seattle last night. Wonderfully delightful to hear both of these poets whose work I know well. My favorite part of the reading (besides, the poems, of course) was to hear a quote from M.S. about Stanley Kuntiz' secret to longevity (from an interview in People Magazine, of all places): "Poetry, gardening, and martinis." I love it. A man after my own heart.

Looking forward to the Skagit River Poetry Festival this weekend. Check it out here. Presenting are: Billy Collins, Linda Hogan, Pat Mora, Ekiwah Adler Beléndez, and many many more . . . Come on down! LaConner is gorgeous in the Spring.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stanley Kunitz 1905-2006

"Touch Me"

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,

and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Take Me to the River

Just finished reading Dreaming the End of War, the new book of poems by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Wow. What a wonderful collection. It's a booklength sequence, told in a prologue and twelve dreams. The "war" in question is many wars: the violence boys learn as children, our violence against the animals we use for food, men's war against women, men's war with their fathers, immigrants at war with themselves and the lands they have come to live in, and the world's countries at war with each other. All of these are woven together in the series of twelve dreams. And it's truly moving to read in one sitting, I could not put it down. Reading them one after another, you can hear the themes return and reprise.

Here are a few excerpts (most of the poems use white space very well; sorry, but I am unable to reproduce the formatting):

from "The First Dream: Learning to Kill"

The Curanderos say
the animals will save us
in the end. Be good to animals.
Esos inocentes son la salvacion
del mundo. They will be waiting

when you die
. . . .

from "The Second Dream: Killing and Memory and War"

. . .

My uncle Frank told me the peace sign
was the footprint of the American chicken
My uncle Frank never fought in a war.

. . .

from "The Fourth Dream: Families and Flags and Revenge"

I don't believe a flag
is important
enough to kiss —
or even burn.

Some men would hate me
enough to kill me
if they read these words.

from "The Sixth Dream: Animals, Food, Aesthetics"

I live in a century of aesthetics.


Though I can take a thought and dress it up
Then take it out to eat, and then pretend

That alexandrine couplets are my friends;
Alone, my thoughts are wrinkled and unpressed,

And I take of my clothes so I can rest —
My thoughts are more important than the dress.


Though I can take a word and make it rhyme,
I cannot shove the world into a couplet.


The final poem ("The Twelfth Dream") is Saenz' dream of his own death, seen as an end to war. All of the themes from the prior dreams come back, which in music is something like a _______, I think. It's beautiful and stunning. A great read . . . I highly recommend it.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mail Call

It's a lovely spring Saturday in Seattle. I saw patients all morning at clinic, and am also on call for the week (again), but it has been fairly quiet so far, only two newborns.

Yesterday Dean and I planted a dozen Walla Walla Sweet onions, two canteloupe, two yellow tomato (not romas, we couldn't find any), and a yellow pepper. Everything looks perky and thriving. Hope we get a long hot summer.

In the mail today:

The May issue of Poetry. Looks like there are some interesting letters to the editor regarding the Hoagland essay of last issue (or was it the issue before?). Also two poems from Seatle poet Rebecca Hoogs.

The latest Seattle Review, including my little poem "Aesop's Dog" (" . . .one bone or two?/When I heard the splash I knew.") As well as two lovely poems from our own Jeannine Hall Gailey, and a fine essay about medical training and patient narratives (or loss of patient narratives), "History and Physicial," by Seattle Neurosurgeon Rick Rapport.

The latest issues of Out Magazine and Out Traveler. Time for Dean and I to start planning the next trip. It's our 20th anniversary this December. Maybe thinking of Hawaii, or Greece. Ahhh . . .

Happy reading!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mt. St. Helens Lava Dome


This big fin of rock is growing at a rate of 4-5 feet a day, and is currently almost 500 feet tall. Every few days a piece the size of a truck breaks off the top. Onlookers say it's like watching a mountain grow.

Speaking of which, one of my sisters stopped by today with her 6 month old: and he is HUGE! We had a great time checking in, and going for a little walk with the stroller around the neighborhood. Here's a pic (such a proud uncle). Posted by Picasa
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The New Scrabble

The Fourth Edition of the OSPD (Official Scrabble Players Dictionary) has been out for months, but I am a laggard, a slow adaptor, a stick in the mud. I am still using OSPD-3 (gasp!). I just don't know if I can live in a world where "new" Scrabble words such as FE, KI, OI, QI, ZA, VIG, VUM, FEDEX, and JIGGY are allowed. Perhaps it is ZA that most offends my aesthetic — it's dorm slang for "pizza." And FEDEX? How is that a word? Let alone a verb? (Yes, FEDEXED, FEDEXES, and FEDEXING are allowed. It boggles the mind).

But I do like some of the new words. Ones I have wanted to be able to play for years, such as DUH, DEF, FAB, MEDS, BURQA, and ZOOEY. (Try using those in a sentence.)

A list of more of the new words here. Or you could just break down and buy the frigging thing.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Is That a Zucchini in Your Pocket?

Today Dean and I are planting the rest of this year's vegetable garden. We had already planted lettuce, beans, and broccoli raab from seed, and we have been having fresh baby greens for a week or so. But everything else we will plant from starts (I know, it's cheating, but the growing season is shorter in these northern latitudes!).

Today we are planting:

8 roma tomato
2 red "bush goliath" tomato
6 basil
1 zucchini
1 yellow crookneck squash
1 eggplant
2 cucumber

We are still looking for some golden romas. Hope we find them soon.

Planting the vegetable garden, getting my hands in the soil, spreading the mulch, weeding the paths, laying out the hoses, always gets me in the mood for writing garden poems. Not sure the world needs another garden poem. But we definitely need our gardens.

What are you planting today?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Thursday, May 04, 2006

More searches that have recently led to this blog

Tell the world I died for love

Apricot martini

What does it mean to be born in the year of the pig?

Poem for a virtual dog

Skin cutters

Virtual hotties

Is sparkling water safe during chemo?

Poems about asparagus

Funny Fag Poems

Take me to the clouds above

Hiccupping in Diabetes

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I've been reading Sarah Manguso's Siste Viator. It's a good book, very similar to The Captain Lands in Paradise. She favors the disjunctive, elliptical poem. But there is a strong "I" at the center of most of them. And a good sense of humor, that I admire. Like a more reader-friendly version of Jorie Graham.

Here's a taste:

Will We?

My favorite euphemism for death is the future.

Vermeer's kitchen maid is not the most famous painting in the Rijksmuseum even though she pours her milk perfectly and milk poured no more slowly then than it does now.

In Cleveland, Aunt Jean offers me a Vantage and teaches me a game of solitaire called The Queen Goes Into the Woods.

The older I get, the more I am able to discard.

Will we never live together in the round house?


Better to Shed No Light on the Mystery Than to Shed Bad Light

The zeros gather on the hill and start to bleat:

If I'm not a one, what am I?

Come here, little zero!
and together we can invent one.

I can bury my face in your soft wool.

Wooly zero, someday I will make a coat of you!


It's a slim volume (only 60 pages) with beautiful design and cover, from Four Way Books.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Pile of Glad Elegance

I pillaged elegance at the flog
of the Untied Tastes of I, Camera,
and to the Epic Blur for which it stands,
aged innuendo or not, invisible id,
with Injected Salubrity for all.

Beyond the Virtual Muse

Ron Starr at the Library of Babel is talking about computer-generated Dog Language, and more. Check it out here.

Monday, May 01, 2006