Whatness, Whereness

The land was ours before we were the land's ...
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.  

- Frost

Americans today usually talk about "place" and "property" as though they were interchangeable. But if you are going to really consider "place" the first thing you have to do is separate it from the concept of property. Both place and property are matters of possession, but it's who and what are possessed, and how, that are important.  "Property" is a cultural convention whereby a person has the belief, confirmed legally by properly filed papers, that he or she possesses a piece of land by virtue of investing some money or labor in it.  "Place" on the other hand, is something related to the land that comes to possess a person.  -  George Sibley

Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate.  But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street to a sacred bond.  

--Robin Wall Kimmerer

What it takes to dazzle us, masters of dazzle, is a night without neon or mercury lamps.   - ---- Alison Hawthorne Deming 


Fer Namesake , Ursula K Le Guin

Cy Est Pourtraicte, Madame Ste Ursule, et Les Unze Mille Vierges

Ursula, in a garden, found
A bed of radishes.
She kneeled upon the ground
And gathered them,
With flowers around,
Blue, gold, pink, and green.
She dressed in red and gold brocade
And in the grass an offering made
of radishes and flowers.
She said, "My dear,
Upon your altars,
I have placed
The marguerite and coquelicot,
And roses
Frail as April snow;
But here," she said,
"Where none can see,
I make an offering, in the grass,
Of radishes and flowers."
And then she wept
For fear the Lord would not accept.
The good Lord in His garden sought
New leaf and shadowy tinct,
And they were all His thought.
He heard her low accord,
Half prayer and half ditty,
And He felt a subtle quiver,
That was not heavenly love,
Or pity.
This is not writ
In any book.
(from, Stevens Collected Poetry & Prose)

What I love about Le Guin is that she contained multitudes, with intention.  One minute she could say something like this:

Adults seek moral guidance and intellectual challenge in stories about warrior monkeys, one-eyed giants, and crazy knights who fight windmills.  Literacy is considered a beginning, not an end.
....Well, maybe in some other country  but not in this one.  In America the imagination is generally looked on as something that might be useful when the TV is out of order.  Poetry and plays have no relation to practical politics.  Novels are for students, housewives, and other people who don't work. Fantasy is for children and primitive peoples. Literaccy is so you can read the operating instructions.  I think the imagination is the single most useful took we possess.  It beats the opposable thumb. I can imagine living without my thumbs, but not without my imagination.
I hear voices agreeing with me.  "Yes, yes!" they cry.  "The creative imagination is a tremendous plus in business! We value creativity, we reward it!" In the marketplace, the word creativity has come to mean the generation of ideas applicable to practical strategies to make larger profits. This reduction has gone on so long that word creative can hardly be degraded further.  I don't use it any more, yielding it to capitalists and academics to abuse as they like.  But they can't have imagination.

And the next, something like this: 

And the next,

Sleep gives us something we need, and we know it; but what it gives us is something we can't know, though we may feel it slip from us as we wake. Refreshment, is it? Solace, simplification, innocence?

Rest in Utopia, Ursula 


A January Day

He wasn't one day and then he was
and he looked at the world’s inscrutable face
and wondered what a body does
in this inscrutable place.
What is your pleasure? he asked the enclosure
where the squirrels faced off with the birds;
but in meadow or stable, no creature was able 
to answer in human words,
 yes, none answered in human words.  

Chris Childers, (Dark Horse, Winter 2017)

I continue to agonize over a cento on the subject of walls.  This is one of those conceptual projects to which I'm stubbornly attached.  I've got the guts of it, the brick and mortar, so to speak, but can't seem to weave the lines together because, well... brick and mortar obviously don't weave.   At any rate, I've observed that the more I try to write about walls the more I write of fog, stone, sky, and river.   And of course critter. 

Even my promising little ditty on Exhibitionism and the Overexposed turned up fully clothed and underwhelming.  But this heady little rush of verse that's wrapped in fog and stone and river and critter ...it seems to want to go on forever.  

And who am I to argue ?


In this epoch of high-pressure selling
When the salesman gives us no rest, 
And even Governments are yelling
Our Brand is Better than Best,
when the hoardings announce a new diet
To take all our odor away,
Or a medicine to keep the kids quiet,
Or a belt that will give us S.A.,
 Or a soap to wash shirts in a minute,
One wonders at times, I'm afraid,
If there is one word of truth in it,
And how much the writers were paid.

                         --- Auden, from Ode, (circa 1970)


Language of the Solstice, Favors of the Moon

You are what is female
and you shall be called Eve.
And what is masculine shall be called God.

And from your name Eve we shall take
the word Evil.
And from God’s, the word Good.
Now you understand patriarchal morality.

       -- Judy Grahn

I won't let the good men go unsung
Good men throw their bodies on the lives
of their mothers and their children and their wives
and the unknown.  Good men don't die alone

Each day this year, my soul has been punched and stunned
by bullet-men ripping through the dance we do
by bully-men raping girls or threatening to
by barging-men pushing first through the doors of power

while good men act as if nothing mattered more
than to restore the faded elf to the christmas tree
to greet you every morning with toast and tea
to be the hand pressed in the hole the bullet tore

I refuse to let the good men go unsung
They are not many.  They are one and one and one ....

                        Cally Conan Davies, New Verse News

There is one story and one story only

That will prove worth your telling,
Whether as learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison to all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right hand she crooks a finger, smiling,
How many the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow if falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses:
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

                               -- Robert Graves (Letter to Juan at the Solstice) 

The Magi

Now as at all times I can see in the mind's eye, 
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones 
Appear and disappear in the blue depths of the sky 
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones, 
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side, 
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more, 
Being by Calvary's turbulence unsatisfied, 

The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

                                 -- Yeats 


The Vanishing Point

All these years
learning to verse, 
learning to draw, 
learning to live

with my skin on,
it dawns:
there's something sublime 
about the line.  

In the beginning was the word, 
the word nobody heard,
and only the shadow, 

only the shadow 
where the hell the line goes.


It isn't where

a line begins
or where it ends,
but whether it deems
itself feigned

or suddenly, strangely


punch line 





bottom line 





front line











hard line 



main line.

Says Rudolf Arnheim, the line that describes the beautiful is elliptical.  It has simplicity and constant change, and cannot be described by a compass, as it changes direction at every one of its points.  

This could also be said of the lyric poem, particularly before beauty, science, and the arts were divorced.  

Yes, my child, all things 
come from the wild. 
Even the arts were once

If pressed, yes, okay,

Ah, art, oh, modernism!  What have you made of the horizon, what have you learned from your physics, what have you done to the line ?  The one that vanishes into eternity, into the cloud of the imagined, the line that sweeps our visionary vision up the holy moly mountain or down the deep, dark, mysterious hall --  and in so doing, connects us all ? 

Well, the divorce was an ugly one, and I suppose to speak of art this way is pretty sketchy, a bit suspicious, a little too close to religio-speak for the age of reason and enlightenment.  

A poetic line is not a wall, 
but a turn in the sudden
scheme of it all, 

a breath 
that breathes before the fall, 
a calm that comes

before the storm,
a philosophic
casting call,

a silent 
that language is limber,

a word is a bridge,
and a poem is not a wall. 

North of Mist

Just north of mist,
along the border,
  half a color
from the water,

under the kiss
of shadow's daughter,
  (two breaths backward,
one word upward),

past the rumpled
terra cotta,
  down the salve
of templed sorrow,

up the scales
of Bach, and Buddha, 
     down the moon
of broken solder,

through the eyes
of someone's father,
    in the grass
beside the water;

one part liar,
one part seer,
    one part lyric,
one part scholar,

this is the walk
we come to wander, 
    one part illness, 
one part healer. 


(North of Mist first appeared in Poetry Magazine)


Colorada Labors of Love: Books, Beavers, and Beloveds

A review by Greg Hobbs of Belle Turnbulle's book, (Unsung Masters Series, Pleiades Press) appears in the current issue of High Country News. This is a book that my friend, David Rothman, fought hard to put into print.  A small bevy of us blurbed, reviewed, and sat on panels in order to bring Belle out of obscurity in the state and beyond.  Big thanks to Brian Calvert of High Country News for publishing it.  From Hobbs' review: 

I like best the gems Turnbull sets within that narrow band of wetland seeps, wildflowers and pygym forest located just above timberline.  This is where 'ancient mysteries' govern above and beyond homesteaders, timber-cutters, and forest regulators.  In her world, 

Magistrate and forester 
Exist forlorn in those rude airs 
Where dwell the ancient liberties.

San Miguel politician, poet, and old friend Art Goodtimes, shown here with Placerville's Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, was visiting a couple of weeks ago, on his way to gigs on the front range celebrating Belle.  He's written a wonderful review of her work in The Telluride Watch, and gives a lovely nod to our beloved Palisade Cafe 11.0: 

Dear friend Dave Mason, former Colorada Lariat, has sent me his new collection of essays, which I think is soon to be available to the general public. I've learned a good deal about essay-writing from him in recent years, and had read many of these essays before publication.  Only he can make me see Pound anew ...or send me back to Omar Khayyam afresh.  

My essay became lyric, fragmented, made up of associations as much as ideas, deliberately avoiding the yoke of a thesis.  -- David Mason 

Dave and his extraordinary wife from Oz,  Chrissy, (pen name, Cally Conan-Davies), are regular visitors of our home here on Trickster Ridge in Palisade: 

Dave has written an Ode to Colorado for Colorado Tourism, and they've created of it a visual appreciation of the state:

Love Letter to Colorado, David Mason

Chrissy's an extraordinary poet herself: 

Hudson Review

A couple of old Fruita friends, Cullen Purser and Dan Rosen have recently created a visual ode to Labors of Love, Sisyphean efforts, and the Colorada Beaver.  Cullen and his wife, Jeannine, own and operate Cavalcade, a venue devoted to nurturing the musical and performing arts, and Dan is the owner and founder of Lithic Books out in Fruita Land.  Both are old friends of an eccentric sort.  

Palisade artist Mary Mansfield doesn't seem to do an awful lot of self promotion.  Whenever I catch a glimpse of her down the hill, I always feel a little star struck.  Absolutely love her work:

Mary Mansfield, Palisade CO Artist/Sculpture

Jeff Lee and Ann Martin of Denver, founders of The Rocky Mountain Land Library, are the ultimate practitioners of the labor of love.  Here's an overview of their work from the New York Times:  

Rocky Mt Land Library

The Land Library also has a online presence, featuring poets and their works.  Here you'll find work from Edwards poet Jodie Hollander, who's been instrumental in getting the word out about the Land Library, old friend Uche Ogbuji, artist Meridith Nemerov, yrs truly, and others:  

GARO/Poetry/Rocky Mt Land Library

Meanwhile, it's been a warm, dry fall, and we are hoping to get a little bit of the wet stuff here on the western slope this weekend.  

I'll be demonstrating painting with alcohol inks at Solon Sanguinetti's on Friday night:

And I'll be presenting a short slide show, (poetry and art) at Mesa County Public Library for "Ignite", along with 11 others on Saturday at 1pm.  My thanks to coordinator and writer Rebecca Mullen, of Mesa, for inviting me to present.  

IGNITE GJ Sentinel


        -  Belle Turnbulle

Mountains cast spells on me—
    Why, because of the way
Earth-heaps lie, should I be
Choked by joy mysteriously;
    Stilled or drunken-gay?
Why should a brown hill-trail
    Tug at my feet to go?
Why should a boggy swale
Tune my heart to a nameless tale
   Mountain marshes know?
Timberline, and the trees
    Wind-whipped, and the sand between—
Why am I mad for these?
What dim thirst do they appease?
    What filmed sense brush clean?


Coyote Calls us to the Things of This World

The howl of the coyote is America's original national anthem.   - Dan Flores

Coyote Call

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

                           - Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul   
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple   
As false dawn.
                     Outside the open window   
The morning air is all awash with angels.

    Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,   
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.   
Now they are rising together in calm swells   
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear   
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

    Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving   
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden   
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
                                             The soul shrinks

    From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every bless├Ęd day,
And cries,
               “Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,   
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

    Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,   
The soul descends once more in bitter love   
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,   
    “Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;   
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,   
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating   
Of dark habits,
                      keeping their difficult balance.”


Wilbur had a way of keeping all the balls in the air .... -- AE Stallings


O Egypt, Egypt -- so the great lament
Of thrice-great Hermes went --
Nothing of thy religion shall remain
Save fables, which thy children shall disdain. 
His grieving eye foresaw
The world's bright fabric overthrown
Which married star to stone
And charged all things with awe.

And what, in that dismantled world, could be
More fabulous than he?
Had he existed? Was he but a name
Tacked on to forgeries which pressed the claim
Of every ancient quack 
That could from a smoky cell
By talisman or spell
Coerce the Zodiac?

Still, we summon him at midnight hour
To Milton's pensive tower,
And hear him tell again how, then and now,
Creation is a house of mirrors, how,
Each herb that sips the dew
Dazzles the eye with many small
Reflections of the All -- 
Which after all, is true.  

- Richard P Wilbur

(links from National Geographic, American Scholar, The New Yorker)