Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Glimpse of the Moon

 Last night the far-away moon looked like far-away winter. The season is drawing closer, though really cold weather is probably some six weeks off, here on the ground. But the moon itself was obscured by a glittering veil of frosty cloud. I fear the yellow hue described in this brief haiku is from the wildfire smoke which has become a subtle, somber presence, nature’s plea that we realize just how closely our lives and actions are interlocked across the world.

Moon Glimpse

High ice blurs the moon
With wan yellow frost melting
Into deep black night.

A Field Full of Asters


September is like March in its capacity to shift from lion to lamb… and back again. Lately it has been leaping from jacket cold to shirtsleeves warm each day.

But warm or cold, it is the season when frost asters (Symphyotrichum pilosum) come into flower here. Some four feet tall, a myriad of dainty flowers on wiry, woody stems, they fill the old pasture just now. It needs a good mowing or perhaps some goats to trim it down and make the grass grow instead. But the asters are an autumn delight in their own right. They spread a delicate white sheen over the hilltop.

Wild Asters

There is white on the pasture where frost asters blow,
There’s a sparkle of silver with green grass below;
As September is waning, first warm and now chill,
There’s a glimmer like winter on top of the hill.

Still the sunshine is bright and it’s warm at midday,
Though at night the coyotes and owls are at play
While the breezes shift northward and moonlight moves south
And the trees are fast thinning from late summer’s drouth.

A slow tinting of yellow--September’s own gleam--
Lies across the bright fields and the trees, while they dream
Of the storms of midsummer, of winter’s pale cold,
While the sunflowers waken and blink in bright gold.

There is white on the pasture; the cold is not here,
But the asters are whispering winter is near;
Now the sunlight lies warm on their silver and white;
They will bloom till the mornings rise clear and frost-bright. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A Poem of September

Gold and Gray

Sunflowers, but no sun,

Just low gray overhead--

The air half-mellow and half-chill.

The grass is tangled

In amongst the raindrops.

The swallows’ backs are slick

With darting in and out

While showers fall;

But the hawks sit rumpled,

High in a tree, and glum.

Meantime, the clover grows,

Drinking from the day.

The sunflowers dangle 

Their gold tresses grassward 

And wait the sun.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

My Bookshelves, My Life

Books shoved upon my open metal shelves
In gracious disarray, half-ordered pride,
From garden wisdom to long tales of elves
And men. Here lays of long ago collide
With knitter’s charts and histories of Spain,
While dictionary takes its half a foot
Of space laid crosswise and against the grain,
Its pages outward and the contest moot
Between red Webster’s and the OED
“Concise” and used, the spoils of a sale
And watchful eye, delighted, quick to see
The treasure for five dollars, secret grail
Of my collection. On the top a bowl
Of antique painted violets commands
A stack of brightly pictured books, a whole
Array of brilliant rooms from far-off lands.
I think of all the worlds and knowledge mine,
Bright spine against bright spine, from roses’ care,
Equations for ceramic glaze design,
To bitter histories we scarcely dare
Remember and must yet more surely not
Forget. How strange to think that all these things
Are simply printed, ink on paper, bought
From libraries for pennies for the wings
They bring us (riding through the dangerous night
With d’Artagnan or slaying Grendel’s dam
Beneath the sea or simply digging bright
Egyptian treasures; how to knit a tam
Stacked just above whole histories of rhymes.)
Within their pages half my memories
Reside: escape from pain through distant times
As much as through courageous certainties
Of those who’ve faced down horror and stood straight.
Within these pages all my heroes rest
And ancient gardens flourish, while the greats
Paint still lives or write songs. Old books are best.


I was musing during a sleepless dawn this morning, looking across the room at my shelves of books. It’s such a compact space to contain so much, so many worlds of thought and fact and wonder.

For those interested, here is a list of some of the less-obvious titles I have referred to in my poem.

Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden by Gertrude Jekyll, a recent acquisition

The Complete Rosarian by Norman Young

Roses by Wilhelm Kordes, long-sought and finally located online for a reasonable sum

“tales of elves and men”, not only those of J. R. R. Tolkein, but an assortment of favorite legends ranging from the old Norse tales to those of Edmund Spenser

A History of Imperial Spain, which proved not to be on the shelf at the moment after all

Nefertiti Lived Here by Mary Chubb, an account of early archaeological work at Tel el-Amarna

A Treasury of Irish Poetry in the English Tongue

Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting

Clay and Glazes for the Potter by Daniel Rhodes

Casa Yucatan by Wytinski and Carr

What We Knew by Johnson and Reuband, subtitled Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany

Stories and Prose Poems by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The Poetic Works of Sir Walter Scott

and, of course, many more…

It’s a curious collection, and its contents say much about me, I suppose, while saying almost as much about the various sources of my library: online purchases new but more often used, library sales from an assortment of “Friends of the Library” in three different states and across perhaps twenty years. Actual bookstore purchases have been sadly rare; but some of my best ceramics books have come directly from ceramic supply stores, which often seem to stock quite good titles in their field. Then there is the occasional gift book, while gardening books arrive from anywhere and everywhere, slipping into my “shopping carts” online by simply whispering to me that they need a good second home.

Ah well, the sun is now high and I must go on to other work today. I hope you have enjoyed this little tour.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Kumihimo: a Song of Weaving

 Silken threads, Crimson, gold, Fingers plucking Like a lute Makes music Of rich colour. Arpeggios In flowing gold Woven through Harmonies  In crimson, Fingers deftly Plaiting silence Into silken song.


One of my long-loved interests is working with textile creation. For me, to date, this has meant mostly handknitting and handspinning. However, weaving also fascinates me, though I have only done a little of it. Yesterday I discovered this video that thrilled my eyes and heart. So this morning I wrote a poem about it. Kumihimo is a traditional Japanese form of braiding, or plaiting. Threads are finger-woven to form cords, ribbons, and narrow strips of cloth for sashes and such. In the video, we can see the threads being gathered, braided, and then beaten tightly, row upon row, as the piece is formed on the bias to make a supple fabric. This video shows the weaver working on a takadai to make a flat-woven strip in crimson and gold. Here is the video that inspired the poem:

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Spenser Meets an Inchworm

I find an inchworm on my shirt at last,
Parading up the stripes from blue to white
To blue. She rules the inches, wriggling past
With head exploring windward. Treading light
Upon my shirtfront she propounds, polite,
My need for newer garments. Heartened, I 
Am happy she shall take my measure — quite
An opportunity, I’ll not deny;
She stands upon her back toes to descry
At distance and so checks me out,
Then loops herself to saunter forward, spry.
I need new shirts; of that she has no doubt,
Nor I. I thank her for her work; she rides — 
My tiny ruler — on my shirt outside.

Cut-paper and ink illustration kindly supplied by my sister Sarah Myers; used by permission.

After writing this poem, I realized that perhaps the tradition with which I grew up is not as widely known as I have assumed. This bit of folklore says that if an inchworm crawls across you (with its peculiar, looping gait), it is measuring you for new clothes.

Doing a quick bit of research for this post, I find there are other traditions as well; but this is the version with which I am familiar and from which I wrote the poem. Take it as you please!

I congratulate myself that at any rate this may be the first time in history that anyone has written a Spenserian sonnet about an inchworm… That might be good for some reason, but I have no idea what.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Hush, It's the Dog Days

August Days

The dampened hush 
Of low, gray, stationary clouds
Mutes the songs of summer-weary birds,
While the hum of an old AC
Is panting its way through the dog days.

Late summer muses in thin voices
That drip down, one by one, 
From a too-tolerant firmament, 
Wet and waiting
While the earth rolls slowly over
Like a sleeping dog away from too much sun.

This poem was written yesterday in response to a prompt on the Weeds and Wildflowers publication on I don’t follow writing prompts very often, but I found that this one certainly stirred the inspiration in my brain rather like stirring cream into a cup of tea. That is, it flowed together at once even if it didn’t entirely combine immediately.

The prompt was simply to use one of the two words “hush” or “solo”. And it was being presented in the context of the month of August, though I’m sure that feature was optional.

I have a line knocking about in my head for a “solo” poem, but this one for “hush” almost wrote itself as I listened to the air conditioner throbbing away at the back of our house. A fair amount of rework occurred later to improve clarity and flow, especially to bring the two stanzas together. I was happy with the results…

For those in rather different climates, the lines “From a too-tolerant firmament, Wet and waiting” refers to the often-oppressive humidity of a Midwestern (or Southern) summer, as the so-called dew point rises with the temperature. This means that the atmosphere can hold more and more moisture as the temperature rises, before reaching the point where it is saturated and must release some of that moisture in the form of cooling rain.

I am happy to note that despite the poem, the past few days have been a good deal cooler than preceding weeks!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Meditations in Late Summer

Thoughts from an August morning...

But do not pluck the flowers that remain,
Nor swear they will return again with rain,
Nor seek a thousand blooms upon their stems
Forever clipped with rocks about their hems
As garden grew for supercilious eyes
Alone, and not for its own joy to rise
Up to the sun and scatter to the breeze
The heart-dust of its summer seeds, to please
The birds, the soil, the moving air, and me.
For I take pleasure as the plants, to see
The birth and life, the fruited pods that break
To treasure meant for spring's and summer's sake
Tomorrow and next year and on and on.
And so my own life seeks a distant dawn:
Let scatter all my seeds each summer's close,
Nor squander them to see just one more rose
Before the winter, for it is not wise.
Let come each season with its sweet surprise;
Next spring you will see bloom from ten years past,
From seeds that waited but have borne at last
Their bower of bloom and verdant leaves, their gift
Of strength and sun on errant time adrift.