Category Archives: knowledge

Books and Thoughts

If you’ve happened upon this post – Thanks for visiting. Normally, I post poetry because this is a convenient outlet for expression.

If you’ll indulge me, I don’t feel much like writing poetry today, so I think I’ll just write…

Books I’ve read/am reading

I just finished An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears. I bought this second-hand on my birthday over a year ago. It is an ambitious novel, and the premise is intriguing – to tell the story of a crime from multiple points of view. The story is filled with twists, perspectives, unreliable narrators, and Dickensian description and dialogue – this aspect which made it difficult for me to engage (which is why it took me so long to finish it). The ending was worth the effort. And in thinking back on how the story was told and the details that the author integrated into each account of the tale, the work was well done.

As I tend to read books in batches to find one that latches my interest, the next book I finish could be among these: A Doubter’s Almanac, by Ethan Canin, A Killing Term, by Robyn Sheffield, Bloodline, by James Rollins, or The Shack, by William Paul Young. My reading interests are diverse. 🙂

What to do about Confederate Statues

I find the debate of what to do about statues to confederate civil war icons (note I did not say heroes) and symbols both troubling and cathartic. I will state upfront that I am a southerner, born and raised, though I have live much of my adult life in the midwest. During my childhood, I was enamoured with the romantic view of the south (Antebellum plantations, the Lost Cause, Civil War history). As a young reader, one of my favorite books was the Robert E. Lee biography in the “Who was” juvenile biography series ( along with JFK and The Wright Brothers!). My continued experience and education has helped shape a more well-rounded view of these events. I still have an interest in Civil War history and writers of that period, but do not hold such a romantic view of the South’s intentions and reasons for seceding. Nevertheless, I consider it an important part of our country’s heritage and growth.

Statues are reminders of history and should be contextual in their placement. I think it is impossible to not have statues of some of these figures of history, even if they were on the wrong side of the Civil War. Exclude those explicitly guilty of war crimes (You don’t see statues of Nazi leaders-and rightfully so- for this reason). Statues of Robert E. Lee and others are appropriate in certain locations – war cemeteries, battlefields, museums – but less so in other places – every deep south courthouse or public park (what is the historical significance?). I don’t understand why there are statues to Lee in Montana or Ohio. There is common sense that could be applied by local governments. Confederate flags should not be on display at public buildings, but are appropriate symbology at confederate battlefields and cemeteries (It’s probably OK at NASCAR races, too, because I don’t want to antagonize THAT many people) 🙂

What is troubling is the amount of time being given to extreme viewpoints and attempts to legitimize them, when their only goal is to disrupt peaceful discussion and incite hate and violence. Further, they have taken the iconography of confederate civil war symbols and combined it with the message and symbology of nazism and white supremacy. This is not American, nor does it reflect the context of our history. They don’t get to abduct this part of our history and manipulate it for their ends. Our nation was founded on principles of compromise and civil discourse. There are differences of opinion, and there are cracks in the foundation because we are human. These groups don’t get to weasel in between the cracks and put up walls to divide us. As Americans, we should not stand for hate or divisiveness. We’ve already fought over that and learned good, albeit painful lessons.

American history is rife with right and wrong, and lessons to learn. And too often, I think we place our 21st century perspective on events of the past without first seeking to understand the past. What is most important is how well the history is recorded. I see history as way to learn (as a society) from mistakes as well as point to moments of success together. Is there equal balance in books and essays and can the information be taught to succeeding generations so they have a good perspective of the issues of the past, the philosophy of the era, and what was learned from it. We should never aspire to go back to the way things were, but we need to shoulder our history and learn from it ways to improve moving forward. As long as we have books, and we teach and discuss the historical subjects openly and without bias, our history won’t vanish (as some of our fear-mongering ‘leaders’ have implied). Statues without stories give us nothing to keep the historical perspective and invite bias. Bias invites extremism and silos of isolation (people who think like ‘we’ do), along with walls and media outlets that fuel and inflame. And if we continue to build walls around (literally and figuratively), all we will accomplish is division. Abraham Lincoln had something to say about divided houses.

We are all engaged in telling the story of America much in the way I tried to describe the book I just finished. There are events that are observed and experienced by different people who bring different perspectives. The different stories can be skewed by personal motives, some are unreliable and others rooted in fact. America is still a young country by global standards. Yet, we fight battles as old as civilization itself – and it is important to remember -prejudice and hate have no place in our discourse. Don’t be fooled by prejudice disguised as patriotism – Our history defines our path very clearly on this.

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Metathesis

Raw material
thought unneeded and defective
on snows of paper-
Coloring the outlook in real pigments,
a gradient in between the
two-tone coloration anchored
by the evil absence of light.
It must be a bitch
or at least alien logic
to walk thru or wear on
in such complications.

On the timing,
don’t rush or force the ending.
Science waits-
wins out over time and darkness-
increasing the demand for
beautiful poems.

Unknowns (Cento)

The wars go on and on,
invading  your dreams.
Everything you saw
                                 you were,
and you saw everything.
Out of the heart of the ineffable
draw the black flecks of matter
and from these the cold, blue fire.
It produced a wavelike pattern.
All this prodding, so that to an outside observer,
we are the gods who can unmake
the world in seven days.
And just as I need every bit
 of what is seen,

even among these
defractions,
visions that witches brew,
spoken with images,
never with you-
There was never any more inception than there is now,
to go into the unknown.
I must enter, and leave, alone,
I know not how,
but knew love and
know it through knowledge.
-The darkness in the open mouth
uttered itself, pushing
aside the light.
Credits:
Jessica Hagedorn, Don Bogen, Diane di Prima, John Beer, Lisel Mueller, Jane Yolen, Michael Anania, Walt Whitman, Edward Thomas, Laura Moriarty, Helen Dudley, Margaret Atwood

Walls and Bridges

Horizons awaken
and to get there from here one must see
where the hills and hollows meet
and the rivers and streams retreat
to dreams and shadows fey.

Please do not build a wall,
the kind where horizons are hidden from view.

Solidified mortar against the weather
against the sun and rain, that blocks
one or the other – when they -the both
of them just work together to ripen
and soak this land of opportunity.

I ask that you don’t build a wall,
the kind where there’s brick upon stone.

Though time will avail itself
The vines and the climbers –
the clematis and trumpets will rise
and entwine, stifling the numbness.
The grout it will crumble
with a shout through the pale
as history teaches – walls are assailed.

Do not build a wall, please forego
this thought of a modern Jericho.

The grindstone of building this edifice-
the structure and reasons abound.
The land and the people in unison
need something better – more sound.
Synchronous dreams and horizons.
Hope beyond now- shared not fought.
Walls will not bring us contentment.
Bridges are much better thoughts.

answer

there is no answer
only trees with spindled branches
that vanish in the beauty of the green

and trails that wander off
behind the distant hillsides, pastoral scenes.

no remedy – with wind between
the spruce’s fingerlings
since moved along to coastal shores and things.

no antiphon in plummeting
in ocean depths – it’s just serene
and emptied of all guff
and echo that there’s ever been.

no pleas as silent offerings proceed
to culminating crests, and heights convened.

and this, the peace of things
that is to be –
the answers all in all, are unforeseen.

a foothold in the daisies

The clouds are just now learning how to speak.
There’s a foothold in the daisies,
and a slow descent of water from the creek
The sun is rising amber, slow and weak.

The melody of morning turns
it’s ear upon the repeat cooing dove
and smells of honeysuckle
wafted in from somewhere down the grove.

A single tuft of flowers out among
the complete scene of hurried traffic,
other places here and in-between-
a foothold in the daisies –
a shared embrace,
devotion to a yellow speck in space.

And safe return to where began this whole mystique,
and I am learning -just now- how to speak.

in a room with over-sized books

In a room with over-sized books
and a dungy wing-back chair,
I am invited to sit
and look at maps of Belize
and Montenegro, tables espousing
cotton production
in the deep south, where is the world’s leading
smelter of tin,
or diagrams of different zoological
families.
Garden paths of azaleas
in a gulf between tall oaks,
Photographs of Lennon on holiday
and Lenin in state,
and the virtues of handmade linen,
all woven and attentive
to my browsing.
Bindings jut and overhang
from the shelves,
like spanish moss speaking,
knowing that I choose the ones
who pronounce themselves
and embrace my turn
of the page.

********
I was spending time in a library this week, when I happened on
the oversized book collection in a quiet room with
a single chair. So much about this collection and this
environment spoke to me.