Thursday, September 27, 2012

Praying Mantis

The other evening, I took my husband out in the back yard, to the balsam growing three feet high by the fence, to see both the praying mantis and the hummingbird moth. The mantis, with natural camouflage that makes it look like leaves and stems, also has an abdomen that resembles the seedpods of balsam, also known as touch-me-not because these seedpods explode at a light touch!

The praying mantis was out eating baby crickets, no doubt. The hummingbird moth was exploring the nectar of the pink and pale pink blossoms. We were in twilight, and darkness settled around us, inside the awe, an expansive, opening state of mind. Then, because there were things to be done, we went inside and did them.

I've been reading After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield, subtitled How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path. I'm glad to be on a spiritual path, however meandering, and glad to know I'm not alone in 1) wishing the ecstasy could last and 2) needing to do the relentless laundry.

Balsam is a variety of impatiens (aka impatience), and I cannot be impatient with myself, waiting for my heart to grow wise. Sigh...

The hummingbird moth, or Hemaris, a kind of sphinx moth, has that nickname because it is, and looks like, a moth, when its wings are still, and, with its wings beating, looks like a hummingbird. In Britain and Europe, a similar moth is called the Hummingbird Hawk-moth, or Hummingmoth (love that!). I'm going to ponder the twilight confusion of the hummingbird moth and the ecstasy of warm, fresh laundry, and how good it feels to fold the clothes and deposit them in the rooms of the ones who wear them.

Here are the furiously beating wings of the humming-moth, in a photo by IronChris. Reminds me of myself, spinning my wheels in search of sweetness. Getting nowhere, but ecstatic, aloft, and up close to beauty. And, like a cartoon coyote, about to fall into the ravine...while the roadrunner, as always, gets away!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cranky Gratitude

I don't have many Cranky Doodle Days anymore, in the blog or elsewhere, and I am grateful for this, you can bet! But yesterday my computer monitor screen kept going black, and it did it again twice this morning, and I was briefly sucked into the black hole of worry. I ran a scan, etc., and, well, here I am, though, so far, I have failed to post my usual "Poetry Wednesday" feature or blog post over at Escape Into Life. (I guess I fear it might escape into the black hole of the Internet, so I am cautious.)

Oh, now I have a pink warning here at MY MACHINE ABOUT TO EXPLODE?

Anyhoo, fall print journals are arriving in the mail:

Nimrod, with Susan Elbe, Michael Hettich, and other fine poets, writers, and artists in it!
Slipstream, the Cars, Bars, & Stars issue (with me in it! "Cassandra Retakes the Driver's Exam")
& Ekphrasis (also with me in it, responding to Interrupted Reading, by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot)

So I am happy, grateful, and a little on edge.

Plus, there is a cranky picture of me in the paper, as Georgina Trotter, saying something like, "Oh, for heaven's sake, one can't do everything, can one?" (See cemetery walk in Events on right.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Letters to the World

As fall begins with a chill, the furnace comes on in our house. (My tropical husband is sensitive to the cold.) I've slowed down in the blog, result of a busy summer preparing for a busy fall: some upcoming performances (of a historical nature), a trip to Ohio to help prepare a dance/theatre performance, etc. But as my life and mind scatter, I am also all the more open to synchronicity--some marvelous nonlinear random coincidii too hard to explain--and my heart fills with awe.

So what I'll remark on today is the coincidence that the summer issue of Poemeleon, its Epistolary issue, has come out on the Autumnal Equinox, as mentioned by editor Cati Porter in her letter to her readers on the Table of Contents page. This page will link you to all sorts of wonders, and I have much to read (and have barely got going on the new issue of storySouth! Ah, the busy fall reading starts with a bang!)

I have two poems in the issue, one that resulted from writing some Amnesty International letters with blogger and real life friend, Kim, and from haphazardly planting a cantaloupe in my back yard (it blossomed and twined! but bore no fruit), and one inspired by mutual disappointment and fireworks (and Jiminy Cricket!).

I love the coincidence that my statement above the poems mentions the annual cemetery walk, about to begin at Evergreen Cemetery in Bloomington, Illinois (check Events, at right), and if this issue had come out in the summer, as planned, rather than the fall equinox, as happened, the connection would not have been so pertinent as it is now. Synchronicity.

Isn't it cool that a "poemeleon" is a poem + a chameleon and can resemble anything it needs to resemble, as a poem can resemble a letter, and vice versa. Oh, Emily Dickinson!: "This is my letter to the world..."

Thanks to Wikipedia for the shareable chameleons--the green one (coincidentally female), by Chiswick Chap, and the Madagascar chameleon, above, by Bernard Gagnon. Thanks to Emily Dickinson for the coincidence of her eyes.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

These People

It's Thor's Day in the blog, the day that, if I had a hammer, I'd hammer out protest songs in the morning, etc., all over this land. I'd sing out, "Justice!" I'd sing out, "Listen!" I'd sing out, well, yes, "Love between my brothers and my sisters....!" Thank you, Pete Seeger and Lee Hays.

And thank you to these people, who represent the 47% that Mitt Romney said he doesn't care about*, who are writing letters to him over at the We Represent the 47 Percent blog. And thanks to Juliana Baggott, who started it. And if you'd like to write a letter and submit it, you can, too!

*"those people"

And/or, take up your own hammer, banjo, or blog, and say or do whatever you need to say or do. "We're all in this together."

And, if you are at a new address, or newly able to vote, remember to register before October 9 to be able to vote on November 6.

(And find out if you are going to need a photo ID at the voting booth! Sigh....)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Heron Tree

Probably some of you have seen a tree full of herons. I saw one once in a wetlands area on the way to an away volleyball tournament. Wooee, I can already tell it's a Random Coinciday in the blog, as well as a Fat Tuesday of yummy news, mainly about Heron Tree, a new poetry journal.

Thanks to Chris Harshaw for the grey heron!

The editors of Heron Tree are Sandy Longhorn, Chris Campolo, and Rebecca Resinski.  Sandy Longhorn is a poet I met in the blogosphere, featured at Escape Into Life, and then got to meet in person at the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference in Chicago this year! She blogs at Myself the Only Kangaroo Among the Beauty, an Emily Dickinson-ism!

If you are a poet, you will want to submit work, according to the Heron Tree guidelines, between now and December 1st!

It's often good to send early in a reading period, and early in the life of a journal, so hop to it (as the Kangaroo might say!)!

Thanks to Fir0002/Flagstaffotos for the Kangaroo and Joey!

And thanks to Wikipedia, as always, and in general, for info on the heron, Heron (or Hero) of Alexandria, and the apricots, chosen for their yumminess and because Heron Tree uses the Apricot theme at their website. (I told you it was a Random Coinciday!) "Heron of Alexandria?" you may be asking. "Who's he?"

He's the inventor of the steam engine, the windmill, and the syringe! Plus, this impressive geometrical equation, known as Heron's formula!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Made for TV

It's a beautiful, almost-fall day. Cool fall temperatures blew in suddenly the other day as my husband attempted to finish mowing the back yard, after a lawnmower mishap + repair (spark plug popped out). He had to put on a jacket, take off a cable, duct tape it to an older mower, etc., but the newly lush lawn got mowed, and today, as I say in the poem, "Made for TV," newly up in storySouth, "Blue / sky asserts itself."

I am tickled to be in the issue, you bet, and look forward to reading everything in it. I am very impressed with this online journal, so elegant and so well organized and easy to navigate! There's even a fabulous author index for reading the archives.

"Made for TV" is a sort of free-verse pantoum, using flexible repetition and enjambment to do what Hollywood does, and, furthermore, television movies:

Hollywood moves things around
to tell its own story
its own way.  All we can do is forgive.

And so on. The poem brings together the changing leaves, my hunting/target-practice neighbors, and a friend's breast cancer diagnosis. (But it's not a made-for-tv movie.)

In the same issue is "Beason," a persona poem I've been working on for years. It was written, but then a horrible murder happened in Beason, so I set it aside, not to add trouble to that portion of the universe, even in my mind, and I've adjusted it since to become something else, but still something oddly redemptive, I hope.

Meanwhile, the harvest--even if it must be meager, after the drought--has begun.

Corn, Peach, Melon, Ceramic Jar by Jonathan Koch, and thanks to him, again, for permission to share it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Yesterday, September 11, I carried on with the day's activities and observed blog silence, leaving up Blue Monday's Group Hug, quiet solace after our local trauma. I didn't know yet about the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens (on September 11), very sad news. Also sad: the immediate politicization of it in the USA in terms of the upcoming election, rather than its own larger context and its personal contexts of grief.

Group hug.

Then I went to Facebook to retrieve this Coexist image for you, because of how it fits current events and because of the coincidence of seeing the slogan on a license plate (from Kansas) last night at a restaurant after an away volleyball game.

But, first, I encountered a link to an article at xojane written by my niece, Jessa, about...being dumped by a meme: "It Happened to Me: I Got Dumped by a Meme." Read it. Then you'll know everything.

Her blog is in my blogroll, Bowl of Bees, where you'll find more of her wonderful writing, and some vegetarian recipes and fun fashion. Her ex-boyfriend's blog used to be on my blogroll, too, but that was before he was a meme-who-dumped-her. But I wish him well with his short fiction, just as I wish Jessa well with her writing and her stand-up comedy. But I love her, and am loyal to her! He'll get along just fine without my support. He's got that typewriter, and, apparently, a new girlfriend.

Nonetheless, I'm sure we can co-exist.

And, finally, on this Hump of the Week Poetry Someday Random Coinciday, the new poetry feature is up at Escape Into Life: Jill Khoury. Poems that squeeze and wrench the heart, and arresting photographs by Viktoria Sorochinski.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Group Hug

It's a stunning fall day, and I am going back out in it. Students are back in school, with everything "back to Normal," as we say around here. Here's a short piece on the teacher who subdued the shooter at our local high school, who suggested a group hug today as his class resumed.

Meanwhile, the latest is that there were two more guns in the shooter's backpack, so it could have been quite bad. But it wasn't.

Good reflection in church on this yesterday: Open Your Ears. And today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so open your eyes, too. And your ears again, over at The Bloggess, for a music video.

Hang in there, everybody.

(Thank you, Mo Conlon, for the art, from Escape Into Life.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Calming Down

Things have calmed down a bit here in our community, after yesterday's school shooting. No one was hurt, the police and school district handled things according to policy, and there will be counseling services on hand when school resumes Monday. Around here, we were glad for the weekend, so people could  handle their trauma with loved ones. My daughter is fine and had time with friends, so they are all feeling better. She was also able to retrieve her medical supplies from her school locker and, later in the day, her backpack from the classroom, where everything gets left behind as part of the lockdown procedure.

Here is a good account of what happened, praising first-year teacher Derrick Schonauer.

And here, again, is the great interview of Sean Kennedy by Charlie Schlenker of WGLT radio. It was linked at Huffington Post yesterday and got so many hits that the university's web server crashed. So go easy on it.

Thanks to Pamela Callahan for these birds, Heaven Sent.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ouija, Lockdown

What a weird day. And we're still in it. Lockdown at the local high school, due to a shooting. No one hurt. But trouble there, for sure. Wild weather: sudden storm, surprise sun.

My husband is retrieving our daughter. Area businesses have provided food. I baked two banana breads while trying to stay updated. Heard from our daughter intermittently via borrowed cell phone, so we know all is well.

Ah!  She's home!

Meanwhile, over at Escape Into Life, I've been learning about the Ouija board writings of James Merrill. Two mini-interviews with EIL poets on an upcoming event and the Alison Lurie memoir, Familiar Spirits, about her friendship with Merrill and his Ouija board and life partner, David Jackson.  I had heard of this book, The Changing Light at Sandover, without ever realizing how it was composed.

But now I connect it with A Vision, by William Butler Yeats, written via his wife's activities as a medium. That's a weird fact I remember from high school English class!

Anyhoo, Richard Fox is part of an upcoming reading of selections from Changing Light, and Robert McDonald discusses Merrill re: Lurie in the EIL Blog. With fascinating broken-camera art by William Miller and these amazing paintings by Xue Jiye. Quija board is courtesy Wikipedia and public domain.

We've learned a little more about the lockdown situation now, and I send you to this amazing interview by Charlie Schlenker of WGLT radio, talking to Sean Kennedy, a fellow student of the shooter. We are glad everyone is safe, grateful for the courage of those in the classroom, and grateful, too, that the school system has a plan and had rehearsed it and could carry it out. Grateful to local police, as well, of course! Feeling bad for the shooter, who is clearly terribly troubled. I hope he'll get some real help now.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Next Time

This actual fortune was inside my fortune cookie this past weekend. My son was in town, with his friend who is a girl and also a roomie, and we all had great family wamily time, which included breakfast out, while my daughter was working the counter (but, alas, we/I got the timing wrong, so we had to sit in a booth instead of at the counter, where we could have tipped her big!), and Chinese carry-out because, well, I am not a good cook.

Also a double feature: Total Recall and The Avengers. Very loud, very sci fi, very wonderful. (More, perhaps, on Total Recall and Philip K. Dick later.)

We had extra cookies, so we had our choice of fortunes. My second fortune was this: "Your power is in your ability to decide." First I had to decide what the heck this meant. Was it about the nature of my power? How much I have? Whether and how to exercise it?  As in, Your future is in your own hands.

OR did it mean, as I just realized today, "Your power [resides in] your ability to decide," or, again in other words, "Your ability to make decisions determines how powerful you are." Ack! I am a crappy decision maker. This is not only a weakness of mine, but, because of past crappy decisions, an ongoing source of mild anxiety. No wonder I blocked this particular interpretation. Sigh...

Fortunately, since I had not ordered the shrimp (a crappy decision), and since my own boy had returned to Chicago and work, A Boy and His Lobster arrived in my mailbox today--that is, the Arsenic Lobster anthology 2012, including my poem, "Cassandra Observes the Midwestern Landscape in September" from the Spring 2012 issue online. There are neither lobsters nor shrimp in the Midwestern landscape around here, just sumac, windmills, and corn. But here is a box of lobsters, in a photo by editor Susan Yount. The cover art is by Heather Gorham.

This fabulous anthology is like a whole seafood platter! With French fries! And buttered rolls. Poems by Ricky Garni, Donna Vorreyer, Maureen Alsop, Kate Greenstreet, Rob Cook, Arielle Greenberg, Michaela A. Gabriel, Simon Perchik, George Kalamaras, Carlo Matos, and many, many more.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

New Month, Math Challenge

I love a new month, a new beginning. How does this line up with sometimes not loving change? It doesn't. I also love change, even though sometimes I resist it.

Lately, I've realized that, given my childlike nature, I live more "in the now" than I was previously aware, and that whatever is (in the now) seems eternal to me. So change, I guess, disrupts that, briefly, until it resettles into whatever is (now).

Some people who know me might not realize I'm that way, just as I didn't realize it, because I am also stable, reliable, responsible, and always ticking things off a to-do list and looking ahead on the calendar to plan, to be available, to get the job done, etc.

I imagine many of us are aware of balancing the now with the oncoming future, the linear of our lives with the swirling nonlinear of it. But I think there are degrees of awareness, and mine must be acute (now) in this area. (And I'm aware that I'm unaware in other areas!)

This musing reminds me of a wonderful blog post on "growing up backwards" by Natalie the Singing Fool in her blog, The Cat Lady Sings. What a great name for a blog, eh?

And that, growing up backwards, reminds me that I wrote a poem about this same strange feeling. Sort of. "Alligator Pear" in the Plants issue of YB.

And that brings me to poetry and the September 1 tally in the 100 Rejections project! I heard about it from Brett Elizabeth Jenkins-Braun at her wonderfully funny blog, The Angry Grammarian. She started on September 1, and so did I, so here's where I am now:

120 packets sent since last September 1
64 rejections
34 acceptances
25 packets pending
gray area of math challenge = 3* (right?)

*some had to be withdrawn for technical reasons, etc.; some might be leftovers from before tally

So, as you see, I failed to reach 100 Rejections. Somehow, of course, this is good! It means I had more acceptances! Also, I did manage to exceed 100 submissions, which is the point. I will carry on with this till the end of the calendar year, tally again, and then, perhaps, just keep going, but without counting.

"And since no counting had begun / We lived a thousand years in one."  --Leonard Cohen, "Half the Perfect World," as sung by Madeleine Peyroux!

I can't believed I've sullied Slattern Day with my tidy tally...