do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world

Today was a beautiful day. Absolutely glorious, especially after the varying shades of dreadful, surprising, and middling irritating through which we've slogged for the past ten months or so. Last weekend was a doozy, with everything from the upper 60s and sun to thunderstorms and hail to snow (see below) within two days. 75 and sunny with not too much wind was just right. I spent the day reading, mostly, with a spot in the middle for repotting some plants that desperately needed it. Turned a couple of root-bound African Violets back into plants (well, turned two into eight, which is more than I really wanted or have room for, but one does what one must) and just made a couple of others happier and healthier. Ran out of potting soil and empty pots (again) in the process. How does this keep happening?!

If you look closely at the upper left side of the windshield, you'll see hail...

...which also shows up a little better in this photo, ...

...and here's some very apparent snow.

I'm reading a very good book, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's the sort of thing that I wish I could buy in bulk and just plop into the hands of everyone I care about, so that y'all can read it with me.

When Your Life is On Fire: What Would You Save? was written by Erik Kolbell. My review for Goodreads.com [which I write primarily for myself, as notes for what I've written, and if it's of incidental use to anyone else, so be it] follows.

Borrowed it from the library, got about a third of the way through, and returned it. Why? Because I needed to own it. Ordered it for my e-reader, because I was too impatient to wait the two days for it to arrive in print.

This is a profound book, and it's having a profound effect on me. I'm reading no more than one chapter a day and then taking time to reflect on it before moving on to the next. The thesis of the book is deceptively simple: if your life were on fire and you could save one thing, whether a physical object or something of value within yourself (e.g. an aspect of your intellect or your personality), what would you save? Each chapter comes in the form of an interview between the author (a Congregational minister with a concentration in Judaic studies) and various people--famous and "regular"--about the one thing that each of those people would save, and why. Each chapter is followed by a short group of discussion questions, which I've simply considered further topics for thought.

Is this a religion book? Sort of, but not really. There are religious aspects to it, but each of the chosen saved "objects" is certainly not from that category. The prose has a spiritual quality, in the sense that what is considered is the essential nature of a person's life. Is it a philosophy book? Sort of, but not really. It is grounded in practical reality, in what the interviewed people do on a daily basis, rather than the theoretical constructs and possibilities that most readers would consider philosophy.

It is a thoughtful, readable book that is making me reconsider some things that I thought I knew about myself and my own life, and to look at my own values in a different way. And I've already pushed it into the hands of two of my favorite reader-friends, so they can do the same.

Very highly recommended.

When I bought the book for my e-reader, I started reading again at the beginning so that I could take notes and highlight, which I obviously could not do in the library's copy. I'm still making steady progress but haven't yet finished. It's just as compelling the second time through.

The latest on the wedding front involves trying to find shoes to wear with my dress (blush-pink suede sandals are the front-runners) and negotiating via the groom-to-be for a hotel room on the night that we all arrive in The Big City. Our rental house will not be available until night number two.

It will all come together. Unless something else comes together first....

[the title quotation is by John Burroughs, from Studies in Nature and Literature]

standing on a little ceremony near a little cemetery

With open arms? Cache of weapons to arrive on an onyx barge.
Like my hands retrofitted to play with a brain surgeon's hands.
I took you though you weren't with me to sit on a rock by the river.
You threw all the coins you carried in your pocket into the water.
We were standing on a little ceremony near a little cemetery though
You weren't with me. You took off your hat to salute every gravestone.
With bells & whistles? Stash of poisons transported by poor post.
Like a sifter employed in the hands of someone dreamily sifting.
I took you with me but you weren't with me as we went through the
Turnstiles in the underground tunnels. You turned to kiss me as
A door slid between us. My face was reflected on yours in blue glass.
With fanfare and feasting? Rations gone bad in some barrels.
Like your hands going through the motions of come-here-to-me.
I took you with me where you weren't going to a place by the river.

[Dara Wier, 'At Issue Were the Ways We Would Welcome Them', from You Good Thing]


drunk with its own perfume and the night

The secret drops of love run through my mind:
Midnight is filled with sounds of the full sea
That has risen softly among the rocks:
Air stirs the cedar-tree.

Somewhere a fainting sweetness is distilled:
It is the moonflower hanging in its tent
Of twisted broad-leaved branches by the stony path
That squanders the cool scent.

Pallid, long as a lily, it swings a little
As if drunk with its own perfume and the night,
Which draws its perfume out and leaves the flower
The weaker for its flight.

Detached from my desires, in an oblivion
Of this world that surrounds me, in weariness
Of all but darkness, silence, starry solitude,
I too feel that caress--

Delicate, serene and peaceful, lonely, strange
To the intellect and the imagination,
The touch with which reality wounds and ravishes
Our inmost desolation.

All being like the moonflower is dissatisfied
For the dark kiss that the night only gives,
And night gives only to the soul that waits in longing
And in that only lives.

[F.T. Prince, 'The Moonflower,' from Dark Horses: Poets on Overlooked Poems]


Because you are mine, I imagine that I suffer with you.

You, Cesar Vallejo, can go to hell.
The prisons in your eyes never
give way to ladies with parasols, and
my ears ring with the clanging
of you monotonously slamming the cells closed.

I, too, am reminded of my death
every day of my life,
growing weary of the cost of
printing pages of sad poetry,
stung eternally by Existence's hornets, but I,
unlike you, Cesar Vallejo,
would suffer this exodus privately.

Somewhere, Cesar Vallejo, a guitar plays while
a girl with skin like moonlight
dances and sings. Her voice is
like a crow's, but,
because she is beautiful, we
blend her voice with
the voices of angels we
imagine she hears.

Somewhere, I find you writing
poems about yourself. I imagine
you sitting, perhaps, at
the side table in a Parisian cafe.
Because you are mine, I
imagine that I suffer with you.
Goddamn you, Cesar Vallejo.
Goddamn you, brother.

[Jason Macey, 'Love Song for Cesar Vallejo', from Best New Poets 2013]


Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts?

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life-–

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

[William Stafford, 'You Reading This, Be Ready' from Ask Me]


the streets all wind down to the sea

It suits me down to the ground, the idea
of living on that rock, where the grey Atlantic
meets the Med, and the streets all wind down
to the sea; where they keep a decent Guinness
and the pubs are open all day. Who would I be?

I'd be an ex-pat, a career criminal
doing time in the sun before admitting
there's nowhere left to run; I'd be a waster
selling timeshare; but mostly I would be

a twitcher, living for the spring and autumn,
when all the birds in Europe are on the move,
and we could be the stillness in the heart of
all things, me and the rock, watching the swallows
bound for where the sex-lines terminate.

[Paul Farley, 'Gilbraltar', from The Ice Age]


awakened by the promise of possibility

A place, though visible, is like a ghost
of memories. Even memories one forgets
linger in the space in which they occurred.

Here within the expanse of vaulted ceilings,
doorways leading to more doors, hallways
leading to more halls, the faintest recollections

absorb over time; no act will wholly evanesce.
Wander over the carpets and marble floors,
and the echoes of bygone eras endure,

wafting through corridors
like a perfume pulsing on a woman’s neck.
What should one make of what happens

or doesn’t through a night between lovers?
And if the space awakens in a man or a woman
some thing they would not find the inner charge

to commit in their own bedroom,
should they forget? Embrace this longing?
This couple, let’s say, met last summer at a château

soiree, and they made love or they thought
about making love to each other. If they did make love,
well, they’re adults, they’ll turn to each other

in memory, forever waiting there for each other; they will
always have this place and time. If one evening
this couple, which is not really a couple,

lies together in one room while their lovers wait
upstairs or at home; if they both thought about making love
to each other, while glancing across a crowded room...

Well, why would anyone try to forget that?
Again and again, the moment is captured
in one’s mind, but try to prove it happened,

and details retreat into darkness.
Again and again, footsteps get absorbed by carpets,
so thick, so heavy...
Oh, how moments call, but better senses

abate any emerging pleasure. One may even convince
the body, against the will, that such moments were made
to linger around, only awakened by the promise of possibility.

[A. Van Jordan, 'Last Year at Marienbad', from The Cineaste]


It might have mattered

A few roses were blooming
on the almost bare trellis.
Your hair was now short.
I had never seen you that way.

All morning I’d wondered
whether to wear this
or that skirt.
It might have mattered.

It was strange to see you
in a new house
shining as you sat
in a necklace of raw flowers.

And when later in the café
you were so quick to flare
at any casual thing I said
I saw how you must have flashed
for all your lovers.

[Maureen N. McLane, 'Song of the Last Meeting', from World Enough]