Promise me, Dad : a year of hope, hardship, and purpose

by Joe Biden

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Interesting book about Biden’s years as VP, and the trials he faced during his son’s illness.


Let the Swords Encircle Me

by Scott Petterson

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Long-ass book about modern Iran.


I taste a liquor never brewed

by Emily Dickenson

I taste a liquor never brewed -
From tankards scooped in Pearl -
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of air - am I -
And Debauchee of Dew -
Reeling - thro' endless summer days -
From inns of molten Blue -

When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove's door -
When butterflies renounce their "drams" -
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats -
And Saints to windows run -
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the - Sun!


The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

by Hooman Majd

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Dividing Tips

from the Oct 2020 Dahliagram

Back to tubers. Dividing clumps is
scary for many new growers. Those
uncertain whether they will recognize
where to find the eyes on the crown can cut
off the tops of the plants a few days before
digging. The eyes will emerge after one
cuts the tops of the plants, so it is easier to
divide the clumps at this time. I strongly
recommend cutting off tops and digging
only as many plants as you expect to be
able to wash, divide, and mark in one day.
As the tubers dry, the eyes start
disappearing, and the tubers become very
hard – difficult to divide.


In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs

by Christopher de Bellaigue

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A personal account of living in Iran post-revolution. With a bit of history thrown in.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s not for a person unfamiliar with Iranian history. I do like the approach, a mixture of personal experience and history. However, I found a good bit of the descriptions of his experience overly long and just not that interesting.


The Wish

by Louise Gluck

Remember that time you made the wish?

I make a lot of wishes.

The time I lied to you
about the butterfly. I always wondered
what you wished for.

What do you think I wished for?

I don't know. That I'd come back,
that we'd somehow be together in the end.

I wished for what I always wish for.
I wished for another poem.

Khomeini’s Ghost

by Con Coughlin

The author, instead of getting to deep into the details of Khomeini’s life, included a lot of information on what was going on in Iran during his life, which made the book much more interesting. Kudos.


The Last Lecture

by Randy Pausch

Pausch was a computer science professor who contracted pancreatic cancer. He decided to do one final lecture, primarily aimed to teach his children some life lessons.

Pausch was a brave man with some interesting insights. It was a bit to uplifting for my tastes.


If you’re going through hell, keep going. – Winston Churchill


It’s one-on-one out there, man. There ain’t no hiding. I can’t pass the ball. – Pete Sampras


The Saddest Poem

by Robert Frost

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.

Write, for instance: “The night is full of stars,
and the stars, blue, shiver in the distance.”

The night wind whirls in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like this, I held her in my arms.
I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her.
How could I not have loved her large, still eyes?

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
To think I don’t have her. To feel that I’ve lost her.

To hear the immense night, more immense without her.
And the poem falls to the soul as dew to grass.

What does it matter that my love couldn’t keep her.
The night is full of stars and she is not with me.

That’s all. Far away, someone sings. Far away.
My soul is lost without her.

As if to bring her near, my eyes search for her.
My heart searches for her and she is not with me.

The same night that whitens the same trees.
We, we who were, we are the same no longer.

I no longer love her, true, but how much I loved her.
My voice searched the wind to touch her ear.

Someone else’s. She will be someone else’s. As she once
belonged to my kisses.
Her voice, her light body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I love her.
Love is so short and oblivion so long.

Because on nights like this I held her in my arms,
my soul is lost without her.

Although this may be the last pain she causes me,
and this may be the last poem I write for her.


Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams. – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Never had so few lost so much so stupidly and so fast. – Dean Acheson


All the Shah’s Men

by Stephen Kinzer

A history of the 1953 U.S. led coup in Iran.



by Kermit Roosevelt

This book, about the 1953 coup in Iran that toppled Mossadegh, gets a lot of criticism for over-emphasizing the American involvement and also playing fast-and-loose with the facts.

That may be, I can’t judge, but I can say it’s a really good read. Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson, could write.


John Muir: A Passion for Nature

by Donald Worster

A biography of the environmentalist extraordinaire, John Muir. Good book, nicely paced, it gets a bit slow towards the end, but I guess to be expected since Muir’s life wasn’t as exciting.


Cherrylog Road

by James Dickey

Off Highway 106
At Cherrylog Road I entered   
The ’34 Ford without wheels,   
Smothered in kudzu,
With a seat pulled out to run
Corn whiskey down from the hills,

And then from the other side   
Crept into an Essex
With a rumble seat of red leather   
And then out again, aboard   
A blue Chevrolet, releasing   
The rust from its other color,

Reared up on three building blocks.   
None had the same body heat;
I changed with them inward, toward   
The weedy heart of the junkyard,   
For I knew that Doris Holbrook   
Would escape from her father at noon

And would come from the farm   
To seek parts owned by the sun   
Among the abandoned chassis,   
Sitting in each in turn
As I did, leaning forward
As in a wild stock-car race

In the parking lot of the dead.   
Time after time, I climbed in   
And out the other side, like   
An envoy or movie star
Met at the station by crickets.   
A radiator cap raised its head,

Become a real toad or a kingsnake   
As I neared the hub of the yard,   
Passing through many states,   
Many lives, to reach
Some grandmother’s long Pierce-Arrow   
Sending platters of blindness forth

From its nickel hubcaps
And spilling its tender upholstery
On sleepy roaches,
The glass panel in between   
Lady and colored driver   
Not all the way broken out,

The back-seat phone
Still on its hook.
I got in as though to exclaim,   
“Let us go to the orphan asylum,   
John; I have some old toys
For children who say their prayers.”

I popped with sweat as I thought   
I heard Doris Holbrook scrape
Like a mouse in the southern-state sun   
That was eating the paint in blisters   
From a hundred car tops and hoods.   
She was tapping like code,

Loosening the screws,   
Carrying off headlights,   
Sparkplugs, bumpers,
Cracked mirrors and gear-knobs,   
Getting ready, already,
To go back with something to show

Other than her lips’ new trembling   
I would hold to me soon, soon,   
Where I sat in the ripped back seat
Talking over the interphone,   
Praying for Doris Holbrook   
To come from her father’s farm

And to get back there
With no trace of me on her face
To be seen by her red-haired father
Who would change, in the squalling barn,   
Her back’s pale skin with a strop,
Then lay for me

In a bootlegger’s roasting car
With a string-triggered I2-gauge shotgun   
To blast the breath from the air.
Not cut by the jagged windshields,   
Through the acres of wrecks she came   
With a wrench in her hand,

Through dust where the blacksnake dies   
Of boredom, and the beetle knows   
The compost has no more life.
Someone outside would have seen   
The oldest car’s door inexplicably   
Close from within:

I held her and held her and held her,   
Convoyed at terrific speed
By the stalled, dreaming traffic around us,   
So the blacksnake, stiff
With inaction, curved back
Into life, and hunted the mouse

With deadly overexcitement,   
The beetles reclaimed their field   
As we clung, glued together,
With the hooks of the seat springs   
Working through to catch us red-handed   
Amidst the gray breathless batting

That burst from the seat at our backs.   
We left by separate doors
Into the changed, other bodies
Of cars, she down Cherrylog Road   
And I to my motorcycle
Parked like the soul of the junkyard

Restored, a bicycle fleshed
With power, and tore off
Up Highway 106, continually   
Drunk on the wind in my mouth,   
Wringing the handlebar for speed,   
Wild to be wreckage forever.


Notes from the August Dahliagram

Some helpful (?) tips I want to remember from the newsletter.

I ordered Milstop Fungicide, a new organic approved treatment for powdery mildew that is supposed to be extremely effective. (Seed World had the best price I could find.)



by James Dickey

Japan invades. Far Eastern vines
Run from the clay banks they are

Supposed to keep from eroding
Up telephone poles
Which rear, half out of leafage
As though they would shriek
Like things smothered by their own
Green, mindless, unkillable ghosts
In Georgia, the legend says
That you must close your windows

At night to keep it out of the house
The glass is tinged with green, even so

As the tendrils crawl over the fields
The night the kudzu has
Your pasture, you sleep like the dead
Silence has grown Oriental
And you cannot step upon ground:
Your leg plunges somewhere
It should not, it never should be
Disappears, and waits to be struck

Anywhere between sole and kneecap:
For when the kudzu comes

The snakes do, and weave themselves
Among its lengthening vines
Their spade heads resting on leaves
Growing also, in earthly power
And the huge circumstance of concealment
One by one the cows stumble in
Drooling a hot green froth
And die, seeing the wood of their stalls

Strain to break into leaf
In your closed house, with the vine

Tapping your window like lightning
You remember what tactics to use
In the wrong yellow fog-light of dawn
You herd them in, the hogs
Head down in their hairy fat
The meaty troops, to the pasture
The leaves of the kudzu quake
With the serpents' fear, inside

The meadow ringed with men
Holding sticks, on the country roads

The hogs disappear in the leaves
The sound is intense, subhuman
Nearly human with purposive rage
There is no terror
Sound from the snakes
No one can see the desperate, futile
Striking under the leaf heads
Now and then, the flash of a long

Living vine, a cold belly
Leaps up, torn apart, then falls

Under the tussling surface
You have won, and wait for frost
When, at the merest touch
Of cold, the kudzu turns
Black, withers inward and dies
Leaving a mass of brown strings
Like the wires of a gigantic switchboard
You open your windows

With the lightning restored to the sky
And no leaves rising to bury

You alive inside your frail house
And you think, in the opened cold
Of the surface of things and its terrors
And of the mistaken, mortal
Arrogance of the snakes
As the vines, growing insanely, sent
Great powers into their bodies
And the freedom to strike without warning:

From them, though they killed
Your cattle, such energy also flowed

To you from the knee-high meadow
(It was as though you had
A green sword twined among
The veins of your growing right arm--
Such strength as you would not believe
If you stood alone in a proper
Shaved field among your safe cows--):
Came in through your closed

Leafy windows and almighty sleep
And prospered, till rooted out


If You Forget Me

by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.


The Disquieting Muses

by Sylvia Plath

A 1947 replica of The Disquieting Muses. De Chirico
Mother, mother, what illbred aunt
Or what disfigured and unsightly
Cousin did you so unwisely keep
Unasked to my christening, that she
Sent these ladies in her stead
With heads like darning-eggs to nod
And nod and nod at foot and head
And at the left side of my crib?

Mother, who made to order stories
Of Mixie Blackshort the heroic bear,
Mother, whose witches always, always,
Got baked into gingerbread, I wonder
Whether you saw them, whether you said
Words to rid me of those three ladies
Nodding by night around my bed,
Mouthless, eyeless, with stitched bald head.

In the hurricane, when father’s twelve
Study windows bellied in
Like bubbles about to break, you fed
My brother and me cookies and Ovaltine
And helped the two of us to choir:
“Thor is angry: boom boom boom!
Thor is angry: we don’t care!”
But those ladies broke the panes.

When on tiptoe the schoolgirls danced,
Blinking flashlights like fireflies
And singing the glowworm song, I could
Not lift a foot in the twinkle-dress
But, heavy-footed, stood aside
In the shadow cast by my dismal-headed
Godmothers, and you cried and cried:
And the shadow stretched, the lights went out.

Mother, you sent me to piano lessons
And praised my arabesques and trills
Although each teacher found my touch
Oddly wooden in spite of scales
And the hours of practicing, my ear
Tone-deaf and yes, unteachable.
I learned, I learned, I learned elsewhere,
From muses unhired by you, dear mother,

I woke one day to see you, mother,
Floating above me in bluest air
On a green balloon bright with a million
Flowers and bluebirds that never were
Never, never, found anywhere.
But the little planet bobbed away
Like a soap-bubble as you called: Come here!
And I faced my traveling companions.

Day now, night now, at head, side, feet,
They stand their vigil in gowns of stone,
Faces blank as the day I was born,
Their shadows long in the setting sun
That never brightens or goes down.
And this is the kingdom you bore me to,
Mother, mother. But no frown of mine
Will betray the company I keep.

Fairfax Ferns Info


Futility in Key West

I was stretched out on the couch, about to doze off, when I imagined a small figure asleep on a couch identical to mine. “Wake up, little man, wake up,” I cried. “The one you’re waiting for is rising from the sea, wrapped in spume, and soon will come ashore. Beneath her feet the melancholy garden will turn bright green and the breezes will be light as babies’ breath. Wake up, before this creature of the deep is gone and everything goes blank as sleep.” How hard I try to wake the little man, how hard he sleeps. And the one who rose from the sea, her moment gone, how hard she has become—how hard those burning eyes, that burning hair.

By Mark Strand


The End

By Mark Strand

Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.