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.


Natural History

By E.B. White

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unwinds a thread of her devising:
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all the journey down through space,
In cool descent, and loyal-hearted,
She builds a ladder to the place
From which she started.

Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning

Soliloquy at Times Square

By E.B. White

The time for little words is past;
We now speak only the broad impertinences.
I take your hand
Merely to help you cross the street
(We are such friends),
Choosing the long and formal phrase
At dinner we discuss, rather intelligently,
The things one should discuss at dinner. So.
How well we are in tune -- how easy
Every phrase! The long words come, fondling the ear,
Flattering the mind they come. Long words
Enjoy the patronage of noble minds,
The circumspection of this sanity.

How much is gone! How much went
When the little words went: peace,
Sandwiched in the space between madness and madness;
The quick exchange of every bright moment;
The animal alertness to the other’s heart;
The reality of nearness. Those things went
With the words.

Suppose I should forget, grow thoughtless --
What if the little words came back,
Running in upon me, running back
Like little children home from school?
Suppose I spoke -- oh, I don’t know --
Some vagrant phrase out of the summer!
What if I said: “I love you”? Something as simple
And as easy to the tongue as that--
Something as true? I’m only talking.
Give me your hand.
We must by all means cross this street.

Ode on a Grecian Urn

by John Keats

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,

       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape

       Of deities or mortals, or of both,

               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?

       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard

       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;

Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,

       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave

       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;

               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,

Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;

       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,

               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed

         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;

And, happy melodist, unwearied,

         For ever piping songs for ever new;

More happy love! more happy, happy love!

         For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,

                For ever panting, and for ever young;

All breathing human passion far above,

         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,

                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?

         To what green altar, O mysterious priest,

Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,

         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?

What little town by river or sea shore,

         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,

                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?

And, little town, thy streets for evermore

         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell

                Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede

         Of marble men and maidens overwrought,

With forest branches and the trodden weed;

         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought

As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!

         When old age shall this generation waste,

                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,

         "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Death Be Not Proud

by John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

French Connection

Finally got around to watching this classic. The director, William Friedkin, really keeps thing moving. Lost of action, lots of quick cuts, cursing, shooting etc. It’s always mentioned in any list of classic movies, and I can see why. Won Best Picture in 1971. I’d say Friedkin really deserves most of the credit for the movie’s quality, since it’s pretty much a standard good guys/bad guys thing. The pacing, realism really make it. He also made the Exorcist.


Tokyo Olympiad

A Japanese documentary about the 1964 Olympics. The review I read called it “poetic.” True dat.


A Complaint

by William Wordsworth

There is a change–and I am poor;
Your love hath been, nor long ago,
A fountain at my fond heart’s door,
Whose only business was to flow;
And flow it did; not taking heed
Of its own bounty, or my need.

What happy moments did I count!
Blest was I then all bliss above!
Now, for that consecrated fount
Of murmuring, sparkling, living love,
What have I? Shall I dare to tell?
A comfortless and hidden well.

A well of love–it may be deep–
I trust it is,–and never dry:
What matter? If the waters sleep
In silence and obscurity.
–Such change, and at the very door
Of my fond heart, hath made me poor


Writ on the Eve of My 32nd Birthday


a slow thoughtful spontaneous poem

I am 32 years old
and finally I look my age, if not more.

Is it a good face what’s no more a boy’s face?   
It seems fatter. And my hair,
it’s stopped being curly. Is my nose big?   
The lips are the same.
And the eyes, ah the eyes get better all the time.   
32 and no wife, no baby; no baby hurts,   
         but there’s lots of time.
I don’t act silly any more.
And because of it I have to hear from so-called friends:   
“You’ve changed. You used to be so crazy so great.”   
They are not comfortable with me when I’m serious.   
Let them go to the Radio City Music Hall.   
32; saw all of Europe, met millions of people;
         was great for some, terrible for others.   
I remember my 31st year when I cried:
“To think I may have to go another 31 years!”   
I don’t feel that way this birthday.
I feel I want to be wise with white hair in a tall library   
         in a deep chair by a fireplace.
Another year in which I stole nothing.   
8 years now and haven’t stole a thing!   
I stopped stealing!
But I still lie at times,
and still am shameless yet ashamed when it comes   
         to asking for money.
32 years old and four hard real funny sad bad wonderful   
         books of poetry
—the world owes me a million dollars.
I think I had a pretty weird 32 years.   
And it weren’t up to me, none of it.   
No choice of two roads; if there were,
         I don’t doubt I’d have chosen both.   
I like to think chance had it I play the bell.
The clue, perhaps, is in my unabashed declaration:   
“I’m good example there’s such a thing as called soul.”   
I love poetry because it makes me love
         and presents me life.
And of all the fires that die in me,
there’s one burns like the sun;
it might not make day my personal life,   
         my association with people,
         or my behavior toward society,   
but it does tell me my soul has a shadow.


Henry David Thoreau: A Life

by Laura Dassow Walls 

What a boring book. But I learned a lot about Thoreau’s life.



The seem to be growing much slower this year. It’s now well into July, and they are just now starting to bloom steadily. I got them in the ground a bit later than usual, but I don’t that that explains it all.

The picture below show the current height, which I’m pretty sure is way shorter than previous years. For the first time, the potted plants seem to be doing better than the ones in the yard. That makes me think the soil is the issue. I’ll compost for next year.

Panorama on July 11, 2020.



by Gegory Corso


Life Will Be the Death of Me

by Chelsea Handler

A kind of trashy autobiography written by the comedian Chelsea Handler. I want to read more about the Enneagram, the psychological test she said helped her understand herself better.


Lost and Found

by Ron Padgett

We don’t look as young
as we used to
except in the dim light
especially in
the soft warmth of candlelight
when we say
in all sincerity
You’re so cute
You’re my cutie.
two old people
behaving like this.
It’s enough
to make you happy.

How to Be Perfect

by Ron Padgett



A documentary about the life of Peter Norman, an Australian runner who won a silver medal in the 1968 Olympics. Americans John Carlos and Tommie Smith, the other two medalists in Norman’s race, raised their hands in a black-power fist during the awards ceremony, setting off a tremendous world-wide ruckus.

On the medal stand, Norman wore a Human Rights packet to show his support for the cause of Carlos and Smith. For his efforts, his life was turned upside down. The highly racist and vindictive Australian officials basically banned Norman from the 1972 games.

The movie seemed pretty low-budget, but definitely worth a watch.


Outside In

Indie director Lynn Shelton died recently. I hadn’t heard of her, thought I should checkout her films.

The plot of this movie is a man getting out of prison and trying to get back to his life. He was young when he was sent to prison, and when he gets out, he rides his bike around town, same bike he must had when he was a child. It’s an effective image.

He wants to start a relationship with the woman who helped him get out of prison, his old high school teacher. Instead, he ends up getting in a platonic relationship with her daughter.

I liked movie a lot. I thought both the acting and the writing were high quality. It was an interesting idea.