08 October 2016

Representation by Samuel Hughes

Fall comes on like a war or a presidency,
and I, who have been anticipating it since May,
get my flannel shirts out of the trunk immediately,
even if most days it is still too warm for them
and my neighbor with his shirt off will probably persist
drinking and listening to country music in his driveway
until after the first snow. I admit I decorate myself
like a grade school teacher’s bulletin board,
the cardboard leaves in red and yellow and brown,
bought from Michaels, tacky, unnatural and glossy,
but meant to be instructive to the children,
like the loopy cursive alphabet above the whiteboard.
Fall comes on like a war or a presidency,
and it is election season. The first debate
was almost a week ago and it is still the only news,
the online journals arranging each day
new articles each day more dire, out of
what we all watched together, and shrugged at the end,
having seen even more of what we expected than
we could have imagined, and wondered
if this exercise in democracy was really worth
sacrificing our other more fun plans for the evening.
Fall comes on like a war or a presidency.
A hundred years ago, the war was still on,
and in Paris, before the génération was properly perdue,
the aging newspapermen and generals too old to be of use
were saying already how everything was changed forever,
and still, consumptives and aristocrats talked genealogies
in cafés and in the drawing rooms of women
who wore their flowers now in empty bullet casings.
Fall comes on like a war or a presidency,
and I can sometimes be caught saying
that this is what I love about Vermont, the way
the seasons really change, and my instructive
wools and flannels here are articles of survival,
not like back home, and I can sometime be caught
saying this to someone in a t-shirt that reads,
“I Stand With Standing Rock,” or, “Black Lives Matter,”
or, “Bernie Sanders For President,” and sometimes,
we both shudder, probably from the night air,
which is chilly now, though not so much
that you can’t still wear a t-shirt.

Poets Respond
October 2, 2016

02 October 2016

22 September 2016

When the Frost is on the Punkin BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY


When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock, 
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock, 
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens, 
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence; 
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best, 
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest, 
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock, 
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock. 

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere 
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here— 
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees, 
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees; 
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze 
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days 
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock— 
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock. 

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn, 
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn; 
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still 
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill; 
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed; 
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!— 
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock, 
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock! 

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps 
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps; 
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through 
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ... 
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be 
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me— 
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock— 
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

05 September 2016

"I know this scarf"

One of my favorite scarf patterns is the Chinook Scarf by Ali Green. I've made it in different yarns, on different needles, and have modified it more often than not to be longer than the original pattern. Here's a link to the pattern:


My most recent Chinook Scarf was a gift for Marie, who's also a knitter. The yarn I used, and liked very much, is Flertini from Knit One, Crochet Too:

"Fleurtini is a soft yarn with a slight texture. It knits up quickly and is suitable for year-round wear. Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry.
34% Wool
34% Manufactured Fibers - Acrylic
26% Cotton
6% Manufactured Fibers - Nylon / Polyamide"

When she pulled the scarf out of the recycled-plastic Blue Q purse I gave her, she said, "I know this scarf!"

Hot Rocks Messenger Bag

She draped it around her neck as she handed her baby the pull-apart animals I brought him from the US. I was pleased at how long the scarf is! All on a pleasant day in Prague.

28 August 2016

Writing and knitting

It may seem that writing and knitting do not have much in common, but let me enumerate their amazing similarities:

  • 1.       You start with a pile of materials and make something that only you can make.
  • 2.      You contemplate the pile for a while before you begin, letting your imagination run wild.
  • 3.       Sometimes you don’t like what you’ve done and rip it out
  • 4.      Sometimes the finished item bears little resemblance to your imagined thing of beauty.
  • 5.       The mistakes you make will never go away. Corollary: you will see new mistakes or ways to improve every time you look at the finished item.
  • 6.      People are amazed and in awe at what you have done, while you feel slightly embarrassed at the many flaws and faults that leap out at you. Advice: don’t point out the flaws; this will only make your admirers think that they are unobservant and is often taken as fishing for a compliment and will only get you more praise (“oh, no, it’s perfect!”), not the commiseration you subconsciously seek (“I could have done so much better!”)

Yes, writing and knitting are very much alike. Both require skill, patience and creativity. And both communicate your innermost self, which is always a bit of a risk.

31 July 2016

on my way to Prague!

I love Prague, where I have lived, worked and made wonderful friends over the past 26 years. Now I live in Florida, but next week I'll fly to Prague via Copenhagen and visit my friends there!

Naturally I'll take some warm knitted goods, made with my brain and my own two hands, with me, to give to people who will need them soon! Here are a few of the gifts I will take with me:

14 June 2016


Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand: 
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand! 

30 May 2016


In October of the year, 
he counts potatoes dug from the brown field,   
counting the seed, counting   
the cellar’s portion out,   
and bags the rest on the cart’s floor. 

He packs wool sheared in April, honey 
in combs, linen, leather   
tanned from deerhide,   
and vinegar in a barrel 
hooped by hand at the forge’s fire. 

He walks by his ox’s head, ten days 
to Portsmouth Market, and sells potatoes,   
and the bag that carried potatoes, 
flaxseed, birch brooms, maple sugar, goose   
feathers, yarn. 

When the cart is empty he sells the cart.   
When the cart is sold he sells the ox,   
harness and yoke, and walks 
home, his pockets heavy 
with the year’s coin for salt and taxes, 

and at home by fire’s light in November cold   
stitches new harness 
for next year’s ox in the barn, 
and carves the yoke, and saws planks   
building the cart again.

23 May 2016

Home to Roost by Kay Ryan, 1945

The chickens
are circling and
blotting out the 
day. The sun is 
bright, but the 
chickens are in 
the way. Yes,
the sky is dark
with chickens, 
dense with them.
They turn and 
then they turn 
again. These 
are the chickens
you let loose
one at a time
and small—
various breeds.
Now they have 
come home
to roost—all
the same kind
at the same speed.

16 May 2016

Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons BY DIANE WAKOSKI

The relief of putting your fingers on the keyboard, 
as if you were walking on the beach 
and found a diamond 
as big as a shoe; 

as if 
you had just built a wooden table 
and the smell of sawdust was in the air, 
your hands dry and woody; 

as if 
you had eluded 
the man in the dark hat who had been following you 
all week; 

the relief 
of putting your fingers on the keyboard, 
playing the chords of 
         in an afternoon when I had no one to talk to, 
         when the magazine advertisement forms of soft sweaters 
         and clean shining Republican middle-class hair 
         walked into carpeted houses 
         and left me alone 
         with bare floors and a few books 

I want to thank my mother 
for working every day 
in a drab office 
in garages and water companies 
cutting the cream out of her coffee at 40 
to lose weight, her heavy body 
writing its delicate bookkeeper’s ledgers 
alone, with no man to look at her face, 
her body, her prematurely white hair 
in love 
         I want to thank 
my mother for working and always paying for 
my piano lessons 
before she paid the Bank of America loan 
or bought the groceries 
or had our old rattling Ford repaired. 

I was a quiet child, 
afraid of walking into a store alone, 
afraid of the water, 
the sun, 
the dirty weeds in back yards, 
afraid of my mother’s bad breath, 
and afraid of my father’s occasional visits home, 
knowing he would leave again; 
afraid of not having any money, 
afraid of my clumsy body, 
that I knew 
         no one would ever love 

But I played my way 
on the old upright piano 
obtained for $10, 
played my way through fear, 
through ugliness, 
through growing up in a world of dime-store purchases, 
and a desire to love 
a loveless world. 

I played my way through an ugly face 
and lonely afternoons, days, evenings, nights, 
mornings even, empty 
as a rusty coffee can, 
played my way through the rustles of spring 
and wanted everything around me to shimmer like the narrow tide 
on a flat beach at sunset in Southern California, 
I played my way through 
an empty father’s hat in my mother’s closet 
and a bed she slept on only one side of, 
never wrinkling an inch of 
the other side, 

I played my way through honors in school, 
the only place I could 
       the classroom, 
       or at my piano lessons, Mrs. Hillhouse’s canary always 
       singing the most for my talents, 
       as if I had thrown some part of my body away upon entering 
       her house 
       and was now searching every ivory case 
       of the keyboard, slipping my fingers over black 
       ridges and around smooth rocks, 
       wondering where I had lost my bloody organs, 
       or my mouth which sometimes opened 
       like a California poppy, 
       wide and with contrasts 
       beautiful in sweeping fields, 
       entirely closed morning and night, 

I played my way from age to age, 
but they all seemed ageless 
or perhaps always 
old and lonely, 
wanting only one thing, surrounded by the dusty bitter-smelling 
leaves of orange trees, 
wanting only to be touched by a man who loved me, 
who would be there every night 
to put his large strong hand over my shoulder, 
whose hips I would wake up against in the morning, 
whose mustaches might brush a face asleep, 
dreaming of pianos that made the sound of Mozart 
and Schubert without demanding 
that life suck everything 
out of you each day, 
without demanding the emptiness 
of a timid little life. 

I want to thank my mother 
for letting me wake her up sometimes at 6 in the morning 
when I practiced my lessons 
and for making sure I had a piano 
to lay my school books down on, every afternoon. 
I haven’t touched the piano in 10 years, 
perhaps in fear that what little love I’ve been able to 
pick, like lint, out of the corners of pockets, 
will get lost, 
slide away, 
into the terribly empty cavern of me 
if I ever open it all the way up again. 
Love is a man 
with a mustache 
gently holding me every night, 
always being there when I need to touch him; 
he could not know the painfully loud 
music from the past that 
his loving stops from pounding, banging, 
battering through my brain, 
which does its best to destroy the precarious gray matter when I 
am alone; 
he does not hear Mrs. Hillhouse’s canary singing for me, 
liking the sound of my lesson this week, 
telling me, 
confirming what my teacher says, 
that I have a gift for the piano 
few of her other pupils had. 
When I touch the man 
I love, 
I want to thank my mother for giving me 
piano lessons 
all those years, 
keeping the memory of Beethoven, 
a deaf tortured man, 
in mind; 
            of the beauty that can come 
from even an ugly