words: Zuihitsu for the 51st Day

Zuihitsu for the 51st Day

1.  I have never paced when I am in distress. I stand, rooted, staring, generally out the kitchen window at whatever birds I can notice eating the suet that we hang in little wire baskets from the canopy supports on the deck. This morning, I saw a pair of white-throated sparrows and a pair of catbirds and a pair of cardinals and a single male downy woodpecker.

2.  The route of my morning walk is flat for awhile, then slopes gently downhill to a worn-out barn on the brink of a gully.  Jim keeps old-fashioned electric Christmas candles in the barn windows. The road then slants uphill until on the left there is an unpaved side road going farther up past an old hillfarm cemetery before connecting back to a main road. My road flattens out again to a swamp where grackles and red-winged black birds and swamp sparrows are nesting now.

3.  Our granddaughter extended her hand toward the web camera to show us a book. She recited Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “The Swing Song” for me. My mother, for whom she is named, taught it to me when I was three, and our son taught it to our grandchildren.

4. I wish I could come up with an idea for a big project:  a play, or a series of poems. I simply don’t have enough energy to extend myself much beyond the usual “poem a day,” and even those are getting sillier.

5.  Nettles are creeping down the driveway from the little patch I planted ten years ago so I could harvest them for tea. I don’t harvest them. I’m trying to pull them up by the roots so they won’t take over the whole place. “Remember . . /the nettles that methodically overgrow /the abandoned homes of exiles.” (Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanaugh)

6.  I told our grandson I heard a towhee this morning. Our son asked him if he remembered what they say. “Drink your tee hee hee hee,” he answered, smiling his slanty little smile.

7.  My husband is extending his trip out into the world today—not just the usual route to the grocery store and home again, but a side trip to the pharmacy to get medicine for the cat’s hair loss and more milk thistle and vitamin D for us. He brought two pairs of gloves. 

8.  Linda emailed a poem to me, “the one she’s been waiting for,” she said. Nadine Anne Hura wrote it, “for Papatuanuku, Mother Earth.” She calls on the Mother to “Breathe easy and settle,” and tells her “We’ll stop, we’ll cease/We’ll slow down and stay home”  It would be a change of pace—hell, it would be a change of everything these days to have a president who shares poetry with us, or who even reads poetry. Or anything, for that matter.

9. Just after sunset, I took Julie down the driveway as usual. It was clear and pleasant, so I did not hurry, but strolled along at her doggy pace.  Watching her check the smells—deer? rabbits? that bear our neighbor saw?—along the way puts a fresh slant on things.

 

 

A zuihitsu is a Japanese form, consisting of loosely connected fragments written mostly in response to the writer’s surroundings. The word means “follow the brushstroke.”  For more see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pillow_Book

Page 52: Impounding the Overflow

I think it was during National Book Week that people on facebook used to post, say, the 3rd sentence on page 52 of whatever book was closest at hand. This is a found poem from 2012, cobbled together from a bunch of those sentences.

 

IMPOUNDING THE OVERFLOW

1.

Methanogens, red paper hearts, 

white paper lace, cartoon cupids, 

grey seals, are archaea. 

The central brainstem stands up

like a fist on an arm, renowned 

for many haul-out sites

over and around it, 

dominating it both physically and mentally..

Every computer fits easily on the page

by impounding the overflow 

from the spring into a reservoir.

Besides being a theological dilemma, 

it is also a judicial one–

think about it critically.

I think it was this line of reasoning 

that roused me or maybe 

it was my desperation that made 

me unconsciously pound the door 

with the back of my head.

That was, ‘I love you.’

2.

Obtain title to “desert land” 

by irrigating twenty acres.

As you begin, understand 

that the Indians’ new homes 

are ‘settled, fixed, and permanent.’

as a product of their metabolism. 

Lounge in the sun and enjoy 

the abundance of fish

Consider the Indians friends and neighbors. 

Produce the flammable, odorless 

gas methane. Explore flash 

content on other webs.

Go to sleep now like a good child.

3.

Cooper treads through the darkness, 

enters the tent, and is asleep instantly.

READING IN BED: a found poem

READING IN BED

Found in Longmans’ English Grammar, 1917

My name is Norval.

Learning to row is pleasant.

Every turf beneath their feet shall be a soldier’s sepulchre.

 

A little ship was on the sea.

The ship being strong withstood the storm.

Fearing the storm, we returned.

 

Peters the baker makes bread.

Robinson the tailor sells cloths.

The man to see is Robinson.

 

Tom’s father was Dick’s son.

The old man is tired.

Seeming learned is his one accomplishment.

 

The house on the hill is Mr. Bosworth’s.

To play the piano was his delight.

To be thought original was his chief aim.

 

The lady on horseback is Mrs. Bosworth.

Her being considered beautiful has been her pride

Her uncle is in India.

 

The woman being in great trouble was weeping.

Teaching lazy children is hard work.

The path of duty is the way to glory.

 

The really good are few.

To be good is to be happy.

Reading in bed is bad for the eyes.

THE DIARIES OF ELLA WARNER FISHER

Here is the last of the Sheldon Museum poems. This is a “found” poem made up of entries from the diary of Mrs. Fisher, a Vermont poet who lived from 1853-1937. I’ve been reading and blogging her diaries for years. Most of the diaries are in the archive at the Sheldon.

 

THE DIARIES OF ELLA WARNER FISHER

Mop, mend, make pies, bathe the children.

A burden to be unequally yoked.

Dig up a lily and plant it in the yard.

Every day subject to the same blight.

A beautiful day, long to be remembered.

Gertrude has mumps.  Mop and mend.

Henry cleans harness in the kitchen.

All attend service but Helen and Grace.

War bread, two meatless meals.

Anna & Henrietta go to the woods for flowers.

Tuttle takes down the stove.

Mend the stockings.  Make mince pies.

Henry carries Grace to her school.

Terrible fighting in France.

Gingham comes for Henrietta.

Ruth and I kill and dress two hens.

Dreaming among my poems.

Letters from Ashton and Helen.

Sick headache.  Go down street.

Anna receives a silver spoon.

A hateful wind blowing.

My boy, my poor boy!

They of the few, the tried and true.

Benjamin and Tuttle bring the body home.

Rain.  The white washing piled in chairs,

stark as so many ghosts.

NOMINATIVE CASE: a found poem

 

Longmans’ English Grammar, now 100 years old, is fabulous, especially the examples. Here are a few:

 

NOMINATIVE CASE

found in Longmans’ English Grammar, 1917

Exult, ye proud patricians.

Tom’s brother will come tomorrow.

Highest queen of state, great Juno comes.

Was the garden gate closed just now?

 

The Hudson is a beautiful river.

Put on they strength, O Zion!

Have those new houses been let already?

Pretty flowers grow in my garden.

 

The tall trees are shaking in the wind.

The golden corn was waving in the sun.

The great bell is tolling slowly.

Art thou he that should come?

 

Is the little child sleeping?

Have you been waiting long?

It was the lark, the herald of the morn.

O night and darkness, ye are wondrous strong.

 

Old King Cole was a merry old soul.

The hunters killed Bruin, the bear.

Art thou that traitor angel?

We have been friends for many years.

 

The careless girl was looking off her book.

I hope that I shall be a scholar some day.

I am going to Chicago next week.

I’m to be queen of the May.

ABSTRACTING: a found poem

ABSTRACTING

Found in Longman’s English Grammar, 1917

This paper is smooth and white;

in other words it has the qualities

of smoothness and whiteness.

The smoothness and whiteness 

cannot be separted from the paper,

but in our own minds we can think of them

as something apart.

 

Again, running

is an action, but the running cannot be

separated from the runner. It is only

in our minds that we can think of it as

something apart.

So slavery

is a state or condition that cannot

be separated from the slave, but that can

be thought of as something apart.

This drawing away

with our minds the quality from the thing

which has it, the action from the thing

which does it, or the condition from the thing

which is in it, is called abstracting. 

Now,

Pick out the abstract nouns.  

The room is twenty feet in length.

Lazy people take most trouble.

The driver behaved with cruelty.

The beauty of the scene gave us much pleasure.

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

A little weeping would ease my heart.

The quality of mercy is not strained.

There was darkness over all.

Honesty is the best policy.

The sun gives warmth.

Virtue is its own reward.

Charity covers a multitude of sins.

Wisdom is better than strength.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.

PAGE 56, 2017

With thanks to contributors. You know who you are:

 

PAGE 56, 2017

 

The temperature was dropping

and a light snow was falling.

Even the sky above the City

had a green tint,

and the rays of the sun were green.

It had, however, but a bare

and uninteresting church,

built in the latest and worst

period of Perpendicular,

with a slate spire and no bells to speak of.

 

The Manichee, therefore, was entirely

embedded in the visible world.

To the new generations of country

and village boys now pouring into

the university in such large numbers,

she had become, in a curious way,

an instructor in manners,–what is called

an ‘influence.’ A lady doctor dressed

in silks was an oddity, and Oscar

Maroney’s curiosity, once engaged,

had to be satisfied.

 

They asked her where she was

making for, and she answered: “You are come

to the very edge of the Wild, as some

of you may know. ….Because it is not ‘engaged’,

the Faith becomes vacuous. In the strict sense,

however, the term historical

criticism refers to the ways in which

a historian might use the New Testament

to learn about history.”

 

Italics signify the couple of little tweaks I made.

ALWAYS AWARE OF SOMETHING–a page 56 poem

This is the poem composed of lines found on page 56 by various facebook friends back in 2011.

 

ALWAYS AWARE OF SOME THING

(found on the fifth line of page 56 in various texts

during National Book Week, 2011)

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world didst rest from all thy works 

and sanctify a day of rest for all thy creatures: 

Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, 

may be duly prepared for the service of thy sanctuary, 

and that our rest here upon earth may be 

a preparation for the eternal rest promised to thy people in heaven; 

through Jesus Christ our Lord

The vision of God’s peace,

spread over all God’s creation,

opened the door to a glorious vision of history–

men stumbling and falling–

it’s been going since forever.

Their pottery and their extraordinary

anthropomorphic clay coffins,

found in the Gaza strip,

also reveal influences from Egyptian art.

 

I had been born again

only about two years and was, as now,

searching always for truth.

The relevant history suggests

that fourteenth-century theology

is too heterogeneous and eclectic

to allow such homogenizing assumptions

to shape any study.

But no matter the occasion

or person being introduced,

the gesture itself is a powerful

sign of respect. . .

 

From the meadow came a dozen satyrs,

who reminded me painfully of Grover.

“I’m going to say a word about him,” Grace said.

“He was uncertain

about the direction of the story,

explaining that he did not ‘know

how to go on.’

I could barely recognize

his drawn face.”

 

She asked the maitre d’hotel

to set up a table near the water

in a spot of his choice,

then ordered a portable stereo tank

placed by the table.”

 

He knew about the nightmares

that haunted her after a series

of particularly brutal murders

by a killer named the Surgeon:

how he’d gotten drunk senior year

and kissed her and then

squeezed her hand so hard

it should’ve hurt but it didn’t,

it felt wonderful the way

he was holding her

and looking into her eyes.

 

She had never done any teaching before,

except Sunday-school teaching,

and she had no idea how much

she ought to be paid for it,

so Grandfather was able to pay her too much

without her knowing.

 

Spread the meat

into two uncooked pie shells

and top with pie dough.

Food that isn’t nutritious

but appears to be

thus becomes an . . INcomplete meal

day after day.

 

When the mantis had crunched up

the last shred of its victim,

it cleaned its smooth green face like a cat.

Research suggests that a reduction

in mechanoreceptor afferent input

can result in the development

of symptoms

that can be identified in the clinical setting.

The therapist said

she would probably always eat that way.

 

Baby had also begun to imitate

the playful sounds of adults –

coughing, smacking lips,

making ‘the raspberries,’ and the like.

I’ve never seen anything like it before.

from paying guests.

We’ll find the money

somehow, signor.

 

The next time you observe a horse

in action or standing still,

whether a real horse

or a visual depiction,

try looking at him through new eyes,

such as the eyes of the Hindu poet

of the Upanishads

who saw his entire world

echoed in the horse’s body.

 

We always expect

to be aware of some thing.

(When I “find” a poem, I allow myself to tweak grammar a bit.  I can also remove words, but I can’t add anything significant.  The italics in this piece indicate a change I made.  I think I got them all!)