Friday, December 30, 2011

Sew glad you asked

Dear Blog Followers, all nine of you,

You have not heard from me for weeks now, though there have been several blog worthy events. There was the snowy morning I taught eleven kids at Tesuque Pueblo day school when their teacher, Elisabeth, told me one boy wrote, "I used to be an Indian, but now I am an Ipod." Elisabeth Keller took a class of mine at age 17 and does wonderful poetry with her bright eyed kids.  I always feel that when a teacher really has poetry in the curriculum an angel gets bifocals, or an Ipad in this case. We had a brisk and brilliant poetry morning.

Then there was going to Indian dances at both Tesuque on Christmas, with my friend Tobie, here on sabbatical, and by myself to the Turtle Dance at Okay Owingeh which I do almost every single year.
I look down the row of 130 men and it just seems to stretch into another time zone, say 500 years ago.
A friend was saying she at first felt like a voyeur at the dances and now feels comfortable.  I know what she means, I used to feel outside, and now I don't feel separate.  I am in my role as a white haired woman in a black coat, hands in pocket, looking up for an eagle because there was one last year or the one before.  I fit in the picture, am at home, not that I am part of another culture, but that I populate this place after nearly 38 years standing here on December 26th, year by year. Like the Chanukah candles I light, the Charlie Brown tree I decorated that makes my family laugh, and the applesauce I make for the latkes every year, it's my holiday tradition.

I did lots of great things this season, made me glad to be alive here, every day, glad.  But why you didn't hear from me is another story.  It's sew so.  It's so sew.  I almost hear the word cute forming on your lips.
What captured my creative energy this year was sewing.  I had to make two quilt squares for the twins, Jessica Knight's third and fourth child.  Jessica who I have known since she was 8 months.  Jessica whose kids have the hippiest names of all of us, Zen, Rain, Zia, and Rey. And, and, and, she lives on an army base in Florida, and her husband is in Afghanistan. I ask, any Jews on the base, and she shakes her head.  So I make her two quilt squares for our fabulous Chimayo Baby Quilt tradition,  36 years at least and as many baby quilts deep.

And then I couldn't stop sewing.  I still can't,  My table is never clear enough to eat breakfast, especially when Michael was gone eight days, and I was in a sewing frenzy.  I wanted to leave my Mayor, David Coss, and my Santa Fe Arts Commission folks, Sabrina, Debra, Julie, and Rod with a Poet Laureate gift they wouldn't forget.  So I had the idea of poem holders, a poem typed into a potholder.  It has long been my idea to merge poetry with daily life, make it the bread and hot soup poet Etheridge Knight says it is.

One thing leads to another.  I have a lot of friends.  I lived here so long and I am what they call in my home-town of Pittsburgh, "a people person."  In other circles they may call it a best friend slut, co-dependent, desperate, driven, a can't say no sort of people person.  I keep thinking of another person I love and haul out the sewing machine.  I was keeping track up to about 35, then I lost count. Do I get to write off fabric as a business expense?  Does the fabric store know that I am using their wares for poetic purposes?  Dare I tell them?  It's a tricky business and please don't ask for one, I am running out of my good nerves into some other sort of nerves.  I love you, I swear I do.  I just haven't written a blog, or a poem, or a thank-you note to my family. Forget cooking.  I have been sewing.  Anything that comes between me and my potholders is a great inconvenience and annoyance.  I must get a grip.

So yesterday was the culmination of sewing when we made two quilts with a cast of I don't want to count how many.  It went well. The kids didn't melt down until about eight hours in.  I bet this is our 38th and 39th quilt all in all.  Potholders, at least that many.  But I didn't count the row of Turtle dancers, trying not to be so OCD, and I am not counting my potholders, quilts, best friends, second best friends, poems, or days left as poet laureate.  I am not counting the 167 more PL days, you may be, but who is counting? Not I.  I am too busy sewing.

Sample poem for  Poem Holder:

How was the holy born?
Inside my place, part heart
and part angel. Air then air
then time. Watched bread and
shadows fell from winged ones,
over the clothesline, whip, whip.
I stayed even-keeled a day
or so. That was the holy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Poetry Pedicure

I had a great time at my grandson's school, Joan and the Giant Pencil with Jeremy Bleich, hot off his fabulous music composed for Circus Luminous.  We performed for 75 4th graders and five teachers.
I felt rather high after the great kids and questions and the fun of reciting poetry to children, and so I decided on a pedicure, my second in the birthday series of cash from my dear sister-in-law, and third that I remember in my life.  You may know that my mother had a beauty salon for forty years and I spent many a day there.  Manicures I recall, the pink slip of soap in the molded dish.  The colors I got to choose, heady for a girl.  I always get a whiff of mother when I enter a beauty emporium of any kind.

Once, when my mother visited my writing workshop Alexia LaFortune said to her, "Beti, my Jungian analyst said the beauty shop is the last temple to the Goddess."  My mother, not missing a beat, and not know what a Jungian anything was, said, "That's nice."  She also responded promptly to Natalie Goldberg who asked her if she was a feminist.  My mother reported, why yes, she was the first woman on the Pennsylvania board of Cosmetology. Also, she let operators wear Bermuda shorts to work on hot days.

So here I am, toes in the water, the only one in Linda's nails.  There is a Vietnamese soap opera on the TV and lots of conversation I haven't a shred of an iota of a clue about.  I had told the kids that morning that poetry is written in many languages and cultures, all over the world, and read them poems from Spain, New Mexico, Chicago, New York, and the Pacific NW.  I said to Jenny, my person of the moment, isn't it amazing all the languages?

The next person to come in the nail salon was Francine, a woman who had taken my writing class
twice.  She sat next to me and I told her this was the real experience, sitting next to a friend, our feet in the hands of strangers, mine the woman called Jenny (note: that was my Hungarian grandmother's name, surely not her original one either) and a young man called Hung for Francine.  The weird coupling of privilege with pleasure is comfortable to some, but not to me.  I wandered off to let my toes dry and I overheard Francine saying the nicest things about me.  When I came back to chat with her she had found out that the man doing her pedicure was a poet.  His real name is Dzukaka and he could not be published in Vietnam since his poems are political. Poets don't make money, he informed me, and so this was his livelihood.  He asked me if I worked full time at university, and I don't. I asked him if he knew any poets in Albuquerque where the van of people who work at Linda's commute from, and he said no.  There are, according to Hung, 10,000 Vietnamese in Albuquerque. Hung began writing at age 10, is now 28 and has been in the US 12 years. He wrote about 10,000 poems.  I am wondering if the number 10,000 means "a lot" as in 10,000 joys, 10,000 sorrows of Buddhism.

He recommended the Story of Kieu, the most famous poem in Vietnam and 300 years old.  You can look Dazukaka up and see his blog in Vietnamese.  I also found a site, "How Vietnamese are You" and found out I'm not so much Vietnamese, but I do share a sense of humor.  We talked a bit about the difference between personal and political poetry. He finds the personal boring.  I mentioned PEN, and organization that is international in scope.  Who knows if his poetry is strong, since I don't have even the flimsiest pink soap of a clue and Google translator may not be enough here.

I felt again that poetry connection I live for, from the kids, head to foot.  Francine and I met for lunch, her favorite restaurant in town which is, but of course, Vietnamese. Though my friend Robin Reider spent a cold year teaching English in Vietnam, I did my form of travel.  Foot in hand, shiny red toes, a little bit curious and not so patriotic as matriotic again.  Here's my poem for Dzukaka:

10,000 Toes

It's everywhere, the urge
I felt it with my foot
in another's hand, scraped,
painted, like a new car, the odd
and kind pedicure.  I treated myself
to time, my foot as an excuse.

A woman sits down next to me, a friend,
feet she cannot reach in the hands
of a young man.  On TV a Vietnamese
soap opera on loud, perhaps the volume
another language has in our lack
of understanding.

This young man here twelve years
seeking asylum in a city as odd
and kind as Albuquerque.
He is a poet, writes political poetry,
no interest in love and its scrapings,
odd and kind and in broken

language over both our feet, we talk
money and time.  All the while
the show on the shop TV, my mother's own
shop long gone and Vietnam, that war we
protested while death fought death and shriek
of Agent Orange. Fate and geography.

I write of love, uncomfortable, pampered
love.  He promises to send me poems
in a language I can't read and Hung,
that is his name, Hung takes an hour
to complete her feet. After,  she and I meet
for Vietnamese food.  She treats.

My husband joins us.  All the old ghosts,
chuckle in their loud green language
of greed and loss. Now laid to rest.
Loud as soap opera from the past.
Mint, cilantro, lime, a sauce for dipping.
And Hung? 10,000 toes. 10,000 joys and sorrows.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Still PL after all these years

I am counting down, months to blast off into civilian life again.  I am hoping I don't go into a worm hole of depression.  I think I will try to live the PL life after, not emeritus but as Michelle Holland says of me, "Poet Laureate ad nauseam."  I think she is my friend, I think we are laughing still.

I have two PL moments to document, the unseen and hidden.  The first one I was coming out of REI in the fashionable Railyard.  I love the Railyard, it is as close as a trip to the Northwest as I got this year.
It seems sort of Pike's Market/Vancouverish/ Portlandy. Anyhow, I am standing there and a man and his daughter and I start talking.  Somehow, and I don't know how, the topic comes around to me being the Poet Laureate.  Oh, I may have given the topic a gentle nudge in that direction.  And the old guy, grampa to the child, says Robert Frost lived in his old neighborhood.  And we start reciting "Whose Woods These Are I think I know." Between the two of us we get the entire poem and the little girl is awestruck.  She is six and so I give her my just about favorite poem:

"Now I am six
as clever as clever.
I want to be six
forever and ever."

It is by A. A. Milne who is also the Winnie the Pooh guy.  I have changed it to "Now I am sixty."
It works for me.  Anyhow, that was a PL moment and i had a recent one this week that may get away.
It is also Railyard, in the Flying Star.  I am meeting Mike for tea after my day at the Santa Fe Girls' School and his in construction.  As I walk in I pass a group of maybe six women all knitting away, a sweet sight.
I used to knit. I made gargantuan mittens with an orange deer sprawled across them, as if shot and draped across the hood of a truck.  I made a rainbow hippie sweater with a belt for my first pregnancy, all wool, sure wish I had it now.  I made a little hooded pancho for my girl, Corina, golden with a burgundy and green stripe, it looked like football colors but with a fringe.

When I sat down to read poems from the girls' school, the first poem was called "Marvelous Mittens."
The young poet, Thandiwah, had recently written one on turning cartwheels that knocked by very un-hand-knitted socks off.  This one was sweet to and when Mike joined me I felt a PL moment coming on.
I went over to the knitters and asked if I could read them a poem. They said okay, and some one even knew my name.  This is what I read:

Marvelous Mittens

Years before today my great grandmom met me.
Then I'll just assume she knit like crazy.
Light blue yarn flying
cream white dashing in and out.
Her accuracy in hand size is uncanny.
The wool is soft
and fluffs in every direction
Although they seem perfect
for playing and fighting in the snow
they'll get wet almost instantly.
And although she is lost
I feel close to her again
when I wear my wonderful
marvelous mittens.

The women loved it and Mike was really enjoying the PL me. The women invited me to join them, every Monday at one.  I don't even know how to cast on anymore.

I couldn't sleep all night, I loved another student poem so much.
Sometimes a poem haunts me all night, and this one by Gabriela did.

What is that in which you ask?
Where am I going?

I am going to the western land,
where my pride and joy both stand.

Yes I am going to the western land.

I am going where the Indians
catch their own hide,
and horses wait quietly ready to ride.

yes I am going to the western land.
I travel by horse not having a stack,
with only water and the clothes on my back.

Yes I am going to the western land.
Yes I am going to the western land,
where my pride and joy both  stand.

Yes I am going to the western land.

I am going to a place where all
men and women are free,
where children dance and play
with glee.

Yes I am going to the western land.

Yes I am going to the western land.
yes I am,
yes I am.

Both poems printed with permission of the poets.

So even in the night the PL is at work.   The local paper had a picture of my back and my long braid at the Española Farmers' Market biggest vegetable and best poem contest.   I like that.  There is a saying I heard about famous people, "The bigger the front the bigger the back."  It's the shadow again, that pesky real estate developer of hidden darkness.

I think casting the enthusiastic gift into community is the biggest help I could give any young poet.
Poetry is the medicine and the cure.  I offer it to people around me even if they don't want it.  Today at the pool an old guy started by complaining about his shoulder, then about stucco and soon we were at The Rapture.  I should have pulled the PL card on him.  Or recited e e cummings, "i thank you god for most this amazing day" or some other poetry jujitsu.  I retreated, leaving a wake of language in the pool.
Poetry is my rapture, small "r."

I am thinking of taking up knitting again.  I need  a back-up plan for apres- PL.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Calligrapher to the Queen & to Me

I have been teaching at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu since 1991.  Some years I was there only a week, and for many years over six weeks.  In 1994 I happened to be there teaching poetry while another group consisting of master calligraphers was also working away.  I heard that the calligrapher for the queen of England, Donald jackson, was among them. Of course, being curious, I would watch to see what he ate in the cafeteria line and then we crossed pools at Ojo Caliente when both classes were chilling by soaking in iron pools, soda, or arsenic.  I wrote a little series called "In Praise of Calligraphers" and along with my student writing read to the calligraphers at a farewell gathering.

I made several calligraphy friends, Diana Stetson, Rose who made a piece of my poem into a work now at the Books Arts Collection in Rochester, and the famed Mary Lou Cook.  I got to teach a gang of eight calligraphers and assign them a project to work on with their own writing, a skill that scribes often leave to others. Fourteen years passed.

This week I attended a talk by the very same Donald Jackson, in town from Wales for the museum opening of his St. John's Bible project.  For the first time in 500 years he assembled a group of scribes to hand letter and illuminate a bible.  Now, I am not a huge bible person.  I like studying torah with certain rabbinic types but it's not something I generally do.  Donald's light approach to a weighty subject won me over, at the slide show and lecture at the Lensic (thanks Frances McCain and Bob Martin) and I couldn't sleep.  The images from the book of Revelation including the inner horses of the Apocalypse, the Aids Virus, nuclear power plants, and computer generated zig zag lines portraying the human voice got under my skin, as only my skin can be gotten under. Jung's Red Book, also a masterpiece of lettering and imagery though from a very different impulse has been recently published and came to mind.

The next day I proposed to Michael that we actually go see the bible, after the bribe of a lunch of enchiladas at The Shed, red.  And the added promise of a movie afterwards.  He acquiesced and we toured the St. John's Bible show at the New Mexico Museum of History, right off the plaza.  What Jackson thought would take seven years took fourteen.  Six scribes and 1,150 velum  pages later, with 160 illuminations, the ink still drying, the bible is here. Forty pages of it on display.  Jackson said to bring a magnifying glass, so layered and detailed are the images,  Some bear the fingerprints of the artist.

The show, a world class exhibit, you need to sidle up to spend time, and come back for more time. It is displayed in a way that works for me, and encircled by New Mexico photographers from many faiths, black and white takes on sacred space and place.  Two of my favorite of many favorite moments in the show: How to deal with a forgotten line? A little graphic symbol, a bird or a bee, holds the dropped line on a pulley below the text, and indicates where it belong.  It is called "points of return."  In the entire project there were only nine.

Secondly, in 1994, and at Ghost Ranch, Donald Jackson acknowledged his dream and did a large collage which he showed to the folks at St. John's in Minnesota and on display here. When I emerged from viewing the show,  I heard that Mr. Jackson was in the cafe, but just then ran into some dear poet friends.  As we talked,  I wanted to be polite and not dis them for paparazzi invasion of privacy to this dear calligrapher. I was not sure I should really harangue him, as they wandered past and headed off downstairs.

I lost Donald and his wife, did some running around the museum and thought, maybe they are in Tom Leech's Palace Press.  He, after all, invited them and masterminded the project on this end.  As we stepped into the Palace Press offices, Tom Leech said, "I was just printing your poem. " Donald Jackson was indeed there with his wife, Mabel.  When I explained that I was a poet at Ghost Ranch from that time, you would have thought I was a long lost friend.  He said he thought he recognized me.  He recalled me, and the poets.  He never had a classical education, was trained in the craft of lettering and so loves poetry from a distance. I read him the stanza of my little poem where he was mentioned. I also mentioned the Rumi line he reminded me of, "Do something huge. Build an ark." This project is valuable not only for the magnificent work, but for the model of a man envisioning and completing.  I felt complete in getting to appreciate Donald in person, and felt the energy reciprocated.

Michael was amazed by the synchronicity.  I was amazed that I wasn't star-struck at all.  It felt the warmth of this encounter, and the fact that we never know what impressions we leave in the world.
We impressed each other, not in the sense of fame or stature, but like wax takes an imprint.  Mabel even gave me a hug.  I know now that was Jackson's only visit to the red mesa and vistas so powerful at Ghost Ranch.  I know that I must risk imposing myself on others, because he was truly happy to see me, as was I to catch them before they left.  Tom Leech too, was glad we met and introduced me as the Poet Laureate.  Just when I thought I had lost my PL mo-jo it returned.  We missed the movie, Shalom Aleichem, but since I was levitating anyhow we levitated over to friends of the Library.  My dear volunteer, Kate Oldroyd, was at the desk and I found three books I had on my mental list.  Three.
Qué milagro.

It was a perfect day for a bookish girl grown bookish woman.  Here's my poem from 1994:

In Praise of Calligraphers

For the master calligraphers gathered at Ghost Ranch

1. Seeds from Persia
and Hindustan.  The poet Rabindranath
Tagore is my calligrapher.

2. Jolly calligraphers eat alfalfa sprouts
and wander through rock canyons
refusing to write one word ghosts speak.

3.  I love calligraphers
who gather and rejoice
in fine mountain air.
They translate the joy
right off the rocks.

4.  When I come back
may I be a calligrapher
with fine hand and wild heart,
with fine hand and empty eye,
with fine hand indelible.

5.  When I wake up tomorrow
the calligraphers will be rejoicing
that morning brings light
to illuminate their manuscripts.

6.  I know nothing about calligraphers.
I have never been married to one.
And my poor penmanship makes
no excuses.  My sloppy hand is glad
that in this world, somewhere
steadiness and an edge.

 7.  When calligraphers gather
poets sleep better
and the axis of planet earth
tilts like a lower case “l.”

8.  A fine fettle of calligraphers.
The Queen of England’s calligrapher
in the hot tub at Ojo Caliente.
Cast a cold eye on life,
on death, calligraphers pass by.

9.  There is a longing I never knew
I had.  Between dancers and hand sewn
volumes, among golden pots and sleepers,
a poet wishes the hand of a calligrapher
could be grafted, gift to gift.

10. At night twenty calligraphers
dream of apples and dry leaves.
Their hands are insured against theft
like Rolls Royces.  The God that writes also writes. 
The Good hand works both ways.

11. Among twenty calligraphers
the only thing that moves
is the foot of a crow.

12. I am stealing looks
at the calligraphers
who sit in clusters
eating custard and fresh mustard.
They live my unlived life, untrod
path down a white scroll of time.

13. Kissing a calligrapher,
I once fell headlong into gesture
And stance, not sure
if I were dancing or the dance.

14.  God bless all calligraphers
and fare thee well.  May your ink ever
flow in the dark fissures of visual pleasure.

Friday, October 14, 2011


I have shown up as a poet in unsuspecting classrooms for 29 years off and on. This time at Santa Fe High School at Blaise Bickett's class. I like his spirit and the fact that he covers his walls with prints of great works of art. There is a ladder in his room. You gotta love an English teacher with a ladder.

This class, a group of 26 sophomores after lunch, was one of the most playful and creative groups I've come across. I think there were embedded poets, maybe they didn't even know it. Thanks to all. We had three visits and they wrote pantoums, odes, question poems based on Pablo Neruda who I found out rhymes with Buddha, and anaphora or poems using repetition to chant our way into the material.

Here are some lines they selected from the Neruda inspired question poems:

Why do we over-think the little things
and under-think the larger things in life? Alicia Archuleta

Trees, what language do you whisper
to each other in the breeze? MRW

Is a squiggle better
than a zig-zag? MPW

What is your Quest? Ben Dahlman

What is beauty?
Can hideous be beauty? Taylor Soveranes

Why can't we be the way it is?
Oh it's because we are who we are. Por Vida A.S.

If we found aliens would they understand us
or take us away and put us in an exhibit? Mariah Garcia

Does the sun ever sleep?
Does it go to bed behind clouds of serenity? Brandon Meitz

Why is hair so difficult? ML

If my parents had never met, would I be me?
Would I be someone else or
would someone else be me? Eliana Lauren Bell

In one image, how do you capture the story of the world?
Why do tears not freeze, like those of the winter sky? Jessica Mascareñas

Do Skittles really taste like a rainbow?
Can you taste the rainbow? AE

Does the longest day ever end? Joseph Lugo

Why do the trees
touch the heads
of the parents
at the graves
of their kin? M.G.W.

How does a sword taste to a hand?
If time is on hands what is on feet?
Can there be emotion in colorless eyes? N.G.P.

How many Merry Maids could it
take to sweep a shore? Jeremy Zeilik

Why do the trees sing to the moon
on a strong, stormy night? Evan Aubrey

Thanks to Poets-in-the-Schools, Mr. Bickett, Alex Traube, and you genius sophomores.
Keep writing, you wide awake ones.

Signed, Your Poet Laureate

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Poetry at the Española Farmer's Market

Well, it was market day in Española, and I read student poetry for maybe the twelfth year at artist and market manager Sabra Moore's Biggest Vegetable and Best Poem Contest. The little kids who are the grandkids of farmers are all grown up.

Vanessa Gonzales in 6th grade now and I have been reading her poems to the crowd for many years:

Tomatoes are red
Berries are Blue
I love to eat melons and carrots too
My grandma works hard
In our garden that is large
We pick and Pick
The day goes by and flies away like a firefly
We sell for fun and we save some
Boy they are great
Our friends sure love our veggies
So they always come back
To fill up their baggies

I am grayer and heavier. The vegetables, thank goodness, have not changed. There are the bumpy heirloom pumpkins, the largest apples, the ugliest apple, and the biggest zucchini. There is always the obscene or erotic carrot that wins the oddest vegetable category. Irene Schio and Roger Mignon took some photos,my daughters and grandson were there, and a great time was had by all as always.

There are about 50 farmers and shoppers listening to the children's poetry,one of my favorite readings of the year. I read about seven poems. The line they all loved the most:

"When night falls
I can hear the sound
of the raspberries ripening."

Thanks to Cate Burke of the Santa Fe Girl's School.
She also says to the raspberries,
"Thank you for being good to my body
and not making me unhealthy to the core."

Irene Schio not only took these photos, she shared a chocolate bar,you know those fundraiser chocolates. Life is so about generosity, Sabra gives away a free book to every child every week at market, and she said about $900-$1,000 in food stamps is spent, which means we are making our community healthy to the core.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Locked out at the Lake

Margo and I took a few hours from my last day teaching a course at Ghost Ranch called An Unedited Heart:Poetry Alchemy to get a dip in Abiquiu Lake. We had dunked two days earlier and it was heaven, chilly but a layer of sun-warmed water on top. I had a little inkling on the way over that it might not be a good idea, my last afternoon at class, but I am always a pessimist and was trying to be more fun loving and carefree. The lake was only about 15 minutes from The Ranch.

We both returned cell phone calls because we had reception, got out of the car at the old dock, and I was walking around to get my keys off the front seat when I heard a click. The door lock. We were outside in only swims suits and flip flops, and the keys and cellphones were in a tightly closed up car. I checked and rechecked, and then I just started laughing.A bathing suit and towel are scant security against the elements.

There was one couple by the shore and Margo said to them,"Hello. We are just about to ruin your afternoon." Rick and Lisa were sweet about it and Rick would find us a security guard. Last time we were there they were down in a minute on a woman in our class with a Sarsaparilla in case it was beer which is not okay. This time there was nary a park ranger in sight, so I asked Rock for his cell. He'd never own a cell, he proudly informed us. I was still pretty gone with laughter.

I saw some people off in the distance at the new dock, a distance I would not have wanted to trek in flip flops, not to mention my bathing suit. It looked like two couples, I was sure they'd have a phone. When I got out of the car i heard, "Joan, is that you?" That's what I like about New Mexico, It was Fatima and Taslim, the daughters of Rabia and Benyamin, another young woman named Nada, and a fourth with a bad cold. Three of them knew my daughter, Hope, from high school. They had a cell, they offed us cupcakes, and we sent RIck off with thanks. To complete the scene you have to know that Taslim and Fatima are Muslim and wear hijab. I am Jewish and 64 are wear not much. Margo close enough. We called the Ranch to get my husband and his blacksmith teacher, Renée Zamora. I am still pretty gone with laughter and we sit on the dock, a bit awkward. I had the sense that the young women were ready to go, but they were very kind and said they'd drive us back if need be. I asked them if they knew I was POet Laureate, and they said yes. I thought maybe it would help. I rarely play the Poet Laureate card, and here at the lake in almost nothing, it was a wasted card to play. Margo said, "Would you take our picture?" I said, "We don't mean to impose on you." The tone here was all laughter and water, and here is the snapshot, e-mailed to us right there.

Now here comes the park rangers, we say goodbye and hug. They drive us to my car, tell us it happens a lot, and the two of them can't get into it, i's so tightly closed. I hear the familiar honking of a noisy guy over the steep hill and I know it's Michael and Renée.
The four of them take their time, give up, and then get in. We whoop and thank, and as soon as we can jump into the lake. It's much colder than before, the foot of warm water on the surface from the sun is not present today. I am glad we didn't submerge before our adventure. I have laughed so hard I have a hoarse throat and when we get back to my class who are all milling around, I have to tell them I am too far gone to do a thing.

I tell the story over and over. I am the one who thinks it is the funniest. Margo and I, already friends, are even more bonded by laughter. Does this mean I have become more fun loving and carefree? I don't think so. It took ten people to rescue us, thanks to all you angels. I thought Nada, who had the cell would scorn my silliness, but she asked to be my Facebook Friend.
I friended Nada, the least I could do for all the kindness we received.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Night Blooming Cereus, The Cure for What Ails Me

So, there was last year when so high on being the newly minted poet laureate person, I missed, not once, but twice, the famed Night Blooming cereus. It blooms one night and has loving nicknames like Queen of the Night. I wrote a poem featuring it in 1991 and it got published,and I never saw it. I felt like all kinds of failure were blooming in me, the night blooming serious that I am.

So, imagine my delight when in the middle of the Post Poet Laureate partum let-down in anticipating life after these two years, imagine that I got to see my homely cactus
bloom on Wednesday of last last week, that would be 9.21.11. It was my equinox celebration and I was home alone. I woke up (wild nights wild nights, Ms. Dickinson said) to check on it at 9:30 and there it was. The cereus. Imagine Hawaii, imagine about 8 inches across and a hundred stamen filled with pollen like an audience at opera. It reminded me of the Santa Fe Opera, which by the way I didn't get to, but here it was all the little spectators with their yellow pollen hair just wanting to applaud the flower they found themselves inside. Just like the opera, I think the architect must have seen this flower. Life is like that for me, it comes to me, like truth, and I don't even have to leave home, and buy standing room tickets, I just have to look around the Rancho.

Then there was this star shape at the end of a long tube which I think was the maiden, the Stigma or the stamen or something, and it all smelled like you just walked in on a rain forest during the mating season. I called Michael at the Rio Chama, Gurule's birthday, and told him to come see it.

The next morning it was still mostly open and the audience was still in fine form looking a bit tired of holding all that pollen and by breakfast it closed. It was open for twelve hours. I was so happy. It almost got me out of my post-partum of poet laureate, which by the way ends next June but I am rehearsing how I will feel when the gig is over, but I felt sad that we didn't get to share it with anybody. At 9:30 I don't know who to call except Michael. But here's the thing of it, as Eloise would say at the Plaza Hotel, there were still three blooms in waiting. You can't really tell when they will open, they look like a dry jellyfish, sort of pink tentacles and sort of like they might sting.

The next night, Thursday, we took some of the family out for dinner at Atrisco's and when we came home rushed to see the blooms. It was about 8:00 and the blossoms looked possible but not definitive.

I started calling a few neighbors, just in case, and said they Might bloom. Every ten minutes the blooms looked a bit more positive and by 9:00 they were opening and we called around the hood. Mike brought the plant in from the greenhouse where it lives above the shower, and made a little shrine for it. Myngo came up with his camera, and then Hope and Leland with camera and flashlight. Then Tom Passin happened to call, so we invited him and called Terry Gates and then Rick and Dené and what with the nine viewers and the three flowers there were twelve of us.

These three blossoms were equally amazing, there was much kneeling before them to get a close look, and exclaiming. Nobody had ever heard of them except me, since I wrote about them in that poem. I made mint tea with fresh mint I cut by flashlight, and I wasn't alone. I felt like a real poet again, and am convinced this is a cure for depression. I know it isn't all about me, but I sort of felt like the opera came here, it wasn't a comedy or a tragedy, it was a quiet neighborhood viewing like Japan's cherry trees. It was the solstice and I got it right for once in my perfecting life. The plant sat on its little table and the smell was something over the top and by morning, all three blooms were like helium balloons after the gas has leaked and they get shrivelly. The party was over, but the party happened.

I don't know what
was more rare - the flowers blooming
or my neighbors' faces

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Too Beautiful

I never left the six acres last weekend, but to be honest, I never left the house for three days.
I was hoping to get a grip, but after the weekend I still didn't have lesson plans, my office was still awry to put it mildly, and I didn't have much fun. This weekend I started the day right, with a phone call, and another phone call, and then I wrote a poem.

for WS Merwin

So beautiful today
I don’t know what to do with it
I can’t be outside it’s too perfect
the morning glories are too too without
even ingesting their known iota of trip
The Maximillian sunflowers are poised
to bloom and even that potential is wildly
enticing into too beautiful The dues we paid
After the fires after the wind and smoke the terrible
canyon fires of Santa Clara watershed tears shed
I could cry again today for the world we earned
paid its dues to too beautiful too beautiful
beautiful datura beautiful the Jewish New Year
I am already lamenting I stand naked for an hour
in my greenhouse watching the cereus flower
prepare for night blooming I stand naked before
my shower and after my shower another phone call
from the too beautiful I talk naked on the phone
because I don’t know how to manage today
with how I love too beautiful the note in the mail
from you how I love poets and painters who make
the world shine me I never want to set foot
inside a classroom with no windows
I want to speak poetry to those finches
and to the kale I will tell the kale I forgive the aphids
you are so greenly beautiful I love my body today
because it is the vessel that carries too beautiful
soon departing for other beauty don’t mention
it you say but in the too beautiful death
is already sharpening the scythe its harvest
of the too beautiful a basil scent a mint too many
tomatoes and a glut of cucumbers and I forget
that I know how to preserve I am doing it now


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The snake returned

I went to pick eggs today, and the snake was back. I don't know if I even told you about the snake. Our rural life is fraught with adventures. There is a mouse hanging by his claws in the root cellar, a lizard growing back his tail in the garden, a ground squirrel who eats through cardboard to get the bird seed, and a snake who unhinges his or her jaw and tries to swallow our eggs.

We got one picture of the snake and the Wildlife Center confirmed that it is a bull snake. I haven't seen my yearly rattler, so I wasn't sure. Various excitements of la Puebla life include the road washing out at least twice, this year the fires, the rabbits taking over the garden, and giving up at least twice. After I gave up I gave in, and replanted at least two times.

Now I am reaping what I reluctantly sowed. The morning glories, from the small pink ones to the giant Heavenly Blues, have never been so extravagant. I have the look through them out my kitchen window while washing dishes. I want to have my portrait taken in them. I don't want them to ever leave. This planting I have done for at least 20 years and this is the best batch.

Wish I could say the same for my writing, which brings me to the Gift poem. I am teaching my last of the eight week poetry group tonight, and I want to tell them about the gift poem before they graduate from summer into fall, from heat into cool, and from my voice into their own voices.

All the lousy poems I write are part of the writer's life. I write several lousy ones for one okay one, and after a hundred, I may get a gift. You do not need to carry around a little plastic card like Flying Star where I am writing this, and have $5.00 credit on my Frequent Flier card. I have paid my dues and now get ecstatic morning glories, giant kale, basil, and even cukes and tomatoes. I have paid my dues and have had a sweet relationship year, year # 41, I have paid my dues and after 30 years in schools get to be PL for this time in my life.

You know in the fairy tales there are always two smart brothers and the dumb one.
Or the two sisters who tell the king they love him like diamonds and gold, and the simple sister who tells her royal father that he is "as dear as salt?" Well, these two smartie pants are the ones who don't get the prize, maybe like my intelligent conscious mind writing a poem. The simpleton mind at the end gets lucky, wins the love, has the success. That is the generosity of the gift, we have to feed it, sacrifice, throw the bit of dough into the oven, feed the invisible, make the offerings.

So, Mr. or Ms. Snake. Go to it. If we feed some eggs to the snake, perhaps we'll have a few more of these glorious days, the fall cooled down, the rains relaxing us, the garden thrilled that it got to green. Today I put our expensive finch feed and expensive yellow finch sized birds arrived. Where do they line up waiting for the good stuff? Another season in La Puebla and my husband filling in the gravel on the washed out driveway as his birthday gift to all of us.

Being the PL is a lot like this snake. I have my mouth open wide and can't quite get a grip on the egg, but I am persistent. As with my now abundant garden, I do not give up. And I noticed that the smaller the garden, the larger my yield.

I happen to recall lines from Anna Ahkmatova:

"I don't know if the day is ending
or the world is ending
or if the secret of secrets is inside me again."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gratitude for My First Job Revisted

I am at the main branch of the library still digesting lunch from Santa Café with Anne Valley-Fox and Stanley Noyes.

When I was longing for poetry in any form, volunteering at my kids' school, John Hyson in Chimayo, coolest place on earth to send out kids and presided over by Julia Hudson, I met these two folks. I had nothing published, or maybe a poem in the New LIfe News, the newspaper of the food co-op.

This is circa 1981. Stan Noyes was the literary person at New Mexico Arts Division where we had a wonderful and serious Poets in the Schools program where the real poets, including Arthur Sze, Harold Littlebird, Anne V-F, Jimmy Santiago Baca, John Brandi, Jim Sagel, Miriam Sagan, Judyth Hill, and I think Mei Mei Bressenbrugge all worked. They called it PITS. It paid something like $60 a day, and then $100. Big bucks for an artist beginning.

Each year fledgling me would apply to Stan and New Mexico Arts Division. Two years I got rejected, and kept on volunteering with John Hyson and the kids, made a book of their little Chimayo poems on copier and construction paper covers. By the third time I applied, Stan took me on, though I had little other experience than volunteering. I got work at two schools, Capshaw and Alameda Middle Schools and with my first income from poetry, put a down payment on a stove. It cost $500.

I am still working as a poet-in-the-schools through New Mexico Culturenet though I am happy passing it on to the young poets, the Slammers, the up and coming. The other poets from the above list of PITS poets in Stan's coterie have gone on to be life long poets, win major awards, work tirelessly with children, and two of us to be Santa Fe Poets Laureate, Arthur Sze and I.

We presented Stan with a Poetry Gratitude Award from New Mexico Literary Arts, a small and grassy roots tribe of which I am co-president of the Board. We wrote him an award check for $500. I think, no, I am sure it is the same $500 I originally got paid, circling and spiraling around above Santa Fe and the minds of children. Today Anne and I took Stan out to a nice lunch, my birthday lunch as well, and presented him with a plaque that spoke to our gratitude for what he gave the literary community. The plaque is handsome, by Cirrelda Bryan, and has a big THANKS. It is a way that we hope he remembers how much he has done for all of us, not to mention the countless school kids who got to work with the likes of John Brandi and Jimmy Baca and even me. His work is still rippling.

I told Stan a story about finding a poem written by an Alameda kid, Joe Ray Sandoval in about 1982 in David Gonzales' English class. I kept it as I did a few good poems. Joe Ray has gone on the be a performance poet and write the full length movie, Spoken Word. He didn't remember writing poetry in middle school, but I sent him a copy. Stan commented that it is very important to influence kids when they are young. Just hearing him say that took me back, dreamtime, to being at his home and being trained a bit in what works in the classroom.

I want to pass on what I know about teaching writing to kids. I want to pass on gratitude for when there was federal money in the arts, and to Stan Noyes, and to the poets who have kept on the sacred path of writing and giving. I have gratitude for Alex Traube who made his own PITS program, based on the old one which also employed him as a photographer, as well painters, dancers, potters, muralists, sculptors. It was called The Artist in Residence Program way back when.

All sorts of Gratitude, and Happy Birthday to me. Glad I got born and got to have this day.
JL for the PL

Friday, August 19, 2011

Less Cool Every Day and Loving it

When my book, The Singing Bowl, got voted #3 in Best of Santa Fe issue of The Santa Fe Reporter it was cause for a small rejoice. I wondered who had voted for my poetry book, mentally thanked them, and rushed downtown on the day the Reporter came out to see the posting. Besides the award listing, they created an interesting continuum for some of the winners. It ranged from Less Cool to Uber Cool. Guess who was #1 on the uncool end of the spectrum? The same one who was called "Sir" in the Reporter office, the women who would be celebrating her Beatles Birthday, as in "When I'm Sixty-Four."

Now lizards are cool, snakes are cool. I am decidedly mammalian and less than. I am happy to be warm, and my three children and grandchildren are happy than I am less groovy and more grandmotherly. I once said that there was nothing unsexier on God's earth than to be in Safeway with a kid in the grocery cart seat and a bottle of prune juice in hand. Now I have proved myself wrong. There is one thing. Color it grandma. Even Poet Laureate mixed with Grandma is a challenge.

I am calling this year The Official Happiest Year of my Life. I think since it is in the past I won't get into trouble with the Evil Eye, that pernicious and omni-present ojo malo of Latin and Jewish cultures. It was last year, ojo malo, so don't think I don't know you're watching me and things are less perfect this fiscal. Honest. What with stocks, sticks and stones breaking my cool bones, the droughts and fires, and death hasn't stopped counting coup either. And remember, Santa Fe Reporter Staff, I was young once and if you're lucky, you will cool down gracefully.

So, in honor of my Big Beatles Birthday, another stab at happiness. Here is the poem I wrote.
I need you to snap fingers with a 4/4 time as you read it.

Now, one - two- three- four snap snap snap snap and GO!


Patti Smith cut the cuffs off her shirt
I would never do that, I would never do that.
Our friend Webb went AWOL from Vietnam
we hid him out. Now, I would never do that.

I hitchhiked to Harvard Square
while my bug was in the shop
Marquis de Sade was there
against an Ivy League backdrop,

Now would you ever? Time passes
people move around a lot and end up west.

Other people were dancing rock and roll
I was peeling the bark from a Ponderosa Pine
I was giving birth in a three-room house
with no running water and a full moon bass line.

Would you ever do that, would you ever?

The parrot ran off with the day
I would never do that, I would never do that
The magpies were making raucous hay
Their tuxedos and tails, their noisy ways

My mother was paying the bills, and soon
she’d be selling the shop. The photos
of movies stars would fall . All would
vanish from the Carlton House Hotel.

I said, Hey Lovey Dovey, yeah I said,
Hey, Lovey Dovey. We’ve been married these fast forty years
with our burgeoning bourgeois frames and our bank
roll in your back pocket.

I’d never do that, You know I’d never.

Bob Dylan was passing through but I never got
his name. Janis Joplin would soon be through
and nobody called her tame. I put on my goody two shoes
and stared out the window in flame.

I gave birth to you and you and you
and nobody called out my name. I was Mama
I was Joanie, I was Jane. I wore out
my Goody two shoes, I was wild and then I tamed.

You were tame and then you got wild.
Three times I handed you a child.
Just check it out, over here, all alone
It’s Paradise without a throne.

Six acres and my last good nerve
Patti Smith came back in a huff
I rolled up my shirt cuffs. I deposited notes
in the bank, gave myself a third chance.

The small coyote howled, the computer
ran out of ink. The latest was just a child
with a heart as deep as the sink.
I can’t stop finding the joy,

even when the meanings run out.
The evening was alive, it was evening’s turn
to shout. I won’t ever do this
I won’t ever…I said Hey Lovey Dovey, hey….


Monday, July 25, 2011

Friends and Gazillionaires

I know that if you are like me, you are probably sick of hearing about my hijinks and exploits of the Poet Laureate life. Sick of all the wonderful appearances I have been party to, sick of hearing me say I rocked them on the Plaza for the Fourth of July pancake breakfast, sick of my excuse that I have five planets in Leo which I translate as five planets in Ego. I am sick of myself, usually and on a daily basis, but I am also rejoicing. Who is this energetic woman who has now been mistaken for a man not once but twice in a week? Who is this poet who sometimes goes on stage with her skirt tucked in her undies (wear good ones)? And why isn't she sending work off the major literary magazines? Is it because she is still trying to coax a bloom out of her flowers who have pretty much all given up, except the morning glories? Is it because she is in mourning for the fires that burned the canyons and now the black ash in the Rios which the fish can't survive? How can she think life is a joy and a poem when all of this has just transpired her neighboring watersheds?

I think I got some of my questions answered this week. My friends and co-conspirators at Tres Chicas Books went to the big city, Albuquerque, for a radio interview on WOmen's Focus and a reading at Acequia books the following day. I think you can hear the interview with Carol Boss, July 23 at noon for two weeks on Check it out. But even better, check out friendship.

It is truly amazing. I have two friends, Renée Gregorio and Mirian Sagan, who feature an excellent driver with night vision, and women who are as free with money at restaurants and clothing stores as I am. Both of these qualities are great, but not as amazing as friends who listen to all of my plaints and worries, love me anyhow, and give me advice and perspectives. They have even come to realize that I am almost always right. Que milagro! We had a blast and laughed non stop. I had to come home and recover from laughter. I highly recommend finding friends to support your art, publish your work, and run off to a big city with at least once a year. Friends bring joy and endorphins, I know it. Hint: it's good to have younger friends. Not to be ageist.

For one weekend I needed to forget about the US Budget which is ridiculous and any of us could solve in a heartbeat if not for greed. Do you know that greed causes the same bio chemistry as addiction? Do you hear one single gazillionaire say, "Let's experiment with altruism. Let's share. Let's just kick some green ass with our financial clout? Let's end a few wars, divvy up the profits, look at taxes as a privilege of our success." You blog readers know by now that I am an altruistic Scrabble player, and I am watching my husband, who is an altruistic carpenter, and has helped about five people move this month. This includes storing or adopting various things, from a full sized loom to two miniature horses. We have wandering Jews and two Crown of Thorns (altruistic and ecumenical), aloe vera galore, bougainvillea, A combo wine rack.plant stand, a large painting of a woman with two sabertooth tigers which takes up our entire guest room, a Maori mask which hangs over the TV and makes the news look cheerful by contrast, and a Norfolk Island pine which obviously never heard about what happened to our last two Norfolk Island pines.

Anyhow, I hope my second and finale year as Poet Laureate, not to keep dwelling on how cool and groovy it is, I hope this year is of use to people, that we get gentle rains, that my poetry isn't all way too occasional and derivative, and that we are still friends at the end. I have over 500 Facebook Friends, but they have never driven at night with me or heard my stories more than five times. This is the week of my 40th Anniversary. I think our marriage has a fair amount of altruism, screw Ayn Rand. I hope living a life in poetry has purpose and increases endorphins. Viva la PL, even if it happens to be, just briefly and fleetingly, me.

And finally, we have ten days guys for the budget, get it ungreedily unstuck, get it TOGETHER!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Becoming a Man

Today the woman at the optical shop said,
"And how may I help you sir?" OKay, so I didn't put my lipstick on after the swim, and my hair was pulled back, and I only had on one earring, and my glasses were so stepped on at the Española pool that they were practically vertical. But really, have I crossed over? Has that hormonal shift taken place and I am now not afraid of becoming my mother, but my father?

It's true, once before at their country club locker room, Betty who was a red-haired I Love Lucy locker room attendant and friend of my mother, Beti with an "i," Betty said of me,
"She's Harry! Isn't she exactly Harry?" I am Harry. I have his olive skin, his white hair,
his height and weight almost. I am swarthy, but I don't have his golf swing, his taste for martinis, and his palate. In fact it was this very father who told me I'd never have a developed palate.

What I do have is lots of lipstick, earrings, and necklaces which I will never leave home without. I may resort to ruffles. I have books and an ear for a poem, and I liked dancing with my dad, we'd say out loud, "one, two, cha cha cha." I end up buying new glasses with a red pin stripe and hope it wasn't an impulse buy. The glasses on my head where cracked and scratched and I need to see, even more than be seen.

Upon coming home I see that Charles Simic has just written a small book of essays called Confessions of a Poet Laureate. It is only available as an e-book. I find both of these facts disturbing, to a man of my gender. I wanted to write that book, and if he wrote it, why can't I hold it in my hands. he also wrote poems called My Noiseless Entourage, and entourage is one of my words. My thunder is being stolen.

The good news is that the clouds are building in a gentle, not menacing way. We need the rain to quench the fire not to flood the denuded 140,000 acres. It's hard to be as in love with a landscape as I am with New Mexico as seen form our house. Especially hard since we had a solid two months of wind, followed by a month of fires, flames you could see for weeks of it.
I would go out back over and over, and watch the flames. I felt intellectually devastated myself, but it couldn't go into the emotions. It felt sort of stuck there between my throat and my heart, I think I only cried twice.

One morning we discussed, what if the plutonium burned. Would we leave or just leave slowly by illness? The bad thing about pouring yourself into a landscape and making such a sturdy home, is that it is just as temporary as a day, as a life. We all know this. Yet watching the sacred lands of Pueblo people burn night after night brings another time frame.

I have been unable to focus on anything, and so, since I can't write I am going to teach.
I call the class "Living Inside the Questions" and just setting it up has been a challenge.
One question I ask myself is about form, why short, why long, and why followed by a martini.
Why did I never play golf my entire life, when I liked things about golf, my mother,
the grass, the golf carts I adored, and the pretzels in the lounge after.

Wallace Stevens was a golfer, in fac

t when he died and someone in his foursome said something like, "We've lost a friend. And a great American poet." The other golfer answered, "Wally, a poet?" When I die they may say,"Joanie, a golfer?" Or, I always thought she was a girl.
DO you have any secret wishes? Mine is to be published in the New Yorker and I wish someone would send my work out for me. My brother said that he read a book about men and women and how they respond in business. A man given extra responsibilities says he is glad to have then and what is the extra compensation?" A woman just says, "Thank you for entrusting me with this work."

Maybe it was a compliment to be mistaken for a man in the Optical office in Española.
Maybe it means I will stand up for myself, take a swing and yell, FORE!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My kids came up with a cottage industry for me. I am known as a famous and relentless worrier, despite a line in a poem about my daughter Corina that says, "Worry is reverse prayer." They remind me of that and know it doesn't help. I think I worried from before memory.

Lately the wild fries and drought have given me plenty of fuel for my own fires, and the kids came up with this business. For a mere $4.95 a month I will do your worrying. I don't think it will make me ill, as someone suggested. I think I can keep distance, either aesthetic distance, aerial view, or professional boundaries. Also, i identified with the line in Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery where as the Great Splendini, he said he used to be of the Hebrew persuasion but recently converted to Narcissism. Perhaps that alone will give me the ability to listen, or better yet imagine your worst case scenarios, and then much as the Sin Eater of southern culture ate the sins of the dead, I can digest the worries of the living, and not really care too deeply about you. Only $4.95 a month for the first year.

You understand this would be after I fulfill my Poet Laureate duties this year as it might prevent me for giving full attention to that job. Speaking of which (see how I can bring every conversation around to PL) I am furrowing my brow all week about the Rotary's Pancake Breakfast on the Santa F Plaza tomorrow. I haven't been able to write a new poem, though I have begun about eight.

I suffer from the opposite of patriotism which is not scorn but matriotism. I pledge allegiance to mother earth or Gaia, children, cooking and hearth, and the flags I fly are prayer flags. Yesterday I finally decided to make a tree flag-- we had just heard a wonderful Jungian lecture which spoke about Frida Kahlo, Emily Carr, and Georgia O'Keeffe and lots of tree paintings in the face of the largest forest fire in NM history. So I gave up on poems and with a Sharpie drew a tree on one prayer flag and on the GENTLE RAIN flag covered it with rain drops, a form I had never even doodled. Within an hour we had a torrent and hail, and no electric power for six hours and more rain and the arroyos gor flooded and furrowed more than my brow. Michael was out there in the lightening closing up the kids' yurt and trying to divert the arroyos. The little plank bridge we used for 25 years to walk to our neighbors was swept away. The new renters, Hope and Leland, Monique, lots of our neighbors trying to get home.

So this morning we walked down and by Harriet Smith's house the arroyo cut about seven feet down. It's a mess. We do have a way out by the fire station. Nobody in Santa Fe really knows how it is up north. I spent the morning trying to hear if it helped at Santa Clara Pueblo where 13,000 acres burned. There was nothing on the news, and I realized that I have had the privilege of writing poetry with these children for five different years. I think if you work with children you know the beauty of a culture and glimpse its soul. Last week I was at a marriage feast for a young woman I taught poetry to for a year when she was 12. I hadn't seen her for years but she is so lovely and I took an instant liking to her husband. I have a loaf of bread, round as a face, which the family insisted I take. I took it from the freezer when the power was out. The power is back now. It's still smoking over the pueblo watershed. The birds sing even if they are evacuated. I may evacuate myself to a friend's in Santa Fe for a night so I can fulfill my PL duties at Pancakes on the Plaza even if my rainmaking continues to work. I'd worry all night if I didn't. 10:15 on the Plaza on the Fourth.Hopefully, I will be there, with Giant Pencil.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Never Giving Up

I am just about ready to give up on never giving up. It is the Dalai Lama I have to blame.
I always quote him when asked to give graduation speeches (three times to be honest and all three include this quote) and it seems to have made sense at the time.

Never give up
No matter what is going on.
Never give up.
Develop the heart.
Too much energy in your country is spent
developing the mind instead of the heart.
Develop the heart.
Be compassionate.
Not just to your friends, but to everyone.
Be compassionate.
Work for peace in your heart and in the world.
Work for peace, and I say again.
Never give up, no matter what is happening.
No matter what is going on around you.
Never give up!

So this spring when I have been mumbling about giving up with my garden it is the Dalai Lama in the wings who is telling me to cowboy up and persist. I remember once before, in 1998, when I managed to grow cucumbers despite the rabbits. No such luck this year. The Dalai Lama has cost me at least a hundred dollars in bedding plants. And more if you count plant accoutrements, which I should but don't.

It is so dry this year that the wild sunflowers, asters, and mullein haven't even bothered. Good news is that there are hardly any weeds except where I water. Bad news is the rabbits have noticed this and subsequently waged war on my garden, a garden that looks like Guantanamo. It has anti-rabbit fences, and the raised beds have straw bales which seemed high enough to discourage predation but now the rabbits just hop on. I noticed they didn't like snapdragons so in my flower beds I planted them, and marigolds. Nobody would eat marigolds though the zinnias were a risk, and the cosmos, and the echinacea. By morning, $23.17 worth of bedding plants gone. The snapdragons lingered, and apparently are an acquired taste as now they too are mere sticks. Nary a snappish little face to delight the grand kids. I am blue. And, in keeping, they are after my soon-to-be-son-in-law's blue corn as well.

So my dear problem solving husband and I shuttle off to Home Depot. We buy 25 feet of fence (only $23.95) to keep out small rodents. We encircle the three garden beds with said fence. I see the rabbit on his hind legs, but only able to eat potato leaves though the wire mesh. Aren't they poisonous? Success, I am so bold to think. And, piece de resistance, Michael installs a sproingy spring on the garden gate to I will not forget and give Peter Rabbit his way.

Now I neglected to mention the lettuce plants. I bought plants along with the seeds I sowed. The rabbits got them once, but with diligence and water they came back and I had five lovely heads shaping up, careful to pick a few outer leaves to spruce up the store bought Romaine. This morning, one full day into Plan C, the lettuce is decimated and all I have left is this wonderful phrase. The lettuce is decimated. Maybe my next book will be called Decimated Lettuce so it isn't a total loss. The truth is the rabbits are the ones who never give up.

I have gone to about seven plants store, and today have brought home one Japanese eggplant to coddle and spoil in a pot. It is a lovely purplish plant and I console myself that it works as an ornamental if it doesn't fruit. I also have four small eggplant in the garden to replace the four small eggplants I had in the garden who were flexing their muscular leaves and in fine fettle until Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail got wind that eggplant was good for cholesterol or rabbit prostates. So, I am down to the potatoes which have always hated New Mexico and are one of Michael's nostalgic Wisconsin aberration (along with a few others, don't tell him I said so) and tomatoes. The rabbits have begun to like tomatoes, but I am feeding them the yellow pear variety which are lovely, but more a luxury than a necessity.

I don't want to be a hypocrite and give up, but the truth is I am a renowned giver-upper. My best friends know this about me, just take me to yoga and you will too. I forgot to mention I tried hot pepper spray, coyote urine, and am about to check out male human hair. My husband is going to buzz his today and I read on-line that it works. A shotgun or a little rabbit feeding station with fresh water and rabbit sushi could be in the works. These are the redneck (and effective) and then the experimental and compassionate approaches.

Today it occurred to me I could take French lessons to soothe my failure and buy everything from the wonderful Farmers' Markets around the state. The farmers need to eat too, not just the rabbits. I know some of you would say, eat the Rabbits. But, we had a bout with our cats and Rabbit Fever in 1999 and I don't even want to tell you about that one, Dalai Lama.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting Around

Here's what's next on my Living La Vida Local

It has been one year since I got bit by the Poet Laureate Bug, and a fine year in so many ways.
I am in gratitude for this chance to shine up my silver jewelry and swan around Santa Fe until my friends can barely see me for the glow of words, ego, sunset, kids' eyes glinting with poetry,the reverb of poetry in the cottonwoods, the smoke alas the smoke, the prayers for rain heading up into the clouds if only the clouds could hear, and gratitude all around. I do feel a bit transparent with my experimental happiness.

What I love about Santa Fe and staying put in northern New Mexico for 38 years is that almost every place I go I am at home and I see a friend. I ran into Gary Brower and Kenneth Gurney at the Range in Bernalillo a ways back. Maybe they were conspiring to create their two fine literary magazines, Malpais and Adobe Walls. Michael Namingha is everywhere, the quintessential man about town and I am always happy to see him. Sunny Smyth is selling glimmering glass on the Plaza. Camilla Trujillo is in the Española Pool and then Spanish Market, and today my Lamaze teacher from 1974 recognizes me at the same pool. When I go out I sometimes wonder, what angels will I meet today. Anyhow, local is us this season and here's my latest calendar for summer and>>>>>>>>>>

Living La Vida Local

July 4, Monday @ 10:15, Santa Fe Plaza Pancake breakfast on the Santa Fe Plaza, I’ll be reading from Poet Laureate poems

July 14, Santa Fe Children’s Museum, Celebrating the Art of Poetry, 1:00-5:00 PM, bookmaking, writing poems, haiku AND “Joan and the Giant Pencil” with original composition by Jeremy Bleich on trash can lid, guitar, toy instuments, and poetry 2:00, all welcome by museum admission. Though it is a show for kids, I think any poet friend would love it. I love the poems and the music so much.

July 23rd, Saturday @ noon, On Women’s Focus with Carol Boss for Tres Chicas Books with Miriam Sagan and Renée Gregorio.
July 24, Sunday @ 3:oo PM, Acequia Books, 4019 4th St. NW, Albuquerque, 505-890-5365. Reading from Love & Death: Greatest Hits with Miriam Sagan and Renée Gregorio

July 28th, Thursday at 7:00, SOMOS reading at The Harwood Museum, Taos, Love & Death: Greatest Hits, with Miriam Sagan and Renée Gregorio

August 18, 7 PM. Four Writers Writing The Landscape Authors Lauren Camp, Joan Logghe, Anne Hillerman and David Grant Noble
at New Mexico Public Lands Information Center, 301 Dinosaur Trail, Santa Fe, 877-276-9404, free
September 25-October 1, Ghost Ranch, Poetry Alchemy leading to the Days of Awe, or 505-685-4333

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Graduation: Santa Fe High

I didn't faint, my hat only blew off once, I made a friend (Thanks Tammy!), and I got to shake 302 graduates' hands. I read too fast, but I forgive myself since every single person told me it was too long and the fear of more beach balls flying around the field was upon me, and nary a beach ball flew during my talk. The highlight was shaking every graduate's hand, looking at so many smiles, and half of them even made eye contact. Their faces, youth, the great variety of lives touched me. I thought of Amachi the Indian Saint who hugs everyone and I tried to be a virtual Amma and send love to every person. The 302 people passed in an instant, and I wan't even tired. Tammy, my new friend who will teach the poetry class next year, videoed me but my battery ran out half way, so if anybody has a record I've love it. Here is the text:

Graduation at Santa Fe High, May 28, 2011,

I have come to Santa Fe High as a Poet in the Schools with New Mexico CultureNet, visited some classes, and way back I also know some of you from Santa Fe Girls’ School.

When asked what a Poet Laureate means someone in Julie Hasted’s poetry class said, “Poet Warrior” and I liked that more than explaining what I do is function as the city’s poet for two years. In some classes I had you calculate how many days they have been alive. I have been alive 23,000 days and you already have 6,000.

I spent a week and probably six to eight hours writing a talk for today. When I read it to my husband it was so boring that both of us practically fell asleep or got divorced, so I ripped it up. It came to me that it was my chance to give some of the wisdom moments, the secrets of success, and plain old advice that people have given me that I have found useful.

1. When I said I would do this talk I had a houseguest from California we call Six Foot Tall Girl, because she is six feet tall and it’s her e-mail. She has taught school for many years. She said that I have continued doing what I love all these years. She talked about fame and that in our culture people think that fame is the measure of success. She said not many can be famous, it’s what makes fame fame.

Naomi Shihab Nye who is an Arab American poet says in her poem “Famous” “The river is famous to the fish….The boot is famous to the earth,/more famous than the dress shoe,/which is famous only to floors,…I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,/or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,/but because it never forgot what it could do.”
So, thanks to Six Foot Tall Girl I want to tell you, you are famous if you remember what you can do, maybe what you loved as a kid. Today you are famous to your family, your friends, and your teachers.

2. My friend Cecile was also visiting, and she gave me advice once, which I found very helpful: Every Day do three things for the good. Whatever impossible thing you want to happen, career as an artist, saving the world, renting an apartment, enlightenment, do three things a day towards that end. That’s all. Very small steps that accumulate.

3. My oldest daughter. Whenever she comes up against some challenges in life, she says it is her soul’s path, that she has chosen it, and following it she learns what she needs to. In that way she takes responsibility for her own life, which is exactly what Oprah would have said on her final show, if I had been watching it instead of trying to write this talk.

4. Six Foot Tall Man which is what my husband now wants to be called, started leaving me notes with his advices. He says to think about treat people as if they were angels. Everybody has a message, and that is why you will never see him yelling at another driver. He also brought me a quote from our refrigerator,

“Marriage is the hardest yoga, be householder saints” and he should know after 40 years.

He reminded me of a musician friend of mine from college who said:
“Don’t make me uptight in my own house.”

He even quoted me from a poem of mine that said, “Worry is reverse prayer.” I need that line cause I have a black belt in worry.

5. I once heard the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet speak in this school’s gymnasium. One of his teachings is this:
Never give up
No matter what is going on.
Never give up.
Develop the heart.
Too much energy in your country is spent developing the mind instead of the heart. Develop the heart.
Be compassionate.
Not just to your friends, but to everyone.
Be compassionate.
Work for peace in your heart and in the world.
Work for peace, and I say again.
Never give up, no matter what is happening.
No matter what is going on around you.
Never give up!

6. I am terrible at making decisions, so I can’t help you too much, but baseball great Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” You do have choices, you will have choices, you have made choices. Poet, Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/ and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler/ long I stood….I took the one last traveled on, and that has made all the difference.”

Carlos Casteneda wrote, “Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good. if it doesn’t , it is of no use.”

In each of your ten next thousand days I wish you make the choices that serve you.

7. Imagination:::
These quotes are from W.S. Merwin Poet Laureate of America:
"It's impossible to conceive of a human being without the imagination....It's also what makes us able to share the distress of the homeless in Darfur, and the distress of the homeless in the next block.
It produced Albert Schweitzer and Mother Theresa. It also produced Mozart and Shakespeare, Blake and Vermeer.
That's the imagination. It's infinite. It's unpredictable. It's a wonder. It's a miracle. It's what we have to live by and if we live by something else, we're wronging ourselves."

C.K. Rowling, that miraculous writer of Harry Potter, said at Harvard’s graduation address:
"Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not and therefore the font of all invention and innovation.…it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.……"We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better."

8. The three best things I know.
1. Allow extra time and write thank you notes.
The third one I forget.

9. Here’s a very tricky and interesting one, from a book by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you.

10. I read this in a spy novel about when you are a houseguest: never force anything mechanical. We quote this our house.

11. My mother said over and over again, not to depend on anyone else. To always have something to fall back on. I fell back on poetry. She also believed in the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. She said, "I tried to tell the world, but they wouldn’t listen."

12. Kayle is my granddaughter. She was four when I became poet laureate and we celebrated on the Plaza downtown during the free band concert. Afterwards she looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m so proud of you. Don’t lose a bit of it.” This serious moment with a four year old seemed to be coming from my late Aunt Pearl or my mother. I am not saying she was channeling, but that children are tapped into the wisdom. I want to pass that along to you today,


Here I stand at the intersection of Yucca and Siringo,
between Zia and tomorrow,
With my too many words and my disguise as a gray haired poet.

Here you sit in your cap and gowns,
at the intersection of heart and mind,
at the corner of past and future, right now.

And here we are with the mystery of how things turn out
With the mornings all groggy with too late and too early
With the getting to high school anyway, with your homework

done or the pages still printing, with the many lessons learned
and the already forgotten stored inside you. With your success
and the blessing of Santa Fe all around us, its sky

which has been smiling for centuries, watching you,
its paved promises and it been-there-done-that. With its dreams,
graffiti tagged illegally onto your souls

With its history as complicated as any place.
Just yesterday I was driving south on Saint Francis at Cordova
and I heard drumming. Through my closed car window, drumming,

with its base note of Pueblo people, deep drumming
through the open window of a car shining silver,
feathers hung from its rear view mirror.

And the language spoken was English with a back story
of Tewa and a Spanish flamenco, just yesterday with its Conquistadors and the conquered and nobody giving up.

That’s what I love, a city where nobody gives up.
I am dreaming of red shoes, red with sunset, with blood,
with a taste of drama and never stop the dancing.

With your future all shiny like WET PAINT DON’T TOUCH,
with your unknown and your planned. With just today
spread out like a feast at a city that knows how to party,

at Fiesta Central at the corner of already and not yet, I want to say
Look into the faces of those who love you, those holy places
of I’m so proud of you, and take into your body memory,

your heart and belly, how this day feels.
Make the mornings count, today with its bright promise,
every day a slice of why not?, I mean why can’t you,

I know you can. It’s the dress rehearsal for everything, and it’s the show.
I want to send you safe and beaming into the next ten thousand mornings,
into the constant mountains and the meanings under the ravishing sky.

Into the arms of all who hold you and how you carry yourself.
Into the next and the best, not the last. Into the endless nows
with their hard work and small pleasures, into the mystery

with its good news/bad news days. Into your one saved life,
your sacred breath and breathing. Into the Santa Fe you love
and the places that come after,

into the bring-it-on-I-can-take-it, I-can-make-it
city of no indifference, the intersection of you and me, all of us
send you into the caring and daring new day.