Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

In Praise of an Older Woman

Standing on the prow of the Zephyr - a cruise ship ferrying us down the East River past Ellis Island toward that looming statue that personified acceptance to my grandfather before me, it occurred to me how much New York had changed since the last time that I had been here. Juliani had done a bang up job. Times Square was no longer that lewd man in a trenchcoat that said, "Come here, I've got something to show you." The Big Apple had cleaned up its act. It no longer was the city Mick and the boys sung about in "Shattered":

Dont you know the crime rate is going up, up, up, up, up
To live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!
You got rats on the west side
Bed bugs uptown
What a mess this towns in tatters Ive been shattered
My brains been battered, splattered all over Manhattan

Uh-huh, this towns full of money grabbers
Go ahead, bite the big apple, dont mind the maggots, huh
Shadoobie, my brains been battered
My friends they come around they
Flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter
Pile it up, pile it high on the platter

Talk about a changeling - I was amazed at the transformation. Hopping on and off the tour bus I couldn't help but note the change. It might still be full of money-grabbers, but it had a different overall feel. The kids enjoyed the vacation soaking in the tour-guide information and sights and sounds like that child at the candy-store or should I say M&M's store. They posed with the wax figures at Madame Toussaud and ate in Little Italy's restos. They shopped on Canal Street and took in a Broadway show and didn't skip a beat. The only thing they complained about on the trip was that it was over too soon and that Montreal seemed slow-paced in comparison. Even my wife was excited during the stay and wants to revisit a revamped Gotham City.

It got me thinking - what must have been going through my grandfather's mind as he got off the ship on Ellis Island and looked over his shoulder at the figure that had travelled from France to grace North American shores.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Louise Bogan

Baroque Comment

From loud sound and still chance;
From mindless earth, wet with a dead million leaves;
From the forest, the empty desert, the tearing beasts,
The kelp-disordered beaches;
Coincident with the lie, anger, lust, oppression, and death in many forms;

Ornamental structures, continents apart, separated by seas;

Fitted marble, swung bells;
fruit in garlands as well as on the branch;
The flower at last in bronze, stretched backward, or curled within;
Stone in various shapes: beyond the pyramid, the contrived arch and
The named constellations;
Crown and vesture;
palm and laurel chosen as noble and enduring;
Speech proud in sound;
death considered sacrifice;
Mask, weapon, urn; the ordered strings;
Fountains, foreheads under weather-bleached hair;
The wreath, the oar, the tool,
The prow;
The turned eyes and the opened mouth of love.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Monday, September 07, 2009

Small "Consolation" a la Billy Collins

by Billy Collins

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes of famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


The Poppy Family was a late 1960s and early 1970s Canadian pop music group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"In the late summer of 1969 the Canadian record buying public chose to endorse The Poppy Family by establishing "Which Way You Goin' Billy?" as the biggest Canadian hit ever. 'Billy' successfully climbed to the No.1 spot on all radio stations across Canada. Having watched The Poppy Family from Vancouver, British Columbia, evolve as a recording group has been a satisfying and rewarding experience. The constant creative growth, both musically and lyrically, within the group is evident in the album Which Way You Goin' Billy?. The versatility of the group, from Terry Jacks' meaningful writing, to his wife Susan's beautiful and emotion-packed voice allow them to explore avenues of musical expression hitherto uncharted. All the while The Poppy Family retain their own sound so unique to themselves". (Fraser Jamieson, President London Records, Canada - November 17 1969).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Carl Dennis

The God Who Loves You

It must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you'd be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings
Driving home from the office, content with your week-
Three fine houses sold to deserving families-
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you'd have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you're living
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.
You don't want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day's disappointments
So she can save her empathy for the children.
And would you want this god to compare your wife
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation
You'd have enjoyed over there higher in insight
Than the conversation you're used to.
And think how this loving god would feel
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife
Would have pleased her more than you ever will
Even on your best days, when you really try.
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives
You're spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven't written in months. Sit down tonight
And write him about the life you can talk about
With a claim to authority, the life you've witnessed,
Which for all you know is the life you've chosen.