Poetry Friday – Rules of Sleep by Howard Moss

Howard Moss, the long-time poetry editor of The New Yorker, was himself a poet of note.  Here is one of his that I love.

                                   RULES OF SLEEP

In the sludge drawer of animals in arms,
Where legs entwine to keep the body warm
Against the winter night, some cold seeps through—
It is the future: say, a square of stars
In the windowpane, suggesting the abstract
And large, or a sudden shift in position
That lets one body know the other’s free to move
An inch away, and then a thousand miles,
And, after that, even intimacy
Is only another form of separation.
                                       —Howard Moss

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Poetry Friday – TO THE GRASS OF AUTUMN – W. S. Merwin

Like so many others, I love the poems of W. S. Merwin.  His descriptions of places, of landscapes, take me deep into worlds that I experience for the first time. Today I offer you this seasonal special which takes us among the grasses on a hillside–is it far away, or do you have a hillside close by?


You could never believe
it would come to this
one still morning
when before you noticed
the birds already
were all but gone

even though year upon year
the rehearsal of it
must have surprised
your speechless parents
and unknown antecedents
long ago gathered to dust
and though even the children
have been taught how to say
the word withereth

no you were known to be
cool and countless
the bright vision on all
the green hills
rippling in unmeasured waves
through the days in flower

now you are as the fog
that sifts among you
gray in the chill daybreak
the voles scratch the dry earth
around your roots
hoping to find something
before winter
and when the white air stirs
you whisper to yourselves
without expectation
or the need to know
                    —-W. S. Merwin


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{phfr} October 20

  • round button chicken

Well, finally I have some contenment around here that I can share.  In our current circumstances, that doesn’t happen every week.  So, here are some examples of happiness in my week.

Lately, when the sun comes up but before it shines into our bedroom, somehow the gold background on this lovely icon just glows.  I don’t know how it happens, but it delights my heart.  Incidentally, we were fortunate to purchase this icon from a local artist.  Isn’t it beautiful?


The fall colours on our Tiger Eyes sumac out on the balcony have been lovely to look at.

You may remember my mentioning our Vietnamese daughter.  She has been so kind during Ricardo’s illness this summer and fall, visiting, texting frequently, and even cooking for us.  She is a beautiful gift.

It feels good to share these bits of happiness with you.  Thanks go to Like Mother Like Daughter for the opportunity.

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Poetry Tuesday – TO SAINT LUKE

Back in 1993, I was teaching Church History to the grade elevens at a Catholic girls’ school, and in the early part of the course we studied The Acts of the Apostles, written by St. Luke.  I love that book of the Bible, and when I was asked to prepare the opening prayer for a meeting of the Religion Department on October 18, the feast of St. Luke, I wrote a few verses to use as the prayer.  I dug this out of my poetry folder to share with you today.

                             TO SAINT LUKE

Step by step with Paul through scorching dangerous landscapes
You bore witness to the resurrected Christ;
Gave us pictures of those early bands of Christians
As they prayed and preached and argued toward the Light.

Mary fed you, told you stories of His childhood,
Introduced you to the people He had known,
Found you witnesses, believers, He had healed them.
You recorded all the love that He had shown.

As the century runs forward to its ending
And we wrestle with the fears of our own time,
Ask the Spirit to electrify our teaching,
Make us lighthouses through which His light can shine.

Keep us close, Saint Luke, to that tremendous story
Which you told with clarity and constant love.
May our students catch the flashes of God’s glory,
Help us use your work to point to God above.

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Poetry Friday – THE SHROUD by Galway Kinnell

Hello to all Poetry Friday friends!

Three reasons for my choosing this poem today:  I love what I know of the works of Galway Kinnell, and I must remind myself to look up more of his poems;  I’m being very seamstress-y lately, working on a special quilt;  I’m tempted by it to muse on the image of a shroud, and see where that musing takes me.  I hope you enjoy the poem.

                The Shroud

Lifted by its tuft
of angel hairs, a milkweed
seed dips and soars
across a meadow, chalking
in outline the rhythm
that waits in air all along,
like the bottom hem of nowhere.
Spinus tristis, which spends
its days turning gold
back into sod, rises and falls
along the wavy line the seed
just waved through the sunlight.
What sheet or shroud large enough
to hold the whole earth
are these seamstresses’ chalks
and golden needles
stitching at so restlessly?
When will it ever be finished?
                             –Galway Kinnell

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Poetry Friday – LILACS IN SEPTEMBER – Katha Pollitt


Shocked to the root
like the lilac bush
in the vacant lot
by the hurricane–

whose black  branch split
by wind or rain
has broken out

into these scant ash-
colored blossoms
lifted high
as if to say

to passersby
What will unleash
itself in you
when your storm comes?
Katha Pollitt

Having lately been shocked to the root myself, I find the final question to be a poignant one.


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Some Quick Takes – Sept. 9, 2011


7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 135)


I have avoided this blog entirely–haven’t come here for weeks on end.  I couldn’t bring myself to talk about the Big Decision that had been hanging over us for a while and finally had to be made.  We have made, I have made, with the concurrence of our family and doctor, the decision to register Ricardo with the province for long-term care.  As in, nursing home, care facility, whatever you want to call it.


I have wept and prayed, prayed and wept, and my heart has been so sore.  I still can’t really talk about it.  I’m alternately numb and then so wounded.  Yes, I can face it, but the thought of such a change is horrible.  And that’s just me.  How can I really know how much Ricardo is suffering as he has to prepare himself mentally and emotionally to leave his home?


We have been getting home help from the province, and today we met with the woman who will be the Care Manager for Ricardo, finding out what to expect, what they will do to support him at home, and what the costs, current and future, will be.  The good is that as long as we are managing here, they will give us the home support.  For a few weeks now, Ricardo has been on an even keel and we are managing pretty well.  However, I know that we’re close to the edge of the precipice (forgive my mixed metaphors) and that a small change in Ricardo’s health or ability could send us tumbling over the edge.  And that would be the point at which he would need to be placed in care.


We have decided that our focus for now is going to be on appreciating these days at home.  We talk with one another about our feelings without difficulty, and we’ll do that whenever we need to (good communication has always been a strength of ours), but we’ll prepare slowly and quietly for the transition, finding ways to savor the time we have.  That sounds really sappy and pie-in-the-sky to me!  I don’t have the energy or time, though, to try to rephrase it.  We’ll moan and cry, no doubt, and get very blackly ironic a lot of the time, and that will be part of  “savoring the time we have”.  We’ll carry it out in our own style.

That’s about all I can bear to say, but I have at least set down that much in print.  Maybe, just maybe, that will make it easier for me to come back here again soon.

Thanks for reading.  It certainly is no sweet end-of-summer story. 

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About ten days ago, Ricardo somehow came down with that very nasty cold that I’ve seen people mentioning for a couple of months now.  I say “somehow” because for years we have managed to avoid viruses, probably due to lots of handwashing and not much contact with society at large.  Anyway, he became very ill very quickly.

For someone with Parkinson’s, an event like this is going to mean a loss of strength, and by the second night of his illness I found that there was very little Ricardo could do for himself.  Most importantly, he could not get up from bed to use the bathroom, and on that night he felt like he needed to go just about every hour.  He could not sit up on his own, and I had to try to pull him up from the mattress.  He is not tall and not stout, but still, that felt (to my back, anyway) like a lot of dead weight.  And then, sometime around 4:30 a.m., he fell back into bed flat on his stomach, with his head swallowed by the two pillows he sleeps on.  And could not move.  Not at all.  I managed to get one of the pillows out so he could breathe, and we discussed what to do next.  I really didn’t want to call an ambulance and have him go to the hospital, where I felt little could be done for him. 

The only recourse we had was to our son-in-law and daughter, who live close by and, fortunately for us, get up at about 4 a.m.   Sean and Sara said they would come by on their way to work, and Sean, big strong guy that he is, got Ricardo rolled over and upright, and in and out of the bathroom.

I’ll spare you all the in-between details. I figured out a way to help R. get on his feet, he regained a little strength, and we soldiered on, with him still needing most everything done by me 24/7 for the next four or five days. And then about six days in…

Yep, you guessed it.  I came down with the very nasty virus.  Oh my, you should have heard the two of us hacking and choking all night.  I’m sure most of the people in our building did.  In the meantime, Ricardo had guessed that part of the problem with his weakness at night was due to the Remiran he was taking.  He felt dopey and drugged when he had to get up in the night, and decided to forego taking it for the present–and by golly, that did make a difference!  Just enough of a difference that I could actually get him out of bed without throwing my back out.  So far, so good.

Today, five or six days in, is the first day I’ve felt a little better, and I’m very grateful!  R. is improving as well, but slowly.  We were able to sit in the sunshine on our balcony this afternoon as I did some very necessary deadheading of our carnations and the lovely azalea which bloomed so late because of the rotten weather in the spring.

There are some serious situations facing loved ones, and we, particularly Ricardo, have offered up our sufferings for their intentions.  We’re keeping our spirits up, and managing to get by, thanks to a grocery run from Sara and Sean and a couple of nights of take-out.  I have not lost sight of the malignant humour in the fact that we’ve been out of commission during the first good run of summer weather we’ve had in these parts.  On the other hand, considering what some of you have had to suffer through heat waves, I guess we’re sort of lucky. 

That’s it for now.  Thanks for reading!

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7 Quick Takes – July 22, 2011

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 135)


It’s been quite a while since I had much to share here, but today I actually do have a few bits to mention!  Thanks to Jen for hosting.


Last weekend was my 70th birthday.  It seemed like a rather significant marker to me.  Marker of what, I’m not quite sure, but something along the lines of “wow, I’m really  getting old!”  Our Vietnamese ‘daughter’ brought this lovely cake.




For my birthday, along with makeup, chocolate caramels (yum), and some other lovelies, I got an iPhone 4.  Great fun!  Texting is so much easier than with my old (very old) Nokia, and I’m having fun checking through lots of apps!  If you have any to recommend, particularly Catholic ones, please leave me a comment.


It’s only been a year since we had renovations done when we bought this condo, and so I was surprised when, about a month ago, the new kitchen cupboard doors began working loose.  We had kept the old cupboards, getting new doors made for them instead of replacing them.  You can imagine my surprise when a couple of the most frequently used doors began to wiggle and sag a little when opened or closed!  This had not been some kind of cheap fix!  When I finally got it into my head to examine the hinges, I saw that the screws fastening the hinges to the woodwork of the cupboards were working loose.  Then one of the doors actually fell onto the floor!  It was one of the bigger doors under the sink, and had been seemed a little loose, and I was just waiting for our son-in-law to come over and take a look (he’s a carpenter).  I was passing by the kitchen, heard a crash, and looked in to see the door on the floor!

Son-in-law Sean said he couldn’t believe the very little screws that had been used to install the doors, and he’s replacing them with 6 x 1 1/2 wood screws.  So far, seven doors have needed to be re-installed, and I can feel another one loosening.  I’m sure they’ll all need to be done.  Action Interior were the company who handled our reno, so anyone living in the Lower Mainland should watch out.  I’m just grateful for Sean and his help.


I have learned recently that lots of women burn themselves when using their straightening irons.  How have I happened to learn this?  Because I burned my forehead badly enough that I’m going around with a white pad and adhesive tape covering the place, and of course every woman I speak with asks what happened, and then tells me she’s done that too.  The good part is that I don’t have any feeling on that side of my face, so at least it doesn’t hurt.  Probably scarred for life, though.  Oh, that’s right, I’m 70 now, so it’s not like I’ll have too many years of regret!


I had to wear a cardigan when I went out today.  Our weather has been very skittish in July, not yet committing to the idea of summer.  We have yet to have an actual hot day.  I read about the heat that other parts of the continent are suffering and wonder if it will take till August for us to finally warm up here in the southeast corner of British Columbia.


Ricardo and I are long-time fans of the Tour de France, which is now in its final week.  All that beautiful scenery, chateaus, wonderful old churches large and small–France, especially as seen from the helicopter shots, is so beautiful!  But this year the race itself is particularly interesting, with lots of strategizing going on and two brothers from Luxembourg threatening a big win.  We’ve been having so much fun, recording the coverage and then being able to watch without commercial interruption.  Now the race is in the Alps, and the scenery is just gorgeous, but it all ends on Sunday in Paris.




The time has finally arrived when Ricardo can’t get around easily, even with the use of his cane.  We got the walker, above, which he can use around the apartment as well as outside.  He is happy with the stability it gives him and it is really a well-designed piece of equipment, excellent to have when needed.  The catch is, that we’re sad to have gotten to the point where it is needed.  Parkinson’s Disease just marches on.  We seem always to be learning to readjust–to increased weakness, worsening balance, too many things to list.  Good thing God keeps us in his hand.

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Poetry Friday – Dear George Eliot


I’ve been re-reading Middlemarch for the fourth or fifth time–it’s never too many times–and so I cannot resist posting this poem for Poetry Friday.  I don’t know anything else by this author, but this poem has been with me for decades, after I first read it in The New Yorker.

                                           DEAR GEORGE ELIOT

But for that wind banging
overhead in the dark–a sound
as of all the angry slogans in the world
at last gathered into the gale
that blows away walls and rains
rads into cellar holes–but for that
reminder, I could be reading
“Middlemarch” over again
by the warm stove, contented enough
(an eldering, well-wedded man)
to remember and be remembered…

Time was I could not have conceived–
any more than Dorothea and Will
could skip to a motel in Scituate
and unwrite a thousand pages
of honor and obligation–conceived
there could be such an elder, brain-
sick for a wayward thing
in her twenties–to parasitize
on that passionate oblivion!–as,
hearing the ominous wind pound
on the clapboards and knowing
no help for it–flinging the book down–
I remain.
                              —Peter Kane Dufault


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