Archive for June 2011

Received: Correspondence from Owner

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Where the flower in green darkness buds, blossoms, and fades,
Unseen of all shepherds and flower-loving maids—
Song, John Clare

You have mistakenly placed fifteen winterberry shrubs
where the planting list plainly specifies nine winterberry

and six bayberry. Please correct this error without uprooting
the tender ground cover or hitting buried irrigation hoses.

The north slope has been rough-graded hundreds of times
by uncommunicative laborers and former (It’s fine.)

users in sleeveless tees, smoking while your foreman gives
instructions, distractedly raking and pushing wheelbarrows

full of lime, loam and compost past gravel and wet burlap.
They dig, plant and fertilize; they spread wood chips, but

we seem to have paid a premium for amending soil
and erecting temporary fences for erosion control.

The replacement cherry is considerably smaller than
the one that was barely watered or staked correctly.

The fieldstone steps seem undersized and predictable—
vestigial rather than primitive and lacking intrigue.

The blue you promised in the hydrangeas is not
apparent yet, and the copper beech a bit wispy.

Please import premium mulch to raise the kitchen
garden bed and begin restoring the disturbed meadow.

When we arrive for the season, our privacy becomes
paramount. Kill the music where the property starts.

Ask your men not to appear shirtless at any time. If
a finger is split or scraped under a stone piece, yelling

we understand, but otherwise keep the language down.
Calling of new lovers or girlfriends while performing

cost/plus extras are prohibited. Arguments/disputes with
girlfriends/wives are not to be conducted on the premises.

If someone arrives for a child support payment or cash
to halt a disconnection or cancellation, keep transactions

strictly financial. And as for the driver of the faded red
F-150 Custom filled with hard rakes and seed spreaders,

wiring a muffler with a hanger or pouring pond water into
a steaming radiator are not allowable work related jobs.

Please complete the work to the specifications and our
satisfaction with as little hostility as possible. Anger

and frustration jeopardize the harmony of the project.
Composition, not contention, wins the day. Finally,

the contract protects everyone, ensures progress and
accountability . . . and the boundary walls are repaired.

Poetry Workshop

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

You never know what will work. You may think J.D. Salinger describing at length the poems of Seymour Glass in Seymour, An Introduction, but not publishing the poems themselves would make a great class. We could write the poems that were never written, using Salinger’s riveting details as the template. Just think of the possibilities—an unhappy wife living near the Metropolitan Museum, coming home late at night after a tryst, her lipstick smeared; she walks into the bedroom and finds a green balloon on her white bedspread.

No arms like his arms,
even if you, Russ, the kids
hear me clicking in.
Calder’s circus blurs,
slide to bed where who left this
park balloon to hug?

There is a description of a widower on his lawn in Connecticut late at night, unable to sleep, looking at the moon, and his imperious white cat comes up to him and bites his left hand.

Unable to sleep,
our angora doyenne Cloud
rolling in raked grass,
biting my ring hand—
your mother-of-pearl hairpins
to make the moon flinch.

Seymour is on a plane to Miami, and a girl on a few seats ahead, turns her doll’s head around to look at him.

Her doll’s blue plastic
eyes and puffy head turned to
a clown and nothing.

And it did work. We would write a poem together with volunteers throwing out lines, then the students would write their own poem, without thinking, on 11 x 17 inch paper, writing the 17” way (landscape) with a fat Sharpie, and just letting it ride for six lines. Then we would combine the best lines, the best opening line, the best last line, and various lines from the poems until we had a solid six-line poem. Then on to the next description. It was fun and remarkable, “Mohammed Ali would look good in this robe,” “biting the finger where my ring used to me.”