Friday, July 31, 2015

Careless Love by Stanley Kunitz

Daily Dose

From The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems, 1940 - 2001, by Louis Simpson


A light is on in my father's study.
"Still up?" he says, and we are silent,
looking at the harbor lights,
listening to the surf
and the creak of coconut boughs.

He is working late on cases.
No impassioned speech! He argues from evidence,
actually pacing out and measuring,
while the fans revolving on the ceiling
winnow the true from the false.

Once he passed a brass curtain rod
through a head made out of plaster
and showed the jury the angle of fire--
where the murderer must have stood.
For years, all through my childhood,
if I opened a closet . . . bang!
There would be the dead man's head
with a black hole in the forehead.

All the arguing in the world
will not stay the moon.
She has come all the way from Russia
to gaze for a while in a mango tree
and light the wall of a veranda,
before resuming her interrupted journey
beyond the harbor and the lighthouse
at Port Royal, turning away
from land to the open sea.

Yet, nothing in nature changes, from that day to this,
she is still the mother of us all.
I can see the drifting offshore lights,
black posts where the pelicans brood.

And the light that used to shine
at night in my father's study
now shines as late in mine. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Breakfast at the Bookstore with Brad and Nick #40

Daily Dose

From The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1957 - 1965, edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn, and Lois More Overbeck


'I am unfamiliar with TV and its possibilities and so hesitate to write for the medium.  And if I did I'm afraid the results would be unacceptable in Ireland."

From a letter to Hilton Edwards, Radio Television Eireann, Dublin, dated 27.7.61, Paris

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Disinherited: A Story of Family, Love and Betrayal, by Robert Sackville-West


"For the truth is that Sackvilles have never been quite rich enough for the size of their house."

From Chapter 4, The Surprise Inheritance

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Witness by Eve Triem

Daily Dose

From Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly


Has my heart gone to sleep?
Have the beehives of my dreams
stopped working, the waterwheel
of the mind run dry,
scoops turning empty,
only shadow inside?

No, my heart is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
Not asleep, not dreaming—
its eyes are opened wide
watching distant signals, listening
on the rim of vast silence.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Not So happily ever after...

Daily Dose

From Collected Poems 1916 - 1976, by Allen Tate


The idiot greens the meadow with his eyes,
The meadow creeps implacable and still;
A dog barks, the hammock swings, he lies.
One two three the cows bulge on the hill.

Motion that is not time erects snowdrifts
While sister's hand sieves waterfalls of lace.
With a palm fan closer than death he lifts
The Ozarks and tilted seas across his face.

In the long sunset where impatient sound
Strips niggers to a multiple of backs
Flies yield their heat, magnolias drench the ground
With Appomattox! The shadows lie in stacks.

The julep glass weaves echoes in Jim's kinks
While ashy Jim puts murmurs in the day;
Now in the idiot's heart a chamber stinks
Of dead asters, as the potter's field of May.

All evening the marsh is a slick pool
Where dream wild hares, witch hazel, pretty girls.
'Up from the important picnic of a fool
Those rotted asters!' Eddy on eddy swirls

The innocent mansion of a panthers heart!
It crumbles, tick-tick time drags it in
Till now his arteries lag and now they start
Reverence with the frigid gusts of sin.

The stillness pelts the eye, assaults the hair;
A beech sticks out a branch to warn the stars,
A lightening-bug jerks angles in the air,
Diving. 'I am the captain of new wars!'

The dusk runs down the lane driven like hail;
Far off a precise whistle is escheat
To the dark; and then the towering weak and pale
Covers his eyes with memory like a sheet.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

More Friends

When folks bring their out-of-town guests to the bookstore where I work, often as not it's as part of a tour of the university campus and the surrounding environs, maybe a stop on the way to see the Fremont Troll.  It's good to work in a place about which the locals like to brag.  And we do get the occasional bibliophile tourist as well. (It is a really big bookstore, where I work.  Despite the name -- University Book Store -- everybody's welcome.  You can spend the day -- and there's food, coffee, beer and wine, come to that.)

When I get friends in from out-of-town, we go to bookstores.  It's true that I always bring them in to the bookstore where I work, but it's also true that we invariably go other bookstores as well.  It's kind of who we are, my friends and me.

Generally we travel either South to the glory that is Powell's in Portland, or North to visit Henderson's

Less prepossessing than the great Portland institution, my favorite bookstore in Bellingham, Washington is never the less one of the true bibliophile delights of the Pacific Northwest.  (I may actually have spent more money there than at Powell's, believe it or not.)  It is almost the definition of a great used bookstore; with an extensive poetry selection and room upon room of sometimes rare and often overlooked English literature, including a fair number of Canadian editions, to no one's surprise considering the nearness of the border. 

As a reader who, in Dr. Johnson's phrase, has "more friends in the other world than this," I find many such in the Essays and Criticism room, up and down the crowded Lit aisles, in History, etc.  Among the treasures I found this time were a handsome volume of Sheridan, an omnibus of Thomas Love Peacock, and a Wilkie Collins I did not know.  If I am book-shopping with friends, as I almost invariably am when at Henderson's, said friend will sooner or later be called on to express admiration for some unlikely volume usually unknown to them, the discovery of which will make me -- and perhaps only me -- squeal with surprise and delight.  This trip, my dearest friend, R. was the one who, having been prompted to do so, pretended to joy with me over finding all four volumes of James Anthony Froude's Short Studies on Great Subjects (1867–82). 

We stayed overnight at a local casino and returned to the bookstore the following day, to finish the hunt.  I could spend a day, come to that, in just the Art room (pictured above.)

I realize that not everyone would find a two day book-trip quite so exciting as my friends and I do, but we are people of simple means and most "refeened" tastes, so for us, Henderson's is a little slice of heaven. 

There are still great, used bookstores in Seattle -- and great bookstores in general -- but there are still a few, a precious few, in the Pacific Northwest well worth the day's drive.  So grateful to find that to still be so.

Daily Dose

From Short Studies on Great Subjects, Volume I, by James Anthony Froude


"We need not detain our readers among these abstractions."

From Spinoza

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Night of Battle by Yvor Winters

Daily Dose

From Bracebridge Hall, by Washington Irving


"If ever an oyster can really fall in love, as has been said or sung, it must be on such a morning."

From A Bachelor's Confession

Friday, July 24, 2015

Moonlight Alert by Yvor Winters

Daily Dose

From Short Studies on Great Subjects, Volume IV, by James Anthony Froude


"The strong and successful are not always the good; the miserable are not always the wicked; and even for the wicked, pity claims to be heard in mitigation of punishment."

From Origen and Celsus

Thursday, July 23, 2015

To a Military Riffle by Yvor Winters

Daily Dose

From Short Studies on Great Subjects, Volume IV, by James Anthony Froude


"When we look back over distant periods the landscape is foreshortened, and we discern but the elevated features of it.  The long, level intervals, where common life was most busy, are lost to us almost entirely."

From Origen and Celsus

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Bookstore Beast

Daily Dose

From The Battle of the Books, by Jonathan Swift


"'Miscreant prater!' said he, 'eloquent only in thine own eyes, thou rails without wit, or truth, or discretion.'"

From page 39, this edition

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Bloody Sire by Robinson Jeffers

Daily Dose

From Tell Me, Tell Me: Granite, Steel, and Other Topics, by Marianne Moore


is someone I can bear —
" a master of indignation . . .
meant for a soldier
converted to letters, " who could

a man through the window,
yet, " tender toward plants, " say, " Good God,
the violets! " (below).
" Accomplished in every

and tint " — considering meanwhile
infinity and eternity,
he could only say, " I'll
talk about them when I understand them. "

Monday, July 20, 2015

Defeat by Witter Bynner

Daily Dose

From Summer Celestial: Poems, by Stanley Plumly


Some--the ones with fish names--grow so north
they last a month, six weeks at most.
Some others, named for the fields they look like,
last longer, smaller.

And these, in particular, whether trout or corn lily,
onion or bellwort, just cut
this morning and standing open in tapwater in the kitchen,
will close with the sun.

It is June, wildflowers on the table.
They are fresh an hour ago, like sliced lemons,
with the whole day ahead of them.
They could be common mayflower lilies of the valley,

day lilies, or the clustering Canada, large, gold,
long-stemmed as pasture roses, belled out over the vase--
or maybe Solomon's seal, the petals
ranged in small toy pairs

or starry, tipped at the head like weeds.
They could be anonymous as weeds.
They are, in fact, the several names of the same thing,
lilies of the field, butter-and-eggs,

toadflax almost, the way the whites and yellows juxtapose,
and have "the look of flowers that are looked at,"
rooted as they are in water, glass, and air.
I remember the summer I picked everything,

flower and wildflower, singled them out in jars
with a name attached. And when they had dried as stubborn
as paper I put them on pages and named them again.
They were all lilies, even the hyacinth,

even the great pale flower in the hand of the dead.
I picked it, kept it in the book for years
before I knew who she was,
her face lily-white, kissed and dry and cold.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Airman Who Flew Over Shakespeare's England

Daily Dose

From New Selected Poems, by Philip Levine


Remember how unimportant
they seemed, growing loosely
in the open fields we crossed
on the way to school. We
would carve wooden swords
and slash at the luscious trunks
until the white milk started
and then flowed. Then we'd
go on to the long day
after day of the History of History
or the tables of numbers and order
as the clock slowly paid
out the moments. The windows
went dark first with rain
and then snow, and then the days,
then the years ran together and not
one mattered more than
another, and not one mattered.

Two days ago I walked
the empty woods, bent over,
crunching through oak leaves,
asking myself questions
without answers. From somewhere
a froth of seeds drifted by touched
with gold in the last light
of a lost day, going with
the wind as they always did.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Breakfast at the Bookstore with Brad and Nick #39

Daily Dose

From Washington Square, by Henry James


"She had no airs and no arts; she never attempted to disguise her expectancy.  She was waiting on his good pleasure, and would wait modestly and patiently; his hanging back at this supreme time might appear strange, but of course he must have a good reason for it.  Catherine would have made a wife of the gentle, old fashioned pattern -- regarding reasons as favors and windfalls, but no more expecting one every day than she would have expected a bouquet of camellias."

From Chapter 29

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Piazza Tales, by Herman Melville


"I was now in such a state of nervous resentment that I thought it but prudent to check myself at present from further demonstrations."

From Bartleby the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Tobias Smollett


"Here Sancho, who had stood listening attentively to what he said, exclaimed loudly, 'Is it possible now, that there can be persons in the world, who have the presumption to say and swear that my master is a madman?'"

From Part II, Chapter LVIII

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Warden, by Anthony Trollope


"The guests were as sorry as the viands -- hardly anything was said over the breakfast-table.  The archdeacon munched his toast in ominous silence, turning over bitter thoughts in his deep mind."

From Chapter 19, The Warden Resigns

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Book Lovers Verse, by Howard S. Ruddy


Through and through th' inspir'd leaves,
Ye maggots, make your windings;
But O respect his lordship's taste,
And spare his golden bindings.

-- Robert Burns

Monday, July 13, 2015

From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Tonja B. Carter

Daily Dose

From Short Studies on Great Subjects. Second Series, Volume II, by James Anthony Froude


"The evils caused by a smattering of information, sounder knowledge may eventually cure."

From On Progress

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Daily Dose

From The Photograph, by Penelope Lively


"This is one of the aspects of coupledom that is always a trifle irksome -- the fact that any harmless little activity that one does not wish to have to explain must be circumspect.  Where basics are concerned, you cannot fart or pick your nose."

From Voices

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Coming Soon (?) from George R. R. Martin

Daily Dose

From The Complete Poetical Works of Hartley Coleridge


WHEN we were idlers with the loitering rills,
The need of human love we little noted:
   Our love was nature; and the peace that floated
On the white mist, and dwelt upon the hills,
To sweet accord subdued our wayward wills:
   One soul was ours, one mind, one heart devoted,
   That, wisely doting, ask'd not why it doted,
And ours the unknown joy, which knowing kills.
But now I find how dear thou wert to me;
   That man is more than half of nature's treasure,
Of that fair beauty which no eye can see,
   Of that sweet music which no ear can measure;
   And now the streams may sing for others' pleasure,
The hills sleep on in their eternity.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Internet Doodle

Daily Dose

From The Collected Poems of Thomas Hardy


Once more the cauldron of the sun
Smears the bookcase with winy red,
And here my page is, and there my bed,
And the apple-tree shadows travel along.
Soon their intangible track will be run,
And dusk grow strong
And they have fled.

Yes: now the boiling ball is gone,
And I have wasted another day....
But wasted--wasted, do I say?
Is it a waste to have imagined one
Beyond the hills there, who, anon,
My great deeds done,
Will be mine always?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Breakfast at the Bookstore with Brad and Nick #38

Daily Dose

From Modernist Anarchist: Selected Poems, by Osip Mandelstam, translated by Clarence Brown and W. S. Merwin


Much we have to fear,
big-mouth beside me!

Our tabacco turns to dust,
nut-cracker, friend, idiot!

And I could have whistled through life like a starling,
eating nut-pies...

but clearly there's no chance of that.

From Armenia and Moscow, 1930 - 1934

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Just Come to Visit

It's yet another phrase from my youth, that.  It's the explanation offered when one's unexpected arrival might otherwise cause alarm:

"Now, who on earth would that be?!"

"Just come to visit."

The first's something both of my grandmothers might have said, did say, on seeing an unfamiliar car, any unfamiliar car, turn into her driveway.  Better than half the time, summer or winter, the car was just looking to turn around.  Still, the driver might wave and grandma wave back, just to be friendly.  If the car pulled on up and the door or doors opened, that's when they'd wonder aloud who on earth it might be.  Might be anybody; not strangers, most likely, or the President of the United States, you understand, but anybody living within the whole history of their acquaintance; remote relations or friends from far off, folks they had not seen in a long while, or maybe someone they saw all the time, come to show off a new car.  Of course, it might not be an entirely welcome arrival either: some new pastor they'd have to feed, or missionaries they'd at least have to ask up onto the porch, or strangers, as unlikely as that was, tinkers, if the car looked bad, offering to gravel the drive or paint.  There was almost as much apprehension as anticipation whenever grandma said, "Now who on earth...?"

Knowing this, feeling exactly the same way themselves when at the other end of a visit, whoever it was come to visit nearly always said so as soon as they were upright and waving hello.  "Just come to visit" meant the impulse was friendly, that they'd not come to stay, didn't intend to let themselves be fed or keep anybody up to an unreasonable hour.  (How far they'd actually travelled, even more than the hour of day, determined how likely anybody was to get away without a meal.  Even saying "just ate 'fore we got here" might avail one not at all if it could be established that more than an hour had been spent in the car.  At minimum, if the visitors sat down, there'd be coffee and a candy-dish.  Everybody knew this rule, thus a good deal of leaning against porch-rails and lingering on steps and insisting one "can't stay" when told to sit every few minutes.  If you sat on the glider, you were going to get a drink.  Sit there long enough, there'd be a plate in your lap, "since you won't come to the table.")

We don't go out much anymore, or have people in, at our house.  We were never "gad-abouts," the two of us.  We're pretty private people, despite how much I talk.  In thirty some years, I can count the parties we've hosted on just my fingers.  As much a function of geography as disposition.  We're homebodies, surely, happiest with our shoes off and our feet up on our own furniture, but also because we've moved around a bit in those three decades and each time, though not by design, further from family and old friends. We don't pay calls because people don't any more. We see people in the day, at work, and then we always come home to each other, every day, like you do when you're content.  Don't mean to be unfriendly by it, it's just who we've been or become. 

Recently, the beloved husband, A. has had some bad health, the way you do in your mid-sixties, particularly if you learned to cook at your mother's dimpled knee and like all the wrong foods, like we do.  There have been some scary moments and some worried nights and doctors and more doctors.  We've had to make some changes and to learn to live with some others.  We're doing fine.  He's doing fine, or better at least, but things do change and not always for the better.  Every day though is still good as every day we're still together.

This past month or more people have been to visit.  They've heard the news of this or that worried moment and expressed concern. Some, singly or in pairs, have come up to visit, maybe stay a week and see for themselves that we're okay, honestly.  Their concern has been touching and their company welcome, however it might interrupt our more usual routine.  It's good to interrupt something as complacent as routine.  It's good for us and good for them, I should think, to see that we're happy and happy to see them.  It's good to feed someone other than just ourselves, come to that.  (And it's a good excuse to go off the new diet.)

They've all insisted that they don't expect to be entertained, that they've just come to keep us company.  That's been largely what they've got and, it seems, what we've needed.  We're grateful, not to put too fine a point to it, to see them.

They don't say it, the way they might back home, but really they've all "just come to visit"and stayed a bit.

I can't think of anything nicer than that.

When they go, we miss them and we're glad and grateful they came.  As Montaigne says in another context, but it's as true here, “It’s the enjoyment, not the possession that makes us happy.”  Good to be reminded.  Good to be loved, whether we deserve it or not.

Daily Dose

From Emma Lazarus: Selections from Her Poetry and Prose, edited by Morris U. Schappes


"Certain moral ideas are the birth of a very complex order of civilization and can only be developed in the slow progress of time.  Such for instance the idea of the sinfulness of slavery, which it would be as absurd to expect from the ancient Jew or Greek whose system of society was based upon the institution, as to look for a description of the telephone in Homer or the Bible."

From An Epistle to the Hebrews, II