Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hike up Millbrook Mountain

 Southern Catskills
 My own cairn / rock balancing job
 panoramic of the Western view
   Talus Field
 At the summit
 
 
  • Distance 6.36 mi
  • Min. Altitude 829 ft
  • Max. Altitude 1529 ft
More details about the hike, including a map / satellite overlay here 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New ink!


So. I have been thinking about getting a new tattoo for a long while now, and finally decided to go ahead with it. Tattoos are an old, old artform, and nowadays they can be frivolous or meaningful--they can simply be aesthetically pleasing, or they can represent something deeper, marking transitions, commemorating life events, acting as talismans . . .

This tattoo, like my last one (ποίημα, "poiema," the Greek root word from which we derive the English word "poem," on my neck/between my shoulders) is a manifestation of my love for the English language and literature. It is also a way to honor my father, who passed away on 3.10.2013. His initials, "rs" are highlighted with a slight drop-shadow in red. It is convenient that they appear next to one another in the alphabet. My father was an engineer--he worked for LILCO (now LIPA, or Nat'l Grid, or whatever it is now) for many years. He was more of a "math guy"--not a man who cared deeply for literature. But he did care for me. And he read to me a great deal when I was young, and instilled in me a love for reading and writing.

My fianceé suggested the highlighting, and I thought it was a lovely idea. The subtlety is rather nice, I think.

The handwriting is my own, and it was deftly inked by Chris at Ritual Ink, in Highland, NY. It's a nice, clean shop, and the artist is talented, proficient, and professional.

Of course, now I'm thinking about what the next one is going to be . . .

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Where I (sometimes) work

This is a shot of my home office desk . . . inspiration to post it comes from a recent MetaFilter thread.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fabric-- poem and author commentary



Fabric

Aglet. Frittle. Greeble. Lacuna.
Sheath. Depression. Projection. Void.
Words mean—naming is power.
En arche en ho logos: In the beginning was the Word.
We utter into order, declaring
what is and what is not.
But the universe is unspooling,
glittering stars spattered on
a fading tapestry, fraying.
Warp and weft widen,
the truth slips through,
fibers in outstretched fingers.

The threads trip us up.
Tangling tongues hang
on words like
femoroacetabular impingement
or neuropathy, etiology,
idiopathic (a way of saying
“we don’t know why”).
Cat’s cradles clot together,
knotted skeins, tripwires.
One spiderwebbed sentence
like cracks beneath our feet;
we are unstrung.

When I was little, I laid on the floor—
the sun streamed through the pane,
bent beams bleached boxes
on the dark carpet.
Backlit bits of dust
tumbled lazily above me.
I asked my mother what
they were; she said
sunbeams, but I heard
“sun-beans”—drifting motes
of a star made manifest.
Words mean.

Now, I carefully pick through
bolts and rolls of the
cloth of language,
hoping it will be a safety-
net and not a noose.
Burlap or taffeta?
Misunderstanding can be
serendipity.
When words fail me and
the world is torn,
I mend the rends
with sun-beans.

The sun will go dark, immense like
a monstrous balloon before it
collapses.
You can’t unfray the framework
but you might patch it.
You can’t undo what is
but you can speak of it.
These words are my strands.
Help me to tighten these seams.


_______________________________________________________________


Author Commentary on “Fabric”

This poem was written in a few sittings in the Fall of 2010, with minor revisions over the following months. While I appreciate and value revision, many of my poems are only lightly revised. Sometimes, when the muse is particularly kind, she speaks quickly and clearly, and a poem springs forth, fully-formed from one’s head, as Athena from Zeus.
            I do welcome feedback from fellow poets. One particularly astute critic noted I did not capitalize “word” in the first stanza—seeing as I invoke the Gospel of John in the very same line, it seemed right to make that change.
            Another reader said “the whole poem is the third stanza—cut the rest.” Indeed, that is the “heart” of the poem, in terms of theme and architecture . . . but it only tells so much, and I wanted the poem to function on various levels. As an example, Dante, in his “Letter to Can Grande,” explains the filters through which the La Divina Commedia might be read: i.e. literal, metaphorical/ moral /anagogical.
 Poetry often compresses, but that compression is augmented by context. Here, a single moment in time is framed or book-ended by the birth and eventual death of the universe.
            In terms of prosody, the poem is clearly not a fixed form; but as T.S. Eliot notes in his 1917 essay “Reflections on Vers Libre,,” “No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job.” I take great care in the topography, sound-sense and metrics of my poems—I believe this is clear to the reader who scans or reads them aloud. Endstopping and enjambment make or change meanings, emphasize or deemphasize . . .
            The overall conceit in the poem is one of textiles; man-made objects serving as metaphors for larger ideas, and I tried to couple that with a theme of the importance of language and communication (which is, in my own philosophy, one of the markers of what it means to be human, defining humanity. Language is the vehicle for our pleasure and our pain, and it is the way in which we make sense of existence (we may hold emotional and spiritual convictions, but they cannot exist in a vacuum—they must be communicated in order to mean, and in fact we have these beliefs because they were somehow communicated to us—it is virtually a tautological relationship). This poem is a communication, and is about communication (and is obviously concerned with miscommunication). In Forster’s words, “Only connect” (Howard’s End, 1910).
So much more succinct, no?
           

Some other notes about language:
A “frittle” (line 1) is a temporary impression / depression left in the skin—think of the morning crease in one’s face from a bunched-up pillowcase. May be related to the Latin “Frittilus,” a dice-cup with an inlaid pattern.
A “greeble” (also line 1) is detailing added to a flat surface to break it up visually—picture Lego® blocks, or cinema spaceships, bristling with ray-guns and antennae.
 

Flo

Florence Welch-- Florence + The Machine. Saratoga Springs, NY 9.16.2012

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Town and Country Tales


My Dear P_________:

I write to you in the hopes that your expertise and wisdom in the affairs of men might shed some light on the recent happenings we are privy to. Much strangeness has occurred since our last correspondence; I wrote to you of the recent incident with the young couple wrestling upon the ground, and the regrettable incident with the local police and that rapscallion receiving the taser, but that was a fortnight ago—just in these past hours there has been much that has left us flummoxed. 

It began yesternight, when my love and I lay down to sleep; as you know, we oft go to bed in the early hours, as is our custom. It was perhaps 4 o’Clock. All was quiet save for the wind outside and the building settling, when suddenly our upstairs neighbor J____arrived home. As you know, he now lives with another, older, gentleman (F____) whom he refers to as his “father-in-law.” As you know, Mal and I have our doubts as to the nature of their relationship. We have sussed out that the older one sleeps in a bed above us; the layout of their apartment is similar to our own. The younger man sleeps (we believe) upon a futon in the other room. At any rate, after some creaking around (his floors are, as you might recall, hard wood, and he has not purchased any textiles to soften the impact of his feet upon the floor) he quieted down. After a while, we became aware of some odd sounds emanating from above us. Our ears pricked up, and we sat up, listening. It sounded—well, you must forgive my directness—but it sounded as if someone were engaging in an act upon the bed above us. 

Our immediate assumption was that the younger gentleman might have picked up a strumpet at one of the local establishments, but consider the situation as we have described it—two men, not business partners, living in the very same apartment! The noises originating from upstairs were increasing in volume, and there was a horrible rhythmic creaking. Often, something loud would fall upon the floor with a loud bang. We did not know what to make of it, yet we had our assumptions. The force with which the act was being performed was heroic—I thought perhaps the ceiling would crash down. Yet, at the time, there was no such noise as would be expected from the act—that is, not a peep nor a whisper. Our walls are like rice-paper, as you well know. Does it not seem odd to you that we heard naught save the banging? It was certainly odd. I do not need to tell you that we were a bit bemused by the possibilities. Eventually, the noises died down, and there was much walking about—we slept for a while, but later, still they were walking to and fro.

This morning, we heard a clatter upstairs, and ran to the window, carefully prising the blinds open just so, and looked out at the lot. The front door opened, and we saw not our neighbor but a young man and a young woman—who we believe we have never seen before—walking out of the building. We had, I believe, been hoodwinked! We thought one thing, and yet the truth was altogether different! A red-herring! The young couple were employing the apartment as a secret love-nest. We still do not know the nature of the arrangement, where our neighbors are or what other goings-on will transpire. Perhaps you have thoughts on this matter? 

There is more. Later this morning, After all of this had transpired, I was standing at the terrace, drinking my coffee and observing the flooded river beyond the woods. I heard such sounds! It was as if the passionate sounds missing from the night before had been sent downstairs to our below-neighbors. The sawcy young woman below sounded a bit caught up in whatever behaviors were stirring beneath us. She sounded—and again, forgive me for my candor—she sounded as if she was emulating a professional. The sounds emanating from the studio downstairs were positively pornographic. I could not believe my ears. And at two o’Clock! Have these people no shame? I believe it was the two from the wrestling-match previously.

There is even more, but my inkwell needs be replenished—I will save the tale of our next-door neighbor for my next letter. Even as I pen this, I can hear the clattering of falling crockery and her screaming curses; they resound from the outside walls! It is too much. 

May I Always Live to Serve You and Your Crown, 

James

Spring 2010 flood

 
 
 
 

The pic with the hay bales is from 2007-- that's what the field usually looks like.
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Sometimes the River doesn't play nice . . .

 
 
 
 
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