I’ve read multiple articles in the last year detailing the phenomenon of “pandemic organizing/decluttering/good-will-ing” – stuck at home day after day with all of our things, many people are finally deciding to tackle that home organization project they’d been putting off. Well, I finally succumb to the trend a few weeks ago and tackled a clean out of our spare room – this room houses my “studio space” ( = folding table shoved into one corner of the room). This hasn’t been good for new art production but it has been good for personal art archeology! I’ve been uncovering some lost/forgotten/unsent mail art in the last few weeks and thought I’d bring them back into the light. I hope everyone is staying safe and sane as we pass this one year anniversary of the pandemic.
It’s snowing nonstop
on the moon over Central Park.
Pop rocks and soda fizz
on my face as we go across
white blankets to a penthouse
apartment I’ve never seen before.
Later, Jackie Kennedy and I
wind up standing in
Joan Rivers’ guest bathroom –
the one with the orange wallpaper.
Behind the faucet is a jar
full to the top with silver dollars.
Hand on my shoulder, Jackie says
Poor lady, she forgot to take them with her.
I originally published this illustrated poem almost exactly 6 years ago as part of a collaborative poetry event called The Full Moon Social – so it seemed a good one to pull from the archive for the full Snow Moon tonight. Joan Rivers had passed away a few months before and her death from complications from a minor surgical procedure had dominated the news cycle for a short time. A little of that coverage had seeped into my subconscious and surfaced as a dream that I worked into this poem.
moon slice pie
we rush to
This transfer print was a bit of an experiment – when I was cleaning out my father’s house, I found a box of old tarnished ultra-thin silver leaf for gilding or embossing. I’m guessing my Dad got this at a garage sale or the like since he does not do anything (hobby or past career-wise) that would require books of silver leaf. I saved the box and decided to see if I could transfer print onto one of the leaves. There was some trial and error (still ongoing) but it more or less worked! The scan of the piece doesn’t do the texture and light quality justice. It’s been almost a year since I’ve gone out stargazing in the desert and I miss it. This poem (a haiku in syllables if not form) was inspired by the times we’ve been racing to beat the moonrise and set up telescopes and cameras in order to see or photograph something astronomical.
the ether swirled behind her eyes
“It’s a girl,” the midwife said
lamplight flickered in the window
the new mother smiled, “My daughter will
count the stars,
call them each by name
one by one.”
My history poem today is in honor of the birth of Annie Jump Cannon on December 11, 1863. Ms. Cannon became famous as an astronomer who pioneered the Harvard Classification System for stellar bodies – a system that is still in use today. She was also a pioneer for women at Harvard and in astronomy. She manually classified an astounding 350,000 stars in her lifetime – a number that is still a record. Her career in astronomy lasted more than 40 years and later included numerous honorary doctorate degrees from top universities – often from universities that didn’t admit women in the 1880’s when she was attending college. The Annie Jump Cannon Award is still presented by the American Astronomical Society each year to an outstanding early career female astronomer.
I wish everyone a good weekend – stay safe and healthy out there!
Flashing red yellow orange
the poppies chase
me up the off-ramp
California poppies bloom here in the spring time – sprouting up in even the most marginal of habitats – freeway shoulders and empty lots. I wrote this haiku last spring, but took awhile to get around to working on a collage for it. I’m posting it now, in the “deep” winter here (I know it’s 73 degrees F here today, but we’ve had one brief rain storm and some Santa Ana winds! Weather!), as a reminder of what’s to come: a new year, a new season, of hope. The transfer on this one was done at the same time as my last Highway Haiku, but it turned out a little “better” than “Osprey” – for no discernible reason.
On a street light
at the highway 8 interchange
an osprey perches
This was one of those transfer prints that didn’t go as planned – as goes so much of life these days – but I have committed to posting the highway haiku, no matter how the transfers turn out, so here it is! I’ve decided that the sparse transfer of the words reflects the oh-so-brief glimpses I’ve gotten of this osprey perched on a highway light. It’s actually the first osprey I’ve seen in the wild here and thankfully they are distinctive and easy to identify, otherwise there’d be no hope for me to say what species of bird it was as I speed around this interchange at 60 mph!
Another unexpected thing that happened this week was that a short creative non-fiction piece I submitted to the Ekphrastic Review was accepted! My thanks to Lorette Luzajic and the editors at the Ekphrastic Review. Head on over HERE to check out my “21 Thoughts on Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans” as well as all the other creative responses to Warhol’s iconic image of a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup.
Camille Pissarro Visits Charlotte Amalie for the Last Time
The hills have more houses
and there are no more clipper ships
the roads curl like smoke from the missing jungle
But the sand in the synagogue is the same
and my memory of the people
the ebony lady with her water jug
she still smiles at me descending
the hill with her hand on her hip
The impressionist painter Camille Pissarro died this day in 1903 – he is not only famous as an artist in his own right, but he was also known as the “dean of Impressionist painters.” He mentored and inspired almost every Impressionist name you can think of – Cézanne, Gauguin, Renior, Seurat, and van Gogh. But one thing I learned about him for my history poem (I guess if I’m not writing haikus, I shouldn’t call them history haikus anymore!), was that he was born to a Jewish family in Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas, in the Danish West Indies. This is now part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. I had always associated Pissarro with France and the French countryside, so it was fascinating to read about his early life and works in the Caribbean. I visited the U.S. Virgin Islands about seven years ago and toured the synagogue in Charlotte Amalie – it is the oldest synagogue in the U.S. and the second oldest in the western hemisphere. One of the most unique features of the building is that the floor inside is overlaid with a thick layer of sand. The reason given on our tour was that the sand is in remembrance of the persecution of Jews during the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal – the sand muffled the sound of worship in secret synagogues.
The post I am working on for Friday to mark the death of Camille Pissarro in 1903 reminded me of this post I did six and half years ago. I took the photograph in the hallway of an old converted house in Cambridge, MA – I was helping a friend of mine move out of the attic apartment. The light was just like that, pouring through a circular window at top of the stairs. Mueller’s poem came almost immediately to mind; this post is still one of my favorite very early ones from my blog. To read Mueller’s whole poem, go here.
On a foggy evening, a black-bristle
boar said to the old poet,
“In some forests, a rooting pig
will find metal shards,
more skulls than soil, or –
at the last – a thin rusted tube.”
The grandfather boar huffed, “Poof!
He is a crater in the woods.”
He eyed the path over Mal Paso Mountain.
“I told you this world is a terrible place.”
Today is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. Unfortunately, the name doesn’t roll off the tongue and neither does its U.N. abbreviation – IDPEEWAC – so some calendars call it World Day to Protect the Environment in War. Before looking at the historical events for November 6th, I’d never heard of this observance, but it is a topic that has long interested me. Quite by accident, about 20 years ago, I’d stumbled across and purchased Donovan Webster’s excellent book Aftermath: The Remnants of War at a remainder sale at a local bookstore. His book deals primarily with what war leaves behind: landmines, unexploded ordinance, and mass graves. These remnants leave vast swaths of land around the globe unusable and dangerous for generations – possibly forever, until they are cleared. This does not even touch on such things as intentional water contamination, arson, or deforestation that occur during wars.
My poem was inspired by Robinson Jeffers’ poem “The Stars Go Over the Lonely Ocean.” You can read his poem here at Poetry Magazine (scroll down halfway to find the start of the poem). Jeffers was deeply concerned about environmental destruction as well as a staunch opponent of the U.S. entering WWII. In the 1940’s these were extremely unpopular stances and Jeffers lost friends, public standing, and professional opportunities due to his opinions. Jeffers died in 1962, long before IDPEEWAC was declared in 2001, but I think he might have appreciated a day devoted to the considerable overlap between war and environmental destruction.
A black maw in a blacker sea
“your life for my secrets”
It said and three boys answered
Two stayed with the secrets in the deep
One swam and swam and swam
a tattered book under his arm.
I’ve been yearning to do some more history inspired haiku, so I finally sat down with a calendar and got to it! The event for today that I chose didn’t wind up inspiring a haiku, but something a little longer.
On October 30, 1942, the German U-boat 559 was fatally damaged in a British naval attack and forced to surface. The surviving German crew abandoned ship – but left behind their naval cypher code books and naval 4-rotor Enigma encryption machine. In a decision that would prove invaluable to the Allies, they also neglected to open the sea vents to scuttle the ship. Three British sailor boarded the floundering U-boat and seized the cryptographic materials: only one, Tommy Brown, made it out alive with the German secrets. Due to lying about his age to enlist, Mr. Brown became one of the youngest men to be awarded the George Medal for bravery.
The materials Mr. Brown rescued from the sinking U-boat would help the cryptologists at Bletchley Park – including Alan Turing, the subject of my post on Wednesday – finally break the U-boat specific 4-rotor Enigma encryption and bolstered Allied defenses in the Atlantic against the devastating U-boat attacks.