Poem: Storm Coming

Beneath the general leaden overcast
little ragged dark clouds are scudding, as they say,
just over the treetops.
Something in the calm air,
like held breath, has swallows darting
all directions in frantic preparation.
There is purpose in that sky
and no blue in sight.

Are the swallows enjoying this?
Yesterday evening when the tornado sirens
howled over the town, my impulse
was to go outside and see. Pickup trucks
came from every valley to park
in the hilltop cemetery, on the ridges,
any high ground to watch the horizons from.

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Reading Pablo Neruda

It is a borrowed horse
I heel bareback toward the high pass,
leaping streams and battering columbine
for a view of a hidden valley.

The horse tangles his feet,
shakes direction out of his mane,
his neck a muscular question mark,
one furious eye demanding
something human in a phrase
of wet coughs and clattering stones.

I give him his way and he turns
a tidy practiced pirouette on the slope,
rocks me back down through the wet meadow
of dabbled color, gentle pine breeze,
sparse birdsong.

Ambling aside from the trail
lazily as a stream snubs a boulder,
he stumbles comfortably to his knees,
allowing my easy dismount
before he rolls in soft moss and wildflowers,
snorting a flabby sigh.

The meadow spreads out under the loving sky.
Bees stitch a quilt of bright lamb’s tongue blossoms.
Forget-me-nots take their Franciscan nourishment.
Tumbling water patiently polishes stones.
Light wind listens.

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Deer flies

The clover and the sandburs make their peace
with deer flies with a sip of sweet nectar
and some pollen to carry to the neighbor.

The swallows thrive on flies, touching each
in mid-air like the tip of a whip.

We humans offer them our blood
for their gift of wisdom.
A long walk teaches all you need to know.
The dancing swarm behind your knees
gives you a quicker pace, shows
suffering and joy are proportioned
to the attention you give them.
Breathe the free breeze.
Pick the cottonwoods by their voices,
the orioles and buntings by their flash.
Once a mile a hot stab at the cuff of your sock
is all the reminder you need.
The flies are not what you walk for.
Slap it, turn your eyes to the treetops and
whatever you do keep moving. If you stop

to face the flies, you’ll kill a few.
Stay still long enough and the flies will leave.
They plague only the quick, the moving.

The shadow sweeping across yours
tells you the vultures are interested.
Your choice. Flies or vultures?
Moving or still?

Turn around. Face the road. Something
will catch you, but let it be unawares.

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Non-CSS formatting codes

Earlier I showed how to get more control over paragraph styles, spacing, and fonts in your WordPress blog using a few copyable codes, and without having to buy WordPress’s “Custom Design” package.

Since that time, I use these codes even more, because I completely stopped renewing my Custom Design package. They went from $15 up to $30 a year.

So I’ve developed these additional paragraph codes to get almost all the effects I want. Just paste these in front of a paragraph and see the result. (Also included below are replacements for the standard <ul> and <ol> codes that don’t leave gaps before and after.)

(By the way, I recommend avoiding the “Visual” editor tab, and staying in the “Text” tab, checking the results with the “Preview Changes” button or “View post.” The visual editor corrupts HTML character codes if they occur outside tags. It’s tedious to go back in HTML then and replace every " with &quot; and so on.)

<p style="text-indent:.3in;margin:0;"> Continue reading

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Just Below Timberline

Nothing worthwhile comes but by winding paths.

Glen and I had been hiking and camping for five days in a chain of mountains above a small Colorado town. On a particular day we had soaked our shoes and pantlegs in the dew-heavy weeds of the trail in the morning, dried our feet, socks, and clothes on a sunny boulder, enjoyed a trail snack on a high windy pass at midday, whimsically scrambled up the scree to a minor summit, and descended the rocky path to fish the fresh alpine streams in the pine-scented air at timberline until we could roast our freshly caught trout in crackling butter in a saucepan over a small campfire near a grove of lodgepole pines with dark green branches looming over our heads against the deep evening sky. Continue reading

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Shakespeare: his own genius after all

By Greg Bryant

© 2012-2013, revisions © 2013-2016 Greg Bryant cc by-nc-sa under this Creative Commons License

No one else showed Shakespeare’s style and quality over his or her own signature. If other people were really better qualified or prepared to write like Shakespeare, why didn’t they?

Continue reading

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October Cider

The light breeze curls up in the gentle sun
and catnaps while we chatter in the orchard.

Last March I met this day or its twin sister.
Cooler than some days, warmer than some others,
it played the referee when cool and warm
met laughing in a friendly wrestling match.
The victor never was in doubt, but watching,
we cheered as Spring pinned Winter to the ground.

All nature then was breeding, taking breath,
drawing into herself the early sun
and all the moisture loosened from the frost.
She fed, and gave back nothing except beauty.

Now Summer drops her baskets to the ground,
takes Autumn by the hand, and in this orchard
they take the first slow steps in a soft dance
into the arms of frost, and frost will win,
and this day-sister must be referee.

We pick up Summer’s burdens, thank her kindly,
offer a toast to Autumn, and drink up.

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Under the sun

Every time I’ve written a poem —
Starting to think it’s good —
Emily D — has already said it
better than I ever could —

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Pure happiness

This is my Independence Day thought. A few months ago I commented on the essential identity of the ideas of “property” and “happiness” in America’s Declaration of Independence, as in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” With that lovely phrase Jefferson slid into America’s foundational document Locke’s notion of the God-given right to amass property.

But we all know that happiness and property ownership are not identical. “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” We know some people will experience positive affect (mirth, peace, satisfaction) in spite of their poverty (I Remember Mama), and others, swimming in wealth, take their own lives (“Richard Cory”). In other words, Jefferson took advantage of an etymological, semantic connection for PR effect, but we all know there’s more to happiness, and to America, than private property.

In some cases the concepts actually war with each other. We know that too.

Here’s an observation on these distinctions by Gretchen Rubin, who has devoted an entire blog to what she calls “The Happiness Project.” I recommend exploring others of her posts, too, because she’s a lively, clear writer who gets to the point about something we all are all about. You can subscribe to her by email, in case you think you could use an occasional surprise dose of happiness.

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haiku #19

Morning after rain
catbird in the sycamore
invisible, sings

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