Monday, April 08, 2013



—Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

We never knew his lost though famous head
where the eye-fruits kept ripening. Strange,
how his torso keeps glowing like candelabra dialed
to dim from deep inside, while his gaze

holds firm and gleams. Otherwise the bend
of the breast couldn’t blind you, nor could a smile
thread its way through a twist of loins, nor wind
into that dark segment where the seed attends.

Otherwise this stone would remain distorted,
defaced at the shoulders’ transparent shearing  off,
and wouldn’t glimmer just like a wild beast’s skin,

and wouldn’t be breaking out now from its borders
so like a star: for there is no place upon
it that can’t see you. You must transform your life.

(Translated by Tom Goff)


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

(for Dana Gioia on the occasion of his visit to
Folsom Lake College, April 11, 2013)

You must change your life.
—Rainer Maria Rilke

Have you ever known one thing that’s made you change
your life, the way the poet Rilke says
we should? He means that someone who’s arranged
a lifestyle for convenience—one who plays
at eating well, or making love, or thriving
monetarily—all of a sudden sees
a broken statue in a museum surviving
over the thousands of years, is abruptly seized,
scruff-shaken roughly. Knees wobble. Time slows.
She’s stunned by the power of art to bring us low,
to make our routine seem petty, hazed by confusion,
to strip us of pride in going, getting, spending.
And then to replenish, by something like transfusion,
our hearts’ first blood. Our souls start faintly, gently mending.

Nota Bene

No poet I know of can more strongly employ a
voice in the summons to art than Dana Gioia.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

The whole universe is spinning, orbiting,
revolving, rotating at different speeds in
different directions and that is all just a
background for the where and the what
of everything that is to be encountered

backgrounds are spun as spiders spin webs:
they become pathways and the chief
means of orientation.  Disruption of the
background may force starting all over
and rebuilding it from the beginning

like gyroscopes on different types of
aircraft, each individual has a spin factor
that gives them a background custom suited
to their particular tastes and needs, so they
can assuredly forge ahead and deal with
change that clings to a constant background

a student with ADHD, for example, may
feel he needs to have the TV on in order
to focus on his homework, while a person
with a high level of autism may engage in
some form of rote repetitious behavior to

create a background for his own purposes;
here, even if they shout, that utterance is
not necessarily intended as part of a
message, it may be just a comfortably
predictable part of the constant background

many people enjoy playing solitaire, no
risk, no gain, just for fun.  This again is a
background activity.  Do solitaire players
and professional athletes share some of the
same thoughts while they play the same
game over and over and over again?

—Photo by Richard Hansen, Sacramento

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
(In memory of the poet 
Thomas Merton)

First sign of birdsong
of the morning
early sun waves to us
along meandering waves
under the bay water bridge
six swans emerge
unscathed from winter
on the first spring dawn
a poet on a pilgrimage
like young Francis to feed
and name the birds
in every peace garden
uniting all worshipers
the source of Zen
or Cabala
where life grows
even from my soul
like new buds of wild roses
over the dune side
of the emerging green,
pardon us now
for not taking care
of the earth,
we ask for numinous love
knowing the vine and trees
will sprout from above.

—B.Z. Niditch

Visions in the liquid
of a new day vision
as a poet moves
his wheels
arriving in a labyrinth
of a recollected time
with scribbled sheets
of sleepwalking papers
in his back pocket
of a borrowed motorcycle
by first light
abandoned by wind
near the bay side
of a crystal blue ocean
as buzzing seagulls
rise by crags
of the beach gazebo
trying to stay awake
after a jazz gig
taking out the kayak
from a winter storm
in the snow of time past
eluding waves
listening to low tide
with a keen ear
of discursive voices
below the airy sky

—B.Z. Niditch

Lost with a fever
of home harbor waves
searching for my kayak
alone as breakers
lying on my hurt elbows
curved in a swagger wreck
of my solitary existence
full of its ocean self
East wind in monotonous cry
like an April first ghost
revolting against
past winter storms
but wildly determined
as any Greek sailor poet
to find my orange painted
machine even in the mouth
of a whale,
listening to calling gulls
who accompany me
like Jonah or Odysseus
to find my cubicle of treasure
even under sand and rocks
and here under white stones
anchored and ready to sail
after a mad work out
and a quicksilver jog
in knots of six A.M.
from a stealthy welcome.


—B.Z. Niditch

A newborn rises
with three neon butterflies
near bogs and grass
along a row of sumac
she sings out
with a serenity
and tenderness
in her white outfit
as grandmother puts her
in a downy stroller
rocks back to back,
they call her "Spring"
with deflated green eyes
watching a budding earth
by the line
of skaters at frog pond,
what time spent
in luminous harmony
each astonishing moment
from the penlight sunshine
in her sleeveless dress
to play with her emerging
younger sister
appropriately named "Summer."


—B.Z. Niditch

April steps out
of its breathless
shadowy earth
on common ground
near the blue hills
and am realizing
there is no bread
in the freezer
my winter treasure
has been squandered
lost in rain and fog,
still the wish
for first light
on your threshold
of your welcome mat,
or to hear Coltrane
in a coffee club,
showers fill my hands
on the cold porch,
trembling like the trees
in a past landscape
of Corot,
finding notes
in a foreign tongue
on the piano,
and all familiar stuff
of nature,
the dead birds wings
on watery grass,
school children on ice
on the indigo pond
in the palest dawn,
windows with writing
in red ink
by my sunglasses
and diary
with a voice of memory
for what we are really
searching for.


Our thanks to today's contributors: Tom Goff, who will be hosting Dana Gioia at Folsom Lake College this coming Thursday; B.Z. Niditch, whose mention of Thomas Merton inspired me to post a Merton poem yesterday; Caschwa (Caschwa's mention of autism reminds us of the MIND Institute benefit tonight); Richard Hansen for his poem and photos; and Robert Lee Haycock for his wonderful photos of bridges posted today on Medusa's Facebook page. For more of Robert's photos, see

This is the Mother of All Poetry Weeks in our area, and you don't want to miss a thing! So scroll down to the blue board (under the green board) at the right of this column for details a-plenty!

The Entrekins, who publish (among other things) Canary, send us a notice of grants available for writers: check it out at


Today's LittleNip:

—Richard Hansen, Sacramento

I am a Heart
Heavy or Light
Laughing or Crying
Sorrow or Joy



—Photo by Richard Hansen