National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 5: Salty Current

I have always loved the writing of the person I only know as SC, or Salty Current. Intelligent, emotional, well-crafted in prose and in poetry, her writing is always worth the reading (and always far more poetic than mine; I am far too chained to rhyme and meter, and SC is one of the few who makes me regret that). So I’ll direct you here, to a recent poem she quite incorrectly predicted I would hate. And then I’ll cheat a bit, and quote a separate poem, linked at the above, also written for National Poetry Week, and which I just absolutely love:

Three Dead Animals

The bullfighter, writer, and sportsman Ignacio Sánchez Mejías died
the morning of 13 August, 1934.

The bull Granadino died
around that time.

The poet Federico García Lorca died
in the same era.

Preserving Freedom By Locking A City Down

Max Blumenthal, via Twitter: On Wednesday, Obama said they would not intimidate us — “not here in Boston.” And today the whole city is shut down because of one guy.

They shut down the subways. They shut down the trains.
They shut down the buses. A spokesman explains,
“We’re cutting his options till not one remains”
And the city has ground to a stop.

They’re asking you kindly, to please stay inside,
It’s all for your safety—too many have died—
The people of Boston should take it in stride
(Only open your doors for a cop)

With SWAT teams, and K-9s, and bulletproof gear
You know it’s not long till they sound the all-clear
There is no place to hide—you have nothing to fear
They can’t hide; not a man, not a mouse!

They can’t take our freedom! This city is strong!
The people of Boston will show them they’re wrong!
We’re patriots here, and we’ve been all along!
…now it’s time to get back in the house.

The classroom exercise, of course, is to trace the referents for “they”.

And yes, I did say I would stop doing this. One cannot control one’s compulsions, or they would not be termed “obsessions”.

A Rare And Beautiful Thing

I know, I know.

I’m not really here–but you know what happens; as soon as you say “I’m taking a break“, something shows up you just have to respond to.

In this case, it’s NPR’s 13.7 blog, asking the big questions about “defining our place in the universe“:

A widespread critique of science is that it tells us that the more we know, the more insignificant we are. It’s the famous after-Copernicus blues: everything went downhill ever since Earth was moved from the center of the cosmos. Since then, the Sun was pushed out from the center too, our Milky Way galaxy is but one among hundreds of billions of others in an expanding Universe. Even the atoms we are made of are less that 5 percent of the total stuff out there.

It’s the old “science tells us we are the insignificant product of a series of random accidents”, but (hey, it’s NPR’s 13.7 blog) written rather better than the average.

And the nice thing is… having been writing this blog since, what, October of 2007? Yeah, I already have a response. I know my place in the dance of the universe.

Or, as the 13.7 people conclude:

In a complete reversal of the “we are cosmically insignificant” discourse, the more we learn about the Universe, the more precious we — and all of life — become.

That Time Of Year

…. You may have noticed my posting has slowed a bit. I’m making it official, so that I don’t feel the pressure to try to put something up every day; this is the time of year when my grading all starts coming in at once, and won’t stop until mid-May. So I need extra time in meatspace for a while.

Hey, at least this year I’m not waiting until the horrors of anxiety attacks overtake me; this may actually be a step in a very positive direction. Anyway, don’t worry about me. I’m just busy.

Too bad it’s during National Poetry Month. But life is what it is. You can buy the book instead, if you like. Or submit something as a guest poet. And I will probably have a few things to post, just because that happens. But don’t expect much for a while.

See you on the other side.

Lost in Boston Fog

We don’t have the answers—
Too early to tell;
There are so many rumors
And myths to dispel
But now, the confusion
Lets anyone yell
And point at the groups that they choose!

Let’s blame it on this group
Or blame it on them
Or name any others
We’d like to condemn
A flood of suspicions
There’s no time to stem…
We’re scared, and there’s no time to lose!

While some have been cautious—
Not wanting to guess—
Still others had issues
They had to address
And took full advantage
Of carnage and mess
To promote their political view

They jumped on their soapbox
While other folks bled,
Ensuring the media
Heard what they said
Some few may be helpful,
But some are misled
I don’t have the answers… do you?

It’s just maddening. I won’t point to examples; some will likely be deleted (may be saved in odd places here or there), or not, I have no idea. The New York Post, alone, claims a dozen dead, where everyone else says two. A suspect is, or is not, in custody. It is a Saudi man, or it is a tax protest, or it is related to Newtown, or… or this or that or too many possibilities. (BTW, the second verse originally named names–but I thought that might be more heat than light, so I got rid of it.)

This is the first year I can recall where I do *not* know that I have students running the marathon. Yes, I do know people who are running–Cuttleson’s best friend is safe and sound, but was not allowed to finish (it was a good day to be slow).

I’m watching Boston’s news coverage–they really are doing a remarkable job of not jumping to conclusions (the internets, however, cannot be said to be exercising the same restraint).

One, or maybe two or a handful, of people did this. Dozens, or scores, or more, ran to help when they witnessed the explosions. Hundreds, or more, donated blood in the days before (and, I have heard, on this day–the word is that marathon runners crossed the finish line and kept running to Mass General Hospital to donate blood–I don’t know if that is true, but damn I hope it is), such that the Red Cross is, surprisingly, not asking for increased donations. Thousands, or tens or hundreds of thousands, have watched and asked “what can I do?”, ready, willing, and able to donate blood, money, and time.

Bottom line is… This was a horrible day for some… and a day that allowed the vast majority to demonstrate just how uncharacteristic this horrible action was.

We are better than this. Yes, we (humans) are also this, but on the whole even this terrible day is better evidence of goodness than of badness.

Yes, the Red Cross says to wait… but don’t wait too long. Give blood, and give regularly. Tell them Cuttlefish sent you. (they may make you sit for a bit longer, waiting for the blood to go back to your brain. Take advantage of this time to eat another sandwich and some cookies.)

See also Ashley Miller’s post.

National Poetry Month–Guest Poet 4: Rikitiki

In my continued observance of National Poetry Month, a contribution from reader Rikitiki. There is something just plain wonderful about a good sonnet:

Legend says we are but that mid-span
‘tween airy angels and demons below:
Our nature wrestling itself ever so –
A battle that’s between the base and grand.
I’ve seen no devil from some fiery realm,
Felt no help, no seraphed beneficence:
Perhaps ‘tis so and I but lack the sense
To realize such fiddling at the helm.
Within, I feel my own duality:
Scoundrel or saint, that label is my own –
Perceived, I judge and measure all alone;
Fashion belief to make reality.
What clarion call becomes my true life’s voice
Is, in the end, determined by my choice.

The Dinosaur Told Me…

The dinosaur told me “be careful”
The dinosaur told me “beware”
The dinosaur told me “it’s happened before,
And the universe just doesn’t care”

The dinosaur told me “Extinction
Is the safest, conservative bet”
The dinosaur told me “don’t think you’re immune
Just because it has not happened yet.”

The dinosaur gave me a warning
She told me to share it with you
It won’t be an asteroid this time around—
We’ll be killed by the things that we do

The dinosaur pointed to history
And biology books on the shelves
The dinosaur told me what’s different this time
Is, we’re doing it all by ourselves

The dinosaur told me “be careful”
The dinosaur told me “it’s true”
The dinosaur said, “it’s a fight to the death,
And the enemy this time… is you.”

(click to embiggen, a bit.)

Today was a good day for dinosaurs. (Note–I am a big fan of Dana Hunter’s “Unidentified Flying Dinosaur” series.) Today, while watching an American Kestrel, I was completely blown away when the tiny kestrel, skittish in the presence of my camera, nearly flew right into the talons of a huge Osprey (I was reminded of fighter planes escorting bombers–the relative size of these two is astonishing). I saw five different species of ducks–mergansers, mallards, buffleheads, ring-necked ducks, and the first gorgeous wood ducks of the season (got good pics of all, too! Yes, I am obsessive, why do you ask?). And a beautiful prairie warbler, quite the tease, very keenly aware of where my camera was pointed, and pointedly staying one step ahead (well, mostly… I got a couple of nice shots of him as well).

And all of them are dinosaurs. Isn’t that just astonishing?

The dino in the pic above is one of my all time favorites, a black-crowned night heron. The first one I ever saw, I saw in Greece, at Lake Kerkini. This one, I saw… well, lemme ‘splain.

I was getting my oil changed (well, the oil in my car), at an auto-service chain that will go unnamed for now, attached to a big-box store that will also go unnamed for now, that had apparently built on cheap land that had once been swamp. Or wetlands, if you want to be a tree-hugger. While my car was up on hydraulic lifts, I walked the perimeter of the parking lot; this shot was taken from the parking lot of a big-box store.

Isn’t it wonderful, what a zoom lens and cropping can do?

What you don’t see (mostly) is the horrendous treatment of the heron’s home. Discarded automobile tires–at least 8 that I saw. Bottles and cans too numerous to count–mostly soda, but quite a bit more, including antifreeze and oil bottles. Insulated coffee mugs. Wheels from shopping carts. Hundreds of newspaper flyers–no idea what was in the ink they used. An entire single-serving coffee machine, in pieces. Plastic bags by the score. Insulated foam containers. Not to mention, the runoff from the parking lot itself ran directly into the wetlands area, not into a storm sewer–all the crap that leaks from cars on a regular basis was flowing right into that pond. I’m certain I’m leaving out as much as I’m including.

The red deally next to the heron? Near as I can tell, a plastic bread rack.

I’ll be writing to the owner of the big box store, and asking for responsible action. Failing that, I have plenty of pictures, and the addresses of the local papers.

We’ve used dinosaurs before, to warn us. The canary in a coal mine is a dinosaur warning system; we’ve seen the stomachs of starving albatrosses distended with plastics. Dinosaurs know extinction. Will we listen?

A Thousand Words: Pensive

Reading Taslima’s recent posts, here and here, I was taken aback, just a bit. I mean, I really don’t think we need to look to our closest relatives to see common ancestry. I took this picture a few years ago, and I can’t look at it without thinking he or she is my cousin. (Mind you, some of my actual cousins are creationists, so I feel more kinship with this one than them…)


Might be deep in thought… might not. Same can be said of me.