Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Yes, I remember. Charley Merserve and I had come to his house for a weekend off from Fryeburg Academy. Here is a poem published years ago in Galley Sail Review — with a few current changes.

Jackson, New Hampshire: Sun., Dec. 7, 1941

Visiting at Charley's house (hymns from
the radio on the nightstand between
twin beds) as we discussed the diminished
possibility of still being give breakfast
when down the air waves, but not from
Marathon, the runner came and in that
white-painted, sun-drenched room above
a yard brilliant with the fresh snow 
we'd taken a weekend from school
to explore we both were suddenly 
Athenian (or was it Spartans) and
quicker than thought, as our fathers
had taught us, we said we'd come.

We didn't wait for Pheidippides, the
runner to come, to tell us we'd won.
And here, after 70 years, we wait again
for the runner's spirit to appear and
tell us, if we've not won, we're done.

Monday, December 5, 2011


What We Hear

As he reads I want to know more  
about him so I imagine a home,
a history, while waiting for the final
words of a long poem that reminds me
of long ago Christmas oranges
in the toe of a stocking. He reaches in,
into the past without looking.
It's as if it were my own story
and he may not recognize himself.

That's my mother bathing me 
as I stand in the wash tub in front of 
the green enamel, chrome trimmed stove. 
I grimace, then giggle, as rinse water 
pours over my head, down  my body. 
She brushes wet hair from my face.

The Homestead

At the auction we withheld a dusty 
framed photograph of The Homestead as it was 
in nineteen thirty. In the picture's lower 
foreground flakes of foam float on waves of grass,
blurry images of Queen Anne's Lace in bloom.

The buildings, burned, in eighteen sixty and
rebuilt, had been repaired, expanded, revised, 
modernized. Dormer windows budded from roofs.
Ell and shed became dining room and kitchen.
In the barn the hayloft became a dance hall.

The picture was taken from this un-mown meadow where, 
age four, I would have played and where, ten years
after the auction, I kneel, age sixty-three, to
photograph where The Homestead had been. Queen Anne's
Lace flowers lie like giant snowflakes in the grass.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Plus ça change

Those savages may not
have a written language
but they'll understand,
Miles standish said, as
he mounted Wituwamat's
hear on a pike by the gate.
Terror unto others,
Governor Bradford wrote.

We'd call it making a statement, 
diplomacy by drones.

I had intended to post this with new verse news but Jim remembered, and I didn't, that he had used a slightly different version five years ago. So much for memorable poems.

Friday, November 11, 2011

VETERANS DAY 11/11/2011

Veteran's Day

In the outskirts of small cities and towns
in the boot-leather tough American heart-land
from Iowa to Idaho where the suburbs quickly
fade into prairie, barrens or bad-lands you
may see our national bird, the bald eagle, perched
on the rim of rusty dumpsters in the hunt
for commercial carrion. They show the same
"make-do, can-do" spirit that made America
a great nation, showing the same adaptability
and persistence of pioneer spirit as our
homeless veterans bivouacked under bridge
abutments and vacant lots across the country.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

I keep forgetting I have a blog

The title says it all.  Having a few minutes, here is my latest political poem, recently posted on newversenews.

The Prime Minister Muses...

Reviewing my visit to America
an advisor tells me of those who are
Native Americans, but we call
red indians. Their leaders say they all
understand our plight, the similarities
between ours and their troubled history.
The land on which they lived became the prize
of French and British wars. To their surprise
they found they lost their own land whoever won.
How could a king across the sea give someone
else your country? It's as if they didn't know
people already lived there: some still treat us so.

It's clear I should have studied their history
when I addressed the UN assembly.
I should have said I'm Mahmoud, chief of the
Palestinian tribe. To Israelis,
their allies, I say: we will be a nation.
 We are too many for any reservation.
That, until the once Dead Sea rises again
we will be ourselves, Palestinians,
and as long as the Jordan River flows
we will be there as either friends or floes.

(At least I didn't suggest casinos in Gaza.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011


In Dana Wilde's review of Wildness Within Walking Distance he made comments  relating to my kinship with Thoreau and my tendency, as a scientist, to reinforce my poems with evidence. Shortly after reading the review I uncovered, by coincidence (honestly) the poem I'm pasting here, written some years ago.

Measured Response

In spring when the first geese arrive,
confirming the season: when migrant
flocks pass in fall, it's hard to resist 
the temptation to count them all.
Don't you ever, reading Leaves Of Grass.
wonder how many there actually are?

This morning water striders are dotting
the pond. Each jerky stride dimples
the surface, sparking a flash of
reflected light. If I count flashes
per square yard, assuming uniform
distribution, know the pond's area —

At five PM, November twenty-third,
eighteen fifty-three, Thoreau notes
thirty-six geese flying high, south west, 
in the usual harrow formation. 
He assumed an average wing span 
so they were flying eight feet apart.

I'm not alone it seems in trying
to tie numbers to the experienced
as if all had been seen. The setting
sun in Concord, a rising breeze
in Poland Spring ends calculations.
Both scenes survive menstruation.

Perhaps the urge to measure, to count, is a basic human trait. Or am I over reaching here. It's surely not just scientists and naturalists but, perhaps, not everyone.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Asked by an editor to offer an example of the New England, Maine, culture behind my poetry I offered a description of my surprise when my Aunt Lila hugged me as family and friends gathered for my mother's funeral. When the account was published an illustration was added. Obviously the artist belonged to a different culture, or a more recent one, and I was depicted as a small boy. The poem , written later, was a response to the illustration. The poem was published, in a slightly different version, in a journal with the unlikely title of The League of Laboring Poets. As a current non-event I should add that , in  Poland Spring, as far as we could sense, the only earthquake was on the six o'clock news.

  Aunt Lila
They asked for an example
of that Down East Yankee reticence
they’d heard about, some incident —
Well, I said, you could do worse
than hearing what Aunt Lila did
at mother’s funeral: Lila, the youngest,
the last survivor of grandmother
Chute’s five ,children.
I can see her waiting, thin, fragile, 
outside the church: stepping up 
to give me a sudden brief hug,
ππmumbling a few words, then
releasing me. I can’t recall
any family member, mother, sister, 
aunt or uncle ever making such 
a display before.
A shy boy, a taciturn, loving aunt?
The boy, born long before
the dawn of this hug-hug, kiss-kiss age,
was a grown man with children
of his own and that embrace is
what he remembers best from a sad day 
half a century away. 

            [much later I remembered}

I remember Aunt Lilla as a woman,
tall, thin, brittle, not as father did, as
his young sister who helped him care for
grandfather's milk cows, pigs, chickens.
She had married Everett Bean whose
summer business was speedboat rides for tourists,
his Chris-Crafts all varnish, polish, and shine.

I was given a wind-up, painted model
of his boats. His were shark slim, cedar,
mahogany, and brass. A ten minute
one dollar ride always ended with
a sharp high speed turn, a shock of spray
and shrieks of surprise. Then the boat
wallowing, the engine's deep throated chuckle.

Uncle Everett must have had more to offer
than the thrill of a fast boat ride. Women,
specially the young pretty ones, sat up front
with him. Then, one summer, he took up
with one of our guests, a single lady
from Philadelphia who rented a cabin
for the summer. That fall they left together. 

One morning Everett dropped by for coffee.
"Some storm last night", he said. "Lightning
hit a big pine behind the camp. Both Martha
and me sat right up in bed." We were in
the hotel kitchen. My mother was there.
It was about then that "the lady from
Philadelphia" became just "that woman".

If I'd payed more attention I'd have learned sooner
women as well as men enjoy sex. The paint
on my model boat peeled. Then the spring broke.

Monday, August 15, 2011


When I post a poem on my blog it doesn't "feel" published but, according to most editors it has been published and is, therefore, not acceptable for publication in their journal. If I worked in an office and posted it on the bulletin board, would that count as published? Oh well—

Of course all editors, quite properly, ask that any item reprinted from their publication be credited so I should I should admit I neglected to indicate, in my last post, that the poem, Sisters, appeared in The Puckerbrush Review (Fall, 2010) but with the name Delano, misprinted.

Today I want to add one more Aunt Anne poem. This one appeared some years ago in The Beloit Poetry Journal. The local pictured is the farm near Kimball's Corner in Naples, Maine the farm Uncle George called "Limbo". I imagine Anne there, near the end of her days, after George's death. I don't know if she had a cat or if the grass was unmown but my cousin Bill, who spent many summer days at Limbo with his Grampa and Granny, says he recognizes Anne on the step, down to the persistent cigarette ash.

Aunt Anne Puts The Cat Out
For The Last time
She stood on the door rock
of granite hand quarried
two generations back.
Only the cat’s white tail shows
as it follows its trail
through uncut grass
to the barn.
She hesitates just
as the breeze pauses,
tipping her head to hear
the sigh of yard tree tops
relaxing. One cricket
of the chorus start too soon
and, embarrassed, stops.
Sounds so soft the scuff
of carpet slippers
on stone drowns them.
Her constant cough’s so small
the pendant ash of the cigarette
pinched in her thin lips
still won’t fall.
Her hands, spotted, knobbed
and veined, no longer
need to find each other
to be at rest: no longer 
pick at faded flowers
on her cotton dress.

Monday, August 1, 2011


     My first substantial collection of poems was UNCLE GEORGE:Poems of a Maine boyhood. It was well received and I had enjoyed producing it, both the poems and the wood cuts that illustrated the poems. When my cousin told me he would give me the collection of diaries kept my George's wife, Anne, my mother's sister,  I was elated: here was a possible source for another collection. They did inspire poems but I think you can see as you read them why they did not inspire a collection. As the first poem tells you, the diary began a year and a month before my birth.

          Aunt Anne Begins Her Diary
Jan. 1, 1925: decided today to keep a diary.
So there will be a record
good or bad of this passing life.
Will I have anything to say?
It may be enough if it
makes me remember, tomorrow,
the trivia of today.
Can I call what I do “something”?
Writing may be more important
than what I write about.
A list of unpleasant things —
   Work on Saturday
   Sewing tickets at the laundry
   Cold weather
   Mr. Kardish

The order of the poems is, as well as I can remember, in the order of composition. They were sometiems years apart which accounts for the repetition.

              The Diary
The twenty years fit easily
each in one slim booklet. 
Aunt Anne gave equal weight
to each item with hardly any 
lines to read between.
George and Bobby caught a fish.
Bought dress material at Porteus.
Lizzy writes from Florida.
George died today.
No notice of Uncle George’s death
beyond these words as terse
as brittle as rose petals pressed
between the pages.
George died today.
Perhaps that was 
all there was to say.

         Aunt Anne’s Diaries
Seventeen slim volumes
as spare as winter trees.
Warm for this time of year.
Lizzy wrote from Florida.
Weather. Names only
of neighbors who called.
Bought material from Porteous.
George’s new teeth don’t fit.
Shopping lists. Threads
of a life worn thin.
We let the furnace go out today (May 15).
George and Bobby caught a fish.
The blank remainders of each page filled
with wash worn silences hung out to dry.
Tue. August 14. Lizzy died
half past twelve today.
The record ends. A life so nearly spent
no surprise remains.
Went to ride with Bill in AM.
Watched old yr out and new yr in.
Tomorrow will be no surprise
even if the sun won’t rise.

Aunt Anne had come
to live with mother
for the summer. The operation
had been delayed
too long.
I read the short flat
line-a-day entries
in Aunt Anne’s diary.
Very hot.
Delano and Olive visit.
Lizzy had a bad day.
How well these almost blank 
revealing pages
echo the snow-bleached fields
outside my window. (I’d been
many miles away.)
How well they echo
long empty afternoons,
those hot breathless
August nights
they waited through.
Lizzy died: 2PM today.
I was miles away.

Friday, July 1, 2011


"Know thyself" the ad for eight books from Princeton University Press says. Here are the titles and subtitles of the books in their ad from The New York Review.

Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness

Why  Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and The Modular Mind

The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization

Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our work, Wages, and Well-Being

Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What's Right and What to Do About It

Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds

Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality

The Brain and the Meaning of Life

The last, by Paul Thagard, had no  subtitle but the ad offers this comment on its content from Michael Shermer in Science
"[Thagard]offers a tightly reasoned, often humorous, and original contribution to the emerging practice of applying science to areas heretofore the province of philosophers, theologians, ethicists, and politicians. What is reality and how can we know it? Are mind and brain one or two? What is the source of the sense of self? What is love? What is the difference between right and wrong, and how can we know it? What is the most legitimate form of government? What is the meaning of life, and how can we find happiness in it? Thagard employs the latest tools and findings of science in his attempts to answer these and additional questions,"

Before you invest I suggest you try to answer a few of these questions for yourself, as the heading of the ad seems to suggest.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


We received an e-mail from a friend in Australia. One of her students was having a serious problem with cyber-bullying. Suddenly it seems the obvious solution to this; pushing the off button, going off line, not opening e-mail has become impossible. The weapon has become a necessity for the victim's generation..

About Being In Touch

Reading the work of others so familiar
with foreign places aware
of the latest fads films music celebrities real
or self-assumed should I
feel abashed by my inexperience which seems
to be almost ignorance
that not only have I not seen but have no desire
to see Venice (not that I want to die
sooner of course) but should I retire to my thicket
of bushes and erratic boulders
where my actual vista is as restricted as my
experience for how can I be
in touch with society humanity my national
family in touch with what
they call reality to share the feeling of all
those people out there who
surely have souls too if I had never seen
the twin towers before
they died on TV and if instead of new towers
I'd recommend a simple
circular park with a central fountain for
the new bull's eye (although I
hope I will not have to visit New York City again
before I die) then they'd
all cry he doesn't understand the cost of real-estate
but I'm not retiring for
I'm beginning to find not doing things not facing
facebook uneatable blackberries or
a telephone smarter than I am that not doing
many things is rewarding
as editing what they call reality is a happening
fewer and fewer enjoy may  
Invention Necessities mother forgive me.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Science Side

Something From The Science Side

Something from the science side of the scientificpoet this time.  In 1971 Harper and Row published Environmental Insight, a collection of articles dealing with environmental issues and problems which I had selected, edited and prefaced with a brief essay. Each of the six sections had quotation or a poem as a prolog. The poems of course were mine. The section on population was titled The Fateful Exponent, followed by this poem. Looking back after 34 years I'm not sure why I chose that poem.

(and God be directed
          to cast one vote...)

God made Heaven and Earth
and all its murderous
mountainous features
With all its crawling
and squirming creatures —
equipped them with wings
and musical screeches.
And then he made man
in His image
and man said, "I move
the nominations be closed..."

I'm sure Harper and Row made no money from the book I certainly didn't make enough to pay for ten percent of the labor, but they gave me an advance, I took a year's leave and wrote an introductory biology book that was published in 1976. I tried my best to get them to give it a title that would give a fair clue to the fact that it was not a conventional introductory text. It was a vision of a different way to teach introductory biology: there were six sections or topics, each developed a topic from molecular-cellular level to population-social concerns. I wanted the title to be something like Six Introductions To Biology. The editors, in their wisdom were adventurous and titled it An Introduction To Biology. So everyone who ordered an inspection copy didn't get what they were looking for, a conventional introductory textbook. It got good review and I received come very pleasing letters. It was soon remaindered.
Each section sported a sub-title page, some with a poem or a collage (mine of course). Despite its commercial failure (no teachers wanted to alter their entire lesson plan for a radically new arrangement of content) I still receive a hundred dollars or so in royalty after 29 years. Someone in England is using photocopy material from the book every year. If you are really curious there are still a few used copies listed through Amazon--really cheap!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I grew up on a 150 acre farmstead my father had converted to an American Plan summer resort on the shore of 9 mile long lake (Long Lake) connected by the very short Chute River to another lake (Brandy Pond) which was connected by the Songo River to Sebago Lake which was connected by yet another river to Casco Bay and the Atlantic. My wife and I were married by a gazebo near the shore of Long Lake at her grandmother's summer home. Since that event we have lived, among other places, on the shore of that lake and three others in Maine. I had intended, in this post, to say something rude about the ever increasingly intrusive digital technology which so clearly proves again that invention is the mother of necessities, but when you live, as we have, and as we do now, with a lake, the day of ice out is just too important to ignore. As Thoreau might say, the lake or pond is earth's eye and it's open again to view the heavens.
In the thirties when I was growing up by Long Lake we got our news from evening radio commentators. I remember especially H. V. Karltenborn (he came first, I think) and then Lowell Thomas (sponsored by Seth Thomas Clocks) and every spring (I am sure it was Karltenborn's measured voice) would announce to the national audience that the ice was out of Lake Sebago. Would that we were blessed with such announcements on the evening news. 
I'll add a poem (publish here) a poem anticipating ice out — and could sign off as Lowell Thomas did — with "So long until tomorrow" but it will be at least a week.

Spring Became Official At 4:39 AM,
    The Earliest Advent Since 1847

Winter's had it. The red-wing blackbirds
are replacing red-polls at the feeder.

The first pair of golden-eyes bob and shine
like newly pained buoys in the open narrows

where the secret current that flows from
upper to middle pond licks the softening ice

into submission and spring slowly opens
its wet legs beyond the outlet bridge.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

As Unaccustomed As I Am To Blogging

Not only have I never had  a blog before I have never contributed as much as a comment to anyone else's, having visited my son's and daughter-in-law's only to see what they looked like. As a raw beginner at age 85 it may take a while for me to decide what to do with this device now that it seems to function as expected. Since the name of St. Thoreau has been included in the home page (is that what they call it?) and since the title suggests I'm a poet, a poem about Thoreau and technology might do for a start.

Henry Sails The Web
When Henry finally strung the wire 
from the highway through the wood lot, 
over the bean field, raising it higher 
to reach the cabin, neighbors thought 
he’d changed, forgetting his romance 
with trains, his odes composed to the 
telegraph lyre. Could he forgo the chance 
to download rare Hindu Veda? He 
almost laughed out loud at e-mail notes 
from Waldo’s Aunt Mary Moody who 
taught him to launch his cyber boat 
and sail the web. He never failed to 
find  new cargo: more to deny than he’d 
dreamed of: so much not to need.