Monthly Archives: May 2012

The couple in front of me has just met on the train.  They are sitting on facing benches, her feet stretched out to rest on the seat beside him.  They have been talking since I boarded the train, and who knows how long before that, and they have yet to exhaust the subject of Starcraft, its story, its characters, its levels, and most of all its techniques, comparing sequences of keystrokes that have been painstakingly ordered for maximum efficiency.  He has taken out a notebook to read the more complicated series, the ones too long and complex for memory, and she follows with interest, takes notes into her phone.  His last words as he exits the train are a promise to play her online.

Sumac are marvelous trees.  There are not enough poems written about them.

Leafless Sumac

The leafless sumac stand
like forked lightning,
tipped with fire,
a forest of thunderbolts,
making the air electric.

I have been looking to buy New Jersey Tea Tree saplings for some time, but they have proven difficult to locate, so I decided to buy some seeds from a native seed distributor.  While I was on the site, I also picked up a few other things.  The package arrived today, so I have only had time to plant the New Jersey Tea Tree seeds, but here is the list of what I purchased, with links to pictures for those who need help with identification.

Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)
Pasque Flower (Anemone patens wolfgangiana)
New Jersey Tea Tree (Ceanothus americanus)
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Water Arum (Calla palustris)
Partridge Pra (Cassia fasciculata)
Fringed Gentian (Gentiana crinita)
Great St. John’s Wort (Hypericum pyramidatum)
Praries Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum canaliculatum)
Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis)
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)
Common Ironweed (Veronia fasciculata)

They have sprung up overnight, these runners.  They went to seed as bankers or dentists or consultants of this or that, but they have sprouted as Saturday morning joggers, geared in reflector-striped coats, lycra leggings,  spotless shoes, and earbuds.  There are whole fields of their ambulatory flowers.  They cover the sidewalks in reds and yellows, loping gardens of colour that drift, inevitably, into coffee shops and bakeries and specialty grocery stores, then home again, withered as soon as sprouted.

I wrote this poem after I dream that stayed with me very powerfully for several days.  I will not try to interpret it.


I have stood naked atop the city,
its towers of babel reaching toward the unpronounceable,
and I have held a glass in my hand,
with wine like a mouthful of time,
and I have looked down upon a thousand street lamps
a thousand flickering screens,
and I have waited for someone to recognize my nakedness,
to no avail.

I have never bothered to write anything in memory of a public figure before, and I may never do so again, so this should be some indication of how significant a figure Maurice Sendak is in my own personal canon and how deeply saddened I am at his recent passing.  His Outside Over There, is probably my favourite picture book ever made, and his illustrated editions of George MacDonald’s The Light Princess and The Golden Key are too beautiful even to describe.  What they possess, as all of his stories and art possess, is an understanding of the darkness that is a part of even the happiest child’s world.  He writes to children, but he never patronizes them, never makes light of their fears.  Instead, he takes these fears seriously enough that facing them becomes an act of true courage, and we begin to see that the fears of childhood always remain to be faced, that living with them is one of life’s hidden heroisms, and we find that he is writing to adults as well.

It grieves me that he will have no more stories for us.