The Bluest Sky

(with apologies to Toni Morrison)

 

Bluest sky

TulipdaffodilsMagnoliastreet

Oregon view

 

Winter here is like the long dark of Moria, and we don’t have Gandalf to lead us through it. Seeing sun and blue sky after all the rains lately is cause for celebration. Have courage, wherever you are. The sun is still there, I’ve seen it!

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Robert Frost

Amazing Spring

Why are we always so amazed when bulbs start to grow, and trees start to bud in the spring? Do we always doubt that spring is really coming? Do we think spring has something better to do than arrive?

rose leaves

And yet every year I find myself marveling like a child when I notice the trees start to bud, and green shoots come up through the dead leaves that didn’t get raked up in the fall. I think of the dead leaves as a nice warm blankie for my tulips and daffodils. Yeah yeah, I’ll get around to raking them up. Everything sort of got put on hold last year when I had the accident and couldn’t do much. They’ll just have to go in the yard debris bin now.

tulip shoots

The maple tree starts out reddish

maple leaf buds

March is coming in like a lamb here, with a striking number of sunny, mid-50s days. This early in the year it’s unusual, but not unwelcome. We’ve had perfect March days, sunny with clear blue skies, a little cool still but not chilly. Just as they should be.

I know a dry spring leads to a bad fire season, but honestly, we had so much rain last year I wouldn’t complain if this year was a little drier than normal.

After the Winter

By Claude McKay

Some day, when trees have shed their leaves
     And against the morning’s white
The shivering birds beneath the eaves
     Have sheltered for the night,
We’ll turn our faces southward, love,
     Toward the summer isle
Where bamboos spire the shafted grove
     And wide-mouthed orchids smile.
And we will seek the quiet hill
     Where towers the cotton tree,
And leaps the laughing crystal rill,
     And works the droning bee.
And we will build a cottage there
     Beside an open glade,
With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,
     And ferns that never fade.

The Vampires Want in on This

This may be a little seasonally-challenged, but it put itself together so nicely I couldn’t refuse.

The Triumph of the Moon

October Sky

The Dead Travel Fast

This Side of Paradise

Thanks for the creepy goodness to Ronald Hutton, Homer Hickam, Jr., Eric Nuzum, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I bet they never saw this coming.

A Wizard’s Voyage

This is fun, let’s carry on with the book spine poetry.

 

A Wizard of Earthsea

Steering the Craft

Islands of Storm:

Sanctity

Brought to you today via Ursula K. Le Guin (first two), James Charles Roy, and Orania Papazoglou.

Book Spine Poems

 

Chris Galvin has been posting a number of these quite inspired mashups on her site, and it finally inspired me to give it a shot. Oddly, I seem to be missing bunches of books. I know I used to have more, but what became of them I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll find them eventually. In the meantime, here’s a first attempt with what I could find:

The White Goddess,

The Daughter of Time

Child of Fire,

Flying to Nowhere

Thanks to Robert Graves, Josephine Tey, Harry Connolly, and John Fuller for lending their books’ titles.

Angels and Poetry

April being National (or is it International?) Poetry Month, I thought I’d contribute something. Don’t panic, I’m no poet and I know it (oops), so I’m going to share a poem by someone who actually is a good poet: William Blake. In keeping with my current interest obsession with angels, I thought this one was fitting.

Angel of Poetry

Angel of Poetry from the William Blake Tarot

From “Songs of Experience”

The Angel

I Dreamt a Dream! what can it mean?
And that I was a Maiden Queen
Guarded by an angel mild
Witless woe was ne’er begui’l’d!

And I wept both night and day,
And he wip’d my tears away,
And I wept both day and night,
And hid from him my heart’s delight.

So he took his wings and fled,
Then the morn blush’d rosy red;
I dried my tears & arm’d my fears,
With ten thousand shields and spears.

Soon my Angel came again;
I was arm’d, he came in vain;
For the time of youth was fled
And grey hairs were on my head.

Les Chansons des Roses – 5 – Dirait-on

I heard this on AllClassical.org this morning and wanted to share it. It’s the final movement of a larger work by Morten Lauridsen, based on the work of Rilke.

In Celebration of Writers

As you guys know, I like to celebrate writers’ birthdays. Usually the dates sneak up on me and I end up putting together a very short blog post about them to commemorate their birth. I’ve looked online before for comprehensive lists of authors’ birthdays, but never managed to find one I liked. I was going to start one of my own, but a last search today finally brought up what I think is probably the best one I’ve found. Library Booklists and Bibliographies has an extensive listing of authors’ dates of birth, arranged by month, and then by day. They also have some other very intriguing lists: Fiction Set in Maine, Drowned Towns in Fiction, Golf in Crime Fiction, the amusing-sounding Murder By Toaster: Mysteries With Surprisingly Lethal Weapons, among others. Interestingly, I’ve been working on a short story that features a drowned town. Hopefully now I can do something for some of my favorite authors’ birthdays in time to write up slightly better tributes to them. Anyway, take a look. There’s lots of good information that could spark something.

As it happens, today is the birthday of not only Edward St. John Gorey, godfather of goth, with his Gashleycrumb Tinies, but also poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. In keeping with the sometimes ghoulish feel of my blog, I chose this poem of Ms. Millay’s to share with you:

The Little Ghost

I knew her for a little ghost
That in my garden walked;
The wall is high—higher than most—
And the green gate was locked.

And yet I did not think of that
Till after she was gone—
I knew her by the broad white hat,
All ruffled, she had on.

By the dear ruffles round her feet,
By her small hands that hung
In their lace mitts, austere and sweet,
Her gown’s white folds among.

I watched to see if she would stay,
What she would do—and oh!
She looked as if she liked the way
I let my garden grow!

She bent above my favourite mint
With conscious garden grace,
She smiled and smiled—there was no hint
Of sadness in her face.

She held her gown on either side
To let her slippers show,
And up the walk she went with pride,
The way great ladies go.

And where the wall is built in new
And is of ivy bare
She paused—then opened and passed through
A gate that once was there.

Old Man Winter is early

Here’s what blew in last night – literally – in about an hour. The way the wind was howling and rattling the house you’d think I lived on the Nebraska prairie. The snow was blowing and swirling, but ultimately there’s not much of it. It is, however, only about 18 degrees, so it’s been frozen to the ground and my deck all night.

wintery morning

wintery morning

I kept trying to get the colors of the clouds through the trees, where the sun was rising, this was the best I was able to do:

sunrise through the trees

It won’t be here long, it’ll start warming up again tomorrow, back to the 40s and rain. This is so much nicer, since I don’t have to go to work today and drive on the icy roads. I should check the news, no doubt there are accidents all over.

Winter by Walter de la Mare
Clouded with snow
The cold winds blow,
And shrill on leafless bough
The robin with its burning breast
Alone sings now. 

The rayless sun,
Day’s journey done,
Sheds its last ebbing light
On fields in leagues of beauty spread
Unearthly white.

Thick draws the dark,
And spark by spark,
The frost-fires kindle, and soon
Over that sea of frozen foam
Floats the white moon.

Vampires in Poetry

Surprisingly, there are a fair number of poems about vampires, by very serious writers: Kipling, Keats, Coleridge, Goethe, Byron. Today I’m featuring one by Conrad Aiken. Aiken, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, was a contemporary of T.S. Eliot, e e cummings, and a friend of Ezra Pound.
Conrad Aiken

The Vampire, by Conrad Aiken

She rose among us where we lay.
She wept, we put our work away.
She chilled our laughter, stilled our play;
And spread a silence there.
And darkness shot across the sky,
And once, and twice, we heard her cry;
And saw her lift white hands on high
And toss her troubled hair.

What shape was this who came to us,
With basilisk eyes so ominous,
With mouth so sweet, so poisonous,
And tortured hands so pale?
We saw her wavering to and fro,
Through dark and wind we saw her go;
Yet what her name was did not know;
And felt our spirits fail.

We tried to turn away; but still
Above we heard her sorrow thrill;
And those that slept, they dreamed of ill
And dreadful things:
Of skies grown red with rending flames
And shuddering hills that cracked their frames;
Of twilights foul with wings;

And skeletons dancing to a tune;
And cries of children stifled soon;
And over all a blood-red moon
A dull and nightmare size.
They woke, and sought to go their ways,
Yet everywhere they met her gaze,
Her fixed and burning eyes.

Who are you now, —we cried to her—
Spirit so strange, so sinister?
We felt dead winds above us stir;
And in the darkness heard
A voice fall, singing, cloying sweet,
Heavily dropping, though that heat,
Heavy as honeyed pulses beat,
Slow word by anguished word.

And through the night strange music went
With voice and cry so darkly blent
We could not fathom what they meant;
Save only that they seemed
To thin the blood along our veins,
Foretelling vile, delirious pains,
And clouds divulging blood-red rains
Upon a hill undreamed.

And this we heard: “Who dies for me,
He shall possess me secretly,
My terrible beauty he shall see,
And slake my body’s flame.
But who denies me cursed shall be,
And slain, and buried loathsomely,
And slimed upon with shame.”

And darkness fell. And like a sea
Of stumbling deaths we followed, we
Who dared not stay behind.
There all night long beneath a cloud
We rose and fell, we struck and bowed,
We were the ploughman and the ploughed,
Our eyes were red and blind.

And some, they said, had touched her side,
Before she fled us there;
And some had taken her to bride;
And some lain down for her and died;
Who had not touched her hair,
Ran to and fro and cursed and cried
And sought her everywhere.

“Her eyes have feasted on the dead,
And small and shapely is her head,
And dark and small her mouth,” they said,
“And beautiful to kiss;
Her mouth is sinister and red
As blood in moonlight is.”

Then poets forgot their jeweled words
And cut the sky with glittering swords;
And innocent souls turned carrion birds
To perch upon the dead.
Sweet daisy fields were drenched with death,
The air became a charnel breath,
Pale stones were splashed with red.

Green leaves were dappled bright with blood
And fruit trees murdered in the bud;
And when at length the dawn
Came green as twilight from the east,
And all that heaving horror ceased,
Silent was every bird and beast,
And that dark voice was gone.

No word was there, no song, no bell,
No furious tongue that dream to tell;
Only the dead, who rose and fell
Above the wounded men;
And whisperings and wails of pain
Blown slowly from the wounded grain,
Blown slowly from the smoking plain;
And silence fallen again.

Until at dusk, from God knows where,
Beneath dark birds that filled the air,
Like one who did not hear or care,
Under a blood-red cloud,
An aged ploughman came alone
And drove his share through flesh and bone,
And turned them under to mould and stone;
All night long he ploughed.