Longhouse, Publishers & Booksellers - Poetry, Modern First Editions, The Arts

 
 

 
 

 

There is a deep beauty in things as they are
—— Walker Evans

 

A GREEN MOUNTAIN IDYLL —— POEMS FOR HAYDEN CARRUTH

 

Hayden Carruth . Lorine Niedecker . Cid Corman . Theodore Enslin . Mary Oliver . Barbara Moraff . Bob Arnold . David Budbill . Paul Metcalf . Joel Oppenheimer . Rene Char . Sengai . Saigyo . Ryokan . Basho . Evan Strusinski . Issa . David Ray . Geof Hewitt . William Matthews . David Huddle . Millen Brand . Alain Bosquet . Janine Pommy Vega . Lyle Glazier . M. J. Bender . Peter Gurnis . David Giannini . Barbara Howes . Samuel Green . Greg Joly . Michael Hettich . Ozaki Hosai . Rocco Scotellaro . Peter Money . Terry Hauptman . Robert Nichols

 


From the Longhouse archive we have selected poets & poems reflecting a Vermont residence, now or once upon a time, or a friendship with Hayden Carruth, to align with and boost a celebration of events and readings in November around the state for Hayden. I’ve edited this modest garland — and it is our first roll at this sort of thing on-line. Its clear purpose is to share poems by Hayden from our pages along with many poets from the state as if a visit at the town grange. Dip into it whenever you wish. A few weeks ago I had mistakenly announced this November event as a poet laureate position for Hayden. Kindly laugh this off as wishful thinking on my part.

 
—— o ——

Once upon a time Hayden would come to visit us in our cabin by the river far down a back road, no literary strings at all, a couple waiting by the dim light of a woodfire. I recall one visit he made when he read aloud his entire long poem sequence The Sleeping Beauty that was yet to be published from Harper & Row. And then he made sure we got the only credit for a magazine that published one poem from the sequence and that was the poem he left with me the next morning after a blueberry breakfast with all the fixings. He inscribed in one of his books for us just that flavor of Susan's home cooking. Soon after, he was gone from Vermont to Syracuse, NY; finally a steady paying job, teaching at the university and a whole new poem came flooding forth.

Ten years later we read together at The Clark Art Museum. Hayden started off with a poem we first published in Longhouse, "Regarding Chainsaws". We include it here. A dandy of a poem. I was always partial to the early lean years work — where the treasure-chest anthology The Voice That Is Great Within Us was edited from his tiny cowshed writing hut, over-stuffed with books, box woodstove and postcard photo of Ezra Pound on the wall. Those elusive New Directions books of poems that came with a certain haunting quality from a certain haunting existence forever making ends meet; every single poem a gem in From Snow and Rock, From Chaos. Only Hayden could describe for us just where he'd been, settling in Vermont after illness, some mainstream publishing and as the editor of Poetry; now in a tiny house bought for peanuts, but still tough when you are only making peanuts, and raising a young family in Johnson, Vt. Back then in the early 60s — before the influx of communes and the long hair tribe of poets — one had to feel cut off from the literary world chopping out as a full-time resident copy editing, review writing, any nickel and dime chore and counting as your best friend a neighbor farmer called Marshall.

You bet it sounded that romantic to me as a young poet born in these hills and coming to live deeper in. I know it did with some other poets who came here about the same time rousing closing 60s and early 70s. It shows forth in all our poems. What was once romantic — and the struggle is to hold onto that love — was quickly burned off into a hardcore sense of literary maintenance and making a daily living right where you stood. A million miles from anywhere — lodged with local farmers, mechanics, loggers, dimwits, uncanny geniuses. If you listen just right today you may just find a peep-hole left of that time. But back in that day, it was the work of Hayden Carruth and Ted Enslin in Maine who were the man.

No small wonder that when Susan and I were married, like knuckleheads, we went to look for Hayden on our honeymoon up in Johnson, and inviting us in for supper and the night he and Rose Marie put us up on their screen porch, by the brook. Like some ancient tale, we went to find that house and brook almost thirty years later with no luck. As Hayden will grimly remind us in his autobiography Reluctantly, scraping together a living out in the country, one was lucky to have the time to lift one's head to see the foliage, never mind the pretty countryside. Irony has always made the finest country poem.

—— o ——

The following poems have been culled from issues of Longhouse spanning from 1971 and still thriving. Needless to say Hayden Carruth was an early supporter and contributor to our pages, often tipping off poets to send us work, stamps and any means of subsistence since we published forever without grants or funding of any kind. His kindness to struggling poets is of legend rather than any myth. And through the kindness of strangers we continue on and share these many voices forever within us.

—— Bob Arnold



 

 

Hayden Carruth
SILENCES

North people known for silence. Long
dark of winter. Norrland families go
months without talking, Eskimos also,
except bursts of sporadic errie song.
South people different. Right and wrong
all crystal there and they squabble, no
fears, though they praise north silence. “Ho,”
philosophical types, men of peace.”

                                                      But take
notice please of what happens. Winter on the brain.
You’re literate, so words are what you feel.
Then you’re struck dumb. To which love will you speak
the words that mean dying and going insane
and the absolute futility of the real?
 
 
Lorine Niedecker
Something in the water
like a flower
will devour

water

flower
 
 

Cid Corman
from IN THE LONG RUN

Drink up - friend -
while you can.
Today is.

What glory
is glories
in this is.

Rock holds dust -
hope a cup.
Drink to this.
 
 

Theodore Enslin
A CONSTANCY

Love in old age is a fire of coals
burns in to the core and becomes smaller
only to see it smaller it rises
in any sudden gust becomes larger
as the youth who kindled it
when he did not know the tending needed
now that he does one more stoking it bursts
in new flower the jewels of fire
any place any time

 
 

Mary Oliver
RACCOON

Roadkilled. Huddled
at the side of the road.
You take him up
in your arms and walk

into the shade
of the deeper trees,
beyond the blast
of the summer sun,

and curious dogs.
You hope it was quick.
You hope it didn’t
hurt too much.

You know he is
your brother, you know
how many roads
flow through the world,

how many bodies
crawl toward the dark,
how many days
are marred by the bloody

flick of grief,
how many questions
will never be answered.
You put him down,

you cover him over
with thorns and leaves
and walk away
thinking, as you must,

joy to the leaves,
joy to the light,
joy to the cycles
past pain.

c Mary Oliver

 

Barbara Moraff
WHAT DO YOU MEAN HOW DO YOU GET TO VERMONT?

no one to dance
                         with
                                dance with

falling leaves
                      shadows at woods edge

hallucinate water wind
into laughing
deer
       step
             lightly

fade into foliage
                       deciduous mist

exposing nothing
not there

 
 


Bob Arnold
THE REASON I LOVE TO BUILD STONE WALLS

and have for so long
is that I need few
tools to do the job

I could walk to work
free at hand
nearly whistling

until I arrive
( not wanting to
look too happy )

and the stones
are there lopsided
appearing miserably

out of place to
someone else
as I kneel

maybe with a 3 lb.
hammer I’ve brought
along for company

 
 

Hayden Carruth
NEAR ROCHE-COLOMBE

The springtime so impetuous. Already pink blossoms
Are drifting down, a flurry in the peach grove
At the high end of the vallon. Sometimes
They become less pink than mauve,
Less mauve than deep rose, when clouds hide the sunshine
And the mountains darken. Then again they are gossamer
Weaving in brightness, falling, billowing,
Wavering. The old brown woman below
At her goat-tending looks up to see them and to see
The mysterious wind spun
From mountain stone that takes them, whirls them free
And up, up, in a vortex. With them
Her eyes too move upward. For always there is a falling
And a rising within, this beautiful helical rhythm,
And always, it seems, a vision calling and calling.

 
 


David Budbill
AFTER READING MENG CHAIO’S
“SEEING OFF MASTER TAN



There’s never any money!
All my wife and I do
is worry and fight.
I suffer to make these poems!

I wish I could be like Master Tan and go from place to place
begging for someone to pay my health insurance premiums,
car repair bills and property taxes. But I can’t. I have to suffer
in silence and alone, pretending there is nothing wrong.

I know that since ancient times real poets have never gotten fat.
What I can’t comprehend is how Master Tan could grow old,
hungry and neglected because of poetry, yet never dry up,
never became ironic, nasty, sarcastic or bitter.

How did he keep his innocence?
How could his sweet and grieving tears,
even when he was an old man,
still fall like rain?

 
 


Paul Metcalf
DEATH OF DOSTOYEVSKY

the depression of

a deep russian:


deep rest

 
 


Joel Oppenheimer
HYACINTHS
                       an april fool

hi, a

shy cunt, hunt
shy i, a.c.

ah, tushy, inc.

such tiny ah.

uh, i shy, can’t.

 
 
 


Rene Char
L’AMANTE / THE LOVER
                                               for M.C.C.

So much had passion seized me for this delectable lover,
I not exempt from effusion and vibrant lubricity, I was,
was not to have died quietly or toned down, acknowledged
merely by my lover’s eyelids. Nights of a wild novelty
had rediscovered the ardent communicating saliva, and
perfumed her feverish belonging. Thousands of adulterated
precautions invited me to the most voluptuous flesh ever.
In our hands a desire from beyond destiny, what fear at
our lips tomorrow?

-translated by Cid Corman

  
 

 
Sengai
Just resting —
letting the
breezes make

a thing of
a body —

-translated by Cid Corman

   
 


Saigyo
You are so nicely
into the weave you wear and
beyond undoing —
ah to be woven with
you — to have become that close.

-translated by Cid Corman

 
 
 
Ryokan
Lost in a dreamworld
and once again the dream ends
grass for a pillow
awakening all alone
having to think of it too.

-translated by Cid Corman
 


Sengai
Forget alone and
forget you have forgotten —
have it both your ways.

-translated by Cid Corman

 
 

Saigyo
With snow fallen on
field paths and mountain paths too
covering them up
who knows where anything is —
all goings up in the air

-translated by Cid Corman

 
 
Basho

Nothing
lasts forever

That’s the trouble
with it.

-translated by Cid Corman

 
 


Hayden Carruth
THE MINUTE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BIRDS AND LEAVES

She lay unmoving a moment longer, silver thighs
Still splayed, breasts tilted apart so that the bones
Of her chest showed like interlocked fingers while she looked outward
To moonlight and gleaming, billowing trees,
And then she turned on her side and said —
                                                                   But he did not hear
The words flutter down on him, touching, tickling
With little brittle feet, pecking the meal
Of his arms and belly, the golden grain; he heard rather
The unspoken that is always eloquent, her few pleas,
Echoes very distant behind the lanterns of his eyes.
He rose then, scattering words, and went to the window shivering.
Cold boards fed the hunger in his feet. He looked at the trees
In silver frost, leaves falling, severing themselves and falling,
Their silence falling in moonlight, falling all night without wind,
Mouths falling, searching the whole body of earth with their kisses.


 
 


Evan Strusinski
I say your name
and suddenly
it’s as if you
were here.
But you’re not.
I say
your name
again.


 
 

Cid Corman
No one star
in heaven
too many

no matter
how many
come or go.

 


Issa
Morning glories
enough thatching
for this hut.

--translated by Cid Corman


 
 

David Ray
VISIT TO HELL

Smoky Civil War woods,
teardrops of Issa
all along the rail,
a bit of mist, fog
of my own.
I could date it.

 
 


Geof Hewitt
UNTITLED

These electrical storms razz me
coming on at last after so much
holding off: high humidity, THI, & sweat
    seeps in through bones

Zip crash lightning won’t hit me
let the wet pellets rejoice
as I dance in the mud,
    naked & pink like the pigs

& later, after dark,
the storm provides our clearest light




William Matthews
SOMETHING STRANGE IN DAVE JEFFERIES APARTMENT

Well, the phone lists
like an old boxer’s nose.
Ring, ring. It’s Sugar Ray
on the nose. Jake, he says,
you cheap punk, your
cornflower blue trunks
don’t impress me, you
wouldn’t last three rounds
with Bucky Fuller.
Dave gasps, this phone call
is for Jake LaMotta, not me.
The rest of us are sad.
The nose is counting to ten
and sounds authentic; we hang up
just in time. Oh Lord how long
this gonna go on
elsewhere, always elsewhere
.

 
 


David Huddle
SUNDAY DINNER

If the whole length of the white tableclothed
table my grandparents called each other
Old Devil, Battle Ax, Bastard, and Bitch,
if having stopped smoking for Lent, Mother
was in a pout, if New Deal politics
had my father telling us how much he loathed
Roosevelt, if Grandma Lawson’s notion
that we boys needed a dose of worm potion
had Charles crying hard not to look amused
and Bill whining for dessert even though
he hadn’t finished his beets, if all this
and Uncle Lawrence’s thick White Owl smoke,
Aunt Elrica’s hoots, and Inez’s craziness
weren’t my one truth, I’d ask to be excused
.

 
 


Joel Oppenheimer
23 MARCH

art, zat strain
means a daft
i do
        in which
tzara married
irrevocably us
and his dada
manifesto.


 
 


David Ray
ACADEMIC

Fierce hand to hand fighting
all around
as I go writing my poems


--


THOUGHTS ON THE WHITE HOUSE

So this
is where
they decide
to kill all
the pretty
people,
where the
disconnections
get said
in the head, where
the wrong dreams
get dreamt,
where Arlington
is driven out to
with caisson or
hired limousine.

It is a thought
that makes the
hipflask
shake in the hand,
that makes the
bus lights
massacre innocent
creatures in the
dark

 
 


Millen Brand
THE PAPER CRANES

I notice a paper crane. I ask about it.
I’m told this story:
    Some ten years after the A-bombs
a twelve-year-old girl in Hiroshima,
Sadako Sasaki, who had been exposed to the bomb,
contracted leukemia. A friend
sent her a letter in the hospital,
enclosing--for health--a paper crane,
small, an inch and a half long
with a tapering neck and folded-over
sharp beak. The crane in Japanese legend
lives a thousand years, so a paper crane
is a symbol of health, and there is a belief
that if you fold a thousand cranes
you will get well. Sadako decided
to fold a thousand cranes. She folded
nine hundred and sixty-four
and died.
    After she died, her classmates
at Nobori-cho Elementary School in grief and love
wanted a statue for her
and for all the children who died.
Funds were raised nationally,
and in Hiroshima’s Heiwa Koen --Peace Park--
a statue was put up: high on a three-pronged pedestal,
a young girl who in her raised arms holds
the thin outline of a paper crane. At the statue’s base
in a rainbow torrent of color
are thousands of actual paper cranes and the words,
“This is our cry, this is our prayer--
to establish peace in the world.”


 
 

Bob Arnold
THE FACE OF A DICTATOR

( take your pick )

All that has made you
Sick in the past
Is present

 
 


Alain Bosquet (Edouard Roditi)
from SEVEN POEMS FROM: An Atheist’s Creed

Tell me why I live.
Tell me why I think.
Tell me why I die.
If you can tell me,
then you’re my god,
it’s because you believe in me
for I grant you so many powers.
Tell me why I walk.
Tell me why I dream.
Tell me why I am.
But if you keep silent,
I’m your god.


 
 


David Budbill
WHAT I HEARD AT THE DISCOUNT DEPARTMENT STORE

Don’t touch that. And stop your whining too.
Stop it. I mean it. You know I do.
If you don’t stop, I’ll give you fucking something
to cry about right here
and don’t you think I won’t either.

So she did. She slapped him across the face.
And you could hear the snap of flesh against flesh
half-way across the store. Then he wasn’t whining anymore.
Instead, he wept. His little body heaved and shivered and wept.
He was seven or eight. She was maybe thirty.
Above her left breast, the pin said: Nurse’s Aide.

Now they walk hand in hand down the aisle
between the tables piled with tennis shoes
and underpants and plastic bags of socks.

I told you I would. You knew I would.
You can’t get away with shit like that with me,
You know you can’t.
You’re not in school anymore.
You’re with your mother now.
You can get away with fucking murder here,
but you can’t get away with shit like that with me.

Stop that crying now I say
or I’ll give you another little something
like I did before.

That’s better. That’s a whole lot better.
You know you can’t do that with me.
You’re with your mother now.


 
 


Janine Pommy Vega
HUMAN PRAYER

Sing Sing entrance
stands over the shoreline
of the Hudson River

to the left
behind barbed wire topped wall
is a ball field
someone hits a triple as the sun
goes down

to the right
sprawled along the river
is lover’s lane, a kid
peels out in a blue car,
the squeal of tires

and one side is inside
and one side is outside
the same plane passing through
the same sky over both

inside, walking out
through stone corridors
I rub a little lipstick on the wall
.

 
 


Lyle Glazier
THE SHANTIES

- 1 -

West window looks to the river
beyond houses
strung on a valley road
east window looks to the mountain

We hear the drag of the saw
a long time before
we see the dustcloud

A team is unloading in the bay
Perry snags logs with a canthook
Maurice is sawing

Pop brings Mayflowers in April
swamp pinks in June
wild honeysuckle in July

- 2 -

Schoolnights early to bed
from the upper bunk
we boys hear voices
“Keep your eye on this one, Harry,
my ringer will slip
between the legs of your leaner
without touching a hair”

- 3 -

Dead level
under apple boughs
April to June is muddy,
Mel and I carry lard pails
to the spring box,
the slope
spongy with bluets

 
 


M.J. Bender
from VERSUS I

Black Ash
corn

borders
Northern White
Flint

barbwire
bends around

mounds of stone



--


tear out the eyes of
each
one slain
beaver
mink otter fox each
inclination shot
flayed and
off to market skin
exchanged for
perfect duty kersey
duffel
stammels shags and beys


  
 

 
Peter Gurnis
CANTERBURY, N.H.

Shaker-
chair on the peg of noon, eclipsed
sisterhood, brother
built wagons, good gardens
in a church that lacks only
roe
.

 
 


David Giannini
SILENCE OF STONE
Voice of the workman
sounding over his
idling tractor: "What
the fuck tip of rock
is this?"
            Does he think
silence waits to be
taken custody?
What he unearths be-
comes a figure fit
to feel as sculpture —
fingers of neighbor
kids playing on stone
valleys and chipped peaks
glinting and rain worn
but in stance — still — of
silence untaken —
standing its ground — rock
as rock must be: locked
voice of an ancient
future the ants walk

 
 


Barbara Moraff
THINGS TO DO IN VERMONT

Everything that needs to be done.
Oh well, till that garden in October
and lay down vegetable debris which
with poorman’s fertilizer (snow) will
nourish the earth. Stack the firewood
in non-collapsible way. Clean out
the chimneys. Plant bulbs. Visit yr
downcountry neighbor & milk his goat
faster than he can, smile & stand back,
waiting for him to say “cheese”.
Getyr car an oil change, check the
tires & air filters. Sing a song to
yr steer before you shoot his brains
out. This is all called Giving Thanks
Properly. It effectively prevents:
earthquake, dropsy, cabin-fever and the other
winter ailments we northcountry folk
are heir to.
It’s also a good idea to buy or make a good
wintercoat, epoxy the holes in those old
mudkickers.
There are
other things you can do in Vermont. So goes the
rumor: like observe how the clouds thin
deceptively before blizzard, let go of yr
natural hostility & don’t accuse anyone of
running a junkyard; he’s only making
his ends meet
.

 
 


Hayden Carruth
UBI AMOR

This too I affirm sacred, here
beneath yellow birch and hophornbeam,
hiddenness in our discovered glen
when we see the snake gliding
from the rock pool, the Bo and I —
snake gliding on crystal
in shaded sun, in sunsplatter, the Bo and i —
we urgent and outgoing, intent now,
going down away through into
crystal and the snake’s perfection -
our movement against leaf-shadow
and the mosaic of stone — a blue world,
for all the colors of autumn, even brown
or the brown-gray, are purity,
blue on the boy’s arm taut
in extension, downward, a thought muted
in his movement to shadow and stone,
to object — I too joined there inseparable.

He tosses back his blue-gold hair,
thought again transparent in movement,
his ecstasy, a being gone from itself,
tough in its way, and then smiling,
touching me — oh from this my own dulled
edge beyond pain, m’elevasti,
my Bo — this, this is the love that
transmutes thought beyond selfhood,
so now I say it, descending still,
leaf-fall, year-fall, the irretrievable —
a boy and a man, son and father
in the blue world where a snake
glides from the rock pool
.

 
 


Bob Arnold
IS IT

river
flowing
beneath
the stars

or stars
flowing
over the
river


 
 


Barbara Howes
HUNTING-SEASON MORNING-SOUNDS

Furry with sleep, he struggled
Up; shoved food; took off:
        By 5:30, night still
        Drooped over my window,
        Then siphoning sound began:
Here, a junker swerving --
Each corner its last --
Now the idling hum of taxis
To La Guardia; later,
A BB gun -- a kid -- shot Robert’s heifers.
        Six prime bucks leapt our road.
        Furry with sleep, he died.


 
 


Samuel Green
GRUBS

Working with the bark spud
peeling cedar logs for the shed
I uncover white grubs,
wrinkled & thick as my little finger.
They have powerful jaws.
Working in the dark, blind, in faith
toward whatever they might become,
they leave delicate etchings
in the wood. I have to say
that I understood them
more than the squawking, squabbling
chickens who crowded to peck them
from my unprotected hand.

 
 


Theodore Enslin
MAPLE STUDY

There is a spell cast
over everything
I see or touch --
not a usual magic.
What adheres is my own.
A simple fact of being.
Things count
                     but this is
the tree and shadow
                                I have made.
You by me
                  will have your own
version of what may not be
at all
.

 
 

Greg Joly
LESSON

Topping off
the wheelbarrow,
I ask jay
where he wants
the dirt dumped.
Looking up
from spade work,
he eyes me,
“Not dirt.
Earth.”

 
 


Michael Hettich
THESE ROADS

lead nowhere.
We build them to get here.
At night we put up
our tents and lie thinking
of our families, listening
to bugs bounce off
the canvas. We dream of our new road.

A few miles behind us
others follow
building houses.
Behind them others
fill the houses
with furniture, fill
the cupboards with food
and plates, make sure
everything works.
Others build stores
and schools, and then,
way back, the families,
scared-looking, sweaty,
walk, reading
the number on each house.

In every garage
a shiny car. In every kitchen
a modern stove.
There are plenty of jobs
building. There are
plenty of toys
for the children.


 
 


Mary Oliver
WAITING FOR RAIN

Down by the stream
that has thinned to a single stroke
the bobwhite’s parched cry
thickens.

Some streams run deep,
some run shallow.
Some summers are dry.

Oh, I think, standing in a dusty field,
what can beauty do,
or happiness,
that the simple rain cannot?


On one or two small berries the mockingbird
keeps his fires going. But his music all day

floats like smoke, remembering, extolling
the elusive crystal of water, the huge down-driving
resurrection. And the shimmering
taste of it.

c Mary Oliver

 
 

Bob Arnold
TOUGH

Leaf hangs
To one beat-up
Sawmill log

 
 


Theodore Enslin
from HDT

Why do men split wood? Round, as it comes from the tree, one stick, unsplit, will burn as long as two of the same size split -- often through knots and twisted grains, to try the patience of the axeman. The midsection burns fastest, as the moisture is forced out both ends -- so that eventually the two ends can be raked together and burned again. I cut my wood, and sort it for different size stoves -- the largest for the furnace, the next size for the library stove, smaller sticks -- the branches that many scorn and leave in the woods to rot -- for the kitchen range, and the short ends left over for the Franklin stove which heats the bedroom on cold nights. Unless a stick is too large to fit through the openings, not one of them is split. I haven’t laid hand to an axe this season. But if I tell an old-timer about this, he reaches for his wedges and splitting maul, muttering about more heat from split wood. Nearly everything, down to two inch sticks, is split, and has been for generations. At the end of the year, if we were to balance accounts, I imagine I burn a third less, and keep just as warm (unless part of the value in splitting is in warming one’s self at the chopping block) as those who burn their mountains of splinters, for no good except that their fathers and grandfathers did the same.



--


3/21/87

                  — something after

all
     and
all in all
the snow that melts
almost
           as it falls


 
 


David Ray
FOR GALWAY, MY VERMONT LANDLORD

You said to pull the burdocks,
hear ‘em crack.
And shoot the porcupines
that eat the house-beams down.
But one was quite enough,
my first and last.
He stared out from
the woodpile’s top,
dared me to go ahead
and shoot. I did,
and watched him in his own slow
time uncurl my father’s hands.


 
 


Hayden Carruth
TO A FRIEND NEVER SEEN

Words we are; you
this bundle of blue
aerograms, postmark
Kyoto.

I imagine nothing, why
should I
              (scent of tea, flowers
               and fat gongs, the god
               smiling at your elbow)
nothing, no face.

Nothing; give no face,
ask none.

Two poets, worlds
apart, words —
what better?

Not man but man’s
being, steadiness almost
flame.

The postmark’s song: Kyoto
meaning steadiness, faded
now, dogeared but still
the same, calling my
steadiness.

Would not do for brotherhood
in the ordinary way, that
sweetness of knowledge.
To lack knowledge is more
rare. To “know” only what is,
to see, to see, between
vision and memory —
                                 white
panther on hemlock bough,
the crouching snow,
                                 drops,
a miniature, glass
globe of the eye,
and the brief good scream
of the doe
               —echo, echo
sweet to mortality —
here, there,
                    Clay Hill or
Kyoto.
          No more needed.

This song, this fall
of the moment, being —
sung only in words
.

  
 


Ozaki Hosai
Without a bowl
both hands
receiving

-translated by Cid Corman
 
  
 

Cid Corman
We are offspring
the earth as earth of sky and
sky of emptiness


--

Everything is
coming to a head — meaning
blossoms yet to fall.
 
 

Rocco Scotellaro

Day is done, and we too have been brought to play
with the clothes and the shoes and the faces we had.
The hares have gone to their burrows and the cocks crow,
the face of my mother returns to the fireplace.

-translated by Cid Corman
 
 

 

Peter Money

WHEN JOE SPENCE PUT DOWN HIS GUITAR
(after a painting by Barbara Jackson; for R.C.)

you go to this island & there’s a road
& you take it and follow to the end
& across from Mom’s there’s a little place
& you walk in & Maizie’ll feed you
fritters & fingers & in the back there’s a jukebox
& you think this’s better’n Paris-
Miami-Florence, & you don’t play
anything ‘cause there’s music all around
& it’s quiet.
 
  
 


Lyle Glazier
SUGARING OFF

Easter vacation
    he tramps the Gutter Road
      from Gramp’s to Uncle Maurice’s
    where the whole family’s sugaring

Lynn and Orman and Calvin
    trip metal caps off buckets
      under spiles
    draining the sugar bush

Merle bossing the gathering
    tub slewing, team
      straining, bobsled runners
    grating on a ledge

Perry shoves another slab
    in the firebox
      “a gallon to the barrel, boys,
    get a move on!”
Maurice tips the dipper, testing

In the kitchen Aunt Pluma
    boils down a batch for
      fancy sugar cakes:
    stars, hearts, scaled fish

Loyce and Thelma spoon snow
    from a dishpan into pie plates
      the thick glaze pulls at the fork
    “a little goes a long ways”


 
 


Terry Hauptman

AT THE CEDAR LEBANON HOSPITAL

At the Cedar Lebanon Hospital
     your mother wondered why all the
          mothers were weeping so ecstatically
             over the births of their babies
    She was sure she was the only mother who
             wanted to die

At The Dry Harbor Nursing Home
     your mother wondered why everyone wanted to die
          She was sure she was the only one who wanted to live

 
 


Bob Arnold
A TREE FULL OF BIRDS

               
     for Janine Pommy Vega

That’s what I heard one morning
In a no-nothing town between
Phoenix and Tucson, where it
Appeared desolate and desperate
With a mall and motel and a big
Highway running through it all
And even the motel desk didn’t
Know the name of the route number
Of the highway when I asked the
Next morning with a desire to go
To the mountains north — as if no
One went to the mountains from here —
But I did, and before I left, hours
Before I asked any questions, birds
By the hundreds came to the trees and
Bushes of this motel square, dipping
Even into the swimming pool, and whether
It was sunrise that lit each bird yellow
Or if in fact they were yellow and each
Singing magnificently in the coolness of
Daybreak when I was awakened gladly
And stepped out my door and onto a long
Balcony to see and hear and feel the most
Beautiful day in the world begin


 
 


Barbara Moraff
DAKINISONG

Only a woman can attain the annual
abundance of utter
                              satisfaction of desire.
How sad to be born a male.
How unfortunate to be a man
                              who does not realize
                              the feminine!
Only a woman can unite insight compassion
& skillful means, her skin blazing
with cool fire.
How sad to be born a male.
How unfortunate to be a man
                              attached to what’s given!
Only a woman can flow w/unbiased
tenderness ripe as peaches in sunlight, to all,
excepting none.
How sad to be born a male.
How unfortunate to be a man
                              attached to bias as survival!
Only a woman appreciates
body speech & mind as being the same
whether in harmony or strife.
How sad to be born a male.
How unfortunate to be a man
                              who does not realize
                              his feminine nature!
Only a woman can experience
suffering as being bliss arising,
birthwet wings of butterfly, arid dry rasp
of cocoon.
How sad to be born a male.
How unfortunate to be a man
                              who ignores the natural
                              state!
The truth is there is nothing special to do;
nothing special to say.
The key is to relax in the natural
state, the mahamudra before
accepting & rejecting, the mahamudra
before ignorance & wisdom,
the mahamudra before the fish-hook
strike of concept.

The key is Be grateful to everyone.
This is difficult; to be sure it is harder
than solving a Koan.

 
 
 


Bob Arnold
Everlasting


Some things never change ——
Under your dress
Hours later
Entirely feel
Our river swim

 
 


Hayden Carruth

REGARDING CHAINSAWS

The first chainsaw I owned years ago
Was an old yellow McCulloch that wouldn’t start.
Jas Laughlin gave it to me that was my friend.
Well, I’ve had enemies that couldn’t of done
No worse. I took it to Ward’s over to Morrisville,
And no doubt they tinkered it as best they could,
But it still wouldn’t start. One time later
I took it down to the last bolt and gasket
And put back together again, hoping
Somehow I’d do something accidental-like
That would make it go. You know the way you do.
Then I yanked on it 450 times,
As I figured afterwards, and give myself
A bursitis in the elbow that went five years
Even after Doc Barber shot it full
Of cortisone and near killed me when he hit
A nerve dead on. Old Phil wanted that saw.
Figured I was a greenhorn that didn’t know
Nothing and he could fix it. Well, I was,
You could say, green as bile and twice as ugly,
But a fair hand at tinkering. “Phil,” I said,
“You’re a neighbor, I like you, and I wouldn’t
Sell that tarnation thing to nobody, except
Vice-President Nixon.” But Phil persisted.
He always did. One time we was standing
Gabbing in his side dooryard, and he spied
That saw in the back of my pickup. He run
Quick inside, then come out and stuck a double
Sawbuck in my shirt pocket, and he grabbed
That saw and lugged it off. Next day, when I
Drove past, I seen he had it snugged down tight
With a tow-chain on the bed of his old Dodge
Powerwagon, and he was yanking on it
With both hands. Two or three days after,
I asked him, I says, “How you doing with that
McCulloch, Phil?” ‘Well,” he says, “I tooken
It down to scrap, and I buried it in three
Separate places yonder on the upper side
Of the potato piece. You can’t be too careful,”
He says, “when you’re disposing of a hex.”
The next saw I had was a godawful ancient
Homelite that I give Dry Dryden thirty bucks for,
Temperamental as a ram, too, but I liked it.
It used to remind me of Dry and how he’d
Clap that saw a couple of times with the flat
Of his double-bitted axe to make it go
And how he honed the chain with a worn-down
File stuck into an old baseball. I worked
That saw for years. Why, I used to put up
Forty-five run a year to keep my stoves
Hot all winter in them days. I couldn’t
Now, it’d kill me. Well, of course they got
These modern Swedish saws now that can take
All the worry out of it. What’s the good
Of that? Takes all the fun out, too, don’t it?
Why, I reckon. I mind when David Budbill snagged
An old sap spout buried in a chunk of maple
And it tore up his mouth so bad he couldn’t play
“Green Dolphin Street” on his trumpet like Peter Candoli
No more, and then when Toby Wolff was holding
A beech limb that Rob Bowen was bucking up
And the saw skidded crossways and nipped off
One of Toby’s fingers. That’s more like it.
Makes you know you’re living. But mostly they wan’t
Dangerous, and the only thing they broke was your
Back. Old Phil, he was a buller and a jammer
In his time, no two ways about that, but he
Never sawed himself. Phil had the sugar
All his life, and he wan’t always too careful
About his diet and the injections. He lost
All the feeling in his legs from the knees down.
One time he started up his Powerwagon
Out in the barn, and his foot slipped off the clutch,
And she jumped frontwards right through the wall
And into the manure pit. He just set there,
Swearing like you could of heard it in St.
Johnsbury, till his wife come out and said,
“Phil, what’s got into you?” “Missus,” he says,
“Ain’t nothing got into me. Can’t you see?
It’s me that’s got into this here pile of shit.”
Well, not much later they took away one of his
Legs, and six months after that they took
The other and left him setting in his old chair
With a tank of oxygen to sip at whenever
He felt himself sinking. I remember that chair.
Phil reupholstered it with an old bearskin
That must of come down from his great-great-
Grandfather. Why, I swear it had grit in it
From the Civil War and a bullet hole big
As your mouth. Phil latched the pieces together
With rawhide, cross fashion, but the stitches was
Always breaking and coming undone. About then
I quit stopping by to see Old Phil, and I
Don’t feel good about that neither. But my mother
Was having her strokes then. I figured
One person coming apart was as much
As a man can stand. Then Phil was put in the
Nursing home, and then he died. I always
Remember how he planted them pieces of spooked
McCulloch up above the potatoes. Funny,
Sometimes I used to think I’d go up there
To see if anything sprouted. You know how
A man gets took by notions once in a while.
But I never did it. I reckon it’s just as well.



Robert Nichols

from The Last Farmer
-a mythology-

AUTHOR’S AFTERWARD

This is a story about a last person.
The last person does not disappear easily. He is either beaten; or he becomes absorbed in the system. In which case he is another person. He is undistinguishable from the rest of us. We no longer recognize him as a survivor.
There have been pressures on the American family farm in the modern world such that the farmer either fails, he goes to the city or stays on selling off land for house lots - or he becomes successful and moves on into agribusiness either as owner or part-owner of a corporation or as the agent for someone else. But in neither case is there left the farmer as we think of him, or farming as it has been part of the American experience. The last farmer has eluded us. We find him only in myth.
What we want in myth is the last farmer farming: doing the same actions, performing the same tasks as he would do on his own farm every day - and against the background of the farm’s annihilation.
There is a peculiar act of will involved, an ambiguity, in the story of last things or last people: where we are insisting on a fate which has come, and which has not come. In a sense we are holding apart two moments in the time process. Suspending them, holding them one over the other, as in a superimposed photograph taken with the camera. Mythologizing is not so much an act of the imagination or heroic exaggeration (though that may be part of it: Gargantua eats fifty sheep at one sitting). But of a quite literal displacement. In which ordinary acts and traits of character - what we once considered to be beautiful or valuable, or at least useful, or at least natural - are preserved in a world in which they are no longer possible.
Perhaps we should speak not of the novel, but of a particular form whose essential condition is an act of balance (like watching an acrobat on the high wire) of deliberately not resolving certain tensions, of maintaining a precarious equilibrium.
In this world where neither resistance nor flight is possible and which is simply what it is, it doesn’t pay us much to focus exclusively on relations of character.
But what about the others? in this story of Asa, a farmer in Western Massachusetts during certain years. In this case the three women move through the story with him, who were close to him, and stood at the edge of his world? What we would expect to find here is not so much relations made completely explicit, but rather a sensibility, an awareness of mysteries and possibilities, a state which is between love and bafflement. It is this place, this psychological landscape, that I have called in this story “Shattagee.”

THE LAST FARMER, a mythology

Chapter 38 /

“It sure looks good, you’ll have to admit that”. I was calling Anna’s attention to the weathervane. The shaft gleamed boldly and the tail vanes swung from side to side in the breeze, a banner to Asa’s recklessness.

Asa had lost no time after his confrontation with Bumpers in following up his contact with the Yankee Milk Producers Association. He had stopped by on the way back from Amherst. His dealings with the farmers cooperative before had been minimal. He had paid his small dues over the years and then allowed them to lapse. Now he was paid up again. But the prospects were clouded.

The organization had once been strong among the New England farmers of the area. It had its own processing plant and marketing outlets, but was now largely an insurance organization. It was limited to a pickup route with a few tank trucks, and to providing farmers with a temporary sales outlet for their milk, between contracts with the commercial creameries.

Having made his surprising move against Bumpers and taken out his insurance with YMPA, Asa’s mood was confident.

Meanwhile, Dairymart continued its pick-ups at the farm. Under the usual circumstances there was a three-month period when the distributor was legally bound to continue his collections, after the expiration of an agreement. But Anna found to her dismay that this might not be the case with them. As it had been Asa who had terminated the contract, the three-months grace period might not apply. The pick-ups would stop at the end of the month possibly.

As the Dairymart truck drove into the yard each day, pulled beside the milkhouse, and the man drew out the long salmon-colored hose to siphon off the holding tank, Flo and I would watch him with misgivings.

One Saturday when she was there, Anna asked how long he would be coming. The driver shrugged. Apparently he did not know either.

“Well, Asa’s happy. At the end of the month they’ll give him his last check and that’ll be the end of it with Dairymart,” Anna predicted.

*

Flo and I were bringing in the cows. I had just swung open the gate from the lane into the trampled barnyard. The barn door was shut and the cows milled around. Asa was inside the barn getting ready for milking, putting hay in the stalls and setting out the grain. In the yard a frisky cow, in heat, would mount another cow. Backed up in a mass, an animal would bellow, her head raised. The leaders pressed against the barn door as if they were particularly hungry and impatient for Asa to finish his chores. Finally Asa opened the door and called, “Come on ladies. Let’s go!”

On August 31 the pick-ups stopped. The following day no truck from the creamery pulled into the yard under the big poplar and circled by the milkhouse with a called greeting from the driver.

Anna, looking glum had said before leaving for work. “Well, I certainly don’t expect him. They’re a big outfit and they operate on schedule.”

The yard seemed strangely empty.

It was not the first time that milk deliveries had been interrupted at the Bigelow farm. In earlier years, after terminating with one company, Asa had signed a contract with another to continue with the milk pick-ups. There had been times when there had been some interval between.

There was still some excess capacity in the thousand gallon bulk tank. That evening Asa walked back and forth preparing the stalls in the barn as usual. Joel was away. Asa working alone clamped the milking cups on the udder of each cow and the milk was carried to the tank through the vacuum line. He was in no hurry evidently.

Nevertheless, when the milk truck from YMPA pulled into the yard the next day, Asa called out to the driver, “Well, I’m sure glad to see you!” He was relieved.

It soon became apparent that YMPA was not be counted on. The milk was trucked to the organization headquarters in Brattleboro and then sold when a buyer could be arranged for. By law it was a maximum of five days that milk could be held in refrigerated tanks in the coop. It was not always there were buyers. The cooperative did not have its own outlets to the larger cities.

With Asa’s tank, size was the limiting factor. The milk would keep for several days but the tank was not large enough to hold the volume for milk. The two men cleaned out an older discarded tank which had been used before they bought the new one, and was still good. With this arrangement they could still keep on milking, even though the YMPA truck missed a day, or sometimes two.

When the tanks were near full it was an anxious time. It became the habit of the family to wait for the milk truck.

Asa said: “It’s too bad we have to depend on them. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could take it into Boston and just sell it!”

Joel suggested that, since I worked out of Boston, maybe I should become the Bigelow agent.

Anna said, “A couple of farmers in overalls selling milk on the street corners! Well, you can’t turn the clock back.”

Whether the cooperative truck came or not, the cows had to be milked twice a day. In the morning before breakfast or around four in the afternoon the cows, lumbering into their stalls, were unaware of the wider complications. Their pleasure was to be grained and have their bags emptied.

Anna was helping her brother one late afternoon. Asa went ahead down the line of stalls wiping the udders with a clean cloth, while Anna applied the milking machine to each animal.

“Here’s one,” Anna said, “got a weak hind quarter.” She hung the vacuum cups onto the stanchion and stripped the udder by hand. That part of the udder had been torn perhaps; the other quarters were full and healthy.

Anna said, “Wonder how they feel when they’re not stripped?” Both had been to auctions and seen with anger the pathetic beasts whose owners had not bothered to milk them for several days. “Painful, I guess.”

“What’ll we do if he don’t come?”

Asa: “We’ll just have to milk and throw it away. We can’t stop milking.”

In fact there be days ahead when they would be throwing the milk away ... intervals when the collection truck had been unable to come and we had all stood in the milkroom and watched the white liquid spill onto the floor and sink into the drain.

Asa had pulled the plug. I had felt then Anna’s bitterness.

In the old days on the hill farms it had been the custom to “dry off” cows each winter, by regulating the breeding dates. Milking had been a summer activity. Nowadays the scheduling was constant. The cows were genetically programmed to give milk. And milk continued to flow into the holding tanks.

 
 

 
Hayden Carruth

SMALL PLEASURES

In the way
of a small song
I would say

how robin’s plantain
grows
as it were in long

chryselephantine
rows
at the edges

of weed-lots
like little edges
with enameled bergamots

and golden black-eyed susans
and other such ardent up-gazers
for the Syracusans

who look down to small pleasures.

 


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