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American Life in Poetry: Column 085

American Life in Poetry: Column 085


The Illinois poet, Lisel Mueller, is one of our country's finest writers, and the following lines, with their grace and humility, are representative of her poems of quiet celebration.

In November

Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.

Reprinted from "Alive Together: New and Selected Poems," Louisiana State University Press, 1996, by permission of the author. Poem copyright (c) 1996 by Lisel Mueller. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

iTunes is currently playing: Brand New Day from the album Brand New Day by Sting.


Godspeed, Timmy …

... and all the rest of our brave young people.

iTunes is currently playing: My Country from the album Bad Love by Randy Newman.


Poetry for All

Ted Kooser was U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004 through 2006. During his tenure, he started a weekly poetry column called "American Life in Poetry". Current and past columns can be read online here. You can also sign up to receive each column via email.

The point of the column is to promote poetry. To this end, Mr. Kooser selects poems that are particularly accessible. He wants everyone to read and enjoy the weekly columns, not just people with advanced English degrees.

When one of his selected poems appears in my inbox, I stop whatever I am doing and give it my full attention. I am never disappointed.

I wrote to the folks at ALP to ask permission to include the column in my blog and my request was granted. I hope you all enjoy the poems as much as I do.

iTunes is currently playing: One Of The Things I Do So Well from the album Life Is Good by Livingston Taylor.

Comments (1)

American Life in Poetry: Column 084

American Life in Poetry: Column 084


Many of this column's readers have watched an amaryllis emerge from its hard bulb to flower. To me they seem unworldly, perhaps a little dangerous, like a wild bird you don't want to get too close to. Here Connie Wanek of Duluth, Minnesota, takes a close and playful look at an amaryllis that looks right back at her.


A flower needs to be this size
to conceal the winter window,
and this color, the red
of a Fiat with the top down,
to impress us, dull as we've grown.

Months ago the gigantic onion of a bulb
half above the soil
stuck out its green tongue
and slowly, day by day,
the flower itself entered our world,

closed, like hands that captured a moth,
then open, as eyes open,
and the amaryllis, seeing us,
was somehow undiscouraged.
It stands before us now

as we eat our soup;
you pour a little of your drinking water
into its saucer, and a few crumbs
of fragrant earth fall
onto the tabletop.

Reprinted from "Bonfire," New Rivers Press, 1997, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 1997 by Connie Wanek. Her most recent book is "Hartley Field," from Holy Cow! Press, 2002. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.


American Life in Poetry provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column featuring contemporary American poems. The sole mission of this project is to promote poetry: American Life in Poetry seeks to create a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. There are no costs for reprinting the columns; we do require that you register your publication here and that the text of the column be reproduced without alteration.

iTunes is currently playing: Hearts And Flowers from the album Hearts And Flowers by Joan Armatrading.


another cemetery visit …

... and so much to think about afterwards ...

If you have been in a cemetery lately -- at least one in which people have been buried in the last several years -- you have probably seen stones with laser-etched designs on them. Etching has become quite popular and these newer stones give cemeteries a very different look. Supposedly, this technique will last 500+ years in an outdoor setting. I guess that seems like forever to most people. Or maybe they figure in 500 years nobody will care who is buried in these graveyards anyway, so they don't worry that the design will disappear eventually.

As I walked among the stones, I was surprised to see so many of them decorated for Halloween. It has never occurred to me to go to the cemetery and put Halloween decorations up. I think that if I did, some of my relatives would totally understand and some of them would think I was bonkers.

Anyway, a few stones, in particular, caught my eye today.

Ryder was just two and a half years old when he died. I assume his death was accidental, because there is a small, round plaque below his picture that indicates his organs were donated. I love the etched images of a little boy angel playing football and swinging in heaven. :)

Arionna was less than five months old when she died. I always want to know what happened to the babies.

Most people who die before the age of 40 are the victim of an accident, right? I wonder if Robert Altman's motorcylce was involved in his early death. But wouldn't that just be too weird, if he died in a motorcycle accident and the family still chose to include that image on the stone?

iTunes is currently playing: Light Above The Trees from the album A Drop Of Water by Keiko Matsui.


am i a bad pet owner?

I was wandering around in a drug store the other day and I saw this in the pet department:

There are many things that can be purchased in either "stylish" or "boring" versions, but I didn't think a cat litter box was one of them.

I didn't buy it.

iTunes is currently playing: Walls Come Tumbing Down from the album The Singular Adventures Of The Style Council by The Style Council.

lots going on since i last wrote

I have been very bad about blogging. I guess that is better than being bad AT blogging which would mean that my writing sucks. I don't think my posts suck. I just think they are too few and far between.

Since I last wrote I formed an LLC (Catland Enterprises LLC) to deal with some business ventures I am starting up. I have owned the domain for years and will continue to use it for the new business.

As you will see from the web site, I am available as an eBay trading assistant, which means I sell stuff on eBay for people who don't want to bother selling their own stuff. I will also be teaching eBay classes in the near future. Stay tuned!

If you don't have an eBay account but think you might want to buy or sell something in the next 30 days, please consider signing up by clicking on the eBay banner below. It doesn't cost you anything and I get a few bucks. Thanks!

Discover how much fun eBay can be!

I used to set up the LLC and was very happy with them. LegalZoom was started by Robert Shapiro. (you might remember him from the O.J. trial.) The web site has tons of helpful information that you can read before you decide to initiate any legal process. Once you do, they keep you informed every step of the way with emails and phone calls. I can't recommend them highly enough.

Form Your Business in 3 Easy Steps

iTunes is currently playing: Money Mile from the album Alf by Alison Moyet.

Sometimes I really want to move back to California ..

... and sometimes I am embarrassed that I ever lived there.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California filed suit against Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and three other carmakers on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have cost the state millions of dollars.

State Attorney General Bill Lockyer said the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California was the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles' emissions.

The lawsuit also names Chrysler Motors Corp., the U.S. arm of Germany's DaimlerChrysler, and the North American units of Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.

iTunes is currently playing: Lonesome For A Place I Know from the album Idlewild by Everything But The Girl.


magic wrinkle remover ?

i just bought an ironing board from Target that hangs over a closet door. i thought i might be more inclined to iron the things that need to be ironed if i just had to pull the board down rather than drag a (larger, heavier) model out of a closet and find someplace to set it up.

i almost didn't buy it because this was written on the package:

"there's something rather magical about ironing. you take your rumpled up life. spritz a little water on it. run an iron over it. and presto. everything's new again. the wrinkles of yesterday have vanished right before your very eyes. and there you are. looking fresh. feeling sharp. ready to take on the world."

they actually paid someone to write that crap? clearly, it was someone who has never ironed, because anyone who has will tell you there is nothing MAGICAL about it or any other form of domestic drudgery known as housework.

hmmm.... could the field of marketing possibly be dominated by ... men??

iTunes is currently playing: We Work The Black Seam from the album The Dream Of The Blue Turtles by Sting.


i love this guy

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Jerry Lewis' 41st annual Labor Day holiday weekend telethon raised a record $61 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, organizers in Las Vegas said Monday.

The contributions and pledges raised during the 21 1/2-hour event handily beat last year's haul of $55 million. The 2005 telethon was hit by national fund raising for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Indeed, Lewis earmarked $1 million from the telethon for the Salvation Army's relief efforts in the South.

This year's nationally televised event took place in the comic's adopted hometown of Las Vegas after a 12-year run in Hollywood. Lewis, 80, hosted, despite suffering a heart attack in June. He has never missed a telethon despite a litany of ailments over the years, including back pain, addiction to painkillers and an inflammatory lung disorder.

iTunes is currently playing: What I Did for Love from the album A Chorus Line by Priscilla Lopez & Company.


new treatment for Hunter Syndrome (MPS II)

[Hunter Syndrome is in the same group of diseases as San Filippo Syndrome. San Filippo Syndrome is MPS III.]

On Monday, July 24, 2006 Shire Human Genetic Therapeutics announced that Elaprase™, the enzyme replacement therapy for MPS II (Hunter Syndrome), was approved by the FDA.

Hunter syndrome is a rare, life-threatening genetic condition that results from the absence or insufficient levels of the lysosomal enzyme iduronate-2-sulfatase. Without this enzyme, cellular waste products accumulate in tissues and organs, which then begin to malfunction.

ELAPRASE is the first and only treatment approved for people suffering from Hunter syndrome. The product, which is given as weekly infusions, replaces the missing enzyme that Hunter syndrome patients fail to produce in sufficient quantities.

“Regulatory approval of ELAPRASE will enable physicians to move needy patients beyond palliative care and make Hunter syndrome a treatable disease,” said Joseph Muenzer, MD., Ph.D, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Until today, there were no options for addressing the underlying cause of this devastating disease.”

Shire expects to launch ELAPRASE in the United States within the next 30 days.

iTunes is currently playing: The Dreams Of Children from the album The Dreams Of Children by Shadowfax.


when cowboys ruled the world

When I was in Indiana for a year, one of the things I missed was the Roy Rogers Restaurant in Bayville, NJ. Their roast beef sandwich is to die for.

The other day I noticed that they still have a picture of Roy up on the wall, with a quote from him about how good the food is. Kind of weird, considering how long it has been since he passed away. It occurred to me that most of the people under the age of 40 (or maybe even 50) who go in there probably don't even know who Roy Rogers was, which is a shame. He and Dale were the sort of people who made the world a better place by the way they lived their lives.

Another interesting thing about Roy Rogers (the restaurant, not the man) is that they apparently don't give a rat's behind about being politically correct. If you buy a super size meal, your fries come in a cardboard holster. Kids can even wear it on their belt and keep their toy gun in it. Oh, wait, kids don't play with guns anymore, do they. They aren't supposed to play cowboys and indians anymore, either, I guess. (Oops. I meant to say "cowboys and Native Americans".)

Well, it may not be politically correct to say so, but I think that holster is adorable.

iTunes is currently playing: SHOTGUN from the album Jr Walker & The All Stars - Ultimate Collection by Junior Walker & The All Stars.

screwed up value systems in a PC-addled world

In an AP story, Hollywood "insiders" debate the future of Mel Gibson's career following his recent arrest for DUI and alleged drunken anti-Semitic comments:

One media expert said Gibson irreparably damaged his career with his "crazy" behavior following his arrest by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies in Malibu early Friday. Charges of anti-Semitism were also leveled against the actor-director with the release of his 2004 blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ."

"It's a nuclear disaster for him," said publicist Michael Levine, who has represented Michael Jackson and Charlton Heston, among others. "I don't see how he can restore himself."

I would remind Mr. Levine that director Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13 year old girl and fled the country to avoid prosecution, yet he was given an Academy Award years later. Does he believe that driving (and making stupid racist comments) while drunk is a greater crime than child rape? If folks in the entertainment industry think so, they are definitely out of touch with mainstream America. (But we already knew that, didn't we.)

iTunes is currently playing: Town Without Pity from the album Anthology 1961-1968 by Gene Pitney.


um, that’s what “fiction” is, folks

From the N.Y. Daily News:

Christians who mostly turned the other cheek as "The Da Vinci Code" climbed the best-seller list are launching a counteroffensive now that Dan Brown's novel is set to hit the big screen.

As the movie's May 19 opening draws nearer, Roman Catholic and other Christian leaders are unveiling new Web sites, taking out full-page ads to "debunk" the work's claims and speaking out in the media and from the pulpit.

The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, denounced the book's controversial premise that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, calling it "the stuff of imagination."

iTunes is currently playing: The Book I Read from the album Live at the Sun Palace (Tokyo) by Talking Heads.


It’s almost Easter and that means …

... it's time for MARSHMALLOW PEEPS!!!!

Did you know:

Just Born, a candy company that was formed in 1910, got into the Peeps market by buying the Rodda Candy Company of Lancaster, Pa., in 1953. Though Rodda was best known as being technologically advanced in the art of jellybean making, they also produced Peeps.

At that time, the making of Peeps was a time-consuming process. When Just Born bought the company, it took 27 hours to make one Peep. Today it takes 6 minutes. Also, before the Peep-making technology was streamlined, Peeps were squeezed through a pastry tube, one at a time and then the eyes were painted on by hand. It wasn't exactly high-tech candy making. Just Born revolutionized the Peep-making technology and now 3,500 Peep eyes are created every minute.

And for the health conscious:

Each Peep has 32 calories (160 per five-chick serving) and 0 fat grams.

Want to know more about Peeps? Here ya go!

iTunes is currently playing: Candy Everybody Wants from the album MTV Unplugged by 10,000 Maniacs.


Kiefer Sutherland Signs on for THREE MORE SEASONS of '24'.

How do they cover all those tattoos? And why does Kiefer have Our Lady of Guadalupe tattooed on his arm?

iTunes is currently playing: Hero's Dream from the album Picture This by Jim Brickman.

A news story about pet allergies caught my eye …

... because I have three cats and my cat allergies have gotten worse of late. The article referred to a medication being developed for cat allergies but gave no information about when it might be available:

... a new study on pet allergies found that using a new compound made from the allergy-producing protein in cat saliva might help end cat allergies — almost like a cat-allergy vaccine.

The story did, however, offer this interim solution:

I don't think I could get my kitties to wear an outfit like that, even if it came in cat sizes!

iTunes is currently playing: You've Got A Friend In Me from the album Guilty: 30 Years Of Randy Newman by Randy Newman.

According to Abraham Lincoln …

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."

From the Drudge Report:

Poll: Republicans Are Happier Than Democrats
Wed Mar 15 2006 10:14:36 ET

The Pew Research Center recently updated a question about happiness that the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago has been asking since 1972.

In every asking of the question, ROLL CALL reports, Republicans have been happier than Democrats.

Republicans tend to be better off than Democrats, and that is one explanation for the happiness gap. But when the researchers controlled for household income, Republicans at all income levels were happier than Democrats at those same income levels.

As for ideology, conservative Republicans were happier than conservative Democrats, and moderate to liberal Republicans were happier than comparable Democrats.

iTunes is currently playing: Laugh and Be Happy (Demo) from the album Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman by Randy Newman.


Happy Birthday …

... to an angel who would have turned 32 today.

Love, Mom.

iTunes is currently playing: Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear from the album Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman by Randy Newman.
Comments (264)

Elton John and I agree …

... that this year's Oscar show was the worst ever ... totally BORING!!!!!!!!! And apparently we are not alone.

Here are a few suggestions for next year:

1) Get Steve Martin or Billy Crystal to do the show. (DO NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER or your show will suck.)

2) Nominate FIVE songs, not three.

3) Make a rule forbidding rap music from being nominated.

4) Don't put together montage after montage of film clips to break up the monotony of the show. (HINT: If the show is not monotonous, it won't NEED to be broken up.)

5) Don't keep telling us how great movies look ON THE BIG SCREEN in a pathetic attempt to increase theatre attendance. (HINT: If you stop making crappy movies, you won't have to do things to increase attendance.)

6) Make sure that at least ONE celebrity wears a dress that will have people talking the next day. (Think Bjork and her swan dress or Nicholson's ex-girlfriend in her tutu.)

iTunes is currently playing: I Love L.A. from the album Trouble in Paradise by Randy Newman.