Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I have a volunteer

I will link to stanza VI of the Open Source Poem when it has been posted.

You may now chase the Open Source poem as it skitters away.

Monday, February 27, 2006

please volunteer!

Please volunteer to write stanza VI of the open source poem. I think it's a fun idea and I don't think it's at all relevant whether the stanza is good, great, or lousy. I don't want to tag anyone, as I've been doing lately with blog memes. I want somebody to volunteer!

open source poem V

first review the earlier stanzas

Consider the medium before you, the dusky
moment continued in the mind, a shadow the heart
throws over reason, its little mystery squeamish
at angles, at cowbells, at trousers, at veal
and its reveal, at game rules on boxtops on lazy
hazy Sundays. Whose innertube turns in foam below
the treatment plant?

then follow this link to stanza 6

Sunday, February 26, 2006

one less record store

It was overcast and a few sprinkles had dampened the street. We were thinking about where to go to get a bite to eat, get a little out of the house time before tackling chores. Up the hill to Euclid to the burrito place? Get in the car and drive down to Gilman for the Gilman Grill? Usually going to that end of town means shopping at Target or buying pet supplies.

Since I spend five days a week downtown I usually don't suggest going there on the weekends. But we liked the Mediterranean place in its latest incarnation and it's a block too far to fit comfortably in my lunch hour (half hour, that is). Plus there are a couple interesting stores to poke around in nearby if you're in that mood.

I grabbed my umbrella and Kent put on a baseball cap and we strolled down Shattuck, the rain beginning a steadier patter. As I chomped my chicken shawarma sandwich and Kent forked hummus onto a wedge of pita the rain got heavier. The food was good and, full, I felt stronger, my wobbly head settled. How about Mod Lang? I said. I haven't been in there in awhile.

Last I was in I bought some two-dollar sampler CDs to listen to at my desk at work.

But the storefront was empty. One less record store in Berkeley. Seems they've moved to El Cerrito.

We stepped over next door to Eudemonia because I've only been in there maybe once and am always curious about it. Up front there are shelves of board games for sale and videogame fuel (Hostess cupcakes, candybars, etc). The second third of the room is computer terminals about half of which were taken up by young guys playing videogames. The ones I saw were mostly first person shooters. The back of the room is tables for board and card game play (Magic the Gathering, not poker). There was one group of four or five twenty-somethings hunched over colorful cards.

I guess none of this hooked Kent or me so we ducked back out into the rain and walked home.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I got what I wanted

After all that.

I got what I wanted.

I can't believe it.

I wanted a 20 hour position at one of the branches of the Berkeley Public Library.

This past Thursday I got a call from the head of the Claremont branch. She offered me the very 20 hour job I'd been pining for.

It's not like it came out of the blue. I followed up clues, showing up at Claremont when I heard there was a possibility, asking questions, offering up hopefully relevant employment history & personal facts, gleaming with enthusiasm. And I got friendly, receptive response, it seemed. At no point did I decide I had it in the bag. Even when I got very encouraging intimations. What else can I say? I'd think to myself. What more is there to do?

Now I'm thinking, What do I need to do to prepare?

A different question. An excellent question. I'm so excited. Whee!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What's on my desk right now

Having been tagged with the 5 Weird Habits meme Laurel tagged me back with What's On My Desk Right Now.

What's on my desk right now

The iPod mini which is charging via a cable hooked up to the computer (a Mac)

The dock for K's new camera

another gray cable with a twist tie keeping it from sprawling ... is that the one for the other camera?

a wooden clothespin

three pens -- two ballpoint, one red felt tip

various scraps of paper which I'm not going to rifle through ... the top one is a checkout receipt for the last two DVDs I brought home from the library (La Cage aux Folles ... eh ... and Bear Cub, a Spanish movie about a gay man who unexpectedly becomes guardian of his sister's young son ... and yet isn't a saint, my god; I liked it)

biz cards: one for something called ArcSource (?), purity (that's a line of juices, I think), a big eyeball (for a glass blower?)

a five dollar bill with an apology written on it, a curiosity we can't bear to spend I guess

a slender blue flashlight

the speakers for the computer

on another scrap an url for a description of a roadtrip thru Indian lands

some phone numbers but the names disappear under papers

the True Love DVD which I blogged about recently


Since I discovered Pam had tagged me with the Weird Habits meme by reading her blog she'll have to discover I've tagged her with the Desk meme by reading it here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

comments on "The Baker/Bread & Fish", version four

What to say, what to say ... Question marks. We have two of them now. And contractions. One more than last time. 6 stanzas, 4 lines per stanza. All the lines look about the same length. Several instances of enjambment. Last two lines a rhyming couplet. Don't ask me about stresses.

I went back to the very first version, the poem as written in my notebook (then copied to the computer). It's called The Townspeople and the speaker has a much sharper tongue about the message "you" are imparting. Hm. I think if I'd started by reading my first version rather than the later revision I chose as seed for revision here I would have gone in another direction. I suppose I still could ...

The Townspeople

Everybody of consequence in the unincorporated town
had gathered at the low hill's broad foot, their faces turned
slightly up, to see you. Your words swam over their heads,
silvery and quick and nobody could quite grasp them. The townspeople had come
together gradually, drawn first by the moist fragrance of baking bread,
then by the sight of their friends and relations in a group,
and stayed under the sound of rushing water that filled the trees and into which
your words leapt, tails flicking, jaws agape. Their faces shone
in the light of your wisdom like stones in a hurried, clean stream,
you thought, and so let your words get bigger and more muscular,
kinglike in the splendor of their gleam, grandfatherly in their nostalgia
for the golden age. At the table afterwards you buttered a thick slice
for every one of them as they waited patiently in a long line,
and finally each exclaimed to you as to their neighbors
over the nutty heartiness of the bread, the crust that was not too tough
but really wonderfully chewy. A few even went ahead and bought
a loaf. And one bought three but said you needed something
more than butter. You needed thin slices of salted fish; and juicy,
aromatic onions, which he had in quantity, the blessing of a harvest
so generous it was wasteful, but now, he could see, was
a miracle, really. You were just the person God had sent in answer to his prayers.

"The Baker/Bread & Fish", version four

Bread and Fish

In air, silver and sudden, but its weight lasts,
fish vanished into water. The word?
A word’s like that, flashing against what force
always pushes forward, its hurry its pace

to everywhere, carrying everything one way,
even mountains. A word’s weight’s its sense,
yes, but mostly weightless, all air and water
and wriggle. At the broad foot of the hill

they bunched up, your listeners, those
seeing others gathered came too, gathering
for what you were giving, a story or stories.
What you said got to them, moved, invisible,

the light bending as in water, bending around
the object. The bread on your truck was warm still
from the morning baking, then words weren’t all
that filled the air. Their faces caught the ordinary light

not like stones in the waterfall’s pool,
shimmering and jeweled. So what? Ripples
hide them anyway. When you finally served
and the people spread out, a line that grew

longer as they talked among themselves, you
got your first unselfconscious smiles from
mouths chewing. “I know,” one man said,
“I don’t know much. But this is good. This bread.”

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sutra bites Sundy

Brotherly love.

photo credit: KLM

Kent bought a new extra thin digital camera. This is one of his first pictures.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

missing post?

I've read about others having their blog posts "eaten by blogger". Seems to have happened to me now. I posted my Five Weird Habits on Friday but the post seems to be gone.

Only it isn't quite. It's not on my front page. It's not listed in the archive.

But it still exists. I know because I posted links to it in the comments of the bloggers I tagged. And the links still lead to the post. Here it is. Wherever "here" is.

Sundy in sun

photo credit: KLM

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Just got the cat weather report. Must be raining/misting outside as when Sutra presented for strokes his fur had a dewing of tiny drops.

Is cold! Plus which I'm feeling achy and tired. Hope it's not another cold/flu. Should I take a nice hot bath?

Watched La Cage aux Folles last night. First time. The original French movie. I can see how someone could look at it and say, hey, there's lotsa places we could add singing & dancing. And it's not like there are a lot of scene changes so it wouldn't be hard to adapt it for the stage. (Wikipedia entry says it was originally a play.) But I haven't seen the stage version. And I haven't seen the American movie version with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, The Birdcage. La Cage is a cute, slight movie, both sweet and filled with homophobia. I laughed, was bored, was uncomfortable. It's not a film I'd recommend against seeing, but not worth moving heaven & earth for.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

comments on "The Baker/Bread & Fish", version three

This poem is reminding me of a poem I wrote years ago, "The Crane in Flight". "Crane" was my most revised poem. Back when I was living in my mother's house and there was no computer in the house I remember crossing things out & writing new words then recopying everything by hand when the draft started to become hard to read. I filled page after page after page. "Crane" was about something being said, a something that wasn't revealed, and the word was likened to a bird in air.

This time it's fish.

When I posted version two I asked myself if it mattered what was being said. Doesn't it?

In the gospel according to Mark Jesus fed the people, but the gospel doesn't say he said anything -- other than, "How many loaves you got? Well, guess we can make do."

The words of the eating man at the end, then, become the only quoted words. Doesn't this give them a great weight? I'm trying to decide how artificial he sounds. Is it just cute to make him ... dumb? humble? what if he thought the bread bad?

When I read something written in the second person I tend to read it as though the writer were speaking about me. Thus I judge, as I read, whether I really would be doing these things.

The baker is never described, not even gendered. The second person allows that.

Last night when I was working this one over it was really annoying me. It's not bugging me tonight. It's not set, I'm seeing places to fiddle. The mixed metaphor of water & grain has been unmixed, except "gathered up" doesn't sound all that much like water.

Version one caused me trouble because ... because it looked like I was trying to make a Robert Hass poem, maybe, Hass having been my teacher at about this time ... and I'm not Robert Hass ... The people gathering because people were gathering echoes a poem I copied out by William Matthews ... There were words in version one I just would not use unless I'm goofing ... "aromatic", for instance ... "the blessing of a harvest so generous" ... "the fragrance of bread still warm after the baking" ... I might like them in someone else's poem ... but in my own poem? No. Why? They sound affected? They seem to be saying something but aren't? Hm. "aromatic", "fragrance" ... how do you describe a smell? Bready smelling!

"The Baker/Bread & Fish", version three

A weight in air, silver and sudden, the fish gone back
into water. A word’s like that, flashing
against the force always pushing back, which rushes,
indifferent, in a hurry that is its pace, as it carries

everything, even mountains, its way.
A word will get through, its weight
its sense, but weightless mostly,
every word water and air and wriggle.

At the broad foot of the low hill they bunched up,
your listeners, those who had seen others gathered
so gathered themselves up for the story or stories
that flickered through as they turned an ear,

them the body water forms standing, and whatever
you said seemed larger, the light bending around.
What you said moved through them and
went on, homeward. The bread on your truck was

warm from the morning baking, so words weren’t all
that got them, were not all that filled the air. Their faces shone
in ordinary light, not jeweled up like colored stones
in the waterfall’s sink, neither polished nor glimmering.

When you finally served, and the people spread out,
a line that grew longer as they talked among
themselves, you got your first unselfconscious smiles
from mouths chewing. “I don’t know,” one man said

as he bit into the butter and the crust, “I don’t know
things like you. This, you know, is good. This bread.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Info Desk Blogging

We've got a sunny day, but the air is chill. Feels like it's thinking about snow.

Here I am again. Second time this week. Subbing this time for someone else. It's been steady, not hectic.

If you're ever in the Berkeley Public Library there are no restrooms on the first floor. Don't ask me why. We have restrooms on the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th floors. There are restrooms on the 4th floor, too, you know, but we don't tell the adults that because those 'strooms are kidling only.

The electronic resources training today was about newspapers, newspapers online. Not the newspaper's website. No, these are articles from newspapers. Here's one from the Oakland Tribune. If you don't have a Berkeley library card you may not be able to follow that link. So I'll tell you what it is. It's an article about drinking in Russia. "Perhaps as many as 30 percent of all Russian deaths are caused, in one way or another, by an addiction to the bottle." Sounds bad, right? "It's become a vicious cycle: When it gets unbearably cold (and that's saying something in such chilly environs as Moscow and St. Petersburg), some turn to drink in an attempt to ward off the pain. Too much firewater causes some inebriates to pass out in the snow. They then freeze to death. It's not pretty. Makes you ever-thankful for our relatively mild winters here in the Bay Area." Thankful for the lack of drunkcicles? The not-frozen-solid kind are easier to scrape off the sidewalk?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Info Desk Blogging

Lovely warm day here in Berkeley.

Steve Mueske, who runs the ezine Three Candles, is starting to publish physical books now. Being as I work in a library he wondered if I had any hints on how to market to libraries. I didn't. Curious, no?

However, I asked the head of acquisitions and she said, "Reviews. Librarians buy in response to reviews." She said she would put together a list of likely places for me. She is very busy. I'll wait a few days and ask again. In the meantime this American Library Association fact sheet might be useful. The ALA notes, "Individual libraries are responsible for their own collections." There is no central source for disseminating marketing materials to libraries. If it's your hometown public library it'd probably behoove you to walk in yourself or ring up and present yourself as a local author, as libraries like to stock what the locals are writing.

Monday, February 13, 2006

comments on "The Baker", version two

Title change to "Bread and Fish" ... I recall now that when I previously titled this piece I didn't want to refer that baldly to the loaves & fishes & Jesus story. Oh, what the heck. I've looked back at last to the first version; it was titled "The Townspeople".

Yes, I realize the water with fish swimming in it suddenly becomes a sheaf of grain and that that's a mixed metaphor. It prefigures the bread? You gotta water the grain in the fields, too, right?

What is the content of the speech? The sermon? ... The poem is making the claim that the specifics aren't relevant? I've always been suspicious of such a stance in poetry.

But I do like the words as fish. That they swim through us.

"The Baker", version two

Bread and Fish

The fish leaping leaves a weight in air, silver and sudden.
A word will do that. Yours.
A flashing against the force that pushes back, that rushes,
indifferent, in a hurry that is no hurry but which carries

everything, even mountains, its own way.
A word will hurry homeward through, hurry carrying
its burden of sense, wriggling as it dashes off water,
every word water and air and idea.

At the broad foot of the low hill they bunched up,
your listeners, those who had seen others gathered
so gathered themselves up in a sheaf lightly bound
by what you were saying, your story or stories

and them the river, the lake, the body the water
forms standing. Or it went over their heads
like waterfowl, too lately left earth to set down yet,
going on over. The bread on your truck

warm from the morning baking, so it wasn’t just
words that caught the attention. Their faces shone
in ordinary light, not jeweled up like colored stones
in the waterfall’s sink, neither polished nor glimmering.

When you finally served, and the people spread out,
a line that grew longer as they talked among
themselves, you got your first unselfconscious smiles
from mouths chewing. “I don’t know,” one man said

as he bit into the butter and the crust, “I don’t know
nothing about that. But this. This bread is good.”

Saturday, February 11, 2006

John Cleese

Kent and I saw John Cleese Thursday night at Zellerbach. The show was a mix of autobiography and vaudeville. The best thing for a comedian? A boring childhood. His evidence? All the Pythons were from boring towns. The only American of the group? From Minnesota.

Cleese is proud to have a lemur named after him. He had a giant picture of it on the stage. It was accompanied by giant pictures of his mother, his father, one of his seventeen cats, and himself in his first starring role.

His mother died in 2001, I think. Having been born in the last year of the 19th Century, she lived all the way through the 20th. Of all the big events of that century, he said, she only noticed one. World War II. And that was because the Germans bombed her town. Why did the Germans bomb this boring no-account little town? Cleese said, Maybe they had a sense of humor?

He stuck around after the show and took a few questions. "Can you still do those silly walks?" "Not since the hip replacement surgery. I can't imagine how I ever did those silly walks. It must have been I was so skinny and had so little muscle structure."

Cleese's father's name was Cheese but he got so tired of being teased that when he joined the army he changed the H to an L. Son John says his parents each pronounced it differently, his father rhyming it with Cheese, his mother rhyming it with Peace.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Don't call it a gay cowboy movie

Call it a gay shepherd movie.

Anyway, it's GAY. It's not a love story that happens to be about two men. It's a GAY story. Because it is a love story that happens to be about two men. That's what GAY is. That's GAY.

At the New York Review of Books Daniel Mendelssohn makes the point at length.

Info Desk Blogging

There's a quarter sitting in front of me on the desk. I accepted it from a patron who was trying to buy a paperback from the self-service Friends of the Library book sale shelves on the second floor. I told her there is a strongbox cable-locked to the top of the bookcase, and she wrinkled up her brow. "I ... didn't see anything ... like that." Then she turned pleading, "Would you mind ..?"

There's a cart in the hall near the Technical Services Dept that's filled up with books. These are books that didn't sell in the Friends bookstore and employees are invited to make off with them. There was a new batch this morning and I saw two or three I liked. But I have too many books! So I am leaving these alone for now. If someone else decides to take 'em -- great! If they're still sitting on the cart next week then I'll either have talked myself out of them or no longer be able to resist.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

comments on "The Baker", version one

Ye Gods. I can't even bring myself to read this one clear through.

Yes, it's challenge time again at the ol' LoveSettlement.

Glenn plucks a poem from his poetry files (year 1989!) and throws it up on his blog. Throws it right on up there. Doesn't change a thing. (Though, actually, this is the fourth version of the poem in the files, so, no, this is not really truly "version one".)

I'm not sure why this one makes me cringe. It's not the bad writing -- the writing I can get myself to read isn't bad bad. I mean, it might even be good. It's hard to tell when your eyes keep flinching. But that reaction is a good sign, right? It means there's a fever in the poem, a shivering, a dis-ease (or maybe a plain ol' Disease), that has power, that gives the poem a strength. Better a shudder than a shrug, right?

"The Baker", version one

Your words leapt. Brilliant, shimmering leaping, as though throwing off scales of light,
the weight the silvery fish leaves in air, held there by its suddenness.
Your words grew into the insistence of home, a place far from where
many of us have ended up. Your words held in them rooms long since closed, and as you spoke
it was easy to see them open. No wonder everybody came.
Everybody of consequence in the town. And everybody who was nobody. At the broad
foot of the low hill they bunched up and only sometimes spoke amongst themselves.
It's true your words swam over their heads, distant as silver and quick and nobody
entirely got them. Drawn first by the fragrance of bread still warm after the baking,
then by the sight of their friends and relations in a group, the townspeople
stayed under the rushing of the river that was the wind through the trees, the river which took on your words as they leapt upward, turned toward a place you, the townspeople,
the words themselves knew well but had not been to in an age none had realized was so long.
The faces of the townspeople shone in the day's ordinary light. Still and bright as stones in a clear stream, you thought.
So you closed your eyes and opened them to the sky.
At the table afterwards the women and men waited in a long line laughing
and pushing each other. Each exclaimed to you and to their neighbors over the glory
of the bread, the crust chewy but not tough, the center moist but not heavy,
every slice redolent of memory. A few even went ahead and bought a loaf.
And one man bought three but he said, as he helped himself to your butter, that you needed something
more than butter. You needed salted fish sliced thin as a fin;
and juicy, aromatic onions, which he had quantity, the blessing of a harvest
so generous he had been certain much would go to waste, but now, he could see, was
a miracle, really. He understood that God had sent you, the answer to his prayers.