"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Our Favorite Snowman

STUFFED TOYS, ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Snow Family

In case you are not familiar with the good - natured Snowman pictured above (in sextuplicate!) now is the perfect time to beat the midwinter blues and blahs by acquainting yourself with the delightful animated film, including lovely music by Howard Blake, from which these plush toys are derived. Some viewers prefer the original introduction, featuring the artist / author Raymond Briggs; others like the expanded version by David Bowie. I have never understood why The Snowman is not as popular and widely marketed in the USA as it is in England. I would choose it over Frosty the Snowman any day.

How did I come to possess so many? Well, back when I first mentioned the Snowman on my blog, it never occurred to me that this endearing, puffy stuffed toy, one of our all- time favorite book / movie tie - ins, was soon to become an endangered species, even on good old reliable amazon. My friend Barbara recently recalled purchasing a Snowman exactly like these "at CVS a long time ago!" I remember getting some at Kohl's a few years back, and for a good twenty years (1995 - 2015) I ordered numerous Snowmen from amazon to give as baby presents, such as this well - worn, well - loved one for my brother Aaron's grand-daughter Mia.


Over the holidays, Aaron and I were reminiscing
about a charming old poem from favorite childhood:


His Bunny

Poor, grey bunny --
Once you were white,
But Jimmy drags you all around,
And sleeps with you at night.

He drags you to his sandbox,
And hold you in his crib,
And sits you i his highchair
To use you for a bib.

Poor, grey bunny --
With one eye gone -- how sad --
and one ear slightly turned askew,
But, bunny, aren't you glad

That out of all the things he has,
Of every single toy,
You'd get to be the favorite one
Of such a precious boy!


~ by Marilyn Jean Fais
Aaron wrote: "I showed Lindsey [Mia's mom] the copy of 'Poor Grey Bunny' and told her all she had to do was change 'Bunny' to 'Snowman' and 'boy' to 'girl' and that is 100% Mia. She still carries that Snowman with her everywhere she goes!! Lindsey loved the poem (she actually took a picture of it) and doesn't know what they are going to do if Snowman falls apart before Mia finally outgrows him. They've tried switching him out with a newer one, but Mia wants nothing to do with a 'replacement' Snowman."

Lindsey said: "That [collection of Snowmen] is awesome! We bought a replacement when Mia was about one year old just in case she lost the original. She wasn’t interested -- I think it’s the different fabric for the scarf and hat. Can you tell he’s loved?!"

Awwwww! Yes, we sure can!

I love the story of Mia and her "poor, grey Snowman." A number of other friends also share with us from time to time that the Snowman we gave them at some point in the past has become a family favorite. I even sent one to my mom so that she could see what it was that dear little Mia was so attached to, and now she keeps him all year round, propped up right beside her television. Then there was the fun year when three of my sweet hair-dressers all had babies around the same time and all received a Snowman for Christmas for their little ones.

Sadly, around that time, the lovely plush Snowman just started disappearing from the market, so I ordered as many as I could find from ebay; most were imported from England, "new with tags," though a couple of them were slightly worn -- still, better than none. Hopefully, new ones will reappear in the stores in the future, but it did not happen this Christmas. No matter what your age, if you ask me, there is no nicer present than a Snowman book, movie, and toy all wrapped up together!

Shopping Spree ~ 2014

Do You Want to Buy a Snowman?
Yes, I do!
But I just don't know where to get one!

P.S.
You can also buy china figurines
and children's breakfast dishes
from Royal Doulton.

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, February 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Monday, January 28, 2019

Ghost of the Girl in the Pepsi Ad

PEPSI ~ COLA, ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS

In my post two weeks ago, "Ghost of Myself," I compared two poems -- "i am running into a new year" by Lucille Clifton and "in celebration of surviving" by Chuck Miller -- in which the poets look back on their younger selves, comparing youthful goals and expectations to present - day reality. It was theme that I recalled from the poetry of Larry Levis. I was lucky enough to hear him give a reading years ago, when I was an undergraduate in Missouri. I wrote three of his poems down in my notebook (Fall 1976) and have never forgotten them.

1. First, you may remember this one from a previous blog post:
We'll go on as always harvesting walnuts
on our hands and knees,
and die voicelessly
as a sedan full of cigar smoke
sinking under a bridge.
We'll turn slowly, flowers
in the mouths of drowned cattle
In a dawn of burned fields,
the sun disappoints you,
and the blight you begin to remember
is me.
Like an Alp overlooking a corpse
I explain nothing.

2. Next comes the second half of a poem entitled "Rhododendrons." For the entire poem, check out this essay, and this poetry blog which, like mine, strives to make connections.

Speaking of connections, you can see why I was reminded of my old Larry Levis favorites when reading the hopeful late - night epiphany of Chuck Miller's narrator:

". . . standing in the winter night
emptying the garbage and looking at the stars
you realize that although the odds are fantastically against you
when that single January shooting star
flung its wad in the maw of night
it was yours
and though the years are edged with crime and squalor
that second wind, or twenty-third
is coming strong . . ."

and why I thought of Levis when Lucille Clifton's narrator admits her concern:

". . . it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twenty-six and thirty-six . . ."

Miller thanks the stars for a another chance; Clifton hopes that her previous selves will forgive; Levis wishes he could offer a helping hand. Though he would have been only 30 when I heard him read this poem, he thinks back to himself at 20 and longs to connect with that ghostly young man, in need of money and sleep:
As I write this,
some blown rhododendrons are nodding
in the first breezes. I want
to resemble them, and remember nothing,
the way a photograph of an excavation
cannot remember the sun.
The wind rises or stops
and it means nothing.
I want to be circular;
a pond or a column of smoke
revolving, slowly, its ashes.
I want to turn back and go up
to myself at age 20,
and press five dollars into his hand

so he can sleep.
While he stands trembling on a street in Fresno,
suddenly one among many in the crowd
that strolls down Fulton Street,
among the stores that are closing,
and is never heard of again.

3. Finally, in "The Double," the ghosts are "the elderly drunks" and "the girl in the Pepsi ad," all "dead now." Sadly, very sadly, the poet who wrote those words is dead now too, for Larry Levis died young, in 1996 at age 49. In a poem filled with ghosts, the poet says, "This poem so like me / it could be my double":
The Double

Out here, I can say anything.
I can say, for example, that a girl
disappearing tonight
will sleep or stare out
fixedly as the train moves her
into its adulthood of dust
and sidings.

I remember watching wasps
on hot evenings
fly heavily over chandeliers
in hotel lobbies.
They’ve torn them down, too.
And the elderly drunks
who seemed not to mind anything,
who seemed to look for change
in their pockets, as they gazed
at the girl in the Pepsi ad,
and the girl who posed for the ad,
must all be dead now.



I can already tell that this
is no poem to show you,
this love poem. It’s so
flat spoken and ignorable,
like the man chain smoking
who discovers he’s
no longer waiting for anyone,
and goes to the movies
alone each Saturday, and grins,
and likes them.
This poem so like the hour
when the street lights turn
amber and blink, and the calm
professor burns another book,
and the divorcee waters her one
chronically dying plant.

This poem so like me
it could be my double.


I have stood for a long time
in its shadow, the way I stood
in the shadow of a dead roommate
I had to cut down from the ceiling
on Easter break, when
I was young.

That night I put my car
in neutral, and cut the engine
and lights to glide downhill
and hear the wind rush over
the dead metal.
I had to know what it felt
like, and under the moon,
gaining speed, I wanted to slip
out of my body and be
done with it.

A man can give up smoking
and the movies, and live for years
hearing the wind tick over roofs
but never looking up from
his one page, or the tiny
life he keeps carving over and
over upon it. And when everyone
around him dies, he can move
a grand piano into
his house, and sit down
alone, and finally play,
certain that no one will
overhear him, though he plays
as loud as he can,
so that when the dead come
and take his hands off the keys
they are invisible, the way air
and music are not.
[emphasis added]

"Rhododendrons" and "The Double"
can be found in The Selected Levis

*************************

In another, perhaps surprising, connection, contemporary motivational speaker Dr. Jordan B. Peterson (b, 1962) discusses the very topic which runs like a sad lament through the poems of Larry Levis: existential suffering. Thanks to my son Sam for recommending this lecture in which Peterson, a clinical psychologist and professor of abnormal, social, and personality psychology, explains how in order to function effectively with others and efficiently to meet our own goals, we need to remain on good -- even gentle -- terms with our past, present, and future selves:
"Plan a life you'd like to have, and you do that partly by . . . having a little conversation with yourself, as if you don't really know who you are because you know what you're like: you won't do what you're told; you won't do what you tell yourself to do; you must have noticed that!

It's like you're a bad employee and a worse boss. And both of those work, you know, for you. You don't know what you want to do, and then when you tell yourself what to do, you don't do it anyway. You should fire yourself and find someone else to be you!

. . . you have to understand that you're not your own servant, so to speak. You're someone that you have to negotiate with. You're someone that you want to present the opportunity of having a good life to. And that's hard for people because they don't like themselves very much . . . they're always cracking the whip and procrastinating . . . maybe you should do something else with your time [if] you think that your time's worthwhile . . . if you assume that your time isn't worthwhile what happens is you don't just sit around randomly in this sort of responsibility-less bliss, what you do is you suffer existentially . . .[emphasis added]

. . . you can probably have you want, if you could figure out what the hell it was and then, you know, you diligently pursued it. So . . . you might think 'I can have what I want,' but you better well figure out what it is and you can't just wait for the have - what - you - want fairy to just show up on your doorstep and grant it because obviously that's not going to happen.

Here's how you know if someone is your friend . . . you can actually tell them bad news and they'll listen. That's a good thing, and then this is a weirder thing, you can tell them good news and they'll help you celebrate, and that's a really good way of deciding who you should have around you.


Jordan Peterson
On Goals, Scheduling, Negotiating & Friendship
Peterson's message echoes that of the poets (as well as Helen Reddy's song "Best Friend"): be kind to those ghosts of yourself who are so like you, they could be your double. One of them may be going to the future.


SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, February 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Monday, January 14, 2019

Ghost of Myself

VICTORIAN HOUSE GHOST, ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
2014

Following Halloween, I like to change the bow on my ghost
and leave her out for the remainder of the year.
Thanks to my friends Claude & Sue who wrote:
"Your lace Ghost of Christmas Past
is one of best yard decorations we've seen!"

2018

The following two poems -- "i am running into a new year" by Lucille Clifton and "in celebration of surviving" by Chuck Miller -- have appeared recently on several different blogs and New Year posts and websites. Yet, I've never seen them posted together. As my contribution to the conversation, I will compare and contrast, in keeping with my goal to provide "a poem for every poem."

Here they are side by side: Clifton's almost middle - aged narrator, "running into a new year"; Miller's almost elderly narrator standing outside in January, coming "through on the stretch in a photo finish." The two narrators contemplate various ghosts of themselves as they resolve to take the New Year and run with it. Even so, they spare a moment to reckon with the ghosts of "Auld Lang Syne" [literally: "old long since"; idiomatically: "long long ago," "days gone by," "old times' sake]. I like to think of these poems as "Auld Lang Syne" reveries, midnight resolutions to cut loose the old trappings and embrace the new energy of the present. As Robert Burns reminds us when we put his poem to music every New Year's Eve, we drink the cup of kindness now.

Clifton begs the ghosts of her old broken promises and her younger selves to forgive her for choosing the present over the past. Miller stands, however briefly, in the "golden envelope" of the present -- not the past, not the future. What matters more is history as we are living it moment by moment; not history as we look back on it. The present is real; the past and the future are imaginary. Or is the opposite: there is no Now; there is only Before and After?

Remember what Thomas Jefferson said:
“I like the dreams of the future
better than the history of the past."

Contemplative essayist and novelist Scott Russell Sanders (American, b 1945) has the perfect phrase for what is happening in these poems. He begins the new year by sharing this thought from a friend: "Memory grips the past and hope grips the future." In both poems, you can feel the icy wind of winter, and the exhilarating wind of change:
i am running into a new year
i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twenty-six and thirty-six
even thirty-six but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me


~ Lucille Clifton (American poet, 1936 - 2010)

******************************

in celebration of surviving
when senselessness has pounded you around on the ropes
and you're getting too old to hold out for the future
no work and running out of money,
and then you make a try after something that you know you
won't get
and this long shot comes through on the stretch
in a photo finish of your heart's trepidation
then for a while
even when the chill factor of these prairie winters puts it at
fifty below
you're warm and have that old feeling
of being a comer, though belated
in the crazy game of life

standing in the winter night
emptying the garbage and looking at the stars
you realize that although the odds are fantastically against you
when that single January shooting star
flung its wad in the maw of night
it was yours
and though the years are edged with crime and squalor
that second wind, or twenty-third
is coming strong
and for a time
perhaps a very short time
one lives as though in a golden envelope of light


~ Chuck Miller (American poet, b 1939)
Thanks to Katie Field for recommending Lucille Clifton;
and to Peter Bunder for recommending both Chuck Miller
and Scott Russell Sanders

More on this topic
and these poems next time
. . .

******************************

January: Always a Time for
Gazing Forward & Hearkening Back


Christmas Forward Backward ~ January 15, 2016

Perfect Twins: Going Out, Coming In ~ January 14, 2016

Janus, Orpheus, Obsolescing ~ January 30, 2011

January: Forward Vision, Backward Glance ~ January 28, 2011

Janus ~ January 8, 2010

Fast Away the Old Year Passes ~ December 28, 2009

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, January 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Friday, December 28, 2018

Past Three O'Clock

THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
"Christmas Back Home"

& "The True Meaning of Christmas"
cartoons by xkcd

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Past Three O'Clock

past three o'clock,
on a cold frosty morning,
past three o'clock,
good morrow masters all.

born is a baby
gentle as may be,
son of the Eternal
Father supernal.

seraph choir singeth,
angel bell ringeth,
hark how they rhyme it,
time it and chime it!

mid earth rejoices
hearing such voices.
ne'ertofore so well
carolling nowell!

hinds o'er the pearly
dewy lawn early
seek the high stranger
laid in the manager.

cheese from the dairy
bring they for Mary,
and, not for money,
butter and honey.

light out of star-land
leadeth from far land
princes, to meet him,
worship and greet him.

myrrh from full coffer,
incense they offer;
nor is the golden
nugget withholden.

thus they: i pray you,
up sirs, nor stay you
till ye confess him
likewise and bless him.


Old English Carol
by George Ratcliff Woodward (1848 - 1934)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Q: What makes the perfect midnight
or after - midnight snack?


A: Mince pies! (& a cup of tea, of course)

Thanks to Ben & Cathleen for the perfect present!

And a Toast to Gerry & the Christkindlmarket!

Previous Visits: 2011 ~ 2012 ~ 2013

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, January 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Friday, December 14, 2018

Shorter by the Day

THE WINTER SOLSTICE, ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Whistling Boy ~ Marques E. Reitzel

On the Shortest Days

At almost four in the afternoon, the
wind picks up and sifts through the golden woods.

The tree trunks bronze and redden, branches
on fire in the heavy sky that flickers

with the disappearing sun. I wonder
what I owe the fading day, why I keep

my place at this dark desk by the window
measuring the force of the wind, gauging

how long a certain cloud will hold that pink
edge that even now has slipped into gray?

Quickly the lights are appearing, a lamp
in every window and nests of stars

on the rooftops. Ladders lean against the hills
and people climb, rung by rung, into the night.


by Joyce Sutphen
found in Modern Love & Other Myths
© Red Dragonfly Press, 2015
(see facebook)

[See also "The Shortest Day" by Susan Cooper]

See the mystical oil painting above, as well as this nostalgic pastel,
at the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette (Indiana)

Two Hour Delay by Ron Burgess

The shortest day -- and longest night -- of the year will be here before you know it: on December 21st, one week from today! For the next seven days, we will continue to lose approximately thirty seconds of light per day; and then magically after we round the Winter Solstice, start gaining it back again. So prepare your hearts. As the earth turns towards the solstice, so do we:
December

The white dove of winter
sheds its first
fine feathers;
they melt

as they touch
the warm ground
like notes
of a once familiar

music; the earth
shivers and
turns towards
the solstice
.


Linda Pastan, American Poet (b 1932)

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, December 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Laden With Fruit

FRESH FALL FRUIT, ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
~ Thanksgiving Bounty ~
Thanks to Cathleen and Ben for the fruit and for the pic . . .

. . . and for sharing!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To Autumn

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit
; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.
[emphasis added]

William Blake, 1757 - 1827

Thanks to my friend Katie Field
for the Opinel Paring Knife

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Comical Prayer for the Season
from the movie that we watch every Thanksgiving:
Home for the Holidays

Henry / Dad / Charles Durning: "Dear Lord, We realize just that lately everything is changing too damn fast. And all sorts of things are always the same, even things we hated like shoveling the turkey and stuffing the snow, and going through the same crap year in and year out -- "

Adele / Mom / Anne Bancroft: "Come on, your food is getting cold."

Henry: "As I was saying Dear Lord before my wife interrupted me, even those old - fashioned pain - in - the - ass traditions, like Thanksgiving, which really mean something to us, even though, god - damn - it, we couldn't tell you what it is, are starting to stop; and thousand - year - old trees are falling over dead, and they shouldn't. That's all from this end. Amen"

After dinner:

Adele: "It's all relative."

Claudia / Holly Hunter: ". . . that's what the day is supposed to be all about,
right? . . .
"

Adele: "That, and giving thanks that we don't have to go through this for another year. Except we do because those bastards went and put Christmas right in the middle, just to punish us."

Henry: "Oh shit! Deck the Halls! I can't wait for god - damn Christmas."

As everyone departs:

Adele: "There's never enough time, right? . . . I think I'm never going to see my kids again."

Claudia: "Come on, Mom. Buck up. There's always Christmas."

Henry: "Yeah, whether we like it or not."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, December 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT ~ Fruit in Season
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com