Friday, February 24, 2017

Wicked secrets; Kukla Fran and Ollie; Putin it there; The bell stand; Norb Blei's FROG; Dixian diction; Gertie and the dollar bill; Emerson studies voting; Multi-tasker

VIII - from "Twelve Songs"
by W. H. Auden

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At last the secret is out, as it always must come in the end,
The delicious story is ripe to tell to the intimate friend;
Over the tea-cups and in the square the tongue has its desire;
Still waters run deep, my dear, there’s never smoke without fire.
Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links,
Behind the lady who dances and the man who madly drinks,
Under the look of fatigue, the attack of migraine and the sigh
There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye.
For the clear voice suddenly singing, high up in the convent wall,
The scent of the elder bushes, the sporting prints in the hall,
The croquet matches in summer, the handshake, the cough, the kiss,
There is always a wicked secret, a private reason for this.

VIII - from "Twelve Songs" by W. H. Auden from Collected Poems.


Kukla, Fran and Ollie

Great TV from before most of the SRN readers were born.


Putin it there!


The bell stand

Lu said to the master carver:
“What is your secret?”

Khling replied: “I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The secret is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
On trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting, I had forgotten gain and success.
After five days
I had forgotten criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

“By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell stand.

“Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
And begin.

“If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bellstand at all.

“What happened?
My own collected thought
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;
From this live encounter came the work

Which you ascribe to the spirits.

Forwarded to the Raccoon by John Helt


A Norb Blei Basho's Road memory

Painting by Lucha of Arcadia, Ellison Bay WI


Dixian diction
Some family history 


continued left above


Email from 206 Albany CA
re:  our story of Gertie and the dollar bill

Dear 202,

In the Prologue of his Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind Roshi Suzuki writies:  “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Gertie’s gleeful discovery of the dollar you or I placed in the coin return raises the question:  there in that restaurant in whose mind were the possibilities the greatest? 

On the road,



Emerson Helt leaves the polls 
with Grandpa


Man plays two trombones
and two horns at once
with hands and feet

play link:

Sent by Laurie Dix Kari, Wasilla AK

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Instead of chants; Popsicles; A young man then; Happy days

Extra Small Wood Percussion Frog, 2" long
These are the original Rrribit frogs from Thailand. 
They are made from Monkey Pod wood, which 
produces the best frog croaking sound
 you will ever hear from a wooden frog. 
To play it set it in your palm with the front 
of the frog facing away from you 
and run the thicker end of the stick over the ridges up 
the back of the frog from the rear to the front. 
You can change the sound by covering and uncovering
 the holes by his mouth. You can also use the holes to store 
the stick when not in use. Anyone can play it 
the first time they pick it up. With a little practice 
you can more closely mimic the sounds of a happy frog. 

(Please note that we are not responsible for plagues of frogs.)

Turtle Island Imports

No, but we the American people, can put Thailand 
on the map by getting several million 
of these monkey pod miniature noisemakers, 
carrying them to cities like Wash. DC, airports, 
or our own home town's street corners, 
pulling them easily from our purses or pockets
and make at the strike of noon 
or another predetermined time
a collective racket across the land.
Like the biggest spring peeper bog there ever was.

The spontaneous pushing of the little wands across the ridged frog backs 
will create waves of Ribbits.  The noise WILL be heard!  
Astounding volume from such  small thing.  

The Raccoon has two so far but has ordered several for family and friends
from Turtle Island Imports. Reasonable rates.  But they won't do the job 
unless enough of them are used!

Notice the zig-zag motif on the frogs' backs.
Rubbing the wand over the line of them
is what creates the sound.

It is natural that we 
are especially attracted to that feature of the frogs.

Native American zig-zag
is a dominant motif
on these premises:



My Father Was a Young Man Then

Only 16, when he came from Italy alone,
moved into the Riverside neighborhood
full of Italians from Cilento-all of whom
spoke the same dialect, so it was as though
they had transported those mountain villages
to Paterson. At first, America was terrifying,
English, a language they could not master,
but my father was a young man
and he became friends with other young people
and they learned how to take buses and trains
or to borrow a car, and off they’d go
on the weekend to Rye Brook or Coney Island,
free from their factory jobs on the weekends,
reveling in the strength of their bodies,
the laughter and music and the company.

My father was a young man then,
and even when he died at 92,
he never lost the happiness
that bubbled up in him,
the irrepressible joy of being alive,
the love of being with friends.

I imagine him in that time
before he married my mother,
before we were born,
before he had a tumor on his spine
that left him with a limp.
Imagine him with his broad smile,
his booming laugh, his generous spirit,
his sharp intelligence,
imagine him as a young man,
his head full of dreams,
his love of politics and math,
the way he carried those qualities
all the way into old age,
though his legs failed him,
though his body grew trembling and frail,
his mind never did.

When I’d arrive at the house
all those years after mom died, he’d smile
at me with real pleasure,
the young man he was at 16 would emerge,
sit in the room with us
and laugh.

"My Father Was a Young Man Then" by Maria Mazziotti Gillan 
from What Blooms in Winter. © NYQ Books, 2016

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Some scenes; Paper-boys to men; A precedent; Mexico; Outside of Richmond

Scenes around the Odd fellows hall

Turning back and forth in our center window
to be seen by passers-by and diners at the Clark etc.
are  two green frogs mounted on an axle.

This is a subliminal Trump un-endorsement.

The device was purchased Aug. 2003 in Bayfield Wi.
It was during what we called our GETTING FAT UP NORTH:

Powered by a 9 volt battery, it swings left and right
sort of like the way The Donald listens to the last person
to give him advice. (Magnets are involved in the mechanism)

Wis Guthrie's The Dirt God
casts a long shadow.
Made of twine, roaster lid, vacuum cleaner brushes
zipper, belt loop kit pieces daubed in white, etc.

KD-Cat still sleeps in the Xmas box lid she commandeered for one of her napping places.
A favorite, apparently.

KD has enjoyed sleeping on the table under the Xmas tree.
Therefore we have not taken down the tree yet.
She doesn't seem to mind that the ornaments are now taken off.
(And now, 2-4-17, the tree is in the storeroom till next year.)

View to the left as we sit in the creativity end of the old 6 foot round-table.

Currently, we work on greeting notes with color clips from the computer printer
of a frog wearing a snail hat, and one showing the beautiful Gingko tree
across the street from the Putney Odd Fellows hall in front of the Masonic Lodge No. 37.

Like Wis, our technique involves scissors and rubber cement.


Paper boys to men

Calvin Nicholls


Wis Guthrie

In his 90s,
Wis from his riding electric chair at the Avalon
took to doing decoupage scissors-work
in an able continuation of his life-long pursuit - ART.

We've followed his creativity from near his professorial  beginning
  to  practice of teaching art to students at Carroll College
-  that random beauty is as good or better
than planned efforts.

For oft-repeated example, he took his students to places
like vacant barns
with bales of assorted rags from Good Will.
Wis had them take the top rag and nail it to 
the bottom left corner of a space.

Each student then took the top rag and went across
the barn space to the right, forming a line.
Continuing, he had them go back to the left and
complete another line of miscellaneous fabrics.

 Then to the next rank up
and so on until the entire space was covered
in such fashion.

Finally, everybody stood back and observed
the beauty of the absolutely random array of
odd shaped rags and their various colors
and textures, forming an ominous whole.

Wis was a proponent of 'Found Objects' art.
He was sometimes found dumpster-diving for items he would
incorporate into assembled art.

A former student of artist Grant Wood (American Gothic)
Wis learned early the beauty of objects just lying around,
sometimes in junk heaps.

He once found a discarded weathered road-sign with most of its message
missing,  just a couple of faded gray partial words on a darker gray background.

As a lark, Wis turned the sign a little, framed it elaborately
and wound up entering it in an art contest.  He won a prize. He accepted it. A story he enjoyed
telling varied groups that often invited Wis to address them.  He was known
for dry humor, and matter-of-fact speaking style.

 * Scroll down for Guthrie tale *

Once a couple years back Wis took a  National Geographic book
which was one of his preferred mediums for his paper cut-out work
and took one of our poems for the fly leaf with his footprint imprimatur,
an ode that he'd liked about mutual friends of ours,
and added his birthday wish on the heel of his shoe.

Then page by page by page we viewed his sometimes vivid, sometimes mystic combos
of Geographic pictures which he'd altered with his careful snipping.

It says:

"Thy Spring Be Sprung

On earth as is in Heaven

Thanks be to global warmin'
My premature mind bees swarmin'
To early thoughts of upshoots everywhere

Our mutual friends Sunny and NormanLeft for Florida yesterday mornin'
But gol-ding it, hets like Florida rat here!

I'm thinkin' of a thang so rampant
No rain or age can dampen it
A future totem's fixin' to join the other'n out there

Gots to make a hole, cement and clamp it
When the temps are warm enough to dig and tamp it 
People are ask'n what these things stand for outside my lair

But I don't tell 'em nothin much about it
They're just painted 16 ft. poles, that's about it
The beauty is that now I'm going to have a pair

"But what do they stand for, Dave? Please.....
We gots-ta know, we're on our bended knees!'
~ They stand because they stand and they are rare ~

Oh, I hates to be so inscrutable
But on this I'm jus' immutable
I'm of an age now (64) when I don't care"

[David Zep Dix 2-28-2000]


A precedent

What's-er-name leaves for work;

drives incensed sewer raccoons to the rear lines

'Sent' to the raccoon by reader Bentz
now of Delaware by the ocean.

He does not submit anything he advised.

From the Shepherd Express



I have just crossed the Rio Grande,
And by a string of clever switchbacks
Have, for the moment, outwitted the posse.
Ahead lie the ghosts of Sierra Madre.
Behind, I have nothing but sun,
While the condor’s shadow circles over my bones.
Though the mountains are steep, my horse doesn’t falter,
And now I know why starving bandoleros
Will never shoot their animals for food.
Beyond my mirage, I see the white adobe-
Yes, the one with the red-tiled roof-
Which one afternoon I will lean against, with my hat down
And knees up, after a bottle of tequila.
In that siesta, I am sure to dream
Of the lovely senorita
Who has stolen away from her father
To meet me in the orchard.
But enough of that. There is work to be done.
I have cattle to rustle and horses to steal
Before the posse picks up my trail.
(In a poem of Mexico, it would be unwise
For a poet to mention the posse is his wife.)
So, mi amigo, if you find her
Prowling my mountains
With a wooden spoon in her hand,
Tell her I am not here.
Tell her I have run off
With Cormac McCarthy and Louis L’Amour,
That I ride like the wind
To join up with the great Pancho Villa.

"Mexico" by Robert Bernard Hass from Counting Thunder. © David Robert Books, 2008.

Readers of this poem in Keillor's Writers Almanac might hear overtones of our 'Zepata' Mexican series


Outside of Richmond, Virginia, Sunday
by Deborah Slicer

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It’s the kind of mid-January afternoon-
the sky as calm as an empty bed,
fields indulgent,
black Angus finally sitting down to chew-
that makes a girl ride her bike up and down the same muddy track of road
between the gray barn and the state highway
all afternoon, the black mutt
with the white patch like a slap on his rump
loping after the rear tire, so happy.
Right after Sunday dinner
until she can see the headlights out on the dark highway,
she rides as though she has an understanding with the track she’s opened up in
     the road,
with the two wheels that slide and stutter in the red mud
but don’t run off from under her,
with the dog who knows to stay out of the way but to stay.
And even after the winter cold draws tears,
makes her nose run,
even after both sleeves are used up,
she thinks a life couldn’t be any better than this.
And hers won’t be,
and it will be very good.

"Outside of Richmond, Virginia, Sunday" by Deborah Slicer from The White Calf Kicks. © Autumn House Press, 2003