I spent some little time yesterday under the Prose column talking about Westerns - movies and TV, not books. In the interests of using the existing tabs on this page to best advantage, I have decided that movies and TV are appropriate for Prose. Music, when the muse alights, will be dealt with under Poetry.

That being said, today's offering, although entitled "Whistle," is actually a poem.

The Aim Was Song

Before man came to blow it right
The wind once blew itself untaught,
And did its loudest day and night
In any rough place where it caught.

Read more about Whistle>

One Winter Day

It's been many long years since that day on my Wisconsin farm when I wrote this:

The winter trees are black as
Stove pipe on the winter blue sky

And mice, beneath the winter ice,
Are warmer than these January suns.

My snowshoes trace an odd duck's pace
Around the barn, then back

To where my crooked chunks of elm
Burn hot inside the stove.

I'll have a cup of tea now that I've
Mailed my letters.

Read more about One Winter Day

Year's End

Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.

I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.

Read more about Year's End>

Winter River

I saw a river once kinda like the bear sees this one. Sometimes I can see it still.

Driving through the Wind River Reservation: A Poem of Black Bear, by Mary Oliver

In the time of snow, in the time of sleep.
The rivers themselves changed into links
of white iron, holding everything. Once
she woke deep in the leaves under
the fallen tree and peered
through the loose bark and saw him:
a tall white bone
with thick shoulders, like a wrestler,
roaring the saw-toothed music
of wind and sleet, legs pumping
up and down the hills. Read more about Winter River



A few Christmas seasons ago, at a time when we were embroiled in the wars in and about Iraq, I was busy doing something in the kitchen when an old Christmas carol popped into my head and I started singing it as I worked.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day in 1864. He had lost his wife in a fire, and his son had been wounded in the Civil War. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day was his response. Read more about Bells


Poetry Outtakes

We all have lines of poetry buried in our heads. Who hasn't intoned "Nevermore" in a sepulchrous voice when circumstances called for it? Who hasn't had "miles to go before I sleep?" Those outtakes are so ubiquitous they can be heard from lips that know nothing of the lost Lenore or snowy woods.

I have this relationship with poems I have read, poems which I cannot claim to have ever fully understood, but bits and pieces of which surface now and then in the most prosaic of circumstances. Read more about Poetry Outtakes


Chief Joe's Cafe

Chief Joe's Cafe is a book of poems all too likely found in all too few places besides my bookshelf. The poet, Joe Mundy, is an old friend of my daughter Caroline. They met in Middle College High School, a very special place once available for those kids who chafed too persistently at the strictures of a curriculum which, although no doubt excellent for some, fell somewhat short for others.

I hope Joe is still writing. Here's one of my favorites:

Java Avenue Read more about Chief Joe's Cafe



Reading Robert Frost this month, I come across New Hampshire.

I met a poet from another state,
A zealot full of fluid inspiration,
Who in the name of fluid inspiration,
But in the best style of bad salesmanship,
Angrily tried to make me write a protest
(In verse I think) against the Volstead Act.
He didn't even offer me a drink
Until I asked for one to steady him.
This is called having an idea to sell.

It never could have happened in New Hampshire. Read more about Primarily