Category Archives: Poems

About “All the Poems”

I have the feeling that it would be better to repeat a twenty-one-word poem about poems than it would be to try and write an explanation of it:

All the poems
laid out on the page
are liars
taking longer than they suggest
on either side
of their equations.

According to Evernote, I wrote this on March 6th, 2011, as the fragment:

Poems laid out on the page are liars.
They take longer then they advertise
on both sides of their equations.

I remember that I was in Florida waiting in the airport to fly home after a business trip; the original has the impatience so characteristic of air travel, but I think I like the edit better.

Andy’s saturated azure photo is either right out of a German performance-car commercial or, more likely, frames a road that leads through the clouds into another world. Here’s the real story right from him:

My wife’s favorite vacation destination is Hawaii and, to be more specific, Maui. For those that have not visited this beautiful island, two volcanic mountains dominate the topography. One of the mountains, Haleakalā, is a US national park and most vacationers to Maui visit it during their stay. On my first visit to Maui, my wife was very excited to take me to the summit of Haleakalā so that I could experience the breathtaking views. I was also excited — until she explained that the best time to visit was at sunrise and that the summit was a three hour drive from our hotel. Being the devoted husband that I am, I agreed to get up at 2:30am so we could experience sunrise at Haleakalā together. The next morning, I found myself standing at the summit in freezing temperatures just before 6am. As the sun was about to rise, a cloud settled over the mountain and I was barely able to see 10 feet. But I could see the disappointment in my wife’s eyes, and I immediately committed to the 6 hour journey again the next morning. We ended up with a perfectly clear day. Was it worth the 12 hours of driving? Absolutely!

This photo is from our second ascent of Haleakalā and was taken from the highest point on the volcano, Red Hill. In the background you can see the lower Magnetic Peak, so named as it has large quantities of iron that interfere with compass readings.

The first thing I realized after reading this photobiography is that all the photos are liars, too.

Magnetic Peak, Haleakalā National Park, Maui, HI. AS

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About “Library”

I had always managed my To Read list very cleanly: I simply bought every book I thought I might ever want to read. I rarely left a bookstore without an acquisition. My typical souvenir from a trip was a new book with the local store’s bookmark tucked inside. Library sales, used book stores, garage sales: all were my haunts. In the house, we refurbished and painted bookshelves — and bookshelves. We moved these books and their shelves many, many times: to college, from dorm to apartment to apartment, from house to house. I even bought books about reading, like Sven Birkerts’s “The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age,” which, at the beginning of chapter 8, “Into the Electronic Millenium,” sadly recounts the decision of one professor to relieve himself of his huge personal library in favor of digital texts. (Click here to read the book or here to read the article that turned into that chapter.)

I don’t recall if it was Birkerts or parenthood, but eventually I realized that not only was I never going to read all these books — many of them didn’t even seem particularly interesting any longer, perhaps because they had stared me down with their patient but demanding gaze for so many years — but that owning them was turning into a physical, and even partially psychological, burden.

About a decade ago, I took half of my collection to Barnes and Noble and sold them to a very unenthusiastic clerk for perhaps 5% of what I had paid for them. (Despite their personal value, in general books are not good financial investments.) Last year, I interpreted my passage across the 40-year mile marker as an excuse to have a classic mid-life crisis. Rather than the predictable, and boring, splurges that normally are associated with these crises, I thought that it would be more interesting to invert the impulse and clean out my physical world with a healthy application of minimalism. I gave nearly all the rest of my books to the local library, to a similarly disinterested clerk. All my CDs? Thrift store. Old computers? eBay. I have cleared out my personal possessions (as distinguished from those of our family, which continue to enjoy an abundance that can only be explained with the phrase “two boys”) so that, were I to self-combust next week, the scorched floorboards near the coffee maker would serve as the most prominent reminder of my absence. This is what inspired “Library.”

Andy’s photograph sets a similar mood. Here’s his description:

As I’ve previously mentioned, The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is an amazing restoration of a majestic building that had fallen into disrepair.

One Saturday afternoon during the fall, my wife and I were fortunate enough to get a complete tour of Building 50 from Ray Minervini of the Minervini Group. Ray was very generous with his time and we were shown every nook and cranny, from the top of the red spires to the haunting tunnels. As a resident of Building 50, I had only seen the completed areas of the complex, but during our tour Ray offered to take us back in time to show us how the building had looked prior to restoration. This photo of the North Wing of Building 50 was taken in November 2010 shortly before being reclaimed and restored.

North Wing Section of Building 50, Grand Traverse Commons, Traverse City, MI. AS

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About “Whisper, Love”

The first house Tina and I bought was a 1920 bungalow on an acre lot with a falling-down horse barn and more work to be done to it than a dedicated team could complete in a year. Aside from refinishing or painting or repairing every square inch of the house itself, we worked on the yard exhaustively as well. This was before we had children, when we had more time and energy for such pursuits, a romantic This Old House phase that we are happy to have moved past, at least until we retire.

In addition to house renovations, I became obsessed with horticulture and landscaping. Roger Swain was my oddly lovable, red-suspendered friend and Martha Stewart, when she wasn’t in the kitchen, his more elegant muse-companion. I read gardening magazines voraciously, dog-eared plant catalogues all winter with overly ambitious plans for the spring, and studied the classics of Gertrude Jekyll in an attempt to understand this strange world of form, texture, and bloom.

Fortunately, I outgrew this phase, too.

Whisper, Love” was written just before we moved out of the house, over the winter before we learned that we were expecting our first son and decided to find a home located on a quieter street with less work to (still) be done. I remember writing it in pencil in an unlined notebook as the snow fell just outside the wavy glass windows that needed to be replaced but never were.

Dave’s photo was a great compliment to the poem and reminds of the success I didn’t realize in my blackspotted rose garden. Apparently I should have been consulting with his father. Here’s his description of the shot:

My Dad is the closet gardener in my family. I never realized it before, never thinking about where the rose bushes came from. He doesn’t talk about it — except with my wife, the other foliage fiend — just quietly plants and tends to them, I think, somewhat for my mom, because her mom loved roses, and so does she. This was shot early one morning as I was leaving after a visit to their home in Brookfield, WI, as the sun was coming up at an angle that lit up this one rose. Glad we could use it on what is probably my favorite poem in the book.

One of my Dad’s roses at his home in Brookfield, WI. Taken on a visit on July 16th, 2009. DL

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