The Desert’s Voice, More Fierce

rams-head with hollyhock   okeeffe

“Ram’s Head , with Hollyhock” painting by Georgia O’Keeffe

Here’s a poem I wrote about Georgia O’Keeffe, after I saw the postcard of her which appears at the end of the post:


Georgia O’Keeffe looks over her shoulder


Just when she thinks she’s painted all her fear,

When bleached skulls turn to poppies red as lust,

The sound of something wild attracts her ear.


Black jacket, white soft collar curving near

the place where desert sunset turns to rust

awakens in that neck a prickling fear.


The haunches of dead lovers gleam as clear

in skulls as in the orchid’s velvet crust.

Dry rattling of bone curls back her ear.


Her upswept silken hair declares the year

in shades of gray and tortoise brown as dust

just when she thought she’d painted all her fear.


Her thin pink pearl of seashell curves to hear

the desert’s voice, more fierce, more dry than just,

as three fine wrinkles flow down from her ear.


Such gaunt grace turns her, luscious and severe,

containing bones and orchids, fruit and crust!

Just when she thinks she’s painted all her fear,

the sound of something wild attracts her ear.

Georgia O'Keeffe


<a href=””>Fierce</a&gt;


Vice and Villains

I’m thinking of the vice of greed.  It’s a key characteristic of so many villains in both literature and real life.


Sartre’s play about bad faith, where so much of it is about the lust for power over the other.  One character says “Hell is other people.”

Then, there’s the greed for money that drives one person to embezzle and impoverish many others:


This is Bernie Madoff, the face of much financial disaster in the US, and at least partially/indirectly to blame for the economic meltdown of 2008.

Then, there’s the greed for land,



added to the greed for power.  This drawing comes from the era of the Irish Potato Famine, when Irish people were evicted from their land by the British landlords.  The starving refugees could just as easily be the people in Aleppo today.

Enough said.



<a href=””>Vice</a&gt;

In the Frame

in the frame

The noun “frame” made me think of the murder mystery by Dick Francis, IN THE FRAME.

As it’s described in GOODREADS,

“Charles Todd—a renowned painter of horses—is shocked when he turns up at his cousin Donald’s house for a weekend visit to find his cousin’s young wife dead on the floor—and Donald the police’s prime suspect. Determined to prove Donald’s innocence, Todd trails a set of clues from England to Australia to New Zealand, only to realize that someone is trailing him. Someone with every intention of taking him out of the picture for good… ”

All of Dick Francis’ novels have something to do with horses. In this one, it’s a painting of a horse.

and that made me think of other great detective novels which have something to do with paintings.

One of my favorites is an old one: A CLUTCH OF CONSTABLES by Ngaio Marsh.  The Constables in the title are paintings by the 19th century British painter John Constable.

clutch of constables

GOODREADS describes it by quoting from the novel:

“Five Days Out of Time…that was how the ad had described the Zodiac cruise on the “weirdly misted” English river. The passengers were the usual, unusual lot: a couple of unpleasantly hygienic Americans, an aloof Ethiopian doctor, a snooping cleric with a wall-eye, an artist running away from her success… But they were not all what they seemed. For Inspector Alleyn knew that one of them was the faceless “Jampot”—the ruthless killer who could take on any personality, whose thumb was a deadly weapon. The problem was, which one? Alleyn had five days to trap him, or the other passengers would pay with their lives—and one of those passengers was Alleyn’s wife! ”


<a href=””>Frame</a&gt;



Roadside America

Roadside America 3

My parents took me to see this “roadside attraction” when I was about 8, and I think we went again one other time. I drove past it on Route 78 in Pennsylvania USA a month ago, and was glad to see it was still open and operating, fifty years later.  And it had probably been there 20 or 30 years before I saw it. Yes, I checked its website, and it’s been there 80 years.

The website offered these details:

  • A 6,000 square foot, fully landscaped display
  • Over 300 miniature structures
  • Up to 8 trains running, three of which you can operate yourself with push buttons
  • 4 trollies that you can run with push buttons
  • 10,000 hand-made trees
  • 4,000 miniature people engaged in everyday daily pursuits
  • Many real rivers, streams and waterways
  • Interactive animations such as a circus parade, construction workers, saw mill workers and more, that can be activated by visitors.
  • Scale is 3/8 of an inch to one foot. All trains are “O” gauge
  • 600 miniature light bulbs


The display is constructed with

  • 21,500 feet of electrical wiring
  • 17,700 board feet of lumber
  • 6,000 feet of building paper
  • 4,000 feet of sheet metal under the plaster work
  • 2,250 feet of railroad track
  • 648 feet of canvas for waterproofing
  • 450 feet of pipe
  • 18,000 pounds of plaster
  • 4,000 pounds of sheet iron
  • 900 pounds of nails
  • 600 pounds of rubber roofing material
  • 75 pounds of dry paint
  • 75 gallons of liquid paint
  • 225 bushels of moss
  • 25 bags of cement
  • Three barrels of screened sawdust
  • Three barrels of tar

Some private citizen created it, adding to it year after year!

I know that as an 8 year old, I was awed by it.

These photos from Google Images give an idea of the scale and the detail:

Roadside America 1


Roadside America 2

and this very tacky installation along the highway:

roadside-america amish statues

Learning to Read


A good meditation as school begins.

I teach “Freshman Comp” to first year college students. One of the readings with which we begin the year is the passage from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, when he describes how he learned to read, and how important it was to him. Douglass was a slave; the wife of his master began to teach him, and then her husband stopped her.  He said that slaves should not learn how to read; reading gave them too many ideas! There’s much more to this narrative – you should read it!

I believe that most of us take our ability to read for granted.  We shouldn’t; it’s one of the keys to freedom – freedom on all levels.

I grew up in a household where both parents were readers. I remember how eager I was to learn to read. I would pester my mother to read to me until one day she said “I can’t wait for you to learn to read, so you can read these books yourself!”   I totally agreed.


Here’s a poem I wrote about learning to read. It’s not philosophical at all!

fun with Dick and Jane

Pick it up and read,

sang the child’s voice beyond the wall.

The first word was SAID.

Three children –

a boy and two girls,

played with a dog and a cat.

White children with brown hair

whose plain names excited me

to hear in the air from my own mouth.


I had trouble telling

through from thought,

though from thorough.


My father picked me up at school.

We walked by the statue of Saint Agnes,

through the cement arch

from schoolyard to street.

I thought about knowing how to read SAID

though, by itself, it was lying alone in a corner,

but put it behind someone,

and it opens its mouth to a thorough coverage

of the news of the day.

asian child reading

<a href=””>Learning</a&gt;


<a href=””>Learning</a&gt;















In the Heaven of Hopscotch


one of my poems:

In the Heaven of Hopscotch


It is always two o’clock on a June afternoon

School is out

And I’m standing in the middle of Gay Street in the broad shade

Under a large full,

never pruned maple tree,

Gay Street near Everhart,

in front of a large lawn

where Kathy Corcoran

draws the hopscotch map

in chalk

on the macadam street.


I’m wearing the cotton sleeveless blouse my favorite – white with vertical stripes in rainbow colors.

I know that at home my mother, off from work for the summer,

energetic and serene, is making peach cobbler for supper,

and my father will be home at 6.

They are always 42 years old,my parents,

and that a box of Whitman’s floral mints

– my favorite candy –

sits on the dining room table.

No verb exists in its own moment

girl hopscotch



<a href=””>Youth</a&gt;

Seven-faceted eyes

worker bee eyes

Here’s a poem of mine about eyes:

Like the Eyes of Insects


Insects solve the day-night tradeoff

with their seven faceted eyes.

The fruit fly, even the hated housefly

peer into the solution.

Like the eyes of an insect,

the seven facets of the eyes of God,

the seven faceted lamp

the caulkers of their seams

the caulkers of your seems

traders for your good,

traitors for your goods,

the warriors within you,

the great crowd within you.

Hearth cake overturned

a heart cake,

now the end is on you,

the envelope of the abyss,

licked and thrown into the blue box.



<a href=””>Eyes</a&gt;