Garlic and sapphires in the mud

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Here is one stanza from T.S. Eliot’s poem  “Four Quartets”  :


Garlic and sapphires in the mud

Clot the bedded axle-tree.

The trilling wire in the blood

Sings below inveterate scars

Appeasing long forgotten wars.

The dance along the artery

The circulation of the lymph

Are figured in the drift of stars

Ascend to summer in the tree

We move above the moving tree

In light upon the figured leaf

And hear upon the sodden floor

Below, the boarhound and the boar

Pursue their pattern as before

But reconciled among the stars.



<a href=””>Ascend</a&gt;


Long Before the Present Conflagration



Long before the present fires that are decimating the vineyards and homes in Sonoma County, California, another fire destroyed the newly completed Wolf House, intended home of American writer Jack Lond and his wife.   I visited the ruins in 1996 and wrote this poem:


Jack London’s House Warming


Wolf House lurks alone

Like a Mayan temple

In the forest of the Valley of the Moon,

Waiting for Jack London

To host his first party there.

At midnight,

The owl ride the rafters

For shadowy mice

Who run the rough boulders.

Deer pick their way to the tender grass

That grows in the empty swimming pool.

Wolves reclaim the ballroom.


Remains from the inferno,

Brown boulders, volcanic rock,

Rough hewn and heavy,

Miss the tree torsos

That walled them

That joined them.

All the tiles gone, all the redwoods gone,

Succumbed to the lust of the

Wedding night of the house,

Fire reaching its arms out,

Flames embracing,

Smoke whispering its name

In the calm August midnight,

flames that waited all their lives

For such a feast.


swimming pool wolf house

 Jack London's Wolf House

from “The Wolf House “– Jack London State Park, Glen Ellen , California:

“The Wolf House was to become the London’s home, Jack’s workshop, Charmian’s tower, and an oversized cabinet of curiosities filled with the London’s unique collection from their world travels.

“Albert Farr of San Francisco designed the house and construction began in 1910. The dream home was nearly completed in August 1913 when it burnt to the ground. In 1995, a team of forensic experts concluded that the cause of the fire was likely due to a pile of oil-soaked rags, left by workers, spontaneously combusting.”



<a href=””>Succumb</a&gt;



Newly Cloaked in Purpose


Here’s a disturbing poem from the great contemporary American poet Rae Armantrout:



By Rae Armantrout


The old



is newly cloaked

in purpose.

There’s a jumble

of hair and teeth

under the bedclothes

in the forest.


“The better to eat you with,”

it says,

and nibbles us

until we laugh.


An axeman

comes to help.


“To, to,”

birds cheep

to greet

whatever has come up.

“To, to”


<a href=””>Cloaked</a&gt;

An Exceptionally Ingenious Poem


Here is a poem by the American poet Andrew Hudgins.  I love to use it in my “Introduction to Poetry” class to watch the students figure it out.

It’s an exceptional what I would call  “Riddle Poem.”  The solution is the photo at the end of the poem:

Snake   by Andrew Hudgins


When we open,

the snake opens

with us –old

rumble gullet,

acid tunnel.

We are the snake’s

garden – his garden,

his gate, his adam

and eve- and he,

the snake, plays

the role of the snake.

We are his tree

of the knowledge of

good and evil,

which is desire,

which is good and evil –

desire, which

is appetite,

which is the snake

that feeds then starves us,

and, thus, we are

his paradise,

which is emptiness,

lumen, the light

we fill with darkness,

the labyrinth

of reptile running

entrance to exit –

rumble gullet,

acid tunnel,

the great dissolver,

the snake god


in the blood garden.



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<a href=””>Exceptional</a&gt;



Here’s a poem I wrote about twenty years ago.



Rare purple flower,

blue-eyed miracle,

you have bloomed for me.


I have seen you

wind your blind face to the sun,

stretch your thin leaf

in the darkest corner

to the suns voice calling poetry –

a word that your near deafness



Like heliotrope,

the eyes of that senile poet

in the nursing home.

I walked up to her bed like Jesus

and called poetry


do you live with it?


Like winter light

slipping round the corner

into a forgotten room,

like heliotrope to the sun,

her face turned lucid


from her shrivelled mouth

called poetry


In a great bottomless

woman’s voice.


Then, like the sun

sliding behind the hills

on that brief afternoon,

so her eyes

gradually tamed again

into poems of sleep.





<a href=””>Tame</a&gt;

I believe in yesterday


This is a poem I wrote a few years ago:


Hearing Yesterday


Hearing “Yesterday” the first time – 1964-

my bedroom in the house on Everhart Street,

I was fifteen.

February night.

At night my radio could tune into Boston.

When I turned it on, the song was just beginning –

Three syllables down the scale,

cello droning behind them.

Throat tightened, legs loosened.

My favorite song forever.


Forty-five years later,

troubles not so far away .

One long lost love called in 1971

better to laugh in the desert

than cry by the creek,

but I could not move to the desert.


Today I live by that creek again –

cornered by circumstance,

shedding my escape fantasies,

singing with Ringo

No no no no I don’t smoke it no more…


By the creek,

today tenuous as a spider web,

unpredictable as fire.


I believe in yesterday,

which does not change,

where John Lennon still walks


out the door of the Dakota.


Another song says don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.

But I believe in yesterday.

Another song says the landslide brought me down…

and I’m getting older, too,

so I believe in yesterday.





<a href=””>Believe</a&gt;

The Circle Narrows



Here’s a poem by George Jonas that I have loved for about 40 years.  The last two  lines mean more to me now than they did 40 years ago:


The Circle Narrows       by George Jonas



It is quite possible

That our common thoughts come to us from the sea

Our doubtful soul follows the herrings

And we all die after the 11 o’clock news.

Still there is

A certain self which I for my part

Keep wrapped in tinfoil among my private papers.


I am less and less concerned

With a planet I share with Arabs and caterpillars

With a country I share with fellow motorists

With women who share me with film directors

And with a heart that after minor adjustments

Could be used by a customs officer.


The trips I will take from now on

Must only be a few inches in length.


<a href=””>Circle</a&gt;