Monday, May 31, 2010

In Memoriam

for Ernie West

You don't know before you start, he muttered, and then it's too late.
Forehead smeared with blue mud, lovingly cordwound spearhead
drooping like an overflowered iris. You thought you'd mark the world,
my father, but it marked you instead.

Cup your hands and I'll pour them full of sunlit honey,
I'll pour them full of pitchfire. Sandalwood oil to drench your hair.
I'll rub strong fingers between your toes; I'll fold back your soul
like a monk's cowl till it lies flat over your shoulders. Did you really think

Your body would not be coming with you on this last round?
Think again: loose skin, braided muscles, twined nerve:
at the very end it's all, again, about loosened sphincters
and learning to suck. All the mumbo jumbo intubations,

the injections, the magic oxygen
running in plastic veins from a bottle of life
brought from the other world by priests of drug and knife,
will not keep a little life in.

The reward of a long life is to outlive all your feckless friends
and be surrounded at the end by small and grasping strangers
who know well the value of money and go in dread of death;
to be celebrated by the relatives of step-children themselves grown old

waiting for a small inheritance; to be wrapped in a flag
by fussy young men who care for it because they choose to,
not because they must. Put the last American in his grave:
it's time for the prodigals to go home and pretend to be men.

Friday, May 28, 2010


We paddle through reeds on the black water
where the redwings whistle and sway.
A cold still sky receding.

We lift our paddles and we can hear the drip from the blades:
our boat is the center of slowly expanding circles
running away.

It took the astronomers by surprise when they found
by the red shifts
that galaxy after galaxy was moving away from ours,
as if ours were uniquely repulsive, a cosmic pariah.

But it turns out
or they think
or it may well be
that everything is moving apart. It's not just us.

Gravity, we're told, is the weakest of forces:
the whole vast Earth, with its nickel-and-iron core,
straining with all its might, pulls me with only
a couple hundred pounds of force. I can push
it away with my two human legs;
I can push against it so hard that a space
opens between us. We call this jumping.
It's such a weak force that it can't stop
the expansion, can't even slow it.
We gather what is closest
little islands
solar systems
but the islands are drifting away, each from each.

Picture leaves on the expanding circles: each one
moving away from all the rest. That, they say,
is what the galaxies are doing.

Well. They were not such good company, after all.
Never spoke to us. We can do without them.
There's no need to draw comparisons
and say that people drift away through life
and wink out at the extremity of vision,
little clusters of thoughts that are drawn to each other
but that have no force to reach a foreign mind.
There is no need to regret our birth as the beginning
of progressive separations, of widening distances.

Back water. Easy all. There is this too: we step
from the wobbling canoe to the rough wood planks,
and all the drifting drifts away:
we sway, but we know it's our inner ear
playing us tricks. This is how solidity feels
after being long adrift: like drift.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Ohio Voice

Around the upper Great Lakes – Minnesota, Michigan – the rural people speak in a quick clipped flat deadpan, precise and quiet: Norwegian with the sing-song erased. But you get as far as Ohio, and a trace of the South creeps in, at odd moments: sometimes a syllable will hang, and change tone. There's a little ferocity and a little languor in it.

Sometime in the late 1970s Oliver finds her Ohio voice. She drops the Yeats, around the same time that she drops the capitals at the start of her lines:

. . . the rain, everybody's brother,
won't help. And the wind all these days
flying like ten crazy sisters everywhere
can't seem to do a thing. No one but me,
and my hands like fire, . . .

It's exciting to watch, to see someone settle into their native idiom. You have to go sit at the masters' feet, but you also at some point have to say, “screw the masters: this is how we talked at home.”

Patching my life back together, doing things I should have done a while ago. Catching up. The intensity of my love just grows. Nothing contains it or dampens it. Maybe it will burn up my whole life, and leave nothing behind. I hope so.

Thanks for the new suggestions, here, by mail, on facebook! I'll update the report post in a day or two with the new arrivals.

Monday, May 24, 2010

He Starts To Read

So I indulged myself and bought it, Mary Oliver's New and Selected Poems, Volume One. And opening it I was perplexed, as I have been before. I don't know the conventions of modern poetry books. But there is no introduction, by her or anyone else. The blurbs on the back are the only markers. No side door into this book. No shady walk where you could perch a while, study the house, watch how other people go in and out. You have to walk straight up to the front door. There's nothing to do but walk in and read the poems.

But at once, there's trouble. The book is backwards. The first section is called New Poems, though of course this is – by the standards of this queer unfamiliar world – an old book; the new poems are from (1991-1992). All right. The fans who had been following wanted her new poems right away; I'll just skip to the next section, and come back to the new poems at the end. I want to read her as I read Shakespeare or Shelley, from beginning to end.

But no, it's not set up that way. The whole book runs backwards, so that the oldest poems are at the back. Stubbornly, I go to the last section and read the poems from the 1960s, then back up to the poems from the 1970s. But I'm aware that the publisher and I – and maybe the poet and I? -- are at odds. They want me to read the poems from newest to oldest; I want to read from oldest to newest. I want front matter (where did she grow up? Where did she go to school? Who did she take as mentors?) and they don't think I should have it. I'm reminded of why I don't ordinarily like reading modern novels: I find it tiresome now to pretend that the author doesn't exist and that I don't have an ordinary human curiosity about her. I don't want to gaze at a well-wrought urn: I want to have a conversation. Or at least read a diary. I've been spoiled, maybe, by blogging. Or humanized.

She whispers. She's a very quiet poet: she stands there a long time beside you before she starts, and you have to attend, because she's not going to seize your attention. She's not going to frighten you, or entice you, or tease you. Just that quiet voice. In those early days, I see, she had been reading her Shakespeare and her Yeats. She has a lovely controlled iambic pentameter, the most unforced feeling American blank verse that I've ever read, maybe. I count out “Going to Walden” because I'm not quite sure: I think it's regular, but it's so idiomatic I have a hard time believing it.

Going to Walden is not so easy a thing
As a green visit. It is the slow and difficult
Trick of living, and finding it where you are.

Sure enough. No more metrical liberties than Shakespeare takes. I could memorize this. And I see that the lines all begin with capital letters. Does she abandon that later? I skip backwards (forwards) a little, and sure enough, she changes over to the new style late in the 1970s. I have mixed feelings about the abandonment of capital letters at the beginning of lines. Sometimes I think it's caving in to prosification: the sentence rules the poem now, instead of the line. But other times I think it's simply sensible. After all, the line is already there, in front of your nose: you don't need another marker for it. The little hope that fluttered – that Oliver would prove a rebel to fashion in this matter – vanishes. She's not the sort to make a fuss about that kind of thing. Once again, I have the feeling that I'm childish, unruly, out of order, gauche, in the world of modern poetry.

But she has me. She has me at the second stanza of the very first poem I read. She's obviously drunk on Yeats, which is right and proper for a young poet in the 1960s:

Now of all voyagers I remember, who among them
Did not board ship with grief among their maps?--
Till it seemed men never go somewhere, they only leave
Wherever they are, when the dying begins.

I love this poem, I love all these poems, in fact, and I can see already why she would have recurred so often as a favorite poet among people in my circle. She's the quintessential second-wave feminist. She doesn't want entry into the masculine world of conquest and glory. She doesn't want to ditch Ariadne on the beach and go questing: she wants to pay the costs of sitting still in one place, and finding out what home might be.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Waiting for Adam

Bars of light reach across the floor:

From them diagonal sheets of radiance rise
Through the air, igniting dust worlds as they go
Back to the sun.

When I turn on a lamp the walls flower
And send their desire into the wormy filament
Hovering in the glass:

Thoughts stand up from my inmost self
To walk in the garden in the cool of the evening,
And wait for an Adam to greet.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Your Favorite Poets II

Wow. This is already fascinating. There's a clear frontrunner, Mary Oliver, who garnered 9 mentions – a quarter of you picked her. Next come William Stafford and Naomi Shihab Nye, with 5 and 4 mentions. But it's a very flat curve: of the 108 poets mentioned, only 21 get more than one mention. Which means, probably, there's plenty more where these came from. Another striking thing is the high incidence of poets whose native language is Spanish: eight mentions for them, including three of the more-than-one mention poets. The only other non-English-language poets (that I know of: judging just by names there may be a couple more) were Czeslaw Milosz and Jacques Prevert. Even from a sample as small and skewed as this, that's pretty strong evidence that the largest outside influence on modern English poetry has been Spanish.

Anyway, here's the data:

Mary Oliver ix

William Stafford v

Naomi Shihab Nye iv

Denise Levertov iii
Antonio Machado iii

Ellen Bass ii
Elizabeth Bishop ii
Robert Bly ii
Raymond Carver ii
Billy Collins ii
T.S. Eliot ii
Donald Hall ii
Joy Harjo ii
Jane Kenyon ii
Maxine Kumin ii
Federico Garcia Lorca ii
Czeslaw Milosz ii
Pablo Neruda ii
Anne Sexton ii

Kelli Russell Agodon
Sherman Alexie
John Allman
Yehuda Amichai
John Ashberry
W.H. Auden
James K. Baxter
Wendell Berry
John Betjeman
Edmund Blunden
Louise Bogan
Dionne Brand
Richard Brautigan
Rupert Brooke
Anne Carson
Amy Clampitt
Lucille Clifton
Imtiaz Dharker
Deborah Digges
Mark Doty
Carol Ann Duffy
Denise Duhamel
Stephen Dunne
Kate Durbin
Loren Eiseley
Elaine Feinstein
Carolyn Forche
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Amy Gerstler
Jack Gilbert
Louise Gluck
Jorie Graham
Robert Graves
Robert Haas
John Haines
Forrest Hamer
Matthea Harvey
Seamus Heaney
Adrian Henri
Michael Hettich
Jane Hirshfield
Tony Hoaglund
Marie Howe
Ted Hughes
Donald Justice
Terrance Keenan
Cate Kennedy
Robert Lax
Li-Young Lee
Jeffrey McDaniel
Roger McGough
Louis MacNeice
Louise McNeill
John McCrae
Ian McMillan
Rethabile Masilo
James Merrill
W.S. Merwin
Dubay Mikus
Leslie Norris
Frank O'Hara
Sharon Olds
January O'Neil
Wilfrid Owen
Brian Patten
Lucia Perillo
Sylvia Plath
Jacques Prevert
Kenneth Rexroth
Adrienne Rich
Theodore Roethke
Edna St Vincent Millay
Richard Siken
Anne Simpson
Colin Smith
Gary Snyder
Ruth Stone
Cole Swenson
Wislawa Szymborska
James Tate
Monica de la Torre
Michael Trussler
Michael Van Walleghen
David Whyte
C.D. Wright
Charles Wright
Dean Young

Friday, May 21, 2010

Look Well

upon what ye shall never see again. Dale wearing a tie.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Period

Thanks so much for your suggestions! I also got some by mail. I'll post a list, ordered by the most frequently appearing names, in a day or so.

Deb Scott asked what got me interested in this period. Well, for one thing, it's the only one left, the only one I don't know much about. I left it for last, when I undertook to read western literature, for three reasons: 1) it was last, chronologically, and I like to do things in order, and get people's allusions, 2) these were my rivals, and I didn't want my creativity soiled by contact with them, and 3) I didn't like them much.

I've been reading the western classics for nearly forty years, now. (Oh, you know? There's another reason I put it off. This is the period when “western” really breaks down. A 20th Century or contemporary poet could have been reading virtually anything from anyplace in any language. There's no way you can “master the sources.” The rules of the game change, here.) -- anyway, I've been reading for forty years, and it's been feeling very queer to me, not to have a couple books that are part of a reading project in my pack. So partly I'm driven to this by force of habit.

It's been decades since I took either the idea of literary success or the idea that purity was good for creativity seriously. Dead hands, there.

It's reason number 3) that really been changing, though. I've been softening towards modern poetry for several years. Dave Bonta started it. Then other blogger-friends who dropped inexplicably into verse from time to time: Rachel Barenblat and Dick Jones. I read their poems at first as I used to read essays students submitted to me, deliberately and conscientiously. They read my stuff, after all, however bad: I would read theirs, even if it was in unrhymed and unmetrical verse.

Who knows when it changed, when it first happened that I opened Velveteen Rabbi, saw a narrow column and ragged right margin, and thought “oh, a poem!” with pleasure, instead of disappointment? But it did change. I marched through Dave Bonta's epic Cibola with increasing fascination in the metrics of modern poems. He insisted he paid no conscious attention to it, but he did things with it nevertheless. And Dick Jones turned out to write perfectly metrical verse, by classic standards, quite often. I began to feel, not that I was superior to modern poetry, but that I had missed a boat.

And then of course I started writing the stuff myself. I've never been a passive reader. Whenever I read, I start itching to see what I can do with the same sort of thing. I fully expected my readers to give up on me, or at least to ignore my poems and stick to the good stuff. To my astonishment, they read them and responded to them. This wasn't just a game, it was a form of communication. You could write poems that people you cared about would actually read.

At that point I was hooked. I started reading blogs that were only, or primarily, poetry: Jo Hemmant (who alas, has not been blogging lately! but who edits the Ouroborus Review and runs Pindrop Press), Carolee Sherwood, Sage Cohen, and others. Whole worlds of poetry were opening up. And so now, even though I don't think “canonical” really applies to modern poetry – I've written before and will probably write again about this: I think that English Literature is mature, its canon is essentially full, and that demographics and technology have made writing poetry in English an entirely different undertaking – even so, I want to read the poets who stirred up the poets that I have been reading. That's my reading project now.

I like some of my poetry. I think that my best writing is still mostly prose, mostly the riffing, wandering journal entries like “A Glaring Spot,” below. But I'm not sure that my poems and my journaling won't converge, at some point. And anyway, I'm having fun.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Your Favorite Poets

The lilac blossom has gone a rich, royal color that has no name in English, since the names for browns and tans have all been coopted to denote dullness: they glow, clotted with rain, and the lilac leaves are a brilliant dark green, the twin leaflets springing energetically away from each other, pointing emphatically in opposite directions. I suppose technically the blossom has withered, but I don't see it that way. The tree is in its exuberant prime, reveling in Spring: its hair is spiky and tousled. Someone's been showing it a very good time.

I have request. If you're a poetry person, I'd like you to list, in the comments, three to five modern poets. And please do it without first looking at the names anyone else has put down.

What do I mean by modern? Well, since WWI, certainly, and clear up to the present. I'm looking for your touchstone poets, the poets you go back to. I don't care what the literary establishment thinks of them. I'm not looking for the canon: I can browse the syllabuses of Ivy League colleges for that. I'm looking for the poetry that stopped you in your tracks, that made you feel less alone, that delighted you and touched you and made you itch to write the stuff yourselves. Your favorites. I intend to spend the next year or two reading modern poets, and I don't want to miss the ones that you hold closest to your hearts.

Monday, May 17, 2010


"So what you are telling me, Monsieur le Computer, is that you have had a tiny camera pointed at my face the entire time I have had the honor of your acquaintance?"

M. Favier was skeptical, but the evidence was hard to refute.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Glaring Spot

A glaring spot in the eastern clouds, as if someone had taken out a handkerchief and tried to scrub them away. A weary Sunday morning takes shape. I yawn and my neck muscles complain. My eyes hurt. Do I have a cold, or am I just short on sleep?

My body feels mutinous, old, irrascible. I need to buy shoes for my father-in-law's funeral. Other than that, I should be able to make do with my old blazer and slacks. I'd like to be reasonably formal and presentable, but I don't want to invest much in dress clothes: I don't expect to have to dress up many more times in my life. But theirs was a generation that took formal dressing seriously, as a duty and as an expression of respect. My nephew's been dispatched to purchase an old-fashioned white shirt, so that Ernie can be buried properly, wearing cufflinks. The least I can do is wear sober shoes.

Yearning to be away, off on the road, headed for the high desert of New Mexico, or maybe the mountains of Montana. Someplace where the sky goes on whether your eyes do or not. I grudge every second spent pleasing people, these days. Everything short of delight seems like a waste of time.

The urgency is greater all the time: there's an angel at my shoulder muttering “no time for that either!” This isn't anxiety. I'm not afraid of running out of anything – not of energy, not of creativity, and certainly not of time. This is an urgency of plenitude, not of lack. The urgency of a momma cat searching for a good place to kitten.

I begin to be afraid of losing the proprieties. I feel answers such as, “I don't know, have you asked God?” or, “if I were you, I'd fall down flat on my face and beg forgiveness” rising to my lips in casual conversation. I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to be fit for ordinary society.

But I don't mind, being used for this or that. People have to fit you into their stories somehow. How long would we last, if we looked at each other and saw straight to the divinity? You don't try to land a ship on the beach: you anchor offshore and send in boats.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself.”

Walk again with me. This isn't new: it's old, old stuff. Sappho strolled idly on the beach, trying out various lines to express her longing, and wondering what to have for supper.

The heft of something in our hands – stone, shell, wet sand – and a glaring spot in the western sky: the day leaving without a sunset, and the waves breaking. Not much changes.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


All right, help me here. In Jan Marsh's biography of Christina Rossetti we find, pleasingly enough, that in 1890 Rossetti was given Emily Dickinson's Poems, and admired them, writing that Dickinson “had a wonderfully Blakean gift, but therewithal a startling recklessness of poetic ways and means.”

Now, Christina Rossetti was nothing if not exact. I mean, case in point, could you say anything apter about Dickinson than that she had “a startling recklessness of poetic ways and means?”

But – but – Blakean? Rossetti knew Blake's poetry: she was part of the circle that revived him from obscurity. But Blake was still an odd, little-read poet in 1890 – by no means a byword. So presumably she meant something specific by calling Dickinson “Blakean,” but I've been pondering ten minutes without getting even a glimmer of what. I can hardly conceive of two poets more different in temper, style, approach, and subject matter. What can Rossetti have meant?

Friday, May 14, 2010


Just try, says a patient voice. Daddy?
My eyes won't open. Maybe I'm too young.
I root in a mysterious world of warmth,
sweet milk; I dangle in the air on giant hands.

the sky runs rapidly over my head;
pizza-dough clouds twist, stretch, vanish:
I want your skin. I reach, and miss.

Tracts arise, fully formed, to spring from my forehead
like contemptuous daughters, full of wisdom, full
of spite: painfully counting on my fingers I compare
their numbers to the points of leaves,

can't make it come to five. I am broken,
a half-smashed creature too primitive
to understand it's dead; the legs on my right keep working,
but I only spin in place, circling my ruin;

I have become the hand of a clock,
the measure of my minutes.

There is no try, said that miserable green thing,
and I tended to agree, but in that case
What is this? Melville knew a different trying;
maybe that's what we have here.

Cut the skin in careful strips; boil the fat
until the milk-oil rises, opalescent, full of grace --
curded sperm, light bearer, Lucifer: the whiteness
of the whale.

Or of course
you can by tried for treason,
you can be tried for fun,
you can be tried by fire,
you can be tried and true.

Everyone stops – pedestrian, car,
bike, truck, bus: the bridge is opening.
We wait. We look for the vessel. Straight down
through the steel grating we can see the water
gray ruffled by the wind, laced white.
The center of the bridge lifts high: we all float
suspended on abandoned outthrust tongues.
A bridge no longer: an impediment. Below us
something huge, unseen, urgently
needs passage. Just try.

Big Tent Poetry

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Planning for the Apocalypse

Plan for the apocalypse, or attempt to avert it? Play for a soft peak-oil landing, or assume the worst? I am not haunted or even very interested by this kind of question any more, and I have been trying to pinpoint why.

Partly I think because I stagger every day under the weight of the present suffering of the world -- here, in one of its most comfortable corners. As Barry Lopez said, every single person you see on the street could tell you a story about his or her life that would break your heart. When you spend considerable time, as I do, backstage, in the dressing rooms of people's lives, you get a better sense for the enormity and ubiquity of pain. If you're not comfortably sequestered from the sick and the dying, you get a better understanding of just how close we all are to breaking, and how many of us do. So you tell me there's going to be more pain than I can imagine, and I just shrug. What else is new?

I also labor under the curse of having written down my predictions of disaster when I was in my twenties. Many horrible things have happened since then, but none of them were ones that I predicted, except for the inexorable extinction of species. And good things have happened which, if anybody had predicted them, I would have dismissed with contempt as the worst self-indulgent pipe dreams. The Soviet Empire collapsing peacefully? Not a single hostile nuclear explosion in sixty-five years of bristling proliferation? The skies of Los Angeles and Portland clearer and healthier to breathe than thirty years ago? Still being able to publish, unmolested, anything I like to say, despite the continual expansion of surveillance and secret police agencies in my Secure Homeland? Ridiculous notions, all of them. Impossible.

So I have come to the conclusion, that, although my concerns were all perfectly valid and well-founded, I'm a rotten prophet. The most horrible events took me completely by surprise. The Khmer Rouge, the Rwandan genocide, were not even on my radar. AIDS came out of left field. Horrible environmental disasters have happened, and are happening, and I don't see how we are to avoid turning much of the planet into uninhabitable waste land – but it hasn't happened exactly – or even, let me admit, even approximately -- as I expected it to.

Nothing has surprised me more, and confounded my historical understanding, than the nuclear peace. I simply don't comprehend it. There has never been anything like it in the history of the world. It's been sixty-five years – two generations – and nobody has yet pulled the trigger. I don't know what to make of it. I still find myself bemused when people bother to worry about disasters a few generations down the road. “You really expect that we'll get that far without the Big War, the Last War, breaking out?” I think. What really frightens me about the Peak Oil scenarios is that someone, at some point, will decide to fix things by nuking the bad guys. (I don't know who the bad guys will be, but whenever something goes wrong, it's always the bad guys' fault, and you can fix it by pulling out all the stops to punish them. Everybody knows that.)

So I find myself, oddly, less gloomy than most of my thoughtful friends. I'm already confounded. I have no idea what happens next. I don't believe in progress saving the day, and human reason triumphing over prejudice, but I also don't believe in my own power to predict the end. I'm in the position of a man who was given six months to live ten years ago: all bets are off, and all I know is that the leaves are incredibly beautiful in the sunlight, and that a five-year-old holding a new puppy in her arms at Christmas is not happier than I am, holding you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Where We Could Stay

Give us the end of time,
the swish of fringe at the end of a belt
which disappears over lips of basalt:
each thread catching a sun, the whole lost
before gathered into the eye.

Give us permission to think
that someday the apple's bruises will heal,
that hands will stop trembling, that
this music will come plain to the ear.
Give us a sprig of thyme to break

and to remember the first day
we came into this land, the way
your hair fell over your fingers
when you turned to ask
if this was where we could stay.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Big Tent Poetry: Persona

"The glory of it stings," she says, and I picture her, fifty years younger, on a motorcycle, helmetless, that wonderful hair lashing her face, her arms wrapped around some Frenchman.

"God comes like that" -- her arthritic fingers won't snap, but she can make the gesture of snapping them -- "and then he goes away again. Easy for you to say he's coming back. But what if he doesn't?"

She taps my chest with her fingertips, all ten of them. "You don't say what you think, do you?" She nods. "You want to be taken for a nice man, that's right, that's the right thing to do. You go home and tell your wife I'm crazy with God, tell some jokes about me, about old maids and spaces under the bed. But to me you nod just like I'm making sense. Is it time for my medicine yet?

She drifts across the kitchen, a tiny pink wisp, and fills a glass with water. Her hair floats around her, white laced with black: a mink turning to ermine. "But you're not the medical one, are you. I was forgetting. You're the masseur. What Linda calls the 'masseuse.'" She chuckles, her voice low and raspy. "You look manlike enough to me. Of all the times, they get a man to touch me when I'm too sick to appreciate it. Isn't that just like the world, isn't it though? That's why the crazy with God stuff.

"Oh, God," she adds, "he knows that. No secrets between us. He says he doesn't mind, he's got worse things to worry about."

She climbs onto the table and shrugs out of her robe, snuggles under the blankets, and blinks at me. "So touch me already."
At It Again

The beginning of the Declaration of Independence (as I remember it, anyway), in yet another alphabet suggested to me by playing with broad-nibbed pens:

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


She grows, a baby mouse, in my hand:
rosy, naked, questing, nosing for nipple,

wondering at free air,
dubiously following conceits
of blouses falling open, pupils widening.

Plumdrop head and veined trunk, skin
balloon-stretched now and shiny,
slicked with saliva;

I ask her Where are we going? And she says,
You tell me.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Little Suns

The flowers are yellow and orange. They burn like little suns: so much brighter than any room they're in. The people in the elevator notice them. They almost speak. I avoid their eyes.

I wait for you on the street. You pull the little Ford over, roll down the window. I hand you the flowers – she brought them for you. You exclaim over them, place them carefully on the floor of the passenger seat. A quick awkward kiss through the windowspace, and you drive away again. I go back to work.

The afterimage of the flowers in my retina. If I had looked at them too long I would have gone blind. You would think I could, but I can't say if the petals are orange with yellow edges or yellow with orange edges.

You wondered why love gets all the songs and poems: friendship, you said, was far more difficult than love.

This is my seventh blogday: imagine that! Seven years ago I set sail, determined to find the wealth of the Indies. Instead I have discovered America after America. I'm still guessing that the world is round, but it's much bigger than I thought.