thy brother calls thee


The cosmos hangs from a thread, a
lifeline.  Yes, Flem
was with us, up at Verm –
helped Dad, me & Jim (brother)

dig the cabin foundation.  Flem’s
father was MN State
Flem died of AIDS.  There are these themes,

signs... the padre of Hart Crane,
manufacturing Life-Savers...
Abraham with scimitar
squeakin’ by with a warning... O Cain,

thy brother calls thee from the ground.
Hobo sleeps by the river;
his thyrsus nods, a glimmer
of August grass.  Mullein, dock... diamond

pine-cone (piñata by the Po).  The tree,
the tall cedar of life,
Malcolm!  She’s your wife,
you know.  Nehushtana of Liberty.

Evergreen, year-round.  The shadow
owl knows (lives there) –
Spinoza cave-winds tear
up the forgery of terror (low

blow put into Vladimir Kiev-doom).
I’m singin’ with the stars,
Flem, Jim – after the wars.
Mr. Catenary Ted bojangles home.



tricksters in the cricket cities


The river sweeps by the bent cottonwoods
toward autumn.  Time
& history resolve to rim
their force into a wave, a wheel.  The goods

bob & drift downstream, with the detritus –
the tomb of Alighieri
& the other desperadi
all the tricksters in the cricket cities (Paris,

Petersburg, St. Paul) fiddling their gusli
merge into a chord
like an infant beechwood
or broken font in Florence – one little tree

of plumb transfigurement, beneath
the arms of a patchwork shepherd
(Sant’ Apollinaire).  One almond
word melds stars into a wreath

to crown that brow (who is Liberty) –
she mutters... You who incite
fools to violence, who delight
in murder & grief, know not Me;

you who terrorize your spouse, & oppress
your neighbor, know not Me;
the blind man can see
what you cannot see, the deaf woman hears

what you cannot hear, the 4-year-old child
knows Me better than you.
So the little tree (a beech, a yew)
marked X the spot (where Psyche smiled).



Maximus at Colchis


Late August light & humid air
through the antique slats
of gazebo, & mosquito
nets.  Ariel’s almost not there,

booky Prospero.  Miranda’s
playing chess, with Gene
& Giacomo – our scene
closes on island claritas

& calm.  Full fathom five, the song
takes hold... the anchor
swims into obscurer
depths.  Remote bronze sea-bells bong.

Those are pearls that were his eyes
treasure-chest of Solomon
impregnable soul of W-man
(– Maggie’s, Martin’s, JFK’s)

Black Elk’s airy diamond
Roger’s pole star
Edward Coke’s (Sir)
liberties & rights, crowned

offshore, in the harbor now.
Maximus at Colchis
wore the golden fleece
of his theoria : articulate prow

or figurehead, the cosmic union
unconfused – not-
of Christos-Nazir (breaching dolphin).



Le Pont Mirabeau


Autumn already in the air.  The lace
net lifts slightly in the window
breeze.  Down the road
a train thunders steadily across

the iron bridge.  Eads, in St. Louis
same river in St. Paul
ebullient waterfall
descends into incessant sluice-

ways.  At Fond du Lac, Guillaume
will wave his pipe   the smoke
floats in blue planes   OK.
Autumnal, your pellucid tomb.

Under a beautiful water-mirror
flows the safety net.
My waif on the parapet,
my Juliet... little evergreen spear

crowning a rangy monarch span –
my songe, my sign, my Seine.
Cloverleaf Corn Maiden
twirls her blue-green mist of pine

on heron-foot again   Sophia
skips through the basilica
like Liberté-Columbia
her grey eyes scan geomatria

here twin circles merge, twin shores
align omega points
&   Maggie Galilee anoints
her Galileo with the milk of stars


Today is the birthday of poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)


Princess K of the Milky Way


Late August.  Royal touch of autumn.
Comfortable king
of tenderness, bring
me down to your brown river once again.

The cottonwoods are silver-green
but turning gold.  A monarch
speeds black-orange – sparks
up the path, to vanishment (unseen

morpho-sprint).  My chunk of lumber
floats off too.  Fine meteor
pumice, sanded to pearl –
gray weathered pebble, unknown soldier...

The State Fair’s starting up today.
Princess K of the Milky
Way will crownèd be.
Black milk of bitter history

we sipped... fed roots of almond tree.
Cryptic redemption
on knife’s edge... Raven
remembers (Hazel, breathing free).

The King of Milk is by the riverside.
He washes memories
like Papa’s hand – a breeze
murmuring, Everything’s OK.  I sighed.

A child is comforted.  The Earth
will be.  Like Magdalen
or Beatrice – when the sun
colors a morning cave (in Nazareth).



light gleams in Colchis

                                No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?

The spiral molluscs from Precambrian seabed
in the limestone facing by the door
remind me of you; the bent lyre
of the cottonwood by the riverbank led

me back to you too – bent over your clay
wheel, shaping the river-mud
into a smiling imago.  We tread
your maze toward home, thread-spun Ariadne.

That Mexican Last Supper diorama –
chipped clay bread-&-wine feast
you repaired... bones of a beast
lifted from bloodlines, toward a panorama.

Light from a distant prison window
gleams in Colchis.  Maximus
knots three bright strands
beneath a keystone arch – mingled so,

they mark a brow with perfect diamond,
one spark of dancing flame.
Perfection is the frame
of right accomplishment – the ripe almond

of what thou lovest well.  Well-founded
Gateway Arch, the light flows
east to west – what Rhodos grows
for liberty, for justice (lightning-grounded,

here & now).  Crossed in St. Louis
by Rio del Espiritu – & there
one eerie soaring flare
of Raven passing through (southwest)


inks the last answering quipu
to that sweet hypothesis
of sea-blue Maximus –
the imago, a kind of kindly Manitou-

insignia.  Seal of copper Penny
gleaming from the bottomland;
Columbian wish-well (one hand-
eye palms its moss-green rim... see?).

Southwest, southwest... Cautantowwit,
drawn like a Malcolm, like
a black-orange monarch
through the double dove-doors of that

moonlit mirror, into Mexico –
to touch the orange checkmate
of an azure Golden Gate.
Stubborn, impoverished, soft Frisco

mule!  Lifting the ancient key
of human harmony
again, for you, for me –
netting the breathing sail of safety

there, at last – for Juliet,
for John, for Weldon,
Malcolm, Hart... for everyone
yearning, unreconciled, disconsolate;

& across vast timespace hollows
her winged hands & face
stir courage to embrace –
Grace penetrates the Gates (& Rose).



just east of Providence


Scavenging Raven found a crust
of broken mirror for
his nest above the river,
in a craggy oak (Blackstone, dust-

laden, winding her copper yarn
just east of Providence).
Po (or Eridanus)
glinted in that shard; a purple crayon

traced a spiral crane-dance there,
pinned to a dove-grey water-
wheel (by hand).  The daughter
of Caesar trolled a welded cluster

of rust-rose keys just below the surface –
keys to the worm-riddled door
of haunted Sant’ Apollinaire
in Classe (where Pharos ghost-sails

teem for Stilicho, Galla Placidia).
At his perch, Cautantowwit
reads smokefires lit
from Paris – On 29th of May

Corn Maiden will pirouette
one Final Show (a Waltz
to End All Wars).  Salt
is good, croaks the haunted vet –

share salt amongst yourselves, &
be at peace.  The night bird
oars southwest – his last word
whistled into silence (prairie-land).


Note : on Aug. 23, 408, the great Byzantine general Stilicho was executed in Ravenna.


antipodean parks


Uncle George the plowman zigzags calmly
weaving his furrows back 
& forth (west of Fond du Lac).
Laboring almost at rest, along his way.

The black soil teems with memories.
Childhood in Mendelssohn,
a helium balloon –
only now the fatal pine shades Miriam’s

plein air Jubilee (specific gravity
of coffin-keel).  Time,
History here touch the rim
of a labyrinth (Fro-Back, so corny)

whose perimeter outlines her face –
smiling, dreaming, lost
in the supple meadow-grass
of Eros flowering to Agape (O Grace).

Spruce Mountain rises straight ahead,
pilgrim – just south of Bonnie
Craigielee.  Matilda will be
waltzing there, in a tamarack shade

not far from the sea; she will take your hand
where kids’ bird-voices
boomerang – where earth rejoices
in equilibrium, & equity.  One command

radiates Franciscan swag of turtledove;
one cloud sheds orange arcs
over antipodean parks
of aboriginal penitence (blue Jonah-love).


painting by Phoebe Gould (about age 10)


for the Samaritans of Skala Sikaminias

                                       for the rescuers

A gray light shines through the normal world
a silver-scale dawnlight
like the sea-sound in the right
chord on an oud, like a sail unfurled

on a cedar mast, standing simply free
on a fishing boat, out of Skala
Sikaminias, on Lesbos.  Ah,
sighs the wind, for the drowned refugee –

Oh, keens the seaman, for the ghost
of his son (a scarecrow
helped to shore).  Hard row
now, for Samaritans – for the host

village, gasping by the sea, in the normal
world, in the feathered light
of the mourning dove, so quiet
here (in the soughing wind, in the tall

cedars, in the shy bird’s nest, in the forest
dusk, in the soft
dawnlight, in the gray gull’s loft,
in the normal world).  Plain salt is best.

On a concrete floor, someone traced a star
like an octagon, in a Sapphic
ode – under harsh traffic,
under raving codes, like a graven bar

on a looping ply.  In a rosy key
sailors skim toward home –
from a morning comb,
roosters crow for Lesbos (merrily).


*for more information on sources of this poem, see today's New York Times article


convex grassland cave-complex


I retrace my steps again
along the River Road
past Granddad’s solid old
brick fortress.  A trumpet vine

shines orange & green, climbing
a mud-brown corner into
August light.  I’ll go
down to that riverbank now, rhyming

with Nile & Jordan, Voronezh, Po –
a stream that crosses borders,
winding atlatl corridors
so sinuous & serpentine, into

the gray matière, the mutter-mouth...
sea-grotto of an Ocean
State (salt origin
of shanty-song).  From north to south

diagonal, my yellow gyroscope
leans, vaulting on thread
from Gate of the Dead
(whose soft, dense orange-&-azure rope-

ladder lifts up the gravity of stolid
steel & staggered stone)
to Magdalenian
interior... & cartwheels there – Bride

of convex grassland cave-complex –
Cahokia coyote-
gal, whose Galilee
glee-zone (primordial) sketches a hex-


agon – galactic rumble-stir
of light-warp milky skein
or reign of windy Wayne,
pouring a Who-He? mirror-

ray into the rainbow trine
of spray-tossed clement
Clementine.  Cement
shoes will not keep her in the brine

of Poseidon forever – see her shadow
stride the surface now!
With pink tugboat in tow
paintered to Ariadne’s golden bow

– refracted ball of lambswool, bent
through Roger Williams’ granite
lintel – Dante’s bright
brooder-line.  The Great Commandment

coming down from Manitou
like light... it is
not liable to conquest
conscience is free, a gift to you

who seek for Me.  A wheeling sword
glinted above a garden;
a ring of apple trees, hidden
in shade of Sant’Apollinaire.  Word

melody   green hummingbird vine
Guillaume’s trompette marine
a secret acorn   Queen
of Royal Oak   (she is a 5   & 29)



Noah's yawl


Long ago in Florence, Alighieri
smashed the limestone font
at the Baptistery – Don’t
Panic! – to save a little boy

from drowning.  His prophetic sign,
a riposte for his own exile 
sluiced out with bile
& blood of lawlessness (Italian

style).  The sea rides high, the rain
seems endless.  Human
callousness a given,
leaden sinker-weights anchored in pain

call for a coracle, a basket-woven
safety net (to keep
the child alive, upon
the deep).  Cross-stitch the waves then,

Raven – paint Noah’s yawl afloat
until we memorize the name
that hawsers through this game
of crosshairs (golden, black & white).

Only a shadow over the sea;
an eyelash, lancing
a tiny tear.  So bring
your harp now, Queequeg – free

that pearl-feathered quasi-gull
whose omnipresence bobs
the wavy globe.  Corncobs
& acorns in Polenta (Dante school).



like Don in Key West

milkweed palms


Hobo lounged by the great gray Ocean
River, his old hide detached
a little from his mind,
like Don in Key West, his one-

time winter host (at the Q Motel).
Distanced a little from the
whitecaps, red & blue,
that molder to a stucco frieze of Hell

sometimes.  He remembers wild violets
that peek beneath gray toes
of an elder copper beech, whose
crown shades Providence; those roots

drill deeper than the black & white
of shaky party platforms.
Down beneath worms
mining resentment & indifference, the bite

of greedy centipedes, the slugs
cold as a winter street
in Minneapolis, whose neat
chewing fattens themselves alone (bugs

do not think about their neighbors).
Whose murmurous gray arms
have framed the milkweed farms
of metaphysical Hope, that anchors

Roger Williams’ canoe –
Love’s almond chariot
that smiling Faith built
out of flocks of can-do

monarch wings, green palms
circumferencing the gray
scallops of yesterday –
twin limestone radials (emblems

of spousal harmony, e pluribus
unum).  Whose tap sinks toward
the center of the gourd,
the hearth Love stokes, wells tears...

& where a voice from her grey mirror
sang in Hobo’s ear –
Behold the Platonic Year
revolve at last, aboard my double-decker

Greyhound!  When the game of suits
& spades & royal clubs
gives way to hearts purple
& ruddy diamondstwin 52s

orbit an orange origami octagon,
one Chinese lantern, standing
in the night gardenbring
Hobo to the table, thenIt’s done!

He pondered pumpkin murmurings,
& mooned there, by the muddy
banks.  The breeze of poetry...
only a feeling (sighed).  Our burdenings

borne by that humble muse, whose trust
in some deep loving cloud
grey Manitou’s abode
will wave back (Noah’s buoyant crust).




let her skip


This quiet August day toward
the cusp of autumn.  Green
vine-light in the cavern
where Henry hides his raven-word.

That empty chair in Dante’s sky-
deep rose, for all the hoped-
for prophets, emperors...
& here’s Sophia’s little throne (my

dancing-master’s rosy resting-
spot).  Let her skip
fearless across the ship
of state, her toy basilica, questing;

the Greyhound of the Lord, her
vengeance, comes to this –
gray clouds of Providence
replete with rain; a pregnant mother

radiant with clearing day; the shades
of persecution blown away
by ocarinas (clay-
shell turtledoves, dolphin parades).

Ineffable golden Hephaestus-net...
veil of corn fleece over
a West Branch face.  Her
sister in D.C. (Adams duet) –

icon of Miriam & Magdalen,
Dakota hexagon
implicit in the sun
of Washington... cartwheels, Columbian.



across languages & worlds


O calm August river, weaving
under your ceiling of gray
fluff!  I’d like to say
you are a figure for Edith, rocking,

singing Sophie to sleep, somewhere
above Ethiopian night.
I’d like to formulate
a lamp in a window, out there

on a foggy lump in Narragansett Bay –
Rose Island Light, maybe –
what stands for certainty
in the midst of rocky sea, the sway

of tide.  They’re almost finished now
with the bridge repair.
Her double eyebrows bear
their concrete filigree, & show

twin circles in the river’s glass.
Their delicate embrace
a fractal carapace
for curving lips of one round lass –

a sea-green pebble, calipered
by radiant massive Einstein
armature.  So shine,
my lighthouse pine – like shy brown bird

or Great Blue Heron – one sharp eye
across the moving waters!
Agape holds stars
in loving stillness – rhyming sky


with earth.  It is an ur-rhyme, personal –
a Neva-petroglyph,
an anchored spider-skiff,
chaste common akme (Eeyore-humble);

like moony pleb with sunny Phoebus,
roaming Apollinaire
with domed Apollinaris,
Love is that hearth-melding force

that fuses Unity & Liberty –
soul freedom is the spark
of arcs.  I found a monarch,
lonely, in the donkey straw you see

down by the iron river (pausing,
perhaps, between White
House & Soldier’s Rest).
We bowed to one another, browsing

sheared grass, cordially.
The song began like this –
a dream made manifest,
Railsplitter... prodigal Boy...

held in grey threads of dog days’
dawnlight.  Soft rainbow
pigeon croon – low
throaty turtledove song-maze –

dream-songe across the meadowlands
of languages & worlds
farfalla-far – she whirls
& jags... floats into cedar hands.


Franklin Ave. Bridge


Greyhound to Galilee


You rode the midnight Greyhound
through American backwaters.
Past hobo squatters
inside their high lonesome vault (profound

infinite firefly field).  No one
forgets their bent magnetic
North, your epileptic
adolescence (endlessness).  The sun,

the moon, the Pope, the Emperor...
some bright Hiawatha rider,
beaming father-figure –
Federigo in Jerusalem, hugging an Emir...

History slides by on billboards,
Burma-Shave proverbs.
The Greyhound hums, curves
down Vanishing Road – the Lord’s

a baby buffalo.  Around the track
the sprinters skim – a blear
of fog machines, the air
nine tenebrae.  One shady (humpback)

tesseract glides into Galilee –
Gödel infinity
or Miriam smile (she
saw her tall cousin suggest a V);

the mirror of authority
in heaven & on earth
wells supernatural mirth –
sweet chariot of Lady Liberty.



Pin dat, Pindar !

                                         to Flavia Saraiva

So light she could dance in the palm of your hand
diminutive Flavinha
16 yrs old (4’4”)
spins round a square in Rio-land

revolving figure out of Faery   circling
like Geraldine Fitzgerald
with redhead emerald
circlet comb   encompassing

a globe    within her seashell shallop
green mandala made
of hands  rosy mermaid
(see Phoebe’s sapient dewdrop

on linen frame   for navigation)
one palm in the hurricane
eye   Persephone
shows leaf again   becomes whole nation

wheeling   in the Great Bear dance
around an oak tree   acorns
reigning like   Golgotha crowns
skullcaps & elf beanies   the romance

of Mnemosyne   again, again
the early history
of Buffalo   or Rimini
Ravenn   or Petersburg   Pipestone

or Voronezh   or Minneapolis,
even   along a spiral
fiddlehead   springs tall
her heavy lightness   like   an Okie kiss


Palm print by Grace Tagliabue & Phoebe Gould


Henry's Blunderworld

Back in 1993, Langdon Hammer published a book titled Hart Crane and Allen Tate : Janus-Faced Modernism.  As I have absented myself from the groves of academe, and from my job as an underling in the beautiful Brown University Library, I can no longer zip down to the stacks & grab any book using fingertip osmosis.  Like ol' Ez in his Pisan cage, here in Minneapolis I must rely on slippery Mnemosyne.  Yet as I bethought myself of certain poetic problematics, cruxi & conundrumistai, this book quietly surfaced from the Henry Blunderworld.

Janus-faced... how?  On one panel, there you have Hart Crane - the troubled gifted genius, the gay man in a land of homophobiopoetics, the impossible character, the Nietzschean-suicidal narcissist egomaniac, the artist, the graceful creator.  On another panel, you have the Salieri (as opposed to the Mozart) component (in Nadezhda Mandelstam's incisive paradigm, with respect to Pushkin, Mandelstam, et al.).  The craftspeople; the literary actuaries; the devotees, the acolytes, the Pharisees, the priests, the gatekeepers, the bouncers.... Allen Tate representing the highest order of compositional learning.  He will mimic the Great Poets by sheer force of pedantry (that giant forehead!) and guile (he sounds like Crane at his most sane).

This is unfair; this is irresponsible.  Allen Tate was a scholar of "the scholar's art" (though Wally Stevens, who coined the phrase, might consider Tate one of those academic "bought men").

Hey - everybody does the best they can.

It's just that Hammer's iron bonk or slice might illustrate a divide we ought to recognize.  Not between raw & cooked or Beat & Formalist or real & conceptual or whatever latest epiphenom floats with the campus curds - but rather something to do with poetry's original communion with its audience, its historical moment.

I have a theory about poetry which is extremely simple : poetry is the summit or bloom of a particular culture's sign-system.

Signs are sacred - they are gestures, pointing everyone toward what encircles, embraces, uplifts, defines.  Yet every culture is obsessed with its own mortality, its own weakness... and Time is the scythe reaping all our faulty sign-systems.  The poet represents and enunciates these ambivalent poles, these magnetic valences.

This representation is a mode of theater.  An enactment - unpredictable, evolving, adapting to particular circumstances.  Ovid sending letters to Caesar from his remote (& final) exile on the Black Sea became a model for both Pushkin in the 19th century and Mandelstam in the 20th : a model corresponding to actual existential personal and political circumstances.  Shakespeare (whoever he was) wrote popular plays in a renovated medieval genre in order to... huh?  Speak truth to power?  How with this rage shall Beauty hold a plea? (Sonnet 65).  Maybe.  The form adapted to the motive.  & little Tuscan epileptic Alighieri... don't get me started.

& who am I, what am I doing, paddling here in my noxious blogorrhea?

I'd like to overturn the Leaning Towers of official literary certification, along with the squirming anthills of generic rebellion.  I am bored with officialdom.  I am done with Academic Poetics.  I am fed up with Popular Poetics.  The noise is killing me.  Poetry is subtle, like the tender fur on a butterfly wing.  If you manipulate wing, wing becomes useless - Butterfly goes back to her musty thread-womb.

The poet has to have all the skills & training & smarts & gifts... but nobody can teach these.  Experience teaches them; the character of the poet brings them out of the ineffable treasure-house, and polishes, sharpens, aims.

The shaman swims through the fatal air.  Raven writes in flame on the tyrant's wall... in water (on the port side of the Ark).

Solominka in the black gunshine


Muggy August, month of Emperors
& seizures.  Hobo Henry
lies in Sharon’s Ferry
under the sluggish limestone (worms,

mollusckies, protozoa).  He’s
coming back to Tuscany,
the Bore (some prophesy).
Huffy, bossy Henry holds the keys,

he thunk.  Amid a bole of oaktrees,
under his acorn crown –
like that green Corny Maiden,
one of Igor’s fresh catastrophes

(in Paris, 1913).  High sign
of times – the pharmakon,
the scapegoat, Chosen One –
The barking Kingly Queen

of Carnival, her last crowd scene
(crowing).  Guillaume was there,
too – orphic Apollinaire,
sighing for Minka in the black gunshine

of Dallas.  Jenny, we hardly knew ye
your sea-cloud camouflage
a fluttery montage
of yellow-black, afloat toward Iona...

America in Henry’s coulombe, now.
The bird croons at the gates
where Francis celebrates
Pacific pipestone... sea-grey Manitou.



steady seasonal work

                                       Jim Northrup, 1943-2016

The dead cottonwood leans its broken fork
like a Y-brace against
the live cottonwood.  Who’s
helping whom?  The river’s work

is steady, seasonal... flows
nearby.  Past Fort Snelling
like a hurt knee – swelling
strong west branch waters,

Dakota memory.  The boarding school
in Pipestone, pushing English
like a Ghost Dance wish
across calumet plains.  Clouds pool

like smoke under their limitless
blue dome.  The little stories
join hands – morning glories
vining indigo blooms... a sky-caress

out of heavy red clay.  She will go
with you to the Happy Land
her canoe made of almond
joy heartbeats, in waves.  I know

where I’m going... just a change of address.
The flower of a smile
blooms out of dust – the trial
just a test of loving (wilderness).

You’ll find the carnation in a sailor’s
chest, the rose in a worn
lapel.  So being born
will ride the swell, through locks, through doors.


*for more information about Jim Northrup, see today's NY Times obituary


implicate my speech


Sly Raven implicates my speech
with folded shade.  A bright
dove spangles dew-light
drifting the stream.  On the beach

by Mississippi, one yellow-black ensign
of cottonwood, one limestone
arrowhead.  An unknown
bird hums wings into a grey spine-

feather matrix – hovers droning
like yellow gyroscope
(totem for sun).  Hope
is the thing... the Word spins honing

like a drill toward a red diamond,
flaking hieroglyphs
& copper cypress skiffs
for one crossroad encounter (bond

of your voice, speaking soft to me,
from vise of mine).  Zone
of Mendelssohn tombstone –
of flint, cracked open for humanity –

to pour through like sprung torrent
& never cease flowing,
as when a raven crowing
from an empty cave (craven, abhorrent)

signals a seed flung by a planet’s wing –
smiles through the sea-gate
like Peacock Angel – fate
spannered by a checkmate (Irma’s Fling).


My mother & the Longfellows

Just an afterthought to previous post : I share a bit of family lore regarding the Longfellows.

The poet Henry W. Longfellow was no stranger to sorrow and tragedy.  His line "into each life some rain must fall" is an understatement in his case (he was widowed twice; his first wife Mary died after a miscarriage; his second, Frances, after burns suffered in a freak accident).

Longfellow was endeared to his six children; his old classic The Children's Hour christens one of them "laughing Allegra".

Allegra eventually married and had children of her own.  One of her daughters married a doctor from Texas, and they settled in a house on the River Road, in Minneapolis, next door to my grandparents - where my mother Mary Ravlin grew up, with her brother and sisters.  My mother became friends with their children (Allegra's grandchildren).  She relates the story that once, when Allegra was visiting her family in Minneapolis, their furnace backed up and filled the house with smoke.  The Longfellows migrated next door until the problem was fixed and the house aired out; Allegra spent the night at my grandparents'.

A few years later, the Longfellows invited my mother (who was about 12 at the time) to accompany them on a vacation to Maine.  They took the train from Minneapolis, and eventually reached the Longfellow home in Portland (now a museum).  There the Longfellows brought out some little glasses of sherry, and my mother had her first taste of alcohol - which she took with great trepidation, since both her parents were absolute Iowa teetotalers.

The Longfellow House (Portland, Maine)


On the shores of Gitche Gumee

Am reading a remarkable new biography of Dante Alighieri, by Marco Santagata, translated by Richard Dixon (Harvard UP, 2016).  Alongside Longfellow's remarkably reader-friendly translation of the Divina Commedia.

Where I live now is Longfellow territory : Minnesota.  In fact I live in a duplex adjacent to the Longfellow section of Minneapolis.  This is the land of Minnehaha Falls, Lake Nokomis, the Hiawatha rail line...  Henry L's Song of Hiawatha was inspired & underwritten by the Ojibwa legends recorded by his scholar-explorer friend Henry Schoolcraft (discoverer of the source of the Mississippi).  I can hear my late father even now - Minnesota Scout-camper-canoeist that he was - reciting (slightly tongue-in-cheek) tidbits of Hiawatha and Evangeline...

Santagata's Dante is a preternaturally-gifted young poeta (Einstein-like), trapped in a political combination of Inferno and South Boston.  His yearning for the authority of Empire makes (partial, recherche) sense in a parochial spacetime imprisoned by warlords, feuds, vengeance, murder, and every other circle of Hell.  These circles were closed.  Dante was like a drowning man struggling to the surface.  His appeal to Beatrice and Mary was a cry for a spiritual lifesaver - and a rescue from personal/political catastrophe.

But don't let me suggest that what we have here is a version of the mind-body problem.  Dante was more than an alienated intellectual.  He was a lot like Whitman, too.  He asserted Love at the center of reality, at the matrix of the cosmos - and found a way to synthesize all the different departments of Philosophia within the very human desire to love and be loved.  This was the gift of his mentors (Brunetti, Cavalcanti, Boethius, Augustine, Aquinas, Aristotle... Virgil) - but a gift he transfigured into blazing bardic fireworks (Whitman's descants on Emerson provide a parallel).

I find it interesting that during his agitated exilic (& hungry) wanderings around Tuscany & environs, Dante gravitated toward anywhere with a good library.  That early Renaissance hunger for knowledge chimes with what Mandelstam calls the Italians' (Dante, Ariosto) enormous appetite & gusto for speech, rhyme, poetry...  Mandelstam, out there in Voronezh & Vladivostok, carrying his frangled, tattered copy of the Divine Comedy around, always, wherever Stalin decided to send him...

The library was my refuge too.  I spent 30 years in the bowels of the Rock (Rockefeller Library, Brown University) - after Ronald Reagan brought an end to my 5-yr VISTA volunteer career (circa 1980).  I didn't want to be an organizer anymore; I needed to write.  But I didn't want to go back to school (I graduated from Brown - finally - in 1977).  For a brief ridiculous desperate time I worked as a "professional resume writer"...

I thought of poetry as something simple & direct - beyond academia, beneath academia; beyond politics, beneath politics; beyond po-biz, beneath po-biz.  I started a group called the Poetry Mission for that reason (stealing poetry off campus).  We sponsored events in an art gallery, organized some talks, published an anthology for Edwin Honig's birthday... but this was long ago (early 1990s).  Others have been down this path.

The library.  On the campus.  Yes.  I went back there, into my shell - and stayed for 30 years.

Here's what Wikipedia says about the dome of the Rhode Island State House, under which I spent much of my 5 years as a VISTA volunteer :

"The Rhode Island State House is composed of 327,000 cubic feet (9,300 m3) of white Georgia marble, 15 million bricks, and 1,309 short tons (1,188 t) of iron floor beams.[2]

The dome of the State House is the fourth-largest self-supporting marble dome in the world, after St. Peter's Basilica, the Taj Mahal, and the Minnesota State Capitol.[2][3] On top of the dome is a gold-covered bronze statue of the Independent Man, originally named "Hope". The statue, weighing more than 500 pounds (230 kg), is 11 feet (3.4 m) tall and stands 278 feet (85 m) above the ground. The Independent Man represents freedom and independence and alludes to the independent spirit which led Roger Williams to settle and establish Providence and later Rhode Island."


This post is a throwback to the HG Poetics of old - that Minnehaha of endless gab-gab... how did I manage it?  As TS Eliot says somewhere, "Humility is endless."  I worked, managed.  Now, strangely, I'm home again.  Florence was my paternal grandmother's name - the Goulds lived about 2 blocks from where I'm writing this, in another shady apt by the river.  Florence was born on the the 4th of July, 1900... granddaughter of a Mississippi riverboat captain...