Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

November Night

(Mirror Lake by Franklin Carmichael, 1890-1945,
Canadian artist)

We’ve now come to the last of the autumnal poems, but there are still weeks of Autumn left to enjoy.


With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

~ Adele Crapsey (1878-1914), American poet

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Song for Autumn

(Little Island by A. J. Casson, 1898-1992,
Canadian artist)

The music continues.


In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

~ Mary Oliver, born 1935, American poet

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


(Flyer by Desirée Brunton)

Join us tomorrow as we officially open the new children’s room at the George Hail Library. The festivities begin with an open house at 6 p.m.


No need even
To take out
A book: only
Go inside
And savor
The heady
Dry breath of
Ink and paper,
Or stand and
Listen to the
Silent twitter
Of a billion
Tiny busy
Black words.

~ Valerie Worth (1933-1994), American poet

Monday, September 27, 2010

Birds’ Nests

(Tree by Piet Mondrian, 1872-1944, Dutch painter)

All is revealed.


The summer nests uncovered by autumn wind,
Some torn, others dislodged, all dark,
Everyone sees them: low or high in tree,
Or hedge, or single bush, they hang like a mark.

Since there’s no need of eyes to see them with
I cannot help a little shame
That I missed most, even at eye’s level, till
The leaves blew off and made the seeing no game.

’Tis a light pang. I like to see the nests
Still in their places, now first known,
At home and by far roads. Boys knew them not,
Whatever jays and squirrels may have done.

And most I like the winter nests deep-hid
That leaves and berries fell into:
Once a dormouse dined there on hazel-nuts,
And grass and goose-grass seeds found soil and grew.

~ Edward Thomas (1878-1917), British poet

Sunday, September 26, 2010


(No.2 by Mark Rothko, 1903-1970, American painter)

The day breaks quietly.

Morning — cutting firewood, filling my jug
with pure water, gathering wild grasses,
while a cool Autumn rain gently falls.

~ Ryokan (1758-1831), Japanese poet, hermit, and Buddhist monk

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Seeing the Moonlight

(A Cornfield by Moonlight with the Evening Star by
Samuel Palmer, 1805-1881, English painter and printmaker)

Among poets, the moon is a topic almost as popular as love.


Seeing the moonlight
spilling down
through these trees,
my heart fills to the brim
with autumn.

~ Ono No Komachi (825?-890?), Japanese poet

Friday, September 24, 2010

This Only

(Migration – The Great Flood by Norval Morrisseau,
1931?-2007, Canadian Ojibwa artist)

The past is a different country. Travel light.


A valley and above it forests in autumn colors.
A voyager arrives, a map led him here.
Or perhaps memory. Once, long ago, in the sun,
When the first snow fell, riding this way
He felt joy, strong, without reason,
Joy of the eyes. Everything was the rhythm
Of shifting trees, of a bird in flight,
Of a train on the viaduct, a feast of motion.
He returns years later, has no demands.
He wants only one, most precious thing:
To see, purely and simply, without name,
Without expectations, fears, or hopes,
At the edge where there is no I or not-I.

~ Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004), Polish poet, essayist, and translator, and winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Night of Fall, Grosvenor Ave.

(Homage to the Square: Soft Spoken by Josef Albers,
1888-1976, German-born American painter, writer,
and theorist of color

This happened one evening on a street in Montreal.


In the blue lamplight
the leaf falls

on its shadow.

~ George Bowering, born 1935, Canadian writer and poet

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


(The Last Rose of Summer, cover of song sheet)

The passing of no other season evokes such melancholy.


The longed-for summer goes;
Dwindles away
To its last rose,
Its narrowest day.

No heaven-sweet air but must die;
Softlier float
Breathe lingeringly
Its final note.

Oh, what dull truths to tell!
Now is the all-sufficing all
Wherein to love the lovely well,
Whate’er befall.

~ Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), English writer, most famous for his ghost stories and children’s poetry

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


(Triptych by Mark Rothko, 1903-1970, American painter)

Through the leaves — a glimpse of eternity.


Fall’s leaves are redder than
spring’s flowers, have no pollen,
and also sometimes fly, as the wind
schools them out or down in shoals
or droves: though I
have not been here long, I can
look up at the sky at night and tell
how things are likely to go for
the next hundred million years:
the universe will probably not find
a way to vanish nor I
in all that time reappear.

~ A. R. Ammons (1926-2001), American poet

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Morns Are Meeker

(The Ballerina by Joan Miró, 1893-1983,
Spanish painter, ceramist, and sculptor)

The Belle of Amherst is preparing for the gala that is Autumn.

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), American poet

Sunday, September 19, 2010


(Fireflies on the Water, installation with lights, mirrors,
and water at the Whitney Museum, 2002, by Yayoi Kusama,
born 1929, Japanese painter, performance artist, and creator
of installation art)

It’s my wedding anniversary today.


It was that evening with fireflies
while we were waiting for the bus to Velletri
that we saw two old people kissing
under the plane tree. It was then
you said, half to the air
half to me:
Whoever loves for years
hasn’t lived in vain.
And it was then I caught sight of the first
fireflies in the darkness, sparkling
with flashes of light around your head.
It was then.

~ Rolf Jacobsen (1907-1994), Norwegian poet

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who by Fire

(Still Life with Flowers by Marc Chagall,
1887-1985, Russian-French artist)

Today is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish Year. It began last night at sundown. On this day, the faithful fast and ask for forgiveness for the sins they have committed in the past year.

Leonard Cohen is a Canadian poet from Montreal, the son of a rabbi, who put his poems to music and is now more well-known as a composer and singer of ballads. Many of his earlier poems were inspired by the Scriptures.
Who by Fire is based on a prayer recited on Yom Kippur. In this song, Cohen identifies a list of supplicants who come calling on God. Each one is described by the way he or she died. How one dies often says a lot about how one has lived.

To listen to Leonard Cohen perform this song, click on this link (you may have to cut and paste):


And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry, merry month of May,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
Who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his lady's command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?

~ Leonard Cohen, born 1934, Canadian poet, novelist, singer, and songwriter

Friday, September 17, 2010

Song for September

(Leaves by Séraphine Louis de Senlis,
1864-1942, French painter)

“For broken dreams,” wrote C. S. Lewis, “the cure is, dream again and deeper.”


Respect the dreams of old men, said the cricket,
Summer behind the song, the streams falling
Ledge to ledge in the mountains where clouds come.
Attend the old men who wander
Daylight and evening in the air grown cold,
Time thins, leaving their will to wind and whispers;
The bells are swallowed gently under the ground.

Because in time the birds will leave this country,
Waning south, not to return again;
Because we walk in gardens among grasses,
Touching the garments of the wind that passes,
Dimming our eyes —

Give benches to the old men, said the cricket,
Listening by cool ways to the world that dies
Fainter than seas drawn off from mist and stone.
The rain that speaks at night is the prayer’s answer.
What are dry phantoms to the old men
Lying at night alone?

They are not here whose gestures we have known,
Their hands in the dusk, their frail hair in the sun.

~ Robert Fitzgerald (1910-1985), American poet

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hurrahing in Harvest

(The Scythers, 1908 by N. C. Wyeth,
1882-1945, American artist and illustrator)

The poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins are always best read out loud.


Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behavior
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, willful-wavier
Meal-drift molded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Savior;
And, eyes, heart, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic — as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet! —
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., 1844-1899, British poet whose work has had a profound influence on modern poetry

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


(Beehive, English woodcut, 1658)

The poet shows a keen appreciation of the need to keep things in perspective.


I kept my answers small and kept them near;
Big questions bruised my mind but still I let
Small answers be a bulwark to my fear.

The huge abstractions I kept from the light;
Small things I handled and caressed and loved.
I let the stars assume the whole of night.

But the big answers clamored to be moved
Into my life. Their great audacity
Shouted to be acknowledged and believed.

Even when all small answers build up to
Protection of my spirit, still I hear
Big answers striving for their overthrow

And all the great conclusions coming near.

~ Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001), English poet and librarian

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Haiku

(Black Leaf on Green Background
by Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, French
printmaker, painter, and sculptor)

As Autumn approaches, a haiku.

Swinging on delicate hinges
the Autumn Leaf
Almost off the stem

~ Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), American of French-Canadian descent, a poet and novelist who wrote in both French and English and was one of the original members of the Beat Generation

Monday, September 13, 2010

Counting-Out Rhyme

(Blue Sky by Emily Carr, 1871-1945, Canadian
writer and painter whose work celebrated the
cultures of the Indians of the Pacific Northwest.)

We all notice the colors of the leaves on the trees in Autumn. It’s the poet who notes that the barks of those trees also have varied hues.


Silver bark of beech, and sallow
Bark of yellow birch and yellow
Twig of willow.

Stripe of green in moosewood maple,
Color seen in leaf of apple,
Bark of popple.*

Wood of popple pale as moonbeam,
Wood of oak for yoke and barn-beam,
Wood of hornbeam.

Silver bark of beech, and hollow
Stem of elder, tall and yellow
Twig of willow.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), American poet

* popple - poplar

Sunday, September 12, 2010


(Seventh-century icon of Santa Maria Nova, Rome,
from Sister Wendy Beckett’s Encounters with God:
In Quest of the Ancient Icons of Mary

I was named after both of my grandmothers, my maternal one from Germany, and my paternal one from Hungary.

In some European countries, like Hungary, Catholics celebrate “Patron Saint Days” or “Name Days,” the feast day in the liturgical calendar of the saint after whom one is named. September 12 is the Feast Day of the Name of Mary. Since my father is Hungarian, we commemorated this day, only five days after my birthday, and I had two celebrations in one week.


Miriam, Mary, Maria, Marie,
What voweled jewel might this be?

Is it a sapphire love,
Of purest water true?
Or is it water of
A sapphire hue?

Miriam, Marie, Maria, Mary,
So crystal-cut, yet limpid, airy!

It flows in regal tones,
Glitters like both of these:
The sea-reflecting stones,
The jeweled seas.

Mary, Marie, Maria, Miriam,
Ocean of beryl,* sea-lit beryllium!

Gem for the Father’s Ring,
Stone of the Son’s great crown,
Glint on the Spirit’s wing,
Light poring down.

Miriam, Mary, Marie, Maria,
Pendant for my lips, Maria!

~ Angélico Chávez (1910-1996), Franciscan priest, poet, writer, fresco painter, and historian of New Mexico

* beryl - emerald and aquamarine are two varieties of this mineral; beryllium - rare metallic chemical element highly resistant to corrosion

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth

(Bust with Twin Towers by André Kertész, 1894-1985,
Hungarian-born photographer)

Today we remember one of the saddest days in America’s history.

On April 27, 1941, after a period of heavy Nazi bombardment of England, Prime Minister Winston Churchill went on the radio and spoke to the world. In his speech, he quoted the last verse of this poem.


Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labor and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here, no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright!

~ Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861), English poet

Friday, September 10, 2010

Grain Harvest

(Grain Harvest by Pieter Bruegel the Elder)

Pieter Bruegel, or Breughel, the Elder (1529?-1569) was an artist from the Netherlands who painted landscapes of rural and village life with great detail and a touch of satire. His son and his grandson, both also called Pieter, followed in his footsteps.

This poem is one of ten that William Carlos Williams wrote about Bruegel the Elder’s paintings.


the painting is organized
about a young

reaper enjoying his
noonday rest

from his morning labors

in fact sleeping
on his back

the women
have brought him his lunch

a spot of wine
they gather gossiping
under a tree

whose shade
he does not share the

center of
their workday world

~ William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), American poet and practicing physician

Thursday, September 9, 2010

With a Green Scarf

(Chalk Paths by Eric Ravilious, 1903-1942, English
engraver, artist, and official war painter during World
War II)

Marin Sorescu managed to flourish as a poet in Romania, even under the repressive Communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, without either compromising his talents or selling his soul. He used humor and irony — especially irony.


With a green scarf I blindfolded
the eyes of the trees
and asked them to catch me.

At once the trees caught me,
their leaves shaking with laughter.

I blindfolded the birds
with a scarf of clouds
and asked them to catch me.

The birds caught me
with a song.

Then with a smile I blindfolded
my sorrow
and the day after it caught me
with a love.

I blindfolded the sun
with my nights
and asked the sun to catch me.

I know where you are, the sun said,
just behind that time.

Don’t bother to hide any longer.

Don’t bother to hide any longer,
said all of them,
as well as all the feelings
I tried to blindfold.

~ Marin Sorescu (1936-1996), Romanian poet

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gathering Leaves in Grade School

(One-Room School, Canoe Cove, Prince Edward Island,
by Robert Harris, 1849-1919, Canadian artist)

One day in Autumn, a classmate of mine, unfamiliar with the rule of “leaves of three, let them be,” brought in a collection of beautiful purple-gold leaves for an art project similar to the one described below. Fortunately, the school nurse was there with a bottle of calamine lotion.


They were smooth ovals,
and some the shade of potatoes —
some had been moth-eaten
or spotted, the maples
were starched, and crackled
like campfire.

We put them under tracing paper
and rubbed our crayons
over them, X-raying
the spread of their bones
and black, veined catacombs.

We colored them green and brown
and orange, and
cut them out along the edges,
labeling them deciduous
or evergreen.

All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom,
with its cockeyed globe,
and nautical maps of ocean floors,
I watched those leaves

lost in their own worlds
flap on the pins of the bulletin boards:
without branches or roots,
or even a sky to hold on to.

~ Judith Harris, American poet

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Happy Birthday

(Mrs. William Frazer of Delaware, 1798
by William Clarke, American painter)

Today is my birthday.


This evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.

~ Ted Kooser, born 1939, U. S. Poet Laureate 2004-2006

Monday, September 6, 2010


(Der Fingerhüter or Thimble-Maker by
Jost Amman, 1539-1591, Swiss artist)

Today is Labor Day.

Jost Amman’s woodcut is one of 114 illustrations he created for
The Book of Trades published in Germany in 1568. Each depicts a different trade or profession, leaving us a fascinating portrait of Renaissance life in Northern Europe. The images are complemented by short verses written by Hans Sachs (1494-1576), a popular singer and poet of Nuremberg, where Amman also lived. The book was also published in Latin.

Fingerhut, or thimble, is translated literally from the German as finger-hat.)


God give me work
Till my life shall end
And life
Till my work is done.

~ Winifred Holtby (1898-1935), English novelist and journalist, and life-long friend of Vera Brittain, who wrote her biography, Testament of Friendship

Sunday, September 5, 2010

His Pilgrimage

(Sir Walter Raleigh by an unknown artist)

Since medieval times, the scallop shell has been the emblem of the pilgrim — the person on a spiritual quest who journeys to a sacred place to offer prayers of penance or gratitude or to place a petition for a special favor. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales follows one company of such travelers to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket.

This symbolic use of the shell began with the popular pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago (St. James) de Compostela in Spain. The pilgrims used the shells that they found by the ocean as drinking vessels. Today, all those who reach the end of their journey at the cathedral get their pilgrimage passports stamped with the image of a shell.

The verse below is an excerpt from a longer poem that Sir Walter Raleigh wrote after he was sentenced to death for treason.

Gage here means pledge or guarantee.)


Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My script of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation.
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage,
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

~Sir Walter Raleigh (1552?-1618), courtier, explorer, writer, and poet

Saturday, September 4, 2010


(Sunlight and Shadow, Newbury Marshes, Massachusetts
by Martin Johnson Heade, 1819-1904, American painter)

We’ve just gone through a lot of weather here on the Eastern Seaboard. Hurricane Earl is gone now and all is peaceful again.


Dot a dot dot dot a dot dot
Spotting the windowpane.

Spack a spack speck flick a flack fleck
Freckling the windowpane.

A spatter a scatter a wet cat a clatter
A splatter a rumble outside.

Umbrella umbrella umbrella umbrella
Bumbershoot barrel of rain.

Slosh a galosh slosh a galosh
Slither and slather a glide

A puddle a jump a puddle a jump
A puddle a jump puddle splosh

A juddle a pump a luddle a dump
A pudmuddle jump in and slide!

~ Eve Merriam (1916-1992), American poet and playwright

Friday, September 3, 2010

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

(Thames below Westminster by Claude Monet, 1840-1926,
French Impressionist painter)

This poem is a surprise.

Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet, like Keats and Shelley. The work of these poets stressed that feelings point to the truth.

The sonnet here is quite typical of Romantic poetry, with its full use of the pathetic fallacy, ascribing human qualities and emotions to an inanimate object, in this case the City of London. It differs, however, in its choice of a city as the object of its affection. For the Romantics, the source of happiness was Nature, especially of the countryside untouched by the Industrial Revolution.


Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

~ William Wordsworth (1770-1850), English poet

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Door

(Open Door by Charles Sheeler, 1883-1963,
American artist)

Any door leads both ways — inside and outside.


Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
Maybe a dog’s rummaging.
Maybe you’ll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture.

Go and open the door.
If there’s a fog
it will clear.

Go and open the door.
Even if there’s only
the darkness ticking,
even if there’s only
the hollow wind,
even if
is there,
go and open the door.

At least
there’ll be
a draft.

~ Miroslav Holub (1923-1998), Czech poet

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Try to Remember

(Tohickon by Daniel Garber, 1880-1958, American painter)

(The carefree hours of summer vacation are over. As the days become shorter and cooler, the air turns wistful. It is time for some autumnal reflections.)

This song is a highlight of the Broadway musical The Fantasticks. The plot is a variation on the reverse psychology gambit perpetrated by Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer one Saturday when he tired of whitewashing the fence.

“Oh, come now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?” [Ben asked Tom.]

The brush continued to move.

“Like it?” [Tom said.] “Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth — stepped back to note the effect — added a touch here and there — criticized the effect again — Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let
me whitewash a little.”

In The Fantasticks, to bring about a romance between a young couple, their parents build a wall to keep them apart.

To listen to a performance by Jerry Orbach of the original Broadway cast in 1962, click on this link (you may have to cut and paste):


Try to remember the kind of September
when life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
when grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
when you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember and if you remember, then follow.

Try to remember when life was so tender
that no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
that dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
that love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember and if you remember, then follow.

Deep in December it’s nice to remember
although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December it’s nice to remember
without the hurt the heart is hollow.
Deep in December it’s nice to remember
the fire of September that made us mellow.
Deep in December our hearts should remember and follow.

~ Tom Jones, born 1928, American lyricist, and Harvey Schmidt, born 1929, American composer