Future Blog

I will be blogging once a month during June, July and August. I treasure the connections I’ve made in the blogosphere and will continue to read others’ work.

A small literary magazine published my poem about a Pride festival and parade in my town. I’m in a mostly rural area with three towns or cities, known as Tri-Cities, in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. It’s a conservative area, making this event more remarkable. However, a strong progressive presence is also in the area. Though I am not gay or transgender, I support people’s freedom to be who and what they are. In my poem I tried to convey the good feeling that emanated from the TriPride Festival.

TriPride Parade and Festival

(Kingsport and Johnson City, TN and Bristol TN/VA)

In the style of the Song of Amergin*

We came holding rainbow flags
We came with 22 floats
We came with 1000 marchers
We’re 10,000 strong and peaceful
We’re the flood of humanity
We’re mothers, sisters, brothers
We’re cousins, and friends
We know love can be lost
We know the rush to judgment
We know our song comes from the mountains
We sing and our music flows over town
We know our song is heard ’round the mountains
We’re the fire and flood of humanity
We see a few mutter and turn away
We know we belong
We’re here with rainbow-striped socks
We’re here to dispel hate and promote care
We’re here with love as our companion
We’re here

*“English poetic education should, really, begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin.” – Robert Graves

Published in Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream, Volume 43, No.11, May 2023


Passages is now available in paperback.

The 1970s. New ideas on how to live. Being young in the city, searching for identity and love and the most amazing life possible – that was the story of many back then. They were trailblazers. Martin is one of them.

See you next month!


Passages, by Mary Clark

The 1970s. Anything goes. Sexual liberation. New ideas on how to live. Being young in the city, searching for identity, and love, and the most amazing life possible – that was the story of many back then. They were trailblazers. 

Passages, a young man’s coming of age in 1970’s New York City, reflects the greater panorama of people seeking freedom of expression. 

Martin is an aspiring writer who explores the tangled topics of love and living an alternative lifestyle as an artist. He also lives within his male and female identities which fuel his dreams and fantasies. His family history of violence, his mental instability, and a friend’s death spur him to escape suburban life.

In the city, Martin meets Simone, an actress on Broadway. A strange first encounter reveals a new self to him. Shortly afterward, he meets sexy, volatile Rafaela, who works in a Times Square restaurant. He struggles to nourish his independent self as he engages in these two challenging relationships.

Rafaela is pragmatic and driven. Simone is on her way to a legendary career. What will Martin do with the gifts and burdens life has given him?

Passages is an exploration of sexual awakening, social change, and a writer’s life.

Content warning: descriptions or references to sexual assault, erotic dreams, domestic violence, and mental health episodes.

Kindle only (paperback will come later)

These books are related to Passages:

Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen

Children of Light, a poetry novel, Ten Penny Players’ BardPress

Covenant: Growing Up in Florida’s Lost Paradise, a novella, Kindle Unlimited

Passages is Here

Starting today, you can pre-order my new book, Passages, going live April 17. Passages is a young man’s coming-of-age story in “anything goes” 1970’s New York City.

Martin lives within his male and female identities to the extent he has two personas. He identifies as male, but he also understands the world as Maryanne. As he evolves into adult sexuality, he dreams, fantasizes, and explores real life relationships. Escaping a suburban nightmare, he moves to the city. He fantasizes about meeting Simone (who he also perceives as Ethan), an actress on Broadway and wills himself to act, causing a collision of needs and personalities. He descends into temporary insanity, contemplating violence. After Simone leaves for the coast, he meets Rafaela, a woman who works in a Times Square restaurant who tests him even more than Simone. Rafaela is a hard-working immigrant. Simone is on her way to a legendary career. Can Martin untangle his childhood experiences of abuse, his mental health issues, and his complex identity?

I hope readers will enjoy the characters, drawn from “real life,” including the driven Rafaela, irrepressible scholarly Frankie, gifted poet Sally, poetry series organizer Richard, and the ambitious Simone.

Romance, sexual awakening, gender fluidity, celebrity, friendship. Descriptions of books, theater, poetry, film, and music.

Content warning: domestic violence, gun violence, sexual assault, mental health. A few erotic passages.

Other books by the author related to Passages:

Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen

Children of Light, Ten Penny Players’ BardPress

Covenant: Growing Up in Florida’s Lost Paradise, KDP Select, Kindle Unlimited

Spring Poems

More updates on my writing: edited and hopefully improved Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen (small changes for clarification and better transitions); Community: Journal of Power Politics and Democracy revised to show the contrasts of joy and sorrow, good and bad, about the neighborhood (and life); and Passages is in the final or next to final edit stage. I think that book will be my last. To end at the beginning! And in Spring 🙂

First a few poems and then a selection from Into The Fire.

One poet I mention in the book is Jules Supervielle, a Uruguayan poet whose poem, “Champs Elysées,” published in the American Poetry Review, 1981, impressed me. I quoted the beginning:

“Poets of two shores

we who drink night and day at the fresh spring of the world…”

Here is one of his poems which presages climate change: “Prophecy,” by Jules Supervielle, Poetry Foundation.

by Barbara Crooker
Here, in the vernacular suburbs, lawns verb up
from curb to sidewalk, the active voice of spring.
The adjectival plantings of azaleas, rhododendrons.
The punctuation of small bulbs:  pauses of crocuses,
semi-colon hyacinths whose perfume stops you short,
daffodils’ asterisky golden heads, the exclamations
of tulips:  red red red.  Though textbooks caution
the road to hell is paved with adverbs, spring
comes at us riotously, vigorously,
with a break-your-heart flourish.
Meanwhile, the house, the one solid noun
in this story, rests on its foundation, happy
to be modified, ready to open its door
to the other noun, the collective one,
that’s just now coming up the driveway.

Here’s a lovely poem by Claude McKay, “After the Winter,” Poetry Foundation.

And a thought-provoking one from Delmore Schwartz, “Calmly We Walk through This April Day,” Poetry Foundation.

A poem by one of the poets in the 1980s poetry scene (which I describe in Into The Fire).

Cherry blossoms

by Toi Derricotte

I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.

There were photographers:
Mothers arranging their
children against
gnarled old trees;
a couple, hugging,
asks a passerby
to snap them
like that,
so that their love
will always be caught
between two friendships:
ours & the friendship
of the cherry trees.

Oh Cherry,
why can’t my poems
be as beautiful?

A young woman in a fur-trimmed
coat sets a card table
with linens, candles,
a picnic basket & wine.
A father tips
a boy’s wheelchair back
so he can gaze
up at a branched
                     All around us
the blossoms
flurry down

        Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

                                            Be patient,
                                  you have an ancient beauty.

From The Undertaker’s Daughter, by Toi Derricotte, © 2011. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press. 

Poets online that I follow include: Balroop Singh and David Selzer.

Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen, Chapter 2: 1978, Culture Review, excerpt:

Denise Levertov’s speech, “The Education of the Poet” at the Donnell Library, was thrilling, incredible. When I walked into the packed auditorium, I was amazed at the auditory surge of anticipation and urgency in people turning out for a talk on poetry. Her presentation was musical, flute-like, resonance and eloquence. (I recommend her poem, “Another Spring.”)

At St. Clement’s, the next Poetry Festival reading drew eighty people, almost a full house. A notice had appeared in the Daily News “Leisure” section, using a press release by the readers. The poets: Susan Axelrod, Linda Stern, Kathryn Cullen DuPont, Keelin Curran, and Amy Roth.

With a bow to Linda Stern’s “Music of the Spheres” poem: five women moved across the stage as though on one wheel, carrying a spherical instrument that vibrated with music, a murmur traveling across the universe and back.

There was always music playing in my head, connecting the spheres of my life. In my SRO hotel room in an Upper West Side residence for women, I was reading The Aesthetics of Silence by Susan Sontag. The old myth about art was that it was “an expression of consciousness, consciousness seeking to know itself.” This consciousness could be noble, inspiring, affirming itself. The new myth was anti-art, replacing the materialistic with the spiritual, with “a craving for the cloud of unknowing beyond knowledge and for the silence beyond speech.” Rather than confession, art became a deliverance.

Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen, a memoir, by Mary Clark

Community: Journal of Power Politics and Democracy in Hell’s Kitchen, a memoir, by Mary Clark

Tally: An Intuitive Life, by Mary Clark, All Things That Matter Press, a creative memoir

Children of Light, Ten Penny Players’ BardPress, poetry novel, by Mary Clark

Covenant: Growing Up in Florida’s Lost Paradise, by Mary Clark, a novella

The Horizon Seekers, by Mary Clark, a novel

Racing The Sun, by Mary Clark, a novel


Writing Time

Photo by Mary Clark

Headlights’ warmth chases
winter’s chill, erases shadows
fleeting night blazes

  • The Bench Poems, by Mary Clark

Hello, fellow bloggers and readers. I’ve been busy on two books for a few months (or many). Some of you know, as you have read at least one of them. Thank you! Every writer needs readers that will tell them when they’re on track and when they’ve sped off into the wilderness.

The first project was a revisit to Community, a memoir released last year. The revised version will be available soon. In it I venture to “wax poetic” now and then just to brighten the tone of the story. I like sunsets, but the rosy dawn is also beautiful.

The second project is the book I was working on last year: Passages. It’s been through several reincarnations. Hopefully, it will be ready for prime time in the near future – though I harbor hope for a publisher, and so time will tell.

Reading has taken a lot of my time as well. Among the books I enjoyed and – or would recommend:

Horse, by Geraldine Brooks.

She shows the way thoroughbred racing is intertwined with American history, specifically, with racism. The use of black grooms and trainers, many enslaved, to care for these horses, and their depictions in paintings of the pre-Civil War era, is told so well I felt I knew the men and the artists. Our current history appears in a parallel story. She is deft at describing the changes in thought and language that accompany the honest examination of racism in the U.S. And when stereotypes can surprise us, whether white or black. The horses are characters with personalities, too. The central horse, Lexington, is gifted and used to enrich his owners, while also rising above them to become a legend.

Angel Landing, by Alice Hoffman.

When I was reading this, I asked myself, when is this? No one had cell phones. People were collecting change for the bus. It’s old times, but I realized, within my lifetime. I can remember (dimly) those days. The book was published in 1980. That doesn’t mean it’s not relevant. Because it is, very. The story takes place in a small village on Long Island, once a hopping seaside town and now forgotten as people moved to the trendier places. Another reason it’s not a big draw is the large nuclear power plant, Angel Landing, clearly visible on a point of land nearby. A young woman, Natalie, returns to her aunt Minnie’s (Minnie is a live wire) boarding house (now empty) in the town, with her activist upper-crust boyfriend bunking in an office where he can work on his anti-nuclear cause nonstop. As she sits in her aunt’s house she notices the sky turning color. Later, an explosion. There’s been an accident at the plant. I won’t say more, but this story is an oddly surreal, moody, wandering journey to self-realization. While it’s set in the “old times,” it’s modern in many ways. Now I find it lingers in my memory.

Our Missing Hearts, by Celeste Ng.

As we face potential conflict with China, this book takes on the issues of nationalism, fear-mongering, “patriot laws,” family separation, and the ease with which a democratic republic can become a dystopian society. A pandemic followed by economic hardship and riots is blamed on China, and all Chinese people in the U.S. are suspect. Books are banned, protests quashed, laws are passed limiting Chinese-American freedoms (education, employment, travel), and ultimately, the government reaches into family life, taking children from parents who might taint them with un-American ideas. A mixed couple find themselves caught up in the hysteria. This book raises vital questions about the direction of our country, and any country that still calls itself a democarcy.

Mary Clark on Mastodon Social

February: The “Love” Month

February means Valentine’s Day, the season of the heart, so I’ve collected some love poems for you. Of course, there are famous ones, such as Elizabeth Barret Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways,” and W. H. Auden’s “The More Loving One.”

These poems are by contemporary poets as well as those who were writing long ago.

And poetry can come in other forms. In Australia, voters are preparing for a referendum on the “Uluru Statement from the Heart” giving a voice to the original inhabitants, the Aboriginal people.

History Is Calling, the Uluru Statement from the Heart, video

A medley of poems and songs begin with one of my favorites, “The Reclining Gardener,” by fellow poet and blogger, David Selzer.

“The Reclining Gardener” by David Selzer

Camomile Tea

by Katherine Mansfield

Outside the sky is light with stars;
There’s a hollow roaring from the sea.
And, alas! for the little almond flowers,
The wind is shaking the almond tree.

How little I thought, a year ago,
In the horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of camomile tea.

Light as feathers the witches fly,
The horn of the moon is plain to see;
By a firefly under a jonquil flower
A goblin toasts a bumble-bee.

We might be fifty, we might be five,
So snug, so compact, so wise are we!
Under the kitchen-table leg
My knee is pressing against his knee.

Our shutters are shut, the fire is low,
The tap is dripping peacefully;
The saucepan shadows on the wall
Are black and round and plain to see.

Another writer and blogger, Diane M. Denton, has completed a novel about the poet Christina Rosetti. You can view Diane Denton’s blog here.

Christina Rosetti’s poem, “A Birthday” is a marvelous love poem.

The Look
Sara Teasdale

Strephon kissed me in the spring,
      Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
      And never kissed at all.

Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
      Robin's lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin's eyes
      Haunts me night and day.


Djuna Barnes

Three paces down the shore, low sounds the lute,
The better that my longing you may know;
I’m not asking you to come,
But—can’t you go?

Three words, “I love you,” and the whole is said—
The greatness of it throbs from sun to sun;
I’m not asking you to walk,
But—can’t you run?

Three paces in the moonlight’s glow I stand,
And here within the twilight beats my heart.
I’m not asking you to finish,
But—to start.


Wild Nights - Wild Nights!
Emily Dickinson

Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a heart in port –
Done with the compass –
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor – Tonight –
In thee!


Here’s one to make of what you will: Hymn from a Watermelon Pavilion by Wallace Stevens

And The Beatles sing, “When I’m 64.”

Edward Kaplan (return to sender)

Baltimore Avenue looking west at sunset early these short days. Photo by Ed Kaplan 2020.

Two years ago in January Ed Kaplan, a good friend and fellow poet, died in his city of dreams, Philadelphia. He wrote this about himself:

“Ed Kaplan came ashore in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Since then, his work has been published in well over a hundred magazines and journals – as well as books including Alvin (1974, Triton Press, Boulder Creek, CA), Seraphics (1980, Avalon Editions, Oxford), & Pancratia (1983, Swamp Press, Oneonta, NY). Educated as a boy living in Atlantic City, walking home by the ocean, participating in the roar of waves, inspired by the vastness and the grain of sand underfoot.”

Ed was influenced by the Beat poets, but his closest association was with Vincent Ferrini, the sprightly irritant and muse of the “Big Man,” Charles Olson. Ferrini was the grain of sand that caused Olson to form a pearl of words. Vinnie was a good poet himself, living by the sea in true urchin fashion in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 1981, Ed and Vinnie and came to the poetry program I ran at St. Clement’s Church in Manhattan. After this, Ed read at the St. Marks Poetry Project with Ferrini and Joel Oppenheimer, saying this about it in 2020: we each were shades of that dynamic that asks… make a poem or be the poem? three different answers. back then, i didn’t get it at all; vinny did and joel wasn’t pushing it on me, kind of in the middle. but it was a great reading! tho vinny & me read at st. clements, hell’s kitchen (not lost on us). He told me in an email (after reading a draft of my book, Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen) that Steve Levy, writer and journalist now with WIRED was in the St. Clement’s audience. Ed’s generosity, humor, and “poetry like weight-lifting” earned him respect in the writing community. He was not an academic poet, earning his living as an administrator; when I knew him in the 1980s he worked for a temple in New Jersey. In his later years he became a student of Zen and practiced meditation.

On December 27, 2020, Ed left a note on his Facebook page, saying, “ram dass was cremated, put in a cardboard box, marked . . . return to sender.” At the time his friends were unaware this was to be his last post.

He once told me the Facebook page would be an archive of his work. For the first year or so, I copied his posts and kept them on a computer file. Here are some of my favorites from those early posts as well as several of his poems.

first came the swimmers, lost on land, then the beatniks who commented, then the nudists then the fashion designers & models, poets, comedians, chefs & of course the players gangsters & spoilers, then modernists, then the big collider proved we are entangled, all one, not separate, then the music started & in 2525, we held hands and started over!!!!!!!!!

back from my morning ritual sending love to the street world…cold out there: one man, a regular of mine, refused gloves because his fingers are too swollen…one is too crazy to accept money (I think he may eat it). but the world rests there at that intersection of walnut street, 40th and love.

in the sabotaged ashes of my life, I sit; in the squandered pieces of my life, I sit; keeping my heart soft in spite of the complaining self, undeserving of this miracle, and at times, crying do over. I get it; I stay lost in it.

so much hatred manifest in our selfish melodramas, causes, opinions for the moment – judgments on everyone in the circus – awaking to this day, i seek to fill my heart with the good of people, their ability to change, to help each other with kindness, to drop the shouting, no matter how noble you think your path is – to honor the contradictions of being human while holding fast to the emptiness and the fullness of this too quick life.

still looking for something in the world – but it’s getting better – my story gets more ridiculous and less fantastic than I thought…and it’s perfect.

just a little history in zen about humor – sure, they smile those smiles, and the idea of “mu” or clown in Chinese Buddhism is dear to me, and in most traditions, real humor is in the background. You’d think that cosmic humor would sneak into any relevant theology. but zen isn’t theology. SO: as we turn a page on time everyday, another fiction, my prayer for the world is more laughing, vast laughters; laughter and wholeness before the big bang, and after, laughter in spite of, laughter because of, and laughter in the face of karma, just for a moment in our suffering. in between failed hopes & dashed dreams. at the site of hurting, directly on the wound. laughter at dying! give laughter a central role in your heart seeking. Apply a joke to your ambition. stick laughter on your frustrated relationships. watch children laugh like they are on fire!!

Ed Kaplan, poet, 2016
Power of Man
(from Table of the Permanent) 
a cold hand above the sea, to be immortal, he thinks
coals must be fed with stars, which, on eagles’ backs
lands in the rockslide sky like broken thunders.
he owns small cats & slate. he swallowed
the moon straight & it burned an albatross
inside his clumsy process from which he draws
his power of hammered gold & oyster foam.
poor men, he thinks, poor women: any of this earth
will survive your failure. his short days
have only flowers & no roots for memories
as he throws them into the open mouth
of his working riddle, the deep black guess
that somewhere he is considered the only one of his kind.
he cries better than anyone else. he staggers the mind.
he is the only wave that has come this far unbroken.
he is stubborn which means he crawls in her hair
shaking his fist in the soft face of the earth, arming himself
with dreams that only will be sold & gone & cold.
he is in front of a firing squad ready to prove otherwise.
he knows it's forever, that others will take everything
but that away. he touches the future which he keeps with him.
all these magnificent lies through which the little good
we do, one drop at a time, remains: he was a salesman or a
carpenter or a company man. he provides & clears his pride.

Power of Appointment

Indiana night driving in heavy snow
a single car stretched across route 74 at midnight
a truck two miles back slides out of the mirror
fierce wind & onelight houses by the highway
bones of prehistoric animals & lovers & theorists

100 miles of crowded solitude & jelly beans to stay awake
tossing cigarette ashes on the floor

we are salesmen in the thirties with belted luggage
we have families back home
it’s Thursday January 24
Indianapolis to Cincinnati

the brain is one third fat
two thirds extravagant gold sash

you are therefore never alone
angels are deft & spidery
drawn to drapes & lampshades
sit like parakeets on our shoulders or shadows

standing out in the cold between a satellite dish
and a double vision

as in love
as in death
as in the organized sex of our red bandanas
as in the serious theatre of her blood
as in being alone in the middle of a country at night
as in forest

I am surrounded by a ton or two of man’s rigor
peeling off into the organ moon as we always did
constantly surprized in our trauma
it’s a kingdom of crabs chains mace plums
emeralds brats and the unretrievable
the wood in the trees

the wind in the wind

As Olson lay convex

As Olson lay convex his liver

the ruling part

caught the attention of the Angel of Death

he tried deception
wanted to make the Angel
a fool
touch me & I will spoil

he tried accepting authority
Angel as physician
please don’t hurt me
you are a permanence
whose function it is
to terminate life on earth

he tried moving the cruel Angel
with his enormous need
to persuade her to shed a tear of mercy
he was a young girl
on the knees of an old gentleman
take her life instead of his

he used all the food at his table
his bones his animals his herbs his interior
a giant in the courtyard grabbing the fountain to his mouth
as if it would fit & quench

ran wild out of the ocean into jungles

a man who got taken in by lights & smoke

who was too damn heavy for the roof

he wouldn’t think of standing anywhere else


(I apologize for formatting problems. The first three and last three lines of “Olson lay convex” should be free-standing and single-spaced.)

The following video of the poem, “Seraphics,” about the issues around gun violence reflect his punchy style.

Songs of Winter

Blizzard January 1996 Hell’s Kitchen’s Ninth Avenue, NYC

Great winter poems include Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Can you think of others?

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

The Window

A storm blew in last night and knocked out
the electricity. When I looked
through the window, the trees were translucent

Read more of “The Window” by Raymond Carver from Ultramarine. © Vintage, 1986. 

In Praise of Craziness, of a Certain Kind
by Mary Oliver
On cold evenings
my grandmother,
with ownership of half her mind-
the other half having flown back to Bohemia-
spread newspapers over the porch floor
so, she said, the garden ants could crawl beneath,
as under a blanket, and keep warm,
and what shall I wish for, for myself,
but, being so struck by the lightning of years,
to be like her with what is left, that loving.


by Kevin Hart

Some days
the snow has taken me in
to know the time of snow, to live
inside a world so quiet

i​ts music
is all a shimmering. Some evenings
when quite alone
I turn off every light

and watch the snow
enjoy the dark, moving lushly
through spiky air,
finding more time

in time
than when I stretch myself
and am
my father’s father. Oh yes,

there is
a sparkling choir, there surely is,
and dark ice air
through which we fall.

Sheep in the Winter Night
by Tom Hennen
Inside the barn the sheep were standing, pushed close to one
another. Some were dozing, some had eyes wide open listening
in the dark. Some had no doubt heard of wolves. They looked
weary with all the burdens they had to carry, like being thought
of as stupid and cowardly, disliked by cowboys for the way they
eat grass about an inch into the dirt, the silly look they have
just after shearing, of being one of the symbols of the Christian
religion. In the darkness of the barn their woolly backs were
full of light gathered on summer pastures. Above them their
white breath was suspended, while far off in the pine woods,
night was deep in silence. The owl and rabbit were wondering,
along with the trees, if the air would soon fill with snowflakes,
but the power that moves through the world and makes our
hair stand on end was keeping the answer to itself.

The Past Glows, The New is Fire

Going from the old year to the new, we pause for reflection and try to envision the future. The present moment fills us at the passing of the old, and we believe in that moment the future has endless opportunities and perspectives as it stretches out before us, beckoning. What is the truth of our position in time? Fleeting or part of an eternal process? Both, I suspect. Whatever you believe the poets have communicated the transitory moment, our death, our loved ones’ deaths, changes that upheave our lives. They have celebrated birth, new life, continuity, and the bonds of love that defy even death.

Which brings us to Shakespeare and one of the greatest poems about the waning of life and human resiliency.

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Recently, watching YouTube videos of poets reading their work, Garrison Keillor said W.S. Merwin said that poetry always begins and ends with listening. I wish I had learned that years ago! Here is Merwin reading, “Yesterday.”

W. S. Merwin reading his poem, “Yesterday,” on YouTube

Another way is talking to the reader (as if to yourself), which many current editors will tell you not to do (ignore them).

Lines For Winter
by Mark Strand
Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

Another version of listening and talking is what I will title, “Generous.”

Sabbaths, 1993, I
by Wendell Berry
No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths

that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over a grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

And the new season begins.

Wind Rising in the Alleys

by Lola Ridge

Wind, rising in the alleys,
My spirit lifts in you like a banner
   streaming free of hot walls.
You are full of unshaped dreams. . . .
You are laden with beginnings. . . .
There is hope in you. . . not sweet. . .
   acrid as blood in the mouth.
Come into my tossing dust
Scattering the peace of old deaths,
Wind rising out of the alleys,
Carrying stuff of flame.

Song at the Year’s Turning

by R. S. Thomas

Shelley dreamed it. Now the dream decays.
The props crumble; the familiar ways
Are stale with tears trodden underfoot.
The heart’s flower withers at the root.
Bury it then, in history’s sterile dust.
The slow years shall tame your tawny lust.
Love deceived him; what is there to say
The mind brought you by a better way
To this despair? Lost in the world’s wood
You cannot stanch the bright menstrual blood.
The earth sickens; under naked boughs
The frost comes to barb your broken vows.
Is there blessing? Light’s peculiar grace
In cold splendour robes this tortured place
For strange marriage. Voices in the wind
Weave a garland where a mortal sinned.
Winter rots you; who is there to blame?
The new grass shall purge you in its flame.

Also, for poets especially, poets talking over a beer: https://www.poeticous.com/r-s-thomas/poetry-for-supper

And “Instructions on Not Giving Up,” by Ada Limon. Again the last line! That’s the other thing I’ve learned, and I hope the poets who read this blog will also pick up on this.

Most of all, love others and love what you are.

Basho haiku

“Of no account”
think not this of thy self,
Festival of Souls

Now, for a lyric video, “Earthlings,” with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Holiday Season & News


I’ve joined Mastodon and pared down my time on Twitter. My blog and daily emails from friends comprise the greater part of my internet life. However, Twitter allowed me to keep up with current news, often from the affected people themselves, and with my fellow book lovers. I used it to promote my books as well. Now that I’m on Mastodon I am enjoying the richer engagement I’m having with other writers and reviewers. You can find me at @Mclark@mastodonbooks.net

My Kindle Vella adventure continues. Passages had 6 readers in the beginning but as soon as payment was required that fell to zero. The message I’ve taken from that is to make it more compelling. I’ve discovered on reviewing the rules that episodes on Kindle Vella are not to be published anywhere else on the internet for free. I have to chose between publishing on my blog or on Kindle Vella. I’ve decided to keep working on Kindle Vella to see if it works. At least for the next few months.

In the spirit of the season, here are two poems. The first by Maya Angelou is well-known. The second is by Sally Young, now Sally young-eslinger, an old friend of mine. We knew each other in New Jersey before I went to New York and she to Chicago and later Kentucky.

AMAZING PEACE:  A Christmas Poem
by Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.


by Sally young-eslinger

Let me go!

Please! Let me go

Flying out along the city’s avenues

To observe all the gatherings and meetings,

To examine all the exchanges of everyone…

And I will find

The most certain way to honor you.

Let me go!

That particular regard seems outside

All my experience gathered to date.

There is no simple acknowledgement known

For all I have been given, even without asking.

Oh, surely, there are things I will find

Within the stronger, sweeter dedications

Among the all, one to another?

Humanity’s born caring brings touches of God. Oh,

Shall I discover all the notes of

Sincere appreciation to be enough?

Lately, my words try to reach you — even those

Torn from my heart — but only sound pretending.

I need to flee out

To stretch into the depths of all enfolding love

For that cache containing

The one thing that holds everything top

Place within it and pull from it

All the ways I may thank and honor you.

Perhaps, leaves will become diamonds

More quickly, but my being courses steadily on to

That some new day when I will come with witnesses

And I will honor you.


Have a safe and happy holiday season!