Wednesday, December 23, 2015



    Just a few more things to tidy up,
    To Fulfill my responsibility, then
    I’ll be free to go, eighty-one
    Being a respectable age to, no
    One will be bothered if
    I do.  If I choose to
    Stay longer, pondering

    This feeling of having
    Gone on this long,
    Surviving two wives, a
    Number of relatives and
    Friends, I might look again
    For purpose, something to do
    In between reading Borges’

    Conversations and Connolly’s
    The Unquiet Grave, neither
    Of whom found purposes
    Worthy of much though they
    Moved on as long as they could
    With imposing style, and
    Enjoyed each warming day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Seeking Beauty

    Seeking Beauty           

    It has rained.  Shall I take my camera
    And dogs out when the sand is wet
    And the sky is dark?  What could I
    Gain from such a day?  What thoughts
    Could rise from the mist enshrouding
    The Mountain? If I say to myself
    There is no point going if my

    Day won’t produce beauty,
    I will doubt activity of any sort.
    I will understand why some put
    Bullets through such thinking.
    If I embrace the dread and
    Take my camera or pen
    Into the dark of such

    A day, stand as the rain
    Pours; look up until
    My eyes fill,
    If that isn’t
    Beauty, beauty
    Has probably
    Past by.


Friday, December 11, 2015

K5 on a rainy day and other considerations

Leaving Olympus I started Pentax with the K20D but always liking backup. I bought a K7. As soon as it was out of warranty something went wrong with its AF, I couldn't get the focus dot to come on, so I sent it in for repair -- back to just the K20D and needing backup I bought a K5. Once the K7 was repaired I gave the K20D to my son, but . . . I didn't really trust the K7 anymore so I bought a K5iis and gave the K7 to my son -- probably perfect after the repair but I didn't trust it. Some time passed, other things went on, the price on the K3 dropped so I bought one. I found myself using the K3 all the time until . . .

I discovered the pleasures of Samyang. I liked the Samyang 85mm, decided to add a couple of more and then ordered a Pentax-M P/K SMC 200mm F4, excellent condition (the buyer said) for $89.99. The menu page asking which focal length a manual lens had wasn't popping up automatically, so I did some research, found I could access that screen right beneath the Shake Reduction, and in a non-Samyang type lens I needed to be sure and turn off C27 which keeps the shutter from working unless a manual lens is locked in "A." Did the 200mm that was coming even have an "A" lock? I didn't know.

And then the weather report indicated that it would rain the next day (today); so I couldn't use a non-WR lens. Plus, my camera settings were getting way too complicated for me to remember. I was sure to forget, grab a camera take it on a hike some future day and discover it didn't work properly and I couldn't remember why it was set the way it was. So I decided to set one of my cameras as a rainy day only camera, not to be used for manual lenses, but which camera?

I decided it would be between the K5 and K5iis. Did the K5 even measure up anymore? I looked for a comparison and found Unexpectedly it rated the K5 as better than the K5ii. The DXOMark rating rated the K5 against several other cameras and only the Nikon 7200 beat it out:

So not only did I decide to make the K5 my rainy-day camera, reserving the K5iis and K3 for manual and AF lenses (haven't sorted out which camera to use for which), but I developed a new-found respect for the K5. It rained intermittently today. I had the K5 and the 16-85WR lens on this very dark day: see (all but one of today's photos are on page four of the Dec 2015 gallery) No camera was going to shine on a day like this one (IMHO) and in looking at the shots later on Lightroom 6 I couldn't see that the K5 or the lens did badly under these conditions.  I had the camera at ISO 400.  In retrospect I wish I'd shot some of them with ISO 800, but the apertures I was using never demanded a ridiculously low shutter speed so I left the ISO at 400.

Monday, December 7, 2015



“I’m going away,” she said,   
Looking stern and resolved.
I took her to mean on a trip
Some distance away from
Which she’d eventually
Return.  Discovering my
Mistake only after I

Awakened I wondered
At her firm resolve, her
Desire to get it over and
Be gone.  I’ve never been
Interested in travel.
She’d read of voyages
At sea, packages deals

To England, France especially
Heaven, and what that would
Mean, promised advertisements
From him who went on ahead
To prepare a place for her
As it should be perhaps,
But I see no place for me.



Sitting here in my chair
Altered by Susan’s never
Having heard the gun-fire
Nor read of those now dead –
Her road being longer and
Burgeoned with ongoing pain
And languishing dreams and

Thoughts that faded day after
Day (Duffy curls up in my lap
Now) instead.  The last light
Swirls around its coils and
Dies.   My sore eyes can’t see
Beyond the image that remains:
Her smile at some look I gave

Her ages ago, some song I sang,
The sound of crickets in the
Yard.  Would I rather spend
This time with her or accept
The force that sent her on?
It is well for all mankind the
Choice wasn’t mine to make.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

On Borges’ “False Modesty”

If as I believe something goes on in the creation of a poem that is not entirely of the poet then he does himself a disservice and makes of himself a dishonest man if he claims to have made the entire poem out of his own "ability" and volition without the aid of any external force.  Perhaps as someone implied (if I understood him correctly and can paraphrase), that it is all someplace in the poets psyche but that he doesn't have access to it except at the point of creation and then it is either produced by him while "seeming" to come from some place else or actually does come from some place else.  In either case it seems prudent not to take complete credit for the production and it wouldn't be false modesty to admit that he isn't sure where everything that made up the finished poem came from.  One thinks of Nebuchanezer looking down from a high wall and exclaiming, "see all I have made," or Shelly's "Ozymandias (no doubt inspired by the Biblical story) saying ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

This isn't to say that all poets are like this.  Perhaps some produce poetry entirely out of their own conscious intellects with nothing they need to call a "muse" or external force assisting.  Then it would indeed be false modesty for such a poet to deny that the poem comes entirely from his own ability.  I can't frankly tell what sort of poet Borges is.  I have his Selected Poems and have read a number of them.  He claimed that he worked his short stories over and over until they came out right, but he does say they started with an idea he had.  Did his poems start the same way?  And this "idea," what was it like I wonder?

Further on Borges’ “Poet’s Creed”

In thinking further about the poem “Beautiful,” I don't really believe I was being prescient, but the image of the poem, occurring a day before the San Bernardino shooting was strange enough to take note of.  And yes, I have been describing what goes on much as you say with words and images flitting through my mind.  You don't quite say that, but in my case and perhaps the cases of other poets it is more pronounced, more insistent.  The incidence of madness in poets is rather high and I've often wondered if perhaps it was caused by a misinterpreting, misusing or resisting insistence of this kind.  I acknowledge this "insistence" for what it is (or what I conceive it to be) and write.  The actual writing is as though there were an obligation or duty that was being fulfilled.  My disagreement with Borges was due to his describing the poetic process as something entirely a product of his conscious mind.

If someone argues that something goes on that is common to all mankind then that application would result in something like Freud's "unconscious" -- matters back there that we don't have access to and which may or may not become evident by future actions or beliefs -- something like R. G. Collingwood's "constellation of presuppositions" which we mistakenly assume to be truth common to all mankind but is in reality the effects of unique teachings and experiences that we have incorporated as we grow.

So then the poet:  has he become such as a result as his own constellation of presuppositions or has something a little different occurred, something that opens him up to a mental activity and forces that are not common to all mankind -- that only occur in a tiny sliver of mankind that create or become vessels of a creative activity that they cooperate with -- or that they reject or misuse at their peril.

I've been struggling through episodes of the Amazon-produced series "Hand of God" in which a corrupt judge becomes convinced that God is speaking to him through his son who is in a coma.  The voice the judge hears turns out to be accurate; so the viewer can't completely dismiss him as crazy.  Something else is going on.  Either it is a series of coincidences that allows him to pick out people guilty of the crime he is trying to solve (and punish) or there is something like what you describe -- facts in the Judge's mind that have been jumbled up and not accessible except through the (imagined) voice of his comatose son.  I say "struggling" because it is unpleasant to watch -- the judge is being "duped" by the leaders of a Charismatic-type church and we must watch their goings-on -- as well as the goings-on of other corrupt or twisted people, but I have only a few episodes left -- I want to find out what the voices mean (if the writers of the series eventually tell us).  I doubt that there will be a second season.

Borges’ “The Poet’s Creed”

Borges in his lecture "A Poet's Creed," said, "I think of myself as being essentially a reader.  As you are aware, I have ventured into writing; but I think that what I have read is far more important than what I have written.  For one reads what one likes -- yet one writes not what one would like to write, but what one is able to write."

If I am simply writing what I am able to write, then I would agree with Borges, but that hasn't been my experience.   If I am writing my best poetry then it is not I who am able, it is something else, and I write what I must write.  My "ability" is submerged or set aside -- at least that is the way it works -- or feels -- just an image or two comes to my mind and my "ability" is to not turn away from it.  Beyond that, where does it all come from?  Was it all there in my mind, jumbled up, needing to be sorted out.  That is what Susan used to tell me, and yet . . . consider the image that began my last poem, a poem written on December 1st, 2015:

    I marched a long while
    Near the edge of town,
    Looking out, having no
    Place to go and no reason to
    Stay.  I checked my weapons --
    Getting dark as it was and night
    Was when it could be --

And then the last stanza

    Their boots and the clank of
    Their gear.  I saw their gleaming
    Teeth and smiles.  I held my
    Rifle in my left hand.  They came,
    Knowing we had no steadfastness.
    Having lost my own,  I drew my
    Colt and pulled the hammer back.

If I were in truth (rather than in metaphor) to march along the edge of town, what is beyond that edge is a lot of open area, desert and mountains and the Loma Linda Medical Center that a few months ago determined that Susan could not be saved.  On the next major street over from the Medical Center,  on  Waterman a shooting took place on December 2nd that killed 14 and injured many more.   My son lives a very short distance from the facility where the shooting took place, and my grandson was working at an facility, heard the gunfire and was there when his facility was locked down.

So I was metaphorically walking post at the edge of my town a short time before the shooting took place.  Was my poem prescient, describing what was shortly to occur, a militant attack?  That doesn't seem likely; so was it mere coincidence?  Perhaps.

Had I been writing what I as able to write as Borges said, I would say it was undoubtedly a coincidence, but since I was writing what I must, I have doubts . . . sitting here thinking about them . . . waiting for the next unbidden thoughts to sound in my mind.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015



I marched a long while
Near the edge of town,
Looking out, having no
Place to go and no reason to
Stay.  I checked my weapons --
Getting dark as it was and night
Was when it could be --

Things coming down from the
Mountain or up from the desert
Sand with teeth gleaming and
A hunger we couldn’t understand,
When someone as used up as I
Would be sent to walk and watch
And stop it if he could, but if

Not, appease its hunger for
A while.  I lit a Camel and
Drew the heavy smoke into
My lungs.  This night I could
Feel it coming – not for
Me in particular but I would
Be in its way.  “Beautiful,

Beautiful,” I hummed, marching
Along, swerving from dour
Thoughts. I sought her out and
After a short time wanted to
Have her mine, thinking that
One true thing and thought
Would remind me wherever

I stopped to lean steadily on
Her beauty -- shying away always
From how she’d changed, her
Sickness ravaging.  I could
See her as she was, “beautiful
“Beautiful,” under my breath
Breathing out fire.  I heard

Their boots and the clank of
Their gear.  I saw their gleaming
Teeth and smiles.  I held my
Rifle in my left hand.  They came,
Knowing we had no steadfastness. 
Having lost my own,  I drew my
Colt and pulled the hammer back.