Monday, May 30, 2016

Kilt Monday!

'Cause let's face it,
Mondays can be so rough, hard, difficult. 

So Many . . . Remember

In Flanders Field
- Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
MD Canadian Army 1915

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Journey

- Edward Field

When he got up that morning everything was different:
He enjoyed the bright spring day
But he did not realize it exactly, he just enjoyed it.
And walking down the street to the railroad station
Past magnolia trees with dying flowers like old socks
It was a long time since he had breathed so simply.
Tears filled his eyes and it felt good
But he held them back
Because men didn't walk around crying in that town.
Waiting on the platform at the station
The fear came over him of something terrible about to happen:
The train was late and he recited the alphabet to keep hold.
And in its time it came screeching in
And as it went on making its usual stops,
People coming and going, telephone poles passing,
He hid his head behind a newspaper
No longer able to hold back the sobs, and willed his eyes
To follow the rational weavings of the seat fabric.
He didn't do anything violent as he had imagined.
He cried for a long time, but when he finally quieted down
A place in him that had been closed like a fist was open,
And at the end of the ride he stood up and got off that train:
And through the streets and in all the places he lived in later on
He walked, himself at last, a man among men,
With such radiance that everyone looked up and wondered.

From: A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

It's A Garden Party! - Meep! Meep!

This feature, originally known as Saturday Farmer's Market, was created by Heather at Capricious Reader, and was then hosted by Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made on.

If anyone would like to share their own gardening adventures with me - large or small, inside or out - I would love to see them.
Just leave a link to your post in the comments.

It seems the Roadrunner is hiding in my Lantanna.

Which is is quite easy this year because it is going wild.

The Poppies are also exceptional this year.

This is in my front yard. 
These Poppies are taking up about one quarter of the front.

My Iris are tucked in among the Cape Honeysuckle, which has really come into its own. It is growing into a substantial hedge along the fence line, but won't have its best display in the fall.

Look! Oranges!

Daisy Time
See, the grass is full of stars,
Fallen in their brightness;
Hearts they have of shining gold,
Rays of shining whiteness.

Buttercups have honeyed hearts,
Bees they love the clover,
But I love the daisies' dance
All the meadow over.

Blow, O blow, you happy winds,
Singing summer's praises,
Up the field and down the field
A-dancing with the daisies.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Seen Fleetingly, From A Train

- Bronislaw Maj

Seen fleetingly, from a train:
a foggy evening, strands of smoke
hanging immobile over fields,
the humid blackness of earth, the sun
almost set—against its fading shield,
far away, two dots: women in dark wraps
coming back from church perhaps, perhaps
one tells something to another, some common story,
of sinful lives perhaps—her words
distinct and simple but out of them
one could create everything
again.  Keep it in memory, forever:
the sun, ploughed earth, women,
love, evening, those few words
good for the beginning, keep it all—
perhaps tomorrow we will be
somewhere else, altogether.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ancient Air

- Li Po

I climb up high and look on the four seas,
Heaven and earth spreading out so far.
Frost blankets all the stuff of autumn,
The wind blows with the great desert's cold.
The eastward-flowing water is immense,
All the ten thousand things billow.
The white sun's passing brightness fades,
Floating clouds seem to have no end.
Swallows and sparrows nest in the wutong tree,
Yuan and luan birds perch among jujube thorns.
Now it's time to head on back again,
I flick my sword and sing Taking the Hard Road.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Quote of the Day

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.

- Leonard Nimoy

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


- William Stafford

One scene as I bow to pour her coffee: -
Three Indians in the scouring drouth
huddle at a grave scooped in the gravel,
lean to the wind as our train goes by.
Someone is gone.
There is dust on everything in Nevada.
I pour the cream.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Kilt Monday!

'Cause let's face it,
Mondays can be so rough, hard, difficult. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

It's A Garden Party! - Spring Is Still Springing

This feature, originally known as Saturday Farmer's Market, was created by Heather at Capricious Reader, and was then hosted by Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made on.

If anyone would like to share their own gardening adventures with me - large or small, inside or out - I would love to see them.
Just leave a link to your post in the comments.

This little sweetheart is a happy miracle. After more than twenty years of failure,
I have not only managed to keep an African Violet alive,
I have lived to see it bloom!

I know this isn't a very good picture of my Jade Tree, but take my word for it, it is thriving. 

Two years ago it suffered severe frost damage after laughing at years of unprotected winters. It belonged to my neighbor who never took any winter precautions. After he gave it to me I took what I thought were proper winter precautions - to no avail. 

I moved it in to the conservatory and it is recovering beautifully. Soon I will be moving it outside so it can enjoy the Summer weather.

 Lastly, my little California Bay Laurel. Well it was little. It has more than quadrupled in size in only two years.
from The Laurel Tree
One of the local philosophers ...   
He says, “In California
We have the old anarchist tradition.”

What can he mean? Is there an anarchist tradition?   
And why would an anarchist want one?   
O California,

Is there a tree without opinions?   
Come, let me clasp you!   
Let me feel the idea breathing.

I too cry O for a life of sensations   
Rather than thoughts—
“The sayling Pine, the Cedar proud and tall.”

Like the girls in our neighborhood,   
They’re beautiful and silent.

This my little Garden Piggy. She keeps an eye on the weeds.
But she doesn't fly.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rainbow at Night

- Antonio Machado
                      for Don Ramon del Valle-Inclan

The train moves through the Guadarrama
one night on the way to Madrid.
The moon and the fog create
high up a rainbow.
Oh April moon, so calm,
driving the white clouds!
   The mother holds her boy
sleeping on her lap.
The boy sleeps, and nevertheless
sees the green fields outside,
and trees lit up by sun,
and the golden butterflies.
   The mother, her forehead dark
between a day gone and a day to come,
sees a fire nearly out
and an oven with spiders.
   There’s a traveler made with grief,
no doubt seeing odd things;
he talks to himself, and when he looks
wipes us out with his look.
   I remember fields under snow,
and pine trees of mother mountains.
   And you, Lord, through whom we all
have eyes, and who sees souls,
tell us if we all one
day will see your face.

- translated from the Spanish by Robert Bly.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

Wherever I go, I find a poet has been there before me.
                                                                      - Freud

Monday, May 16, 2016

Kilt Monday!

'Cause let's face it,
Mondays can be so rough, hard, difficult.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fish Cove

- Blaise Cendrars
                    translated from the French by Monique Chefdor

The water is so clear and so calm
Deep at the bottom you can see the white bushes
of coral
The prismatic sway of hanging jellyfish
The yellow pink lilac fish taking flight
And at the foot of the wavy seaweeds the azure
sea cucumbers and the urchins green and purple

Saturday, May 14, 2016

It's A Garden Party! - How About A Quick Trip To the Desert

This feature, originally known as Saturday Farmer's Market, was created by Heather at Capricious Reader, and was then hosted by Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made on.

If anyone would like to share their own gardening adventures with me - large or small, inside or out - I would love to see them.
Just leave a link to your post in the comments.

Let's start with some Cactus, shall we? 
The one in the picture above is commonly known as the Old Man Cactus. From what I understand it won't bloom for it's first 10 -20 years of life. I hope I can keep it alive that long. They grow to about 8 feet in the wild but mine will be staying in the conservatory for the foreseeable future.

In the picture below are a couple different Barrel Cacti and a Grafted one. I am new to Cactus and Succulents so I know next to nothing about them yet.


Here a a few Succulents
So far, the biggest difference I have found between Cacti & Succulents is that Succulents are marginally harder to kill than Cacti if your tendency is to over water. Remember, I said marginally.

Given that I live in California and water conservation is the watchword these days, I am trying to transition in to more water wise plants, inside as well as out. It's a good thing that they tend to be fairly inexpensive because I occasionally drown one.

I found a site called Hello Poetry, which has a page full of poetry about Cacti. I believe this is poetry by individuals who just post on the site. Some of them are pretty good. Click on the site name to visit.

Friday, May 13, 2016


- Rudyard Kipling

If any God should say,
            "I will restore
           The world her yesterday
             Whole as before
My Judgment blasted it"—who would not lift
Heart, eye, and hand in passion o'er the gift?

           If any God should will
             To wipe from mind
           The memory of this ill
              Which is Mankind
In soul and substance now—who would not bless
Even to tears His loving-tenderness?

           If any God should give
              Us leave to fly
            These present deaths we live,
              And safely die
In those lost lives we lived ere we were born—
What man but would not laugh the excuse to scorn?

            For we are what we are—
              So broke to blood
           And the strict works of war—
             So long subdued
To sacrifice, that threadbare Death commands
Hardly observance at our busier hands.

          Yet we were what we were,
             And, fashioned so,
           It pleases us to stare
             At the far show
Of unbelievable years and shapes that flit,
In our own likeness, on the edge of it.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

I Am Waiting

I am waiting for my case to come up   
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting   
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier   
and I am waiting   
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming   
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona   
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored   
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find   
the right channel   
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth   
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed   
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered   
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did   
to Tom Sawyer   
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting   
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again   
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn   
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting   
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

from: A Coney Island of the Mind. Copyright 1958. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Quote of the Day

I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.

  - Judith Minty, Letters to My Daughters

I've Been Having Trouble Accessing My Blog for A Few Days. I Didn't Forget About You, Honest. But Now . . .

Friday, May 6, 2016

Marge's Shoes

The first few years she wore them
I didn't even notice the leather's soft tan,
and the buckskin laces roughly looped.
By the time I paid attention, her feet
had already curved the shoes inward,
weather had toughened the soft leather,
and one lace had broken short.
Then I asked where she got those shoes
and she said from the Indian store
down in Mountain View.
Some other time, another year, I asked
the name of the Indian store
that sold handmade shoes like hers,
but she said it went out of business
and no store sold mocs with vodka
splatters and Yosemite dirt ground in
with a little tamale pie, so I couldn't
buy shoes like hers anyway.
Last summer, laughing and crying
together, in the campground
at Lake Mendocino, on the night
before her youngest son's wedding
while the men drank beer and talked
of politics and sports,
I told her how much I really, really liked
those old shoes of hers. So
she took them off and gave them to me.
Those beat-up, raggedy Kaibab moccasins
I wear are stained and worn rough
by hard years in my friend's life.
I wear them when I need her courage.

from: Red Indian Road West: Native American Poetry from California, Copyright 2016.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cinco De Mayo on Taco Tuesday! I Don't Know About You, but This Irish Woman Is In Heaven!



The backyard apple tree gets sad so soon,
takes on a used-up, feather-duster look
within a week.

The ivy’s spring reconnaissance campaign
sends red feelers out and up and down
to find the sun.

Ivy from last summer clogs the pool,
brewing a loamy, wormy, tea-leaf mulch
soft to the touch

and rank with interface of rut and rot.
The month after the month they say is cruel
is and is not.

from: North Street and Other Poems. Copyright 2001.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Essay on Psychiatrists

I. Invocation

It's crazy to think one could describe them—
Calling on reason, fantasy, memory, eyes and ears—
As though they were all alike any more

Than sweeps, opticians, poets or masseurs.   
Moreover, they are for more than one reason   
Difficult to speak of seriously and freely,

And I have never (even this is difficult to say   
Plainly, without foolishness or irony)
Consulted one for professional help, though it happens

Many or most of my friends have—and that,   
Perhaps, is why it seems urgent to try to speak   
Sensibly about them, about the psychiatrists.

II. Some Terms

“Shrink” is a misnomer. The religious   
Analogy is all wrong, too, and the old,   
Half-forgotten jokes about Viennese accents

And beards hardly apply to the good-looking woman   
In boots and a knit dress, or the man   
Seen buying the Sunday Times in mutton-chop

Whiskers and expensive running shoes.
In a way I suspect that even the terms “doctor”   
And “therapist” are misnomers; the patient

Is not necessarily “sick.” And one assumes   
That no small part of the psychiatrist’s   
Role is just that: to point out misnomers.

III. Proposition

These are the first citizens of contingency.   
Far from the doctrinaire past of the old ones,   
They think in their prudent meditations

Not about ecstasy (the soul leaving the body)   
Nor enthusiasm (the god entering one’s person)   
Nor even about sanity (which means

Health, an impossible perfection)
But ponder instead relative truth and the warm   
Dusk of amelioration. The cautious

Young augurs with their family-life, good books   
And records and foreign cars believe   
In amelioration—in that, and in suffering.

IV. A Lakeside Identification

Yes, crazy to suppose one could describe them—
And yet, there was this incident: at the local beach   
Clouds of professors and the husbands of professors

Swam, dabbled, or stood to talk with arms folded
Gazing at the lake ... and one of the few townsfolk there,   
With no faculty status—a matter-of-fact, competent,

Catholic woman of twenty-seven with five children   
And a first-rate body—pointed her finger   
At the back of one certain man and asked me,

“Is that guy a psychiatrist?” and by god he was! “Yes,”   
She said, “He looks like a psychiatrist.”   
Grown quiet, I looked at his pink back, and thought.

V. Physical Comparison With Professors And Others

Pink and a bit soft-bodied, with a somewhat jazzy   
Middle-class bathing suit and sandy sideburns, to me   
He looked from the back like one more professor.

And from the front, too—the boyish, unformed carriage   
Which foreigners always note in American men, combined   
As in a professor with that liberal, quizzical,

Articulate gaze so unlike the more focused, more   
Tolerant expression worn by a man of action (surgeon,
Salesman, athlete). On closer inspection was there,

Perhaps, a self-satisfied benign air, a too studied   
Gentleness toward the child whose hand he held loosely?   
Absurd to speculate; but then—the woman saw something.

VI. Their Seriousness, With Further Comparisons

In a certain sense, they are not serious.
That is, they are serious—useful, deeply helpful,   
Concerned—only in the way that the pilots of huge

Planes, radiologists, and master mechanics can,   
At their best, be serious. But however profound
The psychiatrists may be, they are not serious the way

A painter may be serious beyond pictures, or a businessman   
May be serious beyond property and cash—or even   
The way scholars and surgeons are serious, each rapt

In his work’s final cause, contingent upon nothing:   
Beyond work; persons; recoveries. And this is fitting:   
Who would want to fly with a pilot who was serious

About getting to the destination safely? Terrifying idea—
That a pilot could over-extend, perhaps try to fly   
Too well, or suffer from Pilot’s Block; of course,

It may be that (just as they must not drink liquor   
Before a flight) they undergo regular, required check-ups   
With a psychiatrist, to prevent such things from happening.

VII. Historical (The Bacchae)

Madness itself, as an idea, leaves us confused—
Incredulous that it exists, or cruelly facetious,   
Or stricken with a superstitious awe as if bound

By the lost cults of Trebizond and Pergamum ...   
The most profound study of madness is found   
In the Bacchae of Euripides, so deeply disturbing

That in Cambridge, Massachusetts the players   
Evaded some of the strongest unsettling material
By portraying poor sincere, fuddled, decent Pentheus

As a sort of fascistic bureaucrat—but it is Dionysus   
Who holds rallies, instills exaltations of violence,   
With his leopards and atavistic troops above law,

Reason and the good sense and reflective dignity
Of Pentheus—Pentheus, humiliated, addled, made to suffer   
Atrocity as a minor jest of the smirking God.

When Bacchus’s Chorus (who call him “most gentle”!) observe:   
“Ten thousand men have ten thousand hopes; some fail,   
Some come to fruit, but the happiest man is he

Who gathers the good of life day by day”—as though
Life itself were enough—does that mean, to leave ambition?   
And is it a kind of therapy, or truth? Or both?

VIII. A Question

On the subject of madness the Bacchae seems,   
On the whole, more pro than contra. The Chorus
Says of wine, “There is no other medicine for misery”;

When the Queen in her ecstasy—or her enthusiasm?—
Tears her terrified son’s arm from his body, or bears   
His head on her spear, she remains happy so long

As she remains crazy; the God himself (who bound fawnskin   
To the women’s flesh, armed them with ivy arrows   
And his orgies’ livery) debases poor Pentheus first,

Then leads him to mince capering towards female Death   
And dismemberment: flushed, grinning, the grave young   
King of Thebes pulls at a slipping bra-strap, simpers

Down at his turned ankle. Pentheus: “Should I lift up   
Mount Cithæron—Bacchae, mother and all?”   
Dionysus: “Do what you want to do. Your mind

Was unstable once, but now you sound more sane,   
You are on your way to great things.”   
The question is, Which is the psychiatrist: Pentheus, or Dionysus?

IX. Pentheus As Psychiatrist

With his reasonable questions Pentheus tries   
To throw light on the old customs of savagery.   
Like a brave doctor, he asks about it all,

He hears everything, “Weird, fantastic things”   
The Messenger calls them: with their breasts   
Swollen, their new babies abandoned, mothers

Among the Bacchantes nestled gazelles
And young wolves in their arms, and suckled them;   
You might see a single one of them tear a fat calf

In two, still bellowing with fright, while others   
Clawed heifers to pieces; ribs and hooves   
Were strewn everywhere; blood-smeared scraps

Hung from the fir trees; furious bulls
Charged and then fell stumbling, pulled down
To be stripped of skin and flesh by screaming women ...

And Pentheus listened. Flames burned in their hair,   
Unnoticed; thick honey spurted from their wands;   
And the snakes they wore like ribbons licked

Hot blood from their flushed necks: Pentheus
Was the man the people told ... “weird things,” like   
A middle-class fantasy of release; and when even

The old men—bent Cadmus and Tiresias—dress up
In fawnskin and ivy, beating their wands on the ground,   
Trying to carouse, it is Pentheus—down-to-earth,

Sober—who raises his voice in the name of dignity.
Being a psychiatrist, how could he attend to the Chorus’s warning   
Against “those who aspire” and “a tongue without reins”?

X. Dionysus As Psychiatrist

In a more hostile view, the psychiatrists
Are like Bacchus—the knowing smirk of his mask,   
His patients, his confident guidance of passion,

And even his little jokes, as when the great palace   
Is hit by lightning which blazes and stays,   
Bouncing among the crumpled stone walls ...

And through the burning rubble he comes,   
With his soft ways picking along lightly   
With a calm smile for the trembling Chorus

Who have fallen to the ground, bowing
In the un-Greek, Eastern way—What, Asian women,   
He asks, Were you disturbed just now when Bacchus

Jostled the palace? He warns Pentheus to adjust,   
To learn the ordinary man’s humble sense of limits,   
Violent limits, to the rational world. He cures

Pentheus of the grand delusion that the dark   
Urgencies can be governed simply by the mind,
And the mind’s will. He teaches Queen Agave to look

Up from her loom, up at the light, at her tall   
Son’s head impaled on the stiff spear clutched   
In her own hand soiled with dirt and blood.

XI. Their Philistinism Considered

“Greek Tragedy” of course is the sort of thing
They like and like the idea of ... though not “tragedy”
In the sense of newspapers. When a patient shot one of them,

People phoned in, many upset as though a deep,
Special rule had been abrogated, someone had gone too far.   
The poor doctor, as described by the evening Globe,

Turned out to be a decent, conventional man (Doctors   
For Peace, B’Nai Brith, numerous articles), almost
Carefully so, like Paul Valéry—or like Rex Morgan, M.D., who,

In the same Globe, attends a concert with a longjawed woman.   
First Panel: “We’re a little early for the concert!   
There’s an art museum we can stroll through!” “I’d like

That, Dr. Morgan!” Second Panel: “Outside the hospital,   
There’s no need for such formality, Karen! Call me   
By my first name!” “I’ll feel a little awkward!”

Final Panel: “Meanwhile ...” a black car pulls up
To City Hospital .... By the next day’s Globe, the real
Doctor has died of gunshot wounds, while for smiling, wooden,

Masklike Rex and his companion the concert has passed,   
Painlessly, offstage: “This was a beautiful experience, Rex!”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it! I have season tickets

And you’re welcome to use them! I don’t have   
The opportunity to go to many of the concerts!”
Second Panel: “You must be famished!” And so Rex

And Karen go off to smile over a meal which will pass   
Like music offstage, off to the mysterious pathos   
Of their exclamation marks, while in the final panel

“Meanwhile, In The Lobby At City Hospital”
A longjawed man paces furiously among
The lamps, magazines, tables and tubular chairs.

XII. Their Philistinism Dismissed

But after all—what “cultural life” and what   
Furniture, what set of the face, would seem adequate   
For those who supply medicine for misery?

After all, what they do is in a way a kind of art,
And what writers have to say about music, or painters’   
Views about poetry, musicians’ taste in pictures, all

Often are similarly hoked-up, dutiful, vulgar. After all,   
They are not gods or heroes, nor even priests chosen   
Apart from their own powers, but like artists are mere

Experts dependent on their own wisdom, their own arts:   
Pilgrims in the world, journeymen, bourgeois savants,   
Gallant seekers and persistent sons, doomed

To their cruel furniture and their season tickets   
As to skimped meditations and waxen odes.
At first, Rex Morgan seems a perfect Pentheus—

But he smirks, he is imperturbable, he understates;   
Understatement is the privilege of a god, we must   
Choose, we must find out which way to see them:

Either the bland arrogance of the abrupt mountain god   
Or the man of the town doing his best, we must not   
Complain both that they are inhuman and too human.

XIII. Their Despair

I am quite sure that I have read somewhere   
That the rate of suicide among psychiatrists   
Is far higher than for any other profession.

There are many myths to explain such things, things   
Which one reads and believes without believing   
Any one significance for them—as in this case,

Which again reminds me of writers, who, I have read,   
Drink and become alcoholics and die of alcoholism   
In far greater numbers than other people.

Symmetry suggests one myth, or significance: the drinking   
Of writers coming from too much concentration,   
In solitude, upon feelings expressed

For or even about possibly indifferent people, people   
Who are absent or perhaps dead, or unborn; the suicide   
Of psychiatrists coming from too much attention,

In most intimate contact, concentrated upon the feelings   
Of people toward whom one may feel indifferent,   
People who are certain, sooner or later, to die ...

Or people about whom they care too much, after all?   
The significance of any life, of its misery and its end,   
Is not absolute—that is the despair which

Underlies their good sense, recycling their garbage,   
Voting, attending town-meetings, synagogues, churches,   
Weddings, contingent gatherings of all kinds.

XIV. Their Speech, Compared With Wisdom And Poetry

Terms of all kinds mellow with time, growing   
Arbitrary and rich as we call this man “neurotic”
Or that man “a peacock.” The lore of psychiatrists—

“Paranoid,” “Anal” and so on, if they still use
Such terms—also passes into the status of old sayings:   
Water thinner than blood or under bridges; bridges

Crossed in the future or burnt in the past. Or the terms   
Of myth, the phrases that well up in my mind:   
Two blind women and a blind little boy, running—

Easier to cut thin air into planks with a saw   
And then drive nails into those planks of air,   
Than to evade those three, the blind harriers,

The tireless blind women and the blind boy, pursuing   
For long years of my life, for long centuries of time.   
Concerning Justice, Fortune and Love I believe

That there may be wisdom, but no science and few terms:   
Blind, and blinding, too. Hot in pursuit and flight,   
Justice, Fortune and Love demand the arts

Of knowing and naming: and, yes, the psychiatrists, too,   
Patiently naming them. But all in pursuit and flight, two   
Blind women, tireless, and the blind little boy.

XV. A Footnote Concerning Psychiatry Itself

Having mentioned it, though it is not   
My subject here, I will say only that one   
Hopes it is good, and hopes that practicing it

The psychiatrists who are my subject here   
Will respect the means, however pathetic,
That precede them; that they respect the patient’s

Own previous efforts, strategies, civilizations—
Not only whatever it is that lets a man consciously   
Desire girls of sixteen (or less) on the street,

And not embrace them, et cetera, but everything that was   
There already: the restraints, and the other lawful   
Old culture of wine, women, et cetera.

XVI. Generalizing, Just And Unjust

As far as one can generalize, only a few
Are not Jewish. Many, I have heard, grew up   
As an only child. Among many general charges

Brought against them (smugness, obfuscation)   
Is a hard, venal quality. In truth, they do differ
From most people in the special, tax-deductible status

Of their services, an enviable privilege which brings   
Venality to the eye of the beholder, who feels   
With some justice that if to soothe misery

Is a tax-deductible medical cost, then the lute-player,   
Waitress, and actor also deserve to offer   
Their services as tax-deductible; movies and TV

Should be tax-deductible ... or nothing should;   
Such cash matters perhaps lead psychiatrists
And others to buy what ought not to be sold: Seder

Services at hotels; skill at games from paid lessons;   
Fast divorce; the winning side in a war seen
On TV like cowboys or football—that is how much

One can generalize: psychiatrists are as alike (and unlike)   
As cowboys. In fact, they are stock characters like cowboys:   
“Bette Davis, Claude Rains in Now, Voyager (1942),

A sheltered spinster is brought out of her shell
By her psychiatrist” and “Steven Boyd, Jack Hawkins   
In The Third Secret (1964), a psychoanalyst’s

Daughter asks a patient to help her find her father’s   
Murderer.” Like a cowboy, the only child roams   
The lonely ranges and secret mesas of his genre.

XVII. Their Patients

As a rule, the patients I know do not pace   
Furiously, nor scream, nor shoot doctors. For them,   
To be a patient seems not altogether different

From one’s interest in Ann Landers and her clients:   
Her virtue of taking it all on, answering   
Any question (artificial insemination by grandpa;

The barracuda of a girl who says that your glasses   
Make you look square) and her virtue of saying,   
Buster (or Dearie) stop complaining and do

What you want ... and often that seems to be the point:   
After the glassware from Design Research, after   
A place on the Cape with Marimekko drapes,

The superlative radio and shoes, comes
The contingency tax—serious people, their capacity   
For mere hedonism fills up, one seems to need

To perfect more complex ideas of desire,
To overcome altruism in the technical sense,   
To learn to say no when you mean no and yes

When you mean yes, a standard of cui bono, a standard   
Which, though it seems to be the inverse   
Of more Spartan or Christian codes, is no less

Demanding in its call, inward in this case, to duty.
It suggests a kind of league of men and women dedicated   
To their separate, inward duties, holding in common

Only the most general standard, or no standard   
Other than valuing a sense of the conflict   
Among standards, a league recalling in its mutual

Conflict and comfort the well-known fact that psychiatrists,   
Too, are the patients of other psychiatrists,   
Working dutifully—cui bono—at the inward standards.

XVIII. The Mad

Other patients are ill otherwise, and do   
Scream and pace and kill or worse; and that   
Should be recalled. Kit Smart, Hitler,

The contemporary poets of lunacy—none of them   
Helps me to think of the mad otherwise   
Than in clichés too broad, the maenads

And wild-eyed killers of the movies ...
But perhaps lunacy feels something like a cliché,   
A desperate or sweet yielding to some broad,

Mechanical simplification, a dispersal
Of the unbearable into its crude fragments,   
The distraction of a repeated gesture

Or a compulsively hummed tune. Maybe   
It is not utterly different from chewing   
At one’s fingernails. For the psychiatrists

It must come to seem ordinary, its causes   
And the causes of its relief, after all,
No matter how remote and intricate, are no

Stranger than life itself, which was born or caused   
Itself, once, as a kind of odor, a faint wreath   
Brewing where the radiant light from billions

Of miles off strikes a faint broth from water   
Standing in rock; life born from the egg   
Of rock, and the egglike rock of death

Are no more strange than this other life   
Which we name after the moon, lunatic   
Other-life ... housed, for the lucky ones,

In McLean Hospital with its elegant,   
Prep-school atmosphere. When my friend   
Went in, we both tried to joke: “Karen,” I said,

“You must be crazy to spend money and time   
In this place”—she gained weight,   
Made a chess-board, had a roommate

Who introduced herself as the Virgin Mary,   
Referred to another patient: “Well, she must   
Be an interesting person, if she’s in here.”

XIX. Peroration, Defining Happiness

“I know not how it is, but certainly I
Have never been more tired with any reading   
Than with dissertations upon happiness,

Which seems not only to elude inquiry,   
But to cast unmerciful loads of clay   
And sand and husks and stubble

Along the high-road of the inquirer.
Even sound writers talk mostly in a drawling   
And dreaming way about it. He,

Who hath given the best definition
Of most things, hath given but an imperfect one,   
Here, informing us that a happy life

Is one without impediment to virtue ....
In fact, hardly anything which we receive   
For truth is really and entirely so,

Let it appear plain as it may, and let
Its appeal be not only to the understanding,   
But to the senses; for our words do not follow

The senses exactly; and it is by words   
We receive truth and express it.”
So says Walter Savage Landor in his Imaginary

Conversation between Sir Philip Sidney   
And Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, all three,   
In a sense, my own psychiatrists, shrinking

The sense of contingency and confusion   
Itself to a few terms I can quote, ponder   
Or type: the idea of wisdom, itself, shrinks.

XX. Peroration, Concerning Genius

As to my own concerns, it seems odd, given   
The ideas many of us have about art,   
That so many writers, makers of films,

Artists, all suitors of excellence and their own   
Genius, should consult psychiatrists, willing   
To risk that the doctor in curing

The sickness should smooth away the cicatrice   
Of genius, too. But it is all bosh, the false   
Link between genius and sickness,

Except perhaps as they were linked   
By the Old Man, addressing his class
On the first day: “I know why you are here.

You are here to laugh. You have heard of a crazy   
Old man who believes that Robert Bridges   
Was a good poet; who believes that Fulke

Greville was a great poet, greater than Philip   
Sidney; who believes that Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Are not all that they are cracked up to be .... Well,

I will tell you something: I will tell you
What this course is about. Sometime in the middle   
Of the Eighteenth Century, along with the rise

Of capitalism and scientific method, the logical   
Foundations of Western thought decayed and fell apart.   
When they fell apart, poets were left

With emotions and experiences, and with no way   
To examine them. At this time, poets and men
Of genius began to go mad. Gray went mad. Collins

Went mad. Kit Smart was mad. William Blake surely   
Was a madman. Coleridge was a drug addict, with severe   
Depression. My friend Hart Crane died mad. My friend

Ezra Pound is mad. But you will not go mad; you will grow up   
To become happy, sentimental old college professors,   
Because they were men of genius, and you

Are not; and the ideas which were vital
To them are mere amusement to you. I will not
Go mad, because I have understood those ideas ....”

He drank wine and smoked his pipe more than he should;   
In the end his doctors in order to prolong life   
Were forced to cut away most of his tongue.

That was their business. As far as he was concerned   
Suffering was life’s penalty; wisdom armed one
Against madness; speech was temporary; poetry was truth.

XXI. Conclusion

Essaying to distinguish these men and women,   
Who try to give medicine for misery,   
From the rest of us, I find I have failed

To discover what essential statement could be made   
About psychiatrists that would not apply   
To all human beings, or what statement

About all human beings would not apply   
Equally to psychiatrists. They, too,   
Consult psychiatrists. They try tentatively

To understand, to find healing speech. They work   
For truth and for money. They are contingent ...   
They talk and talk ... they are, in the words

Of a lute-player I met once who despised them,   
“Into machines” ... all true of all, so that it seems   
That “psychiatrist” is a synonym for “human being,”

Even in their prosperity which is perhaps
Like their contingency merely more vivid than that   
Of lutanists, opticians, poets—all into

Truth, into music, into yearning, suffering,
Into elegant machines and luxuries, with caroling   
And kisses, with soft rich cloth and polished

Substances, with cash, tennis and fine electronics,   
Liberty of lush and reverend places—goods   
And money in their contingency and spiritual

Grace evoke the way we are all psychiatrists,   
All fumbling at so many millions of miles   
Per minute and so many dollars per hour

Through the exploding or collapsing spaces   
Between stars, saying what we can.
from: Sadness and Happiness.  Copyright 1975.