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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Basho's ghost - did he go or did he stay?

A bullfrog took up residency in my dark and dank basement several years ago. I toted him upstairs and back outside in the early days of his visit, but that may have been a different frog entirely, although I suspect not. I've never given my roommate much thought, as I'm also somewhat of a solitary by nature. In fact he only crosses my mind when I hear him plop into the small dirty sump in the far corner of the basement ... plop

The first few times I heard his plop I looked for him, but there are several battered old boards covering the tiny pool, and if my visitor chose privacy, well, I could understand and left him alone.

echoes through a winter evening
what the hell???  

My first thought was there's some new settling issue in my old house. But a bullfrog's croak is unique, and the penny quickly dropped that I had an unpaying tenant. Fine. Next time I won't be spooked.

The occasional GRONK! and the neatly executed basement splashes have become part of the old house's winter rafter cracks and windy spring whippings by unlashed cables on the huge old TV antenna. 

As I was heading for the backyard deck this afternoon, there was a surprise -

fat old bullfrog
on the top step
looking confused

I asked if he had had enough of his hermitage in my basement. Basho! Of course, how foolish not to recognize the ancient spirit in my basement. Basho, I said, would you like to visit the world? Would you like to leave your basement retreat to socialize with other frogs? Or do you prefer to stay in the dark safety, with spiders, sow bugs and other gourmet creatures to savour?

Basho looked confused, kind of huddled, as if he didn't know what he wanted. I hesitated about lifting him and making the decision for him. I opened the back door, letting the early summer heat lure him outside. Basho didn't stir, perhaps a blink, but no decision.


back door ajar
but no Basho
when I returned from gardening

Did he stay, or did he go? I could have visited the basement and listened for a telltale splash, but I don't want to know right away.


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Toti: Tai Grove


This poem is dedicated to Wallace Stevens for his poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

Among the many swaying palms
The only living thing
Was the flutter of dozens of Toti

I was of one mind
Like a Royal Palm
In which there are thirty Toti

A flock of Toti whirled in the winter winds
A small part of the Cuban revolution

The sky and the Cuban flag
Are one.
The sky and the Cuban flag and a Toti
Are one.

I do not know which I long for most
The silent beauty of a clear Cuban sky
Or the cacophony of a Cuban orchestra,
Thirty Toti perched, chattering,
Or the fluttered painting of a black sky as they scatter.

Laundry filled the long lines
In sun-backed heat.
The shadow of Toti
Cross the wafting sheets
The joy of freedom.
Toti, shadow and laundry
An incomprehensible union.

O dear friends of Cuba
Can you imagine freedom
The way you see your Toti
Flocking from tree to tree.

I listen and see the black flutterings
The inescapable chatter
And I know only too well
That the Toti is a measure
Of my existence.

And when the Toti fly out of my sight,
They are still part of my being,
My ever expanding circle.

At the sight of Toti
Flying in a Cuban blue morning
I cry out the ecstasy
That Cuba is in the air.

I bicycled hundreds of miles
Through emerald cane fields
Dripping with sweat.
Never in fear of being lost
Always with the chatter of my
Toti friends telling me I am home.

The outstretched arms of the mythic Ceibo tree
Are filled with the black cackles of Toti.

It was hot, a hot humid afternoon
There was hardly a breeze to ruffle
The frowns of the stately Royal Palms
A single, silent Toti sat,
In the outstretched limbs of the Bayam tree


Richard 'Tai' Grove 


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On 2016-06-01, at 10:53 AM, Richard M. Grove wrote:

hi chris

a friend thought that my 13 toti were haikuesk enought that i should send them around to haiku mags.
i don’t know the haiku world at all.

what do you think


                                                  .   .   .   .

Hi June bug (Tai)
Daryl, the publisher of bear creek haiku, will have already had the chance to read your '13 toti' sequence, & he's far more up-to-date on the haiku scene than I am. I'm cci'ing Daryl on this in case he wants to chime in & maybe contact you with his thoughts and advice. (& maybe, just maybe, he might want to publish a few of your 'toti' on his blog or in one of his funky anthos)

Coincidentally the latest bear creek haiku arrived late last night, & Daryl has compiled a great list of haiku interested sources for publication - I'm thinking of cross posting it on riffs & ripps. Personally I hardly ever submit stuff for publication unless requested, & then it's usu a request to reprint something I've already posted, or something that's been in one of my books (e.g. you know about the recent international interest in Eel Pie Island Dharma).

A funny story about the early days of English language haiku. We founded The Haiku Society of Canada circa 1978 (now Haiku Canada). In those days there were heated debates on whether a poem was a haiku (only nature as content), or a senryu (with mankind & our foibles as the focus). Also people were beginning to experiment with different line lengths & poems which were neither or both haiku & senryu.

A Japanese haiku poet/scholar (damn, can't remember his name) visited one of our early meetings, and when presented with this heated question about what is, and isn't haiku, and how do the Japanese classify these anomalies, he simply replied, "We call them haikuish."

peace & poetry power!


Saturday, 28 May 2016

3 poems to enjoy with food: Katherine L. Gordon

(These were chosen for The Literary Gourmet Anthology.)

How To Buy Lemons


Mr. Orologopoulos
taught  me how to choose lemons,
devoted to my language skills,
as the only one in the class
who could pronounce his name.
I said it like music, rolling sing-song
off the tease of tongue,
enjoying each impossible syllable.
He offered me the gift of lemon-lore:
the smaller ones with pointed ends were male,
dry and pulpy, good rinds,
the globular ones were female,
juicy and soft, squeezable.
When I buy them for garnish or salad
I remember his hands, tenderly differentiating,
how he would kiss mine as I enunciated

Image result for picnic basket pics


Once Upon a Picnic

This is how love unfolded,
potted meats spread on fresh thick bread,
strawberry tarts with kisses,
mindful birds, lustful squirrels,
lap of lake, whispers of tittering trees,
all nature mated in the fruits of earth
while we explored the surprise of plenty,
no more to need in the cool grass dessert
of each other.


Breaking Bread Affirms Life

There is communion in every meal shared,
true bread and wine salutation, however simple,
however elaborate.
In loved company we partake
of all that earth offers,
praise it with devoted cooking,
presenting with flair,
nourishment for every particle of our needs,
an act of life, memory-building.
Sweetness beyond wine-roses
to hold us together embracing light,
fending off with a toast,  the long dark.
Katherine L. Gordon

Friday, 27 May 2016

crimson columbines

I decided it was the perfect heat wave day to visit Callahan's Rapids, & waded around from noon until 2 pm  ;  )-  Beautiful day, & after a few minutes I got used to the chilly water. I walked in from the middle path in the parking lot, & then walked downstream to the rapids. Never saw another human the whole time! I crossed the rapids & walked down the 'Jacques Cousteau' creek to the outlet, then took a short path thru the woods to the main river. Walked back upstream to the bridges - no real adventures on the way, just a relaxing beaut trek. There are huge patches of crimson columbines with yellow 'chimes' on the eastern bank.

ringing for me alone
crimson columbines

Didn't see many birds, and surprisingly, no water snakes. No deer, either, like the time Chase and I visited Callahan's this time of year and met the retired trespassing cop. I was surprised there weren't any human intruders, because often there are idiots on 4-wheelers zipping around on the islands by the bridge.

broken beer bottles
holiday reminders of
the May 24 weekend

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

greeted by an oriole/ cloven hoofed invaders

Hi Fran,
I visited ZRG this aft. I was hoping to visit Dan Dan the Fireman, but he'd already left. When I crossed the bridge I was immed. greeted by an oriole! - so I guess the nesting pair is back again after skipping a year or two. Another pair often nests on Dan's property.

I wandered around ZRG for about half an hour. I'm so glad you bought it, because just wandering about made me reminisce about Chase, & the rest of my visit was blurry :  (  There are several tulips in bloom in the rock garden, and 3 tulips in the funny little wedge garden between the 2 rocks below the shack. I went back thru the sacred cedar grove to the flat rocks, & lots of wildflowers are blooming along the path. Back at the shack I sat on the deck for 5 mins & reminisced, then walked back out thru the 'non-existent' driveway ;  )  If I were you, I'd just go ahead & use it as a drive, just don't call it a driveway! When I was on the deck a pair of wild finches were at the feeder ; )

Like your idea of taking the platform bed & turning it into a woodshed!  As usual, everything bright & beautiful at ZRG ... enjoy the summer!


                                          ~   ~   ~   ~

On 2016-05-10, at 10:50 PM, Fran wrote:

Hi Chris,

Glad you were able to enjoy ZRG today. I put in about 30 tulip bulbs last fall hoping a few would come up and they did! There should be some more down in the large rock garden by the bridge. Some kids must have been playing on those rocks because when I was up last weekend a lot of the rocks were knocked over....Grrr. Oh well, I just put them back. I planted a few other things here and there so will be fun to see if they bloom this summer.

I'd love to see the orioles. I put a couple of feeders up in the apple tree and so far we've seen blue jays, cardinals, a few different types of sparrows and lots of finches. I was thrilled to spot two Pileated woodpeckers on the other side of the river. They're big! We've seen a red fox strolling across the bridge one day (I thought it was somebody's dog at first), I'm pretty sure a beaver on the opposite bank and possibly a mink a few weeks ago.

It's wonderful to see ZRG through the seasons. I always have plans to do some work when I get there but I usually end up sitting and just enjoying the view.


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On May 11, 2016, at 9:33 AM, Chris Faiers <> wrote:

Hi again Fran,
That might have been a deer, rather than kids, that knocked over some of the border rocks! Every spring I'd find rocks kicked off the top layer of the rock garden, & incriminating deer prints in the garden where the shoots of last year's plantings had been nibbled off. I'm surprised that so many of your tulips have bloomed, considering ZenRiver's accessibility to foraging wildlife.

I posted my email to you on my blog, & if it's OK with you, I'd like to post your reply under this as well. It's a pretty harmless way to keep the spirit & memory of ZenRiver alive, esp for some of the blog readers who used to camp there during the 8 annual PurdyFest poetry festivals. ZRG and the fests have earned a place in the annals of CanLit and CanPo, & it's nice to keep some of the tradition alive under your stewardship.

Yep, I know how you feel about losing the desire to work on projects once you arrive at ZRG & just wanting to relax on the deck  ;  )-

zenriver peace,