Friday, June 23, 2017

The Case of the Missing Caterpillars

On Tuesday, my husband and older granddaughter spotted some interesting-looking caterpillars munching on our dill plant. My husband, two granddaughters, and I checked them out several times during the course of the day. That night, I counted ten caterpillars on the plant. On Wednesday morning, there were just two left. By Thursday morning, they had all disappeared--even though my husband covered the plant with netting.
Our family was really disappointed. We had so hoped to see them metamorphose into butterflies.

I'm not sure what ate them. I doubt they crawled away on a long-distance journey. We couldn't find them anywhere else in the garden.
Thinking of those caterpillars brought to mind Christina Rossetti's poem Caterpillar.

by Christina Rossetti

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry:
Take your walk
To the shady leaf or stalk.

May no toad spy you,
May little birds pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.

My husband and I did some research on the caterpillars. They looked a lot like the larvae of the Anise Swallowtail Butterfly--who like dill plants. I'm not sure, however, that they live here in the Northeast.


Heidi Mordhorst has the Poetry Friday Roundup at My Juicy Little Universe.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Li-Young Lee and Poetry about Fathers

I fell in love with the poetry of Li-Young Lee when I read his debut collection Rose. Published in 1986, the book won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award. In the foreword that he wrote for Rose, Gerald Stern said that when he first came across Li-Young Lee’s poetry, he “was amazed by the large vision, the deep seriousness and the almost heroic ideal “reminiscent more of John Keats, Rainer Maria Rilke and perhaps Theodore Roethke than William Carlos Williams on the one hand or T.S. Eliot on the other.” Stern added that what characterizes Lee’s poetry “Is a certain humility, a kind of cunning, a love of plain speech, a search for wisdom and understanding…”

Stern also wrote in his foreword that the “father” in contemporary poetry “tends to be a pathetic soul or bungler or a sweet loser, overwhelmed by the demands of family and culture and workplace.” He said that the father in Lee’s poems isn’t anything like that. He said the “father” in Lee’s poetry is “more godlike”–and that the poet’s job “becomes not to benignly or tenderly forgive him, but to withstand him and comprehend him, and variously fear and love him.”

Lee’s second collection, The City in Which I Love You (1990), is a remembrance of the poet’s childhood…and his father. Writing in Publishers Weekly, reviewer Peggy Kaganoff said the book’s poetry “weaves a remarkable web of memory from the multifarious fibers of his experience.”

For Father’s Day, I have selected some poems from Li-Young Lee’s Rose and The City in Which I Love You to share with you.

Excerpt from Eating Alone

Once, years back, I walked beside my father
among the windfall pears. I can’t recall
our words. We may have strolled in silence. But
I still see him bend that way-left hand braced
on knee, creaky-to lift and hold to my
eye a rotten pear. In it, a hornet
spun crazily, glazed in slow, glistening juice.

It was my father I saw this morning
waving to me from the trees. I almost
called to him, until I came close enough
to see the shovel, leaning where I had
left it, in the flickering, deep green shade.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

Excerpt from The Gift

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.
I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.
Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

Excerpt from My Father, in Heaven, Is Reading Out Loud

My father, in heaven, is reading out loud
to himself Psalms or news. Now he ponders what
he’s read. No. He is listening for the sound
of children in the yard. Was that laughing
or crying? So much depends upon the
answer, for either he will go on reading,
or he’ll run to save a child’s day from grief.
As it is in heaven, so it was on earth.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.




Some old photos of my father, Sigismund R. Drabik (1912-1984): Polish Immigrant, American Citizen, World War II Veteran


NOTE: I am having trouble with Blogger this morning. I can't figure out why there are whited-out areas on this post.
The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Carol's Corner.


Friday, June 9, 2017

What Is Supposed to Happen by Naomi Shihab Nye

Yesterday was my older granddaughter's last day of preschool. She spent three years at that wonderful place...with many of the same children who have become her "best friends." After school, my husband and I took her to a nearby park/playground where she and her classmates had an end-of-the-year picnic. The kids all had a grand time playing with each other.

My husband and I finally got to meet many of the children she has been telling us about. It was great watching her having fun and running  around with her friends--some of whom will be going to the same school for kindergarten. I know she'll miss the others who will be attending different schools in the area.

As I watched my granddaughter chatting and playing with her classmates, it brought to mind a favorite poem written by Naomi Shihab Nye: What Is Supposed to Happen. It's a poem that I included in a memory book that I put together for my daughter as a high school graduation gift.

My little "grandgirls" are growing up--and I'm left with the same mixed emotions that I had as I watched my own daughter mature, widen her world outside of family, go off to kindergarten and then college.

by Naomi Shihab Nye

When you were small,
we watched you sleeping,
waves of breath
filling your chest.
Sometimes we hid behind
the wall of baby, soft cradle
of baby needs.
I loved carrying you between
my own body and the world.

Now you are sharpening pencils,
entering the forest
of lunch boxes, little desks.
People I never saw before
call out your name
and you wave.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

My younger granddaughter came to the picnic too.

Mary Lee Hahn has the Poetry Friday Roundup at A Year of Reading.