Noche de Verano


I am walking, after rain, in evening’s sigh, passing the stone cross, on the way to the arches. You know where they filmed scenes from Nacho Libre? You know when Nacho picks on the wrong guys?

I pass the yellow house on the right and remember Miguel and Pia have left for Mexico City and they’ve (perhaps foolishly) left their upstairs window shutters open with little choice but to welcome summer, the bouquet of bougainvillea and morning sun, and a novice guitar player’s sweet strumming.

You know that despairing ballad I repeat, “Ojala,” how it murmurs as plaintive wind chimes?

I know. I write to you now as if we have studied these landmarks together, as if this letter is not my own howling anthem.

Noche de verano
–Antonio Machado

Es una hermosa noche de verano.
Tienen las altas casas
abiertos los balcones
del viejo pueblo a la anchurosa plaza.
En el amplio rectángulo desierto,
bancos de piedra, evónimos y acacias
simétricos dibujan
sus negras sombras en la arena blanca.
En el cénit, la luna, y en la torre,
la esfera del reloj iluminada.
Yo en este viejo pueblo paseando
solo, como un fantasma.

Summer Night

–Antionio Machado

A beautiful summer night.
the tall houses leave
their balcony shutters open
to the wide plaza of the old village.
In the large deserted square,
stone benches, burning bush and acacias
trace their black shadows
symmetrically on the white sand.
In its zenith, the moon; in the tower,
the clock’s illuminated globe.
I walk through this ancient village,
alone, like a ghost.

translated from the Spanish by Willis Barnstone

  • Celebrate a time of day, a season, the colors (natural or human made) of a place.


Jacob, Take It Easy…


I see Jacob, the dog, nearly every day. I have decided that his miniature owner lives to chat with tourists. This is why he uses English in his direction of Jacob. He lures us in with the bait of familiarity.
He tells Jacob repeatedly, “Take it easy!” This large dog does not wear his iconic cask of brandy. Instead, this fancy-dressed owner carries a bottle of mezcal and a shot glass to get the conversation flowing.
While waiting for a parade, I refused three shots of mezcal and was still invited on a run with Jacob at 8 the following morning. I wanted to say that I spend mornings with them in the park, but then I realized that I blend in with all of the other tourists he talks with.
I wanted to say I have heard him warning: “Jacob, that is a poopy.” He means puppy. He yells it when Jacob gets too near other dogs. I want to remind him that Jacob is still a poopy himself (he’s only six months old) and .

From Dogs Are Shakespearean, Children Are Strangers

— Delmore Schwartz

Dogs are Shakespearean, children are strangers.
Let Freud and Wordsworth discuss the child,
Angels and Platonists shall judge the dog,
The running dog, who paused, distending nostrils,
Then barked and wailed; the boy who pinched his sister,
The little girl who sang the song from Twelfth Night,
As if she understood the wind and rain,
The dog who moaned, hearing the violins in concert.
—O I am sad when I see dogs or children!
For they are strangers, they are Shakespearean.

Read the whole poem at:

Of course, I can’t resist thinking of Anton Chekov’s “The Lady with the Pet Dog:”

  • Why should humans and canines meet on the street? One of the ways this interaction can compel a story forward is what we learn from the one-sided “conversation” that often results.


From Fortin Plaza


From Fortin Plaza, in July’s dusk, the light traffic wields torches as angry townspeople might.

Perhaps what I see are lanterns through trees as exhausted campers are headed to tents, or certainly they are luminary candles leading down a green and darkening path.

From this vantage point in the deep purple clouds, I note not everything in this valley twinkles or shines. There are vast fields of darkness that were only hinted at in the city’s streets.


–Rabindranath Tagore

Light, my light, the world-filling light,
the eye-kissing light,
heart-sweetening light!

Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the center of my life;
the light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love;
the sky opens, the wind runs wild, laughter passes over the earth.

The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of light.
Lilies and jasmines surge up on the crest of the waves of light.

The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, my darling,
and it scatters gems in profusion.

Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling,
and gladness without measure.
The heaven’s river has drowned its banks
and the flood of joy is abroad.

From Light: A National Poetry Day Book – a free poetry book to celebrate National Poetry Day 2015 with poems on the theme of light.


Hilo Rojo


I saw the show Hilo Rojo 3047: El Río de Mujeres by Ornella Ridone at the Oaxaca Textile Museum,, Museo Textil de Oaxaca, A.C., Hidalgo 917, Centro Histórico, Oaxaca de Juárez, México
C.P. 68000

This is, according to the artist, more than an exhibition of embroidery; it is an autobiographical journey depicting the women in her family. She says, “I transform embroidery into its own language.”

Walking through the breathtaking exhibit is somewhat like wandering through someone’s clothesline. In fact, part of me wishes the show was hung in this manner.

Another part of me was stunned by how it simultaneously felt like moving through an ethereal crowd. The one fan in the room hardly moves the clothes, but so much so that it was sometimes hard to find an image I saw–or thought I saw–again.

Of course there are many ways to tell a story, and they may or may not include words. While a couple of the pieces feature words: one about a brand of sewing needle, the other about soldiers killing women, the other pieces resound in a different way.

In fact, they are reminiscent of tattoos or scars; there are clearly complex stories (some visible, some buried beneath the surface): of survival and triumph, of love and fear, of despair and tremendous joy.

–Paula Bohince

The hole at the center
of the galaxy is a black butterfly,
large and dominant, off-kilter.
From her, others emerge,
encircling her at birth, tethered
forever to the spoke
and word of her…
See the rest at:

  • What visual display could represent a family’s story? It is a sort of collection as the sticker book referenced in this article:, or is it a radical lack of stuff that might say even more?

My Soul Turns into a Tree…

Miguel, the night watchman at the posada, invited me to his town. His directions were specific: which taxi to take, the name of the store to ask for his niece who’d be passing by about the same time I was to arrive. It was a flawless plan (in a small town). I doubt it would work back home.

The niece was sweet though she did not seem to be expecting me. She took me around the corner and down the path to her uncle’s place where I met three grandchildren, a niece and a nephew. (The niece and nephew looked as if they were characters from The Nightmare before Christmas.)

I was seated in a plastic chair outside the door to the house as Miguel cleaned up the remnants of a small fire. I was instructed to give the children English lessons to pass the time. This mostly consisted of them firing off any word that came into their minds. I was like a live Spanish/English dictionary just for them.

We went to the back yard to meet the other dog (there were two). This dog was tied under a tree because he could not be trusted with the half dozen chickens that wandered the yard.

The children climbed an abandoned automobile to fetch pomegranates and limes from the trees until the rain came and we took cover in a small work area with a hammock.

Meanwhile Miguel’s wife, Linda, was making beans and eggs and noodle soup, and cactus. I was finally welcome into the kitchen/dining area, but I was permitted no farther into the dark house. We ate a filling meal and then were off on foot(and one bicycle) to see the town.

Because of me, we became a parade for the townspeople. Some stopped us to ask questions and practice English. Two men in a van circled us four times (until Miguel mentioned their obvious actions). We were like a wreck and people wanted to see how awful the carnage was…

We were especially conspicuous as we went to the place where the rodeo was going to be held later in the day. (I would not stay for the rodeo as transportation home would be impossible, and, as far as I could tell, there was no hotel–only the covered hammock.) The cowboys stared at us as if we were cattle thieves.

We went to the church where we picked more fruit from the trees, some green oranges. They were more for play than for eating. My height was appreciated by the grandchildren who wanted more and more of the harvest.

Miguel, who had been inside a church office, returned to the tour guide role. He proudly showed me the tile he installed in the church, taught me about the town’s patron saint, Geronimo, and pointed out the candles he had purchased for the church as the town celebrated his daughter’s wedding. (Oswaldo was horrified that I did not cross myself as I entered the church; he had never met someone who was not Catholic; he wasn’t even sure if this was a real option.)

Next, we were off to see Miguel’s parents’ graves. We entered the beautiful cemetery that was green with weeds.

Miguel, slightly embarrassed by the obvious lack of maintenance, went into action as he had with cleaning up after the fire, enlisting me in weeding his mother’s side of the plot.

It was nearly 6:30PM, and even the grandchildren were tired out. They all headed home to rest before the big rodeo, and I, dirty hands and all, hopped into a collectivo taxi.

It is afternoons such as this one that I feel are the real Spanish tests. I not only arrived at a remote destination, but I was able to master most of the tasks along the way.

I wondered how to tell Miguel what a lovely day I had, so I also figured out how to use the Kodak machine at the grocery store and gave him some prints of the afternoon.

He was visibly moved to have them, but he said only: “My wife is very short.” I added, “and beautiful.” What more needed to be said?


–Herman Hesse, translated by Robert Bly, from News of the Universe, poems of twofold consciousness

Sometimes, when a bird cries out,

Or the wind sweeps through a tree,

Or a dog howls in a far off farm,

I hold still and listen for a long time.


My soul turns and goes back to the place

Where, a thousand forgotten years ago,

The bird and the howling wind

Were like me, and were my brothers.


My soul turns into a tree,

And an animal, and a cloud bank.

Then changed and odd it comes home

And asks me questions. What should I reply?

  • How much can/has one small journey transform your character?


You don’t have to wait until the end of July to get a glimpse of the Guelaguetza celebrations in Oaxaca. Several restaurants offer the opportunity to sample a smorgasbord of the dances that represent each of Oaxaca’s eight regions while dining on a vast buffet of traditional Oaxacan dishes.

Despite being held indoors, down to the smooth host and gorgeous dishes, this evening of sensory stimulation is reminiscent of a Hawaiian luau. It is a good way to stick a toe into the culture, but it is nothing like the deep dive into Oaxaca’s music and dancing and mezcal for the two festive weeks that are the Guelaguetza festival.

At the Quinta Real show (, attendees certainly miss some of the excitement of the offerings (including pineapples and bread) that are thrown to the crowds in the streets and at the official stadium, but the pageantry and artistry are tantalizing and well worth the ticket price.

–Carl Sandburg
THE LADY in red, she in the chile con carne red,
Brilliant as the shine of a pepper crimson in the summer sun,
She behind a false-face, the much sought-after dancer, the most sought-after dancer of all in this masquerade,
The lady in red sox and red hat, ankles of willow, crimson arrow amidst the Spanish clashes of music,

I sit in a corner
watching her dance first with one man
and then another.

  • There are at least 105 names for dances–from allemande to zouk ( Have a character literally dance, or use dance as a metaphor for an otherwise inanimate object.


For a Girl I Know about to Be a Woman

When I went on a first date, mom strategically warned: “When you are kissing him, think of what your children will look like.” Needless to say, he didn’t get a kiss–ever. Mom didn’t always offer advice designed to halt me in my tracks, but her techniques were quite effective.

When I went off to college ten hours away, my dad imparted the wisdom of Frederick Schiller: “He who dares nothing need hope for nothing.” He knew I needed to be reminded to be courageous and take risks.

I grew up on a small ranch with seven horses, dozens of cats and chickens, and a couple of dogs.  My parents exposed me to the magic of the world as I witnessed a new foal land in the world and hosted a box of baby chicks in my winter bedroom; I learned how to take care of myself as I cared for and developed loving relationships with other creatures. These childhood experiences filled me with information and wonder for the world.

How fortunate I was to thrive in an environment that emphasized respect for others, knowledge, and thought. How precious it is to be guided to thrive with such balanced guidance!

From For a Girl I Know about to Be a Woman

–Miller Williams

Because you’ll find how hard it can be

to tell which part of your body sings,

you never should dally with any young man

who does any one of the following things:


tries to beat all the yellow lights;

says, “Big deal!” or “So what?”

more than seven times a day;

ignores yellow lines in a parking lot;


carries a radar detector;

asks what you did with another date;

has more than seven bumper stickers;

drinks beer early and whiskey late;


talks on a cellular phone at lunch;

tunes to radio talk shows;

doesn’t fasten his seat belt;

knows more than God knows;


See the rest at:


from Some Jazz A While: Collected Poems

  • The specific pieces of advice in the are helpful to the intended audience, and they are equally helpful in shedding light on the speaker. Craft advice to add depth to two characters.