Poetry Is the Singing

It is Saturday night, and I am feeling especially alone in this city full of families and friends and connections.
I like that Jorge, the man who sells scarves, stops to check on me and share snippets of news. Today, he tells of a bridge washed out near the coast and of highways blocked by trees felled in the storm. I offer that the storm’s name is Calvin. He repeats the name. Calveeeen into the breeze.
I like that the lady selling tablecloths shows me photos of her grandchildren and the way she calls me amiga as if we’ve known each other for years. We have.
I like that Max waves as I pass the cafe where he’s a waiter. I like that Pablo will play the game where I ask: what is the thing that–long description here, weird look from Pablo, revision of description with better detail, and then voila! an answer. Today, after several hilarious rounds, I learned drones are still called drones in Spanish. Though I am sure the spelling differs.
I like practicing English with César and Andres. I like that Mari asks for her coffee a different way each day. Today, she had an americano with milk. Thursday it was a cappuccino with cinnamon and sugar.
I like that I can come across a couple of tired musicians snoozing on the street and not worry about their safety.
Still I am feeling alone in the city this Saturday night. And then I see a group of six girls performing an impromptu choreographed dance show to Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean,” and I know, without hesitation, I am part of this grand, happy music video.
  • “Poetry is the singing of what it means to be on our planet.” –Galway Kinnell
    • What does it mean to be on our planet? What does it mean to be a part of this grand, happy music video?


Painting with Water


At the beginning of summer, I traveled to China: Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. At the Summer Palace in Beijing, I watched this man calligraph with water, painting logograms onto the sidewalk. In the warm afternoon air, his words evaporated before our eyes.

Regardless of our comprehension of what the images represent, we were a rapt audience.

The creative writing students are blogging again this semester. And, we need you to help us expand our understanding of audience. Please follow these bloggers, like them, and tell your friends about Cosumnes River College’s diligent and creative writers.

  • CRCMindImages.wordpress.com
  • ThePlayList2018.wordpress.com
  • LettersFromSacramento.wordpress.com
  • GoSeeDoWrite.wordpress.com


  • You Go to School to Learn
    By Thomas Lux
    You go to school to learn to
    read and add, to someday
    make some money. It—money—makes
    sense: you need
    a better tractor, an addition
    to the gameroom, you prefer
    to buy your beancurd by the barrel.
    There’s no other way to get the goods
    you need. Besides, it keeps people busy
    working—for it.
    It’s sensible and, therefore, you go
    to school to learn (and the teacher,
    having learned, gets paid to teach you) how
    to get it. Fine. But:
    you’re taught away from poetry
    or, say, dancing (That’s nice, dear,
    but there’s no dough in it
    ). No poem
    ever bought a hamburger, or not too many. It’s true,
    and so, every morning—it’s still dark!—
    you see them, the children, like angels
    being marched off to execution,
    or banks. Their bodies luminous
    in headlights. Going to school.

Where do you go to learn? What are you really being taught?



Spanish pronunciation is, unlike English, predictable. A “bird” in English often is pronounced “beard” by a person who speaks Spanish. The “I” makes the sound of a long “E.” Thus, “pitch” comes across as “peach.” I could go on…

While pronunciation is predictable, most of the rest of being in Oaxaca is not.

At the intercambio at the Oaxaca Lending Library one recent Saturday, I was reminded of how important understanding cultural norms is.  I was sitting with Rubi, Paulina, Eduardo, and Iris.

Iris is from China; she speaks Mandarin fluently and is a new Spanish speaker. She knows no English and was not interested in the English portion of the language exchange, so she was only with us for an hour. The Spanish speakers (who want to learn English because, to them, it seems everyone in the world speaks English (or Spanish) could not fathom that Iris (a nickname) does not know English.

Iris could not believe that I, a Caucasian American, speak another language. (We were already breaking down stereotypes!) Iris is a calligrapher by trade and showed us some of her beautiful images. She tried to translate them by breaking down the words into pictures and telling us what the pictures meant and how they came together. (It reminded me of the Hawaiian language.)

As we chatted, our Spanish focused on the basics: food, family, and fun. These are always good (and usually safe) places to start.

Iris explained that she is an only child, and, as a female, feels fortunate to be alive. The Oaxacans were neither familiar with China’s one-child policy nor the preference for males, and they wanted to know what the Chinese would do if the family has a farm and needs helpers.

Iris emphasized, “One child.” She asked how many siblings we have. I have a sister, so does Paulina. Rubi has two brothers and a sister.

Eduardo is in the middle of twelve children.

Iris was astounded, and another hour of Spanish elapsed too quickly.

  • What can you learn about another culture’s food, family, and fun that might inspire an entire story?


Art Show

Last night I went to a German artist’s show at the contemporary art museum.
I knew nothing of the artist. I went because it was free and on the way to a free jazz show. The art was an interesting blend of painting with printing and stamping. The images were intriguing, but, for me, the titles were the arresting element. One painting was named something along the lines of:  an old man and a punk rock youth are sitting in a dark living room full of antique furniture and the father says to the punk, “someday all of this will be yours.”
At the intercambio, I am sitting with Julio, Valentina, Mariela, and Gabriel. I mention the show and the vast titles to Gabriel who wants to learn German. Valentina says my description of the title reminds her of a truck commercial in which a man says to his son, someday all of this will be yours, referring an expanse of property. And the son, unimpressed, asks: and the truck?
An elder with coin purses yells at me in English to buy what he’s selling. I pretend I can not hear him though my ears open for any suggestion of English.
It strikes me that the entire month here is the art show and each post I can offer is perhaps a long title to accompany the piece.
  • Speaking of titles, take a look at “Famous Book Titles That Took Their Titles From Poetry:” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2012/03/famous-book-titles-took-their-famous-book-titles-from-poetry

Will Write for Likes or Follows

To view the solar eclipse, I headed to Boise, Idaho for a few days before venturing to Weiser, Idaho, and a site at a high school in the path of totality.

Boise was bustling with hordes of other eclipse enthusiasts exploring the area in anticipation of the main event.

At the Saturday morning farmers’ market,  there were all sort of buskers, including this talented b-boy performing for applause  and a dollar or two.

Speaking of applause, the creative writing students are blogging again this semester and need you support as they share their words and expand their audience. Please follow them, like them, and tell your friends about these diligent and creative writers.

https://ficticiouscivilservants.wordpress.com/  (note the spelling)





And, a former student has started a blog at: https://kakainna.wordpress.com/ (Kakainna! is Tagalog for Eat Now!)

My fantastic former student also recommended the following blogging resources:

http://www.sacramentobloggers.com/ – A local group.  I attended a meeting of theirs a week ago, and the info exchanged was quite useful.  For example, we discussed the use of images, and the importance of confirming no copyright violations and, if using your own images, the importance of watermarking them (which I hadn’t even considered).  Attendees also spoke about affiliate links, which I’d never heard of previously.  We also discussed tips on generating more traffic to our blogs, such as group boards on Pinterest and something called “link parties.”  This was my first time attending a meeting, and I thought I’d go to this one, at least, to see if I found it useful, which it was.  There’s no cost for joining or attending.

https://2017.sacramento.wordcamp.org/ — This was brought up at the Sacramento Bloggers meeting.  It’s a series of sessions on using WordPress.  It takes place on September 16-17 and costs $40.

http://foodbloggerconference.org/ — The founder and organizer of Sacramento Bloggers is also on the advisory board of the International Food Blogger Conference.  She suggested to the non-food bloggers present that they still might want to attend as the content covered would benefit them as well, not just food bloggers.


Florentine Violin Maker


My father was a woodworker. He could make cabinets, furniture, and fine designs with his hands. He would sand and stain and sand some more long into midnight.

He would deliberately discover a piece of art in the trunk of a tamarisk tree or a common two-by-four.

On a side street in Florence, M and I watch a craftswoman producing a violin. Peering through her workshop window. Though I often joke that my hands are made only for typing and should not be counted on to sew, to whittle, or even to cook, I can’t help thinking about how her work is similar to drafting a piece of creative writing, how the end product requires the effort to shape a piece into a beautiful sound as well as story.

Speaking of beautiful sounds and stories, spring semester means students are collaborating on blogs again:

Daily Bread 400: https://dailybread400.wordpress.com/

Blissful Binge: https://blissfulbinge.wordpress.com/

Passions of 8: https://passionsof8.wordpress.com/

World of Actions & Reactions: https://creativeblogforclass.wordpress.com/

All Things Dreamy: https://allthingsdreamyblog.wordpress.com/

Please follow them, like them, and tell your friends about these diligent and creative writers.

Guelaguetza 2016

Linda Gregg writes, “The dark thing is hardly visible/ in the leaves, under the sheen.” But it is there (and, reading the news, I understand it is nearly everywhere).

The bands and the folkloric dancers whetting our appetites for the coming weeks of celebration cannot camouflage it.

A Dark Thing Inside the Day

–Linda Gregg

So many want to be lifted by song and dancing

and this morning it is easy to understand.

I write in the sound of chirping birds hidden

in the almond trees, the almonds still green

and thriving in the foliage. Up the street,

a man is hammering to make a new house as doves

continue their cooing forever. Bees humming

and high above that a brilliant clear sky.

The roses are blooming and I smell the sweetness.

Everything desirable is here already in abundance.

And the sea. The dark thing is hardly visible

in the leaves, under the sheen. We sleep easily.

So I bring no sad stories to warn the heart.

All the flowers are adult this year. The good

world gives and the white doves praise all of it.


  • Consider translating the white doves’ praise, the bees’ humming, the chirping birds’ noise. Is it song, praise, complaint?