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Martin Luther King, Jr. at UCLA

Every year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Paul and I listen to his words and remember his incredible legacy of peace and justice. The other day on NPR I heard about a new recording of an MLK, Jr. speech that was recently discovered in a UCLA storage room. See the video above to hear the speech and read more about finding this long-lost speech on the PBS Newshour website here.

I look forward to introducing Brook to MLK, Jr.’s work and words starting with this speech. This year, his words resonate even more profoundly in light of Ferguson and Eric Garner. In a year full of bad news – a recent piece of good news – the American Dialect Society decided on the Word of the Year: #blacklivesmatter. Read more about the process in the NYTimes here.

Peace, Mari

National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry month and I thought I’d share a poem that has taken on more meaning to me recently. I have always admired Lisel Mueller’s poem, “Money Refuses the Operation” and I found myself thinking about it when I recently hurt my left eye.

I wear contact lenses and I store them at night in a special cleaning chemical that neutralizes and turns into saline solution by morning. In Ecuador, there aren’t the same consumer protection laws and so the bottle of this special solution does not have a big red ring around it like my brand in the United States. Last week I put that solution directly in my eye instead of using saline solution and let me just tell you, it’s not a good idea. Besides being extremely painful, it’s rather difficult to extract a contact lens from your eye when you’re instinct is to clamp your eye shut.

Luckily, Peace Corps has doctors and nurses on stand-by to help in such emergencies. Paul got on the telephone and was able to get instructions for how to treat and later medicate my sore and swollen eye. After resting for several days, my eye is as good as new. However, I was recuperating for several days. As I lay in bed with my eyes covered, I thought a lot about Monet and his refusal.

I walked around without lenses and with only the use of one eye for several days and what I experienced was a different world. Since it gave me headaches, I didn’t spend too much time walking around with just one eye open but I thought it was important to attend the Mujeres Cambia meeting so I did venture out for that.

Outside, colors seemed brighter as details faded. I noticed the outlines of shapes, I noticed sounds more, I noticed the way the sun felt on my back. While I would never wish a mishap like the one I experienced on anyone, I would recommend attempting to interact with the world in a new way. You might find that tuning out the details and imperfections you see may add to the beauty to the world around you.

Monet Refuses the Operation

BY LISEL MUELLER

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent.  The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases.  Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Lisel Mueller, “Monet Refuses the Operation” from Second Language. Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller.

On the Road Playlist

All told, Paul and I spent 21 weeks on the road. Enjoy these 21 songs perfect for road trips or dreaming of being on the road. Check out the last.fm playlist Here.

Happy listening! Mari

*

Already Gone – The Eagles

American Pie – Don McLean

California – Phantom Planet

California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & The Papas

Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Country Road – James Taylor

Fast as I Can – Erin McKeown

Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

Free – Zac Brown Band

Get Out The Map – Indigo Girls

I’ve Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash

King of the Road – Roger Miller

Life Is A Highway – Tom Cochrane

Me And Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin

Road Trippin’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Rusty Old American Dream – David Wilcox

Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver

Tangled Up in Blue – Bob Dylan (or Indigo Girls)

This Land Is Your Land – Woody Guthrie

I (still) Heart New York

Despite my recent love affair with Portland, I still love New York City and I was especially moved when I heard Colson Whitehead’s tribute to her on Selected Shorts. One of my favorite podcasts, Selected Shorts featured Colson Whitehead’s “Lost and Found” read by Alec Baldwin in their episode memorializing the anniversary of September 11th. Paul and I listened to it last night and we were blown away. Now, I miss New York more than ever! Below is the recording from Selected Shorts as well as the original article from the New York Times Magazine.

Enjoy, Mari

***

***

The New York Times Magazine

The Way We Live Now: 11-11-01

Lost and Found

By Colson Whitehead

I’m here because I was born here and thus ruined for anywhere else, but I don’t know about you. Maybe you’re from here, too, and sooner or later it will come out that we used to live a block away from each other and didn’t even know it. Or maybe you moved here a couple years ago for a job; maybe you came here for school. Maybe you saw the brochure. The city has spent a considerable amount of time and money putting the brochure together, what with all the movies, TV shows and songs — the whole ”if you can make it there” business. The city also puts a lot of effort into making your hometown look really drab and tiny, just in case you were wondering why it’s such a drag to go back sometimes.

No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, ”That used to be Munsey’s” or ”That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge.” That before the Internet cafe plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.

You start building your private New York the first time you lay eyes on it. Maybe you were in a cab leaving the airport when the skyline first roused itself into view. All your worldly possessions were in the trunk, and in your hand you held an address on a piece of paper. Look: there’s the Empire State Building, over there are the twin towers. Somewhere in that fantastic, glorious mess was the address on the piece of paper, your first home here. Maybe your parents dragged you here for a vacation when you were a kid and towed you up and down the gigantic avenues to shop for Christmas gifts. The only skyscrapers visible from your carriage were the legs of adults, but you got to know the ground pretty well and started to wonder why some sidewalks sparkle at certain angles. Maybe you came to visit your old buddy, the one who moved here last summer, and there was some mix-up as to where you were supposed to meet. You stepped out of Penn Station into the dizzying hustle of Eighth Avenue and fainted. Freeze it there: that instant is the first brick in your city.

I started building my New York on the uptown No. 1 train. My first city memory is of looking out a subway window as the train erupted from the tunnel on the way to 125th Street and palsied up onto the elevated tracks. It’s the early 70’s, so everything is filthy. Which means everything is still filthy, because that is my city and I’m sticking to it. I still call it the Pan Am Building, not out of affectation, but because that’s what it is. For that new transplant from Des Moines, who is starting her first week of work at a Park Avenue South insurance firm, that colossus squatting over Grand Central is the Met Life Building, and for her it always will be. She is wrong, of course — when I look up there, I clearly see the gigantic letters spelling out Pan Am, don’t I? And of course I am wrong, in the eyes of the old-timers who maintain the myth that there was a time before Pan Am.

History books and public television documentaries are always trying to tell you all sorts of ”facts” about New York. That Canal Street used to be a canal. That Bryant Park used to be a reservoir. It’s all hokum. I’ve been to Canal Street, and the only time I ever saw a river flow through it was during the last water-main explosion. Never listen to what people tell you about old New York, because if you didn’t witness it, it is not a part of your New York and might as well be Jersey. Although that bit about the Dutch buying Manhattan for 24 bucks might have something to it — there are and always will be braggarts who ”got in at the right time.”

There are eight million naked cities in this naked city — they dispute and disagree. The New York City you live in is not my New York City; how could it be? This place multiplies when you’re not looking. We move over here, we move over there. Over a lifetime, that adds up to a lot of neighborhoods, the motley construction material of your jerry-built metropolis. Your favorite newsstands, restaurants, movie theaters, subway stations and barbershops are replaced by your next neighborhood’s favorites. It gets to be quite a sum. Before you know it, you have your own personal skyline.

Read More…

Poetry: II

A Walkway at Cornell

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”
-Robert Frost

Here’s some more poetry from “In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry.” {Hit the play button to hear the track.}

Enjoy, Mari

*

Recuerdo

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

WE were very tired, we were very merry­
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable­
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry­
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.
*

So & So Reclining on Her Couch

By Wallace Stevens

On her side, reclining on her elbow.
This mechanism, this apparition,
Suppose we call it Projection A.

She floats in air at the level of
The eye, completely anonymous,
Born, as she was, at twenty-one,

Without lineage or language, only
The curving of her hip, as motionless gesture,
Eyes dripping blue, so much to learn.

If just above her head there hung,
Suspended in air, the slightest crown
Of Gothic prong and practick bright,

The suspension, as in solid space,
The suspending hand withdrawn, would be
An invisible gesture. Let this be called

Projection B. To get at the thing
Without gestures is to get at it as
Idea. She floats in the contention, the flux

Between the thing as idea and
The idea as thing. She is half who made her.
This is the final Projection C.

The arrangement contains the desire of
The artist. But one confides in what has no
Concealed creator. One walks easily

The unpainted shore, accepts the world
As anything but sculpture. Good-bye
Mrs. Pappadopoulos, and thanks.

*

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

By Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

*

Ballad of the Gypsy

By Langston Hughes

I went to the Gypsy’s. Gypsy settin’ all alone. I said, Tell me, Gypsy, When will my gal be home? Gypsy said, Silver, Put some silver in my hand And I’ll look into the future And tell you all I can. I crossed her palm with silver, Then she started in to lie. She said, Now, listen, Mister, She’ll be here by and by. Aw, what a lie! I been waitin’ and a-waitin’ And she ain’t come home yet. Something musta happened To make my gal forget. Uh! I hates a lyin’ Gypsy Will take good money from you, Tell you pretty stories And take your money from you– But if I was a Gypsy I would take your money, too.

Poetry: I

At the Robert Frost Stone House Museum

“The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
—William Faulkner

While we were in Vermont we visited the Robert Frost Stone House Museum in Shaftsbury. As a child, my father shared Robert Frost’s poems with me and I can still recite a few of them by heart.

My father passed down to me his love of New England, the written (and spoken) word, and the grand tradition of poetry. When I was in high school I bought (or perhaps it was a gift, I can’t recall) a set of CDs called, “In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry.”

This incredible collection compiles some of the Western World’s most enduring poems, starting with Walt Whitman, recorded in the poets’ own voices. There’s something very special about hearing these words in the voice of the author. Below are some of my favorites from this collection. {Hit the play button to hear the track.}

Enjoy, Mari

*

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

*

Love Is Not All

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

*

Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man

By Ogden Nash

It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,
And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission
and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from
Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as,
in a way, against each other we are pitting them,
And that is, don’t bother your head about the sins of commission because
however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn’t be
committing them.
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you really get painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven’t taken out and the checks you haven’t added up
the stubs of and the appointments you haven’t kept and the bills you
haven’t paid and the letters you haven’t written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn’t as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn’t get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill;
You didn’t slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let’s all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round
of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven’t done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn’t do give you a lot more trouble than the
unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind of
sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.

*

Phenomenal Woman

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
*

next to of course god america i
By e.e. cummings

“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drink rapidly a glass of water

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