“Stealth”, Howard Stein

“Stealth”, Howard Stein

It’s heading into midsummer. So, the perfect time to post a short poem about autumn. “Stealth” by Howard Stein (who has an interesting bio)captures the transitory, and elusive, nature of the seasons. Me, I’m still thinking 2019 is a new year, rather than one nearly half over. From Songs of Eretz Poetry Review:


Howard Stein

Fall arrives by stealth —

Just when no one is looking,

A few telltale leaves

Scrape along the dry sidewalk.

Soon, there is no turning back.

Poet’s Notes: In mid-September 2018, I was sitting on my porch, noticing an occasional brown leaf float to the ground. A few dry leaves scratched on the sidewalk when the Oklahoma breeze was swift enough. From that spell emerged this poem.


“Machinery” by Robert Wrigley

On what would have been my father’s 87th Birthday this poem by Robert Wrigley seems fitting. It captures something of the tension between the worlds of literary endeavour and the practical, literal workaday world ; a world with, as Wrigley writes, its own evocative vocabulary and moments of poetry:




My father loved every kind of machinery,

relished bearings, splines, windings, and cogs,

loved the tolerances between moving parts

and the parts that moved the parts,

the many separate machines of machinery.

Loved the punch, the awl, the ratchet, the pawl.

In-feed and out-feed rollers of the thickness planer,

its cutter head and cutters. The barrel and belt sanders,

the auger, capstan, windlass, and magneto.

Such a beautiful vocabulary in his work, words

he knew even if often he did not know

how they were spelled. Seals, risers, armatures.

Claw, ball-peen, sledge, dead-blow, mallet,

hammers all. Butt, mitered, half-lap,

tongue and groove; mortise and tenon,

biscuit, rabbet, dovetail, and box: all joints.

“A poem is a small (or large) machine

made of words,” said William Carlos Williams.

“To build the machine that makes the machine,”

said Elon Musk. Once my father repaired

a broken harpsichord but could not make it sing.

The chock, the bore, the chisel. He could hang a door,

rebuild an engine. Cylinders, pistons, and rings.

Shafts, crank and cam. Hand-cut notches

where the hinges sat. He loved the primary feathers

on the wings of a duck, extended and catching air,

catching also the tops of the whitecap waves

when it landed. Rods, valves, risers, and seals.

Ailerons and flaps, yaw control in the tail.

Machinery, machinery, machinery.

Four syllables in two iambic feet. A soft pulse.

Once I told him what Williams said,

he approached what I made with deeper interest

but no more understanding in the end.

The question he did not ask, that would have

embarrassed him to ask, the question I felt sure

he wanted to ask, the one I was too embarrassed 

to ask for him, was “What does it do?”

Eventually the machine his body was broken,

and now it is gone, and the mechanically inclined

machine in his head is also gone,

and most of his tools. The machines that made

the machines are gone too, but for a few

I have kept in remembrance. A fine wood plane

but not the thickness planer, which I would not know

how to use. A variety of clamps I use to clamp

things needing clamping. Frost said

“poetry is the sort of thing poets write.” My father

thought it was the sort of thing I wrote,

but what mattered to him was what it did.

What does it do, and what is it? 

A widget that resists conclusions.

A crank that turns a wheel

that turns. A declaration of truth

by a human being running at full speed

in a race with no one, toward nowhere

except away from the beginning and toward arrival.

Once my father watched the snow

and noted how landing on the earth it melted.

He said, “It’s snow that doesn’t know it’s rain.”


Three Victor Silvester songs for May 10th


Deep Purple/Soir Indigo:

Information from the YouTube page of the above:

“Deep Purple” composed by Peter De Rose was first published in 1933. The piano composition became very popular and in 1938 lyrics were added by Mitchell Parish. More information on “Deep Purple” can be found here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Pur…)

To French audiences the song was known as “Soir Indigo” and was a big hit for the French female crooner Léo Marjane. Victor Silvester was world champion balllroom dancer who founded his own orchestra in 1935 because he felt there were no adequate records for dancing…. He went on to sell more than 75 million records throughout his career.

More info on Victor Silvester can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_S…

Nearly 100 years after the sinking of “Titanic” this video features another legendary ocean liner : RMS Queen Mary. She made her maiden trip in 1936 and remained a favourite with the travelling public until her retirement in 1967. The video shows her leaving on her maiden voyage as well as her conversion to a troop ship during the Second World War. Being a museum as well as a hotel, she is now berthed in Long Beach, California. More info on this great ocean liner can be found here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Quee…

“In The Still Of The Night” with “art slideshow”

Again from the YouTube page’s info:


Art slideshow set to “In the Still of the Night” by Victor Silvester Orchestra. Includes mostly impressionist landscape paintings (with some Symbolism, Romanticism and Expressionism thrown in) depicting evening, night, sunset, streets in the rain etc. Supposed to appear a bit gloomy. In order of appearance:

Lesser Ury – Sonnenuntergang am Grunewaldsee (1900s)

Lesser Ury – Landwehrkanal 1920

Aristarkh Lentulov – The sun above the roofs. 1928

Arkary Rylov – Sunset

Arkady Rylov – Seagulls. Sunset.

Théodore Rousseau – Sunset Near Arbonne

Ivan Aivazovsky – Night in Crimea

Caspar David Friedrich – Evening

Armand Guillaumin – Sunset at Ivry (Soleil couchant à Ivry), 1873

Georges Seurat – Man at the parapet

Lesser Ury – Unter den Linden nach dem Regen

Lesser Ury – Hochbahnhof Bülowstraße 1922

Vincent van Gogh – Starry Night over the Rhone

Vincent van Gogh – The yellow house (‘The street’), 1888

Vincent van Gogh – Houses Seen from the Back

Lesser Ury – Am Landwehrkanal im Herbst

Lesser Ury – Unter den Linden

Claude Monet – Boulevard des Capucines

Camille Pissarro – Boulevard Monmartre in Paris

Camille Pissarro – Boulevard Montmartre au printemps, 1897

Camille Pissarro – Boulevard Montmartre la nuit, 1898

Vincent van Gogh – Starry Night

Van Gogh – Cafe Terrace at Night

Edvard Munch – Kiss by the window

Finally an excursion into Latin-influenced sounds, with the bossanova Desafinado:

L.M. Sacasas on accusations of romanticising the past.

At The Frailest Thing blog, L.M. Sacasas identifies something I’ve often noticed and wish there was a handy word for:

Steven Pinker and Jason Hickel have recently engaged in a back-and-forth about whether or not global poverty is decreasing. The first salvo was an essay by Hickel in the Guardian targeting claims made by Bill Gates. Pinker responded here, and Hickel posted his rejoinder at his site.

I’ll let you dive in to the debate if you’re so inclined. The exchange is of interest to me, in part, because evaluations of modern technology are often intertwined with this larger debate about the relative merits of what, for brevity’s sake, we may simply call modernity (although, of course, it’s complicated).

I’m especially interested in a rhetorical move that is often employed in these kinds of debates:  it amounts to the charge of romanticizing the past.

So, for example, Pinker claims, “Hickel’s picture of the past is a romantic fairy tale, devoid of citations or evidence.” I’ll note in passing Hickel’s response, summed up in this line: “All of this violence, and much more, gets elided in your narrative and repackaged as a happy story of progress. And you say I’m the one possessed of romantic fairy tales.” Hickel, in my view, gets the better of Pinker on this point.

In any case, the trope is recurring and, as I see it, tiresome. I wrote about it quite early in the life of this blog when I explained that I did not, in fact, wish to be a medieval peasant.

More recently, Matt Stoller tweeted, “When I criticize big tech monopolies the bad faith response is often a variant of ‘so you want to go back to horses and buggies?!?’” Stoller encountered some variant of this line so often that he was searching for a simple term by which to refer to it. It’s a Borg Complex symptom, as far as I’m concerned.

At a forum about technology and human flourishing I recently attended, the moderator, a fine scholar whose work I admire, explicitly cautioned us in his opening statements against romanticizing the past.

It would take no time at all to find similar examples, especially if you expand “romanticizing the past” to include the equally common charge of reactionary nostalgia. Both betray a palpable anxiousness about upholding the superiority of the present.

Reminds me of David Cooper’s “shouting about humankind being part of nature may mask a fear that it is nothing of the sort.”  One wishes for a handy German term.  Or some other neologism.

“The tide rises, the tide falls, / The twilight darkens, the curlew calls”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a poet whose stellar reputation of the late 19th and early 20th Century is rather in eclipse, to say the least. No doubt his star will rise again. However, “The tide rises, the tide falls” is one of the more enigmatic, haunting poems I have come across. And again the curlew’s cry, here as perpetual as the tides and twilight. Another marker of what we have lost and what we will lose if the curlew’s cry goes silent.

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls