Thursday, October 25, 2012

On the 10 Year Anniversary...

Paul Wellstone - October 25, 2002

On a gray, sleety October day,
the plane goes down in the north woods
with the large-hearted senator
whose decency and respect for old ideals
made half the citizens almost happy
to be Americans in a dark time.
Down went his wife and his daughter too,
three campaign workers, two pilots, 
eight in all, the radio says,
neglecting the ninth seat where Death
dressed in an ordinary suit
sat watching for his chance
to do a morning's harvesting.
Do you think he wasn't there
hitching a ride, invisible, just as 
he sat in the box at Ford's Theatre,
held open the convertible door in Dallas?
He sits in the front seat of your car, too,
or waits feigning sleep with his head
resting on the next pillow in your bed. 
So we go on to write the same poem,
sing the same sad song yet once more
not for the dead who have gone
over to the insensible kingdom
but for us who must now carry on
without them. This time, as so often
before, Death snatched a big one
when we could not stand to lose
his voice, which spoke, not alone,
but for us millions who longed
for a world green, alive, about to bloom.

~ Bill Holm, Playing the Black Piano/The Chain Letter of the Soul

I miss both of these voices.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Little Bill Holm

I find myself reading Bill Holm lately, working my way through a few books I had not read before, despite their availability in the house.

I had heard him read several times when he visited Duluth and am thankful for those opportunities to have his "voice" in my ear as I read his work now. Bill passed away on February 25, 2009.

A few poems as we welcome Fall and the colder months:

A Last Word with the Fog

After ten years of whining I'm finally
making friends with the fog.
How courteous of the world out the window
to disappear for a little while.
You, too, can disappear, even in
broad - though murky - daylight.
Only in children's fantasy stories
does the invisibility cloak exist,
and, of course, in Skagafjordur...
Use your disappearance prudently,
as the mountain and the fjord
intend to use their own.
Maybe, with luck, no one will ever
find you again except
yourself, when the fog gives up,
as it always does, and goes away
to give some other lucky fjord
a day or two to disappear.

Alberta Clipper

At twenty below, this wind
has teeth, not a figure
of speech but a fact.
It hungers, not just for cheeks
or fingers or feet.
This zombie zephyr wants
the engine of life itself.
Seized up, stopped dead
as your car is.
Listen to its jaws
clack together on the porch.
Don't open the door.

The Chain Letter of the Soul: New and Selected Poems
Milkweed Editions 2009

Sunday, October 07, 2012


10th St 3 months ago:

Coffee Creek over it's banks and the road

Rapids on the flattest street in our neighborhood

Under the waterfall is our water main and a sewer line
10th St now:
Looking upstream: quite the overflow culvert. Pipe on the right does not line up, wondering how they will fix that.

Looking downstream

Coffee Creek:
If you look very closely you can see the creek, just above the black cloth.
Knowing that we had much less damage then most neighborhoods in Duluth I wasn't too concerned about the delay in repairs until I noticed that 10th St. was no longer listed on the "closed streets" on the City's website. Hmm. I sent a quick email off to the head of Public Works to check on the status. Apparently in the past few years Coffee Creek was designated a trout stream which meant that the DNR was now also involved in the decision regarding repair of this road.   This in addition to documenting damage for FEMA meant delays. I was even told at one point that we had "alternate routes" into the neighborhood so there was some talk of not repairing the road at all! 

I live in one of the older neighborhoods in Duluth (100+ years). Anyone who has been here knows that our alternate routes are quite steep (I live one block from the 3rd steepest street in Duluth). 10th St is the only route into the neighborhood when the roads are icy and/or snow-covered. Needless to say, I fired off an email to explain my views on the need for this repair, including that our water main was currently suspended in midair - not a sustainable plan during a Duluth winter. 

As you can see, the decision was made to make the repair - and to get it done before the really cold weather hits. 

P.S. While this has been an exceptionally dry year (other than the flood event) that is the typical flow for Coffee Creek at the end of the summer. It is a "flashy" stream and rarely has much water in it except during spring runoff and after a significant storm.