I missed blog posts this week due to adopting our second dog Saturday morning. Our fur-kid Franz Alanzo now has a sister-mate, Bianca Jean, a shelter dog who had been seriously neglected, the result of which she has had two litters of puppies (one litter a few months ago) and a severe shoulder injury.
Meanwhile, our lives have been close to chaos since the weekend while we've all been sorting out the new arrangements. Like my husband's classmate warned him, with two dogs the house gets very doggie.
But I want to talk about one of my favorite poems ever, one by Pasadena poet Ron Koertge. Getting a degree from Sarah Lawrence College, most of my exposure to living poets were to East Coast writers popular in the 1990s like Mark Doty, Stanley Kunitz and Molly Peacock.
Moving to Los Angeles in 2002, I was pleased to encounter West Coast voices. Now I have Koertge's selected works, Making Love to Roget's Wife. With similarities and connections to Billy Collins, the titles are always meandering, compelling and his poems are humorous, irreverent, and often about pop culture subjects like "On the Anniversary of His Death, the Men of the Village Meet to Talk about Frankenstein;" and yet he can be just as ecstatic and reverent with "What a Varied Place the World Is So Trusting and Strange So Deserving of Praise" or a poem called "Lazarus" that ends, "God's name in vain on his cracked and loamy lips."
He has wonderful short poems like this one, "Diary Cows" (and you know I love me some poems about cows!)
Got up early, waited for the farmer.
Hooked us all up to the machines as usual.
Typical trip to the pasture, typical
afternoon grazing and ruminating.
About 5:00 back to the barn. What
a relief! Listened to the radio during
dinner. Lights out at 7:00.
I found the favorite poem one day while working at The Prostate Cancer Foundation, Mike Milken's cancer charity in a Santa Monica building I used to dub The Castle. I was sitting at my desk hating my boss at the time (an incompetent blowhard who issued insults office-wide to hide his mistakes) and I was depressed about the situation when I found this poem online, "A Guide to Refreshing Sleep"
It is best to remember those nights
when grown-ups were singing and breaking
glass and someone who smelled good
carried you up hushed stairs toward strange
cold bedrooms to be launched on a dark
lake of coats.
If Memory does not suffice, you may
summon the obvious mascots of sleep,
but forego counting. It is miserly. They
will come and stand by your bed, nodding
their graceful Egyptian heads, inviting you
across the crooked stile to one of those
hamlets nestled between blue hills
where the curious are curious about sleep,
the enthralled are enthralled with sleep,
and the great conclusion is always,
Its time for bed.
Look--a cottage door stands open. On the night
table is a single candle, yellow sheets are turned
back, and in the garden are marshaled
the best dreams in the world. Lie down.
The horrible opera of the day is over.
Close your eyes, so the world which loves you
can go to sleep, too.