Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ekphrasis + SFWA Glory + Reply to Zephyr

1. Qarrtsiluni: Ekphrasis
Update:
April 3rd

Laura Murphy Frankstone and I have a linkage of image and poem at Qarrtsiluni. Other poems of mine are coming out or forthcoming in Books & Culture, The Raintown Review, Electric Velocipede, etc., but this one is special because it's yoked with one of Laura's pictures. You can expand the picture, and there's a place for comments. As a new formal poem, this one's probably due for tweaking down the line... (To the left is a sketch from one of Laura's notebooks, a picture of cardoons in her front garden.)

2. President of FSWA
Update for the confused:
Yes, this was April fooling--part of a group hoax.

This morning I woke up to two grackles in the dryer hose pipe, fluttering and madly grackling. In fright, my hair stood on end and began to burn. What surprise to find that the birds' remarks, once decoded, were a nomination to head SFWA. Naturally, I felt flattered. However, I did not grasp this mystic injunction because, quite frankly, I am Out Of It. I was not familiar with these letters. After much questioning, I find that these impetuous, noisy birds meant for me to head up the Small Furry Wombats of America.
*
This has caused me considerable confusion, since wombats are not native to this continent. Weasels, yes. I refuse to be president of Weasels. I have known many a weasel entirely too well, and if elected to a confederation of Small Furry Weasels, I will not serve. However, wombats are endearing, at least from the distance between the States and Australia. Gladly will I run, and gladly will I serve. I imagine there are three or four wombat pets lolling about on the Southern beaches, and a few more resident in zoos, but there shouldn't be much to it except the honor. Thank you. Our ensign will be a Wombat Rampant Upon Crossed Grackle Feathers. I understand that I have the complete support of the grackles, who have now laid an egg in the dryer pipe.

Update: My suspicions were raised to the level of my still up-ended hair by some careless birdwords. The grackles, after I threatened to dry a sopping load of laundry, admitted that they had been sent by an Evil Monkey and his henchman Vandermeerkat, in order to scuttle my nomination elsewhere. Evidently the Monkey has designs on SAWF as a steppingstone to world domination, and has a messenger army of grackles, bluejays, and escaped budgies to do his bidding.

3. Reply to a zephyr

The high heaps of crystals on my two cottage garden beds have abruptly melted away, and little crowds have taken their place--pale blue crocuses, crocuses white on the inside and purple on the outside, sunny aconite, and snowdrops. Close by, the snow is deep; what bravery in the tiny things, to begin blooming while deep in their crystal hills.
*
Now is the time for mirth,

Nor cheek, or tongue be dumbe:

For with the flowrie earth

The golden pomp is come.

--from Robert Herrick, To live merrily, and to trust to Good Verses

Zephyr left me--and you--a request after that last startling post--startling and heartening that a love note to poetry could elicit so many comments. Here she is:
...so, here's my question
for you and others:
what poem or picture
do you keep in your head
to keep the soul eaters at bay
while taxing, ferrying amidst stupid drivers,
herding dust bunnies when you'd rather be writing poems....etc?

Yesterday was the sort of day she describes; I had finished the taxes, but had to take children to lessons, did a major amount of housecleaning, and performed as a Saturday Mama must. In between, I sat down and read, in various snips of time, some poems by Andrew Marvell, Robert Herrick, and Hugh MacDiarmid.

Mean while the Mind, from pleasure less
Withdraws into its happiness:
The Mind, that Ocean where each kind
Does streight its own resemblance find;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other world, and other Seas;
Annihilating all that's made
To a green Thought in a green Shade.
--Marvell, The Garden

All is lithogenesis--or lochia,
Carpolite fruit of the forbidden tree,
Stones blacker than any in the Caaba,
Cream-coloured caen-stone, chatoyant pieces...
--MacDiarmid, On a Raised Beach

I also read "A Blue Tale" and two other stories by the young Marguerite Duras, translated by Alberto Manguel. The "blue" story is more like poetry than many a poem: "They had to crawl on their knees into the cave, which opened to the world through a narrow mouth with cracked lips. But its deep throat was unexpectedly spacious, and once their eyes had befriended the darkness[that phrase is a bit weak, isn't it?], they discovered everywhere fragments of sky between the fissures of the rocks. A pristine lake occupied the center of the underground chamber. When the Italian merchant threw in a chip to measure its depth, no sound was heard; instead, bubbles formed on the surface as if a mermaid, suddenly awoken, had breathed out all the air from her blue lungs. The Greek merchant dipped thirsty hands into the water, which colored them up to the wrists like the boiling liquid in a dyer's vat, but he failed to catch the sapphires floating like schools of nautilus on these waters denser than the ocean. Then the young woman undid her long tresses and dipped her hair into the water, catching the sapphires as if in the silky mesh of a dark net."

Zephyr wants to know what comes into my mind when I have "thirsty hands" that reach for "sapphires" in the midst of a too-busy day. I find that there are too many to tell. But the poems that came into my mind yesterday--the ones that floated zephyr-like through, rather than being read--were the lovely "Spring and Fall," by Hopkins, that begins with "Margaret, are you grieving / Over goldengrove unleaving," and Shakespeare's sonnet that begins, "From you have I been absent in the spring, / When proud-pied April dress'd in all his trim / Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing, /That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him." Those two are among those that often put in an appearance because I know them well, and I wish that I possessed a whole anthology in my head. I'm going to work on that idea.

One day is easier to master than all days: that one will have to stand for the others.

And she asks about pictures. My house does tend to be a bit picture-heavy. One of my more absurd goals is to obliterate the wallpaper in my office by hanging too many pictures! I have a lot of prints and paintings by friends, some of them people I've "lost" in my many moves. And I've had a passionate love for the works of various painters. Again, it's hard to say, because there are so very many. My favorite fairly-recent art show was the splendid gathering of paintings and fragments of Fra Angelico at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. To think of somebody who can knock socks off a crowd, more than five hundred years after his death! And I did think about a painting or two today: one was "The Sleeping Gypsy," by Rousseau. Growing up, I saw a reproduction of that one often, because one hung in my mother's office at the university library. Another one that drifted by was Friedrich's oil of a procession of monks winding through a leafless oak forest, toward the ruins of an abbey. When I went to MOMA last year, I found that so many painters I loved in childhood held up for me. (But I went through the traveling show of Munch paintings and found that he had lessened in his impact--and was not the same for me as he was when I saw a Munch show in London, years ago.) I suppose others may have slipped through my mind today, but those I recall.

So I didn't quite answer the question.

I answered it for only one day, and Zephyr asked for all days. But perhaps you can answer that question, asked of us all, better than I can...

***
Wombat is courtesy of www.sxc.hu and wombat fan Xavier Lukins of Paris. The photograph of aconites and snowdrops comes from www.sxc.hu and Helen Humphrey of Lincolnshire, England. Those bloomed at Belton House.
*

40 comments:

  1. My tried and true bit of poetry, the go-to lines when I need something familiar to fall back on, is a soliloquy from Romeo and Juliet that I memorized in high school. My class did Act V on stage, and my part was Romeo's monologue as he went to see Juliet one last time.

    Close second (also memorized for an English class in high school) is Wordsworth's "Daffodils". Except I usually forget some lines and get frustrated, defeating the purpose.

    Beyond Zephyr's question, my mind is full to bursting.

    Until it is sorted into the appropriate shape of clutter,

    -- The Outsider

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  2. I remember Zephyr's question comment and at the time I thought off the top of my mind that the poem I keep going back to for soul replenishment was Edna St. Vincent Millay's Renascence. I tried to pick out qa favorite line to highlight but I just cant rip out a piece of it. Here is a link to the poem in its entirety:
    http://www.everypoet.com/archive/poetry/Edna_St_Vincent_Millay/edna_st_vincent_millay_renascence.htm

    Also, I thought about this song, some euro emo band called the perishers. Its a great dedication for those friends who give back to your soul instead of eating it. It can be heard here:

    http://dawn152.podbean.com/2007/02/20/the-perishers-sway/

    I am going to have to read this post more carefully tomorrow. THis is just a preliminary comment :o)

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. It kept cutting half this address off

    http://www.everypoet.com/
    archive/poetry/
    Edna_St_Vincent_Millay/
    edna_st_vincent_millay
    _renascence.htm

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  5. When I was a child, a painting of The Lady Of Shalott hung in my bedroom...
    Sometimes I adored it ( ie. stared at it for ages) or sometimes I found it so scary I had to put it outside my bedroom on the landing at night..

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  6. Annie,

    When my daughter was in fifth grade, I made an anthology of good-poems-to-memorize for her class. She picked Kathleen Raine's "Spell of Creation" and Puck's late speech that begins "Now the hungry lion roars" from A Midsummer Night's Dream. She can still rattle away on that one.

    The appropriate shape of clutter: that's something I need to master.

    Susanna,

    I was very surprised by that choice! How interesting, the little shards that we collect of people's lives--and look through them and find that all is kaleidoscope.

    Jan,

    When I was still a teenager, I hung a big picture of Chagall's "Le Poète allongé" over my bed, and it stayed there until my parents moved from that house. It never scared me, but I know what you mean about needing to banish certain images--I can remember being frightened to turn certain pages in books, knowing what illustration was coming up.

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  7. I like your idea of covering up the wallpaper with pictures. If pictures are windows into other worlds you will not be short of a view.

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  8. Sometimes, as today, I don't have time and I don't have answers, and my mind is deeply occupied elsewhere, but I want to say that, even under these conditions, I read you and admire you.
    I hope that is enough.

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  9. Laura,

    Quite!

    Clare,

    I need a little view of Chester, and you need a little one of Cooperstown. Then we could lean out our windows and chat and complain about publishers. But I guess this will do.

    ***

    And now I shall confuse everyone by adding a new section to the post.

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  10. I am not deterred, as one of my primary interests is "intelligent confusion".

    That said, I can only understand enough of this new section to know that you, Marly, excel when it comes to the "indulge whimsy" rule for Living.


    PS: I think at least half of the best poetry of the last century was written for children (or in a way that accommodates them). But I was a kid for the most of my experiences of last century, so I'm biased. :)

    And Clare, you remind me that I have particular goal: When I live in my House That Has Everything, one room will have all the walls and ceiling and floor covered with doors. Just doors. Of all shapes, colors, ages, and sizes.

    ...

    For some reason I'm starting to feel like the kid in class who always raises a hand first, and gets cranky when the teacher calls on someone else. Or when Mom sends the same lunch two days in a row.

    I should spend more time away from my computer, eh? Too bad! Back to writing.

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  11. I like Charles Causley's poems for children, Annie.

    I hope that there will be wonderful things behind the doors. Little boxes in the floor with treasures.

    You can probably figure things out by clicking on the link! One must honor the calendar.

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  12. You mention Charles Causley; just this last week in my writing class, I used his wonderful " Eden Rock"...recalling parents at a family picnic..where " the sky lightens as if lit by three suns", where " they beckon from the other bank" ...
    Causley was a Cornish poet, much appreciated by OTHER poets who greatly admired his work..

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  13. Ah, now I see what the SFWA. My selectivelexia confused things (which were further distorted by google's results for "SAWF"), and the link was rather cryptic. Shame on me for not following cryptic leads.

    Causley, a name I've never heard before. After a little poking around and finding some of his poems read aloud, I'd like to have him share a shelf with CS Lewis.

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  14. Jan,

    Oh, I like "Eden Rock." That's a lovely poem. He has so many, whether they are published for adults or children--and I don't think he saw any difference.

    I have the very handsome David R. Godine edition of his collected poems, but it's not the final one--I do wish I had that one.

    Annie,

    I bet you bumped into "I am the great sun," a marvelous, powerful little poem. It is deservedly popular.

    You know, he would not object to sitting on the shelf with C. S. Lewis, but he was admired by very different sorts of poets--poets like Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin.

    You figured it out... But the grackles were absolutely true. Happy April Fool's!

    ***

    Who?

    Who is that child I see wandering, wandering

    Down by the side of the quivering stream?

    Why does he seem not to hear, though I call to him?

    Where does he come from, and what is his name?

    *

    Why do I see him at sunrise and sunset

    Taking, in old-fashioned clothes, the same track?

    Why, when he walks, does he cast not a shadow

    Though the sun rises and falls at his back?

    *

    Why does the dust lie so thick on the hedgerow

    By the great field where a horse pulls the plough?

    Why do I see only meadow, where houses

    Stand in a line by the riverside now?

    *

    Why does he move like a wraith by the water,

    Soft as the thistledown on the breeze blown?

    When I draw near him so that I may hear him,

    Why does he say that his name is my own?

    --Charles Causley

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  15. Marly, once again, you have--in one post (and the responses)--given me enough to chase down/study/roll over my tongue--so much deliciousness.

    and i will adopt the lines from Herrick, particularly the first.
    One-liners can be so potent, no?
    and because it is a word i never hear anyone utter i am certain that i shall find myself, in the middle of some dark night, comforting myself with and chuckling warmly over
    "now is the time for mirth"
    i do not know why, but that (as my mom would say) tickles me.

    Now, for the very important matter of President of the FSWA:
    wombats, yes
    weasels, no way (let those fur balls fight among themselves)

    honorary titles are pretty cool
    especially if they come with certificates adorned with
    gorgeous calligraphy...
    and as long as the honorary duties do not interfer with
    bed time stories
    blog posts
    poetry and novel making
    and the rest

    now to Google Causley

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  16. zephyr,

    "Now is the time for mirth": well, it is the right day for it!

    Yes, I think a large, elegant certificate in beautiful calligraphy--an elegant "W" for "Wombat"--would look quite nice over my desk.

    Have fun with Causley. There's a good introduction to his life and work by Dana Gioia somewhere on the web.

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  17. Oh, so much with the inspiration and things to read and learn. The Dana Gioia piece on Causley is really beautiful, as is that poem you posted. Perhaps one of the favorites I've read today.

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  18. Marly,
    I seem to have rabbits and weasels galore

    Your post will take time to absorb!

    I have put some daffs up for you withthe blackthorn too.

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  19. Robert,

    After foolish April 1, SWFA will be Rather Old News, so don't take too long to absorb it!

    Blackthorn and daffodils sound so utterly England-in-the-spring... See you there!

    Annie,

    Somewhere I have a wonderful article by Causley that I need to unearth--I'll stick up some quotes from him when I find it. (My office is in an uproar, having been moved into the center hall and then back again.)

    Seems to me that I also read a nice tribute to him by Susan Hill, another U.K. writer.

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  20. Zephyr's question gave me pause the first time I read it. I don't hold to any particulars, really, there are so many. But the longer I thought on it, the more I realized there are bits I keep coming back to.

    Pictures... my mind's eye conjures up retreats to wild and wonderful places I've been — from white raging rivers to the tiny green spaces in the branches of my own little apple tree. 

    But paintings... oh, several by friends, and then I sometimes return to lose myself in JMW Turner:
    norham castle, sunrise
    sun setting over a lake
    sunrise with sea monsters

    Poetry's for later — I'm fragmented today.

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  21. Hullo, mb--

    Oh, yes, places we've been--a whole other area for images. The world's so full of magical places, though they're being destroyed at a great rate.

    If you like those particular Turners, I'll bet you like--or would like--some of the more misty, strange-lit paintings of John Frederick Kensett and Sanford Robinson.

    Drudgement calls.

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  22. Turner would be considered a romantic, but what I like about those paintings is that he focused so much on the light that the paintings are almost abstractions, almost pure light and color. For me, that makes them distinct from the Hudson School work (even the mistier landscapes) and perhaps more like the impressionists, maybe more toward Monet's waterlily studies, for example.

    I liked Ingledove very much, by the way. Immersed myself in it on the plane and was delighted!

    Drudgement makes me imagine rag-tied hair and cinders flying... hope it's not too much of that.

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  23. mb,

    Oh yes, I agree with that--was thinking about some of the more minimal Luminist paintings...

    Glad you liked the book. You are among a select few, as it garnered good reviews but didn't get "a push."

    Actually I was called Ashputtle on Saturday, because I caught on hands and knees in the fireplace, shoveling up the ash. I'm trying to get all in order before I go to Yaddo. I was just cleaning the kitchen when seized by the idea that I have to give a talk soon--so I just looked on the blog to see what the title is supposed to be! Now I shall go scrub some more while I think about what it means.

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  24. vdThe poem that i learned to love poetry by, in college poetry class, was Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night."

    I particulary thought of it yesterday, while standing by mom's hospital bed. She is miraculously some better, as I e-mailed, and I thought of this poem. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

    I also love A.A. Milne's children's poems, in particular, "Have You Been a Good Girl Jane?" And Shel Silverstein can always make me laugh.

    And of course Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath.

    As for pictures, where do I start? Renoir's paintings, Degas' paintings, and yet Pollack, and Kahlo, and O'Keefee, and oh so many more. As an artist, it never ends.

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  25. I took a break from my spring cleaning morning to take my bowl of cereal and lap top out to my little garden and read up on everybody's news and I am so glad I did.

    Reading this update with my breakfast outside in the early morning air with the birds chirping really felt nice.

    I think the marriage of you poetry with Laura's work is perfect. The things she paints and her colors are what me and Mike like. I could put her stuff up all over my walls.

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  26. b. q.,

    Poems find us out in the strangest and even the saddest places. I'm thinking of you and your mama, amid all these poems and pictures.

    ***

    Susanna the Alabamian maid--

    That's what they would have called you in the nineteenth century, and it pops into my mind when you have on the straw hat.

    She does have a grand color sense. And yes, it would be very nice to have a Frankstone on the wall! She hasn't had a show in a while. Maybe soon, though I think she's very busy right now.

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  27. Marly, am rushing off to Charlotte to see my mother, but wanted to just give a quick squeak of pleasure at seeing our first collaboration in print, as it were.
    Isn't it fun??

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  28. Safe driving--I don't like that route much.

    Yes, it is!

    Perhaps a mighty and rich poetry-and-pictures fan will want to do a lavish book of us. Wouldn't that be marvelous? Of course, it's exactly the sort of thing publishers don't often do.

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  29. Congratulations to you both!
    and i have to say i love learning this new word
    Qarrtsiluni

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  30. Yes, it is an interesting word, though I'm notsure how it should sound. Perhaps if I sit in the darkness and wait, that will come to me...

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  31. Just started to read your SWFA again, I can't keep up! 1st April was ages ago and I have just arrived!!

    Wombats are a rather nasty bit of military kit that you shouldn’t stand behind! (Like horses; can be dangerous at both ends!). I read things upside down, back to front and recognise words that aren’t there. Trying to remember how to spell soupçon is time consuming too, not in dictionary and French expressions google etc. It is good though. Erik has got me thinking about Art and Photography; Chris about Far Eastern culture, and Finnish school teachers; Gawain about ancient painters of the south; Conrad about The Bard and more; Blue Genes about the problems in the Persian Gulf; and then there’s the Alabama accordion recital; and now I get to the April fool and as for April fools, well I was born in April!

    I am only allowed an hour a day on this thing and I’ve not yet done my bit about Far Eastern / American influence on Art in 19 c Paris and vice-versa. Nor the Yeats home life wonder. Nor the pictures in the exhibition in Capri, nor the Arizona moths, nor answered your last email which I will do, promise. But I have at last got one of my heroes up.

    Sorry to hear the snow is still around, can’t be long now.

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  32. Happy Birthday, Robert!

    We are due for snow tonight, tomorrow, Friday, Saturday, and even Easter Sunday. So they say, those weathermen of ours. Right now it looks like the deluge--rain on the snow heaps--but the temperature is due for a dropping. Ah well, I've put up with big snows in May here, so it's hopeless to complain.

    One hour a day is quite sensible! But time moves faster on the web, you know. Can't do it all.

    Thank you for the advice on The Wombat. The grackles deceived me woefully.

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  33. As usual, Marly, you got me thinking. I've been pondering why I don't respond to the Hudson River School luminism in the same way as Turner or even Friedrich. I think it has to do with my sense of expressiveness and emotion that appears in a work. Gesture over detail maybe? And the abstraction?

    Back to Zephyr's question, which made me realize I have committed relatively few poems to memory: "Hwaet! We gardena in geardagum..." "Whan that April with his showres..." (timely!) Many bits of AA Milne from my childhood. And of course I have all sorts of songs that run through my brain. But as for poems, I'm more likely to find refuge from "soul eating" in the ones I return to again and again, such as Wendell Berry's The Peace of Wild Things, Mary Oliver's Wild Geese, William Stafford's A Ritual to Read to Each Other.

    (And happy birthday to Robert from another April-born!)

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  34. mb,

    Well, I do think that Kensett, say, is not quite as distinct from his near cousins in the art--at least to me--than Turner and Friedrich, who are both unmistakable artists.

    Yes,I have not memorized enough! And will do more. I admire Gioia's ability to do a whole reading of his own and other people's poems without looking a the page.

    Happy birthday, all ye April-born! (Reminded me of the Cauldron-born but sounds far fairer. My husband is an April-born.)

    ***

    I have a sick kid at home, so I won't be paying any visits today, not even e-ones... Whooping cough is going around, despite those immunizations. Hope it's not that one.

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  35. I hope the sick kid does not have whooping cough either. That would NOT be good.

    Also I cannot imagine you as president of the wombats. You don't look or act much like a wombat to me. :)

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  36. Hope may be vain! Antibiotics appear on the way.

    Thank you. I appreciate that little vote of not-wombat confidence.

    Now, back to my butlerless butler's pantry, where I am busily cleaning and dreaming.

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  37. I'm glad I stopped by for an update. The joint effort by you and Laura presented at that link is a good place to stop and breathe today. :)

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  38. I left you an easter egg on my site. Its not great but an easter egg all the same.

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  39. Annie,

    Thanks for popping over to Qarrtsiluni...

    Susanna,

    Hey, it just ain't Easter till it's Easter. But thank you!

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  40. I love these poems. What great suggestions in this thread.
    Matt

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.