Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Courting Cool

As a 70's era hooligan who blasted obnoxiuosness through the speakers, smoked cigarettes in the girls' room and learned all about the joys of flipping the bird at anyone wearing polyester, listening to disco, or otherwise deemed un-cool, the 1950's homogenization seemed worlds away, a museum exibit at best, a side-show attraction at worst, mocked for its conformity. What did we know, each of us down the line who wouldn't be caught in anything other than blue-jeans. It wasn't allowed if you wanted in the club.
The decade between us and them-the 60's- had loosened ideas, raised hem-lines and lengthened hair. It changed eveything in a big way. But our generation was the remnants of Pandora's Box opened and left with little more to rebel against except pimples and parents who plunged into nostalgia humming doo-wop on an 8-track. We thought we were so hip, set apart from the conservatism adults wallowed in, hip because we sewed patched of Mick Jagger's lips on the asses of our jeans. And to a point, we were, daring consequenses to slap away our freedom, send us to our rooms to think about what we had done (as we smoked cigarettes at the window). It was a progression towards growing away from the assurity of a bed to sleep in, a meal to wake up to, someone to go to if the house caught fire. We never thought the certanty of our cool would fade, that our superiority over repression, greased back in a D.A. or leashed inside a poodle-skirt, would sit next to each other for a beer one day, celebrate the audacity we both had for flipping the bird in three chords.
I think it only took growing into my hormones to see that angst is the same for every generation, that each decade has its own windmills to defeat, real dragons to tame and slap a saddle on for a ride after midnight, after sneaking out our windows.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Voodoo in The 'Ville

There is not one plant that I don't like or can at least appreciate no matter how ordinary or unusual, weedy or weird, or aromatically repulsive. Some species are an aquired taste to say the least. But if we can look past what we consider a negative trait, we may appreciate how plants have developed their own unique stratagies for thriving in environments we wouldn't last two seconds in, much less reproduce our own species.
Some plants, however, are truly an aquired taste, asking us not to simply stretch past our comfort zone, but to leap with abandon into weirdness. One such species is the Voodoo Lily, know botanically as amorophaphallus. What makes this a standout in strange, primarily is it's odor. It's not called a corpse flower for nothing. Believe me. And if you don't, just ask my neighbors. Well, maybe you had better not stir up a stink.
I thought I'd share my upcoming article (slightly tailored) in the Louisville Area Iris Society's newsletter to go into all the gruesome details. And I encourage folks to look around on the web for photos. Descriptions alone just don't do this amazing species justice. You won't be disappointed if you like a truly unusual plant.

Off The Garden Path

"A Bloom With A Phew!"
Amorphaphallus konjac, sauromatum venosum, dracanulus vulgaris: these are just a few names only a mother could love. But once you see these plants, their monikers only add to their appeal. Commonly known as Voodo Lilies, these members of the araceae family(aroids) will knock your socks off (or it may just smell like it) with their appearance, keep unwanted snoops out of your yard with their noxious odor- the smell of rotting flesh- although they may attract a vulture or two. But hey, consider it your own personal wild kingdom.. Not to worry though, the odor lasts only a few days, while the blooms endures for a week or so, much longer in some cultivars.
And later in the season, when they re-emerge, some, like paeoniifolius, can produce the most unique foliage.
The stalk looks like lizard skin- stippled and splotched green, maroon and cream. I have a bulb that weighs nearly five pounds and produce foliage nearly five feet tall, spanned four feet. I could have sat underneath and dodged raindrops.
There are many varieties of amorphaphallus, most, easy to care for, some hardy to zone five.
Wikipedia and Dave's Garden are good places to start for info and photos. Search the web for prices, availability, ect. Some varieties, such as dracanulus vulgaris and konjac are not expensive, while other more hard to find bulbs will leave you mooching meals off your mama for a while.
Like most arums, many Voodoo lilies prefer shade/pt sun, not too wet or too dry. Be sure to get specifics on care, as some Southeast Asia and have different bloom times, needs, ect. I strongly advise you plant them away from windows and walkways, unless you have a pesky neighbor. Revenge isn't always sweet smelling. 'Scuse for a moment folks-"what's that? Oh, allright." The editor has just informed me to tell you that the sentiments of this article do not reflect those of The Iris Fan and are in no way intended as encouragement to the aforementioned behavior of the author. Party pooper. Moving along then.
Did you know that the tallest flower on earth is a stinker? Amorphaphallus titanum to be exact. It spikes over ten feet tall, the foliage reaching twenty feet into the sky, spanning sixteen feet across. Now that's a garden plant, maybe the ONLY plant in your garden. Now get this, the heaviest bulb recorded, at Kew Gardens in England, busted the scales at 200 pounds. I doubt if it worried whether or not its ass was fat. Just saying.
So, please do have a look around at this fascinating species. As I said, they aren't for everyone, but all who see them are guaranteed to be left shocked and amazed.
Smell ya later.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Into Amazonia

I feel so official now- my new book, The Courtship Of Reason is available on Amazon. My publisher, Finishing Line Press, sent me an email this morning telling the good news. I have to say that it seems a little surreal, but I'm danged happy to have my work out there, come what may. Here's the link and please feel free to add a review if you'd like.

Since I'm shamelessly self-promoting the book, I thought I would post one more piece from it.

At Sea

It takes two thousand years
for ocean currents to rise from the deep,
circle the world

and return ancient sailors lost
though their bones turned to memory
in the brine,

still, they come back to us,
speak to those inclined to the sea
not to worry
if their ships are claimed by elementals,

there is another vessel
for the journey.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I crossed paths with a coyote today while driving a private road in the country. It skuttled away, carrying some prize in its jaws, turned to see if I had a mind to steal it, or perhaps make a meal of its own flesh. I slowed, came to a stop and we both looked each other over for a moment. I had never been so close to a wild coyote before and was thrilled to see one twenty yards away. Its coat was full and healthy, gleaming in the spring sun. It carried itself with intelligence as it watched for my movements while continuing its meal. I won't say anything as cliche'd as "it was a mystical moment". The coyote was only concerned for its lunch and hide. I only wanted to observe wildlife. That was our moment. Then, feeling as if my presence and staring eyes were causing stress, I went on my way, leaving the coyote to go on hers.
What could be considered an unusual experience, is seeing something transformative within the mundane. For me, that transformation is nature chewing into the bindings that constrict awareness, bindings we often coil around us, limiting our contact with even a single blade of grass.
I have aquaintences in Europe who have commented lately on how the skies are quite enough to hear only birds in them, and are thankful to Icelands' volcano for the experience, a likely once-in-a-lifetime experience. I wonder what that would be like, to hear only birds, see only clouds and no contrails criss-crossing the sky like a toddler's scrawlings.
It's easy to get distracted with our gadgets, calendars full as ripe pumpkins, full with the mundane. Now, I do like some of our modern bells and whistles like indoor plumbing, auto-matic drip coffee makers, even this computer. What I feel we forget about is, to sometimes dig around in dirt, plant flowers or seeds that will become your meals, watch a coyote that hasn't forgotten where it is on the earth's skin.

We Can Talk to Foxes Only At Dawn

Their eyes still heavy with the moon,
they will see us as a dream
lost from its sleeper
wandering among whispers and shades,
begging secrets from the living
for paths known only to those who
make their way through undergrowth and shadows,
who know our hiding places
when we have forgotten
the round of our own flesh.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

But Seriously...

My last post leaned toward the heavy end of the see-saw, so as a counter balance, I thought I would write about something lighter. Some of my friends have said this next poem is me in the future. I still think of those folks as friends, that their comments are compliments, that I'll laugh all the way to the sun of my front porch in my retirement, clattering crazy wisdom through my false teeth.

Diehlia Dyer

She soaks her false teeth
in the toilet tank
got tired of knocking the danged things
off the nightstand,
picking out grit all day. Besides,
those blue tablets
that keep the bowl so clea
do a beautiful job on teeth.
Porcelain is porcelain.
Saves a little money to boot.
Not much to go around these days
since doctors have me
eating pills like matinee popcorn.

She uses the twelve dollars
and eighty-four cents
saved from spending on denture cleaner
to buy bird seed, gotta put something back
into the world for being in it.
She watches doves swarm the feeder,
draining three inches of seed in one hour,
pecking up bits spilled below.
Curious, she scoops out a handful
from the bag, pours it into a skillet
of melting butter and saute's
for three minutes.
Hmmm, nutty.
It loosens her up enough
to drop one of her prescriptions-
she doesn't tell the doctor,
it's my body, don't need his permission.
He ain't so smart anyway
if an old woman can cure
her bowls with birdseed.

Every morning, she sits on the porch swing
with her bowl of hot seeds-
sometimes drizzling in honey-
toast coffee, just she and the birds
and the sun
brightening rose blooms.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No Mountain To Sit Upon

Recently, I journeyed with a friend to Eastern Kentucky to witness the devistation of mountain top removal firsthand. Three weeks later, I am still coming out of the shock of it, as if some part of me has been blasted to pieces and shoved over the side with what was once a mountain. And I, like the Appalachians, will never be the same no matter how I seed my brain with forgetting, pretty up the disfigured skyline that remains in memory with a good time shopping at a box-store. Just like the one left where a mountains' head used to be, set on top like a poisoned cherry. And we can all stroll the aisles of affordable living, at least until the slurry pit breaks open from its hold, spills over the mountain, clawing off the eroded sides and poundes them down on top of us.
I won't villify the coal companies. They do that all by themselves. Just ask anyone who has buried their dead or shielded their children from bullets that raged through their windows when they spoke against the destruction, the mercury that leeched into their water.

I can say with certainty that there is no wisdom on the mountain if there is no mountain top. I do understand poverty, that politicians and parasites manipulate our desperation until we want to let ourselves believe that the bones they throw us are feasts, that anything put into an empty belly, will feel as heavy as truth. But, the truth is, we shouldn't be starving for it.

I met many people throughout the region, many friendly and open people. I never felt like I had to second-guess anyone. Those traits seem as endangered as the future of mountains older than any others on this planet. I won't judge anyone trying to make a living. We do what we must. But, as such clever monkeys, can't we find another way, one that doesn't paint us irreversably into a corner, one where all we can do is watch the ground we stand on crumble away, clutching at regret.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


As a research tool, the internet is quite useful, allowing fast access to information we may not ordinarily have. I came across a list of world sayings one day, some hillarious, others profound, but mostly they re-enforced the fact that people are basically the same no matter where or when we are in the world. One quote caught itself in the grey matter between my ears, took root and became a poem. It now lives in my new book, The Courtship of Reason. I thought I would share it with you now.

The Sound of Thoughts

The Vietnamese have a saying:
Child turns three,
whole house talks.
Don't we know
from our own silences
how words cushion echos,
that talk is marrow
to fill the hollows
of bones long buried, mute relics
of voices laid to quite.

Our speak was words like hunt
and death and sun, words lived
and ochered onto walls,
words too big to stay in our flesh.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


I'm happy to announce that I will be teaching a poetry workshop on persona poems April 17th in Harrodsburg, Ky. for The Kentucky State Poetry Society mid-year conference. For details, please check their website at In case your'e wondering what exactly a persona poem is, it is a poem that appears to be written from the POV of someone other than ourselves, as if they are speaking to us, telling their story and we are merely taking dictation. The POV can come from anyone or anything, from the famous to mundane to imaginary. For the best examples of a persona poem that I can think of, check out Ai Ogawa, a true master of the form. She writes a wicked piece on Oppenheimer, J. Edgar Hoover and many, many others. I can believe that I'm actually reading words from her subjects.

I aim to make this workshop fun, so be prepared for much sillyness, to forget work is not always hard, and to let someone else share the use of our pens long enough to tell us a story.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Off The Garden Path

One of the reasons I'm doing a blog, is to discuss not only the written word, but any unique and interesting thing I can find whether it's under a rock, on a rock or is, in fact, a rock.
I write a collum for the The Iris Fan, the Louisville Area Iris Club newsletter, which I greatly enjoy doing. They let me write not only about obscure members of the iris family, but also pretty much about any danged weird plant I want to. And let me tell ya, you would not believe the amount of weirdness growing out there, things you will think can't be real or living in places that look like the surface of Mars. I hope that by writing about the wonders of this planet, folks will want to go look for themselves, find joy in mystery, that there own uniqueness mirrors the things discovered by accident - just when they thought it was going to be a boring day.

I thought I would share one of the pieces I wrote from the Iris Fan. Hope you enjoy:

My, what pretty eyes you have! And look at you- a peacock strutting in the sun like Mick Jagger. A peacock morea, or morea villosa to be specific. Bet y'all never heard of that one, did you? Come over here for a closer look. Better keep your sunglasses on though, with the way the blue eyes on these divas irredesce in the sun. I do believe they out-flash Vegas. But that's another story. And it stays in Vegas.
If an indigo bunting were to fly by, it would swoon and court all over these blooms, thinking it was going to get whoopie-bang tonight, mistaking the color of the sheen that radiated irresistable flirtation. And who could blame it? I simply love these South African plants. And we are here, just at the right time, smack in the rainfall area of Cape Province. Now watch your step around this granite slope because I'm not hauling you all the way back up to the flats. Not after that big lunch you had. Oh wait, there are morea growing near the edge too. We won't have to scrabble down the side at all. Seems that as long as they get granite and clay, or a fast-draining soil to slip their feet into, they are quite happy.

I think we should take a few specimens back with us, since they are suitable to our climate. so long as they are kept in containers. Oops, I forgot that this species is near-threatened in the wild! Crap. And doubley so for being depleted like this. We won't be taking any with us, but I remeber seeing these for sale on a website - Telos Rare Bulbs. If you Google morea villosa, I bet you can find it in a few other places like The Pacific Bulb Society. Then, after they have established a nice colony, we can divide them out in late summer, share with friends 'cause you know they are going to want some too. And I hate finding folks digging in my yard in the middle of the night. My snakes are getting too fat to take care of "problems".
And what's even more wonderful, is that by cultivating this plant, we increase their numbers so that even with the loss of habitat, they survive.
If you like, let the seed pods dry and break open on their own, then sow indoors in the fall before last frost. Remember, South Africa is on the other side of the world where seasons are reversed.

If I take my shoes off...wait, wait come back here. Smarty. What I was going to say was, in my stocking feet, morea villosa is nearly up to my chin, 24-36" tall. And unlike our beloved tall beardeds iris, the foliage is evergreen. They will over-winter outdoors in zones 9-10 and like most irids, love the sun. But, these will be happy with part shade as well. Now there are contradictions as to when to cut back on water. Like most plants, they do better if we can replicate their environment. So do your homework folks. These plants are not hard to care for, we just need to know a few specifics which are easily obtained through a little digging, digging well-worth the small effort.

You know, with all the talk about the eyes on this irid, I forgot to mention how full and unique the petals are. Can you pick out which of these varieties of morea are villosa? This lilac one? Yep. The white ones a few feet over? Those too. How about the yellow ones by the puff-adder eyeballin' your big toe? Ha! Gotcha. That'll teach ya to infer that my feet are less than aromatic.
But yes, the yellow one is a villosa as well as that lone orange beauty. Ain't that cool! And lookie, there are yellow nectar guides on the outer tepals. Makes me want to follow it right in for a snack. And what a treat it has been, strolling through clouds of indigo eyes resting on pillows soft as sleep. What a wonderful place for a nap. 'Scuse me...


Hey folks, I've finally figured out all the pedals and gears on this thing, so lets go for a spin.
I'm very pleased to announce the release of my new book of poetry, The Courtship of Reason, published by Finishing Line Press. It's available at Charmichale's Books in Louisville, KY., on Amazon and at Or, if you prefer a signed copy, I'd be happy to mail one to you. I am in the process of setting a book launch in the near future in the Louisville area and will post here as soon as one is confirmed.
This new book is my quirkiest yet, full of people who walk the rim of social standards, for good or bad, often a little of both. It is also an exploration of chance, that they are never too late , even if one comes through our last breath.
Here's a little sample from the book:

The Point of Relief Upon The Dying

It's when striving for worth
against everyone's measures
disolves into one slow stream of summers
and within it flow all the untrue things
as if an unmelted patch of snow
held long in shadow
has finally found light.
And the fears and furies
and sorrows that glaciered over joy
recedes into itself
leaving blooms in its wake.
The last moment
is long and brilliant enough for the dying
to know their own shine,
how warm it feels
upon a face without shade.