my newspaper career was spotty. it was launched in a basement on a dead-end street that wound through leafy lots in old suburbia. i was editor, layout wizard, and scribe. i was 9. it was the brierhill news (named for our winding lane), in which i collected esoterica and bits of timeliness from up and down the half-mile from our house at the first bend to the stockade fence at the end of the lane. i rested my career till high school, junior year, when i signed up for the underground newspaper. (yes, it was the ’70s and all things underground were cool. even for “north shore creampuffs,” as our favorite english teacher called the mob of us.) i wrote under a pen name for that paper, cuz my dad didn’t like seeing his family name attached to revolutionary ideas and high school cynicism. (i wasn’t the cynic but i assure you cynics were abundant on the masthead.) i never gave journalism another thought, not through all of nursing school and not beyond, not till two weeks after my papa’s funeral when someone wise asked if i’d ever thought of journalism, so i went home and signed up for a master’s degree in writing pithy ledes (first paragraphs) and digging for the truth. i stuck around a newsroom for just shy of 30 years.
and i’m resurrecting my newspaper-making ways today, so i can bring a summery hodgepodge––a gazette––to the ol’ maple table, while i dive into another round of page proofs, that book-making task where every drip and drop of ink on the page is scrutinized, scoured for mistakes, typos, anything that doesn’t belong on the page. it’s all-absorbing work, so i stockpiled a few bits for you to savor while i toil away. i bring you here what amounts to a shrunken features section of old-fashioned news: a bit of commentary, a recipe, and a feature i’d call the poet’s corner if i was naming things (which it turns out, i am).
on summer’s quiet
i don’t usually think of summer as a quiet season, but i suppose that just means i’ve not thought deeply enough, because in fact summer is the season of a slowness that ushers in pockets of the quietest quiet…
… of hammocks strung between trees….
…of watching a popsicle puddle…
…of sweltering heat pushing us into repose…
…of sheltering in the nearest roomiest chair woven of wicker,** that grass that eases to the curves of the bum, a shelter best appointed with feets propped, and a pitcher of minty water always in each…
…of staying out late under the stars, catching the breeze that finally comes…
summer is falling asleep with the windows wide open, feeling the rustle of breeze cross your pillow, sinking deep into the night sounds that creep in and over the sills…
summer is turning pages, slowly, slowly. until your eyelids heavy and droopy give way to the summer’s nap that enfolds as words blur and then vanish — poof! — lost beyond slumber and dreams…
quiet is idling over the grill. counting clouds. watching the cardinal fling through the trees, daring that red-winged wonder to please, please, please, come close enough to look in each others’ eyes…
quiet is early, early morning, the newborn breaths of the day. before the heat chimneys in through the windows. before sweat is the layer between you and your clothes.
quiet is the soft whir of the fan. old-fashioned cool-making sound. a sound i prefer any old day to the sound of air-conditioner clunking.
the quiet of summer is unlike the quiet of any other season. summer’s quiet is bare skin to the breeze, unencumbered by blankets. summer is porous, is screens; summer does not hide behind storm-window panes.
summer’s quiet comes when we’re too hot to move. summer’s quiet is something akin to salvation: we slow to a pause to keep from wilting or wobbling there on the sun-baked sidewalk. summer’s quiet is retreat. is survival.
**more on wicker (from our friends at wikipedia): Wicker is the oldest furniture making method known to history, dating as far back as 5,000 years ago. It was first documented in ancient Egypt using pliable plant material, but in modern times it is made from any pliable, easily woven material. The word wicker or “wisker” is believed to be of Scandinavian origin: vika, which means to bend in Swedish, and vikker meaning willow. Wicker is traditionally made of material of plant origin, such as willow, rattan, reed, and bamboo, but synthetic fibers are now also used. (ick on synthetics. [that’s the long-retired cynic raising her knack for snark.])
summer quiet is this poem, this praise poem that perfectly captures the quiet rhythm in my heart in this deep heat of summer….
By Joy Harjo
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
We pray that it will be done
“So, I’m a poetry person. And I’m a bit obsessive about it—I want to be learning everything I can about poetry and poets all the time, and I want to be thinking about poems all the time. Lately, the podcast series that has really been satisfying my need to overdo it with poetry has been the London Review of Books series Close Readings. Each episode features Seamus Perry and Mark Ford, himself a poet worth reading, talking intelligently and interestingly about the work of a significant twentieth-century English-language poet (the only exception being Hopkins, but his work wasn’t published until the twentieth century, so he fits). And each episode is very heaven. The most recent, “On Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery,” is full of information you want to know about those most significant members of the New York School. Because you’re a poetry person, too, I just know it.”
—Shane McCrae, Poetry Editor, Image Journal
a polychromatic taste-bursting salad: how ‘bout no-cook (okay, grill the corn if so inspired) summer confetti corn salad, a perfect summery bounty if you’re in the mood for playing with colors….
David’s J&L Confetti Corn Salad:
*my brother David worked at a high-end catering company for a few years, J&L Catering, and when they made something he thought was extra special, he’d copy down ingredients but not measures. So measures are always to your taste.
2-4 ears grilled corn
1 red pepper
1 orange or yellow pepper
1/2 to 1 whole purple onion
2-4 loose whole carrots, peeled
garlic, to taste
Dressing, to taste:
Asian sweet chili paste
Juice of 2 to 3 limes (I also add zest of at least 1)
salt and pepper to taste
Dice peppers, onion, carrot, to small dice.
Chop garlic and cilantro.
Cut kernels off grilled corn.
Add to mixing bowl.
Add dressing, stir, let sit at least 2-3 hours, or longer if possible.
how are you filling your summer’s daze?