Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Angel’s Silence, a poem

January 3, 2013 2 comments


File:Broadway theatres 1920.jpg

As loyal readers of this blog will remember, RT has been researching his family’s background. His greatest success to date has been creating a detailed chronology of his mother’s father, who was an actor on Broadway in NYC, and later on the west coast.

Each revelation concerning RT’s peripatetic grandfather has brought with it an ongoing series of reactions–he was cynical, carefree, an idealist, self-absorbed, or whatever, always ending with reflections on RT’s life and the life of his family.

Certainly one of the most intense moments in the search came when RT discovered on the Net two interviews that granddad gave, one in 1913, the other in 1927. He was able to read out to his mother her own father’s words–the first time she had ever heard them. She was 81 at the time.

A moment like that lasts–maybe forever, and in this case impelled RT to write a poem. Repeatedly throughout this genealogical hunt, he has realized how important intact families are; if we cannot be a part of one, then at least we can hope to recover the lives of its members. He has also been struck by how quickly things change in the world; it’s not just our ancestors we discover, but the world that they made. Here is RT’s poem:


Angels’ Silence



so this is death—

a driving 70s beat on

the speakers, the names

sliding by—james taylor, paul

simon (for $6!), abba,



the guy (with brillantine

blond hair)

at the checkout

 wears a pressed shirt

 & a “Win With Willkie”

 button:

couldn’t stand The Black Pearl,

myself,” he says…



then there’s the matter of


you met him a couple of

 days ago–or was

 it 1913, at the interview with

 The Sun’s theatre critic?

You’re playing hooky!” he declares,

 proceeding to elaborate on his theme:

Be a sticking plaster; persevere

 in your chosen occupation!”


and he should know, thin as a rail,

dressed in rags, a boy’s goosedown

on his cheeks—

Betake yourself to a good school

 of elocution and dramatic art—then go after

 what you want until you get it.”



but his attention has shifted, to your mother, a

girl with a barrette in her silver-blonde hair; &

he is taller now, wearing a gentleman’s jacket &

white tie—I can’t make out what they’re

telling each other, but presently,

 she turns to me and says

“Do you believe in God?”



I could see that father and daughter liked each other

both raconteurs, deeply restless, their voices

beautiful & I realized that they weren’t singing

because I couldn’t; my skills coming from

some other spring, a place of bog and kelp and unknowing:

 a sip of life’s water.


So, the angels have reminded me: “you will be making the return trip,”

leaving these new buddies**********to get acquainted.


Photo: Broadway, 1920, Looking North from 38th Street; WikiCmns; LOC; Public Domain.


Near People–Bottlenose Dolphins and Others

December 22, 2012 1 comment

File:Tursiops aduncus, Port River, Adelaide, Australia - 2003.jpg


It’s been a while since RT has posted on the development of the human brain. RT is thinking in particular of his Habilis thread, which mentions the role of our hands in the development of thinking: the making of stone tools preceded the first spoken words by about a million years, so it seems likely that the first lithic industry shaped both our thoughts and words.

Not so with bottlenose dolphins. Here is a creature whose ancestors disappeared into the ocean 50 million years ago. RT cannot help but remember our own ancestors leaving the tropical forest (only about 8 million years ago). Could it be that changes in fundamental environment trigger brain growth as a species learns to cope with its new surroundings? Furthermore, could the difference between dolphin and human intelligence depend largely on the usefulness of their limbs?



At right we have models of the brains of three different animals: from left, a wild pig’s, a bottlenose dolpin’s, and a human’s. The relative size of a human and dolphin’s brains can be difficult to determine: the encephalization quotient (EQ) of human’s is far greater than the BND’s (7.44 vs. 4.14); on the other hand, the absolute brain mass of the BND slightly exceeds that of humans’ (1500-1700 vs. 1300-1400 grams), and the BND’s brain is more convoluted than ours is. Another consideration is the degree that the brain grows after birth: a human is born with a brain 28% of its adult weight; a dolphin, with a brain 42.5% of its adult weight.

Finally, dolphins possess a large brain structure missing in humans: the paralimbic lobe. Neurologists connect this structure to the regulation of sensation, emotion, and social interactions. Could the BND be social in some way that we are not?


So here is a plausible reading of what we know so far: a bottlenose dolphin has the second-largest brain in the animal kingdom, but its brain nonetheless trails the size of our brain significantly. But then that dread enforcer of the truth shows up: a question (or a whole gang of them!)…does the size of the brain have anything to do with complexity of function and mental experience? …how, as a matter of fact, do we measure the brain’s complexity? …is there anyway of knowing what it is that a dolphin’s brain does? …Or what the inner life of a dolphin is like?


In a previous post, RT listed the mental abilities the primates, cetaceans, and smaller-brained animals possess. The list is impressive, but being focused on function, does not answer the question of inner life–what kind of mind do bottle-nosed dolphins have? Looking at human consciousness, we might divide our own mental life as follows:

Human mental activity

1) maintaining automatic physical activities such as respiration and heart function;

2) experiencing our immediate environment and generating emotions and other automatic responses to the things we sense;

3) imposing control on our environment at a primate-level: establishing a territory, creating and maintaining a social hierarchy and relationships generally;

4) communicating between ourselves in a more precise way via language and the total mental experience it conveys; creating sophisticated tools that expand and refine our control of the environment;

5) generating and manipulating abstract concepts to solve problems via mathematics and logic; and

6) maintaining overall control and harmony of our minds through artistic activities such as music and poetry;

How many of these abilities do dolphins share?

Items 1-3, certainly. There is plenty of evidence for the basic physical and emotional functions, as well as a rich social life, in BNDs. Readers should also note that BNDs pass the self-recognition test and even use individualized signature whistles to identify themselves–suggesting that they have personal names.

A further consideration is the active sex life of the BND; many researchers connect sexplay in animals generally with higher levels of intelligence.

Item 4, maybe. Like us, dolphins seem to have basic units of mental communication–in our case, words and sensory experiences; in theirs, clicks, whistles, and images of their surroundings generated by echolocation. It has been shown that BNDs use some of this sound information to construct mental images of their surroundings. Could it be that BNDs are capable of altering and manipulating these images to convey comments and even full language? Since humans have used artificial languages to communicate (at a low level) with dolphins, it’s clear that BNDs can learn syntax and grammar.

Item 5, probably. The ability to create 3-D mental images argues for a powerful understanding of space and volume in BNDs–and, by extension, an advanced grasp of number.

Item 6, probably. Dolphins are great singers and dancers. An early researcher reported receiving a powerful, controlled, multi-frequency sound burst from a dolphin that made him feel completely aware of the physical structure of first his head and then his body–almost like he was being scanned to create an image. This is communication at its most physical, precise, and intense. Could it also be part of a medical diagnostic? Many anecdotes suggest that dolphins are capable of moral behavior.


In light of these intellectual similarities, RT would like to suggest the creation of a legal category–near people. Other animals that RT would include as near people–bonobos, gorillas, and chimpanzees. Near people would be entitled to protected environments, and killing them would be legally forbidden across the globe. Additional funding would be devoted to studying and understanding near humans.

We cannot afford to let near people go extinct–they have too much to teach us about the mind and ourselves. Do we really want to kill an animal that gave itself a name at birth?



Photos: top: Tursiops aduncus, WikiCmns; CC 1.0 attribution; Author: Aude Steiner. bottom: WikiCmns; CC 1.0 attribution; Author: Boksi.


angels dancing

In that other world

my children are


and their mother met me

when I was 7 & carried her


home for her. þþ

what wou*ld

that feel like? Like waking up &

seeing the sun pouring down

its lumens of light, painting

the world w/ the memories of the first moment I

saw your

body naked &you laughed at

th*esoftcottonsheets and ðe shadow on our bed

of ðe

imposible thing waving

between my legs “it looks like a leaf!” you said

and icalld u urania, Queen of Heaven.

Copyright: The Rag Tree, 2012.

image: Five Angels Dancing; Giovanni di Paolo (1403-1482); WikiCmns; Public Domain.


March 21, 2012 2 comments



Here’s a love poem from poesie & pockets for National Poetry Day…& hope this day sees our poets industriously scribbling away…Enjoy!     RT




February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

powerful poetry by poesie & pockets. Enjoy!    RT


Ni L’Un, Ni L’Autre

August 4, 2011 3 comments

It’s odd how things can come together. I read the Odyssey my first year in college, and what with the translation’s 7-beat line (following the original material), the story made a powerful impression on me, and then was forgotten.

Maybe that’s how our fates are set–I’ve done some considerable wandering of my own over the (yikes!) decades since, and now, struggling to finish a poem, the great trickster himself has guided (or been guiding) me home. A long-delayed homecoming & happy… enjoy!

Ni L’un, Ni L’autre

You will have to get rid

 of everything

First, the elegant blue suit with

 its tie soft as butter

Next, the house with its

 chinoiserie, the pain of


Then, the car late at night

        its rage,

the banshee scream

        of the violated wind.

&   everyone

        you thought

 you were—all of them

leader, wanderer, warrior

But that is the least of it—the words

must go too

not just the writing, but

        memory also

abandon yourself–naked


 like cattle & the sun but



        You can’t even know her

    Crashed & strewn out,

lotus-blood, the sirens singing the

luscious term;


you two, and feel the sand,

your scattered


© 2011 The Rag Tree

Related RT Posts: 1) 50 Shades (4th poem).

Image: The Island of the Lotus-Eaters, French illustration, 18th C., WikiCmns, Public Domain.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This, Folks

April 26, 2011 2 comments

Yeah, I know–was it Napoleon who remarked that awarding medals made one of his men very happy and the rest of them jealous? But what did Napoleon know about anything?! I mean, conquering Europe, so what? Did he know how to make a good chocolate mousse?

I like the feel of this award/nomination. And I won’t deny that my postings range far and wide as the mood strikes…the RT has 153 tags… !

This is my first WP award. Here is what the nominator had to say about the Rag Tree:

“Words; pictures; poetry. There is a deep love of language here – there is an experimentation with understanding of speech that is inspiring. Art and words flatter each other – in a world of beauty and culture, this Tree climbs high, indeed.”

I mean, I don’t get words like this over breakfast every day. And as for the nominator (ms. aubrey), the nominatee can only offer a big, fat smoocheroo right on the cheek!


On a more formal note, Aubrey informs us that there are Laws about such things as awards, and despite my well-known iconclastic and anarchistic tendencies, I will attempt to honor them.

1) Tell 7 random facts about myself: a) I sometimes eat ice cream with a fork; b) I live over a  homeless ministry (the gospel choir is quite good); c) my paternal grandfather was born in the same town that I’m living in; d) I have an unfulfilled dream of going to Madagascar and carrying a mouse lemur on my finger; e) If I could bring back any extinct animal, I would bring back New Zealand’s Moa; f) my high school English teacher/wrestling coach turned me onto poetry (& many thx for it, Ace!); and g) I’m going to call my book about my maternal grandfather The Nitrate Angel.

2) Pass the nomination onto 15 new bloggers. This is the tough part. I can see that I’ll have to put off picking them until my next post…

That’s all for now folks. And yes, it’s a grand feeling you have when you win an award…    RT

The Great Truth of a Woman’s Body

February 11, 2011 11 comments

The struggle for, and achievement of, equality for women seems to be one of the most underappreciated stories of modern times.

As my work with Gilgamesh has convinced me, women largely lost political power by the end of the 4th millennium B.C. Hammurabi’s Code sought to protect women but not to empower them. Men gathered all political and military power to themselves; worse than this, because it was believed that the creative spark of life was purely masculine (women functioning only as an oven and food source during gestation), women were understood to be inferior to men in the most basic ways.

What changes the scientific revolution and Enlightenment have wrought! We now know that women contribute half the genetic material to every child, and the French Revolution has made equality one of the pillars of modern political and social life.

And with this change has come the full panoply of legal rights for women: the rights to vote, own property, divorce, and work–to be a full citizen and the legal equal of men. There is no doubt in my mind that the New Deal would never have happened without women’s suffrage, and I think that overall their contribution to political life has been to make society less aggressive and contemptuous of failure. Not to mention the emergence of children’s rights: when you empower women, you empower children.

On the other hand, this fundamental transition has not been easy. If society has been feminized by votes for women, women themselves have  been masculinized. Role models and expectations that date back 4,000 years are being challenged and overturned. Acknowledging that women in the workplace need special accommodations–day care for their children, maternity leave–has not been easy. So rapid and difficult has women’s emancipation been that I thought it could only have happened in the West.

But now I’m not so sure. I had thought that the ongoing Egyptian Revolution was mainly about political and social issues: corruption, poverty and misery, the lack of democracy. But I recently ran across a photo of a woman in a burka flashing her breasts and midriff in the middle of the Egyptian demonstrations. I can find no word for her act other than shocking. Shocking, above all, because it flies so directly in the face of Middle Eastern culture. Here is a woman willing to demand full equality with men and to use the great truth of a woman’s body to get her point across. Here is a long banished reality–the necessity of sex and sexual pleasure–shaking not only Egypt, but even the “liberated” West, to its knees. Can we create a world in which women’s power and orderly societies co-exist? This, in fact, is the world that seems to be emerging.

It’s too early to say what the long-term effects on religion and philosophy will be. But it seems to me that we are heading towards a more perceptive and compassionate world.  RT


Image: Eric Gill, Eve; Src: WikiCmns; License: Public Domain

Getting Published

January 16, 2011 7 comments



>1. it just occurred to me

I once told a nice young boy

hot and heavy to get into my college

and be the next Hemingway

(i was like that too, once)

who asked, “How do I get published?”


You know, writing isn’t about getting published;

writing is about community

>>2. Just the facts

anyway, this is how it happened:


last july, the unbearably hot one following

my 42nd birthday


i stopped by without thinking

the rack of cheap books

at 4 seasons

and bought a book of tanka by

some japanese monk you

never heard of


well, the form

was interesting



the book was only $4

so though I only had $10,

I bought it

>>3. West Virginia Weeds & the Muse



about a week later,

I was working in

our garden

pulling weeds and


i spaced out



that night I thought of the book

and how I’d wanted to write a poem about being in

West Virginia


and so I did

>>3. Pinch bugs

why is it digressions

are always so much more interesting

than the assigned topic?


whatever, it’s the reason

why we poets, like tom sawyer, are

always guilty of playing with pinch bugs

during the sermon

why we are

always caught playing hooky on that craggy


called parnassus

>>4. The Inside Track

so then there was that community

that fellowship of poets

that hobo convention

called bookends




I didn’t even have to send an envelope

they were interested


maybe it was because I’m always bitching about how hard it is

to get published (though, truth to tell, i’ve never tried

that hard) or


maybe it

was because they liked

me (or maybe it’s because i’m good—who knows?) whyever


it happened

>>5.  & yes, community

remember the japanese monk? hmmmm


he lived during the 14th century

rich people actually paid him to run

poetry storming seminars in their houses


imagine that


of course he had his problems:

came from the wrong family,

ran afoul of the local politics


THAT night

When his house burned TO ASH &




AND all he had for comfort

was a religion that embraces void


and silence, the void and silence that sent

Pascal (and, let’s face it, most of the rest of us)

shrieking into the arms of a god

who at least offers



what would he say if i told him

that 700 years later


some guy speaking a language he didn’t know

living on a continent he didn’t know about


would read him in translation


would find comfort in what he said


would turn his poems into something new

>>6. let be maybe be finale…

he’s gone

I will be too


and our words?


well, like Buddha


they are



the Rag Tree

copyright, 2011

(photo: WikiCommons; Sebastian Ritter; CC 2.5)

Seeing Her

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

A couple of days ago, I came across the photo of an exceptionally lovely young lady on one of the WP blogs and was inspired to write this verse:

Seeing Her

Such perishing beauty!

Would that I were 20 years younger

and clutched a trembling rose

in my hand…

photo: Nino Barbieri, WikiCommons