Monday, November 23, 2009



How the Three Wild Babylonian Baboons Went Away in the Rain Eating Bread and Butter

One morning when Hatrack the Horse went away from his shanty, he put three umbrellas in the corner next to the front door.

His pointing finger pointed at the three umbrellas as he said, "If the three wild Babylonian Baboons come sneaking up to this Shanty and sneaking through the door and sneaking through the house, then all you three umbrellas open up like it was raining, jump straight at the baboons and fasten your handles in their hands. Then, all three of you stay open as if it was raining—and hold those handles in the hands of the baboons and never let go till I come."

Hatrack the Horse went away. The three umbrellas stood in the corner next to the front door. And when the umbrellas listened they could hear the three wild Babylonian Baboons sneaking up to the shanty. Soon the baboons, all hairy all over, bangs down their foreheads, came sneaking through the door. Just as they were sneaking through the door they took off their hats to show they were getting ready to sneak through the house.

Then the three umbrellas in the corner opened up as if it was raining; they jumped straight at the three wild Babylonian Baboons; and they fastened their handles tight in the hands of the baboons and wouldn't let go.

So there were the three wild Babylonian Baboons, each with a hat in his left hand, and an open umbrella in his right hand.

When Hatrack the Horse came home he came, quiet. He opened the front door, quiet. Then he looked around inside the house, quiet.

In the corner where he had stood the three umbrellas, he saw the three wild Babylonian Baboons on the floor, sleeping, with umbrellas over their faces.

"The umbrellas were so big they couldn't get through the door," sat Hatrack the Horse. For a long time he stood looking at the bangs hanging down the foreheads of the baboons while they were sleeping. He took a comb and combed the bangs down the foreheads of the baboons. He went to the cupboard and spread bread and butter. He took the hats out of the left hands of the baboons and put the hats on their heads. He put a piece of bread and butter in the hand of each baboon.

After that he snipped each one across the nose with his finger (snippety-snip! just like that). They opened their eyes and stood up. Then he loosened the umbrella handles from their right hands and led them to the door.

They all looked out. It was raining. "Now you can go," he told the baboons. And they all walked out of the front door, and they seemed to be snickering and hiding the snickers.

The last he saw of them they were walking away in the rain eating bread and butter. And they took off their hats so the rain ran down and slid off on the bangs of their foreheads.

Hatrack the Horse turned to the umbrellas and said, "We know how to make a surprise party when we get a visit from the Babylonian Baboons with their bangs falling down their foreheads—don't we?"

That is what happened, as Hatrack the Horse told it to the night policeman in the Village of Cream Puffs.

from Rootabaga Stories, illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham

When not writing his biography of Lincoln, or his poems to the People, to Chicago, to the workers and the ways of the Great Plains, or playing his guitar, or welcoming the likes of a pilgrimage by Bob Dylan, Carl Sandburg wrote terrific lively fully all-sense/nonsense stories for children and the young at heart. He's little read these days compared to his grand years, and is often even ridiculed and laughed at. Imagine that.


The Rick of Green Wood

In the woodyard were green and dry
woods fanning out, behind
----------------------------------------a valley below
a pleasure for the eye to go.

Woodpile by the buzzsaw. I heard
the woodsman down in the thicket. I don't
want a rick of green wood, I told him
I want cherry or alder or something strong
and thin, or thick if dry, but I don't
want the green wood, my wife could die

Her back is slender
and the wood I get must not
bend her too much through the day.

Aye, the wood is some green
and some dry, the cherry thin of bark
cut in July.

My name is Burlingame
said the woodcutter.
My name is Dorn, I said.
I buzz on Friday if the weather cools
said Burlingame, enough of names.

-------Out of the thicket my daughter was walking

------------backtracking the horse hoof
-------gone in earlier this morning, the woodcutter's horse
-------pulling the alder, the fir, the hemlock
-------above the valley
---------------------------------in the november

air, in the world, that was getting colder
as we stood there in the woodyard talking
pleasantly, of the green wood and the dry.

If there's one poem allowed to remember Ed Dorn by, this is my choice. And this one was recently sent to me by one of his closest friends. It was no coincidence we were both thinking of the same poem in November.



A river I couldn’t find
flows through my head.

You are standing
below the cottonwood tree
on the river’s bank.

I listen to the wind
move the tree’s leaves.

Your long dark hair
wraps around you.

I can’t see your face.

All Illinois boys have a steady eye and it often ripraps through their poems. James Koller and Coyote's Journal has long been associated with Longhouse. We're always happy to share Jim's work.


What Is That Bright Star Next to the Moon Tonight?

Out late and looking again to the hazed red urban evening sky for a sign
What is that bright star next to the moon tonight?
Asking myself this among other questions of fleeting consequence
I watched Jupiter the great fluid king of the night
With his rude belching gases and submissive fluctuating moons

His swashbuckling bright streaks flaunted like sans culottes
Boiling firestorm spots and magnetic auroras
Cozying up, it seemed, to the chaste and shying
Waxing gibbous Lady Luna — seeming so close,
Though in reality far more distant and intense,

With nothing of her ethereal luminous
Silent running beauty, her unearthly milky violet glow —
Challenging her brightness perhaps
Though hardly her pulchritude —
Until my view grew occluded under the constellated neons

Of the Pyramid Ale House

Long known to California, Tom Clark was referred to Charles Olson by Ed Dorn as a "Chicago buster." Tom says that was a downstate sodbuster's way of referring to a Chicago boy. Longhouse recently published Tom Clark's Single and here is a piece from that. Much more of Tom's world may be found from his blog: Tom Clark: Beyond the Pale
It won't waste your time.


Instructions For How To Put an Old Horse Down

This is what you need to do:
wait for one of those mornings
that seems as if it will never come,
and when it comes, wait for evening.

While waiting for evening,
do as little as possible,
and don’t visit the horse:
you’ll only lose heart.
Remind yourself that she
is suffering and that
her time has come.

One thing you can do
is find a length of rope
hanging in the shape
of a racetrack in the barn:
you won’t need it
but it’s a good thing to find.

If you have kids, tell them
what’s going to happen
sometime in the afternoon.
They’ll understand.
If you wait and tell them
afterwards what you’ve done,
they’ll never forgive you.

Finally, in that hour when
you usually visit her,
walk into the field with oats
in your pockets.

Let her eat them
out of your hand
until they’re gone,
then lead her in.

Then lead her in.

Austin Smith was born and raised on a family farm in Illinois. The son of the poet Daniel Smith, Austin has had two publications issued from Longhouse: Wheat & Distance and Instructions for How to Put An Old Horse Down. The family have recently moved their good work and farm chores to rural Wisconsin.

photo Ed Dorn: courtesy The Poetry Project Photo Archive
photo James Koller: courtesy NEW (Paris)
photo Tom Clark: copyright Gerard Malanga
photo Austin Smith: copyright Austin Smith