Monday, October 31, 2016


Hello Stranger 

His name was Carl and before he was
Even through the woodshed door coming
Into the kitchen he said, “Now what did
You do?” We’ve never met but I squint a
Moment closer to make sure we never have.
Carl is an electrician, I’m a carpenter,
This morning I drew a fast chopping
Blade halfway through a live-wire while
Cutting out a hatch door into the ceiling.
At first spark I stopped the sawzall. Now Carl
Is way up in the hatch fixing wire I never
Want anything to do with. It’s late in the
Day, he’s sweaty, punchy, clumsy for an
Electric man but it doesn’t bother me
Because I like him. Did immediately.
Something about the cheap post earring
In the right ear. Something about the
Beer gut, the headband, the nonstop ramble.
Turns out he lives eight miles from where
I was born; it’s been 25 years since I’ve
Met anyone who knows Mauserts swimminghole 
And a place called Clarksburg. “Shit, yes”
Is how Carl talks, beefy enthusiasm, as
He chips the porcelain pull switch sloppy
As ever and says he won’t charge me. As if
His life has any clue about paperwork.
Let’s get honest. Carl has turned 40. He
Is to be married at the end of the week
To his third wife who has two kids while
Carl has two of his own. They met at a
Country store. He bought beer and she was
The cashier. He returned every day after
Work until he gained up the nerve to ask
Her on a date. Like I said, I fell for
The guy too when he came in today walking
And talking through the woodshed door.


They said it was a heart
Attack but it weren’t no
Heart attack even though
We all seen the Rescue van
Out here and we hardly ever
Do and they pulled all three
Of his sons out of school and
Rushed them and the wife from
The Ames job real fast to the
Hospital in case it was the real
Thing but it was due to plowing
Just too much snow plowing and
Rotten weather and late nights
Riding these backwoods roads
That finally got to him just
Shy of 40 and putting on some
Extra weight and sudden like
His whole body seized up and
It must of given him a real
Scare because for a few years
Now he had turned into a regular
Son of a bitch, surly and pinched
And all cockeyed behind a beard
But since the scare and the doctor
Said take-it-easy it has been
Like when I first met him as
A boy now leaving his monster
Truck at home and walking the
Road along the river with his
Dog that he takes plowing with
Him and he waves and smiles and
The dog looks happier too


There was one stone
I set into the hut
That my neighbor Everett
Belden, a farmer, always
Remarked on liking specifically
When word of stone walls
Or such came up, “Now
There’s that white rock
You did that I like,” he’d
Always say and I can’t
Remember if I placed it
In special or it just
Came up in the pile that
Way, but now Everett is long
Gone and the hut is 10 years
Built and so is the boy who
I made it for and whenever
The story comes up he learns
A little more about Everett,
Things gone by and the love
For something done right


Bob Arnold

Once In Vermont


Saturday, October 29, 2016


Shirley Jackson’s house, the Greek Revival on Prospect Street in North Bennington
photo:  Kathye Fetsko Petrie

Friday, October 28, 2016



Right out of the blue Ronald Baatz every now and then sends to me his latest collection of poems.
Right out of the blue I usually sit right down with the collection and read the poems. Every last drop.
RB and I have never met. I know where he lives. I haven't been to Troy New York in thirty years.
I read his poems and almost never have a pencil free at hand so I stop and go get a pencil, then I
begin to read again. As I read I check a poem here and there and some I also don't check I also like.
I'm sharing the ones I recently checked. I think I'll write to RB and ask if we might take the 
checked-poems and make a foldout booklet to share.
Yes, this is what we've done.
The above image is the booklet of Ronald's poems —
but what the hey — we'll share it all with you here.


from Uncle Ghost

Morning -
I shake
a little birth
a little death
on my eggs

I row
an unwanted dog to
the other side of the lake
along with a box
of powdered milk

It's true -
I always save
some piss for the shower
always forget to rinse
some soap from the beard

Old woman sitting
on the same bench
tells me that if she has
two hairs left under her arms
it's a lot

In my younger days
an old person's eyes seemed
to be the eyes of a donkey
now such eyes are the eyes
of a saint with bent legs

my first wife's ashes
in a high and windy place -
so high and so windy
my hat's blown off

Relax -
no harm will come
to the merriment of the berry
spinning in its
own decay

I take the night
and slowly soften it on my tongue
so it's easy
to swallow

Like the perfect cricket
I continue singing my lazy song
knowing I've already
practically killed
a lifetime

Until they bathe
in the soft dirt at the
edge of the garden
sparrows avoid
being seen

I lick every seed
I throw to the birds -
so at least some part of me
will fly away

While cutting away
the rotten parts of a pear
I wonder how many gods
can fit on the head
of a fruit fly

I was just a small kid
when I learned how to use a swing
but I was able to swing high enough
to see beyond the hedges
to the cemetery

Insomnia -
doubtless it will be
with me until the end
I'll probably die one night
while trying to fall asleep

I want to come back as a crow
and keep coming back as a crow
until the sun turns into a raisin
in a dark box
of other raisins

All night long
the mockingbird reminds me
that one must also rely
on the songs
of others

for Samuel Charters

R O N A L D      B A A T Z

Uncle Ghost
Wolfscat Press

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


U T O P I A     D R I V E

E R I K     R E E C E

once again — a moment to grumble on book design
this one is quite unique for subject and we are
moving along on the highway, two-lane, lots of bends, hill country
searching for the lost utopia
in a one guy and his pickup truck
and we haven't seen a book quite like this one in adventurous spirit
since Blue Highways
but like I say, we are digging into the worm of the apple here —
utopian communities that at one time were speaking to this same
violent america as a possibility of
peace on earth —
indeed, bury it swiftly!
so the book is moving
allow it more space, wider margins,
a more relaxed and less jammed typography —
is the book world really going out as cheapskates?

If there is anyone in the younger generation
learned from the likes of Wendell Berry, Guy Davenport, Wes Jackson
I believe Eric Reece may be the one.


[Yet] "the Shakers lasted one hundred years at Pleasant Hill; the perfectionists turned a completely successful experiment in socialism into a wildly successful joint-stock company; Modern Times gave up equitable commerce only after proving that it worked. To say that these communities no longer exist — and as Twin Oaks proves, many of them still do exist — is not the same things as saying that they failed. The angel of history may yet salvage their blueprints from the detritus of the past. Because, after all, we still need these ideas so badly. In fact, we need them now more than ever before. During my utopian summer, the western ice sheet of Antarctica began breaking off into the ocean, which will cause sea levels to rise far more than scientists had predicted. Back in my hemisphere, the American Congress passed fifteen bills into law — total. Five percent of Americans continue to control 85 percent of this country's wealth, and since 1980, the wealthiest Americans have seen their incomes quadruple, while those of the poor and middle class have flatlined. The more this inequality grows, the sicker and more punitive our country becomes. The epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have recently shown that every single societal problem, with no exception, can be tied directly to income inequality. As a result, the United States has higher levels of mental illness, infant immortality, divorce, obesity, violence, incarceration, and substance abuse than all the other countries north of the equator. "In more unequal societies," they wrote, "people are five times as likely to be imprisoned, six times as likely to be clinically obese, and murder rates may be many times higher." Consider these two statistics: the United States makes up5 percent of the world's population, but we consume 25 percent of its resources and we incarcerate 25 percent of its population. I don't believe those numbers are a coincidence Almost all the wealth from extracting those resources, those fossil fuels, goes to the very richest, and the very poorest end up in jail because either they can't get by or they find illicit ways to get by or simply cope. Money that might go into education or even food stamps goes instead into the penal system. Money that might fund badly needed American infrastructure instead funds 761 military bases all over the world. Money that might be loaned by a community bank is paced as a Wall Street bet that a bond will default. Money that might reward real work circulates instead inside the same echo chamber of less and less tangible securities. Wealth becomes less accessible to most Americans, while the wealthy themselves use their power to ensure that politicians do their bidding, mostly in the form of lowering their tax rates and deregulating the industries they control. Large corporations shell out $6 billion annually to employ thirty-five thousand D.C. lobbyists to protect their wealth. Such game rigging has bred cynicism and pessimism among the body politic, and as a result, we have the lowest voter turnout on the world's forty industrial democracies. The more we retreat from, or are pushed from, the public sphere of influence, the more we lose trust in our public institutions and in one another According to the National Opinion Research Center, levels of trust in the United States have fallen from 60 percent in 1960 less than 40 percent in 2004. Into that vacuum, the imperious One Percent pours more money and accrues more power. That decline in trust has paralleled a widening income gap in the United States — currently the largest of any country in the Northern Hemisphere and the largest in this country's history, according to the 2009 census. When trust weakens and economic inequality widens, an epidemic of social maladies follows What it all adds up to, said the Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, is this: "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can't have both."

"We obviously have the latter in this country, and I've come to believe that things will only get worse if we don't engage in some serious utopian thinking. Fighting for something like campaign finance reform is laudable, but that isn't what I consider utopian thinking because it is an effort to fix a plutocratic system that doesn't deserve to be salvaged. It isn't enough. Utopian thinking by contrast and by definition, works outside the system, in a bottom-up fashion, to create a new paradigm and thus create a true form of democracy that is worthy of its name. In my view, such thinking must begin by addressing this country's most intractable problems, namely, our gross disparity in wealth and a fossil fuel-based economy that is completely unsustainable in the face of climate change, resource depletion, and the degradation of our ecosystems."

(typed with book open on my knees from pages 327-329, if you, reader, are following along)

Erik Reece
FSG, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Aphorisms by Franz Kafka
Schocken 2015

Imagine to our surprise, a new book by Franz Kafka!
gone now almost 100 years
translated by Willa and Edwin Muir
and Michael Hofmann (who seems relentless
in bringing us new, fresh work, thank you)
nicely introduced by Daniel Frank as
"The Afterlife of Fragments"

Monday, October 24, 2016

T O M     H A Y D E N ( 1939-2016 )
Back in the good ol' days

“One of your prime objectives,” J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, said in one memo, “should be to neutralize him in the New Left movement.”

T O M     H A Y D E N


Y O U     T A L K I N'     T O     M E  ?

photo ~ susan arnold


Family Fire

Almost hunting season
Last week of October
No one was around when the new house
Somehow turned to fire and after
A year building for this farm family
Fell into ashes in a half hour.
The first person to get
There before the fire department
Spoke of gas tanks blowing off,
Windows melting flames,
A big blue spruce close by shredded brown.

Now down in the dungeon of the cellar
Snow shovels and pitchforks sift through
Savings of four sons, a man and woman —
Blackened chain saw bar, lost book pages,
Bills and receipts, iron coat hooks, an axe head.
No clue to the favorite family photographs
Or pet parakeet, only the twisted
Hunk of his wire cage.

I can just imagine the fright
In the bird at first sense of fire —
A quarter mile away one of our dogs
Broke the clasp to his chain
Smelling five cords of firewood
Burn all at once.

The Walker

Everyone who has been around
The last twenty years, at least,
Has a different story to
Remember about the Henry boy
Who walked the roads.
He’s dead now.
One night after not seeing him
For a few years I came across
His tiny obituary in the newspaper
And if you hadn’t known him
The notice said nothing —
Only that he lived,
Had relatives in town,
And now he was dead —
No mention that he walked
Twenty-five miles sometimes in one day.
Started off at his parents’ farm and
Followed over the hill then
Tracked down into the village,
Poked through the covered bridge,
And turned on his heel to the left
Wandering down the river road —
Where two miles later he would
Pass me digging up stone for
One of the old walls around here.
Usually he was surprised when
I said hello, squinted over at
Me and raised his whole arm
In a salute, while still marching.
No one would have kept up with
His stride, and I watched him
Until he disappeared down the
Knoll — a harmless character in
Clothing that blended with the
Trees, road gravel, spring air.
Most of the people called him
Deaf, dumb or other things.

Old timers brushed his name aside
Whenever it came up, or else
Said something about “How it
Was a shame.” And now as the
Town changes and funny looking
Houses are built and taxes go up
Each year for easier living
I know I miss the Henry boy,
Who I simply called the walker,
Because that’s what he did
Everyday. And everyone either
Ignored him, or were used to what
They thought a pitiful sight
And no doubt he did struggle,
But this road isn’t the same
Without him — it’s gotten
Respectable almost — lost sight
Of one who walked these miles
For whatever his private reasons.
Nevertheless, he always saluted
His hello, passed without words.

Tom Newall

We haven’t a clue
What he is doing —
Moving in tangle of
Thistle and goldenrod,
Grass wet to his chest,
Sun storms the barn roof —
This is Tom Newall who is
90 years old and never married,
And he might be in a habit
Of walking his fence line
Tugging off brush and tassel

My friend drives by this farm,
Always tells me the same
Story no matter how many times
As if he can’t remember repeating
Why he is proud about knowing
Tom Newall — who boiled 400 gallons
Of maple syrup last year,
Triple that when he was younger —
And he never did marry, but how
Is it possible no one would fetch
This man of gentle poise and nitid
Eyes I can’t forget from meeting
Him just one time

Around the house lawn trim and
Kept, chickens roost on the front
Stair stoop as if, and now
It is, perfectly normal —
There is no reason to bother
Tom Newall or any other like this
Good man — if my friend had his
Way this farmer and land and
Summit would remain as it is —
That it won’t, has us look


Bob Arnold
O N C E     I N     VE R M O N T
G n o m o n