Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Thursday, October 30, 2014

El hornero/The Ovenbird

El hornero

It's autumn here in Canada, but in Uruguay, it's spring. Primavera. The jasmine are in bloom and the hornero is building her nest -- on tree branches, on telephone poles, on fence posts. God willing, in four weeks' time I'll be in that lovely country, away from the ice and snow of the bleak, frigid Canadian winter.

The Ovenbird

In Uruguay, in spring, I've often heard
lighthearted trills along a country road:
the lively, undiminished ovenbird
sings as she builds her intricate abode.
The wily swallow, with no stringent code
of constancy, surveys the chambered nest,
and knows that, following this episode
of eggs with which the other bird is blessed,
he'll snatch the abdicated space. Hard-pressed
though he may be for time, for love, for will,
too wise to prove an uninvited guest,
he waits it out upon a window sill.
The ovenbird, deemed artless by the swallow,
to practiced eyes is one tough act to follow.

(by Catherine Chandler, first published in Texas Poetry Journal, Spring 2006)

Friday, October 17, 2014


Catherine Chandler, on the Beagle Channel near Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur Province, Argentina, January 2004


In search of the exotic I had flown
as far as Ushuaia. I would see
the penguin and the lenga, for I'd grown
accustomed to the birch, the chickadee.
I crossed the Beagle Channel, met the prince
who sails upon the air, immersed my mind
in images I trusted would convince
myself I'd left the commonplace behind:
the Southern Cross at midnight, and the way
the cordillera bears from west to east,
how wind and weather shift throughout the day;
a poet's fodder, at the very least.

And yet, in retrospect, what I recall
most often when I need the proper noun
is not Olivia or Martial,
but intimations of a downhill town:
a bleak, forsaken prison, silent bogs,
a landscape ravaged by the beaver, frail
impromptu housing, countless scrawny dogs,
a monument to the Malvinas, stale
abandoned factories that bear the brunt
of empty promises, a roadside shrine
to plaster saints, a tourist's waterfront,
complete with tourists from the steamship line.

Though many miles from home, this land would show
that there is really nothing new, indeed,
under the sun, beyond the point of no
return, beyond the calafate seed,
beyond all hemispheres, beyond each pole,
beyond the boundaries nations call their own.
The dogs of Ushuaia hound my soul
and gnaw upon it, as they would a bone.

-- by Catherine Chandler, from Lines of Flight (Able Muse Press, 2011)


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Raking up leaves"

Tree in my side yard. By Catherine Chandler, October 15, 2014

Autumn in King's Hintock Park

Here by the baring bough
   Raking up leaves,
Often I ponder how
   Springtime deceives,--
I, an old woman now,
   Raking up leaves.

Here in the avenue
   Raking up leaves,
Lords' ladies pass in view,
   Until one heaves
Sighs at life's russet hue,
   Raking up leaves!

Just as my shape you see
   Raking up leaves,
I saw, when fresh and free,
   Those memory weaves
Into grey ghosts by me,
   Raking up leaves.

Yet, Dear, though one may sigh,
   Raking up leaves,
New leaves will dance on high--
   Earth never grieves!--
Will not, when missed am I
   Raking up leaves.

(by Thomas Hardy, from Time's Laughingstocks and Other Verses, 1901)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Near a Freeway Ramp by Kevin Durkin

Bayardo Martínez, a street vendor in Hialeah, Fla., bristles under what he sees as onerous restrictions that require him to keep on the move. Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal     

Near a Freeway Ramp
by Kevin Durkin

When night takes over day,
I see him on the street
peddling a huge bouquet
of roses in the heat.
He waves it while he strolls
to take in every eye,
then sprints if someone rolls
a window down to buy.

How many does he sell?
His hands are often full.
Under his cap how well
he seems to keep his cool,
while cars, departing, throw
exhaust and dust behind,
and cars approaching, slow,
their windshields sunset-blind.

His wife stands on the walk,
waiting for him to quit.
I've never seen them talk
or either of them sit.
Imagine love like theirs,
the roses in their hands
wilting while traffic stares
and makes too few demands.

(from Los Angeles in Fog, Finishing Line Press, 2013)


Friday, October 3, 2014

California Poetry Readings: Bookends to a Spectacular Vacation

Pre-reading dinner in Venice Beach, California. Left to right: Charlotte Innes, Catherine Chandler, Timothy Steele, Frank Osen, Kevin Durkin, Leslie Monsour and Bruce McBirney.

I was fortunate to have been invited to read my poetry with Timothy Steele and Kevin Durkin at Beyond Baroque in Venice, California, on September 27 and with Lee Slonimsky and George Higgins at First Wednesday Formal in Albany (north of San Francisco) on October 1, and in-between the gorgeous land- and seascapes of the Pacific Coast Highway -- staying overnight on Moonstone Beach in Cambria and in Santa Cruz.

Cathy on the walkway at Moonstone Beach, Cambria, California

Big Sur, California, photo by Catherine Chandler, September 29, 2014

Special thanks to Richard Modiano of Beyond Baroque, Charlotte Innes who organized the reading, and to David Rosenthal of First Wednesday Formal.