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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Stars and Poems

One night, walking my little dog Pip, I happened to look to the sky. Everything seemed more than I had ever seen before, more stars, more brilliance, immense, and stunning. I had stargazed before but had never seen this kind of expansive beauty. I kept whispering “spectacular” over and over as if my dog understood the word. Since looking skyward wasn’t an option for him and it was cold he kept fussing, clearly wanting to go home but I couldn’t leave those stars. I watched so long I got a crick in my neck. The splendor of that starry night stays with me.

A journal entry I made during my first summer residency at Goddard College in Vermont reads:  "Last night when I turned in bed to find a more comfortable position I accidentally saw a kind of dark perfection through the window. The round dusty trees and sky seemed connected to a single star somewhere to my right." * When I was very young I wrote a poem about stars and shaped the poem like a star. I may have thought that was terribly clever of me (you know how the very young can be).

Perhaps being awestruck when we see a perfect night sky or an exquisite painting, sculpture, or poem has something to do with the interconnectedness of all things. Fanatics destroying books and works of art exhibit a temporary triumph of hatred but fanatics cannot sledge hammer thought, especially a sense of awe. Thinking people celebrate art and literature whether a sculpture from antiquity or a poem written this morning.

Here are two star sonnets by John Keats and William Blake. I'll leave analysis of these poems to scholars. I prefer to simply experience the poems as I imagine you do.

Bright Star 
by John Keats 

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
   Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
 And watching, with eternal lids apart,
   Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
   Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
   Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
   Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
   Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

To the Evening Star
by William Blake

Thou fair-haired angel of the evening,
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves; and, while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter they silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let that west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And was the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares through the dun forest:
The fleeces of our flocks are cover'd with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence.

*Excerpt from Mirror Talk: A Memoir

Image: © Z_i_b_i | 


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Two Poems


Trees amaze me most in winter when
stark against slate skies
slim, long branches bend.  In December
snow somehow gently clings.
Pagans danced around oaks, in awe.
Trees were holy things.
Squirrels hurry as sparrows startle
through large, breathing limbs,
squeaking speckled, noisy hymns.
Pale, crisp leaves lay soft nearby,
in winter when trees amaze me most.


People do odd things
after the death of a parent –
lose their faith,
end a marriage,
travel somewhere
they read of long ago,
as if, as if…
the faces they owned
before they saw
the things no one tells,
would somehow return,
certain and vaguely young.

The last time I saw my mother
she winked at me when encouraged
to attend a sing-along.
I understood that wink to mean
there wasn’t much to sing about
stationed by the large window
in a locked wheelchair so the nursing
home staff could move freely.
That window waits for me.

It does no one good
to cry in the dark,
“I was wrong.”  You need
to go on in the way
almost sleeping children
pull bedcovers and sigh
into the breadth of night.

from First Kiss by Barbara Alfaro

 © Barbara Alfaro

“Afterlife” first appeared in The Chesapeake Reader.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Heart-Shaped Shout-Out!

Ollie-Dog and his sweetheart Greta

I started writing  this blog in 2011 and have publlished quite a few posts praising the work of fellow writers whose books are intelligent, witty, and fun - books that deserve to be praised and recommended. And these same friends often reciprocate in kind. But today is Valentine's Day and it is time for me to give a huge heart-shaped shout-out to my favorite children's book author - my husband Victor!

Victor has written two wonderful children's stories - The Ollie-Dog Quartet and The Little Green Astronaut. In The Ollie-Dog Quartet you'll meet a little pug named Ollie, a poodle named Greta, circus dogs, kittens, and oh yes, a boy named Jimmy. You'll also meet a villain or two but they are no match for Ollie-Dog.

Ollie-Dog at the circus

The ebook is perfect for 5 to 7 year olds and would be a wonderful surprise Valentine gift for your children or grandchildren. .
The Ollie Dog Quartet can be purchased for $0.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

The chap who accidentally wanders on to a NASA spacecraft has adventures of an intergalactic kind and although he is a little lizard he turns out to be a big hero. This imaginative and whimsical story is also perfect for 5 to 7 year olds.

The Little Green Astronaut

Both ebooks are wonderfully illustrated by my nephew Christopher Alfaro. You can see from the few illustrations I've posted here that they are delightful!

The Little Green Astronaut is only $0.99 and available at  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and  Smashwords.  

Why not treat yourself and the young children in your life to these wonderful stories that are pure fun?

 Happy Valentine's Day!  

Illustrations: © Christopher Alfaro