Backyard Brief: The Yellow Eye

Backyard Brief from shots taken March 14, 2017

As much as I pulled the trigger, this lone winter goldfinch graced only my closest third look with true color–which I then enhanced.

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
by Emily Dickinson

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun - 
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified - 
And carried Me away - 

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods - 
And now We hunt the Doe - 
And every time I speak for Him 
The Mountains straight reply - 

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And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through -

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And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master's Head - 
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow - to have shared -

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To foe of His - I'm deadly foe - 
None stir the second time - 
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye - 
Or an emphatic Thumb -

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Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I - 
For I have but the power to kill,
Without - the power to die -

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Five-Phrase Friday (22): Why Freedom?

Five-plus phrases of things to celebrate about freedom of the press and free expression:

  1. revelation through openness: unfettered expression of facts, opinions and impressions, making possible the discovery of truths
  2. diverse, idea-rich culture and personal responsibility instead of sacred cows and “safe” spaces for absolutely everything: Such riches flow out of sources ranging from irreverent comics to wise, reasonable academicians and beyond.
  3. constraint and dissent against bureaucracy and corruption: government transparency, accountability, restraint of power; courageous whistle blowers; the repeal of bad and excess laws
  4. greater personal safety, freedom, and fairness–and less fear: no to a military-style police state, no to federal intimidation, no to economic imprisonment, no to political entitlement, no to terror, no to executive power grabbing, no to detention without charges or trial, no to knee-jerk litigation, no to more prohibition (yes, upholding the Constitution in general is essential to numbers 3 and 4)
  5. lighten up, get real and get out of your own way: uncork childhood and let them breathe, laugh at ourselves, leave the Internet unregulated, and say “yes” to risk, to play, to innovation, to experiments in arts and sciences–to better life

Roosevelt was right: Our greatest enemy is our own fear. And guilt is a close second.

Most of us theoretically want the foundation of the five conditions above; we just advocate different ways of getting there. For my part, I say:

Self-control is a skill worth cultivating alongside rational and critical thinking.

Let not your pulsing heart scream silently in ready offense, righteous indignation, outrage, despair, doom, panic, self-hatred, or vengeance. And if you can’t help it, delay the impulse to give your heart voice until after it consults your mind (or a neighbor’s if you are out of yours).

To kick our addictions to dread and catastrophe, and curb our bad habit of trying to change others, if we really want to make life better, first we have to change our own hearts and minds. Adaptation propels us beyond mere survival into thriving.

You find what you look for, so look for the good in others. You cultivate what you rave about, so, if you must rave, rave about the good you have found. Replace the need to spread anger and fear with an addiction to the highs of good news and hope.

Oppression rules when we approach life as an error to correct, as a problem to solve, as something broken to be fixed. Hypocrisy and idiocy reign when we engage with and operate from assumptions of imaginary woes and wars within society.

Out of such an atmosphere spring useless, tyrannical communism; insidious, oppressive fascism; and volatile religious fanaticism–and their attendant violence. Feel free to despair at that point, but then quickly dust yourself off to fight the now-real war.

Either way, no one is getting out of here alive.

Therefore, let life pursue its natural course–improvement. Let there be creativity on earth, and let it begin . . . with freedom. Only under this necessary first condition can we hope for truth, love, integrity, respect, and trust in ourselves and each other to foster widespread, lasting peace and prosperity.

Five-Phrase Friday (1): The Poetry Politic

It’s a new series of weekly posts featuring choice phrases in English! I hope you enjoy them. This first one surrounds the theme of politics in poetry.

Favorite phrases from poems peppered with politics:

"when lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd" 
  - "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" by Walt Whitman 
     (an elegy for the fallen President Lincoln) 

"something there is that doesn't love a wall" 
  - "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost

"Their pain cries down the noise of poetry."
  - "The Foreign Gate" by Sidney Keyes

"the glittering neutrality / of clock and chocolate 
 and lake and cloud"
  - "The Country of a Thousand Years of Peace" by James Merrill 
     (Can you guess which country he means?) 

"like Caesar's Gaul, I feel divided"
  - "Driving Myself to a Poetry Reading" by Billy Collins

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Here’s to slam poetry, graffiti & public murals, dystopian fiction, palace architecture, subversive songs, documentary films, satirical cartoons, great political speeches, politician mimicry, national anthems, spy movies, biopics, creative protests, conflict-zone journalism, eloquent cries for freedom, superhero comics–in short, creative efforts that address, dismiss, laud, mock, or simply use the world’s governors, power mongers, and citizens in the making of true art.

As some of the excerpts above illustrate, the personal is often political, the political often personal.

Live long and multiply, Free Expression . . . and Love, Truth, Justice, Beauty.

Link love: language (63)

Reblogged

Sentence first

For your weekend reading and viewing pleasure, a selection of recent language-related links from around the web:

Love letters to trees.

How to design a metaphor.

Two medieval monks invent writing.

The United Swears of America, in maps.

On the political power of African American names.

Asperitas: the first new cloud name since 1951.

The emerging science of human screams.

Telegraphic abbreviations of the 19thC.

Secret language games, aka ludlings.

Managing weight in typeface design.

Zodiac signs for linguists.

A stone talking to itself.

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Wild Verses: Bits of Nature Poetry, 4 of 10

The beginning stanzas of my poem “Lightning Could Strike,” 2006, chosen in association with summer storms and Fourth of July fireworks.

Dwell in the realm
where silence grows on trees,
but not like fruit—more like fungus, 
that which only grows on the dead.
It is there that you learn the value of sound.

The phone rings. It’s Mom, calling
to report the broken trees and outed power.

You produce electricity,
and all the trees are down.
Ants and sap-flows end violently.
Darkness falls with the toaster button
when the fridge kicks on, and, so, off.

copyright C. L. Tangenberg

Why I am not Charlie: A pressed post

Why I am not Charlie. Originally posted by A Paper Bird

Okay, so this is not timely commentary on my part. The source content is just so good that I felt compelled–now–to use social media to capture and broadcast what I see as an important message, especially for you, the thoughtful and empowered. Note: In emphasizing that description of “sharing,” I acknowledge the fine point made here that supportive speech and active solidarity are not synonymous.

I see at least two applications of this concept in the pressed post. Using myself as an example: First, I should carefully avoid claiming to do, e.g., human rights work, but I can openly appreciate those who do. Second, and apparently a more difficult concept for many, my defense of one’s right to non-violent expression is not–and need not be–support for the ideas or beliefs expressed.

I found this post after reading visitor comments on A Paper Bird‘s “about me” page, which I sought after being impressed by and tweeting the post Internet entrapment in Egypt: Protect yourself!. I receive a weekly digest from his blog.

After some mental laboring over, and re-reading of, Why I am not Charlie, my eyes have opened to complexities in the nature of satire, nuances I was startled to realize did not arise in my teaching of it to high school English classes.

A Paper Bird has deepened my hopefully growing understanding of the need to think critically and learn (i.e., research and/or ask questions) before either acting or reacting, especially in a provocative, emotional way. Otherwise, one may unwittingly create or perpetuate a distortion of fact and, thus, condone blindness to a truth. Such blindness only enables threats–and increases the potential for threats–to people’s freedoms and lives . . . which is bad.

In the name of sense and reason, let’s all try harder to think first and more carefully. And to shed light, not self-control.

Begin Again: A Pressed Post

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Begin Again.

My favorite part:

“When you learn to love yourself, you become the keeper of your heart. And when you learn to trust, you give up needing to know how the story’s going to end. Life becomes your lover.

No one person holds power over you. No job. No group of friends. No role you play. No paycheck. No title.

You are the creator of your life.

And when you claim all of your power–all of it, every last drop–back from all of those scattered places. When you learn to say, ‘I give you my love but not my power, I give you my time but not my identity,’ you break the spell.

You are free.”