Sunday, August 03, 2008


Yes, Masons in Minicoopers! I was walking the connecting road to Bartram's Garden today when more than a dozen Minicoopers zipped by, a couple with Masonic symbols on the backend. Then I saw, almost at the mouth of the garden's parking lot a sign for the Mason gathering. That was unexpected, of course! An old woman (maybe 75?) was doing an oil painting of one of Bartram's buildings when I arrived, and she was agitated and cranky for the horse fly that kept sitting on her nose and biting her. She said she LIVES to come out there to paint and draw, and when I showed her Jonathan Williams's book with Bartram's drawing of the Franklinia flower on the cover she said she could do a better drawing, "in fact I already HAVE done it better!"

She wasn't too interested in joining us for the reading of Jonathan's poems, she wanted to "get the light" while she had it she said, which I said rang right with what we wanted too. The last EVENT I went to at the garden (not including going there with friends to roam the gardens) was Mytili and Heather's wedding. THAT WAS AN AMAZING EVENT and at the exact same spot where we gathered today.

Hal Sirowitz, Minter Sirowitz, their friend Peggy, and Jack Krick and Michael Hennessey all made it. Sitting under the same tree Jonathan sat under to read from AN EAR IN BARTRAM'S TREE was something I had wanted to do with others for a long time. In fact there was a brief moment some years ago where it seemed that Jonathan would make the trip north again to do readings, but it never happened. When I talked to him about it he was thinking about WHERE to read in NY, and when I mentioned him reading at Bartram's Garden he said that sounded like a good idea so long as he could read new poems. The poems in the BARTRAM'S book are 40 years old and older now.

Another book I took along was HORNY AND ORNERY, a collection of Jonathan's epigram poems, which is a lot of fun to pass around for a group to read together.

While at the library last week I came across an anthology of war poems Jonathan was in. His poem was one I had never seen before, and QUITE HAUNTING. It's about dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and eating peaches someone had brought from Okayama the day before the megaton obliteration. It's called "The Empire Finals at Verona" and I can't locate it's source, I mean, it says "from" at the front of the title, which to me means it's from a much longer piece. I'll figure it out soon enough I'm sure, and look forward to reading more of it.

We had a great time with wine, chocolate, bread, cheese, honoring Jonathan. I brought a cheese which was said to be "cave aged" and it did kind of taste like bat shit. The wine helped the bat shit cheese.

There was no ACTUAL order to what we were going to do, so we would eat, drink, read, reverse the order, do some more another way. At one point we were passing around AN EAR IN BARTRAM'S TREE to read the 39 quotes Jonathan placed at the very front of the book, as he wrote, "IN LIEU OF A PREFACE." Here are three of my favorites:

"We may eventually come to realize that Chastity is no more a virtue than Malnutrition."
--Alex Comfort

"The food of the Soul is Light and Space."
--Herman Melville

"The song is heat!"
--Charles Olson

Here's one of the poems I'm pretty certain was written in Philadelphia, in the garden:

The Flower-Hunter in the Fields
(for Agnes Arber)

a flame azalea, mayapple, maple, thornapple

a white cloud in the eye
of a white horse

a field of bluets moving
below the black suit
of William Bartram

bluets, or "Quaker Ladies," or some say

bluets and the blue of gentians and
Philadelphia blue laws!

high hills,

stone cold

as October

Hoping I dream of the garden tonight. Maybe too of Jonathan talking to the woman painting, about how she can do a Franklinia better than the man who named it. Horse fly buzzing.

I guess it's nice that Bartram named the Franklinia after Benjamin Franklin. Before that the birds had it to themselves. And it's funny too to think that if Bartram hadn't rescued the specimens when he did that it wouldn't exist at all, as it was on the verge of extinction when he "discovered" it in the wilds of Georgia. What would Bartram think of the scientists today in the arctic with their perfectly preserved woolly mammoth inside a giant icecube, slowly thawing it out in the ice caves of Siberia, hoping to extract perfect DNA to reanimate the species? I'm happy for the tree though. It feels like a weird tree, blooming in August when all other trees in Philadelphia bloom in early spring. I like how weird it is with its fried egg looking flowers heavy on the branches.

Flower-Hunter, as Jonathan called Bartram, his crazy stone bathtub still by the porch, no horses for the horse fly anymore, but plenty of Masons in Minicoopers. "To live is to defend a form." This was said by Anton Webern, also at the front of Jonathan's BARTRAM book. Placing a finger in it to get a feel.


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