Monday, June 20, 2022

The Garden of the Seasons: Let's All Worship the Sun in June! The Plants Are Showing Us How

Spring has proved a very strong season for flowering plants this year. The flowers that grow in the spring, of course, do just that. But this year they have done it extremely well. 

Here's an album of growing days this spring, now that the sun has reached its zenith for another year, 2022. We can't say that much has gone well for human beings in this country, or many of the others, this year. But those purveyors of beauty, spring flowers, have held up their end. 

We have, in our midst, the "plant kingdom." It's an old term, but maybe we should take it seriously and recognize the prior rights of green creatures to flourish and grow. Where in the scheme of thing do we humans belong? We don't live in a forest any more. But many of us do live amid the urban forest. And many of us possess little patches of green we can all our own and cause (or try to cause) them to flourish.

My wife, Anne, and I live in a piece of Earth called Quincy, Mass. Here's some of what's been growing there this spring.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In June                               

Achillea, or Yarrow, gives us big yellow flowers.
Lady's Mantle, delicate flowers in early June.
White Peony blossoms in June, even in this sheltered and too shady spot.

These red roses blossom on a very old vine. It was here when we arrived almost 20 years ago, but barely bloomed. It needs fertilizing and repeated pruning to keep it going strong. 

Lamium, or "Spotted Dead Nettle" is low, delicate groundcover, lovely when in flower.

The flag Iris need attention too. When their rhizomes feel crowded they stop flowering. 
Icelandic Poppies, a fleeting pleasure.
This Wigelia blooms strongly though it's getting crowded by a neighboring Japanese red maple.

This Korean Lilac blooms copiously in May.                                                        

 The Siberian Iris makes a lovely blossom, again in May.

Before opening fully, these shapely Lilac blossoms have a strong color. 
Columbine, an early May bloomer. 
This small tree, a Viburnum, is called "Summer Snowflake." It bloomed in May,

The low Phlox, above, required getting close to, to appreciate. It starts blooming in April. 

These Hyacinth bloomed under the Boxwood hedge in April. 

Before most garden plants had made presence known, these Daffodils were up and blooming. Some of the earliest flowered in March. 

Poems of the Season: Lyrics on the Subjects of Spring, Trees, and Summer -- Wow, Three of My Favorite Things!

I've been busy in June. Our son Saul got married on June 4, to Emma Siegel, perfect ceremony 

in a perfect place, the Tanglewood Music Center, in Lenox, Mass. 

Then I got Covid, and took about a week of sleeping a lot and otherwise taking it easy to 

make sure I was well and posed no danger to anybody else. 

Then we went to another wedding. (So far OK.)

So I've been slow to post notice of my poems in the June edition of Verse-Virtual, the monthly 

journal of the poetry community I am happily part of. 

My poems this month address subjects that mean a lot to me and, one hopes, to everyone 

else: spring, trees, and summer.

The Thing About Spring begins this way:

Once more the world, the landscape,

the place, the thing – everything that we are not

greens up, like a laugh in the heart of a 
     creature in love 
Something is loving the world
Once again people do not entirely matter 
The slaughter of the innocents enacted in this or that 
     corner of the world 
is not, to all appearances, the only story
Once more, before our eyes the face of The Other 
     changes, the object of perception 
What do the philosophers make of this?
Do they say – like us? – the eyes of my eyes
may now be freshly engaged, transfixed,
that the miracle has shaken the grip 
     of our disbelieving heart?

To read the remainder of this poem, and my other poems, "Heroes of the Arboretum" and
"The Truth About Summer," and find your way to the rest of this issue,
here's the link June 2022

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

'The Garden in the Woods': Spring Flowers in a Curated New England Woodland


Three leaves on a stem, and three petals on the flower. This is a Trillium, one of the many varieties of the wildflower blooming now in "The Garden in the Woods" in Framingham, Mass. The second week of May is often peak season for the native wildflower Trillium,

I tried to catch a few of these beauties' names. Otherwise, they'll have to get along on looks alone. the plant below, with white blossoms, is "Trillium simile."

The plant below is Blue Moss Phlox. I think the photo above may show another low Phlox.

Wood Poppy

"Home Fries" Creeping Phlox

"Yellow Celebration" Trillium

"Large Toadstool" Trillium

"Mount Airy" Witch Alder  


Marsh Marigold

Stiff Bluestar

Spreading Jacob's-ladder

Box Huckleberry

The tall white flowers are "Shooting Star"

A more isolated shot of "Shooting Star"

Anemone Meadow-rue 

And so many other spring wildflowers in this woodland paradise I did not manage to get a photo of.

We'll just have to go back. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Garden of Poetry and Prose: New Poems and a Story About Long Ago


My thanks to the editors of "Terror House Magazine" for publishing two of my poems on their site. Both poems, "No Country For White Men" and "At the Burial" are a little edgy, though my 'terror' in the first poem is largely tongue in cheek.
The journal does have an attitude. These sentences come from its "About Us" statement: "We stand against both the stultifying Beigeism of major New York publishing houses and the hysterical cliquishness of the “alt-lit” community... Terror House Magazine seeks to cultivate the Charles Bukowskis, Louis-Ferdinand CĂ©lines, and Philip K. Dicks of the 21st century: bold, audacious writers who depict human life in all its ugliness and comedy."
Here's the link

The May 2022 issue of Verse-Virtual offered an optional theme of the personal "impact of war." In response, I offered a poem about the impact of the Vietnam War and the draft on some long
ago years when I was of draft age and the war in Southeast Asia dragged on.
Here's the poem

Civil Wars

What war meant to me:
staying in school
keeping your deferment,
my father and I, who never
talked to one another about our lives,
staring at the screen when an image appeared from
“The March on the Pentagon,”
shots of protestors, a gesturing spokesman,
a “We Won’t Go” sign –
Dad said, “Oh, that’s last weekend…”
“I was there.”
“I thought you might be.”
No further exchange of views
Dad never spoke of his war
until his final decade
Even when my older cousins marveled
over the souvenir German rifle in the basement
the story
was like pulling the dragon’s teeth
I had secrets of my own
When the Selective Service mailed my punitive
reclassification notice to the parental home address,
Dad threw me an anxious glance
“Don’t tell me you’ve gotten yourself
in trouble with those people!”
I denied it, like the cowardly apostle
at the crucifixion
The truth was,
both like and unlike Dad, I would never share
my story with my family:
I had.

I have two more poems in the May Verse-Virtual:

Today Is Beautiful, We Have Things To Do*


Everybody Wants to Rule the World

To check out these poem, here's the link:

Finally, here's my story about growing up in the late 60s, published by an online journal
called "Jerry Jazz Musician." Music is a theme in my story, titled "Thunder." But so is adolescence,
youth, the 60s, and falling in love.

Here's the link Thunder

Today was a beautiful day in the neighborhood of Planet Earth. Happy Spring! to all.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Local Author Speaking Series: I'll be speaking on (and reading from) "House Stories" in Plymouth


I will be speaking about – and reading from – my new book of linked short stories, "House Stories,” at Books & Sundry located at 150 Water St., Plymouth MA. The book is centered on a Connecticut commune, circa 1970 and the characters who shared the house. I’ll also talk about my novel, "Suosso's Lane," a novel based on the Plymouth origins of the notorious Sacco and Vanzetti case. 

Here's the event announcement from Plymouth's new bookstore, Books & Sundry. Please note that the store requires registration for this free, public program. 

"Bob Knox, formerly of Plymouth, joins us to talk about “House Stories,” his latest work of short stories. The collection is centered on a Connecticut commune, circa 1970 and the characters who inhabit it. Knox is also the author of "Suosso's Lane," a novel based on the Plymouth origins of the notorious Sacco and Vanzetti case. Previously, Knox was selected as a finalist for a Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship and his stories have been published by Words With Jam, The Tishman Review, Lunch Ticket, and Unlikely Stories, among other journals.

"A Plymouth resident for 20 years, he worked as an editor for the Old Colony Memorial, winning awards for his editorials and arts coverage for a newspaper that was annually named Best Newspaper in New England in its class. He is currently working as a correspondent for the Boston Globe and working on another novel, "Karpa Talesman," which will be published by Hidden River Arts.

This event is free and open to the public. Registration required."

Here's the link to register:

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Among the Lessons of the War on Ukraine: Never Too Many Democracies, and Why So Many of Us Care About These Refugees


Ukraine has never been a particularly important country to America. It was never an independent country before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. That’s when “the Ukraine” as Russian speakers and both their czarist and Soviet governments referred to that part of their domain called it — a name derived from a Slavic word for ‘borderland’ — lost its article, won its independence, and became simply “Ukraine.”

In Czarist Russia, and in the Soviet Union, Ukraine was part of Russia’s homeland. It was called Russia’s “breadbasket,” possessing some of the most fertile farmland in Europe. Many Americans, especially whose ancestors came to this country in the late 19th and early 20the centuries, can trace their roots back to Ukraine. Many of those immigrants were Jewish, because Ukraine was a part of Russia where Jews were permitted to live. But Ukrainians, Jewish and otherwise, faced the tyranny of the czar, in particular forced enlistment into the czar’s army, a likely death sentence.

So while claims that Ukraine had long been a part of Russia are certainly true, most Ukrainians were overjoyed to put an end to that subjective relationship. The United States, for comparison, had long been part of the British Empire, its people the subjects of that empire’s kings, before 1776. I don’t believe the Queen of England harbors any fantasies of reclaiming us like lost children in order to celebrate our Anglo-Saxon roots in one big happy family.

In world history terms, thirty years of independence is not a very long time. But, judging from Ukrainians’ brave, committed response to Putin’s despicable invasion, it appear that it does not take a people very long to develop a love for freedom and independence. People everywhere recognize and honor this emotional, and perhaps spiritual and moral, attachment to our country, our land. Parents would lay down their lives for their children. Families cling loyally to their members. And it is equally natural for human beings to love our home lands. For the great majority of the people of Ukraine, that love is for Ukraine, not for its ancient roots as a subject province of their Slavic cousins in Putin’s “Fatherland.” (Seriously, would you really want Putin for your father?)

Watching the abundance of video images coming these days from Ukraine, its people’s sufferings, and their brave determination to defend their homeland, I find it hard not to cry. It’s also hard not to clamor for our government to do more. To intercede militarily. To send food, and arms. To clear the skies of Russian aircraft with our own armed might. To rush anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry to the defenders through any route possible. To fill Poland with American military might — the very same response (it should be recalled) that did not make a difference in Afghanistan — and look for a pretext to send our armies and air power across the border to drive out the Russian invaders. To clear the Russian ships out of the Black Sea with the strength of the American naval power for which we spend billions every year but never — and I would add ‘happily’ — never use.

And I will also acknowledge that when we watch these images coming from a country under attack we are dealing with very deep issues here: families deciding how to protect their children; families forced to leave their elderly behind as they flee for safety; men staying behind to take up arms against an invader while bidding goodbye to their women and children sent away to unknown futures… I will acknowledge, that is, the difficult truth that some commentators have pointed out.

Many of us are ‘feeling for’ the Ukrainians the way we may not have felt (and certainly not to the same degree) for victims of wars in other countries throughout the world, simply because these people look like us. As the Ukrainians insist, in the face of Putin’s paternalistic fantasies, they are Europeans.

And that means for white Americans, like myself, they are white.

My theory is that it’s the back brain — the reptilian brain, the lizard brain — that controls these emotions. One of the first comments I read about the outpouring of American sympathy for the victims of this unprovoked assault by a smaller country by a bigger one was from an observer who praised the American outrage over this clear instance of aggression, but added, “sometime I would like to see the same support when the people fighting for justice and getting hurt are not white.”

I think those who have made troubling observations of this sort have a point. Should we not show a similar degree of support for other hurting peoples?

The civilian victims in Gaza, for example, including women and children, when Israel launches another of its punishment bombing raids and missile attacks on that stateless people in its endless war with Hamas.

Or the thousands of refugees from the Middle East who have not been afforded sympathy or afforded the same generous welcome by the European countries that are now welcoming Ukrainian refugees. Or when the refugees are Asian, Afghani, Central American, or African.

Should we not feel the same compassion for the boatloads of refugees from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean who are regarded merely as a problem, a burden, even a threat to a European nation’s way of life, traditional heritage and identity? Just as refugees from Central America, or Haiti, are turned away from America’s borders and told to wait in “temporary quarters” (that last forever) in Mexico, until we get to your case.

The “reptilian brain” theory I referred to above can be explained this way: According to a ‘triune’ model of the brain, dividing the brain into three main areas, the inner region of the basal ganglia is termed the ‘reptilian’ or ‘primal’ brain because it controls our innate, reflexively self-preserving emotions and behavior. These mental reflexes are thought to function in a way that ensures the survival of our species.

The implication is that when white people see other white people suffering, a part of us automatically responds by feeling, ‘hey, that’s us.’ Personally, I don’t have any Ukrainian blood in my ancestry, but when I see screen images of those strong, determined, suffering women, these valiantly committed guys, and the children who need their protection — I have a gut response that says “C’mon, we should be doing something to help!”

The Ukrainian defense of its homeland, the suffering of a people victimized by an aggressive neighbor, has a true, deeply felt, and undeniable claim on the sympathy of Americans and their fellow Europeans.

Our hearts go out to a brave people, as they should, and hopefully some enduring American assistance can follow in the wake of that emotion. But I wish our hearts would go out equally as strongly, and our material support be equally forthcoming, when the victims are Brown or Black.

Up Close and Personal in Three Poems for March: 'Kicking the Tires,' 'The Shape of You' and 'Food for Thought'


According to Anne (my wife and best critic) my poems in Verse-Virtual this month are unusually personal. One is a poem not only on the universal subject of getting older, but also on how it “shows up” -- especially in inconvenient places (like one's face).

My thanks to editor Jim Lewis for including "Kick the Tires" (the poem about aging), "The Shape of You" (about someone very close to me), and "Food for Thought" (about food).

I'll post the one with most immediate relevance -- the poem about aging and appearance -- here. And also, see note below, because this (as we say in the newsy trade) is an ongoing story.

Kick the Tires

Most guys of an age, let’s face it (or maybe let’s not) 
grow thick and long in the tooth 
and are thinning up top 
Others, the ones that work out, stand forth 
like steel sculptures, shiny skulled, at senior events,
rusting in spots
To send even a ‘recent’ photo,
I mean, not yesterday exactly,
with my missing tooth and the cyst burning 
     like a red tower
in a wasted portion of the kingdom 
of the phiz…
but the day before, or the day before that,
may perhaps be regarded as an indulgence 
     in ‘paint to sell’
I prefer to believe I have let them, my correspondents, 
down easy
Oh, and for the record,
I am working on getting thick, and bald, 
and generally not so spruce
It’s coming along
And yet, to send a photo only-a-few-years-back,
can it be so misleading?
I mean, I think (though I can be corrected)
I still clean up pretty, sort-of
until you kick the tires 

Here's a quick postscript update on the "the cyst burning
like a red tower"
on face mentioned in the poem above.
After four visits to doctors' offices, it turns out
to be skin cancer.

To see the other 2 poems, and find new work by seventy
other poets go here: