Giant Pacific Octopus

IMG_0325_1If this octopus escapes an open tank,

look carefully around, then worry.

It can scuttle over land.


Longer than a car,

it squeezes  through an orange-size

hole.  The beak?  In its crotch or armpit,

take your pick.  Ignore the venom

that dissolves flesh.  Stronger than

a body-builder.  Truly its suckers, shape,

ink, brain: Unique.  Not a vertebrate.

Breathes water!


If you see it,

vibrate in your boots,

then scoot.


FEWalls  April 8, 2016

Source:  Sy Montgomery  Soul of an Octopus

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A Church Burns

100th Anniversary House (231 of 370)We gather before the burned-out building

our aged container of our times

together in prayer, sermon, song

both in joy and in sorrow.


We have gathered here for years,

over generations, taught our children,

shared hot-cross buns, coffee, tea,

shed tears as a praying congregation

lighting a candle for the sick, the bereaved,

given thanks together.


We are a singing congregation,

we love the organ’s melodies;

we stand to sing the Hallelujah Chorus

filling the rafters with praise.


Though the holes in the floor gape

though the hallways smell of smoke

though the pews are pushed askew,

the church is the energy of its people

the spirit of God lifting us up,

the house of God.


We will walk from our building

to a new gathering place

and when the time is ripe,

we will return in song, celebrate new beginnings

and the joy of being together.

We are the church.


FEWalls March 31, 2016

(My little church in Ballard burned on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.)

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Cathédrale de Notre Dame

IMG_0164Ah, Cathédrale de Notre Dame at dawn,

in fog, sepulcher white, barely formed,

the façade emerges from the mist

each statue takes his place above the arches

the flying buttresses hold high the nave

the solidity of the wooden doors.

a vast square with the lanterns unlit

even the birds rest silent in the cold

on the banks of the river Seine.


Ah, the nightclubs at dawn

soften the music

spill out their partiers

the liquor still on their tongues and breath

drunk, some shout at young couples

already speeding across Pont Neuf

on their vespas.


One last look at the ghostly church

then we go into the depths of the metro, St. Michael,

where the light then darkness

takes our anonymity into the tunnels

hacked into the depths of the earth

we are miners of the underground

hurrying from Cathédrale de Notre Dame

to destinations unforetold.


FEWalls   December 21, 2007

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Return Flight

IMG_0404_1Some people just wait

you know, just wait until the door is closing

to run up and say, “Wait for me

I’m boarding, too!”

on that plane to somewhere.


Sitting in the metal tube

feeling scared 30,000 feet in the air

going 150 miles an hour

adding your weight to the tons

that must stay aloft for hours.


Wondering if a bomb will go off

yet longing for adventure

(horseback, covered wagon, car, train)

those engines whining for hours

the invisible pilot coping with boredom,


fatigue. Smell the recycled air

enter the germy restroom

knock against your too-close neighbor

with his shoes off, his elbow hogging the entire arm-rest

his body too close


his breath too close

as if he could blow his way home

like the big, bad wolf blowing the house down

around the little piggies

eating up meals in boxes.


(Drink water! Avoid alcohol!)

Wrap yourself in the tissue-thin

blankets, tiny pillow at your back,

eat with the plastic

fork the hot risotto or cold chicken.


Stuff yourself with everything

remotely edible (cheese, crackers, chocolate)

but enjoy the hot towelete

handed you with a metal tong

by the tired attendant


coping with swollen ankles

and jet lag and seniority battles.

Don’t forget you can

track your flight on the screen

count down the minutes elapsing


watch another movie in the darkness

(Casablanca, Everest, Grumpy Old Men)

the blinds pulled down against the light

don’t stand and look down the aisle

at the faces staring at you.


Do stand up every hour

and stretch by your seat

that precious space is yours

until you set down on that runway

the jolt of earth embracing you


now rolling down the asphalt

disoriented but sensing safety

in your bones

certain, finally,

you have come home.


FEWalls March 25, 2016

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L’imagination pouvoir.

IMG_0486_2“No to Vietnam! No to tradition!”

In 1968, students barricade Place Maubert

tearing up the cobblestones

stoning police that march

shoulder to shoulder toward them.

The students may forget the year 1588,

the first revolt and barricades of Paris

but not the journalist.


Now, the locals drink at the cafe

in once the filthiest street in Paris,

when the putrid waste of the Sorbonne

flowed down the lanes

where 800 years ago the masters of divinity

lectured their students

who sat on bales of hay even in the rain

so hungry were they for news of God.


A fountain shines now under the sycamores

and the aged and women with babies

sit on the benches where 600 years ago

Francois I, the King, burned alive the Lutherans

ignoring their screams

and generation after generation watched

the executions in this “cesspool of Maubert.”


Now, the sounds of a rugby match

echo in the plaza from the bar

the Frenchmen make their only goal,

and all stand and sing the Marseilles badly.

Even the one scribbling on a paper

joins in shouting out the chorus


“To arms, citizens!
Form up your battalions
Let us march, Let us march
That their impure blood
Should water our fields.”


Now the water trickles from the stone mouths of lions

on the crown of the hill

water runs down toward the Seine

through the gutters along each street

past the fromagerie, the patisserie,

the charcuterie, the bottles of wine stacked in pyramids,

and in one window of the cafe,

a woman bends over a notebook

her hair in disarray as she writes of Place Maubert

as if the world could not see her steady hand

planning the next revolution.


FEWalls 2005

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Souvenir de Paris

Paris 2010 633In this café off Rue Severin,

we will meet someday again

in this smoke-filled room of laughter,

and toast,


as the cameras flash their language of truth and lies

and the secrets we keep from each other

and from ourselves.


In this café

where the woman in the portrait

moves away from us toward Algeria

in her black dress,

her lips parted slightly, mysteriously.


We gather in this café,

in from the lights of the Seine

and eat lamb and coucous with our wine,

forgetting the flea markets and mannequins,

the flower and bird markets,

the Moulin Rouge, the Oberkampt,

Le Marais, Montmartre, Montparnasse,

forgetting everything we have metered and measured,

counting out the seconds of our lives,

brief or eternal.


We have gathered in

from the Renaissance facades and interiors,

from the haunts of Hemingway, Pascal, Picasso, Monet,

the cobbled streets of the great and the humble.


We have gathered in

from the priests blessing the wafers,

the protesters with their banners and masks,

the police in uniform or not,

and the parade of white-headed veterans

marching erectly to L’Arc de Triomphe.


Here in war-wounded Paris,

the plaques, the red, white, blue carnations

next to a man’s name and a date,

mark a place of sudden death,


and beyond, at Pere Lechaise

where its canopy of chestnut trees in pink bloom

covers the chapels of bone and ash,

and the stones of remembrance

enrich the monuments to the deported.


We remember that “those who love

will be reunited,”

perhaps, here, in Paris

where lovers embrace without fear

and kiss the brow of their lover

as the Metro races through the underground caverns


toward the gardens of light and Luxembourg

where a girl leans out from her wooden horse on the carousel

to catch a ring with her stick,

and little boys push sailing boats

in the winds of the sea on the pond,

and every statue comes to life

in the blur of the sun, quickly, as the blink of a camera’s eye.


We have gathered here in this café

with the portrait of the Algerian woman,

who will never glimpse the Notre Dame, the Louvre

or the Seine.

Perhaps for her, we remember.

Perhaps, for ourselves.

“On oublie jamais,”

We do not forget.



May 18, 2001

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Francine in Paris – Day 14

Can 3.73 million people be wrong?  That’s how many folks visited the Centre Georges Pompidou in 2013.  The art is great!  The building is UGLY.  This gigantic building made of a steel superstructure with reinforced concrete in a “post modern, high-tech” style was erected in beautiful, historic Paris after destroying markets and buildings valuable to Parisians.  The escalators to the floors are on the outside of the building; all the pipes are exposed.  Opened first in 1977, it has not aged well:  stained vinyl, cracked concrete, paint peeling.  Now that I have ranted a bit, I will say that the light in the galleries is good and the art is well-displayed.  Of course, there is almost no place to sit down and look at the art.  Not human-friendly.

The floor I visited at the Pompidou was full of early 20th century art, mostly paintings but a few of Matisse’s bronze sculptures and a sprinkling of photographs.  (Man Ray liked to photograph Gertrude Stein!). Some artists I knew a little about such as Picasso, Kandinsky, Paul Klee and George Braque.  Others were new to me such as Seraphine de Senlis (she went mad, but her canvases are full of vigor and color), Anne-Marie Uhde, Fernand Leger and Sonia Delauncey.  My new personal fav is Frantisek Kupka who painted Gigolette in rouge which I will try to post in Facebook.  (Tech issues have been challenging here.)

After the Pompidou,  I visited Opera Garnier which could not be more different.  Here the iron structure of floors, vaults and roof is concealed by masonry, marble, paintings, statuary and the plush red seats in the auditorium.  The ceiling of the auditorium is by Marc Chagall and honors composers such as Wagner and others.  The style is Second Empire/Beaux Arts.  The name of the opera house recognizes the architect, Charles Garnier, who worked on it from 1861-1875.  Its fame is not only from its lavish beauty, but also the 1910 book by Gaston Leroux, Phantom of the Opera, and the 1986 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  With the opening of the Opera Bastille, Opera

Garnier is used primarily for ballet.

Well, Deanna and I are headed home tomorrow.  Thanks for sharing the journey with me.  Merci beaucoup!



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Francine in Paris – Day 13

“You can tell it’s Mattel, it’s swell!

Sound familiar? Yes, that is the motto of the world’s largest toy company.  Musee des Arts Decoratifs is hosting a retrospective of Barbie who made her debut in March, 1959.  My younger sister played with both Barbie and Chatty Cathy, the doll who talked!  I do remember playing with the Jack in the Box and the toy ukulele which were toys envisioned by Elliott Handler, the husband of Ruth Handler.  Ruth Handler came up with the idea for Barbie at least in part from watching her daughter, Barbara, play with paper dolls that showed fashionable women.  Ruth developed the idea for a three- dimensional doll.  She had to overcome a lot of discouragement including from her husband.  The doll was an instant hit with girls.  (I saw some teenagers playing with Barbies in a doll house in a play area in the exhibition, so she is still a draw.)

The exhibition displayed dozens of Barbies.  She now comes in four body shapes and various eye colors and shades of skin.  She has had 155 professions of which I saw Barbie dressed as running for President (you go, girl), pilot, medic, McDonald’s associate, Olympic gold medalist, elementary school teacher, soccer star, baseball star, cheerleader, runner, stewardess, photographer, socialite, astronaut (she landed on the moon before Apollo 11), doctor, magician, health club nut (in pink tights), chef, Coca Cola saleswoman and pianist.  To my surprise, there was one doll dressed in sexy black negligee looking like a dominatrix.  What?  Well, in the interview  with Ruth and Elliott in English, Ruth said she wanted to encourage girls to be anything they wanted!!

The Musee des Arts Decoratifs is a part of the Louvre converted into a museum in 1905.  The collections are arranged chronologically from the Middle Ages to the present day in terms of the decorative arts which range from furniture to silverware to China to fabrics to wall paper and on and on!  I LOVED the 300 examples of wallpaper.  The wallpaper subjects included flowers, serious Greco-Roman scenes, abstractions, but my favorite was a scene in which a Roman soldier had piled his armor under a tree and was caught mid-air jumping nude into a pond with Wild Abandon and Great Glee.  OK, I have to admit that the two almost X-rated wallpapers were fun, too.  One was of a voluptuous, scantily clad woman who looked like she wanted to do some interesting things with the mini-hula-hoop she held.  🙂

On the way to the museum today, we rode the Bateau Mouches, the long, sight-seeing boats that ply the Seine in the historical Paris section.  We could see all the decorations on the bridges that one cannot see when crossing them.  You could also see homeless folks sleeping in their tents or sleeping bags under the bridges.  The Seine is home to many boats often tied up triple-deep along the quais.  David Downie in one of his essays on Paris describes the hard life of the boat people who live and work on the tugboats and cargo-hauling boats.  This way of life has been threatened, but since hauling on the river is more “green” than other options, they might be making a come-back.

We came home late today to the news of the bombing in Brussels that occurred at 11 AM, our time.  On the street, we often see gendarmes walking around with automatic rifles.   This is a difficult time for Europeans.  My friends here say that they don’t want the terrorists to destroy their way of life.  So, they continue on as usual.



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Francine in Paris – Day 12+

“There couldn’t be a more splendid world, and here I am existing in it.”

—      Mary Oliver from her poem, “I’m feeling fabulous, possibly too much so but I love it.”

Today in the Latin Quarter, we visited the Musee National du Moyen  Age with about 600 little children.  Ok, maybe not that many and maybe they were well-behaved, maybe.  This museum has an amazing collection of medieval art housed in a 15th century building.  The collection is composed of ceramics, statuary, tapestries, religious artifacts etc.  The tradition of carving elephant ivory was underway by 400 BC.  Yikes.  Is there any hope for elephants?

For me, the most stunning artifacts were the gigantic-wall-size woven tapestries featuring a unicorn and golden-haired maiden set on a millefleure background.  The subject of each of five tapestries was one of the senses: hearing, seeing, touching smelling, tasting.  The sixth one is an unravelled mystery.  Why is the beautiful maiden accepting the box of jewels?

Deanna and I wandered toward the Jardin de Luxembourg, home of the Senate and the extensive garden.  When it’s warm, the garden is packed with sun worshippers and children sailing toy boats on the large, circular pond.  We found a cafe called Polidor which opened in 1845 and looked it.  However, this was clearly a place for those the late, great anthropologist Jim Spradly would call the “real regulars.”  A long table ran down the center of the room.  Other tables ran perpendicular to it.   Everyone sat together divided only by red/white checked paper place mats.  We joined a gray haired man (bald on top) with a heavy beard who was shuffling bills and making business calls on his iPhone whike he drank red wine and finished his lunch.  We noticed that a lot of men wore real chapeau and hung them on the coat rack.  We were the only estrangers.  I had the beef and mashed potatoes for 12 euros. Delicious.  Busy, crowded.  Pit toilet.  Yep.


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Francine in Paris – Day 12

“I never travel without my diary.  One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”  Oscar Wilde   (On the bags from Shakespeare and Company)

Shakespeare and Co.

Deanna and I went to this legendary English-language bookstore on a mission.  We wanted to buy the book of exceptional essays by David Downie called “Paris, Paris” for Deanna’s friend, Michael, for all his terrific tips on negotiating Paris.  Oops!  Sold out, they have it on order.  So we rummaged around looking for another gift in this amazing place opened in 1951 by George Whitman in an old monestery  across the Seine from Notre Dame.

The Beat Generation poets like Ginsberg and Ferlingetti hung out here.  Well, as happens in time, George now tends the great bookstore in the sky leaving the brick and mortar to his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman.  She was named for the owner of the first Shakespeare and Company, Sylvia Beach, who allowed the Lost Generaton – Joyce and Hemingway  etc. to hang out there.  That bookstore was closed by the Nazi’s in 1940 and never reopened, but she bequeathed the name to George who allowed broke writers to sleep in his bookstore.  (He once guessed that 40,000 had slept under his roof. ) Still happens!  Well, we found a completely fabulous book for Michael which I will not divulge as it’s a SURPRISE!

Shakespeare and Co. has added a little cafe since I was here last. So we sipped hot cocoa in the sun while gazing at Notre a Dame and passers-by.  Almost next door is the church St. Julien le Pauvre which is Greek Orthodox with a history back to the 5th century.  During the Revolution it was used to store animal feed.  It opens for a few services as well as concerts, but it was closed when we walked by on the way to Eglise St. Severin.

Severin was a hermit from the 5th century.  A Romanesque church was built over his tomb.  Then St Severin church, dedicated to Mary, began in the 13th century but had a number of setbacks like  fire during the 100 years war.  Built in the flamboyant gothic style, it has a cluster of  twisted pillars which they call the palm trees.  The side chapel and stained glass windows are worth a look.  When we were there all the chairs were piled to one side and the nave completely empty save for a man on his hands and knees scrubbing the stone floor.  Outside, the wrought-iron railings  were decorated with Palm branches from Palm Sunday yesterday.

“I wish

I could show you

when you are

lonely or

in darkness

the astonishing


of your own


(Written on the risers of the steps leading to the second floor of Shakespeare and company.





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