In the final hours of his administration, President Obama has indicated the pardons he is giving convicted federal criminals, a custom famous and infamous in previous presidential administrations. The pardon for Bradley Manning is likely to dominate this custom’s history for decades to come, and is certainly remarkable considering how hotly Manning’s conviction was pursued during this same president’s terms in office…. [New York Times, January 19, 2017]


Jacqueline Kennedy had considered options when selecting furniture for the State Dining Room at the White House, her final choices of several Italian antiques surprising even her closest consultants for her ambitious redecoration effort of so many historic rooms in the presidential dwelling. Of particular interest was her choice of a credenza from the residence of Lucretia Borgia and her third husband, Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, a masterpiece of the final decade of the 15th century.


Only one pair of eyes caught it. Maybe not surprisingly since the International Space Station is a busy place, human activity programmed in detail. But those eyes were rewarded. The wings were alabaster, a light alabaster, they folded the entire earth and drew back to a thin equatorial line, immediately unfolding again and spreading to envelop — a dimming, then an interruption, an arm of the station cutting the view.


The springtime of her final year, in 1519, found Lucrezia often ill, her eighth pregnancy proving even more trying than those previous, none of them easy. While presiding at the Easter banquet, she chanced in conversation with an itinerant priest from Mantua to sample a wine he recommended to assuage her discomfort — a carafe had been drawn, she was served by the principal taster, all in her party savored its richness — and all found ease and merriment. From the empty bottle winged insects flew onto the credenza alighting here and there — the very wood sparkled as they paused. The room was filled with joy, roasts and breads grasped by gluttonous hands, many raved in prophecies. By evening several guests had died in ecstasy.


Michelle Obama wandered the state rooms, nodding to the few scattered attendants and servants she encountered on this last progress she would make before joining her secretary before their review at her final staff meeting. She felt growing pleasure rise in her as she paused in the dining room, vacant now, only a few lights on, and the thought passed, “I won’t miss this.” She almost glowed when it occurred to her, “tomorrow I’m going home, really. I miss Chicago.”


Only an irrigation ditch, straight and unbroken for half a kilometer, divided the vineyard from the footpath. Overgrown rather, this late in the summer, the grapes gathered here a week already, though a few remained, plump, overlooked veterans of a good harvest. A scum pooled in the ditch water, curling, driven perhaps by the slight breeze that swept the utterly flat terrain of these fields between Ferrara and Ravenna. Only insects clustered and buzzed about, in the silence of a light wind. And then too, along the woody stems of several vines slightly larger insects crept, a few only, and only on a few trunks of some of the vines, their diaphanous wings slowly folding, in certain lights opaque, a light alabaster.


yucca treculeana

never benign. yucca treculeana, the

Spanish dagger nickname imbuing its

most rapturous appearance an elegant threat,

its clotted cream blossoms massed in

a towering crown, the whole plant

the size of a man, the figure a volcanic fountain of

etched emotion, crown yielding to muted green

through the sword-like leafing, so sharp, so vain,

a cascade of whirling knives, a throat, a face, a finial of

ivory, fifty petals, fifty stamen,

the tongue of sensuality

fuzzy, a

pasture for bees and creeping insects —

this is the tower of sex and death, a brocade where

thought is silk and pointless,

a hint of sleep cushioned on ripe cheeses

and heavy wines closing a repast of many courses,

the bloom-crown looming one spring month

each year, cold, sharp winds radiate as memories,

so too roasting heat — this is a desert plant —

its display meant for creatures

already versed in the detail of

pondered observation, the wash

of moonlight in every sun-washed


the fleece of razors, flesh dying

as it is born

For the first time ever, The Collected works of Lewis Ellingham are available in two volumes! buy your copies today here and here

Master Collected Volume 1


Master Collected Volume 2


A new book of poems for the Summer of 2012:

Buy your copy here

“Each poem catches an experience, an aspect of your [Lewis Ellingham] total life… I can’t help but think of the advantages of the solitary life when I read these poems. How different we are in many ways. I’m busy addressing the world. You just absorb it.”

-William L Lederer, playwright.

The Sea!

Can I think? Is there is special reason
why this keeps reappearing? why when I
turn my head it is there, a penumbral
shadow? Sitting outside at Maxfield’ s
at the table I’ve been choosing lately —
really the table that has chosen me since
there has been no other available, almost an
arrow from where I place my order, to
where I add half-and-half cream to the
house-blend coffee and stir, then move
toward the door and look to see —
‘Look to see …’ is that it? — ‘Θάλαττα,
θάλαττα, The Sea!’ something from
earlier in life? But it wasn’t there then
or any time before, I never read Xenophon
nor do I know Greek, why? even how?
Exercises: rush my eyes from a place on
the sidewalk, back toward the shadow
hovering above the Dolores Street
crosswalk, the garbage container where
I always throw my paper cup when I
leave the café, but no, just ‘Θάλαττα’
and it’s there, the faces of customers,
the forms of people passing on the
street, blurred, why? I slowly spell
it out ‘th – a – l – a – t – t – a’ just to
shade some space where there is
no thing, just a suggestion. Like, is
the question ‘why?‘ Is there any

Reading 5/20


an underlying permanence

New poems from Lewis Ellingham available at lulu.com

“Lew Ellingham is in his sixth decade of poetic production (Jack Spicer hailed himself and Ellingham, back in the early 60s, as “twins at the same business”) and you’d expect him to get tired as he nears his 80th year, but no, just the opposite, he’s picked up the pace, and our San Francisco spring has infected him with a glory of noticing. His new poems are the best he has ever written; they are fresher than youth, and stride forward without youth’s self-consciousness, yet wet with its beauty.”

-Kevin Killian (novelist, poet, playwright, biographer, editor)