Monday, December 20, 2010

A Solstice in the Sun

Hanukkah is past and Christmas a few days away, but at the new Merrifield & Weir household in North Fort Myers, Florida, we’re poised to celebrate the Winter Solstice and watch the sun wheel toward New Year’s, bringing more light into our lives day by day as it rises over the Caloosahatchee River flowing past our condo.

It is two weeks today since we arrived for our first winter in our new home. Though we’ve been Florida snowbirds for 10 years, itinerant campers in the state’s marvelous parks, now we’re nesting. What was bare just 14 days ago is now handsomely furnished, comfortable, homey. We are delighted; it was the right decision, the right place and time to settle down.

That doesn’t mean we won’t be exploring, following vagabond trails into the neotropical forests and along white-sand beaches, neither of which are far away. In fact, a few days ago, I took a break from shopping the rounds of consignment shops for “recycled” furniture to explore Caloosahatchee Regional Park, just 9.4 miles upstream from the condo.

With dozens of miles of trails, a quiet campground for tenters only and the most amiable park hosts, this Lee County park – one of several dozen – is a gem. And an inspiration. I put up my new tent, “Bukowski,” and settled under the warm sun into my poetry safari (as we call them) for “a good write” with hours upon hours to myself to hear myself think…and noodle in my journal those sorted thoughts. Except for an armadillo foraging noisily outside Bukowski later in the evening, I was undisturbed to write, write, write. There was peace on Earth. And, the next morning when I Roger welcomed me home, I had drafted six new poems and felt restored, rebalanced. My Florida muse had returned.

The following are three of a sequence of 13 scherzi (13-syllable poems) called “Homecoming Scherzi” I wrote to honor my newly-discovered, nearby retreat center.

I may have become a Sunshine State homebody, but my vagabond spirit continues to roam among the natural wonders of Florida, my Florida.

I salute you, hardwood hammock,
bow to palmettos.

Epiphytes and live oaks fringe
my bower, shade my way.

Lo and behold! Spanish moss!
I’m draped in the South.


My very best to all who visit these pages as the sun regains its strength and the days grow longer.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eternal Egypt

It's hard to believe we are back from our Egyptian odyssey, even have our bodies back on Eastern Daylight Savings time, although it took awhile. And we've managed to get over "Pharaoh's revenge." However, the colds we caught linger, no doubt due to the pollution and dust we breathed in our two weeks in the desert. I can still see grains of that dust of the ancients caught in the weaving of my wristwatch band! A souvenir I didn't realize I brought home with me.

More than 2000 photos still await sorting and editing, but all in good time. And we're still sorting out what our adventure meant to us, which we're working on in leisurely conversation between ourselves and with friends who ask about the trip.

One thing was clear: All civilizations are fleeting. Even ours.

Most memorable for me were A) I "met" Sheshat, the ancient goddess of writing; the old Egyptians believed she invented writing. So seeing the reliefs on the sides of two temples of her image was quite moving. (She's pictured in the photo above.)

And we saw the broken colossal statue of Ramses II that inspired Shelley to write "Ozymandias." One of our guides read part of the poem aloud as we stood looked at the tumbled behemoth of carved granite. Chilling. Choked me up.

As for Roger, being an atheist, all the visits to old mosques, old Coptic churches and the babble about a pantheon of old god/desses was a bit much so he's decided the best part were the donkeys! Farming is still almost totally manual there and the donkeys are the main beast of burden -- everywhere, even on the busy city streets of Cairo!

Before we left I wrote the following poem. And now, upon our return, I can still say Roger has made my dreams come true (and is willing to play a Nubian slave!). He's MY pharaoh!

I hope you enjoy.


Self-Portrait on the Nile

I joke about cavorting
as pharaah’s consort.
Tut would do.
I tease about kissing
a nimble Nubian slave
beneath plume fans.
If Nefertiti reddens,
if Isis casts her holy blush
upon us, don’t be shocked.
Osiris rises, Horus rallies, Thoth flies.
But I turn my back on Anubis.
Tomorrow we’ll frolic in Egyptian tombs.
We’ve earned eternity.
The mythical has already come true.


Passion from Prison

In the past two years or so, my life has been greatly enriched by corresponding with poet Michael Rhynes, author of Guerillas in the Mist and Other Poems, which I reviewed for The Centrifugal Eye (; search archives).

Michael is incarcerated in Auburn Correctional Facility in New York, about 2.5 hours from where I live. We've never met, except through the U.S. Mail. He recently sent me a new poem, asking if I would somehow get it onto the Internet.

With this posting, I'm honoring his request. Michael's body may be imprisoned, but his spirit burns with passion. Thus:

Burn Man, Burn Man, Burn

We all gather without Abraham for self-sacrifice. On Nevada’s
Black Rock Desert. In our beautiful nudity, we lay spread-eagled
where Isaac laid.

We offer up our tender, most sensitive parts to this world
without shame, hatred, inhibitions, regret, or censorship.

We burn our Victoria Secrets bras and Jordan underwear because we
no longer belong in the killing fields of the Middle East.

We burn our Nikes, Jordans and Adidas
because we will no longer run in political races we can’t win.

We will not run for pink elephants, jack asses, or tea totalers who
sip at parties funded by the Mad Hatter.

We burn our credit cards, mortgages, car notes, tax forms,
and the letter of democracy.

We will no long be indentured servants behind a Walled-in
Street in the land of the free.

Burn men, burn women, burn children, in the spirit of democracy.
Burn man, burn man.

Written by Michael Rhynes
October 2, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

A new book of poetry to celebrate marriage, fight cancer

Many of you have already heard something about my new book of poetry, but in case you haven't here's what you can expect from, The Urn, which has at its heart a very serious topic:


We hate to think about it, but most of us have to because we know someone who’s struggling with it, maybe someone we love, or we’ve been the ones to suffer—and have been fortunate to survive. Or we’ve already lost someone dear. Or perhaps it’s been another life-threatening disease whose specter lurks. Parkinson’s disease. Lou Gehrig’s. MS….

As some of you know, my beloved husband Roger Weir has prostate cancer…now in Stage IV, the final stage. There’s no curing it at this point, but, thankfully, his current treatment regimen is holding the monster at bay for a while longer.

As his wife, I’ve stood by his side, struggling with him, always celebrating our marriage as I’ve pondered the future of a life without him. And, as a poet, I’ve explored the idea of widowhood in words. My poems have taught me this: The most powerful cancer-fighting drug known to humankind is: Love.

Those poems have now become my new chapbook, The Urn from Finishing Line Press (FLP). It’s a book both somber and joyous. It’s my gift to Roger – my “pre-elegy” poems as friend and fellow poet William Heyen calls them – a memoriam to Roger that he can cherish before his ashes return to the Earth.

And I hope it’s a book you’ll want to read, even if you don’t know Roger (or me!). Maybe even share with those loved ones whom you treasure and are struggling and surviving, or grieving—or celebrating each day that’s given us.

If so, please order a copy now.

I’ll be frank: Orders placed now will determine how many copies FLP prints—of if they print the book at all. (I need to help FLP sell a minimum 50 books from now through the pre-sale period ending Nov. 18; such are the vicissitudes of small-press publishing these days.)

Here’s how to order your copy/copies of The Urn:

Go to this FLP direct link Scroll down the alphabetical list to The Urn by Karla Linn Merrifield. Click the “Buy Now” button and invest $15 in this celebration—and triumph—of love over cancer. (That’s $14, plus $1 shipping; after Nov. 18, shipping costs will increase.) The book will be delivered to your mailbox shortly after Jan. 15, 2011.

Or go to and click on the “New Releases and Forthcoming Title” link. This will take you directly to the page as well.

Or, use the handy order form below. And I've also included below a sample poem from the book. It isn't as dark as you might think!

If you haven't ordered a copy yet, I hope you will.

And I thank you in advance for supporting us. I promise you a fulfilling read. Roger, too, as humble as he is, will be grateful as well.


The Calling

The dapper clan of backyard avians
comes calling to celebrate
with me your cancer’s remission.

Chickadee, titmouse, junco, downy—
quartet in a spectrum of grays-to-black—
feather the sun this mild November morning.

Capped and cloaked, turned out
as if in petite tuxedos, they chirp
in unison my relief.

For the first time in many ruffled months
I am able to watch their lightness
in light of being with pizzicato heartbeats.

You, my rara avis nonpareil, are reprieved;
and in this autumn of your life are whistling again
on jaunty wings to my feeder.


The Urn
, a chapbook by Karla Linn Merrifield, will be published by Finishing Line Press Jan. 2011. This is a limited-edition collection, and pre-publication sales will determine the press run, so please reserve your copy now. To order, mail this completed form, along with payment, to Finishing Line Press at P.O. Box 1626, Georgetown, KY 40324. Or visit and click on “New Releases.”

Please send me ______ copy/copies of The Urn by Karla Linn Merrifield, at $14 each, plus $1 shipping per copy.

Name ____________________________________________________________________

Address ______________________________ City, State, Zip Code _____________________

____ Enclosed is my check, payable to Finishing Line Press, for $__________.
____ Please charge my credit card $ __________. ____Visa ____Mastercard
Name as if appears on the card _____________________________________________________

Credit card number __________________Expiration date __________

Card verification number (3-digit number on back of card, far right) _____


And if you have a couple more minutes to spare, check out my newest poems to hit the Web in online journals:

The best of autumn to you all.

From the Amazon to the Nile

There's a snap in the air today along the south shore of Lake Ontario that shouts the arrival of autumn.

And that makes it all the more hard to believe that 11 days ago I was sweltering in the Amazonian jungle where this photo was taken during one of many hikes into the rainforest.

But with half a dozen new poems in hand and nearly 2,500 photos downloaded to my laptop, I know for sure I was really there...watching myriad tropical birds like white-throated toucans sweep over the canopy...gorging on the freshest fruits as well as sampling piranha for dinner, which tastes a lot better than it looks staring up at you from a platter with those saw teeth...meeting native children in their outback village smile back from the school window...touring the famous opera house in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas...keeping eyes out for pink dolphins, gray dolphins...relaxing on board the quaint MV Tucano...and NOT touching anything as I tramped through the forest to avoid stings and stabs.

Roger and I agree it's one of the top expeditions of our many, many. I put it as a tie for #2 with our voyage to Antarctica. Really hard to capture the AMAZing AMAZon in words. Or photos for that matter.

But here's a humorous poem for you! Like I said, it was hot. And steamy!


Defeat of the Amazon

I met the sauna primeval:
95 hot degrees of it,
95 degrees humidity,
clothes sodden from step one,
each footfall farther
a conscious caution
against the poison promises
of wasps, bees, those inch-
long bullet ants.
I tramped a mere two miles
but imagine mine
more Bataan Death March,
Brazilian-style, on a trail
of sweat, near tears, worn down
by a misery of fear
amid the fecund trees of thorns.


And come Tuesday, Roger and I head off to Cairo, where we'll spend three days before flying south to Luxor to board the MV Salacia for 12 days of cruising downstream on the Nile, stopping at many of the grand ancient wonders of the ancient Egyptian world.

More to come when we return on October 23.

Meanwhile...happy trails to all.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

All Aboard for the Amazon

Greetings, readers!

This post finds me at home -- momentarily -- perched over my library table with a view of my neighbor's Rose of Sharon tree in bloom, a sure sign of early autumn in Western New York. This morning's clear, crisp air is another reminder that the season is changing.

Roger and I returned from our Western journey in mid-August, eager to settle in for a few weeks of life by Lake Ontario. We were more than ready to be home, especially after two flat tires on the trailer en route home. But, my, what a great trip. The following statistics don't begin to tell the whole story, but they will give you a sense of the scope of our trip.

Summer ’10 “Wild West” Fact Sheet

2,700 miles
12 states (NY, PA, OH, IN, ILL, KS, CO, NM, AZ, UT, NV, CA)
9 National Parks (Chaco Cultural Historic, Zion, Joshua Tree, Sequoia, King’s Canyon, Yosemite Great Basin, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands)
101.15 hiking miles
80 days
91 bird species
14 bird firsts

24 poems
170 journal pages
129 postcards
2,300 photographs (saved)
1 earthquake (5.4 magnitude, near Joshua Tree Nat’l Park)


Of course, like rolling stones, we're gathering no moss this autumn. On September 9, we depart for a 10-day journey that will take us to Brazil's Amazonian rainforests along the Rio Negro to its confluence with the mighty Amazon River. We'll eat, sleep and relax aboard the Tucano (shown above), spending our days tramping through the jungle in search of three-toed sloths, capybaras (the world's largest rodents), leafcutter ants and birds such as the board-billed heron and colorful macaw.

Packing is well under way, a task complicated by the need to spray all our outer clothing with a powerful insect repellent that will help us ward off malaria- and yellow fever-carrying mosquitoes, which give one great pause. Yellow fever inoculations and anti-malarial drugs, plus lots of DEET, should help us avoid any tropical plague carried by the vile mosquitoes!

Expect an update upon our return from the jungle wilds when we'll unpack from our Amazonian adventure -- and begin the process anew as we prepare for the desert reaches of Egypt and a cruise on its Nile River in October!

Happy autumn!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not the usual image you find on these pages, but I couldn't resist. It was just one of the special moments we enjoyed a couple days ago. In fact...

We had the most wonderful drive across US 50, dubbed "The Loneliest Road in America," and for good reason. Not many vehicles on the road (saw, we think, more cyclists on some kind of cross-Nevada rally) than cars/trucks/campers. No billboards. Well, one as you come into Ely, NV (McDonalds). Just a fabulous, well-paved road up and over 8 of the 12 summits (did 2 yesterday; 2 to come on Monday) of the state's basin-and-range land. Utterly exhilarating. We stopped in one of the very few towns for gas then a cup o' java to go with Roger's favorite treat: a cinnamon bun, this one 1.5 inches high and the size of a salad plate. It was so sticky I feed it to him (and had some nibbles myself) bite by bite. So, definitely heavenly. I got choked up three times by the landscape, open and wide across the alkali basins, and climbing into and coming down out of the mountains. Delicious driving. One of the best drives EVER!

And tomorrow, we complete the basin-and-range journey as we head into Great Basin National Park, one where neither of us has been. It's its own geological wonder, called a basin because there is no drainage from the park to the sea -- and we talking thousands of acres. The park, at elevations exceeding 10,000 feet above sea level, is home to bristlecone pine trees, the oldest living organisms on earth. I "met" some a few years ago at Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah and when I did, I cried. They are the only trees that have ever made me weep. So to see them a second time will be a most joyous reunion.

After four days in Great Basin, we boogie into Utah to Capitol Reef National Park for more geological glory. This will be a third visit there. Hoping to see some bighorn sheep as we did last time...and perhaps receive the same kind of inspiration that led to my poem, "Under the Sleeping Rainbow," which I just learned has received an Honorable Mention Award from New Millennium Writings (issue due out in December).

And following Capitol Reef, on to Canyonlands National Park for a couple days of hiking on the Colorado Plateau.

Looking forward to being off the grid for nine days! No cell, no email, no computer (we won't even have electricity for our trailer). Yay!

May this blog find you all well, keeping cool, enjoying the warmth of summer.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Desert Days

Moonlit Feast at Chaco Canyon

Coyote leap—
Jackrabbit scream—
Bones snap as fur flies.


A month ago today, Roger and I pulled out of our driveway at home, so it's not all that hard to believe we've made it as far as Arizona with many memorable stops along the way.

The coyote in the photograph was trotting along the loop road at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico, a two-day visit that astounded us with its lush green oasis along the Rio Grande River. The scherzo (short poem of 13 syllables) reflects a moment in time at Chaco Canyon National Historic Park in northwest New Mexico where we spent three magical days exploring the ruins and petroglyphs of this erstwhile capital of the ancient Anasazi, a puebloan people whose descendants we know today as the Hopi, Zuni, Laguna and several other pueblo-dwelling tribes of the Four Corners region (NM, AZ, UT, CO).

The road to Chaco is 21 miles of dirt with several washboard sections. Not one to take our trailer down. So we tented in Chaco for the first time in many,many years. Days were boiling hot, the nights ch-ch-chilly (down to mid-40s), but one of the joys is that you can easily hear the night sounds. While no Anasazi ghosts haunted us, we did hear the sounds that gave rise to the scherzo. And when we stepped outside at 4 a.m., the stars were thick from horizon to horizon, the creamy rich band of the Milky Way vivid in the sky.

Since, we've had several days at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona to hike and commune with other Anasazi ancestors and watch the cottonwood trees along Chinle Wash blow their snow of seeds across the canyon floor.

We've also had some time in civilization with several days in Taos and several more in Santa Fe, where the big attraction was the new Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at her museum there, a fabulous, inspiring selection of her abstract work. And we took a day trip from Santa Fe up to Abiquiu to take a tour of O'Keeffe's home there. Many moments of tears as I tried to grasp that I was in her kitchen, her garden and peering into the room where she slept and dreamed for so many years.

Tomorrow it's into Utah for a return visit (third time!) to Zion National Park for more canyon bliss, this time along the Virgin River beneath the towering redrock walls.

All is well in the West for the two of us.

Wishing you all visions of hope.

Friday, May 28, 2010

On a Sunnier Note

Even while the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico plays itself out, I remain a happy wife and poet.

The picture here was taken from the lanai of the condo that Roger and I bought this month where we'll be living during the winter beginning this December. It's about seven water miles upstream from the Gulf on the north banks of the Caloosahatchee River. A quiet place and one we're looking forward to furnishing and settling into: our snowbird abode. It is a dream come true we didn't know he had until a few months ago. And now it has happened: we have a Florida home in North Fort Myers.

We've also had good fortune with Roger's health. His hormone therapy continues to work and his new PSA results reached an all-time low-low of 0.05 this month. The cancer is under control for a while longer and he's doing quite well with it. A bit chubby now around the middle and subject to -- ohmigosh -- hot flashes, but all in all quite well.

We have an energetic summer ahead. On Monday next we depart for the Wild West into the desert southwest and then onto the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Be prepared for images and poems from across the country in the three months ahead of travel for us with trusty Alis Elizabeth Trailer behind the van and the two of us singing along (if you can call it that) to "Here Comes the Sun."

On the literary front, I am pleased to report that Salmon Poetry has taken my full-length book, Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North for publication in mid-2012. I'm on Cloud 999. It's quite a breakthrough for me and I'm pleased that the collection has a home...only 10+ years in the making...and another two before it's born. Lots of time to enjoy anticipating.

For more about Salmon Poetry, go to

Spring has been not only the most pleasant one I can remember -- came early, came warm -- it's been otherwise fertile for my poetry. I've seen many poems appear on the Web and in print journals, among which is River Poets Journal where I'll be featured poet this spring (coming soon to

Here are a few more links you can check out now if you're curious: (two poems) (four poems) (poem + analysis) (two poems and my latest regular book review column)

I hope you enjoy. Remember: Poetry heals. And celebrates. And furthers the sacred.



Kiss of Death

I pause this morning to try to grasp the magnitude of the Gulf oil spill. As far as I know the fish in this photograph, taken on a Florida Gulf beach last winter, probably a victim of the frost kill, died of natural causes. It's one of the lucky ones. I just can't comprehend how many fellow fish and countless sea turtles and cormorants and pelicans are going to die a slimy, suffocating death because of the arrogance and greed of the robber baron BP. Never before in human history -- a short one in the scheme of things -- have we seen such devastation, and it's only just begun.

I hate to put a damper on your day. But it's good, I think, to pause before this holiday weekend and honor the newly dead and dying. And to have faith in our president who's got a mighty grasp on the situation and is doing right by us. Barack Obama has the wisdom to do the right things. And he is. The job is Herculean but this is one man who's up to it. We must do our part and stand by him even as we grieve.

Blessings to Earth this Memorial Day Weekend,


Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Is Sprung

Forsythia and Bradford pears, daffodils and wood violets -- all abloom as we make our way north from the Okefenokee Swamp where we spent a weekend, the warmest in many southern weeks. Now in North Carolina for a few days with our family, we look back on that idyllic weekend in the great wetlands of Georgia, remembering our kayak outing on Billy's Lake (lower photo) and walks on the boardwalk through the swamp where I took the upper photo of Red Blanket Lichen (an endemic species) and Old Man's Beard (an epiphyte aka "air plant") growing on a smooth-barked Dahoon Holly Tree.

Like the Everglades, the Okefenokee is to me a sacred place, and both are mercifully preserved thanks to the National Park Service in the case of the 'Glades and the National Wildlife Refuge System in the case of the Oke'. Both places have been muses to me over the years.

So as we turn our eyes toward the warming sun and bask in its rays, enjoying the blossoming of trees and flowers, I'll leave you with this poem about the Okefenokee, written several years ago and still applicable.

Happy spring...and see you from the home front where we are due to arrive on April 3.


The Epiphyte on Plato’s Trees

by Karla Linn Merrifield

What it is to capture
the imagination
of a poet to go with her
into longleaf pine flatwoods
or follow her into the heart
of the Okefenokee Swamp
to be in southern Georgia
beneath its maritime
or its vast half-land inland
island canopy to be held
in its sway:

chiggers snagged in a swag
of Spanish moss itself
caught in the snarl
of live oak on twisted limb

saw palmettos netted
in thorny catbriers climbing

partly on terra firma
partly in tannic water
a black gum, a tupolo
in a coppice
in the understory
in the hardened grasp of
a strangling vine

it is a great entanglement
this forest of words
that has arisen with
some million gripping tendrils
a composition in green
profligate enchantment
where you are meant to be
one standing still

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Winter Reflection

I'll say one thing about this winter: The cold -- yes, even in Florida -- has given me much time to reflect. What with three frosts (to date!) and a hailstorm earlier this week, it hasn't been kayaking weather. And the cold has taken a toll on this plein air poet who's so fond of sitting in the great outdoors to pen her verse. Still, hiking and thinking go together nicely and, with added layers to keep the brain warm, I've enjoyed letting both poetic and prosaic ideas float into my head and away with no intentions other than to listen to the ideas and let them evaporate on another gust of north wind.

One thought that did take root is that beauty survives regardless of the weather forecast. Sounds rather mundane doesn't it?! But true. So, on a chill morning along the Ochlockonee River on the Forgotten Coast of Florida's eastern panhandle, I watched the sun rise in puissant splendor, warming the North American continent toward spring, if not firing up the day much above 50 degrees.

A poet friend of mine, Tom Holmes, always urges readers at the end of his e-mails to "Find beauty." To which I will add: Let beauty find you.

Here's to the coming of spring but with joy in the grip of winter.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Island New Year's Greetings

New Year's Is for the (Tropical) Birds

Frigatebirds wheel fractals
in infinite turquoise skies.


Roger and I spent New Year's Day on Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, a constellation of small tropical isles 70 miles west of Key West and actually closer to Cuba than the Keys!

After a tour of Fort Jefferson (once a prison for Confederacy soldiers during the Civil War) and some snorkeling (notherin to write home about, alas, but the water was soothingly warm), I stretched out on my back on a beach blanket under the warm subtropical blue skies and watched some 50 magnificent frigatebirds wheel effortlessly across the blue. It was a half-hour of pure bliss.

We also had a close encounter with a burrowing owl who was not burrowing but rather perched in a niche in the brick walls of the ammunition repository at the fort. Who, who, who knows what he was doing 70 miles at sea on a small Gulf island!

Tomorrow we'll be back in the Everglades for a week of hiking and kayaking in my favorite place on Earth! And, as 2009 National Park Artist-in-Residence, I'll have a return engagement with a poetry reading on the 9th at the Coe Visitors Center.

From there we'll be settling down in the Western Everglades' Ten Thousand Island area for a month on Chokoloskee Island. More to come from the Gulf Coast!

Happy New Year to All!