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.