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Clementine Unbound

I’m honored that Clementine Unbound selected my poem “The Window’s Memory” to be featured for the next week, July 11-17, 2017.


found poem: IGNOMINIOUS

found poem © j.i. kleinberg ~ IGNOMINIOUS
found poem © j.i. kleinberg

found poem: hope

found poem: howling

found poem: in the window

found poem: THE FOG


What won’t…


this decadent dawn…



what Dorothy saw…

DAK self portrait 1964Our house was set partway up a narrow, curving, hillside street that was just a block long and my mother said she fell in love with it the first time she stood at the kitchen sink and looked out the window. The view was mainly north, down the street, across nearby rooftops to the foothills where, decades later, the Getty Museum would become a stark white presence. You couldn’t see the house across the street, just the steep slope it sat on, which was carpeted with ice plant.

Arcing high above the house in its journey over Southern California, the sun never reached into the window but glanced across the small front yard and the neighborhood and cast a light that Dorothy would paint a thousand times.

The kitchen was her domain and the window her throne. From her spot at the sink, she would call out bright hellos to passing neighbors and scream at anyone, friend or stranger or unaccompanied beast, who dared to set foot on the mounded ivy in the front yard. Hearing the first note of her rising ire, I would shuffle away in embarrassment, hoping not to be seen, not to be associated with her screeching from the window, which was a joke among the neighbors that would surely rub off on me, compounding my already awkward existence. There was no sidewalk on the other side of the street, so people would clutch their dogs’ collars as they made their way past the house or even walk them on the dangerous blind curve to prevent the chance sniff that might launch Dorothy’s operatic alarms.

But even as generations of children and dogs — and I — left the neighborhood, even as her vision diminished, her voice grew weak and her legs would no longer hold her upright at the sink, the view continued to captivate her. When at last, at 88, she moved from the house, willing to leave behind most of her worldly possessions and more than fifty years of history, it was not my father, or the neighborhood, or the trespassing dogs she talked about, but the view from the kitchen window.

to explore…

frame of reference…

the view from my deskTwice a year, for about a week or two near the equinox, the earth wobbles into position and, if clouds don’t intervene, the sun shines straight into my window as it rises. So bright I must half-lower the shade, the light bounces off my cluttered bulletin board and back onto the glass. The rest of the time, in our wide northern swing, the sun rises somewhere else — on another side of the house, through the neighbor’s trees, down the block behind the church — and my eyes measure the angled light, take the temperature of its color.

This is the view from my desk, what I see for the many hours I work and write. Before I sit down here, which is before almost everything except coffee, I raise the blinds on this pair of windows. In deep dark or dawn or the sharp hard brightness of the sun, every morning is different — the seasonal faces of the spruce and juniper and plum trees as familiar as my hands, the angled telephone pole, the peek-a-boo view of the top of Mt. Baker, the clouds and birds, the bees tapping their hard bodies against the glass. As I work, I gaze out there, seeing or not, waiting for the right word.

I trust this. In the chaotic and often untrustworthy world, this view is something contained, its hour-by-hour, month-by-month change something manageable. It is a reality I observe, describe, treasure. A gift I open every day. With gratitude.


Night wind spills into the warm, moist morning, waving its tree fingers, pushing a curdled mass of charcoal cloud away from a fuzzy wedge of pale dawn. The tall couple, the 7 a.m. walkers from up the block, stop near the corner to let a car pass. Hooded and zipped into dark warmth against the wind and rain, they are a pair of disembodied oval faces, pausing, turning in unison, angling forward as they step off the curb.

The cloud mass churns. The light expands above it, then shrinks again as a new, more massive cloud consumes my window-square view. The distant trees shudder and even the leafless tree, without sails, bends before the wind. Juniper fronds bob and nod in their dance with the oncoming dawn.

20 degrees…

2012-01-18 coastal radarI hear a thump on the patio window where nothing should be thumping and discover a chickadee, flapping desperately around the enclosed space. It probably sought a moment’s respite in the narrow slot on top of the swinging door into the back yard, then turned left instead of right. I open the big door; the bird flits away.

It’s not snowing, just blowing. White gusts from the northeast sweep up billows of the night’s powdery snow. Rhododendrons and daphne leaves clutch tight and dark, a junco hops in the plum tree. In this mild, benign place of rain and green, islands and Salish Sea, this is our hurricane, our flood. It rivets us, like the crashed cruise ship in Italy, and we become sudden fans of weather, snow, historic records, predictions. We discuss microclimates. We quote Cliff Mass. We close early, cancel meetings. We worry about the people who live outdoors, about our friends with travel plans. We worry about frozen pipes. We eye the wood pile, wonder about the etiquette of shoveling the sidewalk, look more frequently than usual out the window.

We forget, for the moment, the enormous swaths of the planet that live with this and worse for six months of the year. Places where 20 degrees is balmy.

We are dazzled by the spotlight of headlines shining on us, by the concerned calls and e-mails, by the gorgeous snow-globe photos populating Facebook.

Then we check the thermostat, have another slurp of coffee and get down to the day’s work.
coastal radar image


She opens her eyes before dawn. In her second-floor room, the window is open and filled with stars, Orion floating on his side above the horizon, the faintest promise of light defining the morning yet to come. She drifts back into sleep and wakens to daylight.

In the window frame, a single tendril of vine has broken free of the wall to reach for the light. It looks like a very slender asparagus — furled and green, with a few undeveloped leaves pegged along its length in no apparent pattern. It bears no flowers and yet it is almost continually visited by bees. A piece of pure white down is snagged on the slightly serrated sword tip of a tiny leaf.


Cup of Gold - Solandra maximaIn a small triangle of soil at the corner of the garage, my mother planted a Cup of Gold vine — Copa de Oro, she called it. Its woody stems crawled across the wall above the garage door and along the side of the house below her studio window. Bare and gnarled in the winter, it wakened in spring with a dense screen of glossy leaves and enormous flowers that were true to their name. Apparently unperturbed by the noisy up-and-down of the garage door, a mourning dove built her nest in the vine each spring and laid a pair of fine white eggs.

My mother’s studio was open to me by invitation only. When she wanted me to pose for her, or to admire a painting, she would invite me in, each time cautioning me not to touch anything. Although she would report the return of the dove and issue occasional updates on the bird’s progress, I was allowed only as far as the doorway, across the room from the window.

But when my mother was out of the house, I would tiptoe across the creaky, paint-splattered wood floor and watch the dove through the slant of the blinds, her round eye alert and full of knowing, her mothering an occasional triumph punctuated by tragedies of theft, tumbles and desperate abandonment.

It was a minor defiance and, sadly, one of my few.
photo by Caleb Garvin

bulletin board…

bulletin board
The bulletin board gene runs true in our family. My father had bulletin boards next to his desk and in his workshop — places where treasures would accrue and sketches reside as he puzzled out the mechanics of his vision. In my mother’s studio, an entire knotty-pine wall was covered with fiberboard that held newspaper and magazine clippings, drawings, small paintings and various natural objects she would bring home — a bird’s nest, unusual seed pods, a string of dried seaweed.

My own bulletin board, actually a pair of large side-by-side panels, is a chaotic layering of photos (primarily friends, animals and other people’s grandchildren), maps, things made and received, intriguing charts (the alphabet in sign language, A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods), poetry, calendars, name badges and my father’s slide rule. It’s visual compost; it’s a window I turn to as readily as the one across the room. It’s a collage, a time line, a changing prospect, and each viewing recalls moments, ideas and wonders. It’s Home.

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