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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

By Grier Horner



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November 20, 2014


Tonight was the night I wanted to go hear
Teresita Fernandez talk about art because I'm in awe of the simplicity and beauty of her paintings at MASS MoCA. But I could't go because Babbie’s visiting the twins
and I can't drive at night anymore.

Instead, I stayed home and read Ed Ochester’s new book of poetry, "sugar run road". The poems were a rich reminder of why I think Ed, who is married to my sister Britt, is one of America’s leading poets.

Let me give you an example:

dr. zoot & the suits play on the lawn for   the 5th annual oldies concert at
st. andrews nursing home in indiana, pa

After they’ve finished “Take the A Train”
and “In the Mood” and launched into
“Beyond the Sea” my mother leans over
the arm of her wheelchair and
whispers “have they started yet?”

Both funny and touching.  It hits close to home because I’ve reached the age where I can’t navigate a car in the dark, as I said, and where two of my friends are suffering from Alzheimer's. Although I like to think it will never be me in that  wheelchair on that lawn listening to dr. zoot, there are days when I can tell from the way she says
“don’t you remember?” that Babbie thinks it won’t be long.

Here’s another that hits close to home:

for britt
Dec. 16, Beethoven’s birthday


Beethoven is such a great composer but
his personality is questionable which
shows once again that one is
what one does - music, poems, or even
money have claims but also such
unremarked acts as feeding sparrows
in winter which God doesn’t do too well -
though we’re told He notes the fall
of every one - so that as I park the car
your sparrows in the snow-covered    forsythia
greet the weak sun with a matrix of cheeping
dozens of them, not from gratitude but
perhaps from overflowing joy

I have always had a bad memory. I can't quote lines of poetry other than "as I wandered lonely as a cloud..." and "a  pair of jagged claws scuttling across the floor of endless seas..." Did I get those right?

But years after I read them, a number of Ed's poems are  pinned to my brain (more on the brain is coming up) by their beauty, power and humanity. My favorites: "Changing the Name to Ochester,"  "The Barn,"  and "Oh By the Way." Let me quote you some lines from the "Oh By the Way":

My friend April Fallon tells me
that blood on the exterior of the brain
is cooler than that in the interior
and that it's in the cooler blood that dreamse reside

What do you think?

Do you love the head as much as I do?
that calcareous shell, the stoniest part
of the body. And the stone
within the skull, the maker of imperatives,
of absolutes, that directed the trains
to the death camps.

(Now I'm skipping 17 lines)

I have to stop writing about love.
I have to stop making sense.
Cool veil of blood, old dreams:
Jeffords pushed against the bronze
schooldoors, red stain on white shirt,
kid with knife:
"motherfucking motherfucker"
(deconstruct that);
the child whispering "Help me help me."
O thin veil of blood
where dreams reside
cool veil of blood.

An aside about "I have to stop making sense." Dwight at his 90th birthday party told Ed his poems made no sense. And he did it in a particularly nasty way. And thus ensued a family feud.

Oh, about the cover. That’s one of the  paintings from my Jeanne d’Arc series. It’s 80 inches high and still available. Contact me if you're interested in buying it. I was flattered that Ed wanted to use it.


A little about Ed, pictured above. He is the editor of the Pitt Poetry Series and after retiring as a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was head of the writing program, became a member of the core faculty of the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars.

He has published seven books of poems as well as eight limited editions. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the arts and has been awarded other honors for his work.

Babbie and I go up to hear Ed read at Bennington College every spring. He is something of a rock star there. Once as he finished an amazing line, a collective gasp rose from the audience. People crowded around him after the reading. He is a fine poet and, unlike Beethoven, his personality is not questionable.

The book, published by Autumn House Press, is already listed on Amazon, but won't be available there until January 1. However, it's available immediately from the author for $15 postpaid (list 17.95) from:

Ed Ochester
143 Sug
ar Run Road
Shelocta, PA 15774



November 8, 2014

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Thursday we took the long way home. We had been in East Aurora, a small town near Buffalo, for the Clique Reunion. It was the 14th time the group of girls, now in their late 70s, had gotten together.  They had been close friends in elementary and high school in Tarrytown, New York. Five of them, along with three assorted husbands, had made it to the two-day celebration. We had a grand time, tempered by the loss last year of Dale, a great guy who had attended so many of these gatherings.

When Mary Lou's ride back fell through on Thursday morning, we added her to the crew in our Prius, which already included the two of us and Lee Ann. We crammed the luggage and packages into the back and headed west on the Thruway. We dropped Lee Ann off near Syracuse, where her son picked her up, and headed toward Mary Lou's condo 20 miles or so north of New York City. From there we had to head north to our home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

From East Aurora to Pittsfield it took 12 hours and 30 minutes.  Babbie and I split the driving during the daylight hours and Babbie was at the wheel from about 5 until we got home at 11, because I can't drive at night anymore.

While we ate a sandwich for supper at a Dunkin Donuts, I told Babbie  we should go to a motel. I was tired and strung out on caffein. But Babbie said she could handle the final 21/2-hour haul up the Taconic.

Babbie is game and a good driver. "It's an adventure," she told me.

I hated the drive through the thick fog on the Taconic, which is famous not only for its scenery but its many run-ins between cars and deer. Babbie spotted one large buck with antlers standing a few feet off the road. As we plunged through the fog, it hadn't become visible until  we were very close. If it had been in the road, we would have slammed into it.

"It looked right at me," Babbie said today. "It had great big horns."

I've never hit a deer, but the woman in the car in front of me did  when I was driving down the Taconic one night when I was a kid. I saw the deer bounding off an embankment and into her path. It was pinned to the road by the car. It was still alive. I asked the woman for her keys, slide into her car and drove over the deer. Not very pretty, but it ended the animal's suffering.

A state trooper told me I should have slit its throat. I didn't have a knife and couldn't have done that if I did.

Actually, we did strike a deer in the fog in the dark on Thursday, but it had already been killed by another vehicle. This occured on a section of Route 17.  Moments before we had passed a stopped patrol car with its strobbing lights.  Babbie was driving. The deer was sprawled in the middle of our lane hidden by the fog. By the time we saw it, there was no time to stop or swerve.  I think the trooper must have stopped to assist someone else who had struck another deer.

Here are some more photos I took of the trip. These were on I84. The toll booth in the last two shots was on the east end of the I84 bridge over the Hudson.

I like the purple sky in the photo above.


November 2, 2014

Works by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Here are four prints I have submitted to the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Vermont. I hope at least one will be chosen for the museum's exhibit NNE (North-Northeast). The show will run from January 10 to February 8. Artists from New York and New England are eligible to apply.

The four are all derived from photos I took of the main first floor elevator at MASS MoCA in North Adams. Here's that starting point: