"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, May 31, 2013

Faith Filled Friday: Madonna Garden in Spring Bloom

My mother has a Madonna statue in her front garden, which she honors our Blessed Mother with flowers.  The spring flowers are in full bloom, and so it made for some nice pictures.  Let me share.

Going from left to right, you have an Alberta Spruce, which has grown quite large, some lilies in the back that have not bloomed yet, then the spring superstar a peonies in full bloom, behind that a couple of roses, along the back on the right a string of day lilies which will flower all summer.  Just to the right of the statue are some tulips which have lost their flowers, and in front a selection of flowers which might be dianthus. 

Hail Mary, full of grace
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Music Tuesday: Introit from Mozart's Requiem Mass

For yesterday's Memorial Day, I want to offer the opening movement of Mazart's Requiem Mass in D Minor.  When I was growing up, Memorial Day was not just the first day of summer activities, but a day to reflect and pay respects to those soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  The emphasis was on homage to the dead, not an easy day out of school or off from work, and I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like the emphasis has shifted to the latter.

There are many fine Requiems.  A Requiem is a mass for the dead set to music. and it follows the mass structure.  Of the Requiem's I've listened to, I have to say that despite it not being completed, the Mozart Requiem is the one I favor.  It just sounds most like what a Requiem should sound like. 

In honor of the over 1.25 million Americans (according to my tally from this listing of American casualties) that have perished in service to our land since the Revolutionary War, I offer the Introit to Mozart's Requiem.  The Introit is the opening part of the mass in the traditional Latin Mass, and for masses for the dead, it takes these verses:

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam;
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

In English that translates to the following:
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer;
to you shall all flesh come.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Eternal rest valiant men and women.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Matthew Monday: Memorial Day Activities

I waited until late to post a Matthew Monday knowing I would have some pictures after today's activities.  We had a nice day.  I took Matthew to the Staten Island Memorial Day Parade.  The weather was absolutely beautiful today here.  It was his first parade and though I described what a parade was, he didn't really have a clue.  In fact he initially didn't even want to go.  He's become a little skittish about going into crowds.  I hope it's just a phase.  Somehow after my initial huff and go-off-and-play-in-your-room-by-yourself reaction to his not wanting to go, we finally got him to say yes.  Actually when I handed him two flags to wave he got excited.  Here he is waving the flags on our way to the parade street after parking the car.

In the end he was only so-so on the parade.  He liked the music when a band came by, liked the army vehicles, liked when someone actually waved directly to him, but otherwise he wasn't overwhelmed.  The band and music was most definitely his favorite.  He could pick out all the instruments.  I guess just watching people walking up a street isn't all that exciting when you don't really understand the context.  Here's a picture as some Marine Corp (I think) pass by.

The other big thing we did today was take out his Fire and Rescue Pedal Wagon.  He's had this wagon since his first Christmas here, two and a half years ago, given to him by his Godparents.  I've let him pedal on the upstairs floor since I can get a clear path from his room across the hall to our master bedroom.  He's learned to steer pretty well.  I've been reluctant to bring it out because we live on a fairly steep hill and have not felt comfortable.  I had to hold the wagon back as we went down hill, but once we turned the corner the block is much more level, and so I let him go there on his own.  Here are some pictures.


He was one tired puppy this evening. :)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Notable Quote: Anonymous

Given that I rushed a blog out earlier in the week with all sorts of missing words and grammatical slips, I think this quote is both appropriate and a penance for me. 



Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

~Author Unknown



Note to self: Word spell and grammar check is not enough.  ;)

Too funny!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Faith Filled Friday: Mark Wahlberg

St. Francis of Assisi is said to have said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words."

I came across this snippet of an interview of actor Mark Wahlberg with Piers Morgan at the Internet site St. Peter's List (not sure if it's considered a blog) under the heading "Worth Watching: 9 Videos That Warm The Catholic Soul."

I had no idea about this.  I'm very ignorant when it comes to celebrities, and as far as I knew about Mark Wahlberg was just some punk who became an actor.  I had no idea of his past or his present.  So I did a quick search and came across another interview with Gabrielle Donnelly of the Catholic Herald, but you can find it here on Catholic Online.  Here are a couple of noteworthy excerpts.

"Being a Catholic is the most important aspect of my life," the A-list actor tells me firmly when we meet for tea in a posh hotel near his home in Beverly Hills. "The first thing I do when I start my day is, I get down on my hands and knees and give thanks to God. Whenever I go outside of my house, the first thing I do is stop at the church. The kids will be mad with me. 'Daddy! It takes too long!' I'm saying: 'It's only 10 minutes and this is something I really need to do.' Because I do. If I can start my day out by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I'm doing the right thing. That 10 minutes helps me in every way throughout the day."

If anyone has learned the benefit of a spiritual life, it is Mark. A troubled young man from a rough area of Boston, the youngest of nine children of a delivery driver father and a bank clerk mother, he grew up delinquent and drug-addicted, a high school drop-out and gang member, always in trouble with the police, living constantly under the threat of jail. When he was only 16, that threat became a reality. High on the drug PCP, he robbed a pharmacy, knocked one man unconscious, left another blind in one eye, and attacked a security guard. He was charged with attempted murder and sentenced to jail at Boston's Deer Island House of Correction.


"Well, I did get out of jail, and I did make sure I never went back there. The recidivism rate for people going back for jail sentences is through the roof, but not me. I did not want to be another statistic. I wanted to live my life instead." His first port of call when he left the House of Correction was to visit his parish priest, Fr Flavin of Boston, who is still a good friend. With Fr Flavin's help he left his street gang, cleaned up his act and devoted his attention to putting his spiritual house in order. And for the first time, he says, his life started to make sense.

"Once I focused on my faith wonderful things started happening for me," he says now. "And I don't mean professionally - that's not what it's about. These days, I'll be in church and people will come up to me and say: 'Do you mind if I sit and pray with you?' And they'll start praying and it'll turn out they're praying for their new movie to be a success or whatever, and I'm like, this is not what I come here for. For me to sit down and ask for material things is ridiculous. It's a much bigger picture than that. I want to serve God and to be a good human being and to make up for the mistakes I made and the pain I put people through. That's what I'm praying for, and I recommend it to anybody."

 These interviews have altered my perception of Wahlberg.  I wish I could spend fifteen to twenty minutes every morning at church.  He is inspirational in a faith filled way.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Excerpt: A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin

Oh this is a long novel, 860 pages long.  After about six weeks of reading I’m only a little more than half way.  I am a slow reader, and so I anticipate this will be a three month read.  I don’t like to stretch books out that long.   For one, it takes me away from other works, but, two, I just get tired of the same work lasting that long.  I wish I were a faster reader, but I think I would lose my close attention to a work if I weren't.  If a work were not worth the entire read, I would quit a long read somewhere around a third of the way through.  This book is worth the read.


Still at this point I cannot tell if this is a great work or not, just that the characters, the situation, and the writing style hold my attention.  I will give some initial thoughts, but do keep in mind I am doing this from not having finished the novel.

If you have never heard of Mark Helprin as a novelist, you may have heard of him as a Conservative commentator.  He has churned out essays, mostly regarding foreign policy, in The Wall Street Journal, National Review, and The Claremount Institute.  He has been a soldier himself, serving in the British Navy, the Israeli Army and Air Force. 

A Soldier of the GreatWar is a coming of age novel centered on the character Alessandro Giuliani, an Italian, son of a wealthy Roman attorney, who as a young man serves as a soldier in World War I.  Alessandro’s great love of life is the study of aesthetics, and before entering the war he was a professor on the subject at a university.  The war—a war he did not support—creates great hardships for him and his family.  And so we have two parallel motifs that seem to run through the entire novel, the analysis and understanding of the beauty around him and the pain and misery that he is subjected to during wartime.  The novel’s central theme seems to be the coming to knowledge of how beauty and misery exist side by side.

Helprin starts the novel in a fashion I particularly don’t care for.  He starts the novel in 1964 when Alessandro is an old man.  In a odd set of circumstances he meets a young man, Nicolò—I think he’s under twenty years of age, but I can’t quite remember exactly—and having been kicked off the bus they are on they take a walking journey from Rome to two destinations that are on the same road.  They have an extended conversation on life, love, aesthetics, politics, and then war.  When I say “extended,” it’s really extended.  In an 860 page novel there are only ten chapters, so the chapters average over eighty pages each.  After the conversation turns to war, Alessandro is pushed to tell the story of his war experience, the experience that has shaped the man.  And so the novel's real story then starts, and I assume will end in a circular fashion returning to Alessandro’s conversation with Nicolò.  In effect then Helprin is presenting his themes and his values up front.  The story then is a fleshing out of those themes, and the values are what the character learns as a result of his experience.  I’m not a huge fan of this structure.  For me it subtracts from the reader’s immersion into the story.  I would have preferred the novel start in medias res, by thrusting the situation right before the reader.  Let the values and themes emerge as the story develops.  I’ve never seen the real advantage of that looking back start.

Second thing that irks me about the novel (again it becomes a delaying strategy from getting to the real story) is the frequent development from one thread to another.  Until the novel really gets started with the war part of the story, it seems Helprin suffers from ADHD.  He develops an incredible number of threads of story line.  Here are a few story threads that I remember.  There’s a meeting of an Austrian princess when Alessandro and the princess are children; there’s the taking care of the Austrian musician on a ski gondola ride down when it’s thought the musician had a heart attack; there’s the meeting of the beautiful young lady, Lia, who happens to be his neighbor; there’s the horse ride through Rome being chased by the Carabinieri, all to meet Lia by the beach; there’s the meeting with Orfeo, the midget hunchback, who is the scribe at his father’s office, along with the discussion on how typewriters will do away with scribes; there’s the meeting with the man, Rafi, who will be his friend and his sister’s betrothed (not sure yet if they ever get married), who is attacked for being Jewish; there are the extended mountain climbing trips with Rafi, where Rafi learns to be a world class climber; there is the meeting with the Irish woman on the train and their trip to Munich to look at a painting in a museum.  And so on. 

What do all these threads have to do with the story?  Well, they serve two purposes.  It shows the myriad of life’s activities before the war.  Once the war starts and Alessandro is immersed in it, life essentially changes, and so does the narration.  The war is the life altering event, and that is not just told but felt as the novelist generates thread after thread which ultimately stops.  Second it creates a character in full, a man who has lived a complete life.  If the novel were only about a war experience, then the character becomes limited to fighting and camaraderie.  Helprin wants Alessandro to be more than that.  He wants to create a character that has lived the life of the early 20th century and has something to say about it.  Alessandro does not represent an idea or a concept.  He is flesh and blood, and so the novel’s assessment, I think, rests on how well Alessandro, the values he espouses, the wisdom he has learned, engages the reader as a likable and real character. 

Let me add here that what has always impressed me about Helprin’s writing is his wonderful prose style.  This is the second of Helprin’s works that I’ve read.  A number of years ago I did read Memoir From Antproof Case, and while I didn’t think it was a great work (I may not have understood it) I reveled in Helprin’s delicious prose.  Let’s give a couple of examples from this novel.  Let’s start with the novel’s opening paragraphs.

On the ninth of August, 1964, Rome lay asleep in afternoon light as the sun swirled in a blinding pinwheel above its roofs, its low hills, and its gilded domes.  The city was quiet and all was still except the crowns of a few slightly swaying pines, one lost and tentative cloud, and an old man who rushed through the Villa Borghese, alone.  Limping along paths of crushed stone and tapping his cane as he took each step, he raced across intricacies of sunlight and shadow spread before him on the dark garden floor like golden lace.

Alessandro Giuliani was tall and unbent, and his buoyant white hair fell and floated about his head like the white water in the curl of a wave.  Perhaps because he had been without his family, solitary for so long, the deer in deer preserves and even in the wild sometimes allowed him to stroke their cloud-spotted flanks and touch their faces.  And on the hot terra cotta floors of roof gardens and in other, less likely places, though it may have been accidental, doves had flown into his hands.  Most of the time they held in place and stared at him with their round gray eyes until they sailed away with a feminine flutter of wings that he found beautiful and not only for its delicacy and grace, but because the sound echoed through what then became an exquisite silence.

As he hurried along the Villa Borghese he felt his blood rushing and his eyes sharpening with sweat.  In advance of his approach through long tunnels of dark greenery the birds caught fire in song but were perfectly quiet as he passed directly underneath, so that he propelled through their hypnotic chatter before and after him like an ocean wave pushing through an estuary.  With his white hair and his thick white mustache, Alessandro Giuliani might have seemed English were It not for his crème-colored suit of distinctly Roman cut and a thin bamboo cane entirely inappropriate for an Englishman.  Still trotting, breathless, and tapping, he emerged from the Villa Borghese onto a wide road that went up a hill was flanked on either side by a row of tranquil buildings with tile roofs from which the light reflected as if it were a waterfall cascading onto broken rock.

Had he looked up he might have seen angels of light dancing above the throbbing bright squares—in whirlpools, will-o’-the-wisps, and golden eddies—but he didn’t look up, for he was intent on getting to the end of the long road, to a place where he had to catch a streetcar that, by evening, would take him far into the countryside.  He would have said, anyway, that it was better to get to the end of the road than to see angels, for he had seen angels many times before.  Their faces shone from paintings; their voices rode the long and lovely notes of arias; they descended to capture the bodies and souls of young children; they sang and perched in the trees; they were in the surfs and the streams; they inspired dancing; and they were the right and holy combination of words in poetry.  As he climbed the hill he thought not of angels and their conveyances, but of a motorized trolley.  It was the last to leave Rome on Sunday, and he did not want to miss it.  [p 1-2]
[Excerpts from A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin, Harcourt Books, Inc. 1991.]

You can see in that passage the focus on beauty, on the flesh and blood man, on the values he holds, and even subtly on the life lived in the 20th century.  The hardships that will test and shape him are not there yet, but they will come.

Here’s a wonderful passage of Alessandro at University where he attends operas, which shows the silly unruliness of students and the beauty of music. 

Young singers of little experience and old ones of poor voice often found themselves in Bologna in a theater that was supported by huge tresses and timbers arrayed against its bulging outer walls.  The architectural decorations on the façade of this doomed opera house had been so worn down by wind and water that the devils were toothless, the gargoyles faceless, and the cornices round, but Italy had always been full of buildings that seemed just about to fall down, and this one, in its timber girdle, waited until Alessandro had left the city.

 Three times a week, Rossini and Verdi marshaled sufficient force and beauty to shut the students up and bring them to the kind of rapt attention that the singers of La Scala thought the natural state of mankind.  When one singer questioned another about a run in this theater the query was, “For how long did you clear the air?” meaning for how many minutes in his aria was he able to rid the sky of the paper airplanes that crossed and collided over the orchestra in a traffic unlike any that had ever been seen on earth.  They were sometimes ten or twenty layers deep, they would meander in circles, or zigzag, a hundred or more sailing about unimpeded.

Everyone kept his eye on his own craft or his favorite.  As the planes darted through the huge empty space, the singers looked out not only upon the missiles themselves but upon a thousand boys whose heads, as if in a completely anarchic tennis match, moved back and forth in may different directions—and not only back and forth, but slowly and gradually down.  Singing there was like performing in a hospital for nervous diseases.

On occasion one or more students who knew the lyrics and were gifted with powerful voices stood in their seats and competed with whatever wretch was unlucky enough to be on stage.  Whether it was done as a compliment or derision was immaterial.  The result was the same.  Worse, perhaps, was the unfolding of several hundred newspapers, signaling an insulting neutrality.  Bombardment by eggs and vegetables, shouted insults, and the occasional shoe that landed next to a terrified soprano, were, of course, unambiguous.

But should a young singer with heart and courage to face these things and keep on singing, sing well, a thousand boys as unruly as animals and as jumpy as unbroken horses or caffeinated bulls on a festival day, would suddenly become still.  The house electrified, beyond the footlights a thousand faces would show expressions of sadness, longing, and desire, and some would sparkle back at the lights, in tracks that ran down the cheeks from bright eyes that caught the light.  Ands when the aria ended, after a few seconds of silence the students would erupt into a roar of appreciation that put the audiences of major opera houses to shame.

After a lively overture with a orchestral signature attributable mainly to the fact that theatrical impresarios have known for ages that adolescents can be quieted by hunting horns, the curtain rose, crushing several paper gliders in its fold.  An extraordinary painted backdrop lowed in the light.  Giotto’s blues and Caravaggio’s shadows had been united to portray a tranquil forest in neither night nor day but, rather, in a condition of the spirit.  In combination with the overture, the weak and dream-like blue, the clouds of dark green that marked the tops of the trees, and the motile and confusing shadows, several forms of art kept the students as quiet as the dead.  [p. 156-7]

That is a funny scene, charming and beautiful and so realistic I can swear I’ve been to something like that as a college student myself. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Matthew Monday: Mickey Ears

I mentioned in my last blog I was on a business trip to Southern California, and we (the people I traveled with) stayed at a hotel in Anheim, just outside of Disneyland.  We had dinner one night in the restaurant/gift shop section, which I can't recall what it's called.  I just looked it up and it's called Downtown Disney.  Having dinner there did give me the opportunity to buy Matthew a couple of gifts.

When I spoke to him on the phone the next night, I told him I got him a present. 

"What?" was the first word that came out of his mouth on the phone.

"It's a surprise."

"What is it?"

"I can't tell you, it's a suuurrpriiise." I stretched the vowels for maximum effect.  "And guess what?"


"I got you two surprises."

"Oh boy, mommy, mommy, daddy got me two surprises.  When are you coming home?

LOL.  How selfish children can be.  And of course the first things he asked about when I got home were for his "surprises." 

You can make a little kid happy with just about anything.  I got him Mickey Mouse ears with his name stichted on and a ray gun.  He ran around the house with the ears on and kept zapping me with the ray gun all day that first day.  Here's a picture of him with the ears and the gun.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Faith Filled Friday: Crystal Cathedral

I was on a business trip this week in southern California, and the hotel I was staying in was in Anaheim.  On my way to the company I was visiting, one mile down from the hotel I drove by Crystal Cathedral.  OMG, I said to myself, "I know that place, and the Catholic Church just bought it last year." 

So I was thinking it was already under Catholic supervision, and I had to visit it.  Perhaps they had a gift shop, or maybe an evening mass. 

So after work I drove over.  I walked in and was very politely greeted by a several women who were there to welcome guests.  I had a nice conversation with one woman in particular.  But much to my surprise, it had not been transitioned over to "the Catholics" as she called us...lol.  She was originally a Mennonite but had settled at that Church since there were so few Mennonites in Southern California.  They still had to put in a crucifix ("you know, the body on the cross" as she put it) and the kneelers and all these other banners "that Catholics have."  I hope my characterization doesn't portray her as coming across as rude, because she wasn't at all.  She was very kind and charitable in her reference to Catholics; she just had limited knowledge of us.  She even mentioned an appeal for one church and Christian unity.  I never got her name, but God bless her and keep her and shine His face upon her.  She really was sweet.  The Cathedral will be handed over to the dioceses on June 30th.  So next time I get down there, if there is a next time, I will have to stop in and perhaps go to a mass.

The Cathedral was beautiful, both the outside and the inside, but especially the bell tower.  I did not have a camera unfortunately, but here are some pictures I pulled off the Internet.  The grounds are also very lovely and they had some beautiful statues.  Who says Protestants don't do statues?  They even had a statue of Bishop Fulton Sheen as one of four great televangelists of the 20th century. 

It's certainly not your traditional church, but the angles and the light and the high ceiling really lifted you up toward the heavens.  It was impressive, and I don't think the pictures do it justice.  The organ is supposed to be the third or fourth largest in the world.  Someone was playing it when I walked in.  I wonder what other modifications "the Catholics" will make, such as the stations of the cross, candle shrines, or stain glass. By the way, when it does become Catholic it will be called Christ Cathedral.

And here are a three of the statues on the grounds (Moses with the Ten Commandments, The Good Shepherd, and The Holy Family).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Music Tuesday: William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini

Two versions.  A comic version celebrating Mother's Day: "All Things Mothers Say In A Day" sung to the exuberant finale of Rossini's Overture.

I hope you enjoyed that.  She delivered that well.

And now how about the real version of Rossini's wonderful piece of music.  Make sure you listen to the last three minutes.  Any one who doesn't love the William Tell Overture can't possibly love music. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Matthew Monday: A Scooby Doo Mother's Day

When I woke up on Mother's Day Sunday morning and got dressed to take the dog out for a walk, with my wife still asleep, Matthew walked into the bedroom.  "Shhsh," I told him.  "Don't wake up mommy."  We walked downstairs with Brandi (our yellow Lab) trailing behind, urging me in her way to get out of the house.  I told Matthew to get into bed and wait until I got back. 

"But," I said, "if mommy wakes up, make sure you wish her a happy Mother's Day." 

"Happy Mother's day?" 

"Yes, Happy Mother's Day.  Let me hear you say it, 'Happy Mother's Day'"

"Happy Mother's Day."

"Good.  Now get back into bed and wait for mommy."

I was out with Brandi for a good forty, forty-five minutes.  I like to give the dog a good walk on the weekends, take her to a field and let her fetch a tennis ball.  I didn't know what to expect when I got back.  The night before Matthew had been sassy talking back to mommy, and so mommy had yelled at him and might have been still sore at him. 

When I walked into the house, there was mommy and Matthew on the couch, cuddled together, looking at something on Mommy's laptop.  It could have been a Madonna and child picture moment.  There were sounds of a cartoonish nature coming from the laptop.  Both were quiet, and I could see mommy was enjoying the cuddle.

"What are you watching?" I asked.

Matthew lifted one of his arms that was hugging mommy and pointed to the screen.  "Scooby Doo!"

I didn't even know Matthew was aware of Scooby Doo. 

Mommy then looked up.  "He wished me a happy Mother's Day as soon as I woke up," she said proudly.  She squeezed a hug.  I could see she treated him to Youtube cartoons on her laptop because of it.  I guess I hit it right with my conversation with Matthew before I left the house.

"Who's that?"  Mommy asked Matthew.

"Shaggy and Scooby Doo!"  Matthew responded.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Poetry: My Mother Would Be A Falconress by Robert Duncan

Here is a poem to commemorate Mother’s Day, “My Mother Would Be A Falconress” by Robert Duncan.  I’ve come across a Robert Duncan poem or two but I’ve no memory of them, and until now I knew nothing of her personal life.  You can read about his rather interesting life at Poets.Org and Wikipedia, but I don’t think his life, other than he had a mother, bears much in the poem.  His natural mother did die in childbirth, and he was adopted.  If one really pushed a biographical reading, you might wonder which of his mothers he’s thinking about.  It could be that the poem is a sort of imaginary transferal to being with his birth mother.  Blood imagery does play an important part of the poem, perhaps raising the suggestion of his blood mother.  But none of that is really important in appreciating the poem.  Poem attributed to Poem.Org. I’ve added the line numbers on the right for ease of reference.

My Mother Would Be a Falconress
by Robert Duncan

My mother would be a falconress,
And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,
would fly to bring back
from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize,
where I dream in my little hood with many bells                        (5)
jangling when I'd turn my head.

My mother would be a falconress,
and she sends me as far as her will goes.
She lets me ride to the end of her curb
where I fall back in anguish.                                                  (10)
I dread that she will cast me away,
for I fall, I mis-take, I fail in her mission.

She would bring down the little birds.
And I would bring down the little birds.
When will she let me bring down the little birds,                      (15)    
pierced from their flight with their necks broken,
their heads like flowers limp from the stem?

I tread my mother's wrist and would draw blood.
Behind the little hood my eyes are hooded.
I have gone back into my hooded silence,                                (20)
talking to myself and dropping off to sleep.

For she has muffled my dreams in the hood she has made me,
sewn round with bells, jangling when I move.
She rides with her little falcon upon her wrist.
She uses a barb that brings me to cower.                                 (25)
She sends me abroad to try my wings
and I come back to her. I would bring down
the little birds to her
I may not tear into, I must bring back perfectly.

I tear at her wrist with my beak to draw blood,                         (30)
and her eye holds me, anguisht, terrifying.
She draws a limit to my flight.
Never beyond my sight, she says.
She trains me to fetch and to limit myself in fetching.
She rewards me with meat for my dinner.                                 (35)
But I must never eat what she sends me to bring her.

Yet it would have been beautiful, if she would have carried me,
always, in a little hood with the bells ringing,
at her wrist, and her riding
to the great falcon hunt, and me                                              (40)
flying up to the curb of my heart from her heart
to bring down the skylark from the blue to her feet,
straining, and then released for the flight.

My mother would be a falconress,
and I her gerfalcon raised at her will,                                       (45)
from her wrist sent flying, as if I were her own
pride, as if her pride
knew no limits, as if her mind
sought in me flight beyond the horizon.

Ah, but high, high in the air I flew.                                           (50)
And far, far beyond the curb of her will,
were the blue hills where the falcons nest.
And then I saw west to the dying sun--
it seemd my human soul went down in flames.

I tore at her wrist, at the hold she had for me,                           (55)
until the blood ran hot and I heard her cry out,
far, far beyond the curb of her will

to horizons of stars beyond the ringing hills of the world where
   the falcons nest
I saw, and I tore at her wrist with my savage beak.                        
I flew, as if sight flew from the anguish in her eye beyond her sight,
sent from my striking loose, from the cruel strike at her wrist,
striking out from the blood to be free of her.

My mother would be a falconress,
and even now, years after this,                                             
when the wounds I left her had surely heald,                            (65)
and the woman is dead,
her fierce eyes closed, and if her heart
were broken, it is stilld

I would be a falcon and go free.                                              
I tread her wrist and wear the hood,                                          (70)
talking to myself, and would draw blood.
Allow me provide a few thoughts on this pleasing poem.  There is an obvious central metaphor that controls the poem: the narrator (let us assume it’s the poet himself) compares his relationship to his mother as a falcon is to a falconer.  The poem is in thirteen non-uniform stanzas, composed of seventy-one lines, non-metrical, and free verse.  I see three major parts dividing the poem.  The first being through stanza eight (line 49) where the relationship of child to mother, obedient falcon to the falconress, is developed.  The second from stanza nine through eleven (line 62) is the breaking away, and the third, stanzas twelve and thirteen, is a looking back years later. 
In the first part we see the mother as powerful, the strength, the teacher, and the nurturer in the relationship.  It's the majority of the poem.  The blood that is drawn is an intermingling, and in a strange way culminates in the narraotor's range—the falcon’s range figures prominently—being characterized from “the curb of [his] heart from her heart” (41).  In the second part, the blood drawn is a scratching free from the mother's authority.  Notice how Duncan transitions between stanzas ten and eleven, the moment of breaking free.  Duncan spills the sentence (lines 57 & 58) over the tenth to the eleventh stanza.  Every stanza ends in a period except the tenth.  The spilling over suggests a break from the form, a release, a moment of freedom.  Notice too how line 58 is extraordinarily long, a sort of flying free.
Finally in the third section, the poet looks back and sees his mother, now long dead, the falcon still treading on her wrist.  The bond between the two is immeasurable, continues on in perpetuity, their blood unified through nurture and lesson.  Nice poem.
Happy Mother’s Day.