Archives for category: Travel

by Stanley Moss

Today in Rome, heading down
Michelangelo’s Spanish Steps,
under an unchanging moon,
I held on to the balustrade,
grateful for his giving me a hand.
All for love, I stumbled over the past
as if it were my own feet. Here, in my twenties,
I was lost in love and poetry. Along the Tiber,
I made up Cubist Shakespearean games.
(In writing, even in those days,
I cannot say it was popular to have “subjects”
any more than painters used sitters. But I did.)
I played with an ignorant mirror for an audience:
my self, embroiled with personae
from Antony and Cleopatra. Delusions of grandeur!
They were for a time my foul-weather friends—
as once I played with soldiers
on the mountainous countryside of a purple blanket.

IMAGE: The Spanish Steps, Rome (1895 photo). Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stanley Moss, born in 1925, was educated at Trinity College (Connecticut) and Yale University. He makes his living as a private art dealer, specializing in Spanish and Italian Old Masters. He is the critically acclaimed author of The Skull of Adam (1979), The Intelligence of Clouds (1989), Asleep in the Garden (1997), A History of Color (2003), New and Selected Poems (2006), Rejoicing (2009), and God Breaketh Not All Men’s Hearts Alike (2011). In 1977 Moss founded Sheep Meadow Press, a nonprofit press devoted to poetry, with a particular focus on international poets in translation. He lives in New York.

by Linda Pastan

I sing a song
of the croissant
and of the wily French
who trick themselves daily
back to the world
for its sweet ceremony.
Ah to be reeled 
up into morning
on that crisp,

CREDIT: “Petit Dejuner” is found in Linda Pastan‘s collection Imperfect Paradise (W.W. Norton & Co., 1988), available at

Photo: Getty Images, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Photo: F. Scott Fitzgerald with wife Zelda and daughter Scottie, 1923, in the sports coupé the author purchased a few years earlier after selling his first novel, THIS SIDE OF PARADISE.

“When I was a boy, I dreamed that I sat always at the wheel of a magnificent Stutz, a Stutz as low as a snake and as red as an Indiana barn.”


According to an insightful 1993 article entitled “The Automobile as a Central Symbol in F. Scott Fitzgerald” by Luis Girón Echevarría:

“The cars in Fitzgerald’s life provide a rough gauge by which to measure the discrepancy between the dream and reality of his life, as well as his waning fortunes, and his journey from careless, irresponsible youth to cautious, worried middle-age…

His first car, purchased in 1920 after the publication of his best-selling first novel, This Side of Paradise, was a three-year-oíd sports coupé; during the next two decades he would own a used Rolls-Royce, an oíd Buick, [a] Stutz, a nine-year-old Packard, an oíd 1934 Ford coupé, and, finally, a second-hand 1937 Ford convertible

It was Fitzgerald’s destiny to begin life dreaming of a magnificent red Stutz Bearcat and to end up driving a second-hand Ford. But during the interval he wrote of America’s dreams and of America’s enduring love affair with the automobile.”

Read more of this fascinating article here.


Poem by Robert Phillips

As a teenager I would drive Father’s
Chevrolet cross-county given me
Reluctantly: “Always keep the tank
Half full, boy, half full, ya hear?”
The fuel gauge dipping, dipping
Toward Empty, hitting Empty, then
–thrilling—way below Empty,
myself driving cross-county

mile after mile, faster and faster,
all night long, this crazy kid driving
the earth’s rolling surface,
against all laws, defying chemistry,
rules, and time, riding on nothing
but fumes, pushing luck harder
than anyone pushed before, the wind
screaming past like the Furies…
I stranded myself only once, a white
Night with no gas stations open, ninety miles
From nowhere. Panicked for a while,
At a standstill, myself stalled.
At dawn the car and I both refilled. But,
Father, I am running on empty still. 

Note: Robert Phillips, born in 1938, refers to himself as a “teenager” in this poem, so I’m guessing he might have driven a 1954 Chevy when he was 16.

Source: Find this and scores of other remarkable poems in Drive, They Said: Poems About Americans and Their Cars, an excellent anthology edited by Kurt Brown (Milkweed Editions, 1994) — available at 

by Robert Bly

My dear children, do you remember the morning
When we climbed into the old Plymouth
And drove west straight toward the Pacific?
We were all the people there were.
We followed Dylan’s songs all the way west.
It was Seventy; the war was over, almost;
And we were driving to the sea.
We had closed the farm, tucked in
The flap, and were eating the honey
Of distance and the word “there.”
Oh whee, we’re gonna fly
Down into the easy chair. We sang that
Over and over. That’s what the early
Seventies were like. We weren’t afraid.
And a hole had opened in the world.
We laughed at Las Vegas.
There was enough gaiety
For all of us, and ahead of us was
The ocean. Tomorrow’s
The day my bride’s gonna come.
And the war was over, almost.

Note: “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” is the Bob Dylan song referred to in “Driving West in 1970.” Listen to a 1968 version by the Byrds here. Find it on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Volume II at

Photo: 1960 Plymouth Fury. When “Driving West in 1970” mentions “old Plymouth,” I figured the car was at least 10 years old (though the vehicle in the above photo looks grand). From what I’ve gathered, while other car models were moving away from fins, the fins on the 1960 Plymouth Fury were bigger than ever. I like to think of these Plymouth fins helping the Bly family fly and swim all the way to the ocean during this 1970 journey.

by Fred Zirm

Slats of shadow, slots of sunlight –
angling between the nearly
invisible and the almost opaque.
What do they have to do
with Venice?
Were they invented there
to cut down on the glare
from the Grand Canal?
Or were they hung in the back
of gondolas so romantic couples
could open them to see the sights
or close them for a moment
of private passion while
the gondolier improvises
an aria to impress
the tourists?
I could probably Google the answer,
but speculation can be so much more
fun than knowledge, like seeing vague
silhouettes behind the blinds
beneath a Venetian moon. 

Credit: Poetry 181, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Photo: “Moon Over Venice,” found here.

By W.H. Auden

This is the night mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door…
Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers’ declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wystan Hugh Auden (1907 – 1973), who published as was an Anglo-American poet, born in England, later an American citizen, regarded by many critics as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety of tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature. (Read more at

By Timothy Steele

Above the concourse, from a beam,
A little warbler pours forth song.
Beneath him, hurried humans stream:
Some draw wheeled suitcases along
Or from a beeping belt or purse
Apply a cell phone to an ear;
Some pause at banks of monitors
Where times and gates for flights appear.
Although by nature flight-endowed,
He seems too gentle to reproach
These souls who soon will climb through cloud
In first class, business class, and coach.
He may feel that it’s his mistake
He’s here, but someone ought to bring
A net to catch and help him make
His own connections north to spring.
He cheeps and trills on, swift and sweet,
Though no one outside hears his strains.
There, telescopic tunnels greet
The cheeks of their arriving planes;
A ground crew welcomes and assists
Luggage that skycaps, treating bags
Like careful ornithologists,
Banded with destination tags.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Timothy Steele’s first collection of poems, Uncertainties and Rest, published in 1979, attracted attention for its colloquial charm and its allegiance to meter and rhyme at a time when free verse was the predominant style, especially among younger poets. Steele has published three additional collections: Sapphics Against Anger and Other Poems (1986), The Color Wheel (1994), and Toward the Winter Solstice (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 2006). Steele’s honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Los Angeles PEN Center’s Award for Poetry, a Commonwealth Club of California Medal for Poetry, and the Robert Fitzgerald Award for Excellence in the Study of Prosody. He has held teaching appointments at Stanford, and the University of California, in both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Since 1987, he has served as professor of English at California State University, Los Angeles. (Read more at

Photo: “Sparrow Living Inside Mitchell International Airport (Milwaukee)” by Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


“I must tell you how I work. I don’t have my novel outlined and I have to write to discover what I am doing…I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again.”


Photo: Flannery O’Connor’s desk and typewriter in her bedroom at Andalusia, her farm near Milledgeville, Georgia. Photo by Susana Raab for the New York Times, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The photo appears in an article by Lawrence Downes in the New York Times travel section (“In Search of Flannery O’Connor,” February 4, 2007.  Find the article at this link. Here is an excerpt, where Downes describes visiting O’Connor’s writing room:

There is no slow buildup on this tour; the final destination is the first doorway on your left: O’Connor’s bedroom and study, converted from a sitting room because she couldn’t climb the stairs [O’Connor was suffering from lupus]. Mr. Amason stood back, politely granting me silence as I gathered my thoughts and drank in every detail.

This is where O’Connor wrote, for three hours every day. Her bed had a faded blue-and-white coverlet. The blue drapes, in a 1950’s pattern, were dingy, and the paint was flaking off the walls. There was a portable typewriter, a hi-fi with classical LPs, a few bookcases. Leaning against an armoire were the aluminum crutches that O’Connor used, with her rashy swollen legs and crumbling bones, to get from bedroom to kitchen to porch.

There are few opportunities for so intimate and unguarded a glimpse into the private life of a great American writer. Mr. Amason told me that visitors sometimes wept on the bedroom threshold.


“Louisiana in September was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air–moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh–felt as if it were being exhaled into one’s face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing. Honeysuckle, swamp flowers, magnolia, and the mystery smell of the river scented the atmosphere, amplifying the intrusion of organic sleaze. It was aphrodisiac and repressive, soft and violent at the same time. In New Orleans, in the French Quarter, miles from the barking lungs of alligators, the air maintained this quality of breath, although here it acquired a tinge of metallic halitosis, due to fumes expelled by tourist buses, trucks delivering Dixie beer, and, on Decatur Street, a mass-transit motor coach named Desire.”

…from Jitterbug Perfume, a novel by TOM ROBBINS

Find Tom Robbins‘ 1990 novel Jitterbug Perfume at

Jitterbug Perfume has a large and exotic cast of characters, all of whom are interested in immortality and/or perfume… Go see for yourself; you’ll have a good time.” The Washington Post