Saturday, December 29, 2012

Long Lost Twins

Overtime will probably dry up after the first of the year, so hopefully I'll be able to do more poetry. In the meantime . . .
Sam Elliot

Nathaniel Hawthorne

If twins could be born decades apart.

Merle Haggard: If We Make It Through December

Here's The Hag singing a happy little seasonal tune.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Southern Hospitality

Submitted to dVerse OpenLinkNight, Holiday Edition. Not very Christmassy, but the word Holiday reminded me of a song by Billie Holiday.

World Famous Southern Hospitality

and yet, not so many years
ago, we hung our black
brothers and sisters
from our leafy gallows
as we posed, grinning white
faces topped with jaunty
hats. Smoking, squatting
on fatty haunches,
or leaning against
the strange fruit-
bearing tree as if sharing
a neighborly moment
in the white clover yard
of the white narrow church.

lines 10-11: see the song “Strange Fruit” as sung by Billie Holiday

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dear Santa,

If it's not too much trouble, can you bring me the ability to play banjo like Bela? Oh, and I'll need a banjo.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I'm Going to Drink My Corn Liquor Anyway

I haven't posted a bluegrass song in a while, so here's an old favorite. The sound isn't the best, but hey, it's Dan Tyminski, and includes a lyric about corn lick'r. Hard to beat that.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hawthorne on Theological Books

No poetry from me this week due to a ton of overtime work. But here's a nice quote from Hawthorne's "The Old Manse":

So long as an unlettered soul can attain to saving grace, there would seem to be no deadly error in holding theological libraries to be accumulations of, for the most part, stupendous impertinence.

I agree. Even though I own a pretty sizable theological library.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Frisbees and Pinwheels

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words dangle, abnormal, lavish. Also submitted to dVerse OpenLinkNight. 

Arp 188 and the Tadpole's Tail 
Image Credit: Hubble Legacy ArchiveESANASAProcessing Bill Snyder (Heavens Mirror Observatory)

Frisbees & Pinwheels

After all, what does it matter, this troubled
hour, when whole worlds dangle overhead,
prodded into existence by who knows
what evasive Power? I’ve seen a picture

of the Tadpole Galaxy, so called for its
abnormal gaseous tail stretched out
280 thousand light years,
caused by some celestial near miss.

In the background other spiral galaxies
are scattered lavishly about. Some lay
flat, like frisbees flung over the roof, sent
flying just to see where they might land;

others stand on edge, like sparkling pinwheels
we used to clench in our plump childish hands,
running. What if God is but a laughing child
spinning pinwheels?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Prayer Before the End

Knowledgeable poet Gay Reiser Cannon, host of tonight's FormForAll at dVerse, has invited us to try our hand at writing a quatern. Both rhyme and meter play a role in this form--I kept pretty close to exactness, but there are a few slight metrical replacements along the way. This was super fun--it's amazing how much can be learned by adhering to a form. Anyway, in the spirit of the end of the world predicted for this month . . . 

A Prayer Before the End

All former things will pass away—
A ball of flame; forgetfulness.
At any rate, the wise seers say
A bang or whimper ends it all.

Some dream of walking golden streets
When former things will pass away,
No loss or pain will enter there
And night will fade to lasting day.

If I may ask for a delay
There’re things I’d like to do before
All former things will pass away.
I want to plant my spring garden,

Enjoy a walk beside the creek,
And watch the kids go out to play.
I’ll turn the lights out when I leave
When former things will pass away.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Long Day of Work

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words battle, fluid, harvest. Also submitted to dVerse. I don't know how much chance I'll have to visit other blogs this week--work calls me, which may explain the subject of my poem this week.

Long Day of Work

I’ve been told that life
is a battle, and as metaphors
go I don’t think much of it.
I prefer to see life

as a long day of work,
as if each hour
was just one more row
to harvest, some easier

than others. The hard rows
call for occasional rest
under a shady oak,
where there’s no shame

in taking it. At the end
of the day, a cold beer
and drowsy drifting
into fluid sleep.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Erasure Poem: Faded Lustre

Anna Montgomery, illustrious host of tonight’s Meeting the Bar at dVerse, prompts us to try our hand at an erasure poem, a type of found poem using an existing text. This is a very fun exercise—why don’t you join in?

The artist did not immediately reply, being startled by the apparition of a young child of strength that was tumbling about on the carpet,--a little personage who had come mysteriously out of the infinite, but with something so sturdy and real in his composition that he seemed moulded out of the densest substance which earth could supply. This hopeful infant crawled towards the new-comer, and setting himself on end, as Robert Danforth expressed the posture, stared at Owen with a look of such sagacious observation that the mother could not help exchanging a proud glance with her husband. But the artist was disturbed by the child's look, as imagining a resemblance between it and Peter Hovenden's habitual expression. He could have fancied that the old watchmaker was compressed into this baby shape, and looking out of those baby eyes, and repeating, as he now did, the malicious question: "The beautiful, Owen! How comes on the beautiful? Have you succeeded in creating the beautiful?"
"I have succeeded," replied the artist, with a momentary light of triumph in his eyes and a smile of sunshine, yet steeped in such depth of thought that it was almost sadness. "Yes, my friends, it is the truth. I have succeeded."
"Indeed!" cried Annie, a look of maiden mirthfulness peeping out of her face again. "And is it lawful, now, to inquire what the secret is?"
"Surely; it is to disclose it that I have come," answered Owen Warland. "You shall know, and see, and touch, and possess the secret! For, Annie,--if by that name I may still address the friend of my boyish years,--Annie, it is for your bridal gift that I have wrought this spiritualized mechanism, this harmony of motion, this mystery of beauty. It comes late, indeed; but it is as we go onward in life, when objects begin to lose their freshness of hue and our souls their delicacy of perception, that the spirit of beauty is most needed. If,--forgive me, Annie,--if you know how--to value this gift, it can never come too late."
He produced, as he spoke, what seemed a jewel box. It was carved richly out of ebony by his own hand, and inlaid with a fanciful tracery of pearl, representing a boy in pursuit of a butterfly, which, elsewhere, had become a winged spirit, and was flying heavenward; while the boy, or youth, had found such efficacy in his strong desire that he ascended from earth to cloud, and from cloud to celestial atmosphere, to win the beautiful. This case of ebony the artist opened, and bade Annie place her fingers on its edge. She did so, but almost screamed as a butterfly fluttered forth, and, alighting on her finger's tip, sat waving the ample magnificence of its purple and gold-speckled wings, as if in prelude to a flight. It is impossible to express by words the glory, the splendor, the delicate gorgeousness which were softened into the beauty of this object. Nature's ideal butterfly was here realized in all its perfection; not in the pattern of such faded insects as flit among earthly flowers, but of those which hover across the meads of paradise for child-angels and the spirits of departed infants to disport themselves with. The rich down was visible upon its wings; the lustre of its eyes seemed instinct with spirit.

Faded Lustre

The artist 
with something so real
moulded this hopeful
momentary light 
yet steeped
in such depth of sadness
produced by his own hand
as if
to express by words
the pattern of faded


This is from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Artist of the Beautiful.” I just read this yesterday so it was fresh in my mind—not particularly creative with the design here, but such as it is. I pretty much left it as I found it, without punctuation. The only change—I de-capitalized the “T” in “this” (line 3). I thought hard about replacing “lustre” with the word “paradise,” and still think it might be better. I stuck with lustre for now since I used the word “light” in line 4. Seems to be more consistent, but either word feels right.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First Love

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words clench, faint, prod. Also submitted to dVerse OpenLinkNight.

First Love

That Florida summer, the year
you moved in next door, we’d crawl

under the barbed wire fence
to meet each morning

in the hayfield,
prodded by some power

neither of us understood.
With clenched hands we’d

clumsily kiss, and in the faint
daylight return our

separate ways. Summer passed,
and now I can’t even remember

your name.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words vision, motion, peaceful. Also submitted to dVerse OpenLinkNight, day late and a penny short.


We put pennies
on the track and waited
for the 2:00 train
to come blowing by,
curious to see
Lincoln’s face pressed
into peaceful copper
oblivion. Scoot, the
neighborhood know-it-all,
had told us that 
if some federal agent
happened to be spying
on us we could be
arrested for defacing
government property
and he hoped we’d all
be happy spending
a hundred years behind
bars. Or, with convincing
proof he explained
that even a penny
could disrupt the train’s
smooth motion, cause
it to jump rail
and dump its freight
from here to Royal Street.
Still we put
our pennies down,
ducked low behind
the shrubs and waited,
encouraged by Scoot’s vision
of cars and coal
piled in our backyards.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blake-ish Poems

(original artwork by yours truly)

Instructional Poems for Young and Old 
(with a Practical Moral to Close Each Piece) 

Little Mouse so proudly sat
on kitchen table, plump and fat.
Mrs. Mouse, as mothers do,
said, “I should be so very blue
if Mr. Cat should find you there
and eat you, bone, skin, and hair.”
Little Mouse, against her fears
let her words go out his ears.
A pounce. A crunch. And then a fart:
Sometimes staying ain’t so smart.


Mr. Cat asked, “Mrs. Mouse,
would you come into my house?”
Mrs. Mouse said, “Mr. Cat,
I am fine just where I’m at.”
“But look and see—it is quite nice.
A perfect place to raise some mice.
It’s warm and dry; you’ll live in style,
not like in your old woodpile.”
“All the same, I think I’ll pass”:
Sometimes staying saves your ass.


A word about this set of poems. I actually wrote and posted them a few months ago, but since they were not linked to any online poetry groups they had maybe a dozen readers. So while they are not spankin' brand new, they are gently used and I feel justified in reposting. I think they fit what Victoria Slotto, host of tonight's Meeting At the Bar over at dVerse, is looking for. Or one can sincerely hope so.

Now, as for the literary influence, I definitely had William Blake in mind when I wrote them, specifically Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. I've spent a lot of time with Blake, and he has undoubtedly worked an influence on my own stuff. There are superficial similarities between these poems and Blake's, such as the title. And the original artwork. (For those not familiar, Blake is as well-known for his striking "illuminations" as he is for his poems. I have my doubts whether my drawing will enjoy the same appeal.) Couched within the sometimes (seemingly) simplistic poems contained in Songs, especially those in the Innocence section, Blake deals with some deeper issues of human existence. I like the way he views things from more than one perspective, and it is this aspect of Blake I was most trying to mimic. I also admit to poking fun at the moralistic poems geared toward children that were popular at the time.

All that aside, I've written what my oldest daughter calls "sad" poems the last few weeks, so it was time for some fun. But look closely--there may be a deeper message somewhere in there after all!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Karin Gustafson, hosting the latest prompt over at dVerse, offers us the chance to write about war, peace, and like topics. I just pulled an all-night shift, so I can't tell how jumbled up this is, but I'm sending it along anyway. 


As the dew falls, easing down
on the new-mown meadow
like a gentle morning kiss,
she wanders over the wet
grass and weeps. Her son is

not coming home. His body, toughened
by boot camp and sent to the desert,
is blown into red fragments by
some other mother’s boy,
unrecoverable, like a

memory erased.
The government men who
brought her the news told her she
should be proud, but on this morning,
crossing the pathless field

where her boy played away
his childhood, she cannot
escape her loss. Her mind travels
across miles, thinking of
all he must have suffered—

and she wonders just now if
across some scorched dune another
mother wanders and weeps
her loss. She knows she
should return to the house;

her work awaits. The dew lifts,
and she walks on
without leaving a trace.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


A great time is starting tonight over at dVerse, where Raivenne has challenged us to write a poem in Than Bauk form. Never tried this before, but it was good to stretch out a bit--I enjoy playing around with words and sounds. Hope I came close to adhering to the formal rules. (For some reason, this one turned out far darker than I intended.)


I should have gone
when day dawned, you
withdrawn inside

yourself. You’d sighed,
a gulf wide, sheer
divide between

us. Still between
sheets, crime scene, blue-
light sheen, breathless.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Witness

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words compromise, decision, forward. Also submitted, howbeit late (as usual), to the OpenLinkNight over at dVerse

The Witness

She bends forward, low
over etched granite,
her small shoulders making
a sorrowful tremor
in the field of solid stone.
I did not mean to spy
on her private grief,
as her tears mingled
with the morning mist,
but I could not
turn away, I could
not turn away.
Did she beg
for a compromise, a
“Take me instead,”
while full knowing
the final decision
had already been made?
or was she here only
to make late amends
for past regrets? I did
not ask, but like the
stone bore silent witness
to life and death.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


At tonight's dVerse prompt, poetess and host Anna Montgomery asks us to try a poem that blends high and low art. It sounded fun so I gave it a good try--hope you can join in.


This worrisome mosquito,

                                                         grim demon
haunting the marshes, marauding round the heath
and the desolate fens,

restlessly buzzing
and biting, will not take
a hint

for my flesh is food
indeed, and my blood
is drink indeed

and she is hungry
for blood, the very wealth
of my life, so that her
own life might be sustained.

Some god or saint
may gladly give all,
may bow the head

for the life of the world

but I’m not ok with that.

So I swat and smack,
intent to kill, but she
evades and lands
once more.
                        This time, I let
her poke her proboscis
in deep, let her eat
her fill and swell up

Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row
as ever you can; fill your dam’ bellies
‘till dey bust—and den die.

With one hit I end
her meal, and am left with
my own blood on my hand.


Not sure if I’m on the right track. The subject, biting mosquitoes, seems pretty “low art” to me. The italicized portions are quotes from what might be considered “high art” sources. The first is from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf; the next two are from the Gospel of St. John; the last is from Melville’s Moby Dick

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words false, sallow, illustrate. Also submitted to dVerse OpenLinkNight


He labored hard
at his homework,
tongue hanging out

in deliberate effort
as if the future
happiness of humankind

depended on his
answers. Squinting
in the sallow light

of the desk lamp,
the little boy
chooses True or

False, or arranges
numbers in neat rows
on a page, or illustrates

the digestive system
in Crayola cross-section,
while a single bird

lands lightly on a limb
outside  his window,
singing for joy.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Time to Get Better: or Hot Dang! I'm a Food Blogger!!

I don't like doctors. I suppose doctors, as people, are tolerable, but I don't like waiting interminably with my clothes off just in order to be poked on. (I know, putting it that way sounds half-way enjoyable, but you know what I mean.) I don't have a primary care physician, since I so rarely go, and only go when at death's door--my physician is whoever happens to be manning the ER at the time. At my last doctor visit--I was delirious with fever--I was in the ER for about 6 hrs. They ran a few simple tests, gave me some Tylenol, and charged me several hundred dollars for the honor. (I'll pay up eventually, St. Joes.) Anyway, I've been sick for the past few days, so I figured it's time to pull out the cure-all. I'd rather not have another violating visit to the ER.

What we have here is homemade chicken noodle soup, lovingly assembled by The Good Wife. Chicken, noodles, carrots, onion, garlic, the usual. Since I firmly believe in the healing qualities of hot stuff I added a special feature, Georgia Peaches hot sauce. Simple ingredients: peaches, habanero peppers, onions, celery, sugar, peppers, sour mash bourbon, and spices. (I covered up part of the label for my younger readers' sake--the well-placed peaches on the model look surprisingly like boobies.) The beverage is a SweetWater porter, Exodus. Strong, thick, and chocolaty. I should be better in a couple of hours.

Thomas Wolfe, Prose Poet

(Credit: Carl Van Vechten, p.d.)

Not many readers feel the need make their way through Thomas Wolfe's 700 page doorstop, You Can't Go Home Again. Wolfe's writing is, shall we say, splayed out--for readers who appreciate regular plot sequence and terse sentences, Wolfe will not satisfy. But I like it a lot. One thing I like most about his writing is its poetic feel. He wrote prose paragraphs in the most enjoyable poetic feel of any novelist I have read. Others have noticed this long before I have, and one editor has gone so far as to take some of Wolfe's prose and line it out. In his Forward to the book I am about to quote, Louis Untermeyer wrote, "It has often been suggested that Thomas Wolfe was a poet who elected to write in prose." I agree. The following paragraphs from You Can't Go Home Again are arranged by John S. Barnes in his book A Stone, A Leaf, A Door

Going Home Again

All through the night
He lay in his dark berth
And watched the old earth of Virginia
As it stroked past him
In the dream-haunted silence of the moon.
Field and hill and gulch
And stream and wood again,
The huge illimitable earth of America,
Kept stroking past him
In the steep silence of the moon.

All through the ghostly stillness of the land,
The train made on forever its tremendous noise,
Fused of a thousand sounds,
And they called back to him
Forgotten memories:
Old songs, old faces, old memories,
And all strange, wordless, and unspoken things
Men know and live and feel,
And never find a language for—
The legend of dark time,
The sad brevity of their days,
The unknowable but haunting miracle
Of life itself.

He heard again,
As he had heard throughout his childhood,
The pounding wheel, the tolling bell, the whistle-wail,
And he remembered how these sounds,
Coming to him from the river’s edge
In the little town of his boyhood,
Had always evoked for him
Their tongueless prophecy
Of wild and secret joy,
Their glorious promises
Of new lands, morning, and a shining city.
But now the lonely cry of the great train
Was speaking to him,
With an equal strangeness, of return.
For he was going home again.

But why had he always felt so strongly
The magnetic pull of home,
Why had he thought so much about it
And remembered it with such blazing accuracy,
If it did not matter,
And if this little town
And the immortal hills around it
Were not the only home he had on earth?

He did not know.

All that he knew
Was that the years flow by like water,
And that one day
Men come home again.

The train rushed onward through the moonlit land.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Emerson on Politics

My last political post was such a rousing success I thought I'd try another. I think Emerson is on to something here.

Our only safe rule in politics heretofore was, always to believe that the worst would be done. Then we were not deceived. 

--from Journals, January 1862

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wild Onions, (edited for dVerse)

[I don't like to start with disclaimers or explanations, but I feel the need this time to introduce this poem. Some of you have read this one before--I wrote it a few weeks ago for a different poetry prompt community. Forgive me for reposting (I have, hopefully, made a few edits that improved the piece), but one of my friends commented on the original post that she enjoyed my use of enjambment. Since enjambment is what we are after here in this prompt, I automatically thought of this poem. And I also think it meets the criterion of including disparate subjects. Anyway, here goes, for my new friends at dVerse. Join in!]

Wild Onions

Traveling south down the interstate
I passed the mowers mowing,
laying low the overgrowth

along the shoulder of the road.
The sweet smell of cut
grass was mixed with wild onion

which grows in patches here.
Strange how memory resides
in our bodies, not only in our minds;

our very senses pave a road
into the past. I remembered
how, as a kid, I loved

to find these patches,
would crush the thin
leaves in my teeth and wince

at the bitter-ripe taste. But mostly
I remembered a later time,
when I would crank up

the old red Massey Ferguson
to mow the church yard,
twenty sloping acres of grass

and wild onion patches. And you
would come along to ride
beside me, standing on the sideboard

with the dignity of a sentry,
proud to be with me
and I with you. We went

up and down in long
passes, the roar of the rattling
diesel making speech impossible.

Now, for other reasons
speech is impossible,
and I know the meaning

of the words cried out
by David the brokenhearted:
“My son! My son!”

* The last stanza makes use of a story from the Judeo-Christian tradition concerning the Israelite prophet/king David and his son, Absalom. Absalom revolted against his father, and ended up being killed in battle by one of David’s generals. When David heard the news of Absalom’s death, he “wept; and as he went, thus he said, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!’” 

Christian Wiman

Lately I have been drawn to writing poems that deal with faith . . . and doubt. So, it was with deep pleasure and compassion that I listened to this Bill Moyers' interview with Christian Wiman, poet and editor of Poetry Magazine. Mr. Wiman speaks profoundly about faith, doubt, pain, death, and poetry, and I cannot recommend this interview enough. Take a listen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Answer

For Three Word Wednesday. Prompt words calm, rattle, know.
Also submitted to dVerse--better late than never. 

The Answer

Long nights,
restless turning, too many
rattling thoughts.

I rise from my bed
wrapped in blackness;
the dark house holds
no comfort. Out
of doors, I walk the
uncultivated field, footsteps
muffled by the long
damp grass, the silent
ground calmly keeping
all her secrets.

I keep walking
onto the new-plowed soil,
the moonlight refracted by
millions of dew-mist prisms.
Coming to the old oak standing
in our field God knows
how long, I kneel
and lay my head
against that ancient bark.

My heart longs
to say something meaningful,
to find words
that will bear witness
to the soul’s awareness
that it is not alone
in this stumbling journey.

I look into the moonlit sky
and know that everything
has already been said.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Scholar's Opinion--Emerson

A scholar is a man with this inconvenience, that, when you ask him his opinion of any matter, he must go home & look up his manuscripts to know. 
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Journals, 1885

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Last Hunt

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words brisk, detached, miserable.

Last Hunt

We tugged and pushed Mr. Floyd,
sweating at our work
in the brisk January air.
Finally lifted fifteen feet
into a longleaf pine,
he sat on an old upturned bucket
atop an assortment
of splintered planks.
We left him leaning there
against the weathered trunk.

Seventy seasons
he’d hunted here, as his father
and grandfather before.
Many deer had passed
beneath the pine—
some too quick,
some too young,
some missed chances
lamented at evening camp.
Still he came every year,
and waited at winter’s pace.

We returned to the stand
when sunlight slanted
through the trees
in promise of the night.
He nodded, grinning
as he detached himself
from his bucket. “Boys,
I reckon I got her broke in.
Someone else can ride her now.”

The end of spring, twenty-six years
after, I wind my way
through tangled palmettos
and vines in the thick
Osceola woods, braving
miserable mosquitoes to find
the deep-lined pine and climb,
fifteen feet up. The bucket is gone.
A few rotten boards,
the only thing to show
that anyone was ever here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Until March

Until March

Early spring. I watch
what cannot be seen
in a glance—the seeds
coming to life,
slowly pushing the soil
upward, outward, making
their presence known.

And I wondered why it is that life forms so far from brightness, deep within soil or womb. What fearful mystery does the dark protect? One of the tender plants, curling toward the light, gave me to know that darkness and chaos are not to be feared. It said, “Formlessness and void yield to Spirit—strength comes from weakness, light from darkness. Only when you have known darkness can life upspring.”

Late fall. The
tender plant, now
tall and strong, gives
food for my mouth,
the taste of light sweet
to the tongue.

And deep within the dark center are seeds. I take them in my hands: dried, stored until March, when once again they will take the plunge back into darkness, feel the Spirit,

and burst into light.

--submitted to dVerse. Trying out poetry that incorporates prose passages. 

Mitt vs. Obama--A Political Post!

(Image credit:

I'm going to take a chance here with a political post. I know how divisive this can be, and I have no wish to start an argument. But I am a one-issue voter this year. Let me walk you through my penetrating analysis of the current political situation. Read intelligently, and then deal with it.

Here's my issue. As a good Mormon, Mitt does not drink. This means that I stand no chance of being called to a Beer Summit at the White House should Mitt win the election--there will be no more Beer Summits. Sure, it's a long shot with Pres. Obama that I will be called up to add my expertise at the next Summit, but at least with him there is a chance. And from what I understand, the last Beer Summit featured SweetWater beer, my favorite brand. I cannot vote against a man who showed such great taste and sensitivity--it would violate everything I believe in, everything that is great about America, land of the free and brave and thirsty. God Bless America!

**UPDATE**: I stand corrected--SweetWater did not play a role at the last Beer Summit. Treason! Whoever told me this should be thrown in prison for life. Evidently the Pres. drank Bud Light. Is a Beer Summit featuring Bud Light better than no Summit at all? I'm going to need time to consider how this changes things. Certainly Pres. Obama has fallen a few rungs in my estimation.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wild Onions

For Three Word Wednesday. Prompt words dignity, lacerate, ripe

Wild Onions

Traveling south down the interstate
I passed the mowers mowing,
laying down the overgrowth

along the shoulder of the road.
The sweet smell of cut
grass was mixed with wild onion,

which grows in patches here.
Strange how memory resides
in our bodies, not only in our minds;

our very senses pave a road
into the past. I remembered
how, as a kid, I loved

to find these patches,
would crush the thin
leaves in my teeth and wince

at the bitter-ripe taste. But mostly
I remembered a later time,
when I would crank up

the old red Massey Ferguson
to mow the church yard,
twenty sloping acres of grass

and wild onion patches. And you
would come along to ride
beside me, standing on the sideboard

with the dignity of a sentry,
proud to be with me
and I with you. We went

up and down in long
passes, the roar of the rattling
diesel making speech impossible.

Now, for other reasons, speech
is impossible. The thought
lacerates my deepest self, and

I know the meaning of the
words cried out by
David the brokenhearted:

“My son! My son!”

* The last stanza makes use of a story from the Judeo-Christian tradition concerning the Israelite prophet/king David and his son, Absalom. Absalom revolted against his father, and ended up being killed in battle by one of David’s generals. When David heard the news of Absalom’s death, he “wept; and as he went, thus he said, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!’" 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stephen Crane: A Learned Man


A learned man came to me once.
He said, "I know the way,--come."
And I was overjoyed at this.
Together we hastened.
Soon, too soon, were we
Where my eyes were useless,
And I knew not the ways of my feet.
I clung to the hand of my friend;
But at last he cried, "I am lost."

--Stephen Crane, The Black Riders and Other Lines

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fr. Sophrony: Two Stages to Victory Over Hell

There are two stages to victory over hell. The first is the mastery of the blackness within us ourselves; the second, compassionate love, natural to Divinity, for all creation.
--Fr. Sophrony of Essex

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Southern Rock Meets The Beatles

If anyone can cover the Beatles and (dare I say it) improve upon the original, it's Warren and Gov't Mule. There are mouth-dropping live versions of this on YouTube with extended jams. In fact, there are several full-length concert videos on YouTube--I recommend the earlier ones with Allen Woody on bass, but all are good. You won't believe your ears--Southern Rock, most glorious.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


For Three Word Wednesday. Prompt words entice, savor, chance.


They asked me
Where’d you see
him last, voices
in that grave tone
of adult concern.

So I took them, 
neighbors and neighbors
friends following me
a few hundred yards
down the creek bank
to a place we’d often
go, Wes and I,
to swim or fish or
sneak a smoke.
Once we’d even
talked our parents
into letting us camp
overnight; with enough
supplies for a two-week
stay we took our fill
of liberty, staying up
till dawn and savoring
a breakfast of bluegill
and granola bars.

We walked,
as the first stars
began to wink, past
the old campsite,
past the trees that
opened up as if by
chance. I pointed
to an enticing spot
where waist-high water
into our deep
swimming hole:

I said, this much
the truth. I had
seen him there
three hours ago,
after we’d catfished
and puffed half
a pack of Marlboros,
and jumped
from the old green oak
into the rain-swelled current—

There.  But I
didn’t tell them
how we’d hurled
hurtful words,
and worse,
and how he’d stood
in the reddening water
and cried.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Emerson: Be an Opener of Doors

(Google Images)

Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee and do not try to make the Universe a blind alley. 
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (June-August, 1844)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Think I've Been That Way Before

This is a collection of signs at the Midway/Sunbury exit on I-95 southbound, where I turn to go to work. I know where turning right leads--to Hinesville, Jesup, and beyond. I'm not sure what the significance of the "?" mark might be.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Galway Kinnell: Cemetery Angels

Credit: Joy Neighbors
Cemetery Angels

On these cold days
they stand over
our dead, who will
erupt into flower as soon
as memory and human shape
rot out of them, each bent
forward and with wings
partly opened as though
warming itself at a fire.

--Galway Kinnell

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jim & Jesse with a Little Slice of Paradise

I've a soft spot in my heart for Jim and Jesse--they made some wonderful bluegrass music over the years, as you can hear in this version of Paradise.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Mystic

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words absolute, fall, nestle. Wanted to rhyme this week. The quote is from Wordsworth's poem Nutting.

The Mystic

. . . there is a spirit in the woods.
            --William Wordsworth

Long before daybreak in
The shadow of the wood’s edge,
I stand apart from pledge,
Creed, or demands of men

To drink deeply from the
Absolute. Glassy beads unbidden
Fall soundless, a blessing in
Teardrop form. The sweetgum tree,

Holding growth silent over
Centuries, reaches the sky
Without seeming to try,
An elevated enclosure                                           

Where sleepy squirrels nestle close.
There are lessons to learn from
The Spirit-filled woods: I become
A mystic by going slow.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Kierkegaard on Solitude

(Woods. Richmond Hill, GA)

On the whole, the longing for solitude is a sign that there still is spirit in a person and is the measure of what spirit is there. 
--Soren Kierkegaard, from The Sickness unto Death

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mr. Wendell Berry. The bottom rung is also Heaven.

If there are a "chosen few"
then I am not one of them,
if an "elect," well then
I have not been elected.
I am one who is knocking
at the door. I am one whose foot
is on the bottom rung.
But I know that Heaven's
bottom rung is Heaven
though the ladder is standing
on the earth where I work
by day and at night sleep
with my head upon a stone.

--Wendell Berry, from Leavings

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Falling Things

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words hinge, lethal, need. Very sparse form this week--laziness, or just a different style than my normal?

Falling Things

Crawl out
on a limb
too thin,
bends like
a hinge.

if you can.
Perch, hands

as a need,
breathe the
lethal moment.

of falling

Monday, September 10, 2012

Just Play the Note

There is something curious about you. Spiritually you are like a flute player who, if he would play the note as it is, could play it but who always wants to make it elaborate, and therefore it becomes false. 
--Soren Kierkegaard, from his draft for The Sickness Unto Death. (Not sure why SK didn't include this in the final book.) 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Vern Gosdin: or, When I want to listen to country . . .

. . . I want to listen to country. FM country stations do not play country music anymore, but some pop/ country hybrid music. I don't think most people under the age of, say, 28, even know what country music is. It's so bad that when someone asks me who my favorite male country singer is, and I say, "Vern Gosdin," they look at me like I'm wearing my drawers on my head. Everyone has his or her own musical tastes, and I am tolerant enough to acknowledge that. So you can have your Taylor Swifts, Keith Urbans, and pop-masquerading-as-country-sound-alike-band (take your pick; they seem to multiply like germs on a petri dish)--Vern is THE VOICE.

Merchandising, merchandising

The Great Spirit, when He made the earth, never intended that it should be made merchandise. 
--Sosehawa, Seneca

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Price of Water

( Attribution: W.J.Pilsak at the German language Wikipedia )

I haven't been to the movie theater in years. The last movie I went to see was We Were Soldiers, if that helps to give you an idea of how out-of-the-loop I am. So you can imagine my shock when I heard on a morning news show that a small bottle of water at a movie concession costs around $4.00. (I verified this price with my movie-going daughter. This is true.) Who in the hell would spend that kind of money for a bottle of water?! Unless someone was shriveling up in a desert, or a castaway at sea, I just cannot imagine it. If I spend $4.00 on water, it better be in the form of two cubes adequately surrounded by scotch or bourbon.

Seamus Heaney audio presentation. And a poem.

(credit John Minihan)

Seamus Heaney. One of my favorite living poets. I had the chance to listen to this Royal Society of Literature presentation the other day--if you like poetry, you might think of taking the time to listen for yourself. In the meantime, here is a selection from Heaney's poem series named Squarings.

Crossings: xxxvi

And yes, my friend, we too walked through a valley.
Once. In darkness. With all the streetlamps off.
As danger gathered and the march dispersed.

Scene from Dante, made more memorable
By one of his head-clearing similes--
Fireflies, say, since the policemen's torches

Clustered and flicked and tempted us to trust
Their unpredictable, attractive light.
We were herded shades who had to cross

And did cross, in a panic, to the car
Parked as we'd left it, that gave when we got in
Like Charon's boat under the faring poets.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words banter, duty, element. Inspired by memories of my Papaw (brought on by my parents' recent visit) and Neil Armstrong's passing.


We laughed at him, shuffling
his feet down the hall, squinting
age-dimmed eyes as if surprised
by the tenacity of life.
His old-timer pace
just would not do
for children of the Space Age,
living in a world made fast
by spark and fuel. He never
walked too far: from bed
to john, to corduroy reclining
chair where he would sit
like a duty fulfilled,
looking at his mangled hands
and marveling at the work
they had once accomplished.

In fine weather he would ride
with us to Lake Tohopekaliga,
choosing the nearest bench
as an observatory. The expanse
of elements and circling flight
of bantering gulls seemed
to satisfy a need for distances—
for though we couldn’t imagine
it he hadn’t always been limited.

We didn’t see him as a boy, striding
tall in the dark furrow,
guiding the team with
gee and haw in Uncle Lanta’s
field; or later, fearful but
resolute, heading to the Reisden’s
to ask Bessie to the dance. Nor
could our little minds
calculate what it took to walk
deep into the earth for
forty years, finding coal
and breathing the dust that
finally laid him down.

We saw only a slow old
man, so earth-rooted
that he was sure the lunar
landing was a stunt;
but in the sum
of his small steps I
reckon he traveled
broad distances, each step
one giant leap.