Saturday, December 27, 2008

The god of small things

The god of small things

My heart is glad. I awake in a room bathed in luxurious glow. How unhurried the day. Sauvi is curled into herself like a sweet roll, shielding her eyes from the morning light with her paws. Chris, an early riser, is crunching on shredded oats absently poking through the paper. Emma smells like sweet clover, held in the embrace of sleep.

In another part of the world it is twilight.


Is not a time for sleeping

Or figuring things out

It is a time to rest the eyes

Waiting for the dark to come.

I am custodian of memories it is not yet time to release. Bitter embers still hold fire. I am lucky. Blessed with the capacity to navigate paradox, dwell in ambiguity. Like taking the number 1 line and shuttling to Grand Central. It only takes one fare.

We started on the braise, sautéing the aromatics over medium heat. Visited Cecilia who was already nervous and excited about coming over for supper. We decided there would be no store bought gifts this year except for Emma. When pressed, she had produced a short list: #1 gift cards (10). Thankfully, it was 10 as in priority, not magnitude!!! #2 ceramic hair curler. She had asked for a typewriter earlier. She is happy with so little.

After quietly unwrapping her presents, Emma Camille disappeared into her room. With characteristic understatement, she handed me a book of hand bound poems so beautiful it cracked my heart wide open. I poured through these gems of longing and gratitude, passion and remembrance with a sense of wonder and humility. Emma is daughter to me. Our bond circumvents the conventions of biology. We share many things and ultimately, we have the same story. She is one of those radiant souls, wise beyond her 12 revolutions on this jiggery blue planet.

Fortuitously, I stumbled across a manual Smith Corona at a garage sale, preserved in its burnished shell like a walnut. Emma is at this moment entranced, stroking new stories into being. The sound of the keys speak hope.

With the author’s permission, I offer this poem to you.


Snowy mountains towering over the trees

seem so close, but yet so far away

A still breeze blows,

moving snow across the ground.

All you hear is silence,

except for the sound of your footsteps

crunching on the white

leaving prints behind.

All seems empty

no one’s here

but at the same time

it’s beautiful.

The air smells of pine

the birds sing their songs,

deer run freely,

the mountains full of mystery

this is their home.

Expect nothing

appreciate everything

girl of the meadows

Emmalina Zhong

crested red flame

waxing so long.

Wishing for you deep peace, tender times, infinite blessings.


the joyful apprentice.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstice Blessings

Solstice Blessings

We live within walking distance of the Lyndale Gardens Peace Garden in Minneapolis.

These photos were taken after a snowfall.

As we celebrate the winter solstice,

The longest night of the year,

Out of which the light again is born

I wish for you

Deep peace of the
running waves to you.

Deep peace of the
flowing air to you.

Deep peace of the
quiet earth to you.

Deep peace of the
shining stars to you.

(traditional celtic prayer)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Drumsticks for the Soul

Drumsticks for the Soul

Mini Challenge: Software, Lottery, Newspaper, Mailman, Ringo Starr’s drum

Sapient Software Corporation had laid off two thirds of its work force in the past two months. With Isaac’s job outsourced and Tamara working part time casual, the Nimrod’s spirits were sinking with their cash supply. It had come to slugging down rusty shots of Southern Comfort and crumpling up back issues of Insight Times to stoke the furnace. Isaac was eying the kitchen stool as the next logical candidate for tinder, when he heard Tamara yelp. His wife had the annoying habit of inspecting every last sheet of paper in advance of rendering it to its utilitarian fate. By the end of each day, a pile of favorites would have materialized in her corner. She would faithfully tote it to bed in search of recipes, household hints, book reviews and other foolishness. Didn’t she realize how desperate things were? Tamara was eagerly waving a section of the paper in the air. “Look!” she beckoned. Sure enough, there on page 19 of the December 21 issue of the newspaper was a lottery for Ringo Starr’s drum set. Even in his dejected state, Isaac could sense the opportunity. His face unfroze and he smiled for the first time in weeks. They would enter the contest and wait for Uriel, the mailman to deliver the coveted prize.

Next Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: When pigs have wings, Moonlight, Mystery, Tower of Babel, Butterflies, Bread and butter, Beef barley soup, Charley horse, Novelty, Cold shoulder

According to one modern legend, "sack" was the last word uttered before the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel.

How could a singular phrase be translated into 72 dialects? Sarah burrowed into the loft of her 700 count Calgary comforter and pondered the phrase “when pigs have wings”. She reached over to stroke Charley horse, the 30 lb calico. Charley shot her a stony stare (the feline equivalent of the cold shoulder) and resumed his frenetic bathing ritual.

In Africaans, she decided, it would be expressed as when butterflies deliver the squash. Slovenian translation no one could mistake bread and butter for beef barley soup. Sarah was moving on to the Urdu version when Charley brushed up lightly against her. She stroked his abundant flank with tenderness. He looked at her guilelessly and began making bread on her tummy. A satisfied purr emerged from deep in his chest. Mystery glinted through the parted curtains. Pale moonlight, translucent thoughts.

In java code, the phrase would become zzxcmfimnntnt,xot,tm,p. Now that would be a novelty.

Next Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: When pigs have wings, Moonlight, Mystery, Tower of Babel, Butterflies, Bread and butter, Beef barley soup, Charley horse, Novelty, Cold shoulder

Mini Challenge: Software, Lottery, Newspaper, Mailman, Ringo Starr’s drum

Ringo Starr’s drum Dinner Club and Ecstatic Boogie Society gathered for their midwinter gala. Per custom, the association assembled quarterly on the full moon. . Each session was dedicated to a singular aspect of promoting world peace.

January’s theme: a reversal of the Tower of Babel incident. The agenda: recovering a mother tongue to enhance communication among nations. Rebeccah and Yaakov volunteered to code the end product into a software package that would be made available gratis on the Moonlight is Mystery search engine.

A virtual cornucopia of winter delights adorned the library table. The bill of fare included: Tamari burdock beef barley soup, buckwheat porcini pilaf, wood fired pumpernickel bread and butter, pickled dill daikon salad, lamb’s tongue carpaccio, chickpea cholent , and cold shoulder of lamb nicoise.

Rivkah arrived late as she was feverishly putting the finishing touches on the novelty dessert. What she unveiled was truly a feast for the eyes. Perched on a brule crusted surface of ginger persimmon kugel, a pair of exquisite morpho butterfly confections opened their wings. She had chosen the morpho species specifically for its association with Aphrodite. Aaron the elder, observed with irritation that he had noticed a similar recipe in the October issue of Martha Stewart’’s Traditional Living magazine. Rivkah was outraged at the suggestion. “When pigs have wings” she hollered, (unwittingly introducing an unwelcome guest to the table). Hagar was fast to come to her friend’s defense. Impulsively, she hurled a lavishly buttered chunk of sprouted spelt loaf at the offending party. Mordecai, the appeaser, tried in vain to subdue the escalating tumult. Riled beyond reason, Miriam stuck her tongue out at Aaron and the breakaway Rivkah is Right faction began taunting the curmudgeon with unsavory limericks. Ephraim developed a Charlie horse in his left leg from all the excitement and began to stamp it in place. This just added fuel to the fire. Far from being interpreted as a therapeutic intervention the leg action was seen as an act of aggression. Devorah slung a spoonful of truffled farfele at Benjamin. What ensued was full frontal bedlam.

The next morning’s Newspaper headline read, “ Novelty dessert spurned by ringo starr’s drum. Food fight erupts at peaceful gathering. Tobiath, the mailman just shook his head in wonder as he prepared for his morning shift. How the revelers ever got beyond the first course was a mystery. Toby’s girlfriend Razel had opted to say in and watch the evening news last night. After the lottery winners were announced, the couple shared a fine bottle of burgundy, as the downy flakes tumbled in the filtered moonlight.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

double dactyl

Someone participating in last week’s wordzzle alluded to a form called double dactyl. It’s like a limerick but with more rules. Of course I had to check and see. Here are the rules, according to Wikipedia:

A dactyl is a poetic foot of the form >-- (ON-off-off). For example, matador, realize, cereal, limerick, etc. A double dactyl can therefore mean simply two dactyls in a row.

A double dactyl is also a verse form, also known as "higgledy piggledy," invented by Anthony Hecht and Paul Pascal in 1961. Like a limerick, it has a rigid structure and is usually humorous, but the double dactyl is considerably more rigid and difficult to write. There must be two stanzas, each comprising three lines of dactylic dimeter followed by a line with a dactyl and a single accent. The two stanzas have to rhyme on their last line. The first line of the first stanza is repetitive nonsense. The second line of the first stanza is the subject of the poem, a proper noun. Note that this name must itself be double-dactylic. There is also a requirement for at least one line of the second stanza to be entirely one double dactyl word, for example "va-le-dic-tor-i-an".

So there you have it.

And here is my first attempt:

Corruptus Int’ruptus

Rod R. Blagojevich

Auctioned the senator’s

Seat on the cheap.

Claimed twas for family

Sold with alacrity

Surrender Dorothy

Sow what you reap.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


"In principle everything except the explosive can be recycled," says Ola Pikner, Nammo's vice president of marketing. Nammo Demil is a company that recycles munitions. Whole weapons enter the factory; raw materials for civilian use leave it.
The rocket containing the fragments is split open. The bomblets are extracted, the fuses are severed and the copper innards are removed. The explosive is then vaporized using red hot plasma. The copper, aluminum and other metals are salvaged for scrap. The packaging for the bomblets is burnt for heating.

On December 3, 2008 more than 100 countries gathered in Olso to endorse a global ban on cluster bombs. The U.S. was not at this table. The Convention of Cluster Munitions is the sixth global meeting of the Oslo process on cluster bombs, which Norway initiated in November 2006. Norway was the first to sign the treaty this Wednesday, followed by Laos. In Laos, at least 9 million cluster bomblets are still strewn throughout the countryside as a consequence of the U.S. “secret war” which was waged nearly 50 years ago. Afghanistan unexpectedly ratified the treaty after an impassioned lobbying campaign initiated by victims of cluster munitions in the war-torn country. One of them was 17-year-old Soraj Ghulam Habib, who lost both legs to a cluster bomb when he was 10.
Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Stoere, right, welcomes the Afghan cluster bomb survivor Soraj Ghulam Habib

The treaty prohibits the use, stockpiling and trading of cluster munitions. In addition, it requires that cluster remnants be cleared and that assistance be offered to people harmed by the weapons.

Cluster “bomblets” are housed in containers (artillery shells, bombs or missiles) that scatter them over vast areas. Some fail to explode and lie dormant for years until they are disturbed. The group Handicap International says that 98% of cluster-bomb victims are civilians. The vast majority include farmers tilling land and children attracted by the bomblets' bright colouring.

So how did I get to be such an expert on cluster bombs? The story is pretty innocent. I was working on my wordzlle with Democracy Now droning in the background. I heard Helen Thomas grilling Dana Perino. Helen is one of my all time heroes, so I turned the volume up.

Helen Thomas: “Is the President going to sign the anti-cluster bomb treaty? Apparently this is—"
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino: “Right, this is a treaty that was passed out of the UN Security Council several months ago. We said then that, no, we would not be signing onto it. And so, I think that the signing is actually—we did not participate in the passage of it, and therefore we’re not going to sign it either.”
Thomas: “Why not?”
Perino: “What I have forgotten is all the reasons why, and so I’ll get it for you.” (Laughter)

I expected no less from Dana Perino. But the laughter in the room was unsettling.

I wanted to know what is it that some would consider more sacred than the life of a child. So I decided to follow the money trail. I Googled “cluster bomb manufacturers” which yielded surprisingly little. I tried “cluster bombs profiteers,” “cluster bomb industry.” Bubkas. You catch the drift.

There’s nothing that makes me more determined to find the truth than when I know that it is hidden in plain sight. After a little more sleuthing, I wound up in a room with the usual suspects, Raytheon, Alliant Tech, Lockheed Martin and a newcomer, Tamahawk. I didn’t bother to research their profit sheets. I knew that in desperate economic times, jobs at these war factories glitter like the bomlet trinkets in the fields.

I found out that no country has more invested in cluster munitions than the United States, which Human Rights Watch says has been the largest producer, stockpiler and user. We have recently discharged the sinister weapons in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. And we have played a central role in two of the world’s worst cases of cluster bomb attacks. The Nixon administration dropped two million tons of cluster bombs on Laos during the Vietnam War. And the Bush administration provided critical support to Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon that also left millions of unexploded bomblets on the ground.

For more information on these agents of death, please see

On a positive note, if there is one, Thomas Nash from the Cluster Munitions Coalition expressed his optimism.
"What you are going to see is a comprehensive stigmatization of the weapon. Countries that don't sign up won't be able to use this weapon on operations with those that do. You're going to see this weapon becoming a thing of the past."

"Fortunately, the world turns on its axis, and the human species evolves,, with or without the United States.

Friday, December 5, 2008

think the rain’ll hurt the rhubarb?

Mini Challenge: compulsive, trunk, African violets, curiosity, UFO

Emmie typically concluded her chores in the west wing conservatory of the Delacroix mansion. While sprinkling the delicate grouping of African violets, she let her mind float unattended. The image asserted itself sinuously like a trail of smoke. Emmie’s instincts advised her to leave it alone. But she couldn’t . The more the poor girl tried to put the memory out of her mind, the more persistent it became. Emmie knew herself all too well. Frequently, she found herself surrendering to irrational compulsivity. As a result, she had effortlessly amassed an extensive resume in a relatively short period of time. This time, like all the others, Emmie allowed her curiosity to get the better of her. Just last week, she had noticed a mysterious piece of furniture in the guest bedroom . Emmie sprinted up the stairs, crept up close and inhaled the briny scent of kelp. This trunk had definitely made an ocean voyage. Before obeying an irresistible impulse to pry the lid, Emmie became aware of an eerie but palpable presence in the room. UFO’s? she wondered.

Ten Word Challenge will be: think the rain’ll hurt the rhubarb?, B Vitamins, credit card, jolly, angels, mouse, three ring circus, haiku, sponge, copper

Philco had materialized unsolicited one late night. Comedienne, entertainer extraordinaire. So unlike his cousins who were content to nest among the tangle of copper pipes and quietly shred tax records. This jolly little mouse was fearless. Executing pirouettes atop of Letterman’s head one moment, striking an angelic pose the next. I peered over at Eric to share the hilarious moment. But was alarmed to discover my sweetheart’s face lit up like a Christmas bulb and his body twitching uncontrollably. It turns out that Eric had far exceeded the recommended dose of niacin (vitamin B 3) in an effort to control his high levels of LDL. This resulted in the perfect trifecta. Between the top 10 reasons for applying for the Wamu credit card, Philco’s irrepressible antics, and Eric’s impromptu rendition of St. Vitus Dance, it had truly turned into a three ring circus.

Haiku seemed to be the only sensible antidote.

Think the rain’ll hurt the rhubarb?

Why worry

When we have a sponge?

Next Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: think the rain’ll hurt the rhubarb?, B Vitamins, credit card, jolly, angels, mouse, three ring circus, haiku, sponge, copper

Mini Challenge: compulsive, trunk, African violets, curiosity, UFO

Striate stalks

Hold a dancer’s pose

Think the rain’ll hurt the rhubarb?

MJ was trying hard to take a zen approach to the vagaries of nature and the dark side of home ownership. She figured the classic haiku form would help to shake her out of her angst. But she just could not help but feel a very personal responsibility for the African violets that had perished on the frosty window sill. She awoke Tuesday morning to find the copper pipes frozen and the purple blooms in their last stages. She reached for the B vitamins on the trunk in a heroic effort to revive them.

MJ compulsively opened a bag of jolly rogers and the Angels of Avignon in an attempt to distract herself. She recalled purposefully inserting an expired credit card as a make shift bookmark. It was easy to find her place again. Sister Therese was in the clutch of a spiritual crisis. As a devoted sister of the Order of the Avignon, she daily wrestled with her curiosity about the corporeal world. She was tired from the struggle. MJ dimly flipped the page pondering what it would be like to lead an ascetic life. An impish brown mouse named St. Philastrius scampered across the font pompously singing the song of songs. Next came the 86 homilies of Bernard.

MJ awoke dazed. She dutifully followed a trail of brown droppings into the kitchen.

An eerie glow filled the room. “Beloved,” cooed the stranger. “What is marriage but a 3 ring circus filled with scenes and parts?” With that, the interloper exited in a stream of filtered light and swung around the corner in what was either a foreign hybrid vehicle or a UFO.

MJ sponged the overflow of water puddling around the trio of violets. The blossoms lifted their heads like the brides of Syria.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Welcoming. What a wonderful theme.

I was walking around the lake near to my home. In July. Just noticing. Typically my poems are seeded in transit. I’ve often been queried about my peculiar habits. I just say that I’m a naturalist taking notes. Then they leave me alone.

It was a really hot day. And things that were in full bloom were wilting on the vine.


No poems today

The white cat sleeps

It’s simply too hot


fights or philosophy

Summer crests

Strawberry to full buck

Under cover

I spy:

preppy terriers,

shanghai express matte,

petty quarrels

Nets slack

from last night’s imperative volley

This could be Biloxi

All drawl and wisteria

A caravan of lawn chairs

redefine the coast

Fluorescent algae bloom

Think they can improve on death

Congee convene

Green looks brown



At the heart of it all

At the heart

And the liver

And the tired pancreas

Brown in the middle

This is the way death will come

Not as Genghis Khan or Columbus

But as an insider, a familiar, a friend.

Reading is ttsssss…hot!!!!!

‘Two rye-and-water,” the man said.

The bartender went on puddling an Old-Fashioned that he was working on, but he was obviously turning over the request in his mind.

“You want a double?” he asked, after a bit.

“No, “said the man. “ Two rye-and –water, please.”

Page 49, 5th sentence +, The Second tree from the Corner by E.B. White. First published in 1954, this is a delightful collection of E.B. White’s early work, including stories, poems, essays, parodies, and social commentary. Most of the pieces in the book were originally published in the New Yorker. The volume has two forwards, one written in 1954, the next one in 1984. At the age of 54, the author, quite convinced that he had outlived his productive years, was “neatening ups his affairs” and saying good bye to his audience. In his next forward, written 30 years later, he admits that this might have been a little premature. The wonderful thing is that the pieces are timeless. 24 years later, I find myself gliding through the book with immense pleasure. In his updated preface, EB White still feels good enough about the contents to chide his readers. “I am not one to pamper readers, and don’t want them daydreaming their way through this book like drivers on a superhighway.” Well that was enough to make me take up the challenge!!!

I first listened to the book’s namesake story being read on a local radio program while I was shuttling my daughter to and from dance class. Wednesday’s Spoken Word with Beryl Greenberg and Charles Brin. They are a wonderful pair. It is obvious that the cohosts have been lifelong readers. They each select a story and read with a dramatic flair and an obvious love of the language. Occasionally, one has a momentary lapse and the other seamlessly picks up where the other left off.

I don’t feel comfortable in tagging anyone. If you would like to join, these are the guidelines:

Rules: Pass it on to five other bloggers, and tell them to open the nearest book to page 46. Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences. The closest book, not the coolest.

Happy reading!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Blue and the Gray

I would like to dedicate these stories to Raven, prolific and inspired writer and instigator of the infamous weekly wordzzle. Also my deepest gratitude to Diane, gifted and wise master of levity, who daily reminds me of the medicinal application of whimsy. All stories are unavoidably autobiographical, but some are weightless. I could not have taken this adventure without these extraordinary mentors and muses.

Mini Challenge: sugar-coated, thermometer, tractor pull, evangelical, masquerade

The diet of augsberg is the only diet that works.

We have an ongoing fundamental disagreement with Aaron’s family. The tacit rules of the game dictate that we refrain from verbally wrangling over religion. So when the Feast of St Felix of Thynissa rolls around, we cast all care to the winds. Try as we may, it is impossible to sugar coat our message. Aaron, Clarise and our poodle Tootsie masquerade as evangelicals in tie dyed Apocalypse Now tee shirts. We promote the end times by bringing thermometers to gauge the fervor of the pilgrims. And there are gigantic tractor pulls enlisted for the rapture.

Next Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: posthumous,flagrant, seven days a week, cheese and crackers, pyramid, civil war, clarinet, microwave, absent without leave, blue jeans

Harold sat in the plexiglass pyramid he had constructed in the back yard of the lavish Tudor home on Edgemore Lane. His new domicile was pitched at just the right angle to negate the noxious microwaves emanating from the main house. Seven days a week, 18 hours a day, he had immersed himself in the posthumous ruminations of Madame Blatavsky and G.I. Gurdjieff. During this time, he subsisted on velveta cheese, ritz crackers and red bull. In an inspired moment, Harold sported his blue jeans jauntily over his head and sat in a lotus position playing clarinet etudes with a unique fingering chart inspired by the works of Sir Edward Cayce. Instead of soaking his reeds, he insisted on microwaving them. His erratic jaunts into the kitchen had incited a veritable civil war in the family. His father interpreted Harold’s flagrant behavior as growing pains, while his mother considered her only son absent without leave and actively endorsed seeking professional help. Pretty soon they would have to do something because the shrill squeals emanating from the pyramid were starting to attract attention in the sleepy suburb.

Next Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: posthumous, flagrant, seven days a week, cheese and crackers, pyramid, civil war, clarinet, microwave, absent without leave, blue jeans

Mini Challenge: sugar-coated, thermometer, tractor pull, evangelical, masquerade

The Blue and the Grey

Earnest Gladwell began as a line cook at the chic Crocus Hill Room when it opened to rave reviews 18 years ago. Perched on the bluffs of the charming river town of Alma with enviable views of the Mississippi, the Inn had become a weekend destination for weary urban dwellers and a favorite spot for romantic trysts. Earnest was the most senior of the kitchen staff. He had watched chefs cut their teeth at Crocus Hill and move on to garner the spotlight in San Francisco, Seattle and New York.

Earnest was not an ambitious man. He was content to manage his prep station, mincing shallots and herbs, julienning roasted beets and ginger and zesting limes for the pastes and marinades they were destined to season. Earnest was conscientious, proficient and even tempered. A quick study, he had on more than one occasion jovially filled in for a coworker who casually missed a shift. It was for all of these reasons: his work ethic, his temperament and his versatility, that Earnest was highly valued in a trade where transience and instability are the norm.

Understandably, the first time it happened, his coworkers were quite concerned for his safety and wellbeing. One drizzly Thursday in April, 4 years into his tenure, Earnest simply went absent without leave. He was not a joiner. He did not attend church or tractor pulls. And aside from his passion for history, he was considered to be asexual. Perhaps the person who knew him best was the local librarian. A history buff, he had an unrelenting curiosity about the American civil war.

This April would be no different from the past 14 years. His employers were very tolerant of Mr. Gladwell’s annual rite and staffed up in anticipation of his absence.

In preparation for the approaching event, Earnest had checked out scores of books from the Brookstone Memorial library. The classic, A Beckoning Hellfire, sat precariously, on a veritable pyramid of volumes by this bedside. Seven days a week over a heated span of 4 months, he had immersed himself in reading the posthumous letters and diaries of soldiers, sutlers and civilians. On those evenings when he worked the dinner shift, Earnest scrambled back to his bungalow, foregoing the delicacies that were a fringe benefit of his job. Flushed with excitement and zeal, he hastily changed into his blue jeans and settled down to a modest snack. Absorbed in the 2nd chapter of The Boys of Kalamazoo, Earnest absentmindly placed the cheese and crackers into the microwave. He stilled the rude oven’s beeping and inserted a meat thermometer into the heart of the gummy concoction. “Medium rare”, he proclaimed authoritatively.

Each reenactment had been singular. But what was about to happen was so wonderful that he could barely sleep. Over the weekend of April 21, Earnest would participate in the Battle of Shiloh. Honor of honors, his petition to give a historical impression of General PGT Beauregard had been accepted!!!

Now Earnest is what is known as a threadcounter in the realm of civil war reenactment. What this means is that he pays meticulous attention to the accurate replication of historical detail, down to fabric and buttonholes having the same threadcount typical of the era. But the care he took did not stop with wardrobe. Once he entered Marion field, Earnest was no longer masquerading. He embodied the General in much the same way as Olivier had Lear, and Burton, Hamlet. As Beauregard, there was no sugar coating his flagrant defense of the Confederate cause.

Andrea Sarkov at the library pondered how a mild mannered man like Earnest Gladwell could display such evangelical fervor. Perhaps it all began when he played the clarinet in the Linstrom High School marching band. Maybe this is where he acquired his taste for pomp and pageantry, uniforms and belonging.

It was true. At the reenactments, Earnest felt a sense of comradery that he rarely experienced in his everyday life. He knew that he was a part of something bigger than himself. History was coming alive. And these men would not be forgotten.

The Battle of Shiloh was splendid and Earnest’s first person rendition of General Beauregard was nothing short of stunning. The offensive he led at Pittsburgh Landing was heroic, his retreat to Corinth a tragic setback.

The following Tuesday, Earnest showed up at his work station at the Crocus Hill Room in his cook’s uniform with his set of Wusthof at the ready.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Return to Sender

Ten words: pipe organ, ravages of time, lottery tickets, angelic music,
five x five, boxes of books, flattery will get you nowhere, yodelling, pig
tails, knitting needles

Mini challenge: canary yellow, grizzly bear, out of the frying pan into the fire,
simpleton, Ministry of Crazy Walks

Return to Sender

Angelica lived in a five by five cardboard box. On a whim, she had painted her new abode a bright canary yellow to distinguish it from the other makeshift apartments burgeoning on the Upper East Side. It hadn’t always been this way. Just 2 weeks ago, she had inhabited a smart condo in Newark overlooking the Hudson. Three days a week she commuted to her basement office on Houston Street where she dedicated herself to her students and to her craft. The remainder of her time was spent in delirious walks along river pathways, clandestine matinees at the Film Forum and delicious trysts with Sarah Vowell and Mary Oliver. There was a hypnotic rhythm to her life.

It had all happened in the blink of an eye.  On Friday she was chair of the English dept at E. Dickenson U.  The following Monday, she was arranging for her treasured boxes of books to be put into storage.

While in the giddy thrall of a Madmen episode, Angelica had absently answered the phone. “Angelica, is that you?”  An agitated voice rattled the evening’s diversion .  “Yes mom. It’s me.” Angelica was determined to maintain an even timbre. “ Oh thank goodness!!!  Where in tarnation have you
been? “    Before Angelica could respond, Dolores was tauntingly yodeling her daughter’s name.  Aaaaaaaa. Ngelica  Aaaaaangelica.  She could hear the knitting needles manically clicking their litany in the background.   Unnoticed, a shadow crept into the room. Angelica felt queasy. She watched as she moved away from herself. Her throat tightened, her hands felt icy and she was losing track of things she knew.  There was a fleeting sense of self reproach for having neglected to screen the call. Even in her estranged state, Angelica was aware that things were swiftly veering off course. With all the aplomb she could muster, she said  “Mom, how are you?”  It was a heroic attempt at salvaging something that had long ago been broken. “Flattery will get you nowhere.  I am knitting you a sweater but I don’t know your size.”The censure came like a bellclap. She felt the sting of her mother’s backhand and knew she was lost.

The last time Angela had come undone, she had fled into the wilderness.  Here she stripped herself of everything familiar and lived as a simpleton. Naked.  Literally.  Loping through the veldt.  Foraging for sustenance.  An exile from the ravages of time and the indifference of fate.  Her burnished hair grown long and splintered. She plaited the feral mass into regressive pigtails, not so much as an effort at grooming but to make herself more aerodynamic in her environment.  One day, she hiked into town for provisions. Prodded by a Korean merchant who harbored best wishes for her fortune to improve, she bought 5 lottery tickets.  #897501257 paid off handily and helped her to pave the way back to a more relaxed existence.   With the cushion of the prize money, she began to write. She listened to the voices of her ancestors and let the angelic music of the ages flow through her. She felt as if she were a lute being strummed.   Her friend Andrea submitted the poems from this period of awakening to the New Yorker.  Three of them were published immediately. Angelica continued to write because it made her happy. At first she chronicled her journey to madness and back. It was comforting to retrace her steps and to note that she remembered the way home. Following breadcrumbs before they were devoured. A grimm mastery.

 In the still of early morning while the city slept, Angelica sat trancelike at her kitchen table. She scrawled  fragments of dreams and splinters of vision feverishly in long hand onto yellow college ruled pads. She continued to listen to the voices of her ancestors. In a year’s time, Angelica was granted the coveted Plath award for her book Ministry of Crazy Walks which ultimately catapulted her into her academic career.

Now, she found herself once again out of the frying pan and into the fire.   She chortled at the irony. This was a veritable upgrade. At least she didn’t have to defend her food and her existence against the elemental needs hunger of lumbering grizzly bears and wily raccoons.  And any time her heart desired, she could wrap herself in the warmth of the sacred music of Bach on the pipe organ at St Francis Parish. Angelica started collecting cards of saints.  She wasn’t a religious person, but she had always had a fascination with mysticism.  She peered at the serene visage of St Theresa of Avila.  And read the words,

Love once said to me, "I know a

would you like to hear it?"


And laughter came from every brick
in the street

and from every pore

in the sky.


Friday, November 14, 2008


Over a million American commuters were elated to discover that while they slept, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had ended and the troops were on their way home.
There was more good news. The corporate behemoth, Exxon Mobile had passed into public ownership. Evangelicals were opening the doors of their mega churches to Iraqi refugees. And progress was being made towards reversing global warming and resolving the economy’s woes.
However, upon closer scrutiny, some conspicuous details surface. Readers notice that the paper is dated July 4, 2009 and the motto is “all the news we hope to print”. The euphoria fades but the dream takes root.

It turns out that hundreds of independent writers, artists, and activists have been collaborating on this massive project for 6 months. The people behind the undertaking represent a diverse range of groups, including The Yes Men, the Anti-Advertising Agency, CODEPINK, United for Peace and Justice, Not An Alternative, May First/People Link, Improv Everywhere, Evil Twin, and Cultures of Resistance.

The special 14 page edition was distributed gratis In NY, LA, Chicago, SF, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC by thousands of volunteers.

"The idea behind it was to get people to exercise their imaginations. We have just elected a new president, and we have for the first time in eight years a chance to see real change happen,” spokesperson Wilfred Sassoon explained.

"It's all about how at this point, we need to push harder than ever,"
said contributer Bertha Suttner."We've got to make
sure Obama and all the other Democrats do what we elected them to do.
After eight, or maybe twenty-eight years of hell, we need to start
imagining heaven."

In addition to arousing our visionary instincts, this endeavor clearly has another target. It is a searing indictment of main stream media’s complicity in crafting a cynical paradigm of our world. The editorial page articulates an apology for the paper’s “botched reporting” of the run-up to the Iraq invasion and features a column in which Thomas Friedman renounces his journalistic career and promises never to write for any newspaper again.

There is a long and time honored tradition for this kind of grand scale theatrical inspiration. Here’s a toast to those who have led before. Humanitarian, songwriter, antiwar activist Phil Ochs was the creative force behind spontaneous protests against the Vietnam occupation. Marches snaked across the streets of America declaring the war was over. A sea of placards heralded, "Thank you President Johnson" "Johnson, our Peace President"

And Phil sang his prescient anthem: The War is Over.
So do your duty, boys, and join with pride
Serve your country in her suicide
Find a flag so you can wave goodbye
But just before the end even treason might be worth a try
This country is too young to die.
I declare the war is over
It's over, it's over.

If you didn’t receive your complimentary copy, you can read the special edition of the New York Times on line here and let yourself dream again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Are They Thinking?

A Historic Meeting at the White House Today.

President elect Obama and Michele Obama arrived 11 minutes early for their meeting with the George and Laura Bush.

As per tradition, the Obamas met with the Bushes today at the White House, ushering in the transition of the Presidency.

Choose any or all of the participants and let us know what they are thinking.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: France, cold weather,
backhoe, light and shadow, Humane society, ambivalent, “Happy Birthday, Sarah Jane,”
Martians, Thanksgiving Day Parade, green eyes

Mini Challenge: she’ll be comin' round the mountain when she comes, pumpkin pie,
yellow jacket, short-changed, life after 50

Charlie maneuvered the backhoe skillfully, tunneling into the obdurate November clay. He had always been able to muscle his way through tough times.  This was his 10th straight shift with Century Granite.  And he had signed up to work on Thanksgiving. Of course this meant that he would forgo the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the chestnut stuffing and the homemade pumpkin pie

But that was just nostalgic claptrap as far as he was concerned.  Sarah Jane was gone. And there was no way he could bring her back or punch his way through
his grief.

 She might as well have been abducted by Martians.  In fact, that was a comforting thought since he had lost all faith now and was ambivalent about the whole afterlife deal.

She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes. Oh what a vision she was to behold.  Green eyes,  the color of young apples.  He called her Pippin.

Her pet name for him had been Yellow Jacket because of his bumbling ways and because with his widening girth, he was fast becoming a John Belushi double.  She teased him mercilessly.” Too many jelly bellies, I guess.”

It had all happened in an instant.  Like a flash of lightning crackling across the sky. She was driving home from graveyard shift at Ebeneezer as she had a thousand times before. The old Dodge rambler should have known its way home.   Yet the car willfully skidded through the sleety intersection at Oak and 1st. There wasn’t enough time for Mrs. Diaz to hit her breaks.

Charlie felt short-changedLife after 50.  What did it matter now?  He could shutter himself in with a bottle of Smirnoff or numb his grief with work.  Whatever it took to slog through the empty days. He was dancing between light and shadow.

The cold weather was coming.  This had always signaled celebration. Long mittened walks in the brindled dusk.  Hot cider at Dee’s. Yanking off flannelled  layers as if it were their first time.  Happy birthday, Sarah Jane.

The air was crisp and tangy like a pippin apple. He could taste it.

Sarah Jane had dreamt of going to France. He had never understood it, this yearning to leave home.  She loved Rousseau, Gide and Proust. Here, she explained, was a modern day humane society where the social contract was still alive. She had joked about having a brood of little yellow jackets in the 16th arrondisement.

Charlie worked unflinchingly through Thanksgiving shift, earning triple time while everyone he knew was sitting around a table with folks they saw once a year stuffing themselves blind. He felt lucky.

A week later, he cashed his check and bought a one way ticket to Paris.  He would go to Notre Dame, climb the 387 steps and show Sarah Jane the roof tops that only the gargoyles see. He didn’t know much French, but he did know that notre dame means “our lady.”