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.