Justin: In the Feast of Being Able to. Amen.


Ok, yes, John, it's true.

How John see’s me. I guess the Feb 2013 post below would indicate that this is EXACTLY how I feel. But about more than cats.

Wabbit Season

Whatever it is I’m going through right now requires Cracked Pepper sunflower seeds.

Last night I almost finished the bag of Cracked Pepper sunflower seeds. I realized this tonight after coming in from Fayetteville, putting on my pajama pants and a hoodie, and sitting down to write.

I reclined in my chair, staring at the nearly empty bag of yummy snacks in my hands. I wanted to start writing, not put my pants back on and go shopping.

Two convenience stores later, I found myself at Walgreens, ready to give up on Cracked Pepper and just settle for another flavor. I waited patiently while two star-crossed lovers hovered in front of the sunflower seeds, reading aloud the nutrition content word for word from the back of a package of trail mix.

I circled the isle like a vulture waiting to swoop in on a dying bunny.

My third time rounding the bend from the adjacent toilet paper isle, the lovers floated away on their cloud. That, or they sensed danger and fled. Either way, they moved out and I swooped in.

And found regular flavor, ranch and bbq. No cracked pepper.

I turned my face to the tube lights above and let out a shrill cry of ornithological angst. My prey had been an illusion. I moved on to other snacks.

At the check out, the nice clerk named Pedro made conversation, little of which I heard, all of which I answered. As I picked up my bags, I had to notice the empty-handed elderly woman behind me, crowding in too closely, eager for me to move so that she could request her cigarettes.

“You have a nice day,” Pedro said.
“You, too,” I replied.
“Be good,” Pedro said.
“Thanks, no promises,” I replied.
“Well, stay out of trouble,” Pedro said.
The elderly woman, desperately urged me forward.
Moving on out of her way, short on valid responses to Pedro, I turned to them both, and without thinking said, “I’m headed home now, to have a wild party with these Wasabi Peas and this half gallon of milk.”

I can’t really describe it, but her eye brows arched up and her mouth went from a flat, wrinkled, smoker-stern to a corners-down sort of gaping mouthed quick feed me a carrot look of disgust.

“Sounds, good, be safe,” Pedro said.
“Thanks, you, too,” I replied.
“Take care,” Pedro said.
“You, too,” I replied.

If You Ever Wondered…

Fitting that I post this first.
From John Ciardi’s posthumous work entitled Echoes.

December 13, 1979
John Ciardi

Three squirrels wound and sprung to this remitted
December day chase tumble tails on the lawn.
They must be winter-sure in the elm, permitted
by a plenty in its boles. There’s not one acorn
on or under the oak. They go to go.
But why this lawn party? I think they know

The dog is old and stiff, his monster slacked.
His ears tense towards them but it takes four
deliberate heaves to get his hind legs cocked
as if to spring. And what shall he spring for?
There is no energy after energy.
He quivers feral, but then looks at me

as if I might serve them to him in a dish
like Greeks godsent to the ogre. Of my guilt
that I have un-creatured a world to this mish-mash
whine and quiver half-down in the silt
of a sludged insect, I toss him a soy bone.
He settles for my bogus and settles down.

And the squirrels spin, almost as if they flew,
to the top of the split shake fence, into the spruce,
across it over the roof, over the yew
and into the hemlock thicket, fast and loose,
as fast as easy, around and around again
in the feast of being able to. Amen.

About February

Thursday Morning

Yesterday a friend asked me for some poetry recommendations. She’d been writing a bit, which is often motivation to read as well, but her own favorites were seeming a bit tiresome.

You don’t get that kind of invitation often, so I was excited to run to the shelf to review my own favorites for writings my friend might enjoy.

Poetry, like music, is sometimes enjoyed by the category of “author”. But more often it is the case that my favorites in music are just individual songs, and my favorite poems are single poems by various authors who have plenty else I don’t particularly care for.

If poems were songs, a poetry anthology would be a compilation cd. Ok, or a thumbdrive.

So I turned to my ragged, book-mark bulging, highlighted and heavy “An Introduction To Poetry”, a creation of X.J. Kennedy, a renowned and accomplished poet and author. It was first published in the 1960’s, is currently in it’s 13th edition and still widely utilized today by both undergrad and graduate level students.

I began thumbing backwards through this spectacular book and placing yet another layer of post-its on works I would forward to my friend. And after a couple of hours, I reached page 1. Which is where I need to divert my story for a moment.

Some recent time ago, a friend began to process a thought aloud: “How many days are in November again? Oh yeah, 30.”

To which I promptly responded with a little poem I learned long ago, I don’t know when or where.

“Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have 31,
Except February which has 28.”

My buddy hadn’t heard this, and laughed, which is precisely the aim. To laugh is to remember.

So back to the anthology / text book: I reached page one and found myself staring right at this little poem. How did I not recall this being on page 1!? Excited, I began reading the intro above it.

“Approaching a thing written in lines and surrounded with white space, we need not expect it to be a poem just because it is verse. Here, for instance, is a specimen of verse that few will call poetry:”

I was indignant. Who was this X.J. Kennedy to declare one of my life’s little mnemonic staples as NOT POETRY? I read on.

“Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have 31,
Excepting February alone,
To which we twenty-eight assign
Till leap year makes it twenty-nine.”

I sat in silence. What… was… this? Was this what my little favorite was actually supposed to be? Who had told me wrong? Had I just forgotten the real ending and inserted my own too many years ago to differentiate the truth from my own creation? If so, was this a deeper issue? What about other things I thought I knew? Was about Frost, stopping in the snowy woods for so long that his little horse thought he was queer? What about Chidiock Tichborne’s breathtaking elegy, written with his own hand in the tower before his electrocution? For that matter, what about Emily Dickinson? Had she really not written the Yellow Rose of Texas? I drew a breath. WHAT ABOUT HIGHSCHOOL?

I was moderately astonished. Kennedy was right. This wasn’t poetry. This was nothing more than a conveniently rhyming mnemonic device that held nothing deeper for the soul. My version had a laugh because it betrayed your expectations with a non-rhyme that was as much a let down as time itself. My version didn’t care about stupid leap year or the banal issue of a grown adult celebrating their 9th birthday on a February 29. This version was merely rhythmic drabble.

Unfortunately, there are some things that can’t be unseen. After all these years, I have read page 1 and I can’t take it back. I’m a bit awash in a lyrical sea right now. My heart bleeds and I feel as if grade school teachers, like sharks, are circling.

Tuesday Evening

Ok, well, I’m still not over it, but I guess I have reached a sort of mental island that I’ll just call my happy place. I folded over page 1, after clearly noting in the margin that X.J. Kennedy is a stupid head.

Thursday Night

I have reached within the deep recesses of my mind and discovered where I learned my poem. My late friend Brandon said it aloud while we were bank fishing long ago. I remember his delight at my laughing, and the poem stuck. I think I can still see his face just then. Either that or I’m just remembering his smiling face. I don’t know where B. learned it, or if he made it up. It seems there are many versions of a poem that is hundreds of years old. I like Brandon’s.

I’ll post a few of my favorite poems, not because anyone else particularly cares, but because even a happy place can be lonely, and I don’t own a soccer ball.

Post #201

(From Nov. 29, 2013)

Gleeful expressions of great joy. I just realized my last post was #200.

Years ago, working at the University, I several times typed out a message to my buddy John and fed it to the Microsoft text reader so I could get the silly robotic female voice to read my words to him. I don’t know why, but I recall using that phrase. “Gleeful expressions of great joy.” I think it was the sound of an emotionless robot saying those words that struck me as being so funny. John didn’t appreciate the absurdity of the contrasts. 🙁

Our Forefathers Drove Jeeps

Chilling at the Alma BK, checking work mail, sipping coffee. I haven’t posted in a while, so I figured I’d just pull out one of the many entries that I wrote but didn’t post.

From 2/26/13

I don’t subscribe to cable. In fact, last week I gave my digital antenna away to someone who would use it, so I don’t even GET channels. But I if I did… I likely would not have watched the Super Bowl last weekend.

This morning a buddy msg’d me that I needed to watch the Jeep commercial. It is a long, dramatic one, narrated by Oprah, that basically exploits American patriotism, soldiers, and their sacrifices to sell Jeep. I found it extremely offensive.

Maybe jeep dealerships will start using genuine sewn cloth American flags as the temporary floor mats that mechanics always leave in your car when you take it in for service. Or maybe they could hire some veterans to work at their dealerships, on the condition that they always wear their military uniforms to work. Of course, anyone with a purple heart would be hired first, and OBVIOUSLY required to wear it each day on the sales lot.

With each purchase, the dealership speaker system would blast out, across the entire car lot, Lee Greenwood’s “I’m proud to be an American.” Depending on local ordinances, fireworks would accompany Lee.

A projector would be in place under the outside awning to cast a huge video on the outer wall of the dealership, of the raising of the flag on Mt. Surbachi. This video would alternate with one of our soldiers who was killed in action being carried in procession from a cargo plane. Across the side of the plane would read JEEP.

Yes, I’m being crass, but with all my heart I believe companies like Jeep would use these very tactics… will use these very methods… in time.

This make me want to make a Chevy commercial with slaves being beaten on a plantation, and Union soldiers liberating them. then dying on screen while the voice of a famous midget narrates, “FOR THOSE HEROES WHO ARE BIGGER THAN LIFE… OR AT LEAST BIGGER THAN ME… WHO SET THE CAPTIVES FREE… ”

And then it will show the midget narrator running, midget style, across a Civil War cemetery. From headstone to headstone he leaps, until finally he hops in a Chevy Volt…

…Then hops back out the other side wearing his Civil War re-enactment gear, with a rifle musket 4x his height. Then he suddenly unfurls a poster, but it’s too long, so he has to climb up on the hood of the Volt. The poster unfurls to the ground and it’s MLK, and the midget says, THIS IS WHY I PRETEND FIGHT.

Chevy volt.
Because people died.

Overheard at the Counter

“Can I help you?” the teen girl asked.
“Yes,” the very large man replied, “I’d like a small Coke, but all I have is this Twenty.”
“Oh, that’s more than enough for a small Coke, sir.”
The man laughed. She never broke a smile.

A Simple Request From A Child

Julie’s mother helps watch the kids while she is here at work. This morning, her mother texted her about her 4 year old daughter. “Remington wants to be surprised where you take her for her birthday, but it can’t be McDonald’s Playland, and it has to be that place where the mouse hugs you.”

The Civil War – Look Again

Last year a significant statistic from American history was revised.

…through newly digitized census data from the 19th century, J. David Hacker, a demographic historian from Binghamton University in New York, has recalculated the death toll [of the American Civil War] and increased it by more than 20 percent — to 750,000.

New York Times

This number is staggering. Consider the loss our nation faced in Vietnam, and how that affected us for generations. Those losses left a scar on our nation, at around 68,000 dead. But 750,000? Imagine if that many Americans died in a war today. It’s hard to imagine, but we need to look at it in perspective.

In 1860, the year before the Civil War began, our population was just 31.4 Million. 750,000 dead is a staggering 2.38% of the U.S. population. So how would that feel today? How many losses in American blood would it take to understand what our nation suffered from 1861 – 1865?

Our current population is around 312,000,000. To lose that same 2.38% of Americans would equal:

7,471,337 dead. It is staggering to even imagine.

For all our patriotism, and all our principled beliefs, we should fear the day that we cannot, through politics, resolve and compromise. I don’t know what the face of the nation would be like had 3/4 million people not been killed in The Civil War. I can’t explain or guess what pain was felt and how we suffered for it. But imagine if tomorrow the killing began, and would not stop until 7.5 million of us were dead.

Let me be prayerful of where I draw my lines, and so very careful about those for which I would fight.


Not the Face !

Now, now. What kind of cat lover would I be if I shot him just for that? 3 stitches above the eye and all is well.

And don’t get me wrong. We had words.