Sunday, February 29, 2004

Youthful Poem

This is continuing my search to find images of my 16 year-old self, as described in my Friday entry. I was essentially influenced by a number of brave souls (including our friend, Dr. Omed), as I mention. Anyway, not being able to find a photo of myself at 16 (I think such as existed were lost in one move or another), I thought I'd post a poem that was written when I was 16 or 17:
the prisoner
i am the prisoner who holds his own key,
the lock i have to bear is kept within my soul;
the chains which surround my body are very old,
but i have worn them just a few years;
the rust collects along the links
which could be the path to my mind;
if you should find where i hed the key,
could you return it to me?
i am the priest with no psalms to sing,
no prayers or offerings to give to you;
i grasp our little cross and
preach from the burnéd bible
even while the flames of Hades
consume my temple;
is there no saviour among [you]
who will save this sinner from his self-made Hell?
i am the mighty businessman who throws his money away,
giving it to the poor whom i will never hire,
using it to pay for the flowers at some unknown
   faithful servants grave, or
to pay for advertising to save the world (though
i will never buy pollution controls); but
this work and toil is killing me,
i must get out, i must get out, please
   help me get out.
are we all then not prisoners of our own
longings, needs, hungers, and greed?
we ask: who holds the key to the chains?
a voice, distant, answers: we do.
Yep, preachy as only a 16 year-old can be. Let's try a sonnet, written 2 – 3 years later, shall we?
Fantasy in Corners of a Sandcastle
The ancient tides will flow across the sand
as my love and i sit upon the beach,
a warm and tender hand in hopeful hand
when faith and dreams seem to be well in reach,
and our castles will be built in the air.

We hear the waves upon the open sea
as my quiv’ring hand flows through here sweet hair
and all of the pretty castles we see
belong to no other lord and lady
than ourselves in our cloth of illusion.

I will visit my mistress fair daily,
and my passion will be no delusion —
which i will know when we lay down our heads
and all of our fleeting false dreams are dead.
I know there's a number of problems with this sonnet, but I've generally been inclined to let these old poems stand, unedited, so there can be measure of growth & improvement. For example, how does this juvenile poem compare with the free verse which appears immediately below?

Wind Pays a Visit

Wind walked through the house
at seven under rain-heavy sky;
she slipped though an east window,
in my bedroom, wandered
the dry corners of my house,
then slid out the front door
(which faces east). Or, perhaps
she made it all the way to
the southern laundry room.
I couldn't say.
She left no kiss or calling card.
Just a touch in a dream,
and a jonquil promise.

Friday, February 27, 2004

More on The Passion

Some quick links, worth your perusal:As for myself, I probably won't see this movie until next week-end, at the earliest.

In the meantime, Elsie and I have chosen the Lenten discipline of watching other cinematic passion plays. We hope to rent The Last Temptation of Christ this evening

Dreams of Our Youth

A number of folk in the Salon blogverse have been posting pictures of themselves at 16. This began with a challenge from Dick Jones, and includes (among my personal faves) pictures from Ms. Candide and Marsh Mallow. I did a frantic search of surviving photos in my collection, and failed to find anything specifically from my sixteenth year. However, I can embarass myself with a couple of shots on either side of that mythic time.

I estimate I was aroung eleven when this shot was taken. I cropped this from a picture taken with my father, step-mother, and step-sibblings; you can see my step-brother's elbow on my left (your right). Don't quite know why I have that goofy expression on my face. My comment this morning was that I looked like a dork.

Here I am, eight years later — 19 years old, with long hair and a hint of of a goatee. The gentleman on the far right is my father (as you may have guessed), and the lady in the middle is gran. You see just the top of my guitar bag, which represents my very first guitar, a Silvertone.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Ideé d’jour

What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul. — Jewish proverb

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Remember, o child of God, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

This evening, a memento mori will be etched on my forehead as words very much like this are spoken. The ashes used for Ash Wednesday come from burned palm branches, which had been waved during the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. In at least one church, the palms were burned in the furnace of a local funeral parlor; as it is difficult to sweep all the ashes out of such a furnace, there was no way to be sure the ashes used did not include a bit of someone’s Uncle Joe. At least, that’s what one minister told me, and I have little cause to doubt it. It does seem appropriate though, doesn’t it?

In a culture obsessed with youth, it is good to remind ourselves of our mortality. America seems like a young adult at present – which is to say, the policies seem to be predicated on the assumption that our country will exist with its current strength and resources forever. World history suggests this is a self-deluded view. It’s a view that denies the reality that cultures and societies have their own sort of mortality. So, again, it’s good to have the ash drawn on our forehead, to remind ourselves that death rules the collective as well as the individual.

The word “Lent” is from Middle English, meaning “Spring.” And what we do for the coming forty days might be seen as a sort of psychic spring house cleaning. It’s very common to think of Lent as a time one gives up things, e.g., colas, candy, and so on.

Sunday evening, Pam and I were discussing an alternate way of observing Lent: taking on disciplines. For example, Pam plans to attend more church functions during the week. She also plans to exercise more, a discipline aided by the fact that she will be teaching racquetball four days a week.

As for myself, I am “giving up” watching TV for Lent. This is something of a tradition for me. I think this has been my stated discipline for the past two to three years. I have learned, much to my chagrin, that TV addiction is as hard to “kick” as cigarettes – maybe harder. So, last year, I limited myself to one hour an evening, with the stipulation that the hour in question be “quality” programming (i.e., the sort of thing you’d see on PBS). This year, on the theory that nature abhors a vacuum (at least the addictive personality does), I am taking on some disciplines in addition to giving up television.

I plan to read during the time I would normally watch TV, for one thing. I have about four or five books I hope to read during Lent (they’re about 500 pages each, at most). I also plan to write more during Lent.

This web-log may be the beneficiary of that last discipline.

Do you have plans for your psychic house-cleaning?

Ideé d’jour

Even a lie is a psychic fact.
— Carl Jung, psychiatrist (1875-1961)

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Unrelated to this image (more fun with filters in Photoshop), check out Rob Salkowitz's entry "O Jesus" at Emphasis Added. Sadly, I can't currently link directly to the entry in question, but it was entered on Sunday, February 22. Rob offers a rather cogent discussion in response to the question "Are the Christian gospels inherently anti-Semitic?"

Part of his response echoes something I heard on NBC's Dateline this past Friday: there is little anti-Jewish sentiment in the earliest gospel written (probably Mark), and more in the last gospel recorded (certainly John).

Once again, this is in response to Mel Gibson's little cinematic Passion play. Mel has made some ill-advised comments that might lead one to believe the movie will be antisemitic. I suspect there is an element of promotion in Mr. Gibson's comments, as the controversy insures free publicity.

The bottom line is that if one goes into the movie expecting to see antisemitism, they are likely to find it. If one goes in hoping to have their "sacrificial lamb" Christology re-affirmed, they are likely to receive that.

I have heard the torture scenes go on for 45 minutes, which seems extreme. The infamous D-Day sequence in Private Ryan lasted 30 minutes, and that was plenty intense.

I did see a few scenes in a "Making of" special which aired on the Pax network Sunday night (it will run again this evening). I especially remember the Garden sequence, in which Jesus speaks lines that I don't recall from any of the Gospels. It's possible these lines came from some other portion of scripture, but I'm fairly certain they weren't from the gospels.

So, I will carry a degree of prejudice with me as I go into the movie.

Ideé d’jour

The whole idea of pilgrimage is translating into a literal, physical act the pilgrimage of moving into the center of your own heart.
— Joseph Campbell, Transformations of Myth Through Time.
This came by way of my new friend, Joyce, who is a fellow admirer of Campbell and Carl Jung. Speaking of synchronicity, Joyce is part of a team at our church who will be studying Chaucer's Cantebury Tales — as you know, this little collection of stories centers around a group of pilgrims.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I actually saw a church with this sign this past Saturday. Bo Strofeda, who posts under the auspices of the venerable Dr. Omed,  recently suggested that Xians admit their religion is insane. Well, this was his response to the news that some fundy pastors are encouraging their parents to take young children to see the graphically violent Passion of the Christ.

This sign does seem to me a sort of insanity. I can't imagine why a church would want to associate itself with a corporation whose practices are unethical, at best, and would likely qualify as Unchristian. Obviously, they are attempting to piggy-back on Mall Wart's successful ad campaign.  Perhaps they are even clever enough to be aware of the play on the meaning of the word "saving".  But this church seems to suggest that it is no more than one more business when it appropriates the advertising slogan of a business. And since the business in question is motivated by commerce rather than ethics or community service, the comparison calls into question the ethics of the church.

I don't recall the denomination of the church this sign actually appeared at. Perhaps it really was a Baptist church. And perhaps they have the view — as the "one, true, church" — that their mission is to drive all other denominations out of business as Mall Wart has driven locally-owned stores out of business. One doubts the church in question would be so blatant.

As for the controversial Passion, what I have heard reported suggests it would be inappropriate for young children. It might be suitable for 16 years and up, but I would recommend parents carefully read a variety of reviews prior to encouraging their children see this. If the parent in question objects to violence in video games and other media, I would suggest they maintain some logical consistency by not sending their tweens (or younger) to this movie.

The director, Mel Gibson, has stated he believes the Christology that "Christ died for our sins". Given that, I think it likely the film will be biased in that manner. Many who have seen previews of the movie have reported having that position confirmed.

To return to Mr. Strofeda's challenge: is Christianity, or faith, insane? A former priest once said that Christians are like the Red Queen: we are called to believe six impossible things before breakfast. These impossible things — the existence of a Supreme Being, a human manifestation of that Supreme Being, and so on — are matters of faith, not logic. Belief in a Supreme Being is value neutral; how one acts in response to that belief is another matter.

Mr. Strofeda may maintain that belief in a Supreme Being is insane. If so, we disagree. I can't prove God exists, nor can Bo prove the negative. In order to even have that discussion, we would have to agree on the definition of quot;God".  Regardless, I would maintain that belief, by itself, is value neutral.

The problem arises, I suppose, when people act contrary to what they claim to believe. This is a familiar argument, to the effect that Christians are hypocrites. I think there are two levels to this: one would be a sort of cognitive dissonance, where one says one thing on Sunday, acts in a contrary manner during the week, and never recognizes the disparity. The other level is when one actually strives to "practice what she preaches, and fails. That's pretty much the human condition.

I suppose Bo to be railing against the former.  I count myself among the latter. To be continued . . .

You're A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving!
Despite humble and perhaps literally small beginnings, you inspire faith in almost everyone you know. You are an agent of higher powers, and you manifest this fact in mysterious and loud ways. A sense of destiny pervades your every waking moment, and you prepare with great detail for destiny fulfilled. When you speak, IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS!
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Interesting that I could be a book I've never read. What book do you say I am?

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Verse d’jour

I took month-long vacations in the stratosphere and you know it's hard to hold your breath
I lost everything I ever loved or feared, I was the cosmic kid in full costume dress
Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth but I got me a nice place in the stars
I swear I found the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car
I hid in the mother breast of the crowd but when they said “pull down” I pulled up
Ooh ... growin' up
Ooh ... growin' up
— “Growin’ Up,” The Boss, © 1972
Did I mention that I'm a Bruce Springsteen fan? This particular tune originally appeared on the lp Welcome to Ashbury Park, NJ, I still have the vinyl to prove it. However, I just copied the lyrics from the cd booklet for 18 Tracks. Listened to this tune as I was getting dressed. I was especially struck by the second and third lines, which seem to me to echo our friend Walt Whitman.

This cd is filled with rarities (I primarily bought it for "The Fever"), including an early recording of "Born in the U.S.A." Sounds like it was taped in the same living room Bruce recorded Nebraska in. The concerns are similar to that seminal recording, also: the song opens with the line "Born down in a dead man's town." Does that sound like Reagan's fantasy America to you? Then the second verse: "I got into a little hometown jab / And so they put a rifle in my hands / Sent me off to Vietnam / To go and kill the yellow man." Thing is, you can hear the hopelessness in this recording. It's easy to see how Reagan's people missed the point when they heard the single version, with the pounding drums and defiant guitars.

Friday, February 20, 2004

OK, this huge image is the one I just wrote about. Dr. Omed says I need more images on my site, so here you go. This is a radically altered histological slide of a rather nasty disease, tweaked within a pixel of its reality through the venerable auspices of Adobe Photoshop.

As for the nature of the nasty disease? Ah, let's leave it at "The less said, the better."


Katey, at One Good Bumblebee has introduced me to a new poetic form: the Octologue. Katey, in turn, had picked it up elsewhere, but I leave it to you to follow that particular daisy chain.

The form is composed of eight (“octo”) very short lines, with the additional restriction that it be a monologue or dialogue. Most of my recent verse has been built on the short line, so that appeals to me — yet, the longest line is only five syllables long, which is radically short, even for me.

Naturally, I had to try it out. Here's a first draft. Sticklers for the rules, like Mike Snider, and others who have read the rules (see Katey's post), will quickly see the problem: too many syllables in line two. This is what I get for trying to compose a structured poem on the computer. Especially a structure which I have not previously attempted. Do take a moment to click through to that draft, though; it's in postcard format, and I'm rather proud of the image I created for it.

But I do want to try to obey the rules (really, I do!), so here's a second draft:
Driving south
On Classen, silver
Jag, license
Plate “INCA”,
Rolls down middle lane
Past white car,
Donut shop,
And points north.
Just FYI — one of the restrictions is that each line be "traditionally capped," as Katey puts it.

Well, it's a fun challenge, and I think I'll try it again soon.

Belated Valentine’s Day Report

Elsie gave me some interesting Valentine's Day presents. One was a Sharp electronic organizer, the Wizard. It includes a "memo" function in which one may write drafts of letters, etc. Naturally, I had to try writing a poem on it:
fire on the street
lightning bugs fly through
stolen windows
Um .... would you believe Surreal Haiku?

She also gave me a copy of American Dynasty by Kevin Phillips, who was a Republican campaign strategist during the Nixon and Reagan years. The book concerns the House of Bush, and is considerably less than favorable. Since I have taken up hating the current Resident as much as Rush & his friends hated Clinton, this was an inspired gift.

What did I give Elsie? Well, Friday night we went out to Tom & Jerry's, a very nice "surf & turf" restaurant here in town. I had steak filet with a blue cheese and hazelnut dressing, and lobster tail. It was excellent — they even got "medium well" right. Elsie had salmon, which was also excellent.

Saturday evening, I took her to a local production of the off-Broadway musical "Pageant".  The pageant in question is a beauty pageant sponsored by a (fictional) cosmetics company.  The contestants are broad stereotype characters: Miss West Coast is a multiple-lives air head; Miss Texas is rough and ready; Miss Bible Belt hardly needs an explanation.  Most of the humor is in these stereotypes, but some initial humor is gained by the fact that these contestants are all portrayed by men in drag.  We were especially impressed with the gentleman who portrayed Miss Texas — he was an excellent tap-dancer, and did back-flips, all in heels.  Elsie did wonder, during intermission, how they managed to hide their "equipment" so well.  Otherwise, we soon forgot the gender of the performers and focused on the characters they portrayed.

The daylight hours of Saturday were somewhat marred by the fact that part of my garage door broke.  I have an old-fashioned manual-lift door, and part of the spring broke.  Afraid I don't know the name of the piece, but it looks like an angle brace and goes from the door to the actual spring (which is attached to the door frame).  Naturally, this piece broke just as I was lowering the door Friday evening (before dinner), so my car seemed to be "trapped". I chose not to tell Elsie about this that evening, for fear it would spoil her enjoyment of dinner. As for my own enjoyment, I focused on Elsie, the food, and the leisurely ambiance of the restaurant.

Now, Elsie had a number of "to-do's" she wanted to accomplish while in OKC.  But once I told her of the situation with the garage door, she made that her first priority.  We worked together to take off the broken brace (for lack of a better name).  We discussed a variety of options to resolve the problem. Elsie tolerated a wild-goose chase to a chain hardware store to see if a replacement could be found. Ultimately, she helped raise the garage door so I could release my car. We then lowered it again, as there is a neighborhood cat who likes to hide in my garage.

All this may seem unromantic.  But, what impresses me about it is we got through it without fussing even once.  I think this is partly maturity on my part, as I tend to get fussy when I feel vulnerable & out of my element. It also seems emblematic of the maturity of our relationship.  One thing that has remained constant has been our ability to talk respectfully to each other. That's something to give thanks for, and may be worth more than two dozen roses.

As for the garage door — I've chosen to wait until after pay day to deal with that one.  And, by the way, we achieved at least two of Elsie's "to-do's", in spite of the fandango with the garage door.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Automatic Apocalype

Woke early this morning to view Apocalypse Dawn. Howard Dean was walking with Bertolt Brecht. As they were talking, forty horsemen drove by. The street was full of lightening. Strata clouds built the sky dome.

Morning Star signed a contract with the Burned Bush. We understood the terms imperfectly, but were happy with our toasters. We loved our new digital colors, and the stories they told us. We read our palms by fiery sword light.

In secret corridors magpies muttered. Horses held obedient conferences. Then snakes pledged allegiance to purgatory. The sky dome fractured sunlight, infinite magnifying glass on bureaucratic liturgy. Towers knelt before flowers. Sons knelt before dark mothers.

Ti Jean, will you hear me now that time has stopped? Henry Miller is practicing your blues harmonica. Walt Whitman is walking across your alternate America. The Rosenbergs are studying the Talmud of your Zen Constitution.

At last, the continent drifted. The perfect trial was over. We were shadows. Our homes were shadows. The cancer had been excised, and dwelt in the sun’s sweet furnace.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

What To Do

What to do
when shadows dance?
Join them.

Under dappled leaf
the veil parted.

Morning's corona
danced over dew grass
then filled the world.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


  1. Dragon:: wisdom
  2. Molecule:: atom
  3. Tire:: less
  4. Mighty:: Quinn
  5. Octane:: High
  6. Troll:: crossing
  7. Atmosphere:: ozone
  8. Guide:: book
  9. Leash:: law
  10. Dustmite:: bed bug

Belated Lectio Divina for Epiphany 6, 14.Feb.2004

Reading.  Luke 6:17-26

The thin places.
Where earth meets sky.
Where the clouds meet the mountains.
The depths of the deeps, Leviathan's sport.

The thin places.
St. Brigit's pool (home of Goddess Brigid)
Stonehenge's circle of stone.
Jacob's stone pillow.
Quartz Mountain.
The corner of my room,
where a small altar stands.

The thin places of my life,
when all I could pray for was bread.
When my heart has broken,
and light could enter
through the cracks.
When my heart has overflowed,
and I could not remain blind
to its celestial fire.

The thin places.
Where past and future collapse
into eternal now.
Where the divine spark within leaps up,
rejoicing to greet the divine spark
that breaths all around us.

I will arise & refresh my spirit;
I will visit the thin places.
I hold the holy beads
and count the 150 songs
the thin places have taught my heart.
I walk forth in beauty.
I strive for justice.
I walk in the light.
I give thanks for the thin places
where my eyes could be open
to ever-present goodness & mercy.
I give thanks for the thin places
where the wind is blessing,
where the water is joy,
where my face is kissed by the divine.

Consider highs & lows in your life. Do you see patterns? Are these "thin places" where time has stood still?

Ideé d’jour

Never spend your money before you have it. &mdash Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author (1743-1826)

Monday, February 16, 2004

Ideé d’jour

There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. — Dalai Lama

Friday, February 13, 2004

The Van Gogh Café

What whisper hides in this secret chamber?
What clandestine aorta lengthens the nerve?
*   *   *   *
You cross a tender wire to enter
the Van Gogh Café. The formal crows serve
from eleven ’til one. They chant specials
across the open sidewalk. It's clean air
over tomato soup in a regal
cup as you draw fingers through tangled hair.
It's bright freezing blue. The headlines are read.
You feel the whisper linger on the crown
that hangs heavy round the soft cardiac seed;
you study Gnostic secrets of renown
then inhale the evening.  Leave the café
wearing a coat patched from a brand-new day.


written circa 1978
and shall the Morning come like some Chariot
will it be an unsung Tune
will we watch it from our Window
in our rosey Room

and will the Sun blow out each Star
like Beads on a Rosary
or a Hand opening an Envelope
return addressed Eternity

with lines of Love on the Sky.
Will Light appear a Revelation
to Patterned Clouds asking why
Dust is hanging on their Salvation.

This early Person walking down the street
told me about finger-printed Parking Meters
he told me how they were dangerous
with evil Designs which couldn't be neater

so he got a black Eye from dealing
illigitimate Tarot Cards
& his Memories were Black & White Photos
his Letters were all too hard

to read. Listening to crazy Jazz at
four o'clock in the Foggy Morning
he was considered Mentally Safe
but his soul was still at war.

That was another Story
when we were watching the Movie
he was lost in Glory
and he ran off the Bridge.

Will it be a Mysterious Beginning
or a cleansing of the Ghost Sky
will there be an Angel Chorus
& new Dreams before us
On a whim, I've posted a poem I selected at random from one of my old notebooks. Do you think it shows promise? Have I improved?

BTW – composition on the "work in progress" (below) continues sub-rosa. As it were.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Work in Progress

What whisper hides in this secret chamber?
What clandestine aorta lengthens the nerve?

You cross a tender wire to enter
the Van Gogh Café. The formal crows serve
from eleven til one. The chant specials
across the open sidewalk. It's clean air
over tomato soup in a regal
cup as you draw fingers through tangled hair.
It's bright freezing blue. The headlines are read.
You feel the whisper linger on the crown
that hangs heavy round the [3-syllables] seed....
As that last line confirms, this really is a work in progress. Just trying to see if I can do this sort of thing again, and come close to making sense. Mike Snider will recognize the form I'm aiming for, and may well have some constructive criticism. I've got three lines to go; I need 3 syllables in that one line, and the third line might need another syllable.
Michael Wells at Stick Poet Super Hero has just announced he will not be posting a Top Five for the next three weeks.

Whew! Guess I can turn down the heat a notch. I was scrambling to do a fair amount of poetry-related stuff toward the end of this week in order to make it into that top five.

Spam Poetry

Just stumbled on a blogsite which is nothing but poetry constructed from spam e-mail. Don't know if "Kristin" (as the author signs him/herself) has seen Dr. Omed's fine works in this same field, but s/he seems to be having a grand time. Who else would set up an e-mail account for their dog? Apparantly, the spam-world is convinced this pooch has a weight problem and/or erectile dysfunction (often go together, you know).

I haven't read each & every poem, but it is a fun experiment.

Chocolate Wisdom

There is greatness in smallness.
Found in Dove Chocolate Bar wrapper.

Ideé d’jour

I envy people who drink — at least they know what to blame everything on.
— Oscar Levant, composer (1906-1972)
Been there, drank that.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Meeting on Yancy Street

Fancy Schmancy crossing Yancy
wearing a Christmas tie;
Chicken Picken, his feet a-tickin'
as he dreams of puddin' pie.
Their hearts a-flutter, the city mutters
while the slowly make their way.
They meet Bo Peep on Yancy Street
then sing their route to end of day.

Some People Around Here

George Wallace
some people around here if they put all the practical things in their lives into a basket
and they left them out at the curb for the trash men or some unsuspecting passersby
i mean someone possessing more of an eye for premeditated opportunity than discretion
they'd have nothing left in their houses for the future or for the holidays or for their children
and besides nobody would pick that basket up not ever not even surreptitiously would they
only now and again some very inexperienced person every once in a while
perhaps someone from another part of town who didn't know the way of things around here
might give that basket a shake might paw through everything for awhile
but then he'd be likely to just give a little shrug and a sniff and then he'd be off
like some raccoon disgusted with the incredibly slim pickings around here
i'm talking about some society that operates with so little room for unnecessaries
i'm talking about some society that has nothing except for its practical things to throw away

   George Wallace is Poet Laurete of Suffolk County, New York

Fragments: Toward A Life

Every word I write seems wrong. I can't even spell them right.
I'm just fuzzy this morning, drinking my green tea & honey.

I emptied the faucet before I drank from the river.
The water sprites rose from light and danced with me at the water's edge.

Where have you been? I've been walking the long twisty path
of my life. I've been exploring vague chemical cul-de-sacs.

Well, I sang the song. They prayed with me.
I sang the song. They applauded.

Gotta tell you, the blank screen ain't much better than a blank page.
I think I might have something to say.

Don't know how to say it. Can't speak for fear of revealing too much.
Funny thing is, if you were here right now I'd spill the whole tale.

I'd remember the punch-lines, and you would laugh.
I'd remember the tragedies, and you would wince.

And, maybe you would applaud or pray when I was done.
Maybe you would imagine you loved me when the final note was sung.

We would face each other across a table draped with silver
we'd sip cups of green tea and inhale the morning; or

we'd toast the occasion with ruby-encrusted cups
filled with stone wine.
This obliquely refers to the fact that I shared my "Faith Journey" at church last night. I've been rather much focused on that, and the day job, which explains why I haven't been posting entries of late. There's a possibility I'll be posting installments of my "Faith Journey" in this space. I'm still considering whether I'm brave enough to do that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Ruby

Dianne W is Residency Coordinator for our department (in a medical school), and has worked in close physical proximity to me for the past two years. A week ago Wednesday evening, I was visiting with a friend, exploring a new career path. I expressed the fear that this path was not a practical choice at this time or place.

The Dream
Thursday morning, Dianne told me a dream she'd had the previous night in which I had played a part. In her dream, I was a resident, and she was training me. We both were wearing doctor's White Coats, but she was not giving me medical training. Instead, she was teaching me how to cut a ruby.

Well, I had cut a ruby with a very intricate design. She studied it, then patted my hand and said, "That's very nice, but it's not very practical." To which I responded, "Well, I don't want to be impractical," and promptly threw the ruby away.

Dianne immediately went to the trash bucket, and began digging to retrieve this precious stone I had thrown away.

Now, as a lay person interested in the theories of Carl Jung, I'm aware that odds are the dream has more to do with Dianne than it does with me. But Jung also was interested in the phenomen he called "synchronicity". This dream, in which this dream character with my face is concerned about practical choices at the same time that I am, seems a clear case of synchronicity.

Prior to hearing this dream, rubies had little meaning to me, aside from the knowledge they were a bright red precious stone. As I say, I suspect the dream speaks more to Dianne than it does to me, but I did appropriate the stone for use in the poem "ruby stars", which appears a couple of entries below (Sat, Feb 7, 9:27 am).

Late Friday afternoon, I told Dianne about my sense of this "practical" coincidence. As I've done here, I simply said I was considering a new career path, but was fearful of its impracticality. When hearing of this coincidence between the dream player and myself, Dianne said, "Perhaps you should listen to that."

Well, I am, my friend.

Monday, February 09, 2004


  1. Identity:: crisis
  2. Reveal:: code
  3. Live:: music
  4. Attitude:: adjustment
  5. Night:: music
  6. Nevada:: Reno
  7. Weekend:: warrior
  8. Write:: off; write poetry; write well & live
  9. Friend:: ship
  10. Seventeen:: magazine
OK, dating myself again. Any "classic" Word Perfect lovers out there who remember "Reveal codes"?

Ideé d’jour

Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.
— Albert Schweitzer, philosopher, physician, musician, Nobel laureate (1875–1965)

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Ideé d’jour

Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking
— John Wain.
   This comes via Andrew Burke at the PoetryEspresso e-list. Having chosen to drop off from active participation for a period (some psychic re-grouping being called for), I still lurk via the linked space at Topica.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Ruby Stars

shattered stars stream through the veins
spiraling from neuron to toe nail
coiling like a DNA caduceus
sparks furrow the brow
haunt the foreign dream

morning comes gray into suburban streets
light flicks a tentative tongue between houses
so we walk imagined footpaths
St Elmo's fire flickering at our fingertips
while asphalt crumbles into faithlessness

well, it's a journey, a surrogate pilgrimage
we cross ruby fault lines, and
electric parallel shadows
while our nerves hum with the birth
of a thousand shattered stars, streaming

Friday, February 06, 2004

Both of these personality tests had very similar questions. I took a short version of each (18 questions), so there is a probable margin of error. Not sure how I could be both Einstein and "Easy Rider", but that's cool, man.
By the way, Michael Wells has posted his weekly Top Five List. This space did not make the Top Five, which does not surprise me, given the fact that I have focused on politics more than poetry this week.

I believe in "following my muse": one week it might be poetry, next month politics, and the month after that might be religion. Pretty much going to cycle through those three, though. Movies & music reviews might make their way in, on occasion. Who knows which way the wind blows?
Gotta tell you, I don't feel much like Einstein (at least in intelligence). But, somehow, this seems to fit in with my offer to become America's first Philospher King (see "What We Need", posted Thus, Feb. 5, at 7:50 am).

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Singing Good For You

Joyce sent this link an article in the on-line version of Andante magazine. The article is brief, and of interest. It reports on a study that suggests that singing has health benefits.

Blood samples were taken after a choir sang Mozart's Requiem; and a week later, when the same choir merely listened the a recording of the Requiem. The first samples had increased factors for a well-functioning immune system; the second samples did not.

I'd want to read more of this study, to be published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine. It immediately occurs to me that, given the week intervening time, other factors may have influenced the blood chemistry.

But, it is a fun idea. My non-scientific personal experience is that singing makes me feel better.


mercurial mood
silver wings
at my temples

heart beat skips
thoughts race —
where's my coffee?

frozen morning
sliding into February
mercury rolls slow

into daylight

What We Need

What America needs is a good dictatorship.
No, really, I'm serious.
Yeah, I know there's folk who think
we're currently sliding toward dictatorship,
but it's a BAD dictatorship.
Yeah, we've become a nation of morons
happily watching Happy Days and Survivor and American Idol
and brain-washing ourselves into believing we could LOVE McDonald's.
So, what we need,
what we really, really need,
is a benevolent dictator.
Someone to show us the way.
Someone to save us from ourselves.
Where's Plato's Philosopher King
when you need him?

Well, just so you know,
I'm available for the job.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Results Are In

This, from the AP wire, posted at 1:30 a.m. Oklahoma time:
Vote: Clark had 29.9 percent; Edwards 29.5 percent; Kerry 27 percent; Lieberman 6 percent; Dean 4 percent; Sharpton 1 percent; Kucinich less than 1 percent. State election officials said there were fewer than 1,000 provisional ballots still to be counted on Friday afternoon. Clark led by 1,275 votes.

Delegates: 40; Clark won 15, Edwards 13, Kerry 12.

Exit Poll: Just over half the voters in Oklahoma disapproved of the war, compared to seven in 10 in the four other states with exit polls, Arizona, Delaware, Missouri and South Carolina.
Not reported here is the approximately 10% who voted for Bill Wyatt in the Republican primary. Interesting that, of the Republicans who chose to vote, 10% voted for a man whose campaign is essentially a joke. He refers to himself as "the other white meat", for example. It's tempting to see this as a vote against the current White House resident.

For me, the especially good news is that "Holy Joe" Lieberman has dropped out of the race. Just the sound of the man's voice gave me hives. And that's before he starts talking about his policies.

When I went to bed last night, 2021 had voted for Kucinich; as noted, that's only 1% of Oklahoma's vote. But still, it's nice to know I wasn't the only person in favor of Dennis' populist policies.

The other good news, as reflected in the reported exit polls, is the fact so many who voted were focused on ousting the current Resident. Let us hope that "fire in the belly" can continue through November.

As for Kerry, I want to become more familiar with his platform. If he becomes the nominee, as seems likely, I will vote for him. But, it would be nice if it could be as much a vote "for" Kerry as it is a vote against Karl Rove's favorite marionette.

Oh, yeah, there were seven states having primaries yesterday, rather than eight as I claimed at 12:26 yesterday. As a political analyst, I make a pretty good poet. I promise you a new poem sometime today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


  1. Ignore:: me (I'm just dancing)
  2. Death:: on holiday
  3. Missy:: listen here
  4. Ballet:: recital
  5. Guest:: unwelcome
  6. Campus:: commons
  7. Lonely:: bull
  8. Company:: man
  9. Helicopter:: matter
  10. Sterile:: cuckoo
Guess I'm dating myself with that last response. Anyone remember Liza Minelli before she was camp?

I Voted Today

Oklahoma is one of eight primarily Southern-tier states holding a primary today. If you live in one of those states, and have not yet voted, you owe it to yourself and the future of our nation to go to your polling place and do so, pronto.

To hear the commentators talk, this round of primaries is "make or break" for a number of candidates, especially Howard Dean. I don't know about that. I've grown so cynical that I even take what NPR says on such matters with a rather small grain of salt.

I voted for Kucinich. I know many will say I "wasted" my vote. The commentators hardly take him seriously enough to mention his third or fourth place ranking. But my vote would only be "wasted" if I voted for someone I disagreed with just so I could vote for "a winner".

It's likely true that Kucinich is too progressive to be elected by a majority of Americans. I happen to disagree with his stated position regarding our involvement in Iraq (which may surprise some). But, I agree with many of his other positions. My hope is that a strong showing in a number of primaries will give Mr. Kucinich some influence when the party platform is constructed.

Beyond that, I will gladly vote for almost any Democrat, in hopes of effecting a radical regime change. The only Democrat I am less than enthusiastic about is "Holy Joe" Lieberman, the Republican in Democratic drag. In his case, I hope the "pundits" are right, and his campaign is essentially in the toilet.

If you have not yet made up your mind, here's a survey which may help you discern which candidate most closely reflects your own positions on the issues.

Structured Poets

In my commentary on a Wallace Steven's quote (see Mon, Feb 2, 8:01 a.m.), I make the bold statement that one can count on one hand the number of poets writing in structured forms. Seems I should have said that I wasn't aware of many more. Michael Snider offers a rather impressive list in his comment on that entry:
You'd need both hands, both feet, and some friends. There may not be anyone quite as good as Frost (but Richard Wilbur may be better), but there are lots of exciting poets writing metrical verse with just as much attention to craft as Frost used. Enough names to use up my digits and then some: Rhina Espaillat, A. E. Stallings, R. S. Gwynn, Timothy Murphy, Greg Williamson, Dick Davis, Dana Gioia, Rachel Hadas, Jenny Factor, Thomas Carper, Charles Martin, Timothy Steele, Deborah Warren, Anthony Hecht, Robert Mezey, Gertrude Schnachtenberg (sp?), Kim Addonizio, X. J. Kennedy, Wendy Cope, Julia Alvarez, Michael Donaghy, Andrew Hudgins, Adam Kirsch, Glyn Maxwell, and Vikram Seth.
I'm a infrequent visitor to Mike's blog (linked above), but I find him to be knowledgeable. I take his word on this whole list, and will check at least a few out. I have, incidentally, read a novel by Vikram Seth, An Equal Music, and can recommend it.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Warren Report on WMD

In NPR's report on the faux Prez's proposed commission to compare pre-war intelligence with current reality, the reporter used the phrase "similar to the Warren Commission." This CNN article does not repeat that phrase. One suspects the phrase originated from some functionary at the White House, but I can't be sure. Don't have time to do a detailed research.

In either case, it seems a poor choice of comparison. Any student of history, or fan of Oliver Stone, must be aware of how controversial the Warren Commission is. Granted, there are a number who support its findings (that Oswald acted alone in assasinating President Kennedy), but there is a larger number who question the methods used and the findings reached.

Based on the status of the current 9/11 commission — which the current administration has helped as little as possible — the "Warren" comparison may, in fact, be apt. My prediction: the ultimate report about WMD in Iraq will point at some innocuous functionary in the backrooms of the CIA. In other words, as far away from Karl Rove's favorite marionette as possible.

Tomorrow is the primary in Oklahoma. I've narrowed my choices down to Kucinich, Clark, and Dean, more or less in that order. I have no special desire to vote for Kerry just because the media has told me he's the front-runner. I'd rather vote for the guy I believe in rather than the current winner. My two major issues: the environment, and ridding the White House of the current proto-fascist residents. Kucinich rates high on the first issue. Considering Dean's recent flares of anger, how they've played in the media, and the number of clips available to Uncle Karl of various Democrats lamb-basting Dean, I think Gen. Clark might have a slight edge on the last point.

I promise to report my vote tomorrow. So, you pollsters will get it from at least one voter's mouth.

The Fog of War

Emily, a grand Lady of OKC peace activism, sent me the text of this Ellen Goodman editorial reflecting on the documentary "The Fog of War". This documentary is essentially an interview with Robert McNamara, one of the chief architects of America's Viet Nam policy.

It's become increasingly popular to consider our current situation as Viet Nam redux, but Ms. Goodman strives to avoid that type of lazy thinking. She does compare the two conflicts, however, and draws some parallels.

One thing Ellen mentions is that decisions in both cases were based on poor information and misinterpreted reports. I believe another similarity is a sort of hubris, that America would have the perogative to decide what form of government is best for another country.

I encourage you to read the editorial in full. Personally, I'm going to watch for a local showing of the documentary. I suspect the OKC Art Museum will be my best bet.

Ideé d’jour

The poem must resist the intelligence almost successfully. — Wallace Stevens, quoted in The Little Zen Companion
Who would guess that Mr. Stevens' primary occupation was accountant, rather than poet?

Nevertheless, I can only partially agree with this statement. The poem will resist intelligence as we commonly think of it — that is, mathematical, logical progressions. Rather, the poem will create its own intelligence. It may create a new intelligence. The poem is breathing under the influence of the wood which forms the pencil that scribbles the line. The poem is dancing in the light of the eyes that see new worlds in new ways. The poem may build the box, but will inevitably burst out of the box as well.

The poem does not sing because it can, but because it has to. We readers — and sometimes even the writer — are explorers vainly mapping the wild interior of each poem.

If we're lucky, we'll get lost inside it.
L.C. heard a recording of Robert Frost being asked why he didn't write "free verse". Having heard it a few times, it seemed a familiar quote. Frost replied that writing free verse was like playing tennis without a net.

Now, one can count the number of folk who currently write well-crafted structured verse like Frost's on one hand. That is, structure as we commonly think of it — regular meter, rhyme scheme, and so on. That is, unless you look to certain variants of rap & slam. Poetry, she gonna spring up where ever she want.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Memories of Beaches

Originally written sometime between November, 1978, and November, 1979, this selection reflects on my summer in Princeton, NJ.
The beach at Asbury Park, NJ, is cluttered with litter and people when the weather is warm; you coat yourself with lotion, hoping you won't get burned.

One section of the beach, almost a mile long, is roped off. It costs a dollar, you see, to be touched by the chilly salt water. Policemen in blue patrol the waves to be sure you don't get a free splash. Their harsh whistles yell at you from the spintered boardwalk, if you should go near the tempting water.

Orange Juice, to sooth your sandy throat, costs fifty cents. Pinball, carny games, gambling casinos, and cheap bars look down at the long rows of smooth black rocks which lead into the water.

I watched Suzanna's bare back noiselessly sway with her sleepy breathing. How it glistened with Coppertone, there under the clear ocean sky! She did not know of my gaze, but it would not have troubled her. For, she had a love, and I had a love.

This way, we could be innocent, like the dusty ocean.

Shipbottom, NJ, was still cold in April when we drove there after Jenni's senior prom. It was my first ocean. I ran into it, freezing my cracked leather shoes.

The waves & the gulls sang to us as we huddled close in an old sleeping bag. Jenni's smooth, warm tongue seemed to sleep in my mouth all night.

We woke to a pink and purple sunrise, then searched the white sand for a perfect shell, while hugging each other under a calico quilt.

As we drove home, we assured ourselves we'd string the shells into a daisy-chain, or paste them in a sea-worthy collage. We assured ourselves that our love was certain & vast as the ocean, &c.

Melissa and Drew laughed as each other, then fell asleep in each others' arms as Jenni and I sang our way back to the peacefull fountains of Princeton.

There's a lighthouse on Beacon Point which stands guard over the rising pink moon. Our group drank hot licorice Pernod as some girl sang lost love songs.

Somehow, it seems the whole beach was singing, even the waves, that night so long ago. That night, so soon before Jenni and I broke up.

It was a happy party. I sang, too, with my rough guitar. Jenni saw the shadow of one of her English cousins in a jubilant red-bearded man.

Jenni and I slept in the crevice of a soft green dune. We tried to make love, but the time wasn't with us. I tell you, screwing on the beach sounds romantic, until you encounter the sand. Later, we were awakened — naked — by a young boy seeking his lost dog.

But he couldn't see our soft slender bodies, warm against each other, hidden as they were by two familiar dusty sleeping bags.

We drove home in silence. Already, we had begun to travel by separate routes.

There are no beaches in Oklahoma, unless you count the circles of sand around the man-made lakes. You'll find no sea shells by this dark water.

No gulls, just ducks and geese. You must hide from the park police to sleep beside these whispering waters.

Once, Gary, Drew, and I drew pictures in the half-moist sand with long sticks. I wrote fictional love letters there, which were soon washed away.

That was years ago, before the long-chilled Princeton nights. Before I had seen the ocean. That sweet ocean, which taught me how to forget.

Top Five!

Once again, "Love During Wartime" has ranked in the top five of Michael Wells' weekly Top Five list at Stick Poet Super Hero. Last week, I ranked third; this week, "Wartime" ranked second.

You may recall that sometime early this past week I wondered outloud how Michael made these decisions. I expressed this as a form of frustration, wanting to know why I would rank one week and not the next. Michael very generously took the time to post an explanation. I understand him to say that he is comparing this space to other poetry-themed web-logs each week. He's not considering whether I have improved, but how well this space contrasts with other similar spaces. Which seems imminently fair to me.

His hit rate has gone up, and I've noticed that mine has as well. Everyone wins. I thank Michael, once again, for taking the time to read this space, and for considering how it compares to others. I recognize it's a lot of work, and I don't know that I could do it. I especially honor him for having come up with the idea in the first place.

Lectio Divina: Epiphany 4

Jeremiah 1:4-10; Luke 4:21-32; I Corinthians 14:12-20
"Yahweh put out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me: ‘There! I am putting my words into your mouth.’" (Jer 1:9, The Jerusalem Bible)

In my head there is a list of words,
words I use when I want to talk
but don't know what to say
or exactly how to say it:
blood, broken glass, mirrors, crows, Saturn, fog . . . .
Oh, the list is fairly long,
but does not go on forever.
If, for some perverse reason you wanted to,
you could memorize these words.
There is another list of words,
so long it spirals through galaxies
and spins back in orbit
around this fragile heart of mine.
For there is a Spirit that sits in my heart,
and she draws on these words.
She finds new words,
she plays with them in new ways.
She teaches me the hidden metaphor
of the fire burning within each word.

Blessed are you, Divine Poet,
you who stir me in the early watches
to teach me new metres, new rhythm,
indeed — a whole new poetics.
Blessed are you, who dwell
as near as my heart,
yet also may be found from
the rustling water to the smokey city.
Blessed are you, for dwelling in each heart,
for silently teaching each New Ways,
for leading us to seek your poetry
in each sacred moment.

I may be wrong. The Divine Spark may not dwell in your heart, but I believe it dwells somewhere within you. The Divine Spark doesn't care if you call it "God" or "Krishna" or "Allah" or simply "Inspiration". Indeed, the Divine Spark isn't worried which pronoun you use when you honor it. If you seek this spark, if you you are merely curious whether it might be there, be silent and breath deep. Your breath, drawn slowly through the intimate chambers of your body, will ignite that spark. Be certain: that Divine Spark is close at hand, but also dwells in the infinite.