Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Idée d’jour

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
— Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Idée d’jour

The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of government
power, not the increase of it.
— Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the U.S., Nobel peace prize
winner (1856-1924)

Quote d’jour

I'm, literally, just like the parrots that are taught to speak; they know
no more than what they hear or are shown, and they often repeat it. If
the the Lord wants me to say something new, His Majesty will provide.
— St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castles, trans. by Kieran
Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, pg 28 [published as The
Wisdom of Teresa of Avila
, Paulist Press, 1979]

Monday, June 28, 2004

I'm Back...

But still recovering. Got a bit of a burn, and presumed Vitamin E deficency. Hope to share the experience soon.

In the meantime, in other religious-related news, check out the Ven. Rt Rev Dr. Omed in his full papal regalia.

Be back to report on my experience in Watonga, OK as the muse allows.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

On Vacation

I shall be far away from my computer (likely any computer) through
Saturday. I'm off to Watonga, to assist at the Vacation Bible School.
I've already written a bit about this; see "In the Presence of the Holy" below.

I'll be taking my Moleskine Journal with, along with my digital camera.
I hope to share notes and impressions upon my return.

’Til then — Stay Poetic!

Quote d’jour

It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must also move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.
— Martel, Life of Pi, pg 36 [Op Cit]

Idée d’jour

When women are depressed they either eat or go shopping. Men invade another country.
— Elayne Boosler

Monday, June 21, 2004

Quote d’jour

The reason death sticks so closely to life isn't biological necessity — it's envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud.
— Yann Martel, Life of Pi, Harcourt, 2001, pg. 6

The Faces on Money

by George Wallace

this one ground from the bones of slaves
this one sleeping with the devil's wife
that one with tongue of horse leather
that one big unsmiling and wise
that one pale with gun and claymore
that one tall in the malaria trench
that one tipping continents over
that one smoking among the buffalo
this one a steamshovel on the open prairie
this one with his fingers spread wide
this one a saddle in the mouth of mountains
this one in his astrological mind
that one with his lightning grin
that one hiding in blue bathtubs
that one lost in a mississippi swamp
that one drinking blood and gin
that one his face is pitted with pox
that one nobody would bend over for
this one tucked in a g-string
that one blind and rubbed for luck
that one with his voice like static
that one falling from hands like flies
that one his heart is ether
that one his teeth are fences
this one his words were twisters
this one his promises are mines
so much folding money! oh, the silver rain!
this one falls from our pockets so fast
we ought to cover the earth with our blankets
we ought to compass the earth with monuments
where that one sleeps in his murder canoe
fold them! tear them! eat them! stamp them in gold!
place them on a dead man's eyes
these faces that appear on money
they will not choke you
George Wallace is the Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, New York

Friday, June 18, 2004

Father’s Day

I have referred to "Padre" several times the past couple of weeks. Since this Sunday is when we Yanks celebrate Father's Day, seems appropriate to clarify that "Padre" was my father, rather than a priest or a ball player.

Had a nice chat with Kent last night about Padre. He has an undying affection for my father which has, happily, transferred to me. He talked about when he and Brother Dave were teenagers, dad would sneak them into a local jazz club. When the club would shut down around 2 am, dad would then take them to a sort of speak-easy on the south side. Kent remembered dad singing, but he doesn't recall that Padre played his guitar on any of these occasions.

Brother David's memory is that the piano player at that jazz club, Wally, would sometimes call dad up to sing. His signature tunes were "St. James' Infirmary" and "Blue Skies." Most of his life, dad had a nice tenor/baritone voice, which he used to good effect.

Padre was a man of honor; he placed great stock in honesty, and in keeping your word. He supported integration, and opposed the VietNam war (more so after Bro. Dave returned). I used to think he joined me in my teen-age rebellion, but Padre was always a bit of a rebel.

Did you know he belonged to a motorcycle club? He was quick to point out that it was nothing like the Hell's Angels, but still pretty cool.

Early on, he was essentially apprenticed to "Uncle Bud," who taught him watch repair. Back in the day, when clocks and watches ran with gears and springs, this was a good trade. He worked several places in this capacity; I believe Andy Anderson's may have been the last. He continued doing watch repair out of our basement, piece-meal, for some time.

As I have said in other entries, Padre and mother divorced in 1962. Padre fought to have custody of Bro. Dave and me, at a time when granting custody to the mother was essetially pro forma. His winning that fight almost certainly saved us from an uncertain life with our neurotically insecure, and abusive, mother. I never went hungy under his roof. My dreams and aspirations were supported. I never questioned that he loved me, even though I only have one clear memory of his saying the words.

In the late 50s or early 60s, he went to work for Western Electric, I think initially as an engineer. He eventually became a draftsman, and worked up to section head. In the mid-1970s, Western Electric hit some fiscal roadblocks and decided to lay off some of their employees. Dad was offered the choice of having his contract bought out, or being laid off. He chose the buy out.

He had worked there for over a decade, and I think he felt incredibly betrayed. At least, that's the emotion I remember. I was in my junior year of high school at the time. It seems his life went downhill from there. I have theories as to why, but they're just conjecture.
Have I told you the story of how I got my first guitar? Padre took me to see the movie "Woodstock", and I was blown away by Richie Havens. I had the house to myself quite a bit, and soon learned where dad kept his guitar. Being a typical teenager, I thought I had a perfect right to play it. Well, it didn't take Padre long to figure out what was happening, and he wasn't pleased by finding his guitar out of tune (the movie made clear that Havens was not using standard tunings).

So, we went to Driver Music, and he bought me a cheap Silvertone. He got a couple of "teach-yourself" books filled with traditional folk songs, gave them to me, and said "Knock yourself out." Although Padre never sat down and showed me how he played guitar, I think I picked up a lot just by osmosis.

They say a highest complement a son can pay his father is wanting to follow in his footsteps. Well, I hope I have his strength of character, his compassion, and integrity. I do have the melancholy which I believe was his undoing. But I don't have to walk that part of the path. That may have been his last gift to me: a cautionary tale of what could happen if I allow melancholy too much power in my life.

Although my father still rides beside me in many ways, I miss him.

I love you, Padre.

Idée d’jour

One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter.
— James Earl Jones, actor (1931- )


In his comment on my faux press release the erstwhile Very Rt Rev Dr. Omed notifies me that Shelly wrote "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." in his "Defense of Poetry." He was kind enough to direct me to the full text of said essay on Bartleby.

He also reminds me that Mr. Inhofe is a senator, rather than a congressman, and thus the election is statewide. I have retroactively re-written the article to reflect this fact. I appreciate the correction. I receive most of my local news in 30 second snippets while driving to & from work. Not that it's an excuse, but most people are aware of the infamous quality of our local newspaper. Dr. Omed, on the other hand, has access to a far superior news outlet (the Tulsa World).

The management deeply regrets these errors, and will return to poetry, where it's slightly safer.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Dateline: Poetic News Release

OKC,OK. Local free-lance poet and unacknowledged legislator of the world Jonah Orobouros has declared Oklahoma a "Worker's Paradise." Mr. Orobouros has declared "Right to Work" null and void. "It's time our fair state has reclaimed its status as a Socialist State," said the unacknowledged legislator. Mr. Orobouros has also instituted the "Freedom to Marry" act, which recognizes the right of any two individuals of legal age, regardless of gender, to make a lifetime commitment to each other. Representative Orobouros has also contacted state religious leaders with a proposal that Woody Guthrie be named Oklahoma's patron saint.

In related news, Jonah has announced his intention to run against Jim Inhofe in the up-coming Congressional elections. "Who cares that I'm too late to file," Jonah asks, "The man is a major embarassment to our state and must be deposed by any means possible. Including poetic fiat."

Senator Inhofe was unavailable for comment.
Don't know how Gary Sullivan came up with the idea of the poet as "unacknowledged legislator" , but it's developed into a fun meme. Examples include (but are not limited to) Jonathan Mayhew (see entry dated 6.10.2004), Henry Gould , and Mikarrhea (I'm directing you to her old site because it is slightly more work-safe than her new site).

I gather the idea is to postulate a more desirable reality in the form of a news release, claiming oneself as an "unacknowledged legislator".

Now that I've jumped into the pool, I'd like to consider the source of this particular meme. A couple of things come to mind. One is William Blake's dictum, "Everything possible to be believ'd is an image of truth." The implications this statement has on a news release issued from a poetic alternate reality seem obvious.

The other thought is the notion of a poet's function. If nothing else, the poet seems called to see reality in new ways, in which case s/he redefines reality. Redefining reality effectively alters reality, and (in a sense) creates a new one.

Of course, it's entirely possible I've over-thought what is just a fun gag.

Behind the Curtain:  Accident Report

Immediately below this entry is another of my attempts at formal verse. I'll talk more in a moment about how well I think I succeeded, but I want to begin by considering the seeds of this poem.

Originally, this was going to be a personal essay reflecting on an actual event. I was not involved in an accident, but it was only because the car on my left was not driving like a runaway train. A matter of random moments separated me from a multi-car pile-up on I-40 West. Unlike the poem at hand, the essay would have meditated on the nature of life after death. In other words, it might have ended up being like the apocrophal writing in which one of the apostles returns from death and reports on the exact circumstances of the afterlife. My essay certainly would have shared more with that slight work than it would have with Dante's Divine Comedy.

I started trying to write this essay on Monday. The way I sometimes work is to type drafts in my e-mail program at home, then e-mail them to a work addy or directly to the blog (very appreciated feature in the latest version of Blogger). Then, as time and work allows, I can play with, and hone, the draft. I was running out of time Monday morning, so I quickly wrote the phrase: "I died on Saturday. But I digress." Well, the curiousness of that second statement caught my attention, and it lead me into another direction entirely. The fact that it was a non-sequitor tempted me to think about writing a poem.

Things have moved fairly slowly from there. It's been a relatively busy week, both at home and at work, and I've had little time to work on this poem. Well, that's not 100% accurate; I did write two quatrains based on the theme and opening line, then dumped them without saving. A couple of turns of phrase and rhyme I wish I had hung onto, but now lost to the ether.

You may notice I mentioned that this discarded draft was written in quatrains. Well, it just so happened that I was literally driving on I-40 West, which rhymes with "digress". Rhyming couplets seem inappropriate for a "graveyard" poem of this sort, so I immediately considered the classic ABAB rhyme scheme.

Whoops! Meant to write a sonnet, and this only has ten lines. I know there's other defects here (Mike Snider would no doubt point out the irregular meter), but that's certainly the first one to be tackled. So, now it goes back into the "work-in-progress" pile. Phooey.

But, let's continue considering what we have so far, shall we? The basis of my line is ten syllables. Yes, I'm aware line seven depends on eliding "toward" into "t'ward", and line eight is twelve syllables. I'm not terribly concerned about the Okie elision of "t'ward", even the afore-mentioned Mike has claimed some interesting pronounciations (sorry, appropriate link is not close to hand). I am more troubled by those twelve syllables in line eight. Now that I've realised I've got four more lines to go, I can dismantle the last two stanzas and stretch out the plot a bit more.

Now, here's my reasoning with that ten syllable thing: Chaucer and Shakespeare chose iambic pentameter, so I've been told, because that is the rhythm of everyday speech. Therefore, if I write an average of ten syllables per line, I'm bound to hit an iamb now & again.

This may seem like laziness, but everytime I've tried to screw my mind up to sound like Dracula, it comes out flat. I'm more likely to sound like me, in other words, if I focus on the syllable count than strict meter. Mike would possibly argue that I might find I could write in other voices (like Frost's Handy Man) if I worked more on the meter. Maybe. I suspect keen psychological empathy and observation have a lot to do with that sort of verse; perhaps more so than meter.

In any case, I think any kind of discipline will serve to lead the poet in new directions. The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, for example, impose all sorts of curious limits on themselves. The product may not suit my tastes any more than it does Mike's, but I respect their attempt at a discipline. Though I suspect said poets might object to the term "discipline"; it is not a term I recognize from Ron Silliman's poetics.

So, for now, the syllable count and rhyme scheme are sufficient discipline for me. I have written a few syllabic "personae" poems, "At The Cafeteria" being the most recent. The restrictions of the octologue form did move me toward brevity (similar to my haiku experiments) that I think is effective (at least, in this instance).

So - back to the woodshed. Throw "train/lane" on the scrap-heap along with that unwieldy 12-syllable line, see if I can end up building a more elegant police accident report.

Accident Report

I died Saturday night. But I digress.
Or leap ahead in telling my tale,
Not sure. I was driving I-40 West,
going home; she was driving a land whale.

She merged in at a high rate of speed
from Douglas Boulevard, crossed the right lane,
kept going toward the middle, right at me.
The car on my left moved like a run-away train,

So I was trapped. Now, I await what's next.
I died Saturday night. But I digress.
Work In Progress

Idée d’jour

We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another.
— Jonathan Swift, satirist (1667-1745) [best known for Gulliver's Travels, Swift was also Dean of St. Patrick's (Anglican) Cathedral in Dublin]
Oakerhater Window
Pictured: Stainglass window in the Oakerhater Chapel of St. Paul's Cathedral. The central design is the glyph which David used to sign his name until he learned how to write English. The glyph translates as "Oakerhater", and represents a Sundancer in a lodge.
Grant me a stillness of seeing, O God.
In the conflicting voices of my heart
Grant me a calmness of hearing.
Let my seeing and hearing
My words and my actions
Be rooted in a silent certainty
of your presence.
— The Rev. J. Philip Newell

In the Presence of the Holy

Creator, we give thanks for all you are and all you bring to us for our visit within your creation. In Jesus, you place the Gospel in the center of this Sacred Circle through which all of creation is related. You sho us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Give us your strength to live together with respect and commitment as we grow in your spirit, for you are God, now and forever. Amen.
Source Unknown
I went to the meeting last night to learn more about the Vacation Bible School our church sponsors for Native American children in Watonga. You see, I'm the wort of fellow who likes a modicum of information before he makes a commitment.

The VBS is sponsored by the Oakerhater Guild, named for David Pendleton Oakerhater, of whom I have written in the past. The VBS organizational meeting was followed by a regular guild meeting.

The guild had a special guest last night, Nellie Burnham, who I understood to have some connection with David Pendleton. Having no better plans, I chose to stay. I was richly blessed for this choice.

To begin with, for the benefit of the special guest, Canon Carol reviewed the history of the Guild. Though not important to this current narrative, I was glad to hear it. Then Deacon Knowles, the Diocesean Indian Missioner and vicar of the mission in Watonga, spoke of that mission's recent history.

Then Nellie told her story.

She is the great-granddaughter of Mary Douglas Burnham, one of the first women ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church. From childhood, MDB (as people called her) had a special love and caring for Native Americans. When she came of age, she dedicated her life to ministering to this people.

Now, MDB spent most of her life in northwest New York state, where Nellie still lives. MDB's brother lived in Florida. Both she and her brother were both ill at one point, and she went to Florida to care for him a she herself convalesced. While there, she became acquainted with Capt. P–, the jail keeper where a number of Indian Terrorists were being held. Keep in mind, this was during the Indian Wars.

Capt. P– was apparantly a fairly enlightened man, for he believed it was possible to educate these "savages". So, he arranged for them to be sent to local schools. Four especially promising young men returned to New York with MDB, one of whom was David Pendleton.

She arranged with a local priest to house and educate these men. She served as house mother for the group. David Pendleton and one other received religious training, and were ordained deacons. As we know, St. David returned to Oklahoma to minister to his own people, and tell them of the new chief he had chosen to follow. The chief's name was Jesus.

The first item she opened was a collector's dream: four or five pieces of art by St. David and his companions. According to the guild's historian (also an academic historian), David was almost single-handedly the father of modern Plains Indian art. The art was in the "cartoony" style common to what we call ledger art. Since these works were not signed, there is no way to know whether David was the artist; but we can certainly say they came from his "school".

Nellie also gave the Guild David's letters, mocassins he or his family had made, two of his bows, and a number of photographs. Among these is the only known picture of David Pendleton in his deacon's vestments. Aside from Nellie and her companion, no one at that table had seen that picture before.

As I have said, the Episcopal church has recognized David Pendleton Oakerhater as a saint. There is reportedly action being taken to include Mary Douglas Burnham on the Episcopal calendar of saints.

I have no doubt that I was in the presence of holiness last night.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I'm Terza Rima

I'm terza rima, and I talk and smile.
Where others lock their rhymes and thoughts away
I let mine out, and chatter all the while.

I'm rarely on my own - a wasted day
Is any day that's spent without a friend,
With nothing much to do or hear or say.

I like to be with people, and depend
On company for being entertained;
Which seems a good solution, in the end.
What Poetry Form Are You?
Not sure the results are exactly scientific....

Recommended Reading

Baseball lovers (talkin' to you, Stick Poet Superhero) are hereby directed to read "Circus Delight" at Dr. Omed's Tent Show. This is one of the very best things I've read by the good doctor, and he's written some very fine things. At first, it seems to be a meditation on one of his summer jobs (a meme begun by Christopher Key, at the Barbaric Yawp); but it then becomes a meditation on the great diamonds that glitter on long summer nights.

Personally, I've enjoyed baseball more as a mythic fiction than a reality. You know what I'm talking about: the film version of The Natural; both Field of Dreams and Shoeless Shoe (the novel on which Field was based). League of Their Own, Bull Durham, and many, many others.

But the good doctor's essay makes me want to go out there and make a fool of my middle-aged self, and miss a few more fly balls, and strike out and scrape my knee sliding into first. Well, almost.

Idee, 6/16/04

Idée d’jour

I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.
— Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


  1. Colorblind :: snow blind
  2. Shallow :: lake
  3. Erotica :: lane
  4. Figment :: imagination
  5. Eviction :: notice
  6. Composed :: poem
  7. Chill :: ghost
  8. Girl :: friend
  9. California :: girls
  10. Bond :: age

Monday, June 14, 2004

Idee, 6/14

Idée d’jour

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
— Upton Sinclair, novelist and reformer (1878-1968) [author of The Jungle]

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Fw: Virgin fridge magnet

Madame Fi on Our Lady of Guadalupe
Thanks for the new Virgin [posted two entries below]. I'm sure it's her, because of the knife blade nimbus, the blue cloak with gold trim and stars, the angle of her head, the drape of the cloak, position of the praying hands, etc. She is always drawn the same way. Also the rose figures prominently in her story. The Aztec peasant who saw her needed a miracle to get the church establishment to believe him — so she sent him up to the top of a desert mountain where there should have been nothing but cactus. When he got up there, he found a blooming rose garden. He took an armful to the church authorities, wrapped in his shirt, and when he delivered it, a painting of the Virgin had manifested on the shirt as well. After that, they decided to build the church for her that she wanted.

The rose (or any flower) is a symbol of truth to Aztecs and inserting it into this story (along with the Aztec everyman) was a way of bridging Aztec and Christian mythologies, and getting natives to convert to Catholicism.


Friday, June 11, 2004

Raygun vs. Bro. Ray

Raygun's AccomplishmentsBro. Ray's Grammy's
As Governor of California, was among first to "mainstream" the mentally ill. Hundreds left homeless.Let the Good Times Roll, 1960
Best Rhythm & Blues Performance
As president, fired the air traffic controllers, effectively breaking their union. Also appointed judges who did not enforce pro-union laws. Georgia On My Mind, 1960
Best Performance by a Pop Single Artist
Did not recognize AIDS as a disease until toward the end of his presidency (medical community recognized it in 1980, near the beginning of his term).  Thus, delayed funding for research on the treatment for this disease. Lead to the death of thousands.The Genius Of Ray Charles, 1960
Best Vocal Performance Album, Male
Still non-existent "Star Wars" shieldGeorgia on My Mind, 1960
Best Vocal Performance Single Record Or Track, Male
Iran-ContraHit the Road Jack, 1961
Best Rhythm & Blues Recording
Deregulating the Savings & Loan industry, paving the way for an industry meltdown and subsequent bailout that cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.I Can't Stop Loving You, 1961
Best Rhythm & Blues Recording
Helped arm Saddam Busted, 1963
Best Rhythm & Blues Recording
Through CIA, armed and trained Osama bin Laden, et al, in Afganistan's struggle against the SovietsCrying Time, 1966
Best R&B Solo Vocal Performance, Male Or Female
Vetoed sanctions on the South African apartheid regimeCrying Time, 1966
Best Rhythm & Blues Recording
Slashed the security safety net Living for the City, 1975
Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male
Largest tax cut in history for the wealthiest 1% of the nation - effectively widening the income and wealth gapI'll Be Good to You (recorded with Chaka Khan), 1990
Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal
Most of GWB's cabinet (Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Chaney ....)A Song For You, 1993
Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male
Raygun famously called catsup a vegetable.  Brother Ray recorded a version of "Georgia on My Mind" which is now that state's official state song. Raygun was GWB's protogenitor, proving only ACTING like president was necessary. Brother Ray, contrary to James Brown, was the true Godfather of Soul.

Here's the esteemed Dr. Omed on the former prez:
I'm afraid I don't feel ... warm and fuzzy about Teflon Ron. He prickles me still. I despise him, and all that he stood for. I remember the day after the election in Nov. 79. I was flabbergasted that he had won it. I simply couldn't believe that many voters were that stupid. Since then my flabber has wore out my gaster. That morning I had coffee at the lunch counter of the local drugstore (No Starbuck's back then) and listened as people around me said things like, "Murika's gonna be strong again." All the things that people liked about him I couldn't stand. His faux bonhomie, his whole fake-it-til-you-make-it ethos, the one liners, the jokes, his canned, prerecorded sincerity, his sentimental jingoism, his creepy canned creamed corn on mom and apple pie voice — and the jellybeans. Raygun made rightwing bunk mainstream. Largely because of this man, I have spent most of my adult life watching my country go down the toilet under the collective butt of fundamentalists, the predatory capitalists, the mouth-breathing peckerwood Good-Ol'-Boys, and Texicans. I really can't be objective about the man.
I'm with you, Doc. It's certain the nation won't spend a week mourning Brother Ray's passing. But we should. He deserves it much more than the MORON'S bastard father.

Well, the Repugnicans have had their little party. Now, let's set about making sure it's the last one they celebrate for the next decade or so....

Another Lady for Fiona

Our Lady of the Roses
This is an image of a refrigerator magnet which I purchased in New Mexico in 1985. I've thought of it as an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe (thus, the shout-out to Madame Fi), but I could well be mistaken.

I suppose I have assumed this was a true variation on the "Guadalupe" virgin because of where I bought it.  But it seems that the nimbus should be larger, and golden.  The rose-coloring and accents also suggest that this was not intended as a variant on the "Guadalupe" vision. But I like the image nonetheless.

The roses are an interesting touch.  According to The Rose Garden Game, the early Christian community looked to the Old Testament for ways to understand Mary's function in Christ's life. She came to be associated with the Rose of Sharon mentioned in the Song of Songs, and eventually became associated with roses. This is the reason the cycle of prayers and beads dedicated to her honor is known as the rosary.

Got The Blues?

Possibly in honor of Ray Charles' death, the good Dr. Omed has posted the lyrics of "Black Hat Blues". He and I can have a side discussion on who, exactly, wrote this song, but it's a fun read. See if you can guess the plot (such as it is).

Along the same lines, I offer the lyrics to "I Get the Blues", which Dr. Omed & I indisputably did co-write. My memory is he wrote the first two verses, and I wrote everything else. But we are all familiar with the fluid nature of memory, if not personality....
I Get the Blues

I get the blues
Goin' home to empty rooms.
I get the blues —
It's nothing new.
When I have to face
That empty space, oohh,
I get the blues.

I get the blues
Just like you,
But I try
Not to think of you.
It's a harmonica wire
The wind is playin'
Oohh, I get the blues.

You just try to survive
In these perilous days & times,
You just try to get by
And you're bound to get the blues.

I get the blues
With my first cigarette
And the memories
That drive me back.
A six of beer
Or a pint of gin
Go away, I'll just drink
A quart of pure blues.

I get the blues
When I see you go by;
I get the blues,
How hard I try
To hold back tears
That I can't share
Oh, I swear, I got the blues.

You just try to get by
In these inflationary days & times.
You just try to survive,
And you're bound to get the blues.

I get the blues
Goin' home to empty rooms.
I get the blues —
It's nothing new.
When I have to face
That lonely space, oohh,
I get the blues.
© ~1985, jac & Dr. Omed
My favorite line is "It's a harmonica wire the wind is playing," which Dr. Omed wrote. Once upon a time, the good Doctor said his favorite line was "I get the blues / with my first cigarette," which I wrote.

Idee, 6/11/04

Idée d’jour

If we had paid no more attention to our plants than we have to our children, we would now be living in a jungle of weed.
— Luther Burbank, horticulturist (1849-1926)
Ironically, I believe this is the person for whom Burbank, CA is named. Regardless of this bit of trivia, this statement is even more frighteningly true than it was when he made it.

Thursday, June 10, 2004


I have had little to say regarding the recent demise of a certain former president. But I will say this: I mourn the loss "Brother Ray" more than the loss of the former governor of California.

Heeding the Call, Pt. IV
Gift Inventory

  1. Singing
  2. Speaking
  3. Writing
  4. Listening/Synthesis
  5. Compassion
So: I have this cartoon at my desk - Augustine Interviews God, Part Three - © by Natalie d'Arbeloff. The cartoon has a charming Thurberesque quality; Augustine is a woman (rather than the male philosopher), and God is portrayed as a man. Augustine is asking God about the problem of evil. God responds that evil is a consequence of Free Will; God awaits the day when all creation will freely choose Love. Augustine naturally asks whether God is simply going to sit and do nothing while waiting for humanity to choose Love.

God responds: "No, I don't sit and wait. I give interviews. And I actively look for collaborators."

"Um...What sort of collaboration would that entail?" Augustine asks. "What have you got to offer?"

The above list is what I have to offer. A number of people have complemented me on my singing and speaking voice, and I have come to accept that it is a true gift (rather than just my ego). Some have complemented my writing, so I suppose it speaks to at least a few.

As for the next item - listening/synthesis - what I mean by this is that I have always had a good listening ear. I've always been a sympathetic listener. In addition to that, when I'm with a group, I seem to have a knack for synthesizing statements made by the group members. This has been validated by people agreeing with whatever summing-up statement I make.

This particular combination of gifts seem especially well-suited for the ordained ministry. However, there are a number of less formal ministries these gifts apply to.

You know what I would ask God if I could interview Her? I would ask if She is calling me to ordained ministry. Yeah, of course, I want the straight-forward, clear answer. And I probably would not get it.

I don't know. It might be more important to God that I share these gifts in the same Spirit of Love in which I received them. Whether I wear a priest's collar or not may not be as important as finding the best way to share these gifts.

Next: Charismatic Yin/Yang



My pen mutters across the page.
I like the way the ink glides
Like a skater on a new-frozen lake.
I like the frequent mental asides

That flitter as I dream each word.
The ink, the page, the tiny book,
Take their place in the verbal chord
And chatter like a rural brook

Or small flags on a windy day.
My pen is directed by that wind
and is led in the north-east way.
The ink forms this letter I send

to you in your pleasant chair
that you read this verse & heed its prayer.

Idée d’jour

As no roads are so rough as those that have just been mended, so no sinners are so intolerant as those that have just turned saints.
— Charles Caleb Colton, author and clergyman (1780-1832)

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Heeding the Call, Pt. III

Seems like a good time to pick up a thread I alluded to in Part I, my return to the church. I'm not sure exactly how it reflects on whether or not I might be called to the ordained ministry, but it seems appropriate to tell the rest of that story.

Like many Americans (perhaps the majority of my age-group), I did not have a choice in my religion. My parents attended a Methodist church, that was the church in which I was baptized, and the church I attended for most of my early youth. My parents divorced when I was 5, and my father was granted custody, but my maternal grandmother saw to it that I got to the Methodist church most Sundays.

My father re-married when I was eight. The woman he married, Wanda, was a member of the Episcopal church. While they were on their honeymoon, I was left in the care of my Aunt Nelle, who quickly shipped me off to the Episcopal Vacation Bible School. Somehow, I ended up in the youth choir, and I fell in love with the music.

When we returned to OKC, Padre & Wanda started looking for a new church home. The closest Episcopal church to us was St. David's, but it seemed somewhat lack-luster. Next, we visited St. John's, which was a very welcoming congregation with a very charismatic priest. I attended Confirmation classes with Padre, and was offered the chance to be confirmed at the same time he was. However, it felt important to be confirmed with my social group, so that was my choice. However, that adult class taught me that it was ok to question within the church. I quickly came to especially prize the intellectual freedom and honesty which have been hallmarks of the tradition.

When we joined the Episcopal Church, in 1967, congregations were using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The language was very similar to the King James' Bible, with "thee's" and "thou's" and "dost" and so on. As a 12 year-old, I thought this was the required language of prayer, and actually tried to pray in this archaic form. Reading Shakespeare still comes fairly naturally for me.  But, eventually, it occurred to me this was silly — surely God understood modern English as easily as God understood Swahili or Russian!

I was unaware of the fact that the Church itself was asking these same questions. Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters were already celebrating Mass in modern language (rather than Latin), after all. In the early 1970s, the Church produced a number of experimental services which explored modern ways of describing our relationship with God. By 1979, the Church had ratified the Book of Common Prayer still in use today.

I attended St. John's Day School through 5th and 6th grade. Each day began with mandatory Chapel Service. In liu of a sermon, Fr. Pons would read from C.S. Lewis' Narnia Series; I know I heard all of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I think I may have heard Prince Caspian as well. In any case, I fell in love with Lewis' work, which was a further introduction to the intellectual inquiry possible in the Episcopal Church.

To flash-forward a bit — in high school, I had my first sense that I was called to the priesthood. I had already had some experience as an acolyte and altar boy, and had a deep respect for the liturgics. I also had a deep sense of prayerful connection with God. Based on all this, I ran for chaplain, as I discussed in Part One. Even though I lost, I was not discouraged.

I suppose I became discouraged when no one could tell me what path to follow to be considered for the priesthood. There were other things going on at home which may have also been distracting. In any case, the summer following graduation I had no clue what to do with my life. I primarily went to college to get out of the house. I majored in English because that was my best subject in high school.

In my senior year of high school, I was introduced to the existentialist philosophers and Joseph Campbell's seminal Hero With a Thousand Faces. Both made a lot of sense to me, and I sought to explore this further in college. I took a philosophy course in existentialism, and began a self-directed study of world religions. At the same time, I didn't know about the Episcopal church's college ministry, so I got out of the church going habit.

It was in this atmosphere that I came to claim to be an atheist. My spiritual explorations did not decrease in the slightest — I was reading all sorts of religious titles by Alan Watts, Thomas Merton, and Andrew Greeley (I read his Bottom-Line Catechism long before I read any of his fiction). I was receiving a sort of spirtual instruction in the fiction I read as well: Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, and D.H. Lawrence. As I've said, references to the divine in my letters and poetry were almost more prevalent now, when I was a nominal atheist, than they had been during high school, when I called myself a Christian.

As I say, all this was self-paced and self-directed. Aside from existentialism, I did not do any formal studies in the philosophy of religion. Heck, that would have been too logical! So I'm trying to make sense of it all on my own, without a mentor. Understandably, I began fraying at the edges.

At this point, I decided I needed some structure. And I had found out about the Episcopal ministry on campus, called St. Anselm's, which had service every Wednesday and Sunday. Coincidentally, this service was followed by a meal, which was another draw. The first service I attended was on a Wednesday.

It turned out that Fr. Don did dialogue sermons on Wednesday. This evening, the question was "Why do we bother performing this ritual every week?" Every answer offered was shot down as "not good enough". This went on for about 10 minutes, at the end of which the priest said we needed to move on. But he raised the question again over dinner, and still no answer was good enough.

Well, I went home thinking, essentially, if the priest doesn't know why we bother, why should I? And I continued on my self-paced, self-directed, and fraying path for a while longer.

I think it was about 2 or 3 months later that I chose to go to a Sunday evening service, which had a traditional sermon. It felt good to practice the familiar liturgical acts of genuflecting and kneeling. It felt good to be among people who accepted a spiritual reality.

Even though I didn't have the answer to the priest's question, I continued attending services on a regular basis. I joined the Folk Mass choir, and eventually became its leader. I went on retreats with the group. I eventually officially rejoined the church (though, on the books, I had never really left).

Several years later, I was able to talk to Fr. Don about that dialogue sermon. I believed I found the answer that felt right for me. I go to church, and repeat the rituals, for me. Not for some high-minded alturistic reason, or some cooked-up theological reason. But because I needed the structure and I needed the community.

As I recall, Don said that if it worked for me, it was good enough. I've been a part of the Episcopal Church ever since.

Next: Skills Inventory

Idee, 6/09/04

Idée d’jour

Everyone wishes to have truth on his side, but not everyone wishes to be on the side of truth.
— Richard Whately, philosopher, reformer, theologian, economist (1787-1863)

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Some are anti-war. Some are anti-stem cell research. I am anti-gravity. It's been holding me down too long.

Meeting with Dean Back

Heeding the Call, Pt. II
A Meeting with the Dean
It may be helpful to begin with a note concerning Church polity, and the process one goes through to become a priest.

One approaches the priest in charge of his/her church. In the case of a Cathedral, the priest in charge is called the Dean. If the priest in charge believes the person is a good candidate, s/he writes a letter to the Bishop; the candidate goes through a series of psychological tests; a committee is established in the local church which lends moral support to the candidate; and, eventually, the candidate goes to seminary (assuming the candidate has successfully completed all the previous steps).

As some may know, the word "Cathedral" comes from the Latin for "Chair", because this building is the Bishop's official home, and is the place of his chair. As such, it makes sense that a Cathedral would have a slightly higher standard than a regular church. Further, it makes sense that there would be a stronger emphasis on orthodoxy than there might be in a parish church.

I met with the Dean last Thursday, June 3rd. He was very generous with his time, allowing a full hour for me to tell an abbreviated faith story which focused on my sense of call, followed by his reflections. While his answer was not a definitive "no", he did express some concerns which might be discouraging.

As I had anticipated, my lack of a degree was a concern. He mentioned one positive — my voice and presence — which he saw as a sort of two-edged sword. The voice and presence makes me a good candidate to lead liturgy. But he is aware that my current expression of liturgy is non-conformist.

My obliqueness reflects the Dean's. But one expression of this issue seems to be the fact that I intentionally avoid a pronoun when referring to God. Because I do have a strong voice, apparantly a lot more people hear me than I had imagined. For example, I typically say "It is right to give God thanks and praise" in the same proud voice as the majority of the congregation is saying "give HIM thanks and praise." Now, this is the last thing in the world I thought would give offense — in fact, I picked up the habit from a priest — but the Dean sees it as part of a pattern.

As I understand him, the pattern is that I'm more interested in my own ideas than the needs of the community. That, as one who is considering the priesthood, I should follow the order set down by generations. That my willingness to follow this order will reflect my willingness to be obedient within Holy Orders.

Using the pronoun issue as an example, I reflected that the resolution would be to speak (or sing) softer, to remain silent, or to use exactly the words as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. He allowed as how I understood the resolution to this particular issue. As I interpret his concern, the key will be whether I can consistently put the needs of the community ahead of my own opinion or beliefs.

That's a hard question. Before now, I did not perceive my revising small chunks of the service to fit my understanding as being a potential problem (the primary change being the pronoun). This has been so much a habit, that it may take a while for me to change. So, in regards to this one particular issue, I am striving to be conscious and obedient. I don't necessarily agree with the Dean in this matter, but that's not the point.

For the immediate time, he has challenged me to think through ways to engage areas which will help me discern where my call is. I believe I'm already doing this to some degree. I'm very involved in the planning for workshops which will take place at the state church Convention in November. I'm involved with a Benedictine group and the Taize group. I even see my involvement with "Da Band" as an avenue of exploration.

He did hold out the possibility of leading services on the Health Science Center, if I understood him correctly. I have officiated at Morning & Evening Prayer, and it seems a shame to me to license people as Lay Readers without giving them an opportunity to officiate at these services. Granted, attendance at any such service (whether at the Cathedral or on Campus) is likely to be small, but numbers aren't necessarily the point. I'd be interested in leading either (or both) of those services, so perhaps I need to explore that avenue further.

At this point, it would be easy to get discouraged & give up — which, in itself, would be telling. But I see my immediate task to be allowing our discussion to "percolate," and to strive to be obedient in terms of following the order EXACTLY as we currently practice it.

I need to honestly & humbly explore how obedient I can be to orthodoxy as well as orthopraxis. I've seen my position with both as being within the realitively broad borders of Episcopal belief. After our meeting, I'm not convinced the Dean would agree. I acknowledge that as "gatekeeper" (his term), he needs to be especially sensitive to whether a candidate is "right-thinking" and "right-acting".

I am also more acutely aware of how vulnerable I make myself in this process. I need to be especially aware of whether I am willing to reveal some darker corners as I go deeper in the process. In particular, the Dean will want to eventually explore the nature of my relationship with my former spouse (a topic I skimmed over with him, primarily because I didn't see it as integral to the story of my call), and my work pattern. I see my work pattern as a two-edged sword - on the positive, I tend to stay in jobs a long time, and am faithful in attendance; on the negative, these have not been jobs that fully engage or challenge me.

As for my marriage — there are parts of that I'm not particularly proud of. I think I can talk about them without becoming overly defensive — but still, it's a challenge.

I came into the meeting very much with the attitude that I must accept whatever the Dean had to say with grace — even if the answer was an oblique "no". I recognize that the ball is still very much in my court. That, if anyone says no, it will ultimately be me. But, I believe this can be a process through which God helps me discern my place in the church. It may be that Lay Ministry is my call — as the Dean pointed out, there is more freedom there than within Holy Orders — if so, I am called to fully honor that ministry.

I pray for guidance and discernment.
I pray for the willingness to heed the call,
the strenth to follow it,
and the endurance to walk the path
as far as it leads.

Idee, 6/08/04

Idée d’jour

A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.
— Louis Nizer, lawyer (1902-1994)

Monday, June 07, 2004

Heeding the Call

Heeding the Call, I

Today, as I write this, I am a layperson. I have been a member of the Episcopal Church since c. 1966-67. I was confirmed in 1968. I've been taught that the rite of baptism ordains all of us into "the eternal priethood of Christ," but I am not a member of the ordained clergy.

The first inkling of a call came in high school. My response, at the time, was two-fold: I ran for chaplain, and asked the guidance counselor about an appropriate college program. I was not elected, and the guidance counselor had no ideas. PCW was, after all, primarily a Southern Baptist school, and the idea of someone becoming a priest must have been quite foreign to them.

It would be natural to ask why I did not seek out the priest at my church. Unfortunately, at that time Padre & I were attending a mission church which did not have a regular priest. If I approached Padre at all, he probably suggested the school's guidance counselor.

I became discouraged, and put the notion on the back burner. In fact, as I attended college, I lost my connection to the Church. By my second year, I was self-identifying as an atheist. I don't suppose the discouragement had much to do with this; I think my questioning & questing had more to do with normal early college rebellion and so on.

The interesting thing about this period is the fact that my spiritual hunger did not decrease in the slightest. I studied existentialism. I read Joseph Campbell, and began a self-directed study of world religion through his work. I read extensively into zen (especially Allan Watts), and other Eastern traditions. I read Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels, which was serialized in the New York Review of Books around this time. My letters and poetry were more filled with "God talk" than ever before.

I returned to the church a little less than a decade later. I'll tell more of this story later, but for now I want to focus on the issue of a "call". Once I rejoined the church, I became very involved: first as the leader of a folk choir. Then, as a member of the local church board (about 9 years); later, as member of the state church board (6 years). It wasn't long before people were asking again whether I had considered joining the priesthood.

Naturally, I've approached the priests at the last two churches I have attended concerning this question. Neither seemed to think I was ready; I can only make some conjectures as to why. In my more depressed moments, I think I may have missed my chance.

Why do I say that? Because I do not have a Bachelor's Degree. Becoming a priest requires going to seminary, which is a sort of Master's program, which requires a Bachelor's. Somedays, I'm afraid it's too late to work for that Bachelor's. Other days, I think all I have to do is believe in myself and dedicate myself to the proposition.

"Believing in myself" is the real challenge. I've screwed up and disappointed myself so often, I have a real fear of doing it again.

Perhaps, you would paraphrase the line from scripture — "Man, minister to yourself!"
Next: My meeting with the Dean

All Hail, William Blake!

Jilly, at the Poetry Hut, led me to this article about William Blake.

Primarily, the article is promoting the admirable work of the on-line William Blake Archive. This on-line resource has been collecting all available versions of Blake's Illuminated works, and is making them available through the internet. I've found this to be a valuable resource, and have linked to it in my occasional meditations on the "Proverbs of Hell."

The article also discusses the possibility that Blake was clinically insane. Many people have thought so, because he spoke openly of having prophetic visions. One of the people quoted in the linked article opines that Blake was schizophrenic.

Well, if he was, he was fairly high-functioning. The last biography of Blake I read suggested he was resolutely non-conformist and iconoclastic to the end, but perfectly capable of discerning the difference between mundane reality and his visions.

I admire Blake's early works — Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Songs of Innocence and Experience — more than his later prophetic works. It's been over a decade since I tried to read his epic poem Milton. Just the memory gives me a headache.

As the article notes, he resolutely forged his path in terms of religion, politics, and poetics. I suppose this is one reason I admire him so much. Considering the crushing poverty he lived under for most of his life, it must have taken great strength of character to believe in himself, and his visions.

Every day, I ask myself whether I have that strength of character. Every day, I wonder whether it's too late to define and seize my destiny.

Idee 6/07/04

Idée d’jour

If you came and you found a strange man ... teaching your kids to punch each other, or trying to sell them all kinds of products, you'd kick him right out of the house, but here you are; you come in and the TV is on, and you don't think twice about it.
— Jerome Singer

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Idee, 6/06/04

Idée d’jour

Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.
—William Strunk and E.B. White, authors of The Elements of Style
Obviously, advice I have not heeded.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Try Not to Think About:

  • Purple elephants wearing jalepeno lounge pants
  • The innocence of dancing aubergines
  • Moses doing the incredible rope trick
  • Violets on steamy summer mornings
  • Tiny birds darting among milkweed
  • Water wings resting on the moon
  • The hand, the heart, the shadow

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Idée d’jour

Hope is believing in spite of the evidence and working actively to change the evidence.
— Michael Toms, host of New Dimensions

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Soon to Be Published

Josh Corey is currently working on a chapbook which collects all the "Aubergine" poems. As you'll see at the linked entry, my "In Defense of Aubergine" will be included. This is, like, my 2nd or 3rd national publication.

I'm quite chuffed, as our British friends would say.


Driving south on Western,
I passed Padre on his motorcycle.
He's been dead for over ten years,
yet there he was. Under the face-shield
of his white motor-cycle helmet
I could see the familiar expression,
the calm serious eyes behind
the favored wire-frame glasses,
the clean-cropped beard.
He was driving north, I was driving south.
Our faces mirrored each other in passing.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

  1. Lover:: Demon
  2. Ridiculous:: Price
  3. Oscar:: the Grouch
  4. Tennis:: elbow
  5. Account Balance:: red
  6. Hickey:: passion
  7. License:: poetic
  8. Breathmints:: fresh
  9. TexMex:: diner
  10. Stepmother:: Wanda

From Kari

From Argentina
Elsie forwarded the following letter from "Kari", an Agentinian student who stayed with Elsie a few years ago. This letter gives some perspective on how others view our nation and its leaders.

Its so sad what its going on in Irak, and it's also sad what the soldiers do to the prisioners.

Most of the people in Argentina is no agree with what is USA doing (when u live in another country its not only about what is doing Bush Jr. or Blair but its about what the [whole] country does, so that its why I say USA). Even if we read the polls, nobady thinks: "well the half of the american is not agree." From the begining we knew that it was all about the petrol oil, and also about the unfinish war that Bush Father had with Saddam H.

It is too bad, that many people around the world think the worst of USA and if USA falls that will be better. I think that it will take years for people around the world to have a good opinion of USA and probably more terrorist attacks u will have cause of the anger that this is causing, we hope that this will no happend of course.

I'm so lucky to know the great and good people that u are, but not everyone can see that, not if they didn't live in the USA for at least more than a month. I get so mad when someone that when to the USA for holidays say something bad about the Americans, I just say, do u think that because u went to the USA FOR 15 DAYS u are gonna know how americans really are?? You may be stupit if u think that!!! and I laugh!

But u know when something like what is going on in Irak happend its too hard to make them understand that not everyone is like Bush, people think that its to have more and more power, there is much more going on in the USA than that, but trust me that it's hard to make their minds. A good book to read its "The Paradox of the US" by Robert Kennedy. He talks about the hard and Soft power of the US, how important its for the future of your country.

In Argentina we also have problems with the price of the oil, it gets higher and higher. Here a gallon cost about USD 4, last week there were a lot of protests about the price and it we will be having problems because it goes get higher. Its so funny and ridiculous that we have our own petrol and there left is only one Argentina company who works with the petrol, the other one are from other country, but what its more funny it that we buy petrol from this companies and its the petrol that they get from our soil!!! That is what Argentina in [presume] its about!!! Good god, how stupids.. or how corrups its the goverment!! to be realistic.

From Karina X