Monday, October 31, 2005

Hallowe'en Me'me

  1. Favorite Halloween Candy
    Mmm...chocolate. Anything chocolate.

  2. Least Favorite Halloween Candy
    Candy corn. However, since Peeps now has a Hallowe'en line, I may have to reassess that opinion.

  3. Best Costume Ever
    "Cereal" killer. I used poster board to create a cereal box. The back of the box had a cartoon of cereal coming out of a bowl and killing someone — it even had a little homage to "Psycho".
    Surely a few of you remember when the back of cereal boxes had nine-panel cartoons on them?

  4. Worst Costume Ever
    The idea was good, the execution not so much. I dressed as a "Lounge Lizard". I bought this makeup which was supposed to crack and make your skin look scaly, like a lizard's, but it didn't work. I looked more like a zombie, or someone who was sick.

    I wore a tux, and carried a microphone around. Now and again, I would do a variation on Bill Murray's lounge singer act. "Hey, babe! How's the steak?"

  5. A Saint you treasure (please feel free to use the definition of "Saint" that is meaningful to you and to your faith tradition and life experience)

  6. (a) Saint Francis; (b) Grandmother Kathleen, who was essentially my primary care giver in childhood.
Bonus: What am I dressed as this year?
My work-day costume is not likely to be recognized. I am dressed as Steven Keaton, the character played by Michael Gross on the 1980s sit-com "Family Ties". If I had a dollar for every time I was told I look like him, I could drive to California and audition to be his stand-in. My costume, aside from the supposed resemblance, consists of a sweater vest.

Autumn Scene

Moon's smile in the south-east
Cardinal stands in the ash pile
North wind mortar fire

Friday, October 28, 2005

Cat Friday

DJ silhouette

This shot was taken under available light. I've replaced the background with one of the colors from the Lady's eyes. I think it makes for a nice contrast.

Idée d’jour

That which has been successfully defined has been successfully killed.
— Christmas Huphreys (Zen Calendar, Workman Press, © 2005)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Idée d'jour

You cannot talk to a power politician
As if he were a wise man.
If he seeks to understand you,
If he looks inside himself
To find the truth you have told him,
He cannot find it there.
Not finding, he doubts.
When a man doubts,
He will kill.
— Chuang Tzu (c. 3 BCE) as rendered by Thomas Merton
[The Way of Chuang Tzu, New Directions, © 1965]

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Lost October

Her heart like mercury on Oklahoma's barren shores
Her midnight hair clouds the forgotten morning
Her clay-foot cake walk across broken asphalt

Uncle John and Aunt Jo knew her youth
They tended her spider webs and
fed her intimate serpents

She has no opera sunglasses
She has no late tea cups
She has no patchwork dreams

Table cloth draped to the floor
Shadow fortress for afternoon tea
She hears the bees whisper

She finds her form in volcanic ash
She finds her voice in whirling winds
She finds her hands in the furnace

Her father is a giant, he drives the train
He carries her from station to station,
a talisman in his pocket

She tastes like vinegar
She haunts the feline alleys
Her shadow slithers from the past
Think there may be more to come. "Lost October" is a working title – a place holder, if you will.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Piles of Paper

I sit at this desk I have had since I was a teenager. I've jerry-rigged it for use as a computer desk by pulling out the main drawer and balancing the keyboard it, and setting the mouse on a manuscript book which is then atop an opened side drawer.

I'll never forget the day I panicked, thinking I had misplaced that manuscript book. I had forgotten that it was the foundation for my mouse pad.  

The desk is cluttered. It would take an evening to catalogue all the stuff collected here, and to tell the tale of why I keep it all.

Atop one pile at the right-hand corner is a "Christian Pocket Diary" for 2005 and a Moleskine mini-journal. The latter is empty, the former is mostly empty.  

There are islands of spiral-bound notebooks scattered through-out the room, some filled. Most not.  

What an amazing pile of paper.  

I do have one full “thesis” book, begun in my first year of college (1976-77). It really is a “common-place book”, as it has quotes and poems from a number of quarters, along with original writing and journal entries. For example, somewhere in the middle is a page of quotes ending with one from Elizabeth Hardwick (as memory serves): “Oh, yes!” Elsewhere is one of my darker short stories, titled “The Funeral”.  

In many ways, that thesis book was a precursor of this space, where I try out drafts of poems and vignettes. On dry days, I simply copy from my Zen Calendar or a quote “borrowed” from Word a Day.  

I have another “thesis” book which has 101 out of 124 pages filled. Almost a third of this book collects essays written for a church newsletter in the mid to late 80s.

This may seem excessive, or wasteful. Am I collecting notebooks (etc) as some collect coins or baseball cards?

Many of the spiral notebooks were remainders or strays obtained when I worked at the Infernal Bookstore ages ago. No out-of-pocket expense there. Other notebooks and blank books have been bought on a whim, or because I liked the cover.

Sometime back I read that one way to break writer's block was to buy yourself a new tool to honor the craft – primarily a writing instrument or something to write on. The Moleskine mini-journals (three 30-page journals to a pack for $6) were bought for that reason. I even thought, at the time, that I might use all three at once – for separate concerns/obsessions.

I bought my first Moleskine Journal after reading the Real Live Preacher's entry about his. There may have been a bit of magical thinking present here: in other words, the misty-eyed belief that buying the same tool that he uses would help me write as well as he does.

There's a certain satisfaction to typing my thoughts as I go along, rather than going from pen to page, from notebook to screen. More recent poems have been written this way than I care to admit. I'll confess that many poems that I think work the best started on the page. But some, even a long poem like “Grandmother's House”, have started on the screen and drafts get worked out on-screen as well. The recently published "Year of the Flood" was also written on-screen.

Don't know what marks that difference. No doubt would make an interesting neurological study. I would suppose there is a study, by now, which compares what parts of the brain are active when writing with pen in hand against what parts are used when composing at the keyboard.

The best I know to do is to “follow the muse”. Occasionally, I just feel a need to feel my fingers grip the pen. My experience with the Moleskine has taught me the pleasure of writing on high-quality paper, which adds a unique aesthetic to the process. Sometimes I even like the tactile sensation of spreading graphite on the page when I write with a pencil. Sometimes I like the feel of the keys and the subtle click-clack sound they make.

I've learned to trust my instincts in these matters.

How'm I doing so far?

Idée d'jour

I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.
— Robert Frost, poet (1874-1963)

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Iraqi Constitution

I've been doing some research on the status of the Iraqi Constitution. Considering the fact the election was essentially non-violent, and initial reports estimated that 76% of those voting had approved the constitution, I expected the Administration to be trumpeting a mighty success.

According to this Forbes article, two provinces have rejected the Constitution. According to election rules, if one more province rejects the Constitution, it will have failed.

According to the New York Times, the vote has been divided along sectarian lines. About 9.8 million voters, or 68% of those eligible, participated in the election, which is somewhat better than the 58% who participated in the January elections for the transitional government. I don't have our own election figures memorized, but I would guess this level of participation is better than the average American election participation.

All things considered, however, it may be too soon to claim the vote was successful. It's quite likely the Administration won't consider the election an unqualified success if the Constitution fails to pass.

So. Let's play a little game of "What IF?"

Will the passage of a constitution validate America's invasion of Iraq?

The passage of a constitution does not necessarily mean the resulting government will succeed. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that it may take as long as 10 years for a stable government to be established.

So, beyond the ratification of a Constitution, it's simply too early to tell whether the B*sh experiment in nation re-creation will be successful.

But even if the Constitution is ratified, and Iraq becomes a Middle Eastern democracy to rival Israel, that still won't justify the invasion. The best one could say is that a good end came from a bad beginning.

Remember, the rational for invading Iraq was primarily to pre-emptively strike again Saddam before he struck us. Evidence was presented which claimed Saddam was rebuilding his chemical warfare program, and was seeking to build nuclear weapons as well.

Many charts and graphs, and aerial maps with circles and arrows were presented to prove these claims. Images of mushroom clouds over New York City and Washington, DC were described.

Recent, U.S. army inspectors made it official: Saddam had no chemical warfare program. There was not an iota of evidence which confirmed he was even seeking fissible material.

At best, the "evidence" we heard in late 2002 was highly inflated. At worst, it was a pack of carefully orchestrated lies.

Is it possible for a positive outcome to come from this negative beginning? Put another way: does a negative beginning necessarily lead to a negative end?

Keep in mind that the negative beginning involved more than faulty intelligence. It also involved poor military planning. Sure, Allied forces - such as they were - defeated Hussein's army quickly enough. But the borders were not secured. Munitions depots were left unguarded. Many basic services still have not been restored (especially in remote areas).

I suspect that, given all these bad beginnings, things are likely to have a bad end. Every month that American troops remain in Iraq adds to the feeling that Americans are an occupying army, which will fuel resentment and dissatisfaction. The sectarian differerences noted in the Times article could well be the seeds of a civil war.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Unfaithfully Yours

I married Katy
in the year of '01
She was a lady
and we had our fun
But my heart it wandered
on romantic detours
Still I remain
Unfaithfully Yours

I lived with Nancy
for three months or more
Our house wasn't fancy
we slept on the floor
But my eyes they wandered
like lustful voyeurs
Still I remain
Unfaithfully Yours.

I loved a waitress
who didn't love me
I loved a dancer
who soon set me free
For my heart is hungry
and always wants more
So I remain
Unfaithfully Yours
I finished this song lyric about three weeks ago. It began on Sept. 13th, when I heard the titular phrase in a movie. I hasten to add that the song is not autobiographical, unless "lusting in the heart" counts. The tune hovers somewhere between "Satisfied Mind" and "Tramp on the Street".

I'm plotting a method to record some songs in MP3 format, so you guys can hear them. If I'm successful, this may be one of the first I record.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Publication Noted

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Tom Montag accepted my poem "The Year of the Flood" for his "Saturday Poem" series. The theme of the series is "Poems of Place". I thought "Flood" qualified, and Mr. Montag happily agreed. You can see it in place here.

There's also an "illustrated" version of the poem here.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cat Friday

The lady begins her minstrations. The shot was taken under natural light last Saturday afternoon. She doesn't mind modeling, so long as camera flashes are not involved.

The lady is apparantly living on Standard Time: she set herself on my bladder at about 4:30 this morning. She has learned, it seems, that propping herself at that specific space gets results. The fact that she's purring rather forcefully adds to the effect.

When she wakes me in this fashion, which is most mornings, she does receive attention. No, I don't throw her across the room. I pet her. Eventually, the bladder wins; but until it does, I enjoy petting her.

What Noise

What noise at the door?
A ghost only,
a shadow of the Hunter's Moon.

What did the cricket say?
Spoke only of wheat,
barley & grass.

How spoke the shadow?
With harvest of asphalt
and oil on the water.

Who remembers?
Fat Charley and his brother,
living by the river.

Who dances with Orion?
The owl, the mouse,
the barren rabbit warren.

What noise?
The wind, my love,
it's only the wind.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Soon to Be Published

One of my poems has been accepted for web-publication! This counts as my second publication on a web-site other than my own. Just got an e-mail from Tom saying he was going to publish one of my poems as part of his "Saturday Poems" series. It will be published this Saturday, Oct. 22.

My only previous publication was in the Winter 2004 issue of Poetry Bay. The fact that George Wallace, then Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, NY, would accept my poem for publication was quite a thrill, and got me to writing more poetry again.

Tom Montag is also a published poet. So his acceptance of "The Year of the Flood" is also quite thrilling. I think anytime your work is accepted for publication, whether paper or electronic, it says something about the quality of your work.

Not sure how I learned of Tom's series. Maybe through Natalie's Site, or maybe one of the dozen or so poetry sites I glide through in a month.

Of course, to paraphrase Jon, I may have just caught Tom on an off-day. A week from now, he might have e-mailed to say the poem wasn't suitable for the "Saturday Poem" feature at this time.

But he didn't say that. He's going to "publish" it.

Pats on the back gratefully acknowledged.

Idée d'jour

The fundamental delusion of reality is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.
— Yasutani

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Idée d'jour

God, whose love and joy are everywhere, can't come to visit unless you aren't there.
— Angelus Silesius

Alter Angel

The leaden angel
descended from Mercury.
Her heart was an intimate furnace.

In one hand, silver arrows;
in the other,
withered olive branches.

Her words were writ
on cadmium tablets.
Each letter was acid etched.

Who spilled the blood
on desert sands?
Who swept the ocean
across the small city bowl?

Who dances and kills,
then smiles for the camera?
Who tears the bodies from their homes
and tears the limbs from the bodies?

Her face is set.
Her heart is a consuming fire.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Idée d'jour

Don't judge men's wealth or godliness by their Sunday appearance.
— Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)

Along similar lines, I recommend "Don't Go to Church", in which "Mr Preacher" makes a persuasive argument that our focus should not be GOING to church, but BEING the church.

Tenth Street Excercise

You with the four-square name
You with your hands in your pockets
and your head in the clouds
You with the empty promises

and the vile idle threats
You with the unfinished novel
You with the blank stare
in the evening
and the gaping mouth
in the dawn
Your heart is small as a black hole
Your black bird eyes are empty mirrors
Your oreo mania
Your hammered jello
Your seagull heartache
Your infinite inertia

You with the iron in your liver
and the mercury under your fingernails —
I don't recall your name

Monday, October 17, 2005


This entry was suggested by Reverend Mother. Apparantly, these questions are traditionally asked at the end of the program "Inside the Actor's Studio".
  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on, creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
    1. New directions
    2. Silence
    3. Friends
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
    F*ck. Rarely used, but frequently repeated when it is.
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
    Alarm clock
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
    Garbageman, or politician (And the difference is....?)
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
    Welcome home!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Dog Day Friday

Her ladyship was not interested in posing this week, and gave me permission to post a picture of an alternate species.

This handsome pooch is lounging at a store somewhere in southern Colorado. The picture comes by way of a co-worker who just returned from a visit.

Koan d'jour

A clearly enlightened person falls in the well. How is this so?
(from Workman Press' Zen Calendar, © 2005)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Idée d’jour

Jump into salvation while you are alive. What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.
— Kabir

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Robertson Supports Miers Nomination

Pat Robertson, assasin for hire, has spoken out in favor of the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Which is just one more reason, in an exceedingly lost list, to oppose the nomination.

However, I'll admit that I was among those whose first thought was, "Well, it could be a lot worse." And one positive thing about the nomination is how it has divided the ranks among conservatives and Republicans.

I'm in favor of anything that decreases their power.

But it's clear, from the number of Christian evangelicals who have supported Ms. Miers, that the sole reason she's been nominated to the court is to overturn Roe v. Wade. Which is a form of judicial activism I oppose.

I would join our conservative friends in asking for someone better. I just don't have any faith that the next person on the list will be any more palatable than Ms. Miers.


Yesterday was one of those rotten no-good days
when one darn thing follows another.
It began with a sinus headache.
I suppose the headache may have been a contributing factor
to all that followed.
But, it began with the sinus headache.
Of course, I took the drug cocktail that seems to help -
pseudoephedrine, (generic) claritin, ibuprofen -
that got the pain down to where I could walk straight.
As I was brushing my teeth, I noticed there was a stain on my shirt.
Right over the hollow of my right shoulder, a stain.
So I changed my shirt.
I was in a hurry, because I wanted to stop by the post office and then vote
before I went to work.
After I had rolled the car out of the garage,
I realized I'd forgotten my glasses.
I need those glasses to drive,
and need them even more to work.
I switched off the car, went inside, and got my glasses.
Post office and voting transpired without incident.
But then I had to wait for a train.
The train that runs north and south
a block east of Broadway,
and about three blocks west
of the parking garage.
Aside from wishing I could unscrew the top of my skull
(like Steve Martin in that movie),
the morning proceeded without incident
until about 10:00
when I realized
I had forgotten my watch.
Which is only an issue at lunch,
because there are no clocks
at the cafeteria where I eat.
The day was busy, which was good,
because it encouraged me to focus
on the tasks at hand
rather than my physical discomfort.
Got home.
I thought the meeting was at 7,
which meant I only had about an hour
to do everything I wanted to do.
Naturally, my elderly neighbor called
and needed help with his fancy phone.
That took about 20 minutes.
And I chose to write bills
and balance the check book
and print out the prayer I would say at the meeting.
I scarfed down a Healthy Choice entree for dinner.
Then I chose to stop by the post office (again!)
on the way to the meeting.
Rushing, rushing, rushing.
The meeting actually started at 7:30.
Happily, the meeting ended around 9:30.
I got home safely.
My headache is better today,
thanks for asking.

Tao d’jour

I have just three things to teach:
Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
— Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Prayer Before Vestry

Those of you with long memories may remember that I am a member of the church board (called a vestry in the Episcopal Church). Different lay members are asked to say a prior before each meeting. Tonight is my turn. Naturally, I had to write a draft in advance.
Blessed are you, Lord God, Ruler of the Universe.
Blessed are you, Giver of Light and Life.
We give thanks for the opportunity to gather in Your Name.
Grant your indwelling Spirit so inspire our hands, hearts, and minds
that we may be focused on achieving your will in all things.
We especially seek your direction
as we consider the finances of this community.
We also ask that each of us gathered at this table,
as well as each member of our community,
honestly consider Your gifts freely given,
and how we may best employ those gifts
for the growth and strengthening of your Kingdom.
This we ask in your Holy Name.

Haiku d’jour

An autumn evening;
It is no light thing
To be born [human].
— Issa

Idée d’jour

You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.
— H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Cat Friday

Lady in the linen closet
We were unsuccessful in capturing the ideal shot last night. Happily, the lady obliged by climbing into the linen closet this morning and striking the poses recorded herein.

By the way, those are my towels the lady has appointed as her special bed.

DJ is doing her part to help me keep depression at bay by persistently meowing until I get out of my chair and start playing with her. Mighty thoughty of her, don't you agree?

We've got a new game similar to bowling. It involves paper sacks and one of two balls. We're still working out the rules.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Canoe

The water is rising.
The tide raises the boats.
The levees weep.

The water is walking -
a pillar by day,
a column by night.

The pillar grows stronger,
feeds on the water.
It moves the pleasure palace.

The levees weep. The bird
flies over the flood.
Listen to the mockingbird.

Lines in the water,
voices floating on the water.
The water is walking.

The tide raises the boats,
but not the canoe.
The flood overwhelms the canoe.

The water is rising. The
bird flies above the water.
Listen to the mockingbird.

Idée d’jour

I don't necessarily agree with everything I say.
— Marshall McLuhan
McLuhan also famously said, "The medium is the massage." Meaning, as I recall, that different types of media massage human intelligence in different ways.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Holy the Quotidian

You have to go right into life and find your spirituality on a cross-town bus at rush hour, when it's raining and you have a stomachache.
Peter Himmelman, quoted in the November 2005 issue of Acoustic Guitarist Magazine [(16)5; 155: 38]
There's something about mountaintops. Those of us in the "Judeo-Christian" tradition are familiar with Mt Ararat, where the ark landed, and the mountain where Moses received the commandments, and the mountain where Jesus stood with Moses and Elijah. From these and other similar events, we have coined the term "mountain-top experience". Plains Indians, much like the desert dwellers of ancient Palestine, also revered high geographical places.

There is also something about valleys. The psalmist speaks of the "Valley of Death", of course. Ezekiel has a vision of the rebirth of Israel in the valley of dry bones.

The Celtic tradition speaks of Thin Places, in which one may be aware of the meeting of heaven and earth. One well-known thin place, the isle of Iona, is a craggy high place. It is "beyond the beyond", as they say. It's not a warm fuzzy Disneyland experience one will find at a Thin Place. Indeed, it may be profoundly UNcomfortable. Confronting the eternal often is.

Nietsche said that when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you. I think this is another way of saying that Thin Places not only put you in touch with the eternal; Thin Places also cause you to confront your real self, without any masks or self-deception. That's what can make a Thin Place so uncomfortable.

Mountains and valleys are also terms we often use for high and low experiences in our lives. At one extreme is the mountain-top experience of a new birth; at the other, the valley experience of the death of someone you love. These are times when one is more vulnerable to the eternal, or divine.

When we go on pilgrimage, when we go to the Thin Place, or the lonely place apart, we also make ourselves vulnerable. In one instance, we choose to become vulnerable; in the other, we may become vulnerable due to external circumstance.

But what about the in-between times? The normal times? The quotidian dailyness of "Ordinary Time"?

In a sense, finding the eternal at the margins, the extremes of life, is easy. The challenge is finding the divine in the every day.

There are a few people venerated for finding the divine in the ordinary. Teresa of Lisieux, the "Little Flower", is one. Brother Lawrence, who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God, is another.

This is the time of year the Roman Catholic Church calls "Ordinary Time". There are the High Holy times, of course, of Christmas and Easter. By designating this period between those great mountain tops as "Ordinary Time", the church recognizes that Ordinary Time is also Holy.

That's the challenge, then. Find the holy in this Ordinary Time. Find the holy in rushing for the bus, or when you have a sinus headache, or when you're feeling tetchy with your spouse (or significant other). Find the holy when you're angry. Find the holy when your job is a drag, and it's a challenge to start the car to drive to the commuter lot.

Seeking the holy in the Thin Places is easy. But you can become vulnerable to the divine right now. You can seek the holy even in the computer screen or the keys at your fingers. Indeeed, you can find the holy even at your very fingertips.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Idée d’jour

Can we wash each cup or bowl as if we were bathing a newborn baby Buddha?
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, October 03, 2005

Idée d’jour

Eternity is not something that begins after you are dead. It is going on all the time. We are in it now.
— Charlotte Perkins Gilman (author of The Yellow Wallpaper)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Idée d’jour

Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
— William Saroyan