Friday, November 21, 2014


I’ll Take You There

Behind the mad house, past barns and farms, into the woods where a brook gurgles over cabochons, we escape, wading in barefoot.  Sun glints off water sleeves, illuminating our scars.  I take your small hand.  You suck a deep breath.  “Don’t look back,” I say.  The open field on the other side stares at us like the great eye of a bank safe whose combination only we know.   


Panic my heart
like acid rain
searing holes through me.
Then at least feel my flesh,
how hard it’s gotten,
chilled like a tombstone.
It’s absurd, really,
how much
I miss you.

These Are the Times That Call For Murder

At the party there are plate-throwers in your eyes.  You’ve donned Obsession and wear a red dress. 
You never wear red.
 I watch you waltz between all those hairy-handed men with their lip-balmed bangs.  They stink of nicotine and cinnamon Altoids but you don’t bother, you only curtsy and giggle.
You never giggle.
 I get sick in my napkin, stringy yellow stuff like a contaminated egg, and I can’t help but think,
that these are the times that call for murder.
 The guy you leave with looks like my Uncle Phil. He and Phil both have hatchet-shaped sideburns and hands the size of catcher mitts.  This guy puts his palm against the small of your back where my hot breath has loitered in past years.  Over his shoulder, he winks at a barman.  This is the part where I storm across the room and beat him bloody so that you can see how strong I’ve gotten without you, but the truth is I’m kind of tipsy and it’s later than I thought.  Besides, every movie has to end eventually, even shitty ones like this.

You Know I Know

The man in the window
is make believe.
The wounds you have are self-inflected.
The love you are trying to withhold
was never yours to give.

                                                Rage Against
In the mornings I run miles before the others wake, while the sun is just bending over to tie it’s laces, the air thick like freezer air, and there is always this muzzled dog that greets me on mile seven, tearing up ground and grass and gravel, batting the diamonds of a sagging cyclone fence with his leather-gagged snout, hot snot slickening the metal.  I wonder what the owner has done to make him so angry, ropy with wrath.  When I look back the animal has a new trick, pawing a path below the fence.  Muzzle or not, he’s going to get his vengeance on.

When I hear of my wife kissing another man and confront her, she says, “Tsk tsk.  You need to appreciate the distinction between art and life.”
“But you’re not an actress,” I say.
To wit she asks, “How can you be so sure?”

She says we should try role play.  She purchases items and outfits.  She diagrams scenes on oversized note cards.  She adds stick figure drawings with different poses and the golf ball heads making unusual facial expressions, their twig limbs gesturing to whatever it is the other is up to.  She rehearses each scene, saying the lines to herself, a bit thrilled and overjoyed with herself.
When it comes time to put in practice, to test the waters, she yawns wide as a lion.  “I was only joking,” she says.  Then, “You sure are gullible.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


…Happy Wednesday.
I feel the best I’ve felt in a long, long time.  I don’t know why, but I do.  How about you?

…The world can be a pretty messed up place.  Here are some intriguing things I found in the news that might be of interest:

-Ten officials of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party have been executed for charges including watching foreign soap operas, South Korea’s intelligence agency revealed Wednesday, bringing the total of senior members killed this year to 50.
The National Intelligence Service says the officials were executed by firing squad for watching South Korean soap operas, engaging in bribes, or womanizing, The Telegraph reports.
The officials killed reportedly are close to Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, who was arrested in December and executed for committing crimes against the state.

-Islamic State group extremists lined up and shot dead at least 50 tribesmen and women in Iraq's Anbar province, officials said Saturday, the latest mass killing committed by the group.
Militants accused the men and women of the Al Bu Nimr tribe of retaliating against them after being displaced from their homes when the group seized the Anbar town of Hit last month, al-Issawi said.
On Thursday, authorities found the bodies of 48 Sunni tribesmen killed by the Islamic State group in Anbar.

-A court in Cairo has sentenced eight men to three years in prison for appearing in a video allegedly taken during a gay wedding on a boat.
The video shows two men kissing and exchanging rings on a Nile boat as their friends cheer, the reported. The video became a YouTube sensation after being posted online in September.
For their alleged appearance in the clip, eight men were arrested and sentenced to three years in prison. Egypt's top prosecutor has branded the clip as 'shameful to God'.

-An Oregon mother who had a breakdown while caring for her autistic son and ailing husband allegedly threw the 6-year-old off a bridge and then called police to tell them, authorities and relatives said Tuesday.
Jillian Meredith McCabe, 34, of Seal Rock, Oregon, was arrested for the murder of her son London, police said. Authorities discovered the boy's body in the waters of Oregon's Yaquina Bay hours after McCabe called 911 late Monday.
In the past, McCabe had spoken and written of "pulling a Thelma and Louise" — a reference to the movie in which two women drive their car off a cliff — as a response to the stresses of her life.

Monday, November 17, 2014


                                                          Facts about the Moon

He wanted to tell me facts about the moon.   When I didn’t have time, he wrote them down for me on sky blue construction paper using chalk and diagramming solar systems that had once looked familiar but now seemed bizarre, like a picture of one’s self in the distant future when they are saggy-skinned and brown-spotted.
We were young then, my boy and I, though it didn’t feel that way at the time.  Still, now I remember once we ate bananas and stuffed our gums with large chunks of the fruit and something got into me because I made shrieking monkey sounds and scratched my arm pits and hopped all over the couch dancing.  My boy, my boy he laughed so hard he almost choked to death.  When he finally caught his breath, he said, “That would have been a fun way to go,” and I think he meant it.
Tonight when I pulled into our development and saw the long limos and the strapless gowned teens with their wrist corsages and spearmint smiles I wondered what he might have looked like wearing a tux, a rash of acne on his cheek, nervous as all hell but handsome I bet.  She’d have been blonde like Mary, sweet yet sassy, too.  And I would have liked her.
Now I’ve got a drink in my hand and I keep studying my son’s galaxy picture.  There are spindly stars, rockets and oval planets, but the moon dominates.  Luna is a warbled jawbreaker hovering in space, yet drawn with curved edges so that it appears to be spinning right out of its own orbit, its trapped dimension.  I don’t know what any of it means.  I should have asked when I had the chance.
Right as I’m folding the paper up, I notice on the back side something he’s written in pencil at the base, the font a nine year old’s unsteady scrawl.  The lead is faint and smeared.  I hold it up close enough that I can smell the dusty wheat smell.  “Facts about the Moon,” it says.  “Fact One: even when you’re not aware of it, the moon is always there, waiting for you to look up over your head and notice it.”
That’s all it says.
I get up and walk to the window, draw back one of the blinds.  It’s been clear all week but now the night is so stuffed with clouds that nothing else is visible.  I stand like that, looking, waiting for the light to break through, not worried about how long it will take, just waiting.

Friday, November 14, 2014


…Apparently there are quite lot of people who have estranged relationships with their siblings.  After I made the Facebook post below, I must have received over 100 messages saying how they could relate because of having a similar situation.
My brother passed away last night.  You could say we were estranged, as he was with most of the family.  All this recent death makes me ponder what was, what wasn’t, what could have been.  When my brother was young he was very handsome, kind of looked like the cousin of Ricky Nelson, brash and full of promise.  For a brief period, he and a few of my other brothers (I have seven) formed a makeshift band.  One of the songs they played was “Windy”, because my brother Darold, who died last night, had a crush on a neighbor named Wendy.  So here’s a little tribute:

…But I promised no more sad stuff.

“Because I've always felt, whether the fatwa or whatever, the writer's great weapon is the truth and integrity of his voice. And as long as what you're saying is what you truly, honestly believe to be the
case, then whatever the consequences, that's fine. That's an honorable position.”-- Salman Rushdie
“It's time to start living the life you've imagined.”  Henry James
“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it's not
going to go away.”  Elvis Presley
“You are not happy because you are well.  You are well because you are happy.   You are not depressed because trouble has come to you, but trouble has come to you because you are depressed. You can change your thoughts and feelings, and then the outer things will come to correspond, and indeed there is no other way of working. “-- Emmet Fox
“I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, then a sleepy and permanent planet.... I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”Jack London
 "I do think so much of what writers wrestle with is our demons and our fears, and the dream world is dark, and it's not always painful, but it's mysterious." Andre Dubus III
“You can find on the outside only what you possess on the inside.” Adolfo Montiel Ballesteros
"If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week." Charles Darwin
“Waste your money and you're only out of money, but waste your time and you've lost part of your life.
- Michael Leboeuf
“This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.”  Gary Lew
“In criticism, I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me.”  Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


…Would you permit me to linger and wallow a bit longer? 
I’m almost done.

…I haven’t written anything in quite some time.  I’ve been going through this weird period.  My brother died tonight.  We were very estranged, as he was with every family member.  My father died last week, and in having to be the executor of the will and trust, it’s required a fair amount of communication with my siblings, many of whom I rarely talk to.  And thus, things are dredged up in various ways…

…I had my writer’s group last night, and a meeting beforehand.  A friend said I should set aside some time to write.  I said, “I will.  I promise.  But I think I’ll write some poetry.”  To which he said something such as, “That’s great.  Poetry allows you to escape.”
Here’s where I escaped to:

Burying Our Parents

It’s a surprise.
The old scars are milk blue,
rising anew,
swelling and smelling of Tareyton cigarettes and candy corn,
a heady mix of Christmas and Halloween,
one event which was so often hell,
the other a lucky feast for kids far
poorer than migrants.
The death of witches and warlocks--
who just happen to be mothers and fathers--
should elicit elation,
but now it’s only welts and belt marks that appear
under our lids,
shaped like crippled starfish
dying in the sun.
As we stand around the casket,
together again after all these years,
nothing more than a band of misplaced misfits,
there are no corsages placed atop the coffin,
no tears either,
sadness and joy scrubbed away by the coarsest steel wool
or sharpest knuckles,
nothing to feel at all
but that nostalgic dread of anticipation
and the insistent trembling of oncoming doom,
charcoal thunderclouds skirting the hills ghostlike,
while a solitary bugle strains to be heard
in the midmorning air.

Monday, November 10, 2014


…How is your Monday morning looking?  Bright, I hope.

…I’m going to try to steer away from the death of my father, but I thought I would post this story that I wrote some time ago which achieved a fair amount of acclaim.  I was even interviewed about it, and asked how I came up with the idea for the piece.  When I told the interviewer that it was almost completely true, she said, “No, really, how did you come up with it?”

                                     Summer Scalping; Scarecrows                      

            Mother teaches us how to steal.
            We start with Henderson’s corn field, undercover of the night, our station wagon skulking down the dusty aisle ends like a muttering alligator.  She throws us out, tosses us the gunnies and we scamper through the rows and I start ripping off ears as fast as I can.  It feels like cheap murder or beating up a kid, someone helpless and smaller than me.  When I pull them from the stalk, they make a scratching noise similar to Mother’s fingernails on the arm rest or the sketchy rumble of her cigarette cough.  The corn leaves are ridged and sweaty and the corn hair tickles my neck, but just for a moment until Davey jams his elbow into my rib.
            “Stop fucking around,” he says.  His eyes are electric brown, Mexican jumping beans.  Black smears of grease sit below them.  Davey takes this shit seriously.  He looks like a resentful quarterback or a warrior looking for a scalp.
            When I still don’t get it, he slugs me in the gut.  “Don’t be stupid.  We work in the middle.”
            He hisses, flops down and slides in the dirt on his belly, an iguana now, a combat soldier.  He motions that I should follow and I do because I am scared and confused and dizzy.  Old Man Henderson is who we work for during the day, and here we are robbing him at night.  I know these fields as well as I know the twelve-by-twelve bedroom that I share with Davey.  We shouldn’t be here.  We’re poor but we’re not starving.
            In the center of the field the stalks sway with the breeze, their tops tipping and dipping, brushing our shoulders as we work, whispering conspiratorially.  I can’t stop shivering even though it’s a hot, humid summer night.
            Davey has a flashlight.  One end is stuffed in his mouth.  Light comes out the other end in swaths and cones.  Davey’s face glows menacing lavender.  He sees me staring and thwacks me across the forehead with the flashlight.  He calls me a stupid fag as I finger the new bruise and rub his saliva from my eye.
            I helped Mr. Henderson put up the new set of scarecrows that stand at the sides of the field, arms outstretched as if crucified.  It was a lazy job, given to me, I presumed, as a kindly favor.  Usually I was charged with moving the twenty foot long irrigation pipes and shoring up rows or pruning, which is the same as prison work when the temperature gets past a hundred.  Anyway, Mrs. Henderson gave him half a dozen Albertson grocery bags stuffed with all sorts of clothing articles and Mr. Henderson said, “Go to it.”  As a test run for bringing up the news to Mother, I’d once confessed to Mr. Henderson that I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up.  His eyes worked over my statement and out of his shirt pocket he pulled a piece of straw the size of a pencil.  He chewed it for awhile.  It took him so long to answer that I thought my shame might burn me to death, but then he showed me a grin.  It was wide and toothy and real.  “That’s wonderful, son.”  No one had ever called me that.  “It’s important to have large-sized dreams.”  So I figured there was a tie to me confiding in Mr. Henderson that day and him wanting me to put together a collection of scarecrows.  I did as I was told.  I would have, no matter the request, since I was getting paid cash money and, as anybody can tell you, that’s a hard thing to come by.  When I was finished I had six fairly realistic men.  They were skinny things because the straw kept slipping down their drawers or out of their sleeves.  But they looked fine, stylish even.  Afterward there were a few garments left over, one being a sky blue turtleneck that didn’t make sense on a scarecrow.  Mr. Henderson said, “You like it?”  I lied and said, “No,” because even though the color was blue, it was too light, pastel, bordering on effeminate, and I didn’t want him or anyone else getting ideas.  “Take it,” he said.  “Go on.”  And I did.  After I got home, I stuck it between the box springs and the mattress I share with Davey.  One of these days I plan on showing him, but that might not be for awhile.
            When our gunny sacks are full of corn we stagger in the dark toward the lurking station wagon.  Mother sits smoking with the dome light on.  She doesn’t blink, doesn’t say a word, just starts the engine and pulls the silver stick shift on the side of the steering wheel and we drive off.
            The next morning Mr. Henderson calls me to his office which is a trailer sunk into the sun-baked mud northeast of where some broke-down combines slumber.  His golden lab, Leroy, scents me, sneezes, and scampers off.  A crow caws.
            He shouts to come on in when I knock.  I hesitate and try to measure the tone of his voice, sift through it like a gold miner, for evidence of a mood.  The door catches and won’t open.  “Kick it at the bottom!” he tells me.  I wonder why he doesn’t just open the thing for me.
            “You gotta kick it!” he says.  I still can’t tell if there’s anything to learn from his tone, but by now I’m running and his voice isn’t very loud.  Stalks slap me because I’m off balance.  My feet burn, my eyes sting.  It’s not even noon yet.  I sweat.  I run through the corn row and don’t stop.                       

Thursday, November 6, 2014


…I have had Dolly Parton’s song, “Jolene,” stuck in my head for a couple of days after posting this video on Facebook about her inspiration for the song:

…I didn’t expect it to be this tough, with my Dad’s passing and all.  We weren’t very close.  We were very different people.  We maybe talked on the phone every three or four months.  Yet, somehow, his death has decimated me.  It would probably take a therapist to explain why.  It could simply be that I’m looking for a reason to be sad, to wallow.

…I don’t usually post stuff about my personal life on Facebook, but I this one time as I said above.  It’s kind of remarkable how supportive people are/were, even people I don’t know.  It was nice, actually.

One person who I know virtually said this, which I thought was very wise:
"I am so sorry Len. No matter how old we are, we feel like orphans when our parents die."
…Anyway, so I’m off to Spokane.  The funeral is Friday morning at 9:00 am.  Wish me luck.

…Instead of sadness, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite things on a funky Thursday:

-“The scale of affection is fluid.”  Max Braverman

-“In Silicon Valley, failure is experience. Now, if you fail at everything, that's different. But a failure is a mark of experience more than anything.”  
-Vint Cerf, One of the Key Creators of the Internet

-“Destiny, I feel, is also a relationship - a play between divine grace and willful self-effort. Half of it you have no control over; half of it is absolutely in your hands, and your actions will show measurable consequence. Man is neither entirely a puppet of the Gods, nor is he entirely the captain of his own destiny; he's a little of both. We gallop through life like circus performers balancing on two speeding side by side horses - one foot is on the horse called fate, the other on the horse called free will. And the question you have to ask every day is - which horse is which? Which horse do I need to stop worrying about because it's not under my control,  and which do I need to steer with concentrated effort?”
-- Elizabeth Gilbert

“Many people believe that support is something that you give to someone you feel sorry for or that it means propping up someone who would fail unless you were there to give him a boost. But that's not the way I see it. Support is the boost you can give someone who can help himself but who needs a partner to open a window or push aside a roadblock.”
-- Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's

“Everything can be taken from a man, but one thing, the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude to any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way.”
-- Viktor Frankl, Nazi concentration camp survivor

“Would it spoil the moment for you if I threw up?” Sarah Braverman

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

“Friendship consists in forgetting what one gives,  and remembering what one receives.” Dumas The Younger

“If you are patient in one moment of anger you will save a thousand days of sorrow.”  Chinese Proverb

"The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them." Ralph Nichols