Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Listening in

Writing in a coffee shop, listening to others is my new entertainment. The cops to my right are pissed. You have to listen closely; they probably went to a class called “How to control yourself in public and keep your name out of the paper.” The young couple two tables away is somewhere between getting engaged and breaking up. Bet the outcome depends on who wins this argument. The café owner is on the phone, jawing about the outrageous price she pays for coffee.

Eavesdropping is fun, until I notice that the guy behind me is reading this over my shoulder.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It was a joke

Two thousand high school kids and assorted staff members mill around the lawn in mid-day heat. Flashing lights circle from the tops of trucks, bouncing off every available surface. Firefighters race in and out of the building. Administrators huddle in deep conversation.

Whispered rumors spread through the crowd. “…by the cafeteria...” “…started in a locker.” “…flames crawled out of the vents and ignited the wall…” “about twenty-five kids still missing…” “…they’re talking arson, probably by students…”

I hunch my shoulders, circle with my friends. “Geez, guys, it was supposed to be a smoke bomb, a joke. Whose idiot idea was this?”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

His Everything

Small town kids, met at church, high school sweethearts. Their first kiss was the first for both. Married young. He was drafted, thankfully, after the war. Away two years. Kids followed and filled the years. The empty nest was an adjustment, but they were committed. Anniversaries passed; soon fifty years were behind them. They felt blessed to miss the unending illness that friends encountered. Early Easter morning, he heard her cough and gasp as her body jerked. He forced himself awake, knowing she was gone. He said she was his everything after the service.

By Christmas, he’d met and married Beth.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Grandma’s Message

Everything at my grandma’s house had a dingy piece of tape with a name on it. Said we’d get it when she died. Changing the tape became a game. Who wanted a picture of dead relatives when a quick switch could get you the TV or stereo? Grandma got sick and the switching intensified. After the service, us kids were at her house eating chicken, avoiding the great aunts and their boring stories. I slipped into the den to see if I had the TV. Found the tape and it said, “I’m tired of your games, figure it out. Love, Grandma.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mom collected strays

My mom collected strays. People, not animals. We heard unending stories of people we’d never meet and had little interest in. She befriended the grocery store worker, the “girl” that did her hair, or the police officer who ticketed her last week. We learned to avoid being surprised at who she brought home. The kicker was at my dad’s fiftieth birthday party. I asked him about a couple by the food. “Some people your mom met who said they were lonely, so she invited them.” She had a singular life purpose, to rescue others from the loneliness that haunted her days.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I can feel it, honest

night returns
okay, that's a bit dramatic
but close

sunday was the last game
for my team
they played ‘til the end
the crowd was into it
i watched from home
wishing i was there
they won that one
but not enough along the way

playoffs start tomorrow
yankees, cardinals, red sox,
no surprise,
and some other teams will play
play hard
play as if it may never
happen again
because it might not

i will watch bits
here and there
check the web
talk it up
with the guys

but i've already moved on
already thinking of
spring beginnings
because next year
we'll still be playing
it's worth waiting for
i can feel it
i can

Thursday, November 12, 2009

That one was answered

They said that God loved me and that I should talk to him. He’d listen and care. I asked him to make my grandma better; she died. I wanted him to help my dad make more money; he got fired. I prayed for Momma to love Daddy better; they divorced. I asked for help with my schoolwork and failed two classes. I begged for friends and spent the summer alone. I cried out to understand God and how this stuff works and I waited in the unending silence. Finally, I asked to be left alone. Seems like that prayer was answered.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Tipping Point

He’d come through Ellis Island with his parents in ’05, nineteen not twenty. Family settled in Cleveland. Seven kids plus New World equaled struggles. Food, clothes, shelter. Nothing came easy. Soon a war stirred in Europe.

Not yet twenty he left home, moved west, worked a ranch in Montana before drifting on to Oregon. Soon marriage, three kids followed.

Then the Big One. Market crashed, people jumped. He always had work, a house and a car. He read the news, watched his neighbors. Folks said he cared, tried to help others. “Generous to a fault.” They’d say. “Everybody needs a little kindness.” He’d say.

Her parents left the Deep South looking for a new life. Dad was a teacher, a professor of college math. Small college, but still something to respect. Watched her older brothers move out and move on. Both into business, both successful. Her marriage was something less than she hoped for. A hard worker, but lacked the drive she desired. His accent could be socially embarrassing. Not to mention his general lack of couth.

Then it came. October ’29, people went crazy. They survived; she survived, on the edge, always afraid. “There’s no guarantee we won’t be next.” She’d say if anyone would listen.

The second war in Europe had come and gone, their sons had grown and gone. They had their routine. There was the weekly dinner, at their favorite Chinese restaurant. Same place, same conversation. Same meal, for him. He’d order Combination Number Two; sweet and sour pork, egg foo yung and chicken chow mien.

“You’re so stuck in a rut. Will you ever try something new?” She’d chide.

“I always get it because I always like it. You can get whatever you want.” He’d reply.

Their order arrived; he’d savor the familiar flavors. She’d chatter while picking at her dish. He’d nod and grunt agreement. Kept the conversation going, avoided actual involvement. They’d finish with fortune cookies. She’d read aloud, made him do the same.

He’d rise, putting on his hat, glancing one last time at the check. Did the math in his head to count out a tip, always more than expected. Placed it on the table, next to his plate, not too obvious but easy to find.

He’d start toward the door. She’d hesitate. Made sure he was focused on going and quietly scooped up most of what he’d left, slipped it silently into her purse

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Like an old western

A humid summer evening, at least by Portland standards. He stands in the neighbor’s yard, calling out insults that morph into threats. The streets have cleared like an old western. Eyes peer out of windows, hoping to see but not be seen. He demands justice for his offended child; someone must pay. Like a bull anxious to charge, he looks to find his enemy. He snorts and paces. The sun settles behind roofs and trees. Onlookers lose interest and fade away into the night. Darkness overwhelms the neighborhood. He slips home and downs a few before falling asleep on the couch.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


This isn’t what I expected. First, I was sure it wouldn’t happen to me. I’ve always been sharp, quick witted. Second, by its own nature this should blind me to the reality. Ignorance is supposed to be bliss. Wrong again. It’s here and I know it. What do I do? Skirt the edges and "fake it" as long as I can? Go to the doc and seek treatment? Tell someone, everyone?

What if they already know? What if I’m some fool, the last to know. What if they’ve been graciously whispering behind my back, kindly letting me live in my dreams?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Before mid-terms

Called a genius, he skipped middle school and breezed through high school. Got straight As, of course, and a perfect SAT score.

Began college at fifteen; St. Andrew’s, a previously religious school, not too far from home. His goofy glasses and greasy hair only overemphasized his inability to fit in. The first week, he missed half his meals and classes. He was usually lost in the library. Couldn’t find his dorm room on Friday night, so he wandered in the rain. He was taken to the infirmary the next day and diagnosed with pneumonia. He died and was buried before mid-terms.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hatred Owned My Brother

The divide was as deep and perilous as any I’ve seen. Hatred owned my brother’s soul. He burned to make our mother pay for the pain she’d sent his way. We never knew what evil drove him to obsessively plot his revenge. On Christmas Eve, days after turning eighteen, he announced he was joining the Army and going to war. That holy night was our parents’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. He knew this was the perfect day for betrayal. And he was almost right; yet it paled to the anguish she felt fifteen months later meeting his flag-draped coffin at the airport.

Hatred Owned My Brother

The divide was as deep and perilous as any I’ve seen. Hatred owned my brother’s soul. He burned to make our mother pay for the pain she’d sent his way. We never knew what evil drove him to obsessively plot his revenge. On Christmas Eve, days after turning eighteen, he announced he was joining the Army and going to war. That holy night was our parents’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. He knew this was the perfect day for betrayal. And he was almost right; yet it paled to the anguish she felt fifteen months later meeting his flag-draped coffin at the airport.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The fall chill

As the sun dipped below the horizon, a fall chill filled the kitchen. They stood looking anywhere but at each other. He with his back to the empty child’s room. She near the sink, wishing for dishes to wash or another distraction. The wooden frame of the screen door tapped steadily in the breeze.

She spoke.


Who knows?

You promised.

We were kids.

We could try again?

Too hard.

Silence drew any remaining life out of the room. It’s impossible to know which was more hollow: his eyes or her tears. He was out the door. She heard the car.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

When she’s alone

Daddy died when she was a child. A sunny afternoon, not dark and drizzly like you’d expect. Soon her momma was gone; not dead, just gone. Years she can’t remember, or doesn’t want to. Sure enough, she married young and had kids quickly. When they were off to school, she’d stare out the front window into the unrelenting nothingness. Divorce shattered her fragile, fading hopes. An eventual second marriage changed little. Alone again, she rocks her days away until after dinner someone helps her into bed. She waits until she’s sure she's alone and whimpers in the darkness. She whispers, "Daddy?"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Starting a fire in the garage was stupid. I was ten and the flame jumped to a gas can. I remember heat and sirens screaming. At the hospital they told me my legs were stumps. Strangely, all the misery brings unending attention. Teachers are quick to cut me slack and my parents regret not being more attentive. I keep hoping some cute girl’s sympathy will result in extended benefits. Looks like I can cruise through college and land a cushy career behind a desk. All in all, it's been worth it. Just don’t tell anyone I said that.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Peaceful Winds

We spent summers at Peaceful Winds in Florida. One morning, as we left for miniature golf, I asked, “Grandpa, why’s the flag only halfway up that pole?”

“It’s out of respect. When someone dies, we lower it for a day.”

“But, Grandpa, it’s always like that.”

He paused, looking past me. “Older people here… that’s the way it goes.”

Two days later, the flag was flying high. A party broke out at the club house, a veritable retiree’s frenzy.

Before sunset, there were 15 calls to 911. Three deaths. The flag dropped again. As far as I know it stayed there.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Sometimes I wasn’t sure
we’d make it
sometimes I wasn’t sure
I wanted to

When we started
I assumed we’d get here
expected us to stay together
but had no clue what was ahead
or what it would take

It’s not a milestone,
like fifty
but well past twenty-five
people notice twenty-five and fifty
appears thirty-five
is no big deal,
at least
according to public opinion,

Memories made
and more forgotten
seasons of devotion
and trials of anxiety
grace remembered
and offenses forgiven
and much forgiven again

It is the choice we made
the path we’ve followed
and I would choose it again
I think I do
I hope we do

Monday, September 7, 2009

Be Careful

Car barely missed the mail box. Took forever to get into the house. Flopped into a chair, mumbling.

“Can I help you to bed?” No response.

She wrapped her arms around him and with a quick lift forced him to the floor. He groaned. She kicked him, hard. Face, stomach. Too much to count. Finally, exhausted she drug him to bed.

Next morning he gently touched his aches, trying to reconstruct the cause. “Hell of a fight last night. Never going back there.” He said as he struggled into a chair.

“Sorry, honey. I keep telling you to be careful.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thanks for waiting

Dear mom and dad,
Thanks for waiting
Until I was “grown”
To get divorced

Not that it was easy
To watch my family implode
Like some distant star
Spiraling toward the horizon
And its inevitable demise

I’m thankful I avoided the carnage
Of being stretched to despair
So you could move on and do
What was “best” for you

No shuttling between houses
Yet never being home
On a schedule that
Few adults could manage
Or better yet, endure

No wondering if gifts were
Given in love
Or as rival acts of one-upmanship

No pretending not to hear the
Whispered warfare
Or the insinuations from the
Unseen member of a phone conversation

I’m so grateful I avoided the
Innumerable counseling sessions
To explore my feelings
While ultimately being manipulated
To believe
That things are better “this way”

I can’t say I’m happy
About the way our family
Turned out, but
Thanks for waiting

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It’s about over

Once you turn in your office keys
You know it’s about over
That once distant end
Is now your reality
No more empty meetings
That drag ‘til dawn
Or emergency interactions
Where you know just
What to say
And someone is so thankful
That you said it
No more being the first to arrive
To get a jump on the day
No more knowing where you were supposed to be
When you’re supposed to be there
And what you were supposed to do

Soon they’ll want the house keys
Say it will free you up
To move to that smaller place
Not so much to take care of
Your back needs a break
You can travel more
Enjoy the life of leisure
But you know it’s a short step
To what’s next

It’s the car
Not even the impractical one
That you dreamed of
A quick little number
Maybe a red convertible
If that’s not too cliché
The sensible vehicle
Is too much even
Freedom and mobility
Demand quick reflexes
A sharp mind
You’ll have neither
By this time
But you’ll be sharp enough to
Know what’s happening

And before long
You’ll wake up,
If you’re lucky enough
To wake up,
And realize you have
No responsibilities
Or pressures
People will be there
To care for you
And you’ll never again
Need any keys

Friday, August 14, 2009

Concrete patches

Manifest Destiny ended
On the trail of Lewis and Clark
We settled near the shores
Of the Pacific
After the second Big One
We moved to subdivisions and tract homes
With ordered, efficient expectations
Porches became small concrete patches
Big enough for two or three JWs
To argue theology from
Until we shut the door in their faces

Porches lost their draw out West
There were no sweltering nights,
No fireflies to capture the eye
Or gleeful children giving chase
Few neighbors stroll the sidewalks
Rarely did generations gather

Backyards became the Thing
A framework of fences to keep others out
While guaranteeing privacy within
Patios, barbecues, decks, pools, ponds,
Gardens, hot tubs, and outdoor furniture
If we hadn’t done away with outhouses
One could have lived for months back there
At least until the weather turned

The shift complete, we settled in
Comfortable, safe, secluded
Until Television drew us near
To huddle by the hum and glow
Of the box in singular focus

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sanctuary of nothing

In the days before
Open schedules and buildings
It was like stepping into
A sanctuary of nothing
Silence that echoed
If you were still and listened hard

Straight lines of symmetry
So long that you might not
See end to end
Never enough light anyway
Lockers like soldiers at strict attention
Shoulder to shoulder
Daring anyone to try
And advance through ranks
Their formation occasionally interrupted
By a door flung wide

If you were careful,
A significant challenge for a teenage boy,
You could run or wander casually,
Until an adult
Would round the corner
Or open a door
Ask to see your pass and
Send you off
Reminding you of
Your mission and destination
Yet, soon as they were gone
You’d breath deep
And move again at your pace
Freedom resumed

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

There’s not much to say about our living room

We are family room people
Everybody knows to come in
Through the back door
Except strangers, peddlers, campaigning politicians,
First timers and shoe-string relatives
Our family room pulses, with no dividing line into the kitchen
Thanksgiving is the best, our annual celebration
Our gathering, our Holy time

Our living room looks east, toward the mountain
It is quiet and usually empty
At times, mostly in the winter I go there
To read, waiting for the fire’s warmth to
Touch me from across the room
Two, maybe three, may gather there
To get away from the crowd, the noise
For serious, or private conversation

My great-grandfathers desk sits
Between the window and fireplace
It’s been refinished and is missing the
Fold-down writing surface
I think of him resting his head
On his open Bible, the one I have,
Preparing a sermon for the small congregation
Of Methodist farmers, who would certainly,
Faithfully be at church each Sunday
After tending to animals and chores
Because that is what people did

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I tried really hard

I’ve never met L. L. Barkat, and I tried really hard
We were both at “Jubilee”, Pittsburgh in February
Sam told me about her, said I should meet her

As we talked he spotted her, and pointed her out
Across the room, by Byron’s books
In an animated conversation with Lauren Winner
Who I have met, a time or two
At conferences and classes
But she wouldn’t remember me, or have reason to
I watched them, two “real” writers
With books and all, probably agents
Huddled, protecting each other,
Peers in a sea of hopefuls

I walked closer, thinking of how to
Introduce myself without sounding like
A smooth faced schoolboy grasping at
Pick-up lines
I waited for an opportunity
For their conversation to end
A time to introduce myself

I would not interrupt, I’m not that type
I feigned looking at books
While circling the table and waited some more
It seemed they talked a long, long time
Yet, I was determined and waited some more

I may have begun to look at Byron’s books
Maybe even thought of buying something
But then I’d have had to carry it home
Or maybe I met someone that I actually knew
Or got caught in the crowd push
As another session started

Soon the conference was over
I’d flown home
And I’d never met L. L. Barkat

Monday, July 27, 2009

I’m really glad

I’m really glad my mom
Can’t see her kitchen
I know, it sounds cruel,
Like I’m happy she’s going blind
But, I ache watching her
Arch her neck, tilting her head
Toward nothing, looking
The wrong direction, eyes lost, unfocused

She wants to fix dinner
Like she used to, cook a feast
And revel in watching us
Rush toward satiation
I offer to take her to dinner
Anywhere she’d like to go
A poorly veiled attempt to distance myself
From eating from her kitchen

Tiny sugar ants,
Smaller than the ones we’d find
Summer afternoons on the curb
Aligning a magnifying glass
So the sun focused in a spot
They could not escape
We’d watch them sizzle and smoke,
Occasionally igniting a flame,
Then look for more,
Like I said these are smaller
And look black until sunlight reveals
The ruby shine of their shell,
And they are not an army
Swarming every open surface
But small groups of up to five or six,
They crawl over calcified food bits
Long past identification
On counters and in drawers
My wife and I have “deep cleaned”
On our past few visits
A conflicted attempt at love and self-preservation
Yet when we return
Our efforts have vanished
Clearly we don’t visit often enough

When sitting in my mom’s chair
By the front window
I discovered they had migrated
To the living room
There were a few on the side table
My guess is they found where she
Sets her partially eaten cookies
Or where the crumbs settle
When she flails her hands while talking
Or the syrup of her soda pop sloshes

I have tried to explain
To help her see
Little things she should do
To make it better
Only to instigate mutual frustration
That results in no change

She is at peace in her
Lack of knowing
And it may be best for
At least one of us to be
In that state these days

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hot Summer Night

Sweltering summer evening shifting toward night. Kids playing in the street.

Biggest ones wedge open a street drain. Can’t move the cover far.

Childish impulse leads to a fire. They scour for stuff to feed the beast. Flames grow and faces glow crowding to see, dripping sweat into the hole.

Someone laughs, grabs a younger child, and holds him over the blistering inferno. “Welcome to hell!” The little guy screams, squirms and begs for mercy.

Light breaks around the corner, reflecting off the eyes of each turned head. Somebody yells, “CAR!” and everyone scatters for the safety of home.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Choir

“We really need you. One more guy and we’ll be ready be ready to tour.”

“I don’t know much about music.”

“It’s OK; you’ll equal the guy/girl numbers. Balance. Susan, she’s in the choir, and said I should talk to you. Let me show you where you’ll stand. Up here, second row, right of center. Yeah, there. Perfect. Next practice is tomorrow at 4. Can you make it?”

“I guess.”

“One last thing, just move your lips. I mean don’t sing. Susan told me about your voice. But, we really need you for look of the group. See you tomorrow…”

The Choir

“We really need you. One more guy and we’ll be ready be ready to tour.”

“I don’t know much about music.”

“It’s OK; you’ll equal the guy/girl numbers. Balance. Susan, she’s in the chorus, and said I should talk to you. Let me show you where you’ll stand. Up here, second row, right of center. Yeah, there. Perfect. Next practice is tomorrow at 4. Can you make it?”

“I guess.”

“One last thing, just move your lips. I mean don’t sing. Susan told me about your voice. But, we really need you for look of the group. See you tomorrow…”


I have been trying to post twice a week. this summer I am working on some bigger writing projects that may be posted later. For the rest of the summer I am shooting for one post per week. thanks for looking in.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Take Jonah, many do

Let me ask again,
Why do we teach this stuff to kids?
These so-called “heroes of the faith”
Murderers, liars, adulterers and more

Take Jonah, many do
Four simple chapters
Each with an adventurous turn
A message, an application for the soul

God calls and Jonah runs
Far and fast, jumps on a boat
Can’t blame him. Who’d want to be near
Such a bossy deity?

Providence or retribution?
God sends a storm, Jonah confesses
Sailors toss him into the murk
Raging waters find their rest

The fish arrives
To swallow the man
Three days and equal nights
Dark and alone, bile and desperation

He prays
A fox-hole moment
A death bed confessional
An all or nothing promise

God speaks
The fish pukes
Jonah walks
On the shore

He obeys
(Who wouldn’t?)
Goes where’s he’s told
Spreads the news

They hear, they believe
They fall in the dust
They call on God, Jonah’s God
For mercy

Jonah’s a hero
He did God’s work
Lives were changed
All is well

But not for Jonah,
He’s pissed, a sulking child
“I told you so!” he blasts the Creator
“Let me die?” is his waning plea

Terrorized into submission
Grudging cooperation
Anger simmering into brooding disgust

Go ahead
Put a bow on it
Make it cute and sweet
Maybe, they’ll never know the difference

Monday, June 29, 2009

parents reality check

a parents "reality check" to see how well they're preparing kids for the future. http://www.neighborhood-kids.com/People/Parenting/1860.aspx

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

76th and Tibbets

Corner of 76th and Tibbets
The boys, their sons,
My dad and his brothers
Called it 76
Always white with green trim
Side view looked like a barn
It was “the house” in my mind
Always, there, always part of our family

The garage was across a walk way
And there was a hidden key
I watched my dad get it, over the years
Later when I was in high school
I’d stop by, knowing they’d be gone
With a friend or two
Get the key and
Hang out inside for a while

In the back yard
Was a plum tree
That we’d pick from each year
And a weeping willow
Great for climbing
And pretending to be
Adventurers or lost children
The Columbus Day Storm
Split its core
It hung limp for years
Until finally cleared away

Two floors and a full basement
Half finished as a party room
Light paneled walls
And a bar by the fireplace
They were cocktail and hard liquor people
We’d sneak sips
With our cousins
When the adults were upstairs
I only knew a few of the people
Whose faces filled party pictures
That covered the walls

On party nights
I’d be upstairs, with my brother
Listening to the music pulse
Through the floors
And when brave
We’d sneak to the top of the stairs
To catch a glimpse
Finally in deep sleep
Dad would get us out
Of bed late at night
And we’d drive home

On the other side of the basement
Was a work bench
Laundry area
And a chest freezer
That always had Eskimo Pies that
I thought grandpa would
Bring them back from Alaska each fall

Grandma was so thin, boney
Dark, permed hair
And flowery dresses
She had a bedroom on the main floor
Next to the bathroom
It all smelled of perfumes and powders
She slept with a mask
Over her eyes
Had a lady-like cigarette case yet
Don’t remember her smoking much

She worked late nights
For the phone company
Connecting voices, lives
From across town and around the world
She’d sleep until almost noon

We’d listen to 45’s in the party room
Hits of the day
And dance with grandma
At Christmastime she’d make us kiss her
Under the mistletoe

Tension, outbursts and distance
Defined the family
Each son quit high school
And joined the service
She’d fight with her son’s
If they talked at all
She said they’d be sorry when she died
Their half-joke response
Was that we’d never know
Because she’d outlive us all
She didn’t, she died
Before grandpa
Before any of her sons
A few months before her
First great-grand child arrived

Grandpa lived upstairs
With the boys
Two bedrooms and a bath
Story was my dad shared
Grandpa’s room while growing up

He would leave every summer
For cannery work in Alaska
May have cherished
The break from grandma

He’d go to bed early
And rise in similar fashion
We’d sleep in the room
Across the hall when our
Parents were away
Get up early with him
He’d make Cream of Wheat
And toast for breakfast
With real butter
Every time
We’d sit at the Formica, kitchen table
Looking at the willow tree
Until it was gone

There was an attic off his bedroom
My older cousin showed us slide pictures
Of topless women
We’d hold them up to
The single, bare light bulb
Hanging from the rafters
Fascinated, afraid, fixated

After grandma got ready
On Saturday
They would go grocery shopping
She in her dress
And he in a white shirt, slacks
And a hat to cover his bald head
Always he drove
Always the same store
Always together

He’d been a cowboy
Working on a ranch in Montana
After coming to the states
As a young boy from Germany

She’d been a school teacher
And enjoyed correcting our grammar

She was embarrassed
He didn’t have a middle name
She gave him an initial
I often wondered why
She didn’t give him the whole name

In her mind all people
Should be Methodists and democrats
And you should never wear blue jeans
Those were for poor people
Who didn’t know better
Or couldn’t afford more

As teenagers we’d be sure to wear
Our oldest jeans when visiting

After grandma died
Grandpa stayed on ten plus years
Heard he started drinking
Finally he went to a nursing home
We visited shortly before he died

My dad’s oldest brother
Lived in the house for a while
I heard the stairs were more than
His joints could handle
I heard he sold 76

Thursday, June 18, 2009

He Didn't Care

She took the kids, left a note. “Don’t call… I filed… get a lawyer…” He read it four, maybe five times.

Went online, “local attorneys.” Started calling, too late, all closed. Hesitated, phoned his folks, mom answered. He almost hung up. She invited him for dinner saying, “You shouldn’t be alone.”

“Maybe tomorrow.” Probably not, he thought.

Rummaged the freezer. Stuck something in the microwave. Turned on ESPN. Burned the hell out of the roof of his mouth. Tossed the empty container in the trash.

Couldn’t sleep. Went driving. By midnight he was lost, within an hour he didn’t care.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Choose Washing Dishes, Of Course

I have often said,
and only partially in jest,
that when the socialists take over
I’ll choose dishwashing
for my new career
I mean, if we all get paid the same
why not?

It’s so perfect
you can always see
what needs to be done
and easily measure success
clean or not yet clean enough
you can work by yourself
or with a friend
and listen to music,
as loud as you want
others usually leave you alone
for fear of having to get involved
your efforts contribute
to the health and enjoyment of others
and if you break a dish,
it can be easily replaced
they take the money
out of your check

it’s not like messing with
somebody’s head or soul
like teaching or ministry
I’ve done both
what if you set someone up
to believe things,
commit to things,
base their life on things
and it turns out
you were wrong?

I mean, if you really mess up
washing dishes
you might give people
a case of diarrhea
but that’s usually
gone in a few days
and everybody
will soon need more clean dishes
to start eating, again

I firmly believe that manual trumps machine
you are fully there, holding each piece
scrubbing, rinsing, stacking to dry
I know that it’s better to use
the machine, it’s more sanitary
and air drying beats towels
I usually give in to the convenience
yet rejoice when systems are
down or unavailable
like when camping
where we heat the water
fill the tubs
and wash while talking
to others gathered around the fire

one summer at camp
I was a dishwasher
it was the year I met Connie
I was seventeen
and worked with other guys
in the back of a kitchen
that dripped with steam and sweat
we had an old beast of a machine
melmac dishes, at least that’s
what we called them,
passed through
on a conveyer belt
two hundred plus kids
make a lot of mess

some days we’d get assigned pots and pans
didn’t matter
we were young, caught in the moment
away from home
living with the best friends we’d
ever had
even though we’d only known them
a few weeks
a couple of hours after each meal
and we were off to play with campers,
flirt with girl counselors
or wander the woods

back home, senior year
grandpa helps me get a job
at the steak house where he works
he’s day shift and I’m nights
rarely see him
more dishes
cooks come and go
waitresses of twenty-one or twenty-two
seem so old
they toss sexual innuendos focused
on my embarrassment
for their evening’s entertainment
grandpa waits months until he
tells the owner of our family connection
wonder if he was stalling for me
to prove myself

my dad bought a dishwasher
for our family when I was about ten
he’d worked in Alaska for the summer
made a lot of money
was splurging
it was a GE, we were GE people
had to hook the hose to the kitchen sink
if you didn’t get it quite right
water sprayed all over the room
we rolled it under a counter top when
not being used
for a while it was more fun to wash dishes
than to mow the lawn

I remember a fight
with my mom
over dirty dishes
more of an argument
she never could see well
and paid little attention to details
I was tired of dirty dishes
just let me do them
my dad came to her rescue
and that was that

I remember the day a friend’s son died
I went to their house
they lived near
hung around as family gathered
after a while I went into the kitchen
and started washing dishes
there were a lot
I was in there when the grandma arrived
I heard them tell her
she screamed, collapsed
and sobbed on the floor

I do most of the dishes at our house
daily duties or celebrations
there’s a rhythm to it
a sense of accomplishment
no one else seems to like it

on holidays it gets me up from the table
I get restless of sitting on hard chairs
others seem to be able to stay for hours
I need the break

everybody appreciates it
and I’m in my place
it’s a perfect trade-off

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Dad made it happen. June 26 every year. Don’t think he told anyone why, not even Mom. Said it was because I was born the day after Christmas. Usually my birthday felt like something of an afterthought, parental obligation.

We’d go to a game, majors if possible, minors when necessary. If needed he’d take the day off and sometimes we traveled. Even made sure his death didn’t break the rhythm. Got sick in August and was gone by Thanksgiving. Almost twenty years since.

I go each year with my kids. Never told them why. Maybe it’s more for him than me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I saw it

I saw it. Tried not to, but it was there. That slight, dark red trickle from nose to lip. Soon she’d taste it and we’d both know. Resignation would overtake us. For so long we’d hoped. For so long we’d prayed. She’d done all the doctors asked. We were good people. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She was young, hell we were young. Kids, jobs, friends, dreams. We knew what they’d say. They’d be so sorry. All treatments been exhausted. They’d do all they could to alleviate the pain. I looked at my watch, as if it would make a difference.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

After all these years she keeps hoping

“Let goa’ me girl!” Her stiff arms pushed me away.

“But Momma, Daddy’s gone…”

“Hush, don’t cry.” Not wasting a glance, of her squinty eyes, my way.

She soon left me, moved to the city. People said there was work there ‘cause of the War. I started living with family; aunts, uncles and cousins. Momma’s people, then Daddy’s and some I wasn’t sure the relation. Most were nice, but I missed my Daddy, and I wanted to go home.

‘Bout three years of achin’, lost without my family. Heard Momma might be getting’ married. Maybe they’d come for me. Maybe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Holy Days

The fourth of July
Maybe in the mid-sixties
Years, not temperature
At our house
In the front yard
Cousins were there
Actually it was Aunt Joy and her family
She wasn’t my real aunt
But my dad’s cousin
We said she was our Aunt
We called her kids cousins
Which, I guess they were,
She wasn’t our Aunt
But saying so
Seemed to simplify family connections

They lived in California
The bay area
Had lots of money
A view of the water, maybe Alcatraz
We went to their house once
Saw the bridge through the fog
Out of a bedroom window
They said that was normal
My parents said
The money was why her kids
Were so spoiled

I remember the time, maybe times,
Aunt Joy would call our house
Long distance
She talked for what
Seemed like hours
I was afraid to make a
Long distance call
It was very expensive
She talked funny
She had a problem
She was probably drunk
Which was no big deal
In our family
Lot’s of my relatives got drunk
Some were sloppy and funny
Others went to treatment
Which I heard never worked

We were running around the yard
With sparklers
Sputtering wires
Of color and heat
In brave moments we’d throw
Them in the air and
Dodge the descent
Until one landed on the roof

My Dad got a
Pan of water and
Threw it upward
Over the gutter in hopes of
Extinguishing the sparks
My guess is the hose was
In the back yard or
He would have used it
The flame and memory fade
From that point…

It’s Memorial Day
At our house
In the front yard
Throwing a puffy football
With my son and grandson
A neighbor kid wanders
To join us
The boys’ with moppy heads
Bounce as they run, fall, and giggle

We play “keep away”
Paced for kid fun
Not exasperation
They can go forever
Chase, stumble, begin to cry
“Shake it off” I say
Quickly I’m bored and want to go
Back inside to sit and talk
Maybe see the end of the game
But I’m caught by the moment

Does my grandson know this is
Something more than
A day off from school and work
That it is one of those times
When family gathers
Because they are family
And is this day one that
Will spark like fire across his synapses
To remind him of a moment
Decades and generations from now
Creating boundaries of belonging?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Facing Mom

I was thirteen, maybe thirteen and a half and realized I was taller than Mom. It wasn’t saying much to pass all five feet of her, but I’d arrived. After I made a smart comment her hand flashed toward my face. I caught her wrist before she connected. “You’re not big enough to do that anymore.” My arrogance grew with each breath and word.

She looked me straight on, paused then said, “Do you want me to settle this now or I can tell your Dad about it later?”

My response was as quick as my release, “Anything you want.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let me go

It was brutal. Rec league for guys under six feet. Ball-hogging little guards with egos bigger than Wilt.

Game’s bleeding to an end. The foul-fest has us playing four on three. We have them outnumbered, we’re gonna lose.

I’d give anything to be on the bench at the end of this slaughter. One more foul and I’m out. Screw the ball, I dive going for an opponent’s body. He slams to the floor. I dance, giddy, waiting for the blessed whistle.

Ref back-peddles by me laughing, “Nice try buddy. You’re in ‘til it's over.”

I stayed, we lost.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Drifting Toward Twilight

A cool breeze brushes my face, sunlight hits my eyes. I blink, reach for you. Get up, grab the paper and fix oatmeal, for two. Eat alone, the television newscaster mumbles.

Phone rings. Kids want to take me to dinner and talk. I know what’s coming: They love me. Want my best. You’ve been gone so long. I forget things. Might hurt myself. They’re busy. Can’t always check in. They’ve talked to the doctor. Found a nice place. I'd enjoy being with people my own age. They love me and want what’s best.

If you were here I’d be OK.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Silent and Afraid

Waiting for the microwave to ding
The TV reporter caught my eye
She was young and styled,
Like all of them, at least most of them
With her tailored wool overcoat
And the wind gently mussing her hair
She stood with a mic near her lips hoping
Someone was watching, maybe they cared,
She spoke of a new park where,
“…drugs and brutality had once ruled the streets,
Children will play and families will picnic.”
Bulldozers groaned in the background
While houses disappeared

My thoughts drifted,
To an ageless matriarch
Sitting in the nook
With her house coat half buttoned,
It was once sunny yellow,
A smoldering cigarette
Bounced between her stained, cracked lips
Smoke hung in layers
Around the room
Occasionally she’d sip
From a near cold cup of coffee

Over the years a parade of men
Would come and go
Some would rummage the fridge
Making a sandwich or
Popping open a beer
Few would stay more than a month or two

Kids would giggle and slide across
The slick wooden floors
Until they got too close to the nook
Then all would be serious,
Silent and afraid
In other rooms they would play
Dreaming of being far away
When one got hurt they’d
Fearfully knock on the door of their
Mother’s room
Praying her anger would be less
Painful than their injury

Their mother was usually in her room
Resting, until she’d need to stumble
To the kitchen to refill her glass

At night the music got loud
Men would huddle by the curb
Under the street light
Talking and laughing
It seemed the night would never end

It felt like home
All over again
I turned off the TV,
Ate my dinner
Silent and afraid

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First Sight

To see it again
And yet for the first time
Because I want to
Or will myself to
As something stirs within
It is the confirmation of spring and
Once more I walk through the
Turnstile and corridors
Until sunlight’s glare
Causes me to squint
But I must look to
See the field,
New, yet familiar
Facing homeward
Across tight grass, that shifts
Ever so slightly with the
Afternoon breeze
Smooth soil awaiting
Perfect white lines
I go early for this view,
Usually with my youngest son,
There are few people

For some it is only a game
But it is more
It is flesh and soul
Memories of being with others
Watching, cheering
Talking of something, anything,
Maybe the game
Words drift toward stories of
Work and family
On rare occasions deeper matters
Are whispered to those most trusted

The ball rockets off a bat
And I jump, we all jump
Strangers become friends
And celebrate as one,
Grin, touch, nod
Sit and return to conversations,
Always keeping an eye on the field
Through sunshine and rain-delays

Anxious rookies, who stand
At the dugout rail
Slouching over-sized boys
Refusing to grow-up,
While others are
Desperately trying to
Prove their manhood,
Some selfish over-paid stars
And a few heroic veterans
Straining for one
Last taste of glory

It is a rhythm that I
Cannot forsake
It is some others business
They own it and will
Never know me
That is fine
I own my springtime’s
My camaraderie, my hope
My memories of almost
And the pain of not enough
All of it is mine
And each spring when I return
I look at it, as if for the first time
And I am hopeful, thankful and content

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


You’ve got to be kidding
One more time
The perfunctory olive branch

It would be easier to breathe
While choking on a knotted, grease
Soaked dish rag than to say the words

Another emotionally charged
Stand-off, we’re both right,
Just ask, either of us

Fools or sadists
We dance again on bruised
And bloodied toes

Trying exhausts
Any change seems
A vapor arriving too late

Extending the inevitable
Last gasp, maybe, clinging
To fading shreds of hope

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Attempt suicide and they put you in the state hospital. Escape, it’s more sneaking out and crossing the state line, they let you go.

It worked perfectly. Almost thirty years of obligations and expectations, done. Downed some pills and enough liquor to pass out and panic the wife. Lights, sirens and paramedics swarmed the house.

Couple of nights and it was all behind him; nagging wife, spoiled kids, dead-end job with that idiot boss.

Gone, all of it, he held the holy grail of a clean slate. It was perfect.

So perfect, he met someone new, and got married.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Fight

My knees pin his arms. “Give up.”

“Let go and I’ll kill you.” More spit than words.

I land one on his cheek. “Just quit.” I’m desperate, begging.

He’s focused, hateful, determined. “Never.”

I’ve no fight left but fear revenge. My last, feeble swing drags across his nose. Blood trickles. More threats. I jump, run. He’s so close. I feel him grab at my shirt. I round the corner, desperately lunging. Slam the door, turn the lock. I gasp.

He pounds the hollow wood, screaming, promising my demise.

Shaking I sit on the toilet praying for our parents to get home.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

twitter poetry

to short to elaborate
yet, i bargain for more
until in final capitulation
i accept the brevity
as all my characters
are quickly gone...

twitter contact: @jamesrls

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Hell’s terror, my sinful complicity (whatever that was) and the saving love of God. All told with flimsy Bible figures on dingy, flannel covered cardboard.

Fear or maybe hope churned in my gut. I raised my hand, was taken aside. I leaned in to listen as the kindly old lady’s warm breath puffed on my face. I made a choice, the right one, to ask Jesus in my heart, followed her lead repeating “the prayer.”

“How do you feel?” She asked. “Different? Better? Can you tell God is near?”

“Nope.” I answered. “Feels about the same as all the other times.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Striking Out

Porter was a mean somabitch, made Cobb look like a choir boy. Put two in the hospital, one ‘bout died. Prison and 12 Steps, maybe got religion. Commissioner said one last chance.

Vegas had a line on how long he’d last. Late August, he’s flirting with .400. It’s baseball, the world of redemption and miracles.

Blazing, sweaty mid-west game. He was one for three and up in the eighth. Swung early at first and low at the next. Ump calls the third and was attacked by a flailing bat. Benches froze. Cops wrestled Porter off the field, for the last time.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Yet still…

Another day of Pagan rituals blended
with evangelical fervor
we squint through the twilight
morning, standing damp-footed
in dewy, cemetery grass
for yet another sunrise service

I bow my all to Easter

Relatives and once-a-year attenders
drawn by the scorn of a long
gone grandma or some family curse,
now days called expectations,
arrive at church

I bow my all to Easter

Brunch in the basement
between services for
egg and bread casserole
hastily made the night before
with fruit and dry ham, barely warm

I bow my all to Easter

Overflowing sanctuary
new bright colored dresses
and enough ladies hats to force
even the most polite teenage boys
to smirk and jab their friends

I bow my all to Easter

Similar sermon with
a “zippy” new title, louder
does not make it different
or better, there is one
Easter story, get over it

I bow my all to Easter

“He is risen.” “He is risen indeed!”
some shout, others mumble
the silent few, hope not to be noticed
their obligation is clear
attendance “yes,” participation “no”

I bow my all to Easter

Families, friends gather for dinner
kids search for quickly hidden eggs
a few may not be found ‘til July 4
too much food and obvious table talk
candy, pictures and goodbyes

I bow my all to Easter

Cars chase dusk, disappear around the corner
a messy house, colored egg shells,
shiny foil wrappers, flimsy colored plastic grass
dishes to wash, leftovers to organize,
should have sent more with the others

Yet still, I bow my all to Easter

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

If words were…

If words were silent…
Would I notice,
Or even care?
Would their hush
Indicate absence and
Chew within until
I try to scream
Only to feel hollow
Breath fill space I
Cannot identify?

If words were silent…
Would I have thoughts,
Ideas, hopes?
Would anger boil
yet never ignite?
Would love die for
Lack of closure?
Would my wanting to tell you
Be reduced to vague motions,
Quickly misunderstood?

If words were silent…
Would there be an
Inner me? A psyche, a spirit,
An essence or a soul?
Something within to perk
Forth daily life?
Would I know that you
would know me?
And would you know that
I know you? Or even care?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Watching Luis

Luis was a sub-par pitcher but the luck of being left-handed kept him in the bigs. He had retired twenty-six batters. Some swinging, some watching, three pitches each. No bat touched the ball. All walked away, none argued a call. The crowd had begun to wonder if this might be the first true perfect game in baseball history. The twenty-seventh batter waited behind 0-2. Luis's heart raced between giddiness and terror. The sun and sweat mixed to burn his eyes. He released the ball early. It hung briefly before disappearing in the catcher's glove. The crowd froze awaiting the umpire's call.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The end

Long weekend at the parent's with that damn dial-up. Really, ridiculous. Should call it slogging-on.

Finally. "Friends" count 327. I scroll, very slowly, through the list: high school, high school, old girl friend, college, soccer, cousin, college, high school, Sarah's mom, high school, teacher, summer job, who's that?, roommate, high school...

Status update: "What are you doing now?" Wouldn't you like to know? "Thanks for nothing." That should give them something to talk about tomorrow, maybe for a while. Hit post.

Push my sleeve. Grip the blade, take a deep breath and begin the ending.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Daddy'd wake me early. it'd be dark, quiet, cold and rainy outside. I'd carry my rifle and hurry to keep up. We'd share cold biscuits. 'bout the time we got to his meadow spot the sun would be showing it's morning face, helping warm me up. We'd hide, silent, waiting. My shooting was more likely to scare things off than kill them. But, Momma was so proud days we'd bring home something I'd shot.

Now, damp and cold, I hold my rifle and wait for a stray Yank. If I get one my Momma and Captain will be so proud.

fiction 101

A while back the "Bellingham Weekly" ran an annual "Fiction 101" contest. The idea was to write a story using 101 words or less (title does not count). I was hooked, writing "101" stories off and on since then. i am going to begin posting some of my stories tonight. hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I found my soul...

I found my soul...
Either the day after I
Cured cancer or the one
Before I put an end to war
I'm not sure which

I found my soul...
Or maybe not
Didn't know it was lost
Did somebody take it?
What am I supposed to do with it?

I found my soul...
When the needle hit the
Vinyl, It wasn't sound or music
It was life boring deep within
I had to listen again

I found my soul...
Do you want to see it?
It's somewhere around here
Wonder if it looks like yours
Oh yeah, here it is

I found my soul...
It's different than I remember
But nice to have it back
After being apart so long
I think I'll try to hold on to it

I found my soul...
The infomercial promised
Three easy payments and they'd
Ship it overnight, UPS, maybe FedEx
Who could resist?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spring Training

February, an over-crowded dugout
Multiplies the Arizona heat
Baby-faces mix with aged veterans
Wannabes, hangers-on and last-chancers

Pores drip with the anxiety of pressure
Or joy of finally making it
Some fear soon being gone
Friendships begin while competition intensifies

An inning or two
One at bat
Two if I'm lucky
Succeed or screw-up

Ball stings off the bat
Coming my way, I stretch, reach
Hits my mitt and ricochets down
I dive, bobble and miss the tag

Bile perks in my throat
Shake it off, focus, let it go
May have been my only chance
Hope, fear, pray, wait

Monday, March 2, 2009

Three old friends

They met again
Bracing for another joke:
Rabbi, priest, pastor

Rabbi says it's fear
Fear God
Better yet, don't even say the name
Wrath, anger and retribution
Fire and brimstone
Wilderness wanderings
Smiting tribes and annihilating nations

Priest claims guilt
It's in our DNA
Church and school teach it
Clerics and parents breathe it
It's always my fault
And if it's not my fault
It's my fault that it's not

Pastor whispers: shame
God is perfect, we're wretched
We disgrace God
Disgrace the church
And our families too
How could you?
Rings in our ears all day long

Now all these remain:
Fear, guilt and shame
And the greatest of these is...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lent, again

Small Baptist church
Edge of the city
Family farms were gone
Ever widening streets
Car lots and early stage
Of strip malls
Good people
Almost "country folk"
My mom's people

They knew the Bible
They loved it
They tried to live it
No creeds of rituals so
They believed

Lent was bad, almost evil
Empty routine of
False religion
Catholics and Lutherans
Maybe some others so
Far from faith

Home is not so distant
Four or five hours down the freeway
Decades later, now about four

Yearly ashes to my forehead
The joy of sorrow
The smudge of death
The touch of some pastor
I hardly know

What was once forbidden
Now is my food, my life

I worry for a moment that I may later see
Someone I know at the
Store who won't understand

Six weeks Wednesday at noon
Sitting with Glenn
Sometimes others join us
A hymn or two
Short sermon
Some good, some not

Lunch in the basement
Church cookbook casserole
Creamy salad
Water or tea
Neither of us drink coffee

Talk of family and sports
Maybe the sermon
Church friends and politics
Work updates
We say our goodbyes

Giving up something, maybe
Remembering, anything to help

Holy Week, the beginning with
Sword ferns posing as palms
Maundy Thursday
It took a long time to
Understand the "Maundy"
Good Friday
It's trite,
But who ever thought to
Call it "good?"
The dark, quiet and waiting

Easter and
It's over
Day of joy
Get my life back, again
Not sure I want it
At this cost
The seasons end

I hope it will come again
Next year
Or maybe, I hope
I'll be here next year
To remember that
It happened
Jesus suffered
And I live

Monday, February 16, 2009

August Evening

sitting next to Connie
old, hard, wooden stadium benches
red paint, chipped, gouged and peeling
she puts on her sweater
I put on my sweatshirt

band plays hits of some artist
we know little of and care less for
overbearing 80's synthesizer
annoys me
she doesn't seem to notice or care

beyond the stage I watch carnival rides
loop, spin and race into the evening
colored lights intensify
sky drifts to darkness

near full moon glows above the trees
growing smaller as it brightens
yellow to orange to almost white

we come to the fair almost every year
it's something we do
we learned this spring she has cancer
treatment, fear, hope shadow our days

we talk a bit, decide to leave
i am ready, but hesitate
how many more times we will go to the fair

merit award 2007 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"We Are the Ship" Shares Baseball History

Baseball is an American rite of spring, but it can be much more than that. Baseball can contribute to building a sense of family. Many families share memories around the game; a first trip to the park, softball at a family reunion, street ball in the neighborhood, collecting cards and catch games between parents and children.

I love the story of baseball. I have visited historic parks, read and collected many books, and attended numerous games with family and friends. I love to tell others about base ball’s (it used to be two words) story and one of the most important parts of that story is the history of the Negro Leagues.
We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson is a welcome book to help children learn the story of this special part of U. S. history. Through compelling paintings—Nelson is an artist first—and rich yet simple storytelling, children gain a comprehensive sense of the history of the Negro Leagues. This book provides more than games and statistics. It covers train rides and restaurant shunnings, Satchel Paige’s power pitching, Josh Gibson’s home runs, to integration with Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson.

We Are the Ship recently received the 2008 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year from Spitball Magazine. It marks the first time the award has been presented to a children’s book. In winning the award, the judges called the book "Expressive. Majestic. Inspiring”… “everything a great book should be”… ”a book to enjoy over and over again" ... "a beautiful work all parents should share with little baseball fans to the edification of both."

All children will benefit from gaining the insight into this special part of our history. We need to keep reading and telling the story of the Negro Leagues so that each generation learns of the struggles and heroes, and so we never forget. We Are the Ship tells the story in ways that is beautiful, interesting, fun, heart-warming and intriguing for children and parents alike. It makes a perfect bridge from Black History Month to the coming spring.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

She Left Me

She left me

It was late spring

Maybe early summer

Shift of calendar or climate

Thought we'd make it

Stay together

Not be like those others

I'd see her

Eyes dark cold

Or vacant, lost

Death had visited

More than one died

Words - halting, angry or none

Long stretches

Empty, lonely, afraid

Now was an ache, a worry

Panic turned stomach acid

Sleep was an escape, if it came

Could this be, be our end?

The future was a terror

The evil of something worse than this

This living nothing

Bellinghamherald.com 2.8.09

Monday, February 2, 2009

Calling Woodburn

phoned Woodburn
George answered
said, It would cost me
to talk to her
his way of joking

"Barbara, it's Jim."
"Hi, son. How are you?"
"Fine, thought I'd call."
she didn't seem to notice
the choked words
said she was fine, too
must not have noticed
she needed to go
help a friend
we said quick goodbye's

I wanted to tell her
"Bernie died yesterday."
almost ninety
we knew she was fading
no surprise
wanted to talk more
didn't know how to say it
didn't tell her
couldn't do it
she was gone

Monday, January 26, 2009

August 1, 2007

ten years gone
a decade

we were over the mountains at a hotel
waiting to get the kids from camp
I was planning to visit the next week
got the call
you were gone

all the things you don't know

within days, OK a few months
I had a new job and car
Michael moved out
we would have talked, you would have cared

I can't believe you don't know

I imagine you in your family room
sitting in your chair
(it's upstairs in our guest room)
your television and sound system
(big screens and theater sound are the rage,
I know you'd love it)
you'd put in some action movie
tell me "listen to this"
sound would overwhelm the room
it would be impressive

i want to hear you rant about the government
and the unending stupidity of people

I want to play Upwords
just the two of us
you keeping score
for little reason
because you would win

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

i'll take the silence

i don't want to hear the voice of God.
Actual words pushed to earth
by breath from the eternal one.
Vibrating across time and space.
Crawling through the opening of my ear
shaking tiny bones.
connecting membrane
until a message registers in my brain.
I'll take the silence.

I don't want it.
No conversation, monologue or pronouncement.
I doubt i could handle it.
The clarity would overwhelm.
I'll take the silence.

No thanks.
the wondering,
the choosing to believe God is there.
but never knowing, for certain, how it works.
I'll take the silence.



  • i don't think i want to be known as a "blogger".
  • the "faithful skeptic" name was a way my friend Paul Petersen referred to me a few years back. seems to fit.
  • initially i want to post writings i have done in the past and maybe some new things. not so much blog/journaling. more stuff that flows from the interiors of life.
  • not sure how regular i'll post. try for once a week to start.
  • who will read this, or want to read this? as if i have clue.