Monthly Archives: July 2013

#51: Benefit Car Crash


I misread the advertisement for a benefit car wash
as a benefit car crash, honestly enough,
my eye glancing quickly over the headline,
eliminating the ‘a’ in car and the ‘w’ in wash,
the brain filling in some redundancy so
that sense could be made–because no one
would advertise a benefit crash
without specifying the kind of crash
one could expect at such a benefit,
and subsequently I saw fireworks.
I could see how this kind of benefit
might be a huge money maker, as
people both like to feel they’re helping
and hurting their fellow man simultaneously.
So they line up, pay their hard earned money
to support their favorite cause or charity,
get into the car, or better yet, pay even more
to get someone they don’t like behind the wheel,
and then the cars take off, helter skelter,
the worse the driver’s skills the better,
dangerously fast around a track,
or, to speed up the process, the cars
aim directly at one another so the desired
outcome is certain and quick.  Drive like hell
until someone gets hurt or killed, and
enjoy the great American paradoxical pastime:
Hold a benefit car crash;
destroy the village in order to save the village.

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Filed under Culture, Poetry

#50: On Trying Again To Read Moby Dick (Again)


I’m not reading again, but instead,
trying again to read for the first time,
the problem being, as I’ve said before,
not one of starting but of finishing,
which, I fear is, but hope is not,
a general pattern in my life.
Call me Ishmael.
What a great first line.
I read it twenty times before moving
to the next sentence.
But this time I make a vow
only to read the passages I’ve marked
from my previous three efforts,
and in this way, I will proceed
through the first 160 pages,
which I have read before,
in record setting time,
being able then to begin my endeavor
where I left off–with a sense of that thing
many of our favorite television shows do for us:
“Previously on The West Wing. . .”

Moving quickly through the etymology
and extracts, and, even though it hurts me,
skipping 1, 2, and 3 entirely, I arrive quickly
at the first passage I marked last time,
Ishmael’s words of wisdom as he climbs into bed with Queequeg:
“Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.”
Amen to that, Brother. And then,
“A good laugh is a mighty good thing. . .and the man
that has anything bountifully laughable about him,
be sure there is more in that man than you perhaps think for,”
and I immediately remember how funny this novel is,
and how much I thoroughly enjoyed every failed attempt at reading it.

I can’t move too quickly, though, through my review
of the first 35 chapters because I discover I am
completely out of book darts–little post-it notes
I use to mark key passages when I’m reading a fancy edition
in which I am loath to make permanent or pencil marks.
To slow myself down, I think I may write a poem
about every passage I’ve thus far marked, or,
to the chagrin of all my “friends,” turn every key
passage into a facebook post.  Nothing but Moby Dick
from me for the next month or so.  There’s no good
reason it should take me that long to purchase a new
package of book darts–but it is entirely in the realm
of possibility. But I want to know more about Captain Ahab,
who has been in hiding, who finally comes out to give up smoking,
place his peg inside an augured hole for stability,
and tell Stubbs he was “ten times a donkey, and a mule,
and an ass,” and that if he didn’t get out of his sight,
he would “rid the world” of him.
I get out immediately to the local office supply store
and get me some book darts.

I continue my review.  I want inside that big boat.
Starbuck says, “I will have no man in my boat who is not afraid of a whale,”
and I say out loud to Starbuck that I am afraid of the whale and of Moby Dick,
Herman Melville’s beautifully intoxicating and totally intimidating novel,
and my fear is what will ultimately push me toward the conclusion.
Quickly moving through Chapter 35, Cetology, Whale Studies 101,
the attempt to answer Ishmael’s question: what is a whale?
He admits and then heroically accepts his failure
at being able to satisfactorily answer the question,
and then comes to this most stirring conclusion:
“God, keep me from ever finishing anything.
This whole book is but a draught–nay, but the draught of a draught.
Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience,” and once again I say Amen,
amen to never finishing anything, amen to a draft of a draft,
amen to the desperate need for time, strength, lots of cash, and patience.
Ishmael, I love you like a brother
and I will finish this novel if it kills me.

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Filed under Literature, Poetry, Writing and Reading

#49: On the Eve of Our 27th Wedding Anniversary


On the Eve of Our 27th Wedding Anniversary

Earlier today we looked at each other
and kind of shrugged. What do you want to do?
I don’t know. How about you?
Should we get a sitter and go out or should
we do a special thing as a family?
Let’s do the special thing as a family.
Yeah, that would be better. So, what should we do?

Still partially undecided,
our 27th wedding anniversary plans
will wait until tomorrow to solidify.
She’s putting the boy to bed
and I’m drinking a bourbon in the backyard
thinking about the solidity of a marriage.
Events or circumstances have at times
conspired against it, storms came through.
There were blissful days and torturous ones
and sometimes those days, both blissful and torturous,
turned into months,
once or twice they became years.
Our marriage, tank-like, a fortress,
has withstood it all, and we are practically
the only living couple I know who have lasted as long.
I’m not bragging.  We were and remain lucky and committed.

We live on a property covered with these majestic,
ancient oak trees and when the weather is bad
sometimes large limbs fall into the yard, the driveway,
impale themselves into the soft winter dirt, but
yesterday, one fell, on a perfect summer day,
directly across the drive.  They call them widow-makers,
and for good reason, because if I had been under it,
even if sheltered inside a car, I think I would right now
be a dead husband and my wife would be a widow.
We know we need to talk to a tree person.
What I’m trying to say is this (there’s a metaphor
at work here so bear with me):
It’s us against the oaks.  They’re going to try to outlive us
like they will outlive all the other tenants of this place,
and they might succeed.  They may also try to kill one of us.
But we’re going to talk to a tree person and between now
and the time when we can afford to have the work done
we’ll be on our guard against heavy falling branches.
And despite the fact that neither one of us has huge plans
for the big day tomorrow, we know something good will happen,
as we know there will many more anniversaries,
some with really important even numbers
attached to them, some for which we will throw
huge parties, probably all the way until
the year we die or one of us is killed by a falling limb.


Filed under Poetry

#48: Learning to Ride

Learning to Ride

He’s seven, reluctant to ride independently,
most of his classmates far ahead on two wheels,
which has not been a problem for him, so he says.
No, I’m scared, he has said.  No, I like the scooter better, he has said.
I will never ride a bike, he has said.  Never, he repeats, for emphasis.
But there was something about Dad saying this would be the summer.
And today was the day.  Dad has no worries or anxieties, really,
about his boy’s slow and reluctant approach to two-wheel independence,
only a sense of the importance of this step, of marking out
this particular summer as one in which something
great is accomplished.  So Dad says, Let’s get the bike out of the garage
and remove those clunky training wheels.
Let’s practice on the grass, so if you fall, it will not hurt.
And that was enough.  A few false starts, awkward
on the browned-out lawn, pedals uncompromising
and stubborn, lots of tipping, a failed attempt to lower the seat,
some awkward pokes to the groin area and some dramatic escapes
from the tumbling cycle.  But really, after only about ten minutes of this,
the first independent ride, short-lived, ending in collapse, but no injuries.
And then, Dad, not wanting to let this moment escape, produces
his phone for a rare captured moment.  He begins filming,
the boy mounts the saddle, Dad steadies the bike and begins to push
until the boy says, Daddy, let go–and Daddy lets go.
The boy makes a complete circle on his bike, independently,
in the yard, and you can see it on his face and hear it in his
father’s voice, a kind of triumph, a vibe of victory, the purest
kind of pride.  On the boy’s part, a sheepishness, as if to admit
much ado about nothing, but an unwillingness to let go of that innocence,
the baby boy who needs the training wheels.  And Dad, really,
on the verge of tears, a great emotion welling up inside,
for the accomplishment of the feat, yes, the tackling of one more
rite of passage, but of fear, too, and sadness, for the boy
who sets off and keeps on pedaling farther and farther away.


Filed under Parenting, Poetry

#47: Letting the Lawn Brown Out


Letting the Lawn Brown Out

Otherwise, it would cost a small fortune
for all the water it would take
to keep it green, and who’s to say that somehow
green is prettier than brown?
It’s softer, yeah, sure, but I’m not
a barefoot kind of guy so I’m always
wearing shoes and I’d never
know the difference.
And brown grass doesn’t grow
so I haven’t had to mow
the stuff all summer long.
I am getting used to the idea
that a brown lawn is just as attractive
as any other lawn color,
and that’s good, because I think
we’ll all have to get used to brown
lawns, eventually all year long
until everything just shrivels up and dies
while we sit around admiring the beauty
of the dried up grass, the withering trees,
the lovely gray, tan-tinted roses in the garden.

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Filed under Poetry

#46: Call Me Reverend


Call Me Reverend

Call me reverend, call me padre or father,
man of the cloth, pastor, minister, oh wise one,
leader of men, shepherd, or guy who became
an ordained minister on-line in less than
five real live human minutes.
Call me the guy who has credentials
to marry and bury and a parking permit
and a press pass and a free pass
and a bumper sticker that says,
“We are all children of the same universe”
above the symbolic representations
of all the faiths on the planet,
some of which he recognizes,
many of which he does not
and none of which represent
a faith he belongs to or practices.
Call me the Atheist minister,
the guy who became ordained because
someone asked him to officiate a wedding
and he said yes,
who believes in the basic goodness
and dignity of every living thing,
who believes not in an afterlife
of heaven or hell,
but of an afterlife in the memory
of those left behind and whose
lives he touched, for better or worse,
the guy who believes, in a nutshell,

that this is it,

and heaven or hell,
heaven and hell
are right here and now, baby,
and that one can be
exchanged for the other
with the right or wrong
kind of practice or with a good
or a bad kind of luck.
His ministry or creed:
be good to people and the planet
and all the living things upon it,
and that will go an awful long way.
It’s all we’ve got, in the end.



Filed under Poetry, Religion