Friday, July 22, 2016

On Writing a Book

It's your story to tell, but you don't know where to start. It's fiction with roots in lives you know, but where to begin. You need to keep moving back in time until the story has a natural trajectory.  Then you unravel the words, like a skein of yarn, pushing to understand the way each character moves forward. But plot doesn't move in a straight line-- it stutters, stops, proceeds with caution, then runs ahead. Taking command. Shouting for the writer to follow.

Agreeing to follow is a risk.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

One Sentence

Parsha Chukat

        Then came the children of Israel, 
        even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin
         ...and the people abode in Kadesh; 
         and Miriam died there and was buried there.
                       Numbers 20:1

One sentence, "and Miriam died there
and was buried there"--

This was Miriam who saved Moses
Miriam who led the people with song,
who sang of God's wonders
who sang and danced with joy
as the people left the land of bondage

No one mourned

Just one sentence
--and was buried there
No one mourned

The people complained about their thirst
and forgot Miriam

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

May I Disagree

This is a most uncivil time. Why don't we hand out boxing gloves along with punching bags. I recently made an innocuous comment about how I thought that abstaining from voting for a candidate essentially meant handing a vote to the competing candidate.

One person responded to me with a three hundred word diatribe. If you answer the words can go on and on.

I wonder how many people develop a bad case of indigestion from reading too many comments? It's best to--either not respond or to abstain from social media--until the election is over.

Why not use this time to read Proust or finally read Ulysses in its entirety.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Maybe it's Only a Dream

It happened because I started to fall asleep. My finger, poised over the delete arrow--descended. When I opened my eyes- mere seconds-- everything written was gone. Letter by letter, word for word, sentence by sentence-- all gone into that space highway in the sky.

Perhaps it's just as well. I had three long and convoluted paragraphs complaining about the demonizing of Hillary Clinton, the negativity, and the hate that is brandished around like a saber cutting down whatever is in its path.

Perhaps it's best to read a mystery--Then do everything possible to make sure that hate and ignorance and bigotry aren't our marching robots, our banner.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Hot Summer

It's hot, sticky, close
and I  monitor
the thermometer plastered
on the glass door
I wait for the red mark
to descend
I check the extended
forecast, read the real feel
numbers and the dew point
It's not over according to the pundits
Next week more sultry weather
with dew points in the oppressive range.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Let Me Hear the Word

words spin
as I observe
the minister acting
out scripture
I yearn
for plain words

Saturday, July 16, 2016

At 8:32

Our internet remained mute. Not responsive. On vacation, away. Not on.

A Comcast representative said, "We're experiencing some difficulty in your area. You'll have service at 8:32." I do like certainty, specifics, and blessed assurance.

What was missed? Checking out Facebook and finding out that ten people shared articles, an equal number posted photographs taken on vacation, a few posted photos of children or grandchildren doing adorable things . Let me not forget the posted recipes. And then there are the artful photos, sketches from my online group,and complaints about the heat, global warming, and the lack of water.

I was blissfully unaware of any horrendous events, politics, opinion pieces, negativity, and long term weather forecasts.

I didn't break out into a feverish sweat, feel disconnected, or pine for the clutter of Facebook, of Instagram, of What's App. It will all come back at 8:32-- along with its distractions and time eaters. It will come unannounced and demand my time--

Friday, July 15, 2016

Parsha Korach

         "You have gone too far! All
          the congregation are holy,
          every one of them, and the
          Lord is among them."
                       Numbers 16:3

A rebellion against Moses,
against Aaron, against
the status quo. Korah
took on Moses with angry
words, without listening,
with his ego, with his temper
This was not a dialogue.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nice, France

          A white truck plowed into a crowd
          celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France
          Not content with the truck's carnage
          a gunman splayed fifty shots into the scene

It only took twenty-one minutes
for the news bulletin to appear,
twenty-one minutes for cell phone
videos to show-up on my screen
It probably took less than twenty-one
minutes, but that's when I looked
at my screen, that's when I said--
no, not again, no, these people
didn't do anything-- they loved,
people loved them--they dreamt

Eighty-four  died, more wounded
Our news stations will send people
to cover the story, we'll offer our prayers
we'll tighten security, our government will
offer condolences, we'll fly the flag at half- mast
in solidarity-- we've done this before, we know the script

There aren't enough tears or words
to offer condolences, to sooth
the families, to fill the blanks
of lives cut short, of dreams
unfulfilled, of words left
unsaid, of lives cut
short by hate

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On a Hot Summer Day

When we arrived at the seventh hole and the temperature was in the high eighties and the humidity kept climbing my golf club grew heavier. Instead of a jaunty walk I plodded along. The golf ball's dimensions changed. My hat felt like an encumbrance-- a wet band around my head.

When I hit the ball instead of following a flight pattern, I watched it dribble onto the fairway. Ungainly.

The sun was in relentless pursuit. My balls never landed in the shade-- instead they sought bright sunlit patches of green. Drawn to my ball I became a reluctant follower.

By the ninth hole my water was tepid and my heel chafed against my golf shoe. My glove adhered to my left hand as if permanently affixed.

Such are the toils and travails of a high handicapper in golf.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Third Man. 1949

Noir lighting

Post-war Vienna
shot in black and white
with Dutch angles, shadows
superimposed on other shadows
against a backdrop of haunting
melodies strummed on a zither


Monday, July 11, 2016

Please Pick Up Your Phone

 Check your phone before saying hello
Do you recognize the name or number
showing up as a digital footprint 
Don't say hello to strangers, to folks
asking for money, or to people you 
don't want to speak to
Make believe you're  not home--
on vacation, unavailable, let them
leave a message, the reason for a call
We all do it, we screen out people


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ever Notice How We're Riding a Carousel

ever notice how one news story
pushes another story away
as if we can only carry
one tragedy at a time
like our hands so full
so burdened we move 
on and hope that
another shooting doesn't
happen while the ink is still wet

Saturday, July 09, 2016

This Week

not enough tears
nor enough sighs, nor enough
saying we need to do better
if we don't look in the mirror
and count the times we didn't
speak up, the times we walked
away, the times we let things
go, or thought that liberal words
and church prayers and reading
books about oppression, or signing
petitions was enough, well it isn't
enough as long as we close our
doors, live comfortably, enjoy
what we see advertised, eat and dine
where we want on what we want,
graduate from good schools with
up to date books, keep our children
occupied with music classes, athletic
camps, dance, art, and whatever else
they want, send them out to play
without thinking they may not come home
We need to do more than listen
to the television and wonder why
black folks get killed for not looking
like white folks and shake our heads
when some folks just go shooting
at the police--we need to do more
This is our problem, our failure
and we can't wait until the furor
burns itself out and go on as usual
Prayer always needs feet..

Friday, July 08, 2016

In the Not So Real World

Write a story and control the script
Decide on the plot and move along
with enough twists and conflicts
to keep them turning the page
I know sometimes a character moves
and takes off on another track
but you hold the reins and the universe
follows your words, buckles under
to your revisions, your ending

Thursday, July 07, 2016

On a Hot Day

I threaded my skate key on a shoelace and wore it around my neck. Whenever I put on my metal skates, tightened the clamps that attached to my tie shoes, and buckled the straps, I felt like flying. I wore sidewalk skates with ball bearing wheels that screeched across cement.

        I'm not allowed to skate in the street, nor cross streets. We head toward the  Grand Concourse, pass two long alleyways, and my doctor's building. At the place where the street turns, we turn and head back down the block.
         The street slopes and after pushing off, I gain speed. Buildings blur and the   sound of my skates muffles my voice. I'm not brave enough to turn the corner and skate down the hill to the Jerome overhead subway.

Skating the three long blocks down to the overhead subway conveyed upon all successful skaters a seal of respect. No one in elementary school attempted those hills-- which we compared to the roller coaster at Coney Island. After a boy I didn't know broke both arms and one leg the rite of passage changed to an alleyway.


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Hot and Humid

When the heat creeps up on you and you think that your knees will buckle if you stand for another minute, when it takes hours for you to rejuvenate, when you select a long narrative driven book, when you pine for a cool spot in the shade, when all you think about is an ice decaf, when you want to run under the sprinkler until drenched, perhaps you're getting older.

I remember hiking in 94 degree temperature-- my mantra, " I love to feel the sweat trickling down my back." I remember when I only read esoteric books during the summer. I recall sitting outside a coffee house on ninety-five degree days and writing. I recall thinking it a badge of honor to rarely turn on the air conditioner.

Perhaps I'm getting soft. Perhaps I'm a victim of climate change. Perhaps I'm admitting vulnerability in the face of hot and humid days.                                    

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

My List Grows

I've discovered a treasure for book lovers-- A Reader's Book of Days. Each day brings more trivia-- some gossip and some stories that end up in biographies. At the beginning of each month Tom Nisslet, the author, suggests books for reading during the month.

Crime and Punishment seems too heavy for summer reading, but The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, sounds fascinating. It's about two intrepid scientists who set out on a scientific expedition "across the Ross Ice Shelf in the darkness of the Antarctic July."

Five more books are suggested and I'm set on finding one of the books in a local library.

And I found out that on this very day in 1925 Edith Wharton  had tea with F.Scott Fitzgerald who was thirty-four years her junior and "most likely was drunk."

Monday, July 04, 2016

Parsha Shelach

              So they brought to the Israelites
              an unfavorable report of the land
               that they had spied out.
                       Numbers 13:32

And the Israelites wanted
to stay just where they were--
even meandering held comfort
They knew the rhythms of their
comings and goings
To leave, to trust, to venture
beyond, might mean places
that chafed, discomfort,
a new set of risks

We, too, avoid taking chances
afraid of a misstep
and skittish about success

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Coming Home

Everything is put away
The wash waits for tomorrow 
I'm not ready to replace the aroma
of lobster or wash away the sound of the 
ocean breathing embedded in my clothes
The rhythm, the sibilant rush of waves 
clings to me and I'm unwilling to let it fade

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Packing, Unpacking, and Packing Again

Why is it that when packing to return home the space in the car shrinks? Nothing fits compactly and bags of dirty wash take up too much space. The golf bags refuse to accept their allotted  space. And the pillows will never squash down enough to allow the driver to see beyond a cooler and a large bag of encapsulated goose down feathers.

Once again I remind myself of all the superfluous items I packed, didn't use, and will take back home. Unfortunately my resolve melts when packing.

As I look around the room I'm discouraged. Too many uncategorized items hang about. Where will they go? I have a twenty-five year old rucksack. I'll fill it with all the odds and ends. Is it worth taking home all those pamphlets I've collected?

On the positive side. I will not be taking home two books I read. I'll leave them here. One a well written espionage book by Allen Furst, the other an absurd mystery by Preston & Childs. The mystery requires nothing save the capacity to turn the pages. It is a perfect rock sitting book. Every summer I read one in their series. Everyone needs a goal. Someday I shall complete the series. The question lingers-- is that an accomplishment?

Now I must shower, dry the plastic shower cap, dry the shower flip tops, and add more items to the dirty wash. And yes it's all worth it.

Friday, July 01, 2016

I Remember

narratives can open, expand to include
possibilities and probabilities,
changed endings and rewritings
until the last sentence

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Local Maine Newspaper

a couple building a new house  put soil over a gravel road--previously used to gain access to an old cemetery-- they are growing grass and now the town insists -- restore the gravel--there's even a Civil War vet interred in that ground

earlier in the day a baby chick was found wandering on a road, after a visit to a vet and consultation with a wildlife group the loon family is united

 there's a warning for a particular beach-" stay away from the giant hogweed" which can cause skin inflammation and even blindness

a man fell into his well

data is being collected about eelgrasses because they are disappearing-- perhaps it's those invasive green crabs

the library and the Seal Cove Auto Museum are looking " for someone to write a murder mystery set in the museum"

a female lobster bears 6,000-100,000 eggs, the largest lobster ever caught weighed " 44 pounds"-- but divers say they have seen bigger lobsters

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When Naming Loses Meaning

We took photos
of sedges, rushes, grasses,
 bog hummocks, mosses
 and shelf polypores
We looked for lichen patterns
and faces on tree trunks
When a mist descended
foregrounds disappeared
 into backgrounds,
and edges softened

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Changed View

suspended in air
poised over an island,
hovered and the land shape flattened
Later the mist lifted--revealing
a pine and granite landscape