Sunday, May 30, 2010

Losing My Grip

I just published this poem on Helium and wanted to share it with you all. It really happened just the other day (Friday). I call it, "Early Signs of Dementia," but it was publoished as "Losing My Grip."

I grabbed a pair of clean socks today.
I turned my back and they went away.
I searched for them both high and low
Wondering where my socks might go.
If I were socks stuck in a bin
And I got out, I’d do what then?
I would not want to be stuck on feet
Trapped in shoes out walking the street,
So I would flee, hide where I could,
To keep out of the neighborhood.
I sat there wondering about this stuff
As if my thoughts were quite enough
To solve this puzzle; I looked again.
I’d tossed them in the laundry bin.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost and Found

The series finale of Lost was fantastic -- it would have been oceans better if it wasn't plagued by that terrible smoke monster called advertising. Three to six minutes of program, then five to ten minutes of ads -- I almost passed out from boredom before the end! I had taped it in case I couldn't stay up that late, but doggedly stayed with the program. Diane was right --she said it after the very first episode: you don't suppose they're . . . I won't say it in case you haven't watched your recording yet.

So. now another unique and wonderful series draws to a close, this time at least because the writers and creators SAID they were done, and not because the network pulled the plug, as with Firefly, Farscape, Millennium, and all the way back to the original Star Trek. Odd, off center series seem to do best in short runs, anyway. That Lost made it six years is a testament to great writing and great acting and constant end-of-the-chapter suspense. Hats off!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On the Verge

Hello, my friends!

I feel as though I am on the verge of something. Of course, I am always on the verge of something . . . somnetimes it feels like something great, sometimes something dull, sometimes something momentous, sometimes something difficult, sometimes something sad, sometimes it's just a nap. Today it's something mystical, that I can't quite put my finger on, that is tickling me behind the ear where I can't see it. This is a place where we all have been, and I think the vague word for it is hope.

Hope springs eternal, they like to say, and it's true. Even in the darkest of times hope emerges from the shadows. It's difficult to be negative all the time, though it can be done. I have done it for sustained periods. But today, even facing challenges I have not had to face in over a dozen years and that I thought were behind me, I feel hopeful.

Maybe this is because I am writing. A lot. Short pieces, poems and reviews for, knowing I am being published and read, at least by fellow writers whose job it is to rate your work against the multitudes. Writing makes me happy like almost nothing else in the world can. In fact, I could lose everything else I own, but if I have a keyboard, internet access (used to be, if I had a pen and paper), some kind of roof over my head and my wonderful wife to support me and help me through the day to day, I will be fine. There may be a regret here and there, lamenting a choice not made in a timely fashion, even some major disappointments. But over all, I will be happy.

And busy. Very, very busy.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Just Another Poem


I want to live somewhere else,
somewhere not so committed
to murder, somewhere where
policy condemns not condones.
Somewhere not likely to invade
somewhere else, not likely to
promote Jihad, Crusade
in the old language,
broken words brought back
in the modern age.
Somewhere where hate is not
welcome, invited, sought out.
Somewhere where people
do not starve, or, starving
receive help and not
platitudes, inedible.
My dreamless dream
in unicorn forests and
silent springs, my sanctuary
hidden from the machinations
of powerful men,
slipping through the cracks,
unobserved, untargeted,
but also unread.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Viva Las Vegas

Saturday we drove to Las Vegas to witness our daughter's graduation from Nevada State University, in Henderson She graduated summa cum laude with a 3.98 grade point average, tied for the highest ever awarded at the school. She also was Valedictorian, and gave a rousing speech. It was a deep honor, well worth the sixteen hour round trip.

We spent the night at the Four Queens hotel casino in Las Vegas. Di had never actually been to Las Vegas proper before, a distinction she had held onto proudly all her life. Now the last remaining claim to abstinence is the fact that she has never seen "True Grit."

That won't change unless I tie her to a chair and force her to watch it, which is something that will never happen.

I saw "True Grit" once, totally by accident. Some friends and I went to see a double feature, but "True Grit" was already half over when we got in. So we watched the last half first and then stayed to watch the first half last -- and felt we had not missed a beat. Once we got to the point where we started, we left.

I don't remember the second film. That's irony for you. I think there was so much fuss about Marion Martin's performance that the film about an old man/protector/western knight kicking ass on a half dozen bad guys, reigns in his teeth, became etched into my memory banks.

I've always felt bad about that.

John Wayne would have liked the Four Queens. They have smoking and non-smoking stalls in the bathrooms replete with ashtrays -- I kid you not. And cup holders on the urinals. Now I know what they mean when they say, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Where else can you have your beer and pee it too, in one convenient process??

So now Di has been there, done that. I kinda feel bad about that, too.

Fut our youngest child has beaten all the odds and made it through with highest honors. Rooster Cogburn would be proud.

I feel great about that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Book Thief

I wrote the following some time ago, first as a ketter to two dear friends, then as an article on Helium. Hope you all like it.

Dear Annemieke and Hanneke,

I write this letter to you both, because you both were there, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It always amazes me how big discoveries can follow on the heels of small accidents, even when the discovery itself seemed small at the time and the accident did not even appear to exist.

It was the simplest thing to do. The fact is this: We went into a book store.
Utrecht's largest bookstore was filled with people of all ages browsing and buying. Children in droves scoured the shelves hungry for new things to read. Children of all ages clamored for a place in one of the six check out lines, books in hand, faces smiling in anticipation of the adventures awaiting them.

For me, an American glancing at Dutch books, the vision was amazing and gratifying. Then I discovered that there were dozens of books in English waiting just for me. After an hour of exploration, I chose four. Among them was The Book Thief, a novel by Australian writer Markus Zusak. I examined it and fell in love with the premise: Death meets a girl and now Death is compelled to tell us her story.
Her name is Liesel Meminger, who finds herself growing up with foster parents on Himmel (Heaven) Street in a small town near both Munich and Dachau, during World War Two. Through an array of fascinating characters trying to find some sort of normalcy in such a place and time as Nazi Germany just as the war turns, we get to see all the horror, pain and beauty that exists in Man.

Four Observations from The Book Thief
1. The Average German was caught up in it, just like everyone else.
2. The average German was human.
3. Contrary to modern opinion, the accordion is not a curse on the musical world, but a blessing.
4. Although in Nazi Germany kindness was punished instead of rewarded.
kindness occurred. Kindness flourished.

The book compelled me in many ways. Not the least of which, I had to confront my own prejudices. Ordinary people whom I was raised to think of as the enemy shined brilliantly in this story, and then became the victims. There can be no daunt, as Death himself warns, so I don't think I am giving too much away: bombs will fall. American bombs.

After reading this book, how can anyone ever let anything like this happen again -- give Death the workload? And yet . . . .

Years ago I read Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List with great disappointment. Keneally's material was compelling but for me the story telling was flat and without real emotion. But if Keneally had written that book with the poet's eye that Zusak gives us in The Book Thief, it would have been like reading Kurt Vonnegut's take on the German side of the war and holocaust, Zusak is that good. The canvas is small, intimate, personal, quirky in the telling, yet filled with such miniscule humanity against the backdrop of a world gone terribly wrong that my own emotions became raw, from laughter to tears. This is the book I wish I had written, found so casually, by accident, among the stacks of books in Utrecht.

One reviewer focused on the idea that it was words that kept Liesel and the others going, that brought and preserved life and dignity -- just as words in the hands of men like Hitler could destroy. For me, the dominant theme of the book focuses on just one word. Kindness. Unseen, unheralded, unspectacular kindness, something we forget human beings are capable of and always ready to perform.

The Book Thief may just be the best book I have ever read.

So thank you again, ladies, for the happy accident that rocked my world.