John Dillinger’s Dick.

October 9, 2017 § 1 Comment

*

Some seventy years ago

Ray was a Catholic kid at Holy Redeemer,

a DC school with nuns in black and white,

girls who flashed bare chapped knees

below navy blue pleats,

and boys who, in defiance

of their mandatory neckties,

were as wondering and

irreverent as any.

*

In addition to the rote round of

genuflection, catechism,

burnt offerings,

the squeal of chalk on board,

was the annual field trip.

Even then DC was rich

with museums.

*

But the Holy Redeemers went to just one.

Not the Smithsonian,

not The National Gallery,

not the Renwick.

No, the band of Catholics single-filed

onto the street car

(the tracks ran right by the school)

and rode to

The Medical Museum,

to ogle its two-headed baby,

its anatomical anomalies in murky jars.

But every year the same rumor

was passed around,

boy to boy,

elbow to ribs.

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Five things I know, and how I know them.

September 27, 2017 § 7 Comments

1. The old are like Russian nesting dolls.

All the earlier selves are hidden inside the one you see, still there, preserved.

But unlike those wooden dolls, each of the selves hidden inside that old body is different.

One has skinned knees.

A second is reading a Nancy Drew book.

A third wears a prom corsage.

Another holds a baby in her arms.

I wish I’d known that when I was a kid seeing my grandparents as only that, grandparents. Inside each of them was a kid as young as I was, and on the outside, a kid as old as the one I would become.

I know about these hidden selves because, much to my surprise, I am old. And young. And everything in between. I am every one of those dolls down to the tiny one at the very center.

2. The inanimate is just the animate holding still.

Existence is an addition problem. It is the sum of everything.

Each rock, feather, man-made object, holds the life force.

It moves like a cloud shadow across the landscape but we are too distracted, too human-centric to notice.

We, the kinetic, the perpetually in motion, are not attuned to it, but if we become aware, the inanimate befriends and anchors us, it puts our insignificance into perspective. Feel that force and we understand that we are just one more number in that long, long addition problem.

I know, because I feel the life in the rock I rest against, and in the favorite sweater I wear year after year. Still my whirring self, and the company of all that is surrounds me.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Oh, dog!

September 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

 

Oh, dog!

You whose name is God,

spelled backwards.

Which is fitting.

God, the great intangible.

Dog, who with nail-click,

familiar stink and scrubby fur

is tangible.

Times two.

***

God is omnipresent

while you, oh dog,

are simply present.

You live in this

roll in the grass.

This plate-lick.

This scratch between the ears.

May we learn

from your example.

***

Oh, dog!

You are not God,

but you exhibit his patience

with us, the impatient,

imperfect, improbable

Humankind.

***

Thank God, we pray.

But thank dog, we live.

Over 16.

August 12, 2017 § 4 Comments

Young, we set out like those brash southern boys so eager to join the fray they were afraid the war would end before they saw action, whupped Yankee butt.

Some, too young for the fight, chalked the number 16 on the sole of a boot so that when asked if they were over 16, they could swear they were without lying.

Surrounded by friends, they paraded out of hometowns.

Mothers and sweethearts waved and blotted their eyes with cloth handkerchiefs.

Some of those aspiring soldiers carried rifles, some knives, and some a canvas sack home-packed, as if the boys were picnicking, not going to war.

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Busker’s Lament.

July 16, 2017 § 2 Comments

Buskers, those street musicians wearing tragic hats and faded jeans, are the filter feeders of the music world, gleaning pocket change and an equivalent amount of attention from a busy, going-somewhere audience.

The signals that let listeners know, “Hey, this is a big act! These guys are hot!” are absent.

No band bus.

No stage.

No entourage.

Just a guitar, a shaker or two and that gaping guitar case, begging for the recognition of loose change, and the occasional buck that has to be kept from blowing away.

It’s a hunger that will never be filled.

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Mind and matter.

June 21, 2017 § 4 Comments

Mind offers an opinion.

Then another.

And another.

That’s what a whirring machine like Mind does. There are so many factors to take into account! Past experience, prejudices, things read in the paper, the weather, how my hair looks today.

Mind is a more-is-better opinion generator, a fun guy, but one who never stops talking.

Today I want to speak up for Mind’s silent partner, Body. If you want an opinion rooted in the present state of things ask Body. And you do have to ask, because, like I said, Body is silent. And rarely in charge.

Mind makes most decisions in this partnership, bossing Body around big-time.

Mind says, do this, and Body does. Body would add a “Yes boss, whatever you say boss,” but Body exists in a language-free state (one of the reasons Mind disrespects it).

Mind never asks for Body’s input, and when Body tugs at Mind with the need to, say, rest, Mind gives Body a quick pep talk. Suck it up! When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

Mind has little respect for Body—that dumb old hunk of meat.

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In the moment.

June 15, 2017 § 2 Comments

There is a way to live in the moment that does not impart the peace and sunlight of Zen.

In this relentless present there is no calm, no oneness with the universe.

A place of isolation and aloneness, this endless “now” goes by the name of Poverty.

Those who live in poverty in this affluent country stand perpetually in the snow looking through a brightly lit store window at all that is out of reach. And the needle of time barely moves.

The poor try to luck their way out, but poverty is the scratch-off ticket that never yields to luck, but is ditched instead in the convenience store parking lot where it lies with it’s worthless brothers soaking up the rain. « Read the rest of this entry »