Monthly Archives: December 2011


I stand facing
the conquered armies of Carthage
the rotting nobility of Rome
the seesaw twinkling of cities
blooming and dying
all along the fertile crescent
slave ships rising slowly at anchor
amphorae of wine and olive oil
piled on sun bright docks
awaiting passage
beggar children asking for coins
feral packs of dogs
defending their territories
kings and drunkards
fat whores with crooked teeth
and all the fishes of the sea
undulating in their fishy homes
beneath the mirrored stars
sprinkling the sea
with the breath of Gods.

And that is only the first three shelves.

The Beach in Winter

The rain blows sideways and the ocean tumbles in long rills of white and grey, diffusing into the sand and barely holding its own against the sky. A seagull patrols outside our window, constantly turning his head from side to side, watching our movements for a gesture that might suggest a meal. Swaying curtains of rain are drawn over the tide pools that burst with life in the summertime. Flower beds surrounding the hotel are buried in water, forming tiny moats. Life at the beach in winter is about the next friendly conversation, the next cup of coffee and changing out of wet socks.

Using Gifts

If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?

—Stephen King

The Way Down from the Gallows

“The only way down from the gallows is to swing.”
– Tom Waits

Coffin Corners

In the houses of new England, where the steep and narrow staircases turned at the landing, they often built niches into the walls so coffins being carried down the stairs could easily make the turn. Death at home, in bed, was a fact of life no less than cooking in kettles hung over a kitchen fire and sleeping in unheated rooms. Passing a coffin corner on your way downstairs to breakfast every morning would have been an unremarkable reminder of what daily life told you in myriad ways, that life is brief and death is inseparable from the day to day experience of life. Mexico’s day of the dead makes the same point with a twist of mordant humor thrown in. In the USA of the 21st century maybe we fear death so because we have lost our friendship with it.

Inhaling Shooting Stars

Today I walked across the same parking lot as yesterday and sat in the same cubicle, while the crab nebulae and the spraying Geminid meteors overhead made it hard to concentrate on my email. I flicked my desk light on and stared at my laptop screen, but the tons of space rock whistling in from the far reaches of the galaxy took my mind to a place where Microsoft Oulook does not deliver.

Last night, opposite the moon’s part of the sky, these interstellar visitors looked like heavenly messengers. I wanted to inhale them.

These bright, frigid mornings…

The Canada geese were huddled in the only sliver of the pond this morning that was not frozen over. Their avuncular mood does not change on these bright, frigid mornings. They greet the day with the same stolid optimism on the days when the sleet blows sideways and the sun seems gone for an eternity. Where are the men to match them in their world view?