Monthly Archives: September 2013

In Praise of Small Closets

Compressing our common lives
Into pre-World War One America,

Our hundred year old house has
Space for two dozen relatives and friends

To pray or sing, stuff themselves,
And separate into gender huddles

For bourbon and talk of the Kaiser and the Titanic
And sherry and sock darning and talk of home remedies for baby colic.

What it lacks are today’s small barn-like closets
to hold the acres of clothing that cover our 21st century insecurities.

Husband and wife get a small space under the eaves.
A few dresses and suits, two for work and one for Sunday–no more.

My wife and I chafe a bit, she more than I, at the inconvenience.

Our insecurities are larger than our ancestors—
still, we are more Desi and Lucy-sized than Super Sized.

Child’s Guide to Big Box Food

Palettes of pullets
And acres of bakers,

Factory food rolls
In refrigerators!

Containers big as small apartments
Ferry our food in large allotments

Over the plains and through the passes,
Through great spaces fast, and the city’s molasses,

A frying chicken must never sweat,
Nor a russet get the least bit wet.

Along the way it gets processed and reduced
And managed and spamaged and canned and confused,

Till it is stocked in stores for our consumption,
More package than protein, more gum than gumption.

The New Tea Leaves

with shining originals
or glowing implants

and wallets full-stuffed
with benjamins and grants

we come now dragging
our hearts through the dust

our troubles in backpacks
our new masses percussed

to read our fortunes in our DNA
and see if bad genes can be expressed away

if great-great grandmother on the Corsican side
will lead us to lunacy or with MS to collide

while the trillion odd bacteria we host in our gut and our crap
wish we would only relax–take a nap!

A Macaronic Poem

(a macaronic poem mixes languages together)

roaming far in sheer delight
and leaping great geschwindigkeit

the nimble young pursue their uber
heros among the Youtuber zeros

in virtuell halls the new Valhalla
crowns kings and queens–both large and smalla

Holy of Holies

“Reason and justice tell me there’s more love for humanity in electricity and steam than in chastity or vegetarianism.” (a response to the teachings of Tolstoy.)

“My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love and absolute freedom – freedom from violence and falsehood, no matter how the last two manifest themselves.”

–Anton Chekov

When Teachers Were Lions

Sadly, I passed on taking a writing workshop from Raymond Carver when the American Checkov was still alive. I heard he was a bit of a terror but raw and real, like his short stories.

And I arrived too late at the University of a Washington to learn to write and to appreciate poetry from Theodore Roethke in his legendary poetry classes.

But I did learn something about history and public responsibility from one of Roethke’s contemporaries, Giovanni Costigan.

Costigan was a tiny, elderly titan of learning and disciplined thought. People would leave other classes and sit in the aisles and pack the room to the walls if they heard he was lecturing. I watched him bring 300 people to awe and some to tears when he spoke about what fairies and the animist spirit life meant to William Butler Yeats and to the soul of the Irish people.

Costigan also publicly debated Wliiiam F. Buckley for two and a half hours on the ill-advised US foreign policy in Vietnam. The debate was televised and drew more viewers than that nights Sonics game. It was like watching Muhammad Ali stick and move while Joe Frazier just bullied and bashed.

Where have such mighty teachers gone? Where are our lions?

P.S. I do know one. Elizabeth Warren. She went to the Senate to take on the corruption head on. I hope she runs for President.

Remembering Ken Kesey

The erudite wild man of American letters came to speak at my small college in Vancouver, Washington in the early 70’s. It was a few years past the Merry Pranksters and the bus and the acid tests.

He called his talk “The Venusians, the Egyptians and Washingtonians.”

He seemed tired but the wizard of wonder slowly got his own ram shackled bus of a mind up to cruising speed—

crossing light years of imagination, crawling over the wreckage of Kerouac, the naive excesses of the 60s, the “celestial books” that LSD gave you brutal access to, and the wisdom of the ancients who speak through the millennia in coded signs and semiotica, the bull necked ex-wrestler really had only one message for us: wake up. Think for yourself.

Thanks, Ken. For everything.

Message received.