Saturday, December 9, 2017

Motive for hiking and shooting photos

When I first tried the TAv setting, it was during discussions with someone over the Pentax TS-1.  This was this person's favorite camera.  I'm old (83) and some times have twinges, and since hiking keeps me in pretty good shape and photography keeps me hiking, I need alternate kits and the TS-1 seemed like a good idea at the time.  But I didn't like its having only one dial.  This TS-1 person recommended various automatic settings including the TAv (although I don't think that is the setting he used).  In any case I gave it a try.  In editing, the changes in the photos due to different ISO settings didn't feel right.  So I set the TS-1 on a shelf and maybe I'll use it the next time a shoulder or knee develops a twinge -- or maybe not.  I subsequently bought a K70 which has two dials.

Now as to what I might have to lose by trying the TAv setting, I probably have a different motive for going shooting than anyone else on this forum.  Maybe not, but I'd be surprised if there was another.

My wife had a serious illness and while I could slip away to the local river for a couple of hours hiking, I could not risk driving long distances.  I had to be on call.  She was sleeping most heavily at dawn and that is when I would take the dogs for a hike.  After many years, and on July 4th 2015, she died, and even though there is nothing now preventing my driving further up into the mountains, I'm used to the convenience of the local dry river-bed.  Also, would using up energy in a drive further up into the mountains be the best thing?  I need to hike to keep in shape, not drive.  There is nothing wrong with me (that the doctors know about) at age 83.  But if I go back to the same place to hike day after day without any additional distractions, I would be bored.  I have been bored.

Then I discovered that by taking different lenses on hikes, they would present me with different challenges and give me different looks when I ran a hike as a slideshow on my monitor.

But of course that isn't all.  I retired after 39 years from Boeing.  My education was in English literature, but I was a quick study and learned engineering in companies that were largely meritocracies (Douglas, McDonnell Douglas and finally Boeing).   So despite being a retired engineer I have an artistic background.  I appreciate not only good literature but classical music and  painting.  I'm not convinced that photography is art, but I know what an "artist's eye" is and do look for the best shots presented to me.

I have been on a Rhodesian Ridgeback forum which folded but there are 20 or 30 people who want to receive photos of each hike.  For them the activities of the dogs are more important than artistic (if there is any) merit.

And for me, I make things up to keep up my interest in taking a camera with me hike after hike.  Right now I have a raft of lenses to try with the Pentax K1 full frame camera.  I felt frustrated by not getting it all right with them immediately and intuitively.  Perhaps you can see at this point that the more automatic I make my camera, the fewer challenges I'll have on a hike.

If I had many days like today, encountering dogs owned by homeless people who live under bridges and elsewhere in tents, then I'd need the TAv setting in self-defense.  Fussing with the EV setting cost me some time and maybe I've fixed that problem by setting the EV at +2 -- maybe not.
I just changed the ISO to automatic.  I decided I've been enduring too many challenges all at once.  I think I'm going to like the FA77 lens better than my other primes, but you couldn't tell it from the shots I took today.  I need another outing with it.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fever number eighty-three

    I am ill, or perhaps just tired
    From the last hike – children
    Bickering in the other room,
    Shouting from time to time –
    Like that – liking the sound of
    Their voices never saying anything
    Of consequence – yelling with
    Fervor and conviction.  The day
    Is dark – I hear the rumble of thunder –
    Kim Jung-un threatens war –
    Heidegger is denigrated once
    Again.  I lean back – anyone seeing
    Would think I’m thinking but I’m not.
    A helicopter flies low, searching for

    Someone retarded and lost, full grown,
    Not armed – “do not shoot him” a voice
    Pleads from it moving slowly in
    Circles overhead – not thinking like me
    Walking about seeming strong –
    One who is going to reduce sounds
    In the room – Retarded man passing

    By, if he will, outside listening to the
    Voices in the sky – not wishing to die,
    Hiding in a bush each time a voice
    Goes by.  I see him by this time –
    Should I approach?  What could
    I say to assuage his fears?  He
    Will not listen or if he does he’ll

    Think he understands this
    World better than I and maybe
    He does.  I’ll leave him here
    To do his hiding in bushes
    And trees, with his
    Fear of what he is
    Hearing – weary and ill.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Tree House

    What would it take to make
    This okay?  Moving away would
    Cause readjusting, needing to
    Remember new locations of
    Light switches and numbers
    Of stair steps, forcing me to
    Stop my drifting dreams, settle

    In and remember – I built a
    Tree-house seventy years ago,
    High up, overlooking the street
    And kids walking underneath.
    When it rained we’d get a bit
    Wet, Richard and I, my best
    Friend at the time.  I heard

    He was arrested for beating
    His wife – more than once –
    He may be too feeble now
    To climb.  I climb my stairs,
    Open the curtains and look
    Out at the trees I planted
    When I first moved here

    And the rustic shed my son
    Is building a bit at a time,
    Much as I built the tree house –
    Only lower down – with windows,
    Though looking out I see little
    When looking down.  He’s
    Yet to install a front door.

    When it rains I have two
    Drains in the yard to take
    The flow out into the street.
    Eaves over-hang the window
    I see the mountains through.
    I’ve a coffee-maker up here
    And granola bars – back then
    It was peanut butter sandwiches,
    Richard had no wife to beat, and
    I had none upon which to lavish
    An affection I didn’t know I would
    Have, thinking back past her
    Now it’s not so very bad up
    Here, especially when it rains.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hurricane Season

    Running toward us through the rain,
    High-heeled shoes in one hand,
    Purse in the other, she smiled
    Unfearing.  The whole bus cheered.
    Sometime later it was just me she
    Seemed to run toward.  I wasn’t
    Initially sure.  Indomitable,

    She could not be otherwise, 
    Clouds gathered, rain fell. 
    Water eventually reached
    Our threshold.  She stepped
    Out, her purse in one hand,
    Her flats in the other. It was
    Up to her knees by then. 

    I rushed out, hoping to grab her
    As she fell into the deepest part,
    Me, standing now knee-deep
    Waiting for I knew not what, a
    Sunken purse, a floating shoe?
    Above a hawk sailed unperturbed, 
    But here below foundations groaned.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Dog-eared dreaming


    A number of men sat
    ‘Round the table discussing,
    Words.  I heard “philosophy”
    Mentioned, but I mostly
    Heard music that only
    Occasionally let me feel
    Words.  Words that could

    Sing.  There were times I
    Reached or stepped with
    Something that ached; so
    I stopped rather than moved
    On listening to what I
    Heard.  The men seemed to
    Speak of conditional relations

    Overriding what might otherwise
    Have been said, if it was said long
    Ago or in another context.
    I watched through a mist of music
    The rising and fall of it all, the
    Imputation of sadness
    And inevitable loss.

    I rolled over and the ringing
    In my ears increased.  I checked
    The time.  I’d slept too long
    And it drowned out the nuance,
    And signification, the bandied
    Words.  The boy on the Ferris
    Wheel saw it all and wept.

Friday, October 6, 2017


    A number of old men stood in a
    Circle and sang by turn.  I was
    New there and stood aside.  I knew
    Them all and was surprised they
    All could sing.  Some were good,
    Appropriately supplying the
    Lower ranges, tenors handled

    The rest.  Even those who weren’t
    Good took their turns and were
    Pleasing to hear since I knew
    Them.  I could  take my place
    In the next one, knowing
    The words; yet knowing I
    Wouldn’t -- not willing to join

    This singing.  I would sing a song
    Entire though on my own. All 
    Those old men smiled as they
    Took their turns, and went on
    Smiling their joy as the night wore
    On – finally leaving as they ran
    Out – their last song fading.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Time Rift

    The lights dim.  I seat her
    At our table.  I am younger
    Then, smiling, full of music –   
    Singing softly so only she
    Can hear – smiling and she
    Smiles too, catching her breath
    As she does.  Beauty is thrown

    Down and we take it up.  Which
    Ever way we turn the light’s
    Brighten.  Then comes the drum,
    Cymbals, sax and trumpet.  Then
    Keys thunder and outside rain
    Begins to fall.  We step out
    In night-air crisp and wet

    Hiding tears she shed on a
    Night I'll never see again --
    Nor smile -- nor hear her
    Catching her breath as all
    About us thunders in my ears  --
    Leaving me singing songs
    She'll never hear.

Dust Swirling

    She’d say I loved her blind-
    Eyed, not seeing her as she
    Actually was, full of flaws,        
    Mistakes, bad memories,
    And she’d smile sadly while
    I dismissed her assessment,
    Her inability to see herself as

    I knew her to be then and would
    Be for a brief time yet.  Could
    I have told her more? She
    Drowsed through those many
    Years, barely hearing – sleeping
    The time as it slipped past, not
    Rousing to hear me say whatever

    I would, having heard it so many
    Times before.  She held my arm
    As we slowly walked through
    Those many doors to hear
    Again there was no time nor
    Strength to keep us beyond   
    Those few remaining dreams.

Friday, September 1, 2017

On the poem “Suddenly in December” by Rolf Jacobsen

On the poem “Suddenly in December” by Rolf Jacobsen       

I received North in the World by UPS a few moments ago.  I went immediately to some of the last poems he may have written:

In the last section, “from Night Watch,” is the poem “Suddenly. In December”.  Here are some excerpts

    . . . It all went so fast.  Two staring eyes.  Words
    I couldn’t catch, that you said over and over.
    And suddenly nothing more.  You slept.

    . . . Quick as a switch flicking off,
    the tracings behind the eye flash out,
    wiped from the slate of life-span.  Or maybe not?
    Your new dress, my face and our old stairs
    and everything you brought to this house.  Is it gone
        – under the snow.  Under the wreath of cedar?

    Dear friend, where is our happiness now,
    your good hands, your young smile,
    your hair’s wreath of light on your forehead and that
    girlish glint in your eye, your spirit and
    steady abundance of life and hope?

    . . . Companion beyond death.  Take me down with you.
    Side by side, let us see the unknown.
    It’s so desolate here and the days are growing dark.
    The words are few now and no one’s listening anymore.
    Dearest, you who are sleeping.  Eurydice.
        – Under the snow.  Under the wreath of cedar.

On page 287 is a note saying “This poem begins a suite of poems from the book Nattapent (Night Watch) that deals with the death of Jacobsen’s wife, Petra, and his memories of their marriage.  Petra Tendo was born in 1912.  She and Rolf Jacobsen probably met in late 1937 or early 1938; they were married on 21 December 1940 (see the poem “Barbed-wire Winter”), and she took his surname.  She died on 2 December 1983.”

Susan was born 6 December 1944 and died 4 July 2015; so she didn’t live quite as long as Petra.  In Petra’s case “It all went so fast.”  Susan’s death was much more drawn out.  The things the doctors did were of no help.  There were not “two staring eyes” in Susan’s case.  She died with her eyes closed.  There were not “words, I couldn’t catch, that you said over and over.”  Instead she hummed melodically, more musically than she ever had when she was healthy.

Jacobsen wrote “Quick as a switch flicking off, / the tracings behind the eye flash out, / wiped from the slate of a life-span.  Or maybe not?”   Jacobsen had become a Catholic at some point, but how strong is anyone’s faith when something like this happens.  It was enough for me that Susan’s faith was strong throughout her final days.  As for me, “maybe not.”

As to the merits of this poem, or at least the translation of this poem, it is hard for me to be objective, but maybe I don’t need to be.  According to “In his last book, Nattapent (1995), Jacobsen recalled their [his and Penta’s] life together: ‘Whoever loves for years / hasn’t lived in vain.’  Mostly due to these touching poems, the collection became a bestseller.”

Jacobsen wrote,  “Companion beyond death. / Take me down with you. / Side by side, let us see the unknown,” But he died February 20, 1994, more than 10 years after Petra died. 

Wonder Woman Dream

    Susan ran after me, “Larry, Larry!”
    I turned back and she thrust
    Wonder Woman at me.  I took
    It and as I did woke and puzzled
    Over the comic.  I had never . . .
    But I had called her Wonder Woman
    At times.  She once raced after

    A mugger in a parking lot and
    Grabbed her purse.  He slammed
    His door on her arm several times
    To make her let go.  She was still
    Furious when she got home.  She
    Suffered more than most but
    Endured as long as she could

    Do so decently.  After that she
    Stoically let go.  I could see the
    Cover but an instant before
    Waking, wondered what it
    Was she meant.  It seemed
    Unlikely she’d remind me not to
    Forget.  Unlikely also she’d

    Want me to toughen up – just the
    Reverse.  I scowled once in the
    Forest when we were approached by
    Two men.  Susan had not yet been
    Damaged by disease.  I didn’t trust
    Their conversation and kept my hand
    On the handle of my Colt until they,
    Fidgeting, moved on.  Susan berated
    Me for my suspicious mind, and for
    The chip she swore I always wore.
    I held my peace, keeping still as we
    Moved ahead, looking over my shoulder
    As we did, dreading the impalpable
    I feared racing toward us from behind.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

On three poems by Rolf Jacobsen

Rolf Jacobsen is said to be the first modernist Norwegian poet.  See the Wikipedia article at  "Rolf Jacobsen (8 March 1907 – 20 February 1994) could be said to be the first modernist writer in Norway. Jacobsen's career as a writer spanned more than fifty years. He is one of Scandinavia’s most distinguished poets, who launched poetic modernism in Norway with his first book, Jord og jern (Earth and Iron) in 1933. Jacobsen's work has been translated into over twenty languages. The central theme in his work is the balance between nature and technology – he was called "the Green Poet" in Norwegian literature"

Three of Jacobsen's translated poems appear at    I've commented on these three poems as follows:

"Antenna-forest":  In this poem, the city has replaced the forests and where there were trees, there are now antennas on roofs.  The antennas apparently look like crosses and at the end the poet asks "Who's resting here / in these deep graves?"  The implication being (I'm guessing) that by replacing forests with cities, we are not only killing nature, replacing it with unnatural structures, but by doing this we are sealing mankind's doom.  Considered from the roofs, the buildings are graves in which people rest.

I don't agree with this very popular environmentalist position.  It could happen, but only if mankind does nothing to correct this trend.  The Unabomber (Ted Kaczynski) once infamously insisted that we return to a pre-industrial life style and killed a few people with letter bombs to get his manifesto read, but Kaczynski and perhaps Rolf Jacobsen take a short view.  I'm also an environmentalist, but don't believe it would be good to abandon scientific and technological progress in favor of  Luddite existence.  Jacobsen doesn't say quite what Kaczynski does and maybe at times I've been this pessimistic but given homo sapiens modus operandi, so to speak, I anticipate that we will move to the moon, then to Mars and from their perhaps to one of Saturn's moons.  In other words we are not doomed (IMO) to die (as a species) in the sterile structures we have replaced the forests with.  At the present time we in our Liberal Democracies still count on growing populations to finance our entitlements, but if we can quit doing that we needn't turn the earth into something like the planet Trantor from Isaac Asimov's Foundation.

"Guardian Angel":  This poem begins a bit like a pessimistic environmentalist poem.  The Guardian Angel is the bird that knocks on your window that you cannot know?  Why can't you know it?  Because you are blind.  The birds that knock at your window are "the blossoms that light up for the blind."   In the second stanza the Guardian Angel is the "glacier's crest above the forests."  There are no glacier crests above the Californian forests, nor do we haven any cathedral towers (or at least not many inasmuch as I've never heard of any here) so the Guardian Angel is probably Norwegian.  The Guardian Angel declares that the (Norwegian) reader of the poem loved this angel long ago, implying that the reader no longer loves him even though the angel walks along side him by day and speaks to his heart even though the reader doesn't know it.   Lutheranism doesn't emphasize Guardian Angels, Roman Catholics do, or have.  This Guardian Angel sounds a bit like the Holy Spirit.  The last stanza describes the angel as a "third arm" and "second shadow, the white one, / whom you don't have the heart for and who cannot ever forget you."  If Jacobsen intends this as a Christian allusion it isn't quite orthodox in Protestant theology although it might be acceptable in the Roman Catholicism sense.  The Holy Spirit is described in the New Testament as providing help to all those who belong to the Lord.  However, the recipient of the Angel's poem is described as not having the heart for this angel, and by extension the Holy Spirit; so if this is a Protestant Christian allusion then the theology behind it is Universalistic, i.e, all will be saved.  The two Protestant orthodox positions are (1) those whom God chooses will be saved, and (2) those who choose God will be saved.  Perhaps the recipient is Catholic and is at least estranged from the  Catholic Church.  But perhaps he belongs in some sense to the Catholic Church "who cannot ever forget you."

"Sand":  This strikes me as a naturalistic poem which expresses the Second Law of Thermodynamics and is not placing the blame for this entropy on homo sapiens.  "The starry worlds above our heads" are subject to this Law as well as is earth.  I've attempted to keep up with the latest cosmological theories and the cosmologists are not as certain of the position expressed in this poem as Jacobsen is.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Susan’s 5-shot Taurus 357

    Pressing my ear against the wall I
    Heard, “We had trouble enough with
    Him last time.  Now he has three
    Powerful friends.”  And someone
    Else, “I know, but if we work this
    Right, he will . . .”  They must have
    Moved to another room.  I leaned
    Back thinking it was me they were
    After, but if so . . .  Ben was strongly
    Built but was he powerful in the
    Meaning meant?  I didn’t think so
    But he had attended gala shows --
    Becoming the center of attention --
    I didn’t know what else. Small

    Duffy – was always alert on a trail
    But not powerful – unless they
    Planned an ambush.  Jessica was
    Yet to find her place in the warp
    And woof of our defense: one of
    Them stole up to our window
    And looked in.  I could hear her

    Growl.  The steps of stealth out
    On the public thoroughfare – the
    Moon shining through our window –
    A tormented owl, a dog barking far
    Down the street.  My three lifted their
    Heads as one. I lay where I was but
    Reached out for Susan in my sleep.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Late-Night Duty

    I couldn’t remember whether
    This was a quest or we were
    Running for our lives – dreamed
    I was down to one dog and had
    A full tank of gas.  We seemed
    To be well into the desert on
    A desolate road.  Jessica sat

    Beside me, staring forward,
    Intensely interested.  I had. 
    My old Colt Trooper next to
    The console and my Mossberg
    Persuader behind Jessica’s
    Seat.  They had come after us,
    I recalled, half a dozen of them.

    We had fought, of course, which
    They didn’t expect, then bombs
    Had fallen everywhere.  You
    Wouldn’t think they had so
    Many.  I desperately needed
    Sleep, but Jessica urged me to
    Keep going.  There was no

    Shade anywhere and no
    Coolness or surcease of pain.
    I woke long enough to turn
    Onto my other side.  Ben and
    Duffy were there for that.  I
    Couldn’t risk them though for
    This.  Only Jessica understood

    The sensitive nature of our search
    And the need to stay alert.  She 
    Looked out growling. I flexed my
    Shoulder.  One of them must have
    Clubbed me when I went down, 
    But I forgot about that when I
    Grabbed my S&W Model 19 and

    Shot him, center mass.  The noise
    I feared would wake Duffy and Ben;
    So I shot swiftly, reloaded and 
    Shot again.  Once the neighborhood   
    Was gone though, there was no
    Point in defending an empty
    House.  We could see lights Up

    Ahead from a small town.  We
    Paused, engine running, looking down
    The road. Lights flickered as though
    Something was moving in front.
    The sky was brilliant with stars once
    I shut my headlights off.  Jessica stared
    Into the night and then looked at me.
    Was there nothing to see?  Did she
    Want to get a closer look?  She wouldn’t
    Say.  I’d had a good run and might hide
    Away my last few days but not with
    Jessica and hers.  I started the engine,
    Turned on the lights and drove toward
    The town. Three men stepped out

    With rifles pointing toward us.  I
    Paused the Jeep.   “I’m friendly
    If you are,” I shouted.   “Well then
    Come ahead and we’ll Just see.” 
    I looked over at Jessica. 
    She bared her teeth and growled.
    I put the Jeep in reverse and
    Checked the time.  This was
    When Jessica usually pawed
    Me awake.  I got out of my
    Lounge chair and stretched
    Out on the floor.  Sometimes
    She would lay down next to me. 
    Sometimes she would get up into
    The chair.  I sometimes didn’t
    Sleep at all keeping them safe.
    With just the Jessica left I
    Rolled down my window and
    Stuck my head out into the
    Cool night air and the
    Night – one more time.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Jessica, Dead


    I entered the shop, telling the lady
    I needed another dog.  “The one you
    Sold me is dead.”  She turned to the
    Manager saying, “he wants a refund.”
    “No, no, I don’t.  I’m willing to pay
    Full price.  I just want another.  “Okay,”
    The manager said, but we don’t

    Have another.  The closest we have
    Is an Airedale; which you can have.  A
    Male.”  “A male?” I moaned.  “I don’t
    Know.  It isn’t what I need.”  The man
    Shook his head.  “She may be one of
    A kind.”  “So I’ll just wait,” I said,
    Backing out of the shop.  She rushed

    Up then, licking my face, demanding
    Attention.  “I’m right here!” She yelled,
    Punching my arm with her paws.  “I’m
    A little fat perhaps, but I’m not dead!
    You need to take control of this silly
    Dream.”  A strong wind blew us up
    Against a wall.  “You can’t just let

    Me die,” she plaintively said, licking
    My hand.  “I don’t want to,” I replied,
    Kissing her head, but this dream is
    Beyond my control.”  “Not here,”
    She said leaping up.  “Not now.  I’m
    Missing from your dream so you must
    Find me – not some stupid Airedale!

    A male at that.”  I want to find you,
    But I thought you were dead.  They
    Told me you were.  It isn’t that I want
    Another.  I don’t, you know?”  “You
    Think I’ll slip away because she did
    Two years ago, but I won’t.”  “But how
    Do I really know,” I wailed and sighed?

    “Because I tell you so.  Get hold
    Of this dream and hold onto me.”
    I groaned, rolling over against her
    On the floor.  She was on my right.
    I sat up in the dark, finding Ben on
    The other side.  I needed to turn on
    A flash to find black Duffy in the dark.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Poets dying

    We watched the bold display of the half-turned
    Looking-back face, the eyes, and smirking
    Leer as he walked up the stairs to the
    Scaffold and caressed  the lever, leaving us
    Wondering whether this fall through the hole
    In the floor was all there was or whether
    A lifetime of thinking derogatory thoughts

    Culminating in one defiant outburst was
    Something we should aspire to as an
    Example of confessing Him before men
    As it were despite the consequences. 
    Though critics crept upon us with their
    Brands of cowardice, when the day came
    We were still not yet ready:  A thunder-clap

    As the hangman tested his gear!  Was
    This a meaningless test or a condemnation?
    Our befuddled thoughts and the looking about
    Through rheumy eyes confused us with fear.
    Words jumped out as though vomit from
    An OED.  We this coming day would rather
    Jump from the Orizaba in the Mexican gulf.

    On days gone by we thought we’d rather
    Step from the boat to the shore without
    Wetting our feet.  “You won’t like this as
    Much as I do” the hooded man whispered,
    Grasping the handle with both hands.   If only
    Earlier we had put our head in and turned on
    The gas, we would now not feel our violent

    End, merely the critical pin pricks producing
    Each one a single drop of blood.  As the days
    Passed though, our supply depleted, we tied
    ourselves to our mast and shrank from
    The maw that yawned before us.  We were
    Not ready for the crack of the trap or the
    Roar of the hangman watching us fall.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Invite Death to dinner


    “Hey Lucky,” someone shouted
    And shouted again.  I looked down
    From my third story perch.  “Who
    Do you want?”  “Are you Lucky”?
    A gaunt man with a long beard
    Looked up.  “Not to my knowledge,”
    I replied.  “Good looking lady like

    This, anybody’d be lucky to have
    Her come to town.  Better come
    On down.”  “Is she a tall woman with
    Jet black hair, black eyes and purple
    Nails?”  “Yeah,” the gaunt man said
    With a wink.  “I’ll be right down.”  He 
    Smirked and said, “I thought you might.

    “She’ll be waiting, I suspect.”  And
    Indeed she was, rolling her window
    Down in the back, “Get in” she said.
    “Now why would I do that”?  I held
    Back, standing stock still.   “This next
    One is on me and in the cosmic
    Nature of things, the next comes now.”

    “And that means I owe you dinner,”
    I scoffed and peered in through her
    Window for a closer look?  “Are you
    Still a woman?”  “Well you can see
    I am.  I’m here for you as you can
    See.  Are you ready for me?”  “I don’t
    Think so,” I sighed, “but I could eat

    And while I don’t remember it quite
    The way you say, “I’ll buy you dinner if
    We take your car.”  “My limousine, you
    mean?  Please show it respect,” she
    Smiled.  I got inside, sitting opposite.
    “What are you drinking,” she asked,
    Pointing at the onboard bar?  “Rum and

    And coke I guess, being a Marine.  It
    Might be nice on such a day as this.”  “Now
    Why is that,” she asked, cracking the can,
    Pouring the glass half full then filling the
    Rest with Ron Rico rum?  “My wife died
    Two years ago.  I never drank while she
    Was alive.  Never looked at another woman

    ‘Till now – if that’s what you are.”  Two years
    Is a long time,” she said, “if those forty years
    With her were incomplete.”  “I see,” I said, not
    Seeing.  She said “How would I know you haven’t
    Been drinking, and haven’t been looking,
    Seeing as you’re here now with me, a nice
    Cool drink just recently poured”?  “I don’t

    Think you count,” I said, and I’m only here
    For the conversation.”  “That’s what they all
    Say, Sugar, and the booze?”  “If you hand
    Me that glass, I’ll let you know.”  She set it
    In the cup holder near my hand.  “Whenever
    You’re ready,” she said, and looked at me
    Through the smoke from her cigarillo.  More

    Beautiful than she’d been at lunch, but I
    Searched inside and found no hunger, no
    Desire.  She knew it too – told the driver to
    Pull to the side of the road.  “You won’t
    Drink that, I know,” she gestured toward
    my drink.  “You could go to war with it
    Or meet me in my room.”  “If you were
    Real I might.  We’ll never know.”   I
    Mumbled in confusion, “but not now,
    Not you. Surely you have something better
    To do than pester me.”  She seemed
    Amused.  “I can never tell about you.
    You spend a lot of your time with the
    Dead, but now you say you have no

    Claim on death – won’t even drink to
    Her good health.”  I shook my head,
    Wondering at the metaphor and the
    Look she was giving me, mild it seemed
    And sad.  “I’ll just walk home from here if
    That’s okay,” I said.  “You bet, Sugar, she
    Smiled once more.  “The next one’s mine.”

Death invited me for lunch


    “It’s on me,” he said, “wine?”
    “I don’t drink any longer,” I said.
    “Ah, I heard that – hurt my
    Feelings -- thought you didn’t love
    Me any more.”  “What do you mean,”
    I asked nonplused?  “All those stunts
    Of yours, the handstands on top of
    Oil derricks and third-story balconies.
    Back then you were rushing toward me
    Full of heat, walking across those bridges
    On the rails.  I thought you loved me then.”
    “What,” I asked amazed.  “Is death a girl?
    “I can be if you like.”  “No, don’t” I said. 
    “I don’t care.  What do you want with me now?

    “What do I want?  Why to be your friend,
    To urge you to get your ducks in a row.
    Your kids, you know could use your
    Money.  Don’t become selfish after all
    This time.”  “Too bad,” I said.  “They’ll
    Have to wait.  You need to be sneakier
    Than this.  What are you having for lunch?”

    “If I can’t have you,” she sniffed, and
    Turned toward the waiter, “I’ll have the
    Fillet mignon, au jus, very rare.” “Of
    Course madam, “he said, “and you sir?”
    I shoved the menu aside, “Chef’s Salad,
    Blue cheese mixed in.”  “Very good, sir”
    He said and bowed.  “They seem to know

    You here,” I observed, looking about at
    The furtive glances, the haste with which
    They ate, the dashing away of those who were
    Paying their bills.  “They love me one and all,
    The shy things.  Just won’t say so.  There’s
    Always someone nearby with a sack full
    Of Jealous thoughts,” she said looking around.

    I glowered at her over my fork.  “As long as
    You’re here, perhaps you’d tell me what it is
    Comes next?”  She frowned, “After your salad,
    You mean?  “Well, if it’s okay with you, we’ll
    Look at the dessert menu later on.”   “No, not
    The salad, you, Death.  What comes after you?” 
    “Why I don’t know.  They never tell me anything.
    I’m just a servant.”  “A Civil Servant,” I suppose,”
    I sneered.  “Well a bit like that, but more like a
    Cosmic Servant, I would say, she said, puffing
    Out her chest.”  “Well who are the ‘they’ you
    Referred to,” I asked then?  “Who are they ever,”
    She cocked an eyebrow looking about the restaurant. 
    She opened a case and took out a thin cigar,

    “Do you have a light,” she asked in a sexy
    Voice, leaning toward me with the cigarillo
    Between her lips?  “I don’t smoke,” I said,
    Backing away.  “Well I do, dear boy.  Here
    Use my Zippo.  I took it, clicked open the lid
    And turned the little wheel watching the fire,
    Seeing her eyes watch mine.  “Look pretty good
    To you,” she asked?  “Your cigarillo or the fire?”
    “Whatever you like she said in a husky voice
    Drawing the smoke into her lungs.  I don’t get
    To play an active role.  It’s whatever comes my
    Way.”  “Sort of like road-kill perhaps?”  I said.
    She leaned back and chuckled, “If that’s your
    Desire, then let’s leave now.  I’ll get the bill.”


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Letting it Pass

    Heading back to the house
    And out of the heat, my own
    Heart beat to what I was hearing,
    The delving throb of the night
    Edging toward day, forcing its
    Way, for it had no where to go
    And wouldn’t stay.  I can though,

    Slipping aside, letting it pass.
    I can fill my mind with darkness
    Like a moonless night, and not
    See light unless its forced upon
    Me.  I’ve been in brightness
    And know what it is to
    Run as sprightly as a faun.
    I’ve blinked away sleep
    And felt a joy in mornings
    Of the sort I was used to
    All those years of being.
    But when nothing’s left,
    As now, is it not best to set
    Aside one’s going and stay?


    I’d made a bargain: if He’d
    Win her for me, make her mine
    I’d see her as the great love
    I’d sought, then if He’d cause
    Her to see me in the same
    Way I’d love her no matter
    What time and tarnish brought

    “For the rest of our lives”
    Which seemed a satisfying
    Eternity, so many are unrequited
    In such an endeavor, but here
    She was watching me
    And I could see her whenever
    I liked and hear her speak

    Much like an angel I suppose.
    There was no guile or effort. She’d
    Whirl about ending up with her
    Glossy hair slung round her face
    Then stop.  “See what I’ve done”
    She seemed to say knowing my
    Adoration would make it a wonder.



    You might say, alternately
    It was just her looks and
    Manner that got her the role.
    She couldn’t act, you say,
    But I never said she could.
    I knew her so well I could act
    Around her and save the scene.

    She’d blurt whatever she thought
    And then, mouth open, listen
    To what she’d said; then look
    At me while I took her words
    Around the corner till she had
    Her thought back and smiled
    That award winning smile.

    Enigmatic, they said, like
    Garbo.  I knew that it was
    The disease, and her hiding
    It in public.  Her downcast
    Eyes made others think
    They’d said or done the
    Wrong thing. She deserved

    The award for all that --
    Like a fighter with a damaged
    Brain that fights on despite
    The dizziness and loss of focus.
    She’d start to speak then lose
    Her way, then her bright eyes
    Would finish the conversation.

Saturday, July 29, 2017



    “We were in school, too ill,
    Declared unfit to serve.” They
    Watched us with apprehension.
    We stirred the fire with
    The butts of our spears
    And grunted, looking sidelong.
    “Wouldn’t want them anyway,”

    One of us said.  No point
    In mentioning the dead
    No longer here.  The air           
    Danced fervid with swirling
    Dust.  Some say it’s spirits
    Of our warriors, or enemies
    If the swirl is wrong.

    One of us began to sing.
    We all joined in, drinking
    The wine, letting it draw us
    Toward our next encounter.
    Fire burned like burials till
    We stood slick with sweat –   
    The drum beat. Time to go.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Pseudo-Damien at the Supermarket

    I saw there a woman made
    Old by her illness, shuffling slowly,
    Leaning on her cart smiling
    As she waited gently while I picked
    Out peaches.  “Have a nice
    Day” was what she said, and I went
    On but looked back seeing her

    Care-giver put food in her
    Cart.  I could care for her
    I thought, remembering the
    Way Susan smiled from the
    Comfort of being cared for.
    I walked on anxious to
    Get home and back in my

    Easy chair.  Once there I
    Considered, why not go to
    Some Island of disease and
    Care for whoever is there?
    And thought I might, if I didn’t
    Have to deal with doctrine and
    Could forgive their petty whining

    Despite my being there to help, and
    If they forgave my needing something
    They didn’t have, the smile that gave
    Off light that could lift my thoughts, and
    If they forgave my being there and in
    Their way, and if I could forgive
    My living their after they all had died.

Becoming Old


    Was I old before Susan died?
    I didn’t know.  She couldn’t
    Stand nor walk not talk to any
    Degree.  I’d take the stairs two
    At a time to get her lip gloss or
    Book or mint and find her below
    Smiling; so I entered that glow.

    I was there beside her
    Indeterminately aged and
    Demeanored, shielding her from
    Intransigent winds wrinkling her brow.
    She’d look at me and smile.
    I’d smile back holding her cup
    While she drank and all that while

    She seemed as though I was all that
    Was needed, strong, able to
    Lift her into her chair and wheel
    Her wherever she wished, but
    When her shield fell and mine
    I felt it.  Was it then I grew
    Old, and shall I take to hobbling,

    And go about now with a cane? 
    I haven’t given her wheel chair
    Away; perhaps I’ll carry it
    Up stairs and sit in a
    Deception.  How far shall I
    Venture?  I don’t presently
    See a path I recognize.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Our Two-Year Anniversary

    It’s true, it’s been two years
    Since she went away, but I still,
    Despite being told when we’re
    Old we all must wither, wonder
    Why she had to go. She was
    At our start lustrous-eyed and
    Always had something to say;

    Then with the years there was
    Less and less at her command.
    I filled in blanks, assumed
    What she was feeling, what she
    Needed, chattered about our
    Times – all the while she merely
    Smiled, this brown-eyed girl from

    Blue-eyed folks, she held much
    In.  Surely her smile would be
    Enough for me she seemed to feel,
    But as she withdrew, living more
    And more in whatever was next,
    She never actually said, and then
    A day came when she went away.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Late Night Conversation

    Last night Susan learned her
    Current dog was stranded on the
    Other side of the Boulevard.
    She asked him on the phone if
    He could time the traffic and make
    It across.  He said it was too heavy;
    So I wondered if he was afraid

    Despite being as tough as Susan
    Thought.  I took the phone and told
    Him to stay where he was. I’d come
    And pick him up.  The line was
    Silent for a long while.  I wondered
    If a dog would talk, even in a dream;
    Then heard him say his soft “okay

Friday, June 30, 2017

To A Former Subscriber


    “For a former subscriber,” came an
    Invitation “to subscribe again” to the
    New Republic.  It has been fifty
    Years perhaps.  Did they really
    Track me all that long?  “Only
    $14.97" “Response required
    Within five days.”  I hurried

    Through the material.  They plan
    To oppose the administration even
    More than it’s been opposed thus
    Far.  I might as well watch dystopian
    Movies where demented dead
    Stroll the streets seeking anyone
    To devour.  No, I won’t subscribe.

    I’ve watched “The Accountant” who
    Is defective socially but superb with
    Numbers and martial arts – also a fine shot
    As he works for people who wish him to
    Cook their books and tamely die.
    Why do hoards of CEOs still seek him?
    They might as well try to kill John Wicks.

    Does anyone still read this stuff?
    I suppose they must; each generation
    Needing to find out for themselves – No
    Longer as a species do they trust the
    Old which is ready to show them
    Where the berries grow, where water
    Can be found when tempers sizzle.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Shirley Jackson, etc

Thumbed through the current issue of the London Review of Books (5 Jan 2017) and found a review of a biography of Shirley Jackson and noticed once again that unless one knew the writer, one couldn’t tell whether she is British or American – de facto Brexit in my opinion, or rather a more logical amalgamation than Britain and the EU.  Do we here in the U.S. ever feel antagonistic toward the Britains, well politically perhaps, but no more so than one would feel toward the opposing party here in the U.S.  The NYROB does the same thing.  Writers from Canada and Britain are reviewed or review books without any hint that this is at all strange. 

After reading the article I thought perhaps I’d try again to read one of her novels, but in looking at my Library of America collection, I couldn’t a Shirley Jackson – checked everywhere, maybe I only considered buying it in the past and while it may turn up later on I ordered it (again?) from Amazon.  The only thing I’d ever read by Jackson was “The Lottery,” and had an image of the book I’d read it in; which I did find – it was required reading in an introduction to literature class – a volume called A Quarto of Modern Literature, third edition.  Here also, British and American literature are interspersed.  I have little checks in red pencil indicating the things I’d read, presumably required reading. 

In looking through the poetry in this Quarto, every poem by Thomas Hardy was checked, 2 by Housman, 2 by Robinson, none by Masefield or De La Mare, 5 by Frost, 2 by Masters, Lindsay and Sandburg, one by St. Vincent Milllay, none by pound, Owen, or Lawrence.  Two by Yeats and Hopkins.  One by Aiken.  Every poem by T. S. Eliot.  One by Cummings and Jeffers.  None by Williams.  One by Stevens.  None by Hart Crane, MacLeish, Tate, Fearing, or Auden.  One by Spender None by MacNeice.  One by Dylan Thomas. 

It wasn’t surprising to see Eliot favored.  He still would be today.  Hardy and Frost might not be.  They certainly aren’t by me. 

One can tell a bit more about whoever taught this class to see that ever piece of fiction and drama is checked.  If one were looking for a focus in literature, the encouragement here would be in fiction and drama.  Poetry is more of a curiosity.

I can think of the Library of America as a more expanded Quarto although they wouldn’t publish Galsworthy, Conrad, Joyce or Kafka.  Ah, Kafka, I forgot there were a few non American/British in the Quarto, but in Kafka’s case only because the “Metamorphosis” was the most famous short story of the century. The ‘century’?  I went into college in September 1955 straight out of the Marine Corps and since the Quarto was an Introduction to Literature I suspect I took the class in my freshman year so barely half the century was completed when the professor made this comment (and which I duly noted in my copy of the Quarto).   

The LROB article on Jackson is by Madeleine Schwartz.  It seems that Jackson was criticized as an anti-feminist for her love of being a housewife.  Ruth Franklin, the writer of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, seeks to rehabilitate her (presumably as being feminist-friendly).  I think Jackson would have been happy to stay at home, writing her novels and stories, but the love of her life husband, Stanley Hyman, couldn’t write as well as she could, became a college professor some place and believed that since he was a Communist and Communists believed in free love that it was okay to have sex with his female students as long as he did it at least 100 miles from home.  Jackson at one point is quoted as saying that she would like to invite his female students to a party and then drown them all in the well – something a good feminist would appreciate hearing.  And she only talked about divorcing Stanley. 

Jackson died in her sleep at age 48.  “Franklin doesn’t speculate on the cause,” Schwartz tells us, “but some have suggested that Dexamyl, consumed in ‘unhealthy quantities’, may have played a part.  A few days later, one of Jackson’s friends received a letter from her.  She said she was going on a wonderful trip.”  Well, there you go.  Suicide increases ones authenticity as a feminist.  Then too she lived for a short while in Greenwich Village.  Greenwich Village, a bunch of really weird stories, bizarre behavior and suicide!  Why would the feminists castigate her for wanting to stay home with her kids and write novels and short stories?  Her unwillingness to divorce Stanley was probably her big anti-feminist sin.  I wonder if Stanley benefited from the writings of his more talented wife as Ted Hughes did after she died.