Sunday, April 21, 2019

The picador in the corner


    In the corner near
    The standing lamp is
    A painting of a picador
    With arched back and up-thrust
    Arms just then ridden into place.
    What happens next, what we are
    Not allowed to see, is the

    Down-thrust of his lance
    Preparing the bull for eternity.
    Is it worthwhile now to
    Reach around and grasp
    A lance, ease it out if one
    Still has the strength, reach then
    For the other if there be two

    Or possibly three if one
    In one’s younger days
    Was especially fierce?  I let
    Mine hang, dragging along
    Behind upon the ground,
    Looking instead ahead 
    For the matador.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Social Combat


    They watched me limping
    Ahead steadily pretending
    I don’t exist.
    I ought to be remote
    From whatever they
    Whisper to and fro,
    And an hour or two

    Punching the heavy bag,
    Running the treadmill
    Should make it so.
    Stars later twinkle through
    My window and catch my
    Eye.  I pause, take
    A twisted towel and

    Mop my brow.
    These junctures
    Are thirsty work.
    Hoisting a beer I look
    About at all I’ve destroyed,   
    Ready now for the next
    That comes my way.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Neighborhood Watch


    The explosions, one after the other
    Moved away – a Brobdingnagian
    Striding off, marking each step with
    Olympian rage.  Smoke shrouded
    The neighborhood.  I counted
    The seconds until the next series
    Of mortar rounds would begin to fall.

    Beneath the floor
    In a root cellar they
    Wouldn’t have known –
    Musty with age and a
    Smell of sage I sat
    With shotgun in my lap
    And revolver in my hand.

    They were persistently
    Seeking my end having
    Given up efforts to meld
    Me into accepting
    The lot on which my
    House dwelt belonged to
    No one, much less to me.

    I checked the rounds in my
    Guns, drew the case of 
    Shells and the boxes of
    Bullets close by – this
    Alternative to submitting
    To force waiting here
    Beneath their feet.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Stand Up Comics


    He stood there grinning, pointing
    His gun at my head, showing
    Off for his friend.  I glared at
    Him, but he still held his gun,
    Pointing.  I turned opened my
    Car door, got my badge, turned
    And pinned it to my chest.

    He turned then, smirking in
    Satisfaction, laughing with
    His friend as they strolled
    Away.  “Why not arrest him?”
    The novice asked later
    Back at the station.  “How
    Exactly do I arrest someone
    Pointing a gun at my head?”
    “But you had yours.”  “Unpointed,
    As I said.  Letting things go is
    A skill you’ll learn as you age. 
    Not everything is worth fighting
    For.”  “But you’ve fought,”
    He maintained.  “I recall all

    That fighting pretty well.
    Didn’t walk away as often
    As I ought.  They know by
    The size of the chip on
    Your shoulder whether you'd
    Rather fight or ignore
    Their taunts and grow older.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Fading Dream


    I think I’d remember if I were
    Really there – though sometimes
    In dreams it seems something
    Like that -- fading as I
    Sip coffee from my cup.
    Sometimes vividness carries
    On into day-dreams strangely,

    And I wonder where it
    Originates – meeting
    Someone like her, knowing
    I could never have
    Had that reality or
    That she could be
    As lovely as I dream

    Or have an interest in
    Me, struggling,
    Yearning, hoping
    To find her hand
    Reaching mine,
    Her bright eyes shining,
    Watching me wake.

Thursday, April 11, 2019


    I cared for her up until her
    Frailties were past my
    Abilities, I assure myself
    With fading confidence.  I
    Go back over the evidence
    In the sleep of each night:
    I should have discovered how

    To prevent her diminishing,
    Hold her here still and watch
    Whatever happened as though
    It merely may have, but instead
    I wasn’t enough -- snapping
    Awake with pounding head, eyes
    Swollen from all that lacking.

    “You failed her” echoes
    From a once-watched movie,
    From the mouth of a
    Criminal too smart for all
    But the clever detective:
    Someone less old, less
    Inclined to get it wrong.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Social Solutions

    Down through the labyrinthine passages,
    Tunnels and clearways interspersed
    With stairs, winding up underneath
    A bloody moon and star-studded
    Sky:  They say dark signs
    Cause in us deeds like these.
    I considered all the possibilities

    Until only one remained.
    I remained on the platform
    Waiting for the helicopter
    To appear, hover, and set
    Down.  I watched the uniformed
    Police rush me and force
    My hands behind my back.

    It didn’t matter that I had not
    Yet killed, that no life had been
    Lost.  I was genetically unclean.
    Accepting that, I broke from
    Them and leaped off the roof,
    Down into the sea which was
    The last they needed to see of me

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Ulysses Agonistes 2

    I sought to reach the cove before
    The storm, but there followed
    A rising sea.  I put down anchors
    Fore and aft hoping they’d hold me
    While the sea swept harmlessly
    Past.  But I’m on a lee shore
    Roiling against God.  The trails I’ve

    Traveled have spilled me down 
    The mountain and out to sea.  
    Foul winds rose and shoved me    
    As far out as they could go.
    I struggled in weather gear
    Ripped and torn and missed
    My true way to the cove.
    Anchors held all through   
    The night, but now they drag
    And will soon let go.  Should I
    Hide below as I smash upon
    These rocks?  I think instead
    I’ll stand upon the deck and
    Watch my own destruction?

Ulysses Agonistes 1

    In an earlier time I sailed
    Out in full armor, but this
    Afternoon with a light breeze
    Coming from the north
    And possessing my full rights
    I let a burdened boat cross
    Before my bow, falling off

    Letting him take my place,
    Veering, trying for a better
    Wind further along.
    I’ll sail whatever course this
    Wind demands, never
    Needing to win at merely this.

    I won’t hear the winning horn
    But urgently seek my long sought
    Cove, Penelope there where
    I once dived down to find
    Her.  Let others swallow
    Their indignation.  I’ll
    Dive down unannounced.       

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

On he Road


    I’ve been on this road a
    Seldom understood long time
    And have never managed
    To catch its name:  The signs
    Wink by so quickly.  I must
    Do my best to watch for
    Directions: “Gas and Lodging”

    From time to time or 
    “Rest Stop” which I
    Pull in to and seeing no one
    To complain, let my dogs
    Out off-leash to run.
    I look about but see no
    Explanation of where this is.

    My sense of direction, always
    Poor seems to have gotten worse:
    The sky in this unpeopled place with
    Its immeasurable number of stars,
    Each one with a name
    I never learned, aches
    As I cross over a crest

    Away from the rest-stop’s lights.
    The night is full of explanation,
    But I am limited by the
    Energy I still possess –
    The dogs come near and wait
    To see where I will go – on out
    To infinity – or back to the car.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Heidegger on a bad day

     I on the other hand am fighting
    The not care-edness of being.
    The camera I use today will be
    Electronic junk ten years from now
    As may we all for all I know.
    Tip-toe as I might up every
    Little hill, past flowers

    Still in bloom, I see with
    Infinitesimal glimpses
    Using rheumy eyes and try
    I might think to reach out
    For something to grasp,
    Feel my last gasp coming
    In a cough like a fit,

    Fearing solipsistic sentiments
    I might give my camera away,
    Crush poppies in the field as I
    Walk by, lift my eyes to meteor
    Showers and eclipses beyond
    My reach even if I were to take my
    Hands from my pockets and try.

Daddy Long Legs

    The spider hung upside down
    With legs so fine they looked
    Like strands of his web.
    A wounded fly
    Fell in, struggling
    Weakly as the spider by
    Then quite close wrapped him

    Tightly and as soon cocooned
    Set him aside.  I raised
    My eyes and looked away.
    Whatever would happen
    Next required the spider’s
    Patience more than mine,
    Looking about at the rest

    Not web connected,
    Waiting none the less
    For what would happen soon,   
    I picked up my broom, swept
    Up blown-in leaves, tracked-
    In sand and debris, ready
    For whatever comes for me.

Bring me your dead

    “Bring out your dead,”
    “Bring out your dead,”
    Louder with each call
    A tall man with bald head   
    Looked in.  “We’ll have your dead.”
    His bass-voice demanded.
    “Have away,” I snarled,

    Looking up annoyed.
    “Don’t make me wait
    He snarled back.  I stood
    On wobbly legs and shook
    My cane.  “Do you see any dead
    In here?  You damned fool.  Try
    The house next door.  He checked

    His phone and checked my
    Number.  “No, no mistake.”
    I frothed, “You bureaucratic
    Muggins couldn’t find your way
    Around my block.  Get off   
    My porch or I’ll call the law.
    We’ll just see who here is dead.

    My anger overwhelmed
    My sense of being and I swung
    My cane, falling as I did.
    “I see him now,” I heard him say,
    Looking down with a glint
    In his closest eye.  I coughed, and as
    I died heard him contentedly sigh.

Philosophically Speaking

    “It’s going to get buried,”
    I heard him say. “It” being
    Something I held dear. I began
    Thinking:  The sound as
    He spoke was immense
    With authority.  But so many
    Do that in these late days,

    I slung my gun belt around
    My waist.  “Well see about
    This,” I mumbled aloud,
    Checking the loads in my old
    Colt and feeling the few
    More in my pocket if it came
    To that.  Turning I saw

    The one who spoke near
    The end of the bar – hat down
    Over his eyes – thumbs in his
    Belt looking nonchalant.  “Hey
    You,” he heard me say and looked
    Around. “You better think again    
    Before you grab your spade

Sunday, February 24, 2019

In case of diminished capacity

In the monthly report packets from my broker on 1-9-19, I found slips asking who he should contact in case he noticed "diminished capacity."  I had pretty much concluded that there might be no one in easy reach in case I noticed any such thing in the world round about.  It isn't that I blame God for Susan's years of suffering and demise in a wasted-away condition, but I did notice that the church round about seemed in a diminished capacity -- unless it was the other way around which those involved seemed willing to believe -- that is, that any diminishment is in what they saw and not in what they were.

I often think of Ted Kaczynski and how our part of the world thinks of him as a thorough-going nutter.  He was partly right of course.  We have filled up this planet and then some -- not enough to destroy it most likely, but enough to destroy us; which Richard Leakey in Nairobi Kenya wrote about before giving it (writing) up to protect the rhinos and elephants; that is, that our species is unlikely to last any longer than any other species, which he told us was about 200,000 years.  Of course that was before all the work done by geneticists so, not being a geneticist,  it is just as well he gave up writing about it. 

Perhaps we ought to ask who we should contact in case of our species diminished capacity?  Perhaps if provide the evidence of the cave paintings in France and Spain of our species having begin just shy of 200,000 years ago, we are very near Richard Leakey's time limit.  But if as the geneticists say, we have evolved only slightly from the "species," that preceded ours, I don't think that is what Leakey had in mind.  If the Great Ape in Kenya and elsewhere dwindles further and as a species dies, Leakey can count back and pause perhaps in his tracking down of elephant-tusk poachers and say to himself, "yup."  But in our case it is not quite that clear cut.

Kaczynski thought that if he killed a few scientists and got the world to read his manifesto, he could coerce it away from technology and return it to a system of pre-technological villages -- well he was a complete nutter, but he was right about believing that something needed to be done. 

Being privy now to genetic information not available to Richard who predicted our diminished capacity and demise, or Ted who attempted to cause our demise, evolution is continuously at work and "may" cause us to supersede our species in the same way that we superseded homo erectus and his like; thus causing Leakey's 200,000 year clock to begin again (of course the "us" in the above is a matter for ongoing speculation and concern). 

Or . . . if we accept the Koheleth "there is nothing new under the sun" belief that mankind is the same as it has always been and will be the same on into the future however long our future lasts; then, as we can read in NASA and other such organizations' proposals, we can hie ourselves to the moon, Mars, Saturn's moons, and continue on as we have always been for another 200,000 years and etcetera. 

Kaczynski built himself a little ten by ten hut and lived as a hermit before his brother and the law caught up with him.  In my case I had my son build a ten by ten Hobbit House . . . or at least that is what I told him to build, but it looks pretty much like the tool sheds in my neighbor's yards.  And of course it contains tools and not me.  I live mostly upstairs in my study (in case anyone is trying to catch up with me); although I have converted Susan's bedroom to the room in which I do dumbbell exercises.  My main workout area is downstairs in my three-car garage.  Having just one vehicle, I have plenty of room in the other two spots for barbells, and some other workout equipment.  Also, I use all this equipment, and beyond that continue to hike very regularly with my dogs while brandishing a camera.  Thus, despite actuarial criteria to the contrary, at age 84 I am not feeling a need to have anyone else determine when my capacity has diminished.  My portion of 200,000 years is showing no signs of ending any time soon.

As to writing, I still do quite a lot -- nothing poetic recently, of course.   T. S. Eliot, I hasten to remind the inquisitive, gave me permission to write away in all sorts of forms so that when the white-hot heat of whatever it is that inspires me to write poetry is of a sufficient incendiary nature, I shall be able to.  Still not feeling in any way diminished I expect I shall be sufficiently fiery in the not too distant future. 

Hike on 1-1-19 with lots of birds

This was my second outing with the Nikon D800e.  One person wrote me that he also had an 800e, had it for a long time and was planning to upgrade to the D850 – the most advanced Nikon full-frame camera short of the Pro D5.  Maybe one day I’ll want a D850 as well, but for now the D800e suits me.  I like the way it handles.  I’m sure I’ll like it even better once I learn what all the buttons and dials do.  A manual for the D800e was waiting for me when I got home (not the Nikon manual, but one intended to be of use to the user . . . maybe I should say “of more use,” but just barely). 

The lens I used today, the 70-300 is considered a good lightweight lens for the hiker.  It’s only flaw was (I read) soft edges at 300mm, but I discovered that only my left edges were a bit soft, and then not always. 

I took a lot of shots of birds, especially at 300mm and especially birds in flight.  I would think I should be able to do everything I did with the D800e with my full-frame Pentax K1ii, but the shots I got of birds at 300mm seem sharper than anything I’ve managed with my Pentax gear.   And the D800e isn’t supposed to be quite as good as the crop (AFSC) D500 which I have yet to take out on its second outing.  It has been sitting on a shelf for more than a week,  so long in fact that my nephew thought I might want to sell it.  No, no, no!  I will get to it shortly.  I know the D500 will do well.  I wasn’t sure about the older D800e, however, and since I had more questions about the D800e, I wanted to try it first.

Starting with shot 146, I took several shots of ducks in a rather foul-looking pond.   I would certainly not want to spend any time in one of these ponds, but the birds don’t mind.  I've seen them in these ponds every years.  My D800e shutter seemed extremely loud.  In the first two you can see the duck in the foreground watching me.  As we moved along and I took more, the ducks swam further away.  The shutter on my Pentax K1ii isn’t nearly as loud, but at least the ducks didn’t fly off.  A few years ago I was using a camera that made a sort of beep when a shot was in focus, and as soon as the birds heard it they flew up in a huge chaotic panicky-seeming cluster.  I later noticed that the beep sounded very much like the sound a red-tailed hawk makes.    But we didn’t beep today.  In shot 163 and subsequent you can see one of those very hawks.   It wasn’t ducks who flew off after hearing the hawk-sounding beep, but the small white sea-birds you can see in a pond further along.

The dogs nibbled on some of the farming leftovers on the fringes of the fields.  In shot number 173 Ben has something the seems  to be extremely bad-tasting. 

Shot number 183 is a genuine BIF (bird in flight) at 300 mm – not a great picture perhaps but it is fairly sharp, and the bird is flying.  

Shot 191 and subsequent shows three ducks in flight at 300mm.  They weren’t close enough to get great shots, but they too appear to be in focus and sharp. 

Shot 238 is the cute-shot of the day.  Why Jessica likes to rest with her tongue hanging out, I don’t know.

Shot 256 and following shows a three shot rabbit chase – although it could have been a squirrel.  I didn’t actually see what they were chasing. 

The last three shots, 275, 276 and 277, are of a tent containing a young woman and a small dog.  You can see her looking at me through her window in shot 276.  In the right edge you can see my Jeep.  We didn’t see her tent when we started our hike because we went straight down to the river from where my Jeep is.  Although now that I think of it perhaps the dogs saw her then.  I took a bit of time to get my gear on and I don’t know what they were doing while I was doing that.   The woman had a small dog that caused my dogs to run toward the tent, but she called her dog inside before mine got there --- no harm done . . . other than the fact that she is living there; which strikes me as rather harmful thing to be doing.

Hike on a windy day, 1-1-19

This was the first hike with the Nikon full frame D800e camera as well as the Nikon 180mm f/2.8 lens.  Why did I get a Nikon full-frame camera when I am happy with my Pentax full frame K1ii?   I suppose curiosity would head the list.  I am still enough of an engineer to be curious about comparative technology – at least in regard to photography.  Second on the list would be that I got the 800e with an extremely low shutter count at a very good price.  According to my calculations based on the tests I read about in reviews, the image quality of the 800e is very nearly as good as the present top-in-class D850.  It also has better image quality than any Canon camera as near as I can tell.  Canon of course has a lot more features and the best one, the IDX, can do a lot of things the D800e can’t do, but I am most concerned about image quality and both my Pentax K1ii and this D800e are right up there near the top in all the tests of image quality that I’ve read. 

Jessica was the most excited by the wind and just being there today.  She even did for the first time something Duffy has done on many occasions: come up to me with a happy look and brush against me in a way I interpret as saying “thanks for this.”  Duffy did it as well.  Ben has never done it.  He is instead always on guard (or, more likely, looking for rabbits).

In shot 20 I took my first BIF (Bird in Flight) shot, and I can’t be completely sure since crows are jet black, but the D800e may be better at this than any camera I’ve tried at this thus far.  The Nikon D500 which I have yet to spend much time with is supposed to be even better.  We’ll see. 

Shot 23 of Duffy climbing up the chicken-wire covered levee is my favorite in the cuteness category.

Shot 43 and maybe a couple of others of the mountains to test clarity at infinity came out extremely well. 

Brush hasn’t had much of a chance to get started after our heat spells; so you can’t always see bent-over brush as a sign that the wind is blowing hard.  In shot 50 for example Duffy and Ben are showing the effects of the wind but the brush not so much.

In shot 54, Ben started a rabbit and began to give chase (by jumping up into the air???).  I simply pointed and shot this one and Ben is a bit of a blur.  Also I didn’t have the camera set for this sort of action.  I didn’t upload all of the other blurred shots of the chase.  Shot 58 shows Ben standing still wondering where the rabbit went.  

Beginning with shot 59 I took several shots of Jessica coming toward me to see if I could do some decent tracking if I anticipated the action, and these shots came out mostly okay.  She of course isn’t as fast as a rabbit.  Also, I had the camera set at AF-S (meaning autofocus for still shots).  I would have set it for AF-C (autofocus for continuous shooting) if I anticipated an action sequence.  In AF-C I could just hold the shutter down and presumably (and if I was lucky) get the whole chase.

Shot 104 shows Duffy in the riverbed with some of the weeds bent over by the wind.  Shot 115 shows Ben signaling a left turn thanks to the wind.  And then the last one, shot 116 shows Ben’s ears pinned back by the wind.

As for me, the wind blew my wide-brimmed hat off a couple of times and for the early part of the hike I held it on with my left hand while operating the camera with my right.  Eventually, I took my hat off and stuffed it under my windbreaker.

This was a very good New Year’s day for all of us, although Ben may have been a bit ambivalent about it at times.  I gave them all some roast chicken when we got home and then they all lay down to nap.  Ben apparently went instantly into deep sleep, for when I took his collar off a few minutes later he was startled and leaped up, something he has never done before.   

The camera and lens did pretty well, something that hasn’t been true of all my first-outings with a camera.  The dogs and I had an excellent time, and I didn’t lose my hat.  What could be better than that?