Sunday, December 12, 2010

The (Not So) Great Compromise

Remember the one-time required (for college) critique, The Pursuit of Loneliness: American Culture at the Breaking Point, which attempted to explain to the nation's non-hippies what had just happened in America? (1970)

Its author, Philip Slater noted then:

"One reason (there are many others, some quite practical) why compromising liberals are so despised and extreme conservatives sometimes respected is that the greater moral absolutism of the latter, no matter how antithetical in content, strikes a sympathetic chord."

Monday, December 6, 2010

If They Ruled the World...

While reading the essay, "Horace", written by the grand old master, Agnes Repplier, I came upon this perpetually sobering observation:

The clear-sighted do not rule the world, but they sustain and console it. It is not in human nature to be led by intelligence. An intelligent world would not be what it is today; it would never have been what it has been in every epoch of which we have any knowledge. Horace had no illusions on this score. He did not pass his life in ignorance of the ills about him. Men lived on their elemental instincts then as now. They wanted to keep what they had, or they wanted to get what their neighbors had, just as they do today. Horace knew this, and he invented no fancy phrases to decorate a bald fact. To understand life was, indeed, a classic form of consolation, a mental austerity...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monkey Island

North, past caged jackal, eagle, camel, cat.
Empires settled in the dust.
Past wheeled-scholars tethered to their mothers hearts.
To the water's edge I come.
In my eyes the clenched apple slowly burns.
(Such fire I bear only to unburden).
You clutch your chosen branch.
The tiger's roar silences the sea-lion.
Cowers the wind.
Erases the shadows of once bright stars.
Locks upon the air your stare in mine.
Crushes the hopes of these least lonely souls.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2010: The Mid-Term Elections

There is so much to complain about and so much time.

Not even two years have passed since the Obama administration assumed power, but it seems like I've been hearing about its multifarious, if not nefarious, incompetence for a much longer time. Were I a less skeptical person I would probably be hard-pressed, by now, not to agree with much of the diatribe being hurled at The President, his advisers, and his fellow Democrats.

It is unfortunate that so many of our pundits, politicians and corporate leaders are acting so disingenuous and clueless about how America has fallen into such a pitiful economic and political state. (Pun intended?)

The widespread damage that the recklessly conceived and sold, unregulated "weapons of financial mass-destruction" has wrought had for decades been brewing in the shallowed halls of Congress and the even shallower halls of boardrooms during the corrupt, inept and short-sighted administrations of Democrats and Republicans alike.

Clearly, most Americans are either already suffering from the effects of the lousy economy, or fear the strong likelihood that they may soon join the bourgeoning ranks of those suffering. This astute majority of the sometimes working poor are as apt as they are correct to be angry, worried, and even downright depressed.

All of us, though, should take some comfort in the fact that the Democrats have by now proven that they are not even remotely cagey enough to have caused the amount of economic damage that their colleagues from across the aisle have been relentlessly blaming them for. Surely they had to have a lot of help from their very accusers and the well-heeled, too big to jail corporate sponsors of both major parties. Enter the Body-Politic Snatchers: The Herb People.

People, like politicians, are quite capable of voting with their wallets instead of their brains. So, on the first Tuesday of November I fully expect to be surprised with something far worse than we've already got. Something I can only imagine.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


She was a no-nonsense English teacher, the classic school-marm: elderly, intelligent, collected, fear-invoking. The lady had mastered the art of garnering respect surreptitiously; it was neither demanded or requested. Her students were captured by forces irresistible and undefinable.

"Tonight you shall read Chapters I through III from your Ivanhoe texts. You shall answer, in your own words, the questions appearing at the end of each chapter. You will write legibly and coherently, and you will not appear in this room tomorrow without this assignment completed. Has anyone any questions regarding this assignment? Good."

I listened to that speech every schoolday throughout the 7th grade; only the titles, chapters, scenes, and verses changed. After the appetizer of Scott, she served us a small dish of Stevenson before heaping a double-helping of Shakespeare onto our plates. For dessert, we dipped into the dynamic duo of Wordsworth and Coleridge. We read, we thought, we wrote. We read, we thought, we wrote.

During the month of June 1955, one student at a time, we rose from our desks, marched to the front of the classroom, turned sharply to face our mates and recited from memory the 625 lines that comprised "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." This was required to receive a passing grade.

On my 13th birthday, later that year, snow began falling in the ebbing hours of that auspicious occasion. I peered out from my quiet bedroom and watched the large flakes covering the parked cars, the sidewalks and fenceposts. A thought crossed my mind:

"He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Etude for Billie Blake

On the city's summer sidewalks
a lad skips merry and carefree.
Each day a picture in bright chalks
from heaven hangs for none save he.

Each stranger passed is friend denied
tho' he dare not pause delight.
No pleasantries can he abide;
joy's torrent shrouds the child's sight.

Nor books, nor chores stir his happy hands
that deftly fly the soaring kite,
'Tho when time slips its silent sands
they flail--they quake--with fearful might.

When with his shadow of long days
both fade to gray before lone night--
They scold their stars for foolish ways,
and tearful make their homeward flight.

To hear these songs yet being played
Discords the souls these discords made.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Walden III

Henry David, are you there?

I've brought your morning news.

The roads and rails are gone fore'er,

And gone are all the moos.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Had I eyes then if just to squint to see
between the splintering glimmer of
eternal birthlight eons long ago and

Had I ears then if just to strain to hear
the so soft revving of some universal engine
would its constant drone now be altered and

Would I now be home at last and paid, in truth, my living wage?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


beyond these stained splintered claws
our eyes primordial see
birthlit fields eternal spread

star pulsed toccata waves splash
our ears stone enrapt pivot
hear too stone celesta soar

our chords raised we sculpted crouch
our bloodtides resound retreat
our purrs wail our feral fugue

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Feisty Queen

Before she darts upon her checkered stage;
before two-faced time's been struck--
She's pinched at her crown and yanked from her cage,
then plunked down hard-by a battle to wage.
When those hands dark her sky and thunder, "Good Luck!",
her puppeted ranks cheer their Queen of Pluck.

Her spirited heart beats the call to war,
as she marshals her forces and orders by lore--
"Middle pawns storm! Knights wheel about!
Good Bishop heed my warning shout!
We'll score the win! I've writ the book!
Quickmarch, milord, to yonder rook!"

No pin, no fork, too soon, too late;
scathing moves in her sparkling fashion--
She skewers the steed in hobbled gait,
and rids it with fiery passion.
Now squaring her site dead-on h8,
Gloriana glides, how she glides, now she glides, check and mate.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blind Spots

I still see her
lips move.

Her last
in the
a live
I'd lose more.

went first.

today quickly

I still see

in the
a live

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ode to Whitman, Walt

He stands enthralled
Above a boulevard of life
Where matter counts;
The count does not.

Where the altered complexions
Of the seasons skies
Seem as his people:
Strolling, searching, striving.

Where he turns his back
To the glistening river running,
Calling to the world
In notes of silver and gold.

He keeps his verdant post,
A marker of beauty,
A marker of truth
Where the Gods would be green.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Treasure

Below a cliff known as Coogan's Bluff, which is situated by a western bank of the Harlem, a diseased vein in a dying city, a treasure is buried. It is hidden there beneath tons of concrete and steel which rise up into a polluted sky. A monumental offering to its dwellers.

My memory permits me to bulldoze that beloved acreage on certain occasions so that I can rifle through some of the jewel-like presences of happenings long ago. I can see then, forinstance, the banners blowing across from left to right.

"Willie will have to really push them today, huh Dad?"

"Watch him," my Dad would say. "You watch that Say Hey Kid. He does it all."

And I knew he could, too. My Dad, he knew.

A rainbow of screaming Giants' fans converted a ballgame into a love affair. Our screams tore love out from deep in our insides, and we could feel them tickling our throats on the way out. Mom was never there, but maybe the paper bag beneath my wooden seat, the one with all those sandwiches in it, even made her a part of it all.

I was small then, but living in a world of friendly giants. After each game Dad would take me out onto the playing field. I can remember how I used to cross it to the centerfield exit bent in two. I walked that way so that I could run my fingertips over the grass. The grass where Willie ran. A magic carpet I never will cease to treasure.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pith and Polish

As a retired proofreader, or corrector-of-the-press, as the task was previously entitled, I am not quite so appalled as I am disheartened by the rampant misspellings taking place here in the on-line universe that I have dubbed (meaning nothing derogatory) the Cyberswamp.
Swamps have been proven to be very important parts of our ecological system and a superb habitat for a number of natural wonders. Much that is useful can be learned therein, if one only slogs around in it for awhile. (And slog around one will once bitten by the Cyberswamp bug.)
As a person with a particularly professional penchant for pedantry I pray that perhaps people will prepare and polish their pieces prior to posting them.
After correcting proofs for more than a half century, I had begun to proofhear people when they spoke. Let me tell you brother (as one pedant to another) people simply will not tolerate prooflisteners in their midst. Nothing else, save beerfarting (in certain quarters) can so quickly force one out of polite society and into a dreary life wandering the Cyberswamp.