Poem: On Watching a Bee Expire in the Garden

bee on the ground



Death and life are interchangeable,

inextricably entwined.

Without a brain there is no thinking,

no motoring of the mind.

Fret not about the end impending

when you suppose you’ll not be able


to kiss and laugh – oh, all the pleasures

almost justifies the pain.

Without a wound there is no succor,

unwelcome drought, cherished rain.

Call it fated, then call it luck, or

consign your dance to humble measures.


But dance you must. And singing! Loudly.

And loving oddly. And now

you see that when the playing concludes

what’s left is not about how

or when you tamed unbearable moods.

No. Embrace your death – and life – proudly.

Poem: Nostalgia

game players

If it’s not too early,

a bit premature for a fellow not quite ready,

I should like to look backward

on the imaginary continuum of then and now.

How marvelous it would be

to gaze beneficently

upon my childhood,


and maybe weeping softly

at all that’s been lost.


We called it the Court. Forty yards of hard-packed grass.

A giant elm was one goalpost, and a shorter piney thing was the other

and there was an asphalt ring around it

for racing and chasing

and we spent our childhoods there,

inventing games, skinning elbows, making friends, running away and running back

being boys

unable to imagine we would one day miss it all terribly,

as though it were dead,

as though it weren’t still there,

where it’s always been.

. . . → Read More: Poem: Nostalgia

Poem: Instead of Telling

What's Ahead

Let me show you my gift.

Telling has been discouraged.

If it hadn’t, I would be telling you that I can see into the future, years ahead.

Instead I shall show you my alleged gift, and I’ll hope, as I always do when I remember, that what I share will be useful to you.

I don’t know how that could be, but it’s worth imagining.

Ready steady, Freddy?

Good! It’s all good.

(That was my first subtle demonstration. The second is coming up next).

When you can dream with your eyes wide and the light pouring in and God everywhere –

and yet still however

the magic screen you possess, the one that’s like everyone else’s magic screen

in no way whatsoever – that one! — projects a storypoem

of startling clarity and prescience you’ll one day discover and confirm…

Then you’re me. Hello! Welcome. We’re seeing . . . → Read More: Poem: Instead of Telling

Poem: Scandal

oedipus painting

IN MEMORY OF EUGENE KONIK, born February 27, 1936. R.I.P.


And although I don’t share your candid misanthropy

I understand and I am sorry.

Father who left us all too soon

I understand and I am sorry.

Our species, the one you claimed to despise, having peered inside yourself and

all around the carousel, having seen dazzling cruelties

reckless greediness



worse than rodents – the worst we’re capable of inflicting on ourselves and

those we claim to adore

like they were our firstborn son, the one that will always be first, the first in the family

to go to college

and see the Loire Valley

and lose a wife.

Father who left us all too soon

I understand and I am sorry.

This morning, walking into the sunrise, something you liked to do –

now I like to do, yippee! hurrah! yahoo!

to be . . . → Read More: Poem: Scandal

Demoting a Hero

marines relieving themselves on the enemy

This is no joke. This is an outrage.

One of our real American heroes, Sgt. Robert W. Richards, a Marine sniper, pleaded guilty to “dereliction of duty” and “conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline.” He was demoted to corporal. Lower pay. Fewer stripes.

At least he was permitted to keep his retirement health benefits.

His “crime”? He was filmed in full combat gear urinating on the corpses of three Afghani Taliban insurgents, declaring “have a nice day, buddy,” while tinkling. A 39-second video of the incident circulated on the Internet, where, predictably, peace and love types called for Sgt. Richards to be kicked out of the armed services. Now they’re livid that one of our courageous heroes “only” got demoted.

What have we become, America? Must we always be offering the world apologies for our behavior? Richards is no criminal. He’s a brave warrior who keeps . . . → Read More: Demoting a Hero

Bad Endings

Walking in the Shadow of Youth

I helped an old man load his groceries into the trunk of his car, which was parked curbside near the entrance to a 99-Cent store. He walked with a cane and seemed to have trouble handling his bags. A watermelon had fallen to the sidewalk, somehow escaping unblemished. But things didn’t look as though they would end well.

Do they ever? According to the old man, they do not. He thanked me profusely for assisting, and then he seemed to want to explain why he needed help, and then he sensed that this was already understood by both of us. He shook his bald head, covered by a baseball cap. Then he said, “Don’t ever get old. Stay the way you are now. Getting old. It’s no good.”

At a birthday party for an elegant lady turning 100, the centarian’s daughter . . . → Read More: Bad Endings

Looking Back on 2012: An Oral History of American Values

granny bomber

I was young like you once. Don’t laugh. It seems impossible, I know. An old codger like me of 77! You probably can’t picture when I was only 47 and healthy, with all my own teeth and a libido that didn’t yet require boner pills.

Sure, that was three decades ago, and I look a lot different, what with the thinning hair, sloping shoulders, and cute little pot belly. But my memory is still sharp, even with all the weed I smoked. I remember perfectly what we were like 30 years ago, back in ’12, and I’m glad your professor asked you to do this project. I’m glad you’re talking to the older generation. Folks like me know what America was like back then, back in the time of Obama. The USA was different.

How do I mean? Well, I’ll tell you. . . . → Read More: Looking Back on 2012: An Oral History of American Values

On the Death of a Child


A daughter has died.

She was also a wife and a mother and a sister. She was 41. She follows to the grave a brother, who died in a car accident when he was 18.

What does one say to her parents? How flimsy and impotent words seem in the face of these outrages, when the natural order of life has been confused and perverted. For anyone who hasn’t suffered the incomprehensible losses this family has endured, it seems preposterous to offer comfort and encouragement. What qualifications or insight could we have? Only they, we imagine, fully understand the intense grief that accompanies the death of a young son. And now the pain of losing an adult daughter. It’s really almost too much for words, too much for any parent to bear.

I have no explanations. I have no answers. I don’t understand. No doubt . . . → Read More: On the Death of a Child

Violence Voyeurism

hunger games

Outrageous. Horrifying. Disgusting.

These were some of the adjectives hurled in the press when news broke that the former world champions of football, the New Orleans Saints, for years had instituted a bounty system that rewarded their players for knocking opponents out the game. Players contributed to an in-house pool and collected $1,000-$1,500 when they scored a knockout. Hitting someone so hard that they required a stretcher or motorized cart to be removed from the field earned a special commendation.

The National Football League, presenters of America’s favorite gladiatorial spectacle, handed down sentences to the malefactors. The General Manager and an assistant coach were suspended without pay for about half the upcoming season. The head coach, Sean Payton, was banned for the entire year. And in a maneuver eerily reminiscent of the Soviet Gulag, the former defensive coordinator and alleged mastermind of the bounty program, Greg . . . → Read More: Violence Voyeurism

Near Death on Two Wheels

bike accident

Last week I experienced my first ride inside the back of an ambulance rushing to a hospital emergency room. The sirens wailed while paramedics monitored my vital signs and called out important-sounding numbers. I looked up from the gurney I was attached to, noting the oxygen valve on the ceiling, the lights, the latched compartments containing the tools of triage, and since I get motion sickness when traveling backwards I concentrated on breathing steadily and not vomiting. I heard the beeping of an EKG monitor and the crackling of a two-way radio and felt the pressure of a plastic mask over my mouth and on the bridge of my nose.

This is what many people see before they die, I realized: the inside of a speeding ambulance filled with mustachioed firemen-paramedics.

Although I felt terrible, I was almost certain I wasn’t dying. I had passed . . . → Read More: Near Death on Two Wheels