Wednesday, April 23, 2014

See Jane Run

         I go to the hotel gym--a stuffy room that smells of moldy socks and Pine Sol--and this father comes in with his daughter--he's wearing a gray sweat suit and giant white tennis shoes, and his daughter is tiny, maybe twelve, all bones, with long braids and a yellow Nike outfit--yellow down to the shoes. The father guides her over to the treadmill and programs the machine for her.  "You'll be running three miles at six minute pace, okay Jane?" Obediently the girl gets on the machine and starts to run--bang, bang, bang.  I swear she sounds like an elephant.  Then she starts adjusting the machine.  "Don't slow it down!" the father shouts.  The girl continues without looking at him: bang, bang, bang. "Jane! Did you slow the treadmill down?"  Bang, bang, bang, bang.  The noise is deafening.  This goes on for a while: the father shouting, the girl banging.  Suddenly the girl stops and turns off the machine.  "You aren't finished?" the father asks, placing his hands on his hips.
          "I don't feel good," the girls says, looking down at her yellow shoes.
          "Okay," the father sighs, shaking his head with disgust. After she leaves, he turns to me.  "My girl has real talent.  Did you see her run?"
            "I heard her," I say. "And you." He laughs.
            "All I need is a motivator.  Any suggestions?"
             "I don't know . . .  a whistle?"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Space Weather

I'm at a coffee shop in Arlington, Virginia, listening to a group of scientists in dark suits argue about the risky nature of space weather events.  How do we convince them that our research is worth funding?  one of the men asks.

We could tell them how solar storms and sunspot activity could shut down Wall Street, cause wide-spread power outages and cost the government trillions, a woman answers with a slight laugh.  She seems delighted by the prospect.  But until that happens, she adds,  they won't hear us.  Kind of like that asteroid in Russia--no one believed it would happen until it did. 

I like the Wall Street shutdown, a man agrees with her.  They both laugh and briefly remark on their colleagues on Wall Street.  The prospect of an asteroid or weather event taking them out doesn't sound too bad.

Another man describes the risks to satellites, solar panels, GPS, the military, space stations and more.  They all seem eager to find the right language to warn the government about the potential problems ahead.

As they rise to leave, a woman seated nearby comments, At least it's not like climate change.  They don't have Exxon or the Koch boys funding anyone who would try to discredit their research. 

Monday, April 21, 2014


It's Easter morning in Virginia, and the sun is shining and the sky is that aqua blue, so perfect you feel like it's singing to you, and out on the streets folks are all gussied up for church.  Except us, that is--we're dressed in our usual jeans and sweats, ready to drive out the woods and the beautiful blue hills around the town-- our idea of church . . .  But even on the main roads I keep staring at the people walking by,  all gussied-up in suits and dresses.  One woman teeters along the road in white high heels, looking as if she can barely walk. She is wearing a purple dress and a purple hat with something like a wimple around her neck--and holding onto it as best she can while the wind whips away at it.  The scene brings back memories of all those itchy Easter dresses we used to wear-- with puffy sleeves and crinoline along with those hats with colored ribbons and white gloves with  pearls (not that they ever stayed white for long).  And the church women, like powdered Easter eggs, who stood on the front steps of the church, gabbing and gushing and happy Eastering.  And my father who would push us past them and hurry us up to the church balcony so we could witness what he called "all the falderal." Once the service began, he'd belt out a few hymns, say a few prayers, and then hurry us downstairs and out into the sun before "all the bellyaching about God begins."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

At the Y

Every day, week after week, the same swimmers swim.  First there's the born-again who looks like Golem, who tries to tell everyone about his latest Jesus sighting before they dive in.  Then there's Noodle Lady. Noodle Lady swims backwards up and down the lanes while holding a noodle and wearing a white hat.  And there's Snorkel Man--he swims in an entire diving get-up.  It takes him as long to put on his gear as it does to swim. He paddles slowly up and down the lanes staring at the bottom of the pool, occasionally pointing out Band-Aids and hair clips to the life guards. And then there's always Nick who can't share his lane. He must be at least fifty, but he still doesn't know how to share.  Anyone tries, he lets them know. Everyone else squeezes into their lanes while Nick happily swims in a lane all to himself for two hours or more ---that is, unless the elderly deaf lady comes in her flowered suit.  She doesn't know what Nick says to her or why he gets out of the water and glares while she floats in slow circles, looking like the happiest swimmer in the pool.  Of course everyone gets out if there's a code brown . . .

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


It's snowing here today so I had to post this photo from a few days ago to make myself feel better.  The spring is so late, the buds are just coming out on some of the trees, as you can see, but most of the trees aren't even leafing out yet.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dover Beach Parodies

A Criticism of Life: for Andrews Wanning

So there stood Matthew Arnold and this girl
With the cliffs of England crumbling away behind them,
And he said to her, 'Try to be true to me,
And I'll do the same for you, for things are bad
All over, etc., etc.'
Well now, I knew this girl. It's true she had read
Sophocles in a fairly good translation
And caught that bitter allusion to the sea,
But all the time he was talking she had in mind
The notion of what his whiskers would feel like
On the back of her neck. She told me later on
That after a while she got to looking out
At the lights across the channel, and really felt sad,
Thinking of all the wine and enormous beds
And blandishments in French and the perfumes.
And then she got really angry. To have been brought
All the way down from London, and then be addressed
As a sort of mournful cosmic last resort
Is really tough on a girl, and she was pretty.
Anyway, she watched him pace the room
And finger his watch-chain and seem to sweat a bit,
And then she said one or two unprintable things.
But you mustn't judge her by that. What I mean to say is, 
She's really all right. I still see her once in a while
And she always treats me right. We have a drink
And I give her a good time, and perhaps it's a year
Before I see her again, but there she is, 
Running to fat, but dependable as they come.
And sometimes I bring her a bottle of Nuit d' Amour.
- See more at:

Dover Beach

by Tom Clark

The sea is calm tonight,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the Straits;--on the French
Toast, the light
Syrup gleams but a moment,
and is gone . . .

(Read the rest here)

Dover Beach
by Matthew Arnold
The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dickinson Comic: My Wife once stood--a Loaded Gun

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun (764)

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified -
And carried Me away -

And now We roam in Sovreign Woods -
And now We hunt the Doe -
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply -

(Okay, so this is one of the dumbest yet.  Forgive me!) 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

At the Y

I'm walking on a treadmill again under a bank of TV screens, observing how each TV is showing reruns of a recent nightmare. On one screen there is the Pistorius trial, and on another, the Fort Hood shootings. On the local channel, first there are the local killings.  Then there is a film of Youngstown police officers being trained to gun down criminals at the Eastwood Mall. What is this?  a man walking next to me asks.  An NRA wet dream?  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Rochelle Hurt

Rochelle Hurt read at YSU on Thursday night.  She's a new young star, and she's from Poland, Ohio! Her poems reminded me a little of Claire Bateman and Kathi McGookey--a kind of surreal and deeply imaginative work that sits right at that line between poetry and fiction.