On the Riverboat Twain

If you were at the party on the boat
that cut the humid vapor
on the Big Muddy
that buggy Summer night
you would have seen Jim
who doesn’t drink now but said
Huck’ll bury a few shots for him.

And if you joined us in the smoke
on the deck that held the cricket’s counsel
when the calliope took a rest
you might have caught me
whispering to The Judge
that I heard
Tom saw your daughter
Becky thatch her roof
in nothing but a nightie.

But the Judge just sustained his stomach’s
minor objection to the drink,
belched a gassy pardon
and said he didn’t like to think
of that boy wearing girls’ clothes.

Un-brella Weather

In October the wind came at its worst
and the rain became confused
from knowing how to fall
just plain down
anymore.

The boy said the rain is going sideways.

His sister used one hand
to put up her hood
then casually closed her umbrella
because she knew
it wouldn’t help anymore.

The boy said hey we need that.

But his sister just put the furled umbrella
(a rainbow colored rebuttal)
under an arm
and used one hand
to help him put up his hood too.

Cleanup Hitter

It takes no thought to lace me up
or to walk in me towards home
where you abuse me.
But I’ll take your little beatings.
The casual wooden raps knocking loose
A few burdensome clumps of clay
to prepare for the run you hope to make

Then you drive my cleats into the ground
and that dirty friction of hard earth
stirs up hints of my own scented body –
plastic, leather, steel.
A strikingly visceral lineup.

If only I were you instead of your shoe
so your twisted beginnings could be batted from me
like the packed dirt underfoot.
A few practiced taps in just the right spot
and with each one, another old scandal
cascades to earth,
lost among the swept remnants
of the others like it.

But let it not be a mere swap.
Shame for shame
crime for crime
regret for heavy, stuck regret.
Let it be a breaking loose of aged burdens
so we may steal a faultless moment
when we strike out for home again.

Eturnal Shakespeare

No doubt I’m a morning person. I like being up and ahead of the game.But it still needs to be mostly dark and quiet. I like, I think, using the time for introspection. I’m not sure any other time of day works as well. Once the sun has come inexorably up, it’s the the dull usuals on a march, slightly out of step.  And as I wrote on that post in the link:

I’m a little tired of everything I have, and am frantically searching for something which, next year, will be what I remember about the great way that this summer wound down. The soundtrack to the end of it all, or something.

Or the beginning. As much as I will be railing against it in February, I always look forward to the winter, just like I always look forward to the change of one season to the next both times it happens here in Washington. Winter changes to Summer, and three months later, Summer changes to Winter. You only have to brace yourself once a year.

I’m not tired of everything I have, though. Going back to school has catalyzed a sea change in the tenor, the mood, the psychological weave of things. It creates an anticipation and uneasiness. A worried excitement. But “sea change?” That’s gotta be from…surely it’s another…

Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.

Yep, another eternal turn of phrase from Shakespeare. Eturnal Shakespeare. If it wasn’t for Shakespeare and the Bible, I’m not sure we’d be able to have a useful conversation about anything. Which is a pretty good explanation for the miserable gewgaw language of the social justice movement. Tottering as they are through an education whose strictures carefully target the most important influences, while wheedling students with the most useless reassurances of their personal value.  When you’re ignorant of what made you, you can’t make anything yourself. But you can certainly, efficiently, make nothing of yourself.

I’m sharing the table with my mother in law right now. She writes and speaks for a living, on various socially useful subjects. I’m not sure what’s she’s working on, but she’s taking calls and typing away and leaning in to the screen and, well, this: If my wife were home to see this dynamic – me, with her mom, the two of us just doing our thing together – she would weep tears of joy, and perhaps kill herself knowing that life has reached its zenith. There can be no more surprises. Unlikely affinity is one of life’s most subtle and rewarding little charities.

I did say “socially useful subjects” which may have pinged your radar once or twice as a pernicious little turn of phrase. You are not wrong. She is political, and devoted to the cause.  Refugee-positive in a “we must be universally welcoming and open” kind of way.  It’s sentiment over reason, and to my mind it comes apart far too easily far too early, but I do not brusquely shrug it off.  She is a thinker and does nothing carelessly and I admire that. It is an unrealistic expectation that all careful thinking will arrive at the same conclusion. In the case of me and her, it does not.  In the case of millions of people, it does not. If any of us believed in the virtue of universal agreement, we would hate free speech because it is the ultimate impediment to that brutish uniformity. It is an honor to be sharing writing space with an intelligent dissenter.

I work hard to not be reactionary with people. To be in an argument the way it seems people used to be capable of doing: calmly and with generosity. Jonathan Haidt’s work about the increasing volatility of polarization is instructive here.  It’s actually true that people used to be much, much kinder in disagreement than we are now.  If I could reach back to the past and pull anything forward, it might be that proclivity. But to be really trite, things are the way they are because they are. We didn’t just decide to be inflexible and abrasive one day. We built the structure for it. Here we live. I’m generally comfortable with the idea of people disagreeing with me, doing different things. But the virtue signaling gets so tiresome. Therefore – cue the cliche – we don’t talk politics. Why would we? Football teams don’t play each other hoping for a tie, or to end the game with the other team’s players wearing their uniform. If you want a fight, face your opponent. If that opponent is family, don’t be a jerk. Leave it.

Though I do giggle when I muse about what my mother in law probably thought I was doing when I was working an intelligence position in the Army. SPIES! And now that Hillary has done what Hillary has done, people who formerly had a contempt for all things governmentally secretive and clandestine have to abandon that contempt for a forced ambivalence. “Security clearances? Well, those aren’t really a big deal, anyway. Certainly nothing to get all ‘legal’ about. Amirite?”

Moving on.

It’s a little dark outside. I think Autumn has finally turned out the lights for the year. Or dimmed them, anyway. But the world doesn’t buzz like the dining room lights do. It’s all just wan and limp, leaves and limbs hanging damply, without actually being damp. This will be the scene Monday, when I head back into the classroom. I have two classes on campus, Creative Writing directly prior to American Government. Online I have Social Ethics and the bonus freebie class: Health and Fitness. I expect a lot proselytizing over high fructose corn syrup and big bad evildoers like Monsanto, but like anything, I’ll take what learning I can and apply it where I am able.

 

Slowing to See

The seasons take their time for us,
Though we haven’t time for them.
With pedals down and hackles up
We steamroll what they tend.

Do we know to slow down a piece,
For some short episodes?
To humbly shake our sodden fleece
And the sad brevity it bodes?

We do, I say- and so do they,
Picking lightly through the patch.
A season’s patience in one day.
An eternal instant we can catch.

The Dreamstronaut

The boy adrift in outer space alone,
His hairless pate in a glassy dome.
The awe, the joy, the dreaming soul.
A six-tooth smile in a barrel roll.

While his hands still search and his toes still curl,
Half in, half out of his old man’s world.
The half that’s in heaves a sigh at me,
The half that’s gone starts its reverie.

With that I guess he’s in the stars,
Using them like monkey bars,
To swing amidst the giant rows
While the library of his dreaming grows.

And once it’s up he’ll float about
In no great hurry to be picking out
His stories or his nursery rhymes;
He knows his dreams aren’t bound by time.

He bobs on past hoar-frosted shelves,
And a section with a copse of elves.
With a languid pull he moves along,
To the fantasy he’ll settle on.

I’ve always imagined him like this,
Giggling through the stacks in bliss.
The length and breadth of an innocent’s whim,
His snickers and kicks propelling him.

Now in my arms he’s settled more,
But he shifts a bit one time before
His searching hand tugs on my nose –
He’s grabbed a dream, and off he goes.