“Between us and heaven or hell is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.”.


A brief note as an update… my wife has left the hospital and transitioned to the Hospice program at home.



Some days it’s all about limitations,
And while it’s no use complaining,
That’s never stopped me before.

I feel like a blind man living inside a kaleidoscope;
A glutton with but one taste bud left;
A monk who’s forgotten what he knew of God;
A tin-eared drunk waking up just as angels
burst across the heavens in song.
I’m a coma patient wrapped in wool,
strapped in a closet in a blackened room
in the back of the basement. Continue reading “Umwelt”

Whatever Happens

Whatever happens,
we always
knew how it would end.

But it has been one hell of a trip.
Whatever happens, it has been that.

We’ve traveled ten thousand
highways—arguing about the directions—
for nearly 50 years.
And mostly finding our way.
But also getting lost.
Remember that little diner
in Wyoming where all the
locals came for breakfast,
dusty pickups nosed into
the curb outside?
(I had steak and eggs.)
The place we camped
just outside of town
in a little stand of cottonwoods?

We’ve shared twenty thousand dawns and dusks,
long nights of fevers
and pain and loneliness;
the sounds of surf and
the howl of blizzard winds,
The brilliant deep snows in June
high in the Cascades,
the cobalt and green depths of
mountain lakes
6,000 feet above the distant sea.
We’ve stood on the sandy shores
of several oceans, countless lakes,
a Gulf, and rivers, never
quite realizing how much
water meant to us.
We always returned to the water.
And again, now,
with salty tears reminding us
of our origins,
we return to water.

You know the usual clichés….
‘Whatever happens, happens.’
‘It is what it is.’
‘Life sucks and then you die.’
‘No one gets out of this life alive.’
And the all-purpose:
“You never know.”

You’re the one
challenged now.
But it could have been me.
It’s not fair.
(As if fairness were possible.)

There were always
the promises to keep…
For better or worse.
For richer or poorer.
In sickness…
Whatever happens, we always knew
how this story would end.
Just not when.

But everything ends.
All is temporary.
We clutch our illusions
But it makes no difference.
I’m just not ready.
I never will be ready.
That could be my life’s motto.

Whatever happens, my love,
there mustn’t be regrets.
Such a waste of precious time, now.
We have walked a long path together.

We have a few more steps to go.
Hold my hand.
Let’s see what’s around the corner,
One more time. 


Doubt is my most trusted traveling partner, that “curious questioner” who comes in the night,  that voice that says what I’ve done is not what it should be, that I’m not what I should be. And it is then—out of a last-ditch, almost reluctant refusal to betray myself— that everything comes of which I am most proud.

Doubt is my friend and lover. Doubt need not be fear’d, but endured and embraced as a means to an end. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way I became strong enough. Strong enough…. If I can, you can, too.

Walt Whitman

I too have—
I too have—felt the curious questioning come upon me.
In the day they came.
In the silence of the night came [they] upon me

—Walt Whitman

It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall, 
The dark threw its patches down upon me also, 
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious, 
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre? 
Nor is it you alone ho know what it is to be evil, 
I am he who knew what it was to be evil, 
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety, 
blabb’d, blush’d, resented, lied, stole, grudged, 
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I cared not speak, 
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant, 
The world, the snake, the hog not wanting in me, 
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting, 
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting, 
Was one with the rest, the days and haps of the rest. …”
—”Leaves of Grass, ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’ briefs, p. 219.

Personal Note

I’ve been reluctant to post some personal news here, but because just disappearing without an explanation seems odd, at the least, here goes.

Starting in November, my wife started coughing, and kept coughing. A blood test and then some scans detected a tumor in her lung, and some additional spots on her spine and pelvis. Biopsies confirmed these were Stage IV lung cancer, metastasized to 5-7 spots on vertebrae, the lungs, and pelvis.

She had radiation therapy to knock back the bone pain in her back, then had one chemotherapy infusion. Within 36 hours of that, we both came down with the flu that everyone’s getting. But it hit her very hard because her immune system is severely compromised. She ended up in the hospital for the flu as one very, very sick girl, and then for the pneumonia that followed. She recovered, although unable to eat much, was at home for nine days, then pneumonia returned and then she spent another week in the hospital. She’s on a feeding tube now and is regaining her strength.

I’ve been well occupied with all of this, obviously, and thought that a few of you would appreciate knowing what’s been happening. I’ll probably be absent a lot over the next months, as what’s ahead is going to be rough. I miss writing and reading your creations, and hope to be back. Until then….


On Missing You Too Soon

I imagine
the differences …
The unfamiliar,
lengthening silences,
The way dust devils will
gather in corners, waiting
for a broom that
will never come,
or at least
not as often.

I walk into a room and
think, what would it be like
without your presence,
without your questions,
without you …..

I think of destinations,
then realize I might go alone,
with no map-challenged
navigator riding shotgun,
sure that left is right.

You’ve been the story
for so long I won’t
remember times
without you,
skeptical, practical,
leery of risks—
but a giver of chances,
of kindnesses,
of strengths and
of ambiguity.

And I find myself
imagining, finally,
in brief, painful bursts,
that when the ordinary ends,
when you step through a portal,
you will close the door behind you.
It will not reopen,

I cannot follow, and the
echos of our life together grow dim,
tears make the world blur,
and the sound of your voice
fades into imperfect memory.



December 11, 1937 – March 26, 2016

“I like grit, I like love and death, I’m tired of irony. … A lot of good fiction is sentimental. … The novelist who refuses sentiment refuses the full spectrum of human behavior, and then he just dries up. … I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass.”
Jim Harrison

Folding Power

Pillars of Creation: interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, some 6,500-7,000 light years from Earth where stars are born
“Pillars of Creation”: Hubble photo of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, some 6,500-7,000 light years from Earth where stars are born

I asked for the superpower of “Folding” for my birthday.
It cuts out the middle man:
Gimme a calendar with tricky bits, I said.
I’d fold weeks, months, years, centuries together,
jump to any time, past or future.

The first would be hanging with
the first human band to walk out of Africa .
I’d wait in the shade of a date palm, by the Nile,
bounce rocks off crocodiles, watch the south trail.
I’d cook hot dogs and hamburgers,
and have beer chilling on ice.
History’s first tailgate.
I would show them an iPhone, photos, movies.
Order something from Amazon—
Wouldn’t that be a good trick!…
Maybe a slinky, some bows and arrows and knives.
A chemistry set. Aspirin. Cargo pants,
broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
Trail mix. Snickers.
It’s in our interest that they survive the trip.
I’d tell them to be kind to one another,
Let them think I was the Great Spirit, then disappear.

Continue reading “Folding Power”

And So It Begins

And so it begins, again,
that urge to shrink from
the cool touch of machines;
the hushed offices,
the looks of concern,
the competent compassion.
Maddening, imprecise precision–
“the blood test found something, we
need to do more tests…..
something’s there
on her scans…”
a blurry, thicker patch there,
spots on bone, lung, breast, too.
Continue reading “And So It Begins”

Snowflakes and Ashes*

To this brief journey,

to this time-travel adventure,

to the utter absurdity of our

helpless leap into the future;

to all the surprises and the pain… Continue reading “Snowflakes and Ashes*”

Ordinary Days


She had wanted to
sell the house.
She thought
he’d go first
leaving her alone.

Everything happens
on an ordinary day.
A plane full of
families falls out of
a clear blue sky. Continue reading “Ordinary Days”

Lazarus, After…

Lazarus never smiled
after he rose from the dead.
For 30 years, until he died again,
he was haunted by the
unredeemed souls he saw
in the four days he
journeyed in the afterlife.

Continue reading “Lazarus, After…”

Blue Nights

A pall has settled in over the two of us in Chez Hemmingplay, and on our sons and others, a pall that may turn out to be nothing at all. I’ll have more to say if it seems things have gone sideways. But by accident, a writer friend mentioned some words Joan Didion wrote in “Blue Nights.” We can share these for now.

In ‘Blue Nights’

By Joan Didion

“Do not whine…Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.”

“In theory momentos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.”

“During the blue nights you think the end of day will never come. As the blue nights draw to a close (and they will, and they do) you experience an actual chill, an apprehension of illness, at the moment you first notice: the blue light is going, the days are already shortening, the summer is gone…Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning.”

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Dylan Thomas

by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Continue reading “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”


I knew a guy.
Cancer survivor,
but worn down by it
to the lacy bone.
Thin, with a dry look.
Still, a light shone through
his parchment skin
like a flame through
a mica shade,
like some kind of
organic fire.
The brush with death
left a calling card.
“I’ll be back” it said.
“You won’t know when.”

Continue reading “Ephiphany”


Carl Sandburg, 1878-1967

I remember once I ran after you and tagged the fluttering
shirt of you in the wind.
Once many days ago I drank a glassful of something and
the picture of you shivered and slid on top of the stuff.
And again it was nobody else but you I heard in the
singing voice of a careless humming woman.
One night when I sat with chums telling stories at a
bonfire flickering red embers, in a language its own
talking to a spread of white stars:
It was you that slunk laughing
in the clumsy staggering shadows.
Broken answers of remembrance let me know you are
alive with a peering phantom face behind a doorway
somewhere in the city’s push and fury.
Or under a pack of moss and leaves waiting in silence
under a twist of oaken arms ready as ever to run<
away again when I tag the fluttering shirt of you.

Rocking the Bottom

I’ve seen it, several times,
although much later in my own life.
It’s in the eyes
of men who
all had owned real estate
on the hopeless end
of Rockbottom Drive.

I didn’t want to find out
for myself what
was behind that look, though.
My dad made sure, as
He let me visit the address once.

Continue reading “Rocking the Bottom”

What Gives You Peace of Mind?

For a little change of pace, I’m sharing an essay I wrote for “Storyworth”, a family history/memoir project brought to me by my two sons. When I run out of gas, or they run out of questions–or both– we’ll end up with a bound hard-copy book for each of us that will be, essentially, my memoir, driven by their questions, and done one week at a time. The following is this week’s essay. 


What Gives You Peace of Mind? you ask… 

Well… I have to take exception to the premise of this question. At least a little. I’m not against peace of mind in general, but just that I’m not sure that ought to be the goal. Or my goal, anyway.

And I think there’s a difference between being “happy” and having “peace of mind”. And there’s also a time element on both, and on unhappiness, too: nothing seems to be permanent, good or bad.

Lemme see if I can untangle that.

Continue reading “What Gives You Peace of Mind?”

It Is Something To Have Been

“Karma,” New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. An impressive sculpture is located in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which is found at the New Orleans Museum of Art. It is made by Korean artist Do Ho Suh.

I am well past my 20s,
that golden time
when I only saw a little—and even that
with optimistic eyes.

I’m past the days of cheap
apartments with friends and wine and roaches,
lentils and rice for breakfast,
or leftover cold pizza.

I’m beyond learning of
war and death and pestilence.
The visitations of grief
have marked me, too.

Gone is the luxury of
happy, uninformed innocence,
the blind and smug assurance
that comes with youth.

Continue reading “It Is Something To Have Been”


It’s easy to see the beginnings of things,

not so easy to see the endings.

With eyes like cameras,

the silent guide

can tell you things

you will not believe.

Continue reading “Endings”

I Want

I wanted to be Steve Jobs
I wanted to be Joni Mitchell
I wanted to be Leonard Cohen
I wanted to be Carl Sagan,
Bobby Kennedy.
I wanted to be that person, they’ll say,
“yeah, whatever happened to him?”
The way people do, about certain
Rare, shining talents, like Joni, or Steve,
Or Carl.
Mysteries that can’t be explained.

Continue reading “I Want”

If I Were A Beatle


If I were a Beatle

I’d be

the quiet one–


bare-foot pilgrim

Continue reading “If I Were A Beatle”

A Fantasy of Permanent Youthfulness

I’m racing the inevitable,
my only weapon an
optimistic fantasy
of permanent youthfulness.

The 1970s are to blame.
My generation is to blame.
We started this crap,
pretending we could play
where, before,
only teenagers and children could.

In my head, I’m still about 32,
on a stone patio of
a casino in Saint Tropez, in sandals,
skimpy swimming trunks,
Continue reading “A Fantasy of Permanent Youthfulness”

‘Tu Le Ton Son Ton’ *

A little reminiscing. Reposting this just because I love this song. It makes me feel good. Time to head back to NOLA soon. … 

“My ex grew up on da Rue Royale, and she had a way of making the word ‘water’ sound SO good. More like ‘Wahrter.’ I love y’all’s town. And the world’s FINEST women come from New Orleans. You may quote me.”
–Carl Huffman

Trying to recapture a feeling…but what do I know? I’m just a white, white boy with too many miles on the transmission who dropped in for a few days of pretend.  Nah, I’m just being coo-yonThat place can get under your skin quick. I’ll be going back.  Ça c’est bon Continue reading “‘Tu Le Ton Son Ton’ *”

Quotes About Writing

Do you have a favorite to share? (And yes, I’m procrastinating…)

A couple to get you primed:

Amy Poehler:

Dean Koontz:

Sometimes writing is beautiful, like making love. Sometimes it’s painful, like having a tooth pulled. Sometimes it’s like making love while having a tooth pulled.


Why Won’t They?


“Why won’t the saints look at us?”

“Even saints need a break sometimes, Honey.”

“Is it that bad?”

“Yeah. It is. But try a long walk. They’re saints. They’ll be back.”

“I hope so. I’m not sure I would.”

“Me, neither. There’s always a first time, I suppose. Try not to think about that. ….

That path through the woods to the lake is your best shot. You’d better take your time.”

–From Aug. 2016, revised

Mileposts on This Journey

There is no knowledge without sacrifice

In order to gain anything, you must first lose everything.

Before I can hope for solutions,

I must first identify the problems.

As an ancient voice cried out

in another time of great upheaval,

much like our own:

“The oceans have dried up
The mountains crumble
The pole star is shaken
The gods perish.
I am a frog in a dry well. “

There are no solutions

The problems remain.

I pay attention to this place, this time.

Late Ripeness

by Czeslaw Milosz

Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.

One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.

And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.

I was not separated from people,
grief and pity joined us.
We forget – I kept saying – that we are all children of the King.

For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.

We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.

Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago –
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel
staving its hull against a reef – they dwell in us,
waiting for a fulfillment.

I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.



By Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds


I have heard about the civilized,
the marriages run on talk, elegant and
honest, rational. But you and I are
savages. You come in with a bag,
hold it out to me in silence.
I know Moo Shu Pork when I smell it
and understand the message: I have
pleased you greatly last night. We sit
quietly, side by side, to eat
the long pancakes dangling and spilling,
fragrant sauce dripping out,
and glance at each other askance, wordless,
the corners of our eyes clear as spear points
laid along the sill to show
a friend sits with a friend here.

The Unfaithful Earl


For Halloween….

With one exception, no one in the pub that night had heard the story of the unfaithful earl with a spear in his guts…. At least, not since they were children.

It was a quiet evening. Truth be told, most evenings in the little village were quiet. Deadly quiet. It made the people a little odd.

This night was running down in the same way. Nothing moved outside, or inside, except for calls for refills by the few villagers who remained.

But just before closing time, Robert Mordrum, a local farmer, burst into the low-beamed gathering place just before closing, white-faced and speechless.

Continue reading “The Unfaithful Earl”

What It Means to Be Alive

From “Our Town,” by Thornton Wilder

“..Yes, now you know. Now you know! That’s what it was to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those … of those about you.
To spend and waste time as though you had a million years.
To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another.
Now you know that’s the happy existence you wanted to go back to.
Ignorance and blindness ….

Writing as Legacy

If you knew your work would never be read by anyone else—would you still write?

via Writing as Legacy: Quirks and Perks — A Quiver Of Quotes

Dear Ladies

This is one of the least explicit photos I could find. I think it’s Scarlett Johansen, the actress, but it wasn’t labeled.

Look, I’m not getting much sleep lately,
so chalk this up to grumpiness, if you want.
Or the back spasms…
And I’m no prude, believe me.
But I am a man who’s old, so most
of you would’t notice me on the street.
I’m a tad bitter about that, you might say,
but have learned what’s important.

Maybe, you could just listen.

I get it: Sex sells,
fantasy sex sells cars and everything else..
All those selfies of you on FB, Instagram,
You posed coyly just to show your good side,
your amazing boobs or butt, the come-hither look.
(And yes, I notice. ) Continue reading “Dear Ladies”

Traveling Light


by Leonard Cohen

I’m traveling light
It’s au revoir
My once so bright, my fallen star
I’m running late, they’ll close the bar
I used to play one mean guitar
I guess I’m just somebody who
Has given up on the me and you
I’m not alone, I’ve met a few
Traveling light like we used to do

Good night, good night, my fallen star
I guess you’re right, you always are
I know you’re right about the blues
You live some life you’d never choose
I’m just a fool, a dreamer who forgot to dream of the me and you
I’m not alone, I’ve met a few
Traveling light like we used to do

Traveling light
It’s au revoir
My once so bright, my fallen star
I’m running late, they’ll close the bar
I used to play one mean guitar
I guess I’m just somebody who
Has given up on the me and you
I’m not alone, I’ve met a few
Traveling light like we used to do

But if the road leads back to you
Must I forget the things I knew
When I was friends with one or two
Traveling light like we used to do
I’m traveling light


This is about a guy named Lenny. Lenny Kravitz. But not the famous one born in 1964. (No relation, actually. That name has been a burden.)

This Lenny was in a British rock band in the late 70’s. The drummer. The band had one monster hit and then sank without  trace. The hit was played occasionally on oldies stations after a decade, then less and less. While the craziest part of fame lasted (from the spring of 1973 through the next summer) they lived the rock-star life on the road, tearing up hotels left and right.

It was the 70s, when the national nervous breakdown began in earnest. Lenny was known for dressing up in a giant pink cloth penis outfit and dancing around the stage, the uncircumcised head flopping back and forth, the girls screaming in the audience, Continue reading “Lenny”

Sticking To It

by Jim Harrison

The old Finn hadn’t washed his cup

in fifty years. “It ain’t dirty,”

he said, “there’s just been coffee in it.”

His wife and baby both died in childbirth

fifty-seven years ago. Inside his cabin

there’s a dust woman near

an unused cradle he made by hand.

A Song on the End of the World




On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.

And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.

Warsaw, 1944


Czeslaw Milosz, 1911–2004

A new (to me) poet:

by Czeslaw Milosz

We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn
A red wing rose in the darkness
And suddenly a hare ran across the road
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago
Today neither of them is alive
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going?
the flash of hand, streak of movement,
rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.


“Darkness” is a poem written by Lord Byron in July 1816. That year was
known as the Year Without a Summer, because Mount Tamborahad erupted in
the “Dutch East Indies” (the highest peak on the island of Sumbawa in
Indonesia), casting enough sulphur into the atmosphere to reduce global temperatures and cause abnormal weather across much of north-east America and northern Europe. This pall of darkness inspired Byron to write his poem.


I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,

Continue reading “Darkness”

Touching Glass in the Crowd

The Earth rises and roils the seas,
smashing warnings of
end times
against the land, afflicting
neighborhoods, with
houses all the same,
interrupting complacency.
But we misread the moment.
As usual. Like Pharaoh,
we are stiff-necked and proud,
and must lose our children
before we can be humbled.
The skies are not filled with clouds and rain
but signs and portents,
locusts and frogs,
crocodiles and snakes…a
growing rage of non-human things
too long abused.

Confused, soulless like
selfish children,
we cannot see what
does not please us,
and so wander alone,
merely touching magic
glass in a crowd.

She doesn’t need saving

Worry about me later, for barbarians are coming over the hills, carrying long pikes and angry words, searching for reasoning they do not possess. My sleepless nights are a gene inside me, melatonin leached from my skin, my fascination with the moon, my dark monarch taking flight to greet the lamps lighted.

via Wet Feet Are Part Of Life — Poet’s Corner

“We must know so very much to know we know nothing”

Learning is, almost always, amongst the holliest and purest of time allocations. We must know so very much to know we know nothing. Though schools can harm this at times, it is worth reminding ourselves of this. The same way a puppy is reminded of the horrors of nature when a lightning strikes. No matter […]

via The Inviting Sea — The Right Act

Publishing Scam?

Publishing Scam?

This is a bit thick to read, but if you’re publishing books, this is a look inside the seamier side.

“…Nowadays, you can make the bestseller list with about 5,000 sales. That’s not the heights of publishing’s heyday but it’s still harder to get than you’d think. Some publishers spend thousands of dollars on advertising and blogger outreach to get that number. Everyone’s looking for the next big thing and that costs a lot of cash. For the past 25 weeks, that big book in the YA world has been The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a searing politically charged drama about a young black girl who sees a police officer kill her friend, and the fallout it causes in her community.

Through publisher buzz and exceedingly strong word of mouth, the novel has stormed to the forefront of the YA world and found thousands of fans, with a film on the way. Knocking that from the top of the NYT YA list would be a major deal, and this week it’s going to happen. But something’s not right….”

“Sketch” By the Master

Carl Sandburg

by Carl Sandburg

The shadows of the ships
Rock on the crest
In the low blue lustre
Of the tardy and the soft inrolling tide.

A long brown bar at the dip of the sky
Puts an arm of sand in the span of salt.

The lucid and endless wrinkles
Draw in, lapse and withdraw.
Wavelets crumble and white spent bubbles
Wash on the floor of the beach.

Rocking on the crest
In the low blue lustre
Are the shadows of the ships.

Racing the Sun to Kankakee

Dawn just south of Kankakee, ILL. On the City of New Orleans, headed north to Chicago.
Dawn just south of Kankakee, ILL. On the City of New Orleans, headed north to Chicago.

Missing NOLA, so a rerun

The City of New Orleans pulls out of downtown,
setting the ground rumbling, gaining speed,
steel nose pointed hard north,
toward the coming night.

Like a thousand times before,
she finds the scent of the line away from the party,
leaving street-corner musicians,
Heavenly beignets and chicory coffee….And joy.

Leaving Joy, behind—despite misery under freeway overpasses;
Falling away in the rear window down parallel bands of steel
The party goes on, the music getting
fainter, but stuck in my skin like a vaccination scar,
in my ear like an old love song playing soft.
Despite the worst that could happen, the People endure.
God bless the People.
The train rolls north, but carries the place with it.
The passengers carry the place with us.

Old Bourbon St., Canal St. with it’s clackety trolleys;
flood-stained Poydras, Gravier,  Decatur streets.
The bars and the shops and the throngs of
sun worshipers on Jackson Square
who lounge and dance to a saxophone player
and drop coins and bills in his open case on the sidewalk.

Or listen to the tolling of the cathedral bells.
The steamboat down at the dock breathes
a hot, breathy calliope tune, luring passengers to the
Big Muddy to taste something old, something new
Something borrowed, and some Blues.
The blond woman, on her cast iron balcony above
The traffic and crowds, waters her flowers, looks
Down at me and smiles. It’s OK, Honey, she seems to say,
Life is good. Isn’t this a great place?
It’s New Orleans: Laissez les bon temps roulez, after all.
Let the good times roll…

So we roll. The horn blasts again and silent
steel wheels start to turn, gathering speed.
Number 58 follows an old steel line up, up,
slowing now and then but
Always up, up, up, past
Metairie, Kenner, New Iberia, the old names.
Hugging the shore of vast
Lake Ponchartrain, goddess destroyer,

Up, up the steel magic carpet ride
In dusk’s gathering, into the
dark memories of Delta country,
Past fields greening with winter wheat,
into the Mississippi night,
A stop at McComb, then Jackson,
then all the way up, up to Memphis by midnight.

And as we sleep, the car rocks unevenly,
the engine horn blows warnings
Into the darkness, the stars move slowly past.

The conductor’s voice comes over the speaker, tinny,
An hour and a half to Chicago.
“Get your things ready. Breakfast is served.”

Dawn comes early in places like this,
A mist covers the fields and coats them out of focus.
At breakfast, a retired doctor traveling with his daughter
Back home to Chicago
Tells about strawberries
(they’re on the menu this morning)
And remembers tending strawberries
on his father’s farm in
New Orleans, and how sweet
they were, and how he hated
Working in the beds, but loved
eating the sweetest berries in the world.
The sweetest in the world… his voice trails off.

Watching him, his eyes gone soft with old memories,
I wondered if their sweetness was more than rich soil,
But rather some small consolation to the People for
Enduring the swamps and fevers and mosquitos and the hurricanes.
The old doctor remembers the flavors
of strawberries on his father’s farm
In the French Quarter, 70 years, a lifetime ago.
He can taste the past again, and smiles.

The miles evaporate under the clicking wheels
as we talk, and eat
And the car rocks and rolls.
The waiter flies up and down the aisle,
Used to the way the car bucks and pitches on rough spots,
Never spilling the coffee.

The eastern horizon begins to glow.
Through fallow fields and past naked trees we fly.
And like the Resurrection, the sun is up and claims the day,
Keeping pace, rising in the east, burning bright, banishing darkness again.

And out the window,
over the frosty stubble
of an Illinois cornfield,
the old promise rises,
runs alongside, keeping pace.

We race the sun to Kankakee,
yet the faint music still plays,
far behind.



Let Your Higher Self Rule

“You let your higher self rule

and your truer self grieve,

and the world will still strip away

all you ever hoped to achieve.”

Ancient Sunlight

Amy King

by Amy King

Shame on you for dating a museum:
Everything is dead there and nothing is alive.
Not everyone who lives to be old embraces
the publicity of it all. I mean, you get up and folks
want to know, How did you get here? What makes you
go? What is the secret? And there is no secret except
there are many things that build the years out.
They are not vegetables every day and working out
but a faith that all of these things add up
and lead us to some sum total happiness
we can cash in for forever love in the face
of never lasting. That people along the way
keep disappearing in a variety show of deathbed ways
is also the sheer terror that it may not hold for us too.
That we may outlast everything and be left
alone to keep going, never Icarus with wax melting,
never the one whose smoke & drink undid
the lungs that pull our wings in then out and the liver
that keeps chugging the heft of Elizabeth Cotten’s
“Freight Train” with her upside down left hand guitar still
playing in videos past her presence. I have become a person since
I reorganized my face in the mirror and the world is my inflation.
But this testament offers no sound or silence since
nothing is proven yet and you are still here,
the dead stars’ light landing on your rods and cones
in a vitrine of cameos building—blink.

A Perfect Kennedy Moment

Somehow, I seem to have

awakened a couple of decades late.

OK, OK. It’s been longer than that… 

The point is,

I missed my perfect Kennedy moment,

That one where we get

to die when we still look fantastic

and are always remembered that way,

while the rest of the gang

gets old and wrinkly and smells bad.

So long, Camelot.

I hardly knew ye.


It’s just a number: 1,000. But it is fellow-bloggers and for that reason is especially nice. Thank you all.

My path has taken a couple of side trails, and I’ve dialed back on poetry lately because I’m researching another book, and that’s taking up a lot of time. I don’t have a working title yet, and am still letting the research guide the setting and plot a little, but I know the general outlines.

It is in the “cli-fi” genre, set 50-100 years in the future and will be a character-based story about the world after the first big “impacts” of climate change have hit. After some cities have flooded from rising sea levels, other places are too hot to live in and grow crops most years, and other places are hit with monster storms or torrential rains and winds. I’m probably going to give New Orleans a starring role, since I have fallen in love with her and she’s going to be one of the early casualties as things now stand.

It’s a big story, and I’m basically going back to school. I’m learning that what is coming is both much worse than I thought, but also that the future is not totally hopeless. It’s a tossup now whether our grandchildren will spit on our graves or not.

I’m hoping this project doesn’t swamp me. (Pun intended)

My poetry book is still for sale, of course. 🙂 ( ) and a second manuscript is making the rounds of some small presses.

Thanks again to all of you, and all the best as you live this crazy writer’s life with me. Here’s to your stories adding to the world.

The Second Coming


W. B. Yeats



Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Continue reading “The Second Coming”

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