I Came From a Place of Fireflies is available for your Kindle reader for $2.99.
I’m happy to announce that Hemmingplay’s alter-ego has published a collection of poems under the title “I Came From A Place of Fireflies.” It is available on Amazon and a Kindle version will be available by March 1, if not sooner. Buying the paperback version entitles that person to download the Kindle version for free.
It would not have been possible to get this far without the support of everyone here. Even when the pieces weren’t very good, you still gave encouragement. I am grateful for you all.
The ticking of a clock is the
sound our invisible blood makes
as it ducks out the back door of today
and takes the bus out of
town to yesterday.
The clock’s mechanism creates
the illusion that everything
is controlled by
even, orderly forces.
But there is always the
last ‘tick’. Then what?
I counted to ten, and
with each count I dropped a
stone in the stream.
The stones all sank
but the memory of each moved on,
stone became water, cause-
effect, separated by time.
It is 74 F at the moment, and
Still the third week of February.
An early spring is pressing
against things still groggy
and surprised by the heat.
Every stick and bush gives off
the air of anxious confusion,
like the boss has just
popped in for a surprise inspection.
Crocus and daffodils hurry things along,
foolish optimists that they are.
Trees fire up the boilers
to get buds ready early,
happily ignorant of
a Nor’easter that
could be lurking off the coast
in the early days of March.
At least in my mind, all the things that we do not understand can be divided into three categories: science, faith and magic.
“…Science is what we do not understand but understand that someone else does.
Faith is what we do not understand yet understand that we can rely upon it to get us through the things we will never comprehend.
Magic is a short-cut. It is what we use when we refuse to be bothered with the hard-work of science or the hard-trust of faith.
But the scary thing about magic is that we sprinkle it into our science and faith to make them sparkle without realizing that all we have done is add glitter to what should shine by itself.”
You know you have gotten old when your medicine cabinet is full of medicine.
My cabinet, which used to hold no more than a toothbrush and toothpaste, is now home to a bewildering array of orange bottles with white caps and mostly unpronounceable labels.
Some of these bottles I visit regularly. Others are the remnants of some long forgotten illnesses and yet others, I have no idea what they do or how they got there.
Everything in my cabinet is supposed to be good for me yet an uncomfortable number of items lurking in there are rather explicit about the horrors they will visit upon me, dare I use them. These I avoid as much as possible.
The truth is, I am a terrible pill taker.
I always forget.
I have one of those days-of-the-week pill boxes and am currently running at least three days behind. Sometime around Wednesday, I realize that…
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A quick note … I’ve been working for the past week or two on putting the final touches on a slim book of poetry. The first of what I expect will be 3-4.
This is the first poetry book, so it’s tedious. I only want to run away from home once in a while now.
But I’m almost there. Formatting and final edits this weekend, and I should be ready to do the final phases of ISBN purchasing, cover design and distribution and marketing setup next week.
The working title is “I Come From A Place of Fireflies,” and will be about 100 pages long. It will be offered via Amazon for a nominal fee.
“Man plans, God laughs.”
“We all play God every day. When a woman buys a new pair of expensive shoes, she could have spent that same money feeding someone who was starving. In a sense, those shoes mean more to her than a life. We all kill to make our lives more comfortable. We don’t put it in those terms. But we do.”
― Harlan Coben, Hold Tight
By the latest estimates, the known universe has about one trillion galaxies, give or take. Each galaxy could have a billion stars, minimum.
I tried multiplying a billion by a trillion and my calculator broke.
But astronomers, using new techniques and telescopes– and much better calculators– have now found approximately 3,000-plus Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. And that’s just so far, with relatively primitive detection abilities.
There are recent estimates that there may be millions more out there, and even that might be a low number.
I’ve been thinking about this, about all the intelligent aliens that are probably out there. That’s more comforting than what’s going on in Washington. Or with climate change. Or with religious fanatics here and in the Middle East who think Armageddon and death on a global scale would be just dandy. Or one of several nuclear-powered dictators with big, swinging dic… well, you know.
I’ve been toying with these ideas for a science fiction novel, set about 50-75 years from now. When several coastal cities around the world are either submerged or living behind dikes. When refugees have flooded inland to live in ghettos around Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Cincinnati, and social upheavals and the breakdowns of services and order have led to martial law across the southern United States. Much worse conditions have hit India, Bangladesh, China, Japan, most Caribbean island nations, most of southern Europe and Africa and Australia and New Zealand and even Hawaii. Disease and famine spread.
When former breadbasket states like Nebraska and Oklahoma and Kansas now register summer temperatures averaging over 100 degrees, and where crop failures have hit the majority of the years for a decade. Hunger is spreading and prices are spiking. People are moving underground or under domes. Animal species who can’t adapt to changing conditions start to die off in noticeable numbers. India and Pakistan have a brief nuclear exchange that kills 5 million people and render the Punjab uninhabitable, and levels most of New Delhi and Karachi and spreads radioactive dust downwind as far as Japan and China.
And then, in the middle of all of this, we get a visitor. Then things get really crazy.
I think it has potential.
But remember what happened to the Indians when Christopher Columbus landed on the east coast of the Americas.
Put your ear to the air.
Tune your senses to the long rhythms…
The sun is daily higher,
It knocks harder on grave’s door:
Beneath in the icy ground,
Life warms from near death
Shudders and swells and pushes against
The things that would keep it cold:
Tune your senses to the long rhythms,
Close your eyes and see.
Billions of trillions of millions of tiny,
urgent things stir, move,
Grow from nothing to everything.
The shoving and shifting and yearning
Makes a soundless roar we feel through our feet.
The Earth…. She stretches and yawns.
Frank died. A bitter cold washed over him. His eyes opened for the first time. “It’s a girl!” someone cried from on-high. Frank heard a high pitched wail. He focused. It stopped. He felt like he was being dragged under a wave as he was passed around the room. He looked up at the faces […]
The time was, we thought we had a handle on time,
but our time here is so short that there’s no
time to really understand what time is–
or even if we ever will.
There just isn’t enough of it for anything.
The pharaohs sat their fat asses
firmly on a people who could not
remember a time before this curious arrangement…
Before there were these arrogant
bastards who thought they knew best,
who thought the world worked best
as a pyramid with them at the top.
In the times of the pharaohs,
time had a different meaning…there
in the dull, slow heat of the desert
in between floods and plagues and
the brief, beautiful springtime.
After a while, the parasites tricked the people,
who were bored and out of work
and likely to cause trouble,
into piling millions of
blocks of rocks in magnificent piles as if
to say to the gods, “See, we can
build mountains, too!”
It also proved the Pharaoh
had the right to be in charge
since no one wanted to go to the trouble
of tearing all those rocks down.
But where are the pharaohs now?
Like real mountains, their piles of rocks will
end up as grains of sand,
blowing across the expanse of eternity
until they drift up against the
base of some other fool’s monument.
I once had an uneasy relationship
with time, in the person of clocks.
I couldn’t wake with the sun, or sleep when
it got dark, and my soul was always
out of sorts, and anxious.
But at least everything didn’t happen
all at the same time…
They say time-keeping changed when
railroad people needed to make things work
across vast distances. For commerce.
Speed made organization and precision necessary.
Then factories needed everyone to begin
making things all at the same…. time.
There’s that word again.
I don’t worry as much about clocks any more.
I let the computers keep track for me
and watch time rush past as if
in a hurry to join its siblings in the distant past
where it can get away from clocks.
There it can sink back into the black
cloud of being, where everything has already happened.
I woke up this morning from a dreamy grey half-sleep
with the February rain dripping off the eaves.
A memory floated by that in a previous life
I was a horse. No question.
A big, brown horse with
soft, knowing eyes. I had been abandoned
out in the high desert by someone,
but didn’t care about them at all.
I knew once how to be free,
and would just do that again. I wondered
about finding water and something to eat,
but horses don’t waste a lot of time worrying.
We’re afraid of things that move,
and afraid of things that don’t.
But we know enough to pick a
direction where it smells more like
water than not, and begin again.
With thanks to A Writer’s Almanac,
“The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing. And though reading is the best school of writing, school is the worst place for reading. Writing should … be as spontaneous and urgent as a letter to a lover, or a message to a friend who has just lost a parent … and writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.”
Pico Iyer (books by this author), born to Indian parents in Oxford, England (1957).
Time and memories intertwine
like a ball of earthworms.
It’s hard to know where one starts
and the other ends.
They say we cannot remember things
before a certain age. The wiring is still not right for it.
We may see pictures and know
we were alive earlier, but that’s just
the picture album version of life;
the real switch in us is still not on.
Mine came on when I was two-something years old.
My parents tore down the old chicken house.
It was in the afternoon of a slightly cloudy day.
I had a coat on, so it must have been
still early in the year. Late March, maybe.
The grass was the vivid, exciting green of spring.
Old boards stained with decades of manure
ended in a pile that would be burned.
Dust and old feathers liberated from hiding places.
A fixture in my world changed.
We can change things,
Even old things.
That was my first memory.
It’s funny, but I cannot remember
my parents that day. Just the scene in front of me.
My dog guarded me, stayed by my side until
the demolition exposed a rat’s nest.
She attacked with a speed and ferocity
that was both thrilling and scary.
There was a brief, violent battle
just feet from me, with screaming, then silence.
She came and sat beside me again.
I felt safe with her there.
And knew the difference
between life and death.
The switch was on.
And I knew why the grass was so green.
by Jim Harrison
My spirit is starving.
How can it be fed?
Not by pain in the predictable future
more the pain in the past
but understanding the invisible flower
within the flower that tells it what is,
the soul of the tree that does the same.
I don’t seem to have a true character
to discover, a man slumped on his desk
dozing at midmorning. I’m an old poet.
That’s it. Period. A three-legged goat
in mountain country. It’s easier in the woods
where you have trees to lean on. There at times
I smelled bears right behind the cabin
coming to eat sunflower seeds put out for birds.
This dawn it’s primroses, pension,
the trellis of white roses. On Easter
Jesus is Jesus. When did God enter him or us?
Published in “Dead Man’s Float,” Copper Canyon Press, 2016.
It’s good to have goals.
Good to remember this again now…
“Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be the household word that it always was. Let my name be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolutely unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well. Nothing is past, nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before, only better; infinitely happier and forever.”
“The idea of a king is to be a protector of the rich against unjust treatment and a protector of the people against insult and oppression.”
“Whereas a tyrant, as has often been repeated, has no regard to any public interest, but only to his private ends; his aim is pleasure, the aim of a king, honour. Wherefore also in their desires they differ; the tyrant is desirous of riches, the king, of what brings honour. And the guards of a king are citizens, but of a tyrant mercenaries.”
— (Aristotle, Politics, Chapter 5 10, 1311a)
Thinking that small evils don’t matter only means that, when you finally realize how much they’ve grown– and they will grow–it’s too late.
In contrast, thinking that small kindnesses don’t matter and failing to indulge at every opportunity, means that they eventually wither and fade away.
And as writers, we’re meant to risk looking into the truth of this. To wade into these to make sure others can see clearly what the stakes are. We’re meant to sacrifice for this.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.
Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
Words that soak into your ears are whispered… not yelled.
Meanness don’t jes’ happen overnight.
Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.
Continue reading “Advice From An Old Farmer”
I sometimes take the laptop and move to the living room to write. My dog comes with me, which is nice. But there are times when I could really do without the critique.
Judge Learned Hand
What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it…
Hope’s a fragile thing,
Always close to shattering.
World’s good at breaking.
I want to work in revelations, not just spin silly tales for money. I want to fish as deep down as possible into my own subconscious in the belief that once that far down, everyone will understand because they are the same that far down.
I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one… . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil… . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?
– John Steinbeck, East of Eden
by Jack Kerouac
A poet is a fellow who
spends his time thinking
about what it is that’s
wrong, and although he
knows he can never quite
find out what this wrong
is, he goes right on
thinking it out
and writing it down.
A poet is a blind optimist.
The world is against him for
many reasons. But the
poet persists. He believes
that he is on the right track,
no matter what any of his
fellow men say. In his
eternal search for truth, the
poet is alone.
He tries to be timeless in a
society built on time.
by W. H. Auden
September 1, 1939
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
Continue reading “Monsters of Poetry”
Revised, edited, with audio recording added. If you’ve seen this and “liked” the old version, I’m interested in knowing whether the audio reading works for you. (I have no voice training, which is probably going to be obvious.) A comment would be appreciated.
I came from a place of fireflies,
where men were reasonable and tall,
Where people knew me by who my grandfather was, and his, and his.
Where farmers didn’t block views with trees,
To see at a glance from the kitchen window
How the corn was doing, the soybeans.
Where cemeteries were so old they had no one living who cared
and the raspberry bushes
And groundhogs had taken over;
Where being a child meant living outdoors, year-’round.
Where you waved at a passing car
Because they probably knew your parents:
And you didn’t want to hear at church on Sunday about being rude.
I came from a place where my nearest playmate was a cousin, a mile away;
Where going to hang out meant
Riding the old fat-tired-hand-me-down bike,
With one gear, but was great for
Popping the tar bubbles on hot summer days;
And watching the big grasshoppers and flies whiz by,
the birds calling from the trees,
And watching my dog chase another rabbit.
I came from a place of spirits, haunted by the land,
by deep roots down five generations;
Where uncles and aunts would come over
for summer dinners after the milking,
And sit outside after dark in our yard talking,
And how those adult voices murmering made things
Safe somehow as
My cousins and I would chase each other
through the darkness, making up games
Hiding in the bushes and the darkness
on the edge of safety,
Thrilling in the freedom to roam, to be children;
In awe when the fields and grass would
Erupt in a billion fireflies, and we would put
dozens in quart canning jars
For study, and marveling at yet another mystery.
I came from a place, a very common place, that had an order
Of season and harvest, planting and animals, birth, death, renewal;
A place where the farm animals taught
about sex very early, but also about stewardship,
pragmatism, kindness and death;
There were the late nights wading through
snowdrifts to the barn in February’s lambing season,
Fields draped deeply asleep in white under hard,
cold moonlight and wicked winds;
Of helping with the births—which only seemed
to come in bitterest cold—
cleaning newborn lambs off with
old burlap feed sacks
Holding the newborns under heat lamps
until their mothers licked them clean,
Made sure they found the teat and began to nurse,
coats still steaming, tails wiggling.
It was there I learned about birth, and
the miracle of it.
I came from a place that has slowly died since then.
I feel an ache of loss of a place
that gave me my sense of who I was,
Where the places I roamed with my dog
are now owned by Arab sheiks,
where even bigness did not guarantee survival.
It is a place where the invisible glue that once
nurtured communities evaporated from
change and neglect and globalism and meth and, now, heroin,
Where people stay inside and hide from themselves,
Surfing the web for porn, and never once see the
Fireflies rising up in the June nights,
calling children to mystery but with
fewer there to hear the answers.
Republishing with rewrite and reading audio added.
After 60 years of work, more or less,
I’ve decided to take a working vacation.
I’m booking a cruise and extended
train travels for the next 60 years
To go exploring along the coasts,
Poking my canoe up the inlets and rivers,
Probing the veins and wires and memories of
Some unfamiliar parts of me, and some
I’ve been missing for a while, to
See whether there’s anything
Worth saving, or maybe just toss it all out.
Without fail, monthly, the full moon sheds
her inky cloak of night and stars
and slips a leg and then the rest into the lake,
her cool fire subtracted from the sky.
She leaves the nights more lonely, barren.
But her life is not extinguished,
merely hidden, recovering, re-energizing.
She must withdraw from sight,
make herself desirable, let her belly be lush and fertile again
so she may breath passions onto the world, be
drunk with the reckless, raucous, ribald dance of life. Continue reading “Song of the Hidden Moon”
Einstein lit a cigarette
and watched the violet and pastel afterglow
of the first bomb
fade over the desert, inhaled
a bit of radioactive dust,
and wondered if God was
capable of having second thoughts.
I just heard that a piece I wrote for Spillwords in October was named “2016 Publication of the Year,” in the prose category. That’s kind of nice to hear, and I’m honored. Thank’s to everyone who ran the registration gauntlet on their website and voted. I deeply appreciate each and every one of you.
“The Unfaithful Earl”
“The winter was not really winter at all, and therein may lie Key West’s greatest charm. If one does not have to brood upon the coming of winter and the shortening of the days and the fading of the light, then perhaps one does not have to brood upon the coming of death. When the season is gentle and untreatening and seems to renew itself daily, we come to believe that spring and the long days of summer may be eternal after all. When we see the light trapped high in the sky on a summer evening, is it possible we are looking through an aperture at our future rather than at a seasonal phenomenon? Is it possible that the big party is just beginning?”
― James Lee Burke
This is listed as a “gentleman’s quote” on another site, but I don’t see why it can’t apply to everyone. The age of oversharing is getting sort of tedious, isn’t it?
“Keep your sex life, bank account and next move private.”
Got a little bit of good news this week. One of the editors of the 25th Anniversary Anthology Edition of the Austin TX. Poetry Festival reached out to me a few months ago after seeing some pieces I published here and invited me to submit some work for inclusion. In the end, they included six poems, starting on page 111.
“When Time and Space Conspire” is the title. Charles wrote this morning to let me know that the first printing is in his office and he’s starting to send out copies. I’m hoping to get my own chapbook published this year, but this is nice as a first print appearance of my verse. The anthology is available on Amazon@
http://amzn.to/2kkeeeF if you would like to support the work of the 85 poets and the Festival.
by Jane Kenyon
How long the winter has lasted—like a Mahler
symphony, or an hour in the dentist’s chair.
In the fields the grasses are matted
and gray, making me think of June, when hay
and vetch burgeon in the heat, and warm rain
swells the globed buds of the peony.
Ice on the pond breaks into huge planes. One
sticks like a barge gone awry at the neck
of the bridge….The reeds
Continue reading “Walking Alone in Late Winter”
I dreamt of a place, not long ago, and the dream, unusual for me, showed even the most mundane things in vivid, sharp detail. Clothing, clouds, leaves on the ground, birds against the sky, dust motes floating.
But not at first. At first I was in the dark, walking blindly on a long journey through a wood. I only knew that something big was ahead. It was my show. I was expected.
I’m a modern man, raised on science and skepticism. But the longer I’ve lived, my ancient spirit has me lurch against things I cannot understand and I’ve had to make allowances.
“Get lawyer. Cops found the bodies.”
I need the grace of solid things
some days—wood, glass, stone;
I need to see below the surface,
with my other, equally blind eyes.
I need to feel for each unique song composed
and locked away long ago by water, earth and fire.
What I can conjure, sometimes,
free-floating and insubstantial as air
from the squishy gelatin
of this fragile and yielding flesh,
needs the balance of solid things
that give up their compositions
only on their own terms.
Solid things that come alive
when plucked by a humble hand.
What is a ruin but the dry bones of pride, good only as backdrop for a tired, pretty girl in a yellow sun dress?
Some clips of observations by Steve Jobs as part of a digital campaign.
Monday morning philosophy discussion… More coffee!!!
Anthropologists have long known that when a tribe of people lose their feeling that their way of life is worthwhile they […] simply lie down and die beside streams full of fish.
What is nihilism?
Nihilism is a confusing term. It can mean rejection of societal norms (political nihilism). This is not what I am going to discuss here.
I will talk about Nietzsche’s definition of nihilism: the radical rejection of value, meaning* and desirability.
I think this communicates the most important concepts. Of course, there are more specific definitions, so I will get them out of the way here. There is moral nihilism that says that there is no right and wrong. Epistomological nihilism says there is no universal truth or meaning. Existential nihilism rejects meaning in life.
Stoicism vs nihilism
Stoicism is really en vogue these days. Seneca’s writings have grabbed my attention early…
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The night of the full moon
calls her to the water,
this daughter of Leda and Zeus.
She feels it in her neck and belly,
and in the prickles on her back
where the wings hide
under her skin.
Long ago, her mother
sheltered a swan fleeing an eagle.
It was that lecherous old liar, Zeus,
In disguise and guile.
He devised a ruse to
Force himself on her.