Monday, December 29, 2008

if leaders

if leaders

are not born
are not created
are not anointed
are not positioned
are not groomed
are not forged
are not made


how did our forebears

survive prehistory?

then again

who kept

a righteous judge
a flamboyant pharaoh
a malevolent monarch
a prissy emperor
a prominent premier
a fervent fuhrer
a colonial militia
a colonel bagosora
a major hassle

or any one of us

from ending it all?

Saturday, December 27, 2008


some fires cast shadows
from the edge of a room
soothing caloric presence
on a cold rainy eve

perfumed oil

some fires rage
from where the wind comes
consume land and beast
giving no quarter
granting no pardon
without reprieve

vengeful nature

some fires are beyond our
futile terrestrial realm
gasses fusing innards
warm this old rock
upon lifetime

slip on your shades


some fires refuse
to yield enough heat
to ignite someone else
to only serve
to make one wonder

granted limited fuel

why have a wick?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

wry wit and wisdom

If ye shan't have meat
Then vie for a beet
Tis not very sweet
Yet more so than peat


To pet a dear kitten
Please don thee a mitten
Not too tight a fittin'
In case ye get bitten

ohhh kay

Should ye feel blue
Melancholy hue
Pr'thee wouldst do:
Tell a rhyme'r two


But when skies go gray
Sun hides all the day
Then indoors ye stay
And fervently pray...


For love's bewitch'n
From hell's own kitch'n
Wouldst give ye a switch'n
I still hear ye -


Sunday, December 14, 2008

man of sorrows

see my servant shall prosper
he shall be exalted and lifted up
and shall be very high
just as there were many who were astonished at him
so marred was his appearance beyond human semblance
and his form beyond that of mortals
so he shall startle many nations
kings shall shut their mouths because of him
for that which had not been told them they shall see
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate
who has believed what we have heard?
and to whom has the arm of the lord been revealed?
for he grew up before him like a young plant
and like a root out of dry ground
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him
he was despised and rejected by others
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised and we held him of no account
surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases
yet we accounted him stricken
struck down by god and afflicted
but he was wounded for our transgressions
crushed for our iniquities
upon him was the punishment that made us whole
and by his bruises we are healed
all we like sheep have gone astray
we have all turned to our own way
and the lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all
he was oppressed and he was afflicted
yet he did not open his mouth
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent
so he did not open his mouth
by a perversion of justice he was taken away
who could have imagined his future?
for he was cut off from the land of the living
stricken for the transgression of my people

isaiah 52:13-53:8 nrsv

pop balloon

i wait
not something to rush
as i know my heart
having done all i can
have i done anything
to encourage this
or promote
at least
as i perceive it
nothing more
than restoration
and renewal
do i want
however long
it takes
will be worth it
till the membrane
or a pin
brings release
colored latex shreds
what is stale
what is fresh
what is plunder
with those around
ka powww
rock on

Friday, November 28, 2008

three funerals and a wedding


The affable Irish Realtor
So spry and energetic even into his 70s
Falls suddenly ill mid-summer
And passes at a big city hospital

I left during visitation there in her home town
Big meeting in Cinci first thing tomorrow
New client, could be a big break

As I pass the corporation sign of that little county seat
The bright skies seem wide open and inviting

Couldn't help but weigh it out in my mind
Well, we're not married
So what to do?


On the way back from a camping trip
We stopped in on her other grandparents
Who treated us to a quaint little country inn
Wonderful homestyle cooking

Something resonates in their smiles
A watchful reassurance with the sunny breeze outside
Celebrating life with each leaf and blade it kisses

Just like it had on our graduation day
As we sat in the park

How it made me wonder

Funny how it is sometimes
She only learns of my plans
Through hints and gleanings

Pressing questions

Seems only moments after we drove away
We return for another wake
At a rural parish in the stagnant heat

I stayed as long as I could then left with a headache
Funny how it cleared up the moment I drove off

And as I neared my parents' house
I'll never forget that raincloud
Somehow burning with light
Like the sun itself

At least I made it back for the funeral
Complete with graveside taps and rifles
Uniting me emotionally with her family
One last time

My goals...
How I barely understood them myself

The Christmas photos that year
Tell a tale on our faces

So the very next day
She'd finally stood on her feet
Demanding an answer
That I could not give

We brought it on ourselves

The creature we had become
Could neither live or die on its own
Embracing someone yet parsecs apart
Gasping tear-soaked euthanasia

Then I drove to my house far away

Funny how even an earnest love
Can be so misplaced

And some hearts
You never can tame


By no coincidence I am certain
My travels bring me through
That little town

As she was up north in her new place
Just weeks from marrying her new guy

And the rain o'er just my eyes
Signpost to signpost
Brings it to close.

Cold dark starry sky above and ahead
Yet it still tells me

It knows

Sunday, November 16, 2008

definition of a girl

"Don't you look at me, boy. You're bad. I don't even know you but you're VERY bad. You better go away. And don't talk to me. What's your name?"

nobody's baby

smile at me

i'll turn away

give me candy

see it smash the floor

kiss me

if you want a raspberry in your ear

massage these teething gums

consider yourself bit

change my diaper

but be sure to close your mouth...

give me a puppy

you know i'll pull its tail

bring other kids to play with

heh, these toys are all mine

let your best friend hold me

dare me to whitewash her new outfit

hold me while you read to me

don't even think you'll get through one sentence

you can smack my hand if i reach for something bad

and, well, i guess i'll just deal with it


just between you and me

if you do all that stuff anyway

you'll own me

Saturday, November 8, 2008

chroot jail

you are who you say
as far as you know

entire conscious life
like witness protection

phantom footprint

usually protects
those outside

force field fishbowl

girls play house
boys just play

twist of phase

believing is seeing
even if they find you
wish them godspeed

so tempted to long
for less importance

rhythms of life
desks to pews
meals and adventures

fevered pursuit
chasing home

over horizon
past land and sea
then sky

wide open
never vacuous


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Competition III

"I've got knackwurst," I offer inquisitively while gesturing toward the freezer. I could have not been less prepared for the giggle that followed as it reached slightly into her deeper register, let alone the unadulterated mischief in that grin.

She had surprised me by stopping by with a copy of Bringing Up Baby on a perfectly lazy afternoon, although, I wasn't feeling lazy. I would have assumed she would be out riding on a day like this, or at least have someone else in mind. The movie had come up in a conversation one time, how you can never get tired of Hepburn and Grant in that one, picking it apart line by line, scene by scene.

I had been catching up on the fall yard work when I startle to a knock on the wheelbarrow a few feet behind me. After gathering a few wits I say, "You have a way of making entrances, no?"

She chuckles. "Now now, who am I to disappoint?"

Standing there feeling green as grass I smile mostly out of sheer disbelief.

"Hope I'm not interrupting?"

"Oh,it'll be here..." as I gesture toward my rake, suddenly needing to convince us both plus the birds and bugs that I've reached a good stopping point.

After meandering about the garden we sat on the porch for just a few minutes before I hear her tummy growl. "Sounds like someone hasn't had lunch yet either," I probe.

"Yah...I was...gonna offer Applebees or something," which brought upon friendly debate over whether to just fix something, I've got plenty on hand to work with, and the discussion brings us into my living room and kitchen, how so quickly her presence makes my house a new world altogether.

"I'm serious, knackers are great wrapped in a slice of wheat and maybe some Dijon, heck, you saw how many onions came up this year. If you want we can put the movie in..."

She playfully pokes my ribs. "Deal."

As I reach into the freezer she gently catches my forearm and asks, "So are they like brats?"

"They're milder, kinda like a hot dog but grown up."

Smiling, " about we just cook one of them?"

I glance away and muse, "So we each start at an end and meet in the middle?"

Handover mouth, she nearly loses herself in a laugh that could almost betaken for guilt, eventually turning away and bracing herself on the counter. "No silly just cut it in half." She gasps, still fighting bursts of giggles, and gestures out back in a manner that could only bring to mind Diane Keaton. "How about some of those other veggies...from the garden?"

I have to sigh, just watching her for a second. "Deal."


Day by day, night after night
Blinded by the neon light
Hurry here, hustling there
No one's got the time to spare
Money's tight, nothing free
Won't somebody come and rescue me

I am stranded, caught in the crossfire
Stranded, caught in the crossfire

Tooth for tooth, eye for an eye
Sell your soul just to bop on by
Beggin' for a dollar, stealin' a dime
Come on can't you see that I'm

Stranded, caught in the crossfire
I am stranded, caught in the crossfire

I need some, kind of kindness
Some kind of sympathy, oh no
Save the strong, lose the weak
Never turning the other cheek
Trust nobody, don't be no fool
Whatever happened to the golden rule

Carter/Ellsworth/Layton/Shannon/Wynans - 1989

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

muck in the stud

on a cold afternoon somewhere in your youth
seated on the couch with miles in between
she's lifeless as the bare trees outside
having cried the salt out of her tears

she's wearing the sweater you gave her
in a baffling manner of statement
the aroma of her house always seemed foreign
yet that never stopped you from charging in

if you love me this, if you love me that
why can't she just be happy?
finally she breathes out a sigh and turns away
and it gets just a tad chillier in here

Monday, October 20, 2008

Competition II

"I've watched the kids over the years," then, a pause.

My turn to take a deep breath, seemingly sympathetic.

"Actually...hmm, it's their families I usually notice," as her eyebrows bounce in a sort of revelation. Her lips purse. "You know, a horse doesn't care about the same things people do."

"I think I see where you're going," as I nod and take another hit of ever-more-tepid hydration.

"Yeah, it's as though there's something these kids, well, at least some of them, won't get otherwise. I hate to sound overly class-conscious but...I don't know, you can just tell, I can feel it in my belly I guess."

I sigh.


After a moment I jump back in, "I hope you don't mind," helplessly fumbling for the predicate.

Her smile patiently beckons.

"I know the last thing you want is praise...still, I can't help but admire that," all the while feeling my own smile transcend gravity, let alone any hope of restraint.

She looks away for a second and returns with, "Thanks." Gently squeezing my arm she adds, "I had better see how they're doing."

"Good luck. And, thank you, " which earns me one last smile, lingering just a bit as she went. I'll admit it was pretty easy to get caught up in those in those well-worn jeans after she looked away. After recovering a bit, I check her progress from a safer distance and nearly make out a song in those meandering, carefree, almost prancing steps as they navigate the uneven terrain.

Before long I dump the rest of the water and mosey on up to the office in case anything needs attention, such as leftovers from lunch or some potable coffee. While standing around with the owners I learn that this meet was one of the best ever attended at the farm. That's something you like to hear, you know, publicity never hurts.

As we're cleaning up and tearing down I see she's absorbed herself with the riders, and I mean completely absorbed. Not that I would expect glances or even a vibe, but I can't remember seeing someone so clearly, well, in their element, just listening and hugging and congratulating, even as most, representing those with special ribbons and without, are on their way.

Without a doubt the remainder of that evening fulfilled what the beginning had promised, still picture-perfect. Funny, I didn't even listen to music or a game on the drive home. Then, all I could do was sit on the porch, with a mug of broth, and help the neighbors' old beagle watch headlights go by.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Some hymns are just made to end with a drawn out root chord, and the last one we played together begged me to regress through the F major on my bass. Easy enough even for my relative lack of experience at the time, requiring only 3 strings and 3 fingers to bring it on home.

She had joined our worship group a year prior after her first year of grad studies and was now saying goodbye to pursue what lies ahead. She didn't settle at our church immediately upon coming to town, just got acquainted, and some of us feared some of the older ones may have scared her off by urging her to play piano for us. But in the springtime she came around regularly and became one of the College/Career staples as we were labeled.

Thinking back I can't decide whether her determination outweighed my possible mixed signals, or whether her signals themselves were even mixed. Before she joined us I would email her, never knowing fully why, just to say hi. After a while I even came up with a playful pet name. She seemed to enjoy the emails and we got along well; it just felt good to make a new friend with things in common.

But after a while...hmm...and, I don't fault her for confusion, it's just the way it is sometimes. A mutual friend told me she denied any interest beyond purely social, but then, why did things at times seem awkward when I would simply be polite? Why the insistent tone asking for someone to rub my shoulders or sit by me...and, why did she ask to meet my parents that time? And I realize she has an older brother, so how does that fit into the this just fraternal? Heh, am I actually off the hook here?

Later that day there was a potluck for various reasons, partly to give her a proper sendoff She gave a surprisingly clever and witty speech, then again, not a phenomenal fact given her parents are public figures. As she got ready to leave we kinda side-hugged and she tearfully whispered, to the effect that, it's hard to leave, as I would discover for myself in a few years when stepping out.

As it turns out she got a job offer in my home town and asked me for the lowdown. It wasn't long before we time out, as I have come to call it, and she meets someone, and it wasn't long before emails faded into the sunset as she was becoming more and more convinced that she had found her long-sought prince. Far as I know, she really, really did.

Back in the heyday of that worship team, I had related to someone how she and I would sometimes stay after practice to go through random hymns. And yes, I got the expected comment, sounds like you two make beautiful music together.

Oh how hope rings eternal in the heart of hearts....

But the thing is, God knows, that remark insinuated things that I only entertain in dreams or near-sleep moments when my more visceral ambitions are offstage. Think about it, how the heck can I remember arpeggiating a stupid F chord, note for note, on that platform over 6 years later?

I've observed a variety of personalities over the years, both public and private, to this conclusion...seems we all pursue a legacy, a type of fulfillment by which we spend and accomplish our life toward a purpose, be it clear in one's mind or otherwise. For many it's to live on through direct heirs and for others it's, well, not so much that. A poem is never finished, only abandoned, they say, and a work of art to some is a living being that may even transcend the life span of the artist.

And, how our hopes play out, even as we realize least.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

plastic train

So I had it all worked out. The future was this shinesunny day and there I was waving from my locomotive with ken-doll hair and Osmond smile and the pinstripe shirt and the hat an engineer wears.

Trains were obviously a big deal back in the kindergarten years, those brief fleeting moments before reality has a chance to encroach on the sheer delight of innocence. Never mind the fact that locos had been out of production for over 20 years by then - they had been made in my hometown I might add - and understandably yeilded to deisel fuel and other technologies. Still, every time I wore my little fake pinstripe shirt t-shirt you know that someone said I'd grow up to be a train engineer and so naturally I would drive a huge coal steamer. Heh, come to think of it, maybe just like the one on commemorative display at our favorite local park.

And you gotta understand this kid's imagination. It's like one of those rainbows if you've ever seen, I did one time, so thick and so real you'd swear you could drive half a mile to the base and climb right up it. Once I was convinced there was a safe in our crawl space and even talked some other dudes into going with me to find out it was a cinder block. They were good sports.

By now it should be no surprise that visions of my future self were mannequin like. Last summer I recalled one while hanging out with the girl who lived next door back in the day, as we sat with my folks talking about old times. All along, I'm thinking back to when we were about six and I pictured we'd get married and sit around reminiscing with enormous plastic heads. Uhh, I never told her that so, our secret? Keww.

Well you'd think after a while a body would tend to outgrow the tendencies to idealize the future. And for a while you don't really consider it, it's all just some funny memories.

Then I totally did it again. In my freakin' 30s even, near the age when someone can be elected to the highest levels of civil authority. Sure, I knew I was taking steps in faith and it's brought me to the right place...but it took a while to come to terms with the fact that I'd really bit in hard to the dream, at least in terms of sweat and devotion, and it was this huge thing I had to wrestle with, all the logic, contingencies, which voices and opportunites were authentic then wups there's a rabbit trail...

I guess along the track perfectionism dind't just get the best of me, it's a bum rascal, changing engines from coal-fired to electric and turning up where I'd least expect it. There was this corporate edict issued to STOP BEING PERFECTIONIST and that in itself is, well, perfectionism. Witness?

The saying goes that "experience is the best teacher" and I can't be reminded of that enough - except maybe that, the next level would be to let it teach me during instead of just, well, after.

*polypropylene shrug*

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

nuclear winter

hello again



over just as it starts

strolling through the department store


not exactly glamorous

but times like this we are


they keep the thing hidden somewhere beyond the night

pictures can't do it justice

we look

we smile

we grab

we laugh

we bite

we plunder

the very stench of death kills a little bit with each toke

perhaps unconsciously

and when the bomb hits close enough you'll totally soil yourself

hell of a price to pay for sex education

we came in here for a bathroom mat

for her new apartment and end up roaming all around

funny how we can make a day of this

all the while she silently wants to move in with me

sometimes what occurs in your undergarments

can seem pretty irrelevant

make that



alone at night you push back the thoughts

for years even

then one day you give in to it


you're already screwed


devil's in the details





just like they say

all dust and wind

plenty of charcoal

but don't touch it

if you can still smell anything at all

you'll give your arms not to

just try to imagine going anywhere near the store now


they talk about how a dirty bomb hath no fanfare

but the fallout creeps up on ya like the shits

same difference

steadily succumbing with each panged and acrid breath

at least radiation sickness has a tangible cause

every ache and twinge in your corpse

formerly taken for granted

suddenly humanity's most dread disease

your sole destiny

till the next thought comes along

should you ever again see her face

it will be through your heat-warped lens

oh and did you catch the scar on her forehead?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

wow and flutter

oxidized polymer ribbon betwixt 2 spools and I had dozens of them before my first real job

my allowance, with rare exception, sooner or later lent itself to a small, thin acrylic box containing sound

once I picked up sticks an entire afternoon to procure a Journey release that really wasn't

we made dubbing into an art form in and of itself, spending hours nailing down an all-time Philosophy of Setting The Level

they fit perfectly in a denim jacket's inner pocket for swapping at school, where the right connections make great collections

my brother gave me my first *real* tape, a cloudy-cased Memorex C-90 with
Frontiers and Eliminator back to back from LPs, two albums that need no introduction for 80s rockers

you never forget the aroma of a freshly unwrapped Maxell...

UR series are only decent the first time, and then the more overdubs they get that much muddier, but that's OK for radio stuff since it doesn't count anyway

XLs smell like chrome, and I bought a box of these in 8th grade, eventually having to splice a break in one of them

once you can afford an MX you'll immediately note they are physically heavier from the pure metal film and professional-grade components

a buddy of mine could faithfully reproduce the KISS logo on the label for you with an ordinary ball-point pen

the quality of store-bought tapes depended on the label

some dubs had a way of transcending the original

sometime in 1985 and probably starting with Motley Crue, the Warner Bros labels issued the clear cases and housings that had yet another distinctive smell to offer, like some sweet scented candle you'd find at Spencer's Gifts in the mall

I was a would-be go-to repair guy for cartridges after I'd collected some spare parts in a little box and fixed a couple for my mom I believe

low-peak was safe, and high-peak would distort, so we finally settled on the importance of letting the peaks barely kiss +6dB

once in another town I found a strange brand that had a clear case and little metal reels inside, not bad

discovering the tiny azimuth screw in our tape decks was our Tree of Knowledge, because once you got the best highs there was no settling for muddiness

midway thru my freshman year was when Atlantic and Atco's spine labels went from periwinkle to red

people talking about a party brag about what tapes they're gonna bring, hopefully something cool and hopefully not too. well, different

don't buy TDK, just, don't, even their t-shirts are all nylon

chewed tape can heal over time, but a squeal will only get worse, so dub it and pitch it while the clock still ticks

some dudes would steal them from discount stores or brag that they had, leaving one to wonder which made for a more complete idiot

always, always borrow the original if you can since other people's dubbing jobs are a federal disaster

in the car you had to adjust the deck's azimuth to work with those from your dubber deck, then use a paper shim if it was off

Memorex are typically fluttery but have been known to surprise on occasion

raked leaves for like 3 weeks that one fall and made enough to get a Sanyo knockoff walkman and also an LP, which, yeah, was on tape 40 minutes after I got it home

one dude told me his rap stuff sounded good enough on TDK so there ya go

anything on Capitol or the associated EMI family had a special Dolby noise at the beginning and end that we called a "dweedle"

expensive head cleaner tapes eventually gave way to isopropyl and Q-tips from the bathroom, but keep the ol' demag handy

dang, even my girlfriend picked up on how much difference that shim made in the car's deck

not sure when Fuji came on the scene with those reverse-feed thin cases that made me wanna feed every case that way, but their hi-bias series were sure worth it

once I dreamt there was a player mechanism - mainly visualizing the head and capstan and roller - built in to the chrome plate that surrounds the drain lever in our bathtub, complete with a wall-mounted speaker beneath the shower head and yes it rocked

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


driving westward through kansas
with the sun as it kisses identical fields
greeted by myriads of frilly gold-rimmed faces
along this endless asphalt conveyor
power lines converge into a single point


pretty soon you know what happens
horizon modulates from blue to charcoal
something about the sweetness of the air
blowing into the car playing a new tune
must be really letting loose


storms on the plains
change a life in the blink of an eye
they don't ask permission
static on the radio
still i must find out what's there


these times are for reflection
on the whys and whos that matter most
funny how risk scratches an itch
and that fragrance beckons a grin
i roll up the windows and venture on


(note that, as of now, I've never been west of Topeka in my entire life...)

Saturday, September 20, 2008


evening gets chilly
was it already that?
the moment she left
it all falls flat
air is heavier now
i don't want to admit
there's something about her
we're just some kids here
playing outdoor games
but after she leaves us
it's not quite the same
she's annoying at times
her jokes make no sense
and i don't wanna deal
with those subtle hints
still its such a downer
just down to us three
there's two younger boys
and then poor old me
how barely i notice
her blond locks dance about
what her presence adds
is what it's about

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Preacher and the Old Lady

Preacher goin' to see that old lady
Said he goin' get her saved this time
Preacher gonna call that ol' lady
She sho' gon get Jesus this time
He say, All she need is love sweet love
Hope to get her 'fore them cancer sticks do

Preacher went to see that old lady
Says he wanna talk about her soul
Preacher went to call that old lady
He sho' wan see about her soul
But she start praisin' her insurance man
'Fore he even got past tha' howdy-do

Preacher says to that ol' lady
You need th' Lord to help you through
Preacher done told that ol' lady
You best trust the Lord to hep' you through
She says my husbands they took care of me
'At's all I ever need to get me by

Preacher starts to leave he says now
When you ever gon make up yo' mind?
Preacher gets up to go and he say
Sister, when you gon change yo' mind?
She says Rev'rend wee'l surely talk again,
An' coughs, but I gots to live before I die

(With very special thanks to a very astute observer...)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Welcome To The Jungle gets worse here every day

It was the middle of July of the year that formed the sandwich-meat of our Golden Age. A new band out of LA called Guns N' Roses had just unleashed their Appetite for Destruction, and as a metal purist of sorts I initially dismissed their sleazy names and greasy hooks as but a blip on the radar soon to fade back off the edge. Who knew.

I arrive and set my gift on the table on the rear portico. Mom had procured some smellgood shower splash from Avon and neatly donned it in paper featuring Garfield as he thought, You're Gifted, which Dana read aloud as she opened it. I hope you like it. I also hope Mom had me sign the card.

Perfect summer weather called for yard games, including jarts, and I watched in horror as Trent carelessly lobbed one only to land a few feet behind Brandon as he walked on, none the wiser. I suppose Steve was there if Trent was, but Steve had a way of matching the furniture at parties.

Dana had invited most of the church youth group along with others guilty by association. A couple of red-headed sisters were in a pageant it seems, and Dana only got along with the pastor's daughter Tina when it was convenient, which it evidently was not at the moment, despite the behest of Dana's dad.

There was also Stacy, the tall, silently strong Honduran, longtime neighbor of Char, who in turn was Dana's best friend, at least they said so. Even in the prior weeks Char had been trying to steal Kenneth. You should have seen her and Dana cling to him like flies on a turd until he made the choice.

Chuck rode with me, my best pal, for another year anyway. He was the one who convinced me which of the girls we knew were hot, at least as he saw it, except for Dana, whose charm you couldn't miss from the moon.

Her parents were present but invisible. I'm sure we ate so let's make it hot dogs or pizza and Doritos and melon slices, maybe some baked beans. Oh, and birthday cake. Sweet Sixteen, as Billy Idol sings. Dana sets up a boombox with the local hits radio since we're not at the church were you have to play Petra. We were our own.

honey we know the names we are the people that can find whatever you may need

The actual authority that evening seemed vested beneath the porch canopy, seated there Dana and Kenneth and Mario and Sally. Kenneth was your classic black sheep who Dana was on a mission to save. Rumors were already swirling about the other couple, and tonight he guarded her like prize money. We'd hear whispered R-rated accounts of their torrid times in her '83 Escort, usually parked near a reservoir, into nearly fall of the next year despite her parents, a pastor and wife, grounding her at every turn.

Stacy would eventually become one of the most successful among us, double-majoring in college and and going on to a good solid marriage.

During volleyball with everyone standing around, Char and her unavoidable glare responded to one of my barbs by shouting suck my left tit!

Still not sure what to think of that. Except, we were our own.

Besides, I could sometimes get Z-Rock radio out of Cleveland, in FM stereo, and would tape it, so who needs chicks? I wouldn't even want the right one. It would be weeks before she and I had an earnest conversation at a revival service. In the mean time, she tried to shorten my hair on the way back from Cedar Point. On my birthday.

Dana, that petite blond who added her own brand of substance to any mix, for her part, was the de-facto nerve center for our group during the rare times when we functioned. She would call you once in a while just to talk and pretty much kept up with everyone. Once she organized a party at church that dwindled down to herself and 2 others within the first ten minutes. Wasn't till years later I realized the prize was not to capture but to enjoy her, to share laughs and stories and be a friend for once.

The radio played Whitesnake's single version of Here I Go Again that they'd cut in a hasty studio set during their tour in Texas, this being the first time I'd heard it. More keyboards, less guitar, pppptttt.

Sally's brother Matt joined us, always jovial and animated, you tend to think he has no guile whatsoever. During v-ball we got to whining Guyyyys....c'mon, Guyyyyyys over and over purely for the sake of saying it. For whatever reason, as we all smacked the leathery white sphere over the net and chased it out of bounds the song in my head, Show Me The Night by a little-known band, was not the greatest ever but they sho nuff got the infectious groove down on that track.

learn to live like an animal the jungle where we play

We were all somewhat apprehensive of the unpredictable Kenneth with his sneaking out, the dope, the alleged fights, and his dad would often just drop him off at her house, a rebel with no clue why he's stuck on this girl who keeps her world in a tidy lil box, and, for all we know, gift-wrapped.

After a while we drift across the road to the grounds of the church-school Dana attends, no one knowing why, as if it matters. Stacy was trying to ride the handle bars of a 20" bike that Kenneth had commandeered. What was it about him and anyone nearby that held your attention? We were afraid of what he might do, and he's afraid he can never become one of us. His original plan, Dana tells me later, was to drop off his gift and leave.

In the youth room seated next to a previous beau, Sally sang I'm on my way I'mmm makin' it, that familiar chorus from the radio, several times one day, the sparkle in those brown eyes desperate for us to crack the code. Ironically she didn't get pregnant until a year after she and Mario split, and not by him.

Mario was not a hood like Kenneth. By now he had shed his attitude and was pretty cool, but make no mistake, he was no less than superhuman with the ladies. Seems our other don juan Jimmy may have moved to Florida by then, either way, you just didn't see him often.

watch it bring ya to your shananananananana knees knees

By the next Spring there were beach parties at the local man-made lakes that I never went to and I mostly talked to Tina, until her family moved away. GN'R by then was giving the pristine Def Leppard Hysteria sound a run for its money. I didn't have cable at home but my new girlfriend's TV perpetually featured Axl and Slash smoking their way through low-key interviews on MTV. Critics and rockers and even new converts were blown away by their seminal debut, the devil-may-care depiction of a depraved urban hell, a sonic conflagration of sin and despair complete with a scull-laden Crucifix on the cover and Sweet Child O' Mine for a gospel.

Our innate insecurities and mutual animosities seemed near a boiling point, as those feeling strong tore into those we perceived weak and flawed, juvenile savage amusement at its finest.

Char asked me if my gal pal and I were behaving properly, out of concern, she assured me.

We were our own.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Got a call the other day from my folks, they're great, but I guess one of the older guys from church is mostly bedridden these days. Grady liked to look out for us young dudes. Once, at Easter, he asked us to not stand around the front door as people were coming in since it “didn't look good”. I never really understood what that meant since we were all wearing suits, like he was. And then there were the days, or weeks at least, as some of us were shooting hoops in the gym before the evening service he would time quarters with that old conductor's watch he carried, the same one used to determine when it was time for us to settle down in the sanctuary. Once I was sitting near the back pew and came out to get a drink, and sure enough, as I wet my whistle there was Grady standing there with a grave look asking whether this was necessary so early in the service. I suppose I had no business disrupting the order of things with my frivolous biological impulses.

At any rate I hear his wife Freda is holding up well. She's the one who taught children for 150 years and used to look around as we prayed to make sure we were being revern't. You've got to be revern't. she'd grunt, shaking that seemingly ten-jointed finger as she justifies all she'd been taught and reared, all with the ardor of a seventh-grade cheerleader. After all, if it was good enough for the Apostle Paul then it's good enough for Freda and more than enough for these supple-souled young'uns. Other teachers didn't share Freda's attention to detail and she often challenged them, which is probably why she was often chosen for leadership. Who knows, maybe some people express their love in the form of tireless devotion to duty.

Lately, seeing them withered, becoming less and less relevant to the thrust of life in that little church, I can't help but yearn for perspective. I mean, who's gonna show us the righteous path once the faithfuls are gone?

Monday, September 1, 2008


what if I don't have enough in common with you to really hit it off?
what if a tree falls on the car of a coworker's aunt as she drives through a storm?
what if it were a bird that nabbed that huge spider from its web beneath the gutter out back?

why are legal pads so expensive?

what if I take a girl to a movie and she slurps the last bit of my pop just as I reach for a drink?
what if I see something horrible happen to someone right outside my window?
what if I don't make it to the bathroom some day?

why get so worked up about stuff?

what if I am asked to do something differently than how I'd planned right in the middle of an awful mood?

why is it we always seem to have mixed motives?

Friday, August 29, 2008

birthday blues, good words and bad words

Often I wonder if a bloke like me could do a creature like her any good...then I have to stop and think, shoot, if I knew the answer to that ?? then I'd definitely stop doing her any good in the first place.


So there's your answer, fishbulb.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Desire, she said

For as long as I could remember the house was shrouded, at least from my backyard, by tall pines and generous weeping willows. Even the front facing has its share of shrubbery. I never saw the inside until we were in high school, complete with rustic hand-carved shelves coated with nick knacks and paneling of maybe walnut.

They had moved in sometime during our elementary years. The girl behind me used to hang out with their daughter who went to a private school at first. I heard people say things about her from time to time. Some of it was just talking, some of it kept me wondering at night. Somehow it seemed that people thought things they never said out loud.

She has eyes that stop time and a mouth that never stops.

Her mother had remarried and cussed at me for crossing their yard on my bike.

Lunch my sophomore year was in the middle of Spanish class. She was that special ingredient in the buffet of misfits at our table, from devil to angel almost overnight.

One chance exchange of lingering glances was all it ever took.

Her song is her stories. Times and events fall into a rhyme and meter to which only she can dance.

Calcetínes are socks. ¿Puedo ir al baño, por favor?

I offered consistent presence and she met me half way. Never a couple yet always a pair.

Too blue to stand it but too yellow to make a move.

Rarely did she talk about practical everyday things. Part of her died too young I glean. Her brother perhaps, or her innocence. Or both.

I always liked how she was herself in jeans and a sweater most days.

For such a popular person it was as though none of us really knew her.

Once a week we take turns putting mustard or ketchup or pickles or onions on our breaded pork sandwiches. Years later she tells me she never really cared for breaded pork.

Silly fool deny the undeniable. Go make your bed somewhere else.

It's not easy being green.

Certain males in her life she describes as you would an intestinal disease or heinous crime.

Maybe deeper understanding is not always worth the risk of loving.

What's the new U2 song called?

Desire, she said in a flat voice, staring out somewhere beyond the pines and willows.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

how jovian

it's not just the distance that keeps us apart many worlds away she rages her beauty foreboding tempestuous tormented torrents of fury with a soul only fathomable in minds of science impenetrable perhaps fluid to the core hyperdynamic enough raw fusible stuff to be a star if ignited with the right spark until then we gaze unbelieving into her monocular pupil that has so amazed us

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Somewhere, not yet

Sunny. Sunday. Summer. Afternoon, on a bicycle.

Nobody else on the sidewalk. You'd be wasting time to be in a hurry. If you're on just the right slope you can just coast...working the handlebars to stay aloft at times, and maybe moving so slowly the bugs have a chance to land on you. Look both ways, slide down the slope street crossings, will there be enough momentum to make it to the continued level surface on the other side and keep rolling?

Times like this you're glad to have nowhere to go. Not always the case.

Those who grew up in a family active at their church know that there are seasons of reflection and questioning, as does anyone at points in their life. As we mature from childhood to adults we realize things about what we were taught and that some things we'd always believed were now called to question, from Santa Claus to flippant remarks uttered by an adult that a young mind has no choice but to accept as fact. Likewise, when we draw close to God, that leads us to discover certain truths about what we had always believed. Some of these truths are purely theological, about God's nature and interest for humanity...others are less abstract, as they concern how men and women have reacted to Grace over the years.

We're at a crossroads. Science has opened our minds to the point where demons represent that yet unknown and beyond our control. Some had claimed that humans have conquered the universe...just a matter of time. Yet, how come our greatest telescopes reveal more to be seen without, and our latest atom-splitting endeavors uncover more than ever deep within? As soon as we prevent natural disasters we can start on war and disease.

So, modernity's answers failed to satisfy the collective human soul and so now we are once again rife with questions. Some of us like questions. Some of us thrive in a state of “already, but not yet”. Some of us are willing to step out of the familiar and into mystery.

Then again, others simply cannot.

For those of us who are hungry for the now, what God is up to in the present age, it could not be a more exciting time.

And uncertain.

Not to criticize those who remain in the established communities of worship, but just know, some of us simply can no longer take comfort there. Over time my senses have become tuned to ingrained attitudes within many congregations. It's been stated many ways, but it comes down to this, which I've heard reported almost verbatim:

“We won't let you change OUR church.”

Some of us have been participating in a local church for most of our lives, and those there are many reasons why we do. An obligation? A fixation? A staple of the usual week? Social needs? Could we actually be seeking God wholeheartedly every single week or is there some more accurate reason we go? Do we worship worship itself, finding comfort in the setting and accouterments because it takes us to a place of security we came to know at a past time?

None of us donned in flesh have perfect motives at all times, as sure as Christ was tempted, I just hope we're examining them appropriately...watching for what's over the horizon, even if it scares the hell out of us.

Call us rebellious, call us daring, call us sacrilegious, call us what you will. As always, internal conviction must overcome external persecution.

I may not have a church but I have been blessed with friends. We talk things out and ask the hard questions. We choose a measure of discomfort because it leads to a more meaningful life...hopefully teaching us to listen more than we speak, to think before we act, and to put others first.

Old-schoolers ask, “what about sin”??

We ask, “what about relationships”??

To put it simply, the Victorian social morality is now arbitrary, free-floating in a vacuum with no connection to reality for many people. We question institutions and the preacher is not always right. We won't tear them down but we won't blink if they implode.

God will not smite you with fire for laughing your buttons off watching Life of Brian.

Some of us don't easily find our place in traditional ministry settings, which are a perfect fit for some folks but a nightmare for others. We are convinced that God has purpose for all people, both individually and corporately. It's in these times we are thankful for an age that allows for innovation and provides many supportive mentors and friends who help each other out during the journey.

Yes, I said journey, and not always a summer bike ride in dreamy weather where we have no place to get to...well, maybe we want to stay where we are but that's not the best thing....and sometimes we want to be somewhere else, as vivid as we can dream but it's out of our means to get there.

For now.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Looks like we're gonna make it -”

I startled and nearly dropped my bottle.

“Oohh sorry, I forgot you probably wouldn't hear me coming...”

“How convenient,” I offer along with a wry glance to acknowledge her poorly executed attempt at concealing amusement.

Our conversations are rarely without consequence. There are times when we simply convey textual information, following the script word-for word, but, hardly ever does it lack some sort of context...or is it pretext? Something, some sort of knowing that surrounds and transcends our words. Her eyes stay on mine forever and a day. Sometimes I look away, in disbelief, and she stubbornly beckons me to believe anyway.

From a lonely patch of paddock fence we have a side view of most of the action, stick figures in black velvet helmets, mounted and roaming about, some with game faces ignoring all but their sheer concentration, some constantly in need of a parent's or coach's reassurance and some with parents in need of someone to fuss over, most but not all are adolescent females. The horses and ponies catch a snack when their humans provide the leisure of standing still near fencepost weeds or slip the occasional starlight mint, otherwise heeding commands via reins and boots. This is the day. Fifth-wheel rigs have hauled man and beast to this place to compete for ribbons and honor.

“How 'bout your group? I just got here...” I ask after a couple sips of water in as many minutes.

“Not bad. Not sure how many placings to expect since they're a young group, but it's experience and they seem to be having fun.”

I take a deep breath of sweet summer evening country air and turn towards her.

“Remind me, did you ever train?”

She half-smiles.

“Thought about it,'s a lot.”

Another sip to buy time, or let her finish her thought, seeing as I'm not sure what to do with that just yet.

I glance back to find her in a slightly agitated nostalgia. “Seems you're just glad to provide rides for these kids.”

“I am,” she finally smiles convincingly. It's amazing how much that smile can say, and a little unnerving at how much of it is beyond me. Yet some things are beginning to make sense. Usually in a barn setting you have families who own horses that their own kids ride and some own more and let out ridership for a fee, or else the trainer owns and lets as such. But here's this gal who owns quite a number, at least a dozen, but never charges for kids to ride.

“May I ask you something?”

She turns toward me deliberately that curious smile. Whether I'm unnerved by that act or just by the fact that I'm pressing in to her life with the next question, I am still unsure.

“So...when....” which fades into a sigh as I look the other way.

“Yyyyyyyyyyyessss?” I can hear the smile. I take a deep breath and bellow it out.

“If this an appropriate thing to ask, how do you choose which kid gets to ride?”

Her smile brightens and brings her eyes into the act as a pair of luminescent blue hounds following a scent into my depths. She breathes deeply and looks away, into her head, as though life itself depends upon the accuracy of her answer, despite the fact that we had stood around and talked many times throughout the weeks, about the weather and our crazy schedules and getting called to work at all hours, and now we stood in a paddock next to a corner of the ring.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

My 1984

The summer started with my first June VBS* as a “teen” and ended with a back-to-school-retreat right before I started 7th grade and was a wonderful buildup to my 13th birthday, well, except for when the whole family got a stomach bug on the 4th of July.

Still the radio did everything right, well, at least once I had shed some of my inbred prudence and decided to live a little. As I rigged up the AM/FM section of an old console hi-fi in the garage I got my first taste of Springsteen as he danced in the dark (with googley-eyed Courtney Cox in the vid to boot) and then later on wondered why Peter Wolf was into the same thing as he belted LIGHTS OUT…UHHH HUHHH...and who can deny the foreboding edge of Billy Idol’s eyes without a face?

It's important to remember that my family never bothered to get cable when I was, instead of the MTV perspective that my peers had of the summer's hits, my imagination supplied all the visual interpretation, and in those days I couldn't have been more inspired by life all around.

On all those rides to and from teen activities I realized that not all popular music was really far out, as Cindy Lauper pointed out with her timeless time after time, which as my blonde-haired crush Jenny pointed out was the number one hit at the very moment he worked the controls of the church van’s crappy AM radio…countless boomboxes turned heads whenever Prince’s guitar announced that doves were about to cry, and then not long after that those funky drums calling us to go crazy. One time I was riding with Mom and from a nearby vehicle heard Steve Perry crooning to his Sherry about how their love holds on…I looked and this dude was cranking it up to get me to look so he could make a face or something, just to mess with some kid on a warm evening.

Then there was my special assignment…Mom decided to treat Dad to an early birthday gift and have me install a new stereo in the truck. Finally…not only the best system we owned (FOUR speakers!) but the cab seemed to resonate those songs perfectly, even with only about 10 watts total power and the fact that the word subwoofer hadn’t been invented yet. I'll never forget how good those Cleveland area stations sounded when we took a camping trip up near what was then Sea World. But most of the time I just listened in the driveway at home. Dudes from down the street would ride their bikes around and stop by and we would talk thru the window about our favorite tunes and artists…I remember telling Matt Goecke that I was into Billy Joel, an in the back of my head I was thinking of the all-vocal For The Longest Time.

Almost forgot about the time I could get Dr. Demento by fluke one Sunday night…see, in my home town we only had so-so radio until after I moved away and so the atmosphere (and God’s sense of humor…) had to create a path for anything cool to come through, in this case Rock 104 WXKE out of Ft. Wayne. So, even tho I had heard novelty acts before I had never come across a wealth such as the Doc, and thankfully I had a tape rolling for most of it…especially for a moment I could have never seen coming…Bryan Bowers' one and only Scotsman *sigh*. It was late at night and there I am in my room laughing the hiney completely off my body…thing is, telling the guys at church about it got wayyyy more laughs than when I let them hear the tape; chalk that up to experience.

Then there were the minor hits no one remembers…ever heard Glen Frey of Eagles fame talk about his hot female neighbor, the sexy girl? And then there was this silly bubblegum retro spoof thing called They Don’t Know which turned out to be my introduction to Brit comedian Tracey Ullman. ON I just found a gem I hadn’t heard in 24 years…Rick Springfield making light of how his name sounds like that of an aforementioned legend from New Jersey. Oh yah…

So, there were countless moments that highlighted my introduction to adolescence during that summer as I constantly adjusted my brother’s old ten speed and observed the fairer sex from a safe distance (especially the gal a couple doors down and a couple years older - she hardly acknowledged my existence as tho she'd actually invented that form of torture...). The music had a way of bringing out the things in life I didn’t really want to face, namely, romance…some of the more soulful numbers, as the late great Dan Hartman dreamed about her if he couldn’t hold her tonight…what’s a body to do when a chorus like that just kinda pulls it out of you?

After that retreat and my birthday it was on to a new year of school…as I sat on the bus one afternoon I pictured myself entering a tunnel that would be the teen years. I had heard people say they’re hard and confusing and I spose I was coming to terms with that.

Heh, one the rising hits at that time was prolly my all-time favorite from Hall and Oates, out of touch, out of time…there it is, just as sure as I’m writing a windy blog about it a million years later.

*Vacation Bible School - a staple of children's Christian education, mainly in Evangelical circles and usually conducted during the summer months.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An Ode to Gravity

Gravity pulls stuff tow'rd Mother Earth
The bane of folks with generous girth

Yet, gratitude we owe for such a gift
That God bestow'd to check random lift

This man and beast alike both do share
Bound to soil for which we take care

And floating o'er trees such ease would bring
O how men of all ages have dream't such a thing

Yet sans terra firma's unseen grip on matter
Waste on the outhouse ceiling wouldst splatter

Even that so would we ever adjust
When our senses on gravity lose their trust?

Gripping on handrails to traverse the town
A lady dons barrel 'oops: "These tame me gown!"

Still it seems we have little reason to fear
For, the force always comes 'round year upon year

And as long as the Roy'l Court pays the right fee
We shall stick to the ground, which is all right by me

Sunday, July 13, 2008


because it's a mixture of desire and disgust
because this is the logical conclusion
because we feed off each other
because we give more we take more
because we are
because we can never figure it out
because we get closer every time we try
because this is how we untie each other's knots
because it's nasty as a sour apple

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The world is dead

As we pile into the truck cab on Sunday morning
You ask me how I'm feeling...are you sick?

I say no I'm not sick, I don't feel anything
I'm dead...the world is dead, all is numb

So we go on to church with all the other dead people
Some say hello and some go about their way

Later on you ask me why I don't talk to other kids
And I can't really give a good answer, not now

But if I could it would go something like this
Because there are times when the world is dead

Johnny and the other boys always seem happy
They play with other kids and don't know why

Most folks don't step away and take a look
But then, some of us are always a step away

Being a step away is a catbird seat when things go well
Yet a prison cell when you just can't get a groove on

It is the latter times when the world is dead, because,
People have agreed that being uninspired equals lonely

Especially for those who don't consciously become such
Although it has a way of leaving a cavernous void within

So the world expires and green foliage yields gray stone
The lush banquet table withers to dry cold toast

You can't stop it and you can't change it
Because the world is dead, until further notice

Thursday, May 15, 2008


visceral eruption
all heaven exploding

fireball screams
consumes us both

lethal heat envelops
anion satellites

expelled from orbit
of planet atom

surging raging
passion devours

wild free unstoppable
yet so divinely ordered

life's very fluid
pulsing within us

molecules bombard
why don't we make some

new unique substance
radiant true love

Friday, May 9, 2008

Life is not

Life is not worrying that the pastor's wife will see your kid with a finger up, inside, or anywhere near his or her nose.

Life is not shielding yourself from certain forms of mass media, from certain personalities, from certain racial groups, from certain lifestyles, or whatever, JUST BECAUSE that's the good person mold that has shaped you.

Life is not concern about how well someone else's house is furnished.

Life is not just what YOU make of it; it's also what you allow others to help you make of it.

Life is not staying in an unhealthy relationship because you're insecure or feel it's your duty to start what you finished.

Life is not always what you think it is.

Life is not - in the biological sense - guaranteed.

Life is not grabbing all you can while you can.

Life is not necessarily jumping out of the way before you sense lightning may strike.

Life is not in the truest sense, after all, a thing, but rather, a Who.

Monday, April 14, 2008



please tell me

please tell me that look on your face

doesn't mean what I think it does

you're way too fine

to be caught up in me

it almost makes me lose respect for you

but then

how stupid of me

to reject a blessing?

no good clinging to outmoded ideals

that give no room to grow

and enjoy

even if only the fact

of your sweet creamy existence


if i may make one request

go easy on me


i perceive that you are strong

in many ways


and so am i

Saturday, March 22, 2008

One of *those* deals

Set off for home in my dad’s old truck
With four warn tires an’ a charm for luck

They’d shown me how to fix it up real nice
Now it was up to me to go pay the price

Drove north I s’pose for an hour or three
Found the place nestled there in among the trees

Well, squatters been sleepin’ there in my house
Even firin’ a gun wouldn’t get ’em to rouse

Dreams like this make me stop and ponder
Am I old enough to be on my own and wander?

Or am I just too old to make a new start
Oh Lord, You’ll show me; change this ol’ heart

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I saw a man as he stood between two buildings
Dressed all in black
Seemingly in control of the situation
Whatever it was
There was no one else around
I tend to think he's better than me
That he may be your alpha
But not your omega
Then I hear EJ sing of a space trip
Launching out into nowhere
Where no one else is
And I can't help but wonder
Would you go with me?
Will you be there?
Do I need you beside me?
OR is it just silly dreaming...