Friday, June 22, 2012


Now that the really hot days have hit again, I am subjected to the sight of dozens of cars left on, spewing their filth into the air so that their owners can be spared a few minutes of discomfort. In the summer, they leave the air conditioning on and in the winter it's the heat. The car is left running for 3, 5, 10 minutes while the owner runs into some store or just sits waiting for someone, Godot, perhaps. Or there is a line of cars waiting for several minutes at a light or behind a line of cars, idling and filling the air with more pollution. The addition of particulates to the atmosphere is huge. In New York City, the amount of carbon dioxide ALONE estimated to come from idling cars and trucks over the course of a year exceeds 130,000 tons. That is 260,000,000 pounds, people.
    Several years ago my daughter did a school project which involved idling research. At the end of the project, she and her partners printed up a number of bumper stickers admonishing people to TURN OFF THEIR CARS! Having one stuck on my bumper, I felt obligated to start living the message. It was difficult at first, because it required thinking about driving while driving, an activity that few drivers seem to engage in. After a few weeks, I found it quite natural to turn off my engine at red lights or long lines of cars, and I became fairly good at judging whether shutting down was a good idea.
    Remember, if you are stopped for more than TEN seconds, you use less gas in restarting than in idling. In other words, ten seconds of idling is approximately a restart. Turning off your car means less pollution and lower cost over time. According to the AAA, a good estimate for idling gas usage a quarter of a gallon per 15 minutes of idle time. This may not seem like much, but over time, idling may cost you several dollars a week or hundreds of dollars per year.
    Many of the government publications that I have read recommend AGAINST turning off your car in traffic or at a stoplight. While they say this might be dangerous, they all say it could annoy other drivers. This will not happen if you stay awake while waiting. If you decide, as I do, to turn off your car at stop lights, you must stay aware of the situation, so that you can start up again when needed. No putting on lipstick or texting. If you go to a drive-through, turn off your car while waiting or while you are at the window. Sp far, in several years of the practice, I haven't even been honked at once.
    There are approximately 190,625,023 licensed drivers in the United States. The average US driver spends about eight hours idling per month. Even halving the AAA gas usage rule of thumb, therefore, could mean a savings of  9,159,001,104 gallons of gasoline per year. That is over NINE BILLION GALLONS. C'mon, people!! It shouldn't be that hard to figure out!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Vengeance of Kreelakh

The man lay in the tall grass on the crest of a long ridge overlooking the Savannah far below. He had lain there since the dark before sun birth, unmoving except for his eyes, which swept the plain continuously, even as his target crept without perceptible advance from the horizon. Insects and even a small beelwar had run across his outstretched legs as he lay. The small, furry body with its barbed tail had tickled the man's rough skin as it skittered across. The beelwar had even stopped to contemplate the man for a few seconds, standing with its tiny paws curled against the scales on its chest, its tiny yellow eyes curious, before it rushed off into the grass on its endless search for food. But now, the light of the suns threw double shadows lengthening from the few twisted trees that stood sparsely spread on the steep slope below him and the day creatures had gone to their burrows and nests. The man felt his skin tighten and cool when the sweat which had run unheeded down his face all day began to dry as the Sun Brothers began their long journey through death under the Lands. His business would be done by the time they were free again from the grip of the Underlords to be born anew and to cross Heaven on their daily hunt.

The man felt the cool rise from the lengthening shadows of the grass. He had suffered under the Suns as they passed in their glory over the Lands. His throat felt as parched and hard as the dried kra'utam skin that he carried to make the chords that go soft in water and hard again and tighten so they can cut through the tough skin even of the living kra'utam itself. It had cost him great effort to get that skin. The kra'utam was taller than a man at its shoulder and with its thick, heavily wrinkled hide, great stomping hooves and seven sharp horns on its head, it was formidable prey. The man had trapped one with a snare made of woven lootu vines tied to the tree in which he waited. He had jumped onto the ridged backbone of the great beast and had stabbed and stabbed and stabbed with his assegai until he could penetrate the hide and thrust deeply to reach the life of the monster. The skinning and preparation of the hide had taken 8 suns. ”I will have the use of that hide before sun birth, if the Brothers will aid me,” the man thought grimly. Wet through and tightly tied around the wrist, kra'utam thongs would shrink and twist until skin and muscle and bone were cut through, but slowly, slowly. The wrinkled skin at his throat reddened and swelled slightly at the thought of using the thongs. He forced his mind away and his neck flap collapsed into itself, deflating into its usual pale and flaccid folds.

With the rising dark came also rising the metallic creaking and soft susurration of the flying things that would bring more discomfort to his vigil. Even a man has soft places that their spiked and probing feeding would find. At the base of his tail, at the edges of the ridge of scales down his back and, most dangerously, directly in his eyes unless he closed his brow plates, which he could not do. Not yet. He could not make the blinding smoke that would keep them away, or slap or even move to cover himself with the silky fur of his nrakam robe. His enemy's eyes were sharp, sharper even than his, and a man's eyes are nearly as clear and far-seeing as those of the nraka themselves, that flew miles above the Savannah looking for death and the resulting feast. The slightest move could bring the shrieking thing even from where the enemy moved in the valley below to seek him and to destroy him and to rob him of his reward. The man had seen a whole hunting party of Others disappear in a cloud of fire and noise and black, stinking smoke. The only warning had been a shrieking as of the grottuk, when, pierced deeply in the belly by the assegai of a young hunter seeking his first man's scarring, it began its death dance, shaking the ground with each crumping stamp of its huge claws, swinging its great trunk and spiked tail while the hunter ran from beneath the great hairy underparts and keening and screaming with a falling note that could make a man's ears bleed if he were too close. The Others had heard the falling scream and had stood, confused, for there was no stamping or shaking, and this was not the year time for hunting the grottuki thus. And then, the cloud that had eaten them had risen into the way high and when the man had approached, all he found was the black and burning trees, the great wound in the earth, and the ring of red flesh flung out around the place where the Others had been.

He had been seen by the nraka, he knew, as they whirled in great, sweeping arcs high, high above him, spots as small to his eyes as the grains of dust before his face. One had even circled down until it was no more than ten thousand paces above him and he could see the four great wings spread out to catch the rising air of the Savannah. He had moved a single finger, then, and the nrakam had soared away again. The nraka did not eat live meat, but he knew he was marked and remembered. He had sensed the nraka as they slid out of the way high into the sky and then down to sit without sleeping during the dark time in the stunted trees. “You will feast tomorrow,” thought the man. He did not grudge the meal. He would not be feasting this time on the meat of his enemy. The flesh was corrupted by the evil that had been done, and the man would be able to eat no meat until he had been given the Khrakheem purification by a priest, if any were left alive. There might be some of the People left beyond the Forest, and he could bear the slow starvation until then, or even stave off death for awhile by gnawing on plants or roots. He could kill without touching, which would save him from the contamination, but he meant to feel this death with his hands.

Even if the swooping flight of the nrakam had been seen, the man did not think that his enemy would understand why it had come down and then returned to the way high. He thought they had seen; the nrakam had been high enough to be seen for many thousands of steps beyond the horizon, and he had been able to see that the spot that was his enemy had crossed that distant line before the nrakam dived and then climbed again. The enemy had far sight. Some said they could even see beyond the horizon, that they had magic that carried their eyes or their ears or their mouths far, far beyond where they were, so that they could see and speak to each other from great distances, without the talking smoke or the seeing glass. But the enemy were new to the Lands, and did not understand many things, despite their far sight or magic speech. Men could defeat the enemy using stealth and silence and the wisdom of men. The enemy had the roaring thing that could destroy him even so far as this, but he did not have wisdom.

The enemy had come during the Dry Time of the year, after the great hunt that followed the Migration of the grottuki, when all the People and the Others as well laid the sliced flesh out to dry in the glory of the Brothers. It was a time of resting and visiting and great feasting. Many wives were made, and many eggs of the Young Ones were first quickened during this time. The man had been dancing on the beaten earth of the vletch in the center of the Village when an Other had run into the open space and ullulated the warning call that brought all within hearing to the vletch. The runner had spoken of the great smoke five thousand paces away near the entrance of the Valley. The man and the People and the Others had gathered into a great throng which ran, hooting with alarm calls, towards the smoke. They had gathered with wonder and horror at the edge of what had been a village of Others, seeing for the first time the emptiness and, in its center, the pile.

The dark was coming fast, now. While his eyes would still be of use, the man checked once again his weapons laid ready to his hand. His assegai and knife were there. Each blade had been carefully chipped from the finest obsidian by his own hands, and he knew their sharpness and worth. Kra'utam skin would cut like the softest, furriest beelwar using those weapons. His throwing spear and bow he would leave here. Even the assegai was extraneous. It would be close work, knife work, and then only to disable. The kra'utam thongs would finish the job. The man turned the front part of his mind once more to the progress of his enemy. The back part of his mind had noted the slow passage of his enemy to the base of the long slope and had seen the stopping and the signs that the enemy would spend the dark time down below. That meant that the enemy did not know that he was waiting. Far below a spark glimmered and grew to a glow. The enemy had no dark vision and always made lights like little suns where he stayed at night. These lights were small, not the huge, bright lights that the enemy used when he felt danger near. The enemy must think that there were none of the People left in the Valley.

The man thought back then, two days back to when he had returned to the Village from the hunt and found what the enemy had left. Only the bodies, cut and butchered like the meat he had brought back to share. His wives and small ones, the Others, all his people, gutted and dismembered then piled and burned. All the tents and huts gone, all the dried flesh and weapons, all the carrying baskets and nraka robes, everything belonging to the people had gone, leaving only the stinking pile, still smoking and wavering in the heat ripples that rose from the pile. He had smelt the roasting flesh long before he had reached the Village. He had thought that the Other hunters must have killed a nargil or even a grottuk to raise such a wonderful odor of feasting. He had hurried through the Forest with the hunger taste growing in his belly and mouth. He savored the flavor that the odor brought to him, and when he came into the clearing and saw what he had been tasting in the wind, he emptied his stomach again and again until he could vomit no more.

He found the tracks of the enemy right away and he prepared to follow them. There could be no rites for his people. The bodies could not be properly prepared. Only the slow dying of the enemy could feed the spirits of his people, giving them the strength to free themselves from the grip of the Underlords and start their long and hazardous journey to the Star People. The tracks led from the Forest towards the Savannah and the wide Valley that lead through the Mountain and to the great Sea. The enemy had come from the Sea, the people said, and the Valley was the only way to return there. The man knew the Lands for many thousands of steps around the Village, and knew of a way to cut across the foothills of the Mountain to reach this spot overlooking the Valley. He and the Other hunters came this way each year at the time of the great migration on the nargili to the Sea. He had run without meat or drink for a day and a night and had reached this place before sun birth. He had lain in patience while the Sun Brothers made their hunt, and now the dark time had come and delivered the enemy to his hands. With the careful, inexorable movement of a chameleon approaching its prey, the man reached out for his weapons and then began the slow descent of the ridge towards his enemy.

LOG ENTRY XW77783, EARTH DATE JUNE 23, 3079, Flight Lt. Allen Cassady reporting:

The last of the patrols sent into the forest of sector w-3 beyond the mountain belt was found this morning after failing to report as expected. All four members of the patrol were dead and exhibited signs of severe torture. The bodies had been scavenged by the flying creatures that serve as vultures on this world. There was no signs that the beasts, themselves, had taken or eaten any of the flesh. Although the tracks of the attacking beasts had been swept out, the rescue patrol estimated that there must have been at least ten animals in the attacking party to be able to overcome the patrol. No apparent resistance had been made to the attack. None of the guns of the patrol had been fired and all of the rockets were still in their launchers. The patrol had neglected to implement full electronic defenses, apparently in the belief that all beasts in the sector had been neutralized. A group of beasts must have escaped the neutralization and ambushed the party. Commodore Leary has ordered a full neutralization crew of fourteen vehicles back into sector w-3 to complete the cleansing process. Members of the patrol were Ground Sgt. Kenneth Cooper, Technical Sgt. Elyssa Brant, and Ground Pvts. David Harris and Edgar Kochman. Next of kin have been notified and the remains recycled.

Chris' Song

The last time I saw you,
you ran to your Mom and you wouldn't look back
and you asked you stepdad, "Hey, what have you brought me?"
Then you turned to me.
You said," Dad, you know it's gonna be fine.
'Cause I should be back right after my birthday!"

But it's been three long months since I saw you.
Sometimes, we manage to talk on the phone.
I'm keeping it easy so I swallow my questions.
Christopher, when are you coming home?

Me and your mother,
we were together for more than ten years.
Just a few more and we'd have broke twenty.
But I didn't notice,
I couldn't admit that she wanted so much
and I hope she's happy way out in Missouri

But it's been three long months since I saw you.
Sometimes, we manage to talk on the phone.
I'm keeping it easy so I swallow my questions.
Christopher, when are you coming home?

The first time I saw you
I could hold your body in one of my hands.
How did you grow from something so tiny?
And now you are flying,
flying alone through the Midwestern night,
back to your mother, way out in Missouri.

But it's been three long months since I saw you.
Sometimes, we manage to talk on the phone.
I'm keeping it easy so I swallow my questions.
Christopher, when are you coming home?

Since the first time you left me,
almost twenty-five years have passed by and gone,
and the good times and and bad times, we've seen them together.
Now you work in Chicago.
Your life a spark I once held in my hands
And I hope you're happy way out where you're living.

But it's been long, long months since I saw you.
Sometimes, we manage to talk on the phone.
I'm keeping it easy so I swallow my questions.
Christopher, when are you coming home?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To John



swaying in the subway lurch

pressed by strangers

yes strangers to me and to soap alike

we hit the hard turn that always

flings us back across the car

and hear the scream and crash of metal

against metal

lights flicker and go out

the screaming tunnel goes dark and receives us

did you scream john with the screaming car metal

as you flew pierced and flayed through

crashing glass to spatter

out your life my friend a smear a film

on asphalt as thin the smear we leave behind

our lives a film on asphalt

our monument a gleaming carbon film a ghost in coal

we flicker and go out

grandfather said to me

i see the marching lines

masked through the swirl

of gas and we marching through the

swollen corpses mud which

stank and burst the flesh flung up in spurts

i hear the scream and crash of metal

i see the lines of horses dead

i see the lines now still and the yellow eyes of horses

father said to me

that is not the color that a man makes

when his insides are turned out for me to see

i did not make that color when

i heard the scream and crash of metal

when my insides were turned out

that thin film you see is not my war

men fall but will soon get up

no one gets up again

what color did you make john there on your last road

were you taken up a shining film and did you rise again

john did you rise?

John Mulligan was my best man at my wedding and one of my my best friends for a few shining years after 1967, until he died in a car accident. Thinking about his death and death in general and remembering the anger and despair of those final years related to the Vietnam conflict and remembering what my father and grandfather said about their wars awoke my muse.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Day It Rained Frogs
Travels with Charley (Popka

This is NOT Charley. Charley lived and likely
died nearly 5 decades ago. But this specimen looks
exactly like the old fellow.

Part I – We find Char

"David, we need to get ourselves a real snake. A real big one from down in Florida!"

My elder brother eyes were hard with frustration as we glumly freed yet another failed experiment into the forest. He and I were fond of snakes, so fond that we longed to keep at least one as a permanent pet. We shared a bedroom in a great, brick, Georgian style mansion with leaded windows and deep shady sills, perfect for the keeping of cages, bowls and tanks of a variety of creatures. This desire to befriend a member of the race of Adam's bane was not an ambition that recommended itself to my parents, however, so it was clear from the first that we would only be able fulfill our herpetological ambitions through our own efforts. Not for us the fancy boas of the pet store. We would have to find our own snakes. Living as we did on Long Island, in the relatively cold North of the country, we seldom saw the supple and sinuous o
bjects of our yearning. Odiferous and small Diadophis punctatus (ring-neck snake) and the common and therefore uninteresting Thamnophis sirtali (garter snake) were the usual occupants of our tanks.

"Something really really special!" I replied.

Occasionally we would find enmeshed in the cobwebs that festooned the corners of our dark and cavernous cellar a newly hatched, beautifully patterned Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum
(Eastern milk snake), which, eagerly freed of the clinging silk, would brighten our windowsill terrarium for a few weeks until set loose with great regret into the forest that surrounded our hilltop house. Although gorgeous and certainly filling the definition as "Special!" the milk snake is notoriously hard to keep in captivity and the other species seemed equally picky. We would lose confidence in the face of the little fellows' refusal to eat the hamburger and meal worms we proffered, impaled on the end of a toothpick, and so we would free them after a week or two to pursue their destinies in the wild.

"AND- something that's easier to feed than these darned milk snakes!" he growled, watching the little fellow slip rapidly into the leaf litter, "and you tell me how
we aregoing to sneak it home!"

At that time we spent our spring vacation in a relatively wild part of central Florida, a far more snakely site for the capture of our wriggly pet. Our family compound was a grassy oasis surrounded by pine jungle, swamps and the deep, water-filled pits of abandoned phosphate mines let return to jungle over the preceding 50 years. A more delightful place for the breeding of snakes would be hard to find, and they burgeoned. They bloomed and blossomed and were fruitful and ubiquitous. Scarcely a day went past during our times there when the cry of "SNAKE!" was not heard from one of the hordes of relatives and retainers there, as a snake of one species or another would be seen, sunning in the dusty, limey roads, slipping through the branches of the shrubbery, or gliding in and out of the surrounding woods and the canebrakes that were scattered about. Black and glossy racers, thick, evil-eyed rattlers, gorgeous and deadly coral snakes and their equally gaudy but harmless impersonators, the scarlet king snake, cousin to our saved babies were just a few of the many snake species we had seen. None of these were quite the snake we were looking for, either because of the obvious danger involved or because the creature was too fast to capture. No, we needed a new snake, one of sufficient size to impress our friends and our own sense of conquest, sufficient torpidity to be easily captured, and one of easy and undiscriminating habit of dining and a philosophy of life which would allow it to survive the long train ride North and to prosper on our windowsill for the pursuant year.

Early one burning April afternoon, as the Spanish moss hung limp in the windless heat and the dust on the road past our home lay as think and powdery as talc, my brother and I sat in the porch shade and gazed across the lawn, thinking of the cool water of the Pit (one of the aforementioned mining pits, one end of which was kept clear of weed for swimming) a
nd wondering if the sweat we would lose on the three mile walk there and back was worth the temporary relief of a swim. As we pondered and debated in the desultory fashion only possible in great heat with an adequate supply of fresh lemonade, I noticed a slow, rippling movement in the grass at the base of a line of oleander.

"Look there!" I hissed. "What do you think?"

A snake for certain, but what kind? We hastened across the lawn, slowing nervously as we approached the creature. It was a dingy brown-on-grey/brown chevron pattern, about 18 inches long, and chubby. As it became aware of us, it began a most impressive and disturbing display, coiling and writhing, flattening its head and neck like a cobra, rising into strike position, all the while emitting a loud, harsh, guttural hiss that seemed far too large for it. This was disturbing enough,
yet we stayed, watching, fascinated by the activity, keeping out of reach but not so far that the snake did not know we were there. At length, the snake seemed to think it had done its part but that we, somehow, had not. As a finale, in a perfect parody of the stand-up's “Hey, yah killin' me up here,” it rolled onto its back, stuck out its tongue, let its mouth hang limply open and, apparently, died. This should have disturbed us no end, at least filled us with tremendous guilt at having frightened the poor beast into an early and entirely unmerited demise. We were ready, however and, though the performance was entirely new to us, it was not unexpected. For we had seen the ridiculous but endearing upturned schnozz of the fellow and had early realized that what we had was a perfect specimen of Heterodon platyrhinos, the Eastern hognose snake. Playing dead for all it was worth. And once it decided to die on us, we had it. For even if you turn a hognose back on its belly, it will just roll over again and try to wait you out. It was only the work of a moment to pick the creature up, pack it into a box and take it home.

A Western hognose in the genus's characteristic pose.

Once we had it secreted under the bed (for this was to be a smuggling job all the way back to Long Island), the problem of naming it arose. My brother, who is 18 months older than I and so the leader in many of our early adventures, said promptly “Sally Popka!” This was in honor of nearby Lake Tsala Apopka. He had obviously been thinking about this for awhile.

"But what if it's a boy?" I demanded.

This proved a bit of a sticking point, so out came our field guide. My brother determined that it was a male, based on the shape of the tail. In 1960, no boy would name a male pet "Sally," so we were stumped for some time. After much thought and discussion, the name, “Charley Popka,” was unanimously approved.

Charley seemed to accept his captivity with phlegmatic philosophy. We kept his box hidden in a suit case under the bed until it was time to return to the North. We got him to the train station and onto the Silver Meteor (the overnight train between Florida and New York) secreted in his box in the bottom of a paper back purportedly filled with the comic books we carried for on-board entertainment. Once in our roomette, we immediately gave him a bath
in the sink in the fold-down sink. We then stashed his box, a clear plastic container with air holes bored in with a steak knife, in a small closet cabinet in the roomette, which kept him hidden safely from our parents, but not from the kindly old black porter, who found Charley when he went to make up the bed. Fortunately, we were in the corridor waiting and, alerted to the crisis by the shriek that rose shrill and (we thought) excessively loud, like the whistle that sends the miners home from their day in the hole, we were able to intercept him before he got took off down the corridor. We were, however, forced to pay over every cent of our snack allowances as an ameliorating to keep him mum and to convince him to return to our room, despite the fact that we were able to demonstrate Charley's harmless and even friendly disposition. He utterly refused to handle the snake as proof, though I think the experience would have gone far in curing his Ophidiophobia.

"Suh," he said with immense dignity,"You will have to take that critter out of my sight before I go back into that room!"

We agreed to his demands, although that meant smuggling Charley temporarily into my cousin's roomette and back again, greatly increasing the danger of parental discovery.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Resquiat in pace, and thanks for the music in me, BUT - Why all the fuss?

The death of Michael Jackson this past week has reminded me of all the rock musicians who have passed in my memory. This is not a comprehensive list, of course. 50 years is a long time span, and there were hundreds of performers during that period, so it's not surprising that so many have died. It just seems that every few years I would hear of another favorite performer kicking. Until I was 17, noone in my family had died, so it was really the stars going out that brought mortality close to my thoughts. There also always seemed to be a personal connection I felt to many of these people, either because I watched them perform live at some significant point in my life or theirs, or simply because their music was my soundtrack. I remember the "Day the Music Died." I was in the back seat of my mother's Ford, driving into Manhasset, NY on Plandome Road when the radio announcer came on to tell of the death of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Richie Valens in the same crash. That was a hard blow because "Chantilly Lace," "Peggy Sue," "That'll be the Day" and "La Bamba" were my four favorite songs. I was standing on Beacon Street in Brookline, MA when I heard of Jimmy Hendrix's death, and sitting in the living room of my father's house in Oyster Bay, NY when I learned of the suicide of Phil Ochs. There isn't much I can say about the subject without sounding vacuous and sophomoric. Like film stars, rock stars seem in some ways to exist in their own time when they first came into our consciousness, and each intrusion of the older reality into the present is almost more of a shock than hearing of their death, somehow.

And why does this seem significant? After all, in the 50 years since Holly fell from the sky, both literally and figuratively, somewhere between 3 1/2 and 5 billion people have died: great statespersons, doctors, beloved religious figures, artists of many kinds, mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers by the cattle carload. What in the world makes these 39 people and their ilk so damned special? I can only surmise that these were the people that I knew or knew of who died between the time I became aware and my 18th year, when my grandmother died. Noone I knew or was related to died during this period, went to Viet Nam, has any major dieases, so the idea of the termination of another human being simply did not seem real to me as a boy. We did not live in a neighborhood and so didn't even have the peripheral experience of close neighbors' tragedies. A sheltered life? Absolutely! Sheltered and incredibly lucky.

The death of an artist can even be considered less of a loss to the human race than that of someone wholly obscure. The artist, after all, has left a body of work that has at least the potential of living after him or her. All I have to do to experience the music of Buddy Holly, much in the way that I originally experienced it, is to put on one of those old 45s and there he is again. Most of the billions who have died since then have melted into the pool of past lives with barely a trace, perhaps some regret and grieving from a few souls who knew the dead person, but then nothing, just silence. The whole sum of that person's existence adds as little to that of humanity in general as the hypothetical Asian butterfy's wingbeats affect the hurricane in the Caribbean. I have never understood the need for who knows that keep the fans of these people sobbing obssessively through the decades, long after even the family has ceased to mourn. What image of glory or fantasized love or psuedo-religious fervor keeps the grief for the artist alive and fervent for so many years?

Stars that I do miss, but not so much that I lose much sleep over them.
In the order of their disappearance

Buddy Holly J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper) Ritchie Valens Brian Jones
Janis Joplin
Jimmy Hendrix Jim Morrison Duane Allman Bobby Darin Jim Croce
Graham Parsons Cass Elliot Phil Ochs Elvis Presley Sandy Denny Keith Moon
Sid Vicious
Tim Hardin John Lennon Bill Haley Bob Marley Harry Chapin
Felix Pappalardi Dennis Wilson Marvin Gaye Jackie Wilson Ricky Nelson
Del Shannon Freddie Mercury Frank Zappa Kurt Cobain Harry Nilsson Laura Nyro Carl Wilson John Phillips George Harrison Joey Ramone Dave Van Ronk
Michael Jackson

Small Boats

I wrote this poem for my wife after a stormy kayak paddle off the rocky coast of Gloucester, MA, last fall. The shape of the poem represents the repeating but not identical movement of the swell as it passes under us.

(to Tammy)

We sit in small boats,

slim and slip-stream shapes, we

rise and fall, at rest at last while
the great, grey seas rush past, surging on, urged
by the anxious rain to
throw themselves in ecstasy or pain upon
grey granite. Its journey from the
eastern ocean done, each dies at last and
with its dying motion will crash against
the granite land, breaking off
one particle of sand.

We sit in small boats,
paddles poised then dipping
down we sit silent in the endless dance.
Before us lies receding the vast, hard land, grey
with rain, a broken coast of rock and sand.
Faint against the shout of dying waves,
thin through the fretful, scratching rain we hear
the people scurry out, heads bowed into the eastern
storm. Each rushes from his nest to find
another just as warm.

We sit in small boats,
pushed eastwards out beyond
the edge of rock and sand by dying waves,
reflecting seawards from the land like the pressure from
a giant hand. Though cold seas and eastern storm
thrust us towards another shore, we do not seek today
the edge from which some day we'll turn no more as now
we turn, bows slicing through the lace of dead wave
foam and racing ride the front of
anxious rain towards home.