Memorial Day 2020

fastidious time
dithers rearranges
infinite memory
categorizing here
classifying there
shaping reshaping
desire away
leaving illusions
war-torn dead
recursive loss
always adrift
carving anew
alluvial channels
accumulated guck
journey’s exhaustion
fractal’s quest
disjointed detritus
aimlessly scattered

Inside Down

A tower of babble (lies) is reported as pissing off whatever might be meant by an inarticulate G*D, huffing and puffing its unknown name to blow the tower down.

How else can a heaven-high structure come tumbling down so precipitously? It must require a universally huge power to tip such an immovable object into a cascade only imageable by reversing a turntable.

Such imagery is more comforting, and thus accessible than noting such empiric falls are the result of internal crumbling propped up past its time. In a seeming moment’s moment, it all comes crashing down. How much easier it is to have a single, outside source to blame than the many falsities to which daily life demands accommodation.

Mammon (Capital) is still not supreme enough not to be brought down by such a teensy bit of nothing as a virus. It does not take an overwhelming metaphysics to explain Babel’s fall. The inequities built into building an ever-narrowing tower for the final 0.01% to be carried to the top will never be deniable. Unkindness of every sort accumulates to the point of breaking its dam in either a slow crumble or a fast sulfur-flamed storm. In either instance, proud leaders of divine-right are scattered, for a season.

What gets built at such a time of falling apart will have its own limit as it reacts to what went before it and, yet, it is the only game available. Learn and build or just build. This choice is always present. Just now, it is easier to see, if not to make.


how is this day
different from
all other days

to respond requires
a vantage point
which obscures
all ways
but its own

the very difference
in question
is soon relegated

subject becomes
one difference
in every sphere

past limits
limits present

difference is allowed
when past justified
never as limit-pusher
on its own

bumping into
today’s limit
blessing grand

loosening tomorrow’s fate
has little effect
on today’s circumstance
but revisions
yesterday’s grasp

ouroboros still lives
a past devouring future
directly joined

Word-proof Ears

While reading Maria Popovich’s Figuring (p. 214), I was struck by a phrase in her description of Florence Nightingale’s work of noting, recording, and advocating for hygiene in hospitals. Her insight based on accumulated evidence of outcomes carefully recorded was falling on ears clogged with the commonsense of, “We’ve always done it this way!”

Finally, she presented her work graphically, as all good statisticians should be ready to do if they want to bypass “word-proof ears”. It turned out that eyes could hear what ears couldn’t. Washing hands is important. Avoiding contagion has value.

In today’s political partisanship that lives and dies by echo-chambers word-proofing each flag-waving side from the other, the banalest utterance will be wrapped in danger-music and disorienting-graphics. What once had no meaning becomes infested and invested with bone-deep dread. The simplest word gets caught in a web of magical proofs of each conjectural conspiracy. Finally, there is nothing left than Crusade. Guns worn to threaten, carry out their task of obliteration—in no time, clip after clip is emptied and empties body after body.

Still, ears are word-proofed, eyes blinded. What is left now is a Franciscan embrace of a leper. Beyond sight and sound is soul mourning for soul. We weep for and on behalf of those who refuse uncertainty and mash all else into their shape, not as their peer but their slave.

Given our Sodomite inhospitality to neighbors and strangers, even a soul-kiss cannot guarantee reciprocity.

What next, after sound and sight and soul come to fail?

Here we are. Nonetheless—may you dream strong, smile gentle, and so go well.

Plaintive Challenge

for every plaintive cry
bring them back
all back

from every distant shore
beyond each horizon
far beyond

falls each dear one
in their time
now not

form does not hold
nor any purpose
under heaven

finality all too final
rests heart-weary
fear realized

fate and also fortune
abide even so
implacable persistence

thunderstorm ozone still comes
amid floods ruin
little enough

a whiff of bright
flashes through memory
before before

joints immobilized creak open
breath draws deeper
eyes dry

minus hope’s tenuous thread
emptiness turns appetite
life’s surprise

Einstein’s elevator door opens
beyond horizon’s threshold
another floor

another time and space
crooking a finger
come yes

no grand promise here
gravity still holds
next steps

only one more challenge
bring it on
& on


An author friend, Evie Yoder Miller, has a new book out that may interest readers here. What follows is my review for Good Reads.

From five Mennonite, Amish, or German Baptist settings during the American Civil War, Miller’s book, Shadows, raises questions of how to live one’s scruples in yet another time of challenge. There are foreshadowings of today’s American Cold Civil War while staying true to its time.

The current context was on the author’s mind from the dedication, “to all who seek freedom for self and others, refusing the power trappings of weapons and words that kill, of labels that divide and discriminate” to the closing sentence of this trilogy’s Book 1, “A letter that left us straining for certainty.” We will see if more certainly is available as the war grows closer and more deadly. Yet the story stands on its own without a reader making such connections.

Whether from a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where the Union and Confederate soldiers ebb and flow around and through, a booming business in Chicago, Illinois, or an Iowa frontier, each of the well-drawn figures wrestles with conscience, received tradition, and current national conflict.

I found myself most drawn to J. Fretz Funk and expect others would find more in common with one of the other four narrators. The voices and situations of the characters ring clear. The questions they face are persistent, their responses, all too familiar.

Sometimes immediate choices need to be made, while some have the luxury of letting life slowly percolate. In either case, meaning is continually sought within whatever options are open at the moment.

I look forward to Books 2 and 3 and further journeys with Esther, Jacob, Fretz, David, and Betsey. I fully expect their lives will continue to be helpful in the uncertainties of this day.

Shadows, Book 1 of a trilogy, “Scruples on the Line,” a fictional series set during the Civil War, is available from your independent bookstore (choice 1), the publisher (choice 2), or peddlers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Evie’s website will give more clues about this book and others she has written.

Stained Entitlement

I like to write with a fountain pen. Today’s mail brought a bottle of Monteverde Black Documental ink. My usual writing is done with a Conway Stewart Nelson II with a custom ground nib to a Japanese Fine, filled with a waterproof ink. The current ink is De Atramentis Archive ink.

In checking the pen’s ink supply, I found that the cartridge converter had leaked. I am now sitting with thoroughly ink-stained fingers. The backup pen in my pocket is a gold-nibbed Platinum PTL-5000A, filled with Sailor Yama-Dori ink.

These are two very different pens in girth, weight, and material. I like and can recommend both. The Conway-Stewart is a loan/gift I would never have approached because of its price. The Platinum is the least expensive gold-nibbed pen available.

There has been enough productive time today (reading the latest issue of the Fourth R magazine published by Westar, mowing the lawn, finishing Chapter 4 of an editing/publishing task for a friend, and taking my DIY conversion of a CPAP mask to an anti-virus mask for its first outing) that this latest shift in what I felt I was entitled to (clean fingers) was manageable.

Some days my generalized sense of entitlement (what I have dubbed the universal expression of each and all of the seven deadly sins) is not so well-bolstered and leaps into whatever false fray that presents itself.

When I consider the pull of personal entitlement (always present, just like my EA [Entitled Anonymous] sponsor said it would be), I begin to take a longer view of cultural, political, and economic change. These seemingly intractable entitlements are exponentially larger than my personal entitlement. Change is slow since there is no civic education or support to clarify what is needed for a public even to take a first step. Without being able to admit a lack of control over an idolatry of freedom and independence, they imprison others until, finally, they imprison themselves.

In a bit, I’ll go in and wash a tiny bit of ink off and have a noticeable reminder for these next days that happenings do occur. In such days it is good to have a reservoir of apophatic mysticism that can see me through to a next time when all shall be well. Until then, I’ll enjoy the chocolate-infused cranberry wine I brought out to encourage today’s musings and was forgotten during the Episode of the Leaking Pen.

PS — For those following this blog, yesterday’s posting was spell-check-bombed when “past stuckness” came out “past stickiness.”


so swift
a flow of sweetness
fills a heart
to mind

surprised enough
to never ask
why or wherefore
we ride
its current

around markers
of past stuckness
more surely
than gravity

a community-long
bunny-hopping line
speeding toward
a jump

sophisticated lemmings
fully justified
place eggs
in baskets


“How many ears does it take before one man knows that too many people have died?” ~ Diminished Dylan

“If there were one, it would be cause to wonder and weep, but they are numbered into many thousands, and for each one, I cannot sleep!” Mutated Malvina

Gentle songs of protest from earlier in life, rise to shake themselves off in the present. Such individual musings found lodgment in receptive hearts open enough to be organized into effective (non)violent acts for change. That was back in a non-quarantined populace and non-surveilled state.

Today we are on the cusp of the most organized being armed militia groups arranged as powder kegs ready to be set off in a twittered moment. They are prepared to make whole communities dead for the sake of individual liberty. Gone is all tension but immediate desire.

We used to sing, “It only takes a spark to get G*D’s love growing all around” (well, almost). Such optimistic language in a dire situation misses the needed analysis and commitment required for change. Such cloying sweetness does more to clog ears than open them.

Cloistering, whether for personal health or cultural unity, divides us from a long, slow slog through deeper conversation and massed action that clarifies what needs leaving behind and the facing of imperative risks to move further along.

Wondering about ears and weeping over the disconnect between hearing and heart are signs of a transitional disjuncture that is generations long. They begin within a specific context but take time to be nurtured into a generalized presence within every setting.

At best, some other side of this or a next pandemic that breaks the power of acculturated powerlessness will catalyze enough weeping, sufficient tears, to wash away hyper-individualized uncaring.


What details of a person’s life are helpful for a biographer? How much of a biographer appears in their presentation of another person? On what basis might there be no difference between an autobiography and a biography, and how might they be discrete categories?

If responses to such questions are helpful in terms of reporting on a life, there will be additional questions of whose life is worth the time and energy to detail. It’s not long before we come up against cultural biases.

The same questions and issues can be raised about theological constructs or biographies of G*D. What details about G*D are available, and can they be separated from cultural norms projecting themselves universally?

One way to come at this is through the lens of memorializing a person upon the occasion of their death. Does that take place at the level of The New York Times, a local news organ, a funeral service, or never, in the case of a drifter.

Another way might be through a particular time-frame, which gives opportunity for a completely different presentation of their life because their next responses cannot be predicted based on who they have been or a value next assigned by their context.

If creation is G*D’s autobiography, is there more that can be added by any biographer? Does this image assist us in partnering with an aspect of G*D not recognized before it just appeared (like the mutations of DNA in Corona-19 that currently has at least three known variants)?

Writing about anything living (bio-) presence is both cautioned and necessary.