Friday, June 27, 2008



Time bloats like water

Something inside.

Turning with days

Awakened by moon

The unavoidable tide.

Small spongy cork

Swelling to block

the only escape.

Plugging the hole

Against pounding wave.

The groaning vessel,

Screaming surf and

Bursting dam

Here I am.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Plastic Veteran (point of view, fictional essay)

Uncle Sam said I had fulfilled my duty and could finally come home from the Middle East. I had read my wife’s letters religiously like the Bible and the pictures of my child, who was a baby when I left, became the images upon which I built my fantasies of home. It was somewhat anticlimactic to come off the plane to no cheering. I walked through the airport, got my bag and exited through the glass doors out to the curb. I remember the old days when you said your goodbyes and hellos at the gate, the actual place of departure. I realize there is a vague connection between the war I had been asked to fight in and this new rule. But, it was just a duck and cover routine like in the 1950s when we feared bombing, just a formality. Because… weren’t the terrorists ticketed passengers?
Anyhow on the curb I was hugged and mobbed and flashed at by cameras. Like an out of body experience I saw myself embrace my wife and start to sob into her shoulder but, I don’t know what I felt exactly.
The car neared our house and I saw the lawn fluttering with at least fifty American flags. My wife told me the Boy Scouts had come and staked those in that morning. There was a fat yellow ribbon tied around our spindly tree and a Welcome Back banner over the door. I guessed that meant me. Apparently my wife had planned an open house for the neighborhood to welcome me home. My family, friends and vague acquaintances came and went, smiling and congratulating me. Just glad to be home I think, I mechanically smiled and nodded, wanting to be alone with my wife and the darling little stranger who attached herself to my leg. She squeezed tight and kept repeating “Daddy” over and over again.
Finally everyone was gone. I gave a big sigh and turned to my wife with a grin and scooped up my daughter when the doorbell rang. So my wife opened the door to a family I knew I had never seen before.
“Sorry we are late- we won’t stay. We just heard about you and wanted to say welcome back. We moved here while you were gone.” The man with the goatee smiled enthusiastically and his wife did too.
Two little boys stood uncertainly between them and glanced up. The older one who was 6 or 7 was wearing camouflage pants and a plastic dog tag. He held out a piece of paper to me and a big chocolate bar.
“Thank you.” I said for the millionth time that day.
“Thanks to you for going out there for all of us” the wife said.
“Too bad he isn’t in uniform” my wife said to the boy.
“Oh- he would have liked that- as you can probably tell” the dad said.
When they had gone I looked at the paper. Scrawled in crayon it said “You’re my hero.” And there was the drawing of a soldier in uniform saluting the American flag. On the bottom it said “Freedom”. Also there was a small plastic army man taped to one side who had an impressive and unidentifiable piece of artillery resting on his shoulder. Hero. Me?
My uniform hung in the closet, clean and unwrinkled. It was hard to imagine what it had looked like days earlier. The folks at home would never see it with rings of sweat and dirt and blood on it. This war is complicated. It isn’t clear cut like the true fight for freedom that the American Revolution was. In that war everyone knew the cause. The colonies wanted freedom from the King and the right to govern themselves. Even the opposition knew that was what the fight was about. I wish it was that easy now because it would be more satisfying to serve and sacrifice if I knew all the reasons why, wouldn't it? Maybe there were no real reasons...what if I was a toy in some game?
Being home, not a lot has changed. America seems the same- so far removed from her all important struggle across the sea. I guess I am back to normal too....can't be sure if it ever even happened sometimes. Just about the only place that isn’t normal is the airport which still makes no sense to me.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Little Jack on the move

An outing with Jack... he had so much fun. He has come so far. I was fascinated by other people's reactions to him. Some smiled, some stared and some ignored in awkward embarrassment. To me it was a delight to see him feeling so free and grown up- so proud of himself!
What would you think if you saw a tiny child whizzing past you in a walker? How could you not burst into a smile? Go, Jack, go!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Devotion... (fictional essay)

I used to wonder what it would feel like to be devoted to somebody or something. You know, the kind of devotion like that man in Sri Lanka had, that loved God so much that he pulled all his guts out and held them in a bowl for 24 hours to prove his devotion, then he put them all back in and lived- it’s true, I read about it in Guinness. What would I ever be willing to bare my guts for?

It turns out that there wasn’t anything noble about me most of my life. I took and gave when it profited me and “self preserved” myself into a lonely walled- in space that nobody was willing to live in with me for long. It probably began with my Father. I won’t bore you with a cliché’ description of growing up in a “home” with a drunkard for a parent, but I will give him the credit of saying he at least had something he lived for and he loved it until it killed him when I was in my early twenties. Not me- I was OK without much, maybe afraid of wanting anything because I had to be in control.

I was in my early thirties when I learned what it was to be devoted. I was a casual church goer but, I could take it or leave it. It had some benefits for me that had nothing to do with God. Single and working I slipped in and out of unsatisfying relationships that I felt I didn’t need. That is when the bomb dropped, an exchange student from elsewhere starting coming to my church. She was pretty and for all selfish reasons I pursued her- you see my roommate was interested in her as well. We began spending a lot of time together and as lame as it sounds she was different than other girls. For one thing she had devotion spilling out of her like honey, to her art, her family, her health, and for God. You know she actually went to church to worship.

I may have pinpointed when I crossed over from liking her to feeling devoted to her. Our relationship hadn’t even blossomed into romance. We were out shopping in the city and she was buying all sorts of stuff for her family back home. A drunken bum on the corner asked her for money, I grabbed her arm to steer her out of his path and she stopped. She gave him the rest of her shopping money and it cut our outing short. She didn’t seem to care that he was disgusting and didn’t deserve it.

“You know he’ll only buy booze with that or blow it on a hooker” I snorted.

She smiled and looked at me for a minute.

“You know I’m sure the devil said that to Christ after he finished bailing us out, too” she said with her slight southern drawl.

I guess at that moment I knew two things: that she was devoted unconditionally to an ideal and that I wanted to see her everyday. Was it still selfish? Maybe it was- maybe I thought she would rub off on me and I would find a lot of purpose in my life but the lesson didn’t end there.

We continued to hang out as friends- maybe more didn’t happen because she wasn’t looking for a guy like me. But, I was feeling all the symptoms of devoted love. I wanted to be with her, do things for her, I was sad when she was and happy when she was. I even felt excited about church- to see her, but also at the inkling that there might be a higher purpose to it that involved giving instead of receiving.

One night I felt it was time to unburden my heart to her. My roommate said I was whipped and for the first time in my life it was true. I walked through the night air to her apartment bursting with love. When she opened the door I took her into my arms at last and kissed her. It was a moment of worship; a ray of light seemed to bathe us in a holy glow. When I stood back and gazed into her eyes and told her I loved her she smiled sweetly, like she had that day at the drunken bum. That’s when the holy ray of light turned back into her porch light. I stood there with my bowl of guts and she basically told me to give it to God and she meant it. I wish someone had mentioned to me before that she was planning to save souls, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked as a missionary.

A few weeks later I experienced the final step in my education on devotion. I heard through the grapevine that she was invited to Tanzania to aid the people of Didia. She was going to have to turn it down because she had run out of money. I am sure it was because she couldn’t keep from handing it out like pamphlets for Jesus. I wrote a check and had it anonymously deposited into her account. You see, I found out that devotion is unselfish. My self preservation gave way to my love for her. I knew my money would send her away from me forever- would make her untouchable my whole life. But, I knew it was what she wanted most and I’d sacrifice anything to do right by her. One definition for devotion in the dictionary says “the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal (as to an idea or person)” and I suppose it was the first time I ever knew what that meant.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lady Bug Hill

Lady Bug Hill

I was an elf in the field nearby,

I tunneled through grass and mustard

Flowers as tall as my dad.

My kingdom had hills and a pond

Full of tiny frogs

And the bigger kids were brave warriors,

Kings of Lady Bug Hill on quests.

Collecting flowers and bugs,

Sword fighting with sticks like curved bone,

Shouting with triumph.

Like Rome my happy place is gone now,

The field housed magical secrets,

Children’s summer adventures.

Housing like headstones mark where fun

And make believe lived.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Sometimes they are just good friends. Sometimes they are relatives. In this case here are two of my favorite girlfriends- my little sister and my little cousin. Talk about love!