Category Archives: The American Alphabet

Space Mining

There is talk of space mining
the parsing of asteroids
and the drilling through of rocks

(as they float to some gentle tune
amongst a sky not at all a sky
speckled mostly black
but a piece of space as far as the eye can see
caught in the cinema of its memory
of you and me).

For a moment more than most
I see the past and the future
and the many films
that show ourselves mostly lost
and involve the metaphor of mining
in some low-gravity world
which harbors bad things

(the virus of resentment
and of lonely men undone).

Even as I consider this
and want to shout silently
that’s far enough Goddammit
I also know I’m calling out against
the ceiling of my own space

(nothing more).



Three Blind Mice

The mice they come in many forms
There are always three of them
In poison clouds or dreams long held
Or sometimes just in men.

The mice themselves hold no sway
They are only here to run
To carry out their Master’s deeds
And turn the rising sun.

For if he says that east is west
And night is middle day
It is not their place to question
The lies he has to say .

For if they did they would not be mice
Upon this we must agree
And for what it’s worth and truth be told
The mice are you and me.

The mice they come in many forms
But there are always three of them
Blindness, hope and hatred
And never if but when.

George Plympton

I saw George Plympton
on 5th Avenue
and he was tall and old
and quite unlike the self of himself
I had wanted him to have.

The thing you noticed most
was all the smiling
and how fake it was
how tiring it must have been
to be him, stood in front of a stall
at the outdoor bookfair
with no one else vaguely famous in sight.

The strange thing
is how I found myself resenting him
when, after all, his collected essays
have sat above the toilet in our bathroom
for a long time now.
A place of much respect.

I think we can lose interest
in the dream of people
when their presence
proves themselves only real.



That which is of the now, or, power that flows (including money)

People who are hungry and have enough money in their pocket to buy one sandwich and no other money look forward to that sandwich. They value and are scared of it to some degree, for what happens when the money and then the sandwich are gone? But still, overall and right now, they are pleased it’s there (sandwich and money both).

Ben Bradlee lived a good life. It says so on the spine of the book here just out of my reach on the bookshelf. It’s a very large bookshelf. It runs across a whole wall of the parlor. Maybe 500 books, not a precise count, but that won’t be far off. There are a number of bookcases in this house. Some smaller, others bigger, but all full up. Most of these volumes I can put a memory to. Not of the books themselves (although that as well) but of when they were bought or where or why, by whom. I imagine most people can do that.

Ben Bradlee’s book was borrowed and never returned from my mother-in-law. She lived in New Hampshire when I borrowed it from her. For a while when she got sick again she came to live with us, here in this house in Maine. She spent about six months with us, living in an apartment in the barn. Perhaps that book was then in a way no longer borrowed as she was living under the same roof. But then she left and moved to Austin, Texas to live with my wife’s sister, her younger daughter. At that moment, from a moral or legal standpoint, the book was borrowed again. But then after a while we also left Maine behind and bought another house in Austin and then my mother in law died. This happened in the summer that we had come back north for a few weeks and so the book became ours. Technically it’s my wife’s and I’m sure if I bought a legal challenge for specific custody of it I wouldn’t likely win, unless it was part or fell under some wider agreement as regards all the books we own. But still if, for example, my wife and I stay together and she dies before I do then it will be something I could then leave in my own will to anyone I wanted.

When Benjamin Crowninshield “Ben” Bradlee, who was born on August 26, 1921, chose his title he must have been somewhere in his early seventies, as the book was published in October of 1995. He lived for a good amount more afterwards, dying 19 years later on October 21, 2014 at 93.

Externally and compared to most of us he had a full life, which is probably one of the markers of it being good. There is something a little smug it seems to me about self-describing your existence as good, but my feelings about this might be cultural. The English feel the Americans are too full of themselves as it is. Brash, which -to one side- is one of my favorite words. Not for its associated meaning, but just the sound and stubby shape which never ends because of the ‘sh’ at the end.

As a child I had a minor speech impediment involving the letter ‘S’ and am perhaps more sensitive to the areas of its deployment than the average person.

Although it was a separate event and happened a few years later, I was also sent to elocution lessons to tidy up my accent which at eleven was thought by my parents (mother, probably) to be too rough or working class. And although class is and was then a central part of the English fabric, I think this experience led me to being highly attuned to the differences, perceived and otherwise, between people and who was good and who was less good.

With regard to Bradlee, and while his life as written about was certainly full of color and famous people he had opinions about, I would find it far more interesting now to read 426 pages about everything that happened to him after he first put his pen down. The last segment. Of course, in a wholly secular way what I would like to read is his unfiltered Afterword. What he made of it all when it was all done. Impossible task and why the obituarists get to do their pale work.

Robards played Bradlee in the movie, but died sooner. I like Robards, but have no idea why, having never met the man. I like Bradlee despite the same shortcoming, although I did see Bradlee interviewed a number of times, so at least can guess at the character he was while playing himself not another.

Getting to the point (or at least outlining an idea or basis to give you something to hang on to or project from), it has always seemed odd or difficult or unfortunate that humans must feel deeply to learn or gain experience and then have enough time for reflection to understand certain things and even then that a large number of the most important things we learn come too late to use ourselves. But we are incapable of helping others. Not because of any unwillingingness on our part, but because of some trait that runs in almost every person; an inability to be told.

One plus one equals one and sometimes a very tiny bit.






Pro Bono

Someone writes
(not an anyone, a someone)

soliciting suggestions as regards
a possible newsletter title

updating the United Nations community
about efforts to ban the death penalty.

So many words
are inappropriate.

There are so many ways
to kill a man (legally and otherwise).

To do with electricity.
To do with taut ropes.

The bulletin and its sad report.

Word of Mouth

The man who cannot speak our language
is a handicapped stumbling fool
not differently challenged
or gently beset by special needs
but a retarded moron of a village idiot
slow and stubborn and stupid to boot
not in any way up to par.

Worst of all for him should he knows a few words;
Cat and dog and please mister thank you
for then we measure his internal thinking
at the level of his limited output.

Better perhaps to be the sullen stranger
who says nothing but is no doubt
(in his utterly foreign head)
plotting against us
and our wives.

-Cortijo Los Lobos, Andalucia

Rain and fire

After many days of sun
here comes its equal opportunity brother
the New England rain

just cold enough
even on these last days of June
to cause consideration of the wood stove

not only as an object of mechanical beauty
but also for its immediate capability
to warm flesh and memory both.

We lived here in the East
before then moving to the West
for reasons of broken hearts

and alcoholism
the requirements of a fresh start
and a change in all the weather.

And it was effective mostly
for it’s a dry heat they have there in Texas
despite the many bars.

But while we are alive again now
we are partially also gone soft.
in ways I wouldn’t alter

Perhaps these are connected states
just as Maine and Austin
will also now for always be.

The bloodstream
filtered only by coffee
is thin and clear these mornings

as I sweep the ashes out
and see the wood of our days
so thankfully rekindled.