The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Posts from — October 2008


Like wooden decoys
The resting mallards bob and weave
With each breath of wind.

October 31, 2008   Comments Off on 111


Dawn slowly opens
Like a gentle rose floating
On a quiet sea.

October 31, 2008   Comments Off on 110


Dawn comes creeping from
Darkest night, casting its pale
Shadow on the moon.

October 30, 2008   Comments Off on 109

When Faith Trumps Reason

Yesterday, after dropping off the homeless man at Lake and Emerson (see yesterday’s post), I went to a popular local supermarket to buy some cold cuts at the deli. I clowned around with the two women who worked there, getting more than my share of laughs (and far too many cuts of pastrami) with my shtick. Remembering the advice of the homeless man, I left them with my remembrances of what the store had been like in its heyday, when even cashiers were paid enough to afford a home on the lake. Both said they were long-term employees and knew what I meant. I then said that transferring wealth to the rich had long been a policy of the Republicans. They agreed with this as well. But when I said this was one of the reasons I was voting for Obama, they strongly disagreed. I was so flummoxed I couldn’t respond. These two knew firsthand what it was like to go from a living wage to barely making it, and knew that McCain would make it worse for them personally, but they were still going to vote for him. And these were really nice women–funny and articulate. The whole thing reminded me of dead spots in the ocean where nothing will grow, how pollution takes hold and spreads and eventually kills the hearts of those who harbor it. When faith trumps reason, no dialogue is possible.

October 29, 2008   Comments Off on When Faith Trumps Reason

Too Crazy and Strong To Die

I found him sitting at the side of the road near Cedar Lake
Begging for a ride to Lake Street and Emerson.
He was fishing and someone had stolen his bicycle, he said
Though he seemed derelict to me.
I said I’d pick him up when I got my car,
And found him waiting when I returned,
Smiling and waving gaily.
Although he had graduated in tenth grade from West High,
And described being a paramedic, and
Working at Lakeview Cemetery four times,
I had to buckle his seat belt for him.
“Nice car,” he said.
In his hand was a packet of loose tobacco;
He had burrs in his moustache and hair;
He smelled like a dog and his hands
And clothes were stained with dried shit.
He told me about his sheep dogs, his seventeen wives,
The ten-pound bass he caught, all records,
Worth 200,000 dollars apiece if he could get one to the state.
Now he was a priest, he confided.
“Always get them laughing,” he said,
“And then leave them with something to remember.”
I wondered what that was in my case,
But then he got sidetracked telling me about the rabbit that had
Terrified his dogs by scratching one of their noses.
In 1983, his psychiatrist said he should do some fishing,
And he had taken his advice—though he really had no choice—
As one of Ronald Reagan’s rejects,
Too crazy and strong to die,
A battered old man still living on the streets.

October 28, 2008   Comments Off on Too Crazy and Strong To Die

The Omen

Unable to tolerate the sound of his voice any longer,
I leave the party and go outside
And find the sky is filled with swirling chalk,
A frantic wind coats the grass with wet plaster,
Deer run blindly across a field,
The hollow ribs of trees creak and groan,
Newly fallen walnuts lie buried in their casings,
And no matter where I turn,
His voice still rises on the wind,
When suddenly I see a great white owl
Sitting on a woodpile, waiting for me.
I have never seen anything quite so beautiful.
We watch one another for several minutes,
Communing in a language of nods and blinks,
Though when I take one step too many,
It lifts its giant wings and flies through a hole
In the paper sky, pulling my father’s voice with it.
When I go inside and tell everyone about it
No one is impressed, except Dad, who tells me
He has already seen this same white owl in his dreams.

October 27, 2008   Comments Off on The Omen

Eyeing Me Like Lenny Bruce

I barely knew her,
An acquaintance in my class at Pratt,
Blonde maybe, slightly blousey,
I no longer remember her face,
Just her ghostly presence,
Sliding by and casually
Uttering words that created a watershed
That marked the end of all that had gone on before.
“You have to be yourself,” she said.
She knew and didn’t know,
Cared and didn’t,
And so was perfect,
Like a priest I met
In a dark corner of St. Patrick’s
Eyeing me with blackened eyes like Lenny Bruce:
Telling me how terrified I was
As if I encased in plastic
Trying to please everyone,
And giving me the push I needed
To shatter my image forever.

October 25, 2008   Comments Off on Eyeing Me Like Lenny Bruce


Sometimes luminous
Often coarse and impulsive,
But never boring.

October 25, 2008   Comments Off on 108


Restless leaves briefly
Skitter along the water
And then slowly sink.

October 25, 2008   Comments Off on 107

Was It Worth It, Jack?

Like a twenty-something teenager,
You lived with your parents in Ozone Park
Above A Little Shoppe of Flowers, writing and
Desperately searching for your own true form.
After encountering Zen, meeting Cassady, and taking
Speed—though not necessarily in that order—you
Discovered a continuous hundred-and-twenty-foot
Scroll of tracing paper lined with words that
Miraculously appeared on your typewriter.
It was the stuff of myths and legends.
The only problem was that once you found it
You couldn’t slough it off again, and were condemned
To drinking tequila and writing the same book
Until he the day you died—sadly,
Of a hemorrhage caused by cirrhosis of the liver.
It was another installment of the popular series,
“The Myth of the Birth of the Artist.”
You suffered horribly, Jack, especially near the end.
Was it worth it? Would you do it all again?

October 24, 2008   Comments Off on Was It Worth It, Jack?