The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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To Love and Be Loved

The desire to be a writer first came over me as a boy in church in my small village, when I listened to the pastor read from the King James Bible or discuss a passage from it in one of his sermons. I had never heard anything like it. Not only the language but the meaning contained in it was beautiful beyond understanding. The pastor was an ordinary man for we were a small rural congregation and got only new recruits fresh from the seminary, or old, embittered men who had failed elsewhere. It hardly mattered. The words moved me like nothing before or since. Even now, no other body of work compares to this inspired book, not even Shakespeare. I know that as a writer, no matter how long or hard I try, I will never write a sentence more beautiful than, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace…”

Today I find these words running through my mind, as they often have, since my father-in-law died over a year ago. How I wish I could have said them over him as he lay dying and freed him of his misery. At the end, he no longer wanted to live. He could neither see nor hear and was in constant pain. That he was a sweet and loving man meant nothing to death. All the things he had done for others meant nothing. His service and loving kindness to his family meant nothing. Death did not care. Death never does. He takes everything, our dignity, our hopes, our dreams, and racks us with pain until our only thought is of dying.

One of his daughters made a quilt from his old shirts, with pieces stitched in the shape of hosta leaves. It is a fitting memorial since he loved nature so much. How beautiful it is to love and be loved. It is the only thing we have to counterbalance death’s influence over us. Without love, our lives are meaningless.

May 10, 2010   Comments Off on To Love and Be Loved

Michael Jackson’s Passing

On the way to Dunn’s this morning, jolting over the makeshift yellow bumps some enterprising neighbor erected in the alley to annoy drivers, I was thinking what people would say during the eulogy at my funeral. Not much, probably. Certainly, no good man stuff and no recounting of my accomplishments. I could see myself watching the meager and sparsely attended proceeding (a la Mark Twain), and saying, Hey, I did this or I did that, but in a half-hearted way, knowing how little the things I did mattered to anyone. Still, I would be satisfied with my life, knowing I had inspired love in my mother, my sister, and my wife. That would be enough for me.

When I got to Dunn’s, the barista, who is not normally known for his wisdom, wondered what I thought of Michael Jackson’s death, and I raised my hands in a universal gesture that means, Hell if I know. Michael had not been on my mind, or, at least, I didn’t think he had. When I thought about it, I said, “I really couldn’t identify with Michael Jackson.”

The barista then said, “You know, he was an iconic figure who exemplified a generation and a certain type of music that will die with him. It marks the end of an age.” And I thought, holy shit, he’s right.

June 26, 2009   Comments Off on Michael Jackson’s Passing

The Great River

It’s almost as if the Ganges ceases to flow
when the bright burning pyre drifts,
embers scatter on the breeze like fireflies,
and chants and prayers fill the air with the drone of human voices,
but it is illusion, for the great river never stops—
the goddess Kali will not pause
even for the saintliest of men.

April 27, 2009   Comments Off on The Great River

Death of a Crazy Man

In another terrifying species of time-lapse photography
(Whirling clouds and spinning stars
Rotting fruit and dying plants
A prayer of forgiveness he cannot recall)
Walls of water burst the levees of his mind
And without one shred of dignity, whimpering like a dog,
He chokes on his vomit and tells them anything they want to hear,
Spilling names, times, and places, but he’s already told them everything,
And there’s nothing they want now except his slow, agonizing death.

December 20, 2008   Comments Off on Death of a Crazy Man

Somewhere I Cannot Go

I watch as rain
Softens her tracks in the snow,
Winter fog catches in trees,
And jays scatter seeds like pompous kings.
Whenever I fall silent,
She slips somewhere I cannot go,
Adopting the stare she will wear
Like the sculpted likeness of a Greek statue
Pitted and ravaged with age
Until time stops her eyes
And she turns to stone.

December 14, 2008   Comments Off on Somewhere I Cannot Go

Exit Laughing

At the point where you have no friends,
When no one shouts your name
(Or even whispers it)
When your children are gone
And your wife has her own clockwork existence
That goes on without you,
When the illusions of youth have fled
And you are no longer sexually attractive,
You discover what it feels like
To be a threadbare carpet of diminishing value,
And because there is no one left but you,
You decide to embrace life (such as it is)
With all its contradictions, pains, and trials,
Refusing to be distracted by your sins,
Accepting fate for what it is,
And walk erect,
Laughing when the mood takes you
Directly into the void.

December 8, 2008   2 Comments