Category Archives: Brothers and Sisters

Tale-Telling from the Homefront

Home this past weekend. It was Mother’s Day, if you didn’t know;  if you didn’t know, you’ve really got more going on than I’m fit to address, frankly.

In Britain and Ireland, Mother’s Day is more commonly referred to as “Mothering Sunday”, which sounds just–well, just horrid, don’t you think?

ME: Happy Mothering Sunday, Ma!
MOM: [shudders]

***

A very special e-mail from my mother last week. She attended my niece Maddy’s very first “Grandparent’s Day” at school, and afterwards, escorted Maddy to a place called Mrs. Curl’s:

Mrs. Curl’s is right down the street from my elementary school/parents’ church. It is a fabled business, is Mrs. Curl’s.

Behind Mrs. Curl’s is a place called Archer’s Meats.

***

My mother briefly discussed some of the ins and outs of Grandparent’s Day proper. Then:

“Anyway, the real fun started when I took her home. We went to Mrs. Curl’s, and if you recall, Archer’s Meats is right behind it. A sturdy young farmer brought in a calf–this would be for butchering.  Fortunately, Maddy didn’t notice the nice cow. As we sat outside enjoying our ice cream cones, we heard a sharp cracking sound, which I believe to have been a gun shot involving the calf.”

***

She concludes: “Maybe a few zoning regs wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

***

GOOD DEAR GOD AND ALL HIS ASSEMBLED ANGELS

***

It doesn’t end there, though!

READER: GREAT.

My sister reminded me–and my mother verified this story–that, when we were little school children just down the road, a cow ESCAPED from Archer’s, GOT INTO THE FIELD by our SCHOOL, and HAD TO BE SHOT. And that the TEACHERS had to PULL ALL OF THE BLINDS CLOSED so we WOULDN’T SEE IT and develop IRREPARABLY COMPLEX MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES  for THE REST OF OUR LIVES.

I don’t remember ANY of this happening, for love nor money, but my sister does, sort of? My brother Nick apparently recalls it with the clarity of yesterday.

We decided that this is because the boys would have been hyper aware–would have had the inside line, back then–on A COW being SHOT IN A FIELD adjacent to SCHOOL PROPERTY.  I’ll betcha they went to the bathroom and tried to see out the window!

LITTLE JOHNNY: Hoist me up!
LITTLE TOMMY: It’s just like Christmas!

***

I know it sounds like Mark Twain wrote my school, but Greenwood is a perfectly genteel place!

Seriously.

There is a bait shop.

***

The other happening of the weekend was my youngest brother Ben’s graduation from college. My little Benjers! My sweet little boodle-doo. 

My grandmother, my parents, Ben, and myself loaded ourselves into a vehicle and made our way to the graduation on Saturday morning; it was held out-of-doors, at a stadium-ish place, and that cool spring wind sure did BITE OUR FACES OFF! But first: Pictures!

 Flanked by Ma and Pa, standing athwart the universe, master of all he surveys!

Flanked by the womenfolk!

A warm handshake between friends!

***

 For years, wheresoever I have lived on the face of the earth, I have kept this picture of Benjamin in my home:

***

At the graduation, the powers that be asked–as they usually do–that the spectators hold their applause until all of the graduates had received their diplomas. Hahahahahahaha! Those powers that be! “Knuckleheads that be”, I like to call them, when they believe that such naive requests will be honored in any substantive fashion!

The name of Graduate Number One was called. Her high-heeled foot had scarcely hit the stage when a woman in the crowd shot up from her seat–a woman quite centrally located, bleacher-wise, rendering her position like nothing so much as that of a mermaid on the prow of a pirate ship–and shrieked, with one fist thrust into the air:

WOMAN: AIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

***

When Ben’s name was called, I mustered up a “Woooooooo!” But it bore no relation to the primal cry seen above.

I know when I’ve been outclassed.

***

I would be remiss if I did not direct you to the New Blogs/Websites of my good friends Lara and Laura [don’t get CONFUSED by their SIMILAR NAMES. They are two different people, with two different hearts, and thoughts, and feelings]!

LAURA’S BLOG:

just a girl and her stuff

Let me be frank with you; let me speak plainly, as people do. Laura has the best taste of anyone I know, end o’ discussion. It’s disgusting. If Laura told me to purchase a pair of shoes the color of melted orange sherbet and shaped like a rocking horse, I’d buy those shoes, because Laura knows. Don’t ask me how she knows. God knows, I think.

Anywho, go and read all about the delightful things she finds! 

LARA’S BLOG

Lara Levitan
 
Lara has recently–and very excitingly–started on a new full-time venture as a mural painter/greeting card maker/step-stool creator/everything-er! Her work is bee-yoo-ti-ful. Go, look, stay, mayhaps purchase!

She is very talented, that Lara Levitan. You should see.

***

I am moving at the end of this month. Not to a new city; just a new apartment. It feels, though, like crossing an ocean. Three years in one home is not very long, and yet? It is. I moved in February 2007. From then to now? A lifetime. I have loved this apartment very much.

I have been thinking very much, lately, about terribly and utterly missing something, or someone, when they–or it–are still right in front of you; before they’ve vanished; before they’ve gone completely beyond your recall, out of your life with a finality that brooks no return. What do you do with this feeling? I do not know what to do with it. It is an ache that needs must fade, as other deep aches do. It requires no action. But…it does.

I am not very good at saying goodbye forever.

***

Our new apartment has a lilac bush in the backyard.

 

 

Explorers Cry Out Unheard

What I have in mind is the last wilderness.

I sweat to learn its heights of sun, scrub, ants,
its gashes full of shadows and odd plants,
as inch by inch it yields to my hard press.

And the way behind me changes as I advance.
If interdependence shapes the biomass,
though I plot my next step by pure chance
I can’t go wrong. Even willful deviance
connects me to all the rest. The changing past
includes and can’t excerpt me. Memory grants
just the nothing it knows, & my distress
drives me towards the imagined truths I stalk,
those savages. Warned by their haunting talk,
their gestures, I guess they mean no. Or yes.

Marie Ponsot

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Heart Blender

That’s about all I’ve got, at the moment.

***

I mean…what do you want from me? I spent most of Sunday sticking a meat thermometer in my eyeball.

Or texting my sister, thusly:

SARAH: Why is this happening
ME: They need to pull it together
SARAH: I am going to throw up
ME: I am dead

***

And:

La la la la la la la la la la la la!

MARK SANCHEZ: I want to be besties with you guys!
COLTS: Nooooooo!

***

More next week, I promise. Me.

 

 

To Avoid Unnecessary Death

heed the rattler’s warning.
Listen for its tightly coiled rasp,

the burr, the catch, the purr
emptied of its chance of cat.

A brindled sound. Rapid slap. Hunting
once my uncle’s half-mutt appaloosa reared,

nostrils dilated, synapses flared, she struck
the gravel trail and, shrieking, thrashed

a gem-backed length of garden hose,
somebody’s trash. Passion may be blind–

truth hisses in the ear. Click of teeth. Snap
of sheets. Kitchen door just before it’s latched.

B.T Shaw

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The Passage of Time

My mother sent myself and some brothers and sisters a few pictures from home two weeks ago, e-mail-ily. She wrote:

“For those who haven’t seen the house this fall. These are both from the back deck…Today most of the leaves are biting the dust–windy and rainy.”

leafone

try

***

These pictures look like the house is in a goshdurn woodland glen, untouched by the hand of manfolk!

It is on a quiet neighborhood street, however. There are people.

We also have  ourselves a woodpile back there.

***

Here is a story involving the woodpile. A few years ago, a raccoon got into the chimney atop my parents’ home, and skittered down inside, landing on a small ledge within. For the duration of this story–a story which I re-verified with my parents, via telephone–I would like for you to disabuse yourself of the idea that what you see below was the sort of raccoon my Pa would be tangling with over the ensuing 48 hour period:

bill-ivy-baby-raccoon.

Rather, keep the following in your mind’s eye:

Ggggggrrrrr

Ha ha ha! J/K. I think. Dad?

DAD: There are caps you can put on top of your chimney, but we didn’t have one.

Anyway, they discovered the advent of the squirrel the morning after his arrival, because they went into the living room and discovered that the curtains had been ripped apart, “and other things”, quoth my mother. This is because the raccoon, like any raccoon worth its salt, had weighed the odds mathematically, and tried to launch itself  directly through the plate-glass windows in a bid for escape to the lawn below. Raccoons: Perhaps they are more the creative type?

My dad looked up the chimney, but he couldn’t glimpse the raccoon. However, my dad is a gambling man [“The Gambler” we call him, and also “Papa John Sunday”, a bizarre nickname whose antecedents I am long since unable to recall] and so he climbed atop the roof–he is sort of up there a lot anyway, to put up our annual Christmas wreath, which measures the width of the Baltic Sea–and looked DOWN the chimney, whereupon he saw this:

Ggggggrrrrr

Ai!

What to do? The raccoon appeared to be comfortably ensconced inside the chimney for life. Enter my brother Benjamin, who–according to my father–was “either 10 or 8” at the time of this story.

BENJAMIN, WHO WAS EITHER 10 OR 8: Why don’t we smoke him out?

Now, before you jump to the conclusion that my father immediately built a roaring bonfire in order to procure the makings of a salade du raton laveur  [“raccoon salad”] for his kitchen, understand that my father did not want the raccoon to die;  he wanted to take pains in order to ensure that the raccoon would not, in fact, die, but would dislike the ticklish position of a smoky chimbley, and see himself out of the roof end without further unpleasantness for all parties concerned. Are we clear? I’m so glad!

A fire was accordingly built. My father climbed back out onto the roof–again, to ensure that the raccoon was, in fact, heaving-ho himself, and not dead. The raccoon poked its head out from the chimney-top, but wavered about making a run for it.

The neighbors gathered to watch from the driveway and lawn.

The raccoon wavered. Waverer!

And then!

!

The raccoon clambered out of the chimney, ran across the roof and onto a tree branch, and made good his escape.

Below, everyone cheered.

***

MY DAD: That day, or the next day, I put that cap on the chimney.

***

Something else. The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, of course.

Berlin

Hoorah, I say. I SAY HOORAH.

  

Learning to Read

She stepped from her deck to the strand
of beach to stand
where she could read
the sky. The lead

pelican dropping like a brick.
The ocean thick
with living things.
A chevron’s wings

rigid on easy thermals in
the heat. The din
of gulls. Their loud
lament a shroud.

Pheve Davidson

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A Little Quiet, Followed By Loud

In one of those Halloween shops this weekend, with Bridgid. You know–those Halloween shops, the ones that randomly spring from the earth this time of year, like earthworms from the soil after a driving rain; except for the fact that earthworms are an important part of the cycle of life, the give and take of our ecosystem, the tapestry of the planet, and Halloween shops contribute the following:

Pirate

And this is TAME. [Also, is that a tie around her head?] You know what I’m saying. This is like…this is like the “Accountant Piratess” costume. This costume is my concession to the fact that I flatly refuse to post terrible things here that one’s mother could see [hi, Mom!]; also my concession to TASTE, also MORALITY. The shop we were in was SODOM AND GOMORRAH. I was Lot’s wife. No, really.

Like–a Little Miss Muffet Adult Costume. No no no.

READ A BOOK.

Ugh, Halloween is weird!

***

The store didn’t stop there, however. We were making our way past bloodied skull masks, two-headed babies with glowing eyes–the stomach, it turns. When I see such things I feel uneasy. It should not be de rigueur, during Halloween season, for free peoples to walk past two-headed babies with glowing eyes in a store without batting an eyelash.

line

I have drawn my line in the sand. I have drawn it. There it is.

***

Let’s scatter these nothings, these Hallowe’en dregs, to the four winds; instead, let’s look at my nephews in this year’s costumes!

Best

If you need to pardon yourself to sponge the cute off your eyeballs, you may.

***

According to my sister, my niece Maddy has decided that she wants to be a vampire for Halloween. This includes the Halloween costume party at her kindergarten.

MY SISTER: So I was like–great! It’ll be five princesses and MADDY THE VAMPIRE.
ME: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Quoth my sister, however, Maddy “never wavered” in her desire to be a vampire this year.

That’s my girl.

***

I am the oldest of seven children. When I was growing up, one of us was consistently garbed as a hobo on Halloween. Someone was also always dressed as a “housewife” [sporting a cold-creamed face and a bathrobe. Ah, simpler times!] My sister has a memory, which may or may not be true, of being a witch “five years in a row” [direct quote].

Hey. Hey, YOU have seven kids and YOU dream up Halloween costumes for SEVEN KIDS every year, young whippersnapper. 

My roommate told me that when she was a girl, her school had something called “Hobo Day”, where the children all came to school dressed like hobos.

Ai!

*** 

So I just read “The Once and Future King”, by T.H White–

once

And AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.  And aaaaaaaa.

It cut me right open. Beauty, beauty.

Not beauty: “Nicholas Nickleby.” I have spoken of Dickens many and many a day, here in Wheat Not Oats. And many and many a day have I expressed the pure and shiny and unstinting love in my heart that I have for all his works.  Not this one. No: Not this one.

I waited and waited for him to show me what I knew he could do, and he never did. It was dretful disappointing.

Nicholas Nickleby: Not so much.

Perhaps the movie version is better, starring Anne Hathaway. She is pretty good.

***

Things are quiet, these days. Fall is moving in. Moved in, rather–it’s here. I kicked my way through a lot of leaves on a Sunday morning walk. In college I would collect the most colorful ones and put them on my desk; by the end of the season they were brittle, dust to the touch. They had a week in them away from their tree.

I finally busted out a knit cap today. The store said that it was “one size fits all”, which means “one size fits all except for Emilie, whose head is roughly the circumference of a basketball.”  I jammed it down, though, and made it work. I think. I have boy hair, so I’m always all worried that I’ll look like a longshoreman from a distance.

I bet there would be times when you’d want people to mistake you for a longshoreman, though. Like–

–Dark alleys down by the pier
–Longshoreman bars
–The topmost deck

I think you get the picture.

 

Summons

Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up. Come any hour
Of night. Come whistling up the road.
Stomp on the porch. Bang on the door.
Make me get out of bed and come
And let you in and light a light.
Tell me the northern lights are on
And make me look.  Or tell me clouds
Are doing something to the moon
They never did before, and show me.
See that I see. Talk to me till
I’m half as wide awake as you
And start to dress wondering why
I ever went to bed at all.
Tell me the walking is superb.
Not only tell me but persuade me.
You know I’m not too hard persuaded.

Robert Francis

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Sisters, Sisters

In the grocery store last week, on the phone with my sister. I’m that guy too often; that guy who talks on the telephone in line, and flaps her hands around like an addlepated scarecrow [what?] when the cashier/registerperson addresses her directly. Anywho, the grocery store. On her end, my sister is feeding my baby niece, who apparently dislikes the dinner menu for the evening. 

ME: What is she eating?
MY SISTER: [examining the label.] Mixed Greens with Harvest Grains.

[We pause.]

 ME: Yeah, you can’t slap a coat of paint on that.

***

I mean ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! 

BABIES: You’re telling me!

*** 

Another night, on the train this time, on the phone with my sister. I have an unspoken rule about having “emotionally delicate” conversations with my sister on public transportation. I mean, who wants to hear me talking about ___________ while they’re just trying to schlep themselves home from work? GOD NO ONE.

Anyway, as I boarded the train last night, I was mid-emotionally-delicateness. When I stepped completely into the car, I told her that I’d have to tell her the rest later. Sarah correctly guessed that I was in CTA-land.

MY SISTER: Well, I’ll just give you a play-by-play of what I’m doing right now!

Side note: This is the train advertisement I was staring at as she related the following:

The Apocalypse Is Nigh

MY SISTER: Now I’m going over to the oven and stirring the chili. We made chili last night. Now I’m getting the rolls. One for Maddy, one for Ava, one for Drew, one for me!
ME: Uh.
MY SISTER: This is my life.

 ***

Let me be clear on one point: My sister has the best life ever.

***

I don’t mean to keep bringing up funny mail from my job, but seriously, funny mail from my job:

Lt

It’s a theatrical production of the famous short story, “The Lady or the Tiger”!

“The Lady or the Tiger”: HERE.

I had forgotten this story existed. I don’t remember when I read it first. High school? Was it high school?

It’s all morally trepidatious, is “The Lady or the Tiger”. Many stories I read in high school, once read later in life, take on new meaning. [You’d hope that you’d mentally outpace your sixteen year-old self.]

Like “Jane Eyre”? Yoink! In my younger days I was all, “Jane Eyre, leave Mr. Rochester in the dust bunnies, girl.”

Now I’m all, “Oh.”

***

These are the three people who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine, Monday:

 

06nobel-span-600-2

Jack Szostak, Carol Greider, and Elizabeth Blackburn.

They “solved a longstanding puzzle involving the ends of chromosomes, the giant molecules of DNA that embody the genetic information.”

The ends of chromosomes are called telomeres. They get shorter when cells divide.

telomere_signalling

[Look, this was the least confusing picture I could find, all right? The other ones looked like spaghetti crossed with the Pythagorean Theorem. ]

I wish I could clearly elucidate their discoveries for you. Suffice it to say “cancer” and “this could all be helpful with cancer”.

***

I had two poems for this week–one long come-to-Jesus poem, the other short. I’ve drabbled on s’long that I fear the shorter one shall have to do.

O drabbling! You’re the death of me, that’s what.

DRABBLE: My b.

 

Extravagance

Like a numbing thumb,
the moment dulls until it tastes
complicity. Of worry

then the craving gnaw–to eat and eat is all,
is all. I’ve stored long
loss upon some kitchen shelf.

A jar that rounds along
the night. Worry words: that works
us sure, the way

a nightbird sures–through shadow sures
its call. At least
this once.  This one, at last.

Steve Wilson

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Three Nights Two Days

Home in Indianapolis for the weekend, for my niece’s sixth birthday party.

I got in late Friday night. On Saturday morning, my parents made breakfast, and we randomly began watching a Western film that was on the TV. My pa’s a real fan of Westerns. This particular Western was called:

Ulzana

ULZANA’S RAID

Of “Ulzana’s Raid”, I will say this. AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

One minute, we’re enjoying delicious cinnamon rolls and the gruff banter of Burt Lancaster’s “McIntosh”, a world-weary tracker; the next minute, we’re staring at the screen in frozen horror at  a wagon ride through the countryside gone HORRIBLY, HORRIBLY WRONG and OH MY GOD ARE THEY–? and IS THAT A HUMAN HEART? THAT IS A HUMAN HEART.

It was almost enough to deter us from enjoying our breakfast, but not quite.

MY DAD: [giving me a level look.] Two rolls left, three of us.

***

My niece’s birthday party was a cracking good time. My sister’s mother-in-law has a real knack for clever cakes, and she didn’t disappoint this time:

Bee

YES, THAT’S RIGHT

P1010618

IT’S STILL TRUE

She wrapped the legs of the Barbie in Saran Wrap, and I don’t know what-all, and plunged the doll into the skirt-cake.

When it came time for Madge to blow out her candles: Dilemma! What to do with a pair of flammable plastic arms?

But my sister did not bear five children to be thwarted by the likes of a Barbie Doll.

P1010707

I AM BA-AR, PAGAN QUEEN OF THE SHADOW PEOPLE!

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek

***

Later, we squirted silly string onto the children, to fun up the joint. They screamed as though they were in “Ulzana’s Raid”.

***

The next day, breakfast and Mass, and a Colts game in the afternoon!

There is a time delay between the television in the kitchen and the television in the living room.  This creates a certain amount of  highwire tension during the Colts season. A certain amount of “gentleman’s-honor-I-won’t-give-the-game- away-just-because-I’m-fully-several-seconds-ahead-of-you-here-in-The-Future.” My brother and father and I were in the kitchen at one point, snackin’, and my little sister was in the living room. Something good happened; I don’t remember what, now, but it was good and it was the Colts. Perhaps a “first down”? Perhaps “the Jaguars went for two and they went down hard”.

MY FATHER, BROTHER, AND I: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
MY LITTLE SISTER: SHUT UP!
MY FATHER, BROTHER, AND I: Sorry!
MY LITTLE SISTER: Yeah, baby!

***

Hubble talk in next week’s blog. Let’s examine the universe.

Oh, The Universe! You’re a real card these days, The Universe.

THE UNIVERSE: Tell me something I don’t know!
ME: But you know everything, The Universe!
THE UNIVERSE: How embarrassing for me.

 

Insomnia & So On

Fat bed, lick the black cat in my mouth
each morning. Unfasten all the bones

that make a head, and let me rest: unknown
among the oboe-throated geese gone south

to drop their down and sit beside the out-
bound tides. Now there’s no nighttime I can own

that isn’t anxious as a phone
about to ring. Give me some doubt

on loan; give me a way to get away
from what I know. I pace until the sun

is in my window. I lie down. I’m a coal:
I smolder to a bloodshot glow. Each day

I die down in my bed of snow, undone
by my red mind and what it woke.

Malachi Black

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Weddingest

My mother and I were in a Kroger’s grocery store last Thurday morning, buying goods against the arrival of many, many family members coming into town for 

My Brother’s Wedding

As we paused in the meat section, I noticed a man in a long, white butcher’s coat, broad of shoulder and tall of leg–he was the Lumberjack of Butchers, one might say–ambling up to the pork chops some yards off. Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” played overhead on the Kroger Soundsystem.

As Toni reached the portion of the song where she really breaks it down that her heart is broken and it needs unbreaking, I heard a keening, high-pitched noise. I looked at the butcher.

KROGER’S BUTCHER: [singing.] Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuu, uuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…

!

I looked around, wild-eyed, but no one else had seen but me.

The Kroger’s butcher unbroke my heart in that moment, I can tell you what.

***

There was also a large contingent from the Greenwood Fire Department in the Kroger’s, buying–I dunno, meat and potatoes?

My mother told me that there seems to be members of the the Greenwood Fire Department wandering the aisles just about every blamed time she finds herself in Kroger’s. Once, the firemen were tossing food items to and fro, hither and yon, as firemen will do in a Kroger’s at 10 o’clock in the morning, as though they were tossing hoses or small family pets. My mother said to the firemen:

MY MOTHER: [jokingly]. You guys need to find a fire to fight.
FIREMEN: [dead-eyed stare]

Just because you fight fires doesn’t mean you can’t have a sense of humor.

***

My brother’s wedding! It was terrific. My brother’s wife–for she is his wife now, and I must call her so–was such a beautiful bride that we all had to take care that our eyeballs didn’t sear shut just LOOKING at her. “She should be in ‘Bride Magazine'”, some ladies said, and also “Ai, my eyeballs have seared shut!” That’s how beautiful she was. Like half-mermaid, half-Helen of Troy.

modern_bride

I love the headline above which reads: “One Week to Go? Get Gorgeous Fast.”

Like, “You currently resemble chipped eggs on toast, but we’ll try our best to whip that mug of yours into shape, girlfriend.”

***

When I walked down the aisle in my bridesmaid’s garb, I immediately and unhesitatingly went to the wrong place in line.

MY SISTER: Over here!

I am an idiot.

***

At the reception, my father gave a beautiful toast, about praying to St. Raphael, the saint of happy meetings, and my brother and his wife. Theirs was a happy meeting. I love that phrase: “happy meeting”. I love Myranda, too. I defy you to find a better sister-in-law. It’s the half-mermaid in her, I think.

I have NO pictures from this wedding yet, but I will. But here. Here’s a picture from the November wedding I was in. What the hell, right?

Wedding

Man, that was a good wedding.

There was the ocean.

***

So…no poem this week. There’s just nothing fitting, at the moment. I decided that I would rather say nothing than say something that wasn’t quite right.

Next week, there will be poetry.

Too serious. Let’s see. How about one of those LOLcats abominations?

lol

I know.

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