Category Archives: My Parents

It. Is. Time.

Let’s acknowledge that there’s been a bit of a blogging hiatus of late. You’re acknowledging it; I’m acknowledging it; the unnervingly fast centipede I brutally killed last night on the living room floor with my copy of “A Room with a View” is acknowledging it.  [Seriously unnerving, this centipede. An almost human intelligence. It was a dance to the death, let me tell you!]

Having acknowledged it,  let’s ease back into things by taking a look at what CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has up on the ol’ homepage right now in regards to the Large Hadron Collider; just their special way of connecting with the public, updating us on the latest news, and breaking things down simply for Joe Layperson, kicking back to peruse some particle physics of an evening with a bowl of popcorn and a cold beer:



I think the question we’re all asking ourselves right now is this: Why is the link status of beam permits “false”?


I am writing a play right now–the long kind, which I have never writ before–and it is draining the tar out of me, and all of that. This is part of why I have been so long away. I have to think of things people would say to each other, in plays, and then I have to write them down. Once I have done that for a while, the thought of writing ANYTHING ELSE EVER AGAIN looks like this:

PASSERBY: Here. Take this sweet potato, and build it into a Chevy Impala!


You see my dilemma.


That being said: My mother told me a real soul-scooping tale last week, on the telephone, in regards to this very subject; the being tired and the writing and the doing what you have to do and the all of that.

For background: My Ma’s been reading a heap about Mark Twain for a little while now, and oftentimes she’ll share a tale or two with me. This particular evening, when I was bemoaning to her my woeful inability to work all day, come home, and make my brain produce anything which does not resemble the crayon scrawls of a baby bear cub who has been taught to grasp human implements, she mildly related the following.

Ulysses S. Grant, she said–

Ulysses S. Grant

Who was a pal of Mark Twain’s [“News to me!”, said I] apparently had throat cancer [“News to me also!”, said I.] He was involved in some sort of business proceeding that musn’t have worked out as planned, since he went bankrupt; though I’m no “financial wizard”, and “I can barely add two numbers together”, I believe I can connect the dots on that one. [Further research into this matter unearthed multiple uses of the word “swindle”, which is a word I bet they used a lot, back there in Reconstruction days!]

Anywho, there he was: Bankrupt and dying of throat cancer. And so what did he do? By gum: He wrote his memoirs, so that his family would be provided for in the wake of his passing.

ULYSSES S. GRANT: I led the Union Army, dammit!

There was nothing they could do for the cancer; my mother told me that he could not so much as drink water without it feeling like he was “drinking molten lead”. And they couldn’t alleviate his pain by spraying codeine and morphine and cocaine [landsakes!] in his throat, because he had to be lucid enough to write.

Thus spake my mother, mildly.

ME: Well, NUTS.


The presidency of Ulysses S. Grant was marred by constant acts of political corruption, up to and including a scandal referred to as the “Whiskey Ring.”

Good people do bad things.


About two weeks ago, I dyed all of my hair a white-blonde. It’s been real interesting, and not a little disorienting. Small children stare at my head when I pass, with the wrinkled brow with which you or I might observe a passing clown at a Big Top Circus, or an alien being intent on world domination [either way].  For some days, people I interact with on a daily basis were unable to look me right in the face when speaking with me; if they looked at me, they would forget who they were talking to.

This is from the night it was done–one of 17 pictures I tried to send people, in a feeble attempt to explain. I don’t know what my face is doing here; I seem to be going for a cross between “In my day,  a lady always wore nylons” and “I didn’t mean to break your window, Mister! Me and the other kids were just playing stickball, honest.”



There are so many, many things coming in the next few months. Starting this week. Great big things. Things to sit with, live through; things to uproot. Things you grapple with maybe once in your life.

But Sunday night I walked from my home to a delicious dinner at Lula’s, and the air was cool, and I wore my favorite sweater.

 Here goes nothin’. 


The Angel of Memory

In these panes, each flaw and bubble is a seed.
The porch door latch, rusted, snaps off
in my fingers. I walk down steps
carved into limestone;
scrub-brush and rosemary hang down the terraces
to the Adriatic’s crumbling foam.

And she is sitting in the untended garden,
the angel of memory, her bare back shines;
at her nape, parted hair lifts wings.
An eddying yellow butterfly perches
on her arm and presses open its double page;

I have forgotten what I came to say.
My shadow lengthens towards her, rapt,
pierced with small stones and grasses,
but she will not turn, looking out
to an old sea, a vast plateau of static.

Sharona Ben-Tov Muir

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Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, My Parents, Poetry, Sharona Ben-Tov Muir

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.”




It doesn’t end there, though!


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!


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:



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]!


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 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


Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, Brothers and Sisters, Marie Ponsot, My Parents, Nieces and Nephews, Poetry

All In All

I was home for Easter last week; I’ve got a valid excuse for not writing. Celebrating the Risen Lord can certainly take the stuffing out of you.

Instead of attending Mass on Easter morning, my family and I went to the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening, which features, among many fine attributes:

-Seven different Old Testament readings, registering at varying degrees of grimness on the Old Testament Grim O’Meter™

 My brothers went out to obtain pizza to snack on pre-Vigil, during the Butler/Michigan State game. When they returned, and we began eating silly things at a very great rate–things like pepperoni-stuffed breadsticks–my mother said:

MY MOTHER: Boys, why did you get TWO large pizzas?
MY BROTHER BEN: The tomb is empty, Mom.


The next evening, “The Sound of Music” was on the T.V, and I am obliged to watch “The Sound of Music” if it is playing within sight or sound of my person. My mother joined me, and after a time, my father. Neither of them–to my very great astonishment–had ever seen the movie. They had only seen “The Sound of Music” on the stage, when my high school performed it my freshman year, and I played the Reverend Mother. Hahahahahahahahaha!

Anywho, I hadn’t seen the movie in some time, and my mother and I giggled over the Baroness Schräder’s dramatic and thinly-veiled ill will, Maria-ward. She was forever giving Captain Von Trapp or Maria the eyeball for being secretly in love with each other and stuff.


Then there was the scene with the puppetry.

MY MOTHER: This is weird.



On Sunday, my roommate and I decided to go to St. Hyacinth’s Basilica, which is basically the lodestone for Catholic Polish Chicagoans, and light a candle for Poland, and for everyone who died, and their families, and so on, and so forth.

It is a beautiful church.

We arrived right after a Mass had ended, and people were flooding out onto the sidewalk; everyone was dressed as though they had just attended a funeral.  The men wore suits and smoked. Later I would see a woman dressed all in red, with a white jacket, for Poland.

We made our way inside. The church has several side alcoves. In one of them, a baby was being baptized, in Polish.

When we finally seated ourselves in a front pew, and after we prayed, we looked around. People sat in the pews, talking softly, and so did we. We decided that we did not know what we would feel, were we the people of Poland. The closest I can imagine is how I felt after 9/11, the hot-edged this is the most terrible; but that is different.

In front of us, an elderly gentleman hung matted drawings of John Paul II on the wall. This is true.

Outside, news crews were filming. People were singing, but I don’t know what. The Polish national anthem?

The Polish national anthem, for the record, is entitled: “Poland Is Not Yet Lost”.


Around the block from the church is a Polish bar. They had the door propped open, and many voices floated out onto the street. “Dancing Queen” was playing.

JESSICA AND I: Everyone grieves differently!


We decided that JPII was waiting for the Polish delegation to arrive at the gates of heaven.

JPII: Comrades! Come and drink a cup of grog with me!

J/K, he would never call them comrades! He defeated Communism!


So! Science, right?

1. They’ve gone and discovered a new element! It doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s being called “ununseptium” until they do, which is, quoth the NYT, “a very unwhimsical Latinate placeholder that refers to the element’s atomic number, 117.”

ME: You’re nothing but an unwhimsical Latinate placeholder.
YOU: Boohoohhohhoohoo!

They discovered it by smashing calcium isotopes and the element berkelium together.


2. Need I say it?

The Large Hadron Collider is finally, sort of officially and at half-speed, up and running.


This week has been a real whopper already. A whirl-i-gig. A fiddle-stick.

YOU: A whoop-te-doozle?
ME: No.



Fountains, for instance,
have a periphery
at some distance
from the spray.
On nice days
idle people circle
all the way around
the central spout.
They do not get wet.
They do not get hot.

Kay Ryan


Filed under Kay Ryan, Math and Science: General, My Parents, My Roommate, Poetry, Stirring World Events

When It Rains, It Pours Emergency Appendectomies

Landsakes o’ Goshen: One month, no Wheat Dear. I know. I’ve been told. You’ve told me.

One week off is forgiveable, perhaps.  Two weeks stretches the limits of hospitality. Three weeks is the complete departure of the Muse from hence via Harley Davidson motorcycle, or something? I wonder what my Muse looks like.

That’s probably about right.


Then you have your Greek muses, of course:

That’s Polyhymnia, the Muse of Choral Poetry, whose emblem is the veil ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I’m sorry, what?


On Friday night, my roommate had an emergency appendectomy!

She woke up on Thursday morning with a sore throat [A RED HERRING] and a stomachache. I myself had been doing pitched battle with a bout of illness that made the Black Plague of 1348 look like post-nasal drip, and so we assumed RED HERRING that her sore throat was merely an indication that I had infected her as well. “Tough luck, old girl,” says I, or words that effect, and off I went to work, whistling a workmanlike tune. WHISTLING IN THE DARK: that is what I was doing!

Later that day, we conferred again. Her sore throat had dissipated, but her stomachache was holding strong, and–and, oh and oh–on the right side of her body.

“Dull pain near the navel or the upper abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen. This is usually the first sign.”


“I shall call my mother,” I said. Both my father and my brother had appendicitis, and my mother is a walkingtalking medical dictionary; I could call her and obtain the symptoms for just about  any ailment. She’d know. “Your uncle had that,” she’d say. “Rotate your left elbow three times, then look in the mirror. Are your eyes still yellowish?” My parents were in Missouri visiting my grandmother, and I’m a grown woman and all, but time, tide, and strange stomach pains centered on the right side of your body wait for no man. Ring-ring!

ME: Ma!

My mother ran me through a few symptoms, which I reported back to Jessica. She didn’t seem to be exhibiting any of them in a conclusive way. Later, my mother would text me:

“Though that may not be dispositive.”

It’s at times like these that I like to call my mother the “Oracle of the West.”

ME: Is this the Oracle of the West? Hahahahaha!
MY MOTHER: [sigh]



On Friday, because I am a fool in sheep’s clothing, I left my phone at home. Most of the time, leaving one’s phone at home is a minor inconvenience.

“Who would be calling me anyway?” I usually say, on such occasions. “It’s not like anyone would be contacting me because they’ve been informed that they may or may not be undergoing an emergency appendectomy!”  Ha ha! JOKE’S ON ME.

As it happened, I had a date that night, one whose timing required me to kick it into high gear on the homefront once I arrived post-work. I walked into my apartment and grabbed my phone. A text message envelope glowed on the bottom of the screen, like a harbinger of doom. At the time, I was unaware that it was a harbinger of doom; it could have been a harbinger of ice cream cake, for all I knew. A harbinger of ice cream cake, however, it was not. Instead:

“At Northwestern Hospital. Maybe have appendicitis.”


Seventeen phone calls later, it was decided that I would go on 50% of my date, then go to the hospital, with the caveat that if things got “real” or “live” or “real live” I would hie me haste downtown, wearing my most trustworthy pith helmet. Jessica’s aunt was in-bound from Waukegan. Plans were neatly ironed, with plenty of starch. It was assumed that some hours would go by before any medical personages descended on her person in a significant fashion.  The evening proceeded as planned. Then, later:

“Going into surgery now.”

TIME TO GO! Through the foggy night, to 251 N. Huron. I don’t know how long it took them to get her appendix out, but my guess is “thirty seconds, soup to nuts”.

While Jessica was in recovery, her aunt and I had a bro-down in the surgical waiting room, which was the size of a football field, and which contained the following people:

1. Me
2. Jessica’s aunt

Close to midnight, we began harrassing random passers-by for information. “Hey, what gives?” we said. [I am kidding.] Anyway, a nurse ended up spiriting us back briefly to see Jessica–who looked like a million, considering!–and then we loved on her, hand-holding and forehead-kissing and such, and then we fled the scene.


The next morning, I went back to Northwestern. When I got to the Belmont red line stop, I realized something, and that something was this:


There’s nothing quite like a mid-morning train ride to Northwestern Hospital, surrounded by grown men wearing t-shirts which read “Authentic Irishman”, and who are holding aloft red Solo cups, filled with what looks like a mixture of whiskey and Diet Rite.

ME: Is that a slice of pineapple?

St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago! It’s like lining my veins with dynamite. The dynamite of terribleness. Enjoy.


When I arrived back at home later that afternoon, I made myself hot chocolate. The cup tip-tilted itself as I drank from it, and spilled onto me, immediately creating what I would soon learn was a “scald” burn, common among very small children, the elderly, and ME!

I screamed like a hawk, surveyed the damage in stunned silence, and picked up my phone.

ME: Ma!


Now all is quiet[er]. Jessica is mending well after a long weekend. We are cooking bland things, things that can be eaten with things like painkillers; things like toast, and oatmeal.

MY MOTHER, SUNDAY MORNING: “Baked potatoes are a nauseated girl’s best friend.”  [pause.] I read that once in this pregnancy book.



I have to tell you

I have to tell you,
there are times when
the sun strikes me
like a gong,
and I remember everything,
even your ears.

Dorothea Grossman


Filed under Dorothea Grossman, My Parents, My Roommate, Poetry

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.”




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:


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


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:



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.


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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Filed under Brothers and Sisters, My Parents, Phebe Davidson, Poetry, Stirring World Events

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:


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.


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.


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!


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.

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.



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



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.



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


Filed under Brothers and Sisters, Charles Dickens, My Parents, My Roommate, Nieces and Nephews, Poetry, Robert Francis

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:



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:





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.





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”.



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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Filed under Brothers and Sisters, Indianapolis Colts, Malachi Black, My Parents, Nieces and Nephews, Poetry