Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Poem: Everything old is new again

Everything old is new again; not good.

I wake and sense the return of the old dread, the grief of helplessness.

This is so not good, I tell myself.

I call out to my husband: Bring my Bible, quick!

I repeat the 23rd psalm,

Loudly, desperately, grasping it

like a lifeline.

This is soooooooooo not good.

The autumnal depression is storming me again.

I try to outpace it

like an orphan on a railroad track attempting to outpace a barreling train.

This is soooooooooooooo not good.

Depression, I'd thought we'd parted ways.

So many more rational griefs had my attention 

I'd forgotten you.

And suddenly here you are again.

A nameless barreling dread.

For no apparent reason

suddenly returned and hovering

seeping into, flodding into 


attempting to conquer me

The fight has come suddenly

I struggle to prepare,

racing about, grabbing armor

like a sentry suddenly awokened out of sleep.

I've said "suddenly" so many times in this poem.

But that's how it feels

this sudden powerful onslaught:

This is soooo not good.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Poem: Yes, we have no bananas

Over the centuries, living things have simply dropped out of existence.

Human tribes, the dodo, dinosaur, languages,

different species of seeds, nuts, the like.

Now I hear, bees are dropping dead.

All over the place.

Lions, elephants, tigers.

And bananas too

might soon be gone --

some fungus or what-not.

The dinosaurs were before me --

so I don't care about losing them.

Human tribes?

Well, I guess I'd feel weird

if I woke up to see no other black folks around.

But, frankly, I think I'd be able to see

that kind of genocide coming

from a ways away.

Disappearing languages?

Yeah, call me cold..but..

it might be a loss --

certain concepts, cultures, lost because the words they were linked with are gone--

but yeah... I'd still be somewhat unscathed.

The loss of the bees: nah I wouldn't like that.

I mean... no bees, no food right?

But I still trust the humans to kinda find a workaround.

No elephants? Lions? Tigers?

I suppose I'd tell my grandkids about the lost beasts

as if I were describing some great mythic beast of yore.

It'd be sad, but I'd still hold up.

But bananas....

to live in a world without bananas....

no, I don't think I'd like that.

Just keeping it real.

I'm a poet and all

But I'm still pretty shallow and self-concerned.

So, yeah...

Just saying.

I wouldn't go bananas or anything

to wake and find no more bananas in the world.

But I'd probably be really bummed for a while. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian, by Andy Weir

Andy Weir has managed to create an exciting book about numbers. The Martian is a fun book. It’s a quirky book with an engaging main character, but it is not a perfect book.

Its perfection lies in the fact that the main character is as much an alien to the reader as he is to the world he finds himself in. He is an earther stuck on an inhospitable planet where he faces starvation, death by cold, death by thirst if he is not rescued. But he is also an alien -- a martian if you will-- because unlike the rest of us Earthers, he is an astronaut. Astronauts are not made like you and me. They are constantly heroic, they don’t allow fear to oppress them, they know stuff.

Our hero is in danger, but there is absolutely no doubt in the reader’s mind that he will save himself and stay alive until he is rescued. In that respect, the bus has no tension. And yet tension is everywhere because the hero Mark Watney is constantly on his toes and constantly having to muddle through botanical, mathematical, engineering experiments. This is where the fun comes in. The Martian feels like a survival manual. It feels like nonfiction. The reader is constantly being taught about space, chemistry, physics, and botany. But it doesn’t feel as if one is being taught. One is simply being pulled along breathlessly in the wake of a kind of superman whom one cannot identify with but whom one likes because he has good humor and seems like a humble but smart guy.  

But as I said, the book has problems.

The problems are mostly in the sections that are told in the third person. It is here where the author shows that he has much to learn about writing scenes, descriptions, and real characters. The third person narration didn’t add much to the book  and only shows the shortcomings of the author. All that said, I recommend this book highly if you are a math geek and if math doesn’t give you a headache.

This is a short review. A larger review of this book will be up at THE FAN in August 2014

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Anatomy of the breakup of a friendship

It's Thanksgiving 2012 and there are Thanksgiving pics (turkeys, etc) on the page.

                                                     "Happy Thanksgiving, you're my best friend!"
She posts the status on her friend's timeline and CAMERA Zooms out and we see three other tabs on the browser opened. One of them is a mail program where she is in a chat with this same younger woman.

OLDER BLACK WOMAN writes in the chat dialog box: "I posted something on your timeline."
The YOUNGER WHITE WOMAN writes back in chat dialog box: "LOL! Off to see!"
The older woman returns to facebook. The young woman has answered the post: "LOL! Oh, you're so sweet! Yes, you're one of my best friends too."
Camera pulls backward and we see the actual older woman.
                                                      OLDER WOMAN
                                    (reading the post and looking wounded)
                                             Oh? One of her best friends? So that's it. Silly me.

An OLDER WHITE MAN comes into view in the background eating a sandwich.

                                                   OLDER WOMAN'S HUSBAND.
                                   (looking over her shoulder at her computer screen)
                                             Uhm? What're you silly about?

On the computer screen, the young woman has written in the email chat: "This is the chapter I was working on for my novel."
Older woman reads it, then writes: "Ooh, love it!!! That's so good!"

                                                  OLDER WOMAN
                                             Apparently, I don't know my place. I'm one of her
                                             best friends. But not her best friend.

                                              OLDER WOMAN'S HUSBAND
                                             Who has one best friend anymore? And let's face it.
                                             She's young. She's got tons of family. She's in college.
                                             She's got a church group. All you have is me. If you're so hurt, tell her.

On the computer screen, the young woman writes in the chat box: "You really like it?"
Older woman reads then responds: "I loooooooooove it! You're so talented."
                                                 OLDER WOMAN
                                           No, it's all good. It's good to know my place.

                                                 OLDER WOMAN's HUSBAND
                                            Good Lord! Don't take it to heart.
On the computer screen, the young woman writes in the chat box: "I was working on Family Court stuff all morning. Aaargh, the evil in the world! The stuff I could tell you! There's this little girl. Her grandmother calls her a skanky whore. I'm really just so upset at it. But the kids has no one."
Older woman reads then responds: "Ah."

                                                 OLDER WOMAN
                                            I've already taken it to heart.

                                               OLDER WOMAN'S HUSBAND
                                           Don't do anything drastic or anything. She's a good friend.
                                           I mean, it's not as if you see her in real life. So it's not necessary
                                           for you to tell her what you think, is it?
On the computer screen, the young woman writes in the chat box: "I get so depressed sometimes about the stuff I see."
Older woman reads then responds: "Life is hard, yes. But at least you have a lot of friends around you. And you haven't suffered as she has."

                                                OLDER WOMAN
                                          Well, I never tell people in real life how I think.

                                              OLDER WOMAN'S HUSBAND
                                  (reading over her shoulder)
                                        True, but at least in real life, she would see your face and
                                        know she hurt your feelings. And maybe you guys could talk it out.
                                        Besides, you like her so much. You're always worried about her.
                                        Was that a little dig, by the way?

                                                 OLDER WOMAN
                                        Talk it out? Are you kidding? Do you know how shameful it is to let
                                        someone know how hurt you feel because they don't like you as much as
                                        you like them? And yes, it was a dig. But, why is she telling me
                                        her problems if she has all these friends? But don't worry. Let it go.
                                        I'll just listen to her news and be kind. I'll comment and I'll still be nice to her.

Younger woman writes: "Are you saying I've never suffered?

                                                OLDER WOMAN'S HUSBAND
                                       No shutting of the heart, please! And how can you do it? You're both so
                                      sensitive. You've cared about her and worried about her all these years.
                                       I long's it been? ten years since she was in high school,                                                             right? All through college, and law school, and now that she's got her home
                                       office. She's always been there for you and you for her.

Older woman responds in the chatbox: "I didn't say that."

                                                OLDER WOMAN
                                        Too late. I know my place now. Don't worry. I won't hurt her feelings.
                                        I'll just stop sharing my heart with her and I'll know my place. Darn it!
                                       This girl is always talking about much she suffers more than other people.

                                                  OLDER WOMAN'S HUSBAND
                                   (groaning and returning to the kitchen.)
                                       So you're not going to be patient with that anymore?

                                                OLDER WOMAN
                                       If I cared, I'd argue with her. But now I don't care.
                                       Am not gonna argue. And I'm not going to worry about her anymore.

                                              OLDER WOMAN'S HUSBAND
                                        You're just way too easily hurt.
Computer screen opened to several browsers with the email program and facebook open. Older woman reads the email chatbox from the young woman. The young woman's status reads: "As a Christmas present to ourselves, we're going that little girl. It's just too much the way her grandmother treats her."

                                                 OLDER WOMAN
                                          (fuming to herself)
                                               Seriously? Her health is crappy. They're in money crisis.
                                               Her marriage is in trouble. And she wants to adopt this kid?
                                               Darn it! It's like she keeps bringing trouble on herself.

Older woman types her response: "Well, do what you think is best. Pray about it. But if you decide to do it, don't tell me any of the troubles you get into because of this adoption."

Young woman types back: "Okay then, fine." The browser shuts down.

                                                OLDER WOMAN
                                      (fuming to herself)
                                              Seriously! With all her family and friends, she wants me...
                                             a mere "one of her best friends" to care?

Fade out as Spring comes out and we see the old woman's computer screen. The email program is not opened.

                                                                           THE END



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Poem: Second-hand, hand-me-downs

Again and again, the kitchen in our church

becomes an obstacle of plastic bags

filled with clothes -- the first owners dead, moved, slimmed-down, fattened up, no longer pregnant.

Or toys. Or DVD's. Or China.

All in excellent shape.

They're in excellent shape because they were given with love.

Unlike the stuff one gives to the thrift shop

where the recipients are strangers.

My friends' kids

get glutted with books I've reviewed

books I've liked.

(Why share what was hated?)

When I visit them they greet me with eyes open

look behind my back for the latest

second-hand-but-first-to-them book.

I have one acquaintance, though...

very rich. A clothes horse.

She brings me clothes.

haute couture, high-end....rarely-worn.

She drops them at my gate

without asking.

without stopping to chat.

I don't know the woman.

But sometime in the past,

she determined to give me her hand-me-downs

determined to upgrade my style.

I wear jumper dresses and jeans,

not stylish for someone not yet an old lady:

this bothers her.

Should one wear clothes from such a giver?

Second-hands. . .hand-me-downs. . .

Ideally, such giving should be communal, should be born from love.

And yet I have worn them.

Because they were beautiful

and one like me could not afford them.

She smiles when I meet her at some hoopla,

glad I'm wearing her gift.

But those smiles. . .

they kill me little by little.

The day will come when I will be strong enough

Not to accept her cast-offs

lying at my gate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Poem: Adam's First Word by Carole McDonnell

Adam's first words we do not know;

they were not given us.

And what would we understand of them

we, who know so little of life and God?

Did he open his eyes --suddenly

arising from non-being and dust--

and look around at the world

and at his maker

and (smiling in awe)

say, "I Am,

I also now am."

We do not know.

Perhaps this is why

the conversation is left to our

imaginative surmising.

His other conversations

--with God, with angels--

we do not know.

Perhaps they are too personal,

too initimate,

too playful,

too profound to understand.

The first words we hear

from that first Man

was praise to the Friend

who had made a new friend or him.

It is a gasp of delight and wonder,

an ejaculation of appreciation

to the creativity of one whom

I suppose he considered his father.

"You've done well this time!

This is the right way to create!

This is the right creative choice you've made!"

Wonderful "first words"

I think.

And yet. . .

I still wonder:

What did that First Man say

when he opened his eyes

and found himself suddenly a new being,

suddenly alive?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The fantastical arrives in Game of Thrones

I watch a lot of reviews. Hey some folks like reading novels. I like reading reviews. So I've been watching reviews of Game of Thrones on the internet. And an interesting note has crept into the reviews: dislike of the fantastical intrusion. Especially in the finale for season 4.

Yep, apparently, they don't mind dragons here and there, or warging but full-on fantasy is annoying, boring, uninteresting, weird.

Ya see I find this opposition to the fantastical interesting on two counts. First, folks have gotten used to the rational and to the exploration of human power that the fantastical does seem odd. Second, George R R Martin is the writer who has created this stressing problem for these reviewers. Of course not all reviewers hate fantasy, and lovers of fantasy don't have to be religious. But it's interesting that an atheist should create a scenario which essentially echoes the supernatural Day of Wrath...a day when the seemingly rational universe opens up and the magical is revealed.

Let's face it: the folks in Westeros are like the readers of the Game of Throne books and like GRRM. They are pretty involved in unbelief. They don't believe in the supernatural. All the while the supernatural exists around them and is ready to show them what supernatural evil is like.  The world of Westeros is going on in its own human worldly way utterly unaware of encroaching evil or of spiritual matters underfoot. And as I said an atheist writer is presenting this scenario.

Reviewers love the machinations; they love power-struggles. They love the gamesmanship of human power. They love the rational of a known world. They don't like the idea of the unknown supernatural. The supernatural will probably be made rational and understandable in the final end of the series. But for now the supernatual exists. The supernatural cometh. The world we want to ignore is unveiling itself. And yes, GRRM is the one showing this strange situation.

This is what is interesting about Grace. Grace is everywhere, and truth is everywhere...even if the world, the rational, the atheistic don't want to acknowledge grace and truth. And this is why I often laugh when Christians talk about their need to affect culture. Seriously, Christian artwork rarely affects the world. Overtly Christian movies are seen mostly by Christians -- as are Christian book. So the cultural wars --wars that should disturb people by making folks uncomfortable with the whole notion of the supernatural-- are not being won by Christians. It is an atheist now who is making rational people squirm. Love that.  

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