He Was Seventeen and Now He’s Seventy

He was seventeen and now he’s seventy
appreciative to have experienced life’s plenty
to go with all the running on empty.
The seventeen was his age when his
dad stepped in front of a train
and his brother-in-law was the one to
view the grizzly remains.
A poet and professor of the history of science
writes that a child under eighteen whose
parent commits suicide is three times
more likely to do the same than one eighteen.
What a shame.
He was seventeen and three times more
likely to do the same.
He was forty-eight when his wife
died in a day
and he didn’t want to stay
and was strongly tempted but said,
“I guess I’ll stay…
for awhile.” A psychiatrist quotes an
Arthur Miller line in After the Fall, “…a
suicide kills two people, Maggie, that’s
what it’s for.”
Did his dad mean to kill
one, maybe two or a few more?
He doesn’t know what his dad knew,
but his dad killed more than
two;
he destroyed a family and the two who
are still around think every day
about how life was shattered
that winter’s day,
a day not unlike today.
He was seventeen and now he’s seventy
appreciative to have experienced life’s plenty
and maybe he knows the plenty
in contrast to all that running on empty.
And he’s beating the odds,
thank God.

She Walked Down to the Beach

She walked down the steps to the newly expanded beach,
a result of sand being transplanted from the channel
to make room for commerce by a huge snake spewing forth
in hiccups a sand and water mixture with some debris

like glass bottles, plastic, plastic, plastic mixed in
to mar the pristine expansion into the inland sea. His
children were at the water’s edge on that peninsula
sticking out into the water when she plunked herself

down inches away from the family. His wife joined the
family and later he did, too. His son and daughter-in-
law wondered why the woman had settled into her beach
chair only inches away from the family, book in hand,

big brimmed bonnet on her head. It seemed strange on
such a newly expanded beach with room for all, odd —
like invading peoples’ comfort zone and privacy in
a place people really want to be comfortable. There

had been some controversy in the association over
who had beach privilege and the man and his wife
thought that the woman, the president of the ass-
ociation, who didn’t know the extended family visit-

ing from Colorado, might be on beach patrol, a spy
mission to ferret out interlopers. She sat in stony
silence reading her book. The man saw the bandage
wrapped around her foot. He saw an opportunity to

break the ice on a warm summer’s afternoon. “Hi there.
What happened to your foot?” “Oh, nothing really. Just
an aggravation.” “Yes, nothing fatal but ever so bother-
some. Best wishes with that. Oh, and watch out for the

debris. Some of it may be sharp.” He walked back to
the family, which had moved a few feet down the newly
expanded beach. He mumbled something he had heard
recently, “Where surf meets sand, you’ll find a lawyer.”

A Precautionary Move

It is 36 today and I just turned
71. I finally left off sport shorts
and put on a pair of blue jeans,
left off the running shoes and put
on thick socks and hiking boots,
left off the polyester short sleeve
running shirt and polyester pullover,
put on a long sleeve cotton shirt
with a button down collar, put on a
wool, crewneck sweater and down
jacket. I don’t need the knee brace
for simple walking around but after
the summer and fall in the brace and
running clothes while the knee heals,
all these winter clothes make me feel
claustrophobic like I’m in a wearable
iron lung. I keep tugging at the collar
of my shirt and sweater. I’m starting
to dream about Phoenix in January,
running clothes, running shoes and
actual jogging on the trails along the
base of Piestewa Peak. The physician
says I should wear the brace and use
hiking sticks for jogging. “It’s just
precautionary,” he says. “Good idea,
doc,” I say. Gladly, I think. I really
used to like snow skiing.

He Had Never Attended a Revival — a short story

He had never attended a revival but here he was — the host pastor of one. As the still-wet-behind-the-ears pastor of Presbyterian persuasion, his first-out-of-the-gate parish was a small, rural, Mid-South congregation, the members of which prided themselves in saying, “Don’t pay attention to the name over the door; were just all Baptists here.”

Well, not all. The pastor wasn’t; but this Calvinist with a covenantal theology found himself pastoring a congregation with an Armenian theology that believed salvation was in their hands and the best time of year for their children who had arrived at the age of discernment to “get saved” was the annual fall revival.

Oh, and there was one alcoholic member who didn’t care much for the city slicker pastor so he never attended a regular service but would faithfully attended the fall revival to get saved again and again and again, year after year after year.

The alcoholic’s dubious claim to fame was that he dated, much to the chagrin of his wife and children, a country-western singer down in Nashville who ironically sang a popular version of the song “Stand By Your Man.” Apparently, she didn’t stand by her husband or she didn’t consider her husband her man and the alcoholic certainly didn’t stand by his wife. Every year he resolved to be faithful to his wife and a better father to his children, but he just couldn’t resist temptation and “back slid” into the arms of the singer thus requiring repeat repentances and what were becoming countless, tear-filled trips to the altar accompanied by his long-suffering and ever hopeful wife and children.

The congregation loved the guest preacher for the week, for his preaching with conviction, his sincerity, and his eloquent altar call during the quiet singing of “Just As I Am”: “With every eye closed and every tongue hushed and every heart open, ask yourselves where you would spend eternity if you were to die tonight in an automobile accident on your way home without having accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.” Parents didn’t close their eyes, but stared down their noses in the direction of their children whose decision had now become a matter of eternal life.

The revival preacher wouldn’t quit until every kid age eight and up and the old drunk had walked the “sawdust trail,” which was actually pretty nice carpet. Some folks were seen to be elbowing their children out of the pew.

After the revival ended and the “Best Preacher in the Great Commonwealth of Kentucky” was on his way to the next revival and the adoration of the next congregation, the pastor started practicing his believer-baptism skills. The baptisms wouldn’t take place till the following spring when the water in the creek was warm enough, but the parents didn’t care about the time-lapse because they were assured their kids were saved from hell that star filled night the previous fall when they decided to accept Jesus.

The pastor had only seen infant baptisms by sprinkling so he had to get the technique down. A Baptist minister friend told him to be sure to support the back of the person to be baptized by putting an arm around the small of the back and to hold the person’s wrist and to let them cover their own nose and mouth so they wouldn’t get scared that they were going to suffocate by the pastor’s death grip.

When the day arrived they all gathered at the creek and sang “Shall We Gather at the River?” He thought of a funny joke about a revival preacher telling the story about leading a raid and confiscating all the booze in a dry county and dumping it into the river before the choir director called the congregation to sing the final hymn “Let Us Gather At the River,” but thought better of the idea.

The alcoholic was missing in action, presumably in the arms of his paramour, but the kids were there along with all the parents. One girl about ten years of age had a mound of curls done up in a permanent for the occasion and the pastor couldn’t get all the hair underwater before the girl ran out of oxygen. When the baptism was over he joked that she would always have unruly hair. The folks on the bank were not amused. Believer’s baptism was serious business. He should have thought better of that quip, too.

When his daughter was born, he could have baptized her by sprinkling in the county seat town church that was part of his yoked ministry. They practiced infant baptism there, but he decided he wanted to teach his rural parishioners a thing or two about baptism from a Presbyterian perspective so he chose that church for the sacrament.

When the elders discussed the statistics at the end of the year, his daughter’s baptism was missing from the list. He brought it to their attention and they reluctantly listed it.

Later, an elder told him that if you’re not dipped, you’re gypped. He guessed his daughter was gypped in the eyes of those parishioners, but, thankfully, not in the heart of Jesus.

He Wrote a Long Poem

He wrote a long poem
about his experience
leading a fall revival
and then baptizing the
converted in the creek
the following summer
and when he went to
select all and copy he
hit paste and the poem
was gone and a name
of a poet he had copied
earlier showed up on
the page. He wondered
if that poet was jealous
of his poem or maybe
she knew it wasn’t very
good and wanted to
save him the embarrass-
ment.

I Love the 5th Dimension, Really

“What? Am I just senile? I just don’t
remember the utter rudeness on the
roads putting up with speeding cars
rushing past with blonds in big SUV’s
talking on the phone or texting. One
woman in a van flew down the street
cut me off almost sideswiping the car
and blew into the health food store.
I followed because that was where
I was going and said, ‘Hey Soccer
Mom, in your hurry to get to the
store and organic vegetables you al-
most killed me.’ She ignored me and
continued shopping seemingly in no
big hurry, and in stores — especially
ordinary grocery stores where people
wielding grocery carts fly by, cutt-
ing off other people, don’t say ex-
cuse me and have this attitude of
It’s my cart, it’s my store and you I
will just ignore
. Maybe I’m wrong;
maybe it has been just the same since
Adam pointed at Eve and Eve pointed
at the snake and Cain slew Abel over
an offering of cake, but I don’t think
so; at least, that’s my story and I’m
sticking to it for now. Now, shall we
discuss Isis, Al Qaeda, terrorists,
Michael Myers of Halloween I, II,
III, IV, the Texas Chain Saw Mass-
acres, the boogeyman, Donald Trump
(speaking of rude) and Ben Carson
(speaking of weird with that soft,
whispery voice and eyes closed most
of the time and an attempted knifing
and attack on his mom with a hammer
before finding God and successfully
separating Siamese twins using a
knife presumably sharper than the one
he attempted on the kid) and I can’t
stand one more newscast on the attack
in France that killed approximately
125, so maybe we should talk about the
630 deaths on US highways this past
week and every week of the year and
deal with the fact that Americans are
building personal arsenals to protect
them from everything that scares them,
which is just about everything and they
will only succeed in shooting them-
selves in the foot or killing the kid
next door and stop the world, I want
to get off? Maybe I’ll write a poem
about peace, love and the dawning
of the Age of Aquarius or maybe I’ll
just listen to an old 5th Dimension
album, and obsess and coo over
Marilyn McCoo.”

I Should Have Sat Pat

I sat and looked outside my house;
in the dune grass I saw a mouse;
he scurried away with much haste
heading toward my house with spouse.

I scurried not to be outpaced
not a movement did I waste;
the door to the garage did open fast
the movements of the mice I traced.

I’m sure they thought they quickly passed
under the door to their mouse stash,
but they didn’t know I knew their place
having secured a trap in a flash

with peanut butter so neatly encased
tantalizing a mouse’s taste;
I knew the rodents could not resist,
but seeing me they ran from the place.

Oh, foolish me, I should have sat pat
and trusted that peanut butter trap.

Sad to Say

In his four years as a hospice
chaplain,
his experience was the dying
didn’t mind dying;
they just didn’t want pain.
They could live with dying.
What did he just say?
And the evangelical Christians
proved most afraid of dying,
sad to say, he did say.

It Might All Be a Mystery

He read a poem titled In the (Subjunctive)
Mood
and he decided that if he were to
continue to write poetry he probably
should write in that mood regardless of
what mood that he might be in at the time.
He wondered if he were not sure any more
or if he just might be glad to wonder as he
wandered? It might all be a mystery.

He is Sure He is a Pasticheur

He read that a particular poet
was pronounced a pasticheur
by a poetry critic. He looked
it up and wondered if he was
one because he would read poetry
and then write his own in a sim-
ilar fashion, and that’s the dif-
ference between a pasticheur and
a plagiarist, the part about the
poem being his own and imitating
being the highest form of flattery
and he doesn’t mind flattering
poets even if they don’t know that
that is what he is doing or that
he is even doing anything at all
as long as it is in his own words,
like the word pasticheur, of which
he is sure he is one and which is
now his own word and just plain
fun to pronounce: pas-tee-shœr.
It almost makes him feel French
and after the DNA test, he
knows he does have a bit of
French blood which he just
pronounced in a pastiche of
the Pink Panther.