Writing Rhetorically

She wrote rhetorically,
“Do falling stars fall
during the day?” He stop-
ped reading and started
laughing, “Does God speak
in silence?” Then he thought
about what he had been
reading, Teaching A Rock
To Talk
. He thought about
a clergy colleague who once,
out of the blue, asked him
if he liked rocks. He laughed
then, too, but for different
reasons. The late colleague
was a sculptor who asked
rocks what they could be and
the answer was the sculpture.
The sculptor heard rocks talk.

A Horror Story

White, evangelical, Christian tribalism —
a nice turn of a phrase, a horror story,
an encapsulating concept, a horror story,
juxtaposed jargon, a horror story,
a distilled description, a horror story,
the essential essence, a horror story,
heretical hype, a horror story,
apostate Protestantism, a horror story
a horror story, a horror story, simply
a horror story.

First On the Snakes

He had just finished a book
about dogs as spiritual guides.
He has had many dogs in his
life and, along the way, they
have taught him much, but
he thinks the thing they taught
him more than anything else
is that they are the inter-
mediaries between kill and
be killed and being friends,
who in our shared animal
nature don’t have to devour
each other, but actually can
love each other deeply and
he is almost ready to try that
hypothesis on rattle snakes
and humans but, just to be
safe, first on the snakes.

The Noontime Nap

The man sits in the stillness
of the evening, the only sound,
the hum of the oven baking the
pie crust. Darkness descends

early in the aftermath of the
post “fall back” fall. It’s just
after five but the last glimmer
of light is about to depart not

to return as the same dim light
again till eight the next morn-
ing having traveled from east
to west announcing the soon

coming of winter. The man looks
up at the mantel and focuses on
the jar containing the ashes of
the chocolate lab who died three

months prior. A photo of Buddy
Baloo rests against the jar. The
man begins to speak to the dog
behind the photo and behind the

jar, the dog afar. The man
reminisces about all the jogs
and then the walks and then
the naps. The man would walk

to the couch and Buddy would
get up from wherever he had
been, walk slowly over and
slide down in front of the

couch with a thump on the floor.
The man would put his hand on
Buddy’s side, feel the rhythmic
breathing, listen to his own

breathing beginning to match
the dog’s and the two would
fall off to a serene, blissful
noontime nap.

Search Lights of Life*

When I was a kid, in a summer’s eve,
sometimes bright search lights would
interrupt the darkness, fly and criss-

cross the sky. It was an urban thing
usually signaling the opening of a gas
station. I was mesmerized by the lights

wondering how far up the light went.
And then we would hop in the car
and track down the lights and see

the gas as advertised as the cheapest
in town, at least for a day or two.
The idea must have come from WWII

when lights scanned the sky in search
of enemy planes. Now, search lights
point down from hovering helicopters

in pursuit of suspected criminals.
If I ever think back to the days when
those lights streamed back and forth

across the night sky, I think of those
huge rays as each of us searching for
meaning not enemy planes or the start

of a capitalistic venture. Then I real-
ize truth of the venture is experienced
when the beams intersect and in that

instant, they become us, we become one
and the light shines brighter than ever
through the darkness…

and the darkness becomes light.

*idea from a meditation by Frederick Buechner

He Went For A Trail Jog

He went for a trail jog
and it was the only thing
that day, which felt pure,

clean, whole, unadulterated
because it was purging,
cleansing physical exertion —

one step after another
in the face of the expose
of all the disgusting

power plays played out
in creepy sexual behavior
now exposed day after

day after day on TV
and so he stops along
the trail, listens to

the sounds of the forest
and makes calls like he
believes were Native

American calls of har-
mony and unity with the
forest and the animals

therein and the forest
and the animals therein
forgive him for a bad

imitation and wish him
well along the purging,
purifying, spiritual trail.

Before the Walls Pop

I think it is a compulsion -- soup making.
     Not from scratch, but my wife has never 
been big on leftovers because as one of 
     five kids, she never experienced them. 
I got into trouble once for not asking
     if I could use the leftovers, so from 
last night’s wonderful dinner of drop 
     dead gorgeous, fall off the bone pork 
ribs in a saucy sauce and salvaged-from-
     the-crisper squash slathered in fresh 
garlic, I asked, "Honey, may I, pretty 
     please?" and got the go ahead nod with 
a note of enthusiasm -- red and yellow 
     bell peppers, eye-tearing onions, Italian 
seasoning (organic oregano, organic basil, 
     organic marjoram, organic sage, organic 
garlic), more fresh garlic, multi-colored 
     carrots, salt and pepper, some more salt and 
pepper, chicken stock, filtered water, huge purple
     radishes from the farmer’s market, a can of 
diced tomatoes, more dried seasoning, did I 
     mention more fresh garlic? deep orange 
carrots from the farmer’s market, deep green peas 
     in edible skins from the farmer’s market and 
heat, lots of heat to boiling and back and forth 
     and, did I mention some more salt and pepper? 
The house was filled with such gastronomic delight 
     I thought the walls were going to pop. It’s 
cold, it’s sunny, a great day for a jog after a 
     small taste test tease and dreaming on the 
trails of all our friends in the pot cozy 
     on a cold day beckoning, “We will be here 
waiting for you, love. Better get back before 
     the walls pop in ecstasy."

Perception is One’s Reality and Another’s Excuse

He has been criticized as being lazy.
He just thinks expending more energy
than necessary on a task is wasteful.
He has been criticized as being rude.
He just thinks honesty is the best policy.
He has been criticized as being bad with details.
He just thinks delegating is good.
He has been criticized as being fickle.
He just thinks change is good.
He has been criticized as being impossible.
He just likes to give people a challenge.
He has been criticized as blind to his own faults.
He just likes to look on the bright side of life.

I Stay Here Long Enough

I stay here long enough to know
what my ancestors knew
and survived through —
cold, rain, sleet and lake effect snow.
And now I know
that having tasted of what
my ancestors knew
I can let go
and go and go
to one place seniors go
— the sunny Southwest
which given a dreary Midwest
winter is the best.

The Unconditional Love of Four Chocolate Labs

The man said, “I don’t know why,
but Jack’s death is haunting me.”

A friend had just blurted it out
assuming the man had read the
same notice.

In following days, the man pondered:
Perhaps because it was out of the
blue; maybe because, at one time Jack
and I were really close friends and
then just drifted apart, perhaps
because another “one time” intimate
has died.

Then he ruminated back over the years:
A high school girlfriend, a high
school/college girlfriend, a few
high school buddies, some college
friends, colleagues,

my wife (Oh, my God, yes, my wife, suddenly)

and four Chocolate Labs in a row who just
up and died.

It just all seems too soon, too
short, too fragile, too impermanent,
too…something. He’s sure some of
these deaths were long in coming,
but sudden upon his hearing —
no time to get used to the parting.

And then in honesty in the stillness
of the moment of his thoughts: Maybe
because he didn’t have a chance or
take the opportunity at the time to
say what a wise man once wrote were
the most important sentences: “I’m
sorry. Please forgive me. I forgive
you. I love you,” except, that is,
for the four Chocolate Labs. He
was given the opportunity to
tell them and he took it.

He thought: Thank God for
the unconditional love of
the four Chocolate Labs.