The Ghost He Has Become*

Stubble now creeps up from his beard
into the hair on the sides of his head --
blond early on,
   brown latter on down,
      black in middle age,
blond back 
after many years;
gray wasn’t what he feared;
white was ahead,
pointing the way 
to when he would be dead.

He stands and 
   looks in the mirror seeing 
      the ghost he has become --
unresolved tragedy,
   unfinished business,
      unnecessary necessities.

*idea from a meditation by Frederick Buechner


Yes, it probably will be found
that his sins rise
above venial
and that surely he is venal,
but venal or venial,
who are we to judge?
We leave that to the judge,
for are we not all
— venal and/or venial —
unto death, mortal

The Heart’s Ride, for Matthew

The man felt his heart skip across
the pond and come to rest on a
turtle’s shell. The turtle reacted

with a start and dove off the stump
into the water carrying the man’s
heart along. The heart beat strongly

causing ripples on the surface which
grew to tiny white caps and slapped
against the shore. The heart watch-

ed from the bottom of the pond where
it was very quiet and still. A large-
mouth bass came along and the heart

hitched a ride. The man cast a creamer
worm on a hook; the bass struck; the
man played it up and down and around

the pond and reeled it in giving the
man’s heart quite a ride. The man
landed the fish, carefully removed

the hook, oxygenated the fish by mov-
ing it back and forth in the water
filling the fish’s gills and let it

go. The man walked to the car, his
heart pounding hard following
such a fine ride.

We Are On Our Way

He awoke one day
and said, “I sense to my dismay
that there are fewer critters
come this way.”
He awoke another day
and said, “I sense all the
critters have gone away.”
And then one day,
he, too, went away
along with the birds, fish,
bees, trees,
flowers and hay.
There was no one left on
earth to sing and play.
The garden had gone away,
except the seeds of one lone
dandelion, a beautiful,
flower not a weed,
blew this way.

A Dandelion Garden — The Rise and Fall of Behemoth In Trickle-Down Time

Behemoth, somewhere around the
mid-seventies, with the blessing
of avaricious trickle-downers,

began to devour mom and pop,
the town square, the church
on the corner and field, after

field, after field, after field. The
cemetery has become a dandelion
garden, not taking up any more

space than it did before because
there aren’t anymore bodies for
family plots. There aren’t any-

more families. Where did those
people go? Behemoth, growing ever
larger with an all-consuming appe-

tite, needed to be fed more and
more and so more fields were con-
sumed, and chemicals were used to

grow bigger seeds, faster and
Behemoth consumed the poison
seeds and became sterile because

of the seeds and could never produce
hybrid Behemoths, so more and more
seeds had to be made to feed hungry

Behemoth to keep him alive to
consume more and more and soon the
world was full of rotting, one-time,

one-purpose, poison seeds and no
more Behemoth with no family to
bury him in a family plot in a

cemetery on the edge of a town
that doesn’t exist anymore and
so, Behemoth rotted in the fields

filled with rotting one-time,
single purpose, poison seeds
near a dandelion garden.

The Dandelion Man, for Wendell Berry

The dandelion man worked the
acres with well-worn implements,

some left over from relatives re-
siding in the town cemetery. He

would go for walks in the cemetery
thinking of poems he would pen

later and instead of asking the
grounds keepers to put some

herbicide down to kill the dande-
lions, he would pluck some, and

lay them on the headstones of
family members. If he found a

dandelion that had gone to seed,
he would carefully pluck it, hold

it close to his lips, breathe deeply,
hold his breath and then blow as

hard as he could on the seeds
scattering them all over those

headstones and a few of family
friends. He would chuckle

thinking about his grandchild
doing exactly the same thing.

Why Don’t You Join the National Guard?

A white kid with an AR-15, a trench coat,
wearing nothing else, shot and killed
four black and brown kids in a restaurant
in a southern state.
He may be delusional,
but surely, it should be seen as a crime of hate.
Perhaps, he should have been in a
mental hospital run by the state;
whatever, he had his guns taken away,
but daddy gave them back to him
thus securing the stupid, white kid’s fate.
YAY, DADDY! You, go, NRA.
Shoot and run away
and come back with more guns
to shoot another day.
And what did the black kid do
to save his and others’ fate?
He grabbed the rifle, threw it over the
counter and chased the lunatic,
naked as a jay, away.
He didn’t grab the rifle and shoot,
which would have been the
choice of the NRA.
He just threw it away.
The white kid has been captured
without anymore deaths
by law enforcement officers who know
how to hunt best.
So, take that NRA.
Why don’t you and the rest of
the loony Second Amenders
join the National Guard,
the only militia that is
constitutionally A-okay?

Irony in Afternoon Hospice Visits

The evangelical having spouted certitude
on matters beyond this life,
anxiously pleaded for mercy
from the Grim Reaper’s scythe.

Looking right into death’s open door,
“After this turbulent, troubled life,”
the agnostic mumbled, “No more;
eternal nothingness and blessed silence
might be just right.”

They Spoke Impolitely and Got Off Lightly — Progress?

The man read that a university professor of Muslim
faith spoke ill of a former First Lady following the
First Lady’s death, something about racism and a

war-mongering son. Well, the old adage about never
speaking ill of the dead, one hardly ever observed,
wasn’t observed and you could hear the gasp across

the land. The man flinched when reading it even as
he thought to himself, she’s probably right. Like
when the black preacher in Chicago shouted during

one of his fiery sermons regarding national hypocrisy
and racism, “God damn the United States of America.”
Another gasp across the bow and the man, a minister

in that preacher’s denomination, flinched when he
heard it as he thought to himself, he’s right. The
female, tenured, Muslim professor is on a leave

of absence from teaching and who ever hears from
that black preacher anymore? They crossed the
culturally polite line and got off pretty lightly

when they spoke truth to power. The man thought,
not too long ago, the culturally and politically
polite practice would have been lynching.