Gilded Behavior

A lot of time is spent trying to make up
for previous sins. Think of Twain’s Gilded
Age and the avaricious, capitalistic exploiters

who spent tens of millions of jaded dollars
and ill-got gains in philanthropic efforts
to assuage guilty consciences and cleanse

reputations. Well, that was easy. How
about lately? Former president George W.
Bush continues to help Africa deal with

HIV following the deaths of approximately
a million humans during the US war with
Iraq, for God only knows what reason unless

you ask Bush’s VP, (I hesitate to name the
demonic name) Cheney who wanted all the oil
but didn’t get it. Okay, let’s bring this

closer to home. I had a half-beagle/half-
dachshund for fifteen years and, while I
loved him, in all honesty, did not treat him

very well. Some say “Happy,” the dog, will
be waiting for me at the pearly gates to
have “A Come to Jesus Moment.” So, what

have I done? Loved five Chocolate Labs
beyond all reason and allowed them all
to get away with way too much, all of it

being worthwhile and due penance. Damn,
I didn’t think I had so much in common
with Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan,

John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vander-
bilt, George Pullman, and George W.
Bush, the 43rd President of the US of A.

Comment on a Poem

I receive a poem a day from “Poem-A-Day,” and the poets
comment on their poems. I’m always interested in the
poets’ own take on their poems especially if I haven’t
a clue what the poem is about.

I have never done that, following the notion that
poems should be interpreted by the readers.

However, I’m breaking with that practice for the first
time concerning my poem, “Life in the Golden Mean.”

I set up a contrast between the Midwest and the east
and west coasts relating to global warming where it
is assumed to be “safer in the middle.” This, of course,
can be extended out to most “middle of the country” attitudes
toward the flaky coasts (born from a sense of cultural inferiority?).

The Leviathan, the pollution, is a scary reality for the Great
Lakes (the world’s greatest bodies of fresh water and increasingly
important for global water needs) and it is also a metaphor about
judging others without noticing the flaws of one’s own. We “hick”
Midwesterners have our own snobbishness. We look down our untutored/
unsophisticated noses at others.

I pastored two churches at the same time in southern Kentucky.
The country congregation of farmers and the children of farmers
was much less sophisticated than the county-seat town congregation
of merchants and professionals even though the farmers’ farms
made them much wealthier than the town folk. However, they could
always be “spiritually” superior to their more urban brothers and
sisters (read corrupted) not seeing, of course, their own sin of
spiritual pride born of a sense of cultural inferiority.

A Quarter of a Century Too Late

She happened to see Joan
Lunden walk into a downtown
restaurant in Naples, Florida

on a Friday evening twenty-five
years ago. She said she wanted
to go to that restaurant the

next evening. Tragically, be-
tween that announcement and
the next evening, she died,

seemingly out of the blue,
of a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
He saw a commercial featuring

Joan Lunden, twenty-five years
later, and he wanted to say
to Ms. Lunden that his wife

looked a lot like Ms. Lunden,
blond and blue-eyed, and was
so star-struck that she wanted

to visit the same restaurant
and so he said into the T.V.,
“Hey, my wife wanted to go to

the restaurant you visited,”
but it was a quarter century
too late to say that and who

would know if the restaurant
was even there and he wouldn’t
know never being back.

Audacious Musings

Prelapsarian (supra) or postlapsarian (infra/sub) —
polysyllabic words for members of the club.
When did their tribal god decide in consultation
with other tribal deities, (was the total three?)
who got voted in and who would burn for eternity?
Was it before the fall
or after the fall
or, perhaps, such speculation
isn’t worth much at all.
He knew he never had the credential
but for awhile
it seemed providential
to be discussing such things esoteric —
which in hindsight really have scant merit.
But it was heady and fun
speculating on who would go to hell
and who would make that infinite, heavenly run.
Ah, the audacious musings of a young seminarian.

Life In the Golden Mean Just Don’t Go In the Water

California is about to break off from
the rest of the
contiguous forty-eight states
or it will dry up from lack of potable water
just like Arizona will
unless someone finds an economical way to
desalinate sea water
which is why we live very, very close to a
huge, freshwater body called
an inland sea,
and beyond that, back down a dune
away from the water
so if the water rises we won’t be flooded
and so, we live in the middle of the
country far away from the coasts which
will eventually be flooded
and we are really secure here and
very happy
except that the seasons are really crazy
what with global warming
because our winter, which was not particularly
strong or snowy,
just goes on and on and on
and it is 34 degrees on the 76th of January,
as put by a friend,
otherwise known as
April 17 and everyone is looking forward
to the weekend
when it is supposed to
be 60 degrees, seriously 60 degrees,
at which time we will
celebrate the fact
that we have discovered Aristotle’s
Golden Mean
along with a couple of
decent places to go for Happy Hour,
one right along an inland lake with
beautiful, wrap around views
not counting all the fertilizer running
into the lake from
farms and the residue of chemicals
in the soil at the bottom of the lake
from all the factories
which used to dump
into the water hoping God wouldn’t
see and it would be washed out
into the inland sea and get diluted
sufficiently that no one would
ever notice or care
except when swimming in
a triathlon and coming down
with some kind of horrible illness
involving phosphorescent stuff
stuck to the
body and pus-filled eyes
and mucous membranes swollen
with yucky, crusty, green stuff.

Other than that, it is really good

and we are really, really fortunate

to live in Aristotle’s Golden Mean

or maybe it’s some growing, slithering,

mean, green thing — Leviathan.

He Laughed Only Once

He laughed only once;
It was an open-mouthed, belly laugh;
It was at someone else’s expense;
It was mean;
He smirks;
He winks;
He frowns mostly;
He purses his lips;
He squints causing big crow’s feet;
He gets all beady-eyed;
There is no self-deprecation.
How can you trust a guy
Who doesn’t see the joke?

to make a poem sing

the poet said is in the essence
of the thing
to make a poem sing.
a succulent word for
a calm observation? a
bit of distance
for instance?
some objectivity?
is it impassivity?
not indifference,
a “calm, an equanimity.”
he wrote of war
and somehow found love.
a gift from above?
the gift of insouciance,
said to be the essence
of the thing
to make a poem sing and ring —
to see what is beneath
around and above
everything —
the calm in the
midst of the storm —
a poet’s dream.

Deserving a Prayer

What an interesting position to
be in, seriously audacious when
you stop to think about it, but
here we are, not in hell watch-

ing someone who is. It sounds
arrogant, elitist and at the very
least egregiously judgmental, but,
actually, not so much to any of

that self-critiquing. Having said
that, it isn’t as if we don’t have
a foot in the fiery furnace which
burns the rubber sole of our shoe

(and it kind of takes one to know
one), but when you think about it,
it is kind of obvious in a disguis-
ed way. On the surface, this guy

has all the power in the world,
tells us how smart he is, how
he has everything under control,
is wealthy and is married to

a beautiful woman while he
apparently bedded down other
women. Sounds like the guy
has it made, right? Wrong.

He is utterly, totally delusional
about himself and reality and he
is completely bankrupt (to use an
apt capitalistic description) when

it comes to core values like
compassion, altruism, empathy.
He’s even lacking in one of the
lesser philosophical values —

enlightened self-interest. Yes,
he could do a lot of harm being
in the powerful, political position
he holds, but we can hope for the

checks and balances necessary to
cushion the world from disaster,
but simply on the subject of this
guy’s eternal (meaning now) resi-

dence, yeah, it’s hell. And if
that’s true, perhaps he needs a
prayer — for what is impossible
with humanity is possible with God.

Like Children Under a Chair

Storms streak, crying out against
spring. A white haze settles across

the sky descending like icy
accusations judging the earth.

Something is going wrong;
something is amiss.

Leaves shrink, buds feel creation’s anger.
Misdirected aggression?

Nature turns on itself in a gasp of

We watch helplessly

like children watching mom and
dad argue and feeling

the foundation shake and break.

The electricity goes out.

So vulnerable, so powerless,
so scared

like children cowering under a chair.