The moral edifice embodied in
remembrance is something oral
historians count on but isn’t
there the embellishment factor
to factor into the embodied
edifice? You keep me in the
dark so much, you should start
a mushroom farm, so please don’t
keep me in suspenders any longer.
How does the story end? And don’t
embellish with relish your re-mem- brance of the mushroom who
walked into a bar and the bartender
told the mushroom that the bar
doesn’t serve mushrooms and the pickled mushroom said (you’re
going to relish this), “Why not? I’m a fungi.”
*Lines and paraphrases and additions all mashed up from the novel The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig,
We stood across the creek from each other
Chatting about this, that and the other.
He cracked some jokes, his imprimatur.
Suddenly he bolted acting quite immature.
Why? A friend stopped by for a chat.
The joker saw him; the friend filled me in on the spat.
We are old enough to know better than that
— fighting like fifth graders or dogs and cats.
But not really. Our egos get bruised
And we find a fight hard to refuse.
We’ll give each other the silent treatment
Expecting the other to apologize any moment,
But moments turn to days, months and years.
What is it exactly that we have to fear
In breaking the silence and admitting accounts in arrears?
What’s that about pride and falling?
Shouldn’t we follow our vocare, our calling,
To ask for forgiveness and be forgiving,
To swallow hard and start reconciled living?
In the moment its easy for me to say.
Out of this fight I’m just trying to stay.
As the sun came up, he listened to the
elongated notes and chords holding him
in suspended animation then the staccato
jarred him from his gaze at the water
in the creek rippling along, along, along.
He looked at the six-year-old (going on
eight months) female, Chocolate Lab,
adopted five months ago. He put his hand
on her glistening, wavy brown coat.
It was warm from the sun. “I think we’re
going to make it, Babe. I think we are
going to make it.” She licked his hand.
He wondered if that was affection or
just the whiff of something left over
The teenage daughter said spitefully,
“We sure look good to the world,”
meaning the public face, the persona,
the mask. What’s behind the door?
It’s hard to match the masks,
private and public — like living out
lives in a Greek tragedy
or comedy — here/there in mundanity.
The man read a book about a great runner
who ran away from home everyday,
away from the sadist father who
was the paragon of virtue in public.
He tries to bring the private and the
public together and then he’ll
lapse and smack
the dog behind the door.
Fortunately, the dog is forgiving
giving the man the grace
to integrate his face
an inch or two toward God.
“How can you be so complacent about our faith?”
the girl asked him in their sophomore year of
high school. Was he blasé or simply comfortable?
She struck him as needy, having to get all consumed
by something in order to have it be significant.
She didn’t seem authentic but she was judgmental.
In their senior year he saw her in the hall and
said, “Haven’t seen you at Christian fellowship
lately.” “Oh, that? When I was a child, etc.,
etc., etc. but when I became an adult I put away
childish things.” She had become a rabid thespian
and hung with the artsy crowd. “You’ve got kind
of a nice face. Why don’t you try out for the next
play?” He didn’t think so. First, he wasn’t passionate
enough about religion. Then he wasn’t artsy/fartsy
enough for the theat-“re” instead of “er.” Was he
blasé or simply comfortable? He still felt the
judgment. It would follow him into the pulpit.
His wife once said, “You don’t seem very religious.
Maybe you should have been a social worker.”
We would have thought that
he could have bought this and that,
but he was frugal in ways that
in this consumer society promising humor’s
gayety but offering only anxiety
and only concluding that
best is consuming
this and that
and that that
is not the golden way
or the king’s highway
but ending in nothing gay,
come what may
this very day
which is the only day
we have to consume
the king’s highway
on our way
and so we say
that while we thought that
he could have bought this and that,
he was frugal in ways that
and he’s still here
and we have dried up
The pudgy, middle-age woman
flipped the bird over and over
again at the journalist who was
just doing his job reporting the
news. He stood alone, mike in
hand. She was surrounded by
jeering, leering, jostling, hassl-
ing fellow mobsters. It’s a good
thing the journalist was on a
platform with a railing separating
him from the mob or who knows
what they may have done. Earlier
in the evening, the woman fixed
dinner for her family, they prayed
before eating and she admonished
her teens to behave themselves
that evening at the movie and to
be home by curfew. Who knows if
the woman did any of that earl-
ier in the evening before the
raucous rally but she spewed
epithets and angrily thrust the
middle-finger over and over and
over again at the guy who was
just doing his job behind the mob,
behind the stage where stood
the sneering, hate-instigating
provocateur. If the woman had
children, one could only hope
they were, indeed, at the
movie and not watching mom
on TV. Ah, but there is always
the news and ubiquitous You-tube.
Driving the back roads home from Toledo —
the farmlands, the corn never before looking
so good, apples growing, grapes growing,
hops growing (that’s new), old gas stations,
a fifties’ era abandoned outdoor theater,
a restaurant that fits the image of a road-
house — he thinks about sitting in the back-
seat of his parents’ Dodge traveling the
back roads of Indiana and Michigan for a
Sunday afternoon drive following the buck-
seventy-five fried chicken dinner at the best
diner just over the border from Illinois into
Indiana. He says to his wife in a voice that
almost sounds like he is asking permission,
“I think I would like to have a couple glasses
of wine this evening. It was a long round trip
today.” He’s been cutting back on the booze
because it hurts his arthritis. His wife says,
“That sounds good.” As he sighs a big sigh,
he continues driving west toward the dunes,
pond, waterfall, Big Lake — home.
The drivers on the drive
To and from Toledo were
Courteous like little old,
Goody Two shoes altar boys
When the priest eyes them
And such a surprise given
All the wise guys weaving
In and out of every other
Drive here and there and
Everywhere, Why? Beats me.
I don’t know why but I
Will give credit to the
Governors of Michigan,
Indiana and Ohio for
Roads that are so, so
Bad that even wise Guys
Are wise enough when they
Drive, if, perhaps, for no
Other reason than enlightened
Self-interest just to stay
new spruce is dying —
needles dropping — silent sighs;
pour water with prayer.