Relishing a Pickled Mushroom*

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,

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Across the Creek

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

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

from breakfast.

Greek Tragedies and Comedies in Mundanity

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.

You Don’t Seem Very Religious

“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

We would have thought that 
he could have bought this and that,
but he was frugal in ways that 
              others struggle
                   in —
        in this consumer society promising humor’s
                               gayety but offering only anxiety
and only concluding that 
              the
               best is consuming
                                 this and that
                                         and that that
way 
is not the golden way
or the king’s highway
but ending in nothing gay,
just dismay
come what may
this very day
which is the only day
                               we have to consume
our way
                          up
                            and
                                down
the king’s highway
on our way 
nowhere today
and so we say

that while we thought that 
he could have bought this and that,
he was frugal in ways that 
            others struggle
                  in --
                       and out
                         and
                     round about

and he’s still here
                         and we have dried up 
                                      and blown

                                away.

The Woman, The Mob, The Provocateur and, Maybe, the Kids

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.

A Big Sigh

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.

Thanks for Your Good Work On the Infrastructure, Governors

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
alive.