Walkin’ the Dog

Someone said that he
hadn’t ever faced a
forceful, resilient,

politically powerful
woman before. Some-
one else proffered

that Napoleon has
meet his Waterloo.
A young woman reach-

ed into her pocket,
pulled out an orange
yo-yo and began flip-

ping it down and jerk-
ing it back. Down and
up, up and down. Then

with a snap she threw
the yo-yo down and
held her hand still

as the yo-yo spun at
the end of the string.
She let the yo-yo touch

the ground and she began
moving forward with the
yo-yo bouncing along the

floor, up and down, up
and down. “It’s called
Walkin’ the Dog.”

The Arctic Air

The arctic air
descended
while his heart
melted listening
to “Take my hand,
take my whole
life, too ‘cause
I can’t help falling
in love with you.”
On a hot August
day with a zephyr
breeze floating
over the palm
trees, he reached
out for her hand,
never to hold it
again. And as the
tears began, he
jabbed at the
buttons to change
the channel
on the car radio
and said to himself,
It’s frigid outside.

When I Die

So when I die,
I will be saved
from any knowledge
of how people
react to my
death. I won’t
be looking back.
It is all for the best,
as even after death
I would, if throngs
wept, be tempted
to gloat
and be filled
with hubris,
or I would, if
there were only
those who like
Ebenezer Scrooge’s
business partners
gloated over his death
and glad for his
departure, be filled
with outrage at
how little I was
appreciated.
I give thanks
that, as promised,
I will hear
only the voice
of One calling
me by my
true name, the
name filled and
overflowing
with unconditional
love. And maybe
that’s a nice
lesson for before
I die.

Obedience*

Why didn’t we know
that obedience meant
listening intently? Why
was it a hammer crash-
ing down on the heads
of so many? Why didn’t
we listen to the screams
at Wounded Knee? Why
didn’t we listen intently
to the mournful echoes
of voices singing of op-
pression and hope — soul-
ful sounds echoing down
through generations in
the fields — voices told
to be obedient or suffer
the brutality of the whip?
Why didn’t we listen in-
tently to the beautiful
soprano and alto voices
in harmony singing for
equality? Why did we mis-
use the word obedient to
make others buckle to our
tone-deaf ears, brutal
hands and violent hearts?
Why were we not obedient
to the call for justice,
mercy and peace? Why?

* “The word obedience comes
from the Latin word ob-audire,
which means ‘to listen with
great attentiveness.'” — from
a meditation by Henry Nouwen.

Naming Nature

There are those nature poets
who name everything — shrubs,
trees, flowers, birds, animals.

Then there are nature poets
who write in generalities —
like above.

Is a general description
sufficient for a nature poet?

He asked his wife. She said,
“Maybe the poet is letting
the readers name nature
for themselves.”

Community

They have each other
and the Chocolate Lab.
They are family,

a nuclear community.
They touch others
in superficial community —

the neighborhood, the
protest rallies marching
with others and feeling

good in the moment and
then everyone goes their
own way, the church

community two thousand
miles away to which
they “belong” but don’t

really know anyone
and certainly don’t ever
attend social events

outside of worship for
the three months a year
they are there.

They walk the dog and
people admire the dog
and want to pet the dog

and then everyone stops
and chats and goes on.
That’s it for community.

They sit and ask each
other, “Did you ever
fit — high school,

college, this town with
its hyper conservative
religious and political

views?” “Nope.” “Work?”
“Sure, in a work
environment kind of

way. Once you retire
or change jobs, the
community is gone.”

“So, what is it exactly
that we have?”
“Each other.” With

that, the rescued Lab
jumps down from her
plush chair, sits between

the two, wags her tail
and then kisses each on
the hand. They look

at each other, smile,
wink and look out at
the blowing snow.

Osmosis?

The writer realized that, as a child, he
didn’t read and wasn’t read to. Also, he
had difficulty in school reading. He
recalls that with lingering discomfort.
But, he had never thought about not
reading as a child. It struck him as
ironic that he, a writer, hadn’t read
as a child. He had read to his children,
every evening and they read daily and
to this day continue to read and read
to their children. They all get and give
books for gifts. In anticipation, he can
count on a book or two for his birthday
from his son and daughter. He remem-
bers, as a youngster, standing by the
bookshelf in his house, the only book-
shelf, built into a small wall in the hall
and fingering the books. He liked to
stroke the backs of the books and
look at the names, cocking his head
sideways. There was Les Miserables,
which was a funny spelling for “Less
Miserable” and Don Quixote, a book
about a guy named Don Coyote. He
remembers wondering what was inside.
Once in a while, he would notice that
a book was upside down and he would
turn it right side up. At some point
in time he began to take the books
off the shelf and read. He hasn’t
stopped.

The New Stockyards

A photo of someplace, somewhere, some-
time and he is transported back in time

to Wabash Avenue, winter, evening, slushy
streets, the roar and rumble and screech

of the “L” overhead, lights flashing, exhaust
pouring from cars stopped at the light, head-

lights blasting into faces, billows of steam
streaming from the mouths and nostrils of

walkers scurrying across the street, cold feet,
wet, leather shoes with leather soles (before

anyone thought about a good, practical use for
rubber) and Miller’s Pub and a well vodka

martini filled to the brim before heading back
out to find the car coated with dirty, wet ice.

He remembers that he had wondered whether
or not he had remembered to put the ice

scraper in the car as he rubs his toes together
in his new, warm, stylish, wool blend socks

in his well-worn leather slippers and then
he remembers that he had.