{Woody wrote the words} — two Tankas*

Woody wrote the words,
music from a Baptist hymn —
universal words
in a patriotic hymn —
our true national anthem.

This land is your land;
this is your immigrant land.
This land is my land;
mountains to the dunes of sand;
This land — meant for you and me.

* idea from Writer’s Almanac, February 23, 2019:
It was on this day in 1940 that Woody Guthrie wrote the
lyrics to “This Land is Your Land” — now one of America’s
most famous folk songs. The melody is an old Baptist hymn.

A Mexican Trophy Illegally Crossing the Southern Border

The border brouhaha from the Oval Office
Is nothing short of utter malevolence.

The border south should be
An open place for you and me.

I watched a golf tournament today
In Mexico City by Americans at play.

They weren’t attacked
Nor were their clubs ransacked.

The only caravans in sight
Were golf carts left and right.

I bet the (p)-resident wishes he were there.
In executive time, at TV coverage he’ll stare.

If he were there, he would cause a crisis
And then blame it all on Isis.

The only violence is Phil shooting double bogeys.
He’ll cross the border without the Mexican trophy.

Unless he tries to sneak it past the border sentry.
Then that would be an illegal entry.

The (p)-resident of the White House could seize it
And claim that he legitimately won it

Along with Time’s Man of the Year
And the Nobel Peace Prize for a souvenir.

A Bridge Too Odious

A review of nine hundred college yearbooks from the 1970s and 80s revealed a lot of racist photos. The schools were from the South, North and elsewhere.

I, a white guy, got to thinking about my alma mater, Hope College, located in Holland, MI,
from where I graduated in 1966. The school is affiliated with a Christian denomination, and while that certainly doesn’t make the school immune from racism on campus, I think it would be a bridge too odious for anyone to even consider publishing racist photos in the yearbook during those years and future decades.

I don’t have any yearbooks from my years at Hope, but if I were a betting man (which I am because I have retirement funds in the market), I would bet that there would not be any racist photos, like students in black face or in KKK outfits, etc.

Blacks were a distinct minority at Hope during those years as they still are (unfortunately), but my roommate my senior year was a black guy, and while he surely would be more aware of racism on campus at that time than I, I believe he would contend that the atmosphere on campus was not conducive to racist behavior. Endemic racism and systemic racism, of course, were part of the geography and while most of us had not had our subtle racist attitudes brought to light and addressed in a meaningful way, there was an abhorrence of racist attitudes, stemming, I believe, from a faith orientation.

Ironically, my roommate was asked to join a fellow student, who happened to be white, during spring break to go down south to join the freedom riders. He declined preferring to go home to Schenectady for the break. The white guy made it back to school. I’m not sure the same would have been the case for my roommate and I’m sure such a dire prospect would have been on his mind.

I quibble with my alma mater over some social justice issues about which I think the
administration is tone-deaf, but, to the school’s credit, overt examples of racism
such as the photos would never be tolerated. I credit the atmosphere on campus and
the social justice example of the then college chaplain.

In, the then, little, old, white, conservative town (which is much more demographically
diverse today — about 35% Hispanic and a growing population of blacks and Asians), we
college students with the leadership of the chaplain, marched through town in support
of civil rights and against the war in Viet Nam. My roommate led those marches.

I forever will be indebted to the courage and conviction of the chaplain in helping to
frame my understanding of a Christian witness.

The Dog’s Morning Bathroom Break

The Chocolate Lab is up at 7:30
even though we would
like her to sleep an additional thirty.
My wife and I take turns
taking out the Lab that early.
Out of bed we rise,
a little less than sturdy,
while our Lab waves
her tail so curly.
She kisses us
and prances to the door.
What we wouldn’t give
for thirty minutes more.
It’s winter and cold
and the ground is icy
and walking her
while she is leashed
is a bit dicey.
We shout and squeal
(as she tugs and pulls)
for her to heel
as we slide into the
yard, calling,
“Go tinkle and poop, girl,”
unaware that she
has her eyes on a squirrel.
She charges the rodent
and we have less than a moment
to get control.
A short attention span,
she has forgotten to tinkle and poop
and has dashed the
morning, bathroom break plan.
We slide back to the house
hoping she doesn’t see a mouse.
Safe inside, the girl runs upstairs
seemingly without any cares.
She waits impatiently
for her breakfast and a Vitamin E,
and some fish oil
to keep her coat so beautiful and shiny.
The dish empty, she hops up with flair
into the big, stuffed chair
for her morning beauty sleep.
The coffee’s put on
last night’s dishes are done,
into the bathroom we creep.
While the girl begins to snore,
we floss and brush with tooth paste,
staring in the mirror at a scary, morning face,
and wishing for just thirty minutes more.

Wishing, a Prelude to Wisdom

On a bad day, confronted by a supercilious, condescending, misguided “Do-Gooder,” who took his impression and assumption for fact and accused a dog walker of undue anger in relating to his dog, the dog walker was, in fact, using his voice to let the dog know his displeasure. The dog walker was also tugging on the leash attached to a harness in the front of the dog at the shoulders thus rendering the tug harmless to the dog and the dog temporarily halted in her tracks. It was all good — tone of voice, no physical hitting and a harmless but authoritative tug. All good, that is, except for the “Do Gooder.”

The man, stopping his vehicle, then decided to psychoanalyze the dog walker in the parking lot of a local grocery store. The dog walker who had been frustrated by the behavior of the dog and the dog’s misguided desire to run out into traffic, really did become angry when erroneously called out by the pompous passerby, which, of course, played right into the hands of the uppity driver of the late-model Range Rover with, making the encounter that much more irritating, a peace sign inscribed on the plastic frame around the customized license plate which spelled out “PEACE.”

The driver, anything but a peacemaker, obviously enjoyed his “Gotcha” encounter. He seemed thoroughly to enjoy watching the dog walker’s anger rise. After a few confrontational words, the dog walker, anger continuing to grow, said, “I’m out of here,” turned on his heels and walked away with the dog in tow. The dog walker could have taken the time to explain exactly what was transpiring with the dog, but he didn’t think he needed to in light of the misguided interrogation and just wanted to get on his way. It probably wouldn’t have done much good anyway. The dog walker could have flashed a sarcastic “peace” signor, perhaps, even the single finger universal sign of peace, but fortunately, he didn’t.

The dog walker carried that experience with him for a day and then read vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit in a meditation. Gleaned perhaps from the Oracle of Delphi, Carl Jung had etched it above his door and followed it with a quote from the Psalms. The writer of the meditation paraphrased it as “…in the long run, whether you call on [God] or don’t call on [God], God will be present with you.” Jung had added, “Awe of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom,” Psalms 11.10.

The dog walker wished in the subjunctive tone, otherwise known as hindsight, that if he were able to relive the situation, he would have called upon the presence of God as something other than the swear word he had used.

He thought to himself, Ah, the subjunctive, wishful thinking, golf’s “mulligan.” If we thought more in the little used subjunctive, the “if it were” instead of the finality of “it was,” then the next time that subjunctive might just become the objective indicative or the non-reactionary imperative or, at the very least, a legitimate interrogative, as in, “What’s happening here?” and I might have seen the face of Jesus in the Range Rover guy in spite of his smartass, “holier than thou,” accusitive attitude. And that would have been wise and beneficial for me and the rambunctious Chocolate Lab if not for the guy. Or perhaps I just should have ignored the guy and walked away remembering the imperative, “Avoid a fool in his folly.”

Now, about that irritating proclamation in capital letters on the license plate on a Range Rover of all things…. Wouldn’t it (he thought in the interrogative) be better suited to an old, beat up Volkswagen camper?

A Hospitable Place

There is space here.
There is a place with
space here. You can
breathe freely, come
and go, sit for
awhile or stand and
stretch like my
Chocolate Lab does
first thing in the
morning after a sound
sleep eager to get out
into the cold, brisk
day and then prance
back in for something
to eat. It is a joy
to watch her in her
safe space. She had
it rough for about
six years but she
is safe now and you
can see it in her
eyes as she sits
and waits for a
treat and hear it
in her soft snores
while she sleeps
contentedly in
the big chair
in the spacious
great room. It
is that kind of
space and we
all need to be
free in that kind
of space, a place
for you, me and
Thee. It is called
Le Coeur as in
courage or, if you
prefer, simply —
the heart.

Calling Madame Secretary

Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, in a recent interview,
described fascism as “a bully with an army.” She stopped short of
calling, the person she labels as the most undemocratic US president
ever, Donald J. Trump a fascist. She said if he calls a national
emergency at the southern border she may have to reconsider that.
Calling Madame Secretary.

“I Wonder” Land

We’re overloaded on fascist rants, the Pulitzer winner said.
Really? It’s only 8:30 and I’m headed to bed.

Nothing of importance is getting done in the land.
I’ve always wanted to be Alice in Wonderland.

I look at the president and think of the Cheshire Cat
And want to cover his orange hair with the Mad Hatter’s hat.

I now have my wish to put this down in verse
While gazing at a parallel universe.

And why am I wondering about any of this?
Climate change is going to bury all of us.

So I think after I rise
And get a pie thrown in my eyes

To Laurel and Hardy I will bow.
With the Three Stooges start a row.

With the Marx Brothers recite the tau
While riding the roller coaster Dow.

Please tell me this is all a bad dream.
Dr. Strangelove’s flying on a moon beam.

The paper moon jumped over the cow.
Lipstick on the snout of a sow.

Say goodnight, Gracie.
Goodnight, Jim Bob.