The Choice*

Pilate gave the people a voice:
save the murderer Barabbas or save “King of the Jews” Jesus.
The people said, “Saving Barabbas definitely does please us.”
If asked, Jesus would say, “I would have made the same choice.”

*idea from a Frederick Buechner Quote of the Day

Ah, Pronunciation, How Personal

His name was Gustav.
In Sweden, it is guttural Yusta, sort of.
In America, it is Gustav,
as in Gus-tav.
His parents called him guttural Yusta, sort of.
He disliked being called Gustav.
He hated being called Gus.
Said it sounded like a GD something or other,
but he tried not to bother,
he would just grumble, sort of,
around his son named Robert,
a name meaning of great fame,
a Norman name with a nickname
Bob, easy to pronounce, the same
coming and going, all-around-nice-guy,
like Bob Hope, the ultimate nice guy.
Gust probably wanted it easy for Bob.
There were two ballgame announcers
in the booth when a ballplayer came
to the plate. One announcer announced,
“And now coming to the plate is
the Son of God.” The other announcer
shouted, “No, that’s Haysues.”
Try on Fünfhundertfünfundfünfzig. It’s not
a human’s name. It translates as five-hundred-
fifty-five and probably can be pronounced about
that many ways. If Fünfhundertfünfundfünfzig
were a guy, what way
would be Fünfhundertfünfundfünfzig’s way?
He probably would say,
“Just call me Bob.”

A Mechanical Mind, I Do Not Have

A mechanical mind, I do not have.
I have less even than my non-mechanical dad.
I give you an example from many road trips,
but you won’t find any mechanical tips.
Almost always at motel room desks, as I sit
my chair descends as if taking me into a pit.
I struggle to rise from the bowels and kneel
on knees mightily painful to the feel.
I pull and push the lever to a fro,
and through the window, I want the chair to throw.
And then as if miraculous, often, the chair will rise
much to my pleasure and always my surprise.
The test is whether the chair will hold
or whether I’ll descend, once again, to the devil’s fold.
In trepidation, I sit and the chair stays up;
my wife and I celebrate with a cheerful cup.
If I were mechanical, I would return to the mat
and examine the thing with the curiosity of a cat.
But being the non-mechanical man that I am
I sit at the desk and compose this very po-em.

Boys On a Great Adventure While Being Really Stupid*

We gathered all the Christmas trees,
those from our homes and from
when we went begging, dragging
all to the prairie, what we called a
corner vacant lot, in our Chicago
neighborhood. We piled them
up like a teepee. We sat inside
smoking cigarettes we had
picked (should I say purloined?)
judiciously (not to draw attention
from our father’s packs) of always
unfiltered Chesterfield’s and Lucky
Strikes. We were ever so lucky
the sparks didn’t strike.

* Written after reading The Second Life of Christmas Trees by Mark Perlberg

The Two Old Guys Love to Hear Themselves Talk But Who Knows Why Guys Do What They Do?

Two old, veteran, defense
lawyers, one, never that
competent but wanting you

to conclude that his acumen
was a bright lumen, and the
other, once a cagey cat but

moving toward mouseness,
waxed, as in hardened; let’s
just leave it at waxed and

leave out eloquent, and
waned, as in weakened,
(waned very plain) loved

to hear themselves and
seemingly wanted all to
bow before each’s pièce

de résistance and each’s
incomparable eloquence.
Perhaps their goal was to

baffle, becloud, befuddle,
bewilder, complicate, conceal,
confound, darken, fog, fuddle,

muddle, obscure, perplex,
puzzle or just plain obfuscate
but these two senior members

of the “Over-the-Hill-Gang”
wanted (with what they believed
in their misguided hubris was

their professorial eloquence)
the jurors to take the bate but
the effect simply was to numb

and incapacitate. Lectures
ended, the defendant fell
asleep and catatonic TV

commentators sat for a while
without letting out a peep
and then maybe this was just

all about their connection
with a deceased, trafficker
in underage sex and bluff

and blunder directed to
an audience of one, the
one who fell asleep.

Auschwitz, Mozart and the Executioner*

January 27, 1944, one year before
the Liberation of Auschwitz:

“I saw the attractive, seventeen-year-
old female emerge from the cattle
car where a hundred humans had

been squeezed like sardines. The car
smelled like cattle feces and rotten sar-
dines after a horrendously, long train

trip with two buckets for defecation.
She held her mother’s hand, but couldn’t
find her father because he was with his

ninety-one-year-old mother. I had the
privilege of overseeing the gassing and
burning of her father, mother and grand-

mother. Unfortunately, I missed getting
the girl, because she shipped out on an-
other wreaking cattle car. Besides, I was

looking forward to getting home, having
a fine dinner of sauerbraten, retiring
to the study, having a cigar, a brandy and

listening to my favorite composer next to
Wagner, that being the light-hearted, fun-
loving and inimitable Mozart, whose birth-

day is celebrated today.”

*January 27, 1945 marks the 75th anniversary
of the Liberation of Auschwitz by Russia.
January 27 is the birthday of Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart, in 1756.

The Same As Up North

The pink flamingo, occupying
yards in the summer in the
upper Midwest, stood proud

and hungry in the shallow
water next to two surf fishers
along the shore in Gulf Shores.

Have you two guys had any
luck?” asked a walker. “Quite
a few Whiting and a Pompano.”

“Pompano? I’ll be over for din-
ner.” Score? Fishers: 10 Flamingo:
0. She’s not having any better

luck than when she adorns the
fishless yard of the family on
James St. back north, but as

the walker glanced back, he
saw the flamingo continuing
to stand motionless and stare

at the fishers with a hungry
look in her eye — the same
look seen up north.


they whistle in the dark,
they spit in the wind,
they whistle dixie,
they speak truth so stark;

they won’t win the day,
they won’t win the verdict,
they won’t win the vote,
they will have their say,

they say all that counts,
they say all the facts,
they say all the truth,
they climb the mounts,

and what they say,
will win the day,
and by grace,

one day,

we will be okay
okay, okay
we pray,
we will be


Window Shopping

In his dream, he was back at college,
not his college, but college, and he
didn’t fit in; he was all alone; he
never went to basketball games;
he never went to football games;
he never went to games. On
weekends he just roamed the
campus; walked the couple blocks
to town and window shopped;
his personality got him through;
he was popular and nice-looking;
he had a good sense of humor
which would serve him well
in his chosen line of work; he’s
now an old man and he woke
up from that dream to the stark
realization that he just plain never
fit in.