Wednesday, April 29, 2015

second person

You. You know your place. You're not the first person; nor are you the third person. You're the second person. You're not into this I, I, I, or me, me, me, sounding like a befuddled victim or an auditioning singer, respectively. You, you're secure in who you are, fully content to be equally spaced between First and Third, grammatical avenues. You are more adept at conversation, if for no other reason than your absence of the ego-driven trumpet bruited by Person One. Yes, you lack the clinical detachment, the objectivity, of Person Three, whether singular or plural. But you, whether alone or with your second-person brigade of fellow pronouns, are intimate and direct, whether whispering or ruminating. You.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

no direction (away from) home

In the early 1990s, at an unmoored time between marriages, I was asked where I lived as I attempted to cross the border into Canada, in the Thousand Islands. I had asked to leave work early that Friday, rented a car, and headed north, for parts unknown. I had to get away (yes, with the realization that wherever I escaped to, I'd have myself still there along for the ride). The Canadian border guard might have uttered merely two words, "your home?", in an interrogative mode. Or he might have simply asked, "Where do you live?" His question stumped me. He said, "Tough question" sarcastically after I gave him a blank look for an eternal twenty or thirty seconds, possibly more. (Obviously, in these days that would be enough to have me hauled in for severe questioning.) During that blank-stare and silent duration, my mind was jiggering and figuring all kinds of personal calculus. Where do I live? I don't feel at home where I get my mail, eat meals, and sleep. I don't feel at home where I used to, with my wife and children. Maybe I can answer with the name of the city where I was born, but I really don't live there. This is hard. Where am I at home in the world? I eventually blurted out, "Syracuse," and mumbled something about needing a vacation.

I confess to similar feelings now, decades later. In some ways, the feelings are stronger, as are the risks and opportunities. This time, I almost feel as if the world is my oyster, so to speak, and I am free to go anywhere, live anywhere. True, financial circumstances pose challenges to that, but other circumstances open the doors. 

Where do you live? Where is home? You would think these are easy questions, and in some ways they are. "Grow where you are planted," the saying goes. That is true; I get that. But it's not just "no direction home" that makes one a rolling stone. It's also what direction away from home, maybe more so.

Friday, April 24, 2015

my new favorite word: brisant

So, I was finishing the estimable novel Eat the Document, by the talented Dana Spiotta, and I spied this phrase: "...the most beautiful, white, elegant-but-brisant smoke trails." Boom! Brisant. An explosive word, a brilliantly crackling word, a French-Celtic conveyor of fragmentation, fire, and force. And "brisant" is so apt in this book's context, since it is a novel of Sixties radicalism involving the never-ending shards of an antiwar bombing (yes, I concede that can be considered an oxymoronic term).

Hey, reader, watch out for verbal collateral damage. Me personally, I want to insouciantly work the word "brisant" into my coffee shop conversation today, as any good boulevardier or flaneur should. (Excuse my French. [I rather dislike that phrase to mask obscenity; just say the fecking word].)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

human touch

Not just any touch. Human. After today's healing service, at St. Paul's Cathedral, downtown Syracuse, I wondered, "Why does this move me so?" When the priest puts the oil of chrism on my forehead, and even more when her hands press upon the top of my head, I am moved. I am touched, literally and figuratively. Why is that? Is it out of a deep hunger? A longing for human warmth and connection? To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, in "Prufrock," it is that and so much more. But if I am honest, it is not touch alone. It is smell as well, though I can't seem to name any. (There was no incense, yet in some deep recess the burning wax of candles resonates, I'm sure. And bread, morsels of sacred bread. Isn't all bread sacred? In our family, as kids, back in Stamford, Connecticut, if we dropped bread from the kitchen table, where we dined, our custom was to pick the bread up and kiss it. Was the practice imported from Poland or Slovakia? I should ask my mom, 98.) So today, snowflakes touched my skin, or could have, this late in cruellest April, but they ain't human. My head will touch my pillow and find comfort there, but it ain't human. Which begs the rank and obvious question, "Am I human?" That is not as morose or as depressing as you might first think. Back in high school, Father Giuliani often said we had to be human before anything else, certainly before we could claim to be Christian (or atheist, for that matter). What is it to be human? You could make an argument, couldn't you, that the absence of touch, inhabiting the arid, monastic cells of the Desert Fathers, vacant of human touch beyond my own skin, my own fragrance, would pin me with the solipsistic label inhuman.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

parade of adjectives

ebullient smug abject awkward effervescent indignant proud loud crowded smart tart cold marmoreal aloof passionate possessed dreamy banal xenophobic wanton noir verklempt vivacious vivid funky fetid glamorous humid jazzy lame impotent mammoth musty rocky stolid stoic solipsistic trendy unctuous avid bronchial bloated bloviated beastly cunning desultory paltry

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

don't say nothin'

I go to put coins in the meter on South Salina Street and I see Malik. He doesn't see me. Or does he? I put the ticket on the dash. I wave. I don't register with him. I walk up to Malik. No avoiding me, or me him now. "Don't say nothin'" he yells. He repeats it. "Everytime I see you you talk shit. Don't say nothin'." I laugh. He's laughing. We bump fists. He's walking away. "Don't say nothin'." I do say something, something like, "Howya doin'?" His "don't say nothin'" is mildly curious, because last time I saw him, some months ago, I listened to his jive and boom! just like that got him a $25 Subway gift card (which he may've hustled and sold on the street minutes later; don't know; don't care). Far as I can tell his "don't say nothin'" imprecation and incantation is meant as a bulwark to my calling him out on his self-deceptions, a rampart against my wisecracks wedging cracks in the walls of his denial. Whatev. Or because I'm simply as FOS as he is. Er.

Monday, April 20, 2015

parade of prepositions

under through above below about from to at behind across during in into of toward

Sunday, April 19, 2015

parade of verbs

evoke surrender leap land embrace trace summon abstain indulge accept taste sound smell feel grow become look remain know ignore swim float type breathe swallow link label remark mark make touch escape send receive listen learn hear inscribe imagine intuit undertake overtake assimilate

Saturday, April 18, 2015


not a cloud in the sky not visible at least but there are clouds somewhere anywhere visible or not ready or not not a cloud in the sky as the sun sets ambient light fading night coming night creeping in it ain't dark yet but it's getting there not a cloud in the sky hashtag metaphor not a cloud in the sky so bright the night by the light of the moon swoon June tune boon loon soon not a cloud in the sky bye bye music up and out roll credits

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Detroit style

Several yards ahead of me and my dog, they walked. One of them carried a pizza box and ate the remains of a pizza. Little Caesars (ubiquitously missing the apostrophe). "Detroit Style." I imagined an empty pizza box being tossed as litter. Should I preemptively speak against such a vision? I decided against that. Maybe I'd be wrong, and Pizza Eater would not discard the pizza box in the park on this golden spring day. So I walked on, silent. I passed the couple. Then I reversed direction. Sure enough, the couple, including Pizza Eater, walked toward me, no pizza box in hand. I could not resist. "I'll take care of that pizza box for you," I said, looking straight at Pizza Eater. "Appreciate it," was the reply, as if Pizza Eater expected old men to serve as personal valet on litter patrol, or as if Pizza Eater was politely grateful for this correction of a mere oversight, an "accident." "Yeah, sure," I said, tugging against saying a lot more, vehement, sarcastic, righteous, angry, incredulous, instructive, despairing, dangerous. I walked on. I found the evidence, the discarded Little Caesars box. I picked it up, mumbled angrily, and carried the pizza box up the hill. I tossed it in the trash barrel. (I never opened it to confirm if all the slices had been consumed.)

Notice that I have refrained from describing the litter perps. Are there demographics detailing who litters?

Earth Day? Spare me the pious (pie-ous; get it?) cleanups. What about today?

Friday, April 10, 2015

moored, unmoored, more or less

A friend in a missive to me used the word "unmoored." I had to look it up, to make sure the meaning in my mind was moored to the meaning in Merriam-Webster. It is a nautical metaphor summoning images of cables, anchors, ropes, security, stability. Actually, it summons the lack of those images, since those are the moored of unmoored. Well, who isn't unmoored at least some of the time? I'd venture (to continue the nautical narrative) that I've been more unmoored than moored for much of my watery or earthly sojourn. That's not necessarily a bad thing, for being unmoored allows one to drift, even to sail (sails billowing in the cumulus-driven breeze). How else would we find New-found-land, to echo the great poet and priest John Donne?

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


Sometimes, in this white space (though what color, really, exists in the digitalsphere?) I wonder if I am merely speaking to one person who is listening, i.e., myself. And yet if that is so, that is okay too. T.S. Eliot wrote somewhere that a poem is not completed until it is heard or read by someone, even if that "someone" is the poet.