Friday, May 11, 2007

Odds and ends and Alaska

Thanks to my friend Thomas Fortenberry (without whom this blog would be dull), this story of pure stupidity. The reason religions should be banned.

Soccer game for priests, imams canceled

The Associated Press

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — A soccer game between Muslim imams and Christian priests at the end of a conference to promote interfaith dialogue was canceled Saturday because the teams could not agree on whether women priests should take part.

Church of Norway spokesman Olav Fykse Tveit said the imams refused to play against a mixed-gender team of priests because it would have gone against their beliefs in avoiding close physical contact with strange women.

The church decided to drop its female players and the priests' team captain walked out in protest.

Hours before the game was to end the daylong "Shoulder to Shoulder" conference in Oslo, the church released a statement saying it had called off the match because it was sending the wrong signal.

"Because we thought it would be a nice conclusion of the conference we didn't want to call it off, so we decided to stage an all-mens team game instead," Tveit said. "We realize now that it will be wrong to have a priest team without women."

Stupid doesn’t cover it.


If you love words and word play – and who doesn’t – check out As much fun as you will ever have and a good reference for words to boot.


And to finish the fifty states, Alaska.

Poetic States L - Alaska


Second to the right, and straight on till morning.
--Peter Pan

He took me west of the Tanana
towards the Bering Sea, flying
at two hundred feet in a two seater.
A pair of swans glide below us
with the grace of Inuit dancers
to settle on a backwoods lake.
No albatross has touched down better.

Below where bogs cover the permafrost,
black spruce and highbush bilberry
attempt survival with ever-damp feet.
A bull moose lifted its head from a pond,
water and swamp weed draining
from its antlers like glacier ice
into Kenai Fjord under July’s sun.

Although, we could not hear him
bellow over the rumble of the engine,
we knew he was unhappy
we had invaded his territory.
As we climbed to return home,
Denali gave us a rare smile
before closing her cloak of clouds.

When my wife returned
from her flight, she exclaimed,
“Where can we buy one of these?”


See you next week.



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Sunday, May 06, 2007

The 49th State and books to read

This week I’m late, mostly to recovering from a brewery tour of Portland and environs. Twelve breweries in 3 days will do that to you. Our favorites – Alameda, New Old Lompac and Laurelwood on the east side, Old Market in the southwest, and Hood River, Karlsson and Main Street along H26. (We did our first tour last year with Racoon Lodge, Tug Boat, Bridgeport, Full Sail and Roots among the highlights.)

This summer, we will do two or three days in the Puget Sound area. Silverdale’s Silver City about five miles away is and will be a favorite.


A couple of books to consider:

Roma by Steven Saylor, a fictional account of ancient Rome to Augustus. The volume is written in the style of Russka or Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd. I haven’t read that latter, but did enjoy the early chapters of the former.

Next, the Path between the Seas, David McCullough’s great book about building the Panama Canal although about half of the book is about not building the Canal. McCullough also wrote the brilliant The Great Bridge, the story of building the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the best “construction books written.

By the way, last week I mentioned John Grisham’s The Innocent Man. Sadly, we left it in a Portland hotel room, so I had to order another.


I’ve finally made it through the Poetic States – Connecticut in this post and Alaska in workshop. I will also do three more for DC, the Caribbean territories and the Pacific.

On to the Nutmeg State.

Poetic States XLIX – Connecticut


He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
--Wallace Stevens,
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

We can only speculate what made him turn -
an alcoholic father
loss of opportunity
a family succumbed to yellow jack
his mother’s death

the slights of army regulars
and the congress

Betsy’s rebuff
court martial for malfeasance
marriage to Loyalist daughter

All the signs were there
for this Yankee son
to take the wrong path

as they were for Burr
and many others
famous and more than ordinary

nothing left for Mr. Arnold
but an entry
in Mr. Webster’s dictionary

Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds. – WS

The states are indexed at

Until next week, when we will go to Alaska.



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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Odds and ends for the end of April

Good news, I finally finished Connecticut in a poem starring Benedict Arnold, born in the Nutmeg State. We are left with Alaska as #50, DC and maybe something for the territories. (The index is at January 5.)

However, I’m not posting it. The poem is being workshopped this week. I will drop in a couple of light bits though just to keep you interested.

The book of the week is John Grisham’s nonfiction treatise, The Innocent Man. The volume is about several innocent men, all railroaded into prison in Ada, Oklahoma for murders they did not commit. I was surprised that the main innocent was basically a dirt bag, targeted because he was a druggie, alcoholic, troublemaker, indicted but not found guilty of two rapes…and a mental case.

The book will frighten you about how easy it is to be imprisoned for crimes you did not commit. One of the innocents is still in prison because there was no DNA evidence to exonerate him, even though the record is clear he was setup as much as the others.

Because of Grisham’s easy, almost conversational style, The Innocent Man would be a great beach read. In fact, it is best swallowed with some break in the read.


Our governor Chris Gregoire has signed Substitute House Bill 1279, the long-awaited legislation that creates the position of Washington State Poet Laureate. The signing makes Washington the 41st state to have such a post.

Way to go, Gov.


As frightening as The Innocent Man is this YouTube video of an UCLA student for “resisting arrest” in a school library and after he asked for their badge number…and at least four times.

Outrageous. You have to wonder what the cops would have done to the videotapper.

Even as sickening are the posts on YouTube.

And ever more disgusting is a proposal to allow school children to be handcuffed by school security guards AS YOUNG AS KINDERGARTEN.

What in the hell is this country coming to?


And to really make your day:

Recently this week (of April 22), UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it "offended" the Moslem population which claims it never occurred. This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.

I don’t get it.

The next thing you know they will quit teaching about Henry VIII because it might offend the pope.


This week’s poems are CBEs, Chinese Brush Experiments, essentially poems written in one sitting with only minor typo and grammar changes.

CBE for Spring

The first wine-rose color
breaks out of the Queen’s buds,
soon to be in her regal glory

The first ringneck call
heard in at least two years
echoes through the canyon

Whether my old friend,
his children or stranger,
I will never and need not know

A dandelion spreads its bounty
around the neighborhood

Enough breeze blows to keep
me cool as I pretend to work

A bumblebee searches
for buttercups and honey

The sun shines as if it never left
and I sit before the window
unable to add squirrels to these lines


Untitled CBE

the writer trapped
beneath a pile of ideas
none logical enough
to even satisfy Dali

the doors opened wide
to let the fresh air
in a slight breeze
disturbs the stack

of disparate words
desperate for attention
a poem begins to appear


Until next Friday, peace. (We are going Portland brewery hopping next week.)

who has a grandson in kindergarten

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The State of Kentucky and a Sad State in Virginia

Today, we grieve and are angry. Another school shooting, another alleged disenfranchised shooter takes his anger out on innocents. And within hours, we

A rush to judgment – Why didn’t they shut down the campus, find the guy, have police in all the class rooms, notify everyone of the first shooting? I mean, after all, more would have survived if they had got on the squawk box. (Or he would have shot whoever was around him when the announcement was made.)

A rush to security – Metal detectors, badges, armed guards everyone, pack-backs approved, no sharp instruments in the lunch room. (Like airplanes, the end to bottled water.)

A rush to solutions – Give weapons to all the teachers; in fact, make them carry them. Let students carry weapons and train them how to use them.

A rush to rat – Is there someone around you acting strange, saying strange things? Is there someone who is a loner, doesn’t mix in? Can’t take a joke? (Really upset about wedgies.)

A rush to medicate – And if there is someone as described above, isn’t there a pill that will cure them? No more dementia, delusions, introversion. (And why did we open the asylums , and let all of the crazies out to wander the streets?)

A rush! – It must be the immigration policy, W’s fault, Hillary’s, someone’s – other than the fact we can’t learn to live together.

But remember, there is a solution to every problem, even if its wrong – which is will be.


On one of the forums, we have been discussing the way we treat each other – the lack of civility and humanity. (Imus driven to some degree.) But especially, the way we treat children, which gave me an idea.

Let’s put a ticker on Broadway and the equivalent street in London, Paris, Peking, Tokyo, Rio and other major cities that will count the number of times we “sacrifice” a child – when they are murdered, raped, made to fit, driven out of their home, starved, bombed, enslaved, and on and on.

Now, I’m not talking about the ordinary everyday things – when the old man takes his belt to Johnny – but the bad. For instance, when a school bus is bombed, or a girl’s school set on fire with the girls in it, a father sells his daughter into prostitution, the baby lovers buy a kid.
I’m willing to bet that the number would climb fast to such a large number, most of us might be sickened enough to finally do something. To abolish slavery, child labor, genocide, religious terror – and find a way for all of us to live in some peace.

Not entirely. There will still be criminals, the insane, and hate-driven; but we would drive the number down.

Isn’t that the real way to save the planet?


Today, I only have one state – Kentucky. I still need to finish Connecticut, Alaska, DC and something for the territories. I want to do so before I start the next series, one I am excited about – Ecclesiastics.

Poetic States XLVIII – Kentucky

She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Sister

Family legend has it that we are related
to both the Hatfields east of the Tug Fork
and McCoys from the west side in Kentuck
though like a lot of our family’s gossip
it probably bears little relation to truth.

If one of my uncles ever stole a hog,
Grandma would’ve pulled him up so short
he’d never even eat a pork chop after,
let alone get in a shooting feud with kin
living on the other side of the river.

Mary Ann Todd who married the lawyer
Lincoln, followed him into the White House,
brothers and brothers-in-law soldiers
dying for Jeff Davis throughout Dixie,
their house divided as all too many were.

When her step sister Emili’s husband,
a Reb general, was killed at Chickamauga,
the president brought the widow Helm
to the capital to take solace from Mary
still mourning the loss of her youngest son

until treated shabby by General Dan Sickles
in ways barely excused by the heat of civil war.
Mary Todd continuously vilified with lies
that would have caused even Devil Anse
to curse though he stood strong for rebel gray.

And if Grandma would have been there,
the liars would have felt the scorching heat
of the gentlest woman who ever walked the hills.


Until next week, peace and may this one be better than the last.


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Friday, April 13, 2007

Missouri, Nevada and a new book to look over

Kurt is dead and the world is a bit colder. I hope him and Douglas Adams are cracking jokes though neither one being unbelievers will be there.

So it goes.

Speaking of unbelievers. I just finished Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, which makes the case against God, gods, religion and religious faith. (See for publication details.)

Especially at the start, Dawkins is a bit full of himself; but once he gets into his main them which is centered around Darwinian principles and evolution, the book is very readable and he makes considerable sense. His examples are spot on and his take on Bob Newhart as part of a control group that doesn’t get prayed for is priceless.

Striking to me is the story of 500 year old mummy of a girl sacrificed to the Inca gods, and how Nova of PBS marveled at the spiritual commitment of the Inca priests and the girl’s pride and excitement. Can you imagine anyone marveling at the faith of a priest of Baal and the pride of the children sacrificed.

I wrote this bit about the Inca girl:


(meaning illumination)
celebrated the sacrifice
of Juanita, the Inca Ice Maiden,
a girl, post-puberty,
murdered to appease
a relative of distant Baal.

A faithful nation
applauded the celebration
of the Inca priests’ commitment
unable to see the terror
in the child’s eyes.

Esquire did not like the book. I did and recommend it.


This week a bombing in the Iraq parliament. We are winning? But what? At how to lose.


Don Imus fired which doesn’t bother me, but with all that is happening of import in the world, do we really need his story 24/7 anymore than we needed Anna Nichol’s?


Late this week due to allergies, care trouble and life. The week’s Poetic States are Missouri and Nevada.

Poetic States XLVI – Missouri

Show Me the Trails

They came from Spanish Territories
south in search of gold and empire;
they came from the Eastern coast
in search of a channel to sail west.

They started from St Louis outfitted
to empty mountain streams of beaver,
they started from Independence
in search of gold, a new Eden.

They left with their families
or found families among the tribes;
before they reached Oregon’s gardens,
they left half their truck trailside.

Many found a final rest along the trek;
some stayed, hope found at the terminus;
a few turned back, their dreams burst;
most continued despite the hardships

to build the nation
and assure its destiny.

The trails starting in Missouri included the Santa Fe, Lewis and Clark, California, Oregon, Pony Express, Butterfield Overland Mail, and several of the fur-trapping routes. St. Louis and Independence were the main terminus for most routes.

Poetic States XLVII – Nevada


We chased lady luck, 'til we finally struck
--Bonanza lyrics recorded by Lorne Greene

I rode into the World’s Biggest Little City
in my Bronco certain lady luck would touch me;
certain with pockets full of folded green,
I would strike veins of silver so rich
I could return to the homestead in a Mustang.

My mistake was to mistake salt
for an untapped Comstock shaft –
shafted I could barely afford the gas
to crest the top of Donner Pass

We got a hold of a pot full of gold

You rode across the Washoe in a Tahoe
certain you could beat the odds
where so many others have failed;
with a plastic passport, you’d discover
riches to construct your own Versailles.

Your mistake was to mistake
Tahoe Lake’s bottomless blue
for your ability to hang into the game
long enough to return as royality.

Here in the west we're living in the best

We ride into town in a used Rabbit,
cash enough to barely stock the fridge,
when we notice the paper’s welcome news:
Local tribe to build a new casino…


Until next week, keep the peace.


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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Poetry Books and New States

April of to a beautiful start, except it snowed north of Seattle on the First, and felt like snow yesterday.

And speaking of yesterday, the 2nd, I attended a read at Elliot Bay Book Co. by Teresa White for her new book, Gardenias for a Beast (Two Steps Publishing, 2007). As of this date despite the fact she is endorsed by Billy Collins , it is not available on Amazon or any other on-line bookstore. Worse, Two Steps doesn’t have a web page. They do have email though – – ordering recommended. Teresa is an outstanding poet, and you get 240 superior poems for only $10.99 plus tax.

Bill Collins said “Every morsel of her diction counts.” I agree and urge you to purchased the volume.

I also meet Miss Mary Jane Marshmallow (M to her friends and everyone else) and Steve Williams. Steve gave me a copy of his new chapbook, Skin Stretched around the Hollow (Rattlesnake Press, 2007), where I discovered the line, “Each kiss of the wasp stings the same,” as good as a line gets. The other lines in the book complement the wasps. You can order the book at

I will do a review of both and others for summer issue. does an annual book exchange. This year mine came in a red fabric cover from Bengal. The author, CP Abookabacker, is a self-professed Communist, not exactly common in this country. His web site is He says he doesn’t sell the book, Before the Journey, but if you talk nice. I will also review it.

The Poetry Super Highway is also doing an E-book Free-for-all, which I have prepared a chapbook for titled By George, Conversations with George Orwell and George W Bush. After PSH is through with their gig I will send it to anyone who emails me, probably in mid-May.


Poetic States XLIV – Utah


The reflection of Clear Creek
off the canyon’s canvas worthy
of Pollock in his splattered prime.

Ancient shades crowd cliff walls
in a corner of a forgotten gorge,
painted by prehistoric Picassos.

Wind sandstone sculpted buttes
reveal primeval mountains
and the seas that inundated them.

In every bend of monuments
and parks we wisely preserve
only for their beauty and history,

art that except for its breadth
and depth would hang with honor
in the best museums and galleries,

art we would never witness
if not for the eye and camera
of a magazine’s photographer.


Poetic States XLV – Maryland

When Poets Meet in a Cloister by the Bay
(for Chris)

When you stand at the edge
of the unforgiving sea,
when you listen to winter’s wind break free
you will hear him call for Anabell Lee:
“Where is she,
where is Anabell Lee?”

When you heed the frustrated knock at your door,
when he disturbs your neighbors on the third floor,
will you forget the reasons your eyes are blurry,
the long trip by train, each mile dreary,
and understand he only wishes to claim his lost Lenore.

When the station’s brass bells chime,
when it seems you’ve run out of time,
when you notice the Capital layered with grime,
will your words still swell;
will your verse still tell?

I listen to poems of your commute,
of monuments and cherry blossoms,
people you meet on the street, squirrels and orioles,

And I puzzle why there seem to be none of Baltimore,
hoods, corners, row houses,
by the bay, the ever blameless bay.


Tomorrow, I go down to Grandparent’s Day at Ben’s kindergarten and a day of Ben-sitting.

So, until next week.


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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Thoughts to Go with Two New States

Despicable is the only word for those who state John Edwards is looking for a bounce or sympathy vote from the announcement Elizabeth’s cancer is back. And chiding him for keeping his campaign going. Tony Snow has announced he will come back to work. Are they treating him the same way?

They should not be.


I call myself a mostly unbeliever, but I wonder. Last week I was interviewed by a believer for a church sponsored theology class. She was to interview a believer, skeptic or non-believer. She concluded I was an unbeliever with skeptic leanings.

But I’ve been thinking about whether I am. I think I’m more an unbeliever in religion, that I don’t see any reason for organized religion except control. And I’m don’t believe in creation, unless the creator was a small child with a chemistry set, who forgot the experiment as soon as it was started.

The Big Bang theory is good enough for me.


I do believe in Evil as an entity – that it is alive and feds off of humans, some such as Bundy or Pot taken over completely, even whole groups as in Rwanda. And if Evil is real, then I suppose there is a counter-balancing force for Good. Whether it is God or a god is debatable, though of course, we do hope it is more powerful than Evil.


This week’s states are New Hampshire and Oklahoma. But before they are provided, I would be remiss in telling you that three States have been published.

Colorado and New Mexico in Loch Raven Review’s Spring edition at

Massachusetts in the first edition of Crush to Pulp at

There might be others but they are pending or were not accepted.

And in the interest of full disclosure, Jacket as a couple of River Transformed in the April issue, #32 at

Bounded by Tony Barnstone and Forest Gander is like being in the company of Rock Stars.


Poetic States XLII – New Hampshire

The Frosting, Not the Cake

I'd just as soon play tennis with the net down.
--Robert Frost on free verse

His hands are work-rough, fingers bent;
his face weather-beaten, a crag,
lost in words that crowd his aged mind
though his energy never flags.

No longer a rock-and-roll star,
photo on the cover of Time,
he squints at the sun and recites
an old poem that does not rhyme.

America’s poet reads on the step
of Camelot’s new capitol –

This land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people…

as if its valleys were empty,
and Yankee blankets made it full.

In the link above, most critics see the hundred years as those before 1776 and our freedom from Britain. One, the last, does not and might agree with mine.


Poetic States XLIII – Oklahoma

American Idol Auditions, Houston

I never met a man I didn’t like.
- Will Rogers

With nothing more than a rope,
grin and prickly pear wit, he starts
his act with a joke about a county judge
and jackass, “though that may be the same thing.”

The producer, sharp as a horned toad,
turned his back and mumbled,
“Where does this clown think he is,
at an audition for a new Hee-Haw?”

The bass player compared him
to Jimmy Dean, another sausage
who made a fortune talking his way
through one song that can’t be sung.

The singer looked at his costume
and tried to thing of something nice
to say settling for “Are we back
in Seattle or did we land in Dogpatch.”

He never set foot on a stage again,
though in Rogers County, he wowed
the boys at the VFW with rope, smile,
and “Well, there was this one time…”


Until next week, when I may show you my Bushies.



BTW, it is my birthday.

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