Tag Archives: essay

Two TV-inspired passages

The first is a found poem* taken down while watching an old Vera episode. The second was written after watching several episodes of Vietnam in HD. It probably is unfinished so I can’t really call it an essay.



that ruck at the nightclub

There were complaints. Seems it was a pattern. One that could get him the jotters.

A poxy little complaint

Heard he was taking backhanders

It’s okay, Kyle

Dead in the pond.

You need anything, you call me.

Going a fair old lick there, pet.

What’s going on with Gary?

And your coat was on a shaky peg as it was.

Some scrote

Now sit down

Kyle being Kyle he makes a pig’s ear out of it.


Vietnam in HD

Vietnam in HD shows so much up close and devastating. Helicopters roaring in for the injured, close-ups of bandaged heads, missing limbs, following soldiers through jungle terrain with invisible enemy combatants near.

No episode about strategy ever makes sense. They are going west on such and such a road, helicopters flanking to the south. What? To what end? And when a vet reflects later and says he could see the campaign wasn’t working, what I want to know is how he’d have known it WAS working? It all seems a terrible waste.

But here’s a surprise. The sense of love I feel for these young men. I’m not a person who walks through life feeling love at random moments or even, necessarily, at heightened personal moments. I know people who are like that and often wish to be more like them.

So it’s an extra surprise this love. Those boys, I think, over and over. Oh, those boys.

I love their bravery and their cynicism. I love their bare chests and the line of their jaws beneath their helmets. I love how their pants hang off narrow hips.

I remember in a way I forget to remember what it feels like to lust after a young man. I’m more team Janelle Monae than George Clooney these days and needless to say my husband hasn’t been a young man for decades.

Maybe it’s the music. Rock n’ roll — all familiar, all capable of tripping a rolling and powerful nostalgia. I was 17 at the fall of Saigon, too young for the earlier peace protests, too young for Woodstock, but a perfect age to love Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.

At the beginning of the Tet Offensive, I was ten. It feels important to do the math. There’s so much I wasn’t paying attention to, but the fact and images of the war were nevertheless inescapable. I can’t remember what I thought of the soldiers back then. I doubt I considered them as peers. Certainly wasn’t drawn to them. I DO remember making a beaded necklace that spelled PEACE in Morse Code in the quiet solitude of my bedroom.

Last night I watched scenes from the largest protest by veterans in our history. One after another, they threw their medals into the reflecting pond in D.C. I got choked up, so much damage visible, even in the men who were not in wheelchairs.

Once upon a time I was courted by two Vietnam veterans. One with a puppy dog persistence that struck me as benign, maybe even cute. He’d grown a beard since his service and gotten fat. I wasn’t cruel or dismissive, but he wasn’t necessarily real to me.

The other I allowed to get a little closer because of his bad boy vibe. Blond, hairless chest, on the short side, gorgeous skin. Definitely my type (except for the hair color). It was frightening to discover how very disturbed he was. He may have been a sociopath or he may have been a regular person damaged enough to harbor homicidal tendencies.

But those boys in HD! Smoking, always smoking. At work, oiling the big guns. At work, cleaning their rifles. Slim waists. Beautiful shoulders. I remember what it was to want to get near enough to smell the object of my desire and to feel his warm breath on my neck.

Age mutes things and so does raising sons. How unseemly (or worse) it would’ve been to notice how beautiful my teenaged boys were — or the same about their friends, a possee of boys turning into men, unaware yet of all that life would deal out to them, unsure of their sexuality, and nearly to a boy unaware of their beauty. And beautiful.

* To create a found poem I write down phrases as spoken and in the order they were spoken.

From Tuesday, June 21, 2022

I don’t normally title blog posts with dates, but it feels important to note the time. Five and a half weeks since the shooting in Buffalo. Four weeks since the shooting in Uvalde. The day before the fourth Jan 6 Hearing. The day of the Supreme Court handing down long-awaited decisions. The day after Beyonce dropped a song from her new album.

The paragraphs below were written in a go to a prompt and are not edited.

The prompt: “She stopped listening to weather reports.”

She stopped listening to weather reports. It was a matter of self-preservation she said. “I want to remember how to sniff for rain,” she said. “Enough with the apps!” Stepping onto the blue stone in the cool of morning with bare feet had also receded into some primitive time of “before.”

The local screech owls died when they tore down the Newton Andover woods to make way for townhomes. She found one of their bodies. The neighbor who had called out to them in the dark of spring evenings when the bats came out, was gone now too.

Speaking of sniffing, just yesterday on a dog walk with her husband, she’d said, “That smells like fox. They spray too you know.” Of course he knew.

She’d collected skunk bones from under the deck one summer, their vertebrae like candies in her palm, but neither of them had ever seen a fox.

The very next morning, her phone chimed at 6:40 a.m. — too early for Patty’s daily wordle result. It was her husband. He’d resumed hoofing it to the T two or three times a week. “You’ll never believe this,” it read. “I saw a fox on Cypress Street this morning.”

It was as if the universe was playing with them. Maybe, she thought, she ought to start picturing the FBI raiding Mar-A-Lago. After all, it was the Solstice, which is one of the corners of the year when the Old Ones believe that a crack between the worlds opened up. Possibilities unlikely on an ordinary day might fly on the longest day.

Today she sat and watched her phone, waiting for the inevitable. At ten a.m., the Supreme Court started publishing opinions, the whole country holding its breath — the bad of it all about to get so much worse.

It wasn’t like she set out to learn political minutiae, like how reconciliation bills were exempt from the filibuster or how tight margins in some primaries triggered an automatic recount, but she did. This morning she learned that the highest court released opinions by reverse seniority. Kavanaugh’s came first and when Breyer’s dropped, it meant Dobbs would hold another day, since Alito is junior to Breyer.

A Roe expert on twitter wrote “Sobbs” by mistake and then said, “Well, that fits too.”

Beyonce’s first single in years dropped last night proving there is still good in the world. Talent and beauty, gifts to us all. If only her singing, “You won’t break my soul,” applied universally, unilaterally. Could her message be like the slight scent of musk which had been received with disbelief only to be met the very next day with the actual embodiment of what was believed impossible. Jump suits for everyone!

Her therapist will only read the news (not watch) and some days only the headlines. She says it’s too much otherwise. Silvia says the same.

At the doctor’s office yesterday, the form asked if she ever felt anxious, restless, depressed, or hopeless. Suicide screening is nothing new. She checked “often” for a lot of them. When the doctor held up the form later with a raised eyebrow, she just waved it off saying simply, “I watch the news.”

The fox crossing the road, the very first sited in over thirty years, seemed a kind of miracle — a call and response between imagination and reality. These days, she couldn’t tell if her hopelessness was being tamped down by some efficient and reliable defenses, or if it was denial battering her, forcing her to adopt notions, hopeful notions, that simply weren’t supported by reality. We all know denying reality creates tension. Tension.

“How much hopelessness is appropriate?” was a question she never expected to ask herself with such regularity.

A fox crossing the road. A sweep for the good at the midterms. A musky scent confirmed. Indictments handed out all the way to the top. A summer dance tune: “You won’t break my soul.”

*  *  *

Yesterday’s hearing, as it turned out, gave cause for hope — the brave testimony and acts of ordinary poll workers — Ms. Moss and her mother, Lady Ruby Freeman. But it was also cause for fear because it demonstrated that the right has “operationalized violence,” as Nicolle Wallace said, and these ordinary poll workers, also Black women, were targeted in an extreme and gross manner that speaks to Jim Crow and the lengths trump and his cohort have been willing to go to hold onto power.

The White Underwing

I happed upon this image just before a writing session. Here’s most of what I wrote.

Up, anxious, sitting on the pot. Above the bathroom curtain’s ruffle, I can see a section of the night sky. A wedge of moon travels above Linshaw’s roof and into the netted shadows of their massive copper beech.

That tree, part sentinel, part cautionary tale, is hundreds of years old. It was a sapling during the small pox epidemic of the late 1700’s. It grabbed sky in one direction and earth in the other when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. Horses and a stream wandered nearby at one time.

The beech was bigger yet at the Emancipation Proclamation. By the time of the Spanish flu perhaps the twin trunks had established themselves.

The white planked house is old too, but not nearly as old as the tree. I like to think that Abraham Jackson sited the foundation with due regard for the tree, a tree which was still in its youth but already punctuating his property with its mighty grace at the time of building.

The moon in her delicate variety is older yet, so old that a different scale of time is required. The coal-to-diamond scale. The asteroid-encounter scale.

All I can think about during my brief viewing of the night sky is how insular I’ve become. A life apart from the wonder of puddles and their up-side-down worlds. Apart from trout and hummingbirds. Apart from the cleansing sweep of cold night air in the lungs.

Oh I go outside, but my walks with the dog are more like mail delivery than adventure. Making the rounds. A chance to take stock of all the closed blinds and wonder why so few structures ever show any signs of life.

When I lived on the other side of the state in the Berkshires, all I had to do was raise my head off the pillow and gaze out my eastern window to be transported. Sheep’s Heaven Mountain, a name whispering: time passes, time passes. Not that long ago the wooded hill was bare and dotted with sheep.

Here the horizon is poked with roofs. One neighbor painted their house a bright yellow this year and at first I wondered at their choice. Today I welcome its yolky warmth in all the grey.

All the grey can dull the senses. Maybe that’s why the news of a snowy owl in Washington, D.C. captivated me this morning. She’d made her way south from her usual haunts. She could be yet another signal of the drastic climate change we’re all so busily — in one way or another — trying to ignore.

But when I spy her fluffed up against the cold atop a statue of Themis, a figure representing freedom and justice, I like to think she stands for something else. That she augurs change. I like to think that when she lifts her wings and reveals their white undersides, we are meant to notice and in noticing, act.

I don’t believe the arc of the moral universe necessarily bends toward justice. There are too many ways we can fail. But this bird perched on the head of a goddess carrying the sword of justice lets me think we have a chance. A chance to make things right. A chance to live up to our promise and to atone for our sins. Not because I say so, but because a solitary owl, mysterious and commanding, has told me so.