A Pith Zany

Nook EveningAnd what he did last just
before his personal power
rose and surged
then tweeted out
was check his e-mail.

“Heaven will be full of spam,”
he decried, “because
everyone wants to be there,
while hell will be whiteout,
an empty inbox.”

“Or the other way around,”
I replied.
“Oh, that’s pithy,” he said.
“And there’s nothing I dislike
more than an epiphany poem.”

Two Poems for Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany


In the straw burrow farm mice.
Get a little closer and you’ll see
Nits in baby Jesus’s hair, lice,
And a house snake in the olive tree.

There’s beer on the breath of the three
Sage men sitting under the olive tree,
Playing games of cribbage,
Ushering in a new age.

The pieces are swaddled in wool.
Mary’s breast-feeding the baby Jesus.
Joseph takes out his tools
To build a bed before the night freezes.

Mary wipes Joseph’s brow,
The wise men questioning how,
Talking to Joseph about what he did,
And what in the end might be in the crib.

From an East Side Bus

The lurching bus crowds forward,
dogs away from the curb broken under
the plum tree overarching the shelter.

The bus thrashes on, wobbling
in a fit of leaf blowing, phlegmatic coughing.
The young, motley couple

(we see them every day lately),
their rusted stroller full
of plastic blankets,

empty bottles, and crushed cans,
sleeps on the bench in the bus shelter
covered with plums and damp purple leaves.

“Epiphany” appeared in Rocinante, Spring 2009, Vol. 8

The Sick Roses of Suburbia and the Epiphany of a Picture

I knew the Oregonian “Metro” columnist Steve Duin lives not in Portland but Lake Oswego, but was unaware the writer from this banana belt suburb, protected from Portland’s East Winds, would feel protected from precinct prowling. I enjoy his columns, something I’ll miss when newspapers disappear, for the daily columnist is today’s “…voice of the Bard!” as Blake said, “Who Present, Past, & Future, sees.” Alas, “The invisible worm That flies in the night…Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy….” Duin’s Epiphany-day article is about his epiphany-like experience being pulled over without probable cause in LO on Christmas night after getting a late call from his Christmas-cheery, twenty-something daughter, who needed a ride home. 

I lived for a time years ago in LO, and it didn’t take me long to achieve a speeding ticket (30 in a 25; my VDub bug so proud), for which I was sentenced by the infamous LO Cookie Judge, dispensing justice from behind a folding table in the LO fire station lunch room, to play guitar for several hours at the Oregon Rehabilitation Institute, a sentence I cheerfully complied with, brushing up on a few Bob Dylan songs, and enjoying a successful gig, even if the patients, my audience, did sportingly encourage me not to quit my day job.

I was reminded too, reading Duin, of the summer, student job I once had as an employee of the City of El Segundo, washing police cars. I arrived at the police station on Saturday mornings, grabbed the keys to a squad car, and drove it to the city yard (less than a mile), where there was a wash rack in the motor pool. The motor pool was managed by a few mechanics who sat around smoking and listening to country oldies on the radio while I washed the police cars. At the time, I wore long, curly-wild hair, and dressed without much prepense in beat clothes suggesting a mashed hippie-surfer profile. The double takes from the good ES citizens who happened to see me driving one of their city’s squad cars – he’s either under-cover or the revolution is afoot. Then one of the lieutenants grew uncomfortable with the arrangement that gave me such liberal access to station, keys, and street and issued a directive that henceforth if any cop wanted his car washed he had to drive it himself to the rack where I would be waiting with hose, soap, and rags.

We all have a particular picture of ourselves, seldom the same picture others have of us. We often dress our pictures up, while others dress them down. The Cookie Judge was costing LO money, sentencing the citizens of the poverty-sheltered suburb to bake cookies for old folks or otherwise share their talents with their less fortunate neighbors. The annoyance was the sentence, and the judge must have irked a few of the wrong LO pictures, who would have preferred simply paying a fine. Our pictures provoke a wide variety of responses, from the childish and churlish, to the paranoid and pathological. In the end, they are merely pictures, and pictures tell no stories: pictures are wordless and require interpretation, and interpretation requires imagination, and imagination needs experience to avoid becoming purely childish and churlish, and experience wants wisdom to avoid becoming paranoid and psychotic. Then the picture becomes epiphany.

(Quotes in para. 1 from “Introduction” and “The Sick Rose,” from William Blake’s Songs of Experience, 1789-1794)