Sunday, June 16, 2019

For a Single Mother on Fathers' Day - a lapse into free verse

Lawrence Hall

For a Single Mother on Father’s Day

No father
Could have been a better father
Than you
When duty called
You were there
And will be forever

You’re the best

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Paean to Dabblers - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Paean to Dabblers

Oh, yes, you should dabble amateurishly
With sketchbook, pen, guitar, and crescent wrench
With telescope and hiking boots and love
With verse that scans and prose that strongly speaks

For a dabbler, all the world is his adventure:
A coffee cup is as Old Santa Fe
A stroll in the garden a pilgrimage
To Canterbury or Santiago

And you should draw and write and sing these things
Oh, yes, you should dabble amateurishly

A Man's Not Dressed Without His Pocket Knife - column

Lawrence Hall

(Recycled from 2009, and so possibly a re-post)

A Man’s Not Dressed Without His Pocket Knife

This last Christmas certain environmentalist groups advertised meaningful green gifts – instead of giving your child a bicycle or a football for Christmas you could donate the money you would have spent on your own kid to some stranger who’s shown you a picture of a polar bear allegedly drowning.

It’s a polar bear, citizens; it swims in the water and eats harp seals, you know, the cute widdy-biddy harp seals with the big ol’ eyes. The polar bear rips screaming baby harp seals apart with its fangs and claws, and the baby harp seals die far more horribly than if they got whacked in the back of the head, and then they get eaten. How’s that for a bedtime story, PETA?

When I was a child there was nothing I would have wanted more than to stumble sleepily but excitedly into the living room to find a card (printed on recycled paper with recycled soy-based ink) giving me glad tidings that a penguin had the new cap pistol I wanted. Sadly, my parents weren’t green, and so gave me cap pistols and baseball gloves and toy trains and an ant farm.

Although not as exciting as a new bicycle, a good pocket knife is a far better gift than being bullied into pretending to feel good about a fish or a ground squirrel. Giving a boy his first pocket knife is a traditional rite of passage, and having it taken away a day or two later for misuse is another traditional rite of passage. A knife, after all, is a tool, not a toy, and owning one is a grown-up thing.

My ol’ daddy said that a man’s not fully dressed without his pocket knife; experience demonstrates that this is true. The knife was perhaps the first tool used by humans, probably beginning with a sharp flint, and necessary for skinning a rabbit, slicing veggies, building a fire, eating, building, mending, opening, slicing, dicing, picking your teeth, and cleaning your fingernails. Mind the order of usage, of course! No one who lives close to the land or the sea or the workshop can function without a good knife to hand at all times.

Thomas Jefferson is often credited for inventing the first folding knife, which, while not as strong as a one-piece, is certainly easier to carry about. Manufacturers began adding extra blades, and then the Swiss got the idea of adding specific tools in miniature, resulting in the Swiss Army Knife. Where or not the Swiss Army carries Swiss Army Knives is a good topic of conversation. While these gadgets are fun, I’ll bet your old grandpa could accomplish with his single-bladed pocket knife whatever task was necessary before you could find and unlimber the designated thingie out of a Swiss Army Knife or a multi-tool.

A friend gave me a nice little lock-back with a single blade with saw-teeth. I found this knife so useful that a few weeks later I bought a larger model, made-in-America, even while thinking to myself that the last thing I needed was another pocket knife. And then a few weeks after that Hurricane Rita did not hit New Orleans, and that big ol’ American knife with its one large blade and saw-teeth paid for itself many times over with its survival utility.

Shiny things under the tree or for a birthday are fun: little plastic boxes that light up and make noise, and other little boxes that allow you to hear The Immortal Words of Our Time – “Can you hear me now?” and “She’s all up in my face!” But when you are long-gone, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will not treasure your MePod or your cell ‘phone or your Brickberry, because those dinky disposables will have long since been recycled into beer cans or Chinese cars. But they will treasure your old pocket knife, its edge well-worn from good, honest use and from many sharpenings around a winter’s fire when the stories are told.

Sturdy, American-made pocket knives are great, traditional gifts for men and boys. They are also perfect for skinning baby harp seals.


Friday, June 14, 2019

If You Were Still a Child - poem

Lawrence Hall

If You Were Still a Child

If you were still a child, I would give you
A Kleenex or two, as I used to do
(Now blow your nose…) and maybe a cookie too
But now…this much is true…time flew…you grew

And yet

There is no expiration date on tears
No sign that reads “You Are Too Old for Fears”
No simple answers after the smoke all clears
No moon, no music high among the spheres

Where lovers’ dreams ascended in the night…
But, here, have another Kleenex, all right?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Did Churchill Destroy His Secret Underground War Room Computers in 1945? - doggerel

Lawrence Hall

Did Churchill Destroy His Secret Underground War Room Computers in 1945?

To be chanted whenever the O Machine 1 fails:

Rumor has it that the Enigma
Was to Churchill a foul stigma

And that the ancient, creaking Babbage
It was to him but so much cabbage

Colossus One and Colossus Two
Those gadgets too he began to rue

They say he let them rust and rot -
The pity is that he did not

(I checked with the Lizard People on this – Churchill’s secret Second World War computers, powered by a primordial Lemurian source of energy so dangerous that even speaking its name in the ancient language of the Atlanteans is said to be fatal, are secured in a locked vault on Oak Island and guarded around the clock (set to Martian time) by the Trilateral Masonic-Vatican Continuum of deadly albino flying fish.)

1 E.M. Forster, “The Machine Stops,” 1909, Much-anthologized

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Scenery Shifting Beyond Life's Windows - poem

Lawrence Hall

Scenery Shifting Beyond Life’s Windows

Once upon a time each morning began
With a ventilation shaft and the night’s
Foul fall of dreams, drama, and downed debris
Dammed and maybe damned against the window screen

And then an apartment window so high
I could see only the San Diego sky
Train windows, the Mojave through the glass
Then only for a little while
                                                  there was you

The scenery keeps shifting, and that’s okay
Life is a John Ford movie every day

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

There will be BLOOD (But Just a Few Milliliters) - poem

Lawrence Hall

There will be BLOOD (But Just a Few Milliliters)

Please consider the seeming illogic
The seeming illogic of paying a man
A good and wise and educated man
To poke his finger upwards in your ***

After a visit to a wizard’s lab
Where a pleasant, professional young woman
Attaches a vampire butterfly to your wrist
And sucks your blood into a little phial

“Now you might feel a little pressure, okay?”
And then consider the happy logic
                                                          of staying alive

Monday, June 10, 2019

Listen to the The Rythm of the Massey-Ferguson 35 - poem

Lawrence Hall

Listen to the Rhythm of the Massey-Ferguson 35

With its four-beat
Putt-putt, putt-putt
Continental rhythm
Putt-putt, putt-putt
It plows and putts
Putt-putt, putt-putt
It pulls and putts
Putt-putt, putt-putt
It plants and putts
Putt-putt, putt-putt
It digs and putts
Putt-putt, putt-putt
It mows and putts
Putt-putt, putt-putt
It rakes and putts
Putt-putt, putt-putt
It bales and putts
Putt-putt, putt-putt
A little oil, a little gas
Putt-putt, putt-putt
A sweet machine
Putt-putt, putt-putt
Upon the grass
Putt-putt, putt-putt
When all is done
Putt-putt, putt-putt
And all is said
Putt-putt, putt-putt
There’s nothing like
Putt-putt, putt-putt
Massey-Ferguson red
Putt-putt, putt-putt!