Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How Lovely Not to be in Jail Tonight - poem

Lawrence Hall

How Lovely Not to be in Jail Tonight

How lovely not to be in jail tonight
And have to share a small and smelly space
Under an eternal fluorescent light
With a dude who don’t like yer race or yer face

How grand to have a bed that’s long enough
With sheets and pillows and blankets all clean
And not a bare mattress sour-stained and rough
Against a wall of cinder blocks in green

And howlings from a soul who has lost life’s fight -
How thankful not to be in jail tonight

Snakes are on the Move - op-ed

Mack Hall, HSG

Snakes are on the Move

Snakes are on the move. I saw my first snake of the spring in my yard the other day. He was a white male of medium height, bald or shaven-headed, aged 50-60, and hadn’t missed any meals lately. He slithered onto the property in a really primo, perhaps new Dodge Ram double-cab pickup, light-colored, with no signs or markings on the side. The security camera was a little fuzzy about the numbers.

And, yes, he, he began with that decades-old script of “We just finished a project over there, and…”


“…leftover asphalt…”


“I gather you’ve had a bad experience with…”


You just can’t get into a conversation with fast-talking snakes; they know all sorts of forked-tongue-in-the-door responses and dodges and come-ons.

You probably know his cousin, that electronic attorney in Nigeria who is handling the estate of a distant relative you didn’t know you had who died and left you all his money if you will only give your bank numbers and…


As the weather grows warmer more reptiles will infest the yard at the front door with their magazine subscriptions (“I’m working my way through college”), the man or woman looking at you through your window in the night and asking to use your phone, the carloads of committees with their strange little booklets decorated with crude drawings of the saved and unsaved, with poorly-written theses only a few brain synapse misfires away from those of the strange little men who assure you that the Second Temple was really an alien spaceship based on a technology that the lizard-something federal government doesn’t want you to know about, and the miscellaneous peddlers who begin with abject pleas of assistant which morph quickly into implied threats as their eyes dart about looking for whatever objects might be quickly picked up on a later visit when you’re not home.

And when you don’t buy their magazines or firewood or ideologies they sometimes tell you that you don’t love Jesus, and that Jesus wouldn’t turn away a poor man down on his luck, so down on his luck that he owns a better car than you do.

All this is only an annoyance for most of us, but for the more vulnerable the cold-blooded can be a real threat, both physical and emotional. Remembering those who are vulnerable helps you say no, and remembering those who have suffered tough times and sought out honest work helps you say no to the wandering opportunists looking for a victim.

Yup, the weather is warming up, and the snakes are beginning to move.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Murus Durus - poem

Lawrence Hall

Someone asked if I could write a poem about a classroom wall:

Murus Durus

It’s hard to snuggle up to concrete blocks
Even when they’re layered in pastel paint
And fitted with a door (though no one knocks)
And high, thin windows rather cute and quaint

They make four walls that wrap us all around
To keep the warmth within, the cold without
And hold the roof up there, far off the ground
So all is cozy in our cool hangout

But though this space is nice, and even rocks -
It’s hard to snuggle up to concrete blocks

And Would You Hand Me My Cigarettes? - poem

Lawrence Hall

And Would You Hand Me My Cigarettes?

Idleness should be an honored vocation
Practiced by layabouts and slugabeds
For whom Bertie Wooster is perfection
And merry old Sergeant Schultz a hero

For good folk, dawn is only a rumor
And the concept of work an obscenity
No gentleman ever takes exercise
The only weight he lifts is his coffee cup

In amused salute to passing joggers:
Idleness should be an honored vocation

Monday, February 15, 2016

What Are You Giving Up For Lent? - poem

Lawrence Hall

What are you giving up for Lent?

What are you giving up for Lent?
Catholics. Maybe we should give up Catholics:

The me-me-support-me Catholics
More Catholic than we can ever be
Catholics more Catholic than anyone
Those clever keyboard commando Catholics

What are you giving up for Lent?
Adjectives, sure, but nothing Catholic

"World Economy in Death Spiral" - poem

Lawrence Hall

“World Economy in Death Spiral”

In cold and slanting February light
A poor tenacious leaf gives up at last
And spirals down in the northering wind
Around and down onto the sorrowing earth

Where backyard cats in their thick winter coats
Fence-sit and catch a few dignified rays
While Astrid-the-Dachshund in circles yaps
In ground-bound outrage

In cold and slanting February light
The world still spirals as it always has

Unconnected Mutterings in Search of a Thesis - op-ed maybe

Mack Hall, HSG

Unconnected Mutterings in Search of a Thesis

Meryl Streep, who has won three Academy Awards ™, complains that that the Academy Awards™ are unfairly dominated by white males. Apparently not winning four Academy Awards™ makes her a victim.


The New York Post says that hundreds of army dogs who served in combat were dumped when they were no longer useful. Well, that’s pretty much what the federal government does with human veterans.


Whole Foods (are there Incomplete Foods?) is / are rumored to be considering adding tattoo parlors to help make buying cereal for the kids a more Bucket ‘O’ Blood Saloon experience. Where would a grocery store site the disfigurement kiosk? Next to the vegetables?


The arcana of caucuses / cauci, delegates, pledged delegates, superdelegates, hissy-fits falsely labelled as debates, electors, and the electoral college suggests that maybe our democracy is no more evolved than a riot among paleolithic cave clans. Or English soccer fans.


We read on the little plastic box that lights up and makes noises that the late Justice Antonin Scalia was pronounced deceased via the telephone. Over the telephone? Really? Over the telephone? One hopes this report is an error.

Determination of death by telephone – so there’s an ap for that?

Given that the passing of a supreme court justice was verified and adjudicated so casually, one can only wonder how lesser folk in Presidio County are disposed of at the end of their earthly pilgrimage.

Reverend Mike Alcuino of the parish church Santa Teresa de Jesus administered the last rites to Judge Scalia. Not over the telephone.


What’s with all the geriatric candidates at the top of the trash heap this election cycle? All those old people kvetching at each other sound as if they should be down at the local Denny’s complaining about everything over their senior specials. Just like me.


Finally, in a month of continued wars, hunger, violence, economic collapse, refugee disasters, and the existential agony of Kanye and Taylor, this cri de coeur must be heard as a cri-without-borders cri for the cri-less: what cruel, villainous wretch thought up the spelling for “February?”


Sunday, February 7, 2016

I and II Casseroles - poem

Lawrence Hall

I and II Casseroles

Mrs. Cohen and Mrs. Ionas
Slipped quietly out of the women’s side
Of the old Corinthian synagogue
To set out casseroles and pita bread

And left Saint Paul speaking mostly to men
And to those silly young women who might
Have lifted a finger to help, but no
I just don’t know what’s wrong with girls these days

But then - that’s what my mother said about me
It’ll be okay. And do we have enough cups?

The Chinese Groundhog Flips its Shadow - op-ed kinda /sorta

Lawrence Hall

The Chinese Groundhog Flips its Shadow

Americans are a people of faith. We believe that if a bunch of old drunks wearing frock coats and shabby top hats roust a rodent out of its sleep the Cincinnati Patriots will win the SuperDooperBowl. Or something.

If a presidential candidate sees his shadow he or she wins the Iowa caucus, whether or not he wants a caucus, and then there are four more weeks of winter because the Chinese bought the groundhog and all rights, copyrights, and patents appertaining thereunto, and, like, stuff.

Groundhogs from China crumble in the sunlight, you know. They just don’t make groundhogs like they used to, nossirree Bob and Chang.

No one is quite sure what a caucus is. Is it one of those spacecraft-looking coffee makers, or is it some sort of prize that can be pinned to a corkboard next the children’s 4H awards?

In Iowa delegates to the summer political conventions are chosen by people moving about in groups, possibly a Hegelian melding of chess and dodgeball (please note that Ford and Chevy people never play dodgeball). This confusion is said to constitute a caucus, just like it says in the Constitution.

Some six Iowa precincts were declared to have tied results, which is remarkable, and the ties were broken and delegates chosen by tossing coins, which is even more remarkable.

More remarkable still is that six different coins in six different precincts chose delegates for the same candidate. Maybe the coins were texting each other via unsecured servers.

The Grassy Knollistas were quick to challenge the coins’ citizenship. Were they natural-minted coins? Were any of them from, say, Canada? Is our next president being chose by a perfidious foreign Looney or Tooney and not by a God-fearing, Yankee-Doodle Susan B. Anthony?

Who would have thought that coins were permitted to vote?

If coins can decide the results of elections, then they can determine the outcome of football games. After the playing of the National Anthem, the referees, coaches, team captains, and other members of the 1% meet in the multi-million-dollar stadium paid for by working people with proper jobs, and the anointed flamen flips the sacred coin into the air, asking the gods of earth, water, fire, air, and four bars of connectivity to pick a winner.

And so it comes to pass, but not with a pass.

One team sulks and demands an instant replay, the other team sprays fizzy-water from Flint, Michigan about wastefully, and everyone goes home with his neuromuscular systems intact.

Everyone takes away a Chinese tee reading “I Survived SuperDooperBowl L” and featuring a graphic of a groundhog voting because, after all, this is what the lads suffered and died for at Valley Forge.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Christmas Lights in February - poem

Lawrence Hall

(Of indolence I have not taken down the lights on the back porch. Louisiana ‘Cajun acquaintances advise me that adding a few purple and gold ribbons transforms Christmas lights into Mardi Gras lights.)

Christmas Lights in February

Lingering lights, bright Christmas lights, aglow
In merry defiance of the darkness
As winter closes in for the chill
Tiny colored lights in repudiation
Of the joyless censorship of place and time
A triumph of kitsch over criticism
A charming waste of non-renewables
A celebration of the ephemeral
Since celebration is itself eternal -
Lingering lights, bright Christmas lights, aglow

Friday, February 5, 2016

Descent - poem

Lawrence Hall


The moon has not yet risen above the trees
Nor has the frost yet fallen upon the fields
January stars, blue, brilliant, and cold
Halo an aircraft marked in flickering lights
Every seat-back standing at attention
Lap straps fastened, tray tables locked away
Attendants making a last litter patrol
“The temperature in Houston tonight is…”
An old canvas bag on the carousel
And who will be waiting at the exit?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cleopatra's Royal Barge - op-ed

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Queen Cleopatra’s Royal Barge

Palace courtiers are even now ensuring that their next master will be presented with yet another Imperial Death Star upon his or her earthly apotheosis. There are already some seven or eight cars (“limousine” is a low-prole usage) in the presidential harem, but court functionaries know how important it is to keep the Grandissimus Supreme Sultan, Republican or Democrat, entertained with newer and more expensive toys and luxuries.

Just why any president should swan about in a Wal-Mart-size sled that even the sleaziest drug dealer would dismiss for its vulgarity eludes the thoughtful citizen of this republic.

The answer, known to office-gnomes throughout history, is that without expensive diversions the sultan-aspirant might have time to remember that he was elected to be the servant of the people, not their all-knowing, all-wise, all-this-and-that autocrat, and begin to wonder why he is obscured by a cloud of unctuous briefcase carriers and door openers.

The recent history of the presidency indicates clearly what a psychological god-emperor temptation the White House is. Early in every election cycle each candidate drifts into referring to himself in that pompous first-person-plural – “we” instead of “I.” Already he is / they are anticipating sitting in the big chair behind the big desk, playing with the little buttons that light up and summon the servants.

A true queen, king, bishop, prince, emperor, or other noble personage employs the first-person-plural only when speaking officially, not otherwise. The Queen says “we” when giving a speech from the throne, but at all other times remembers the “I.” The distinction is lost on the not-so-humble successors to the humble rail-splitter, Honest Abe.

No recent president has seemed to avoid confusing self with state, and none has cried “Away with this bauble!” (Oliver Cromwell was a regicide, a mass-murderer, and a genocidal maniac, but this one quotation from him is useful) when presented with fleets of giant flying palaces and show-off automobiles, and battalions of Praetorians and Streltsy (some of them sober).

No presidential candidate has promised abstinence from courtiers and palaces and toys and the arrogance of power. Not even the Socialist candidate has said he will forswear the presidential fripperies paid for by the sweat of the workers he purports to love.

In Ye Olden Days a Roman emperor on his inauguration was said to have been assigned a functionary to whisper constantly a repeated caution during the procession. The phrase might be loosely translated as “Man, you ain’t no thing; you’re just a guy who’s going to die like everyone else, so don’t get the big head.”

If that is not true, it ought to be, and it ought to be true now.

And the first thing the new president should do is get rid of all the Queen Cleopatra-ish royal barges as part of his first duty – to remain connected with humanity.