Saturday, August 19, 2017

Graveyard Shift at (Famous) Clinic - poem

Lawrence Hall

Graveyard Shift at (Famous) Clinic


The proto-beepers that sometimes worked
Tidy white uniforms on minimum wage
Silver plate for the * * Pavilion
Stainless steel flatware for the merely rich

Fluorescents flickering from high ceilings
Where actors and directors went to dry
Sober up, every year or so until
They went once more, discreetly, there to die

“Surrounded by loving friends and family”
Arguing in the hallways over the will

Friday, August 18, 2017

Michaelmas Term - poem

Lawrence Hall

Michaelmas Term

We might as well call it Augustinemas term
Beginning as it does on Augustine’s feast;
And though there are Vandals outside the gates
And Pelagians within, we must read

Tolle lege: take up and read. We read
We read because the scholar at his book,
Its whispered pages strewn with Paters and Aves,
Rebukes the insolence of each transient age -

The drums, the guns, the men of destiny
Are but processionals of shadows and mist

(C. S. Lewis’ essay “Education in War-Time,” available from many sources, is so much better on this topic. Beware of edited / altered versions on the InterGossip.)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Three Pews of Mourners - poem

Lawrence Hall

Three Pews of Mourners

The widower and kin in the front pew
And in the next cousins and beloved friends
And in the third, poor disconcerted souls
Grandchildren grown, and come from far away

From far away through metaphysical gaps
And not entirely sure where they might be
Here where their parents brought them for baptism
Long since adrift upon some obscure sea

Clutches of keys and mobile ‘phones held dear
Eyes darting about in suspicion and fear

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On Reading Yet Another Essay on the Death of Reading - poem

Lawrence Hall

On Reading Yet Another Essay on the Death of Reading

Yet another essay beginning with “I”
Sophomore thesis: no one reads anymore
The power of books, the great ideas
The shared experience, the care of souls

The temptations of social media
(Really? No one ever said that before)
Escape, new points of view, humanity
Foundations of faith (but never the roofs)

If reading is dead -

If reading is dead, then who reads those essays,
Those many essays on the death of reading?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Letter from Ekaterinburg - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Letter from Ekaterinburg

Dormition of the Theotokos

Dear Alexei,

We are enjoying a beautiful summer –
The days have been perfect ever since spring
Cooler mornings now, and that’s about it -
Nothing exciting ever happens here

How is the new government working out?
Some of the banknotes are overprinted
With vague slogans covering the Czar, but
Nothing exciting ever happens here

Petrograd must be exciting for you, but
Nothing exciting ever happens here.

Write soon,


Monday, August 14, 2017

So You're Still Wearing Your Old Boonie Hat? - poem

Lawrence Hall

So You’re Still Wearing Your Old Boonie Hat?

The old man asked. Old man. Maybe my age
“The original is carefully put away;
This one I ordered off the amazon”
His wooden stick was leaned against the pew

His grown children glanced disapprovingly
At two old dudes whispering during Mass
After the Eucharist, before the hymn
And the “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”

He said he burned his Marine Corps sea bag
when he got home, but somehow you could tell
           it hadn’t helped

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Winds, Earthquakes, Fires, and a Whisper - poem

Lawrence Hall

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

He is not contained in the mighty winds
Nor in fell earthquakes from the earth’s dark core
Nor in red fires which devour what is left
But there is a whisper –

He is not contained in the missiles’ roar
Nor in the fall of civilizations
Nor in the flames of man’s self-destruction
But there is a whisper –

And where the Truth is lifted by priestly hands
There – there is the soft whispering of hope

Friday, August 11, 2017

Uncle Vanya and Lady Godiva - poem

Lawrence Hall

Uncle Vanya and Lady Godiva

Uncle Vanya came strolling down the road
Wishing he had made something of his life
His young friend Anne loquaciously agreed
And with remarkable vehemence urged him to endeavour to remediate his perceived inadequacies in the many precedent matters that
                                                                                                                 burdened him…

Don Quixote suggested that worries were giants
Cassandra said, “There is only one page left”
Nick Adams whispered, “Shh! You’ll scare the fish!”
Ambrose Silk asked the way to the world’s end

And young Lady Godiva, sans chemise
Outsourced her image on souvenir tees

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Missiles, Funny Hats, and Women Dictators - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Missiles, Funny Hats, and Women Dictators

Given that the little mansie in North Korea, where every day is funny haircut day, is again threatening the world with his elevator heels of cosmic death, the world watches and waits, and asks this existential question upon which the future of humanity depends:

Why are there no women dictators?

Where is it written that women can’t wear funny dictator-hats and threaten other nations with thermonuclear destruction?

Being a mass-murderer with a goofy hairstyle is the last good ol’ boys’ private club. They might as well put up a sign on Communist Party Headquarters which reads “No Girlie-Comrade-Chicks Allowed.”

Cromwell, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Enver Hoxha, Mousey-Dung, Ho Chi Minh, Tito, Emperor Hirohito, and all the other boys in the band – all guys and all with funny-hair things going on. Lenin with his waxed chin-spike, Uncle Joe’s shrubbery moustache for tickling the girls to death, Uncle Adolf with a most unlikely growth under his nose and a really happenin’ comb-over, Mao with his proto-Princess Leia side-buns, and kindly old Uncle Ho whose wispy beard was the envy of all his death-camp commandants – would a woman leave the comradebunker for a busy day of oppressing millions while wearing such hairstyles?

Have you ever thought that if Vladimir Lenin traded his dictator suit for knee-pants and a slogan tee he’d look like an assistant football coach?

If Kim Jong Un were Kimmie Jon Un she’d certainly have some sharp words for her hair stylist. All the other dictators would be laughing at her, you see, and wouldn’t let her sit at the cool dictators’ lunch table.

A woman ruler in North Korea wouldn’t aim missiles at Guam; she’d book a vacation there.

Does IKEA sell flat-pack nuke shelters? They would be designed by Nordic shieldmaidens but manufactured in South Korea.

Are North Korean missiles fitted with gender-neutral restrooms? If not, they can’t be allowed in the USA.

Whom (“whom,” he said, for he had been to night classes) do we blame for the current tension among old men with weird hair and nukes, the Boomers or the Millennials? Global warming? Fluoride? Daily bathing?

Women rulers would not send their people into the streets to wave their clenched fists about in mass demonstrations about the Great Satan USA; they’d sponsor national spa-therapy days with drawings for gift baskets.

Women rulers would not exchange threatening twoots; they’d exchange recipes.

If the Castro sisters had ruled Cuba the last fifty years there would have been a lot more NO SMOKING signs and a lot fewer firing squads.

If a woman were secretary-general of the United Nations she’d make Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, and Kim Jong Il write essays about how they’re going to play more nicely together in the future. She’d tell the South Koreans to shape up and stop expecting everyone else to take care of them, and, another thing, about their corrupt Olympic wrestling judges (ya think we’d forgotten that, eh?).

Take your daughter to work day in the Kremlin? Um, no.

Let’s just be real: women are superior pilots, surgeons, attorneys, and, whatever the superannuated frat boys in Silicon Valley might yelp, engineers. But when it comes to mass murder and the destruction of ancient cultures and even of whole peoples, well, that’s still a total guy-thing, okay?


Encountering a Fawn on a Rainy Morning in August - poem

Lawrence Hall

Encountering a Fawn on a Rainy Morning in August

The mother deer                the farmer’s new fence
With her accustomed elegance and grace
Her fawn, confused, abandoned in the field
Held still, and pondered a new mystery

For a motorist, the asphalt is The Way
Menaced by mysterious fields and woods
For a deer, its fields and woods are The Way
Menaced by mysterious dark asphalt

The baby deer then found an open gate
The motorist found his way to Wal-Mart

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"And When Night Comes..." - poem

Lawrence Hall

“And When Night Comes…”

“And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much    you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God's hands and leave it with Him.”

—Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

They twist her witness with bent arguments
Scholarly papers, harsh editorials
Like smoke and ashes obscuring the heavens
Telling her in retrospect who she is

But in her end, and in her beginning
She left all quarrels on the altar of man
And gave herself on the Altar of God
Because her only crime was loving Him

     and us

Those who emend her – again they martyr her:
They do not know what else to do with her

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ouroboros - a frivolous poem

Lawrence Hall


Writhing about in man’s mythologies
Is a completeness, itself to affirm
Scriven in the ancient cosmologies:
The self-ordained perfection of The Worm

The Samsara of the self-seeking soul
And a self-admiring self-causation
Itself entire, a universal whole
Devouring its tail in auto-phagation

But metamorphoses have come to pass:
The endless worm’s head is now up its own (self)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Rule 2 - Don't Write Poetry about Poetry

Lawrence Hall

Rule 2: Don’t Write Poetry about Poetry

A poem is a magic looking-glass
In which you see others, and not yourself
And search it for veiled possibilities
This mirror for the needs of –
                                                  not yourself

When you tap-tap to push pixels about
Or set in place a line of ink and hope
Into a meaning that you have perceived
It is a bedesman’s prayer for –
                                                  not yourself

A poem is a magic-measured song
That helps make sense of life for –
                                                  not yourself

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Feast of the Transfiguration - poem

Lawrence Hall

Feast of the Transfiguration

Cleverly invented myths would be easier
Comforting assurances of ease in life
And no mention of difficulty
Humiliation, and death without hope

Not even mountain mysteries for us
Slogging through the slough said to be Despond
Conflicting texts and testimonies
A lack of clarity in so many things -

Cleverly invented myths would be easier


If truth weren’t a mess, it wouldn’t be true

2 St. Peter 1:16-19

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tears of Saint Lawrence - Perseid Meteor Showers - poem

Lawrence Hall

Tears of Saint Lawrence

The tears of Saint Lawrence fall by the hour
Fall from the cosmos as our good saint weeps
Silently for us through those smoky nights
When hope seems but a burning mockery

The tears of Saint Lawrence remind us of
Certain promises made in the long-ago
That all would be well, and rainbows and rain
And refreshing streams are all part of them

The tears of Saint Lawrence fall, gently fall
As if our dreams were being baptized too

Friday, August 4, 2017

The 1970s - poem

Lawrence Hall

The 1970s

A giant Hannibalian elephant
Descending from the alps slowly to die
In the valley of the Po, pricked about
Bellowing outrage in its agonies

Of leisure suits and suburban barbed wire
Recorded on minutes of missing tapes
As polyester doubleknits await
A bump-up in the daily gasoline line

Hubris rotting in the dust of the age
And did you hear they’ve raised the minimum wage?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Bag of Cabbage Chips - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Bag of Cabbage Chips

Unlike me, many of you have accepted the situation of your
imprisonment, and will die here like rotten cabbages.

-#6 in Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner

A voice:
                  Be still, and know that I am Chip
Be still, because this might sting a little
There, now, wasn’t that easy? Here’s a tissue
Who’s a good boy, then! Here’s your free tee-shirt

Now that you are one with the ‘way cool kids
You can use your implanted chip to buy
A cup of coffee – or maybe a bag of chips
Log into a computer, and open doors

The one small thing you cannot buy or see
Is the return of your own human dignity

On the Electronic Chipping of Employees - column

Mack Hall

Goodbye, Mr. Chipped

Slavery was practiced among the ancient Celtic and Nordic cultures, an enormity only incompletely suppressed through the missionary work of Saint Augustine of Canterbury and his successor, Saint Anselm, who wrote: "Let no one dare hereafter to engage in the infamous business, prevalent in England, of selling men like animals." Not that the East Saxons, West Saxons, North Folks, Mercians, Northumbrians, East Anglians, or Cantii much paid attention to the Church.

Fitting a slave – a thrall – with a thrall-ring around his neck as a clear sign of his bondage was practiced by some war-leaders and chieftains. One of the sub-themes of the novel Ivanhoe is the natural desire of thralls to be free, and thus rid of the thrall-ring.

A free man also possessed the right and the duty to bear arms, and could wear a knife on his belt. That longship has sailed.

In the High Middle Ages a free man employed by a great lord was required to wear his lord’s livery. Livery continues as work uniforms, which are now matters of safety, hygiene, and advertising rather than badges of subordination.

Logic and a sense of history suggests that men and women now would consider being enthralled (in its denotative meaning) by a master an abomination; in practice, the STEM-inistas of at least one American company seem to be eager to wear a modern and more technical version of the thrall ring: the electronic chip.

Three Square Market, in Wisconsin, is a software company that wants its thralls…um…employees to submit to the enormity of being chipped.

Instead of a blacksmith forging and securing an iron ring around their bowed necks, a medical technician will insert a microchip beneath their company-owned skin.

The fee for this procedure is $300, which the company will pay. Imagine a slave expected to be happy about not having to pay for the chains he must wear. Well, no, I guess we don’t have to imagine it.

The company avers that the harmless chip will allow their high-tech serfs to purchase snacks in the break room, open doors, and log into computers. Presumably their scientific employees were unable to accomplish buying a cup of coffee (or perhaps a bag of chips), opening a door, or logging onto a computer until they were degraded with, if not the mark of the beast, at least a beastly mark.

The company assures all that employees are free not to be chipped, just as employees are free not to join the company softball team, free not to donate to the boss’s pet charities, and free not to volunteer at the boss’s weekend good deeds.

If an employee of Three Square Market agrees to be chipped, he is given a chipping party and a free tee-shirt, that article of underwear which has been promoted to the status of our national costumery.

A free tee-shirt.

In A Man for all Seasons Saint Thomas More, learning that Sir Richard Riche has been made Attorney General for Wales in exchange for perjuring himself, paraphrases Saint Mark 8:36 with, “Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world...but for Wales?”

To which we might add: “But for a tee-shirt?”


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I Don't Want a Mind of my Own - poem

Lawrence Hall

I Don’t Want a Mind of my Own

No, no, I don’t want a mind of my own
A mind is a gift, and must be returned
To the realm beyond the stars whence it came
For now it is in service to humanity

A mind does not belong to its bearer
Nor is it the property of the state
Or the bombinate Men of Destiny
Or the vacuous Spirit of the Age

A mind belongs to – oh, but well you know
In Truth, I don’t want a mind of my own

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August is not a Melodious Month - poem

Lawrence Hall

August is not a Melodious Month

August is not a melodious month
Unlike September with its amphibrach
A rhythm of soothing rises and falls:
September morn and then September song

For August is a trochee all intemperate
A restive foot that wants to walk away
Impatient with discourse, laughter, and song
In its wearying heat and lassitude

August is a word alone, without a rhyme

And so

August is not a melodious time

Monday, July 31, 2017

The White House Office of Warfare and Shopping

Lawrence Hall

The White House Office of Warfare and Shopping

Some jets fly off to the wars, carrying the young
The desperate sons and daughters of poverty
Sent there by men in immaculate suits -
Thank you for your service, now go away

Some jets fly off to the shops, carrying the young
The beautiful sons and daughters of Arlington
Sent there by men who keep them as pretty pets -
Did you have a nice time in Paris today?

Some of the young die in deserts of pain
Some of the young call for more champagne

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The White House Staff and Boys' Choir - a screed, a polemic, an ill-tempered hissy-fit

Lawrence Hall

The White House Staff & Boys’ Choir

Gas-station shades, and identification
Dangling from their necks like nooses at rest
Ganymedes hoping to be noticed today
Dancing attendance upon the Throne of Games

Castrati commanded to tune their throats
Each secretly fearing he will be next
To be stripped of all for that walk of shame
Passes and pass codes passed on to others

Little Ken dolls flung about in childish glee,
While decorative generals nod and agree

(A lapse - I almost always object to poetry employed to express thoughts on politics.  Mea culpa...)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Heat Advisory - But Whom Does the Heat Advise? - heat-stressed poem of no significance

Lawrence Hall

Heat Advisory – But Whom Does the Heat Advise?

“Heat advisory issued as temps expected to reach triple digits”

-Houston Chronicle, 29 July 2017

Hey, temps, you’ve been reaching for those digits
For centuries. Always you reach, sometimes
you grasp, those urged indoor activities
while counting up to three in Fahrenheit

And not in that ungodly Celsius
Which is simply not our kind of measure
We need no Frenchified logic like that
For the Bible is free of decimals

Hey, temps, you’ve been reaching for those digits -
Now cuddle up with an air-conditioner

(This is drivel devoid of meaning; it's just too da(r)ned hot to think!)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sarah's Kittens - poem

Lawrence Hall

Sarah’s Kittens

Java and Chai are enjoying a busy day:
Learning that refuse bins tumble easily
And that falling into the water dish
Is baptismal redemption from that fall

That lusting for the flesh of hummingbirds
Safely a-buzz beyond the window panes
Is a joyful way of passing an hour
Before attending to the doggies’ bowl -

The kittens’ dish is full, but they want more -
What is a home without a carnivore?

Or two!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dunkirk - column

Lawrence Hall


Attorney, actor, and historian Joshua Levine has written a scholarly, accessible movie tie-in book about Dunkirk (French: Dunkerque) called, well, Dunkirk. Mr. Levine is a true historian, not some internet keyboard commando recycling such drivel as “stuttering machine guns” or “the rattle of small-arms fire.” These engines of destruction neither stutter nor rattle; they are really LOUD and scary. As a scholar he avoids the incessant hyperbole (OMG!) of our time, and makes his writing more effective through understatement: “A(n)…anti-tank shell removed the gunner’s head” (P. 162).

In the tradition of popular but solid historians such as Cornelius Ryan and Walter Lord, Mr. Levine makes brilliant use of primary sources, including original documents and interviews with veterans who were there: his list of sources runs to five pages. Like journalist Ernie Pyle he includes in his narrative many personal stories that give the reader a sense, as far as this is possible, of what the situation was like for individuals who were given the vaguest of orders, were not permitted to know what was going on outside their immediate areas of operation, and did not know if they would find anything to eat today or be alive tomorrow:

Bugler Edward Watson…remember watching a sergeant-major yelling at a man with a large hole in his back. The man was flat on the found crying as the sergeant-major yelled at him to get up. And then, to Watson’s amazement, the man did as he was told: “I thought this sergeant-major was a rotten sod – but he really made the fellow move.” (170)

Mr. Levine avoids sentimentality and its equally erroneous opposite, back-filling the past with contemporary fashions. He faults the Totenkopf units for their mass-murder of prisoners, not for sexism, and the topics of pollution, marijuana, and unisex restrooms appear nowhere in his narrative.

Some reviews of the film fault the young for not knowing anything about Dunkirk, but I can’t remember not knowing; I learned about it – and so much more about history – from my parents, for they, not a glowing screen the size of Connecticut, were my first teachers

When I was a lad the veterans of The Great War were in their fifties and sixties, the veterans of The Second World War were young men, and the veterans of Korea were hardly out of their teens. I didn’t know many men who had not been in the wars as servicemen or merchant seamen, or in shipbuilding, oil refining, manufacturing, or other war-related activities. My father was a sergeant in a tank destroyer battalion, in Zwickau on the Czech border when the war ended, and my mother’s first husband, second officer on the SS Muskogee, died when that ship was torpedoed in 1942. Even to a child who wasn’t paying much attention to anything except The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid on the radio, history was all around and unavoidable, a part of daily conversation at home, in the street, in the stores, in the movies. 20th century wars weren’t taught in school then because everyone knew about them. After Sputnik, American schools were required to focus on the fashionable S.T.E.M., and history, literature, music, and art were pushed to the rear of that metaphorical bus, leading to great careers for late-night comics and their ambush-questioning of people who ought to know that when a camera and microphone appear, shut up and get away.

You will observe that Mr. Watters never ask his victims questions about science, technology, engineering, or mechanics.

Mr. Watters – and we – might do better to ask why a government with very few veterans in elected office is so enthusiastic about sending the young to kill and be killed far away wars without a declaration war as required by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution (which is taught in school, and violated by our democratically-elected government) and without any apparent purpose.

There is no point in parents giving young people money to attend a concert in which thousands of young people in submissive unity obediently dry their armpits in adoration of some middle-aged man in funny clothes (Hitler, eh?) who appears to be attempting sexual relations with an electric guitar, and then complain that the young people know nothing of Dunkirk, Chancellorsville, The Somme, the Soviet gulags, or the average daily caloric intake of an American worker in 1938.

To the ancient Greeks and Romans, physical labor and technical training were for slaves, an attitude echoed in The Great Escape in a probably fictional exchange when the German commander criticizes the British prisoners for their ungentlemanly work in gardening.

The artificial division between S.T.E.M and everything else is an innovation dating only from 1957. Saint Benedict, in his Rule (still a steady seller after 1,500 years), advises us that for the Christian life should be a balance of work, study, and prayer, and so the gardening rake, the shelf of worthy books, and participation in divine services should be part of every day. A child needs to know history, music, literature, and the other arts, he needs to know how to build a fence, and he needs to be in the pew on Sunday mornings.

My review is inadequate; the book is brilliant:

Levine, Joseph. Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture. New York: HarperCollins. 2017.

And are there ever any minor motion pictures?


New Moon Over an Old Planet - poem

Lawrence Hall

New Moon Over an Old Planet

A thin lunette, silver reflecting gold
Assumed into its dance among the stars -
It was, it is; it will forever repose
Within the shining monstrance of creation

Some will adore, some will deny, but still
The sun, the moon, and the stars obey, and move -
Truth is not dependent upon perception
Or upon lies loudspeakered into our cells

The bearer, even if unseen, is forever -
A thin lunette, silver reflecting gold

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sarahan Dust - poem

Lawrence Hall

Saharan Dust

The sky is a visitor from Africa
Come all the way to the Americas
To say hello, and bless these skies awhile
With a hemispheric umbrella pearl-grey

How like an overcast of dreams it seems
Shielding the land away from the summer heat
Shading the green into an all-day dusk
Almost iridescent in glowing layers

The sun will return soon, but for now
The sky is a visitor from Africa

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ode to the Trumpet - poem

Lawrence Hall

Ode to the Trumpet

The trumpet is a gift of Greece and Rome
Blown straight within the palaces of kings
Then curved into a circle for the wars
And finally folded in upon itself

No one knows when in bondage a hero
Took up a trumpet bold as brass, and said
“Trumpet, I bless you now with Africa”
And made it sing the winds of the Sahel

Layers of nations, cultures, dreams, and art:
The trumpet sings from the musician’s heart

Monday, July 24, 2017

Dia de Muertos in a Parking Lot - poem

Lawrence Hall

Dia de Muertos in a Parking Lot
23 July 2017

The big trucks roll along the interstates
And bear in their wombs the American soul:
Made-in-China shoes, ‘phones, dolls, cartoon tees
Scented soaps, baseball bats, and hipster hats

And the dead. Disposable merchandise
In the commerce of nations, the subjects
Of learned discourse and bigoted rant
Everyone in America wants to be famous

Coyotes dispose of their human cargo


How easy for us to say we didn’t know

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Does the Point Vanish? Or do We? - poem

Lawrence Hall

Does the Point Vanish? Or do We?

In poetry there is no vanishing point
No lines converging in flat distances
Upon a gessoed plane of pleynt and paint
Skillfully rendered for the imagination

In poetry lines flow as languid streams
Or sometimes storm the soul as wilding floods
For seldom do they pause and build a pose
Because lines are imagination

Lines converge in flat dis
Tances because in
Poetry there
Is no van

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cassandra and Simon - poem

Lawrence Hall

Cassandra and Simon

Rose and Neil eloped to America
Mrs. Blossom is forever silent now
Mortmain in solitude emends his drafts
And Topaz dances under the summer moon

Even The Shape seems to have withdrawn itself
From Godsend Castle, where Cassandra writes
Shaping into meaning the wreckages
For she will build a life true to herself

Whether or not Simon ever returns
But wait – the foot of the lane – those car lights…

School is Ratcheting Up and Up and Up - column

Mack Hall, HSG

School is Ratcheting Up and Up and Up

For the next month there is not a newspaper, radio station, or television station in this great land of saints and scholars that will refrain from employing the cringe-making wheeze “School is gearing up.”

No, school is not gearing up. It has never geared up. It will never gear up. Except for maybe Cousin Les’ auto shop class. Let us make our first lesson of the Michaelmas term a caution against using tired metaphors.

There is no adverb less useful than “actually.” After all, one cannot “unactually” do something. And then there is “absolutely,” a useless four-syllable construction meaning “yes.” Say “yes” to clear usage.

The May equivalent of gearing up is that school is winding down. No, it doesn’t. School is not a mechanical watch – which no one under forty has ever seen anyway – and so does not wind down.

“School is just around the corner” – it is if you live around the corner. If you live down the street then school is down the street. If you live in Magnolia Springs school is way off yonder in town.

Back-to-school ads feature adorable little kidlets with big grins modelling the cooler-than-cool new shirts and skirts and jeans and sneaks, and maybe a notebook. The children in school ads never carry, oh, you know, books. Have you ever seen a b-t-s ad in which the kid was carrying a copy of The Brothers Karamazov or The Road to Magdalena or maybe a Jane Austen? Nope, and you won’t see those books in the kid’s house, either; a big ol’ television the size of Rhode Island is the usual home altar and cultural center now. Who needs 2,000 years of Christian scholarship, music, and art when everyone can now lapse into a fuzzy-eyed stasis, the Lot’s-wife-as-a-pillar-of-salt thing, in front of the latest episode of Flip This Dancing House Cooking Show off the Island of Machine Gun Fire and Dead Bodies?

Is there a Texas Education Agency rule that school administrators must shave their heads and grow odd tufts of hair on their chins?

Dress codes and professional demeanor are issues that really annoy principals: slovenly clothes, weird hair, gang signs, flip-flops, tattoos, cartoon tee shirts, tardiness, inappropriate language – and that’s the faculty and parents; the kids tend to do better.

Just a joke, guys, just a joke.

Did you know that algebra is now taught in junior high middle school? That’s wicked. Jesus never said, “Solve for X.”

Did you know that your daughter can learn to weld in high school?

Did you know that your son can venture beyond the microwave and learn real cookery in high school?

Did you know that Julius Caesar and Macbeth are about American politics?

When I was in school, about the time my ol’ dad and the boys got home from the Battle of Hastings, we kids learned about telling time by using construction paper and brads and crayons to construct a clock face on a pie tin. I suppose now children print out a picture of a Fit-Bit and hot-glue it to a take-out pizza box.

But busses are still yellow (and their wheels still go ‘round and ‘round), new pencils (especially cedar, if you can find them) smell like your own childhood, the first day of school is exciting, 6th-grade band concerts are painful to the ear but symphonic to the soul, new clothes are nice, the first look at amoebae through a microscope is to visit a new world, sophomores should fitted tracking devices, seniors pretty much rule the universe, Robert Frost makes more sense than Congress, and voting in a school board election remains a lonely experience.


The Running of the Bullssss in Pamplona - column

Mack Hall, HSG

The Running of the Bullssss in Pamplona

If we were to add a few letters, as in “The Running of the Bulls***,” one might think we were speaking of our freely elected government. But not today.

This is the season in Spain when many stupid tourists and a very few stupid locals, who really ought to know better, make a point of taking on bulls in the narrow streets of Pamplona. The point of running with the bulls is that you can’t outrun the bulls; they outrun you, and if you survive your self-endangerment you can boast of your stupidity. It’s sort of like having ENRON on your resume’.

Let us not conclude from the merriment in Pamplona that Spaniards are generally stupid – they have, for instance, bought control of much of the banking in the United Kingdom and the USA, including my little local branch. Thus, young Americans and Brits travel to Spain to spend their pounds and dollars getting drunk, getting arrested, and getting killed by stampeding bulls while young Spaniards are quietly acquiring that part of American finances not yet controlled by the Chinese and the Germans.

Spanish bulls are not as effective as they might be, though; they leave some of the runners alive. Now if the organizers of this event were to import a number of lithe and nimble Jersey bulls, the mortality rate among the humans – at times an inferior species – would rise precipitously.

Why would a young American spend money to be killed by bulls in another country? He – invariably a “he” – could stay conveniently in this country and chant “USA! USA! USA!” while being killed by domestic livestock.

We don’t have anything like the running of the bulls on this continent, but if we did, here are some possibilities:

The Running of the Newark – each contestant is fitted with a nice wristwatch, a Rolex or Tag-Heuer, and if he can run two blocks through Newark without being relieved of the watch, he gets to keep it.

The Running of the Air Canada – in this race, the contestants try to walk the length of an Air Canada aircraft without being savaged by a snarling cabin attendant.

The Running of United Airlines – much like the Running of Air Canada, but in this version you get beaten up by another passenger and you have to pay United extra for the luggage that was misrouted to Baltimore. USA! USA!

The Running of the Movies – Hollywood runs yet more CGI cartoons of look-alike, sound-alike thirty-somethings emoting and hope anyone notices.

The Running of the Houston Birds – the trick here is to run to your car without being attacked by grackles and crows in the nesting season.

The Running of the Russians – Boris and Natasha are lurking everywhere! They’re everywhere! We’re doomed to be a nation eating borscht and drinking vodka! There’s no escape!

Not sure what borscht is, though.


Friday, July 21, 2017

A Rainbow Bends toward Eternity - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Rainbow Bends toward Eternity

A rainbow bends toward Jerusalem
Constantinople too, and holy Rome
(Though some have said the last cannot be so!)
And makes each dome glow in reflected Light

And whether the Cross is signed left to right
Or right to left, only let it be signed,
And with the work-worn hand of an ‘umble man
Who prays each day in offering up himself

Seasons sail by, like ships upon the sea

and still

A rainbow bends toward Eternity

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Always Check for Scorpions in Your Boots - poem

Lawrence Hall

Always Check for Scorpions in Your Boots

If in Viet-Nam you enjoyed the right
Of taking off your smelly boots at night
You kept them close to you, lest they march away
You didn’t want to be barefoot at break of day

Then when some idiot yelled “Boots and saddles!”
(He’d seen too many films, and was somewhat addled)
(True, “saddles” and “addled” don’t really rhyme)
You checked for scorpions every old time

Though now your uniforms are ties and suits
You always check for scorpions in your boots

(Read the scorpions in the last line as metaphor.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Veteran of the Wars - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Veteran of the Wars

This old warrior has many tales to tell:
He’s sailed among the distant Philippines
Built ships all over the world, repaired tanks
In Germany, was in the desert wars

He served with the Marines, and the Navy too
And can tell you everything about the Aegis -
And does –
                        but he was never in the service;
He’s a sacker at the supermarket

This poor old man; he never got it right
But God bless him – he had his own wars to fight

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Canals on Mars - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Canals on Mars

From an allusion by Robert Royal1

Martians spent centuries building canals
Across great continents to irrigate
Their fields, and on barges of marvelous design
Voyage across their picturesque red lands

They watch us through wonderful telescopes
And send out ships whose missions seem to be
To crash into Earth’s deserts with little green men –
Alas that none of this was ever true!

There are no canals, only an optic blur:
We will miss those Martians who never were

1Robert Royal: “Are Americans from Mars?” The Catholic Thing, 17 July 2017.

Robert A. Heinlein’s boys’ books were part of my childhood. I am sorry that I will never meet a Martian.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Little Girl on a Wagon Seat - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Little Girl on a Wagon Seat

Of her deep thriftiness, Grandmama Hall
Saved every button that passed through her hands
And banked them in a large glass jar from which
She could withdraw an investment in clothing:

New dresses cut and sewn from bolts of cloth
(The styles from 1900 served just fine)
From Mixson’s Store in town, and buttons for all
From her accumulated waste-not, want-not

Wisdom and skill, and girlhood memories
Of when she came to Texas in a covered wagon

Sunday, July 16, 2017

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - poem

Lawrence Hall

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are scattered, like the Tribes of Israel
Sown not in rejection but as word and work
Planted everywhere, and commanded to grow
In the rich earth of divine Creation

There is no veto in birds, rocks, or thorns
Let them instead serve in their own poor ways
As dutiful as humans, maybe more so
Unfallen either as seed or as beings

To tend and guard the ancient unities
That grow forever in Jerusalem

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Carpenter's Hammer - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Carpenter’s Hammer

A craftsman does not hammer with a hammer -
He wields it with surprising subtlety
As delicately as a scalpel poised
Or as an artist’s most elegant brush

A hammer is balanced to mind and hand
Its journey planned and scheduled with great care
To bring about something that was not before:
Through muscle and thought it falls, it dives, it drives

And when the hammer strikes the waiting nail
It sings to Creation a workman's hymn

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Happy Little Guillotine - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Happy Little Guillotine

Oh, happy guillotine, who blesses us
With your great gift of freedom, so that we
Will never again suffer the cruel torments
Of faith and friendship, air, love, light, and breath

Oh, do lop off our heads, and make us free
To gurgle hymns to The Revolution
By our hundreds free, nay, our thousands free,
To rot in the streets, gloriously free

Oh, holy guillotine, come to our aid
And make us one beneath your healing blade!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Evolution of Sophomores - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Evolution of Sophomores

Poor sophomores like polliwogs within
Their small Samsaric Sea do swim about
And seemingly without purpose or point
Startled by shifting shadows or loud noises

But polliwogs in time absorb their tails
Then grow their legs, and hop ashore to eat
Mosquitoes, moths, and flies and dragonflies;
Sophomores acquire their driving licenses

And seemingly without purpose or point
Do drive about their small Samsaric Sea

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

After Their Divorce - poem

Lawrence Hall

After Their Divorce

In his garage he takes a break, and sits
Among all the mechanical debris
Of an inventor born a century late:
Unsorted hopes, tools, dreams, and engine parts

The project car that he and his son will never
Rebuild together on Sunday afternoons
An old guitar, an ashtray full of ends
A midden of beer cans crushed in memories

He should be loading his truck and trailer, but
In his garage, in bitterness, he waits

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Did the Burning Bush Send Moses a Monthly Bill? - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Did the Burning Bush Send Moses a Monthly Bill?

Mark Zuckerberg is said to have said that Facebook could be a replacement for religion. But one never knows; as George Washington wrote in Grant’s Farewell Address to His Soldiers in 1918, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

Mr. Z is said to have said in an interview on CNN (eek) that Facebook is like a church, and that “connecting people is not enough…Facebook has a responsibility to manage its communities.”

Now we know the latest manifestation of Voldemort.

Great Zuckerberg will manage you, so bow before him, and obey.

Pens and paper, typewriters, CB radios, semaphores, smoke signals, mirrors, newspapers, the telegraph – all these are forms of communication, but probably no one has ever perceived these as manifestations of God.

Imagine kneeling in private prayer before an Underwood typewriter and whispering, “O Great Underwood, let thy keys speak unto me and share with me thy mysteries.”

No one has ever suggested of a problem, “Let’s take it to an 80% cotton sheet of bond paper in prayer.”

No one in a theological discussion has ever declared a Sheaffer fountain pen to be the inspired pen of God, and that a Parker pen is a heretic to be cast into the outer darkness of a dumpster behind The University of Where Circuit City and Radio Shack Used to Be.

No one has proclaimed, “For God so loved the world that He gave His beloved Zuckerberg to be His only-begotten distributor of gossip.”

How, then, can a little plastic box made in China be an Epiphany?

In the end, an anti-social medium is but a back fence that lights up and makes noises: gossip, recipes, Amelia Earhart sightings, unmarked UN helicopters ferrying Real Americans to concentration camps in abandoned Wal-Marts, and pictures of kittens and puppies.

Yes, that’s all somewhere in Genesis.

When your wife or husband dies, or your child has been arrested, or you’re suffering a terrible illness, will God’s Chosen Manager Zuckerberg come to your house at three in the morning? Or maybe he will only manifest himself (or Himself) as a recorded voice, urging you to place your hands on that glowing, noisy little plastic box that has indeed become a god to many, and ask the electrons for a blessing.

Gentle Reader, you probably identify with a religion. As part of that there is a local minister. He – or she – probably isn’t cool, doesn’t sport a Rolex watch, doesn’t wear a designer hairpiece, doesn’t fly all over the world in a private jet having his picture taken, and doesn’t have a tellyvision show or a media empire. But he has you. And he’ll come to the house and be there for you when your life falls apart in the dark of the night.

An Underwood typewriter won’t.

And besides, who would be the cranky coffee lady after the Sunday morning service?


Sixth Mass Extinction - poem in two parts

Lawrence Hall

Sixth Mass Extinction

Earth's sixth mass extinction event under way, scientists warn

-The Guardian

The headmaster has shaved his head egg-smooth
Shifted his hair to the point of his chin
And his sunshades to the top of his scalp
His petrol-station SAS sunshades

He often boasts he doesn’t even own a tie
And hasn’t read a book since Upper-Sixth
Something transgender post-colonial
About Guevara (who is on his tee)

Not a form master, but a master of forms
A way-cool disciple of Ofsted norms

Variant for the American Market

Sixth Mass Extinction

Earth's sixth mass extinction event under way, scientists warn

-The Guardian

Like, you know, the principal shaves his head

Like, absolutely, OMG

Got him a goatee, like, actually

Cheap gas-station Official USA Navy Seals™® shades, mannnnnnnnnnnnnnn

Not cool, OMG, actually

I had to help him with the big words in Goodnight, Moon

Absolutely, like

Yosemite Sam™® on his faunky ol’ tee

His office has, like, stuffed fish and, like, football pictures, like, and his Dallas Cowboys™® baseball cap, like, actually

Monday, July 10, 2017

Kafka's Coffee Cup - poem

Lawrence Hall

Kafka’s Coffee Cup

A poor petitioner spoke unto a grille;
His need was simple, coffee ‘gainst the dawn.
A voice metallic, disembodied, chill
Chanted a liturgy through the speaker ‘phone:

“And would you like some sweetener with that?
Sugar? Or chemicals, yellow or pink?
Creamer, perhaps, no gluten and no fat;
The selection is yours; what do you think?

“And, oh, yes, would you like to supersize
Your order with a little bit of nosh?
A doughnuts or bagel, some curly fries,
Or a croissant with cream cheese, by gosh!”

(The reader pauses, then speaks the last two lines slowly)

Years passed, as did this tale of Kafka’s woe:
He died while waiting for that cup of joe.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Secret University - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Secret University

You registered for university
When in the womb you were beloved of God
Your classes then began when you were born
When you awoke, and saw your mother’s eyes

And in them all the possibilities
Of life, of golden life, given to you
Upon this planet with its flowered fields
Forests and rivers beneath its moon and sun

And all these tell you, in eternal Song1
That all the world’s your university

1 In The Kalevala, in Lewis’ Narnia, and in many faiths, God sings the world into being.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Reclining Nude with Pet Frog - poem

Lawrence Hall

Reclining Nude with Pet Frog

Hobby Lobby got caught smuggling artifacts
Vaticanos got caught snuggling each other
Putin and Trump are loose with their facts
The governor of New Jersey is BIG Brother

The Republicans blame the Democrats
The Democrats blame the Russians
The Russians blame the plutocrats
And the Norks won’t join the discussions

All of them make big ol’ messes each day
And they expect us to shut up and pay

Friday, July 7, 2017

Still Life with Ant Poison - poem

Lawrence Hall

Still Life with Ant Poison

A summer’s dusk, a rustic garden bench
Deep-weathered from the cycles of seasons and years
And burdened with those homely implements
Beloved of the philosopher-gardener:

Clay pots at rest after nursing young plants
An old birdhouse in need of repair, a trowel
A pair of old cloth gloves, a watering can
A cylinder of painful death for ants

And for the old philosopher’s Vespers
An inch
              (or two)
                            of therapeutic single-malt

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Bishop of DaNang - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Bishop of DaNang

In Grateful Memory:
Pierre Marie Pham Ngoc Chi,14 May 1909 – 21 January 1988

What did he think of his Americans
Some six or so, just kids, in jungle greens
Receiving from his hands the Sacrament
Of Confirmation there, among Marines

A Quonset hut chapel in the morning sun
Blistering the steel in its passage to noon
Anointing all with gun oil and with sweat
“Do you reject Satan and all his works…?”

The Word and his blessings, a group picture -
And what did the NVA think of him?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

#What's in a #? - poem

Lawrence Hall

#What’s in a #?

#“What's in a #? That which we call a #
By any other # would smell as #...”


You are, by the Grace of God, as you speak;
You are not a #; you are not an @
You are not a consumable to be
Tagged, twitted, labeled, renamed, and recycled

Honor the languages of your ancestors
Who gave to you, through work and dignity,
The Muses Nine of civilization
And not vague scratchings in the muck of now

Write nobly, not in # @ noises weak -
You are, by the Grace of God, as you speak

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I am so Boring That... - poem

Lawrence Hall

I am so Boring That…

Morpheus takes my correspondence course
I teach the House of Lords how to induce snores
I make strong men yawn with my tired metaphors
I am on retainer with all the best sleep clinics

I am the reason the grooms in Macbeth slept
Hypnos and Nix envy me and my skills
Rip Van Winkle was wonked out by my rhymes
My verses make for Odin’s yearly sleep

I wield my Sword of Soporificity
And the condemned oversleep their executions

Look upon my cliches’, ye mighty, and despair, hahahahahaha…!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Is That a Prophet on Your Roof? - poem

Lawrence Hall

Is That a Prophet on Your Roof?

A woman of Shunem gave to Elisha
A small room on her roof, furnishing it with
A bed, a chair, a table, and a lamp
And, truly, what more does a man of God need?

It’s possible that the neighbors gossiped
About keeping a prophet on the roof
And what did the owners’ association say
About extra rooms and extra prophets?

A little room in which to pray and sleep,
And friends – what more does a man of God need?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Juvenile Court Day - poem

Lawrence Hall

Juvenile Court Day

So sullenly he sneers and slouches there
Behind a menu that he will not read
His mother smiles apologetically
And orders milk and cereal for him

He sulks beneath his franchise baseball cap
And grunts into a little plastic box
Then shoves it back into his pressed knee-pants
His mother smiles apologetically
                                                       tips apologetically
                                                       pays apologetically

The waitress with her chalice takes communion‘round
Refills the cups at each creaky table
Newspaper stories, what is this world coming to,
Bacon and eggs, toast, orange juice, refills, life

Beyond the misted glass the old court house
Begins to take the early morning light
Like an old man taking his first cup of the day
Having another go at civilization

A rural Thomas More parks his old truck
This Chaucerian sergeant of the law
Will plead the usual catalogue of not-his-faults
The lad will smirk and feign apologies

The creaky tables of the ancient laws
To be served with irrelevant custom
The lad demands change for the Coke machine
His mother yields

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Canada Day - Just One? - poem

Lawrence Hall

Canada Day -  Just One?

With love from an ‘umble Yank

But every day is Canada Day!

The afternoon plane lands in Halifax
When the hatch is popped, cool air rushes in
Even the fog is happy in Canada

The Muskogee never made landfall here
And so we pilgrimage for her, complete
Her voyage from ’42 to Canada

Wolfville, Grand Pre’, Le Grande Derangement
The Deportation Cross and beer cans
Well, God forgive the Redcoats anyway

Is a bold

The church spires in a line, the light is green
The bold young captain shoots the narrows wild
Can you find your way to your painted house?

To walk again the cobbles of Ferryland
And smell the very blue of the Atlantic
The sea-blown wind is cold in Canada

Blue Puttees and a mourning Caribou
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord
Good children sing “We love thee, Newfoundland”

Quebec – royal city of New France
May Le Bon Dieu bless the Plains of Abraham,
And may God bless
The signs an English driver cannot read

The Coca-Cola streets of Niagara Falls
Yanks laugh at made-in-China Mountie mugs
And buy them, happy to be in Canada

A cup of Toujours Frais from – well, that place
But to us in your southern provinces
Below Niagara, Tim too is Canada

Though Canada goes on, these scribbles must not -
Your grateful guest wishes only to say
That every happy day is Canada Day!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Picket Fences at Camp Tien Sha - poem

Lawrence Hall

Picket Fences at Camp Tien Sha

There were picket fences at Camp Tien Sha
And a sign that read “Welcome to Viet-Nam”
And nobody ever asked why that should be
Both the fences and – just why were we there?

Picket fences – so could it be that bad?
Concrete transient barracks built by the French
Hot, foul, dark, and dank – it could be that bad
Mortars in the night – Welcome to Viet-Nam

Waiting for orders – did they forget us?
There were picket fences at Camp Tien Sha

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Strelnikov is Still Wrong - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Strelnikov is Still Wrong

          I used to admire your poetry…I shouldn't admire it now. I should find it absurdly personal. Don't you agree?    
          Feelings, insights,'s suddenly trivial now. You don't agree; you're wrong. The personal life is dead in
          Russia. History has killed it.

– Strelnikov in Doctor Zhivago (film)

Don’t write to be approved by masters who
Wear Rolexes in the Name of the People
Don’t write to be approved by masters at all
But be your own authority and see

Your life – yours - is nobler than manifestos
The latest noisy Ghibellines and Guelphs
All Power to the Constituent Assembly
One folk, one nation, one waffle with syrup

Write freedom through verses, and disobey
Anyone who pushes you what to say

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Swamp the Drain - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Swamp the Drain

Now once upon a time there was a drain
A happy little drain that all day drained
Which is the nature of what good drains do
Letting things flow away, off to the sea

One day a blustering bullfrog strutted about
And croaked that the drain was not any good
He said he’d swamp that drain with a huuuuge dam
A beautiful dam – his audience was riveted

And he croaked and he croaked and still he croaked
                                                                                     all day
But the happy little drain drained his croaks

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Setting the Night Watch - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Setting the Night Watch

Nature exists without anyone’s permission:
At dusk the loud cicadas in the oaks
And the soft crickets dwelling in the grass
Sing an evening hymn to the setting sun

Sparrows and mockingbirds leave off their wars
And all make wing to Shakespeare’s rooky wood
While little dogs patter the day’s last patrol
Snuffling the bounds as true as timber wolves

And as a tourist comes a straying man
Oblivious to the changing of the watch

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Soldier Smoking a Cigarette - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

A Soldier Smoking a Cigarette

A soldier lay beside a railway line
Smoking a cigarette, not thinking of much
Among some hundreds of other conscript lads
Upon a grassy glacis above the fields

The boxcars waited in the stilly heat
The soldiers waited like young summer wheat
Occasionally stirred about by winds unseen
And finally stirred about by orders unheard

They rippled into the cars, and were taken away -
A shadow lay beside a railway line

Sunday, June 25, 2017

For a Methodist Minister Newly Posted - poem

Lawrence Hall

For a Methodist Minister Newly Posted

We feel sometimes, we know sometimes, that we
Are aliens here, exiles and witnesses
As Abraham was sent from his father’s house
And Moses as a child was set adrift

The Apostles upon their voyages
By blood declare there is no lasting home,
Not here, so trusting in God to guide His ark
We thus are cast upon the waters of baptism

For on this planet each of us arrives
Afloat and in a Hebrew blanket wrapped

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Alter Christus, Alter Vir - poem

Lawrence Hall

Alter Christus, Alter Vir

For Reverend Angelo J. Liteky

He died three times, for other men
Who lived because he died – once in Indochina
Once in his vocation, and one last time
Forgotten in a poor hospital bed

Soul-wounded in the false, incessant wars
Humanity inflicts upon itself
Fallenness falling again, ever fallen
And the ever-falling fell upon him

Though he lifted his love – always for others
He died again – and who will live for him?

Friday, June 23, 2017

The University of Old Lawn Chairs - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

The University of Old Lawn Chairs

The new lawn chairs are now the old lawn chairs
How many summers - has it been that long?
Their runners are rusty, their paint is pale -
The flip-this parvenus would disapprove

Not rusty but rustic, these fine old seats
Of learning have weathered many terms
Supporting the front-yard sciences and arts
Of lightning bugs, conversations, and scotch

The cicadas’ songs, the rising of stars
With us enthroned as luxuriously as czars

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Arc of the Solstice - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Arc of the Solstice

High summer’s solstice is the year’s proud crown:
The sun has reached his apogee, and now
Will linger through July’s life-ripening days
Then drift into a worn Augustan gold

September is a sort of seasonal coup
Who in the equinoctial treaty signs
For a slow dissolution of the sun
And all his ancient power to rule and reign

In his old age the sun is seldom seen –
Diana, then, is crowned as winter’s queen

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Jenny's - as a poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

It’s Bad Only if Jenny’s Fried Chicken is Closed

Warnings and categories – a tropical storm
It’s really bad if Jenny’s has to close
No fried chicken, no electricity
No lights, no burgers, no coffee, no fries, no hope

A flashlight in the night is weak and pale
Our manna in exile - crackers and Spam
And coffee from a Thermos, not enough
To lift the spirits of the chicken-deprived

But now the sun is up, the storm has passed
O tell us that Jenny’s is open at last!

It's Bad Only if Jenny's Fried Chicken is Closed - column, 21 June 2017

Lawrence Hall, HSG

It’s Bad Only if Jenny’s Fried Chicken is Closed

Let us remember the seven categories of storms during hurricane season:

1. Tropical storm
2. Category 1 hurricane
3. Category 2 hurricane
4. Category 3 hurricane
5. Category 4 hurricane
6. Category 5 hurricane
7. Category Mr. Frank has to close Jenny’s Fried Chicken

Some decades ago a Galveston television reporter interviewed a young mother who after a lesser storm complained that she had no food and no milk for her baby. “THEY should have been better prepared for this!” she exclaimed angrily.

Let no one resort to stereotyping with the useless pejoratives of “millennials” or “snowflakes,” for in illo tempore everything wrong in the world was the fault of “baby boomers,” and the fantasy of global warming hadn’t yet been dreamed up.

And as for keeping food, diapers, canned milk, clean clothes, a pocket knife, a gas grill (for use OUTSIDE) or at least a nifty little Sterno stove (for use OUTSIDE), that is not a matter of hurricane preparation; that is a matter of good household management in every generation.

The loud a.m. radio boys advertise disaster food stores capable of feeding that famous Family of Four for a month after nuclear annihilation and / or the collapse of the Euro, and the non-panicky can only ask why. Isn’t the household well-stocked anyway?

At this point someone will bring up “the good old days when…” but it’s not about those days that really weren’t all that good. All thoughtful householders have, well, things – things like food, water, clean clothes, alternative ways of cooking, lots of paper plates and plastic utensils, flashlights, battery radios, jugs of drinking water, and a good, sturdy, American-made pocket knife.

About the only special hurricane preparation anyone should need to make are some buckets of water standing by for flushing the toilets.

A useful addition to home preparedness is a portable car battery charger, essentially a car battery residing in an attractive plastic shell and with a handle for carrying. Jumper cables are stowed on either side of the gadget. Instead of trying to maneuver cars and connect their batteries via 20-foot cables, you simply place the battery charger on a fender or other support and charge from that.

But, wait – there’s more! The more expensive battery chargers also contain an air pump and hose for inflating a tire, cigarette-lighter sockets, ports for charging MePhones and other electronic gadgets, a 110-volt outlet, and a built-in flashlight. These take a charge, good for months, from a household outlet. Always follow instructions.

No, you can’t run an air-conditioner from a portable battery charger, but you can operate a fan and a reading lamp.

If you have a fan and a can of Spam and a light for reading, you’ll get through the night just fine, while the prodigal fanless and Spam-less gnash their uncharged MePhones in the outer darkness. In the morning Jasper-Newton Electric will have the power restored, and as Vera Lynn did not sing, there’ll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover and the sun will shine again as Mr. Frank and his merry band re-open Jenny’s Fried Chicken.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Old Communist Movie Director - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Old Communist Movie Director

From the Criterion Collection

The object now of film-school interviews
His gravelling, decades-gone voice echoing
Into a recorder his decades-gone news
How wonderful he was, and all-knowing
About Thuh Fascists, Thuh Workers, and Thuh Jews
Hugging his resentments, and loudly crowing
About the Blacklist through his smokes and booze
How bravely he defied the Rightists, going
In exile to England on a luxury cruise.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Shakespeare in the Pork - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Shakespeare in the Pork

Is this a protest which I see before me,
Clichés to abuse the script? Come, let me meme thee.
I have a master’s degree, so hold still.
Art thou not, sign waver, a Democrat?

Or art thou but a pale Republican
Proceeding from the heat-oppres’sed brain?
(that swamp metaphor, remember?)
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As a 1950s fraternity boy

Civility thickens, and threatens life’s play
So all you ideologues, just

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Dog Not Taken - doggerel indeed!

Lawrence Hall, HSG

The Dog Not Taken

Two roads diverged on a paper ballot
Rejecting both, I voted for my dog

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sangerhalle fur Kinder - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Sängerhalle für Kinder

A happy child with sunlight in her hair
Joyfully shrieking her own An Die Freude
Splashes her friends with water and mud and fun
And they, as happily, splash in reply

The children assemble in a muddy creek
Instead of the Sangerhalle at Die Wartburg
Not making revolution, but childhood songs
Manifestos of freedom to fling about

The forest, then, is their true singers’ hall
A celebration of innocence for children all

Some More Existential Questions - column, 15 June 2017

Mack Hall, HSG

Some More Existential Questions

Why do fruiterers (that’s a real word) place company logos on bananas? Do people have strong brand loyalties with regard to fruits and veggies? Do they have bumper stickers that read “My Other Fruit is a Pitaya?”

Have you ever seen a jaw drop? Really?

The ads on the InterGossip often say that a concept or an isolated fact is insane. How can this be? Only a person can be insane. An income might be low or high, but it cannot be insane. If you were in Paris and fell into the river you’d be in-Seine. Thank you, thank you very much; you’re a great audience.

Other than it being a Ye Old English tradition, why must all twelve jurors agree on a conviction? Ten of the twelve, or even eleven, would save face for the holdout and, further, provide a little protection for jurors in cases involving gangs and revenge.

Why is it that those who loudly demand answers (“demanding answers” is a big buzz-phrase just now) don’t ask a question in the first place?

Why is it that shooting someone is now often the first resort in responding to a negative external stimulus? There are two methods of making an argument – that is, to state and defend a thesis – logical and emotional. Promoting good gas mileage in a car advertisement is an appeal to logic. The suggestion that the car is so aesthetically appealing that the guy who buys it might at last get a date for the prom is an appeal to the emotions. Both arguments can be valid. But shooting someone is an appeal to nothing but infantile rage.

What was the appeal of “The Soup Nazi?” Why would anyone purchase food based on the likelihood of being verbally abused by the seller?

Why do people say “actually?” as in “I actually met Prince Harry” or “It was actually awesome.” Can one unactually meet Prince Harry? If something is awesome, can it be unactually awesome? Adverbs are a curse. Actually. Absolutely. Get rid of them.

Were our high school biology teachers lying to us when they said there are only two genders? How is it that global warming is “settled science” (the “or else” is implied), while biology is not?

Finally, what does “existential” mean? When I was at university, just before I flunked out, all the cool kids said “existential,” along with “Trotskyite,” “conspicuous consumption,” “what’s your bag,” “deconstruction,” “karma,” “phenomenology,” “post-structuralism,” and “revisionist,” all of which could be prefixed with “neo” or “reactionary.” Thus someone could be dismissed as an “existential neo-reactionary Trotskyite,” or perhaps as a “neo-deconstructionist post-revisionist existentialist.”

Existentially speaking.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Pomona at Play - poem

Lawrence Hall

Pomona at Play

Pomona dances among the apple trees
Light-footed through the glowing amber light;
At dusk, kissed by the last rain-drops, the breeze
Begins to sigh, and falls, to sleep the night.

And then pale Cynthia, the silver-crowned,
Rises to breathe upon each leaf and flower
Her sacred mists, softly and softly around,
And blesses dreams through many a silent hour.

Bold Helios will wake the sleeping east
And laugh away the magic of the dark;
He sets out daylight as a merry feast
And measures out his work with compass and arc

But later, them, for sweet Pomona’s play
Now celebrates the golden end of day.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Poem - or, rather, a petitionary prayer

Lawrence Hall

For the Faithful Departed

Do we all holy rites.
Let there be sung Non nobis and Te Deum

-Henry V, 4.viii.115-116

Workmen approved indeed1, from far away
Like Abraham, exiled from the fields of home
But leaving here in their adopted land
Their blessings always, through family and faith

And so we ask Our Lady in several voices -
     Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe
     Notre-Dame de LaSalette
     Our Lady of the Americas -

To welcome Luis and Oscar to God’s Home,
That promised Place of refreshment, light, and peace2

1 2 Timothy 2:15
2 from several Catholic prayers for the departed

Of your kindness pray for the repose
of the souls of Luis Castro and Oscar Rivera

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Camping on the Edge of Forever - poem

Lawrence Hall

Camping on the Edge of Forever

For HM3 Michael Dean Marconett, USN
of happy memory

Wild stars, beyond a Sterno stove’s tame glow,
We’ll live forever as we live this night:
Coffee and cigarettes and comradeship,
Our backs against the sun-warmed Sierras
As the cold falls from infinite darkness
To keep the snow in place another night,
To smile in ancient silence back at you,
To make a glowing, slumberous twilight until dawn.
Those C-rations were good after a day
Of scrambling among prehistoric rocks
Made musical by the dinosaur creek,
Water as cold as the dark end of time.
San Diego glows in the south-southwest,
Silently, inefficiently, light lost.
But you, wild, happy star, will still shine down
On dreaming youths, tonight and other nights,
Counting for us, for them, each millennium.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Forces of Happiness - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Forces of Happiness

“There will be music, dancing, happiness…by order.”

-Town Crier in Dance of the Dead, an episode of The Prisoner

The Forces of Happiness are released
To worry out of their burrows those poor
Unfocused souls who mumble about their days
In happy, innocuous solitude

With books and cups of tea and scribbled lines
Of happy wonderings and teasing thoughts.
And such is not acceptable to those
Who suffer not any individuals –

To herd them into organized submission
The Forces of Happiness are released

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Necktie for Fathers' Day - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Necktie for Fathers' Day

Roaming around lost in the 1970s
Dull advertising writers still forbid
The purchase of neckties for Fathers’ Day –
As if DNA ever wears a tie

It’s all knee-pants and advertising now
On cartoon tees and baseball caps and sneaks
Admiring his tattoos in his MePhone
And cadging guy-support from his live-in

While watching his collection of action films:
“I’ll look for a job tomorrow, babe, okay?”

Boris and Natasha - column, 11 June 2017

Mack Hall, HSG

Boris and Natasha

“We can’t go arresting people for what they say in a private conversation…I’ve no doubt we shall come to that eventually, but at the present stage of our struggle for freedom, it just can’t be done.”

-Colonel Plum in Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags

Some of our federal government overlords seem to do little other than spy on each other and stage mutual investigations for show – some committee or other holds hearings and the members take turns posturing for the camera, asking questions of other federal employees and interrupting them when they try to answer. After that another committee holds hearings to investigate the first committee and asks them questions – perhaps “What did you not know and when did you not know it?” – while fluffing their feathers for the cameras.

One suspects that at the end of the day they all retire to a walled and guarded country club in Alexandria, Virginia to treat each other to expense-account single-malt and cigars, and for a good laugh.

This season’s cycle of fashionable and well-funded investigations is about whether the Russians snoop into the companies that build and program voting machines.

Perhaps they do, along with the North Koreans, the South Koreans, the Chinese, and any 16-year-old with a discount-store computer and an idle hour.

A more salient question would be why any enemy would want to interrupt this nation’s self-destruction. The free-floating temper tantrums which used to be our political parties are, through the inadequate and even malevolent candidates they present to the American people, more of a menace to the Republic than any foreign operatives.

Vladimir Putin surely considers that while gazing at a photograph of Francis Gary Powers and indulging in a schadenfreude-ish bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha over his glass of vodka.

Everything I know about Russia I learned from Dostoyevsky, Pasternak, Yevtushenko, Ahkmatova, Solzhenitsyn, Vodolaskin, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Alexievich (her Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War, is the best book ever about life and death for American enlisted men in Viet-Nam), and I imagine modern Russians ignore them even as as modern Yanks ignore Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Robert Frost, Stephen Crane, John Steinbeck, Willa Cather, and Ernest Hemingway.

So I know little about Russia. I can’t even find Krasnoyorsk on a map.

But I know how we can vote without the possibility of Russians, Koreans, or The Dork Avenger in his mom’s basement in Corner Brook, Newfoundland manipulating our computerized voting machines:

Don’t use computerized voting machines at all.

Let the poll watchers see to it that each voter is provided with a marker and a blank sheet of paper because Boris and Natasha can’t hack paper. Upon this sheet of paper the voter writes or prints the name of the man or woman the voter wishes to be president. If an American wishes to vote for his friend across the street, that should happen. Let the American people be free from the limited selections trickled down to them by political parties.

As with the Constitution up until 1804 (we’d have to do something with the 12th Amendment), let the first-place winner be president and the second-place winner be vice-president.

After all, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton deserve each other.

And we the people deserve better.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dawn at the Waffle House - poem

Lawrence Hall

Dawn at the Waffle House

The official Waffle House “Good morning!”
This morning is a barely audible solo
An exhausted night-shift-ending yawn-out
From a waitress who has served eight hours of hope

The morning cops, all uniformed and young
Pop in to caffeinate; an old man owns
His corner booth, still searching for the truth
And a signal among the fluorescents

The celebrant elevates the coffee pot

And now the sun will rise, the night will pass
And all will celebrate this morning mass

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Navigation Lights - poem

Lawrence Hall

Navigation Lights

Like spirits of the ancients, veiled fireflies
Patrol as appointed the haunted dusk
Their cold lights winking secret messages
From lawn to tree, and then across Creation

And silent in her elegance the Moon
Escorted by strong Jupiter the bold
Is pleased to grace the skies with her presence
Herself obedient to that once-seen Star:

We are never adrift in our own dark nights
For they are marked with navigation lights

Friday, June 9, 2017

Anna Apples - poem

Lawrence Hall

Anna Apples

Apples, which last week made the orchard trees
A festival of red among the green,
Are disappearing now, and hard to find
And hard to reach, high up and hidden away

Their joyful season is fading in early June
Their mothering trees are in mourning now
For the late-winter blooms that grew so soon
And ripened into transient perfection

Like happy children playing hide-and-seek
They slip away into the leaves and years

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Restless Hope Syndrome - poem

Lawrence Hall

Restless Hope Syndrome

At two in the morning the great ideas
Are fluttering shadows on the moonlit lawn
The old clock clanks, the new clock hums, and hours
Are an accusation against one’s works

At three in the morning one’s ambitions
Are not even shadows as the moon sails on
The old clock clanks, the new clock hums, and hopes
Crowd around the bed in disappointment

At four in the morning the silent noise
Begins withdrawing before the stale new day

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Foxy John's: Beer, Wine, Good Food, Low Prices - poem

Lawrence Hall

Foxy John’s:
Beer, Wine, Good Food, Low Prices

Between class and the night shift, Foxy John’s:
Books and ideas, an old Sheaffer pen
Notes scribbled on a yellow pad, a pipe
Of Holland House, coffee, another cup
The old MG stands loyally outside
The San Diego night smells of the sea
Damp and cool out beyond the fluorescents
And at dawn, between the night shift and class
More coffee, more tobacco, weary eyes
Ill-focused on Henry at Canossa
And the ocean tides and the morning fogs,
Turning the seasons, mark shifts and studies.

How curious never to meet ol’ John
And so to learn just why he is foxy

[I wonder if Foxy John's is still there, down the hill from the University of San Diego]

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Making a Song in a Time of Sorrow - poem

Lawrence Hall

Making a Song in a Time of Sorrow

Making a song in a time of sorrow
Isn’t possible, you know; it doesn’t work
All hope is disconnected from the hands
And any sense of meter breaks apart

The rhythm of the self is out of tune
The patterns of existence are but smoke
Adrift among the greyscaped wreckage of life
Cascading power failures of the soul

Just drop it for now; maybe tomorrow
Rebuilding then a life out of the sorrow

Monday, June 5, 2017

Sleep Study - poem

Lawrence Hall

Sleep Study

Do I have to buy the book? The SparkNotes?
Will this material be testable?
But all I have to do is go to sleep
In a lovely bed in a lovely room

To sleep, adorned with little EKG pads
And little wires a-running here and there
Like the wiring harness of a Packard
In need of a tuneup since ‘48

I cast aside a novel about spies
And in a bit begin to study sleep

          Number Six: "How did I sleep?"

          Number Two: "Sound as a bell. Have a nice day."

                              -The Prisoner

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Climate Change on London Bridge, column, 4 June 2017

Mack Hall, HSG

Climate Change on London Bridge

Climate change has really been rough in England the past few weeks.

Seven dead and fifty wounded in eight minutes of climate change on a Saturday evening in London – but, hey, let’s not overreact. The Spitfire, the Tommy, and the Royal Navy are obsolete, replaced with strategic teddy bears, candles, hashtags, teary-eyed selfies, and platitudes: London Strong, 1 Strong, We Are One, We Stand Together, Love Trumps Whatever, Love is Stronger than Hate, Always Choose Love, Hug the Stranger Next to You.

Yeah, that’ll work.

We have lived to see lines of British subjects with their hands up being herded down the streets of Manchester and London by British police, like a scene from Len Deighton’s SS-GB. The Nazis couldn’t manage that, but the British have now surrendered and herded themselves into captivity.

Winston Churchill said to the British people “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

The current government says to the British people “Run. Hide. Tell.”

One young police officer didn’t run, hide, or tell; he charged three terrorists all by himself. He was armed only with a stick, because British police are still mostly unarmed. He lost. He is in intensive care but will live. When he has recovered his own government will file charges against him as is now their custom. If Field Marshal Montgomery were still alive he would be court-martialed for insensitivity to Nazis.

Far above the dead in the streets of London and Manchester practically perfect pretty posh people fly about in luxury jets to and from climate conferences where they sit about in great conference rooms giving speeches and signing documents. They’re public servants. They’re for the people.

Farmers, workers, small businesses, police, and the military are regulated, given impossible tasks, and incessantly criticized, and people are murdered in the streets, but as long as the gluten-free champagne flows in the great halls of the great capitals of the great republics, all is well for the carbon-credit Leader Class.

The only thing we have to fear is climate change itself.