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.


Lighting a Candle before Mass - poem

Lawrence Hall

Lighting a Candle before Mass

We light a candle for

     All good people
     All bad people
     And all good causes


     All people are good
     All people are bad
     And we’re working on the causes

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sometimes in Korea, Sometimes Not - poem

Lawrence Hall

Sometimes in Korea, Sometimes Not

He wears clean overalls, a nice new shirt
A collection of small tools in his pockets
A cap that reads “U.S. Army Retired”
And for some reason his Sunday go-to-church shoes

He mumbles his Mac-Something breakfast meal
A presentation in cellophane and foam
Organic-free or gluten-full or something
And seems to visit with someone long gone

A middle-aged woman in a Daewoo
Arrives to help him up and take him home

Friday, June 2, 2017

Prologue to The Canterbury Downloads - poem

Lawrence Hall

Prologue to The Canterbury Downloads

There is a pilgrimage which no one plans
For youth and age, across a room, a poem
Sending each other ordinary English words
One by email, the other by Pony Express

Some journey to Canterbury to pray
To God at good Saint Thomas Becket’s shrine
Some to the Burgate for a coffee shop
And texting over a mocha “The droghte of March”

One asks about the rising middle class
Of a lad who hasn’t a date for the prom

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Night Class - Cellphonia in F Flat - poem

Lawrence Hall

Night Class – Cellphonia in F Flat

A chamber piece for two sulks and a soda

He yawns, his head propped up against a wall
Of head-stained, head-banged green fluorescent blocks
In the back of the room, in Marlboro Country
Reposing in sad, sullen insolence

Furtively strumming a silent keypad
Flinging his unique existential angst
Into cool, pure, plasticized electrons
And out into the meta-fusional night

Where there’s real life, man, not these books and stuff,
Real life; you wouldn’t understand. I’m me
And you don’t know who I am, man. I am:
An inspirational singer-songwriter

My own me journeying onward to me
An artist, a great soul misunderstood
Raging against a machine that isn’t there:
An angry rebel on government grants.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Dairy Queen Waitress in Tuscany - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Dairy Queen Waitress in Tuscany

Eat, drink, pray, love, hamburger, shake, and fries
Boyfriend, baby, trailer park, sad tired eyes
Creepy men, cranky boss, and ice-cream floats
A wheezing Honda with overdue notes

Cinder-blocks, fluorescents, grilled cheese to go
No child-support this month, another cup of joe
Ten-year-reunion, can’t go, how time flew
Two shifts that day, the trailer rent is due

Baby at Mama’s, boyfriend still in bed
He’ll look for work tomorrow, that’s what he said
“Order up!” the fry cook hollers, and she
Dreams of a someday-summer in Tuscany

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Road to Magdalena, New Mexico - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Road to Magdalena, New Mexico

The wind is cold, a Colorado cold,
Blowing the summer back to Mexico
From whence it came; it sat upon this land
For dreary months of heavy, lifeless heat.
But now the desert dawn is blue; the stars
Make one last show before withdrawing to
The Caves of Night beyond the timberline,
Where no man walks, for fear of ancient gods.

This desert dawn is blue with promises;
The road to Magdalena creeps beneath
The ridges where the Watchers of the night
Seem now content to still their thunderstorms,
And grant a grateful pilgrim sunlit hours.
There will be coffee in Magdalena,
And not much else. The cattle drives have ceased,
And the railroad is gone; the school is closed,
As are the saloons.  But there should be coffee.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day III: Something about Life - poem

Lawrence Hall

Memorial Day III: Something about Life

“Live. Just live.”

-Yuri in Doctor Zhivago

The plane lifted, and the cheering was wild
And then pretty quickly the pilot said
“We are now clear of Vietnamese
Territorial waters.” There was joy,
Even wilder cheering for most, and quiet
Joy for a few. For one, Karamazov
To hand, peace, and infinite gratitude.
“I’m alive,” he said to himself and to God,
“Alive. I will live, after all.” To read, to write,
Simply to live. Not for revolution,
Whose smoke poisons the air, not for the war,
Not to withdraw into that crippling self-pity
Which is the most evil lotus of all,
But to live. To read, to write.
                                                 But death does come,
Then on the Vam Co Tay, or now in bed,
Or bleeding in a frozen February ditch;
Death comes, scorning our frail, feeble, failing flesh,
But silent then at the edge of the grave,
For all graves will be empty, not in the end,
But in the very beginning of all.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day II: Bad Morning, Viet-Nam - poem

Lawrence Hall

Bad Morning, Viet-Nam

No music calls a teenager to war;
There is no American Bandstand of death,
No bugles sound a glorious John Wayne charge
For corpses floating down the Vam Co Tay

No rockin’ sounds for all the bodies bagged
No “Gerry Owen” to accompany
Obscene screams in the hot, rain-rotting night.
Bullets do not whiz. Mortars do not crump.

There is no thin rattle of musketry.
The racket and the horror are concussive.
Men – boys, really – do not choose to die,
“Willingly sacrifice their lives,” that lie;

They just writhe in blood, on a gunboat deck
Painted to Navy specifications.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memorial Day I: Liturgy in Time of War - poem

Lawrence Hall

Liturgy in Time of War

I will go to the altar of God
To God who gives joy to my youth


The dawn (evening) is coming, another hot, filthy, wet dawn (evening). Let us arise, soaked in sweat, exhausted, to speak with sour, saliva-caked mouths, to meet the deaths of this day (night).


In the name of Peace in Our Time,
For the Hearts and Minds of The People,
For the Land of the Big PX
For round eye and white (black) (brown) thigh,
I greet you, brothers.



I confess to almighty God
And to you my brothers
That I have sinned through my fault
In my thoughts and in my words
In what I have done
And in what I have failed to do,
And I ask Blessed Mary…

But how can I ask Her anything now?

My brothers,
Pray for me to…

But how?
Priest: (But there is no priest)


Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, Lord, have mercy on us now

Have mercy, Lord, on a generation
That sits smugly in college lecture halls
And protests endlessly in coffee shops
The war they hear, see, on T.V., for free
Justice and peace by the semester hour
Like, y’know, peace, love, Amerika sux
Play the guitar, toke, apply to law school

Have mercy on us
Who crouch behind sand bags
And clean our weapons
And protest nothing
And kill in the heat
And die in the hear
And throw ham and lima beans away


Glory to God in the highest
how many bodies yesterday?
And peace to His people on earth
Vietnamese? Or us?
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father
ham and lima beans?
We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory
Doc, I can’t go home to my wife with this clap
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father
cigarette, canteen cup of instant coffee
Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
playboy magazine
Have mercy on us
relief behind the sand bags
You are seated at the right hand of the Father
i rot
Receive our prayer
i want to be clean and dry
For You alone are the Holy One
clean and dry. just once.
You alone are the Lord
why do they chew that?
You alone are the most high
you mean the betel nut?
Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father



Father, you make this day holy.
Let us be thankful for
The many little joys of
This day, for life, for
The chance to worship
You. In the end, bring
Us to you, so that we
May be cleansed of mud
And sweat and filth and
Guilt, and live with you
In peace forever.


Father, just get me through
Another day of this mess.



From the Intensive Care Unit, NSA DaNang

A twilight world
Of neither peace nor battle
And of both

A man world
Embracing life and the grim death

Peering into infected wounds
Night building shiver
Down from the black sky flares float

Broken bodies from the war somewhere
Eyes of a shattered nineteen-year-old Marine
Staring at the door to Yokosuka


A Song of Descents

I cast down my eyes
Into the mud
Into the blood
It seems cleaner than death and drugs and casual sex
Drink Coca-Cola

I turned my eyes away from you, O Lord
And made this
Build this
Came to this
Samantha and Darren on Bewitched

Have mercy on…but how can we ask? How dare we ask?


Old Man, Viet Nam

Old man, a dog is barking at your heels
Old man, with the tired, weathered face
Are you afraid to turn around and deal
This dog a kick, to put him in his place?

Or is it, old man, that you’re just too tired?
Just too tired to turn and show anger
Just too tired to have your temper fired
Beaten by years of contempt and danger

Where are you going, trudging so slowly?
What are you thinking, behind those tired eyes?

Probably not about ham and lima beans


In the Cold White Mist

After an all-night run on the river
Our boats arrive in the village at dawn
Dawn is never cold along that rive
Along that steaming, green, hell-hot river
But the mist is cold, the grey-green dawn mist
And after the engines are cut – stillness
Foul brown water laps at the mudding bank
Sloshing softly with fertile, smelly death

In the cold white mist

The boats are secured, and watches posted
We step off the boats and onto wet land
And follow the track into the deep mist
It becomes the street of a little town
A dairy lane along which cows slopped home
And where dogs and chickens and children
Bounded by carefully swept little yards
And little wooden houses with tin roofs

In the cold white mist

But some of the houses are burnt. The smoke
Still hangs heavily in the whitening mist
The lane is littered with debris. A lump
Resolves itself into a torn, dead child
Across a smaller lump, a smaller child
Their pup has been flung against the fence, its
Guts early morning breakfast for the morning
We smoke cigarettes against the death-smells

In the cold white mist

Beneath a farm tractor rots a dead man.
When they – they – had come at sunset
He had hidden there. And they shot him there
A man with bare feet and work-calloused
His hair is black; his teeth need cleaning
They shot him beneath the village tractor
His blackening blood clots into the mud
And our lungs choke in the white mist of death

In the cold white mist

White mist. The path disappears into it
Smoky skeletons of little houses
In which there will be no tea this morning
No breakfasts of hot tea and steaming rice
No old widows to smile in betel-nut
No children to mock-march alongside us
Pointing at our big black boots, and laughing
At us, for wearing shoes in the summer

In the cold white mist

They are dead and rotting in the white mist
On the edge of the jungle on the edge
Of the world, here along the Vam Co Tay
And the people pour out of their houses
To greet us on the fine summer morning
A corpse across a doorway, another
Bloody-doubled across a window sill
Still another strewn down the garden path

In the cold white mist

The other patrol doubles back to us
And they tell us that the Ruff-Puff outpost
Must have been overrun the night before
He had heard their radioed pleas, and had
Run the river at night to get to them
And the ARVNs had fled through the village
And the VC had stormed in behind them
And it was knife-and-gun-club night in town

In the cold white mist

A little girl is the lone survivor
She looks may six. Cute, except for the
Bubbling, sucking, bayoneted chest wound
We patch her, and tube her, and use suction
Sort of like fixing a bicycle tire
And in the wet, gasping heat take her back
With us downriver, where a charity
Hospital leaves her on the steps to die

In the cold white mist

It will be our turn again tomorrow
Not a one of us died today. Today.
But a village is gone, burnt and rotting,
Soon to disappear into the jungle
Along the green Cambodian border
Up some obscure river. Up there. Somewhere.
A few hundred people. Their ancestors’ graves
Will fade with them untended, forgotten

In the cold white mist

Radio Hanoi might blame it on us.
But maybe not. We made our report and
Nobody really noticed; no one cared
The talk is of the VC battalion
And where it has gone, and where it might go –
Maybe into death under an air strike
“And you guys better get in some sack time,”
Says the C.O. as he turns to his maps.

In the cold white mist


I’m scared, and I want to go home. I don’t care any more about justice or fighting Communism or winning the hearts and minds of the people. I can’t think about all that right now, because I’m scared, and I want to go home.
I don’t care about truth or loyalty or bravery or honor. If Miss March were here she wouldn’t get cold, but she sure would get sunburnt. And in a few days her skin would start rotting. Then nobody would want to see her in the nude anymore.
I’m scared, and I want to go home.
Up the Vam Co Tay, everyone is scared, everyone is tired, everyone is sick, everyone could die: sailor, soldier, officer, priest, farmer, fisherman. Everyone rots in the wet heat. The skin bubbles and flakes and peels, and is pink again, to bubble and flake and peel again.
I’m scared, and I want to go home.
I’m Doc. I’m a scared, stupid kid with an aid bag and a few months’ training. But I’m Doc. I’ve got to fake it. I’ve got to be cool and calm because this other kid with his guts hanging out will probably make it if I don’t screw up and if the dust-off from Saigon can get out here now.
I have an old dog at home, and my folks write and tell me she sleeps outside my window at night, waiting for me to come home. Someday we’re going to run and play in the woods and fields again. She’ll bark and run wide circles, and dare me to catch her. I will laugh under the autumn leaves. But now my nights are glaring darkness, fits of sweat-soaked half-sleep, then sirens and falling glares and falling mortars, and then the Godawful racket of all our engines of destruction. There isn’t any use in all this.
I’m scared, and I want to go home.

And I don’t want any ham and lima beans.


We believe in the Land of the Big PX
In presidents in suits, and generals,
In makers of economic strategies
We believe in flak jackets and .45s and peace

We believe in swing ships and dust-offs, yes
In the dark, green omnipresent Huey
Eternally begotten of technology
Blades to rotor, windscreen to machine guns
Made, not begotten, one in being with us
Through it all things are transported to us
For us men and our hunger and our hope
It comes down from the skies
By the high power of technology
It was born of the long assembly line

For whose sake are we crucified today?
Who suffers, and who dies and is baggied?
And on the third will arrive back home
To be neatly packaged in stainless steel

But not in ham and lima beans


Preparation of the Gifts


Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.
Through your goodness we have this cheap Algerian wine to offer,
Fruit of the vine and work of human hands.
It will become anaesthesia for our souls.


Blessed be…we just don’t know


Pray, brothers, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father, to somebody. Maybe.


May the Lord, or the baggies, accept the sacrifice we offer with
our own burnt hands
For the praise and glory of…of what?
For our good, and the good of all His Church.


Little green cans, and I don’t care
Little green cans, and I don’t care
Little green cans, and I don’t care
Air cover’s gone away.


Preface for the Monsoon Season:

Father, all-powerful
And ever-living God,
We do well always and everywhere
To give You thanks
Through Jesus God our Lord
Even with diarrhea
When the mail doesn’t come
When we rot
When the heat sucks at our brains
When the mud sucks at our boots
When the horror sucks at our souls
We’re alive


Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might
The bunkers are full of blood and death.
Hosanna in the mud. Blessed is he who comes with the mail. Hosanna in the mud.


The Kien Tuong Province Canon:

A sailor is silhouetted against the dawn
Along a steamy river
Mostly helmet and flak jacket
Above dark plastic gunwales

The sailor has lost his New Testament
But there’s a Playboy around somewhere
Naked, willing women –
Miss March wants to be an actress

He also carries an old plastic Rosary
To touch occasionally
While whispering a hurried Hail Mary
He hopes She understands

Those who in bell-bottoms and head-bands
Fight Fascism
In Sociology 201
Will never forgive him

A sailor is silhouetted against the dawn
This day he is to be elevated
His body broken and his blood shed
For you and for all men


Our Father, who art in Heaven
this ain’t it
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
this ain’t it
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day…
not ham and lima beans
And forgive us our trespasses
as we shoot them that trespass against us
And lead us not into ambush
But deliver us from evil


Peace on you.


Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy….

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace.


(But there is no priest)


Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,
But only say the word and I shall be killed.


They ate, and were not satisfied
They killed, and were not without fear.


If we do not get out of this
Make some sense of it to those who remain
May we go home. Home. Or if not,
Take us unto you, in mercy.
Home. Where you reign, for you are Lord
Forever and ever. Amen


May you walk on grass that does not explode
May you sleep without rot
Without fear
May you never see or smell ham and lima beans again.
May you live
May you play with puppies
May you find forgetfulness
May you find peace
In the Name of Him who took your death for you


This is to certify that_________________is Honorably Discharged from the________________on the____day of_______________. This certificate is awarded as a testimonial of Honest and Faithful Service.


Old men, smoking in the sunshine
Exiled outside the doors of life
Old uniforms, old pajamas
The chrome of wheelchairs, shiny, bright

Inside, polished wooden handrails
Line the hot, polished passages
Something to cling to on the way
To the lab, to x-ray, to death

And more old men, shuffling along
In a querulous route-step march
From Normandy, from The Cho-sen,
From the Vam Co Tay, from the deserts,
Past the A.I.D.S. ward and the union signs
On waxed floors to eternity

Portions previous published:

“Closing Hymn” is from “Outpatient Surgery – Veterans’ Hospital,” Juried Award, Houston Poetry Fest 1993

“In the Cold White Mist” is a Juried Award, Houston Poetry Fest 1991

“Old Man, Viet-Nam,” was published in Pulse, Lamar University, 1982

Friday, May 26, 2017

Clinic Waiting Room with French Impressionists - poem

Lawrence Hall

Clinic Waiting Room with French Impressionists

The ball-capped men, old men, sit motionless
Arms folded in existential disapproval
They read not, no, and neither do they toil1
Over boxes that light up and make noise

French impressionist lilies soften the walls
Echoing with educational racket
A cartoon shark counting the numbers off
To a child embalmed in a plastic box

While his mee-maw looks to eternity
Through a door that opens from the other side

1Saint Matthew 6:28-29

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Fifth Karamazov - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Fifth Karamazov

When young we identify with Alyosha
His optimism and his innocence
His fragile, flowering Orthodox1 faith
A happy, almost-holy fool for Christ

When older, the sensual Dimitri,
With irresponsible lusts and desires
Grasping for the rewards of the moment
Now, ever now, wanting everything now

Then older still, as intellectual Ivan
Sneeringly aloft, above all faith and flesh
A constructor of systems and ideas
From the back pages of French magazines

Though never do we identify with
Nest-fouling, leering, lurking Smerdyakov
Our secret fear, unspoken fear, death-fear:
That he might be who we untruly are

But hear, O hear, the holy bells of Optina2
Those Russian messengers3 singing to us
Inviting us to meet Alyosha again
At Father Zosima’s poor4 hermitage

1Russian Orthodox
2The name of the real monastery upon which Dostoyevsky modeled his fictional one
3The Brothers Karamazov was first published as a serial in The Russian Messenger
4Poor only by earthly standards

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

On the Occasion of the Firing of the Director of the F.B.I. - poem

Lawrence Hall

On the Occasion of the Firing of the Director of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Immaculately vested in suits and ties
Men fly about in executive jets
And pay each other to investigate
Each other for paying each other

To fly about in executive jets
And pay each other to investigate
Each other for paying each other
To fly about in executive jets

And again investigate each other,
And laugh with each other on the golf course

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hymn of the Holy Drum Set - poem

Lawrence Hall

Hymn of the Holy Drum Set

A middle-aged man in an open shirt
A shaped and sculpted five-0 shadow fuzz
An earring and a tat, sneaks and jeans because
He wants to reach the kids where they’re at

And where they’re at is in suppressed giggles
At an old man with a pimple-microphone
Around his face like mucous on a wire
They pocket-text each other angelically

“Can I have an ‘amen?’”

He puts the devil in a world of hurt
That middle-aged man in an open shirt

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Morning Dialogue with One's Self - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Morning Dialogue with One’s Self

(As both the alarm clock and the smart phone make unpleasant noises)

Today is the first day of the rest of…
Put a sock in it, all right? It’s too early
For optimism. Two feet to the floor
Yes, two feet, same number as last night

(The bed does not care whether it is made up)

Not making the bed. Those two feet forward
North to the kitchen and the coffee pot
Switch on. Window humidity-streaked
Cats posing prettily in the dawn-light

(The coffee machine gurgles happily)

A fresh new day, and with it new adventures
Still not making up that bed. Don’t gotta.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Graduation Speech Soup

Lawrence Hall

Graduation Speech Soup – Simply Stir and Serve

Keep the torch alive to pass to a new generation with the key that unlocks the road to the future follow your passion the unemployment will follow we’ve been through some amazing times together make a difference to thine own self be true commencement means a beginning not and ending as we go forth life is a journey not a destination we made it all the hard work we’ve put forth to this point in time these are the best time in our lives as one door closes another door opens because a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step to make the world a better place trust your instincts you don’t find education in books we are the future bright with promise some see the future and ask why but we see the future and ask why not Habakkuk 2:7 we did it I can’t believe we’re here believe in yourself live your dreams to be all that you can be God has a plan for you we have the responsibility to build a new world if opportunity doesn’t know build a door don’t follow the path blaze a trail because there is no one like you because you are an individual just like those other hundred or so people your age and dressed just alike because life is what happens while you’re making plans live, laugh, love you have to look through the rain to see the rainbow dance like nobody’s looking (even though they are, and laughing) aim for the moon and if you miss you’ll hit the moon (or something) life is not waiting for the storm to pass it’s about dancing in the rain because you are a new generation called to miss 100% of the shots you don’t take because we were all one big family who have lived, laughed, and loved together hey and remember the time (name) barfed on the stairs we’ll all that that shared moment to remember together we can’t save all the starfish but I can make a difference for this one because as a great man Robert Frost said in “The Road Not Taken” we can make a difference for all the starfish in the sea of life today is the first day of your rest of your life oh, the places you’ll go like maybe eternal stasis in front of a smartphone I don’t know why they asked me to be the speaker shout-out to Mom wear sunscreen because your future’s so bright close your eyes and remember when hey, an air horn, that’s so cool, no one’s ever done that before woo-hoo I want to congratulate each of your on your incredible talents and abilities as you begin your journey to a bright and shining future because we are the best class (name of school and a shout-out to the mascot)) has ever graduated (since last year) a dream is a wish your heart makes and you can become anything you dream to be or wish to be or something #lifehack #hashtag now go forth and make your lives exceptional although on Monday morning we’ll wake up and realize we’re just some more unemployed Americans.


Jury Duty - poem

Lawrence Hall

Jury Panel in a Republic

A man with a gun tells the people to rise
And as the judge enters the room, they rise
The judge tells the people to sit; they sit
Dividing out twelve to determine reality

Republics dispose of liturgies,
Because duties, hierarchies, and honors
As freely given and freely received
Are odious in the sight of the people

Those free, brave people who will not stand for kings -
So a man with a gun tells them to rise

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Children at the Harvest - poem

Lawrence Hall

Children at the Harvest

A little girl with basket held in hand
Can choose and pick a bouquet in the spring
And play in peace on the warming-sun land
With flower-colors to sort and songs to sing

A little older and the strong girl now
Helps with the harvest in September’s haze
And through hard work with tractor, rake, and plow
She grows through honest work and well-earned praise

Unless –

Before a screen a girl decays, beguiled,
For now the screen is the machine that harvests

                                                                               the child

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Buddhas of Bamiyon - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Buddhas of Bamiyon

What secular new gods will be carved out
Of cultures and of stone, and heaved up to
The pedestals of corrasable truth
To be adored or else ignored in turn?

Make velcro now the test of reality
And transience transcendence in pale mists
As Plato’s shadows flickering in the cave
Denied in turn by fresh eternal truths

And in a century, when new gods frown
What creakery old gods will be thrown down?

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Lawrence Hall

Urgent! Software Security Update and
Latest Patches with the U.K. / U.S.A. Interface for Repairing the
Penguin Classics Paperback Edition of
Don Quixote


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Most Boring American Legion Meeting Ever - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Most Boring American Legion Meeting Ever

A Monologue in Two Parts



“Ya wanna talk prostrate1 cancer? I’ll tell ya
About prostrate cancer those PSAs
Don’t mean nothing and those doctors don’t know
Nothin’ I’ve had 15 on my PSA

“Ever since when and I ain’t got prostrate cancer
But this feller I knew he had a one on his
PSA and he had stage five cancer
And he died, so don’t tell me nothin’ about

“Prostrate cancer ‘cause I go the meetings
And so I know, I tell ya, yessir, I do…”

1Prostate, of course


Same Voice:

“Say, did y’all have any good buffets in Iraq
Or that other place Afghanistan
The buffets in Manila were expensive,
I tell ya, expensive, they cost forty dollars,

“Yessir, they did, and that was right down the street
From the embassy and that was too much
Just too much for what ya got, I tell ya
And they gave us ‘phone cards and they were made

“Right there and sixty minutes disappeared
Off it right when you dialed the number, yessir…”


A Second Voice (in pain, weak, much like the voice of the Bleeding Sergeant in Macbeth):

“I move we adjourn.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Withdrawal Symptoms - poem

Lawrence Hall

[again violating my rule never to write in the first person]

Withdrawal Symptoms

So I’m not going to change the world after all
That’s okay; it was doing fine without me
The moon arose last night without my supervision
This morning the sun was up before I was

And, true, there are bad men and women about
But I didn’t do so very well myself
It’s better that I didn’t change many things
And better had I worked on changing myself

Age is aware of its own absurdity
And wisely it withdraws from messing things up

     A cup of coffee now would be so nice

Monday, May 15, 2017

All Settings on Auto-Destruct - poem

Lawrence Hall

All Settings on Auto-Destruct

“a man enthroned as if it were a committee”
-Yevtushenko, from “Zima Junction”

Senator Pelosi has her head blessed
By the loving hands of The Dalai Lama
And Comey’s looking for a brand-new gig
Maybe as Cassandra’s Mrs. Blossom

J. Edgar’s iron men are said to be in tears
Special investigators rub their tentacles
In delicious anticipation of
A feast of scandals and expense accounts

     “Well, doctor, what have we got?”
     “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Cats and the Office of Prime - poem

Lawrence Hall

Cats and the Office of Prime

With the dignity of an abbess the cat
Enthrones herself upon the morning fence
To welcome with due solemn liturgies
The daily rising of the given sun

Her slow lavabo accomplished, she turns
Offering the peace of Cat to the assembly:
The lesser cats, the even lesser dogs
The night-chilled lawn, the dewy leaves, the light

She blinks her blessings there upon the day

     And all is complete

When happy children then come out to play

Saturday, May 13, 2017

You're Not Really Country - poem

Lawrence Hall

You’re Not Really Country

You’re not country if you have trash pickup
And running water, electricity
Flush toilets, a satellite on the roof
And thirty channels of John Wayne TV

You’re not country if you have carpeting
A pickup truck that runs or a Volkswagen
That doesn’t, more books than hunting rifles
And a toilet-paper personal preference

You’re not really country if you have these things –
Be sure to give God thanks for that, y’hear?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Neither a Menshevik nor a Bolshevik Be - poem

Lawrence Hall

Neither a Menshevik nor a Bolshevik Be

                                                            What is’t you do?
                                                                                                  A deed without a name.

-Macbeth IV.1.48-49

This is not a matter of recusancy
To wish a blessing on your houses both
That in the Grace of God you amend yourselves -
But go away and do it somewhere else

And take with you your posings and your twootings
Your alligator shoes, expense accounts
Your plastic soldiers all saluting you
And your designer plots of great import

And leave good folk alone to their good work
With sweat-stained hands in clean domestic peace

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Withdrawn from Salem Public Library" - poem

Lawrence Hall

“Withdrawn from Salem Public Library”

“Salem Public Library, East Main Street,
Salem, VA 24153”
A happy book, thought-stained, and often-read
An anthology of Russian poetry

Salem, Virginia must be a marvelous town
A library stocked with poetry, and stocked
With poetry readers who have turned again
And again to favorite pages here and there

Long-ago poets murdered by the Soviets
But finding love at last in Salem, Virginia

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Adventures with an Olivetti - poem

Lawrence Hall

Adventures with an Olivetti

(In which the scrivener violates his rule never to write in the first-person)

My bed was a Sears & Roebuck sleeping bag
And my world headquarters that old MG;
An Olivetti portable processed
My words, my fresh young words, that no one read

I owned more books than clothes, and only those few
That could be stowed in the passenger seat;
I fancied myself the new Rod McKuen
And I wasn’t - but I remember the road

When the world was new, adventures every day
And I miss that - but mattresses are nice

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Where do I Apply to be Corrupted? - poem

Lawrence Hall

True Faith and Allegiance

A retired admiral peddles insurance to
“My fellow veterans,” still ripping off
The enlisted with bogus bonhomie
About how they all were merry shipmates

Retired generals ooze into something new
Suits for the business of dealing in souls
Souls bought and sold internationally
Where careless talk could cost discreet kickbacks

The surviving enlisted, wounded and sick,
Are doled out vouchers for a bus ride home

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Flying Squadron of Church Ladies - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Flying Squadron of Church Ladies

At First Communion the Flying Squadron
of Church Ladies surround the children to:
Reprove, reproach, command, censor, chastise,
Berate, exhort, implore, upbraid, adjust

Chastise, upbraid, embarrass, harangue, rebuke,
Enjoin, dictate, direct, require, apprise,
Advise, inform, beseech, explain, uphold,
Impart, compel, remind, forewarn, correct:

Because since Peter’s time, all this is what
The Flying Squadrons of Church Ladies do

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Western Civilization Will Collapse if You Don't Buy Someone's Book About the Collapse of Western Civilization - poem

Lawrence Hall

Western Civilization Will Collapse if You Don't Buy Someone's Book
About the Collapse of Western Civilization

There was a review in The University Bookman

Western civilization is in a state
Of imminent collapse, which someone says
In a review of a book which I ought
To buy if I love Jesus and the West

And somehow all this is my fault because
I haven’t finished The City of God -
Oh, Kirk-Centered sir, I really do love
The Good, the True, and the Beautiful, but

I’m not going to buy your book
Because your attitude is in a state

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why Not - poem

Lawrence Hall

Thirteen Reasons Why Not

We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny.
But what we put into it is ours.
-Dag Hammarskjold

1. God made you; you can never be replaced
2. God made you for some purpose – live to find it
3. Someone is blessed in knowing you each day
4. You must live so that others may live
5. Someone desperately needs your kindness right now
6. You haven’t yet written your book, your story, your song
7. When you offer up your suffering, you help others
8. Children running barefoot through the flowers of spring
9. Children running barefoot through the leaves of autumn
10. Dachshund puppies. And leaves. And flowers. And children
11. Coffee and a talk with a good friend
12. Breakfast and the Sunday morning funnies
13. That empty pew God has saved just for you

Friday, May 5, 2017

Approach the Pierian Spring Carefully - poem

Lawrence Hall

Approach the Pierian Spring Carefully

From an idea suggested by
Rev. Raphael Barousse, OSB

I would that I could taste the Pierian Spring
But he who drinks unworthily the sacred
Will lose even the little that he has
And wither into mummification

One’s poor attempts at innocent, ill-formed verse
May be forgiven because of their innocence
But a little learning, as the man1 once said,
Means duty, and might not be forgiven

If used intemperately or harshly; still -
I would that I could taste the Pierian Spring

1Alexander Pope

Thursday, May 4, 2017

But What About the Dog? - poem

Lawrence Hall

But What About the Dog?

Bedtime is a poem written with love:
You change into your jammies at 8 o’clock
You wash your hands and face, you brush your teeth
You kneel beside your bed and say your prayers

And then the dog leaps up onto your pillow
And then your mother says the dog can’t stay
And then you plead, and doggie looks so sad
And then your mother sighs and says, “All right,

“But only for tonight,” then kisses you

(but not the dog)

Childhood is a poem written with love

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Trapped in the Coffee Shop of Lingering Death - poem

Lawrence Hall

Trapped in the Coffee Shop of Lingering Death

He knows everything about every war
Because although he never went to one
He had good friends who did, and they told him
All about it, and about Patton, so there

He knows all about Jesus, and, like, stuff
The Templar tunnels beneath the Pentagon
The Seal of Solomon lost on Oak Island
And Mexico’s lost Tribe of Israel, so there

Which can lead the unsaved to tell a lie:
“Oh, gosh, I have to rush, I forgot about…”

So there.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

For Rod McKuen - poem

Lawrence Hall

[From 2015]

For Rod McKuen

The gentle singer of our youth has died
The poet of empty Sunday afternoons
And solitary strolls through Balboa Park
Among lovers and Frisbee-chasing dogs

Of laughing with shipmates while cleaning rifles
Because we knew more than the armorer
About dreaming away from learning war
About pretty girls laughing in the sun

And a chansonnier in sweater, sneaks, and jeans:
The gentle singer of our youth has died

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Washington Post Asphyxiates Itself - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Washington Post Asphyxiates Itself

“Democracy Dies in Darkness,” you say –
But your arguments die under your popups, okay?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Emmaus isn't on the Map - poem

/Lawrence Hall

Emmaus isn’t on the Map

The road from Emmaus is not in the book
Emmaus isn’t even on the map
Still, people walk to Emmaus every day
And then they go away to somewhere else

Because while everyone visits Emmaus
It’s only for supper and a new assignment
Although the directions seem somewhat vague
Those who have been there seem to know the way

The road to Emmaus is in the book
The road out of town is mapped in the heart

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Prisoners in Our Own Cells - poem

Lawrence Hall

Prisoners in Our Own Cells

Sometimes we are prisoners in our own cells
Obsessed with approval from The Other
Still wanting to sit at the cool kids’ table
In the junior high cafeteria of life

But we are meant to live near an open door
And make a tabernacle of the cell
From whence, long since, a stone was rolled away,
And welcome to the modest Table there

All of outcast humanity to taste
The good, the true, and the beautiful

Friday, April 28, 2017

Mr. Hall Proposes a Toast - poem

Lawrence Hall

Mr. Hall Proposes a Toast

Ladies and gentlemen, I propose a toast:
What will you have – wheat? White? Honey or jam?
Sourdough for me, lightly-browned, almost golden
With lots of butter, melted all through the crust

Let the warm scene of our merriment be
A café in winter, beneath a large window
All steamy, with rain or snow outside
And we don’t have to go anywhere

Or do anything but talk over our coffee –
Ladies and gentlemen, I propose a toast

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Impatience of the Nineteenth Century - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Impatience of the Nineteenth Century

The impatience of the nineteenth century
Left us the genocide of the twentieth
With all the progressive apparatus of death:
Infanticide, death camps, firing squads, gas

And now unto the twenty-first – smart bombs
Are flung by geosynchronous satellites
Deep, deep into the imperfect souls of men
Thus breaking bodies for the perfect state

In victory the dying last voice will croak
“At least we freed ourselves from those awful kings”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Archaeology of the Weekly Trash Pickup - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Archaeology of the Weekly Trash Pickup

Q-tips that know too much about your ears
A banana peel that’s lost its appeal
A church bulletin out of date for years
The festive lid from a microwave meal

The vacuum cleaner’s latest bag of dust
A toilet paper roll facing its end
A razor blade that now must go to rust
A coffee can (that rare Colombian blend)

A family’s weekly story goes out with the trash:
But I hear the truck – I had better dash!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Instructions from the Colonial Office - poem

Lawrence Hall

Instructions from the Colonial Office

(Poetry is Everywhere)

Adjuncts if you teach online or off-campus
I am attaching detailed instructions
Assessment masters and tally sheet masters
As Word files you can copy these and score

Your assessments by hand fill out the tally
Sheets and e-mail them to me if you need
To have your assessments in Blackboard
E-mail me and I can send these to you

As Zip files with instructions for how you
Load them into Blackboard adjuncts if you

Monday, April 24, 2017

Counting Dachshunds - poem

Lawrence Hall

Counting Dachshunds

Some people go to sleep by counting sheep
But I instead must count two dachshund pups
Who are not comforted by box or crate
Or fluffy towels upon the bedroom floor

Astrid and Luna commandeer the pillows
By right of conquest over human hearts
And there recline like princesses royal
Throughout the watches of the dreaming night

O sleepy little carnivores, you bless
Both nights and days with doggie happiness!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"Oh, Look, the Humans have Returned" - poem

Lawrence Hall

“Oh, Look, the Humans have Returned”

In spring our little hummingbirds return
And geese begin to vee their way back north
The front-yard squirrel continues to fatten himself
Upon the cardinal-contested seeds

Aggressive mockingbirds dive-bomb the cats
Pale butterflies dance lightly in the sun -
But none of these can be the same who met
Us on an autumn day in the long ago

Someday others will live here, and the birds
Will say “Oh, look, the humans have returned.”

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Coffee and Dead Alligators to Go - poem

Lawrence Hall

Coffee and Dead Alligators to Go

The Flying J, Orange, Texas

Dinosaurs are said to be gasoline
But under the gas-station gift shop fluorescents
Three shelves are lined with alligator skulls –

     Small, medium, large -

The dinosaurs must be at the gas pumps

Crocodylia to alligatoridae
To alligator, and onto the shelf
Between the “Don’t Mess with Texas” tee-shirts

     Hecho en China / Fabrique en Chine

And the “Don’t Mess with Texas” travel mugs

Whaddaya know, gotta go, cuppa joe
Don’t need no dead alligator head, no

Friday, April 21, 2017

Poets Without Boudoirs - poem

Lawrence Hall

Poets Without Boudoirs

Je suis occupy #hashtag support us
Resistance transcultural support us
Committee manifesto support us
Ministry of culture, yes, support us

Empowerment crucial space support us
Initiatives nonprofit support us
Weaves a layered tapestry support us
Conceptual identity support us

Fresh new voices unflinching support us
Iambs are oppressivist support us

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Man Talking with an Empty Table at McDonald's - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Man Talking with an Empty Table at McDonald’s

Forty-cent old-people coffee – love it
You’re not supposed to admit you like McDonald’s
But – yeah, it’s good. Fresh coffee whenever
And a happy bunch behind the counter

The usual dawn people – but who’s this?
Someone new here. Dashiki from the 70s
Talking to the air – “hey, man!” - to a chair
And then serious stuff with an empty table

Some relationships are complicated
But then – who are the rest of us talking to?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Searching for a Lost Jungle in the City - poem

Lawrence Hall

Searching for a Lost Jungle in the City

The city is mysterious, a grid
Of paths, most of them laid wonderfully straight
Upon which brave explorers roam, well-armed
Against the strange and hostile denizens

How curious to leave a jungle known
And go in search of a jungle not known
Predicated upon legends and yarns
Lost forever in a tangle of dreams

Among the still uncharted traffic lights
In a gridded city of mystery

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Funny Hat Day in Pyongyang and Berkeley - column, 16 April 2017

Mack Hall

Funny Hat Day in Pyongyang and Berkeley

Is every day in North Korea a Funny Hat Day?

Same for Berkeley – with their grubby watch caps everyone seems to channel Jack Nicholson’s role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Cuckoo’s nest – well, yeah, Berkeley.

President Trump and Fearless Leader of the Glorious North Korean Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic of Earthly Delights Kim Jong Un have something in common – really bad hairdos. Perhaps they could bring peace through a beauticians’ summit. Getting a nice haircut somehow makes a man feel better, maybe not-starting-a-nuclear-war better.

Does Kim Jong Un’s office staff play Secret Santa?

Kim Jong Un desperately wants one of those M.O.A.B. bombs – he’s got another sleepy uncle and an ex-girlfriend or two to dispatch.

When Donald Trump says “You’re fired,” that means you have to find another job. When Kim Jong Un says “You’re fired,” that’s the signal for an artillery officer to shoot you with a big ol’ cannon.

The Day of the Sun parade in Pyongyang was a matter of thousands of people in uniforms strutting and goose-stepping and driving hundreds of motorized missile launchers in millimeter precision. In contrast, the Trumpistas and Anti-Trumpistas of Berkeley couldn’t even organize pushing a dumpster down the street.

Berkeley’s Saturday milling-around event was better than Kim Jong Un’s Look-at-me-I’m-a-Hitler-wannabe stomp, though. In Berkeley people yelled at each other for a few hours, threw a few punches, and then went for coffee, while Kim Jong Un’s nicely-uniformed slaves marched on and on and on into the night.

A young woman in a tailored skirt can be elegant; a thousand young women goose-stepping in short skirts and waving swords about in the streets of Pyongyang is just plain weird. And since young women in Berkeley appear to dress out of rag barrels from behind resale shops, they’re just weird too.

In Pyongyang young people march about in step while staring vacantly and holding their Kalashnikovs at arm’s length. In Berkeley young people stumble about while staring vacantly into their little Orwellian telescreens held at arm’s length.

North Korean generalissimos wear dozens of medals and spend all their time clapping. Every time Kim Jong Un moves, the generals clap. When a missile launcher rolls by the generals clap. The generals don’t stop clapping until Kim Jong Un says they stop clapping. All those medals those generals wear must be for excellence in clapping, which is a bad case of the clap.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un bikini mud wrestling. Discuss.

All those old men with missiles and guns and bad hair and attitudes – this is not good. One wishes that Pyongyang and Berkeley could twin as sister cities. Young North Koreans could teach young Berkely-istas how to bathe more often and dress a bit better, while Berkeley’s young people could teach North Koreans how to idle away their lives over adjective coffees instead of threatening war all the time.

No hope for the funny hats, though.


The Social MePhone Justice Commandos of Toxic Doom - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Social MePhone Justice Commandos of Toxic Doom

In the unending quest for social justice
Schoolroom shootings, unisex bakeries
Tornados, a steak, a snake, get off the plane
They’re all the same to the Omigod cult:

“Omigod Omigod Omigod O
Migod Omigod Omigod Omi
God Omigod Omigod Omigod
Omigod Omigod Omigod O!

“Chapsnat bookface tubeyou my relationship
It’s complicated Omigod Omi”

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Apocalyptic Battle of the Dumpster of Our People Before the Gates of Kaplan College, Berkeley, Holy Saturday 2017

Lawrence Hall

They Shall Not Pass the Dumpster!

The Apocalyptic Battle of the Dumpster of Our People
Before the Gates of Kaplan College
Berkeley, Holy Saturday 2017

“Then shall he strip his sleeve and show his tats,
And say ‘this ink I had on Saturday’”
-not Henry V

In Berkeley, tumult; a protestor screams:
“They have opened the dumpster, and taken away
My Antifi poster of Cosmic Peace –
I’m going to kill someone! Death to Fascists!”

A Trumpi throws a traffic cone in love
Of the Constitution, and rallies then
The Go-Pro squaddies of the ball-capped cause
And bravely cries “To the dumpster, young heroes!”

And there upon that garbage barricade -
Oh, my children, history

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"Chocolate Eggs and Jesus Risen" - poem

Lawrence Hall

“Chocolate Eggs and Jesus Risen”

“I have been told of a very small boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning…
'Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.’”

-C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

This evening is not Ordinary Time
Not even close, with Eastertide just begun
But put we now our mourning clothes away
And with them too our Easter morning best

And dress again in ordinary life
The relatives have finally gone away
The house is quiet, the dishes are washed -
That chocolate bunny is an object of desire

Almost of pagan worship (by God’s grace)
This evening - it is ordinary enough!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Christos Voskrese! - poem

Lawrence Hall

Christos Voskrese!

For Tod

The world is unusually quiet this dawn
With fading stars withdrawing in good grace
And drowsy, dreaming sunflowers, dewy-drooped,
Their golden crowns all motionless and still,
Stand patiently in their ordered garden rows,
Almost as if they wait for lazy bees
To wake and work, and so begin the day.
A solitary swallow sweeps the sky;
An early finch proclaims his leafy seat
While Old Kashtanka limps around the yard
Snuffling the boundaries on her morning patrol.

Then wide-yawning Mikhail, happily barefoot,
A lump of bread for nibbling in one hand,
A birch switch swishing menace in the other
Appears, and whistles up his father’s cows:
“Hey! Alina, and Antonina! Up!
Up, up, Diana and Dominika!
You, too, Varvara and Valentina!
Pashka is here, and dawn, and spring, and life!”
And they are not reluctant then to rise
From sweet and grassy beds, with udders full,
Cow-gossip-lowing to the dairy barn.

Anastasia lights the ikon lamp
And crosses herself as her mother taught.
She’ll brew the tea, the strong black wake-up tea,
And think about that naughty, handsome Yuri
Who winked at her during the Liturgy
On the holiest midnight of the year.
O pray that watchful Father did not see!
Breakfast will be merry, an echo-feast
Of last night’s eggs, pysanky, sausage, kulich.
And Mother will pack Babushka’s basket,
Because only a mother can do that right

When Father Vasily arrived last night
In a limping Lada haloed in smoke,
The men put out their cigarettes and helped
With every precious vestment, cope, and chain,
For old Saint Basil’s has not its own priest,
Not since the Czar, and Seraphim-Diveyevo
From time to time, for weddings, holy days,
Funerals, supplies the needs of the parish,
Often with Father Vasily (whose mother
Begins most conversations with “My son,
The priest.…”), much to the amusement of all.

Voices fell, temperatures fell, darkness fell
And stars hovered low over the silent fields,
Dark larches, parking lots, and tractor sheds.
Inside the lightless church the priest began
The ancient prayers of desolate emptiness
To which the faithful whispered in reply,
Unworthy mourners at the Garden tomb,
Spiraling deeper and deeper in grief
Until that Word, by Saint Mary Magdalene
Revealed, with candles, hymns, and midnight bells
Spoke light and life to poor but hopeful souls.

The world is unusually quiet this dawn;
The sun is new-lamb warm upon creation,
For Pascha gently rests upon the earth,
This holy Russia, whose martyrs and saints
Enlighten the nations through their witness of faith,
Mercy, blessings, penance, and prayer eternal
Now rising with a resurrection hymn,
And even needful chores are liturgies:
“Christos Voskrese – Christ is risen indeed!”
And Old Kashtanka limps around the yard
Snuffling the boundaries on her morning patrol.

Easter Vigil, Sort Of

Lawrence Hall

Easter Vigil, Sort Of

A vigil, no, simply quiet reflection
Minutes before midnight, with all asleep
Little Liesl-Dog perhaps dreams of squirrels,
For she has chased and barked them all the day;
The kittens are disposed with their mother
After an hour of kitty-baby-talk,
Adored by all, except by Calvin-Cat,
That venerable, cranky old orange hair-ball,
Who resents youthful intrusion upon
His proper role as object of worship.
All the house settles in for the spring night,
Anticipating Easter, early Mass,
And then the appropriately pagan
Merriments of chocolates and colored eggs
And children with baskets squealing for more
As children should, in the springtime of life.