Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Alternatve Turtle Bayou Resolutions - poem

Lawrence Hall

Alternative Turtle Bayou Resolutions

Be it resolved:


Peace be upon these ancient waters again:
Let the turtle laze on its log in the sun
While the armored alligator cruises
Silently, half-submerged, hungry for – you?


Let the snow goose feed in the winter marsh
And bitterns and wrens during the summer heat
Among lizards, mosquito hawks, and bees
Palmettos and flowers lost in the shadows


Let governments and revolutionaries
Having committed now mischief enough
Drop their weapons and manifestos, and

     Pass by in silence

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Laughing Springtime Child - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Laughing Springtime Child

Her locker was just outside the classroom door
And sometimes during class change I called out
Confusing numbers as she worked and turned
The combination lock: “12...32...”

Ashley indulged her teacher’s feeble attempts
At humor, twirled the dial exactly right,
Popped open the locker, and laughed:
“Ya can’t fool me, Mr. Hall; I am good!”

And indeed you were, and are, and will be forever,
Forever our happy, laughing springtime child

“And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
-- Hamlet, V.ii.371

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mardi Grouch - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Mardi Grouch

C. S. Lewis’ older brother, Warren, kept a diary most of his life, edited into a small book, Brothers and Friends, by Clyde S. Kilby and Marjorie Lamp Mead. Major Lewis was a career officer in the British army, and aboard the Chinese ship Tai-Yin, homeward bound after overseas service in Shanghai, he made this entry for Wednesday, the 26th of February, 1930:

About teatime today a woman I have never seen before came to the smoking room and asked each of us to a “karktail poity” in her suite at 5:30. Resistance being obviously futile, we all went…the conversation by the way was exclusively on the subject of alcohol. The sort of remarks I remember are “Does this baby love to throw one bug grand gin poity? Well I should say!”

The theme of scheduled, organized, and mandated happiness is a common one in narratives of well-meaning oppression. In an episode, appropriately named Dance of the Dead, of Patrick McGoohan’s miniseries The Prisoner, all the inmates are commanded to participate in a costume party through a bullhorn proclamation ending with "There will be music, dancing, and happiness - by order!"

Which conscripts us into the Danse Macabre horror, inflicted even on children, of something called Mardi Gras.

Most people are aware of the origins of Shrove Tuesday / Meat Tuesday / Fat Tuesday in Christian Europe as modest, family-oriented merriments during which, depending on varying local customs, remaining rich foods (meat being a luxury) in the house were eaten on Tuesday night before Ash Wednesday in anticipation of a modest diet, prayer and reflection, and generosity to others during the six weeks of Lent.

As with so many customs, the Tuesday evening meal before Lent has metastasized into a mandatory, weeks-long bother and expense that is disconnected from anything else. “Mardi Gras” has become a theme for any sort of party at any time of the year. Just as the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple has been displaced by Groundhog Day, and Advent by shopping, ordinary housekeeping in anticipation of Lent, usually along with Lent itself, has been displaced for what often seems to be nervous hysteria rather than ordinary enjoyment of life.

Country-and-western songs and InterGossip memes ‘n’ themes notwithstanding, any group activity that features casualty lists, mass arrests, and piles of garbage in the streets seems to miss the point in merriment.

There are many non-liturgical customs that develop culturally from Christianity - Christmas carols, Thanksgiving, and Easter dinner come to mind - but throwing up on a police officer’s shoes while being cuffed and stuffed is not one of them.

And let The People yelp “Wooh! Wooh!”

If they wish to do so.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Shining Checkpoint on a Hill - poem

Your ‘umble scrivener must be cleared every few years by Homeland Security in order to teach as a part-time adjunct faculty of no status whatsoever at his little cinder-block community college. This began under President Bush. President Obama did not end it. President Trump is for now making yuge deals or something.

A Shining Checkpoint on a Hill

There is within this body no pedigree
And the DNA is hardly worth knowing
No yellow star, kennkarte, or ausweis
No tribal identification card

Form 3078, TSA Pre(checkmark)®
FEMA security clearance, TWIC card
NEXUS, SENTRI, Proof of Residency
USDA HSPD-12 card

A Costco card – oops, failure to renew:
Say, will a Barnes & Noble membership do?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Compline in the Alley - poem

Lawrence Hall

Something Fr. Raph said reminded me of the poor man to whom Becket gives a blanket in the 1964 film:

Poor man: Thank you.

Becket: You're welcome. It will keep you warm.

Prissy cathedral canon: He'll only sell it for drink.

Becket: Then that will keep him warm.

Compline in the Alley

Oh, let the poor man cling to his bottle
It’s his, isn’t it? It’s his own free choice
The only thing he owns. Not even the space
Behind the dumpsters is reserved for him

Some bigger guy might take it away tonight
And his blankets too, and maybe his shoes
But with his bottle he is a worthy man
And he will drink to his own worthiness

Hard-earned, hard-fought, hard-drunk, ‘til dead
And kissing no one’s feet or hands or *ss

Harrison Ford Navigates Us Through the 21st Century - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Harrison Ford Navigates Us Through the 21st Century

A state representative in Mississippi, channeling his inner Borgia, wants to kill more people and employ more diversity and inclusion in doing so. In addition to lethal injections, Representative Andy Gipson proposes killing people with firing squads, electrocutions, and gas chambers.

Poisoning, shooting, shocking, and gassing – yeah, that’ll probably do it.

Representative Gipson, that merry rascal, missed his true vocation as the villain in one of those lurid Hammer Studios thrillers of the 1950s.

One wonders if Representative Gipson takes Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter off from imagining different ways of killing people.

+ + +

Vice-President Pence visited Dachau last week. My father was in that area in early May of 1945 but I don’t know if he entered any of the Dachau compounds; I do know he was in Ohrdruf / Buchenwald with the 602nd Tank Destroy Battalion a month earlier on 3 April (http://www.89infdivww2.org/memories/tank_7.htm). He did not have his picture taken.

+ + +

Recently we have seen disturbing photographs and video images of refugees fleeing from the USA into Canada across frozen fields in areas usually isolated but at present busy with taxis, photographers, and border agencies from two nations.

One might dismiss the reports if they came from Native Texan Dan Rather, but they’re not; they’re from many different sources.

Is this nation suffering an East Germany moment? Or did someone or some group make a point of frightening these poor people into hazarding their lives unnecessarily?

The keyboard commandos with their programmatic slogans and clichés don’t have answers to any of this. But who does?

+ + +

According to the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-bullet-construction-start-20150105-story.html), the California high-speed train project, which taxpayers have been funding since 2008, is scheduled to begin construction this week. Expected to cost working Californians $65 billion-with-a-B, this tribute to Jerry Brown’s vanity choo-choo has not, after eight years of taxing and spending, carried the first passenger because it doesn’t exist.

In the meantime another California project, the 50-year-old Oroville Dam, is in danger of collapse, possibly due to inadequate funding for maintenance. Essential to the state’s economy because of its service in flood control, agriculture, and power generation, loss of the dam would threaten the lives of approximately 180,000 people and flood several counties. Depending on the circumstances, there might not be adequate warning time (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/02/19/if-oroville-dam-failed-residents-likely-would-not-be-advised-in-time.html).

And those 180,000 people sure can’t escape the flooding by riding away aboard the governor’s imaginary Hooterville Cannonball.

+ + +

Numerous government and news agencies, some expressing indignation, report that a Russian spy ship is lurking off our Naval bases on the east coast. The Russians are not lurking very well if we know that they are lurking. But then, our spy ships are lurking in the Black Sea and in the Baltic. Lurk, lurk, lurk. Maybe in all that lurking someone’s spy ship will spy, with its little electronic eye, Tom Brady’s jersey.


For John Keats - poem

Lawrence Hall

For John Keats

Wanderer by moonlight, you never knew
That mellow autumn of elusive fame
Which you well-earned in your suffering youth
Through the fatal cough as you labored in haste

In haste to set in jeweled, sunlit lines
Each joyful day’s delight in nature and man
Before they faded into that long night -
You never knew what treasures you left to us

Then may your desperate pilgrimage to Rome
Lead you at last to more glorious Stairs

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Chair of Saint Peter - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

The Chair of Saint Peter

Wherever our errant bishop teaches
There is his throne: a rock beside the road
A rock beside the road that leads to Rome
A wooden bench in a laborer’s hut

A grassy bank along a fishy stream
A pile of hay in a stable by night
The ivory couch in a rich man’s house
Or the floor of the executioner’s cart

Wherever our vagrant bishop teaches
There is his throne, where we attend his words

Monday, February 20, 2017

Saint Robert Southwell (not a catchy title; I'll work on it) - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Saint Robert Southwell

+21 February 1595

O clever Jesuit! sneaking about
From house to house, and, too, from heart to heart
Speaking the treason of faith, hope, and love
And bearing true the Passion of Our Lord

O pray for us, poor brave seeker of souls
Your faithful remnant of Our Lady’s Dowry
Against the whisperers, the rack, the rope,
Hiding, flying before pursuivants

Without you

Our souls, like looted chapels, lie in heaps
While still Our Lady of Walsingham weeps

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Coffee - A Dipstick (or Something) - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Coffee – A Dipstick (or Something)

I. Elegy for a Four-Cup Coffee Maker

Poor Mister Coffee – may God grant you rest
After long years of humble service to man
You never abandoned your duty station
Next to the cookies and the kitchen sink

You were the first to bless each day at dawn
Your little red sanctuary lamp aglow
As with electricity you commingled
Water and coffee into a sacrament

Fruit of the bean and work of human hands -
But now you are silent, to drip no more

II. Signor Bialetti Brews the Coffee Now

Grazie, grazie, Signor Bialetti
Natty with your moustache and pork-pie hat
Charming man, your aluminum design
And Italian elegance grace my stove

If Don Camillo were to visit now
And bring along his Commie pal Peppone
They would still argue faith and politics
Just as they do in Emelia-Romagna

But here, over biscotti and expresso -
Grazie, grazie, Signor Bialetti!

Friday, February 17, 2017

PowerPointlessNess - poem (of a sort...)

Lawrence Hall, HSG


for ConnectHook via Hello Poetry

Where is the screen is there an outlet here
Can anyone find a bulb for this machine
DATA FAIL RETRY oh this is
The wrong set wait a minute okay why

Don’t you all take a break while we sort this
Out I think that memory is in the car
Would you go check RESTART okay could
Someone find me RETRY okay listen

Everyone the computer doesn’t seem
To want to work today ha ha so um…

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Small Boy to His Pencil - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

A Small Boy to His Pencil

O, Ticonderoga, my magic wand –
I wave you, and I am an engineer
Speeding a silver passenger train
From Texas to California, and back

I wave you once again; I am Robin Hood
Drawing my bow against a bishop fat:
“I invite you, Your Grace, to a great feast
in Sherwood Forest, at your own expense!”

I wave you yet again - and Old Miz Grouch
Fusses at me: “Do your sums! And don’t slouch!”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Candlemas - poem

Lawrence Hall


Let Candlemas cheer our late winter days -
The Presentation of Our Lord as Child
In the Temple according to ancient ways
When Simeon prophesied and Anna smiled

Let us present ourselves, candles alight
For we are waiting in the Temple too
This joyful mystery, this sacred rite
In hope, in peace, in love, in witness true

Simeon blesses us all, and Anna prays -
Let Candlemas cheer these late winter days

Monday, February 13, 2017

Children Waiting for the School Bus - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Children Waiting for the School Bus

Children still wait for the yellow school bus
Along old country roads as early spring
Makes green the happy springtime of their lives
They carry backpacks now, and wear shoes every day


The State of Texas sternly forbids bare feet
In the sacred halls of learning, even on hot days
Children ignore the passing cars, and joy
In their new world of giggles and first crushes

Cedar-wood pencils and Evangeline
We too still wait for that yellow school bus

Where is Tom Brady's Jersey? - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Where is Tom Brady’s Jersey?

The world watches and waits in silence, and on everyone’s lips is this question - where is Tom Brady’s jersey? The Pope leads prayers for it as America’s version of the Shroud of Turin. The Queen has put James Bond on the case. French Prime Minister Francois Hollande and his cabinet are in secret session behind closed doors at the Moulin Rouge. Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken off his own shirt in a show of solidarity and geriatric pecs. President Trump said the jersey can stay if it has a current visa or if it bears his daughter Ivanka’s made-in-China designer label. Prime Minister Trudeau has promised it sanctuary in Canada. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, impatient with the Texas Rangers, has ordered the Texas Navy to set every Lake Travis party boat asail, manned with the fierce, seafaring warriors of the University of Texas Glee Club.

The United Nations has established a Where is Tom Brady’s Jersey Central Clearing House Command, and on those rare occasions when the UN is not clearing house with taxpayers’ dollars has established this pattern of reports about the possible locations of the jersey:

Riding in the white Bronco with O.J.

Sipping margaritas with Elvis on the beach in Cancun.

Hiding in a Where’s Waldo? picture.

Trying to escape to Canada in a false beard.

Still in the TSA security line at Newark International Airport.

Got beaten up by Charles Oakley and is in hospital.

Is on a secret mission for the C.I.A.

Eloped with an Atlanta Falcons jersey.

Is undergoing a trans-something surgical change and will soon appear on an Oprah special as a Yosemite Sam tee-shirt.

Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, asking people if they are saved.

Is being held ransom in a Nordstrom’s window for the thoughtcrime of Trump-by-association.

Is trying to slip through Gestapo and Milice roadblocks with Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan in order to contact the French Resistance and escape back to its RAF squadron laundry in England.

Is seeking enlightenment with the Dalai Lama and Franklin Graham.

Is doing therapy after spitting into a DNA cup and learning that its fibers are not 100% cotton.

Elizabeth Warren is reading it aloud in a bold demonstration of defiance, speaking power to truth, and, like, stuff.

Has found a new career as Kim Jong-Il’s cute nightshirt.

Slipped out for a celebratory glass of champagne at the Lone Star Grill, and was mistaken for a bar towel. When last seen it was draped around a keg of light beer. Not pretty.

Is swimming to Cuba.

And so, citizens of the world, keep your eyes open. Watch the skies. A jersey is a terrible thing to waste. Let us stand as one, hold hands, share a Coca-Cola, begin a dialogue, establish a makeshift shrine, think outside the bag, reinvent the wheel, cut to the chase, throw despair under the bus and caution to the wind, seek the light at the end of the tunnel, write a mission statement, connect the dots, stand and deliver, shift the paradigm, generate a win-win situation, transform society, reach the youth where they are, make a difference, give 1001 percent, if you love something set it free, livestream the roses, embrace spare change, avoid in-between-meal snacks, embrace your inner sophomore, and give it up for the safe return of Tom Brady’s shirt.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

In Defense of Iambic Pentameter - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

In Defense of Iambic Pentameter

Oh, no! Pentameter is not a trap -
Pentameter is freedom’s wings, aloft
And golden in the morning sun, and free
It lifts our dreams into the skies, and sings

Pentameter is language’s strong heart
Its rhythm shapes our fondest hopes, and sends
Each one upon a pilgrimage of truth
To happiness enthroned at journey’s end

Besides all that, pentameter
Helps calm giddy tetrameter!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Couplet for a Military Dentist - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Couplet for a Military Dentist

The call of the bugles, the thunder of drums -
Mount up! And ride to the sound of the gums!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Tales of the Texas Rangers - The Legend of Tom Brady's Shirt - poem

Lawrence Hall

Tales of the Texas Rangers:
The Legend of Tom Brady’s Shirt

Texas is rich with tales of old
Heroes, villains, San Saba’s gold

Once Aztecs ruled our shores and bays
And Tejas roamed the forest ways

Here in this sunburnt arid land
Comanches bold made their last stand

Karankawas, Apaches too -
All sorts of tales, and mostly true

Nueva Espana, then Mexico
Rebellion and the Alamo

But the strangest tale, we now assert
Is the mystery of Tom Brady’s shirt

Missing it is, after the game
Who is the thief? Who is to blame?

Dan Patrick, the lieutenant-guv
He swore by all the stars above

And most of all by that one Star
That’s flown in every saloon and bar

He’d catch that creep, and make him hurt
Whoever pinched Tom Brady’s shirt

So in this time of topless danger
He called upon each Texas Ranger

His voice was low, but cold as steel:
“Y’all brang that mangy cur to heel;

Load your weapons, and saddle up!”
Each Ranger answered with a “Yup.”

All Rangers, now, be on alert:
Somebody rustled Tom Brady’s shirt

Every Texan expects your best
(Tom Brady is our honored guest)

He can’t go home in just his jeans
So find his jersey, by any means

Remember - not a blouse or skirt;
You’re looking for the poor man’s shirt

That’s why you Rangers are paid so much -
Search every hootch and hovel and hutch

Somewhere under the Texas skies
An outlaw hides, and probably cries

He shamed his state and he shamed his mama
And the only end to all this drama

Will come upon him like wind and dust
And a voice will command (with great disgust)

“Stand and deliver, you ugly varmint!
Hold up your hands, and drop that garment!”

“Oh, Texas Ranger, tell me true:
How did you find me? I feel so blue!”

And the Ranger will sing softly:

“The shirt of a stranger is upon you…”1

y colorín, colorado y este cuento se ha acabado, y’all

1Apologies to Chuck Norris

Monday, February 6, 2017

A John LeCarre' Novel - poem

Lawrence Hall

A John LeCarre’ Novel

The brick walls of the houses along the street
Are always centuries-damp in the dim streetlights
Flickering yellow past the garbage cans
And is that sound - water dripping? Footsteps?

She was to meet him in the shadows of
A shuttered plywood newspaper kiosk
That tiny red spark over there – it moves
But she doesn’t smoke. And she’s very cautious

A scream. A shot. A cat. A light. A voice,

A very soft voice:

“Mustn’t be found here, old boy. Need a lift?”

The Death of a Good and Faithful Spider - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Death of a Good and Faithful Spider

A good and faithful spider lived its life
In spinning and dusting and catching pests
In the ikon corner among the saints:
Kyril and Methodius, Seraphim

Tikhon the Wonderworker, Vladimir
Anna of Kashin, Nicholas the Czar
Zosima, Xenia of Saint Petersburg
And all the cloud of holy Slavic witness

Whose images were guarded worthily
By a little spider who served God well

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Ticonderoga - Pencils and Wars - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Ticonderoga – Pencils and Wars

Ticonderoga, New York, is a small town on Lake Champlain, across from Vermont. Ticonderoga is said to be a Mohawk word indicating a river landing or river port. In colonial times the French built a fort there to guard the frontier against the English. Then the English took the fort from the French. Then Yank revolutionaries took it from the English. Then the English took it back. Then the Yanks got it back again after the 1783 Treaty of Paris, and then they made pencils there.

Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point were important because of the north-south axis of Lake Champlain, which facilitated transportation – and invasion – between Montreal and New York. Now that we’re all friends and have roads and airplanes, Ticonderoga and its restored fort are quiet places to visit. Fort Carillon / Ticonderoga is not some sort of amusement park imagining; it is a big old star fort of French design (http://www.fortticonderoga.org/).

Once upon a time a child could write about Ticonderoga in his Big Chief tablet with a #2 Ticonderoga pencil, and he still can, only now his All-American Yankee Doodle We Can Do It Ticonderoga pencil is made in China, Italy, German, or South America, not Ticonderoga, and the Big Chief tablet is no more.

The various successor companies were bought by Fila-Fabbricca Italiana Lapis Ed Affini S.p.A. in 2004 and who ended pencil production in Ticonderoga.

According to Dixon Ticonderoga, “This acquisition allowed for many synergies between the two companies creating a global, vertically-integrated, premier education supply company. (http://www.dixoncanada.com/?page_id=10).

Okay, class, can anyone tell us what “many synergies” means? How about “global, vertically-integrated?” Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? And no one can, because all that is puffy filler language devoid of meaning. Sounds impressive, though.

A pencil is made from wood and a mixture of clay and graphite. Apparently the first pencils were invented in England in the Middle Ages (said to be the Dark Ages, and of course at night things were dark but by day people were doing all sorts of things, like inventing pencils and writing with them).

Yankee Doodles made doodling all the better in the 19th century by developing the pencil as we know it, complete, in the latter part of the century, with an eraser.

Cedar is popular for pencils not because of its happy scent, but because it is less prone than other woods to fragmenting while being sharpened. Even so, the smell of cedar is a magic time tunnel which sends us back, if even for a moment, to the first grade. In illo tempore a tablet was a Big Chief tablet, no batteries required, and a stylus was a #2 Ticonderoga with which a boy or girl could make whole worlds and light them up with pictures and stories that did not need storing in the clouds because they came from the clouds.