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A church bulletin out of date for years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.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday - A Night of Fallen Nothingness - poem

Lawrence Hall

Good Friday - A Night of Fallen Nothingness

The Altar stripped, the candles dark, the Cross
Concealed behind a purple shroud, the sun
Mere slantings through an afternoon of grief
While all the world is emptied of all hope.
The dead remain, the failing light withdraws
As do the broken faithful, silently,
Into a night of fallen nothingness.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday - Mass of the Last Supper - poem

Maundy Thursday – Mass of the Last Supper

“Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang”

The air is thurified – the incense given
Our Lord upon His birth is fumed at last;
The censer’s chains, clanking like manacles
Offend against the silence at the end of Mass

Supper is concluded; the servants strip
The Table bare of all the Seder service:
Cups, linens, and dishes, leaving in the dark
An Altar bare, prepared for sacrifice

In Gethsemane the flowered air is sweet
But iron-heeled caligae offend the night

The Luna Moth - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Luna Moth

The moon does not in fact wax anything,
She does not wane; she simply ever-is;
She rules the softly-sung, soft-summer nights,
A willing queen, and willingly obeyed.
The luna moth, her winged votary,
Clings to indulgent oaks of their kindness,
Their moon-sent goddess from another world,
And strangely robed and crowned in lunar green,
Pheroming softly for some other moth
To come perform with her those rituals
Of love illogical, of sacrifice;
For all a luna moth can do is live
A summer week or so, but in those hours

She loves

In lunar beauty, strangely eternal
Who needs a dying luna moth?
                                                       We do.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sean Spicer Never Metaphor He Didn't Like - doggerel

Lawrence Hall

Sean Spicer Never Metaphor He Didn’t Like

Walk back those Spicerian goosesteps, dude
(And while you’re there, unblame the Russians)
Similes using Hitler are always rude
And now you’ll suffer Tweeter concussions

Cops will drag you away from your lectern
Like that screaming fellow aboard the plane
And make each reportorial neck turn
Heads swiveling to see where you’ve left your brain

Blame everything on the Russians? You bet!
It must be true; it’s on the GossipNet

Monday, April 10, 2017

Whack-a-Cabinet Secretary - doggerel of the meanest sort

Lawrence Hall

Whack-a-Cabinet Secretary

The New Children’s Game for Old Children

One pops up; someone whacks him down
Two more pop up; we can only frown
After the third, we take the hint:
We have no stable government

Does Anyone Sing the National Anthem These Days? - poem (kinda / sorta)

Lawrence Hall

This began as a criticism of overproduced, hammy, look-at-me, as-arranged-by interpretations of the National Anthem. It deteriorated. I blame the Russians.

Does Anyone Sing the National Anthem These Days?

Because Francis Scott Key was all about Who-Whoa-Whoa and Yay-Yay-Yay

A minute or so of recorded music
Over-produced in that insta-emo style
Then followed by “Whoa whoa yay oh yay whoa
Whoa yay yay yay whoa oh yay whoa whoa whoa

Whoa yay oh yay whoa whoa yay yay yay whoa
Oh yay whoa whoa whoa whoa yay oh yah
Yay whoa whoa yay yay yay whoa oh yay whoa
Whoa whoa whoa yay oh yay whoa whoa yay yay

Yay whoa oh yay whoa whoa whoa yay yay
It’s all about me-me-me-me-me-meeeeeeeeeeemeeeeeeeeeeeemeeeeeeee!”

Followed by –

Baseball: “Play ball!”

Racetrack: “Gentlemen, start your engines!”

Rodeo: “Gentlemen, start your cattle!”

The federal government’s Outer Continental Shelf oil & gas Lease Sales
Close: “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s open your sealed bids!”

School: “Teachers, start your sophomores.”

Austin, Texas City Council: “And now Comrade Muffin Snort-Ponsonby,
BA, MA, MEd, Chair Emerita of the Travis County Sensitivity League, will chant
her original composition, “Spiritual Wind-Song Ode to Comrade Stalin.”

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday in Egypt - poem

Lawrence Hall

Palm Sunday in Egypt
9 April 2017

Revelation 20:4

Poor bleeding Egypt, Mother of martyrs
Whose sands receive the gift of sacred blood
Almost without an end: the Apostle Mark,
Saint Katherine, and even on this day:

A child in the narthex scampering about
Although his mother told him to behave
A man waiting for a friend, passers-by
Someone hoping that the sermon is short

O may they now with Christ enter into
Golden Jerusalem, now and forever

Buy a Pepsi for Syria in the Tonkin Gulf While Rockin' to Radio Gleiwitz - column

Lawrence Hall

Buy a Pepsi for Syria in the Tonkin Gulf While Rockin’ to Radio Gleiwitz

Last week (if anything on the news is true), our president sent 59 cruise missiles to fall upon an air base in Syria. The next day (if anything on the news is true), Russian and Syrian warplanes were again operating out of that air base. Each cruise missile (if anything on the news is true) costs close to a million dollars. Given that and the expenses of operating warships, American workers - because who else can pay taxes? - gave up maybe a hundred million dollars of their Churchillian blood, toil, tears, and sweat to damage a few buildings on an airbase in another country.


Has Syria invaded the U.S.A.? Has Syria threatened to invade the U.S.A.? Is Hitler hangin’ by the pool at Assad’s palace?

Syria, which has not been a nice place to live since the French Mandate of 1923-1946, suffers a civil war among, according to New York magazine (, the Assad government, ISIS, The Kurdish People’s Protection Movement, Jabhat al-Nusra, Khorasan Group, Al Quaeda, Islamic Front, Free Syrian Army, Hezbollah, Peshmerga, Russia, the United States, and others, all shifting their alliances and allegiances without any sense of pattern.

According to the New York Times ( there are perhaps 800 American soldiers, Marines, and sailors (Navy Corpsmen serve with the Marines) in Syria.

I don’t know why they are there, and I don’t know what they are expected to accomplish with the Assad government, ISIS, The Kurdish People’s Protection Movement, Jabhat al-Nusra, Khorasan Group, Al Quaeda, Islamic Front, Free Syrian Army, Hezbollah, Peshmerga, and Russian soldiers and airmen.

In a not irrelevant aside, Christianity has existed in Syria since before Saint Paul fell off his horse on the road to Damascus. Of all the combatants in Syria, only Russia has expressed a desire to protect the surviving Christians there.

This nation can’t even keep the peace in Chicago, which is much smaller than Syria.

Last week we all saw photographs. But of what? Were children gassed? Were adults gassed? By whom? With what? Says who? From what nation’s stocks of poisons? Were the toxins those WMD that Saddam had and then didn’t have and then hid in Syria? Were they from Libya?

Does no one in our government and media remember the Gleiwitz incident on the border between German and Poland on 31 August 1939?

How about the Gulf of Tonkin incident on 2-4 August 1964?

Or Article 1 of Section 8 of the Constitution?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

A catalogue of questions does not constitute and effective narrative, but neither does it constitute a basis for a war, and nothing constitutes a basis for war without a declaration of war by our increasingly Merovingian Congress, who will investigate a baseball team but not stand up for the Constitution.

This week two young friends, kids I watched grow up, are off to join the Marines. And good for them. But their commander-in-chief is a man who avoided Viet-Nam because of a heel spur. Have you noticed the limp? The former Secretary of State (who also never made the first day of recruit training) also expressed enthusiasm for sending our young men and women to war in Syria, but since she was not elected, what difference does it make?

On the day after the cruise missiles fell upon a Syrian air base a local television station broadcast informal interviews with some young Syrian men idling and smoking huqqas in a Syrian restaurant in Houston. I did not record the broadcast, so I could be wrong in this, but I do not remember that any women were present. Maybe they were rockin’ to some heavy tunes on Radio Gleiwitz with Bill O’Reilly or Bill Clinton.

The young Syrian men expressed their gratitude that the United States bombed their country, but are disappointed that this nation has been dilatory in bombing those Syrians that these Syrians did not like.

So here’s another question: why are healthy young American men fighting in Syria while healthy young Syrian men are sitting on their dead (huqqas) in Houston, Texas?


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Well Done, Thou Good and Faithful Cat - poem

Lawrence Hall

Well Done, Thou Good and Faithful Cat

for Calvin

Yes, surely there will be another cat
But not this Cat, not this Big Orange Dust-Mop
Lounging “with abs of steel and sex appeal”
At his window, hungry for hummingbirds

Or lurking there behind that door to swat
His Sarah, who served as his household staff,
For failing to render due obeisance
To him, the superior MagnifiCat

Dear Calvin –

For now, farewell, until that better World,
O happy, leaping, loving childhood friend

Friday, April 7, 2017

Fifty Shades of Cruise Missiles - poem

Lawrence Hall

Fifty Shades of Cruise Missiles:
The Night of 6 April 2017

The news appears on the glowing telescreen:
“50+ Missiles Aimed at Syria”
The typeface set in a lurid shade of red
With a flashing cartoon police-car light

And because I was walking in the fields at dusk
I am still armed for a war against age
With a walking stick propped inside the door
Proof against nothing but instability

Useless against missiles or poison gas
I had better go to bed with a good book

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Poetry - Why must There be Iambs? - poem

Lawrence Hall

Poetry - Why Must There be Iambs?

Iambics are the sky through which words fly
Formations sweeping all five seasons across
In order royal and in right service to
The aspirations of all noble youths

For verses built without a careful plan
Fall but as clutter on a wasted page
Their meanings and intents broken apart
And lost (like sophomores between each class)

Free verse is only an unanswered why:
Iambics are the sky through which dreams fly

(none o’ yer godless trochees or dithyrambs, eh!)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Make Hope America and Again Great Change - poem

Lawrence Hall

Make Hope America and Again Great Change

Slick runway haircuts and bribery gowns
Armored tank-mobiles and gun-guarded walls
And condescending slogans that mock the poor
Just like those once-every-four-years flannel shirts

They investigate each other back and forth
Always holding hearings but never hearing
The sigh of a waitress counting her tips
Gas for her twenty-year-old Ford Focus

The Party-proud sneering at her trailer park
Where dreams live only on cable tv

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

All Change at Zima Junction - poem

Lawrence Hall

All Change at Zima Junction

For Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 1932-2017

Everyone changes trains at Zima Junction
Changes lives; nineteen becomes twenty-one
With hardly a pause for twenty and then
Everyone asks you questions you can’t answer

And then they say you’ve changed, and ignore you
The small-town brief-case politician still
Enthroned as if she were a committee
And asks you what are you doing back here

And then you go away, on a different train:
Everyone changes trains at Zima Junction

“I went, and I am still going.”1

1Yevtuskenko: Selected Poems. Penguin,1962

Sunday, April 2, 2017

April is Poetry Month - and aTribute to Yevgeny Yevtushenko - column, 2 April 2017

Mack Hall

April is Poetry Month – Let Slip the Dogs of Iambic Pentameter

Yevgeny Yevtushenko, one of the bold young poets of the 1960s, died this week at the age of 84.
When I returned from Viet-Nam I bought for 75 cents a new copy of the Penguin Modern European Poets edition of Yevtushenko: Selected Poems at the airport in San Francisco. I had read many short stories by Anton Chekhov and Solzhenitsyn’s “The Incident at the Krechetovka Station” (an English translation of The Gulag Archipelago was several years away), and was working through Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I had begun to understand that Tolstoy was a hairy-airy old proto-hippie, but I hadn’t enough history to understand Yevtushenko at the time. I had no idea what Babi Yar was, and of course poetry just can’t be translated.

Russian words can be rendered only approximately into English words – and the other way ‘round – by someone equally at home in both languages, but, still, the emphases, the rhythms, the subtleties of language will be lost. Imagine, for instance, trying to translate “Well, I’ve got friends in low places” into another language. What, exactly, does “well” mean? What kind of friends? Those few close ones among whom there are almost no secrets? Co-workers? The Saturday-morning coffee-shop pals? Are the friends mention in the poem / song airline pilots and navigators? Unemployed steelworkers? Two welders, a dentist, and a CPA who play country music on the weekends? What are “low places?” Is “low” rendered as altitude or attitude?

So I didn’t understand much of Yevtushenko. After a few years’ study, including my own indiscriminate reading, I did. Without some basic knowledge of Russian history one cannot understand what a bee-slap in the collective (so to speak) faces of Stalin and his successors some of Yevtushenko’s poems were.

Just why Yevtushenko wasn’t “disappeared” is a matter of speculation. Some of his peers accused him of being a government stooge, but his poetry was not obedient to the censors. The line “Don’t tells lies to the young” is a typical Yevtushenko rebuke to the Soviet government. Had Stalin lived beyond 1953, Yevtushenko would not have; he would be a footnote lost in an unmarked mass grave, like Osip Mandelstam, Lydia Chukovskaya, Nikolay Punin, and thousands of others.

That edition of Yevtushenko: Selected Poems is still available; lists it from several sources from $3 to $50.

The ragged copy I bought in the long-ago – ragged because I finally read it, and have re-read it many times - is beside me on my desk as I type this. The filler on the back cover reads “Yevgeny Yevtushenko is the fearless spokesman of his generation in Russia. In verse that is young, fresh, and outspoken he frets at restraint and injustice…”

Except for that forbidden “he” – one person is now “they” on the orders of our own soviet censors – that fifty-year-old blurb could be pretty much the advertising copy for any new book of scribbles.

But Yevtushenko was real. “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord…”


Jesus Via PowerPoint in the Parish Hall - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Meeting in the Parish Hall

To the arrhythmia of mostly futile clicks on a hand-held gadget

No food or drinks in game room can someone
Please get the lights no not there over there
PowerPointlessness uh-oh can someone
Please get the lights okay I’ve got it now

Uh-oh oh wait these slides are all mixed up
Can someone get the lights again okay
I’ve got the sound now hospitality
Ministers what does “Eucharist” mean

Foam-cup coffee penitential folding chairs
No cell phones please dear God why am I here

+Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Lawrence Hall

+Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Yevgeny Yevtushenko died today.  The Penguin Modern European Poets edition of Yevtushenko: Selected Poems was the first book I bought upon returning from Viet-Nam, in the airport in San Francisco.  That paperback is on the desk beside me as I type.

"Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and make perpetual Light to shine upon him."

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Yes, Lady-in-the-Back-With-Your-Arms-Folded-in-Disapproval - poem

Lawrence Hall

Yes, Lady-in-the-Back-With-Your-Arms-Folded-in-Disapproval

“Excuse me. Excuse me. Could I ask a question?
Okay, I’ve got a question actually I’ve got
Two questions okay maybe it’s one question
I don’t mean to interrupt or anything

“Ha ha but sometimes us old folks don’t understand
So well ha ha but about what you said about
Just now what was it oh yes now I remember:
When I was young back in the stone ages

“Ha ha we were taught one way and right now
You’re telling us this way and that’s not right…”