Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Exit the Hurricane - poem

Lawrence Hall

Exit the Hurricane (not the catchiest title, eh?)

What is that silence? It is the not-rain
The first not-rain since Friday this past week
Every loud frog gloats in unseemly song
The old, sour water recedes from the door

The whole house stinks; it stinks of damp and rot
Of clothes unwashed because the drains are dammed
Of smelly shoes and even smellier socks
Of refugee gear flung casually about

The whole house stinks; it stinks of damp and rot
Of too many people – and isn’t it wonderful!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hurricane Evacuation - really bad poem, but my daughter's safe

Lawrence Hall

She’s Safe

Until this morning my daughter was safe
For so the city said
But the waters rose, slithering up her stairs
And still the city said she was safe

She was evacuated, first by canoe
Then by an air-boat
Then by a dump truck

She and another evacuee laughed in the rain:
“Now we are the people they take pictures of”

Then by a bus

To a center at Saint Martha’s Church and School
Where someone said she would be bussed again
This time to downtown Houston, for reasons
Best known to some stupid *** of a *****

Her friend’s husband and his big ol’ pickup
Worked around barriers and through high water
And they escaped up the road to Willis, Texas
Tomorrow I will be honored to shake his hand

Long ago, when she left home, I promised
That an old man and two little dachshunds
Would wait for her. I’m even older man now
With grand-dachshunds – but we said we would wait

And we have

Best I can do at the moment
Tears of gratitude
Deo gratias

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Hurricane at the Bus Stop - Poem

Lawrence Hall

A Hurricane at the Bus Stop

Sunday Night in East Texas

There will be no big yellow busses tomorrow
Clattering along dusty rural roads
And stopping for each bouquet of children
Lovely, and flower-fresh in their store-new clothes

Through day and night, and day and night again
The rain has fallen in tired metaphors
As fire-ants float along in stinging balls
And water-moccasins swim the lawn with death

Stories and riddles by lamp-light tonight,
And “Someday you’ll tell your children about this”

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Bands of Rain - poem

Lawrence Hall

Bands of Rain

The radar shows them as spiraling lunettes;
Here on the ground only rain, and then not
And then again, pale rain. The air is green,
The leaves are still, and heavy with the damp

The hurricane is far away, and yet
Its tentacles search out with menacing winds
And hidden tornados pursuivant
Poor refugees from its transient rule

And now another band, beating the walls
With hideous fury as another night falls

Friday, August 25, 2017

Facing the Hurricane with Double-A Batteries - poem

Lawrence Hall

Facing the Hurricane with Double-A Batteries

At dawn to the gas station, before the crowds
Assemble in undemocratic lines
Then hours of busting knuckles and language
On the generator long-stored and ignored

All the old lawn chairs stacked and stowed away
A “H*** Storm Brewing in the Gulf” – oh, no!
Water bottles stacking in the laundry room
Hyperbole stacking on the radio

Menacing winds roaming among the trees -
But we are ready with double-A batteries!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hurricane Preparedness Checklist - poem

Lawrence Hall

Hurricane Preparedness Checklist

Double-A batteries, a map out of town
A tank full of gas, a mind full of plans
A flashlight, toilet paper, a radio
A can opener and cans to go, go, go

Leather gloves and duct tape, whistles
Waterproof matches, and match-proof water
Blankies and ponchos and a change of clothes
A medical kit and a pocket knife


No one ever lists a box of cigars,
And a Wodehouse for reading by lamplight

Hurricane Cliches - Column

Lawrence Hall, HSG
29 August 2012

Eye of the Hamster

Much national news writing is predicated on clich├ęs, stereotypes, and hyperbole, and hurricane season is when the keyboard commandos in Our Nation’s Capital (in caps) pour themselves cups of green tea, limber up their manicured fingers, and fling filler-language as carelessly as an oil sheik throwing American dollars at luxuries.

Certain hurricane cliches’ disappear with time – “The Mother of All Hurricanes” is as dead as Saddamn Hussein. Others, such as “we’re not out of the woods,” seem to be as indestructible as Dracula, popping up out of his coffin every August and September.

Some entries in the well-thumbed dictionary of hurricane-babble include:

Rain event

Dodged the bullet

Storms that brew – what do they brew? Tea? Coffee?

Storms that gain or lose steam, as if they were teakettles

Hurricanes that pound

Hurricanes that lash

Hurricanes that pummel

Reduced to rubble

Wreak havoc – what does “wreak” mean?

Left a swath of destruction in its wake -- what’s a swath, eh?

Hurricanes that make landfall – well, what else would they make? A gun rack in shop class?

Hurricanes that slam ashore

Hurricanes that storm ashore – well of course they storm; they’re storms

Changed my life forever

Mother Nature's wrath

Mother Nature’s fury

Mother Nature's anything

Looked like a war zone – no one ever looked over the blood-sodden ground after a fight in Afghanistan and said “Gee, this looks like a hurricane zone.”

Decimated - unless precisely one out of every ten people was killed

Trees snapping like matchsticks - do matchsticks ever snap like trees?

Batten down the hatches - I forgot to buy a hatch; I wonder if the stores are still open

Hunker down

Cars tossed about like Matchbox toys / Cars smashed like matchboxes

Boats bobbing like corks / boats smashed like matchboxes

Roofs peeled off

Rain coming down in sheets - never blankets or pillow slips?

Calm before the storm – almost always “eerie”

Calm in the eye of the storm – also almost “eerie”

Calm after the storm – yes, almost always “eerie”

ANY allusion to Katrina

Perfect storm

Storm of the century

A Hurricane that defined a generation

Fish storm

In the crosshairs

From this list of fluffery one can then assemble a sentence wholly devoid of meaning, just like the networks do:

In my own personal opinion, and in conclusion, at the end of the day, the bottom line is that when all is said and done, when the skinny man sings, that Mother Nature, in the form of mighty Hurricane Gaia, the storm of the century, thundering and slamming ashore in a turbulent and fateful pre-dawn, wreaked havoc on our homeland, snapping trees like matchsticks and leaving a swath of destruction in her wake that looked like a war zone and changed our lives forever, requiring us to seek closure and healing from grief counselors.


And let's not forget that a hurricane on its way to Newfoundland is just a fish storm because it won't hurt anyone or damage any property. Yes, a local broadcaster said that some years ago; I wish I could quote him precisely.

Monday, August 21, 2017

4,000 More Light Casualties - poem

Lawrence Hall

4,000 More Light Casualties

          A group of journalists arrived from Moscow and were told that the Afghan National Army…had taken the ridge.  
          (They) were posing for victory photographs while our soldiers lay in the morgue.

-Svetlana Alexeivich, Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

A touchy old man who never went to war
Now poses with his decorative generals
In their tailored Ken-and-Barbie battle dress
All prepped for combat in the officers’ clubs

New president, same as old presidents
And generals, awarding each other medals
And promotions for their golden resumes’
For sending not-their-children off to die

While they prosper on defense industry bids,
Afghanistan is the graveyard of our kids

(Shhhhhhhhhh…Don’t disturb Congress; they’re all asleep.)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Morning Meeting with God's Anointed One and His Team Fist-Pumping Woo-Hoo - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Morning Meeting with God’s Anointed One
and His Team Fist-Pumping Woo-Hoo

He pads his expenses and prays over us
About a great evil spreading its claws
We too must pray to drive out the darkness
Because dissent is sent by Satan, amen

But be ye positive, not negative
Hold hands and be one united company
Be anointed in Jesus, just like the boss
Who feels his critics should be jailed, amen

Think less, work more, do not presume to judge;
Now go ye forth and peddle that discount sludge!


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Graveyard Shift at (Famous) Clinic - poem

Lawrence Hall

Graveyard Shift at (Famous) Clinic


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

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

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Michaelmas Term - poem

Lawrence Hall

Michaelmas Term

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Three Pews of Mourners - poem

Lawrence Hall

Three Pews of Mourners

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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

Lawrence Hall

On Reading Yet Another Essay on the Death of Reading

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

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

If reading is dead -

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Letter from Ekaterinburg - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Letter from Ekaterinburg

Dormition of the Theotokos

Dear Alexei,

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

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

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

Write soon,


Monday, August 14, 2017

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

Lawrence Hall

So You’re Still Wearing Your Old Boonie Hat?

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

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

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Winds, Earthquakes, Fires, and a Whisper - poem

Lawrence Hall

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

Uncle Vanya and Lady Godiva - poem

Lawrence Hall

Uncle Vanya and Lady Godiva

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

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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Missiles, Funny Hats, and Women Dictators - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Missiles, Funny Hats, and Women Dictators

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

Why are there no women dictators?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Encountering a Fawn on a Rainy Morning in August - poem

Lawrence Hall

Encountering a Fawn on a Rainy Morning in August

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"And When Night Comes..." - poem

Lawrence Hall

“And When Night Comes…”

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

—Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

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

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

     and us

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ouroboros - a frivolous poem

Lawrence Hall


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

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

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Rule 2 - Don't Write Poetry about Poetry

Lawrence Hall

Rule 2: Don’t Write Poetry about Poetry

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

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

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Feast of the Transfiguration - poem

Lawrence Hall

Feast of the Transfiguration

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

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

Cleverly invented myths would be easier


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

2 St. Peter 1:16-19

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tears of Saint Lawrence - Perseid Meteor Showers - poem

Lawrence Hall

Tears of Saint Lawrence

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

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

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

The 1970s - poem

Lawrence Hall

The 1970s

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

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

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Bag of Cabbage Chips - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Bag of Cabbage Chips

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

-#6 in Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner

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

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

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

On the Electronic Chipping of Employees - column

Mack Hall

Goodbye, Mr. Chipped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A free tee-shirt.

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

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


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

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

Lawrence Hall

I Don’t Want a Mind of my Own

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August is not a Melodious Month - poem

Lawrence Hall

August is not a Melodious Month

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

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

August is a word alone, without a rhyme

And so

August is not a melodious time