Russell's Teapot


Russell's little red teapot
   grew tired of avoiding
      Venus and Mars
   and waiting for the proof
      that it was not there.

It sits quietly on my coffee table,
   prefers serving up up tea,
      brisk and hot,
   to playing games with God
      all the time.


What Was the Name of That Bread?

We’re sitting in the living room, and Dad asks, “What was the name of that bread”?

“What are you talking about?”, says Mom.

— “That sponsored the ball games”.

— “What ball games”?

— “On the radio, when I came home from work”.

— “You don’t work anymore”.

— “When I worked — past tense”.

— “That reminds me… Once you came home from work and sat down in the living room, this room right here. It was late, you were tired, the TV wasn’t working, and you said, ‘I think I’ll go to bed’. And I grabbed you by the hand. You said, ‘What’re you doing?’, and I said, ‘I want to show you something’, and I took you into the kids’ room, and I woke them up and said, ‘Hey, kids, I want to show you something. This guy here, he’s your father’! Well now, they thought I was crazy”.

— “Home Farms”.

— “Home Farms”?

— “The bread. It was white”.

— “What does that have to do with my being crazy”?

— “They did the ball games. You asked me why I always bought it. It was the ball games — I wanted to show my loyalty”.

— “And for that you call me crazy”?

I put my book down, and look at Dad. He’s wearing a half paper plate wedged between his glasses frames and head. He’s shading his eyes from the floor lamp, and told me years before that he found it better than wearing a hat in the house. I realize that, tonight, I’ll never read this book. The story I’m part of demands attention. It’s compelling, droll, insane. It’s exhausting.

Time for bed.

End Noise

Part 1

 Old folks die noisy deaths.
   This is not the received wisdom of youth
  	who firmly believe in the
  	silent slide to oblivion
 "He just closed his eyes,
  	and was gone!"
  	she gushed with a smile,
  As though describing a child's first steps.

 The truth is

 Great-aunts drop casseroles onto
   	hard kitchen floors,
  	as their chests burst,
  Widowers knock over tables
  	lurching from bed
  	clutching their throats,
  A farmer scolds his dog,
  	-- gone 40 years --
  	for chasing sheep,
  And the mother rips
  	tubes from her arms,
  	cursing the nurse
  		for poisoning her.

Part 2

 The dying man
  	hears the loudest noise.

 He carries from birth a
  	metal bowl into which drop
  	steel balls, at odd moments,

 He walks alone down a long
  	crystal arcade, lined
 	with glass cabinets.

 The bowl becomes heavy
  	and he grows frail.

 He pitches forward and the perfectly elastic
  	spheres bounce everywhere,
   	a cacophany of clack-clack-clack
  		and breaking glass.

  He lies, clinging to the sounds,
  	life oozing from his mouth
  	with each moan,
  Not fully gone
 	until silence follows
  	the last tap.


  PINK  I just saw an old art joke --
         "PINK" in purple ink --
  A T-shirt on a sad young girl
         Stalking out of (what else?)
         A gallery, and thought
  Of the drowning man
                   Beneath a grate
         An inch beneath the surface.
   He breaths through a straw
         Penetrating the screen,
         Will live only if he
   Inhales slowly,
          Calms his anxiety,
                   Relaxes until
   He dies from hypothermia,
         Or -- if in the Carribean or
         The Gulf of Cortez --
   From starvation,
         But never from thirst
         Or the color pink.

Tree, dog, cat

tree_dog_catLumbering, misshapen, looming tree, no symmetry, favorite by far, visible for miles in my flat land, shading two unlikely litter mates — dog, ugly happy thing, flabby jowls, stubby legs, marching by sister cat — two same-day born beings, carried box to box by mothers, confused, unsure finally of offspring, form & laws of inheritance — he marches beside that creature dearest in his life, who in turn leaps into air, runs beneath dog belly, rolls in plowed earth of the great shared field — these three allies standing guard against sun, assassins, and tiny jewels floating in dusty rays.

The Master Virtual Guitarist

Blue Guitarist
My friend, Mike, is a master virtual guitarist, perhaps the best in the world. At times, his eyes half closed, lips slightly parted and smiling vaguely, he twitches his fingers in a barely perceptible way, and I know he is performing at Prince Albert Hall. And Fani, the master aficionada, gazes dreamily at her musician and listens with an invisible rose behind her ear.

False False Memory


Recently, I drove oceanward on a small 2 lane highway leading, in a circuitous but ultimate way, to San Francisco. I passed an intersection which seemed familiar but also vague and unspecific. I puzzled and began to assemble a picture from fragments of memory. I had arrived in my new town 8 years ago and wanted to explore. I drove west on a country road towards the Coast Range through the rural flatness, curious only about where I was. After a few miles, I found myself in rolling hills with homes, children, pets and small farms. I was happy with this discovery, as my wife found the levelness of our new area depressing, and knew that my report of what lay nearby would cheer her. The road gradually turned and came to the very intersection I had just passed moments before.

Unfortunately, when I looked in the direction of this dimly recalled population, I saw only a thin forest of valley oaks and eucalyptus, no undulations, no  ersatz Shangrila in the depths of Yolo County. I now knew that there should only be flat farmland all the way to the mountains edge.  I had fought to put this puzzle together, and must have fused memories of events from long ago, perhaps in Salt Lake City, perhaps in Toronto. I had rationalized a sense of deja vu which, in reality, was false. I have a fertile imagination, and have done this before.

I had occasion to pass the same point several times since, and each time had the same unsettled feeling of having been there, went through the same process of assembling memories, came to the same depressing conclusion, and worried about the gradual decay of my brain. Then, a week ago, Laura accompanied me to the coast, and as we approached the intersection, I told her the story about my imaginings and poor memory. As we entered the intersection, I looked left. Previously, I had only done this after the fact. This time, I had a clear view up the exit road into the distance, and saw — rolling hills, houses, horses, children playing, with a sparse forest on both sides which fused after we passed into a green panel obscuring a remembered event I now know was real and unimagined.


My wife does not think my memory is bad, but she does think I am mad.

Red Building of Deepest Mystery

A five-minute walk from my workplace lies a red building of great mystery. It is worthy of capitalization: The Red Building. I have walked around it hundreds of times in eight years and did not see it the first seven. It is accessible but guarded by taller structures. No one enters or leaves. A view through the windows shows abandoned lab benches, hoods and offices, covered with dust. No bodies are visible, at least not directly. It is unacknowledged — the campus map pretends it is a wing of an adjacent edifice, which it is assuredly not. It is a place of someone’s fear, an unsettling enigma, a place of desperate ignorance.

Aerial View


Today, I visited bees, perhaps a dozen varieties, including a 4 foot ceramic one of alien and exciting coloration. “Welcome to our garden!”, said a kindly man of academic beard, who warned of little cups of colored liquid on the paths. I avoided them adroitly, but did notice varying numbers of dead bees therein. Bee Haven, while an idyllic refuge for sober hard workers, capitally punishes its drunkards.