Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Not Belonging

Our Lives: We don't belong.  And then, after a while, maybe, we do.  And then we don't.

In one way, our lives are a series of exclusions and inclusions and exclusions again.  From earliest childhood we experience the feeling of not belonging.  Maybe the first time is in nursery school.  Or kindergarten.  We arrive in a new place with people we don't know.  We find a way to fit in--or we don't.  Then we move on to another population where, once again, we are the aliens.  And we find a way to fit in--or we don't.  Only among the dead will we find ourselves immediately equal.  No initiation.  No hazing.  No period of adjustment.

I don't remember feeling out of place in nursery school or kindergarten.  But surely I did.  The earliest memory is of changing schools in 1952 when we moved from Enid, Oklahoma, to Amarillo, Texas, because my dad had been called back into active duty for the Korean War, and off we went to Amarillo AFB, where my dad was a chaplain.

I was in second grade, and I never really fit in at Avondale Elementary School.  I didn't know the tacit rules of the playground there; I didn't recognize who were the alpha males.  (Both I found out in rough Lone Star fashion--I got my ass kicked.)

We moved back to Enid when I was in the middle of third grade, and things were pretty quickly back to normal, very quickly.  But summer church camp presented another challenge: I didn't know anyone but the kids from my own church, so I slid easily into a role of observer, watching other, more aggressive kids become the leaders, the ones everyone else noticed.  I was comfortable, not resentful, in that role.

And on and on it went, through school and beyond,  Being new in junior high.  In high school.  In college.  In grad school.  On my first job in Aurora Middle School.  At one early meeting of the local teachers' association (the AEA) I spoke up about some AEA issue or other.  A craggy veteran elementary school teacher near the end of her career snarled, "Let's just ignore what that boy [me!] said ..."  I didn't belong yet.  Shouldn't be listened to.

Around 1973 Joyce and I and our infant son moved to our first home--rented--at 214 South Willow in Kent.  Our landlord, a genial man who lived right next door, was named James Caniglia.  He had recently retired from Lamb Electric in Kent, and every week day, some of his former colleagues who used Willow to get to work would honk when they drove by his place.  Letting him know.  If he was in the yard, he would wave.  A belonger still.

But I am not like Mr. Caniglia (I never called him by his first name.)  When I retired from Aurora in 1997, I, like all other retirees, was invited to the end-of-the-year banquet sponsored by the AEA.  I tried to go a couple of years but never lasted more than a few minutes before I slipped away and drove home.  I had crossed that line--the one separating I belong here from I don't belong here anymore.  I don't even try now; I toss the invitation every spring.

I retired from Western Reserve Academy a year ago.  And this fall a former colleague there kindly invited me to participate in a new "coffee house" idea she was initiating.  Tuesday evenings.  A half-hour or so.  She asked me if I'd do a presentation, and I said I'd be glad to.  She scheduled me for the final session of the year.  On that first Tuesday, I went up on the campus for the first time since I'd left.  It was strange.  But greeting me at the door was Rachel, a student I'd taught just the year before.  She was glad to see me, and I her.  But when the session got started, I realized I didn't know half (or more) of the kids who were there.  To them, I was the Old Guy over there who talked too much.  Afterwards, I spoke with some kids I knew, then went home.  And did not go back the rest of the year.  It was nothing anyone did or said.  Not at all.  It was what I felt.  And what I felt was: I don't belong here anymore.

But I did go back, that last session, as I'd promised.  But--again--although I had a good time, although the kids and adults were gracious, even warm--I still had that feeling: I don't belong here anymore.

Like other WRA retirees, I was invited to the end-of-the-year picnic at the Headmaster's home last night.  I'd said I'd go.

But as the hour neared, the feeling returned.  I don't belong there anymore.  I remembered other picnics, other years, when retirees came.  And I would talk to them a few minutes--being polite, appreciative (grateful even)--and then I'd move on to spend the rest of the time with my current colleagues.  Belongers.

And so I stayed home last night.

I don't know where I belong anymore.  I surely belong in my home--which is where I spend so much time.  I've always belonged here.

But where else?  I used to belong on the faculty of Harmon Middle School and Western Reserve Academy.  But now I don't.

It's one of the dark facets of the glittering retirement jewel.  Yes, I don't have papers to grade or odious meetings to endure or in-service workshops to attend or lessons to prepare or neckties to knot.  But I also don't have a place--a professional place--where I belong.  What's left is "my" chair at Caribou Coffee, which is "mine" only if I'm there early enough.

One of these years we may move to a "retirement community" (i.e., the last station on the railroad to the grave), where, once again, I will not belong, not at first.  And then I will.  And then I won't care.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More Barbery Tales

Yesterday I wrote about some experiences in barbershops. And after I posted it--of course--I thought of a few other barbery things of equally dubious merit.  Actually, tonsorial is the vocab word we want: adjective--of or pertaining to a barber or barbering: the tonsorial shop.

At impecunious times in my adult life I've tried to economize in various ways.  In the 60s and 70s I just let my hair grow, rarely cutting it at all--a real money-saver.  And shagginess was cool then.  I was shaggy, therefore cool.  Simple.

Later, the wife of a friend cut it a couple of times.  But I felt kind of weird about that (I think he did, too), so I stopped.  There seemed something oddly adulterous about it.

And when I retired from public school teaching in 1997, I decided to adjust to Pension Living by saving a few bucks at Best Cuts.  That was not a good idea.  Although the price was right, the cost was not.  First of all, I never got the same cutter twice (a problem).  Second, I noticed that after my tenure in the Best Cuts chair, my hair lacked a certain ... symmetry.  The hair on the left side of my head seemed not to be communicating with the right side.  I looked ... out of balance.  Maybe even disturbed.  We can all tolerate another person's odd hair as long as we can detect in it some sort of intent.  But I looked just plain deranged--as if I'd been living in a remote commune and cutting my own hair by moonlight with a Bowie knife, sans mirror.

And here's a snippet of actual (remembered) conversation with a Best Cuts cutter:

DAN [after describing what he'd like to occur on top of his head]: And could you trim the beard a little, too?

BC [pause]: How do you do that?

DAN: Never mind the beard.

I bought an electric trimmer and did the best I could for a couple of months.  Then--alarmed at what the mirror was telling me--I decided I'd go back to a real barber.  Who--I swear--took one look at me and asked me how many months I'd been going to Best Cuts.

I've actually had very few hairstyles in my life.  In boyhood--as I mentioned yesterday--it was basically a buzz-cut.  Later, maybe when I was in sixth grade, Old Grover ventured into Creative Land and buzzed only the 90% in the back.  In the front, he allowed a little ridge of hair to rise, right to left, like a bit of grass the mower missed.  This he then solidified and accentuated with some butch wax.  I kept that look for a few years.

In junior high, flattops became popular.  I had a good friend, Paul Misch, who had a great flattop.  His hair just stayed up there, naturally.  Mine, however, required thick sticks of pink butch-wax to keep it moderately attentive for a few hours.  But once I ran around in gym class or on the playground at lunch, my copious perspiration (see earlier blog!) combined with butch wax to produce an entirely new compound, whose principal trait was ugliness.

Finally, as I became ever more cool in high school, I started combing my hair over, using/stealing Vitalis from my dad to give it ... what?  I'm not sure what Vitalis was supposed to do.  But what it did do was make my hair look wet and to bequeath an odd odor that must have alarmed all nearby.

After my long-hair phase (of some fifteen years or so), my style has not changed at all.  Just the color.  Brown allowed some streaks of white to arrive in my thirties (very distinguished, I thought); the situation now is the opposite--white streaked with brown (not so distinguished).

I leave with my seventh grade class picture--1956-57.  I am in the front row, second from the left.  Fresh from Oklahoma, I'm in partial cowboy garb.  Note several things.  My sagging argyle socks, my rolled-at-the-cuff jeans, my buzzed hair.  And, best of all, the left hand of the teacher, resting on my chair.  He seems to be giving someone (me? my barber?) the finger.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Barbers of G-Ville (and elsewhere)

Garrettsville, Ohio, has its Barbers of G-Ville.  I've not had a haircut there, but I like the idea.  I don't know if the barbers sing or play opera Muzak (this I doubt), but I like the idea.

The first barber I remember was named Grover.  He looked nothing like a Muppet--more like a dentist.  He wore one of those white tunics; he seemed ancient (younger, surely, than I am now); smelled like after-shave and Chiclets-chewed-too-long.  His shop in Enid, Oklahoma, was on the other side of Broadway Avenue from my grandparents' house, and all four Dyer males patronized the place.  Kids' haircuts were 50 cents in the early 1950s. I don't remember what it cost for an adult--maybe 75 cents?

Grover was not an imaginative fellow.  Regardless of what I told him, he cut all my hair off, once a month.  I looked all-but-bald when he finished, and I remember feeling much cooler (temperature, not aura) when he finished.  I remember this too: I couldn't wait for him to finish.  Something about him creeped me out.  Maybe it was just the idea of some guy with sharp tools messing around where I couldn't see him.  Grover shaved people, too.  I remember sitting there, waiting, reading a comic, watching him strop his straight razor on that long leather strap.  My great-grandfather Lanterman had one of those razor straps and occasionally referred to its potential other uses (i.e., corporal punishment) when my brothers and I waxed especially obnoxious.

Years later--seeing Sweeney Todd for the first time--I realized that Grover (or "Old Grover," as my dad called him) was the first actual man to awaken terror in me.  (Horrible men in dreams, of course, were something else altogether.)  I would watch him, slapping that razor up and down the razor strap, watch him soap the neck of his client/victim, hear the scraping sound, steel against flesh, clear across the little room, where comic books offered small consolation.

By the way, I just looked: You can buy a razor strap on Amazon.com (Razor Straps on Amazon).

When we moved to Hiram, Ohio, in the summer of 1956, there was a barber in the little business area (post office, grocery, barbershop, The Hub--a hangout for the dissolute likes of me).  But I don't remember his name, and he didn't last too long.

When our son was little, I used to take him with me to the barbershop in Kent, "teaching" him about the day he would one day sit in the chair.  I was worried about his first cut.  Would he freak out?  Scream and cry?  Require violence or sedation?  (Kidding.)  During his pre-cut days, he would sit there and do what I'd done: look at comic books.

Then the day came for Cut Number One.  I got mine first, then (we'd "discussed" this at home already) stepped down and told him it was his turn.  Held my breath ...

Up he popped from his chair, bounded up into the barber chair, now equipped with its little booster, and sat there, unmoving and smiling, looking like a toy king on a throne, while the Kent barber sheared his Samson locks (yes, locks: he had a mass of curly hair as a kid).

And now I remember an evil neighbor kid in Enid, older (my brother's age), who convinced me that an old barber chair in his garage was actually an electric chair, and if I didn't shut up (or whatever), he would use it on me.  I believed him, absolutely.

I've gone to any number of barbers since Grover and Hiram.  One in Aurora was killed by lightning on a golf course. Another in Hudson lost my commerce when he let others cut in front of me (the "others" were almost always little boys in company with their Hot Moms or Hot Older Sisters).  Another in Hudson lost me because he was so far to the political Right as to be invisible on the continuum of humanity.

I only once went to a "stylist."  I felt the whole time as if I'd wandered into an alternate universe (one, by the way, where things cost a lot more than I was ready for) and bolted out of there afterwards as if pursued by Furies.

I now go to Mickey, a wonderful meticulous barber.  He rides a bike.  Likes Democrats.  Is from West Virginia.  Somehow knows when to talk, when not to.  He stunned me one day when he told me he'd be happy to drive me to a radiation appointment up at the Cleveland Clinic.  I didn't need the help, but I could barely send forth the words of thanks from a throat constricted by a profound emotion.

But Mickey is not flawless.  One day my younger brother, Dave, was in town.  Said he wanted a haircut.  So I took him down to Mickey's, even though it was near closing time.  Mickey was sweeping up when we got there, was ready to go home.  But he set the broom aside, cut Dave's hair cheerfully, talking the while as if he'd known Dave since stroller days.

And now for some inexplicable reason Mickey virtually always calls me "Dave" when I come through the door.  Yet more evidence of my charismatic presence.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A May Memory

We've seen the goslings again ....
Last night, Joyce and I drove over to Aurora for a cup of coffee.  We often do this in the evening--drive through the Tinker's Creek park on Old Mill Road, looking for wildlife, enjoying the novelty of a drive of several miles without, usually, seeing another car.

We turned onto Aurora-Hudson (east), then South Bissell to Rte. 82.  On South Bissell last night we saw the new goslings there near West Pioneer Trail.  And I remembered ...

When our son was in sixth grade (the fall of 1983), we were not happy with the local school.  For three periods a day he had a teacher who seemed to have lost interest.  At open house, we were alarmed to see that her walls were bare, as if she were thinking--hoping?--that if she just removed everything, then, maybe, maybe, she would ... disappear. Or--even better--the kids would.   For science class, she sat at her desk ("directed study," she called it that night) while the kids read a chapter in the book, did the questions at the end, turned them in.  Her language arts class was just as bad: dreary worksheets, dreary stories in dreary readers, dreary days.  No writing at all.

Steve was hating school, crying in the mornings.  It was breaking our hearts.

We went to see the principal--something I had never done in Steve's life.  We tried to be nice.  We said, "Look, everyone has a dull teacher now and then--everywhere.  Here and Harvard.  But three periods a day.  Isn't there a way he could take one or two of those classes from another teacher?"

No.  "Once we start making changes," he said, "every parent in town will be in here."  I was a teacher; I understood that.  But hated it.

And so we decided to withdraw Steve at the end of the first marking period.  We would enroll him at Harmon School (where I taught), pay the stiff tuition for an out-of-district student.  I knew he would flourish in that school.  I knew, for example, that he would learn more by looking at the walls in Mrs. K's room (she was our great 6th grade science teacher) than he would in the "directed study" of his old school.  I knew that Harmon, in 1983, was a great school.  Great kids.  Great faculty.  Great leadership.  I believed he would flourish.

(And he did.  But that's another story.)

For nearly three school years, he rode with me to Harmon in the mornings, and Joyce would pick him up afterwards unless he was at play practice or something and I could be the chauffeur.

(It was odd, having my own son in class a couple of years later.  But that's another story.)

Those were my three favorite years on earth.  Although we had always been close, we talked, all the way to school (some eight miles) about all sorts of things, noticed sites and sights along the way, laughed.  It was tough for him at first, a new school.  I remember the guilt and pain I felt his first day at lunch.  I peeked out in the cafeteria, where he sat at a table--alone.  Seven empty chairs his only company.

But--bless those Harmon kids, that AHS graduating class of 1990--his solitude lasted only one day.  One day.  Soon, he was with other kids, kids who treated him kindly, who knew, maybe, how hard it was for him: a new school, a teacher's kid.  And soon he was swapping lunch items and stories, laughing along and discovering who he was.

One day in May 1984, Steve and I saw the goslings there by the Western Reserve Racquet Club.  He saw them first--pointed, cried out.  We watched for them every day that spring, saw them grow from little fuzzballs to gawky middle-school geese, to Canada geese indistinguishable in our ignorant eyes from their parents.

The next spring--we started looking in April ... When would we first see them?  Who would first see them?  And then came that day in May (April?) when one of us did ... I really can't remember who saw them first ... it doesn't matter. And, again, we watched, marveled.

The spring of his eighth grade year ... again we looked.  This was an especially difficult time for me, that May.  I had loved having him in class.  (But that's another story.)  And knew that in only a few weeks he would move on to high school.  And that things would never be the same.

He would never again be that little boy crying out: Look, Dad!  The goslings!  And I would never again be that father who shared in that unaffected joy.

I still look for the birds every spring.  I still remember.  Sometimes--like this year--I'll text Steve the moment of my first sighting.  On April 30 this year, I texted: Gosling sighting today!  A half-hour later came his reply: Awesome.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Original Judd Apatow Script

First, a confession.  I've seen all the popular Judd Apatow films (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, etc.).  Another confession: I've laughed myself sick watching them.  A third confession: I've watched them again and again on cable.

Confession is good for the soul.  I feel better already.

Apatow truly found the goose-that-lays and coaxed from it a nice little pile of golden eggs to enrich himself and elevate to stardom a number of young performers.  His story: the enduring adolescence of the American male.  That story continues, of course.  If you've seen, oh, films like Horrible Bosses or Hall Pass and the like, you know that the story has not gone away; it's just found some different "vehicles," as my former English professors used to say.

Apatow did not, of course, invent the story.  (All he had to do was look around him: it's hardly fiction, what he saw.)  It's been around for a long, long time--the story about the young man who remains an adolescent, who has to be taught (usually by a woman) how to grow up, how to love.

Shakespeare employed this idea over and over again in his comedies.  Think, oh, of Much Ado About Nothing--Claudio accuses his bride of infidelity--at their wedding!  He has a lesson to learn.  Much of As You Like It involves Rosalind (disguised as a man) instructing her lover, Orlando, about how to love.

But perhaps his greatest example of an Apatow story is Love's Labour's Lost.  Let me pitch it as a story idea for Apatow and his disciples.

A group of four guys (a king and his buddies) decide they're going to withdraw from the company of women (who, you know, can be a distraction); they will spend three years engaged in ... reading and study.  They all commit--high-five--etc.  And it goes really, really well, for a few minutes.

Then some women arrive at the court--some hot, rich, noble, intelligent, clever women from France.  A princess and her friends.  The King--holding to his promise--tells them they must camp outside.  They can't enter the court.  (After all, he's sworn to his buddies that he will, you know, eschew women.)

Let's guess what happens ...  One by one, the men are smitten.  They're sneaking around trying to be with the women but without letting their BFFs know it.

That doesn't last long.

In one of the funniest scenes, the men all dress up as Russians and arrive at the women's camp for a frolic.  They don't want the women to know they've broken their vow to one another.  But the women are not fooled.  They play along.  Playing with the men.

Eventually, they pair off (surprised?), vow to wed, etc.

And then, very near the end, the Bard--that tricky Bard, that killjoy Bard--introduces into the mix a messenger from France.  He comes with the news that the Princess' father has died.

The light in the play vanishes.  Reality has arrived.  A reminder of mortality.  Of life's seriousness.

The men are sad--but still want to marry.

The women say, basically: "Remember that solemn vow you made to your friends?  How long did that last?  How can we believe your vows to us will be any more enduring?  Everything with you is a joke."

GUYS: Aw, c'mon ... you know ... I'm like ... whatever ...

The women say: "Go away for a while.  Help someone else.  Grow up.  Come back in a year and see if you're still interested.  Then we'll talk."

The guys agree.  What else can they do?  And then they sing ...

I've seen a lot of good productions of this play--and once took some Aurora students to see one in Cleveland in the early 1990s.  Kenneth Branagh filmed it in 2000 (and starred), setting it in the 1930s, adding music and dance from the era.  It bombed at the box office.  Though I kind of liked it.

DYER: So whaddya think, Judd?

APATOW: Let's green-light the thing!  Dyer, you will write and play the lead, OK?

DYER: Lemme think about it ...



Saturday, May 26, 2012

Middle Island (Ohio River)

Yesterday, Joyce and I drove down to the Ohio River (round trip--about 320 mi) to visit Middle Island, one of the chain of islands now officially called Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge.  I'm writing a story (actually, revising an old one) and just recently decided I wanted to use Middle Island for a scene (I'd learned about the place on the Internet).  But, you know, you gotta stand there, on the ground, if you're gonna write about it.  That's my method, anyhow.

Middle is the only one of the twenty-two islands accessible by car.  A tricky bridge reaches across from little St. Mary's, WV, to the island--a tricky bridge with a wicked 90-degree turn at the end.  I managed to keep us out of the water.

We drove a little ways down to a parking area and the trail head for the little (1.2-mi) "Nature Trail," which we handled like Natty Bumppo in The Pathfinder--pausing only a couple of times to wonder if we were making the correct turn.  (As I age, I wonder more and more and more and more about the simplest damn things.)  We saw gazillions of plants, heard a lot of birds (saw few); the only other mammal I saw was a jogger, who arrived from behind us and startled onto my poor fading head a few more white hairs.

The island, by the way, proves to be perfect for the story--even better than I'd imagined.  (It's a creepy story, and the island gave me an idea when I saw a marker identifying the approximate location of some lost graves!  A nearby nuclear plant at Willow Island gave me some other ideas, too.)

What was manifestly not perfect yesterday was the weather.  Yes, it was sunny; yes, there was a bit of a breeze.  But it was hot, humid, and I--along with the other Dyer men I know--have a gene that, when conditions are hot and humid, barks instructions to my sweat gland: "POUR FORTH ... POUR FORTH TORRENTS OF FLUID ... SOAK THIS MAN'S CLOTHING! ... SPLASH HIS GLASSES WITH HIS OWN SPRAY! ... MAKE HIM REEK! ... CAUSE OTHERS TO LOOK AT HIM AND CRY: 'MOMMY! WHY IS THAT OLD MAN SO WET ... AND DISGUSTING!?!'"

I don't know how I ever survived my boyhood in Oklahoma and Texas.  It was so hot in Enid summers that my mom removed from our beds all but the bottom fitted sheets.  No covers whatsoever.  (No one I knew had A/C in the Enid of 1954.)  We slept thus from, oh, May through September.  On especially infernal days, Dad would hose down the roof at night, just before we all turned in.  I remember my dad coming back from his USAF reserve meetings out at Vance AFB in the summer, his khaki summer uniform soaked dark.  He'd just been at a meeting, but he looked as if he'd just unloaded a river boat in high summer in New Orleans.

My dad and his brothers sweated like that.  So do my two brothers and I.  So does my son.  So do my grandsons.  It's such a grim gene, that sweaty one, dripping there on its chromosome like a saturated stinky little sponge that should long ago have been discarded.

So yesterday, on Middle Island, after a 1.2-mile walk (much of it in the shade), I too looked like a stevedore at the end of a July day.  And Joyce?  She breezed coolly along beside me, her obedient little sweat glands behaving like grade-grubbing third-graders hoping to be picked Gland of the Week.


We island-hopped on Friday—yes,
We are that kind of folk.
(Of course it was ONE island and
That’s kind of like a joke.)

On Middle Island down the road
From Marietta, O,
We took a walk—a “nature trail,”
If you desire to know.

The temperatures were very hot;
Humidity was high;
But we were not dissuaded, no
(I am a Nature Guy).

Not far downriver, such a sight—
Not one that does enchant:
We saw some towers blooming—yes
A nuclear power plant.

But nothing there was melting down
Except, of course, for me:
I dripped my way back to the car
And fired up the A/C—

A bit of mild hypocrisy
That humans all produce—
Like oranges, apples, grapefruit, we
Can spill a lot of juice.

But it was just a lovely day,
A graceful sylvan scene,
With birds and trees and solitude
And vistas riverine.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Daily Doggerel

About three weeks ago I starting writing doggerel and posting it to Facebook every day.  Do not be fooled: It looks like poetry; it's not; it's doggerel.  "DOGGEREL: a low, or trivial, form of verse, loosely constructed and often irregular, but effective because of its simple mnemonic rhyme and loping metre. It appears in most literatures and societies as a useful form for comedy and satire. It is characteristic of children's game rhymes from ancient times to the present and of most nursery rhymes. "  See?

Oh, and here's the word history: [C14 dogerel worthless, perhaps from dogge dog ]

Dog verse.  Worthy of a dog?  I'm not so sure.  Our dog, Sooner, would not have put his name (paw mark) to some (any?) of these. (He might well have marked the page another way, however.)  But Sooner's gone; I'm here, doggone doggerel and all.

Anyway, I thought I'd start posting it on this blog as well, every day, and, to catch up, here are all the ones I've done so far.  Not all will make sense to all.  So it goes in the blogosphere.

May 4:
I’m gonna make a speech today
(I’ll give you a report).
The audience is hoping that
For once it will be short! 
PS in prose: It’s not!

May 5:
In Hiram yesterday we paused
To celebrate a life,
A teacher’s wonderful career—
That teacher?  Joyce, my wife. 

Her students spoke, her colleagues, too.
The laughter mixed with tears,
And all attending marveled at
The magic of her years.  

May 6:
We had a bunch of fun last night
(Oh, where should I begin?)
With Ravitzes and memories
Inside the Welshfield Inn. 

May 7:
If you think you are a poet,
And would like to write an ode,
I just saw something perfect—
A frozen Coke explode.

It happened in our friendly fridge,
Where nothing much occurs;
Yes, cooler heads prevail inside,
And nothing ever stirs. 

But I just opened up the door—
Was startled, I confess,
To see the Cokey residue—
‘Twas such a f*****g mess

That I said several awful words,
And had some naughty thoughts.
And if I were a drinking man,
I would be doing shots!  

May 8:
A dream of chicken pieces—raw—
That reassembled; then
They chased me all around the room
While making quite a din 

Of squawking, pecking, flapping wings—
And scaring me to death.
And when I woke—relieved! relieved!
I could not catch my breath. 

Should I resolve, beginning now,
To stop what I’ve begun?
To eschew chewing beastly flesh,
Be vegetarian? 

May 9:
I stayed up kinda late last night:
The Netflix stream was clear,
And so I fished for mysteries—
And caught one most severe. 

It was a sanguinary tale
Of murder and abuse.
And that’s why I slept late today …
How’s that for an excuse!?!?
(an episode of the BBC mystery Trial & Retribution) 

May 10:
Okay, I slept a little late—
Have I joined with the slackers?
Instead of buzzing clocks I need
Some swarming tracker jackers! 

May 11:
We went to dinner yesternight—
Dontino’s Restaurant—
And there we ordered pasta piles,
And talked of Keats and Kant.
(no we didn’t—but it rhymes) 

And other stuff we’d want. 

And here’s a different font. 

Then drove off to Vermont.  and on and on … 

May 12:
We went to Pendleton last night
(In Lodi, not out West)
To buy my mom a little treat,
As you may will have guessed. 

Cuz Mother’s Day is very near,
And Mom loves Pendleton,
So I plunked down the plastic there—
Cuz I’m her favorite son!

May 13 (Mother’s Day):
Oh, Mom, have you forgotten now
That precious lamp I broke?
The time I gave my brother’s jaw
A harmless little poke?

The times when I kind of forgot
Your birthday was … today!
The days I realized that I
Forgot a Mother’s Day? 

The times I said some awful things
(And meant them at the time),
The times I slammed a bedroom door—
My adolescent crimes. 

The times when I just plain forgot
My family history,
Behaved as if I had alone
Created perfect me? 

Have you forgotten slights and slams?
Complaints and cruelty?
Have you forgiven all those things?
Have you forgiven me? 

I hope you have—for I have not.
It’s hard to realize
That I was such a thoughtless kid—
An imp in boy disguise.

I’m glad you’ve lived to 92:
It’s given me a chance
To thank you all these many years
For showing me the dance. 

May 14:
Our printer’s jamming—what the hell!
The thing won’t print or fax.
I’m going to go online now
And buy a battle axe 

And smash that unit into shards
Of splintered fractured plastic,
And, afterwards, I’m really sure
That I will feel fantastic!

May 15:
My wife was out of town last night,
And so I partied hard:
I read in bed for HOURS--
And that is no canard.

May 16:
When Joyce came home from traveling,
What did she think of me?
She found me not with book in hand
But watching trash TV! 

May 17:
The other day I tripped upstairs,
Outside, while coming in.
How odd I landed, hands and head,
In the recycle bin!

Does this have dark significance?
(I wonder what it meant?)
Was this just plain old clumsiness?
Or some celestial hint? 

May 18:
I went to Twinsburg yesterday,
A pleasure it was not:
I went to Cleveland Clinic
Where I got a freaking shot! 

May 19:
Last night a syndrome surfaced—
I’m not sure what to call it?—
My wife, out shopping, said to me,
“Oh my, forgot my wallet!” 

Oh, what to do!  Disaster strikes!
But I’m wise to her ways:
When she forgets her wallet, then
It’s Danny Dyer who pays!

May 20:
This morning, very early, I
Heard sounds out in the street
Of women’s voices talking and
Of quickly moving feet. 

The Sunday morning walkers were
Enjoying their routine—
A happy and loquacious group
Whom I have never seen.

I hear their voices nearing, then
Grow louder near our place,
Then gradually diminish
As they quicken their swift pace. 

How much like “life” this seems to me
As I lie there in bed:
We’re soft; we’re loud; we’re soft again—
And then—uh oh!—we’re dead! 

May 21:
Atop the varied, lengthy list
Of all the things I’m not—
The failures and deficiencies—
It’s patent I’m not hot. 

No hordes of screaming sex-starved fans
Have chased me here and there—
No hordes of screaming sex-starved fans
Have chased me anywhere. 

But last night: 85 indoors!
(So warm our house had got!)
And I was sure at 2 a.m.
That I—at last!—was hot! 

May 22a:
As summer nears, as temperatures
Begin to moderate,
I find my shorts, my sandals, too,
To solstice celebrate. 

But I should learn: Be careful, man,
About your summer clothes.
Today I got to Caribou
In shorts—but nearly froze 

Because it was much colder out
Than I had hoped it was,
And I had biked down there in shorts,
And here is the because: 

I wanted it to be as warm
As it was yesterday.
But it was not.  And I’m a dolt.
And weather won’t obey! 

May 22b:I usually work out at 3
(A most devoted chap);
Today, instead, I fell in bed
For a two-hour nap. 

And now awake, I’m filled with guilt,
Self-loathing, and remorse.
What can I do to compensate?
Some chocolate, of course! 

May 23:
A sparrow’s busy with a nest
Up in our eaves this week;
And dropping whitewash everywhere—
And nest-stuff from his beak. 

I do not own a shotgun or
A howitzer right now,
And so we simply blocked his way,
That sloppy feathered sow. 

I love the birdies in the sky;
I love them in the tree.
I love them less, I now confess,
When they drop stuff on ME!

May 24:
I love these human bodies--
I love them more and more:
Last night my foot was perfect;
Today it’s somehow sore?! 

What causes alterations
To bodies in the night?
A bedtime face so lovely;
Next morning—such a fright. 

Are teams of little impish folk,
Some tiny cruel creeps,
Observing me, then crying out:
“Let’s change him while he sleeps!” 

They’ve done this since my teenage years
(Those years that gave me fits):
I’d go to sleep with face so clear,
Wake up with fields of zits. 

And as the fog’s dispersed by sun
With solar-sweet finesse,
At dawn I hear the laughter of
The imps just . . . evanesce.

May 25:

We bought a life-size plastic owl
To scare some pests away.
It cost some thirty dollars, peeps—
A lot of bills to pay

For plastic ersatz owlish things
That we thought would be fun
But don’t look any way at all
Remotely avian.

He worked a while—went “Who! Who! Who!”—
And sounded sort of gruff,
But then at once grew silent, as
If he had had enough,

And then he toppled from his perch,
As if no more alive,
And lay in plastic impotence
In pieces on our drive.

And thirty bucks went winging off
To Never-Never Land,
And I stood there on my own drive,
Cracked plastic in my hand.