Thunder by Awphototales

Thunder Comes

One day you’re thinking about ordinary things,
Groceries, taxes, walking the dog, the upcoming weekend,
Problems a friend is having, plans to celebrate a graduation,
Finances, cleaning out the garage,
And all the plans… trips we wanted to take,
Places to finally see, places we put off seeing
Until the kids were launched, happy, safe.

Then we hear thunder over the horizon,
Like the pounding of many hooves,
And the sky darkens, the air grows cold, the sun loses all warmth.
The pounding, the thunder, the messengers’ announcement
Comes up through your feet, sinks into your bones, and you know what it is.
Fear grips your heart, you clutch each other in silent recognition.
Again. Again. Not again.

Plans change in the instant of one phone call,
Plans are such feeble things, rattled so easily
And so effortlessly by the sound of thunder,
Thudding hooves coming this way, and there is no escape.
Let me hold you tight, whisper in your ear the words I dreaded
I’d say again: “I’ve got you. I’m here. We have to saddle up again. The thunder is coming.
The hurricane will be upon us soon. There isn’t much time.”


the ride

Originally posted on anntogether:

it is difficult stepping away from those tracks
against a crystal skyline, pillars of graceful loops and effortless curves
are intriguingly sexual and artistic
we approach without planned caution and when in tactile position
become overwhelmed with complex magnificence
nearly all our senses fire off
excited for limitless possibilities

the engine pulls up with its H.G. Wellsian glow
Dalí inspired cars follow, enticing soft-shapes open up
we board, as sure-footed as the person ahead of us
the ride begins at a drugged snail’s pace
we plummet down, down, down, around, around, sideways, upside over…
we stopped appreciating the beauty ten, wrenching loops ago
our stomachs lurch forward, out hearts race upward, something catches in our throats but damn if we’re letting go
we chose this ride
intoxicating and revolting and thrilling as it goes
we know it can’t last forever

Zoo Balloons Zoo Balloons

didn’t have any art remotely roller coaster-esque…

View original 16 more words

A Resting Place For Innocence


You won’t live remembering starvation and
Fear of the End. Of. Everything.
You won’t know how blood spread across the world.
Twice, and spawned the thought that maybe
Too many of us just didn’t want to live any more;

I fear you may remember other things.

And you won’t remember when the world
Stared for decades into the licking flames of Hell
Transfixed. Seduced. Blinded.
But not humbled, even after all that.

But hoping, know it’s a feeble lie, that
You won’t know that.
You won’t know the unending cruelty
Of one to one, many to many, none to one.
That last when a shell of a human is forsaken, and utterly alone.

No. Thankfully.
Not yet.
Not yet, by God.
But you may know other things that I will never see.
Blood-red morning skies filled with dust,
Diving tours to the old Key West Shoals, safari to deepest, darkest Virginia.
Ride the dunes of the Great Nebraska Desert.

Your newness makes me realize I may be the last to know
What a spring morning in the Alleghenies smelled like this morning,
How daffodil yellow hits the heart, after a long time of snow that actually ended.

Thankfully. At least for now. I want to stop the clock
For you, before you know.
To preserve some tiny spark of this
Divine innocence, this spark of the Divine.
And squeeze it into you, down to your core

So you can carry it with you always.
Until you find it and set it free again,
Always new.

Just like you.

*Whew. Sometimes this stuff just sort of bangs on the door. I’m a stenographer at best at times like that. I dunno. A friend just had a new granddaughter, I read about the Pope getting in trouble for telling the truth to people who don’t want to hear it. Again. And some hidden hatch in my damaged brain opened and combined the two into this. I regurgitate, you decide.
Oh… And a glass of wine.

2660 Miles in Four Minutes

A photographer named Andy Davidhazy hiked the 2,600 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. It was both a physical endeavor and a photographic one: every mile he traveled, Davidhazy stopped and took a single selfie. The video above is the time-lapse that he created after his epic journey.

My feet hurt just looking at this. But what a great record of a huge accomplishment.

Knowing What To Do


This hits a little close to the bone.

“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored. Dying…or busy with other assignments. Because dying, too, is one of our assignments in life. There as well: “To do what needs doing.” Look inward. Don’t let the true nature of anything elude you. Before long, all existing things will be transformed, to rise like smoke (assuming all things become one), or be dispersed in fragments…to move from one unselfish act to another with God in mind. Only there, delight and stillness…when jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep going back to it.”
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

The Curvature Of Dirt


the phrase “sun fed children” caught me, and then I fell in love with the rest of this one. Enjoy.

Originally posted on Elan Mudrow:


The trees are strangers here.

Sun fed children, standing

Revealed. A stumbling dance

We take photos of the young

To remember nameless faces

To recognize familiarity

And apply colors to leaves

Branch, stem, and trunk

Sprayed out, brown and green,

with an occasional blemish, added

As the roots run shallow

Too close to the surface, which

Is our own likeness, re-presented


And the dirt is not real

It hides from us, refusing

To partake in our activities

Of blankets and gardens.

We cover it up in growth

That is in our likeness, and

Name it at birth, as life

Names it as unknown

A song of the buzzing high wires

Crescendos incessantly

Lulls the dirt to sleep


The wilderness is young

Encircled by highways

And wormy blue rivers

Who no longer need the ocean

We sink our fly lines into it

From boats that match the sky


View original 104 more words

Self-Reflection, Cheerleaders and Naughty Baked Goods.

Originally posted on You've Been Hooked!:

As my fingers bounce around the keyboard it is eight am in the morning in Niagara Falls.

It is also Saturday morning and that means the lobby’s voids are quickly filling with travelers. There are families, wannabe jocks in over-sized jerseys, young tramps, cheerleaders, actual jocks, and miscellaneous miscreants of all shapes, sizes and ideologies.

The Hook is home.

So why do I feel totally disconnected from the world?

I worked eleven hours yesterday and I spent every one of them waiting.

Waiting to feel at ease in my uniform, behind my desk, or wheeling my cart around the hotel’s labyrinth of corridors and rooms. I waited to feel at ease being a lovable smart-ass bellman who puts guests in their place while pocketing coins and bits of paper. I waited… to feel.

But I never did.

Never fear, friends, I have no plans to chuck my life for a…

View original 497 more words

Ordinary Things


Ordinary things be time machines,
Containing important futures.
Surprising links to before-times.

A cardboard box that held a cheap microwave,
This morning.
Taking scissors to slice along the seam of the bottom,
Pulling to break the hold the staples had,

Breaking it down…

I was 16 again, back in the storeroom
Of the S&H Green Stamps store in my hometown,
Along Main Street. There were trees along all the streets.
My first real job.
I unloaded semi-loads of stuff, boxes of stuff,
Stuff frugal people would order from catalogues,
Or walk into the store to buy with their
Carefully saved booklets of stamps.

Choosing, pushing the booklets forward like money,
Walking out with a toaster or a toolkit or a set of sheets.

So, I unloaded trucks, unpacked these things and
Put them on warehouse shelves
On the days when the trucks made deliveries
In the alley behind the store. I learned what the backsides of ordinary things looked like.

My boss taught me where things went,
(And you have a dirty mind. It was nothing like that.)
She told me what it meant to work, be there on time,
Tolerated my teenage awkwardness, trained me bit by bit,
Was firm when I failed, gentle when I tried, smiled when I needed encouragement,
Showed me how a business ran.

Talked to me about important things when things were slow,
Let me know that adults had problems, too,
Told me stories about lessons she’d learned, about
Marriage, about living. I still remember one thing,
That helped me later on. I knew it was important then, and
Held onto it somehow.

“No matter who you marry, and how much in love you are,
There will be days when you look at that person and wonder
‘what in the world did I see in them?’
The important thing is what you do next,” she said. And
Chuckled with a hint of sadness.

She did that from time to time, and laughed, at herself, at life.
Shaking her head, and getting back to work.
That’s where I learned life was in the living, moving through it.

In cardboard boxes and shelving and in the company
Of older, kinder, competent people.
I wish I could remember her name.
She was not as old as my mother, with brown hair and kind but shrewd eyes,
She taught me how to do a job, made me better, scoffed at my bullshit,
Was real and practical and beautiful.

So when the trucks came on Wednesdays,
I unloaded them, trucked boxes inside, unpacked and stocked the shelves,
But the last thing on those hard days was to take a knife,
Slice them apart and change them into flat things,
Ready to be removed, their function served.
No longer holding someone’s precious

New microwave, or tool kit or sheets made of Egyptian cotton,
Ordinary again. But so much more.



How cruel these nights, his belly knows,
Through rocky valleys gorged with snows;
His watchful eyes like shards of ice,
The lonely hunter’s hunger grows.

On solitary trails of white,
In empty days and bleakest night,
Ten million nights have come to this,
Death strikes true, or life takes flight.

A feathered hunter watches near
Taunts “Who is that who founders here?
“Who is it damned to roam the rocks,
“While I soar free and without fear?

Red in tooth, sharp in claw,
Ruthless Nature tests us all.
Eat or die, win or lose,
Five billion years, that’s been the law.

 Yet we believe, against mere fact,
Our charms will make the fates retract
What may just be our final act.
What may just be our final act

©Hemmingplay 2015

This was a practice piece, mimicking, again, the meter and patterns of Frost’s “Stopping By a Woods…” 

I Am the Wind. I Bring News


(Revised, in impatience and hope; One year later and we still wait for Spring)

I Am The Wind. I Bring News

T’was always thus:
The sun rises in the sky, the days lengthen, 

Energy stirs the world.

I am born of heat and light and urgency. And once born, I move.
I must move. I just move. 

My siblings and I, spawned from sun-boiled shallow waters and bare slopes,
Sweep through budding branches,
Laughing, whispering high and low through village
And city and farm and thicket,
We stroke and excite power lines ’til they thrum like cello strings,
Or an impatient lover, eager for more attention.  

We pick up debris left behind by melted drifts,
Push dead things against fence rows,
Stir the leftovers of a dead year and move them out of the way;
Sing along the high ridges and chitter through the wide wings of eagles,
Pushing these great one higher, circling into the empty realm
Above the forests, all the while looking through their
Sharp eyes at the vista spread wide beneath,
One of our brethren lifting, bringing them the scent of rabbit.

I swirl in from Cuba, over Key West sampling seafood on open fires,
Bourbon and weed soaking the air near the ground,
Banking west up and low to whip foam from the Gulf waters,
Soak up salt and fish and sadness of too many losses,
Pause over the French Quarter and sniff

The mystique of fresh biegnets, snippets of jazz, the
Quiet sounds of suffering and joy, despair and hope.

For I am Poltergust, mischievous imp of no home,
Slipping with bald boldness under spring dresses, flipping them upward,
Exposing long legs and secrets, hearing the squeals,
Snatching laughter, mussing girls’ hair, speeding away…

Then I run across open water, over Biloxi, picking up speed over Georgia,
Rise high over the haze of Birmingham, Atlanta,
Caress the peaks and blue-tinged sky of the
Great Smokies, stroke the bear stirring from her den;
Weaving and whipping the pine tops, the leafless oak,
Slithering up gullies and stroking
The undulating land, an invisible loving touch waking a lover from a languid sleep, headed north.

I am Poltergust, I bring news.

I tickle the peaks of ancient, worn
Mountains shrouded in trees, feeling the rivers flowing to the sea beneath me,
Plucking their scent as I pass,

Spreading it far and wide. 

“Do you smell that?” I say. “Do you know what this means? Are you ready?”.

I am the wind, and I do not rest,
If I stop, I die. 

I am the Resurrection, the soul of revolution, the hammer of ancient change coming again.
I bring the flavors of shrimp boats anchored in bayous,
The musk and rot of crocodile nests baking in the swamp;
Of azalea blooms, the nectar of a trillion sweet white blossoms,
Of trumpet vines and camellia and strawberries and oranges and pine sap.
I sing the song of rebirth and carry the news far and wide.
I move, or I die, but while I live I rejoice and whisper
Glad tidings of great joy, that the cold deadness is passing..

Roses surrender
Their sweetness and magic to me, and I carry it proud.
I look across broad fields with their
Sprouting wheat and cotton and corn, washed by
Gulf hurricanes and soft night rains;
Of lob lolly pines, of
Winding rivers, flat acres where rice will soon grow,
Looking ahead to the rolling hills of Virginia
And the tight, rugged little valleys of Pennsylvania,
Where the daffodils are beginning to bloom and
Apple trees bud, and white Dogwood dots the bare slopes
And redbud trees extrude blood-red blooms with
The first color in months of grey.

Wiggling along creek beds, teasing the trout, daring them to rise, rippling the lakes,
Telling the fish to feed, to strike, to breed, that food is coming.
Harbinger of the new time, the warming land,

Moonlit tombstones and darkened church steeples
Feel my passing, but I never rest,
I feel my way under stars and sun, flitting this way and that–
Invisible, powerful, insistent, personal: evidence of things unseen,
Pushing flights of geese northward, the robins,
The cycle begins anew.

I am the wind, and I must move.
I sing of life renewed.

Feel me work. I must work. 

©Hemmingplay 2015

The Day You Looked Upon Me As A Stranger


From: The Writer’s Almanac

by Jeffrey Harrison
I had left you at the gate to buy a newspaper,
and on my way back stopped at a bank of monitors
to check the status of our flight to London.

That was when you noticed a middle-aged man
in a brown jacket and the green short-brimmed cap
I’d bought for the trip. It wasn’t until I turned

and walked toward you that you saw him as me.
What a nice-looking man, you told me you’d thought-
maybe European, with that unusual cap …

somebody, you said, you might want to meet.
We both laughed. And it aroused my vanity
that you had been attracted to me afresh,

with no baggage. A kind of affirmation.
But doubt seeped into that crevice of time
when you had looked upon me as a stranger,

and I wondered if you’d pictured him
as someone more intriguing than I could be
after decades of marriage, all my foibles known.

Did you have one of those under-the-radar daydreams
of meeting him, hitting it off, and getting
on a plane together? In those few moments,

did you imagine a whole life with him?
And were you disappointed, or glad, to find
it was only the life you already had?

“The Day You Looked Upon Me As A Stranger” by Jeffrey Harrison from Into Daylight. © Tupelo Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)



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Full schedule coming soon.



Working hands-1509What can you tell from a person’s hands?

He’s been gone for 32 years, but some of the earliest memories I have of my father were of his hands.

Easily able to engulf my little paw in his, my outstretched fingers couldn’t span much more than his palm.

He had a doctorate., and an office job during the week, but when he got home to the little farm he and my mother bought just before I was born, he reverted to his true self.

The white shirt and suit, the thin dark ties, the polished dress shoes all went into the closet, hung and ready, and he’d put on work boots, leather gloves, khaki pants and a shredded work shirt. He’d head out to the garden, or the barn, or to fix a stretch of fencing, or to tend to the sheep. He was at heart a son of the soil, and needed to keep his hands in it to feel alive, connected. It fed him and let him touch real things after days of politics, effort spent massaging egos, and playing with words. It reminded him who he came from, and where he was going to end up.


In truth, everyone I grew up around had hands like these, battered and worn, but full of self-respect and strength. When they shook your hand, you felt the horny calluses, and the grip was like iron, and the eyes looked into yours to see who you really were.

 It’s a legacy I do not apologize for. People who grew up in cities and suburbs may not understand, or much respect those whose hands wore the marks of heavy use, when if you wanted something, you had to build it, or fix it, or wrestle it into submission, or do without. He tried to show me the honor of hard work, and I confess I did not learn the lesson while he was alive. It must have disappointed him. I avoided work, and missed out on time I could have spent with him. My loss.

I learned later, though. I tried to show my sons the same lessons, and they treated me the way I had treated him. It made me smile a little.

What can you tell from the hands?


The Land, The Land… Always The Land

A place to learn how to be lost, and how to be found.

A place to learn how to be lost, and how to be found.

I remember the summers of tall corn, and Princess,
Running, face slapped and cut by green leaves while she
Dashed in and out of the alien-looking bases of the stalks
laughing, daring me to follow.

I remember feeling the darkness close in, alone in the tall corn, stalks closing over me, afraid.
Closing out the sun, closing off a sense of direction,

By a laughing dog who found me, asked-why-I-was-standing-still…
Running away, free among the stalks
Until I followed, redeemed, pulled into the unknown, laughing, too.
Summer days among the tall corn, lost, found, redeemed,
Long rows curving into mystery, terror, fear and salvation,

A friend who never left me, always came back, refused to let me shrink from the unknown,
A dog who kept me anchored in the now, in experience, in friendship.

A dog and a boy. A dog is a savior for a young boy, too frightened to know where to turn.
The land, the island wilderness, the endless rows of corn eight feet tall,
Twisting, curving, full of weedy vines, rocks and in a burst of fur and dust,
a laughing dog who
Never let me lose myself, always called me back, mocked my adolescent timidity,
Made me follow, explore and, eventually, to laugh with her.

The land, the land…. way more than just a summer’s day
In the tall corn with Princess. My puny fears, yes, but my foundation.
A link to a thousand ancestors. In my insignificance, still stronger by connections.
The land…. a family memory, stretching into antiquity,
The land… a sense of place, of time, of belonging, of self.
The land.. passed along now, my connection cut, but not quite.
The land… a sense of place ended, but not quite.
The land… a place to put my face into, my fingers digging deep, holding onto… but not any more.
The land…. a place that birthed me, shaped me with a laughing dog, long ago,
The land… a place that infused me, called to me, supported me, made me, set me free.

The land, the land… always the Land.

Toward That Far Shore


The past month has been one shaky step after another across a river full of undertow and old, unhealed wounds. But each step has led me away from the comfortable, known, safe, stupid and dull, toward the unknown, risky and exciting; toward the resurrection of a sense of mystery, of the smell of a new place at dawn, of winds out of the north with hints of Spring or Canada, and the distant call of wild things hunting in the night.

I know that doesn’t tell you the facts. Not the external ones, anyway. But, it’s all I’ll say for now. I suspect, though, that these are the most important things.

But every moment means taking a step into growth, or a step back into safety. I’m learning that all over again. And you know what? It feels good. Scary good.



When last we saw the sun’s demise,
Beyond the world’s red rim,
We huddled high above the night,
Held up by faith’s thin thread.

All through the night’s tear-stained goodbyes,
As light and hope grew dim,
Still grew within an inner sight,
A peace we thought was dead.

As morning’s face reveals the skies,
In life’s most hopeful hymn,
In us new wisdom, burning bright,
Knows now what’s best unsaid.

©Hemmingplay 2015

The Wind That Shakes the Flowers


Ill winds slide in from the dark,
Rising out of the earth
To rake hidden talons
Through unsuspecting

The light changes on a word,
A bloody shade drops across a sun
Turned sombre, colder,
ugly, distant, alien.
A chill grips the heart, and our primal nature
Like the wolf, teeth bared, its hackles rising,
Turns to the unseen, but familiar, threat hiding in the dark,
Its putrid scent fouling the night,
A cowardly foe that only strikes by stealth
Takes by inches.

All we can do is bare our fangs,
Hold one another and wait together.

Countdown to The ‘Mud-Luscious’ Season

For my friends in California—or other mythical lands to the far west and South where the winter climate can’t actually kill you— this is to remind you why you live in California—or other mythical lands to the far west and South. I wish I were there, too. But it’s much worse north and east of us. (I haven’t forgotten you, Canada and Boston! Bet you were worried…. Stay tuned for stories of massive flooding in a couple of weeks.)

The mountains I’m looking at about a mile away are freighted with white still, as they have been since before Christmas. It was 0-degree F. this morning. We have learned that 29F isn’t really so bad after a month of gawdawful below zero overnight temperatures, too. Everything’s relative. But the dreariness will pass away soon.

The countdown begins.

ee cummings

ee cummings

In Just-

in Just-

spring          when the world is mud-

luscious the little

lame balloonman
whistles          far          and wee
and eddieandbill come

running from marbles and

piracies and it’s


when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer

old balloonman whistles

far          and             wee

and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and







balloonMan          whistles





"Vikings" is back, on the History Channel

“Vikings” is back, on the History Channel

Yay! The boys (and girls) are back. 

This from the first episode, one of the best definitions of power I’ve ever heard. And on a cable TV series, no less.:

“Power is always dangerous. It attracts the worst. And corrupts the best. I never asked for power. Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.“

Ragnar Lothbrok, Viking King talking with his son on the eve of invading England. “Vikings” on History Channel

Satisfied With Mystery


“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”

Albert Einstein (signature)

La Lune, La Lune

anigif_enhanced-9757-1420559103-7 Above the night she sails austere,
Chill face hides peaks forlorn;
Alone she rises from the edge,
Alone she lights the sky.

Beneath her rolls a world asleep,
Or lonely loves’ distress;
Or skein of geese, for Southland bound,
Wing blackly ‘cross her track.

Three hundred million years from now,
When you and I have gone,
And insects rule what once was ours,
Will they remember us?

Will they build moonships to La Lune,
And scramble ‘cross her skin?
Will they find bootprints we left there,
And wonder how we fell?

©Hemmingplay 2015


Pungent Valentine


I hope the author won’t mind me sharing this here, especially since I do it because she’s come up with an unexpected and fresh image or two, and that’s a hard thing to do. That last line is a surprise that hides some troubled days in the past, I suspect. There will be plenty of cloying and sweet sentiments flying about, and Hallmark will make a killing, in any case. (I put the link where you can buy her book. There’s that, too. :-) )

by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

“Valentine” by Carol Ann Duffy, from Mean Time. © Anvil Press, 2004.  (buy now)

We’ve Done What Was Asked



Prow’s on the horizon, wake’s a long bubbling flow,
Storms uncounted I weathered, bleak terrors I know.
My passage, it seems, leaves no mark at all.
I glance back in sadness, then say: “let it go.”

The ship presses onward, destination unknown,
Taut cables around me mutter, sing, snap and moan,
The mast tip groans forward as new gusts arrive,
Her sleekness leaps gladly, the sea’s deep her own.

Through the darkness she takes me, my eyes cursed and blind,
Brine coats me, it seems, for three times out of mind.
I pray for the sight of rare stars cloaked in mist,
And dream, wistfully, of old friends left behind.

Each dawn brings the thought, despite what is past,
That this day will bless me with shore at long last.
Still, my body is one with the ship ‘neath my hand,
Both battered and worn, we’ve done what was asked.

©Hemmingplay 2015


*Inspired by the rhyming pattern of Robert Frost’s “Stopping By A Woods On A Snowy Evening,” although a pale imitation of that.


Old Roses

This is terrific. A small image that opens a door onto something big.

Life, no matter how sweet, is still  temporary

Life, no matter how sweet, is still temporary

by Donald Hall

White roses, tiny and old, flare among thorns
by the barn door.

For a hundred years
under the June elm, under the gaze
of seven generations,
they lived briefly
like this, in the month of roses,
by the fields
stout with corn, or with clover and timothy
making thick hay,
grown over, now,
with milkweed, sumac, paintbrush.
roses survive
winter drifts, the melt in April, August
and men and women
who sniffed roses in spring and called them pretty
as we call them now,
walking beside the barn
on a day that perishes.

“Old Roses” by Donald Hall, from White Apples and the Taste of Stone. © Houghton Mifflin, 2006. (buy now)


The Third Twenty Years

Courtesy Deviant Art

Pablo Casals, Courtesy Deviant Art

Pablo Casals had this to say about age and excellence: “The first twenty years you learn. The second twenty years you practice. The third twenty years you perform. And the fourth twenty years you play.”

I’m realizing I have a few more performances to go yet, and am looking forward to the play time. Every day starts with the thought “time to quit screwing around.”

That Sickening Feeling

water drop in water

You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.


Death of the King of Terrors

It is sometimes strange how something comes to us only when we can hear it. The dark wings are whispering closer to people I know and love, and it’s time.

“Death is nothing at all.

It does not count.

I have only slipped away into the next room.

Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be the household word that it always was. Let my name be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolutely unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well. Nothing is past, nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before, only better; infinitely happier and forever.”



Henry Scott Holland (27 January 1847 – 17 March 1918) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. He was also a canon of Christ Church, Oxford.

While at St Paul’s Cathedral Holland delivered a sermon in May 1910 following the death of King Edward VII, titled “Death the King of Terrors”, in which he explores the natural but seemingly contradictory responses to death: the fear of the unexplained and the belief in continuity. It is from his discussion of the latter that perhaps his best-known writing,  

We Have Been Here Before

Twitter sent this to me this morning, and it struck me that the same could be said of life in 2015. We are not getting better at this task of being fully human, are we?


We had fed the heart on fantasies,

The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;

More substance in our enmities

Than in our love;

William Butler Yeats (/ˈjts/; 13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923. 

Big I’s


I’m pleased to share this recent post from a friend. She’s a talented artist and writer, and I owe her big time ’cause she voluntarily did necessary surgery on “Running Girl.” Thanks, AM. Please check out her site sometime.

Originally posted on anntogether:

My Friends,

Big I’s
I wish I had miles of long hair to toss out a tower window.
I wish I knew my children when I was a kid.
I wish I kept the little black motorcycle I never stayed upright on.
I wish I had a spotted cow in my backyard.
I wish I could wear a silver ball gown and waltz.
I wish stars were close enough to taste.
I wish I felt this young when I was.
I wish beds were made of clouds.
I wish I could share all my thoughts.
I wish I could wear night as a pair of mismatched socks.
I wish the sun set on my shoulder.
I wish words were made of water.
I wish dreams fit inside my secret decoder ring.
I wish I had a secret decoder ring.

Big Eyes And yes, my post title was inspired by the movie, Big Eyes which sadly I haven’t ‘scene’ yet…

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Dance The Dawn

Art of War by Akira Enzeru


Awake ye fertile spirit: Rise!

Dance us the dawn, ignite fire with your eyes.

Conjure the face of the sleeping sun,

Dance away Darkness; expose all her lies.

©Hemmingplay 2014*

*This is written in the Persian Rubyi’a form, which is one stanza of four lines and the  last words rhyme in the AABA pattern. This particular poem started with the picture I found somewhere. If I were to add more stanzas, it would be called a Rubyi’at. 

Take the Shot


You few, you happy few who spent time in the purgatory of a newspaper news desk writing headlines on deadline will see this and feel a pang of joy and jealousy. “Lucky bastard,” you may mutter.

For a desk editor, this is the equivalent of the hanging fastball over the middle of the plate. This is better than Babe Ruth pointing to the center field wall with his bat, challenging the pitcher to bring the heat.  This is better than Yukon Pete hitting a gold nugget the size of a Volkswagon Beetle with his pick.

One of these can make your month—or more. And your colleagues will clip it out and put it up on the office bulletin board and you can bask in the acclaim for a while—almost long enough to make up for the lousy hours, illiterate junior flip reporters, starvation wages and insane managing editors.

But while it lasts….. ahhhhh…

Gearing Up… Again… It’s Always About That

Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer

The work must be done. It must be done and all the tricks to avoid starting eventually have to be unmasked and ignored.

The beginning of the new year is as good a time as any to make promises to myself. Most of my promises are bullshit, and I know that about me. But I can’t let my self-deceptions keep me immobilized. So, the work must be done.

The feeling I have brings up an image of a cat, muscles twitching and bunching, feet feeling for purchase, something to push off of. You know the look of coiling springs when a cat is about to launch itself at something? That’s how this feels. We all have our own rituals. One of mine is to read good writing, sometimes for days, and letting the ideas and the words wrap themselves around something inside and get it excited.

So it is when the work must be done. I find words like these and use them to pull me back to the chair, fight the resistance with action, ignore my own whining, and pounce.

Hello again, “Running Girl”. Let’s go do interesting things to each other, shall we?

Over the years, I’ve found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.


Be Careful What You Wish For


I posted this in June, during recovery. I apologize for the repeat, but this is one of two things I’m adding today in honor of the New Year. I don’t usually wish a Happy New Year, since nothing really is predictable. But I do hope that we all get some wishes answered, and pray you all wish well.

When I was younger, I desperately wanted to see my future, to know what was to be. In my arrogance, I thought I knew everything, and as it turns out, I know next to nothing.  Less than nothing sometimes. My ignorance grows with age.

Now, looking back at what things litter the path of my personal journey, the triumphs and the broken bodies, I’m thankful that I didn’t know what was to come. Even the good things, but most certainly the bad. It would have been too much. It would have destroyed me, and, I suspect, it would destroy most of us.

I don’t know much, but think this much is true. We’re here to get through it somehow, and to learn what we can, but only one day at a time. Or, sometimes, just one hour at a time. That, and it’s important to learn how to be kind.

More knowing would fill us with grief and fear and tear us apart. We just aren’t strong enough to handle it.

Let the young believe that they know everything, though. We need their optimism and energy. Life will teach them too. It always does. But we should not wish to see the future. We should wish to live each day to the hilt, we should hope we have the courage to face what comes, and the future will take care of itself.

From a scene in “The Passenger”, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and starring Jack Nicholson as reporter named Locke:

Locke repeatedly asks the girl, as she looks out the window, “what can you see? what can you see now?”
And he tells her this story:
“I knew a man who was blind. When he was nearly 40 years old he had an operation and regained his sight….At first he was elated, really high—faces, colors, landscapes. But then everything began to change. The world was much poorer than he had imagined. No one had ever told him how much dirt there was, how much ugliness. He noticed ugliness everywhere. When he was blind, he used to cross the street alone with a stick. After he regained his sight, he became afraid, he began to live in darkness, he never left his room.
After three years he killed himself.”

Eight Months

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” 
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

It just occurred to me that it’s been eight months and three days since the stroke. What a strange eight months and three days it has been.

The flurry of Christmas stuff made me forget the anniversary… plus, I don’t really want to dwell on it in a sentimental way. But I wanted to mark the date with a ‘thank you’ to everyone here, and those in my immediate life of flesh and corn flakes and gas bills. You all have meant a lot over the months, especially in the first 3-4 when I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to write again.

I was lucky, though. Despite some lingering numbness here and there, I never had the kind of paralysis that kept me from using my right hand after the first week, and I never had the kind of damage that causes aphasia. I could still think of words and I could still type.

The latter wasn’t guaranteed, as my right side, including my arm and hand, were affected. I asked my wife to bring my laptop to the ICU the first night. I spent every second when the nurses left me alone typing, typing, typing. The idea of losing that ability was frightening. But despite some clumsiness and slowness at first, it went away fairly soon. I got tired easily, and sitting at a desk was a strain after 30 minutes. I still have reminders when I try to reach for something and I feel a catch in my back, but the new year will see a rowing machine put to good use, and it’s time to make some other changes.

But the blog kept me going, coming back, and for that I have you to thank. I’ve been able to tap into a part of me that I had thought long dead.

Now I just wish, along with Roger McGough, to ‘die a young man’s death’, where my mistress dispatches me when she finds me in bed with her daughter. :-)

Now all I have to do is finish that goddamned novel.


A Civilization Has the Morals It Can Afford: Static Rules and Social Shifts



Originally posted on Being Southern Somewhere Else:


The holidays are such a special time.  As usual, it offered me the opportunity to enhance my understanding of the blatant lack of understanding held by those closest to me, genetically speaking.  This isn’t a comfortable segment for me to write, but it’s something I feel I need to address, especially given the increasing evidence that I am witnessing a broken culture pretending it isn’t broken.  Perhaps a bit of a disclaimer is in order, so that we don’t get off on completely the wrong foot here.

I’m not suggesting that all the needs of life be offered free of charge.  Everything costs something–whether we count the cost in currency or in productivity.  What I am suggesting is a bit of closer scrutiny for the “way things are.”  Because the way they are is fucked up, not just for me, nor even for a small percentage of the population.  An…

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