Sunday, October 08, 2017

Gun ownership

I have been thinking about this for some time and feel that I have come to some conclusions I would like to share with you about gun control.

First, I must tell you some personal information that I usually am loath to detail because of the negative use that personal information gets subjected to on the internet. I am among the percentage Americans that own many guns. Like many American gun owners, I am a Veteran and a (former) hunter. I used to belong to the NRA back in the day that I also had a membership at a gun range where I practiced marksmanship and enjoyed shooting trap. In those times the NRA was all about gun safety and responsibility which are sentiments I still hold. I lapsed my membership when they became what appeared to me to be an active arm of the gun manufacturing lobby and abandoned, for all intents and purposes, to support the all important issues of gun safety and responsibility.

I own an assault rifle which I bought (although in the semi-automatic form) because I liked the way that gun was able to fire.  I have also shot and enjoyed fully automatic weapons although I have never owned one.  While I was in the Navy I never fired a gun that I remember.  This is in spite of the fact that, although I served during the Viet Nam era I was never stationed in that country.  I still enjoy the now very occasional use of that and many of the other guns I own.  In recent years I have confined my shooting to mainly pistols at a local range.  As of 2017 I will turn 73 in a couple of months and I suffer from a back injury that now prevents me from working as either a chef or an English and Film Studies teacher as I much enjoyed doing while I was in my 40's, 50's and 60's.

I have been thinking of the Swiss model for gun safety and, if you are curious about things like this, I encourage you to study that for yourself.  The result of their form of gun ownership is very interestingly close to the ideals stated in the Second Amendment.  The comparison of size between the USA and Switzerland is something that seems to me to impede the usefulness of trying to adapt ourselves to such a model.  The emphasis of their system seems to be on safety and responsibility, of which I am much in favor.  What I most like about this system is that local citizens would be very unlikely, both culturally and in terms of physical facts, for the possibility of engaging in mass shootings.  In light of the epidemic of these horrible events in modern America, changes that would staunch that modern wound and all that hurt it causes would be most welcome.

What has occurred to me in light of our dilemma is that we should look to those twenty seven words in the Second Amendment and see if our actual Constitution provides us with the kind of solution we need.  I think the first four words may, in fact, hold the key.  It states that "A well regulated Militia" is what should be maintained  by citizens in order to maintain "the security of a free State;" that was because the writers of it had just been through a painful and bloody revolutionary war and most certainly did not want such a thing to have to happen again.   We now recognize that this responsibility falls to the armed services and the need for an armed militia has been well supplanted by them.  So it occurred to me that, following the idea of the founding fathers, what we need is to perhaps band gun owners into some kind of a "well regulated Militia" that (although really redundant) could be the less amorphous group that could receive instruction, recognition and regulation from our government.

I have no illusion that I could fight in a war or even march in a parade but I do believe such an organization would be something in which I would be willing to be a member.  My guns are all legal and registered (mostly for hunting and hobby, with a few military style arms) and I am confident that they would be acceptable to most reasonable gun oriented types.  What would end up being scrutinized would be gun collections (and explosives) that seem out of the ordinary for one reason or another.  More importantly, having more contact between the government and this proposed militia would promote a better sense of citizenship, re-emphasize gun safety and responsibility, as well as giving the government an active overview of the gun owners today.

I believe that we are turning our gun owners loose, the responsible and the dangerous ones alike, and that they could feel more like good and respectable citizens would be a great benefit to the country for generations to come.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Too many recent deaths

Too many death have happened too soon. In the last week we lost Derick Walcott and, just the other day, Chuck Berry. It leaves me feeling just barren. Here is a poem I've written to help me cope with this feeling. If you are feeling somewhat empty from all this too, i hope it will help you also.


too much silence sits waiting
doors close and open
with the absence of knowing
surf thunders but
the poet of that life
sends manuscripts to
a press clanking and
growling in a country
i may never see
his words
the best yet
remain secret to me

so is there a life
sound has where
suddenly i stop singing
where sounds once so
familiar become
impossible to hear
my ears ache with longing
as empty silence
showers the howling quiet
sands of the once great
kingdom of ozymandias

Thursday, October 27, 2016


if you vote you say you count
if you dont you say you wont
aint nobodys business but your own

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Concerning politics

This is not, nor was it ever intended to be, a blog about political issues. The main focus here will always generally remain art (more specifically, poetry) but I have another thing to add to my last post. If my television is on and anything relating to Donald Trump comes on, I immediately change the channel. When you think about it, the people who run these stations are concerned with ratings. If Mr. Trump makes them go up, then they will play more of him. Therefore I suggest you do as I do and do not make it good business for them to give him so much air time. I already know what I will do in the coming elections and nothing he will say will change that, so there is no further need for me to listen to him. Join the Boycott!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A thought on politics

Honestly, I don't care what either the Kardashians or Donald Trump have to say. I didn't care in the past and there is nothing inherent in them that could make me care in the future. When the next opportunity to vote comes I'm going to vote democratic if I have to vote for the donkey. The mindless machinations of the Republican Party are too manipulative and seemingly nefarious to interest me any further. If I have, by personally so doing, taken the air out from under Mr. T then he may float back to the earth like the sordid and empty piece of paper he is.

Friday, January 15, 2016


every year misplaces dreams
sand that shifts
in the tireless wind of time

but it is the province
of winter mornings
to smell fresh

spring seems to answer
anticipation that crawled
out of a warm winter bed

still if infinite variety stales
so do rumpled summer days
in their comfortable litany

then it changes
on that first crisp
autumn morning

pages on the calendar
coming to an end
whisper regrets

soon the year is empty
an abandoned cave
cold empty fire pits

then we look back
and see
what might have been

thus bleak winter mornings
awaken from
troubled sleep

and call to us
in their crisp promise
to do better

Monday, March 02, 2015


I am starting a challenge because I have something I want very much. I am going to give myself exactly a year to get an apartment in Paris, France. I want to be able to live there part of every year for the rest of my life. So by April 1st of 2016 I will purchase an apartment in Montmartre (the 18eme arrondissement) of Paris, France. I will start a new blog to track the progress and you may keep track of how I’m doing on this challenge by checking what I post there. Wish me Luck and on with the CHALLENGE!

I’m not exactly sure how this is all going to work but I am planning to open several new blogs about things I am absolutely passionate about. So, in addition to the blog where I report the progress on the challenge, I will start blogs about the following topics: outdoor lifestyle, getting and keeping knives sharp, meditation and self-help resources that I use, solar energy, and winning the lottery/becoming financially abundant.

If you find you share an interest in any of these topics too, I invite you to follow any or all of these topics as I blog about them and I encourage you to post comments that reflect what you are thinking about these issues. I will be sharing my feelings there and interacting with those of you who are interested in the same things as I am. Watch this page for links to the new blogs!

Sunday, November 16, 2014


I am intensely introverted, which is very functional when it comes to doing my writing but if there is ever going to be any reason for me to write that goes in the direction of the social, I must consider social interaction as a potential necessity. I run the danger of being a rather conflicted person because I both love and am troubled by my isolation. This, however, no longer bothers me too much as I have come to realize just how fragmentary I am as a person. It is the reason I wrote Book of Aliases in order to celebrate the idea that our fragmentary and often contradictory selves do not need fixing – in fact they are normal. Since we only express one trait at a time and there is no real need to make a congruent argument out of our lives I take comfort in a rather Whitmanian notion that can be expressed as: ‘do I contradict myself? Good then I contradict myself.’

I love books! With them I can be in my isolation and still also spend quality time with people I have come to love. I am, of course referring to literary characters such as Tom Sawyer, the adolescent Stephen Dedalus, and a rogue’s gallery of others. Similarly, through the thin veil of the internet I am able to indulge my isolation while staying in contact with writers, poets and friends who live all over the world, as well as a growing but, as yet still manageable, cadre of people who enjoy my poetry. I am married and have children and grandchildren whom I love and try to always find time for but it is always at odds with this need I have for privacy and my solitary pursuits of writing and study. Yes I am an odd bird!

With my introversion I really value being alone. I have a very busy and noisy world going on inside me most of the time and find myself “beating the retreat” when faced with some kinds of external cacophony. I do love writing though, which puts me at odds with the privacy that activity requires, unless I would be satisfied only with making notes to myself. I honestly don’t know where this love of writing has come from but I realize that if I don’t write, I have committed some odd form of suicide. Realizing that I must write for the benefit of others forces me to leave my solitary towers and go out into the noisy streets where potential readers can be found. If you are one of my fans (whom I admire and love most ardently) please do not be offended when I toss you in, as I have so callously done in the sentence above, with the rabble and the congested, noisy world of the allegorical street I just talked about. Always know I consider you most special among the otherwise busy, chaotic nature of the world from which I most generally try to retreat.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Is it better not to think about it?

Here is a moderately close reading of a poem by Emily Dickenson for you to enjoy. I love the subject of transformations and this is a poem that deals with that subject.

MY cocoon tightens, colors tease,
I ’m feeling for the air;
A dim capacity for wings
Degrades the dress I wear.

A power of butterfly must be
The aptitude to fly,
Meadows of majesty concedes
And easy sweeps of sky.

So I must baffle at the hint
And cipher at the sign,
And make much blunder, if at last
I take the clew divine.

Is it better not to think about it?

The whole poem is practically over in the first line. Ms compact has had all her laundry out on the line right out of the starting gate. The stifling dress, the “easy sweeps of sky” are all elaborations on what has already happened within the first 5 words. This is why I love Emily.
Eyes are something the butterfly she alludes to grows while it is transforming in the cocoon. The cocoon is a comfort and a protection for the insect during the extremely vulnerable part of its transformation. One would not expect to feel the tightening of the environment until one begins to near the end of the process. There is a ready to be born sense in those first three words. But it isn’t over yet. The “dim capacity for wings” makes it clear that newborns have challenges after they are born. She must “baffle at the hint” and more directly about poetry “cipher at the sign” as she fumbles her way to that old mythological reference about the clew. This old word refers to the ball of thread Theseus used to get out of the labyrinth (you find it also in the first section of my poem Journey) and now the tightness of the cocoon has become the frightening claustrophobia of the maze. She’s jumping around a bit with her allusion to transformation and now we find that we are lost instead.
This is because the cocoon is the human condition perhaps and many people live their lives within the safe comfort found there. Not our poetess. She has gotten past the cocoon of her life by poetry even though it seemed to the world that she lived in a cocoon-like isolation in her home. Her poetry is the thread that she can use to escape the labyrinth that she saw so many people so utterly lost in.
One more issue presses me. If she, whom the world seemed to regard as isolated, was actually finding her way through life’s labyrinth, what about the people who she met who felt they were out in the world she seemed to be avoiding. Perhaps this poem is asking if one is really aware of the shackles with which one is bound? That penetrating higher consciousness of hers seems to be saying that others often think it is better not to think about such things but, of course, they are wrong.

Friday, September 12, 2014


i hear the sax
coming up the
ladder from hell
i hear the sax
swerve and
stretch the scale

i hear the kid
awake and crying

all the kids
with sewn up lips
becoming what

i hear the sirens
cop cars on the move

i hear the
calliope of games
kids play
to forget
to get anger out
to be alone
with others

i see the
sad eyes
and the
lonely sax

i feel the guilt
that wants
to be punished
and courage
to face
bitter truth

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The American Child

The American child has never been able to be more powerful. Why are they struggling so? Why is this puzzle unable to come together and assume the birthright for which it was born? Who is to blame?
When we look for blame we are further fragmenting and thus becoming weaker. The answer is that we must accept our differences. There is no need to integrate all these disparate parts; just we must not continue to try to carve ourselves into the pieces that are only part of who we are!
In the spirit of poetry on the eve of the advent of Modern & Contemporary American Poetry 2014, I will be Whitman and Emily Dickens for a moment. We are many like the leaves of grass and we are fiercely individual in our aloneness. There is great power in this!
What we must do is to be accepting of our differences and not say I am this or I am that. Truly we are fragmented beings in a fragmentary world. The only path back to our own natural power is to accept our own incompatibilities as normal and, in turn, find the ability to accept others who are just as different to us as we are to ourselves.
The old “divide and conquer” has got us in its gnarled grip. The American Child has got to accept its many variations and find its true power. It is the power of poetry. It is the power of acceptance.

Russell H. Ragsdale,
Author of Book of Aliases, Dragon Scales and Fireflies,
Almaty,Kazakhstan/Paris, France/Tucson, Arizona
September 5, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Five Days of Gratitude – Day Five

Fifth day of gratitude:

1. I am grateful for music. I grew up singing. Yes I studied the piano for a while and after that I took up the cello but, all through this time and long after when all my instruments were gathering dust, I was singing. I sang in the choir at church and when I started high school I was able to go to classes in the school choir as well. It was the school choir that gave me an introduction to musicals. My voice has great volume when I want it to and I suspect even when I didn’t want. I sang baritone and, because my voice had a lot of force, I was always getting cast in the stage productions at school when we would put on musical theater pieces. Most of the really good parts were often given to tenors but just being in the cast was always lots of fun. I never really thought of myself as a leading role however until I got invited to audition for the Los Angeles City Choir. Whereas the high school choir might have 60-80 kids in it, the L. A. City Choir was to have 400 of us. They just assembled that group for a single performance and I was excited to be part of it. I still didn’t have any inkling of what that could mean to me but it was a lot of fun getting together to sing in this huge group of kids. We rehearsed a lot of pieces of music but all by the same composer and it still hadn’t dawned on me yet what the program was to be. After a few rehearsals in really big music rooms they cut the group down to the last 400 of us and we were told we would perform in the Hollywood Bowl. It was going to be Family Night and Meredith and Rini Wilson were to be featured along with some big name famous singers. As we got closer to the performance time I was selected to be part of the group that would sing the opening from the California Story. Then they told me that I had been selected to sing the opening solo. Wow! An audience of 25,000 people sat staring at me as the lights came up on opening night. It took me about four gulps but I finally got the first note of the program out. It was a fabulous experience!
2. I am grateful for Skype because it lets me connect with people I care about even though I can’t be with them at times when I travel. When somebody is missing you and just wants to say hello just the sound of a voice can be so comforting. It is a fact of my lifestyle that people I have come to know and care about are scattered all over the globe. You can’t replace a dear friend, you can’t always even be where they are, especially if you are far away somewhere and feeling lonely as writes almost always must. I have a friend in Birmingham who I have known for 20 years but I can’t reach him lately for some reason. I know he travels too because he has told me about his sister in Spain and a brother with a pub in Ireland so I guess he is just like I sometimes am and that is something I above all people should expect to experience. He is a little younger than I am but still that doesn’t make him a spring chicken either and I confess I worry a little because we are so far away from each other. I will be very glad when I turn on my skype next time and see his smiling face among the available contacts.
3. I am grateful for television not because I like to watch it because there is little I would like to do less than watch the news. My apology to any broadcaster who is reading this but I am just too sensitive for such a concentrated diet of unhappy information. I do understand that they have to serve the public and that, as far as they can tell, is the thing that most interests most people. I however am grateful to TV because I got to be on it. I was part of a weekly cooking show here is Kazakhstan for seven years and have met a lot of very interesting people, some of which are friends of mine to this day. It took me from daily life and gave me the opportunity to speculate on illusion from an interesting perspective. I have long speculated on the illusory nature of dinning because I was in the restaurant business, as many of you know, for about 20 years. Doing this show I was able to ask myself about the illusions people have about food preparation. Audiences watched the show I was on because celebrities were making the food and that poses an interesting question. People tend to regard celebrities as different from ordinary folk and thus they reason that they may be better than most at everything. How far does talent extend and moreover, how can one convince the viewer that, even if these people don’t necessarily possess special skill in the kitchen, they can still be considered special and maintain that star status? A lot of showmanship goes into that because often times that is the only distinguishing quality they have in the kitchen. These people were talented and attractive and a lot of times that was more interesting to the camera than the food they made. Also food can be visually attractive but not tasty. Ah illusion, we gobble you up as if you were tasty.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five Days of Gratefulness – Fourth Day

Day Four

1. I am grateful for my chemistry teacher who was wise enough to let me utilize physics in my experiments. I wish I could remember his name but I can still clearly see his intense, happy and energetic face as I look backward into the blurry mists of my long ago days in high school. In my mind I was combining those two disciplines already and he was able to let me design my own experiments so that I could pursue the way those two work together to make the world all around us. Sometimes minds just need to be let to be curious and adventurous and the high mark he gave me has stuck with me all of my life. I was a bit out of the box for a basic chemistry class but that didn’t seem to bother him any and it was so interesting and fun when he would come over to see what I was working on and offer suggestions from his superior store of the knowledge of chemistry. It left me with a great good feeling about the physical sciences.
2. I am grateful for my high school literature teacher whose name I still well remember. Robert Newton had a great passion for reading and literature and was also wise enough to recognize that I was an unusual student. He did a number of things that were not strictly allowed because he recognized that I loved to write. While other students were laboring away at essays (which I also love) he would let me turn in short stories if they matched with the assignment in some way. He had animated discussions in his class and my interest in literature was starting to take a philosophical turn at that time. I would want to discuss very modern stuff such as Tennessee Williams’ plays while the rest of the class was working on Melville’s Moby Dick. I always tried to keep with the theme but already my vocabulary was far ahead of most of my classmates and that, plus my bringing up material that the rest of the class had only possibly heard of, put me in a position of some considerable suspicion with my peers. He was kind enough to treat me as if all this was perfectly normal and not to make such a big deal of it that the other kids would get jealous or treat me as some kind of weirdo. He great sense of humor kind of wrapped us all in a blanket of happy tolerance. It was the first time I had ever had the courage to be publicly the person that I was in private. I am deeply indebted to him for this.
3. I am grateful for my university literature professor. I first met Christopher Carrol when I was taking one of those survey of world literature courses. It is one of those courses most professors dread because it is a kind of forced march through bits and fragments of things that would make wonderful reading, in entirety, under some other circumstance. Trying to piece all that stuff together kind of makes it almost a history course rather than literature. It is the kind of course that often inspires appalling apathy. Chris, as I came to know him, however filled the classroom with such energy and love for each piece that you would think it was his favorite thing to teach. You couldn’t help but get swept up in the enthusiasm he brought to everything we read. By the end of that class he had helped me get such an enthusiasm for Chaucer that I would eventually take that as the period I would immerse myself in for the rest of my time at the university. He became my friend and stayed so until he died last year. I can’t think of a university professor that has had more impact on my life than Chris Carrol and I will always be grateful to him for the many things I learned because of his influence and the example he lived in every moment of his long and happy life.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Five Days of Gratefulness – Day Three

Third day of gratitude:

1. I am grateful for Sherlock Holmes. That may seem a bit strange to you but if A. Conan Doyle hadn’t created this character I would have had to find some other reason to obsess about that old consciousness question: what is going on around us? In the stories about Holmes we learn that nobody really knows what has happened when something a bit mysterious is taking place except for dear old Sherlock. If he hadn’t appeared from Doyle’s pen we all might sit complacently thinking we have a pretty good grasp of things. Wrong! Post S.H. we are forced to accept that the world is a place of mirrors and smoke and it takes careful attention to detail to sift beneath the illusion to understand what has really taken place. Disinformation is everywhere and everything seems to have the extra motion of somebodies “spin.” I was a 13 year old kid, sitting for three weeks alone in a sort of dormitory in Nyborg Denmark when I read the complete Sherlock Holmes. I read both books from cover to cover as I immersed myself in the dangerous and desperate Victorian world and the mysterious crimes they detailed. That book changed my life because I decided that I had better start noticing things, particularly details, if I didn’t want to stay a part of that group of people who really didn’t have a clue. Sadly the fictional world of that book can’t be lived in this real one and I still struggle to understand what is going on around me but, as a result of paying close attention to details, my conscious awareness expanded and I discovered I was living in a richer and more varied world than most people. I already knew I was different when at age 11 I started writing plays instead of playing with the other kids. Now I was even more different (post S.H.) and the only option that remained available to me as an adult was to become a poet. Thanks Shirley!
2. I am grateful for Falstaff. Taking a step further back in time to Shakespeare, Falstaff is a fictional character that I sometimes write poems to or about. He was rather loveable and a real hedonist but he was also amusing, not only with the considerable wit given him but also with his foibles and his humanity (not in the noblest sense of that word). I have always felt a kind of affinity to him even though he was a coward and a cheat. I hold him up to myself like that convex mirror the Dutch artists and philosophers used to gaze at themselves in to try to see into their own souls. So far I understand that his life was comprised of nothing serious or noble and a kind of “let’s have fun and enjoy ourselves until we need more money” type of existence that gave word service to more meaningful interests but was actually poorly motivated to do anything about them. That is clearly a danger for us all in this modern world, with its consumerism and its massive interest in convenience. Falstaff was also terribly self-absorbed. That is a much more personal danger as I am a writer, which means I must spend much of my time alone. People who are sick and people who must spend much time alone tend to structure their thoughts around and about themselves in the end result. A common form of punishment for mankind is to force the person who is to be punished to be without the company of others, ostensibly, I would assume, so that they will contemplate their wrongdoings. I find I must be alone so that I can write so I also must avoid thinking too much about myself while I’m creating. But I think the biggest lesson I learn from Falstaff is the one about courage. It seems to me that it was his cowardliness that really made him the victim of living a meaningless life. I learn from him that I must have the courage to create or else I must personally slip into that misty realm of “What is for dinner? Do you have any wine?” and thus avoid the danger of an empty life.
3. I am grateful for brave Odysseus. Thousands of years ago Homer gave us the story of a bunch of soldiers and their quest for revenge. It seems the motivations of mankind haven’t changed much in the intervening millennia. The most remarkable story for me is the Odyssey because it seems so personal to me. Sure Odysseus is brave and he is able to overcome some terrible dangers because he is also clever as well as an excellent fighter but scary monsters aren’t the only thing he has to face. Homer cleverly shows us two kinds of dangers and Odysseus is finally trapped by the second type. The first kind of danger is the type that scares you. Mythological dangers require that you be fearless, clever and an excellent fighter and not many could survive the dangers of the Minotaur, the Cyclops, and Medusa armed with just a sword and shield. The second type of danger is first shown to us as the Sirens who don’t frighten you at all but rather lull you in so that you can meet your demise on their perilous coastline. In this case, our hero’s cleverness is enough to save him and he makes his crew put wax in their ears so as to not be enticed by the irresistible song of the Sirens. Now let me say that I also am a traveler and thus feel a lot of affinity with Odysseus. Especially when he meets Circe who is finally able to hold him prisoner without any bars. She welcomes him and offers him food and drink. She is beautiful and love is an agreeable pastime. Hey the food is good, there’s plenty to drink, she is beautiful and has a talent with music and no matter how clever he is he is stuck for years on her island. You see the secret to imprisoning someone is to not make them feel like they are a prisoner. That is just so modern that I can’t believe it can happen to me... but it certainly can! How does a traveler know when he’s stayed too long and had too much fun? How do we know when the comfort of our lives has become a prison without bars? Thanks Odysseus for making me think!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Five Days of Gratitude – Day Two

Second day of gratitude:

1. I am grateful for memories of speed. The past is made up of the gamut between pleasure and pain but fortunately we tend to forget unpleasant things that are not associated with strong impulses such as regret. So, with the exception of an occasional twinge, when I turn to the things I remember I find myself experiencing the pleasure of running like the wind and nobody can catch me. There is raw power in that because they all knew I could easily catch them but, even as a group, they could never catch me. I also remember another “wind in the face” experience from the days when I worked as a young cowboy. The town was small but you could get on your horse and ride there if you wanted some amusement to break up the long, hard work of living on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes my pal, the “Portuguese” and I would saddle up and ride to town. I especially remember racing across the meadow just before town laughing and feeling unbearably happy. Again on the “wind in your face” theme I also remember my beloved “wheels” from my college years. I had a sports car, an Austin Healey 3000 convertible (of course) and riding around it was as sweet an experience as driving any Porsche or Maserati. Years Later I would own a Triumph 650 motorcycle (that was bored out to 700) and my love affair with speed would continue. Speed is the power I can remember and as I turn 70 in a few months it is only a memory. In the last 20 years I have broken my ankle twice and shattered my right knee cap. I have experienced the challenge of pinched nerves in my spine that control my legs and the strength that once empowered my legs is no longer available to me. But still in my memory is the glorious wind in my face.
2. I am grateful for memories of travel. When I was thirteen my parents took me to Europe with them. It was 1958, the year of the World Fair in Brussels. Ah, the London, Paris, Heidelberg, and Rome I saw on that first trip don’t exist any longer, nor does the West Los Angeles I had grown up in. I go to those places today and realize what a treasure I have stored away. That trip started a pattern for my life in which I would continue to this very day, and hopefully for many years to come. I am planning to go to Paris again in the fall and read poetry with the spoken word group that is active there. I have an old friend living in Paris as well and I haven’t seen him for over a year now. I’m missing seeing him and hearing his poetry. His kids must be all grown up now and I can’t wait to see them too. The truth is that Paris has become part of me now and I already feel as if I live there part of each year. But that’s the thing, you see, I’m always traveling and the dust on my shoes from that first trip has become a perennial thing. Take your children traveling when they are young, your mailbox will always be full of interesting postcards.
3. I am grateful for memories of food. In the 50’s the food in England and America was pretty “homey” but the food in France has always been French in its soul. Yes, over the years the croque monsieur has gone through some evolutions and yet, still at its heart beats the creaminess of béchamel against the tanginess of Gruyere. Mornay, Hollandaise, bernaise, diable, there is such magic in the flavors to be discovered from time spent enjoying France and its wonderful food. I remember being shocked to discover what food could taste like. It was as if reality had an earthquake and suddenly everything was different. From the first meal in France I would never be able to look at food the same again. The taste of that complex cuisine has never left me and that is probably why I eventually became a chef which was indeed a labor of the love of my life. You see, I look at the Statue of Liberty from a different direction. I know where she was born and, although I love New York, I’m so at home where she started from that I often long to see her from her derrière side.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Five Days of Gratefulness

First day of gratitude:

1. I am grateful for the happy child that is inside me. It is often regarded with suspicion by adults that I spend time like an older friend with children. Truly, as an older person, I find myself also in need of the intellectual stimulation of mature conversation with friends but it is the simple joy of play and the genuine laughter of children that I also sometimes need. The adult world can be notoriously disingenuous and cruel and this is not to say there isn’t a touch of cruelty in the play of children but by comparison the amusement and laughter of children is so much more kind and sincere that it provides me with the checks and balances I need to cope with general adult contact and still keep that happy child alive and well inside me.
2. I am grateful I live in a place where my native language is not so common. Certainly it is difficult to pick up another language as an adult (I started learning Russian when I was 48) but to not only learn the language but also become familiar with the culture that it carries is a real privilege. Another language is a portal to another world really and because I have lived in the former Soviet Union for the last 22 years, that world and the language that opens the door to many strange and interesting cultural intricacies now feels as if it is mine also. I have become more comfortable and tolerant as a human being as a result.
3. I am so very deeply grateful for the internet that it would be difficult for most people to understand. This magic kingdom has literally saved my life because it was the mechanism by which I started to write poetry again. That may seem pretty insignificant to many people but it has saved me from a sad and unfulfilled early grave. Poets are odd, there is no more sophisticated way to put this simple fact. Normal people don’t write poetry. In fact, normal consciousness does not perceive the rare wonders and odd truths of the world around us. The real reason people are moved by poetry is that through it they can get in touch with the strange beauty of the world which they don’t otherwise see. But, just as poets are those odd interpreters of the language of the otherwise unseen, they also need to be able to speak in this tongue to others to break the isolation which has given them this ability to percieve. We are lonely people. When I stopped writing poetry in the 80’s it was an unacknowledged suicide but the print world in which I had published had left me even further isolated. Twenty years of drug and alcohol abuse followed my unobserved demise and I am now trying to restore my health from that time in the coffin. The internet lifted that coffin lid for me with the coming of the second millennium. It led me to connection and community and the strange and wonderful occurrence of getting to know and love you all.

I would love to know what you think of what you just read and also to hear what the first thing that comes to your mind as the thing you are grateful for.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A poem on Bloomsday

Here is my contribution for the 24 hour period around and about June 16th 2014:


what a thing to feel
to wake up before dawn
at the end of bloomsday
babbling like coleridge

and know that penelope
is considering marriage
of the second kind
and realize we have

been away for too long
that we must
sack our own halls
pretty much in disguise

and slay the traitors
who have sprung up
amid our own cobbles
like weeds without the gardener

are we brave ulysses
or just some overindulged
fool that has been

so long that we
realize home however humble
is still worth
fighting for

and we
tired dirty and disheveled
still have the key
which opens that door

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Things are not what they seem

Here is the text to accompany the video for this poem. I hope you find this entertaining.


there is a
dart in your dress
just a dark dart
sewed in a dark dress
thats all

what did you want
a fold in the
space time continuum
a place fluttering
with the moths of

where you and
i struggled
with this dark obstacle
maybe stretched
a stich or two
tugging on that
dark darted dress

nice dress
cute darts
thats all

Here is the video where I talk about this poem and read it.

Monday, March 17, 2014


walking into the yard under blue sky
in mid day warmth feeling a whisper of a breeze
and stepping arms wide into a picture of a day

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book of Aliases Updated Opener

Here is the update of the book description I just put on my Amazon author page:

Book of Aliases is the history of too much possibility within one person. It is an attempt to deal with the fragmentation of a puzzle where the pieces don’t all go together yet we somehow still manage to perceive ourselves as a cohesive single individual that other people should be able to understand just as well as we seem to think we do. All this is in spite of the fact that there are moments where we say to ourselves “wow, where did that come from” or “what did I do that for?” The best I can tell you is that it might help to understand that we are much more fragmentary then we think. Maybe if we can think of all these separate and, in fact disparate, parts of ourselves as dolls that all live in the huge mansion of our lives, we can quit the futile task of trying to make sense of ourselves. As you read the poems in this book, you can forget the questions and begin to focus instead on each of the parts, seeing each one of them as a kind of answer that we can grow to be comfortable with as we live in the now of the magical realm of poetry. It is important that we become comfortable with our parts and we forget about the necessity of making it all make sense because the truth is that we are fragmentary beings who live in a fragmentary world. It is my hope that this book will help you to do that!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


I rarely write 5-7-5 haiku as that is such an artificial standard that was once imposed on writers in English but here is one anyway:

window ledge snow falls
sprinkling its white on the fresh
steaming sheet below

Sunday, February 02, 2014


I've been exploring the themes that come under the heading of win at all costs. Here is my latest addition to that collection. This one explores the idea that changing our blood (doping, et al) is good and maybe even necessary from some kind of perspective. I hope you will enjoy!


i rise to a contest
its in my blood
years of sports training
starts with running away
starts with fear
as i get more confident
it becomes a taunt
you cant catch me
but theres still danger there
pumping new talent
through my veins

give a beating to
stab defeat
leave staggering in the dust
knock out
but competition makes me better
with violent ways
but it brings out my skills
by being better than others

why cant we look within
for the one that we must best

Friday, January 31, 2014

blood work

Here is my last small stone for the January challenge:

there is a history in my blood
but also a hope that burns
to write one more poem today


Here is another small stone, the last one of the month perhaps:

this month i promised myself things
things in limbo floating like clouds
things undone and this is their eulogy


Here is another small stone for today:

the year of the horse is
already here but im still
doing last year gangam style