Sunday, October 7, 2018

the hittites

the hittite empire was founded by hattusili
who engaged in rapine and plunder quite freely
but hattusli was only the first
and some of his successors were even worse

hattusini was followed by mursilish
who trampled his neighbors like a whirling dervish
and after him came telepinu
but i don't know much about him, do you?

watch out for tukulti-ninurta
do him wrong and he'll hurt ya
but good king suppiluliuma
though mighty, had a great sense of humor

Monday, September 24, 2018


why does a dictionary weigh ten pounds?
because humans are filled with a million sounds
they twist them and stretch them and play the game
but in the end they all sound the same


i was not wild and free
i was never meant to be
and walked silent on the earth
to death from birth

my fellow humans stopped to look
as my weary steps i took
for the very mark of cain
on my face was written plain

but when i turned around
no trace of me was found
on the earth's unyielding crust
i left no footprints in the dust

i took it slow
for where was there to go?
i looked up at the gray sky
and it said goodbye

Sunday, September 23, 2018

ode to sinners

o come all you sinners
with guilt fit to burst
lets go down to the river
and see who is the worst

let us stand up and testify
and write a message across the sky
about all our evil schemes and tricks
and how we wanted to get our kicks

kicks, man, that's all there is
not fame or money or show biz
or christmas dinner or apple pie
or scratching your head and wondering why

we're riding through the endless night
not even putting up a fight
tossing here a nickel and there a dime
in the tin cup of borrowed time

Friday, September 21, 2018

a letter

a kitty kat has whiskers
a puppy dog has a tail
i wrote a letter to the president
and put it in the mail

i told him he was an idiot
i told him he was a fool
i asked him what he ever learned
when he was a child in school

he never sent an answer
he never sent a reply
i wonder if he goes for walks
and looks up at the sky

and if he sees the hand of fate
pointing at his face
and showing him the sands of time
in which he will leave no trace

he goes back to the white house
and climbs the white house stair
to find inside his office
a visitor in his chair

who is this importunate stranger
who sits there with a smile
with no sense of decorum
and no sense of style

everybody has a stranger
who follows them through their days
and shows their face when the time has come
so do not be amazed

Thursday, September 20, 2018


this is a poem i wrote
in the water it would not float
in the air it would not fly
in the rain it would not stay dry

in it i confess
my pathetic helplessness
swallowed without a trace
by a void without a face

words may be blessings or curses
in expanding universes
they may be slow or fast
but never last

o bubbles in the stream!
o disappearing dream!
one last moment i beg of you
one last word - or maybe two -

everybody can't be a hero

to be in a book but not be the hero
that does not sound like fun
but when the hero dies his heroic death
you can still sit in the sun

reading a book about the hero
in lively vivid prose
sipping iced tea or lemonade
and wiggling your toes

the hero lives forever
at least the book says so
“in glorious memory”
but how do they know?

when the hero goes to the gallows
protesting his innocence
you can laugh or cry or close the book
and wonder where the time went

desert island

sometimes i feel floppy
sometimes i do sag
sometimes i put my head in a box
sometimes i put it in a bag

i don't like the human race
or the world that it has made
i want to find a desert island
and lie in the palm tree shade

let the coconuts fall on my head
and pound it into mush
and lie there drooling in the sand
in the glowing sunset hush

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

a strange dream

i dreamed of a place last night
the strangest dream I ever had
where all the bad people were good
and all the good people were bad

I dreamed I was in a courtroom
of shiny paneled wood
i was tied to an old oak tree
accused of doing good

the judge sat high above me
with horns upon his head
adolf hitler was my lawyer
and all the jurors were dead

the judge asked me how i pleaded
to trying to do right
and as i opened my mouth to speak
i beheld a terrible sight

the gallery was filled with angels
with burnt and blackened wings
their golden harps were melted
and they could not pluck the strings

a witness then was summoned
to give evidence to my fate
’twas none other than st peter
who had abandoned heaven’s gate

what say you, saintly wise man
asked satan from the bench
as he waved a ten pound hammer
which in his fist he clenched

his eyebrows fairly sizzled
and his lip was sneering curled
what say you of this specimen
who wished to save the world?

what say you to this sorry cuss
who challenged my dominion
who thought eternal damnation
was just someone’s opinion?

have pity, lord of darkness
the sad eyed sage appealed
and his white beard it did flutter
as before the fiend he kneeled

he is only a poor human
incapable of thought
and the lessons life has taught him
i guess he just forgot

the demon roared wth laughter
as he brought his hammer down
a noose was placed around my neck
and on my head a crown

and on the crown was set a stage
on which a play was playing
my old dog ran across a field
to join my poor old mother praying

a serpent slithered through the grass
king arthur raised his sword
jesse james threw me a lousy dime
it was all he could afford

william mckinley and wyatt earp
raised their voices in a hymn
and i thought i saw abe lincoln
but it was only railroad slim

i awoke upon a green park bench
with rain upon my face
and all the players in the dream
were gone without a trace

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

country ways

the lamp burned in my little room
above the silent stable
i looked out in the winter gloom
as well as i was able

no bird disturbed the brooding night
or horses hoofed the road
no angel at the window
offered to share my load


in an icy wintry blast
as the snow was falling fast
i went out to milk the cow
and tripped over the plow

that the lazy hired man
who since the world began
had been sleeping on his feet
without missing a beat

had left there in the gloom
to hasten me to doom
and he laughed in his dream
floating down a shady stream

where an apple cheeked lass
winked at him as he went past
and i lay in the mud
in the mud, in the cold mud


silas martin picked an apple
but didn't feel like eating it
sarah jenkins shook a rug
but didn't feel like beating it

everything that moves
moves at its own pace
sometimes nothing moves at all
upon the earth's dark face

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

railroad men

railroad bill
railroad bill
had a dog named harry
and a cat named phil

railroad bob
railroad bob
never drank whiskey
except on the job

railroad joe
railroad joe
got up in the morning
and took it slow

railroad mike
railroad mike
never flew an airplane
or rode a bike

railroad tom
railroad tom
hated his pappy
but loved his mom

railroad jim
railroad jim
played poker with the sheriff
who cheated him

railtoad bill
railroad bill
caught a big old catfish
down by the mill

railroad john
railroad john
never came home
before the break of dawn

railroad dan
railroad dan
the railroad was the railroad
but he was the man

railroad men
railroad men
ask for eleven
they will give you ten

mothers, look out the window
at a duck and a hen
don’t raise your sons
to be railroad men

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

you have walked in the rain before

frankie woke up.

it was dark. the window was open but it was night outside.

she was lying on the bed in her hotel room in her clothes. she could hear music out in the street, and a couple of cats fighting.

damn, she thought, what time is it? what day is it?

she remembered she had pawned her watch. actually she had given it to johnny, and he had pawned it. but he hadn’t given her her share, he told her he needed it for a while, he would give it to her later.


where was johnny?

now frankie remembered. johnny had heard that old man mose had come into some money - from the irish sweepstakes or some such - and he and frankie were going out to old man mose’s hut to check it out.

maybe even rob the old man if it was worth their while.

frankie got out of bed. she was wide awake. i must have slept for a while, she thought.

she left her room and went downstairs to the desk.

cardinal mazarin was at the desk, looking at the register. he nodded to frankie but did not say anything.

“what day is it?” frankie asked him.

the cardinal did not look surprised by the question. “thursday, the 23rd.”

“thursday! are you sure?” the last day she remembered was monday.

“of course i am sure. tomorrow is friday, and i have just been checking the register, to see who the deadbeats were who did not pay last week.“

“i paid last week.”

“i am sure you did, frankie. you are the greatest. you are a good girl.”

frankie changed the subject. “has johnny been around? or mean old stagger lee?”

“i haven’t seen either one of them.” the cardinal wrinkled his nose.

“how about richelieu or wallenstein? have they seen them?”

“if they did, why would they tell me? they don’t tolerate bums hanging around any more than i do. while you are here, frankie, do you want to pay next week’s rent?”

“um - i will catch you tomorrow.”

“fair enough.” the cardinal turned his face back to the register.

frankie went down the stairs to the street. a light rain had started to fall.

she headed for the road of sorrows tavern. maybe johnny or mean old stagger lee would be there.

but neither of them was. pope innocent xvi was behind the bar. he just nodded to frankie. he did not seem any more surprised to her than cardinal mazarin had. nothing too bad must have happened in the three days i was out, frankie thought.

the only other customers were st teresa, mike fink, and sister rose. sister rose’s white habit looked freshly starched, and the black beads of her rosary had a new coat of polish.

frankie sat down, and pope innocent began mixing her usual.

“has johnny been here?” frankie asked.

the pope shrugged. “how long ago?” he asked.

“he was in here a couple of days ago,” said st teresa. “with mean old stagger lee. and st louis jenny, and nellie bligh.”

mike fink laughed heartily. “what a crew! they must have been up to no good.”

“i think it was marie laveau with them, not nellie bligh,” said sister rose.

“then it must have been,” said st teresa. “you have the sharp eyes, sister.”

pope innocent brought frankie her drink and she put a silver dollar on the bar.

“i was just asking,” said frankie, “it’s no big nevermind.”

“that’s a mighty shiny silver dollar,” sister rose said to frankie. “i wish i had one half that shiny.”

keep riding me, frankie thought, all of you keep riding me. but she did not say anything.

the door opened and inspector lestrade walked in.

he sat down beside frankie. “how have you been, frankie? “ he asked.

“great,” she answered. until you came along, she thought, but dd not say aloud.

“why don’t we go for a little walk?” lestrade asked.

“it’s raining out.”

“you have walked in the rain before.”

“just let me finish my drink.”

“why not? i will have a drink myself. a double scotch,” lestrade told pope innocent.

frankie and lestrade finished their drinks. none of the others spoke the whole time lestrade was there.

“a merry group,” lestrade observed as he and frankie went out the door.

“where are we going?” frankie asked.

“i thought we would take a little walk out to the edge of the swamp. pay a visit to old man mose. see how he is doing.”

frankie did not answer, but followed lestrade.

the rain fell steadily. neither of them spoke.

they reached old man mose’s cabin. no light was showing in it.

lestrade banged on the door. no answer.

“look in the window,” lestrade told frankie. “tell me what you see.”

frankie looked in the window. old man mose was lying on a cot. his head hung over the side, and his left hand hung down to the floor. she described what she saw to lestrade.

with a single shove, lestrade forced the door. he crossed swiftly to the cot. he did not bother to strike a light, and looked down at the old man.

“this is it,” lestrade announced. “the end of an era. the old order passes. there isn’t anything more to say.”

frankie could not argue.

because old man mose was dead.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

the pope walks into a bar

a lone figure was coming across the desert, from the north.

joe watched him through the binoculars.

“here comes somebody,” he told max.

max looked up. “you don’t say so,” he said. he did not sound excited. he did not get up off the rock he was sitting on.

but both joe and max watched as the stranger approached.

joe and max, and moe and polly, who were in the cabin sleeping, had been waiting for almost two years for the connection.

they were almost out of supplies. max and moe and polly had talked of giving up. but joe had held them together, convinced them that they had waited this long, why not wait until the bitter end?

they were waiting for the connection.

the connection would have the password, to show that he was the connection and once he arrived they would pack up and be ready to pull off the job of the century. of the millenium.

the figure in the desert came closer .

nether joe nor max were getting their hopes up. other wanderers had come by, but that is all they were … wanderers. they didn’t have the password.

the stranger was tall and thin. he wore a wide hat - which he would have needed to cross the desert.

“howdy,” the stranger addressed joe and max.

“howdy yourself,” joe answered.

“my name is ted.”

“pleased to meet you, ted. what’s the good word?”

ted smiled. “the pope walks into a bar.”

that was the password. joe looked at max, and max looked at joe.

at last! joe and max stated to laugh, max a little hysterically.

joe smiled at ted. “this calls for a celebration.”


they woke moe and polly up, and told them the news.

they all agreed to get packed up, get a good night’s sleep, and leave in the morning.

joe didn’t really doubt that ted was the man they had been waiting for, but as they sat around after packing up, he got him a little loosened up with his best whiskey and asked a few casual questions.

it was obvious ted knew what was going on.


they were getting into the trucks in the morning, when polly pointed into the desert.

“who can that be?” she asked joe.

another figure was approaching , this one from the northwest.

“maybe we should just go,” moe said, from behind the wheel of the first truck.

“no,” said joe. “then we would be wondering who he was. we can wait a few minutes for him.”

they waited as the second stranger approached. he was short and dark, and wore a bowler hat.

joe spoke first. “hello, there.”

the second stranger gave joe a big smile with big white teeth.

“the pope walks into a bar,” he said.

“you don’t say so,” joe replied. “you don’t say so.”

“my name is willie,” the second stranger added, with the same big smile.

joe pulled out his .45. “i think you got some explaining to do, willie.” joe turned around and saw ted behind him. “and so do you, ted. get over there beside willie.”

with a shrug, ted obeyed. joe held the .45 on both of them. “max and moe, get some rope and tie both of these buzzards up.”

“and then what, joe?” polly asked, as she scanned the horizon.

“i don’t know. let me think about it.”


the next morning. the trucks were still loaded up. ted and willie sat beside them in the sand, their hands tied behind their backs.

joe and polly looked out at the desert.

max came up behind them. “i say we move out now.”

“here comes somebody,” polly said, and pointed to the horizon.

joe said nothing . they waited.

the third stranger emerged. a woman with long blonde hair, wearing a blue dress, a red hat, and a yellow bandana.

“well?” joe asked the woman, when she was close enough to hear him.

“the pope walks into a bar,” the woman replied.

“who are you?” joe asked.

“you know who i am, joe. you all know who i am. you have been waiting for me all your lives.”

suddenly the sun disappeared and the sky turned dark as night.

and the rain began to fall…

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

dark night of vengeance, part 4: falling leaves

phil still existed
and the universe insisted
that he get up every day
with his role to play

he had no excuse
his head was in the noose
but something impelled him
to his destiny, however dim

phil went down to the street
despite the fact that his brain was beat
another day of desperation beckoned
then something happened on which he had not reckoned

for the second time in 24 hours
a stranger felt empowered
to approach phil without prelude
or asking if he was in the mood

for direct interrogation
as to his existence and station
in this mysterious world of flux and flow
in which things come and go

the newcomer had eyes dark and bright
in a face quite wrinkled and white
that stirred a faint recollection
in part of phil’s brain - the section

triggering primal fear -
my friend, it would appear
the stranger began with confidence
that by fate you have been sent

to close a book that has been open too long
to bring an end to a sad song
to bid a weary traveler drop his pack
to tell the prodigal he can come back

to end a farce playing to an empty house
to bid the panther make friends with the mouse
to make a long story short, forthwith
phil - you see before you bill smith!

the insanity of youth has cooled
by that nasty bitch emily brown we were both fooled
by even demons of lust we were ruled
let us no longer be their tools

phil could not believe what he heard
inside his brain a strange motor purred
was he a ship that had never sailed?
he gaped as bill resumed his tale

i ran into whitey black last night
he had seen you with his own sight
when his words a message to my brain did send
i knew my quest had come to an end

they say revenge is best served cold
but even better left to shrivel and mold
we have only one race to run
beneath a single fading sun

why waste our lives in silly contests
when time is a river that never rests
and the sky is an empty page
that never records our joy, despair or rage

with these and similar remarks
bill regaled phil - a few sparks
landed on phil’s befuddled brain
but he would never be the same again

come, said bill, let me buy you a drink
let us nor care what anyone thinks
whether our so-called honor was lost or won
how is that the business of anyone?

phil followed bill in a daze
no bystanders were amazed
or made of them any mention
their reconciliation attracted no attention

bill and phil became great buds
and sat on park benches watching the floods
of embattled humans roll on by
as leaves and raindrops fell from the sky

in passing, we should mention
that in another dimension
emily brown in time’s web was caught
but never gave bill or phil a thought

i hope you found this poem uplifting
but now my brain is drifting
down a river on a cloudy day
i have nothing more to say

Friday, July 13, 2018


i used to be wild, i used to be free
i loved everybody, and they loved me
i was the king of the road and the queen of the may
and woke up with a song in my heart every day

i had a message of love in my heart
and took to the highway the message to impart
friendly strangers in volkswagen bugs
gave me rides and i gave them hugs

it was time to turn the page
and greet the dawn of a new age
war and hatred belonged to the past
the new kingdom of love was built to last

life was one long celebration
of the gathering of the tribes and nations
one night in the throes of ecstasy
i passed out on the shore of a shimmering sea

how long i slept i do not know
but i woke up covered with snow
the night was dark and covered with clouds
i sat up and cried aloud

where have all my comrades gone
where is the rainbow, where the dawn
what is this ice that covers my bones
where is anybody - am i alone?

i forced myself to get to my feet
rain fell on me and then sleet
i had no hat upon my head
and wondered if i was not dead

then i saw a light in the distance
and summoning some persistence
and a desperate flicker of hope
through the darkness i did grope

to make a long story short
i ended up in court
charged with murder in the first degree
oh what, i thought, will become of me

i saw and heard the judge from afar
as he cried, o prisoner at the bar
what have you to say in exculpation
of your exercise in widespread desolation

will you show a sliver of repentance
before i pronounce sentence?
but i had no reply
except to hang my head and cry

poor boy you’ve got to die
poor boy you’ve got to die
dawn lights up the jailhouse
and rain falls from the sky

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

dark night of vengeance, part 3: the smiling stranger

phil tried to pull himself together
and asked if it mattered whether
at this point if he lived or died
he was almost at the end of his ride

how much worse off had he been
than other children of sin
who had dreamed and loved and lost
and on the scrap heap been tossed

phil sucked in his gut
if bill found him, so what?
all bill could could do was kill him
and his existence was already dim

o so easy to say!
but one more, one more day!
one more day without a prayer -
but on your skin the living air

phil stopped and looked around
silence was all he found
the dark streets neither friendly nor cold
had heard every story ever told

his panic was suddenly gone
it was almost dawn
he had run through the streets for hours
ignored by all cosmic powers

on the corner was a little cafe
with a sign - open all night and day
phil went in and took a seat
he was suddenly totally beat

he ordered a cup of joe
as the world around him spun slow
and a slice of blueberry pie
which tasted a little dry

phil had totally given up
staring into his coffee cup
with a dull eternal shame
when someone called his name

who could it be ?
he was lost but he was free
though his guilt had been substantially accrued
he could enjoy it in solitude

phil turned and saw a face
in which there was no trace
of anything but good cheer
brought on by oceans of whiskey and beer

aren’t you phil, phil jones? asked the bum
who used to play steel drums
in a vacant lot behind kaiser park
at night, when it got dark?

that is not i, said phil
smiling with a desperate will
my name is neither phil nor jones
and i walk the earth alone

the bum responded with a shrug
peace descended on his scarlet mug
his response to phil was muffled
as away into the night he shuffled

phil was in a state of shock
he felt like a pool in which a rock
had been dropped from a great height
as ripples expanded in the light

of an exploding full moon
phil’s brain played a screaming tune
who was that stranger so affable
with his implications so terrible?

phil had been recognized
he thought he had been so wise
drifting faceless beneath the tide
had he ever been able to hide?

time goes by, phil told himself
everything gets dust on a shelf
the bitterest memories
finally blow away in the breeze

was bill still alive?
and if he was did he thrive?
had he forgotten emily brown?
was he the mayor of his town?

phil asked himself these things
he knew the night would bring
dark and twisted dreams
unlit by moonlight beams

Monday, July 9, 2018

true story

everybody has a story to tell
everybody has something to sell
a story has a beginning and an end
that does not mean you are my best friend

i was mistreated as a child
and so i started to run wild
and took up with a bad crowd
but then i heard a voice from a cloud

saying, ————, you are unique
a fate-appointed freak
you are not like others
you have no sisters or brothers

of the universe you are the center
it is your kingdom they must enter
if you decide that they can live
that is in your power to give

this message gave me hope
that i was not just some mope
that people were right to despise
and to fame would never rise

i proceeded down the street
with a new bounce in my feet
but suddenly i was not alone
a gentleman with a microphone

said, i don’t want a nickel or a dime
but just a moment of your time
if you could spare a few words
for the members of the human herd

now that you are the ruler of the world
with your teeth so white and your hair so curled
will you allow humanity to flourish
or do you in your heart still nourish

an implacable hatred of the miserable race
that has punched you in the face
and knocked you down
and on your face put a permanent frown

or will you find it in your heart
to give the planet a new start -
as the man with the microphone continued to blather
a crowd around me began to gather

and then the people in the crowd
started to chant my name aloud
and all their faces began to blend
into a road that had no end

and i was walking down thew road
toward a sun beginning to explode
and then awoke to my true story -
a rat in a laboratory

professor smith smiled down at me
little fellow, i’m glad to see
you looking bright this happy morn
are you not glad that you were born?

disappearing act

“did you find the guy?”

“yeah, i found him.” maury plopped himself down in his favorite chair as the big guy glared at him.

“then were is he?” the big guy asked.

“he didn’t want to come. he wants you to come to him. he says he’ll talk to you, though.”

“well, isn’t that nice of him. you didn’t try to persuade him to come see me?”

maury shrugged. “i could have. i made a command decision, in the field. it just did not seem worth it. i think you should go see this guy. it won’t kill you. you should get out more, anyway.”

“you think?” the big guy glared at maury, then laughed. “all right, see him where? some bar? where did you find him?”

in a dunkin donuts. on third avenue. that’s where he hangs out.”

“this guy hangs out in a dunkin donuts? i would have expected someplace a little more … mysterious, you know? or out of the way.”

“it’s where a lot of people hang out these days. america runs on dunkin. by the way, there was one thing he wanted me to tell you.”

“and what was that?”

“he said there were plenty of guys who could do what you wanted. “

“yes, well he was the guy i was told about.”

“so, do you want to go see him?’

the big guy sighed. “sure, why not?” he got up and grabbed his hat and put it on. “let’s go see this magic man.”


the magician was still sitting where maury had left him, in a corner of the dunkin donuts, beside a window where he could watch the world go by. an ordinary looking little guy, not getting any younger. he wasn’t wearing a cape or a top hat or anything to show he was a magician. a small empty styrofoam cup sat on the table in front of him.

the big guy sat across from the magician at the little square table, and maury grabbed a chair and sat down between them, facing the window and the street.

“this is the gentleman i was telling you about, “ maury said. “the one interested in your services.”

the magician just nodded.

“you understand what i want?,” the big guy tried to look the magician in the eye.

“i think so. you want to make somebody disappear. “

“exactly. totally disappear. i don’t want any body, i don’t want any blood or guts or evidence, or screaming or shouting, i just want this guy to disappear into thin air. can you do that?”

“easily. and you could go over to joe’s joke shop on thirty-seventh street and find a dozen guys who could do it, too.”

“you don’t say so.”

“i do say so.” the magician looked down into his empty styrofoam cup.

“then if it is so easy who don’t you ever hear about it being done?” the big guy asked.

“because there is a problem - a possible complication.”

“ah. a possible complication. and what might that be?”

“there is no guarantee you won’t make the whole universe disappear. you might not, but you might - the whole universe and everything and everybody in it. me, you, the pope, the king of spain, everybody.”

the big guy nodded. “i can see where some people might not want to take that chance.”

“but what about you? “ the magician asked. “are you willing take the chance?’

“listen,” the big guy answered, “i have wanting to get this guy for forty years. he did me dirty, like no man was ever done dirty before. thinking about him has been eating away at me every day for forty years, like a cosmic green cancer, like a mountain of red ants whose ravenous hunger can never be appeased. yes, i’m willing to take the chance.”

the magician nodded. “does this person have a name, you got a picture or something…?”

“i got this.” the big guy handed the magician a small photo, a black and white polaroid at least thirty years old.

the picture had been taken at a beach, and showed an ordinary looking man in a bathing suit with a little smile, an ordinary looking woman in a bathing suit with a big smile, an ordinary looking little boy in a bathing suit with no smile, and a dog.

“you need anything more?” the big guy asked.

“no, this is all i need.” the magician put the photo down on the table.

“so, you’ll do it.”

“yeah, i’ll do it. i just want one thing.”

“and what is that?”

“a frozen strawberry banana smoothie.”

“coming right up!” the big guy nodded to maury. “get the man what he wanted.”

“which was?”

a frozen strawberry banana smoothie, ” the magician repeated.

maury got up and headed for the counter.

“so how soon can you do this?” the big guy asked the magician.

“as soon as i finish my smoothie. but i want to make sure i get every last drop.”

Thursday, July 5, 2018

ars poetica

take a piece of paper
write some words upon it
look at what you have written -
it’s a poem, doggone it!

mary had a little lamb
johnny had a panther
alice did the crossword puzzle
but didn’t know all the answers

it rained on billy’s birthday
mary didn’t go to his party
henry wanted to drink champagne
bur settled for ale most hearty

the world is filled with humans
and also cats and dogs
some folks climb up mountains
others fall into bogs

that is all the wisdom
i have for you today
meet me on the sabbath morn
and we will kneel and pray

Monday, June 25, 2018

a trip to chicago

i decided to take a trip to chicago.

actually, i had no place to go, but i had to go somewhere, so i decided to look up my old friend harry in chicago. harry had let me sleep on his couch or on his floor on many occasions in the past.

i found harry’s apartment - number 68. the door to the apartment 68 was very narrow and heavy looking. the whole apartment building had a heavy, old-fashioned look about it.

i knocked on the door. nobody answered right away, and i knocked a little louder.

finally a man opened the door. i didn’t recognize him. for a second i thought it might be harry, so changed since i last saw him that i did not recognize him, but then i saw that it was not.

is harry jones here? i asked.

yes, come on in, the man said, he did not seem surprised by my appearance, or interested in me.

i followed him down a very narrow hallway. the hallway opened into a surprisingly wide room.

the room was cluttered with chairs and couches, mostly cheap looking old-fashioned leather couches, and the chairs and couches were about two thirds filled with people.

not people who looked like members of the ruling class. but not out-and-out bums either. and they weren’t talking much, just staring into space like they were waiting for somebody.

the man who had let me in disappeared into a little side room. i could hear voices. harry? what was harry up to here, i wondered.

i remembered that harry had passed the bar, but never actually practiced law. maybe he was practicing law now? the place did not look exactly like a law office.

i sat down in a little red leather armchair. before i put my bag down, i checked it to make sure everything i owned was still in it. everything was there - some socks and underwear, toothbrush and toothpaste and such, and the two books i always carried with me - think and grow rich, by napoleon hill, and the collected poems of edgar guest.

i looked up and saw a very old woman seated across from me on one of the couches. she was leaning forward on a cane and seemed to be looking at me through impenetrably thick glasses.

do you know harry? i asked her.

of course, she answered, don’t you?

i’ve known him for a long time, i said.

harry is a wonderful person, the old woman said.

yes, he is, i agreed.

he does so much for the community.

i am sure he does, i said. it sounds like harry has a good thing going here, i thought. he must be practicing law, or maybe he is a - what do you call it - community organizer or something. surely he can put me up for a while, at least let me sleep on one of these couches.

an old black man sat down on the couch beside the old woman. i tried to think of something to say to him. the only thing i knew about chicago was that the cubs were on the north side and the white sox were on the south side. or was it the other way around?

and were the “north side” and the “south side” actually the two halves of the whole city or were they just the names of neighborhoods, like “south philly” or “south boston”?

how about those cubs?, i asked the old man.

how about them? he replied.

what does the ticket to a game cost these days? i asked him. the cheapest seat?

you can get in for thirty dollars.

wow, i said, that is cheap. i noticed that the room was filling up all around me - most of the chairs and couches now looked filled.

the man who had let me in came out of the little room. harry will see you now, he said to somebody.

and he will see me, too, i thought. it will be like old times. everything is going to be all right.

i woke up. i had fallen asleep on a bench in the park.

it took me a few seconds to remember who i was, and where i was.

harry had been dead for years.

and i had not spoken to him or looked him up for thirty years before that.

Monday, June 18, 2018

the shadow

a beggar, sitting in the shade of a bridge, watched a traveler approach.

the traveler’s shadow fell on the bridge.

o traveler, cried the beggar, give me what i want.

the traveler, not breaking stride as he crossed the bridge, laughed.

but i do not know what you want, the traveler replied, not glancing down at the beggar.

i want whatever you have, cried the beggar - a bird, a bag of gold, a book with pretty colored pictures, your soul, your memories, a letter to the emperor testifying to my unique worth, a mythical beast, immortal life - anything.

i have a shadow, said the traveler, laughing, you can have that.

and the traveler’s shadow stayed behind on the bridge for a few seconds after the traveler had crossed it.

the beggar reached for the shadow but the sun went down and the shadow vanished.

the beggar continued to sit beside the bridge for many years, calling to the travelers who crossed it to give him what he wanted, to give him anything they had.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

water in the stream

who will save the last wanderer
when he falls in the last stream
who will wake the dreamer
dreaming the last dream

i fell in the gutter
and the gutter kept flowing
i, like the water
do not know where i’m going

around the fireplace

up in the city, down on the farm
a rollicking yarn will do you no harm
around the fireplace, listen to the rain
and a tale with the wallop of a freight train

and what really makes a story go best
is the introduction of a mystery guest
whose sudden appearance always must
alter the entire narrative thrust

come on grandpa, do we really have to wait
a whole week to hear the hero's fate?
and grandpa sez, don't holler, don't shout
just stayed tuned - and find out

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

a vision of eternity

i dreamed i went to heaven
and all the seats were taken
st peter smiled and shook my hand
’twas then i did awaken

i wish i could remember
what st peter had to say
for it would surely comfort me
on yet another dreary day

dream of a hero

in the insane rioting of his soul
he knew he had to play the role
of a debonair lothario
and go on with the show

as the huns rode over the hill
he stood perfectly still
and with the trace of a smile
said "darling, i may be a while"

"not too long, darling, please"
she sank to her satin covered knees
through the french window he strolled
to a sunset red and gold

where are the heroes of yesteryear?
who laughed at fate and smiled at fear?
and what would they now defend?
for, alas, we have come to the end

the garden is barren of flowers
the day is bereft of hours
the telephone in the drawing room
waits for a call from an empty tomb

Thursday, June 7, 2018


by ricky joe sternwall

i don’t mean to whine
i just want what’s mine
i want my fellow humans to realize
that i am one of those special guys

i am not like those other folks
those losers, wasters, mopes, and mokes
those fish in a barrel waiting to get shot
i am not like them - honest i’m not

i’m the one who knows the score
the one you have all been waiting for
if i could just catch a break
the world i would remake

it is really elemental
if i could just reach my potential
if i could just be wild and free
the world would revolve around me

the way it was meant to be
why can’t you all see?
stop saying no to me and say yes
and recognize my uniqueness

i’m the one who was prophesied
through the universe to glide
wiping out the whole world’s frown
if you would only stop bringing me down

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

in a churchyard

on a dreary rainy eve
a hand plucked at my sleeve
i turned to see a pallid sprite
flickering in the fading light

and though i made protest
it put me to the test
and as the rain did drip
it did not relax its grip

and down a muddy lane
like a runaway train
he proceeded to tell a tale
old and sad as a rusty nail

he was a sad and lonely cuss
of whom the world made little fuss
the desires with which he was torn
met with society's scorn

he became an incubus
possessed with sodden lusts
vainly seeking peace at last
in the worlds through which he passed

the particulars of his tale
sought my pity, to no avail
perhaps we all have stories
but their resonance and glories

are best left to our own selves
everyone else leaves on the shelves
the narratives of others
so let me go, brother

let us each go our own way
perhaps on judgment day
we may our acquaintance renew
until then - adieu

so i reasoned with the shade
who, in fact, began to fade
with a look in his pale eyes
more of sadness than surprise

i looked around the gloom
at the wet grass and the tombs
the faded words scribed on the stones
again - happily - alone

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


eddie was in chuckie’s place, just starting to dunk his cheese danish into his coffee when he looked up and saw frankie sitting by himself at a table in the corner.

eddie had heard frankie was in town, looking for ray, but he was still a little surprised to see him.

he figured it wouldn’t do any harm to go over and talk to him, so he picked up his coffee and danish and went over to frankie’s table.

hello frankie.

hello yourself.

haven’t seen you around for awhile.

i guess you haven’t.

mind if i sit down?

frankie shrugged. suit yourself.

eddie sat down. so what brings you back in town, he asked frankie.

i think you know why i’m back in town.

you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.

i’m looking for ray.


you seen ray lately?

a little bit. i do a little business with him now and again. everybody does. everybody has to.

if you say so. so old ray’s doing pretty good, huh?

pretty good isn’t the word for it.

he runs this town, huh?

runs the town? i don’t know where you been, frankie, but ray runs the whole west coast and beyond. and has for a while.

i‘ll tell you where i been, but first you tell me how good ray’s doing. has he still got that big house out by the lake?

no, he sold it or gave it away years ago, when he started getting really big. he lives in a big castle now, in this state he bought up north, idaho or montana or one of those places.

it must be nice. you been there, seen it yourself?

once or twice. you wouldn’t fucking believe it. he’s got everything. he’s got a million guys guarding the place, a fucking army. more swimming pools than you can count. a million game rooms, with every game you can think of, night and day. and if you’re a pal, you don’t have to pay to play. food - the place is one big buffet. every kind of booze ever invented, right there for you.

i suppose he’s got a few women around.

i was just getting to that. he’s got this special harem or palace, just for himself, where he keeps the hottest babes, for the heavy duty, you know. and he’s got another harem of women one cut below, for when governors and presidents and ambassadors come to visit him. but besides that, there’s hot women and cute chicks all over the place, every size and shape and color you can think of, and they know what they are there for, and they do it.

eddie nodded. i think a life like that might make a guy a little soft.

well, ray must have thought of that, because once a year, he goes on this safari for about a month, up in the yukon or some fucking place where it snows all the time, him and his favorite boys, what he calls his mighty men, and they hunt grizzly bears and three thousand pound wild boars and roast them around a roaring fire and tell stories and sing songs and all that shit.

frankie laughed. and that keeps him from going soft? i don’t know about that.

how about you, frankie, what have you been up to?

you mean ever since that son of a bitch set me up thirty years ago? let me tell you what i been up to. the first ten years i’m in a fucking chain gang, out in death valley. i plot for years to escape, with three other guys. then just when we are about to make our break, one of them finks out. the other three of us get sent to another chain gang, in the middle of the indian ocean, building this new island for the king of this and the shah of that and sons of bitches like that -

maybe like ray.

maybe. anyway, this place makes death valley look like a kindergarten, there is no union or banker’s hours, if you get my drift, and after nine or ten years i snap and kill one of the guards. here is where things start to get tough. they put me on yet a third chain gang, this one on the bottom of the pacific ocean building some kind of radar station where the bastards who rule the world are going to contact the bastards who rule the other worlds out in fucking space. there is not a whole lot of fresh air, and i feel i am finally in hell itself.

but i escape. by myself this time. but i don’t get very far. i come to this undersea kingdom ruled by an evil mermaid and i get captured and made a slave. and the things i did there, and the things they made me do, trust me, you don’t want to hear about.

so one day i am on this gang working on a coral reef. by this time i have just about given up hope. and i see an abandoned diving bell drifting by. what are the chances i can get to it, or that it will work if i can get to it?

one in a billion. but what have i got to lose? i swim over to the diving bell, with these mean lobster-guards right behind me, and i close the hatch door behind me in their faces, and i pull the first lever i see and what do you know, i go right to the top.

i come up off the coast of fucking japan. i lose myself in tokyo. i get a job as a strikebreaker for this rich guy in japan. i start to save my money. i meet this chick, and it’s beautiful. she begs me to stay, but i am a man on a mission. i save enough for a plane ticket and here i am.

that’s quite a story, frankie.

yes, here i am, ready to pay a call on my old friend ray.

well, it’s no concern of mine, but i don’t like your chances of getting to him.

there is always a way. there is always a way, if you just hang in there.

but look at it this way. you’ve been through hell for thirty years. and ray’s been leading the good life, ruling the world and hanging with the beautiful people, for those same thirty years. how is anything you do going to undo that? neither of you are getting any younger. if the booze and cocaine and babes haven’t killed ray off by now, what difference does it make if you do now? maybe you should go back to that woman in tokyo, if she really cares about you.

the only thing i care about is getting my fingers around that son of a bitch’s throat.

eddie looked out the window. fog was rolling down the street. if frankie is serious, he thought, about trying to get at ray, i am not doing myself any favor by sitting here palavering with him.

eddie finished his coffee and got up.

well so long, frankie, he said, and good luck. you are going to need it.

later, eddie felt kind of bad about saying, you are going to need it, to frankie, because it was not really necessary.

but when a guy is down, it’s just instinct to give him a little kick.

it’s nature’s way.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

the price of gold

mister makoiu is usually the first one down to the lobby in the morning.

sometimes a bum will have wandered in and been allowed to sit or even sleep in one of the chairs by rack, the night clerk, if he was in a good mood.

sometimes, if this happens, the bum will be sitting in mister makolu’s favorite chair, the one beside the potted plant.

if the bum is awake, mister makolu will politely ask him to move to another chair, and 99 times out of 100 the bum will comply.

but if the bum is sleeping , mister makolu will let him be, 999 times out of 1000, and move to another chair, one approximately the same distance from the window as the one beside the potted plant.

in any event, mister makolu will sit down and begin looking out the window, whether the morning is sunny or otherwise.

the next person down to the lobby is usually madame b, who will say good morning to mister makolu and take a chair within speaking distance of his.

the paper is late today, mister makolu will say.

madam b will smile and say, the newspapers went out of business thirty years ago, mister makolu, is there any news you were particularly interested in?

yes, the price of gold.

gold has been off the market for as long as mister makolu had been sitting in the lobby, but madame b will not say this. instead she will take out her phone, pretend to look at it and say, the price is unchanged.

thank you, mister makolu will say.

then mister makolu and madame might or might not discuss the weather.

next to appear will be professor barvis. usually, but not always, he will remember to greet mister makolu and madame b. he will take his seat, and consult his own phone, to see if there is any message from the committee of arts and sciences - which, does, in fact, still exist - regarding his paper on the incompatibility of dimensional-based and path-based fusion and expansion.

to date he has not heard from it.

the last regular to appear is miss arg. she does not have a favorite chair, but seems to sit randomly in the many available in the spacious lobby.

she, too, looks out the window as if waiting. if anyone asks her, which few do any more, she will say she is waiting for her prince.

she has been told many times, by the regular inhabitants and helpful strangers, that there are no more princes. glen, one of the maids, has even gave her a copy of the four volume “history of the rise and triumph of woman” by anna randle, but miss arg has never read past page fourteen.

rack, the night clerk, leans on the desk and looks out the window himself. he is waiting for suss, the morning clerk, who is often late, especially if it rains, as it often does in this part of the world.

and there you have it, my friend… humans…. waiting… always waiting… never satisfied…

Saturday, May 12, 2018

walking past you

remember people
when you are feeling blue
whether you are sad or happy
you are only you

the fellow walking past you
with his briefcase in his hand
inside he may be weeping
because his dreams have turned to sand

the kid behind the counter
at subway or burger king
do not tell him your troubles
to him they don’t mean a thing

sadness is all human’s fate
sung by heavenly voices
whether you walk the dusty roads
or ride in rolls royces

Friday, May 11, 2018

van nuys and cupertino

nobody knew where they came from.

or cared where they went.

their names were smith and jones.

or maybe they were van nuys and cupertino.

they met in a comedy club in terre haute indiana.

it was fate. it was meant to be.

it was kismet.

where did you say you kids met?

when his karma ran over my dogma.

they looked at each other and said at the same time, we could do this.

they were both traveling salesmen.

van nuys sold paper plates.

not paper cups, paper plates. i mean, what can you do with a paper plate? hey? a paper cup can be useful sometimes, you can slip a little wine or brandy into it when the occasion requires ,but what can you do with a paper plate?

except put potato salad on it.

potato salad. let’s talk about potato salad. who invented potato salad, anyway? nobody wants to take credit for inventing potato salad. how about that?

or cold baked beans. what about cold baked beans?

what did i tell you, you don’t talk about really disgusting things, things that turn people off. like cold baked beans. this is why we can’t have nice laughs.

cupertino sold cigar cutters, cigarette lighters, nail clippers, and toenail clippers.

you can just see it - somebody asks for a light and you hold up a cigar cutter in front of their nose - and they’ve got a nose like ( william mckinley/henny youngman/de gaulle/barbra streisand…)

they teamed up, started playing open mikes wherever they went… all over the country, all over the world… new jersey, des moines, hong kong, baghdad, the moon, the ocean floor…

everywhere they went they left a trail of death.

forget bombs over the tokyo, hroshima, nagasaki, curtis lemay, the unabomber… these guys were the real bombers… accept no substitutes…

they tried everything… they cut recipes out of the local papers… the coupons from publishers clearing house…

van nuys noticed from the start that a lot of people got laughs just by saying the names of celebrities and pausing…. it worked for them.

but not for our guys. the years went by… kennedy, nixon, frank sinatra and dean martin, oswald and jack ruby, jimmy carter, jackie o, johnny carson and rodney dangerfield. o j and marcia clark and kato kaelin, saddam hussein, axl rose, ted bundy, timothy leary and gordon liddy, whitney houston, britney spears, the olsen sisters, paris hilton, obama, mitt romney, taylor swift, they all came and went …

still no laughs. cupertino was for trying to just be filthier than anybody else… it worked for some people… a guy in international falls minnesota did a twenty-five minute routine about nuns giving cardinals enemas and they had to call ambulances from five states and canada the customers were rolling on the floors laughing their guts out…

finally, in a motel outside flagstaff arizona (where else?) they had a fight and van nuys pulled out a gun and cut cupertino down like a dirty dog.

van nuys, who by this time was sixty-seven years old, got seventy-five years to life.

they had open mike in the pen. this is my chance, he thought, he had always heard that convicts were a great audience because they were so bored they would laugh and cheer for anything.

he died deader than ever.

finally he decided if i can’t make them laugh i will make them cry.

he told them a story about his grandmother’s canary , about how he loved the canary but was always afraid to show it, and then the canary died and he went up to his room and cried by himself because boys weren’t supposed to cry…

did that old offender in the second row smile, or rub his eye… or shake his head… or something…?

it’s raining on my grave.

i know you are out there.

i can hear you decomposing.

and the worms… i can hear you too… you… yes you… the little white one, with a couple of molecules of my gall bladder on your ugly face… come on up here…

Thursday, May 10, 2018


once upon a time there was a poet who wanted to write a perfect poem - the most perfect poem that had ever been written.

he felt that to write his perfect poem he needed to have a perfect, perfectly white piece of paper.

as he was an emperor as well as a poet, he had limitless wealth at his disposal to search the earth for the perfect piece of paper.

his spies told him that perfect papers were to be found in a little shop in a town in a little kingdom hidden in the mountains.

the poet-emperor knew that if he rode boldly into the little town in his character of emperor, he would be charged an exorbitant price, as the inhabitants of the little kingdom were notorious for their hard bargaining.

disguising himself as a humble peasant he entered the town and approached the shop.

but as he did, a group of the local king’s soldiers entered the shop, arrested the proprietor for printing seditious pamphlets, and burned the shop to the ground.

disappointed in his ambition as a poet, the emperor decided to become a paramour.

and to find the maiden with the most perfect face, and the most perfect pale cheeks in the world.

he sent out a thousand spies and agents to search his empire and the surrounding kingdoms and find this maiden.

a maid whom he was assured fit the description was discovered in a small village on the western border of the empire.

the emperor found her seated n a rock beside a gently flowing river, gazing at a pale moon.

approaching the maiden, he boldly declared himself, both as an ardent, faithful lover, and as an emperor possessed of all the wealth in the world.

the maiden turned a sorrowful gaze on the paramour-emperor. i am sorry, sir, she said, but my heart belongs to another.

disappointed again, the emperor decided to become a painter, and to paint the most perfect snowy landscape.

in this attempt he disdained the use of agents or spies, but left the palace one night alone, with a knapsack on his back containing only a canvas and easel and some paint and brushes, a jug of wine and a loaf of hard bread.

he traveled to the north of the kingdom, where a perfectly white, snowy landscape was most likely to be found.

he was crossing a perfectly flat plain, in the shadow of a great mountain, when the snow began to fall.

this is my opportunity, the painter-emperor thought, and he set up his easel and began to paint the ghostly scene.

the work, once begun, went as smoothy as the snow itself was falling.

when the snow began to fall too heavily, obscuring the landscape he was trying to copy, the emperor commanded it to stop.

but it did not stop, and went on for days, burying the unfortunate emperor beneath it.

he was succeeded as emperor by his brother, who spent the days of his long reign in a tavern in the shadow of the imperial palace, drinking wine with beggars, eunuchs, and old soldiers, and playing darts and dice.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

four or five

night fled behind the horizon. the birds flew out of the dawn.

five riders rode across a flat, empty plain.

the had left the battle behind them. they were the only survivors of a mighty army that had taken the field, full of confidence, and with flags flying, only twenty hours before.

the emperor rode in front.

his faithful adjutant, general f——————, rode slightly behind him and to his right.

colonel h—————, who had commanded the 5th cavalry, rode behind him on the left.

bub, the emperor’s valet and cook, rode behind colonel h—————.

jones, a young cavalryman who had had his first taste of battle on the previous morning, brought up the rear.

they rode on. no one spoke. the sun was not unpleasant.

is there no town? the emperor finally asked.

we took this route because there are no towns, general f————— replied. the parthians are less likely to follow us here.

the emperor made no reply.

they rode on.

i see something, colonel h————— said. over there , on the left.

probably just a campsite, if even that., he added as the others turned their heads.

without a word, they all turned their horses and headed for the spot the colonel had pointed out.

it was indeed a small campsite, a very small campsite. a small pot was suspended from three sticks over some stones and ashes.

the only living creature visible was a very old woman, obviously a witch, who looked up without blinking at the riders as they approached.

good morning, mother, general f————— greeted her.

good morning yourself, the witch replied.

what are you waiting for? colonel h————— addressed her. you see five weary and hungry soldiers, get us some dinner if you please.

with what? the old woman asked, gesturing at the tiny unlit pot and the surrounding desert.

come come, mother, none of your tricks, we know you are a witch and have magical powers. use them if you please or we will make it hot for you.

if i had magical powers, sir, why would i be living in a patch or rock and scrub in the desert?

ha ha, do you take us for fools? you witches have been spouting that same tired nonsense since beelzebub was a kitten, and jezebel a ball of string.

and colonel h————— drew his sword and pointed it down at the old woman.

very well, sir, since you will have it so, the old woman replied.

she pointed her bony finger at the riders and they turned into small birds and flew away into the sky, except for the emperor, who turned into a scorpion and burrowed into the dirt.

the horses were turned into rats and scurried away across the desert in different directions.

the old woman sighed. again, she thought.

how many times through the centuries had they come?

always four or five riders, more usually four.

one day there would be seven riders.

and then everything - the sky, the desert, the world, the little empires with their armies and battles - would change.

until then… the witch began to gather bits of brush to build a fire.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

cousin braithwaite and the children

miss quail waited until tea was almost finished before making her announcement to the two children.

i have invited cousin braithwaite to dinner tomorrow, she informed them.

oh no, cried darius.

oh no , echoed persephone.

what is your objection to cousin braithwaite? miss quail asked.

he is the most boring person who ever lived, said darius. darius was an outspoken and literal-minded child, not at all given to making allowances for other persons’ fantasies and frailties.

persephone was also an outspoken and literal-minded child, and much given to random acts of spite and malice.

if you invite cousin braithwaite, persephone announced , i promise we will make it uncomfortable for him.

nonsense, miss quail replied. you will do nothing of the sort. and what, exactly, do you so object to in poor cousin brsaithwaite?

he is a bore, darius repeated.

well, miss quail expostulated patiently, everybody can not be fascinating, can they? if everybody in the world was fascinating, fascination itself might lose its luster, don’t you think? and besides, is not a person only as boring or as fascinating as you wish them to be? is not boredom in the ear of the listener?

no, persephone replied firmly, that is not the case at all. cousin braithwaite is a bore, plain and simple.

it seems to me, added darius, that bores are a supreme example of the pitiless irreducibility of reality, and its imperviousness to opinion. if a person bores his fellow humans, then he is, by definition, a bore. what possible recourse does he have, and to whom or what, to reverse the decision?

that is all very well, said miss quail, but it is settled that cousin braithwaite is coming to dinner tomorrow. let us move on. how are coming along, darius, with your translation of suetonius?


cousin braithwaite duly arrived on the following evening, and the children immediately began quizzing hm unmercifully.

tell us, cousin, persephone began, has anything exciting happened to you lately?

exciting? why no, i don’t suppose so. the funds have been up a little , down a little , in their usual way, you know, life goes on, all that sort of thing.

that’s very deep, cousin, darius interjected. tell us, how have you been getting on with the ladies? met any charming creatures lately?

ladies, ladies, yes i believe i have. of course. after all they are everywhere you go, aren’t they? ladies and gentlemen. fifty percent of the human race are ladies, are they not? isn’t that so? then you have the servants of course.

have you saved the world lately, cousin, persephone asked. or slain any dragons?

ha, ha, slain any dragons? yes indeed, i may have. ha ha, that’s jolly, quite droll. quite droll indeed.

cousin braithwaite continued with an incoherent narrative of slaying a dragon in front of the nelson monument, thinking the children were finding it amusing, and never suspecting the depth of their contempt…

the evening passed, and from miss quail’s perspective passed successfully enough. at least persephone refrained from playing any of her typical pranks, such as putting a spider or a scorpion into braithwaite’s glass of eggnog.


how, if at all, do you think this narrative should proceed?

a) cousin braithwaite suddenly inherits a fortune, and marries miss quail. they invite darius and persephone to dinner once a year, on or about st swithin’s day.

b) cousin braithwaite suddenly inherits a fortune, darius and persephone successfully ingratiate themselves with him, he makes them his heirs, and they murder him.

c) darius and persephone become anarchists, and blow themselves up making a bomb. cousin braithwaite remembers them fondly, and writes a book defending their memory, and presenting them as tragically idealistic youth.

d) in time darius becomes prime minister, or at least home secretary. one day he encounters cousin braithwite in the street, old, destitute, and incoherent. darius takes braithwaite to his club, where he treats him to a good dinner, brandy, and cigars, and they sit by the fire until dawn, talking about old times.

e) other ( specify )

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

professor wilson's conclusion

professor wilson was putting the finishing touches on his paper when there was a knock on his study door.

it was sort of sunshiny outside, but the blinds were drawn on the windows, and the room was in shadow except for the light cast on professor wilson’s paper by the old fashioned lamp his colleagues had presented to him at a testimonial dinner a few years back.

the professor enjoyed working by the light of his testimonial lamp, but he did not like to be disturbed - a fact well known to all.

who can that be, he wondered irritably as the knocking continued.

come in, he called.

the door opened and parker and perkins, two of his youngest and most callow colleagues, entered.

professor, cried parker, something amazing has happened!

there is no need to shout, parker, professor wilson remonstrated as mildly as he was capable of. just say what you have to say.

sir, an alien space ship has just landed outside on the quad!

don’t listen to him, professor, perkins said. there is no space ship on the quad, or anywhere else in the vicinity.

professor wilson leaned back in his chair. he took his glasses off his face and twirled them in his left hand.

it seems we have a problem, gentlemen, he announced. one of you says a space ship has landed on the green grass outside, the other says no such thing has happened. you can not both be right. let me think.

the professor, still twirling his glasses, stared at parker and perkins.

i have known you both a long time, he said. actually he had only known them for about a year, as they were his youngest and most callow colleagues.

you, perkins, though you made no great impression on me at first, i have always found to be respectful at least, and willing to learn, and to learn from your mistakes. i particularly remember your conduct at the dean’s autumn dinner, when dr marchmont’s wife made her series of abysmal disclosures, and i thought, that young fellow can keep a cool head at least.

and i thought your most recent paper showed, if not exactly anything that could be called promise, at least a decent concern for proper procedure.

you, parker, have not made so favorable an impression even as that. i have found you the particular type of cringing little toady that i had thought the modern world, whatever else might be said of it, and with its relentless and tiresome glorification of disrespect, had dispensed with. i have always found you quick to agree, and slow to comprehend. i also recall that there was some consideration, at your last review, as to whether you had always properly documented your sources.

from all this i have decided to believe you, perkins, rather than parker, and i conclude, therefore, that were is in fact no alien space ship on the lawn of the quad. good day, gentlemen.

parker and perkins left, closing the door gently behind them.


what do you think of the way professor wilson handled the situation? do you think he came to the right conclusion, given the evidence at his disposal?

do you think he might have found some surer, more effective way of determining if a space ship had landed on the quad?

Friday, April 27, 2018

morning glory

by samantha monday sternwall

little flower outside my window
shaking in the breeze
i heard a story about you
tell me if you please

all these years i thought you
were the same every day
but now i am told different
this is what they say

that every night you die
and in the morning are replaced
by another little flower
with the same smiling face

every night i go to sleep
and i every night i dream
and in the morning i wake up
having floated down night’s stream

am i the same
or different every morn?
have there been 10,000 mes
since i was born?

o little flower
let us face the day
are we, or they, or anything real?
who are we to say?

Monday, April 16, 2018

the traveler

a weary traveler walks down a lonely road to a deserted garden.

where are you going, o traveler, and why are you so weary?

i am weary because i have traveled a long way, and because i am lonely.

why are you lonely, o traveler? i see a light in the distance. perhaps it an inn or a pub, you could retreat to its cozy warmth and rub elbows with your fellow creatures, consume a warm or cold beverage as your fancy suits you, perhaps share your thoughts on politics or art or philosophy or religion.

such things are not for me, i walk alone. alone, always alone.

night is falling, o traveler, are you not afraid of losing your way?

i have already lost my way, a long time ago.

the moon is rising, o traveler, perhaps it will light your way.

i have no way - no way except to doom.

look at this deserted garden, traveler, does it remind you of happier days?

no, not of happier days, but of all i ever loved.

and what might that have been?

the flowers.

ah, the flowers, always the flowers.

yes, the flowers that bloomed, the flowers that never bloomed, the flowers that were cut and placed in vases, that were displayed in lit windows, the flowers that blew away, that blew away in the dust, even as i….

ah, poor traveler, i will delay you no longer.

the flowers that blew away, that blew away in the dust, even as i….

Saturday, April 14, 2018

the stranger

by manfred corrington sternwall

i was born to rule the earth
but nobody noticed it at first
and treated me as just another
anonymous little earthly brother

my early years were filled with woe
i had no place much to go
it should come as no surprise
my brain was streamed with endless lies

how i waited for the day
when i could stand up and say
i have had enough - hereafter
you shall be pupils - i shall be master

the years went by- i was assigned
my place in society’s waiting line
i expected as i grew older
for the world to tap me on the shoulder

and say, you should not be here
there is some mistake, i fear
you are not number 21,876,943,501
you are the child of the sun

the years disappear in the breeze
but somehow nobody sees
will they never learn?
must again and again i return?

Monday, April 9, 2018

thomas and samantha

thomas and samantha lived for many years in the house left to them by their parents, attended by a painfully small number of servants.

they were both creatures of routine.

every morning samantha would come down to breakfast before thomas, and when thomas finally arrived, she would say to him,

“good morning, thomas. if you have nothing to say, please do not say anything.”

and thomas would nod, pick up his coffee cup and his copy of the times, and say nothing.

then one day, shortly after a war had ended, samantha made her usual statement, and themes responded,

“yes, i have something to say.”

“oh? and what is it that you have to say, thomas?”

“that you would look nicer if you smiled.”

“really? well, thank you so much for that astute observation.”

and they both resumed their breakfast.

thomas never again broke his silence at the table.

after a number of years samantha died of pneumonia during a bitter winter, and thomas followed her in the spring, of a heart attack which he had never attempted to forestall through healthy living.

they were both buried in the garden they had loved so well, though thomas had perhaps loved it a bit more than samantha.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

ask for mr black and tell him you are feeling blue

johnny had a number
he kept it in his head
he decided to play it every day
until he was rich or dead

danny stood on the corner
and took down johnny’s number
with a philosophy of life
danny was not encumbered

johnny had a number
and danny took it down
eddie wore a hat of straw
and was a man about town

florence wore a girdle
to keep her tummy flat
edna sat in the window
and did not approve of that

harry drive a taxicab
in order to pay the rent
joe remembered doris
and wondered where she went

sometimes i sit in the darkness
and ponder what to think
but my pencil has no lead
and my printer has no ink

Friday, January 19, 2018


hitler was a bad person
stalin was a family man
bismarck was a man of the people
and drank his beer from a can

mao wore pink pajamas
and slept all afternoon
churchill ran around naked
whistling a happy tune

roosevelt liked the ladies
and watched them through his pince-nez
the kaiser was always a gentleman
i don’t care what anyone says

ronald reagan studied the stars
to determine what to do
margaret thatcher sat by the river
singing the weary blues

richard nixon did crossword puzzles
and often fell down drunk
boris yeltsin wore funny hats
and wished he was a monk

they all drank tea with honey
and ate croissants with flaky crusts
now their memoirs are forgotten
and their empires have turned to dust

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

bob and bill and brad

a guy named bob and a guy named bill
lived in a shack on top of a hill
they were watched by a guy named brad
whose binoculars were all he had

brad kept an eye on bill and bob
because it was his job
he watched their actions ebb and surge
and a certain pattern emerged

bill had the upper hand
and abused bob to beat the band
bob did all the work
and bill claimed all the perks

this went on for about a year
and brad began to fear
there was nothing more to see
in this here territory

brad was ready to move on
and then awoke at dawn
at the shack he took one last glance
and what should he see by chance

but bob pounding on bill!
suddenly the air grew still
brad looked on with surprisement
as bob gave bill his chastisement

from then on bob was king
and bill was the underling
bob cut bill no slack
and watched the sunset with his feet on bill’s back

brad made out his report
and tried to keep it short
had everything changed?
or were they still the same?

brad looked out at the sky
white clouds drifted by
somewhere a child scraped its knee
and a bird sang in a tree