objects in the sky are closer than they appear

the equinox of the afternoon
presses toward Winter
easy silk sliding through treetops,
a garbage plane runs its motor echoes
dry against the distant blue

I remember sitting in the woods
with a joint, hearing 
a contrail scratch slowly
across my mind, the world green and
bird and brown and rustle and gray

tires on a country lane
crackle against loose aggregate
the hazy rumble of its passing. 
the airplane's stern whine
washes back and forth across empty sky

easy now come evening's landmarks:
dark children voices push 
fresh cut air into our ears, 
a distant mower sends news clippings,
the air turning luminous orange 

a warm wind blows against slanted land,
time billows like a cotton sheet 
unfolding from its center - 
this jeweled and burning moment 
empty, eternal, perfect 


Letter to My 40th Class Reunion

It was 40 years ago last June, a warm Tuesday evening on the 12th, that we lined up in our green caps and gowns outside the front entrance to the high school. Laughing at each other’s jokes, we waited for the signal to march inside for commencement.  The grass was freshly mowed, a light breeze stirred the air, a few puffy clouds dotted the horizon.  And inside, a gymnasium full of parents, friends and family politely fanned themselves, awaiting our entrance.

We’d done it.  It was 1973, and we were the cocks of the walk: the graduating seniors.  We imagined ourselves experienced.

Last night, I looked out on a 40th reunion, and I saw what experience really looks like.  We were no longer virgin canvas; our faces had been transformed by the process of living into complex statements of character.  Every face there was utterly beautiful.  We had become walking stories.  I wanted to hear them all! Yet at the same time,  every face carried a precious piece of the “once upon a time” that was Nelson County in the early seventies.

I have recently found myself wishing that I could go back and eliminate the wasted opportunities, that I could somehow know every single classmate as a close friend. But you remember high school: the cliques, the shyness, the peer pressure, and of course, the still fresh divisions of black and white in the ’70s.

Now, all those actors’ masks that once seemed so necessary and so compelling – we simply toss them aside.

And so, last night. . . forty years out. . . we show up. We present ourselves to each other with that stumbling fearlessness that only comes with age. We arrive with our faded dreams, our crowned glories, our pictures of grandchildren, our memories of departed classmates, our successes and failures. . .  and this is what forty years written over eighteen-year-old faces looks like.  Rembrandt was never so sublime.

Last night we looked at each other, and we glimpsed something that we somehow always knew: we are all one human being – written over and over again by an author who delights in the variation assigned to us as individuals. It is for us only to recognize ourselves in each other.  And celebrate. 

We are the celebration of that creation, of an era that has found itself at last.  A more rural, less worldly moment in county history than today.   A time fraught with its own uncertainty: the winding down of the Vietnam war, the rise of counter-culture, the essential progress of civil rights, and above all an eternal dilemma: whether to accept our parents’ views on society, or to strike out along new paths and to forge new visions of the world.

If there had been an open mic last night, I am not sure I could have made it through this. But I want to say that I consider you ALL my closest friends whether you were there or not, or whether I am ever able to tell you in person.

Until next time.  Be well. 

three am

alone at night
the body refusing sleep
my creaking feet, my naked passage
to this stumbling equilibrium,
this gravitational silence.
a quiet, systemic protest
against a too pleasant tomorrow.
awakened from rooted depths,
to this glowing mirror,
the lined-up, strung-out
cicada still whirring,
still half-expecting
to hear an answer.

Sasha On Deck

This gallery contains 3 photos.

This is Sasha holding the moment captive.  Sasha hangs out under our front deck, and on hot summer days she might be be seen grabbing a few rays on the landscape ties.  ‘We can’t all be rattlesnakes,’ Sasha says, ‘but … Continue reading

More books your high school English teacher never let you read…

So you get twenty or thirty pages into this book and you go WTF?! And you run to Google or Wikipedia, or maybe LibraryThing to see what you are supposed to think, because clearly you missed something. You’re not one of the chosen ones – the work doesn’t speak to you – you’re too thick to appreciate it – you skipped class that day . . .

So now you are online reading reviews, and you see words like: ‘groundbreaking,’ ‘visceral,’ ‘audacious,’ and ‘non-linear.’ Ahh, the reassuring authority of terms. That feels better! You go back to the book and keep trying, and for while you succeed in wearing the reverence you read online – for this writer whose beat words spew out like overripe fruit and broken glass, and which he glues to the page using every conceivable (and unfortunate) body fluid.

Your eyes glaze over at sentences promising temporary handholds of sense; you catch at the swirl of crude images and jumbled meanings that come and go like random bursts of machine gun fire. Clearly, some of the bullets are hitting you, though many fly past harmlessly.  But the ones that connect. . . you begin to wonder what the hell they might be doing. Is there a subliminal agenda? Are you being corrupted by this book?

nakedlunchBut maybe getting unhinged is not such a bad thing. And really, the book is not so long. . . you can stomach the uneasiness. Finally you settle into a pattern of reading one sentence after another – dubiously and a little mechanically – like a puzzled arts patron given a one inch window to move randomly over a Jackson Pollock canvas. This task is not easy. You just wish the words would all shout their meanings at once – discarding the sequential – so you can hear it as one grand howl of pain and confusion.

And you start thinking about the metaphor of the canvas; and maybe just standing speechless in front of it is OK. And finally, Burroughs tells you at the end to start anywhere in the book. (“Gee, thanks!”) All of which underlies the suspicion that this book doesn’t even exist while you are reading it, that it coalesces into a book sometime after you finish, and to say you “read” it is to say that you remember pieces of a confusing and relentless pipe dream.

Naked Lunch: The Restored Text, by William S. Burroughs

Written in 1959, before most of us learned to eat Cap’n Crunch, drink Nestle’s Quick or recite from II Corinthians.  Culturally relevant, it might be worth the experience if you are up for it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.


* Repackaged from a review submitted on LibraryThing.com.  (Hint for the clueless: this is a tour of an addict’s brain.) 

for r. david bretnor

P1020378my labored eyes
my open mouth
my resting eyeglasses
my astonished gaze

nothing so strange as a day
vanquished by the moon.
a cheerio. a wreath. a dead cat.
an opium dream rebounding

you've cut the pine down.
quietly waiting come to spend
time with us. resting in 
clumps of may apple and fern

long stretches of space, 
light spilling over leaves
moving in the wind. it's a
story told by a human. 

my silver coin
my outstretched palm
my plucked banjo
my open heart



I got the sun in the mornin’ and the moon at night. . .

Annie, get your camera!

Would you believe these images of our two nearest cosmic friends were captured using an inexpensive point-n-shoot?


Moon over Albemarle. Friday, May 24, 2013, 9:15 pm.

It’s true.

But there’s an explanation required. The camera was a Lumix Panasonic DMC-FS3, a ten year old point-and-shoot which you can still get on E-Bay for a hundred bucks.  

Full  sun over Albemarle. Virginia, May 26th, 8:15 am

Sun over Albemarle. Sunday, May 26th, 8:15 am

But I had a little extra technology out in front of it: an 8″ Meade Dobsonian telescope, with a 26mm Ploessl lens.  

Basically, I held the camera up to the telescope eyepiece and snapped pictures.  And dang! It worked. 

I should add that the ‘scope had appropriate light filters – a variable polarizing filter screwed into the Ploessl lens to knock the moon’s light down by maybe 65%.  And a Thousand Oaks solar filter reduced the sunlight by slightly more than that: maybe 10,000%. . .

Otherwise I’d have probably have a smoking hole where my left eye used to be.

Did I mention that I used duct tape?

What fine marriageable metaphors these make. Sun, meet moon! Day, meet night! Technology, meet duct tape. And Frank Butler, meet Annie Oakley!

Actually, I was once in a local production of  Annie Get Your Gun.  I played 1st trumpet in the orchestra pit.  But because the Barboursville Players were short on tenors that year, I got pressed into service backing up Frank in “My Defenses Are Down,” covertly leaving the pit to appear onstage as one of the cowhands.  A more self-conscious singing cowboy there never was.

But my favorite song from this old musical has always been “I Got the Sun in the Morning,” sung by Annie and company in Act II.

“Sunshine gives me a lovely day
Moonlight gives me the Milky Way
Got no checkbooks, got no banks
Still I’d like to express my thanks
I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night. . . ” 

. . . and the stars, and the trees, and the mountains, and the dogs, and the books, and occasionally some cool technology, and the endless episodes of conscious living, and all the people around me to make life so very worthwhile.

Still I’m happy with what I got.