Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Is it true that some poets
prefer free verse because it negates
the constraints of punctuation,
or is it simply preferred
by the punctuation challenged?

Three periods in a row, AKA the ellipsis,
is my personal favorite.
I cheerfully admit to not only overuse,
but to improper use as well;
whereas I use it to denote a hanging thought,
properly, it indicates
the omission of material in a quote…

And let us address exclamation points!
F. Scott Fitzgerald said
that the use thereof was like
laughing at your own joke:
What then are we to make of those
who employ several in the same sentence!!!
Death by spear point is the only fit end.

Semi-colons are meant, of course,
to separate independent clauses
in compound sentences, however I question
whether most users know
what either the former or latter are...

Colons shall only be employed
between an independent clause and a list;
blah, blah, blah
etc, etc…

And dashes, what is to made of them?
In days of old, when knights were bold,
no spaces around them existed - But now,
they do, and either way, cutting a strong interruption
from the rest of a sentence is their only civil use.

Ah, last but not least, commas were born
to separate the elements of a series;
as such, would blah, blah, blah be allowable?
Probably not, says the Panda, who eats, shoots, and leaves…

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Good Walk Spoiled

To some it is lunacy,
whacking a tiny ball with a club,
ruining a perfectly good lawn.

To others it is religion
the high cathedrals in Scotland
the auld course at St. Andrews,
Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Prestwick.

I am Eben Monroe Atwater
of the Clan Munro
and this game is in my blood.
At five years of age I began,
with cut down clubs fashioned by my pop.

On a New England course built
over glacial moraines I learned the game.
To this day, I can hear my pop saying
“Keep your head down kid, you’re jumping all over it.”

I learned that “Aim for the brook” does not
necessarily involve actually
hitting the ball into the stream:
Drive for show, putt for dough.
Sandies, polies, and short putts
left in the leather.

Later in life, it was our chance to catch up,
with a flask of scotch, cigars
and trash talking thrown in for good measure.

Mom told me that dad always came back happy
from playing, telling her about the flowers
he had seen along the holes.

Pop is gone, so now it is chess on grass,
just me against the course
a bright Texas morning with a good friend.
Of course when I hit a truly good or bad shot
I glance skyward and smile.

Monday, June 08, 2009


In my cop days, on a Sunday evening, my bride
came down with a case of gotta haves for ice cream
so off we go to the tiny local market
at the north end of the lake.
We enter and no one else is there until
a scruffy young man arrives out front on a bicycle.

My sixth sense goes off, catching me off guard
as he enters; my wife sidles up and whispers
“Do you know that guy, ‘cause he sure is staring at you.”
Indeed, in the reflection of the ice cream freezer I feel
his eyes boring into my back.
I fish a couple pints out of cold slumber.

Walking to the till, he approaches,
cop sense tells me ‘interested, but not dangerous,’
so now I am curious. He says,
“Your name’s Atwater, you’re a cop.”
I say, “Yup, to both, who the fuck are you?”

Crooked smile, eyes crinkling he says,
“You don’t remember me do you?”
“No,” I agree, “But I should, shouldn’t I?”
“Probably” he nods, “Key Bank, on Lakeway, back in ’90?”
On goes the light and I step back, grinning,
“Okay, you’re the guy I caught, did the holdup with a hand grenade.”
“That’s me” he agrees, looking sheepish, “Just got out last week.”

“I’ll be damned,” I say, looking into his skull
past his eyes, “How are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m getting by” he offers, “Day to day you know…”
“I do,” I say, “I sure do. And I live around here, so…”

“Oh, don’t worry,” he smiles “That shit is long behind me.”
“Good,” I agree “And listen, take care of yourself, OK?”
“I will,” he nods, “Like I said,
that crazy shit is long behind me.”

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Back When I Had Hair

Back When I Had Hair

In the valley east of Spokane, on what was once
the main drag, a gangly strand of aging strip malls
and burned out hotels, one place stands out.

A life size sasquatch at roadside,
the red, white and blue concrete block building
the hand scrawled signs stating opinions on
politics and the state of the nation.
Look closely and you’ll see that this is a barber shop.

My style at the time was a number one guard
with an electric razor which, kinda like eggs,
is fairly hard to screw up, so I stopped.

Inside were bloated vinyl chairs,
ragged Playboy magazines,
combs in glass jars of mysterious blue liquid,
one proprietor and a one eyed orange tabby
with a place of his own in the corner.

I sat in the circa fifties astro chair
and ordered up my number one.
Like all good barbers he was a producer of stories
by virtue of the questions he asked.
From head to eye brows, moustache
to sideburns, he moved with an efficiency
from many years of practice.

I went back again and found him
funny, smart, and congenial.
At the time, I wrote op/ed pieces for the
local paper, so I wrote one on him.

A couple days later, I received an anonymous
letter from a woman who berated me for making
“That man look like a good guy.” After all, she noted,
he was a bank robber and a convicted felon.
He was in fact, “One of the Gentleman Bandits”
from California in the nineteen sixties; so shame on me.

During my next cut I remembered this and
mentioned it, my tone light and joking
as I though it should be.
My barber was silent for a long moment.
“Actually,” he finally said, “They called us The
Polite Bandits. Our guns were never loaded.”

He and a partner had conducted a half dozen
bank robberies in central California,
always well dressed, unfailingly polite,
never threatening or angry. The seventh attempt
went bad and the local police were waiting outside.

He served five of a twelve year sentence
with time off for good behavior.
Then, he moved north, and had been cutting hair ever since.

He spoke his piece about the government and his country,
without a care in the world.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Felix The Cat

Feed and Seed basks in the heat of summer
hay bales and barbeques outside
inside the smell of fertilizer cool in
the dim light of a sixties era strip mall.

Genuinely there for seed and feed, we divert,
because no trip is complete without cruising the critter section.
Past the ferrets and bunnies and the wall o’ pooches
stands a plexiglass tube four feet around
and six feet high, chock full o’ kittens.

Most of the citizens of this feline condo are perfect
So Cal examples of kittiness; tiny, ridiculously fluffy,
huge green eyes, like pictures of waifs
on the back cover of Readers Digest.
Tan and brown and white, they mew demurely and
bat their long kitty lashes at passersby.
Their magic is strong, they slay the adoring crowd
and fly out the door at forty five bucks a pop.

In the penthouse level of the condo lies a black and white form
easily four times the size of his comrades. Ungainly,
the antithesis of cute, when he sees Monica approach
he rises like an over the hill circus clown,
takes a surreptitious hit from his kitty hip flask
and prepares for one more go.

He locks eyes with her and she is done; he had her at hello.
He stretches gangly front paws towards her, ducks his head
and does the secret kitty dance of the many veils; she is smitten.
He poses, twists and fawns, his eyes never leaving hers,
look into my eyes pretty lady, for you are taking me hooooome.

“That one?” says the clerk with a tone bordering on
a sneer, “Really? You can have him for ten bucks”
and we do and before the trip home is half over
he is named Felix for obvious reasons.

Any owner of cats knows the jokes;
you are a can opener with legs,
dogs have owners, cats have staff…
Feline arrogance has earned this label
and no cat worth its fur will deny it.

But this was no ordinary cat.
With a new lease on life he grew fat and sassy
but never took it for granted.
If you were human and entered the living room,
no matter your standing in the pack,
his head rose from his favorite spot
under the coffee table and he locked eyes with you,
and in his best telepathic voice, said “Thank You.”

This he did for all of his days.