Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006


I wish it were bee, but it is heron. A tribe of sisters and the odd brother, Apis melifera is infinitely social, raising the collective children, and intimately industrious, dancing out the nectar-dance to show all the way.
Heron, Ardea herodias, on the other hand stands alone, watching the fickle horizon or the heavens reflected in the scrying pools at his feet. He divines the secrets of mudbug ecology and of the hard rain heralds, locks them in the vault behind his eyes. His posture and his beak remind me of ibis (whose orthodox name escapes me); the ibis with his peck, peck mud-dipping beak is the aspect of Thoth, patron of the scribes. Three-times Great, Great resolves to absolve himself of his obfuscated philosophy through industrious scribbling. Can heron’s disciple to the same?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


He takes the same train I do
The same A to B
We ve never acknowledged
Neutral scowling rush hour faces
Now he appears at lunch
Arrives in costume to play in the wrong scene
No less disgruntled
At the quiet indignity of eating a sandwich
Than in riding the rails
Another lost actor strolls by my window
Pink flipflops over white lead chevron stripes
Her proper place is the bagel shop
Twenty two miles away
God is running out of actors
In the sitcom of my life
Ratings must be down

Friday, September 15, 2006


Sunday is Constitution Day, in commemoration of the completion of the draft of the US Constitution that we know today. I took a few moments to read the preamble this morning.
It would be a couple of years between the completion of the constitution and the creation of the Bill of Rights, but Constitution Day has turned my attention toward the amendments, as well.
Most Americans know (sort of) the 1st amendment, which guarantees some of our most important intellectual freedoms. Many others focus on the second amendment, no less important, that guarantees Americans the right to provide for their own defense. I find, however, that a staggering number of people haven't the faintest idea of what freedoms are ensured by the other faint brown words emblazoned on that fragile paper. For those who defile these in practice, I challenge you to have the courage to publicly ask for their repeal:

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Elections are fast approaching. The primaries are behind us, and if you haven't already done so now is a good time to start preparing for the generals. I encourage everyone to read the Bill of Rights, inform yourself on the issues at play on your local ballots, and vote with your mind and your conscience. It is never enough to simply show up and punch the ticket along party lines.

Your politics are your own. Whatever they may be, register to vote.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Red states

With the flurry of yahoos scrambling for office on TV, the radio, and at my train station, I found myself discussing politics with a friend of mine the other day. It started with a heated discourse over the pandemic war on terror abroad, which of course degenerated into picking apart the wherefores of the US's current leadership. One term from that discussion, in particular, keeps popping back into my head: "Red states".
In my youth, no self-respecting American would have ever described their state as "red". Red states were the enemy. They mostly loomed on the right side of that clunky Mercator projection wall-map, while we steadfastly defended the left and what was right. That war, though lengthy, behaved itself. Battles were waged in classrooms and by lonely chameleon polyglots in foggy cities, sometimes spawning open-war in far-off places where the outcome didn't affect the price of anything.
Then, like settling into a still pond after days of hiking under a heavy pack, we won. I know this. I remember it. My father keeps a graffitied piece of the Berlin Wall on his mantle, and I've seen an inordinately larger piece on display at a location that does not exist in Langley, VA.
So, I find myself today wondering, where is the brave new world? Wasn't the victorious end of the Cold War supposed to usher-in a utopia of technology, democracy, and free-market riches for all?
I take classes for my graduate degree with a healthy contingent of active-duty military folks. From them, I hear repeated again and again the phrase, "America is the only remaining superpower". When I was much younger, I believed this, too. It may have briefly been true.
In reality, this sentiment over-simplifies our situation. It is an anachronism, declaring a continued universal victory that is predicated on 1970's political thought. How can this definition of a superpower persist in an environment of the economic superpowers of the European Union, or India, or China? Can we continue to claim military supremacy in a world where stateless theocrats raise transnational kamikaze? At the end of the 18th century, another group of stateless ideologues used ersatz weapons, abhorrent tactics, and the quiet aid of a legitimate state to squarely defeat a military and economic superpower.
Moreover, we now risk forfeiting our status as an ideological superpower. Wealth ebbs and flows. Military might is a long race in many stages; the favored competitors are bound to trade the lead on any given day. But the strength of this state lies in its commitment to the ideals of fundamental rights and freedoms.
As we look south to a remnant of the old red states and our enclave there, we must ask, who in this fight is being defeated?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

still pond stirs
pebble wrinkles nod-off

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sunday morning meditation

I have no idea as to the origins of the recipe. It may be some piece of folk wisdom, or a hallmark of domestic science handed to my mother by her high school teacher. It is equally likely that it came from the back of a bag or one of the hundreds of back issues of Good Housekeeping that clutter my grandmother's smokehouse.
It is certainly not my grandmother's recipe. I can't make them the same way that she does, as my hands are not the same size as hers and I don't own that wooden bowl that has been scuffed with flour since long before I was born. For her it's not so much a recipe, nor even a rote, as it is a process that her fingers execute without thought, like the complicated but invisible series of motions involved in standing up and walking.
When I'm done casting the spell my mother gave me, working an ordinary feat of practical magic, I have a pan of biscuits that's not exactly right, but that reminds me of the genuine article. I make them more like the authentic ones from my grandmother's kitchen by serving with the proper accoutrements: a mixture of peanut butter* and a syrup that I've never seen sold anywhere outside of Louisiana. At a meal other than breakfast, I might place them alongside black-eyed peas or butterbeans and chowchow.
I don't imagine my readers will be overwhelmed by these little loaves, as they will not evoke for them the memory of sitting on an rough wooden pew, salvaged from the Old Church and placed next to my grandmother's table. However, for those who would like to join me for a simple breakfast some Sunday morning, enjoy:

2 cups of flour
1T sugar
1t salt
1T baking powder

1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup milk

preheat oven to 450
mix dry ingredients
cut in butter
stir in milk
shape into 6 even balls
bake in a dark pan for 15 minutes, more or less

*My brother would wrongly use crunchy peanut butter and too little syrup, while some of my cousins would argue that the mixture requires warm butter. These notions are crazy if not immoral and are presented only as a cautionary example.
Also, if the reader can’t come by proper cane syrup, molasses may suffice in its place.