Alas, This Current Moment

via Daily Prompt: Foreign

A wee bit of melancholy, defeatist wordplay for y’all today, born of my frustration over America’s current, seemingly interminable political moment spurred on by a lying, mad bully beholden to despotic autocrats.  Quick, someblogger say something to cheer me up.

Foreign influence campaigns leave me praying
for rain to wash corrupt ideology clean, or grasping
for reins that aren’t there in a vain attempt to steer
for reign of cooler heads and saner heads of state.


Aimless Love

via Daily Prompt: Talisman


Billy Collins is the pinnacle of contemporary poets; his poetry is my talisman against negativity and existential ennui.

The only thing I like more than reading Billy Collins poems is listening to him read them.  He writes uncomplicated poems about everyday life, people, objects, and events, and his melodious, flowing language is seeded with startling linguistic gems that render every subject magical.  His measured, perfectly paced narration is ideally suited to each poem.  Poetry, of course, inspires, ensures, soothes, and inflames each reader in different ways.  Collins’ poetry does all that to me at once.

Several weeks ago, I chaperoned my daughter’s school Junior Thespians troupe to the annual conference south of Atlanta, Georgia.  What should’ve been a 4-hour bus drive was elongated by several interstate accidents to 6 hours.  Fortunately, I had loaded up my Kindle Paperwhite with Virginia Hanlon Grohl’s From Cradle to Stage: Stories From the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars, Christopher Rice’s Bone Music, and 2 Billy Collins collections, Horoscopes for the Dead and Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems.  We spent a total of 11 hours on the bus coming and going, and I was able to finish everything but Aimless Love.

Having delved into several other successive books upon my return home, I allowed Aimless Love to expire without finishing it.  Monday, I downloaded the e-audiobook from my awesome public library to my Kindle Fire and have been listening to it during my morning and evening commute all week.

Any driver who happens to pass me and look at me must think me an absolute lunatic when I’m listening to Billy Collins.   Almost the whole time I’m listening, there’s a continuous smile on my face except when it’s momentarily replaced by outbursts of uproarious laughter or torso-shaking sobs of grief or glee.  And I don’t mean just a little grin, although sometimes a smirk breaks in; I mean a face-splitting, cheek-stretching, ear-to-ear smile.

I’m willing to concede that my appreciation of Billy Collins’ poetry might border on the irrational.  I may be more of a fanatic than a fan.  I have to confess I am unable to conceive of how anyone could not be a fan.  And of all his collections, I do believe that Aimless Love is the best.  It ought to be subtitled Billy Collins’ Greatest Hits.  It collects some of his very best poems; “The Revenant”, “The Country”, “The Trouble with Poetry”, “The Lanyard”, and on and on and on.

Some of you upon whom I’ve inflicted unsolicited comments about the virtues of Billy Collins are already familiar with my passion.  And although this is, to my knowledge, my first full post about him, doubtless it won’t be my last.  Billy Collins’ poetry is so otherworldly-inspiring that it changed the way I write my own poetry for the better.  My sincere hopes are that those of you who haven’t yet discovered him will soon and that he has as profound an effect on you as he has on me.

Billy Collins, whichever window in the world you’re currently gazing out of, thank you.  May the tiny flame at the tip of your pencil never burn out.

Sick Day pt. 2

via Daily Prompt: Invisible

On February 28th, I posted my first piece of flash fiction, titled “Sick Day.”  It turned into a collaborative series of sequels written by fellow Bloggers.  I had a great deal of fun with the project but have decided the time has come to bring it to a close, so I’m writing an end to it.  For now.

If you haven’t already read all the posts in this series, titled “ReBlog Duet Cut & Paste Extravaganza! (Pts. 1 – 5), and are interested in doing so, you can find them, in order, at these links: Pt. 1; Pt. 2; Pt. 3; Pt. 4; and Pt. 5.

Whether or not you explore those posts, I highly recommend you read my initial story Sick Day before reading its conclusion below.

Sick Day, part 2

I fumbled my phone into my pocket then leaned back against the tunnel wall, taking long, slow, deep breaths.  The cold stone felt good on my palms, and my car’s emergency lights had a hypnotic, calming effect.  You only imagined it, I thought, it wasn’t real.  Couldn’t be real.

I pushed myself off the wall and was about to get back in my car when I heard a loud thud, then another, then another, and felt the ground tremble.  Something obscured the sunlight that had been streaming through the eastern end of the tunnel, now lit only by the dim overheads and blinking car lights.  I pressed myself back against the wall, closed my eyes, and willed myself to become invisible.

“Mack!” A deep, resonant voice called, and I could feel a faint thrum in the wall.  “Mack, I won’t hurt you!  Won’t you exit the tunnel?”  My heart was a jackhammer.  I tried to respond, but I couldn’t speak any more than I could move.  A brief eternity passed, then the giant form blocking the tunnel began to shrink.  Presently, the large man was small enough to enter the tunnel, but just barely.  He began striding toward me, slightly stooped.  He leaned against my car’s fender, folded his arms, and stared levelly into my eyes.  Innumerable brightly-colored, intricate tattoos covered every bit of exposed skin.  They were not images of anything I recognized but were not unlovely.  In fact, contemplating their alien beauty soothed me somewhat.

He extended his right hand, and I couldn’t help but reach out and shake it.  His grip was firm but not painful, and his palm was dry, rough, and surprisingly hot.  He smiled, a crooked, mischievous grin, revealing clean but uneven teeth.  His irises were a brilliant red and sparkled like an exquisitely cut ruby.  Despite my initial fear, I found myself liking him.

“I’m Leath,” he said, “and I’m due for some time off.  I need you to fill in for me for a while.  You’re up for it.”  He released my hand and leaned back against my car.

“Sure! I… Uhh… Err…”  I ran a hand through my hair, glanced right, and put my hands in my pockets.  I looked at the ground.  I lifted my head and looked into Leath’s eyes, raised my eyebrows, held my arms out, elbows bent, palms up, and shrugged.  “I mean…?”

Leath laughed, a booming, boulder-cracking bellow, and clapped me on the shoulder.  “Oh, Mack!  You crack me up!  Don’t sweat it, cousin, there’s nothing to it.  I promise you can handle it.  And the perks.  Ahh, the perks!”

“But where do I go?  What do I do?  How do I do it?  When?  I…  I mean…  How?”

Leath released my shoulder and laid his hand on the roof of my car.  It began to shrink, rapidly, evenly, until it looked for all the world like one of the Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars I played with as a child.  “Here and there,” he answered, “A little of this, a little of that, every now and then maybe a teensy bit of the other.  You’ll know how to do it and when.  Don’t worry!”  He picked my shrunken car up and held it out to me, dangling it by the keychain it had acquired.  “You may need this again someday.”

I took the car and put it in my pocket.  Leath put his arm around my shoulder, punched me playfully in the ribs, and turned us toward the mouth of the tunnel.  We walked out together into the shadow of Crummer’s Knob.  He extended his hand, and I shook it again.  “Really, Mack,” he said, eyes twinkling, “You’ll be okay.  You’re a natural.”  With that he turned and walked off, rising as if walking up a ramp that wasn’t there, growing larger with each step.  About 50 yards away and 50 feet up in the air, he turned, waved, and called, “I’ll see you around, cousin!  Have fun!”  Then he turned, knelt, pinched a corner of sky between his thumb and forefinger, and raised it up with that loud ripping sound I’d heard earlier.  I waved and stammered out a weak, “‘Bye.”

I climbed the steep trail to the top of Crummer’s Knob, surprised by the ease of the trek.  At the summit, I turned a slow 360, taking in everything I saw, fixing it firmly in my memory.  Then I took a step, and another, ascending stairs I couldn’t see.  When I felt a change in pressure, I knelt.  I pinched a corner of sky between my thumb and forefinger and zipped it upward.  It made that same satisfying sound.  Then I stepped through.

The end.  For now?

My friend Em from Earthly Brain and I had so much fun with this that we’re about to embark upon a new collaborative story project.  Stay tuned for our big announcement within the next week!

New Feature!

via Daily Prompt: Identical

I was seized today by the irresistible impulse to add a new page to my beloved blog, a digital version of an identical print project I started years before but have been lax in sustaining.  I call it A Writer’s Reliquary, and it will be my permanent repository of new (or just forgotten) words I encounter as I read or listen.

In addition to the 2 words I came across today in Patrick J. Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed, I included 2 words I read in 2014 in David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks and entered into the 2nd iteration of this project, a Google doc that, again, I failed to commit to.  I will add to it periodically but not daily.  Somewhere in my house is a journal in which I started my reliquary.  Whenever I find it, if indeed I do find it, I’ll add the entries recorded there.

What do y’all think of my original quote above?

Thoughts on 3 Books

I blush to admit it, but I’ve had so much fun blogging recently that I’ve neglected updating my Goodreads account.  Our local public schools were closed early today due to the threat of severe weather, so I got to take a half day off work, collect the kiddos, and spend some time getting caught up with my reviews.  Although my blog has evolved beyond its original purpose of being a book blog, I still like to share my thoughts & reviews here.  For the following 3 books, you can read the Goodreads synopses by clicking on the titles.


The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

I rated this 3 of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris gives an engaging and moving performance narrating her audiobook The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity. Early in the telling, Dr. Harris tells the story of a 43 year-old male, who is the picture of perfect physical health and fitness and who has no other apparent risk factors, having a massive, debilitating stroke then attributes that stroke to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). I thought to myself, “Yeah, right. What a bunch of BS. There’s no way she can convince me of this, and I’m not even going to bother listening.” I don’t know what kept me from ejecting the disc and popping in my new Foo Fighters cd. Maybe it was her smoky, lively voice and heartfelt delivery. Whatever it was, I’m, glad I kept listening.

Dr. Harris is clearly a passionate advocate for the healing and good mental health not just of her pediatric patients but of everyone. The Deepest Well is the story of her journey to discovery of the phenomenon of ACEs and how pervasive they are across the entire socio-economic spectrum of society. It chronicles the studies of the early pioneers in the field of its discovery, and the ongoing efforts to develop standardized diagnostic criteria and treatment protocols.

I was somewhat disappointed by what Dr. Harris chose to explain in great detail versus what she didn’t delve too deeply into. Although she spends a good deal of time explaining, with highly technical medical terms, the neurochemical processes involved in various mental health disorders caused by ACEs, she does not give a single, definitive definition of what ACEs are or a comprehensive list of different types of ACEs. She only briefly discusses current methods of treatment and possible areas of research for more effective future treatment. To be fair, though, she does take pains several times to mention that this whole field is quite young and in need of energetic young practitioners and theorists to begin more fully exploring it with the eventual aim of developing a comprehensive system of diagnosis and treatment and effectively incorporating those into our current healthcare systems.

Dr. Harris herself has clearly been an important pioneer in the field and is a passionate advocate for its development. If you’ve heard about ACEs and are intrigued and want to learn more, The Deepest Well is a good place to start. The printed book may have additional back matter that offers more information about diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing research. If that’s the case, I’d rate it 4 stars. But the audiobook lacks additional info so is more of an introduction, albeit an enlightening and engaging one, than an in-depth study.


Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

I rated this 2 of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth isn’t a bad book, but there’s not a whole lot of new information or original thought here. I enjoyed it because author Reza Aslan’s opinion about who Jesus was largely reinforces my own beliefs about the subject and because he offers references to many sources for further study. He effectively demonstrates his claim that the more Gentile-centric, Pauline-based Christianity that developed in the Roman Empire and that became the basis for modern Christianity won out over its several rival schools of thought and was a new and radically different system of belief than that conceived of and practiced by Jesus and his initial apostles, especially Peter and James.

I wouldn’t recommend this book for conservative evangelical Christians who have already made their mind up about who Jesus was. But if you are looking for an easy-to-read, well-researched account of the historical Jesus, his physical environment, and the religio-political realities of the time that shaped his beliefs, I suspect you’ll enjoy Zealot.


The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

I rated this 3 of 5 stars on Goodreads.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry was fun to listen to and highly informative. Jon Ronson is a quirky narrator who admittedly suffers from his own share of neuroses, so he is the ideal reader of this book.

Ronson details some very amusing personal experiences interviewing a colorful cast of psychopathic, semi-psychopathic, and weird, deviant, but probably NOT psyhopathic real-life characters. Along the way, he offers an enjoyably educational glimpse into the psycho-industrial complex that has given rise to massive overdiagnosis of mental health disorders and the regrettably resulting flood, especially among children, of overprescription of antipsychotic drugs. He finishes up by pondering whether (and tacitly implying that) modern medicine’s overreliance on mental illness diagnoses is causing irreparable, long-term damage to individuals’ reputations and prospects for becoming productive members of society.

I highly recommend this for anyone who wants to learn more about psychopathy and the current state of mental health medical practice.

If any of you have read any of the above, what did you think?

via Daily Prompt: Blush

A Day Late…

via Daily Prompt: Wrinkle

When I was young, reckless, and unattached, I had a casual acquaintance, I’ll call her S, to whom I’d become quite attracted.  She was beautiful and intensely sexy, and she had been featured in a large department store’s clothing catalog.   We worked together for a time, but I considered her out of my league, so I allowed my natural shyness to prevent me from trying to speak to her apart from the occasional “Hello” or “How’s it going?” in passing.

One night after work, we both happened to be in the same bar, and magically, we began a tentative mutual flirtation.  My response to her opening move was to write the poem below. Yes, right then and there at the bar.  I’d hoped she would find it romantic.  I’m too much of a gentleman to tell the rest of the story, so I’ll let the poem speak for itself.

Better Whiskey

Gold in the glass,

dim bar lights glint

off crystalline cubes

and beveled edges;

my eyes drink first,


then my nose after

the clink and tinkle of

bouquet-releasing swirl,

slow flick of the wrist.


Proper enjoyment begins

with watching, wanting,

intense visualization:

cool glass on eager lips,

cold burning whiskey

over tongue and under

and down, like that.


I shudder down the initial

swallow of liquid smoke,

harsh as a teen’s first hit

off a cigarette and

twice as good.


But the best whiskey I ever drank

was not this good: you dip

a satin finger with artful nail

in and stir, slide it around

the rim to evoked a haunting ring

before raising it to my lips,

your splendid image inverted

in the depending drop, as if

all depends upon this moment.


Ahhh, the memories come rushing back.  Poems, like songs, are time machines, aren’t they?  Also long ago, I wrote another poem about barfly life, titled “Dirty Pool”.  But that’s a poem for another post, a tale for another time.

Yesterday, my friend Gypsy‘s post, a lovely & poignant poem titled “Whiskey“, awakened my memory of having written this poem about that heavenly beverage myself many years ago and provoked me to want to post it.  Alas, it was one of those really busy days in court, so I was unable to do so then.  And Gypsy, I promise that’s the original title and NOT an attempt to imply my poem is better than yours.  It’s not.

Some of you may’ve noticed a new wrinkle to my post today:  I didn’t include a word count or reading time.  Recently, a very talented writer, a blogger whose wisdom I trust, offered me a critique.  She said that starting my post with that information screams, “This isn’t worth reading but it won’t take you long.”  That had never occurred to me, and I’m grateful she pointed it out, so I’m going to try a few posts without that header and see how it works.  What do y’all think?


ReBlog Duet Cut & Paste Extravaganza! (Pt. 5)

via Daily Prompt: Noise

Word count = 311 / Reading time = 1 minute, 5 seconds plus however much time you spend visiting the linked blog(s).

On February 28th, I posted my first-ever piece of flash fiction and, after receiving requests from other Bloggers for a sequel, I invited them to write their own sequels instead and promised to reblog them if they did so.

This little project has made a bigger splash and much more noise than I ever imagined it would.  A fifth Blogger, CJ, who blogs at SeeJay Stark, has added his sequel to my original story, “Sick Day“, which I recommend you read first if you haven’t already.  I also encourage you to read parts 1 – 4 of “ReBlog Duet Cut & Paste Extravaganza!) to see the fruits of several of our fellow Bloggers’ creative genius after you finish visiting CJ’s blog.

The first few lines of CJ’s sequel are below, followed by a link to his post.  CJ’s brim-full brain is buzzing with story ideas, and his diverse blog is full of great content.  Do yourself a favor and spend some time seeing what he has to say.

Oh, and hey, I almost forgot: feel free to jump in here and add your own sequel to my original story or even as a follow-up to one of the previously-offered sequels.  Just remember to keep it at 200 words or less, please, and I’ll reblog your story.

I may wrap this project up soon for fear of jumping the shark; I certainly won’t extend it beyon 10 parts, if it even hits that mark, and the 10th will be me wrapping it up.  So if you’re thinking of contributing, there are 4 attempts left, now’s your big chance!

“Sick Day (my addition)”

Was that a fever dream? I must be sick, or drugged, or both. The boss said all was well so I turned the car back on and continued through the tunnel with the intention of making a U-Turn.  Continue reading…



Helpful ReBlog

via Daily Prompt: Grasp

Word count = 142 / Reading time = 20 seconds plus whatever time you spend on the recommended blog.

I didn’t realize how weak a grasp I had on what Gravatar is and what it can do for me until I came across a very helpful post from the big-brained, eco-conscious, and genderous Pendantry, who blogs at Wibble.  Here are the first few lines of Pendantry’s featured post:

Using Gravatar to build traffic

This short wibblette is intended for newcomers to WordPress; my aim is to show you how to set up Gravatar to help you build traffic to your site.

First of all: what is ‘Gravatar’?

A Gravatar image

An ‘avatar’ is an image that represents you online — a little picture that appears next to your name when you interact with websites.

Please continue reading Pendantry’s informative post by clicking this link.  Pendantry has a brilliant blog filled with great poetry and intriguing journalism.  You won’t regret spending some time browsing it.  Promise.


Funny at the Grocery Store

via Daily Prompt: Meander

Word count = 132 / Reading time = Less than 1 minute

Two blogging firsts for me today: 1) Posting on a weekend; and 2) featuring more than 2 or 3 pictures.

It started out innocently enough.  I took my kids grocery shopping with me because I wanted to show off how beautiful, intelligent, precocious, polite, and well-behaved they were.  We meandered up & down the aisles unobtrusively enough until my son’s sharp eye and unique mind happened upon the new Frito Lay Lay’s Potato Chips bags.  My daughter and I immediately recognized the cuteness factor and comedic value and couldn’t help but join in the fun.  Hilarity ensued, and soon enough fellow shoppers were casting sidelong glances and uttering hearty guffaws as they maneuvered their carts around our shenanigans.  Enjoy the picture show below.  Don’t I have the awesomest kids?





Happy Sunday, everyone!


ReBlog Duet Cut & Paste Extravaganza! (Pt. 4)

via Daily Prompt: Wonder

Word count = 274 / Reading time = less than 1 minute plus whatever time you spend at the linked blog.

On February 28th, I created a monster.  That’s right.  A beautiful, intriguing, mysterious, complex monster.  And it’s still growing.

My friend S.M. Hart from Curious Hart is the 4th Blogger to write a sequel to my flash fiction story “Sick Day“.  I’ve already posted about the process and shared the sequels of three other Bloggers, which you can read here if you haven’t already.  So as not to bore those of you who have been following this particular thread, I’m keeping this post short.

I wonder which of you awesome storytellers out there will accept my challenge to write the next version of a sequel or the next chapter of one of the sequels already posted?  You can take the story in any direction you want to.  Just remember to keep it at 200 words or less.  In exchange for your participation, I’ll reblog your story!

The first few lines of Hart’s sequel appear below.  Her original post contains my story.  If you want to read my story first, you can click the linked title above.  But it won’t hurt you just to read the first few lines below then hop on over to Curious Hart.


Into the Woods

In my rearview mirror, I watched the arm crash to the ground. Silence. Then I heard a faint whimpering sound.

Oh, no, I thought, that giant arm has landed on someone. I have to check it out.

You can read the beginning of the story and finish reading Hart’s sequel Into the Woods.  Please take some time to explore her fascinating blog, especially posts in which she shares excerpts of her novel The Book of Rhino.