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I Read

By the full moon’s light
I read
of times long past
of a distant village

where limestone cliffs
as blue as the moon itself
rise high enough
to split the sky

where the mountain springs
murmur liquid life

where the townsfolk
hard and resinous
as turpentine trees
keep secrets
break hearts
learn lessons
(or do not, until too late)

and while their setting sun
reddens the pale scarps
above their heads

my sun rises
blanching the sky
behind my setting moon

I close the final page
and return home

As I mentioned a while ago, my mind is once again calm enough to allow me the enjoyment of reading fiction. In fact, I’ve read four novels in the past few weeks, which is about three more than I read in all of 2019.

Seriously. It was that bad.

The first books had been in my TBR pile for a while, but this latest one was a recent arrival, and it was a serious break from the “literary” works I’ve been reading. Written by Tim Lebbon, Generations is not only science fiction, but (gasp!) a television “tie-in” novel, the fourth novel set in the Firefly ‘verse.

The previous titles in this series, all written by a different author, were (to put it mildly) a tremendous disappointment. I reviewed the first two (here and here), but frankly, I didn’t see the point in bothering you with a review of the third one, so I read it and tossed it aside.

Seriously, they were that bad. Continue Reading »

One For the Box

In my house there are four boxes.

Four special boxes.

First, there is the God Box, a small cardboard box covered with embossed white paper. It contains the prayers my step-mother wrote to her deity during the last years of her life. It’s a difficult box to visit.

Then there is the Poem Box. It’s flat, the size of a billfold, and it contains the poems my father wrote after my stepmother died. It, too, is a difficult box, filled with despair and dark thoughts written in days’ early hours as he precessed from a broken future toward his own demise.

Recently, I received an incongruous box. A wooden half-moon with a clasp, japanned and decorated with 19th century-style chrysanthemums, it fits easily in two hands. It is from the estate of my recently deceased brother, and while it is totally not like him in style, its contents—pipes, Malian artifacts, a bracelet of broken silver—most definitely are. But, like the other boxes, visiting this one is also a sad journey.

The fourth box, though, is different. Continue Reading »

Respect

A dry drum.
Steady rain.
Measured footsteps.
Taps.
Distant thunder.

Sounds from Arlington
11Nov2020

 

America Stumbles

As I write this, we are all caught in this liminal condition, this “state between states,” as votes that have been cast continue to be counted. Regardless of which campaign is eventually judged the winner, though, there is a clear loser: America.

Continue Reading »

Today, I married my sister.

I’ve been to many weddings, a good few more than you, I’d wager. As a musician, I’ve been to scores, suffering through endless repetitions of Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. As a groomsman, I’ve been to a handful, often a bit green in the gills, sweating vodka and swaying with my fellows in a shared hangover that hung around us like a fog. As a guest, there have been at least a dozen, some where I just sat and enjoyed the spectacle of hope, and others where I read remarks, made a toast, or simply helped with setup and tear-down. My sister and I were in a wedding before—my first—with me as groom and her as bridesmaid. Continue Reading »

Book in Hand

For most of my life, if I was awake, I had a book in my hand.

Riding the bus, walking to school, in the quad between classes, lounging at home, I’d have a book open, thumb in the crease, my nose buried in its leaves. Novels, anthologies, treatises, memoirs, history, science, poetry.

Anything.

Everything.

I read it.

Then, about a dozen years ago, life went off the rails. Book deals dried up. Friends and family began to die (at least ten during this period). We fostered a young woman, giving her a place to live for a year. Work became a stress factory. The economy tanked, causing the Great Recession. Then along came Trump. And then this pandemic.

In response, my reading habits changed, radically. They became constrained, limited to news articles, political analyses, and works of non-fiction. Instead of a dog-eared book, I carried my tablet with its instant-on, 24×7 access to current events and a front-row seat to our increasingly divided society.

Even so, every now and again, I would return to my fiction books, the stacks of TBR novels that inhabit every room in this house. I tried, repeatedly, to read one of them, hungry for that immersive experience, that miraculous wash of words that would sweep away reality and bathe me in the light of a different sun.

But the miracle never came. I didn’t have the patience, lacked the power to focus., and was unable to drive away the here-and-now with worlds of what-if. Book after book I picked up, opened, began, and abandoned within a few days, the only evidence of my attempt, a bookmark left somewhere in the first thirty pages.

With all this as preamble, one might wonder why, during my recent time off, I decided yet again to pick up a novel and give it a try. I mean, there I was in the last month of the most turbulent election cycle of my sixty-plus years, with a pandemic raging beyond my door, a daily gush of political scandals and turmoil filling the airwaves, and everywhere people shouting and crying and grieving and protesting. Was it hope? Obstinacy? Desperation? Whatever compelled me, it was in this moment, amid this maelstrom of chaos, that I chose to try again, and opened up a 150-year-old book.

And I read it. Cover to cover, in record time.

And then . . . I picked up another book, and read it, too.

And now, here I am, wondering what to read next.

. . .

Do yourself a favor.

Turn off the television. Put down the phone. Leave the tablet in the other room.

Pick up a book. A real book. The one you’ve been meaning to read for so long.

Take a seat near the window, where the natural light will be over your shoulder. Settle in, book in hand.

Open it up. Stick your nose in it. Smell it. Feel the pebbled surface of the printed page, the tension of the spine.

Chapter One.

Read. 

I tell you, it’s like coming home.

k

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