Monday, October 22, 2007

Sitting careless on a granary floor...

Poetry and I don't always get along. Give me a novel any day.Much poetry leaves me cold, but - ah - the few poems that call to me really call to me.

Today fall arrived. You must understand, this is not a gradual thing. Yesterday I wore shorts. Today, at 3 p.m., it was 48 degrees. It is drizzly and glorious.

And, to celebrate, I am going to reveal something very personal: one of those special poems.

Read it slowly, savor, and enjoy.

To Autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or, by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
-John Keats (1795-1821)

Dear poetry purists: I know the formatting isn't exactly right on this. Consider me "(d)rows'd with the fume of poppies" or something, but I can't get this program to indent the way it should, at least not tonight, and I'm going to bed. Hopefully, I'll be able to fix it tomorrow.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Phoning It In

I'm going to let the folks over at provide today's content. I thought we could all use a little satire, I'm I'm too wrung out to bring it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rain Should Fall Tonight

round midnight

It's late. I'm tired. My brain is swirling. The sky is heavy. The air is wet. Pendant clouds are sulking.

And, it seems, people everywhere are very sure about many things.

Me? Not so much.

Lately I've been enjoying a new (to me) blog by an old friend. The writer strives to be a primary, unedited source, to - well - just tell. Her clarity and tone refresh me every visit.

On the not-so-refreshing side, I've been following local coverage of a capital murder trial. I started watching because another friend is involved with the defense, someone whose intellect and intentions I respect. I kept watching and reading, however, for an additional reason: the varied media perspectives. Every channel, every paper featured individuals intent on the same things: a guilty verdict and a lethal sentence.

The case was nasty. Lots of violence, blood, ironclad forensic evidence, tragedy, and grief. Media websites drew comments so vitriolic I felt ill. People with no connection to the victim and with no knowledge of the case other than what they read or heard were fervently hoping for the defendant's death, as soon as possible. The jury reflected local sentiment. The guilty verdict was returned in less than an hour, the unanimous death sentence in about three. Such certainty. Such knowing.

And that knowing is why I feel so unsettled.

We can truly know so little, and a big chunk of that is ultimately subjective. I know I like Thai food. Does that make it good? I know I don't like licorice. Does that make it bad? Of course not.

Such false certainty matters not a jot when all that's at stake is menu planning. But it's driving our society in directions that make me squirm. From a recent Supreme Court decision restricting reproductive rights because women need to be protected from the consequences of their choices to a municipality disguising an anti-immigration agenda in residential painting restrictions , policy makers impose their certainty on our lives, often in very personal ways. Activists are comfortable with those who “know” a patient in a vegetative state would want invasive measures such as ventilators and feeding tubes, yet deny others who “know” a patient would not want to live via machine the right to remove mechanical support. In the latter case, only the activists’ knowledge matters.

This arrogance of presumption is rampant in our country. It permeates the air like the humidity I wipe from my face each day. Such selective, politically driven certainty isn’t knowledge. It’s an agenda.

When did we stop being willing to say, "I don't know"? To say "I believe" rather than "it is"?

I am not a lawyer, and I hope someone will correct me if I'm wrong about this; generic murder (please don't flame me...I know every murder is tragic and sick) alone does not qualify a case for the death penalty. The state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, some kind of special circumstances that justify such an extreme punishment. In the case I mentioned above, that special circumstance was robbery.

The victim was seen earlier in the day wearing expensive jewelry, jewelry that was missing when her body was found. The property has never been recovered. The defendant was never seen in possession of the property. Yet the state claimed that a missing Rolex was proof of robbery by the individual it had charged. And the jury agreed.

Logical? Yes. Circumstantial? Yes. Downright Likely? Yes. But proven beyond a reasonable doubt, to the degree that a man will be put to death by lethal injection, a process whose constitutionality is even now under consideration? Arguably, no.

The defense came before the jury with humility and honesty. It did not deny its client's guilt or seek acquittal via technicalities or tricks. It called no witnesses in the initial phase of the trial, choosing to focus on questions of punishment. Instead, it asked the jury to put personal, visceral feelings of justice and vengeance aside and act not as individuals but as citizens charged with insuring that law rather than emotion was honored. I feared such an approach, ethical and rational, would be far too subtle and contingent for our certainty-drunk, answer-loving society. My fears were confirmed this afternoon.

Our laws don't always make us happy. Sometimes they protect us in ways that are counterintuitive. Despite our personal feelings of disgust toward such a violent crime, we MUST remember that such safeguards as "standard of proof" exist to protect us all. I'm glad to know some attorneys will, for the low sums court-appointed lawyers receive, work tirelessly to insure that our laws take precedence over our emotions. I’m proud to count one as a friend.

Constitutional democracy requires us to rise above "eye for an eye" thinking and, sometimes, put aside personal preferences. I presume none of us wants to live in a nation where the fact that the government says "it is so" makes it true.

Earlier today, a case went to a jury. Out of twelve citizens, none could or would say, "I'm not sure" or "I just don’t know."

And their certainty, stoked by emotion rather than proof, has condemned a man to death.

I wish it would rain.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Possible blog ideas float around me every night as I walk Large Dog.

I pass through interesting neighborhoods.

I recall conversations and daydreams.

I savor possibilities.

I sometimes regret.

But these days are so full. They begin at 6 and go full tilt, careening around this small world.

When I unleash Large Dog, toss him a biscuit, chug down a big glass of water, and settle in to write, the hours and their concerns fall on me like weights. As my darling niece once said, about 20 years ago, I feel squashded.

I confess to finding my bed more attractive than the keyboard. Mea culpa.

But the mornings and nights are finally cool. This is always, always an occasion of joy and renewal in my life. Those of you who communicated with me around this time last year can expect that Keats poem, the one I love so much, to come calling again the first time my exhalations take visible flight in the cold autumn air.

Here's hoping it won't be long.