Archive for June, 2008

In this post-9/11 era of security and vigilance, it seems that government has gotten bigger and more pervasive. Security guards are  everywhere, policemen are at surprisingly benign public events, federal agents have wands at airports, pockets must be emptied and belts removed at court houses and graduations, I get “can I help you?” suspiciously asked to me. The list goes on.  

I know the first order of government is safety —  that is, after a perfect union and establishing justice. But somewhere further down the preamble, wasn’t there something said about securing the blessings of liberty for our posterity? I feel sometimes that my liberties have been stripped much like the typical swimming hole trick, where kids run off with the swimmers’ clothing. They end up wearing barrels to hide their nakedness. (more…)

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Guilt is the smell of the stink-bug on my fingertips. Will not evaporate or fade away. Responds not to  water, soap, nor to scrubbing. The stink cannot be overpowered by counter-stinkables, like rubbing alcohol, vinegar, or chlorox. It just clings to you in its concentrated, repulsive, unbearable way. Ignore it? It sits there like Russian bureaucracy. Forget the putridness? Yeah, and that the sky is blue too. Euphemize it? Like that would really help. (Arthropotty? Arthrow-upod? Olfactory bug?)

Actually, I can’t explain how the stink-bug stink goes away. Maybe it absorbs into the skin and becomes part of a person. God forbid! Is that what I’m letting guilt do? Become a part of me? I know guilt is provided for at the altar, at the cross. But how do I apply it to my fingertips, where I touched the stink-bug? Listen to me, boys and girls . . . never, NEVER touch a stinkbug!

I remember how I once got rid of guilt. I got on the floor, facedown, and clawed at the carpet in my bedroom. My guts shook and grabbed me from the inside till I curled up into a ball. I poured out sobs like a Red Cross worker passes out bowls of mush — profusely, indiscriminately, unashamedly, sloppily. There was no coherent prayer or string of promises. No wagering or deals. Only a desperation, a gushing longing, a riptide flushing, a primitive squirrel-skinning. A reversal at full speed, with a gear-stripping deep inside me. A holy transmission, some unseen power at work under the closed hood of my eternal soul.

They say the seat of the emotions is the heart. Maybe the seat of the will is the mind. But I knew then and there that the seat of the spirit is the abdomen, and that there will never be any glory if there is never any guts.

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Hey, I’m A Believer Now!



I’ll believe in global warming when hell freezes over

When I blindly pick up a four-leaf clover

And white turns black on the cliffs of Dover

That’s when I’ll believe


I’ll fall for the right to spew internet porn

When I hear if from the mouth of a unicorn

And when a more righteous Messiah is born

That’s when I’ll give in


I’ll say abortion is a woman’s right

When I see Europe get the nerve to fight

And Mt. Rushmore’s Presidents receive their sight

That’s when I’ll fall for that


I’ll promote the fallacy of evolution

When Castro renounces revolution

And Hitler’s forgiven his “final solution”

That’s when I’ll give my okay


I’ll condone a man marrying a man

When molten lava is held in the hand

And chlorine and alcohol mix in a pan

That’s when I’ll approve


I’ll wink at the idea of no absolutes

When seeds grow rhinos instead of roots

And paratroopers jump without parachutes

That’s when I’ll come around


I’ll consider the notion that God doesn’t exist

When angry atheists stop sounding so pissed

While looking at heaven and shaking their fists

That would make me stop and think


I’d weigh ideas that are even stupider

When China lays claim to the red spot of Jupiter

And I find something else that rhymes with stupider

That’s when I’ll believe






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Writing poetry without inspiration is like trying to relish a dessert by sampling its ingredients one-by-one. It is cheating the Muses by cutting off their locks while they sleep. Awake the Muses! Then write as they finger their tresses, contemplatively. Then mix, shake well, and savor the ambrosia of the gods.

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The Orange


they told us as children,

rhymes with nothing

But they were hiding the truth from us.

Orange rhymes with sorrow

My friend was in Room 206 at Harris HEB


She was ready, except for her will

A paralegal was at her side

Explaining papers through Madelon’s pain

I said I would come back tomorrow

With the fruit she desperately wanted.

Nothing rhymes with orange

Like  promises

I bought the orange

But it sat on my table for four days

Days I spent with my son

Fresh from the war in Iraq

I figured I would take the orange to Madelon on Monday

After my son was gone.

Nothing rhymes with orange like excuses

When I arrived at room 206 on Monday

She was gone

Transferred to hospice care

The social worker called to ask about her

I saw hope drain from his face

Nothing rhymes with orange like failure

I knew what he was going to say

My friend had died.

I stood there and tried to hide

the orange in the palm of my hand.

Now, so many of my emotions rhyme with orange.

The next time I eat one

I wonder what I will be thinking about.

I know I will never again see an orange

as simply an orange.


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J Lamar Howell

“Out of the eater came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet” Judges 14:14

Anyone who has a love for poetry will appreciate the use of imagery in the two-line riddle from the Book of Judges. Samson was teasing the men invited to his wedding. He told them they would be rewarded with a new wardrobe if they could answer the above riddle.”

            He was referring to something he experienced earlier. He had killed an attacking lion and left it to dry up in the desert. When he returned to that place, he discovered that bees had built a hive in the carcass. He scooped up some of the honey and ate it. Thus the source of his difficult riddle.

            The story of Samson getting honey from the carcass of a lion may seem implausible to some people. A surprising fact is that in the 18th century scientists classified a new genus of honeybee called Trigona, which includes three species. Then in 1982, it was discovered that these are the only known bees which do not rely on plant products for food.  They feed on rotten meat rather than pollen or nectar. [Roubik, D.W. 1982. Obligate necrophagy in a social bee. Science 217: 1059-1060.] (more…)

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