Thursday, December 31, 2020

Overheard at the Counter: And So It Ends...

 and so it ends, this miserable year, and we are left wondering how this will be treated in the history books.  Will 300,000 dead have their eulogies?  Will the meanderings of the flaccid politicians be endlessly discussed?  Will the poets have their say?  What will be the final verdict upon our rampantly dissolute culture?

And who is going to get their "I SURVIVED 2020" t-shirt?  

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: "Greatest Love of All Time" by MR

We had imagined ourselves having the 
Greatest Love of All Time, and 
we found it,
in the occasional quiet
of a Saturday afternoon
when all chores were done
and there was nothing left to do
but sit on the porch
drinking sweet tea
and watching our dogs chase squirrels.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Overheard at Table 2: Driver Graduation

Graduated driver licenses
Like kiddies and training wheels.
Not a bad idea really
But probably a hard sell.
But then ...

in 2009, 38808 dead
93 people a day, nationwide

3,071 in Texas alone in 2009

Yeah, but that's total.  Got nothing to do with just kids.

Yes, but graduating the kids slowly can help not only cut down their contribution to the statistics, but also perhaps cut down on future instances when those children are adults.

It's not just driver behavior, though, it's also culture.
Better highway planning.

Overread at Table 2: Paul, Apostle of Christ

This is a movie for true followers of Christ, not for those who just think they know Him (i.e. cultural Christians). American evangelicals in particular may bristle at the refusal of these early Christians to take up arms against their oppressors and the perceived obsequiousness of Aquila to his wife Priscilla.

Also, those looking for action or miracles will not find those in this movie.  Instead, they will see the faith revealed on screen.  The subtle power of the acting, the camaraderie of the Fellowship of Believers, and the sepia toned darkness of the setting all bring about a quiet power that allows the submission to Christ to be the center point of the message.  Indeed, a few viewers may also have fun seeing which passages of dialogue are from which of Paul's letters.

In summary: this movie shows that the miracle of Jesus is the power of the faith in those who follow Him, and when the final scene arrived, most of the theatre was in tears  ... tears of joy and worship.

Overheard at Booth 3: Salinghetti on Forgiveness

Forgiveness does not pardon the other person for what they did, but rather, it frees you from the shackles of a continuous grudge.  This is not to say that forgiveness is easy.  It is very very hard.  But the freedom it brings makes you feel like you are flying.

- Salinghetti

Overheard at Table 2: End of the Year

1: Thank God this year is almost over.

2: Yeah, because we all know that COVID will magically disappear on January 1st.

1: Actually, that's on January 20th.   

2: Good one.  Yes, on January 20th, there will be a vaccine, COVID will disappear, the economy will improve, everyone will have jobs, and Brexit will be a done deal.

1: Brexit?  Now you're just moving in the realm of fantasy!

Overheard at Booth 1: "The Last One" by WS Merwin

The Last One

Well they’d made up their minds to be everywhere because why not.
Everywhere was theirs because they thought so.
They with two leaves they whom the birds despise.
In the middle of stones they made up their minds.
They started to cut.

Well they cut everything because why not.
Everything was theirs because they thought so.
It fell into its shadows and they took both away.
Some to have some for burning.

Well cutting everything they came to water.
They came to the end of the day there was one left standing.
They would cut it tomorrow they went away.
The night gathered in the last branches.
The shadow of the night gathered in the shadow on the water.
The night and the shadow put on the same head.
And it said Now.

Well in the morning they cut the last one.
Like the others the last one fell into its shadow.
It fell into its shadow on the water.
They took it away its shadow stayed on the water.

Well they shrugged they started trying to get the shadow away.
They cut right to the ground the shadow stayed whole.
They laid boards on it the shadow came out on top.
They shone lights on it the shadow got blacker and clearer.
They exploded the water the shadow rocked.
They built a huge fire on the roots.
They sent up black smoke between the shadow and the sun.
The new shadow flowed without changing the old one.
They shrugged they went away to get stones.

They came back the shadow was growing.
They started setting up stones it was growing.
They looked the other way it went on growing.
They decided they would make a stone out of it.
They took stones to the water they poured them into the shadow.
They poured them in they poured them in the stones vanished.
The shadow was not filled it went on growing.
That was one day.

The next day was just the same it went on growing.
They did all the same things it was just the same.
They decided to take its water from under it.
They took away water they took it away the water went down.
The shadow stayed where it was before.
It went on growing it grew onto the land.
They started to scrape the shadow with machines.
When it touched the machines it stayed on them.
That was another day.

Well the next day started about the same it went on growing.
They pushed lights into the shadow.
Where the shadow got onto them they went out.
They began to stomp on the edge it got their feet.
And when it got their feet they fell down.
It got into eyes the eyes went blind.
The ones that fell down it grew over and they vanished.
The ones that went blind and walked into it vanished.
The ones that could see and stood still
It swallowed their shadows.
Then it swallowed them too and they vanished.
Well the others ran.
The ones that were left went away to live if it would let them.
They went as far as they could.
The lucky ones with their shadows.

— W.S. Merwin, from The Lice (Macmillan, 1967) and The Second Four Books of Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1992)

Overheard at Table 1: "You Don't Know What Love Is" by Raymond Carver

 You don’t know what love is Bukowski said
I’m 51 years old look at me
I’m in love with this young broad
I got it bad but she’s hung up too
so it’s all right man that’s the way it should be
I get in their blood and they can’t get me out
They try everything to get away from me
but they all come back in the end
They all came back to me except
the one I planted
I cried over that one
but I cried easy in those days
Don’t let me get onto the hard stuff man
I get mean then
I could sit here and drink beer
with you hippies all night
I could drink ten quarts of this beer
and nothing it’s like water
But let me get onto the hard stuff
and I’ll start throwing people out windows
I’ll throw anybody out the window
I’ve done it
But you don’t know what love is
You don’t know because you’ve never
been in love it’s that simple
I got this young broad see she’s beautiful
She calls me Bukowski
Bukowski she says in this little voice
and I say What
But you don’t know what love is
I’m telling you what it is
but you aren’t listening
There isn’t one of you in this room
would recognize love if it stepped up
and buggered you in the ass
I used to think poetry readings were a copout
Look I’m 51 years old and I’ve been around
I know they’re a copout
but I said to myself Bukowski
starving is even more of a copout
So there you are and nothing is like it should be
That fellow what’s his name Galway Kinnell
I saw his picture in a magazine
He has a handsome mug on him
but he’s a teacher
Christ can you imagine
But then you’re teachers too
here I am insulting you already
No I haven’t heard of him
or him either
They’re all termites
Maybe it’s ego I don’t read much anymore
but these people who build
reputations on five or six books
Bukowski she says
Why do you listen to classical music all day
Can’t you hear her saying that
Bukowski why do you listen to classical music all day
That surprises you doesn’t it
You wouldn’t think a crude bastard like me
could listen to classical music all day
Brahms Rachmaninoff Bartok Telemann
Shit I couldn’t write up here
Too quiet up here too many trees
I like the city that’s the place for me
I put on my classical music each morning
and sit down in front of my typewriter
I light a cigar and I smoke it like this see
and I say Bukowski you’re a lucky man
Bukowski you’ve gone through it all
and you’re a lucky man
and the blue smoke drifts across the table
and I look out the window onto Delongpre Avenue
and I see people walking up and down the sidewalk
and I puff on the cigar like this
and then I lay the cigar in the ashtray like this and take a deep breath
and I begin to write
Bukowski this is the life I say
it’s good to be poor it’s good to have hemorrhoids
it’s good to be in love
But you don’t know what it’s like
You don’t know what it’s like to be in love
If you could see her you’d know what I mean
She thought I’d come up here and get laid
She just knew it
She told me she knew it
Shit I’m 51 years old and she’s 25
and we’re in love and she’s jealous
Jesus it’s beautiful
she said she’d claw my eyes out if I came up here
and got laid
Now that’s love for you
What do any of you know about it
Let me tell you something
I’ve met men in jail who had more style
than the people who hang around colleges
and go to poetry readings
They’re bloodsuckers who come to see
if the poet’s socks are dirty
or if he smells under the arms
Believe me I won’t disappoint em
But I want you to remember this
there’s only one poet in this room tonight
only one poet in this town tonight
maybe only one real poet in this country tonight
and that’s me
What do any of you know about life
What do any of you know about anything
Which of you here has been fired from a job
or else has beaten up your broad
or else has been beaten up by your broad
I was fired from Sears and Roebuck five times
They’d fire me then hire me back again
I was a stockboy for them when I was 35
and then got canned for stealing cookies
I know what’s it like I’ve been there
I’m 51 years old now and I’m in love
This little broad she says
and I say What and she says
I think you’re full of shit
and I say baby you understand me
She’s the only broad in the world
man or woman
I’d take that from
But you don’t know what love is
They all came back to me in the end too
every one of em came back
except that one I told you about
the one I planted We were together seven years
We used to drink a lot
I see a couple of typers in this room but
I don’t see any poets
I’m not surprised
You have to have been in love to write poetry
and you don’t know what it is to be in love
that’s your trouble
Give me some of that stuff
That’s right no ice good
That’s good that’s just fine
So let’s get this show on the road
I know what I said but I’ll have just one
That tastes good
Okay then let’s go let’s get this over with
only afterwards don’t anyone stand close
to an open window

“You Don’t Know What Love Is” by Raymond Carver from All of Us: The Collected Poems

Overheard at Table 4: Christmas Poem to a Man in Jail

hello Bill Abbott:

I appreciate your passing around my books in
jail there, my poems and stories.
if I can lighten the load for some of those guys with
my books, fine.
but literature, you know, is difficult for the
average man to assimilate (and for the unaverage man too);
I don’t like most poetry, for example,
so I write mine the way I like to read it.

poetry does seem to be getting better, more
the clearing up of the language has something to
do with it (w. c. williams came along and asked
everybody to clear up the language)
I came along.

but writing’s one thing, life’s
another, we
seem to have improved the writing a bit
but life (ours and theirs)
doesn’t seem to be improving very

maybe if we write well enough
and live a little better
life will improve a bit
just out of shame.
maybe the artist haven’t been powerful
maybe the politicians, the generals, the judges, the
priests, the police, the pimps, the businessmen have been too
strong? I don’t
like that thought
but when I look at our pale and precious artists,
past and present, it does seem

(people don’t like it when I talk this way.
Chinaski, get off it, they say,
you’re not that great.
hell, I’m not talking about being

what I’m saying is
that art hasn’t improved life like it
should, maybe because it has been too
private? and despite the fact that the old poets
and the new poets and myself
all seem to have had the same or similar troubles
wives, and so

you write me now
that the man in the cell next to yours
didn’t like my punctuation
the placement of my commas (especially)
and also the way I digress
in order to say something precisely.
ah, he doesn’t realize the intent
which is
to loosen up, humanize, relax
and still make as real as possible
the word on the page. the word should be like
butter or avocados or
steak or hot biscuits, or onion rings or
whatever is really
needed. it should be almost
as if you could pick up the words and
eat them.

(there is some wise-ass somewhere
out there
who will say
if he ever reads this:
“Chinaski, if I want dinner I’ll go out and
order it!”)

an artist can wander and still maintain
essential form. Dostoevsky did it. he
usually told 3 or 4 stories on the side
while telling the one in the
center (in his novels, that is).
Bach taught us how to lay one melody down on
top of another and another melody on top of
that and
Mahler wandered more than anybody I know
and I find great meaning
in his so-called formlessness.
don’t let the form-and-rule boys
like that guy in the cell next to you
put one over on you. just
hand him a copy of Time or Newsweek
and he’ll be

but I’m not defending my work (to you or to him)
I’m defending my right to do it in the way
that makes me feel best.
I always figure if a writer is bored with his work
the reader is going to be
bored too.

and I don’t believe in
perfection, I believe in keeping the
bowels loose
so I’ve got to agree with my critics
when they say I write a lot of shit.

you’re doing 19 and 1/2 years
I’ve been writing about 40.
we all go on with our things.
we all go on with our lives.
we all write badly at times
or live badly at times.
we all have bad days
and nights.

I ought to send the guy in the cell next to yours
The Collected Works of Robert Browning for Christmas,
that’d give him the form he’s looking for
but I need the money for the track,
Santa Anita is opening on the
26th, so give him a copy of Newsweek
(the dead have no future, no past, no present,
they just worry about commas)
and have I placed the commas here
, , ,
, , , , ,
, , , , , , ,
, , , , , , , , ,
, , , , , , , , , , ,
, , ,
, , ,

Charles Bukowski,What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

Overheard at Table 3: Empty Your Cup


A good lesson

Overheard at Table 1: Johnny Isn't Angry Anymore

 Johnny Isn’t Angry Anymore

When Johnny was a young man
He used to be so mean
Smashing windows of the Junior High
Setting fire to the streets

Now’s Johnny’s gotten older
He’s just a little bored.
Johnny worries about his job,
But Johnny isn’t angry any more.


Now’s Johnny’s gotten older
He’s just a little bored.
Johnny worries about his job,
But Johnny isn’t angry any more.

Johnny’s kids think he’s clueless
Making “Dad Jokes” all the time
Embarasses them in front of their friends
They wish he’d just go hide


Overheard at Table 2: Domingo, an Opera


Opera Libretto
Domingo Santiago
Lauren Holmes
Catarina Veracruz
How could it be?
How could it be!
All that I worked for
All that I strived to be
For nothing
For  nothing
Me too!
Me too!
In the days of the movement, me too!
How could it be?
How could it be!
All that I strived so hard to achieve
all for nothing
all for nothing
let it be



Overheard at Table 4: Isaiah 60

60 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

4 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.

5 Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.

for the light is come, 
and the glory of the Lord is on you.

2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

4 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.

5 Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.

60:1 is the Coro

60:2 is verse 1
60:4 is verse 2
60:3 is bridge
60:5 can be a CODA [?]

Overheard at Booth 1: The Tree of Fire


The Tree of Fire

When she was born the tree of fire blossomed,
And the mountain swelled great with liquid rock,
She spent her first years barefoot on black soil,
Feeding her younger half sisters, dressing them,
Changing their diapers, until such a day came during
Her fifteenth year, she left the house of leather 
Straps across her back and walked into the city.

There, she met a man, he worked, they loved.
She nursed his dying wife and then she spent
The next year of her adolescence feeding her
Stepdaughters, until her belly began to swell 
With her own child, the first of eight, the years
Then spent in kitchen, making dinner, and in 
Rooms, spinning thread and cloth, and in shops, 
Purchasing rolls of material, and she spun 
Together uniforms for schoolchildren, clothes 
For her own, as the daughters helped her with
The spinning and the sewing and the buttoning 
And the selling, and then

One day, her husband died in her arms at a
Restaurant. He said he did not feel well, and then
He slumped over, his head on the crook between 
Her shoulder and her breast, his ear against the
Beat of her heart.

Then came the worst of it: the war, the bodies
Slumped against the door in the mornings, scaring the 
Lady who cooked breakfast and cleaned the house,
And then the sons began to graduate with degrees 
In engineering, and then the threats from the rebels
If they took that job with the government, and so 
She spun and she spun and she spun her children

North, up north, spun them to Missionary bases
In the Bible Belt Buckle town, and some of them 
Landed eventually in British Columbia, and they,
Each of the children, one by one, made their way
Through the Northern lands, spinning their own
Stories and having their own babies, with her

Having folded her work and walking into that 
Northern land where there are no volcanoes, no
Torogoz, no sounds of the Quetzal in the mornings,
Just a house where she taught herself to make pupusas
And read the Bible each morning and move among
Her children and the hermanos de la 
Iglesia, and she saw many marriages, and 
was the first to hold many of her grandchildren,
and she, the Tree of Fire, watched her leaves
stretch out across the land, full of life and full
of energy and full of their own leaves which 
they scattered across the years and the decades,

and the laughter that she has heard
and the Christmases that she has shared, and 
surely it must be said, that the Tree of Fire,
her flame burns, and continues to burn, and must
continue, in the hearts and the blood in the veins
de todos sus niños y nietos y bisnietos
and all those still yet to be born.


Overheard at Booth 3: Colder Than Snow

 Colder Than Snow

[second draft]

Am C

The snow has finally come


Though it’s been winter all year long

Am C G

We shall be glad when this year is done.

And here beside the bed

Where she lays her weary head

Her hands that held my babies are now clenched inside my own.

The cars that drive by the bay

Turn the snow on the street to rain

As the wind rattles the window pane

The sun, like the star

That guided Magi to the Lord

Today has a dimmer glow

And my heart is colder than the snow.


Overheard at Booth 4: We Pray Not

We Pray Not

We pray not
because we bow not,
refusal to supplication,
we have raised ourselves up
as gods,
lords over all we survey,
so why should we pray?
There is nothing above us,
only sky, such wild
imaginings, like
the quicksand that
we pretend
is solid ground.



Overheard at Table 4: The Historian.


This could be a movie.

A psychological thriller, that ends in a gruesome murder.  So, a psychological thriller that ends as a horror film.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Overheard at Booth 5: Mitch McConnell Meets the Grim Reaper - A Christmas Story

Mitch McConnell Meets the Grim Reaper - A Christmas Story

Mitch McConnell walks into his house after a long Christmas day spent ensuring that many American citizens will have no relief as this year ends.

He walks into his study, pulls the stopper out of the decanter and poured himself two fingers of Old Rip Van Winkle Kentucky Bourbon.  Then, as he takes a sip, he hears a sound, a shift, a slight movement in the chair by the window.

Turning on the overhead light, he sees the figure in the chair, one leg crossed over the other, the black robe shifting from the movement.  The scythe is propped against the chair by his side.

In his famous Kentucky drawl, McConnell says, "Well, well, well, I was wondering when you'd arrive."

Death leans slightly forward in the seat.  "You've been using my name."

McConnell chuckles.  "Didn't think you had a copyright on it."

Death shrugs.  "It's OK.  There have been others with such pretenses across the millennia.  I just wanted you to know that you undershot the term.  Something with such gravitas ... used to deny a few pieces of useless paper?  Quite ... pitiable, actually."

McConnell says, "Is there a point to this?  Are we gone dicker about names here or are we gonna get down to business?'

"Have it your way."  Death stands, picks up the scythe, and says, "Time to go, Bitch."

"The name's Mitch."

Death laughs.  "Not where you're going."

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Overheard at Table 3: notes


The Collywobbles


The Empty Chair


Found these notes in a file.  Just names.  Seems like I meant for them to be titles.

The Collywobbles sounds like a great name for a band.  Maybe "Torogon" will be the name of a song or an album.   The Empty Chair, I don't know what that was all about.  Maybe it is a reference to the empty chair that Clint Eastwood spoke to at the 2016 RNC.  Dysania I'll need to look up again what that means ...

Wow!  Dysania means you can't get out of bed for 1 to 2 hours after you wake up.  Apparently doctors do not recognize it as a medical condition.  Yes, that would be good as an album title.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Overheard at Table 2: a fragment from Drayton Harbor

It was a chill December morning,

It was warm across the bay,

The water cold, the feeling bold,

The birdsongs just before day




Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Overheard at Booth 4: Zoom Call for Abuelita

Zoom Call for Abuelita
The family gathered around the Zoom call.
The sons, the daughters, the grandchildren, all their spouses.
Abuelita at the center of the screen, a propped doll
In a bed, immobile, unspeaking, responding only
In grunts when Gabi spoke, or when Julie spoke.
Carlos, with his wife and new baby, simply said,
“You are going to a better place, grandma!”
He was the only one who spoke in English.
Still, Abuelita said nothing, barely moving.
The hospice nurse propped her up a little with a pillow.
Everyone was crying.
What would she have said if she could have said anything?
Would she have said, “Remember that I prayed for each of you,
By name, daily, in the morning and at night”?
Would she have said, “Know Him as I know Him”?
Would she have said, “Give my recipe book to Nohemy”?
Everyone made plans to fly to Washington state,
To see her in person one last time, flying during
This COVID year, this messy year, this year of such
Uncertainty and impending death.
The air turned cold that day, the skies grey and blue-black
With freezing rain, a chill as far south as Houston,
Sweeping all our uncertain futures into the Gulf of Mexico.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Overheard at Table 3: A Christmas Story

I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus.

Then I told Daddy, and Daddy went to the gun cabinet, got his shotgun, and blew Santa Claus away.

- A Christmas Story

Overheard at Booth 1: Poem of the Day "To Recline and Read is to"

To recline and read is to 
relax the mind and the body to
allow the thoughts to flow like the blood
that washes through the veins, the
words of the page are the oxygen that is fed
to cells. The mind, full.  Enriched.
Like every cell, filled.  Enriched.



Overheard at Table 3: Your Love is Like a Hemorrhoid

 Your love is like a hemorrhoid

It always gets me so annoyed

It's something that I can't avoid

Your love is like a hemorrhoid.

Your love is like a lung disease

You do only just what you please

You got me so I just can't breathe

Your love is like a lung disease.

Your love is like a massive stroke

It left me so completely broke.

On my tongue I almost choke

Your love is like a massive stroke.

Your love is like a hemorrhoid

It's something that I can't avoid.

When you're gone I'll be overjoyed.

Your love is like a hemorrhoid.



Friday, December 11, 2020

Overheard at Table 2: On GK Chesterton's Christmas Essay and Story

The Shop Of Ghosts first appeared in London's Daily News. It was later collected into the book of essays Tremendous Trifles.

Nearly all the best and most precious things in the universe you can get for a halfpenny. I make an exception, of course, of the sun, the moon, the earth, people, stars, thunderstorms, and such trifles. You can get them for nothing. Also I make an exception of another thing, which I am not allowed to mention in this paper, and of which the lowest price is a penny halfpenny. But the general principle will be at once apparent. In the street behind me, for instance, you can now get a ride on an electric tram for a halfpenny. To be on an electric tram is to be on a flying castle in a fairy tale. You can get quite a large number of brightly coloured sweets for a halfpenny. Also you can get the chance of reading this article for a halfpenny; along, of course, with other and irrelevant matter.

But if you want to see what a vast and bewildering array of valuable things you can get at a halfpenny each you should do as I was doing last night. I was gluing my nose against the glass of a very small and dimly lit toy shop in one of the greyest and leanest of the streets of Battersea. But dim as was that square of light, it was filled (as a child once said to me) with all the colours God ever made. Those toys of the poor were like the children who buy them; they were all dirty; but they were all bright. For my part, I think brightness more important than cleanliness; since the first is of the soul, and the second of the body. You must excuse me; I am a democrat; I know I am out of fashion in the modern world.

As I looked at that palace of pigmy wonders, at small green omnibuses, at small blue elephants, at small black dolls, and small red Noah's arks, I must have fallen into some sort of unnatural trance. That lit shop-window became like the brilliantly lit stage when one is watching some highly coloured comedy. I forgot the grey houses and the grimy people behind me as one forgets the dark galleries and the dim crowds at a theatre. It seemed as if the little objects behind the glass were small, not because they were toys, but because they were objects far away. The green omnibus was really a green omnibus, a green Bayswater omnibus, passing across some huge desert on its ordinary way to Bayswater. The blue elephant was no longer blue with paint; he was blue with distance. The black doll was really a negro relieved against passionate tropic foliage in the land where every weed is flaming and only man is black. The red Noah's ark was really the enormous ship of earthly salvation riding on the rain-swollen sea, red in the first morning of hope.

Every one, I suppose, knows such stunning instants of abstraction, such brilliant blanks in the mind. In such moments one can see the face of one's own best friend as an unmeaning pattern of spectacles or moustaches. They are commonly marked by the two signs of the slowness of their growth and the suddenness of their termination. The return to real thinking is often as abrupt as bumping into a man. Very often indeed (in my case) it is bumping into a man. But in any case the awakening is always emphatic and, generally speaking, it is always complete. Now, in this case, I did come back with a shock of sanity to the consciousness that I was, after all, only staring into a dingy little toy-shop; but in some strange way the mental cure did not seem to be final. There was still in my mind an unmanageable something that told me that I had strayed into some odd atmosphere, or that I had already done some odd thing. I felt as if I had worked a miracle or committed a sin. It was as if I had at any rate, stepped across some border in the soul.

To shake off this dangerous and dreamy sense I went into the shop and tried to buy wooden soldiers. The man in the shop was very old and broken, with confused white hair covering his head and half his face, hair so startlingly white that it looked almost artificial. Yet though he was senile and even sick, there was nothing of suffering in his eyes; he looked rather as if he were gradually falling asleep in a not unkindly decay. He gave me the wooden soldiers, but when I put down the money he did not at first seem to see it; then he blinked at it feebly, and then he pushed it feebly away.

"No, no," he said vaguely. "I never have. I never have. We are rather old-fashioned here."

"Not taking money," I replied, "seems to me more like an uncommonly new fashion than an old one."

"I never have," said the old man, blinking and blowing his nose; "I've always given presents. I'm too old to stop."

"Good heavens!" I said. "What can you mean? Why, you might be Father Christmas."

"I am Father Christmas," he said apologetically, and blew his nose again.

The lamps could not have been lighted yet in the street outside. At any rate, I could see nothing against the darkness but the shining shop-window. There were no sounds of steps or voices in the street; I might have strayed into some new and sunless world. But something had cut the chords of common sense, and I could not feel even surprise except sleepily. Something made me say, "You look ill, Father Christmas."

"I am dying," he said.

I did not speak, and it was he who spoke again.

"All the new people have left my shop. I cannot understand it. They seem to object to me on such curious and inconsistent sort of grounds, these scientific men, and these innovators. They say that I give people superstitions and make them too visionary; they say I give people sausages and make them too coarse. They say my heavenly parts are too heavenly; they say my earthly parts are too earthly; I donÕt know what they want, I'm sure. How can heavenly things be too heavenly, or earthly things too earthly? How can one be too good, or too jolly? I don't understand. But I understand one thing well enough. These modern people are living and I am dead."

"You may be dead," I replied. "You ought to know. But as for what they are doing, do not call it living."

A silence fell suddenly between us which I somehow expected to be unbroken. But it had not fallen for more than a few seconds when, in the utter stillness, I distinctly heard a very rapid step coming nearer and nearer along the street. The next moment a figure flung itself into the shop and stood framed in the doorway. He wore a large white hat tilted back as if in impatience; he had tight black old-fashioned pantaloons, a gaudy old-fashioned stock and waistcoat, and an old fantastic coat. He had large, wide-open, luminous eyes like those of an arresting actor; he had a pale, nervous face, and a fringe of beard. He took in the shop and the old man in a look that seemed literally a flash and uttered the exclamation of a man utterly staggered.

"Good lord!" he cried out; "it can't be you! It isn't you! I came to ask where your grave was."

"I'm not dead yet, Mr. Dickens," said the old gentleman, with a feeble smile; "but I'm dying," he hastened to add reassuringly.

"But, dash it all, you were dying in my time," said Mr. Charles Dickens with animation; "and you don't look a day older."

"I've felt like this for a long time," said Father Christmas.

Mr. Dickens turned his back and put his head out of the door into the darkness.

"Dick," he roared at the top of his voice; "he's still alive."

Another shadow darkened the doorway, and a much larger and more full-blooded gentleman in an enormous periwig came in, fanning his flushed face with a military hat of the cut of Queen Anne. He carried his head well back like a soldier, and his hot face had even a look of arrogance, which was suddenly contradicted by his eyes, which were literally as humble as a dog's. His sword made a great clatter, as if the shop were too small for it.

"Indeed," said Sir Richard Steele, "'tis a most prodigious matter, for the man was dying when I wrote about Sir Roger de Coverley and his Christmas Day."

My senses were growing dimmer and the room darker. It seemed to be filled with newcomers.

"It hath ever been understood," said a burly man, who carried his head humorously and obstinately a little on one side (I think he was Ben Jonson) "It hath ever been understood, consule Jacobo, under our King James and her late Majesty, that such good and hearty customs were fallen sick, and like to pass from the world. This grey beard most surely was no lustier when I knew him than now."

And I also thought I heard a green-clad man, like Robin Hood, say in some mixed Norman French, "But I saw the man dying."

"I have felt like this a long time," said Father Christmas, in his feeble way again.

Mr. Charles Dickens suddenly leant across to him.

"Since when?" he asked. "Since you were born?"

"Yes," said the old man, and sank shaking into a chair. "I have been always dying."

Mr. Dickens took off his hat with a flourish like a man calling a mob to rise.

"I understand it now," he cried, "you will never die."

Overheard at Table 1: NFNE

Along the border of Arizona, 29 separate projects are running crews around the clock to destroy a Federally protected natural habitat to build a madman's vanity wall, using money that was not allocated for that purpose.

What's the point of even having a government if it is not going to uphold the laws that itself passed?


Day 666

Overheard at Table 4: Housewright

Taylor Harrison Housewright

We build a house right!

"I saw that ad on someone's truck.  Had old timey lettering and everything."

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Overheard at Booth 5: 300 One-Word Writing Prompts

Here are some writing prompts that I am going to try.

One word, each.

Wish me luck

Overheard at Table 1: Poem "Gifts"




One baby, born on one day, on one specific year,

The embodiment of grace,

The gift,

Given freely from a bountiful God, saying,

“Here I am,

For you,


Kill me.”


And we do,

With every keystroke Amazon purchase,

With every overstuffed Outlet Mall shopping bag,

With every liqueur-filled chocolate,

With every glass raised at the family feast

To toast family and friends and food.



Friday, December 4, 2020

Overread at Booth 2: Poem "Cruelty is the Point"


Cruelty is the Point


Cruelty is the point, the sneer,

the meme, the desire that your babies

would never have been born.


They call you stupid, they call you sheeple,

they call you subpar humans, they call

you worthless,


for what?

For wearing a mask in a pandemic.

For wanting clean water for all humans.

For wanting police to stop leaving black bodies

                Dead on American streets,


They want to know how long they

have to put up with you, but that’s OK,

they are happy enough just to call you

DemoRAT, shitlib, cuck, scum, dog, animal,

Cockroach, Libtard, deMONrat,


did I miss anything?


No matter … here they come …



Wednesday, December 2, 2020