Saturday, September 28, 2019

Overread at Table 2: After Reading "Tomboy" by Claudia Masin

After Reading "Tomboy" by Claudia Masin

What are these shackles that we have placed upon our children?
When my son was eight, he thought he was made of
His best friend was a stick named "Steve" and
he wanted to be like his best friend, to be a tree.
And no, we did not tell him that he was made of
wood, and we did not tell him that he was a tree.
Because he was a he and he was not a tree,
and this may seem silly, you see, in this pretend modern
world where our skin is static an dour tone shames us
into shades of classes floating a sliding scale among
Colonizer, Oppressor, and Victim;

but our sex, regardless of organs, our sex is seemingly
fluid like the ocean, our sex can change like the rising tide
the ins and outs of the waves against the malleable sands
of ever changing beaches, and I am left with the singular knowledge
and remembrance of Scout from that
black and white movie "To Kill a Mockingbird,"
were it to be released in
2019, Scout would be considered non-conforming transgender,

but back in that throwback ancient stone-age era of 1962,
she was nothing more than a girl who liked to climb trees.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Overheard at Table 2: Aladdin (2019)

Another Disney live action remake of its own hit movie in order to try to bring in the cash from a new generation  of movie watchers, this one has all the trappings, the self-empowerment for women being the primary focus.  The movie should have been called Jasmine because that was the main focus.

While Will Smith is possibly the ONLY person who could play Genie (after Robin Williams made the role all his own back in the early 90s), the comparisons are still there and still fall flat. 

The CG tiger simply called to mind Life of Pi.

The best character was Carpet, but even that seemed so much like an imitation of Dr Strange's cape.

Good vs Evil.  Boy meets Girl. 

Lots of colors and music and dancing ... but somehow just leaves you feeling bland, because it's all been done before.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Overheard at Table 3: The Bathrooms of Parliament

C: ... so in Victoria we went into the Parliament building, where they make the laws for the whole of British Columbia, and it was so beautiful, all the stained glass and the chairs all plush, and it was just incredible, and then we went to the bathrooms and it was really a shock, because the bathroom is now for everybody, there's no men and women's bathroom, it's for both genders.

... So Jennifer and I were in there and we were trying to get our business done fast, because we were thinking, what if some guy comes in?  I mean, the doors are like those doors that always have gaps, and I hate that, and then, oh my God, a guy did come in, and we heard him talking to the woman he was with, he was saying, "Let's go and come back, there's someone here"  and she said, "Just go ahead and go, because I gotta go too!  At least you can use the urinal"

... and the urinal was right next to my stall and I was thinking 'Oh my God!' and then Jennifer, who never learned to keep her mouth shut, just up and yells out loudly, "WELL, THAT'S THE WORLD WE LIVE IN NOW!"

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Overread at Booth 4: Octobers

This is from an unpublished collection of poems entitled "The Subtle Difference Between Contingent and Contiguous"


It’s a very rare sensation, what I’m about to describe to you,
so I don’t want you to think that this poem tells about a

because it happens only at odd moments -
inbetween thoughts,
as though in the corner of an empty room where
I place the peripheral visions, those

tricks of the eye, that once you snap to look,

are gone,

in those paperfolds of time,

I see the woman on the floor with the blood around her head,
and then I see myself stepping over her body to dial 9-1-1,
and as I hang up the phone, I
borrow a pair of scissors from the ICU nurse, to
cut a lock of hair from the grey mannequin
that only
five minutes before had contained my father,

and those two scenes, even though sixteen years apart,
are somehow
like two facing pages of the same folded sheet of paper,

and I realize, both for the first time and all over again, that

I am all that is left of each of them.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Overread at Booth 2: Cookout, Thunder

Cookout, Thunder


One of the things I love most about humanity
Is that every single one of us is an individual:
Full of individual ideas.

One of the things I most detest about humanity
Is that every single one of us has a contradictory opinion
To every single thing someone else says.

Overheard at work:
“Houston is the worst place to live if you have allergies.”
“No it’s not it’s Austin.”

To the reader of this poem:  you in your mind are
Right now contradicting this conversation:
- Insert your own city here -
You are inserting your own city here.
Or not.
Or someone else's city.

Do not tell me what city is the best or worst for allergies.
And do not agree with me.

When every single one of us is an individual,
Not one of us is.

And no ...

we are not


The muses of poetry these days are screaming in frustration.
They pound against the battered walls of their stone towers.
They want to let down their hair, but their hair has been shorn.

The poets have ignored the muses of poetry for decades now/
Finding inspiration in themselves – they have made their own
Imaginations their vain muses, and it shows.

The ubiquitous singularity - the indulgence of the “I” –
The frankly disgusting revelry within the exaltation of the self.
The idol on your shelf is a monogrammed mirror.

The muses of poetry used to sing of quaint villages,
Bucolic gardens, of the moon and the starlit skies,
Of the curve of a lover’s breast and the tilt of the wind.

The muses of poetry used to herald heroes of the high seas,
The stalwart wisdom of the farmer and the tradesman,
The infinity reflected in a child’s eyes.

The muses of poetry used to find eternity in a rose petal,
Bittersweet tragedy in the fading light of afternoon,
The tides of time in the gentle sway of a weeping willow.

Now, their voices are fading.  They have been locked away for
So long they are hoarse from screaming and never being heard.
They cannot be heard over the voices of the poets, the god of the “I”


Suegra walking with the new friend
Twice around the lake.


Daughter in college dorm,
Says she felt lonely
So she picked up a kitten from a litter from a girl
giving them away from a cardboard box
out of the back of her car
parked on the beach.

Mother called, daughter tells her.
Mother asks, "Oh no, mija! They are going to
charge us more for your rent!"

"No they won't, mami," daughter assures her.

Daughter knows that the House Monitor will
never tell ...

because she's sleeping with him.


Daughter walks with her new kitten along the beach
looking out over Corpus Christi bay.

Some kids are having a cookout.

In the Gulf, comes rolling thunder.


Suegra walks around the lake with her new friend,
Man-made lake built in the middle of the planned community.
What used to be rice fields that stretched across three counties.

There is a family, having a cookout near the inlet with the
swimming pool for residents.

Some ducks waddle idly by.

A turtle plops into the water as the two old women walk by.

In the distance, the clouds grow a dark purple, like a bruise
under tissuepaper skin.


In my backyard, on the small grill,
I am cooking steaks.

While I am cooking steaks, I am thinking about the incessant poetry
filled with the cloying "I"


I am thinking of dead muses, long dead muses,
muses who will never hear the rolling thunder

fading into the distance.

started 2015-0902
found and completed 2019-0915

[NOTE: "Cookout, Thunder" is a play on the name "Picnic, Lightning" a collection of poems by Billy Collins in 1998.  Well worth reading.  As I recall, I had originally planned a series of poems to be responses to the poems in that collection, and as you can see by sections 1  and 2, it continues with my meditations on the theme that I have noticed recently in contemporary poets and in our culture in general: this annoying hyper-focus on the "self."  However, as with most of my pieces, this was left unfinished and forgotten until today, when I fleshed out the parts about my daughter and mi suegra.  

[While I did not name it in the poem, the location for the lake and home cookout is Cinco Hill.

[So, at least it's done ... as done as it's probably going to be.   I'd suggest reading Billy Collins: he's a far better poet and you will probably find his work much more enjoyable.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Overheard at the Counter: God - a few thoughts

The conversation had turned to my brother-in-law defending Donald Trump for the sole reason that Trump moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

"He says the Jews are God's chosen people and we all better get in line behind them or God will come down hard on us," I said.

My nephew, the poet MR, responded, "I've been reading some studies lately, and anybody who thinks God is pro-Israel hasn't read Ezekiel."

Niall Carter replied, "Reminds me of a quote by Giuseppe Salinghetti.  It was something along the lines of, 'Anybody who thinks God is pro-money hasn't read the Bible'!"

Upon consideration, we all agreed that there was a bit of wisdom in that statement.

Overheard at Booth 3: In Praise of Bela Fleck

Bela Fleck

Left of Cool (1991)
Tales from the Acoustic Planet (1995)
Perpetual Motion (2001)

If you already know of Bela Fleck then please excuse what I am about to write, because I have to assume you don’t know about him.  Let me pretend to introduce you. 

Banjo player.  But more than a banjo player – a virtuoso.  One of the rare, extremely rare, virtuosos who can take the instrument into realms never dreamed of.   For example, when I told Cristina, “You need to hear this banjo player” she thought “Ugh!  Twang twang country music!” but when she heard Tales from the Acoustic Planet and Perpetual Motion, she was amazed.  She didn’t even recognize the instrument as a banjo.  She is an aficionado of classical music, so she knows what works and what doesn’t.

Overread at Table 1: Being in Love is Easy

Being in Love is Easy

Being in love is easy.
The holding of the hands, the picnics in the fields,
the endless laughter at every joke, the hanging on to every
word as though each breath of your lover was another drop of honey.
Dancing through the rain on cobblestone streets in foreign cities
That you explore together, the carefree days
And long languid nights, bodies shared and hair tussled
And clothes wrinkled and who gives a damn if the dishes stay
Dirty in the sink? We’re in love!

But try being in love when you’re bored,
When you have to tell your wife that the credit cards are maxed out
And you just can’t jump on a plane to go to Florida to hang out
On the beach and drink margaritas and watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico.
Try being in love with the transmission goes out on the car and
You’ve got no way to get to work.  Try being in love when you
Want to kick your twenty-year-old daughter out of the house for being drunk all the time,
Smokes pot in her room and won’t get a job.
“You don’t understand,” your wife says, “She’s depressed! She’s thinking about
 Slitting her wrists!  I’m trying to save her LIFE!  Don’t you even GIVE A SHIT?!”

Try being in love when your other talks about her nieces whose husbands
Have jobs in engineering firms, oil and gas firms, who, being 15 years younger,
Already make twice as much, have houses twice as big, take vacations twice as long, and
Drive cars twice as expensive.

Try being in love when your lover tells you that all you ever do is binge watch Netflix
Together, and how she can’t be the one whose spending all the money
But she needs new shoes and she never has anything nice for herself and the
Neighbors across the street just bought their middle daughter a BMW as a high school graduation gift
and “I’m so tired of cooking dinner all the time no one appreciates everything I do around here
and I don’t know why we never have any money are you spending it all what are you doing
with the checking account anyway?”

Try being in love when the supple bodies of younger days have turned to stretch marks and crows’ feet
And the slack muscles underneath the skin have lost all their elasticity,
When the glowing eyes of your lover, that once sparkled like diamonds reflected in her glass of wine,
Now are dulled with the strangled frustration of miasmic days.

Check the balance of the checking account.
Look at the bills that will come out automatically toward the end of the month.
See if you’ve got a hundred bucks to take her to her favorite steak house.

Make the call.

Being in love is easy.


Overread at Table 5: A Few Notes on Segregations

a poem in six fragments:

A few notes on segregations

We are separated by lines.
Color lines
Welfare lines
Lines are the burkas we wear
to hide all but our haunted eyes
from ourselves.

Why do we find such false security
in our segregation?

Segregation – whether
imposed by ourselves
or by others – strangles
cultural growth.

Only by embracing all of
our history can we move
forward as a nation.

One nation of
many nations –
E pluribus unum

I speak of
Unity through
Celebration of


Overheard at Booth 3: Our Poetry is Too Full of Nazis

Our poetry is too full of Nazis

Our poetry is too full of Nazis
And the Holocaust
And tales of heroism from a tiny family in
Lithuania or
Or Estonia.

Our poetry is too full of their
Slavic names,
And descriptions of how
They were hid behind cupboards,
Or under floorboards, or
In barrels behind barn doors,

And the blackbooted Gestapo
Who finally found them, and
Lines about how the last
Breath of their lungs
Were filled with cyanide gas,

But with a handful, the wide
Eyed innocent child or occasional
Woman, given
False papers
To be secreted away
To a new life
In America,

To spend a life of nightmares
And finally die
At the age of 90
Or 100, in Yonkers NY
Or Albuquerque NM

And the poetry is filled with these
Ghosts, these haunted eyed spirits
Of the Holocaust.

But world is filled with other Holocausts,
Other haunted eyes, eyes that never fill our

Cambodian eyes,
Salvadoran eyes,
Gypsy eyes,
Kenyan eyes,
Eyes of the South Sudanese,
Eyes of the Congalese,
Georgian eyes,
Kurdish eyes,
Eyes of the Druze,
Eyes of the Wiger,
Honduran eyes,
Ojos de los pipiles,
Irish eyes (always smiling),

Eyes of every Holocaust that does
Not fill our poetry,
Voices that never sing through our verses,
Breaths never expressed through our rhyme.

The true Holocaust, is the
Voices that die without ever
Having this opportunity,

Because we are too busy
Struggling with the Nazis
That inhabit our own soul.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Overheard at Table 2: Deacon - Notes from Escuela Dominical


Notes from 2019-0912

Escuela dominical

2 Tim 4:2


    Dios nos da oportunidades


Juan 16:8

Convencerá al mundo de pecado

Muchas veces ignoramos la voz de El Santo Espíritu

"Ronco Pecho"


Aislo = withdrawn, like an island


Phil 1:27

    2, 3, 4

Egoismo y vanidad




Mateo 6:25-26 on tithing


La relación de gozo y alegría es como la relación de ser y estar

Sin perdón no hay relación

Mateo 18:21-35

your brother broke your arm
he thinks it's funny - 
do you forgive him?

Efesos 1:5-7

MAteo 18:15


Griego "Murion" - diez mil (infinito)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Overheard at Table 1: 18 Years Ago Today

My daughter was born.

All the kids born on that date will be forever tagged as being the people who were born on 9-11.
My daughter, and her peers, have grown up with this shadow of the Twin Towers hanging over their every move.

Seems to me that it has always been in the backs of theri minds  That they have always had the smell of pulverized concrete filling their souls, and the hot stench of gasoline fumes form the downed airplanes heavy in their hair, on their skin, as the crust at the corners of their eyes, their mouths, their nostrils.

Or maybe not.
Who knows.
Maybe they never really gave a shit.

Perhaps when they were at their parties in high school they never really thought about their origins.
Perhaps it was just the emotional weight of their parents that was the shroud under which they lived.
Perhaps they never realized that they were the hope that we lost on that day, theat they were the reality in the midst of that horror.

I remember that day.  I remember holding that tiny body, and after my eyes being glued to the televisions all morning long, watching the world fall apart around us, then, late afternoon, the world suddenly came back together, the pieces came back together, all in this little lovely warm brand new human.

So Happy Birthday, my daughter. 
We love you.
You are so much more than this day of your birth.  You stand taller than those towers, braver than that field in Pennsylvania, and stronger than the Pentagon.

If you were to read this, I know you would roll your eyes.
So roll them now.

Love, your dad.

[NOTE: this letter will be saved in the Annals of Insomniac Jack]

Monday, September 9, 2019

Overheard at Table 4: Requiem for the Radio DJ

Requiem for the Radio DJ

Is there even a Radio DJ around anymore?
Maybe lying around some where on some station
in the middle of the desert, driving through the night,
headed high speed, to make it to the city by sunrise,

and a gravel voice of some old audiophile, who
is semi-retired and still a little sloppy from his
day-drinking, but who spins the stax of wax

of tunes you hadn't heard since you were
knee-high to an bird's eye,

and the songs sing you down the road,
broken white lines sliding underneath the
headlights, you

crack the window to let in some of the
night air, crisp and cool from the slow release
of heat captured from the long forgotten sundown,

and where is that DJ?
where did he go?
did he slither behind the shadow of the mountain?
is he asleep at the wheel?

are you?


Friday, September 6, 2019

Overheard at Table 2: What Would You Do If

Helene: What would you do if I left you?

Marc: I'd chase after you, begging you to come home.

Helene: What if I never came back?

Marc: Then I'd spend the rest of my life crying my eyes out.

Helene: Oh, please, you'd probably shack up with some girl within three months.

Marc: Never!

Helene: One of my sisters, probably.  I've seen how they look at you.

Marc: They're just being polite!

Helene: Yeah, especially Claire. 

Marc: Why are we even talking about this anyway?

Helene [pause]: Saw the doctor today.  She saw something on my chest x-ray.  Wants me to go for some tests.  She said she's gonna fast-track it.  Try to get me in on Monday.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Overread at Table 3: Two Haiku for Books

Haiku - Books v1

Falling into books.
Open pages open doors.
Unfolding new worlds

Haiku - Books v2

To open new books:
Each page is a new doorway,
Unfolding new worlds