Fergie’s Wake

This season, I’ve been watching developments at Manchester United with amazement.  They say you should never follow a legend, and this seems to have held true for David Moyes, brought in as the hand-picked successor to Sir Alex Ferguson.  According to press reports today, Moyes is on the chopping block after his aging side has been found out in high-profile match after match.  Here’s a short piece dedicated to those destined to fail, and the music of footballing nicknames.


Fergie’s Wake

So maybe he wasn’t the chosen one,
running around after a legend
with scarcely enough paper for the cracks.
The experiment went off in curious rhyme.

Fergie wanted Moyesy, and Moyesy
bought Fellaini – partly to replace Scholesy –
but it was a waste of money. Up front van Persie
was a shadow, and no one heard from Rooney.

And now they’ve lost to Stevie G,
it’s curtains – time for Giggsy.
He’ll go back to basics, set the rhythm,
put the world back how it’s supposed to be.



Since I gave up chocolate for Lent


A little Lenten silliness to start National Poetry Month. 
This one’s in the form of a villanelle.


Since I gave up chocolate for Lent

I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent
on things that are frankly awful for me
since I gave up chocolate for Lent.

I’ve purchased eighteen cheese cakes, blew the rent
money on baklava and gin – honestly,
I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent,

but it’s been huge. I doubt Father Bill meant
it to go this way, but my friends agree:
since I gave up chocolate for Lent

I’ve gone downhill. This cocoa fast has sent
me to the mall to dull my misery.
I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent,

but I’ve gained sixty pounds and put a dent
in my 401k. Screw charity,
since I gave up chocolate for Lent

I have lost all virtue. I’m hell-bent
on survival. God, bring Easter quickly!
I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent
since I gave up chocolate for Lent.



Blizzard 2014 temp

Here in northern Indiana, it doesn’t take much talk of snow before the conversation turns to the great blizzard of January 1978. I was visiting Goshen, Indiana, when that incredible storm hit. We were cooped up indoors for days. Unforgettable, even for a young child. It was quite overwhelming.
The snow storms of the past few days have been as bad as I can remember for a long time. A good time to sit at the kitchen table and write. Here’s a sestina with my musings on snow and change and hope. Wherever you are tonight, stay warm!



I was a witness, a passenger, a caged bird, for the great snow
of seventy-eight. I lived through the cost and chaos, saw the way
the windswept landscape shifted so much you couldn’t find
your bearings ten feet from your front door. One savage, billowing drift
that month took my grandmother’s home in its teeth. This was all new
to me, freshly arrived in these parts, awe-struck as the blizzard ground

on and on outside. Her patio doors, glazed from ground
to ceiling, once so inviting, were now struck white as snow,
the color of dreams, of fate, of oblivion. I never knew
till that awful recognition, how God could wipe away
all trace of humanity from the earth, could let us just drift
free, one tiny speck on the ocean that no one would ever find

again, if not for grace. Appalled, I realized I couldn’t find
my face in the glass, could see no prints on the ground.
Unknowing, I had become a son of Noah, shut in to drift
for days on end, counting my breaths, watching the snow
rise like a flood, dumb as an animal, with no way
to open the hatch, to breathe fresh air, no word of new

land. I learned the fickleness of hope. Perhaps this is what God knew
in shutting the door so tight on Noah and his clan… That to find
a new life, one must first let go for good of the old, give way
to the swelling tide, feel one’s feet swept from the ground
and lose the stars, become a tiny fleck of wind-blown snow,
yielded to providence. One must be willing to drift

on moonlit seas, beyond all maps. How else to learn that we cannot drift
beyond the compass of the divine? Of the one who knew
us long before the morning stars first sang. How else find that there is no
place that we can go where God is not, and no place we will not find
that tell-tale laughter, light as paw prints upon new ground,
the wise dragon voice that tells us others have been this way

before, and this new thing will not lead to death. There was no way
I could have known this forty years ago, before that awful snow drift,
no way to comprehend the majesty of creation as it swept the ground,
no way to know of love, and loss, and life again in better lands. I only knew
that I was a child, one tiny stowaway aboard this ark. It would be years till I would find
the sun and truly trust it. First I would need to climb and fall and climb again, to learn to love the snow.

Now I have returned. Tonight, half a lifetime away, I stand before the window as a new
blizzard hides both sky and ground. Once more, I feel my feet begin to slip, but now I find
no terror. Instead, I laugh and let my soul drift high, yielded to grace, to change, to snow.




Picture from the Admiralty Blog


Here in Indiana, we’ve begun 2014 with a snow storm.  Listening to the weather forecasts on the radio takes me back to my childhood in England, listening to BBC Radio Four.   The broadcast day would always end with the news at midnight, followed by the Shipping Forecast – giving all the weather details necessary for the thirty-one shipping zones around the U.K.  Finally, the listener would be serenaded with the soothing strains of “Sailing By” as the radio drifted towards the silence of night.

There is such poetry in the Shipping Forecast, at least to me. The piece that follows really needs to be read aloud.  Preferably while wrapped up warm indoors.  Happy New Year to all!



And now the shipping forecast,
issued by the Met Office on behalf of
the Maritime and Coastguard Agency at 2300 UTC today.
There are warnings of gales in all areas except Trafalgar.

The General synopsis at 2300: Low Southeast Iceland 967
moving away northeastwards by midday tomorrow.
New deepening low expected 250 miles southwest of Iceland 959
by same time. New high expected Thames 1025 by that time.

The area forecasts for the next 24 hours
Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire…
Forties, Cromarty…
Forth, Tyne, Dogger,

Fisher, German Bight
Southwest 6 to gale 8, veering west or northwest 5,
then backing southwest 4 later. Moderate or rough,
becoming slight or moderate. Occasional rain. Moderate or good

Humber… Thames, Dover,
Southwest 6 to gale 8, veering north 5, then veering east 4 later.
Moderate or rough, becoming slight or moderate. Occasional rain.
Moderate or poor, occasionally good

Wight, Portland, Plymouth, Biscay, Trafalgar…
FitzRoy, Sole, Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea…
Shannon, Rockall, Malin, Hebrides…
Bailey, Fair Isle, Faeroes…

Southeast Iceland
Easterly or northeasterly becoming cyclonic for a time,
7 to severe gale 9. Rough or very rough, occasionally high in northwest.
Rain or showers. Good, occasionally poor

Sailing By

On teaching (the ukulele)


(A short meditation on teaching, and talent, and the ukulele)

On teaching the ukulele

It has been said: those
who can, do; those who can’t, teach.
It sounds quite clever,

because, like all lies,
it has a kernel of truth.
But could it not be

said with equal force
that those who can, teach;
those unable to

relate to people
those trapped in brilliant minds
in supple bodies

blessed with absurdly
beautiful voices, they don’t.
They just do things, but

they can’t tell you how.
Give me a ukulele and a kid
and I’ll change the world.


To share with friends over at the wonderful dVerse Poets’ Pub.


Thank You For The Music

ABBA Mania

Every once in a while, a “tribute band” comes through town on a national tour. Last weekend, we hosted “ABBA Mania” – a two-hour show chock full of ABBA’s greatest hits. It was a great evening, and the crowd loved it.

It made me smile watching the performers getting ready for the gig, to see just what it took for them to transform themselves into Swedish superstars night by night. The wigs, costumes, makeup, accents. Not a lot of glamor when you’re sleeping on a tour bus traveling further than the equivalent of Oslo to Berlin for your next night’s gig. Here’s to the working musicians who bring a smile to our faces – unsung road warriors from Wales, London, Liverpool, and all points south of Scandinavia. We “make party” with you!


Thank You For The Music

We turned the stage white for them,
white as Swedish snow, as Cabot cheddar,
with a white drum kit, white piano
and a ridiculous white piano stool

At sound check, Agnetha wore yoga pants
and an off-the-shoulder dance top that
made no pretense of hiding anything.
The theater manager had to leave the room

Bjorn had a perfect blond perm. Between songs,
he talked alternately about rugby and pornographic
movies. He could really play the guitar, but
who cares. This was ABBA. And he was Welsh.

Anni-Frid seemed more mature than the rest.
She was saving her energy, but by god she
knew the dance moves. Unlike Agnetha , whose pants
were very tight. Did I mention she was from Liverpool?

And then there was Benny, a Londoner who
could play Super Trooper in his sleep. If you squinted,
you could imagine he was younger, with more hair.
All of them were incredibly polite to the sound man.

At showtime, they made party in Swedish accents,
and the crowd loved every plastic minute.
In the green room, a sheet of paper said simply:
Tonight: Travel 700 miles. Tomorrow: Atlantic City.


Give my regards to Jerry



The monthly 50% off sale our our local Goodwill is a huge magnet for bargain hunters. It’s amazing the slice of life you can meet as you fight through the crowded aisles.


Give my regards to Jerry

I met the Grim Reaper at the
Goodwill on Main the other day.
He was going through the used CDs,
looking for stuff by the Grateful Dead.

It was all a bit awkward, the two of us
just standing next to each other in the
chaos of a fifty-percent-off sale. People
kept having to step over his sickle.

Eventually I said: “The Dead, man,
they’re pretty amazing. Ever see them live?”
He looked down at me with those hollow eyes
and whispered: “Oh yes! Many times.”


The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist

Leonardo cartoon

It was a bit over five hundred years ago that Leonardo da Vinci drew the cartoon shown above. It is thought to have been a study for a larger religious painting, but apparently that work never came to be. As it is, the cartoon has developed a life of its own as a master work, and is now displayed in a special room in the National Gallery in London. I’ve always loved this picture – as much for its flaws as for its perfection. Here’s my modest tribute.


The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist

For starters, it’s not clear to me
whose legs belong to whom – is Mary
sitting side-saddle or on-the-stool?
I get that Jesus is blessing his cousin
but how come he has a receding hairline?
And that hand – the oversized one pointing
at the sky like it’s just dredged something
improbable from one of the kids’ nostrils
– did Leonardo forget to draw it first time round?
Then there’s Anne’s black eye – no one
is talking about that – but it’s pretty obvious.
And why, oh why, is no one wearing a shirt?
With that much gauzy fabric hanging around,
the least Mary can do is cover up a bit.
They call it a cartoon,
but I don’t think it’s very funny.


Sonnet: Talking on the phone to the mother of two pre-schoolers


Written with the greatest admiration for anyone who works at home looking after small children. How y’all get anything done is a minor miracle. Apart from, you know, EVERYTHING which you somehow squeeze into those odd 30-second snatches of free time.


Sonnet: Talking on the phone to the mother of two pre-schoolers

…so maybe we could all do a picnic
next Tuesday, unless Lauren has a thing
(don’t put that there). Let me give you a ring
when Jack gets up from his nap – he was sick
yesterday at church, you know. (Do NOT pick
at that scab). (Tomato juice). What? Oh, bring
him over, sure. He can practice climbing
the back steps. (Don’t hit Rufus with that stick).

Books? Are you kidding? Like ones with a plot?
(That’s beautiful! Don’t lick your brother’s nose).
By now I’d gladly trade everything by
Anne Tyler for a shower alone. Not
even with Brad Pitt! Ha ha…. that just shows
why I got him fixed! (Pickles). Oh Lord – bye!


July 29, 1981

wedding 1981Photo credit: 80s Actual

For whatever reason, I seem to be on a royal streak (flush?) right now. Here’s a brief memory of events from 32 years ago. Britain in the late 70s and early 80s was pretty conflicted (think strikes and riots and punk rock, not just tea and crumpets) – and what better to point this out than a massively expensive wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral?

July 29, 1981

The morning of the wedding, the TV
room was abuzz with royalists. Eileen
on the settee, a cockney queen. The rest

of us stayed in the kitchen drinking tea,
making snide comments about the Prince’s
large ears and the dangers of inbreeding.

Later, I listened from my bedroom as
the bride got the groom’s name wrong. It was an
omen, although we didn’t know it then,

her unending white dress flowing down and
out the door like a slick of North Sea oil,
just one more ’80s excess to regret.


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