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Na Muintir: Three Fragments


                                              After Seumus McManus

(The Coming of the Gaels)

Let us sing of the coming of the Gaels,
         Three tribes like three streams, wandering
Across the wide lands of the East and South,
         Across the roaring body of seas, land
Of foreign powers and ways weird to Eire.
         From there came the Milesians though last
In order, first in war and rule.
                                                These were met
By bristling Firbolg and mighty Tuatha Da Danaan,
         When to these the Milesians beat their path.
All three were kin of Celt’s blood, who before
         The singing of songs separated to become
One tribe, they of whom we now sing our tune,
         The triple-headed river of wandering men,
Come from the East, the Gaels, warring down
         To the peace of a single river’s flow: the Gaels.
First the Firbolg came, and they from Hellas,
          Long enslaved but cunning in their escape,
Capturing the ships of their veteran masters,
         Outrunning the curses of Manannan MacLir,
They managed a beach head, and thereby good fortune
         Until the Fomorians, tribe of rovers,
With a stronghold on Tory Island, waged big war
         Coming down like birds of prey, across
The cold grey seas, white-tipped with chill wind,
         Come down from the Island of Tory, northwest.
Because of the Firbolgs, the Fomorians would work
         A petty worry in the wake of the Tuatha De Danann.
So came next these clever and skillful folk.
         Awed by the finery and execution of artful works,
[Read more…]

Gerasene Farm


– for D.F.

“What do you want with me…?”
“We pigs are brainworkers.” – Napoleon
“Who is going to save me?” – Wilbur

Sundays during slaughter time, when work and days
Are a matter of acres and seasons, pink flesh
And exposed blue-white bone

Are surely signs of progress—satisfaction—fertility.
And when autumn begins to spit snow from its mouth
We’ll fire up the fifty-gallon drums for boiling skin

From the herd. With our blue knuckles now scalded red
We’re allowed to pretend we know Odysseus’s swineherd.
He’s a neighbor, say, who might need to borrow a pritch,

Lend his spare block-and-tackle or resharpen a bell scraper
On our millstone.
                             And that’s when Monsignor comes by to bless it all
One bullet at a time. It doesn’t take long after we call

And he’s there almost immediately.
                                                        There’s no dying soul,
No family grief; it’s all just business. “Tail
To snout” he likes to say, quoting from some other good book.

So Monsignor takes off the blacks and Roman collar
This Sunday, leaves them back at the rectory
And dons red buffalo plaid and tattered bibs.

“Scares the devil out of the herd,” I once heard him explain
“Don’t like black or maybe they just know.”
Is one of his strong points.
                                            This day is full of a sky

Afflicted with a tin-foil glare from broken clouds—
It’s the day he’s chosen to come help because
He generally likes the business

And specifically on a Sunday. “Not unnecessary work.
A form of relaxation, I would call it.”
He grew up downwind of a giant swine operation

And of course raised his own and has some opinions on swine.
He knows his pig flesh, alright, the way
A horse trader knows teeth and hoofs.

Monsignor lowers the blue-barreled gun,
A pistol without history – it knows neither wars nor duels
But only a resting place between hunting seasons.

He stares the hogs down, and anoints
Their lives with purpose, cruel
For business, and kind but for no kind of fun.

Afterwards, he walks back to his car
To clean the muzzle and chamber.
                                                       Throats cut, they wait
With us for his return.
                                    We don’t let him near the boiling pot.

He’s no good at that part.
                                           But he has a great eye
For parting flesh with a .45.
                                          And maybe for that reason he was made a Monsignor,

But when he scalds the flesh he scrapes too much flesh with the hair
And very little hair with the flesh.
                                               We politely
Put him off to visit with the children

Or maybe put a beer in his hand and tell him to rest a bit,
Though rest isn’t in his nature anymore than
It is in the clouds that scud like corpuscles across the sky.

He was born on a farm and to hear him tell it he fought
Half the day with earth and flesh, the other half,
All blood work.
                                If given half a chance he could shine

Like the best of rural vicars and squires.
At any rate, his place in literature
May one day be secure—

Interpolating experience and innocence
With marksmanship and common sense:
“Pigs are a good investment—nothing wasted if you do it right.

Efficiency is in the nature of swine.”
“Why else,” Monsignor would add, “would the desperate demons
Of Gerasene plead with our Lord. ‘Let’s get the hell out of here!’

You can almost hear them say. It must have been a favor,
Well, maybe not a favor; more a false mercy, for our Lord
To provide that herd, that cliff, the sea beneath.

But there’s no mercy for demons, of course. That’s a figure
Of speech is all. Literature is full of them. But Scripture
Only uses it on purpose. No levity with that sort of business.”

Literature, indeed, I nod. Napoleon and Wilbur
Might talk past each other among the cold clouds
That gather and disperse in winter configurations above our heads.

But also in the sense that fictional pigs make of life and death.
It’s all fantastic friendships for nostalgia’s sake
Or a drudging work detail

To serve as footstool for naked power—
Pink flesh and blue-white bone for them—and sometimes for us.
But Monsignor? He doesn’t even bother to say–

And he gives it no more thought
Than a man of the cloth ought to be
Expected to do:

We watch him hold the pistol like an aspergillum.
And he anoints them both—Wilbur and Napoleon—
With one shot.

We were poets once and young…

…or younger, anyway.

Desktop5So JOB was visiting the Dappled Things website, as one does, and he stumbled across this in the “featured poem of the day” department: a little ditty he composed a while back for some M.L. character…

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 11.18.37 AMI do so love “ogling theologians.”

[Image: Gargoyles at Notre Dame, and the Café Grotesque mascots they inspired.]

Hey, look at that—AP says I’m Trump Country!

crawford county map
See me up there in the upper right-hand corner?

As Percy would say, I’m “validated” like the young man who sees his own town in a film or lights up William Holden’s cigarette without acknowledging that he knows Holden knows he knows who Holden is, etc.

(p.s. This is not meant as a provocation, so please if you have anything bad to say about the current president, I would refer you to previous dust-ups at this blog on that issue, which I won’t even link to because I don’t think it bears any relevance to this post. Here, it’s all peace and joy and I don’t really care what you think about the current president – I’m making a Percian point here, which is much more important.

As a smoking/meat-smoking friend of mine in California might say, “Oh, you don’t like my politics? That’s nice. Did I mention that I bake bread?”

Except in my case I would say, “Did I mention I make a helluva good Chicken Cacciatore and that I can make you a martini that you will never forget? Sit down right there at my kitchen table and I’ll stir us a couple, and then let’s light up a smoke—cigar for you? Perfect!—and cigarettes (unfiltered) for me. Let’s talk then about the beauties of poems that completely nail the execution of a perfect enjambment of lines, of women who wear their hair down, of early R.E.M. albums and whether they were meant to be concept albums in the tradition of Pink Floyd and Yes but tinctured with a Southern Gothic ethos, of love in a time near the end of the world, and of children and how, one way or another, the little dears are going to get you out of bed in the morning. Yes—oh, and how’s your drink? See? I told you so….Cacciatore will be ready in about 20 minutes. How ‘bout another round?” )


What Came in the Mail

So Recently Rent








From JOB, for Christmas … with a note that perhaps I have an affinity for Eastern Europeans, to which I can say, Yes, I certainly do. I hadn’t read much of M. Codrescu. Know of him primarily because of his NPR gig, of course, and something he’d written in connection with New Orleans. Leafing through the table of contents, the title “dream dogs” caught my eye, which turned out to be a good choice because it is (a) short, and (b) consists of lines that are entirely left-justified, which is makes reproducing it in this post much easier.

dream dogs

years ago it was easy to dream of wolves
and wake up your lover
to show him the blood on your hip.
the wolves had ties
and followed after every sentence
rather polite.
now there are police dogs
using tear gas and the lover next to you
doesn’t wake up.

ME: I like it. Thinking that it must have been written with a woman in mind, I flip back a few pages and learn that it’s from a section named for a former wife, Alice Henderson-Codrescu. Naturally, this interests me, and so I read a few more.


the storm outside
must be the kind you read about in the newspapers,
killer of babies and bums.
the kind of rain that goes in the subway
when i hold on to the coat of a fat man
whose disastrous life
makes me happy.

ME: Not much to do with the wife, as far as I can tell, but the alliteration in “babies and bums” catches my ear, and the schadenfreude my heart … although I’ve put on a few pounds this last year, so …


i want to touch something sensational
like the mind of a shark. the white
electric bulbs of hunger moving
straight to the teeth.
and let there be rain that day over new york.
there is no other way
i can break away from bad news
and cheap merchandise.
(the black woman with a macy’s shopping bag
just killed me
from across the street.)
it is comfortable to want
peace from the mind of a shark.

ME: I like this one, too, although I don’t have much of an idea about what it means. The title leads me to suspect it is perhaps a version of a dream he’s had, and now I wonder whether all of the poems in this section are based on dreams, since we have it in the title of the first poem above, and the imagery in each of the poems has sort of chaos we often experience in dreams. The lower case letters bring to mind W.S. Merwin, but Codrescu’s poems contain a great deal more of life as most of us find it. He isn’t trying for the sublime in every line, and in fact seems to be trying to avoid anything that might signify portentousness. So yes, I like it. Not as much as JOB’s own poetry, but I’ll be dipping back into this volume until I see more from him.

Thanks JOB!

Shucks! – I guess the 2017 litterachur Nobel is going to go to Bono


But I’m energized – Big League – at least it’s going to someone who actually understands the difference between sovereignty and totalitarianism…

Well, shit, if you think I’m wrong about it – the laddy said it right here. I quote unquote quote:

“Edited clips of Trump replied: “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that well.”
“A wall? Like the Berlin Wall? Like the Great Wall of China?” Bono, a donor to the Clinton Global Initiative, shot back to the video screen.”

Well, let me uncling mesself from thissere gun, religion and God type-a-thing before I continue. [Sipping at a cold one now, hold on…]

Well, shit, what I mean to say is, hell and hard nuts, America is so tired of thissere electionation process… Oh, hell, let’s just all go home and hope that we have jobs come Monday… I’ll buy the keg (Quinn, can I borrow 40 bucks? The Hamms is on sale…)

Well, as I look out at this wonderful U Ass of A we gots usself here, I can’t help but thinks about that what which Bono’s countryman and fellow string-strummer once said, “That’tare ain’t no country for old menfolk…”

Well, Cormac, I guess you can be fixin your Nobel year to be—

Hell now, look at that, Mr. Tweedy, you made me spill my Blatz.

No, excuse me – EXCUSE ME, Mr. Tweedy, but we happen to got womenfolk in the audience just now, so you just you shut your jaw the fuck up, now you hear. I realize you got a grimace like a hound dog trying to pass a peach pit. But just heel now, y’hear? You’ll have your chance at the carcass after Cormac gets a gnaw!

Well, I guess that’s about alls I got to say – ummagonna end the conversation righ-chere.

Love and peace and I’m all with Her and all.


Live-blogging the Brisket: Hour 8


“Gin! The Driver’s Choice!”


Absofuckinglutely apropos of nothing (except tweaking Greenpeace noses everywhere!)



Quin Finnegan on Rediscovering Pokémon

Yikes! It’s tough reading all that Heidegger when nefarious creatures like this show up in your living room …

But having ably disposed of “Gastly”, he’s now taking the offensive—hunting for more of these hobgoblins born of technology and our ever-shrinking minds. IMG_0896

And taking in an architecture lesson or two along the way.

Rosario’s Beauty

For Big John Bully

So early, so late, Jams Federer was unable to recall whether he had just began his shift or was getting ready to punch out. Either way, the border guard said to himself, pushing the tall and loose shift-stick of his Ford Bronco into high gear the way a high roller in Reno yanks on the slots, as an idea, coffee sounded good.

Cresting the last of the sand hills which ranged the border like redolent sentinels, Federer pushed the Bronco into high gear and gunned it for the security wall which would end this particular night raid across the border. As he drove down the last Mexican hill toward his country, the view out his windshield blossomed like a supernova. The starry glint of distant San Diego shone like hard business amid the smoke and fog of morning. He knew that it was illegal to look for illegals from the Mexican side, but hide and seek with the Federales was easier than playing Venus Flytrap in polyester-cotton forest green.

“A job is just a job,” he said, spitting a piece of sunflower shell from his teeth, “but a mission is an adventure…”

On the Mexican side, Federer thought, they don’t expect a hunting party – unless of course they’re out hunting for immigrants from El Salvador or Guatamala. In which case, they don’t make it across until after they’ve been so thoroughly fucked by their mules that they’ll do anything to get to LA, Phoenix, Albuquerque—hell, even as far as Hoboken.
Federer groped for the ancient Zippo, its chrome rubbed to rust, which he kept beneath the dashboard computer. It lay in a seven inch by three inch slot vacated by the old CB radio, the same one his late partner Dane Gutierrez used when he called in his final report, bleeding-out his arteries after the drug traffickers jumped the fence, jumped him and neatly sliced into his neck and mostly removed his head from his body.

As the dash-cam revealed, even as his assailant had a hold of him from behind and began slicing into his neck with piano wire, Dane unholstered his Heckler & Koch and reaching behind him managed to thrust it into the main assailant’s gut, emptying four rounds. After the body dropped, he swung around to catch the second assailant, mid-stride and moving toward him, frozen  and furious as a caveman in a museum. Even as the blood squirted from Dane’s jugular, as the dash-cam recorded in silence, the officer had enough strength to spend the remaining rounds on the second assailant before officer and perpetrator dropped simultaneously into the dust.

After the Department issued cellphones to officers, all the old citizen bands were yanked from the vehicles. Soon after that, the department also retired most of the Broncos, but Federer persuaded his captain to let him hold onto his. Federer knew that the newer computer-rigged SUVs were more vulnerable and less dependable than the battle-ready Broncos.

With a deft sweep into the front pocket of his uniform, Federer fished out a Lucky Strike from a pack limped with the sweat and heave of the day. As he inhaled the smoke, he wondered whether Rosario would be working tonight. About 20 years younger than Federer, Rosario Raimondo was a capacious-eyed California-born Mexican with immaculate olive skin, a sweet smile and full of sass and curve. Murphy’s Diner was the usual stop-off place before Federer – and, in a time before, Dane – would call it a night, cruise back to the station, shower, and punch out.

As a Tejano superstar crooned her undying hatred for her ex-lover on the Bronco’s radio, Federer thought about Rosario serving coffee, a ragged scapular hanging down between her breasts when she leaned to pour.

“Hoffisseer, hue like cream choo?”

“You never call me Jams. Why?”

“Hoh-kay, fine—Hams, hue like cream?”

“Yes—yes, I would.”

She smiled that sweet smile and grabbed a clutch of creamers from the pocket in the front of her tan and stained apron. She gingerly set the closed little white cups on the diner counter before him like freshly laid eggs. Federer noticed that she never looked at him directly, but threw a quick succession of glances his way, determined but not confident, like an amateur pool player setting up a shot.

“It dangeruss toon-hight?”

“Not so much. How ‘bout you?”

She gave a quick shallow laugh and rolled her eyes.

“Hone-lee hue, Hoffisseer, hone-lee hue!”

“But I’m married.”

“Ho, then you are chwice as danggeruss!”

She threw her head back and laughed again, this time from her diaphragm. He smiled, admired her native beauty and wondered how someone who could be his daughter could so captivate his imagination.

He’d tried hard to come up with a comparison; not old girlfriends nor passing interests in college and certainly not his wife. The best he could come up with was the drillable TV reporter who kept showing up to get the story from him, wearing the tight black pants all female TV reporters wore, the kind that said, By the way, fuck me.

“Reggie Thorne, Action 12 News, tell me about the danger,” she’d say in that usual tommy gun style that she probably thought was intimidating but only irritated. She thrust the microphone in his face as he peered at the small cherry of the tally-light. “Officer, what happened today?”

He shrugged.

“Officer, what is the state of our borders?”

He shrugged again.

“Officer, what can you say about the Border Patrol?”

“It’s a job.”

Her shoulders slumped and she looked back at the cameraman as if he caught her having sex with a dog. The cameraman was a rotund teenager with a Padre’s baseball cap worn backwards over a greasy mullet. He grinned back at her through the first sprouts of a mustache. Tall and thick-bodied but shapely, she stood in pained silence, straining to find the next moment. Blond hair scalloped around her pleasant face, contorted now, keeping an eye out for the next question that might come to her mind. She focused her plummeting blue eyes and tried again.

“C’mon, Jams, just give me something, huh?”

“Don’t call me Jams.”

“Fine. Officer Federer.”

He waited.

She flicked her hand quick as a dove from the bush. It was a signal to the cameraman. He wandered off.

“Do you want to get a coffee?” she asked, her face suddenly relaxed and desperate to find a way into his casebook.

“Coffee keeps me awake.”

He watched as she formulated her next move and the next after that. Then, when he had enough vertigo, he turned his back to her and walked into the station, slightly dizzy and wondered whether her pants were serious.

Grabbing a pile of files from the front desk, he walked into his office, kicked the door behind him, settled into a chair behind his desk and began looking through his casebook for something he’d missed from that night Dane was murdered.

“Flip you for the coffee run to town?” Dane said. They were parked on the San Diego side that night.

“I’ll get it.”

“Where’s your sense of game?”

“I always lose anyway.”

“You always win.”

He looked at Dane. Dane shrugged.

“Less time you have to stay out in this shit.”

He watched Dane from the ATV’s rearview mirror. His partner was standing big before the shadow of the wall, his foot jacked up on the Bronco’s bumper. Dane hitched up the pant leg and itched his calf as the cherry on his cigarette blossomed. The ATV tore off across the hills.

It was the last time they spoke.

Perhaps it was Rosario after all. Or perhaps it was Dane’s memory. Either way, he kept going back to Murphy’s. The investigation closed only three days after Dane was buried in St. Aloysius Cemetery, wife and two ex-wives among the mourners, but Federer knew there was a third assailant. The investigators missed him in the dash-cam. Federer played it over and over and over again. He would have missed it too except for Reggie, her tight black panted legs hugging the stool at Murphy’s diner counter.

“What can I do to see your cases?” Reggie asked.

“You can find who sent those fuckers to kill my partner.”

“What makes you think it was a hit?”

“What makes you think it wasn’t?”

“Actually it was.”

“I know.”

“Yes, but I know more.”

He watched her blue eyes sharpen into slate as she wiped a blonde strand from her off her brow. She sipped at her coffee. With a grim sigh Federer stared at his empty coffee cup. He looked around to catch Rosario’s eye. She came, poured the coffee and, glancing once at Reggie, she straightened her back the way pregnant women do when they’ve carried for too long. The scapular nestled back into the precious question of her cleavage, and she shot a .22 caliber smile at Federer.

“Upper right hand corner of the video,” Reggie said. “A moving shadow. You really can’t miss it if you’re looking. Too big to be a critter, too deliberate to be a chance of light.”

“Come by tomorrow,” Federer said as stood and payed out a few dollars from his wallet for a tip. “My case files are yours if you can convince me.”


He stared straight ahead at the Bunn, nestled between the milkshake maker and toaster, the orange light of its power indicator staring right back at Federer.


“You take me with you on one of your Mexico raids.”

He continued to stare at the Bunn.

“Fuck you.”

She giggled. He turned to look at her. She looked back and then tilted her chin at him.

“No,” she said again, a sly smile trembling at the corners of her mouth, as if he’d just asked for the key to her hotel room. “That’s your job!”

San Diego loomed large in Federer’s windscreen. The doors of his Bronco began to rattle from the uneven terrain. Another twenty yards and he’d be back in the land of the free and home of the—

The first bullet hole ripped through the windscreen and threw shards of glass that cut into his chest and and lacerated his face. The second bullet blew up in his shoulder. The third punctured the passenger side door and shattered the computer screen. The fourth and fifth made plinky sounds in the side panels. He was being strafed with an automatic weapon.

He whipped the Bronco around only to realize, too late, that he had turned on the ridge of the hill which hosted the border wall. Unable to overcome gravity, the Bronco lurched on its side and rolled through the wall’s entry point and for forty feet down the opposite slope. It came to rest in a ravine—on the American side of the wall. Checking for broken bones, Federer began to struggle with his seatbelt, a raging burn piercing his shoulder even as he grabbed for his sidearm. He saw shadows descending from the wall and wolf-whistles calling out from the pitch of night.

As he climbed out the passenger side window, Federer dialed up the station.

“Santee Station.”

“Officer Federer requesting backup.”


As he lay on his side staring at the bullet hole that nearly separated his upper arm from his shoulder, Federer thought about Rosario’s eyes. What she would have looked like had she opened the hotel door room instead?. She would have been wearing the waitress outfit. She would have been holding a pot of coffee. She would be clutching those creamers. She would have been…

“Behootifull choonite, jess, Hoffisseer Hams?” Rosario asked.

“Quite,” Federer replied, sipping his coffee. “As ‘behootiful’ as a certain waitress I know.”

“Ho, Hoffisseer Hams, hue are so forward!” she said, blushing as she twirled around in her pink waitress dress.

Later that night, after his wife had come to fetch him at the hospital, taken him home, tucked him into bed and given him a morphine tablet, Federer asked her what she would have done had he slept with another woman. She laughed. He told her about Rosario.

That little thing down at Murphy’s? She’s practically in high school.

“I know.”

It’s a middle-aged crush, his wife said, laughing between short swigs from her Corona. How’s the dressing on your arm? Want a beer?

“I want to see beauty.”

Not tonight, cowboy. I ain’t going to have you bleed all over the bed!

By this point, the morphine had begun to take effect.

“I want to see Rosario’s beauty,” he repeated, his voice thick as the stars.

Federer’s wife tilted back her Corona and emptied the last drop, sucking the bottle’s mouth to get the lime. She put the bottle down on the nightstand and got up to go to the bathroom.

You are pitiful, Jams—just pitiful.