Q. Who is Binx Bolling’s favorite poet?

A. Edna St. Vincent Malaise

the obligatory limerick

Jon Webb on his birthday was wont
To publish his life’s work in a font
Of angelic shape
Laid out by an ape
As a sort of Gutenbergian taunt 

Sunrise Hexagrams dedications explained

Kierkegaard, Potter, Keillor, and Frost

A Fellow Named Webb

A fellow named Webb there once was
Who was hounded and harassed by the fuzz
For committing a crime
Every single time
He just did what everyone else always does.

How MLK Composed “I Have a Dream”

Occasional Sonnet

Sonnet for My Daughter on Her Birthday

Let me not admit November’s wild
Transition into winter’s dark, my child,
Could ever turn the light out in your mind
Or cause the love within you to unbind.
Oh no, you woke in autumn’s grip but kept
It at arm’s length until you walked and leapt
Across the calendar of time and thought
And showed me everything you found and brought
From icy mornings to the changing seasons,
From cold conclusions to the warming reasons,
To daughter me to father forth my vision,
To light a fire of love and firm decision
To love you always, always newly prove
That I will stay beside you, never move.

My Mother, Urs

My mother, Urs
Is not averse
To what is claimed
To be not worse,

Like apple cores
And wooden floors
And husbands blamed
For broken doors,

But woe betide
The other side
If they, enflamed,
Should try her pride,

For she will cut
Their fattened butt,
Unfurl her famed
Derisive tut,

And bring them low
To eat some crow
Till they be lamed
And in the know.

My Father, Ted

My father, Ted
Can take the lead
From bullets aimed
Straight at his head

And turn them in
To gold and tin
To cure the maimed,
Both friend and kin,

By alchemy
And family tree
And things unnamed
And mystery

Because he knows
The wild rose
Cannot be tamed,
It only grows

With rooted love
And hand and glove
And old age framed
By the sky above.

Birthday Limerick

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 9.27.13 AM

A fellow named Potter was born
On this date in a stable, forlorn
And the angels sang Hank
Williams songs while they drank
Irish ale from the night till the morn.

Grace of God and raise your arms…Flood!


So we had a flood – and thought it was a good time to have a craw boil, Nawlins style….


Potatoes, 10 minutes; Chicken thighs, 5 minutes; Corn 3 minutes (after return to rolling boil); crawdads, 3 minutes; Shrimp 3 minutes; sausage (what the hell!). And finished off with Peychaud-laden (five dashes!) Manhattans (actually, at that point, frick! – might as well call them Birminghams!). Then cigars and port wine and conversation. Not a bad way to face the flood.

And her hallway moves
Like the ocean moves
And her hallway moves
Like the sea
Like the sea
She says “no, no, no, no harm will come your way”
She says “bring it on down, bring on the wave”
She says “nobody done no harm”
Grace of God and raise your arms
She says “face it and it’s a place to stay”
This, this is the way it was
This, this is the way it is
When the water come rushing, rushing in
She says
She says “anytime”
Raise your arms
And her hallway
Like…Like…Like a million voices call my name
Like a million voices calling
Not now, not never again…
Sitting here, now in this bar for hours
Strange men rent strange flowers
Seconds to…


oriole audubon

For SW-D, on her birthday

What pleasant crudities this May extends
Beyond the riddled weeds of latent spring—
Its azure heaven plays it coy and lends
Its crush to underbrush. A lightning wing
Ignites the fire-crack of smoky buds—
Now rendered aureate as Christmas trees.
Each second’s inch of fluted branch eludes—
Detains—and spills with orange melodies.

The spring in flood resolves its snag in nests
Among the greening limbs. A throbbing tune
Converts dactylics into anapests.
Staccato notes that span the Yucatan
Now reach with gumbo-limbo limbs that soar
And dive with arils big as Baltimore.

It’s Walker Percy’s Hundredth Birthday and We Suck

… but here’s the beginning of an epic poem about the time a young man met the man himself:

November 22, 1989

The day I met Walker, the rain had fallen
in Louisiana sheets, and I’d left
my tent illicitly pitched in the Bogue Falaya
State Park, along with a bookish bottle
of Early Times I’d taken a few swigs off of
in the dark the night before as pine cones pitched
and fell outside as if in triadic morse code
from Flannery in heaven telling me grace was in
the river. And alligators, too, I reckoned.
I walked the cracked sidewalks of Covington, aimlessly,
dazed by the wonder of seeing vines sprouting
through the cracks in a sacramental vision,
a concelebration of the namer and the named,
and lept across the flashflood puddles
as I made my way towards no destination
but found myself in The Kumquat bookstore
to oggle shelves bursting with signed copies
of The Moviegoer, The Last Gentleman, Love in the Ruins, Lancelot,
The Second Coming, The Thanatos Syndrome, Lost
in the Cosmos, The Message in the Bottle, books
that had changed (and continue to change) my life.
Oh Walker (Oh Rory) I was twenty-four
and pining for a woman I was also
on the run from in triangular
despair (yet thanks in part to you I also
was aware, at least a little — a foothold —
of the despair, contrary to that Kierkegaardian
epigraph, precisely pitched though it is).
Oh Walker: so I bought a stack of books,
some for me and some for those I loved,
and left instructions with the keeper of
the store to have you encode, in your
physician’s scrawl, your cracked prescriptions
where the vines of love and truth might grow from bourbon
and ink, the cumulative bliss of limitation,
where you and I might clear a space for being.

The Last Crawdad, Man!

Since the Kollektiv isn’t traveling south this year, Korrektiv Kollektiv: Soldiers Grove Unit decided to bring Nawlins up to Cheeseland for an evening in honor of Third Oldest Daughter’s birthday… That’s her in the middle with her sisters posing as Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos…

Spin, measure, cut...spin, measure, cut.... spin, measure, cut. OK. Got it.

Spin, measure, cut…spin, measure, cut…. spin, measure, cut. OK. Got it.

Just a taste of what we’ll be missing this October – but, we hope, not next year…


All mine…?


Dad’s crawdads….

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!


Crawdads and uncles…

Still life with escrevisse and cousins

Still life with escrevisse and cousins and beer can.

Mudbugs in the milieu...

Mudbugs in the milieu…

Hand and claw...

Hand and claw…

Bernadette's Feast

Bernadette’s Feast

One fine evening in southwest Wisconsin...

One fine evening in southwest Wisconsin…

Don't forget the pie (One apple and one berry).

Don’t forget the pie (One apple and one berry).

Dylan the Gr8

Eight is great
Don’t hesitate
To fly or skate
Towards your fate
Don’t hate
To wait
Or stay up late
For a special date
What you create
And contemplate
With love innate
You celebrate
There’s no debate
Now nine anticipate!

Potter Sighting

I haven’t seen much of Potter lately, but a mutual friend sent me this clip from his 50th birthday party:

Looks like he may be finally getting around to that midlife crisis.

Ordinary Time

for Jonathan Potter

With an appreciation for Bob Dylan and Walker Percy,
two quasi-writers who wanted nothing more than to write
wrote, and then found more than inadmissible hearsay.
Quintilian (as we’ll call one) thought it improbable
that Kierkegaard should also appear on the other’s page,
and in turn, the King of the Lake (as we’ll call the other)
was pleased to read about Ordet, Danish for “Word”,
the story of a man who read so much in that Churchyard
he fell out of time and thought himself the Son of Man—
a story difficult to comprehend, and ending in resurrection,
the end that has no ending, impossible to comprehend.

We are given the freedom to believe whatever we want,
and so we need a Korrektiv, an eternally balancing seesaw,
a once-in-a-zillion lottery ticket, a holiness of the ordinary,
with the quotidian details suffered in order to be cured—
saved, even, for faith is to know what cannot be assured.
Guessing is more fun than knowing. Love betters theory.

So, like those Christian monuments of late antiquity
that were built with statues taken from the empty temples
of exhausted deities—themselves the natural end
of a dedication to craft that belies a naïve faith in perfection—
let me borrow anything from I know not where, what or who
(Spokane, dreams, and Euclid, to name just three I do)
and chisel out a few more words about the last ten years
of the half century you have now been circling the sun.

For that is how long I’ve been able to call you a friend.
And since we celebrate your birthday, it should be obvious
that one of the themes here is time, and how it flows,
or doesn’t. With Augustine as our guide, we may wonder
where it all goes, or whatever might have been meant
by the phrase “In the beginning”, and if it was the Word
without which nothing ever could have been made,
how this Word could ever be heard, and then weighed.

Big questions aside, a lot of strange things happen in time,
the way it sometimes seems to speed up, or slow down,
or disappear entirely. Just because we’re in the thick of it now
doesn’t mean it’s so crowded that nothing new ever happens.
After all, it’s always happening, and it never repeats itself,
not really, so repetitions must include something besides time.
This is how I understand Percy’s parable of the peanut brittle,
first by way of your explanation, later by events themselves,
or recognitions contradicting coincidence and credible cause—
not credibile est, quia ineptum est, but certum est, quia impossibile.
Not I believe because it is absurd, but certain, because impossible.

With enough prayer and fasting, nothing will be impossible.
But unless we believe that some things absolutely cannot be—
the sun rising in the west, a rich man getting into heaven—
there would be no need for faith at all. Everything is a matter
of probability. But how can we measure anything against time?
If we wait long enough, mountains will be washed into the sea.
I’ll admit that if we had forever and a day, sooner or later
everything would come true.
                                                But then we do have our days,
and maybe that is why you could short-sheet a visitor’s bed
that would surprise me a few days later, and would only figure
it out some ten years on—because that is the nature of time.
As for backyards that perfectly abut, and that they did abut
we would discover fifteen years after—that simply took
a little more time. As for the nightmare of death and dying,
we know how in dreams time turns strange: seconds stretch
into decades. Years pass in a moment, or in the wrong order.
It’s all so damn unreliable.
                                            But why did I laugh so hard
when I realized the joke was on me? And how much did I
need a friend, never mind a neighbor, way back when?
Verily, verily, I had no clue. And there is no consolation
so great as the experience of life passed in ordinary time—
a walk through the woods and gardens of Manito park,
past fountains, and children on swings, and empty trees.

Nothing more ordinary than four o’clock on a Wednesday
afternoon. Should we then believe in God, or begin a quest?
Being a Christian is itself another way to ask the question.
Here follow a few more: if time is the fourth dimension,
can anything exist beyond it? Does it have a shape?
Might we just ask the burning bush if Yahweh has a face?
In asking, let us wonder at the ways we now are blessed.

For it is only with your help that I have seen shapes
that extend beyond the grave, or sub specie aeternitatis,
we say, embarrassed even by the idea of spiritual bodies.
Let us try to imagine again what we think we understand.
For the first dimension, think of an infinite number of zeroes
spinning in a perfect sphere, both everything and nothing.
In the second we meet forms such as complementary angles
(if not in the book of nature, they might be in the bible),
and in the third, if only the third—consider distant galaxies
or the double helix of DNA—there turns an endless spiral.

How else to explain a green thought in a green shade,
except as that state of equilibrium that happily occurs
whenever what happens is matched by what we think?
Less an achievement than a gift from the Ocean of Mind
to something like itself—a lake, maybe, and at bottom a King.
Green, the color of milfoil, and faded, fiberglass canoes,
of Washington state, if not its mixture of reds and blues.
Of youth and inexperience, as from one’s first cigar,
of fields of clover, and trees in the park, and a frog in a jar.
Of tattoos, new building codes, tequila and a slice of lime,
and the vestments worn before Lent, in Ordinary Time.

“I have no talent.”


It’s the birthday of novelist Graham Greene (books by this author), born in Berkhamsted, England (1904). He described the citizens of his hometown as “slitty eyed and devious,” and he had an unhappy childhood. He came from a prominent local family, and his father was the headmaster of his school, where Greene was bullied and attempted suicide several times. At the age of 16, he tried running away. His parents sent him to London to be treated by a psychoanalyst, an experience he thoroughly enjoyed. He decided that his biggest problem was boredom, and he began playing Russian roulette.

He went on to Oxford, where he published his first book, a book of poetry called Babbling April (1925). It was a flop. He got a job as a copywriter for The Times of London and spent years working as a journalist. He said, “A petty reason perhaps why novelists more and more try to keep a distance from journalists is that novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction.”

Greene was an obsessive traveler. At Oxford, he offered his services to the German government as a propagandist if they would pay his expenses to travel in France. During World War II, he joined MI6, the British Intelligence Service, and was posted to Sierra Leone. He visited Prague during the Communist takeover, Kenya during the Mau Mau Uprising, Haiti under the reign of brutal dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and covered the Vietnam War and the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. He wrote 24 novels, many of them set in the places he had visited. He said: “I travel because I have to see the scene. I can’t imagine it.”

His first big success was Stamboul Train (1932), published as Orient Express in America. It is set onboard the Orient Express headed to Istanbul, and follows the fate of the passengers, including a Jewish businessman, an exiled Socialist doctor, a lesbian journalist, a chorus girl, and a murderer. Greene said: “In Stamboul Train for the first and last time in my life I deliberately set out to write a book to please, one which with luck might be made into a film. The devil looks after his own and I succeeded in both aims.”

Greene wrote The Heart of the Matter (1948) about an English colonial policeman stationed in Sierra Leone. He is passed over for a promotion, his marriage is failing, his love affair makes him feel guilty for betraying his Catholicism, and a local diamond smuggler constantly manipulates him. Greene described his main character, Scobie, as “a weak man with good intentions doomed by his big sense of pity.”

The Comedians (1966) was set in Haiti under Papa Doc’s rule, narrated by a hotel owner named Brown. The novel upset Papa Doc so much that he published a pamphlet accusing Greene of being “a liar, a cretin, a stool-pigeon … unbalanced, sadistic, perverted … a perfect ignoramus … lying to his heart’s content … the shame of proud and noble England.”

A Burnt-Out Case (1960) was the story of a depressed architect who traveled to a Congolese leper colony.

Greene said, “I have no talent; it’s just a question of working, of being willing to put in the time.”

From The Writer’s Almanac

It’s also the birthday of Wallace Stevens.