Friday, June 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Review: Like Mayflies in a Stream

Shamhat is one the strongest female protagonists you will find in a book of fiction, but she isn’t a child of the sixties or a modern feminist. She is a priestess and servant of the goddess Inanna, tending to her temple duties in Mesopotamia in 2800 BCE. In Shauna Roberts’ Like Mayflies in a Stream, Shamhat struggles to preserve faithfulness to her goddess, a task that conflicts with the personality of King Gilgamesh, who focuses on lust and feats of strength rather than the good of his people.

Shamhat’s conflict results from two dreams, one received by Inanna’s chief priest, Nanna-Ur-Sag, and another, one received by Gilgamesh himself. From his dream, Nanna-Ur-Sag believes that a powerful man from the desert is destined to restore order, balance, and justice to Uruk. Gilgamesh, on the other hand, believes that a powerful man from the desert is destined to be the one companion strong enough to complete his restless and reckless personality.

A wild man, Enkidu, indeed lives in the desert, but to lure him into the city—Shamhat’s mission as dictated by Gilgamesh—the priestess must lose the trappings of her holy office and use her highly advanced sexual artifice, usually used only on a sacredd feast day of Inanna, to humanize Enkidu and convince him to journey from the desert to the city. If she is successful, however, will Enkidu fulfill the vision of Gilgamesh’s dream, or that of Nanna-Ur Sag’s?

A lesser writer might well have lost the narrative structure of such a novel in trying to execute a plot faithful to ancient Sumerian customs and terminology. Roberts, a PhD in anthropology with a longstanding interest in the history of the Near East, smoothly incorporates her knowledge of ancient culture into the epic struggle of a swaggering king and a priestess attempting to keep her dignity and oaths while mediating a battle between the earth and the heavens.

The novel will appeal to those who love both adventure and historical fiction. At a deeper level, the book is a fascinating and detailed character study of Shamhat as she uses humility and resolve, not combat, to retain her inner strength and core values while trying to save an entire city. Like Mayflies in a Stream (Hadley Rille Books, 2009) is an archaeologically-accurate novel that frames contemporary questions and struggles within ancient Mesopotamia. Roberts’ choice of time and place proves that the tension between integrity and power is a universal and ongoing conflict that lies at the heart of all human struggle, and, more importantly, human growth.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mountain, Plain

For One Single Impression

The mountain peak
dreams of love on grassy plains.
The acacia dreams of heaven.

A fading face
dreams of supple lines and lips.
The child seeks pain at seven.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Meeting Mr. Tennyson

Pulp museums, anachronisms—that’s what they are,
old soldiers dressed in fine leather jackets,
guarding knowledge and admitting access
to inquisitive index fingers worn a bit from life.

I don’t recall the volume number now—
I believe it was “Teapot to Utah”—
where I met Mr. Tennyson laboring at his desk,
hunched over, old, bearded, intense.

He was writing lines for In Memoriam,
one-hundred-and-thirty-three poems
for his friend Arthur Henry Hallam
who had faded early into senseless, seamless death.

The poet no longer understood God or life,
and his midnight poems were an encyclopedia
of sadness seduced, of grief, questions,
and occasionally a mustard seed of hope.

On cold nights when bony branches tap the windowpane,
death’s raw reminder, I read Mr. Tennyson’s encyclopedia.
My index finger runs across the troubled rhyme and verse
as the furnace down below goes quietly to sleep.

I do not feel so lonely in the presence of his words.
Someone was investing ink to clarify a mind besieged,
and that is comfort enough, a distant mercy
for my winter-frozen heart to seize and keep.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When the World Goes Digital

You shall be in high definition, I suspect,
your beauty a Tibetan crystal,
clear and serene,
and only a thousand chanting monks
will have the saffron power
to make your third eye resonate.

Still, I hope you shall forgive me, love,
for what I, a farmer in some forgotten field, must do.
When the sun finds facets on your angled face,
I shall kiss the pixels of your eyes and cheeks
before stepping back in time
to a checkered shirt and denim jeans,
my proper time and place.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I think that somewhere, perhaps,
against all odds, as astronomical
as a metallic man in Vegas
giving me pocket change,

my double, a ghost
in a three-piece suit,
follows me as fastidiously as a butler.
I glimpse him from the corner of my eye,

and he is briefly there,
picking up paper I dropped
or making excuses for a clumsy run-in
I had with a pedestrian.

In short, he is picking up my mess,
the inevitable dregs fallen from my life
like scales fallen from the skin of Adam.
if I turn my head sharply,

looking long and hard,
he disappears. But that is the way it is, I suppose,
when one tries to glimpse
the minions of God.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Multiply the Answer by Pigeons

(A Beat poem I wrote many years ago. Some poems should be a bit "off-center" in meaning.)

You can’t possibly tell me what’s on the fire escape
or why the old Italian woman is playing the concertina
so soon after her husband shot himself full of needles.
You can’t tell me why the Buddha hovers over the intersection
and nobody notices the quiet karma of the traffic lights.

Take any given siren.
The emergency is only speculative
from five floors up.
Maybe Macbeth has murdered Duncan in lower Manhattan.
It’s all too much.

Divide the city by two
and multiply the answer by pigeons.
All you get are repeating decimals in Central Park.

Sometimes pedestrians freeze to death
when their feet get stuck to the sidewalk.
Who can blame them in subzero?
Their color is gone by lunchtime.

The light turns green,
the siren fades,
pigeons start pecking decimals
left on the ground by school children.

I don’t especially want answers—
I want to know what causes the questions.

For example:
a fat Buddha on a silkscreen
is holding an orange.
Is he going to throw it at the Italian woman?
Does he hate the concertina?

Did you hear the one about the little old lady
looking for a book on Zen?
She goes into a bookstore,
stares at the clerk,
but doesn’t say much.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Some Other Day

There is always some other day
when the dream resting at the apex of our thoughts
finally comes to pass,
when the crippled leg grows straight,
when the woman at our subway stop
scribbles her number on a napkin
and says “yes” to the imagined date.

There is always a thick blanket of snow
after hellish summer heat
has withered longstanding desires,
its white purity unfurled like a principality’s wing.
There is always a single leaf in spring,
frail and fresh and green,
after winter has torn flesh from bone
with fingers made of sleet.

There is always some other day,
a circadian square on the calendar page
where by inches or degrees
slim hope no longer evades our reach:
the blind man once again sees.
But even if these dreams recede
and a lottery ticket doesn’t pay,
do not drive my crippled mind
from the hope of some other day.

Painting of Job: Einar Hakonarson, Creative Commons 3.0

Sunday, November 2, 2008


The world in its finery,
a kingdom of meadows
for the flowers of Solomon—

mere illusion for the wider field
where eternity tills the soil
and soul wraps its roots around God.

Friday, October 31, 2008

It Is A Fearful Thing

The evening sky is beautiful but bleak,
purple and red bruises, brutal,
blossoming on the horizon
in fatal, flayed moments of twilight.

There is nothing you or I can do
but wear heavy clothes of sackcloth and wool,
wrapping our palsied souls
in the penance of dry, broken leaves.

It is a fearful thing, I think,
to watch death painted wide
on a canvas stretched by faceless pagans
between bare branches of a failing year.

There is redemption, to be sure,
but its implausible story is written on the pages
of a calendar not yet printed.
In the spring, it will hang on a nail driven hard.

(At the risk of being redundant, Chapter and Verse will remain open even though I created Publexicon. By the way, everyone’s link on Chapter and Verse is intact and will remain so, plus I have spread a little “link juice love” by linking everyone on Publexicon as well. If I have forgotten anyone, or if the links don’t work, don’t be shy or hesitate to tell me about it.)
Pic: Copyright, William Hammett, 2007

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Pebble of Bone

There’s a man walking down the road
of gravel and regret.
Old and tired,
he’s bone-weary from miles
of hoping that his next footfall
will see a blue lake
or an early grave—
either would be okay
if he could just stop measuring time
with steps that began in Eden.

I look from my cabin window
and he is gone.
Until I look more carefully, that is,
and hear the gravel shuffled and ground
with a cadence of glaciers shaving creation down.
Like everyone before him,
he has become the road.
I go outside and pick up
a pebble of bone, a reminder
that we, too, carry the sins of the world.

Pic: Creative Commons 2.5
PS. Please note that Chapter and Verse is still open for business :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Shauna Roberts in BARREN WORLDS anthology

I recently got a copy of Barren Worlds, published by Hadley Rille Books, which features a short story, "Elessa the Restless," by Shauna Roberts. It is a great sci-fi piece in a collection that centers on exactly what the title says: barren worlds. As the editors note, however, "barren" can mean many things. In this intriguing collection, the introduction explains that the "stories span a range of styles from dark to quirky to those of survival and escape." The common thread is that "the storytellers . . . take you into a universe devoid of something and in some cases, to places you'd best avoid." That's enough to pull me in right there.

Every story in the collection is great, and I am very impressed with Shauna's work! She's a real prose stylist. I strongly encourage those of you who like good writing and sci-fi in particular to hop over to Shauna Roberts' For Love of Words to check out her blog and a link to Barren Worlds or go straight to Amazon or Hadley Rille Books. The publisher also has many other great anthologies for sale.

Shauna always has interesting posts and does great interviews with major authors!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Pico de Arte

Thanks to Spacedlaw (Nathalie) for the Pico de Arte Award. I am honored! Thank you, Nathalie!

The criteria is as follows:

To inspire others with their creative energy and talents. This can be through writing, artwork, design, interesting material or contribution to the bigger community. It is a special honour to receive it.

I am passing this along to:

1) Lane's Write
2) Eudaemonia
3) An Innocent A-Blog
4) Murmurs
5) Writing in Faith

The badge is also in the sidebar for those who wish to grab it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Black Satin Dress

Sorry for so few posts lately. Mea culpa. So in case anyone is still reading ... -:)

Black Satin Dress

Cosmic background radiation
crackles from the phonograph
as you dance

in a long satin dress, black,
holding scotch neat,
inviting me with your hips

to feel the irresistible pull
of dark matter
collapsing into a kiss.

A diamond needle spirals
inward to the final groove.
The only sound is a hiss.

Photo: Public Domain

Friday, May 23, 2008

If Freud Had Been An Astronomer

Okay, yes, I'm busy, but I saw this pic and decided to post a quickie. Nature has some interesting shapes, no? The shot depicts "the pillars of creation" in the Eagle Nebula. Well, I suppose creation has something to do with it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Stone Canyons

The grimace flies by,
the trickle of pedestrians
tucked into overcoats and suspicion.

There is no conversation on the underground bullet,
Fifth Avenue a stampede of meaningless strut.
Taxis weave, leaving yellow ribbons on the street.

Hookers pose in Times Square like mannequins.
There is no life in the museum.
Freeze frame: everything is silent.

Picture: copyright, William Hammett, 2007

Friday, May 2, 2008

Review: Not Just For Vegetarians

I first learned of Not Just For Vegetarians by Geraldine Hartman when I visited her blog, Veggies, Crafts, and Tails . I’m a mediocre cook (and not a vegetarian), but I found Geraldine’s recipes quite delicious and easy to follow. There’s something for everyone in this book: muffins, scones, and breads; snacks and appetizers; soups; salads, dressings, and spreads; main dishes; family favorites; and desserts.

In the book's opening pages, Geraldine explains in clear prose why she became a vegetarian, noting ethical reasons among others. She also accurately explains how a vegetarian diet is more digestible by the human body and that a majority of world populations is vegetarian by choice. By choice, you ask! Yes, for when a vegetarian diet is practiced correctly, it does indeed provide the complete proteins that the body needs to be healthy and energetic.

The recipes are also written in an easy to understand manner, so there’s no need to be frightened if you’ve had past experiences with cookbooks that looked more like algebra than food preparation. It’s user friendly in the extreme. There’s also a glossary of terms that helps one instantly learn about the food substitutions that are a part of a vegetarian diet. Additional information is also provided so that vegans can adopt the recipes to their eating habits.

My favorite recipe since I first learned of the book has been “The Best Scalloped Potatoes.” Other favorites are “Easier-Than-Pie Veggie Pie,” “Red, White, and Black Chili,” “Veggie Pot Pie,” “Zucchini and Cheddar Fettuccini,” “Rice and Red Lentil Salad,” “Winter Harvest Soup,” and “Easy Corn Chowder.”

The above are only a few of the great choices available in Geraldine’s book. There is quite literally a recipe for any season, mood, or frame of mind, plus the recipes are good if you eat alone or are throwing a dinner party for ten.

Most importantly, these recipes are, as the title suggests, not just for vegetarians. They offer a variety of options for people who simply want to try something different or move away slightly from the “red meat mentality” that most everyone grew up with. Whatever your reason for trying out the recipes from Not Just For Vegetarians, you can be sure of two things: 1) you’ll be eating healthier, and 2) you’ll be enjoying good food that won’t leave you hungry when you get up from the table.

You may puchase the book at Amazon: Not Just For Vegetarians.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bike Ride Around America

John Hall is a friend and former classmate of my older brother. I say “older” because, although there are only two of us, I am six years younger and much better looking. But I digress. John’s wife Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer and, thankfully, she is doing very well after a year of treatment. At 62, John is riding 12,000 miles around the perimeter of America to raise awareness about cancer and funds for cancer research. You may make donations to the Lance Armstrong Foundation or the Providence Alaska Medical Center (John is an ER physician who lives in Anchorage) or find out more about John, his odyssey, and his wife by simply visiting his blog at Bike Ride Around America . If you simply want to wish him well or offer your prayers and support, I know he would appreciate a comment on his blog. Although he has a small support team traveling with him, it’s a long journey and will take 120 days. It is John's hope that if he can save just one life by encouraging someone to get a mammogram, the ride will have been worth it. There are links to his site in the sidebar (Support Cancer Research) and link list number two. The first pic is John biking across the Mississippi River, heading into Louisiana. The second is a pic of John. Thanks all.

Monday, April 21, 2008

One Single Impression: Color

red hair on shoulders
the sun speaks copper accents
I study abroad

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hot Green Apocalypse

The road is serpentine,
ten thousand years old
and disappearing into the thicket
of ultimate repose.

It is a bad omen.
Stone and fire
have glinted machinery
from the void,

steam and atoms
spiraling into the hands
of a smith
girding the planet in steel.

The beast has consumed
ribbons of rust,
lapping clouds
of red miasma.

The holy man and poet
die in their caves
while the earth purges itself
in hot green apocalypse.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


First, a little housekeeping. Both Shauna and Bernita are running PAYING IT FORWARD contests at Shauna Roberts' For Love of Words and An Innocent A-Blog respectively. (Charles, I missed yours because I did my taxes at the last minute--mea culpa.)

The following poem was one of my first posts when I started blogging last November. I'm bringing it back now that the blog is up and running, so to speak, and because today is going to be very busy. And oldie and, hopefully, a goody.

Outside, the moon floats through a leafless tree,
riding peaceably the road well taken
through Orion with his boots in the snow.
A mongrel underneath the tree
paws the ground at carp in the stream,
settles composedly in a mongrel’s dream.
Within, the woman turns, unawakened,
leaving the trace of a dream in a sigh,
and draws the patchwork tighter over shoulders and hips
weighted in the furnace hiss that serves as lullaby.
There is no reading to be done,
no study of poets, of Coleridge
contemplating frost at midnight.
Rather, the plumb for stillness wrapped in ice,
the maple sprig glazed by the stream,
is the night itself, dark and frozen,
hanging from the silver throne of Betelgeuse
by a rarefied thread that issues
the sounding of a sleeping world:
life, like the north gate,
is held fast in winter’s skin,
and yet there is the fire of a cold star,
sap-filled roots, a moon riding the sky.
There is a pulse in the stream, somewhere.
There is the trace of a dream in a sigh.

(First published in American Poets & Poetry, 1999)

picture: copyright, William Hammett, 2007.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Afternoon Prayer

I toss a handful of words on the meadow
while pondering seeds and the hidden nature of things.

A stone rolls away from the tomb
as I resume sweeping the porch.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Amazon to Discontinue POD Titles Not Printed by BookSurge?

Angela Hoy, editor of Writers Weekly newsletter, alerted me this past week of news pertaining to the publishing practices of Amazon, which recently bought BookSurge. I know many of you publish with major houses, some with independent presses, and some with POD outfits. As a ghostwriter, I keep abreast of the POD industry since some of my clients are businessmen or women, such as motivational speakers or business owners, who wish to self-publish or use POD to publish "in-house" because they have their own marketing platforms. I thought the following was interesting and so am passing it along.

Since acquiring BookSurge, Amazon intends to gradually disable the "buy" buttons on its website for all POD books not published through BookSurge. (Why Amazon would want to do this is a bit strange since BookSurge, like Publish America, is erratic in the quality of its product and receives a lot of complaints at Writer Beware and other online watchdog groups ... which is not to say that all of their clients are dissatisfied.)

It's also a strange marketing move on the part of Amazon since, while the average POD title only sells 148 copies, Amazon nevertheless sells tens of thousands of POD titles every year.

The Washington State Office of the Attorney General has received numerous complaints from both POD companies and individuals. The Attorney General's office believes that such a move by Amazon may well constitute "monopolistic practices" and has referred the issue to its anti-trust division. Links to the Writers Weekly article and the response by the Washington State Office of the Attorney General are provided below. The Writers Weekly article has internal links for anyone who wishes to register a complaint with Amazon.

It's true that most POD titles are poorly written and edited, but not all. But that misses the point. People should have an outlet for their work, and let's face it: while there are other online sellers, such as B&N, Borders, Books-a-Million and a hundred others, people gravitate to Amazon for books like shoppers gravitate to Wal-Mart for laundry baskets and kitchen utensils. With traditional publishing being very hard to break into, I also think it's a bit Orwellian to start limiting the ideas that can reach mass circulation.

Writers Weekly article: Writers Weekly: Let BookSurge Print Your Books--or Else

The Attorney General's Response:
Washington State Office of the Attorney General

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Dead Are Forever Writing Letters

The dead are forever writing letters,
their bodies mulching into leaves.

Maple parchment tells me a young bride
was killed by the undertaker’s son.

Snow and dirt and time
archive the words we choose in death.

Free verse or rhyme,
we are all published in the end.

Monday, April 7, 2008


at last I stand on the savannah

the sun carries away
the final day

the flat acacia supports twilight

all others have gone
into the long night
of a thousand years

over at last
the millennia

crickets smooth the grass
with song

the last word
or the first

I raise my arms
to become
the mountain in some new creation

Eve steps lightly from behind

this time she will not charm
or listen to the twisted vine

Friday, April 4, 2008

Stream of Consciousness Friday

One can't have too many reminders that this is Autism Awareness Month, Please check out the blogs at snoopmurph and also Mother of Shrek to find really great info on autism, as well as blogs authored by parents with the most loving of hearts. I know there are many more such parents--if I have forgotten you, please forgive me.
As many of you know, Dave Kuzminski at P&E is being sued by a publisher and two agents because he had the audacity to do what he has done best for approximately a decade: tell people who's honest and who's not. He doesn't deserve this and is considered one of the straight shooters in the writing community. He is asking for help with his legal defense. You can click on a DONATE button at Preditors and Editors. Even A-list agents don't always act professionally, and Dave's source of info is invaluable.

I started posting some flash fiction a month or two ago, and at the time I supplied a link to the work of David B. McCoy, who, like myself, is a fan of quirky short fiction. Since 1978 he ran Spare Change Press. David emailed me recently after a Google search turned up his link on my blog and told me about his other work. Anyone interested in some good short fiction can find more about David B. McCoy at David B. McCoy and Origami Condom Issues and finally The Book of Scars.

Stream of Consciousness Friday

today we’re playing for a sunbeam grilled cheese maker … friday’s quiz: how many people know what etaoin shrdlu means? … true story: i once almost killed a groundskeeper the only time i played golf … some guy dove behind his truck just in time … an errant ball … speaking of errant balls … better not go there … hello would you like to go to the errant ball tonight … go red sox … i’m not an actor but I play one on tv … mark twain said opera isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds … like most libras i don’t believe in astrology … i once almost had the fillings slapped out of my teeth many many years ago when I decided to see if the produce section really was the place where singles met … “how can you tell if they’re ripe?” says i … i wonder if she knew how to make errant melon balls … let’s have some animation again … enough with the pixar stuff already … well, the nurse says I have to go to the day room for my meds … so long until next post … good night errant good night john boy

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


[For latest prompt at One Single Impression]

They are the guardians of color,
the avatars of belly flop
and gargantuan guffaw.

With rainbow frizz
above flat feet slapping laughs,
they embrace the innocence of all mistakes

as they pratfall into dreams,
greasepaint smiling like a loon
or a drunken Christmas aunt.

Only after years have made mockery of play
do we turn away from the bulbous nose,
cringing from the funhouse echo of facade.

Pic: public domain

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Rusted railroad tracks
buckle beneath the water tower.

The hard yellow sun
pulls dandelions from a rotting grade.

Breath is shallow, short,
arteries twisted away from ties that bind.

I stutter-step through gravel,
recalling your journey away from the heart.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Question of Balance

Archibald Wix was a retired banker, meek and mild, who lived his days in ease … if ease can be defined as listening to the incessant nagging of his obsessive-compulsive wife, Clara. Archibald usually turned his hearing aid down in the evening while reading the paper. It was a sacrosanct hour, when silence and the crisp pages of the Herald, spread wide, blocked out whining that had begun thirty-seven years earlier.

“Your shirts are hanging crookedly on the hangers again!” Clara shouted from the kitchen.

Archibald turned to the Science and Technology page and read that mini-black holes, no bigger than the wart on a stepmother’s jaw, drifted through space like vagabonds looking for handouts. Well, in theory, at least.

“Archibald, you left your cup in the sink again!” Clara said with vocal cords raw from years of finding fault with the cosmos.

An hour passed, and Archibald turned his hearing aid up to see if any natural disaster other than Clara required his attention. He lived near the San Andreas Fault, and sometimes the earth did a quick mambo, rattling the china cabinet. He heard a melodious voice singing in the kitchen, a voice with the clarity of crystal and the timbre of a medieval damsel singing ballads to her suitor. It was a situation that called for investigation.

“Hello, Archie,” said a comely woman in her early forties. “What would you like for dinner?”

To Archibald’s left, a small black dot was floating through the kitchen, boring into the wall as a small, tinny voice called from the dot’s infinite density: “What are you up to, Archibald? Who is that woman in our kitchen? Get me out of here!”

Archibald wasn’t a scientist, but he knew that black holes not only gobbled up matter but also coughed up molecules on occasion, like cosmological burps. A mini black hole had apparently wandered through his kitchen, making both a deposit and a withdrawal. So long Clara, hello Elizabeth, the name of Archibald’s good fortune.

“How did you get here?” the banker inquired.

“I’m not quite sure,” Elizabeth said. “I remember being somewhere very small, like a genie’s bottle or a magic lamp. But I know you’re Archie, and now I’m here in the kitchen. So what would you like for dinner?”

“You,” replied Archibald Wix, not feeling the need to provide any astronomical explanations to a woman just moments away from the delights of courtly love.

As a banker, Archibald had always kept his books balanced. The universe had given him far more than a gold watch in return.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Eternity in the Key of C

I tap the yellowed piano key with a bony index finger,
a C that stirs the marble-top bureau,

family pictures, wine glasses in the oak cabinet.
A French tapestry captures the one-note melody,

an orphan tone already dying.
I examine the faded oriental rug,

a thousand silent notes woven into fractals,
indigo snowflakes from an opium dream.

I hit the C again, the wire an old man’s vocal cord.
It is a feeble “yes” in a quiet room,

a museum where even the sunrise has been archived.
I glance at my body in the armchair

by the open window, summer breeze blowing
a white lace shroud over my face.

A heart attack, I think.

There is a polite knock at the door.
Floorboards creak as I shuffle through the parlor.

Eternity, waiting on the porch,
has given me time enough to say goodbye.