Dear Genie

My first wish is as follows: I wish that my creative work, now valued by the world at zero in today’s dollars, be auctioned by Sotheby’s after my death, fetching some ungodly amount from a Russian oligarch in Swiss francs, then sealed away in temperature-controlled storage in a tax-free port facility.

Six for Arts & Letters

I’ve sent along a submission of six poems today to the journal “Arts & Letters.” The probability of an acceptance of any of the pieces for publication is small, if for no other reason than the sheer volume of submissions no doubt received by the journal. Poets know rejection as intimately as any other folks who subject their creative work to judgment.

Etiquette of Reclining Seats

About halfway through my nine-hour transatlantic flight yesterday, the passenger in front of me in “economy” abruptly and fully reclined her seat. If I’d been leaning forward at that moment, my nose would have been whacked.

The passenger reclined her seat, as I learned when I contorted myself to get up and go to the toilet, not to sleep, but to read.

My obvious move would have been to recline my seat, restoring a sane distance between my face and her seat. I didn’t.

I endured the situation throughout the remainder of the flight, my zen in shreds as I went through the motions of listening to an audio book.

In retrospect, I should have asked the passenger behind me, who had not reclined her seat, whether I might recline my seat without disturbing her. I’ve done that before.

But for some reason this time I rebelled at having to put her to the trouble, and I didn’t want to be party to a massed forced reclining of my column of seats.

Nursing Home Near Midnight

The night nurse makes her rounds
With the gentle tread of a librarian
Among closed stacks of half-forgotten volumes
So fragile they might crumble at a touch.
Mrs. Lovell in Room 214,
Who was Angie once,
Glides in sleep
Across the ice of Oldham’s Pond,
Her alabaster skates agleam
In the February sun of her eighth year.

A version of this piece appeared in the Boston Literary Review.

Hiram Nichols’ Epiphany

A fella named Hiram Nichols,
Who hadn't been north of
Valdosta or south of
Jacksonville, and who
Won an award from the FFA
In the tenth grade and
Rode shotgun on the
Ambulance that took
Senator Hankins to the
Talmadge Trauma Center after
Bambi Sledge winged him
Outside the courthouse
As he passed by in the
Fourth of July parade,
And rebuilt the engine
Of his ‘68 Camaro
And could play the
Opening riff on Pretty Woman
As smooth as just about anybody,
Had an epiphany at the crossroads
East of town one midnight while
Waiting like Robert Johnson
For the gift of being an electric bass
Virtuoso, getting instead
A helping of the Holy Spirit,
And quit his job
At the Texaco and
Found his momma’s Bible
And found a congregation
That would have him
And became Reverend Nichols
And in that role preached a sermon
One summer at the fairgrounds revival
That so moved Tommie Jean Raymond
As she stood on the bridge
Over the shoals and heard
Him through the tent speakers
That she didn’t jump.
She just went home, had three kids,
Including Joe, who grew
Up to be the sheriff that
Rescued Marvin Chalmers
When his eighteen-wheeler
Jackknifed and caught fire
On the interstate.

This piece appears in the Naugatuck River Review.

Recommended Music

If I may, I’d like to recommend listening to a playlist of Latin jazz on a Saturday afternoon in November, when otherwise your only companions might be chilly autumn winds and the prospect of unremitting ugliness from the timelines of fools and knaves who somehow have achieved and retained high office in supposedly advanced polities.

China from Here

My impression from afar is that an aristocracy of “Communists” runs China and fully intends to use all the tools of authoritarianism to maintain its power and the perquisites of power. Is there a more important question for the world in the twenty-first century than whether these Communist elites can maintain their increasingly Orwellian grip through the decades of the century? Will they, using brutal force, try to bring Hong Kong fully into the fold of the enthralled billion? Will they make a play for Taiwan? How would the rest of the world respond?