Shovel and Broom

While clearing the porch of today’s endless torrent of snow I thought about that long William Gass story, “The Pedersen Kid.”  I wish I remembered the story better but what I recall is the story of a kid getting lost outside in a snowstorm.  The story takes a surreal turn, like an impressionist painting, maybe the kid survives, maybe he doesn’t, maybe what starts to flow from the story is the kid lost in the snow somewhere telling himself he’s alright, he’s found shelter.  Gass at the height of his artistry.

My wife was outside before I was this morning, and I said to her, to myself, “You’re making me look bad.”  My body is always cranky and stiff in the morning, I usually have a hard time putting on my pants.  I found a way into them, a pair of lined snow-appropriate pants that I fortuitously requisitioned from The Internet six weeks ago, not knowing this snow would fall, but wanting to be warm at Farm, snow or no...  

Continues a short entry about sweeping snow...

Frozen Laptop, Frozen Pizza: Assessing the Early Days of the Coronavirus Lockdown

The weather forecasts are wonk.  Something to do with a sharp decrease in the number of airplanes in the air.  It wasn’t forecast to rain today.  But it has rained, and not just a few drops.  My wife and I console each other with talk of silver linings.  The air quality is improving, just ask the stars.  

Here in St. Louis, as March slogs on, the rain has been a cloying companion during days of isolation.  I can’t recall going on a walk when I didn’t have to watch out for puddles and dreck as the dog Hugo and I walked in our desultory fashion, neither one of us leading the way.  This month hasn’t been atypical in its raininess but I suspect the total rainfall is at the upper end of its historical range.

If only weather were the wackiest aspect of March 2020.... 

The essay continues...

Sunlight In the Studio With Wide Eyes

Every new phone is going to be the best. Sleek, dark, touchless, smart. I look at my phone now, an older model, practically obsolete. My fingerprints are dirty smudges on its protective film.

It took me fifteen minutes to write that paragraph. In those fifteen minutes, I could instead have saved fifteen minutes on car insurance. I didn't. I made a mistake, I missed the boat.

I bought a blood pressure cuff recently, at the recommendation of my doctor. My first home-read was just a moment ago. It wasn't as high as the ones in the office, but it was still too high. Ice cores, volcanic ash, a barleywine that's been recast as an Imperial Red IPA. Do you believe in miracles? Yes!

Earlier today I saw something I would describe as not quite a miracle but something approaching a miracle—a stupendous oddity. I saw a gal struggle against the side of her car in the parking lot at the grocery store. I don't think she was drunk. She just got hit with some strange sort of gravity. All of a sudden. It was a kind of gravity we haven't explained because we can't even detect it. I'm not sure anyone else knows it's even here....

Continue with this short story...

Sink, Swim, or Fly


There is a lone goose on a vanishing dock.  The lakewater is up. The floating dock’s platform is gone from sight but a railing moored to the dock is still above the surface, barely.  Like the railing, the goose appears to be standing on water. As the dock dips further the goose has three options: sink, swim, or fly.


Rattle across the water, washboard blues and white streak through the air.  Look out minnows! It’s the kingfisher, flying from weeping willow to vanishing dock. It finds purchase on the railing, stuck there like a feathered magnet.


Saturday morning, more rain overnight, the dock is further submerged but inches below the surface the platform still remains.  The heron knew it was there, trust in its water landing. In the fog, the heron keeps watch o’er the lake.  

To continue with this short prose poem...

Nerves, River, Night

Awake again at an off hour, at
an odd hour, now for several days
on end. Times like 3:13, 3:23, 3:34.
Some combination of threes
after bad dreams.

I'm not going to journal the dreams,
it's stupid stuff, scare tactics
drummed up by me, designed
to rattle me the most. Strangers yelling
through the window. Me fleeing
to the attic above my attic.

My nerves seem to have risen
with the humidity, with the
overnight lows. They are rising
with the river itself.

When it gets like this, the
river cannot drain. It cannot
get downstream fast enough.
So it camps out in the yard or
suns itself in the kitchen sink.

To settle myself
I go to make a drink
but when I reach into the freezer
I find the river lurking there—
vital cubes
of dirty ice.

WI/MN 2013

"Enough planning, un-planning, re-planning, and planning for a lack of a plan. I am packed, I am ready, I am waiting."

— John Randell Cabot, Lake Superior, 1687


rain on the pavement
good light, power lines & their

Toluca, Tonica, Winona
Mammatus clouds, water
drips down, hits my
face when
I open the

A nut bar, worry of heartburn.
I went around the corner only to
have a cigarette.  But then Pat
has one and I wonder why I hid it.

State highway 6, Ottawa/La Salle-Peru
On the Illinois River.  Nice place?

There are a lot of windmills, and
an exit for highway 30 to Sterling,
to Aurora—where I went to school once...

Continue with this travel poem...

A Farmer’s Almanac


Over this side
And steel.
Most moisture
We’ve seen in months.
Rusted linoleum
Tractors cowed
By the slender whim of God.
There are no banks.


This is why you don’t wait.
People gonna make mistakes, sure.  But
This is p’cisely why you never wait.
Waitin’ for rain, for the aqueduct.
Waitin’ for the war to end,
For interest rates to move.
Nobody in this family waitin’ for a goddam thing.


Well, sure we dropped a well.
And dropped it,
And dropped it.
We found that, ah, cone of depression —
Some bottles of dirty water.
Our poor Mother, ya know.
She loaned us udders of water,
Buried deep down in her soul, like.
Sandstone-lined.  All she had.
We was just children then.


We gone back to readin’ the clouds.
They’re beautiful really.
Cirrus curling into nothing
Way up there.  Just ice crystals
Casting down white light.
There ain’t s’pose to be such a thing as white light.
But I tell ya: I seen it.


I’m going on record with this
Because I’m in plain need of an elegy.
Sawbones gave me, oh, a few months.
Don’t matter much.
I came from this land
And I’m going back to it.
Now I’m telling you:
I want a Viking’s funeral.
If you can find ‘em, throw a thousand husks
Of corn onto my pyre.
Take fish from the hole I leave in the ice.
Despite everything I’ve said,
Regardless of whether there’s snow on the ground,
Whether the crops rise,
Whether anyone’s left to see me go.

Leaving Aus-town

Actually, my knee is aching, and so is my back.  I’ve been packing things.  Got up at 4:34.  The garbage truck.  Did you hear it?  Banging mechanical arm, squealing brakes, beeping as it backs up.  That’s the last time I’ll ever hear it.  I’m drinking some iced coffee.  Ate a slice of toast with peanut butter.  Have showered, taken the pizza box to the trash, updated my blog.  Wow, I’m nearly ready to start drinkin’ again though it’s only 8:50.

Bad heartburn, though.  Need to get some meds for that, pepto or Immodium, Tagamet?  Don’t think I’ve ever had Tagamet.  Drinking some water.  Was not dehydrated this morning although I rinsed out four cans of Guinness, a bottle of pinot grigio, a couple Red Hook IPAs, a Bud Light, a big Lagunitas IPA, and our highball glasses...

The short story continues...