Tuesday, June 20, 2017


She was so unlovable the birds
would stop singing when she was near,
parrots be at a loss for words,
and blue skies would turn drear.
Spring  would come late as possible,
and summer seem so very far
and winter even more terrible 
than March in Antarctica.
Personally she was a wet towel
who was rarely ever in fashion.
Her smile was more a scowl
and worst of all she was never fun. 
But I loved her madly, for all her faults,
which I proved by doing somersaults.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Structure and Meaning


Thinking a lot about suicide
gives his life meaning and structure
separates the ephemeral from the puncture
that caused the crash fifty-two years ago
that killed his mother and brother
but left him unscathed with hardly
a scratch, just an inane ability
to recall the moment of impact
his VW bug colliding head-on 
with the fucked-up scrap iron truck 
that was in the wrong lane
because of the puncture
that caused him to lose control
with only one headlight
which made him think he was about
to hit a stupid motorcyclist
when normally he was trying
to refrain from swerving into
some unlucky son-of-a-bitch
who woke up that morning
without any inkling that somebody
namely him, who felt thinking a lot
about suicide gave his life
structure and meaning, was going
to crash into someone without blinking.

Doubting Mantis

The form precipitation took—
a pitiful, will-o’-the-wisp mist—
would have disappointed even
a dyed-in-the-wool optimist.

So a Mantis praying
for the end of the drought
looked like a grasshopper
discombobulated by doubt.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Sonnet on Sunday

                          Billy Sunday Preaching

Like Clark Kent in a telephone booth,
Billy’s favorite colors were red, white and blue.
His favorite truth was the gospel truth—
he was one of Our Pilot’s great ground crew.
If he did not know what the future would be,
or what each wrinkle in time’s brow portended,
he nonetheless knew with great certainty  
it would be what the Good Lord intended.
If anything ever appears amiss,
Billy said it was just the perspective.
First turn a bit that way and then turn this
until you see the corroborative.
Nothing’s impossible for a man of faith
provided he believes what the Good Book saith.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Obscene Jester

"Mr. Met's Obscene Gesture Makes Crazy Season Even Crazier."
                                                          N.Y. Times

Mr. Met gave fans the finger?
On this let us not linger.
Yes, he has a big head,
But he’s not brain dead.
And furthermore, unlike Trump,
He doesn’t fire the ump.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Discrimination in Arkansas?

       Last night I watched a 1944 Hollywood movie I’m from Arkansas. It is what was called a “B movie,” meaning it was low-budget, made to satisfy the film appetite of the large movie going public of that era. If there was a double feature, it would have been the B rather than the A attraction. There were no well known actors or actresses in it. The leading character was played by Slim Summerville, hardly a star, though he appeared in about a hundred silent and sound movies. That's him in the lower right-hand corner of the poster above.
       Only after I watched I’m from Arkansas did it occur to me that there were no black characters in it, not even in menial roles as servants, not even the face of a black or two in a crowd scene. Arkansas is not in the deep South. like Alabama or Mississippi, where blacks are a large minority. But Arkansas is a border state and had about a 15 percent black population in the 1940s. Why then was there not one black in I’m from Arkansas? The director, Lew Landers, was from New York City. He had changed his last name, presumably because it sounded Jewish. It is unlikely he was prejudiced against blacks. Since blacks were confined to menial roles, maybe somebody decided it was better to have no blacks than menial ones, such as the appalling racist black stereotype Stepin Fetchit, billed as “The Laziest Man in the World.”
       Lacking the lazy black stereotype, what I’m from Arkansas does have is an incredibly lazy Appalachian father and son pair, the father played by Slim Summerville and the son by a cretin-looking young actor. When I arrived in Portsmouth back in 1989, I recall a Portsmouth resident observing that Appalachians, or "rednecks," were the last American minority that you could still make fun of without fear of criticism. I’m from Arkansas ridicules Appalachians as if they were all palookas. What's a palooka? You can see for yourself in the 1934 movie Palooka. Both of these movies are available on YouTube.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Post Trump Stress Disorder

Melania Trump's colorful, $51,500 jacket

       As is generally known the acronym PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I saw recently online the christening of Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the need for which arose because we have as president of the United States a mentally unhinged man who illustrates vividly the expression "there is no there there." We wait from day to day to wake up and read what crazy thing the unpredictable Trump has said or done the day before. So perhaps we should speak of both a Post and Pre-Trump Stress Disorder. Trump recently impulsively went on a European  extended tour to distract from the encroaching calamity surrounding the goings-on and "gonnections" (to work in the Great Gatsby) of his White House adviser  and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is the husband of Trump's daughter Ivanka. The issue with Jared, or one of the issues, is his possible political and/or financial collusion with the Russians. In spite of the fact that Trump visited the scowling Pope to sponge on the Pontiff's piety, Trump's trip did nothing to quell the Jared Kushner controversy, which might lead eventually to Trump's impeachment or resignation.

       It is not just Trump and Kushner who keep us wondering what the New York Times will be reporting next about Trump et al. Trump's wife Milania's mania for clothes, and her frequent changes of expensive costumes,  provides grist for the media mill. The minx's colorful puffy jacket alone, which looks like a giddy eskimo getup, caused a sensation. It reportedly cost in excess of $50,000 in spite of not having a scintilla of mink, let alone an inch of chinchilla. There were reports early on that early on in her career Milania had been a high-priced prostitute, but the press respectfully, perhaps out of deference to the oval office, refrained from repeating that rumor. But what male politician has not had to be a high-priced prostitute in his rise to higher office, at the same time keeping any cross dressing jackets and Weinerish sexting tendencies in check?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pillars of Pretentiousness and Hypocrisy

The 1810 House

          There is  an op-ed piece by David Leonhardt in The New York Times dated May 25, 2017, titled “The Assault on Colleges— and the American Dream.” I read it wondering, since there were 171 colleges included in it, if Shawnee State University  in Portsmouth, Ohio, was among them. It wasn’t.  I ended my career teaching at Shawnee State, having retired in 2012, so I have more than an academic interest in it. Having been founded relatively recently, in 1986, SSU is the new kid on the state college block in Ohio, being the newest public college. It is relatively small in terms of campus size and student enrollment. But there is another reason SSU is relatively unknown, and that is  its location. Portsmouth is located in the south-central  Appalachian region of Ohio, the boondocks of the Buckeye state. Historically, there has been a stigma attached to Appalachia as an economically and culturally backward region. This  was the case particularly in popular culture, in radio, movies, and on the stage in the first half of the twentieth century. Li’l Abner did more to stigmatize and poke fun at Appalachia than any other fictional character. Where was Abner’s creator Al Capp (1909-1979) from? Appalachia? No, New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University, which in the first half of the twentieth century was one of the most elite and snobbish colleges in the country. Yale and Dogpatch were diametrically opposite cultural entities.

         One of Portsmouth’s biggest problems is its inferiority complex, which it owes at least in part to its being Appalachian. I have already suggested on this website that the architectural embodiment of Portsmouth Southern hypocrisy is the 1810 House with those pretentious white pillars, which were not there during the Civil War but were added early in the 20th century.* They are not pillars of strength. They are pillars of pretentiousness. Many of the earliest settlers of Portsmouth came not from the South but from Appalachia. They were not plantation people from the Deep South. They were for the most part, at least those who were not carpetbaggers,  hill people from Kentucky and West Virginia.

       The trouble is Portsmouth won’t admit it’s Appalachian. It wants to pretend it’s Southern, not Appalachian. What is its official motto? “Where Southern hospitality begins.”  A more apt title would be, “Where Southern hypocrisy begins.” One of the roles SSU might assume is dispelling the Southern hospitality myth and embracing, as a certain number of Scioto County residents proudly do, their Appalachian heritage.

*Click here: http://rivervices.blogspot.com/2015/09/301-front-st-unpretentious.html