Author Archives: sydlogsdon

567. Bridges of Longing

Every time I print some poetry, my own or favorites from other writers, my readership spikes. It’s got to be the tag POETRY that does it.

The problem is that I don’t like 99.9 percent of the poetry I read today. My rule is: if you can rewrite a poem without line breaks, and that turns it into the first couple of sentences in an unfinished short story, then it isn’t a poem. Almost everything I read nowadays fails that test.

I’m not talking about rhyme. Check out Spoon River Anthology or anything by Yeats or Frost to see the flip side of what I’m complaining about.

When I do find exciting work by a contemporary author, it knocks me out. Example: Marsheila Rockwell.

I met Marsheila at Westercon in 2017 at a reading. She and another author, a couple of author’s friends, and I sat down in a conference room that would have held fifty. I was the only stranger in the room.

Westercon 70 was odd that way. It was very much a home town version of a regional conference. The Cosplay and Filk venues were packed, but the book signings and author’s readings were almost (sometimes completely) empty.

Her stories were fine and her poetry was excellent. I bought her collection Bridges of Longing and there wasn’t a poem in it that wasn’t wonderful. There were some I didn’t like, primarily in the section Those Who Wait, but it was only because they were harsh to the point of hopelessness. It wasn’t because they weren’t true. The same was true of some of her stories. They were superb, whether they matched my taste or not.

You see, Marsheila and her sig-other and writing partner primarily operate in the fields of horror, dark fantasy, and D & D, all places I have no interest in going. I would certainly never have found her except that fate steered me into that reading.

Her poetry, on the other hand, is humane and feminist, and always with a hard edge. It sounds like real life, even when it is supposedly about goddesses and harshly treated mermaids. She is the best new poet I have encountered in many years, even if her novels aren’t in my wheelhouse.

I would say, buy Bridges of Longing. The poems alone are worth the cost many times over, and if you have any liking for fantasy, you will enjoy the stories as well.

You might also check out her website http://marsheilarockwell.com/ .

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Running From President 6

Leap Alan Hed is on the run, not from any crime, not from angry criminals, but from the insatiable news media. When Billy Joe Barker proposed him as a write-in candidate for President, they descended on his house and he fled. Now a couple of weeks have passed.

He went north at first, toward the Canadian border, but he couldn’t find a way to pass over without being spotted. He turned south-west and tried to lose himself in the Rockies, but things have changed there, too. Where every cirque and valley used to be filled with old-time prospectors, broken down cowboys, and overly hopeful hippies, now every mountaintop is capped by a mansion with a movie star living inside.

I’m not sure where he went after that. He didn’t confide much to me, and after the paranoia set in, I don’t know how much of what he said was true. Being on the run will do that to you.

The media was hot on his trail and they have almost infinite resources. They would have found him in no time if they had cooperated. Instead, they guarded their sources, set misinformation rumors afoot, and generally got in each other’s way.

Leap stayed one step ahead of them, but it wasn’t a life worth living. He finally decided to give an interview to satisfy the world’s curiosity, and get everyone off his back. Poor fool. Giving one interview was like the old story of the man who reached for a bucket of water to put out a fire, and found out too late that it was gasoline. But Leap was an innocent, and innocents are doomed.

He wrote a letter to G. S. at —BC news, proposed a time and place. They met secretly in the home of a distant relative (who was himself harassed for the next three weeks).

==========

G. S. spoke to the camera, briefly outlining events to date, then asked, “Why did you run and why have you agreed to this interview?”

Leap described the siege of Dannebrog, and some of the things that had happened since, then said, “I’m hoping that telling my story will convince the American people that I am not someone they want to write in for President, and that I can just go home and get my life back. That would be a miracle.”

G. S.: “I’m not sure that is a miracle we can provide, but go ahead, tell us why you think Americans have become so fascinated by your candidacy.”

Leap: “I’m not a candidate. I’m not running for President. I’m running from President.”

Foolish Leap. He still didn’t understand the phenomenon he had become. Those three words –- Running From President –- which his farmer friend had said in Grand Island, became the stuff of a thousand headlines and a million tweets.

G. S.: “Why do you think America has embraced your non-candidacy, then?”

Leap: “Look at the alternatives. We have three hundred million people in America, and this is the best we can put up for President? There must be a thousand Democrats that would make a better president than Hillary, and a hundred thousand Republicans who would make a better president than Trump. But I am not one of them.” The interview continues Monday.

Running From President 5

Leap was born in 1952, on Leap Day, which was the start of all his troubles. He made his run from the media in his 64th year. That isn’t an age to start running.

Leap didn’t drink much, had never smoked, and had never had a wife, so he wasn’t too broken down. Still, 64 is 64.

Leap followed the genetic pattern of the American species. He headed west. That wasn’t hard in Nebraska where all county roads are routed by compass. He was in the middle of nowhere, half way to Rockville, when a pickup ground to a stop beside him and the driver motioned him to get in. The cow manure crusted on the wheels and fenders was reassuring; this was not a TV person. Besides, the sun was coming up, Leap was tired, and an old man walking down an empty road would be easy to spot from the air. Paranoia, or whatever you call it when they are really after you, had set in.  Leap had no problem imagining a horde of drones fanning out across the landscape, looking for him.

True to form, all Leap got from the driver was a nod and a grunt until they were back up to speed and a mile had passed under the tires. Then the driver said, “You’re Hed.” Leap admitted that he was. “Saw your picture in the newspaper. Heard about the ruckus in Dannebrog.” Then he called the newsmen a word that two men in a truck might use, but would never like to see written down. Leap agreed with him.

Another mile passed. The driver said, “How did you get into this mess, anyhow?”

“How does a guy get struck by lightning? Bad luck. Real bad luck.”

“How come you’re running for President?”

“I’m not! Some (and he used that word again) from Tulsa called me up and tried to get me to run as a joke. I said no, and he didn’t take no for an answer. Now the whole country wants me to run, or pretend to run, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

At Rockville, the driver turned left, crossed the Platte River and followed highway 68 toward Ravenna. He said, “You got any money? If you’re gonna run, you’ll need money.”

“Some. I took the rainy day money out of the sock drawer before I left.”

“I could loan you forty.”

“No, you keep it. But thanks.”

They drove on in silence. Fifteen miles later, as they were coming into Grand Island, the driver said, “I’ll drop you at the bus station.” Leap nodded. He didn’t ask the driver’s name. It didn’t matter, really. In the short time he had lived in Dannebrog, Leap had met a dozen men and women who would have helped him out just as automatically, with no hesitation and no thought of reward. In fact, Leap would have done the same himself.

At the bus station, he walked around the pickup and reached up to shake the hand of his new, anonymous friend.  For the first time he saw him full face, not profile. He was tanned and whiskered, lean, maybe forty years old, with a ball cap and a khaki shirt. He grinned at Leap and said, “Running from president. God almighty. Only in America.”

Leap said, “What would you do if they tried to stick you with the job?”

“Run like a deer, leap like an antelope, burrow like a prairie dog. Anything it took to get away.  Good luck. I hope they don’t catch you.”

**        **       **        **

For those of you who don’t live in Nebraska but still recognized the name Dannebrog in the last two posts, yes, you’re right, this is also an homage to Roger Welsch, who would also run from President. more tomorrow

566. The Negro Speaks of Rivers

The Negro Speaks of Rivers
by Langston Hughes

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
     went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
     bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

I am a great fan of Langston Hughes. I keep his complete works in my library, and I had hoped to dip into it to publish one of his less well known poems here during Black History Month. I couldn’t.

I try to stay on the sunny side of copyright law out of respect for authors and to keep out of jail. However, I am no lawyer, and copyright law in America is an incredible snarl, so I depend on others for my information. I went to Project Gutenberg, an organization dedicated to placing old literature in ebook format. They are well organized and quite careful about only using material in public domain. They have almost nothing by Hughes, so I googled, which only muddied the picture further.

I like to place pictures as teasers above each post. Other than the ones I have created myself, I get most of them from Wikipedia since they specify (if you click a couple of times on the picture) their copyright standing. I went there following this copyright question and found in Wikisource that:

This work (The Negro Speaks of Rivers) is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.

Most of Hughes work was published after that date.

It may seem odd to worry about the copyright status works by a man who died 52 years ago, but theft is theft, even if you are stealing from a dead man. I try not to steal, although sometimes I goof. I posted Hughes’s poem I, Too last Independence Day, not realizing that it was not in public domain. Of course, you can get a view of many copyrighted works on the Internet. I, Too appears in dozens of places.

I have a solution to this conundrum. Go out and buy a book of poems by Langston Hughes. Buy it for Black History Month if you care. Buy it for the beautiful poetry if you don’t care.

You can even go to a used book store to buy it. Resale of books never puts a penny in any author’s pocket, but it keeps their works alive.

Running From President 4

It’s hard to say who made the first mistake. Certainly Leap’s mother should never have named him Leap, even if he was born on Leap Day. Some temptations just have to be resisted. Worse, she should have spoken his name out loud when she named him. Leap Alan Hed, for heaven’s sake. How could she have missed that Alan would become A., and no one could ever meet her son without saying Leap A. Hed.

Leap wasn’t blameless himself. By fighting back to the point of absurdity, he made himself famous enough to come to the public’s attention. Counting his age by leap-day-birthdays and calling himself 16 when he was in his sixties — that’s just asking to be noticed.

Of course Billy Joe Barker was to blame for touting him as a write-in candidate for President. Then when he said that Leap was sane because he really didn’t want to be President, it was the last nail in Leap’s coffin.

People never give you what you want, but they always give you what you don’t want. Didn’t anybody know that?

Shelia Barnstaple of Wilmington, Ohio started a blog called I Want Leap for President. Wilton Damonson of Ash Fork, Arizona started a competing blog called Leap on the Bandwagon, also using the hashtag #LeaponforLeap. You would not believe how many people have 140 characters worth of something to say.

Throughout August, as Donald sank in the polls, people first sighed with relief, then suddenly realized that Hillary would probably win. Someone published a poem anonymously that read:

When Donald came I feared the worst,
If he won it just might kill me.
He surely was the worst of worst,
But second worst was Hillary.

Within days the doggerel was re-posted four million times, and a hundred and ninety-two people were claiming authorship.

Meanwhile, Shelia Barnstaple and Wilton Damonson combined forces and the draft Leap movement really took off. Leap found his house in Dannebrog surrounded by reporters. It looked like Marilyn Lovell’s lawn in Apollo 13. Leap came out with a shotgun to run them off, but they only clicked their cameras faster. He retreated. The shotgun was never loaded, since Leap was basically a peaceful fellow, but the hashtag #Leapforlawandorder raced around the globe at the speed of light.

Leap drew the shades and locked his doors, turned out all the lights but one, and settled in to wait out the silliness with his paperback collection of Nero Wolfe novels. After an hour, the reporters started pounding on his door, then on his windows, and finally on the walls of his house. He couldn’t call for help since he didn’t have a phone, but his neighbors took pity and brought in the county sheriff. He drove the mob back into the street.

That night, Barnstaple and Damonson posted a call to join Leap in his Silent Vigil for America. Three hundred thousand people promised that they would.

Sometime during the night, a darkly clothed figure joined the reporters briefly, then quietly faded away. Once it was light the next morning, Armin Arkin of WFUD noticed that the back door was ajar and announced that he was going in. Within minutes, the street was empty and the house was jammed with anchors and their cameramen elbowing for room to broadcast.

Leap had disappeared. more tomorrow

565. Great (?) Men

This post was begun December 5, 2018, before the shutdown, right after watching President Bush’s funeral. Most of the posts from that time until now were already written to make time for some non-writing activities, so I watched the Federal shut-down from the sidelines. I will summarize my take in one sentence.

Another damn-fool stunt by the Damn-Fool-in-Chief.

Now back to December fifth.

=========

As I watched President Bush’s funeral this morning, I was once again struck by an understanding of how Trump became president. I am not going to offer similarities between the two men; I would be hard pressed to find any. I will suggest instead that the nation’s response to Bush One’s death tells us uncomfortable things about hero worship, individual liberty and responsibility, and America’s closet love affair with The Great Man.

America threw off a king in 1776, and has been in the habit of electing would-be kings to the presidency ever since.  They even asked George Washington to become king. He refused. If there has been a president since who didn’t want the powers of a king, I apologize for lumping him in with the rest. I don’t think I will have to apologize to many. Maybe none.

I get that. I also get that without a combination of arrogance and obstinance, and a massive need for power, no candidate would ever get through a campaign. Obama strikes me as a nice guy, someone I would like to know personally, but he had the need. Bush II was touted as the candidate you would most like to have a beer with — and I would, even though I never considered him competent. Vote for Bush II, hell no; share a laugh with him, of course. Bush II had the need. Bush I had the need. They all had the need for power.

You can be pretty sure that any humility shown by any president is feigned. Was Lincoln humble? He appeared humble, but I seriously doubt that he was. Overwhelmed and saddened by what fate had saddled him with, certainly, but a truly humble man would have withdrawn in favor of someone more qualified.

But Presidents don’t believe anyone else could be more qualified; if they did, they would never make it to the White House.

I understand the motivation of Great (?) Men; I don’t really understand why Americans, who otherwise cling to their liberties, continue electing them. Perhaps they are convinced that the alternative to the Great (?) Man is the wimp. Or maybe it’s just the John Wayne syndrome gone wrong.

Here’s what happens. There is trouble in the town. Every man knows what needs to be done. But only one man has the fastest gun and the toughest fists. So (the Lone Ranger) (John Wayne) (Chuck Norris) (millennials, fill in your own selection, I’m out of touch with current heroes) takes care of business because he is The Great Man.

That’s adequate for TV, but not for governing America. Presidential power has been growing at Congressional expense for several decades. Why? Maybe at the core it is because the President is one man and Congress is many. Is it just part of the American myth that the individual stands up to the mob?

Maybe.

I get it — but I don’t buy it.

Running From President 3

It was a bad week in mid-August. Donald was imploding and Hillary should have been, but Donald kept grabbing the microphone. Nobody was thinking about e-mails because Donald kept spinning out one-liners. The Democrats were simultaneously frightened that he might win, and exulting in the poll numbers that said he never could. The Republicans were furious at lost opportunities, and tearing their hair out over the poll numbers.

On Sunday, August 14th, Billy Joe Barker sat down in front of his computer to compose his weekly commentary for the Tulsa World. The column was called Thank God Its Monday, but this night he simply couldn’t find anything to be thankful for. He had had such high hopes for Trump, but that was only a bitter memory now.

Then inspiration took him by the throat. His fingers flew across the keyboard and he hummed happily as he typed out the doom of a poor schmuck who had never done him any harm.

Please Mr. Custer

If you are old enough, you may remember a novelty song from 1960 called Please Mr. Custer. A trooper was complaining to commanding officer, who happened to be George Armstrong Custer, that he really didn’t want to go with him on his ride out to see what the Indians at the Little Big Horn were up to.

I don’t blame him. Nobody blamed him. It was a good laugh and nobody thought the trooper was unpatriotic for yelling, “I don’t want to go.”

I thought of that trooper today as I remembered my column of August first. It was about Leap Alan Hed, the boy who was born on leap day. Kids teased him so much when he was young about his name, Leap A. Hed, that he got back by counting his age by leap-year birthdays. He told me himself, when I interviewed him over the phone, that it was a piece of silliness he regrets to this day.

I invited him to run for President as a humor candidate, and offered to carry his campaign in this column. He turned me down flat, and I called him the sanest man in America because he really doesn’t want to be President. He doesn’t even want to pretend he wants to be President.

The trooper in the old song said, “I don’t want to go,” and Leap said, “I don’t want to be President.” Fifty-six years apart –- the last two sane men in America.

I wanted to vote for Trump, I really did, but I can’t. Hillary –- never mind. And the outliers, not them either.

On November 8, I am going to write in Leap Alan Hed, the last sane man in America. If you find Donald and Hillary as unpalatable as I do, I invite you to join me.

The piece was picked up by AP and UPI. All across the nation, every anchor with two minutes to spare read part of it on his broadcast. It became a phenomenon.

The reason was clear to those who paid attention. For a year, Donald Trump had given the talking heads something to cover. He was fun; he was colorful. He was safe. Nobody in his or her right mind thought he would ever win anything, and the rest of the Republican candidates were a dreary lot.

Then he won the nomination. The talking heads felt panic, and a massive sense of guilt at the idea of “What have we done?”

By the time relief arrived through Donald’s spiraling self-destruction, they were really tired of him. And they had always been tired of Hillary. Leap was a breath of fresh air. Leap was something different they could talk about, and he was safe. No one could ever take seriously the candidacy of a man who refused to run.

It seemed as safe as betting against Donald had seemed.

How quickly we forget. more Monday