Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Recent Poetry, Late 2014

Morning Commute, 10/7/14

A funny thing happened
As I donned my helmet
And rain gear this morning:
My mind sped back
Thirty millennia to a
Cro-magnon ancestor
Of mine--I’ll call him Og--
Seated in his cave by the fire,
Looking out at the stars.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Harlot Kōan

Hers is perhaps the ugliest image in Orthodox iconography. Just about any other saint, even the serious ascetics, gets to shine with ageless, transcendent beauty. But not her. She’s always presented to us as a gaunt, withered old woman, naked but for a borrowed cloak, her skin leatherized from years of exposure to the elements, and with a bad hairdo. Her expression is often almost pathetic. It’s difficult to imagine her as sexually alluring in her youth, even though that’s how the story goes, and her story is familiar to the many Eastern Orthodox Christians who encounter it annually on the fifth Sunday of Great Lent.  Her life is read aloud with the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete at the following Thursday’s matins.  It can be an emotional experience to be confronted with the image of her radical repentance. It can also be an occasion for modern people like me to come up against elements of her tale that raise more questions than they answer. I’ll review her story for the benefit of those unfamiliar with it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to Edit a Book: Six Easy Steps

This document is in response to my boss's  request for me to say a few words about the process of turning a raw manuscript into a publishable trade book.  In expressing some of the things I’ve learned about this process, I must acknowledge that I owe much of that to the people who’ve been my mentors--above all, to Kendra Crossen Burroughs--but many of these observations are simply my own, based on years of experience doing this work.  If you’re a good Buddhist, you’ll know that you should test what I say against your own experience to see what elements of it are true for you or not.  If you’re a Christian, Jew, or Zoroastrian you should do exactly the same thing.

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Poetry, September 2014


Beware the angel
Who arrives to
Inform you of
God’s will, if
That will requires
You to move to
Cleveland next month
In order to accomplish
The important work
For which you were born.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chastity in the Age of Lust

To say that I seldom agree with the right-wing New York Times columnist Ross Douthat would be an understatement. But then, I’m surprised how often it happens that just when I’m ready to write someone off completely they’ll expose my small-mindedness by saying something  insightful. This happened with Douthat’s June 1, 2014 op-ed, “Prisoners of Sex.” In it, he reflects on the recent news story of the young Santa Barbara serial killer whose shooting spree may have been an attempt at revenge on the women who wouldn’t have sex with him. Douthat saw in this fellow’s motivation a symptom of a pervasive problem that might be seen as the principal downside of the sexual revolution, that, as he puts it:  “Sexual fulfillment is treated as the source and summit of a life well lived, the thing without which nobody (from a carefree college student to a Cialis-taking senior) can be truly happy, enviable, or free.”  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

New Poetry, May 2014

Scumbag Perceives the Universe

Say I’m the worst of humankind,
Daily sinning in my mind
And body. Nothing any good.
A curse upon the neighborhood.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Poetry, March 2014

Valentine’s Day

When loneliness arises

With the harsh warmth
Of acid reflux,
And you wonder
(Without meaning
To be a bother about it)
What it was about you
That kept love away,
Be prepared
To despair of an answer.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

New Poems, February 2014


It’s always a misstep,
That first move
Out of yourself,
Sparked by the desire
For enlightenment,
God’s favor,
Or peace of mind.
Later, you’ll be grateful
For the stupidity that
Set you off in the wrong direction,
For what else could have brought about
Your voluntary adventure
Out of stasis?
Call that stupidity faith.

Friday, January 31, 2014

God and Me

An article from the Guardian by Chris Arnade entitled The People Who Challenged My Atheism Most Were Drug Addicts and Prostitutes recently made the rounds of the social media world I inhabit. In it Mr. Arnade chronicles the abandonment of atheism that came about for him as a result of his contact with people of extreme social and economic disadvantage who were sincere believers in God, through the impression of honesty, wisdom, and compassion he got from them. In the process, he observed that atheism is related to class and economic background, and that atheists are found in greater numbers among people of education and privilege.  The article, which was posted widely, generated a lot more conversation than I would have imagined.