Monday, December 9, 2019

The Possums of Autumn - weekly column

Mack Hall, HSG

The Possums of Autumn

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”

-Keats, “To Autumn”

In East Texas autumn is the gentlest season, first shooing away the fierce heat of the summer and then admitting those refreshing cool fronts from the north borne on soft winds. To step outside in the summer heat is almost painful, to step outside in autumn is a joy.

Autumn is erratic here, and while it progresses eventually to frosts and even an occasional rare freeze, the thermometer, hygrometer, and barometer are given lots of exercise in the variations.

On one morning the fields might be frosted almost to the aesthetic approval of Currier & Ives, and the next morning might be a matter of wasps and bees and minding the snakes.

Crows seem to be more numerous in November, and they are certainly noisier. Geese, seemingly happier birds, honk and squeak in their V formation migration, and from a nearby pond one can hear the happy quacking of ducks taking a break from their own travels. The other day we saw a huge egret frogging among the reeds in a watery roadside ditch. He looked at us disapprovingly, but he needn’t have been snotty for I don’t imagine the frogs thought highly of the egret.

This morning is warm and damp, and ground strawberries and tiny yellow flowers accent the grey sky and the wind-shoaled fallen leaves all ruddy and yellow and brown.

The little dogs are sniffing indignantly at the scents left by wild visitors in the dark hours. Yesterday evening I released the pups for their night patrol and they quickly found a large possum who had been minding its own business while quietly browsing around for some supper.

Every dachshund thinks it is a timber wolf, and separating the two dogs and the possum was a challenge. I managed to nab Astrid-the-Wonder-Dog first, since she is more of a loud spectator than a participant, and hustled her into the house. Luna-Dog, 16 pounds of fury, was more of a challenge. She is kind and loving and sweet to her humans, but death to numerous snakes, two possums, one racoon, and, sadly, two turtles (I didn’t move fast enough, and the turtles couldn’t move fast enough).

Luna-Dog did not want me to have the possum she was gnawing, and so there was a bit of a chase. A dachshund can’t run fast while dragging a possum its size, and I was finally able to pull the dog away (under protest) and carry her, too (she was calling for a point of order), to the house.

I returned to the arena of combat with a shovel for tossing the dead possum over the fence, but the critter had only fainted and now, having had enough of bothersome dachshunds, it was scrambling up an oak tree.

Perhaps we all slept better for the exercise.

Autumn. Nice.


Are We Celebrating Christmas Wrong - weekly column

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Are We Celebrating Christmas Wrong?

Well, yes, we are.

That is, if we believe the generations of Miz Grundys yapping forth on the InterGossip and in the news and in the advertisements.

‘Tis the season when almost every posting tells us how we have been doing Christmas all wrong and how some newly-invented-old-timey-tradition-dating-back-to-last-week will make it all better if we will only obey.

Hey, it’s on the InterGossip; it must be right.

But there is nothing new in this conceptual shifting. In the 17th century the Puritans in no-longer-merry England and thus in the colonies banned Christmas as popish and pagan. Grumpy Scotland had outlawed Christmas a hundred years before and for the same reasons. Christmas was slowly restored in England with, well, the Restoration, but Scotland did not recognize the holiday again until 1958.

Imagine 400 years without Christmas. It’s as if C. S. Lewis’ White Witch were in charge all that time.

Evergreen decorations were common, but Christmas trees were little known in England and the U.S.A. until Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (turn left at the next road; it’s out back behind the second dairy barn), who missed the German tradition. Victoria and Albert had a tree imported from Germany and decorated it themselves. 1848 is usually given as the year when having a Christmas tree became a fashion in the English-speaking world since the royals were totally cool.

Only in 1870 was Christmas recognized as a national holiday in the U.S.A., and that was through a decree by President Grant.

Still, in many places influenced by the Puritans Christmas was honored only reluctantly.

Certain television producers, probably not Puritans but for reasons of their own, insisted in 1965 that Linus not read St. Luke’s Infancy narrative in A Charlie Brown Christmas, but in the event that center of the story – because it is the center of Creation – was finally allowed by The Suits, and we are the richer for it.

Shifting fashions continue to change our perceptions of Christmas. Many consider the Christmases of our childhood as the norm, but our children don’t see it that way. And, really, neither did our parents or grandparents, who sometimes grumbled that having electric lights on the tree somehow didn’t seem right, and that a kid ought to be happy with some oranges and a few little toys stuffed into a sock. But then they bought us lots of toys (and socks and underwear – too thrilling) anyway, so hooray!

And if in this season we get off the metaphorical trail a bit, well, we have Linus and his familiarity with Saint Luke to remind us of the way.


Setting the Household Poetry Out on the Curb - poem

Lawrence Hall

Setting the Household Poetry Out on the Curb

Listen, you
Are you through
With this week’s

They’ve got old
Full of mold
Let them go
Toss them so

Too long

And these
Are stale
And pale

Now for those
Dactyls ripe
Skip the hype
Cook with tripe

A voice from deep within one’s conscience snorts,
“Less of it.”

Communion in a Sippy-Cup? - poem

Lawrence Hall

Communion in a Sippy-Cup?

Of course not, no; it cannot be, and so
Now having splashed His Precious Blood upon
My coat sleeve and a communicant’s hands
From that rota I must withdraw my name

Where it should never have been anyway
Where I should never have been anyway
As out of place on the Altar as
A poor fourteener is among blank verse

          Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist

That measured line and I are just too slow
So let the Cup (and the fourteener) go

Sunday, December 8, 2019

In Search of a Lost Cat - poem

Lawrence Hall

In Search of a Lost Cat

We only knew that Java-Cat was gone
Apparently he slipped out through a door
We missed him sunning in his window-throne
We missed his poor attempts at a lion’s roar

We only know that Java-Cat is gone
We have walked the woods and called his name
At all hours, morning, day, night, and dawn
And this season is compromised by blame

We only know that Java-Cat is gone
Leaving us to mourn, and Chai-Cat all alone

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Existential Commie Black Beret with a Red Cross - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Existential Commie Black Beret with a Red Cross

“Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.”

-Flannery O’Conner

We jokingly asked him if his beret
Was that of a medic in the Khmer Rouge

And he replied, oh, most sententiously:
“It can mean anything y’all want it to mean”

For he had once taken a theatre class

Friday, December 6, 2019

I Am Not Your... - poem

Lawrence Hall

I Am Not Your…

From an idea suggested by a student who was reading
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter


I am not your perfect Mexican daughter


I am not your mother
I am not your guru
I am not your American
I am not your Muslim
I am not your American Muslim
I am not your orphan
I am not your cracker
I am not your inspiration
I am not your wetback
I am not your thank-you-for-your-service token veteran
I am not your manic pixie dream girl
I am not your man
I am not your other
I am not your brown reporter
I am not your teachable moment
I am not your wife
I am not your friend
I am not your toy
I am not your guy
I am not your enemy
I am not your princess
I am not your data
I am not your Geisha doll
I am not your villain
I am not your father
I am not your evangelical
I am not your broom
I am not your savior
I am not your dirty secret
I am not your mirror image
I am not your victim
I am not your eyes
I am not your carpet ride
I am not your scapegoat
I am not your doormat
I am not your tragic trans narrative
I am not your leader


Luby’s Cafeteria is having a special today

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Aves Along a Texas Highway - a poem of gratititude

Lawrence Hall

Aves Along a Texas Highway

The drive home

Is measured in aves of gratitude
Not in time or distance or space or miles
But in aves of endless gratitude

She is alive, and will be well

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Two Days Before Surgery - poem

Lawrence Hall


Waiting. Waiting. Clerks in cubicles
Fluorescent lights. And then drive somewhere else
And wait there. Plastic chairs. Fabric chairs. Chairs
Waiting. Benches there. Plastic chairs. Chairs. Chairs

Waiting. Waiting. More forms to complete. Chairs
Fluorescent lights. Clerks in cubicles. Chairs
“Will you step this way…” Chairs. Forms. Plastic chairs
Waiting. “Any other medications…?”

Waiting. Waiting. Stale mechanical air
Fluorescent lights. “And won’t you have a chair…”

I'm All About Me, Wonderful, Cute, Precious, Sensitive Me, Me, ME! - poem

Lawrence Hall

I’m All About Me, Wonderful, Cute, Precious, Sensitive Me, Me, ME!

Confessional me-oetry belongs
In the confessional; there, leave it there:
The adolescent tears, imagined slurs
And the very real offenses that hurt

Oh, let them go

Surrender there the me, the my, the I
And choose to write freedom in otherness
Embrace the sufferings of other men
And let them see the beauty in their hearts

Oh, take them in -

(Yes, yes, you are a most adorable elf
But must you write only about yourself?)

Monday, December 2, 2019

Little Oliver and Little Olivia in the Orange, Texas Denny's - poem

Lawrence Hall

Little Oliver and Little Olivia

Small children skimming through the restaurant
Filching the waitresses’ tips unchallenged
Their idle smart-phone mothers think them cute
Ms. Fagins twisting their poor Olivers

Bumper-Sticker Theology - NOT poetry

Lawrence Hall

Bumper-Sticker Theology

V: God Said It. I Believe It. That Settles It.
R: What is “It?”

V: God is My Co-Pilot
R: Obviously not today. Both hands on the wheel, please, and put the MePhone down.

V: My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter
R: How does He sign your paycheck?

V: Put Christ Back into Christmas
R: He was never out of Christmas. Maybe your Christmas, but that was your choice.

V: Follow Me to The Bright Light Free Will Four Square Full Gospel Missionary Temple Outreach of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Lamb
R: No.

V: Republican. Conservative. Christian.
R: Why so many adjectives?

V: Faith Over Fear
R: Not the way you’re driving

V: Do You Follow Jesus This Close?
R: “Closely.”

V: Got Jesus?
R: Anyone who rewrites an advertising slogan – and without copyright attribution – to make a theological point has nothing to share.

V: Caution! Pro-Life Christian Gun Owner!
R: Irony eludes you.

V: Honk if You Love Jesus. Text While Driving if You Want to See Him.
R: Okay, that one’s pretty good.

V: Jesus Is My Air Bags
R: Thus air bags is Jesus?

V: Who Saved Who?
R: Whom

Poppies Whispering - poem

Lawrence Hall

Poppies Whispering

“I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls”

-Elizabeth I

The freedom not to wear a poppy gives
A man another good reason to wear it

Mandating public patriotism gives
A man just one reason not to wear

A poppy in remembrance of those lads
Who died among red poppies far away

Canadians who chose to serve our Canada

And so

I choose to wear a poppy for them all

And for you

God bless Canada

At the End We Are But Wreckages - poem

Lawrence Hall

At the End We Are But Wreckages

Here at the end we are but wreckages
Holed and hulled and breached, listing and adrift
Sending for help on silent radios -
We are but menaces to navigation

Worn out hulks, battered in the battles of life
Great victories, sometimes, and more defeats
And our strongest weapons now are only
Plastic pill cases molded in color codes

Here at the end we are but wreckages
Except – except when I remember you

If Online Retailers Controlled the Lubyanka - poem

Lawrence Hall

If Online Retailers Controlled the Lubyanka

The concrete corridors, damp from dark fear
Echo the heavy boots and occasional screams
The overhead fluorescents flicker like
Irregular heartbeats in dying men

In a numbered room a beaten man weeps
Through battered, swollen eyes, and in his pain
Unknown hours of beatings, blood, and pain
He can barely hear his tormentor’s words:

“We are not going to ask you again:
What was the name of your childhood pet?”