Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Family (Repost)

I remember visiting my cousin in the hospital (first person is him, last verse) but didn’t realize until looking at the date of the post that it was 5 years ago. Unfortunately, he died last week, the warning(s) not heeded.

Family
A family
may have
its own unique warning
to save one
from what nature or nurture
combined to produce.

Ours was simple:
If you drink,
you die.

My uncle
was justifiably
marked as Cain,
but all that he shattered
was tidily
swept away.

My aunt found herself
in a position
impossible to
escape,
and
her gentle spirit
was no match
for the bottles
strategically placed.

My brother was wild
as the wind
with a temper
that knew no end
or solace.

Who would
have imagined
as she rose to the top
that the punches
thrown at my cousin
would have finally
knocked her out?

I lie now
my body
like a beached
whale,
my face jaundiced,
but my red eyes
still show their
cunning.

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Wednesday’s Choice

No News Is Good News

I don’t know how many days into his presidency it is. I’ve lost count, but it has to be like 1,324,000, right? At any rate, the pattern is clear and not to my liking: Trump blathers nonsense and our time is truly wasted treating his utterances as if he were the Oracle of Delphi.

Only One Clean Public Lavatory

“The Great Hall, as is generally the case in all public buildings, theatres, concert halls and banks, is draped with red banners. Many of them hang the entire length of the hall, and on them is written: ‘We shall Conquer and Surpass the Capitalist Countries!’ I thought, if instead of these talks, this waste of banner cloth, instead of the countless busts and pictures of Lenin, if instead of these huge and superficial expenditures of money, if instead of all this, only one clean public lavatory were built, then much more would have been achieved for the good and convenience of the people as well as for the ‘conquering and surpassing’ of the capitalist countries.”

From The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War by Alexander Waugh
The quote refers to Paul Wittgenstein’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1930.

Even though my connection with the Wittgensteins is limited to reading Ludwig’s work during an Epistemology and Metaphysics class at university, where I think I got a B-, and reading Thomas Bernhard’s magnificent Wittgenstein’s Nephew, I thought I”d give The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War a go as I’m interested in the end days of the Austrio-Hungarian empire. Perhaps, Stephan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday, which I don’t think I’ve read, is next.

The book is a quick read and besides the Wittgenstein clan, there are a whole cast of characters many of whom I knew nothing about that i”m beginning to learn more about.

Immigration

Unless you have any skin in the game, you probably haven’t heard of the July 13 memo from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Here’s a portion:

“This Policy Memorandum (PM) provides guidance to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicators regarding the discretion to deny an application, petition, or request without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) if initial evidence is not submitted or if the evidence in the record does not establish eligibility.”

In other words, you submit your application, which is complicated believe you me, but happen to forget to include something. They will no longer request additional information but rather will deny your application and you won’t know why. What are you supposed to do then when you haven’t a clue what you might have gotten wrong? Include another check for $535?

It sadly brings to mind what I was reading about the poll tax in Simon Schama’s The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 BC – 1492 AD:

“Collectors were supposed to keep their payers waiting, then shout at them, seize them by the scruff of the neck and even slap their faces. On no account was the payer’s hand to be raised above the hand of the receiver, a requirement demanding a physically contorted form of dextrous subservience. Payment was of course also a punishing hardship for the countless numbers of the less well-off.”

Deserted

This city is deserted due to snakes.

“Here Comes the Judge!”

I think a strong case can be made that the most important reason to vote in a presidential election is because the president has the power to select supreme court justices.

Flawed candidate as she was, I’m quite sure Hillary would have selected from a different kettle of fish.

Hard to know where the court is going to end up, especially if Trump gets reelected.  How long can RBG stay on?

At present I’m reading Bernard Schwartz’s A History of the Supreme Court and am getting a history lesson I never had.    He briefly talks about one of the early justices, whom I had never heard of, which led me to do some online searching, where I came across the following, which I couldn’t help but enjoy:

“In 1795, President Washington gave a recess appointment to John Rutledge of South Carolina to serve as chief justice. Washington was apparently unaware that Rutledge was mentally ill. Rutledge was described by one leading South Carolinian as prone to “mad frollicks,” and South Carolina Sen. Ralph Izard said Rutledge was “frequently so much deranged, as to be in a great measure deprived of his senses.”

According to Emory University law professor David Garrow, Rutledge tried repeatedly to drown himself in various rivers before finally resigning within a year of his appointment. (Notably, Rutledge’s confirmed successor, Justice William Cushing, was himself described as “much impaired” mentally and ultimately declined the position.)

And there are more:

Henry Baldwin was confirmed in 1830, and within two years Daniel Webster warned of the “breaking out of Judge Baldwin’s insanity.” Baldwin missed the 1833 term, hospitalized for what was called “incurable lunacy.” He remained on the court for 11 more years.

Justice Robert C. Grier’s problems were widely known among politicians and reporters in the mid-1800s. Historian David Atkinson notes that Grier could “scarcely function” due to physical and mental decline. Yet, in 1869 — just days before Grier agreed to leave the bench under pressure from his colleagues — Chief Justice Salmon Chase insisted on using the incompetent justice as the decisive vote to strike down a major federal law, the Legal Tender Act.

In 1880, Justice Nathan Clifford was described by one of his colleagues as a “babbling idiot.” Newspapers called his seat “practically vacant” due to this illness. He refused to resign and died on the court.

Serving with Clifford was Ward Hunt, who was left speechless and paralyzed after an illness. Yet he too refused to resign because he lacked the 10 years of service needed to earn a pension. Congress passed a law granting him a special pension to get him off the court.”

Through Addictions to Dementia: Supreme Court Justices Have Refused to Step Down — The Need for Reforming the Supreme Court

No Thought

“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Matthew 6:34

Truth

“Once the truth is stripped out of history, all that is left of it is but a useless narrative”

Polybios, Histories, I.14.6

Coltrane

“Performing artists like John Coltrane don’t usually become famous. He was quiet, generous, even-tempered, honest, unjudgmental. There are no published reports of his flying off the handle, and he had no apparent gift for public relations.”

from Ben Ratliff’s Critic’s Notebook  in the New York Times

 

In case you haven’t heard, a lost Coltrane album is going to be released fairly soon.  Really looking forward to it.

10/10


10/10
The time
we still must wait.

Not the young
Belgian reporter
whose dog’s name seems
wholly appropriate.

Not traveling down rat’s alley
but endless roads
with racoons lying in repose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Difference

Difference
The city’s
looming buildings
as a student
had always stood

but now
no longer
rattled by the traffic

surrounded
by difference

and music
that spoke to all

you saw
on the movie screen
a garbage bin
producing uproarious laughter
which was impossible
to comprehend.

 

Saturday’s Choice

Gotta Serve Somebody

Mona Lisa

If the Mona Lisa is  indeed a self-portrait of the artist himself, here could be that of our president, if he were artistically inclined.  In case you don’t recognize her, she claims to be a billionaire but apparently is worth only a paltry $600 million.

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Choice

Who said life was fair?

Friday’s Choice

Saturday’s Choice

Sunday’s Choice

Saturday’s Choice

The Dotard Meets Rocket Man

A Trophy Ban

I’m confused.

 

Confessions

I was listening to some of Khachaturian’s music today, and wondering about him, read a little and discovered he was denounced for music which, interestingly enough, he had written to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the October Revolution.  The Central Committee of the Communist party said that his work (along with that of Prokoiev’s and Shostakovich’s) smelt “strongly of the spirit of modern bourgeois culture, the complete denial of musical art.”    He confessed his guilt.

Moving in a Dream

Moving in a Dream
As I moved along
the thawing fields,
silos rose up,
and red lights
flashed from on high,
as if in a dream
impossible to change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worth a Listen

https://www.npr.org/2018/02/16/586616026/students-who-survived-florida-shooting-want-politicians-to-know-theyre-angry

Yes, I’m for gun control and do think gun advocates misinterpret the 2nd Amendment and are in the pockets (should I say holsters?) of the NRA.  However, more than anything else I would like to lessen the seemingly routine occurrences of these bloody spectacles.

These young people have a difficult road ahead, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to change things.  Haven’t Mothers Against Drunk Driving made a difference?

Good luck to them.

Being Poor

“It is not the man who has too little,  but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

Seneca

 

 

Friday’s Choice

Lackeys

 

 

 

 

Bring It Home

Voices

“There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.”

I Corinthians 14:10

Nobody Knows a Thing (Not Wearing a Stitch)

A Very Merry Christmas!

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

As you know, the President of the United States is a man of his word (nah, don’t ask what his word is) so he is bound to honor all his promises.

Because I am sympathetic to their plight I really must take exception to the idea that returning to the mines is in anyone’s best interest.  In the U.S. fatalities are way down from what I guess was the peak of 3,242 in 1907. It seems it’s now down to about 20 a year.  Black lung disease is still a problem though.

China (another promise)

is still remarkably accident prone.  In 2013, 1049 people died.  Nothing like the march to progress.

Immortality Sweeps over our Land

 

Despite the pistol he’s carrying, Roy Moore is no straight shooter unlike Girolamo Savonarola.

Since Moore doesn’t seem to believe in much besides self-aggrandizement (just like the president), one can only imagine what he would do if he were put in a position similar to that of Savonarola.

 

 

 

Jerusalem

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”

Luke 13:34 – KJV

 

 

Saturday’s Choice

Saturday’s Choice

Friday’s Choice

Clearly

“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover.”

Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo

Wednesday’s Choice

Consider the Sparrow (and Sloth)

Today with the barrage of activity that surrounds us in sensory overload, I think we should also consider the sloth.

 

No Irony Intended

“The homeland will not exist unless corruption is uprooted and the corrupt are held accountable.”

A Saudi Royal Decree

Pterodactyl (5)

Pterodactyl (5)
I rubbed my knee
before lighting up a cigarette.

Taking a long drag,
I let it out,
rat a tat tat
in accompaniment with
the rain
that was coming down
like shrapnel on the roof.

Pterodactyl (4)

Pterodactyl (4)
Clarence
was waiting,
Private Clarence Winters,
drafted like me.

Although we had grown up
in different worlds,
he on the Baltimore streets,
me on a small farm,
neither of us
knew of anyone
with money to speak of,
and we shared a love of
jazz.

But I cannot
go to him,
I have to flee.

Pterodactyl (3c)

Pterodactyl (3c)
He did not listen
as much as speak
and because my mind
has been twirling more
than a bit
I doubt I
picked up much of what he said
but that I face up
and get myself ready.

Pterodactyl (3b)

Pterodactyl (3b)
He had come
to console
because he thought
my time had come.

But I had not
yet given up hope
because Max
knew.

 

 

Pterodactyl (3a)

Pterodactyl (3a)
He didn’t know
the man
who entered his cell
from Adam.

But his clerical collar
identified
why he had come.

Pterodactyl (2c)

Pterodactyl (2c)
It rose and glided off
its enormous wings stretching out,
its beating rhythm
sounding
Max’s fleeing steps.

When he finally arrived
at the old ranch house,
he entered
the screen door
slamming shut.

His grandmother
looking up from the kitchen table
with its plate of sugar cookies
and the drink that she was drinking
with weary eyes
listened.

Pterodactyl (2b)

Pterodactyl (2b)
One day
in his ninth year
as the clouds swirled
above
at a leisurely pace,
he saw something
he could not believe.

 

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