Sunday, December 25, 2011

occaasional piece #3

milo's world, continued...

milo dreams of london bridge

milo woke up with a start, his forehead shiny with sweat.  the clock by his bed read 4:24, but in his mind he was still in the dream.  it was so vivid that he had trouble reconciling the fact that he was in bed and not standing by a river.  he knew no one there, but by the river there were scores of people who knew him and they were all clapping him on the back and smiling.  he had won!  he wasn't sure what he had won, but he only knew that it felt so good to have everyone smiling at him.  the man, at least he thinks it was a man had told him that if he only went to london bridge, all he wanted would be his.

and so, just like that, milo had found his way to london by taking a bus to boston and a plane across the atlantic.  he remembered that in his dream -- in the way of dreams -- that everyone thought he was so brave traveling alone all that way and it made perfect sense to travel alone, even at his young age. 

too excited to sleep now, milo got up started making a list of things he would need to take to london bridge.  probably some clothes and food and money, though he figured he would have plenty of money when he got there.  he couldn't wait to tell devin that he was going to london.  maybe he could take devin with him, but he wasn't in the dream so maybe that would mess things up.  no, it'd be better if he went alone, he thought.

"you know, london bridge is in arizona now" said devin when he told him of his dream.  "not london.  it was sold to some man years ago.  my mom told me."

"well then," milo said with a smile, "guess i'm going to arizona."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

occasional piece #2

milo's world, continued...

margaret had the same colored hair milo's mom did back before it went gray.  he used to sit on one of the chrome stools after school and drink hot chocolate with 23 mini marshmallows -- no more, no less -- and do his homework while his mom took orders and gave them to the cook.  sometimes mr. humphries would give him a quarter to play something on the jukebox and he would always pick J 18, "sitting on the dock of the bay" by otis redding.  it always made his mom smile.  he liked his mom's smile, it made him feel as warm as the cocoa.  she would sway a little bit, like she was on that dock, and she would do a little dance while she brought people their burger and fries.

margaret would sit in front of him in social studies and he would stare at the back of her head and her hair until the teacher would dismiss the class for lunch.  then in the lunch room, milo would sit alone and eat his chunky peanut butter sandwich with blackberry jelly while margaret sat with her friends talking and eating the cafeteria food.  she had a mouth that didn't quite fit her face and freckles, brown and distinct under her strawberry blond hair.  milo was fascinated by those freckles and he was so amazed, in awe really, of how she wore those freckles, if one can be said to wear something that is a part of them.  they just fit her face in much the same way the mouth that did not quite fit her face seemed a part of her that was, indeed, perfect for her.

then, when he was taken out of miss haverford's social studies class and put in what he called his "dummy" class, he sat behind bobby sutton and his hair was as black as the shoe polish his dad shined his shoes with.  after that, he never saw margaret again.  in his "dummy" class they were told to draw a picture of their home and milo drew his house; putting in the windows, door and fireplace, the trees and the field.  he would color the sky blue and he would put in a bright orange sun surrounded by curly orange hair and spot it with dozens of brown freckles.  when asked about it, he shrugged and said it was the sun... and the sun had freckles. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

occasional piece #1

i've been thinking on this for a while, a story written and added to occasionally, sort of like a journal of ideas on a theme.  these won't be announced on facebook or twitter or anywhere else other than here, so count yourself blessed or cursed to be subscribed.  i have no idea how long or how many these will be, some long, some maybe only a line or two, some may be in poetry form, other just words.  we shall see...

milo's world

milo didn't know the name of the little brown birds with white and a bunch of tiny brown spots on the bottom, but he sure thought they were pretty.  he liked to watch them fly around from tree to tree and if he watched real close, he could see one of them catch a bug or eat a wild blueberry.  they had a sound like tinkling glass, shattered into a million pieces.  devin said the sound reminded him of his momma throwing her glass up against the wall trying to hit his daddy, so he didn't like them much.  but milo thought they were beautiful.  he would put out grapes and oranges in the field to see if they would eat them, but mostly they liked the blueberries.  luckily, the little field next to their house had blueberries every year and in the cool early evenings of autumn, milo would sit on the back porch and watch for them, holding the binoculars he'd gotten at a pawn shop for $4.99.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

true prattling. but hang in there, it has a point. maybe...

since i've been back in the south, i've watched more football than i ever had before.  i was really never that much into sports growing up, though i did play and watch some tennis.  later in life i would be bitten by the baseball bug but that has been explained in an earlier post. i was only really interested in tennis because i grew up playing.  and i grew up playing because my father loved the game.  i'm not clear on how he became interested in it but he loved it enough to build a court on the land that would eventually be our home. 

so i played tennis.  i still do and i would have to admit that a great many of my friends are from playing that sport, but i would never say i was in love with the sport.  for the last 15 years or so i have taught tennis, in part because i have degrees in english and let's face it, what else am i qualified to do?  one of the things i do like about tennis is that it is something you can do alone or with a partner, or even as part of a team.  for years, i played doubles with a guy who eventually became a close friend of mine. 

but competition has never been something i aspire to.  to be sure, i like to win, and during a match i am driven with a desire that seems to know no bounds.  however, once the match is over, i'm usually back to my old self in a matter of hours.  mike, the aforementioned doubles partner likes to say: "win or lose, we are still drinking".  and when asked about how he was going to handle losing in the finals of a major tournament, one of my favorite players, patrick rafter, said something to this effect: "i'll probably go have a few drinks with my mates, make love to my girlfriend and get up the next day." (side note: i've searched high and low for this quote online and can not find it, but do remember hearing it.  if anyone can find it, please let me know.)

maine isn't what you would call a hotbed of football; hockey rules the state for obvious reasons.  but even throughout new england football isn't considered a major sport.  sure, you've got the patriots and for a few years, boston college was a minor to middling success.  but in general you will hear more about maine hockey, the red sox and the celtics. 

therefore, when my nephew jake, who is in law school at ole miss, asked if i wanted to play in his fantasy football league i was understandably hesistant.  but my girlfriend is a fan of football (being a missouri native, she is partial to the university of missouri and the saint louis rams) and i thought it might be fun to do something she likes and also do something with my nephew and (just as important) my brother who also agreed to be in the league.  and overall it has been fun.  i am fucking horrible at it; we are in second to last place and most weekends mary and i have the lowest score of all 8 participants.  i knew very little about pro football when we started and am only marginally more learned now, some 11 weeks into the league. 

but like any good leaguer, i follow the games on sunday and delight when someone on our team gets points through the admittedly convoluted scoring system.  there's a hope in there that maybe a couple on your team will have a breakout day and score a bunch of points.  this has happened a few times though we are hopelessly out manned most weekends. some detractors of fantasy leagues say that these type of things dilute team spirit because you have multiple players from multiple teams on your fantasy team.  but since i'm not a real big fan of football anyway, it's great for a casual watcher like me.  and it does get me to watching more football than i normally would ever watch.

you know, when i started this essay, i really had no idea where i was going with it, and i think it shows that.  oh, it has a strand of sports in there, but mostly it reads like an email to a friend or at best maybe a little article on fantasy football.  when i got through the first paragraph, i thought it might be about the differences between sports in the north and the south, but that seemed to fizzle out pretty fast.  in the end i think it boils down to more of an essay on family, believe it or not. ours has never been what you call an extremely close family.  we love one another, for sure, but we don't spend a lot of time doing things together.  for years, we were spread far and wide, my brothers were in virginia and mississippi respectively, my parents in arkansas, and i was in maine.  there's never been an official "burns reunion" that i know of, and i can't remember the last time all of us were in the same place at the same time. 

i'll admit that i probably have a lot to do with this.  i'm not given to large groups; i detest christmas and indeed most holidays (more on this in a later post) so i'm not apt to try and gather everyone together or indeed to join in if they do.  i'm prone to melancholia at gatherings and prefer to not join in if possible.  there is probably a deep-seated reason for this, but i'm no psych major and don't really care to over analyze it.  i have different things that i do with each family member.  rick and i share the same type of humor and political bents (if it can be said that i have a notion on politics) and like the same type of media.  i have him to thank for turning me on to monty python and a love of puns.  bob and i play tennis and fish together and i owe my direct manner and whatever little compassion for humans to him, though he is a much kinder soul than me.  my mother and i share a love of cooking and jeopardy and as stated before, i owe my love of books and tennis to my father, though it's hard to distill any of these people down to one thing.  in short, we are a family, and through the years i've tested their love and devotion to me through selfish, thoughtless deeds and actions.  and each time they have shown me compassion, forgiveness and devotion. 

people grow up.  they move one, they spread out and they grow apart.  they make other friends, start their own families and live their own lives.  but one thing, if you are really fucking lucky, is to have a family that will be there for you through all of those things.  and like i've said before, i'm a lucky guy. fantasy football gives my brother and me and the next generation of burns' something to do together, it provides a connection.  so while you may not see me jumping up and down at the next local football game or see my at my old alma mater cheering, you will surely see me playing in fantasy football next year with them if they will have me.

for those of you who read through to the end of this rather long, rambling essay, i thank you and owe you all a beer. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

a poem -- readying for winter

with the happy return of my favorite blogging poet, and some recent correspondence with a friend of mine regarding poetry, i decided it was time to break out one of my own that's been lodged -- at least in pieces -- in my brain for about, oh, 20 years.

readying for winter

you put the gloves on;
premium grain cowhide
wells lamont secure and snug,
bean boots laced and ready for work.

oil the splitting maul and
don't forget wood wedges,
sledge and the wheelbarrow,
coat and cap for the late autumn chill.

the hound that showed up one day,
riddled with ticks and emaciated,
that she fed, nursed back to health and
named max follows you, tail wagging.

you stare at the pile and sigh;
it's way too late for this wood
but next year, ah next year, this
wood will be weathered and ready.

red oak, sugar maple and birch;
lay the log on the cutting stump
plant your legs, take aim
and let your mind clear of all but

this mass of fibrous cellulose and lignin
and split and split and split
until the blisters begin and swell
and then those split too.

you didn't want her to leave;
you didn't think she would go.
but you still have the hound,
and this pile of wood for next year.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


hard to believe it's been a month since my last post.  i've started a few, only to abandon them.  it seems my ability to write anything that doesn't suck goes in fits and spurts.  i've still got the drafts of the abandoned ones and i hope to get back to them some day soon, but neither were making any sense to me so i put them on the back burner.  partly my life has been filled with more work and family, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but apparently it doesn't lend itself to writing.  but as i sit here on this nice fall day, seeing the leaves turn, i thought i'd give it another go...

the leaves are indeed, turning.  as i sit here at the cabin, i can look out onto the water and around the surrounding hills and see gold, bronze, red, yellow, green all about me.  i'm only here for the day; i needed a quiet place to finish some editing for stickboy.  lately the house has been a zoo of people coming and going.  some work is being done on the house and maggie and i have been helping move the mare into her new apartment, a lovely new place that allows pets.  she has gotten a cat from the humane society, a shy but friendly cat.  she is much like the intrepid boxer maggie, who is alternately brave and frightened of things.  for instance, maggie will bound through the trees and bushes without a thought or care in the world, but new places and people make her wary.  i suppose she gets that from me, as i am often wary of people when they come over.  it's not that i don't like company, i sometimes do, but for the most part i enjoy my solitude and am anxious when it is disturbed. 

my friend kenneth once told me that the true measure of a man (or woman for that matter) is the ability to be alone.  i'm paraphrasing, but he said it's important to be able to go to a restaurant and eat alone.  and not just to mcdonald's to pick up a burger that tastes like the cardboard box it comes in, take it home and watch television.  but rather, to sit down in a restaurant, order dinner and sit peaceably while enjoying your meal.  i've always liked this thought and am happy to say i have done this on many occasions and find it easy to do.  i suppose it is like this: i don't always like myself, but i am comfortable with my own company.  time spent alone gives me time to think of things, good and bad, hopes and regrets.  i've had a lot of regrets in my day and while i don't like to think of them as regrets (rather as choices i have made) the things i've done in my life have hurt people and for that i'm ashamed and filled with sorrow.  that time spent alone is a chance to think about these things and to feel bad.  i don't always feel bad when alone but i think it is important to remember the things we have done that we would just as soon forget.  it reminds me to try and not do them again. 

a friend of mine has started reading the spenser novels by robert b. parker.  Parker died not too long ago and he is on my list of blog entries to write about so you'll probably hear this theme again at some point.  my friend has yet to get to the book early autumn where the overlying theme of the novel is autonomy.  if you get a chance to read it, you should.  a lot of my principles come from this book and this theme.   it discusses self-reliance and solitude to a great degree and probably explains it a lot better than i can. 

and i do think it's okay to allow yourself to be sad, to feel the bad things.  so many of us spend our lives running from pain and sadness that we never really get a chance to go over them in our heads, to try and come to peace with them.  solitude also gives me time to be thankful for the people and things in my life.  not to sound like a fucking hallmark card, i am thankful for my family and friends who have stood by me over the years.  without them i would not be here today, to that i can certainly attest.  and it's clear i need people, for if i didn't, why would i bother writing at all? why would i post a blog with my thoughts for you to read?  no, we humans are social creatures, just some of us are more social than others.

as i sit here on the porch, looking at the leaves change, i'm reminded that solitude is a good thing but only if it is coupled with the things you love.  and as i stare at this computer, i am getting sideways glances from the intrepid boxer maggie.  i think i better go enjoy the waning solitude of the day with a good rabbit chase and a romp in the woods.

Friday, September 9, 2011

scar tissue

i was emailing back and forth last night with a friend of mine and, because we are getting older, we were talking about old times.  we've been friends for over 25 years now and have seen each other go through the good and bad events in our lives.  we've spent countless hours talking -- on the road, at the cabin in arkansas, in maine, on the phone, email, text.  we have been transformed from young idealistic college freshmen into haggard old men with mortgages, ex-wives, jobs, potbellies and in my case at least, a bald pate.  he's gone from ranting about politics and war to having children and ranting the trials and tribulations of changing diapers.  i've gone from staying up all night drinking and partying to hoping to sleep all night without having to get up to pee. 

we've had our ups and downs over the years.  life gets in the way sometimes and we would go months without talking and on occasion we've hurt each other in ways only friends can, through neglect, words, actions.  but through it all, we've endured.  neither of us have ever hesitated to pick up the phone and say: "hey, i need help." he knows, as do i, that call is all it takes and we are there to lend a hand.  there's been times in my life when i knew i could call only him to get me out of a jam and he's been there for me without a word spoken as to how it may fuck up his plans.  if we are fortunate enough, we get one of these people in our lives.  i'm lucky enough to have two of them and though i don't always say it to them, i think they know what they mean to me.  at least i hope they do.  because it is a thing seldom spoken between men (and perhaps women, but i can only speak for my gender), this love we share for each other. 

no, it's said mostly through deed and action, from long night drives to pick up a stranded mate, to the simpler things, like always picking up the phone when they call.  sometimes you just don't want to talk, but you know that person on the other side of the phone is gonna pick up if you call, so you do it.  you never know if they are in trouble and might need you.

last night we were talking about old times and he mentioned that our friendship was like scar tissue.  and i knew exactly what he meant.  each event, good or bad, creates a tear, either mental or physical.  a phone call in the middle of the night to say you're getting married, a scar.  a drunken midnight crawl through new york city, a scar.  a 36 hour cross country drive where everyone is so tired you have to shout just to stay awake, a scar. there's been weddings and deaths, births and tears and so many things that even when the other of us is not there, they are not far from our thoughts.  all those rips and tears through 25 years create scar tissue and while they are not always evident on the outside, they are there nonetheless.  you can feel them there just as easily as you may rub an old cut that, though healed, is still there. 

it's rare that we get to pick our friends, it just seems to happen.  little did i know that, 25 years later, i would be talking like this.  i have been blessed with people in my life who have given me a hand when i needed it, or just been there to listen when there was nothing else to be done.  i'm lucky to be this scarred and while i'm not sure what i've done to deserve such loyal friends, i'm thankful.  through my many ups and downs, there have been lots of people, family and friends to help ease a burden or to share in my joy.  but it usually comes down to those select few that we can count on.  it is to them that i ultimately owe my life and good fortune to, because they are the ones that have endured the test of time.

there's plenty more that could be said and perhaps will be over the coming years and essays.  but for us, it's enough to know we know these things and to have so much scar tissue. 

like i said i'm lucky.