A Little Knowledge

Do you have a need to know? Due to recent advances in the field of international espionage, many of us are now privy to clandestine communications ordinarily reserved for those with a need to know, a strong desire to know it, and the knowledge to make sense of whatever it is we're about to know. Since I fit in only one of those categories, I was a bit surprised when I received an envelope containing three handwritten notes, all signed by someone called Redacted the Jackal.

The name on the outside of the envelope appeared to have been written in lipstick, which was smeared but for three letters: J, P, and A. I believe the envelope was forwarded to me in error, since I, too, have no permanent address.

Using every tool in my disposal, I have come up with nothing but a vague feeling of malaise, which I attribute to the bacteria and their disconcerting aroma. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decrypt these mysterious messages, if you're able.

21 February

Went out in search of Saint Bernard (a Lassie's eyes and an open mouth) among the quintessential penthouse crowd, but lost him in a bank of dropsy-curvy waves of gain. Warmed myself at the hearth of a lowly hunter before setting out again, this time without discounting the spatula or the braking action of tics and koans in the boneyard. Sir, this is no ordinary goosechase.

4 September

In this remote paradise the view is lost on the warning factions, who often break radio silence (a sergeant in garland is never transparent) with a purposed multifrequency scrawl designed to divert attention while they board up the train station. Sir, this is no ordinary island.

December 12

Since initiating contact six months ago, I remain fixed in my position that subject exhibits extraordinary skill in avoiding my gaze, the gaze of the local constabulary, and the gazes of those who do so only out of spite. No wingding programmer on the backslider's Web, he continues to practice his darts of perception, routinely nailing hammerheads cruising at 100 megabits per second, on the Nile, with cervix intact. Sir, this is no ordinary hacker.

Intrinsic Worth

You don't have to pay the piper to open the gate. The absolute value of a human beingthat is, without regard to signrenders the average Piscean in the shape of Gemini's bell-shaped curves, while the bullish Taurus inherits the finer points of Leo's voracious maw.

But mama's head, expounding on the spokes of the cosmic wheel, never promised us a rose garden. Post-natal drip, she said, will come and grow, wild and free, among the patches we sew on our bell-bottom jeans.

This is the promise of springthat immortal coilthat winds among the doubled strands of the helix that calls us home, for supper is but one repast on the menu of human possibilities.

Taste not, want not, and so shall it be until it dawns on the piper to open the gate.


Spider Bytes

Inspired and propelled by Angela, who never met a spider she didn't like. I've come to think of my little notebook computer as a playground of sorts. More than just a centrifuge for words, its keyboard offers hours of pleasant distraction for the impossibly small jumping spiders that have lately taken residence in my hair.

Watching a hatchling as he hopped from key to key, exuberant and playful as only the very young can be, I wondered what sort of neighborhood he lived in, and what he did after school. Did his brother take him to the playground to frisk on the teeter-totters and swings? Did his sister tie him up on the merry-go-round, spinning him faster and faster until centrifugal force reacquainted him with breakfast? What was his favorite cookie?

Aghast, I asked the question again, louder this time, and with greater concern. I knew I could not expect an answer; the tiny spider had already disappeared below the C. Alarmed, I began to pry the spacebar from its moorings, knowing full well that eight legs are better than one, but determined to prove myself wrong. Too late. The tot had already found his way through the hard-disk enclosure, and by the sound of it, was having the ride of his life on the spinning platter within. Then I heard a different sound.

I wasn't expecting good news when I arrived to pick up my disk from the forensics lab, but I didn't want to be laughed at, either. The technician smirked as he pointed a finger at his head, making a clicking sound with his tongue as he pulled a make-believe trigger. I looked at my shoes, pretending not to notice the spiders dangling from my eyebrows.

"So . . . the disk . . . is there . . . ?" My voice was hoarse.

"Any hope?" The technician was smiling, but his eyes were hard.

He pointed to a sheet of paper on the counter. I picked it up, and felt the blood drain from my face.

Cause of failure:

1) Persistent cookies

2) Spider bytes

Please pay this amount: $1,756.09

Have a nice day.

"Will you be using your credit card today?" asked the technician.

Looking back on it now, I should have known. I should have remembered that spiders are people, too; the attraction of the web is undeniable; it doesn't matter how many legs you have on. I shouldn't have forgotten that I was young once, and maybe twice, but you're only as old as you feel after you toss your cookies from the merry-go-round, or the hard disk.

I should have counted my blessings, instead of my legs.


The Bloating Crumbs of Rhetoric

Swollen with rhetoric What is it about rhetorical questions? They seem so innocuous on the surface, but after holding them underwater for a few minutes they stop their playful thrashing and become sullen, like a two-year-old.

Taken out of context, such questions hold very little water, like dehydrated fish with no pensions to tide them over until the next wave of liquid assets arrives by land, by sea, or by the way outlined in section seven, paragraph three of the Uniform Code.

While codifying mere uniformity is hardly a solution in itself, applying a second layer of oil carries risks that extend beyond those generally considered appropriate when seafood is at stake. Certainly, beef is a different animal altogether, though the sum of its parts is in many ways equal to the whole, lock, stock, and barrel.

Of course, unlocking the powder keg won't keep it from rolling into the water during rough seas, but isn't it just like a two-year-old to use "no" as a hedge against inflation? Like your father's post-holiday belly, crumbs are easily brushed aside, but that won't keep them from accumulating under the table.


A Remarkable Feat


Where paraphraseology is the goal, nothing says "you betcha" like a good parallel, because right angles don't measure up when the time comes to pitch the tent before turning in with a good notebook. As it turns out, wilderness exploration makes a mighty fine soup for those with a taste for linguistic adventure, which is where Craig Conley comes in and removes his shoes. Thus primed, he's ready to illuminate the crannies in the spaghetti of words and spaces he refers to as When in Greece, largely because that's what I decided to call it.

The rule of thumb, then, is this: When exploring a wilderness of words, leave only footnotes. This is precisely what Craig has done, as you will discover as you join him on his walkabout, which commences below the line you will notice presently, after your eyes move past the small dot at the end of this sentence.

When in Greecei

by Jeff Hawkins

Among the more provocative questions debated aboveii the water cooler this week, "self-reincarnationiii, huhiv?" generated more than its fair share of interest by adherents and passersby alike. While the answer to the question may seem, at first, to require an ex partev knowledge of the botanical sciencesvi, a more direct solution can be obtained by first asking how many livesvii might be crammed into the average catviii, then dividing the result by a half dozenix of the udderx. This gives mu, which we immediately recognize as the plaintivexi feline utterance used to summon the butler, Yeatsxii, so that he might refill the vacant cream dishes left on the floor by the careless hand.

Even if those dishes had been bluexiii, the very idea of replicating lives on the flyxiv begs yet another questionxv, then one more: Why cats? Why cats?xvi While the rest of us muddle along, dodging sparksxvii thrown from the axle of the cosmic wheel as it spins, half greasedxviii, toward the window where billions are servedxix, the cat has only to wish itself a new itinerary, and providencexx responds.

Merexxi coincidence? Perhaps. I do not claim to understand Greekxxii.


i Initially a play on "When in Rome," the "Greece" in question will play on fast-food "grease" by the end of the piece.

ii The water in the cooler has evaporated into a "word cloud."

iii This is a play on "self-recursion," a form of infinite nesting (not to be confused with "infinite empty nesting," referring to revitalized marriages when the kids leave home).

iv It's no coincidence that "huh" is a palindrome; palindromes are common in peptide sequences, meaning that human lives loop in the very strands of the DNA.

v i.e., judicious partying.

vi This is the "pot" calling the Grecian Urn black.

vii The rhetorical answer is, of course, nine.

viii The average cat crams 56 prey animals into its mouth each year (24 rodents, 15 birds, and 17 lizards).

ix Why divide nine lives by six? Mathematically speaking, six is nine upside down.

x Hawkins will milk some rich wit with this "udder." The bovine allusion will yield "mu," the famous Zen answer to whether or not a dog has Buddha-nature, even as it echoes "the cat's meow" (synonymous to "the cat's pajamas"). "Udder" also sets up a pig-Latin conjugation: udder/utterance/butler.

xi "Plaintive" echoes the mournful "plaintiff" alluded to the judge's ex parte order.

xii It's little known that William Butler, Yeats earned the comma before his surname while sailing to Byzantium.

xiii "No substitutions" is the common policy on a "blue-plate special."

xiv This is the fly attracted to the leftovers on the blue plate.

xv "Begging the question" is a form of circular reasoning, though don't say that within hearing distance of Aristotle's premises.

xvi Indeed, the word "caterwaul" is of imitative origin.

xvii "Dodging sparks" is an echo of "dogs in parks," chasing their tails in pursuit of Buddha-nature.

xviii The original aphorism was: "The squeaky cosmic wheel gets the oil."

xix This seeming reference to a McDonald's drive-thru is actually an ancient metaphor for the vaginal canal. However, any allusion to sexual lubrication is product of the reader's corrupted mind.

xx Providence, as in Providence, Rhode Island, a clever allusion to the Greek island of Rhodes.

xxi This echo of the cat's meow is nearly the omega word.

xxii The joke, of course, is that "coincidence" is of medieval Latin origin, not Greek.


Memory Dreams

Memory scan Felix dreaming in a house of shards
A shattered stream flows in his veins
The hacking trough between his knees
Holds mucus for the pens of thieves.

The smoldering light of a smoky moon
Paints downbeat shadows on his eyes
A Cheshire scat to bring the news
Of top hat Felix and his high-hat blues.

Dishpan bands in an elevator draft
Flow hither and yawn to the viselike script
Tales that wagged the dogs of summer
Frozen in time by the hands of the drummer.


When in Greece

Mu? Among the more provocative questions debated above the water cooler this week, "self-reincarnation, huh?" generated more than its fair share of interest by adherents and passersby alike. While the answer to the question may seem, at first, to require an ex parte knowledge of the botanical sciences, a more direct solution can be obtained by first asking how many lives might be crammed into the average cat, then dividing the result by a half dozen of the udder. This gives mu, which we immediately recognize as the plaintive feline utterance used to summon the butler, Yeats, so that he might refill the vacant cream dishes left on the floor by the careless hand.

Even if those dishes had been blue, the very idea of replicating lives on the fly begs yet another question, then one more: Why cats? Why cats? While the rest of us muddle along, dodging sparks thrown from the axle of the cosmic wheel as it spins, half greased, toward the window where billions are served, the cat has only to wish itself a new itinerary, and providence responds.

Mere coincidence? Perhaps. I do not claim to understand Greek.


Running with Bulls

You can always get more teeth. FerdinandI mean the bull, not the kingspent a great deal of time sniffing corks, but when the time came to savor the bouquet, he was unable to rise above his haunches. Wishing to avoid drowning in his hoofsteps, I decided to throw caution out with the bathwater and nip the bull in the horns.

A tooth in the mouth is worth two on the hipsand many times its weight in gold wherever fillings are soldbut that's no reason to avoid Spain. A stampede by any other name is still a dash to the finish line, hooks and sinkers be damned. I believe the root of the phobia lies in the mean, square-jawed countenance of bulls, many of whom favor bullion as a hedge against inflation while rejecting its culinary properties. In a similar way, a tooth is still a tooth, even when its roots can no longer be relied upon to bolster self-esteem. After all, the healthful diet required for vim cannot be fully eaten without first entertaining the troops, even when doing so results in charges.

Unlike compound interest, treason carries its weight in much the same way a bull does, which is to say, above and slightly aft of the rail. But a gaggle of bulls is no mutiny, and late charges are better than a lifetime spent waiting for the other bull to jump the gun.

The time is now, and that's as true today as it was yesterday, tomorrow, and the day before that.


Ducking the Hear and Now

Sometimes flies duck, and vice versa. Having been rendered somewhat speechless by a recent morsel of Forgotten Wisdom on Abecedarian, I was forced to divide what remained of my voice between begging for a lozenge and asking myself what Craig meant by "megaphone."

I have no trouble understanding that the hear and now is to the present as the now and again is to the every once in a while, but it seems that both past and future pronouncements would be squashed in the megaphone's vanishing point.

If time flies like an arrow but fruit flies like a banana, can the equations of linguistic relativity be far behind? Even if the flies duck, won't the not-a-river of quiescent time wet their whistles, leaving them to sputter and gag in the maelstrom of the hear and now? Zeno's stop-action film techniques may have been effective against arrows, but Einstein is said to have been aquiver whenever quantum physics entered the room, and he knew a thing or two about megaphones.

I think he knew that there's more to a megaphone than just multiplying by 10^6, and he probably knew other things, too.


A Soap Opera

I love you Stop being such a moron It would be difficult to overstate the importance of communication, which is reason enough not to try. Like a soap opera, effective interpersonal communication is certainly no laughing matter, which is precisely what we had in mind as the first flakes of our brainstorm began to melt on the sidewalk. "What," we wondered in unison, "would be so wrong with farming out the mundane portions of our verbal exchanges, thereby freeing us up for more provocative transmissions?"

As is so often the case, the answer had been there all along; we were just too blind to see. However, having recently learned that soap in the eyes has more to do with technique than happenstance, we were able to recognize that the twin bottles of soap we had taken for granted might be pressed into service as our personal emissaries.

Every personal emissary deserves a proper name, which is why we decided that ours should be called Jabón and Soapapilla. In this way, we hoped to avoid the sort of ambiguity that results in even greater conflict than one had in the first place, which often happens when emissaries are uncertain about their own identities.

You really flip me out Wut? Today, as we glance over our shoulders at yesterday's primitive methods, it's difficult to remember what we were thinking when we said, "good morning," or "I love you." Today our soaps say those things for us, and they say other things, too.

"You really flip me out," says Soapapilla. "You're such a moron."

"What?" says Jabón.


Recursion's Curse

Cursive Having recently embarked on an ambitious project to teach my computer to do my writing for me, I was only mildly surprised when Paul Simon came to me, speaking words of wisdom. "I can read the writing on the wall," he said, which I immediately recognized as an upbeat reference to Pink Floyd's important work in the field of photography.

As my mind began to clear, the true significance of my vision propelled me toward the armchair I've come to think of as a place to sit, especially when I want to write a program. The trouble with computer-generated writing is knowing when to stop, by which I mean knowing when to tell the computer to stop, which is the same thing because computers only do what they're told. Aping the techniques of my elementary-school teachers, I instructed my computer to make letters one stroke at a time, which should have worked, but didn't.

A non-terminating loop resulted in the cursivus ad nauseam repetition of the principal portion of the letter, leaving no exit strategy with which to continue on to the final flourish. In other words, cursive writing became recursive writing, which, when you think about it, isn't at all the same thing. Tragically, the same Recursive iterative process responsible for early-onset stutteringitself a form of recursive speechtorpedoed my illustrious project before it could be put to proper use in the film industry.

Cursive speech, used to great comedic effect by pirates and other colorful characters, might have reached new heights with such a tool.


Vacation Plans: A Chant for Four Voices

Some chants require four-part harmony. First voice

We'll lie in state beyond the gate
Where stars go streaming by
And polish our spoons in the moonlight
While eating our Hubble pie.

Second voice

We'll trip the light fantastic
As he swaggers about the room
Then lie in wait on his estate
In Lima or Cancun.

Third voice

We'll forge ahead at the shoulders
And stumble the dark mundane
We'll win the races at Nazca
While barreling over the plain.

Fourth voice

Mi mi mi la si do la do
Fa si si fa si mi do
Do re mi fa sol la si la sol
Si si si do si do.

Exclamatory Inventions

The interrobang as rendered by Wingdings 2. While new words enter the language at a respectable clip, the marks and symbols that punctuate them arrive at a slower pace. Whether this is due to temperature fluctuations within the incubator or the devolutionary effects of text-messaging, anyone with half a slide rule and six digits can do the math: 2 + -2 = 0.

In an effort to plug the blowhole of this disturbing trend, I decided to dive, headlong, into the pool of symbolic creationism. Using an Abecedarian entry as the springboard, I noted the utter usefulness of the interrobang as a platform upon which to dry my hair while I considered my next move.

The snarkbangWelding should always be approached with due consideration for its longevity, but exclamations require particular care. An exclamation mark amplifies things, which isn't always the best way to start a conversation with someone you've just met, but can be useful when you wish to remove all doubt. While the snark mark is undeniably useful, certain situations simply require a bit more. Some require amplification, which is handily achieved through the use of the snarkbang pictured here.

The monkeybangThe at symbol has become ubiquitous in e-mail addresses, which is all the more alarming when you consider how many are used by spammers to gum up the machinery you rely on for social networking, and messages from fugitives who may or may not be related by blood or marriage. As you can see, I have successfully welded an exclamation mark to the familiar symbol—sometimes referred to as a monkey tail—thereby creating the monkeybang, suitable for use by spammers, terrorists, and indeed anyone who wishes to alert others to possible ulterior motives.

The amperbangOne of my favorite symbols, the ampersand enjoys a well-deserved reputation for bringing people, places, and things together in an elegant shorthand that's easy on the eyes. Perhaps too easy, which is why I decided to amplify the thing, yielding the amperbang you see here. Suitable for use in place of the weaker standard in company names—law firms for example—it reminds us that two heads are bigger than one.

The grapecentumbangIf there's one thing a hacker can't stand, it's computer naivety masquerading as authority. As recent studies seem to indicate, hacker-wrath increases by an average of 37% for every IT poser promoted to management, which may explain why grapes are such an important part of every hacker's diet. This, in turn, explains why hackers often refer to the traditional percent sign as "grapes of wrath," or simply "grapes." As you can see, I have added an exclamation mark to the grapes on the left, resulting in a new symbolthe grapecentumbangthat amplifies the concept of profit and loss while preserving the grapes' delicious flavor.

I decided to call this an inflatabang, on account of its fiscal puffiness. In a related vein, no one who's purchased a tank of gasolineor the car that surrounds itduring the past thirty years is likely to misunderstand the sensation of vertigo as prices climb toward the outer fringes of reason, and beyond. While the dollar symbol remains unchanged, the underlying concept has warped, leaving only a vague caricature with which to buy a pack of gum. The old idea of "getting more bang for your buck" is bizarre, but I can't very well abandon the formula here, at the very end of my monologue. Or can I?


Reinventing Möbius

Twisted, yes, but to what degree? Not every important discovery is made in a vacuum. Many are made in the comfort of Euclidean space, where common household pets often contribute more than their so-called owners are willing to admit. For example, while Möbius' dog is generally thought to have inspired his human's august mathematical epiphany, it was his neighbor's cat, Johann, who solved the problem of a one-sided, two-dimensional object while observing the dog's tail-chasing behavior at a local pub.

From Johann's vantage pointabove and slightly east of the Möbius dogthe solution came during the second, fourth, sixth and eighth passes of the evening, after which the bouncer threatened to remove the dog from the premises. Johann noted that Möbius' dog seemed particularly shallow during odd-numbered passes, while those with even numbers made him seem almost interesting by comparison. Johann concluded that, while the dog could scarcely be considered sophisticated, his flat, one-sided personality had everything to do with how many twists his leash had undergone during the course of the evening. Though he mistakenly attributed this paradromic phenomenon to Möbius' obsessive leash-laundering, Johann's observations would later become a cornerstone of postmodern psychology.

I must, again, tip my wig to the illustrious Craig Conley, who provided the inspirationas he so often has in the pastfor this monologue by way of a graphic, which is slated to appear on his site during the month of October.

Editor's note: And now we are here, and now here it is!


Punctuating the New Plurality

To coin a punctuation, the ones' needs outweigh the needs of the one's. Before we learned to count
Gazing at the lone belly button
Contemplating one's navel
Meditation was a private affair
What need had we of punctuation?

Now we are one plus one
Gazing at the communal belly button
Contemplating ones' navel
Rejecting exclusionary self-meditation
Necessity is the mother of punctuation.

Drinking My Shadow

Shadows often dance just before the sun goes down. Throughout my life, I've been forced to endure the same on-again-off-again relationship with my shadow that so confounded primitive cave-dwellers, philosophers, and members of rural electrical cooperatives. A fickle tormentor, my shadow knows where I live, when I sleep, and how many joules it takes to rekindle a relationship that was never meant to last beyond dusk in the first place. A fair-weather friend, the shadow that jumps for joy on sunny days leaves me sodden in the rain, alone, and without the sponges and umbrellas that make life tolerable in Britain, or Seattle.

Having recently attained the Age of Enlightenment, I decided to nip the problem in the bud. Using my newly heightened powers of perception, I realized that life had handed me exactly the sort of shadowy lemon that cries out for liquefaction. I decided to make lemonade.

Hours of careful preparation turned to days, then back to hours as the malfunctioning timepiece on my wrist raced and slowed before giving out entirely. Undeterred, I made a few final adjustments to the blender in which I intended to frappe the tyrant, then turned out the lights to wait.

In retrospect, it wasn't the best trap. Shadows come and go, but that doesn't mean they always use the front door. Even those who come in through the bathroom window aren't likely to wander into the kitchen for a snack when someone is snoring in the pantry. Shadows aren't deaf.

Besides, some noses just know a trap when they smell one. Whose nose? The shadow's nose.


Why Your Cat Hates Cold Toast

Birds and dams are a dangerous combination.

Say you just discovered an enormous bird on the dam you rely on to keep water in its place. For purposes of this discussion, the water's place is anywhere you don't want it to be, such as in your home, or your nose. Since very large birds are always connected to extraneous wings, the turbulence generated by their wing flaps often reroutes water along new and unfortunate trajectories. Exactly how unfortunate depends on where you live, and how many horses your powerboat can muster on short notice. Mustering horses is particularly difficult during molting season, when their feathers are more likely to be strewn about the floor than plugged in and ready for a quick escape.

"Well," you might be saying to the cat on your lap, "that certainly sounds like a predicament, doesn't it, Robert?" The cat, having grown accustomed to rhetorical questions, will likely open one eye in mock deliberation but won't have an opinion either way. While this may seem, at first, to be positive thinking or some similarly delusional effort to squeeze optimism from calamity, feline ambivalence becomes shockingly appropriate where large, turbulent birds are concerned. This is because cats and birds enjoy a longstanding enmity, the roots of which can be traced back to primitive agricultural communities located in flood-prone areas below large dams. If there's one thing cats hate, it's the idea of floating downstream on a pile of wet horse feathers. If there's one thing cats love, it's the preventable nature of birds, which is why eggs are in such short supply during the construction phase of every dam.

In other words, if you live below a dam and your cat avoids you at breakfast time, there's no use following him around the kitchen with a plate of cold toast.


Nature's Jazz

Mother Nature will zap you, jazz hater. Some people say Mother Nature is cruel, but I think that's just a spelling error. What they really mean is cool, because you have to be at least a little bit cool to appreciate jazz, and Mother Nature digs it, man.

We can't see peels of thunder because they're the same color as the sky, so they blend in. But we can hear thembig thunder first, followed by the subtle thundersnapsas lightning peels the layers from the noise.

"Yeah," says Mother Nature as she watches the echoes fade to black. "Yeah."

Next time you're walking around in a thunderstorm, pause for a moment to consider why you hate jazz so much. Maybe you just don't understand Mother Nature.


Spinning My Wheel

Sometimes wheels just spin. When I was a young boy, I spent a great deal of time in the sandbox behind the house. Sandboxes are never located in front yards, because felines are modest creatures and have no say in their own despicable nudity. The main difference between a sandbox and a public restroom is the ready availability of the latter during daylight hours, which is when cats do most of their sleeping.

One of my favorite sandbox activities was using my imagination, a term I invented to explain why there was no toy truck to go along with the wheel I found one day while excavating. A wheel's origin isn't difficult to determine once you know what to look for, which is how I knew it had once been attached to a truck. Had it belonged to a car, I would have known that, too, but it hadn't.

Noticing that my disembodied wheel created an elegant track in the sand, it was only a matter of time before one track became two, and eventually four, which happens to coincide nicely with the number of tracks made by four wheels, such as those found on modern trucks as they navigate the shifting sands of the Sahara. In my imagination there was a truck connected to my wheel, and together we had many adventures.

With my wheel, I was able to vicariously inhabit the roles of important historical figures, such as Ezekiel. Flinging my wheel way uproughly into the middle of the skyI immediately understood the wonder he must have felt as he stood in his sandbox, squinting at the graceful arc of his own wheel as it flew up, up, up, then down.

If Ezekiel's wheel had landed on his head, I'm pretty sure he would have been famous for discovering gravity. I don't think Newton had a wheel, though.


Pipe Dreams

Angela inspired this, even though she might not want to admit it. Before I crawl through the duct that leads to my bedroom, I like to stand for a moment, ears akimbo, outside the closet door in the hallway just below the stairs. If I listen very carefully, I can almost hear the sound of baking bread. This is what dreams are made of. At least mine are. Yours might be made of something else, like masking tape, or old shoes.

But my dreams are made of bread, and they always arrive piping hot. I think that's because they travel through the same pipes that carry steam from the boiler downstairs. Otherwise they would be cold.


A Pocketful of Wry

Two Sides of the Same Coin, by Craig Conley Coining a phrase isn't the panacea it once was. The cashless society approaches, signaling the demise of those jingling disks we loved, and hated, and forgot to remove from the pockets of our jeans on laundry day. No mere numismatic device, the face of the freshly minted coin reflects history in the making, and not just another pack of gum.

On the flip side, a study in comparison and contrast: Every picture tells a story, but not every story brings the burst of minty freshness I experienced upon tearing the cover from Craig Conley's latest book. Thus exposed, its pages can be arranged and reordered to better accommodate the reader's whim, for it is only glue that dictates which page ought to come before the next, or after it.

While this sort of heavy-handed editing may not sit well with the average author, I believe Craig would understand why I disassembled his book. After reconfiguring it, the book now consists entirely of photocopies of page 32, which refers to me, which is why I like it so much.

The other 71 pages didn't refer to me at all, except maybe the dedication page, but I couldn't find any numbers on that one so I wasn't sure what to do about it. No one has ever dedicated a book to me before.

Thank you, Craig.


Genesis; Exodus; Revelation

9/23/07In the beginning was the egg. It was void and without form, drifting in a sea of darkness. Ages came and went, but the egg continued to drift, alone among the eons.

Then the egg began to change. A dull glow deep within grew and spread until the whole of the egg was illuminated, and then the egg burst. Two bright souls accelerated toward respective destinies, promising to return.

Two thousand years flowed by, then a hundred more. On an August evening, two ragged souls stood on a rooftop, watching the crowds below.

"I've been waiting for you," said one.

"I've been waiting for you," said the other.

Wrapped in the other's arms, they stood a while in the warm silence.

"Will you be my girlfriend?" said one.

"Will you be my boyfriend?" said the other.

"Of course not," said one.

"Of course not," said the other.

When they had stopped laughing, the two souls walked hand in hand into the good night.


Grounded Mysticism

Earth ground to Jeff . . . earth ground to Jeff . . . In my next life I think I'd like to be a grounded mystic. I'm not unwishing the life of a burly henchman, because that might degrease the wheel. If there's one thing I don't want to encourage, it's insufficiently lubricated cosmic machinery.

As a grounded mystic, I wouldn't have to worry about bobbing in the river of unsupportable arguments, such as time's linear nature in the context of reincarnation. Where ungrounded mysticism might lead to certain assumptions regarding how many lives are allowed at once, the properly grounded mystic snorts at the idea of single-file marching orders, blowing his nose into the handkerchief of circadian chronology.

I think it would be a good idea to use green wire for my ground connection, because that would reduce the chances of being plugged into a wall outlet by mistake.


Burliness and Hench

Sometimes reincarnation means never having to say excuse me. In my next life I think I'd like to be a burly henchman. I wouldn't have to worry about finding a job, because burly henchmen always wear three-piece suits, and large shoes. People who wear small shoes don't get jobs as easily, because no one is afraid of small feet.

If there's one thing you'll never see in the Help Wanted section of your local newspaper, it's an ad for a burly henchman. During times of economic uncertainty, burly henchmen don't have to read the classifieds because they already have jobs lined up in Chicago. It wouldn't make any sense to look for a job you already have, so they don't.

Burly henchmen never have names like Cletus, or Starling. In my next life I don't want to have to worry about my name, but I don't think that will be an issue unless everyone else wants to be a burly henchman, too.


Janus Smiles

Jagged edge Hope and Fear present two faces to the world; in secret they confess their unity.

Janus watches from afar.

Hope's countenance betrays her; it is the face of uncertainty. Fear is never far behind.

Hope knows how things will go. The blade comes down between them, and then they wait.

Hope pours out amid the shards; Fear consoles and protects. No more, he says.

Practice makes perfect the stranger within.

Now they confess their unity to the world.

Janus smiles.


Originally posted as Separation Anxiety on November 13, 2008



Life goes on. And on. And on. This, too, shall pass. I didn't like the phrase the first time I heard it, and time has made my loathing complete. What oracle determines the endpoint of my experience and calls it fulfilled? What paragon decides its virtue?

Get over it. As if the answer to every question lies within the circumference of what we know about ourselves, unconstrained by the experiences of others, unfettered by their understanding.

Life goes on. Yes, child, and we fill our pockets with the shells and bright moments we collect along the way, one for every face we will have forgotten when our experience is fulfilled.


Shells and Bright Moments by Craig Conley  Oneletterwords.com

Thankless Poems for Thoughtful People

Nothing to see here. Move along now. Move along.

On Cheese

My cheese is an old cheese
It knows a thing or two
About taste
But the smell
Now that's a different story.

On Knitting

I hate it when my father
Knits his brow
Darn it
The doctor is in stitches
As he sutures my father
For the third time
This week.

On Bubbles

From potable bloatables
Bubbles arise
They fill up our insides
And tickle our eyes
A gallon of bubbles
Makes syllables stream
We'll belch "rigor mortis"
And after that we'll attempt more complex words, such as "anthropolymorphism."

On Off

Handy handy light switches
They're everywhere these days
Kitchens and hallways
Over sinks and under water
On off on off on off
Like magic
Oh no
That one didn't like water
Maybe they're not so great

Patience and Other Virtues

Old habits die hard. Watching my calendar flip into a new year isn't the joyspout it once was. Sure, it's a little bit exciting to think about having only one syllable to blurt out whenever someone asks me what year it is, which happens a lot. It's just that the thrill of economy is so blunted by the liability of forgetfulness that I'm not sure I even want to get out of bed tomorrow, or the day after that. I know it isn't '09 anymore. Now get off my back.

Does that make me a coward? Yes, and I resent the insinuation. The way I see it, you're every bit as capable of doing the math as I am, even if that means taking both hands out of your pockets. Fingers are a gift, and the sooner you come to grips with that concept the better you'll be at using them as they were intended, instead of wasting their time in the enormity of pants that fall down around your ankles whenever you cross the street.

If you have to ask what year this is, at least have the decency to keep your pants on. I don't care what you do with your shirt.