Lunch at a Truck Stop with Wallace Stevens



Lunch at a Truck Stop with Wallace Stevens

We are the mimics. Clouds are pedagogues.

A big but delicate man,

he doesn’t flirt with the waitress,

a comely gal in calico,

but orders brusquely:

meat loaf, mashed potatoes, sweet peas,

piping hot biscuits fresh from the oven.


The fluttering napkin looks small in his hand

as it parachutes upon his lap.

When the grub arrives, he bows his head,

Closes his eyes, and says,

“Tink a tank a tunk a tunk tunk.”

Opens those eyes, raises that head,

and smiles amid the clatter of saucers and cups.


Trump Agonistes: (Or Let’s Gouge His Eyes Out for His Own Good)


Hubris has consumed Donald Trump, devoured him from the tips of his toes to the top of that bleached, brittle confection he considers hair.

It’s blatantly obvious that even if Trump’s minions and Putin’s lackeys didn’t directly collude in election manipulation, Trump’s close association with Paul Manafort and the host of mobsters, oligarchs, and convicted felons linked to him guarantees that Trump’s businesses are steeped in corruption.[1] If you think this mere conjecture, I suggest you check out Adam Khan on Twitter. He has been unraveling in great detail the byzantine entanglements of those connections and providing documents to support his arguments. For example, according to Khan, son-in-law Kushner’s is in hock “$4+ billion to foreign investors, pushing Russian expansion, Israeli settlements, [. . .].” No telling what secrets of the hoary deep Trump’s income taxes hold.

Allow me to don my dark glasses and engage in some Tiresias-like prophesizing: in the next four years, those returns are bound to surface, whether through investigation or IRS leakage — or some underling facing slammer time squealing — and Mr. Big Shot is going to find himself in a world of shit.

Why would anyone so compromised expose himself to the super scrutiny that comes with running for president?[2]

ύβρις – hubris.

I’ve spent the last 30 years studying its effects on such worthies as Antigone, Kreon, Oedipus, Macbeth, Caesar/Brutus, Milton’s Satan, the Mayor of Casterbridge among others.

Indeed, if Trump doesn’t get a presidential pardon from Pence, he will fit nicely into Aristotle’s tragic formula of the protagonist plummeting from Olympus high to hades low because of a fatal flaw, in Trump’s case, excessive pride.

And as far as Trump’s “soul” is concerned, karmic comeuppance would be the very best thing that could happen to him. Stripped bare of the false grandiosity in which he’s wrapped himself, he would have to face nakedly the existential truth of his true vulnerability.

At the end of Oedipus Rex, we stand in awe of the fallen king because he has gained insight by gouging out his eyes and exiling himself to the desert where he will come to terms with what it really means to be human. He is, in Coleridge’s phrase, “a sadder but wiser man.”

How sad – pathetic is the word — it must be to be Trump, to be addicted to the adulation of the blaring resentment-filled rubes who attend his rallies, to take such deep umbrage at the slightest of slights, to be so utterly benighted.

Of course, it’s doubtful that Trump will undergo an anagnorisis – the tragic recognition of his guilt – but how cool would it be if he could.

It would truly make him great, a true hero. I can see him now, humbled, his head shaved, a real man instead of a manikin, tapping a stick on the hard ground of reality.

[1] Trump’s empire isn’t centralized but consists of several disparate LLCs.

[2] I think Trump ran as a publicity stunt and never really believed he could win. Hence the total lack of planning for his transition.

Lord Buckley Seance


Et Tu, Breitbart



Simon Sez,

You gotta go.


See you at CPAC.


The ol’ heave-ho?







First Amendment



I don’t think so.

There’s some danger

in being an asshole.

Fine-Tuned Machine

Fine-tuned machine

My ass!



like a



hacking away

day after day

loud as a


leaf blower

as well-oiled as this here

mixed metaphor.


Talking EPA Blues

Poison the atmosphere,

Poison the sea,

Soon you gonna be poisoning

Little ol’ me.


On the Utility of Memorizing Poetry

illustration by David Rowe from "Financial Review" website

illustration by David Rowe from “Financial Review” website

Each year, our English Department requires all students to memorize a poem of at least fourteen lines and recite it in front of their classes.

Students choose the poems they recite, so the first step in the process is for them to read poems in search of a ditty or two that strike their fancy. Obviously, it forces them to read poetry.  Of course, every year a student asks if he can recite song lyrics instead, and I say no.

I explain that very few song lyrics can stand alone on the naked page without musical accompaniment. I recite these lyrics from Dylan’s “To Ramona (which, of course, I’ve memorized):

From fixtures and forces and friends

Your sorrow does stem

That hype you and type you

Making you feel

That you gotta be exactly like them

I’d forever talk to you

But soon my words

Would turn into a meaningless ring

For deep in my heart

I know there is no help I can bring

Everything passes

Everything changes

Just do what you think you should do

And someday maybe

Who knows, baby

I’ll come and be cryin’ to you.

And then I recite these lines from Yeats, which, again I know “by heart.”

Now all the truth is out,

Be secret and take defeat

From any brazen throat,

For how can you compete,

Being honor bred, with one

Who were it proved he lies

Were neither shamed in his own

Nor in his neighbors’ eyes;

Bred to a harder thing

Than Triumph, turn away

And like a laughing string

Whereon mad fingers play

Amid a place of stone,

Be secret and exult,

Because of all things known

That is most difficult.

The difference is palpbable.


Of course, the question of why memorize comes up. What’s the purpose? You’ll just forget it anyway, etc. I explain that in times of despair that poetry can provide solace by articulating powerfully the human condition, which has remained essentially the same over the course of centuries.

Ben Jonson’s dead son is my brother-in-law’s dead son.

My sin was too much hope of thee, loved boy.

Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,

Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.

Oh, could I lose all father now!

I tell them that possessing a storehouse of poetry in the record collection of their minds can also come in handy at cocktail parities. Why rely on your own feeble wit when you can conjure TS Eliot?

On November the 9th, one of my colleagues asked me what I thought, and I said,

“I think we are in rats’ alley

Where the dead men lost their bones.”

If he’d asked me how I felt, I would have said, “like ragwater, bitters, and blue ruin.”

Anyway, this year, I’ve decided to memorize a poem myself, and I have chosen Wallace Stevens’ “The Emperor of Ice Cream.”

Call the roller of big cigars,

The muscular one, and bid him whip

In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.

Let the wenches dawdle in such dress

As they are used to wear, and let the boys

Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.

Let be be finale of seem.

The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.


Take from the dresser of deal,

Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet

On which she embroidered fantails once

And spread it so as to cover her face.

If her horny feet protrude, they come

To show how cold she is, and dumb.

Let the lamp affix its beam.

The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

What in the hell does that mean? Here’s one cool, jazzy take from Kenneth Lincoln:

So a wench is dead, stretched out cold at the ice cream party. The dresser deal “knobs” transpose to “horny” bunions, glass to skin calluses. No empty jar lies here, rounding the wild, but a woman’s body in its cool opaque skin, thickened from walking the earth. Her “horny feet” index a prosaic, if bewitching reality, bunioned and “dumb” as the “slovenly wilderness”: feet are the earthen root, nonetheless, the vulgate “base” of a poetic meter iambically shamanic. She embroidered “fantails” on her bedsheet, her tail-end art. Those curlicues may rover her face, if they cannot mask her feet, which grounded her in reality, finally in death. So, for a fourth and final call, “Let the lamp” of nature “affix its beam,” the sun its sundown flame, as the seeing eye celebrates an inner light in mortal darkness, a comeback optics of imagining sunrise reborn at sunset.


With rhyming comic finality (come/dumb/beam/cream), the refrain rides on a boisterous iambic pentameter, “The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.” The fourteen syllables curdle in a spondee (as with the twelve-syllable, shaggy last line of “The Snow Man”). There’s a youthful break in the pace, a jump-rope skip completing the Falstaffian form. From bunioned foot to embroidered fantail, earthly base to fanciful end, this elegy resists loss by making art of what seems to be, seeing what is, delightfully. It is an act of the imagination at a wake; the final test, to return to childhood joy in “cream” made of “ice” (Carolina “aspic nipples” sweetened). A concupiscent summer is whipped up from winter’s absence, the snow man’s “nothing” curdled by sweet belief.

So, fast-forward to that future cocktail party where some jackass is plastering lipstick on some political or theological or philosophical pig.

Simply say, “Let be be the finale of seem/The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.”

Chances are his rejoinder won’t be in “boisterous iambic pentameter.”


The Finale of Seem



Dig this tweet:

In less “pressing” news, PBS is on the budgetary chopping block. No more subversive Big Bird, no more Cassandra-shrill Nature/Nova predictions of planetary catastrophe, no more analytical News Hour, no more Masterpiece Theater, no more Ken Burns.

Let’s sing, all together now, “Don’t Take Me Out to the Ballpark.”

And how much will we save by eliminating PBS? $1.50 per taxpayer. Pennywise, for sure!

Meanwhile, well-compensated Secret Service agents guard Trump’s fine-lacquered sons as they open a “world class golfing resort” this weekend in Dubai.   Back home in the USA, the Treasury is forking out a half-a-million a day to guard a high profile plagiarist in a glittering tower. One of the enemies-of-the-people who works at the Washington Post estimates that these Winter Southern White House Mar-a-Lago weekends run about 3 million dollars. Money well spent, for sure.!

I’m beginning to think electing a pussy-grabbing president starved for adulation who shares more in common with Kim Jong-Un than he does with Jeb Bush wasn’t a very good idea. It’s month now, and we don’t have a National Security Advisor.

As Bob Dylan once crooned, “Wow-we, pretty scary.”

Oops, wait. My muse, Euphonia Laquacia Doggerel, has a delivery. I’ll be right back.

The Emperor of Tangerine

Watch the prevaricator,

The tangerine-tinted one,

Gesticulating upon the stage

Whipping up whoppers

For his white supremacist base.

“The lying Press is Public-Enemy #1!”

Rave on, Dear Leader, rave on

You gonna end up like Al Capone.

Let be be finale of seem

The only emperor is the Emperor of Tangerine.


I had a professor, Dr. Ashley Brown, who knew Ezra Pound, who knew Wallace Stevens, and Dr. Brown once told me I was no Wallace Stevens.

Be that as it may, Trump ain’t exactly original with his press=enemy-of-the-people-proclamation.

Dig these blasts from the past:




By the way, there’s a special election in the 6th District of Georgia this April.  Here’s something we can do to help undo:

Othello, the Musical Study Aid


Look, boys and girls.  I know you’ve given up reading Shakespeare in its unvarnished King James glory.  I’ve seen clandestine copies of No Fear Shakespeare with its facing page of soulless translation next to “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.”  Most of you don’t even go that far but instead check out  Sparknotes or CliffsNotes or Shmoop.  Let’s face it, no matter how faux hip they try to make the summaries sound, they’re still tedious.

Well, I have something better. Here’s a sneak peak of my summary of Othello.  The cool thing is it’s a song.  You just click the arrow below and in under two minutes you get all you need to know about the play.

Check out this free preview:

Sung to the tune of “Volare” or you can click below and hear it sung in the author’s gorgeous coastal South Carolina baritone.


Othello, woe, woe

Lascivious Mo-or.


He strangled Desdemona

For sleeping with another fell-a.


That dark-hearted Dago[1]

Whose name was Iago

He poisoned the pliant Moor’s ear.

He told him his sweetie

Had been indiscrete

With someone he once held so dear.


Othello, woe woe

Lascivious, Mo-or.


The climax comes in Act III

Thanks to a mislaid hanky.

Susceptible to a deadly sin,

The green-eyed monster does the Moor in.


He stabs the circumcised dog thus,

Ending the entire ruckus.


A corpse-strewn bed, not okay,

So villainous Iago dragged away


To face some badass torture

For creating such a tragic rupture


Othello, woe, woe,

Lascivious Mo-or . . .




[1] To my Italian friends: sorry, but Iago has very few rhymes.