O.T. Talking Points





Once upon a time,

and a very good time it was,

God walked in the garden shooting the breeze

with Adam and Eve.


In the cool of the day he walked

with them in the garden.

Eve and Adam were naked,

and I suspect he was, too –

he’d have to be —

it would have been too awkward otherwise.


We have no record as to what they talked about –

the symphony of birdsong,

the perfume of the never fading flowers,

the always perfectly ripe fruit hanging like ornaments in the golden light?


That was before the fratricide

and the subsequent drowning of the puppies and kittens

followed by the sad days of fruit rottened and raptors shrieking,

the reeking carcasses bloating.


Knowledge, begetting, circumcision, covenants, sacrifices, oracles, famines, plagues, deserts, laws, kings, concubines, wars . . .


Much later, according to the Hebrew arrangement of scrolls, God spoke his last words to man, addressed to Job, regarding the awesomeness of whales.


A Series of Subtractions


Photo credit: Caroline Tinger Moore

A Series of Subtractions




If you make the mistake of living too long,

old age can seem like as a series of subtractions.


The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry.


That romping pup you chose a flashbulb pop ago,

today, a husk headed to the vet to be put down.


Like the one before that and the one before that.

Jack, Sally, Bessie, Saisy, Ruskin, Milo,


Completing their abbreviated seven stages

right before your clear . . .  fogging . . . rheumy eyes.


The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry.


And the musicians and authors you’ve loved

seem to be dropping like dragonflies.


Foster Wallace, Zevon, Petty,

Toni Morrison, Prince, Winehouse, Reed,


Kaput, no longer cranking them out,

Deaf to the doo-da-doo-a-doohs of the colored girls.


And who in the hell are these movie stars

in the paper celebrating birthdays today?


The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry.


Quit your whining, boomer, time’s a-wasting,

beneath a mountain of books you haven’t read.


No use crying over spilt water bowls,



The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry.


On Police Blotters and Street Preachers


Oh, the side-splitting counter-Darwinian hijinks those headline-capturing police blotter inebriates produce each week on the highways, byways and beaches of the Lowcountry![1]

Whether it be a wobbly motorist telling a cop “he’s had five beers plus one beer,” a naked bicyclist peddling towards a fast-food drive-thru, or a domestic dispute involving tire irons and trash can lids, the police blotter is sure to bring a winsome smile to even the crabbiest of malcontents.

Not too long ago, you had to riffle to the back of the City PaperFolly Current, or Section 12B of the Post and Courier to discover who had tried to drive his car up the stairs leading to the Battery’s promenade or who had stuffed two bottles of champagne in his pants in a failed heist; however, in these latter days seeking out the absurd is almost too easy.  For example, here is a screen capture from a recent Live 5 web posting:

live5 1.0

Still, I prefer the paper, whose account of the Halloween mishaps of a luckless 21-year-old who drove his vehicle into Colonial Lake offers more details than Live-5’s recap.  For example, in the paper we learn that divers were employed to see if another passenger was in the car, the one the 21-year-old claimed had been driving.  Live-5 did, however, estimate the parameters of his intoxication, between .10 and .16.

I’m not one to talk, though. I once drove my MG Midget down the steps of a parking garage into Campus Police Headquarters, which resulted in a reckless driving ticket and six points off my license and a hefty increase in my insurance rates.

Too bad I didn’t pay more heed to those street preachers who haunted the streets of Columbia back in the day.

Street Preacher



A fire-breathing preacher named Mitch

From a street corner bellowed his pitch

He warned of the horrors of hell

Where one day I was bound to dwell,

That sanctimonious, psalm-singing son-of-a-bitch.


[1]  Not to mention beneath bridges, inside the cabs of heavy construction equipment, and upon picnic tables.



The Wayward Nun



Unfortunately, I suffer from insomnia.  Unfortunately, some nights/a.m.s I try to deflect thoughts by constructing verse.  Unfortunately, some nights/a.m.s the result might be a limerick.

For example:


Vulgar But Not Profane

A wayward nun from Bangkok, Maine

screamed hail marys whenever she came.

She had sex with her jailer

and cursed like a sailor,

but never took the Lord’s Name in vain.



Screech Me a Poem, Sugar Britches

yeats and maude

Yeats and Maude Gonne by Anne Marie O’Driscoll

Half close your eyelids, loosen your hair,

And dream about the great and their pride;

They have spoken against you everywhere,

But weigh this song with the great and their pride;

I made it out of a mouthful of air,

Their children’s children shall say they have lied.

                 WB Yeats “He Thinks of Those Who Have Spoken Evil of His Beloved”

A by-product of breathing, that mouthful of air, exhalation tracking up through the trachea,  plucking the vocal c[h]ords: vowels, consonants, syllables, words, words, words.  Say outloud the title of this post  – “screech me a poem, sugar britches.”  Dissonant, sharp, as unlovely as the scraping of a rake on gravel, echoing  Juliet’s lament as Romeo vacates their marriage bed:

It is the lark that sings so out of tune,
Straining harsh discords and unpleasing sharps.


Romeo and Juliet by Todd Peterson

Perhaps even more discordant is Gerard Manly Hopkins postlapsarian description of industrialization:

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


Train Tracks by Valerio D’Ospina

Who sez that poetry’s supposed to sound pretty?

Not Alexander Pope:

But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,

The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar.

Nor that barbaric yawper Walt Whitman:

Nor him in the poor house tubercled by rum and the bad disorder.

Nor Ol’ Ez in St. Elizabeth’s Mental Hospital ranting his way to a Bolligen Prize:

the drift of lice, teething,

and above it the mouthing of orators,

    the arse-belching of preachers.


Ezra Pound

Thanks to its Anglo-Saxon roots, English is well-suited to screech.  However, thanks to its French invaders, our language can also coo.  And don’t forget the ess-cee (sc) words of the Vikings with their skalds singing of skulls and skies and dragons’ scales.

English-speaking poets possess quite a synthesizer through which to sample sounds, orchestrating Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and French symphonically (Milton) or piping a simple Saxon tune in tetrameter (Anonymous).

Given global warmification/climatic alternation, the following worry may seem as trivial as the date of Alfred Tennyson’s death, but I wonder, given our beeping visual small screen secondhand exposure to actual sights and sounds, if off-the-cuff eloquence might become as rare as first edition Kafkas.

In my youth, among my compatriots, having a way with words held sway.  I think of Jake the Snake Williams politely stringing together sonorous sentences to a Jehovah’s Witness in Richland Mall explaining why he wouldn’t take the tract, and the fellow smiling, nodding his head, and saying, “Brother, you got you an excellent rap.”  Or Furman Langley lamenting in a Lowcountry gumbo of gullah-echo the legend of the Boo Hag.


The “like-like” syncopatations of youthful inarticulation and the ubiquitous interrogative lilt of their declarative sentences gives me pause?

I guess it all boils down to a matter of culture.

Bewildered, bewildering primate.  Absinthe.  Circumcision.  Couplets.

Grudges., beliefs.  The war of my childhood, Europe tearing at itself.


Scarification.  Conceptual art.  Classic celebrated scholarly papers

On the Trobriand Islanders, more fiction or poetry than science.


Absorbed or transmitted always invisibly in the air

From a digital Cloud.  Visible and invisible in the funny papers . . .

                                                       from “Culture by Robert Pinsky

The Doggerel-Gone-It Impeachment Blues



The Doggerel-Gone-It Impeachment Blues


The stench of wet coal, politicians . . .

Ezra Pound, “Canto XIV”


Johnson’s impeachment occurred so far back.

No one can remember the Tenure of Office Act.


Once upon a more recent time,

J Gordon Liddy committed a crime,


a burglary some have called third rate,

which led, of course, to Watergate.


Dick Nixon was forced to take the fall

(in those days Republicans sported balls),


which sadly isn’t the case today.

They had Goldwater; we have Graham.


Weak-willed Bill Clinton in the Oval Office

ran afoul of a couple of orifices,


creating quite a sordid mess,

alleged perjury, a stained blue dress.


Yet the Senate voted not to convict,

(though most agreed he was a prick).


So here we are again, forsooth,

dealing with presidential abuse:


The number of allegations should give us pause:

obstructing justice, violating the Emolument Clause,


withholding aid for dirt in a quid pro quo.

The days go past, the catalogue grows.


I say let’s subpoena those stories killed by the Enquirer

so we can extinguish this orange dumpster fire.


It’s time we got back to something like normal

With a Commander-in-Chief less hormonal.