Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Why I Don't Cuss

             I never heard cuss words spoken in our house when I was growing up. My mother would have washed my mouth out with hand soap, if I had ever used bad words. I grew up in a very devout Catholic household. I went to Catholic school for 11 years, skipping only the 2nd grade.  I was an altar-boy from the 4th grade through high school. I spend 4 years in a seminary because I wanted to become a Catholic priest. My father was a Catholic priest. He became one after my mother died.
          Bad words were not allowed in our house, as least not during the time that I lived there. After I moved out, my younger siblings used bad words that I would never have uttered in our house. When I entered the Navy and went to Viet Nam, I was surrounded by shipmates that used foul language as a normal way of speaking. “Sailor speak” is a  subculture characteristic that fits the sailor stereotype. As such, colorful language doesn't offend me. Not all sailors cuss, of course. But no one is shocked when he or she hears a sailor use colorful language.
          I remember trying to use the "F" word over the phone to a friend who uses that word with joyful regularity. I couldn't do it. I started to laugh and I just couldn't say it. I was already in my 40s.
          It is hard for me to write the way sailors speak. I don't do it well, because my tongue isn't used to forming those words. It feels forced and unnatural. I often call on my little sister. She is 15 years younger. She is my cussing consultant. I have to work hard to put myself into my characters when I read aloud in public. And then, when I get home, I wash my mouth out with hand soap.
          That last sentence was a complete fabrication. But it made me feel better to write it.

School Crossing Guards

I am grateful for school crossing guards.

I fondly remember Mrs. Hill, our Saint Mattew’s elementary school crossing guard. I remember her as being old, almost elderly. She had white hair and she was skinny. She had a smile for us every morning, unless we tried to cross the street without her raising her stop sign for us.

I remember my classmates and I making Get Well cards for her when she got hit by a car. She sacrificed herself many times over the years as she raised her stop sign to stop the cars so we could cross Highway 22, (7th Street) safely. I think about her whenever I drive by Saint Matthew’s on 7th Street.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018


I created this cat on a with AUTOCAD in 1991.

Grief is a cruel companion

Grief is a cruel companion
Who sits in my lap,
Laying her head on my chest,
And then whispers,
"He's dead."
Her steely sharp teeth
Chomp into my chest
So fast,
So hard,
All the way into my heart.
I can't breathe.
I can't see
I can't talk.
I need,
Really, really need
To scream.
But I can't.
She squeezes both hands
Around my throat
And I choke.
Tears fall.
"I'm sorry it hurts,"
Grief whispers.
"I'll sit with you,
Stand by you,
Comfort you,
The only way
I know how.
I won't let you forget
Or lose,
Or throw away
The love.
I promise.
I'm sorry it hurts."

Thursday, May 03, 2018


My mother worried about me

And the devil

After I left the Catholic seminary.

She worried when I learned to meditate.

"Don't do that," she'd warn.

"You're opening yourself up to the devil."

I told her that humans created the devil.

"Don't talk like that," she'd scold.

"The devil is tricking you."

I told her the devil doesn't exist.

She'd fold her hands in prayer,

As protection

Against even the mention

Of the word, devil.

"The devil is evil.

He makes us do bad things," she'd say.

Humans created the devil

To have someone else

To blame,

To cast upon it

Their shame

For not living kindly.

"Sometimes your wisdom scares me," she'd say.