Barricaded

By Dick Gillett

As I stepped outside my front door last week, anticipating a delicious macchiato at Herkimer Coffee on Phinney Ridge, I was unexpectedly confronted by a barricade. About five or six feet across, it stretched across the handrails in front of me, its multiple strands caught by the morning sun. At its center was a spider, only half as big as the head of a pencil eraser—the architect and engineer.

My wife, ever-admiring of the skill and determination of spiders, was close by and counseled me to leave the spider’s work intact and go out by the back door. I scoffed at her suggestion and crashed through the barrier, the tiny spider sinking to the ground as its net fell.

At Herkimer, I made a full report of this incident to Chad, one of the baristas that I’ve known the longest. He heard me unsympathetically and scoffed at my accomplishment: “Greatest Generation, indeed!” he said.

I scoffed . . . and crashed through the barrier, the tiny spider sinking to the ground as its net fell.

Kelly, the other barista on duty, heard my story and made a face. She related that as a young girl a spider had been trapped in her ear, and later had been bitten by a spider. Little sympathy there, either.

A harmless incident, not worth the telling? Perhaps. Yet as we encounter more and more spider webs these summer months, both my wife and I continue to be astounded by how these tiny arachnids accomplish such immense engineering marvels, the materials for which emerge from their own bodies. Think of their ambition! Even more, ponder their willingness to get up and try again after going down with their creations. Are these lessons worth pondering in our complex and confounding world?

·     ·     ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village, a retired Episcopal priest, and a regular contributor to our blog. His many articles include ““Generation Nice” at Herkimer Coffee”, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”,  and “Cell Phones, Conversations, and the Common Good”.

Do you like what you read on our blog? We’d love to hear from you! Please use the SHARE buttons below and COMMENT by clicking on “Leave a reply” or by clicking the gray dialogue bubble at the top right of each post!

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Back to the Future

(Photograph by Horace Warner-Spitalfields Life)

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Back to let them eat cake
to Oliver wants more
to orphans, hair shorn, lined up, plates out.
to the Dickensian streets
to children lining the tracks, picking up bits of coal,
swallowing down road kill rejected by dogs
—while Oliver slaves in the blacking factory
and Tiny Tim does die for lack of a doctor’s care.
Back to Scrooge, who never went away,
to child labor in the coal mines or coal factories
out of Blake’s dark satanic mills.
Back to typhoid and tuberculosis.
When all the owners care about is cost, people die.

Out of the mist, the fog and soot—
comes the pauper, the chimney sweep, the starveling—
with hungry eyes and dirty fingers,
pressed against the glass of the restaurant window
where you are eating your Christmas turkey.

Back to the return of charity,
of the sanctimonious charity of the wealthy—
like the dimes Henry Ford scattered to the crowd.
And who but Scrooge denies heat to the freezing,
aid to the famished and rest to the tired?

Back to that heartless century, in a soulless city.
To the workhouse with its iron gates,
To smokestacks against the sky
Back to those dank, back alleys where we have taken a journey
to a time and place that are becoming more familiar to us each day
for soon the brown air of London will be ours too.

·     ·     ·

This poem is from a collection called “Foreclosure”, written about collateral damage caused by the Recession of 2008 and it unfortunately appears to be even more relevant today.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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Bella

Bella Abzug

By Marilyn Zuckerman

With her megaphone voice
threatening war
if there is not peace,
shouting a president
into banning above
ground bomb tests,
a Medusa of the vocal cords
a Minerva of pacifism
a postmodern Cassandra
cobbled together from an immigrant stew
and a New York mouth,
she stands before Senator Jake Javits
surrounded by cohorts of Amazons
in her bright red
lacquered straw hat
the light shards reflecting off it
dazzled straight into the eyes
of her antagonist
so he, unable to return the lightning
of hers,
ducks his head to scrape gunk
off his shoes.
Shame, she yells,
Think of all the children you are killing.
Outside a policeman on horseback asks,
Why don’t you women go home
take care of your kids
make dinner for the husband?

Once, lying on a bed at the Chelsea hotel,
I heard her voice over the strident traffic
shrieking, No More War!
loud enough for the pledge
to go echoing down 23rd St
cross the Hudson
and settle into the stones
of the Palisades
on the Jersey side.

·     ·     ·

Bella Abzug (1920/1998) was a leading feminist and anti-war activist who helped organize Women Strike for Peace during the Vietnam War. Abzug became a U.S. Congressperson from New York in 1971. In the poem, when she confronts Senator Javits, I was there and was with her when we were trying to get Senator Robert Kennedy nominated for President of the United States and hoped, as well, to end the Vietnam War and thus bring the veterans home.

From my book, In The Ninth Decade, from Red Dragonfly Press.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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Whale watching: San Juan Islands

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Moving slowly through the natural world,
trying to remember everything before it goes.
We count pelagic cormorants, auks, murres—
migrant seabirds down from Alaska for the summer,
watch the cormorant nursery, arranged along shelves
of a gently swinging bell buoy,
bald eagles lined up along crags
on the opposite shore.
Young auklets—swimming like amateurs—
divide, as we plow through them
and there are dolphins,
But not the killer whales
we’ve come to see.

From the tour boat,
video cameras scan the shore,
trying to get it all down—
the San Juan Islands,
Mt. Baker, Mt Rainer—
a polluted haze swirls around the summit
of the scalped mountain behind them
like a scarf covering
the hairless head of a cancer patient.
The scientist on board says
he doubts the same cataclysmic event,
creating the same bacterial scum
that become us and our whole world,
will ever happen again.

·       ·       ·

When I first wrote this poem, I had just moved from Boston to the Northwest and fell in love with its natural treasures—eagles barely saved from extinction, Puget Sound, the mountains, its forests, and the wonderful stock of wildlife.

Now as spring approaches after the long monsoon- like weather, leaving us in the rain and the dark, I am beside myself with happiness and sorrow wondering if we can keep this
Shangri-La and for how long?

The last lines of the poem speak of what that loss would mean to our children and grandchildren. Dedicated to Earth Day, everyday.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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What YOU Can Do For Our Newsletter

PNA Village Connections newslettersAre you interested in writing, editing, desktop publishing, or even seeing your writing featured on our blog? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

You can help your PNA Village Connections newsletter in any of the following ways:

  • Join us! The newsletter committee meets just four times per year for a planning session. You choose what you’d like to write and/or what tasks you can do. (You’ll need access to a reliable computer and the Internet, as this is the committee’s primary mode of communication.)
  • Suggest ideas or information you’d like to see covered in our newsletter and/or blog.
  • Write! We’re always looking for new topics to cover.
  • Take photos! Take photos of Village events and activities.
  • Help us mail the newsletter. We always can use help folding and preparing the newsletter for mailing.
  • Provide technical help. Two of our prime needs right now are for a person comfortable doing page layout for the printed version of the newsletter (using InDesign, Publisher or Word) as well as a person comfortable preparing the newsletter for email distribution using Vertical Response.

If any of these things sound interesting to you, please contact the Village office at 206-789-1217.

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84th Birthday, redux

84th Birthday Redux| ©2016 HouseofHank.me

By Marilyn Zuckerman

for those who still love peace and seek it

After all these years
of hoping that things will get better—
so this poem is for every child gunned down,
blown up as they walk down in the streets of their villages,
in Mexico
in Sudan
in the Congo and cities in America—
for every child who goes to bed hungry
for the homeless abroad and in the U.S.A.
for the victims of border wars and those kidnapped by drug
lords or pirates,
renditioned by the state itself
for those sent overseas and those who come back damaged
for the elderly, who now must work until they die
for all the species of birds, animals and plants that will become
extinct in a new, Great Dying
for cities slowly drowned by the rising seas, from glacier melt
and bad levees
for the millions of refugees on the road and in camps that barely
keep alive
for those living in failed states, trying to lead lives of quiet
decency
for the dying of the earth and the terror of nuclear disaster
for those who still love peace and seek it
For those who tell the truth and are murdered for it.

·       ·       ·

This poem was written 8 years ago. Tragically things have not gotten better. Events in Syria and Yemen have deteriorated as in many other places. Many people are worse off than before. The question is: what are we going to do about it?

From my book, In The Ninth Decade, from Red Dragonfly Press. Also published in the anthology, Perfect Dragonfly, from Red Dragonfly Press.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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A Place to Share and be Heard

PNA Village writing group

By Alyssa McFarland

If you write—stories, memoirs, poems, haiku, what-have-you—and would like an audience to hear you read your writing out loud, there’s a group for that: the PNA Village Writing Group.

Carol Beach started the group in early 2015. She recalls, “After joining the PNA Village I felt a need to reach deeper into myself and pull out some life stories making them into poems, memoirs, and short stories. So I started the Village Writing Group and found that others felt the same way—a place to share and be heard.

“I think that we all need a space that allows us to explore what we think and feel…”

Typically, members go around the table taking turns reading something they’ve written. There’s no requirement that the work be new…some have read work that is decades old! You can ask for feedback if you would like it, but it’s not a critique group: it’s writers supporting other writers.

Wilma Bishop has shared some memoirs with the group, like the story of her first ride in a hot air balloon. She had previously been part of a memoir writing group that dissolved, and is hoping the PNA Village Writing Group will be just as rewarding.

Terry Cook has been sharing a serial story about a teenager in the 1950s working as a cowgirl. She joined the group to motivate herself to write. She finds it to be a “supportive environment to try out different stories.”

“I think that we all need a space that allows us to explore what we think and feel,” says Cook. “Writing is one way to do that, but being able to share that with others in an open forum validates our musings.”

The PNA Village Writing Group meets at Home Street Bank’s community room on the 4th Friday of each month, from 11am to noon. The group welcomes new members.

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Guns

By Marilyn Zuckerman

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the PNA. Please feel free to comment and join the conversation.  

Glock 22

The Seattle Public Library Permits Concealed Guns

Nobody asked me
if I wanted to sit next to a guy
carrying a gun
he can pull out at any time
something triggers his paranoia—
a suspicious movement,
a foreign face
or the librarian who has asked him to be quiet.
It’s the moment he’s been waiting for
ever since he bought the gun,
learned to use it at the shooting range
banging away at a moving silhouette
wearing a sign that says
KILL ME.

·    ·    ·

Shoot ‘em Ups

In the old west
the shoot ‘em up takes place in town—
in the old saloon, the brothel
or the boardwalk outside the barbershop—

These days, it can be anywhere
the church
the synagogue
a shopping mall
post office
your office building
a college dorm
the library or on the road.
Not with a Colt 45
but an AR-15 blazing at so many rounds a second,
the shooter—your husband or the boyfriend you
dumped,
the neighbor whose lawn was soiled by your dog.
There’s the guy who killed his five children
because he was mad at his wife.

Or the quiet fellow you pass every day
who shot up the kids in the schoolyard with an arsenal
he picked up at the local gun show,
whom everyone said kept to himself and was so polite
you’d never imagine—

·    ·    ·

The Gun

Known as the AR-15
built in 1958
as a selective-fire weapon
for the military only
but sold to Colt
for civilian use
as a semi-automatic rifle
Popular among civilian shooters
due to their accuracy
light weight
auto-loading assault style
air-cooled
gas-operated
and magazine-fed
The most wanted gun in America,
there are  millions on the streets today.

·    ·    ·

Colt AR15A4

Orlando

A Plagiarism (after Jonathan Lethem)

Once again elegies, services, and memorials for the dead after yet another mass shooting in America brought about by the violent misuse of guns. The following is a collage of remarks about our “American Olympics of murder” from several voices around the country. Every word that follows has been said before in newspaper essays, speeches, sermons and addresses on the floor of Congress.

One person did that?
Yes…but with a weapon designed only for mass killings on the battlefield, a weapon so dangerous that soldiers keep their versions locked up when not actually training with it. …No one can ever eliminate violence in a modern society. …The success of the AR-15 has led to increasing militarization of the entire consumer firearms market in America. If we had gun laws like those of most countries that resemble ours we would have lower levels of gun violence. This massacre is therefore further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school or in a house of worship or a movie theater or in a night club. Now there are speeches of condolences, the service for the dead, tears have been shed—and everyone goes home.

·    ·    ·

Acknowledgements:
Anonymous
Natasha Singer, The New York Times
The Guardian
Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
Tom Diaz, Violence Policy Center
Congressman Christopher Murphy
and at the last, President Obama

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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Cell Phones, Conversations, and the Common Good

The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee (pnavillage.org)

By Dick Gillett

It was crowded the other morning at Herkimer Coffee up on Greenwood Avenue.  I settled in at its long table with my machiatto and a book titled Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main Street. (No, I’m not an investor or stockbroker but a retired clergyman trying to understand how economic inequality got so bad in our country.)

Opposite me sat a young man intently reading a paperback book. I immediately noticed that unlike almost everyone else in the café that day, he had no cellphone or other electronic device out, just his book. He appeared to be a “Millennial,”probably on the young end of that age spectrum. Maybe his book was a reading assignment for a class? I made bold to ask him what he was reading.

6751

“It’s a book of essays by David Foster Wallace,” he replied. He explained that the particular essay he was reading was a review of a new dictionary, and that in it Wallace was pointing out how issues of class and power in the modern era are affecting the use of words.

Wow, I thought, this is a subject that even as an English lit major I had never thought about.

Jesse (this man’s name) was not sure he bought the author’s argument.

His mention of the words “class” and “power” led me to comment that the previous night my son and I had watched a little of the Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton debate in a pub jammed with young people. “Did you watch the debate?” I asked Jesse.

“No, I had to work,” he responded.

Having pushed the conversation a little already, I resisted the temptation to turn to politics, so I asked him what his work is.

“I work as a host at a Sushi bar,”he said.

I rather lamely responded that I hoped he was doing okay.

“I’m doing OK,” he responded.

19524598We shook hands and I left the table.

Whether or not the politics of 2016 will bring us together as a country, I believe that we desperately need to recover a sense of the Common Good: that we are responsible for each other in our communities, and that “the moral arc of the universe… bends towards justice” (M.L. King).  Meanwhile, it felt very good to have even a brief conversation across the generations that finds common ground—especially without a cellphone lying on the table!

·     ·     ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. He has written numerous articles for our Village blog including, “The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee”, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”,  and “Johnny Cash & Global Warming”.

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Swing Time

glenn-miller-and-his-orchestra-make-believe-ballroom-time-his-masters-voice

By Marilyn Zuckerman

For LW whose father would wake her, her sisters and brother
to swing music on Sunday mornings

1.

The Make Believe Ballroom

A Saturday night in 1941
and I was a sixteen year-old girl,
alone,
listening to Martin Block,
host of the Make Believe Ballroom
radio show, from Meadowbrook, NJ.
As the theme song,
“It’s Make Believe Ballroom Time,” played
I could see the brass section,
clarinets, trombones and saxophones
rise to the ceiling,
shimmering in the lights
as the platform rose up
revealing the band,
hear the wail of trumpets
as the singer,
Frank Sinatra or Dick Haymes
crooned songs drowning in sentiment
—all those war ballads
filled with yearning for when
The Boys Come Home Again.
While I danced alone,
I saw others
slow dancing
under the dazzle of revolving lights,
her head tucked under his chin,
they inch closer,
barely moving
as Sinatra,
with a catch in his voice, sings
“We’ll Meet Again.”

2.

Mary Alice and I
drinking cokes,
smoking our first cigarette
at Lambs Soda Fountain
across from our all-girls school,
gossiping about
schoolmates engaged to servicemen
while listening to Frankie sing,
“I’ll Never Smile Again.”
But deep in my heart
I wanted to be Anita O’Day
or Peggy Lee
draped across the piano,
my voice a low growl,
as I sing
We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where,
Don’t know when….

· · ·

Anita O'Day

Anita O’Day

Swing time

Adolescence in the 40’s meant one thing to the young men going off to war, while for the young women it was an era of waiting, of often going dateless on Saturday night, especially if you attended an all-girls school, as I did.

For many, The Make Believe Ballroom was a restorative filled with songs redolent with
loneliness and hopes for the future. A partial list of these songs includes, “We’ll Meet Again,” When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World),” and swing music was the sweet thread that ran through through these longings. From Benny Goodman to Glenn Miller or Harry James with his skinny tenor Frank Sinatra singing his heart out, there was dancing in the aisles or sitting home alone and sighing.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

Martin_block_stan_kenton_wnewedited

Stan Kenton & Martin Block at WNEW New York

Editor’s Note:

Hello, world! For a trip down memory lane and a quick listen to some of the music Marilyn references in her work above, check out the following links (clicking will take you off the PNA Village blog website):

“It’s Make believe Ballroom Time” performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYQofQAQ3eE

1988 CBS Sunday “Make Believe Ballroom” Story WNEW 1130 New York
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRV37DK1UC4

Vera Lynn sings “When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World)”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzlFaY0s_QI

Frank Sinatra sings “We’ll Meet Again”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7q1r0LUXFI

Frank Sinatra sings “I’ll Never Smile Again”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMaLvaPKPOY

Dick Haymes & Helen Forrest sing “It Had to Be You”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW6Jd7zVpxM

Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (Documentary)
http://anitaodaydoc.com/

Peggy Lee & the Benny Goodman Orchestra: “Why Don’t You Do Right”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zRwze8_SGk

Frank Sinatra & the Harry James Band “All Or Nothing At All”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7klm1GS3v8

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