Holding Worlds

The heart inside you holds a world 
That none but you have fully known; 
A distance and an era gone,
As tears pool in your eyes alone 

For it's not right that only you 
Should hold all that within your soul, 
As you are just a child of earth, 
And holding worlds is a 

Celestial role

I am a simple guy: I like simple things, like pizza.

My father used to make pizza at home, and some of my earliest memories were sitting on a countertop, watching my dad spin dough and spread sauce, cheeeze and ingredients on it. Ground beef, mushrooms and black olives were his go-to ingredients.

His was my favorite pizza in the world, with the possible exception of a place called “Tony’s Pizza” we would sometimes go to.

It didn’t look that old at the time, which is one of the oddities about the past. The past was every bit as colorful and alive as the present — just not in photos.

A man I worked with for almost twenty years died this last week. He was a brilliant man, and very kind and patient man, as well. People at work were trading stories about him, his legendarily vast store of knowledge and historical trivia, his idiosyncratic eating habits. I just remember that he always found time for whoever might approach him with a question.

Sometimes all the people you’ve lost seem like a crowd of people, who are somewhere nearby, just not a place you’ve found yet. Other times, it feels like that entire crowd is inside your head, just trying to get out.

Maybe to get to Tony’s Pizza. It’s where I would go.

Autumn Candles, and Other Assumptions

I think, there for I am 
not sure; 
The eye, obstructed 
Takes in the truth 
so rarely that, 
the place we are 
's not where 

we're at

I am lighting a candle tonight for human weakness: mine, yours, and everyone else’s.

Some of you out there, I know, have no weaknesses, which is itself a weakness, so you get a candle, too.

I hear you say, “that’ll take a lot of candles, Owen.” And you are right. But I’ve got candles to spare. More than are in the photo affixed above. I think I have roughly 8 billion of them, but I haven’t counted.

Not keeping accurate records seems like a weakness. So I will light one more candle.

A Thing That You Do

I started taking piano lessons the summer between 5th and 6th grade. My piano teacher told me that it was very important that I keep my fingernails short. So I did.

It was a thing I was supposed to do.

Now, when I say, “so I did,” I mean, “Given my general lack of attentiveness and indifference to such matters, I would, when pressed, remember that I was supposed to keep them cut short, and act more-or-less accordingly,” — which is a much weaker sentence. More accurate, but definitely not as strong as saying “So I did”.

As I gradually grew into whatever level of attentiveness came to represent my maturity, I lost the discipline of keeping my fingernails short. I started keeping them short again after I got married, for reasons I will get to in a moment.

Unlike the stock photo that accompanies this piece, I have usually cut my own nails. I will admit to having gone through a period of my life where I got manicures, but the pandemic ended that, and I’ve never started back up again.

A lot of things have “never started back up again” since the pandemic.

I am thinking of all of this because I cut my fingernails just before writing this post. And I do it now, not for piano playing reasons, but because my wife likes the way my fingers feel on her skin. She likes the feel of fingernails less.

So it is just a thing that I do, because when I touch her, I want her to enjoy it. And once she has told me what she enjoys most, it is important to me to remember and act accordingly.

Much of love in the long term consists of what are commonly called “little things”, or what I am calling “just a thing that you do”. They are not dramatic or earth-shaking; they are just decisions that you try to make and then not simply unmake.

In the same way, much of bettering love in the long term consists of noticing and acting on other such things. My wife finds these things for me often.

And it means a lot.

Love is a paycheck, not a bonus; 
It's not the rain, but more the sea --  
Love is like breathing more than running; 
Best seen and showed in its 


seeking rest

my friend, you were (and i know how) 
a recluse and a polymorph: 
within a castle made of pine 
upon a branch within a tree 
of different wood than in your bones, 
  for you were scent and reticence, 
  a dissident, a fuzziness. 

and i (and you knew this) was where 
the ocean meets the endless sky; 
my head down low, my thoughts up high 
was all illusion, entropy -- 
this strange connection, made of hope
  and flowers, flags, and palindromes, 
  of tractors, beds, and mobile homes.

I am pretty much always tired. I think it has to do with lack of sleep and poor diet.

Oh, and being old.

I don’t want this to be all negative: there are certain advantages to sleepwalking through life. For one thing, you don’t have to be coherent. This works out well, as I frequently am not. For another, people will mistake incoherence for wittiness. I can’t really explain this, I can just note that it happens.

[Me] When is Thursday this week?

[Them] I’m not quite sure how to answer that.

I also realized something like 9 years ago that being incomprehensible is problematic in most areas of life, unless you are either an academic or a poet. Since being a college professor seemed the more remote possibility, I chose the path of poetry. Having written as much as I have, I frequently find myself unable to remember what I was trying to say when viewing an old post.

Probably something important. Or I was just exhausted.

No Such Truth

At one time or another, every one of us has believed a lie. It is among the most universal of human experiences. Almost equally common is to propagate a lie. A few moments reflection should bring to mind times in your life when you did just that, although a few of you will find that difficult.

Being the originator of a lie is where most of us draw the line. We do not want to cop to that. Sure, we were mistaken, got confused, didn’t have all the facts, read or heard something wrong. But lie? Surely not us.

To which I say: “Yes, us. And don’t call me Shirley.”

For most of us, the difference in lying and being mistaken is in consciously knowing that we are deceiving others. However, the human capacity for denial is so great, many of us never reach that level of consciousness.

[I don’t remember thinking, “hey, wait — what I’m saying isn’t true.” Therefore, it wasn’t a lie.]

One of the reasons many of us get into storytelling is that it is a sanctioned area for telling lies, and making them as detailed and interesting as possible. Cinema is almost entirely a set of elaborately technological tag-team lies. Which can be quite enjoyable, actually.

I’ve gotten to thinking about lies recently in the context of the number of cryptocurrency fraud cases that have made or are making their way into court. Some of the lies told there were extremely audacious, with owners of companies saying in public that they would or wouldn’t do something, while simultaneously doing exactly the opposite in the background.

If you have ever been burned by someone lying to you in your personal life, you may have reacted by becoming more suspicious, skeptical, or even cynical about humans in general. That has not been my personal experience, even though I have been lied to in my day; I was too cognizant of my own capacity / tendency to lie to find to much fault with it in others. Not that I’m in favor of it: lying is corrosive to relationships, and will destroy everything it touches, eventually.

Below is a poem I wrote on the subject while I was in my twenties. I was fascinated by the subject of lying, even then.

I do not call it lying 
For those who might keep score 
It's more like birthing truth where there 
Was no such truth


saturdays, latter days

there's a place in the soul where these saturdays go 
as the years turn to grass and new life tends to grow 
and the sun shines and rain falls and night eases in 
and a sunday's upon us before we e'er know.

Every Saturday morning (after I am back from a few hours at work) one of my oldest grandchildren goes out with me to “run errands”. This started out exactly as it sounds, as they would simply accompany me to the drug store, the grocery store, the car wash, the gas station, and so on. However, it gradually turned into a type of planned amusement, where I am picking some place (along with the errands, or sometimes instead of them) for each one of them to go. It also usually includes lunch.

When I get home, my wife then has a planned outing of her own, meeting some women from church for a late lunch, so I am then home with between two and four of my grandkids, depending on the weekend. The pictures shown here are from the last few of such Saturdays.

I have, at this age, what I believe can fairly be characterized as a blessed life. My wife seems to be through her cancer treatment and the prognosis looks positive. I have a job, a career, and it seems to be going okay.

There are always heartaches lurking around corners, of course. Right now, we are waiting on test results for my stepdaughter who is the mother of the two dark-haired children in the pictures. It could be nothing, or it could be very bad, indeed. We found this out last night (Friday) so it will be Monday before she’s able to find out more.

So it is another Saturday, and I will do what I do, and these kids will do what they do, which is, mostly, just be kids.

Which is a wonderful thing, as simple as it sounds.


even the things 
we love the most 
fight for time

If life worked like an equation, we would think that, at the end of it, we spent the highest percentage of our time doing either (a) things that meant the most to us; or (b) things that meant the most to the people closest to us. I might even add a (c) or (d) — things that meant the most to the betterment of the human condition, or that were most spiritually fulfilling.

Few to none of us do (a), (b), (c) or (d).

Activities that bring happiness and fulfillment, it seems, are more like a desert than a meal. They aren’t where we spend most of our time.

So what’s the real equation?

I am five years old. My father, who is 39 years old, has bought a used little red sports car. It only seats 2 people, so either my sister, or brother, or me can go with him in it, but only one of us at a time. He has been working on something out in the driveway for a bunch of weekends. Finally, he tells my mother that he is headed out to test it, and I get to go with him.

It is a windsurfer, although in those (long ago) days, it was called a “sailboard”.

I am sitting on the shore on a beach in Florida, watching my dad repeatedly fall over trying to figure out how to windsurf. He eventually figured it out. I had a little styrofoam surfboard I got to try later after he came to shore. It squeaked when I used it, which was mostly as a paddleboard.

The things we love (or hate) tend to dominate our memories. That seems to be the equation. With good fortune, the former outweigh the latter; however, there is always some of both.

Life requires support and maintenance to continue, which means things like working and sleeping will take up most of our time. But they enable and empower us to do the most important things.

the things she knew 
shared lavishly 
wondrous stories 

My oldest granddaughter is an artist. She is six years old.

I know she is an artist because the drawing is never just a drawing. Each is a story.

By the time I see her and her brother in the evenings, I’ve already been awake for something like 15 or 16 hours and at work for 13 or 14. I don’t have a lot to give, but I try to give it. Because one of these days, I can never know which ones, will become their memories, the ones that stick.

What makes something a priority is not how much time you spend on it, but how much of your heart goes into the time you are able to spend.

Within and Without

he within and she without 
freedom viewed from bitterness 
where the sky and sea are one 
artistry and littleness 

sat confined the mind goes blind 
panoplies made similar 
through the filter of a brain 
seeing she, but never 


I watched him fall apart obsessing over a woman who didn’t even know he was there.

It wasn’t that he interacted with her daily, and that she just didn’t think of him “that way” — it was that they had literally never even met. Long before the world of parasocial relationships existed, there was the world of admiring from a distance, or in his case, an extremely warped version of it. And he had a lot to lose.

In the language of that day and time, it might have been seen as being in the family of “mid-life crises”: this time in a man (or woman’s) life when they might risk everything they had trying to recapture something like lost youth. And while the object of his obsession was younger, she wasn’t so young as was often the case. It was more that she just “was”: different than anyone he’d ever known — wild, free, unpredictable. She was like the ocean, and he couldn’t take his eyes or thoughts off of her for long.

One of the experiences many of my female friends have had is suddenly being presented with strong feelings of attraction from men that they had no inkling were there. It is usually the feelings, not the men, that they didn’t know were there. She (who I only barely knew, but was on a first name speaking basis with) literally had never met my friend, didn’t know his name, had no idea he’d become obsessed with her, and would have been shocked to have heard the depth of his feelings.

Which, fortunately, she never did. Because, unrelated to all this, she got a job in another city, and moved away.

But before that his wife, tired of his lack of presence at home for her and their children, had started the process of divorce. So he ended up with no one.

He and I discussed the subject exactly once. He told me that his wife wanted out of the marriage, and that he was letting her go. That there was someone who had been on his mind every day for months, and that he had a plan: he was going to ask her to lunch, they were going to hit if off, and whole new worlds were going to open up to him. When I asked him who it was, and he told me, I told him that I knew her, and asked him how far along their friendship/relationship was.

“We haven’t actually spoken… yet.”

“What? Isn’t this kind of crazy?”

“Yes, it is, I know. But sometimes you see someone, and you just… know. You just know, you know?”

I said something to the effect that I did NOT know, and that I was surprised to hear things were this bad between he and his wife. He told me that, as a single man (which I was at the time) I would not understand how hard being married was.

“You get married because she makes you feel like a hero, but over time, all that goes away, and she just makes you feel worse about yourself.”

I watched the rest of the tale unfold from a distance. I ran into his wife at the grocery store about a month later. She asked me if I had heard they had gotten divorced. I said I had. Then she gave me a few details on things that had happened since he and I had spoken.

“I finally asked him, the day before the divorce was final, if there was another woman. He said there was. It turned out later that she didn’t know she was some kind of other woman, because they’d never met and she’s since moved away. He wanted to come back, which I nixed real fast. I cheered him up, though: I told him maybe he and she could be pen-pals, get to know each other.”

I said I had not heard that she had moved.

“At any rate, that’s not my concern anymore; I’m moving on with my life. I have children to think about, and they didn’t ask for any of this. I don’t need to be bitter; I need to be better… for them.”

Beauty, In Its Season

how do you learn the seasons? 
is it just what you see, 
or is taught and demonstrated 

can you still smell the wood-smoke, 
can you feel the fire again?  
does autumn live large in your heart 
from what you learned back then? 

It is good to express gratitude. It’s even better when the people you are grateful to are still around to hear it.

Sadly, much of the gratitude I feel towards the teachers I had growing up went unexpressed while I was actually in school. Although it is possible that the spontaneous excitement we as kids felt towards things could have been taken as gratitude by teachers, even if not verbalized as such.

I sure hope so.

One of the things I am grateful for in regards to my own elementary school teachers was class decorations. These tended to change with the seasons, and were designed to teach us about spring, summer, fall, and winter. I still associate red, orange and yellow colors with fall, even though I grew up in Florida where very few trees had leaves that changed with the seasons. This was largely from class decor and pictures in books, like this one:

Part of growing up is pretending not to enjoy things, because those things are associated with being younger. People throw over hobbies they love, music they love, and even people they love for what might be called “social pressure” reasons. I am not saying this is right or wrong, I am just observing that it “is”. Much of the process of growing up is mysterious and I’m not really sure I know how I feel about it.

What I DO know, however, is that I am now at the age where I have nothing to prove about maturity, so I feel comfortable just liking what I like regardless of what anyone else thinks, whether that be in music, or books, or other forms of entertainment, or even classroom decorations. I have a Lego set in this room I am in now that I used to build things with when my grandkids are here — or when they’re not. I use a coloring app on my phone to relax.

I often joke with my wife that the same characteristics about me changed in value over time:

(Me in my twenties) Her: he’s so immature!

(Me in my sixties) A different her: he’s so good with kids!

I basically am a kid in many ways, I understand this. And for that reasons, I’ve decided to use today to give a shout out to all those teachers still out there decorating their classrooms. Everything beautiful is its own reason for existence.