Pelican poem

In my next life I dream to be
A pelican at play
And join my cousins, beak to tail
To glide along the bay

I’d swerve and swoop and glide and dip
Into the trough, then lift
My pouch now filled with morsels fine
The ocean’s generous gift

At rest on land I lose my grace
Perching on a post
As passing boys lick ice cream cones
I look down as if engrossed

When I fly point and set our course
Our contour I can’t see
But then I swap and sway behind
My mates and destiny

Note: Son Patrick provided the first draft with nearly all the images.

Frederick Busch, Girls

After reading three volumes of Frederick Busch’s short stories, his novel Girls caught my eye. I decided to give it a try. Imagine my surprise when Chapter Two—where the plot begins— turns out to be my favorite Busch story, “Ralph The Duck,” whose eponymous character Jack invented to help calm his baby during her brief traumatic life. Later he used the short story to satisfy a course requirement in an English class.

Jack narrates Girls. The reader spends a lot of time in his head, feeling his conflicts, anger, torment, and self-doubt.  I can’t imagine this novel written in third person POV.









The first thing you noticed about Murph was this deep notch in his chin. Not a dimple, mind you. Too large for a dimple. Besides, it wasn’t round. It was oblong and it reached from his lower lip down to the tip of his chin.

Everyone looked Murph directly in the eyes, so he wouldn’t think you were staring at his chin.  I, for one, was always nervous around him.  Usually, he did the talking. And when he talked, that notch disappeared.  It flattened out, so his chin was almost smooth as mine. Then he would pause, and that thing deepened and narrowed to its restful state and, I swear, I probably got bug-eyed. I had to really concentrate, focus on his eyes, and try to remember what he’d been talking about.“Read


Oftentimes you wanted to hear what Murph had to say because he made it seem important.  He had that ability to say anything to anyone and get away with it. They said he was one hell of a used car salesman, something I could never do. It was fun to watch him bargain with people. You just knew he would get the best of them. And he always had a joke or two. Yeah, he was quite a guy.

Anyhow, this one time Murph and I were out fishing for crappies at the reservoir.  We’d had a good run, using minnows on spreaders, and often as not pulling up two fish at a time.  At least Murph was getting his share of double-headers.  He was one fine fisherman and he talked constantly, like I said before.  Long as I had something else to look at, my bobber, the minnow I was putting on my hook, them other fishermen down along the bank, I could forget that damn chin and just relax and enjoy.

“Pete,” he said, “I been meaning to tell you something for a long time now.  I guess this is as good a time as ever, since the fishin’s good and it ain’t rainin, and you just told me how much you appreciate me inviting you out here and all.” Continue reading “Murph”

The Bellboy

Late Saturday morning in July, after working a week in Bogota, I change hotels, a 30-minute cab ride from the modest but comfortable Embassy Suites to the tony Radisson. A quiet time of year – schools out of session, families taking vacations. A slow period in the lobby. No businessmen heading to the office, early for check-in and late for check-out. Late for breakfast and early for lunch. Unlike my typical evening check-in after a five-hour flight, tired and anxious to get to my room, now I feel like chatting with the desk clerk and the bell boy. Continue reading “The Bellboy”

Crossing gender, race, and age gap

Revision ideas
Frederick Busch frequently has female protagonists or writes from female POV. Many stories AND the novel Manual Labor
Have you read a story written by a male whose protagonist is female?
In George Pellicanos’s story, “The Confidential Informant,” from The Martini Shot, the protagonist is a 20-something black man. And another young black man appears in another story, “String Music.” Pelicanos is a middle aged white guy. Ho good are the portrayals? I asked my grandson to read the stories because he spends hours each day in basketbal games with mostly African-americans.

Not unlike a male author creating a female protagonist or vice versa or a young author writing from the POV of a much older character, this black-on-white treatment can be challenging. Continue reading “Crossing gender, race, and age gap”


I dreamed she curtsied once and smiled
Then took me by the hand
And led me through her meadow green
Midst bees and blossoms grand

See yonder, ‘neath the canopy
Where hawks and owls do reign
Where doe and fox and lizards roam
In happy dearth of man

That’s where we’ll take our lunch today
That’s where we’ll sing our song
Until the evening shades bespeak
It’s time we must go home

I’ll whisper words, you hum the tune
Together we’ll create
A blend of thought and harmony
That will our friends elate


Camping in Oman Desert



We planned it well. Rather Mike did. He’s a detail man. My sole responsibility was to accept his invitation to spend the weekend in the Oman desert.

I had a two-week gig in Muscat, where Mike had worked ten years for the petroleum company owned by the Sultanate. On a previous visit, I enjoyed a memorable evening with his family—wife Bette and four kids—dinner, conversation, and perusing the book Mike wrote covering the year-long, around-the-world trip he and Bette took before they had children. They drove an old Datsun and repaired forty-two flat tires.

On Wednesday, the end of the Omani workweek at the time, Mike picked me up from the office where I taught a class and drove me to his house for dinner. The kids were interesting and pleasant as before, two in high school, two in junior high, all active in sports and school activities. During dinner they joked that I was doing them a favor going with their dad because they were tired of the desert overnights. I didn’t know what to make of it. I thought they were trying to make me feel good. Continue reading “Camping in Oman Desert”

Murphy was my great uncle

It began with the garage door opener garage-door-openerand the lawn sprinkler.water-sprinkler-system Our double garage has a door for each car. The right-hand side opener worked fine except the courtesy light failed to come on, a common problem if one can believe the results of Google searches. To check whether the bulb has burned out requires loosening two screws, swinging down a plastic shield and testing the bulb in another socket.

The bulb was fine.

According to internet experts, the next procedure is an order of magnitude more challenging: remove the motherboard (circuitry panel) and replace a condenser held in by solder. After watching two YouTube DIY videos, I deposited the problem in my crowded later basket. Continue reading “Murphy was my great uncle”

A day to remember, the 10th of December

December 10th
Anything in common?  I’m stretching the analogy a bit because the light bulb was invented just about the time Emily died, but she was a keen observer of light as you can see from the beginning stanzas of these poems.
There is a certain slant of light
On winter afternoons
That oppresses like the weight
Of cathedral tunes
It’s like the light,-
A fashionless delight
It’s like the bee,-
A dateless melody.
The day came slow, till five o’clock,
Then sprang before the hills
Like hindered rubies or the light
A sudden musket spills.
And one of my favorites
I’ll tell you how the sun rose,-
A ribbon at a time.
The steeples bathed in amethyst,
The news like squirrels ran.

A Look at Point of View in Fiction

Pick up any book on writing fiction. You’ll find a section on point of view (POV). Open any novel and read the first paragraph or two. Look for the pronouns. Ignoring dialog, if you find “I”, the story is told in first person and the author lets the reader see things and feel emotions through the narrator’s eyes. Otherwise, a character, usually the main character, at first referred to by name but subsequently by “he” or “she” provides the point of view. The reader sees and feels what that character sees and feels. Some fiction relies on an omniscient POV, where the reader sees and hears things that no character can sense. In other cases the POV changes from one character to another.

Some writers treat POV with kid gloves, others are more casual about it. Every critique group has its POV maven.

How important is POV when you write a story? Are there rules to never break? What are the types of POV? What do the experts say and do? Can ignorance of POV destroy your story? To what degree does POV limit the narrative? Are there genres that must be written in one particular POV? These are some of the questions to guide us as we explore. Continue reading “A Look at Point of View in Fiction”