Shrine for Don

Paris Two 2010 054Crowned

“king of the gods” in high school,

caped with scepter in hand, a gentle smile,

the basketball star in our tiny world,

at 21, a lieutenant in Vietnam.


fell on the green villages

perimeters strafed and over-run

maimed bodies,



all sacked up together like shades of rice

before the boiling pot.


your name

on marble,

held in place

by those who died before

and after you,

carved on black

marble reflecting back the twisted mouths

holding grief high and tight,

hands offering medals,



to names on a wailing wall.



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Giant Pacific Octopus

IMG_0325_1If this octopus escapes an open tank,

look carefully around, then worry.

It can scuttle over land.


Longer than a car,

it squeezes  through an orange-size

hole.  The beak?  In its crotch or armpit,

take your pick.  Ignore the venom

that dissolves flesh.  Stronger than

a body-builder.  Truly its suckers, shape,

ink, brain: Unique.  Not a vertebrate.

Breathes water!


If you see it,

vibrate in your boots,

then scoot.


FEWalls  April 8, 2016

Source:  Sy Montgomery  Soul of an Octopus

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A Church Burns

100th Anniversary House (231 of 370)We gather before the burned-out building

our aged container of our times

together in prayer, sermon, song

both in joy and in sorrow.


We have gathered here for years,

over generations, taught our children,

shared hot-cross buns, coffee, tea,

shed tears as a praying congregation

lighting a candle for the sick, the bereaved,

given thanks together.


We are a singing congregation,

we love the organ’s melodies;

we stand to sing the Hallelujah Chorus

filling the rafters with praise.


Though the holes in the floor gape

though the hallways smell of smoke

though the pews are pushed askew,

the church is the energy of its people

the spirit of God lifting us up,

the house of God.


We will walk from our building

to a new gathering place

and when the time is ripe,

we will return in song, celebrate new beginnings

and the joy of being together.

We are the church.


FEWalls March 31, 2016

(My little church in Ballard burned on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.)

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Cathédrale de Notre Dame

IMG_0164Ah, Cathédrale de Notre Dame at dawn,

in fog, sepulcher white, barely formed,

the façade emerges from the mist

each statue takes his place above the arches

the flying buttresses hold high the nave

the solidity of the wooden doors.

a vast square with the lanterns unlit

even the birds rest silent in the cold

on the banks of the river Seine.


Ah, the nightclubs at dawn

soften the music

spill out their partiers

the liquor still on their tongues and breath

drunk, some shout at young couples

already speeding across Pont Neuf

on their vespas.


One last look at the ghostly church

then we go into the depths of the metro, St. Michael,

where the light then darkness

takes our anonymity into the tunnels

hacked into the depths of the earth

we are miners of the underground

hurrying from Cathédrale de Notre Dame

to destinations unforetold.


FEWalls   December 21, 2007

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Return Flight

IMG_0404_1Some people just wait

you know, just wait until the door is closing

to run up and say, “Wait for me

I’m boarding, too!”

on that plane to somewhere.


Sitting in the metal tube

feeling scared 30,000 feet in the air

going 150 miles an hour

adding your weight to the tons

that must stay aloft for hours.


Wondering if a bomb will go off

yet longing for adventure

(horseback, covered wagon, car, train)

those engines whining for hours

the invisible pilot coping with boredom,


fatigue. Smell the recycled air

enter the germy restroom

knock against your too-close neighbor

with his shoes off, his elbow hogging the entire arm-rest

his body too close


his breath too close

as if he could blow his way home

like the big, bad wolf blowing the house down

around the little piggies

eating up meals in boxes.


(Drink water! Avoid alcohol!)

Wrap yourself in the tissue-thin

blankets, tiny pillow at your back,

eat with the plastic

fork the hot risotto or cold chicken.


Stuff yourself with everything

remotely edible (cheese, crackers, chocolate)

but enjoy the hot towelete

handed you with a metal tong

by the tired attendant


coping with swollen ankles

and jet lag and seniority battles.

Don’t forget you can

track your flight on the screen

count down the minutes elapsing


watch another movie in the darkness

(Casablanca, Everest, Grumpy Old Men)

the blinds pulled down against the light

don’t stand and look down the aisle

at the faces staring at you.


Do stand up every hour

and stretch by your seat

that precious space is yours

until you set down on that runway

the jolt of earth embracing you


now rolling down the asphalt

disoriented but sensing safety

in your bones

certain, finally,

you have come home.


FEWalls March 25, 2016

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L’imagination pouvoir.

IMG_0486_2“No to Vietnam! No to tradition!”

In 1968, students barricade Place Maubert

tearing up the cobblestones

stoning police that march

shoulder to shoulder toward them.

The students may forget the year 1588,

the first revolt and barricades of Paris

but not the journalist.


Now, the locals drink at the cafe

in once the filthiest street in Paris,

when the putrid waste of the Sorbonne

flowed down the lanes

where 800 years ago the masters of divinity

lectured their students

who sat on bales of hay even in the rain

so hungry were they for news of God.


A fountain shines now under the sycamores

and the aged and women with babies

sit on the benches where 600 years ago

Francois I, the King, burned alive the Lutherans

ignoring their screams

and generation after generation watched

the executions in this “cesspool of Maubert.”


Now, the sounds of a rugby match

echo in the plaza from the bar

the Frenchmen make their only goal,

and all stand and sing the Marseilles badly.

Even the one scribbling on a paper

joins in shouting out the chorus


“To arms, citizens!
Form up your battalions
Let us march, Let us march
That their impure blood
Should water our fields.”


Now the water trickles from the stone mouths of lions

on the crown of the hill

water runs down toward the Seine

through the gutters along each street

past the fromagerie, the patisserie,

the charcuterie, the bottles of wine stacked in pyramids,

and in one window of the cafe,

a woman bends over a notebook

her hair in disarray as she writes of Place Maubert

as if the world could not see her steady hand

planning the next revolution.


FEWalls 2005

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Souvenir de Paris

Paris 2010 633In this café off Rue Severin,

we will meet someday again

in this smoke-filled room of laughter,

and toast,


as the cameras flash their language of truth and lies

and the secrets we keep from each other

and from ourselves.


In this café

where the woman in the portrait

moves away from us toward Algeria

in her black dress,

her lips parted slightly, mysteriously.


We gather in this café,

in from the lights of the Seine

and eat lamb and coucous with our wine,

forgetting the flea markets and mannequins,

the flower and bird markets,

the Moulin Rouge, the Oberkampt,

Le Marais, Montmartre, Montparnasse,

forgetting everything we have metered and measured,

counting out the seconds of our lives,

brief or eternal.


We have gathered in

from the Renaissance facades and interiors,

from the haunts of Hemingway, Pascal, Picasso, Monet,

the cobbled streets of the great and the humble.


We have gathered in

from the priests blessing the wafers,

the protesters with their banners and masks,

the police in uniform or not,

and the parade of white-headed veterans

marching erectly to L’Arc de Triomphe.


Here in war-wounded Paris,

the plaques, the red, white, blue carnations

next to a man’s name and a date,

mark a place of sudden death,


and beyond, at Pere Lechaise

where its canopy of chestnut trees in pink bloom

covers the chapels of bone and ash,

and the stones of remembrance

enrich the monuments to the deported.


We remember that “those who love

will be reunited,”

perhaps, here, in Paris

where lovers embrace without fear

and kiss the brow of their lover

as the Metro races through the underground caverns


toward the gardens of light and Luxembourg

where a girl leans out from her wooden horse on the carousel

to catch a ring with her stick,

and little boys push sailing boats

in the winds of the sea on the pond,

and every statue comes to life

in the blur of the sun, quickly, as the blink of a camera’s eye.


We have gathered here in this café

with the portrait of the Algerian woman,

who will never glimpse the Notre Dame, the Louvre

or the Seine.

Perhaps for her, we remember.

Perhaps, for ourselves.

“On oublie jamais,”

We do not forget.



May 18, 2001

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