Friday, February 20, 2009


(Apparently I wrote this back in 2005.)

Today is Maj Ragain’s 65th birthday celebration.

65. The age of traditional retirement. The age at which, in a culture obsessed with youth, in a culture of Jon Benet Ramseys, of prepubescent high-gloss crotch-shot magazine-fashion allure, the age at which one becomes, old. Officially, old.

My wife Karen tells me he is a remarkably young-looking 65. I make a mental note not to mention this, or the next thing I know he’ll be painting her toe-nails, and once a man has painted a woman’s toe nails, his lips gently blown the wet tight-bound reflective lacquer-sheen to dry, there is no telling the levels of sensual podiatric intimacy that may ensue.

What does it mean to be old in a country where people routinely poison their faces into wrinkleless masks, where the natural history of expression, the skin-seams of laughter, smiles, tears and worry are so avidly erased by injections of botulin toxin, botox, one of the most poisonous substances on the planet, as if one’s life could be improved by being unlived? What does it mean to be old when the storm surge of electromagnetic multi-national corporate propaganda only targets demographics with pimples or in pampers, because their elders are living inside particle-board starter mansions for which have been mortgaged their next 30-years of discretionary spending? When that storm surge scrims the horizon of manufactured desire like the surf of a broken giant bonsai-pipeline wave, the awesome psychic spumante of televised national consumer demand, whose froth we live inside?

These are not the days of Anthony the anchorite, the Father of All Monks, the Coptic Christian who was born in 250 A.D., and who lived to the age of 105. That was an era of self denial, a time when men engaged in a kind of “austerity Olympics”, when stylites lived for years on tall fingers of desert rock, when men such as Anthony could not hear of a feat of deprivation without aspiring to surpass it, when greed had been turned inside out, and as if anticipating Thoreau by over a thousand years, men sought wealth in proportion to the things they could live without.

It is a myth of our own making that old age is a recent phenomenon. It was high rates of childhood mortality that reduced the life expectancy of ancient times, and those who lived simply and who were not taken by epidemics, or killed by the fraudulent cures perpetrated by doctors, often lived beyond their allotted three-score years and ten. It is men like Anthony in his 105 years who remind us just how little life progress has brought us, how simplicity and privation suffice as tonics not improved much by peroxide, insulin, Prozac, Viagra and all the poison a face can survive.

And so, however officially old you may be my friend, I know in your heart you are still a toe blower, and that no one has or ever will genetically engineer your spirit. I know your face is untempted by the latest poisons.

I know that you see the world for what it is and not for its masks; the blood-smeared killing coat and the Christmas unemployment line, the ruby-throat blown across an ocean, the vast luminous light that fills eternity, and bathes our lives in the shadow of God.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

James Stewart Mulrooney to his Daughter Brigid

My friend Katie Daley wrote a poem about a 15-year-old in Ireland named Brigid Mulrooney, which was so wonderful she's never been able to escape from it entirely: in an odd way a blessing and a curse, I suppose.

In it, Brigid refers to her parents as tubby, or, if you will, "tooby."

I wrote this piece as a response from the perspective of Brigid's father.

If you want to know more about Katie, check out her web site.

You can find there an audio version of her poem about Brigid, which will help a great deal in deciphering the following.

James Stewart Mulrooney to his Daughter Brigid



“...don’t want ta be tooby like me ma

or me da...”

I’ll give the jung missus tubby?

“Paht yer hond on em anywhere”

Paht yer hond anywhere on me

and the next thing outta yer mouth’ll be a

stump speech, I guarantee thot.

Jung missus invitin’ the whole neighborhood to be

paht-in their honds on me.

Blamin’ me “gray whiskers and gray ways”

on me gray food. I got news for ya me darlin’.

There’s nuthin’ fer gray whiskers like a moonth fool a

past-midnights of cholicky screamin’ fer hours, and hours,

and hours on end: thar’s a revolutionary for ye,

snot nosed wailing and screamin and shriekin

from the moment she hit her crib.

And me gray work. Who’s she think poots the

mango orange and champagne booble spangles on her

dinner table? Think it cooms from the Gawd’s honest graces

of Mrs. Thatcher, and Mr. Major, or that free-trade poppinjay

Mr. Blair? There’s nuthin’ in Ireland for an honest Catholic

save work that’s grayer than Cleveland November.

Who exactly is it Brigid, who is it pays for those records by the

Beatles and Stevie “shooby-doooby-do-dah-“ Wonder?

What do you reckon its like for a collier working the graveyard

shift, with a daughter who’ll throw back her head

and unfurl her tongue for every Tom, Dick, and Harry

she mistakes for the second revolutionary coming

of Jaysis? For Charles Stewart Parnell’s sake,

the gair-rel would make luv to a Black and Tan.

No, Bridgy dear, it’s nawt Jaysis, but the where-ld ‘at has

“a tittilatin bit a nuthin draped across its altogether.”

It’s called childhood.

It’s called family.

For all we know, you could be at some trook stop datin’

Osama bin Laden, you could be George W. Bush’s private

circus tutor, and when the hurt cooms

we’d still be here waitin for ye

to pick ye oop,

and hug ye in the softest, toobiest, lovingest arms

this side of Paradise.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Like a gust of wind,

neither here nor there because

both here and there,


not here and not there,

both then and now


later. The same and different.

Like a gust of wind.

Over the phone,

through my left

ear you,

a mile away,

and the train whistle.

Through my right,

the same whistle

ten seconds delayed.

The moans of that horn

on the left

spell my future

on the right.

One sound,

and several.

One time,

and many.

One place,

and none.

I sent you that train:

for me the train that passed,

for you,

passing; two different trains

and one, passing,

and past.

Where are we as we

speak? You

with me here?

I with you



And not together.

And what is the time, yours

or mine, passing,




as before