On the Phone by Michael Milburn

That whooshing, watery,
radio-being-tuned sound
tells me he’s outdoors
on his way somewhere
and I’d better talk fast.
I can’t remember
the last time I phoned him
without dreading that countdown
to when he says, “I’m going
into the subway, Dad, got to go.”
Lately, he even calls me from the street—
a convenient way to keep
his keeping in touch short. He’s right—
I’d talk to him for an hour,
marching through my pent-up questions.
It tires me, wanting him so much,
the resistance with which he responds.
I bet there’s a girl out there
he’d duck into a lobby
to keep speaking to
as long as she desired. Instead,
he tells me that I’m breaking up,
and there’s a sound
as if he’s dropped the phone
into a rushing river, which then
pulls him in too, his life.

“On the Phone” by Michael Milburn, from Drive By Heart. © Word Press, 2009.

Eight cardinal virtues from G. W. Carver

In 1922, George Washington Carver penned a thank you note to one of his students who had given him a fountain pen as a Christmas present. In the note, Carver offered hope “that each of you will rise to the full height of your possibilities” and suggested these eight cardinal virtues to help them do just that.

I think they certainly bear repeating.

Mr. L. Robinson

I wish to express to each member of the Senior class my deep appreciation for the fountain pen you so thoughtfully gave me.

This gift is characterized by simplicity and thoughtfulness, which I hope each of you will make the slogan of your lives.

I hope that each of you will rise to the full height of your possibilities, which means the possession of these eight cardinal virtues which constitutes a lady or a gentleman.

1st. Be clean both inside and outside.

2nd. Who neither looks up to the rich or down on the poor.

3rd. Who loses, if needs be, without squealing.

4th. Who wins without bragging.

5th. Who is always considerate of women, children and old people.

6th. Who is too brave to lie.

7th. Who is too generous to cheat.

8th. Who takes his share of the world and lets other people have theirs.

May God help you to carry out these eight cardinal virtues and peace and prosperity be yours through life.

Lovingly yours,

G. W. Carver

"I'm Robert Bianco, and I have a man-crush on Barack Obama."

Let’s be perfectly clear: you can vote for whomever you feel is the best candidate. In fact, please do. The more of us that are informed and involved in the process, the better off we’ll all be. (I think.)

(I hope.)

This morning I noticed a USA Today headline about Obama’s 30-minute infomercial that called it a “triumph.” I thought to myself, “when was the last time an advertisement for anything was called a triumph?” Interest piqued, I read the article.

Written by Robert Bianco, it should have contained the disclaimer that is the title of this post. Again, Bianco can vote for anyone he chooses, but we should at least know where he stands before he tosses out platitudes like “low-key triumph… perfectly tuned for the cool side of the medium” or “some parts, perhaps, were hokey [but] they are well-used here.”

Perhaps the biggest clue was his use of the following: “The show was designed to prove that Obama understands us.” “Prove,” not show or maybe demonstrate. “Us,” not working Americans or retirees or undecided voters or whatever.

“Me,” Bianco seems to be saying, “Obama understands me, and for that I am gushing.”

The fact is that words matter, and the words we choose to communicate affect the overall message. It’s my opinion that Bianco, a professional columnist, could have either chosen his better or offered some sort of disclosure about the context of his point of view. But I could be overreacting. You can read it yourself and let me know if you think I’m wrong.

"Whose woods these are I think I know…"

It was on this day in 1923 that Frost’s poem titled “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” was published. Frost thought it his best work and his best “bid for remembrance” and noted that the first two lines “contain everything I ever knew about how to write.”

“Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village, though;”

Like many instances of brilliance, this one came in a flash. After working through the night at his kitchen table on a poem called “New Hampshire,” he looked up to notice that night had passed. He walked outside on a warm June morning and, while watching the sun rise, had the idea for “Stopping by Woods.” He went back inside, sat down, and wrote the entire poem barely lifting the pen from the paper. He later said that it was “as if I’d had a hallucination.”

He was probably right. It’s arguably the most well-known poem he ever wrote and certainly a great “bid for remembrance.” Also happens to be one of my favorites.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.