Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

A 92-Degree Day

August 22, 2009 Comments off

“Look,” Mullins said — we were by that time crossing the very busy and wide intersection at Van Ness and Market Streets, a trolley clunking and wheezing  by us, cars speeding in all directions, like pinballs gone berserk — “I don’t know what it means. You understand me? I’m a writer, and if I don’t write, I don’t feel good. You know, I read somewhere Dylan said if he didn’t work he didn’t feel good.”

“Oh?” I said, in an uninflected tone befitting the sheer banality.

He went on. “I suspect it’s that way with a lot of writers. I mean, you can’t do much with it, can you? Maybe a job teaching in a two-bit college. A sinecure.”

He said the word contemptuously. We had reached the other side of the street in one piece, and I found I was dusting myself off, literally.  It was a brutally hot day for San Francisco. The illuminated, flashing thermometer on the side of the bank building read “92.” I mopped my brow, my dripping wet, uncharacteristically so for San Francisco, brow.

“God! There are too many damn writers in this town,” he said. “I bet you every fifth person we’ve passed today is some kind of writer. Or wants to be.” He turned to me. “Why is that?”

I had no answer. Instead I thought about my first sinecure.

It was 1967 and I was hired on the telephone, wham, bam, interview and job offer in under fifteen minutes, that’s how it was back then. My call came early in the morning, around 8:15 San Francisco time, but it was 10:15 out there in the Midwest. I had just completed my masters at San Francisco State, which at the time had one of the most respected English faculties in the country. And it was in San Francisco, damn it, the adopted home I had fallen in love with.

Well, I found myself in September of 1967 living in a new apartment on the middle floor of a three-story concrete apartment building in a godforsaken university town in the northern Midwest, a town whose main distinction was that barbed wire had been invented there. The mansion of the inventor had become a museum, dually honoring the man’s life and his greatest achievement.

It didn’t last very long, that first sinecure in the town with the barbed-wire museum. One year. Nine months, actually, and those nine months were the longest year of my life, and the winter the coldest.

After that, a short stint at a small college in Pennsylvania, in a not unpleasant town, and this one with a museum dedicated to Little League baseball. But I wasn’t cut out for two-bit sinecures, I guess, and I returned to San Francisco where I worked a succession of jobs over the years, some good, some bad, some awful. Eventually, though it took quite a number of years, I found my way back into teaching, and without leaving the Bay Area. In all that time I had never quit writing.

“I don’t know,” I told Mullins, finally, without inflection, as I mopped my brow again, a Sisyphean task, it seemed, especially in San Francisco.

by Don Skiles and Peter Cherches

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My Lady Copia

August 21, 2009 Comments off


Perhaps because I can get so tongue-tied, I am not naturally economical in writing.
Cut half of what you write, advises my father, who is something of a raconteur.
Drop your last paragraph to avoid appearing argumentative, counsels my lawyer,
himself a gladiator. True, E.B. White held a good school. The English language is
naturally redundant: “to be” constructions, excessive nominalizations, clichés—all
deservedly banished from the Republic of Letters. Adjectives and figures of speech: 
never use when an action word will do. And by god, throw away your thesaurus.

It is always surprising, though, when the Occam’s Razor falls on poetry: We cannot
consider poems of more than twenty lines.  We ask that you kindly sum things up and

get to the point. Of course the poem itself may have been the point: the vent, the spill,
the tendril, the brave search party sent out after other words. (Pardon my pleonasm.)
The safest course is to unloose the diction only when it’s certain to seem appropriate.
A eulogy? You can get away with that sort of thing. Trash-talking with friends?
Of course you must play that game. An affectionate letter? Even those I have been
encouraged to tone down. Don’t pontificate, don’t come on too strong, don’t jinx things
with your exuberance. So I end here. It is, as they say, a wrap.  Ad FinemVale.

by M.V. Montgomery

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blown by the wind

August 20, 2009 Comments off
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New Poem Breathing

August 19, 2009 3 comments

Curry a new poem
with a wire brush

toss vanity aside
when you dare to

hit it two or more swipes
with the same scrub brush

your mother kept the kitchen
clean with, drag with a fine tooth comb

the kind she sought out nits
with when school was overrun

the way ant hordes might come
yet, fire ants from Brazil’s interior

the Amazon bone-dry
old wells besieged

silence the final

by Tom Sheehan

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An Economy of Language

August 18, 2009 5 comments

They wouldn’t even pay him off in pennies,
said his poems wandered far too long:

too many synthesaurus additives,
too many old growth words chopped down.

Strapped him to an ankle monitor
that somehow read his thoughts,

buzzed all night when he tried to sleep
and garnished away his dreams.

Hollow-eyed and somber silent, now,
he hoards his words in a coffee can

buried out back beneath the pine, planted
in days when all the things had many names.

Sometimes he spreads his words out,
arranging them in patterns on the grass,

building shapes of presidents and snakes
before burying them in the earth again,

hidden from the hungry mouths of singers,
linguists and bright-eyed myna birds.

by James Brush

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An Economical Fairytale

August 17, 2009 Comments off

Princess Eileen once lived.[1] She sat in a room of neutral hues.[2] Unlike her counterparts, who twiddled their thumbs in giant towers, grew their hair out, or experienced great hardships, Princess Eileen went to school. She buried her nose in books and ambition.[3] She studied free trade, and the stock market. She also studied art, deciding all concepts were the same level of abstraction. It was all a bit of a slog, the testing, the memorization, but Princess Eileen didn’t have a choice. In truth, she too was a lady in waiting. A Prince[4] was supposed to be part of her story.

Prince dreamt of saving, but spent most of his time looking at clouds.[5]

“I hate my job,” said Prince one day.

Princess Eileen said, “Well, why not find a new one?”[6]

The prince gasped, “Have you seen the economy lately?”

The princess hadn’t.[7] “What’s it like? The Economy?”

“Like a dragon, only it can be prettier.”

“Do you like pretty things?”

“Only if they stay that way.”[8]

He was supposed to save her. In fact, he was supposed to have saved her three years prior, but, at the time, he’d been too busy with his profits. Then, he’d been rather swept up in his new-found love of squash. Six months ago, it was simply impossible to help ease Princess Eileen’s need for new colour coordination because he was trying to focus more on fixing his bad habits.[9]

She tilted her head to the side, “Are you ever going to save me?”

“Of course!” said Prince, standing up full force, getting a head rush, and quickly sitting back down.

Princess Eileen titled her head further to the side, getting up slowly and taking a walk of the castle.[10]

In the forest, Princess Eileen ran into a wise person.[11]

This person spoke eloquently on many subjects. “I, too, used to be royal.”[12]

“How did you end up here?”[13]

In listening, the princess learned a lesson.[14]

She returned to the castle and went rummaging through the garage.

Days turned to weeks, which turned to months. Princess Eileen went back into the castle, a dash of red along her forearm. While skipping through the hallway, she ran into Prince.

“I am going to save you,” he said bravely.

Princess Eileen tilted her head at him again.

“Eventually,” he mumbled, “have you been out there lately? Things are crashing. Numbers falling from the sky. Executives too.”

“I have been out there. The sky wasn’t falling,” she responded simply, “Oh, and I no longer need saving.”


“If it’s not the economy, it’ll be an evil witch.”

“Witches are difficult to deal with. They possess all sorts of powers. Dark powers. Is that blood on your arm?”

“No, it’s paint. I’ve been redecorating. My tower was quite drab. I’ve decided to become a designer.”

“You’re supposed to be the decoration”.

“No, I’m supposed to be saved, but you aren’t coming.”

“Well, I mean the economy.”

“Yes, the economy, the witches, the dragons. Regardless… I don’t need saving. I do however need more paint.”

So ends the story.[15]

by Kelsey Blair

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1. For the sake of space, time and context are irrelevant. Safe to say she lived, or is living; verb tense is of no matter. [BACK]

2. Setting. It should be inferred her life was dull, boring, and in need of help.  No one who paints a room “cream” is filled with passion. [BACK]

3. Character traits which demonstrate Princess Eileen’s desperate state: education is, as we all know, exceptionally dangerous for the rich. It is also dangerous for the poor, but far less accessible. [BACK]

4. Despite his generic title, the Prince is very important; hence, capitalization. Also, Prince and Princess Eileen are not related. It’s very difficult to root for incest. [BACK]

5. Conflict: Prince vs. Princess. Unlike Princess vs. Evil Stepmother, all creatures, including excessively small persons, horses with horns, and inanimate objects with the power of speech will be useless to advancing the plot. There is no room for comic relief here. Even very witty relief. [BACK]

6. She raised her eyes from the large book she was reading and tried to flip her hair. It was an action she didn’t practice often. Needless to say, it went badly, and Prince furrowed his brow in a confused way. As has been noted, Prince wasn’t very bright. [BACK]

7. Princesses are consistently badly acquainted with their enemies. Some sort of genetic flaw? [BACK]

8. This answer is unfitting. Clearly, the Prince had things to learn. There isn’t time for that here, but the record notes: maturation needed. [BACK]

9. A pattern has formed. Lengthy, but necessary, like a long journey. [BACK]

10. Clearly, no room for descriptors. However, safe to say, the grounds were large and lush. The forest, located near the back gate was rarely attended to. Past the gate, which was made of a kind of steel so strong it was luminous, were trees. “Trees” is a bad descriptor, suggesting something mundane, found on street corners and window sills. These plants manage to create space while also seeming to hug anyone who enters them.  It is a place children dream of getting lost in, full of bright coloured insects and crickets that seem to sing instead of chirp. Not that any of this is relevant. [BACK]

11. For the sake of equality, the person will not be gendered. For the sake of discrimination, the person will not be a peasant or old. Class and age are not factors here. [BACK]

12. Princess Eileen had met one other being who claimed to be royal. She’d never since like the taste of frog legs. [BACK]

13. The story, was, of course, long, winding, and only moderately exciting to listeners. [BACK]

14. This is ever so important. You are supposed to learn this lesson too. Did you? [BACK]

15. Normally, there would be a review of the moral, but space is not permitting. For reassurance sake, Princess Eileen did live, even relatively happily. She made a business for herself, painting castles, saving others from unsatisfactory colours. She waited for no one. [BACK]

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August 16, 2009 Comments off
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We Never Talk Anymore

August 15, 2009 Comments off

Let’s prepare a list of topics, we make
our living listening and talking—

turn the dinner table into Chautauqua.
We don’t do jokes, dreams always

fall flat in retelling, we think we know
all about us. I’m not allowed

to criticize your kids and I’m sure
you’ve nothing to say about mine. Truth,

beauty, how about those Yankees,
land on politics and we’re preaching

to the choir, work went well, a good day,
nice piece of fish, please pass me

some olives. Wine? There is much to be said
for long-coupled companionate silence.

by Meredith Trede

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The Bookmark

August 14, 2009 Comments off

The small square letter addressed to Aunt Bev and Uncle Steve — Don uses it as a bookmark. The house is 28 years old and looks new inside. Don, Lori and their girls live there now.


When Steve decided to rip up the carpet, upstairs and down, he didn’t ask Bev. He just did it. An engineer by trade, Steve was precise and it took him nine months of weekends to lay 2,100 square feet of hard maple flooring. Bev spent a lot of time outdoors, weary of the mess.

When Don and Lori and the girls came over with their real estate agent to meet the Stovers, Steve worshiped his gorgeous hardwood floors and bragged endlessly on the wood-slat shades in the study. Here, let me show you, he said to Don. You just pull ‘em down by the bottom and it stays. They don’t make ‘em anymore. You can’t buy these anymore. The girls raced through the house.

The central vacuum was less than five years old, same as the hardwood floors. Steve loved the central vacuum. He showed Lori how to insert the hose in the wall and a quiet but massive suction followed. Bev slipped in and out of the house. The girls argued over the bedroom with the pink carpet.

Steve made sure that Don noticed the new roof, just about five years old he said. They were composite shingles, applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The roofers take shortcuts, he said. The composite shingles, he pointed to the roof, see how they lay, how they kind of look like they’re slightly lifted, that’s texture he said, shows they were nailed down right. Bev carried picture frames to a Volvo station wagon.

You guys have any kids? asked Don. Steve laughed and said, Nope.

Sara, the oldest, convinced Patty to take the room with the blue carpet. It had a better view and a bigger closet. Bev frowned. She’d thought that herself for years.

The sun was bright that day, but a cold wind made standing outside looking at the roof less fun than it should have been. And then Steve launched into a rapture about the vinyl siding. Don didn’t care for vinyl siding and wondered what was hiding underneath. But it looked good — probably the tightest, nicest looking siding job he had ever seen. Steve assured them the siding was top grade, overkill he said, and like the relatively new garage doors, hurricane proof.

Bev put a black clock radio in the backseat of the Volvo and walked up behind Steve. He ignored her, talking up the brass doorknobs in the house, how they were solid brass, how he hated to leave them because they were so nice.

Back inside to see the custom lights in the living room, Sara pushed Patty across the bare floor on a wooden barstool. Steve and Bev went blank.

We’re sorry, said Lori.

by Russell Helms

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Doing My Part

August 13, 2009 Comments off

Today it’s a long way to the river
dragging two large boxes
I don’t remember buying
but addressed to me, all right.
I drop them over the railing knowing
a splash will billow sure as night
closes the mall, sure as lambs
follow tails through the gate
the way hope limped into this century
from the last, the one I learned by,
now flown like a gull’s cry over two boxes
moving down river who knows where. Maybe
halfway across the world they’ll find castaways
grateful for toasters, cell phones,
tall skim lattes, a case of the blues;
something they can really use.

Kate Irving

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