Quirks and Quarks

No Ordinary Bird

As I sip coffee on the deck this frosty Christmas morning, chickadees and nuthatches call at once from every direction. A chickadee lands within my reach, calls chicka-dee-dee-dee, cocks its head when a partner in a spruce returns the call. Calling again, it hops onto the nesting box my daughter and I built and mounted just days ago. It perches in the opening, hops to the deck rail and calls again. Always the calling.

This tiny mouse of a bird survives when many birds don’t make it through winter. Shelter in a tree cavity is not enough. Each morning the birds leave their shelter and spread out to forage, but they must find each other before the sun sets on the short winter days. They call out regularly to maintain contact as they move about the trees. Visual contact is spotty in dense coniferous forests, their usual winter range. By calling the birds can keep within earshot of each other and still forage. And by making occasional visual contact throughout the afternoon, they can quickly assemble into a protective downy huddle for the night.

The chickadees I hear next spring survived the winter’s polar vortex without high tech parka, boots, or gloves. Other species escaped the cold by taking wing across the Gulf of Mexico to Central and South America. As I watch this wee feathered creature peer into my daughter’s nest box, I raise my mug in salute. Nothing ordinary has ever evolved on this little planet.

Quirks and Quarks

Kitchen Table Études

The simple maple table, where I first saw my father cry, my mother’s hand on his, he searched her eyes, asking why his brother should be first to die; I did not hear her whispered reply;

where toast and eggs was the answer to what’s for breakfast, before arms-legs-feet pedaled into my first delightful frightful cicada day, a throbbing buzz of red-eyed zombies – my mother said most would die;

where in spring sprouted Easter baskets, lilacs and daffodils, baby bottles, three city papers, Superman comic books, and my father’s copy of The Rubaiyat, artifacts of our family’s hearts and minds;

that stood in reach of the white enamel double sink where partners washed and dried side by side – I knew cigarettes and sweat was father, mud and blood my brother, and grandmother, clean cotton and roses;

that anchored the kitchen and our home so small I could reach through the window, touch our neighbor’s red brick bungalow, and in fifteen bounding steps cross our hardpan yard from lush pink peonies to harsh chain-link fence;

but when I taxied my black X-15 fighter plane for take-off from its kitchen table runway, the nose of my jet pushed the boundary of my bungalow universe faster than sound into starlight across the galaxy, my course, destination, adventure breathlessly recounted to my baby sister following each soft safe touchdown between the breakfast dishes.

Quirks and Quarks

The purple coneflower sings “Of what is past, or passing, or to come.”

WB Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium

Quirks and Quarks

The Day I Spotted God Shoplifting

The Day I Spotted God Shoplifting

Many questions arose the day I spotted God shoplifting in the grocery.

God, God of everything, steals canned chicken? What could She possibly need, Producer of produce, Potter, Baker, Maker of meat and me? Stuffing another can in Her purse, out popped tomato soup, and I thought She’s sloppy in Her old age. I wondered if She had ever been detained – the sign reads “Shoplifters Get a Free Ride In a Police Car.’’

A unique opportunity, I followed Her and pretended to examine limp yellow celery, though She had to know my intention.

I wondered what She thought of this produce department? She’s probably seen better, like the good stuff that First Week. That was some fruit, I tell you.

I asked Her some of the big ones.

Are you God? THE God, God of everything?

Of course.

Would You recommend another market for fresh produce?

Anywhere is better than this dump.

Why are You shopping here?

I’m not shopping. Are you blind?

So, this Neil Diamond guy: What do you make of him?

Not my freaking problem. Get away from me or I’ll smite thee.

Annoying God of everything not on my list of errands, I apologized.

Have a good morning.

I shall.

Of course.

I waited in my car. I had to see the car God of everything drives, even follow Her home. A brownstone on the tony north side? A flat in the near west side?

I considered now I have something on God of everything, though She has plenty on me, because She is God of everything.

She drives a yellow ‘72 VW Beetle. It’s probably hot.

Quirks and Quarks

The Batspit Chronicle: Jan 15, 2021

I blurted profanity that rhymes with duck poo at a person I see on my regular walks.

The guy who has been working overtime to save my soul ever since I told him my church congregation, who knows about my condition, who tells me he has stepped up his prayers for me, who asked if I am even a teeny bit better, to which I replied Nope. My condition is progressive and my future course is unpredictable.

The guy who then pointed at the SKY and told me only God knows my future and a miracle will happen.

The guy whose face betrayed confusion with my two precisely chosen words (I’m a poet!) or that his evidently crappy prayers haven’t been working.

I am certain he is not confused by the incoherent world he has conjured, in which he knows a miracle will happen, though only God knows my future.

A world in which God gave us brains that we are shamed into not using, a world in which an omniscient, omnipotent, and pretty good God permits our brains to be smashed to smithereens.

So, I think I blurted Fuck You. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

Quirks and Quarks

The Batspit Chronicle 09 Jan 2021

Today, I realized 10 months of mask-wearing in public has messed up my resting face. This got me into a couple situations (that I can remember).

The first, in response to a question I evidently misunderstood, I snarled and blurted profanity, which wasn’t all bad because people let me cross the street ahead of them. Such nice people. Profanity rhymed with duck poo.

The second, I smiled when I greeted a person as we entered the gym, which she interpreted as “Please, you must ask me out for a date.” Which she did, after following me around my circuit. In response to her query, I snarled and she went away, so that worked out because she was hogging the hip adductor/abductor anyway.

I might be having a bad day but I can’t be sure until I review my copious notes. Per my notes I have so far, the day seems about today-ish.

Quirks and Quarks

The Batspit Chronicle 12 Jan 2021

Local man reportedly blurted profanity at yet another person he sees along his regular walk. First responders treated bystanders for shock and awe but no serious injuries were sustained.

When asked what provoked his outburst, the man shrugged “No clue, but wasn’t it awesome?”

Now uncorked, he continued, “cussing is more fun today than it was during my Catholic high school days.”

“It’s not for everyone” he admitted.

Although nobody asked or cares, he advised aspiring cussers, “with study, practice, and not a little cortical disinhibition, you too can weave glorious threads of filth into the dull tapestries of daily conversations.”

For tips, training programs, and self-defense tactics, check out his podcast “What The Hell Are YOU Looking At?!”

Quirks and Quarks

The Batspit Chronicle

10 Jan 2021

Local authorities responded to complaints of a middle aged man dancing salsa to the 1970s hit Sweet Emotion.

Asked why on Earth he would commit this atrocity in the kitchen, he shrugged, “This is the way?”

He received a verbal warning and was released to the basement.

He was last seen wearing headphones, and he appeared to be dancing foxtrot with a broom.

Poetry Quirks and Quarks

Concluding Remarks

to sum up,
on the whole
the results suggest
we are
in the final analysis,
in a word,
and in the end,
a phenomenon
that warrants further study

Quirks and Quarks


Together we trace overlapping plates of thick gray bark, the old oak’s memory of winters past. She marvels at how she cannot pry even one thickened scale. How can she understand a tree hardened by more winters than she knows? This old oak fears no cold.

Overhead, summer’s clinging reminders bob on the October breeze. Below, others tumble among hard-earned hardened yellow nuts. A happy rustle-crunch-crush as schoolchildren tramp home this candy apple afternoon.

Delighted by the bounty, she stop-stoops, gathers fists of golden nuts, one by one peels back their jolly caps, aligns uncapped nuts across from their caps, two files of opposing teams awaiting kickoff.

Beaming at her ordered harvest, now she worries that squirrels won’t know these bald nuts, and unburied they’ll not sprout next spring. She carefully replaces a cap on each nut, rearranges her harvest as a golden diamond, hopes the shining display will draw their attention.

She dance steps to our porch, takes my hand. We watch a jaybird, mouth gaping impossibly as he snatches one golden prize. With precise toss of his head, he positions the nut just so, then caches his treasure beneath dry leaves. Today, I won’t tell her how this same bird pillages robin nests each May.

The old oak draws courage from its past and wears it like armor. I summon courage from my child’s dance among the acorns.