Thursday, November 15, 2018

In the Time of Our Scanning

Don't you know that stuff causes cavities? 

That's me talking to a dentist in the medical building where my pharmacy was located. Every afternoon after lunch he would come in for a candy bar. No, no, he said, it doesn't. Haven't I told you what causes cavities? It's my pencil mark on the X-ray.

If I wasn't a cynic before, this did me in. I've never altogether trusted imaging since then. Yet everybody's doing it. Florida is scanning. Georgia is scanning. Peggy got scanned four times since October. And I've been scanned twice this week.  My knee is either osteoporotic or the technician left his pencil smudge on my X-ray. Yesterday another doctor took the scenic route up and down my alimentary canal...snipping polyps along the way. No other trouble in River City.

Scanning deserves to be scanned. The word originated with the Latins who stole it from the Greeks who lifted it from Sanskrit. Poetry is its mother as in scansion having to do with where the stresses are.... iambs and dactyls etc...Originally it referred to the mount or rise and fall in the metric foot of a poem, a beat or rhythm as in toe-tapping. A poem scans when it rocks, when the body sways to the small leaps of the lines. In its travels the word has come to a halt in medical technology. Now it seems to mean, a close, careful gathering of data or image by a sensing device. 

In the end we have to trust our dentists and our voting machines, Trump to the contrary notwithstanding. Maybe he only trusts his dentists if they tell him he has no cavities, a perfect occlusion and a set of molars designed to make America grate again. Such a mouth should be donated, at the appropriate time, to U.C.L.A. for further research.

In the meantime. Our voting apparatus would be well-served if monitored by some Banana Republic where Democracy has taken hold after studying models of old American Civics books. The Republican Party seems to have forgotten all rules of decency and inclusion. First they close down polling places, then remove citizens from registration rolls, provide broken-down machines, run out of ballots, and finally poison the entire process by shouting "rigged" with no evidence to support the claim.  

After several Scans-Pet and Cat... Peggy awaits word from her from her doctor with results from her Tuesday ultrasound. May there be no smudges, no hot-spots or shadows. Or hanging chads.

There is some poetic justice about scanning. The way the machines spit out the ballots, knocking one Republican after another from a long-held throne in the House of Reprehensibles.

Listen, my children, to his midnight Tweets / the rants of a man in his web of deceit. 

In this ongoing opera Donald's arias do not scan well. His words are clunky, juvenile and hyperbolic. He is off-key and doesn't hear America singing. It ain't Whitman's yawp. It’s his own malice and loathing. There is a counter voice being heard. Millennials are stirring. The suburbs are waking. 


Thursday, November 8, 2018

One Thing Leads To Another


And that can send us out of this world.

When Peggy’s bronchitis was at a low point about ten days ago we thought it best to take her temperature. I had to search for the thermometer which we hadn’t used for at least twenty years. It was that old-fashioned type. After a few minutes of twisting and turning the mercury was still elusive and seemed to be stuck around 98 degrees before and after a few minutes under her tongue. I didn’t trust it and went out and bought a new digital one bringing me into this century.

I started thinking about that strange element, mercury, which I probably played with as a kid rolling the glob around, not knowing better. Quicksilver was the common name. It was quick and it was silver. Was it liquid or solid or both?

Before antibiotics or sulfa drugs mercury was used to treat all sorts of infections from syphilis to malaria. It was a favorite of alchemists who turned quicksilver into quick death. A corpse or two never stopped them.  Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a great believer. His mercury panacea, Dr. Rush’s Bilious Pills, was so toxic it poisoned and partially destroyed whatever organ it touched. He gained fame by fighting off a Yellow Fever epidemic. Bodies reacted by purging it along with our partially poisoned entrails.  Lewis and Clark packed six hundred Rush’s laxative pills with their gear while exploring the western territory. Sam Kean in his book, The Disappearing Spoon, tells how traces of the stuff can still be found which tell us where William and Meriwether built their campfires. Lewis died shortly after their return from an apparent suicide possibly with effects of that slippery substance. Mercury took its toll.

At one time hat manufacturers used a mercurous compound in the separation of fur from pelts. Hence the Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland. The stories of mercury take us to a land of wonder. As the vet said to the cat-owner, I’m afraid it’s terminal. She has a case of curiosity. Kids and cats can die from it. Fortunately my curiosity stopped short of getting enough of that wonderful stuff spilling out of broken thermometers.

The Romans renamed Hermes, Mercury just as Zeus became Jupiter. Mercury gave us the words merchant, merchandise and mercantile. Hermes/Mercury, with his winged feet, was the messenger whose swift delivery corresponded with its rapid orbit closest to the sun (Apollo). Its elliptical itinerary is speedy but its spin is slow and the ancients mistook it for a sudden reversal of its west to east orbit. Actually it is just zipping around the sun at a faster speed than Earth giving the illusion of going backwards. Hence the notion, dear to astrologers, that Mercury is in retrograde 3-4 times a year. In Greco-Roman society Mercury, the demigod, reigned over communication, commerce and travel. He even escorted the dead to Hades and some of us living to an optical illusion.

It explains everything……if you are a believer. The missed flight, the bad phone connection, the overdue library book. Everything except a random universe and why quicksilver results in quick slivers when ingested. That glob of spilled mercury became a small planet, inhospitable to us earthlings and a trouble-maker as a nostrum for centuries. If anything is in retrograde it is America since Donald took office.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Peggy's New Poetry Chapbooks


I’m the guy who sharpens her number two pencil. Every morning, without fail Peggy Aylsworth, now in her 96th year, writes a poem in her composition notebook. And that’s not the only reason I married her.

We don’t travel anymore. Ambulation has its challenges but her spirit is undiminished. The poems are extensions of her perceptions and that vast country within called the imagination.


Her subjects range from trees, real and imagined, blossomed plants and feathered creatures at our breakfast window to an orange cap on the head of a dog-walker to an article about tragedy in South Sudan. All of these might find their way into one poem. She doesn’t linger to milk a metaphor. She darts, like a hummingbird, having distilled just enough from a single image to create a thread.


Peggy's poetry is an amazing web of connectivity. A collage of disparate notations. A quiet yet rhapsodic orchestration of what her senses register and her mind intuits. She is able to transform the largely un-noticed passing parade into her own language we call, Aylsworthian.


The result is much more than a montage of imagery. Through the alchemy of her poetics and a finely tuned sensibility Peggy finds veins of emotional universality in what seem unremarkable.


Wisdom is one of those words devoutly to be avoided yet the pile of years does confer at least an amplitude of vision which she manages to bring to the page. There is a celebration of the elemental. Her poems seem to extract an affirmation even from the dread and daily defamations we have come to accept as admissible in public discourse. Peggy’s poetry suggests not only the yes from yesterday but that a substance within us shall prevail. 

The above was written by me a couple of years ago. She's now two years younger. (Every birthday, I subtract a year)

Two chapbooks of her poetry have been in the works for a while and are soon to be released. One, Better In The Dark, takes as her subject about thirty films seen over the past decades. Most of them are challenging to the sensibility of an American audience. She sees through the opacity and reconfigures the narrative in her uniquely slanted way. The result is not a plot summary but the essence of the movie into another art form. Actually this book is already available from Amazon. 

The second, Two Is A Sacred Number, is a collection of love poetry written to, of all people, me. What can I say? Of course, they are wonderful and surely more meaningful to me but I'm happy to share. In a sense all Peggy's poems are love letters to the world. Most of these are part of our exchange of poems on special occasions. Mine tend to be too referential to particular names and places. Almost thirty-five years ago we were washed ashore to set sail at first light, not as Ulysses or Ahab but ancient mariners rowing to Eden, oar to oar. This book is in the final stages and will be listed on Amazon in the next couple of weeks.