Tag Archives: Biographical

Elizabeth’s Punk Piece Party

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Elizabeth Herron

PR4–61

I’d Been Invited by the Queen

“I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”
–Leonard Cohen (Bird on a Wire)

Some guys like me
We talk big about no fear
Of death I tend to say
If my time were drawing near

(My theory goes)
I would wax wise and declare
It was like a dinner party:
I’d been invited by the queen

And then inevitably I’d had to go home
And yet there’s complaint anent which
A case could be made for it’s just ungrateful greed
Considering all the wonders I’ve seen

All the free dinners and theater tickets
To ask for more
Although these things are far from unarbitrary
(It’s a subjective soul thing)

And maybe it’s more like the Leonard Cohen thing
Above and even
(Lots of times)
There’s Oliver Twists to this

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

In my youth my favorite TV show was Science Fiction Theater.

Every episode started out with the host saying, “Let me show you something interesting.”

And he would walk over to a sort of display which featured a scientific principle. Like how a phonograph works or radio signals or such. And then he would say something about how that tied in to the extrapolation which could be derived, allowing future scientists to do some amazing thing, but along the same lines.

I often try to do that with my poems, when I start off with a quote (to show you something interesting.)

Like the Leonard Cohen quote atop the above poem. And then I extrapolate from there. How amazing that is I do not claim except to say I tried, and to quote Emerson: “Hitch your wagon to a star.”

What got me started on this post, is a couple of quotes from a book I just finished reading. They are from Larry McMurtry’s Magnum opus, Lonesome Dove, which got him the Pulitzer Prize and whose screenplays of it (any other of his works) got him Emmys. And muchos Oscars.*

Apparently (by my standards) he is a metaphysically oriented kind of guy. Witness these (interesting) quotes from Lonesome Dove:

“ ‘When was you the happiest, Call?’ Augustus asked.
‘Happiest about what?’ Call asked.
‘Just about being a live human being, free on the earth,’ Augustus said.”

And

“He had known several men who blew their heads off, and he had pondered it much. It seemed to him it was probably because they could not take enough happiness just from the sky and the moon to carry them over the low feelings that came to all men.”

I hadn’t heard about him until many years ago when I got fortunate to have a writing teacher (Elizabeth Herron).**

Elizabeth (the professor at Sonoma State University) liked to tell us who her favorite writers were and high on her list was Larry McMurtry. This was before Lonesome Dove was written. I remember she especially recommended Somebody’s Darling, and All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.

I had a crush on her. And even though she was married, a guy could dream, couldn’t he? But the upside of that was I was motivated to impress her and so I tried my damnedest. And I wrote a poetry collection for my final project. (She said ONE good poem would have sufficed but I wanted to show off, and even dedicated it to her; I titled it, Elizabeth’s Punk Piece Party and Other Poems.)

And guess what? Two of those sixtyish poems have been published (and one republished). Which gives me an excuse to put them in this blog post (which after all is also–apart from my concept of Sufism and mysticism in general–about poetry and poetry writing. And of course often some biographical stuff)

And so here they are:

(These journals below are now defunct, except for Tipton Poetry Journal)

Published in Word Catalyst and then republished in Tipton Poetry Review:

I Was a Prince

I was a prince who found you in a pond
Secure beneath a lily pad to hide
Your creamy body from the sun and me but
You squirmed out of my grasp and dived so deep
I dared not follow so I placed a net
Which looked quite like a lily pad and I
Disguised myself and sat on top a frog
As any fool could see–when you came up
I quickly kissed your lips and magic things
Occurred like in the fairy tales to wit
I did become a frog and it turned out
You really fancied frogs’ legs but I squirmed
Out of your grasp and dived down deeper than
You dared to follow so you placed a net
Which looked quite like a lily pad and when
I came back up again to sit on it
You kissed me back into a prince once more
And it turned out you fancied princes too
So you apologizing for the frogs’
Legs dinner episode said “Still it was
A lot of fun” And so we lived and dived
Quite happy ever after til one day
You were especially hungry and you knew
That when I was a frog you were supposed
To kiss me but you ate me and you said
“It was a boring game after a while”

Published in Umbrella Journal:

Einstein, God, and Picasso

Einstein thought things
Were pretty mysterious
And that made him “religious”

You can’t handle coal
Without getting your hands black
So I guess he couldn’t handle the universe
Without getting awestruck
It’s a pretty big place

If it isn’t distance it’s time so
Think about the Jurassic if you will
I mean actually seeing dinosaurs
Whose digestive juices and genes
Were just like ours

Only in a different pattern:
The style of the Artist
Is instantly recognizable

God I think is like Picasso
Who never had to pay for anything
He would just write a check
Which, of course, never got cashed
It was far more valuable as a collector’s item

And this has not been published but it was her favorite in the book of poems I wrote:

Trying to Write Something in the Air

Just come from visiting you
I wipe my eye
I wave good-bye

My hand lingers in the air
My finger pointing
Not to blame anyone

It is wet cool on one side
A secret moisture tells me
Which way the wind is blowing

My finger sways drunkenly
Trying to write something
In the air

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Larry McMurtry is an amazing guy who wrote lots of wonderful books and spin-off screenplays, many of which won Oscars and Emmys. For an interesting short bit about him and these, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_McMurtry

**For more about her see: http://www.elizabethherron.net/

Eric, Who Believes in Jesus

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My drawing of the Virgin Mary

*(see footnote below)

 

 

New Start—271

Jesus and My Bicycle Hiawatha

When I was eight
I went out for little league
The first day when it was my turn at bat

I couldn’t see the ball
Could and couldn’t
Because for something I couldn’t see

It sure was scary
Steerike one!
Steerike two!

Steerike three!
Yer out!
(You pathetic little wimp)

But when I played Lucy in right field
He went too far
He called me sleeping Jesus

I could no longer feel insulted
I was a Jesus fan
Jesus and my bicycle Hiawatha

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

When I left off last time (in this series of biographical sketches) I was with my three brothers back with our father and his second wife. He’d never had a lot of independent desire to live with us (e. g. never fought for custody when my mother was having us declared wards of the court, on our way to orphanages and stuff like that) But later he married a couple of Aunt Pollys who were determined to civilize us.

The first time was better than the second.

Barbara was the first, an impressive lady who had the presence of Lauren Bacall. She was a bigshot in the Campfire Girls organization and every summer we were with them (two or three? My father had a high burn rate wife-wise.) we went with her to their deserted High Sierra camp Waswaygon. Or so it sounded phonetically. It was an old Indian name. I forget what for.

We didn’t get to meet any girls though. But Barbara did post in the dining hall a group photo of us volunteer boys shoring up a log bridge across a creek.

The principal trouble with Barbara was she had baggage. She had a son named Robby about Robin’s age (two years younger than I). He was spoiled rotten.**

Back to Barbara. She still took naked baths with Robby. ‘Nuff said.

Except for the time when we were to be punished from one of Robby’s lies, and so she took Robby out to dinner leaving our dad instructions that we were not to have any.

So when she left, we said to Dad, “You know don’t you that Robby is lying?”

He allowed that to be so.

So next question what’s there to eat in the fridge? And he said no he was honor bound to enforce Barbara’s rule.

But he wouldn’t have any either.

But he probably snuck down in the wee hors d’oeuvres hours and raided the fridge. Just like he had done with my tootsie roll from a neighbor lady when I was four.

Perhaps you are sensing a lack of filial respect. Yes, my father was hard to like. In this particular time, living with Barbara, one episode stands out as a reason for my filial distance.

Jim at this time was fifteen and only two years short of being a starting lineman for a league champion football team.

And Jim never jumped through anyone’s hoops (I could tell you such school stories!) and so when he refused to obey my father, the latter, soon finding the idea of a belt laughable, was reduced to fists. (And my father when he was seventy could still do one handed push-ups.)

So it was like two people in a prolonged attempt to murder someone with fists.

Call me old fashioned, but I say if punishment has to go that far the game isn’t worth the candle.

I adored Jim.

Not sure that I ever forgave my father.

I think that fight was the death knell of our stay there. And indeed, the stars had gone dark in the skies of his wife’s eyes. And we got tired of these wives as well, especially the next one, the Nazi wife (not an exaggeration. I mean fire breathing John Bircher stuff). Stay tuned.

So after a year or so it was time to move on.

Fortunately by then Mom had hooked up with a Mormon lesbian lady***who was really into family and talked Mom into wanting us back. It IS interesting is it not, those times when just when you need it an earlier barred door opens, and leads on to a chain of adventures, the latest chapter of which leaves you smiling? Or at least, engrossed in interesting analysis. At least on a good day.

I call my life that, and in spades.

But can you imagine a good adventure story without danger and the struggle for hope?
 
 

It was a strange and not well remembered transition from friendly popular boy (I was class president in fifth grade) to chip on my shoulder atheist at age twelvish on. I would go up to people and ask if they believed in God and if they said yes, I would ridicule them mercilessly. Belittle their bird brains. Stuff like that. And I was pretty good at it. So good no one in high school ever crossed me, though I looked the nerd out of central casting.****

And just two years earlier I was begging my brothers to type me out stuff that Jesus had said in the bible and could they please use the red ink just like the bible did, for Jesus’ words?

You must remember these older brothers (three and four years older) were then my only friends. Especially if you define a friend as someone you might call to chat with after school, etc.

Nope.

No friends.

You know they say that military kids who are always moving from one fort to another, soon give up; they know any friends they make will soon rip their heart out again . . .

It used to drive me nuts every time I applied for a college (and I was fickle!) they would all want to know the dates and duration of every school I had ever attended. So I know. We moved just about every six months. At least between the orphanage and Grandma Dorothy (in high school)

So then atheist brothers start looking good. And it was a good mystical lesson, because it taught me a taste for challenge. I mean let’s see you try to keep the respect of older brothers who were eloquent and wielding rapiers of wit and they kept making fun of “Eric, who believes in Jesus.”

Funny I can’t remember the transition to atheism.

Or the transition from being nice.

Here’s my theory: betrayal and unkindness is just too ugly to look at. At least at first.

So it got it repressed.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I wanted to put up an illustration on a Jesus theme, and Sufi-self-servingly I chose a photo of my drawing of the Virgin Mary. I say Sufi-servinglyn because the Anatolian Sufis (albeit from Muslim extraction) were noted for their fierce regard for Jesus’ mother.

**My mother always denied any lesbian connections, though she lived for years (sleeping in the same bed) with a six foot tall 200 pound woman with a mustache. And I once had found a box of lesbian novels in the garage. But I had naively never thought of that, though years later I was talking to my debate partner best friend Ralph, saying as a champion debater (We won the Los Angeles tournament) he could make a case for anything. Like I bet he could make a case that my mother was a lesbian. How so, what was the evidence? I told him about the large lady friend and the box of novels and also the butch other friends that never came with men. Rough ladies with names like “Hoxie.” Ralph’s response? Sarcasm. “Oh you think I might make a case, do you?”

*****Just like Donald Lee in the orphanage, who would follow me and shove a sharpened shovel down just behind my bare heels (in the orphanage they didn’t always issue you shoes). Just like in the westerns when the baddies shoot at your feet yelling, “Dance!” Of course I was older and bigger and so I punched him out but predictably he then went crying to Mrs. Hunt the Wagnerian shotgun wielder, his Catherine the Great grandmother saying that I had hit him and when he was only being polite. And so I was sent to bed without Disneyland, the most feared punishment in those days.

But as you can see I have forgiven and forgotten.

****My mother worked in a sanitarium for rich people, working as a masseuse and all purpose what not. One of her clients was a rich widow who, hearing she had sons, gave her her husband’s antique tuxedo. The old fashioned kind with tails and a top hat. And a black ribbon down the outsides of the legs. The top was for a guy with a pinched-in chest, but the pants fit me perfectly. I proudly wore them to school thinking that was high class. (I had enough sense not to wear the hat)

Now ordinarily a guy who dressed like that in school would be the object of ridicule. But nobody dared make fun of me or attack me in any way. I was a verbal attack dog. I would give them a nickname that would haunt them in the halls. As I have hinted at, in this atheist period, I wasn’t very nice.

A Secret Plan to Ask for a Bicycle for Christmas

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Lud Dimpfl with Parsi mystic, Meher Baba

New Start—243

Turn Around: Face the Sun

(To Lud)

It’s all done with desire wires
(Yes we’re marionettes)

But we can sing an along song
Just like an astronaut growing
Old and bold in his orbit

–Who can with his little jets
Turn around: face the sun–

(Like a cat for fun pounces)
Announces
“I’m flying this thing!”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
I am in the usual quandary of if I should continue with the autobiographical stories, or go back to the Sufi musing genre (in re my views on the sources of happiness). I used to have a preponderance of those posts which you can verify by browsing through the last five years of archives, which are shown just under the posts’ titles on the right (At least on the main page you get with dialing up rumi-nations.com).

Sir Naïve Moi Person originally planned to have regular conversations with readers via comments, or even devote an occasional post to use to respond to any issues arising in comments. But alas I am comment poor, and so am flying blind, needing to decide on my own how to get my blog themes ducks in a row.

But back to flying blind, you could say that about the poem above, inspired by my old beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud Dimpfl *(rhymes with blood). He talked about astronauts in orbit and so of course the route was fixed, although (with little side jets) they could turn this way or that, giving the illusion he was (as Lud said he said) “flying this thing!”

Whereas scientist (chemist) Lud informed us (his Sufi class of 30 mureeds–AKA Sufi students) it was just a matter of wheeling about on the axis of the astronaut’s center of gravity, which was fixed out there in the proverbial “bowl of night.”**

Which brings up the interesting Sufi question of how much we are really in charge of our lives. I like the quote from John Lennon: “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” And I have been given examples of this in my own life, things out of my control like breaking my leg (okay I DID foolishly run in front of the car) or a wife leaving. Yes, at least in these cases at the time seemingly disastrous things, but as to my leg, I recently mentioned*** how the slightly shortened left leg kept me out of the Vietnam war? How the loss of the wife was in a few short years looked back on with relief, etc.

Though we do get feedback and that makes the art of living truly an art. Certainly if you think of improvisational acting as an art, (and I most certainly do). And all these things guarantee surprises. And we do love those. It’s for instance the popular kiss of death for a novel to have no surprises, and same goes for a movie.

And back to my just now complaint (was it a complaint? I am not supposed to do that) about no comments, hence no guidance from readers. I mention this because I do have some feedback lately and of another sort. Para precisar (my favorite Spanish phrase, meaning to make precisely clear) I refer to a recent seeming influx of new followers of this blog, and timed to my recent heavy emphasis on biographical stories. (Maybe people like more real life drama and less Sufi philosophizing? Go figure)

And here I am (in the teeth of evidence of its popularity) eschewing biography.

So, I will get us back on track with that, before I sign off.

Let’s see, we (me and my three brothers) had just been dumped again by dear old Mom.

So where next? Maybe I will just focus on Uncle Frank. That’s a bite-size chunk not readily mixed with other family stories, so let’s get it out of the way.

Uncle Frank was a rich banker. He married my great grand aunt (sister to the great grandmother I don’t write about much because it would all be negative and a violation of the mantra (see above).
To reprise:
“My thoughtful self, reproach no one, bear malice toward no one, hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite and kind to all.”

And the first thing was “Reproach no one.”

Oops.

Anyway this aunt Bessie was a sweet shy lady I never got to know very well. But I was young. I remember at some early age visiting her and Uncle Frank, (A white-haired Scotsman, proud of his Erskine plaid) getting scared to the nth degree by a stuffed bobcat that they had which was baring its fangs.

Hard by the heater!

Even in the orphanage I saw Uncle Frank at least for every Thanksgiving. He being the rich guy and his wife childless, sort of adopted us as their family and so every year Thanksgiving Dinner was on him. Always at the old Colonial House restaurant in Oxnard, California, featuring (just across the street from the entrance) a dressed-like-a-chef black man who was waving to the passersby to come on in and enjoy southern cooking.

So I knew he was rich.

So I asked what his address was, saying I wanted to write him a letter.

How nice they may have thought, “he wants to say thanks for Thanksgiving dinner!” But I had a secret plan to ask him for a bicycle for Christmas.

You must know that Uncle Frank had to know I was relegated to an orphanage, poor kid, and all I wanted was a bicycle for Christmas. And living in a country way with half a mile between houses, etc. But he got me an adult size one with built up wooden pedals, assuring I would never have to ask for another bike.

He was generous but to a degree not to surpass an embarrassing frivolity!

Later on when Aunt Bessie died, this Frank had his eye on my Grandma Dorothy. You may recall when recently (https://rumi-nations.com/2018/04/16/the-grim-tale-of-the-first-domino/) I quoted her saying, “Thank God I will never be bothered in bed by a man again!”

Well, this was when the subject came up. So she refused him and he latched then on a twenty years younger lady named Zethal, (rhymes with lethal) who conned him into a phony marriage and dared him to denounce her when she claimed a wife’s share in a divorce. He was sensitive to what he figured would be public ridicule, and so let her have her way.

There. I have used up my uncle Frank stories. At least any suitable for a positive outlook blog like this purports to be. though what I could add reflected on my brother Jim, whose insanity was being shown by a selfish solipsism. And not at all Uncle Frank.

Fairly soon (August?) I will be traveling to California for a month or six weeks. Not sure if I may have to take a month off from blog writing. As we say here, “A ver!” (loosely translated, “to be seen.”)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Lud, bye the bye was widely rumored to be the reincarnation of Hegel, the famous (and my favorite) philosopher aka the dialectic guy).

**A reference to Edmund Fitzgeralds’s ( (1809 – 1883) translation of (Sufi poet) Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, which opens with:

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultán’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

Most famously quoted from The Rubáiyát is “a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.”

Which brings me to Sufi history. The big heyday of Sufi poetry was between 1000ish and 1200ish years A. D. Which was several hundredish years after the death of Mohammad. And with no Mohammad figure around except of course certain Sufi cognoscenti (Poets and like that) who were scarcely attended to by the extant religious authorities (Yes, giving organized religion a bad name) unless they dared to proclaim “heresy” in their poems. But wine women and song was okay! So it was a simple universal expedient in Sufi poetry that the apparently utterly charming love object was a woman, when it was in fact, God. And the wine? It was another metaphor for the intoxicating state to be found in a close study of God. (To be found within, not from the mouth of some priest. And you will not be surprised to hear that if this got out, this was offensive stuff to those who ruled the same kingdom formerly claimed by the Pharisees.)

But back to The Rubáiyát. My beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud, told us mureeds about this Edmund Fitzgerald guy and his translation of the The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. But Lud said, dissatisfied, Fitzgerald kept tinkering with it. Seven ensuing versions appeared, each one worse than the erst. And Lud said that what had been “a first rate mystical poem,” had tragically degenerated.

So. Caveat emptor!

******https://rumi-nations.com/2017/05/07/a-counter-offer-i-couldnt-defuse/