Sippican Cottage

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Eleanor, Gee I Think You’re Swell

Paul Rose plays the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby

I’ve made it my business for the last couple of years to write stories in a couple of lines. You have to have pregnant thoughts. The words have to do double and triple duty. There must be ambiguity, hints of things around the corner you can’t spare the text to explain, but not just plain obscurity. You can’t waste time. Since there can be no filler between the important stuff, any filler you rely on takes the place of important stuff and the attempt fails.

Paul McCartney is supposed to be a kind of amiable dunce to John Lennon’s sophisticated artiste. A music hall tuba player gone global. If so, then what the hell is this? It’s worthy of Yeats or Joyce, and neither of them could play the radio.

Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been;
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door;
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father MacKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear;
No one comes near.
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there;
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name;
Nobody came
Father MacKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave;
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Untitled Post

I have a headache that could pull a bus.

There is still a little snowbank across the street.

I did not have to rise before dawn yesterday to make a fire, for the first time this year.

I still rose before dawn.

There is a dead skunk in the middle of the road, stinkin’ to high heaven.

My wife and I are sad for the dead skunk, for he was jolly and waddled through the yard and gave no offense.

A window is open for the first time this year.


There is a battered and rusted farm-ish ventilator installed at the crown of my roof, and it shrieks as it spins when the wind blows hard, but sounds like a calliope sometimes.

I can’t get at the ventilator with any ladders and staging I possess.

If my neighbors didn’t like me, they’d kill me over the ventilator.

Momo the cat sat on one mole while he killed another in Lloyd’s yard.

There is a 175 foot drainage pipe that goes under the street out front and travels beneath a good portion of my yard, then ends in the rear of my house in the rock garden, and the neighborhood cats, including mine, use it for a subway.


There is a hardwood tree some call a linden outside my window; it grows like a weed and looks sturdy enough, but you can cut a branch off it the thickness of your wrist using only a nippers.

A neighbor lady lectured me about various species of wood the other day in a neighborly way, and I found it amusing and pleasant.

If she had known what she was talking about it wouldn’t have been nearly as pleasant.


The Devil’s In The Cows

I told that boy, I told him. You don’t want no part of this farm, nor another. A farm is a jackplane for human boards. Wears you out like a sermon.

It made ma mere old, and his, too. She was beautiful once. Gone to seed, now. The work wore at her. Not the work, no; getting nothing for the effort but chapped grinds a person down. A farm is a twenty-five hour timeclock with no paycheck. She done it for me, and I done it for the farm, and for pere and ma mere, but it dies with me.

It’s a terrible thing to raise your own to disown you. The girls was no trouble ’cause all girls like frilly things and a farm is a dreary place. First magazine comes into a farmhouse with pictures of socialites, and daughters is planning their escape. The only mistake they can make is letting a farmboy convince them that they’re the ticket out of here. A wandering mind and a weak back is fine for a city dweller, but it’s deadly out in the landscape. The farmboys with a touch of neon about them and their coquettes generally break down and wander back before they even get to a road with two stripes on it. We sent the girls to Augusta to school, and they found fellers with ink all over them and we breathed a sigh.

“It’s a boy!” my wife said, “We were blessed with a boy, Xavier, and he can help you.” But I already knew in my heart that it was a curse, because I loved that boy so, before he was even borned, that I could never let him like me much. He had to see how hard life was here and so put aside a man’s sneaky love for his father and go away someday. I had to drive him from this place. That is a hard thing my friend; a hard thing.

So I shows him what’s what, and drive him like a team from dawn to dusk his whole life. I gotta wear it out of him early. He learned everything about the old place, but it’s all bad son, all bad, I says. He’d keep even with me when he was only shoulder height, and I’d catch him sneaking a bed lunch for the power that was in it. I didn’t know what to do with him after a while, for I could never bring myself to be mean with him, never.

My father in his turn told me all of the things a man needs to know about a farm, in his mind anyway. He loved it so, and tried to make me love it too. I loved him, truth be told, but hated his farm. But he got rheumy and I stayed on to help and eventually I slipped him in the ground here and threw dirt on him like any other seed. By then it was too late to slip the orbit.

Then the boy comes to me and says there’s a war on, father, and I’m gonna go and kill a German or two. And my wish is granted and I curse the genie like all men do that go for a rub expecting a free lunch.

The kids from the city will think it’s a lark until they’re pissing themselves in a trench, and could no more kill anyone than a kitten. That’s good, and might keep them safe. But the boy ain’t never been afraid like that, and that’s bad.

“You remember gran-pere, boy?”

“Of course, dad.”

“Well, I’ve never been no more good to you than a pharoah to a jew, but now you have to listen to me. Gran-pere he was wise about the world. It wasn’t knowing things; any damn fool knows things. Gran-pere could feel things. He went beyond the knowing and let himself feel things. You got to do that. It’s in you, I know it, because he got it out of me, and you’re mine.”

“I feel things, dad.”

“No, not like that. Not moonin’ over the neighbor’s girl or getting angry over the radio. It’s sense, like smell or something. It’s not on purpose. Laissez faire, boy.”

“Dad, the train is leaving.”

“I remember when I was young and we was working, gran-pere would put his nose up in the air and mutter, the devil is in the cows. The sky might be dead blue, not a puff of wind, six hours of work to be done, and we’d go in and within an hour the heavens would open up and we’d watch weather like the Bible from the parlor.”

“Goodbye, dad.”

I saw him sit through the glass, and the train slowly pulled away. He didn’t look back.

Oh God, watch for the devil in the cows, son.

Was There Something You Wanted?

A parable of marriage. Men chase things for reasons unknown, and have no idea what to do with them once they catch them.

Before. This Is The Way It Was

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

Let’s Play Find The Spoof!

Hint: The one that isn’t a spoof seems the most absurd.

Mmmmm. Lee Remick. Little-known fact: Barack Obama was the rhythm guitar player in the Rutles.

Stifling Uniformity

Look at Andres Segovia in the fifties. If you didn’t know who he was, I could have told you he invented a transistor, or reviewed mortgages at the savings and loan, or toiled in any number of mundane professions, and his appearance wouldn’t give it away.

People used to be serious, and you’d find serious people in every walk of life. Now all the Jeeves are dead, and everyone’s either a high or low budget Wooster. Who allows their work or their art alone to speak for them anymore?

Month: April 2011

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