Month: June 2014


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                           Mallard Ducks

We first met in March ten years ago. He was young, trim and sleek. His partner- to use an obligatory secular term-was reclusive, shy, and reticent to mate. Yet in time it was accomplished after much courting and bobbing of heads and persistent pursuit. Then she disappeared, and he was alone.

She was nesting in dense ivy covering a patio roof hidden from hungry hawks. He single mindedly and optimistically waited and hoped for another chance to mate if something went wrong with the hatch. In about 10 days he disappeared and I found her herding 12 ducklings about the swimming pool. In another week she lead her long line of chicks toward a nearby creek.

However they soon both returned without the baby ducks. In another week or so his enduring hope of a second mating was fulfilled, very likely because feral cats, sharp eyed hawks, slinky snakes or beautiful striped skunks made a meal of the chicks. There he was again, bobbing and dancing and pursuing until she once more fled to the quiet stillness of her nest, her second hatch, and second exodus. That Winter-Spring ritual repeated yearly for 9 years  in one or another variation.

But during the last two seasons only the drake appears. He waits, and waits alone on the still water, dipping for surface morsels, or floating stiffly, battered by driving rain, or leaf laden wind.  Occasionally four of five young mallards invade the pool; a so-called paddle of ducks. I like to think they are survivors of the years of hatches but I chase them off irritably.

“I can’t have you crapping my coping! Find your own pool! Can’t you see? This one is taken!”

“Where is she? What happened?”

He ignores me  except for an occasional iterated  sad  desultory “Quaaak-quaaak”  


“ Duck up!” I reply.  “There are a lot of lonely ladies in this world!” He doesn’t think that’s funny.

He’s there now sleeping at poolside in the morning sunlight. Later he will float on the still water watching the antics of turtledoves, magpies, and gray squirrels. Before noon he’ll leave for lunch; there is little nourishment on the surface of a chlorinated pool. All the months of March through May he’ll wait there mornings, until he gets hungry.

He’s looks more unkempt; but somehow larger and rougher, though his sheen and coloring is sharp and bright. He moves with timidly with less assurance and vigor. At first he’d fly off when I opened the sliding door to have a word with him, as if he didn’t know me. But now he simply waits and watches. I read or write. He folds his neck onto his breast and sleeps at times. We watch and wait, and wait, like drab old men on a park bench in Seville.


Le Garage Hopping

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garage (n.) 

1902, from French garage “shelter for a vehicle,” originally “a place for storing something,” from verb garer “to shelter,” from Middle French garer “to shelter, dock ships,” from Frankish *waron “to guard” or some other Germanic source (compare Old High German waron “take care”), from Proto-Germanic *war-, from PIE root *wer- (5) “to cover” (see warrant (n.)).


There are few aspects of life in our time so ubiquitous as those related to Car. Roads, highways, freeways, bridges, tunnels, and an insatiable hunger for fossil fuel reflect its significance. Emotionally, Car is the diploma of adulthood for youth, and the emblem of power, freedom, and success for the adult. A very poor person may find transformative significance in the acquisition in an expensive and beautiful Car. We despair when denied the right to Car by a judicial decision, injury, illness, or old age.   We worship the deity, Car.


Nonbelievers–who have no devotion to Car at all–, are rare. Even they cannot live entirely without Car, for that is  to exist outside society; they worship Car tacitly. In general, while usually outraged by unapproved death from war, neglect, abuse, or murder, we obediently sacrifice several tens of thousands of friends, children, and neighbors to Molloch-like  Car each year.

One’s economic and civic status is best measured by the housing and care of Car: The garage. A multi-car garage, or elegant car barn is at one end of the spectrum and street-side storage or pubic transportation at the other. But in either case, those are extremes. The majority of us live in that ample and average middle ground of small homes with one or two car Garages. Even so, we spend religiously on Car. For the average person, the relative value of Car is about 4:1 compared to anything else:

1)  The average small home contains about 1600-2000 square feet while the average 22 x 24 (528 square ft.) garage is more than 4 times the space devoted to a one or two child bedroom–10 x 11 (110 square ft.).

2)   The average cost of raising a child to age 18, not considering college, is at least $50,000, while the average cost of a Car over the same period is, at a minimum, $148,500, at 15,000 miles per year.

Whether grand or humble, the Garage is a Temple, dedicated to Car, and consecrated by space and expense. Yet to judge from my own garage, I am a sinner or hypocrite. I profess my religion publicly and act differently in private, hoping for ultimate forgiveness. And I am not alone. Consider my friend John Ciervo, returning home on an average winter evening after a long work-day.

Mr. Ciervo parks his brand new Volvo in the driveway, knowing there is no room inside the garage. An electronic genie obeys an Aladdin that  silently speaks. The cavernous door opens, over the cries of an irritable worm drive.   Ciervo is blinded at first by the door opener lights, and begins to shuffle forward cautiously. There is no altar, no incense, no beeswax candles. His garage has been profaned, in large part by through his own sins of omission and commission.

Ciervo stumbles over a broken lawn mower, almost landing on some scattered bicycles in assorted states of disrepair. He sidesteps a table on furniture-death-row. He skirts the leaking water from a frosted over deep-freeze, and turns off a washing machine that is spinning off balance. He picks up a soiled Godmother Pizza box that has fallen from the overflowing recycle bin.

There is a newspaper on the stained cement floor where the front page article catches his eye. It is about garage hopping, the teen-age fad of stealing beer or electronics from neighborhood garages. The report focuses on a hopper  and killed. Startled, Ciervo looks outside and quickly actuates the garage door closer. The article raises questions:

Is it murder, or justified force, to repel a garage –home invasion? Should teen-hoppers be judged as children or adults?An online quote comes to Ciervo’s  mind, one he saw at work that morning in a comment string about that very question, including this entry from a wise and wily contributor:

 for one I see chicago has gotten stricked well it all depends if you get a good cop and you are polite you will get off with a slap on the rist but in your case i will look fast for a law pointed attorny and ask as many questions as posible the law in your eyes are not played like in t.v so good luck kid and trust me i know keeeep out of roofs. edmit you were doing it and let them know you ment no harm all you were trying to do was go from one roof to the other i see your play time is way over hmm

Ciervo blinks in the bright light, and reflects.“ That kid is clearly intelligent, and cyber-connected; but he -or she- subsists in a disconnected subculture that doesn’t live, or dream, the American Dream. Why?” He throws down the newspaper. “Are kids like this the reason our country is falling behind by most measures of well being? Or am I the problem?” He laughs aloud and remarks to the sullen garage: “ I am. I Owe Therefore I Am.”

A 130 decibel base beat from an unseen muscle car slowly swaggers by, rattling a dirty windowpane. A startled daddy long legs begins shaking her web hopefully. A distant siren sounds; then two, then three.

Ciervo goes inside. No one is awake. He plops down on the MadeinChina duck feather stuffed pig leather couch and wands up the new 42-inch Vietnam made LED TV. The talking head weatherperson jokes and drones on interminably about the weather outside, as if it were invisible. He channel flips to other news, but all  the heads regurgitate the same thing in the same words.

In the midst of a loan consolidation ad he breaks out in a broad grin and addresses the TV :“Drop dead up youdickhead drone! Neither this street, nor this house, nor this garage nor that car are mine. All of it belongs to The Washington DC Bank of Wells America. I’m sheltered, merde! ” And reaching for the remote, C. Camus Ciervo adds wryly:






Marta’s Child

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Yes, you are one of those

Who always work and dwell

Where no one ever knows

Of what you do so well


With dirty rooms and sheets

Or growing fruits and seeds

Or many kinds of meats

Or clearing yards of weeds,


Or raising someone’s child

Or renting flesh to one

Who likes to be defiled

And laughs when it is done.


Your little life is spent

In thankless silent toil

‘Til you at last relent

And fertilize our soil.


¡Sí! Wherever you are from

Or what your sex or race

With documents or none

None here can take your place.


You will change our choice

Of food and art and song

And color with your voice

Our universal tongue.


Then none can ever say

If you are tú or me;

Or put another way,

If yo y tú are We.