Let’s say I was painting a page with words

They must come from somewhere

I see them flash to the screen by magic


For the brain may signal the fingers

To move over the keyboard

But the brain holds no words


The heart may care what shows up in the verse

But it may be cold, too,

And doesn’t connect to those flying digits


It must be therefore that the ten of them

Themselves create the poem

One haphazard letter and another

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Between Two Worlds

The world I left when I retired is that of the law firm and the practice of law. In litigation, the kind of law I practiced, it was a world of massive war, campaigns, battles, skirmishes, and preparation for all of the above. It was a war of dueling, lawyer against lawyer in the courtroom, slashing, head-butting, eluding, persuading, keeping alert at all times, and intuiting the best time for each maneuver. Object too soon, and the point may be dulled or disappear. Object too late, and the damage to one’s side becomes irreparable.  Ask one question too few, and the point is not driven home. Ask one question too many, and hear the worst possible answer. It was all about leading the team, learning how to marshal troops, and having everyone in the ranks marching to the same beat and with the highest morale. It’s a career requiring calmness in the midst of turmoil. You trial lawyers out there know exactly what I mean.

The world I’m approaching is that of the graduate program in creative writing at American University, a world I know so far only through its website and my imagination. I am still nine days away from starting this new life. But – because of the writing conferences I’ve attended and the workshops in which I’ve participated – I can anticipate much of what’s coming: reading until my eyes pop out of head; thinking about literature in a way I haven’t thought about it since college, if ever; writing and more writing to try to improve my ability; and taking criticism of the highest level I will ever receive. To have ended my first career in search of the benefits of this second life was no haphazard decision. I will likely not know until the passage of three academic years if my full expectations have been satisfied. But I can see many parallels: preparation, adjustment, persuasion, story-telling.

Between these worlds – the first ending months ago for all practical purposes and the second still ahead – lies limbo. Or maybe a better analogy is Janus, in Roman mythology the god of beginnings and transition. He has one head that faces the past and one head that faces the future. I have just one head, period, so must twist my neck 180 degrees to achieve the same effect.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Reflections on 40 Years as a Lawyer

So last night my retirement became official, and I turn my career objectives from lawyering to writing. Twelve hours is hardly enough time for me to know how this will all turn out, but at this point, I can at least look back and feel great satisfaction from my years as a lawyer.  It’s funny, but like a lot of people who ended up going into law, it was never my lifelong goal.  Law was something I fell into when I realized I wouldn’t be a scientist. Nonetheless, I couldn’t have fallen into a better profession.  Here are some of the many high points of my career:

  1. Clerking for the Hon. John Minor Wisdom, Judge, United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, in the year immediately following graduation from law school. A great judge, a great, courageous gentleman and mentor. I will always miss him. I still have happy dreams when I’m back in his chambers.
  1. Trial in Tampa – (about which I’ve written an eponymous screenplay and non-fiction honorable-mention winning essay), when as a neophyte second-chair in federal court I took care of six migrant farm workers cum witnesses in a successful prosecution of slavery charges against two farm labor contractors.
  1. Galveston, TX six-week trial defending Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. against claims of four plaintiffs relating to Parlodel and happily ending up with a complete defense verdict, apparently surprising everyone.
  1. Having inspired the board game “You Dirty Rat” – an invention of a plaintiff unhappy with my having thwarted his frivolous claims.
  1. Managing to tie myself by my shoelace – inadvertently – to my chair in the middle of a trial, unable to stand to make objections, but able finally to secure scissors and snip my way to freedom before the judge or the jury noticed.
  1. Many more exciting and fulfilling moments too numerous to mention today.

I was privileged throughout my career to work with outstanding, dedicated people who taught me a tremendous amount, set examples of diligence and perseverance, and made these past 40 years a wonderful, magical journey.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

The Truth Cannot Be Avoided

Here’s a question that Indiana Governor Mike Pence could not answer:  “If a florist refuses to sell flowers for a gay wedding on religious grounds, is that refusal allowed by the new law?”  He was repeatedly asked for a yes or no answer, but would not even address the hypothetical.  Doesn’t that tell you immediately he knows the true answer is “yes”?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adel: A Novel in Linked Stories


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Circle Line (re-circle-ated for newcomers)

“The Circle Line,” published June 1, 2010 in Spilling Ink Review

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why, Just Why?

We may ponder explanations for a variety of troubling facts of our lives without ever coming close to answers. Among these, let me suggest the troubling facts uppermost in my mind these days – not necessarily in the order of importance:

Why are terrorists sending children into markets with bombs strapped to their chests, blowing these children apart and killing scores of others in the process?

Why do so many Americans care more about their ownership of guns than public safety? Why are guns for them a religion?

Why does the traveling population appear increasingly rude and thoughtless? I’m thinking about drivers and bicyclists who flaunt traffic laws, jaywalkers who put their lives and those of others at risk by just walking into a busy street (not at a cross walk).

Why do so many Americans say they “disapprove of Obama care” yet, when asked about specific provisions of the Affordable Care Act, like them?

Why do so many of us expect the government to provide better services and more benefits, but then are aggrieved when revenues must be raised through taxation?

Why are so many Americans upset that undocumented people in this country might have a right to earn citizenship, when all of us – other than Native Americans – came here as immigrants or are descended from those that were?

Why has Gil Hodges not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame? Among his many accomplishments were to hit 370 career home runs, which at the time was the career mark for a right-handed batter (as compared to only 211 home runs for the average player in the Hall of Fame), to have 1,274 lifetime RBIs (as compared to only 1,218 for the average position player in the Hall of Fame), to lead the Miracle Mets to become the 1969 World Champions, to play in seven World Series, to hit at least 30 home runs a season from 1950 to 1954, and to have over 100 RBIs from 1949 to 1955. His lifetime slugging percentage was .487, compared to .461 for the average player in the Hall of Fame. His lifetime OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) was .846 (compared to only .837 for position players in the Hall of Fame). And let’s not forget that Gil was a great fielding first baseman, with a lifetime fielding percentage of .992, and a model citizen to boot. Until Gil gets his rightful place there, that building in Cooperstown, NY, is to me the Hall of Shame.

Someone smarter than me needs to explain these things, but I doubt that any explanations will make sense.


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments