Do Hogs Go to Heaven?

pig skeleton


Humid summer mornings

were the worst,

especially when a slight southwesterly breeze,

carried the stench of hundreds of hogs

over the mile of fields to our yard

from the landlord’s farm.


It was a stifling, oppressive, nauseating smell,

odiferous fingers clutching our throats

and putrid fists pummeling our nostrils.

I always wondered how the landlord’s kids

even survived on that farm—

if it smelled so from a mile away,

surely they had to wear gas masks

at ground zero.


I hiked through the corn field one day,

to the woods a half mile away

between our small plot and the landlord’s house

(he owned all this property),

and found there during my walk

at one edge of the woods

a pile of complete pig skeletons,

some large, some small,

maybe ten or twenty total,

all jumbled together

no doubt dumped from a

front end loader,

not even buried,

just plopped there

to rot and decay

and be eaten by buzzards and bugs.


These would be the sick ones,

the injured ones,

I guessed,

culled from the herd

and disposed of unceremoniously,

and certainly with little concern

for hygiene or the environment

or the assault of the offal

on the sensitive nostrils of rural kids.


And I wondered,

do hogs go to heaven?

And, if so, do they stink there, too,

or does God have a way

to keep heaven spotless and

to stop pigs from stinking?


It was a gruesome scene,

but I was used to seeing dead animals

in the wild

(though not usually piles of them),

so it wasn’t particularly upsetting,

and it certainly didn’t stop me

from savoring mom’s

fried pork chops and pan gravy for dinner.


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Creek Walk


All you needed was a pair of water shoes

or, in our case, a pair of old sneakers.

You didn’t mind getting soaked.

From there, you just rolled up your pant legs,

if you weren’t already wearing shorts,

or cut-off jeans,

and you were ready for creek walking.


The cold, clear creek water

rushing past our ankles,

and sometimes our calves,

was refreshing on hot summer days,

and minnows

skittered about as we stepped.


The swiftly running water

over time tumbled smooth

many small stones,

of shiny earth tones, and these

we collected as precious gems.


Turning over larger stones

often let loose a crayfish,

a special find if you were quick enough

to grab him before he scuttled away.


If you had an aquarium net

and a small bucket

you could carry home a crayfish

and maybe some minnows.


It was a simple pleasure,

the creek walk,

a pastime of a slower time,

a way to connect to the

water and stones and

creek creatures.

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100 Yard Dash


We measured it carefully
with a 100 foot tape,
dad’s longest tape
in an encased disk.

Starting at the mailbox,
a natural line post,
I held the disk
and you pulled the tape
all the way down
tar-covered Buckskin Road
until the full length was out.

You marked the spot
and called me to come,
and you kept walking,
so we walked in tandem
until I found your mark
and stopped.

You marked 200 feet,
and we repeated
until 300 feet
were measured,
100 yards,
the premier sprinting
distance of our day,
before a metric system
entered our world.

Then it was take turns
with the timer
on the new digital

On your mark,
get set,
go (beep),
12 seconds, beep,
11 seconds, beep,
10 seconds, beep,

as we practiced
flying down the road
day after day
we became
until we both
set high school records,
you in high hurdles,
and I in low hurdles
and mile relay.

Seems we haven’t
stopped sprinting
these past 35 years,
and I must admit,
I’m getting a little tired,
but I can’t seem
to slow down,
and I trace my mania to that
100 yard dash.

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Many a summer night,
hot, muggy, teenage sweat-clinging nights,
I lay atop a rough hewn
picnic table,
under a brilliant Northwest Ohio
far from manmade light,
far from noxious urban air,
far from everything,
except the hovering moon
and a ribbon of cloudy, glittering
against a black onyx dome.

There I thought,
there I wrote,
cogitabam ergo scribebam,
under the light of moon and stars.

It is hard to think small thoughts
blanketed by an expansive sky,
lying alone
on top of a picnic table,
and so, I wrote from my heart,
and considered my place,
in a world I barely knew,
but I imagined
stretching far
under the same shroud of

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It is not lost on me
that I grew up in the sticks,
live in the suburbs,
and work in the city.

It has been more than
thirty-five years
since I lived in the countryside,
with the closest neighbor
on any side
over a half mile away,
along a gravel and tar road,
between expansive fields
of corn, wheat, and soy beans.

And yet my heart still yearns
for the space,
the quiet,
the simplicity
of that rural life.

Perhaps it is nostalgia
for innocent, unencumbered youth.

Perhaps my ears, weary now and failing
from a thirty-five-year barrage of
near constant din,
are whispering to my heart:
“take us someplace where
silence is the norm and
most sounds are natural
and pleasant—give us rest.”

Perhaps it is the slog of
the hour-plus commute one way
into the city center
day after day,
year after year,
so that by now,
according to my grim calculations,
I have spent over a year of my life

The sticks beckon, pulling strong
like a divining rod,
pointing where I belong,
to where my longing
may be quenched.

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Maya died today

Maya died today
and with her
a voice of

No doubt she died at
having made hers
long ago
with her God

Who likely now
asks her kindly today,

“Maya, my child,
could you, please,
write a poem about
to reconfirm for
        I AM
why We even bother
seeking to save
such wayward
and rebellious

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Mother’s Music

Mom 05112014

Shubert’s 9th on the turntable,
one of a few classical albums,
along with Brahm’s German Requiem
and Handel’s Water Music Suites,
graced a primarily
country and bluegrass collection
assembled by my father.

These were your treasures,
music you loved,
music we shared,
just between us,
as no one else
in the family
seemed to tolerate it well,
and so, I wore the headphones
on a Sunday afternoon,
with eyes closed,
and let the music
wash over me,
transport me far away
from fields and farms,
to concert halls
and celestial realms.

For this gift
of goodness
for lifting me
so I could see
where I was
to where I have been
I thank you—
it is but one
of the gentler ways
your legacy
lives on
in me.

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