Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Full Moon Haiku

By Richard Kirsch

Full moon in the sky
Surging through my dream with light
Day still or still night

Richard Kirsch lives in Austerlitz, New York.

Monday, December 24, 2007

This Christmas Present

By Judy Staber

That's what it's all about, isn't it?
Christmas, I mean. life?
Epiphanies of wonder and simplicity.
Those moments when words aren't enough,
When tears rush together with laughter,
Bubbling up through your own wellspring
At the bringing of new life.
New joy.
This wonderful baby boy.

We'll soon forget the hours she labored;
The hours she pushed to deliver him;
The dreary,
yet brightly-lit waiting room,
Where her sister and I sat,
With a pay phone that took only nickels,
A soda machine like a monolith,
And no place to hang your coat.

And that hot, stuffy labor room,
where my baby
Tried for so long to have her baby,
hanging on to her Ed
Under the watchful eyes of a stream of kindly,
but ever shift-changing nurses.
And the doctor, too long on his feet, saying, exhausted,
"I'm going to have to perform a Caesarean."

I saw him just ten minutes later,
Full of unaccustomed grand-maternal-ness,
My eyes clear, my heart full,
marveling at
This Christmas present.
Such a perfect little person sprung
From his mother's womb so complete:
With ten expressive fingers and ten tiny toes
Curling with anticipation of life.

He came out of his womb-room, tranquil and serene,
Almost smiling.
Eyes watchful,
penis erect,
ears shell-like against his downy head.

Under clinical scrutiny, they squeezed his scrotum,
Scratched his soles,
looked up his nose and down his throat.
But he didn't yell, not my grandson,
no, he just
Twice they had to clean him up.
And when they had done, they said,
that on the test scale,
Out of a possible ten,
he was a nine point nine.

Well, of course he is,
and they probably missed
that other tenth.
Because they're not perfect
like he is.
Welcome to the world, Daniel!

Judy Staber, retired after 28 years in arts administration, now spends her time writing. She also runs the gallery at The Old Chatham Country Store with changing local artists every month. Judy is awaiting her final eye surgery in the new year. Happy New Year to all you writers and keep writing, there are readers out there still. Daniel, now 17, is just as perfect as he was the day he was born in 1990!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Jessie and Lee"

By Cecele Kraus

Grandmother Jessie brushes her hair
late at night in her rocking chair as
the woodstove crackles out its warmth.
Grandpapa Lee looks up from his book
and with twinkling eyes returns her smile.
They’ve been married for 55 years.

Jessie’s hair was nut brown in early years
while Lee was blessed with wild Irish hair.
Though eyes are dim, he lights her smile,
no need to even move his chair.
The Holy Bible is Lee’s only book,
the red hot stove their source of warmth.

Eight children settled into their warmth.
Young Anna died, the rest are up in years.
The Holy Bible is not their only book.
Faded auburn is now Lee’s hair.
His chair is straight, hers a rocking chair.
Neighbors drop in and bring a smile.

A letter came and brought a smile.
Their son returns, hearts fill with warmth.
For prodigal Tom, we’ll pull up a chair,
he’s traveled far for so many years.
Joyful, Jessie forgets to knot her hair
and Lee forgets the Holy Book.

Jessie pulls out a ragged photo book
of all their children; it makes them smile.
Forgetting the brushing of her hair,
she’s lost in reveries of children’s warmth.
Gone the pain of Tom’s wandering years,
she sees the past from her rocking chair.

Children’s songs heard from her rocking chair,
each face captured in her photo book.
Gone the pain of the longing years,
returned to her each child’s gapped smile.
By the fire, she glows in warmth
and now with a smile loops up her hair.

Cecele Kraus, a psychotherapist, lives in Copake, New York. She is working on a collection of poems and short fiction.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

MyStoryLives Supports the Writers' Strike!

is not given to watching television.

We're usually asleep before Letterman or Leno lights the screen.

But we know
how many
gazillion Americans are drawn to
the late night shows.

So. Reading in this morning's New York Times, this troubling little tidbit caught our eye:

"David Letterman is pursuing a deal with the Writers Guild of America that would allow his late-night show on CBS to return to the air in early January with the usual complement of material from his writers, even if the strike is still continuing."

We were, if you will, interested. And concerned.

The Times report goes on:

"Executives from Mr. Letterman’s production company said Saturday that they were hopeful they would have an interim agreement in place with the guild as early as this week. That could potentially put Mr. Letterman at an enormous advantage over most of his late-night colleagues."

Check it out for yourself.
So. Does this sound anything like strike-breaking to you?


How about this from a blog called The Silicon Insider, published mid-November:

"Producers for late night hosts David Letterman, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien are in secret talks to bring the shows back... Network execs say there's talk of resuming production on the shows without the writers, in part to keep the hundreds of idled non-writing employees working -- and in part because all three shows are huge money-makers for their networks. Note that Letterman did the same thing during the 1988 writers' strike.

"The return of the late-night shows would be a huge coup for the networks; right now the absence of those shows (along with Viacom's Daily Show and Colbert Report) are the only visible sign that a writers' strike is underway. If the writers lose that bargaining chip, most viewers won't feel the impact of a strike until January or later, when the networks run out of new dramas and sitcoms to air.

"The backchannel talks between latenight producers are delicate; no one wants to be the first to go back on the air, nor do they want to return if a resolution to the strike is imminent. Any return to work before the strike ends would likely mean big WGA-led protests at NBC studios in Burbank and at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York. But if it appears the strike is going to drag on, Letterman and Leno would agree to resume their shows on the same day."

What Letterman's folks are up to, is,


We at MyStoryLives are writers. It seems only write, sorry, right, that we stand in solidarity with those striking writers who are holding out against the likes of the media giants — General Electric, News Corporation, Sony, Time Warner, The Walt Disney Company, Viacm and CBS — whose entertainment units dominate the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the industry bargaining group.

We support the Writers Guild of America. If you support this cause, and you have a blog, we encourage you to copy and paste the Writers Guild of America's logo up top into your blog. Pass the word.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Prayer for Health Care

By Dan Beauchamp

It seems to me, as we plunge deeper and deeper into our presidential election season, we never talk about issues with the seriousness they deserve. Instead we talk about haircuts, adultery in the Hamptons, or favorite Bible verses.

Then, after everything is over, we quail in the presence of the most recent winner.

Even when we do talk about important problems, the policy wonks drown us with technical details.

Nothing important ever gets discussed in terms of the deep, invisible questions that need airing.

Take health care reform, for example.

I believe that one of the reasons we constantly drop the ball on health care reform is because we don't see how profoundly this issue challenges our ideas of membership in a democratic community and the meaning of our life together, and, indeed, the meaning of life itself.

Yes, I am saying that I believe that at bottom health care reform is about how we view life---how we view life itself underneath it all and what this means for membership in the body politic.

Ultimately, this is a spiritual question, where 'spiritual' means our views on what we mean by life, life itself, to whom and what we belong, and what it is that we possess and own to dispose of as we choose.

Spiritual writers like the Franciscan Richard Rohr, in his book Adam's Return, boil down the answers to these fundamental questions with the insight that, "Your life is not about you; you are about life."

Rohr is actually giving a spiritual twist to a deeply ecological idea of life and our membership in a biotic realm, an understanding that is at once utterly realistic and spiritual, reflecting the mutuality and interdependence of all of life, human and all else.

To say that we belong to life is to say that "life" is something that we find ourselves in the midst of, in our birth and in our lives together, and in our deaths. Life itself is something that we do not possess or control; life itself possess us.

This is our original blessing.

To say that we belong to life is to reflect a deep ecological reverence for our place in the large and intricately interconnected processes of life. We are mutually connected and mutually dependent on air, water, the earth, and the sun, as well as on the prudence and judgment of those billions of fellow inhabitants of our planet called human beings.

Life itself then, is a gift, an enormous gift. Whether this is a gift from God or the universe I will leave to others to proclaim. The ecological point is the same; we are part of an ecological totality where the greatest sin is that of hubris, the arrogance of self-sufficiency and pride.

Despite our horrific destruction of the processes of life on this planet, I think we are gradually coming to embrace an ecological ethic.

As someone who has written a good deal about community and the idea of advancing our health together I am constantly reminded of how little I have said compared to what could be said, and it strikes me that "Our lives are not about us; we are about life" is utterly the point of our health together, of healthier together, of epidemiology, of sound health policy, and much else.

At the personal level, to remind ourselves that we are about life is to bestow on ourselves a huge gift, and of course that is a funny and upside down way of putting it, because the gift is already ours if only we are willing to receive it.

This is the point made by Wendell Berry in "Health is Membership," in his book of essays, Another Turn of the Crank. Berry argues that health is a communal and ecological concept, referring to our membership and participation in communities, both civic and ecological.

The ecological confession that that we first belong to life only increases individual responsibility.

The discovery decades ago that smoking is a dire threat to our health has led to increased individual responsibility for quitting smoking and for the health of those around us at the same time that it has led to higher tobacco taxes, health warning labels, proscriptions on smoking at work or other public places, and bans on tobacco advertising.

Seeking the common good of highway traffic safety or cleaner air and water only increases our individual responsibility for health and safety in these areas.

We can run, but we can't hide from the task of health care reform. As the Nobel Laureate, Joshua Lederberg says, (of the threat of resurgent epidemics), “there is nowhere in the world from which we are remote and no one from whom we are disconnected.”

But this is true of health care reform also. The confession that our health is about our health together, is about the interdependence of health in all its dimensions, teaches us that we cannot pursue more insurance, or controlling costs, or defending quality as separate goals, because what we do here affects what we do there.

In ecology, in global health, and in health care, everything is connected to everything else.

Who is talking about health care reform in this way?

Not many. Still, plans that contain the elements of the ecological confession of the interdependence of all of life together are plans that make health insurance uniform, that forbid refusing coverage to the sick, that promote health care costs control and that evaluate new health care technology, and that also build upon the success of our existing universal health care program, Medicare, all at the same time.

These are the plans that admit that everything is connected to everything else and our life together must reflect this interdependence.

Most of the Democratic proposals point in the direction of the ecological confession. Whether the Democrats stick to their guns, we shall see.

The Republican candidates promote plans that do little more than stand for their Johnny-One-Note theme of individual responsibility for health, embrace the hubris of "We're on our own" in this world.

Parker Palmer, in To Know as We are Known, says about prayer:

One one side, prayer is our capacity to enter into that vast community of life in which self and other, human and nonhuman, visible and invisible, are intricately intertwined. While my senses discriminate and my mind dissects, my prayer acknowledges and recreates the unity of life. In prayer, I no longer set myself apart from others and the world, manipulating them to suit my needs.

It is this kind of prayer that we need for health care reform, a prayer that our leaders and we ourselves, as citizens, will acknowledge the unity and interconnectedness of life itself.

Dan Beauchamp is a former Washington representative, university professor, health official, and small-town mayor. He is working on a memoir about meeting yourself again, for the first time, again and again. His blog, on politics, spirituality and other matters, can be found at

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"No Way Out"

By Bob Willner

Run from him, Run from him,
Night and day I run from him.
Minutes pass; hours flee,
I cannot escape from him.
He seeks me out,
He knows where I hide.
He makes the law,
Oh God!
Must I abide?
The answer always comes,
The answer always comes.
Not if I escape.
Not if I escape!

I hurry through plains
And crouch behind hills,
Clawing at snow and ice,
I reach frozen peaks,
Alas – he’s on the other side.

Dodge the moon, never in the sun,
Curse the light and live in the black.
Not seeing him, I still
Tremble from the breath on my back

I’ve traveled far; I’ve glanced at beauty.
Never to admire, never to stay.
And now,
I’ve lost my way.

I’m tired weary and sick --
I know that I will die,
But if by death I can escape
There is no need to cry.

They think that I am dead,
So they put me in a box.
My eyes are shut,
I hold my breath

Bob Willner, a lawyer and writer in Chatham, New York, will read from his memoir on Saturday, December 15, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. at Stageworks in Hudson, New York. For reservations, please call (518) 822-9667