Keeping the virtuous handy

Marion Zientek is one of those who have passed on, but whose card is still in my Rolodex. He was a good man, a fellow Catholic editor, and the only man I’ve ever known with a pronounced Southern accent mingled with a Czech accent. Temperate, generous, and captain of as eccentric a crew of fellow journalists as I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

I have dead people

 listed in my Rolodex.

I just can’t let go


of people I’ve loved.

So when I flip past their names

I remember them.


And I call to mind

their virtues and their good deeds.

And so they live on.







The bas relief face is gone

I often think we need a half-sized Statue of Liberty at DFW Airport. Every nation on earth is represented here. Tribes from Africa, representing all the nations there, Burma or Myanmar, Honduras, Vietnam, Switzerland, Great Britain, and Indonesia. My wife and brother-in-law teach ESL, and just at Christmas, I heard there are now Malaysians in his class — a new country represented in the mix. But many have crossed from our southern borders, as did the fry cook described below, no doubt, his features straight from an Aztec temple frieze.


The Aztec-profiled,

chicken dipping, deep-fry cook

finally moved on.


When I’m at Popeye’s

I’ll miss his stone-chiseled looks,

features depicted


in old Mexico,

carved into the temple walls

— minus the ball cap.



Mars star


Flashing bright colors viewed through binoculars brought the — nominally — red planet closer, made it more appealing,A star in my mind then, and now a planet we’ve sent mobile cameras to, analyzed — in situ — samples from, it’s still just as fascinating,Pulsating planet of red, blue, green, and yellow speaks of my childhood,With binoculars I’d watch its flashing colors,thinking it a star,Now I know better,but even light years closer,it dances — dazzles.


Pulsating planet

of red, blue, green, and yellow

speaks of my childhood.


With binoculars

I’d watch its flashing colors,

thinking it a star.


Now I know better,

but even light years closer,

it dances, dazzles.



Water making way

There’s so much more to the story of the friendships that have saved at the very least, the two described here, but to say too much more would make their identities known to more than just those who know them well. But their experience raises the question: How many lives are changed permanently by small acts of kindness and trust?


How slim the crack

by which some evade trouble,

slot canyons of love.


My friend babysat

children of his youth leader,

his buds arrested


at that very time.

He tells me decades later,

crediting the job


and the confidence

the young man and his wife had,

trusting him with it.


He then escaped

South Carolina mill town,

went into Air Force.


Retired full pension;

became a Big Brother to

a kid with great needs.


And he stuck with him,

helped lift him out of his pain.

Kid now helps others.


Generation two,

from an act of kindness, trust.

A slender pathway.



Amputated, replanted — arm of Benbrook Lake

The two most fascinating things I observed as the lake dried up were the carp swimming on their sides gasping for air in two to three inches of water, and a great blue heron first gulping an eight-inch carp slowly down his gullet and having to pick out this feasting bird from the small flock of great blue herons working the shallow water’s fish, spotting him by the bulge of a large fish which peristalsis was gradually moving to his belly.


The arm of the lake

once came into this meadow

over a slight rise.


Then it silted up,

grew shallow, inviting birds

to empty its fish


into their gullets.

Crowds of wading birds fed here.

Carp swam in puddles,


fins above surface,

gulping and splashing water,

running from their fate.


Then it became mud.

Then the mud dried, the dirt cracked,

the fish bones turned white.


Hidden mussel shells

showed there’d been more life beyond

what we had known.


And now grass grows here.

Inlet has become meadow.

Small trees have sprung up.


Now only those

who frequented this bird blind

set by this meadow


can remember how

green-backed herons and great blues

once fished this inlet,


this flat meadow lake

dotted with green snags growing

from swells of rich soil.


A compendium of collective nature nouns

Here’s a Christmas gift for anyone checking today: an original list of labels for primarily animals of one sort or another. Merry Christmas to all, and may we all remember the One who possesses so many names, the Christ Child, Immanuel, God with us, the Light of the World.

A cacophony of crows,

a flitterskit of butterflies,

a jewelry box of dragonflies,

a cuneiform book of deer prints,

a rumblestock of buffaloes,

a bell choir of cardinals,

a scant wing-squadron of egrets,

a shadowflock of turkey vultures,

a bullroar choir of cicadas.


Fort Worth Nature Center


Rabbits, spaceships, windmills

Almost weekly I see one or two — or more — 50- to 60-foot windmill blades, packed one to a truck on their way from factories north of us to the windmill farms of South and West Texas. It’s an amazing sight, while at the same time amusing. I hope they don’t plant them on the mesas extending from south of Abilene to the Big Bend, but there’s a great deal of landscape with fairly constant wind that won’t be scarred by their presence.


Giant rabbit ears

tapered to wind catching tips,

the blades are tied down


to the truck’s flat bed

off to where jack rabbits bound

across high deserts.


West Texas mesas

will be these windmills’ new home

once ears are assembled


into electric

generating, landscape blights.

I take some pleasure


thinking that complaints

similar to these must have

been spoken by the Dutch


who couldn’t have known

how picturesque those in our age

would find their windmills.


May the future folks

who flit past in their spaceships

find ours amusing.



Scissored and red

You really want to read this one, then work at visualizing it: the scissor-tailed flycatcher, its seven-inch long, twin tail feathers spread in an arc behind the red-tailed hawk’s outline, the smaller bird getting the better of the attacker. It’s a picture you’ll remember always.


Scissor tails spread wide,

the battling flycatcher

circles around


the red-tailed hawk’s head,

circlet of angry feathers,

darting at him.


Scrambling fawn

Near the northern border of Mineral Wells State Park, the hiking trail goes through a shaded wood, so dark on bright days that it can have a spooky feel to it. It is a perfect place for young animals to hide and remain hidden, away from danger. That’s where I saw the fawn.


The fawn pops up here

right beside the shaded path.

Fumbling the trigger,


I miss my first shot

with its starry field of spots

printed on my brain,


but successive pics

capture him staring  at me

safely out of reach


but within the range

of the on-camera flash.

Caught: his startled look.