“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

-Albert Einstein


How to Take a Walk
by Leo Dangel

This is farming country.
The neighbors will believe
you are crazy
if you take a walk
just to think and be alone.
So carry a shotgun
and walk the fence line.
Pretend you are hunting
and your walking will not
arouse suspicion.
But don’t forget
to load the shotgun.
They will know
if your gun is empty.
Stop occasionally.
Cock your head and listen
to the doves you never see.
Part the tall weeds
with your hand and inspect
the ground.
Sniff the air as a hunter would.
(That wonderful smell
of sweet clover is a bonus.)
Soon you will forget
the gun in your hands,
but remember, someone
may be watching.
If you hear beating wings
and see the bronze flash
of something flying up,
you will have to shoot it.
“How to Take a Walk” by Leo Dangel from Home From the Field. © Spoon River Poetry Press, 1997. Reprinted with permission

Leo Dangel

Poet Details

b. 1941

Leo Dangel was born and raised in South Dakota and attended colleges in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Kansas. He earned both a BA in social science and an MA in English from Emporia State University.

Dangel’s collections of poetry include Keeping between the Fences (1981), Old Man Brunner Country (1987), Hogs and Personals (1992), and Home from the Field (1997), a Minnesota State Book Award nominee. His most recent collection of poems is The Crow on the Golden Arches (2004).

Dangel has taught at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota.

ORIGINAL 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass



ORIGINAL 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass 
by Walt Whitman

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.


[This preface was dropped in later editions.]

Certain People



Commentator Frank Deford advises the White House press office not to let the president be photographed in a golf cart again.

by Richard Jones

My father lives by the ocean
and drinks his morning coffee
in the full sun on his deck,
talking to anyone
who walks by on the beach.
And in the afternoons he works
part-time at the golf course—
sailing the fairways like sea captain
in a white golf cart.
My father must talk
to a hundred people a day,
yet we haven’t spoken in weeks.
As I get older, we hardly speak at all.
It’s as if he were a stranger
and we had never met.
I wonder, if I
were a tourist on the beach
or a golfer lost in woods
and met him now for the very first time,
what we’d say to each other,
how his hand would feel in mine
as we introduced ourselves,
and if, as is the case
with certain people, I’d feel,
when I looked him in the eye,
I’d known him all my life.

“Certain People” by Richard Jones from Country of Air. © Copper Canyon Press, 1986. Reprinted with permission.   (buy now).

The Cupcake Generation

Imagine what will happen when today’s kids grow up and realize they really aren’t all that special

By Jayne Jacova Feld
spoiled snowflakes who’ve been sheltered their entire lives and have no notion of personal responsibility. Everyone gets a trophy, everyone gets an award! Generation cupcake can’t do wrong. Blame society, not the kids!
by Chefj August 15, 2015

CUPCAKE means “Soft, loving person”


In today’s world, it’s entirely possible for kids to reach adulthood without realizing they’re not amazing at everything they attempt to do. Consider how, in recreational sports, players “earn” trophies for showing up. At classroom awards ceremonies, students are awarded certificates for being the most talented at something, or if not that, for trying really hard. Somewhere along the way, parents decided that because everybody was just so special, everybody should get a proverbial cupcake.
Then there’s the trend toward “cooperative” recess and gym games. Gone from many schools are dodgeball-like elimination games. With the competition out of the picture, everybody wins.

In the academic world, the cupcake is the A. While not so long ago, C+ was the average grade for college-level classes, A’s are the new normal. The first letter of the alphabet comprises 43 percent of all letter grades, according to published reports.

It’s as if we’re afraid that if our kids were to hear the truth – they’re not the best soccer player this side of the Delaware and their report on Jersey tomatoes will not become a “New York Times” bestseller – their egos will be too damaged for them to go on. But are all the trophies and accolades working? It’s a question that more and more parents ask as their kids come home pumped up with high grades, participation trophies, and the idea that life will always be easy breezy.

For Medford mother Trisanne Vricella, her 12-year-old daughter’s steady stream of straight A’s this year is a cause for both celebration and concern.

“She gets straight A’s but she’s in seventh grade and has trouble telling time,” says Vricella, mother of three. “What does that say?”

The cupcake mentality is well-intentioned: in an increasingly complex, competitive and unfair world, it’s an attempt to boost self-esteem and to cushion our children from some of the harsher realities of modern living. While there are many situations in which “everybody wins” is a sensible policy, experts say cupcake overkill can backfire when we shield children from all forms of failure. As they see it, cupcakes feed into a larger trend in modern culture toward over-protectionism.

Moreover, it may seem counter-intuitive, but when children expect or anticipate rewards, it can compromise their performance. Rewards can even kill creativity because they discourage risk-taking, according to several American and Israeli studies. When children are hooked on getting a reward or extreme praise, they tend to avoid challenges and instead play it safe to avoid the possibility of failure.

Failure may sound, well, negative. But shielding children from disappointment can prevent them from building resilience and developing the skills necessary to cope with the complexities of life, says Lenore Skenazy, author of “Free-Range Kids,” which espouses giving children more unsupervised freedom.

“It’s a big lie that everything our kids do is fantastic,” says Skenazy, a nationally syndicated columnist who was relieved when her own son figured out he had no talent for bowling despite his eighth-place trophy in fifth-grade. “We’re treating children as if they were undeveloped, literally fragile and emotionally fragile beings who can’t realize they’re bad at some things.”

As she sees it, “everybody wins” is a by-product of the intensive parenting or helicopter movement. Driven by the marketplace of baby and kid products – from toddler knee pads to gym classes promoting movement “in a safe environment” – parents’ belief that kids will be okay if left to figure things out themselves is undermined. The message is that children cannot learn by observing, self-discovery or by making mistakes. They have to be managed – lest they fall behind.

“Along with this disbelief that things will kick in automatically, parents no longer believe children will bounce back from frustration and failure,” she says. “We’re so worried about their sense of self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem that we think we have to goose everything with an absurd prize.”

In the academic world, parents have become gradually more involved in their teens’ educational and social decision-making processes over the past 20 years; however, 9/11 was perhaps the biggest catalyst leading to “extreme protectionism,” says James Riordan, director of guidance for Cherry Hill schools. The widespread use of cell phones has also fed into this shift. While some of today’s demands from over-protective parents would not have been taken seriously just a few decades ago, educators have changed to accommodate the demands of this more intensive style of parenting.

Among the biggest shifts has been in the college application process – for both the better and worse, says Riordan. With the skyrocketing price of college, the sacrifices families make to pay the bill and the difficulties new graduates have finding jobs, parents are encouraged to play a greater role in the college search. However, it is not unusual nowadays for adults to all but take the decision away from their children. Some pay thousands of dollars for private SAT tutoring, and expert application and essay review, plus they often insist that guidance counselors process applications to as many as 30 colleges, he says.

“When a parent comes in and wants to go through all this, we do it – even if we know the parent has set the whole thing up, and even if the student says ‘I don’t know what colleges I’m applying to,’” Riordan adds.

One of the ways Cherry Hill high schools attempt to help teenagers build resilience is through leadership training, says Riordan. All freshmen go through a program to develop individualized academic and personal goals. The hope is that students will gain skills and confidence to make their own decisions.

“Will it stop over-parenting? Probably not,” he says. “We hope it will give students additional skills they can use and apply to life along the way.”

Riordan says another new trend is the increasingly common, almost knee-jerk reaction some students and their parents have to less-than-satisfactory results on exams and tests. In a not-so-distant past, a teenager would get a test or paper back in a class and have time to reflect upon the grade before reporting it (or not) to their parents.

In cases when a child felt the results deserved a second look, parents would often leave it up to the child to take it up with the teacher. Nowadays, many students immediately text results to mom or dad. Within minutes, parents call the school demanding explanations for a bad grade.

“We feel as parents we have the skills in order to make life better for our children,” says Riordan. “But by doing so much for them, we’re depriving our children of skills they should be developing by themselves.”

Still, not everyone equates “cupcakes” with over-protectionism, especially when used to motivate young children.

“I think folks make too big a deal about young kids receiving trophies,” says Dr. Stefan Dombrowski, director of the Rider University School Psychology Program and Cherry Hill father of two.  “It’s not going to make our kids soft, lazy, uncompetitive or unmotivated. Young kids like getting a trophy in the same way they like receiving a sticker or stamp at school for putting forth effort.”

By grade two, he notes, children generally know the top teams and players despite grown-ups’ attempts to put on an “everyone’s a winner” game face.

And for some, with lingering childhood memories of being on the wrong side of competitive situations, cupcakes have their place. Many years later, Marlton mother Marla Feldman Vecchio recalls the star incentive system her second-grade teacher used to dole out prizes. Month after month, the same three kids won the prize.

“What was the point of trying, we knew we weren’t going to get the prize,” says Feldman Vecchio, a former third-grade teacher in Cherry Hill and mother of three.

Still, she says, the kinder, gentler approach only works up to a point. Children need honest appraisals of their skills and the chance to experience their own failures or they will have trouble gaining independence.

“I tell my kids that life is going to be disappointing sometimes, and they have to accept that and just do their best,” she says. “You have to let them get hurt and feel disappointment.”

While even the most well-intentioned parent has trouble letting their children knowingly walk into failure, those who have let their kids feel some pain say the experience can be invaluable.

When Cherry Hill mom Sharmila Simms’ son Aidan, now 10, came home from school last year with a C on a science test, he was devastated. Normally a straight-A student, Aidan implored his mom to call the teacher and ask for a retake. It was obvious to Simms her son had not prepared for the exam. His answer had missed the point of the question and was not well thought out.

“Our kids are under the impression that if they show up and are breathing, they deserve an A,” she says. “It was hard for him but I refused to fix it for him, and it never happened again. It never will happen again. The lesson was learned.”

Realizing how hard it is for kids to lose, some educators are taking it upon themselves to teach the art of graceful losing. Due to her students’ frequent outbursts from unfavorable game outcomes, Diana Morris, a special education teacher in Cherry Hill, says she started modeling more acceptable reactions to losing a turn or a game, like saying “aww shucks.” Her students found the phrase so funny that it helped take the edge out of losing turns or even the whole game.

“The best was the last time we played an adjective game,” recalls Morris, who teaches first and second grade students at Horace Mann Elementary School. “I landed on ‘lose a turn’ five times in a row. I acted overly silly about it, saying (phrases like) ‘Oh my goodness! Not again! Better luck next time.’ They were laughing and then when they landed on it themselves, it only seemed silly to them.

“The thrill of playing the game,” she adds, “is beginning to take over the desire to win all the time.”

Life Alert Necklaces and the Dinosaur

by Lee Ann Bledsoe


CAMERA FOCUSES in on an old woman sprawled on her living room floor.

“Help me! Help me!” she cries. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Camera zooms in to capture the woman’s tear-stained face. She looks needy and helpless as she grovels on the floor. For God’s sake, I think, put her down! Euthanazia. A club. Find a zombie. Anything to get the whining to stop!

CAMERA PANS the room and captures the terrified faces of two young children as they run to grandma’s side. “Grandma, grandma, are you okay?” the youngest one cries.

Grandma repeats: “Help me! Help, me! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” The kids already know she’s fallen; grandma’s on the fucking floor for God’s sake! Evidently the old woman wants her grandkids traumatized for life as well as terrified in this moment.

Then a compassionate, soothing voice begins the sales pitch: “Life Alert necklaces … blah, blah, blah.”

I absolutely DETEST commercials that prey on our fears to sell stuff. So can you imagine how pissed I am that I’m probably going to have to buy a device that advertises to the world I’m so old and feeble I need a team of experts to help me survive my next fall?

I fell tonight. Two of my great grandkids were with me: Chrissy is three and James Mervin is 18 months. I tripped over Fancy Puzzles, a cat who lives with me but belongs to someone else. (Fancy’s another story.) Anyway, Chrissie was terrified. She panicked and screamed, then cried for 30 minutes. I felt horrible for scaring her so badly. And I wasn’t even hurt.

My three great grandkids spend a lot of time ay my house but the youngest two are with me five days a week. I don’t mean to brag–or maybe I do–but I am the best great grandmother on the planet. What would happen if I had hurt myself? What would happen if I had a stroke? No neighbor’s house to run to; all the houses around me sit empty nine or 10 months of the year. My internet and phone (a landline) are out as much as on during the stormy season.

Maybe I should get another cell phone? I have seven or eight of the damn things now, sitting in the bottom drawer of my desk. My kids and grandkids keep buying them for me. I’m always grateful for the new device; absolutely thrilled to own a gadget that would allow everyone  in the world to reach me, anytime of the day or night, anywhere I might happen to be. I can’t imagine anything more intrusive. How do people stand it? Nevertheless, I thank the kids sweetly, play around with the latest phone until the battery dies, and then add it to my growing collection. But I might have to reconsider; can a three-year-old kid use a cell phone? Or should I order one of those Life Alert necklaces? At this point in my life, I’d rather fitted for Depends.

Why couldn’t the commercial have the old woman climbing a ladder, preparing to clean her gutters? I do that twice a year. She could fondle the necklace, look squarely into the camera and say in a strong voice: “This will come in handy if I fuck this up.”

I could buy into a commercial like that.


– See more at: https://scriggler.com/DetailPost/Opinion/25339#sthash.86EPv6x9.dpuf



Lee Ann Bledsoe says: “I was a fairly successful professional writer 100 years ago working as a columnist for “The Oregonian” and “The Columbian,” writing humorous verse for several greeting card companies, and freelancing for “Alcoholism” and “Health” magazines. Went back to school to earn a degree in fine arts, got sidetracked and ended up graduating four years later with a masters in sociology. For the next three decades I worked in community mental health, specializing in the DMIO (“dangerously mentally ill offender”) population. Fun group. One of those guys took a real dislike to me in May of 2011, effectively ending my career and the bleeding heart phase of my life. I’m extremely grateful he didn’t end me, as well. Now I’m writing again. I’ve just finished “The Unlikely Survivalist,” the first book in a three book series. Other than that, I hate liver–even smothered in onions–love dogs, gardening without gloves, reading and writing.”

Goodbye to James Garner


Goodbye to James Garner
by Kim Dower 

Fans loved him as RockfordMaverick,
a man’s man, had your back, cool,
did the right thing. I loved him
for being Doris Day’s husband
in a movie I cut class to see,
fifth grade, played at the Riviera,
only old men and me during the day,
went alone told no one, but I had a gigantic
crush, he was an ob/gyn, she was a mom,
marriage in jeopardy, couples in movies
stayed together in the sixties, while out
in the world it was all falling apart, women
poised to flip their lives, marching into a world
of miniskirts, riots, shame, pill box hats, flinging
our boxy pink suit jackets and pumps into the sunset,
not even James Garner could have saved us, and this week
more unrest, more wars, I’m stuck on the headline
James Garner Dead. When I was ten I needed a man
I could count on—even a man holding aces and eights.

“Goodbye to James Garner” by Kim Dower from Last Train to the Missing Planet. © Red Hen Press, 2016. Reprinted with permission. (buy now).

How to Clean an Oil-Slicked Penguin

Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2016, The Writer’s Almanac


How to Clean an Oil-Slicked Penguin
by Andrew Gent

Like the punch line to a very bad joke
the obvious and actual answer
is: “carefully”.
First, you must learn to hold the penguin
from behind, to avoid the beak,
pressing both wings against the body
until you need to hold each out
(again, carefully) to clean
in and around the extremities.
Next, contrary to logic,
you apply more oil
(cooking oil works best)
to loosen and remove
the thicker crude. Working it (carefully)
into the feathers. Next
you clean what remains
with dishwashing detergent
four, five, maybe even six times.
Careful (yet again) to avoid
the eyes and mouth.
You want to clean the feathers
without removing their natural
protective coating, or else
the penguin will sink like a stone
having lost its normal buoyancy.
Finally, you let it rinse off
in a pool of clean water.
Let the penguin do the work,
preening its coat and reclaiming
what little remains of its dignity.
Do not expect thanks.
In fact, it will continue
to bite and scratch.
But, if you are lucky,
it might survive.
Which is the most
we can hope for.

“How to Clean an Oil-Slicked Penguin” by Andrew Gent from Explicit Lyrics. © The University of Arkansas Press, 2016. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)



by Bill Yarrow 


The first rule of writing is to not add descriptors to things inherently described. A ball need never be described as round because a ball, inherently, is round. Grass need never be described as green because grass naturally is green. Milk need never be described as white because milk normally is white. Adjectives are required only when the object to be described deviates from its inherent self. Thus a lozenge-shaped ball, blue or yellow grass, pink or speckled milk.

No need to say he watched with his eyes or she touched with her hands because we use our eyes to see and we use our hands to touch. If she touched his shoe with her toe, however, that’s a different story.

No one would write, “He sneezed with his nose,” “She danced with her feet,” or “He breathed with his lungs,” but people do write, “She pinched him with her fingers” (or worse, “with her thumb and index finger”) and “He kissed her with his lips.” Why? Let kiss be kiss and pinch be pinch. Over-scrupulous specificity is not a good.

Let the normal be normal and never over explain. He opened the window is sufficient. “He placed two hands on the window pull and lifted upward” or “he grabbed the door handle and pulled it outward” belabors the action and obscures the obvious. If you have something to say, say it directly. He kissed her. He parked the car. He cleaned the toilet. Add a detail only if it is an unexpected detail. He kissed her on the chin. He parked the car on the lawn. He cleaned the toilet in his suit.

Chekhov writes to Gorky: “You understand it at once when I say, ‘The man sat on the grass;’ you understand it because it is clear and makes no demands on the attention. On the other hand, it is not easily understood, and it is difficult for the mind, if I write, ‘A tall, narrow-chested, middle-sized man, with a red beard, sat on the green grass, already trampled by pedestrians, sat silently, shyly, and timidly looked about him.’ That is not immediately grasped by the mind, whereas good writing should be grasped at once—in a second.”

Description should be eloquent and precise, not fevered, not desperate, not consumed by the greed to be foolishly exhaustive and insanely comprehensive.

Consider these lines, both of which come from the William Carlos Williams poem that begins “By the road to the contagious hospital”

 “the reddish / purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy / stuff of bushes and small trees / with dead, brown leaves under them”—that description is unfocused, desperate, inept.

 “the stiff curl of wild carrot leaf”—now, that description is eloquent, precise, thrillingly good!

Do not double up on words. Use “separated,” not “separated out.” Use “divided, not “divided up.” Use “together,” not “both together.” Use “sat,” not “sat down.” Use “fell,” not “fell down” (unless “down” is used as a preposition and requires an object, e.g. “down the stairs”). Use “lifted,” not “lifted up.”

Never exaggerate. Let words speak for themselves. “Hot,” not “scalding hot.” “Cold,” not “freezing cold.” “Handsome,” not “dashingly handsome.” “I sweated,” not “I sweated bullets.” “I jumped,” not “I jumped out of my skin.” “Red, not “beet red.” Or “blood red.” Or “firehouse red.” (An exaggeration is never far from a cliché.)

Do not add an adverb which does the same work as the verb. No need to say “moaned softly” when “moaned” will do. A moan, by its nature, is soft. No need to say “missed terribly” when “missed” will do. Adding “terribly” dilutes the force of “missed.”

Do not use “so” as an intensifier without using the word “that” to complete the comparison. Not “I was so embarrassed,” but “I was so embarrassed that I could not speak.” If you complete a comparison, make sure you are adding to the original idea rather than merely reiterating the idea. “I was so embarrassed that I turned red” is a reiterative sentence because people who are embarrassed do turn red. Better to say simply, “I was embarrassed” or “I turned red.” One or the other.

If you are going to sin, sin on the side of clarity. Add more words than fewer words. Repeat words if the repetition will help clarify the action or the idea. Consider the shortened form of the sentence from the preceding paragraph: “If you complete a comparison, make sure you are adding to rather than merely reiterating.” Add words for clarity.

Good writing is rhythmic. Prose rhythm may be established in a number of ways. [Note” not “a number of different ways.”] Thus, there are no hard and fast rules regarding word choice, particularly the number of words used. “I showered” and “I took a shower” are both fine ways to express the same idea. Two words are not universally preferable to four words. Choosing always the smallest possible number of words may make writing more difficult to decipher—like reading a telegram. Writing needs to breathe. Repetition is OK. The use of parenthetical elements is OK. The use of parallel phrases is to be encouraged. Triplets are to be admired. Good writing owes allegiance to precision, not constriction.

 Use “sprinted” rather than “ran quickly,” not because “sprinted” is one word rather than two but because it may be the precise word you are looking for.

 Use “reclined” rather than “leaned back,” not because “reclined” is one word rather than two but because it may be the precise word you are looking for.

 Use “contemplated” rather than “thought carefully,” not because “contemplated” is one word rather than two but because it is the precise word you are looking for.

 Use “labored” rather than “worked hard,” not because “labored” is one word rather than two but because it may be the precise word you are looking for.

 Use “glanced” rather than “looked quickly,” not because “glanced” is one word rather than two but because it may be the precise word you are looking for.

 Use “shouted” rather than “called loudly,” not because “shouted” is one word rather than two but because it may be the precise word you are looking for.

But “sprinted,” “reclined,” “contemplated,” “labored,” “glanced,” and “shouted” may not be the precise words you are looking for, so, in that case, don’t use them. Use whatever words you need whenever you need them.

Those people who see style as affectation see everything as affectation.

(with apologies to John Berryman)

Milk, friends, is white.
We must not say so.
Swans, friends, are white.
We must not say so.
Grass, friends, is green.
We must not say so.
Birds have two wings.
We must not say so.
River water is wet.
We must not say so.
We clap with our hands.
We must not say so.
The sky above is blue.
We must not say so.

but trucks sputter (or brake)
butter softens (or burns)
the factory closes (or hires)
the soil erodes (or dries up)
lips blister (or tighten)
leaves scatter (or shimmer)
paper cuts sting (or heal)
radiators knock (and hiss)



This essay appeared in Blue Fifth Review: Blue Five Notebook Series (Winter 2016 / 16.1) as “We must Not Say So.”        https://bluefifthreview.wordpress.com/


SEE MORE FROM BILL YARROW ON  HELIOShttps://heliosliterature.com/2014/11/26/processes/

Bill Yarrow is the author of THE LICE OF CHRIST (MadHat Press 2014), INCOMPETENT TRANSLATIONS AND INEPT HAIKU (Cervena Barva Press 2013), POINTED SENTENCES (BlazeVOX 2012), FOURTEEN (Naked Mannekin, 2011), and WRENCH (erbacce-press 2009).