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January 2, 2011

Althea hauls and skins the beast

and coaxes spark for evening’s feast;

she stirs a gruel fit for a god,

served to men late formed from clod.

 

Answering a creator’s call,

she paints the bison on a wall,

lit by flames that leapt and played,

freed by a titan who disobeyed.

 

She wields the magic that colors night

(struggling with the stolen light);

deep inside her shaman’s cave,

she shares the crime no god forgave.

 

Flare flings shadows through the haze,

like warnings hurled at her,    or praise;

what means Althea’s beastly show?

man’s calling is to hunt,     and  know.

 

Like her sisters of the past

who saved us from the icy blast,

her stronger soul must never tire,

the female,     keeper of the fire.

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December 3, 2010

 

I mis-remembered some lines of a sonnet to a soldier by Rupert Brooke. “…and if my body can’t be found, go find a few who give a damn, and tell them that in a far-off troubled land, there is a little plot of ground that will be forever England.” Brooke’s lines actually read thus: “If I should die, think only this of me: that there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.”
Brooke’s wonderful lines remind me of the spot in the midst of a savage land where Pat Tillman died. To me, that will always be a holy place.
 
The medic mused by a nameless hill

Where an infidel had fought and fell

For freedom Afghans knew not of,

Robbed by Allah of life and love.

 

The  rocks  he  touched in the land of death

Seemed poisoned by the Prophet’s breath,

Yet a worthless slope is a sacred place,

Purged and  pure, like a state of grace.

 

He  saw  Tillman’s rifle on the ground…

Then thoughts were muddled by the sound

Of whirring blades whirling dust around,

And from the chopper the pilot frowned,

 

But  the  wind  sang soft, as if at play,

And whispered something as he walked away.

–written at Christmas 2010, jd

 

 

 

 

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November 1, 2010

Taunted by the waning day’s soft glow

And shadows’  soothing calls that bid him stay,

The killer,  knowing he must not obey,

Keeps his pace and tracks a fleeting foe;

But stalking merely yields a timid doe

With wary feet,  yet one the man can slay,

For he alone can kill from far away

With clever hands that work the stubborn bow.

The hunter gulps the food that he has slain

And sighs at a distant eagle’s glide

Of graceful curls from off a mountain shelf;

Then turns to cross the endless,  unknown  plain

With just the eager weapon as a guide:

The creature he is hunting is himself.

 

  –from  “Sonnets to the Hunter,”   l990.

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December 21, 2008

 

 This poem is for my wife,  Margaret,  who has added to my life in more ways than I can count.   She is Canadian scholar Margaret Ward,  author of  “The Family Dynamic”  and dozens of articles on the family and  adoption.   See her web site:  www.margaretward.org

    In a wider sense,  the poem is dedicated to all writers,  artists,  musicians,  scholars,  scientists,  inventors,  explorers,  capitalists–to  heroes of the mind like Margaret– those who created and continue to nourish all that’s good and glorious in  Western Civilization.

 

Margaret treads the path with even pace,

As wild dogs in arroyos bray and race;

Ravens croak and claw in barren trees,

And eerie lizards crunch the fallen leaves.

 

A  flash of color  makes her turn her head,

A blossom blows there in its thorny bed;

She cleans around it with her hiking shoe,

And a fuzzy scorpion shocks with its debut.

 

A hawk dives sudden  through the morning fog,

And plucks a salamander from a log;

Child-like she can only gasp and cry

In awe,  as death,  like mist,  wafts nigh.

 

Yet she’s the truer menace on the trail !

By her witness  wobbling worlds prevail ;

Without the sunburst of her knowing gaze,

Creatures morph to gray primordial haze.

 

In her joy all nature comes alive,

And a myriad of miracles can thrive;

Her love is all that gives creation worth,

It’s Margaret that’s the wonder of the earth.

 

Uncertainty  and   enemies   await,

And threats decreed by jealous gods and fate;

She leaves her heartache and regret behind,

And hastens,  now,  on the journey of the mind…

 

   –lines at Christmas,  2008,  by Jim Douthit

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November 29, 2008

Random thoughts about a cat:
Why is there something instead of nothing?   How is it that existence exists?  Such questions are compounded in wonder by the miracle of our water planet, rocketing through space, where life exists and flourishes.
Why is there such a thing as LIFE?   How can life exist and flourish?
A philosopher must be one who wonders. He is an appreciator, relishing the fact of existence, accepting–even if painfully–that you cannot go beyond existence in your reasoning.   Existence exists: this is reality’s final redoubt, which reason cannot conquer. Reason cannot go beyond it, behind it.
But this is not cause for frustration, like Sisyphus and his rock. Rather, accepting existence as an absolute gives reason a foundation, a guide to TRUTH, which allows it to explore the vast universe and uncover its secrets.
Thoughts like these went through my mind each day when Mama Cat and her most-recent brood of yellow kittens paid their meal-time visit to my patio. How can there be such a thing as LIFE?  How can life exist?   Why does it flourish? And we must remember the impermanence of life, both in the long-term and in the short-term. On this planet, for example, all life forms will cease to exist when–millions of years from now–our sun loses its heat, expands, becomes a “Red Giant,” and incinerates the earth. In the short-term, few life forms last more than a few decades.   Death has a myriad of soldiers.
Life is the most-complicated arrangement of matter in the universe,   and it is a temporary arrangement of matter. As such, life ceases to exist with any dis-arrangement of its matter. Life is not, like the matter that makes it up, an absolute. It is not a “given,” not its own reality, not a separate reality. It is an impermanent arrangement of matter.    Life is precious because of its evanescence.
Mama Cat’s presence was a stimulus for thought.   At first a persistent nuisance, she and her litters became a wonder to me.   She was just a skinny yellow cat,  but to me something fine was lost to this earth when she died.
 
                 MAMA CAT
She’d allow a touch before she’d eat,

This yellow beast in constant heat,

Fending off her tumbling brood

Who followed her to fun and food,

Her flock of alley pedigree,

Saw when to fight and when to flee.

 

In a queenly pose atop my car

She’d survey the yard and street afar,

Or step across my open door,

Touch a paw upon the floor,

Sniff at wonders all around,

House cats fat and sleeping sound.

 

But then she’d turn to her world untried,

To uncertainty and storms outside;

For her to struggle meant to thrive,

To be embattled was to be alive

Her tiger soul chose stress and strife,

As if dull peace would lessen life.

 

How foreign seemed her wild domain,

A land of only play and pain,

Where neither praise exists nor blame,

Nor strutting pride, nor cringing shame;

A place I knew so little of,   I won’t deny,

Yet I saw love…                    didn’t  I ?

 

I profited to hear that purr

Which meant I was in debt to her;

I’m thus enriched by what I owe,

Tho’ strange it sounds to state it so;

Her visit was like a prayer each day,

Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t say.

 

On the asphalt stretch she died one night,

Killed by a car in blinding light,

An unearthly roar she couldn’t heed,

By an unseen foe with unknown speed;

Dead, though she had never sinned,

Her spirit flown like a song in the wind.

 

Later, I sat on the patio

Puffing a cigar in the fading glow,

And, rumbling ‘round my creaky chair,

Came yellow kittens romping there;

Now independent, I could tell,

A valiant mother had taught them well.

 

She had fled my prison, a fugitive

Yet left me memories that live;

So here’s a simple requiem:

This vagrant who had no lives of nine,

Found fire and thrills in her feral realm,

More than I have  known in mine.

 

Goodbye, dear one, from my habitat,

You’ll always be my favorite cat.

    –Thanksgiving Day,  2008,   Jim Douthit

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November 5, 2008

Election.   Can’t sleep

No sheep to count.  Barack wins

Flocking to the left.

–Nov. 5, 2008,   by Burke Beaumont

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November 2, 2008

Young Fred was hunting rabbits in September’s evening chill,

When he saw a horse and rider from his vantage on the hill,

A horse with wounded rider slumped forward on its mane;

The lad ran to tell his mother through the wavy grass and grain.

 

Before he’d reached the ranch house,  his mother stepped outside,

He cried,  “Ma,  a rider’s coming!  Do you think that we should hide?

He must be a badman who was chased way off his course,

Do you think that we should shoot him?   Will he let me ride his horse?”

 

The outlaw’s giant Sorrel saw the houselight from the plain,

Its friendly flicker beckoned through a curtained windowpane,

He perked his ears and raised his head,  but kept an even pace,

He knew his rider soon would fall if he should start to race.

 

The fraulein ran to meet him,  Fred followed with a frown,

She grasped the stallion’s frothy reins,  for they had fallen down;

“He’s hurt,”  she said to the excited lad,  who wondered what they’d found;

The man slid from the saddle and she eased him to the ground.

 

“Frederick,  go wash the horse,  his legs are caked with mud,”

In fading light she saw her hands were wet with the outlaw’s blood;

With hands both firm and gentle,  she wiped his drooping head,

“Shall we drag him to the house,  Ma?”   “No,  son,  not to daddy’s bed.”

 

They got him into shelter and made a bed of straw,

The fraulein took his boots and clothes;  Fred eyed his guns with awe;

“Son,  go get the medicine by the fireplace on the shelf,

With my herbs and physics I might bring him back to health.”

 

She nursed him and she fed him,  with gruel and German bread,

His wounds healed fast and one bright day,  his deathly fever fled;

When the outlaw woke that morning,  he asked,  “Am I dead or lost?”

He wondered what had happened,  wondered what the cost.

 

The fraulein was smiling down at him,  with serene and thoughtful face,

“Where am I ?”  gasped the outlaw,  “How did I find this place?”

Her eyes sparkled like the starshine that a Viking god had sent,

He would swear he’d  found Valhalla,  if he’d known what that word meant.

 

“Who are you?”  he asked the Beauty,  “How did I get here?”

She said,  “I am Frau Burkhart,  you needn’t have a fear;

You came from out the unknown night–don’t feel such remorse,

You came to me a sorry sight,  dying,  on your horse.

 

“You survived another savage fight,  your scars show there were more,

What luck for you your horse knew how to find a friendly door!”

“Wrangle!  Where is Wrangle?”  he cried with pain renewed,

But she lay her hand upon his brow and he was at once subdued.

 

“We gave him feed and water and he’s off to the mountain’s rim,

I’ve seen lots of horses,  friend,  but never one like him;

He prances,  rears,  and whinneys,  and he gallops like the wind,

Don’t worry about that devil!  He’s full of fire,”   she grinned.

 

“Are you all right’s  what matters,  fear for your horse can keep,

Is your heart still beating steady?  Can you move now and breathe deep?”

“The air’s sweeter here than anywhere,”  he breathed with heavy sigh,

He struggled to his feet then,  and looked her in the eye;

“Who are you,  girl?”  he asked again,  and his blood began to stir;

She said,  “Sadie is my given name,  and what is your name,  sir?”

 

But,  speechless,  he beheld her there,  for a name’s not what we are,

He was like a traveler lost at sea who’d found a fixed bright star;

Then he said,  “Folks just call me  ‘lonesome’ — that or something such,

I’ve always been alone,  I guess,  never thought about it much.”

 

The outlaw watched her do her chores,  slop the pigs she liked so well,

She was such a treasure–in such a place–how could he foretell?

With lusty eyes and lavish mouth,  her handsome face berry-tan,

She glowed with woman’s beauty,  yet was strong as any man.

 

She said,  “You must leave soon,”  and his heart began to burn,

“My men,”  she said,  “drove cattle north,  and they will soon return.”

For she guessed he was a killer,  whose guns held secret tales,

Who rode the great,  wild Wrangle down many crooked trails.

 

He said,  “Do you have a good horse,  Sadie,  one that’s just for you?”

“Just that bitch beyond the fence,”  she laughed;  “We called her ‘Princess Blue’ ;

Got her from the Indians,  traded for beef and our well-water,

The Chief gave us that untamed wretch,  named for his youngest daughter–

She was a wild one,  too!”

 

What else to give this fraulein whose care had made him whole?

She’d healed more than his wounded flesh;  she’d given him his soul;

“Wrangle’s everything I own,”  he said,  “but tell you what I’ll do,

I’ll leave him here for you and Fred,  and I’ll take Princess Blue.”

 

Fred had Wrangle miles away,  the two were a ghostly form,

Boy and horse together,  like a vision in a storm,

On a horse with hooves of lightning,  while dust clouds swirled behind,

A boy with freedom in his soul no god could ever bind.

 

Frau Burkhart thanked the outlaw,  and touched him on the arm,

Her touch pierced like a magic knife,  like a sorceress’  charm;

He held her arms behind her and felt her eyes implore,

Overcome,  he kissed her,  and pulled her to the floor.

 

She twisted,  kicked,  and struggled,  and fought in every way,

But he tore her undergarments and raped her in the hay;

She wept,  but then surrendered as he kissed away her tears,

When she wrapped her long legs around him,  he recaptured youth’s lost years.

 

They lay till sun was setting,  told secrets of their hearts,

Souls bared like their bodies,  before he must depart;

She said,  “Fred will soon be coming,  he mustn’t see me here,

Tonight I’ll be so lonely,  love,  and you’re so warm and near.”

 

In the morn’s first light,  on Wrangle,  he captured Princess Blue,

He wrestled and cajoled her,  and nailed on her some shoes,

He brushed her down and saddled her and tied her to a tree,

“Soon,”  he said,  “you’ll know me;  with me you’ll still be free.”

 

As he mounted the pesky filly,  Frau Burkhart gave a shout,

“Before you cross the river,  stop and turn about;

I’ll climb while you are riding and be a-top the hill to see;

Look back,  Lonesome,  one last time,  and blow a kiss to me.”

 

“Come on,  Blue”  he told the horse,  as they rode away,

Tears dropped down on Lonesome’s face,  he had no words to say;

He’s ridden down a thousand trails,  he’d  crossed the years alone,

He’d fought to save a life or two,  now he must save his own.

 

He’d always rode where duty called–knew nothing else to heed,

But with Sadie’s  love held in his heart,  he felt a greater need;

In her eyes he’d found new life that duty wouldn’t buy,

His journey still through darkness led,  but he knew where and why.

 

No longer did the trail seem cold,  yet it was late September,

There was a warmth of earth around that he could not remember;

Grass was surely greener than he’d ever seen before,

Prairie roses blooming–had it been raining more?

 

He slowed Blue near the river,  and reined up at the brink,

“I know what thirst is like,  Blue Gal,  so go ahead and drink;”

The outlaw saw his fraulein waving high a-top the hill,

He waved back and blew a kiss and felt love’s painful thrill.

 

She stood like an earthy goddess,  head held high and grand,

Breezy fingers touched her hair,  and,  like an unseen sculptor’s hand,

The wind molded her clothes against her,  showing naked form again,

She was a fountainhead of life,  the strength of all her men.

 

The image of her standing there goaded like a spur,

She has part of me,  he thought,  do I have part of her?

In his deepest heart,  he knew,  such thought was just a whim,

He might own a part of her,  but she owned all of him.

 

Sadie in September days:   a vision he’d preserve,

Even a tiny part,  he thought,  is more than I deserve;

He’d have to see his love again,  that much was clear,  he knew,

“I’ll ride back to you,   Fraulein,  when Spring comes blobbin’  through;

 

“When the Egret and the Heron roost along waking waters’  flow,

When Canvasbacks and River Gulls glide over melting snow,

Then stand upon this hill,  Fraulein,  and wave to me again,

For I’m the one who loves you most,  ‘mongst all your gallant men.”

 

He looked again,  but she was gone;  he felt a loss and shiver;

“C’mon,  Blue,  you’ve had enough!”  He clicked his tongue,

And urged her on,  and they splashed across the river…

 

  –from “Sonnet to Sadie,”   1990.

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October 31, 2008

We were driving north of Ord, Nebraska,  near an old Indian outpost called Ft. Hartsuff,  when my friend Bill Wiecking,  scholar and athlete,  felt like getting his jogging in for the day.   I let him out on the cold gravel and drove up the road and waited for him.

 

The solitary runner,  bold and fleet,

Shrugs the windy threats of fateful skies;

Along Ft. Hartsuff’s  graveled path he flies,

Naked  ‘gainst  December’s  icy  sheet.

Farm hounds feign attack,  but soon retreat

From the killer ape  whose fiery eyes

Dissolve like wax the ancient growls’  disguise,

Driving them to safety and defeat.

Bill’s warm breath tames the cold of earth,

And dances with the power of his soul;

He laughs at dogs and gods that he must face,

For pleasure tells him what his life is worth;

His chin is thrust toward freedom’s unknown goal,

Where man,  defiant,  will forever race.

–from “Sonnet Running Diary,”   l989.

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With sunset near,  I jogged to an expanse

that a week ago seemed baked and brown;

yet here a  lake of flowers,  lately bloomed,

washed and waved like a purple pall,

as if a bruised and soundless beauty

like the evening’s fall;

but other colors clamored to be seen:

a flame of red,  like a flared match,  windblown,

or here a yellow patch,  like a tiny sun,  blazed

as I hurried by.

 

When such scenes shock,  I want to share

                                   with you,  Dear One;

I want to spread this find before your feet

and wait,   breathless with hope–not that you’ll look at me–

only that you’ll say,  “It’s lovely,”

so that,  by your voice pronounced,

as if by Proserpine proclaimed,

my flowers would be holy…

 

   –lines written in Tucson,  l978,

        Jim Douthit

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October 12, 2008

     One day our white-dwarf sun will become a red giant.  This will happen as the sun loses its heat and begins to expand and dissipate,   in the process incinerating the planets of our solar system.   When the red-giant phase is complete,  the earth will be a cold cinder,  floating in a void.

    In order for the human race to continue in existence,  man must discover undreamt-of secrets of the universe ages before the red-giant phase of the sun.   Perhaps in the millions of years remaining,    after a thousand quantum leaps of evolution,  man’s intellect may reach a level we cannot now imagine.    A Newton of those days may discover among his theories the means to keep the sun heated virtually forever,  though such a concept belongs only to present fantasy.   Another fantasy is space travel.   Relying on the totality of modern science,  we could not reach the nearest star in a thousand lifetimes;   but will future man uncover paths to other water planets?    Will he become an eternal vagabond in space in order to survive?    We cannot know.

    Yet we do know,  as Ardrey states,  that man is a bad-weather animal,   that he thrives on conflict.   Conflict began man’s evolutionary climb and will sustain it,  wherever it leads.   By nature,   man looks for trouble,  just as he is enticed by problems to solve.   Conflict–even in the form of disasters and wars–breeds knowledge,   thus the fact that man loves to fight is a reason for hope,  not despair.    As an aside, it is pertinent to recall that the warring nations of history have attained the highest cultures,   while the peaceful peoples have remained in a primitive state.   Because of our war-like nature,  not in spite of it,   we may remain optimistic.

     Jogging through a Tucson park one day,   I mulled over these curiosities.   As I jogged under an old archway that was marked for demolition,  I considered the inventive intelligence that had conceived the arch centuries ago,   how the form had stood the test of time in Roman bridges and aqueducts.   As the sun set in a fiery blaze,  I wondered if,  eons hence,   a similar intellect would confront the red giant.    Such thoughts prompted this sonnet:

 

The low sun seethed beyond my path

like a red giant there in wait;

or its blaze was like arriving late

at some war’s aftermath.

A fragment arch that I ran through

halfway along,  the park’s proud gate,

that had withstood the force of Fate

and challenge of Time,  still stood true.

Would the maker of that ancient form

appear and save the earth,  our home,

when one day men and stars contend?

Would a mind divert that final storm?

I turned,  and thought of aqueducts and Rome

and of worlds that mustn’t end…

–by Jim Douthit,   1980

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