• snap beans •

• snap beans •
To get to the last of the pods
on the bottom of the last
snap bean bush
in the bottom row,
she knelt down:
this garden’s proprietress,
her bare knee sinking into the soil,
and, giving way ’round her,
an inch or two,
the soil smell,
of fragrant humus
reached my nostrils.

And, lifting my chin,
I looked at her,
as if for the first time.
She looked up at me,
and stopped,
as if she were suddenly aware
of some unspoken thing –
and,
(in the color of the soil –
which was a rich dark brown,
very nearly black;
in this sunlight,
which seemed to come
from everywhere at once),
leaving the track
of her soiled glove’s passage ,
with her gloved hand,
she wiped a trickle of sweat
from her glowing brow.

And then, I saw there,
something which sparkled:
a mineral essence.
which,
in mere dirt alone,
I have never seen since,
nor before.
It seemed, to me,
upon reflection,
it needed she,
to shine so.

The woman rose to her feet,
and handed the bag to me –
the bag –
which she had provisioned,
was filled with green
clinging beans
to overflowing.

It crinkled in my ears,
as only brown paper will,
and gave way,
in my arms,
and the smell of green beans,
and of brown paper
together,
reaching into me –
carried with it,
of her sweat,
a faint aroma .

This woman, aware of me –
and I, of she, who, hitherto,
I did not know:
(except, perhaps,
from Sunday school –
who was in my mom’s
Bible study group,
some years before)
but I was aware of her,
in such a way
as I could not comprehend it
with my tender mind,
except that,
I had wanted to touch her hand:
if only to have
from her glove,
the soil smell,
to go with me,
together with her own –
when I would
get into the car,
and go my way:
bearing my bag of green beans, imbued,
of her sweat,
and of the soil,
and of the sunlight,
and of her warm,
nutritious,
gentle,
sweet aroma.

As we pulled away,
and onto the highway,
I buried my face in,
and wrapped my arms around
the whole of all of it!
This.
My gift.
My vegetable hoard.

To my mind.
as we drove away,
homeward –
I was not ashamed,
but informed,
infilled:
restored.
~ Tim Burchfield
2/22/14

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• doggie detritus •

• doggie detritus •
I wouldn’t say ‘neat freak’, exactly. As applies to me, I mean. I’ve had kids for far too long to have that appellation applied to me and to still have remained relatively sane, considering the vortex of entropy that having said kids generally precipitates: not that I wouldn’t prefer a tidy abode, it’s just not feasible, as long as they draw breath within my vicinity (what I like to think of, as the ‘kid event horizon’), or at least, such has been my experience. Oh, and dogs. Yes, we have dogs, too. Two of the loveliest little shedders in the world. And shed, they do, continually. So no, not a ‘neat-freak’, me – no – more of an ‘order-preferist’, if you will. Or, if you like, a ‘tidy idealist’: perhaps at a stretch — an ‘anti-Second Law of Thermodynamics apologist’. Or so, would I be, in a perfect world, which, as it turns out, it isn’t.
So, when, to pick a time at random, oh, any old time would do, but say, for instance, NOW, as I look down at my clothes and find them virtually covered with doggie hairs, I will admit, with a ‘blush’, to a bit of a pang, along the lines of a ‘cringe’ — not a ‘panic’, exactly, mind you, and wouldn’t do, unless I were to happen to be, say, in a receiving line to meet the President (or doing an improv with Sarah Silverman, or (I wish) at a book-signing with Sarah Vowel), and were to, say, in checking my fly at the last second, have discovered this, on me, which is usual: enough doggie hair to choke an aardvark, or a jackalope!
No. God, no. No panic here: just a kind of inward appreciation that I am alone, sleepy, and too complacent to be starting at minor provocations, with, it goes without saying, an audible sigh of relief that – at present, there lurk no smart aleck teenagers about to say something cute, along the lines of, “Nice hair shirt. When do you go back to the monastery, and by the way, you left your flail in the bathroom, again.”
No, no need to panic, no need to scrabble for the sticky tape, clawing feebly at myself, screaming teeny epithets: just a mild, subvocalized, “Geeze, Louise! Again?”
Maybe, something like that.
And then, I’ll remember the shining eyes of my lovable pups, and, earlier, all the fun we had, and all the love and affection, and wagglety-butt enthusiasms, and rompings, and doggie kisses that made the static that made them, these here hairs, in their hundreds, this here doggie detritus, cling to me like Johnny Lennon to Yoko Ono, and I’ll think: “Me bothered? Not a bit of it.”
~ Tim Burchfield
10/11/14

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• man on show fourteen below •

• man on show fourteen below •
Fourteen blow, I mean, below, F…F…Fahrenheit. It is the middle of the night. I can’t feel my feet.
My nose hairs are freezing in my nose, startling to this South Texas boy, (a new sensation) which I find strangely amusing. At this age (shall we say, over fifty), new sensations are diverting, if not altogether wonderful.
The gout, I could do without.

It’s funny what passes through your mind, when you’re just…standing around, not really doing very much of anything. Some things, that are fairly silly, some, that are deadly serious. You may have noticed this, yourself, from time to time. Nobody likes to think of the consequences of our occasional silliness. Ditto, this, for me.
Por ejemplo:
[Gertrude Stein, on her deathbed, dying. The love of her life, Alice B. Toklas, is at her side, holding her hand, looking intently at Ms. Stein’s pale face, and at her pallid lips, desperately, importuning, “Tell me…what is the ANSWER, dear Gertrude, what…is…the ANSWER?”
Ms. Stein, being rather annoyed, perhaps at being interrupted, as it happens, being rather busy getting on with this business of, say, dying – sighs deeply, then, opening her eyes, and taking in the bereaved Ms. Toklas, quips, “What is the QUESTION!?”]

What IS the question? What is all this preoccupation with ‘meaning’, with ‘purpose’? Would life really be meaningless if it inherently MEANS nothing, intrinsically? What’s the big deal? Isn’t that asking a bit much, I mean, really.
Can’t life just be fun, I mean, can’t it be? The simple pleasure of an awesome meal, in good company. Pleasant conversation. Creme brûlée. Good coffee. Arabica beans. All by it’s lonesome. No saving grace. No homily. Isn’t that worth the trip?
Great. Now, my stomach’s growling.

[My ‘inner director’, is running a movie in my head. I hear a young Matthew Penn over the intercom: “I’m dyin’, here! We’re losing the audience. Run the clip, ‘Poor Flick’. Reel two. On my cue: three…two…one…go!”
…’A Christmas Story’. That kid, Flick, is in the Elementary schoolyard with his tongue stuck to the flagpole, on a dare, from his ‘best buddies’. He is struggling, growing increasingly frantic, unable to get free, his tongue stretched to the limit. The bell rings. School is starting.
His friends have abandoned young Flick, where he stands, and are filtering back to the school building, hands in pockets, whistling. All but Ralphie, and he is considering his options. The bell has rung. Seeing he only has seconds left, Flick begins begging, hysterically.
“Thon’t leath ne!” He pleads.
“The bell rang!” Says Ralph, as he slumps away.
Leaving Flick in the cold, inextricably stuck, to the flagpole, by his tongue, naturally. His arms are flailing.
Back in the building, the students are taking off their coats, finding their seats. The teacher is doing a head count. Then, concerned, comes the dreaded query:
“Where’s Flick?” asks she.
The children are universally averting their eyes, mostly up, and to the left, never a good sign.
She tries again.
“Has anybody seen Flick?”
(Voice over: “Flick? Flick who?”)
Then, tentatively, a beribboned redhead points, with her pink little finger, in the general direction of, ‘outside’. The teacher rushes to the window, as does the rest of the class. Screams ensue, and peals of laughter. A general hullabaloo.
Sirens wail. Long shot of a big red truck: the entire volunteer fire department, to the rescue, through the driving snow. Poor Flick!]

There are certain kinds of cold, like, say, now, at fourteen below, when normal everyday things start to act differently. Like, the nylon shell of your ski jacket, should you be wearing one, when you move your arms, starts to kind of crackle, instead of being slithery, like a bowl of Rice Crispies, with the milk poured on. Crackle, crackle. Creepy. Weird. Still, it’s just physics. No big deal, I mean, on the grand scale. Just an idiot, in his underwear, in the middle of the night, in the town square, hanging by his tongue, from the flag pole. No biggie. Could’ve happened to anybody.
No, not really. This requires a certain sort of curious. Yeppers.
Most definitely.
I can’t feel my feet. Oh, I said that, already. Fourteen below, that’s what the lights on the bank says.
I try to wiggle my toes, but they’re so numb, I can’t tell if they’re doing it.
Goody.
The quiet is astonishing. Nothing stirring, not even a mouse. It’s sort’a sweet. Small town life. everybody knows everybody. All is pretty much as it should be, at four a.m.. Anybody with half a brain – is nestled in it’s snuggly burrow, it’s safe little nest, cuddled up in it’s warm little bed, happily. Only an idiot would be out in this kinda cold. Only a compete idiot. That must be it. Honestly.

[The delusion of ‘scientific curiosity’, so modern, so skeptical: I must see for myself, absolutely. Such the individualist. Whoopee. Can’t just believe the movie, me. No way.
Poor Flick, my butt. Stand aside, Mythbusters. Long live Scientific Inquiry!
I like that show. Stirring my curiosity. I blame them, those pasty science whores, those bespeckled deceivers, those Einstein wannabes. Herr Heineman, Doctor Savage, so daring, so intrepid. Well, gentlemen, top this for dedication! On three!]

I don’t want to die. Helloooo?

(The Darwin Awards, heard of it? The ‘top’ one hundred horrifyingly embarrassing ways of accidentally killing yourself, in which, stupidity on a grand scale is a deciding factor, where you fall in the countdown, and they publish your name, post-mortem, and you are suddenly famous, for a day. Me, personally, I’m shooting for forty-two. (Thank you, Douglas Adams, for Life, the Universe, and Everything.) No need to be number one. I’m not competitive, that way. Forty-two’s good. Just stick me in about mid-way. Just kinda average stupid, fair to middlin’ dumb.
I could live with that, except, of course, for being dead, and missing out on all the fun.
Still, it’s pretty funny, I have to admit. Our little local paper, The Daily Examiner. The headline reads, ‘Mythbuster’ Wannabe Found Dead in Town Square’ Proves Old Adage: Stupid is as Stupid Does.”
Famous for a day, the talk of the town: dollars to donuts,they’re all either snickering or shaking their heads, by nine a.m., in banks, and diners, and grocery stores, and in beautician’s bays, and schools, and churches, and gas stations, all over town, in fact, except for Barbara, maybe, that white-haired neighbor lady, who’ll say, for the record, to reporters on T.V.: “I’m not surprised at all. I knew he had a screw loose. Did you know, get this… he used a BLOW DRYER. A GROWN MAN! Can you imagine? It was always the same, I could hear him, up there, in the apartment above me. First, with the shower, and then, the blow dryer! It’s always that way, with the quiet ones. Fruity.”)

(You know, hypothermia is not all that bad. Getting sleepy.)

[Aphorisms, starting with, ‘colder than’, spring to mind. Wonder what Dan Fogelberg would have done with it. Lyrics form themselves in my mind to the tune of his big hit, ‘Longer’: “Colder than…the proverbial well-digger’s ass, in Montana…” (nobody can cram as many syllables into a single line like Fogelberg), “…I am in dove with you. I am in dove with yoooooou!”
Try saying ‘love’ without the tip of your tongue. Go ahead, I’ll wait. See? Not so easy. The best I can do, under the circumstances, is ‘dove’.
Oh, man, now that song is stuck in my head. Oh. You’re welcome.
Dirty Dan. Dan the Man. Greatest love song ever, but I’m done.]

Wouldn’t it just have to be a flagpole. I can just hear the County Coroner, a notorious Queen, looking up at me, hanging there, blue as the Danube, ‘in situ’, as it were, like a trussed up turkey, and him clucking gaily to the Police Department photographer, as, with his camera, he is clicking away, merrily: “Oh, myyyyy. Vaguely phallic, wouldn’t you say? ‘Tsk!’ And so young, and handsome.’Tis a pity!”
(Just great. It couldn’t have been a mailbox, or an open bed truck, or, even an iron bridge. Something that “spans the miles, majestically.”)
Nope. Not for me. No way.

(Think what the Freudians will make of this. Or, that other one, with the funny name I can never remember, probably because he doesn’t come with a “slip”, or for that matter, IN one. Jung!

Karl Jung, that’s the one. He would, no doubt, have some insightful wisdom, to apply, to such a case, but what, I wonder.
“Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, and…sometimes, not.”
That’s IT?!! REALLY?!!)

Okay, I’ll say it. I don’t want to die, at least, not THIS WAY. Not –
‘Like this.’ So there. Geez. How cliché.
(‘Could be worse, I guess. I could be found dead, hanging by my tongue, AND wearing a bra and panties. That’d do it. Silver linings, see? It’s not all bad.)

[My brain is going. It’s like a dream: The entire cast of ‘Bambi’, frozen on a crystal lake, little fauna-mannequins, like so many fuzzy popsicles, posed, in ghastly mid-skate, all in a row. They never knew what hit ’em. Except for young Thumper – from the corner of his mouth, you can just hear him squeak, “OIL…CAN! OIL…CAN!” Merrily.

And, hey! There’s Thumper’s mom, wearing a babushka, and a grimace, in a posture of utter derision, gaping at me, the centerpiece, and, as one might expect, speaking volumes, saying nothing at all, as it “wouldn’t be nice”.]

Any questions? Yes, you in the back. “Why, in the name of God, did I come out here, in the middle of the night, on the coldest night of the year, wearing nothing but pajamas, a house coat, and fluffy shoes?”
Oh my! You missed, “while no one was looking,” and, “with no possible hope of being found, and rescued, should the very worst happen,” – “what of recovery?”
“That’s a very good question…”
“I’m glad you asked.” I’d say.
“Well, isn’t it obvious? If anybody were to see me, and the worst should happen, wouldn’t I look foolish.”

I might be embarrassed.

I sure showed them.

Thinking, always thinking.
~ Tim Burchfield
1/24/14

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• brush those pearly deaths •

• brush those pearly deaths •
The boy just pointed out the death, in the news, of yet another celebrity, this at the age of 78.
“You’re nearly that old, aren’t you?”
Hardly.
“Fifty-seven,” I said, “why?”
“Man!” was all he said.
As I see it, my chances of dying, are just as good today, as they’ve ever been, as likely, or unlikely, as they ever were, given my propensity for walking into open manholes, a disposition towards cracking my skull on overhead rocks and beams (my big number), and a pronounced predilection for precipitating off of wheel houses onto steel decks and throwing myself down flights of stairs, accidentally. Largely speaking, these brushes with near death and/or dismemberment, were in my youth. Of course, I still throw in the occasional ‘face-plant’, just to keep my hand in. Practice makes perfect. Besides, my in-laws have come to expect it of me. I’ve got a ‘rep’ to maintain: ‘street cred’, I think they call it.
Thing is, as I see it, the only difference between now, and then, is that my chances of “dying young” are now reduced to nearly nil – and that’s good news, any way you look at it – and I plan to tell him so, the boy, just you wait… just as soon as he gets back from school, and I get this cast off of my leg. Young whippersnapper …smarty…smart aleck… dagnabbit.
The fact is, gamblers frequently have the same idea – that the law of averages will turn a run of bad luck, to good, or vice-versa, because of a string of losses, or wins, when, in fact, with every roll of the dice, the odds are exactly the same, which is to say, fifty-fifty, or sixty-forty, or astronomical, whatever the case may be. They figure they’re due. “Well, I’ve about used up my ‘bad luck’, things have got to go the other way soon.” When, in fact, every roll of the dice is a risk, or an opportunity, equal to every other. Same with death. It’s just a non-heartbeat away. So why be maudlin? Why be scared? I’m not. Not a bit of it – though I’m not craving the opportunity, by any means. I can wait. Awareness of Death, like my teeth, needs to be maintained. Brush those pearlys. Keep them bright. It’s a quality of life thing, for me.
Being fifty-seven today, my chances of sudden death are, more or less, the same as they were at thirteen, or three: approximately fifty-fifty. Those are odds I can live with. Notice the emphasis, on ‘live’. We’re natural born optimists, what can I say?
Of course, that doesn’t factor in the foolishness factor, for irresponsible and risky behaviors, which, too often, run rampant in teenagers, and begins to peak at around seventeen. That part of your brain, that can ‘foresee consequences’, I’ve read, doesn’t fully develop until you are about thirty. Needless to say, at the age of 57, no more jumping off of high places for me, and just expecting everything to be okay. I’ve outgrown the idea of being ‘bulletproof’, or of ‘immortality’.
I’m cautious just getting off’ the couch, these days. In fact, when the boy gets home from school, I think I’ll just ask him to bring me a glass of water. I sure am thirsty.
~ Tim Burchfield
1/12/15

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• slimming deadly sins •

• slimming deadly sins •
Oh, damn. I keep outliving people I have envied, which may yet prove to be the most useless of deadly sins.
So long, envy, you are, like the old ‘five o’clock shadow’, no longer an issue, now that the silvers have grown in – just a paradigm of youth, a long-ago memory, and the most laughable of ‘sins’.
Frankly, I’d be embarrassed to be you, so dependent on the frailty of others. Honestly, get a life, dude.
Pride has been always a close second, but to what end? What a stupid gift, blind ambition, self-assurance, hubris: nowadays, I laugh frequently, heartily, at the memory of my former self: oh, man, from time to time – with lust an acceptable, if irritating, omnipresence, what a twit I have been. It’s true.
And yet –
Sloth is the big bugaboo.
And maybe, my next best ambition, given, I’ve nothing better to do. Not that it’s so awful, but because it’s unattainable.
(If only I had a designated nap-time, like we had in the first grade, and in kindergarten.
I have a hammock, all planned out, in my mind, for just such exploration as this.)
But, I can’t sit still. Too much to learn. So much to do!
Curiosity is the driving force of my young life. Did I say, young? Even now, I feel as young as I ever did.
Do I look thinner, or is that my rationale? Please, don’t be jealous – I can’t help it if I’m beautiful.
But I digress.

Shaving the odds, paring to the essentials. These days, that’s all my happiness. There are, anymore, no more “deadlies” to fear, anywhere. Such is bliss.
Isn’t that a hoot? Just memory, laughable scenarios, good stories, and welcomed, human weakness. That’s me, through and through.
Never fear. I’m your huggie-bear. Relax. The game’s on. There’s chicken on the barbie. Pull up a chair.
~ Tim Burchfield
11/8/14

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•i won’t be bullied•

• i won’t be bullied •
I won’t be bullied. Not by a relative. Not by an acquaintance. Not by a dear friend. Neither by a political advocate, a preacher, teacher, guru, llama, local luminary, nor one with which one has no choice, but with which, to contend. Neither with, and especially, and again, this: a friend. “Even, after all this time,” I wonder. I just look at ’em, thinking, “Aren’t we past that, yet? Goodness. Get over yourself.” I have to say, if the only relationship imaginable, here, is a dysfunctional one, I don’t care who you think you are – ‘buddy’, ‘childhood acquaintance’, ‘cousin’, ‘chum’, ‘paisan’, ‘bro’, ‘amigo mio’, or what you will – we’re done, and that’s the end of it. Maybe, I’m just getting too old, to bend. Nope, I don’t think so. I know me. It’s just this: I like myself too well, after all this time, effort, and investment, at understanding my quality, integrity, and inherent goodness, anymore, by anyone, to be shat upon. Now, if I paid good money for it, that’d be different. Happily, for me, it just so happens (that), I’m not into that.
~ Tim Burchfield
10/22/14

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