Getting in trouble

Last month, the prompt for our writing group at the Palo Alto church was this: Write about a time when you got into trouble as a child….

The old Hodgman farm was sold, and the road for the new development went in during the summer of 1965. A year or two after that, they started building a a house or two down the new road. The kids in the neighborhood would ride our bikes by where this one house was being built. We knew that when the carpenters were working on the house, we would not be allowed to set foot on the lot. But in the evening, or on the weekend, we might walk a little ways up the driveway to see what progress had been made on the building.

One day, a bunch of us were looking at the house. I know my sister Jean was there, and a couple of other kids her age, perhaps eight or nine years old. There were also a few younger kids closer to my age, perhaps six or seven. I can’t remember who the other children were, but at least a couple of them were members of the extended Hodgman family.

We looked at the house. The walls and rafters were framed up, most of the plywood sheathing had been nailed on, but there were no windows or doors, no siding or roofing. You could see that the stairs to the second floor consisted of nothing more than stringers with some boards nailed on for rough stair treads. It looked very interesting, and very inviting. Continue reading “Getting in trouble”


Henry, our music director, stood up during joys and concerns (what this congregation calls “Caring and Sharing”), and spoke poignantly about his mother. Henry said his mother had died in 1999, which was a while ago. But he has learned over the years that while the pain immediately after someone dies does lessen, it never goes away, and remains always, as a kind of “dull pain” (to use Henry’s words). He managed to put into words what I’ve been thinking myself. My mother died in 1999; Carol’s mother died just over two years ago; and this year I’ve been very aware of that dull pain of which Henry speaks. This is not exactly a profound insight; but it’s funny how I manage to forget this repeatedly, until suddenly there it is again.


Late winter:
for Roger’s
birthday I
bought two books,
put them on
the kitchen
table. There

they sat, next
to the bills
waiting to
be paid, the
the tea pot,
and Carol’s
laptop. There

they still sit.
The sun is
higher, the
trees across
the street have
leaves, the bills
have mostly
been paid. The

days flow past
every one
eat, sleep, shit,
wash dishes,
water the
garden, and

early spring:
the two books
are still on
the kitchen
table, next to
the tea pot,
and the sun-
light, and us.

for Roger’s birthday, since we didn’t give him the books


It’s so green,
I said, as
we drove past
San Bruno
Mountain. Yes,
said Marsha,
enjoy it
while you can.

The rain came
and went. Light
rain, heavy
rain, no rain.
The water
rushes down
creeks to the
Bay. Then stops.

Months with no
rain, no rain
at all. Sun.
More sun. And
San Bruno
Mountain will
turn golden-
brown and dry.

It’s so green,
I said to
myself. I
admired it
for an in-
stant, then fo-
cused back on
the freeway.

If I asked

If I asked
what you thought
about God,

would you try
to tell me
there’s no God?

would you try
to save me
from some hell?

like most: an
axe to grind.

All I want
is to talk,
just to talk,

nothing more.


   For a moment
   I was not
   from the world
   by a windshield
   or a screen
   or a person
   or a book
   or anything.

   And the moon
   lit up the
   sidewalk so
   it cracked me
   and slipped in
   to where it
   lives for good.