The Blink of a Wolf’s Eye

The wolf was watching me from just outside the campsite, I told the boy. It took just 3 nanoseconds for a stream of photons to dart from my military-grade flashlight into the eyes of that wolf.

“That’s pretty fast,” the boy said. “How do you know?”

It’s simple math, I told him. Aren’t you curious about the wolf?

He shook his head. “The math sounds fishy.”

I explained. The speed of light divided by 20 feet–the wolf was that close–is 3 nanoseconds for the light to get from here to there.

“And back?”

What do you mean?

“Did it take 3 nanoseconds to get there and then 3 more to get back from his eyes to yours so you knew that the wolf was there?”

I allowed as how that must have been the case, but at that speed it might as well be an instantaneous transfer of light energy.

“I suppose you’re right. There isn’t much difference between 3 nanoseconds and 6 nanoseconds.”

Not to us, there isn’t. Nanoseconds are just constantly flying by, just zooming by so fast we don’t even notice them.

“I’m going to check your math later,” the boy said.

You go ahead and do that, I told him.

“So what did the wolf do?”

Well what else would a wolf do? It blinked, of course, then it ran away.

Words in #writeoutloud are for warming up, stretching, keeping the writing muscles loose and flexible.


No tears here for bigots

Denver Post, I just gotta say it: You’ve disappointed me.

We share a love of the 1st Amendment, you and I. Sometimes it seems free speech and free press are all that stand between us and the wolves that howl outside.

One thing that we don’t seem to share is your concern about speaking out strongly against abhorrent speech, which you expressed in this morning’s editorial:

A Denver doctor’s racist comments shouldn’t have led to her firing

You make some important points about differences in how public and private employers can approach such situations. Important for people to understand. Good.

Two things, though:

One, just as people are free to write and say bigoted, disgusting things in public forums, others are free to call them out in what you call “public shaming.” Show me some evidence that calling out bigots chills protected free speech or has the same effect as libel and defamation suits.

Second, you contend that “nothing Herren said about the first lady suggests she would exercise poor judgment in her role as an anesthesiologist.” She already did exercise poor judgment. I would not entrust the life of a loved one to a doctor who shows such disrespect and apparent loathing for a woman of color, or for anyone else.

OK, a third thing: Is your parenthetical phrase here revealing or just thoughtless?

One can see how the doctor’s disgusting and ridiculous remarks (after all, the first lady is obviously beautiful and eloquent) could translate into an untenable position for the medical school.

Let us suppose that Michelle Obama somehow did not meet your standards for beauty and eloquence. Would Dr. Herren’s vicious, racist remarks be any less disgusting or ridiculous? Would the medical school’s position be different?

If you would have us remain silent in our “moments of disgust and anger,” you are already well down the slippery slope of accepting bigoted speech as just OK. We are obliged to call it out as wrong.

Shaming you, in public no less.


All is shades of black
and white and grey
and sad cloud underbellies
that hide silver rumors
from the soul.

There is no way out.

There is no way out.

There is no way out
until there is.

Sweat and motion
and words and sounds
of clash and hurrah
call to the inner desert
and cold silence.

Ceilings crack
and buckle as sweet
agony burns the air
and sucks life itself from the dark.

The next sunrise

The sun once rose in the east every day.

Summer mornings broke
warm and early
and afternoons were baseball
and tag and hiding and seeking
and sweaty until the bell and dinner
and more play and sweat until
dark and beyond.

The sun hides now and we seek it
amid clouds and fog.

Play and smiles are memories
that fade with time and heil salutes
and hard, grim resolve.

The next sunrise is a hope,
a wish, a dream.

Good morning is a prayer,
that all we love will survive
and rise again
when the clouds and fog
burn away.

The Shoe Man


The bald-headed man came to the thrift shop every few weeks, always wearing a black-and-gold Iowa sweatshirt, faded jeans, and well-worn running shoes. On each visit, he bought two pairs of shoes. First, he would try on some size 9s and walk back and forth the length of the aisle several times until he found the right fit. Next, he would pick a second pair from the children’s shelf after carefully examining each shoe, from sole to laces, toe to heel.

He paid cash.

One day he arrived just as my shift ended. I waited by the bus stop on the corner until he came out with a plastic bag in hand. He turned right and walked north, so I headed the same direction on the other side of the street, lagging behind a little in the hope that he wouldn’t notice me.

Five blocks along, he turned right again and headed toward the pedestrian bridge over the parkway. Above the westbound lane on the far side of the road, he stood facing the traffic, watching vehicle after vehicle speed by below him. He reached into the bag as the traffic thinned, pulled out a child’s shoe, and pushed it through a gap in the chainlink barrier that arched over the bridge.

The shoe landed on the shoulder of the parkway, inches from the outside lane. He stood there and watched several cars and a bus pass below him, then descended the ramp on the far side of the bridge and walked away.