Your old Uncle Morty is old and tired and dead, though not without the empathy that remains in the empty brain and abstract heart of anyone who has ever worn a suit of flesh. His previous embodiments leave him still puzzling as to why the living seem to value the miracle of being human so very little. Even when they can be led to believe that they themselves might have some intrinsic value they seem always unlikely to give that benefit of the doubt to others. I will give you a few scraps of reasonable advice that I myself found when I walked among the living. It was expressed by two of the best men I have ever known, Kilgore Trout and George MacDonald.
Now you may protest, “Uncle Morty, Kilgore Trout wasn’t real! He was a character in books. He was made up.” And so on.
All I can say is that being true matters more than being real. And if humans could grasp that they might be a good bit better off than they are. (And you may not know of George MacDonald at all…but he was both real and true.)
If you’ve never read God Bless You, Mr, Rosewater, you should. Even if you have, maybe you should look at it again, especially right now. It’s the story of a rich man who moves to a small town in Indiana to care for the plain and “useless” people there, through all of their troubles, depression, alcoholism, ugliness, and squalor, in big ways and small by simply not judging them and giving them what they need on a day to day basis, and also by making sure their volunteer fire department is extremely well-funded – more on that later. In short, Eliot Rosewater, did not measure the worth of the inhabitants of the run down and sad town of Rosewater as a percentage of someone else’s profit.
At any rate, here’s Kilgore Trout elucidating the beauty of Eliot Rosewater’s social experiment, his treatment of everyone no matter how “worthless” as a human being, someone who needs love and attention:
The problem is this: How to love people who have no use?
In time, almost all men and women will become worthless as producers of goods, food, services, and more machines, as sources of practical ideas in the areas of economics, engineering, and probably medicine too. So—if we can’t find reasons and methods for treasuring human beings because they are human beings, then we might as well, as has so often been suggested, rub them out.
Americans have long been taught to hate all people who will not or cannot work, to hate even themselves for that. We can thank the vanished frontier for that piece of common-sense cruelty. The time is coming, if it isn’t here now, when it will no longer be common sense. It will simply be cruel.
And here’s the bit about the fire department, explained by Kilgore Trout:
Your devotion to volunteer fire departments is very sane, too, Eliot, for they are, when the alarm goes off, almost the only examples of enthusiastic unselfishness to be seen in this land. They rush to the rescue of any human being, and count not the cost. The most contemptible man in town, should his contemptible house catch fire, will see his enemies put the fire out. And, as he pokes through the ashes for remains of his contemptible possessions, he will be comforted and pitied by no less than the Fire Chief.
Trout spread his hands. “There we have people treasuring people as people. It’s extremely rare. So from this we must learn.”
Here’s much the same thing from another perspective in a quote from George MacDonald.
On the rich young ruler
I do not suppose that the youth was one whom ordinary people would call a lover of money. I do not believe he was covetous, or desired even the large increase of his possessions. I imagine he was just like most good men of property: he valued his possessions-looked on them as good. I suspect that in the case of another, he would have regarded such possession almost as a merit, something he deserved. Like most of my readers, he would probably have valued a man more who had some means, and valued him less who had none. Most people have no idea how entirely they will one day alter their judgment, or have it altered for them, in this respect. How much better for them if they alter it themselves.
Book Launch:Chapter One
Pre-Ordering at Poetic Justice Books
Some of you have been following this site for a while and you have read a few of the Whistlestop stories. But there are more. The entire collection is available now!
Order with all haste at Poetic Justice Books and Art.
Here's a random excerpt to get you started...
Father Dingle, Some Mice, and the Portal to Hell -
Maybe it started with the mice. Maybe the exodus of mice was the first sign that there was something amiss in the church basement. The choir room had been plagued by mice for as long as Father Dingle had been there. Alan Cunningham, the choir director, had been belly aching about adequate storage for music since he’d been there. Father Dingle remembered Alan had nearly been in tears at a staff meeting after finding a mouse nest made with scraps of the Hallelujah Chorus. Alan found this situation neither economically nor spiritually tolerable. But the following year, early in the spring, church mice began moving out of the basement in droves. Father Dingle arrived at church one morning to find several families of mice scurrying up the basement stairs, down the hall towards the front doors. More mice appeared each morning, waiting to dash out as soon as the heavy wooden doors were opened.
The Mercy of Traffic, by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Review by Julie Carpenter
The poetry reading muse is almost as fickle as the poetry writing muse. You read yourself into poetry, fill out its corners with your soul. So, reading in a bad mood, a good mood, the wrong, or right time of day, can really make or break your reading experience. You can read a poem after driving through rush hour traffic, and it leaves you cold, read the same poem after a glass of wine and see the beauty of it. But sometimes you read a chapbook that resonates at your harmonic frequency no matter when you read it. I read this book over several days, stopping to savor specific poems and found myself caught in its rhythms every time I picked it up.
True to the title, the words in this book move like car tires rolling over the interstates and back roads of the south. They capture movement – even when they are short and succinct as in the wonderful, tiny, gem of a poem “Vacation” which hints at the ripple effect travel and even a short displacement can have on a relationship. Every poem has a sense of the value of time. Every poem makes the most of the details of the physical world as they fly by whether through physical space or as the moments pass.
In her poem, Of Motion, she says,
In the dream, I am
always in motion, always
leaving or arriving, traveling
This particular piece captures the cadence of the entire chapbook. Though the reader can feel the movement, she manages to capture and distill moments and sensory details with precision. As we travel with her through time, we see all that she sees. What her eye catches, she depicts with deceptive simplicity. The pictures she portrays may be of everyday objects, but upon a second glance they are replete with meaning, pulling emotion from the reader’s own experience. Nuanced thought trails in the wake of each poem revealing the complexity of her vision.
For me this chapbook felt like a meditative journey. It has the same odd clarity that travel often brings, seeing a world, both new and somehow continuous, through the car window with every mile.
Julie graduated from Tennessee Weslyan with a BA in English Literature, and she has an MA from University of Memphis in Professional Writing. She was accepted to the Writer’s Hotel in 2016 and 2017, serving as as a teaching assistant in 2017. Julie is a Pushcart nominee for “Letter to Essie” in the New Guard Anthology VII, and has published four stories at Fiction on the Web. She will have a short story collection , Things Get Weird in Whistlestop, published with Poetic Justice Press later this year. She is currently working on a novel called “Last Train Out of Hell.” She can often be found blogging here on the Sacred Chickens website along with her cats, Uncle Morty and Jarad. (Actually, the cats don't blog. They're amazingly lazy.)
How Julie Steals Garden Ideas from Her Neighbors…And You Can Too!
by Julie Carpenter
I moved into a new house in April. I have done a few things around the yard. I’ve dug up some flowering peaches that were, sadly, in the wrong place and planted a few low-growing radicans gardenias instead, underplanted with June bearing and ever bearing strawberries. I also threw some seeds in the ground, cleaned out some beds, removed some awkward brick circles filled with irises that won’t bloom due to lack of sun and being buried too deep, and pruned dead branches.
I know that a lot of people move in somewhere and immediately have big garden ideas. I’m not those people. I need time to see how I feel about the garden and how it feels about me. I like to take the time to see if it offers me any gifts. I wait for bulbs and perennials to show themselves, for shrubs I don’t recognize to bloom. My new place might have garden ideas of its own. I don’t make garden decisions quickly. I also need time to steal garden ideas from my neighbors, a practice I highly recommend.
Uncle Morty’s Halloween Journey
By Mortimer R. Wolcott
This week the Netherworld is preparing to celebrate the day when the barriers break down and the disembodied, the undead, the restful and the wakeful, can cross back again to see the world of the living. The embodied call it “Halloween.” Of course, your Uncle Morty crosses back the other way to visit his gardens, and his shadow home. Alas, I have been unable to complete the décor due to my present assignment among the flesh-covered. No more of that right now, the crimes for which I suffer my penance will not be particularly comprehensible to my embodied friends. But for me, Halloween is a one-day vacation from the vacuous world of the living. The boundary is already becoming hazy and I can see the old homestead now, tall and thin, multi-gabled, with its diamond windows and diaphanous draperies drifting gently in the moonlight, windows open to the frosts of autumn no doubt, just as I left them last year. The old house awaits its occupant and longs for the one night the blue flame will be lit in the fireplace.
Friend of the Chickens, Jeff Weddle, hangs out with poet Dominic Albanese at the intersection of life and art.
Dominic Albanese: The Real Deal
Interview by Jeff Weddle
You can call Dominic Albanese a lot of things, and some of them he’ll answer to. Things like ex-con, ex-soldier, ex-fighter are fair game. These days, you can mostly call him a poet, and a prolific one. His distinctive and brutally honest work deserves serious attention from anyone who prefers poems with the true rhythms of life to the polished vapor of workshopped verse.
He’s traveled the world and known some of the greats. As a kid in the 1950s, he hung around NBC Studios in New York, where his father worked as the nighttime building supervisor for the famed Rockefeller Center. Albanese was friendly there with celebrities of the day. Dorothy Kilgallen and Arline Francis were always nice to him, and Rosemary Clooney watched out to make sure he got a big plate of lasagna on nights his Aunt Celia brought it to the studio. Later in life, he became friends with Ted Berrigan and Robert Crumb, and once met Charles Bukowski, whom he loathed.
Fall is my favorite time of year. Comfy sweaters and warm coats, changing leaves and dark nail polish. And books. Lots of books. (Ok, besides the coats and sweaters that’s how I am most of the year but fall makes it all extra special!) Now that the cold weather seems to be here to stay, it seems about time for some fallish books. Here are some of our favorite books to curl up with under a large blanket!
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious- Some books set a tone, and this one screams fall. It is a novel that was published in the late ‘50s, and the blurb on my cover reads, “The novel that shocked a nation.” It is a book that seeks to dismantle the bourgeois, and to uncover the truth behind the perfect veneer. It is a novel about a small town called Peyton Place, where on the surface everyone looks normal, but, chapter by chapter, everyone’s dark secrets are revealed. There’s a dark and incessant undercurrent throughout, and Metalious does an excellent job of making the mundane horrifying, and essentially, she exposes the true character of the people in that town. However, please be advised and keep in mind that this novel deals with graphic sexual violence if you decide to pick it up.
Dragonwyck by Anya Seton- This is another subversive novel, concerned with the patriarchy and the male gaze. It is a gothic novel and has all the creepy elements that go along with it. I feel that I can’t say anymore without giving things away, but just know that there’s a castle, murder, and undercurrent s of feminist and anti-war commentary!
Since it is fall, the gardening season is winding down. So, to distract himself, Jarad thought that he’d talk about other gardens he wants to go. Writers and gardening seem to go hand in hand, so many of his dream gardens are also the gardens of famous writers!
Babylonstoren- Located in Africa, dating back to 1692 and one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms, this is a place with a garden of about 8 acres that supplies several restaurants and a winery. It has fruit and vegetables, a healing garden and a spice garden. Overall, it’s a very beautiful and peaceful place. It also has a hotel, and I’m afraid if I were to go, I’d be gone for a very long time.
Beatrix Potter’s Garden- When you read Potter’s books, you may inevitably begin to wonder what her actual garden was like. I certainly have for a long time. Potter herself was a fascinating individual, an accomplished naturalist and mycologist. At the time of her death, she left behind 14 farms and 4,000 acres of land. Her home, Hill Top, is still available for touring.
Written by Liz Phair
Review by Roy Peak
"All we have in common is the horror in our lives." Alan Moore, writer.
"It’s hard to tell the truth about ourselves. It opens us up to being judged and rejected. We’re afraid we will be defined by our worst decisions instead of our best. Our impulse is always to hide the evidence, blame someone else, put the things we feel guilty about or that were traumatizing behind us and act like everything is fine. But that robs us of the opportunity to really know and care about one another. It closes a door that could lead to someone else’s heart. Our flaws and our failures make us relatable, not unlovable." Liz Phair, from her book Horror Stories.
I'm Not the Same
By Sincerely, Iris
Review by Roy Peak
One of my favorite musical surprises from a few years back was an EP titled The License Plate Sessions by musician Todd Murray, who goes under the moniker Sincerely, Iris. Dark, swirling, and moody—the songs written and played bottle-neck style on a four-string guitar made from the license plate of one of Murray's cars—they grabbed ahold of me and wouldn't let go. A few years have passed since then, and now from Sincerely, Iris we get I'm Not the Same, a full length release with plenty of dark and distorted tones, mournful vocals, and some rather majestic passages.