Welcome to the Watershed

Where I live is known as the Upper Colorado River Basin, one of the ten most endangered rivers in America. The picture above is of the Flaming Gorge reservoir in Wyoming, which is along another major Colorado River tributary, the Green River. An in-progress novel, WHILE BUTCH ROBS TRAINS, is set in the Green River Basin of Colorado and Utah.

I grew up in New Hampshire but wound up here in Colorado, where I put myself through college, raised a son, and now live with two dogs, two cats, and one nice guy. I enjoy all the standard Colorado outdoor activities.

My literary short fiction and poetry appear in Confrontation, Phoebe, Cimarron Review, South Dakota Review, Adirondack Review, Barrow Street, Spillway, Literary Mama, and in many other journals. I taught writing at the University of Colorado-Boulder for several years and more recently I’ve tried to earn a living writing marketing copy and doing social media for Microsoft and other software companies. As the 2011-2012 George Bennett Fellow/Writer-in-Residence at Phillips Exeter Academy, I mainly focused on the WHILE BUTCH ROBS TRAINS manuscript. I also assembled a poetry chapbook from existing work. That became Wild Thing in Our Known World, available from Finishing Line Press, on Amazon, or at your friendly local bookstore, if you ask.

Recent Posts

Why Don’t We Know What To Do?

We still don’t know. Last week I spent six hours listening to Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed. Despite a great title (sure had a ring to it, but a cursory Google search did not spit it out till a reader friend pointed me to Amazing Grace. Shame on you, Google!) and an intriguing premise built around the Columbine shootings, the book was hopelessly bloated and poorly structured. So I quit listening.

However, it got me thinking about THAT DAY, as well as all the reading I’ve done since about Columbine. And the shootings since. Something like 12 or 13 in Obama’s terms alone, many others since Columbine. I thought about the phenomenal novel I read last year, Wolf in White Van, in which a would-be shooter turns the gun on himself, and hideously survives. As an adult he thinks back, trying to uncover his motives. Of which there aren’t any, not really, not any we can tease apart into anything easily articulated, and yet… also anything that we can’t recognize, if we’re honest.

And then, now, South Carolina.

Each of these events is a little different, and each a little the same, and guns and guns and guns. But as I mulled, having ejected The Hour I First Believed from my CD player and still having a few hours to drive, what I really went back to regarding THAT DAY, and some of these other shootings, was this other thing about us Americans, besides guns.

That we didn’t know what to do.

How could we know, you might ask? It was the first time. Or one of the first. Columbine. We were in shock. How could we have known? And what was there for us to have done?

But it was very simple. We should have come together. Cried if we needed to. And then gone home to our families. We should have known, instinctively, what to do, with and for one another, when something bad happened to others, something so bad that it affected us all very deeply. WHAT IS IT about our culture that we don’t know. Instead we just freeze. Even now, we don’t know. We glue ourselves, separately, to social media, and opine, prematurely. We form little mobs, little schools of fishes, darting this way and that, when we should touch skin. Meet eyes. Go for walks. Talk with our tongues rather than with our keyboards. Dine together. If there’s a shooting at a church, we should go to one nearby even if we don’t believe in God. If something happens at a school, we should go get our kids—even if we’re in another state—and take them to a playground. All together. Later we should form opinions and find a way to share them.8333247186_62d2e51b82_n

What the hell is wrong with us? Why don’t we just know this? How is it that our leadership doesn’t know, that our bosses don’t come into the hallways and a) gather us first and b) tell everyone to go on home now?

I started writing this poem, which didn’t turn out very well, which doesn’t mean I won’t go back to it. But here’s a draft for now.

That Day

It may not have been the first but it was the first
for me. The CFO grabbed me in the hallway,
dragged me into his office, shut and locked
the door and we listened to his scratchy radio.
It was a radio, not streaming, we were still
just on the edge of streaming then. I was
sweating, partly from what we were hearing and partly
from what was in the room, the not knowing,

the time it was taking to parse those words, high school,
where the hell Littleton was, guns, dead.
And why the hell he picked me, what he wanted me
to say, was I supposed to cry, what we
should do, what should we do. It was midafternoon,
or anyway, it was after lunch, I’d been for my run,

or to the climbing gym, I’d not had a shower,
It was Columbine.

It seems to me it was a snowy day,
gray in Boulder, but I don’t now think this
was true. It seems to me I was thinking how messy
the roads would be, how hard to drive
home, how hard to get to my son’s school.
Obviously, I was distancing myself. We were
definitely thinking of our children in school.
My son was in second grade. In North Boulder.

What had that to do with a high school in South
Denver? He was at a Waldorf school, where they
were taught to believe in fairies and King Arthur.
I couldn’t imagine Littleton. Imagine it, said the
CFO, there in the office with me.
He was a short, nervous man, pale, with glasses,

the way accountants are. Why did he pick me?
Imagine it, trying to get to your kids, he said.

By now we’ve all imagined it dozens of times.
By now we’ve lost count. But That Day
it was just him and me locked in that office
looking out at roller bladers on the Boulder Creek Path.
Though I’d swear it was snowing. Big, fat spring flakes.
It seemed very dark in that room. His lips were flat
and he was staring at me, wanting something.
Tears? I am terrible at those, when people want them

from me. If I could get away. If I could go down
to the river, by myself, and sit under a willow
and watch the imaginary snow fall, watch the eddies
and the rapids for just a while, maybe ten minutes,
then I would probably cry. After that, if I
could go and get my son, just see him first,

then call it a day, take him home, read a book—
we might have been reading Pippi That Day.

Why did he bring me into his office, why did
he close the door? Why didn’t he go, instead,
to the other executives, why not weep with them?
They had children, all of them. After their tears,
why did they not call a meeting. It was a small
company. Why did they not let all of us cry,
or gather in hallways, go down to the river, in small
clumps, to wash our faces, to touch one another,

and to remind ourselves, together, of beauty? And then,
why did they not send those of us, who wanted
to leave, to our children’s schools, or home, or to families
or friends, or just to the mountains, to weep, or to pray?
Why did the CFO and I just sit
there awkwardly, in that locked office, pressed

to the radio, unable to cry, keeping our colleagues
in the dark, waiting to go home at the regular time?

  1. Online Issue #13 Leave a reply
  2. Anger Happens 2 Replies
  3. Standout Reads 2014 4 Replies
  4. Tannenbaum 1 Reply
  5. Just a few days left… Leave a reply
  6. This Is an Anecdote About a Happy Marriage* 3 Replies
  7. What is “Books in Bars?” Leave a reply
  8. Some still wait for #COflood relief dough Leave a reply
  9. Battlement Mesa residents alarmed at Ursa’s drilling plans Leave a reply