TCS: Scattershot Confrontations in a Plague Year

..Good Morning!


Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.


There may be times when we are powerless
to prevent injustice, but there must never
be a time when we fail to protest.

– Elie Wiesel


Sometimes it’s not possible for me to make a coherent whole, a scribbling with a clear and obvious Theme. There are too many thoughts whirling in my head, too many impressions from Out There, resulting in less obvious connections.

Merriam Webster provides us with two recent examples using the word ‘scattershot’:

  • But when police blocked the route, firing multiple rounds of tear gas in quick succession, the protesters quickly splintered into smaller groups, setting off more than seven hours of scattershot confrontations.                                                                                             – Austin Ramzy, Boston Globe, “Hong Kong police fire tear gas as protesters resist China’s grip” – May 24, 2020
  • But the numbers in Africa are so unclear – the data is a scattershot representation of the continent – that there is no way of knowing for sure, Mr. Djoudalbaye says.                                                                 – Ruth MacLean, New York Times, “10 African Countries Have No Ventilators. That’s Only Part of the Problem” – April 18, 2020

The violence in the news this past week was not from protesters, but from police and military units called out to deal with a nation-wide outpouring of We the People fed-upedness:

  • We are fed up with police hurting and killing unarmed civilians, with only empty lip service from those who can, but won’t, hold them accountable for their crimes.
  • We are fed up with leadership which only helps the rich and powerful to become more rich and powerful, but is stone deaf to what we need and want.
  • And We are fed up with being afraid and feeling powerless.


So here’s my scattershot for a remarkable and memorable week:

Starting With Black

by Jim Haba

In a dark place
In a dark time

Start with black.
Stop. Soak up its energy.

Remember the circle
However bent and broken.

Prize balance. Seek pleasure.
Allow surprise. Let music

Guide your every impulse.
Support those who falter.

Steer by our fixed star:
No Justice, No Peace.

© 2016 by Jim Haba

Jim Haba, American poet, painter, professor and festival organizer, was born in a small farming town in the state of Washington. He was the founding director of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and its driving force from 1986 through 2008, a venue where poets and poetry lovers, from all over North America, came together in Waterloo, New Jersey. The festival became the largest poetry event in the U.S. In 1995, he edited the best-selling book The Language of Life, which included poems by and interviews with poets featured at the 1988 and 1994 Dodge Poetry Festivals.


The next two poems are from one of my favorite websites: One Sentence Poems, .
The descriptions of the poets are supplied by themselves.

Time to Cool Down

by Ian Willey

I realized how much this situation has changed me
while watching some dumb movie and there was this
scene where a woman moves towards a man slowly
as the music lets you know that this is the moment
when they come together and become a something
and their lips are almost touching and I’m thinking
my god, how can they be doing this when neither of
them has gargled or taken a swab test and don’t
they realize this isn’t something people just do
anymore without precautionary measures
or better yet a twenty-year marriage?

To get back home Ian Willey has to take a flight from Tokyo to Chicago and then transfer to Greensboro, NC, when the planes are flying.


Canine Distancing

by  Joan Dobbie

Whenever we meet on the street
you cross to one side
and I cross to the other,
both of us nervously smiling
through our stylish
flower masks,
or waving, a little shyly,
with our purple nurse’s gloves
from the ends
of their short nylon leashes
our spiky little terriers snarl
and growl at each other, knowing
something’s up.

Joan Dobbie co-hosts (on ZOOM) the River Road Reading Series and loves when you purchase her The Language of Stone (2019) or her earlier Woodstock Baby, A Novel in Poetry (2013), both available on Amazon.


The next two poems prove the Past is always part of the Present. The first poem was written in 2013, during the Syrian War.

We Lived Happily During the War

by Ilya Kaminsky

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we

but not enough, we opposed them but not

enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America

was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.

I took a chair outside and watched the sun.

In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money

in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)

lived happily during the war.

“We Lived Happily During the War” from Deaf Republic, © 2019 by Ilya Kaminsky –  Graywolf Press

Ilya Kaminsky (1977 – ) was born in Odessa, then in the USSR, now in Ukraine. He is hard of hearing due to contracting mumps at the age of four. His family was granted political asylum by the United States in 1993 due to anti-semitism in Ukraine. He started to write poems in English in 1994. Kaminsky’s first book in English, Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004), won the 2005 Whiting Award for Poetry. His collection, Deaf Republic, was published in 2019.


What He Thought

by Heather McHugh

 – for Fabbio Doplicher

We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the mayor, mulled
a couple matters over (what’s
a cheap date, they asked us; what’s
flat drink). Among Italian literati

we could recognize our counterparts:
the academic, the apologist,
the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib—and there was one

administrator (the conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone narrated
sights and histories the hired van hauled us past.
Of all, he was the most politic and least poetic,
so it seemed. Our last few days in Rome
(when all but three of the New World Bards had flown)
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he’d recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?)
to whom he had inscribed and dated it a month before.
I couldn’t read Italian, either, so I put the book
back into the wardrobe’s dark. We last Americans

were due to leave tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant, and there
we sat and chatted, sat and chewed,
till, sensible it was our last
big chance to be poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked
“What’s poetry?”
Is it the fruits and vegetables and
marketplace of Campo dei Fiori, or
the statue there?” Because I was

the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn’t have to think—”The truth
is both, it’s both,” I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest to say. What followed
taught me something about difficulty,
for our underestimated host spoke out,
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said:

The statue represents Giordano Bruno,
brought to be burned in the public square
because of his offense against
authority, which is to say
the Church. His crime was his belief
the universe does not revolve around
the human being: God is no
fixed point or central government, but rather is
poured in waves through all things. All things
move. “If God is not the soul itself, He is
the soul of the soul of the world.” Such was
his heresy. The day they brought him
forth to die, they feared he might
incite the crowd (the man was famous
for his eloquence). And so his captors
placed upon his face
an iron mask, in which

he could not speak. That’s
how they burned him. That is how
he died: without a word, in front
of everyone.
And poetry—
(we’d all
put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on
poetry is what

he thought, but did not say.

Heather McHugh (1948 – ), American poet and translator, was born in San Diego, California, to Canadian parents, but grew up in Gloucester Point, Virginia, where her father directed the marine biological laboratory on the York River. She became a freshman at Harvard at age 17.  Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968-1993 won the Bingham Poetry Prize of the Boston Book Review and was named by the New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year. Her other poetry collections include The Father of the Predicaments; Eyeshot; and Upgraded to Serious.

Fabbio Doplicher (1938-2003) was an Italian poet, performance artist and literary critic. Doplicher’s poetry collection La rappresentazione (‘The Performance’) won the Premio Montale in 1985, and Compleanno del millennio (‘Birthday of the Millennium’) won the Premio Pellegrino in 2001. Some of his poetry has been translated, and published as  Selected Poems, English translation by Gaetano A. Iannce, with a revision by Ruth Feldman.


Giordano Bruno statue in Rome’s Campo dei Fiori — MichelleDiazphoto


Coffee mug – Police in Flatbush NY

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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