My Life With Dogs

August 2nd, 2017


I read the following post at the Glen Workshop, on August 1, 2017. The essay originally appeared in the Good Letters blog associated with IMAGE magazine in June, 2010, under the title, “The Mutt and Me.”  “Jaeger,” the dog mentioned below, died unexpectedly in February of this year. He has been succeeded by “Samson,” (see photo) yet another mutt, who is slowly learning to curb his puppy energy and mischief, but my wife and I still miss the big galoot who preceded him. 

Humanity is readily divisible into two groups: those who divide humanity into groups and those who don’t. The wise—even those among the dividers—learn to hold their tongue among the former. More than matters of taste, the position one takes in intractable arguments reveals something of one’s interior life. Realist or Nominalist, PC or Mac, Whitman or Dickinson—such disputations are endless, fascinating, and deeply personal.

When it comes to the debate over cats and dogs, some humans fight like…humans. Many of us living in our planet’s rich and leisurely North have some stake in the matter, preferring one or the other species, though some don’t care, some can’t abide either, and others truly love both.

Here’s my confession: I’m a dog person. Read the rest of this entry »

Here Comes Everybody

June 27th, 2017

“And here comes everybody-
The closet renegades
The weary, hungry soldiers
From the children’s lost crusade
Here comes the restitution
We’d all but given up
This evening we’re content believing
That love will be enough”

  • Joe Henry, “Love is Enough”


I can’t say whether James Joyce had, as some people claim, the Catholic Church in mind when he spun the phrase, “Here Comes Everybody,’’ in Finnegan’s Wake. You’d have to ask Joe Henry what he meant when he used it in a song on his luminous CD, Civilians. I know this – it gets to the heart of last weekend’s conference at Notre Dame: “Trying to Say ‘God’: Re-enchanting the Catholic Literary Imagination.” Latino bishops and queer poets, Jesuit astronomers and everyday mystics, recovering alcoholics and college deans, all gathered in auditoriums, classrooms, and hallways, their conversations pulsing with creativity and generosity. Oh, yes – and love, too – the kind that changes lives. What better time and place to out yourself as a wretched Papist in a world that insists you keep such things to yourself.


Thanks upon thanks to Jessica Mesman Griffith, Jonathan Ryan, and Ken Garcia for planning and pulling off a first-time, unqualified success of a conference.


Some personal highlights:


Talking to Brother Guy Conosolmago, Director of the Vatican Observatory, about “big-idea” science fiction and the unaccountable explanatory power of mathematics in a mysterious universe. Read the rest of this entry »

A Poem by Malcolm Guite

January 31st, 2017


My friend (and master of the sonnet form), Malcolm Guite, published the collection in which this poem appears in 2012. Inhospitality to strangers is nothing new. It may help to remember that “xenos,” the Greek word from which English derives “xenophobia,” and “hospes,” the Latin word from which it derives “hospitality,””hospital, and “hospitable,” can mean, in their respective languages, “stranger,””guest,” and “host.” They derive, in turn, from the Indo-European root, “ghos-ti,” “someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality.” Whether the United States welcomes strangers or not is a matter of policy that has varied wildly over its history. Jews and Christians (and Muslims, though I speak of Islam with far less knowledge) have a religious duty to welcome the stranger. I am frequently reminded by others that “religious”” reasoning has no place in “secular” decision-making. Given the currently accepted constructs of “the religious” and “the secular,” that’s likely to be true. Reinhold Niebuhr, Barack Obama’s “favorite philosopher” and “favorite theologian,” came to see society as so tainted with sin that the nation-state could not and should not live by Christian ethics. Again, that may very well be true. Christians, however, must reckon with Matthew 5 through 7 and Matthew 25:31-46. “Xenophobia,” it turns out, is not so much fear of the stranger as it is fear of being the host. I trust we shall be judged accordingly.

Christ the King

Mathew 25: 31-46

Our King is calling from the hungry furrows
Whilst we are cruising through the aisles of plenty,
Our hoardings screen us from the man of sorrows,
Our soundtracks drown his murmur: ‘I am thirsty’.
He stands in line to sign in as a stranger
And seek a welcome from the world he made,
We see him only as a threat, a danger,
He asks for clothes, we strip-search him instead.
And if he should fall sick then we take care
That he does not infect our private health,
We lock him in the prisons of our fear
Lest he unlock the prison of our wealth.
But still on Sunday we shall stand and sing
The praises of our hidden Lord and King.

Splinters of Light We Choose Not to See

December 5th, 2016
Sun light spectrum reflection on the wall

Sun light spectrum reflection on the wall

I am an interested follower of US politics, and though I occasionally make provisional judgments on certain issues, I hope I’m not partisan in any conventional sense. The narrow and one-dimensional liberal-conservative spectrum so dominant in US political discourse oversimplifies and distorts what we know of reality, as if one could understand everything about electromagnetism by acknowledging no more than the tiny spectrum of light visible to human eyes. In the long, lamentable story of US relations with indigenous peoples, however, there’s more than enough bad behavior to encompass the liberal-conservative spectrum and beyond. It might be good to recall some splintered fragments of that history. Read the rest of this entry »

Another interview and a book promotion contest

August 31st, 2016


Listen to another interview about Attending Others. This one is from The Last Word on KSFR, Santa Fe Public Radio.

And for all book-lovers,
an old fashioned promotion:

Whatever you think about, the number and content of customer book reviews on the Amazon website makes a difference. To encourage readers to submit reviews of my memoir, Attending Others, I’m announcing an old-fashioned promotion. Anyone who posts a book review on by 11:59pm (EST), October 1, 2016 will automatically be entered. Three names drawn at random from the pool of entrants will each win a $25 e-gift card from the winner’s choice of the following on-line booksellers: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, or Eighth Day Books in Wichita, KS. Here’s what you need to do:

1) If you’ve read (and preferably if you liked) Attending Others, go to the Amazon web page for the book , scroll down to the Customer Review section, and click on the “Write a customer review” button.

2) Write a review. Anything from “I liked it!” to a lyric essay will do. Choose how many stars you think the book deserves. When you submit the review, there will be a short delay before it’s approved by the Amazon folks and appears on the website.

3) Send me an email or Facebook message informing me of your review and supplying some way of contacting you if you win. If I have no contact information for you, an alternate winner may be chosen in your place.

Good reading and good luck. In the mean time, check out the editorial reviews on the Amazon page, now with an endorsement from Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health and subject of the best selling book, Mountains Beyond Mountains.

The Memoir is Finally Here!

August 1st, 2016




The thing itself, to hold in your hand and read!

Read an excerpt posted on the IMAGE blog, Good Letters.

And here’s an interview about the book, courtesy of WVXU.

A Poem for Advent

December 9th, 2014




Listen to the poem here.




For my Mother at Advent

I shall teach my children as you taught me:
through patient example, gentle conduct,
and shared symbols, gravid with mystery
and grace. I recall how in Advents of
my youth, you taught us to make small mangers,
simply fashioned of paper and cardboard,
and to lay within them, each night at prayer,
a single piece of straw for every act
of kindness we had given Christ that day,
“So that,” you said, “He might have one soft place
in this harsh world on which to lay his head.”

Such memories illuminate my way
even now, although the time when others
attended to my happiness is gone.
Yet only now I understand the gift
you gave us in such homely traditions,
for when I come to rest at night, having
kissed the foreheads of my sleeping children,
I lay down not only on this, my bed,
but on a great cushion of softest straw
which, through acts of kindness more numerous
than I can recall, you have made for me.

Flesh Becomes Word Live!

June 5th, 2014

I’ll be reading from Flesh Becomes Word Wednesday evening, June 25, at 7 pm at the BonBonerie Cafe in the O’Bryonville neighborhood of Cincinnati. I hope to have some of John’s art available, too.

More info from Dos Madres Press.

A poem for May

May 14th, 2014

The dog days are now! Listen here.

Why dogs are better than people

Because they are.

Because they are not cats.

Because they have no theories,
and never weary me
with talk of rights, self-
esteem, or some such
metaphysical crap.

Because they like the way things smell
and never pretend they don’t.

Because, for dogs,
every moment,
even this one,
is their favorite,

and when told
not to bark,

they still do.

One More Before National Poetry Month Ends

April 26th, 2014


CLICK HERE TO LISTEN Read the rest of this entry »