Sunday, August 30, 2015

Knowledge Quiz, No. 59


I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.

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Knowledge Quiz, No. 59
The answers are at the bottom.

1. Who invented the postage stamp?
2. What former boxing world champion named all of his five sons after himself?
3. How is the year 2015 written in Roman numerals?
4. What condition do you have if you are suffering from desynchronosis?
5. Muammar Gadafi was the dictator of which African country?
6. What is the shape of an American football?
7. What is the chemical symbol for gold?
8. What was the total of the British Empire's war casualties during World War I?
9. What was the code name of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945?
10. What is the location of is International Court of Justice?
11. What is the smallest country in the world?
12. Who invented the modern cell-phone?
13. Mark Twain was the pen name of what famous author?
14. In what year did the Wright brothers make the first successful man-powered airplane flight?
15. What is the 8th letter of the Greek alphabet?
16. What is an angle measuring below 90 degrees called?
17. What is the lowest range of the male singing voice?
18. Who wrote the only eyewitness account of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79A.D.?
19. What artist painted "Van Gogh painting Sunflowers"?
20. What European city has catacombs containing six million human skeletons?

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Answers

1. The postage stamp was invented in England in 1837 by a schoolmaster named Rowland Hill. Because of his efforts, for which he was knighted, the first postage stamp was issued on May 6, 1840. The British Penny Black stamp was engraved with the profile of Queen Victoria.

2. George Foreman is a retired American professional boxer, two-time World Heavyweight Champion, Olympic gold medalist, ordained minister, author, and entrepreneur. Foreman has 12 children: five sons and seven daughters. The boxing legend and famous grill salesman named all of his sons after him: George Jr., George III, George IV, George V, and George VI. He also has a daughter named Georgetta, and another daughter named Freda George. The rest of his daughters are not named after him.

3. 2015 (MMXV) is the current year. Roman numerals, the numeric system used in ancient Rome, employs combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet to signify values. I=1, V=5, X=10, L=50, C=100, D=500, M=1000. The year 2015 can be expressed in Roman Numerals as MMXV. (MMXV = 1000 + 1000 + 10 + 5.)

4. Jet lag, medically referred to as desynchronosis is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body's circadian rhythms resulting from rapid long-distance transmeridian (east–west or west–east) travel on high-speed aircraft. For example, someone traveling from New York to California feels as if the time were three hours later. The condition of jet lag may last several days until one is fully adjusted to the new time zone, and a recovery rate of one day per [time zone] crossed is a suggested guideline. The issue of jet lag is especially pronounced for airline pilots, crew, and frequent travelers.

5. Colonel Muammar Gadafi was a Libyan revolutionary and politician who governed Libya as its primary leader from 1969 to 2011. Taking power in a coup d'etat, he ruled as Revolutionary Chairman of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then as the "Brotherly Leader" of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011, when he was ousted in the Libyan Civil War.

6. An American football's shape is called a prolate spheroid, a continuously curved three-dimensional object that is longer than it is around. Unlike a spherical ball, the prolate spheroid shape actually helps the football to spiral, through something called the gyroscopic effect, which helps maintain its control and trajectory by its continual spin. As a prolate spheroid, a football experiences less drag as it cuts through the air, which explains why you can toss a football farther than a spherical ball such as a basketball or soccer ball that is roughly the same size and weight.

7. The Latin name for gold is aurum. Thus, the chemical symbol for gold is Au. In its purest form, gold is a bright, slightly reddish yellow, dense, soft, malleable and ductile metal. This metal has been a valuable and highly sought-after precious metal for coinage, jewelry, and other arts since long before the beginning of recorded history.

8. By the time the World War I ended, there were 930,785 British Empire soldiers who had either died in combat or were declared missing in action. The empire's civilian deaths due to military action or crimes against humanity totaled 18,829, while civilian deaths as a result of malnutrition and disease (excluding the influenza pandemic) hit 109,000. Breaking down the total of the empire's soldiers killed in combat or declared missing in action, the United Kingdom itself accounted for 734,697, followed by India with 62,060; Canada, 56,638; Australia, 53,560; New Zealand, 16,710; and South Africa, 7,120. 

9. Little Boy was the code name for the type of atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., commander of the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces. It was the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare. It exploded with an energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT. According to figures published in 1945, 66,000 people were killed as a direct result of the Hiroshima blast, and 69,000 were injured to varying degrees.

10. The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. Its main functions are to settle legal disputes submitted to it by states and to provide advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by duly authorized international branches, agencies, and the UN General Assembly. It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946. The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council.

11.Vatican City is the world's smallest country. With an area of approximately .2 square miles, and a population of about 800, it is the world's smallest country in both area and population. The Vatican City is situated on the Vatican hill, within the city of Rome, and serves as the spiritual center for millions of practicing Roman Catholics worldwide. Within Vatican City are cultural sites such as St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. They feature some of the world's most famous paintings and sculptures. The unique economy of Vatican City is supported financially by the sale of postage stamps and tourist mementos, fees for admission to museums, and the sale of publications.

12. Dr. Martin Cooper (born:1926) invented the modern cell phone. He invented the technology responsible for the cell phone when he was the Director of Research and Development at Motorola. Dr. Martin Cooper is also known as the first person to make a call on a cell phone. His revolutionary call took place in April of 1973 and was placed to his rival at AT&T's Bell Labs from the streets of New York City.


Dr. Martin Cooper

13. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "The Great American Novel". Twain was born shortly after a visit by Halley's Comet, and he predicted that he would "go out with it", too. He died the day after the comet returned.


Mark Twain

14. The American brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, are credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane. In 1903, the Wright brothers achieved the first powered, sustained and controlled airplane flight. In the two years afterward, the brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.

15. Theta is the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet. The Greek letter theta is commonly used to denote an angle. Unknown angles are referred to as angle theta and may be calculated in various ways, based on known sides and angles.

16. An acute angle is an angle that measures less than ninety degrees but more than zero degrees.

17. A bass is a type of classical male singing voice and has the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a vocal range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C. Basses are often divided into different subcategories based on range, vocal color or timbre, the weight of the voice, and dexterity of the voice. Basses are often broken down into six subcategories: basso profondo, basso buffo, bel canto bass, basso cantante, dramatic bass, and bass-baritone.

18. History has Pliny the Younger to thank for much of what we know about the catastrophic eruption of  Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The young Roman official, who was later to gain fame as a poet, was stationed across the bay from the eruption, far enough away to ensure his safety. His eyewitness accounts of the eruption, laid out in a series of letters written years later to famed Roman historian Tacitus, miraculously survived for centuries and were discovered in the 16th century. Pliny's letters recount how "a dark and horrible cloud charged with combustible matter suddenly broke and set forth. Some bewailed their own fate. Others prayed to die."  However, While Pliny the Younger was lucky enough to survive the eruption relatively unscathed, his uncle, known as Pliny the Elder, was less fortunate. The older Pliny was in command of the Roman fleet in the Bay of Naples, from which vantage point he viewed the spectacular eruption. However, in an attempt to help survivors, he sailed to shore near the port of Stabiae. Upon going ashore, he was overcome by toxic gas and died shortly thereafter

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Mt. Vesuvius

19. "Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers" is a portrait of Vincent van Gogh by Paul Gauguin  painted in December, 1888. Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh had an early friendship which blossomed into an invitation to Arles, France, where van Gogh wanted Gauguin to stay with him and create an art colony. This painting was completed during Gauguin’s stay in Arles, depicting van Gogh painting his famous work Sunflowers. Unfortunately, Gauguin and Van Gogh were unable to create their art colony, as Gauguin only stayed for two months. A short time after Gauguin finished this picture, Van Gogh threatened him with a razor before cutting off part of his own ear.



Vincent van Gogh Painting Sunflowers

20. The Catacombs of Paris or are underground ossuaries in Paris, France. The ossuaries hold the remains of about six million people and fill a renovated section of caverns and tunnels that are the remains of historical stone mines, giving it its reputation as "The World's Largest Grave". Opened in the late 18th century, the underground cemetery became a tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century, and has been open to the public on a regular basis from 1874. Parisians today often refer to the entire tunnel network as "the catacombs. 


Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Destruction of the Environment


The terrible environmental problems that confront us today, and those that threaten the very survival of our species on this planet, are the inevitable consequence of economic development, which is ironically identified with progress, an overriding concern of almost every government throughout the world today. This is not generally realized, partly because neither the nature nor the implications of this fatal process are clearly understood. To do so requires that we first realize the fact that economic development has become the overriding goal of governments throughout the world only in the last fifty years. U.S. President Harry Truman is one of the first to suggest that it should become so. Previously, economic development was the priority in but a very small area of our planet, mainly in parts of western Europe and North America. And, that period was insignificant in comparison to man’s total existence on this planet.

Economic development consists of the continuous year-to-year increase in the production, distribution, sale and consumption of food, artifacts and services. This is taken to be the only means of increasing wealth, and thereby, human welfare. However, this notion would have been totally incomprehensible to the traditional man for whom material goods were not seen as desirable in themselves. The acquiring of food, clothing, house-hold goods and of things had practical purposes and served social interests. Wealth, for him, was basically social wealth and also ecological wealth. He saw his welfare as being predominantly determined by his ability to maintain the integrity and stability of the social and ecological systems of which he was a part. That is because it was only by maintaining the balance of the systems that they could be counted upon to dispense their inestimable benefits; which he was not willing to forgo merely in order to acquire material goods, that played little part in the strategy of his life.

The goal of the ever-increasing of goods and services is a relatively new phenomenon and incompatible with the survival of social and ecological systems and is rapidly destroying the environment and the eco-system. It is for this reason alone that economic development can only lead to social and ecological disruption.

Why, we might ask, is economic activity out of control in this way? The answer is that instead of being conducted at the level of the family and the community, the original units of economic activity, they are now being created by specialized, purely economic, surrogate social groupings, i.e. corporations (private or government-owned) that by their very nature can have no social, ecological, religious or moral conscience or concerns of any kind.

Unfortunately, large corporations view nature is nothing more than a source of raw-materials for the economic process and a sink for disposing of its evermore voluminous and toxic wastes. In such conditions, the fate of both society and nature are virtually sealed. It is but a question of time before they are both cashed-in, and, in this way, transformed into economic wealth.

At the same time, as economic development systematically annihilates the natural world, so does it replace it with a very different man-made or artificial world—the world of houses, factories, office blocks, warehouses, gas containers, power stations, and parking lots, i.e. the physical infrastructure of economic development. As this process continues the physical infrastructure must necessarily expand. So has it expanded in mainland China, since economic development has got under way some ten years ago, as a result of which some ten percent of that grossly overpopulated country’s agricultural land has already been paved-over.

It is not just the man-made world that, must be substituted for the natural world or the biosphere, but the environment also has to cope with the even more voluminous and toxic waste products. In the natural world, life processes are cyclic. They must be for two reasons. The first is that though the natural world is an open system from the point of view of energy, it is, to all extents and purposes, a closed system from the point of view of materials. This means that to avoid resource shortages, they must continually be recycled, the waste products of one process serving as the raw materials of the next. They must be recycled too in order to avoid the accumulation of un-recycled materials that would interfere with the processes.
In more general terms, they must be recycled so as to maintain the critical structure of the biosphere and of its constituent ecosystems.

Traditional man felt morally committed to returning all organic wastes to the soil from which they were derived. It was an essential part of his religious commitment to maintaining the harmony and balance of the natural world, so this essential ecological principle was closely adhered to. With the breakdown of traditional cultural patterns, this principle was rapidly lost. As economic development continues, the recycling of materials becomes more and more impossible because an increasingly degraded biosphere becomes incapable of coping with the ever more massive amount of unnecessary and non-biodegradable materials and junk.

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Pictures of Man-Made Environmental Disasters 

Garbage

Used Tires

Used Cell-Phones

Mountain Tops Destroyed to Get Coal

Environmental Destruction Caused by Fires

The Melting of the Polar Icecaps Caused by Man-made Global Warming 

Air Pollution 

Air Pollution

Air Pollution Created by Burning Garbage

Environmental Destruction Caused by Drilling for Oil

Mountain Tops Destroyed to Get Coal  

Water Pollution

 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Facts about the Protestant Religions, No. 1



The 16th century was a pivotal time of change throughout Europe, and the coming together of various factors created the Protestant Reformation. It was a time of rapid urbanization and the early Reformation was largely a city affair. Protestants also benefited from the invention of the moveable type printing press. It is estimated that 6 million books were printed between 1450 and 1500, more than had been produced in the previous 1,000 years. Between 1517 and 1520 about 300,000 copies of books and tracts by Martin Luther alone were printed. During this time, there was also the growth of the middle class and the first stirrings of nationalism. All these changes and the discovery of the New World created change and opportunities for new religious movements.
Several reform movements preceded the Protestant Reformation and influenced it. The Gregorian Reform of the 11th century undertook many of the institutional and moral reforms that  concerned Luther, primarily the buying and selling of Church offices. In Luther's own day the great Dutch churchman Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) made some of the same scathing attacks on Catholic Church practices and Martin Luther objected to the opulent court life in Rome sustained in part by sale of indulgences- the elimination of previous sins by donating money to the Vatican. It, along with the selling of false relics, has never been addressed or condemned by the Catholic Church. However. unlike Luther, Erasmus never advocated views leading to excommunication.
Luther's theology was also preceded in many ways by John Wycliffe (1330-1384). In the 1380s, Wycliffe, a professor at Oxford, translated the Bible from Latin into English. He did this because he felt that the Bible held authority over the Church, not vice versa. In particular, he argued, when one reads the Bible one sees that the early Church is poor, rather than being a grand and wealthy institutional as it had become in the Middle Ages. Wycliffe argued for a return to an early Church model. After Wycliffe died, he was condemned as a heretic, his books burned, and his remains dug up, crushed, and thrown in the Swift River.
One reason that the reform movement began and became a mass movement was the influence of Renaissance humanism. The Renaissance was a cultural and intellectual movement during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries in Europe and it placed a high value on the classical art and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome. Humanism is a movement within the Renaissance that turned from what they saw as elaborate and detailed medieval speculation and focused on classical texts in their original languages as a means to educate moral people dedicated to civic virtue. The Latin motto of humanism was "ad fontes" (back to the sources). Many theologians of that time were trained as humanists. Thus, Renaissance humanism influenced some people to trust the Bible as a source of renewal for the Church, and to place it above the Church as an authority.
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One major consequence of all of this was that theologians such as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin did not think that one could know anything about God by looking at the world. Although God created the world, human minds did not have access to divine essences in the world that would teach them about God. The only genuine knowledge of God came from what God chose to reveal in scripture. Scripture tells humans that they were created by God, had become sinners and thus alienated from God, and could be reconciled through God's forgiveness. In the end, that created an environment in which many in Europe were ready to follow the reformers who claimed that the sole authority for what to believe was the Bible.
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The Bible, consisting of 66 "books" is scripture for Protestant churches. The canon of the Protestant Bible is not quite the same as the Roman Catholic Bible. There were several books that Roman Catholics included in the Old Testament that Luther and others felt did not have canonical authority and had been added in error by the Catholic Church. These are mostly late Jewish texts.Instead, the reformers used a list of Hebrew texts that ancient rabbis considered canonical. Books considered canonical by Catholics but not Protestants are gathered in the Apocrypha  (aka: disputed books).

While the centrality of the Bible is crucial for most Christians everywhere, several factors make it particularly essential for Protestants. First, Protestant theologians were influenced by the medieval theologians and their belief that, in our fallen state, God was completely unknowable except insofar as God chose to reveal certain things to humans. The revealed word of God is contained in scripture. Therefore, one Protestant principle is sola scriptura- meaning, scripture alone as the supreme authority for faith and practice.

Second, there was no human work that could save you, or move God to save you. Your only hope for salvation was the free gift of God's grace, a principle called sola gratia. The promise of this grace is given in scripture. This grace is accessed only through faith, thus the Protestant principle of justification by faith alone, called sola fide. These principles–by scripture alone, by grace alone, by faith alone—led Luther and the other reformers to grant scripture final authority over other sources of authority, including the Church and human reason. They did not discount other voices but they simply elevated that of scripture so that scripture became the final and ultimate truth. As a result, Church tradition could be criticized on the basis of its agreement with the higher authority of the scripture. The Roman  Catholic Church had argued that the tradition of the Church embodied scriptural truth, and thus any perceived discrepancy in theory or practice between what the Bible said and what the Church said could be explained by the Church's  authority and its interpretations. However, Luther argued that correct interpretation of scripture rests not with the Church but "in the heart of the pious believer," who is, of course, a member of the Church. 

Some Protestant churches have produced creeds, or formal statements of Christian belief, that function as a guide to correct interpretation of scripture for that denomination. Some denominations declare themselves to be without a creed (non-creedal) and reject the creation of formal statements of faith> They claimed instead to rely on their direct encounters with the Bible. Most of these stem in some way from the Anabaptists. Non-creedal churches include Baptists, Churches of Christ, and Mennonites. Many "non-denominational" churches, often growing out of the Pentecostal movement, are also non-creedal. Among these non-creedal traditions, most have found it necessary, however, to formulate what they call "confessions" or more recently, "statements of faith." These traditions make a distinction between "creeds," which they view as being incapable of being reformed or changed by the teaching of scripture, and "confessions," which, at least in principle for them, are capable of being revised if found to be inconsistent with scripture and, therefore, do not threaten the supreme authority of the Bible.

Lutheran Churches rely on several creeds gathered in the Book of Concord to guide and set limits around correct interpretation of scripture. There is no single, agreed-upon book of creeds or confessions for Reformed Christians, but the more widely recognized ones include The Westminster Confession, as well as The Scots Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Second Helvetic Confession.

Historically, Anglicans (and Episcopalians), have relied on the Thirty-nine Articles. In recent decades, more liberal voices within these churches have moved this document to a peripheral and largely historical role, while conservatives continue to view it as a valid statement of belief. 

Methodists use a slightly revised version of the Thirty-nine Articles, called the Articles of Religion. In addition they take their orientation from the sermons of John Wesley, and his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament.

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Contemporary Protestant Christianity in Europe is largely characterized by nominal affiliation. That is, in many nations nearly half of the population never attends any religious services unless they involve a major life event like a wedding or a funeral. While that statistic is largely acknowledged, it is less commonly recognized that even in the most secular countries, there are thriving Protestant communities, and there is a growing number of ethnic minority Protestant congregations. There are large black church communities in the U.K. and great numbers have been converting to Pentecostalism.
In the United States, there are some similar trends, though the situation is more complex. In the waning years of the 19th century, biblical criticism began to erode Christian confidence in the authority of the Bible. Many European and American scholars abandoned or radically reinterpreted many of the traditional Christian doctrines. The onset of World War I and the Great Depression exacerbated this trend and redirected a great deal of Christian focus to the social and economic needs of people rather than their beliefs.
Liberal theological positions became increasingly embedded in North American mainline seminaries, as they had in many European academic circles. The American Protestant church, however, experienced an organized resistance to this theological trend in the rise of fundamentalism in the early 20th century. The term "fundamentalism" is derived from a 12-volume set of essays published between 1910-1915 called The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. Those who advocated for biblical inerrancy, scriptural authority, and the historical veracity of the core Christian dogma became known as fundamentalists. They opposed the modernists, who had largely embraced the rational, scientific, and cultural arguments of the day, and had found new ways to interpret Christian doctrine accordingly. The fundamentalists' essential posture of resistance became epitomized in the 1925 Scopes Trial regarding the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Though the fundamentalists won the trial, they lost face in the public arena, and were largely mocked for their anti-scientific views.

Besides the rise of fundamentalism, the American Protestant community witnessed another movement that also rejected the rationalism of the modernist movement, the rise of Pentecostalism. William Seymour (1870-1922) initiated the Pentecostal renewal movement in his Los Angeles church in 1906. Drawing on earlier holiness traditions, Seymour preached the baptism of the Holy Spirit and a new power in Christian living.The fastest growing Christian denominations in the world today are Pentecostal movements in Latin America, India, Africa, and China.
As the 20th century proceeded, many conservative Christians rejected the increasing isolationism of some fundamentalist approaches and felt they could welcome scientific advances and engage contemporary culture while simultaneously advocating historic Christian belief and doctrine. World War II, the public evangelistic campaigns of Billy Graham (born: 1918), the development of specifically conservative but not fundamentalist organizations, and the rise of key conservative journals all contributed to a new wave of evangelicalism that largely abandoned the narrower and more confrontational ethos of fundamentalism while retaining the same basic theological core. By the mid-20th century and the end of World War II, these evangelicals began to emerge as conservative Christians who accommodated science, entered into conservative politics, worked across denominational lines, and influenced culture. More than 30,000,000 Protestant Christians today identify as Evangelicals. They exist within a wide variety of mainline Protestant denominations and as non-denominational churches.
The mainline Protestant churches in America are experiencing both membership loss and new areas of growth. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the largest North American Presbyterian denomination, began losing members in 1966, and has lost at least 1 percent of its membership every year since then. In 2005 it lost over 2 percent, the largest drop since 1975, leaving it with 2,313,662 members. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America dropped from 5.2 million members in 1990 to 4.8 million in 2005. At the same time, denominations that had earlier experienced schism have experienced ecumenical cooperation and sometimes merger. They are finding renewal in areas of social justice, sexual equality, and political activism.
The "emerging church," a late 20th-century movement, has roots in both mainline and evangelical circles. While the movement is not well defined, it tends to refer to churches begun by young pastors in urban settings. These churches are often traditional in terms of theology but progressive in style of ministry and on social issues. Emerging churches are comfortable experimenting with a wide variety of Christian traditions and practices, and attempt to engage the larger context of progressive Christianity with creative reform, reconstructing the faith in ways that they hope will appeal to changing expectations of the 21st century.
This ecumenical attitude stems from a post-World War II willingness to cooperate in common endeavors. In 1950  in the U.S., the National Council of Churches was founded. Made up of thirty-five Christian denominations (but not the Catholic Church), they sponsored the revised  New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. They also provide money for development and disaster relief around the world. A similar organization, the World Council of Churches (also without the Catholic Church), operates on the international level. It was founded in the wake of World War II in Amsterdam. It is now headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Poetry by Carmine Giordano



Poetry by Carmine Giordano
Carmine Giordano was born in Brooklyn, New York City. He has a master's degree in English literature from New York University and was the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship for Study in Italy. He is the associate editor of Abalone Moon, an online poetry magazine. He has spent most of his life teaching literature and writing in high school and college in New York, Georgia and Florida.  He is now retired and spends most of his time with his wife either in New York, Florida or traveling. 

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The Brightness of Being

This was the single, the only point of it all:
the Sole Marechiara at Vinny's--
The salty savor of the sauce Marzano
The dark red purple of the Cabernet
The grip, the toast, the clink of the long-stem glasses
The sparkle of your eyes, your radiance
The spaghetti al dente aglio e olio
The twirl on the fork
The Parmesan, the pungent cloves, the pepper flakes
The swipe of the crusty bread
The heft, the chew, the green of the broccoli sides
The talk, the banter, the hope
The laughter, the fullness
The yes, the now--the life, the life!

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Old Photograph

You hold us, Mother, one in each arm,
the black and white photograph
creased across your heart.

We are the fruits of you,
your jewels, your point of being,
your passage to the new world,
the promise of America.

We press hard upon your arms,
but are weightless
in the buoy of your pride.
Your face is justified and says,
"Here is my sum, my all."

And your eyes
(those eyes that were the sun,
those eyes that watched us run,
those eyes I closed in sleep)
your eyes search mine
across the years,
and ask forgiveness and love
for whatever foolishness
caused tears.

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Damaged Goods

Where's the return counter
for the broken and the wounded parts
the shards of the heart the soul   
the self's soiled pieces?

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Sunday Morning

I've grown tired of heavenly bread
and the blood of saviors
and the old implanted yearning
for some joy beyond the grave:
I tell you, I'd trade them all
for a piece of watermelon
and some friendly chat
down a country road.