Who Would Miss—Richard Geller

Who Would Miss
On the 75th Anniversary of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Who would miss
Those iron-cold winters,
The salt-stained, icy sidewalks,
The overcast skies—head tucked
Into my collar and scarf—leaning
Into the freezing blast of wind off the river
And around all the corners

Or those uninviting Quonset huts
Cold and drafty or oven like
Where we gathered from the far
Corners of the world—confirmed
In our youthful certainty
That the right words matter
That the right words can make a difference

And who would think
A lifetime later
Despite every disappointment
The world offers, this
Improbable belief
Might uphold us still—
That the right words matter?

from True Worldly Things by Richard Geller

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We Depend—Richard Geller

We Depend

We depend upon each other
And this earth for everything

For everything we have
For everything we use or consume

For all that makes life possible
And worthwhile

Nor should we take each other
Or this earth for granted

But remember this and hold it
In our hearts as best we’re able

We depend upon each other
And this earth for everything

from True Worldly Things by Richard Geller

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As Soon As The Words Start—Richard Geller

As Soon As The Words Start

As soon as the words start
Another story has begun

An inevitable
Byproduct of syntax

And because we
Mostly believe

The stories we’re telling
We can get trapped

Inside them

By them and our beliefs
So much so

That we fall asleep
For a time

Into a dream of differences—
A dream of them and us

Until at last we tire
Of the story

And as it crumbles
Perhaps a war ends

Our eyes
Start to flutter

We start to awaken

from True Worldly Things by Richard Geller

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The Path Again—Richard Geller

The Path Again

There is a moment
When you realize
For the first time
That for all
Intents and purposes
You know nothing

And all your beliefs
Are mostly in the way
Of your ever knowing
About what
You are seeking

It’s ironic I suppose
That it is
At the very moment
You realize
You’re lost
That you’ve found
The path again

from True Worldly Things by Richard Geller

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Watching the

Then the


In the
Slight breeze

It occurs
To me

To remain

A while

Just like

from True Worldly Things by Richard Geller

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An Old Man Sat By A Pond

A story/poem for this beautiful May morning…

An Old Man Sat By A Pond

An old man sat by a pond in perfect stillness and not a single thought arose in him to disturb it.

After a while, a perfectly formed, pure-white flower
appeared on the pond. Its petals were like ivory;
its stamens, topped with pale yellow, arched over and above a white pistil glistening.

Still, no thought arose as, gradually, the flower
transformed itself into the most beautiful woman, the old man had ever seen. Even as she strode forth across the water, arms open, as if to embrace him,
no thought arose.

Instead, he bowed and the woman bowed and
transformed into a light that was both within
and without.

So this is death, the old man thought. “Life,” a voice said from within.

from True Worldly Things by Richard Geller

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Chicken And Egg

I have a good friend whose judgment I trust a lot. This morning I read her my last post and she said as best I remember, “I think you’re attacking the wrong dog. It’s the media that’s mostly responsible for the dumbing down of our political discourse.

“In the media the biggest numbers drive the most money, and money drives the bus. That’s the real reason we have agenda-driven opinion and soundbites masquerading around as news.”

She might be right. Perhaps our politicians don’t like the current situation any better than we do. Perhaps the politicians have to confine themselves to soundbites in order to have a prayer of being quoted accurately and not being interpreted to fit someone else’s agenda. Maybe they feel just as stuck. Maybe they think we’re all a bunch of dumb clucks. I’m sure I don’t know.

I just want us to get down to discussing the issues thoroughly and making the best possible decisions we can for all the people. How do we get that to happen?

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My wife and I never talked down to our girls. We spoke to them more or less as we would to adults. No baby-talk. No kootchy-Koo. No quantum physics though—one started getting that in the fourth grade. (I’m serious; she had a really brilliant teacher).

By the time they were five, their command of vocabulary was impressive. They could understand way more than you’d expect.

Maybe part of the reason we Americans are collectively such a bunch of political dummies is because our politicians and newscasters talk down to us—scandalously oversimplifying and dumbing everything down into soundbites.

What would happen if they suddenly started talking like adults—if a fundamental capacity to understand and make informed decisions was assumed, rather than the accepted wisdom of serving up half-truths, spin and manipulation? And what if we all became a little more willing to call them on their BS? I don’t know. I’m not expecting much until this generation of politicians is gone for good.

Frankly, it’s embarrassing and more than a little disturbing watching them go Kootchy-koo on TV. Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives…I keep looking around for a lever or a button or a switch that says, none of the above.

Time for a change?

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An Oath To Tell The Truth?

I finally got to meet with President Obama last night, and he was not looking particularly well. He’d been smoking more. I told him it was time for a fundamental change in American politics that would cost nothing. I told him it was time for all politicians to take a public oath in front of the entire nation to tell the truth—or as much of it as they honestly knew. And if they weren’t going to tell the truth for some good reason—to at least acknowledge that fact. “This is not something I can tell the truth about; I ask you to trust me in all good faith.”

“I know this sounds terribly naive, Mr. President, but there really is no other way. We all need to start telling the truth. Democrats need to admit that the Republicans are right. We can’t tax our way out of this recession. We do need to cut spending. And Republicans need to admit that while we need to cut spending, we also need to stop throwing away money. The government should and must negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies, hospital corporations and insurance companies to lower the cost of healthcare—just as every other developed nation does. It’s the reason an MRI costs about $2000 here and about $180 in Japan. We all have to work in the interest of all the people—not just the most privileged and powerful.

From this day forward, we need to take a solemn oath to check our facts and tell the whole truth—to honor truth-telling more than winning arguments. Nothing else is going to work. Not if we are going to work together and leave an America we’ll feel proud to turn over to the next generation.

I turned to the Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives who were also in the room and asked, “What do we have to do to get your attention?” A woman dressed in a bright red pants suit said, well, now that you’ve got his attention, I guess you’ve got ours.

Ah, but it was just a dream.

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Startled constantly
This spring

By its beauty

As if
For the first time

An exceptional season
Perhaps, or

Some layer of preoccupation
Dissolved without

My noticing,

That ancient blessing
May you walk in beauty

That we do

from True Worldly Things by Richard Geller

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