Posted in Musings and Reflections

Der Untermensch

The term is almost 100 years old, first used by the Klansman Lothrop Stoddard in 1922 and then subsequently adopted by the Nazis.

It means subhuman, or literally “under man.”

It was used to describe those whom the Nazis deemed lesser beings, whose sole value in life was to be terminated or worked as slaves.

In an earlier post (It’s in the Blood), I mentioned the remarkable words of one Menno Simons who described this devaluation of others and how our doing so has a direct correlation with our willingness to kill said others.

Menno penned those words in 1539, long before Stoddard or the Nazis laid the foundation in language for the systemic slaughter of those whose blood to them was of “well-nigh equal valueā€¯ to swine’s blood.

Such devaluation has been happening since Cain and Abel. In every case, the end result is death, whether physical or otherwise.

In this day and age of 24/7 social media and talking heads, we would be wise to watch our words. And even more so, to be vigilant in avoiding the realm of thinking of another as less than a precious child of God, who loves each and every one of us with an equal and uninhibited love.

In the eyes of God, no one, let me repeat, no one is “untermensch.”

Nor is a specific group of people “animals,” the term so recently used by a certain person in a position of power. Such a description is merely the wicked lie of the “untermensch” raising its ugly head.

And let’s be clear. It is a lie. It is also very wicked.

As is the old adage;

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Perhaps not physically, but they lay the foundation for such. Anyone who has lived upon this earth for any length of time knows the incredible hurt that can be caused by someone’s words. Or how words can become the catalyst for genocide.

We know the power of words. We can speak death words or life words. We can curse. Or we can bless.

One way of speaking is life-giving. It gives value to the other, whoever they may be. It lays the groundwork for mutual honor and respect.

The other way, the putting down of the other with the language of the “untermensch,” is just as evil in 2018 as it was in Genesis, in 1539, or in 1939.

Whether it leads to physical death or not, such speech is the Zyklon B for our collective soul.

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

The Road Well Traveled

In the darkness, one cannot see the fire of the fox.
A shadow runs before the light of the opening door.
There are no straight lines in nature and tonight
is no exception. The ground warps the bright square
and the figure framed for a moment in its perimeter.

Tip of tail flames briefly in the flash and the fox
flees before discovery like some diminished sun,
across the snow over the wooded crest down to where
the great oak lies in perpetual decay beside the spring.

On the morrow, the figure revealed as human in the light
of the sun will discover scat in the middle of the trail
and be reminded that this path, contrary to the scratchings
of Frost and Peck, is like all of the others, not less
traveled, but rather well worn by the fox and the unseen
scurrying feet of nature’s countless millions.


Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)


They found Madame that rainy morning
curled into a tight ball upon her lush Roman couch.
Flashbulbs popped glaringly against the white sheets.

“Dead two hours,” said the Coroner grimly.
“The bite of an insect,” announced the Arthropologist.

Discovered, the tiny spider crawled from the corpse’s
collar and scurried across the wooden floor.
“I’ve got her!” shouted the Detective as
the guilty party came to grinding halt
beneath his heel.

But in the pale, still neck of Madame,
a pulse once again began to beat
as the egg sack nestled among her
vocal cords trembled with the many
tiny new lives within.


Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

The Battle of Mission Mountain

The deer have disappeared.
Usually they congregate around the cottage in
herds of a hundred or more.
They have been replaced by rabbits who run before the swollen tires of my truck like Kamikaze killers.
I dodge death by inches and somehow find a way through the field of flying fur.

Past the Hiroshima hares, blackbirds bomb the battered branches of a lob-lolly pine, bitten by a beetle and now whipped by wings.
The crows cry in a raucous choir, snap and crackle against the cones like violet fire until all the trees are ablaze with coal-king lightning.

There is a staccato burst and red flash as a pileated woodpecker, gunning for grubs in the guts of a wasted white oak, enters the fiery fray.
Other oaks, red, black, and chestnut, mowed down by gypsy moth mortars, crisscross the burnt-out bulks of the pines, black bark blistered where the sap has bled.

I race by wooden corpses thrown up like bulwarks against an alien enemy that has already attacked, conquered, and is even now at this moment sweeping south towards the Gulf of Mexico.

December 10, 1998

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Dealing With My Excrement

Perhaps it is my contemplative nature, but as I was outside in the backyard this morning picking up our dogs’ excrement with a shovel, my mind moved down other stinky and not so pleasant paths related to my stuff. In particular an incident from the past that left me and the other both not smelling so good where the faint aroma still hangs in the air when we are around each other.

I pick up a few turds and admit my fault to the universe. In the end that is all I can do. I don’t have enough lifetimes to deal with other people’s stuff. The mosquitoes of guilt and shame are tearing me up and I have a whole backyard of my own to take care of.

So, one by one, bit by bit, I am present to each mess. I put it in the bucket and move on to the next pile.

Originally posted July 1, 2011

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

The Hole Was There

I did not see them coming.
If so I would have prepared.
I would have made the trees grow steel-resistant bark
with roots to grasp the deep rock of the mountains and
tops to catch the stars.
I walked out through the woods and when I returned
they were there.
The trees were burning and the hole was there.
It happened so quickly.
I turned my head for the briefest of moments.
I was watching a leaf fall.
I saw the pileated woodpecker fly.
I heard the wind caress an oak.
I missed their coming and suddenly the hole was there.
My eyes were wet from the smoke.
Walls. A roof. Floors. The hole is covered but still there.
The bird flies in circles.
The wind seeks its friend.
The leaf cannot find its way to the ground.
And I sit here like a stone afraid to turn my head again.

From Advent Retreat “Waiting in the Dark” December 12, 2003

Posted in Finding Frost's Road: Encounters with the Culture

The Coyote Rooster

Coyote RoosterHe’s young so he’s learning how to crow.

I thought roosters knew how to right from the egg. Maybe so. But this one doesn’t. Dawn and dusk I hear his eery yell wafting across the field from my neighbor’s house.

She was out at the coop one morning this week trying to teach him. “It’s not three syllables,” she said slowly. “It’s five syllables – cock-a-doodle-do.” Over and over again. She didn’t think he got the message.

And then she got to thinking. Why is it so important for the rooster to sound, well, like a rooster? Maybe he’s a nonconformist. He definitely is original. Perhaps he has a good reason for sounding the way he does. What with hawks, snakes, foxes, and all sorts of predators in them there hills, how’s a rooster supposed to protect his brood? It sure makes my hair stand on end.

Cock-a doooooo.

Maybe he’s figured something out and is smarter than we give him credit.


Maybe he doesn’t need any crowing lessons at all.


Maybe, just maybe, the rooster WANTS to sound like a coyote.

November 5,2007

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)


My preparation for work is accompanied by the
dry, rasping sound of a turtle
scratching at the cardboard sides of a
box on the floor behind me,
trying desperately to escape what has
become an all too confining experience.

Its scratching is no different than that which is mine so
civilized and endless upon the page.
The ink the terrapin uses is invisible but we
write the same thing.
The subject is freedom.
My box
this office
plugged in machine
is no less a prison.

I step away from the preparation
of curriculum,
sneak down the school stairs,
poke my head through the shell of the door into the sun.

Outside I watch the turtle slowly disappear into the grass.

(Began May 4, 1999 while teaching in Washington DC and finished while musing on said experience August 24, 2011)

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

My Journey, Dream

Eons ago, it seemed,
I began my journey, dream,
Dream of a day when Man was Man,
No more a terror of the Land.

We began, my stallion and I,
One brilliant yellow dawn to fly,
Fly o’er the glistening lakes and plains,
Cool breeze flowing through his mane.

Swiftly we flew on gentle wings,
Shining hooves on rock to sing,
Sing a song of long ago,
The joy of Man’s life to know.

Sing we did, my stallion and I,
The bitter wind made us cry,
Cry for though we searched hill and vale,
No one answered our ceaseless wail.

On and on and on we flew,
My faithful charger always true,
True though was this a hopeless quest?
Still we prayed our labors be blessed.

Through storm, rain, sleet and hail,
With fire within we did prevail,
Prevail and believe like the dawn,
that fiery hope which drove us on.

Though we were forever doomed to soar,
At last we stood on the farthest shore,
Shore of an ocean, an endless sea,
To end our search in futility.

For a moment we stood in the bitter wind,
Our journey at its eternal end
And with no hope left within our breasts,
We plunged crying, dying, into the depths.