Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Encounter in the Woods : A Story

Sam woke with a crick in his neck and a sore backside. He stretched, trying to ease the hurt in his muscles. In the past two years, he’d slept more nights with a tree canopy for a roof than anything manmade, and he still wasn’t used to it.  

With a group of soldiers bound for South Carolina, he’d followed the main road into Chatham, a small Southern town typical of its kind a day’s walk from Appomattox. The smithy and stable, the general store, and a few other establishments lined the town’s main street. Also lining the street had been townspeople with rifles and pistols.


“Just keep on moving through,” said a large man in clothes worn but still presentable. “We don’t mean to be inhospitable, but we’ve had too much trouble with soldiers and others. Keep moving and we’ll all get along just fine.”


A few soldiers had looked as if they were ready to be less than accommodating but were stopped by others. Sam kept walking, wondering if this is what returning soldiers would find everywhere – frightened people trying to protect what little they had left.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Poets and Poems: Sara Eddy and “Tell the Bees” and “Full Mouth”

I will admit having talked with family pets over the years as if they were human. I’ve even projected conversations into their mouths. When my children were young, I wrote hand-illustrated stories about their pets. Judging by what I’ve seen in books and social media, I am not alone.  

When it comes to food, I’m more utilitarian; some might say cretinous. I don’t get excited into flights of rhetorical fancy over food, with one possible exception: Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s the Texas-based company’s most popular flavor – and with good reason. They should market it as “heaven on earth.” Blue Bell ice cream is not sold in St. Louis, but I have a friend who makes runs to Rolla, Missouri, where it is sold, just to buy the ice cream.


Poet Sara Eddy is a beekeeper. She talks with her bees. She projects conversations and thoughts into the mouths and minds of her bees. And judging by her poetry, Eddy also enjoys food – each jam, truffles, honeycake, oysters, cantaloupe, dumplings, muffins, raspberries, donuts, olives, and burritos, to cite a few.


But in her hands, bees and food are something more than humorous stories or tributes to favorite things to eat. They are metaphors for life and its experiences, and she writes about both bees and food in ways both original and profound. 


Eddy has published two chapbooks, or short collections, Tell the Bees (2019) and Full Mouth (2020). Published by Writing MapsTell the Bees is a short collection of eight poems, published as a type of pamphlet with color photographs of her own beehives. Full Mouth, part of the New Women’s Voices Series of Finishing Line Press, includes 30 poems, published in a more traditional short book format.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, June 27, 2022

“Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864” by Chris Mackowski

Once Ulysses S. Grant became commander of all the Union’s armies, he undertook two efforts that ultimately helped defeat the Confederacy. First, he coordinated the campaigns of all of the Northern armies, and not only those forces under his immediate command. Second, he made a concerted effort to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond.  

In 1864, the campaign against Richmond was renewed in earnest. Grant was attempting to avoid a frontal assault and instead sweep around and back. To do that, he had to move his Army of the Potomac through 70 square miles of densely wooded terrain known as the Wilderness. The area was inhabited, if sparsely. Moving an army through it, with its artillery and supply wagons, would be difficult, but Grant was determined.


So was Robert E. Lee. He understood what Grant was attempting, and he was just as determined to stop him. Two steel wills clashed – and the Wilderness exploded. Literally.


In Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864Chris Mackowski does two things. He tells the story of the main points of the battle, and he provides detailed directions for a tour of the battlefield by automobile. (“Battlefield” is a limiting term here; there was no one field or area of open terrain where everything happened.) The book is part of the Emerging Civil War Series


Chris Markowski

In addition to writing some of the volumes, Mackowski serves as editor for the entire effort. A professor at St. Bonaventure University, he has B.A., M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. degrees in communication, English, and creative writing. The author of some nine books, he’s written extensively on the Civil War for a number of publications. He also worked for the National Park Service and gave tours of the Civil War battlefields at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania. 


The Wilderness was a horrific battle, deserving of the name given by one its participants, “Hell Itself.” The terrain and denseness of the forest often meant hand-to-hand combat. Artillery fire often resulted in the woods catching fire, and soldiers on both sides were burned to death. 


Hell Itself brings the battle to life, making the reader feel almost a first-hand observer. You wonder, as did many who fought there, how anyone made it out of those woods alive.




Attack at Daylight and Whip Them: The Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862 by Gregory Mertz.


The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign, 1863 by Robert Orrison and Dan Welch.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Love your enemies

After Matthew 5:43-48

Republicans, pray for Democrats.

Democrats, love Republicans.

Hamas, love Israel.

Israel, pray for Hamas.

Progressives, pray for conservatives.

Conservatives, love progressives.

Everyone, pray for China.

Trumpers, pray for Hillary and Joe.

Hillary and Joe, pray for the Donald,

and love the deplorables.

Congressmen, love rioters and insurrectionists.

Rioters and insurrectionists, pray for congressmen.

Everyone, pray for Adam Schiff.

Everyone, pray for Hollywood.

Red states, pray for your blue cities.

Blue cities, love your red states.

Cardinal fans, love the Cubs.

Cub fans, pray for the Cardinals.

Everyone pray for journalists.


Photograph by Clay Banks via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - June 25, 2022

In “Renunciation and Re-enchantment,” Corbin Barthold at Front Porch Republic starts out by discussing British author Peter Ackroyd (a favorite writer of mine; his Dickens biography is monumental and so is his multi-volume History of England). And then Barthold moves to another British writer, Paul Kingsnorth (yet another favorite writer of mine), and his journey to faith.  

I would wager that very few people in America actively encourage their children to go into politics, except perhaps for the members of political dynasties. Few professions are viewed with such disdain, and not without good reason. But should it be like this? Adam Carrington at Ad Fontes makes a case for restoring Christian dignity to politics and political life.


If there is any common denominator across political, social, cultural, and economic lines these days, it would have to be outrage. The internet repeats and amplifies it. The editorial and op-ed pages screech with it. It is the lifeblood of cancel culture. So how do you explain it to your children? Alyssa Ramsey at Story Warren talks to her daughter.

And in this past contentious week, these past contentious 24 hours, I'm thinking of Father Richard John Neuhaus (1936 - 2009): We Shall Not Weary, We Shall Not Rest.


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


Forgetting vs. Overcoming: Nietzche on Abuses of History and the 1619 Project – Robert Thornett at Front Porch Republic.


3 Ways to Live Humbly Online – Chris Martin at Terms of Service.




Your past is my present – how Volodymyr Zelenskyy uses history – Beth Daley at The Conversation.


Russian Journalist’s Nobel Medal Sells for $103.5 Million – NBC News.


Saturday Bad Read


Beyond our ‘ape-brained meat sacks’: can transhumanism save our species? – Celina Rebeiro at The Guardian. And its partial antidote: How to prevent the coming inhuman future – Eric Hoel at The Intrinsic Perspective. 


Writing and Literature


Shelf Life: On the Stories Our Books Tell About Us – Bryan VanDyke at The Millions.


B-Sides: Agatha Christie's at Bertram's Hotel – Briallen Hopper at Public Books.


The deracination of literature – Mary Gaitskill at UnHerd.




Featured Poet: Michał Choiński – The High Window.




What Mother Theresa Told the Supreme Court: “Your Decision in Roe v. Wade Has Deformed a Great Nation” – Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition.


Sky Painting – Tim Suffield at Nuakh.


If You Believe the Bible – Blake Long at Theology & Life.


News Media


Politics on Twitter: One-Third of Tweets from U.S. Adults Are Political – Pew Research.


Good News – Brian & Katie Torwalt

Painting: A woman reading, oil on canvas (1835) by Friedrich von Amerling (1803-1887).

Friday, June 24, 2022

Everyday practices, revoked

After Matthew 5:38-42

Everyday practices refuted,

revoked, redrawn, recast.

They are (in order):

first, an eye for an eye,

a tooth for a tooth

   (so proclaims the law).

Second, a slap on the right

cheek now requires 

an offering of the left cheek.

A lawsuit to take your shirt

becomes an opportunity 

to offer your coat as well.

Forced to go one mile,

respond by going two.

Confronted by a beggar

or asked to make a loan,



with love

with the love 

you’ve been given.


Photograph by Joshua Earle via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

“The Tangled Treasure Trail” by Benedict Brown

It’s a London winter in early 1926. The newspapers are full of stories about the Bright Young Things, a group of mostly young adults who are partying all over the city. Their latest activities focus on madcap treasure hunts, starting at places like the street in front of Buckingham Palace and racing their cars and each other to the next clue in their hunt. 

At one such hunt, there’s a death. An older member of the group, an industrialist, dies in a car crash. It appears accidental. Lord Edgington, now 75 and retired but at one time the chief superintendent at Scotland Yard, grabs his 17-year-old grandson Christopher Prentiss and races to London. They’re just in time to participate in the next treasure hunt of the Bright Young Things.


Christopher is starstruck. He’s even more starstruck when the leading members of the group – an artist, the wealthy aristocratic heiress the artist is engaged to, and the rather flamboyant hunt organizer take a shine to the teenager and pull him into their antics. But, during yet another treasure hunt, the artist is found dead. This time, there’s no mistake. This was no accident; the artist was shot dead.


Benedict Brown

Lord Edgington and Christopher investigate, both helping the police and being helped in turn. And slowly they’re sucked into a case that has its roots in World War I.


The Tangled Treasure Trail is fifth Lord Edington mystery novel by British author Benedict Brown. As with its predecessors, it’s full of period context, an action-packed story, and a host of suspects. It’s a rollicking good read.


In addition to the five published Lord Edgington stories, a sixth is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2022. Brown has also written seven Izzy Palmer mystery novels and three novellas. A native of south London, he lives with his family in Spain. The Lord Edgington mysteries are likely aimed at both the general reader as well as the young adult audience. And they’re well-researched stories, full of information about the mid-1920s.





Murder at the Spring Ball by Benedict Brown.


A Body at a Boarding School by Benedict Brown.


The Mystery of Mistletoe Hall by Benedict Brown.


 Death on a Summer’s Day by Benedict Brown.