A Life in Ten

Born Roger Bryce Inglewood, Jackson MS, March 11, 1971

Brother John Ebenezer born 5/13, 1973

Broke elbow on swing, spring of ’77

No girlfriend in primary or high school

Found out why, fall of ’88

Did not graduate 7/7/90

Trip to Asia & Australia, with Barry Svensson Jr., 92-93

Opened “Rog’s Downtown Deli”, Jackson MS, 5/13, 1997

Opened 1st “Rog’s Downtown Deli” in the East (Washington DC, 5/13/2000)

Checked on delivery quality, health standards and customer satisfaction at Marsh and McLennan Companies, NYC, 9/11/2001

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Ten Little Piglets

One of the new piglets
was limping – a broken leg?

Two others were trying to shove it away
from the feeding trough.

Three legs were not enough.
The piglet toppled over.

Four minutes later, up in the hamlet,
a farmer-lady in her garden told us where the pig-farmer lived:

Five houses further down, just past the bend.
It was just gone

six, so someone was preparing supper
behind the kitchen window. We rang. “No. Number

7 is my son’s house, not here.” said the elderly lady,
“But don’t worry, I’ll go tell him myself.”

Eight minutes on I was home, telling the story
to our sons who had first spotted the new pigs. The cat just listened.

(Nine lives – was she really grinning?) “Sometimes,”
said the younger boy, “glee would be easier than compassion.”

‘Ten out of ten,’
I thought.

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Writing Exercise: [Noun] in Ten

heart attac

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Clarity in Ten Words: Alien Invasion

We
are
unconditionally
unanimously
unprepared
to
surrender.
Tell
your
leaders.

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Fire to the Rain

In the jungle a millipede caterpillars
onto a giant leaf on soggy ground.

Far above, the rain drums the canopy,
which collects the water only to redistribute it:

Rivulets run down trees, along vines, join on the ground,
picking up orange volume by the second.

And so the leaf sets sail.
The millipede forfeits the captaincy

and rolls over the edge into the water,
only to hold on seconds later to a stem

that grows here in the semi-dark.
A bad choice: While the leaf

would have borne its captain to safer shores,
a red jungle fowl now picks up a snack

in one fell hack and scurries back to the village.
A village built into a clearing, hacked into the forest.

And so no canopy protects the huts.
Sheets of water slash down

onto everything and all who sit quite patiently.
This is not the first downpour, but the last one

for the old man who tilts his head towards a stranger sound;
louder than the thunderous beating of the rain on roof and hat.

For suddenly a shiny something overhead
sets fire to the rain
and to the chicken
and the leaf
and the hut
and the man.

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At the School Big Band Concert

The Big Band isn’t very big
anymore: Four trumpets,
four saxophones – and what’s
the plural of euphonium?
Well, there are two of those.

A tuba, a trombone,
one guitar, the string bass,
and leader Henry on the Grand Piano,
almost bald now; thin shoulders hunched
over strong hands and still-confident fingers.

The drummer lets his hired hands fly:
A professional, and very kind.
He does the job he’s been called in to do
and a little more: After solo parts
he nods encouragement to amateurs.

The swing swings smoothly enough
and the crowd, huddled in the
ten front rows, is kindly responsive:
A small sea washing applause
over a smaller beach.

Of the sixteen performing members
four are students, all of them final-years.
Of the teachers, a couple have been absent, unwell.
Nobody ever smiles and everybody
is dressed in black.

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What I Took from the First Aid Refresh Course

The idea is to brush up on essentials.
We learn how little we know.

We worry how wobbly we’d be.
We laugh a lot for obvious reasons:

We are not making merry, merely trying to cope.
We stall in the second, practical, part

where ribs crack, consumption re-emerges undigested,
and unspeakable things happen to children.

Walking out into the early dark
towards cars, trains, bikes (all ominous now)

we all of us envisage our own personal worst horrors:
Kids, or that neighbour you really can’t stand.

Back home, trying to unwind
I listen to the words again:

Recovery position. Heimlich manoeuvre.
Hemiplegia. I like that I know the words.

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