Shifting positions and perceptions in a weary world at a Walt Whitman Poetry Contest in Camden, New Jersey

Whitman’s grave resides across the street where the author was born — Our Lady of Lourdes. Photo by author.

“Camden was originally an accident, but I shall never be sorry I was left over in Camden. It has brought me blessed returns.”- Walt Whitman

As a teacher, I’m not used to being tested. And I’m definitely not familiar with failing. Yet a test came during a poetry reading for one of my students at the Walt Whitman House in Camden.

I’ve driven through Camden countless times (doors locked, eyes firmly ahead), but street parking is another matter. If I died, would my student appreciate my sacrifice to the teaching profession?

Pink balloons knocked about the light brown edifice of…


Fiction

Freedoms often collide, creating accidental martyrs in modern American

Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, PA. Photo by Lanis Rossi, used with permission.

Readers please note: this fictional story includes a description of sexual assault.

The kids were returning to school when we heard the news. The Philadelphia Inquirer called him Socrates of Rittenhouse Square. For us, that front-page story has been our everyday story. Much of what you may have read came from me — and the others who were questioned and interviewed, both by the police and by the media, like the cellist from Curtis and the congregates from the church.

Newspaper articles are tossed as quickly as they are composed, useful, of course, like toilet paper, but I pray this…


Never listen to rock and roll lyrics

Photo by Trinity Kubassek from Pexels

I did everything to impress women except speaking to them. Between the ages of 3 and 24, I was a disaster with women. Why should such disasters still haunt me now at 51?

There was one girl who lived around the corner. Let’s call her Juliet. I don’t know what it was about her. As an immature, pimply adolescent, I guess it was more about the “Jordache” than her Inner Light.

Her long curly brown reminded me of Yeats’ I am looped in the loops of her hair. But back then, famous Irish poets eluded me. Juliet was at my…


The Appeal and the Tragedy of the South

The Sinking of The Sir Walter Scott represents a way of life that was based on medieval myths.

What makes the South so fond of its past?

To understand a Southerner’s fondness for monuments and say, the rebel flag, it is essential to understand its culture through its rich literary history. Leafing through such pages will not excuse racism or intolerance or xenophobia, but at least it may help us understand.

Every September in AP Language and Composition, we tackle Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” a scathing satire so essential on race relations that it’s essentially absent in high schools.

One of my questions leads into rather good discussion. What’s the significance of Twain calling the wreck on the Mississippi The Sir Walter Scott? Is…


On the Shores of Lac Léman — The Vacancy of Silence and Solitude

Lac Léman in Genève in 1990. Photo by author.

Genève, Switzerland
Saturday, August 25, 1990
On the train to Zürich

Guten Morgen!

I am on the train now. It is 7 a.m., and we’ve been traveling now since 10:40 p.m. when we left Paris from Gare de l'Est. I am catching my first glimpses of the Swiss countryside. The hills on each side look much like the Blue Ridge Mountains.

It’s 490 kilometers from Paris to Zürich.

The train is jostling my hand, so don’t complain about my handwriting. A fine morning mist covers the farm fields of Western Switzerland. We left Basel at exactly 6:27 a.m.

Damn the Swiss, and their precision.

I couldn’t sleep last night on the…


The Judgement Zone

The wide windows offer onlookers field of vision for critiques

Local Cherry Hill, New Jersey man enjoys stopping by Planet Fitness every night to take notes of what he witnesses. Photo by Mary Jane Murphy-Bowne

My wife Mary Jane and I traditionally take our nightly constitutional around the neighborhood of Barclay Farms, New Jersey. It’s a time for us to reconnect, discuss our day, our weekend plans, hold hands, and for her to complain about how fast I walk.

We once enjoyed having an Asian supermarket right around the corner for our home, but that closed two years ago. That supermarket is now Planet Fitness. We had been planning to join, with the discount our health care plan provides, but then we came across this man once again just last night.

We had seen him…


See Something. Say Something.

Improving safety and security in London is no easy job

Link.

I was able to transcribe various hotline tips to Transport for London (TFL) from its confidential database during the week of 18 June, 2019. Names in the messages have been edited. I cannot name the source who provided the tapes to me.


Four scenes that portray an existential crisis for this family guy

Scene 1: Sewing Room. 10:13 pm. Thursday night in early December. Mary Jane, a woman of remarkable beauty, tired but determined, huddles over her sewing machine. Green fabric covers every inch of the room. There’s a knock on the door. Walter, the husband, enters — 47 in age, but 13 in mentality, but especially attractive in mismatched, competing, frat-boy plaids.

Walter: You still at that dress?

Mary Jane: You can go to bed if you want.

Walter: You have to get up at 4:30.

Mary Jane: I’m at an age where men don’t need to boss me, oh, love of…

Walter Bowne

Walter Bowne writes humor and some serious stuff on family, education, gardening, literature, and craft beer. His work has appeared in over forty publications.

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