A song of Roland

Imagine my surprise when I looked in my email and saw a word of the day for “roland”. I instantly knew where it came from, naturally. I’d just read the Song of Roland recently, and loved it. Fighting the Moorish pagans, splitting shields and heads with swords, long white flowing beards, that last desperate blast on the trumpet (far too late, of course) — how can you not love it? The Song of Roland proves that the French knew how to fight — at one time, anyway. Those long white flowing beards inspired me to try and grow a beard on vacation recently. I won’t be sharing a picture of the results, but suffice it to say mine was neither long, nor white, nor flowing. (More like patchy, and scratchy, and wife-and-child-repelling.) Mountjoy!  
  • Orlando's Column (Roland's Column)

    Orlando’s Column (Roland’s Column)

    with Anu Garg


    noun: Someone who is an equal match for another. Typically used in the expression “to give a Roland for an Oliver” meaning “to give as good as one gets” (tit for tat).
    After Roland, the legendary hero of the 11/12th century epic poem “Chanson de Roland” (Song of Roland). His tale was inspired by Charlemagne’s nephew and military leader. Oliver was friends with Roland and his equal. They fought each other but neither won. Earliest documented use: 1525. A related word is rounceval.
    “My little lord, who was surrounded by savage women, poor thing, had the immense satisfaction of giving a Roland for an Oliver to an especially obnoxious young twit.”
    Samara Al-Darraji; Eclipse; PublishAmerica; 2005.

Guilt Theater

It was a masterful piece of guilt theater, you have to admit

— I held out just long enough before I cracked;

I gave just the right weight to the confession,

spent just enough time on obfuscations and denials.


You threw in a few unexpected twists, but I handled them adroitly —

no stranger to this performance.


Next time it’s your turn.


Each of us is always performing,

whether we mean to or not.

We can’t help it.


Not acting is the worst acting of all.


Know your role, play it to the hilt,

or you may find there is no one behind the mask you wear.



The Well of Silence

Sometimes I want very much to descend

down the well of solitude

to splash soundlessly into the cool, dark waters of silence

to bathe myself in it, as one treading water at the bottom of a well

in the stone-damp, inviting dark

and wash the sweat and grit and sunburn from my soul

cleanse myself, far below the tiny dot of light at the mouth of the well

float there, serene, alone, undisturbed

until my anxieties, my doubts, my neverending second guesses,

dissolve and sink away,

down there,

in the well of silence,

where no one can find me or reach me.



Are you quieter when you walk sideways?
Do people hear you less?
Do you make less noise? 

Many's the time I've slipped sideways through people's society -- 
like slipping through their houses when
there was no house
in broad daylight
unseen, unknown, unheard

like a noiseless ghost whose story no one knows -- 
- or ever bothered to ask.


Time by Flowers

You can truly lose yourself in the tulips, she says
— and the tulips go away
and the peonies come,
and the peonies are going
and the delphinium is coming in
and the delphiniums go
and the dahlias are there.

I love that flowers can tell time.

And that they bring back so many memories or emotions from a time gone by.