Friday, November 2, 2007


From the Archives

(September 2005) Writer's Digest ran this timely poem:

by Julia Kasdorf

We keep our quilts in closets and do not dance.
We hoe thistles along fence rows for fear
we may not be perfect as our Heavenly Father.
We clean up his disasters. No one has to
call; we just show up in the wake of tornadoes
with hammers, after floods with buckets.
Like Jesus, the servant, we wash each other's feet
twice a year and eat the Lord's Supper,
afraid of sins hidden so deep in our organs
they could damn us unawares,
swallowing this bread, his body, this juice.
Growing up, we love the engravings in Martyrs Mirror:
men drowned like cats in burlap sacks,
the Catholic inquisitors,
the woman who handed a pear to her son,
her tongue screwed to the roof of her mouth
to keep her from singing hymns while she burned.
We love Catherine the Great and the rich tracts
she gave us in the Ukraine, bright green winter wheat,
the Cossacks who torched it, and Stalin,
who starved our cousins while wheat rotted
in granaries. We must love our enemies.
We must forgive as our sins are forgiven,
our great-uncle tells us, showing the chain
and ball in a cage whittled from one block of wood
while he was in prison for refusing to shoulder
a gun. He shows the clipping from 1916:
Mennonites are German milksops, too yellow to fight.
We love those Nazi soldiers who, like Moses,
led the last cattle cars rocking out of the Ukraine,
crammed with our parents—children then—
learning the names of Kansas, Saskatchewan, Paraguay.
This is why we cannot leave the beliefs
or what else would we be? why we eat
'til we're drunk on shoofly and moon pies and borscht.
We do not drink; we sing. Unaccompanied on Sundays,
those hymns in four parts, our voices lift with such force
that we lift, as chaff lifts toward God.

For some reason that baffles me, I have received the 102-page magazine INSIDERS BETTING DIGEST: The 2005 Pro and College Edition. This magazine is addressed to me, not to Resident or Household, and articles include “Why Betting with Offshore Sportsbooks has Its Advantages” (wanna place bets on how often the editor follows basic capitalization rules in the table of contents?) and “Texas Hold’em Seating Position Strategy.”

The editor observes

It’s official. We are a betting nation. Every year, more and more Americans turn to wagering as an exciting way to enjoy their leisure activities. ... Even some of the world’s most captivating and popular celebrities are either endorsing or betting with sportsbooks.

(Now there’s a reason to gamble away my hard-earned money.)

... Think Tiger Woods will be a father in the next 12 months? I’m sure there are odds on it. What major volcano will be the next to erupt? Check your local sportsbook for the favorites. Indeed, all of these new and marvelously entertaining possibilities are a product of the influx of new and diverse bettors.....So why have we decided to fork down money on anything from choosing the next Pope to who will win American idol?

Uh. Because, as a nation, we quit valuing education and decided to worship superstition and fate instead?

Their strategies for winning poker tournaments include this gem: “if you can’t spot the worst player at the table within 10 minutes its [sic] YOU.”

Now. Could someone tell me WHY in the world I received this magazine in the mail? My hunch? I filled out a NCAA basketball tournament bracket at the ESPN website and so some list service has now determined that I’m a likely candidate to bet on Tiger Woods’s love child.

Great. Just great.

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