Thursday, November 3, 2011







(The scene takes place in 10 Downing Street, the office of Sir Winston Churchill.  The British are engaged in World War II and are on the eve of Dunkirk when Sir Winston is to speak to the nation.   Major Cook, his personal attache, paces the room waiting for Private Enfield to return with an important task he has ordered him to fulfill on behalf of the Prime Minister.)
Major Cook:    (Pacing.)  Were is that laddie?   It’s been several hours.  Bloody.  If he’s forgotten.

(Enter Private Enfield. He salutes.)
Private Enfield:   They’re boxed, Major!   As you requested.
 Major Cook:  The right size, Private?
Private Enfield:  I believe so, sir.
Major Cook:  It’s important to the Prime Minister.  You certain?
Private Enfield:  Wouldn’t let you down, sir.

Major Cook:  Yes. Yes.  But, it’s highly important.
Private Enfield:  I don’t understand -
Major Cook:   He’s addressing the nation.  He has to be comfortable.
Private Enfield:  Dunkirk?
Major Cook:  The Prime Minister is under a lot of pressure. Don’t want him screwing up now.  Do we laddie?
Private Enfield:  Absolutely not, Major.
Major Cook:   What about color?  Pink, I hope.
Private Enfield:  White, sir.
Major Cook:  Right, oh.  Nothing else?
Private Enfield:   No choice, sir.  War shortages.  Pink dyes are being used for camouflage.  Mountbatten, sir. Royal Navy.
Major Cook:  (Pause.)  Yes.  I see.   Correct.  We all have to make sacrifices, I suppose.   You covered everything?
Private Enfield:  Everything you specified, Major.
Major Cook:  Check.  Let’s see.  Size.  Color.  Comfort’s important.
Private Enfield:   The P.M. will be fine.  He’s sure to rally the nation.
Major Cook:   I wish I could see them.
Private Enfield:  They’re boxed.  I didn’t want to unwrap them.
Major Cook:  What style?
Private Enfield:   Not sure, sir.  Probably boxers.
Major Cook:  Right. Well, he can make do.
Private Enfield:   If you say, sir.
Major Cook:   More importantly. The materials?  If you didn’t get it right, the nation -

(Just then the door opens.  Sir Winston Churchill enters, cigar in hand.)
Sir Winston:  You get them?   Important, you know, Major.
Major Cook:  Private Enfield took charge.  I’m confident.
Sir Winston:   (Opens box. Lifts up a pair of silk underwear. Studies them. Holds them next to his body.)
Almost perfect.  Fine silk.  Our boys...all Britain will be grateful. Where you get the silk?
Private Enfield:  R.A.F., Mr. Prime Minister.
Sir Winston:  R.A.F.?
Private Enfield:  Yes, sir.  Leftover parachute.
Sir Winston:   Bloody hell, parachute, you say!  Great silk.  How’d you know?
Private Enfield:   Rumor, sir.  Just rumor. (Pause.) You proposed creating an airborne force in 1917.  Seemed fitting.
Sir Winston:   Don’t like the color.  Thought I -
Major Cook:  No choice, sir. Navy.
Sir Winston:  I specifically told you I - (Pause.) You’re right. We all have to make sacrifices.
Private Enfield:  Price of war, sir.  No pink.
Sir Winston:  You astound me, Private.  Doesn’t go beyond 10 Downing.
Major Cook:  Yes, Mr. Prime Minister. Got that Private Enfield. Not beyond Downing.
Private Enfield:  Yes, sir. My lips are sealed, Major.

(Lights down.  The end.)

                        SCENE II

(Scene two takes place in the same office on 10 Downing Street.  Winston Churchill practices his speech to rally the British nation after Dunkirk.  Major Cook is present as is Private Enfield.)

Sir Winston:  How did it sound?

Major Cook:  Well spoken, Mr. Prime Minister.  Bully! Well spoken.

Private Enfield:  Bully, Mr. Prime Minister.  Inspiring, no doubt!  When you say:

"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender..."

I am especially moved.  You’ll rouse the people, if I may say, sir.

Sir Winston:  Thank you.  Thank you both.  If it wasn’t for your service --

Major Cook:  Duty, sir.  Just our duty.

Sir Winston:  Still, without the comfort of silk, I --

Major Cook:  I suppose we should celebrate.

Sir Winston:  I owe you.

Major Cook:  The nation owes you.

Private Enfield:  I agree with Major Cook, sir.

Major Cook:  I have a thought.  Why not celebrate! I acquired some French  carmel candies.  My gift to you Mr. Prime Minister.

Sir Winston:  I’m at a loss for words, Major.  How did you get them?

Major Cook:   R.A.F., Sir.  Knew some fellows in Hornet Squadron. Served in Normandy.

Sir Winston:  (Pause.) Damn unfortunate men.  Wooden propellers on the planes. Blast! Made the Hun’s work easy.  Far too easy. (Pause) Thank you. (Takes box.)

Major Cook:  Have one in their honor, sir.

Private Enfield:  You have a dinner engagement sir.  Perhaps you should wait.

Major Cook:  Don’t interrupt, Private.  Let the Prime Minister celebrate --

Private Enfield:  It wouldn’t do to spoil his appetite.  After all this is with the Cabinet.

Major Cook:  I don’t see how eating a few -

Sir Winston:  There. There.  Perhaps the Private is right.  He was so helpful with the silk underwear.  (Pause.) Here Private, my gift to you in thanks.

Major Cook:  But...Sir Winston.  They were in honor of Hornet Squadron’s lost men.  You should eat them.

Sir Winston:  I cannot think of how honored they would be than by giving these carmels to an enlisted man...those that deserve our nation’s gratitude.

Private Enfield:  Why thank you, sir.  (Takes the box and opens it.) These look yummie!  Here, Major, have one.  If you hadn’t ordered me to find the silk underwear, Sir Winston wouldn’t be able to address the country.

Major Cook:  I appreciate that Private but I’ll pass.  Diet, you know. Barely fit the uniform.

Private Enfield:  Oh, come on, Major. I insist. One or two won’t hurt.  Besides, you went to all the trouble to get them from Hornet Squadron.

Major Cook: And, I fear I must decline, I’m afraid. (Pause.) My health.

Sir Winston:  Come. Come, Major.  I hear French carmel is the best.  You went to so much trouble getting these.  Have one.

Major Cook:  But, I got them for you and --

Sir Winston:  Now. Now.  I know the sacrifices that you men make.  After all, I served in the Boer War.  You deserve --

Major Cook:  My doctor --

Private Enfield:  Is German. Is he not?

Major Cook:  What!  Bloody hell. What are you implying? You -

Private Enfield:  Your real name is “Koch”.

Major Cook:   (Long pause.)  You know? How?

Private Enfield:  We intercepted a coded message: “Koch’s in the kitchen. Assassination as planned.”  In German, “Koch” translates to “Cook”. Does it not? Raised our suspicions.  A little investigation and --

Major Cook
Bloody.  You’re not an ordinary Private.  I should have guessed.

Private Enfield:  MI5.  Second Lieutenant Enfield, sir.

Major Cook:  I was to kill Sir Winston.  What now?

Sir Winston:  (Draws gun.)  You’re under arrest.  You’ll be in prison for the rest of your life. We’ll defeat Hitler.

Major Cook:  Damn you, Brits.  I think not. Heil, Hitler! (He bites on a pill and dies.  Private Enfield rushes over, kneels by his body and takes his pulse.)

Private Enfield:  Dead sir!  Poison.

Sir Winston:  Damn!  Should have seen that coming.  Now, we can’t interrogate or turn him.

Private Enfield:  He could have eaten the candy, sir. (He takes one and swallows it.)  They’re excellent.

Sir Winston:  What!  You said they were filled with poison.

Private Enfield:  I lied, sir.  These are quite sweet.  He would have enjoyed one.  (Pause.) MI5 replaced his with replicas in case you accidentally decided to eat one. (Pause.)  For your own protection, sir.  And, we didn’t want you to give away the store.

Sir Winston:  Give away the store!  I’ll have you know - (Pause. Chuckles.) Sandhurst, eh?  Absolute scoundrels!

Private Enfield:  Right, sir.  Class of ‘38.  We need you to rally the country, Mr. Prime Minister.

Sir Winston:  (Pause) Right. Right. Bully. I see your point (Pause), Lieutenant.

Private Enfield:   We must fight on sir.

(Lights down. End of play.)

The Owl

Christmas past, we adorn
our tree with lights and bulbs.
Dad tops it with a star.
Last, we hang a branch
with an owl of paper feathers
and sequined eyes.
Grandma Josephine gifted
this rare bird to mom.

I saw it last some years before.
Right eye missing.  Talons
struggling for a hold.
I thought our feathered friend
extinct with family passings.
Last year, my brother hosted
our holiday.  The owl repaired,
wings intact, dear Beija
places it in the tree.

Family (Continued)


Jesse, Habitat volunteer, retires.
Clown wannabe.
She calls cousin Barbo
for advice.

"Barbo's a gentle clown!" she says.
White, broad-faced smile.
Surrounded in yellow folds and flowers.
High squeaky voice
delights kids in parades.

Jessie, gentle clown protege,
cultivates wishes and laughter
in impoverished children
in Guatamala and Costa Rica.

Urban Life


A greyhead shuffles the crosswalk.
His beard, a thin waterfall cascading
from facial crags to beltline.
He moves.  Slides a single foot forward.
Poises carefully before advancing the other.
Unitl he’s parallel and balanced.
His journey an agonizing grind.  
He crosses safely through the lines.


Desperate men and women lounge
the park grass on torn cardboard.
Their mattresses the repository of lost dreams.
They wrap themselves in plastic tarp.
Cover in flannel blankets, tight against today.  
More forlorn watch from surrounding banks
and camp medians between sidewalk and street.
Voices rise from the earth like tall weeds.
Whispered secrets spindle skyward,  
seeking some imagined hope.
Wanting. Waiting.  
We also wait with them.

Family (continued)

We travel 99 north.  Crowd into our '51 Pontiac.
Across the Aurora Bridge, we pass the teepees
and Indian elephant.  After Marysville,
mustard fields and orchards unfold.   Our family
heads for Gramdma Josephine and Aunt Mary's
farms.  We'll clamber cliffs to the Cherry Point beach.
Burma Shave signs accompany our trip,
bringing smiles...dissolving tedium.

The whale
Put Jonah
Down the hatch
But coughed him up 
Because he scratched.
Burma Shave

Billboards push the sky away.
Corona, Cingular Cellular and a Schmirinoff
blonde consume the landscape.
Stylish and sexy,
lacking cadence, they carry a different humor.

We admit our company
name sounds like someone 
getting an erection. - Boeing 

I miss the early days.
Lament the missing moments.
I think of family...
those departed.

A nut at the wheel
A each on his right
Acurve in the road
Fruit salad that night.
Burma Shave

Times change.