Dead sign

Coincidental with the calendar change, I’ve retired a used-up spiralbound work notebook. Below, in chrono-order, is a selection of uncrossed-out marginalia.

Hereonout (nice word)

“Knowledge is only a rumor until it is in the muscle.” Goroka (PNG) saying.

Supernatural is our term for mother chaos and her husband chance.

Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.

Chionophobia—fear of snow

Feelings are just visitors. Let them come and go.

Pussy—possibly from Icelandic for horse’s cunt.

Whispering her own praises.

Reality is more inventive than I am.


Book ideas: Witchcraft Cookery, Create Your Own Private Language, Midwinter’s Nightmare

Stradivarius’s first violins probably weren’t that hot.

In a land where ignorance is not just bliss but blessed.

All good books manage to satisfy and surprise.

Memory hacker.

He bought her green bananas so that she would have a reason to hang around another day or two.

The best jokes—when the punchlines are the unexpected truth.

I don’t write books. Books happen. I write scenes for my characters. I write the beginnings and ends of chapters.

Obstruction of misjustice.

A passionate person—someone on the side of their hormones.

Lost like noses from Roman busts.

Someone who feels self-righteous about not cheating at solitaire.

Prayer—the solace of thinking you are doing something while wasting your time.

Selfie death rate.

People who flaunt their intolerance wear their insecurity with pride.

A shadow mistaken for a stain.

At least I don’t have digital dreams.

Vampire dopers only get stoned after dark.

Her conversation was like verbal charades—she talked and you tried to intuit what it might mean.

“A ship is always safe at shore, but that is not what it is built for.” A. Einstein

Huaorani full

Huaorani (Amazon)



Old Photographs

row boat

I like the way the horses keep running

after the race is done. I savor the last

flowers of autumn, the last glass of wine.

I prefer landscapes void of humans.


It is not a love affair with the past.

I am glad all that is done as well. It’s

the pleasure of resting on my oars,

the sweet taste of solitude, not loss.


When I look at old photos I see the sin

of  moments arrested, memory enshrined.

Time will not be stymied.

I drift with the current into the dusk.

The Persona Challenge


Pluck an eyebrow

shave a pube or armpit

change hair shade

add highlights and extenders

a tattoo or two?

a pedicure, a manicure

what color this month?

Wipe Nair on, wipe hair off.

A halter for your breasts

an aroma from a bottle.

The face, the face!

add hues, add contrasts

dark above the eyes, light below

fake lashes or just tar?

The statement of the lips

daring brash or falsely cold?

The decisions, the decisions.

How to be seen

as you wish to appear

the world your one-way mirror.

Red Letter Day

Catherine's Buddha

Buddha.  Catherine Buchanan

It’s a special day today. I’ll shave.

I’ll look in the mirror and remember

to nip the white hairs on the end of my nose.

I’ll be young again today, as young as

a beach without waves

a fresh bag of chips

a rogue asteroid or

a Tourette’s outburst.


It’s a special day today.

I’ll put on shoes and leave the house

without locking the door behind me,

without knowing where I am going.

I’ll count my strides

like a Roman legionnaire

before losing count

when I turn the corner.


It’s a special day today.

Overnight the past just vanished,

the names of everything erased.

Today I can begin the reinvention

of the compass rose

of sacred superstitions

of verbs that fly and

a reason to ever return.

When elders…


When elders tell stories of their youth, they are that young again in their minds. They will retell the same story because there must be some reason why it does not leave them alone, some as yet undeciphered meaning hiding in the story’s shadow, a piece of that wisdom old age was supposed to have bestowed upon them. These are not dreams, not even memories, but unanswered dispatches from the past, part of a never-achieved understanding.




Wesson Smith          Sachs Goldman

Davidson Harley     Fitch Abercrombie

Marietta Martin      Howell Bell

Dixon Mason            Packard Hewlett

Fargo Wells               Clark Lewis

Jerry Ben                   Marcus Neiman

Lynch Merrill           Decker Black

Roebuck Sears         Myers Bristol

Vanzetti Sacco         Brimstone Fire


Prophet's Brain

The Prophet’s Brain. Connie Payne and John Enright

Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed.” William Shakespeare.

            Fear is the property of the amygdala, an almond-shaped set of nuclei in the temporal lobe of the brain. Evolution has confirmed its usefulness as an emotion. The brain becomes hyperalert, pupils dilate, the bronchi dilate, and breathing accelerates. Heart rate and blood pressure rise. Blood flow and the stream of glucose to the skeletal muscles increase. Organs not vital in survival such as the gastrointestinal system slow down. Fright leads to fight or flight.

But fear, as a human emotion, passing through our higher hippocampus, can be altered by social/situational context. A tiger in a zoo elicits a different response than a tiger on the trail in front of you. A stranger’s pit bull is not your harmless pet. Fear can also be learned. The brown snake is benign; the striped one killed your uncle. Fear is teachable.

Fear can have a cultural component. In America we have a fright holiday, Halloween, in which fear is outed through a social consensus. For a day we can laugh at skeletons. (Imagine a Christmas creche with skeletal Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.) The semiotics of the skull-and-crossbones flag is widely understood. Fear can be propagated and transmitted. Fear can be an infectious affliction.

Actually, it was Halloween that got me thinking about this. My town just recently introduced a policy of nominating one street as trick-or-treat street. Parents were directed to take their costumed offspring there to troll for candy. This directive—almost universally observed—burdened the residents of that street with dispensing a town’s worth of candy to kids from all over and deprived everyone else in town of the traditional pleasure of participating in an essential aspect of the event and the neighborhood bonding that it enhanced.

When asked for a reason for this fresh expansion of the administered world, all that was offered was the children’s safety. Traffic was blocked from that street that twilight. They were saving the kiddies from danger—a fear-based explanation. Of course, no one could name a single instance of trick-or-treaters coming to harm on previous Halloweens. It reminded me of all those apocryphal—never substantiated—tales of poisoned treats and razor-bladed apples. It was sort of ironic in a sick way: here on the feast day of not being spooked, the kids were being schooled in being scared of the mysterious unknown, in their own, hyper-safe hometown.

Fear, such a weapon of persuasion, a favorite these days of the secular powers that be. Of course, for millennia spiritual hucksters have used the threat of an invented inferno as their meal ticket. It does not get old. But this contemporary twist is additionally insidious. We seem intent on raising a generation tutored in dependency upon the administered world for their safety. Kids do not play ball without adult supervision. Their days are a schedule of overseen events. Independence, self-dependence, freedom from adults is dangerous. Beware of strangers, if you ever get to meet one. Don’t leave the house without your helmet and your cellphone—just in case.

What is a fascist state but one that wants as much control as possible over personal freedom? An essential component of fear is the other. The other is unknown and therefor dangerous. Fear it. Fear now fuels our national politics. Safety is surrender to the administered world, to armed troops at our borders and kids caged or confined to where the cops want them.

In time we hate that which we often fear.”  William Shakespeare

14 Degrees South

14 Degrees South scanned cover

Winner of the University of the South Pacific Press’s inaugural International Literature Competition.

              Now available from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BC3212O                or my website http://www.johnenright.us

Virgin Frontiers

fr. the journals of John Williams
the first white missionary to reach Samoa
describing the sa`e the concluding
section of the poula or night dance
that the new church would keep
banning for decades:

“This scene concludes
by the men approaching the young virgins
& with their tongues perform what
one beast does to another.”

The Pacific Ocean covers 70 million
square miles of the earth’s surface.
One song that was sung in the sa`e
Untie your `ie and throw
it into the house
Then dance the sa`e naked.
When one side of the papaya
is golden
the whole papaya tastes sweet.

Less than 2% of that area is land.
The virgins have taunted the men for hours.


Island Uber

Samoan pickup truck

Junior’s business card read, in Samoan, “Have Truck Will Travel.” He had had only fifty of them printed up. He still had thirty-six left. So far, his fares had been mainly taking farmers and their baskets of taro and coconuts to the market, plus pig transports—some alive, some gutted and ready for the umu.

It was raining tonight. He had just taken his wife’s cousin’s neighbor along with a husband, an auntie, and several small kids to the hospital. The neighbor was in labor. They had stretched her out in the back, in the rain, her head in her husband’s lap, the rest crouched all around her. Of course, they hadn’t felt the need to pay—friends of the family, aiga pikiupi. His cell phone went off, the Star-Spangled Banner. It was Fia, his waitress friend at Sadie’s. She had a very drunk customer there she wanted to get rid of.

“Where is he going?” Junior asked.

“I don’t know, don’t care,” Fia said, “just out of here.”

Unless you’re a stranger there is no anonymity in Pago Pago. Someone will know who you are. In the case of Junior’s passenger, everyone would know who he was. That was part of his job. He was a politician, a holder of one of the higher titles in the Eastern District, a familiar face from the evening TV news and the local paper. Let’s call him Sir, as Junior did in Samoan. Actually, properly translated, Junior’s term of address would be something more like My Most Honorable Sir, but we’ll stick with Sir. Sir was, as Fia had claimed, honorably smashed. It was at times like this that Junior wondered why he was doing this. Why was he a ride for hire?

Junior had a day job driving a school bus. But his DOE paycheck barely covered the grocery bills for his eight-person household, his church dues, and his wife’s bingo habit. His wife Taipupu, of course, figured that what kept him out of the house at night and on weekends was another woman. As if he could afford another woman.

Sir refused to leave his booth at the bar. Fia refused to bring him another drink. The manageress came to cajole him into departing. Sir made a clumsy pass at her. Finally, two other men at the bar, lesser chiefs, came over and picked Sir up. He objected at first then gave it up, forgetting what he was objecting to. They deposited Sir in the cab of Junior’s pickup.

The rain, which had been steady, now picked up. Rainmaker Mountain across the bay was doing its job. All Junior could see in his headlights was water, both in the air and on the road. His windshield wipers were on high, but they hardly helped. It happened like this sometimes. You don’t think it could rain any harder, then it does. The end of the world will come as water. Both he and Sir were soaked. Junior was thinking about the leak in his kitchen’s rusty roof. Sir was mumbling the words of a pop Samoan song. Maybe he thought he was singing.

O fea?” Sir asked. He wanted to know where they were going.

Junior was headed east. That was the direction his truck had been parked in, and he knew Sir came from one of the villages in that direction.

“You tell me, Sir. Home? Back to your village?”

“Take me to the Tepatasi,” Sir slurred.

The Tepatasi, a harbor-side dive, had burned down years before.

“The Tepatasi would be closed now, Sir. What village?”

“Whose son are you?”

Junior told him. He was not ashamed of his heritage. He named his father and his grandfather, who had held a talking chief title. It was always thus. You were not yourself or where you were headed but where you came from, who preceded you. Someday would his sons be able to say with pride their father’s name?

“Never heard of them,” Sir said. He went back to mumbling his song.

It didn’t matter. How long had it been since such things really mattered? What did anybody know any more about why it ever mattered? Junior never got out of second gear. He was sort of feeling for the road, or rather feeling if he got off it. You can take pride in something, but if pride takes hold of you you’re lost.

The road skirted the edge of the bay here. The rain cranked up another notch. Homage, fa’aaloalo, servitude, your only strength is your family’s strength, your village’s strength, your high chief’s will to be strong. No one stood alone. His right wheels threw up gravel, and Junior pulled back left onto the road. He had the road all to himself. No one, he thought, did something so stupid as strike out on their own. No one started a business of being alone in the middle of the night driving strangers and drunks to destinations unknown. That Greek guy in a dugout paddling lost souls to hell.

Junior lit a cigarette and looked over at Sir, who was slumped against the door now, eyes closed, passed out. What was he supposed to do with him? He could always dump him at the side of the road. Maybe the rain would sober him up. He wouldn’t remember how he got there. Jettison the past. But Fia would know and the two other chiefs from the bar. That could be bad for business. Sir had never heard of his grandfather’s title? What sort of chief was he?

Somewhere past or maybe still in Leloaloa—it was hard to tell exactly where he was—the road was suddenly flooded with rushing water. A stream off the almost sheer cliff of the harbor caldera had backed up at its viaduct under the roadway, probably clogged with village trash. It happened so fast in the headlight-white curtain of rain that he hit it just as he saw it. He had no choice but to try and drive through. He downshifted to first. The force of the water pushed the truck sideways toward the bayside edge. He jerked it left into a whitecap, and the engine stalled. Sir was still passed out.

To Junior’s surprise, the engine coughed back to life on his third try of the starter. Good truck. He patted the top of the dashboard then plowed cautiously ahead, trying to keep in the middle of the road and not make a wake. He saw the headlights ahead before he saw the flashing blue and red roof lights. They were coming at him faster than he was going.

When the police car, going too fast, hit the edge of the flood, it tried to brake and slid sideways. It was only a two-lane road, and Junior was in the middle of it. There was nowhere else for the cop car to go besides into the front of Junior’s truck. It took but a second. The crash was not really that dramatic or loud. Everything stopped except the rain. Sir came to.

The rest took place in the rain, Junior and the two overweight cops, one with a flashlight, standing calf-deep in the tugging flood of the road as they examined the damage—major to the side door and rear quarter panel of the black-and-white, minor to Junior’s truck, which was still running and whose headlights were still on. The fatter cop got angry. It was all Junior’s fault. Was he drunk, driving down the middle of the road like that, hitting a police car? Was he on drugs? He’d have his ass in jail. When Junior pointed out that it was their car that had been out of control, fatso got his handcuffs out of the snap pouch on his cop utility belt.

Cops liked to act like the uniform made them everybody’s chief. This one tried to shove Junior back toward his truck and ordered him to turn around and put his hands behind his back. Junior wasn’t that easy to push around and he was in no mood for this shit. The other cop, the one with the flashlight, came forward now. Fuck ‘em. He would take them both on.

“What’s going on here, officer?” It was Sir. He had pulled himself over into the driver’s seat and rolled down the window. Even in the rain you could smell the alcohol.

“Oh, two drunks,” fatso said. “Out of the truck.” He again tried to shove Junior backward. The uniform with the flashlight came over to the truck. “You heard him. Out of the truck.”

“Who do you think you’re ordering around?” Sir said, clearly if slightly slurred.

“You, you piece of shit. Out!” He showed the flashlight into the cab and onto Sir’s face. There was a long pause. “Oh, my apologies, sir.” He used an honorific even higher than the one Junior had used. “I didn’t know that was you. Are you alright, sir? Not injured?”

“Why are you molesting my driver? I must get home.”

Fatso, who had grabbed Junior’s shirt with both hands, now dropped them. “We’ll take you, sir. You’ll be safer with us.” He put his handcuffs back in their little pouch on his belt, still glaring at Junior.

The flashlight cop helped Sir out of the truck and through the rain and the rushing water to the cop car, the other side where the rear door still opened.

“You’re lucky this time, prick,” fatso said before turning and getting into the driver’s seat. “Next time, without chief, you won’t be.” He did more ripping damage to his fender as he backed up to pull away in the direction they had come. The other side of the car looked fine. Junior stood there in the rain. Of course, Sir had not paid him anything. His truck’s front bumper was pushed in. The rain did not let up.

Junior got home late, but Taipupu was still up, just returned from her church bingo game and having a cup of tea. “Oh, did the bitch throw you out into the rain?”


Muni League


Playing in the Municipal League, Delaware Park, Buffalo, New York, 1962, behind the plate. The throw from the cut-off man is there in one hop. I am planted a yard up the third-base line. I have time to clasp the ball with my right hand into the pocket of my catcher’s glove and turn to face the runner coming down the baseline toward me. Then darkness.

To this day I can see the trees behind him in the microsecond before lights out. I want to say they were elm trees, but most of the elm trees in Buffalo had been annihilated by then, Dutch Elm Disease. Diseases should be capitalized. The runner was called out. I had held onto the ball, or rather my mitt had. It was no longer on my hand. I was out myself for a while, I guess, because there was quite a crowd above me when reality wavered back in. Someone had loosened my belt and was pressing on my chest protector. I felt beyond pale. I felt invisible. Nothing hurt.

We did not have EMS back then, certainly not for a kid knocked dizzy in a ball game. Ambulances meant someone was leaving whom you would never see again. The bodies in coffins at wakes always looked fake. My beer-bellied manager helped me sit up and asked if I was alright. I was helped back to the bench where I had to surrender my shin guards and protector to my backup, Benny Passed-balls, who did not have his own gear. By the time I walked home after the game, with all my gear in my gear bag, I was beginning to ache. End of vivid memory.

The guy who ran me over was named Junior. Junior and I became baseball buddies. We never played on the same team—and we both played for several in different leagues—but we hung together when we met up at the parks where our teams played. Junior is why I remembered this story. Inter-racial tensions were high in Buffalo in the early ‘60s. Demographics were shifting, and the native racialist mindset was not much more nuanced than that of Alabama. As I was growing up, my own neighborhood had succumbed to white flight. Junior was black.

That in itself was no big deal; although, we both admitted that we had no other friends of the alternate race. After the game of our collision, Junior followed me as I walked across the park until we were well away from everybody else. Then he caught up with me. He took my gear bag from my shoulder, and as we walked along said how sorry he was if his hit had hurt me. He carried my gear all the way to my house, and by the time we got there we were laughing.

This is not Aesop, just a memory, a lesson Junior taught me. Thanks, bro.