Our November 2021 issue is dedicated to William A. Balk, Jr.
“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”
From Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: We open, this November, with a revisitation of William A. Balk, Jr.’s lyrical 2016 essay, “My Lifelong Voyage in a Paper Canoe,” in which the writer remembers growing up in the midland wilds of South Carolina. “There is the notion,” writes Balk, “that once one has left, home is forever lost, but I have not found that to be the case, just as Thomas Wolfe’s George Webber seemed finally to make his own way home. Having traveled long distances and spent long times away from my Edenic childhood haunts, I’ve found often that it is those remembered experiences and those learned lessons which give me homely comfort whenever and wherever I need it. New bounds continue to appear, new limits and new limitations ever arise, even while a life richly lived continues to offer expansive opportunity and unexpected experience. Those earliest of life’s experiences—approaching new boundaries with confidence, breaching borders with curiosity—are my ongoing preparation: I bring home with me whenever I venture forth.” We follow on with an essay revolving around leaves (and leave-taking) by new Weekly Hubris Contributor, conservationist and widely published Canadian author Kevin Van Tighem. Climate scientist Guy McPherson is next, with a wry and loving exhortation (yes) vis-à-vis Near-Term Human Extinction. Then, San Francisco playwright Helen Noakes shares her impassioned response to the events of 6 January in America’s capital city, “Another Day That Must Live in Infamy.” Greenville-South-Carolina-based poet Claire Bateman introduces us, this month, to the work of Aiken, South Carolina poet, Derek Berry. Sterling “Skip” Eisiminger follows on with an arresting student journal: written by a Vietnamese immigrant to fulfill a college writing assignment, the ms. has had a life far above and beyond the Clemson University classroom where it was composed. Ross Konikoff, Weekly Hubris’s politically incorrect Catskillian, fires off “Underground Afghanistan Gay Five-Minute Dating” (don’t kill the largely innocent messenger-publisher, please). And we close with single-panel cartoons by Mark Addison Kershaw (about whom, more just below).
About the photographs featured on our November Home Page: If you’re a regular reader of Weekly Hubris, you are familiar with the single-panel cartoons of Mark Addison Kershaw. What you may not know, unless you follow Kershaw on Facebook, or Instagram, or buy your annual Christmas cards or calendars from him, is that he is also a photographer. Images collected on his daily perambulations in North Georgia enrich many of our lives already: in fact, we look forward to them seven days a week. We share but two of them with you here as our banner and thumbnail images for November. But friend/follow Kershaw to keep up with his work, behind the lens or not.
“This Lifelong Voyage In A Paper Canoe,” By William A. Balk, Jr.
ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—November 1, 2021—It is a persistent memory, somewhat disjunct, but an absolutely clear image. I remember crawling on the dirt, crawling because I am unable to stand unassisted. I am underneath a structure, in its shadow, while all around there is bright sunshine on weedy grass. I feel energized and curious, not fearful, perhaps even excited. I am determined to reach the far edge of the shadow cast by the structure looming just above my head, the place I have just escaped, the place that defines the very limits of my existence. All this is very concrete and visual. It is the oldest of my memories, one I have turned back to all my life, an adventure undertaken when I was a year old. My parents were living in a trailer for married students at the University of Georgia while my father finished his engineering degree. I have no memory of the trailer itself, except for a large picture window at the front which looked out upon an entire world—a world unimaginably large to my searching eyes when I was barely able to peer over the sill. (Read more . . .)
While I Draw Breath
“A Conversation with Leaves,” By Kevin Van Tighem
COWLEY, ALBERTA Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—November 1, 2021—Today’s observation: alder leaves float on their backs, like tiny arks that forgot to load their passengers, while willow leaves float on their stomachs, like overturned canoes. This insight, of perhaps no great significance, offered itself up to me as I sat on a tired old lawn chair this morning, nursing my second cup of coffee, joining into the river conversation as attentively as I could. It can be hard to hear what’s being discussed, because of all the background noise in one’s human brain, but it’s worth the effort. The day began at six when, in spite of the dark and the warmth of my bed, it became clear that sleep was no longer an option. The usual morning regime: start the coffee, light the fire, doom-scroll over breakfast. Normally, I have that second cup of coffee while relaxing in front of the stove but it was unexpectedly calm outside this morning and the yard is full of leaves. (Read more . . .)
“Looking to Place Blame?” By Dr. Guy McPherson
POULTNEY Vermont—Weekly Hubris)—November 1, 2021—The Agricultural Revolution is frequently blamed for the near-term demise of humans on Earth. The cool, stable global temperature that appeared after the latest Ice Age on Earth fostered the ability to grow, store, and distribute grains at a large scale for the first time since humans appeared on the scene about 320,000 years ago. As a result, for the first time in planetary history, civilizations arose throughout the world. I have even pointed my blaming finger (and it’s a long middle digit) at the Agricultural Revolution. Now I realize that 1) there are other potential contributors to loss of habitat for humans on Earth, and 2) blaming is neither necessary nor useful. In other words, there’s plenty of blame to go around, and assigning blame is not productive. Long before the first civilizations arose, the Cognitive Revolution rewired our brains some 70,000 to 30,000 years ago. Recent evidence indicates that the Cognitive Revolution may have begun even earlier, as long as 200,000 years ago. Reasons remain unclear, but the Cognitive Revolution caused us almost immediately to see ourselves as different from, and better than, other animals. (Read more . . .)
“Another Day That Will Live In Infamy,” By Dr. Helen Noakes
SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—November 1, 2021—January 6, 2021: a day like any other; a morning like all my other mornings. I wake to a riff of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 16 in C Major, my setting for an alarm clock that serves only as an affirmation, since I always wake just before the melody. I don’t turn the alarm off because the music is such a delightful start to the day. My early ritual never involves the intrusion of a newscast. I don’t want to disrupt my “morning mind,” a term I’ve borrowed from a fellow writer. It’s the mind set just after waking when the creative subconscious is in perfect harmony with the brain’s conscious machinations, urging me to write. How long I’m immersed in that flow depends on what I’m accessing in that treasure trove of memory. It depends on how in love I am with the characters, the words, the world I’m creating. This morning, it’s a love fest. I write until noon, when I realize the coffee has all been consumed; the delicious bitterness of it on my tongue, almost gone. I have a “must do” list that begins nagging at me. Reluctantly, I concede to my inner task master. Mumbling something about the daydream of having household staff free me from the mundane chores of living, I remind myself that until and unless I win the lottery, that staff will never materialize. And, because household chores bore me, I turn on CNN loud enough to be heard in the kitchen of my small house. At the sink, I leave my dishes and rush into the den to stare at the TV. Something the newscaster says draws me there, and when I see what it is, when I hear the howling mob, I freeze. (Read more . . .)
“The Poetry of Derek Berry,” By Claire Bateman
GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—November 1, 2021—Aiken, South Carolina poet Derek Berry is the author of the novel Heathens & Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA, 2016), as well as the poetry chapbooks Glitter Husk and Buggery. Their work has recently appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, ANMLY, beestung, Raleigh Review, Pidgeonholes, and elsewhere. Berry currently work/s at a Cold War museum as an education specialist. martyrdom of saint sebastian after Guido Reni: look closer. don’t mistake/tree trunk for Wyoming fencepost,/saint for boy, though in the end,/they died the same— beaten, blued,/bloated & abandoned./but in this moment, hands bound/over his head, eyes toward heaven,/he’s still alive. shot through/with light. throat exposed/like a shepherd giving/his life over to wolves. (Read more . . .)
Skip the B.S.
“Tran’s Journal: A Worth Above Rubies,” By Dr. Skip Eisiminger
CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—November 1, 2021—For over 40 years as a writing teacher, I made keeping a free-write journal mandatory. I told my students at all levels that my main concern was for their journal writing to be unconstrained by any fear of my red pen. Unlike other work they did for me, the journal was not graded on correctness, only development; specifically, a half-page, college-ruled, single-spaced entry per class day. To this end, I gave them about five minutes at the beginning of each class to start, continue, or conclude an entry, but hoped they would be hooked by this endeavor, I winked and told them they were free to make entries of any length at any time they wished. After laying down these and other ground rules in the summer of 1991 for an English 101 class, Mr. Huy Tran shyly approached me after the first class and asked if he could tell a longer, continuous tale in his journal. “Certainly,” I said, with no idea what he was planning. The few who’d taken this approach before him had usually toyed with some rock lyrics or a sci-fi saga, but Tran’s story was exceptional, and here it is in its raw entirety. 7/6/1991 My US history teacher [in high school] have often told me that I have a very interesting background and urges me to write about it. Well, I never have gotten around to do it. Something just get in the way at the moment that I have gathered enough energy and enthusiasm to begin to write. Finally I hope that this journal will offer me a chance to tell my story. 7/8 The year was 1980, and the place was Saigon, Vietnam. There was a family that lived in Saigon, near the airport of Tân Sơn Nhất. (Read more . . .)
West Side Stories
“Underground Afghanistan Gay Five-Minute Dating,” By Ross Konikoff
MANHATTAN New York—(Weekly Hubris)—November 1, 2021—Asad: Blessings to you. Saad: And to you. I am Saad, which means happiness. I bring happiness. Asad: I am Asad, the lion. I will eat you. Saad: Promises, promises. Are you staying in Kabul or will you be fleeing? Asad: I’m here all week. My people will rule Afghanistan now that we have conquered the American hazarai. Saad: Hazarai? What is that word? Asad. I believe it means Western capitalists. I learned it from my friend Aaron, a fighter from a land called Haifa. He blew himself up for the Taliban, although it was not intentional. He was vaping in the supply room when a spark caused the Clorox fumes to ignite a pile of missiles, but we were assured he still gets his 70 virgins, 70 wives, AND that their veils will be sparkling clean and white. Saad: I am not certain that’s true, since you and your habibs are so liberal. Our Isis is much stricter than you Taliban sandflakes. Asad: Are you being ironic with me? We’re very much less tolerant than you camel jockeys. Saad: What you say is a large quantity of dromedary droppings. We don’t allow women to work. Asad: Oh yeah, well we don’t let them go to school or get an education. Saad: Well . . . we make them cover their faces in public. (Read more . . .)
“From the Oracle of Tucker,” By Mark Addison Kershaw
ATLANTA Georgia—(Weekly Hubris)—November 1, 2021—Editor’s Note: Well, technically, Kershaw lives in Tucker, but there are many place-names in Georgia (Iron Stab, Shake Rag, Snapfinger, and Hog Mountain occur to me right offhand) that I would not want to claim as a home address. And Atlanta does sound better than Tucker. But, as I have run the artist/photographer known as Addison to earth, on occasion, I know that he resides in Tucker. It’s on the map. Look it up. Not too far from Hog Mountain (if a long, long way from Delphi). Be that as it may, this month, we’re featuring Kershaw’s work both here, in his regular space, and on our Home Page, where you can see some of the photographs he’s taken in, er, Tucker. OK, that one image does look like it was taken in Giverny, but I can assure you it was not. Who knew Georgia could be so beautiful? Well, the Oracle of Tucker knew. (Read more . . .)