One Small Cog

“I’m merely a cog, one insignificant gear,” said Charles to his friend Robert at a dimly lit table in the corner of a small cafe. His voice, not much more than a whisper, was not meant to travel beyond the booth in which the two men sat, but travel it did. Not far, but just far enough to be heard by an older man at a booth nearby.

The older man rose slowly from his seat, a slight hunch to his shoulders betraying his age to any who might care to look. His hands and face wore the lines of years as well, but his eyes…if you only looked at his eyes you would think that you gazed upon a much younger man.

He took the five steps that it took to arrive at the table of the two younger men, and he pulled a card out of the pocket of his immaculate three-piece suit, presented it to Charles, and said, “If you would care to come to the address on the card, I have something to show you that you may find interesting.” Without another word, he walked to the front, placed some crisp clean bills on the counter, and walked out of the cafe.

The two young men exchanged a glance, and shrugged off the unusual experience before continuing the rest of their meal in silence, but the thought of the older man did not quite leave them alone.

A few pages of the calendar turned, though, before the two men broached the subject of the old man again. “Do you remember that old man?” asked Robert one day, and Charles only replied by putting his hand in his pocket, and pulling out a card. Only after placing the card carefully on the table did he speak, “I can’t stop thinking about him. What do you think he wanted to show us?”

“Should we go find out?” asked Robert, and with little more discussion, the two men found themselves on a journey they had never quite intended to take.


At the end of their drive, they found themselves at a small and unremarkable building. A door, a small window,and little else. “What if he doesn’t remember us?” asked Charles as he lifted his hand to knock.

After knocking, they waited long enough that they were certain that no one would answer, and were just beginning to turn to walk back to their car when they heard the sound of the lock being turned.

The older man slowly opened the door, looked at his guests and smiled. “I’ve been expecting you, but I didn’t realize my humble shop would be quite so hard to find. Please, come in!”

Robert and Charles noticed immediately the sound of ticking. As they followed the old man, they saw the source of the sound: clocks of all sizes, too numerous to count, lined all of the walls, and when they arrived at the back room, they saw a table covered in gears, springs, pendulums, each laid out in a precise order. At the end of the bench was a clock that was nearly assembled, but had not yet been placed in its housing. “Come! Look!” The two men went and were amazed at the fine intricacies of the work in progress. Some gears were large, others were tiny.

The old man then said, “I once heard one of you say that you were ‘merely a cog, an insignificant gear’. Can you tell me, in this clock, which gear is the least significant?”

The two men stared intently at the already ticking time piece. After a lengthy inspection, they finally called the older man and pointed to the smallest gear that they could locate.

The old man then put on a pair of magnifying glasses, pulled a pair of tweezers from a drawer, and pulled the tiny gear from the workings. Immediately, the clock stopped.

“You can see that that gear was more significant than it first appeared. Would you like to try a different one?”

Charles guessed that any gear removed would have the same result, regardless of the gear’s size.

“Correct!” replied the clock maker (for that is what the old man was). “We are all, indeed, ‘cogs’ or’gears’, but my friends, never make the mistake of thinking that any gear is insignificant.”


Grocery Poems – Aisle 1


“The world is nuts!”
the manager heard the stock-girl say
as he was walking
into the break-room
to drink a cup of coffee
with butter-pecan creamer

and he listened to her list
the woes and worries of the world
that she had heard on the evening news

she spoke of terror and war,
global warming and famine
trafficking of drugs
trafficking of girls
of chaos and calamities
too numerous to name
and so…

his break, ceasing to be a break,
he went and stood
for a while
in Aisle 1

which held, among other things
the nuts

file and rank,
rows and columns
pistachios, peanuts, walnuts, cashews
almonds and chestnuts and hazelnuts too
walnuts, brazil nuts, all in their place
and seeing this order
he felt great relief

and if you were near him
you might have heard him sigh:
“Oh no, my dear girl,
the world is certainly not nuts…
If only it were.”


photos by the author

poem (and perhaps a series of poems to come) inspired, in part, by Bjorn Rudberg‘s “Aged Librarian” poem series.

Sharing this with dVerse for OLN

Parable of the Snowflake

I studied a snowflake until I knew its every nook and cranny, every bump and divot, every point and every void until I could see that snowflake with eyes closed tight. I examined the trace elements held within the water molecules that composed it. I weighed it, measured it, took its temperature and even photographed it.

I became an expert on the snowflake, writing essays and theses, and even books. I traveled the globe presenting lectures to packed houses.

I was world-renowned for my wisdom and insight into my snowflake until I came to the conclusion that no-one could know more about the snowflake than I.

Until one day, a child presented me with another snowflake and told me, “Look!”

I scoffed at the child and said, “I have studied my snowflake for more years than you have been alive. Of what benefit could there be for me to look at your snowflake?”

The child simply held out his snowflake and again said, “Look!”

With haughty superiority, I took his flake, knowing exactly what I would see, but to my surprise, I looked at a structure that held almost no resemblance to what I thought a snowflake should be.

Then, with the child by my side, I looked around where we stood and beheld a million billion flakes of snow covering the countryside, and I wept, because I finally realized how little I know.


On March 2nd, at dVerse, we were invited by host Frank Hubeny to write prose poetry.  Alas, at the time, inspiration did not come to me.  Therefore, I will be sharing this at dVerse for Open Link Night instead…and thanks, Frank, for the prompt (even if I am responding a bit late!)

Santa and Blitzen Debate Reality

“There’s no such thing as a ‘non-magical creature’, Santa.  You’re much too old to keep on believing in such nonsense!”

“You keep saying that, Blitzen, but tell me this: where do the milk and cookies come from?”

“Magic, of course.  They appear out of thin air…just like we reindeer can magically fly, the elves magically make toys, and you can magically show up to practically every point on the globe simultaneously…with us reindeers’ help, of course.  You don’t need to leave toys behind in payment.  The elves use much energy in magically creating those toys to be used in the Reindeer Games, but you keep squandering them in the foolish notion that you’ll stop getting your precious milk and cookies if you stop delivering toys to these figments of your imagination.”

“But what if you’re wrong?  What if there is  a world of non-magic out there?  What if it is the very nature of cookies and milk that come from a non-magical world that actually sustains the universe of magic?  Oh no, my dear Blitzen.  It is much too risky to stop believing in good little boys and girls.”

Trains Roll By

The following is written for dVerse, where we were asked to write poems that are “singable”.  I followed Bjorn’s lead and went with a ballad.  This story is in no way autobiographical.  It is fiction from engine to caboose.


I was born in the town where dreams come to die
and “hope” meant the rails heading out
and the gang that I hung with, we were all so sure
we’d escape, we had no doubt

When we were just a gang of boys
we’d watch the trains roll by
and talk ’bout how when we grew up
we’d bid this town goodbye

Bill Williamson was the first to leave
when he finally lost all hope
the boxcar he left in had all the doors closed
to hide the marks of the rope

When we were just a gang of boys
we’d watch the trains roll by
and talk ’bout how when we grew up
we’d bid this town goodbye

Before too much longer Jeff Jacobs went too
departed this town without charm
but the only tracks that led him out
were the ones found in his arm

When we were just a gang of boys
we’d watch the trains roll by
and talk ’bout how when we grew up
we’d bid this town goodbye

Yes one then the next one left this town for good
a few actually fled with their life
I heard though that Arthur (my best bud of all)
is in jail now for beating his wife

When we were just a gang of boys
we’d watch the trains roll by
and talk ’bout how when we grew up
we’d bid this town goodbye

Somehow though I find that I’ve been left behind
in this small town where dreams come to die
I guess, though, I’ve ended up better than most
but I find myself wondering why?

I never left this little town
I’ve bid the gang goodbye
I think about my boyhood friends
as I watch those trains roll by

I think about my boyhood friends
as I watch those trains roll by

I think about my boyhood friends
as a tear rolls from my eye

The King’s Banquet

The following is based on Matthew 22:1-14

I dreamed that the King held a banquet to celebrate the wedding of his Son.  He sent invitations to all in the land.  The prostitutes received the same gilt-lettered envelopes as the doctors.  The drug addicts and lawyers received invitations that were worded the same:

“Come to the wedding feast of my son, two weeks hence.  A package will arrive with clothing befitting of your value to the King.”

I saw what sort of people were getting the invitations and was thankful that would not be receiving the same humiliating garments as some of my neighbors, and so, when the package arrived, I placed it, unopened, in a dark corner of my basement, for surely my own best clothing were far superior to anything that my neighbors would receive.

The day of the banquet arrived, and I strutted out in my finery, certain that every eye would be on me, envious of my splendor.

I knew that indeed, I had made an impression, when the King himself came to my side and spoke to me of my clothing, but he surprised me by what he said, “Friend, how is it that you came to my banquet without the clothing that I provided?”  I would have answered, but it was then that I finally opened my eyes to see that my neighbors, whom I had despised, were adorned in the most radiant of garments, and the clothing of which I had been so proud, were nothing more than the filthiest of old rags.

As His soldiers escorted me forcefully from the hall, I heard the King say, “my loyal subjects, you look in wonder at the garments I have provided, and I know that you think, ‘I am not worthy of such raiment as this’, but you forget, that I see you not as you have made yourselves, but as I myself have made you to be: for on this day, I have made you my friends.  Now let the feast begin!”

The Samaritan’s Journey

A man sat silent upon his donkey as it plodded slowly down the dusty road that linked the towns of Jericho and Jerusalem. He cast his eyes downward each time he passed a fellow traveler. Fellow Travelers? Hardly. For they were either Jews or Gentiles, while he was a half-breed Samaritan, accepted by neither group.

While stopped by a well to draw water for his donkey, he had to step away from the well when a priest and a Levite started coming towards him, and while the priest simply had a drink and continued on his way, the Levite chose to take a nap in the shade next to the well, so the Samaritan had to wait a full hour before he could finally draw water and continue on his way.

Shortly after his journey recommenced, he was startled to see a bloodied, mangled, wreck of a man lying by the side of the road.  From the amount of blood, the buzzing of flies, and the circling of carrion fowl, it was clear that this man…Jewish, judging by his tattered garments, must have been lying there well before either the priest or the Levite had passed by.

Hatred between their races was not merely tolerated, but encouraged, and so no one would have blamed him if he had continued on his way, especially as the injured man’s own religious leaders had done the same.

Instead, he stopped and dismounted.  With wine from his wine-skin, he washed the wounds.  With his own garments, he tore strips of cloth to staunch the flow of blood.  With his own animal, he transported the man to a place where he could recover.  With his own gold, he payed for the man’s care, and promised to return with more to pay any unexpected costs.

clouds of dust rise up
but he turns the way of love
and is a neighbour