Let’s Totally Clone A Mammoth

Wooly-Mammoth-Cloned1-620x326Not so long ago, yet  another well-preserved woolly mammoth was discovered, this time in France, near Paris, adding heat to the long-brewing rumors (threats? promises?) that scientists are a gnat’s eyelash from cloning one of these hairy has-beens.  There are a million articles about this on the web, many of them as plumped up on naive enthusiasm as I am, and I encourage you to pursue as many of them as you have time in your busy schedule to read.  It’s great stuff, all of it.  Right now  I’ve got about a dozen tabs open because that’s what I do–open more tabs than I have time to read, bookmark them all, read a couple, and think wistfully about all the reading I’d do if the days were just a little bit longer.

But I digress.  The subject at hand is: MAMMOTH!  The precise question doesn’t matter, because, if it’s about mammoths, and any question about mammoth has only one possible answer: yes.

I mean: Hell, yes.

Why are we leaving this to the Japanese, Chinese, Russians, South Koreans?

South Koreans?  Granted, they have done a fine job with the Kia,  that Gangham Style guy ROCKS, and they sure no how to build a DMZ–but come on!  These are MAMMOTHS we’re talking about.  Important shit.  We’re America.  We don’t trust our allies to handle the important shit.

Besides, I’m personally nervous about the motives of these folks cloning mammoths, regardless of national origin.  First of all, it’s not like the Japanese have a particularly great record with large mammals. Turn your back, and they’re poking them with sharp sticks.  Think about it: EVERY museum in the world has a diorama of a bunch of pissed off Asian dudes standing around poking a sad, hungry, lonely and forsaken Snuffaluffagus mammoth with nasty pointy sticks.  And you know what they do to whales.

Secondly, and more importantly, WE need the Mammoth.  The country is going to hell, the world is two match strikes and a clump of tinder from going up in flame, and massive climate change is leading to unprecedented numbers and severity of natural disasters.  We need something to look forward to.  Something to believe in.  We need to see the mammoth.

Just seeing a mammoth could change everything, but imagine if we could feed the mammoth, pet the mammoth, pose for digital pictures with the mammoth, and maybe we could even ride the mammoth. I know I’d like to ride the mammoth. Hell, doesn’t every kid deserve to have his OWN woolly mammoth?  I think he does. Woolly mammoths are awesome. We could breed a lot of them and finally win the war against terror. (Whew! Just in time.)  They’re insanely useful.

Maybe best of all, we could use them to confuse, befuddle, but ultimately delight all the new earth whack-jobs loitering around the Creationist Museum. My long time best friend was a registered Republican for years, though he voted far to the left, because he believed “my continued registration gives them a false sense of security.”  Well, imagine what a herd of woolly mammoths stumbling through their Garden of Eden display might do for morale!  

We owe it to them, to our children, and to the world.




By Mike Harden

At a reading by former U.S. poet laureate Billy 
Collins last week at Ohio Dominican University, 
I wasn't surprised to see a Columbus police 
officer on hand to thwart potential violence.

Tensions have been high lately between 
neo-formalists and free versers, and well-placed 
sources in the poetry community feared that a 
reading might provide a flash point for simmering 

I was glad I had taken my notebook. I needed it to 
chronicle the savage mayhem that has come to be 
called ''The Night of the Long Stanzas'':   

Columbus police and the Ohio National Guard 
patrolled the university Friday after a night of 
rioting between rival poetry gangs resulted in 
three minor injuries and a dozen arrests.

Eleven of those in custody were being held for 
disorderly conduct. The 12th was apprehended for 
using eight syllables in the second line of a 

Of those injured, the most seriously hurt was an 
Obetz woman who suffered a concussion after being 
struck in the head with a copy of John Milton's 
Samson Agonistes.

''She was just an innocent bystander who happened 
to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,'' 
Columbus Police Sgt. Holger Upvall said. 

''We think she might be a T.S. Eliot enthusiast 
who simply got caught in the crossfire. We tried 
to talk to her in the ER, and she wasn't making 
much sense -- which would seem to indicate a 
strong connection with Eliot's work.''

The trouble started, Upvall said, when tailgating 
revelers got out of hand. ''You know how it is,'' 
he said. ''You get a few neoclassicists doing that 
beer-bong thing with dry sherry. They haven't had 
any watercress. They can get pretty rowdy.

''A couple of the blank versers started talking 
trash about Coleridge. One thing led to another. 
We got matters calmed down until some hotheaded 
formalist accused a blank verser of an unnatural 
act with Edgar Guest. Well, that did it.

''Then someone ran over the mailbox of the 
school's professor of Renaissance poetry. 
Witnesses told us the culprit was driving a dark 
green Volvo with a 'Save the Earth' bumper sticker. 
We stopped 137 vehicles fitting that description 
but didn't make any arrests.'' 

Police tried to form a perimeter around the 
Birkenstock store and the health-food co-op but 
were too late to save either from looters, Upvall 

Firefighters stood by helplessly as rioters -- 
their faces lighted by the flames of arson fires 
-- carried case after case of tofu from the health 
co-op, leaving a trail of anguish and alfalfa 
sprouts in their wake.

Neo-formalists kidnapped a Rod McKuen fan, then 
holed up in the Birkenstock store, where they 
hurled sandals at confused police officers 
attempting to free the hostage.

A police negotiator persuaded the neo-formalists 
to release the hostage by promising to read a list 
of emands.

Essentially, they are asking for a return to more 
oblique and obscure poetry.

''How can we be expected to teach poetry,'' an 
unidentified neo-formalist noted, ''if there is 
nothing confusing about it? We need hidden 
meanings, confounding allusions, cryptic inner 
dialogues -- all those things that drive students 

Billy Collins, whom the neo-formalists consider 
far too ''accessible," was whisked out a back door 
of Erskine Hall and hastily driven to the airport.

Collins' lawyer, quoting the poet, said his client 
had no intention of returning to Columbus ''in 
this or any other lifetime.''

Mike Harden is a Dispatch columnist.

Freudian Poetry Link (Email #2)

The following text is lifted directly from an old email exchange…edited only for privacy:
What kind of Freudian madness made this slip?
—– Original Message —–
from: (redacted)
to: (redacted)
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2005 09:39 PM
Subject: York Writes grows
Charles, check out:
for more York poems.

Welcome To Marcellus Country


Welcome to Marcellus Country.  Shot near Roaring Springs, PA on the way to this place:

Trough Creek State Park

Email From a Friend #1

Hi, Charles,

Now that you can read Chinese in your computer, here is your Chinese name for you.


the red one is your first name, and the black one is your last name.

told ya, a lot of characters, isn’t it? have a nice day.


My Poetry Poetry

South of Lander

Sagebrush Wyoming
Redtail keen on the fencepost
Hundred-mile sunset.


A Note About Typographical Errors

I was just reading down through these posts and noticed a number of typos–wrong words, mostly, wrong tense here and there, dropped words, a few misspellings and grammar sins.  I may take the time, someday, to sort down through this page and edit, but it’s just as likely that I won’t.  Most of what is here is either new or very old.  The new is written off the cuff, first-draft style, and the old is transposed, usually in a hurry. I rarely waste energy in exhaustive proofing, especially with prose, and I’ve found that auto-correct programs generally sow as many problems as they harvest.

Even as I say that, I’m reminded of a time my wife and I once stopped for breakfast at a funky little cafe on Central Avenue in Whitefish, Montana, after a couple of hard, hungry, mosquito-blighted days in the back country, burning up our calf muscles by day and listening to the predatory hum of bugs outside our tent, waiting for the Grizzlies to gnaw our bones each night  We sought coffee and calories, in that order.  As we entered the restaurant, we noticed a little sign on the door that said something cute and quaint along the lines of “we do things at a different pace here in the mountains, so maybe you need to lighten up and relax if it seems like we’re moving too slow.”  Having worked in resorts, I saw the logic.  An hour doesn’t pass without some hurried soul desperate to cram a year’s worth of living into 11 vacation days, or to see “the west” in two weeks.  Others just seemed to function at that pace as a default, and that was before smart phones and wifi.  (If anyone knows the name of this restaurant, and whether or not it’s still there, I’d love to hear it).

Although the cafe was only about half full, it took about ten minutes to be seated, and another ten until the waitress got around to us.  She gave us menus, we asked for coffee, and she disappeared.  About twenty minutes later, over 40 minutes after entering, the coffee arrived and she took out orders.  As you might imagine, we were pretty agitated, not the least of which because we felt cornered by that sign, which was beginning to feel just a little–I don’t know–passive aggressive?  Our waitress disappeared.  Other people who had entered after us were served.  Half an hour after ordering we convinced the another waitress to bring us more coffee.  That took ten minutes.  We were famished, but tempted to leave, yet we lingered because we’d already invested so much time–surely it would take longer to find another place to eat, get seated, order, and get served there.

Forty-five minutes after ordering, one hour and 40 minutes after entering, the original waitress walked to our table with two plates–mine was to be pancakes, potatoes, and sausage links.  My wife got the same sides, with french toast–pretty standard fare.  My wife was served first, and everything was in order, then the waitress looked at me and said, “We’re out of links, so you get patties.” She turned on her heel and walked away.  What could be do but laugh.  The pancakes were dry, the sausage patties greasy and clearly from a box.  It is the only time, since I began paying tabs, that I have ever refused to tip, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that woman still remembers the terrible couple who stiffed her a decade ago.  Driving out of town, my wife and I talked about how that sign hushed and flustered us, how brilliant it was to put the onus of bad service on the customer.  Brilliant!  If that happened now, I would never have waited so long, but that damned sign….

And that’s what I didn’t want this post to be–a statement that someone excludes me from building reasonably functional sentences, or implies that because I don’t really prioritize grammar and punctuation in drafts, I’m somehow excused from doing my job–the way the Teabagger Congressmen think that because they don’t like some legislation they’re justified in refusing to  govern.  So, let’s put it this way:  I KNOW that I make mistakes, due to haste and distraction as well as the thrill of the chase, and I’m sorry.  I’ll get ’em fixed as time and energy permits.  I promise.

My Poetry Poetry

Organic Crab Grass Control

Damn straight, count me in.
I’m a corn meal glutton;indian-head-corn-meal-0709-new-new-lg
love it in pancakes, in muffins,
in waffles and bread–
especially bread, sweetened with sugar,
mixed with bacon fat and cream,
bathed in sweet butter–
Oh…you meant…gluten.
I’m not a gluten.

Short/Micro/Flash Fiction

Henry’s Morning Visit

Hey, Babe. Two minutes after I talked to you there’s a knock on the door.  It’s not your pa, looking for Sophie’s bags, or the milk man, but Heather with Henry and his car seat in tow.
It’s 7:42.
Hey, I say.  I’m dressed in my silvery long john pants and ratty white mock tee.  Sophie said they looked like superman pants.  Who’s the Super Action Hero now, Henry?
Hello, Heather bleats cheerfully.  Here we are, Henry has his little seat.  He’s all ready.
Uh, okay.  Um–did he, uh, have breakfast or anything?
Nope, we just packed him up for school and pushed him out the door.
Can I give him Cheerios?
Sure, whatever.  He likes Cheerios. He likes anything.
You must have an eight o’clock?
Yep, and they’re doing presentations today so I gotta run.  Thanks.
It’s 7:46.
We get the boy unbundled, he mentions all the boxes.
We’re getting ready for decorating for Christmas, I say.
We did our decorating already.  We did it on the church day.
I love that: the church day.
Anna clomps down the stairs, cute as a bunny in that new red sweatshirt, though her brow is fairly furrowed, like the tiller of the land.  You know, the one with the gnarled hands, clutching his rake?
She whispers to me, as an aside. Henry’s here?
As if he’s the hundred pound gorilla hunched in the corner.
As if he can’t hear.
Why is Henry here?
He’s going to replace Sophie for the weekend, I explained.  He’ll be like the son I never had.
She grins: Right.
Mike calls around 8:00.
Charles, I’m really sorry.  I thought it was 8:30 and time for school when I called.
I told him no problem, he’s eating Cheerios.  I figured I’d just roll with it.
Henry was great.  He seemed to actually enjoy the departure from his normal schedule.  He re-bundled himself without a problem and the girls helped him into his car seat while I brushed snow from the windows with the porch broom.  I watched him in the rear view mirror, smiling all the way to school. Good kid. Good start to the day.


The Big Truck (excerpt)

This picture respectfully stolen from

The Big Truck (excerpt from a short story, circa 1990)

A door slams and a key twists in the ignition of a big, new capable American machine. None of that third world bullshit, we’re talking Eight bedroom-sized cylinders displacing more than six liters in a gurgling rumble of power shouting of fundamental inconsistencies, hell, it’s goddamned hypocrisy to I digest so much carbon fuel in getting to the wild places I’m aiming to get to. And I don’t care.  To hell with consistency; it is the mask of the uninteresting soul, the warm, smothering blanket of the tamed mind: too much about being correct, responsible, intentional, when we should be flying full bore towards living for good, wild lives.
It may very well be that I am lacking hormonally something, needing three hundred-odd horses to power me, but those dainty little Asian fuel miser machines doesn’t cut it (I have had one, loved the zip but loathed the coffin-like fit my build demanded).  It could just be that I was raised on toy cars and trucks.  Whatever the case, there is something magic in the early morning growl of an idling big block V-8 engine.
I like that fact that it practically begs to be let loose to flatten the teeming knots of Hondi and other bullet shaped knatmobiles out there.  This machine, on the highway, is like walking the park with a vampiric Irish Wolfhound on the end of the leash.  Power to spare.
The assembled corps of Highway patrolmen wait ahead, their microwave beams slow-roasting innocents from over hills, behind bridge abutments, around blind curves.  We will tempt them presently, joining in the mass of sensible speeders bravely playing political out on the roads, defying the revenue fishers and legislators fat on insurance lobby kickbacks.  From here in Pittsburgh to the border it will be bad, Pennsylvania being a wonderful state except for its archaic clinging to the 55mph barrier.  Great yellow signs greet visitors: Pennsylvania Maximum Speed Limit is STILL 55mph!!  Might as well erect an afterward, a new slogan.  Pennsylvania, backwards-assed and proud of it….