Virginia Natural Gas

There’s a band I’ve never seen before
but they’re right outside my window now:
Virginia Natural Gas
reads the logo on their van.

They rolled out dressed
in orange and black
and bright, bright yellow like a pack
of day-glo tigers at a rave.

Haven’t even heard the intro yet
and already I’m a fan.
If the gas line blows
and the bass kicks in,
I know they’ll raise the roof.

EZ Jesus

You like to have Him
and pierced
and ready
for faction,
the dangling savior
on a chain you wear
around other
people’s necks.

You have a spare
in your pocket
and sometimes you
fish Him out,
rub His belly,
say His name,
and you feel
so lucky.

He’ll come running
if you call Him.

“Do you see the way He looks at me?”

Loyal, agreeable, reassuring,
He has a tool for every purpose:

and a quick reference user’s guide.

You circle the important parts.
The rest is outdated and mysterious,
hard to understand.

Eye of a what?
Blessed are the who?

“What would He do?
Why, anything I ask.
Do you really not see
how He looks at me?”

Object Permanence

“Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be perceived (seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way). … According to this view, it is through touching and handling objects that infants develop object permanence.” Wikipedia

They closed the Sears in Burlington.
The building still remains.
I imagine there are still echoes there
of tickets printing
and customers complaining
and children calling for their mothers
where they last saw them
in the lingerie department.

I have notebooks filled with paragraphs
I’ll never read again.
I’ve loved people
I’ll never see again.

Sometimes it all seems pointless
until I remember how much I liked wearing
that flannel shirt
I bought three winters ago
when the lights were still on
and the doors still opened
around ten ‘o clock each morning.

I still have that shirt.

I remember a few of the things I wrote
and the some of the intense conversations I had.

I remember how we sat in the driveway
waiting for the song to end
before shutting down the engine.

I remember being small
and draped across my mother’s lap
as she gently scratched my back.

I remember more than a few first kisses
and a handful of last ones too.

No matter how much things fade,
some of them feel like forever
and I never mind the echoes.

When I Die I Think I’ll Live Forever

When I die

I think I’ll live forever

as something that really happened.


I will be real

but forgotten

like a moment from your seventh birthday,

buried twenty feet deep

in a mind filled with billions

of unmarked graves like that one.


This cemetery

stretches on for countless acres,

but you’ve lost the address

and cannot pay a visit

to all those who still remain there.


And that’s what time is like,

a sequence of events registered by the cosmos,

some still detectable and measurable

but others too small to retrieve.

I think I’ll be like one of those.


But real.


As real as any explosion

or collision or formation

we still talk about today.

And that is how I’ll stay eternal.


How Freedom of Religion Works for Everyone


Freedom of Religion only works if it works for everyone. Thankfully, here in the United States, it does just that. Feel free to thank whomever or whatever you choose.

Some will claim we live in a Christian nation founded on Biblical principles, but that is not actually true.

We live in a secular nation founded on the U.S. Constitution, which protects your freedom to be a Christian if you so choose, and to live by Biblical principles, whatever you interpret those to be.

It also protects the freedom of those who choose otherwise.

It’s kind of a beautiful thing.

If you’re a Muslim, no one can make you eat pork. If you’re a Christian, you can load up on the bacon and ham with a big greasy grin on your face. If you don’t subscribe to any religion at all, the world is your buffet.

It even works well within Christianity. Southern Baptist? No one can make you say a Hail Mary. Catholic? No one can keep you from wearing your “I love the Pope” hat to the mall.

Do you think gay marriage is a sin? Ok, fine. Check your fiancé’s genitals before the ceremony and everything should be a-ok. Just remember it’s not your place to peek inside the pants of other people’s partners. So you can go your married way and let others do the same.

See how that works? You get to live YOUR life according to your beliefs. You don’t get to force others to live THEIRS that way. And they don’t get to force you to live their way either.

This is how our funny little government works for everyone. This is why it’s a handy dandy thing to remember that, should you seek an office or a job in government, YOU ALSO WILL BE WORKING FOR EVERYONE when you clock in each day.

It’s also good to remember this is why the courthouse lawn and other tax payer funded facilities are not churches or temples or mosques.

The Ten Commandments may look lovely hanging in your church or on your wall at home, but, unless you want to allow symbols of other religions including nine-foot bronze statues of a half-man-half-goat with curly horns from the Temple of Satan to greet you when you go to the DMV to get your plates renewed, it’s really best to leave those things up to the private individual to display.

Any Pentecostals cool with a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe at your state Capitol building? No? Well, then maybe you get my point.

Your church, however wonderful it may be, has not been appointed to govern those who don’t wish to attend it. Your holy book, however full of wisdom you find it to be, has not been passed into legislation.

And if you ever study what happens when any religion is given a pass to govern with that kind of power, you’ll thank God it isn’t that way here.

Photograph: Praying for Prey by Rolf Brecher on Flickr

Ken Robert is a guy who can’t not write, writing things he can’t not say. If you can’t not read them, click here and sign up for free updates.

The Truth Doesn’t Care if You Find It


My journey to where I am today in terms of how I think began with one sentence uttered by a Pope. “The truth has nothing to fear.”

Where that lead me is probably not what he had in mind, but dwelling on it made me realize that it didn’t matter what I believed. It only mattered what was true.

The truth can withstand anything. No challenge will change it. No question will unravel it. It will be what it is even if it’s never discovered. If we don’t search for it and do what we can to find it, it will still be there, hidden and unknown.

It will wait patiently for eternity simply because that’s what truth does.

The truth neither feels nor has any obligation to comfort me. It doesn’t  beckon me. If I am uncurious and unquestioning, it won’t care. If I tell myself lies, it won’t care. If I can convince some or even all to believe lies, it won’t care.

In order for it to be revealed to me, I have to care about it. It doesn’t have to care about me.

You and I could work every minute of every day for the rest of our lives and still only find small pieces of it that make up just a sliver of a thread in its tapestry our minds can’t touch the sides of.

There are galaxies beyond our reach  too great in number to fully comprehend and we know nothing about them.

And they don’t care either.

Maybe it’s silly to search for the truth just to hold a few grains of it in your hand until you or your memory of them  fade away. But in that moment, to know you learned something about what is, to know that you caught a peak behind the curtain of the mind boggling mystery that is having been alive for a time in the cosmos?

Well, heck. How cool is that?

But the truth doesn’t really care.  It’s all up to us to care about it.

Ken Robert is a guy who can’t not write, writing things he can’t not say. If you can’t not read them, click here and sign up for free updates.

Photograph: Policy of Truth

Trump Is Everything I Was Taught Not to Be

tp trash

My disdain for Donald Trump has little to do with Republican vs Democrat. It has much more to do with what I was taught growing up about being a decent human being.

Much of that was taught to me by my father, a man who wasn’t perfect but always tried his best to be decent toward and honest with everyone he met. Trump is just about everything I was taught not to be, and it’s become almost all but impossible to hold onto whatever respect I once held for people I know who support him.

It doesn’t feel good to lose that respect. I was also taught to look for the good in people, and I still believe there’s good in almost everyone, but I find less of it when I hear people cheer for a man who embodies everything my father taught me to disdain: bullies, liars, blowhards, braggarts, and cheats. To me, championing a man who displays those behaviors on an almost daily basis demonstrates a fundamental flaw of character.

Based on what I was taught, you just don’t do the following: You don’t mock the disabled. You don’t disparage someone for being a prisoner of war, even if you disagree with their politics. You don’t take money from a proclaimed charitable foundation and use it to pay $20,000 for a painting of yourself to give to your spouse. You don’t claim you’ve given a million dollars to veterans that you haven’t given, then, when the press discovers and reports that you haven’t, try to cover your ass by giving it in the middle of the night before calling a press conference the following day to berate the media for calling you on your dishonesty. You don’t insinuate things about the parents of a fallen soldier you could have discovered were false by checking just because you got your precious feelings hurt when they criticized your proposed ban on people who practice their religion which is about as direct a violation of the U.S. Constitution as someone can cook up. You don’t claim that people in the military will do whatever you tell them to do, even if it’s a war crime, as if this is Nazi Germany and you’re der Führer. You don’t score women’s looks like you’re the Universe’s gift to them. You don’t encourage crowds to commit acts of violence against people exercising their first amendment rights. You don’t encourage foreign agents to hack your political opponent’s emails. You don’t run around accusing the president of not being a natural born citizen, then wrongfully dump the blame on your opponent when you finally have to admit, in the most weaselly way possible, that you were wrong from the start. You don’t claim you can’t release your tax records because you’re being audited when being audited in no way prohibits you from releasing them, and then refuse to even provide evidence that you’re actually being audited. You don’t pretend you’re friends with someone you never met. You don’t promote torture when men and women have given their lives to fight enemies who employ it. You don’t make flippant remarks about people assassinating the other candidate. You don’t do so many things this man does almost every day.

If we disagree on these things, we simply don’t share the same values. If I criticize these things and your response is to laugh with derogatory glee, you come across to me like a toothless jackass braying as you take a steaming whiz on human decency.

We can debate the impact of a minimum wage hike, the best approach to healthcare, the effectiveness and constitutionality of a gun regulation proposal, and a great many other things, but human decency isn’t on my list of debatable topics anymore, and it never should have been to begin with.

My father was a Republican, but he was not a straight ticket voter, and I can’t believe he would have ever cast a ballot for this man. As the father of a handicapped child who died very young, he would have severed any ties he had to Trump the day the candidate mocked a reporter’s disfiguring congenital joint disorder.

I think my father would have agreed with my basic argument against such behavior: “Screw that asshole and the festering pile of shit he rode in on.”

But more important to me than what my father taught me is what I teach my own children. They’re adults now and must decide for themselves who they’re going to be, but I still believe it’s my responsibility to be someone worthy of their respect.

I have never been what anyone would call wildly successful, and I would say I failed at being the kind of husband I should have been when I was married to their mother, but I do my best to demonstrate to them how I feel about the importance of honesty and compassion for others. No, I don’t always live up to my own standards, but I have them, which means I’m painfully aware of the times when I bite the ethical dust.

It also means I recognize a candidate who has no standards at all when I see one. I don’t have to read a news report or fact check claims made by others about him. I can read the transcripts of his talks and interviews. I can watch videos of him in action. I can read his childish tweets. I can watch him live as he displays an absolute disdain for anything requiring humility, compassion, or scholarship.

As former POW Joel Sollender says in a new Hillary Clinton ad, “He is everything I would not want to be or emulate.” And those who support him are supporting everything I have no respect for, and I honestly find it hard to separate them from that.

Ken Robert is a guy who can’t not write, writing things he can’t not say. If you can’t not read them, click here to get free updates.

Photograph: Trash Planet by Alias Albinos on Flickr

Click here for free weekly updates.

Trump Mocks Reporter’s Physical Disability

Trump Disparages John McCain for being a Prisoner of War

Trump Spends Charitable Foundation’s Funds to Buy Self Portrait

Trump Claims to Donate to Veterans but Doesn’t Until Hounded by the Press

Trump Insinuates Mother of Fallen Soldier Not Allowed to Speak

Trump Claims Military Will Follow Illegal Orders

Real Quotes from Donald Trump About Women

Trump Encouraging Violence at Rallies

Trump’s Birther Campaign

Trump’s Tax Return Dodge

Trump’s Contradictions Regarding Relationship with Putin

Trump on Torture

Trump Jokes About Disarming Clinton’s Security: “Let’s see what happens.”

Pretty Things

Right now,
I could close my eyes
and see things

I have this power.
It’s remarkable.
I can raise mountains in my mind.
I can carve rivers in the crevices.
I can burst right through the atmosphere
and trace constellations
with the tips of all my toes.

I can even leave this galaxy
and stay far, far away
for hours,
for days
and weeks
on end

if I have to,

if I need to,

if I want to.

I can cover up my ears
and be swept away,
use my hands
like soundproof barricades
against the noise,
the horns, the anguish,
all those sirens, cries for justice,
and annoying shouts for help.

The trick is-
I’ll teach you.
The trick is to keep your eyes shut
real, real tight
like this.

Keep those ears covered, too.
That’s it.

Now repeat after me.
Pretty things,
pretty things,
pretty things.

And don’t you say another damned word.

Earth Shaker


“She was born dead center in the middle of a burst of thunder, the kind that shakes the floor and rolls on for a while,” the girl’s mother used to tell people, pretending she didn’t know she was just around the corner listening in. “She’s been shaking things up ever since.”

Her mother thought it was important to let her hear stories being told about her to others, stories she could carry deep within her as protection against all the stories others would try to write on her and over her as a means of crossing her out.

She was a child of thunder, a mover of clouds, an earth shaker. Whenever anyone would try to take from her, she knew she could open up the sky and make it rain.

There Was One Who Tried to Save Me


She was holding my face in her hands and she lifted my lids to have a look underneath. I stood still, watching her, as she searched for loose connections, busted hoses, worn out parts.

“I’m worried about you,” she said.

This was serious work and she squinted as she held her beliefs between her teeth, shining them in criss cross patterns over what she thought was darkness.

What she couldn’t see were eight years of Catholic grade school, four years of public high school, a hundred and seven conversations, the untracked hours spent pondering late at night when all the preachers had put the final touches on their sermons and turned off their lamps

My heart sputtered for her. I had no owner’s manual, no maintenance history she could glance over. I’d pitched the former long ago and the latter was only stored in memory, a series of tune ups and inspections all performed in a private garage made of random associations and startling epiphanies.

She hadn’t been there the day I rolled the windows down and opened up the engine. She had no idea what it feels like to conclude there are no road maps, that love’s the only thing you have to guide you, that here is the only place you need to get to, or that your ETA is now if you can just let go of the steering wheel.

I wanted her to join me and thought about telling here of the promises of present rewards. “I’m right here,” I wanted to say, “Come  be here with me.”

But she was busy searching….

for secret compartments

and passageways

to another place

and another time

where she’d never find me.