Category Archives: Writing

The Bill of Rights, in Quatrains

We start with God (or Gods, or none)
Then speech and press, assembling:
The ways and means that anyone
Can ask for change to anything.

But might makes right, or helps it thrive
Against the worst ill wishers.
So guns can keep the State alive
In well-regulated Militias.

The homely castle where you live
Affords no soldier boarder.
The third amendment lets you give
New meaning to “No quarter!”

Your property and self are your own
And none may search or take them
Unless probable cause can be shown
And warrants evidence make them.

Due process of law is next in our reach
As part of the health of the nation.
Trials are needed, and only one each
Without any self incrimination.

In criminal trials, a jury must sit
And witnesses be openly heard.
Counsel assists, and the state will commit
To compel defence witnesses’ word.

Where common law suits are tried
And sums are more than a score
A jury request cannot be denied
Nor appeals their findings ignore.

Excessive bail shall not be imposed
Lest poverty tyranny fuel.
And punishments, however composed,
Should not be unusual or cruel.

Naming rights here does not deny
That for the people others exist.
And inclusion herein does not imply
Disparagement to the ones missed.

Our Federal nation is made of States
To whom other powers are reserved.
The People as well, in any debates,
Must have their control preserved.

Originally posted on Making Light


Alex has been going to his nursery, Mother Goose, for almost four years now. As he has become more verbal, he’s brought nursery rhymes and songs home with him. Sometimes they’re the standard ones – “Baa baa black sheep” and suchlike. Sometimes, they’re not.

His favourites right now are “Heyyy, baby…I want to know-ow-ow….will you be my girl?” and “Jadda”, which is a string of nonsense syllables I can’t reproduce, but which does NOT finish “bing bop pop.” (I think it should and add it in when he sings that, to his massive indignation.)

He brought home another verse to “Row, row, row your boat” the other month. I understand that it’s become common, but I had never heard it before:

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
If you see a crocodile
Don’t forget to scream

Now, this is the sort of thing that gets me going on inventing my own doggerel. I quickly added another verse:

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
If you see a hippo there
Feed it some ice cream

He loves it. He’s tried to convince Goose that it’s an official verse, with about as much success as he had sellng this rewrite I did of Hey Diddle Diddle:

Hey Diddle Dat
The fiddle and the cat
The moon slid under the cow
The little dog cried ’cause he was sad
And the dish and the spoon said, “What now?”

I can’t wait to see him try to get them to accept my latest offering, invented last night with Fiona in my arms:

Rockabye baby, in your mom’s lap
When the wind blows, your arms go flap flap
When the bough breaks, it’s a good thing you fly
Since otherwise you’ll fall, and then you would cry

And yes, I know I am messing with my descendents unto the tenth generation with this stuff. But it’s so much fun!

Heisenberg in Love

I’ve had the same conversation with three people lately. These things happen, either because it’s a coincidence or because we all go through these same things at the same times in our lives.

The conversation is about identity. As they get older, my friends have begun to feel fragmented, as though they are more than one person at a time. I know the feeling. And matters of identity have always fascinated me. This is not the first time I’ve thought about this issue.

I wrote this in 1989, but was motivated to dig it out again by the synchronicity of these recent conversations.

When I sat below you on the floor, in that shirt which gives my eyes the colors of a forest and my hair the hints of a fire, unbraiding that hair and playing with the tendrils, watching you with my arboreal eyes, and asked, “Who are you?”, you answered with fifteen minutes of words beginning with “In”. I do not deny that the man you described is yourself.

But what if I had been standing, or sitting on the chair with my feet on the table, or curled up beside you, or stretched out on the bed? What if my shirt had been blue, or black, or a color that turns my eyes to mahogany and my hair to oak? What if I had left my hair in its braid and turned my piece of jade in my hands as I listened, and gazed at it, or at the rain on the window? How would you have begun, and what would you have said? I believe the person you would have shown me would bear little resemblance to the one I heard about.

The problem, of course, is that I actually sat above you on the hammock, swinging slightly, in my white shirt. My brass-tinted hair lay tangled about my shoulders, for I had left it loose all day, and I folded my hands in my lap as I listened. I did, however, look at you with my hazel eyes, and because of that, the man whom you described in twenty-five minutes of discourse beginning with the word “I” is somehow familiar to me.

(Pretentious, yes, but I was nineteen.)