Just Pie

I have a pie in the oven, an apple pie. It might have been my father’s favorite, but I don’t really know. He treasured all gifts–pies, cookies, golf balls, tie clips. They were all wonderfully the same. He treated all M&Ms like they were the last on earth, hiding them in his sock drawer and eating them one at a time. His golf bag was full of dirty old tees my brothers and I would scrounge from the bushes when we caddied. And when he died I put his ashes in a simple, unvarnished wooden urn I knew he’d prefer.

My father enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in WWII as a private, firmly believing he wouldn’t survive. But rather than getting himself shot, he ended up two years later as a captain and base commander in remote British Guyana. Mildew and rum were the greatest threats there; and whenever he entered the jungle on regular patrols to find fictional Japanese troops, the only things actually in danger of being shot were the iguanas.
It was a simple but good life in the jungle. The water was no good, but the Army made sure everyone had all the Coka Cola they could drink. And, of course, the Coka Cola went well with the rum. To more righteously boost troop morale, my father would regularly hop a C-47 to Miami to buy small packages of cactus needles for the mess hall’s old phonograph–always small packages because the constant need for replacing the quick wearing needles required frequent return trips for more. I suppose he also felt his simple life needed some contrast for its full value to be appreciated. As well, Miami’s war population had swollen with pretty women (including a few princesses) who needed his attention.
In the meanwhile, my mother, whom my father had not yet met, was attending to her own captain. He was an Air Corps man too, and like my father, did not expect to survive the war. But after a short romance, he packed up their marriage and flew off to Europe in a B-17, never to be heard from again. And my mother returned to bucking rivets on a bomber assembly line. Her needs were simple. Having spent years kneeling in prayer in a cloistered convent, she could find peace standing up all day to miles of polished aluminum. I imagine each rivet was, to her, a bead on a rosary. For my mother, the simplest efforts were gifts to God in thanks for life given. I made her urn a little fancier than my father’s. It was mahogany with a lacewood top and included a little compartment for trinkets and prayers. She wasn’t extravagant but she enjoyed nice things.

The pie has finished baking and I’m crying a little because it was for my parents and it didn’t come out perfect. Not that they would have cared, but I feel like the pie barely survived me and my oven. “For Christ’s sake,” my father would probably say. “It’s a pie, not a war!” My mother would add, “Its the most beautiful pie ever made!” Then my father would see how stubborn my disappointment was. He’d smile and probably warn, “It’s wrong to measure a pie by the battle that was fought, and then forget its sweet taste.” I miss them both.

Happy Veterans Day.

G W Sisk


Watering the Horse

“…pain…lots…sometime in the next ten days…without warning…”

The doctor might as well have warned my penis will fall off sometime in the next ten days.  So how does one wait for something that’s possibly more painful—and less productive—than childbirth?  With practice slides down a giant sword into a vat of iodine?  Or nude skydiving through a Saharan sandstorm?  Maybe body surfacing at a dry ice plant in Juneau?  All three?  But in the meanwhile, I have to pee.  I have to pee now and I’ll have to pee again in fifteen minutes.  Except, I really won’t have to pee at all.  My brain says, “Warning, sir!  Your urine reservoir is nearing critical capacity.”  I reply that I peed just fifteen minutes ago, during the last ad.  Then—

“Negative, sir.  It is time to relieve your bladder.”

“Are you kidding?  You can’t say that while the leaders are on the eighteenth green.”

“I am sorry, sir.  If you prefer, it is time to drain the dragon.”

“Dragon?  I appreciate the compliment, but I really can wait.”

“Would you consider leaking the lizard, sir?”

“That’s the same thing.  Leave me alone.”

“I know you are a reasonable man.  How about paying the water bill, sir?”

“Clever, but I’m staying put.”

(Five, four, three, two, one…)

“Damn it!  I’ll be right back.”

“Very good, sir.”

(Fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven…)

“Nothing!  There was nothing!”

“Did you not make the bladder gladder, sir?”


“I am sorry, sir.  My sensors are normally quite reliable.  But do you not think there is still some steam to release from the radiator, sir?”

“There’s some steam, but it’s not in my radiator.”

“I am regretful of your present circumstance, sir.  Perhaps, after the next television ad, you will be able to shake some dew off the lily.”

“What?  Where are you getting this stuff?”

I am sorry, sir.  You left your tablet open.  Shall we change the subject to last night’s French lesson?”

“Lesson?  Uh, sure.”

“Tres bien Monsieur.  Oui oui maintenant?”

“That’s not real French.  Damn it, now I have to go again.”

“To splash the pirate, sir, or to fight the fire?”

“No, to visit the wizard, smart ass.  I know a few of those, too.”

“I am impressed, sir.  I took you as a piddly man.”


“I am sorry, sir.  I was going to say you could point piddly Percy at the porcelain.”

“Screw you.”

“Sir, I am your brain.  You have been screwing with me for a period of decades.  Is this a self-indictment?”

“Screw you twi…  Damn it!  I’ll be right back.”

“Leave no stone unturned, sir.”



Gavin W Sisk

July, 2016



All’s Fair in Love and Golf


At the driving range–
I’m swinging pretty well lately.  Really, better than I ever have.  Most of the improvement has come from recognizing my age and not swinging out of my shoes.  I may even be earning smug rights.  Catholicism be damned–why do I always need to feel bad about what I love and for coming out on top.
Anyway, the guy two stalls down is struggling to recognize his own age.  He’s also struggling with every club in his bag.  And he’s pissed.  Somewhere in his thinning hairline is the pin to a head grenade, and it’s coming loose.
“God damn it, Mike!
“You chump!  You freak!
“Just hit the fucking ball, idiot!
“You suck!  You suck!  You suck!  (He did.)
“Stupid fucking practice balls!
“What the Hell is wrong with me!
“No, dick head; not like that!  That’s bullshit!  Bullshit!
I used to sound like him too, sometimes.  When I did, others avoided me like potato salad left in the sun all day.  And though I’m generally helpful to strangers, I avoided this one.  I was almost out of practice balls and, with an empty wallet, wanted to concentrate on making the most of the ones I had left. But I couldn’t avoid him for long.  After a while he walked over to watch me.
“Jesus, you have a great swing.  You gotta have a single-digit handicap.”
“Actually, I don’t play golf.  I just come to the range once in a while to try and remember what it’s like.  I played years ago but wasn’t very good.  I certainly couldn’t hit very far.”
This wasn’t entirely true but I knew what was coming next.  I raked another ball from the tray with my eight iron and made an easy three-quarter swing, sending it on a high flight that ended a yard left of the 156 yard flag (my best swing all month).
“There, you see?  I pulled that one.  I’m getting old and I’m really not that good.”
That was that.  He walked back to his stall, picked up his clubs, and left.  That worked great for me.  He left about a hundred balls behind, and I got them all.  I probably could have followed him to the parking lot and bought his clubs cheap.  Senior discount!
Life isn’t fair, but golf always is.

Gavin W Sisk


Young, I raced through summers in bare feet,
through sunburned fields with clover-crazy bees,
over shards of brown glass pushed to mounds
as alters heaped by mad old men cast down

to share their pain with an oblivious child.
Soap, a stiff brush, Mercurochrome, a smile:
salves for cuts from countless careless flights
across the scraps of countless shadowed lives.

Are paper, pencils, promises, and prayer;
silver clouds, the golden rule, our faith in fair;
sex, song, and vows to live in vivid view
of fields unmarred by mounded dreams askew

bars enough against brigades of venial sin
that live and somehow arm and aim to swim
and swarm through windows of our present tense
and change our songs of flight to dissonance?

Gavin W Sisk

Appealing a Banana

So, I went to my doctor because something needed looking at, and he poked around and looked at it very closely, and he referred me to a specialist who’ll look more closely still–who’ll use a camera on a ten-foot pole (a bendie ten-foot pole) to look really, really close. And at the same time, my doctor noticed my blood pressure is up, about which I thought: no duh, we both knew that ten years ago. So he ordered the phlebotomist to stick me in the inside-ouchy part of my elbow to suck out precious bodily fluids for testing because everybody (the nurses!) knows I don’t eat well most of the time (because I’m always in a hurry or late or whatever excuse is handy for shoving more carbs and fat and salt down my throat). Maybe I should change my ways–eat bananas at lunch, leave the alfredo sauce off my pasta.
It took just three days to get the lab results, which is, like, three weeks before I was really ready because I know I’m going to have to answer to somebody (oh God, the nurses!) for all my gastro-illogical sins. And then I read through the pages and pages of details of acronymical chemistry and all the ranges of values and the not-so-valuable values we all should value staying far, far away from. I read it all, digested it all, and timidly put my values up against their ranges to see how close so far to a heart attack or stroke I’ve come. And finally I found my doctor’s disappointingly breviloquent note at the bottom of the last page: “Everything normal.” And all I can think is, shit! After stuffing all that junk into my body, shouldn’t I have something more to show for it than two words and a prescription for water pills?

Dec. 2014

Ignorance Amiss

I ask periodically: if the collective knowledge of humanity were on our tables–fresh, sweet fruit in bowls–if the knives were sharp, forks clean, blue-lit bay windows reflected in the plates; if we bought all that, fought for that, posted photos, ranted and raved; if we dreamt it, had it, did it, yet locked our doors and never shared or even peeled a single grape; if it were all ours–indelible and inedible as gold–ours but only composed in bowls, would we be better off than broken dark-age serfs, than emberless Neanderthals, than the dust of the dead in their graves–would this be an age of enlightenment, or just an age’s ignorance decomposed to myth?

Oct. 2014

Bigotry and Tea

Bigotry is not a conservative’s disease. Liberals wear its pustules too. The virus lives in lines we draw–in sanctimonious snares we cinch ever-tighter around our communities. This is a disease of paradoxes and ironies thriving in the same constitutions that seem to admonish it. It blooms in technologies broadcasting to billions the thoughts of frightened minds retreating to their caves. We grow smaller as we grow larger. The proper pill–bitter apparently–is education and critical thinking, which we ignore. When the two are co-opted by politics and ignorance, we let the devil win. But maybe that’s his right.

In my tea leaves: 
Expect nothing; keep your promises; hope for the best.

Aug 10, 2014