Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Note to self:
When being trounced, don’t frantically try
To even up the score

Resist the rabid impulse to
Make up lost ground
Attack against all odds

Goal one should be
don’t get hit

Punch “reset” and
Renegotiate the terms of
The encounter

Throw up a flurried wall of
Obfuscating action
Sabotage the opposition’s game

Change the rules
Shake her faith
Infect her hand with doubt

Forget victorious
For now, just settle for annoying

If the pace was slow,
Go fast; the distance far,
Stay close

Cultivate a calm and even gaze
Accept that I’m already dead, and
Badger from the grave

When I’ve regained an even keel
Taken back the rhythm
Begun to lead the dance

Then turn the tide
Touch by careful touch—one eye on the clock
An easygoing haste

Now, to ink this on my hand
A cheat sheet when the chips are down…

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What I Learned this Year

Creates negative polarity
In time, it severs
Its own bonds

Is a coin with
Two sides, else it is
Worth nothing

Can live on air
But, unfed, becomes in time
Quite thin

Born of true affection
Blooms in arid wastes, seeks
Nothing in return

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hungry Eyes

I want your lunge
Her lovely feint deception
His facility to flick
Feather light, airing o’er my back

I want your equanimity when
Chasing seven touches, forty seconds left

I want her squirm, displacing target to
An alternate dimension

His ESP intuiting exactly
Where my tip will land

I long to assimilate
The beauteous traits deployed
By my opponents
Ingest them as my own

I want I want I want
Sometimes, to be
Anyone but pedestrian me

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Visit to Rockville Fencing Academy

50 Southlawn Terrace
Midnight, Christmas Eve
Beneath a bright Polaris
All’s quiet on the second floor
(Since, alas, we lost the mouse…)
And peace reigns in the corridor

Down the darkened hall
Beyond the stern, foreboding sign
(“Halt! Past this point, only patrons of the salle”)
A shuffle, giggle, clomping and soft “hush!”
The lock jiggles, pauses, and gives way…
In tumbles a multi-colored and chaotic rush

It’s not just dear Saint Nick, it’s the whole crew
Halfway through their rounds
Their break is overdue
In quest of cookies they’ve set forth
(As Badger Bakery’s rep has spread
From Maryland to All Poles North)

They polish off the platter
(Salty Oat and Chocolate Chip)
Tidy up stray crumbs, begin to chat and natter
They’re almost ready to embark, but lo! Attention strays
To jackets, neatly hung upon the wall
To blades, brightly arrayed

The elves begin to shuffle and postpone,
Glance at the Boss, their eyebrows raised
He sighs, and checks his phone
Mentally parsing flight times to Ukraine
Then shrugs and gestures to the room, and…
Lets chaos reign

The reindeer joust, bellowing and snorting
Up and down the strips
Noses alight with every touch, cavorting
Red Green Red Green Red Green White
The scoring machine reprogrammed
To belt out “Silent Night”

Santa fences epee, relaxing from his toils
A big man bouncing lightly on his toes.
The elves grab thirty-two inch foils
--Jackets coming to their knees,
Masks to their belly buttons--
And demonstrate their expertise

When its time to re-engage his troupe
A thump of the katana and they freeze
Gather up the scattered gear and, lightning, they regroup
Snip! Snap! Slap! Everything is back in place
The foils racked, the jackets clean and pressed
The trash thrown out, each cup and stray shoelace

Lights out, door shut, the racket fades
All’s peaceful, none would ever know
Except…the jumbled stack of broken blades
Neglected by their warder
Are wired, taped and neatly stacked
In perfect working order

With courteous formality
A neatly lettered note
“Thanks for your hospitality”
From distant sky, a jolly voice belts out
“Merry Christmas everyone
And to all, good bouts!”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I am beset by
Drilled in
Timed to the metronomic beat of

Advance, advance, feint-with-disengage-and-lunge


Perfect in execution but
(Thank heaven)
Flawed in application


Programmed in deft
Sequential acts devoid of
Drilled to inappropriate
Vulnerable to
Improvisation, the

Present a paradigm that
Does not fit their
Program and it
Gums up their gears
Worms its way into their head and
Brings them down

I’ve never been so grateful for my glitches
For my rank and all-too-human quirks that simply don't compute!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Anitya (Impermanence)

I can intend to
I can intend to
Intend to
To keep my limbs
As polished, supple as my

I can’t stop time

Time will heal
And in time
Time will unwind what it has
Knit together

I am

For now, that is enough

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Once the basics
Into the bone, the nerve
Enmuscled memory
Percolate beneath the skin

Once the lunge is
Parries auto-load into
The proper line
Ripostes self-detonate
Incognizant but

At last
One day
One bout
One moment left unplanned and

Commandeers my blade
Highjacks my hand
A sequence that I never learned
Explodes, a
Leap surpassing practice
A clever commentary on the

Spooked by my startled
The moment flees
I’m left
Armed only with

But deep inside, a hollow’s left behind
A puddled imprint, waiting to refill
When drought lifts and inspiration storms…

Monday, November 15, 2010

Safety Distance

Flirting at the edge, always a
Little out of reach

Pulling my long attack while
Scoping out my game

Throwing off my tempo, making me

Clever strategy, or just

At this remove you are

Hazarding no bruises or

No inadvertent chance of

Clever? Perhaps, but
When all’s said and done

You have to dare engagement for
The chance to score

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Keeping Score

The flip side of my triumph is your
Rueful irritation

The obverse of my failure is your
Joy in victory
Extraordinary or

The touches, tallied
Sum to zero—
Either way, the balance is
The same

The Powers that Be don’t care if you or I are
Only that the sheet is neat, correct
And signed

A lesson here
In cosmic disregard for our

So bugger them

Let’s change the
Nature of the game
Invent a different currency
That multiplies with every touch

As we test
And challenge
Amplify our repertoire
Arm our imagination

There’s no cap on
Insight and experience
A jackpot that pays out from
Every bout

Monday, October 25, 2010


Oblivious of having
Teased the porcupine
To bristle

Baited you to
Throw your quills
I’m taken by surprise

Left mute,
Making myself small,
Fearing I will
Make things worse

With equal speed the flare subsides, leaving
Peace? Reunion? Grace?
Or just a blank page in this version of the past
Redacted by authority
As if it never happened

Nothing to regret, explain
But far from reassuring
Not knowing what I did to spring the trap
I worry that I’ll be ensnared again

Remember what they say:
Those who obliterate the past are doomed to re-enact it
I’d rather study, understand, and write a better future
co-author needed—perhaps you will apply…

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day Residue

Composite fragments of the
Weave a night of dreams

Random play back:
Icy seep into my sock
Shards of broken blade
The musk and funk of
Multiple bananas &
Stab of cramps that come

Threaded in a fictionalized net of
Wishful replay
Alt endings that will
Never change the past:
The crucial parry, made in time
The final touch—on-target
A brilliant strategy un-marred by
Faulty execution

Studded with random sweet, true snapshots:
A subtle disengage, and lunge
A sneaky squirm
A deadly long attack that springs from
God knows where
Certainly not practice

Acute embarrassments
Stutter and repeat
With perfect clarity
And merciless detail

Surfacing from sleep
The story thins
Gauzy details shred and

Groping for the light
My hand closes on the cold, hard
Outcome of the day

Proof that there is hope, along with
Ample room for improvement

Monday, October 11, 2010


Sternly told to stay aloft
Stay back, stay put, stay
Still, the shoulder rolls,
The hand sneaks down…
The yellow card comes out

Despite my firm intent to
Lock your gaze as I drop down
My head turns turtle & I
Lead with my thick skull instead of
Tender nose

Atavistic instincts of defense
Deeply embedded in
The neural net:
Protect the face, the belly button
Family jewels

I try to reassure my fragile parts that
All is safe, that
They can trust the jacket
Plastron, chest protector

But lack a certain
(Evidence my stash of
Wraps, pads, braces
Bandages and tape)

So now and then they elect to deploy
Extreme defense against the
Maniacs hell bent to chase them
Down the strip
And off

They don’t give a damn for penalties, alas
So whack away! Perhaps a bruise or two will prod them to obey

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Baker's Diagnostic

No nuts no spice no
Raisins, simply
Oats and sugar goodness

Smokey chocolate depths
Infused with
Alcoholic bite

Sophisticated hints of coriander,
Cardamom and mace

Solid Americana,
Pumpkin, molasses,
Sugar = brown (of course)

Chock full o’ health
And calories: almonds, walnuts
Honey, oat bran, dates

Basic & dependable,
Chocolate chip with cinnamon
A little bit of chew

A cookie Myers-Briggs
Confronted with this plenitude
Which would you choose?

Monday, October 4, 2010

To Coach

(On the occasion of Henry Harutunian’s 40th anniversary of coaching at Yale)

Balanced at the end of strip
Out of room
Out of breath
Grasping for solutions

Coming from behind
Summoning my courage
Creativity and

Comforting myself, vowing to do
Better, Try
Harder and yet
Not beat myself up

Your voice
I hear
Cheering from the side

I owe you more than ever I can pay, and so I simply give
My thanks, and love

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reflections (after fencing 4 fifteen touch bouts)

I am only happiness
Bliss is struggling to break
The bounds of impropriety and
With expectations

I am only bliss when
Being thrashed
With beauty and with
And sometimes can respond with
Bright riposte

I am thrashed with
And grace when pushed so hard
My mind breaks free and
Sometimes, my heart sings,
The target pierced

I rest

Friday, September 17, 2010


Each blade,
Secure within its sheath
Fold jacket, knickers, plastron
Neatly in the eager bag
(Smelling improbably sweet)
Turn the lamé inside out
And roll

Check the e-kit
Bandages and tape
Ice pack
Heat pack
More tape

Judiciously select a jelly
And butter (Almond/flax)
To slather on the bread
Sequester treats
Chocolate, nuts, banana
Pack the cookie box
Stow everything secure and…

That’s it
The last things under my control

Tonight I sleep
Or not
Tomorrow night I’ll undo
All that I have done today
Unpack, wash, repair and rest

And in between? Unknowable and

Too bad
You can’t cram for a competition

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Salt to a wound
Sand to a pearl
Nucleus of inspiration

Sometimes, you teach,
The greatest leaps
Begin with irritation

And so you poke
And nip
And goad
To spur my education

Though you mean well
I often feel
Primarily frustration

Perhaps we could
Try adding in
Sporadic relaxation?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


One breath
Mind stills, centered on my blade
One breath
First step, entering the fray
One breath
Test, watch, dance, explore
One breath
Tease, bait—feint? Ignore…
One breath
Bounce, glide, jump forward, back
One breath
In this moment, now…attack!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Letting Go

For all our plotting, planning
Earnest application
We don’t write the script
We play upon the piste

Fate dishes out surprises
Setbacks, consolations
Occasionally jewels of perfect action
Shining from a muddy bout
All the more delightful, being

We none of us command our victories
We tumble to them
Opening to grace
Pleasantly surprised by
What leaps out

It’s harder to appreciate
The value of defeat
Coinage in the bank of wisdom
Invested in improvement
Bearing interest only slowly, over time

And so I listen to the whiskey-rough & Jaggered voice of truth:
Bling is great, but even when I don’t get what I want
It may just be exactly what I need

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I’m ashamed to
Act this way
Schoolyard pettiness
Kindergarten cliques
Junior highjinks

Never quite available when
You come up to bout
Drift away to tape my blade
Upon your approach
Always on
Some other strip

All beneath my dignity
—ok, beneath my age—

But I can’t stop

I conclude it’s
Embedded in some primal
Crevasse of my brain
We simply do not synch

Best I can manage is to cover with some
Modicum of grace
What I can’t reform

Knowing I should thank you for
This lesson on
Attachment, and aversion
The very human nature of
The pack, the herd
Sneeches seeking stars
Who’s in, who’s out

Remembering that boundaries shift—
And in the past, I’ve been the one left ghosting on the other side

Thursday, September 2, 2010

S Curve

I loved the
Intoxicating rush
Tumbling up the slope of progress
Burning through the letters
E, D, C
Powered by the dregs of
Youthful competence

And now…

Each next step--
Asymptotic effort
Each teeny victory--
10x the preparation

Plot my progress:
Time at the gym, number of practice bouts…
Results at competition
Does this flattened arc
Forecast the future?
Have I banged up hard against my
Innate limitations?

My improvements come in
Geologic time
While I am faced
With biologic deadlines

I fear
No matter how I hone the knife edge
Of my skills
I’m doomed to never be the
Sharpest in the drawer
Seeking enlightenment, I’m
Simply a dim bulb when it comes to

Can I bifurcate my mind—
Be content
Accepting life as
Perfect as it is
Even as I push myself to
Higher altitudes
However short of breath?

Now might be the time to cultivate a willful ignorance
Of calculus, of probability, of trends

And be the sort of blessed, idiotic optimist beloved of the gods

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Proper salutation
Not some half-assed
Bobble of the blade

Shake with true regard
Don't slap, or cringe as if avoiding

Hold on to the socket
Hand it to
The next one up

Extra credit: when defeated
Cheer your opponent
In their next DE

Share—snacks, chairs, credit,
Spare equipment, everything but blame
Courtesy’s embedded in the nature of our game

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Anger is a chancy fuel
Posing danger of
Unregulated burn

Righteous indignation is
An awesome flare
But iffy to maintain

Unhappiness is
Water on the flame
Unlikely precondition for success

I’d rather cultivate a
Calm and eager heart, a joyous, steady conflagration
Powering my touch

So tickle me before a competition
Rather than tick me off—
Tease with gentle conundrums

Primed for laughter
Poised for combat, heedless of success
My creativity unfurls

Remind me I know
All I need to know, I need only
Get out of the way

Lulled with confidence my mind will abdicate
Responsibility, settle down
With popcorn, cheering from the side

As all the proper actions happen by themselves
Just as you say they should…

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Home Base

Equipment bags strategically deployed
Demarcating territory
Temporary lodgings
Tribal bivouac

Scattered sweaty fragments of our gear
Jackets draped across the chairs in the
Vain hope they will dry
Before DEs

The cookie box, proffering
Sugar courage
Consolation, solace
Well-earned rewards

Here we gravitate to trade
Encouragement, advice and news
Touch, hug, fist-bump, offer
Sympathy for unjust calls, hurrahs for victory

They strike the strips and
We decamp as well, scattering
Debris of battle
Candy wrappers, bits of tape, a crumpled list of scores

It will be bigger, better, bannered at the
Next stop upon our migratory route of competition!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How to Choose a Coach (A Dichotomous Key, in Blank Verse)

A) Do you thrive and grow with:
1) Positive feedback, praise and reinforcement. If yes → American
2) Detailed explanations of the myriad ways that you fall short.→ Proceed to B

B) Do you react to pain by:
1) Stopping to rest and heal. If yes → American
2) Recognizing injury for what it is—a weakness of the will. → Proceed to C

C) Do you need:
1) words to parse what you do right, instructions to improve. If yes → American
2) or, can you deduce from foil’s twitch, a shrug, a snort, a mimicked lapse, a disapproving silence, what needs to be done? → Proceed to D

D) Do you believe that:
1) Pleasantry, the random joke or smile, a little kidding, make a lesson fun and, therefore, more effective? If yes → American
2) Niceness is insincere, therefore the enemy of the good. → Proceed to E

E) Is your reaction to a threat that bids fair to kill you (body, soul) to:
1) Run like hell. If yes → American
2) Embrace it as the path to true salvation? → Proceed to F

F) Do you accept that any good result arises from your Coach’s talent and instruction, all failure from your own deficiencies?
If yes → find yourself a Russian coach, sign in blood and brace yourself for one long, hard, painful, interesting ride.
But never say you were not warned….

Friday, July 2, 2010

In Transit

Idled in security
Packing and repacking my ominous equipment
Gleeful explanations…

Obnoxious yoga at the gate
My deepest Warrior I, a wobbly Crow
Diverting restless energy

Discreetly flaunting biceps
Angling to show the
Ostentatious bruise upon my arm

On the laptop, competition video
Hoping for the question
“There, on the left, that’s me. That colored light? My touch.”

Inevitable queries
“How do you pack your swords?”
“Doesn’t it hurt?”

And (my favorite)
“You get paid for this?”
(Pause for silent laughter)

Absolutely conscious of the
Transitory glory of the world
The brevity of my bit part

I’ll play it to the hilt, while
Waiting for the action to begin

Friday, June 18, 2010

Taxonomy (continued)

Diagnostic answers to the question, “whose touch?”

Mine! Didn’t you see me take the blade!?!
You missed! Remised!
I think there’s a dead spot in your lamé…


Yours, I do believe
I felt you take the blade
Ever so light
A very sweet parade-riposte
Well done!


I can’t tell
Who started first
Let’s throw it out

I ask again—where do you see yourself?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Middle Distance

I can
Sneak inside your reach
Nip you in the side
Harass you with impunity
Skip away and taunt you with
Receding possibility of
Your victorious attack

Split the difference?
Smack gob in the center and I’m
Dead meat
Easy target
Ice cream on a stick
Habiting the dread Bermuda triangle that
Swallows my defense
Makes me easy prey
Tattles my intent

Oblivious to when I
Cross the border to this
No-man’s land I
Suffer the delusion that I
Bob and weave
Float and glide
With matchless grace
Actually I
Hop in place
Tethered to the strip
A bouncy badger ball

Lesson learned? When
Inspiration fails
Mind blanks
Spirit flags
Score tilts in the wrong direction
If nothing else remember this one
Simple thing:

Move your badger ass!

Monday, June 14, 2010


Somewhere I lost myself along the way

I thought I knew my hand...
And now I don’t

My foot a strange
Random appendage
Moving on its own
Appointed path

Passing the mirror I
Catch a stranger’s glance
And look away

Have I shed memory
Habits, inhibitions
Trimmed the edges of
Whittled down to my essential self

Or am I morphing,
Unhurried transformation to
An unfamiliar form?

And, (v. important please), if the latter
Is it an improvement on my former state?

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I’m a bundle of
Habits and grooves
Programmed moves
Fettered by the
Sticky residue of
Ill-considered acts
Bad calls
Inconvenient facts

Starting clean I
Shed my shoes
Pad with pinky feet into
A fresh day
New start
Rebirth, renaissance and
Step into the
Gluey mess I fled

Petty words
Irascible verbs
Lies by omission
Losing with bad grace
Inflicted on my world

I need a dip in
Spiritual solvent
Soul stripper
Fate flipper
Acetone for destiny
Break with my routine
Start clean
New regime
Epic transformation

Tabula rasa—good mission, great ambition.
Thus my petition—anybody got a rag

Friday, May 28, 2010

Stage Fright

Contemplating registration—
Time, date, place
(& worst—the likely rating)
Puts me on edge
Cramps my shoulder
Damps my humor
Shuts my stomach down

What imbecility—
Results means nothing in the larger picture
Not life, love, income, health, security
No one but me will even give a damn
How I perform
Less impact than a
Fallen cake,
A sodden batch of dough

I’m being disingenuous.
I know exactly what this is
Recognize the tightness in my gut

It’s fear
I might fail, and failing, fall to meet
My secret estimation of myself

So—knowing that, what then?
It’s just psychology…intangible, correct?
Not a fleshy wound that takes its own sweet time
To heal
How long could it take to
Change a mind?
Flip a switch and make electrons course on
A new path?

If it can be done at all…
I would have to
Redefine success
Reprogram my thesaurus to cross-index to
Valiant effort

It’s hard
To overwrite an eon of conditioning
Wired to demand a
98th percentile
Nothing but the best

Something to consider—you parents out there
Shepherding your kidlings to the strip
What’s the price of
Expectation? And
When will the debt come due?
Maybe decades hence

My advice—lionize a ‘failure,’ now and then.
Break out the cookies, celebrate and go home

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Epeeists—well versed in
-Rather bouncy-
Like to tease but
(Rarely) to commit

Sabreurs—oblivious to
Bulls with china
Parading chests
(And paunches) in the salle

Foilists—entangled in
Mind games
Recursive arguments
An excess of analysis
Head cases, every one

So, where do you see yourself?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In My Day

Footwork, first and foremost
Endless lines: advance, retreat
Minutia of how to pose the
Foot, hip, knee
A hundred lunges every day

Finally! Earned by dogged patience
The privilege to hold a blade and hit…
A target
Extend, recover
Aiming at the one square inch of center
Marked in tape
‘til it felt my arm would drop

My reward for battering the
Leather square into submission?
Drills! Two on two
Precise prescriptions
Parry, riposte:
Four six seven eight
Executed without deviation
Oooo! Exotica—a circle six for spice

Finally (by grace my patience held out that long)
A bout…

Look at this year’s crop:
Whacking at each other from the start
Blades like windmills
(reminding me of miniature golf)
Feet splay
Shoulders hunch
Butts stick out
Foils clutched like staves
Lunges like a bunny hop

I look at them and see…

Ungainly grace
Unconscious strategy, and

Maybe we could trade:
A little bit of my precision for
A bite of your
Naïve improvisation
Spit and shake—a deal

So, who comes out ahead?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ars Morendi (The Art of Dying)

To have no future is to accept
Living in the now
The death of habit
Abolishment of filters that
Define the world
Pull its claws and make it
Safe, predictable and sane

Leaving me
No independent moves
No pattern language
Framing what comes next

Just this moment

Unmoored, without the anchor of
My self-directed mind
I am adrift
Seeking for a deconstructed heart

Monday, April 26, 2010


I’d love to be a solitary,
Independent beast
Kipling’s cat, walking (fencing) by herself
But honesty compels me to admit…

I do better with a retinue

A minor posse: one, or two, or three
Whom I know will get my
Little fencing jokes
(Displacement to the side
The badger dance of victory)

Not giving me advice
Dictating actions, strategy or time
No puppet masters
Fencing in my stead

Just a friendly voice to nudge me when I flag
Bright with confidence that
I can do
That can be enough to
Give the little lift I need to
Boost me o’er the hump

So come and watch and yell, shout out,
Stomp and clap and cheer
And I will gladly do the same for you. Hey-la!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Appreciation (Poem for Barbara)

Hair white
Limbs bare of excess flesh
Crinkle at the eye’s fold
Accumulated years
And yet

You are not
sweet at all

Tough, stubborn
Desiccating wit
Bearing little patience for
Fools and chatter

Dry lefty humor
Making life
As difficult as ere you can for
Supple opponents
Time and again you step up to face the
Wild and the strong
Half your age and twice your size
Resolute to
Make it count

You put me to shame…
I’ve lost only bits and pieces
You’ve shed
Wholesale chunks
Spliced together
Partially intact
You persevere
Taking up the blade
As soon as you are able
(Sooner than is wise)

I can think of worse than
Emulating your determination

Age is only wisdom…sometimes
Since you’ve got the knack, stick around and share it please
With those of us who’re yet to tread the path

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Little shards of pain
A muscle tweaked
A throbbing thumb
Even a wrinkle in the sock

Count my breath
Hum a silly tune inside my mask
Working up the scale of Fibonacci until
I lose count

When it works
Flick lands, light as feather’s touch upon your back
Parry 2 riposte, upon the very edge of your lamé
My long coupe attack completes, unmindful of your squirm

Anything to wave a shiny object
At the corner of attention
Sometimes it’s enough to
Break the hold of
Tyrant mind

Given that I cannot think and do at the same time

Friday, April 2, 2010

April Second

Peanut butter in the glove
Menthol in the mask
The box reset to “sabre” every time you
Glance away
An urgent message that your car’s
Been towed

Best of all—your weapons surreptitiously
Assembled with a
shorter blade

All these glorious, wicked thoughts
Maybe it’s a good thing I stayed home last night…

Monday, March 29, 2010

Vipassana (Clear Seeing)

Transitory flash
Of insight, precognition
I see your intent


Foot kicks forward hard
Arm hitches back, presenting

Into this small gap
I lunge with alacrity
Squirm, and close the line


Teasing you to strike
Too close for you, perfect for
Stubby badger paws

Baiting with my lunge
Drawing parry four, riposte
My second intent…


Rare and precious bout—
Next time will be different
Good in its own way

But not the same…

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dukkha (Suffering)

Towards the lesson’s end
“Just five more good touches, then a break”
Hah. I know you lie

Coming out of pools
Seeded lower
Than when I went in

Called onto the strip
First bout of direct elimination
Realizing that I badly need to pee

Sprinting for relief
Then seeing that the cold and smelly jacket
Has to go back on

Exhausted, reaching for my bag
Discovering that
I forgot my lunch

Finally headed home in dark and cold
Finding the directions
Don’t work in reverse

Soaking in the tub
Beer in hand, it’s over and done
Except, except
There’s video of all my bouts…which I know you know

Friday, March 19, 2010


Smooth glide entangling your blade
Forte to foible
High line to low
Certain of
The whereabouts of blade…
Perfect move for a control freak
Like me


Hours spent
Leaping back and forth
Wrestling with weights
Sprinting ‘til I gasp
All to build the base endurance that I need
To dance upon the strip
But now…
I’m too sore and tired
To actually fence

And now my lovely bind--
Hey, what’s with this?!
You pivot round my blade
Fulcrum into 2 and then riposte
Gah! Traitorous momentum turned back against itself


What might seem the obvious solution
Bull by the horns
The direct route
No prisoners
Has drawbacks

Strength engenders problems of its own
Countervailing force
Illusions of control


Better, maybe, sometimes to
Dodge and disengage
Sink to stillness
Rest, rejuvenate and

Let the right solution come
In its own time

Friday, March 12, 2010

Do Tell

Arm hitch
Off hand twitch
Shoulder tense
…Signals of offense

Blade whack
…Predicate attack

Foot stutter
Hand flutter
Sudden halt
…Prefacing assault

Ingrained moves
Well-worn grooves
Unconsciously betray
…Make you easy prey

Solution? Simple
Better execution
Hide, or better yet

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Flip Side

Any strength
Is weakness, too
Small, fierce, stubborn
Badgerly traits that stand me in good stead when
Chips are down, my opponent 6-foot-3
And half my age

But these attributes come back to
Bite me in the bum when
The bout demands a cooler head
A slower hand
More leisured pace

Sometimes my fierce and stubborn nature sends me
Plowing down the strip
Beating on your foil
Rat-a-tat-tat machine-gun mammal
Hurling myself upon your blade
Caught up in a suicidal quest to


Let’s try this again

Gently swing into the dance of
Back and forth (using both directions, note…)
Tease and tweak and run away
Don’t be so invested in the touch that
Failure is disaster, cataclysm
Give anything a try
And take delight if (by a miracle) it works
If not, then tally it as
One small piece of wisdom
Added to the store

Be a little bit less strong…
But less weak, too.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


In the center of the human eye
A blind spot

Optic disc
Where nerves combine, twine,
Launch themselves en route to

Seems like a major
Defect of design


Focusing your gaze,
While seeing nothing at the core
Expands awareness of
Tangential happenings

Your best perception’s sited slightly to the side
Off base
Alert to every movement of a foot or foil
Every twitch and feint

Thus the rule:
Don’t look at your opponent’s blade
Target on his chest, his shoulder
Belly button
Where ‘er it is that you intend to hit

A universal lesson:
We’re blind to our obsessions so
Concentrate on nonessentials
Things you cannot see
And can’t control
The vital residue will take care of itself

Friday, February 26, 2010

Perpetual Recovery

It’s always something

When the dinged hand heals
The foot gives out
Ice and ibuprofen do their work
Suddenly, the calf
Contracts into a muscled lump
Pull out The Stick and roll, and roll
Soak it in the bath
To decompress

Life’s an endless round of heating pads
And ice
Tape, orthotics and compression sleeves
Vital accessories

Doling out the pills
Balancing the inflammation of my joints against
My liver’s tolerance

Staying in the game—
In the long term it’s a struggle
I know that I’m doomed to lose
But then, so are we all

For now, it will suffice to ice and dose
Massage and soak
Wrap and brace and patch

Get me to the strip and every pain’s erased by
Endorphin rush
And sheer delight

Fencing one more day, or month, or year would be enough. Dayehnu!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Off Hand

There’s really no good place to park it
Dangling at the waist—a smidge away from carding
Raised in a poetic arch—SO quaint
Resting on the shoulder—feeble little T-Rex paw
I’ve even seen it perched atop the mask (which looks deranged)

In Tucson, once, I fenced a gal who had none
(No off hand, that is)
Fabulous example
Of making lemonade

In this asymmetric recreation
It’s vestigial
Sure it holds the mask while you salute
Big deal
It spends the bout
A minor anchor for the arm that does the
Yeoman’s work of flinging forth the lunge
Or pulling the recovery
Once in a blue moon it shines, provides the flourish
Capping off a squirm
Mostly, like a little sister, it’s enjoined to
Stay out of the way

Worse than useless
A nuisance
Begging for a bruise
Or cut, or broken nail


In the end,
The roles reverse
Gloved hand relegated to the humble task
Of juggling mask and foil as
The off hand
Reaches out to shake

Embodying victory or, at least, good grace

Friday, February 19, 2010

Too Amped Up

Slash and flick the air
Striding to the strip
You slap your leg
Snort and jump into a deep on guard

After every touch
A grunt
Or yell
Or tenor ululation

After every questionable call
A grimace of disgust
Voice raised in indignation
Arms gesture, miming what you think you did
Head shakes in despair

If I hit you (when)
There’s hell to pay
Charging down the strip
Beating at my blade with all your strength
Anything to put me in my place

And (here’s the kicker)
It’s just practice
What call for such testosterone-induced ferocity?
Set aside the “Y” for just a bit
Listen to your inner X and be…a mensch
If not a mentor then at least
A co-explorer of the possibilities
Within the bout
A fellow traveler who can
Celebrate what I do well and
(on rare occasions) lose with grace

Combat is not always war, ok? So call a truce, and battle me with gentle violence, calm determination. AND...DON’T...YELL.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Zero Balance

High School nights—
Homework at the table
Napping like a dormouse by the fire
Bed by 9 and (shock!) a book beneath the covers

Homework at the desk
(Sometimes, Sterling or Cross Campus treks)
Nodding o’er Organic Chem
Bed by 10 (no, really, it’s the truth)

No parties. No carousing
(Except a few team whoop-it-ups after
notable victories. Perhaps one all-night marathon of

Fast forward thirty years.
Now deep night is when I’m
Warm and loose
Ready to engage

10 o’clock and I’m just started
Looking for the eight bout, or the ninth
Prepped to shed my lamé and my cord
Bracing for a lesson that will
Push me to the brink
1 am and I am virtuously tumbling into bed.
(Well, except when I am late)

The debt comes due at dawn
Up at six to stretch and start the complicated dance
Of food and pets and poop and papers
Planning for the day

Now, now I want to draw on that account
At least eight years of copious banked sleep
Plus interest
Confident it holds enough to cover my extravagant
Expenditures of time, and find it

What gives? Who stole my
Safety net
Drained my savings
Left me

So much for thrift

The lesson? While you’re young and have endurance
Blow the wad—don’t save it for your later years

Rest isn’t like a Twinkie, it won’t keep for decades ‘til you
Need emergency supplies

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Silent Teaching

How can I explain
What lives, imperfectly
Encoded in synapse, muscle, bone?

Words fail

“The lunge is thus
The arm extends, just so
The knee remains above the toe”

I fumble to explain

Language is a feeble conduit
My blade conveys much more than nouns and verbs
Your eyes can hear much more than I can speak

This, this action, tension, angle, spring

Just watch
Let lessons sink into the mirror of your mind
Transmute into memory of acts that were not yours

But could have been, and will be in a future past
When you surpass me with your graceful acts

Monday, February 1, 2010


Is an act of will
Not faith
Based not on conviction
That you will care for me, keep me from harm
But certainty you won’t

Trust is walking on live coals
Juggling fire
Swallowing words
Like honed swords

These are not domesticated threats
They burn, or slice
It is their nature
Just as it’s the nature of the world to wound

And so I trust
Knowing that if not this time then the next
The flame will bite, the blade pierce…
You will lash out
That’s why we callous, to withstand
The heat and lanciation of
Being who they are
Consistent in their imperfection

Friday, January 29, 2010


Here’s a secret…
Talent’s over-rated

Some young bucks with
Natural ease
Unselfconscious grace
Instinctive touch
Start with fearless joy
But quickly cool
The arrogance of easy victory
Turns to frustration
When they hit the rising asymptotic curve of skill


Those with fewer innate vantages
Persevere with patient, plodding
Pedestrian persistence
Savoring each small victory hard won from
Hours of toil
Pain and
Sheer determination
Appreciating every small advance
Backwards through the alphabet
Celebrating milestones
One touch against superior opponents
One perfect bout
Third place
In the end, they may o’er take their meteoric friends

Woody had it right—
Eighty-percent of success is just showing up

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Soundscape II*

Thrum of feline happiness
Whine and strain of mixer’s motor
paddle mired in resilient dough
Muted tidal slosh of laundry coming clean
Ticking of the oven, hoarding heat

Lyric play of blade on blade
Sing of wire threading through the barrel
Resonating thwock of perfect, centered touch
upon the target, drumming on the wall
Clatter of the blades inside my bag, knocking at my hip
Silent slice of wind against my ears
Stepping out into the darkling night
*See Soundscape

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dormouse, Dormouse Dormez-vous?

Where is the Dormouse?
Sleepy little beast
Banking up her energy
To spend upon the piste

Faced with the prospect
Of fencing fifteen points
She curls up for forty winks
To loosen up her joints

Having bounced upon the strip
Finishing the bout
She’ll collapse and take a kip
Her energy’s run out!

During Sloth Bear’s lectures
A guess to where she is?
Oblivious to “point in line”
She’s catching up on ‘z’s

So where is the Dormouse?
Taking a brief snooze
Don’t be deceived by sleepiness
Sometimes it’s just…a ruse


Know what’s really tempting?
Just to hit
Like Godiva chocolate
Illicit pleasures
Endorphin hits doled out like
Peanut M&Ms
Red, green, brown, blue
One for every touch

Problem is,
These tasty treats will
Make you fat, complacent
Wire you with operant rewards to just
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Drilled into a trite robotic rut

A better diet has you
Eating crow
Swallowing the bitter disappointment of
A lost bout
Loss of face
Letting others feast
Harvesting their touches as you
Discipline yourself to practice moves that will
Ripen months hence
Even years

So, use common sense
In balancing your fencing meals
Curb your gluttony
Take a bit of that, a bit of this
Even things you do not like
(Attacking into six)
But save room for dessert

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Watching from the corner of my eye
Fleeting snatches of a lesson by
the Other Coach
Interesting footwork, rhythm
A clever piece of work
Hmmm, what if…?

Nowadays the fashion is to pick and choose
A little bit from here, from there
In everything—philosophy, religion, art
It all becomes collage
What is the value of a single path?
And what is lost?

Could I stay true to my
Main Man
While sampling another guru’s line?
Philandering a bit
Flirting with heresy
Might expand horizons
Make me feel worldly, and experienced

Sure, some of it is incompatible
The action’s from the wrist
Scribing neat and tiny circles
Round your blade
The line is from the elbow to the tip
Grand sweeps scorning subtlety
These can’t co-exist
But footwork, timing, strategy
A robust exploration of alternate views could be…


Remember the rewards
The dividend of working through
Frustration, boredom, pain
That comes from facing the same face
Week on month on year
Hearing the same admonitions
Time and time again

And then there is the daunting prospect of
The sturm und drang
The jealousy and punctured pride
That comes when infidelity’s exposed
Is it worth an ‘A’ (scarlet or not)
To so disrupt the natural order?
(And, besides, Siberia is lonely, and it’s cold)

Coaching’s a commitment—while serial relationships might be the norm
Polygamy’s a cardable offense

I guess I'll stick to
Faithfulness to one who knows me far too well
To fall for my deceptions
Or be impressed
Or ever let me be less than my best

Monday, January 18, 2010

Not Quite

Slipping past your chest
Gliding underneath your arm
Skittering across the vast expanse of your lamé

Landing with a gratifying thunk
Dead center in your chest…but no light

Endlessly I
Bruise your knuckles
Whack your leg
Slap your shoulder
To savage your off-hand

Sometimes I
Navigate your tangled maze of parries
Find the sweet spot open
Only to fall…a quarter inch too short

Some fencers have
Magnetic personalities
Their blade within an inch or two
Of any valid target
Will land, and score
No matter how improbable the touch

My blade’s cursed with
Opposite polarity
Averse at any cost to
Closing the circuit
Making the connection
Ending the phrase

Given sufficient time, the Earth’s magnetic field will flip again
And maybe so will mine

Meanwhile, it’s a better bet to dedicate myself to target work
Extend, recover, lunge…

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Listen to the coach
Eyes and ear-tips lasered on his every word
Even if you do not understand them

Safety first
Even blunt, your weapon is a weapon
No pointing it at faces bare of any mask!
Tip down

Always do your best
Even if you cannot make it work
All that’s asked is earnest effort

Play nice
If you lose your temper, turn and walk away
Never never never strike to hurt

Remember why you’re here
What a joy to stand upon the strip!
Battling with mind with hand with blade against a worthy foe
Have fun

And Badger says:
Help yourself to cookies,
after your last bout
en guarde

Friday, January 1, 2010

Stories I Tell About Myself

[A poetic response to this post from Fencing Bear]

That I’m a hidden hero, waiting to spring
Fight injustice, save the underdog
If only opportunity presents

That next year I’ll be stronger, better, faster
If I’m diligent and disciplined

That I can do quite well on five hours sleep

That when someone dislikes me
It’s because they’re jealous, or afraid
In short, a reflection of my true superiority

That, magically, I’m prettier
When the mirror doesn’t look

That “seeking work/life balance”—not just an excuse
For slacking off

That I can feed, if not the world
At least the denizens of my small domain
And in so doing heal their wounds

That my love makes up for all uncaring acts

That by pouring words onto the page
I can discover truth; and if not truth then
Comfort; if not comfort
A modicum of understanding

That maybe in another life I’ll have a chance
To get it right