tonight i weep

spread-eagle on my back

sad as candles flutter

and sweet

after weeks of attending

my daughter and her daughter

tears running into my hair

as yoga begins

my daughter teaching

before i fly away

it’s all so tenuous

being here

in this place

being anywhere

primordially simple

nothing happening

just sound, smell, taste, touch and sight

radiating, penetrating

mocking desire for more

i weep at the slights i’ve caused and received

moments lost, moments like this

of surrendering to love

my once-helpless daughter now seasoned

showing i passed the baton i barely knew to hold

while her daughter hour upon hour

pushes to know her body and mind

a drama i will rarely see

because of distance

and my death which hovers off-stage

to enter at its timing

leaving my daughter to hold this same rich loneliness

that my parents bequeathed me

supported by earth

and saved by this present moment i weep

knowing if i am lucky enough to die of disease

i may lie like this reaching for my last breath

begging for release when my body is used up

and having no siblings, my daughter may come

and place her hands on this old man

as he lies dying

the way she does now

as my teacher

© 2016Pope

Medellin, Colombia. August 22, 2016

On the occasion of being soon to depart my dear ones.




























Writing near the south windows in full grey winter light. Movement outside interrupts my spell, draws my eyes. A large deer is halfway through a full summersault on a twenty-foot arc heading for the middle of my garden. A scene and posture never witnessed in nature. 

The deer does not land. It collides with earth. Front legs buckle in a way that spells tragedy. Neck and chin land hard. I’m up, eyes burning. No horns, so a doe. Must have caught a hoof on my fence, running full tilt. But why? She tries once to rise. Unable, she looks back up the hillside whence she came.

The answer. A huge coyote is turning away from the evil smell of the human’s house. Glorious fur. He has been eating well. Not enough snow this winter to slow his hunting. But his prey can gallop too. Faster than him. But now, a drama literally lands fifty feet from me. He slips out of the clearing.

She sees him go. My stink has saved her. Through relief or faint she collapses, prostrate. She too has eaten well. Her huge body heaving for breath. Steam rising from her flanks.

I see him. He’s merely hiding behind the first line of plant stems. Weighing the push-pull of food versus instinctive caution. Will he dash in and gut her in my sight?

There are no guns here. Because the law of nature always works. Both species carry on in the presence of the other. Sometimes in spring I find cadavers of both. But she has only one defense—fleetness of foot. And she is out of the game. If he dares break the rules, she will be the one to die today. Unless…unless she is merely stunned. I’ve seen miracles. Birds dead after bashing my windows in summer come to and fly away. If so, is it existentially wrong to protect her while she’s vulnerable. I answer by seizing my fire poker, ready to intercede with shouts and wild dancing. But she will fear me too. To not drive her to him I hover inside the French doors.

He appears for a moment in the swamp near the low spot in the fence. And turns again.

It’s breath she needed. And lying still summons death, so she tries to rise. Finally, she’s up but limping. Wheeling inside the fence. She senses the danger in entrapment too. Her push-pull. Stay stuck or jump out and into his teeth.

Her front left leg falters. Bleeding. Broken perhaps. No, it’s worse. I see it now. The pelt hangs free. He caught her on the run and ripped hard. De-gloved the leg. Muscle exposed all around. The EMT in me doubts even a vet can save her.

She collapses again where the broccoli stood. Seems resigned to stay. Resting. Pondering, in her way.

I wrestle with Nature’s justice, of which I am part. Coyotes coming after dark, breaking their own instincts to eat close to a house is wrong for them too. In our own ways, the doe and I finally agree. She cannot leave and she cannot stay. I call a game warden. She’s an hour away, she says.

I wait, fire poker by the door, just in case. At last, the doe struggles up and I pray she is well-enough to leave. But no. Before I do, she has seen the game warden. The biped form triggers her species’ bone/mind wisdom to Flee! I share a few words with this tiny human who holds a rifle as easily as I hold my hoe in summer to turn the earth out where my doe senses her few options. That must be what she ponders, her wisdom beyond words. With matter-of-fact attention, she struggles with her infirmity.

At the first shot, she bolts like a healthy deer up over the fence that tripped her. Inside, I cheer. Now free, though, she seems at ease, in no hurry to run. The next shot perplexes her sense of body. She shakes and spins, falls down. But she is up again, bad leg and all. I hate this game. My push-pull. Third shot lays her down. The tiny person walks over and finishes her. Not in the head, which would be disrespectful.

I do this all the time, she says, as she turns to get her pulling rope to take the carcass to the food bank. In her absence, I kneel next to my doe. I sense the last little life in her. And just as I did once before with a buck who had escaped a pack of coyotes only to lie down in my yard two hundred feet from here to watch his guts pour out the hole they had torn in him, I lay my hands on her beautiful body. On her perfect hide, shush her. Stroke her neck. Tell her in words she can’t understand—so for my benefit, then—that she is beautiful and that I am sorry. And that she is so beautiful.

When Workers Were Human: My Grandfather’s Decency

When Workers Were Human: My Grandfather’s Decency

My maternal grandfather died before I was born. Yet, seventy years later, I hold his story close when advocating for the plight of workers during our COVID-19 pandemic.
Researching records, the Decker family line disappears quickly in the fog of immigration. My great-grandfather John came from Germany after our Civil War. As in many cultures in those days, family names were based on what work you and your descendants were destined to do. German students among you will know that Decker (shortened from dachdecker) means roofer, and leaving his family history behind, John Decker arrived penniless in Philadelphia. He took up residence in Germantown, of course, and raised his two sons to work hard at the only thing he knew.
And work, they did! My grandfather Frank and his brother John grew Decker and Sons to be one of the largest roofing companies in Philadelphia. My grandmother told me that on the eve of the Crash of ’29, her husband and brother-in-law were running 30 trucks, each with a crew of men.
You should know their route to that elevated station came from specializing in what might be called, “roofs of the rich.” We’re talking copper and slate, roofs that last 100 years. How, you ask, did two first-generation German boys pull this off? My grandmother Helen would lovingly laugh, referring to her husband Frank as ‘the hypocrite.’ You see, Frank’s brother John was a tradesman. He could teach workers the art and ran crews to perfection. My grandfather Frank’s skill was getting the jobs. He was the quintessential schmoozer of his day.
More than once, I heard my grandmother tell the story of Frank making his rounds through Chestnut Hill, the upper-crusty region of Philadelphia, looking at the condition of roofs on the mansions there. In those days, a man could get to know everyone and Frank knew the roof of the Spinster Mary was in serious disrepair. Seeing her in her flower garden, he pulled in and said, “Good day.” He spoke not a word about the roof. Instead, for over an hour he followed Mary around her garden, listening to her spouting fonts of wisdom and adoring each plant she was tending.
The hypocrite part was that Frank didn’t know a rose from a dandelion, but he gave Mary earnest attention and praise until, at last, she became tired and needed “to sup.” As Frank turned to go, Mary said, “Oh, Mr. Decker,”—those were times of manners, you know— “while you’re here, would you mind looking at my roof to make sure all is well?” Frank may not have known a whit about flowers, but he had mastered the Venus fly trap technique of business.
We, in the time of COVID, now understand economic disaster. When the Crash of ‘29 came, businesses shuttered overnight. The numbers of people without work exploded. But there was no safety net for the working class. Families were tossed onto the reef of misfortune like rotting bales of hay. Not only that, banks, too, were closing, meaning they had no currency to return to their depositors. The money of expendable people—those we now call essential workers—simply vanished.
Having come from nothing, Frank and his brother John knew what to do. In the attempt to save the local bank and its depositors’ lives, they each deposited $100,000, a total of $3.1 million in today’s currency. Some people actually got a fraction of their savings, but the bank folded anyway. Mirroring the true nature of capitalism, Frank and John’s largesse was gone without a trace.
But the brothers were not done. For the whole Great Depression, so that their workers’ families could stay afloat. the brothers used their personal funds to pay every man his normal weekly wage, whether he worked or nor. They also supported all of their In-laws’ families, because they, too, were out of work. Of course, then as now, roofs deteriorated. Some rich people opted for copper and slate, which helped the business putter along.
The war came and a few years after victory, my grandfather was riding in the passenger seat of his automobile with my grandmother driving. She told me his left hand suddenly curled dramatically drawing his attention and his final words: “Helen, look at this.” He was dead from a stroke before she could pull over to administer his nitroglycerin medication.
John ran the business, but without Frank, times got hard. John’s sons did not quite have their father’s determination. And squadrons of confident soldiers were eager to bury their pasts by competing with businesses of the Old School. Ahead lay two decades of releasing pent-up demand. Upward mobility was the new elixir of Capitalism. Our threadbare American individualism, languishing since Manifest Destiny had run out of real estate, suddenly had a new canvas on which to paint. After John died, the company went bankrupt and was sold.
We know what has happened since. It seems like lifetimes ago that owners would care for their workers as if they were family. Somehow, today’s champions celebrate our “progress,” saying we are the greatest we have ever been. This writer isn’t convinced.

An EMT’s Protocols for Surviving COVID-19

An EMT’s Protocols for Surviving COVID-19


March 25th, 2020 

The following protocols are designed for people who understand the need for self-isolation from the virus that causes the disease known as COIVID-19.* We have been given the ‘strong suggestion to stay home’, but since we in this society are used to determining our days and hours, we may not quite know how to enact what is being asked of us. To that end, I have attempted to make complex or vague ideas simple and linear. The situation is fast-changing. I will revise these protocols as necessary and any errors are mine.

 *If you do not understand the need for self-isolation, you may want to shift your sources for information to see why even the government, which at first denied this situation, is getting serious about this virus. Always seek out multiple views. 

CONTENTS: Bio, synopsis of disease, protecting 1) body 2) mind 3) and heart   


EMT, Buddhist teacher of mindfulness and awareness, author, farmer, father



     [If you are already well-informed, skip ahead to learn how to protect yourselves.]  

  •      — COVID-19 is a disease from a novel corona virus. Novel means new. New to humans.
  •      — Therefore, we have no immunity. Only a vaccine will prevent a human from illness.
  •      — No vaccine has been developed.
  •      — This virus attacks the lining of the air passages, causing severe respiratory inflammation.
  •      — If our body is older or compromised, our immune response fills/clogs our lung’s air sacks. Breathing becomes difficult.
  •      — Infection follows into those tiny air sacks. Our suffering is intense.
  •      — As we asphyxiate, our heart stops. Death results…unless we can be treated in a hospital
  •      — Latest research shows that 20% of those who die from COVID-19 develop heart damage that causes or contributes to death. Kidneys and liver are also developing fatal conditions.
  •      — The virus is not detectable by our human senses.
  •      — The virus can remain virulent for days, depending on where it lands.
  •      — The size of the virus measures 1 micron. Very small.
  •      — The virus enters our bodies through eyes, nose and mouth, and, I suspect, cuts and sores:

             1) if we BREATHE the aerosol droplets when someone ill sneezes or coughs.  

             2) if we are sneezed or coughed upon. Eyes are big doors for the spray.  

             3) if we TOUCH a contaminated surface and then touch our mouths, eyes, or nose. 

             4) It can come home on our hair and clothes and infect can the household. 

             5) Washing thoroughly with soap destroys it.


  •      — Without medical intervention, it kills up to 5% of its victims. If we all get it, 5% of 330 million =16.5 million
  •      — America has 95,000 ICU beds. It has 180,000 ventilators but only 100,000 respiratory therapists to run them.
  •      — Limited hospital beds and ventilators means hospitals will become full. If the virus runs rampant, many ill people will die.
  •      — When the system collapses, all other kinds of illness and accidents can’t be treated.
  •      — Even one million people sick in a short period collapses our medical system.
  •      — Therefore do not get ill now!!!
  •      — Important: Older people and those with compromised systems are more likely to die.
  •      — When enough people have gotten ill and recovered, a herd immunity reduces future cases
  •      — At that point society will return to a new normal BUT
  •      — It is unknown whether:

             1) surviving the virus makes us immune from getting it again, or whether 

             2) the virus will mutate (or has already mutated) which could make us ill again.  



  •      — Read CONTAMINATION above and realize that:
  •      — The virus measures 1 micron. Even N95 masks can fail.
  •      — No method is perfect. Medical staff also will become ill.
  •      — Without a vaccine or hospital care, TRY TO AVOID CONTACT WITH THE VIRUS
  •           1) Disinfect the home. If it is decontaminated** and we stay inside, we will not get it.
  •           2) We must develop and adhere to simple methods of “barring the door”.
  •           3) and we must not come in contact with the virus when outside the house. Read on.

** Clothing, counters, door handles, faucets, etc. must be disinfected. Every place you normally touch. Once it is done well, the house is safe inside, unless new contamination is brought in.  

  • ♦ BODY PROTECTION: PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
  •      — If we have made our home safe, we can relax inside it and lower our personal stress.
  •      — But how can we safely go out, when we must, for food or serious issues?
  •      — It is good to get air and to move. Do so away from others. Every door you touch is suspect for the virus. See gloves.
  •      — If you must be near others, EG to shop: be protected and be disciplined Read on.
  •      — If you don’t know when or how you will find yourself in a crowd, be prepared, as below.
  •      — SHOPPING: designate one person. The best person is healthiest, youngest, and most capable.
  •      — EMTs use disposable gloves, N95 masks, eye shields and disposable smocks.
  •      — If you have these, lucky you. Consider sharing with vulnerable households.
  •      — If you don’t have these things, improvise, as below.
  • ♦ HANDS – OUTSIDE***
  •      — Cover them with gloves at all times in potentially contaminated locations
  •      — Use whatever gloves you have. The more flexible, the better.
  •      — FIRST, practice putting on and taking off your gloves without touching the outsides!!!
  •      — Know which stops you will make & decide in advance into which pocket to place things. See below.
  •      — When out, treat everything you handle as contaminated. It could be! I also wear a                       
  •           dishtowel in my belt like a football quarterback in the rain. I use it for odd situations.
  •      — Shopping carts—every surface. Your gloves can become contaminated!!
  •      — Everywhere you place a store item then is “contaminated.” Keep your gloves on.
  •      — Your shopping bags become contaminated inside and out.
  •      — Keep cash and credit cards in pockets big enough to get gloves into.
  •      — Put keys into a pocket that gloves will never touch, or agree to have a contaminated car.
  •      — Need cash? Use an envelope and slide it into the “bad” pocket. Easier to pull bills from.               
  •      — Keep your purse and wallet clean.
  •      — If it’s okay to have your car be contaminated, don’t take gloves off inside. The wheel!!!
  •      — If you want safety in your car, take gloves off before touching keys, latches and wheel.
  •      — Your gloves are contaminated. Lay them on a flat bag on your car floor.
  •      — Coins are great virus transmitters. Disinfect them too.

***Some experts say you cannot pick up the virus from surfaces, that it can only be transmitted via aerosol droplets. They then say, never touch your face with your hands, which undercuts the logic of their first assertion. To wit: if it can’t be picked up from a surface, you should be able to touch your face. or we should be washing our faces all the time, too. I move with the belief that surfaces carry the virus no matter what some experts say.  

  • ♦ FACE – COVER IT****
  •      — Use a surgical mask (with loops behind the ears) or sew one. Or use some kind of dust mask.

         HOW TO MAKE A MASK if you can’t sew. 

  •      —Update: many online tutorials on making masks have appeared on the internet. If you must make you own, and do not own a sewing machine consider              these instructions below:
  •      — Use a bandana or cut a sheet long enough to tie around your head.
  •      — Open a large paper clip to fit over your nose. Tape it to the outside of your bandana. (I use Gorilla Tape.)
  •      — Check for fit.
  •      — Inside, tape layers of paper towel/tissues over nose/mouth area. I use four layers.
  •      — Test it. Can you breathe easily?
  •      — You must tie it and remove it without gloves on or it will become contaminated.
  •      — If you take it off in the car, place it, outside down, on a towel if you need to use it again before washing it.
  •      — Got goggles? Use them. Work goggles. Ski goggles, eye shields. Go for it. Be a bandit for a day.f
  •      — Some people have improvised with padded bra cups. Keep thinking of good ways. 

**** Some experts advise against wearing masks unless you are ill. They say 1) they don’t work. And 2) they say they make you touch your face more often. Bolderdash to both! 

1) Experts admit part of the reason is the need to save masks for medical personnel. If N95s didn’t work, medical personnel wouldn’t use them. They are NOT perfect. A homemade mask is NOT as good as an N95. But blocking any droplets from your face is good. 

2) IF you are disciplined in tying and untying your mask with clean hands and you lay the mask down as ‘contaminated,’ when you are finished your shopping, you are in better shape. Wearing masks or not, people will continue touching their faces. The habit is very strong. Best to have clean hands and a clean face as much as possible

3) Cooler heads are entering this debate. The newest point is that wearing a mask prevents you from touching your face. This will become the social standard. 

  •      — If your house doorknob is known to be clean, don’t touch it with gloves.
  •      — Place bags on a towel on the floor, NEVER on counters unless you love cleaning them.           
  •      — Place the towel before you go out. Some people place supplies directly in a garage until needed.The virus usually dies within a few days.
  •      — Take off your outside clothes, hat, mask, and gloves. Place on another towel. Wash them.
  •      — Disinfect everything you bring in as it comes OUT of the shopping bags. Things in plastic film such as bread, chips and potatoes can be emptied into a clean bowl by cutting the bag open and then saved in plastic storage bags. With clean hands pull cereal pouches from their cardboard boxes and dispose of the boxes. Etc.
  •      — Wash your hands. It’s a good time to take a shower. Wash your hair.
  •      — Your bandana may need rebuilding each time you wash it. Oh, well!
  •      — So plan ahead and stay home for 14 day stretches…or more. The prognosis is that our nation will be in shelter-in-place mode for up to three months if we want to avert widespread medical system ccollapse and large numbers of deaths.



This virus calamity seems to have arrived with lightning speed. On top of that it is disrupting every station and lifestyle in our human system—rich and poor, powerful and weak, near and far, working and not. In a matter of a month we are finding our bedrock foundations destabilized.  

Add to this, the rugged preventative measure of self-isolation. Realize it is possible that the voluntary type may become mandatory. This is way beyond normal.  

Given these conditions we can easily feel overwhelmed and betrayed. We can be sure much will be written about this time and its causes. But while assigning blame may help us in the future, pursuing it now does not ease our upset or offer solutions. Consider this: to negotiate the rapid and lethal twists coming our way, we need our best states of mind, to keep our own counsel. 


The one (somewhat) silver lining of this havoc is that being isolated and out of work offers us time to reflect, precious time that our overdriven lifestyles rarely afforded. True, our losses on every level come as a shock. And true, being dumped into space is also a shock to our normal way of being. We may resent the space. Funny, we always wish for it when we are working hard. Now we have it and it presents the opportunity to reflect on the change. Out of anxiety, we may become determined binge watchers of TV and movies. But it is a rare person whose mind becomes more clear from doing so. Out of habit we might use the space to focus mostly on the losses—current, pending, or feared. It is common to use anger, depression or other strong negative emotions to obliterate space. To abuse an old saying about time flying: space flees when you’re having fury.  

But space has its way of remaining unchanged and unintimidated by our moods. And when we stop, when we just stop, stop as our systems now have, we see we are alive. We are still alive. This fundamental blessing of having both a body and a mind is ours, and it is present. If we are not already sick or are not already caring for someone who is sick, we can easily feel the preciousness of this gift. With a little encouragement we might also see the space as the doorway to form new experiences with our same old body and mind. The future is not yet written or known. If we befriend our situation, we can keep our mind clear. This allows us a say in our personal future. 


Contemplation like that above is the prelude to action. First, we can take care of our household: improving the systems we can control. EG disinfecting, creating COVID checklists to “bar the door”, devising new ways of doing chores with our mates and families. We can brainstorm and draw up plans for various contingencies for both while we are isolated and for when we are finally free to go out without fear of infection. Home schooling becomes a big nut for families with children. If we have access to the internet, we can research teaching methods and materials. 



This is extending out, beyond our personal worries and concerns. Beyond ourselves, clarity allows us to see our family and household partners afresh. With a clear mind we can help them when they struggle with these same conditions. The truth may very well be that, as with other plagues throughout history, we all will lose someone dear to us to this disease. So let us take the have time now to call those people who are more vulnerable. Perhaps an older woman we just met who lives alone. Or someone worried about money. Or someone who can’t make a mask for themselves. Or someone caught in a huge apartment building afraid to go out. We have gifts. Now is the time to share them. Yes, it may be mostly on screens—computers and phones etc. But we can help some other family with their homeschooling through Skype or Zoom. If we are a mechanic, we can take calls from people who have car trouble, helping them determine how serious it is and perhaps finding them someone to fix it. If we are prudent about protection, we could go fix their car ourselves. We can help people with their taxes. This is a time of creativity which when combined with caring for others is the best of humanity. Let’s come out of this time closer together and wiser about how to live in this world. 

É MA HOH!   

Thomas Henry Pope © 2020   




Amadeus Transports

Amadeus Transports

Berkshire Time 5/19/12


Sometimes, when success emboldens a playwright to reach beyond the ordinary, sublime work results. Such is the case with Amadeus, Peter Shaffer’s drama about the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, now playing at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge New York.

Though many have seen the film based on the play, sitting mere feet from formidable actors transports us to the palace drawing rooms and destitute flats of Eighteenth Century Vienna in a way that film cannot. And what a journey it is. In two acts we witness the life and death struggle of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri, court composer to Emperor Joseph II, who vie to present their best art to the world. In the process, art itself is examined, as are fate, talent, ambition, intrigue, family responsibility and devotion to God. Mozart’s seemingly effortless genius is naïvely drawn into war with Salieri’s persistent mediocrity and murderous jealousy.

The fictitious narrative takes place in the last hour of Salieri’s life as a flashback to his youth when the even-younger Mozart arrives on the scene to compete for funds from the city’s royal and wealthy patrons. Mozart’s innate freedom to break musical convention allows him to compose circles around Salieri, However, this same tendency expresses itself as flagrant disregard for social mores. In short order, Mozart’s tasteless behavior threatens the very relationships he needs to survive. Being well trained, Salieri realizes how his employment and position in history are threatened by Mozart’s gifts and he succumbs to using guile to destroy his foe. In the ensuing battle we see, and hear, Mozart composing his finest work against great odds.

Hubbard Hall’s antiquity—high ceilings, wood floors and velvet curtain—enhances our flashback to the time. While the proscenium stage is used for vignettes in the palace, opera houses and Bauhaus, where such distance is appropriate, the intimate work of the play takes place amongst the risers. The set centers on a grand piano and, to our great delight, both lead actors play some of their music live. In one of theater’s most challenging roles, John Hadden (current Artistic Director of Hubbard Hall) turns actor. As Salieri, he embodies the essence of longing, deceit and jealousy. His emotive power and stamina are true to Salieri’s ambition. In the vast ranging role of Mozart, Miles Mandwelle moves with confidence from childish brilliance to broken soul. Besty Holt, as Mozart’s wife Constanze, deftly shows a woman being honed by the failings of both men, turning from selfish girl to strained wife to saint and finally to exploiter of her dead husband’s work, with which profits she takes care of her children.

In fabulous period costumes by Sherry Recinellas, the supporting cast plays multiple roles as dukes and derelicts, grand dames and gossiping ne’er-do-wells. They create operas, complete with onstage audience, numerous plays within this one play. We follow them all, hating the inevitable conclusion. Was it consumption, syphilis, poison, broken heart that killed Mozart?

Excellence as we see here is not random. We are fortunate that Jeanine Haas (Artistic Director of Pauline Production Theater Company in Massachusetts) jumped at the chance to direct this complex show. The lighting and choreography delight the eye. And all through is Mozart’s music, which steals every show . . . except this one.