2018 Spafford – Berger Christmas Letter

Spafford – Berger Family photo with all eyes open (minimal sun squinting)

Friends & Family,

Hold onto the envelope this letter came in (if you received via USPS) because it has a new address for us. Just go ahead and put that envelope in a safe place until you get a chance to enter the address into some digital format or your favorite old timey address book. Maybe put it in your favorite kitchen drawer where similar things go to transition from useful to seldom looked at. You know, where the old phone cord lovingly cuddles with the dead batteries you can’t get rid of and the stress ball you are always happy to stumble upon in a time of need. But I digress. Or do I? What does the holiday season have to do with a junk drawer?

If The Savior Jesus Christ had a junk drawer (and I’m guessing he did, being a man of the people and all), I’m sure his would have contained frankincense and myrrh. Joseph and Mary probably would have used the gold themselves – or started a savings account for the baby Jesus. But frankincense and myrrh? Are you kidding me? Perfect junk drawer stuff. Just as a refresher, frankincense is an incense that was a symbol of deity and myrrh (an embalming oil) was a symbol of death. Incense? Embalming oil? Hard to use it every day, but good to have around.  If you ask me, only one wise man showed up that night – packing gold.

This year we carefully packed up our junk drawers and headed East to the first ring suburb of Roseville, MN. We were sad to leave our NE Minneapolis neighborhood where we’ve spent the last 24 years (5 years in the first house and 19 years in the second one). We arrived before it was hip and trendy. Now we’ll try to make Roseville cool (even though I’m not sure it was us who transformed NE Minneapolis).

The move was prompted by the fact that all three kids go to school in Roseville. We realized that we have another 10 years of driving back and forth with no bus options, and we can’t convince Iris to drop out of school.

Speaking of three wise people, the kids are doing great. Lila just turned 16 and is looking forward to getting her driver’s license soon– as soon as we drive around with her for 60 hours. Hoyt (11) plays soccer six days a week and twice on Sunday. Iris (8) is taking swimming classes and as of late enjoys Tuesday evenings at the local library reading to dogs.

Our junk drawers are now in storage, so we’ll spend the rest of 2019 filling new drawers with incense, embalming oil, batteries and new addresses.

We hope your 2019 is equally productive and your drawers overflow with memories from the past and reminders for the future – and none of them are junk.

I raise a cocktail named Three Wise Men -containing Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam (technically not a cocktail because it’s all whiskey, but indeed, a real drink) – and toast you and yours this holiday season.

Happy Holidays from the Spafford – Berger Family!

Rye and Fire

Get your guns
And carry them to the creek
A Colt 45 long and sleek
Crops come in
Rye comes out
Herald and shout
The fire chief stood in the yard
Said it looked like arson
I said it looked like love
Not every day in this big ol’ life
That someone tries to burn you

Rye and fire, rye and fire
She’s spare and tranquil
Lettin’ her heart get its fill

Crops got in
Rye came out
I left her for the miller’s daughter
She grabbed matches and fodder
And proved her love
Was stronger than hanging ropes
And jail bar hopes
Gotta forgive that crazy woman
Who loves me just like fire
She warms my heart
With her brazen attempts to put
me out
Put me on a pyre

Rye and fire, rye and fire
She’s Odessa in the night
Her love will put up a fight

Crops come in
Rye came out
The miller’s daughter went off
With the sheriff’s son
Talk of burning all done
I stay in her arms
Where I can watch her hands
And how they move

Rye and fire, rye and fire
By my side til this world gets dire
Her love won’t get tired

MUSIC AND VOCALS by Anna Schulze

from Wanna Be a Rock-Star, Can’t Play a Gui-Tar


Lay down in a snow colored field
Soft like goose grown
Where death is covered by the winter
Your heart from the suspect season
Let your cheek feel the frozen earth
Sprinkle concentric flakes bitter and numb
Cold to warm fresh flesh
Young like the night stars above
Naked and cold half-moon spilling milk light
Over your calico hat
Cities and towns and people and animals gone
Gone from our nuclear winter night scene
I’ll be the atom and you the evening

Calming and leveling and warming
Take my hand and draw me close
A planet to your sunshine
Fire lighting window of the distant
Farm house spying on the night
Peeks from behind the shadows of trees
Two more snow angels in the night
Then back to the fire
Leave the frosted field behind
Let the starry night be alone
Without jealousy
feeling of your light
Illuminating its wintery scene

from Fat Poet Dies in Grain Elevator Accident

Ode to Death

Devil devil die
Death mortal dead
Mucus moss filled death
Bad luck
And so on
from Car Sick from Circus Peanuts

The Perfect Day

A pushy gray sky sinks
Dripping teeth into my day
What to do but stay
In my shelter
Thoughts of Helter Skelter
Mariah Carey
All somewhere playing
With the sun
Frightened away

_______from Car Sick from Circus Peanuts


That guy’s a no good pimp
He’s got no weapon or guts
She’s like a butterfly
In a jar
Tempered like hot steal
Hardened by a starless night
She needs to be found

Not enough holes in the lid
That pimp’s gonna get cut
She’s wanting to get free
Wants to run wants to strut
She cuts herself deep
Never seems to bleed
Has to fight to breathe

The girls on the street know
Her name is Sweetness
Glass not thick enough to hold
Her clock is ticking
With blade in silent stocking
Heels clack down the street

Pimp sees nothing coming
Ninety seven pounds of hate
Push a singing blade through
Two goal tended ribs
And heart screams obscenities
At pimp body and mind

Sweetness calmly walks
Away and free
For another day

from Fat Poet Dies in Grain Elevator Accident & Other Poems


Vacation from Saginaw

I pulled into Bethlehem
Sixty miles from Nazareth
Who knew to say amen to PA
Dreamed of leaving Saginaw
And heading not far enough south
Got a job as a forklift driver
Punched a clock at a cold storage
Quit for Fort Lauderdale FLA
Traded Harley Davidson beer
For a place to sleep and a seat at the bar
Ambled to Key West
Camped in a tent and slept on lawns
And post office parking lots
Thrown in jail in Beaumont Texas
For getting drunk and fighting
The KKK where it lives
Seems like a bad idea
Broke down losing a tranny
Inches from Cody Wyoming
Accidentally went fishing
With a killer
That guy really hated
Got to San Fran in time for
The ’89 earthquake and into
L.A. in time for mother’s to cringe
And pull children to the other side of the street
When our long hair came towards
Headed to Mexico for Johnny Carson
In Spanish and cockroaches on the bar
Threatened jail in Tijuana
By Mexican cops looking to make a buck
Landed in Vegas and met some ladies
Ran over a wild boar in Texas
Can’t stop to clean the car
Carried the stench to New Orleans
Put on a mask and walked in a cemetery
Pointed north
Kicked out of St. Louis for disparaging Bud
Kicked out of Iowa for cursing in a pub
Can’t go to heaven for fear of the snub
So went to Wisconsin
Landing in the summer with a fin
Bought a drink and a sin
That was one helluva vacation
Can’t wait to get back to Saginaw
And get laid off again

from Fat Poet Dies in Grain Elevator Accident & Other Poems


Mountain Cabin

Log cabin befriends the side of the mountain
Smoke slips out of the chimney
Like a grey woman from a corset
Free and relaxed on the bed of a sky
Logs call to squirrels and chipmunks
Tall trees look down on fallen brethren
Stacked atop each other for comfort
Of others
Sideway glances to heaven
Kept from decaying grave by stain

Log cabin holds within the warmth
A dangerous fire burns with trust
Can’t hang a picture inside
Nothing smooth and simple
Mimicking real life
Keeping weather away silent
Snow drifts with the wind
For hundreds of years the same
Way down the mountain life blooms

from Fat Poet Dies in Grain Elevator Accident & Other Poems


Low Mercury

There’s a chill where I walk
So I can’t stop and talk
It’s a pressure cooker winter again
The fruit was bent, seeds took flight
There’s only the crunch under foot
And the blackened dog Mary named Soot
The chimney pipes talk real loud
Train cars crashing together off Central Avenue
Break the icy air like thunder at a feast
It’s heard across a quiet Nordeast

Getting closer
Checkered flag on my GPS mind
Wasted breath dead
Frozen and sprawled over a beard with clout
Gotta get in that door
It’s hot in there like Palm Springs
Chick singer band really sings
Leave the train tracks behind
They’ll be there later to find
Bundle up all your frost bite fears
Step to the bar as cheeks burn warm
Man and best friend escape low mercury

Get a drink made of sweet bright grain
Belt it down and wait for Mary
Everyone looks pure and born again
Coming out of the cold into the sanctuary
With the night in front of us like Route 66
Catching our breath and shifting into high gear
Get ready for a new blistering year

Mary comes in christened by twenty below
I see frost on her lashes
She sees flannel on my arms
Take her in like a blanket
She wears a cross around her neck
Where a scar used to be
Her cold is a moment thieving my heat
We’re happy she’s here
Away from the rail

from Wanna Be a Rock-Star, Can’t Play a Gui-Tar


Maybe Baby

Giving up the dead
Haute and circumstance
Rings of fire circumspect
Light rises buoyed and shed
Push through the contortions
Of the cortex, Cortez sailing
Beyond the flowers and familiar soil

Pick up the scepter and dance
With morning embers of chill
Clarity waits on white foaming horses
Adoring dawn impeccable, replaceable
Breaking from the dank within
Leave death behind
Like cool tiresome bath water
Float to your one
Protected in purple robes
And tomorrow’s mess

Tomorrow will wean itself
From today like a cool coated calf
Fresh and wide eyed
Not knowing what will be
Meted out
Fragile quivering legs
Talking calmly to the ground

Ushering in the future
With red velvet stanchions
White gloves
A flashlight pointing in the direction
Of a coming attraction
Looking for reaction
Walking calmly with the sound

Wanting panhandler change
Chewing on greenbacks
At Hollywood and Vine
Dreams of becoming the butterfly
So transparent
And life so scant

from Fat Poet Dies in Grain Elevator Accident & Other Poems


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