Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sparta, Illinois - 1963

The following appeared on on April 19, 2010
We have Maurice Hirsch’s mentor and friend, Catherine Rankovic, to thank for today’s Poem-of-the-Day. Welcome! He joins us from Chesterfield, Missouri. Here’s some background he’s shared on his poem “Sparta, Illinois–1963
We lived and worked in Sparta from 1962-1964. It was a tipping point in the transition of this town/area from segregation toward integration in jobs and where you could live. While the printing plant put out magazines and comic books for urban center consumption, the town was Southern-Illinois rural.
In an “art imitates life imitates art” moment, the movie In the Heat of the Night was filmed there in 1966 and had a real impact on the community. Originally set in Mississippi, the IMDB database says: “Mississippi was eventually ruled out as a location due to the existing political conditions. Sparta, Illinois, was selected as the location, and the town’s name in the story was changed to Sparta so that local signs would not need to be changed.”
This led to African-American mid-level managers. One of their sons became the first African-American physician in town (and was taken as a partner by a while physician). It took until 1971 for there to be an African-American hero in a comic book.

Sparta, Illinois

Like half the town
I work at “The Comic Book,”
where white men adjust
printing presses and bindery machines
that spew white heroes
Casper the Friendly Ghost,
while blacks wield brooms, load freight cars.

Six months pregnant
with our first child,
Marian walks to the plant,
our tiny black poodle,
Voodoo, on a leash.
As we stroll home for lunch,
she tells me the dog bit her hard.
We chat about baby names.

Later, I go to Rotary.
The minister sitting next to me says:
You’re the first Jew I’ve ever talked to.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Over my academic career, I was the author or co-author of books in my field. One where I was sole author is Advanced Management Accounting. The second edition came out in 1994. Somewhere around 1999, the US publisher no longer supported the title and the copyright was released to me. Later the same year, the UK arm of the same publisher contacted me and wanted me to sign a contract with them (assign the copyright to them) to print a soft-cover edition of the book. No changes. Just soft-cover. This came out in 2000.

Over the past 10 years, the book has sold in Europe, mostly in The Netherlands. It’s been pretty steady and I’ve gotten royalties (what I call “money falling from the sky”) every year.

Now, there seems to be a new interest in the US for the book. Mind you, it has an original copyright date of 1994. I have just received word from one accounting professor that he is adopting the book for a fall class of 15 graduate students. I have another inquiry just this past week from another professor for a graduate class. The book is available through Amazon:

Given the book is not tied at all to financial accounting, auditing, or tax (whose rules and regulations change more often than the Sex in the City women’s garments), the only way it would be out of date is if practice and theory in the field of management accounting has gone beyond what I posited and wrote about over 16 years ago. Guess my work has been durable. My son says I was ahead of the curve and they’re just catching up with me. Whatever is happening, it makes me happy. Is there a poem in all this?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Form 990 Revulsion

In case you haven’t noticed, the federal government has instituted a whole new Form 990, the IRS form that a non-profit has to fill out annually. It used to be pretty straightforward. Now it’s Byzantine.
The organization where I’m business manager (volunteer) received a questionnaire from its accountants. This questionnaire (an Excel file) has over 40 different pages to be filled out, questions answered, data schedules filled in, etc. Frankly, it’s a nightmare.
I can only posit that the reason we are subjected to this horrendous requirement is malfeasance and misfeasance by some big non-profits where funds were not used in the manner they were supposed to be and executives were paid outlandish salaries, etc. So the rest of us who have been honest and make sure our funds are used for the purposes we outlined in our 501(c)(3) application are penalized by bad behavior from other agencies. It’s the old “one rotten apple spoils the barrel,” I guess.
Well, it makes work for the CPAs since no mere mortal could fill all this out and make sense of what the government requires. And it makes people like me who have to fill out these 40 pages of questions and figures crazy and angry.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Tropic of Cancer"

My poem, “Tropic of Cancer,” was a runner-up in this year’s St. Louis Poetry Center’s Nash Contest.
Several years ago, I got the news I had prostate cancer. I had a radical prostatectomy. The pathology report said there were cancer cells at the margin of what they removed, a sign some might have escaped.
I get tested every six months. So far, I’m okay. I used to call the doctor’s office immediately for results. Now, I often forget to call at all.
This poem is about my journey from my biopsy results until now. I question a fading intimacy, immediacy, and wonder whether I’ve become too blasé.
The contest judge wrote the following about the poem:
“The central metaphor of this poem – the poet compares the onset of illness to a typhoon – is rendered with precision and fine dramatic control, in lines like ‘…there’s a nascent smell of rain / and flying fish move in an arc away.’ In the hands of a lesser poet, this conceit might have exhausted itself, but here, it is continually made fresh through the candor of the poet’s voice, and through the inventive use of language. Bravo!”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rain Barrels and My Pool

I got the idea from the young man who cleans my pool. He backflushes the pool to clean the filter. Water from the pool gushes out onto the ground to go wherever it wants. He suggested we get rain barrels to collect the water and then we could use it when needed to water plants and our berry vines.

I contacted some local people I had met at Chesterfield’s Earth Day celebration, Robinson’s Rain Barrels. The nice young couple who have this fledgling business came out and I contracted with them to furnish me with what I needed and install it. It works!

The chlorine from the pool water quickly evaporates so the water is safe to put on my raspberry and blackberry vines nearby using a soaker hose. This will be wonderful in the heat of the summer when rain is scarce. Good idea!