“A Campaign Speech for Winter” (from The Frequency of Whispers)

NOTE: With permission, this piece is accompanied by the mesmerizing photography of Tammy J. McNary

by Ben Koch

© Tammy J. McNary

In the age of coughing

sky and skin burn

it’s come to this: Winter needs

a new prime minister.

Our borders have loosened,

the old guards have dozed

in the snow, hunched or keeled

into a final white nap.

The bright seasons

are restless and careless:

when Autumn tosses

a billion rotting pumpkins

over its back fence,

who scolds her?

© Tammy J. McNary

And then Spring slurps up

our pool of resources

for it’s mosaic dazzle;

Summer screeches

across earth leaving blackened

tracks like a drunk

teenager in a Mustang–

who’s taking measures here?

If elected I would quickly employ

a department of seasonal security, I’d call

the hard-ass types who know when to whip

and bite, flannelled poets who shoot

bears just to warm their feet,

© Tammy J. McNary

men of powerfully few words who know

the back places of loneliness

like eccentric lumberjacks

caressing favorite trees like lovers.

Men who know some miseries

are worth dying for.

This poem appears in The Frequency of Whispers,

a published collection of Ben Koch’s poetry.

The Glass Hammer: Spoken Word by Playgrounds for the Poor

Official artwork © Playgrounds for the Poor

An old dear friend and soul-mate, Ty Cobb, has taken my poem “The Glass Hammer” (which appears in the frequency of whispers) and transformed and adapted it as a spoken word musical performance . Please have a listen to this edgy, dark-buzzed interpretation that gives a whole new emotional potency to the piece.

Explore Ty’s emerging musical project Playgrounds for the Poor and keep an eye out for more releases at his main site.

Complete Lyrics:

the Heart’s glass hammer swings at shadows / chipping ts own stone fortress / ’til it crumbles (the wall) / and shatters (the hammer). / It will bleed in rainbow-sonic beams (the heart) / as its castle collapses and the goblins / of the world, hunched / in their cold caves squeeze shards / between numb fingers and scrape / crude murals of the legendary thumping red / beast that used to light / the horizon of their eyes.

“Tripping on Total” (from The Frequency of Whispers)

A.K.A. “I Thank the Puritans for the Fabulous Evolution of Cereal

by Ben Koch

photo © Ben Koch

There was this rumor in high school

you could eat 20 bowls of Total and trip,

totally flip thanks to some trace

hallucinogen lacing the flakes.

Ty’s wearing a t-shirt with “cereal killer”

penned across the chest in sharpie,

though only coincidentally related to our scheme

today, the teenage scruff-beard of an aspiring grunge lord

shadows his face and accents his toothy

maniacal smile: “time for breakfast!”

For two boys on the cusp of rebellion,

the crusts of garage-band hood and anarchy,

this was too much to resist.

Would Hendrix, or Morrison, or Kurt Cobain

for that matter,

turn down such a deliciously silly high?

Hunched over bowl after bowl

think of the moral fiber

it took our puritanical grandfather

to scythe through virgin

prairies making way for wheat,

or whatever hearty grain,

his drive, his discipline, his sweat stained

the very parchments

that define this possibility, and it all came

to this—the apex

of industrial capitalism

causing visions like

a mutated mold.

Think of that old sanctimonious cod with us now!

After all, we don’t call it the Protestant-slack-ethic:

we’re his demonic dream-echo,

we’re the lusty hard-on under his staunch black preacher

garb, the voices between the scriptures ricocheting

in the hollow of the chapel!

I wonder would we sink or float

Ty and I, second-cousin beatnik

transcendentalists, believing gods leaves pockets

of precious heart-sight, total wild meaningful trips

for those who know the secret places to harvest.

This poem appears in The Frequency of Whispers,

a published collection of Ben Koch’s poetry.

The 12 Flicks of Xmas, 2011- Day 12: Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

The Twelve Flicks of Christmas

A ben’s TEN Holiday Series

Get the Scoop You Won’t Find Anywhere Else on 12 Christmas Movies Old and New
[See complete list of reviews]

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Rated PG
Starring: Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, and David Huddleston

Review by Jeff Koch

Conventional Synopsis:

Santa Claus: The Movie is really two movies in one. The first movie is the ‘origin’ story of Santa Claus, loving and jovial carpenter who, with his wife, gets caught in a blizzard one night while riding on his sleigh to deliver goods. Through magic (and perhaps death), the Elves find him and he is transformed into the mythical and magical figure we know today.

The second movie is a modern fable involving an evil toy-maker (John Lithgow) and a runaway elf (Dudley Moore) creating a toy that might inadvertently harm children the world over. Only Santa–along with the help of two young children–can save the day.

Beneath the Surface 

I had to break the movie into two separate entities because the first half of the movie is so magical and wonderful, and the second half so dull and predictable, that the two really seem to have no correlation to each other, other than the same actors.

All of the magic takes place in the first half. And to the movie’s credit, it really takes its time, letting the audience savor this loving man’s transformation into Santa Claus. We get to share in his wonder as he first sees the workshop at the North Pole and slowly unlocks all of the secrets of Christmas long taken for granted by most of us. We experience his first sleigh ride with magic reindeer, the invention of the “Naughty or Nice” list, the Elves magical industriousness. The film indulges us in every small detail of the North Pole, and doesn’t take for granted that we all already know what it’s like. It really captures the magic of what we all imagined as children.

The second half of the movie is such a let down–and has so little bearing on what preceded it–that I almost recommend turning it off once we get to modern times. The usually reliable Lithgow puts on a clinic in overacting; the children act so poorly it’s almost comical. Huddleston and Moore are still great, but there’s no real story to latch on to, no dramatic tension that propels you along. Even worse, the magic is completely sapped from the film. If there’s a message to be delivered here, it sure didn’t find its way under my tree.

The first half of the movie is certainly worth seeing if you never have before, but don’t expect any Christmas miracles at the end, nor any rush of holiday cheer or spirit.


Cocoa Factor = 7 out of 10
How good is this one for cozying up with a fire burning, a hot beverage of your choice, and your new Snuggy?

Magicality = 9 out of 10 / 5 out of 10
How well does this one transport you back to the timeless wonderment beyond rationality when Christmas enveloped you in magic? AKA “The Santa Clause factor.”

A Date with Grandma and Aunt Bernice = 8 out of 10
How appropriate/awkward is this one to watch with relatives of all ages? Will hot kissing scenes or male rear nudity spoil the mood?

Tiny Tim’s Big Truths = 8 out of 10 / 5 out of 10
From the mouths of babes come life’s most profound lessons. At the heart of this flick, how authentic, heartfelt and lasting is the message? Does it transcend Xmas clichés and ring bells?

Overall = 8 out of 10 (“movie 1”) / 5 out of 10 (“movie 2”)