Still No Nomination for Peace Corps Director

The National Peace Corps Association has discussed the new political appointees to the Peace Corps and notes that we still do not have a nomination for Peace Corps Director.  None of the appointees profiled here are RPCVs. Since 2007, when then President Bush appointed RPCV Ronald Tschetter Peace Corps Director, each Director has been a RPCV. John Coyne notes Carol Bellamy (Guatemala 1963-65) and that Mark Schneider (ElSalvador 1966-68) both were RPCVs and had the directorship.

There is an interesting article in Government Executive suggesting that the deadline for temporary appointments to leadership postions in the federal government is approaching in November. Many vacancies remain. Currently, the Peace Corps Director is a temporary appointment.  Her leadership team is dominated by temporary appointments.  At the Peace Corps Connect Gathering last August, Ashley Bell suggested that we might have a Deputy Director before we had a permanent Director. Read the article about November deadlines, here:  http://www.govexec.com/management/2017/09/fast-approaching-vacancy-act-deadline-puts-some-pressure-trump-speed-appointments/141410/?oref=govexec_today_nl

Here is the NPCA article:

“As the Peace Corps community awaits the nomination of the next Peace Corps Director, a handful of Trump administration appointments to the agency have begun their work at headquarters.

The most recent addition is Chip Wheeler, pictured left, who was recently named Associate Director for Volunteer Recruitment and Selection. Wheeler’s professional career includes ten years as vice president for private sector initiatives at America’s Promise Alliance, the Colin Powell – founded organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people. Most recently, he served as national director for Community Investments in the Office of Corporate Responsibility at Voya Financial.

Many who attended the Peace Corps Connect conference in Denver had the opportunity to meet and hear from Ashley Bell, pictured below, appointed back in July to serve as Peace Corps Associate Director for External Affairs. In his remarks, Bell spoke passionately about the nonprofit that he founded in his home state of Alabama to address criminal justice reform and mentor young at-risk students in his community. One of those young men once asked for support in getting into the Peace Corps. Since submitting that recommendation letter, and ultimately seeing his mentee thrive as a Volunteer, Bell says he has admired Peace Corps’ grassroots community approach.

In his new role, he will oversee the offices of communications, strategic partnerships and intergovernmental affairs, gifts and grants management and government relations. Prior to Peace Corps, Bell served as a special advisor in the Public Affairs Bureau of the Department of State, where he developed strategy around the Secretary of State’s domestic engagement agenda.

Bell and Wheeler join Matthew McKinney, no picture available, the first appointee who is serving as Peace Corps’ White House liaison. McKinney has made his first trip abroad, visiting with Peace Corps Volunteers in Armenia and Georgia. Prior to his Peace Corps position, McKinney served as a Special Assistant to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan in the office of appointments.

Administration appointments continue to move at a slower pace. Eight years ago, Aaron Williams had been nominated as Peace Corps Director in early July and was on the job by late August.

Along with reaching out to Peace Corps’ new leadership, NPCA will continue to monitor, provide input and report on progress on the selection of a new director and other agency leadership.”

https://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articles/peace-corps-political-appointees-trickle-in?utm_source=National+Peace+Corps+Association+E-Newsletter&utm_campaign=b8faa4be3c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_06&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_be0534d28a-b8faa4be3c-118547649&mc_cid=b8faa4be3c&mc_eid=edb727065d


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  • While, all else being equal, I would favor an RPCV over an applicant who never had been a volunteer, at the same time I’m reminded that volunteers’ service can vary significantly, and often not only from project to project in a given host country, but even from assignment to assignment. THEN, consider the radical differences between those nebulous, undefined community development assignments in Latin America, vs the typically well-defined duties in most African projects. A totally different situation and expectation, and requiring a very different volunteer depending on which. SO, a former volunteer from Latin America, appointed Director, could be clueless about what makes for a successful volunteer in Africa, and prone to disasterous decisions trying to judge one continent’s needs in a volunteer by the realities of the other’s.

    What matters, I think, are other personal qualities, like being a good listener. Empathetic. In that regard I always had high regard for Mark Gearan, who had NOT previously been a volunteer anywhere.

    I’m reminded of the Hon Kevin F F Quigley, recently appointed to a lofty educational advisory post, and once CEO of the NPCA. Consummate resume-builder, Washington “insider”, and East Coast academic and elitist — contemptuous of any opinion, volunteers’ or other, which varied from his own. Whole issues brought up even by seasoned volunteers he would dismiss with a simplistic “I disagree with you.” End of discussion. Or “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” End of discussion. I often wondered how as a PCV he got along with host-country nationals he met in Thailand. We certainly DON’T need a former volunteer like THAT, serving as PC Director.

    I remember years ago as a PCV, watching volunteers in two African host countries, and talking to many others, that the most successful volunteers often were neither those with no personal feel and commitment, there for an adventure (or to escape the draft), who lost interest within months and terminated early. Nor were the excessively idealistic volunteers, who soon discovered that African kids’ could be pretty mundane, and whose aspirations were no more than to nail down a clerk (i.e. “clark”) job at the local branch Post Office. These volunteers similarly soon concluded they were wasting their time, and likewise terminated early (or years later concluded they never would have volunteered had they known) The volunteers who lasted, and who felt good about what they were doing, were somewhere in the middle, with a healthy mix of idealism and commitment — balanced with a sense of personal gain, and personal enlightenment (i.e. Second, Third Goals).

    And so, today, decades later, I’m uneasy with PC Recruiters interviewing prospective volunteers with NO idea the setting in which they might serve. Same goes, as I said, for those who would be PC Director, and other lofty jobs. John Turnbull Ghana -3 Geology and Nyasaland (Malawi) -2 Geological Assignment. 1963, -64, -65.

  • RPCV Turnbull, your recollections and assessment of many earlier PCVs — especially of those recruits who checked out before completing their service — are probably accurate.

    But maybe more to the point is this question: Which self-respecting RPCV, who had successfully completed two or more years of service, would ever want to apply to work for Tr_mp?

  • Thanks, Tina, for your thoughts. Another way to look at it is not to “work for Trump”, but rather to try to save something of immense value from his agenda.

    It was a long time ago, when a similar question came up in my post-PC life, being drafted into the military. To make a long story short, my reserve duty was just after Kent State, and even with my criticism of the Vietnam War, my CO, when my unit was mobilized to deal with anti-war protesters, chose to disarm all of our skirmish line, and gave ME the job of sniper. I still remember his comment “You like these people, Turnbull, YOU decide who dies.”

    I was going to refuse, when I saw the big smiles on the faces of my First Sergeant and Detachment Commander, and realized that THEY were responsible for this. I realized that they knew what was coming and desperately needed someone they could trust, doing the shooting. Who better than somebody with three years of PC experience in Africa, and one of the best rifle shots in the company. I accepted the assignment, and am happy to say that nobody on my watch got killed, or even hurt seriously. I think the brass, and the State Adjutant, were immensely relieved. Was i collaborating with “The Big Green Machine”, or was I saving lives ?

    If Mr Trump should ask ME to be PC Director, I would accept, and do what I could to minimize the damage. JAT

  • Dr. Robert Textor was the author of the “In, Up and Out” which was transformed into the Five Year Rule. He also edited the Peace Corps classic: “Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps.” In honor of the Peace Corps’s Fifty Anniversary, he put both his memo and “Cultral Frontiers of the Peace Corps” in the public domain, For years after his death, Stanford maintained his professor emeritus website and it was possible to access these publications there. Now, Stanford has made them accessible only to its Library patrons. We are trying to get that changed. Here is a excerpt from Peace Corps World Wide’s article on Dr. Textor, which is pertinent to today’s discussion:
    PEACE CORPS WORLDWIDE
    BooksAboutContact
    The legacy of Robert B. Textor
    Feb 02 2014

    “This is a good time to remember how very much Robert Textor contributed to the Peace Corps. He was one of the original Peace Corps staffers. He believed passionately in the Volunteer and just as importantly, the RPCV. Textor was the the author of the “In, Up, and Out” policy or as it is more commonly known, “the five year rule.” But, he insisted that tenure should be eight years, not five. He envisioned a Peace Corps agency staffed 90% by RPCVs, arguing that the cross-cultural experience of the Volunteer was transformative and should be incorporated into every function of the Peace Corps agency. In the months before his passing, he was still fighting for that vision. When the Office of the Inspector General reviewed the impact of the Five Year Rule,in 2012, the evaluator, an RPCV(!), interviewed Dr. Textor. Dr. Textor wrote an essay elaborating on the development of the “In, Up, and Out Policy.” Dr. Textor also very involved with early training. He joined with Thailand I, whom he had helped train, as well as University of Michigan to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps” http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/the-legacy-of-robert-b-textor/

  • Interestingly, and totally independently, from my own professional experience, I had come up with a similar conclusion to Dr Textor’s, that five years was too brief, for many reasons, and that something like eight or ten was preferable, particularly, where young, entry-level RPCVs were concerned. Less significant for side-door hires coming to the agency in mid-career. Five years would get an entry-level RPCV hire barely past the first promotion, and nowhere near the executive suite and higher-level policy-making.

    I wonder (and Joanne you may know), whether Dr Textor would have considered all volunteer experience to be “transformative” by definition. My memory goes back to the discussions at the first PC Review in 1967, and already the realization that the volunteer experience in Latin American projects was much different than for Africa and Asia projects, and the early termination rate already at that time nearly 20 times higher with the Latin American projects (I recall something like 25% vs 1+ %. “Transformative” might be negative, and therefore counterproductive. Last year I was talking to a much more recent RPCV from a Latin American project, who stated that of his specific training group, nearly ALL of the volunteers had terminated early.

    I would stick with my earlier opinion (above) that for a host of reasons a volunteer’s experience from one project to another, or from one assignment to another, may be very different, and therefore the same volunteer might thrive in one, and feel disenchanted by another. Ergo, is there such a thing as a single set of criteria for predicting success. I could point to my own volunteer experience(s) as examples. JAT

  • I want to separate my comments from what I remember from a conversation with Dr. Textor. We did discuss the difference in Volunteer experiences. I tended to be concerned about the wide span of experiences. But, Textor was an anthropologist and he stressed that he believed that any Volunteer cross-cultural experience would make a staff member more valuable for the Peace Corps. One general opinion that we both shared was that employment with the Peace Corps, including all the important decision making positions, should begin no later than ten years, at the most, from the completion of Volunteer service.

    RPCV Directors had twenty-five years or more separating their appointment as PC Director from the completion of their Volunteer service. They all were older than the men and women who created the Peace Corps. They were all older than President Kennedy at the time of the assassination.

    My opinion: For Dr. Textor’s dream of a Peace Corps agency staffed 90% RPCVs, it would be necessary to create a new personnel system that linked all the positions together in an effective, efficient way. I have ideas on how that might be done.

    i served in Colombia from 1963-65. My group was all female. Forty two went down and 38 stayed. Of the four who left, three had medical issues and one had a terminal ill parent. I am still mindful of the problems with community developement as well as the ongoing internal violence errupting in so many Central and South American countries, but not all. These experiences are valid Peace Corps experiences both for the Volunteer and the HCN served, and should not be marginalized. What could have been learned and what still could be learned is a subject that is too expansive for this discussion.

  • Thanks, joanne. Because the volunteer experience can vary so much, from country to country, and even assignment to assignment, perhaps, rather than trying to select volunteer applicants to cope with any and all, the answer might be enlightened PC Country Staff, to listen, and move volunteers around to optimal assignments. I can cite my own experience.

    My first year in Ghana was dramatically challenging and successful. But then, having achieved all of that, I found myself essentially duplicative and redundant, with still a year to go. Fortunately, I worked under a brilliant country director (this was early Ghana), George Carter. Everybody understood what I was good at. I went in and spoke to George, told him I was now redundant and wasted, and worse, too many of us were hampering the promotion of our African field assistants, who should have been taking over from us. George listened, considered, and without challenging my reasoning, told me he couldn’t move me within the Ghana project, since technically I was an employee of the Ghana Geological Survey Dept,, but he could move me elsewhere.

    George Carter always had told us that we were in this together, and it was more than just platitudes. He really believed it. He might have dismissed what I was saying — but he didn’t.

    True to his word, a couple weeks later I got a telegram (remember them ?), telling me to pack up and get to Accra, ready to ship out for the then protectorate of Nyasaland in British Central Africa ( a part of the Rhodesia Federation, later to become independent as Malawi). To make a long story short, it was the best thing that could happen, and my subsequent memories are of assignments there which were most satisfying and memorable. All, thanks to George the PC Country Director. Many years later, on a job application, the University records dept said to me, quoting a reference letter from Malawi; “At a time of great uncertainty, John was a source of inspiration to all of us.” What memories !

    Interestingly, back in Ghana another PCV was foolishly assigned where I had been (apparently George missed it), immediately found himself redundant, but unlike me, decided to simply coast and ride out his two years. Afterward, we would learn, he remembered his PC time as mostly wasted.

    One good outcome, however, was that the Ghana Geological Survey Dept, found out via George Carter, that they were ignoring their own African employees, and probably would lose them to a mining company, anxious to Africanize their management. The message got through, and some months later, in Nyasaland, I received an airletter, from one of our Field Assistants, informing me that they had been promoted and put in charge of their own field crew, supervising some 70 chaps. And essentially thanking me for helping, and getting out of the way. I couldn’t have been happier. I still remember the salutation: “Dear Honorable Mr John,” What memories !

    Here on this site we’ve heard about the PC “Five Year Rule”. George Carter, the very first PC Country Director ever, and veteran of the early Civil rights efforts (he was Afro American), was himself a victim. George might have gone on to be a marvelous PC Director, but had to leave. IBM, the mainframe computer company, however, spotted his talents, and he would retire from IBM. The PC forfeited a great Director due to the “Five Year Rule” I think.

    People today. sometimes ask me why I continue to be so positive about the Peace Corps, and volunteers. The answer is in the memories, I think. And when, as I wrote above, during the post-Kent State tragedy my First Sergeant and Detachment Commander wanted ME to be the one making the critical judgements and doing the shooting, i think they knew, deep down, that I could be trusted. Even with rocks and sticks flying, tear gas, and chaos, a Peace Corps Volunteer could always be trusted. What memories ! JAT

  • John,

    Thank you for your account. . This is what I think: It was your experience and your insight that “educated” George Carter. He was an excellent Director, but he did not have your insight, precisely because he had not served. Many of the first Country Directors were outstanding, but it is hard to put those personality attributes into a job description or to train people to be empathetic.

    The very first Peace Corps Act legislated a postion for a Peace Corps Leader. It does not require that such Leaders have been Volunteers. (However, at the time the law was written, there were only three groups Volunteers in-country and those for less than one month.) The Leaders were enrolled as Volunteers and were to be given supervisory or other special responsibilities. from Public Law 87-293, Section 6. I believe that the Peace Corps Leader could have been the building block for a personnel system that would have eventually created workforce, 90% comprised of RPCVs. The positions should have been linked so that a PC Leader would be eligible for a staff positon, in-country, including training. The next step might be to a staff position in Washington and finally the RPCV would be eligible for the position of Country Director or important Decision making position in DC. RPCVs would move quickly “in, up and out”. There certainly could be problems with such a system. The so-called “Five Year Rule” was originally designed to facilitate employment of newly returning RPCVs. The personnel system, however, was never specifically designed to exploit that unique characteristic.

    I was in training for Colombia when Colombia I completed service and many members came to New Mexico and took over our training and sat on our Selection Boards. I thought that was the “real Peace Corps’ and RPCVs would permeate the entire organization. It did not happen. We had, in my opinion, very bad adminstration in my part of the country – political appointees who saw themselves a micro-managing Volunteers, hostile to PC in many ways and in real competition with us. We had been in-country only a few weeks when Kennedy was killed. I still attribute a lot of what happened with PC management to the shock and confusion after his murder.

  • Re: Kevin Quigley’s PCV service in Thailand, Kevin and I were partners on a teacher training project sponsored by PC and the Thai Ministry of Education from 1978-79 (his third year of service, my second). From working together on that project, I can report that Kevin’s Thai language and cultural-awareness skills were exceptional by any measure. (I believe he scored a 4 on the Foreign Service exit language test we were given upon terminating PC, which is close to native-speaker proficiency, a remarkable achievement rare among volunteers). Kevin has a deep and genuine interest in Buddhism, and was one of very few PCVs to ordain as a Buddhist monk during his time in PC. (This involved, among other things, learning to read and recite Pali Buddhist texts, and entering a monastery for a month when most other PCVs–such as myself–were on vacation somewhere). He got along well with all the Thai teachers, students, and government officials we had dealings with, who respected his sensitivity to Thai culture and willingness to learn Thai so proficiently. We worked well together, team teaching and delivering training workshops to Thai teachers in several provinces. The fact that Kevin was later selected to serve as CD of Thailand likely resulted in large part from his prior 3 years as a PCV, in which he taught at a secondary school and a teacher training college before working on the above-mentioned teacher training project. Too, Kevin has always kept in touch with a number of his Thai colleagues over the years, maintaining relationships to his country of service.

  • Joanne, That’s interesting about assignment of Volunteer Leaders. To my knowledge nothing like that existed in African projects. Although in Tanzania, I remember the PC had a couple satellite offices which provided some liaison and support. i would qualify that by adding that for the Ghana-3 Geology project, the very first all-technical PC group, the PC did hire a sort of volunteer leader, a geology professor from Johns Hopkins, to provide highly technical support to those volunteers doing mapping in complex metamorphic rocks (typical of much of West Africa). His technical support was valuable for that.

    However, half of us were involved in far more mundane ore deposit evaluations, more engineering than geology, and for this our professor was something of a nuisance. Bored with it, devoid of any engineering sense, but insisting on being in authority. Sounds a little like what you remember of your volunteer leaders. In fact, he contributed significantly to frustrating my plans to elevate the productivity of local diamond diggers, and essentially caused me to have to revert to antiquated technology from back in the 1920s. It was, in retrospect, a big opportunity lost.

    Upon my departure, briefing Country Director George Carter, I remember him shaking his head, as if I was confirming something he already suspected, but couldn’t prove. SO, the sum result was off I went to the other side of Africa, and partly as a result, would develop a much greater grasp of the continent as a whole. Amusingly, many years afterward, a former member of a later Ghana geology group, remarked to me “We wondered where all that stuff had come from ! ”

    Another interesting aspect of our professor/leader, is that subsequently, following my return, I had the opportunity to visit with some of the university staff who had comprised our selection committee. We had three individuals “selected out”, whom i think would have done well as volunteers. I think the professor narrowly focused on geology, was largely responsible for the decisions. AND, we had one included, who NEVER should have been accepted — being an overt racist, intolerant, and inclined to violence.

    Having said all of that, today I can see value in volunteer leaders — of the right mind and capability. JAT

  • John,

    Thank you for your recounting of your experiences. Very valuable. I do want to correct an impression I inadvertingly made. Peace Corps Colombia grew tremendously in the first two years or so. There were 300-500 Volunteers, in different programs by 1963, in a country rougly the size of Texas, with few safe roads and three mountain ranges. We had three regional directors and each had an assistant. In my area, they had not been associated with Peace Corps, previously. It was the assistant regional director whom I found very hostile to Volunteers.

    We did have Volunteer leaders pulled from the ranks of serving Volunteers. Two had real problems and left early. What we heard was that “Management” felt that the Leaders were “identifying with the Volunteers too closely and not staff.” Very quickly, staff was not really relevant. Volunteers identified as “Cuerpo de Paz”. Peace Corps was “something else”.
    This is why I think that a personnel system should have been created, unique to Peace Corps, to incorporate efficiently, effectively, and equitably the unique experience of Volunteers.

    Physical anthropologists can find a single tooth and reconstruct a whole culture. I feel much the same way about “community development”. I think it should be studied extensively through “time and space” to understand Peace Corps – its assumptions, its arrogance, its misunderstanding, and its successes.

    Colombia did have very successful programs, early on: Peace Corps Nurses, a sports program in high schools, and an ETV project that set up Educational Television programs to be broadcast all over the mountainous country,

  • Thanks, Joanne, I sense a staff/volunteer dichotomy in what you remember from early Colombia. Ghana, as I remember never had anything like that. Country Director George Carter, was in it, together with all the rest of us, and nobody wanted to disappoint George. As I wrote before, George reciprocated. It was when self-proclaimed experts from Washington appeared (who never had talked to an African) that we began to see the dichotomy that you’re describing.

    When I was transferred in 1964 to the Nyasaland Protectorate (eventually Malawi) I did sense a dichotomy. Not that the staff had any hostility or differences with volunteers. Rather, the staff was simply out of touch and isolated, and being isolated, always a little paranoid about their irrelevance. The whole thing was churning away, is spite of the staff. The legendary flap with outspoken volunteer Paul Theroux, never would have happened, I believe, if George Carter were Country Director in Nyasaland/Malawi.

    And after I had personally negotiated a transfer to the Malawi Geological Survey Dept, and initiated an entirely new and exciting project, in that entire year or more, not a single staffer ever visited me, or even consulted on how things were going. That’s how isolated (and irrelevant) the staff was. Not surprisingly, the geology project I and the Geological Survey folks had put together, was never continued. i don’t think it even occurred to the staff. A tremendous opportunity lost. Today, when I write some of my reminiscences of those days as a prospecting engineer out in the Bush, to our statewide RPCV community, they just love it !

    The irrelevance of the Nyasaland/Malawi PC staff reached a sort of climax, with their decision that Volunteers could not travel to the Repub of South Africa, because, they thought, it would “look bad”, as if we would be endorsing the Apartheid Policies down there. Never mind that all of the State Dept personnel were in South Africa on R & R, never mind that half of the male population of Malawi were either working in the mines in the Transvaal, or had been, never mind that the president of newly-independent Malawi, Dr Banda, actively encouraged economic ties and labor travel to South Africa. The PC staff didn’t understand any of this. Finally the volunteers, essentially told them to go to h____, asserting that there was real value in seeing Apartheid first-hand. After all, the was the matter of the statutory “Third Goal”. I, for one, value the insights I gained from visiting South Africa, to this day.

    I like your (Joanne’s) idea of a personnel system geared to the realities of the Peace Corps, both volunteers and staff. I suspect, if Sargent Shriver were still with us, he would agree. But today, the administrative independence of the Peace Corps, relative to what they called “The Foreign Policy Establishment” has been all but eliminated by successions of subsequent functionaries. People wonder why I am critical of the honorable Kevin Quigley, who probably did more than anyone else to destroy that independence that previously had been seen as so important. And facetiously whilst tooting the horn for independence from volunteer personnel fringe benefits accrued in the US Military. As if independence from the Military had ever been an issue. When he called in his chips, he certainly was rewarded — and still is.

    Lots to be thinking about, and reflecting on. John Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment. 1963, -64, -65.

    • It is with a deepening sorrow that I read and begin to internalize and even integrate these divergent narrative threads. “Holy Cow” is a phrase that comes to me when I take in –slowly sometimes– these revelations ending up feeling silly in discovering tarnish-making history behind a veil in some cases but just probably a natural historical bureaucratic evolution. But it hurts to come to understand what has happened. Only now in the last decades is being told almost as an archeological dig on the Peace Corps Worldwide.org site that is overseen by it’s aging originators Marian and John and now helped by some others such as Joanne Roll. Will anyone younger begin to pick up the reins? Holy Cow! Will there be a next and what’s after “next” still be a possibility? (Yes this IS A QUESTION : BECAUSE I am still hoping, wondering, sorrowing, imagining new Adams and Eves with the bright shiny faces but also sensing the skulls beneath our skin.) I can’t give advice because I don’t have the history, experience, the style even to imagine advice. I am only a little grain from the waves of the Greek choruses. And I don’t even know if advice is needed or possible now.
      What is this thing called advice anyways?! This could seem like a last will and testament a man gives as he is ruminating on his way to the dental school session where the unheeled go for repairs and maybe healing.
      Ad-vice or advert-vice remembering norman mailer’s book “advertisement for myself ” of maybe five decades past, a surprising and strange title to me. I wanted to read what he had written to fill-out that bold, as the title to me seemed then, beginning. It was interesting but really didn’t stay bold. It wasn’t news that refreshed itself nor even truly lived up to the title promising something wonderfully confessional—not for this reader, or certainly not for long. But it made me recall how not everything is interesting to everyone at all times—nor even interesting to everyone ever—but for some there will come a time when that which had seemed bland or just something that could not then attract your attention BLOSSOMS. Poetry has been that way for me. Took years to the revelation of the luminosity of many of W.H. Auden’s poems. May have something to do with the drifting orbits idea of Lawrence Fixel? How you come across persons you haven’t thought of in years and immediately you are back at the same place and pace with your compadres. And you scratch at your wonder noggin as to why, WHAT made the ending of what again is such easy intimacy. Try as you might you can’t think of a reason: no “break” or anger. What happened was the drifting of our different orbits. Our lives moved in different directions, focuses changed; we’d moved on. And no blame. And all of a sudden its seems you’re BACK AGAIN. (Look here you’re back again we’re back again. Look again at Tennyson’s 84-line poem ULYSSES; and maybe sing along with Gene Autry BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN/ BACK WHERE A FRIEND IS A FRIEND….) (Seem familiar?) DRIFTING ORBITS: In our town heartbreaks are drifting. We are each in our own little orbits. Ordeals pass us drifting through. “Hello” we say again. “Hello sudden oak death. Hello elm disease. Hello” passing. Muddle’s middle. Birth’s starting out our book in the middle. We go back while passing forward aging learning how we frame an exit window future passing and behind them Londonderry airs that go way back then forward as Dad sings “Danny Boy.”

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