Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection


Here’s an example of the “Colonial” style, which flourished 1720s-1780s.

With its large central chimney and central hallway, a Colonial house started out with a symmetrical layout.

Kokak2 243Strolling Dover: for more, click here.


The ballots for New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary listed more candidates than you’ve seen in the news. They always do. We’re bound to have fringe candidates who put up the registration money, garner some signatures, and wind up getting their names printed on the ballot.

For the record, they don’t do enough to prompt news coverage, so it’s not a matter of mass-media bias. You can’t report things that don’t happen. A rally? A town hall meeting? The opening of a campaign office? Nada, nada, nada.

On my way to vote, I reflected on a mailing we received from one wannabe who failed to meet the deadline in submitting his application and certified check and was dutifully rejected, so he was now appealing for write-in votes – along with a plea for $18 donations for his booklet.

Hey, this is as basic as it gets. Somebody who can’t manage a simple deadline thinks he can function in the Oval Office?


Still, you can’t keep up with them all. Maybe you knew of six or seven on the Republican side – maybe even nine or 10, if you add a few bounced from the televised debates. But 30? And then on the Democratic slate, if you expected just two plus the recently withdrawn Martin O’Malley, you were bound to do a double-take. I counted 28.

More jarring as I went down the list was my connection of first name Vermin with surname Supreme of Rockport, Massachusetts.


After voting (for a more recognizable name), I checked in with my principal political advisor. Is Vermin Supreme for real? (It might have been a typo, after all – Vernon, maybe?) Who is that?

You don’t know? He always runs. He wears a boot for a hat.

Had to check that out. After all, I want to know how he stands.

Left or right, for starters?


A woman with a mustache
crossed herself three times
outside St. Mary’s
and mumbled while wobbling away
in rubber duck boots.

Against her shabby brown coat
and scabby dry skin, she pressed
a Bible and presumes herself saintly.


A man in the corner grocery
weighed produce for forty years
while speaking Italian to his women customers.


An old black stumbled down the middle of Halle Street
as cars swerved around him or honk.
“Say, brother, my church is having a –“

“Sorry, no change.”

To continue, click here.
Copyright 2015


After a January that often felt eerily like early April in these parts, we’re finally back in snowy weather. Last Friday, in fact, meant digging out from 10 inches of what was forecast to be 3 to 6, max – and less in other predictions. Wanna talk about margin of error?

So here we are on our first-in-the-nation presidential primary day, digging out again on slippery terrain.

In previous contests, we’ve welcomed out-of-state volunteers as they’ve seen New Hampshire’s emphasis on face-to-face political engagement firsthand. This year, the Republicans have been conspicuously absent.

We did arrive home Sunday afternoon to find a John Kasich flyer hanging from our front-door handle. It was comforting to read later he had more than a hundred volunteers, mostly from Ohio, meeting folks here in New Hampshire. His rivals can make all the charges against him they want, but there’s no substitute for talking to constituents like these who support a candidate enough to come to our doorstep all these miles away just to give us a chance to ask questions about their impressions and reasoning based on what they’ve seen in the Buckeye State.

Of course, we’re digging out from more than snow – our mailboxes have been overflowing and our phones keeping ringing with campaign pitches. That should all pass now. We hope the volunteers return home with positive memories, no matter the final tally.

Digging the snow also has me reflecting on those horse-race surveys and analyses we’ve been reading. Even the pundits whose expectations of Sunday’s Super Bowl had Carolina winning in a romp. As I’m digging, I wonder about the weather website that had rain-only as our precipitation this round. That one was wrong as soon as the precipitation started … as snow. Others had 2 to 4 or 3 to 5 inches. The tops was 6 inches. Turns out it was around 3 inches of light, fluffy stuff. Friday’s event, right around freezing, had big wet flakes that made for a fun day of watching from the window. Yesterday’s, at a dozen degrees colder, were icier and more compact. The reality is we don’t know what to expect until all the flakes are in.

Now, we’re  off to make our own contribution to the pile.


Across the state, the voting stations are open for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. For some campaigns, this is the do-or-die event. It separates most of the wheat from the chaff – or the other way around.

It will be a busy day for campaign operations. The effective ones will rely on their lists of likely supporters and see that these voters get to the polls. Knock on your door, give you a phone call, send a driver, if need be. As for the others?

The big hotels in Manchester are surrounded by camps of vans with huge satellite dishes – the television crews from across the country and around the world. They’ll cover the candidates’ big rallies as the results arrive in the evening, and then the winners and losers joined by their doting spouses on the podium. A few words, a wave, and they’re gone, off to the next game or at least the locker room, as it were.

Tomorrow will be a big letdown, especially for the campaign teams. For some it’s off to new assignments, and some newly formed, intense friendships will veer apart. For others it’s just curtains, without a bow. Packing up won’t be as orderly as you’d expect, as local offices close. The rush to the next campaign is already on.

It will be like the day after a wild party, with or without the hangovers. And then? The one thing I know is our phone will be awfully quiet.


on the coffee table we had a skull
with wax dripped over the crown

for a full month, I nodded to it
without recognizing
its identity as a horned goat

Methods of Logic and Modern Statistical Analysis
held the window open

a tiny nail and raised line painted across the bathroom door
may have been left from a sign
saying Men or Women

Bushmen explain there’s a male and a female side to every fire
if a man sits on the wrong side, he becomes impotent
but here we had steam heat radiators set against the wall
no wonder we were acting neutered

still, Glenn taped a magazine photo
of Vice President Spiro Agnew on the back door
with a cartoon balloon quotation from James Brown
“Get on up! I feel like a sex machine”
issuing from his slimy mouth

I was trained to be a technician

To continue, click here.
Copyright 2015


In the year after I graduated from college, a neighbor introduced me to flowing water as a place of sanctuary and repeated return. It was an unlikely site, across a busy freeway from an urban ghetto of sorts. Still, through the weeks and seasons – sometimes together, usually solo – our moments in a small tangled patch beside the Susquehanna River became a ritual of grounding and encounter, the matter of recalculating our lives to a natural rhythm rather than the office or classroom clock.

The 444-mile long Susquehanna is the largest river on the Eastern Seaboard, delivering half of the freshwater that maintains the ecological balance of Chesapeake Bay, itself the nation’s biggest estuary. From ancient times to the present, it has shaped the lives of those living along its banks and tributaries – especially those who have relied on the stream for their livelihoods.

Later, I would repeat the practice along an irrigation canal bank in a desert orchard and much later, along the Merrimack, before the repetition would shift to stretches along the Atlantic in Maine or Cape Cod. But the practice does not require streams of water. Woodland paths, like the one into the hemlock ravine at the back of the farm in the hills or those off Leonard Springs in southern Indiana, would also do, as has my own garden.

Susquehanna 1


For more on the book and others, click here.


Today brings the final push in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary season, drawing this unique trial in the American democratic experience to a climax. Even though I’ve already written of the state’s uncanny ability as a test market for White House hopefuls and of the event’s roots in the town meeting tradition each March – plus the widespread involvement of the public in political party work and decision-making – I’m still reminded of our editor-in-chief’s counsel all those years ago, You’ve never experienced anything quite like this.

The television camera crews try to relate some of the story, but I fear their very presence distorts it. It’s hard for a candidate to get close to the voters when there’s a convoy of nearly 100 video camera operators plus reporters in pursuit. I remember looking up in my nearly empty newsroom one Saturday afternoon and seeing their faces pressed against the hallway windows while a candidate was being interviewed by one of our own in a corner office, completely out of their sight.

This is my seventh round through the cycle – and my first thoroughly extricated from the newsroom. My first primary was a snowy one, and what I remember most vividly is the seemingly endless row of BUSH signs stuck in the white mounds down the middle of Elm Street through Manchester. For what it’s worth, we’ve had Bush signs for the majority of my presidential primaries here.

One change I’m seeing is a shift away from face-to-face campaigning, the kind that presents a fairly level playing field. Apart from a few big donors’ homes – and a very select guest list – the GOP has largely eschewed the living room presentations this season. The Republican candidates essentially have relied on broadcast advertising and phone calls (often of the robot variety) to bombard potential voters with canned messages rather than live, candid interactions. Let me add, the phone calls have been relentless since before Thanksgiving. Those that identify themselves on caller ID tend to be from out of state – California, Las Vegas, Louisiana, Washington state, Utah, and so on – or from Cell Phone NH. Some evenings, in the midst of our Advent devotional reading, we’d have to pause for three calls to go to voicemail, if they dared. (They didn’t.) And that was before the campaigning really heated up.

As I’ve previously mentioned, the primary encounters have taught me to take a close look at a candidate’s campaign organization. How well does it operate? Is it all paid staff or instead include a significant number of interns and welcome volunteers for canvassing and phone banking?

It has felt a little strange not having campaign volunteers camping out in our house this time. We’re in the midst of some major renovations – starting with the bathroom – but we have memories, mostly positive, of our guests from previous primaries.

Today, of course, is a candidate’s last day to sway undecided voters or to at least cast doubt over the rivals in an attempt to weaken their support. Things are likely to rise to an emotional pitch, perhaps even including tears.

And to think, we’re still nine months out from the national election, November 8.

It will be interesting to see how the races continue from here.



the authentic, family-owned Caribbean
restaurant closes for a long weekend

so much for introductions
still, to our surprise, “I’m a red wine guy”

returning to the old home, she finds the farm
and farmhouse are gone – in their place
now many residential trailers, the orchard’s paved

she boards an elevator having
bones by buttons marking the floors

such frustration, determining
a destination, when the door opens
on a restroom, two orderlies
attempt to give her a shower

in a hospital tampering
at the thin edge of death

this nurse I’d like to get to know
but do I have what he does

in any rivalry
in all the floury whiteness or whitecaps

a seaman from a Great Lakes steamer
loses $400 and his wallet
on a beer

“there’s no excuse for making a bad cup of coffee”
typhoid / suicide / madness
“made idiotic by the use of tobacco”

glassworkers, the Belgians, with their fine cornet band
led the mourners on foot
an impressive sight in those days

“this is my playhouse,” the grandmother
smiles in her antiques shop


downtown deserted, compared to the old days
the library has a new entrance
for enhanced security

police chase a car along the median
helicopters overhead

“opportunities multiply”

the city and the village

pizza, cut into squares

“when I was working in the oil fields of California
I knew hundreds of men who were dying
from smoking marijuana,” the ex-mayor averred
miles in from the Interstate

“this is a card-playing town”
or just bingo


aha! the Monkey House!
the Windmill!

yelping geese, everywhere
just south of town

Poem from Rust and the Wound
copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson


Rust and Wound 1For more on my poetry collection and others, click here.


Camden, Maine

Camden, Maine


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