8824 NE Russell St.
Portland OR 97220

Black Lamb

ABOUT

Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

SUBMISSIONS

Black Lamb welcomes submissions from new writers. Email us.

QUESTIONS

If you have questions or comments regarding Black Lamb, please email us.

Archive for the 'Tompkins' Category

Fan on the water

... and ashes to ashes

January 1st, 2016

BY TOBY TOMPKINS

My father died in 1996 in Tucson, Ariz., where he had spent his last years at a rehabilitation facility for addicts of all persuasions. He’d been an alcoholic for many years, but he got Clean and Sober in Tucson, and mostly stayed that way. But he never told me or my brother Mike about a colonoscopy that had revealed the worst. By the time we found out, he was in hospice care, already damned-near dead. He was too stoned on morphine when I finally got to his bedside to talk much, although he gobbled all the chocolates I had brought immediately. The hospice nurse had told me that flowers depressed him, and that he no longer ate anything but sweets, so what the hell.

Dad hadn’t wanted to see me at all when I arrived at the hospital. It took a full day and a sympathetic orderly for me to get into his room and deliver the chocolates. The sugar hit roused him briefly and he told me, mouth pasted with chocolate, that I was a “good son.” I'm not sure he knew which son I was. He died a week or so later.

My brother Mike dealt with the details, flying out from his Transcendental Meditation Center in Washington, D.C. to take charge of Dad’s body and effects. He found the least expensive crematorium in Tucson, fended off the blandishments of its directors pressuring him for a Pharaonic send-off, and got a no-frills deal.

sailboatMeanwhile he and I had contacted our family and Dad’s surviving friends for a memorial service in Falmouth, Mass., to be followed by a scattering of Dad’s ashes into Buzzards Bay. Mike had the crematorium send the sealed plastic box, in my name, to my wife’s art gallery on the east side of Manhattan, because at the time the mail carriers in our home nabe were careless about delivering packages.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Tompkins | Link to this Entry

Epic treatment

November 1st, 2014

BY TOBY TOMPKINS

Beowulf, A Translation and Commentary
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Lo! The glory of the kings of the people of the Spear-Danes in days of old we have heard told, how those princes did deeds of valor.
— first line of J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf

The beloved author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was by profession a professor of Old and Middle English at Oxford University. In the 1920s, while a young don, he rendered Beowulf, orginally written in England during the eighth century in a Northumbrian variant of Anglo-Saxon, into modern English. But he never tried to publish it, feeling that it didn’t meet his exacting standards. In addition, he was preoccupied with his studies and scholarly publications, and later, with the lectures he delivered to his doctoral candidates on the poem and other surviving texts of Old English literature, lectures which presupposed his students’ working knowledge of Anglo-Saxon.

But he continued to tinker with the translation off and on throughout his life, seeking a version which best approximated the compressed force of the epic poem. Beowulf was written in unrhymed, strongly-stressed alliterative verse whose lines were divided into two sections of dactylic trimeter, like all Anglo-Saxon poems, but Tolkien decided from the first not to replicate that poetic form exactly in his modern version, feeling that in contemporary English it ran the risk of sounding monotonous. Instead, he wrote his translation in prose, but kept the interior stresses. The result, when read aloud — and of course Beowulf was orginally declaimed from memory at the feast-table of a king, by a bard, or scop — preserves the power of the original while impelling the reader to keep up with its swiftness and fluidity. Things happen fast in the tale, and as the commentary included in the current translation suggests, the scop probably recited all of it in the course of a single long, bibulous evening in his monarch’s mead hall.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Books and Authors, Tompkins | Link to this Entry

Trash talk

December 1st, 2013

BY TOBY TOMPKINS

I just got back from a run to the dump, or as it’s called now, the Recycling Center. Today, Peterborough is an island of progressives, conservationists, and wildlife protectors in New Hampshire’s sea of conservatives, real estate developers, and gun-besotted Bambi and Tea Baggers, but its shift to environmentalism is of fairly recent vintage. When my wife and I bought our house here, in 1988, the dump was still a dump. You tossed your trash and garbage into the reeking pit of other people’s crap and forgot about it. Out of sight, out of mind — only the trash wasn’t entirely out of sight. Some of the paper and plastic wound up in the Contoocook River that runs through the center of town, washed up on the banks or floating merrily down the stream.

And there was worse stuff in the river, because the dump pit leached all manner of toxic fluids into the ground, and it all percolated into the water. At the end of summer, when the river was low, there was often an iridescent slick on its surface. The Contoocook never actually caught fire, the way Cleveland’s Cuyahoga did in 1969, because it runs too fast. But it stank, and if you stood next to it for any length of time, your eyes would smart and your nose would start running.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Tompkins | Link to this Entry

State bird

The not-so-merry month of May

October 1st, 2013

BY TOBY TOMPKINS

In New Hampshire, May ought to be the best month of the year. October is exhilarating, certainly, with the maples dressed in their glorious colors and the temperature brisk and bracing, but the color and the temperature are reminders that winter is just around the corner. And winter lasts forever, or seems to, in the Live, Freeze, and Die State. November’s a bleak misery, the landscape reduced to grays and browns and the cold rains soon giving way to sleet and snow. December, January, and February are all deep freeze. March is aptly known as mud-time, with thaws producing slush and sticky muck, until the temperature plummets, the mud freezes again, and a blizzard or an ice storm sets in. April’s a mocker: the sun warms a little, peepers pipe up in the trees, and the migratory birds wing in from the south, singing of spring. But the promise in their song is empty, for there’s usually sleet or even snow before the month is out.

And then, at last, comes lovely May in all her lush and tender beauty, warm and sweet, with flowers in her hair. The ground is soft, the garden’s ready for planting, the shaggy green lawn needs mowing, and winter-deferred projects around the house and grounds are all planned out and ready to go.

blackflyUnfortunately, in New England May is a queen held hostage by cruel savages, very small but implacably bloodthirsty, whose tribal name is Simuliidae culicomorpha. They’re common all over North America, known by various names, buffalo gnat and turkey gnat for two. In New Hampshire we just call them black flies, and some people consider them the real state bird, despite the purple finch’s official status. (I can’t remember ever seeing a purple finch in the twenty-six years my wife have had our New Hampshire house, except in a bird book.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Tompkins | Link to this Entry

Get ’em while you can

Before the government takes our guns away

February 1st, 2013

BY TOBY TOMPKINS

Let me get one thing straight here. I don’t like crazy people using guns to shoot little kids any more than anyone else who isn’t crazy, all right? Everybody in town knows I’ve been running Guns Unlimited out here on John Stark Road ever since my father passed back in ’92 — and by the way, that was an accident which can happen even to someone who knows guns backwards and forwards, so forget what you read in the town’s liberal rag. He was not drunk. My dad knew better than to mix firearms and firewater. He only took a drink on Saturday night, and the accident happened on a Wednesday. Have a little respect for the truth, all right? The obit in American Rifleman Magazine got the story right.

But the point is, I will guaran-goddamn-tee you that not a single one of his customers or mine ever shot a little kid with any weapon from this store. That Sig Sauer P220 Parabellum, the one they say was mixed up in the murder-suicide over to Wayne Bridge two years ago? I sold that pistol a year before then, to the Walmart over there at the Keene mall, when I was clearing inventory to make room for the P226 .22 Long Rifle, which is a better all-around weapon for your civilian shooter, and that’s where the woman bought it. You want to look it up, be my guest; I got the sales record for that year right in the shelf over there. You can’t trust computers, because the Feds can hack into ’em, so I keep my accounts on paper and put the pages in a good old-fashioned ring-binder, so when the computers all shit the bed when the goverment does their cyber-attack, kind of thing Glen Beck talks about… well, you catch my drift, right? It’s just common sense.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Tompkins | Link to this Entry

The blizzard of ’69

December 1st, 2010

BY PATSY TOMPKINS

If I hadn’t been on probation and confined to campus, I never would have gone in to Boston that weekend. I was told that I had broken a rule:

I hadn’t signed out for Christmas break. I don’t remember ever signing out, or in, at college for anything, ever. My roommate and best friend Liz knew a guy in Boston who would let us crash at his place.

I don’t remember much about him or what we did, except for two major firsts: the incredible joy of eating a whole bag of chocolate malt balls when you have the stoned munchies, and hearing the sound track to 2001: A Space Odyssey through a stereo head set. Richard Strauss never tasted so good.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Tompkins, Tompkins Patsy | Link to this Entry

Brief encounters

May 1st, 2010

BY TOBY TOMPKINS

Anyone who’s survived for sixty-seven years and been even peripherally involved in the arts has met famous people, now defunct, from time to time. The trick, it seems to me, is to write about those meetings without sounding like a name-dropping show-off. Unless you’re warren.pngfamous yourself, and even then, maybe it can’t be done. So with apologies in advance, here are four men who marked my mind. I don’t claim I got to know any of them well.

My first notable encounter with a Notable involved Robert Penn Warren. He was the uncle of a Yale classmate and was teaching at the university at the time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Memorial Issue, Tompkins | Link to this Entry

Plagiarism

May 1st, 2007

BY TOBY TOMPKINS

plagiarize vt: to steal and pass off as one’s own (the ideas or words of another) ~ vi: to present as one’s own an idea or product derived from an existing source”
Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary

The battered old dictionary was my wife’s when she was in high school, and I still consult it when I want quick definitions, rather than the windy ones in my Shorter OED. But its blunt, unequivocal definition of “plagiarize” certainly belongs to a simpler, perhaps more innocent era, before stealing became “attribution” and the lawyers began to fatten their wallets on copyright cases involving the Internet.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Tompkins | Link to this Entry

Whom God hath joined…

April 1st, 2007

anonymousmarriage.jpgBY TOBY TOMPKINS

It’s interesting that in the American states dominated by Bible-bangers, the divorce rates have been significantly higher over the past twenty years than in those whose populations prefer that God stay out of the State House and the bedroom. The Bible Belt keeps divorce lawyers richer than the northeastern states where the secular humanists rule (although in fairness, liberal California leads the nation in divorces per annum, but more about that below).

I know a nice guy from Alabama, a professed Christian, though he doesn’t make a fuss about it, who made a tidy fortune as a divorce lawyer until his soul began to sicken. He was spending his weekdays thinking up nasty and devious ways to put asunder those whom God had joined together, and his Sundays praising the Joiner. Well, most divorce lawyers thank God for marriage, but my friend is no hustling shyster. He’s sincere, smart, and he was seriously troubled by the gap between his beliefs and his job. When I met him (with his second wife), he was on vacation wrestling with his moral quandary. “The trouble is,” he told me, “I don’t know if I can afford to quit my practice.” The religious American’s dilemma: God hates what I do for a living, but my God how the money rolls in.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Tompkins | Link to this Entry

Stupid kid tricks

March 1st, 2007

wavecrestingBY TOBY TOMPKINS

Hurricane Carol hit Cape Cod at the end of August, 1954, when I was twelve. It was a bad storm, but our family’s big shingle-style house in Quissett had been built in the 1880s by my great-grandfather, using local carpenters who doubled as boatwrights and took bad weather as the norm. And unlike the last big one in 1938, people had enough warning to get ready. The house had wooden shutters for most of the windows, a pantry icebox supplementing the kitchen fridge, and a gas stove. The iceman who stocked the holds of the local fishing boats had delivered a block a day or so before. And a dug well with a hand-pump behind the house backed up town water. The place had been wired for electric light only in the 1930s, and my grandfather never trusted it, so we had an array of kerosene lanterns and candles in tall hurricane glasses.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Tompkins | Link to this Entry

« Previous Entries Next Page »

LINKS

  • Blogroll