Saturday, March 17, 2018

Morning Songs

Back in the days when I was known as "The Cake Man" among my co-workers, it was, as you might guess, my favorite food. Any kind of cake could get my attention ... and have me reaching for a fork at the same time.

Even the smell of a freshly-baked cake would catch my attention as little else could.

I still relish the smell of that now-forbidden food.

Where am I going with this? I'm wandering just a bit down memory lane. Just as I still relish the smell of a freshly-baked cake, I relish old memories.

They don't feed me like present events do, but they bring me comfort ... and I like that.

I certainly don't live in the past ... any more than I can experience a future which hasn't arrived yet. I do like to pay visits to some events of the past, though ... just like I enjoy "visits" to the possibilities of a future which lies vaguely ahead somewhere out there.

That said, the poem:


Cold mornings,
when I fold
my towel, drape it
again on the rack,
I sometimes hear
the music of eggs
sizzling, gravy
burbling softly
in the frying pan,
coffee perking,
leaping against
its knobbed glass
ceiling, muttering
in darkening tones,
and sometimes
I catch the scent
of that kitchen,
that magic time
so distant, but
still wafting.
© 1998
(originally published in Moose Bound Press)

Today's word: sizzling

Friday, March 16, 2018

Loss of a Tree

Today's photo is one I took during an autumn stroll at Cox Arboretum. The poem is part of my third small collection, 
Wood Smoke, published by Finishing Line Press:


Streets, the inexorable ooze of cities,
were already there when you arrived
to be ritually planted as recompense

for what had been stolen from the land.
Thus began life among strangers, thirst
of confinement, trimmings when you

reached for wires, the salt-laden spray
of passing cars, signs tacked to your
trunk, bark-scarring injury from a van

run amok. Despite abuse, neglect, you grew
through recession, depression, ebb and flow
of fashion, through those times called

war, interludes known as peace. You grew
over the curb, began upending sidewalk,
but provided shade for strollers, let fall

showers of crinkled leaves for children
to go kicking through. Finally, when winds
tried to break you, but, failing that,

uprooted you with a horrible groan, you
took with you an anachronistic jumble
of flashing trolley wires and lay, silent

and dying in the street, waiting for crews

to gather you up, truck you away, leaving
only your winged seed, scattered and golden.
© 2010

Today's word: inexorable

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Heading South

I was out for my daily walk when I saw those geese rising ... stood watching them ... don't remember if I sat at the next bus stop to put my reactions on paper, or waited till I got home ... but I had a poem in the making, right there on that street.

The poem:


Just beyond the trees
giving up their gaudy
leaves of autumn, five geese
rise slowly, dark against
a mottled sky, heading
generally southward,
seeking those highways
that the wild geese take,
while I stand rooted
where chance has put me.
I shall think of them,
wishing vaguely that I had
their gift of flight
as I ride out the storms
of winter, waiting to hear
their honking again,
telling me the season
is breaking, melting into
spring, skein of renewal
linking those who can fly,
those who can only wish. 
 © 1997
(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: renewal

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I don't know where I was, exactly, when this poem presented itself to me ... but I was likely out for my morning walk ... just strolling along (I'm not a power walker, folks) ... my mind wandering ... when I passed this particular hedge with its abundance of spider webs.

I was struck by that abundance, first ... and then, with a closer look ... the delicate handiwork. From there it was a short leap to "fine silk scarves" ... when I got home I sat at the kitchen table and started scribbling on a scrap of paper.

The poem:


I see, glistening
in the hedge,
yawning mouths
of spun funnels,
delicate handiwork
of skilled spiders
arrayed, luring
the browser
like fine silk
scarves spread out,
catching the sun,
begging to be bought.
© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: glistening

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Favored Paths

My grandparents didn't have a car (as some of you may know, I grew up in their care) ... but that was no problem ... everything we could have wanted was within walking distance ... and trips, real trips? Well, there were passenger trains running then.

Under those circumstances, it's little wonder, I suppose, that I learned the benefits of walking.

For one thing, there was so much to see while walking ... it was a pleasure to focus on a particular view, then watch it slowly changing as the walking changed the angle at which it was seen.

The slower pace made it so easy to absorb what was seen ... to savor the flavor, so to speak.

So, when my doctor suggested ... OK, he may have been verging on insisting ... that I take up walking again ... it was no big deal, even when I first started and found it difficult to go all the way around the block.

I remembered ... I knew the benefits of walking. It was just a matter of time until I could get my body back into shape. 

Well, it took a little more time than I expected ... but I listened to my body along the way ... and moderated my pace, or increased it, accordingly.

And now a daily walk is automatically a part of my routine. I still enjoy the view(s), the pace ... and particularly the poems that sometimes come to me during my walks.

Today's poem, for example:


I like to walk
where the trees
drink the sunlight
and let only
stray droplets
speckle the earth,

where the squirrel
scampers unseen
to a cradling limb
and screeches
at the stranger
who dares intrude,

where lichens clutch
the brows of bluffs
sitting as in judgment
while merely waiting,
as they have been
through the ages,

where the tiny bird
flits and sings
its song of hope,
and my steps
are less labored
as I am renewed.

© 1996
(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: lichens

Monday, March 12, 2018


"Evensong" is a word picture painted from memory ... the memory of those times when the storms had passed and we emerged to assess the damage to the garden, our trees ... the neighbors' trees ... our house, their houses.

That was always the aftermath, that slow evaluation of what had happened to our world, what steps needed to be taken next.

It was almost as though the birds were doing the same thing, echoing our concerns, beginning to express their feelings after having survived another onslaught.

"Evensong" was not the result of a single experience, but a distilling of several, a boiling down to the essence of that feeling of kinship with the natural world, the world around us, a world, thank goodness, that had birdsong ... and still does, if we but listen.

The poem:


Dark clouds scud off
toward the east, while
twilight descends
onto hail-torn foliage,
then from somewhere
overhead, tentative notes
slowly gain strength,
blossoming finally
into full-throated
birdsong near a lone
figure who pauses
on the slope of the hill,
eyes searching vainly
for just a glimpse
of this small creature,
then turns toward home,
less burdened now
for having been given
this healing moment.
 © 1999
(originally published in PKA's Advocate)
Today's word: healing

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Driving to Marengo

This is one of my favorites, largely because of the memories it has preserved of a young family taking affordable outings.

We were living in Northern Illinois at the time, and Marengo was one of our favorite destinations.

Memories of those outings were still "rotating on the carousel of my mind" as Phyllis and I returned from a now-rare outing, a trip out of town.

Traffic had thinned a bit (all the trucks, buses and cars of the world had gone zip-zip-zipping past us ... because I always poke along at the posted speed limit).

During those few moments when we had only the humming of our own car's tires to keep us company, my thoughts drifted toward those summertime outings.

What delicious memories! I had no choice. I had to dig out "Driving to Marengo" and share it with you again:


We urged the old station wagon
along curving country roads
toward that place just across
from the school, to consume
those remarkable foot-long
hotdogs with chili peppers
and onions, dripping mustard
and juices, filling the air
with an aroma that lingered
all the slow, dark drive home,
and for days afterward,
like a spirit moving softly
among us, implanting memories
still turning, slowly rotating
on the carousel of my mind.
© 1998

(originally published in Raintown Review)
Today's word: delicious