Thursday, April 26, 2018

That New Day

































I've thought of country mornings a lot of times when I was struggling into another day, far removed from those early beginnings.

I've missed the "leisure" of "working by the sun," rather than under the stern eye of the ever-glaring clock. I've missed those mornings when I could lie in bed a few extra minutes, savoring the return to wakefulness.

I've missed the sounds that filled the spaces between the trees back then. Now it's the sounds of the cars and trucks and buses that echo off the buildings and clog our senses.

What I've missed most, I think, is the sound of a cow bell coming to me from a meadow just beginning to fill with light.


Now that was music to a young boy's ears.

And now, the poem:

THAT NEW DAY

Sounds came crawling across the coolness
of the damp night air, climbed into the cot


where I lay stretching to touch the sides
of that new day. A screen door squeaked


open, then shut again. A tractor groaned,
fired up, deep, throaty song floating to me


like a breeze. Struggling early light visited
a hint of warmth high on the hilltop trees,


an image of candy-apple red slowly rising
in my mind's eye over the wooded brow


of the opposite ridge. A cow bell clanked
into the silence the tractor left as it went


rolling off toward a waiting field; so long
ago, but like yesterday. And I hear it now.
© 2005

(published in Brave Hearts, summer 2005)

Today's word: meadow

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Once, Perhaps







I've found it true that writing involves a lot of "stone gathering," a lot of writing that's ... well, just writing. 

While that can be satisfying ... and I find that it's good activity ... it keeps my mind occupied ... keeps me from dwelling on things I needn't ... or shouldn't ... what is really rewarding is that piece of writing that has a certain quality about it ... has a gemlike quality.

Finding one of those ... or maybe two, if I'm really lucky ... is what keeps me going. 

And just keeping on keeping on can be important, too.

I keep looking for that subject ... that turn of phrase ... that word which will send images dancing across the ballroom of my mind.

I hope that your quest will bring a large share of those "gems" to you.

Meanwhile, the poem:


ONCE, PERHAPS

Of all the stones
we gather,
all the poems
we write,
once in a lifetime
there is one, perhaps,
that gathers light
as no other, juggles
it back aloft,
sends bright beams
dancing into the dark
that stretches
across the ballroom
of the mind.

© 1996
(originally published in ByLine Magazine)

Today's word: dancing

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My Song































When I wrote today's poem, I had no idea I would still be writing in 2018 ... or even that there might still be "wisps of thought gathering softly in the valleys of my mind."

But I am, and there still are.

Writing, of course, is a gift. I view it not as a talent which few others have, but as a gift. The words simply come, freely, to the patient writer ... all writers know this. 

When they are ready, the words will come ... showing themselves softly, perhaps, like a thistle drifting past ... or like a blast entering through a door suddenly opened to it. But they will come.

Writing derives from other gifts, as well. The gift of time, for example. I have been given time to write, thanks to Phyllis, who allows me the quiet moments I need, who gives me the encouragement I crave, who is so patient and caring, so vital to me ... like the air I breathe.

Then there are the gifts of support, encouragement, advice, concern, from other family members, from friends and fellow writers, from editors who've liked my work, from those who listen attentively at my public readings.

These things make writing the greatest gift I can imagine receiving ... they keep making me feel "like a teakettle on the verge of song." And I thank you, one and all.

The poem:

MY SONG

Like a teakettle
on the verge of song,
I have endured
the silent years
and now give vent
to the poems welling,
willing themselves
into being.

My joy-filled song
is the scratch
of pencil on paper,
racing to catch
the wisps of thought
gathering softly
in the valleys
of my mind.
© 1997
(originally published in ByLine)

Today's word: verge

Monday, April 23, 2018

Let Them Try






Another poem about writing, the concentration it demands ... and the distractions which intrude, especially if the writing is being done in an attic room -- er, studio -- and the squirrels are playing games overhead.


Before we had our maple trimmed, our roof seemed to be a favorite gathering spot for those rascals.


It sounded like they were having squirrel conventions up there, or the Squirrel Olympics, maybe even doing some line dancing, although I couldn't hear the music, just those little feet, back and forth, back and forth ... back and forth ...


Oh, there were moments of quiet ... I suppose while they were choosing up sides again ... plotting their next moves. During these suspenseful moments I could get a few words written. Then the commotion resumed.


As I recall, my first draft, instead of talking about "teeny-tiny feet," said something about "obnoxious little feet," but I mellowed a bit after that.


In the quiet that followed the trimming of those overhanging limbs, I guess mellowing was to be expected.


Oh, and I purposely kept the lines short ... in order to underscore the tension of writing under such pressure.

The poem:


LET THEM TRY

Squirrels go
trickling across
my green roof
while I write,
trying to break
my concentration.

Hah! Let them
try. I am so
focused not even
booming thunder
could faze me;
certainly not
this constant
pitter-patter,
pitter-patter,
pitter-patter,
pit of their
teeny-tiny feet.
© 2001
(originally published in St. Anthony Messenger)
Today's word: pitter-patter

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Hard Times







Not all of my poems are about sunsets, the beauty of cobblestone clouds, the wafting scent of roses. Life has a gritty side, too, and some of my poems reflect that.

This encounter came a long time ago at a bus stop, a favorite trolling spot for panhandlers. 


There was a time when I would almost automatically hand over a bit of change. I could remember tough times, too.


But I had grown tired of being hit up day after day. My initial response was not very charitable, I know, but I relented. I imagine there's a lesson in there someplace, perhaps having something to do with the poor sparrows of this world.


The poem appeared in Pebble Lake Review's Fall/Winter issue of 2005, and now is part of a manuscript (Strawberry Wine) in search of a publisher.

And here it is:

HARD TIMES

Suddenly he's in my face,

dirty, wind-blown, muttering, 

Spare a quarter? Refusing to let

his question assault me,

I turn away. Then back. My own
No, can you? comes spilling out

like a shot, freezing us there
in the snow-blasted morning

until finally his uncertain
chuckle descends into breath-

stealing, chest-stabbing coughs
and I fish deep in the warmth

of a pocket for a quarter,
hand it over, stand watching

as he moves away, this poor,

tattered sparrow with his crumb.
© 2006

Today's word: tattered

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Good Dreams






I'm always searching for poems ... my own published poems ... that I can share with you.


My search this time led me to my little poem which celebrated a beginning, the arrival of a new member of the family.


I also see the arrival of new life in our midst ... this symbol of the continuation of life, this vision beyond the present day, beyond us ... as a symbol of hope.


The pairing with today's art naturally followed: the sunlit path that leads on, inviting us to see what lies beyond the next turn, and beyond that.


The poem:

THE GOOD DREAMS

Your grandparents treasure the joy
of having been there within hours
of your arrival, taking their turns
cradling your downy head in their
arms, marveling at perfect tiny
fingers and toes, your eyes fluttering
open and shut, brief lusty crying,
eager, hungry feeding, your
drifting off into well-earned sleep.


Some distant day you, too, may hold
your own grandchild and know such joy,
may sit wondering, arm growing numb,
what adventures lie still years ahead.


But for now it is sufficient
for you to sleep. So sleep, sleep,
sleep, Thomas, and in time
the good dreams will come to you.
© 1999


(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: sleep

Friday, April 20, 2018

Escaping Gravity







Spring! It was a time of celebration, a time of emerging, at last, from the cold of winter into the beginnings of warmth, a time when kites were tugging at their strings, pleading for more ... when jackets were left lying on the school grounds ... when we gave in to the call of the hills in which we were growing up ... and went galloping down them.


And gallop we did ... a few "no brakes" strides and a leap ... strides ... leap ... strides ... all the way to the bottom sometimes.


Other times we'd fall to the softening turf well before reaching bottom, and lie there, laughing at the picture we must have made, long legs carrying us careening down the slope, with little hope of reaching the bottom still standing.


It was as if we could ... if we tried hard enough ... defy gravity, that if we gained enough speed we might fly. The descent felt like flying. The air seemed to be trying to lift us. And those leaps! They were almost like flying.


Even as we lay there, laughing, our run completed, finally rolling over to look at the clouds, we still felt we might somehow break free of gravity ... next time ...


We had been so close to doing it this time!


In selecting the poem's title, "Escaping Gravity," I wanted it to serve double duty ... to say something about running down the hill, yes ... but also about the need to take our minds off the seriousness of life, even if only briefly.


We all need to do that sometimes.


The poem:


ESCAPING GRAVITY

How we challenged gravity's pull then,
our lanky legs held captive so long
by the dull gray of winter months, but now
freed, carrying us in ever lengthening
leaps until we finally fell, exhausted,
on the wet, green softness of earth,
laughing, pained with the joy of what
we had done, resting, trying again,
each new leap seeming to take us
ever so near that unreachable dream.
© 1998
(Originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: unreachable