Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Delia's Morning Quiet




Delia was my grandmother. I went to live with her when I was two years old ... and she reared me until I grew up and went into military service.


Little wonder that I've written about her ... even when cautioned by one instructor that he didn't want to see any "grandmother poems."


This particular poem is a combination of memories of her, of things she said, or might have said. I may have taken some liberties, but, knowing her the way I did, I don't think she would mind.


I don't think she would mind at all.


DELIA'S MORNING QUIET

Morning quiet was
always best, Delia said.


Not the soft silting
of minutes after a day
in the fields, not those
first precious seconds
after childbirth,
nor the calm after
summer storms, tearing
of an envelope, labored
reading of its words,
evening fire, supper done,
dishes stored, children
in bed.


But the kind
of quiet that came
stealing up with the sun,
sharing rooster crow
and the crackling murmur
of fire, a skillet sliding
across the kitchen stove,
sound of an eggshell
breaking with importance.

© 1999

(originally published in Poem)

Today's word: crackling

Monday, July 16, 2018

Catching a Wave






(No waves evident here; I just thought it might be good to share one of my peaceful photos ... this one taken at Cox Arboretum ... with this particular poem)

I don't think I was intended to be a morning person. Mornings have always been a struggle for me.


I know, I know. Morning is the best part of the day for the writer. Other concerns have not begun to intrude. 
The house is quiet. The brain is rested, ready to rev. Here's a whole new day beckoning.


But for me it's ... well, it's just morning. It takes me a little while to build some momentum.


I roll over, get one foot on the floor, then the other. I stand. I go teetering off in the general direction of the keyboard. I find the switch, flick it on.


By this time I have both eyes open. Things are starting to come into focus. And then, look out. Oh, look out! I'm starting to roll. I may even be writing soon.


This one was first published in Capper's:


CATCHING A WAVE

Down the avenues of my early-morning
mind zooms a flood of crowded, honking
thoughts that seek a place to park.

I’m too tired to direct traffic, too stressed
to sort them out. That must wait till later,
tongue losing its taste of suede, on the

verge of talk. But then they’re gone, not
a thought in sight, not a word of that
early-morning roar. Perhaps tomorrow.
© 1999

Today's word: momentum

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Autumn Dreams







It wasn't raining as I stirred, turned my pillow cool side up, and went drifting off again, but I thought about the coolness of that pillow, later, while I was shaving, thought about the sound of rain ... and about this poem.


So here it is again:


AUTUMN DREAMS

Softly, the rain
descends, puddling
in the darkly
glistening street,
pausing to quench
the thirsting roof
before dripping,
a muffled sighing,
to the ground.

Wind chimes stir,
and the cows
are suddenly home,
winding along
that narrow path
where the sun
lately streamed.

I stir, savoring
quilted warmth,
softness of pillow,
go drifting off
again like a puff
of milkweed.
© 2000

(originally published in St. Anthony Messenger)

Today's word: puddling

Saturday, July 14, 2018

When, at Last, It Rains






I learned about rain, or its absence, at an early age. That happens when you grow up in a rural area. So much ... in fact, everything ... depends on rain, whether you have it or you don't, whether too little or too much.


That early experience shaped me, no doubt about it. It shaped my writing, too, when I finally took that up. It created the shape of my first collection of poems, published in 2003.


This particular poem requires little explanation, I believe. Except ... except that, while it is written as something which happened one evening, it is the sum of many evenings ... spent on the front porch, "watching the stars, counting the days since last rain."


It embodies my reaction to the ending of a long drought.


It could be taken further than that, if you wish, to a celebration, not just of the return of rain to the parched soil, but to the ending of one of the many kinds of droughts we endure in our lives.


WHEN, AT LAST, IT RAINS

I sense its talking to me in the depths
of my sleep, hear its melody settling


softly on my ear like a lover's whisper,
see it, with my mind's eye, falling


into a steady rhythm, slipping slowly
down the slope of the tattered roof


on the porch where I sat last week
watching the stars, counting the days


since last rain; then with a shout,
a slam of the screened back door, I'm


standing in the crusted yard, greeting
the rain with my arms outstretched,

dancing wildly with it, receiving its
healing kisses on my upturned face.
© 2006


(published in my first collection, Chance of Rain, issued by Finishing Line Press, 2003; included in Common Threads, issued by Ohio Poetry Association, Spring-Summer issue, 2006)

Today's word: healing

Friday, July 13, 2018

Teeming Waters







Today's illustration is another of my photos ... a fuzzy little snapshot taken to preserve the moment ... I don't recall exactly where or when I snapped it ... but the tranquility of the scene appealed to me.

Teeming waters? Hardly. 

The juxtaposition of the pair of ducks ... and the reflection of the large tree caught my eye.

I'm always intrigued by the ducks we encounter on our walks ... the ways they interact with each other ... and with us ... and the way the young tag along behind Mother, as though being tugged by an invisible string.

And trees? I'm not really a tree hugger, but I do like trees. They were so much a part of where I grew up ... so much of my early life ... and now, in my current stage, I am drawn more and more to their shade during my summer walks.

So it seemed a very natural combination for a photo ... and now, maybe a match with today's poem.

In it, I guess I'm saying that while I consider myself a painter of pictures with words ... the words I find here and there ... I don't really paint the BIG PICTURE. 

Where word-pictures are concerned, I'm not a muralist. I stick to the small subjects I know ... and mostly just as an observer, at that, things I take note of as I stroll by.

I'm not a philosopher, sometimes not even a thoughtful observer. 

But I do relish the little word-pictures that come to me in quiet moments. This one contains some of those.


The poem:


TEEMING WATERS

No ocean liners ply the waters
of my mind, no freighters,
and no reefers sitting low
with their burden of hefty ideas,
but smaller craft keep them
teeming, shadows following
in the shallows, crawling
the paths where pebbles lie
travel-rounded and waiting,
always waiting, for that poem.
© 1996

(originally published in ByLine)



Today's word: teeming

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Play BALL!








Today's poem comes to mind each year as  ice-encrusted winter months start retreating and I resume walking past those ball diamonds waiting for crowds of kids ... or would-be kids ... to return.

It also comes to mind with the onset of nippy nights and chilly mornings ... a reminder that the things of summer will soon be put aside while we search for the leaf rake... and the dreaded snow shovel.

I like to store away sunnier memories ... something to tide me over in less inviting times, weather-wise. 

What better memory than a sun-drenched ball park?

There's one ball park in particular that holds a certain fascination. I guess it's because there's seldom anybody else around as we go strolling by.

I do pause there ... sometimes approach the backstop, and my fingers do grip the wire mesh like "some abandoned vine" ... while I think of days long, long ago, when I actually ran the bases a few times.

There's still that momentary urge to try it again. But I'm a little smarter now ... and a lot slower ... and I never do.

The poem:

Play BALL!

Standing behind
the sagging backstop
at the deserted field,
my fingers gripping
the wire mesh like
some abandoned vine,
I'm tempted to go
tearing around second,
sliding into third
in a cloud of dust;
instead, I linger
a few moments more,
enjoying the quiet,
 
just imagining that
roar of the crowd.
© 1998

(originally published in Capper's)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ordinary Things



(Another of those "ordinary things" which catch my attention when I'm out walking -- the shadows of bare limbs falling across a walkway, trees catching the sun in the background -- a tranquil scene which may lead to a poem ... or just a feeling of quiet contentment)


Rejection ... in the form of those little impersonal notes which accompany your poems when they come back from some distant editor ... is so frequent that it's almost expected.

Oh, I send out the best work I can do ... at the time ... and I always think I've matched it with the perfect place for it to be published ... but there are so many factors at work: The sheer numbers of people who write poetry, the limited number of pages in each publication, the timing, the subject matter.

Then there's the subjective way in which the flood of incoming work is measured ... as, I suppose, it should be. The editor, after all, is likely struggling for survival, too.

I've come to expect that most of my submissions will be rejected. 

Of course, this makes the acceptances that much more sweet ... more worthy of celebration, though I don't dance on the table as much as I once did.

In this pursuit of acceptance here and there, I accept the odds, I keep trying to improve my writing ... and the odds ... and life goes on.

Once in a while, in all of this turmoil, there comes a little surprise.

I recall how one editor had scrawled something about "mundane treatment of ordinary subjects" on the rejection slip which accompanied my returned poems. 

I recall that note ... and I wish I could recall the name of that editor.

I would like to thank him for giving me ideas for two more poems, today's "Ordinary Things" ... and another, "In Praise of the Mundane" ... both of which were published ...elsewhere.

Today's offering:


ORDINARY THINGS

If my daily walk could take me
far enough from where I live,
I might discover something worthy
of collecting and preserving.

Instead, I find a squirrel's
nest, abandoned, being parceled
by the wind, a remnant of string
lying in hopeless tangle,
fragments of eggshell left like
bits of sky on gritty gray
sidewalk, a cat sunning, 
scattered 
 toys, telling me that 
children 
 
are perhaps watching
as I pick my way through.

Such ordinary things, trickling
through the fingers of my memory
even before I get home, but while
I have them they are treasure.
More than that, food for my soul.
© 1998

(Originally published in A New Song, the poem is now part of my third collection,Wood Smoke, published by Finishing Line Press)

Today's word: ordinary