Thursday, November 11, 2004

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

remaining of that

early-morning roar,

so here I sit,

listening, waiting

for the next wave.

Perhaps tomorrow.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)

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.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Sun Catcher ...

A film of frost

gathered the gold
of morning sun
on the window,
poured it softly,
like warm milk,
into the kitchen
where Delia
stood working,
embracing her
with a radiance
like the words
of her prayer
being whispered
to the music
of preparations
for another day.

© 1998

(originally published in A New Song)

Delia was my grandmother. I can still see her in that cold kitchen, the old wood-burning stove starting to throw out some heat, the skillet in place, waiting for warmth, a dab of oleo, an egg.
The kitchen faced west, but there was a side window that caught a bit of the morning sun. That's where the "film of frost gathered the gold ... poured it softly, like warm milk ... "
Of course, our memories become polished with much handling ... they take on a sheen far beyond that of the original event, and that has happened with this mental picture I still carry with me.
Oh, how I treasure it.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Beach Music ...

Waves come tumbling

onto the docile shore,
flinging foamy fingers
across the ochre plane.
Teeming with bubbles,
they search and settle,
soothingly diminuendo,
on a healing chord.
Eliciting a sigh
from pliant, sandy keys,
the fingers slide off
into the lap of the sea,
where joyous whitecaps
merrily urge them,
jostle and encourage them
to play it all again.

© 1998

(originally published in Capper's)

When it all began ...
Ah, there's a thought. It all began, I suppose, with that first acceptance for publication. An alert editor at Capper's spotted eight lines lurking near the middle of a longer poem I had submitted. She suggested that we keep those eight lines and my title, and that became:
Chance of Rain
The rain comes
in great galloping gulps,
faster than the soil
can sop it up.
It drums on the roof,
dances in the yard,
all the way down the hill.
For sentimental reasons, this became the title poem ... nine years later ... in my first collection of poetry, Chance of Rain, published by Finishing Line Press.
Perhaps it began in mid-February, when it occurred to me that I could get some additional mileage out of my published poems by posting them online ... and sometimes explaining them ... along with samples of my paintings and photography. (Today's art is my watercolor entitled "Surf's Up").
That was the beginning of "Chosen Words," this online journal which has been blessed with more visitors than I ever dreamed would come its way. I especially appreciate all those electronic pats on the back which have made this a much easier trip than I thought it would be.
Perhaps it all began long, long ago, in Cobden, that small town in Southern Illinois where Miss Pearl, my eighth grade teacher, instilled a love of reading and struck the spark that would later become writing, real writing. It may have been with my grandmother, who first read to me.
It's hard to tell.
All of these things eventually led to "Chosen Words." And when this online journal, this new adventure, began in mid-February, I had no idea it would be one of those achieving featured status on AOL, as I understand it just has.
I am, of course, delighted.
Tonight the adventure continues with a book signing for Chance of Rain in Reader's Choice Bookstore, Centerville, Ohio.
And tomorrow? Tomorrow I resume dancing on the table.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Autumn Leaves ...

Across the fence,

my neighbor's trees

droop with tons

of gorgeous leaves,

and here I stand

with a single rake

to defend against

the inevitable.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I Could Have Played Piano ...

My long, skinny fingers

itching for things to do,

toes just barely reaching

the pedals, and my bottom

gripping the slippery edge

of the bench, I dreamed

of playing ragtime, gospel,

boogie-woogie, maybe even

some of that girl-pleasing,

tough, classical stuff.

What I did was what

seemed to come naturally.

With only one lesson,

I flung myself into all

of the old favorites,

playing each several times

before going exuberantly

to the next. Finally,

Grandpa admitted he was

sorry he had taught me

what could be wrought

with a comb and paper.

Oh, I could have played

piano, no doubt, but my lips

wouldn't feel all numb

and fuzzy, like they do now.

© 1997

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Aromatherapy ...

The freshness

after summer rain,

honeysuckle wafting,

pie still bubbling,

smoke of a wood fire,

that new-car smell.

In a former time,

our aromatherapy.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Running the Hurdles ...

Have you

ever noticed

how many more

things go wrong

when you're trying

to get away

early, or make up

for lost time?

© 1997

(originally published in Capper's)

Monday, July 12, 2004

Loafing on the Beach ...

I need a nice soft spot

And someone turning me,
In case the sand's too hot
Or the sun's burning me.

© 1997
(originally published in Capper's)

My apologies for being so late in posting today's poem. I can imagine throngs of people sitting at their terminals all across the Nifty Fifty, perhaps even beyond, waiting for it to appear.
Well, here it is, finally (not one of my best), accompanied by one of my watercolors (not one of my best watercolors, either).
Why so late? I've spent much of the day pacing here and there while the car doctors were tweaking my little red car back into good health. And now, this evening, it's much better, thank you very much.
I'll spare you the details. I can assure you, however, that regular readers of my weekly e-newsletter, "Squiggles & Giggles," (60 readers in 18 states at last count -- and it's free, free, FREE!) know all the details. So, if you really must know, just ask one of them. 
Meanwhile, thanks for paying a visit here. And thank you so much for your patience.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

A Haiku ...

Large melon cooling

in a tub of ice water -

the flies gathering

© 1996

(originally published in Potpourri)

Monday, June 7, 2004

Slice of Summer ...

The cavitating fan,

patiently oscillating,

slicing the air,

lets it fall

like cold bacon

across the griddle

of my overheating

horizontal body.

© 1996

(originally published in Anterior Poetry Monthly)

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Only Tree ...

I grew up believing

that a cedar was

the only true tree

for Christmas,

plain, struggling


on hillside clay,

having so much

in common

with folks like us.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

That I May Know ...

When I am old

and wizened,
feeble and forgetful,
then I hope
you will read to me
a poem I wrote
in younger days,
so that I may know
once again
what it was like
to dream.

© 1996
(originally published in Poetic Eloquence)

In selecting the art, I try to be as careful as I am with the chosen words which make up the poem, as careful as I am in selecting the poem itself.
I don't want the art to overpower or distract, but to illustrate the point I'm trying to make with the poem.
In this instance I believe I have a match.
I like the stump simply because of the way the sun plays across its features. It also speaks of all those years spent growing in the woods ... and now this final stage of giving way, of returning to the soil from which it came, devolving into nutrients for new plants.
The presence of green in the photo represents the onset of this new growth. It is spring, a time of renewal. The stump remains, that symbol of the past, but it will eventually be overrun by new growth, new flowers, new dreams ... the renewal of life.
In the poem I am attempting to address this ongoing cycle of life, attempting to bridge the gap between the old and the new ... the present and the past ... a bit wistfully, perhaps ... while also trying to touch on the future. 

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Mulch Ado ...

What with all
the sowing, mowing,
watering, weeding,
feeding, spraying
and trimming,
it's been a challenge
that's a yard wide
and a summer long.

© 1996
(originally published in Mature Years)

Friday, April 9, 2004

Summer Rain ...

It was an impulse,

a sudden shower,
plump, ripe drops
deeply dimpling
the dancing dust
before skipping off,
sending shudders
up thirsting rows
of corn, a sound
like a child running
a dry stick along
an old picket fence.

© 1996

(originally published in Anterior Poetry Monthly)

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Solitary Candle ...

My candle sculpts

itself in its corner
of the room, flame
gyrating in the draft,
tiny avalanches
of wax slithering
into the maw,
a fungible, seething
mass that labors
back up the wick
to sacrifice itself
as a bit of light,
distant warmth. It
flickers, warning me
that I shall soon miss
the warmth, its quiet
companionship, gently
flowing memories, its
solitary, sustaining
work of holding
the darkness at bay.

© 1996
(originally published in Anterior Poetry Monthly)

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Cool Hat ...

It has been



lost and found,

rumpled, crumpled,

laundered until

it cries for mercy,

and it sits like

a cabbage leaf

on my head.

But then she,

a young girl about

half my height,

flashes a smile,

says, "Cool hat!"

and for a moment,

just a heartbeat,

a quickened stride,

I feel like

tossing my hat

in the air

and dancing.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)

Sunday, March 7, 2004

A Simple Request ...

As some of you know, I write a weekly newsletter which I e-mail to a small audience (57 readers in 17 states, at last count). "Squiggles & Giggles" is a potpourri of comments, usually on the lighter side, plus one of my poems.
The most recent installment, however, began on a serious note. Then I reconsidered. Much too personal, and not in keeping with the usual tone of "Squiggles & Giggles," I decided, so I withdrew the item.
I hope you won't mind, though (this is, after all, a personal journal), if I share that item with you now: 
MY THOUGHTS, as I write this tonight, are elsewhere. I wish it weren't so, but it is, and the result is that I am going to break one of the few rules we have here at Squiggles & Giggles: No politics or religion.
No, I am not going to slip in any campaign propaganda. And I'm certainly not about to preach a sermon.
There is, however, one of our group ... my sister, Sue ... who is in the hospital, and could use a miracle. All I am asking is that, if you pray, please say a prayer for her ... now ... tonight ... or on your daily commute. If prayer is not your thing, then may I suggest a moment of thoughtful silence on her behalf?    
Thank you.

Afterthoughts ...
Thank you, J. I appreciate that so much.

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Like That ...

It's like

when you think

the cup is empty

but you lift it


tilting it toward

your mouth,

and a solitary drop

comes rolling

off the bottom,

goes bounding

onto your tongue

so now you really taste

the flavor of it,

far greater

than the rest

of what you've drunk,

and it quenches

the thirst of memory,

lying there

long afterward,

most valued

because there is

no more.

© 1999

(originally published in the Palo Alto Review; subsequently nominated for Pushcart Prize honors)

We enter this poem with something having been said before our arrival. But we tune in to it, for who hasn't absently lifted the cup and been surprised by the bitterness, or the ultra-sweetness, of that last drop?

The poem speaks of the obvious, but it also speaks of endings, partings, loss ... and happiness ... those good memories that come to our rescue when we need them most.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Clutter, Glorious Clutter ...

Someday I shall have room

for everything I possess,

all the room I ever dreamed

of having, room to lean back

casually and survey the vast

reaches of things collected

in years of serious pursuit

and delayed disentanglement.

But the jam-packed reality

of today is that I shift

cautiously among the poems

poised for avalanche, books

teetering on the brink

of revenge for being left

stacked like cold flapjacks

all these busy-busy years,

treasured items gathering

dust, clipped so long ago

from forgotten magazines.

So much of my past, perhaps

my future, too, nudging me

when I turn, bumping me when

I bend, skittering when

we touch, hugging me like

a lover just before the train

pulls out. And I stand here,

loving it all right back.

© 2000

(originally published in Nanny Fanny Poetry Magazine)

Someday, perhaps, I shall be better organized. Meanwhile, I have some serious reading to do. Maybe a little writing, too.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

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)

There's something so soothing about the music of a gentle rain. It cradles us as we drift between sleep and that which becomes reality. I've tried to capture that feeling in this little piece.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

A haiku ...

pine trees

combing soft sounds

from the wind

© 1995

This little Aha! moment violates the accepted syllable count of 5-7-5, but some followers of the form feel that if the sentiment can be expressed in fewer words, please do.

I have even been told that some of my haiku, adhering strictly to the prescribed 5-7-5, are too wordy. So be it. I am all for brevity, even if I don't always seem to practice it.

This haiku moment -- I remember exactly where I was when it presented itself to me and I became fully aware of those sounds I had heard, but not really listened to, all my life -- made its first appearance in Frogpond in 1995. It was subsequently included in New Pocket Poems #4, 123 haiku poems, published by Bottom Dog Press.