Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cold Winter Nights


Aha! Another poem about writing ... touching somewhat on a process that remains something of a mystery to me ... but also reaching the heart of the matter, I think, the satisfaction that comes from putting thoughts on paper.

The poem:



I have dreamed

that my poetry

might go like

wildfire lighting

the emptiness

of night, dancing

ahead of the wind,

smoke of creation,

furious burning,

rising to join

the lingering clouds,

drifting, drifting.


Ah, but a smaller

fire it is,

burning within,

chasing nothing

before it, raising

no alarms, warming

only me on these

cold winter nights

with a lamp

keeping me company,

and these scratchings.

© 1996

(originally published in ByLine)


Today's word: wildfire

LOOKING BACK (again) ... this time all the way to the May 10, 2002, issue of the (late lamented) Squiggles & Giggles.

I shared a poem entitled "Shy People" in that issue, and then said this:

I'm not saying that writers are shy people, or even that regular readers of "Squiggles," or visitors to my web page, are shy people. They're busy. They have other things on their minds. Other places to be. Other fish to fry.

They don't hang around long. They zip past lie a roadrunner, with a beep-BEEP! and a tiny cloud of dust that's struggling to keep up with them.

On the other hand, there are those who always find a moment or two to say a few words in passing. And I appreciate them all, the busy who zip away, and the really busy who still find a moment to say something in response to what I've written.

After all, where would I be without either group? Most likely sitting here talking to myself, that's where. And I'm not a good listener when I talk to myself.

BUT, HEY, thanks for listening to me.


Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, June, for sharing your reaction to the poem. I keep saying that poetry is meant to be shared ... and I really believe that. Then, when someone indicates they have heard or read one of my poems ... and they like it ... well, that's a great, really great, reward.

And thank you, Southernmush, for that heartwarming response to today's entry. I will certainly try to keep on keepin' on, because I continually find myself in good company ... and I like that. Oh, and Happy New Year to you, too! 

I'm honored, Vicki, that you linked your readers to this poem. Sometimes I feel like I'm standing on a street corner ... "sharing" my poems with those passing by ... not really knowing, though, that they "hear" me ... even though the counter gives some evidence that people have at least taken a look. And now ... beep-BEEP! ... I have to be on my way. There were so many things I had hoped to do this year ... and time appears to be running out. Best wishes in the coming new year.

Friday, December 28, 2007


I will always remember that butterfly, and that once in a lifetime event, as described in today's poem.

I remember precisely the hillside on which I was sitting when the butterfly found me.

I had been mowing the grounds of a friend's summer home in Southern Ohio. It was a hot, steamy day. The mower had become balky, so I decided we both needed a rest ... a bit of cooling off.

I was just sitting there, hoping for a bit of breeze, when it happened. But let's let the poem tell what occurred:


I remember sitting

so still, feeling

the sweat trickling

down my back, beading

along my forearms,

a touch like

an angel's breath

when a butterfly

fluttered down

onto my sunburned

hand and sat there

for the longest time

before sipping

that moisture born

of hard labor, then

lifted lightly off, wafted

away like a dream.

© 1996

(originally published in Read, America!)


Today's word: wafted

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Marti, for that comment! When someone says what you did, then I know I've really succeeded ... but I always say, too, that what the reader brings to the poem is so important. I'm delighted for the understanding you brought ... and I hope that made it a pleasant interlude on a wintery day.

Thank you so much, Southernmush, for sharing that encounter with that small yellow butterfly ... that sends my memory flying back to summers long ago ... and I'm always delighted when I'm part of your day ... especially when you share your thoughts with us. Best wishes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I don't know how many nights I had tossed and turned. Let's just say there were a lot of them.

So many times, during those restless nights, I would think of something that seemed to be the start of a poem, perhaps ... or a bit of fiction ... something I might do something with, if only I could remember it the next morning.

I never could. The next morning? Gone ... the slate wiped clean ... not a trace of that "great idea" which had nagged me so much the night before.

Aha! The solution? That's explained in the poem.

But it didn't solve the problem I expected it to ... far from it. You'll have to read on to discover what problem was solved:


All those nights

of tossing, turning,

I lay awake wishing

I had pad and pencil

to preserve thoughts

dancing fleetingly

across the ballroom

of my frazzled mind.

When finally one night

I remembered to place

these vital tools

within arm's length,

I went smugly to bed.

And slept like a log.

© 1997

(originally published in Parnassus Literary Journal)


Today's word: fleetingly

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wintertime Waltz


Stop me if you've ... actually, don't stop me if you've heard this before.
It's an old story that went something like this:
I may have commented recently that, after having unseasonably warm weather in our neck of the woods, winter arrived. Oh, did it ever!
It snowed, and snowed, and snowed. And then we had freezing rain and sleet on top of that.
It reminded me of the time we had similar weather conditions ... I stepped out the back door ... checked on the steps before starting down ... they seemed fine ... one step ... and DOWN I went. Ka-BOOM!
I went crawling back into the house with a lump on my head.
THIS time I was carrying salt ... to put on the driveway.
Out the back door ... a careful look ... one cautious step ... and down I went ... Those icy steps had outsmarted me AGAIN!
Nothing broken, thank goodness, except the container of salt I was carrying.
But that reminded me of today's poem, "Wintertime Waltz." After all, where would we be, if we couldn't have a little laugh at our own mishaps and minor misfortunes?
The poem:

I have no

sense of rhythm,
no grace, no pace,
no with-it moves
from some great
dancing school.
But on ice? Hey,
I'm a dancing fool.

© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: dancing

Monday, December 24, 2007

Touch of Spring

So I'm running a little late, you say? Well, you're right ... and there was a time when I would've been so guilt-ridden about that ... but today? Today ... a twinge, maybe ... just a twinge.

We were out and about this morning.

We had a few errands to run ... and, of course, we had to get out for our daily walk ... a bit abbreviated today, but still a walk. It was a little too crowded indoors ... and a little too nippy outdoors, so we compromised, cut the walk a tad short, stopped in at a favorite place for a cup of soup, a bit of conversation, and came on home.

The weather ... as it often does at this time of year ... had me thinking about spring.

No harm in looking ahead, I always say ... or, in this case, back to a particular day well before this poem was published in 1999.

I still recall that moment ... a brisk day, the exact bus stop where I felt the sun bouncing off the brick building ... like it was putting an arm around me ... offering reassurance.

And so it is with the eventual arrival of spring (are you counting the days yet?), that season of renewal, of hope, that warm promise of things to come.

The poem:


I feel a touch

like a friendly hand

on my back, an arm

across my shoulders,

for the sun has

broken free of clouds

and is projecting

a warmth I had

almost forgotten.

I smile at strangers

and they smile back,

for they're feeling

that touch, too,

that warm embrace.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: embrace

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Hey, Vicki! Thanks for stopping by! And Merry Christmas to you, too! Oh, if I could just spring forward to spring, I would, I really would. But we're already another day nearer to that, right?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Summer Dancers

Picture from Hometown

Speaking of dancing, I felt like dancing last night ... maybe not on the table, exactly, but around it ... and off into the living room ... and back around the table. And I'm not a dancer. Never could dance. Never will. Still ...

Last night I received word from Finishing Line Press that my third collection of poems, Wood Smoke, has been accepted for publication in 2008.

WHOOPEE! What a way to end this year ... and begin the next!

Meanwhile, it's back to the reality of an increasingly colder winter morning ... window-rattling winds ... no snow here ... yet ... but it's coming. I can feel it in my bones.

So-o-o-o ... I thought you might not mind a summer poem today, a mini-break from winter's opening number(s).

Though autumn's my favorite season ... well, spring's a very close second ... there are times, like this morning, when I tend to think just a bit about summer ... and find myself admitting that it's not quite as bad as I make it out to be.

Truth be known, I just don't tolerate winter cold as well as I once did, and shoveling has become more of a chore.

Of course, when summer really comes, I'll probably find myself thinking of crisp, cool mornings, the sun glinting on a new covering of snow ... my search for mittens and scarf.

All that aside, here's a glimpse of a place long, long ago and far away:


Flecks of sunlight

descend through

the leafy canopy,

dancing on the path,

still dancing

after the breeze

has gone off

toward a hillside

lush with wheat

that slowly leans

and straightens,

as though hearing

soft music, too.

© 2001

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: canopy

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

You are so right, Magran: summer = HEAT. And I agree, it's nice to be snug as a bug in a rug when it's cold outside ... like right now. But there's something about summer, too ... the challenge, maybe. I've found that one secret to surviving the onslaught of summer is to take "shade hikes" ... in other words, I try to shun those indoor places with their air-conditioning ... (OK, so when I do feel my sox starting to melt, I duck inside a mall, or some place equally cool) ... but I like stayiing outdoors and darting from one shade to another ... possibly finding a bench there where I can just sit and watch the heat waves dancing, way off there.

Thank you, Southernmush ... I'm glad you liked the heat of this poem ... and I hope you're staying as snug as a bug in a rug (a phrase I borrowed from somone). Thank you, too, for those kind words about my third collection of poems finding a publisher. As you may have gathered, I'm pretty excited about that ... it gives me something to look forward to in 2008! Merry Christmas, and a happy new year to you, too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Mouse

My computer had a little trouble waking up this morning ... I guess we're becoming more alike ... I say "a little trouble," but that translates as BIG TROUBLE for me.
I'm still struggling to understand the electric typewriter ... and, no, the first typewriter I used was not a wood-burning model ... it was a standard, mechanical ... clackety-clack ... sturdy, understandable typewriter.
When something got stuck, I could usually track down the problem and ... with the help of a paper clip or a brush ... could usually solve it.
Computers, though, are a different breed. I know nothing. Well, I do know that this one seems to be working now ... (how many times have I thought that, though, only to be wrong?) ... and if all goes well ...
But I digress.
What I started out to talk about was today's poem, based, as are most of mine, on the material at hand ... you know, tangible stuff ... things I understand ... at least sorta ...
Now that I think about it, though, it seems that this particular poem kind of tells its own story:

I slept serenely one blustery night

while a timorous sweet-toothed mouse
stole into my house, chewed a jagged
hole in the right-hand pocket of my
old blue robe and took a foil-wrapped
chocolate by surprise.

Discovering the theft, I, Superior
Creature I, smiled at such waste
when my poor pocket was open
all the time.

But who has dined on prized chocolate?
And who stands here holding crumpled
foil while a finger waggles foolishly
from a hole?

© 1998

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: timorous
Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
Good luck, Magran, in that HUGE mouse war ... as you may recall, I grew up in the country, and we expected an annual invasion as the nights grew colder ... so did the cats (they thought the mice were delicious), until they'd had their fill ... and realized that they were vastly outnumbered. And you're right, having mice is like ... well, like no fun at all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lost Pencils

Picture from Hometown

Phyllis pretends she's not with me when I discover a pencil lying on the sidewalk. She knows I can't resist. I'll simply have to pause, pick it up and put it in my pocket.

I've learned not to do that with pens. Sometimes they leak.

But pencils?

There's something safe, reassuring about a pencil. Even the most chewed up, stubbiest, disreputable looking pencil has the potential of a few more words, of writing a few lines, perhaps, that could someday turn into something big ... maybe a poem.

Here's one now:


I find them during my walks

past schools, lying there, poor,

fallen things, pointing forlornly

to some vague destination.

Many bear the jagged markings

from anxious scholars' teeth,

some have been sharpened

to the point of extinction,

some are broken, and might not

write again, without my timely

arrival to bring them home.

Handling each with the care

one would accord a fallen bird,

I slide it into the warmth

of an inner pocket to keep

it safe, for this could be

the one I've always needed,

the one with something to say

that I really need to hear.

© 2000

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word: potential

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Day for Flying

But isn't that always the way it is when you're in a hurry?
So, for a few minutes at least, I'm putting hurry aside. I'm sitting here calmly at the keyboard, serenely typing a few words which I hope will make their way into "Chosen Words." Not a worry in the world.
Like, yeah, sure.
Meanwhile, here's the poem (I hope):

Crisp autumn breeze sliding off
some unseen glacier, sun busy
burnishing the copper leaves,

as though trees were incapable
of doing it themselves, and not
a cloud in sight. A day made

for flying. Indeed, overhead
dozens of silent chalk marks
of planes drag themselves along,

blade marks slowly multiplying
on a blue rink, crisscrossing,
widening, turning into fluffy

cotton batting stretched along
the cold, these diaphanous
contrails abandoned in a flight

to somewhere, as though planes
of the world were gathering
on this day to make clouds,

being impatient for the regular
kind and for the needed rain,
the prodigal, dallying rain.
© 1997
(originally published in Potpourri)

Today's word: diaphanous

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Biking by Degrees

Today's photo is of one of my "neighbors," having a snack, or, perhaps, just engaged in thinking up new tricks ... and, as far as I know, has nothing to do with the poem.
Meanwhile: In discussing a poem, particularly one of my own, there's the temptation to say so much about it that there's no need to read the poem itself.

I hate it when I do that.
I'm trying not to, with today's offering, but I'm afraid even the title may tend to give it away.
Let me just say that while I have an aversion to making New Year's resolutions (just around the corner, eh?), I do occasionally concede there are some activities I need to take up ...
"Biking" is one activity that I need to resume. This kind of biking appeals to me because I also like it when I can engage in "multi-tasking" ... at least to the extent of doing two things at once ... not that I'm such an efficient person. Quite the contrary.
Here, now that I've verged on giving the whole thing away, is the poem, originally published in Capper's:

I’ve put tons
of happy miles
on this bike,
clinging to its
slender seat,
pedaling steadily
while I catch up
on my reading,
its single wheel
whirring, pages
blurring, while
I exercise here
in my basement.

© 1996


Today's word: multi-tasking

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
Hey, Magran, so you like "dessert" first. Welcome to the club. Before that particular food group went on my personal forbidden list, I was known to wolf down dessert first ... a time or two. I see nothing wrong with reading the poem first. In fact, I like it that you're looking forward mainly to the poem itself. The commentary is merely the door to the room where the poem is waiting for guests, and I try not to open the door too slowly ... but sometimes I do. I know. I do.   

Monday, December 10, 2007

At the Doctor's Office

Picture from Hometown

I'm dusting off one that some of you have seen before.

It came to me on a routine visit to the doctor's office ... I was, indeed, perched on the end of an examining table ... waiting ... and watching the rain.

Then I reached for the folded scrap of paper I always carry in my hip pocket, and started writing.

"At the Doctor's Office" was originally published in Potpourri, was subsequently nominated for Pushcart Prize honors, and is now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher:


Random needles of rain

start darting diagonally

like the silent scratchings

of cat claws on the window

where the traffic is zooming

and sizzling past, hauling

away the remains of Thursday,

blurring beyond the sycamore,

its mottled gray-green trunk

whispering of a deep-forest

stream while seeming utterly

misplaced here where concrete

suffers the presence of so few

trees, where my strongest

efforts at contiguous thought

produce only fragments too tiny

to mend, unleavened images,

lacking all savor of meaning,

where I perch, dry-mouthed

and nervous, my legs dangling

from the end of this table,

and wait, as I always do,

for a door to open softly,

carefully, into this silence,

this sterile, stifling silence.

© 2001


Today's word: needles

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Magran. I'm glad you felt that the poem put you there, sitting on the examining table, watching the raindrops slanting across the glass of the window. When that happens, I feel I've really done it right.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Picture from Hometown

I remember tooling along the highway somewhere in the Midwest.
The sun was shining, the landscape a quilt of varying shades of green, a sprinkling of houses and farm buildings.
Then suddenly ... it seemed sudden at the time ... I became aware of those acres of sunflowers "staring" at me. I was reminded of a classroom, not as a teacher, for I was never privileged to have that role, but as a visitor entering quietly, yet becoming, for the moment, the center of attention ... all those young heads turning, those eyes all focused on me, evaluating, questioning.
Oh, how that field of sunflowers reminded me of that moment. And now, this morning ... when there's a deep blanket of snow spread across Ohio, and the temperatures have plunged into single digits ... I'm enjoying the memory of that sun-drenched scene ... and how it set the wheels turning toward another poem.
It goes something like this:


Great gray ribbon
of road unspooling
steadily beneath me,
then, to my left,
acres of big brown eyes
all intently focused;
first day of school,
teacher's talking.

© 1995
(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: focused
Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
Thank you for stopping by, June. When someone does that, and says, "I know that feeling" ... either about the poem or my own commentary ... I know I've succeeded, and that ... well, that just makes my day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


the rains of spring

were, thudding

on the empty drum

of my young life.

Renewal lacked

meaning for me,

but the years

have washed away

that emptiness.

Now the song

of those gentle

drops on my roof

nurtures dreams

of beginnings

and new growth.

© 2002

(originally published in Brave Hearts)


Today's word: beginnings

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Oh, I obviously cling to beginnings, too, Magran ... and I think that attitude comes, not just with age, but increased understanding ... which can come at any point in our lives. I see these beginnings, even though they may not be large ... and may, in fact, be spaced close to together ... as my stepping stones to the future.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Morning Talk

Picture from Hometown

I like to think that poems come to me ... and they will, I've discovered, if I can just sit still in one place long enough.

This one may not have come to me, exactly, but I found the material for it in the tree just outside my window. I sat listening to a certain sound, then located its source ... and watched.
From there it was simply a matter of putting my impressions on paper before they ... the impressions, that is ... flew away.
I admit that I found more than just the sights and sounds of a mother-and-daughter exchange between two cardinals to write about.
Before I'd finished, I couldn't resist drawing the parallel between these two beautiful little creatures and the rest of us ... we superior beings who "own" so much of this material world ... and are, perhaps, so bent on possessing more of it ... that we neglect to build little bridges between us ... particularly between the generations.
End of sermon. And now, on to the poem:

Amid a rising tide of summer sounds,
I slowly become aware of one pair
catching my ear more than the others.

Then there they are, a mother cardinal
and her offspring, flitting and talking
to each other in the blue spruce.

Talking of food, perhaps, or safety
in these thick boughs, weighty subjects,
or maybe just chit-chat between

this mother and her young daughter.
I have no way of knowing, but they
seem to have found an understanding,

a quiet accord, like a gently swaying
footbridge between the generations,
that we humans keep hoping to find.

© 2003
(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: chit-chat

LOOKING BACK – I don't do a lot of that ... looking back, that is ... but I was going through some old binders ... getting rid of things, downsizing, if you will ... and came across a printout of one of my outgoing e-mails from January 27, 2002, Subj: Scribblings.

Oh, did that bring back some memories! I notice that it went to 18 recipients, included a copy of my poem, "Only the Best Will Do" ... and opened with some meandering thoughts about "Scribblings ... by Robert L. Brimm."
Scribblings was my web page ... on AOL, if memory serves me right ... but (sniffle-sniffle) that page has since ceased to exist. It was fun while it lasted, though ... with an offering of a poem and some chit-chat about what inspired it. Sound familiar? 
I noted that there had been 363 visitors to the page since its beginning on January 8 ... but I was wondering why there had been so few visitors over that most recent weekend.
Maybe it was because my writing had put everybody to sleep.
Anyway, I noted that we were off to a good start toward our first million visitors to the page, adding ... "Also, if just one of you would click on Scribblings, that would get us off that uneven number."
Oh, that uneven number ... there was just something about being stuck on an uneven number, I guess.
So much for looking back ... for now ... maybe we can do it again some time. Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by.
Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
I know that feeling Magran. I feel like a "taker," myself, when I fall behind ... as I often do ... with my responses to the comments I find here. I'm still "sprinting," of course ... typing as fast as I can, but at brief intervals ... for various reasons. On the other hand, I take great comfort in knowing there are those who come by for a visit ... even if they don't feel like chatting. When I look at the counter, it's like hearing their quiet footsteps as they approach, read a bit, then go on to re-enter the busy whirl of their lives. So, Magran, you ... and they ... are not just "takers," but "givers," too ... and those visits ... yes, even the quiet ones ... help to keep me going ... and going ... and going.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Always a Dad

Marie (not her real name) was telling some of her co-workers about her recent visit of a few days with her father.

Her account was interrupted, though, as she recalled one particular detail of that first evening back home ... in Detroit, I believe it was ... and burst out laughing.

This poem, written well after the fact, tells the story, I think:


Marie, a young exec,

on the first evening

of a few days' visit

with her father,

dined out with a trio

of school-day friends.

Opening the door softly

well after midnight,

she found her father

dozing in his chair,

yesterday's newspaper

asleep on his lap,

just like the old days

of curfew and concern.

She gently scolded him

for waiting up for her.

Saying he really hadn't,

he struggled to his feet

and silently received

an understanding hug.

© 1996

(originally published in Anterior Poetry Monthly)


Today's word: dozing

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

And sweet of you to say so, June. Thank you.

I'm glad you identified with this one, Marti ... and I especially got a chuckle out of your description of that return visit after you had moved out ... your observation about it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

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

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Mmmmm ... I smell that coffee again, June.

Love that comment, Magran ... you had me going there ... all the way to the punchline. Thanks.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Chance of Rain

Today's poem, originally published in Capper's, is the title poem of my first collection, Chance of Rain, published in 2003 by Finishing Line Press.

To listen to the poem, please click here

I apologize to those who have heard this story before, but I feel impelled to share it just one more time.

"Chance of Rain" is my lucky poem. It began life as a much longer poem, written at the kitchen table after one of my summer walks.

It was so hot that I had paused in the shade to consider whether I really thought I could make it up the next hill and then home. Just then I felt a slight breeze. Thus encouraged, I set off again toward home.

But I had started thinking of how the oppressive heat and humidity were so like the area of Southern Illinois where I grew up. I kept thinking about that, recalling what it had been like, that terrible heat.

When I got home, I started writing. I imagined an older person, about my age, sitting on a porch, scanning the skies for signs of rain. I imagined the rain's coming, sweeping across the fields. I described the old man's reaction to the rain ... all of this in considerable detail.

This narrative became a long poem which I submitted to Capper's. It was there that an alert editor, Ann Crahan, spotted eight lines that appealed to her in the middle of my poem.

She suggested that we keep those eight lines and my title. I agreed, and it became my first poem accepted for publication.

Over the years, I wrote many more pieces about rain ... or its absence ... and when those poems suggested themselves to me as a possible collection, it seemed fitting that "Chance of Rain," my first-born, my lucky poem, should be the title piece.

The poem:


The rain comes

in great galloping

gulps, faster than

the soil can sop it up.

It drums on the roof,

dances in the yard,

celebrates all the way

down the hill.

© 2003


Today's word: lucky

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

And I hope this is a lucky day for you, June ... like, hitting it big in the lottery ... or finding a five dollar bill in the parking lot ... or being treated to a beautiful sunset. Luck comes in so many shapes and sizes. Me? I feel lucky to have had so many visitors to "Chosen Words" ... where each visitor is special, really special.

I'm doing well today, thank you very much, Southernmush. I am so glad you haven't grown tired of my rain poems ... especially this "lucky" poem ... the one that started it all. I'm glad you enjoyed a beautiful fall day, but I know you're hoping for rain to visit the parched soil, too. We've had a touch of drought here, too, but nothing like your area has suffered. Let's hope you get some relief soon.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Snowy Kingdom

It was something somebody said a few days ago, I think ... as I recall, they mentioned snow ... the prospect of snow.
That was enough to bring to mind memories of times when ... well, when there was more than the prospect of snow. It was falling steadily, piling up, drifting ... looking like it was going to hang around forever.
The mere mention of snow was enough to set my mental wheels into motion ... spinning, that is. That brought to mind today's poem ... one that you've seen before.
I hope you don't mind this "encore" appearance ... and I really hope my mentioning snow doesn't bring about an actual visit by it ... not yet, at least.
Here's roughly what I said about it before:

Today started out in fairly normal fashion, considering that I had undergone a bit of outpatient surgery a couple of days ago. Breakfast? I'm sure I had breakfast, though the details are sketchy.

It's the walk I remember. Phyllis and I always try for a daily walk, if conditions are such that we have a fair chance of remaining on our feet. If not, we hazard a drive to a nearby mall for some serious walking ... and gawking.
I can only describe today's walk with ... pardon me, folks ... a four-letter word: C-O-L-D. I could feel my fingers turning brittle inside my gloves, my ears couldn't crawl far enough into my sock cap ... and I was getting an ice cream headache.
Naturally, when we finally got back home ... when we went crawling up the steps and into that warm, welcoming living room ... I immediately fell into my favorite chair ... kicked back ... and here I am again ... it's evening now ... I'm partially thawed, computer's warmed up, and I'm trying to post one of my "off-the-rack" poems.
Tonight, with snow steadily sifting down across the Midwest, I could think of no better offering than "Snowy Kingdom" ... along with one of my arty-er doodles. 

Swirling flakes

made soft landings
in the night,
leaving the mailbox
and a row of cedars
bowing obediently
in its direction.

© 1994

(originally published in Capper's)



Today's word: swirling

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
I'm glad you were enjoying warmer weather there, Southernmush ... far too early to have snow piling up underfoot. We have errands to run, things to do ... and we deserve a few more days of decently warm weather, at least. 

Friday, October 26, 2007

Morning Stroll

It could have been Anyplace, USA, and perhaps it was.

I don't think I had a specific site in mind when I wrote it. I lived and worked a lot of places in the Midwest where there were bridges, steeples, rooftops to receive those early morning rays.

During a couple of military stints, I saw places outside the Midwest, of course, but the Midwest is where I'm rooted, where these morning impressions, I'm sure, were received and stored away.

Even as a child, once I got my eyes open and my tennis shoes on my feet, I found something peaceful about those precious minutes when the sun was just climbing over the hill, preparing to fill the valley with warmth and light.

Much of my adult work life required that I be up before the sun.

Again, despite my groggy condition at that hour, I would sometimes glimpse something in first light that would stay with me much of that day ... the fiery glow of light against a window ... light and shadow on a steeple ... or even distant cars "fluttering into movement."

Strange, but I did sometimes feel that I should move softly about, in order to avoid disturbing those who were a part of this tranquil scene ... or for fear of somehow disturbing the scene itself.

And this from one who has never really been a morning person.

The poem:


The town seems

so deep in sleep

as early light

goes streaming

across rooftops,

touching steeples,

moving on

to where cars

are fluttering

into movement

near the bridge,

that I stroll

ever so softly,

taking care

not to disturb.

© 2000

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: stroll

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Two Below

This is a winter poem. No doubt about that. It's reminiscent of Northern Illinois, where we spent several bitterly cold winters, but it was written during, and about, winter in Ohio ... or any place where temperatures sink unmercifully low, then struggle to rise, fall again, struggle again ... fall.

Little wonder that we find an unnamed couple sleeping under that "pale slice of lemon floating in thin clouds" ... "like two ... bears dreaming of spring."

This one was originally published in Southern Humanities Review, and is now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher.


Pale slice of lemon

floating in thin clouds

far above temperatures

fallen, clicking,

struggling to rise

where they were

sometime yesterday

before falling back

in the sullen darkness

that will cradle us

like two sleeping bears

dreaming of spring.

© 2006


Today's word: unmercifully

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Welcome back, Southernmush! It's always good to get back home, isn't it? I hope the posting of "Two Below" and the bitter cold you're having in Atlanta is only coincidence. I'll try to send some sunshine your way ... but you know how good I am at really influencing the weather. Stay snug ... and keep writing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Morning Song

You may have noticed ... or maybe not ... that I'm running a little late this morning.

No particular reason. Mondays are like that, sometimes. Busy weekend. Beautiful two days of sunshine and comfortable temperatures. I gave in to the lure of the outdoors ... and fell behind on my chores.

Among those chores, thinking ahead to my next entry ... at least ... here on "Chosen Words."

That ... no surprise ... finally came up just minutes ago.

In between other things, I've been trying to prepare for participation in a "poetry slam" ... something I've never done before ... so I don't really know how to prepare for it, although I have a vague idea of what a "slam" is like.

I just don't see any of my own poems fitting in.

I'm not a "performance" poet ... some would question whether I'm really any kind of poet ... I write mainly for myself, but I enjoy sharing what I've written, when I find a willing listener ... and I really enjoy hearing what others have written.

So I'll go.

I may get cold feet. I may remain glued to my seat, listening to others, applauding what they have written ... or I may rise, share something with the audience ... receive their applause ... or take my lumps ...

But I won't be dancing, singing, rapping ... I couldn't, even if my life depended on it.

Meanwhile, here's another of my little poems, an effort to paint a picture with a few words gathered in the quiet of the evening:


First light comes

stealing across

slumbering fields,

a doorslides open

like muffled thunder

rolling, distant,

then, on the breeze,

a tractor's song.

© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: late

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I am so glad this one brought back memories for you, Magran. It seems to me that you had the best of both worlds ... your front yard being "city" ... and your back yard "all country." As for the "slam," even if I do get cold feet ... anything short of being run out of town ... I plan to report back here with some news about the event.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Irresistible Force

I keep coming back to this one. It's not my greatest ... just a few words strung together like beads on a string ... but they serve to preserve a memory of a time that was.

And this one's so firmly implanted ... the great smell of freshly-baked cookies wafting through the house.

Sometimes ... my subconscious at work, I suppose ... I seem to get a vague kind of signal, stop what I'm doing in mid-sentence, abandon the keyboard, and go walking briskly toward the kitchen.

There, I'm getting it again ...

But I have to resist. Cookies ... at least that kind ... the sugar-laden, chocolate-laced ... LARGE ... kind, are on my forbidden list now. My doctor seems to have ways of knowing if I've even inhaled the aroma of one of my favorites.

So I just savor the memories. Ah, how sweet they are!

The poem:


Sometimes, even

wild horses

couldn't drag me

from my room,

but the aroma

of cookies fresh

from the oven

always could.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word:


Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Although my grandmother could bake a pretty mean pie, Magran, it was my Aunt Mabel, as I recall, who brought the real goodies into my life when she paid us a visit ... fudge ... and, yes, those wonderful, delicious cookies. They're still my favorite food group ... all the more, now that they've taken on a "forbidden fruit" aspect. Ah, but I still have the memories ...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Autumn Trees

Yes, my children, there was a time ... no, not back in the days of the dinosaurs ... a little more recent than that ... when there were candy stores, and others, I suppose, which sold their sweet wares for a penny apiece (I hear that the price has gone up a bit since then).

The poem is not about the penny candy store, exactly, but it helps if you can bear that image in mind as you work your way through.
Imagine, if you will, a place where there are so many choices all around you, each one seemingly more appealing than the one you just hovered over, and that one over there ... so mouth-watering alluring that you simply must have it.
No, wait ... there's another one.
Transfer that to a tree-lined highway at its autumn peak, you're driving along enjoying ... well, you've got the picture. This one was originally published in Capper's:

Lining the highway
like penny candies,
they invite us
to pick this one,
no, maybe that one
there, each seeming
a little prettier,
more alluring,
all bidding wildly
for those precious
pennies clutched
in our sweaty hand.

© 1998


Today's word: alluring

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Autumn Rain

Thunderstorms were frightening to a youngster growing up in rural Southern Illinois. They seemed so packed with fury, so unpredictable as they lashed out, leaving so much damage in their wake.

But rain, particularly a gentle rain at night, was a different matter.

I learned to listen to its comforting cadence against the windows or on the roof, to hear the music it contained. Sometimes it was like a whisper. Sometimes a Saturday night hoedown.

But it was my kind of music. I loved going to sleep to it ... waking up to it ... or just lying there listening to it.

We forget, sometimes, what a gentle, soothing, healing sound rain can make, especially as harsh summer days begin slowly surrendering to the cooler days and cooler nights of autumn.

This poem is about that kind of rain. It was originally published in Capper's, then in my first collection, Chance of Rain, issued by Finishing Line Press, 2003.


Struggling awake

to the sound

of trees scratching

at my green roof,

I see their limbs

swaying against

rolling clouds.

Dancing lightning,

slanting drops,

steady drone

of falling water;

trees, docile now,

guiding droplets

to thirsting soil,

I turn my pillow

cool side up,

go drifting off

in this cradling

sea of sound.

© 2003


Today's word: hoedown

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thanks for stopping by, Southernmush. I always enjoy your kind comments ... even when it's late at night when I finally get online again and find you've paid a visit. I got off schedule just a bit last evening when ... the power suddenly went off in our neck of the woods. We learned later that a tree had fallen onto a power line in our part of town. We needed the rain, but could have done without having to scramble to find candles ... which don't seem to give off as much light as they used to. We'll try to send some rain your way, Southernmush ... but, hopefully, without the dreaded power outage.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Someday, Yes!

I think I grow by pushing, reaching, imagining, achieving ... pushing myself into areas where I may have been reluctant to go ... reaching for new challenges ... imagining what it is like to "clear the crossbar" at a height I have never before reached ... achieving small increments of progress on which I can build.

I use the metaphor of the high-jump in this poem, because it encompasses the approach I used in training. It turned out that I was a better sprinter than jumper, but I still think there is something to be learned from the metaphor, of setting the crossbar higher, challenging myself.

As for dancing up out of the pit, I see that coming someday, not because I have become better than someone else ... that's not my aim ... but because I have simply become a better person as a result of setting my own goals and working toward them.

I'll keep trying ... and trying ... and trying. And someday ... YES!

Originally published in Capper's:


I keep setting

the crossbar higher

on personal goals,

practicing harder

on my approach,

take-off, landing,

working toward

that height

my mind's eye

sees as my limit,

that level I will

someday clear,

adrenalin pumping,

glitter of sawdust

showering off me

as I come dancing

up out of the pit

into the circle

of winners. Yes!

© 1998


Today's word: increments

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Could Not Pass It By

The other day, while strolling through a well-known store, just minding my own business, pretending to be a serious shopper intent on throwing a lot of money around ... I encountered a friend I hadn't seen in ages.

We were delighted to see each other again. We used to be in a writing group together. I always enjoyed her writings ... mostly snippets of autobiography ... and she often had kind things to say about my poetry.

We had barely exchanged greetings ... including a warm hug ... when she asked: "Are you still collecting pencils?"

She remembered! Mainly she remembered how, at one of our meetings, I brought in a handful of pencil stubs ... little discarded things that I had found on the sidewalk, in the gutter, etc., during my daily walks.

My idea was to pass them around to members of the writing group, with the suggestion that they write something with them. I thought it would be interesting to see what the pencils would "tell us."

I offered them first to Gloria ... who recoiled as though I had just tried to hand her a writhing snake.

"Why, we don't know where those have been!" she exclaimed.

Yes, I admitted, I'm still collecting pencils ... though there seemed to be fewer of them lying about at the beginning of this school year ... symbolizing another shift in technology, I suppose.

Well, that exchange brought to mind the poem I'm offering today, a poem from a manuscript ... a collection called "Wood Smoke" ... which is (surprise!) in search of a publisher.

I think "I Could Not Pass It By" pretty well tells its own story, but, as is the case with all poems, the reader brings a certain experience, a certain viewpoint to the reading of it. That always gives it a special flavor, often beyond what I had expected it to impart.

The poem:


I found it lying there

in the snows of Watervliet Avenue,

as cold and senseless as my own

toes pointing the way for me

up the sidewalk curving toward

the Belmont Business District.

I found it freshly pointed,

eraser in nearly-new condition,

reclining so yellow beside

the curb that I could not

pass it by. With a practiced swoop

I possessed it and walked on,

swiping it across a gloved hand,

then offering it body warmth

in a pocket snug within the down

of my dark brown corduroy-collared

jacket. I felt it shedding

its coldness against my chest

as I wondered where it had been,

what magic it had revealed

to some young pupil watching

as it sent caravans of letters

tracking across the desert page

in some remote, arid classroom.

But now I watch while it marshals

the words that go streaming across

a page I’ve offered to it, and we

pause, listening for late-night

stirrings near the top step of my

mind, a young poem, awake, thirsting.



(part of a manuscript in search of a publisher)


Today's word:


Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Vicki! I'm delighted that you worked your way through the foggy writing of this morning's entry. I think my commentary makes a little more sense, now that I've taken another whack at it. But the main point is that you liked the idea of the poem. I'm always pleased when that happens. Also, I'm glad to find another "collector" out there, sharing in the responsibility for finding good homes for lost pencils. What do I do with them all? Oh, I keep them, protect them, and use them in jotting down random thoughts, revising poems, making little pencil sketches of things I might turn into paintings someday ... things like that. Ultimately, of course, they become smaller ... quite small. That's when they take up residence in an Altoids tin that I usually carry. These are my most honored pencils, always with me. Eventually, even these become too tiny to be held properly for writing, or sketching. Then ... and only then ... do I send them off into retirement. I really hope I never run out of pencils ... and chores for them to do ... or, as you so aptly put it, their being "allowed to play in the poetry."

Thanks for that link, Southernumush ... I just got back from visiting the site, and I'm filled with envy. As you probably know, I have never mastered the art of telling a story while maintaining good meter and rhyme. "The Clothesline Said So Much" does that quite well. I grew up in an era of clotheslines ... in fact, often helped my grandmother hang the laundry out in the sun ... or helped to bring it quickly in, when the skies became threatening ... even helped to deal with frozen laundry a time or two ... so the poem had special meanings for me, too.