Friday, April 27, 2007

The Ashes Are Still Hot

Today's poem brings a renewal of a frightening childhood memory.

I couldn't have been very old when this incident occurred, but the memory of it is still vivid.

The fire seemed to spring up suddenly along the railroad, the flames were threatening our house ... we had no running water, no telephone ... no fire department, as a matter of fact.

We stood and watched in horror. Then, suddenly, the fire seemed to veer away. It was over. We had survived.

The poem:


When a white-hot summer sun

hangs high in a cloudless sky,

when it must be thought

there can be no more burning

in this poor punished land,

there comes the crackling,

leaping, lurching dance

of the very flames of hell,

consuming sere weak willows

along the thirsting creek,

leaping to fence-line elms,

sending their leaves towering

like swarms of angry hornets,

smoke and fire entwining

in an eerie, deadly spiral

from which rain the hot seeds

of more on our shingled house.

We stand there in the garden,

my grandmother praying, and I,

a child of only four, crying.

Wind, born of the fire itself,

where there has been no wind

for long, dry, dragging days,

snatches up the pitching flames,

takes them away from the house.

My grandmother sees a miracle,

but to me its a nightmare, for,

see, the ashes are still hot.



(originally published in Block's Magazine)


Today's word: towering

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Spiraling Home

I'm putting this together between thunderstorms this morning, so I'll be brief.

The poem, I think, pretty well speaks for itself.

The illustration (if I can get it posted in a hurry) is one of my watercolors.

Did I hear thunder again? Let's go directly to the poem:


I have carried with me

Southern Illinois autumns,

fragile and enduring,

all these brittle years.

Still they comfort me,

memories showering down

in the autumn of my life.

Leaves spiraling to feathery

soft landings on woodland soil

waiting patiently for them,

children finally returning

to their beginnings.

© 1995

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word:


Monday, April 23, 2007

My Sunday Stroll

Sorry I'm late.

Most of you probably will not have noticed, but those who've grown accustomed to having a bit of "Chosen Words" with their morning coffee will have noticed that I'm a bit behind schedule.

It's sometimes hard to tell, precisely, when or how "late" begins.

I think maybe it began Sunday afternoon ... and, mind you, I'm not placing any blame ... oh, no ... I'm just trying to set, in my own mind, when the wheels of progress started slipping. In my case, that may have been years ago ... but that's another story ...

Phyllis and I had planned to arrive early Sunday afternoon in the vicinity of the Dayton Metro Library, where we were going to see a short film, "Miami Valley's Favorite Poems," which features local residents reading and discussing their favorite poems.

Then ... oh, then ... we were going to listen to others reading and sharing ... in person. What an afternoon it promised to be!

We did, in fact, arrive early ... but not early enough. We headed to our favorite parking area, only to find the last ... the very last ... parking place being claimed.

No problem ... we assumed that this meant a large crowd for the poetry program ... and that's always good news. Besides, we knew of other parking spots in the neighborhood.

We simply wheeled out of there and drove on ... and on ... and on.

Four blocks later, we found a spot. As we walked toward the library, it became increasingly clear that the crowd had not gathered for the poetry program, but for a ball game ... at a magnificent stadium ... which has inadequate parking ... but that's another story, too.

We didn't mind the stroll ... we like walking ... but it did remind me of one of my poems (somewhere below).

I don't know about the ball game, but the poetry program was great. I enjoyed all of the readings in the movie, but I was particularly moved by the reading given to Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem, "We Wear the Mask."

Oh, and I enjoyed the readings afterward, too ... particularly one which was done from memory (I always admire and envy people who can do that). There were some who told us they were reading before an audience for the first time ... but they seemed to have the butterflies under control ... and their readings were great, just great.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance to share a couple ofmy poems ... I do that whenever I see a light in a window, or a door slightly ajar. I barge right in ... but, never fear, I usually knock ... softly ... before barging in.

I shared a new one, "My Sister, Tonto," and a couple of oldies, "Hollyhocks," and "Chance of Rain" ... that last, careful readers will note, is the title poem (my lucky poem, I call it) of my first collection (Finishing Line Press, 2003).

On the way back to the car, while I was thinking about the music of all that poetry we had heard ... I couldn't help thinking about that baseball crowd, too ... and what they had missed ... really, really missed.

And now, that poem about another stroll:


How brave the dogs

crashing into the fence,


at me on the other side.

Are they afraid I'll jump

the barrier (at my age)

and attack them?

Does the fence make them

brave, as brave as I am?

Only inches from

flashing, pointed teeth,

agitated, syncopated paws,

those raging eyes, rising

hackles, I stroll serenely

past as superior as a cat,

knowing that the fence

will corner abruptly and they

must stop, game over,

while I, clearly the winner,

hear only the cheering

crowd as I quit the field.



(originally published in Moose Bound Press)


Today's word: serenely

Monday, April 16, 2007


This one was written a long time ago, but the memories remain strong.

I might as well tell you now, Buddy was a Beagle, much in evidence in the neighborhood ... his neighborhood ... his yard ... and sometimes in his vehicle, as his people took him along for the ride.

But, as the poem relates, he was often indoors, too ... at the window, looking out on the world. Often, when I'd look out to see if it was raining, or snowing, or a sunny day suitable for a stroll in the neighborhood, there would be Buddy looking out his window, too.

Buddy moved away a long time ago, but the memories remain, and I still sometimes expect to see him looking back at me from across the street.

The poem:



when I'm alone,

I look out

my front window,

and there's Buddy,

staring back at me

from across the way.

Resting his chin

on the back

of his gray sofa,

he trains a sharp eye

on the street,

watching for dogs,

or squirrels,

or maybe even cats.

He watches, puzzled

that I have no leash

as I trot off

on my daily rounds,

for I'm sure

Buddy must think

I'm a Beagle, too,

as house-bound

and lonely as he.



(originally published in Anterior Poetry Monthly)


Today's word: house-bound