Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Autumn Crossing

Picture from Hometown

Do I seem to have autumn on my mind these days?

Oh, I do, I DO!

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons, of course ... but this year I seem to be looking forward to it more than ever before ... I've had enough of blazing hot weather ... thank you very much ... I'm looking forward to cooler nights ... good sleeping weather ... the fall colors, which I always enjoy ... the sight of leaves sifting gently to the earth ... the sounds and the feel of them as I go kicking through on my daily walk.

I am really ready for autumn. I just hope I haven't worn out the subject for you.

Today's poem happens to be one of my favorites, too. it was written on a bus, of all places. We were humming along northward, somewhere in Ohio.

The highway seemed to be an endless ribbon unspooling toward us ... but there on both sides ... oh, there was something to watch! The autumn trees were at their absolute peak, as though they were expecting us ... expecting "company."

And there we were.

I was struck by how the colors seemed to be parting, then closing behind us ... something like the parting of the Red Sea in those old movies.

Naturally, I dug out a scrap of paper and began writing ... and here's the result:


A sea of color

rages ahead,

parting for us

with the soft

hum of miles

falling away,

gently washing

back into place,

cloaking all

traces of our

safe crossing.

© 1997

(Originally published in The American Scholar, and now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher)


Today's word: crossing

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Hang in there, Southernmush ... autumn is coming ... I'm almost sure it's just around the corner. It's actually a bit cooler in Ohio today ... there's the promise of cool sleeping weather ... I can hear those leaves rustling now ... preparing to put on their beautiful autumn colors and come dancing down among us. Just you wait and see.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Autumn Dreams

There's something so soothing about the music of rain. It cradles us as we drift between sleep and that which becomes reality.

It wasn't raining this morning 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:


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.



(originally published in St. Anthony Messenger)


Today's word:


Monday, August 27, 2007


OK, so I'm rushing things a bit.
It's not really autumn in Ohio yet ... still, we've had some cooler nights recently ... and (knock on wood) can autumn be far behind?
I'm hoping ... because autumn is one of my favorite seasons. I really get a kick out of watching the trees changing, day by day ... all those beautiful colors fanning out across the countryside.
In my childhood years I always looked forward to that annual display ... then, as a working adult, the autumn colors faded into the background ... but now ... oh, now ... I'm watching them again.
As far as today's poem is concerned ... one of my rare excursions into the world of rhyme, because I don't do it well ... I know that "piling up to my thighs" is a slight exaggeration. But stretching the truth is one of the building blocks of humor, right?
Rhyming "rises" and "thighs as" is a bit of a stretch, too ... but all done in an effort to be funny ... at least to elicit a smile.

Enough said. The poem:

My temperature rises

When leaves begin to fall,
Piling up to my thighs as
I try to rake them all.

© 1997

(originally published in Parnassus Literary Journal)


Today's word: exaggeration

Sunday, August 26, 2007

As a Child

I wanted to be so many things, a doctor, a lawyer, a railroad engineer, a cowboy, a sailor ...

The list goes on and on. But what child doesn't dream? Those early visions of imagined things to come ... they nurture, sustain the individual ... particularly one growing up in an era broadly known as "hard times."

But it was not to be ... not, at least, "rigging straining and creaking ... whistling winds." Mine was a landlocked life, far removed from any of those early dreams.

Such are the realities of adulthood.

I have no regrets about the reality's falling short of the dream.

In fact, I might not have been a very good sailor. And I don't really feel it was failure ... this falling short of the early dream ... there are always things we might desire ... which remain tantalizingly just out of our reach.

But now I feel that perhaps I am at last realizing that early dream ... through my writing.

I can almost hear the rigging creaking this morning ... the sails billowing and popping ... feel the wind whipping my hair like seaweed ... all because I discovered this whole new world of writing.

There's a certain magic in that world ... but a tinge of reality, too. I notice that acceptance and publication of "As a Child" came almost four years ... and many revisions ... after it was originally written.

So, dream on, young writer ... or writer at any age ... but be patient, too ... and do keep reaching ... never quit reaching.

The poem:


I wanted to be

a sailor standing

on a slanting deck,

rigging straining,

sails billowing, wind

whipping my hair

like seaweed,

waters lifting me

toward God.

But it was not

to be: no massive

sails, no salt-soaked

rigging straining

and creaking, no

whistling winds,

just a sea of words

lifting me,

cradling me.

© 2000

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word:


Friday, August 24, 2007

Accepting Change

I was out late last night. No, I wasn't partying ... well, it was a party of sorts ... I was sitting in with a poetry group ... a small group which meets fairly regularly to celebrate poetry.
And celebrate it is!
We all enjoy poetry. We sit in a small circle, share our most recent discoveries, pass around copies, discuss each offering briefly ... simply savoring some ... trying to unravel the mysteries of others.
And ... after nibbling on a slice of raisin bread ... fresh and piping hot from the oven ... well, yes, it was a party.
All the way home, then, the words of the evening kept coming back, singing to me and Phyllis. It almost seemed that The Little Red Car was humming along, too.
So I was out last night. Not too late, mind you. It was afterward ... when I sat down at the keyboard, that time really slipped away from me.
As a result of that, here I am ... lost ... well, not completely lost, but still bumping into things in this morning fog. Sleep deprived, I believe it's called.
I had hoped to enumerate some of the changes I've accepted ... even welcomed, in some instances ... along the way ... and some of those which I'm still resisting. I'm sure there have been many of each.
But I think I'd better wait until I'm fully awake ... like, maybe in a day or two.
Meanwhile, the poem:

I'm not always

a willing partner,
but I must go
with the times,
leaving a trail
of scuff marks
where I've been
dragged along.

© 1998
(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: change

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Do They Sleep?

Sometimes, especially with a whimsical piece, any explanation is too much, so I'll spare you the details of my ordeal by squirrels, the pain and humiliation I've suffered at their hands (er, paws), the ongoing battle of wills, my refusal to concede that their ancestors were here in this country before mine ... all those things which went into the making of this poem.

If they were to write poetry ... perhaps it would keep them out of mischief for brief interludes, at least ... I suppose it would be as accusatory of me as this is of them.

I'm willing to settle for an uneasy truce. But are they? This one was originally published in Capper's:


I've seen 'em

nodding off

on a quiet limb

during the day,

but when do

pesky squirrels

really sleep?

And where?

Maybe they go

to little motels,

or perhaps they

go zipping off

to the suburbs,

where they plot

new mischiefs

on tiny laptops.

Some nights,

when the wind

sits and traffic

thins, I think

I see the glow

from their tiny


screens, hear

them chuckling

to themselves,

and I lie there ...

awake, wondering.

© 1998


Today's word: chuckling

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I got a good chuckle out of your account of your Dad's warfare with the local squirrel gang, Vicki ... and I especially liked the ending: In the depths of winter, he fed them. I don't always go that far ... they seem to find enough pizza scraps, bagels, etc., on their own to keep the party going ... but I have long since called a truce with them ... one-sided though it is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Birds Still Sing

This is a poem about the aging process, of course.

I'm not quite dependent on a hearing aid ... yet. Still, there are times when I might find one helpful ... to fine tune what I'm trying to hear ... or to tune out something I'd rather not hear.

But it's also a poem about memory ... and imagination, the ability to recall things, sometimes with a new attention to detail. I like it when a poem works at two levels ... or sometimes in two directions.

Originally published in Capper's, it's a little poem, saying much, I hope, with few words (the photograph, as usual, is one of my own):


I don't always

hear the doorbell,

thunder's mostly

just a rumble now,

but in the foliage

of my mind

birds still sing

loud and clear.

© 1996


Today's word: recall

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you so much, Indigo, for that comment. What a gift hearing is ... and what a gift it is to "hear" certain sounds which are stored forever in memory. I am glad, too, for those things I have heard, and I will treasure the memory of them as my own hearing fades. I am glad you still sense the music in words ... and impart your own music by means of them. Best wishes.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Building Poems

Still another poem about writing.

Not that I'm expert on the subject. On the contrary, the more I write, the more I'm mystified by the process. Oh, I've gotten the mechanics right ... after all these years of practice: Fingers on the home keys, and away we go.

It's that other part ... the part in which the ideas come hopping along like shy rabbits looking for that last nibble of clover at dusk ... that's the part I don't really understand.

I know, a quiet place helps ... or even a noisy place, like a bus, a waiting room at the hospital ... places like that will work, if you can tune out all that's going on outside of you.

The blank page, believe it or not, can be a stimulus, too ... an invitation to scribble a few random thoughts.

Then the plot thickens ... the mystery deepens ... and sometimes ... sometimes, mind you ... what you've started, that seed you've planted, goes on, grows up ... and becomes a poem.

Even one who uses ellipses so recklessly ... one who remains mystified by those final steps in the writing process ... can do it. And so can you.

Indeed, bring on more sand!

The poem:


My poems are built

on the crawling sands

of memory; see how

they tilt and teeter

on the brink of meaning,

how they race past us

in the stopped-time

dimension into which

they’ve been thrust,

how they collide head-on

with indifference, then

come reverberating back

like struck gongs,

resting finally in my

outstretched hands.

Oh, how I love it,

this ever-changing,

never-changing process.

Bring on more sand!



(published in the May 2005 issue of St. Anthony Messenger)


Today's word: reverberating

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Oh, I've known that side of the equation, too, Magran. How disappointing to have a idea escape the scribbled note and ... POOF! ... it's gone forever. My solution is an ever-present scrap of paper, a pen or pencil always within reach ... preferably in a handy pocket. That way, just before the rabbit scampers away, I can preserve a "snapshot" of the idea ... which I may develop into something later. I know about brambles, too. They're not easy to clear away ... but, clearing one today ... another tomorrow or the next day ... will eventually begin letting more sunshine in. Then things can start to flower.

I still have a long way to go, Indigo ... but I thank you for the kind words. I do try to observe things around me ... try to see them as though for the first time ... through the eyes of a very young person (and, for me, that's some stretch). I'm surprised ... and pleased, then ... with the things I see ... really see. And sometimes ... when I get my impressions on paper before they go hopping off ... other people read them and identify with them. Oh, how rewarding that is!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Another Autumn

OK, so I'm rushing things a bit ... but I've been thinking of autumn a lot lately ... in the midst of summer's sizzling temperatures.

Autumn brings some slight moderation of temperatures, at least ... but it also brings on some of my favorite colors as the trees begin their autumn parade ... displaying their changing leaves up and down the streets ... and across the countryside.

Autumn brings back memories of those hills where I grew up ... hills laden with hickory trees ... oaks ... walnut trees ... sassafras ... sumac ... oh, what a parade that was, too!

Another thought which came to me this morning ... how great it would be if these postings came together seamlessly, instead of the way they sometimes do, particularly when time is short.

I should have known, with a doctor's appointment this morning (routine, just routine), the posting would not go smoothly. And it didn't.

But here it is, finally (I hope). The poem:


Change has boomed

along quiet avenues

where great, green

hulking symbols

of summer loitered,

visages burnished now

into fiery displays

that climb and swoop,

zoom and explode.

And who could go

kicking through

the crinkling swirl

on the sidewalks

underneath them

without being just

a little pumped up

about it all?

© 1998

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: visages