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.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Autumn Surprise

Sunday afternoon was so beautiful ... as hot as a skillet, but beautiful ... with a beautiful blue sky and towering puffy clouds in the distance as we headed out in the Little Red Car.

Our destination? Troy ... Ohio, that is ... and the Hayner Cultural Center ... where an art exhibit, "Think Big - work small," was opening. (I was pleasantly surprised to find three of my little paintings had been accepted for the show)

What a wonderful exhibit it is ... with works ranging from those of elementary school students all the way to persons of my age ... (I was pleasantly surprised to find three of my little paintings had been accepted for the show).

The works were creatively arrayed (somebody had worked hard on that) on the walls and in display cases in this wonderful historic building.

We strolled the exhibit several times, discovering something new with each pass, storing up memories which we'll savor for a long, long time.

Speaking of memories, it's time and distance which make memories so sweet ... they've been stored away for such a long time ... seasoning, taking on new flavors with each visit back to them.

Today's poem deals with some of my earliest memories ... living with my grandparents ... beginning to discover the wonders of the world around me ... seeing things for the first time.

I still try to look at things that way ... as though I'm seeing them for the first time. I discover so many things that way ... and, if I can get my observations on paper soon enough, they may go on to become a poem:


My mind's long lens

goes zooming back

to pre-school years

when I first discovered

those magic leaves,

a sea of crinkly color

lying like carpet

on my grandparents'

dusty front yard,

swirling, scattering

like scared kittens

when I went charging

through fiery reds,

golden yellows,

browns, all the way

to Grandma's hug,

her chuckle joining

my own laughter

at being a part of

that autumn surprise.

All these years later,

I still see those

magic leaves as though

for the first time,

hear that chuckle

so close to my ear.



(originally published in Candlelight Poetry Journal)


Today's word:


Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Now you've got me racking my brain, Southernmush ... and I don't think I have ever detected the aroma of cinnamon coming from leaves. It's an intriguing thought, though, since cinnamon has long been one of my favorite flavors. I have noticed, though, that leaves do emit a nut-like aroma sometimes ... and there are variations on this which I can't really identify. Cinnamon? That's an intriguing thought. I'll have to remain more alert the next time I go kicking through an accumulation.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Solitary Candle

I hope you will remain patient while my computer and I continue our recovery from our latest adventure/misadventure ... I think the computer's working right, now ... and that I am, too.
Oh, I still bump into furniture ... misplace my car keys (there they ARE ... in my OTHER pocket) ... trip on cracks in the sidewalk. You know, the kinds of ordinary things that ordinary people do as they pick their way through the fog of the day.
And I think I can once again see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have hopes of picking up the threads of the "conversation" we have going here ... of actually catching up on my responses to your posted comments (and I do find them helpful, energizing ... essential).
Once again, my apologies for falling so far behind. 
And now, if this machine is really working properly, today's poem:

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)

Today's word: fungible

Monday, October 1, 2007

Morning Mist

Ever have trouble finding things? I do. I hope it's just a phase I'm going through, but I've recently found that ... no matter what it is ... it always seems to be in a secret hiding place.

Then ... surprise! ... there it is, right under my nose. Well, my first search of the day didn't turn out that way this morning.

When I bounded out of bed ... not really, but I like the sound of that phrase ... anyway, at the beginning of the day I was thinking about this whole new month, beginning today, and how I might spend each of the days in it (that's about as long-range as my planning gets).

I thought of one of my little poems, "Beginnings" ... and it seemed to me that it would be the perfect piece for welcoming October.

I searched everywhere ... beginning with where it should be ... and then all the places it shouldn't be. No luck. Not even a whiff of it. I'm convinced at this point that not even a bloodhound could have found it.

So ... I've fallen back on one of the poems from my first collection ... Chance of Rain ... which reminds me ... Hollyhocks ... my second collection ... is winding down its pre-publication sales, so you have until Wednesday to save two bucks by ordering it NOW from Finishing Line Press (end of commercial).

Meanwhile, today's poem:


Invisible morning mist explores my face

like cotton candy melting at the touch,

reviving memories of that sweet softness

as droplets seek my eyes and slip inside

unseen. But there in the swirling distance,

there against the trees where it bivouacs,

ready to invade in ever growing numbers,

there against a sagging barn, there against

the dim, straining headlights of a silent,

bouncing car peering back at me, and here,

high above me in the drenched, dripping

leaves of a hickory giving what shelter

it can, the mist makes itself visible.

Such workings must be meant to conceal,

but what? The past which clings to me

like the smell of smoke? Or the future,

lost somewhere in the effervescing spell

that embraces these hills, their valleys?

Knowing mystical mist steals the vapors

of my breath and returns only a silence

that swarms about like tiny ghostly gnats

touching my ears and dancing on ahead,

ever ahead, seeming to point the way

I should take as I labor back up the hill.



(from my first collection, Chance of Rain)


Today's word: gnats (as in "Gnats!" ... I suppose)

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

First of all, my apologies, Magran ... and to others who may have noted my lapse in keeping up my end of the conversation here ... I'm trying to catch up ... I really am ... and I hope, someday, to be all caught up. Meanwhile, back to this poem. I can imagine a poem not wanting to turn the reader loose ... I've had that happen to me ... but I never imagined that one of my poems would have that effect on a reader. I see this one mainly as just a descriptive piece of writing, triggered by the effect fog was having on me during one of my walks. Then I stirred in a bit of the past, and the poem was off and running. I hope you liked it. I know I enjoyed pulling it all together.