Thursday, February 28, 2008

Let There Be Light

I haven't the foggiest idea of what I was watching on the TV that July evening ... just sitting, vegetating in front of the tube, when ... suddenly ... I was alone with my thoughts.

What a jolt that was.

I thought at first a fuse had blown ... but I fumbled down the stairs, looked up and down the street ... and arrived at a slightly different verdict: We had a bigger problem.

This is definitely a summer poem ... about a summer problem ... but it came to mind when I got home after an enjoyable evening of listening to an author describe her adventures with first, second and third novels ...

I opened an e-mail from a friend and fellow-writer in Kansas ... who was expecting to lose power at any moment.

"Over 30,000 already without lights here in this area," she said. "I doubt that I will be online much longer. Don't worry ... we'll be fine ... just have to ride it out!"

Her rather frightening situation brought to mind "Let There Be Light," though there is little similarity between her situation and the relatively minor inconvenience that I was experiencing on that steamy summer night.

When I looked up my poem, I noticed that the original version had ended: "powerless again/ in the hands/ of the trusted/ utility company."

Given the benefit of the perspective provided by time, I think I may have been taking an unfair swipe at the utility company then. What do you think ... original ending ... or a modified version?

Of course, the question is relatively moot, once the poem has been "abandoned" to a publisher ... but I was just wondering ...

The poem:


In the hottest part

of summer,

in the darkest part

of night,

our reverie is torn asunder

as the picture we are watching

is swallowed by the tube,


by a wheeze

that dies with a sigh deep

inside the air-conditioner,

and here we sit,

powerless again

in the hands

of the trusted

utility company.

© 1997

(originally published in Parnassus Literary Journal)


Today's word: powerless

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hello, Morning

During my working years, mornings were not my favorite time of day, largely because of the early hour at which my work days began, partly because of the pressures of work.

Ah, but retirement brought a change. Now I could sleep in, if I chose, and I could ... within certain limits ... set my own agenda for the remainder of the day.

So what did I do? Miracle of miracles, I started getting up early ... voluntarily ... and I found things to occupy my day ... a bit of art, a bit of writing, a bit of walking, a bit of watching the sun come creeping up over the horizon ... or watching it melting slowly into the western rim of the world.

The poem:


Early light

feels its way

across the top

of my fence,

gently warming

weary, weathered

boards, faint

yellow softness

spreading like

creamy frosting

on this new day.

© 1997

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: melting

Monday, February 25, 2008

Emergency Kit

I beg for particular patience from those who have seen today's poem before. It seems to have worked its way to the top again.

It's still a good little poem, I think ... a bit whimsical ... and I think we can use a sprinkling of whimsy with the world in which we live today.

Bear with me now, while I dust off a bit of history:

I started carrying a printout of one of my poems in response to the recurring question from acquaintances: "What are you writing these days?"

Carrying a single printout, I thought, was a simpler, a more efficient approach than going into detail about all of the things I was working on at the time (I seem to go riding off in all directions, but I do bring some of my projects to completion ... honest).

From there it was a short leap to the image of some poor motorist sitting somewhere on a dark, poemless road, hoping someone would come to the rescue ... and, ta-DA! ... there I would be, poem at the ready ...

I have one regret - I neglected to offer an alternative, like regular fill-ups of poetry before heading out on those lonely roads ... or, I suppose, simply keeping an eye on the poetry gauge ... or pulling into the nearest library - where the price is always right - to top off the poetry tank.

But if you do run out of poetry, just hang in there. I should be along soon.



I always carry

a spare poem or two.

Who knows? I may

find a motorist

stranded, run out

of poetry somewhere

on a poemless road,

looking for rhyme,

if not reason,

in the scheme

of things, someone

in need of metaphor,

simile, structure,

a triolet, perhaps,

but mostly free verse,

free for the taking,

and this one's for you.

Enjoy. Pass it on.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: emergency

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Normally I prefer punctuation ... you know, those little road signs which tell us when to slow, yield, or stop ... in written matter. 

In this case, however, when I'd finished jotting some notes on a scrap of paper ... while sitting in a quiet room with a large picture window ... it occurred to me that what I'd written somehow reflected the clouds I'd been watching.
Left alone, I reasoned, that string of images, without any punctuation to tell the reader when to pause or stop, might present a different, changing, cloud-like poem with each reading.
I did a little tweaking, naturally, but pretty much left it as it had presented itself to me.
The result:

They slide by
shaping opinions
on the fly
into one great convoy
heading east
the great blue
slowing my thoughts
to a crawl
me of ambition
my thunder
an elephant
a dog
a big-eared sheep
a parade
strike up
the band

© 2003
(from my first collection, Chance of Rain, published by Finishing Line Press, 2003)   


Today's word: fleecing

Friday, February 22, 2008

Beach Music

I grew up far from the ocean ... any ocean ... so the one time that I got to walk on a real ocean beach was ... to put it mildly ... a most memorable occasion.
Oh, I had glimpsed the ocean at the movies ... in books or magazines ... but never the real thing.
I think I was most impressed, when a face-to-face meeting finally came, with the immensity of it ... its power ... its beauty ... its music.
I tried to get some of that music in this little poem:

Waves come tumbling

onto the docile shore,
flinging foamy fingers
across the ochre plane.

Teeming with bubbles,
they search and settle,
soothingly diminuendo,
on a healing chord.

Eliciting a sigh
from pliant, sandy keys,
the fingers slide off
into the lap of the sea,
where joyous whitecaps
merrily urge them,
jostle and encourage them
to play it all again.

© 1998

(originally published in Capper's, now back for an encore appearance with one of my little watercolors)


Today's word:  joyous
Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
Thank you for stopping by, Helen ... twice ... and I do try to paint pictures with words, as well as with a brush. It would appear (blush-blush) that I succeeded this time.
Yes, Magran, I think the ocean is/wouldbe, as you say, an immense source of poetry ... if only I had more access to it. Meanwhile, I still have memories from that first stroll ... of pictures I've seen ... and even early memories of "listening to the ocean's roar" by means of a conch shell held to my young ear.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Iowa Night

Time flies.

It seems such a short time ago that I was there in Iowa, participating in that study of biography ... but it was actually many years ago ...

We had come from all across the country that summer, people from various professions, gathering at the University of Iowa for an intensive study of biography.

I was one of the participants in that National Endowment for the Humanities seminar. I had looked forward to it as a means of escaping, if only briefly, a work situation with constantly demanding deadlines.

What could be better than to get far, far away from that, to focus on something entirely different?

Deadlines? Oh, we had those in the seminar ... every day. We had a mountain of reading material to cover, to digest, to discuss. It was definitely not playtime.

But it was valuable ... when I returned to work, and all these years later. It helped to steer me in the direction of more writing and, eventually, into what I'm still doing today, exploring the avenues of poetry and a bit of art.

Today's poem recalls one particular evening when we were invited out to the rural home of our seminar moderator.

I recall our standing on the porch ... but let's let the poem tell it:


Day's work done, we

gathered on a farm porch,

watching the lush, dark

corn trembling toward us

as rain slid

through the dusk.

No towering buildings

muffled the crumpling

thunder, no traffic

softened the sound

of plump drops spattering

thirsting shingles.

It was the velvet edge

of an Iowa night.

I have bridged back

to it many times, seeking

those faces, wondering

what happened next,

what the others became,

where they are now.

© 1997

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review: also included in my first collection of poems, Chance of Rain, published by Finishing Line Press in 2003)


Today's word: wondering

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

That New Day

I've thought of country mornings a lot of times when I was struggling into another day, far removed from those early beginnings.

I've missed the "leisure" of "working by the sun," rather than under the stern eye of the ever-glaring clock. I've missed those mornings when I could lie in bed a few extra minutes, savoring the return to wakefulness.

I've missed the sounds that filled the spaces between the trees back then. Now it's the sounds of the cars and trucks and buses that echo off the buildings and clog our senses.

What I've missed most, I think, is the sound of a cow bell coming to me from a meadow just beginning to fill with light. Now that was music to a young boy's ears.

And now, the poem:


Sounds came crawling across the coolness

of the damp night air, climbed into the cot

where I lay stretching to touch the sides

of that new day. A screen door squeaked

open, then shut again. A tractor groaned,

fired up, deep, throaty song floating to me

like a breeze. Struggling early light visited

a hint of warmth high on the hilltop trees,

an image of candy-apple red slowly rising

in my mind's eye over the wooded brow

of the opposite ridge. A cow bell clanked

into the silence the tractor left as it went

rolling off toward a waiting field; so long

ago, but like yesterday. And I hear it now.

© 2005

(published in Brave Hearts, summer 2005)


Today's word: meadow

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Singing Pines

What food for the imagination those sounds were.

I imagined what it was like for the "pioneers" who came struggling through, looking for new lives in this strange land ... what it was like for those who were already here when those settlers came.

I gathered cones, of course, as so many children ... and adults ... had done through the ages.

I imagined that they were treasure ... that I was exploring some distant island ... while my ship sat in a quiet cove nearby, its massive sails catching the sunlight and a gentle tropical breeze.

And more cones.

How strange they were ... how plentiful ... fragrant ... and magical.

Oh, the memories I gathered in those early, carefree days.

And now, the poem:


Tall pines comb

the summer wind

for its soft music

while I linger,

savoring memories

of childhood days

rich with the smell

of gathered cones.

© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: savoring

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Plague of Squirrels

I'm kidding, of course, about the "plague" of squirrels.

The squirrels and I actually get along pretty well. Oh, I see them occasionally, pausing to stare at me and one of my funny looking hats.

But they never laugh and poke fun at me ... and I try to treat them with equal respect.

I do recall, though, that there was one encounter the day after we moved into Brimm Manor ... I thought I heard someone ... or something ... at the back door.

It was a squirrel.

From all indications, he was there for a handout. He'd been accustomed to being offered goodies.

Then there was the one which came down our chimney. Did we ever have fun that day!

Mostly, though, we just go our separate ways ... I'm afraid of heights ... and they seem to have a thing about mowing the lawn and watering the flowers.

The poem:


What vile crimes have I committed

that I must be punished by you,

you frenzied plague of squirrels?

You dig up the tulips, tear out

the gutter guards, leave pizza slices

dangling from the evergreens,

litter the driveway with twigs

and leaves while you perfect the art

of nesting, pile our picnic table

with walnut chewings, spread hysteria

by screeching from the highest limbs,

patter across our silent green roof

at daybreak, hide juicy, squishy things

under the swing's yellow cushions,

come down our chimney bearing gifts

of frantic sooty footprints over all

the basement, spending a whole afternoon

eluding me, until finally hiding

in a box so I might carry you outside

to set you free,a twitch of the tail

your cursory thanks for the ride,

and I see you later scampering down that

superhighway of cable, as though nothing

had happened today, absolutely nothing.

© 2001

(won a third place award in Ohio Poetry Day competition)


Today's word: scampering

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thanks for stopping by, Featheredpines. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Naming the Fish

Today's poem is based on a phone call from my son, describing how he had taken his son fishing for the first time.

I could say that I made up some of the details, but that wouldn't be true, exactly ... the feel of the rod, the quivering fish, the sights and sounds that go along with fishing ... based on memories of outings I had with my own sons.

The poem, incidentally, is part of a manuscript in search of a publisher.

Naming the Fish

First, there was the long

practice, getting the feel of the rod,

the flick that would send the lure

spinning out across the expanse

of driveway toward the evening sun,

the steady clicking of retrieval,

another flick, and another.

And now the blue water dazzles,

an early sun glinting, wind-stirred

ripples moving in such a way that you

feel you are moving, instead, drifting

toward some vague destination.

The sheath is removed from the barbs

of the lure now, a soft hum of line

extending, the plop, the long wait.

Then the line goes suddenly taut,

tingling, the feeling of life

racing its length, bending the rod

until, finally, the water parts

and you’re holding a slippery,

wiggling, gasping fish, looking

into its large, imploring eyes,

giving it a name, a person’s name,

then letting it slip gently back

into the water and swim away.

© 2006


Today's word: spinning

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

You are so right, Magran ... I've never been deep sea fishing, but I can imagine how much bigger ... and even more expressive ... those eyes can be. I understand your reaction. And I like your take on the "naming," as in "naming your pocket" in billiards. That brought back some old, old memories for me.

I'm glad you liked the photo of the dogwood, Helen (it graces the front lawn of Brimm Manor) ... I know what you mean about how beautiful they can be in the wild ... I remember them ... I also remember how beautiful the peach orchards were in the springtime. My fishing experience usually entailed accounts of the one(s) that got away ... and most of the rest were of the catch-and-release variety, too ... so I had little first-hand experience with preparing the catch for the grill ... but I remember being all eyes, as a youngster, watching the adults at the task.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's Not Easy

OK, so I was having a little fun with an idea when I wrote today's poem.

Still, it seems to speak to me, at least, of the impatience that seems to crowd into everyday life.

I hop into The Little Red Car and head to the grocery ... I get honked at when I don't start up quickly enough as a traffic light turns from red to green ... I don't select a cart as quickly as others ... I don't yield enough times to other shoppers at the ends of the aisles ... I seem to be holding up the checkout line as I fumble for the exact change ... and on the way home ... well, I get honked at again ...

Oh, I get impatient, too.

We don't have time for all that today, though. I can see that some of you are starting to fidget. Let's just say that I have my share of impatience, mainly with myself ... and the time it seems to take me to complete simple tasks.

I was thinking about that when I wrote today's poem, I guess.

I really would like to be a more patient person. I really would, except ... well, you'll soon enough see what the "except" is about, when you read today's short poem (meanwhile, thanks for your patience):


I admire people

who have patience.

I wish I had

more myself,

and I'm working

on it, but it just

seems to take

so long to learn.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: impatience

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Oh, I know exactly what you mean, Featheredpines. The faster things go, the faster we want them to go. Which reminds me, my first computer was a gadget attached to an old TV. I could see on the screen what I had typed ... and that was about it. When I tell people my first computer was a wood-burning model, they look at me like ... well, you can imagine ...

Thursday, February 7, 2008



Today's poem, I think, states the obvious. When we've always had little in the way of material things, we're content. Ah, but when we have more, the appetite is whetted. We want more.

I was interested in the content/discontent relationship as I jotted these few words on a scrap of paper. Later, it seemed to me that it had a certain feel, a certain sound ... a poem, perhaps.

Here it is:



I was content

with what I had,

until I had more.

After that,

I discovered,

I could not

be satisfied

with any less.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)



Today's word: satisfied

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

And your observation, Magran, reminds me of a house we owned in Illinois many years ago. The property was in town, but had a barn on it ... more like a carriage house, with the lower portion converted to garage use, the upstairs available, we were told, for square dancing. You can probably imagine what we did with all that space ...

Would I mind, Marti? Oh, I'd be honored for something I've written to find itself in such thoughtful company! Be my guest, please.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Clear Blue Morning

Most of my life, I have not been a morning person.

Oh, there were times when I grudgingly enjoyed a sunrise, savored the cool morning air during the summer, enjoyed a hearty breakfast.

But most of the time ... my growing up years and my working years ... I found it a real struggle to get my feet on the floor again, to get my eyes open and in focus, simply to get moving.

I had reasons ... or excuses ... but, basically I simply was not a morning person.

Then I retired.

Admittedly, there was a period of transition ... weeks afterward in which I had a deep-seated feeling that I should be dragging my body off to a job someplace.

But gradually I came around to accepting this new "freedom," this absence of a fixed schedule, except to the extent that I imposed a pattern on myself.

I soon learned the true meaning of "rattling around" ... with nothing in particular on the agenda for the day.

Then I started writing. What a discovery that was! I soon found myself looking forward to mornings so I could resume the activity of the evening before.

There's just something about the quiet of the morning ... the brain so far uncluttered with details ... the imagination fully wound and ready to go.

Oh, what I had been missing!

And now, the poem:


How I savor

fresh dew

between my toes,


of light beginning

to seize me,

words gathering,

pencil moving

to claim a place

on paper, this.

© 1999

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word: gathering

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bouncy Pine

Things I say, particularly in those pieces which may eventually become poems, are not always intended to be taken literally.

That's the case today, of course.

Anybody who has ever looked even casually at a pine tree, knows it doesn't have springs, concealed or otherwise.

But it doesn't take much observation to lead one to the thought that it looks like there must be some kind of mechanism at work there.

There have been times when I've been in the company of pine trees, unaware of a slight stirring of air, but there is movement in their needled branches.

How else explain that movement?

It seemed to be the way to describe them at the time. The moral of the story ... the "lesson" ... the "mini-sermon" ... seemed to follow naturally.

It's a thought, at least ... and I use it sometimes to cheer myself up.

Here's the poem:


The boughs of the pine

ride on concealed springs,

rising and falling

at the slightest touch

of a summer breeze.

Oh, that we could be

as resilient, as quick

with our enthusiasm.

© 1996

(originally published in Explorer)


Today's word: concealed

Friday, February 1, 2008

I Could Have Played Piano

Picture from Hometown

Ironic? Oh, yes ... the title of today's entry represents what I would consider the ultimate in the ironic ... the opposite of the real truth ... a device to inject some humor into a look back at a childhood memory.

We'll get to the poem later.

For the moment, let's revisit last night ... and the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, Troy, Ohio.

The worst of winter conditions had been predicted ... for just about the time the program was scheduled to get under way.

I was convinced that travel was going to be horrible, weather-wise, and advised those who called throughout the day ... either to express regrets ... or to get some advice ... that I would advise them to play it safe ... and not venture out.

The expected horrible weather didn't arrive. At least not last night. Highway conditions ... except for traffic ... couldn't have been better ... both before and after the program.

Oh, what people missed by following my advice! Even so, we had what I thought was an impressive turnout.

I went in expecting an interesting mix of poetry and music ... but the program ... a blending of music ... improvised on the spot by Joel Hoffman, Professor of Composition, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati ... with my reading of some poems ... well, the program far exceeded my expectations.

I stood at the rostrum watching as Prof. Hoffman coaxed a delightful program of sounds ... rhythms ... passages ... interludes ... from the piano ... a perfect blending with the poetry I was sharing with the audience.

Afterward, I was really taken by the number of people who thought it was a carefully-rehearsed program.

In truth, Prof. Hoffman and I had not met before last night ... had not rehearsed ... and had had only a brief discussion of our "game plan" before the program began.

I say bravo! Bravo to Prof. Hoffman for so deftly working in the music around ... and with ... my readings ... Bravo! to the audience for shruggng off the dire weather forecasts and joining us for an evening that I will never forget ... and Bravo! to all those who put this program together!

By the way, Prof. Hoffman ( wears several hats in addition to Professor of Compositon ... including Artistic Director, Music08 ( and President, Chamber Music Cincinnati (

I thought of today's poem while I was standing at the podium enjoying his music, particularly a portion of the program in which I read "What Might Have Been" to a most beautiful piano accompaniment.

Perhaps it was just as well that I hadn't brought a copy of it to the reading. It might have spoiled the moment ... as my attempts at humor sometimes do.

But I've dug it out this morning ... along with my photo of a symbolic comb ... and tissue paper (more about those later) ... intruding on the righthand portion of a keyboard.

Background for the poem:

Once upon a time ... way back in the previous century ... my grandparents had a piano. I believe it was for my mother, but I never heard her play it.

It sat in our living room. I remember a piano tuner coming once to do his magic on it. But mostly it just sat. Oh, I plinked and plunked on it when nobody was looking. But, of course, I couldn't play it.

I didn't feel deprived, and I don't now.

On the contrary, there was that imposing upright musical instrument which fed my imagination. I dreamed of playing it someday ... like I dreamed of many other things.

Then one day it was sold. Strangers came to move that magical creation carefully through the front door, down the front steps and into the truck.

And that was that ... except for the poem (be prepared for a slight twist with this one), originally published in Midwest Poetry Review:


My long, skinny fingers

itching for things to do,

toes just barely reaching

the pedals, and my bottom

gripping the slippery edge

of the bench, I dreamed

of playing ragtime, gospel,

boogie-woogie, maybe even

some of that girl-pleasing,

tough, classical stuff.

What I did was what

seemed to come naturally.

With only one lesson,

I flung myself into all

of the old favorites,

playing each several times

before going exuberantly

to the next. Finally,

Grandpa admitted he was

sorry he had taught me

what could be wrought

with a comb and paper.

Oh, I could have played

piano, no doubt, but my lips

wouldn't feel all numb

and fuzzy, like they do now.

© 1997


Today's word: fuzzy