Monday, March 31, 2008

Clouds at Sunset

First of all, thanks for stopping by ... all of you. According to the "hit counter" which goes clicking silently along on "Chosen Words" ... there were 42 of you who stopped by yesterday.

I value those visits. They tell me people are interested ... or not ... in what I'm saying.

Some days, I feel I'm talking to myself ... my words evaporating on the morning air ... and that's OK, I suppose, as long as I don't argue with myself. But it's nice to know I have some listeners, too.

It's especially nice when listeners join in the "conversation," sharing an experience of their own ... or showing me another side of the poem I've posted here.

Speaking of a poem ... I'm sharing one today that I'm considering sharing at a special reading on the evening of April 24 at the Dayton Art Institute.

The program begins at 7 p.m., and consists of two poets ... David Lee Garrison, of Wright State University ... and me ... sharing poems we've written about art ... and other subjects.

It's free ... and you're invited.

"Clouds at Sunset" was one of the first poems I considered sharing when I was invited to participate in the "Poets Respond to Art" program.

Then I reconsidered. It's a poem about my own art. Modesty, I suppose. But then I said, hey, why not?

So I'm likely to be sharing this poem about one of my own paintings, which found a good home in Illinois (I wish I could show you a picture of it, but hope you'll settle for the photo of another cloud arrangement, taken on one of my walks):


Mountains tower

on the left, clouds lie

piled like bubbles on the right,

while the sun

lowers itself into the sea,

and a white sail with

a horizontal red stripe

leans across the curving waves

in the foreground.

It's such an old painting,

it might have been the thirties,

awash in Depression, an art

seeking escape while accepting

the realities of that time,

or something as recent

as yesterday, made

to freeze-frame things

in the midst of change,

the clouds, the sun, the sea,

even those sturdy mountains,

eroding while we watch.

It could be just a dream.

© 2003

(From my first collection, Chance of Rain, Finishing Line Press, 2003).


Today's word: foreground

POSTSCRIPT - Once upon a time there was a weekly e-mailed newsletter called "Squiggles & Giggles" ... which went out to a small collection of family and friends ... until it stopped suddenly. But now it's back ... sort of ... in another form. Instead of clogging electronic mailboxes across the country, it now has a home ... an online home where friends and relativesare welcome to drop by any time ... day or night. It's not quite up to speed yet, but there's a posting on it ... take a look to the left ... under "Favorite Sites," just click on "Squiggles & Giggles" ... that should take you right to the page. And, if you have a free minute, please let me know what you think. I'll be at

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Well, Featheredpines, go directly to the head of the class! You're the first to respond with S&G and Little Red Car in the same comment. I have taken note of your word of caution, and will pass it along to The Little Red Car ... although it has always been rather careful ... while hanging back and watching all The Big Guys out there playing Bumper(ouch!)Cars ...

Sunday, March 30, 2008


When I was in high school, I was a runner, a sprinter, mostly, because I found I could more readily tolerate brief bursts of all-out effort, followed by moments in which my heartbeat returned to normal and my breathing became easy. I found the distance competition simply too punishing.

Oh, I ran distances. That was part of the training. I competed some in the distance events, too, but I relished the explosion out of the starting blocks and the swift crunch-crunch-crunch of spikes digging into the cindered track, the lean into the tape at the end of the sprint, the sudden halt, the quick recovery.

I lived to run - to sprint.

Little wonder that I dreamed about running. I still do, sometimes, but the result of that, now, is that I often wake up with leg cramps.

This poem is the result of one of my dreams of running a lonely, nighttime race, then finding my track coach there at the finish line, as he so often had been.

"Beginning" received the First Place award in a Sports Poem contest sponsored by The Listening Eye, literary magazine on the Geauga Campus of Kent State University.

The poem:


No crowd had leaned

forward and no shouts

had floated to my ears

except the faint few

from a group of friends

in the highest seats,

but on I ran through

a starlit, ominous

night, my crunching

footsteps echoing,

not knowing whether

the race was entering

the gun lap, barely

beginning; suddenly

ahead there loomed

the finish-line tape,

beyond which I aimed,

thrusting through

the way I was taught,

staggering to a halt,

blue stars bursting

in my oxygen-starved

brain, long-dead Coach

beside me, saying,

"I knew you could."

© 2000


Today's word: staggering

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Strange, isn't it, Featheredpines, what dreams are visited upon us? I used to dream of running ... and leaping over streams or other hurdles ... I'd usually wake up at that point ... with another set of leg cramps. But (knock on wood) that hasn't happened for awhile ...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Little Envy

Today's poem is about driving ... another area in which I am certainly no expert. 
No, it's not about some adventure, or misadventure, with The Little Red Car ... whose exploits have been detailed in Squiggles & Giggles, my (late lamented) weekly e-mailed newsletter.

Little Red is fine for local driving, and we do a lot of that together, but when we go out of town, those lo-o-o-n-g-g-g trips, we let Little Red rest while we pick up a rental car.
Little Red is a very basic, usually reliable car, but lacking some of the bells and whistles, not to mention mysterious buttons and tracking devices found on the newer models.
That has led to some adventures, too ... like the time we drove all the way to Illinois before we found out how to dim the headlights.
It usually takes me a couple of counties, at least, before I master the "set speed" and "resume speed" settings.
This is a poem about discovering one of those marvels which (shhh!) Little Red lacks:


Leaving a town,
heading west,
the car senses
my light touch
on a button,
and I marvel
as it resumes
highway speed,
this collection
of steel, plastic
and fabric
with a memory
better than mine.

© 1997

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: memory

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
Oh, thank you, Featheredpines ... I still had the nagging feeling that I was the only driver in the universe who'd drive briskly off from the rental plot ... then spend the rest of the trip wondering what some of those buttons were for. I was always nagged by the feeling that one of them might have been to activate an ejection seat ... and there I'd be, sailing along above the car. 

Friday, March 28, 2008

Walnut Wisdom

Sorry I'm late ... well, not really late ... there's still a lot of the day left ... but I'm running behind schedule, getting around to making my daily posting of words here.

My excuse?

I was out late last night. No, I wasn't partying ... exactly ... but I was having a lot of fun, sitting in with a group of people who enjoy sharing poetry ... theirs and that of better known writers.

One of the highlights (from my perspective, at least) was getting to hear a recorded interview I did recently with Conrad Balliet, of "Conrad's Corner" on WYSO FM 91.3.

The interview got off to a slightly slow start ... mainly because of my inexperience at being interviewed ... but picked up, thanks to Conrad's skill and experience ... and moved right along.

And, no, it hasn't aired yet. WYSO is in the middle of a fund-raising drive right now, so the recorded interview is likely waiting for things to settle back to normal.

I've been assured that I'll get the word when it's about to be aired ... and I'll pass the word along to you.

Meanwhile, back to this morning's business ... it is still morning, isn't it? I haven't peeked outside yet, but I hear, from usually reliable sources, that it is still morning.

Today, spring. Tomorrow, autumn. Well, not really, but time does fly. Thank goodness, it doesn't really go zooming by that fast, though it sometimes seems that it does.

You're trying to pull things together, to get yourself organized to face the day ... and you suddenly remember one other task that must be done now ... right now.

Oh, that's when time seems to go into supersonic mode.

But relax now. It's not really time for the random twirling of leaves from the walnut tree ... and other signs of autumn. There's lots of spring left, then summer ... and then autumn.

Meanwhile, the poem:


The black walnut's

seething green leaves,

steeping all summer

in the raging sun,

are turning yellow,

randomly twirling

to earth, the leaden

thumps of fallen

fruit providing

an uneven cadence

on the long bridge

of sunny afternoons.

Bruised and smashed,

their juicy hulls

draw back from those

dark interiors where

their secrets lie,

awaiting squirrels,

whack of a hammer,

the outside chance

of becoming a tree.

This, the walnut

knows, is autumns

beginning, a time

of payoffs, endings,

another slow turn

of the wheel.

© 2002

(originally published in Potomac Review, part of a manuscript now in search of a publisher)


Today's word: twirling

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Oh, I know what you mean, Helen, about those brief sessions at the keyboard ... I call it "sprinting," though I long ago quit operating at anything even approaching sprinting speed ... I've tried setting a timer, so I don't spend too long in the chair, but tend to ignore the timer, then pay the consequences for having overstayed. But what I started out to say was that I really appreciated your hanging in there to share that story about the walnut thumping on the roof of that little building out back ... and scaring you out of your skin.

Ouch, Uncle Bill! Even from way over here ... I could feel those walnut-imposed dimples on that maroon Taurus ... I'm hoping, though, that summer's soothing rays will soon heal those injuries. Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by ... and for that link ... I enjoyed my visit ... even though I wasn't properly suited up for it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Then One Day, Spring

As are many of my poems, this one is rooted in my childhood.

There are so many memories from that time, still warm and shiny from much handling. Of course, they were not all happy memories ... there were hard times abroad in the land ... but the good ones have prevailed.

This collection of memories goes back before the days of central heating. No fear of the pipes freezing then ... there weren't any. Flush toilets were a part of those distant cities we had heard about.

Oh, but when the world began showing signs of thawing ... then we felt like celebrating. We had survived another winter. Spring meant the trees would soon be budding out, Easter flowers would start reaching their slender fingers toward the sun, birds would be singing.

What a great world we lived in!

The poem:


After the long, gray parade

of frozen winter months,

there eventually came a day

unlike others in our valley,

when the sun seemed brighter,

warmer, the breeze softer,

clearer, carrying birdsong

in floating crystal notes,

snow beginning to inch back

from the steaming roof edge

of a nearly-empty coal shed,

sending tear-like trickles

of water drip-drip-dripping

onto earth where daffodils

soon would be punching

slender fingers through,

reaching for the warmth.

Then high along the ridge,

at the bluffs where a stream

would struggle with thirst

in July, there issued

the robust song of water

newly freed from the cold,

tumbling head-over-heels

to reach the rocks below

and come racing toward us

with the great good news.

© 1999

(received an honorable mention in Poets' Study Club competition, subsequently published in Capper's, and now part of a manuscript entitled Wood Smoke, which is to be published later this year by Finishing Line Press)


Today's word: jubilation

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Oh, Featheredpines ... what I'd give for temperatures any where near the seventies right now ... here in Ohio the weather tends to seesaw a lot. Right now we're shivering again. A checkout clerk this morning shared the fact that she'd left a window open last night ... seemed great then ... woke up freezing this morning. And 300 days of sunshine? Whoa! Please send some this way, if you can.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Slice of Summer

Now I've done it.

In today's poem I've used a made-up word to describe what I think is going on.

I was going to say that I made it up out of thin air, but I think thick air would be more like it ... thick, moisture-laden summer air, so heavy with dampness that it feels like layer-upon-layer of water bearing down on us.

There's a related ... real word ... that has something to do with water and a cavity created in it.

I pictured the fan as doing something similar to that with the heavy summer air. So, not finding a suitable word in my handy-dandy dictionary, I made up one.

It's like grabbing a tool ... one not really intended for the task at hand ... and making it serve a different function.

And the photo which accompanies today's entry?

Oh, that's a sculpture of a giant ant on the lawn of Cox Arboretum, a local favorite walking place. The sculpture is gone now, but there are lots of other things to see, and lots of shady places in the summer, to sit and just enjoy the view.

I thought it was interesting, the relationship of the size of the ant and the car in the background.

But enough of that. The poem:


The cavitating fan,

patiently oscillating,

slicing the air,

lets it fall

like cold bacon

across the griddle

of my overheating

horizontal body.

© 1996

(originally published in Anterior Poetry Monthly)


Today's word: cavitating

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

You've got it, Featheredpines ... two strips of cavitated bacon, comin' right up. Oh, I remember those movie houses, too ... at least the one in my hometown ... the Ritz ... coolest place in town on a hot summer afternoon or evening ... unless the fans stopped operating ...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I've never been a skater ... on ice, that is ... but it seems to me that daydreaming is something like TWO skaters on ice.

You're vaguely aware of your surroundings ... but then you're also off somewhere else ... like a skating partner off somewhere on the ice, whirling ... and gliding ... maybe leaping ... while you're over here, doing your thing.

Then ... POOF! Back to reality.

That happened to me recently.

Earlier in the day, I had submitted three poems ... by e-mail, no less! ... to one of my favorite publications ... or I thought I had. Then I discovered that all of my efforts had come flying back ... wrong e-mail address!

Well, a little research fixed that ... and off they went again.

Then, just as I was winding down for the day ... checking for incoming e-mails one more time ... half-listening to the news on TV ... I got confirmation that all three of those little poems had been accepted for publication in three upcoming issues.

Wow! Did that ever set off a chain of inages ... including one very brief thought about dancing on the table in celebration ... talk about reverie!

Speaking of which:


My tired brain,

sponge that it is,

busies itself

sopping up sights

and sounds, giving

nothing back

as we drift apart,

like two skaters

arcing slowly away

on a vast blue rink,

curling, curling

back, linking hands

again, a flurry of

upbladed ice

marking our sudden

juncture, skates

flashing in unison

again as though

we'd never parted.

© 2000

(originally published in A New Song)


Today's word: sponge

Monday, March 24, 2008

Purchase of Sleep

I overslept this morning. Oh, did I ever.

You'd think ... for someone who has never really been a morning person ... oversleeping would be a real blessing. After all, today, like most days, I have no set schedule to meet ... except that which I impose on myself.

But, not being a morning person, getting a late start actually feels like I'm digging my way out of a deeper hole than usual.

Don't worry ... I'll get over it. I always do ... at least I always have. It's just that I don't start my day by popping a wheelie ... it's more like slow and easy ... slow and easy ... for the rest of the day.

And where does that take us?

To the other side of the coin: Not being able to sleep during the night. That brings to mind ... guess what? Another poem.

Sometimes I wake up ... wide awake ... in the middle of the night. I'm not sure what triggered it ... a noise perhaps ... a barking dog ... or maybe just an interval of absolute quiet. In my neighborhood, sudden quiet can be startling, too.

It's almost like someone has flicked a switch.

The cure? Well, I don't pop a pill ... I've found something cheaper and more effective.

I explain in the poem.

It has also occurred to me that, since I often have the itch to write, perhaps crawling out of bed for a few minutes to scrawl a few nagging thoughts on a scrap of paper is simply the equivalent of scratching where it itches.

And what a great feeling it is to go drifting off again.

The poem:


I cannot sleep

when thoughts assail me,

forcing me to rise

wearily from my bed

to find pad and pencil.

Hurriedly I scratch

on the patient page,

uniting it with these

its straying children.

Only then may I reclaim

the cradling pillow

and my rest.

© 1996

(originally published in Mind Matters Review)


Today's word: purchase

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I think the words do come together like children ... sometimes they elbow each other ... sometimes they argue ... disagree, at least ... they show up late sometimes ... but they're good kids. I love 'em all. Wouldn't trade 'em for anything ... and please don't ask me which is my favorite. And, in view of the bottom line ... sleep, blessed sleep ... I do tend to believe that the wakeup call is to do a bit of writing ... Thank you for that suggestion, Magran.

There is something about those quiet-hour moments in the night ... I totally agree, Featheredpines ... and I'm glad you enjoy reading the conversations here ... regardless of the hour. I keep promising myself that I will someday catch up on my portion of the friendly talk that goes on here ... and then try to remain current. I also promise myself that I will make a better effort to post some more of my paintings (thanks for your interest) ... particularly the little sketches I sometimes make on my daily walks ... but then I keep running out of time. I'll keep trying, though ... I'll keep trying ...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ordinary Things

Rejection ... in the form of those little impersonal notes which accompany your poems when they come back from some distant editor ... is so frequent that it's almost expected.

Oh, I send out the best work I can do ... at the time ... and I always think I've matched it with the perfect place for it to be published ... but there are so many factors at work: The sheer numbers of people who write poetry, the limited number of pages in each publication, the timing, the subject matter.

Then there's the subjective way in which the flood of incoming work is measured ... as, I suppose, it should be. The editor, after all, is likely struggling for survival, too.

I've come to expect that most of my submissions will be rejected. Of course, this makes the acceptances that much more sweet ... more worthy of celebration, though I don't dance on the table as much as I once did.

In this pursuit of acceptance here and there, I accept the odds, I keep trying to improve my writing ... and the odds ... and life goes on.

Once in a while, in all of this turmoil, there comes a little surprise.

I recall how one editor had scrawled something about "mundane treatment of ordinary subjects" on the rejection slip which accompanied my returned poems. I recall that note ... and I wish I could recall the name of that editor.

I would like to thank him for giving me ideas for two more poems, today's "Ordinary Things" ... and another, "In Praise of the Mundane" ... both off which were published ... elsewhere.

Today's offering:


If my daily walk could take me

far enough from where I live,

I might discover something worthy

of collecting and preserving.

Instead, I find a squirrel's

nest, abandoned, being parceled

by the wind, a remnant of string

lying in hopeless tangle,

fragments of eggshell left like

bits of sky on gritty gray

sidewalk, a cat sunning, scattered

toys, telling me that children

are nearby, perhaps watching

as I pick my way through.

Such ordinary things, trickling

through the fingers of my memory

even before I get home, but while

I have them they are treasure.

More than that, food for my soul.

© 1998

(Originally published in A New Song, the poem is now part of a collection entitled Wood Smoke, which is to be published later this year by Finishing Line Press)


Today's word: ordinary

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Beautiful comment, Marti ... absolutely beautiful! Thank you ... and continued best wishes.

Thank you, Featheredpines, for observing that of the special moments in our lives ... most of them are centered around "ordinary things," which, as you aptly point out, are anything but ordinary. And I thank you, also, for that generous electronic pat on the back.

As for the interview on WYSO (91.3 FM) ... yes, for the expected broadcast time (a five-minute segment within another program) it's between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m., Eastern time, so that will require tuning in really early in your time zone, Featheredpines. The good news: It apparently wasn't on this morning, so you really didn't miss it. The bad news: I still don't know which Sunday it's scheduled to air. I'll pass the word along as soon as I can find out. Meanwhile, thanks for hanging in there ... continued best wishes.

Postscript ... for Featheredpines - I'm glad I didn't miss it either. The latest advice I have from WYSO is to listen from 10:30 to 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning(s). I'm eager to hear what I sound like ... and what I said ... so I guess I'll be tuning in. Remember, that's Eastern Daylight Time ... and let me know, please, how this turns out for you. Good luck.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Next Shade

Phyllis and I, circumstances permitting, go for a walk every day.

We prefer walking outdoors, but if the weather is particularly disagreeable, we duck into a shopping mall, or its equivalent, and do our walking there. We've even done the building-connecting tunnels at Wright State University ... all a part of survival.

In the hottest part of summer, we adopt another strategy, which allows us to walk outdoors ... and survive.

We call this our "shade hike." We find some place with lots of trees ... and we're blessed with a lot of parks like that in this area ... then we go strolling from shade to shade.

These brief interludes of relative coolness make it possible for us to walk outdoors in the hot, sultry months ... and survive.

If we hear rumbles of thunder, it's back to the mall.

While we were darting ... relatively speaking ... from shade to shade, I often think about this poem, based on childhood memories ... as many of my poems are ... but also a metaphor for dealing with problems:


Once, walking to town,

I complained that it was

too hot, too dusty, far

too far, but Grandma,

who had walked it many

times before, simply

said, "We can make it

to next shade, then

we'll rest. Next shade,

rest," and it became

a game, the next shade

our refuge, drawing

us along like a magnet,

the trip getting easier.

I've thought of that

a lot of times when it

seemed the going had

become too demanding,

and I always found

next shade, some rest,

before pressing on,

her words still making

it easier for me.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)

And so it is. We find that "next shade" ... in words of comfort ... a pause ... a summoning of inner strength ... a moment in our own quiet cove ... respite ... before pressing on ... and on.


Today's word: survive

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for another visit ... and those kind words. Happy Easter to you, too.

I'm always glad, Featheredpines, when a reader feels something I've written really speaks to them ... and they say something in return, perhaps like "a cool drink, a comfort." On the other hand, the magic, I think, consists largely of what the reader brings to the poem.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mere Words

Like I've said many times, I'm not a morning person.

But what is a non-morning person to do when he wakes up around five o'clock ... wide awake ... with a thought buzzing through his mind?

Well ... I lay there for a while ... watched the clock unscrolling the crawling minutes ... then reached for the small light I keep on the table beside the bed ... found a pencil ... and my multi-colored notepad (thank you, Michelle) in the shape of the letter B ... and started writing.

What I wrote is barely decipherable ... now that I'm fully awake ... and it's far from becoming a poem, but someday it might. I'll keep it, try to break the code, try to decide what it's trying to say to me.

And if it does turn into a poem, I'll feel compelled to share it with somebody ... I always have that "look what I found" feeling when something I've written does seem to make sense ... not "look at what I did" ... never that ... and when I share it with somebody, that somebody is likely to be a poetry editor.

I always treasure that second opinion ... especially on those rare occasions when the decision goes in my favor.

But if it doesn't ... well, I speak of that circumstance in today's poem:


You, my children,

offspring of my mind,

are going forth

into an imperfect world,

where you will be judged

by strangers. I hope

they will listen

and treat you kindly,

perhaps accept you

as their own.

If not, please return

and we shall comfort

each other.

© 1997

(originally published in Writer's Journal)


Today's word: comfort

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you for starting off my day with that comment, Featheredpines. I'm sorry about the hours being most difficult ... and I did note the time at which you paid your visit ... but I'm glad you found the "cool breeze on a hot day" by stopping by. It's always rewarding to know that someone did find a bit of calm ... perhaps even comfort ... in pausing here to listen to the words ... something, I hope, like listening to the music of water dancing along in a shaded stream.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Help Wanted

Ah, I remember it well. We had stopped in Terre Haute to stretch our legs a bit.

We'd been walking the corridors of a shopping mall, turned the corner into the food court, and there he was.

The elderly gentleman was sitting alone, one elbow resting on the edge of the table while he squinted at the newspaper he had tilted toward the light ... and his coffee sat, growing cold.

We took a turn through the food court and walked on.

When we came by again, he was still there, sitting the same way, still poring over the paper.

I have no idea what he was actually reading, nor what his particular interest might have been, but something told me to find a place to sit and scribble a few words on a scrap of paper that I carry, just in case:

"HELP WANTED - Conversationalist ... "

In due course, a poem was born of that experience, that chance observation, those three words I had scribbled.

The poem:


Having grown old,

I haunt the ads,

hoping to find one

that might say:

Help Wanted -


Witty, yet reserved.

Willing to listen.

Flexible hours.

No travel required.

Age no barrier.

© 1997

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word: conversationalist

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Favored Paths

My grandparents didn't have a car (as some of you may know, I grew up in their care) ... but that was no problem ... everything we could have wanted was within walking distance ... and trips, real trips? Well, there were passenger trains running then.

Under those circumstances, it's little wonder, I suppose, that I learned the benefits of walking.

For one thing, there was so much to see while walking ... it was a pleasure to focus on a particular view, then watch it slowly changing as the walking changed the angle at which it was seen.

The slower pace made it so easy to absorb what was seen ... to savor the flavor, so to speak.

So, when my doctor suggested ... OK, he may have been verging on insisting ... that I take up walking again ... it was no big deal, even when I first started and found it difficult to go all the way around the block.

I remembered ... I knew the benefits of walking. It was just a matter of time until I could get my body back into shape. Well, it took a little more time than I expected ... but I listened to my body along the way ... and moderated my pace, or increased it, accordingly.

And now a daily walk is automatically a part of my routine. I still enjoy the view(s), the pace ... and particularly the poems that sometimes come to me during my walks.

Today's poem, for example:


I like to walk

where the trees

drink the sunlight

and let only

stray droplets

speckle the earth,

where the squirrel

scampers unseen

to a cradling limb

and screeches

at the stranger

who dares intrude,

where lichens clutch

the brows of bluffs

sitting as in judgment

while merely waiting,

as they have been

through the ages,

where the tiny bird

flits and sings

its song of hope,

and my steps

are less labored

as I am renewed.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: lichens

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for stopping by again ... and (blush-blush) leaving those words of praise. I must hasten to add that both the photos and the poems often just seem to jump out at me ... and I react ... by snapping the shutter or taking some quick notes. I'm always pleased, of course, when somebody else likes the finished product. I especially liked your ... "My grandpa, into his nineties, walked around several blocks every evening. I always wondered why, becasue he wasn't going anywhere ... " At an early age, I think I had the same attitude about walking ... but the years have given me a different perspective ... and those walks, way back when, have taken on a new sheen.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Escaping Gravity

If you were expecting me earlier ... sorry ... my computer seems to have taken on some of my early morning characteristics ... bleary-eyed ... lost in a fog ... but, thank goodness, it doesn't go around bumping into furniture.

I don't know why it bothers me when this happens. I'm not on a strict schedule ... except my own self-imposed order of things ... I could just as easily make a posting in the evening ... except that would bump up against my nap time.

Oh, well ... I try to look at my computer's balkiness as an opportunity to do other things (hah!) ... for example, while I was waiting for it to decide what it wanted to do next, I tackled some of the stacks in the study.

Not literally. Tackling those monsters could have serious consequences.

I approached them cautiously, sorted out a few things ... and now I have fewer stacks to go through ... and through ... and through.

But, as Professor Squigglee (remember him?) would say, I digress. What I really came here to talk about was today's poem ...

Spring! It was a time of celebration, a time of emerging, at last, from the cold of winter into the beginnings of warmth, a time when kites were tugging at their strings, pleading for more ... when jackets were left lying on the school grounds ... when we gave in to the call of the hills in which we were growing up ... and went galloping down them.

And gallop we did ... a few "no brakes" strides and a leap ... strides ... leap ... strides ... all the way to the bottom sometimes.

Other times we'd fall to the softening turf well before reaching bottom, and lie there, laughing at the picture we must have made, long legs carrying us careening down the slope, with little hope of reaching the bottom still standing.

It was as if we could ... if we tried hard enough ... defy gravity, that if we gained enough speed we might fly. The descent felt like flying. The air seemed to be trying to lift us.And those leaps! They were almost like flying.

Even as we lay there, laughing, our run completed, finally rolling over to look at the clouds, we still felt we might somehow break free of gravity ... next time ...

We had been so close to doing it this time!

In selecting the poem's title, "Escaping Gravity," I wanted it to serve double duty ... to say something about running down the hill, yes ... but also about the need to take our minds off the seriousness of life, even if only briefly.

We all need to do that sometimes.

The poem:


How we challenged gravity's pull then,

our lanky legs held captive so long

by the dull gray of winter months, but now

freed, carrying us in ever lengthening

leaps until we finally fell, exhausted,

on the wet, green softness of earth,

laughing, pained with the joy of what

we had done, resting, trying again,

each new leap seeming to take us

ever so near that unreachable dream.

© 1998

(Originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: unreachable

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ordinary Moments

Sometimes it seems that all my poems are rooted in memory. This one is no exception.

From those distant beginnings ... the foundation stones of all those "ordinary moments" in a young boy's life ... to today ... there's a long bridge of discovered excitement, adventure.

I often go trudging back across that bridge, in search of those beginnings, because I see them now as more than just ordinary events.

Isn't that always the case?

The poem:


... in which I discover

travel-rounded stones

on the meandering

creek bed of my mind,

each a found treasure

whirring me back

to rainy days spent

with musty books, nights

floating in wood smoke,

mornings with eggs

frying in a dark skillet,

moments when the world

seemed to be

just waiting for me

to kick off the covers,

resume my pursuit

of this great adventure.

© 2001

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word: travel-rounded

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Making the Pitch

First of all, a confession: I was not a pitcher.

Oh, I may have tossed a softball in the general direction of a batter a few times ... in a school playground game or two ... but, even in those games, I was usually somewhere deep in the outfield, keeping company with the gnats, just standing around, watching the slowly unfolding action, which seemed miles away.

Then there was a summer I spent much of the time "pitching" a tennis ball against the side of the garage (good practice toward the day when I might become a real pitcher ... and quite practical, because I had nobody to catch my pitches and toss the ball back to me).

But I wasn't a pitcher. Never was. Never will be.

Still, that didn't keep me from dreaming ... or daydreaming, as in this poem. Now that I have, for all practical purposes, given the secret of the poem away ... sorry about that ... here it is:


I finger the ball, toe the rubber,

stretch and unleash my very

best pitch, watch it zooming

and dancing toward that pop

like a sudden shot against

the glove, watch the batter

standing, stunned, hear

the crowd's roar welling up,

filling the stadium, the buzz

of a fly nearby, the gentle

tinkling of ice, the hammock

swaying ever so gently.

© 2000

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: swaying

Monday, March 10, 2008

Like That

I try to look at simple things and extract their essence. In this instance it's the last drop of liquid in the cup.

How many times, occupied with ringing phones, converging projects all demanding to be done ... NOW ... how many times I absently lifted the cup and received two surprises: the unexpected emptiness of the cup, and then the suddenness of that last, single drop plopping onto my tongue.

I think this poem works on two levels. On the surface, it's a descriptive passage of an event so minor that it's almost beneath writing about, yet will stir a bit of recognition from some readers, an acknowledgment that, yes, I've experienced that.

It also works as a metaphor for endings. How we cling to the memory of that which has just ended, how we hold on to the memories of those things which brought us to this ending.

"Like That" was originally published in Palo Alto Review, an honor in itself. Then the editors nominated it for Pushcart Prize honors.

Eventually, it became part of "Hollyhocks," a second collection of my poems, published in 2007 by Finishing Line Press.

The poem:


It's like

when you think

the cup is empty

but you lift it


tilting it toward

your mouth,

and a solitary drop

comes rolling

off the bottom,

goes bounding

onto your tongue

so now you really taste

the flavor of it,

far greater

than the rest

of what you've drunk,

and it quenches

the thirst of memory,

lying there

long afterward,

most valued

because there is

no more.

© 1999

(originally published in Palo Alto Review)


Today's word: bounding

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I Shall Write

First order of business today: Have you set your clock(s) ahead one hour? "Daylight Saving Time," you know.

I will skip my usual comments about how this yearly ritual does little beyond getting all of us to do the same thing at approximately the same time ... not even my perennial comment that DST's main purpose is to give farmers an extra hour of daylight so they can go golfing late in the day.

Let's just say that I celebrated the event this morning ... by sleeping in.

And now, some of you may have seen today's poem before. But since I did sleep in, I had to hit the floor running (figuratively) and grab the first thing I could find.

So here's what I said about "I Shall Write" when I posted it here before:

I usually make my postings in the morning, but today was a bit different.

I had to make a medical pit stop - nothing serious, a quick tire change and I was right back into the race. But I didn't pop a wheelie and head directly back to the keyboard.

It was such a beautiful day that I frittered much of it away on an outdoors walk which included a pause in the shade to do a couple of quick sketches.

But here I am now, rather glad that I delayed today's posting. When I finally meandered back home, I found the mail waiting. I don't often get good news in the mail, but today was an exception.

Waiting in the box was a copy of ICON literary magazine, containing two ... count 'em, TWO ... of my poems. I'd like to share one of them with you now. It's nothing spectacular, but I do like the sound of it, as I did just before I sent it off to seek its fortune early this year.

I had hopes, but I've learned not to bank too heavily on those.

It's another poem about writing ... about the determination to continue writing. I still have that, thank you very much, and I'm glad I do. It helps to keep me going between those pit stops.

The poem:


When all light has settled

into a darkness that steals

the sustenance of birdsong,

when day is a mere flickering

across the screens of minds,

when paper has retreated

into the corridorsof memory,

I shall approach the blue

smoothness of water, and lie

there beside it; savoring

its wavering coolness, I shall

write upon it as someone else

may have done before words

began making poetry, before

there was music, before

love and understanding

tried to live among us.

© 2006

(Published in the Spring 2006 - 40th Anniversary Edition - of ICON literary magazine)


Today's word: determination

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen for those words of encouragement. I like it, too, when the words and phrases come together ... sometimes only after a lot of nudging (re-writing) ... to make something akin to music, maybe even painting a picture that someone else will enjoy. Thanks, too, for the comment about the photos. I hardly ever leave home without a camera ... and I do like sharing what I find out there.

And thank you, Featheredpines, for that comment ... it helps me to see the poem in a little different light ... and I enjoy that, too.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Handful of Dust

Oh, the memories ... how they come flooding back during quiet moments ... away from the keyboard ... no TV blaring in the background.

Today's poem deals ... seemingly ... with a single memory ... a single day ... a single set of circumstances ... and, when I wrote it, I was thinking about a specific day which stood out in memory.

Looking at it now, I think it's more than that. It must be. There were many times that I looked wistfully toward the crest of that hill, wondered what lay beyond ... wanted to find out ... wondered if I ever would.

Well, eventually I did. Oh, did I ever!

But now I seem to be rooted more firmly than ever in those beginnings ... dealing with those bittersweet memories ... finding that the emphasis is more on the second portion of "bittersweet" than on the first.

The poem:


I stood watching a breeze

moving toward me through

hazy green rows of corn,

listened to it overhead

whispering its secrets

to a wafer-dry box elder,

saw it picking up just

a handful of dust,

twirling it, letting it

settle quickly back

to the hoof-pocked soil,

remember thinking

that I might follow,

off somewhere beyond

those barren hills,

but stood drinking

from a rusty tin cup,

dribbled the dregs

on my thirsting toes,

went padding back

where I’d always be.

© 2002

(originally published in Capper's; now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher)


Today's word: twirling

Friday, March 7, 2008


This is a summer poem, written on a warm day ... much warmer than we're experiencing in Ohio today ...

It was a day, too, with an absence of snow ... contrasted with today in this neck of the woods, when the snow predictions are speaking of "feet," rather than "inches."

Believe me, based on memories of heavy, sustained shoveling ... absence did not make the heart grow fonder ... of snow, that is.

I don't know where I was, exactly, when this poem presented itself to me ... but I was likely out for my morning walk ... just strolling along (I'm not a power walker, folks) ... my mind wandering ... when I passed this particular hedge with its abundance of spider webs.

I was struck by that abundance, first ... and then, with a closer look ... the delicate handiwork. From there it was a short leap to "fine silk scarves" ... when I got home I sat at the kitchen table and started scribbling on a scrap of paper.

The poem:


I see, glistening

in the hedge,

yawning mouths

of spun funnels,

delicate handiwork

of skilled spiders

arrayed, luring

the browser

like fine silk

scarves spread out,

catching the sun,

begging to be bought.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: glistening

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thanks, Marti ... glad you liked it ... hope you're staying snug and warm ...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Flowering Friendship

I remember how sad it was to look out the window and see what had happened to the tulips, daffodils and peonies as a result of a late freeze.

We had recently enjoyed summer-like weather, and then this. All those beautiful plants wilting to the ground, as though someone had taken a blowtorch to them.

But my thoughts quickly turned to those who had likely suffered greater losses ... those who had fruit trees budding and blossoming, for example.

And then, as if to console me, today's poem came to mind.

It was written at the end of a season, rather than the beginning, and it paid tribute to a good year in which no late frost had occurred, in which we had enjoyed watching the flowers, from their first shoots breaking through the soil, to their greening and blossoming, and, finally, as the season came to a close, their departure.

I was already looking forward to the next year. I knew I would miss them during the winter months, but felt assured that they, like old friends, would be back.

And I hoped that those which were so damaged by a late frost this year would be back, too.

The poem:


Summer-weary flowers,

what beauty came

of your being with us

another season,

what pleasure grew

from your growing.

We must, by all means,

meet again next year.

© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: pleasure

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I'm thankful for that comment, Marti ... a real incentive to keep going ... to keep putting chosen words on paper ... and then on the screen.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


It was such a strange encounter. I was startled, but not frightened. After all, it just took me a second or two to realize that what I was seeing was my own reflection.

But I'll never forget that feeling, as I turned slowly, not thinking about anything in particular ... perhaps about where my bus was, when it would pull up at that corner ... and there was this reflection in the store window, a reflection so much like the image of my grandfather, one I had carried in memory for so many years ...

I had never thought that I looked very much like him. Still, that first glance at the reflection was like seeing him again ... my reaction, as I saw it in that window, was like seeing him reach out for me ... again.

It didn't occur to me to rush home and write about the encounter. I wasn't writing poetry then. But, much later, when I began learning the practice of sitting in a quiet place, waiting for the words to come to me, these are the ones that made their presence known to me:


There was no mistaking the slope

of his shoulders, the shape

of his head; it was my grandfather

staring from the store window

while I stood in sprinkling rain

waiting for an afternoon bus.

I recalled how it was raining

when I had stood in uniform

beside his bed in that darkened

room, how I had wanted to say

things he could not hear, how I

had finally broken and wept.

And now, all these years later,

I watched as he reached his hand

toward me, the unwanted child, then,

as I stood watching his image blur

in the rain against the window,

we knew I had finally become him.

© 2003

(part of my first collection of poetry, Chance of Rain, issued by Finishing Line Press, 2003)


Today's word: image

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

And what a comfort that must be, Marti, when, as you say, your grandmother "looks at me from the mirror these days." Oh, and I'm glad you liked the poem, too.

Thank you, Helen, for sharing that touching account of your "encounter" with your great aunt, via the photos documenting her years at Wellesley College, including her heading the Math Department there. How proud you must be of her ... and how nice it is to have a reminder of her when you look in the mirror.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dare I Ask?

My usual approach, even on a day like today when I'm running far behind schedule, is to select a poem, write something about it, then try to find a suitable illustration, photo or otherwise.

Today, this evening, while skimming through my backlog of pictures, I ran across this photo of a wheelbarrow ... an old, old wheelbarrow loaded with wood, sitting beside a reconstructed log cabin ... so I began with it.

I took the photo because the composition appealed to me ... the horizontals of the cabin, the sweep of the wheelbarrow bed, the circle of the wheel, repeated by the ends of the sticks of wood.

I snapped it as a possibility for a future painting. I'm intrigued by old things, the challenge of preserving that look, but with a touch of freshness in the painting itself.

In this case, I also gave the photo a sepia tone, thus enhancing the feeling of oldness. I may or may not try to carry that over into an eventual painting.

The photo selection made, the choice of a poem remained.

Aha! I remembered this one, "Dare I Ask?" True enough, it's about a wheelbarrow, but a much younger one than that in the photo.

It's mainly that hand-lettered sign that lingers in my memory, those moments of lingering there, looking at that sign, imagining the red wheelbarrow and all its possibilities.

It's a poem about human frailty. We're stopped in our tracks by the prospect of owning something we need not, must not, have. And yet we're tempted, at least, to take a look.

In this case, did I sneak a peek? I'll never tell ...


"Red Wheelbarrow for Sale," says

the small hand-lettered sign that

flutters like a special invitation to me

as I slow my pace, pause to look.

I'm intrigued. Not green, nor gray,

nor just a plain old wheelbarrow,

but red. I can see myself strolling

home pushing that beautiful red ...

What am I doing? I don't really

need one, haven't a place to put it,

my wife would probably kill me.

Still, maybe just a quick peek?

© 2002

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: peek

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thanks, Helen, for taking me on that little trip back to Southern Illinois with your comment ... I can just see that wheelbarrow in the back seat of that convertible ... or on the lawn at your place ... or, someday, in one of your paintings. As for proofreading ... even Professor Squigglee occasionally slips a cog in that dapartment ... but I agree with him when he explains: It's the thought that counts.

And thank you, Featheredpines, for that insight into "the eternal yard sale." I don't actually stop at yard sales ... well, hardly ever ... but I do slow down and take a look ... and it has sometimes appeared to me that some of the patrons might be in the business themselves of helping to keep the goods moving from yard sale to yard sale to ...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Cradled in the Hand

Here I go again, writing about writing ... and, as usual, I insert an early disclaimer: I'm no expert on the subject ... I'm still learning ... still struggling ...

The subject is one which intrigues me ... challenges me ... sometimes frustrates me ... but I keep going.

I keep going because ... when the result is a finished, polished piece of poetry ... it is so rewarding.

And when someone else reads it, likes it, identifies with it ... maybe even exclaims about it ... well, that's truly a hefty slather of icing on the cake.

I often say that poems come to me ... in the quiet of the night ... or in the midst of a noisy crowd at the mall.

I never know when an idea is going to show itself ... so I'm always prepared ... with a scrap of paper ... a stub of pencil ... or a ballpoint pen ... to try to catch the essence, at least, of that idea.

Later, the real work begins.

I'm sometimes amazed at how that first draft shapes itself on the page. Other times, the idea is there, but the poem isn't ... so I put it aside, let it rest ... and later, sometimes much later, I'll discover it when I'm looking for something else ... there's a new flash of inspiration ... the wheels start turning again ...

I speak of "the perfect poem" in today's posting ... I haven't found that yet in my own writing ... but I keep searching, trying ... and maybe some day ... some day ...

Meanwhile, this one:


Finding an idea

is a beginning,

but only that.

There must follow

the grinding, shaping,

polishing, plain

hard work that takes

a found stone

on a long journey,

transforming it

to that gifted gem

cradled in the hand

of its creator,

the perfect poem,

alive with light,

singing to us,

dancing across

the ballroom floor

of our memory.

© 1997

(originally published in ByLine)


Today's word: cradled

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Featheredpines, for that comment. As I read it again this evening, I like the dreamlike quality of "Cradled poems like dreams ... "

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Beauty of It

It's a little early for summer re-runs, but I guess today's entry would fit that category. Here's part of what I said when I originally posted "The Beauty of It":

This commentary is not so much about the poem as about me.

The poem, if not on the first reading, then on the second, reveals itself. My poems, after all, display their meaning fairly near the surface.

But the poem came to me again as I was thinking about something which has been on my mind these past several months.

The poem was lurking nearby yesterday, a long, long day which began amid the trimmings of medical science ... the lights, instruments, glowing screens, careful, attentive, caring medical practitioners.

The day ended with an evening spent watching a "Pink Panther" movie. I needed a few laughs.


I was telling readers that I was a cancer patient, that I had been undergoing treatment for several months, and there were other treatments remaining. But the prognosis was good.

I didn't spread the word initially because I found it difficult to talk about ... I knew people would have questions ... and I wasn't prepared for that.

Finally, my intuition told me that I needn't keep guarding this as a "secret." There was no need to keep the facts any longer from friends, from visitors to this page ...

And now, I have some other news to share: My oncologist, at my recent annual visit, released me from treatment. What a great, wonderful, welcome surprise that was.

With many thanks for readers' comments ... which helped to keep me going all those busy months ... sustained me ... and with special thanks to Phyllis, who was with me every step of the way, here's the poem:


The beauty of intuition

is that you dont have to analyze,

hypothesize, or otherwise

do anything about it:

You may just sit quietly

and let it come to you,

unfolding like a tightly-wound

rosebud transforming itself,

wafting about while you

breathe in an understanding,

an answer to the question

you hadn't even asked.

© 2003

(originally published in Poem; now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher)


Today's word: intuition

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Featheredpines, for those good wishes ... and I remember those Bugs Bunny cartoon adventures, too.

Thank you, Marti. I couldn't have said it better myself: "how wonderful to have hope and how wonder-filled life is ... "