Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Who Writes Poetry?

This is a rather whimsical piece which began when a certain intriguing question popped into my head and triggered a series of images.

I had fun writing it, I've enjoyed sharing it, especially with its eventual publication. Oh, and was I ever excited when it was called out for an encore appearance!

Marion Roach, whose program, "The Naturalist's Datebook," is heard on Sirius Radio ... Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius 112 ... read "Who Writes Poetry?" for her listeners.

In my seemingly perpetual situation, clinging by my fingertips to the trailing edge of technology, I didn't have access to Sirius Radio ... and I still don't ... but I was excited about what had happened to this little poem.

And today's art? It has no direct connection with the poem, but I liked the way the sun was breaking through the clouds ... a metaphor for a glimmer of hope, perhaps ... maybe just an interesting moment captured with a small digital camera ...



Horses, standing head-to-tail

beside each other, the better

to swish the flies away,

are they thinking up poems?

How about cows, studiously

worrying their warm cuds?

Do mules stubbornly pursue

clip-clopping couplets, compose

sonnets, sestinas, villanelles?

Perhaps it's the tiny finch,

singing his easy promises

while she builds the nest.

But I think it might be

the solitary snail, crawling

through the night, leaving

lines going this way and that

on the sidewalk, evidence,

surely, of some kind of angst.

© 2000

(originally published in Kaleidoscope)


Today's word: solitary

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I'm sorry your day didn't get off to a good start, Helen (as a non-morning person myself, I understand) ... but I'm glad the poem gave you a smile. Your own comment paid a great dividend for me ... a smile of my own in late afternoon ... even though I'm reminded that I've fallen behind ... again ... on my responses to comments on "Chosen Words" ... and must get moving. Thanks for your patience while I get up to speed again.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sleepless Night

I guess everybody has at least an occasional sleepless night. I'm having one tonight ... a night essentially without sleep.

At the moment, shortly after midnight, I'm in the midst of preparations for a medical procedure which is scheduled to take place early in the morning.

Just routine, but it does take prep, and, as I go into the home stretch on that, it looks like there will be little sleep before I report in.

Meanwhile, there's a new installment of "Squiggles and Giggles" (note the link on the left side of "Chosen Words") just waiting for visitors.

Today's poem addresses another type of sleepless night ... and is for all those nights before air-conditioning ... or without it ... when I was growing up, when I was in military service, later, in a rented room here and there ... and even later.

There were a lot of those.

It's for those lonely nights when a siren would signal the approach of flashing lights which would go dancing across the ceiling and splashing on down the street.

Once or twice that siren and those lights were for me. But "not this time ... old pals."

It's for the times I listened to the crickets picking up the threads of conversation in the darkness ... and I lay listening to the night ebbing away.

I don't dwell too much on the past, but it does provide the foundation for today ... and tomorrow. It does bear some thought. I try to give it that, and I'm glad when a poem results, especially when that poem eventually finds a good home. This one was originally published in Riverrun.


A sharp-edged siren

comes careening through

my open window, scant

warning of lights

that will go slashing

across my ceiling,

tumbling pell-mell

in the littered street,

spattering buildings

with fiery colors

that ooze and fade.

Not this time

for me, old pals.

Not this time.

Slowly, like strangers

waiting for a bus,

crickets pick up loose

threads of conversation,

and I lie listening

to another night

burning itself out,

the welter of chirrups

reeling in another

sweltering day.

© 2000


Today's word: threads

Passing in Review

Picture from Hometown

Today's poem is another example of material ... fodder, if you will ... lurking almost anywhere.

Naturally, I keep an eye out for subject matter, possibilities for a small painting, perhaps, or even a poem, when I'm out walking ... when I'm sitting, waiting for a bus ... whatever.

In this instance, I had passed the flowers many times, casually observing their color, their sprightliness, but not feeling any particular connection with them ... until one day when there was a slight breeze. Their movement, "nodding their heads," caught my eye well before I was in front of them.

It was then, I think, that it seemed they were the "reviewing stand" and it was I, the lonely marcher, who was being inspected as I strode past.

Hardly more than a haiku moment, but that impression, that image, stuck with me all the way home, where I sat at the kitchen table and started writing.

Originally published in Capper's:


Flowers arrayed

like a reviewing stand

in my neighbor's yard

seem to be nodding

recognition of me,

and perhaps they are,

for I march by twice

on my daily walk.

© 1995


Today's word: nodding

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Only the Best

I can't imagine being restricted to writing only one word on a given day. There are so many of them clamoring to get out of my head and go skittering across the page ... or to be posted on the screen.

On the day that I wrote this little poem, though, I must have been trying to imagine what it might be like to have to settle on just one word ... and I picked "friend," with its dictionary meaning of a person one knows well and is fond of ... plus all its other shades of meaning, depending on the reader's experience.

It has so many meanings. It conjures up images of a handshake, a hug, of sharing a conversation with someone, or just sitting quietly with them ... helping someone, being helped by someone, of someone you can trust, someone with whom you can share your thoughts ... secrets, even ...

It seems to be an all-purpose word, but it's a very precise word, too ... not a musical word, but one that can bring "music" to us, put a spring in our step, a glow that counters even the cloudiest of days.

The poem:


If I could write

just one word today,

what care I'd take

to pick the best

from the great array

of "previously-owned,

runs great" words,

for example: Friend.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: friend

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Growth

Picture from Hometown

Sometimes it's a meandering path which takes me to the poem for the day.

It was something like that last night at the Dayton Art Institute, where I joined David Lee Garrison, of Wright State University, in sharing some art-related poems.

On the way to the principal pieces of art I had written about, I shared, among others, the piece I posted here yesterday, "Morning Mist" ... a piece about a finger painting that I treasure beyond words (it was done by my grandson) ... a piece about one of my own paintings, now residing in a good home in Illinois ... one about Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" ... one about a scene I observed while looking OUT of a window at the DAI.

Then I shared a piece about Charles Sheeler's "Stacks in Celebration" and one with a reference to Georgia O'Keefe's "Purple Leaves" ... both a part of the DAI collection.

I also shared one titled "After the Muffin" ... one of my favorite art forms ... ranking right up there with cake of any kind.

Sorry you missed it. I'll try to make that up to you in coming days.

Meanwhile ...

Today's poem contains some thoughts about what has happened to so much of our land ... thoughts driven largely, I suppose, by my having grown up in a rural area, where the poor, worn-out soil was gentled into producing food and flowers.

I have no special agenda, no axe to grind ... just some observations that simply came to me on a rainy day in a shopping center parking lot.

I may be wrong about grasses someday retaking"these smothered acres."

I take no comfort in the possibility that I might be right. Right or wrong, I shall never know, but it seems logical, reasonable to expect that the sprawl of what we've come to treasure as our way of life cannot be sustained forever.

Something to think about, perhaps.

The poem:


Where crops once grew,

the skin of commerce

stretches into the distance,

acres in all directions.

On verdant prairie land

now grow waving fields

of carts, cars and customers.

They bring the green

to a soil long bereft

of plants, except token trees

planted as memorials

to what once was.

And when it rains, the rain

finds no welcoming soil.

It piles up at the drains

as it flees this alien surface.

What strange things

we now grow, and

how great the cost.

Someday the grasses

will retake

these smothered acres,

rightfully theirs

by prior claim.

The rain will come

in its gentle way

to bless this soil,

and it will prosper

as it did before.

© 1996

(originally published in Poetic Eloquence)


Today's word: smothered

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Morning Mist

LAST CALL! Tonight is the big night at the Dayton Art Institute. Buses, minivans, maxivans, campers, trailers, hikers, hoofers, planes and trains will be converging on the DAI.


Why, because ... starting at 7 p.m. ... David Lee Garrison, of Wright State University ... and I ... will be sharing some of our poetry with those lucky people ... in a program that's free and open to the public.

Sorry, can't make it, you say? Not to worry, I have a poem for you ... especially for you ... right now ... here.

It's one of my favorite poems (don't let my other poems hear me saying that ... but it is). Like many of mine, it's built on memories ... and the memories seem to grow ... or take on a new glow, at least for me, each time I read it.

It's one of my rain/hills poems. As some of you may already know, I grew up in the hills ... my roots are still there, of course ... though, like a honeysuckle vine, the rest of me has rambled through several states on the way to where I am now.

But that's another story.

If you do make it to tonight's reading at the DAI, you're likely to hear this particular poem. But if you can't make it there, then here's this (silent) version for you ... now:


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.

© 2003

(from my first collection, Chance of Rain, Finishing Line Press)


Today's word: gnats

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let Them Try

Another poem about writing, the concentration it demands ... and the distractions which intrude, especially if the writing is being done in an attic room -- er, studio -- and the squirrels are playing games overhead.

Before we had our maple trees trimmed, our roof seemed to be a favorite gathering spot for those rascals.

It sounded like they were having squirrel conventions up there, or the Squirrel Olympics, maybe even doing some line dancing, although I couldn't hear the music, just those little feet, back and forth, back and forth ... back and forth ...

Oh, there were moments of quiet ... I suppose while they were choosing up sides again ... plotting their next moves. During these suspenseful moments I could get a few words written. Then the commotion resumed.

As I recall, my first draft, instead of talking about "teeny-tiny feet," said something about "obnoxious little feet," but I mellowed a bit after that.

In the quiet that followed the trimming of those overhanging limbs, I guess mellowing was to be expected.

Oh, and I purposely kept the lines short ... in order to underscore the tension of writing under such pressure.

The poem:


Squirrels go

trickling across

my green roof

while I write,

trying to break

my concentration.

Hah! Let them

try. I am so

focused not even

booming thunder

could faze me;

certainly not

this constant




pit of their

teeny-tiny feet.

© 2001

(originally published in St. Anthony Messenger)


Today's word: pitter-patter

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Happy feet! Hey, I like the sound of that, Featheredpines. Maybe I should look at it that way ... put some of that rhythm into my poetry ... maybe I already am doing that ... subconsciously. Maybe that's been their agenda all along. Why, those rascals!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Journey Toward Light

I'm not sure when it really began, but I discovered that The Little Red Car had been winking (one headlight burned out) at the Big Guys on the highway.

I could have none of that. I recalled having received a Christmas present in the form of a traffic ticket, one very dark night in a neighboring town ... because my car had a burned out headlight. But that's another story.

We steered Little Red in the direction of our favorite repair shop/sales venture, and, within minutes, had the problem fixed and we were on our way again ... out in the world of bumper cars.

The plot thickens.

Later, when Little Red backed out of its garage again, I noticed something unusual. Little Red was winking again. Same headlight.

Back to the repair shop. We were greeted warmly and directed to the waiting room ... climbed the familiar stairs to the upper floor ... went down the corridor ... and found the waiting room full to overflowing.

We took a couple of seats out in the sales area.

Within minutes we were approached by a young man ... He wanted to know if we owned Little Red. Aha, I thought, that was quick service.

Well, said the young man, he'd like to buy it ... because he had a family friend who was looking for just such a car ... and, wonder of wonders, he was in the business of SELLING cars, and could fix US up with a brand spanking new model for a very good price (at this point he handed me his card).

Sadly, I informed him that we were rather attached to Little Red, and weren't really in the market for a new car.

He left. We sat. About 45 minutes later, I discovered two seats had opened up in the waiting room. We hurried in, and I picked up a magazine(December, 2006), memorized its contents, then went for another which appeared in better shape (October, 2006).

Days passed. Actually, about half an hour.

I decided to check with the bookkeeping department to see if our paperwork had come up yet. Nobody there. Apparently there is nobody there on Saturday.

Back to the waiting room. Time passed. A call over the loudspeaker, for Mr. and Mrs. Allen to report to the service desk. Nobody moved. Minutes later, another call for Mr. and Mrs. Allen. And another.

Something told me to check with bookkeeping again. Still nobody there.

Throwing caution to the wind, I opened the door to the repair shop and stepped out on the landing.

"Mr. ALLEN!" beamed the young woman behind the counter on the floor below. "Come on DOWN!" I didn't see Mr. Allen there with me ... and I had planned to venture down anyway ... so I did.

When I arrived at the counter, the young woman said, "I only need your signature, Mr. Allen ... no charge ... and you're all set to go."

I looked at the paperwork. It DID have a place on it for Mr. Allen to sign.

"But I'm Mr. BRIMM," I advised her.


Anyway, the car WAS ready to go, she assured me ... and when I asked her if she needed MY signature, she said that wouldn't be necessary ... in fact, wadded up the paperwork I had just been asked to sign ... and may have tossed it over her shoulder. (I'm not sure about that last detail).

We checked Little Red before we left the premises this time ... Yep, both eyes (er, headlights) bright as could be ... And we never caught a glimpse of Mr. Allen, whoever he might be.

All of which, finally, brings us to today's poem:


Great caravans

of words go tracking

across the sands

of my mind, seeking

an oasis where

pencil scratchings

will record them

at rest, gathering

strength for journeys

toward sound, music

of poetry, warm light

of understanding.

© 1999

(originally published in A New Song)


Today's word: light

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for persisting and posting that comment. It's always helpful to have your added perspective ... and encouragement. I like your comparison of writing and painting, and how ideas go on to fruition.

Monday, April 21, 2008

If Elected

Don't worry. I'm not running for office (I may be the only one who isn't, at this point, right?).

Honest. I'm not planning any long-winded speeches, I won't be asking for money ... or even your vote ... and I certainly won't be making any promises I can't keep. I promise you that.

Then what?

Today's poem was written at another time ... in another place ... when and where it seemed that everybody else in the whole universe was vying for a position at the public trough.

It was a time when politicians were talking our ears off ... and dogs were barking all night. What a wonderful combination, I thought ... and there's no disrespect for dogs intended in that, I assure you.

If I WERE to be elected ... to anything ... it seemed to me at the time ... I would prefer to be the officeholder responsible for "mudging" curs (what ever that means) ... not the first time that a responsibility has been invented out of pure air (remember when we still had some of that?) ... in order to garner the votes of the undecided ... and unsuspecting ...

Well, from there it was strictly downhill ... and fast. But I had fun with the poem (remember, no disrespect for dogs intended), and here it is:


When finally I have

attained full growth,

I think that I

should like to be

a curmudgeon, which,

I'm told by my pal,

clear-eyed Ed,

is one who

mudges curs.

It's the least they

deserve for barking

all night at nothing

in particular while

decent folk are

pounding pillows,

trying to sleep,

but only attaining


I promise, if elected,

not to be stingy

with my curmudgeoning.

© 1997

(originally published in Parnassus Literary Journal)


Today's word: curmudgeon

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Featheredpines ... I agree on both counts. Regarding your vote ... and I'm not taking that as a firm commitment ... maybe I should state my platform right now: If nominated, I will not run ... and, if elected, I will not serve. That ... and it's not a politician's promise, I assure one and all ... should set a lot of minds at ease.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Today's poem pretty well tells its own story, I think.

The hills I'm referring to are in the extreme southern portion of Illinois, an area that was sometimes referred to as "Little Egypt," perhaps still is.

I grew up there. With military service, schooling and marriage, I left that area, but for many years we returned at least once each year. Now those kinds of travel are pretty much in abeyance ... as my orbit remains quite close to my present home ...

Still, I travel back there in my thoughts ... and sometimes in my dreams ... particularly during those times when the peach trees are in blossom across the hills.

My timing, I'm afraid, is a bit off ... the blossoms likely have come and gone by this time ... but I have been thinking again of those beautiful peach trees "in full array" ... how the hills seemed so alive with them ... so inviting ... and, oh, how I miss seeing them in person!

The poem:


Rolling smokey-green hills

keep calling me back to my

beginnings, where generations

of my people scratched out

a living, a sprinkling of small

victories for those, a stubborn

and proud people, laboring

to the cadence of the seasons,

while I, like so many others,

drifted away, lured by dreams

of a better world somewhere

just beyond the harsh horizon,

making a promise to return;

and now, with the peach trees

in full array, those hills are

calling again, and I must go.

© 2006

(Originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: array

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Featheredpines, for that comment ... I hope the blossoms arrive soon in your neck of the woods ... and all will be well again. Here, we're enjoying the pear blossoms, but still waiting for the flowering dogwoods to burst forth.

I'm glad we're on the same page today, Vicki ... though you were posting an autumn poem (one of my favorite seasons, too) ... and mine was about its opposite number. The point is, I think ... and as you're saying ... we may wander far from those original roots, but we never escape the pull of those hills ... that, of course, produces mixed feelings, but I relish those early memories stored up with those beginnings, and I feel that you do, too.

Beautiful comment, Helen ... beautiful ... and thank you for sharing it with us.

I'm glad you like the poem, Marti ... and hope you are enjoying the great surprise those many flowers bring to you with the advent of spring ... which, I agree, does always seem so short.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Grilled Cheese and Shake

It took me a long time to get through college, and it wasn't because I was a slow learner.

I didn't have any money. That, of course, delayed the start. Even after a bit of military service, I still didn't have any money to speak of. But that's another story.

Let's just say I was finally in college ... and on a budget.

Oh, I had a place to sleep, a rented room, and I had a couple of places where I could grab a bite to eat at a reasonable price. The fact that I was a breakfast skipper helped the bottom line, too.

I fell into the habit of eating at those few chosen places regularly, and the people on the other side of the counter soon knew what I'd have, even before I announced it.

Ah, those were the days.

In the poem, of course, I've changed the names ... to protect the innocent, as they say ... even the name of this one particular place bears no resemblance to its actual name.

The rest of it is true ... quite true, as a matter of fact. The name of the bread? That was its real name. Honest!

The poem:


Betty knew her customers

down at the Lunch Box

Cafe, where conversations

slid to the back burner

when hulking trains

came lurching past.

I'd walk in, starved,

as skinny as a snake,

and she’d toss two slices

of buttered Bunny Bread

and a thin slice of cheese

into the smoke rising

from the grill, power up

a blender, add a squirt

of strawberry flavoring

to a prospective shake.

I'd straddle my favorite

wobbly stool, sit savoring

the smoke, anticipating

that last surreptitious slurp,

its sweet, sticky essence,

sit watching Betty at work,

marveling at her memory,

how cool she was when

the orders piled up,

how she knew when to turn

the sandwiches, snatching

them back from disaster,

wondering if she knew how

those skinny sandwiches

and thick, frothy shakes

were snatching me back, too.

© 2001

(originally published in A New Song)


Today's word: frothy

(Sh-h-h-h! Don't tell anybody, but a new installment of "Squiggles and Giggles" has been posted ... and there's a link ... to the left ... that's right, left ... which will take you there)

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you for sharing your memories of those two favorite places ... and I can understand their coming to mind with a reading of "Grilled Cheese and Shake." The first brings back memories of my own ... I was going to say "days" ... but I guess it should be "nights" when I was working that other shift, and, yes, the "evening meal" came in the morning for me, too ... mostly, though, I remember "sleeping it off" for a few hours, waking up, blinking at the bright sunlight, trying to get my bearings. But I find your accounts of both those special places really mouth-watering ... especially that crumb crust pie ...

Friday, April 18, 2008

First Snow

No, no ... I'm not reporting that we've had snow here in Ohio ... we've had some sudden swings in weather recently ... but nothing that drastic (I'm keeping my fingers crossed, though).

Actually, I guess I am reporting, after a fashion ... reporting on some childhood memories which come rolling back to me on a fairly regular basis.

Besides, "First Snow" also happens to be one of my favorite poems ... along with "Hollyhocks," "Chance of Rain" ... and a few others.

But I digress.

I don't know exactly which hillside Grandma and I were on. I don't know where we were going. Memories become blurred as to certain details.

I do remember the moment, though, when a sudden swirl of huge, fluffy snowflakes descended on us. They were, indeed, like flying feathers.

I hadn't seen anything like them in my whole young life.

The poem:


I watch them

sliding slowly

on my windowpane,


come to warn me

of impending winter,

stirring again

that memory

of plucked feathers,

as she called them,

swiftly enveloping

Grandma and me

on a hillside path.

I can still taste

that delicious

melting cold,

still hear her

laughing with me,

that great

explosion of joy.

© 2005

("First Snow" received a first-place award in a Poets' Study Club contest, was later published in The Christian Science Monitor, and is now part of Wood Smoke, scheduled to be published later this year)


Today's word: harbingers

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

You are so right, Helen ... that kind of snow does plant memories which last forever. I'm still reminded of that "first snow" ... how the flakes did appear to be feathers flying about us ... and I think of that early adventure with almost every snow we have ... but when the flakes tend toward the fluffy side, I'm really whisked back to that hillside scene. I'm glad, too, that your day got off to a good start.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ever a Circle

I made a tentative decision ... and then I hesitated.

Today's poem is written, seemingly, about autumn ... and I thought it might be pushing things a bit to focus so much on that season, when we're just emerging from its opposite, spring.

Then I took another look.

The poem is about all the seasons, not just autumn. The seasons, as I say in the poem, form a recurring circle. From that standpoint, I think it doesn't matter at which point we mount the whirling merry-go-round of seasons.

They keep coming around ... going around ... and we sometimes find ourselves complaining about this one ... too hot or too cold ... to dry or too wet ... find some fault in the present season, while looking forward to the next one ... or maybe even its opposite number.

Meanwhile, the poem:


The pursuits of summer

have finally relented,

releasing children

to the autumn slide

of gathered books,

the shuffling of feet,

pencils crawling

on paper; the glimpsed

dogwood, glorious

with snowy blossoms

last spring, shows

first crimson now

on a clump of leaves.

How the months have

fallen away, piling

like shattered petals

across our memory,

in a depth sufficient

to sustain us over

another crossing

of bare-limbed winter

to spring, where

warm light is waiting

to help us celebrate

another completion

of this circle.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: completion

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Yes, Magran, I'm forever thankful for that circle, even though it seems to come whooshing around faster and faster ...

And the circle of life ... especially that ... thank you for reminding us of that one, Magran.

Thank you, Helen, for that observation. I, too, like the perspective I gain from readers' comments ... as I say, so much depends on what the reader brings to the poem ... and, I might add ... on what the reader adds to the "conversation" here. I have gained so much ... simply by learning to sit and listen. Sometimes I think I should do more of that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Daybreak, Autumn

It may have been a bit later than daybreak, but not much. The feeling of newness was still in the air as I walked the paths of one of my favorite places.

The play of light across the clouds was beautiful.

Improbable as it seems, they did look like paving stones to me. They had that worn, traveled look about them, and the early sunlight did look like they were cupping the coals of an overnight fire which had just been given a breath of morning air.

The ducks were on the pond, of course, keeping an eye on me for any move suggesting a handout for them.

And the crows, the raucous crows, who always seem to be arguing about something, were there in the trees.

It was a sort of shopping list of images, but I tried to make a little more of it than just that. I think ending with the hint of coming snow added to the mood.

The poem:


Clouds hang

like paving stones

in the eastern

sky, hammered silver

cupping the coals

of early light,

while ducks glide

like fallen leaves

on the shadowed pond

and crows crowd

the feathery trees,

swaying and talking

raucously about

the chances of snow.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: raucously

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Oh, I know what you mean about those crows, Magran ... even with earplugs, I can hear them arguing ... and they always seem to be doing that. Ducks, though? They're usually a little quieter ... usually ... but there are times when they raise their voices, too.

I'm glad this poem brought back memories for you, Featheredpines ... and I hope it doesn't bring snow! I'm ready for spring, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Come, Butterflies

I hope you don't mind my repeating myself.
That's just naturally one of the hazards of hanging out with an older person, I suppose. Or maybe it's not really a hazard. Could it be a benefit?
In any event, I've been thinking about spring ... you know, that season when the sun puts a friendly arm across your back ... things are greening up ... there are spots of color here and there ... the weather becomes stable, dependable, predictable.
As I indicated yesterday, we're not quite there yet in this neck of the woods. In fact, I hesitate to look out this morning ... for fear of seeing what frost has done to our emerging flowers.
In that vein ... the expectation of spring ... real spring, I was thinking about today's poem, about butterflies ... about how fleeting (flitting?) events of our lives ... or seemingly, large portions of our lives ... can be.
It's also about how much writing has meant ... still means ... to me.
I write because it keeps my mind occupied ... it's the warm sun on my back in the wintertime ... my shade in the summer heat ... the air I breathe ... a quiet sip of water ... food for my soul ... 
I write because I must. I am most reluctant to give it up. That thought was uppermost ... 
But now the poem:

There must come a time,
I suppose, when I no longer
reach for a scrap of paper
when thoughts descend,
gentle, winged things,
butterflies seeking
the nectar of a poem,
but then I'll simply sit
and let them flit
across my mind's eye,
grateful for how once
they softly touched
the paper of my heart.
© 1998
(originally published in Sisters Today)

Today's word: nectar
Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
As you've gathered, Magran, writing means ... well, means a lot to me. And I hope the people who are "hanging out" with me don't mind if I sometimes repeat repeat myself myself ... I just can't seem to help it help it ... help it. And I really don't mind when readers repeat kind things they've said before.
Thank you, Marti, for sharing Caitlin's comment. I have to agree that "babies, bubbles and butterflies never last long enough" ... but their beauty, fleeting though it is ... the memory of it, at least ... does linger with us for a long, long time ... and I'm thankful for that.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Behold, the Dogwood

We're still shivering here in Ohio ... we keep looking at our calendars for reassurance that ... yes, Virginia ... it is springtime. We're looking forward to some real spring-like weather ... one of my favorites.

We know, though, that there's summer weather lurking somewhere down the line.

Oh, what an option air-conditioning would be then at Brimm Manor! Ah, but we find ways of "borrowing" air-conditioning during the day ... on the bus ... at the mall ... sometimes at a movie. And at night the fans work overtime while we sleep.

Sometimes I try to nestle into a bed of cooling thoughts ... about winter ... about autumn (one of my all-time favorites) ... and ... yes, spring.

Spring brings to mind the struggling little dogwood that stands on the front lawn of Brimm Manor ... near the sloping driveway where The Little Red Car comes and goes ... on its various adventures.

Twice a year the little dogwood gives us a magnificent show ... particularly in the spring ... with its remarkable show of blossoms ... but again in the fall, too ... with its fiery red foliage.

I think today's poem pretty well tells its own story (and if you discover one of my "sermons" in it, well, so be it):


Poor, struggling,

glorious little dogwood,

you have survived

drought and freezing,

even neglect, and yet

this year you bestow

an abundance of blossoms,

you teacher of lessons.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: teacher

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

You've started my day off with a chuckle, Marti, and I love it! I can just see someone sitting on the porch, enjoying a breeze, the warmth, the quiet ... and looking down to see something twining itself around his/her ankle ... and growing!

Yes, Helen, those blossoming magnolias are always a wonderful "surprise" up here in the cold north ... and you mention the violets, redbud, daffodils (they're doing their best to blossom now, even under the lingering cold) and tulips ... they do provide a symphony of shapes and colors ... reassurance that, yes, another season is upon us. But right now we're looking at our calendars for reassurance of that fact. Thank you, though, for that "trip back" to where you grew up. I was particularly pleased to learn that autumn was your mother's favorite season.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Picture from Hometown

You've noticed that I write a lot about rain?

Well, yes, I do. In fact, my first collection of poems was called Chance of Rain (Finishing Line Press, 2003). My second collection, Hollyhocks, which came out late last year, has some mention of rain in it, too, and my third collection, Wood Smoke ... well, we'll see ...

Today's poem, like most of mine, is pretty straightforward ... a series of images ... the opening, in which the rain catches my attention while I'm intent on something else, reading, perhaps ... more likely, writing something ... or trying to decipher something I've written ... and, of course, the conclusion, where we have those "trickling, fading fingers clinging to the pane."

As I often say, the reader brings something special to the poem ... a like or dislike of rain in general, personal experience, the mood of the moment ... and that tends to give the poem a particular flavor for them.

I'm thankful, as I've often said, for the reader who simply stops by to read the poem ... but also for those who leave thoughtful comments ... who do something to advance the "conversation" here at "Chosen Words."

Poetry, after all, is meant to be shared ... as are the reactions to it. Today's offering:


Like spilled needles

at first, the droplets

touch my window,

tugging at my mind.

Then, in furtive

little squirrel hops

up the slope of my roof,

great plump drops test

the surface. A distant,

gruff reply of thunder

to a flick of lightning

and the tempo quickens.

Ragtime! Rain gallops off

toward a light left on,

an invitation to dance,

and I am left to study

trickling, fading fingers

clinging to the pane.

© 2006

(originally published in A New Song)


Today's word: ragtime

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you so much, Featheredpines, for letting me know that you listened to that interview on WYSO this morning ... and (blush-blush) for those kind comments. I probably did have a few butterflies ... since this was my first interview ... but Conrad (see how I throw his name around like he's an old friend?) is an excellent, practiced interviewer. I thought he asked good questions, and he gave me a chance to give complete answers. Phyllis and I were listening, too ... but that's a story, perhaps, for the next installment of "Squiggles & Giggles." Again ... as Conrad would say ... thanks for listening.

And thank you, Featheredpines, for that suggestion. I'll work on that angle, too. We'll get that interview out to everybody yet!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Who Lives There?

First of all, a news flash!

Remember my recent mention that I'd been interviewed by Conrad Balliet, of "Conrad's Corner" fame on WYSO, 91.3 FM?

Well, that interview is to be aired on WYSO tomorrow (Sunday, April 13) ... between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. The interview itself runs only about five minutes ... but you might want to listen to the other portions of that program, too.

For those of you who live outside the range of WYSO's signal ... I understand that the program can be picked up online.*

As Conrad would say ... "Thanks for listening."

But now ... the business at hand:

Today's poem came to me on the bus, was largely written on the bus, because it took hold of me ... and wouldn't let go.

Over time, I became aware of that particular window, that struggling plant. It got so I was watching for that cracked window each day when my bus went climbing back up the hill on the way home.

I kept expecting to see someone at the window, watering the plant, turning it in the sunlight, or simply looking out at the passing traffic. But I never did.

Still, the plant hung on, seemed to be growing, leafing out slightly, and I kept wondering who lived there with it ... "what small measures of encouragement" they shared.

The poem, originally published in the literary journal, Poem, and now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher:


In an upstairs window,

below a sagging

gutter, beside siding

wind-peeled and flapping,

beneath a window shade

water-stained and torn,

behind a pane cracked

diagonally like a fragile

promise, sits a spindly

plant taking what sun

it can on a winter day,

while my bus struggles

in its uphill climb

toward a daily nagging

question: Who lives

there with this plant,

and what small measures

of encouragement do they

have to bridge the days?

© 2006


Today's word: encouragement

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

* Thank you, Featheredpines, for providing the link readers can use to hear the WYSO interview through their computers (please note, folks, that the interview is scheduled somewhere within a broadcast that runs from 10:30 to 11 a.m. EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME, Sunday). Here's the link (you may want to copy and paste it in your browser):

Friday, April 11, 2008

There's Fire Tonight

Today's poem is about picking up coal from alongside the railroad tracks. It's about the crackling fire those found lumps of coal brought to us during what we knew then, and recall now, as "hard times."

It was an adventure for a young boy growing up in the care of his grandparents. It was a lesson never forgotten.

But the careful reader will also note that it's a poem about writing. Take a look at the opening: "Words." Hold on to it as you follow the thread of the poem.

I do feel that words are, indeed, like those lumps we thrust into that burlap bag. They have the potential for heat, if we lay them carefully in the stove ... and ignite them with our own inspiration ... fan them into flame.

They will bring us comfort on long winter nights. They will warm our hands ... maybe our hearts, too.

This one was originally published in Southern Humanities Review, and has become the title poem of a manuscript in search of publisher:


Words, how like

the lumps of coal

Grandma and I found

along the tracks

where hopper cars,

lurching, loping

up the long grade

toward Cobden,

had dropped them,

each a gift

in our dirty hands,

holding promise,

as they were thrust

into the burlap bag,

of shared warmth,

soft, crackling song,

sooty smoke rising,

telling our world

there's fire tonight,

all's well.

© 1997


Today's word: lurching

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for that comment ... for throwing some light on the subject by recalling the Spanish-speaking kids who didn't know what coal was. Growing up in a time and place where coal was our principalsource of heat ... and fuel for the stove in the kitchen ... I hadn't realized that the term "coal" would be puzzling to some in our midst. Now that I think about it, though, coal has become far removed from daily life ... long gone the coal shed out back ... the coal bin in the basement ... the coal-burning furnace ... the stoker. How times have changed!

And thank you, Helen, for that further clarification.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Searching for Words

I'm always searching for words, it seems.

I see something that's new to me, and I search for a word or phrase which will help me to store the image of it ... that first impression ... somewhere that I can retrieve it ... so I can tell somebody else about it.

At my age, retrieving it is sometimes a problem ... but I don't let that keep me from trying to store it where I think it will be easy to find again. I do keep trying.

When I write ... which is often, for I'm always jotting things down on little scraps of paper ... I search for words then, too ... casually on first writing something ... I'm not looking to make a photo-realist image, but to form a rough sketch, something to build on later.

And when later comes ... time for revising ... that's when the really serious search begins.

As this poem began toying with me, it occurred to me that I might find some magic in those early words which first presented themselves to me ... "that sprang upon me like playful kittens."

I try to maintain as much of that as possible, that element of surprise in hearing something for the first time, or seeing something through new eyes, as though for the first time.

I think it must have been a winter evening when I first began writing what would become "Searching for Words."

I must have been reminded of other moonlit winter evenings when the wood smoke rose lazily from chimneys, and I knew that dreams were visiting the residents while I trudged the lonely road toward home.

I hope you search for words, too. I hope you'll find a lot of beautiful, soothing ones ... words you'll want to keep ... and share with others ... like seashells, or beautiful stones discovered during a walk along the beach. Happy hunting!

And now, the poem:


I search the silent

corridors of my mind,

seeking words that

softly sought my young

ears, that sprang

upon me like playful

kittens, turning

into songs, casting

their spell, as haunting

as the thin gray curl

and reach of wood smoke

on a winter evening.

© 1999

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word: kittens

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Featheredpines, for that kind and generous comment. I do try to look at what seem to be quite ordinary subjects ... but from different perspectives ... somewhat like rolling a few pebbles in my hand to examine their shapes and colors more carefully ... or to view some shards of glass in a different light ... to see what they're trying to "say" to me. Here, of course, I depend very much on the responses of readers to keep me focused on my original intention, to try to paint some pictures with words. Oh, and I'm looking forward to hearing that interview on WYSO, too ... and I'll pass the word along just as soon as I know.

P.S. to Featheredpines - I think every problem has a solution. And I'm working on this one, thanks to your taking the first required step: Letting me know about the problem. I appreciate that. Thank you.

And ... Featheredpines, thank you for coming up with a solution while I'm still in my usual position, clinging to the trailing edge of technology ... wondering at all the things happening around me.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Night Echoes

How vivid the memory is of those trucks "grumping and rumbling" in the night.

I don't recall exactly when it was, but I remember being bedded down for the night in a motel at Terre Haute. Then I heard them. It sounded like a parade of trucks, although there weren't nearly that many ... and there wasn't exactly a steady stream of them.

I recall getting up to take a look. There was a single, huge dump truck grinding past on the highway. I don't recall which highway, but It seems to me that it was a north-south route.

I went back to bed.

The trucks kept rolling. It wasn't a loud noise, but it seemed persistent ... and it seemed that there was just enough of a grade in the road, right beside the motel, that their grumbling ... all of them ... increased right there as they shifted to a lower gear and went on climbing the hill.

I got back up ... jotted down my impressions ... and went back to bed. And really slept then. Oh, did I ever!

The poem, which later became part of my first published collection:


Mud-laden trucks

grump and rumble

outside my room,

hauling mounded

loads of quiet

down the highway,

letting it spill

in the darkness,

come rolling back,

thunder’s echo

muffled, distant,

washing across

this emptiness

like surf crashing

on my pillow.

© 2003

(originally published in Chance of Rain, Finishing Line Press, 2003)


Today's word: crashing

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for that account of learning to adjust your sleep to the comings and goings ... the racket and shaking ... caused by those trucks in the frozen world of Massachusetts. That reminded me of growing up near the Illinois Central tracks in Southern Illinois ... at a time when there were scads of passenger trains, freight trains and troop trains running, day and night ... overnight visitors to our home would always comment on how many trains came through ... but we hadn't noticed ... just more night music to us, I suppose.

Whoa, Uncle Bill ... your mentioning a corn-stalk mattress, "the din of crickets" ... takes me a long way back ... all the way to memories of snuggling into a "featherbed mattress" on a cold winter night while the lights from a nearby heating stove danced on the ceiling. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


If I seem hurried, it's because I'm caught ... again ... in the Tuesday morning rush, self-imposed, of course, but still a rush.

As has been my custom on Tuesday mornings, I'll soon be off to watercolor class ... still have to pull things together for that.

But first ... I couldn't help noticing that the "Chosen Words" counter ... that little device that keeps track of how many visitors have paused here along the way ... has passed the 36,000 mark.

Thank you so much ... all of you ... for stopping by!

And now, because I am a bit pushed for time, we have a "summer re-run" ... a bit early, I know ... but here goes:

When I first posted this sidewalk art and my little poem on "Chosen Words," this is what I said:

There's no mistaking the signature on the art.

Tom, it appears, was the moving force behind this work, a collaboration with Alan, who is one of his uncles, and with Grandma Brimm, who was being honored on this particular Mother's Day weekend.

When the poem, "Memories," presented itself to me, this photograph of their Saturday afternoon efforts seemed the obvious choice to accompany it.

Here are memories in the making ... the vulture, the butterfly, the crouching creature (a lizard) ... and, of course, the signature.

We have stored up so many similar memories. We look forward to slipping them out to savor them later, at a time when they will taste the sweetest to us.

And we hope that when TOM is ten times seven he will savor them, too ... that he will discover the sweetness of memories from that weekend when he honored his mother, Kathy, and one of his grandmothers, too ... and delighted them both with his art.

(Tom, by the way, is still pursuing his interest in art)

And now the poem:


Resting, I search

the honeycomb

of my mind

for warm memories,

and those I find

have grown sweeter

than I ever

dreamed they could.

© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: honeycomb

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thanks for the congrats, Featheredpines ... "attendance" at "Chosen Words" has far surprassed any expectations I had in the beginning ... and just keeps going. I treasure the observations which have come my way, too. I owe so much ... to all of you. Now, about my doing chalk drawing on the sidewalk ... just one problem, as I see it: Who would help me back up?

Thanks, Helen. I'll keep searching that honeycomb ... how sweet it is to find the things stored away there.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Picture from Hometown

Have you listened ... I mean really listened ... to children laughing?

They are so completely given over to it. They can't help themselves.

Things are not just a little funny, eliciting a polite chuckle. They are really, really funny. There's a sudden explosion of laughter, and when they try to control it ... the more they try ... the more it comes bubbling out.

Even the most confirmed grump is likely to find a certain contagion in the children's laughter, may find himself beginning to smile, inwardly, at least, may find himself joining in ... remembering a time when things were just so unbearably funny.

Originally published in Capper's:


What luxury

the laughter

of children,

the champagne

of sounds





the glasses

of those nearby,


their noses.

© 1996


Today's word: contagion

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Sorry you had problems with the site, Helen ... but glad you persisted and posted a comment. Those little nudges in the small of my back help to keep me going. Sometimes I think the problems are just momentary glitches ... gremlins at work ... actually, my technical knowledge is so limited that I live pretty much in a world of "It works" ... "it doesn't" ... and I'm so thankful when "It works" is in play.

Another mystery, Featheredpines ... at least to me ... sometimes things work, sometimes they don't, and I'm always mystified as to how they "fixed" themselves ... an explanation from somebody would help us understand, I think ... but I'm glad you persisted. It's always good to hear a familiar voice.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Inside Job

Regular visitors to "Chosen Words" are aware that I don't often engage in structured verse. I enjoy reading well-crafted rhyme, but I find the process of making it difficult and frustrating.

This poem is an effort to reconstruct a minor crime that I became witness to as a child. You may notice that some of the details of the poem vary from the official version of what really happened:

We had a screened-in back porch, and a lot of cats. The porch was sometimes, but not always, off-limits to the cats.

Naturally, when my grandparents discovered the cats sitting on the inside looking out, I ... the most innocent of young children ... was the prime suspect.

I had not let the cats in, really. While there was no apparent punishment for my "crime," I was determined to clear my name, and clear it I did.

With careful watching and waiting, I caught the real culprit in the act. One of our cats ... not "Fuzzy," I hasten to add ... had learned that if he sank his claws into the opening edge of the screen door, he could pull it open just enough for his buddies ... and him ... to slip inside.

I showed my grandparents this feline felon in action ... and we lived happily ever after.

Today's art? It's one of my photographs from Cox Arboretum, which happens to be one of my favorite walking places.

I know, it doesn't serve to illustrate today's poem, but I don't seem to have any pictures of six cats peering out the window, and this photo just sort of popped out at me again today, so there it is.

The poem:


When we got home the cats were all

At the front window, looking out;

Six, countingFuzzy, standing tall,

And purring to themselves, no doubt.

Picture perfect, but then chagrin.

"They were supposed to be waiting

Outside," I heard myself grating,

"That rat, Fuzzy, has let them in."

© 2005

(originally published in Grit magazine)

Today's word: chagrin

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for those kind words about the photo ... and the poem. Certainly, you may feel free to turn the photo into a painting. I'm not sure what kind of flowers they were/are. I just couldn't pass them by without snapping a shot of all that color spilling down the rock wall ... and I'm glad I've been able to share it. First time one of my poems has been called cute, I believe ... and it doesn't seem to mind at all.

" ... purple flowers tumbling down the rock wall ... " I like the sound of that, Featheredpines. Thank you for stopping by ... and for that insight on the cats, too.