Saturday, May 31, 2008

Keeping the Riffraff Out

Today's poem is based on an old, old memory.

You know how selective memory is. I don't recall precisely where it was, or even when, but I do recall that voice ... "Are you a resident, sir?" ... from behind me as I sat on that bench.

I don't think I felt particularly intimidated or even startled ... maybe just a little offended that I didn't have the freedom to pause briefly on an unoccupied bench ... not creating a disturbance ... just sitting there with my thoughts.

Of course, the empty bench did belong to someone else. They certainly had the right to protect it from intruders like me ... I suppose. After all, I might sit there and write a poem, you know.

Now that the incident has the benefit of being distanced by time, I think it's funny. I hope the poem reflects that.


I was warming a bench

in a public park,

or so I thought,

next to a fancy

high-rise complex,

when a uniformed voice

(I knew by the sound)

inquired from behind:

"Are you a resident, sir?"

Swiveling to see

who my accuser might be,

I made obedient reply:

"Why, no, just passing by."

He drew himself up

and looked me down,

then delivered the words

with muscled authority:

"This is Private Property."

That left the next move

to me, so I slowly rose

and shambled away,

comforted in knowing

that when I live there

I'll be fully protected

from riffraff like me.

© 1996


Today's word:


Friday, May 30, 2008

Just As Well

Something, I'm not sure what ... perhaps the fact that I've worn glasses for a long time ... set me to thinking about how we see things on the "eye chart of life."

Things past ... those large symbols near the top ... are the easiest to read. We can make them out with no difficulty. Also, we see them so well because we enhance them. In our thoughts they become better ... or sometimes worse ... than they really were.

But it's those things in the future ... those tiny images at the bottom of the chart ... which are so hard to make out. Oh, we'd like to be able to read them all, but we simply can't know with certainty what the future is going to bring for us.

Each day is a new page, sometimes the beginning of a new chapter in the story that is yet to become.

Patience, I tell myself. Patience. In time, some of that will become clear ... and the rest can wait.

The poem:


On the eye chart

of my mind

I can see clearly

those distant symbols.

No blurring, in fact,

a sharpening focus

as I sit looking back

to times long past.

It's those last few,

nearer, lines of things

lying just ahead

that give me trouble.

It's just as well,

I tell myself; they will

reveal themselves

when it's time for that.

© 2006

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: symbols

Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's So Simple

"Writing a poem is as simple as pouring a cup of coffee ... "

Oh, do read on.

Before we're finished, I will have led you down the winding garden path with still another poem about writing. As always, my usual disclaimer: I write about writing, not because I'm expert, but because the process intrigues me so.

As you will see, as you work your way through the poem, I don't think writing a poem ... or writing anything for public consumption, for that matter ... is a simple matter. Nor need it be so very complicated that only a select few may do it.

But the end product, I think, should give the appearance of having been done with ease ... not flippantly or shallow, but done with a certain polish about it which may intrigue the reader, without getting in the way of the poem itself.

It should appear to have been easily, naturally written, and none of the hard labor of producing it need show through.

What I'm saying in the poem, I guess, is that a poem should come to the reader with the ease one experiences in simply pouring a cup of coffee.

I hope you'll have a sip ... hope you enjoy it.


Writing a poem is as simple as pouring

a cup of coffee. First, though, you plant

a seed, wait for the sprout, nurture it,

then transplant the seedling, let it mature,

hope that frost doesn't kill the buds,

let the bees pollinate blossoms, wait

for the beans to mature, pick the beans,

dry them, haul them, roast them, transport

them again, package them, grind them,

add water, let them leap as they

percolate and you keep an eye on the clock.

Then you simply pour, sit back and enjoy.

© 2006

(originally published in ByLine magazine)


Today's word: percolate

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


This is another bit of ancient history, of course ... the memories of those excursions to the bluffs to gather that rich soil ... those furry-jacketed seed, saved year-to-year by Grandma ... the resulting flowers.

They are such sweet memories. I still find great comfort in them ... and in the poem itself. No surprise that I share it at almost all of my poetry readings ... including a program, "Poets Respond to Art," last month at the Dayton Art Institute ... and, most recently, when I was invited to join "Emily's Boys" for a reading at Christ Episcopal Church.

Yes, I do readings. You may have gathered that I really believe it when I say: Poetry is meant to be shared.

But relax. I haven't quite resorted to going door-to-door to inflict my poetry on the unsuspecting ... yet.

I do appreciate those, though, who stop by here to take a look ... to pause to listen ... to let the words wash over them ... to let me share ... and I hope they ... and you ... leave with a feeling of having dined on poetry ... or at least have an appetite newly whetted for more ... here, there ... everywhere.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Oh, and the illustration today is a small watercolor I did some time ago. It also went on to bigger things ... becoming the cover art for that second collection of poems.

Now, the poem:


We went to the bluffs,

up the narrow path

along the spine of the ridge,

up where the tall oaks

clustered among the rocks,

where the soil was dark

and crumbly, cool to our

digging fingers, and piled

that loose, rich soil

into a coal bucket,

lugged it back in many

trips to a dedicated circle

of depleted yellow clay

behind the house,

heaping this found food

there for furry-jacketed

seed from a deep pocket

of Grandma's apron,

and they became the most

sun-catching, bee-luring,

beautiful flowers

I had ever seen, almost

as though God had just

said: Let there be


And there were.

© 1999

("Hollyhocks" received an honorable mention in the Dayton, Ohio, Metro Library Contest in 1999, and went on to become the title poem of my second collection of poetry, published by Finishing Line Press in 2007)


Today's word: bee-luring

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Oh, thank you, Helen for those kind words about "Hollyhocks" ... now I'll have to see if I can come up with something to top it. I believe I saw clothespin/hollyhock dolls ... made by others ... and I thought they were ingenious, but I never tried them myself ... too busy climbing bluffs and falling out of trees, I guess. I'm glad the poem brings back memories for you.

Thank you, Featheredpines ... I'm glad you liked the watercolor ... and the poem. Continued best wishes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Goodbye, Old Hat

Years have passed now, and the mystery of the missing hat is still unsolved ... although I do have "a person of interest" in mind.

The last time I recall seeing it was when I put it in the laundry. It never came back. That would seem to limit the number of suspects ... possibly to just one.

I have the feeling that one particular person, a very dear friend who used to pretend she wasn't with me when I wore that hat, gets the feeling that I think she did it. Not so. You're all under suspicion. Nobody leaves the room.

It's possible, of course, that I ... of all people ... might, in a moment of delirium, have thrown the hat away. I'd hate to think I did that to my faithful, trusting, trusted old hat. I really would.

I would sort of like to know what really happened to it though.

I don't even have a picture of it. The original had never, to the best of my knowledge, sat for a portrait, nor even had its photo snapped by someone mistaking its wearer for a celebrity.

So I had to resort to a stunt double to illustrate the poem about its plight ... and (sniffle-sniffle) mine.

The double, of course, is a younger version of the vanished one, but it's gradually becoming ... well, quite comfortable, like an old pair of shoes.

But now, the poem:


"My old brown hat is gone!"

I cried.

"When did you have it on?"

she sighed.

"This year, or last.

Time goes so fast."

"The one rumpled, crumpled,

and torn?"

"Yes, yes! Tattered, spattered,


Twenty years my best buddy ...

all that.

My oldest, dearest friend,

my hat.

Now it's gone, left no trace.

I'm wild ..."

"I'm sure it's, uh ... someplace,"

she smiled.

And, looking me straight in

the eye:

"But it was time to say


© 1997

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: vanished

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I know what you mean, Featheredpines ... those guys aren't inclined to listen, no matter what you say ... talking to them ... raising your voice, even ... is about as futile as shaking your fist at those pesky squirrels. Whoa ... "The Hat That Went Missing" ... I can see that one in a book (go ahead, if you wish) ... and on the big screen, too. And thanks for introducing me to Mr. Frumble ... and that poor hat. I just hope mine isn't wandering around out there someplace ...

Monday, May 26, 2008


It was a hot summer day and I was about mid-way through my daily walk.

I paused in the shade near the corner, to catch my breath and cool down a bit. I had just been standing there a few moments when it caught my eye: The shadow of something ... moving across the lawn of a nearby house.

As I followed the movement of that shadow, my gaze shifted slowly upward to the source. It turned out to be a crow, moving slowly, gracefully toward a perch high in a tree across the street.

It was quiet as it flew, then sat there looking around ... "judge-like," it appeared to me.

When I got home, I once again sat at the kitchen table and started writing. I had the makings of a poem. Eventually, after several revisions, it became a poem ... and then, in time, was published.

(This morning I noticed that the "Chosen Words" counter has done some flying of its own ... and I want to thank you, one and all, for taking time to drop by for a visit, to spend a few quiet moments here. I hope you liked the interlude ... and you'll come back ... maybe tell a friend about this place ... invite them to take a look ... "where the acorns fall like spent minutes" ...)

Meanwhile, another poem:


The crow's shadow folds

and unfolds diagonally

across the lawn, up the fence

and away, almost before

I can fix my gaze on

that true flight taking place

well above the rooted houses.

Then silently he courses

toward a high, unobstructed

limb on which to sit

looking down, judge-like in his

dark robe, at the rest of us.

© 1996

(originally published in Read, America!)


Today's word: judge-like

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I've never had that kind of encounter with crows, Featheredpines ... but if I had ... at 4:30 in the morning! ... I think I would've had a couple of words for them ... and they wouldn't have been "good" or "morning" ... I'm still not a morning person, really, but I'm coming around to seeing advantages of an early start ... as long as it's not required ... or dictated by a bunch of squabbling crows.

I'm surprised you don't have crows there, Hechan ... maybe they haven't read the literature ... or maybe they're just having too much fun waking people up in this neck of the woods. Oh, and thank you for the kind words about the poem. I enjoy sharing.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


(Today, one of my pencil sketches, "Dogwood - Spring Hope")

I grew up within sight of that cemetery which held the grave of a great-grandmother I never knew ... a sister ... a brother ... and so many others who had peopled the small community in which I was growing up.

I remember the curving road which carried the funeral processions up and around ... the parked cars ... the tent covering the grave site ... the mourners gathering ... heads bowed ...

I remember the flowers ... the small flags moving gently in the breeze ... the sound of the rifles being fired in salute ... a silence as the echoes of that gunfire ebbed and flowed away ... the faltering, mournful sound of a bugle ... somewhere distant ... up there among the bluffs ...

I remember it all ... especially this weekend ... another Memorial Day when I cannot be there to join in paying tribute to those ... all those ... who gave me the life that I have had ... but I think they would understand my absence ... as they understood me in life ... they would understand ...

The poem:


I stand in the silence

beside the graves

on the slope of that hill

where the acorns fall

like spent minutes.

I stand, thinking

of those who helped me,

gave me that gentle push

in the small of my back,

sent me off toward places

they had never been,

would never be, sent me

off toward becoming

what I am, what I may

yet become.

I stand there thanking

them for their love.

© 2007

(First Place award, ByLine Contest; published in Brave Hearts, Fall, 2007)


Today's word: becoming

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Featheredpines ... I'm glad you liked the sketch ... the dogwood which posed for it graces the front lawn of Brimm Manor. The blossoms have come and gone for this year, but they were so abundant ... so dazzling ... they sent me digging for the sketch I did a few years ago. Also, I've never been to the northern Canadian Rockies, but your description of them as " ... the place that gave me the deepest peace ... " certainly has me sold on the spot. I'll try, too, to share more of my sketches and paintings ... I'm sure I can find some around here someplace ... maybe in that stack over there ...

I'm glad you like the sketch, too, Hechan ... high praise from a very good watercolorist. And I appreciate the thoughtful comment about the poem. Best wishes.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Delia's Morning Quiet

Delia was my grandmother. I went to live with her when I was two years old ... and stayed until I grew up and went into military service.

Little wonder that I've written about her ... even when cautioned by one instructor that he didn't want to see any "grandmother poems."

This particular poem is a combination of memories of her, of things she said, or might have said. I may have taken some liberties, but, knowing her the way I did, I don't think she would mind.

I don't think she would mind at all.


Morning quiet was

always best, Delia said.

Not the soft silting

of minutes after a day

in the fields, not those

first precious seconds

after childbirth,

nor the calm after

summer storms, tearing

of an envelope, labored

reading of its words,

evening fire, supper done,

dishes stored, children

in bed.

But the kind

of quiet that came

stealing up with the sun,

sharing rooster crow

and the crackling murmur

of fire, a skillet sliding

across the kitchen stove,

sound of an eggshell

breaking with importance.

© 1999

(originally published in Poem)


Today's word: crackling

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Hechan! That's when I feel I've really succeeded.

Oh, I think you're right, Featheredpines ... they're all in cahoots ... but I don't think they mean us any harm, except maybe in self-defense. And your mentioning camping brings to mind those early years of tent camping that we enjoyed. Even then ... especially then ... I wasn't a morning person, but there was just something about that early morning air ... the quiet, the serenity ... that brought me out of the sleeping bag to enjoy it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Today's poem is about those spring-time "conversations" which seem to be going on so furiously around ponds. Frogs! There seem to be hundreds ... maybe thousands ... of them, all adding their voices to the din.

I remember them well from the place where I grew up ... they seemed to be in especially good voice at night ... somehow conveying a certain kind of "all's well" to the listener.

But, feeling my way back through the early morning fog of my brain, I don't think I've heard them this year. Maybe I just haven't been in the right place at the right time.

Could it be that I haven't been listening? Or that I've simply ... well, forgotten?

Which somehow reminds me ... as one thought leads to another ... I've fallen behind on "conversations" myself ... those little "Afterthoughts" I try to post in response to your comments.

I don't know how this happens, but it does. It's happened before. I always regret it. I always try to catch up, but I never feel I've done that completely, either.

I do apologize ... again ... for my slippage in that department ... and I do hope to do better ... soon ... I hope ...

Meanwhile, today's poem:


How vexing to hear

the voices of those

I could not see

abruptly going silent,

like the gabble of pupils

halting in the presence

of a new teacher.

Then, after I'd passed,

renewed murmur of gossip

growing rumor-upon-rumor,

going mouth-to-ear, flying

too swiftly to follow,

too dense to filter

into any semblance

of real meaning.

If I dared step too near,

I heard sounds like stones

plopping into water,

new silence ascending,

a sense of being watched

by large, careful eyes

judging me from the depths

of a green-coated pond.

© 1997

(originally published in M.O.O.N. Magazine)


Today's word: gabble

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Interesting, Featheredpines, that those birds would be so watchful that an approaching hiker would cause them to shush ... then resume, once she had passed. Around here it seems to be the sparrows which dominate the small talk among birds ... and they don't stop for anybody. I'll have to start listening more carefully as I trudge along.

Whoa, Hechan ... a canoe ... now that's really getting out there in the midst of frogdom ... but a great way to observe the frogs' vocalizing up close ... and I'm glad you liked the development of the poem. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Before I Gallop

No, I don't have any immediate plans for a big move.

When I wrote this one, I was beginning to think about the time when downsizing would be the practical thing to do. I looked around at all the things I had accumulated over the years, and it seemed an impossible task.

It still does.

It's really hard to turn loose of things ... I have trouble seeing them as being only "things" ... because they stir so many memories.

I'm actually making the effort now to turn loose of some items ... to use up others ... to give some away. It's still not easy, but I'm trying.

When I wrote the poem, I tried to take a light-hearted look at this dilemma which faces so many people.

Still, after one reading before a small group, one listener told me that she liked the poem, but found the ending a real downer. She thought I was referring to someting very dark there ... death.

That hadn't occurred to me ... in fact, was furthest from my thoughts. I was actually thinking of Hawaii, a place I've never been, but wouldn't mind seeing someday.

Meanwhile, back to the shredder.


The time has come,

in this hunkered down,

bunkered up life

of mine, to start

turning loose of all

those precious papers,

stacks of things

left unread,

undone, untouched

these many years,

to end each day

with less than I had

at the beginning,

to divest, to shed,

to shred, to trash

all those dear things

that I can't take

with me, whether

I simply move

to more fitting

local quarters, or go

the whole route,

whisking away

my tell-tale tracks,

then galloping off

toward some

distant paradise.

© 1999

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word: furthest

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I think you've hit the nail right on the head, Magran. There are times when climbing to ... and from ... the various levels of Brimm Manor can be quite a chore ... and I long for a place that's all on one level ... but this is home. I seem to belong here, so much more than to some place out there ... one of those unknowns you indicate.

Thank you, Hechan, for that good advice. I can't imagine the trauma of having everything swept away by a hurricane ... and I really admire the courage of considering it a chance to start over. And here I am, trying to turn loose, voluntarily, of all these things which have little individual value ... if any ... but finding it difficult to do that.

And thank you, Featheredpines, for that additional perspective. I identify with your love of books and photos ... and I find them particularly difficult to part with. I think it's almost in my genes. One of my earliest memories is of my grandfather ... with a handful of bent nails, freshly removed from an old piece of lumber. He took a hammer, placed each nail on a solid surface, tapped it gently back into shape, and stored them all in a coffee can ... ready for that day when he knew he'd need them again. I'm sure he threw things away ... but my memory is that he saved things ... everything ... and I know ... now ... it's hard to break the habit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Silence

Today's poem, originally published in Silhouette, is the end result of a self-imposed writing exercise. I pick a word at random. In this instance "silence." Then I try to block out everything else, focus completely on this one word until images start gathering.

Then I write ... and write ... and write. After that, of course, comes the revision ... many revisions, until what I've written has been boiled down to its very essence.

Then, perhaps, it's ready to travel. After all, poetry if that's what results from all this process is meant to be shared. If it doesn't turn out to be poetry, well, it's been a good, healthy exercise, at least.

The poem:


There was a silence
between them, a wall
that neither wanted,
yet they had built it
together, rock upon hard,
uncaring rock. And now,
from opposite sides
of it, he watched
his coffee cooling off,
she used her fork
to turn a cold remnant
of fried egg on her plate,
quietly examining it
like a fine jewel.

© 1997


Today's word: silence

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
Thanks, Featheredpines. It appears that my imagination captured the essence of that "cold war" ... and it's good to know that it worked, even if it involved a difficult subject. Also, I like your description of that wake-up call each morning ... here it's honking cars, an occasional siren ... a motorcycle or two ... and a sprinkling of birds. I won't even mention the squirrels dancing on the roof ... or in the basement.
Oh, I know, Hechan ... those silences tell us a lot. I've also noticed, when I'm out walking ... just casually observing the passing scene ... that there seems to be a clue in the distance between other strolling pairs ... young strollers are often hand-in-hand ... others, let us say those who seem to have known each other longer ... much longer ... are walking in the same direction, but with a large gap between them ... a completely unscientific observation on my part, I must say ... but interesting.  

Monday, May 19, 2008

Winter Rain


We have two towering maples in our back yard, one of them just outside our bedroom window.

I woke up one winter morning to the gentle sound of rain, looked out the window and was greeted by a view of those glistening tree trunks. It was a scene that sent my imagination into overdrive.

I probably put some of my thoughts to paper that morning in the midst of shaving. They often plague me so that I have to pause and write, pause and write.

The end result in this case, a poem. Other times these scribblings end up in an envelope labeled "Bits and Pieces," possible fodder for future works.

But for now, this:



All night it comes,

falling as quietly

as snow, trickling

down our green roof,


a soft song drifting

among the branches

of our dark maples,

trunks glistening


like the taut bodies

of stevedores under

the summer sun,

like sailing ships


tossing and leaning,

rigging creaking,

brass bells ringing,

greeting a new day.

© 2003

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


Today's word: trickling

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I share that feeling, Hechan ... glad when it's winter rain, and not sleet or snow ... and I'm glad you found the poem a nice way to start the day. Oh, I have that trouble, too ... my fingers knowing the order in which letters should come together to form words, but sometimes falling short of their mission. But if the thought gets through ... that's the important thing here in our "conversations." And please don't worry about making "too many" comments. It would be awfully quiet here without them.

I'm glad, Featheredpines, that you like the creaking and groaning of big old trees ... as well as the songs of the pines ... a symphony of sounds ... even when they come to us as memories.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Voice and Song

The less said about my singing (dancing, too, for that matter), the better.

There was a time when I could sing. I don't know how good it was, but I could carry a simple tune, and my grandparents ... my long-suffering grandparents ... never complained.

Then my voice changed.

I changed, too ... from a budding soloist, into one who would reluctantly join the singing when in a large group. I knew then that my off-key missteps would, perhaps, go unnoticed.

Even now, I hardly ever sing in the shower, as a matter of fact.

I have consoled myself ... as I say, in so many words in this poem ... with the thought that my real song "lives in my heart."

And here's the poem:


Mine is an untrained

voice, lacking polish,

but I believe my real

song lives in my heart,

and from there it must,

it will, take wing,

rising like that silent,

dark hawk tirelessly

riding the lifting

blue air, until it

finds a kindred heart

where it may dwell.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: kindred

P.S. - Oh, what a day this has been! I stayed up all last night (well, not q-u-i-t-e all), working on "Squiggles and Giggles" ... started early today trying to get it posted ... finally, this evening, succeeded in getting it online ... but with a slightly different address now (sorry about that). Give this link a try, if you will ... I can almost guarantee that it will take you directly to S&G:

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I'm glad you like the photo, Hechan ... and the sentiment of the poem ... that song wafting off to "find a kindred heart."

Thank you, Featheredpines, for that comment ... especially your imagining that "the sweet scents on spring breezes are gentle whispers of our dreams and hopes."

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I don't often do dream poems ... that is, poems about dreams ... simply because I have trouble recalling the dreams when I wake up.

This one was different, though.

I had this sense, as I say in the poem, of actually being taller than John Wayne on his horse. What a feeling that was. I wrote down what I recalled of that feeling.

Then, later ... that's right, pardner ... this one turned into a poem about writing, a subject that I find mysterious and perplexing. Even when the words come together neatly to form a poem, I'm sometimes puzzled as to how that really happened.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not completely baffled by the writing process, but it sometimes seems that poems, in particular, "write themselves," and I can't help expressing some amazement at that.

And now, the poem:


I dreamed that I

was tall, taller than

John Wayne, taller than

John Wayne on his horse,

and I just stood there

looking tall

and silent,

looking at all those

people looking up

at me, at last,

looking down at them,

but treating them

quietly as equals,

because that's the way

it is with me,


no matter how tall

I get, nor how many

poems Ive roped

and led home.

© 2000

(originally published in ByLine)


Today's word: equals

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Southernmush, for that comment. I just got back from a visit to your "Dear Diary" ... and enjoyed your account of the "green thumb" activities. I was having trouble getting "Squiggles and Giggles" posted today, so I missed the boat with the "green thumb" item ... but that gives me something to start with for the S&G installment of May 26 ... and I hope spring ... real spring weather ... will be arriving in Ohio by then. Good luck with those transplanted parsley and mint plants ... and that baby pine tree.

Hey, Featheredpines ... in the setting of this poem there's plenty of room for that imagination to roam ... I like the hoofprints your comment made, along the way ... and I kinda liked that "tall but equal" part when it came sidling up to me, too.

Friday, May 16, 2008

So Quiet

Can it be? Another Friday has come roaring up ... or whooshing ... or whatever it is that Fridays do as they push the other days out of their way.

I can remember when Friday seemed such a distant goal ... that glimmering image dimly seen on the horizon ... beyond which lay the oasis known as the weekend.

Now TGIF comes zipping along with frightening regularity.

A couple of watercolor lessons ... attending a poetry reading (last night) ... sitting in on another poetry reading (tonight) ... and there we are ... the weekend.

Time for me to get cracking ... I've got miles to go ... and a computer printer to feed ... another installment of "Squiggles and Giggles" to put to bed ... and maybe some even more serious chores ... if I find time to look around.

Meanwhile, another poem from Hollyhocks, my second collection, published by Finishing Line Press last year.

I think it pretty well tells its own story, about a visit we paid to Thomas (our grandson) and his parents, when he was young ... a very young adventurer then:


The house was so quiet

this morning when I walked

down the hallway that I

could hear the clock ticking,

thought I heard tired fireflies

grumping softly to themselves

somewhere outside, searching

the grass for acool place

to spend the day, the cicadas

climbing their leafy green trees,

almost humming to themselves

in their happiness, thought I

heard Thomas breathing peacefully

in his bed, still dreaming about

that dump truck he and Grandma

kept filling and emptying, sand

tickling their bare feet, and I

couldn't help smiling at myself

looking back from the mirror,

ready to clap my hands and dance.

© 2001

(received a third place award in a ByLine competition; now part of "Hollyhocks," my second collection of poems, scheduled to be released later this year by Finishing Line Press)


Today's word: grumping

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I appreciate your persistence, Hechan ... I'm never quite sure what happens when messages simply disappear like that. Your second try definitely came through ... and I'm glad you like the photo. I don't recall exactly where I snapped it ... but it did strike me as a particularly peaceful spot, and I'm glad I captured it. And thanks for those kind words about the poem, too.

I know what you mean, Marti ... and many thanks for stopping by again. Best wishes.

Thank you, Featheredpines, for saying so much with: "The thoughts we have in quiet moments when the rest of the world is asleep ... "

Thursday, May 15, 2008


In the early days, when I received an acceptance of something I'd written, I felt like dancing on the table in celebration.

In all honesty, I never did dance on the table (or anywhere else, for that matter). But I did feel like dancing, and the table seemed the appropriate place ... then.

I still don't dance on the table.

But then I got an e-mail from Finishing Line Press, publisher of "Chance of Rain," my collection of poems all about rain, or its absence ...

Gist of the e-mail: "Congratulations! Your book is now listed on ... "

Oh, wow! I was so excited about that ... and I still am ...

But now, the poem:


Winter rain trickles

and skitters this evening

as it travels down the slope

of my skylight, like spent

minutes picking their way

through another lonely

night, or a speckled mirror

held to reflect the tangled

yarn basket of my mind.

© 2003

(One of my poems from Chance of Rain, a small, limited-edition collection, issued by Finishing Line Press)


Today's word: dancing

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Play BALL!

Today's poem comes to mind as I wait out those ice-encrusted winter months and look forward to daily walks "in the neighborhood" ... past those ball diamonds waiting patiently for the crowds of kids ... or would-be kids ... to return to the base paths.

It also comes to mind with the onset of nippy nights and chilly mornings ... a reminder that the things of summer will soon be put aside while we search for the leaf rake ... and the dreaded snow shovel.

I like to store away sunnier memories ... something to tide me over in less inviting times, weather-wise. What better memory than a sun-drenched ball park?

There's one ball park in particular that holds a certain fascination. I guess it's because there's seldom anybody else around as we go strolling by.

I do pause there ... sometimes approach the backstop, and my fingers do grip the wire mesh like "some abandoned vine" ... while I think of days long, long ago, when I actually ran the bases a few times.

There's still that momentary urge to try it again. But I'm a little smarter now ... and a lot slower ... and I never do.

The poem:

Play BALL!

Standing behind

the sagging backstop

at the deserted field,

my fingers gripping

the wire mesh like

some abandoned vine,

I'm tempted to go

tearing around second,

sliding into third

in a cloud of dust;

instead, I linger

a few moments more,

enjoying the quiet,

just imagining that

roar of the crowd.

© 1998

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word:


Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I can understand, Hechan, the bittersweet feelings you mention ... still, there are those memories ... and they must be beautiful ones (this coming from a person who loved ... still loves the water ... for its beauty, but never learned to swim). I understand, too, the idea that it's "only a piece of paper" ... but I, like you, find that hard to accept. I'm coming around to that viewpoint ... slowly ... maybe in another hundered years ... maybe ...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On Waking

I grew up in hill country, where fog was rather common. I still identify waking up, the beginning of the day, with fog that lingers in the valleys.

It's something like the fog that lingers in my own head ... beading on the cobwebs there ... but that's another story.

Meanwhile, today's poem:


The dense gray fog, that

silent stalker of valleys,

crept in like a dream

while we slept, lingered,

defying the sun's efforts

to take back this place

where the sassafras shares

a hillock with honeysuckle,

outdoing the dew itself,

globules riding a coolness

that speaks of changes

coming, a shift of seasons,

a briskness that will make

the covers more precious

in the morning, gentle fire

like a warm embrace when

evening brings us home.

© 2001

(originally published in Waterways)


Today's word: embrace

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

My immediate reaction to your comment, Featheredpines, was that I had done my job well ... but then I was reminded of what I so often say ... and I think it's true, especially of poetry: So much depends on what the reader brings to the poem. Bottom line: I glad you "can almost smell the wet, green mornings from here."

Monday, May 12, 2008


As some of you know, I write a lot about rain. It was such a central part of growing up in rural Southern Illinois. There were many summers when our garden wilted ... never mind the grass that seemed to turn to confetti in our yard ... the cistern ran low ...

Ah, but there were summers, too, when there was an abundance of rain ... and all was well with the world.

We city dwellers tend to forget the importance of rain. We lose touch.

This poem is an effort to restore that touch ... to explore some of the possibilities in the music ... the magic, if you will ... of rain. In the end, I guess it all boils down to "this rain tonight, tremblng leaf to leaf ... to earth."

The poem:


I lie listening

to the summer night,

wondering what

it might have been like

before roofs came

to glorify the rain,

to magnify the sound.

Was there gentle

crackle and murmur

of a small fire,

a faltering lullaby?

A song kept going,

stick by stick,

until the words

finally surrendered

to deep silence?

The silence of

ashes giving up

their warmth?

Perhaps there was

only the faintest

of songs, like

this rain tonight,

trembling leaf

to leaf ... to earth.

© 2003

("Nightsongs" first appeared online on PoetryTonight. It is also a part of my first collection of poems, Chance of Rain, issued by Finishing Line Press in 2003)


Today's word: murmur

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Hechan ... I'm glad you like the way the words ... and thoughts ... ordered themselves. The photo is the product of good timing and a small digital camera ... and I'm glad you like it, too.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Song

Today's photo is just a sample ... a sip, if you will ... of the blossoms on the dogwood tree which graces the front lawn of Brimm Manor.

It seems to be outdoing itself this year ... and I take great comfort in its abundance ... its splendor ... the quiet beauty that it brings to those who pause to consider it.

But the poem ... I think I sometimes get in the way of the poem by talking too much about it, instead of letting it speak for itself.

It's a bad habit, I know, and I'm trying to break it.

Still, there are times when I feel that just a few more words are needed ... to set the stage for the poem ... to give it a bit more depth.

Let me just say that I was thinking about this poem when I woke up this morning.

As some of you know, I was reared by my grandparents. I learned early, I think, the meaning within the saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

There was a certain longing, a searching for explanations where there were none. I never knew, precisely, why I grew up with neither of my parents. I did have my grandparents at my side, though, guiding me, nudging me on, hoping I would turn out OK.

Through it all I tried to search out and cling to earliest memories ... of both my parents ... and I have some which have helped to sustain me through all these years.

Today's poem ... a Mother's Day poem, if you will ... deals with one of those early memories.

The poem:


It was so long ago,

perhaps in a dream,

or certainly before I knew

the meanings of words,

but I felt the music

of her fine soprano voice

caressing, soothing me,

and how I wish I could

sing that same gentle

song back to her now,

saying softly, sweetly,

simply, I love you.

© 2000

(originally published in PKA's Advocate)


Today's word: soothing

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Featheredpines, for the understanding demonstrated by your comment ... I am particularly taken by your last paragraph: "Especially comforting to those of us who have no one to call today" ... which makes me feel I have succeeded far beyond my own expectations. Continued best wishes.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Leaky Roof

First, this just in: A new installment of "Squiggles and Giggles" has been posted ... with a freshness day of Monday, May 12 ... but it should retain its freshness for a few days after that ... if you're too rushed to pay a visit now.
And if you do visit, I'd recommend that you go by way of the link in the lefthand column of "Chosen Words" ... you see, S&G has a "new address" ... just new enough ... with just a teeny change in it ... enough to make life complicated.
So, please try that link ... and let me know what you think. (Say, could that be the beginning of another poem?)
Meanwhile, we've had more than our share of rain recently in this part of Ohio ... with just a touch of rough weather thrown in ... makes the heart grow fonder of sunny days ... you know, those events which have something to do with that strange glowing object in the sky.
This morning is starting off with fog ... most of my mornings seem to start that way, even when the sun is shining brightly ... so it was no surprise when ...
I woke up ... late, thirsty ... thinking foggily of clouds, rain, roofs, leaky roofs ... and this poem came to mind:

We knew just where

to put pots and pans

when the rain came
suddenly weeping

through our roof,
its pit, pat, pit-pat

lullaby lingering
long after the storm

had droned off into
distant, grumbling

thunder, leaving
a morning residue

of splatters
and puddles,

blankets on a line,
featherbed sprawled

like a newborn calf
broadside of the sun.

© 2001

(received an honorable mention award in Ohio Poetry Day competition; subsequently published in my first collection, Chance of Rain ... Finishing Line Press, 2003)


Today's word: grumbling
Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
Thank you, Southernmush, for stopping by again ... and pausing to exchange a few thoughts. First, I'm sorry you're feeling sad ... but I hope you found some comfort in the poem ... especially the ending which, I think, offers the promise of something better ... "like a newborn calf/ broadside of the sun." I think moments of sadness are, as you indicate, like rain ... but then I think ahead to what follows ... the sunshine which always comes ... the flowers which answer the sunshine ... and I hope you will soon find that sunshine which follows the rain. Here's to happier days for you, Southernmush ... and soon.    

Friday, May 9, 2008

If It Rains

As are most of my poems, today's is fairly straightforward, dealing with harsh realities. These are still just as harsh, and just as real, I'm sure, as when I was growing up in Southern Illinois.

How dependent, how at the mercy of the weather, were those who tried to make a living from the soil.

Life was one big gamble, and nobody knew the odds, exactly, except that they always seemed to be against the players.

Rather than a single, memorable incident, this piece represents an accumulation of impressions, and is about no particular, single farmer, but all farmers who face the odds and keep playing this most difficult game, betting against the weather year after year.

The poem:


Paper-dry corn emits a sigh

as an arid breeze riffles

the long, dead rows

of ochre and gray, searching

for moisture. Even weeds

are limp with thirst.

Last year had been a good one,

so he paid down some debt

and, less burdened,

plowed and planted once more

on gentle, warming slopes

as spring returned.

It may rain tomorrow, he says,

knowing that it's too late

to salvage this crop.

But if it does rain tomorrow,

next week, or next month,

that may be enough

to sustain last spring's hopes

through the rages of winter,

and he will plow again.

© 2003

(originally published in Capper's, this poem is from my first collection, Chance of Rain, published in 2003 by Finishing Line Press)


Today's word: if

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hard Times

Not all of my poems are about sunsets, the beauty of cobblestone clouds, the wafting scent of roses. Life has a gritty side, too, and some of my poems reflect that.

This encounter came a long time ago at a bus stop, a favorite trolling spot for panhandlers. There was a time when I would almost automatically hand over a bit of change. I could remember tough times, too.

But I had grown tired of being hit up day after day. My initial response was not very charitable, I know, but I relented. I imagine there's a lesson in there someplace, perhaps having something to do with the poor sparrows of this world.

The photo is mine. OK, so it doesn't show a downtown street, but I think it does serve as a backdrop for that "snow-blasted morning."

The poem appeared in Pebble Lake Review's Fall/Winter issue of 2005, and now is part of a manuscript (Strawberry Wine) in search of a book publisher.

And here it is:


Suddenly he's in my face,

dirty, wind-blown, muttering,

Spare a quarter? Refusing to let

his question assault me,

I turn away. Then back. My own

No, can you? comes spilling out

like a shot, freezing us there

in the snow-blasted morning

until finally his uncertain

chuckle descends into breath-

stealing, chest-stabbing coughs

and I fish deep in the warmth

of a pocket for a quarter,

hand it over, stand watching

as he moves away, this poor,

tattered sparrow with his crumb.

© 2006


Today's word: tattered

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Glass, Drinking

Such an ordinary subject ... and I'm sure the editor who once scrawled something to that effect on one of my poems would agree ... but I find many of my subjects in "ordinary things."

So much depends, I think, on how one looks at them.

I'm not exactly sure where ... or when ... the particular glass of this poem caught my attention.

It was a cheap green drinking glass ... I'm sure of that ... but it wasn't a recent observation, because the trains don't run past the house where I live. So it had to have been in the past ... perhaps the distant past.

But I do remember how that glass caught the light, and I can still see those few remaining droplets dancing.

The moment could have passed unnoticed. I'm sure there were other things ... far more important things ... going on. But I did notice, though I had no idea I would ever write a poem about it ... or write any poems, for that matter.

I'm glad the memory was stored somewhere in the recesses of my mind, just waiting there for the right moment to show itself to me again.

It's just a small descriptive passage ... a single sentence, if it were presented as a bit of prose ... but I treasure the memory it represents ... and the other memories which keep it company.

Oh, how I wish I had a picture of it to share with you. Instead, there's a photo I snapped during one of my walks at Cox Arboretum.


It gathers the light to it, sparkling

with morning warmth, wraps itself

in rings so bright they might be taken

for some kind of pretense, but it’s

only a cheap green drinking glass,

empty except for a few remaining

droplets that tremble and dance

to the passing song of a rickety train

and then subside like an echo yielding

itself to the cold of late autumn fog.

© 2006

(originally published in St. Anthony Messenger)


Today's word: rickety

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Frozen Flight

Picture from Hometown

I'll never understand computers.

One recent morning I woke up to what appeared to be just a normal day. I bounded out of bed when the alarm finally went off ... dashed to the computer to see how many visitors had stopped by to take a look at "Chosen Words" ... and maybe left a comment.

I stretched and yawned and sat in my squeaky chair in front of the screen. I checked "Chosen Words." Mmmm ... not bad. The numbers are still clicking right along.

Time for another entry.

I said ... Time for another entry. The computer wasn't listening. I tried to log on. I could look, but couldn't touch. I tried again ... and again ... and again.

As usual, I wondered what I had done wrong.

I closed the door softly as I left Brimm Manor and went about the business of running some errands ... getting out for my morning walk, etc.

Much later I returned ... tried again ... and things were working. Mystery solved? Nope.

And things seem to be working this morning ... and I have a summer poem.

No, sorry, I don't have a picture of a sweat bee to go along with the poem. Those rascals are too tiny, too unpredictable, too fast for me and my camera.

I do have a reminder of summer, however, with today's photo, one of many I've snapped during my daily wanderings ... -er, walks.

The poem itself is almost a haiku moment, a tiny flicker of activity broken off before I became fully focused on what was happening.

But it became a little more than that ... and it carries so many memories of all those places this kind of "stare down" has happened to me over the years.

Originally published in Capper's:


A sweat bee

hovers in my face,

wings invisible

in the heavy air,

then, satisfied

at having won

this stare down,

darts away.

© 1996


Today's word: invisible

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Delia's Dream


Today's little poem is about my grandmother, who took me into her care when I was two years old and guided me until I was 18 ... when I went into military service ... and even beyond. I still feel that gentle hand in the small of my back. 

Times were not just hard, but really tough, requiring frugality with those few material things which came her way. Still, those circumstances seemed to inspire in her an exceeding generosity.

She knew that others had needs greater than hers. She accepted the fact that her good works might be received without thanks.

And she didn't talk much about "those distant places," but I know she dreamed about them sometimes, especially those where her children were.

She did get to visit them, but she never got to be there, as she would say, never got to "pull up and settle down" there.

It was simply not to be. And she accepted that, too. How I love her, for all the things she taught me ... for all the butterflies she pointed out to me ... and paused to watch with me.  

And now, the poem:



How she'd say

nothing is ever lost,

meaning wasted,

pieces of string,

each carefully coiled,

or a rubber band

snapped around her wrist,

her good works received

without thanks,

and thoughts,

especially thoughts

of those distant places

where she dreamed things

were better, where she

hoped to be someday,

but never was.

© 1997

(originally published in Riverrun)



Today's word: guided

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for those kind words about the poem ... and for that insight on economic boundaries ... about being "wealthy in many ways," in spite of those material restrictions ... a lesson for us all. 

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Clouds at Sunset

(Speaking of clouds ... there's a mention of clouds in the latest installment of "Squiggles & Giggles" ... see the link below, to the left ... posted so recently that it's probably still warm)

But now, today's poem ... an ekphrastic poem, that is, one written about a painting ... one of my own creations.

It's one of the poems I shared with the audience recently in the "Poets Respond to Art" series at the Dayton Art Institute.

Sorry, I don't have a photo of the painting. I didn't get a shot of it before it went off to a new home in Illinois.

Still, I hope the poem will convey the images ... I keep trying to "paint pictures with words" ... that the poem will, at the very least, give the reader the feeling of being there in front of the painting, studying it.

The poem:


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

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you so much, Featheredpines. I like description of my poems being like portals ... I'm still basking in that this morning ... one of the reasons that I'm running a bit late. Running? Don't worry, I'm not carrying scissors ... and I'm certainly staying away from stairways ... but if I find that I can't avoid them, I hold onto the handrail now.