Monday, June 30, 2008

Beyond the Words

                                               Picture from Hometown


Regular visitors to "Chosen Words" know that I often discuss ... in far too much detail, I'm afraid ... a particular poem's origins ... what it was that prompted me to write a particular piece in a particular way.

That can be interesting sometimes ... and even helpful to the reader.

But hindsight tells me that I frequently overdo it. I hope to avoid that today by simply presenting the poem. Oh, if it happens to resonate in a certain way with you ... if it takes on a special meaning as you read it ... I'd certainly be glad to hear about that.

It's sometimes helpful to know what the readers feel I've said, rather than ... or in addition to ... what I think I've said.




I was born hungry for words

that tempted me like popcorn

on a string, rested lightly,

melted sweetly on my tongue.


I grubbed them out, devoured

them, savored their aftertaste,

grew in vision as their images

nourished and sustained me.


Now, lulled by the puffed up,

empty words I'm fed each day,

I sleep fitfully, wake up starved,

not for words, but for meaning.

© 2005

(published in the November, 2005, issue of Poem)



Today's word: hungry

Afterthoughts response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for getting my day off to a great start with your comment. Continued best wishes.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

After the Muffin

"After the Muffin" is a love poem which was included in O Taste and See: Food Poems, an anthology co-edited by David Lee Garrison and Terry Hermsen and published by Bottom Dog Press ... and it was a sellout ... all 5,000 copies!

"After the Muffin" was also discovered by Paul Carey, composer, who is also music director for Vox Caelestis Women's Chorus, a 16-voice professional women's chorus based in Chicago's western suburbs.

He liked "After the Muffin" and set it to music, along with several other food-related poems.

For a sampling of their work:

"After the Muffin" made an appearance in three performances of "The Musical Food Groups" by Chicago a cappella, a vocal ensemble of nine voices, "dedicated to performing innovative concert programs at the highest possible musical standards."

I've heard a recording of their presentation of "After the Muffin," thanks to Matt Greenberg, executive director, who also sings bass with the group ... and it is a superb piece of work ... their rendition of my poem, that is.

For a sample of Chicago a cappella:

Meanwhile, the poem:


You've something on

your lip, you say,

your finger, gentle

as a kiss, floating

to show me where.

Blueberry! For

we have just shared

a warm muffin

by candlelight.

And now, all these

hours later, I still

feel that touch

like a kiss, still

hear you saying:

You've something

on your lip.

© 2003

(Published in O Taste and See: Food Poems, Bottom Dog Press, 2003)

To hear my reading of "After the Muffin":


Today's word: blueberry

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Winter Glow

Today's poem is another example of the kind of subject I write most frequently about ... an ordinary, everyday event or topic ... but perhaps seen in a slightly different way ... as though with "new eyes."

I try to impart that difference ... and I'm greatly rewarded when a reader sees that difference ... or perhaps points out something about the topic that I hadn't quite seen myself.

It's all about the learning process ... and I love it!

The photo? That's me ... somewhere in my teen years ... standing between the grandparents who reared me. The original was rescued by one of my relatives ... passed along to me ... and is now one of my most prized possessions.

The poem:


Cracked, yellowed snapshots

surrender from inside

a musty box

circled with twine, speaking

of times gone, like thin

ribbons of vapor

slowly curling and uncurling

from a neighbor's


while I sit in this cold

attic space looking

at relatives

and places I never knew,

their images saved,

but stories lost,

beginning to sense a feeling

of warmth, a winter

glow, spreading

over me as I touch the faces

of these strangers again

and close the box.

© 2006

(published in the January, 2006 issue of Capper's)


Today's word: warmth

Afterthoughts response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for dropping by ... and leaving that generously kind comment. I do find a kinship with old photos ... whether of known family members ... or members I will never be able to identify ... or even those who just may have joined the collection because they were of family friends. And now I see that I have some catching up ... a lot of catching up to do ... on comments posted here on "Chosen Words." I do appreciate them, one and all, and I apologize for falling behind ... again ... on acknowledging them. Patience, please, patience ...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Under the Oaks

The oaks may have been "massive" only as their size was relative to my own, but they did seem to be towering, dominating, clustered there at the foot of the bluffs.

But the shade was mossy. I am positive of that.

Where the memory may be playing tricks ... it was a long time ago, you know ... is that the young trees I remember may not have been oaks at all. They could well have been hickory, or even maple.

Still, I like to think of them as "understudies," waiting for their turn in the spotlight ... in the sun.

I suppose there is some deeper lesson to be taken from this. Perhaps I had some application to humans in mind when I wrote the poem ... or it might just have been a little piece about trees.

Oh, and the illustration? It's a digital photograph I snapped because the leaves reminded me of a painting by Georgia O'Keeffe.

The poem:


I really admire

the persistence

of those small

trees struggling

in the mossy shade

of massive oaks,


learning their

lines, patiently

waiting their

turn to take

the stage, too.

© 2001

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: persistence

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you for stopping by, Michelle ... and for adding dimension to this entry with your observation of nature ... and your own insight. My apologies for being so late in responding.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This Summer Day

I'm almost afraid to mention the weather, for fear of bringing an abrupt shift of gears ... from the pleasant temperatures we've had recently ... and are still enjoying in Ohio ... to those days which bring visions of eggs frying on the sidewalk.

I haven't looked up the birth date of today's poem, but I'm sure it was written back in the days when my writing was done in an attic space ... a great portion of the house where there was always a feeling of quiet ... away from the phones and other distractions.

It was a beautiful nook ... even had a view of the city ... but it was subject to temperature extremes ... HOT in the summer ... and finger-numbing COLD in the winter.

Got the scene?

I may have forgotten the date on which today's poem was written ... but I do recall sitting there barefoot at the keyboard as I wrote.

The poem:


It's five-thirty in the morning,

and in a nearby yard a dog

is barking for his breakfast.

A cardinal serenades

the dew-draped maple,

an unidentified singer

in a neighboring tree

provides counterpoint,

and I'm sitting barefoot,

ready for the steam.

A captive fan bestows

an artificial breeze,

one for me to remember

as the temperatures

and humidity blast off.

I may have to dig up

memories of last winter,

stored in the root cellar

of my mind for such a day.

Even the crows are out,

cawing: "Hot, hot, HOT!"

© 1995

(originally published in The Christian Science Monitor)


Today's word: hot

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sea of Beauty


The wheat leans

and straightens

in the summer breeze,

a sea of beauty

set in motion

toward the horizon

by plain hard labor

and the hand of God.

© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: wheat

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reaching Out

I'm not sure where or when this poem actually began.

Poems sometimes have a way of hanging around ... lurking ... waiting for the right moment ... and then presenting themselves to me.

I think this one had its roots in the time and place where I grew up. We lived on a small piece of land just outside a small farming community, so it was not truly a lonely existence, in the sense of being a stranger among strangers.

We knew everybody ... and I presume everybody knew us. We were among friends.

Still, there were times of loneliness, times when there were no playmates, times when there was nobody to talk to, except my grandparents ... and they were sometimes occupied with their own concerns.

So I think this poem may have been speaking to that time and place, particularly with its reference to the hills ... "my voice flying" ... "someone hearing, answering" ... but I really think it speaks of a hopeful outcome.

We could all use a bit of that.

And now the poem:


Let me stand

in the clear blue

of morning,

sun rising, warming

the waiting hills,

and my voice flying

through the silence,

someone hearing,

answering, more

than an echo,

a kindred spirit.

© 1998

(originally published in The Christian Science Monitor)


Today's word: kindred

Monday, June 23, 2008


I've often said that I can't rhyme worth a dime ... but here I go again.

I keep trying. For me it's something like trying to leap over a high picket fence ... uphill ... and on a slippery slope, at that. I have trouble maintaining any kind of a rhyme scheme while trying to tell a story ... if, indeed, I have a story to tell.

I keep promising that I won't, but I do ... keep trying, that is. It's simply the challenge, I guess.

The result? Today's poem ... a double-edged blunt blade, if you will ... a poem about the difficulty ... at least the difficulty I have ... with keeping promises, especially to myself ... a poem in rhyme.

And I can't promise you that it won't happen again.

I keep being drawn back to this difficult task. I keep thinking that this time it will go well and I'll end up with something I can share with others. But it seldom does.

Today's illustration, I suppose, speaks to promises unkept ... I prefer to think of them as promises I will keep ... just as soon as I can get around to them. Actually, it represents things I should've done yesterday ... must do today ... but probably will still be working on tomorrow.

Ah, tomorrow ...

Meanwhile, today ... and the poem:


I begin my year

With high resolve,

But my plans, I fear,

Start to dissolve

As the new wears off

The leaf I've turned

And the flames flare off

Bridges I've burned.

© 1996

(originally published in Mature Living)


Today's word: rhyme

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I like your approach, Helen ... having your class write resolutions ... then put them away. I imagine some were surprised later that they had met, or maybe exceeded, goals they had set for themselves. I think that's better than bugging yourself repeatedly about goals you "haven't quite met ... yet." Your comment about tidiness reminds me of a co-worker ... long, long ago ... whose desk was a real mess ... even more than mine; however, Jack could almost always ... instantly, it seemed ... reach into the stacks and pull out precisely the document or publication he needed to make his point. I certainly envied that ability. I still do.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Whoa, Nellie! Things happened so fast yesterday evening that my head is still swimming this morning.

I was in the middle of a writing project ... I always seem to be in the middle ... of something ... some idea has nudged me ... and there I am, chained to the keyboard again.

I decided to take a break ... by checking for e-mails ... among them was one from my friend, Helen, of Florida ... Subject: REGARDING GUEST EDITOR'S PICK.

Helen had seen a reference to that in "Chosen Words" ... and wanted me to explain.

A few minutes later I was explaining to Helen that "Chosen Words" had been honored by Guest Editor Chelle (who has a beautiful journal, "Reflections") by being named, along with four others: Vagabond Journeys, Porchswingpoet, Rosarium, and I was thinking ...

What a great surprise to be named in such company! I am both honored and humbled ... my thanks to Chelle ... and to all who dropped by for a visit. I do hope "Chosen Words" measured up to your expectations ... and will continue to do so.

Meanwhile ...

Some of you may have seen today's poem before ... when it was originally published ... or later here on "Chosen Words."

Sorry about that (summer reruns, you know).

But I think it might be worth a second look.

It all begain when ...

There was a lull in the festivities at my high school class reunion, class of ... let's just say we graduated somewhere in the previous century ... and Floyd was saying, "You know what I remember about you?"

Uh-oh. I braced myself and allowed as how I didn't have the foggiest notion of what he remembered.

"During study hall, you'd go to that big dictionary at the east windows, and I'd swear you were standing there, just reading it for pleasure," he said.

That's right! I remembered that, too. It was a huge dictionary. I would go to it to unlock the mystery of some new word I'd encountered ... then I'd get sidetracked. There were so many other words I was curious about ... so many other avenues to explore. I can't imagine how much time I must've spent with that book. Oh, what great times those were!

My reverie was interrupted.

Floyd was saying, "As a matter of fact, you introduced me to the word 'laconic'. I'll never forget that."

Well, I had certainly forgotten. That didn't even ring the teeniest of bells. But I was intrigued by the fact that he had remembered 'laconic' all those years. The wheels started turning. In coming weeks and months, I thought about Floyd's comment. A lot.

It wouldn't turn me loose. It released its grip slightly when I finally sat down and wrote "Howdy!" ... and a little more when it was accepted for publication.

The moral (I suppose): Words you've planted with someone, years and years ago, may come back to haunt you. But then you have material for another poem, right? Right.

The poem goes something like this:


I grew up

wanting to be laconic,

because my models

were mostly Saturday

matinee heroes.

Their voices were

leathery, dust-covered,

wind-blown, spare

sounding voices.

I dreamed of my own

young voice becoming

like theirs, joining

those deep voices,

saying deep things.

But laconic?

Tried it. Liked it.

Some. Found it lonely,

though, on those long

rides between words.

© 2005

(originally published in The Christian Science Monitor)


Today's word: laconic

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, thank you, Michelle ... for those additional kind words for my journal ... after turning the spotlight on it in such a dazzling way. You're right, of course, that words become ours through use ... even something like "laconic" ... though I find that "ordinary" words can serve to convey the magic of a sunset ... or a gentle rain ... or friendships. And it looks like a great weekend ahead ... thank you very much. Best wishes to you, too.

Thank you, Beth, for stopping by ... and it's good to meet someone else who enjoys following the words where they want to lead. So many times I would ... still do ... go to the dictionary to look up just one word ... then find myself trailing off in several directions, eager to see what the next entry would reveal to me. It was like being turned loose in a candy store.

Many thanks, Bucko ... and best wishes with your own journal.

Congratulations to you, too, DB! And thank you so much for that kind comment about "Chosen Words" ... which makes me feel twice-honored. I'm not at all sure that I should be placed in such company as Stephen Vincent Benet ... but if you find even a faint resemblance in what I've written, I am honored. Thank you for stopping by ... I shall pay a return visit ... as soon as I calm down a bit.

Thank you, Betty! It's good to know that I have company in sometimes lingering at the dictionary to explore the side paths after finding the word I originally went there to look up. For the longest time I thought I might be the only person doing that.

Thank you, Southernmush, for yet another electronic pat on the back ... and for all the others you've given me along the way. They have helped to keep me going. As you know, my time at the keyboard is sometimes limited, but you ... and others ... have helped to make my sessions here really enjoyable interludes. With such encouragement, I shall certainly keep trying to keep it coming. Best wishes to you, too.

Hey, no problem, Featheredpines ... the party is still going strong. Thank you so much for these kind words ... and the many others you've brought this way. Continued best wishes.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Matter of View

The thrust of today's poem, I think, can be summed up in one word: perception.

When the crow's call interrupted whatever I was doing, I found it rather grating ... actually, quite grating. It was like fingernails scratching across a chalkboard.

But after I gave it a bit of thought, it occurred to me that there might be another viewpoint, another way of hearing the crow's call, of seeing it as a means of communication, much as we humans try to communicate thoughts or information to each other.

Perception. It can lead to a better understanding of the world around us, if we'll let it.

Now, the poem:


A crow's carping call

comes tumbling in

at my open window,

drowning out songbirds,

grating on my ears.

But to another crow

it's probably as sweet

as a baby's gurgle.

© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: gurgle

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Late Summons

It was, indeed, like a summons, when it finally came.

Oh, I had written a lot of things along the way ... love letters when I was in military service, business letters later, a memo here and there ... things like that.

But writing? Real, creative writing? I hadn't had time, nor the inclination for that, it seems.

Still, there was something that drove me in the direction of writing ... just sitting down and putting thoughts ... memories ... images ... on paper.

And, as I say in today's poem, it was like the whir of that most beautiful, most graceful, most fragile of insects ... the butterfly ... which brought that latent interest to life ... so that here we are today ... these few years later, sharing these moments, these thoughts.

The poem:


After enduring

vast, hollow

echoing years

in which words

lay silently

on my heart,

there came

a whir as soft

as the flight

of a butterfly,


them awake,

and my voice,

sounding strange

to my own ears,

rose in song.

© 1997

(originally published in Potpourri)


Today's word: whir

P.S. -- I couldn't help noticing that the hit counter on "Chosen Words" has passed another mile marker - 38,000 visitors since its quiet beginning a few years ago. Thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed your visit, and will find time to drop by again ... maybe even bring a friend with you.

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

And I LOVE that comment, Chelle ... you make me feel that I've really done it right ... still, I have to remind myself that so much depends on what the reader brings to the poem. Thank you for bringing your understanding to the poem ... and recognition to "Chosen Words." Best wishes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In the Choir

How many times I've wished I were a singer, if only for singing in the shower ... but that gift seems to have been taken from me forever when my voice changed.

I have become an avid listener, instead.

It is from this listening that the metaphor for this poem arose. I do wish my voice might rise, realistically, not as a singer, but as a writer.

Even there, I am reconciled to the possibility that mine might not be a voice intended to be heard above the chorus of other writers' voices.

If that's the case, then, let my voice ... my writing ... remain steadfast, I say in this little poem.

There, now that I've explained the whole poem, I hope you will still take a look at "In the Choir," originally published in Capper's.

As always, I know that the reader brings a special point of view ... a special knowledge ... to the poem ... and I do enjoy the reader's perspective, the added dimension this gives to what I've written.

I appreciate your taking time to drop by (and there were 47 of you who did that yesterday) ... even if it's just to "sit for a spell" and listen to my ramblings ... but if you choose to join the conversation by leaving a comment, well ... that's always icing on the cake. In either event, many thanks. I'll keep trying.



Oh, that my voice

might soar like

a tenor's rising

as clearly as a bell

from the choir,

but if that wish

is not to be, then

let me remain

a faithful voice

among the many,

my song steadfast.

© 1998


Today's word: dimension

Monday, June 16, 2008

How the Cinders Danced

This is a homecoming poem only in the sense that I had returned to the place where I grew up.

There were no welcoming crowds, no band ... and I hadn't expected any. I had walked around town, looking for a familiar face, but found none. I ended up at the site of the bridge where a frightening experience had etched itself on my memory.

And how frightening a steam locomotive could be to a youngster, especially up close, as I recalled its being as my grandmother and I were caught walking across that bridge ... with a freight train passing underneath.

Standing there, alone, brought that memory rushing back to me.

How quiet now! How calm. How vivid the memory of those cinders "dancing" on the deck of that bridge! I just had to write about it.

It later received recognition as a Plainsongs Award Poem, published in their October, 2005, issue.


Cold, I stand recalling

how the cinders danced

on the highway bridge

while I watched a slowly

swaying freight train

creaking beneath us,

its dark, hulking engine

chuffing like a dragon,

hot cinders swirling

up, dark clouds seeking

the walkway, our lungs;

how my hand lingered

in Grandma's after that

frightening train had

gone clacking off, and I

stand here now, alone,

a stranger come home,

breathing clear air,

no cinders dancing, no

engine chuffing, but

my gloved hand rising

to a sudden welling up

that causes a blurring

of childhood images.

© 2005


Today's word: chuffing

(OK, so I made up the word, but that's how I remember the sound that the steam engine made as it struggled underneath the bridge. Oh, and the art? It's one of my oil paintings, a shuttered window in an old barn. Titled "Mon Reposo," it has nothing to do with the poem, really, but it caught my eye, and I thought you wouldn't mind ... )

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Ah, yes, Helen, those steam engines pulling those freight trains ... and, in those days, passenger trains, too ... back and forth on the Illinois Central tracks. We lived just across a gavel road from the train tracks, and grew accustomed to the engines' daytime song ... and nighttime lullaby (at least to us). When we had overnight guests, though, they almost invariably came to the breakfast table the next morning, complaining that they hadn't slept a wink because of "all those trains." Then there was the time the first "streamlined train" came through, headed for New Orleans ...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Good Dreams

I'm always searching for poems ... my own published poems ... that I can share with you.

My search this time led me to my little poem which celebrates a beginning, the arrival of a new member of the family.

I also see the arrival of new life in our midst ... this symbol of the continuation of life, this vision beyond the present day, beyond us ... as a symbol of hope.

The pairing with today's art naturally followed: the sunlit path that leads on, inviting us to see what lies beyond the next turn, and beyond that.

The poem:


Your grandparents treasure the joy

of having been there within hours

of your arrival, taking their turns

cradling your downy head in their

arms, marveling at perfect tiny

fingers and toes, your eyes fluttering

open and shut, brief lusty crying,

eager, hungry feeding, your

drifting off into well-earned sleep.

Some distant day you, too, may hold

your own grandchild and know such joy,

may sit wondering, arm growing numb,

what adventures lie still years ahead.

But for now it is sufficient

for you to sleep. So sleep, sleep,

sleep, Thomas, and in time

the good dreams will come to you.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: sleep

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for saying so. Continued best wishes.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Frozen Pond

There were a lot of ponds in the area where I grew up, but this poem is about one particular pond ... on the property where my brothers and sisters lived at that time.

When I got to visit them (but that's another story), it was our favorite gathering place. I did my first fishing there. I went sledding down the hill and out onto the ice of that pond.

It was one of the first places I wanted to see when I came home on furlough after completing basic training.

Years later, during a visit back to Illinois, I drove out in that area to show my wife that pond. But the house was gone, the land was overgrown, and we didn't even get a glimpse of the pond.

For all I know, the pond may not even exist now, but it's very much alive in my memory. The poem was originally published in Capper's ... and I know, I know ... some of you have heard it before ... but it talks to me about a special place ... and I hope you won't mind.

The poem:


The pond was always home

for wayward leaves,

adding, in late summer,

the yellowed offerings

of the black walnut tree,

then the reds and golds

of maple and tulip trees,

like tiny boats lazing

among the ducks, twirling

at the tiniest stirrings

of air or water, remaining

trapped below the surface

when winter came, as though

waiting for us to come

thundering down the hill

on our sleds, out onto

the ice, that marvelous,

jeweled surface spinning

us around and around,

our laughter spilling out,

still echoing back.

© 1998


Today's word: echoing

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for those kind words about "The Frozen Pond." What a shock it is, as you say, to return to that early scene and find it so changed ... so many things gone ... something alien about what's there now. I am so thankful for memories ... though I may have trouble remembering where I put something a few minutes ago, I do have those memories of long ago, polished to a high sheen from much handling ... and what great memories they are.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Early Morning

I'm not a power walker ... I don't pump my arms like a windmill ... my legs aren't a blur ... and the only time I pass anyone is when they're going in the opposite direction.
But I do walk.
Mornings are best. I've found, If I walk in the afternoon ... especially if that means missing my nap ... I'm a grumpy walker ... and I have more than the usual difficulty in maintaining a forward motion. I just don't seem to have as much energy.
So the morning it is.
Well, there I was ... walking ... actually, struggling a bit on the uphill climb during a morning walk out in Illinois. Although we were on vacation ... particularly because we were on vacation ... I was out early for my daily walk.
Summertime. Southern Illinois can be pretty steamy then. The air gets heavy, the legs are laboring, the lungs struggling ... and there I am (puff-puff), trying to make it up the hill. And then ...
But let's go to the poem:

Early Morning
I'm walking along, enjoying the prospect
of maybe making it all the way to the top
of a stubborn hill, when three young ladies

in very short shorts go legging it past me
and out of sight, as though I were standing
stump-still, but I really can't help admiring

the way they've crested the hill, left me
there, still laboring up the slope, recalling
a time when I might have overtaken them,

instead, and gone breezing past, but now
I feel my legs flagging, beginning to burn,
and I'm wondering if I can reach the top

(please be still, my thudding heart), and if
I do, whether I'll catch a glimpse of them
while I'm struggling to catch my breath.
© 2007
(received third place award in 2007 Dayton Metro Library poetry contest)

Today's word: thudding
Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
Hey, welcome back, Helen! I'm so glad that was a short hospital stay, and hope the road is smooth and gleaming ahead. You are so right about those hills ... and your reaction to them ... then ... and now. I have much the same history ... hill-wise ... having grown to prefer just to look at hills ... and confine my walking to those easy, level places ... something like malls? Well, yes, something like that. Regarding your P.S., I would've have guessed that your smile was mainly at having that hospital episode behind you ... been there, done that, too.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Don't Dance on My Toes

Picture from Hometown

Phyllis and I were on a day-trip, visiting Chillicothe, Ohio, and the magnificent, neighboring Adena.

Among those at our table during lunch were some couples who enjoy line dancing ... oh, do they ever. Their enthusiasm was catching ... almost.

I say almost, because my early experience with dancing was ... well, catastrophic.

I must have been in fifth or sixth grade ... we were giving a demonstration of some kind of historic dance for a school assembly.

Afterward, I was thinking that it had gone fairly well. But then my partner complained that I had stepped on her toes ... several times, I believe she said.

I still blame that early, scarring experience for keeping me off the dance floor to this day. I can only hope that my partner in that early dance wasn't similarly scarred for life.

I suppose that first ... and last ... dance led me, eventually, to the writing of today's poem.

As those who know me will agree, I don't go toe-to-toe or nose-to-nose with anybody on any issue. It's not that I couldn't, or wouldn't ... nor that I haven't.

It's just that I've learned that it doesn't solve anything. Rather, it does create a new set of problems ... often far more serious than the original offense did.

I prefer, instead, to take my frustration, disappointment, and, yes, sometimes anger, to the keyboard, where I can work myself through to a better frame of mind.

Sometimes this results in something like:


I don't care

if you’ve gotrhythm

and grace galore,


don't dance on my toes.

I don't care

if you're wild as a daisy,

sweet as a rose,

just, please,

don't dance on my toes.

I don't care

if you're rich, smart,


and stuff like that -

don't dance on my toes.

'Cause, brother,

I've got troubles

and pain galore,

and I just

don't need any more.

© 2000

(originally published in Art Times)

And today's art? Oh, it was done by an artist friend of mine, Thomas, who also happens to be my - our - young grandson. He was visiting us, probably waiting patiently for the meal to begin, when inspiration struck. In addition to pieces like this, he also does great drawings ... and paintings ... he is, after all, my - our - grandson.


Today's word: scarred

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Call of the Mousse

It was one of those day trips that you take with a group of strangers.

You do some walking, some talking and gawking ... then comes the highlight, lunch ... if you're lucky it will be in some fancy place with big windows and a view of the city.

And so it was.

I don't remember many of the details, but I do remember the view of the city ... and the excitement when the dessert arrived. Of course, my doctor had recently put desserts (my favorite food group) on a forbidden list.

I could watch. Period. Oh, but I made some mental notes, jotted a few words on a scrap of paper later, when the bus was rolling toward home. That night it all came together in this little poem.

Then, after the usual polishing and tweaking ... patiently sending it out ... and waiting ... and waiting ... it was published.

Time has passed ... quite a bit of time ... but my mouth still waters a little as the memory is renewed.

And now ... on this morning after I've slept like a log ... awakened as hungry as a bear ... can't wait to get to the breakfast table ... the poem:


Fearing that my doctor

might instinctively know,

might be informed

by some skulking spy

in our midst, or that I might

blurt out a full confession

while sitting on his table,

I declined chocolate mousse

when it came crashing

through the underbrush

of after-lunch conversation,

and I sat silently, hungrily

watching while the other five

at my table devoured theirs,

particularly the lady

who, moments before,

had surrendered her fork

with the sad announcement

that she simply couldn’t

eat another bite.

© 2001

(originally published in Potpourri)

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Hechan ... er, Helen ... for those kind, kind remarks about "Chosen Words." You've got me jump-started toward another installment ... and I hope your day is going better now, too. Do take care. See ya.


Today's word: chocolate

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Beyond the Reach

Here it is, not even summer yet ... officially ... and I'm already thinking of autumn ... one of my favorite seasons ... actually, there are things I like about the other three, too.

I do like autumn, though. I like the cooler weather after summer's scorching days and stifling nights. I like the changing colors of the leaves. I look at them as only a struggling watercolorist might, wondering just how I might put them into a painting.

Sometimes I settle for a photograph, resolving to study it later, perhaps transform it into a painted interpretation of the scene.

Each season, of course, marks the passage of time ... each with its own characteristics registering that onward march.

Today's poem is about that onward march, with a focus on the seeming suddenness with which is sometimes occurs ... and that squirrel's nest "being parceled now by an autumn wind":


I had walked there last summer,

pausing almost daily to enjoy

the shade, little suspecting

a drama unfolding overhead.

Then, overnight, it seemed,

the maples shed their burnished

leaves, stood starkly splaying

nerve endings against the sky.

High in the branches of one,

a nest beyond the reach

of muttering traffic noises,

made with no special plan,

yet an ageless pattern marking

nursery, rec room, school, point

of departure for a another

curiosity-stoked generation

of squirrels, all of this being

parceled now by an autumn wind.

What a shame, I thought, a shame

to let the wind steal such work.

© 1997

(originally published in Block's Magazine)


Today's word: parceled

Monday, June 9, 2008

After Shopping

Chances are, if you've done any shopping at all, you've seen someone searching for their car. This poem is about that. It came to me on one of those hot summer days ... not a good time to do that kind of searching.

It seemed to me that the couple I had observed was confronted with a lot of choices, a lot of directions to go, among a whole sea of vehicles ... "oceans" occurred to me. I kept going with that metaphor, explained their predicament, then concluded by detailing my own problems ...

"Losing" your car like that isn't really funny ... until later. I know. Been there, done that.

I shared this poem one evening with an audience at an "open mike" program. The person who followed me to the microphone explained that cars are so hard to find after shopping, "because they all trade places while we're inside."

You know, I can almost believe that.

The poem, originally published in Capper's, now part of a collection entitled Strawberry Wine, in search of a publisher:


Oceans of vehicles

heave and settle

in the parking lot,

and a sea of traffic

goes shimmering

toward the horizon.

While she sails

steadily on,

gripping the tiller

of a wobbly cart,

he remains awash

in her wake, keys

dangling forlornly

from a finger.

They're looking,

looking, lost.

I'd like to tell

them not to despair,

but I have other

fish to fry: Celery

wilting, a cabbage

shaking its head,

potatoes rolling

their eyes over my

chances of ever

finding my own car,

the poor ice cream

beginning to beg me

for mouth-to-mouth


© 2006


Today's word: resuscitation

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Teeming Waters

Today's illustration is one of my photos ... a fuzzy little snapshot taken to preserve the moment ... I don't recall exactly where or when I snapped it ... but the tranquility of the scene appealed to me.

Teeming waters? Hardly.

The juxtaposition of the pair of ducks ... and the reflection of the large tree caught my eye.

I'm always intrigued by the ducks we encounter on our walks ... the ways they interact with each other ... and with us ... and the way the young tag along behind Mother, as though being tugged by an invisible string.

And trees? I'm not really a tree hugger, but I do like trees. They were so much of where I grew up ... so much of my early life ... and now, in my current stage, I am drawn more and more to their shade during my summer walks.

So it seemed a very natural combination for a photo ... and now, maybe a match with today's poem.

In it, I guess I'm saying that while I consider myself a painter of pictures with words ... the words I find here and there ... I don't really paint the BIG PICTURE.

Where word-pictures are concerned, I'm not a muralist. I stick to the small subjects I know ... and mostly just as an observer, at that, things I take note of as I stroll by.

I'm not a philosopher, sometimes not even a thoughtful observer.

But I do relish the little word-pictures that come to me in quiet moments. This one contains some of those.

The poem:


No ocean liners ply the waters

of my mind, no freighters,

and no reefers sitting low

with their burden of hefty ideas,

but smaller craft keep them

teeming, shadows following

in the shallows, crawling

the paths where pebbles lie

travel-rounded and waiting,

always waiting, for that poem.

© 1996

(originally published in ByLine)


Today's word: teeming

Oh ... and some of you already know this ... a new installment of "Squiggles & Giggles" has been posted. There's a link in the lefthand column which should take you directly there.

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Hi, Featheredpines ... and thanks for stopping by again. Sorry you're not feeling well. Do take care. Continued best wishes.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Staying at Haan's

Picture from Hometown

Today's poem grew out of an interlude Phyllis and I enjoyed in celebration of our golden wedding anniversary ... thanks to the generosity of our family ...

What a wonderful interlude it was. I don't want to spoil the moment by dissecting the poem ... please, just read it ... and I hope, as you do, you hear the gentle clop-clop-clop of those horses.

Originally published in Plainsongs:


It was as though we had escaped to another

age, back to a time before TV or radio,

when news came to us from ships gliding

surely, softly up to the gull-laden docks,

when bicycles roamed the streets carrying

stacks of luggage, a forgotten letter, a loaf

of freshly-baked bread, a time of lovers

pedaling slowly past, oblivious of all else.

It was a time in the embrace of silence

like it was meant to be, not even the distant

drone of engines, the clamoring of the hurried,

a silence through which the clop-clop-clop

of horses came drifting in the night, a lullaby

reassuring to those unaccustomed to such

an absolute absence of the clutter of noise.

© 2005


Today's word: interlude

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I'm glad you caught the mood of that interlude, Hechan ... and that it brought back memories ... mostly good, I hope ... for you. I know, from your comment, that the poem is working ... and what a great feeling that is. And I don't mind the word "nice" at all ... has a nice sound, I think ... and it has the feel of an electronic pat on the back. Felt good ... and I thank you for it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Running the Hurdles

First the photo. I had a new camera. Who hasn't fiddled with a new toy, trying to figure out how it works, without all the bother of reading a lot of boring, technical stuff?

I knew it had some kind of gizmo that would allow me to take my own picture, or appear in the photo with others, if I chose. But I wasn't exactly sure how it worked.

I pushed a few buttons and set the camera on a nearby shelf. I waited. I waited and waited. Nothing seemed to be happening. I decided to take a look to see what was wrong. At that instant, I heard a tiny z-z-z-z-zip, and I was recorded for posterity.

Blurred, but recorded.

The poem, I think, cries out for more poetic detail ... and more detail would call for more than its eight short lines could deliver.

The poem may, in fact, have been longer when it was first written ... but I was under the mistaken impression that Capper's only published eight-line poems.

So there you have it, two mistakes coming together to make today's offering:


Have you

ever noticed

how many more

things go wrong

when you're trying

to get away

early, or make up

for lost time?

© 1997


Today's word: gizmo

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Memory is such a part of poetry - whether of something seen or envisioned, whether long ago or just moments earlier. Memory plays its role.

In this instance, the memory was implanted so long ago I don't know exactly where or when I saw the sofa sitting on that front porch. It had to have been in my childhood, which would have placed it somewhere in a small town in Southern Illinois.

I remember how the light played across it, how I wondered what its story was, why it was sitting on that porch, neglected, but not really abandoned.

That image stayed with me, followed me, all these years until, finally, I put it to paper and, in doing that, gave it a life of its own. Perhaps it will now stir some memories for someone else, this old sofa "where so many secrets still lie ... "

The photo? It's a worm's eye view of some hyacinths I encountered while I was walking in Lincoln Park.

The poem:


Deep-purple couch sitting alone

in the darkness of the front porch,

lamplight threading a cracked

windowpane, settling like dust

across your back, cushions askew,

butt-sprung, cold, where suitors sat

enduring eternity, waiting, waiting

for that moment that never came,

where others, home from the wars,

found prickly refuge in your embrace,

slept nights away, bone-weary, safe,

where the sick found solace,

baby first slept, generations of cats

yawned, stretched, sank regal claws,

where so many secrets still lie

like lost coins, just beyond reach.

© 1998

(originally published in Potpourri)


Today's word:lamplight

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Helen ... though I'm a little late in finding your comment ... and quite late in responding to it ... you've made my day! I have a feeling that the poem and the photo meshed ... and that leaves me feeling good at the end of this day when things didn't go quite right. Many thanks.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Once, Perhaps

I've found it true that writing involves a lot of "stone gathering," a lot of writing that is ... well, just writing.

While that can be satisfying ... and I find that it's good activity ... it keeps my mind occupied ... keeps me from dwelling on things I needn't ... or shouldn't ... what is really rewarding is that piece of writing that has a certain quality about it ... has a gemlike quality.

Finding one of those ... or maybe two, if I'm really lucky ... is what keeps me going. And just keeping on keeping on can be important, too.

I keep looking for that subject ... that turn of phrase ... that word which will send images dancing across the ballroom of my mind.

I hope that your quest will bring a large share of those "gems" to you.

Meanwhile, the poem:


Of all the stones

we gather,

all the poems

we write,

once in a lifetime

there is one, perhaps,

that gathers light

as no other, juggles

it back aloft,

sends bright beams

dancing into the dark

that stretches

across the ballroom

of the mind.

© 1996

(originally published in ByLine Magazine)


Today's word: dancing

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Now They Offer

Story of my life.

I never thought I would end up walking as much as I do. At first it was a little difficult. Actually, quite difficult. When I first started trying, my goal was to walk to the corner ... and back. Then all the way around the block.

That was years ago, at the suggestion of my doctor, and with the encouragement of Phyllis, who became my daily walking companion.

And now I just walk, walk, walk.

The poem was written in those early years. I must admit that I was sometimes tempted to accept the offer of a ride from a neighbor or a friend. But I always managed to tell them, "Thanks ... I'm taking a walk." And kept on walking.

And now? Well, I can't remember the last time one of them actually offered me a ride, although they do sometimes slow, wave, and go on their way.

The poem:


Skinny years,

when I could've

used a ride,

nobody stopped.

Now that I'm

walking it off,

everybody slows

to offer a lift.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: everybody

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Magran, for stopping by again ... and I do hope, if that's your wish, that you're soon enjoying the luxury of walking ... I'm not a power walker ... never was, never will be ... but I do enjoy those strolls ... and I always listen to what my body is telling me, in regard to "speed" ... and distance ... time of day, etc. I have found it to be a very curative pursuit ... for those times that I'm out there ... or indoors someplace when the weather is bad ... I am completely immersed in my surroundings ... and nothing else matters. Also, many thanks for pointing out the problem you had in joining the "conversation" at "Squiggles and Giggles." Thanks to your persistence, your comment did make it through ... and I think I've found a solution for the problem.

Monday, June 2, 2008


"Chosen Words," which began in 2004, has welcomed more than 37,500 visitors, thanks to those who have taken a look ... and told others.

Without these "messengers" ... people telling other people ... the counter, elsewhere on the screen, would have moved hardly at all.

But it has, and that has been my inspiration, my impetus to continue, even on those days when I might prefer simply going with the flow.

I've gone through the ritual of selecting a poem for each day, thumbed through photos, drawings or other pieces of appropriate illustration ... and then undergone the sometimes-tedious process of putting them all together.

These elements have become my "light in the window," beckoning visitors to pause in their daily routines, to "stand in the shade a bit," to enjoy a few quiet moments, to listen to the murmur of words committed to paper, then to this new medium we're sharing.

I hope that when each visitor then resumes the journey, takes up the next task at hand, he or she is at least less burdened, if not inspired, for having paused here.

I hope these have been pleasant interludes for you. I appreciate your stopping by for a visit ... and I thank you for telling a friend about this place.

Thank you for making this a pleasant journey for me, too.

Today's poem:


Weary of the small,

murmuring fire

in the wood-burning

stove, I step outside

on a still, crisp night

to look at the stars.

Far overhead,

a flight of geese

moves slowly northward,

spreading the good news

to all who would hear

on this lonely night.

© 2000

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word: murmuring

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Hey, I LOVE that comment, Featheredpines ... I'm always delighted when something I've written strikes a responsive chord in the reader. Belated thanks for stopping by again.

Thank you, too, Southernmush ... for that generous comment ... I know I'm not deserving of such praise, but it's nice to know that what I write gets a good hearing from you ... and I really appreciate that electronic pat on the back. Continued best wishes.