Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Song

Eleven years ago, when I wrote today's poem, I had no idea I would still be writing in 2008 ... or even that there might still be "wisps of thought gathering softly in the valleys of my mind."

But I am, and there still are.

Writing, of course, is a gift. I view it not as a talent which few others have, but as a gift, because the words simply come, freely, to the patient writer ... all writers know this. When they are ready, the words will come ... showing themselves softly, perhaps, like a thistle drifting past, or like a blast entering through a door suddenly opened to it. But they will come.

Writing derives from other gifts, as well. The gift of time, for example. I have been given time to write, thanks to Phyllis, who allows me the quiet moments I need, who gives me the encouragement I crave, who is so patient and caring, so vital to me ... like the air I breathe.

Then there are the gifts of support, words of encouragement, advice, concern, from other family members, from friends and fellow writers, from editors who've liked my work, from those who listen attentively at readings.

These things make writing the greatest gift I can imagine receiving ... they keep making me feel "like a teakettle on the verge of song." And I thank you, one and all.

The poem:


Like a teakettle

on the verge of song,

I have endured

the silent years

and now give vent

to the poems welling,

willing themselves

into being.

My joy-filled song

is the scratch

of pencil on paper,

racing to catch

the wisps of thought

gathering softly

in the valleys

of my mind.

© 1997

(originally published in ByLine)


Today's word: verge

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lost in Thought

First of all, class ... before I forget ... Professor Squigglee wanted me to announce that a new installment of "Squiggles and Giggles" has been posted. There will be no test on the material, but you might want to take a look anyway (link in lefthand column).


I sometimes like to take a figurative statement and pursue it as though it were literally true ...

I remember a teacher who pointed out the mental images brought up by "catching a bus," for example, if taken as literally true ... likewise with "taking the plunge," "beating the bushes," etc.

In this case, I considered "lost in thought."

Literal pursuit of that concept takes us rushing down the winding path toward several improbable possibilities, all the way to the somewhat illogical conclusion. Or is it?

The poem:


If I were to become

lost in thought,

would I wander forever?

Would anybody notice

that I hadn't come

home for supper?

Would search parties

form sagging lines, go out

into the darkness,

beating the bushes

and calling my name?

Would I be

on the six o'clock news?

Would I ever

be myself again,

or would I return

as someone completely

different, a person

I have never met?

© 1999

(originally published in ByLine)


Today's word: literal

Friday, August 29, 2008

Into Warm Light

Those of us who write ... and there are a lot of us ... thank goodness ... know about obstacles.

My day ... and I'm sure yours, too ... is filled with little distractions, interruptions, barriers, hurdles which must be cleared, if I am going to have a few minutes that I can devote just to writing.

I must.

I have this burning need to write ... for myself, if nothing else ... possibly to share what I've written ... possibly to submit it to an editor who may ... or may not ... have time to give it a leisurely, thoughtful reading.

But finding time ... those few minutes for scrawling something on paper ... or, these days, sitting at the keyboard and watching the words as they appear across the screen ... is the problem ... a major problem.

Somehow we do find a few minutes to listen to those voices which beckon us ... and we do write ... and we do sometimes emerge, then, into the warm light of understanding.

The poem:


An afghan draped

on my legs, fingers

aching with cold,

fatigue slowing

the curl of letters

unspooling to become

words, I write

in a house gone quiet

except for random

creaks and groans,

the laboring clock,

going where voices

softly beckon me,

down the corridors

that eventually

widen out, opening

into the warm light

of understanding.

© 2001

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: understanding

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hungry Eyes Feasting

Quite often the art which accompanies my "Chosen Words" entry doesn't directly reflect the poem or the commentary.

But I thought today's photo, one of my "foggy mornings" collection, was fitting. It has a certain mysterious quality about it ... an eerie feeling that ... well, something is about to happen.

I don't want to frighten anybody, but I do want to set the stage for the suspense which the poem may convey. I'm looking at the photo now, trying to remember exactly where and when it was taken, but that apparently has gotten lost in my own early morning fog.

Let's just say that I snapped it while out on one of my morning walks, camera always ready, sketchpad in the small backpack that I sometimes lug along.

As to the poem: Here we go again, eh? Maybe it's my age ... or maybe it's just that I feel certain poems ... like a snatch of a favorite tune ... or a favorite phrase ... can bear repeating.

Sometimes repetition doesn't hurt ... it may even help ... like a second glimpse of something, in which you see some detail you missed before.

But enough of alibis.

This is one of my dream poems. No, I'm not saying it approaches perfection ... not in any respect. It's a poem about one of my dreams.

It seemed so real to me because it took place in familiar surroundings, much of it in my home neighborhood. The familiar went streaming through my sleep, in one of those dreams which seems to go forever.

I thought it would never end ... especially when it took the mysterious, sinister overtones of my feeling that, although I was on a deserted street, I was being watched.

Usually I wake up, the dream bubble bursts, and that's that.

Not this time.

I reached immediately for that pad and pen which are always nearby, just in case. I'm glad I put down some of those images before they got away from me.

This poem went on to become published in Waterways:


Awash in the buzz and crackle wafting from

The Hillside Tavern’s enchanted neon signs,

I wake to the sound of nothing in my room,

Find the aching cold of yesterday's shoes,

Then, exploring the hall's echoing darkness,

Hear the ticking clock, the click of the lock

Before I go strolling past houses haunted

By the absence of dreams, empty windows

Staring back, thousands of broken promises

That will not be mended - not this night;

Slowly I march to the song of something

I can almost hear, feel its hungry eyes

Feasting on me, sense its crouching, tensing,

Preparing to pounce, and I dare not scream.

© 2005


Today's word: feasting

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Ooooooo ... You're right, Kelly ... it does sound like Halloween. I hadn't thought of that when I wrote it, but it does, now that you mention it. Another example of the reader providing a new dimension to a piece of writing. And I thank you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gently Falling

It was a quiet, rainy evening, and I had been working at the computer in the attic (not as primitive as it may sound ... it's a finished attic space, carpeted, well-lighted ... I also call it "my studio" now).

I leaned back in my chair ... trying to decide whether to tackle just one more task ... or call it a day.

It was then I noticed that a gentle rain had begun. I could see the tiny droplets speckling the skylight, gathering, beginning to trickle down the slope.

Something about that scene brought the word "weeping" to mind. I just had to write that phrase down. There followed others ... the thought that rain sometimes is sometimes soothing, but that it can also elicit feelings of loneliness.

The poem started out in the direction of loneliness, sadness, but took a rather abrupt turn at the end with the question: "Or is it joy?" ... and my implied answer then was definitely in the direction of joy. It still is. Most definitely. Joy.

Now, the poem:


The rain

comes weeping

to the pane,

early few drops

catching late light,

pearly beads


down the glass

in remembrance

of some loss

long forgotten.

Or is it joy?

© 1997, 2003

(originally published in The Christian Science Monitor; subsequently included in my first published collection, Chance of Rain, Finishing Line Press, 2003)


Today's word: joy

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I'm sorry you're having computer problems, Helen, and I hope they're cleared up soon. I've enjoyed ... and needed ... those electronic pats on the back that you've provided. I do appreciate the feedback you've given ... the perspective and insight you bring with your reading of my postings. Thanks for making that extra effort ... It's good to know that you're not hiding out ... and haven't given up on "Chosen Words." Continued best wishes.

Thanks for dropping by, Kelly ... for your "late night/early morning poetry fix." As we say, "Chosen Words" ... er, the Late Night Poetry Cafe ... never closes ... and there's always a seat available near a window, or within reach of the coffee pot ... and ... it's always good to hear your voice amid the quiet conversations which take place here. (I spend a lot of time in my attic studio savoring them.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Falling to Zero

No, it hasn't snowed in Ohio ... not yet. But the temperatures did drop overnight here ... to a delicious, blanket-clutching briskness somewhere in the fifties overnight ... and when I woke up, feeling rested and a bit chilly, today's poem came to mind.

It had been one of those days. The snow had finally stopped, and, although we had no particular place to go that day, it seemed a good idea to clear the driveway, in case we did need to get out.

It was one of those heavy, wet snows which follows freezing rain. Deep. Too deep for our small snow blower to be very effective. Too heavy for piling many shovels full beside the driveway before pausing to catch our breaths.

Yes, I had help. Thank goodness, I had help.

And it was good to have company that evening as visions of all that ice and snow swept over us ... and we simply closed our eyes and enjoyed the fire.

Originally published in Capper's, now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher:


We’ve spent the day

shoveling the drive,

freeing all those

ice-encrusted bricks

we’d carefully laid

in the steamiest

of months. The car

is fueled, waiting

for just the turn

of the key,

while the mercury

falls rapidly

to nothing, maybe

less. But we won’t

be going out; we’re

sitting, roasting

our shins while

the fire crackles

and leaps.

© 2001


Today's word: shoveling

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Sue, for that warm response to the poem ... and the photo. I'm glad you enjoyed both. And Kettering, Ohio! That makes us neighbors, practically ... what a great surprise! You've no doubt heard of Dayton, where Brimm Manor is located. As a matter of fact, you may already have seen The Little Red Car, of "Squiggles & Giggles" fame, bouncing along, trying to stay out of trouble.

Good luck, Helen, as you keep an eye on Gustav to see what he's going to do. I would imagine that I would miss the "changing of the guard" as the seasons come and go ... if I were living in Florida ... but I would definitely NOT miss the shoveling that comes with winter weather in Ohio. And Massachusetts? I can just imagine that a much larger wintertime shovel would be required there.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Early Writer

How do I select the poems I post on "Chosen Words"?

I suppose the question brings up an image of a blindfold ... a pointer, perhaps ...

Sometimes it is left to chance ... but there are times that a poem is selected with some forethought ... a tiny bit of that, admittedly ... but forethought, nonetheless.

Today, for example, I'm obviously running behind my normal schedule of an early posting. Just disorganized, I think ... a carryover, I suppose, of following my own advice from yesterday.

But here I am ... with a poem selected with real intent ... because of what I perceive as a slight touch of irony in the timing.

Please read on.

I write any time I can, but I've found mornings best, before other details of the day ... yesterday's unfinished chores, today's agenda ... begin pressing in.

Still, I'm not naturally a morning person.

I don't spring out of bed singing and laughing and dancing. I'm not a total grump either. It's just that I'm not fully wound at that time of the day, as evidenced by this little poem ... which is, itself, further evidence of why I don't write much rhyme, and perhaps shouldn't.

But here's the poem:


Up at the crack of dawn

After a restless night,

Sleeves rolled up, thinking cap on.

The time has come to write.

Outline great, title gold,

The rest should be a snap,

But I feel vaguely old,

Like I should take a nap.

Still, I grope for the keys,

Get set to take the leap.

One moment, if you please:

My brain is still asleep.

© 1999

(originally published in PKA's Advocate)


Today's word: asleep

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Morning has never been the best part of the day for me, Helen. Oh, there were a few exceptions ... I have enjoyed some sunrises, here and there along the way. But I just don't get in gear until later in the day. Then I start waking up ... seeing things more clearly ... start actually functioning as a thinking being ... and then I quickly check to see what I wrote ... and posted. And sometimes ... well, sometimes I do a little needed tweaking. Story of my life. But, as I say, "Chosen Words" never closes ... you're welcome to drop by any time ... so please do.

Oh, Hopper, one of my favorite artists, Kelly ... and a favorite painting, too. And you're right about "Chosen Words" being open 24/7. I used to say that "management never sleeps" ... not entirely true. I'm not sure I would be categorized as "management" ... but I do sleep. And Professor Squigglee ... well, I understand that he nods off at times, too. But "Chosen Words"? There's always a light in the window ... and the welcome mat's out.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Detour - Expect Delays

Today's offering is obviously a summer poem, but it represents a "philosophy" ... an outlook ... which can be adopted almost any day of the year.

I think it was written on just one of those lazy, hazy, steamy days when I felt the backlog was secure ... no danger of avalanche, at least for the moment ... more important things, those pressing chores from day before yesterday ... and beyond ... could just wait their turn.

I think it's OK to do that sometimes ... to take time to look up from our everyday chores to see what's happening all around us ... the hollyhocks ... the cardinal ... the sunflowers.

Of course, the backlog will still be waiting ... but we can then approach it with the feeling that we're a little more evenly matched now. Try it. It works.

The poem:


I have chores

to do, but it's such

a distracting day,

hollyhocks cupping

morning sunlight,

a cardinal swaying

in the evergreen,

a jury of sunflowers

eyeing me suspiciously,

as well they might,

for I, too, may just

follow the sun

the rest of the day.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: backlog

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Always good to know that I've gotten somebody's day off to a little better start than it might have been otherwise, Helen. I do hope you were able to enjoy following the sun. Just beingout of the influence of Fay should help, too. Best wishes.

Coffee in the thermos, and off to the park ... sounds good to me, Kelly ... and I hope there were no twinges of conscience as you gave yourself this interlude in the park with a book. I've learned that the stacks of paperwork may teeter a bit ... but they'll wait, at least for another day ... and I hope what I started was a good thing. Good luck.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ceiling Monster

A summer poem? What else, in this simmering summer weather we're having now in Ohio?

We're no doubt making up for those unseasonably cool days we enjoyed ... while hoping they would last forever ... earlier this summer.

So, simmer -- er, summer, it is.

And, today, it's a summer poem ...

Oh, how many times this has happened to me ... I settle into my favorite chair, pick up a book ... or a magazine ... and lean back. Next thing I know, I'm waking up again.

But this time, at least, I got a poem out of it:


Five blades embrace

heavy summer air

while four globes stare

at a pair of strings,

slender, descending

like spiders seeking

new worlds to claim,

and my eyelids flutter,

fighting against sleep,

for I have sat down

intending only to read

a few paragraphs,

but find I'm slipping

now, glasses off, my book

slowly rising, falling

as it rests on my chest,

both of us helpless

against that monster

whirring, soothing,

cooling, hypnotizing

us in the afternoon.

© 1998

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: hypnotizing

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I couldn't help noticing the time at which you posted your comment, Featheredpines, and I would say, if the ceiling monster were available to travel, yes, we'll dispatch it right away. On the otherhand, maybe my poetry will help to send you sliding into the arms of sleep.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beach Music

I grew up far from the ocean ... any ocean ... so the one time that I got to walk on a real ocean beach was ... to put it mildly ... a most memorable occasion.

Oh, I had glimpsed the ocean at the movies ... in books or magazines ... but never the real thing.

I think I was most impressed, when a face-to-face meeting finally came, with the immensity of it ... its power ... its beauty ... its music.

I tried to get some of that music in this little poem:


Waves come tumbling

onto the docile shore,

flinging foamy fingers

across the ochre plane.

Teeming with bubbles,

they search and settle,

soothingly diminuendo,

on a healing chord.

Eliciting a sigh

from pliant, sandy keys,

the fingers slide off

into the lap of the sea,

where joyous whitecaps

merrily urge them,

jostle and encourage them

to play it all again.

© 1998

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


Today's word: joyous

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for that kind comment.

Sort of a "luck of the draw" today, Kelly, but I'm glad you liked the combination ... and "this little jaunt."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

At the Flower Show

I missed it this year ... I hope to be there next year ... but last year? Oh, then I relished a sampling of subjects at Sinclair Community College. Did I ever!

I'm not good at estimating crowds, but I'd guess there were about 200 of us ... older, seasoned students ... who delved into such areas as writing, art, the internet ... and more practical subjects, too, like finances and health.

It was a great afternoon spent in the cave-cool surroundings of the school.

I knew it was going to be hot when I emerged and headed for my bus stop afterward ... but I wasn't quite prepared for the mid-90s which greeted me.

I wilted. Almost immediately. While I was trudging down the street with my packet of goodies from the conference, I couldn't help thinking about another time that I had wilted.

Because of the grandmother who always raised flowers ... and reared me ... I have always had a certain connection with blossoms.

There is just something about being in the company of flowers ... the memories they stir with their scents, their color.

"At the Flower Show" is about one of those special occasions, a gathering of flowers ... and people ... a flower show.

But it's not so much about the flowers. I felt that my collection of words, picked up here and there along the way, would be inadequate to describe the flowers.

Ah, but the people. I was one of them. I could jot down something about the experience of being at a flower show. It would be something to remind me of that sunny day, that beautiful setting ... the realities of being there.

Of course, I couldn't resist the temptation to compare the visitors to flowers themselves.

The poem:


Visitors blossom in bright lines

when day begins, but start wilting

under the sun, and throngs

slowly surrender, settling

like long rows of potted plants

along the wooden benches.

© 1999

(originally published in Sisters Today)


Today's word: wilting

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Sue, for stopping by again ... and for those cool thoughts on this summer day!

Thank you, Helen, for stirring memories for me with your mention of Forest Park and the Jewel Box ... I remember making visits there ... as an adult, and what happy occasions they were. I also recall the heat in St. Louis, the first time I was there ... a brief layover on the way to basic training at San Antonio, many, many Augusts ago.

Oh, you got that right, Kelly ... HOT and steamy ... steamy and HOT. About the paintings ... I keep intending to take photos of more of them so I can post them ... but other things seem to keep getting in the way ... things like finding a cool place to walk (even the shade-to-shade hikes have lost some of their appeal) ... sudden need for another nap, etc. ... but one of these days ... oh, one of these days I'm going to become so organized ...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Waiting to Play

Picture from Hometown

This is another "walking" poem.

I had no idea, when I took up walking as a regular, daily pursuit, that it would also lead to poetry ... or at least fragments of thought that might become something akin to poetry.

But there's something about the rhythm, the cadence of walking, that seems to stimulate words and phrases.

When this happens, I try to keep them in mind until I get home ... where I used to sit at the kitchen table while I jotted them down to share with Phyllis later. Now I usually head to the computer.

In this case a scattering of leaves on the sidewalk caught my attention. It struck me that they looked like colorful, broken pieces ... how the sunlight danced across them ... and some of them seemed to come to life when a breeze came gliding through.

From there it was just a short leap to imagining that the leaves were really waiting for children to come out to play with them.

Those images turned into this little poem:


The leaves lie

like broken pieces

of fine porcelain,

catching sunlight

in the autumn quiet,

stirring slightly

as a breeze comes

gliding through,

but mostly they’re

waiting for children

to come romping out

to play with them.

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: romping

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Sue, for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm glad, of course, that you liked the poem ... and my photo of the wooded path. It's on one of my favorite walking routes, so you'll find me dragging it out occasionally, even when it doesn't match the poem exactly.

Thanks, Helen. I'm always delighted to provide something to jumpstart readers' thoughts ... even though I've been making my postings a little later these days, so I can sleep in and enjoy the cool mornings we've been having.

And thank you, Kelly, for that comment. Childhood memories, I've found, can, indeed, be soothing, healing. Best wishes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tulsa or Bust

Picture from Hometown

I've written about finding a broken pencil with only a few words left in it ... the frantic search for a scrap of paper ... any tiny piece will do ... to write down an idea before it flits away ... the hurdles, the barriers, the great feeling of success. All about writing.

It's not that I consider myself an expert on writing. Far from it. I continue to be mystified by the process ... curious about how ... and why ... poems sometimes come sneaking up on me ... but not baffled ... no, I would not say baffled ... not completely, any way.

"Tulsa or Bust" is also about a writing.

As you may note, writing about writing sometimes takes some strange turns on the road to completion and eventual publication, in this instance in ByLine Magazine:


The paper's dry,

drier than

my driest poems,


to shatter,

turn to dust,

so I must write

quickly, softly,


choosing only

fluffy, light

subjects like

a "Wash Me"

written large

on the back

of a truck


toward Tulsa.

© 1999


Today's word: lumbering

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Oh, thank you, Helen ... but know what I always say: So much depends on what the reader brings to the poem ... I guess I could add, and what the watercolor painter brings to the paper. I like those "happy accidents" which sometimes occur ... and appreciate the other kind, too, for what they teach me about the ever-challenging pursuit.

And thanks, Kelly, for "ephemeral" ... which, I suppose, could've been today's word.

Monday, August 18, 2008

September Shoes

I don't know if children still go barefoot all summer like I did.

Oh, to the beach certainly, to the pool, a little bit around the house ... but across the steaming fields? Through clover alive with bees? Across nettles and other dreaded stickers? Into town, walking all the way there (how else?) and all the way back?

I don't think so. Children today are protected in so many ways from so many things. I sometimes think it's a bit of a shame that they don't have the same freedoms we did. But it's a different world now ...

Perhaps it's just as well that they don't know the quiet agony of adjusting to shoes ... new shoes, at that ... after a summer of complete freedom ... for their feet, at least.

Excuse me, please ... I think my toes are starting to wiggle again.

The poem:


How hot the shoes

were each September,

recapturing feet

that had run unshod

all summer, celebrating

freedoms of childhood.

Even now the memories

make my toes wiggle.

© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: wiggle

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

There's just something about going barefoot, Kelly. Our feet never seem to forget those early sensations, the adaptation during the beginning of summer, the feeling of "confinement" when it ends and school resumes. I can understand, though, with all those obstacles in your neck of the woods, why youngsters ... of all ages ... have to forgo the luxury.

Actually, Helen, I hadn't noticed. But Professor Squigglee was peering over his glasses again, as though his radar had picked up something in your direction, so I'm not really surprised that you're padding around in sheer comfort.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Renewable Glue

Someone, a person I'd never seen before ... likely would never see again ... had paused, held the door, and motioned for me to enter ahead of them.

I thanked them and walked on in.

Big deal. A few minutes later, when I was leaving the store, I had already forgotten about this small act of thoughtfulness, but I paused, held the door for the person behind me, then strode off to my car.

That's when I started thinking about these small acts of kindness that we bestow -- or withhold -- as we go about our daily routines.

How easily they become a part of our lives. Or how easily they are forgotten, neglected in our rush to get to the next red light ahead of everybody else.

They are such simple things, so easily given. They cost us nothing, yet have the potential of great dividends. What fragile threads they are, holding together the fabric of this thing we call civilization.

They are the "renewable glue" that holds us together, these little gifts we bestow on others, whether at the door, in the checkout line, or out there in the jungle that we call traffic.

What does it cost us to let someone else go ahead?

As in the simplest childhood game, we'll "get our turn." Meanwhile, we've done a good turn, no matter that it's almost unnoticeable, for someone else. They may then do a good turn for someone else.

It has the potential for going on and on, this "renewable glue." It might even work on a larger scale than just person-to-person.

End of sermon ... and now the poem:


An act of kindness,

a nod, a smile,

the door held open --

gifts easily bestowed,

yet vital as droplets

of renewable glue

keeping civilization

from falling apart.

© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: renewable

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Strange how ... and where ... poems sometimes reveal themselves to a person.

As I recall, I was sitting in the car in front of a Post Office, waiting for Phyllis to go in, mail a letter, and return.

I noticed the reflections of the vehicles going by on the street behind me ... how the warped window made them appear to be leaping ... like horses or hunting hounds ... bounding over a hedge.

I thought about reflections I had seen in store windows in my home town ... and of one window, in particular, on one of my last visits there. That store was now vacant. Oh, the memories I had of that little country store!

Then the poem started asserting itself ... I reached for a scrap of paper ... always waiting in a handy pocket ... and began writing.

The poem:


The cars change shape

as they come and go

in the warped window glass

of a store that once was,

dusty now, this begrimed

keeper of secrets,

these windows that

have seen it all

in this small town: deaths,

funerals, weddings, births,

departures of its young

who sometimes come back,

stand beside a grave,

listen to an acorn falling,

slow ticking of eternity.

© 2007

(originally published in Waterways, Vol. 28, #5, 2007)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Old Dog Asleep

Sorry, I'm running a little behind schedule this morning ... and I hope you won't mind a "summer re-run." (Just one of those days when things start out slowly ... and keep plodding on):

It was our neighbor's dog, "Houdini," who inspired today's poem. "Houdini" enjoyed lying in the back yard, belly to the sun, dreaming, no doubt, of some great escapades ... or of being suddenly nose-to-nose with a wandering raccoon ... or of catching the squirrels stealing food.

Or perhaps only soaking up the sun.

But it was "Houdini" who set in motion a series of memories of my own canine pals from my growing-up years. They enjoyed the sun, too. They also enjoyed exploring the hills around my boyhood home, and they were always ready to head out on some new adventure with me.

Sometimes, though, they were tired. At my approaching footsteps, the head would be lifted slightly, I would receive a look of recognition, the tail would thump-thump-thump a few times on the ground, and the head would be lowered again to sleeping position, presumably to pick up the loose threads of some interrupted dream.

I still miss those early companions.

I miss "Houdini," too. Always the good neighbor, "Houdini" only barked at me once ... when the family was moving in next door. A quiet word from the owner, and that was that. I couldn't help admiring that kind of restraint. I'm sure there were times ... in all those years that we co-existed ... when I must have deserved a good barking at.

And the picture? Sorry, but I don't have a photo of "Houdini." Instead, today we share a photo of shadows ... a subject that I find intriguing ... restful ... soothing. Thank you for stopping by.

"Houdini," this one is for you:


Sprawled like a tired

old tree toppled against

the slope of the hill,

your belly soaking up

afternoon sun, tail wilted

to earth, ear twitching,

plucking at the sound

of my footsteps; what

memories we share,

old pal, how alike, now,

our dreams must be.

© 1998

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word: toppled

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Milk-Soft Call

Usually, when I'm engaged in coversation ... or just sitting quietly with my own thoughts ... the words come together, clickety-clack ... well, usually with these pauses which have been a lifelong presence in my speech pattern ... but, otherwise, with virtually no effort at all.

But there are times that it takes some searching.

Like the time that I became acutely aware of a dove's call. Oh, I had heard doves many times before, had savored the softness of their calls. But this time, for some reason ... or perhaps no reason at all ... I wanted to find the words to describe what it was really like.

I remember searching ... for the precise words ... the ones which would help me to preserve that particular moment ... words which would help me to "say the unsayable" ... about that distinct sound floating to my ears ... carrying a certain air of mystery about it.

It's so unlike other bird calls, so soothing, so ... well, so milk-soft.

That's it! I decided that's the term I've been looking for, and I walked on into the woods, hoping I would remember to try putting it in a poem someday.

The result:


I pause where

tall swaying trees

verge the meadow,

billowing their

thick green

clouds of leaves,

for a stirring

liquid breeze

has carried to me

the milk-soft call

of a dove,

and I am seized

for that moment

in an amber block

of tranquility.

© 1997

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word: tranquility

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lattes for Two

Each of my poems has a past life. Sometimes that background is quite complicated ... though the poems are usually pretty straightforward ... ordinary subjects presented with few adornments.

This one, I suppose, might be considered as having a "complicated" earlier life. I'll try to present the short version.

When I started painting, I simply started painting. It was later that I decided it wouldn't hurt to have a few lessons ... maybe a lot of lessons ... but that's another story.

When I started writing poetry, it was much the same. Eventually, I signed up for a class.

Needless to say, I was an older student ... THE oldest, even counting the instructor. The class was very accepting of me, though, and I really enjoyed it.

Among those with whom I became acquainted was a young student who worked part-time in a coffee shop. Possibly because I reminded her of her grandfather, she one day gave me a couple of coupons for free coffees.

Phyllis and I couldn't resist. We were soon sitting under the umbrellas, sipping our coffees ... er, lattes. It was the first latte I had ever had. I found it rather nice ... inspiring, in fact.

The rest is history, as they say. The poem:


We're sipping vanilla lattes while sitting

beneath the umbrellas outside the coffee shop,

enjoying the soothing warmth of the cups

against our hands, the coffee sweet and gentle,

not aggressive, as it can sometimes be.

In my coffee and cigarette days, I slugged down

many a cup, always automatically topping off

after absently stubbing out another butt

and lighting up again, phones ringing, nerves

jangling, my paradigm of perpetual dependence.

But I've grown independent of such things,

an enforced laying to rest of my worst habits

in these years of summing up, a slow falling away

from a tendency to overindulge in so many

things that cheered me up or calmed me down.

Until today. Lured inside by the tempting offer

of a sample, I've wavered, weakened, lifted the cup

again, and after a few tentative sips to make sure

my taste buds weren't playing tricks on me, I think

I might be hooked, feel myself being reeled in.

Oh, if Eve had only suggested a hot, sweet latte

back then, what a different world this might be.

© 2005

(part of a my third collection, Wood Smoke, being issued this year by Finishing Line Press. To visit the Finishing Line Press site, please click here:

... then click on their "New Releases and Forthcoming Titles" link ... and scroll down until you see my name and the Wood Smoke listing. Thank you for taking a look.)


Today's word: hooked

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ice-Cold Memories

I don't know if the weather is becoming more extreme ... or if I am becoming more sensitive to changes ... or it's all my imagination.

I'm sure of one thing, though, today's poem was written in the middle of one of those sizzling summer months when the pavement starts turning to goo and thoughts turn to the prospect of frying an egg on the sidewalk.

And I know this, too, I was looking for ways of surviving.

Ice-cold memories, pressed to the sizzling brow, may not be the answer, but I think they help.

At least the thought of that possibility produced a poem:


In the root cellar

of my mind

I have memories

of last winter

lying on the shelves

to help me survive

these front-burner

days of summer.

I shall pull them out

one by one, to press

to my sizzling brow,

daily hoping that

I have stored enough

to carry me through

until autumn

comes galloping up.

© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)


Today's word: sizzling

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sliding Into Third

Don't worry.

I'm not about to slide into third base ... or even run the bases, for that matter. Not even slowly.

Still, there's the imagination which is stirred by the warm spring breezes, the proximity of a playing field, the sun on my back.

The possibilities ... and even that is a stretch, too ... are interesting.

If I were really to try it, I can imagine that I might have to call time out ... if and when I reached first base. From there it would be rapidly (or slowly, perhaps) downhill.

I can just see myself going into that slide ... sliding ... and sliding short of the bag ... just lying there like a bag of potatoes.

No thank you. I'll stick to the poetic possibilities ... thank you very much ... as opposed to the reality of these tired old legs.

But, for now, the poem has legs:



when I’m walking past

the empty field,

I’m tempted

to go legging it

around the base paths,

sliding into third,

maybe stealing home,

but then I think

about getting caught

in a run-down

between second

and third, cut down

trying to extend

a beseeching leg

to hook the refuge

of that dusty bag,

and the vision

of that humiliation,

the disgrace of being

the winning run

tagged out, finished,

game over, is more

than I can chance.

Still, on one of my

better days,

I just might try it.

© 2000

(originally published in Potpourri)


Today's word: beseeching

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Picture from Hometown

My earliest memories include family reunions ... noisy gatherings, it seemed to me, as people hugged, slapped each other on the back, stood around trading stories ... then there was the food, acres of it, it seemed ... and the bees or yellowjackets who always seemed to know where to find us.

I was puzzled in those early years. I couldn't understand how all these people ... most of them absolute strangers to me ... could possibly know each other ... how they could all be part of the same family.

With time and understanding of that came. I also came to know ... and need ... that annual gathering of family ... that renewal of links to others ... the mending of neglected fences ... the promises of "same time next year."

Unfortunately, some were destined not to make it to the next reunion ... but they would be remembered as remaining members of the family gathered once more.

I don't know if family still maintain the "reunion" practice. I hope the do. In my case, though, I've become a dropout, of necessity, since my driving ... all kind of travel, in fact ... is almost entirely local.

But I have my memories of those gatherings ... kept like pressed flowers in the pages of a favorite book. I look at them, one by one, on occasion, and remember ... oh, how I remember ...

The poem:


Like worn pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,

we came back together, sliding

into place at that agreed-upon time

in the room provided for us, drawn

by the prospect of a field-hands meal,

the sound of children pattering

and laughing, the clatter and fury

of games, hum of quiet conversations,

memories burnished by renewed handling,

but mostly drawn back to this place

by that strongest pull, family.

It was not as easy as it once was,

this coming back together, but we did

come back from our scattered places

to be near that place where we began

our journeys along a single path,

then diverged as circumstances and

choices led us away, coming back now

to cross paths for this day, at least.

It was a day for remembering those

pieces missing from the puzzle, a day

for savoring the picture we still make

by our presence, a day for a few tears

as we touched scars of old wounds,

a day given over to hugs and handshakes,

welcomings and lingering farewells,

a bittersweet, pressed-flower day,

this coming home, this healing.




Today's word: remembering

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you so much, Helen. I'm always pleased to receive an electronic pat on the back, of course ... but I'm doubly rewarded when a reader adds dimension to my posting with comments that serve as a sounding board ... an amplifier ... of the heartbeats of the poem.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Quiet Nights at Fuzzy's

Fuzzy's was a real place in my hometown. It still is, as far as I know ... Fuzzy's Tavern.

I was never inside, but I was always intrigued by the swinging doors, just like in the movies, and by the mixture of sounds ... music and voices ... and those alien smells, a mixture of smoke and booze, I suppose, which came flowing out onto the street.

Fuzzy's is among my earliest memories of my hometown. I recall how Grandma would take my hand and guide me past.

As I say, I've never actually been inside Fuzzy's, so "Quiet Nights ..." is a product of a combindation of early memories and my imagination. Oh, how that always enhances the memories.

When I wrote this poem, I imagined how it would have been to have followed the smoke as it drifted slowly through ... like a movie camera taking it all in ... then out the screened back door, out into that darkness "teeming with crickets and stars."

Someday I may go back to that little town where my life began.

I'll go strolling down the east side of Main Street and, though I may feel that Grandma is still watching over where I go and what I do, I may venture inside to see what it's really like.

Then again, I might just go strolling on by, like when Grandma led me past. I'd kinda hate to learn that it isn't anything like I imagined it to be.

The poem:


A lazy blue haze wove its way through

a tide of voices rising against

the solemn blare of the jukebox,

curled past booths lining the walls

like dark coffins, crawled into the dim

light hanging forlorn, discontented,

at a tattered table where the deliberate

clack and roll of spheres marked

the ebb and flow of local riches,

back where lonely drinkers got serious

in the grips of sweaty brown

bottles, washing themselves beyond

remembering the din of summer rain

on the tin roof, beyond even caring

about fighting, then the smoke seeped

out the screened back door, off,

night after night, into a darkness

teeming with crickets and stars.

© 1999

(second-place award winner in a Dayton Metro Library literary contest, and now part of a manuscript, a work in progress)


Today's word: memories

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thanks, Kelly~ ... I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to "Squiggles & Giggles" and will drop by again. I think you'll find us a friendly crowd ... and Professor Squigglee isn't nearly as gruff as he appears sometimes. He does peer over his glasses at people, but he ... so far ... hasn't given any tests on the material we've covered ... and I like that. I like that a lot.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Moment

Memories. We can't live in the past, of course, but memories can help to make the going easier in the present.

Today's poem is based on earliest memory.

I find it hard to believe that I'm going all the way back to the cradle in recalling my mother's words ... not the specific words, but the memory of the sounds, enhanced, perhaps, by the distance, the years since I heard them.

Or I may just be imagining it all, the product of my wanting to "hear" them.

When I was about two years old, I went to live with my grandparents, who reared me to adulthood. My contact with my mother was limited after that.

It would be natural for me to have more memories of my grandparents than my mother. Still, there is that connection, that need to go back as far as I can to those earliest days.

It's a wistful poem, a semi-dream poem. And I found a certain healing in the writing of it, a certain comfort in reading it again this morning. It was originally published in Capper's:


In the moment

between sleeping

and waking,

when morning light

drifts strangely

through the trees

and sounds seem

borne aloft

by distant voices,

my mother’s words

come curling back

like wood smoke

on a rainy night,

and I am comforted

by that memory.

© 2001


Today's word:


Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen, for those kind words about the poem. Even more mysterious than the workings of poems which seem to present themselves to me are the workings of memory. I find great comfort in both.

I'm delighted that you discovered "Chosen Words," Kelly~ ... and left that comment ... I like the thought that looking back on memories helps heal the heart. I might also suggest ... if you have a few minutes ... that you take a side trip to "Squiggles & Giggles." A new installment has just been posted, with a recording of my reading of "Building Poems" ... and there's a link in the lefthand column.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Loss of a Tree

Long-time visitors to "Chosen Words" may recall having seen today's poem before ... way back in 2005.

At that time it was ... as are many of my poems ... part of a manuscript in search of a publisher. Well, it has found a publisher ... or a publisher has found it, I suppose.

"Loss of a Tree" is in a small collection, Wood Smoke, which is scheduled for publication by Finishing Line Press (remember Chance of Rain and Hollyhocks?) later this year.

So, this is not really a summer re-run ... though I suppose it could be considered that ... but a sampling of things to come.

The poem:


Streets, the inexorable ooze of cities,

were already there when you arrived

to be ritually planted as recompense

for what had been stolen from the land.

Thus began life among strangers, thirst

of confinement, trimmings when you

reached for wires, the salt-laden spray

of passing cars, signs tacked to your

trunk, bark-scarring injury from a van

run amok. Despite abuse, neglect, you grew

through recession, depression, ebb and flow

of fashion, through those times called

war, interludes known as peace. You grew

over the curb, began upending sidewalk,

but provided shade for strollers, let fall

showers of crinkled leaves for children

to go kicking through. Finally, when winds

tried to break you, but, failing that,

uprooted you with a horrible groan, you

took with you an anachronistic jumble

of flashing trolley wires and lay, silent

and dying in the street, waiting for crews

to gather you up, truck you away, leaving

only your winged seed, scattered and golden.



(from Wood Smoke, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press)


Today's word:


Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Helen. I'm glad you liked the poem. As for Wood Smoke, I think I caught a wisp of it on the horizon just a little while ago ... so please stay tuned. Best to you, too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's Only Darkness

Sometimes I think it's best just to let the poem speak for itself. This is one of those times ... although I'm tempted to say something about so-called Daylight Saving Time ...

I always have a comment or two ... mainly to myself ... as I make the rounds ... twice a year ... setting the clocks back ... or forward ... and back ... then forward ... no, back ...

My usual thought is ... why do we have to fiddle with the clocks? Why, if we're so intent on "saving time" ... can't we just adjust our work schedules ... to have a work schedule for the summer months ... another schedule for the rest of the year?

Wouldn't that work just as well? Or would we not be able to remember ... Oh, now I report in at seven, instead of eight ... ?

I usually end up commenting ... to myself ... that it's all just a ruse to provide farmers with more time to play golf in the afternoons (and I'm kidding about that, kidding!).

Don't get me wrong ... I'm all for saving energy ... especially when it's costing us all an arm and a leg ...

But I'm not going there today ... because ... well, actually, the poem isn't about Daylight Saving Time ...

The poem:


There's such an absence

of light this morning,

it's like scaling a wall

of darkness as I rise

slowly on familiar stairs.

My feet seek supporting

places, my hand searches

for a railing I know

is there, but still hiding

from my straining eyes.

I’m a child again, bad dreams

still haunting me while my

sleep-numbed brain struggles

to convince me there’s nothing

to fear: It’s only darkness.

My hand reaches for a hand

no longer there and I pause,

listening, waiting, almost

expecting a touch, a word

to guide me in my climb.

© 2003

(published in ICON, Spring issue, 2003)


Today's word: darkness