Friday, October 31, 2008

If Elected

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

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

Then what?

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

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

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

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


When finally I have
attained full growth,
I think that I
should like to be
a curmudgeon, which,
I'm told by my pal,
clear-eyed Ed,
is one who
mudges curs.

It's the least they
deserve for barking
all night at nothing
in particular while
decent folk are
pounding pillows,
trying to sleep,
but only attaining

I promise, if elected,
not to be stingy
with my curmudgeoning.
© 1997

(originally published in Parnassus Literary Journal)

Today's word: curmudgeon

Thursday, October 30, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

Poetry, after all, is meant to be shared ... as are the reactions to it.

Today's offering:


Like spilled needles
at first, the droplets
touch my window,
tugging at my mind.

Then, in furtive
little squirrel hops
up the slope of my roof,
great plump drops test
the surface. A distant,
gruff reply of thunder
to a flick of lightning
and the tempo quickens.

Ragtime! Rain gallops off
toward a light left on,
an invitation to dance,
and I am left to study
trickling, fading fingers
clinging to the pane.
© 2006
(originally published in A New Song)

Today's word: ragtime

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What Was That?

(One of my colored pencil drawings. It has nothing to do with today's poem, really, but it worked its way to the top of a stack today, and I thought I'd share it with you.)

I write a lot about ordinary things ... those things all around me ... things which are seen ... or heard ... almost every day ... things which might go unnoticed, had I not started trying to "see things with new eyes."

Or, I suppose, in this instance, to hear things with new ears.

The poem deals with a bit of ancient history ... so much time has passed since the incident about which I've written ... but it's good to be able to look back, sometimes, to remember ... to chuckle again over something that happened ... something, in the broad sweep of things, quite ordinary ... but still valued.

The poem:


When I heard
a chorus of crickets
in my son's room,
I wasn't surprised.

When I heard bird calls,
that didn't faze me
in the least.

But when I heard
the songs of whales,
I sat upright
and took notice.

Just a CD, Dad,
he reassured me,
and I drifted off
with hardly a ripple.
© 1995

(originally published in The Christian Science Monitor)

Today's word: ripple

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Take a Peek

This is one of my "dream" poems. I remember the sensation of waking up in a strange place (I'm dreaming this, remember), being asked by some remote, impersonal voice to produce something that would identify me.

I knew there was this slip of paper in my billfold, but I couldn't find it, couldn't, in fact, find my billfold. I kept searching and searching.

Then I woke up. The dream would have been lost, had I not scribbled something on a scrap of paper as a reminder.

I don't usually dwell on the meanings of dreams. Sometimes they mean nothing more than the excesses of a late-night snack. Or they may reveal deep-rooted frustrations, unattainable goals, hunger, thirsts, fears ... all the makings of a poem.

Still, I try to save them all. I don't always manage, but I try. And here's today's:


My billfold
contains a slip
of yellow paper
with the name
of the President
written on it.

I feel secure
having it with me,
like a number,
next of kin,
to be called
in an emergency.

Perhaps someday
after surgery,
responding to
trick questions:
What's your name?
Who's President?
I can say,
"Take a peek
at my billfold.
There's a slip
inside. It's all
I've got left."
© 1995
(originally published in Potpourri)

Today's word: identify

Monday, October 27, 2008

Singing Pines

What food for the imagination those sounds were.

I imagined what it was like for the "pioneers" who came struggling through, looking for new lives in this strange land ... what it was like for those who were already here when those settlers came.

I gathered cones, of course, as so many children ... and adults ... had done through the ages.

I imagined that they were treasure ... that I was exploring some distant island ... while my ship sat in a quiet cove nearby, its massive sails catching the sunlight and a gentle tropical breeze.

And more cones.

How strange they were ... how plentiful ... fragrant ... and magical.

Oh, the memories I gathered in those early, carefree days.

And now, the poem:


Tall pines comb
the summer wind
for its soft music
while I linger,
savoring memories
of childhood days
rich with the smell
of gathered cones.
© 1995
(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: savoring

Sunday, October 26, 2008


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

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

Then ... POOF! Back to reality.

That happened to me recently.

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

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

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

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

Speaking of which:


My tired brain,
sponge that it is,
busies itself
sopping up sights
and sounds, giving
nothing back
as we drift apart,
like two skaters
arcing slowly away
on a vast blue rink,
curling, curling
back, linking hands
again, a flurry of
upbladed ice
marking our sudden
juncture, skates
flashing in unison
again as though
we'd never parted.
© 2000
(originally published in A New Song)

Today's word: sponge

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Purchase of Sleep

I overslept this morning. Oh, did I ever.

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

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

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

And where does that take us?

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

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

It's almost like someone has flicked a switch.

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

I explain in the poem.

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

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

The poem:


I cannot sleep
when thoughts assail me,
forcing me to rise
wearily from my bed
to find pad and pencil.
Hurriedly I scratch
on the patient page,
uniting it with these
its straying children.
Only then may I reclaim
the cradling pillow
and my rest.
© 1996
(originally published in Mind Matters Review)

Today's word: purchase

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ordinary Moments

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

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

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

Isn't that always the case?

The poem:


... in which I discover
travel-rounded stones
on the meandering
creek bed of my mind,
each a found treasure
whirring me back
to rainy days spent
with musty books, nights
floating in wood smoke,
mornings with eggs
frying in a dark skillet,
moments when the world
seemed to be
just waiting for me
to kick off the covers,
resume my pursuit
of this great adventure.
© 2001
(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)

Today's word: travel-rounded

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Naming the Fish

Today's poem is based on a phone call from my son, describing how he had taken his son fishing for the first time.

I could say that I made up some of the details, but that wouldn't be true, exactly ... the feel of the rod, the quivering fish, the sights and sounds that go along with fishing ... based on memories of outings I had with my own sons.

The poem, incidentally, is part of a manuscript in search of a publisher.


First, there was the long
practice, getting the feel of the rod,
the flick that would send the lure
spinning out across the expanse
of driveway toward the evening sun,
the steady clicking of retrieval,
another flick, and another.

And now the blue water dazzles,
an early sun glinting, wind-stirred
ripples moving in such a way that you
feel you are moving, instead, drifting
toward some vague destination.

The sheath is removed from the barbs
of the lure now, a soft hum of line
extending, the plop, the long wait.

Then the line goes suddenly taut,
tingling, the feeling of life
racing its length, bending the rod
until, finally, the water parts
and you’re holding a slippery,
wiggling, gasping fish, looking
into its large, imploring eyes,
giving it a name, a person’s name,
then letting it slip gently back
into the water and swim away.
© 2006

Today's word: spinning

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Moon Tonight

I grew up in the country ... not on a farm, but in the country ... away from city lights.

As a result of that ... and hearing my gandfather talk so many times about the phases of the moon ... its importance in the planting of crops ... knowing about its pull on those distant oceans ... its effect on young lovers ... I was always intrigued by the moon.

The front porch swing provided a great vantage point for watching the giant harvest moon rising slowly over the hills.

I remember being so intrigued by the quarter moon ... the new moon ... the moon showing in the late daytime sky.

When one lives in the city, though, the moon can become a forgotten item ... unless it really asserts itself as we're coming up the driveway on a late-winter evening.

Then there's no denying it. I still remember that evening ... can almost hear a choir, singing a cappella, celebrating the rising of that moon.

The poem:


What a gorgeous sight,
lodged in the darkness
of the walnut tree,
the nearer maples joining
to hold it, glowing
in the late-winter sky,
broken, and yet whole,
like a stained-glass
window catching evening
light, holding it high
under the ceiling while
voices rise in song.
© 2004

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: a cappella

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Letting Them Crawl

Today's poem was accepted for publication only a couple of years after my first acceptance ... my "lucky poem" ... "Chance of Rain."

I was so intrigued by the writing process.
Oh, I had written things along the way ... homework, themes for English class ... I even wrote sports items for my hometown newspaper when I was in high school ... wrote letters when I was in military service ...

I knew how to put words together to make sentences, sentences to make paragraphs ... but the process of sitting down with no idea of what I was going to write ... letting the words, the ideas, present themselves to me ... putting them on paper and discovering that they made sense ... that's what intrigued me.

It was still a new experience when this poem was written. I was lucky to have had it ... and several other poems ... accepted, over time, for publication in ByLine Magazine.

I still write quite a lot about writing ... not that I'm an expert ... far from it ... but because the process still intrigues me so.

It's still like magic to me when the words come together, seemingly of their own accord, to tell some sort of story that has a certain feeling to it, some of the flavor of music, perhaps, or the makings of a poem.

Today's effort:


These words I write
are the embers
of a fire that has
smoldered far longer
than I had imagined
it would. How much
longer the sparks
will race among
the cooling ashes
of my past, I have
no way of knowing,
but I intend
to give them air,
let them crawl
as long as they will
on this journey
toward becoming
something that has
the sound of poetry.
© 1996
(originally published in ByLine)

Today's word: embers

Monday, October 20, 2008

Journey Toward Light

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

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

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

The plot thickens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Days passed. Actually, about half an hour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Great caravans
of words go tracking
across the sands
of my mind, seeking
an oasis where
pencil scratchings
will record them
at rest, gathering
strength for journeys
toward sound, music
of poetry, warm light
of understanding.
© 1999
(originally published in A New Song)

Today's word: light

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Could Not Pass It By

While strolling through a well-known store, just minding my own business, pretending to be a serious shopper intent on throwing a lot of money around ... I encountered Gloria, a friend I hadn't seen in ages.

We were delighted to see each other again. We used to be in a writing group together. I always enjoyed her writings ... mostly snippets of autobiography ... and she had kind things to say about my poetry.

We had barely exchanged greetings ... including a warm hug ... when she asked: "Are you still collecting pencils?"

She remembered! Mainly she remembered how, at one of our meetings, I brought in a handful of pencil stubs ... little discarded things that I had found on the sidewalk, in the gutter, etc., during my daily walks.

My idea was to pass them around to members of the writing group, with the suggestion that they write something with them. I thought it would be interesting to see what the pencils would "tell us."

I offered them first to Gloria ... who recoiled as though I had just tried to hand her a snake.

"Why, we don't know where those have been!" she exclaimed.

Yes, I admitted, I'm still collecting pencils ... though there seemed to be fewer of them lying about at the beginning of this school year ... symbolizing another shift in technology, I suppose.

Well, that exchange brought to mind the poem I'm offering today, a poem from a manuscript ... a collection called "Wood Smoke" ... which is (surprise!) being published this year ... third week in November, at last word.

I think "I Could Not Pass It By" pretty well tells its own story, but, as is the case with all poems, the reader brings a certain experience, a certain viewpoint to the reading of it. That always gives it a special flavor, often beyond what I had expected it to impart.

The poem:


I found it lying there
in the snows of Watervliet Avenue,
as cold and senseless as my own
toes pointing the way for me
up the sidewalk curving toward
the Belmont Business District.

I found it freshly pointed,
eraser in nearly-new condition,
reclining so yellow beside
the curb that I could not
pass it by. With a practiced swoop
I possessed it and walked on,

swiping it across a gloved hand,
then offering it body warmth
in a pocket snug within the down
of my dark brown corduroy-collared
jacket. I felt it shedding
its coldness against my chest

as I wondered where it had been,
what magic it had revealed
to some young pupil watching
as it sent caravans of letters
tracking across the desert page
in some remote, arid classroom.

But now I watch while it marshals
the words that go streaming across
a page I’ve offered to it, and we
pause, listening for late-night
stirrings near the top step of my
mind, a young poem, awake, thirsting.
© 2005
(part of my third collection, Wood Smoke, now scheduled to be released by Finishing Line Press in November)

Today's word: thirsting

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chance of Rain

Some of you will have noticed that I'm running a little behind schedule this morning.

I've been busy fiddling with "Squiggles ... and Giggles" ... where I make weekly postings ... and it has been more squiggles than giggles, believe me. It always seems to be that way when I'm trying new things ... new to me, at least ... like learning how to post a recorded version of one of my poems online.

Well, it finally worked! Not satisfied with having just one recording visitors could listen to, I doubled the postings ... and listened to both ... at least a couple of times.

So, since it worked on "Squiggles ... and Giggles," why not, I thought, try it on "Chosen Words"?

This time, though, I thought (providing I'm still hitting the right keys), why not share my "lucky poem"? Lucky poem? Please read on:

I apologize to those who have heard this story before, but I feel impelled to share it just one more time.

"Chance of Rain" is my lucky poem. It began life as a much longer poem, written at the kitchen table after one of my summer walks.

It was so hot that I had paused in the shade to consider whether I really thought I could make it up the next hill and then home. Just then I felt a slight breeze. Thus encouraged, I set off again toward home.

But I had started thinking of how the oppressive heat and humidity were so like the area of Southern Illinois where I grew up. I kept thinking about that, recalling what it had been like, that terrible heat.

When I got home, I started writing. I imagined an older person, about my age, sitting on a porch, scanning the skies for signs of rain. I imagined the rain's coming, sweeping across the fields. I described the old man's reaction to the rain ... all of this in considerable detail.

This narrative became a long poem which I submitted to Capper's. It was there that an alert editor, Ann Crahan, spotted eight lines that appealed to her in the middle of my poem. How lucky for me!

She suggested that we keep those eight lines and my title. I agreed, and it became my first poem accepted for publication.

Over the years, I wrote many more pieces about rain ... or its absence ... and when those poems suggested themselves to me as a possible collection, it seemed fitting that "Chance of Rain," my first-born, my lucky poem, should be the title piece of that collection, published by Finishing Line Press in 2003.

The poem:


The rain comes
in great galloping
gulps, faster than
the soil can sop it up.
It drums on the roof,
dances in the yard,
celebrates all the way
down the hill.
© 2003

Today's word: lucky

Friday, October 17, 2008

Handful of Dust

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

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

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

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

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

The poem:


I stood watching a breeze
moving toward me through
hazy green rows of corn,

listened to it overhead
whispering its secrets
to a wafer-dry box elder,

saw it picking up just
a handful of dust,
twirling it, letting it

settle quickly back
to the hoof-pocked soil,
remember thinking

that I might follow,
off somewhere beyond
those barren hills,

but stood drinking
from a rusty tin cup,
dribbled the dregs

on my thirsting toes,
went padding back
where I’d always be.
© 2002

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

Today's word: twirling

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Green Glass Bottles

As I've said before, I write quite a bit about writing, not because I've become expert on the subject, but because certain aspects of it remain a mystery to me and are, therefore, so intriguing.

Some of that mystery, an uncertainty, surrounds the process of submitting poetry to others, not just to seek their opinion of it, though that can be valuable, but on the outside chance of its being accepted for publication.

The result of that game, of course, is mostly rejection ... at least in my case. Sheer numbers argue against the chances of any particular poem's seeing its way into print.

Still, we continue the game.

I sit on my island ... writers do so much of their work in that kind of isolation ... carefully selecting the poems which will go out to seek their fortunes among strangers.

I compare the process to putting tiny, scribbled notes in green glass bottles, in hope that some of them will be discovered, accepted, published.

Then there's the waiting game, the suspense of wondering how the submissions are being received, and, when the green glass bottles return, the excitement, the anticipation ... still ... about what, precisely, has been their fate with that particular editor.

Meanwhile, there are more poems ... more green glass bottles ... that surging sea upon which so many of our hopes will ride. Oh, what a wonderful game it is!

This one was originally published in Midwest Poetry Review:


If the wind is right
and the sea is surging,

I shall place another poem
in a green glass bottle
and send it bobbing off.
But mainly I shall sit

on the windward side
awaiting those bottles
sent off months ago,
scattered distant dots

nodding now and glinting
in the froth of return,
finally clinking ashore
to my trembling, bony

fingers, fingers fearing
the messages inside.
© 1997

Today's word: mystery

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Fireflies seemed such magic creatures in the place where I spent my early years.
They still do.
Especially in that period of transition from day to night, when darkness is beginning to settle in, they do seem to be wavering up some kind of invisible ladder.

They do seem to be signalling to us "that dreams still take wing."
Today's poem:


Slowly, randomly they rise
from daytime resting places
into the cool, embracing night.

Tiny wings whirring against
the sodden, clinging atmosphere,
they labor to lug their lights

blinking up wavering ladders,
beacons signaling that dreams
still take wing on such a night.
© 1997

(originally published in Sisters Today)

Today's word: randomly

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Emergency Kit

I beg for particular patience from those who have seen today's poem before. It seems to have worked its way to the top again.

It's still a good little poem, I think ... a bit whimsical ... and I think we can use a sprinkling of whimsy with the world in which we live today.

Bear with me now, while I dust off a bit of history:

I started carrying a printout of one of my poems in response to the recurring question from acquaintances: "What are you writing these days?"

Carrying a single printout, I thought, was a simpler, a more efficient approach than going into detail about all of the things I was working on at the time (I seem to go riding off in all directions, but I do bring some of my projects to completion ... honest).

From there it was a short leap to the image of some poor motorist sitting somewhere on a dark, poemless road, hoping someone would come to the rescue ... and, ta-DA! ... there I would be, poem at the ready ...

I have one regret - I neglected to offer an alternative, like regular fill-ups of poetry before heading out on those lonely roads ... or, I suppose, simply keeping an eye on the poetry gauge ... or pulling into the nearest library - where the price is always right - to top off the poetry tank.

But if you do run out of poetry, just hang in there. I should be along soon.



I always carry
a spare poem or two.
Who knows? I may
find a motorist
stranded, run out
of poetry somewhere
on a poemless road,
looking for rhyme,
if not reason,
in the scheme
of things, someone
in need of metaphor,
simile, structure,
a triolet, perhaps,
but mostly free verse,
free for the taking,
and this one's for you.
Enjoy. Pass it on.
© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: emergency

Monday, October 13, 2008


Today's poem, I think, states the obvious. When we've always had little in the way of material things, we're content. Ah, but when we have more, the appetite is whetted. We want more.

I was interested in the content/discontent relationship as I jotted these few words on a scrap of paper. Later, it seemed to me that it had a certain feel, a certain sound ... a poem, perhaps.

Here it is:


I was content

with what I had,

until I had more.

After that,

I discovered,

I could not

be satisfied

with any less.

© 1996

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: satisfied

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Carrying the Water

This is another poem based on childhood memories of that place where I grew up with my grandparents. (I know, this is an encore appearance of a recent posting, but please bear with me during this transition)

We had no running water, no indoor plumbing ... not unusual for that time and place.

Our water source for the house was a cistern, with a crank and chain which brought the stored rain water up. It was situated just outside the back porch.

Water for other purposes, watering the flowers, providing drinking water for the chickens, the cats, the dog, was carried from the well, some distance from the house.

This was not easy work. Like most young children, however, I wanted to try it.

Grandpa was willing. In fact, he probably took a certain pleasure in my struggles with that heavy bucket ... the water was so heavy, too, and it really wouldn't sit still ... I can imagine he also relished the memories that my struggles stirred, of his own young efforts at the same thing.

I simply couldn't fathom how he could carry water without spilling some ... while I always spilled a lot.

Eventually I learned the value of experience.

And now, the poem:


My grandfather could take
the swaying bucket
all the way,
uncertain as he was, from
well to house, and not
spill a drop.

The water sat, contented,
even though his hands
were trembling,

his step less steady than
mine, his eyes unsure
of the path.

But, hard as I might try,
I couldn't carry it
without loss.

Rising up against me, it
bounded over the top
of the pail,

splashing against my calf,
making dark splotches
on red soil

when I dared set it down,
like sins denied
but still mine.
© 2007

(This poem received an honorable mention in a Sinclair Community College contest; subsequently published in Capper's, and now part of my second collection of poems, Hollyhocks, Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, KY, 2007)

Today's word: contented

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bouncy Pine

Things I say, particularly in those pieces which may eventually become poems, are not always intended to be taken literally.

That's the case today, of course.

Anybody who has ever looked even casually at a pine tree, knows it doesn't have springs, concealed or otherwise.

But it doesn't take much observation to lead one to the thought that it looks like there must be some kind of mechanism at work there.

There have been times when I've been in the company of pine trees, unaware of a slight stirring of air, but there is movement in their needled branches.

How else explain that movement?

It seemed to be the way to describe them at the time. The moral of the story ... the "lesson" ... the "mini-sermon" ... seemed to follow naturally.

It's a thought, at least ... and I use it sometimes to cheer myself up.

Here's the poem:


The boughs of the pine
ride on concealed springs,
rising and falling
at the slightest touch
of a summer breeze.

Oh, that we could be
as resilient, as quick
with our enthusiasm.
© 1996

(originally published in Explorer)
Today's word: concealed

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Ashes Are Still Hot

Today's poem brings a renewal of a frightening childhood memory.

I couldn't have been very old when this incident occurred, but the memory of it is still vivid. The fire seemed to spring up suddenly along the railroad, the flames were threatening our house ... we had no running water, no telephone, no fire department, as a matter of fact.

We stood and watched in horror. Then, suddenly, the fire seemed to veer away. It was over. We had survived.

The poem:


When a white-hot summer sun
hangs high in a cloudless sky,
when it must be thought
there can be no more burning

in this poor punished land,
there comes the crackling,
leaping, lurching dance
of the very flames of hell,

consuming sere weak willows
along the thirsting creek,
leaping to fence-line elms,
sending their leaves towering

like swarms of angry hornets,
smoke and fire entwining
in an eerie, deadly spiral
from which rain the hot seeds

of more on our shingled house.
We stand there in the garden,
my grandmother praying, and I,
a child of only four, crying.

Wind, born of the fire itself,
where there has been no wind
for long, dry, dragging days,
snatches up the pitching flames,

takes them away from the house.
My grandmother sees a miracle,
but to me it’s a nightmare, for,
see, the ashes are still hot.
© 1997

(originally published in Block's Magazine)

Today's word: towering