Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Encounter

(It has nothing to do with today's entry ... but I just felt like sharing this watercolor with you)

It was such a strange encounter. I was startled, but not frightened. After all, it just took me a second or two to realize that what I was seeing was my own reflection.


But I'll never forget that feeling, as I turned slowly, not thinking about anything in particular ... perhaps about where my bus was, when it would pull up at that corner ... and there was this reflection in the store window, a reflection so much like the image of my grandfather, one I had carried in memory for so many years ...


I had never thought that I looked very much like him. Still, that first glance at the reflection was like seeing him again ... my reaction, as I saw it in that window, was like seeing him reach out for me ... again.


It didn't occur to me to rush home and write about the encounter. I wasn't writing poetry then. But, much later, when I began learning the practice of sitting in a quiet place, waiting for the words to come to me, these are the ones that made their presence known to me:


ENCOUNTER


There was no mistaking the slope
of his shoulders, the shape
of his head; it was my grandfather
staring from the store window
while I stood in sprinkling rain
waiting for an afternoon bus.


I recalled how it was raining
when I had stood in uniform
beside his bed in that darkened
room, how I had wanted to say
things he could not hear, how I
had finally broken and wept.


And now, all these years later,
I watched as he reached his hand
toward me, the unwanted child,
then, as I stood watching his image
blur in the rain against the window,
we knew I had finally become him.
© 2003
(part of my first collection of poetry, Chance of Rain, issued by Finishing Line Press, 2003)

Today's word: image

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Delia's Dream




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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, the poem:

DELIA'S DREAM

How she'd say

nothing is ever lost,

meaning wasted,

pieces of string,

each carefully coiled,

or a rubber band

snapped around her wrist,

her good works received

without thanks,

and thoughts,

especially thoughts

of those distant places

where she dreamed things

were better, where she

hoped to be someday,

but never was.

© 1997

(originally published in Riverrun)

Today's word: guided

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cold Winter Nights



Align CenterAlign Center

Aha! Another poem about writing ... touching somewhat on a process that remains something of a mystery to me ... but also reaching the heart of the matter, I think, the satisfaction that comes from putting thoughts on paper.

The poem:

 

COLD WINTER NIGHTS

I have dreamed

that my poetry

might go like

wildfire lighting

the emptiness

of night, dancing

ahead of the wind,

smoke of creation,

furious burning,

rising to join

the lingering clouds,

drifting, drifting.

 

Ah, but a smaller

fire it is,

burning within,

chasing nothing

before it, raising

no alarms, warming

only me on these

cold winter nights

with a lamp

keeping me company,

and these scratchings.

© 1996

(originally published in ByLine)


Today's word: wildfire

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beyond the Words


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 think I've said.

Meanwhile:

 

BEYOND THE WORDS

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

At Sunset


I can usually recall the starting point ... the impetus ... of something I've written. Not so in this case.

It might be because I've been preoccupied with thoughts of an upcoming poetry reading, and just now got around to making today's posting.

It might be because I've written so many. It becomes a bit difficult to recall precisely what triggered each one.

I have a feeling, though, that this one promised to be a longer piece ... perhaps a short story. I was letting my imagination run free on this scene from the close of the day. I'm not sure where it was headed ... its ultimate destination.

Writing is like that sometimes. I always like to get the words on paper ... those bits and pieces of thought which come to me of their own accord ... for, on later reflection ... and a bit of tweaking ... they may turn into something worth keeping and sharing.

This one didn't go on to bigger things. But I liked the descriptive phrases, and it appears that the editor liked them, too.

With that, here's the poem:

AT SUNSET

Dying embers of day
arc slowly on drapes
drawn tightly
like an old man's mouth
sealed against saying
that which must
not be said. His room,
steeped in darkness,
recalls a steely pool
of tension, burdened
dome of sky,
dark leaves stirring
now, a gathering
of thoughts seeking
shelter for the night.
© 1999
(originally published in Potpourri)
Today's word: steeped

Friday, December 26, 2008

Winter Rain


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

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

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

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

But for now, this:

WINTER RAIN

All night it comes,
falling as quietly
as snow, trickling
down our green roof,

a soft song drifting
among the branches
of our dark maples,
trunks glistening

like the taut bodies
of stevedores under
the summer sun,
like sailing ships

tossing and leaning,
rigging creaking,
brass bells ringing,
greeting a new day.

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

Today's word: trickling

Thursday, December 25, 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:


UNDER THE OAKS


I really admire
the persistence
of those small
trees struggling
in the mossy shade
of massive oaks,
understudies
learning their
lines, patiently
waiting their
turn to take
the stage, too.
© 2001
(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: persistence

Wednesday, December 24, 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:



TEEMING WATERS


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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Staying at Haan's


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, while you're doing that, you hear the gentle clop-clop-clop of those horses.


Originally published in Plainsongs:


STAYING AT HAAN'S


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

Monday, December 22, 2008

Running the Hurdles

(No, this is not a hurdle - but I'm intrigued by shadows, and I thought I'd share this one today)

Today's 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.


See? I can be brief.


The poem:


RUNNING THE HURDLES


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: hurdles

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Only Tree

(A "family" of cedar trees which caught my eye on one of my daily walks ... and stirred memories)

We are rooted in the places of our beginning.

Oh, we may develop tendrils as we reach for new ideas, seek new adventures, pursue careers. We may even become "tumbleweeds," traveling the countryside ... perhaps visiting ... and even settling ... abroad.


But our roots remain in those places where we began, and this is apparent to us when we sit quietly, thinking ,,. really just thinking.


One example, in my case, involves Christmas trees. Ours was always a cedar tree, because they grew so abundantly on the hills overlooking our home. It was a special treat to go trudging out with Grandpa ... a few days before Christmas ... to pick just the right tree ... not too tall ... not too skinny ... for our living room.


There was just something about the smell of cedar filling the whole house.


When I saw another kind of Christmas tree ... on my first visit to Chicago, which seemed so distant, like another planet ... I couldn't believe THAT was their Christmas tree.


It didn't look like OUR tree at all. Its branches seemed almost bare, compared to what I had been accustomed to. It didn't have that cedar smell. And it certainly didn't have the bird's nest which I had come to expect to find somewhere in our tree.


Oh, I've finally come around to accepting other kinds of Christmas trees ... even the artificial models ... but I still find myself thinking about those other trees from my early years.


The poem:


THE ONLY TREE


I grew up believing
that a cedar was
the only true tree
for Christmas,
plain, struggling
stubbornly
on hillside clay,
having so much
in common
with folks like us.
© 1996
(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: cedar
Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:
Thank you, Helen, for those additional thoughts in regard to the cedar tree's role in your Christmases, especially that particular homecoming. When one of my poems strikes such a responsive chord, I know I've done something right ... and that's a good feeling, too. Best wishes.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nightsongs


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

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


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


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


The poem:


NIGHTSONGS


I lie listening
to the summer night,
wondering what
it might have been like
before roofs came
to glorify the rain,
to magnify the sound.


Was there gentle
crackle and murmur
of a small fire,
a faltering lullaby?


A song kept going,
stick by stick,
until the words
finally surrendered
to deep silence?


The silence of
ashes giving up
their warmth?


Perhaps there was
only the faintest
of songs, like
this rain tonight,
trembling leaf
to leaf ... to earth.
© 2003


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

Today's word: murmur

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mere Words


Like I've said many times, I'm not a morning person.

But what is a non-morning person to do when he wakes up around five o'clock ... wide awake ... with a thought buzzing through his mind?


Well ... I lay there for a while ... watched the clock unscrolling the crawling minutes ... then reached for the small light I keep on the table beside the bed ... found a pencil ... and my multi-colored notepad (thank you, Michelle) in the shape of the letter B ... and started writing.


What I wrote is barely decipherable ... now that I'm fully awake ... and it's far from becoming a poem, but someday it might. I'll keep it, try to break the code, try to decide what it's trying to say to me.


And if it does turn into a poem, I'll feel compelled to share it with somebody ... I always have that "look what I found" feeling when something I've written does seem to make sense ... not "look at what I did" ... never that ... and when I share it with somebody, that somebody is likely to be a poetry editor.


I always treasure that second opinion ... especially on those rare occasions when the decision goes in my favor.


But if it doesn't ... well, I speak of that circumstance in today's poem:


MERE WORDS


You, my children,
offspring of my mind,
are going forth
into an imperfect world,
where you will be judged
by strangers. I hope
they will listen
and treat you kindly,
perhaps accept you
as their own.
If not, please return
and we shall comfort
each other.
© 1997
(originally published in Writer's Journal)

Today's word: comfort

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Like That


I try to look at simple things and extract their essence. In this instance it's the last drop of liquid in the cup.
How many times, occupied with ringing phones, converging projects all demanding to be done ... NOW ... how many times I absently lifted the cup and received two surprises: the unexpected emptiness of the cup, and then the suddenness of that last, single drop plopping onto my tongue.

I think this poem works on two levels. On the surface, it's a descriptive passage of an event so minor that it's almost beneath writing about, yet will stir a bit of recognition from some readers, an acknowledgment that, yes, I've experienced that.

It also works as a metaphor for endings. How we cling to the memory of that which has just ended, how we hold on to the memories of those things which brought us to this ending.

"Like That" was originally published in Palo Alto Review, an honor in itself. Then the editors nominated it for Pushcart Prize honors.


Eventually, it became part of Hollyhocks, a second collection of my poems, published in 2007 by Finishing Line Press.

The poem:

LIKE THAT

It's like
when you think
the cup is empty
but you lift it
anyway,
tilting it toward
your mouth,
and a solitary drop
comes rolling
off the bottom,
goes bounding
onto your tongue
so now you really taste
the flavor of it,
far greater
than the rest
of what you've drunk,
and it quenches
the thirst of memory,
lying there
long afterward,
most valued
because there is
no more.
© 1999
(originally published in Palo Alto Review)

Today's word: bounding

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Could Have Played Piano


For the moment, let's revisit the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, Troy, Ohio, on a cold, cold evening back in February.


The worst of winter conditions had been predicted ... for just about the time the program was scheduled to get under way.


I was convinced that travel was going to be horrible, weather-wise, and advised those who called throughout the day ... either to express regrets ... or to get some advice ... that I would advise them to play it safe ... and not venture out.


The expected horrible weather didn't arrive. At least not that night. Highway conditions ... except for traffic ... couldn't have been better ... both before and after the program.


Oh, what people missed by following my advice! Even so, we had what I thought was an impressive turnout.


I went in expecting an interesting mix of poetry and music ... but the program ... a blending of music ... improvised on the spot by Joel Hoffman, Professor of Composition, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati ... with my reading of some poems ... well, the program far exceeded my expectations.


I stood at the rostrum watching as Prof. Hoffman coaxed a delightful program of sounds ... rhythms ... passages ... interludes ... from the piano ... a perfect blending with the poetry I was sharing with the audience.


Afterward, I was really taken by the number of people who thought it was a carefully-rehearsed program.


In truth, Prof. Hoffman and I had not met before that night ... had not rehearsed ... and had had only a brief discussion of our "game plan" before the program began.


I say bravo! Bravo to Prof. Hoffman for so deftly working in the music around ... and with ... my readings ... Bravo! to the audience for shruggng off the dire weather forecasts and joining us for an evening that I will never forget ... and Bravo! to all those who put that program together!


By the way, Prof. Hoffman (http://joelhoffman.net/) wears several hats in addition to Professor of Compositon ... including Artistic Director, Music08 (http://www.ccm.uc.edu/musicx/index.html) and President, Chamber Music Cincinnati (http://www.cincychamber.org/).


I thought of today's poem while I was standing at the podium enjoying his music, particularly a portion of the program in which I read "What Might Have Been" to a most beautiful piano accompaniment.


Perhaps it was just as well that I hadn't brought a copy of it to the reading. It might have spoiled the moment ... as my attempts at humor sometimes do.


But I've dug it out this morning ... along with my photo of a symbolic comb ... and tissue paper (more about those later) ... intruding on the righthand portion of a keyboard.


Background for the poem:


Once upon a time ... way back in the previous century ... my grandparents had a piano. I believe it was for my mother, but I never heard her play it.


It sat in our living room. I remember a piano tuner coming once to do his magic on it. But mostly it just sat. Oh, I plinked and plunked on it when nobody was looking. But, of course, I couldn't play it.


I didn't feel deprived, and I don't now.


On the contrary, there was that imposing upright musical instrument which fed my imagination. I dreamed of playing it someday ... like I dreamed of many other things.


Then one day it was sold. Strangers came to move that magical creation carefully through the front door, down the front steps and into the truck.


And that was that ... except for the poem (be prepared for a slight twist with this one), originally published in Midwest Poetry Review:


I COULD HAVE PLAYED PIANO


My long, skinny fingers
itching for things to do,
toes just barely reaching
the pedals, and my bottom
gripping the slippery edge
of the bench, I dreamed
of playing ragtime, gospel,
boogie-woogie, maybe even
some of that girl-pleasing,
tough, classical stuff.


What I did was what
seemed to come naturally.


With only one lesson,
I flung myself into all
of the old favorites,
playing each several times
before going exuberantly
to the next. Finally,
Grandpa admitted he was
sorry he had taught me
what could be wrought
with a comb and paper.


Oh, I could have played
piano, no doubt, but my lips
wouldn't feel all numb
and fuzzy, like they do now.
© 1997

Today's word: fuzzy

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Howdy!


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


HOWDY!


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

Monday, December 15, 2008

Grilled Cheese and Shake


(As is often the case, the art/photo has nothing to do with today's posting, really, but I like the mood it conveys, and thought I'd share it)

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

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


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


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


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


Ah, those were the days.


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


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


The poem:


GRILLED CHEESE AND SHAKE


Betty knew her customers
down at the Lunch Box
Cafe, where conversations
slid to the back burner
when hulking trains
came lurching past.


I'd walk in, starved,
as skinny as a snake,
and she’d toss two slices
of buttered Bunny Bread
and a thin slice of cheese
into the smoke rising
from the grill, power up
a blender, add a squirt
of strawberry flavoring
to a prospective shake.


I'd straddle my favorite
wobbly stool, sit savoring
the smoke, anticipating
that last surreptitious slurp,
its sweet, sticky essence,
sit watching Betty at work,
marveling at her memory,
how cool she was when
the orders piled up,


how she knew when to turn
the sandwiches, snatching
them back from disaster,
wondering if she knew how
those skinny sandwiches
and thick, frothy shakes
were snatching me back, too.
© 2001
(originally published in A New Song)

Today's word: frothy

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Flowering Friendship


I remember how sad it was to look out the window and see what had happened to the tulips, daffodils and peonies as a result of a late freeze.

We had enjoyed summer-like weather, and then this. All those beautiful plants wilting to the ground, as though someone had taken a blowtorch to them.


But my thoughts quickly turned to those who had likely suffered greater losses ... those who had fruit trees budding and blossoming, for example.


And then, as if to console me, today's poem came to mind.


It was written at the end of a season, rather than the beginning, and it paid tribute to a good year in which no late frost had occurred, in which we had enjoyed watching the flowers, from their first shoots breaking through the soil, to their greening and blossoming, and, finally, as the season came to a close, their departure.


I was already looking forward to the next year. I knew I would miss them during the winter months, but felt assured that they, like old friends, would be back.


And I hoped that those which were so damaged by a late frost this year would be back, too.


The poem:



FLOWERING FRIENDSHIP


Summer-weary flowers,
what beauty came
of your being with us
another season,
what pleasure grew
from your growing.
We must, by all means,
meet again next year.
© 1995
(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: pleasure

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Escaping Gravity


If you were expecting me earlier ... sorry ... my computer seems to have taken on some of my early morning characteristics ... bleary-eyed ... lost in a fog ... but, thank goodness, it doesn't go around bumping into furniture.


I don't know why it bothers me when this happens. I'm not on a strict schedule ... except my own self-imposed order of things ... I could just as easily make a posting in the evening ... except that would bump up against my nap time.


Oh, well ... I try to look at my computer's balkiness as an opportunity to do other things (hah!) ... for example, while I was waiting for it to decide what it wanted to do next, I tackled some of the stacks in the study.


Not literally. Tackling those monsters could have serious consequences.


I approached them cautiously, sorted out a few things ... and now I have fewer stacks to go through ... and through ... and through.


But, as Professor Squigglee (remember him?) would say, I digress. What I really came here to talk about was today's poem ...


Spring! It was a time of celebration, a time of emerging, at last, from the cold of winter into the beginnings of warmth, a time when kites were tugging at their strings, pleading for more ... when jackets were left lying on the school grounds ... when we gave in to the call of the hills in which we were growing up ... and went galloping down them.


And gallop we did ... a few "no brakes" strides and a leap ... strides ... leap ... strides ... all the way to the bottom sometimes.


Other times we'd fall to the softening turf well before reaching bottom, and lie there, laughing at the picture we must have made, long legs carrying us careening down the slope, with little hope of reaching the bottom still standing.


It was as if we could ... if we tried hard enough ... defy gravity, that if we gained enough speed we might fly. The descent felt like flying. The air seemed to be trying to lift us.And those leaps! They were almost like flying.


Even as we lay there, laughing, our run completed, finally rolling over to look at the clouds, we still felt we might somehow break free of gravity ... next time ...


We had been so close to doing it this time!


In selecting the poem's title, "Escaping Gravity," I wanted it to serve double duty ... to say something about running down the hill, yes ... but also about the need to take our minds off the seriousness of life, even if only briefly.


We all need to do that sometimes.


The poem:


ESCAPING GRAVITY


How we challenged gravity's pull then,
our lanky legs held captive so long
by the dull gray of winter months, but now
freed, carrying us in ever lengthening
leaps until we finally fell, exhausted,
on the wet, green softness of earth,
laughing, pained with the joy of what
we had done, resting, trying again,
each new leap seeming to take us
ever so near that unreachable dream.
© 1998
(Originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: unreachable

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Dawning


Those who know me well ... family and friends ... will be surprised to find I've written somewhat favorably about the beginning of the day.

Mornings have generally not been easy for me.

But this poem is not just about morning. It's about the experience of returning to an awareness of surroundings, discovering "words already dancing/ across the softly-lighted/ ballroom of my mind," of being on the verge ... after all that struggle ... of beginning to put words on paper.

Yes, it speaks to me about what I like best, writing, that activity which takes over after that "ballroom" activity, the real "dawning" that occurs with the writing itself.

The poem:


THE DAWNING

When the earth is still
hovering between sleep
and consciousness, when
birdsong is finding voice
and a distant bell
sways in the gentle wash
of sound, I come floating
out of a recurring dream,
yawning, stretching, eyes
struggling in darkness,
feet reaching cautiously
for the reality of floor,
words already dancing
across the softly-lighted
ballroom of my mind.
© 1999
(originally published in Sisters Today)

Today's word: yawning

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Conversations


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Meanwhile, today's poem:


CONVERSATIONS


How vexing to hear
the voices of those
I could not see
abruptly going silent,
like the gabble of pupils
halting in the presence
of a new teacher.


Then, after I'd passed,
renewed murmur of gossip
growing rumor-upon-rumor,
going mouth-to-ear, flying
too swiftly to follow,
too dense to filter
into any semblance
of real meaning.


If I dared step too near,
I heard sounds like stones
plopping into water,
new silence ascending,
a sense of being watched
by large, careful eyes
judging me from the depths
of a green-coated pond.
© 1997
(originally published in M.O.O.N. Magazine)

Today's word: gabble

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Before I Gallop


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

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

It still does.

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


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


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


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


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


Meanwhile, back to the shredder.



BEFORE I GALLOP


The time has come,
in this hunkered down,
bunkered up life
of mine, to start
turning loose of all
those precious papers,
stacks of things
left unread,
undone, untouched
these many years,
to end each day
with less than I had
at the beginning,
to divest, to shed,
to shred, to trash
all those dear things
that I can't take
with me, whether
I simply move
to more fitting
local quarters, or go
the whole route,
whisking away
my tell-tale tracks,
then galloping off
toward some
distant paradise.
© 1999
(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)

Today's word: furthest

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

After Shopping




Chances are, if you've done any shopping at all, you've seen someone searching for a 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:


AFTER SHOPPING

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
resuscitation.
© 2006

Today's word: resuscitation