Monday, August 31, 2009

Fireflies






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:

FIREFLIES

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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Early







It was such a beautiful day ... oh, my jacket felt good ... so did the sun on my back ... but it was such a bright, warming day.


I was so glad I was able to get outdoors and walk ... just walk and walk ...


I forgot about the teetering stacks of things undone in my corner of Brimm Manor, and just enjoyed the day ... and the evening.


My intention was to take a restful pit stop, then spring out of bed early this morning to start working those stacks down again.


And what really happened? I slept in. So here I am, late again ... which, naturally, brought to mind my poem, "Early."


I hate to be late. Oh, I sometimes am ... it just happens ... but I always try not to be.


I used to think I could start late and arrive on time, not by speeding, mind you. Oh, no. Never!


I thought I would get lucky ... traffic would be thin ... all the traffic lights would be working in my favor, etc. ... but, mainly, that I could observe (obey) the speed limits, and, with steady, serious driving, make up for a late start.


Hah!


So what did I do in the instance which brought the poem into being? I started early, fully expecting to lose a lot of time along the way. And, of course, I arrived early.


But that wasn't all bad. I had noticed things along the way ... the traffic lights ... the splashing water ... a school bus, turning ... and then those golden leaves scattered on the parking lot.


I sat in my car and wrote a poem ... at least the beginnings of a poem. With some polishing and tweaking, it turned into a poem:


EARLY


Because it was raining and I thought
traffic would be doing an Olympic crawl
through boiling rivers along the curbs,
I left early, splashed wildly through
pools of surging waters toward green lights
that nodded and winked at my recklessness,
and here I sit, forty-five minutes before
writers group. I watch a school bus making
a slow, deliberate turn, its rain-coated riders
tilting and chattering like a cage full of birds,
flick off my lights, wipers, defroster, and sit,
listening as the rain subsides to a sprinkle.
Then I see the yellow autumn leaves lying
like wet kisses all across the parking lot.
© 2004
(originally published in 
ByLine)

Today's word: kisses

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Discontent






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:



DISCONTENT

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

Friday, August 28, 2009

Clear Blue Morning



(I know, the photo doesn't represent a "clear blue morning," but I liked the way the light was hitting the clouds, the way the wind was dancing with the trees, the young leaves overhead, watching it all)

Most of my life, I have not been a morning person.


Oh, there were times when I grudgingly enjoyed a sunrise, savored the cool morning air during the summer, enjoyed a hearty breakfast.


But most of the time ... my growing up years and my working years ... I found it a real struggle to get my feet on the floor again, to get my eyes open and in focus, simply to get moving. 


I had reasons ... or excuses ... but basically I simply was not a morning person.


Then I retired.


Admittedly, there was a period of transition ... weeks afterward in which I had a deep-seated feeling that I should be dragging my body off to a job someplace. 


But gradually I came around to accepting this new "freedom," this absence of a fixed schedule, except to the extent that I imposed a pattern on myself.


I soon learned the true meaning of "rattling around" ... with nothing in particular on the agenda for the day.


Then I started writing. What a discovery that was! I soon found myself looking forward to mornings so I could resume the activity of the evening before. 


There's just something about the quiet of the morning ... the brain so far uncluttered with details ... the imagination fully wound and ready to go.


Oh, what I had been missing!


And now, the poem:



CLEAR BLUE MORNING


How I savor
fresh dew
between my toes,
melodies
of light beginning
to seize me,
words gathering,
pencil moving
to claim a place
on paper, this.
© 1999
(originally published in 
Midwest Poetry Review)

Today's word: gathering

Thursday, August 27, 2009

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:

BOUNCY PINE

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Anoher Autumn




OK, so I'm rushing things a bit ... but I've been thinking of autumn a lot lately ...


Autumn brings some slight moderation of temperatures, at least ... but it also brings on some of my favorite colors as the trees begin their autumn parade ... displaying their changing leaves up and down the streets ... and across the countryside.


Autumn brings back memories of those hills where I grew up ... hills laden with hickory trees ... oaks ... walnut trees ... sassafras ... sumac ... oh, what a parade that was, too!


Another thought which came to me this morning ... how great it would be if these postings came together seamlessly, instead of the way they sometimes do, particularly when time is short.


Ah, but what would I do then, just sit and twiddle my thumbs?


The poem:



ANOTHER AUTUMN


Change has boomed

along quiet avenues
where great, green
hulking symbols
of summer loitered,
visages burnished now
into fiery displays
that climb and swoop,
zoom and explode.

And who could go
kicking through
the crinkling swirl
on the sidewalks
underneath them
without being just
a little pumped up
about it all?

© 1998

(originally published in Capper's)



Today's word: visages

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Abandonment



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.


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:


ABANDONMENT


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

Monday, August 24, 2009

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

Sunday, August 23, 2009

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

Saturday, August 22, 2009

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:



SINGING PINES

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

Friday, August 21, 2009

Reverie



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:

REVERIE

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

Thursday, August 20, 2009

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:

QUIET NIGHTS AT FUZZY'S

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Purple



(Today's photo is a worm's eye view of some hyacinths which caught my attention while I was walking in Lincoln Park)




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


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

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

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

The poem:



PURPLE


Deep-purple couch sitting alone
in the darkness of the front porch,

lamplight threading a cracked
windowpane, settling like dust

across your back, cushions askew,
butt-sprung, cold, where suitors sat

enduring eternity, waiting, waiting
for that moment that never came,

where others, home from the wars,
found prickly refuge in your embrace,

slept nights away, bone-weary, safe,
where the sick found solace,

baby first slept, generations of cats
yawned, stretched, sank regal claws,

where so many secrets still lie
like lost coins, just beyond reach.
© 1998
(originally published in
Potpourri)

Today's word: lamplight

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ordinary Things


(Another of those "ordinary things" which catch my attention when I'm out walking - the shadows of bare limbs falling across a walkway, trees catching the sun in the background - a tranquil scene which may lead to a poem ... or just a feeling of quiet contentment)

Rejection ... in the form of those little impersonal notes which accompany your poems when they come back from some distant editor ... is so frequent that it's almost expected.

Oh, I send out the best work I can do ... at the time ... and I always think I've matched it with the perfect place for it to be published ... but there are so many factors at work: The sheer numbers of people who write poetry, the limited number of pages in each publication, the timing, the subject matter.

Then there's the subjective way in which the flood of incoming work is measured ... as, I suppose, it should be. The editor, after all, is likely struggling for survival, too.

I've come to expect that most of my submissions will be rejected. Of course, this makes the acceptances that much more sweet ... more worthy of celebration, though I don't dance on the table as much as I once did.

In this pursuit of acceptance here and there, I accept the odds, I keep trying to improve my writing ... and the odds ... and life goes on.

Once in a while, in all of this turmoil, there comes a little surprise.

I recall how one editor had scrawled something about "mundane treatment of ordinary subjects" on the rejection slip which accompanied my returned poems. I recall that note ... and I wish I could recall the name of that editor.

I would like to thank him for giving me ideas for two more poems, today's "Ordinary Things" ... and another, "In Praise of the Mundane" ... both off which were published ... elsewhere.

Today's offering:


ORDINARY THINGS

If my daily walk could take me
far enough from where I live,
I might discover something worthy
of collecting and preserving.

Instead, I find a squirrel's
nest, abandoned, being parceled
by the wind, a remnant of string
lying in hopeless tangle,
fragments of eggshell left like
bits of sky on gritty gray
sidewalk, a cat sunning, scattered
toys, telling me that children
are nearby, perhaps watching
as I pick my way through.

Such ordinary things, trickling
through the fingers of my memory
even before I get home, but while
I have them they are treasure.
More than that, food for my soul.
© 1998
(Originally published in
A New Song, the poem is now part of my third collection, entitled Wood Smoke, published by Finishing Line Press)

Today's word: ordinary

Monday, August 17, 2009

Night Echoes



How vivid the memory is of those trucks "grumping and rumbling" in the night.

I don't recall exactly when it was, but I remember being bedded down for the night in a motel at Terre Haute. Then I heard them. It sounded like a parade of trucks, although there weren't nearly that many ... and there wasn't exactly a steady stream of them.

I recall getting up to take a look. There was a single, huge dump truck grinding past on the highway. I don't recall which highway, but It seems to me that it was a north-south route.

I went back to bed.

The trucks kept rolling. It wasn't a loud noise, but it seemed persistent ... and it seemed that there was just enough of a grade in the road, right beside the motel, that their grumbling ... all of them ... increased right there as they shifted to a lower gear and went on climbing the hill.

I got back up ... jotted down my impressions ... and went back to bed. And really slept then. Oh, did I ever!

The poem, which later became part of my first published collection:


NIGHT ECHOES

Mud-laden trucks
grump and rumble
outside my room,
hauling mounded
loads of quiet
down the highway,
letting it spill
in the darkness,
come rolling back,
thunder’s echo
muffled, distant,
washing across
this emptiness
like surf crashing
on my pillow.
© 2003
(originally published in Chance of Rain, issued by Finishing Line Press, 2003)

Today's word: crashing

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Messengers




"Chosen Words," which began in 2004, has welcomed more than 44,200 visitors, thanks to those who have taken a look ... and told others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today's poem:

MESSENGERS

Weary of the small,

murmuring fire

in the wood-burning

stove, I step outside

on a still, crisp night

to look at the stars.


Far overhead,

a flight of geese

moves slowly northward,

spreading the good news

to all who would hear

on this lonely night.

© 2000

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)


Today's word: murmuring

Saturday, August 15, 2009

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