Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Day for Flying

But isn't that always the way it is when you're in a hurry?

So, for a few minutes at least, I'm putting hurry aside. I'm sitting here calmly at the keyboard, serenely typing a few words which I hope will make their way into "Chosen Words." 

Not a worry in the world.

Like, yeah, sure.

Meanwhile, here's the poem (I hope):

Crisp autumn breeze sliding off
some unseen glacier, sun busy
burnishing the copper leaves,

as though trees were incapable
of doing it themselves, and not
a cloud in sight. A day made

for flying. Indeed, overhead
dozens of silent chalk marks
of planes drag themselves along,

blade marks slowly multiplying
on a blue rink, crisscrossing,
widening, turning into fluffy

cotton batting stretched along
the cold, these diaphanous
contrails abandoned in a flight

to somewhere, as though planes
of the world were gathering
on this day to make clouds,

being impatient for the regular
kind and for the needed rain,
the prodigal, dallying rain.
© 1997
(originally published in Potpourri)

Today's word: diaphanous

Friday, October 30, 2009

Biking by Degrees

In discussing a poem, particularly one of my own, there's the temptation to say so much about it that there's no need to read the poem itself.

I hate it when I do that.

I'm trying not to with today's offering, but I'm afraid even the title may tend to give it away.

Let me just say that while I have an aversion to making New Year's resolutions (just around the corner, eh?), I do occasionally concede there are some activities I need to take up ...

"Biking" is one activity that I need to resume. 

This kind of biking appeals to me because I also like it when I can engage in "multi-tasking" ... at least to the extent of doing two things at once ... not that I'm such an efficient person. Quite the contrary.

Here, now that I've verged on giving the whole thing away, is the poem, originally published in Capper's:


I’ve put tons
of happy miles
on this bike,
clinging to its
slender seat,
pedaling steadily
while I catch up
on my reading,
its single wheel
whirring, pages
blurring, while
I exercise here
in my basement. 

© 1996

Today's word: multi-tasking

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bridge Builder

Sometimes, I think, it's best just to let the poem tell its own story. My comments about a poem's beginning ... the inspiration for it ... my purpose in writing it ... in transforming scribbled notes into the finished product ... all of these, sometimes, are helpful.

Today, though, I think I'll just step back and let the poem do the telling ... all of it:


My grandfather built bridges, 
not the bright, towering
monuments to engineering like
those spanning the Mississippi.

His bridges were squat, dark,
wooden things, put up by gangs
of common laborers who spent days,
weeks, sometimes, away from their
families, so trains could go
rolling smoothly across the creeks
and small streams that wrinkled
the face of the earth.

One evening I watched as his
rough, scarred hand gripped a stub
of pencil and the pilings,
cross-members, all the timbers,
ties and rails took shape across
a ruled page of my writing pad.

His eyes glistened when my small
voice asked how far he had traveled
in this work, eating alien food
that strangers plopped on his plate,
trying to sleep in crowded, hot
bunk cars alongside the mainline.

"Too far, and too long," he said,
and I knew the story was over.

That paper is gone, his bridges
replaced by steel structures,
or abandoned as railroads began
surrendering to the superhighways
and airplanes, but how I wish
I had that little drawing, so I
could slide it out, look at it
again, something of him to hold,
now that I’ve come to appreciate
his most important bridge, those
huge hands reaching out to me,
the child nobody wanted, saying,
"Come ... live with me."


(Second place winner, Dayton Metro Library 2006 Poetry Contest)

Today's word: reaching 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Little Envy

Today's poem is about driving ... another area in which I am certainly no expert. 

No, it's not about some adventure, or misadventure, with The Little Red Car ... whose exploits have been detailed in Squiggles & Giggles. The current link:  

Little Red is fine for local driving, and we do a lot of that together, but when we go out of town, those lo-o-o-n-g-g-g trips, we let Little Red rest while we pick up a rental car.

Little Red is a very basic, usually reliable car, but lacking some of the bells and whistles, not to mention mysterious buttons and tracking devices found on the newer models.

That has led to some adventures, too ... like the time we drove all the way to Illinois before we found out how to dim the headlights.

It usually takes me a couple of counties, at least, before I master the "set speed" and "resume speed" settings.

This is a poem about discovering one of those marvels which (shhh!) Little Red lacks:


Leaving a town,
heading west,
the car senses
my light touch
on a button,
and I marvel
as it resumes
highway speed,
this collection
of steel, plastic
and fabric
with a memory
better than mine.

© 1997

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: memory

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Such Silent Grace

I was only a block away from home, fighting the wind all the way from the bus stop, when a flight of birds caught my eye. 

They moved so easily, so gracefully, "as one fluid body" ... a kind of movement that has always intrigued me ... while I remained rooted on the sidewalk, struggling.

They were quite like a school of minnows, quickly changing course, darting this way and that.

Perhaps there was some urgency in their movement ... they may have been seeking shelter from the coming storm ... or they may simply have been exulting in their ability to fly ... and not just to fly, but to fly in such a masterfully coordinated way.

Oh, couldn't we take some lessons from them as we go through life, bumping and jostling each other?

This one received an honorable mention in a Poets' Study Club competition; it also became a part of my first collection, Chance of Rain, published in 2003 by Finishing Line Press:


A flight of birds
passes like a whisper,
soaring and swooping
as one fluid body,
moving swiftly under
darkening clouds.

Rain-bearing winds
swirl as if echoing
such silent grace,
rocking small trees,
making street signs
dance and chatter,
sending pedestrians
scurrying, holding
onto their hats
as they go leaning
toward home.

Still, these tiny
birds remain aloft,
their movements like
a school of minnows,
rippling, darting,
in their element.

© 2003

(By the way, a day or so ago Chosen Words received Visitor No. 45,000. Thank you for creating that milestone by stopping by. I hope you enjoyed what you found here, and will find time for another visit ... soon.)

Today's word: exulting

Monday, October 26, 2009

Once, Perhaps

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

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

Finding one of those ... or maybe two, if I'm really lucky ... is what keeps me going. 

And just keeping on keeping on can be important, too.

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

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

Meanwhile, the poem:


Of all the stones
we gather,
all the poems
we write,
once in a lifetime
there is one, perhaps,
that gathers light
as no other, juggles
it back aloft,
sends bright beams
dancing into the dark
that stretches
across the ballroom
of the mind.
© 1996
(originally published in 
ByLine Magazine)

Today's word: dancing

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Morning Glow

This is what I said when I shared this poem with you before:

She was my playmate, my friend, my competitor, my companion, my sister. She was Jean.

She was the firstborn of the second marriage of our mother, a distinction which meant nothing to us in those years of beginnings, nor in all the years that were to follow.

Because of the proximity of our births, we were always close, even when miles separated us ... even when adult responsibilities intruded and took us down our separate paths, there were letters and phone calls ... and those memories we shared.

We grew up separately, but together, too. There was always that cord, that connection that kept it so.

I was the big brother to her, she the little sister to me. I was the protector, the hero, the example ... roles I little deserved, and almost never lived up to. But I relished the position that put me in. All older brothers seem to.

She was the example to me ... of hard work and persistence, of a person whose sense of humor never flagged in the face of obstacles ... a fine example of honesty and devotion ... of all the good things a person should be.

She was my inspiration ... and I tried very hard to be hers.

But now she is gone ... her suffering ended ... her earthly journey over.

And the memories come flooding back ... memories of hard times in those early years, yes ... but mostly memories of the good times we had ... or dreamed of having ... those good memories which well up at a time when they are needed most.

I think of the games we played ... the places we explored ... times we had visits with each other ... where we walked ... and ran ... and sat quietly together ... brother and sister ... enthralled by this world we were just beginning to discover ... little knowing what lay ahead ... but willing to meet it full-tilt, to make it ours.

And this morning, as I'm being consoled by the good memories, I have a poem I would like to share.

I was privileged to have shared it with Jean ... and she liked it ... as she (wonderful sister) liked so much of what I did ... I hope you will like it, too ... may find a measure of comfort in its word pictures, as I do now:


The geese go sauntering
across the ice, distant dark objects
moving away from us and open water
where they’ve had a morning dip,
a drink, a taste of the coming spring
that will bring matings, nestings,
new beginnings.

But now they’re frozen
in memory as we watch them
from the windowed warmth
of this place beside the lake.

We watch them, arrogant creatures,
still going, sure-footed and confident,
away from us, like a dozen old men,
hands behind their backs, strolling
in the morning glow, quietly
trading stories they’ve heard before. 
 © 2002

(received an honorable mention in Dayton Metro Library Poetry Contest)

Today's word: memory

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Leaky Roof

It seems to me that we've had more than our share of rain recently in this part of Ohio ... but without a touch of rough weather thrown in, thank goodness ... even just a brief interlude like that can make the heart grow fonder of sunny days ... but I noticed today that the gray skies seem to be magnifying the effect of the autumn colors, at least along the routes we were taking.

A recent morning seemed to start off with a bit of fog ... most of my mornings seem to start that way, even when the sun is shining brightly ... so it was no surprise when ... I woke up ... late, thirsty ... thinking foggily of clouds, rain, roofs, leaky roofs ... and this poem came to mind:


We knew just where

to put pots and pans

when the rain came
suddenly weeping

through our roof,
its pit, pat, pit-pat

lullaby lingering
long after the storm

had droned off into
distant, grumbling

thunder, leaving
a morning residue

of splatters
and puddles,

blankets on a line,
featherbed sprawled

like a newborn calf
broadside of the sun.

© 2001

(received an honorable mention award in Ohio Poetry Day competition; subsequently published in my first collection, Chance of Rain ... Finishing Line Press, 2003)

Today's word: grumbling

Friday, October 23, 2009

In the Choir

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

I have become an avid listener, instead.

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

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

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

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

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

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



Oh, that my voice
might soar like
a tenor's rising
as clearly as a bell
from the choir,
but if that wish
is not to be, then
let me remain
a faithful voice
among the many,
my song steadfast.
© 1998

Today's word: dimension

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Snowy Kingdom

(Another of my little watercolors, here for an encore appearance)

This just in: A usually reliable source informs me that my poem, "Naming the Fish," is going to be read on "Conrad's Corner," by Conrad Balliet himself, on WYSO radio ... shortly before 8 p.m. this Friday. Hope you can give a listen ... if not at the time it airs, perhaps later in their archives.

Meanwhile ...

It began with something somebody said a few days ago, I think. As I recall, they mentioned snow ... the prospect of snow ... some distance away now, but still an eventual prospect.

That was enough to bring to mind memories of times when ... well, when there was more than the prospect of snow. It was falling steadily, piling up, drifting ... looking like it was going to hang around forever.

The mere mention of snow was enough to set my mental wheels into motion ... spinning, that is. That brought to mind today's poem ... one that you may have seen before.

I hope you don't mind this "encore" appearance ... and I really hope my mentioning snow doesn't bring about an actual visit by it ... not yet, at least.

The poem:


Swirling flakes
made soft landings
in the night,
leaving the mailbox
and a row of cedars
bowing obediently
in its direction.

© 1994

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: swirling

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Three Loves

I think a love poem might be in order today ... this one  mainly about my eighth-grade teacher, who stirred an abiding interest in reading in me.

But it's also about the librarian I met at another time, in another town, as a result of my interest in reading.

That librarian and I are still sharing a mutual interest in reading, and she is the one who listens patiently to the things I've written.

But, getting back to the main thread of the poem: I was so glad when I was able to visit my former teacher, Miss Pearl, a few years ago, to thank her for imparting her love for reading ... and to introduce her to that librarian, my wife, Phyllis.

The poem:


Could Miss Pearl have known
that her own love of reading
would so transform the life

of a hungering eighth grader
whom her gentle, healing voice
touched with daily readings?

Fragile fingers softly turning
the pages of her beloved books,
she made visions of mere words,

openings to worlds where people
could dream, hope, and achieve.
These, she told us, were worlds

where we, too, might go, in fact,
belonged. Did she know, or did she
merely dream the teacher's dream

that the tiny seeds might endure,
take root, flower? Did she know
that her devoted love of reading

would become my own, eventually
leading me to that certain library
where I would find you? How else

could she have sustained herself
through those despairing years?
Questions still seek answers,

but of this I'm sure: Her gift,
so freely given, became more dear
than I, or even she, ever dreamed.

© 2001

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: sustained

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


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?

Meanwhile, today's poem:


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

Afterthoughts ...
Thank you, Hannah, for joining the conversation with that comment. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Breakfast for Two

As is sometimes the case, I was not actually a witness to the crime depicted in today's poem, but the information came from a usually reliable source (not, incidentally, Luke the Cat).

I've met both principals in this case. 

I can believe that one of them was, indeed, engrossed in the newspaper when the action took place. He's been known the work an occasional crossword puzzle. 

I find it hard, however, to believe that Luke would stoop to such thievery as is detailed here.

Still, it does appear to be one of those crimes of opportunity, and when opportunity knocks ...

Good news, though: I understand that Jerry and Luke, despite this transgression, remained good friends.

Today's poem, originally published in Capper's:


An unsuspecting
Jerry buries his
nose in the news,
savoring the paper
while Luke the Cat
pulls a little caper
with a stealthy paw,
takin' the bacon
from Jerry's plate.
© 1998

Today's word: stealthy