Thursday, January 31, 2013

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

First Snow






(One of my little watercolors ... I know, it doesn't show a lot of snow, but I thought I'd share it anyway)

"First Snow" happens to be one of my favorite poems ... along with "Hollyhocks," "Chance of Rain" ... and a few others.

But I digress.

I don't know exactly which hillside Grandma and I were on. I don't know where we were going. Memories become blurred as to certain details.

I do remember the moment, though, when a sudden swirl of huge, fluffy snowflakes descended on us. They were, indeed, like flying feathers.

I hadn't seen anything like them in my whole young life.

The poem:


FIRST SNOW

I watch them
sliding slowly
on my windowpane,
harbingers
come to warn me
of impending winter,
stirring again
that memory
of plucked feathers,
as she called them,
swiftly enveloping
Grandma and me
on a hillside path.


I can still taste
that delicious
melting cold,
still hear her
laughing with me,
that great
explosion of joy.
© 2005


("First Snow" received a first-place award in a Poets' Study Club contest, was later published in The Christian Science Monitor, and became part of Wood Smoke, my third collection, issued by Finishing Line Press)

Today's word: harbingers

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Escaping Gravity





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

Monday, January 28, 2013

Come, Butterflies




I hope you won't mind my repeating myself.


That's just naturally one of the hazards of hanging out with an older person, I suppose.


Or maybe it's not really a hazard. Could it be a benefit?


In any event, I've been thinking about spring ... you know, that season when the sun puts a friendly arm across your back ... things are greening up ... there are spots of color here and there ... the weather becomes stable, dependable, predictable.


In that vein ... the expectation of spring ... real spring, I was thinking about today's poem, about butterflies ... about how fleeting (flitting?) events of our lives ... or seemingly, large portions of our lives ... can be.


It's also about how much writing has meant ... still means ... to me.


I write because it keeps my mind occupied ... it's the warm sun on my back in the wintertime ... my shade in the summer heat ... the air I breathe ... a quiet sip of water ... food for my soul ... 


I write because I must. I am most reluctant to give it up. That thought was uppermost ... 


But now the poem:

COME, BUTTERFLIES

There must come a time,
I suppose, when I no longer
reach for a scrap of paper
when thoughts descend,
gentle, winged things,
butterflies seeking
the nectar of a poem,
but then I'll simply sit
and let them flit
across my mind's eye,
grateful for how once
they softly touched
the paper of my heart.
© 1998

(originally published in Sisters Today)

Today's word: nectar

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Beach Music







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


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


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


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



BEACH MUSIC


Waves come tumbling
onto the docile shore,
flinging foamy fingers
across the ochre plane.



Teeming with bubbles,
they search and settle,
soothingly diminuendo,
on a healing chord.



Eliciting a sigh
from pliant, sandy keys,
the fingers slide off
into the lap of the sea,


where joyous whitecaps
merrily urge them,
jostle and encourage them
to play it all again.
© 1998

(originally published in Capper's)



Today's word: joyous

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Autumn Night







Perhaps these images, written about so wistfully, have little meaning to others, but to me they are the essence of things I miss about that place where I grew up.

I think it is quite natural that we have this connection with our beginnings, and quite natural that we should think of them again ... and again ... as we look back and see just how far we've traveled in all these years.

Thank goodness for that "bridge of memories." I often go strolling across it.

The poem:

AUTUMN NIGHT

Stars spilled
across dark velvet,
thin ribbon of smoke
climbing the air,
lettuce-crisp, clear,
toward a lemon moon,
square of window
whispering its light
through the trees,
beckoning to me,
wanderer still,
with only a bridge
of memories
to carry me back.
 © 1996
(originally published in Explorer)

Today's word: wanderer

Friday, January 25, 2013

At Daybreak






Okay, so I'm a little preachy in this one. So be it.


That's probably sufficient commentary on this particular poem. After all, I'm not really a morning person ... never was, probably never will be ... but I have to admit that morning is ... can be ... a beautiful time of day.


There is just something about the kind of quiet which accompanies a sunrise, especially if you've pitched your tent in a good spot ... or if you're just rolling out of bed at home, feeling rested, ready to face another day.


There's something about seeing each day as an opportunity ... a new beginning ... no great need for fanfare or ceremony ... just a new beginning.


And I don't think it's too much to ask of ourselves ... myself ... (I'm not big on forcing others to see things as I do) ... to do our part to avoid ruining our environment ... after all, this is our home, this is where we live ... 

That said, here's the poem:


AT DAYBREAK

The day glistens
with natal dew,
freshness riding
still-cool air,
booming red sun
nudging thin clouds
aside, a perfect
setting for pursuit
of the serious
business of saving
this while we can.
© 1998

(originally published in Candlelight Poetry Journal)

Today's word: environment

Thursday, January 24, 2013

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 again, 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:

WHAT WAS THAT?

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

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'd 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 a distant
drone of engines, clamoring of the hurried,
a silence through which the clop-clop-clop

of horses came to us in the night, a lullaby
reassuring to those unaccustomed 
to 
an absolute absence of the clutter of noise.
© 2005

Today's word: interlude

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Morning Song








As some of you may know by now ... I grew up in a rural area ... in the hill country of Southern Illinois, as a matter of fact.

No surprise, then, that today's poem ... an attempt to paint some images with as few words as possible ... has roots that go all the way back there.

No, I didn't live on a farm. By the time I came along, my grandparents had opted for a smaller place ... just big enough to have a few cats, a few chickens, a dog, rows of berries, corn, potatoes, a couple of fruit-bearing trees, and ... my favorite place ... a grape arbor.

But we were well within earshot of several farms ... and their sounds  ... their music, if you will.

One of my favorite numbers involved a barn door sliding open ... and a tractor rolling out with its throaty song all about work.

So there you are ... and here's the poem:

MORNING SONG

First light comes
stealing across
slumbering fields,
a door slides open
like muffled thunder
rolling, distant,
then, on the breeze,
a tractor's song.
 © 1995
(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: slumbering

Outside Ann's Cafe




Sadly, Ann's Cafe is just a memory now.

While it was there on Watervliet Avenue, though, it was an oasis, a welcoming refuge along the route of our morning walks.

During the cold months we sat inside, in the embrace of all those delicious cooking aromas.

On milder days we enjoyed the freedom of the tables on the sidewalk, the sounds of passing traffic, the wafting blandishments of wonderful baked goods coming from inside.

Oh, the memories, the sweet memories we have of that place.

The poem:

OUTSIDE ANN'S CAFE

The cars
go purring past
while we enjoy
the morning cool
on the sidewalk
at Ann's Cafe.
It's too pretty
to stay inside,
we say, settling
into our chairs
like two tired
teddy bears.

The sweet smell
of baked goods
comes stealing out
to where we sit,
tempting us, but
we are steadfast,
unmoved by this.

The steady click
of our spoons,
the clunk of cups
against the glass
tabletop give
more than adequate
testimony
to our resolve.


But then . . .

© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: steadfast

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Let There Be Light





I haven't the foggiest idea of what I was watching on the TV that July evening ... just sitting, vegetating in front of the tube, when ... suddenly ... I was alone with my thoughts ... in total darkness.


What a jolt that was.


I thought at first a fuse had blown (yes, we had fuses then) ... but I fumbled down the stairs, looked up and down the street ... and arrived at a slightly different verdict: We had a bigger problem.

At least I got a poem out of it.


This poem came to mind when I got home after an enjoyable evening of listening to an author describe her adventures with first, second and third novels ...


I opened an e-mail from a friend and fellow-writer in Kansas ... who was expecting to lose power at any moment.


"Over 30,000 already without lights here in this area," she said. "I doubt that I will be online much longer. Don't worry ... we'll be fine ... just have to ride it out!"


Her rather frightening situation brought to mind "Let There Be Light," though there is little similarity between her situation and the relatively minor inconvenience that I was experiencing on that steamy summer night.


When I looked up my poem, I noticed that the original version had ended: "powerless again/ in the hands/ of the trusted/ utility company."


Given the benefit of the perspective provided by time, I think I may have been taking an unfair swipe at the utility company then. What do you think ... original ending ... or a modified version?


Of course, the question is relatively moot, once the poem has been "abandoned" to a publisher ... but I was just wondering ...


The poem:


LET THERE BE LIGHT


In the hottest part
of summer,
in the darkest part
of night,
our reverie is torn asunder
as the picture we are watching
is swallowed by the tube,
accompanied
by a wheeze
that dies with a sigh deep
inside the air-conditioner,
and here we sit,
powerless again
in the hands
of the trusted
utility company.
© 1997

(originally published in Parnassus Literary Journal)

Today's word: powerless

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Good Dreams





I'm always searching for poems ... my own published poems ... that I can share with you.


My search this time led me to my little poem which celebrated a beginning, the arrival of a new member of the family.


I also see the arrival of new life in our midst ... this symbol of the continuation of life, this vision beyond the present day, beyond us ... as a symbol of hope.


The pairing with today's art naturally followed: the sunlit path that leads on, inviting us to see what lies beyond the next turn, and beyond that.


The poem:

THE GOOD DREAMS

Your grandparents treasure the joy
of having been there within hours
of your arrival, taking their turns
cradling your downy head in their
arms, marveling at perfect tiny
fingers and toes, your eyes fluttering
open and shut, brief lusty crying,
eager, hungry feeding, your
drifting off into well-earned sleep.


Some distant day you, too, may hold
your own grandchild and know such joy,
may sit wondering, arm growing numb,
what adventures lie still years ahead.


But for now it is sufficient
for you to sleep. So sleep, sleep,
sleep, Thomas, and in time
the good dreams will come to you.
© 1999


(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: sleep

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Frozen Pond





There were a lot of ponds in the area where I grew up, but this poem is about one particular pond ... on the property where my brothers and sisters lived at that time.


When I got to visit them (but that's another story), it was our favorite gathering place. I did my first fishing there. I went sledding down the hill and out onto the ice of that pond.


It was one of the first places I wanted to see when I came home on furlough after completing basic training.


Years later, during a visit back to Illinois, I drove out in that area to show my wife that pond. But the house was gone, the land was overgrown, and we didn't even get a glimpse of the pond.


For all I know, the pond may not even exist now, but it's very much alive in my memory. The poem was originally published in Capper's ... and I know, I know ... some of you have heard it before ... but it talks to me about a special place ... and I hope you won't mind.


The poem:


THE FROZEN POND


The pond was always home
for wayward leaves,
adding, in late summer,
the yellowed offerings
of the black walnut tree,
then the reds and golds
of maple and tulip trees,
like tiny boats lazing
among the ducks, twirling
at the tiniest stirrings
of air or water, remaining
trapped below the surface
when winter came, as though
waiting for us to come
thundering down the hill
on our sleds, out onto
the ice, that marvelous,
jeweled surface spinning
us around and around,
our laughter spilling out,
still echoing back.
© 1998

Today's word: echoing

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Enjoy That Silence






Today's poem was written at a time when I was thinking about my writing ... how I might improve it ... what subject to tackle next ... how to tweak some of the tons of things I've written ... and about how ... someday ... for me ... all this will come to a halt ... 

That can be a gloomy thought, I know ... but I prefer to look at the bright side of the coin, even while knowing, all along, that the coin has another, darker side, too.

Today's poem deals with that other side, but in a way, I hope, that simply looks at reality ... with a dash of hope for the reader ... the knowledge that things will go on, as always.

Meanwhile, I have been blessed to be able to write, and to be permitted to share what I have written.

As much as the writing itself ... which sometimes comes in pauses and starts, and sometimes with difficulty, but always brings a certain satisfaction when it's finished, awaiting a polishing or two ... I have enjoyed the reactions of readers.

To say that I have basked in their comments is a vast understatement.

Still, I know it will all end someday. It must. It will.

This poem is about that. I think it pretty well tells its own story ... and I don't think it's a sad story, really, just an acknowledgment of the inevitable ... but also a celebration of the present. Thank you for being a part of that celebration.

The poem:

ENJOY THAT SILENCE


When all the leafy
branches have closed

behind me and my
footsteps have drifted

into nothing, I hope
there will be no

searching parties sent
to seek new meaning

in what I was trying
to say. I had no hidden

agenda, no secrets
in my surface-dwelling

statements. So when
the silence descends,

as it surely must, please
accept it. And enjoy.
© 2006

(Published in the Spring 2006 - 40th Anniversary Edition - of ICON)

Today's word: inevitable

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Clouds at Sunset





Today's offering is an ekphrastic poem, that is, one written about a painting ... actually, one of my own creations.

It's one of the poems I shared with the audience in a "Poets Respond to Art" series at the Dayton Art Institute.

Sorry, I don't have a photo of that particular painting. I didn't get a shot of it before it went off to a new home in Illinois.

Still, I hope the poem will convey the images ... since I keep trying to "paint pictures with words" ... that the poem will, at the very least, give the reader the feeling of being there in front of the painting, studying it.

The poem:

CLOUDS AT SUNSET

Mountains tower
on the left, clouds lie
piled like bubbles on the right,
while the sun
lowers itself into the sea,
and a white sail with
a horizontal red stripe
leans across the curving waves
in the foreground.


It's such an old painting,
it might have been the thirties,
awash in Depression, an art
seeking escape while accepting
the realities of that time,
or something as recent
as yesterday, made
to freeze-frame things
in the midst of change,
the clouds, the sun, the sea,
even those sturdy mountains,
eroding while we watch.

It could be just a dream.
© 2003

(From my first collection, Chance of Rain, issued by Finishing Line Press)

Today's word: foreground

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

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 was known to have worked 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:

BREAKFAST FOR TWO


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

Monday, January 14, 2013

At the Flower Show





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


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


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


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


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


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


The poem:


AT THE FLOWER SHOW

Visitors blossom in bright lines
when day begins, but start wilting
under the sun, and throngs
slowly surrender, settling
like long rows of potted plants
along the wooden benches.

© 1999
(originally published in Sisters Today)



Today's word: wilting

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What'll You Have?





(Yes, I took the photograph ... I don't remember where or when, exactly ... but it's mine, all mine)

One of the early things I learned about sending my poems off into the company of strangers ... on the chance that some very busy person might pause to read, to savor, to accept something I'd written ... is that there's an awful lot of rejection involved.

In fact, unless you have editors writing to you, begging you to submit something, it's mostly rejection.

Not long after my first acceptance, I thought I was having a particularly good run of luck, so I did the math and found I had an acceptance rate of 12 per cent.

Of course, while achieving that "hot streak," I was also having an 88 per cent rate of rejection.

"What'll You Have?" was probably written during one of those intervals when no math was necessary to tell me my rejection rate was high, high, high.

How nice it would be, I thought, if, instead of sending my poems all over creation, I could just have a little shop on a quiet little street ... a place where editors could drop in when they felt the need for a poem.

I would have poems on the wall, on the shelves, in racks ... all over the place ... even "teetering in the back room of my mind." I would, of course, hope that visitors would find something they simply couldn't live without.

I have yet to realize my dream of becoming the proprietor of a poetry boutique, catering primarily to editors, but at least this one little poem apparently did make a favorable impression on the poetry editor at 
ByLine, and there I was, way back in '96, dancing on the table again. How sweet it was!

The poem:


WHAT'LL YOU HAVE?

Poems, lady?
What would you like?
I have these
written in the nights
of my despair,
a few over there
when I felt better.


A love poem?
Not much in demand
these days, but I may
be able to find one
somewhere on the shelf.


No picks among these?
I have more written,
on the back racks,
aging a bit
before they travel,
and, of course,
stacks and stacks
teetering recklessly
in the back room
of my mind.

© 1996

Today's word: teetering

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sudden Thunder





The skies were a bit threatening, but nothing serious, as I set out on my morning walk. Still, I had chosen one of my intermediate routes, which would add two miles to my good-behavior record, rather than the usual one mile ... or, in warm, sunny weather, three miles.

I'm sure there had been some rumblings, but nothing to worry about, just a bit of background music as I went strolling along, my thoughts a million miles away.

I was somewhere along Watervliet Avenue, heading generally east, when a sudden explosion of thunder got my attention.

Did it ever. It was so loud that "nearby" seems an understatement.

I remember turning - I have no idea what I expected to see - but I turned, found myself looking down this driveway, and there, in the wind and rain, was this beautiful rose, bending and straightening, almost as though beckoning to me.

I've tried to fix that exact location in memory, but I have yet to locate that precise driveway, that fence, that rose again.

I must have been soaked by the time I got home, but I don't remember changing into dry clothing. I don't think I was chased all the way home by lightning. I would certainly remember that. But I do remember that moment when I turned and discovered that rose.

I'll always remember that.

The poem:


SUDDEN THUNDER

I was walking,
cradled in thought,
when a nearby
crash of thunder
wheeled me
and I stood looking
down a long driveway
at a deep red rose
that was leaning
and straightening
beside a dark
gray fence.

For the longest
moment I remained
rooted there, letting
the rain trickle
down my neck,
drip from my
fingers, admiring
this beautiful flower
that had drawn me
to it with
a clash of cymbals,
brittle song
of thunder.
© 2003

(from my first collection, Chance of Rain, published by Finishing Line Press)

Today's word: thunder

Friday, January 11, 2013

Next Shade




(It's not one of my summer photos ... and that's shadow, rather than shade, but I find shadows interesting, too)

Phyllis and I, circumstances permitting, go for a walk every day.

We prefer walking outdoors, but if the weather is particularly disagreeable, as it can sometimes be in this part of the world, we duck into a shopping mall, or its equivalent, and do our walking there. 

We've even done the building-connecting tunnels at Wright State University ... all a part of survival.

In the hottest part of summer, we adopt another strategy, which allows us to walk outdoors ... and survive.

We call this our "shade hike." We find some place with lots of trees ... and we're blessed with a lot of parks like that in this area ... then we go strolling from shade to shade.

These brief interludes of relative coolness make it possible for us to walk outdoors in the hot, sultry months ... and survive.

If we hear rumbles of thunder, it's back to the mall.

While we are darting ... relatively speaking ... from shade to shade, I often think about this poem, based on childhood memories ... as many of my poems are ... but also a metaphor for dealing with problems:


NEXT SHADE

Once, walking to town,
I complained that it was
too hot, too dusty, far
too far, but Grandma,

who had walked it many
times before, simply
said, "We can make it
to next shade, then

we'll rest. Next shade,
rest," and it became
a game, the next shade
our refuge, drawing

us along like a magnet,
the trip getting easier.
I've thought of that
a lot of times when it

seemed the going had
become too demanding,
and I always found
next shade, some rest,

before pressing on,
her words still making
it easier for me.
© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)

And so it is. We find that "next shade" ... in words of comfort ... a pause ... a summoning of inner strength ... a moment in our own quiet cove ... respite ... before pressing on ... and on.


Today's word: survive