Friday, May 31, 2013

Let Them Rollick







Still another poem about writing, another piece of evidence attesting to my quest ... not to present myself as an expert on the subject ... I'm not ... but to come nearer to an understanding of the mystery of writing.

And it is a mystery.

I often sit down to write a random thought or two, but I seldom know where this is going to lead. I almost never know the ending when I begin. That reveals itself as I permit myself to be led by the words ... "these hungry words," if you will.

Indeed, I like to let them sit at the table of my understanding, and I listen carefully to what they have to say.

Speaking of listening, try reading this one aloud ... no audience required ... simply read it to yourself again. I think it's a poem that begs to be read aloud ... or at least given another silent reading, but with an ear to the repeated sounds. 

I liked the sound of it when it first offered itself to me. I liked it through several revisions. I hope you'll find something in it to like now: 

LET THEM ROLLICK


Please don't let these
words just lie there,
losing their body warmth
to an indifference
that deepens like dust.

Let them roam the range
of your experience,
wander the gentle slopes
of meaning, become
attuned to music that

echoes from your past,
let them have rein
to gallop toward sense.
Please let these hungry
words sit at the table
of your understanding,

let them traverse
your tongue, gather
speed and light, and
rollick, really rollick.
 © 2002
(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: rollick

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How the Cinders Danced





This is a homecoming poem only in the sense that I had returned to the place where I grew up.


There were no welcoming crowds, no band ... and I hadn't expected any. I had walked around town, looking for a familiar face, but found none. I ended up at the site of the bridge where a frightening experience had etched itself on my memory.


And how frightening a steam locomotive could be to a youngster, especially up close, as my grandmother and I were caught walking across that bridge ... with a freight train passing underneath.


Standing there, alone, brought that memory rushing back to me.


How quiet now! How calm. How vivid the memory of those cinders "dancing" on the deck of that bridge! I just had to write about it.


It later received recognition as a Plainsongs Award Poem, published in their October, 2005, issue.


HOW THE CINDERS DANCED

Cold, I stand recalling
how the cinders danced
on the highway bridge


while I watched a slowly
swaying freight train
creaking beneath us,


its dark, hulking engine
chuffing like a dragon,
hot cinders swirling


up, dark clouds seeking
the walkway, our lungs;
how my hand lingered


in Grandma's after that
frightening train had
gone clacking off, and I


stand here now, alone,
a stranger come home,
breathing clear air,


no cinders dancing, no
engine chuffing, but
my gloved hand rising

to a sudden welling up
that causes a blurring
of childhood images.
© 2005
Today's word: chuffing


(OK, so I made up the word, but that's how I remember the sound that the steam engine made as it struggled underneath the bridge. Oh, and the art? One of my photographs ... and, no, that's not the bridge mentioned in the poem; it's a Nature-provided "bridge" along the trail at one of my favorite walking places.)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fishes and Loaves





Some mornings, when I'm just getting my eyes open, beginning to bring objects into focus, the computer decides to cooperate, and things go ... well ... reasonably well. I get something posted, and I'm off the hook for the rest of the day.


But there was one morning recently that signaled it just was not going to be one of those good days.


I'll spare you the details. Bottom line: There was no way the computer was going to let me get online. Why? That's probably destined to remain a mystery.


Just one of those things, I guess.


So what did I do? Well, this time ... I skipped the hand-to-hand combat with the desktop despot. I just didn't feel like doing all-out battle with it.


Instead, I decided just to go with the flow. I still had a guilty conscience about giving in so easily, but I spared myself tons of frustration.


So there it was, mid-afternoon. I'd had my walk. I had a nice, quiet lunch with a lady I've known since the previous century, and I'd had a nap ... -- er, an interlude of concentrated meditation in one of my favorite chairs ... and the computer seemed to have come around, reluctantly, to my way of thinking.


And there we were, finally, with a poem.


As I explained then, the "fishes and loaves" bit in the poem may be something of a stretch, but it got somebody's attention, right? They read it, liked it, published it.


Take away that part, though, and you still have the heart of what I'm trying to say: If what I have said, or what I may yet say, touches someone, helps them in some way, simply gives them a better outlook, improves their understanding of some issue, helps them to make it through the day ... then that's "miracle" enough for me.


And when a poem I've written resonates with someone in a particular way ... especially if they are moved to tell me about it ... then that's "miracle" enough for me, too.


This one was originally published in Explorer:


FISHES AND LOAVES

The fishes
of what I have said
and the loaves
of what I may yet
have to say
would never feed
the multitudes,
but, if one crust
of my writing
has benefitted
just one person,
that's miracle
enough for me.
© 1996

Today's word: miracle

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Early Writer





I write any time I can, but I've found mornings best, before other details of the day ... yesterday's unfinished chores, today's agenda ... begin pressing in.

Still, I'm not naturally a morning person.

I don't spring out of bed singing and laughing and dancing.

I'm not a total grump either. It's just that I'm not fully wound at that time of the day, as evidenced by this little poem ... which is, itself, further evidence of why I don't write much rhyme, and perhaps shouldn't.

But here's the poem:

EARLY WRITER

Up at the crack of dawn
After a restless night,
Sleeves rolled up, thinking cap on.
The time has come to write.
Outline great, title gold,
The rest should be a snap,
But I feel vaguely old,
Like I should take a nap.
Still, I grope for the keys,
Get set to take the leap.
One moment, if you please:
My brain is still asleep.

© 1999
(originally published in PKA's Advocate)


Today's word: asleep

Monday, May 27, 2013

Daybreak, Autumn





(Oh, how I wish I'd had my camera with me that morning; instead, I again offer my little watercolor study, done in a different time, different place)


It may have been a bit later than daybreak, but not much. The feeling of newness was still in the air as I walked the paths of one of my favorite places.


The play of light across the clouds was beautiful.


Improbable as it seems, they did look like paving stones to me.

They had that worn, traveled look about them, and the early sunlight did make them look like they were cupping the coals of an overnight fire which had just been given a breath of morning air.


The ducks were on the pond, of course, keeping an eye on me for any move suggesting a handout for them.


And the crows, the raucous crows, who always seem to be arguing about something, were there in the trees.


It was a sort of shopping list of images, but I tried to make a little more of it than just that. I think ending with the hint of coming snow added to the mood.


The poem:


DAYBREAK, AUTUMN

Clouds hang
like paving stones
in the eastern
sky, hammered silver
cupping the coals
of early light,
while ducks glide
like fallen leaves
on the shadowed pond
and crows crowd
the feathery trees,
swaying and talking
raucously about
the chances of snow.
 © 1999

(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: raucously

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cool Hat






I know, I should throw it away ... at the very least, not wear it in public.


But I can't bear to give it up. It's my hat. We've been together so long, through so many things. It's like a part of me. And there it sits, "like a cabbage leaf on my head."


The poem began, as many poems do, while I was out walking, this time with Phyllis.


Actually, we encountered two young girls, strolling in the opposite direction. Strangers, but I probably smiled and spoke to them.


One of them smiled and said something in reply, but I didn't catch what it was.


After we had walked far enough that I thought we were out of earshot of the two, I asked Phyllis: "What did she say?"


"Cool hat," she replied.


"Cool hat?"


"That's right. Cool hat," she assured me.


That's when I had the impulse to toss my hat in the air and do a few dance steps right there. Who says I'm not in touch with the younger generation?


Today's poem, part of a manuscript in search of a publisher:


COOL HAT

It has been
wind-stripped,
limb-grabbed,
lost and found,
rumpled, crumpled,
laundered until
it cries for mercy,
and it sits like
a cabbage leaf
on my head.

But then she,
a young girl about
half my height,
flashes a smile,
says, "Cool hat!"
and for a moment,
just a heartbeat,
a quickened stride,
I feel like
tossing my hat
in the air
and dancing.
 © 1999

(orignally published in Capper's)
Today's word: heartbeat

Saturday, May 25, 2013

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, 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:

BIKING BY DEGREES

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

Friday, May 24, 2013

Alone





I don't recall the date, exactly, but I do recall that winter evening, sitting, trying to read, pausing as I felt the house "filling with quiet," then reaching for a pen, a scrap of paper, so I could record my feelings.

My thoughts did seem to be "shy and skittery," like field mice, it occurred to me. I imagined the sound of their tiny feet, running in a quiet place, like the house where I was alone that winter evening, or perhaps a country church ... during prayer.

Fortunately, my being alone was a condition of short duration ... only a few evenings, as I recall ... but it helped me to identify with those for whom sitting alone in the quiet of a house, apartment, or room, is a continuing thing.

I hope I managed to capture a degree of that, too. The poem:

ALONE

The house fills
with quiet tonight,
only my thoughts
moving about,
shy and skittery
like field mice
in a country church
during prayer.
 © 1999
(originally published in Riverrun)
Today's word: skittery

Thursday, May 23, 2013

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, 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

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

That New Day





I've thought of country mornings a lot of times when I was struggling into another day, far removed from those early beginnings.

I've missed the "leisure" of "working by the sun," rather than under the stern eye of the ever-glaring clock. I've missed those mornings when I could lie in bed a few extra minutes, savoring the return to wakefulness.

I've missed the sounds that filled the spaces between the trees back then. Now it's the sounds of the cars and trucks and buses that echo off the buildings and clog our senses.

What I've missed most, I think, is the sound of a cow bell coming to me from a meadow just beginning to fill with light.


Now that was music to a young boy's ears.

And now, the poem:

THAT NEW DAY

Sounds came crawling across the coolness
of the damp night air, climbed into the cot


where I lay stretching to touch the sides
of that new day. A screen door squeaked


open, then shut again. A tractor groaned,
fired up, deep, throaty song floating to me


like a breeze. Struggling early light visited
a hint of warmth high on the hilltop trees,


an image of candy-apple red slowly rising
in my mind's eye over the wooded brow


of the opposite ridge. A cow bell clanked
into the silence the tractor left as it went


rolling off toward a waiting field; so long
ago, but like yesterday. And I hear it now.
© 2005

(published in Brave Hearts, summer 2005)

Today's word: meadow

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Searching for Words




I'm always searching for words, it seems.

I see something that's new to me, and I search for a word or phrase which will help me to store the image of it ... that first impression ... somewhere that I can retrieve it ... so I can tell somebody else about it.

At my age, retrieving it is sometimes a problem ... but I don't let that keep me from trying to store it where I think it will be easy to find again. I do keep trying.

When I write ... which is often, for I'm always jotting things down on little scraps of paper ... I search for words then, too ... casually on first writing something ... I'm not looking to make a photo-realist image, but to form a rough sketch, something to build on later.

And when later comes ... time for revising ... that's when the really serious search begins.

As this poem began toying with me, it occurred to me that I might find some magic in those early words which first presented themselves to me ... "that sprang upon me like playful kittens." 

I try to maintain as much of that as possible, that element of surprise in hearing something for the first time, or seeing something through new eyes, as though for the first time.

I think it must have been a winter evening when I first began writing what would become "Searching for Words." 

I must have been reminded of other moonlit winter evenings when the wood smoke rose lazily from chimneys, and I knew that dreams were visiting the residents while I trudged the lonely road toward home.

I hope you search for words, too. I hope you'll find a lot of beautiful, soothing ones ... words you'll want to keep ... and share with others ... like seashells, or beautiful stones discovered during a walk along the beach. Happy hunting!

And now, the poem:

SEARCHING FOR WORDS

I search the silent
corridors of my mind,
seeking words that
softly sought my young
ears, that sprang
upon me like playful
kittens, turning
into songs, casting
their spell, as haunting

as the thin gray curl
and reach of wood smoke
on a winter evening.
 © 1999
(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)
Today's word: kittens

Monday, May 20, 2013

Renewal






Symbolism isn't always apparent when I take a photo. 

In this instance, I was simply prompted by the colors, the reflections, the quiet of this spot in Charleston Falls Park. 

But now I see the greening of renewal, the fallen tree both as a symbol of decay which will lead to renewal and as a footbridge, offering a choice at that juncture, of wading through the stream of events, or of taking a dry, if somewhat acrobatic, crossing ... all symbols of passages.

Appropriate, I was thinking last night ... looking at the calendar, marveling at how fast this year seems to be going.

I know ... it's still a bit early to be thinking about year's end ... parties, resolutions, turning over a new leaf ... all that stuff.

But renewal, I think, can really come at any time of year ... any day ... any moment. 

End of sermon.

And now the poem:


RENEWAL

How sad sounding
the rains of spring
were, thudding
on the empty drum
of my young life.

Renewal lacked
meaning for me,
but the years
have washed away
that emptiness.

Now the song
of those gentle
drops on my roof
nurtures dreams
of beginnings
and new growth.
© 2002

(originally published in Brave Hearts)

Today's word: beginnings

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Persimmons







Today's poem is about going back home, the place where so many memories were stored up, where I lived with my grandparents from pre-school days until I left to go into military service.

Those memories had sustained me all these years.


They had been renewed with my visits back to the area, each one including a slow drive past that special place, now inhabited by others.

Then one year I returned, found the place in ruins. There had been a fire. A few years later, even those traces were gone.

This is a poem about the last time I was there, about standing there as a stranger, recalling all those early years. What wonderful innocent years they were.


The poem:

PERSIMMONS



The house, with its two bedrooms, its swing on the porch, is gone. The tar-papered garage, coal shed, the chicken house, the outhouse, all gone. I climb out of my car to have a look around. I discover, to my surprise, squared-off pieces of sandstone still there where the front walk was, but smothered now in matted dead grass.



               I turn toward where the garden was, where I spent childhood summers chopping weeds in the long, suffocating rows, picking shiny beetles and yellow-orange eggs from potato plants. It has a building on it now, property of the village, a hand-lettered sign says, a further shrinking of the site that seemed to have such endless rows then.

                                          A single cedar tree stands beside where a cindered driveway once struggled up a slight slope. Three other cedars, the lilac, two box elders, a maple, all gone.

                                                   The cemetery sexton approaches, extends a callused hand, says he saw me standing at the graves on the hill, and now here, thought I might be hunting persimmons, tells me to help myself from a tree growing back from the road, where I remember a plum tree standing.

                         We stand and talk, bridging the years between us, and he thinks he remembers when the house was still standing, but he has trouble remembering who lived there, and really can't place me.

Then, as we part, he offers persimmons again. "They’re terrible sweet this year," he says. "Not a-tall puckery."


                                     I thank him for offering, but have one final look, turn and leave without taking any.
© 2001


(received an honorable mention in a ByLine contest)

Today's word: sweet

Saturday, May 18, 2013

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 of 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 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,Wood Smoke, published by Finishing Line Press)

Today's word: ordinary

Friday, May 17, 2013

Matter of View






The thrust of today's poem, I think, can be summed up in one word: perception.


When the crow's call interrupted whatever I was doing, I found it rather grating ... actually, quite grating. It was like fingernails scratching across a chalkboard.


But after I gave it a bit of thought, it occurred to me that there might be another viewpoint, another way of hearing the crow's call, of seeing it as a means of communication, much as we humans try to communicate thoughts or information to each other.


Perception. It can lead to a better understanding of the world around us, if we'll let it.


Now, the poem:


MATTER OF VIEW

A crow's carping call
comes tumbling in
at my open window,
drowning out songbirds,
grating on my ears.
But to another crow
it's probably as sweet
as a baby's gurgle.
© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: gurgle

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Linoleum Days






According to my handy-dandy dictionary, "linoleum" comes from the Latin linum (flax) plus oleum (oil), and describes "a smooth, washable floor covering, formerly much used, esp. in kitchens."

That established, class, let us proceed.

In the home in which I grew up, linoleum reigned, not only in the kitchen, but the dining room ... and the living room. Maybe in the bedroom, too.

It was a regal floor covering. Or so I thought then. Actually, I still do. 

But let's get right to the poem:

LINOLEUM DAYS


Linoleum was forever,
or so it seemed,
lying regally there
with its smell of new
filling the room,
cupped at the ends
from having lain
in a tight coil,
waiting patiently
at the general store
until someone
purchased its freedom,
took it home
and unscrolled it,
where it still lies
in the living room
of my mind,
so fresh, aromatic,
I hardly dare think
of walking on it.
© 1997
(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: aromatic

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

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 of 2008.


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 one of my most definite winter photographs.


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, May 14, 2013

Help Wanted





Ah, I remember it well. We had stopped in Terre Haute to stretch our legs a bit. 

We'd been walking the corridors of a shopping mall, turned the corner into the food court, and there he was.

The elderly gentleman was sitting alone, one elbow resting on the edge of the table while he squinted at the newspaper he had tilted toward the light ... and his coffee sat, growing cold. 

We took a turn through the food court and walked on.

When we came by again, he was still there, sitting the same way, still poring over the paper.

I have no idea what he was actually reading, nor what his particular interest might have been, but something told me to find a place to sit and scribble a few words on a scrap of paper that I carry, just in case: 

"HELP WANTED - Conversationalist ... "

In due course, a poem was born of that experience, that chance observation, those three words I had scribbled.

The poem:


HELP WANTED

Having grown old,
I haunt the ads,
hoping to find one
that might say:
Help Wanted -
Conversationalist.
Witty, yet reserved.
Willing to listen.
Flexible hours.
No travel required.
Age no barrier.
© 1997

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)

Today's word: conversationalist

Monday, May 13, 2013

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, this 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

Sunday, May 12, 2013

End of the Day








Today's poem is about a bit of "ancient history." 

Written well after the fact, it's a recounting of a time when I traveled much more than I do now, a time before interstate highways began crisscrossing our country, when passenger trains were still in abundance.

It was sometimes faster, or "more convenient," to travel by car. Oh, how I recall trying to think of that convenience as I fell into bed somewhere along the way and tried to get a few hours' sleep before pressing on. 

Ah, those were the days.

But for now, the poem: 



END OF THE DAY

The ceiling grows vague
and cold, its tiles swirling
like snowflakes toward me,

and I taste them, melting,
the bed sways under me
as though bearing me away

to some strange place, my eyes
close, and I see highway,
an undulating ribbon whirring

toward me, narrow out there,
broadening here where it gains
speed, goes threading beneath

my car, as it has all day,
dull pewter funnel pulling
me in, pouring me out here

where I lie on a strange bed
in a cheap motel, thinking
of the events bringing me

here, thoughts drifting
like the slow, curling smoke
in a room suddenly empty,

being pulled toward the ache
and soreness of tomorrow,
not caring, not caring at all.
© 2000

(originally published in Waterways; now part of Wood Smoke, my third collection, published  by Finishing Line Press)

Today's word: fatigue