Saturday, May 31, 2014

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

Friday, May 30, 2014

Irresistible Force
















I keep coming back to this one. It's not my greatest ... just a few words strung together like beads on a thread ... but they serve to preserve a memory of a time that was.

And this one's so firmly implanted ... the great smell of freshly-baked cookies wafting through the house.

Sometimes ... my subconscious at work, I suppose ... I seem to get a vague kind of signal, stop what I'm doing in mid-sentence, abandon the keyboard, and go walking briskly toward the kitchen.

There, I'm getting it again ...

But I have to resist. Cookies ... at least that kind ... the sugar-laden, chocolate-laced ... LARGE ... kind, are on my forbidden list now. My doctor seems to have ways of knowing if I've even inhaled the aroma of one of my favorites.

So I just savor the memories. Ah, how sweet they are!

The poem:

IRRESISTIBLE FORCE


Sometimes, even
wild horses
couldn't drag me
from my room,
but the aroma
of cookies fresh
from the oven
always could.
 © 1996
(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: horses

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Howdy!




















Some of you may have seen today's poem before ... when it was originally published ... or later here on "Chosen Words." Sorry about that, but I think it might be worth a second look.


It all began when ...


There was a lull in the festivities at my high school class reunion, class of ... let's just say we graduated somewhere in the previous century ... and Floyd was saying, "You know what I remember about you?"


Uh-oh. I braced myself and allowed as how I didn't have the foggiest notion of what he remembered.


"During study hall, you'd go to that big dictionary at the east windows, and I'd swear you were standing there, just reading it for pleasure," he said.


That's right! I remembered that, too. 


It was a huge dictionary. I would go to it to unlock the mystery of some new word I'd encountered ... then I'd get sidetracked. There were so many other words I was curious about ... so many other avenues to explore. 


I can't imagine how much time I must have spent with that book. Oh, what great times those were!


My reverie was interrupted.


Floyd was saying, "As a matter of fact, you introduced me to the word 'laconic'. I'll never forget that."


Well, I had certainly forgotten. That didn't even ring the teeniest of bells. But I was intrigued by the fact that he had remembered "laconic" all those years. The wheels started turning. In coming weeks and months, I thought about Floyd's comment. A lot.


It wouldn't turn me loose. It released its grip slightly when I finally sat down and wrote "Howdy!" ... and a little more when it was accepted for publication.


The moral (I suppose): Words you've planted with someone, years and years ago, may come back to haunt you. But then you have material for another poem, right?


Right.


The poem goes something like this:


HOWDY!

I grew up
wanting to be laconic,
because my models
were mostly Saturday
matinee heroes.


Their voices were
leathery, dust-covered,
wind-blown, spare
sounding voices.


I dreamed of my own
young voice becoming
like theirs, joining
those deep voices,
saying deep things.


But laconic?

Tried it. Liked it.
Some. Found it lonely,
though, on those long
rides between words.
© 2005

(originally published in The Christian Science Monitor)

Today's word: laconic

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Forecast: Rain

























Those who've paid many visits to "Chosen Words" know that I write about rain ... a lot ... maybe too much.


I suppose that can be traced to my roots, which reach all the way back to a rural beginning ... not on a farm, really, but in a country home ... just outside a small town ... a very small town.


It was there that I first learned the importance of rain. Too much, and our garden would suffer disastrous results ... too little, and our garden would suffer. So would we ... since we depended on a cistern for our drinking, bathing, cooking water ... and our chickens and Grandma's flowers depended on water from the well.


Rain was important ... but it had other roles, too.


I still remember the songs it played on our roof ... how soothing the sound of it could be on a spring night ... how it washed away the dust which drifted in from the gravel road ... the cinders from passing freight trains ... how it made puddles for a little boy to go splashing through ...


Little wonder that I've written so much about it.


I thank you for your patience as I've explored the mysteries and wonders of rain.


And here I go again:

FORECAST: RAIN

They said it would
come tumbling off
the slanting roofs,
go dancing down
the street, glancing
off the bare-limbed
trees, peppering
fields with kisses,
would greet us
in the morning and
be with us all day,
like a promise meant
to be kept, would
dampen our spirits,
but would sweep away
the lingering crusts
of winter, would sing
of the coming spring.

But it didn't do any
of that. It just
rained, and rained,
and rained and rained.

© 2006

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

Monday, May 26, 2014

Early



















It was such a beautiful 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 to start working those stacks down again.


And what really happened? I slept in. So there I was, 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

Sunday, May 25, 2014

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

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Carrying the Water


(Just a photograph, no relation to the poem, really, taken on one of my daily walks)

This is another poem based on childhood memories of that place where I grew up in the care of my grandparents.

We had no running water, no indoor plumbing ... not unusual for that time and place.

Our water source for the house was a cistern, with a crank and chain which brought the stored rain water up. It was situated just outside the back porch.

Water for other purposes, watering the flowers, providing drinking water for the chickens, the cats, the dog, was carried from the well, some distance from the house.

This was not easy work. Like most young children, however, I wanted to try it.

Grandpa was willing. In fact, he probably took a certain pleasure in my struggles with that heavy bucket ... the water was so heavy, too, and it really wouldn't sit still ... I can imagine he also relished the memories that my struggles stirred, of his own young efforts at the same thing.

I simply couldn't fathom how he could carry water without spilling some ... while I always spilled a lot.

Eventually I learned the value of experience.

And now, the poem:

CARRYING THE WATER

My grandfather could take
the swaying bucket
all the way,

uncertain as he was, from
well to house, and not
spill a drop.

The water sat, contented,
even though his hands
were trembling,

his step less steady than
mine, his eyes unsure
of the path.

But, hard as I might try,
I couldn't carry it
without loss.

Rising up against me, it
bounded over the top
of the pail,

splashing against my calf,
making dark splotches
on red soil

when I dared set it down,
like sins denied
but still mine.

© 2007

(This poem received an honorable mention in a Sinclair Community College contest; it was subsequently published in Capper's, and is part of my second collection of poems, Hollyhocks, Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, KY)

Today's word: contented

Friday, May 23, 2014

Buddy




This one was written a long time ago, but the memories remain strong.


I might as well tell you now, Buddy was a Beagle, much in evidence in the neighborhood ... his neighborhood ... his yard ... and sometimes in his vehicle, as his people took him along for the ride.


But, as the poem relates, he was often indoors, too ... at the window, looking out on the world. Often, when I'd look out to see if it was raining, or snowing, or a sunny day suitable for a stroll in the neighborhood, there would be Buddy looking out his window, too.


Buddy moved away a long time ago, but the memories remain, and I still sometimes expect to see him looking back at me from across the street.


The poem:



BUDDY

Sometimes,
when I'm alone,
I look out
my front window,
and there's Buddy,
staring back at me
from across the way.


Resting his chin
on the back
of his gray sofa,
he trains a sharp eye
on the street,
watching for dogs,
or squirrels,
or maybe even cats.


He watches, puzzled
that I have no leash
as I trot off
on my daily rounds,
for I'm sure
Buddy must think
I'm a Beagle, too,
as house-bound
and lonely as he.
©1996


(originally published in Anterior Poetry Monthly)

Today's word: house-bound

Thursday, May 22, 2014

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 21, 2014

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, 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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When the Frost Comes




Most of my poems are fairly upbeat. Oh, there are those I've written just for myself ... a little less than upbeat in instances, I suppose ... poems that deal with pain ... and healing.

I find some release ... some relief ... for having written them. They are unlikely ever to be shared.

Then there are those like today's.

It's not an upbeat subject ... this matter of loss ... personal loss.


Still, in coming to grips with loss, we sometimes do find a degree of comfort ... I don't know if that's the right word ... an easing, I guess, of the burden imposed upon us.


I hope that comes through in today's poem:


WHEN THE FROST COMES

We miss the flowers
that kept us company
during summer months.
Well into the winter
we savor the memories
of their nodding under
the weight of foraging
bees, of their colors
lifting our spirits.

And so it is
with dear friends
and companions.

When they have gone,
we remember the bright
times we shared, how
we cheered each other,
and we cherish these
good memories, flowering
long after the frost,
to give us sustenance.
© 2003
(originally published in Brave Hearts)

Today's word: sustenance

Monday, May 19, 2014

Voice and Song




Today's photo ... one I snapped at Cox Arboretum  


The less said about my singing (dancing, too, for that matter), the better.

There was a time when I could sing. I don't know how good it was, but I could carry a simple tune, and my grandparents ... my long-suffering grandparents ... never complained.


Then my voice changed.


I changed, too ... from a budding soloist, into one who would reluctantly join the singing when in a large group. I knew then that my off-key missteps would, perhaps, go unnoticed.


Even now, I hardly ever sing in the shower, as a matter of fact.


I have consoled myself ... as I say, in so many words in this poem ... with the thought that my real song "lives in my heart."

And here's the poem:



VOICE AND SONG

Mine is an untrained
voice, lacking polish,
but I believe my real
song lives in my heart,
and from there it must,
it will, take wing,
rising like that silent,
dark hawk tirelessly
riding the lifting
blue air, until it
finds a kindred heart
where it may dwell.
© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: kindred

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Unsinkable Tulips





My photo may not show a profusion of tulips, as alluded to in the poem, but I think it does sort of go with today's offering.


I like the way this small group cups the sunlight, how the vibrant color seems to speak of spring.  


I like to keep that in mind ... as I often do ... and you may hear me repeating myself on this ... when we're struggling through another Ohio winter: Remember, this brings us another day closer to ...


That's right ... SPRING ... real spring!

I know, I know ... winter has some visual assets, too ... some snows can be beautiful ... but at the price of bitter cold ... and the cold seems to become more bitter as I age.


But then I keep reminding myself (and any who will listen) that we're another day closer to ... ah, yes, spring ... and I survive the winter.


Meanwhile, the poem:


UNSINKABLE TULIPS

We fretted over
spring's unseasonable
warmth, then frost, snow,
bitter, freezing nights,
and our hopes withered,
but here you are
again, reds and yellows
defiantly brilliant,
leaving us wondering
why we ever doubted.
© 2002

(originally published in PKA's Advocate)

Today's word: profusion

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tulsa or Bust





I've written about finding a broken pencil with only a few words left in it ... the frantic search for a scrap of paper ... any tiny piece will do ... to write down an idea before it flits away ... the hurdles, the barriers, the great feeling of success. All about writing.


It's not that I consider myself an expert on writing. Far from it. I continue to be mystified by the process ... curious about how ... and why ... poems sometimes come sneaking up on me ... but not baffled ... no, I would not say baffled ... not completely, any way.


"Tulsa or Bust" is also about writing.


As you may note, writing about writing sometimes takes some strange turns on the road to completion and eventual publication, in this instance in ByLine Magazine:


TULSA OR BUST

The paper's dry,
drier than
my driest poems,
threatening
to shatter,
turn to dust,
so I must write
quickly, softly,
cautiously,
choosing only
fluffy, light
subjects like
a "Wash Me"
written large
on the back
of a truck
lumbering
toward Tulsa.
© 1999

Today's word: lumbering

Friday, May 16, 2014

Stolen Minutes




I write a lot about writing. It's not that I'm ... by any stretch of the imagination ... an expert on the subject. On the contrary, the process often baffles me.

Do we know all there is to know about love? Or Nature? Or God?


No! But we pursue these, and other subjects, with a passion, because we want to understand.


So it is with the subject of writing.


I write wherever and whenever I can. Afterward, I don't always understand what I've written, or why I wrote it. But I write.


I keep a scratch pad beside the bed, a pen ... actually, it once was a pen with a light in it ... just in case I wake up with some thought bugging me, something that will be lost if I don't write it down right away.


Sometimes, even that isn't enough to preserve it. My scrawl, coupled with the morning mental fog that follows a restless night, can be a tough code to crack.


Oh, well, there will be another time, another place, and maybe that same thought will pop up like a rabbit, go running across the clover field of my mind ... and maybe, just maybe, I'll grab it this time, tame it, make it mine, all mine.


But don't worry. I've learned to share. Oh, have I ever.


For example:


STOLEN MINUTES

I steal minutes when I can,
take them for my own use,
sometimes to sit thinking
my own odd-angled thoughts,
sometimes watching as a pencil
searches its way across
the untracked page, sometimes
listening to that voice,
imperceptible except to that
part of the ear that feels,
more than it hears, what is said.
© 1996

(originally published in The Christian Science Monitor)

Today's word: imperceptible

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Promises




I've often said that I can't rhyme worth a dime ... but here I go again.


I keep trying. For me it's something like trying to leap over a high picket fence ... uphill ... and on a slippery slope, at that. I have trouble maintaining any kind of a rhyme scheme while trying to tell a story ... if, indeed, I have a story to tell.


I keep promising that I won't, but I do ... keep trying, that is. It's simply the challenge, I guess.


The result? Today's poem ... a double-edged blunt blade, if you will ... a poem about the difficulty ... at least the difficulty I have ... with keeping promises, especially to myself ... a poem in rhyme.


And I can't promise you that it won't happen again.


I keep being drawn back to this difficult task. I keep thinking that this time it will go well and I'll end up with something I can share with others. But it seldom does.


Today's illustration, I suppose, speaks to promises unkept ... I prefer to think of them as promises I will keep ... just as soon as I can get around to them.


Actually, it represents things I should've done yesterday ... must do today ... but probably will still be working on tomorrow.


Ah, tomorrow ...


Meanwhile, today ... and the poem:


PROMISES


I begin my year
With high resolve,
But my plans, I fear,
Start to dissolve
As the new wears off
The leaf I've turned
And the flames flare off
Bridges I've burned.
© 1996
(originally published in Mature Living)

Today's word: rhyme

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Waking



I grew up in hill country, where fog was rather common. I still identify waking up, the beginning of the day, with fog that lingers in the valleys.

It's something like the fog that lingers in my own head ... beading on the cobwebs there ... but that's another story.

Meanwhile, today's poem:


ON WAKING


The dense gray fog, that
silent stalker of valleys,
crept in like a dream
while we slept, lingered,
defying the sun's efforts
to take back this place
where the sassafras shares
a hillock with honeysuckle,
outdoing the dew itself,
globules riding a coolness
that speaks of changes
coming, a shift of seasons,
a briskness that will make
the covers more precious
in the morning, gentle fire
like a warm embrace when
evening brings us home.
© 2001

(originally published in Waterways)

Today's word: embrace

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Heart Listens










This poem was written during a few quiet moments on Christmas Eve, 1997. You will note that it was published approximately eight years later. Patience, my writing friends. Patience.

During those eight years it received many tweakings (that happens almost every time I look at something I've written) ... and, because I keep track of such things, I note that I did seven major revisions.

It was sent out about twenty times, and came back to me, for various reasons. Patience, remember? Ah, but then it arrived in the right place at the right time, pleased an editor, and was published.

I glory in that, not because it will make me rich or famous, but because I believe poetry is meant to be shared. I am delighted that this piece was shared with Brave Hearts readers, and now with you.

I don't remember the weather on the evening it was written. Wintry, no doubt, with cold winds and falling snow.

It reminded me of so many winter evenings when I was growing up. What beauty the snow brought to the countryside.


What magic there seemed to be in that transformation. What music seemed to enter my being. How my heart danced at the thought of tomorrow.

And now, all these years later, my heart still "listens" ... and dances when it snows.

The poem:

MY HEART LISTENS


This winter night
like no other I have
known, trees glisten
with newborn snow,
shining armor that
seizes the moonlight,
sends it dancing
down the corridors
of my mind. Oh, this
quiet night, my heart
listens to the song
and dances, too.
 © 2005

(published in Winter, 2005 issue of Brave Hearts)

Today's word: newborn