Thursday, July 31, 2014

Laughter
























Have you listened ... I mean really listened ... to children laughing?

They are so completely given over to it. They can't help themselves.

Things are not just a little funny, eliciting a polite chuckle. 

They are really, really funny. There's a sudden explosion of laughter, and when they try to control it ... the more they try ... the more it comes bubbling out.

Even the most confirmed grump is likely to find a certain contagion in the children's laughter, may find himself beginning to smile, inwardly, at least, may find himself joining in ... remembering a time when things were just so unbearably funny.

Originally published in Capper's:

LAUGHTER

What luxury

the laughter
of children,
the champagne
of sounds
unexpectedly
uncorked,
cascading,
filling
the glasses
of those nearby,
tickling
their noses.
© 1996

Today's word: contagion

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It's Only Darkness

















Sometimes I think it's best just to let the poem speak for itself. This is one of those times ... although I'm tempted to say something about so-called Daylight Saving Time ...


I always have a comment or two ... mainly to myself ... as I make the rounds ... twice a year ... setting the clocks back ... or forward ... and back ... then forward ... no, back ...


My usual thought is ... why do we have to fiddle with the clocks? 


Why can't we just adjust our work schedules ... a work schedule for the summer months ... another for the rest of the year?


I usually end up commenting ... to myself ... that so-called Daylight Saving Time is all just a ruse to provide farmers with more time to play golf in the afternoons.


Don't get me wrong ... I'm all for saving energy ... especially when it's costing us all an arm and a leg ... like it is these days ... 


But I'm not going there today ... because ... well, actually, the poem isn't about Daylight Saving Time ...


The poem:


IT'S ONLY DARKNESS


There's such an absence
of light this morning,
it's like scaling a wall
of darkness as I rise
slowly on familiar stairs.

My feet seek supporting
places, my hand searches
for a railing I know
is there, but still hiding
from my straining eyes.

I’m a child again, bad dreams
still haunting me while my
sleep-numbed brain struggles
to convince me there’s nothing
to fear: It’s only darkness.

My hand reaches for a hand
no longer there and I pause,
listening, waiting, almost
expecting a touch, a word
to guide me in my climb.
© 2003
(originally published in ICON)

Today's word: darkness

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hungry Eyes Feasting



















This is one of my dream poems. No, I'm not saying it approaches perfection ... not in any respect. It's a poem about one of my dreams.

It seemed so real to me because it took place in familiar surroundings, much of it in my home neighborhood. The familiar went streaming through my sleep, in one of those dreams which seem to go forever.

I thought it would never end ... especially when it took the mysterious, sinister overtones of my feeling that, although I was on a deserted street, I was being watched.

Usually I wake up, the dream bubble bursts, and that's that.

Not this time.

I reached immediately for that pad and pen which are always nearby, just in case. I'm glad I captured some of those images before they got away from me.

This poem went on to be published in Waterways:

HUNGRY EYES FEASTING

Awash in the buzz and crackle wafting from
The Hillside Tavern’s enchanted neon signs,
I wake to the sound of nothing in my room,
Find the aching cold of yesterday's shoes,
Then, exploring the hall's echoing darkness,
Hear the ticking clock, the click of the lock
Before I go strolling past houses haunted
By the absence of dreams, empty windows
Staring back, thousands of broken promises
That will not be mended - not this night;
Slowly I march to the song of something
I can almost hear, feel its hungry eyes
Feasting on me, sense its crouching, tensing,
Preparing to pounce, and I dare not scream.
© 2005

Today's word: feasting

Monday, July 28, 2014

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Do They Sleep?

























Sometimes, especially with a whimsical piece, any explanation is too much ... so I'll spare you the details of my ordeal by squirrels ... the pain and humiliation I've suffered at their hands (er, paws) ... the ongoing battle of wills ... my refusal to concede that their ancestors were here in this country before mine ... all those things which went into the making of this poem.


If they were to write poetry ... perhaps it would keep them out of mischief for brief interludes, at least ... I suppose it would be as accusatory of me as this is of them.


I'm willing to settle for an uneasy truce. But are they? This one was originally published in Capper's:


DO THEY SLEEP?

I've seen 'em
nodding off
on a quiet limb
during the day,
but when do
pesky squirrels
really sleep?


And where?


Maybe they go
to little motels,
or perhaps they
go zipping off
to the suburbs,
where they plot
new mischiefs
on tiny laptops.


Some nights,
when the wind
sits and traffic
thins, I think
I see the glow
from their tiny
flickering
screens, hear
them chuckling
to themselves,
and I lie there ...
awake, wondering.

© 1998

Today's word: chuckling

Friday, July 25, 2014

Conversations



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 fog of memory, 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:


CONVERSATIONS

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Building Poems























Still another poem about writing.

Not that I'm expert on the subject. On the contrary, the more I write, the more I'm mystified by the process. 

Oh, I've gotten the mechanics right ... after all these years of practice: Fingers on the home keys, and away we go.

It's that other part ... the part in which the ideas come hopping along like shy rabbits looking for that last nibble of clover at dusk ... that's the part I don't really understand.

I know, a quiet place helps ... or even a noisy place, like a bus, a waiting room at the hospital ... places like that will work, if you can tune out all that's going on outside of you.

The blank page, believe it or not, can be a stimulus, too ... an invitation to scribble a few random thoughts.

Then the plot thickens ... the mystery deepens ... and sometimes ... sometimes, mind you ... what you've started, that seed you've planted, goes on, grows up ... and becomes a poem.

Even one who uses ellipses so recklessly ... one who remains mystified by those final steps in the writing process ... can do it. And so can you.

Indeed, bring on more sand!


The poem:


BUILDING POEMS


My poems are built
on the crawling sands
of memory; see how
they tilt and teeter
on the brink of meaning,
how they race past us
in the stopped-time
dimension into which
they’ve been thrust,
how they collide head-on
with indifference, then
come reverberating back
like struck gongs,
resting finally in my
outstretched hands.
Oh, how I love it,
this ever-changing,
never-changing process.
Bring on more sand!
© 2005

(originally published in St. Anthony Messenger)

Today's word: reverberating

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Antidote




















I don't know how many nights I had tossed and turned. Let's just say there were a lot of them.

So many times, during those restless nights, I would think of something that seemed to be the start of a poem, perhaps ... or a bit of fiction ... something I might do something with, if only I could remember it the next morning.

I never could. The next morning? Gone ... the slate wiped clean ... not a trace of that "great idea" which had nagged me so much the night before.

Aha! The solution? That's explained in the poem.

But it didn't solve the problem I expected it to ... far from it.


You'll have to read on to discover what problem was solved:

ANTIDOTE

All those nights
of tossing, turning,
I lay awake wishing
I had pad and pencil
to preserve thoughts
dancing fleetingly
across the ballroom
of my frazzled mind.
When finally one night
I remembered to place
these vital tools
within arm's length,
I went smugly to bed.
And slept like a log.
© 1997

(originally published in Parnassus Literary Journal)

Today's word: fleetingly

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

After the Chores























A poem, sometimes, is an accumulation of memories.

This one is like that. It goes all the way back to my childhood, when I would sit on the steps and watch the sky in the evening. It was like magic, the way the stars would start popping out.

It was magic, too, the way the moon would come floating up over the hills, like a giant balloon set loose to spend the night with us.

Lightning bugs would emerge, and there would be a chorus of sounds from the trees and the nearby fields. Occasionally there would be the hooting of an owl, or ... somewhere in the distance ... the mournful call of the whippoorwill.

I thought of those evenings many times, when I was in places distant from that beginning. 

There weren't always steps to sit on in the evening, and it was often a day job, rather than "chores," that brought fatigue settling onto me at the end of the day.

But I found comfort in thinking about those evenings, so long ago. I still do.

And now, the poem:

AFTER THE CHORES

Night voices rise
in growing chorus
as I sink to the steps
and sit, watching,
waiting like a child,
for a first twinkle
on that darkening
blue dome of sky.
 © 1995
(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: darkening

Monday, July 21, 2014

Winter Glow




















Today's poem is another example of the kind of subject I write about most frequently ... an ordinary, everyday event or topic ... but perhaps seen in a slightly different way ... as though with "new eyes."


I try to impart that difference ... and I'm greatly rewarded when a reader sees that difference ... or perhaps points out something about the topic that I hadn't quite seen myself.


It's all about the learning process ... and I love it!


The photo? That's me ... somewhere in my teen years ... standing between the grandparents who reared me.


The original was rescued by one of my relatives ... passed along to me ... and is now one of my most prized possessions.


The poem:


WINTER GLOW


Cracked, yellowed snapshots
surrender from inside
a musty box


circled with twine, speaking
of times gone, like thin
ribbons of vapor


slowly curling and uncurling
from a neighbor's
chimney


while I sit in this cold
attic space looking
at relatives


and places I never knew,
their images saved,
but stories lost,


beginning to sense a feeling
of warmth, a winter
glow, spreading


over me as I touch the faces
of these strangers again
and close the box.
 © 2006
(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: warmth

Sunday, July 20, 2014

That New Diet
















I can't really remember how long it has been since that four-letter word, C-A-K-E ... not to mention all forms of my favorite food ... dessert ... was put on my forbidden list.


Oh, how I remember the good old days when cake was my favorite food. Oh, how sweet it was! But no more. Not even a nibble.


But go ahead. Enjoy. I won't knock your serving off your plate. I promise. Nor will I sit up and beg, like I used to. And if I whimper a little, just ignore me. I'll get over it ... someday.



The poem:

THAT NEW DIET

On the pastry shelf
of my mind cake
doesn't exist now,
but my poor stomach
keeps insisting that
it does. How much
longer can I take this
constant bickering?
© 1996
(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: cake 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Seventy-Year Locust






















Yes, today's poem is yet another one about writing ... at least writing was what I had in mind when this poem came together.


It was written by a young whippersnapper, contemplating the approach of his seventieth birthday.


Since then he has matured a bit. He's a little more sedate, a little more laid-back, and certainly not the ruler of any tree, although he has received a bit of recognition for his poetry.


He has a first collection of poetry ... Chance of Rain ... on a few book store shelves, and even in some homes ... a second collection ... Hollyhocks ... and a third ... Wood Smoke ...  issued by Finishing Line Press. (Stay tuned; I'm always working on another one)


His song is a little more subdued than it was when today's poem was first written. But if you listen closely you might hear it, not so much a rasping, buzzing sound now ... something more like a soft humming, as though to oneself, or to those nearby.


And I thank you for stopping by for today's poem, originally published in Parnassus Literary Journal:

SEVENTY-YEAR LOCUST

I have lain dormant,
quietly mutating
into my present form,
and now I am
ready to cast off
that ancient husk
of my past,
emerge to my own song,
rasping, buzzing,
insinuating myself
into your consciousness.

I give you fair warning:
I am no June bug
on a string.
I am the real thing,
a rip-snorter
on the wing,
ruler of my tree.

Listen to me.
You can't help
but hear my song.

© 1996 
Today's word: sedate

Friday, July 18, 2014

One to Grow On














Winter rain, under the right conditions, can be like a lullaby as it dances softly on the roof and goes running off down the street.


But if conditions are right for freezing, as they are here sometimes, it's an entirely different story. We venture out gingerly and pick away at the layer that's still gripping our driveway.


One consolation, we tell ourselves, is that we're a little nearer to the beginning of spring, and we're warmed by the potential that implies.


Meanwhile, back to the subject of a kinder, gentler rain ... the kind which inspired today's little poem:


ONE TO GROW ON

Winter rain
comes sliding down
the glistening trunk
of a sleeping tree,
delivering a sip
to be savored
when it awakens
early next spring.
 © 1995

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Memory
















Sometimes, you may have noticed, I try to use an illustration that goes along with the poem. 

I was stumped at first, when I tried to think of something to match today's little offering.

Then it occurred to me ... there it was, under my nose, practically ... the side view mirror on the Little Red Car, famous among readers of my former weekly newsletter, "Squiggles & Giggles," for its many escapades.


And what is memory? Why, it's a looking back at things which are sometimes indistinct, blurred, reversed, or "closer than you think."

And now the poem:


MEMORY

I know I've stashed
scads of things
in the dusty attic
of my mind . . .
but in which boxes
are they hiding,
when I really,
really need them?
 © 1996
(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: hiding

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Late Run























I have ridden a lot of buses. The bus was my main mode of transportation when I was in military service ... later when I started college ... still later, during a good portion of my working life.

There's something about a bus.

Absolute strangers will take a seat beside you and start telling their life's story ... at least that's been my experience ... and the drivers ... when you're the first one on the bus in the morning, as I often was ... or the last one off at night ... as I sometimes was ... they'll strike up a conversation ...

There's just something about a bus.

You can't help but pick up information about people and places ... bits and pieces of information ... even if you're not a writer ... things, impressions that stick with you ... things that resurface at the strangest times.

That's what makes this poem what it is ... the bits and pieces.


It comes together as though it's all happening along a certain route ... on a certain Saturday night ... on a rainy Saturday night ... a certain driver ... a particular bus. Not so. It's a combination of those bits and pieces, gathered during hundreds of rides over thousands of miles.

So it didn't really happen? Oh, but it did. Not in the neat little package starting at Point A and ending at Point B. But it did happen.

I imagine it was ... as is often the case ... a rainy night that set the memories into motion ... this gathering of impressions from the recesses of my mind ... the narrative that followed ... the driver ... rain ... the sweeping turn ... rain peppering the dead roadside grass ... all of it coming together to form a poem.

And that, I suppose, is an example of poetic license.

THE LATE RUN

An almost-empty bus,
and I'm dozing as it
splashes down a lane
toward St. Leonard's.

Its headlights sway
as it makes a sweeping
turn, pauses, then goes
grinding off again.

"It's that way most
Saturdays," the driver
says. Then, glancing
at me: "I make that
loop, you know? Just
in case. But there’s
hardly ever anybody
waiting." A pause.
"Now ain't that life?"

We jolt along, listening
to the wipers slapping
the rain aside, tires
smacking puddles, and I
ponder what he has just
said. The rain peppers
the dead roadside grass
and dances its lonely
Saturday night dance,
while I sit thinking,
tired and a little sad.
© 2003

(from my first poetry collection, Chance of Rain, published by Finishing Line Press, 2003)



Today's word: license