Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sea of Beauty






















Confession: Today's poem speaks of wheat ... the photo doesn't ... at least not directly.

The illustration is one of mine, of course ... a photo of some decorative grass. I don't know exactly what kind, but it did remind me of the wheat I had seen making waves in a field ... now all part of distant memories.

And the sky?

That's sky as reflected in the windows of the tall building near which I found the decorative grass growing. I was taken by the color and the shapes ... so I snapped it ... kept it ... and here it is, today ... famous. Well, a little more "famous" than it otherwise might have been.

I really hope I haven't spoiled the mood for today's poem, but I thought the photo and the poem made something of a match.

The poem: 

SEA OF BEAUTY 


The wheat leans

and straightens
in the summer breeze,
a sea of beauty
set in motion
toward the horizon
by plain hard labor
and the hand of God.
© 1995

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: wheat

Friday, April 29, 2016

Reverie





I've never been a skater ... on ice, that is ... but it seems to me that daydreaming is something like TWO skaters on ice.

You're vaguely aware of your surroundings ... but then you're also off somewhere else ... like a skating partner off somewhere on the ice, whirling ... and gliding ... maybe leaping ... while you're over here, doing your thing.

Then ... POOF! Back to reality.

That happened to me.

I had submitted three poems ... by e-mail, no less! ... to one of my favorite publications ... or I thought I had. Then I discovered that all of my efforts had come flying back ... wrong e-mail address!

Well, a little research fixed that ... and off they went again.

Then, just as I was winding down for the day ... checking for incoming e-mails one more time ... half-listening to the news on TV ... I got confirmation that all three of those little poems had been accepted for publication in three upcoming issues.

Wow! Did that ever set off a chain of images ... including one very brief thought about dancing on the table in celebration ... talk about reverie!

Speaking of which:

REVERIE

My tired brain,
sponge that it is,
busies itself
sopping up sights
and sounds, giving
nothing back
as we drift apart,
like two skaters
arcing slowly away
on a vast blue rink,
curling, curling
back, linking hands
again, a flurry of
upbladed ice
marking our sudden
juncture, skates
flashing in unison
again as though
we'd never parted.
© 2000
(originally published in A New Song)

Today's word: sponge

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ordinary Moments




(Just an ordinary gathering of leaves at curbside ... but they caught my eye with their colors, shapes, texture ... and I captured the moment with my camera)

Sometimes it seems that all my poems are rooted in memory.


This one is no exception.


From those distant beginnings ... the foundation stones of all those "ordinary moments" in a young boy's life ... to today ... there's a long bridge of discovered excitement, adventure.


I often go trudging back across that bridge, in search of those beginnings, because I see them now as more than just ordinary events.


Isn't that always the case?


The poem:


ORDINARY MOMENTS


... in which I discover

travel-rounded stones

on the meandering

creek bed of my mind,

each a found treasure

whirring me back

to rainy days spent

with musty books, nights

floating in wood smoke,

mornings with eggs

frying in a dark skillet,

moments when the world

seemed to be

just waiting for me

to kick off the covers,

resume my pursuit

of this great adventure.

© 2001

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)

Today's word: travel-rounded

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New Growth





Today's poem contains some thoughts about what has happened to so much of our land ... thoughts driven largely, I suppose, by my having grown up in a rural area, where the poor, worn-out soil was gentled into producing food and flowers.


I have no special agenda, no axe to grind ... just some observations that simply came to me on a rainy day in a shopping center parking lot.


I may be wrong about grasses someday retaking "these smothered acres."


I take no comfort in the possibility that I might be right. Right or wrong, I shall never know, but it seems logical, reasonable to expect that the sprawl of what we've come to treasure as our way of life cannot be sustained forever.


Something to think about, perhaps.


The poem:



NEW GROWTH


Where crops once grew,

the skin of commerce
stretches into the distance,
acres in all directions.
On verdant prairie land
now grow waving fields
of carts, cars and customers.


They bring the green
to a soil long bereft
of plants, except token trees
planted as memorials
to what once was.


And when it rains, the rain
finds no welcoming soil.
It piles up at the drains
as it flees this alien surface.


What strange things
we now grow, and
how great the cost.

Someday the grasses
will retake
these smothered acres,
rightfully theirs
by prior claim.
The rain will come
in its gentle way
to bless this soil,
and it will prosper
as it did before.
© 1996

(originally published in Poetic Eloquence)

Today's word: smothered

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Memories






There's no mistaking the signature on the art.

Tom, it appears, was the moving force behind this work, a collaboration with Alan, who is one of his uncles, and with Grandma Brimm, who was being honored on this particular Mother's Day weekend.

When the poem, "Memories," presented itself to me, this photograph of their Saturday afternoon efforts seemed the obvious choice to accompany it.

Here are memories in the making ... the vulture, the butterfly, the crouching creature (a lizard) ... and, of course, the signature.

We have stored up so many similar memories.

We look forward to slipping them out to savor them later, at a time when they will taste the sweetest to us.

And we hope that when TOM is ten times seven he will savor them, too ... that he will discover the sweetness of memories from that weekend when he honored his mother, Kathy, and one of his grandmothers, too ... and delighted them both with his art.

(Tom, by the way, is still pursuing his interest in art)

And now the poem:

MEMORIES


Resting, I search
the honeycomb
of my mind
for warm memories,
and those I find
have grown sweeter
than I ever
dreamed they could.
© 1995
(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: honeycomb

Monday, April 25, 2016

Lost in Thought







I sometimes like to take a figurative statement and pursue it as though it were literally true ...


I remember a teacher who pointed out the mental images brought up by "catching a bus," for example, if taken as literally true ... likewise with "taking the plunge," "beating the bushes," etc.


In this case, I considered "lost in thought."


Literal pursuit of that concept takes us rushing down the winding path toward several improbable possibilities, all the way to the somewhat illogical conclusion. Or is it?


The poem:



LOST IN THOUGHT


If I were to become
lost in thought,
would I wander forever?
Would anybody notice
that I hadn't come
home for supper?
Would search parties
form sagging lines, go out
into the darkness,
beating the bushes
and calling my name?
Would I be
on the six o'clock news?
Would I ever
be myself again,
or would I return
as someone completely
different, a person
I have never met?
© 1999
(originally published in ByLine)
Today's word: literal

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Handful of Dust





Oh, the memories ... how they come flooding back during quiet moments ... away from the keyboard ... no TV blaring in the background.

Today's poem deals ... seemingly ... with a single memory ... a single day ... a single set of circumstances ... and, when I wrote it, I was thinking about a specific day which stood out in memory.

Looking at it now, I think it's more than that. It must be. 


There were many times that I looked wistfully toward the crest of that hill, wondered what lay beyond ... wanted to find out ... wondered if I ever would.

Well, eventually I did. Oh, did I ever!

But now I seem to be rooted more firmly than ever in those beginnings ... dealing with those bittersweet memories ... finding that the emphasis is more on the second portion of "bittersweet" than on the first.

The poem:

HANDFUL OF DUST

I stood watching a breeze
moving toward me through
hazy green rows of corn,


listened to it overhead
whispering its secrets
to a wafer-dry box elder,


saw it picking up just
a handful of dust,
twirling it, letting it


settle quickly back
to the hoof-pocked soil,
remember thinking


that I might follow,
off somewhere beyond
those barren hills,


but stood drinking
from a rusty tin cup,
dribbled the dregs


on my thirsting toes,
went padding back
where I’d always be.

© 2002

(originally published in Capper's; now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher)

Today's word: twirling

Saturday, April 23, 2016

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

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, April 21, 2016

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Dawning





Those who know me well ... family and friends ... will be surprised to find I've written somewhat favorably about the beginning of the day.

Mornings have generally not been easy for me.

But this poem is not just about morning. It's about the experience of returning to an awareness of surroundings, discovering "words already dancing/ across the softly-lighted/ ballroom of my mind," of being on the verge ... after all that struggle ... of beginning to put words on paper.

Yes, it speaks to me about what I like best, writing, that activity which takes over after that "ballroom" activity, the real "dawning" that occurs with the writing itself.

The poem:

THE DAWNING

When the earth is still
hovering between sleep
and consciousness, when
birdsong is finding voice
and a distant bell
sways in the gentle wash
of sound, I come floating
out of a recurring dream,
yawning, stretching, eyes
struggling in darkness,
feet reaching cautiously
for the reality of floor,
words already dancing
across the softly-lighted
ballroom of my mind.
© 1999

(originally published in Sisters Today)

Today's word: yawning

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Come Out, Come Out!








(The art -- no, that's not me -- was created some time ago by my grandson, Thomas, out of materials at hand during a family gathering)


Today's offering began during one of my frequent searches for my glasses (I don't really lose them, that is, they're not gone someplace where I'll never find them again, it's just that I can't for the moment ... for many anxious moments, sometimes ... locate them).


It occurred to me that I might try keeping an old pair of glasses in one special place, then use that pair to help with my searching.


Then it occurred to me that my plan probably wouldn't work: That "searching" pair would probably become misplaced, too.


And that's how this little piece came into being. 


It ran in the February/March '06 issue ... actually on the front page ... of PKA's Advocate:



Come Out, Come Out!


If I had glasses
To find my glasses,
Oh, what would I do?
Not one brain, but two,
Would I need to keep
Up with two pairs, when
One can hide like ten.

© 2006


Today's word: searching

Monday, April 18, 2016

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

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Autumn Surprise























Speaking of memories, it's time and distance which make memories so sweet ... they've been stored away for such a long time ... seasoning, taking on new flavors with each visit back to them.

Today's poem deals with some of my earliest memories ... living with my grandparents ... beginning to discover the wonders of the world around me ... seeing things for the first time.

I still try to look at things that way ... as though I'm seeing them for the first time. I discover so many things that way ... and, if I can get my observations on paper soon enough, they may go on to become a poem:

AUTUMN SURPRISE


My mind's long lens
goes zooming back
to pre-school years
when I first discovered
those magic leaves,
a sea of crinkly color
lying like carpet
on my grandparents'
dusty front yard,
swirling, scattering
like scared kittens
when I went charging
through fiery reds,
golden yellows,
browns, all the way
to Grandma's hug,
her chuckle joining
my own laughter
at being a part of
that autumn surprise.

All these years later,
I still see those
magic leaves as though
for the first time,
hear that chuckle
so close to my ear.
 ©1998
(originally published in Candlelight Poetry Journal)
Today's word: discovery

Saturday, April 16, 2016

After Summer Rain



(Another view of Charleston Falls ... one of my favorite spots ...)

Today's poem, based on an early memory, could easily have been the title poem in my first published collection, Chance of Rain (Finishing Line Press, 2003). Instead, it quietly took its place among the others.


"After Summer Rain," with its starring character, a tiny bug swimming in a laundry tub which had filled with rain water, did become the inspiration for the cover illustration, designed by my son, Alan.


In the poem itself, I like what's happening ... the relationship between this tiny bug, which has suddenly appeared, and this "young man" who is drawn to it, pondering "what it might become, where it might go," questions he had barely asked himself.


Selection of a title poem, in the instance of this first collection, seemed obvious to me, albeit with overtones of designating a favorite child. That honor had to go to "Chance of Rain," my "lucky poem" ... those eight 
lines which were discovered in the middle of a longer poem by  an alert editor at Capper's who spotted them, liked them, suggested that we keep them and my title.


I quickly agreed, and "Chance of Rain" became my first poem accepted for publication. Thus began this great adventure.


But today I'd like to share that other poem:


AFTER SUMMER RAIN

When the storm passed
and the sediment settled
in the tub so recently
sitting empty beneath
the downspout, a tiny bug,
exploring its new world,
memorizing the boundaries,
looking for others,
or savoring the solitude
of this galvanized galaxy,
swam to and fro,
oblivious of the young man
pausing to watch,
puzzled over its sudden
coming to be there,
pondering what it might
become, where it might go,
doubly perplexing because
he had barely posed such
questions about himself.
© 1998
(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)
Today's word: exploring