Monday, October 23, 2017

Purchase of Sleep





You'd think ... for someone who has never really been a morning person ... oversleeping would be a real blessing. After all, I generally have no set schedule to meet ... except that which I impose on myself.


But, not being a morning person, getting a late start actually feels like I'm digging my way out of a deeper hole than usual.


Don't worry ... I'll get over it. I always do ... at least I always have. It's just that I don't start my day by popping a wheelie ... it's more like slow and easy ... slow and easy ... for the rest of the day.


And where does that take us?


To the other side of the coin: Not being able to sleep during the night. That brings to mind ... guess what? Another poem.


Sometimes I wake up ... wide awake ... in the middle of the night. I'm not sure what triggered it ... a noise perhaps ... a barking dog ... or maybe just an interval of absolute quiet. In my neighborhood, sudden quiet can be startling, too.


It's almost like someone has flicked a switch.


The cure? Well, I don't pop a pill ... I've found something cheaper and more effective.

I explain in the poem.


It has also occurred to me that, since I often have the itch to write, perhaps crawling out of bed for a few minutes to scrawl a few nagging thoughts on a scrap of paper is simply the equivalent of scratching where it itches.


And what a great feeling it is to go drifting off again.


The poem:


PURCHASE OF SLEEP

I cannot sleep
when thoughts assail me,
forcing me to rise
wearily from my bed
to find pad and pencil.

Hurriedly I scratch
on the patient page,
uniting it with these,
its straying children.

Only then may I reclaim
the cradling pillow
and my rest.
© 1996

(originally published in Mind Matters Review)

Today's word: purchase

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Outside






Memories! How we cherish the good ones, make them forever ours, polish them, enhance them, store them away, pull them out to comfort us in our old age.


Such is this memory of our grandson, now a young man, but barely a toddler then.


How proud I felt, watching him go to that window, pointing and pronouncing that word with all the authority he could muster: "Outside!"


I just had to write a poem about it. I know ... I know ... it would embarrass the life out of him, if he were to find out that I had posted it here.


You won't tell, will you? Promise? Then here it is:

OUTSIDE!

"Outside!" he says,
tiny finger folding
as it touches the glass
of our dining room
window. "Outside!"

It carries the tone
of discovery, that ancient
"Eureka!" still echoing,
an air of possession.

He runs repeatedly
to the window, pointing
and exclaiming, savoring
this, another horizon
beckoning, a romance
budding, perhaps growing
until he's my age
and beyond, this love
of the outside world.
© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: beckoning

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Next Shade





























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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NEXT SHADE

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

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

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

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

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

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

(originally published in Capper's)

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


Today's word: survive

Friday, October 20, 2017

Morning Flight






Poems have many ways of presenting themselves to me.

Sometimes they wait patiently for me to discover them ... and am I ever surprised ... because they've been 
there all the time ... I just hadn't noticed until now.


Sometimes they almost literally leap out at me. Some event, some thought sets them into motion ... and they're often so fragile ... so like the smoke from an evening fire ... that I have to capture them quickly on paper, or they're gone ... gone forever.


I remember exactly where I was when this poem leaped out at me.


I was walking alone, east on Wayne Avenue, just a block west of Smithville.


Something glinted in the early-morning sky, and I paused to stare at it. It was a plane ... just a tiny speck on that deep, deep blue blanket of sky.


When I got back home, I sat at the kitchen table, as was my custom then, and started writing. The result, after many revisions (that process of slowly boiling it down to its very essence):


MORNING FLIGHT


Great silver-gray fish
gliding silently
across the cold blue
of morning
toward that huge red
bait of a sun,
passengers settled
in your slender belly,
flying away from 
earthbound creatures
just stirring awake,
waiting for the sun
to begin reaching
toward them, too.
© 1998

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)

Today's word: essence

Thursday, October 19, 2017

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ice-Cold Memories







When I was a youngster, winter was probably my favorite season.

Oh, I could've done without the tingling toes, the fingers sticking to cold metal ... the nose that froze ... but I loved the snow. It was like having a featherbed ... albeit a very cold one ... to romp on.

But that changed.

I suppose age has something to do with it, and I don't know if the weather is becoming more extreme ... or if I am becoming more sensitive to changes ... or it's all just my imagination.

I'm sure of one thing, though, a search of my extensive records would show that today's poem was written in the middle of one of those sizzling summer months when the pavement starts turning to goo and thoughts turn to the prospect of frying an egg on the sidewalk.

And I know this, too: I was looking for ways of surviving.

Ice-cold memories pressed to the sizzling brow may not be the answer, but I think they help. 

The poem:


ICE-COLD MEMORIES

In the root cellar
of my mind
I have memories
of last winter
lying on the shelves
to help me survive
these front-burner
days of summer.

I shall pull them out
one by one, to press
to my sizzling brow,
daily hoping that
I have stored enough
to carry me through
until autumn
comes galloping up.
 © 1995
(originally published in Capper's)
Today's word: sizzling

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hello, Morning





During my working years, mornings were not my favorite time of day, largely because of the early hour at which my work days began, partly because of the pressures of work.


Ah, but retirement brought a change. Now I could sleep in, if I chose, and I could ... within certain limits ... set my own agenda for the remainder of the day.


So what did I do? Miracle of miracles, I started getting up early ... voluntarily ... and I found things to occupy my day ... a bit of art, a bit of writing, a bit of walking, a bit of watching the sun come creeping up over the horizon ... or watching it melting slowly into the western rim of the world.


The poem:



HELLO, MORNING

Early light
feels its way
across the top
of my fence,
gently warming
weary, weathered
boards, faint
yellow softness
spreading like
creamy frosting
on this new day.
© 1997
(originally published in Capper's)



Today's word: melting

Monday, October 16, 2017

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Detour - Expect Delays





Today's offering is obviously a summer poem, but it represents a "philosophy" ... an outlook ... which can be adopted almost any day of the year.

I think it was written on just one of those lazy, hazy, steamy days when I felt the backlog was secure ... no danger of avalanche, at least for the moment ... more important things, those pressing chores from day before yesterday ... and beyond ... could just wait their turn.

I think it's OK to do that sometimes ... to take time to look up from our everyday chores to see what's happening all around us ... the hollyhocks ... the cardinal ... the sunflowers.

Of course, the backlog will still be waiting ... but we can then approach it with the feeling that we're a little more evenly matched now. Try it. It works.

The poem:


DETOUR - EXPECT DELAYS


I have chores
to do, but it's such
a distracting day,
hollyhocks cupping
morning sunlight,
a cardinal swaying
in the evergreen,
a jury of sunflowers
eyeing me suspiciously,
as well they might,
for I, too, may just
follow the sun
the rest of the day.
© 1999

(originally published in Capper's)

Today's word: backlog

Friday, October 13, 2017

Call of the Mousse

























It was one of those day trips that you take with a group of strangers.

You do some walking, some talking and gawking ... then comes the highlight, lunch ... if you're lucky it will be in some fancy place with big windows and a view of the city.

And so it was.

I don't remember many of the details, but I do remember the view of the city ... and the excitement when the dessert arrived. Of course, my doctor had recently put desserts (my favorite food group) on a forbidden list.

I could watch. Period. Oh, but I made some mental notes, jotted a few words on a scrap of paper later, when the bus was rolling toward home. That night it all came together in this little poem.

Then, after the usual polishing and tweaking ... patiently sending it out ... and waiting ... and waiting ... it was published.

Time has passed ... quite a bit of time ... but my mouth still waters a little as the memory is renewed.

And now ... on this morning after I've slept like a log ... awakened as hungry as a bear ... can't wait to get to the breakfast table ... the poem:

CALL OF THE MOUSSE

Fearing that my doctor
might instinctively know,
might be informed
by some skulking spy
in our midst, or that I might
blurt out a full confession
while sitting on his table,
I declined chocolate mousse
when it came crashing
through the underbrush
of after-lunch conversation,
and I sat silently, hungrily
watching while the other five
at my table devoured theirs,
particularly the lady
who, moments before,
had surrendered her fork
with the sad announcement
that she simply couldn't
eat another bite.
© 2001

(originally published in Potpourri)

Today's word: chocolate

Thursday, October 12, 2017

At the Doctor's Office




(Another of the many photos I've snapped along the way ... this one strikes me as a couple of clouds ... left and center ... engaging in "conversation" ... do you see it, too?

Today I'm dusting off one that some of you may have seen before.

It came to me on a routine visit to the doctor's office ... I was, indeed, perched on the end of an examining table ... waiting ... and watching the rain.

Then I reached for the folded scrap of paper I always carry in my hip pocket, and started writing.

"At the Doctor's Office" was originally published in Potpourri, was subsequently nominated for Pushcart Prize honors, and is now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher:

AT THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE

Random needles of rain
start darting diagonally
like the silent scratchings
of cat claws on the window
where the traffic is zooming

and sizzling past, hauling
away the remains of Thursday,
blurring beyond the sycamore,
its mottled gray-green trunk
whispering of a deep-forest

stream while seeming utterly
misplaced here where concrete
suffers the presence of so few
trees, where my strongest
efforts at contiguous thought

produce only fragments too tiny
to mend, unleavened images,
lacking all savor of meaning,
where I perch, dry-mouthed
and nervous, my legs dangling

from the end of this table,
and wait, as I always do,
for a door to open softly,
carefully, into this silence,
this sterile, stifling silence.
© 2001

Today's word: needles

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What a Gift







It wasn't always thus, nor will it always be. 

I'm not naturally a morning person, and I don't recall exactly what I had in mind when I wrote this one; perhaps I was trying to cheer myself up.

Perhaps I had just discovered the magic of retirement: No more punching the clock, no more deadlines, no more phones ringing ... no more ...

It may well have been that I was recalling my childhood outlook, that time in my life when each day seemed a new adventure, a new leaf, a new chapter in the book that was to become my life.

I don't know. 

But I do know that I look forward to the new day now ... despite some of the concerns that always seem to have spilled over from the day before ... like computer problems ... and the frantic effort to catch up on postings here.

It does beckon like a new toy and, best of all, it comes with "batteries included," whether "just for me" or not. 

WHAT A GIFT!

What excitement
as I tear off
the wrapping paper,
open the box,
and find inside
a whole new day,
 
batteries included,
just for me.
© 1996

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Treacherous Dust




























Do things still get dusty? 


You bet. At least things in the vicinity of my usual haunts, the corner where my computer sits, waiting for the familiar touch of my flying fingers ... the file cabinet where treasured bits of writing are stored ... even one of my favorite reading chairs in another corner.


My earliest exposure to the never-ending battle against dust came as I watched my grandmother fighting it. 


I remember how those motes rose in the sunbeams invading the house, then settled back. I'm sure she managed to capture many of them with her dusting cloth, but it was those which escaped that I found most intriguing.


I imagine they're still up to their old tricks, because I can dust the screen of my computer in the evening, and the next day they're back, lurking, smirking, daring me to try again.


This poem, originally published in Capper's, is my tribute to those dust particles:


TREACHEROUS DUST


Resting at will,
but never sleeping,
it rises lazily
ahead of the cloth,
starts settling
back on everything
the very minute
your back's turned.
© 1996

Today's word: motes