Monthly Archives: May 2012

Echo Taps

Today is Memorial Day here in the USA.  For the past couple of years, a local group has taken  part in an effort called EchoTaps – making a line of bugle players across town, from one cemetery to another, playing a chain of “taps” one after the next.  They do it in November for Veterans Day, but to me it would be just as appropriate for Memorial Day, remembering all those who have died in war, and all the families and friends who have a hole left in their lives.  It is always a moving experience to stand out on our street and listen.  I tried to catch a little of last year’s event in this poem (the form is a bop).  Here it is, for all who remember today…

Echo Taps

All the way to school, we see the small flags
stuck in the ground, each with its own number,
planted with dignity in stony soil,
anonymous integers adding up
the cost of sacrifice – a mother’s tears,
an empty room, a raft of nights wide-eyed

each one unique in this unbroken line.

Flag number thirty-nine is on our block.
I clutch my arms around me in the breeze
and watch a kid dressed in his Sunday best
hold his horn, fingering it nervously.
From some distant point, taps is echoing
towards us, from one player to the next.
A car pulls up, and the driver gets out.
We all listen, heads bowed, to the bugles,

each one unique in this unbroken line.

At his appointed time, our young man plays
the aching beauty of an elegy,
gone far too soon, swallowed up in the wind.
This singular loss is enough for me,
a tiny glimpse into the greater pain,
and pride, of every family that serves

each one unique in this unbroken line.

 

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A Thousand Dollars Later

About twice a year, I go into a home-improvement frenzy. Nothing is safe from my fatal attraction to all things not nailed down. At such monments, my family has only half-jokingly begun referring to me as the “angel of death.” Of course, everyone is always grateful afterwards for the fruit of my labors – at least that’s what I tell myself. Here’s a meditation on home improvement, written to a prompt on “enough” over at Poetic Bloomings. Sharing today with friends visiting from the dVerse Poets Pub. Cheers.

A thousand dollars later

As summer approaches, you will decide
that the kitchen island is a tremendous eyesore,
and needs to be refinished. Accordingly, you will
drag it into the back yard, ready to strip the peeling
paint. While you are out there, you will notice
that the lawn is looking pretty long and you will
decide to mow the grass, except that the mower
no longer works. So you will go to Home Mart
to buy a mower. And since you are an ecologically-minded
soul you will choose an electric model this time,

which means buying a 100-foot power cord.
When you get home, you will realize that
you do not have a grounded power outlet
on the outside of the house and so you will
call an electrician to come and put one in so
you can mow the lawn. But he will be busy
until next week. And while you are standing at the
calendar in the kitchen talking to him, trying to
set up a date for the work to be done it will occur
to you that the kitchen walls are very dark

and could really do with repainting. So that by the
time you get off the phone with the electrician
you will have decided to return to Home Mart to
purchase bright new paint for the kitchen. Which is
all very well, except that once at Home Mart, you will
see a color swatch that looks perfect for the bathroom,
and before you know it you will be walking out of there
with enough paint for both rooms. Upon returning home
you will go to the basement to find your brushes and
rollers. The twenty minutes it takes you to locate these

items will convince you it is time for a good old
clean-out down there, and for the next day and a half
you will find yourself putting your painting aspirations
on hold while you move all the furniture around
and carry three truckloads of junk to the curb, some of
which will be immediately set upon by neighbors eager
to help with your mammoth recycling project. At some point
in this process, you will begin to realize that you are not
sleeping well, and that every sentence you say begins with
“Maybe if we just…” Your family will cease speaking to you.

The dog will retreat to her kennel. Somehow, you will
not notice. Twenty four hours later, you will be taking
a shower when you suddenly remember that at some
point you had been intending to paint the bathroom.
You will launch into this project with a renewed sense
of purpose. However, even before the painter’s tape is
in place, you will be struck by the thought that you have
never really liked the large built-in cupboards behind the
bathtub, with their deep drawers, and so you will find
a crowbar and set about that benighted cabinetry like

the villain of a second-rate slasher movie, hacking and
ripping until all thatremains of the orderly drawer and
door combo is a pile of splintered wood, a handful of
nails, and an unsightly hole in the wall. You will feel a
great sense of accomplishment, coupled with a nagging
realization that you don’t quite know what to do with
the space you have just opened, together with a sense
of wied-eyed awe at the view of the basement now
afforded by the gap you have made in the sub-floor.
Your wife will take the kids and move to a hotel. The

dog will remain in her kennel. Suddenly unencumbered
by family obligations or the need for personal hygiene,
you will push yourself to new heights of self-expression,
in fourteen hours repainting the entire kitchen and the
bathroom, leaving the house smelling of fresh paint and
self-satisfaction. Just as you are cleaning your brushes,
the electrician will arrive to put in the new power outlet.
You will pay him with thanks and go outside to mow the
lawn, where you will find your path blocked by a large
wooden obstacle. You will note that the kitchen island is

still a tremendous eyesore and still needs to be refinished.

 

Breaking away

I had a note from an old friend this week, telling me about the path her life has taken over the past few years.  She talked about how difficult it can be to be “big” as a woman – strong, competent, opinionated, right about things (!), refusing to fit the mold shaped for her by her upbringing.  She is a trailblazer…

I am always so impressed at anyone who has the energy and courage to do this one simple thing: to be her- or him-self.  Often at great personal cost, at least until the landscape is rearranged.  For anyone doing the hard and holy work of being all they were made to be, this rondeau is for you.  Keep going!

Breaking away

Don’t break the rules, they told you. It is not
Appropriate for you to take the spot
We’ve given you and use it to engage
In things that undermine our heritage.
Don’t question things, don’t cry, don’t stir the pot

Unless you’re making casserole, or hot
Meals for your man. Think twice before you trot
Out your own ideas. Girls of your age
     Don’t break the rules.

This dying band assumed that they could blot
Out such a force of nature with a shot
Of god and apple pie. But all the rage
They vented only proved you’re at the stage
You’ll not survive if you, bound by their knot,
     Don’t break the rules.

 

What if….?

I wrote this song a couple of years ago, and included it in my 2011 chapbook “answers like socks.”  The video has my performance of the song, together with photos taken in Nova Scotia and right here in Elkhart, Indiana.  The double rainbow is not a fake!  This heartfelt post goes out with love and with sorrow.  And with a lot of hope.

I am a lonely Jonah
Running from the word of God
I got swallowed by a whale for
All the junk I’ve handed on.

I washed up on the seashore
Where I saw the ones we’ve bound
In a trail of lonely exiles
Off the road for being found

What if everything was different
What if all that I had told you was wrong?

What if grace was never rationed
What if love was never dammed
Turning all our anxious grasping
From a fist to an open hand

What if everything was different
What if all that I had told you was wrong?

It’s easy when you’re younger
To save your soul by casting stones
Someday that cupboard will swing open
You’re gonna meet those laughing bones

What if everything was different
What if all that I had told you was wrong?

There’s a stirring in my spirit
I’ve got hope for what I see
Cause even stumbling love casts out fear
And the truth is gonna set us free

What if Jesus wore a rainbow
What if God wiped out the line
What if Christians asked forgiveness
From the ones we’ve left behind.

What if everything was different
What if all that I had told you was wrong?

What if Jesus wore a rainbow
For the ones we’ve left behind.

Alas, poor Robin!

Now that The Avengers is a smash hit, spare a thought for the other superheroes – that second tier of hard-working women and men in tight-fit halloween costumes who didn’t quite make the cut.  I’m thinking in particular of one young lad in a skimpy sleep mask, with a modest letter R on his tunic, who was given the corniest lines of any crime fighting star on 60s TV (“Catwoman, you are not a nice person!” anyone?).  And still we loved him.  Adam West, this monchielle is for you.

 

Alas, poor Robin!

I didn’t want to be
a sidekick on this show.
I can’t imagine who
would take this role unless
their agent told them to.

I didn’t want to be
remembered for the way
I looked in yellow tights
with cartoon words like “zonk!”
appearing during fights.

I didn’t want to be
stuck riding shotgun with
a guy dressed like a bat,
smacking my gloved fist to
say “Holy this-or-that!”

I didn’t want to be
Boy Wonder, I thought I’d
play Hamlet. But now when
this TV gig is up,
I’ll never act again…

 

 

For friends over at the dVerse Poets Pub.

Liebster Blog Awards

This week, I was pleased to receive a Liebster Blog Award, courtesy of fellow poet and blogger Sara Vinas.  I’m grateful for her kind words on my work, and I have to say the admiration flows her direction as well!  If you haven’t met Sara before, I recommend you stop by her wonderful blog Cracker Jack Poet.

The purpose of the Liebster Blog Award is to put the spotlight on small blogs.  Each blogger who receives the award has the chance to pass the honor along to several others.  So, for this reason, I am happy to give my awards to:

  • Awakened Words  Mark Windham, a gifted writer and wrangler of words, always worth a visit.
  • I Hate Poetry  Buddah Moskowitz is a rare gem, NEVER boring, and always worth a visit.  I love his work.
  • One Inch Tall  Catherine makes me laugh, cry, think, and regularly just say “wow.”
  • Drift of Bubbles  A true creative – Diana has more hobbies and interests than I have keys on this keyboard, and she brings her breadth of experience and trademark wit to all her work.
  • Story Barn  Nina has the double-gift of writer and photographer, and she has combined both in a fascinating and eye-catching blog telling the stories of barns in lower Michigan.  There’s more stories to tell yet, Nina!

To those I have named above, I hasten to say there is no obligation to continue the chain of awards!  So if this isn’t your thing, don’t worry.  However, if you choose to pass this along, here are the guidelines:
1. Thank the one who nominated you by linking back
2. Nominate three to five blogs with fewer than 200 followers
3. Let your nominees know by leaving a comment on their sites
4. Add the award image to your site

Happy reading, all!

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