The First Day of August dawns Cool; Cloudy
As if a Shroud has been Pulled Across the Land
Has come to town this year
Wearing Unusual Apparel.
But near mid-morning
Ol’ Sol forces his way
Through the Overcast.
And August takes on
A more Familiar Persona
As Happy Sunbeams
Leap over the Patio Woodpile
And Dance across the Dining Room Tile
No Air moves; Wind Chimes
Remain Silent, Still
Standing at Rigid Attention
The Patio Bell tolls not for Thee
It Tolls not at all
In the Stillness of August …
The Garden Gnome peers Wistfully
Through the Overgrown Wildflowers
Perhaps dreaming of Springtime
Or wishing he could travel
to a Cooler Clime.
Sentinel over it all
The Giant Walnut.
The Largest Tree in the yard
Towering above the Travails of Mere Humans,
Stands Mute and Aloof.
Who was but a Mere Sapling
Over a batter board
When Ground was broken
and This House built
A mere 40 Years Ago.
So much has happened
In the interim …
Portrait of an Idyllic June Day in the Country (A Word Painting):
He walked along a narrow path in the woods near the edge of the ten feet tall dirt bank. Below and to his right, in the grassy creek bottom, the happy stream chuckled and tinkled its way to the beaver pond, a half-mile downstream.
The trees of early summer were fully leafed; the noontide sun reached the forest floor as dappled spots of light disrupting the shadows of the wooded glen.
In spite of the intermittent shadows and being only early June, it was hot — unseasonably so! Though he could see the rustle of the cottonwood leaves 60 feet above his head, trees and thick brush in the creek bottom prevented any air movement through the undergrowth.
The narrow path he trod was made by shorter creatures — rabbits, skunks, possums; coons — and failed to restrict the grasping claws of waist-high blackberry and gooseberry bushes. The clutching tendrils tore at the jeans about his hips and at his shirtsleeves. Thorns broke away with seemingly malicious intent to lodge in his clothing, then worked into the flesh of his arms and thighs.
Clouds of mosquitos, gnats and biting flies swarmed about his head, adding to his misery.
He paused, swiped an arm futilely across his glistening forehead and succeeded in transferring the burning, briny liquid into his eyes. He cast a sidelong, malevolent glare through the trees at the gloating sun.
The sun stared back dispassionately, indifferent to his sufferings.
At the mouth of the east branch, just north of the beaver swamp — no body of water so clogged with moss and vegetation, and nurturing so many vile insects deserved to be called a pond …
he turned left, descended into the creek bottom and jumped the yard-wide brooklet, sinking as he knew he would ankle-deep into the muck on the far side. Grabbing at roots and weeds clinging tenaciously to the dirt bank, he clawed and pulled his up the bank, his scrambling effort sending a tiny avalanche of dirt to the bottom.
Wiping his hands across the thighs of his jeans served not to remove the dirt but, rather, turned it to mud. His mood grew increasingly dark and ugly.
He walked through the woods to the edge of the bean field, turned south to the fence row and started up the hill to the east.
He had walked a hundred feet or so when he felt the cooling southwest breeze caress his back. From there, the day took on a more pleasant aspect. By the time he reached the lone hackberry at the southwest corner — the highest point on the 70 — he was cool, dry and growing more appreciative of this fine June day.
He lay back, using the bend in a fallen branch — the victim of an earlier lightning strike, standing alone and vulnerable as it was on this high crest — as a pillow.
He watched two hawks circling above below fluffy white clouds; silhouetted against the brilliant blue sky.
The liquid notes of a meadowlark perched on a nearby fence post blended with the busy buzzing of honey bees, hard at work in a patch of white clover near his resting place. His eyes grew heavy; he slipped into contented sleep.
As he opened his eyes, sunlight warmed his face. He sat up, stretched luxuriously and glanced west toward the timber. Ol’ Sol was just beginning to descend below the treetops.
Even as he watched, a cautious head emerged from the woods.
One, two, four, finally a dozen deer stepped carefully from the glen, moving into the beans for an early-evening repast.
He watched until his eyes again grew heavy, then reclined once more and drifted into a dreamless sleep.
He sat up straight, senses alert as he stared into the night. A full moon was descending toward the treetops to the west.
It was the delicious, spine-tingling cry that had awakened him. It had come from Herdicks pasture, just south of the fence line; not more than 50 yards from where he sat. The answering wail to the southeast told him that the pack was on the hunt.
Crickets chirped where bees had buzzed. He had no idea of the time; only knew that he had been asleep for hours.
The breeze that had offered refreshing coolness in the afternoon sun had turned chilly. He was ready to head for home and a cozy bed.
When his eyes had adjusted to the darkness well enough to allow him, he moved along the east fence line, descending into the valley at the head of the east branch, up to the summit north of the creek. Now the cheery glow of the yard light glowed low in the northwest corner, a welcoming beacon in the night. He reached the north fence line, then headed west, down into the valley, up, then down again and home at last.
When he reached the porch, he sat for a moment, reflecting on this day. Quickly, he was joined by two cats, who knew not of his pleasant day but only that they had yet to be fed this day and were hungry.
He stood and moved to the door. He paused, hand holding the screen ajar as, so far to the south as to be barely discernable across the hills and valleys that separated them, the cry of the pack again reached his ears.
He smiled, drew a deep breath, breathed a contented sigh …
And thanked God for allowing this brief glimpse into Paradise.
SNAPSHOTS OF THE SEASONS
MUSINGS ON LIFE AND LOVE
A collection of poems by
NOTE: The following were copied and pasted from a word processing application and I have neither proofread nor checked how compatible the formatting is. My entire proofreading effort has been that I went through and bolded the title of each poem because otherwise, you might think it’s one long, rambling work.
Not that there isn’t still some rambling going on …
But if there is anything below seems to be non-sensical, blame it on the inaccurate transfer of formatting rather than on my lack of creative juice … 😉
The long shadows of early morning slowly retreat
as the autumn sum stretches luxuriously
and yawns its way above the horizon.
Long columns of steam rise from the duck pond
and cattails warm themselves against
the retreating chill of an October night.
On a low hung branch of the gnarled pine
a chickadee chip-chip-chips its approval
as the crisp, bright day,
arrayed in sun-dressed splendor,
struts proudly down the forest promenade
to the enthusiastic applause of the residents.
On the eastern slope of a meadowed hill
ablaze with the fire of autumn leaves,
I warm with benevolent sun,
and with the joy of living
on a wondrous morning such as this.
Quietly, I watch the attentive passage of a doe
who shows a mother’s concern as she
and her boisterous, precocious fawn
pass through the flowered field
and disappear into the pines.
As I look up at a sky of breathless blue
edged in lacy white,
painted by the bold brush of the rising sun,
my presence there becomes a wordless prayer
as the majesty of the moment washes over my being
and cleanses me of the debris I have gathered
in the process of functioning in civilization.
THE BIRTH OF JUNE
Gusty breezes whip the trees about
on this warm, early June morning.
Swirls of dust rise from the newly plowed field
north of the hedge row.
High above the earth, precariously riding
on a pine-tree roller coaster,
a blue jay clings for dear life
to the highest branch which,
powered by the surging wind,
scribbles a dizzying,
on the chalkboard sky.
In the pasture by the creek,
the brindle cow watches with a mother’s concern
as her week-old calf tentatively examines
with head-lowered curiosity
the antics of a detached red squirrel who,
answering the call of a thousand generations
that preceded him in this place,
is busily engaged in the task of burying walnuts
under the carpet of leaves
in soon-to-be-forgotten holes in the forest floor.
From afar, drifting on the cool wind of the dark wood,
comes the plaintive call of a lonely turtle dove.
“coo, cuckoo, cuckoo.”
From the other side of the forest
comes a hopeful answer
and the calls grow closer together
until they become a harmonious duet at forest’s edge.
Soon there will be a new generation of mournful doves
struggling from the secure warmth
of their egg-shell homes.
To plead on their own behalf
for a loving mate to share with them
the miracle of procreation.
An observer pauses thoughtfully
at the edge of this comforting scene,
reflecting on his good fortune in being allowed
to feel the joy of participation in
this turning of the universe by the hand of God.
It is a dark and dismal morning,
with capricious breezes tousling worried little willow branches.
Overhead, furtive demon-clouds dart about
on unknown errands of mischief.
I walk beneath this somber, gray sky
along an overgrown path that connects,
like a weedy serpent,
the dilapidated, old house
to the bone-weary barn that leans precariously
away from the relentless pressure
of the winds that have challenged it
for over a hundred years.
Flecks of cold, summer rain peck insistently at my face;
sodden horseweeds slap impertinently,
seeking to disturb my melancholy reverie.
But I feel no rain as behind my eyes I walk
down this wide path of twenty years ago.
that leads from the clean, white house
to the proudly erect and freshly painted barn.
Barn swallows dart in and out of the barn door
in their never-ending effort to appease the appetite
of chirping youngsters snug in half-bowl mud houses
that cling firmly to the ceiling joists,
roofed by the dusty hay mow floor.
Fat cattle graze, contentedly apathetic,
in a lush, green pasture
carefully guarded by an arrogant red rooster
who stretches his ruffled neck in assertive pronouncement,
telling the world that this is his corner post.
A chugging tractor flees the rising cloud of dust
in the cornfield behind the yard;–
the yard where plaid shirts and white sheets,
securely tied to their clothes-line leash,
wave excitedly to the row of hollyhocks
that separates the back yard
from the well-tended garden.
The tall, strong man sitting astride the tractor
is only beginning to bend toward
the inexorable onslaught of the years.
The wooded hills are taking on the subdued glow
of a quiet summer’s twilight.
Gently, the breeze caresses the leaves
as eager cottonwoods tremble with delight
at the touch.
High above the meadow soars a hawk,
performing his aerobatics;
dipping, whirling, then hanging suspended
on invisible currents of warm air.
At forest’s edge, a deer peeks tentatively
from the security of its wooded home,
tempted by the succulence of the alfalfa,
yet fearful of the demons of the open fields.
suddenly, she starts and disappears like a shadow,
melting into the darkness of the glen,
Was she ever really there?
The red squirrel who caused her fright
continues on his errand along the forest floor,
oblivious to his power as a specter.
The call of the owl interrupts the reverie of the interloper.
Only now does he realize that darkness
has stealthily crept upon the scene.
The transition from day to night
has occurred imperceptibly.
The afternoon scene of which he felt so much a part has gone.
The plaintive cry of a coyote sends a delicious shiver
undulating along the length of his spine.
The night sounds tell him that he is an intruder here.
Slowly, he turns and reluctantly passes.
The crickets cheer his departure
as nature sighs with relief at his going.
THE SUMMER OF ANOTHER TIME
Hot, sticky, fly-buzzing heat permeates all life.
Oppressive humidity envelopes the landscape.
Wilting flowers gasp for breath under a relentless sun.
The coolness of April is in the distant, primordial past,
and the crispness of October is an eternity away
in some inconceivable future.
Such is July in Kansas.
But my spirit strolls in a golden-hued autumn meadow.
I hear the call of wild geese
crossing high on October’s blue sky.
I know not of dog-day afternoons.
The swirling heat of summer cannot touch me.
I have journeyed this day to past’s future,
soon to be now.
today, once again I walked with you
in a quiet glade in my mind’s cool forest.
The joy is in knowing that,
the glade will be real.
And you will be there.
What madness is this that transports me
back through the years
to that not forgotten happy time
which wanders lost in middle-aged cynicism?
THE ELUSIVE RAIN OF SUMMER
It rained today on a parched and thirsty land.
I sit bolt upright in bed in the early morning hours
as lightning crashes into the field behind the house.
The drops come sparsely at first, large and spattering,
stirring up tiny dust clouds as they land
in the eerie shadows of the yard light.
Soon a steady shower is falling;
puddles form where cracked earth had been.
I walk a
lone in the unfamiliar dampness,
savoring the feeling of the first rainfall since July
Over two months ago.
Belatedly, I offer a prayer of thanksgiving
for this relief from the prolonged drought.
The staccato drumbeat on the roof lessens perceptively.
I pause; listening in trepidation.
Hope disseminates like dandelions on the summer wind
. . . an apparition quickly gone.
Now it is silent.
I step outside and looked heavenward.
Furtive little demon clouds,
wispy, smoky remnants of the storm
that never was
scud over the horizon.
A newly reborn sunbeam
gently lays a thousand glittering diamonds in the maple.
A few drops release their grip on the leaves
and fall disconsolately to the ground,
there to be absorbed without a trace
into the still thirsty earth.
Within the hour, choking dust will swirl before the wind.
I continue to pray for relief from the prolonged drought.
HOT WINDS OF SEPTEMBER
The hot September winds billows and gusts,
kicking up stinging clouds of dust
that envelop us all
in a choking, itching, waterless fog.
We go about our business grimly,
with faces that show displeasure
at insistent summer,
which determinedly resists the efforts of autumn
to put an end to dog-day afternoons.
How we long for the crisp, cool nights
and bright, warm days of October,
when brother goose courses the azure sea overhead,
calling us all to impossible freedom.
Fleeting dreams of moments of joy
make tolerable long hours of misery.
Summer died last night and, sadly, no one grieved.
She had become such a tyrant with her oppressive heat
and choking drought.
Many folks were saying that she had already lived too long.
So when the wake began with rolling drumbeat on the sky,
when the mourning clouds somberly marched by,
all dressed in black and dripping cold crocodile tears,
there were shouts and laughter.
No one cried.
But midst the rejoicing, a disturbing thought occurred to me.
In a few weeks, quickly passing,
when Old Man Winter comes sweeping in
on the tail of a bitter north wind;
when the trees begin to shudder, and leaves quake and fall,
when humans begin to shiver,
and huddle in corners and sheltered doorways,
vainly seeking protection from the mind-numbing cold;
when summer is forgotten in her grave,
we will pause in somber reflection
and belatedly mourn the sudden death of summer,
remembering that she wasn’t such a bad, old gal.
Summer died last night,
and, sadly, no one grieved.
THE SEASON’S PASSING
The last, insistent days of summer are finally winding down,
Begrudgingly, they simmer one last time on wavy, heat-filled sidewalks.
Reluctantly, they yield to cooler nights, retaining
with a determination born of mortality,
smothering days of heat and humidity.
They pretend to immortality while knowing full well
that their time is short;
that soon will come the cold, icy blasts of winter,
which will, with the same unwavering determination insist
that the snows will never end;
that never again will come the warmth of spring,
or the gentle breeze of June
In between, the quiet, unassuming time of October
will, in humility, give us warm, dry days,
and crisp, cool nights to soothe away
the burn of August afternoons.
Apples will fall fresh from the tree,
the corn will ripen golden in the field,
And the wild goose will thrill us with his melancholy call
that challenges us all to dare to be different,
if but for a moment.
Some will answer his plea,
but most will pass on unheeding and unappreciative.
And those lives will be emptier because they dared not answer
the disguised call of the gods.
September came last night as I was sleeping
and decided, quietly, to stay awhile.
But I was only getting used to July
and had barely become reconciled
to the inevitable advent of August.
September was totally unexpected.
It occurred to me as I struggled to come to grip
with the inexorable onslaught of time
that my life was moving on;
its winter just around the corner.
Yet, I am only just now beginning
to till the soil of my springtime.
Something akin to panic gripped me tightly
as I realized that my time
may well be nearly finished,
with nothing of which I dreamed
in my callow, idealistic, to-soon-gone youth
September seemed indifferent to my musings.
On a cold, damp, gray October day, I reflected on life and death.
Of what it is we are here for, and where it is we are going.
It was only in a little while that I knew
reflection is best done in the bright, sunny summer of life
when the spirit soars and the soul is joyful.
On a cold, damp, gray October day, I walked along a stilled woodland path,
where mist-drenched leaves shuddered
in a chilling, silent, shadow world.
All sound was muted and abrupt; all movement furtive and tentative.
Ghosts moved imperceptibly; ominously among the trees.
Evil glared malevolently from within
sodden bodies of forlorn chickadees
sitting in puffed apathy on dripping branches.
Sadness enveloped me like an embryonic sac,
suffocating my independence;–
making me an appendage of this scene,
with no life apart from the melancholy of the forest.
Overhead, the plaintive cry of loneliness personified,
the wild goose,
pierced the stillness with its pleading.
I, like the goose, am a prisoner
to the urgings of my primeval past.
No freedom have I to come and go;
I move with the wind, drifting aimlessly along
with the swaying trees.
“YOU ARE FREE”, cries the errant voice within me
and the darkness laughs, sardonically.
The wild goose flies, his freedom spent,
to the beckoning land of his ancestors.
And the sorrowing forest sadly shakes its head
at my friend the goose and me,
and our elusive freedom.
WINTER WIND’S ARRIVAL
The branches of the pine outside my window
bend heavily toward the ground,
groaning under the weight of their white burden.
Swirls of fine, icy snow chase autos
down the road behind the house.
The north wind gusts maliciously,
throwing stinging ice pellets at all who are about.
Hiding in the pine, a puffed and swollen cardinal
hunches futilely against its fury,
hoping to live one more day.
Winter has returned with sudden cruelty,
and has again claimed the earth for its own.
Yesterday, there was color on the landscape.
Faded, green pastures spread in counterpoint
to golden-leaved oaks.
Wispy, white clouds gently drifted across a blue sky.
Today, the whiteness of the earth is muted
by the somber, gray sky.
Not even the leaves break the solemn monotony;
the fierce blasts that swept down
from the lonely reaches of the polar wilderness
have stripped the sturdiest oak of its autumn glory.
Overnight, the world has been robbed of its strength; its hope.
Only cold, bitter irony remains.
No one really believes that April will ever come again.
But she will.
The depression of the bitter storm will pass.
The fierce north wind will become a gentle southern breeze.
Once again, the earth will bask in the warmth of spring.
April will return as she always does,
and we will not remember
that January ever possessed the land.
That is the curse and the blessing of the human spirit.
The lingering warmth of summer is caught
in the meadow lark’s liquid call;
in the trees that continue to wear
their springtime garment of emerald green.
Still-vined tomatoes dress the garden fence
in green and red polka dots.
Honey bees buzz among the fragrant petunias
in search of succulence,
not knowing that the joys of August are past.
The world still seems to contain the promise of June.
But the cool, mist-laden breeze that quietly eases, unnoticed,
through an open window
is a harbinger of unwelcome news.
The sodden, gray clouds that drift by sullenly;
are precursors of coming days of shortness
and of nights of shiveringly cold winds
and aching bones.
And the maple glowing scarlet on the hill
reminds the world of a truth too often not remembered.
October is receding
as do the turbulent waters of a gentle brook
after a sudden April storm.
Warm days and pleasant nights will soon be memories
darting among the flickering, orange flames
reflected in the eyes that peer searchingly;
into the ebbing glow of life’s fire.
Those eyes have heard December’s call
Which, too soon, will greet us all.
Crackling, clear winter air
brightens a cold, white landscape.
lace the drifted snow,
making of the world a benign giant
smiling with a thousand sparkling eyes.
Imperiously strutting under the sycamore,
amid row of corn-stubble soldiers
standing at rigid attention,
King Crow surveys his domain.
Resplendent in his iridescent purple cloak,
he strolls in pompous counterpoint
to the whiteness of the snow.
The me that is deep within
is strangely warmed by this cold winter’s scene.
Who is this person that I am,
who feels so akin to the starkness
that is January in Kansas.
Mysterious, enigmatic, elusive;
this stranger, me, resists
as I turn back to the mundane affairs
of the workaday world.
Thank God for that other me.
AND SPRING WILL SURELY FOLLOW
The snow is rapidly disappearing from the bleak Kansas landscape.
The sun is smiling overhead.
Honey bees ride unseasonable southern breezes.
And from every bare winter’s branch, birds are trilling in joy.
Though it is only February,
and winter surely has not expended its wrath,
we have received a small taste of spring;–
the promise of May.
And we thrill at the prospect of walking through quiet woods,
caressed by gentle breezes that speak of warm, tropical tides
and lush, green meadows filled with the laughter of July.
Lord, thank You for a glimpse of Heaven on this joyous winter’s day.
RETREAT FROM FEBRUARY
On a cold, gray Sunday afternoon, as icy rain
driven by a mirthless north wind,
made even less palatable the bleakness that is February,
I sat alone at a window, gazing at the forlorn nakedness,
and contemplated the meaning of existence.
That is not a thing to be done
in the starkness of winter in Kansas.
Rather, such musings should take place
in the budding of spring, when the spirit sings
and the soul
soars in joyous spontaneity
amidst the blossoms of May.
So I traveled on this icy day
away from trembling oaks and sighing pines
to a place ablaze with happy color,
where feathered angels sang
a hopeful song of heavenly joy.
I stood in a sea of waving bluebonnets,
caressed by gentle breezes from southern shores.
Happy laughter’s chorus welled around me
and life was good to have.
The thought that began to pervade my fantasy
was that surely heaven’s glory must be
the idyll of a tranquil, eternal summer.
Then did I return to February’s winter;
a rusted, lonely table in a deserted yard,
crying raindrop tears, mourning the lost summer
which it fears will never return.
It occurred to me then that,
though every winter past has just as surely
been followed by spring,
each February finds me sadly wondering
if ever again the world will laugh and sing.
IT’S ONLY A ROSE
. . . The girl who was selling them
looked so friendly and sincere
and so cold there in the parking lot.
. . . i had the correct change.
. . . it was Tuesday.
. . . i had the time to stop.
. . . i felt like it.
. . . i wanted to write
(flowers are a great inspiration to would-be poets)
. . . i happened to be in the right place at the right time.
. . . i had thought of you earlier in the day.
But mostly because i like you
day, i bought for you this rose.
If you like, consider it
. . . an early valentine’s day gift.
. . . a gesture of affection from a friend.
. . . a token of my esteem for you.
It’s all of these things
THE ACHE BEGINS
Again, the tall, soft-eyed willowy blonde
has moved into my consciousness.
Inexorably, she has commanded
a place in my awareness.
makes my day worthwhile.
I feel her warmth and seek reasons to touch her hand.
Why do I need a reason?
Why do I feel like a kid
who’s found his first love?
What the hell’s the matter with meÑ
a forty two year old grandfather.
God, she’s beautiful
I explore her face hopefully.
Our eyes meet, we speak silently
on a mystical, transcendental level.
Or is the feeling only mine?
Am I in desperation reading falsely?
In my need, do I see response where none exists?
I think it all began
when I held her hand.
I have no idea where it will end.
BEGGARS CAN’T RIDE
For no reason at all her memory intrudes
at the most disturbing times
and he feels the ache of love again
and wonders if there’s an end
to very impossible dreams.
And before his mind can resist it,
in spite of the guilt that he feels,
again they’re walking hand in hand
through fragrant, flowered fields.
savoring tender moments alone
stolen from another life.
And as the moon of his mind shines softly
on the lake they shared in love
his breast burns deep with the longing
and he wonders where she is now.
And he aches, and he pains, . . . and he wishes
but he knows that beggars can’t ride.
So slowly he walks from her presence
into the arms of his wife . . .
seeking her love and solace
to ease the hurt from his flaw.
Yet the pain of it all overwhelms him again
as he wonders what might have been.
And his wife lies beside him not knowing,
yet sensing the pain that he feels.
And eager to ease all his burdens,
she touches with fingers of love
and slowly, so tenderly brings him back
from the battle he loses so well.
And when they are no longer two,
when again she has made him feel whole,
when the touches
between them are gentle and soft,
when passion’s confirmed by deep love
he lies there in tranquil contentment
and savors the gift she has given.
But before he is caught by slumber,
before the bliss of oblivion comes,
that tear-misted face disturbs him again
and the ache like a curtain descends.
Then the moonlight steals quietly into the room
as his wife sleeps content by his side
and he wonders; he wonders
where she is now . . .
and he wishes that beggars could ride.
WHOOPS! CAUGHT AGAIN
(or happy times disrupted)
On a balmy day in May
languid, lolling laziness has possessed me.
I cannot break its spell.
I’m relaxed, content at last at peace,
and the world can go to hell.
My eyelids droop contentedly and . . .
Whoops, here comes the boss.
Suddenly, I’m wide awake!
His gain has been my loss.
I wish I hadn’t started so.
It made me seem quite guilty
for doing only what comes naturally
when spring has made me wilty.
A thousand lilies growing
by a pond of emerald green,
a hundred golden sunsets
such as most have never seen.
The mystery of the forest deep,
the fragrance of flowered fields,
the sweetness of the nectar
that the clover blossom yields.
The wonder of a swallows’s flight,
the dawn of each new day,
the joy of happy children
in the innocence of play.
These things of life so common
yet in apprehension, rare
move my soul to the very depths
and ease my pain and care.
But also make me ponder why
I long for peace of mind
and in my passioned search for joy,
only heartaches often find.
Yes, contentment is as elusive
as the fabled butterfly,
fulfillment is so fleeting
as to make me softly cry.
And at times, in introspection,
with an insight rare indeed,
I catch a glimpse of truth and know
why I seldom fill my need.
I, like others on this earth,
pursue at maddened pace
a prize possessed by everyone
at the beginning of the race.
Cold and dreary rain is falling
on a hushed and somber wood.
Forlorn and saddened oak trees shiver.
Within their branches
puffed, indifferent robins wait
With songless resignation,
in apathetic expectation
for the coming of the winter and their doom
In the sodden meadow, pensive stands a deer
as the summer days of plenty disappear
while he is grazing.
And the cold, white time of bark and moss is nigh.
Restless in the pond swim flocks of geese,
who’ll soon be gone.
While frenetic on the forest floor,
a squirrel hides his acorns
in anonymous holes midst rotting leaves.
And the chances of an acorn being oak
are better than the squirrel’s of seeing spring.
But none will mourn his passing
as no one sang his birth song
nor the deer’s
nor the robin’s
nor the goose’s
Not even the mighty oak’s.
For only man, who sees behind him
and wonders of the fore
seeks in desperation, or of ego,
to record the markings of his passage.
But who will write the story
in some neo-primal time
when the oak tree crashes down
with a breaking of the glass, concrete and steel.
And who will mark the grave?
Is a cold and dreary rain still falling
on a hushed and somber wood?
A SONG FOR SYNDI
At seventeen, life is happy;
the world so very new.
Spring’s sunrise glistens softly
on sparkling diamonds of dew.
Tomorrow’s gardens beckon
with the flowering of youth
seeking . . . and finding
joy and love and truth.
What cruel specter
intrudes upon this scene
to bring the harshest winter
while the grass is young and green.
An unwanted, fearsome stranger
from the very heart of doom
has crushed the growing bud
before the flower has bloomed
Syndi . . . you lighted many lives
what a difference for those you knew.
and now the awful knowledge is
we’ve come to say goodbye to you.
We weep for you, sweet Syndi
The church is filled with tears and pain
as the sad reality strikes us . . .
we’ll not see you again.
You’re gone from us, dear Syndi
great sorrow we must bear
but we pray . . . and we know
you are happy somewhere.
For gentle people such as you
with your shy and winsome smile
cannot really die
You’re just gone for awhile.
But are you really gone
with all the joy that you shared
or do we all have part of you
in knowing how you cared.
No, Syndi, you’re not gone
I believe that you’re still here
in the memories of that pretty face
that so many hold so dear.
When I stand in the darkened corridor
of this lonely, aching school
I see you coming up the stairs,
a smiling, radiant jewel.
I see you in the shadows
as you walk down the hall
your sweet and friendly smile
landing softly on all.
No, Syndi, you will never leave us
you’ve left too much behind
Your memory walks so quietly
in the soft corners of our minds.
The love that you have given
the love that you’ve received
will forever warm the hearts
of all of us who’ve grieved.
And, Syndi, you are smiling
in some verdant, flowered glen
in happy anticipation
of when we’ll meet with you again.
If I could make some sense
of all absurdity,
If I could find direction
in haphazard aimlessness,
If I could find real purpose
in the acts that govern men,
If I could find good reason
for the things that some possess.
If I could find a method
to promote real brotherhood,
If I could only make men do
not what they can, but what they should,
If I could find a way to end
all hunger and distress,
If I could touch a life
and bring true happiness.
If I could find that precious formula
for ending war and strife,
If I could do these things I dream of
for the good of all mankind,
I know that in the doing
I’d find my own true peace of mind.
And though no one knew I’d done it,
the result would be the same.
My reward would be far greater
than position, wealth or fame,
Yes, if we all had what we needed
for our lives to be fulfilled,
If we had such peace and sharing
that no human blood be spilled,
we would see the face of God
as clearly as we should.
At last we’d know the Kingdom
and we’d share eternal good.
Ah, my dream abruptly ended
as I saw an evil face
and I knew we had a ways to go
before the ending of the race.
But then a smile did warm my day
like a blazing hearth in winter
and it carried all the hope of man
that he may someday enter
into that land of all our dreams
which too seldom we
Pray, sisters; brothers, each and all
that it will soon become our home.
When I was seventeen,
i wondered of my place in God’s creation.
i’d known but passing gladness
and never very deep.
i must belong to something
i had a need to share
i fell in love so easy
with anyone who’d care
And then when i was twenty,
life was just a lark
work was just for money
to last a night or two
drink a drink, dance a dance
and share a kiss with you.
At twenty three becoming; growing
an agony very sweet,
crawling into the minds of great men
long since dead
and knowing that they, too, agonized
and finding solace in that truth.
Beginning to know my wife
And having children, a gift of love so rich
that God, in his infinite wisdom
reveals its essence slowly through the years
so that we of such little faith
are better able to savor the goodness.
At twenty five a zealot,
i was finding in myself a uniqueness
that i’d always known was mine
and yet, which i’d never really seen.
And now afire with the joy of revealed salvation,
buoyed by the heady intoxicant
of finding that individual who was me,
I found the joy of sharing
sometimes too much
and always not enough.
Coming to know that enigma that was me
my place become so clear then
and, at once, much more obscure.
i knew i had a destiny
but what i wasn’t sure.
Then suddenly i’m fifty
looking back upon my life
and seeing all the things undone
and knowing that the time has passed
When i can dream of what the future holds.
SEEKING THE QUIET PLACE
I’ve wandered in my dreams at times
to lonely, unknown lands
where beneath blue skies in meadows green
are lovers holding hands.
Where every bush a rose does hold
which scents the air so sweet
that every boy and every girl
are sweethearts when they meet.
In other dreams I’ve struggled
through hostile lands and cold
where before his youth is over
each man has grown so old.
Where maidens not of bliss partake
but moan beneath their woe
and broken hearts and shattered dre
are all that they can know.
Before my dreams had all passed by
another land I knew
where a few men had so many joys
and many had so few.
But those who had so many
scarce noticed those with none
and those whose lot was meager
sought justice with a gun.
I awakened from these myriad dreams
in a pensive, somber mood
and wondered of these lands I’d seen
of the paths that I’d pursued.
Of what import these dreams of mine
which took me very far
was I destined to enter there
to find my distant star.
Seeking the Quiet Place
The call of the quiet glade is strong within me.
I long for the happy laughter of a babbling brook.
For the peace of the verdant meadow my heart pines.
Communion with unspoiled nature
is the essence of my life’s purpose
Yet I am caught with all my fellows
in the cataract of society’s pressure
The pain is all the greater because I know the truth.
Relief is more remote because I know the cause.
I am caught by me in the suicidal struggle
from which no victor emerges
My self-inflicted wounds grieve me
far more seriously that those of other enemies.
Yet I fight on blindly
Searching desperately for an end to war.
The battle wages in the hallowed halls of academia
. . . in the bustling streets of commerce
. . . in the sacred sanctuary of the Lord
. . . in the teeming ghettos of the starving millions.
And though I know the only truth is Pogo’s
“we have met the enemy and he is us.”
I carry on
with respites in the quiet place
only oh so brief.
Oh, God, hear me . . . help me.
The jungle is encroaching;
the clearing being threatened.
The eternal war against relentless growth
is slowly being lost.
And the spirit of the strivers is eroding.
When the end has come . . . when the clearing’s gone,
who will know the struggle that went on.
Who will kick away the humus,
look beneath the rotting leaves
to find the traces of the men who were so brave.
Who will read the story
when the flesh has went to ground
and the bones are just another sun-bleached rock.
And who will know that the final prayer
of these men who took a stand
In the dark, oppressive, ceaseless jungle rain
was that their work be ever fruitful
to those who came behind
and that the lives that they had given
they had given not in vain.
Lovely were the roses
when they bloomed along my life.
Sweetly sang the whippoorwill
at the edges of the night.
And in the gently falling rain
of my youthful days
scarce noticed were the rumblings
that were rolling ‘cross the plains.
And only when the far-away flashes
trailing in the sky
became a terrible sonic sword
launched hurtling at the soft innards of my happiness
was the alarm sounded.
Too late, of course, for me.
But you, young man
Apollo of the smooth cheek and jaunty air
even as you smell the roses
unknown thorns are piercing you flesh.
Heed the warning, oh innocent one
before jaunty becomes jaundice . . .
when you admire the beauty of the flowers
inquire as to the identity of the grower
And as the whippoorwill
soothes your troubled sleep,
ask of him whose hand it is
by which he is fed.
And in your solitary walk
in the gently falling rain
as the cool, caressing drops
destroy the pain
cast your eyes into the sky
from whence the water came.
Embrace the rain,
the earth, the sky, the trees
inhale deeply the sweet air of night
and ask as to the meaning of your life.
And in a quiet corner,
in the deepest part of your existence
walk in deep reflection;
give in to introspection.
Seek reverently the Center of truth and light
before the war is lost to the everlasting night.
The meadows sing to me
a song of joy and love.
The redbud blossoms smile
and dogwood tree beckons.
Her bridal veil of white flowers
portends the wedding banquet
as all of nature dresses up
for the marriage of my soul to meaning.
The flower birds lead the processing
tossing about their tender petals of song.
Fluffy, white pillow-clouds
bear the wedding ring
which glistens with its diamonds of dew.
All the springtime earth is resplendent
in a dazzling array of splashing color.
And this is as it should be
for such a considerable event
as the fulfillment of a man.
Give to me the serenity to cope
with the raucous turmoil that is society.
May I gain the wisdom to know when to seek solace
away from the demands of civilization
and find refuge in the quiet corners of my own soul.
Remove from me the guilt I feel
when I throw off the things mundane
and wander idle, almost content
in the peaceful valley of spring.
How many men has history seen like me
whose lives are spent pursuing a thing
for which they have no real desire;
who pursue only because their fellows
deem pursuit as the worthy ambition.
To avoid the displeasure of others
they sacrifice what they want most
to feast a bit on different fruit;
to nourish their famished soul.
I speak best of longing heart
that seeks to be fulfilled.
I know so well the aching pain
of a self-imposed bondage
from which the freedom of peace is not far.
It is so easy to accuse a marriage
or some children
or a job.
And especially to name responsibility
that inanimate, defenseless acceptor of blame.
To face the fact that I am my own jailer is easy
until I cry, “Open the door.”
Then I say, “I can’t.”
and remember wife and children
and good old responsibility.
And relegate ACHE
to the pit of my stomach.
where he struggles halfheartedly to escape
like a hamster in its wheel.
But the hamster in its feeble struggling
somehow inevitably manages to escape.
And once loose in the house
becomes a much more significant creature
than the little rodent who was safely tucked away.
So run, ACHE, unfettered across my consciousness
until you become more significant than relationships
which are so easily forgotten
because the giver is less than the gift.
When will I have strength of heart
to throw off bonds that in part are me?
Can I really cut off my own hand
because it has wronged me?
Am I convinced that by severing a part of me
I will become more complete . . .
more capable of being at last fully human?
my intellect knows the truth
but my spirit is named Thomas.
On a bright and crisp October day
I took leave of things mundane
and wandered for too short a time
in the joy of God’s domain.
Near a tranquil meadow far from men,
in red and gold splashed wood
I was captured by a wondrous peace . . .
caught a glimpse of eternal good.
I saw for a fleeting moment
how futile is the mortal chase
that mad pursuit of what we had
at the beginning of the race.
Like men possessed our eyes are fixed
on that puerile finish line
not daring to glance from side to side
to see the rose entwine.
To the fight we give our all
to earn that fleeting prize
and never know the important gift
for achievement blinds our eyes.
Yet fulfillment of human yearning;
relief of that poignant ache,
is found in nature, God’s great gift
if we will only but partake.
Feel the breeze caressing soft
to soothe a troubled sigh
hear the song of a chickadee
that lifts the spirit high.
Yes, here away from the press and strife
in this quiet sylvan glade,
I fine the meaning of human life . . .
for this mankind was made.
To savor the taste of nature untouched
this banquet of the earth
prepared with care for everyone
to help with our new birth.
And God, in his great wisdom
gave us a loving soul
to know this gift that He has made
and gain that lasting goal.
WHO IS THE ENEMY?
I am a child of nature
struggling in the realm of civility.
I ache to be shed of the bonds of ambition
that structure and control my existence.
Yet . . .
When confronted by those who say
“You have but to choose.”
I have no choice
I have wife and children and
Yes, that is the despicable creature I loathe.
I wonder, though, when I give the beast;
this responsibility a sound thrashing
for imprisoning me,
why I often find bruises on myself.
What is it that some men have
that allows them
to defy convention, and their peers, and
The music is demanding; commanding.
The day is somber and gray.
The bitter wind crackles the ice covered willows
and whips demon swirls of dry snow into a frenzy.
It is not easy to smile on this day
and so he doesn’t
but shivers as the icy foot of depression
steps on the backbone of his soul.
He turns up his collar against the wind
but it does not shield him
from the biting cold that has seized his heart.
How can he welcome this pain and suffering?
It seems such a natural part of him . . .
Would he have existence without it?
If the ache were gone, would anything take its place?
Why does the music depress him so?
Why does he feel such an enemy to himself?
Is this better than death?
WHO WILL KNOW ME?
Often, as I ponder the why’s and quirks of life
I wonder why I am and what I’m doing in this place
I think of all my sadness, and doubt about my state
and cannot understand why I’m homeless almost always.
No one really knows me . . . or even cares
and though I speak with some eloquence
I’m seldom ever heard above the clamor.
And the thought becomes obsession
m really quite different from Most.
Though Most think I’m the same
And I see the world through eyes
that perceive from a different point.
And thus my conclusions seem strange to Most.
I am spontaneous when times call for inhibition . . .
I burst into song when I should be somber . . .
I am insightful beyond Most’s understanding
and this frightens Most.
And I become frustrated at the fright
Because all I really want is to be understood . . .
and respected . . .
and listened to . . .
But I am so different in my complicated simplicity
that I despair of ever being known . . .
my perceptions require explanations
that, themselves, must be explained
which requires concentration and effort
and Most will not work with their head
toward a goal which promises no compensation
And so I, alone, see the tear on the cheek of the little boy
when Most see not even the little boy.
The walrus talked, the story goes
of cabbages and kings.
I wonder if he pondered of
the meaning of such things.
Did he talk of relativity
of how those things compare?
Did he speak of what’s important;
of where should be our care?
Did he mention things eternal;
of God did he discuss?
Did he anguish o’er his failings
or was faith with him a must?
Yes, the walrus spoke of ships and wax,
he did discourse on many things.
I wonder if he talked of luck
and how good fortune swings.
Where does the walrus dwell today;
what has been his measure?
Has he found true peace of mind
that all of us should treasure?
I think the walrus lives on still;
he dwells in you and me.
Let him speak on many things
and he shall make us free.
BALLAD OF THE WONDERER
I stood today on a ragged bluff
overlooking a savage land
and thought of men who’d stood and fought
and died to take their stand.
And thought of men who took a stand
who neither fought nor died
but lived to teach their children how
in peace to take a side.
I stood today on a windswept hill
overlooking a land of green
and thought of all the joys and smiles
that one man’s life had seen
and thought of all the tragedy
the tears once overflown
and marveled how time’s passage
had away the sorrows blown.
I stood today in flowered fields
with meadows all around
and thought of all the men who’ve lived
and wondered where I’m bound,
and thought of all the tasks complete
and battles long since won
and shuddered at the things to do
the tasks still left undone.
I stood today in fields of gold
and saw the grain meet wheel
and thought of all the children
who only hunger feel
and heard the happy laughter
of humans caught in bliss
heard their shouting claims insist
that nothing was amiss.
I stood today in gentle rain
that kissed the thankful soil
and watched the raging downpour
destroy the years of toil
and thought of all the heartbreak
that’s been the lot of men
and wondered who had put to death
the world’s most precious kin.
I stood today where eagles fly
and saw the scene below
and knew I’d pondered many things
too great for me to know.
Yes, I stood today where eagles fly
I could not leave the ground,
but watched the eagles soar away
and wondered where I’m bound.
A half-century or so ago, I was a young man and an avid pheasant hunter.
That was not particularly unusual in the early 1960s. Kansas was noted for pheasant hunting back then and opening weekend saw much traffic headed for the western half of the state.
Many groups of hunting buddies had standing reservations at motels and hotels in small towns that would double and triple in population for that weekend. A half-hour or so before sunrise Saturday morning would see groups of five, six, even ten shotgun-toting men standing at the edge of a farmer’s field impatiently awaiting for the darkness to give way so they could see their beautiful prey as he lifted into the Kansas sky with a cackle and a burst of iridescent tail feathers.
But I was of a different breed. I grew up with natural inclination tending toward introversion and that carried over to my hunting preferences.
I hunted alone.
“Nobody hunts pheasant alone!”, I’d heard countless times. “You’d never get them up! They’d just run right past you and you’d never see ‘em.”
Well, my Brittany Spaniels and I DID see ‘em and would usually have all we wanted by nine or ten a.m.
Then I’d spend the remainder of the day doing what I loved to do even more than pheasant hunt.
I’d wander through the myriad abandoned houses that dotted this landscape back then, the legacy of the great depression, subsistence-level farming and several years of drought and dust storms that crushed the dreams of a generation that came of age in the years before WWII.
The pheasant hunt was the excuse. The true objective was exploring the places that were home to a generation of earlier Kansans struggling to eke a hard-scrabble living walking behind a team of mules and trying to coax a crop from marginal, rain-starved soil.
So the shotgun would go behind the seat of the truck and my beloved companion, Pretty Miss Candy and I would investigate an earlier generation.
It wasn’t unusual to find the furniture, clothing and kid’s toys left behind, as if the last sudden, dust-laden, choking wind had strapped the last bit of will from a hard-working couple, who just loaded the kids up in the Model T while there was still enough money to buy gasoline to go … Where? — Well, anywhere — maybe a town where a man could hope to find a job in a factory or in construction.
A town where the rain fell occasionally to settle the dust …
That didn’t happen here, on the edge of civilization; this land bordering the craggy, prickly-pear-cactus-covered, canyon-filled northwest corner of Kansas, where the Arikaree Breaks (http://www.kansastravel.org/arikareebreaks.htm) hadn’t changed much in the century since the Cheyenne and Comanche, the Kiowa and the Pawnee hunted buffalo and ruled the land.
As I picked up the old, battered, dirt-covered doll, I could almost hear the laughter. The kids playing outside on an old rope swing.
Mom putting the bread in the wood-fired oven; the last of the flour, wondering where the money would come from to buy more when they headed to town on Saturday.
Hoping that the grocer would extend credit for just one more week.
Dad, standing in the doorway, looking anxiously toward the darkening sky to the southwest, praying that is was a much-needed rain cloud.
But knowing in his heart that it was another dust storm.
“Mother, looks like another one comin’. I’m going to get the cows and mules into the barn. Get the kids in and start covering the cracks ‘round the window. I’ll draw a couple of buckets of water from the well and be back soon as I can to help.”
The wheat was near ready to harvest when that final storm hit. The whole crop smashed flat and covered with three inches of fine, dry soil that rightfully belonged to the neighbors to the southwest.
The same dust covered every flat surface in the house. Floors, tables, beds; it even sifted into the cabinets.
His chest heaved in a heart-rendering sigh. “That’s it!” he thought to himself. “That’s all she wrote. We’re done!”
Then aloud. “Well, mother, I’m gonna run into town and see if I can talk the grocer into accepting the cows as payment for our bill. “I’ll stop by the bank and tell Mr. Chambers the farm is his. Pack up what’ll fit in the truck and just as soon as I get back, we’re gone from here.”
Maybe I can sell the mules for enough gas to get us to Wichita or Kansas City. I hear they’re hiring at the Ford plant on the Missouri side. Or maybe I can catch on at that new bomber plant in Fairfax.”
The wail of a coyote started me from my reverie. It has grown dark while I was daydreaming. The chill of the early November night wasn’t the sole cause of the shiver that coursed down my backbone.
Candy looked up at me expectantly. The howling coyote had made her nervous. She was probably hungry, too.
I looked down at the ragged, soiled doll in my hand. I was tempted to take it with me.
But instead, I dusted off the seat of a nearby chair resting precariously on three legs.
“Goodbye, little girl. I sure hope your family found good times when the left you.”
Candy and I walked to our old Ford pickup and climbed into the cab.
I was pretty sure that the fleeting image at the edge of headlight beam was the coyote that had just serenaded us.
But it might have been someone looking for their doll …
English, what a language! Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning. A homograph that is also pronounced differently is a heteronym.
I think a retired English teacher was bored … This took a lot of work to put together!
Author Unknown (at least to me …)
1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong for me to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear..
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Undoubtedly, English is a peculiar language.
There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France.
Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same as no chance, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
And, finally: Why doesn’t ‘Buick’ rhyme with ‘quick’? …
Once Upon a Time it was August And Green marked The Kansas Plain. And on a Pleasant Summer Sunday We were Blessed by Gentle Rain Now We're Cought in the Grip of Winter And Breathe In the Bitter Cold. To Venture Forth into the Bleakness Requires an Action Bold. But Soon Again the Breeze will Soften And Blow from the Southern Isles. Father Sun will Win the Battle And Bring About Our Happy Smiles. Patience now is Called For As We Await the Bloom of Spring. God gives us the Bitter Coldness To Appreciate what He Soon Will Bring …