The Early Months
Advice in Time of Plague (Free Verse)
A free ferse poem and two sonnett
Do not Abandon all hope ye who enter here
nor let the wight of current events crush your soul.
Mourn what is lost, but not too long.
Crush the hurdle of despair and
the dark thoughts lurking there.
Pitch a tent near cool mountain streams.
Lay spoil to grim demeanor and resurrect hope.
Revel in the comedy of a fence lizards display.
Delight in wild violets and trout lilies.
Never forget, you are called to live.
Social Distancing (Sonnet II)
I scorn all those cities with so called delights,
And seek a shelter from electronic chaff.
Find the key to my pleasure on nature’s heights
Shed my suit for khaki and a hiking staff.
O whisk me away to those yonder days
I promise to give the landscape its due
Where wind with leaves so often plays.
When morning sky glows in salmon and blue
Though rain might fall, my clothing to drench,
I stick to the trails with a softer hue
I’ll celebrate nature, not hide in a trench,
As smoke must rise from a neighboring flue.
Keep your highways and cities conveniently planned.
I’ll happily travel a more distant land.
So does the drought give birth to quenching rain,
As heat of day recedes with cooler night.
The arctic bear from northern sky takes flight.
With darkness ended, sun must rise again.
The Turquoise sky aflame with salmon red
As clouds leap fish-like from the eastern rim.
Across the watery sky we see them skim.
When evening comes the turquoise blue has fled.
As thirsty people cry for quenching rain,
The leaves of trees like paper scorched by sun.
The heat parched winds must cross the dusty plain.
Dry ferns uncurl like newfound life begun.
The soul revives where once despair had lain,
And seeds shall sprout as life must have its run.
What a year 2020 has been. As we approach year’s end, I am pleased to say Merry Christmas, which comes from my own tradition. As you celebrate traditions of your own, be they Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Solstice, or others, it is my wish that the new year will bring you renewed hope. We all could use a little hope right now.
Every year, I get requests to read my poem, “Christmas Papers,” so I am pleased to share it with you in this message, along with its companion poem, “Snow.” I took the photograph which follows the poems at Amnicola Marsh here in Chattanooga.
I was older when I noticed
the same color and pattern
on the Christmas papers
year after year. Each year
a pattern graced a smaller package.
Christmas morning emanated excitement
and opening packages with scissors, carefully
cutting tape, so as not to rip the paper.
I was older when I noticed my mother’s hands,
ironing on Christmas night.
She ironed the same towel again and again.
Under the towel Christmas papers
lost their creases, regained smooth surfaces.
Her hands rolled the paper we could never replace.
Choosing between gifts and new paper, she chose gifts.
Already the snow dissolves
at seven in the morning
in the Chattanooga dawn.
It returns me to an Ohio childhood.
I drag my sled uphill
to skid back down again.
I conclude the days sledding,
await my dad’s return,
a rabbit in his hunting coat.
Blood and guts defile
the whitest landscape,
cleaned up by dogs.
My mother, busy in the kitchen
with rabbit in a pan,
vegetables from a Mason jar.
Birdshot lead between my teeth,
I cannot taste the flesh
washed down with milk.
Awakened from this dream,
I breakfast on oatmeal with raisins,
snow already melting.
Wrapping up my Year
It has been a difficult year with more challenges than most, but for a few minutes, I am happy to focus on some bright spots:
My photograph “Green Heron” is included in the 2021 calendar from Chattanooga Audubon.
Four of my photographs are included in the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild anthology.
Several of my poems appeared in The Avocet and The Weekly Avocet.
My short story, “Life After Writing” won the prose award in the October contest of the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild.
In prisons, it is called solitary confinement.
In interrogations, it is a form of torture.
In abusive relatioships, it is a form of control.
In the land of Covid-19, it is the new normal.
Yet we press on.
Yesterday's poem was an audio presentation on Instagram and Facebook. Here is the text.
As published in Number One, Gallatin, Tennessee
She is the guardian, protector of the wilderness.
She circles round and round among the rocks.
Her belly swells with new life.
Transparent eggs open when expelled,
snakes born alive.
The young will have a rattle,
just like mom.
They warn before striking,
but beware their presence.
Beneath flowering azaleas,
or within a handhold on a rock face,
the guardian may be there.
“Don’t tread on me,”
the buzzing rattle warns.
This is her domain, assuring
the travelers go wearily onward.
So long as the guardians remain,
fewer travelers camp on top of wild orchids,
fewer wander off the trails.
Day 3 of Previously Published Poems
Published in Number One, Gallatin, Tennessee
Every time I see cranes
a door opens into the spirit world.
They arrive to bring news of winter,
depart with promise of spring.
They carry messages between worlds.
Their arrival is always anticipated.
Never expected they arrive and call.
Said to mate for life, they dance
when reunited after long separation.
Their longing calls fill my heart.
Departing this world,
I will know I am bound
for blessed realms
if cranes accompany me.
Day 2 of Previously Published Poems
From the journal Number One, Gallitan, Tennessee and republished in my chapbook, Healing and Conflict
Like a love poem that fills the heart to overflowing
rain covered the mountain just after the New Year.
Murmuring rivulets covered once dry leaves,
intersected paths and muddied trails,
muddied shoes and trouser legs.
I plunged through fecund mud and leaves,
became a mud man devoted to sylvan gods.
Glen Falls became a roaring torrent,
deceived my ears.
Thinking it close, I forged ahead.
The cascade below the falls
became a booming choir.
Bases and contraltos reverberated
from hickory and oak.
I bowed before the splendor,
prepared to endure cold days ahead,
anticipated Equinox rebirth.