Beating a Retreat

He thought of the 70’s
and the wonderful poetry
of the “beats”
and how some of those beats
seemed to
beat a retreat
to the 60’s
then he turned 70
and popped a
bunionette on one
of his
so it’s a little
more difficult now
for him
to beat a retreat
on those feet
or even go forward
very fast
for that matter
so he’ll sit at the computer
and try to imitate
those beats.

The Birds are Back

The birds are back, flying
in and out of our back
yard, screen-less aviary.
Black-capped Chickadees,
pushy Black Crows, Rose-
breasted Grosbeaks, Eastern
Bluebirds, bossy Bluejays,
American Goldfinches,
White-crowned Sparrows,
Cedar Waxwings, Northern
Cardinals and two Mourn-
ing Doves, who move slowly
around the pond over the
bridge between the pond
and waterfall doting on
each other like love-sick
love birds. And then like a
Jerome Robbins’ choreo-
graphed moment where
all the dancers stop on
cue, the birds fell silent.
My wife and I looked up
from the fire in the fire
pit and one, lone Mocking-
bird, assigned to speak
for everyone as usual, step-
ped out on a limb and asked,
“Why did you come back so
soon from Arizona? We’ve
got icicles on our beaks
and we’re freezing our
feathery asses off. But
as long as you are here,
the bird feeders are empty
and we’re all hungry,
especially the damn Blue-
jays, as usual.” “Well,
Welcome home to you, too,”
I said, “I suppose I could
ask you all the same
question, but I won’t
because you might get
mad and all fly away, like
fair feathered friends, so
if you’ll excuse me, I’ll
just go get you some bird
seed. And tell the Bluejays
to back off, please, a lot
of good that will do.”

Tracing the Steps

Tracing the steps of a dead
and nearly forgotten poet, the
writer wrote of the poet’s home-
town, “The main highway through
town is an anywhere drag of Super
8s, Hardee’s, Taco Bells, and
Sonics. There’s a megachurch on
the outskirts of town, its parking
lot as big as a Wal-Mart’s.” Mother
had lived in that town around the
time the almost forgotten poet did
before the town’s main drag was
anywhere U.S.A. with her second
husband who ducked out of Chicago
to fish the big lakes tucked be-
tween the Arkansas hills, but acc-
identally put the pedal to the
metal in reverse while putting his
boat in the icy spring water and
put the car in, too and mother
became a widow for the second,
sudden time. As in the wake of
the first fast death, she spent
considerable time in a mental hos-
pital coping and recuperating. My
wife and I drive through a lot of
same Main Streets with Wal-Mart,
McDonald’s, Motel 6 and, well, you
get the picture, going to and from
Michigan and Arizona. Because, the
town my now dead mother and the also
now dead poet lived in in Arkansas
had a nice Main Street back when she
lived there, when I go through all
the towns that look like what her
former town looks like today, I don’t
think of mother and her hard life or
that town. I just get depressed
looking at the towns I’m driving
through wondering, What town is

Lightening Fast Flash

He awoke with a jolt from
a dream in which he was

irrevocably dead in a light-
ning fast flash. He should

be glad as St. Paul to leave
this place and be at home

in Christ, right? Wrong.
Death still stings; at least

the dream of it did for him.
And he was glad to catch

his breath and turn on the
hot shower. Come on, the

man thought, me and thee
St. Paul? Really? No way.

I prefer to live and think
about it for another day.

Maybe some day
I’ll be a great saint.

Why, Oh, Why?

How many black men and
women must suffer and die?
Why, oh, why?
Of course, the ghetto breeds
dysfunction and people act out
but every part of society is
dysfunctional but not
all suffer and die.
Why, oh, why?
Are the police so scared
that they strike out upon
the unarmed and unprepared?
Drugs run rampant through
the inner city and suburbs, too;
long jail sentences lean
strongly toward the black few.
And they suffer and die.
Why, oh, why?
The Civil War still rages on
in spite of all white protestation,
and they suffer and die.
Why, oh, why?
It’s time to define why
and stop it.

Prophet of the Environment

I just left this at one of the blog sites of Dr. Thomas Eggebeen,
minister and prophet par excellence who also serves up tasty
dishes from his kitchen. My note was in response to his
latest comment, which is on the environment and Psalm 96
and can be read and tasted at

I love your ecological theology
or theological ecology
or biblical environmentalism
or maybe you just served up
a plate of stewardship
of the creation
with a dash of righteous
indignation —
very spicy.

A Sonnet on One’s Calling

As crocuses, daffodils and birch tree buds
begin to open to the beckoning sky,
one’s calling comes often as a nudge,
but some do need a push, like you and I?
Perhaps the call comes through a lightening bolt
as in the case of a future saint.
He heard the call as he fell off the colt
and blindly stumbled in a near faint.
But Providence provided a good eye.
Still it would take from three to fourteen years
for that cross credentialed saint to fly
from here to there, facing danger with no fears.
So, be patient with instant gratification.
Just wait on divine notification.

He Heard the Surgeon/Sculptor Say

He heard the surgeon/sculptor say
the difference between surgery
and sculpture is control.
He is in charge of the clay
while the flesh goes its own way
toward healing. It was in that
moment he knew that
in retirement he was in control
of his own day.
He wrote sermons for parishioners
and articles for editors with
the final say.
Now he controls the words,
meter and rhymes
his own way.
It’s quite liberating,
if he does so say.

The New Gnostics

Four, twenty-five cent copies of a
prestigious, poetry magazine from
2011 and 2012 picked up at a local,
book sale and two days later the
poet didn’t understand the new
gnostics and their words, metaphors,
similes, allusions contained in
cryptic forms, line breaks and the
absence of line breaks. For the poet,
it was like trying to read his son’s
graduate papers with charts and graphs
and statistical analysis for the
master of management and labor re-
lations degree. It was like reading
a physician’s signature on a prescript-
ion. It was then he understood why
one of his best friends who has a
doctorate says he never reads poetry
and says it is too hard to understand
and wants to know what degree his
friend the poet has to qualify him
to be a poet. The poet understood
the editor of the poetry magazine
wanted to bring poetry back to the
people. He is no longer the editor.
It was then the poet understood why
almost nobody reads poetry and why
the poetry section at any bookstore
is miniscule and why the copies he
bought and brought home were going
for twenty-five cents each. It is
why the poet was never so glad, as
right now, for the poetry of Billy
Collins and Ted Kooser.

My 1000th Post — Two Poems by Friends

For my one thousandth post, I have the pleasure of posting two poems by
poets Vicki Hill and Steve Haarman, who sometimes goes by the pen name Stansberry McKricken among others. Vicki’s poem begins with images of life along the shore of Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. Steve wrote his poem about New Mexico in 2014. Interestingly, Steve and Vicki are in Santa Fe right now.

“Early Enchantment” by Vicki Hill

Dew drips from non-guttered rooftops as the
Sun lays light more each moment on earth’s canvas
Watch day unfold: captured light is released
To paint dunes, grasses, bracken with long fingers
Soon to reach everywhere.
Cobalt waters:
I look up to see how well the sky matches;
Gull-feather clouds won’t bring rain today, a chance for
A delightful beach walk: a 5-star day, the first for school

Children return their familiar bricks and whiteboards, as
I recall all those years of weeks of ritual acquisition and
Preparation from Aasics to zoology specimens that might be
Needed: the mounting anticipation, anxiety tinged by
Eagerness to leave the limited world of home for that of friends,
Each hour’s variety–even learning– then raucous bus rides home
Unless friends angled by to give a parenting stretched hope thin
For safety. After-school activities smorgasbord to sample, investigate, participate.

I now go to nature’s school, with unexpected finds and knowledge every hour,
Recall the applicable lessons of long-ago, many poetic verses committed
To memory, songs and psalms randomly bursting forth praise as creation bears witness to
Heart and heaven,
Both within view, grasp, hands trained to open, and share.

“NEW MEXICO” by Steve Haarman

I like New Mexico
Wasn’t born there
Somehow feel like a native
This is my kind of land
Mountains and valleys
Green and brown
Sunrise and sunset
Both beautiful
Even the moon
Knocks you over
There are lakes
Areas to ski
Just the living
Is enough for me
The air is good
Especially the breeze
On a sunny day
I like that warmth
The people, too
Seem to appreciate
The native traditions
Sacred things
The lore of the Indians
The cathedrals and churches
Spanish architecture
The spirit is almost touchable
Tradition and art
Unique, but familiar
Longing for the past
Looking forward to tomorrow
Santa Fe is great, but
Just one of many choices
New Mexico
My dream
I like it

Stansberry McKricken
January 16, 2014 ^