© 2008 -- 2011 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 3, 2010

This is too good not to share

S sent me this this morning. It was just exactly what I needed.

No wonder he's called The King.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What do I like about being back at work?

I get to take Friday off this week.

For the past 16 years or so, "Black Friday" has meant this is the day everyone gets to enjoy but me. I've had to work or I couldn't afford Christmas.  (Well it's never really been that bad, but it's felt like it.) But this year I get to eat leftovers at my own pace like everyone else. Pumpkin pie (weigh watchers be damned!) hre I come. And my granddaughters are coming and I can spend all my time with them if I want (although what they want to do is help S decorate.) That's all right; I can take pictures.


Happy day after Thanksgiving everyone. And enjoy the day before Friday by saying something nice to someone in your family. Oh heck, say something nice to all of them. There must be some reason they deserve it.

And here is something nice I want to say to someone special.

Originally posted Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If I Were Paris
Some nights this room is still on fire
As if you’d been a goddess then
And I a mortal dreaming you
Were human only to awake
And learn too late you were divine.

I’d dodge the lightning bolt that made
Anchises lame for having loved
You once and told. But you’re not here.

These myths weren’t meant to be believed.

If I were Paris, I’d refuse
The bribe you offered him and claim
Instead the right to watch the white
Foam rise at Paphos, see you step
Ashore as Flora welcomes you.

© copyright 2009, 2010 (Joseph Saling) the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.

All rights reserved 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'll get back to writing about words and poetry soon

These are more place holders.

I like to draw. Even when the results are not very good. As I said in an earlier post, drawing, painting teach me about my father.


Jim Bowie




Friday, November 12, 2010

What I miss

Well, first of all I miss posting on this blog. And I miss surfing all of yours. But it's an early New Year's and now that I'm not overly concerned about my next freelance job, I vow to do better.

But that's not all I miss,

I miss Perkins Cove at Ogonquit (actually just outside Perkins Cove

I miss the yard at the bed and breakfast in Ogonquit.

I miss the view of the sea from the Marginal Way betwen Ogonquit and Wells Beach

And I miss the view of the entrance to Wells Beach as seen from near the end of the Marginal Way

This is the region where The Writer's Wife, the poem a few posts back, took place. It's in Maine, and it's the exact place where the little girl was pulled out to sea. Ogonquit means beautiful place by the sea.

It feels good to be posting again.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thought for the Day

Never argue with idiots. They just take you down to their level and win by experience.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So what has changed?

I got a job.

After 16 years as a full-time freelancer I took a job at the end of summer as a managing editor of a health Web site. The salary is in the ballpark of what I was making as a freelancer, and I'm roughly doing the same kind of work. But now I get benefits, which means I can take time off on a holiday and not fret over the fact that if I'm not working I don't get paid. And I have more say in how the work I do and the work of the writers I edit are used. I have have professional work colleagues, not just clients, and the benefit of bein part of a team.

There is a downside. As a freelancer I worked on my own schedule. I sat at my desk whenever I decided it was time for me to be at my desk. Now, even though I still work remotely, I work on the company's schedule. And I've long had a distaste for the corporate culture, which I am now a part of.

Obviously, there are tradeoffs when coming in from the cold. I'll explore them in more detail in future posts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Flowers Redux

I first posted this painting on the blog in July 2009.  I'm reposting it as a sort of place holder. A way of saying I know I've been gone for a long time. But I'm coming back, and things have changed. I'll explain later this week.

water color on paper

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This is my favorite time of the year

And this is the team that makes it so.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Just because

See "The Writer's Wife" in the post before.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Writer’s Wife

“For fifteen years we lived against the sea
Below Ogunquit where the surf marks time
And tide, and days remained unchanged, and each
Of us learned to watch the seasons silently.
He needed me. I cared for him. He wrote.
I listened when he read to help him find
A voice. But otherwise, we seldom spoke.”

She owned a shop in Perkins Cove. A sign
That long ago surrendered to a vine
That choked off half its words and cut its way
Across the paint still offered works of folk
And modern art – some pieces she had made,
But mostly it was others’ work. It soaked
Up time, and she could draw on slower days.

“I’ve kept books I’ve filled with faces from the crowd,
A different one for each of thirteen years.
My therapist suggested it would help
To use a pen to get my feelings out.
It did, so I stopped seeing him and kept
On drawing. Over time it eased the fear
From always feeling helpless and inept.

“The sketches give me strength, and I can hear
Myself sometimes in the mothers standing near
The girls I draw. I’ve labeled every book.
It shows the age its models represent,
First nine, then each year adding one. It took
Me days, sometimes, when, after some effect,
I’d seek a face. But it gave me peace to look.

“My husband wrote a book he called To See
From Distant Stars. It was his way to fill
The void, the way that sketching did for me.
But truth is neither one of us could free
Ourselves from the haunting silence of the night
When even winds and crashing waves grow still.
She’d barely made a sound. Just slid from sight.

“It’s strange how you remember things. A chill
From a current in the sea. Like an imbecile
I thought of being cold. And when the man
With a surf board yelled take hold, I knew my plight
Was sealed. They searched for her for days. A fan
Shaped pattern spread from Wells to York. And tight
Along the shore, boaters scoured the rocks and sand.

“They never found her. Gradually our friends
Began to put their worries on other things.
It often goes that way. Some pain just ends
When another takes its place. A life depends
On letting go. You have to let things fall.
Some say it’s pre ordained, that life springs
From life’s decay, and nothing matters at all.”

She stopped and looking down removed her rings.
“I don’t need these any more. If I had wings
I’d fly away I feel so light. We had
A chance ten years ago. He said he saw
My books and opened them, said it drove him mad
To see what might have been, said his soul was raw
And he was tired of always being sad.

“He wanted to believe we owed her more
Than grief. Five years had been enough. That week
I put my books away and closed the store,
And we considered moving from the shore.
His book had made him famous and Hollywood
Had made him rich. Now he wanted us to seek
What was left between us that still felt good.

“On Friday morning he’d been asked to speak
On God and fate at Boston College. He’d sneak
Away at noon, he said, to see a farm
In western Mass. He said he thought I should
Come too, and then he smiled. He aimed his charm
At me. I knew he always understood
The way his smile could undo any harm.

“I almost told him yes but then said no.
I don’t know why. I heard the harbor bell
And thought it rang for me. It said don’t go.
And so I stayed and felt the undertow
Of loss refuse to let me up. There are caves
Beneath the sea where drowned souls go. They dwell
There undisturbed by tide or clutching waves.

“But we, who’ve stayed behind and sampled hell
And know too well the terror of a swell
We can’t escape fight, just to stay ahead.
And I’m not sure it ends, unless the grave’s
An end and nothing lives among the dead.
I got a call that Sunday night. Fate so enslaves
And taunts us even hope’s a thing to dread.

“He’d swerved too late to miss the deer and caught
The berm and its hind quarter. When they found
Them at the bottom of the hill, they shot
The doe. Twelve weeks went by before I brought
Him home, and now it’s been ten years. I grew tired
Almost at once of tending him. I’d drowned
His girl, he said, now penance was required.

“There is no penance in this world. We’re crowned
The day we’re born with thorns and walk around
Blinded from blood that runs down from our brow.
We both lost sight of what I once admired —
The way he handled grief and could allow
Me mine. Some said his Distant Stars inspired
New hope. But hate was all he offered now.

“Each year to mark the day she disappeared
He’d find the place above the rocks where he
Had stood to watch what every parent’s feared
But can’t conceive. Each wave that rolled in leered
At him and nothing ever changed. He went
Alone before the crash. He and the sea,
A willful pair, both static and unbent.

“Then when he couldn’t walk it fell to me
To push him up the cliff where we were three.
That changed things. He no longer hoped to stare
Down waves and force the ocean to relent
And give her up. How could one prepare
For that first time? He grabbed me and would have sent
Me to the rocks if I’d let go his chair.

“You can’t prepare. ‘Why not this one?’ he cried.
‘Why’d you leave her here but take the child?’
As if I’d never asked the same. I pried
His fingers from my arm. ‘You should have died,’
He said and grabbed my hair. ‘But it’s not you.
It’s all of this. This emptiness. This wild
Insane eternal silence.’ ” She was through.

She pushed her hair back from her face and smiled.
“You know the rest, the way his charm beguiled
A public hooked on fame. Some said they learned
From him. Some looked at me and said he drew
His strength from love. They said that I had earned
My place beside him. No one ever knew
How intensely hot the rage inside him burned.

“And no one cared. No one asked me why
I stayed, or why I took him there each year.
I drew the last face yesterday. A bride
Of twenty-two. My baby girl, my pride,
Was grown and gone. I watched her walk away
To build her own new life away from here,
Away from us. I’ve no reason now to stay

“I took him up early. When we got near
The spot, a seagull rose and in the clear
Air bobbed above the rocks before it rolled
Sideways, falling forward through the wind. ‘Say
She’ll come,’ he said. We stood facing a cold
Wind from the sea. I said, ‘she left yesterday.’
At the cliff’s edge, my hands let go their hold.”

Originally published in The Rain Town Review, Volume 8 Issue 2, 2010.
© copyright 2010 Joseph Saling/the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Now there's a show I wanted to see.

Saw this yesterday in the TV preview section of our local paper:

"Dynocroc vs Supergator" 9 tonight SyFy -- Tourists ignorant about "Jurassic Park" get munched.

For some reason, though, I missed it.

Now for a preview tease of my own --

Watch for it on a monitor near you

Coming in From the Cold 

You won't believe the ending!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Because I haven't been here in so long

My brother sent me the link for this. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Fingers coursing beads
in a room turned caramel
by pulled shades,

an ancient lady
prays, locked in her bed beneath
a picture of Jesus,

and breathes medicinal
odors of age & death while
her sister dusts rungs

on a wicker chair.

Originally published in A Matter of MindFoothills Publishing, Kanona, NY © 2004.
© copyright 2010 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog
All rights reserved.

Friday, May 14, 2010

None of my grandkids are going to see it

What passes for a newspaper in our fair city publishes synopses of movies currently playing around town. A number of them have a Parents Guide appended to them to let Mom and Pop know about anything that some parents might find unsuitable for their kids. Here's the Parents Guide for Queen Latifah's new movie "Just Wright":
There is an implied overnight tryst with Queen Latifah nearly dancing in bed the next morning, covered by a sheet. There is other mild sexual innuendo, wine and beer drinking, occasional mild profanity, and some intense basketball action.
Oh no!

Quick! Cover your eyes!

They're playing basketball!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sign of the times

Saw a campaign sign today for a candidate for a congressional seat. Under his name was his campaign slgan, "Less government."

So if I understand, he wants me to vote for him because he'll do less work than the other guy. Wonderful. Wish I had a job that would pay me to do less.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Finding Braja

On our last day in Charleston we had breakfast at Saffron, a bakery/deli/cafe at the edge of the historic district. When we sat down, the server asked if she could bring us something to drink, "Coffee? Juice? Soda?"

I gave up drinking coffee almost a year ago, and so I said I wanted ice water and asked if she had green tea. She said she didn't know but they had lots of tea and she'd go look. When she came back she had two teabag envelopes that she put down in front of me to see if either one would work.

The first one I looked at said "Green Tea with Jasmine." When it comes to green tea I'm a bit of a snob (though I'm not above using a tea bag to brew it), so I rejected the jasmine. The second envelope said "Pure Green/Supports Vitality." I said that's the one I wanted, so she picked up both and walked away from the table. Looking back over her shoulder, she asked "You want water with that, right?"

I had one of those disconnect moments but felt quite ascetic as I pondered how I might have tea without water.

When she came back she had a pot of hot water, the tea bag and a glass of ice water. I took the tea bag out of the envelope and put it in the pot of water. After about two minutes I went to remove the teabag, but the tag at the end of the string came off in my fingers. I turned it over in my hand and both noticed there was a fortune written on one side and felt a presence.

The fortune said "Without realizing who you are, happiness cannot come to you." Then I looked back at the envelope that had held the tea bag and for the first time noticed the brand. It was "Yogi." And then I understood. Somehow, I had made a connection with the lovely blogging Yogini from half way around the world. You may not have been aware, Braja, but you gave me something to think about that morning.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Words Women Use

If you are ever in Charleston, South Carolina, as we were last week, there are at least three places you have to go to eat.

The first is Magnolia's on East Bay Street. Order the small plate seared tuna. It is the closest I've ever come to Nirvana at the dinner table.

The second place is Hank's, about a block from the Old Market at the corner of Church and Hayne. (Tip: Make your reservation before your trip if you want to get a table at a reasonable hour.) There is nothing there that isn't good. But don't pass up the oyster sampler. The best part of it was the oysters from the local waters. The shells were long and narrow, and the oysters were exquisitely delicate and sweet.

The third place is Hyman's Seafood on Meeting Street. It seems every tourist in Charleston has to go there, so if you go in the evening, be prepared to wait outside in a line. We went for lunch. I can't say the food was outstanding like at the other two restaurants, but it was good and plentiful. I don't think they know what a small plate is. But it's not the food I'm sending you there for.

In the sugar container on each table is a stack of cards with words of wisdom printed on the back so you can become enlightened while you wait for your meal. Here's the one I Picked up:

Words Women Use

Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.
Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, this is a half hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given 5 more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.
Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This means "something," and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with "Nothing" usually end in "Fine."
Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don't do it.
That's Okay: This is one of the most dangerous statements that a woman can make to a man. "That's Okay" means that she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.
Thanks: A woman is thanking you. Do not question it or faint. Just say you're welcome.

The card S got was filled with advice about how to keep your marriage strong. It was a verbal cornucopia of loving, caring things couples can do for one another, and so of course, S was reading them to me. Things like "Compliment each other's choice in clothes;" "Start each day with a kiss;" "Give back rubs;" and the like. As she read them she came to one that said "Date." She stopped reading, looked at me, thought for a minute and then said, "I think they mean each other."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Coming full circle

Thank you to ...45+ and aspiring for the link that led me to this little bit of fun. It makes me miss my grandkids. Enjoy it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I found this at Lauren M's blog {hi, lauren m!} {loves...}. She has some other good things there too. You should check it out.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

At the Frick

In the museum, the bronze statuary,
Small enough to be held in hand, excites
You. The artist’s craft, his love of form both
Transparent, his hand invisible, his soul,
Poured like liquid stone, became these figures
And we become the air through which they move.

Yet in a poem, I could give you more
Than these perfect bodies. I could give you
All of their warmth, all of their hue, and more.
I could give you the sun in a blue room,
Balconies with no way down, salt-laced rhythms
Of tides, sea birds unreachable. And still
Would I never see or feel in the cold
Dead bronze the things you see, the things you feel.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2010 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Sound of the Sun

In the morning all there was
Was the bird and the babble of water
Fed by melting snows and the wind
And the sound of the sun slapping the top
Of the mountain wall.

Originally published in the Columbus Citizen Journal, November 1974.
© copyright 2004 (Joseph Saling),  2010 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Be careful where you put things

I got these from another listserv (for writers and editors). These are bloopers taken from church bulletins or announcements from the pulpit. They just prove that when you're dealing with words, location is everything.

  • Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
  • The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
  • The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
  • Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
  • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you.
  • Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
  • Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
  • Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
  • For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
  • Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
  • Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
  • A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow..
  • At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.
  • Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
  • Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
  • Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered..
  • The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
  • Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
  • The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
  • This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
  • Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM.. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. Is done.
  • The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast
  • The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
  • The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new campaign slogan last Sunday: 'I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours.
There's actually a couple of those churches that sound like they might be fun to belong to. Let's all prepare to sin.

Reminder: April starts Thursday. Check out Bel's challenge for National Poetry Month at the Itsy Bitsy Monkey. Every year she invites her readers to join her in posting a poem a day throughout the month of April. Let me know if you take her up on it, and I'll be sure to post links to your poetic achievements.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another sign of the times -- Keep the forklift dry

S saw this on a poster for Senior Paws & Furry Friends, which invites people to a attend a “Chocolate, Wine, & Art” function to raise money for homeless pets:
Taste sweet treats from Atlanta’s most gourmet bakeries and candy shops and wet your pallet with unique wines from around the world.”
She said she found it strange to ask people to dump perfectly good wine on the ground. I'd ask where the editor was, but I bet he'd already started wetting his palate when this crossed his desk.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Whoa! Who are your friends?

Just got this on a list serve I'm on. It's from a list of rules for a condo association:
b. Defecation of the animals must be 'pooper scooped' from any common area in the complex.
c.The afore mentioned also applies to visitors and are the responsibility of the apartment dwellers being visited.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Man Who Talked to Birds

This is another first draft.

The Man Who Talked to Birds

Every morning, he had conversations with birds.
What did he say? What did he think they heard?

Every day, he'd break bread and throw it
Over the fence then wait for birds to show up
Or come drink from the pedestaled basin in his front yard.

They were his birds. Joe's birds. Daddy's birds.
This is a man who'd talk to a chicken
And claimed the chicken learned to play
The xylophone. This is a man who guarded
A dove's nest on his window ledge. Who put out
Building material, straw he gathered himself,
For the dove to use, then called the newspaper
When the eggs hatched. This is a man who caught
Young pigeons and brought them home in a cage
For his son to use in a school project. This man
Watched the birds with a meticulous fancy --
Imagined they understood him. Held out his hand
With seed and had them take it from his palm.
He believed he knew what they were thinking.

And when he died and they came to the house,
Everyone claimed they were looking for him.

Mother built a shrine in the corner of the yard,
Surrounded it with ceramic angels so he
Could be where the birds are, and they
Could be with him.

© copyright 2010 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved

Get ready for April. Bel over at The Itsy Bitsy Monkey extends a special challenge every year during National Poetry Month. Her goal is to post an original poem every day, and she challenges her readers to do the same. And even if you don't take the challenge, reading the poems she posts is certainly worth the visit.

Friday, March 5, 2010

It feels good to laugh

I know I haven't been around for a while, but this afternoon  I was getting overwhelmed by this huge project I'm involved with and was feeling low. So I took a break and watched this video. By the time it was over, I felt immensely better and knew I had to share it. Enjoy. And I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I must have sort of arrived

I graduated from high school (St. Francis DeSales in Columbus, Ohio) in 1964. I don't remember the last time I was in the high school, but I'm sure the Viet Nam War was still going on. And although one of my brothers still gets involved in mentoring programs there and I see or communicate with one or three of my classmates every once in a blue moon (an interesting expression, by the way), I have no contact with the school, nor does the school have contact with me, except an occassional email asking if I know what happened to missing classmates. (I actually did know about one of them.) But I don't think anybody there knows me because, to my knowledge, I certainly don't know any of them.

So imagine my surprise when I got an email from my brother the other day:
By the way I was at DeSales the other day and they have a new (at least to me) permanent display directly across the hallway from the Trophy case outside the Gym. It is a wall with 8x10 pictures of people who are in the academic hall of fame. There is a large label of the title and each picture has a brass plaque under it saying the name and the class. The first picture on the wall was none other than my big brother. I told mom and she was very proud of you. (Actually, I am too!) Congratulations!
It's nice that my brother's proud of me. And my mother, too. But this was the first I'd heard of it. At least it's not the post office. But geez, you'd think someone would have sent me a letter. Maybe they think I'm dead. Hmmm.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

First draft

Here's the first draft of a poem based on a Japanese folk tale. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do with it yet. I got the tale from a student a number of years ago along with several others. She was writing them down and giving them to me so she could practice English in the Writing Lab. I'm thinking of building a series of poems around them.


A farmer and his wife, barren past their youth
Find a young swan with hurt wing and take it home.
They place a box for a bed just inside their front door 
And feed it rice before they  retire,
Saddened by the fearful noise it made when they picked it up,
Glad to be able to help,
Glad to offer love.

In the morning on a rug inside their front door,
A teenage girl curls beside the empty box,
Sleeps fitfully dreaming, she says when she wakes,
Of water like a mirror in the morning sun
And a strange but lovely face she did not know
Staring up at her from below the water's surface
And dreaming, she says, of open space.
It's like falling up instead of down.
Father, she says, can I have more rice?
And, Mother, these clothes feel strange.
Can you show me how to wear them?

© copyright 2010 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Writer's Wife

A week ago, I received my copy of the latest issue of The Raintown Review. In it is a poem called "The Writer's Wife." It's five pages, and it begins like this:

"For fifteen years we lived against the sea
Below Ogunquit where the surf marks time
And tide, and days remained unchanged, and each
Of us learned to watch the seasons silently.
He needed me. I cared for him. He wrote.
I listened when he read to help him find
A voice. But otherwise, we seldom spoke."
It is my most significant poem to date. And at five pages, it's also the longest poem I have ever published. I wrote the first version of the poem over 40 years ago. The idea came from a fantasy game my first wife and I played when were dating. It was about a woman who had thrown her childen off a cliff. The idea didn't gel as a poem, and although I kept writing it again and again throughout the years, I couldn't make it work.

Then about seven years ago while I was living in Birmingham, something happened on a trip to Maine that changed the whole concept of the poem for me. I knew the poem was not about a mother who murdered her kids. It is about what happened to a couple after their seven-year-old daughter was lost by being caught in a rip current, and it tells the story of the next 15 years of their life. Once I realized what the poem was really about,  it took me a couple of months to actually write it. And it wasn't easy. It's a formal poem with a difficult rhyme scheme. But once I started, once I wrote the line "For fifteen years we lived against the sea," I had no doubt where it was going or that I would complete it.

I finished the poem shortly before that Christmas. It's a funny thing about writing poetry. I know I've said this before. It's hard work to write a good poem. It's even frustrating work, and you have to love -- not the frustration -- but the work itself. And you have to simply know it's going to come together.Then when it does, you look at it and say, "Of course. This was where I was going all the time." And you immediately forget the work. It just feels natural, as if it always was that way.

I included the poem in a reading I did at Keuka College in Finger Lakes district of New York a few years ago. At the reception after the reading, the poet Bruce Bennett, who had been in the audience, came up to me on his way out and said he thought there was something epic about the poem. That was the greatest compliment he could have paid me. I spent nearly my entire adult life writing it. It feels good to have it recognized.

I can't post the poem here, because it's in the current issue of the magazine. And it's also not on line there. If you want to read it before my next book is done, you'll need to buy a copy of Volume 8 Issue 2 of The Raintown Review or else look back here on the blog in about six months. But since I can't post it, I'm going to repost a poem I first put up here last May. I only got one comment on it, so maybe you missed it. Or maybe you were just being polite.

From the Choir Loft

Singing is twice praying.

On alternating days we sang the Mass
At seven, boys, then girls, then boys again.
Sometimes the only ones who'd show
To sing were me and Hal the organist,
And I could barely hum a note. Refrains
Eluded me, so Hal would sing it solo.

Now Hal had music in his hands and feet;
The organ's pipes were a part of him.
But when he tried for music from his throat,
Well, Father said it sounded kind of sweet
If sweet meant scratchy, hoarse, and thin
And not unlike the bleating of a goat.

From Kyrie to Agnus Dei, Hal
Sang all the parts, sang treble, alto, bass
And never worried what the music said.
The words were all that mattered. Still somehow
He'd hit the final note then turn his face
And wink at me and proudly raise his head.

Hal quit the church when Kyrie became
The simple English Lord and anyone
Who wanted stood and strummed communal chords
For Masses where the singing was the same
As elevator sap, and Hal seemed stunned
To learn that music is in deed the words.

Originally published in Birmingham Poetry Review, Summer/Fall, 2005.
© copyright 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And I call myself an editor

After a meeting today for a project I'm working on, I received an email from the client saying that documents being used to create the health tool should be stored in SharePoint -- software that allows documents to be shared and creates a history so that we always know what the latest version is.

I wrote back an email saying among other things: "I’ll put stiff there as soon as I can."

That prompted the following reply from a doctor who is also working on the project:

just remember to bag your bodies before storing them 8-).

Guess I had that coming.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another sign of the times

Saw this in the parking lot at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant:

Neighborly Reminder

Lock your car


remove your valuables.

In that order? Has anyone got a crowbar? Forget that. Has anyone got an editor?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wish I had a poem to share

But I don't. Not tonight. So instead I'll offer you some opening lines and let you do what you want with them. I only ask that you share the poem if you use them. But first, let me share some random thoughts about my day.

S and I started it at 6 this morning by going to the fitness center in Gaylord's Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. After a 40 minute workout (despite a painful Achilles tendon), we swam for 20 minutes in the indoor pool. Then because it was raining and cold outside, we spent about 20 minutes in the outdoor jacuzzi. I've felt warm and proud all day.

In regard to the Achilles tendon problem: That bum Achilles has been at my heels all day. S thought it was a little bit over the top, but I figure anytime I can get 3 puns in a single breath, I'm doing OK.

We were planning to go to the Frist Visual Arts Center in downtown Nashville and then maybe have dinner someplace like The Wild Horse Saloon and hit some of the clubs along Broadway before coming back to Opryland. If you've never done it, it feels a little like New Orleans, albeit on a much smaller scale. But there is one way Nashville tops the Bourbon Street experience.

Nashville is the Music City. (It's home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and to the Bluebird Cafe, which is a songwriter's Mecca.) And because it's the Music City, it's packed with country star wannabes, many of whom are really quite talented, but most of whom can only dream of getting a contract. But that doesn't deter them.

The clubs along Broadway and Second Avenue, let groups come in to play without pay -- they play for tips. And here is what makes it better in that one way from New Orleans. Because they're not paying the band, the clubs don't care if you walk in off the street and listen for free. There's no cover and no minimum drink requirement -- not even one. You can just walk in and listen. And there are enough good musicians and singers to make it worth your while.

The problem today was that because of my injured Achilles, I wasn't sure I wanted to stay downtown tonight and then try to make my way back to the hotel through streets I didn't know using a GPS that sometimes decides it just doesn't like me and wants me to get lost. I could tell S wasn't happy about my suggesting we start back while it was still light. It is, after all, our anniversary weekend.

But we got to the Frist early, and since it wasn't open yet, we decided to go to the other end of Broadway for lunch at the Wild Horse Saloon. Then as we walked back past the clubs on Broadway it was clear -- at 1:30 in the afternoon -- the street was coming alive. So we started going in and listening and moving on to the next club on our way back to the museum. The highlight came at Tootsies at the corner of Broadway and 5th Ave.

I remember the last time we were in Nashville and spent a late night downtown, Tootsies was the place to be. And here it was on an early Sunday afternoon every bit as alive as it was on that Saturday late night when we were there before.

We were also able to enjoy the museum, and then get back to the resort in time to have a pleasant romantic dinner at an Italian restaurant and to enjoy roaming around the shops before coming back to our room. Now we're sitting here listening to jazz and blogging and thinking about tomorrow.

On the way back to the museum, we were talking about how the product model at the Opryland resort resembled that of a cruise ship. And then we remarked on how the cheaper rooms, which were not available when we booked, didn't have balconies, just like the inside state rooms on a cruise ship don't have balconies that extend out over the ocean. And I reminded S how much we enjoyed having a state room with a balcony on a cruise we took several years ago. She said we hardly ever spent time in the room. I said, though, that I spent a lot of time on the balcony in the middle of the night. That's how I came up with these lines.

Standing on the stateroom balcony
Peering into the endless black
Of a horizonless night

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A caption for the times

Found this verse inside a greeting card in a gift shop in Nashville today. Thought I'd share it with you.

"My soul's had enough chicken soup. Give me chocolate!"

Friday, January 8, 2010

Still Learning as I Go

My second painting is done, framed, and shipped to my sister-in-law for a Christmas gift. (In my family, we draw names and give a gift that we have to make to the family member whose name we get. My sister-in-law likes lighthouses, so the picture seemed appropriate.) I really meant to continue the Learning as I Go series of posts while I painted it. But given how little time I've spent on the blog over the last month or so, that proved hard to do.

That doesn't mean I didn't continue to learn. For one thing I learned how hard it is to paint daylight. The sky went through multiple paintings and over paintings.

I knew this first one wasn't right, but wasn't sure why. So I tried again.

I liked the water here, but the sky was just getting darker. After a couple of more attempts, I came up with this.

At first I was impressed with the clouds. But after a couple of days looking at it from my desk, they struck me as being unnaturally white, and the sky still wasn't any lighter. So I went back to the book I'd been reading and read again about glazing and also about working orange and yellow into the clouds to give the impression of daylight. So I painted this.

At this point, I was glad I had a career working with words and so decided not to quit my day job. But I took one more stab at it.

I really messed up the water, but, hey, the sky had light. I don't think the author of Genesis had any idea just how hard it is to let there be light. I know I didn't do it in a day.

Next, after working for several days to restore the water, came the rocks and then the light house.

The signature.

And finally the frame.

So what have I learned? I learned I really like doing this. And I think I learned something about painting daylight, which is what I had set out to do when I chose the lighthouse as my subject.
I've started a third picture. Now I'm learning how to paint foliage and grasses. If you don't mind I'll share some of that that experience with you too.
Happy New Year, everyone.