In search of story


April 2.23: Coping, but barely


The poet trudges,

burdened, bent,

back and forth,


With words that are useless,

that have only weight,

he paces a sameness

in blindered grim gait.

Metaphors, similes,

a crisp interjection,

mere clamorous tonnage,

trash and abjection.

The longer he carries

that lexicon load

the more likely he is

to slowly implode.

The vulture, despair,

the scavenging bird,

starts to descend,

but then comes the word!

The exact, the precise,

in meaning and sound,

arises from somewhere

in mind’s underground!

The foot-weary poet

with jubilant pen

turns face to the wind

to do it again.


And so do we begin National Poetry Month, dear reader, my annual head-scratching of what makes a poem or a poet.

I do not believe that rhyme makes a poem. I try to work in rhyme for two reasons: 1) it narrows my choice of words, a good discipline for a yackety daughter of Eire, and 2) it gives me the giggles, a good tonic.

But poetry does not depend on rhyme; it depends on something else. I can’t define it.

As happens so often, Bill, our intrepid photographer, has captured an image with wonderful layers of meaning. Thanks again, Bill!



March 26.23: Coping, but barely

If you want to have your way,

you have to learn to plead,

set forth your clearest logic,

your very urgent need.

What will make your case?

The dewy eye of doe?

Jumping up and down?

A flapping to and fro?

It’s incumbent on the pleader

to practice saying “please,”

to master skill of asking,

to manipulate with ease.

Whining has its place,

the dab at moistened eye,

the drooping of the shoulders,

the Perils-of-Pauline sigh,

but something’s to be said

for the frown of dispensed guilt,

the heavy-lidded snark,

you-can’t-be-serious tilt.

Wordless language speaks —

give it megaphone;

learn to turn your back,

or shrug or stomp or groan.

I’d add one more idea

for pleader’s technique docket:

to emphasize your point,

a cookie in your pocket.


Many thanks to Susan Rushton for the lively photo!

I don’t know who the artist was, but thanks to him/her also for such eloquent gestures; however, the gestures go only so far to persuade — it’s the cookie that wins the day. I’m almost sure that all of these silent orators have cookies in pockets somewhere.



December 29.22: Coping, but barely

Jeweled confection —

how dare we bite in? —

so perfect a morsel,

toothmarks would be sin.

The art of the little,

meticulous craft,

we must linger over,

admire, fore and aft.

From various angles

its magnificence savored,

the eyes are the palate

to guess at how flavored.

To taste with the eye

is the manner of some,

while others prefer

to taste with the thumb.

To find telltale hole,

the proof of the borer,

causes mannered among us

to recoil in horror.

What weaselly ways,

what etiquette lack,

to know what’s inside

and then put it back!


You may recall, dear reader, the indignities of my youth, with blue jeans not allowed. Not proper, said my mother. And yet — and yet! — there were the Fannie May or Mrs. See’s chocolates all pristine in the aerial view, but — what’s this? — a hole in the bottom? A hole which just happens to be the exact same size as my mother’s thumb? This is proper?

Thus did I learn that proper is a relative concept. My mother being the closest of relatives.


More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg.


December 8.22: Coping, but barely

It has been said —

and I think that it’s true —

for a writer to finish

it always takes two:

the writer declares

“I call it a day,”

but then someone else

must yank her away.

DONE is a word

that’s hard to pronounce

when you invest in your work

to the last little ounce.

So DONE is a laurel

that others bestow,

to help the imaginer

pack up and go

to the next inner road,

or mountain, or sea,

that summons our spirits

by endless decree.

Whether mural or poem,

ballad or quilt,

“done” can be said

without quitter’s guilt.


A writer can spend an idiotic amount of time on one sentence, one phrase, one word. That living, breathing language remains stubbornly imperfect. We don’t want to be quitters in our own eyes, so we keep at it. There’s always something that could be better.

I suspect that can be true for all creative endeavor. The artist, whether writer, muralist, quilter, musician, woodworker, can have a problem saying “it’s done.” But Dathan has said just that, and here, above and below, is the finished mural.

More thanks to photographer and reporter S.W. Berg.


November 5.22: Coping, but barely

Look back or look ahead,

up close or from a distance,

it’s balance that we want

to give us our resistance

to unfinishedness of life —

there’s always something more

we could have done or should do;

it’s the Expectation War.

There’s ballast in the look back

at what’s already done

as we teeter on the edge

of what we’ve just begun.

An update from Bill (to posts 10/21, 23, 27) with more background on the mural. The shop behind the wall sells chrome wheels and tires, and it is the owner of this shop who had seen Dathan’s murals and commissioned one for his wall. Dathan took the wheel as his inspiration for the design. The close-up of the open door shows the merchandise in the shop, and it also shows the challenge going forward. Originally the mural was to be to the door, on a relatively smooth surface, but now he’s extended it and therefore must negotiate a totally different canvas of metal panels. Does he look ahead in trepidation and see how much he still has to do, or does he look back in satisfaction and derive energy from what he’s already done? Does the artist’s eye see something finished that might have been done better and ask himself if it’s really finished? Is this life or what?


More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to artist Dathan Kane.


October 23.22: Coping, but barely

The wall begins

its conversation

with multi-tasking


engaging eye

and then the brain

with starkly pied

dreamlike terrain.

Abrupt and bumptious

in everyday city,

startling our inner

Walter Mitty.

A follow-up to Friday’s post is in order. Our intrepid photographer, S.W. Berg, aka Bill, returned to the muralist to see how the work was progressing and to find out more about him. So, with many thanks to Bill, I can now tell you that the artist is Dathan Kane, who earned his BA in Fine Arts from Virginia State University in 2014, and whose murals and canvases have been commissioned in Virginia and elsewhere. His website: http://www.dkaneart.com

Thanks also to the artist for permitting the photos.

As you can see, the mural has grown. The artist thinks it will be some time before it is finished, but I hope Bill can snag a photo at that time too.


October 12.22: Coping, but barely

The refined high art of breakfasting

cannot too much be touted;

its value to the day

ought never to be doubted.

In cherry tomato season

it’s especially exact;

one keeps the tomato whole,

juicily intact.

It’s cozied in the mouth

(don’t try to sing or whistle

lest you wing it into orbit,

the oops’d misguided missile)

along with crusty morsel

of sourdough browned just right,

one aims for balanced tandem,

the perfection in the bite.

The delicacy of timing,

simultaneous squirt and crunch,

requires selfless practice

sometimes ’til half-past lunch.


October 2.22: Coping, but barely

We sculpt, we carve,

we draw and write,

enfleshing awe

for our mindsight.

What we think we know,

what we know we feel,

elusive, taunting,

unprovably real,

we try to capture,

to see, explain,

for eye that seeks

in heart and brain.

That eye wants form —

it matters not

that form derives

from mythic thought.

Thus the legend,

myth and lore

that spring from deepest

human core.

Because we have

this itch to see

every invisible




More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to artist Jeff Savage, whose sculpture marks

the headwaters of the Mississippi and the role of women,

the Caretakers of the Water,

according to Anishinabe (Ojibwe) belief.

Thanks also to the Minnesota Percent for Public Art and the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwater Center at Lake Itasca Minnesota State Park.