Oddments

In search of story


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February 22.20

Look both ways

our parents told us,

and if we didn’t

they’d yell and scold us,

but a harder lesson,

heaven knows,

if cars and trucks

drove over our toes.

A lesson for life,

to look aft and fore,

then run like the wind,

wide-eyed and full bore!

 

Thanks yet again and a rousing HAPPY BIRTHDAY

to photographer S. W. Berg!


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December 12.19

Many the Christmas

has faded away,

but here are a couple

preserved for today.

The curly-haired toddler,

a bit knobby of knee,

recalls the first Christmas

for cute little me.

The other, my parents,

with some of their caucus,

a nefarious bunch,

unruly and raucous.

A time to be serious

about four-in-hand,

and to mutter at tinsel

hung strand by strand.

Life wasn’t perfect then,

but still I hold dear

the Christmases seen

in life’s rearview mirror.

 

That’s my dad in the middle, and my mom is the one looking down at him; I can’t tell if she’s thinking what a great guy he is or his collar needs more starch. You will notice, dear reader, the Christmas tree in the far right of the photo. If you can remember the insanity of hanging tinsel strand by maddening strand, then you also remember the days when ties were what you could always get your dad for Christmas.

 

 


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November 1.19

Apple walnut cinnamon pie,

winter oven, my, oh, my.

Syrup’d slices, cinnamon dust

rise through nose to memory’s must:

oilclothed table, rolling pin,

floured apron, floor and chin,

pigtail peelings, glowing stove,

maybe nutmeg, maybe clove.

Coming in from bitter world,

boots well stomped and scarf unfurled,

amber warmth starts deep within

like radiator through my skin.

Kitchens of the long-ago,

swathed in early evening snow,

hug me still because I spy

apple walnut cinnamon pie.

 

Huzzahs and thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and kudos to dessert chefs at McCormick and Schmick’s, Virginia Beach, VA.

What memoried fragrance arises from this photo!

As this hectic season hurls us into next year,

I wish you, dear reader,

some sanity from a warm and spicy kitchen.

 

 

 


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August 4.19

Sometimes

if summer is old enough

and the leaves heavy with heat,

continuo of cicada

tricks me, and,

for so brief an instant,

I am back

in the time of bikes, grass prickles,

summer sleighbells of the ice cream man,

clothespin dolls,

clover braids,

a time when we had not yet heard of

mass shootings.

But it — that time — knew of nooses

of word and of rope.

To go back is to ask —

how could a country of lynchings

not become a country of mass shootings?

There is no perfect then.

 

 


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June 16.19: Postcards from Emmy

Eyes up

or dead ahead

full-faced

uncorseted

youthful

 oaken vertebrae

steel-enforced

DNA.

Downcast eyes

will not attend

the future that

these two portend.

Fearless Girl times two

foreseeing

each steadfast

in her own being.

 

To all the dads who have given the world Fearless Girls, a very happy Fathers’ Day!

 

With thanks to the unnamed photographer,

to sculptor Kristen Visbal,

and, of course, to Emmy.

 

 


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May 21.19

I grew up in northwest Indiana, just outside Chicago. “Da Region.” Steel mills and oil refineries, cinders and soot. And earthquaking freight trains. Charging, bellowing behemoths, lifeline of thriving industry, they snarled traffic with sadistic impunity.

Mindful that then our phones were back home, attached to a wall, you will understand that life stopped when those behemoths blocked our ways. So there was nothing like the excitement of spotting the caboose. Life could resume! What cheer to the soul! What revving of engines! Until it stopped in the middle of the crossing, taunting us with half a road.

The caboose had the power to make people happy or homicidal.

If you were a kid and lucky, you got to wave at the man in the caboose, and he would wave back. To be noticed by the genie in the caboose was high living tinged with envy: who wouldn’t want to live in a caboose?

Every once in a while, a caboose would show up in some incongruous place, like someone’s yard. Here was mystery. How did it get there? Is the genie still in it?

It was my early introduction to garden art. A caboose in a yard was never mundane. Nor was the occasional non-red caboose, like the jarring countercultural yellow.

As symbol of time and place, the caboose is nonpareil. And when the train is gone and the caboose stands alone in the quiet of clover and vine, what does the caboose tell of the old time and place? Since I am the caboose, I must ask and answer that question.

 

Many thanks to photographer D.J. Berg.

Part Three