These poems were released earlier in 2015 but have now been grouped into separate years of their actual writing. 1963, 1964 and 1965.
We present here the first of three collections of poems by Raymond C. Harding,[1900-1965], containing 103 poems from 1963. They speak of a different time, when nature was still threatened by significant, if not fully understood, attempts of humans, to make nature serve the needs of mankind’s desires for a better way of life than what evolutionary change, left to its own devices, was presenting to their contemporary awareness. Fifty-two years have passed and still we deny the effects of human involvement in the crisis of environmental change. The simple poetry of his time continues to stir our uneasiness.
His poems portray a life-long love of things natural, especially of birds, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and a first generation pride in his Irish heritage, although he deferred making that a prominent display in his social activities. We, his children, however, (speaking only for myself) have absorbed, if unwittingly, a quiet and respectful, love of things Irish and a certain curiosity regarding the comings and goings of the Harding’s of County Cork, Ireland in the 18th and 19th century.
We have two more collections of Ray ‘s poems from 1964 and 1965, available now on “Off the Beaten Path”. We sincerely hope that you find these offerings both pleasant and inspiring, as that is what poetry, and Ray’s efforts, are all about .
LAMENT FOR ANCIENTS
If I should go to Innisfail
Where now would I find them,
The Ancient Ones of Clan no Gael,
The names they left behind them.
Who would point to Connor’s cairn
Or Dermid’s resting place,
Cuchulain’s bed, the mighty Braun –
Where Fergus fell from grace?
Niall, Conn, The cisian band
And the paths they used to tred.
The Ancient Groves of old Eraun,
The fierce old Irish dead.*
Donald, Neesa, Con Mac Ort,
Ferdiad, the Red Branch Knights
Who from Uladh did depart
To Ter no og land of delights.
Is There never more a trace?
Where do their cromlechs stand
To mark the places of this race,
The warrior kings of Eire’s land.
- Line from “The Call”, Daniel Corkery, Prof. Cork Univ. 1878
Lament for Ancients P2.
Lives there a ghost of Feis Temair,
Mocha, and the old plains of Down?
The races are run at Taillte Fair?
Athletes of renown.
Who sings of Cairbre, Osear now
Oisin’s lament recaled to toll
Who speaks the fierce old Finian vow
That no son of Fien should suffer in hell.
I’ll never get to Innisfail
To tread the olden sod
I’ll leave the land of Tir Cormail
To Maunan Tir and God.
This is a salute to the mythological and pagan kings of Ireland and the heroes of antiquity. The latter day martyrs for freedom have been enjoying enough.
I hope I’m not around to see
What “Progress” soon will bring to pass.
A Marsh Hawk on a mock-up tree
Labeled “Extinct” and under glass.
But some that awful fact must face
The poignant thought now brought to mind,
A species fallen in the race
“This is the last one of its kind.”
I have often felt that “Martha” would have preferred a fighting end in the talons of the Marsh Hawk, to the prosaic waiting death in the Cincinnati Zoo. And I’m sure that if the keeper, in a forgetful moment had left her un-caged it would have happened that way.
“All night they heard birds passing”
Columbus’ Journal entry Oct. 7, 1492
Spring night and I seem to hear
The almost silent sound of wings
High overhead and yet so near
The racing, pulsing, feathered things;
Warblers, plovers, shorebirds, terns
All driving with the primal urge.
No thought of dangers or returns
Slows down the ever pressing surge.
Respites are brief nor tarries long,
No interludes to hold or sway
From the fixed course, and song
will burst a continent away.
An old appointment they must keep
From Pompar, Carib, Yucatan
Ever the coursing northern sweep
To nest-site where it all began.
Thus is the cycle made complete
Beginning is where the end should be
And He who guides us all shall meet
We trust, in all eternity.
Apology to W.C. Bryant “To a
Quote cont. “from the winter which was about to come to the land whence they came. (Obs. of S. Bound Birds.)
S.W. Teale in “Journey into summer” pp. 275-76 gives other possible explanations:
- Food, or its absence.
- Nesting opportunities.
- Insufficient fringe population to replace lost mates.
- Competition of other species (related to #1 and #2)
He concludes, – “For all forms of life the mystery of distribution is one that has absorbed scientists for generations.
Occasionally the answer is simple (ferns at
But most of the time a whole combination of complex factors often obscure, is involved.”
The underscored words above may hold the key to the problem. Starlings and grackles have certainly increased on the cape, combining all four points above. Spraying, in destroying insects, undoubtedly has cut down the food supply. I am not sure that poisoned insects or worms would have any fatal effect on the bluebirds (or any birds for that matter).* Swallows feeding constantly and almost exclusively on bog insects show no signs of diminution on the Cape.
- Tests by Dr. Geo. Wallace – Mich. St. U. show that DDT caused 90% reduction of robins which had ingested poisoned worms. 1954 – 1957.
On one of Freetown’s lonely roads
I passed the rural burying ground.
Caught up with modern traffic modes
A pointed “one way” sign I found
Invited entrance and another one
At lower end was pointed out,
Intended for the ones who come
Not those who stay, no doubt.
Direction signs could well portend
A last result at life’s last gate.
“One way” means little at the end,
But “Up or down’s” APPROPRIATE.
Up historic Concord way
By Walden’s wooded pond.
He came to stay
And have a look around.
Built him a hut
And figured out the cost ($28.121/2)
To the last cent but
Not counting what he lost.
As long as he remained
He couldn’t tell just what he gained.
Two years he stayed.
Describing birds and such
Nor hardly ever strayed
And never wanted much.
Lived with Nature’s ways and sounds.
Made notes and studied books.
Inspected storms and made his rounds
Of woodland, fields and brooks.
Mused, and thought and wrote some more
Bound by himself and Walden’s shore.
To study all the facts of life
Him to this haven hied
Avoiding man and daily strife.
To learn of living, ‘fore he died.
This was his stated aim,
Gave purpose to this lone retreat,
This is the reason why he came
Escaping life’s wild beat
Compressed with detail and the vain
Welding of the world of gain.
Two years went by
Before he turned aside
And if we wonder why
He turned back to abide
The vagaries of his kind
He could not stand before
One question comes to mind
He found what he was looking for?
“I left Walden,” this his argument,
“For the same reason that I want.” ***
Man flees from man and finds himself alone.
Man flees to God and finds his own true home.
This is the greatest parable,
The father and the prodigal.
****** “Walden” describes only his first year there
“and the second year was similar to it.” Monotony?
He left Sept. 6, 1847 – Then 30 years of age.
In my infancy I learned
Thy holy name at mother’s knee
Age and the years have turned
My childhood to infirmity.
Hail Mary! Mother pray –
I hear the echoing praises still –
For us sinners, stay –
As I go slowly to the hill.
Of my own final day –
Stay till the hour is done
Grant I may hear Him say
“Mother behold thy son.”
I’ll never get my fill of Spring,
This much I know.
I’ll settle for a daffodil,
Or a warbler’s wing.
Yet blobs of snow
Dot crocus beds
And quickly go
Then robins sing
And fiddle heads
The warming mould.
The blues and reds
I’ll leave to show
In summer, late.
Of spendthrift gold
Will never wait
The growing rush
This much I’ll hold
Until the season’s ring
Of heat and snow and rain
Wheels full around again
A guy I know,
We’ll call him “Bo”
Can take a handout
With the grace
And pious face
To put a saint to rout
And make you feel
The he’s genteel
And you’re the lout.
He’s favored you,
You think so too
And I guess that is what you’d call a diplomat.
God’s gifts to man
Just go to show
That we all can
Be just like “Bo”.
Sad April with her tear dimmed eyes
Gives jealous way
To Warming skies.
And Lissome May
The new blown blossoms tries
On just for size.
But fashion goes so fast
So fast she knows
June wars the rose
And later on
The yellow tawn
Of autumn’s brown
Will be the rage
And set the stage
For December’s ermine gown
To ring the curtain down.
He measured me with wary eye,
And satisfied I meant no harm
Accepted me, and I
To save him from alarm
Froze with the new found thrill
This field bird brought to me,
First of his kind. Still,
Poised, he stood my scrutiny
Then unconcerned resumed his way
Feeding slow, deliberately.
Hunger easing with the day.
This bird I never hoped to see
Had picked the very time and place
To match my happened chance
For our first meeting face to face;
Full study too, although a glance
Were eight enough. But I
Though slow to move must go
Yet he refused to fly
As though he seemed to know
I had enough of view to last
And that we’d never meet in time
Again. He took his full repast
And went his way and I went mine.
“SHE BUILDED BETTER”
Who taught this airy sylvan bride
To weave a nest at her first try, *
To hold these little lives inside
Safe between the earth and sky.
We know His constant Loving Hand
Supporting worlds, the nest and all
And knowing this we understand
The marking of the sparrow’s fall
* “Man has ot learn his work by practice, –
a beaver makes his dam— a bird its nest as well,
or nearly as well the first time it tries as when
old and experienced.” Darwin
The restless reapers of the skies
Now untraced furrows of the lake,
Harvesting their crop of flies
Like circling scythes and take
The fading sun for their own sheen.
These dandy workman with white vests
And coats of purple, blue and green
Wheel, swoop and with their breasts
Skim lily pads and gently move
The placid waters – so aquatic
Then upward swoop as tho to prove
Their kinship with the aeronautic.
No need to sow, they only reap
Yet pay the purchase price of being,
A balance wheel they surely keep
The insects down and man to seeing.
THE ONE LEGGED NUTHATCH
This blue gray mite with beady eye
Would land inverted on my feeder shelf,
Hand upside down, then swinging try
To see if he could chin himself.
Then landing on the seeded tray
Would take his choice and then depart.
His mate came zooming straight away
No aerobatics for her part.
I wondered what the sport could be,
Perhaps a “showoff” or to beg
Attention, But such consistency
Disclosed at last, – he had one leg.
Nothing daunted, every trip
Demanded this gymnastic skill
Practice perfect, he would flip
Up to the tray and take his fill.
What caused this would be handicap?
Who know, this much is plain,
He later met some sterner trap.
Next year he did not come again.
This bird was observed daily at our feeder at 27 Adams St.
All during the winter of 1960. At first we did not notice he had only one leg. He stayed until spring, but never
“The sedge has withered from the Lake, and no birds sing.”
And Let the birds be multiplied upon the earth.
Gen. I, 22.
BLUEBIRDS ON THE CAPE
We once had bluebirds hereabouts,
Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall.
They may come back – I have my doubts
Two years and I’ve seen none at all.
The reason? Well I wish I knew.
I’m not very well read on birds and such
The land’s the same, their habits too.
No change I know of, least not much.
Its what we’ve added I suspect,
That killed them off. I knew the day
That dusting plane began to speck
Each leaf and blade of grass with spray.
This poison dust the bogs improve.
Cranberries flourish now, but still
The Bluebirds passing had to prove
We don’t need guns and shells to kill.
The price of berries has gone high
Now bogs, sanded, there’s no lack
Of coming, but somehow I
Would like to see the bluebirds back.
REACTION – OPPOSITE IF HOT EQUAL
The fools are in this world I guess
To prove how smart the wise can be.
A star without a night is less
Than time without eternity.
The rich are proven by the poor,
All beauty’s lost if all were blind.
The doubters make the certain sure
The orange sweet is bound in rind.
The awkward fall, the graceful skim,
Sinners point to sainthood’s path
Hunger waits while gluttons dine
And meekness makes a foil for wrath.
Some opposites there are I know
The trade not good for ill.
Good life beyond, poor life below
Were there no Hell we’d have a Heaven still.
STRIPES AND THE MAN
Zebras have the strangest pelts!
A most peculiar beast is he
Sporting as he does his belts
Of black and white – To me
It seems his trouble lies
Undecided what to be
Black, then white or otherwise.
Thus confusing friend and foe
The white for good, the black for bad.
He makes it difficult to know
If he is really gay or sad.
How very like this beast are we
Alternately bad and good.
We hope the stripes are evenly
Distributed. We know there should
Be more of White or less of black.
The difference in the beast and man
He has no choice, the power lacks
To make the change, we can.
We would not then like Zebras be?
Who said we must, recall
I merely posed analogy
We are not Zebras after all.
We rode down to the park one day,
Demarest Lloyd – down Dartmouth way
And entering I knew I heard
The sharp, clear whistle of a bird,
Piercing, shrill. I stopped, got out
To get a better look about
Up and down, both left and right,
No bird at all came into sight.
And then again the notes came clear
And sounded louder, at my rear.
I turned to find approaching me
The cause of all this mystery –
The park custodian no less,
Ending all surmise and guess.
He to one side was clearing wood
We had not seen him as he stood
Well off the road. I heard him say
“We’ve opened up the park today.”
We’d passed the entrance at the fence.
That “shrilling” bird cost fifty cents.
I used to marvel at the way
The milkman’s horse with steady clop
His morning rounds made day by day
Knew where to start and where to stop.
Without command he seemed to know
The very place where they would meet
And timed his every stop and go
To meet the milkman’s flying feet.
I often think that you and I
In working out our daily course
Make many moves and don’t know why,
And imitate the Milkman’s horse.
There is this difference though, I guess,
With this you will agree I know
We got the “stops: down, more or less,
Our only trouble’s with the “go”.
The riddle of the egg and chick
Is settled now, right pert and quick.
This is the way the story’s told
By a precocious six year old
When first the question she had heard,
Decided firm against the bird
As being the prime “raison d’etre.”
“Now what came first?” I hate
To think how simply this was solved,
Biology and all involved.
“Now if you say the chicken, well
How could he get back in the shell
And be another egg again,
And if there aren’t eggs, you know
There won’t be any chickens, so—-”
THE YEARS BETWEEN
From sparrow days, crumbs on the sill,
To the bright day, made brighter still,
With scarlet tanager ablaze –
I’ve lost a lot of joyful days.
But now I hoard each thrilling sight
Of flashing wing and sudden flight,
And keep them fresh in memory’s store.
Mine is a late and hurried lore.
The list is long and Time runs fast,
Perhaps I’ve found enough to last
Me. Yet I know I’ll try
My quest of tree and shore and sky,
To the last day. Then slowly close
The book with one new “find”, who knows?
“A particular bird makes an ornothologist — a scarlet
tanager fired the enthusiasm of Elliott Cones”, Peterson’s
Anthology. P. 3
I don’t know about the “ornothologist” but the same scarlet tanager introduced me to bird study. His winter home being
in Bolivia makes him just a little brighter for me.
Oh I have tried with paint and plaster
To capture birds, and what is worse
Not catching all that I went after
I tried to cage them in my verse.
New pictures, models, I’ll allow
Bore some resemblance to the type
But all my poems limped somehow
And never bounded into flight.
I’m reading more of birds just now.
Cones, Forbush, Peterson.
Yet yearn to prowl a sandy brow
To watch the pipers wheel and run.
There are some things you can’t compress
In foreign space or shape or mold.
Each being will itself express
Completely, all the story told.
So, what you hang upon a wall
Or mount, or sculpture for a shelf
Means nothing save for memory’s call
To hold what once you saw yourself.
The tardy wax wing
Starts his show
Of July nesting
After blossoms blow.
June is for fun
So why the hurry,
The morning sun
Has blushed the cherry.
What if he’s late
The Summer’s young
Cradle can wait
For once begun
The rush will stay
And all the day
Proud parent’s part
He’ll rightly play.
So why the fuss?
First comes the fling’
T’was always thus
With the wax wing.
MISERY AND COMPANY
It’s cold and windy by the sea.
No place today for bird or me
And ye I wait and dimly hope
Some wing will out across my scope
Somme lonely questing passerby
Scanning leaden sea and sky,
And finding nothing, whisk away,
Leave me and shore. Another day
He will return when skies are blue.
I only hope I’ll be there too.
(A dark and windy forenoon at Fort Phoenix.)
The dainty piper’s measured pace
Across his sandy thirsty floor,
Exactly times his winning race
With running ebb against the shore.
We get our pleasure watching him
But it’s no game he’s playing there.
His search is food, his purpose grim
This is his breakfast dinner fare.
And yet perhaps he’s learned the way
To flavor work and have some sport
And finds his digging is real play.
I wish I were of this same sort.
There is a refuge that I know,
A sloping field, brook bound by brush
A place where I can always go
And neatly turn aside the rush
That would engulf me. There
A lazy hour to watch and think,
Where none but I can breathe the air
Of woodland scents. A bob-o-line
Off track, comes blundering by
And stops to check his bearings right
And the, as much surprised as I
Sends out a note – then out of sight.
Frank Slocum says he owns this plot,
Recorded deeds this clearly states
But feathered squatters on the spot
Give land and ignorance debate.
These insect farmers guard his lands
And make them better for their care.
He pays the tax but not these hands,
These tenants work for just their fare.
And so I wonder who does hold
This woodland spot all clear and free
Frank Slocum or that Robin bold.
But for an hour it rests with me.
There’s a drought
Of birds this year
Without a doubt
They should be here by now.
What makes them slow
To come this spring,
The old nests show
No new ones swing.
Begins to bear
The green leaf bright
With room to spare
For a nest site
For tanager or thrush,
And his rush
In after spring
Mayflies are here,
The moths grow bright.
With promised blight
For those so quick.
The birds I guess
Just like a creek
There is a drought
Of birds this year
Without a doubt
They should be here
The quickest, surest way we’re told
To dust the insects is by plane
In widened swaths, and fold by fold,
And soak them in this deadly rain.
So lethal clouds we blithely blow
On marshland, stream and field.
The death we reap is what we sow
And guarantee a bumper yield.
We’ve hosts of poisons though not named
Sold inn each seed and hardware store,
Some insects killed outright or maimed
While others just troop back for more.
There is another price we pay
To rid us of the insect crew
And this the label doesn’t say,
The stuff can kill us too.
We work havoc with our days
But nature with a stifled yawn
Toils slowly in her ancient ways
And counts a million years a dawn …..Rachel Carson in Silent Spring.
NOT TO THE SWIFT ALONG
It does not count how far we go
Nor always just how fast,
For there are times, as all must know
The first ones can be last.
The best pace well can be snail’s pace
There’s virtue too for those who wait.
It’s what we gather in the race
And see, and know, appreciate.
The winnowing of life is slow
The sifted mix makes up the whole
Good grains along with poor grains grow,
The finest grist is for the Soul.
ASTRONAUTS AND REQUIEM
We put a man in space today
In capsule formed atomic ship
We watched him blast off and we pray
He has a most successful trip.
He speeds at such fantastic rate
In orbiting this earth of ours
Sun rise and sun set seem to mate
From dawn to dusk in less than hours.
Then on the twenty – second trip
He angles to the earth again.
No time for error, none for slip
He lands and joins his fellow men.
Another man left earth today
In instant flight thru time and space
For him a silent prayer we say
As now he stands before God’s face.
For him there is no turning back
For him all time and flight has passed
For us there is no sounding track
We only hope he’s home at last.
Pure science in three hundred years
Has turned our world most inside out
Dispelled our many doubts and fears
And put old prophecies to rout.
We seed the planets, plow the skies
And pierce the outer fringe of space.
Our Telstars even televise
Their records of each different place.
We’ve conquered every problem so
The bounds of knowledge disappear.
One thing remains for us to know
Where do we go from here.
For that we need another Book
And our action to its word.
Add virtue to our smart new look
Face up to Faith in what we’ve heard.
There is a brighter Wisdom far
Than all our surface scratchings make.
Who judges us for what we are.
He gave His Life for our soul’s sake.
WORK AND PLAY
Science seeks to lighten life
By proven drug and skill
With pleasure’s madness kin to strife
We live the age of overkill.
Once long ago I dimly heard
An ancient savant say
“It’s not our work,” this he averred,
“That kills. It is our play.”
But that was very long ago
When all the world was youth.
Now I remember, now I know
That old man spoke the truth.
The marvel of the bird’s wild eye
Leaves him no need to grope
For with it he can magnify
Or use a telescope.
Elliott Coes, ornithologist put is this way.
“A bird’s eye is at once microscopic and
telescopic.” I just put the idea to rhyme. (?)
“BIRD WATCHER DRIVING.”
An ornithologist was Fred.
He traveled near and far
To study each and every bird,
But always went by car.
He traveled far, he traveled fast
To beat the setting sun
He had to check birds to the last
And list them one by one.
He could identify each bird
By song or color flash.
One sound tho, he never heard
It was his fatal crash.
Bird watching’s at an end for Fred.
A sad one as we know.
It’s better tramping for your bird
If drive you must, – go slow.
A sign placed at your auto’s rear
Will warn the follower that you
May stop altho the road is clear,
To get a better view.
Which was the road he took
And which forsook,
That mad the difference.
In what sense could he portend
Its final end.
Who hope it led,
Now that he is dead,
The one way best
To final rest.
I took me to my birding spot
But not a bird did see
Altho I’m sure that like as not
They had a view of me.
“I wonder what they see in us,”
A bird to bird might say –
“They seem to make an awful fuss.
“They come here every day.”
I’ve sure seen that one before,
That tall one on the rise
“With other gawkers by the score,
“With goggles on their eyes.
“They’re having their own fun I guess
But when they get too near
Our nesting place, I confess
“I show a proper fear.”
“They try to follow as we sing,
They point and shout and stare
But we can always take a wing,
And leave them standing there.”
The thought of youth is long thought
A Boy’s way is the best way yet.
The thoughts of age are seldom sot,
The busy young so soon forget.
The meaning now is plain to me.
I see the fullness of the plan.
I turn to what I used to be,
Prove “twice a boy and once a man.”
I would not have it otherwise,
I missed too much when I was young.
I see things clearer with old eyes,
Re-live old memories one by one.
I watched this woodland fisher set
Between two branches of the bush, his net
Of silken cord. He showed no fear
Of me, – a sidewalk engineer.
He knew the proper moves to make
His seine secure without a break.
Then with the last strand trim and straight
He took his watchful place to wait
The coming of his hard earned food,
Brought by themselves, the insect brood
At once the waiters and the meal,
His dining style is quite ideal.
And that’s perhaps the reason why
He finds no need of wings to fly,
He’s quite content with spinnerets
When work’s all done then he just sets.
The birds go chasing here and there,
With labored wing beats in the air,
While he sits in his hammock snug
And welcomes in each tangled bug.
Each to his own I always say
For after all, it’s best that way.
TO THE NON-PRAYING MANTIS
The Praying Mantis doesn’t pray,
At least that’s what the experts say.
The female’s occupied instead
In chewing off her husband’s head.
When all should be but love and kisses
There’s nothing left except the Missus.
I’m glad we’re not the Mantis’ kind
For when my Missus speaks her mind
And chews my head off, we agree
It’s just a way of talking, see.
But still I think it’s quite a shame
Poor Mantis, he can’t say the same.
“The female of the praying Mantis, –
sometimes devours her sweetheart —
starting at the head she often gets
him half eaten before their armour
Max Eastman (Audubon Magazine)
as reported in Readers Digest.
The insect called the walking stick
Is not a stick at all you know.
He plays his small deceptive trick
And leads you into thinking so.
But in all fairness we must state
We name him and we thought it cute
Why blame him for our own mistake
Our choice of names he can’t dispute.
The posings of us humans are
The things that work the ill
Worse than the walking sticks by far
We are deceivers with a will.
PLEA FOR MIRACLES
Now to your prayers I do command
The halt, the lame, the blind
But they are not the usual kind
For these sweet charity must mend
The palsied hand to pocket speed.
The halt, the lame, direction take
To help the poor, their faltering gait
So quickened, rushing to the need
Of poverty the Blind to see.
Remorseful, now to recognize
The look of hungry children’s eyes
And all made whole with Charity
For none are crippled more than these
So slow to give a helping hand
Or coin nor understand
The cry of need. Lord help them please.
WAITING FOR SPRING
March tests the oak leaves with his whip
And chases all the weaker ones around
Until they find a hiding place and slip
To rest, exhausted on the ground.
Then April comes and shows her train
Of early buds, and blossoming
Of Pussy Willows braving out the rain.
A Robin’s chirp announces it is Spring.
There is not much more left to say.
Anticipation is the food we need
There’s not much promise left to May
Or June and then we slip to seed.
We’ll soon be surfeited with Fall
The year will stumble to its end
And soundly sleep thru winter’s pall
Till melted ice boughs lose their bend
And straighten up to warming sun.
Sharp crocus spears with quick surprise
Reveal the course has fully run,
We’ll settle back for brighter skies.
Elusive northern elf
Why not pity us
And show yourself.
Move in more generally
We ask why not
Touch our woodlot
Just not centrally.
In far off Michigan
Once Cleveland’s street
Saw you, discrete.
We know you can.
Play very hard to get
Keep to your Carib Isle
And Jack pine pile
I’m watching yet.
Today a letter came from L.K. Kirk “We made a little trip
this last week-end up to mid Michigan to find the Kirtland warbler and were luck to find three of
them. There are less than a thousand, all in a few
counties in Michigan.”
“no bears are in the woods.” I told
A first time camper, twelve years old,
Scared just a bit by this old tale
The older scouts had told, and stale
For those who heard it all before.
Shadows had crept around the camp,
Was time to light the evening lamp.
Busy scouts had hauled up wood
To make the camp fire specially good,
With stunts and songs all the score.
I watched the little fellow’s eyes
As darkness flicked with fire flies
His furtive glance back, side to side.
I saw his mouth come open wide
And followed his excited stare.
Then saw a cow had wandered near
And in the dancing light stood clear
Then moved away. I saw relief
Replace an almost certain grief.
Relaxed, a small boy just sat there
At bed check time, the camp all still
Except for whispers – as boys will –
A small voice rose, “I guess you’re right,
There’s no bears here, Good Night.”
Relieved, I turned in, too.
With what we humans call his hands
The Spider drags his inch thick stands
Of hawser cross an open space
Full forty feet, then from the face
Of loftily leaf cliff swings his ton
Weight cable safely to its run.
Then rests a while to take a look around.
Two hundred feet above the ground
Perched on this two foot bush he sends
His traveling cable up to ends
Still higher overhead. He’s learned
His ancient craft before the ice age turned
A continent to solid marbled snow
My figures, heights, and such I know
Have you all a bit confused
The measurements we herein used
Are calibrated to his form, you see
Compared to man’s anatomy
He’s six feet tall and feels the pinch
Stretching one foot to our inch.
This Ancient Bridger we admire
Proves worthy worker for his hire
And for reward, small in our eyes,
Makes one request, abundant flies.
SOUNDS IN THE NIGHT
I hear the corn in Kansas grows
In thousand miles of marching rows
So fast each day that no one knows
Where it will stop till August moon
Winks down and calls a halting tune.
And not a day too soon.
They even say that in the night
When southern winds are blowing right
A stalk shoots up six inches.
They never say whose watching though
To prove it does. I just don’t know
Saying doesn’t make it so.
But this I know, if I had time
They’d never get a night of mine
And me to watching tall corn climb.
I’d find a stream that foots a hill
And listen for a whip-poor-will
If I had time to kill.
E PLURIBUS UNUM
these interested in birds
A common language know,
Form a community of one
And head no station high or low.
I guess the unseen warbler’s call
Makes common brother of us all.
I know the lowly woodcock’s “pent”
Thrills farm boy and bank president
I guess that’s why I’m glad to be
Enrolled in this fraternity.
This pink and white crustacean home
Pushed out of reach
On this high beach
By storm stirred wind and foam.
What of the dweller once within
Who with slow pace
From place to place
Moved when it suited him.
We all build stronger than we know
A habitat secure
To last for sure
And so it does when off we go
And so we find this un-bridged span
The house lasts longer than the man.
There’s nothing pretty ’bout a weed
From first green blade to burgeoned seed,
He’s just a roisterous, boisterous chap.
Not satisfied with where he’s at
But pushes, elbows, crowds his way
With all the early comers. May
Will find him strong and stout
You just can’t plow or burn him out.
Give him an inch, he’ll take a mile
And thrive where flowers used to smile.
He’s tough, determined, never quits
And though each damning word quite fits
This hellion of each field and lane
One thing stands out so very plain –
You curse him in your garden still
Resisting potions aimed to kill,
He throws them off and still survives
And takes a new look in your eyes.
He’s in there swinging, still at bat.
How can you hate a guy like that.
STORY TELLING MAN
My mother’s brother, Dan
Was quite a story telling man
Describing incidents he saw
From here in town to Arkansas.
No detail missed, all told so bright
Mom said you’d sit up half the night
To hear him spin a favorite yarn.
(I guess he never meant no harm)
You’d hold your breath for what came next.
If someone sneezed he’d look real vexed.
And no one questioned him, you see
Nor doubted his veracity.
I guess the story Mom liked best,
She told it oftener than the rest.
Repeated it more for my sake
The story of the hooping snake.
This is the way it all began.
It seems one day when Uncle Dan
Across a meadow had to pass
He saw there lying in the grass
This big black snake upon the ground.
Was six feet long and big around
As a man’s arm and then began
To turn around and looked at Dan.
Mouth flipped to tail without a sound.
Story telling Man – 2 –
That snake, he said became as round
As any hoop and rolled so fast
Dan ran but never thought he’d last
To beat that speeding hoop of death.
He fast was running out of breath
And barely made it to a tree,
The only one that he could see.
The snake came whizzing by so fast
He couldn’t swerve and so he crashed
Against the tree trunk, hooped up still
The Dan just rolled him up the hill
With a big stick. The reason’s plain
The way old Dan’l would explain,
The snake can roll down hill all right
but not up again, and so the fight
Was truly won by Uncle Dan
Truly, a story telling man.
The only other one I can remember
Told by Uncle Dan,
Was when the circus came to town
And Uncle Dan just moseyed down
To see the tamed and dancing bear,
They said was then performing there.
I heard there were some other sights
About a lady in pink tights.
Story telling Man – 3 –
But I must stick just to the facts.
Well, Uncle Dan saw all the acts
And said the bear danced very well,
His trainer whistling “William Tell”.
The story really starts next day.
The dancing bear had broke away
And still was missing the next night
And just imagine Dan’ls plight
When coming home from work he saw
That bear advancing with open jaw
And mad for him. Dan climbed a tree
(There always was a tree, you see).
The bear on hind legs almost came
To Dan’ls feet, no longer tame.
Then Dan’l whistled, did it well
And knew that tune called “William Tell”.
The bear, surprised, dropped to the ground
And started waltzing round and round.
Dan whistled long and loud
And very soon a goodly crowd
Together with the trainer too
Assembled and the circus zoo
Got back its bear. That Uncle Dan was
Sure a story telling man.
Story telling Man – 4 –
I later learned there’s no hoop snake
Nor dancing bear that came to town
But just the same for old Dan’s sake
I thought I’d write his stories down.
If he were here he’d sure stick by ’em
And never ask a soul to buy ’em.
“IL POPO E MORTE”
Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli
Born Nov. 25, 1861
Sotto Il Monte
(Below the mountain.)
The toll the bell
For him who died
No funeral knell
No though beside
The crown he’s won
Will gleam upon
Poor farmer’s son,
Our Good Pope John.
This day he went
To his reward,
Who had been sent
By the same Lord
Whose place he filled
In Church and man.
The voice is stilled
But speaks again
For us a prayer
Before God’s Throne
As he stands there
A Saint come home.
Pope John XXIII died today 2:49 P.M. (June 3, 1963)
Eastern S. time. He had prayed to see Penticost and
his prayer was answered.
I had a query yesterday
From my little grandson Ray,
The Horned Lark – he wished to know
“Does he have a horn to blow?”
That was quite a mystery
There was no “horn” that he could see
Our Little Ray is only three.
OLD “J” “D”.
Before they called it Eastham Town
A pilgrim came and settled down.
Each corner of his property
He set with stones all marked “J.” “D.”
This hardy pioneer was known
To Eastham folk as old John Doane.
He tilled the land and scoured the shore
And died when he was ninety-four.
His rocks we find left history
The corner stones still read “J.” “D.”
But of his cradle there’s no trace
Though it’s been hunted every place.
His cradle was a special kind,
Just what old “J.” “D.” had in mind.
He climbed in it at ninety- one
And rocked himself to Kingdom Come.
Quoting from Henry Thoreau’s Journal of Cape Cod.
“Some of the stone bounds of his land are standing
today (1848), His initials “J”. “D”. out in them.”
The date of Doane’s death is known as 1707. His age,
however is in doubt. Thoreau says he died at 110 years, –
others say 94. As his date of birth is unknown the
question remains unsolved. Cont.
Old “J”. “D”. #2
I selected the younger age for simple reason
that it tends better to rhyme.
The custom of oldsters climbing into cradles at
approach of death does not seem unusual with the times.
The cradles were larger and people smaller in those days.
Anya Seton in her historical novel “The Hearth and Eagle,”
dealing with Salem history cites the case of an aged
grand mother who climbed into a cradle and refused to
leave it, and died in it.
* “His rock-leave history, etc.” See footnote for 6/8/1963
Again from Thoreau’s “Cape Cod.”
Doane “rocked in cradle several of his last years.”
- Saturday Mom and I to the Cape. Stopped off at
Nauset looking for “Outermost House” but could not
definitely locate it. Found J.D. Picnic spot and huge
boulder on his land. No “J”. “D”. stone evident. Did not
go to farmhouse. Girl in Information Booth, Rastham says
600 or more “Doanes” have a reunion at the farm each
When you’ve stepped back from
Unsnarled from every clinging care
When you look back you
The fact you could have been born there.
The greatest huntsmen that I know
Go hunting only with a glass
And never have a “bag” to show
The “game” they “catch” they all let pass.
Why blast a feathered thing that sings
A meal would add up to a score.
We’ll buy our chicken breasts and wings
Down at the corner butcher store.
No deer will fear my sighting “gun”
The nibbling rabbit seems to know
I’ve lost my taste for venison
About a hundred years ago.
Sportsmen with the newer look
Still questing for the bird we’ve missed,
Our “game bag” is a bird guide book
Our aim but to complete the list.
Some day, not long, when I retire
And have the time to take my case
To do the things I now desire,
I only hope the Lord will please
Allow me time to look around
His Handiwork to closer view,
In sea and sky and on the ground,
I know that once He rested too.
With Him I see the symmetry
Of His Creation and aspire
The beauty He has shared with,
To better know when I retire.
What is it that I do the best?
A little work, a little rest.
Sometimes a little in between,
A little fat a little lean.
Not too much of either one,
Leave a little room for fun.
Guess that’s how it’s best expressed
When you ask what I do best.
There isn’t much that I can do
But there’s a lot I can do, too
But seen as I begin to start
I just can’t tell the two apart,
So when it’s all been said and done
I don’t seem right for either one.
A little work, a little rest,
Seems that’s what I do the best.
I sometimes see deficiency
In what I call my poetry.
I just don’t seem to be profound,
The cosmic depth I never sound.
I’m rusty on mythology.
The same goes for psychology,
Historic scenes are more than flat
Heroic lines all tend to fat,
Discouraged poets I suppose
Turn at last to writing prose,
But I’ll keep rhyming, for you see
It really isn’t poetry.
Has science exhausted all that needs to be known about birds?
How drab this world would be, and dull
If we knew all there was to know
Of every bird from wren to gull.
Define migration – why birds go
From pole to pole, and fully learn
Their instincts secrets, why
Some linger, – others on return
Unerring find their path of sky.
One humming bird finds east the best
Two Tanagers should leave Brazil
While sixteen “Hummers” all head west. (1)
And cousin Tanagers, by hundreds will (2)
Remain in tropic homes. Who guides
The parting flocks from Yucatan,
What signal light or sound divides
The east from west when all began
A single wave. When we complete
The answers then the field
Will lose its lure. for why compete
With brook and brush that will not yield
A bird we have not seen before
When all is stale in what we see
And nothing’s left us to explore
I know that day is not for me.
(1) Over 650 families of Hummingbirds
(2) Over 350 families of Tanagers
Question Unanswered #2
Joseph J. Hickey – “Guide to Bird Watching”
Says “Some Theories – Homing”. Within the last twenty years
I have seen people drop Bird Study – “They had seen all there
was to be seen in bird life and there was nothing left to be
discovered. I think of them as belonging to those ancient
orchard sitters to whom a falling apple was simply a knock
on the head. In migration watching, each of us has a chance
to follow Newton, to observe the wonder of creation as they
are expressed in the most common phenomena.
Excerpt from Treasury of Bird Lore – Krutch & Erickson.
I can assure you I wrote “Question Answered” before reading
the above or you would have heard something about the ancient
orchard sitters who not only missed the law of gravity but who
also apparently missed the warblers and orioles too.
What a dull world it would be if we knew all about Geese.
Aldo Leopold “Sand County Almanac.”
We stood on Nauset’s jagged brow
Watched with Thoreau even now.
The green white combers far below
Still scour the shore with undertow.
Here on this self same cliff like strand
“Hank” Beston built upon the sand
His “Outer”- house and for a year
Caught every sea sound with an ear
Attuned for whispers and the roar
Of wide Atlantic on this shore
Computed waves in sun and rain
And watched them all roll in from Spain.
His eager eye watched mastery
Word pictures of the birds and sea.
For us calm sea, unruffled sky
But not a single bird chanced by.
And so we slowly turned away
Perhaps another time or day
We’ll see birds fill this empty space
Or storm clouds mar the ocean’s face.
At Nauset #2
Atlantic moods change constantly
Mild, vexed or with ferocity
Shows mighty muscles, rages then
Returns to gentle swells again.
But all this change is constancy,
Capricious as its moods may be
The age old cycles still remain
And will till all is void again.
The world has grown too large for me
So I’ll study entomology,
Reduce miles to an inch or two,
Watch pygmy ants to get a better view.
Life’s rings reverse the water kind
And also would affect the mind
But thee are universes sure
Still to be seen in miniature.
And so I do not count it loss
Because of mountains I can’t cross.
Colossus now astride ant hill,
I’ll prove myself a giant still.
STRANGE TITLE – BOOK AND MAN
Henry Beston built a house
High above the Nauset Beach,
Stayed a year and lived alone,
Wrote a book destined to reach
A classic place in Literature.
Named House and Book “The Outermost”.
Both kept him busy and secure
On Eastham’s augring coast.
He pictured well the changing sea,
Birds, shipwrecks, sand and all
The night sounds, lost on you and me,
Raging storm and summer squall.
He must have felt monotony
And loneliness with no one near
Except the guardsmen by the sea.
He only stayed about a year,
Thoreau’s “Walden” was the lure
That brought him to this shore.
Each wrote a book tho I’m not sure
That either profited much more.
(Though Beston’s story sold quite well)
They both once held a deeper plan.
“House” nor “Walden” neither tell
What each one was, the “Inner” man.
Beston, this one fact did conceal
Strange Title #2
On Cape and in the state of Maine,
Which library books at last reveal,
“Sheahan” was his rightful name.
The cause for change I do not know,
But Cape and Maine both now and then *
Were filled with names both “M” and “O”
Proud to be known as Irishman.
B’s description of Nauset largely duplicates Thoreau’s
But with more depth and richer style. His interpretation
Of sea moods are masterpieces of science and art.
Boston’s “Outermost House”, his first and best work, was
published in 1929. His last, as far as I know, is “The
Northern Farm,” a story of Maine rural life, was published
in 1948, almost 20 years later. In the “Farm” intro-
duction he refers to his wife as Elizabeth Coatsworth
Beston, so it is a fair assumption that he has never really
been known as Henry Beston Sheahan. A man should have a mighty good reason for dropping a good Celtic name like
Sheahan, even with that spelling.
“Beston lives now at Nobleboro, Me. about 30 miles east
of Bath on Rt. 1 (3 mi. off as he says) Rock “Northen Farm
written there 1945 – 46.
“BIRDIES” AND “EAGLES”
New item on this morning’s radio broadcase. 7:00 a.m. Station
“An eagle soared down on a golf course at ———- and carried
a golf ball off. The golfer had to take a penalty stroke for
a lost ball.”
A soaring Eagle, looking down
Saw a golf ball on the ground
Swooping low, with lightning grace,
Snatched it from its hiding place,
Took it to its nest on high
Atop a tree in distant sky.
We’ll never know the final act
But this I hope will be the fact.
May breeding eagle never suffer
Because an over eager duffer
Sliced a shot off the fairway
And watched a “birdie” sail away.
An “Eagle” too, all wrapped in one
A tale to tell in days to come
Though his language now is blue
Somewhere an Eagle’s cussing too.
CHANGE OF HEART
About Spring’s rain
And that trees new
Leaves spoil my view
Of what I want to see.
Now it’s Fall
And almost all
The leaves are down
The few left brown
But what I wished to see
No longer interests me.
POND AT NIGHT
The mirror pond inverts the trees
The fence its unseen shores
And pastures all the Pleiades
Perhaps a thousand more.
So the moon’s bright lacquer sheen
Brings down to earth the stars
With all the thousand miles between
This proud and distant Mars.
Mathematics of just one light year
Have always staggered me
So many million miles I fear
We’ve counted to infinity.
But every atom in this pond
Contains a small world perfectly
No calculation has been found
To count up to infinity.
All’s quiet on the glassy plain
Each watery star in place
What havoc could a burst of rain
Kick up, pock mark this face.
Pond at Night #2
I’ve seen it happen once before
Like tracer bullets roll along
This Pond from shore to shore
And sing a hissing song.
But now there is no evening breeze
Swallows now no longer play
And all is quiet in the trees
I guess I like it best this way.
Recollection of the pond at Otter River Pond State Park
One sultry night about ten years ago while camping with
Scouts on our annual “Expedition”. Armand Guilmette
and I stood on the concrete spillway and viewed the “bright
lacquer sheen” of the trees and sky mirrored in the glass
like surface of the pond.
This lazy, drowsing kitten sea
Paws at the sleeping beach
Tempting, playful teasingly,
The high land out of reach.
Then tiring of this quiet play
She now no longer purrs,
Remembering another day,
A wilder nature stirs.
Now she is the savage one
The purring turns to roar,
With darker sky replacing sun
She pounces on the shore.
With flashing fangs and claw,
To rip the wide flanked land
And drag with snapping jaw
To her deep lair, the sand.
White teeth shatter harmlessly
On this rock ribbed strand,
Though she renews them constantly,
The granite boulders stand.
Then cunning takes the place of rage,
She’ll wait her time and then
Slinking to her watery cage
She’ll doze and later try again.
When some one asks me where I’ll go
Later today, perhaps tomorrow
I really have so much I owe
In time, I hesitate to borrow
On the slim credit left to me.
My taxes are paid up to date
But there remains finality
Of still another kind. Of late
I’ve thought it might be wise
To straighten our this other tax
For I have learned how fast time flies
And this is no time to relax.
I’ve spent a whole lot of my time
And not too wisely I suspect
These jumbled up accounts of mine
Show every error and defect.
It doesn’t pay, I know, to hope
The Auditor will fumble too.
My devious figures make him grope,
Disgusted say my tally’s true.
The sure way is the best I guess
No fault of mine I’ll overlook,
Square the figures, do my best
Before they check and close the book.
When folks ask me how
I am today
I might allow
“So far so good,” I say
And that is just about
What makes good sense.
I sometimes doubt
The Future Tense
Hope I’m never asked
About the Present or the Past.
THE TREE AND I
From Wister Woods, one day I brought
A seedling maple tree and sought
A place for it in our back yard.
Though Mom said it would be hard
To make it grow there. – “Trees
Don’t move easy.” But on my knees
I dug and tucked the top roots deep
There in the corner. And I’d keep
A vigil there for days on end.
The tree took well, began to send
New leaves and branches out.
It flourished and removed all doubt.
Time went by and then we moved away.
Years later when I chanced that way
A stripling maple stood just where
I knew it would, both tall and fair
Shading most the little yard.
Well colored, shaped, with trunk as hard
As a tree should be. Then once again
I saw it shimmer after rain
Had Glistened it. But that was long ago.
I may get back again although
I doubt it. Perhaps some kin or friend
Will tell me of its life or end.
I know, once more, I’d like to see
If yet it still remains a tree
With lofty branches in the sky.
The seedling, now most old as I
The tree and I cont.
I remember the details of that day, now
51 years ago, when on a Saturday walk thru the winter
woods in back of what is now the Girard College Estate, I dug,
with a stick, this small maple tree, about 16 – 18″ high. I
planted it in the corner of the yard at 5751 Beechwood St.
Germantown, with my mother’s encouragement, tho I think she
doubted the success of the transplant. We moved away a year or
two later. When I next saw it, the tree had grown to about
10 ft. I saw it again later (I’m not sure just when) and by
that time the tree was as high, if not higher, than the two-
story house. Having in mind that all the houses in the block
were built wall to wall, with back yards measuring 18 ft. wide.
I would say that if the tree is now standing it would cover two
yards in one direction and one in the other, and would probably
stand 60 – 80 ft. high. I’m afraid it outgrew itself. But I
was mighty proud of it. One of the biggest things I, and the
The east wind artist plies his craft
With form and color lavishly,
Sculpturing the restless sand
In smoothed up mounds,
Or spills it freely
As a mountain slide,
And then with gentler brush
Tints every shade, from blinding white
To grey, then tan and the foam wet brown
For bordering, faint purple
Where the evening shadows lurk.
Here and there the grey green felt plant
Lands its bit of color to compliment
The ochre of the tawny grass.
Then tiring of this finished work,
Our artist with a changing mood
Shifts scene, erasing here
Adding there, yet with nice balance
Keeping all intact.
The dunes are fluid land
Never wearying of change.
FAR OFF PLACES
I’d like to go to Ireland
Or maybe Italy
Any distant foreign land
Would be a sight to see.
Bolivia or Pakistan
Perhaps Samoa too,
Or Fujiama’s view.
There is another land I know
That is brighter still
Perhaps I’ll see it when I go,
At least I hope I will.
Old Sam Whitcomb, widowed when
Rebecca died, decided then
After forty years had passed
To marry Myra, he had asked
Her years ago, before Rebecca came
To take Sam Whitcomb and his name.
Myra’s “Yee,” made Sam agree
To count as one in family
One Hattie, Myra’s maiden aunt.
Of course she won the argument.
Though Sam agreed he had a plan
(H was a real tight fisted man).
When all seemed settled in accord
Sam said Aunt Hattie must pay board
And set the price at five a week.
Myra fumed and wouldn’t speak
To him; but then beamed sunny.
Sam gave to her for spending money
Aunt Hattie’s fiver, but right then
Smart Myra gave it back again
To her dear Aunt. Next Saturday
Aunt Hattie to Old Sam would pay
Her board with the same bill,
then Sam to Myra. It would fill
A couple pages to keep track
Of how that bill kept coming back.
Good Circulation #2
By figuring it most accurate
I counted seven hundred twenty-eight
Round trips. Sam never found
It was the same bill going round.
Those women must have laughed to tears,
They kept it up for fourteen years.
I guess it would be circling still,
That same old worn out five spot bill,
Except Sam died and the next day
The old bill finally made its way
To the church collection plate.
And that’s the story they relate
With just a little touch of pride
For Old Sam’s Myra, one smart bride.
From a short story in “Our Heritage” by Nancy
W.P. Smith. (A private printing 1930)
“Samuel Whitcomb 1756 – 1840. A Revolutionary soldier
and an old Cape Codder – the oldest man in town
when he died.
Call him robber, call him thief,
Mischievous and raucous, bold.
Of woodland million’s he’s the chief
Blustering bully, common scold.
He’s all these and yet I say
He’s constant and you always know
He’ll be around, this blue-white jay
When songsters have escaped the snow.
Even though he steals you blind.
Gulps your seed from feeder’s store
He seems to know you just won’t mind
And then zooms in again to grab some more.
He hasn’t many friends, this bird
Though I count one his praises sing
Before the flute-like notes are heard,
He beats the Robin, shouting “Spring.”
The branching sunlight tests its rays,
Hunts the winter’s rear guard out,
Stubborn snow patch, ice glazed,
And puts the hoary foe to rout.
The siege is broken and the grass
Its new green uniform puts on.
From underground the spear heads pass
Exulting that the battle’s won.
And after them gold banners start
And soon will be aflyin’
The growing things now all take heart
And march behind the dandylion.
Old Dame Nature, housewife wise
Scans her furniture and knows
The drawing shades of graying skies.
It’s time for covering and throws
Her winter draping sheet. She must
Protect each precious fragile thing
From dying Summer’s sooty dust,
Keep fresh her “living room” for Spring.
We’ve sliced the year in equal parts.
Put each quarter in its box
Neatly labeled. So, “Spring Starts,”
We say, “at Vernal Equinox.”
We have a “day” for Summer too,
For Winter and for Fall
Our calendar runs smooth and true
As does our clock upon the wall.
But something’s missing in the scheme,
With schedules, Nature has no need
She has a way of shifting scene
From snow to flower, fruit to seed.
There is no dying in her plan,
Nor rising, for the bud’s begun
With falling leaf. The span
Grows on with ice and sun.
For her there is no standing still
The only clock work that she knows
Uncurling root stems soon to fill
He summer house with fern and rose.
For her there is no feverish haste
No sudden spurts or dull delay
Each growing move is timely paced
In light and dark from night to day.
With us this timing’s always wrong
It is our clock that’s out of gear
Her whistle is the Robin’s song,
We only say, “Spring’s late this year.”
We New Englanders all say
Our weather is a fickle one
And can very easy run
Four changes in a day,
From rain to sunshine
And like as not
From very cold to almost hot
And do it anytime.
But it never sneaks on you,
Dark clouds tell of rain
Clearing, that it’s cold again
Or promises a sky of blue.
So we’re not joking when
A minute’s wait we ask
It’s really not much to task
For East wind to shift again.
Our forecasters are always right
Presaging it will rain or clear.
Perhaps a chill or almost sear
If not tomorrow, then tonight.
Men of science prowl, I know
Thru ancient old world lands,
Dig and ferret far below
Egypt’s and Euphrates’ sands.
Archeology has found
Lost treasure of forgotten age
But I would seek a nearer ground
Explore a rural hermitage.
A crumbled weedy cellar wall
Where once a farm house stood.
No treasure here – wild birds’ call
It home and find it good.
Perhaps a rusted tool or nail
If one poked deep within this hole
Would show, but what avail
To one who seeks an old house’s soul.
Above this empty socket then
Generations lived and died
What became of all those men
Where do their sons abide.
Now there’s no one left to tell
The story of the dwellers here
The small ones of the forest dwell
More weeds flourish year by year.
The nearest neighbors far away
The latest dwellers cannot name
Who owns it now, they cannot say
“The must have gone from whence they came.”
October brews a heady wine
Sparkling, clear and chilled,
Tinted with each leaf and vine,
Chartreuse, Ruby, Amber spilled
Lavishly. It will not keep.
November with his frosty blade
Comes lumbering in to reap
His toll of field and glade
And gulps the last few drops
Turned bitter in his icy cup,
Then gathers in his crops.
We’ll wait another year to sup
October’s multi colored wine.
OCTOBER – another mood
October tries her wan sly smile,
Coquette with head half turned
Teasing spent summer, and the while
Now that his ardor has full burned
With the last leaf, now flaunts her blue
Cool mantle in November’s face
Hoyden with come up-pence due
For early winter’s cold embrace.
The well spring has gone dry
With summer’s arid days.
My constant muse has passed me by
And gone her wordless ways.
This fickle jade I have to thank
For these next verses going blank.
What did I gain today?
I’ve heard somewhere
A man must add something daily
To the sum of what he has,
Or lose something even if he does not feel
The loss at once.
I guess it doesn’t matter much
Just what he adds.
It may be nothing in another’s eyes.
Each has his own true value sense.
Tycoon’s thousands; widow’s penny jar,
The small boy’s pocket full
O acorns, aggies, stick of gum.
Ball player picture cards
Swapped for three bright horse chestnuts.
I’ve not been smart enough to build
A fortune out of what I did not have
As many others did
Nor yet time enough to build one
Out of what is left.
But still I think I mad a deal today
That leaves me feeling kind of warm.
I traded in a bright October day
Which wasn’t mine alone at that
To see a pair of meadow larks
Playing hooky in the warm All air.
Guess they were gaining something too. 11/5/1963
I’ve often wondered
Just what kind of tree
Joyce Kilmer had in mind
When he framed it in the words
That made his poem live.
A towering pine could spell
The note of immortality;
An elm for grace;
An oak for strength;
Perhaps a supple birch for youth.
I’d like to think though,
That he leaned to maple
In Autumn’s blazing colors
As though he had presentment
That he, much like the scarlet leaf
Would fall in Glory.
The man, for all he could not
Make a tree,
Could show his beauty best
Before the end.
The Muse that left me has come back
Starry eyed and quite contrite,
Set my rhyme cart on the track,
Waved her wand, and so I write
The rosy thoughts that Have been pending
Complete with phonetic ending.
So Free Verse, we say “adieu”
On with the old, – away the new.
Beyond the high tide’s fingering reach,
This weathered rib cage in the grass
And sand, keeps vigil on the beach
Scarce noticed by the few who pass.
Long years ago when once it was a skiff
It knew the mood of wind and wave.
But now its bones are grey and stiff
Half rising from its sandy grave.
Who made it trim and sleek? a glance
Still sees the crafting true and sure
And loving care, that true romance
Of art designed to long endure.
What was its name? for any boat
Must have a name to be a boat at all.
A gentle name to fit its lightsome float
A fierce one, answering every squall.
Seafaring Jack would squint his eyes
And dub her :”Eagle” – “Kitty wake”
A youth would proudly mark his prize
“Mary” for his true love’s sake.
SKIFF WRECK #2
Here must it rest at ocean’s door
Born for the sea, held fast by land.
Teased by tide and the wild wind’s roar,
Vainly awaits the launching hand.
Sea legend says on the Final Day
Each wreck from watery grave shall rise.
May then the clutching sand give way
And flesh these bones for sea and skies.
Dallas Nov. 22, 1963
Life, Death and Infamy all meet
At high noon on the Dallas Street.
There was no saving hand to stay
This instant messenger of death
Unerring to its mark this day
Within a moment’s breadth
Out, down this good and vibrant man.
That cunning hate could surely gain
Fulfillment of this awful plan
Again an Abel falls to Cain.
A nation mourns the flag draped bier
A memory lies unplanted in this sod
A monument will rise majestic here.
A good and gentle man returns to God.
They smile with twinkled eyes,
Strong will for peace, equality,
The look of youth but age old wise
His badge for immortality.
The grassy slope at Washington
Now hold the nation’s favorite son.
NOVEMBER DAYS 1963
Dark red stains on pale pink suit,
A Cardinal’s kiss on small girl’s cheek,
A little boy gives a smart salute
A Nation mourns this fateful week
She stands alone, his wife, his love.
Numb grief behind the tearless eyes
She finds a meeting place above
This agin earth and leaden skies.
Husband, father, President,
History long will mark his name
Up-pointing to the way he went
Love sends its bright eternal flame
Nov. 22, – 25 1963
Our President is dead!
No twisting turn of chance On the picture of little
To thwart the bullet sped John saluting bier –
No time to speak or glance Remembering a similar
To the dear face Salute on Nov. 11 at Tomb
Beside him there. of Unknown Soldier
Time stood space He does not know
They’ll ne’er share His little game
Their love again A week ago
Within this life. Was not the same
Joy froze to pain Nor fate portend
The cruel knife This tragic end.
Of parting still The day is cold,
Has lost its edge The drums are mute
High on this hill A three year old
We give our pledge Gives last salute.
We’ll not forget The Service ends!
these awesome days While strong men weep
And better yet A Cardinal bends
A Nation prays. To place a kiss
Upon the cheek
Of the small miss
Some notes on the last hours of J.F.K.
“As I look to the future”, words spoken by the
President toward the end of speech at Fort Worth, about
three hours before his last, fatal ride in Dallas.
From the same speech – on receiving gift of Texas
sombrero and boots.
“I’ll put it (the sombrero) on Monday in the White
House if you will come up to see me.”
Benediction given by Rev. Walker.
“God bless our President in health.”
Sam Grace died the other day..
He never got to go away.
“Around the world” he used to vow.
Poor Sam, he’ll never make it now.
Old Sam was poor, as money goes,
I guess most everybody knows,
Odd job work pay’s mighty slim,
But Sam, he made enough for him.
Had no family, lived alone
In the shack he called his home.
But old Sam, he had his pride,
Fixed it neat and snug inside
Wasn’t much of a place for looks
But it held a lot of books.
Look around and all you’d see
Was History and Geography,
Scenery pictures on the wall.
Old Sam said he’d seen them all.
The books were the expensive kind,
Cost plenty too, Sam didn’t mind
That’s the way his money went
But Sam said it was well spent.
He’d know exactly what he’d see
In France, or Greece, or Italy.
“Traveling Man” #2
Just how he’d get there wasn’t clear,
But Sam kept saving every year.
When I’d ask him when he’d go,
Sam would shake his head real slow,
“Maybe next Spring, maybe Fall,”
Just those words and that was all.
That’s all I ever heard him say,
Then he’d smile and look away.
He used to joke about a will –
A rich old uncle, living still –
Said he’d take us all with him
When his fortune ship came in.
When Sam took sick he called me in.
I visited and sat with him.
But when I looked at my old friend
I knew poor Sam was near the end.
He talked of places near and far,
Yellowstone and Zanzibar,
Alaska, Malay, Turkistan,
India, Egypt and Japan.
He liked the sound of every name,
And smiled, though I could tell the pain
Was worse, and then he sighed
Tired like, Old Sam had died.
“Traveling Man” #3
All his books he left to me,
There were so many things to see
And folks who couldn’t get away
Could take his “tour” most any day,
Find the pleasure close at hand
To visit every foreign land.
The library gave his books a place
And stamped them “gift of Samuel Grace,”
Born, raised and died in this small town,
Old Sam he really got around
Brought the whole world to his door
And I guess what’s really more,
Shared his pleasure when he went.
I think that’s what he always meant.
He kept the Inn
We share his sin
But him condemn
One saving grace
Is his alone
Time stands apace.
He had not known
The wondrous sight
That night would bring
For him no light
No angels sing
So God did send
His Son, yet we
Do still offend
Each in his way
Does keep an inn
And to this day
Well locked within
A crowded heart
We do deny
His rightful part
“No room” we cry.
The keeper’s name?
No need to tell
For to our shame
We know too well.