Raymond C. Harding Poems From 1963

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First house in Fairhaven, MA, rented by Ray and Florence and 4 young children in 1938 (all have slightly changed since then)

 

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 .

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Last house where Ray lived then owned by son Philip. Fairhaven, MA.
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Fort Phoenix/Buzzard’s Bay, Fairhaven, MA.

[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”document/d/1nYcEO8bFPUxWsMrZCiUuxOE-

 

 

 

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.

 

 

2/3/1963

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SWAN SONG

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

2/20/1963

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIGRATION

 

“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

Waterfowl”   4/16/1963

 

 

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:

  1. Food, or its absence.
  2. Nesting opportunities.
  3. Insufficient fringe population to replace lost mates.
  4. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROADSIDE SIGN

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

4/18/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THOREAU

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVE MARIA

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

5/1/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TO SPRING

 

 

 

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

Still lingering

Dot crocus beds

And quickly go

Then robins sing

And fiddle heads

Uncurl below

The warming mould.

The blues and reds

I’ll leave to show

In summer, late.

Forsythia’s flush

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

To Spring.

5/2/1963

 

 

 

GRATITUDE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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”.

 

 

 

 

 

5/2/1963

 

 

 

FASHION SHOW

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/3/1963

 

 

 

 

UPLAND PLOVER

 

 

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.

 

 

5/9/1963

 

 

“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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TREE SWALLOWS

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/12/1963

 

 

 

 

 

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

came again.

5/14/1963

 

“The sedge has withered from the Lake, and no birds sing.”

Keats

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.

5/14/1963

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

5/15/1963

 

 

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.

 

 

 

5/15/1963

 

 

 

“RARA AVIS”

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

5/16/196

 

 

 

APPOINTED ROUNDS

 

 

 

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”.

 

 

 

5/18/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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—-”

 

 

5/19/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

5/1963

 

 

“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.

 

 

 

FOWLER’S SHARE

 

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.

5/20/1963

 

 

 

 

PROCRASTINATION

 

 

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.

5/20/1963

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

5/21/1963

 

 

 

(A dark and windy forenoon at Fort Phoenix.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PIPER’S PLAY

 

 

 

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.

 

 

5/23/1963

 

 

 

 

 

LANDLORD

 

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.

5/22/1963

DRY SEASON

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.

The bough

Begins to bear

The green leaf bright

With room to spare

For a nest site

To grow

For tanager or thrush,

Cedar waxwing

And his rush

In after spring

They know.

 

Mayflies are here,

The moths grow bright.

Tenters appear

With promised blight

So why

This tardiness

For those so quick.

The birds I guess

Just like a creek

Go dry.

 

There is a drought

Of birds this year

Without a doubt

They should be here

By now.

5/23/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPRAY TIME

 

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.

 

5/23/1963

 

 

 

 

 

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.

5/24/1963

 

SOME SCIENCE

 

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.

5/24/1963

 

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.

 

5/24/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIRD’S EYE

 

The marvel of the bird’s wild eye

Leaves him no need to grope

For with it he can magnify

Or use a telescope.

 

5/25/1963

 

 

 

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.

5/25/1963

 

 

FOR FROST

 

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.

 

 

 

5/25/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEOPLE WATCHERS

 

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.”

5/26/1963

 

 

 

 

SECOND SPRING

 

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.

 

 

5/27/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

CEPHALOTHORAX SAPIENS

 

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.

 

5/28/1963

 

 

 

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.

5/28/1963

 

“The female of the praying Mantis, –

sometimes devours her sweetheart —

starting at the head she often gets

him half eaten before their armour

is over.

Max Eastman (Audubon Magazine)

as reported in  Readers Digest.

 

 

 

 

VINDICATION

 

 

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.

 

 

5/29/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

5/29/1963

 

 

 

 

 

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.

5/30/1963

 

KIRTLAND WARBLER

 

Elusive northern elf

Secretive, fastidious,

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.

5/31/1963

 

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.”

FIRST OVERNIGHT

 

“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.

5/31/1963

RELATIVELY

 

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.

5/31/1963

 

 

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.

 

5/31/1963
 

 

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.

 

 

 

6/1/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DWELLING PLACES

 

 

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.

 

6/1/1963

 

 

 

 

 

RELUCTANT PRAISE

 

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.

 

6/1/1963

 

 

 

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.

 

 

6/1/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“IL POPO E MORTE”

 

Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli

Born Nov. 25, 1861

Sotto Il Monte

(Below the mountain.)

Bergame, Italy.

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.

 

6/3/1963

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“HORNED” LARK

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

6/4/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

6/4/1963

 

  •      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

summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESCAPE

 

 

When you’ve stepped back from

Misery’s place

Unsnarled from every clinging care

 

When you look back you

Squarely face

The fact you could have been born there.

 

 

 

6/5/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOOD SPORTS

 

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.

6/5/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

RETIRED

 

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.

 

6/5/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APPRAISAL

 

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.

 

6/6/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUTO-CRITIC

 

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.

6/6/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUESTION ANSWERED

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.

 

6/8/1963

 

What a dull world it would be if we knew all about Geese.

Aldo Leopold “Sand County Almanac.”

 

 

 

 

 

AT NAUSET

 

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.

 

6/8/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ENFORCED PERSPECTIVE

 

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.

 

6/8/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

6/10/1963

 

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

WNBH    6/11/1963

 

“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.

6/11/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHANGE OF HEART

 

 

I complain

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.

 

 

6/11/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

6/12/1963

 

 

 

 

 

SEA CAT

 

 

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.

6/13/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL ACCOUNT

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

6/12/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GRAMMAR REVIEW

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

6/13/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

6/14/63

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Lord, accomplished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPE WIND

 

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.

 

10/14/1963

 

 

 

 

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,

Madagascar, Turkistan

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.

 

6/14/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOOD CIRCULATION

 

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.

 

6/15/1963

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLUE JAY

 

 

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.”

 

6/16/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VICTORY MARCH

 

 

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.

 

 

6/17/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRAPE CLOTH

 

 

 

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.

 

 

6/18/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIMETABLE

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Timetable   Cont.

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

6/18/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YANKEE WEATHER

 

 

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.

 

 

6/20/1963

 

 

 

 

 

EXCAVATION

 

 

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.

 

 

Excavation  #2

 

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.”

 

 

6/20/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER

 

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.

10/15/1963

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIATUS

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

11/5/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAIR EXCHANGE

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

 

KILMER’S TREE

 

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.

 

11/5/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RESURGENCE

 

 

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.

 

 

11/8/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SKIFF WRECK

 

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.

 

 

11/8/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DALLAS STREET

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.

11/22/1963

 

 

 

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

 

 

11/22/1963

 

 

 

 

 

FRAGMENTS

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

Named Caroline.

 

 

 

FRAGMENTS  #2

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“TRAVELLING MAN“.

 

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.

 

 

11/24/1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“NO VACANCY”

 

He kept the Inn

At Bethlehem.

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

His Charity.

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.

 

12/25/1963

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