Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saturday

We got up Saturday morning and the ladies had their strange breakfast, while I had warmed up coffee. They showered and packed up to leave for my Mom's. After they departed, I shaved and showered, tidied up a bit and left for Mom's, too.

I got there around 11:30 AM. Jeremy and his family showed up just after that. Luanne and Sadie made lunch while we visited. Then it was time to eat. With the careful use of a card table and folding chairs, there was room for all of us (I volunteered to sit at the bar, so I wouldn't have to scrunch up my knees) Dinner was salad with a variety of fixing, garlic bread and then pasta, either meatless or with hot Italian sausage. Very tasty! Dessert was any of the variety of cookies Jeremy had baked and brought.

We then exchanged presents. Riese seemed to like her science experiment thing, but sadly she couldn't use it yet (it projects 3-D images in a dark room of stars, meteors, etc.) Joe really liked the robot dog (it really was fascinating, by the way). Jill seemed to like the picture of me and the box of candy. Jeremy's gift is still lost in the US mail.

I got a great book about Lake Orion from my Mom. And, Jeremy's gang got me two dish towels, a set of measuring cups with both US and metric on them, a great recipe book for the crock pot (I'll try one this weekend, I'm sure) and a double CD of Johnny Cash songs (I'm listening to it as I write this). Joe gave me a beautiful houseplant (a Dieffenbachia) that I hope I don't kill, lol!

Luanne, Sadie, Joe and Jill started playing cards, Jeremy was visiting with Mom, so I did the dishes (although Sadie and Lu asked me not to, they'd do them later). It was about 3:00 PM and I was starting to fall asleep, so I bid everyone farewell and headed for home.

Whoa! Dozed off twice in the car on the way home!!! Not good!! I think all the work of the last three weeks is catching up with me. When I got home, I filled in the Blog for Friday and then took a nap. Got back up around 7:00 PM, emailed a bit, then laid back down to watch TV and fell asleep again! Woke up around 2:00 AM and realized I never ate dinner, so made a toasted cheese sandwich and started to watch some taped boxing. You guessed it! Slept until almost 11:00 AM Sunday morning (and I never do that!)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam, up close and personal...

I stopped to get gas on the way to my Mom's today. The owner's of the gas station I frequent are Arabs, but I never thought much about it. While I was pumping my gas, one of the guys I'd talked to before (my age, I'd guess) came out to add water to the windshield washing thingies.

I said, "Hey, how's it going?"

He said, "Did you hear, they hung my President, Saddam?"

Immediately, every white-bread blood vessel in my body flashed: Terrorist Alert!!! I frantically tried to think of a politically correct response, finally deciding on: "Yes, I was surprised they actually carried that out."

He said, "Oh, no... there are many of us who would have loved to pull that rope!"

No problem, except in my mind...

Friday, and the secret projects are revealed!

Friday morning, I had a second helping of scrambled eggs and maple-flavored pork sausage (not as good warmed up as when first made, BTW), then got to work. Did two loads of laundry, carried out all the tools that remained in the house, swept the kitchen and downstairs floors, straightened up the office, cleaned out the garage, etc. Luanne and Sadie are supposed to be here early this afternoon, spending one night, then moving on to my Mom's as part of their annual Christmas visit.

When the house was in order, I showered and shaved, then went to Westborn Market for some needed cheeses, veggies and fruit, and Farmer Jack's for more ordinary things.

Got home and unpacked, then wrapped their Christmas presents (you probably already guessed it - the secret projects! I probably could have said right off what I was doing, as Luanne has said all along she seldom, if ever reads my Blog, but, you never know, right?)

Anyway, Sadie's present was a birdhouse that is (for lack of a better way of saying it) my artistic rendering of her house (minus the additions - couldn't find a way to balance all that and still be able to hang it up). Check out the photos and for those of you who have been there, you will recognize it. For those many others who have not, I'd scan the pictures, but my scanner's not working tonight.

Luanne's was a bird house of the trailer her Father gave us when we were engaged. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture, so I had to rely on my memory (at my age, always suspect) and questions I cleverly asked Jeremy and Jake. Again, it's an artistic representation, not really reality, but it's damn representative!

I will post pictures of both for you (if Blogger lets me, lol!)

Melissa called while I was working, and sadly, I had to cut her short (sorry, Babe) but I am working to a deadline. Luanne called and said they would be there around 2:00 PM. So, I am making pizza dough, but not for a pizza. Dinner will be a spinach and ricotta cheese calzone. While that was in the bowl rising, I started on lunch and snack food. made a crab dip and I already purchased some spinach and artichoke heart dip from Westborn.

In honor of Lu, who I now affectionately call "goat woman," lunch will be fried, breaded goat cheese rounds on top of two slices of beef steak tomato, with a spring green salad off to one side. So, I cut the fresh goat cheese (consistency of wet clay) into four chunks and with latex-gloved hands formed four patties (for presentation you want the cheese rounds about the size of the tomato slices). Then I dipped them in a beaten egg and put them in lightly salt and peppered bread crumbs. Put them on a tray, covered with Saran Wrap and in the fridge to harden (at least 15 minutes).

Sadie and Luanne showed up just then (1:30 PM). While they unloaded their vehicle, I excused myself to change from my working clothes (sweat shorts and T-Shirt) into some "big boy" pants and a shirt. They got squared away, while we talked, then I started lunch. Fried the goat cheese rounds about 45 seconds on the first side and 15 seconds on the second in hot olive oil (just until they were brown and gooey). Then put them on top of two slices of tomato. Lunch was served. Not bad, in fact, pretty damn tasty! The acid in the tomato offset the gooey-ness of the goat cheese. Interesting taste. I will definitely serve this one again!

So, while we talked and caught up on gossip and real things, I set up a cheese tray (pinconning cheddar, Fortina and smoked Gouda) a variety of crackers, red and green seedless grapes and the two dips. To serve the two dips, I took a red and a yellow pepper (selected only because they stood up perfectly) cut the tops off, dug out the seeds and inside stuff and filled them with the two dips, propping the pepper tops next to them (can I do presentation or what?). I also put out some salted peanuts in one bowl and some mixed nuts in another.

While munching and talking, we exchanged presents. They had already given me a crock pot (and a mini crock pot) for my birthday. For Christmas, they gave me a statue of Buddha, about 18 inches tall. I think I will put him in the wild garden, next Spring. I gave them the birdhouses.

Next, we started to play cards. Rummy first (Sadie kicked both our butts!) Then something called Hearts (sorta a Solitaire game) which I think I won two out of three.

Now, it was around 7:30 PM, so I started the calzone. I rolled out 1/2 the pizza dough to an oval, approximately 8 inches by 11 inches. Then I put in the mixture of thawed, drained, chopped spinach, one cup of ricotta cheese and a small ball of mozzarella, shredded. Folded it over, crimped the edges and baked it at 450 degrees F. for 20 minutes. Hmmm... light flaky crust, gooey cheese middle, all that it needed was more salt (but not for them, which is why I went easy on it). Delicious!!!

We played Scrabble next - I kicked butt! Then back to that damn Rummy, and after an exhausting game (it ended after 11:00 PM) which Sadie once again won, we gratefully headed to sleep.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Thursday, and it's done!!!

I made scrambled eggs and maple syrup-flavored pork sausage for breakfast. Big day, today!

Worked on secret projects until noon or so. Then went out to finish the vent. Got the ladder set up and checked the site. Now up into the attic to drill a hole through the roof for location and a starting place for the Sawzall. Won't bore you with all the gruesome details, but by my own count, I went up either the attic stairs (essentially a fold-down ladder) or the extension ladder outside 14 times. But, it's done, finished, touchdown! Cleaned the roofing cement off me and the vent and went in to clean up. Posted pictures, if you're interested.

But, it took its toll on me! Both knees are blown out and my calves are screaming... So, at just after 2:00 PM, I quit for the day. Laid down and watched old movies, only getting up to polyurethane the secret projects every two hours. Dinner was microwave popcorn.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Vietnam

Little baby child
lying by the road.
Little baby child,
were you never told?
We gave you war,
to save your soul.

Who can sort the bombs?
Who can fix the blame?
Who can find your mother?
Who will learn your name?
Can your lifeless eyes
see through our shame?

Your village is burned.
Your people are dead.
Yeah, they died hungry,
but now the rats are fed.
As weeping soldiers
count bodies, instead.

Will times never change?
Are rights made with wrongs?
Wars for wealth start fast,
yet they last so long.
Wise men will make money,
Fools will just write songs...

Little baby child
lying by the road.
You look so lonely,
Your body's so cold.
We gave you war,
give us back our soul!

Traveling Man

Seems like every time a friend drops in to see me,
another friend is on his way.
I'm losing everyone I know to traveling.
I'm saying more goodbyes day by day.

Now Leon's biking back North to Isle Royal
and Danny's heading West with his family.
Donna took a two-week trip to Europe
and Nancy's just got in from D.C.

I'm a tied-down traveling man,
doing the best I can,
but it's really got me by the balls this time.
I'm a tied-down traveling man,
doing the best I can,
but I'm running out of room and out of rhyme.

I feel like a man standing in some depot,
watching people come and go their way.
I can feel the time running out on me
and I'm feeling more down each and every day.

Now it won't be long again 'til I start moving.
It's seems to soothe a hunger in my soul.
It just might be greener in another valley
and I'm just the man that's gotta know.

I'm a tied-down traveling man,
doing the best I can,
but it's really got me by the balls this time.
I'm a tied-down traveling man,
doing the best I can,
but I'm running out of room and out of rhyme.

Smiles

I climb the stairs,
I go to bed.
I try to sleep
but I cry instead.
I've lost you though I never really had you.

I hear my heart
beat deep inside
and yet I know
today I died.
I played the fool, I thought I had to.

In tender dreams
you always knew
but when awake,
I feared telling you.
I loved you but it always seemed in vain.

Too late I learned
of your love for me
'cause you're to wed,
and start a family.
And I'm only holding lonesome, once again.

How could one man be so blind,
to try and run his heart with his mind?
I can lock away my love and close the door
but smiles won't come easy, anymore.

I'll be alright,
my heart will mend.
A perfect love's
had a perfect end.
And they say all love wounds heal in time.

But I'll walk alone
'till I understand
what bitter fate
made this lonely man
And I'll fill my empty soul with empty rhymes.

How could one man be so blind,
to try and run his heart with his mind?
I can lock away my love and close the door
but smiles won't come easy, anymore.

Sister Mary Holywater

Sister Mary Holywater taught me how to pray
Sister Mary Holywater said I'd be saved some day.

She said sex was just a dirty word, cast lust out of your mind.
Don't touch yourself when you urinate or God might make you blind!

I followed all the rules she taught until the day I died.
I hoped to meet her up in Heaven to find out if she had lied...

But when I went to greet her,
she was with Saint Peter.
Next thing I saw,
she had Saint Paul!

Sister Mary Holywater's in for a big surprise.
Next time God turns His back, I'll blacken both her eyes!

Without Sister Mary Holywater, my life could have been so grand.
Instead I died at eighty-five, a holy, horny man!

Rosalie

I don't have to stop believing
that leaving's the best for me.
I told you then and I'll tell you now,
it's the way I gotta be.
Just taking what gets offered,
and giving mine back for free
but for now I'd rather be
with Rosalie.

Spent a lifetime looking
for some dreams I've still not found.
To busy chasing rainbows,
to let love come around.
But I turned to see her face again,
and she was looking back at me,
so for now I'd rather be
with Rosalie.

All the love songs that I sang
always ended up the same,
I put the blame on everyone but me.
But this woman took my hand
and helped me understand,
loving her could still leave me be free.

So don't be surprised to realize
that I someday might be gone.
That highway sings so sweetly,
and I often hear its song.
And though I love her more than anything
I'll do what best for me
but for now I'd rather be,
yeah I think its best to be
with Rosalie.

Rainbow

Well, let's take a walk in a soft green forest,
some early morning in Spring,
when the flower's poke up sleepy heads to bloom.

Or a daisy-dotted pasture
on a quiet little country farm,
while Bossy moseys on to make us room.

Girl, I ain't saying every day, our hearts are gonna fly.
Lord knows I ain't a perfect man, but you know that I'll try.
So let me love you at least until the day that I may die,
and I'll paint for you a rainbow, in your morning sky.

Maybe hike along a mountain path,
to the tune of a talkative brook,
where the breathing air's like sipping too much wine.

Or a sunny, sandy beach,
where laughing little children play,
just you and me and your little hand in mine.

Girl, I ain't saying every day, our hearts are gonna fly.
Lord knows I ain't a perfect man, but you know that I'll try.
So let me love you at least until the day that I may die,
and I'll paint for you a rainbow, in your morning sky.

Marcy's Mom

There's a song in my heart now
but I don't know the words to sing.
Love's touched me ever so lightly
like the brush of a breeze in Spring

You see love, love is a girl named Nancy,
a little old-fashioned, sometimes quiet and shy.
But when she smiles her sunshine smile,
all my troubles seem worthwhile
and the world seems to sparkle like the twinkle in her eye.

I don't know the way she does it,
what magic is in her mind.
But it suddenly seems so simple
and smiles are quite easy to find

You see love, love is a girl named Nancy,
a little old-fashioned, sometimes quiet and shy.
But when she smiles her sunshine smile,
all my troubles seem worthwhile
and the world seems to sparkle like the twinkle in her eye.

I know she can't promise tomorrow
but she's right here with me today.
And Lord knows if I had one wish,
here's where I'd want to stay!

You see love, love is a girl named Nancy,
a little old-fashioned, sometimes quiet and shy.
But when she smiles her sunshine smile,
all my troubles seem worthwhile
and the world seems to sparkle like the twinkle in her eye.

Marcy

Marcy, can you hear me?
Do you know when I tell you I love you?
Oh, Marcy, won't you tell me,
tell me if you love me too.

It's hard to love someone who makes those faces
and hard to love someone whose pants are wet.
But I got my own faults, too, now let's face it
and let's make the most of what we both get.

Marcy, can you hear me?
Please let me know if you understand.
Marcy, do you need me?
You just call and I'll do all I can.

Your skin is as soft as a feather,
that floats to the ground like the leaves
and on my cheek seems like I can't tell whether
it's your baby's breath or a soft summer breeze.

Marcy, don't look so sleepy,
Open your eyes and smile your smile for me.
Marcy, don't you ignore me!
Oh, Marcy, Marcy, you're too much for me.

It's like being introduced to someone
and yet feeling like you've known them all the time.
'Cause you see I've gotten friendship from one
who's your mother and that makes you part mine.

Marcy, can you hear me?
Do you know when I tell you I love you?
Oh, Marcy, won't you tell me,
tell me if you love me too.

Little Girl Lost

Little girl lost,
what have we done?
We gave you blackened night
and took your golden sun.

Once you had dreams.
We stole them one by one.
You - had - a - song!
Now the music's done.

Little girl lost,
you sit so sad.
We crushed every flower
in the bouquet you had.

When you cried out
in anger and in pain,
our deafened ears
blocked out our shame.

You may be all right
but who knows what cost,
to bring back the joy
to a little girl lost. (repeat and fade)

Kids' Song

I got two girls,
boy oh boy!
I got two girls,
boy oh boy!
Not two monkeys,
not two toys,
I got two girls,
boy oh boy!

One's named Amy,
she's tall and thin.
Sometimes she's out
but sometimes she's in.
She's not named Freddy,
she's not named Ruth.
Her name is Amy
and she's missing a tooth!

I got two girls,
boy oh boy!
I got two girls,
boy oh boy!
Not two monkeys,
not two toys,
I got two girls,
boy oh boy!

One's named Missy,
kinda short and fat.
But she always knows
just where its at.
She's chubby and round
and shaped like a plum.
Her name is Missy
and she sucks her thumb!

I got two girls,
boy oh boy!
I got two girls,
boy oh boy!
Not two monkeys,
not two toys,
I got two girls,
boy oh boy!

Connie

I've known you for what seems forever
and loved you most of that time.
When I was down, you'd come around
and help this head of mine

If I had my troubles with some girl,
or you had yours with some man
We'd talk it out, or sometimes cry,
or maybe just understand.

Sometimes we'd laugh although the day
about nothing at all.
And Chinese tea, or a chili orgy,
would seem like a fancy-dress ball.

But now you're gonna marry
and I'm so happy for you I could cry.
But another part within my heart
hopes our own love still won't die.

Chorus:

You look to me
like the perfect remedy
for any man who had a troubled mind.
And I look to you
for comfort, that's true,
for with you it's peaceful feelings that I find

There's nothing to do about a love like this,
but smile and let it be.
All I mean to say is you've helped my way
and that's good enough for me.

Christmas

Silent night, deep in snow,
lights ablaze in every home.
I sit, weary, silent too,
while I cry alone.

Hark the herald angles sing.
Shepherds come from miles around.
Not one soul has talked to me,
since I came to town

Joyous world, peace to men,
the message mouthed by all.
Tomorrow start your wars again,
tonight the angels call.

Christmas can bring love and joy
Smiling girls and laughing boys
and dinner 'round the tree at home.
But, Christmas can bring tears and pain,
with family you won't see again,
and Christmas dinner's a silent drink, alone.

This the season to be jolly,
I hear it sung all over town.
Yes, this season, oh, so jolly,
Why does it bring me down?

Christmas can bring love and joy
Smiling girls and laughing boys
and dinner 'round the tree at home.
But, Christmas can bring tears and pain,
with family you won't see again,
and Christmas dinner's a silent drink, alone.

Butterfly

In a dream you were
a fragile butterfly
with rainbow wings that shone
against a soft, blue sky

I longed to hold you then
in my trembling hands,
to let your golden light
fill this empty man.

But when I touched you, though,
oh, so tenderly,
your damaged wings lie still,
your flight but memory.

I awoke and knew
why I fear telling you,
the words I know are true,
I love you.

Words I Like

Tiny tree frogs and slippery snakes
Emerged from back of the old cane break,
to celebrate the summer sun's arrival.

In front of the abandoned chicken coop
They danced and slithered in the goop
in honor of another winter's survival!

Window on Two Worlds

I have looked through this glass
a thousand times and more
and watched the world born anew.
The cycle of seasons,
the circle of time,
all passing within my imprisoned view.

The spring-greening grass,
the brown autumn hues,
the grave-blanket snow as it falls,
the tears of the rain,
the rage of the storm,
I witnessed them, one and all.

And when night slowly wanes
the candle's guttering glow,
the logs turn to ruby-red coal,
I look at the glass,
a stranger stares back...
I see the window to my soul.

Wedding Poem

The pomp and circumstance
is (thankfully, regrettably?) now over
You wanted an elegant and perfect night
And you both made it happen...

But, I know a secret...
The "love, honor, and cherish" you promised
(was it just yesterday?)
I have watched for the last two years!

Congratulations!

Love,
Dad

WOPW

I am a cow, tied to a plum tree.
Oh, the lead is long enough,
The grass is sweet enough,
And water to drink aplenty.

But, sometimes, without warning
A plum hits me on the head.
(Fate or chance?)

And sometimes I notice I'm not free
Feelings stir in my breast
(rage, boredom or compliance)

I think I know the people and events to blame.
I can curse them, and do.
Was it Woman?
(from Virginia socialite to ghetto gangsta bitch)
Was it Love?
Well...
The hardest thing to face is
I let them tie me up.

Untitled

In the end,
each person's life becomes
a turgid soup/slop mix of
self-love,
self-loathing,
fear,
courage,
truth and beauty,
lies and ugly ugliness,
and a seemingly never-ending series of compromises -
most that can be explained
or at least rationalized
and some that just can't be...

The Wine of My Life

In my teens, Boones Farm or Annie Green Springs
was the perfect accompaniment to harsh smokes.
No, not rolled perfectly and, no, not quite legal,
but it helped me appreciate life's little jokes.

In my twenties, with passion hot,
only Burgundies and Chiantis would do.
Thick and bold, like pulsing blood flowing,
life and love merged, as goals did, too.

The thirties and forties were an odd mix
of Merlot and Chardonnay, each perfect, each time.
As the twists and turns of fate required...
They complimented Life's riddle and rhyme.

In my fifties, it's now champagne.
Light, and bubbly, like life's perfect breath,
the bubbles celebrate what I've been through,
the aftertaste, my awareness of death...

The Wanderer (Nga's Poem)

I must follow no fixed star;
dream with my eyes wide open.
My feet tread on an ancient path,
my old soul not yet broken.

Germany's 'Happy Wanderer'
or the Samurai in Japan,
the Hobo in America,
all of these are all I am.

So don't be surprised to realize
that I someday might be gone.
That highway sings so sweetly
and I often hear its song.

I'll be just around the corner,
see me walking over the hill.
I'm just passing through this time,
and I think I always will...

The Story of Cathy (as Told by John)

She walks the room with lifeless eyes
that notice not the sorcerer's grin.
Her heart replaced with crystal ice,
her spirit shrunk and trapped within.

This fairy princess, who once did dance,
and in greening woodlands once did roam,
now plods with slow and timid step
amidst the castle's dark-ruined stone.

No brave, fair-haired and noble prince
with shining armor and nurturing kiss,
was fated to save this silent slave
and bring her forth to restored bliss.

Mystic Mother, she trembles in his glare,
and she fears him for all that he does...
His wretched curse has done the deed:
So dazed she knew not who she was!

One day while wandering down the halls
that, labyrinth-like, turned and twisted,
she found a door, iron-bound and old,
the sorcerer did not know existed.

She emerged within a courtyard,
and breathed again the cool, fresh air
and looking up through thorny limbs,
saw a distant sky, so blue and fair...

And in that moment, sweet and pure,
a single sunbeam found its way,
touched her bosom from the sky.
melting the ice-crystal away...

Her spirit rose and leapt with a joy
no evil sorcerer now could tame!
She touched her face, her hair, her heart,
remembering what was her name!

Her soul reborn, she never paused,
but she climbed the terrible trees,
though the poison in their horrid thorns
caused her delicate hands to freeze.

Over the wall and swam the moat
(though it reeked of things most foul)
she entered the twisted, tangled woods
guided only by eagle and owl.

Legend says the sorcerer raged
and then he hounded her every step.
And though fear clutched at her very heart,
to her own true path she kept.

Now, nights in woodland far from here
(know that your glance must be sure and quick!)
as the mist and moonbeams join in dance,
see the aura of the mystic!

The Ship

[Note: I wrote this as a wedding present, years ago, for my niece Donna when she was getting married to Dennis and I was a poor, unemployed 'hippy' (it was cheaper than a traditional 'present'.) I often wonder if she kept it...]

A ship...
A magic ship with silver sails
and billowing banners sparkling
in the noon day sun

Calmly majestic
anchored in quiet cove;
Rocking to a secret rhythm.
Waiting... Waiting...

Soon she slips her golden anchor.
Then, straining, gaining on the very wind,
off on never-ending journey
to distant, unknown shores.

Wind rising...
Tempest howls,
And frenzied seas crash
o're floundering bow.

Lightning plays on sheet and spar.
Masts groan and shriek in pain.
Just when all seems lost...
the storm abates.

On and on
the voyage moves,
through sea miles of calm and storm;
And, we are the unseen Captain's crew.

Our ship is love,
the sea our life.
For, as living forms its questions,
Surely loving is the answer.

The Red Ball

I awake... or am I?
A red ball sun in a monotone sky
glows at the end of a treeless plain.
Where I've been seems fogged.
Where I'm going is unknown.

Directions are bewildering.
Is this sun setting,
Or is it rising?
Is my journey into blackened night,
Or up to a light-bright day?

The past does not bind me,
but it slows my faltering steps.
Should I run to the sun or from it?
I am confused...
I am in love...

The Path

I've walked the path of my choosing,
neither narrow, nor straight or easy.
Up and down, over and round.
in Summer's sweat and Winter's freezing.

I've walked the path of my choosing,
seeking secrets it could teach.
Whether meadow or star, the best views are
always the ones that are hardest to reach.

I've walk the path of my choosing,
its brought me joys, boredom and griefs.
But when I die, I'll know that I
Walked my path, my choices, my beliefs.

The Last Leaf

I watched the last leaf fall from the maple today.
It sailed on the brisk breeze, in a slow motion free-fall.
Finally touching down, then rolling, rolling,
till it landed on the water in the ditch.

It floated sanguine and serene on the water,
it's upturned stem like a Viking ship's prow.
The curled up sides looking like swan wings
as it made the journey to its final destiny.

Why does Fall make me so sad?
I love the smell of burning leaves,
the cool crisp air, the riotous, rampant colorings
and the interplay between wind and sky.

But, as Canada geese honk their farewells,
I feel my own mortality and the life that passed me by,
My story left unwritten, just blank pages in a dusty, unopened book.
The autumn of my years, it's too late to change my life now...

And I watch as the leaf surges, strains and then swirls into the storm drain...

The Hand

Deep sleep...
a sound I no longer hear awakes me
and, in the guttering candle's glow,
I see a hand.

Just the back
of a gnarled, scarred, almost arthritic, hand
peppered with liver spots, carpeted
with black hair.

The hand
slowly turns until I can just see the "M"
(for Mother Mary) inscribed on all our palms,
then it lunges towards my throat...

The Fire (My Marriage)

I watch the fire with half-lidded eyes
as dancing flames turn to dull, ruby coals.
The ashes bearing no resemblance
to the once sturdy hardwood logs.

The logs had caught slowly,
fed by the excitement of the kindling's flame.
But, in good time, the real fire took hold
and the warmth was spread throughout my soul.

From time to time I'd feed the fire
keeping the blaze hot and pure.
I lay reading on the couch with a blanket
only needed for psychological reasons.

But now, I have read my book too long.
The flamenco flames now dull, glowing coals
and, ghost-like, gray, smoldering ashes.
The room, once lit by the fire, darkens.

I could fan the embers and add more fuel
but the warmth is gone.
I snuggle in my blanket and create my own warmth
and, watch, as the fire dies...

The Creative Process

Blessing or curse,
how does one know?
I'm asked how I think of
...these poems
...these carvings
...these stories
...these characters?

But those in awe live normal lives
and sleep with lovers at night like spoons.
While deep in the still of the same black night
I weep and rage and howl at the moon.

So, be careful what you wish
my non-creative friend.
For heaping handfuls of despair, pain and sorrow
are mixed in the alchemy of creativity.

The Candle

Deep in the night,
lying on the couch and
watching the candle burn
on the end-table at my feet.

The house is quiet.
Silence only broken
by my grandmother's clock,
ticking my life away.

The candle has burned
more than halfway down
in the jar it was poured in.
I light it a lot, as I like the smell...

Even though protected,
it flickers each time
the furnace comes on,
disturbed by unseen forces.

I know tomorrow
I will need to clean the soot in the jar.
Why do even the simplest pleasures
always demand a reckoning?

The Broken Mirror

I am looking at a broken mirror.
Spider web-like cracks
from a central, smashed core.
A broken mirror...

There are thirteen of me,
each with it's own perspective,
it's own thoughts and voice...
Is it all in the viewpoint?

I cannot distinguish...
I fear the final question,
that I know I cannot answer...
Which one am I?

That Smile

That smile...
What is it about that smile?
It lifts me up,
turns me around,
my feet don't seem to touch the ground,
that smile...

That smile...
I can't live without that smile!
I feel silly,
I feel young,
nervousness has tied my tongue,
That smile...

photo

Here's what it looks like after cleaning up the excessive roof cement off it (and me, lol!) Now, I just have to finish painting the chimney (God, this never ends...)

Tears

Tears and rain...

A single, thick tear of sadness,
or open floodgate of stark, naked pain.
I have learned better than to believe
"tears are just rain that makes love grow"

For now I have tears of my own...
"To thine own self be true" I had quoted,
trying to define and defend me,
and live my life sweet, simple, and kind.

Now I take pills to be someone else.
Synthetic sympathy to dry my tears,
and yes, to create a counterfeit calm,
that gives me strength to live out this lie.

Tears and rain...

Maybe rain is just God's tears for what He has done.

Taking Care of Jesus

Who knows what gods the Stone Henge served?
Who protected Anasazi cliffs?
What Inca god can you recall
or any Aztec gods' gifts?

Mighty Posedian once ruled the seas,
Bacchus poured the wine so clear.
Thor boldly threw his hammer down
And Odin wielded Gungnir

The ancient gods are now almost gone,
but learned lessons are quite clear.
Without a faithful following
Any God can disappear...

Spider Web

This morning in the garage,
I walked through the start of a spider's web.
No full-blown geometrical glory,
just a few silky, sticky strands brushed my face.

Using both hands to rub my head,
like a cat in his morning ablutions,
I quickly reversed my direction
and went back into the house.

I don't fear spiders, but it felt like
the first few wrappings by devout Egyptians
as they began dressing a Pharaoh
in his funeral shroud entanglement.

Now eighteen hours and a shower later,
on my porch in the chilly Fall air,
I imagine I still feel that feeling.
I dislike the tenacious touch of tangles...

Speed of Light - Revisited

If we ever ride the train together,
travel southward
through the center of that sweet dream,
I know you will pretend you don't know me.
You'll look for another seat, another aisle, another car
and probably read your book and sip sweet wine...
Hoping to lure me to you, but content, none the less,
to look at dreamy drip-scapes in the rain...

but, I will seek you out and
sit down across from you,
in my out-of-date formal wear.
I will attempt to convince you with my smile,
and the sparkle from these hazel eyes...
In the moment just before
I can open my mouth to speak,
before my hand reaches for yours,
and your touch sends my soul reeling,
(my fingers to endlessly journey
the map of your open palm)
I will lead you imperiously to the Pullman compartment
as you buy every word I have to sell...

Sore

When I first got hurt,
the shock clenched and held my pain,
and let others close the wound
with stitches and gauze.

The stitches showing
the world all knew.
As the wound pulsed and pounded,
reddened and slowly healed.

Malaise became despair
as I questioned even writing:
Does anyone really care that I know
the difference between "infer" and "imply"?

But the pain has lessened,
stitches gone, pink skin returned.
My moods have lessened, too.
Until, right now, I am just sore...

Sisyphus

The snow descends...
At first, just a whisper,
and then, full-throated roar,
that blows and buffets the house.

I watch in awe as the drifts begin
to climb the rock-lined drive,
and creep on cat-feet
across garden and lawn.

I layer myself
with hat, gloves and more,
put on warm boots
and go out to address the snow.

This is not the light Christmas fluff
that begs children to make snow angels.
It is thick and wet and each flake sticks
to whatever it touches first, upon landing.

I feel old as I realize
I cannot lift a full shovelful.
So, like baby-steps,
I heave each half-shovel to the side.

I know I'm doing what's needed.
But, discourage just the same,
turning to see the stealthy snow
fill in the furrow I just made.

So I try in vain to keep ahead
of the snow god's breath,
as the gasps of my own breath
become ragged and hoarse.

I go in when I finish
the first of many passes.
Stand at the frosted windowpane,
sip coffee and watch the snow

photo

Duct, centered and secured (I invented aluminum hold-downs after first screw just ripped through the duct)

Sand Castle

I built my fortress strong and sure,
the careful construct of my redoubt.
The first outer walls were slightly sloped
To deflect the slings of enemies without.

I built each layer with loving care.
The sand and water mix was true,
and inch by inch I guarded well
So with time the battlements grew.

A perfect structure, I was sure,
As I affixed tower and stair.
A steeple from the chapel rose
And pierced the pure sea air.

This miniature Camelot
Mirrored my soul and spirit
The tide then turned, and the water lapped
But my ego did not hear it...

Religion

I've seen...
too many saved
too many damned
too many sacrificed
and too many left in limbo
to believe in any religion.

So, left with...
nothing to have faith in
nothing you can trust
nothing to look back on
and nothing to look forward to
all you can do is believe in yourself.

photo

Laying out the correct hole size to cut in the roof.

Picnic

A sweet summer breeze,
a sleeveless cotton dress
Grandma's quilt laid on soft, long grass
this is the time I remember best...

The fried chicken you made,
and my potato salad, too.
The wine bottle in the stream,
the thoughts of me and you...

The day started out, forever,
but as the sun moved slowly West.
I slipped your dress straps down
and kissed your eager breasts

Dishes, food and wine askew,
our clothes forgotten and discarded.
You tasted me and I tasted you,
We joined, mated, then parted...

It's been way too many years,
and life, loss, pain and joy swing and sway.
But, between the then and the now
I never forget that day...

Owed to a Newt

Minute is so little,
Minute is so small...
I think I love my Newt
the very best of all!

On the Occasion of your 38th Birthday

I wanted to change your diaper,
hold your bottle,
smell your new-person scent
and be the best father that ever lived!
And, I was...

I wanted to teach you to ride a bike,
to fly a kite,
blow a bubblegum balloon
and some of those things I did.
But, others, I didn't...

I wanted to help you with homework,
dry teenage tears,
to try and explain why boys lie
but I wasn't there.
I just wasn't...

I wanted to walk you down the aisle,
see you safe and settled,
sit with your husband and wait
and watch my first grandchild being born.
But, I didn't...

I wanted to always be there for you,
for your highs and lows,
your triumphs and tragedies,
and be the best father ever, until I died!
But, I'm not...

Now I Know why the Damn Road was Less Traveled...

The road I'm on is cracked and creviced,
It zigs and zags like an Appalachian crazy quilt.
While on it, I walk a fine line between:

happiness and despair
tears of joy and tears of sorrow
sanity and insanity
with you and without you
pleasure and pain
Heaven and Hell
love and hate

I have come full circle.
I began alone and end up alone.
But, if you wanted to understand,
to connect the dots (so to speak)...
of each life-changing point...
the circle would appear as:
The pointy-penciled scribbles of a child
or the crayon scrawl of an enraged lunatic...

National Physical Therapy Month

A faerie twinkle in her eye,
a brogue with a bit o' the bog,
and a personality that hits you
like a double shot of Jameson's

Strong hands, surprisingly gentle,
laughter to ease the pain.
Working her therapeutic magic
to mend, to help, to heal...

For all those you've tended,
the ones you've yet to treat,
and mostly myself: thank you, thank you,
Maureen Alice Fagan

My Undeveloped Soul

My undeveloped soul,
a roll of film left out
caught in the pure white light.

The Divine developer fixes the prints
All but darkness, dreary, shapes, shadows
Whorls and swirls, call them what you will...

Until, impaled,
Hung up to drip dry,
my soul is exposed...

My Mother

My Mother...
Just two words
yet they summon up images
so complex and complete, no other words are needed.

My Mother...
Ironing mountains of laundry
on a hot July day so steamy
her hair turned to ringlets that framed her face.

My Mother...
Sitting upright and strong,
despite her sorrows and fears,
greeting the mourners at my Father's funeral.

My Mother...
Cooking Sunday dinners
for her family and their families,
always enjoying the noise and confusion and love.

My Mother...
Unashamed in her grief
as she buried, in time, two sons and her only daughter
(the first time she took toddling steps, but not the last).

My Mother...
So complicated, yet so simple.
In love with life and laughter and learning,
I grew to manhood in the shadow of her smiles.

My Mother...
I will always treasure
the night we stood together in the moonlight
and watched the fireflies dance across the fields.

I love you, Mom.

Melody

The traffic's growl
the park pigeons' gossip
a kiss blown goodbye
a church choir's worship

A siren's scream
a new baby's cry
an old man's cough
a contented lover's sigh

a train's lonesome sound
the foghorn's mournful note
a church bell's hopeful ring
a laugh deep in somebody's throat

The drizzle of rain
a dumpster lid in the alley
done in the key of life
it's the city's melody

Lost Boy

I want to be a Lost Boy
and live in Never land.
I'd sweetly sing with mermaids
and join with Peter's band.

When Peter fenced with Captain Hook,
I'd try my luck with Smee!
And then, as I drifted off to sleep,
Wendy would read to me.

The crocodile would "tick" and "tock"
while sneaking up on us.
Our adventures with the Indians
would certainly cause a fuss!

The pirate ship would creak and groan,
as I'd walk the plank with glee.
For I would fly and never splash,
just like Wendy had taught me.

Yes, I want to be a Lost boy
no, not Michael or John.
(When the adventure was all over,
they both had to go home.)

Tinker Bell would flit and float
and spread her fairy dust o'er me.
And I would fly from dawn to dusk,
then Wendy would take care of me...

Looks Like I made it to Springtime

Looks like I made it to Springtime...
I was never sure this winter.
I thought maybe the frosted windows were from my last living breath
the cold in my bones from the grave
the gray overcast sky, the vault of hell
and the snow, my pure white shroud...

Looks like I made it to Springtime...
after changes so powerful my skin itched,
my poor dumb heart, broken again and again, yet, beating still
my eyes blurred, from pain or bourbon,
my hands shaking from unknown fears
and my mouth slack and drooling...

Looks like I made it to Springtime...
The daffodil buds about to burst,
the light green mist of the trees like the woodland spirit's aura.
Hope... Spring... eternal...
The season of rebirth...
I wonder who I will be this time?

Loneliness

What is this place?
My world once had color to it,
but this is shades of gray in winter.
Not the puffy New England snowscape
but the gritty, dirty New York City winter,
where snow is soot-colored
and papers blow by in the bone-chilling wind.

Who are these people?
These complete strangers with the oh, so, familiar faces,
and these my children/not my children...
They who don't seem to hear me/see me/feel me...
Who dismiss me with their eyes,
pity me with their sighs...

I want to talk to someone
without having first to give a long preamble.
To someone who's known me long enough
or knows me well enough
that they can complete my sentences,
my thoughts,
my feelings,
me.

I want to be with someone
when the thought never crosses my mind
that they might want to be somewhere else,
or with someone else
who is more complete, confident, and together
than I.

I am alone, frustrated, alienated,
aloof, while crying inside;
wanting to hit walls,
while what I say is, "Pardon me..."
I know this place...
It is loneliness

Literature

"We read too much,"
I protest one night
As the fire flickers low...
"Does focusing too much on literature
lead to experiencing too little life?"

A rustle of lace
drawn across red crushed-velvet
then the slither of silk.
My God, how your pale white skin
is set off by your raven-black hair!

While scientists and poets debate,
You are the Tigress
and I the Euphrates
and we flow together
to meet in the Fertile Crescent.

Like

A parachutist
standing in the open door
white-knuckled, grasping the aluminum frame
Looking into ten thousand feet of nothing...

A cop
huddled in the hall
gun drawn, sweat stinging his eyes
knowing he must go through the door...

A trapeze artist
milliseconds from the top of his arc
where timing demands he let go,
working without a net...

A fireman
taking one last gasp of sweet pure air
gauging both the flames and falling debris
before he rushes in...

I stand on the verge,
wild-eyed and dry-mouthed,
fear-brushed, adrenaline-rushed,
AND- I- AM- FROZEN

Late Night Cognitive Epiphany Part II

There is

a magic,
a mystery,
a joy of life
(if you will) in me
that no one has managed to kill.

Although many,
including myself, have tried...

Late Night Cognitive Epiphany

Love,
like bourbon
never seems to last long enough...

Last Night's Dream

I cut my hand while working outside.
Blood flew like a bright red geyser.
I frantically tried to stop the bleeding
with the dirt and leaves at hand.

But nothing would work.
At first I was panicked,
then lethargy and resignation
fought with survival instincts.

Growing weaker and weaker,
I ripped off my shirt and wrapped my hand.
A steady stream of red marking my passage,
as I made my weary way inside.

My wife unwrapped the sodden shirt
and shot me a look of sudden scorn.
I looked... It wasn't bleeding!
She said, "You are such a baby!"

La Bella (For your Mother...)

I have seen
a faded photograph
of you as a child.
I loved that picture:
a mere slip of a girl,
mischievous smile and dark flashing eyes,
holding such promise
and bright anticipation,
just before life's bloody hand
washed away your childhood.
(What happened to happily ever after?)

Who knows what,
(and which of us
could have faced)
terrors that you found
in those dark rooms of your mind.
You didn't always do what they told you to do,
but I know you did what you had to do...
making you stronger
than you ever thought you could be,
stronger than you ever wanted to be...

Stronger and harder,
too wary to trust,
too weary to love,
strong and, now, alone.
You hold yourself so stiff.
(is it to keep others out, or keep yourself in)
It seems so sad to me
all that hope turned to hardness,
those shining eyes dulled
with so much disappointment...
You did what you had to, and should be proud.

Still, I cry for that little girl.

Jacob Ephrim

You gave me back my confidence,
when despair was all around.
You encouraged me to climb the wall,
that wall my guts were found.

You didn't talk me through it,
No, I did it all on my own.
I planned each careful step and reach,
as though I'd always known.

And though I sometimes slipped,
never, never did I fall.
Until, at last, I reached the top,
the top of that damned wall.

But I knew you had me covered.
No matter what, I'd be okay,
for you were on the end of the rope
and I was "On Belay."

There is a link between us,
an invisible climbing rope.
We help each other through the night
and give each other hope.

Yes, you may slip or slide or stop,
so drive your pitons deep,
snap those carabiners closed
and to your climb route keep.

When fate or fear halt you,
I've got your back, okay?
Even when I'm no longer here,
you are always "On Belay!"

It Occurs to Me...

I am a tightrope walker...
Unicycle, somersaults, all without a net!
There is only one thing I am not brave enough to do,
and that is to look down.

I am a downhill skier...
95 miles an hour, crashing though the gates.
I have no real control, just luck, guts, instinct,
and trust in well-trained reflexes.

I am a deaf-mute philosopher...
pondering the mysteries I see:
Life is sweetest just on the edge;
We are most human when we are most vulnerable;
There are some loves you just never get over...

Iscaroit

"To thine own self be true"
has been my lifelong creed.
And, yet,

I lie,
I cheat,
and I betray,

the one person left I owe allegiance to...

Myself.

"Why?" you might ask,
"I don't know!" I would answer.
Is the reality

too real,
too honest,
or too unpleasant?

What is and where are my thirty pieces of silver?

Insomnia #2

4 AM on the porch
unfiltered Pall Mall in one hand
bourbon and water in the other
watching humidity and heat compete
as, from somewhere down the road,
I hear Clapton's "Tears in Heaven"

Trying to put the spitting cobras
Back in their wicker baskets,
So I can get some sleep...
Instead, I watch the false dawn
With its false hopes and dreams
Begin a new day

I Am

A wet spot on the wood floor
(like an ice cube, newly melted)

A skid mark on the pavement
(just an accident, prevented...)

Fifty six, so much forgotten,
the oddest bits remembered...

The women loved and lost,
(just my innocence, surrendered)

A fleeting, half-whispered word,
an old memory, dimmed by time.

Coffee, Jim Beam and water,
Corona with a twist of lime...

Well, I got this far, so far,
I'll try and give it one more try...

And with my freak flag flying,
I'll hope that doctors sometimes lie...

Housekeeping

I have a routine,
a pattern,
a method I made
to keep my house clean.

Left alone,
dust creeps in,
flies die on windowsills,
odd bits of trash appear...

But I make it shine and sparkle,
banish dirt and dust,
mold and mildew,
all the death and decay.

But they each come back.
And, well, I worry...
What would happen
if I sleep too long?

Homeless

I never had to think about it,
back in sweet youth, though I held it fast.
I was forever home and knew it.
I thought that feeling would always last.

At fragile thirteen when I came back,
giving up dreams of religious zeal,
that feeling was gone, missing and spent,
along with feelings of being "real."

Through the many years and loves and lives,
at each turn when I had settled down,
I did my best just to recreate
that blessed, sweet home I once had found.

My quest that started out as holy,
has left but gray ashes on my tongue,
as I recall each and every all
of the sweet songs I have never sung.

Now in each long night's bitter vigil
I know truth that does not set me free.
I am nothing but a wanderer
and a wanderer is all I'll ever be...

Happiness Sucks

Happiness sucks
that's what I say!
You have it for a moment
then its taken away.

It lifts you up,
then kicks you flat.
So, it's just a bad joke
and I'm through with that!

Better to be miserable,
better to be blue,
than to let the tricks of happiness
be played all over you!

(Knowing all this,
and even writing this rhyme,
why do I keep looking
for Happiness all the time?)

Forgiveness

It's so easy to hate
when anger and passion live!
Yet they all wash away
when we begin to forgive.

Revenge is sweet?
No, I really think not!
It just eats at hearts
and causes souls to rot.

We can live in the past
and replay our yesterdays,
but to forgive is to let go
and to begin a new way...

For Concerned Friends

I want to stay depressed about love,
to roll my naked soul in passion's pain
and to wallow and revel in it;
to suck the bitter teat of sadness and sorrow,
and to milk it dry.

I want to stay depressed about love,
because that despair can always change.
I could make a friend, I could take a lover,
my life could shift 180 degrees
and go off in a new direction.

I want to stay depressed about love
(it's a feeling I know, oh, so well).
Because, at 52, mortality now looms large
and I am not prepared to address that...

Yet...

Faith in Common Ground

I take it on faith...
That all our joys and smiles spring from common ground,
enough good food to eat,
children at play,
a lover's caress,
a friend's laughter and
a starlit, soft, summer night.

I take it on faith...
That all our tears and fears spring from common ground,
the pain of betrayal,
a child's cry,
the loss of a loved one,
the suffering of a friend,
the cold hand of depression gripping one's soul.

I take it on faith...
That all our hopes and dreams spring from common ground,
a bright, new tomorrow,
the rainbow's end,
our children's children,
a little bit more for all,
and a final place for our spirits to rest.

I take it on faith...
That all the Earth's people spring from common ground,
the white man,
the black man,
the red man,
the yellow man...
So, why can't we get along?

Endings

I'm beginning to think of endings, again
The end of innocence
The end of religious belief
The end of two brothers, my only sister and my beloved father
The end of two marriages
The end of too many short term relationships,
and too few long term ones.
Worst of all, the end of faith and trust in all of them

Don't get me wrong...
I've had my moments,
It's just my years that have ground me down...
and now I'm looking at the end of those years, too...

Dreams #2

When I was sixteen,
I had my dreams,
But, they never came true...

When I was twenty-seven,
I had my dreams,
But, they never came true...

When I was thirty-five,
I had my dreams,
But, they never came true...

When I was forty,
I had my dreams,
But, they never came true...

Now that I am fifty-five,
I still have some dreams,
But, I am afraid to trust them...

Darkness

I want to steal the darkness from the night,
Put the pieces, bit by bit, in the pockets of my trench coat.
Walk down streets and just suck it up,
between the bar's neon tubes and past sentinel streetlights.

To vacuum it right out of alleys
so you can see the trashcans, broken bottles and the bums.
And then, when my coat was full
my steps would be weary, but my heart would be light...

And it would be dawn

Conundrum

I've tried various religions,
I've tried all kinds of drugs,
I've ruined my liver with alcohol,
and still, after 56 years of trying,
the more I yearn to understand,
the less I know...

The only true things I feel
are sitting, rocking on the porch
late at night, watching the fire-flies;
or, walking in the morning fog,
letting the dew-soaked grass
polish my shoes...

Columbus

Columbus was wrong,
there is an edge of the world.
I have been there, hanging over the edge,
anchored only by a climber's ice ax called hope.

You can see the others, too.
all us misfits, over the top and over the edge.
Young people who feel too much or too little,
Old people, out of sync, etching the lines in their faces
one drink at a time,

Vietnam vets and old peace protesters,
People who have smoked their brains
or fried their brains, or had no brains to begin with...
Just hanging on the best we can.

And, "polite" society has no use for us
but I can tell you this:
There is no one else I would trust to watch my back,
to be there for me
to be a friend

Charlotte and Louise

Charlotte and Louise...
Silly old women, living in a slanted old house,
filled with old furniture, old pictures, old ghosts...
Content with new friends and family,
while disappointed by their old...

Charlotte and Louise...
Oh, they complete and compliment each another,
as if the two halves of a broken, old gold coin,
the face so worn, it's undefined.
polished smooth by a thousand fingers...

Charlotte and Louise...
Charlotte lives life in free-verse, free-form.
Louise insists on living life concise and clear.
Charlotte is worn work-glove leather,
Louise is lady-like and lace.

Charlotte and Louise...
Charlotte is warmly content with old memories,
which Louise rejects and insists on new plans.
Charlotte's days drip, dreamily on,
while Louise writes in her journal.

Charlotte and Louise...
Charlotte is warmed by the womb of familiar.
Louise views "familiar" as a just a cage.
Charlotte, content with her past, smiles
but Louise rewrites hers and cries...

Charlotte and Louise...
Sit in the swing and watch yet another sun set.
Trying to remember, and trying to forget,
content, but secretly waiting
for the clouds that started this sweet, strange journey

Break My Bones

Break my bones
and suck the marrow
Feed your spirit
on the little left of mine.

Burn my flesh
I shall not flinch,
For my skin's been excised,
flayed, inch by inch.

Just pale, twisted toadstools
grow, mockingly, it seems,
On the rotted remains
of my hopes and dreams.

Autumn

The bite of the air and the crackle of leaves,
The smell of the woodsmoke as it curls 'round the eaves.
As the lead goose calls, the rest honk their consent
While the frost wilted flowers nod a summer's lament.

And I, too, nod and lament the late summers passing.
And relish not the winter's soon trespassing
Into my yard, my life, my love and my rhyme...
For winter and death close the circle of time.

At a Certain Time

You polish all the sweet memories
and keep them, gleaming, on your shelf,
to take them out, one by one,
whenever you need a smile, a wicked grin, a laugh...
But, at a certain time,
you realize that dusty memories
provide a poor replacement
and cannot compete with the now-ness of now

You hoard all the grievous memories:
pain, betrayal, bitterness and loss.
Then, midway through the night, midway through the bottle,
you repeatedly excise this cancer,
sure your spirit's bleeding
is the sacrament that feeds your Muse.
But, at a certain time,
that well dries up and your pity-poetry,
(whether implicit or explicit)
starts to read redundantly.

You smell anew the morning air,
begin again to hear bird songs.
You deep breathe the Spring's aroma.
For, forgiving really does beget forgetting...
Then, at a certain time,
as you walk barefoot in the awakening grass
you reach down and pick a wild strawberry
and taste it...

As My Birthday Looms...

Fifty-five years old?
It feels like eternity.
What have I done with all those years?
And what have they done to me?

Children I've neglected,
women who've done me wrong,
the times I've been rejected,
deep thoughts I've pimped for a song...

My brother George was dead by now.
Peter will nevermore walk this land.
My sad, insane little sister, Anne
Long dead by her own hand.

The majority of people alive today
never knew Jack Kennedy.
Hell, I remember Eisenhower,
so what does that say of me?

Jobs I've loved, I left,
for a nickel an hour more pay.
Jobs I hated, I kept,
to keep the bankers at bay.

The houses I've bought,
Hell, the houses I've lost...
All my silent secret shames...
Who knows just what the cost?

Fifty-five years old?
Too late, too late, I see
Just what I've done with all those years,
And what they have done to me...

A River of Pain

A river of pain...
An ocean of tears...
A mountain of grief...
The haunted forest of my fears...

I could write cliches all night
but there is only one that matters:
The winds of change are blowing,
and I must ride the wind

2 AM Porch Rocker Reflections

Who owns the night?
With its doubts and dreams, its fantasies and fears,
the promise of beginnings, the blood at the end of the tunnel...

Who owns the night?
A woman's far-off laughter, a baby's nighttime cry,
wild street party noise or a cricket's country song...

Who owns the night?
Flickering fireflies dance while alley cats slink,
a lonesome train whistle, then an ambulance's wail...

Who owns the night?
The stark, somber shadows and bright beckoning stars,
bourbon's three-fingered blessing, a lunatic's curse...

Who owns the night?
I do...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wednesday

I am SOOOO not happy!

First, I had top work today. About 20 minutes of real work and 7+ hours of boredom. Everybody is off on vacation.

Then, on the way home, stopped in the cold and dark at Home Depot and bought their cheapest 2-foot under the cabinet name-brand light ($20.00 US). Got home, full of promise and went to install it. Took it apart to install it and, there was no electric cord! Ended up cutting the electric cord off the small fan I have in the garage for the hot summer days...

Got it installed and working. Looks great, but I'm still bummed about my fan. Working concurrently with the two special projects. But, it's almost 8:00 PM, I'm hungry, so stopping now, I think.

Made a tuna fish sandwich with too many onions for dinner. From the look of disgust on Scruffy's face every time I talk to him, it's a good thing I live alone...

Happy Boxing Day!

Almost forgot to mention, but yesterday was Boxing Day in Canada and the U.K. So, happy Boxing Day to my Canadian friends!!

Tuesday after Christmas

I woke up to rain. Which wasn't bad, as they had been talking about 3 to 6 inches of snow overnight! But the temps must have stayed above freezing.

Reheated a cup of coffee in the new microwave and started planning my day. Obviously, with the addition of the immersion blender and its many attachments, a little rearranging is in order. I also need to get my counter reorganized.

I looked at the cabinet above the refridgerator. The bottom shelf has stuff on it I never use, but the top has things I need. So, I shuffled them around. I had decided to mount the blender on the wall next to the fridge, but the shelves in this cabinet are too short. So, I rearranged the next cabinet, and so on. Took a long time, but finally got everything to fit and, I must admit, much more order to the kitchen arrangement. Funny how you just put up with things...

Took the old microwave, toaster and the electric wok up into the attic. Opened up the toaster oven and set it up. I have gained a LOT of counter space (as I hoped). One or two under-the-counter lights would be good, though.

I also got back to working on the secret projects. Still in the spray painting stage on one, so its car outside, spray in the garage and let it dry in the house. Repeat... and so on...

Made leftovers for dinner (new microwave again, lol!) Quit everything at 8:00 PM as I have to go into work tomorrow (but just tomorrow this week). Gave up watching TV (all repeats) and read until bedtime.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

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Actual location of immersion blender, between the cupboard and the refrigerator.

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I gained a LOT of precious counter space by putting old microwave and toaster in the attic.

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Immersion blender, another view.

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My new immersion blender, mounted. Thing-a-ma-bob next to it is a handle for the toaster oven racks.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Made myself a Christmas breakfast: 2 eggs over easy, two strips of bacon and toast. Did some last minute cleaning, then set the table. Unlike last year, I remembered the chargers I had bought. The deep red charger, with my white plates and green trim were as festive as I'd hoped. I called my Mom, Luanne and Jeremy to wish them all a merry Christmas. Now to cooking...

I took the rib roast out to come to room temp at 11:00 AM. Sauteed onions and garlic, added two ham hocks, two big cans of chicken stock and some bay leaves, brought that to boil then turned to simmer as the base for Carla's collard greens. Took out the though inside stem of a LOT of collard greens, then cut into big pieces. Here's where I screwed up: Having made spinach and beet greens, I thought the collard greens would shrivel when wilted. They don't. Damn! So, I served big hunks of collard greens, that tasted okay to me, and Carla said were good, but difficult to eat... Okay, so one failure so far...

Prepared the roast. made a paste of chopped thyme and Rosemary, crushed garlic, kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper all mixed with olive oil. Cover the roast with it and put the roast in a pan on a rack. Surrounded it with carrots, potatoes and onions, all rough chopped. Added the meat thermometer probe and put into a 325 degree oven.

Meanwhile, Jake and Carla showed up. They offered to help but I refused, so they sat in the kitchen and chatted while I cooked.

Made the creamed pearl onions again (I served these at Mom's, too). However, I must say these were much better, as my frying pan allowed me to brown the onions better (sorry, Mom and Carl). Okay, one win!

Sauteed the leeks in butter for the mashed potatoes. Added two cups of chicken stock, let them simmer 20 minutes and then let them cool. Put the mixture into the blender and pureed it. Added it to the cooked potatoes (6 large baking potatoes, cut into cubes and cooked fork tender). Then added one cup of sour cream and 1/2 cup of whole milk and used a hand mixer to mash them. Carla seasoned them (substituting black pepper for the white pepper the recipe called for - its an ethnic pride thing, I think, lol!) Okay, so I must say, the rib roast was perfection, but these potatoes... Oh my God! The flavor was fantastic! Like Jake said, it was a rich, elegant flavor and, with a little more milk, this would make the best potato soup, too.

The internal temp alarm went off, so I took the roast out and let it rest. We took out the veggies and Carla deglazed the pan. I added some meat drippings I had saved for this, then put the whole mix into a fat separator I had bought specifically for this recipe. Put the fat-free liquid back in the pan, added two cups of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon) and the veggies back in and cooked until the sauce reduced. Used a strainer to get a clear au jus sauce.

Jake carved the roast, and it was time to eat...

We had wine with dinner and the only other additions to the table were green and black olives and some of that horseradish sauce I had made for Mom's dinner (I realized a bit late I didn't have any bread, biscuits or dinner rolls). Results:

Roast was a little too rare, but fork tender, delicious and the crust was awesome.
Potatoes... Ah, the potatoes... to die for!
Creamed pearl onions, very good.
Collard greens - good flavor, but cut too big. (So, now I know for next time)

We cleaned up and opened presents. I got them each a signed cookbook from their favorite chefs, and they got me a great, multi-tool Braun immersion blender! I am going to make the most fantastic soups!!!

Now, the moment of truth: Installing the microwave. Like the rest of this project, it should have gone smooth, but didn't. We couldn't get it on the bracket and Carla, our spotter, said it have to go over about 1/4 inch. So, I grabbed a drilled and moved it. Bingo, got it one the bracket, but now the screw holes on top were wrong. So, we used a drill and enlarged the holes. Now the screw heads are too small, so Jake suggested using the 1 inch tube he'd bought to install seats the the drift car. I cut it off with the SawZall, and bingo! It was up and working!!! I still need to cut the hole through the roof, and add one piece of molding, but its up, it works, the fan isn't too loud and I love it!

We played a game of cards (Phase 10 I think it was called) and then two games of Clue. They left, I turned on the dishwasher and went in to watch TV, satisfied with my Christmas day.

P.S. later on, reheated some potatoes for a snack... Oh my God!

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Another view of the microwave.

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The fruits of my labors!

Monday, December 25, 2006

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Christmas table, another view (more detail if you enlarge)

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Christmas table setting (click to enlarge, then use your Broswer's return button to come back)

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Bottom bracket installed at last!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Birthday to me!

Got up this morning determined to install the bottom bracket that the microwave sits on. That way, I can have Jake help me mount it tomorrow when he's here (I just won't use the vent fan until the outside vent is installed on the roof).

Marked the holes and went to get my 5/8 inch drill bit for the toggle bolts. Searched high and low, but could not find it. So, at 8:30 AM on Christmas Eve (and my birthday) I was headed to Home Depot. They didn't have a regular drill bit (like I have... somewhere...) so ended up buying a wood boring bit. Just got in the house when the phone rang. It was Carla, wishing me a Happy Birthday! She was pleased to know she was the first to call. I also talked a bit with Jake. Then, back to work!

Drilled the holes, but noticed that just after I cleared the plaster and lathe, I was hitting something. The outside wall? I dunno. But, the end result was I had to use a hacksaw and cut down each of the 5 toggle bolts 1 1/8 inches. Okay, so now we are good to go? Nope!

The three cheap toggle bolts I bought worked fine, but the two that came with the microwave would not open. Damn it! But, since the stud was exactly in the middle, I angled out 3 inch deck screws at each end and caught the next stud. There also was a problem with a piece of metal molding used on the Formica that's behind the stove. This resulted in me having to cut it out with a wood chisel and a hammer - twice!

My friend B___ called to wish me a Happy Birthday. I spent most of the conversation whining about the stupid bracket. Then Jyl called with birthday wishes as well.

Okay, enough of this. I have to take a shower. My friend Tracey is on her way for the second annual Christmas cookie baking event. We probably should have done this last weekend, but she was up in West Branch having surgery.

When she showed up, Scruffy was very disappointed. Samson didn't come! He stayed at home with Tracey's Mom, who is down for the Holidays. So, we got to work...

We didn't make nearly the mess (especially with peanut butter) that we did last year, but we did manage to burn the bottoms of a fair number of cookies. Then we remembered, we did that last year too. I have an oven thermometer, but its so small these old eyes can't see it. So, Tracey checked. The oven was set at 350 degrees F., but actual temperature is 380 degrees! So, problem solved and the last two batches were fine after adjusting temps.

She left around 3:30 PM. It's sunny and warm (almost 50 degrees F.) so I thought it was a good time to cut the hole in the roof. But, as usual, ran into problems (will this cursed project ever end?) You are supposed to use a razor knife to cut through the shingles, remove them, slip the vent in under them, blah, blah, blah. So, I did that, but found another set of shingles under them. Pulled all the nails, cut through those (BTW, this is not easy, nor neat) and found.... another set of shingles!!!

The sun is setting, and I don't want to try and get back on the ladder to climb down in the dark, so I give it up. I'll work on it later in the week.

Came in and cleaned up. Put away the tools. I checked my email and found a birthday from my friend, Canada Cathy. That cheered me up and reminded me it was indeed my birthday, so I gave myself the rest of the night off.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday Day

Woke up at 7:30, still limping... Made coffee, and then got to doing prep work for today's Christmas dinner. I am going to my Mom's and making her and my brother Carl dinner.

Taking two of Carla's tried and true recipes: Brussel sprouts with bacon and Potato-Fennel gratin. So, I did the prep work on both. Trimmed the ends off of two pounds of Brussel sprouts, pulled off the outer leaves, cut then in half and boiled them for 6 minutes. Then rinsed them in cold water and when they were completely cool, bagged them up.

Next, cut up an onion and the fennel and sauteed them for about 15 minutes. While that was happening, I used my mandolin to cut 4 large pealed russett potatoes into thin slices. Mixed the potatoes and cooled onion/fennel mixture together, then added heavy cream and 1/2 pound shredded Gruyere cheese. Put that in the car to go along with everything else.

Next, I baked dessert: Gingerbread mix, made into cupcakes. Frosting was a pumpkin puree/cream cheese mix.

Drove out to Mom's got there about 1:00 PM. Put the potato-fennel gratin in the oven. It has to bake 1 1/2 hours so, I have time to visit with Mom and give her my gift: a picture of me! The ultimate egotistical gift! But, she loved it. Thanks, B___!

Carl showed up, and we shared family updates. Then I had to get busy in the kitchen. Along with the potato-fennel gratin, and making the brussel sprouts with bacon, I heated up some Honey-baked ham, made creamed pearl onions and heated up some of my Cream of Chicken soup (I made this before and froze it - check the Blog).

I served the soup as the first course, then the rest. I had made two sauces for the ham: maple-mustard (1/2 cup Dijon mustard mixed with 1/4 cup maple syrup) - served at room temp - and a horseradish sauce (1 pint sour cream, 1/2 cup prepared horse radish, salt pepper and 2 tablespoons of chives). Last came the gingerbread cupcakes, which, of course, as a diabetic, I could not taste, but just hoped were good.

Everyone seemed to like the food (I am waiting with bated breath for my brother's review). Carl graciously did all the dishes. We visited a bit and I left around 4:00 PM to try and get home before dark. Please note, Brother Joe: I took the garbage with me, as per your note on the wall!

I am now busy cleaning the house (finally) for the rest of the Holiday festivities. But, I took a break to post this (and more pictures of the stupid cabinets) while it was all fresh in my mind. Tomorrow will be my 58 year birthday, and I fear the little memory I still have will depart at midnight...

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Another shot of the doors with unstained tops. Sorry, but I was just thrilled they were on!

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Doors are on!!! You'll note the tops of the doors are not yet stained. But they are up!!!

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Cabinet face cut down and reinstalled.

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Duct connected with cover plate at ceiling.

Catching up...

Thursday night my daughter Melissa called, just after I got in from work. We talked for over an hour, so I was off to a slow start. I did get the shelf brackets installed and the 2 x 2 cut out so I can get the front screws into the microwave. Quit around 8:30 PM. Dinner was the remaining chicken thighs.

Friday I theoretically had off as a vacation day, but I had two meeting that I really needed to attend. Then I did the last minute grocery shopping for my two Christmas dinners. Meijiers wasn't too bad, but Westborn Market was a madhouse! But, I did eventually get everything I needed. Finally got home around 2:30 PM.

It had been raining all day and my knee was killing me, BTW. But, I changed and went to work. Got the duct work connected (had to call my friend B___ for advice, though). Then I got the cover plate glued and screwed to the ceiling (hole through the ceiling is 8 inches in diameter, to allow for play with the 6 inch duct - cover plate is just over 6 inches and is just for looks, and to keep the attic insulation in the attic, not the cupboard).

I was now whipped and could barely walk, so I quit and took a nap from around 6:00 to 8:30 PM. Got back up and started on the cabinet face. Cut it down and re-nailed it. Put back the upper molding. Good time to take a dinner break. Reheated the leftover beef and wine mix, cooked some egg noodles and ate walking around, thinking about how to do what's next...

Now its time to do the doors. Doors have a half-inch rabbet and are trimmed quarter round. Easy to do with the right router bits. But, I don't have a router...

So, used my table saw (a little tricky, but doable) to do the rabbet. and used my belt sander to "free-hand" a quarter-round look. This, by the way, took forever. Really, really intricate! Then put the hinges on, and hung the doors. Not too shabby! I have a LOT of holes to patched where hinges used to be, etc. But, its working!!! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and its NOT a train!!!

Then got out the stain and a drop cloth and stained the top of the doors and the bottom of the cabinet face. Waited a bit (cleaned up tools, etc.) and re-stained them. Looked at the clock at it was after 1:00 AM. Washed up and went to bed.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

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Covered hole up for the night so I didn't heat the attic

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Hole in ceiling (after having to move original spot due to a joist)

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Kitchen table, with pantry stuff gone and pots & pans from the washer & dryer

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Had to remove existing shelf, now an ugly hole!

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Conduit attached, shelves notched and pantry's back in business.

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New face, ready for stain

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Brackets that will hold new cabinet face.

Forgot to mention

I solved my refried bean problem. The building I work out of had their Christmas party yesterday. Even though I am not in their department, I graciously volunteered to bring in refried beans. So, fired up the crockpot again and took it to work. This time most of them got eaten (and the rest went down the garbage disposal at work)!

Problem solved!

Wednesday Night

And, back to work! I am investigating why the vent won't go in the hole and found I need to straighten one side of the cut. So, used a square and laid out the lines using measurements (rather than the taped-on template) and recut. Bingo. Fits great.

Next, make the shelf brackets. I was going to use the 2 x 2's again until I realized that you would see the rabbitted-out space from the old shelf I had to remove. So, I used a 1 x 4 which will cover up that spot. Next I cut the shelf, test fit and cut the round hole for the vent pipe. So far so good! Then, I marked the circle on the ceiling and drilled a hole exactly in the middle. I stuck an orange dowel through the hole and went up in the attic to see its location. Darn! It's right next to the joist!

So, I moved my circle over three inches and cut it out (plaster everywhere). Cleaned up the mess and decided that was enough for the night. While I was in the shower, the phone rang. So, after drying off, I checked and it was my Mom. Called her back and talked a bit. Then I took the last of the leftover meatloaf and made it into a meatloaf sandwich. Watched some TV and went to bed.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tuesday, and back to work work

Going to work again gave me time to pause and reflect, and now that I'm home, regroup. Instead of throwing myself back into working on the cabinet, I decided to straighten up first. So, I cleaned off the table, washed it, and moved all the countertop "stuff" that was on the washer and dryer onto it. This gave me the opportunity to do some laundry, so I started the first load of the evening.

Next, I picked up all the tools that I determined were not necessary for this phase of the project and put them in their correct spots in the garage. Then, I put away all the screws and nails I am finished with (I am sure there is a joke about "finishing nails" in there somewhere, but I can't get it to work).

I also made my citrus marinade for some chicken thighs, and got them soaking in the fridge for dinner, later.

Now, I ready to get back to it. Taped up my template on the bottom of the cabinet and drilled all the holes. Then took the saber saw and cut the square hole for the vent and the slot for the power cord. Went to test fit the vent and realized it won't go in with the second shelf still in place. So, I cut that shelf in half and demo'ed both pieces.

Getting late now, so I stopped and swept up the sawdust as best I could. Too chilly to use the outdoor grille, so I broiled my chicken thighs instead. Made two small baked potatoes as my side and ate dinner watching TV (still no kitchen table, remember?). I turned in early.

Thought to ponder...

I just read today that for centuries there was a debate about the existence of Adam's navel, based on the premise that since he had no parent or natural birth, what possible use would he have had for a navel. BTW, the official Church stand was that he did, in fact, have a navel.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Monday...

Last day of this stretch of vacation days, and I'm nowhere near as done as I'd hoped. But, back to work! Wired in the plug for the dishwasher. I had to turn the box sideways as the bottom hit on the dishwasher roller when I test fitted it (so much for measure twice, cut once). One thing I noticed was that in using the 220 stove line for power, there is no ground (and the microwave installation guide as pretty emphatic on there needing to be a ground). Oh bother...

I need a 2 x 4 to make the braces for the new front face on the dishwasher, another 1 x 12 and some other stuff (like pipe clamps for the pantry conduit) that I didn't think of before. So, went to lunch with my friend B___ , and afterwards stopped at Home Depot. It's now official! I have spent more money on installing the microwave than I did to buy the microwave. Doesn't seem right, somehow...

Back home and unpacked. Added a clamp to the water line for the dishwasher and ran a ground wire to the electrical box. That takes care of that bothersome ground wire business. Now it's back to carpentry. Cut angle braces from the 2 x 4 and glued and screwed them in. Then cut the face board and nailed it on. Stained it, as well as the exposed ends of the new upper cabinet bottom shelf. Installed the dishwasher! Hurray! One big thing out of my way.

Used the pipe clamps to secure the conduit inside the pantry. Then had to mark each shelf and cut out a notch with the saber saw. Washed the top of each shelf and installed them, so they could air dry.

Now lining up the bottom bracket for the microwave (it's late and I don't feel like cutting the holes for the ductwork yet - that's the next big thing). Stopped and put all the canned goods back in the pantry. Hey, I can see the top of my kitchen table again!

Turned my attention to the Newt tank (broken filter, remember?) Pulled out the plastic plants, branch and the useless filter. Then I vacuumed the gravel, adding more gravel where it was needed. Put in the new filter and more water. Then I went and washed off the plastic stuff (baking soda and salt mixture with a clean brush). Put everything back together, added about three more gallons of water and Newt and Goldie are good to go.

Tired out again, so just opened a can of chili for dinner. Went to bed at 9:00 PM.

Monday, December 18, 2006

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Stove plug gone (conduit you see runs over to dishwasher cabinet)

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New dishwasher plug installed.

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New bottom shelf installed.

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All set in here!

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Microwave plug inside of cabinet

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Inside of pantry where the conduit will run.

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Stove plug I will transform into separate circuits for the microwave and dishwasher.

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My bad-boy SawZall!

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Bottom shelf removed and side cut to proper height.

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Cabinet face removed.

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Stove and dishwasher pulled out.

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Say goodbye to the old cabinet

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Hey, I still have a little space left!

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The right-side pantry items on the table

Sunday

Got up at 7:00 AM, hopped in the shower and got dressed. I need to get a electrical box cover from Home Depot and some bird seed suet and other things on sale at Meijers. Oh, yes, and Newt's filter broke yesterday, so I need one of those, too. I want to just get in and out, as I have a lot to do. Stopped and got a sausage and egg McMuffin and water for my breakfast/lunch.

Got back home and unpacked. Changed clothes and got down to it. Primed the bottoms of the two projects and let them dry (3 hours before you can paint - groan). Emptied the half of the pantry closet I will need to work in as well as the upper cabinet over the stove. Took the doors off the upper cabinet. Unscrewed the dishwasher and pulled it out. Carefully removed the upper cabinet face and molding. Difficult, as these cabinets were built in place and the carpenter used an abundance of 2-inch finishing nails. Ended up smashing the shelf with a hand sledge.

Skil saw would not fit in opening, so had to cut half of the one side with a saber saw and the rest with my SawZall. Difficult to get a perfect cut with either due to all that vibration. Cut down a 2 x 4 into a 2 x 2 for added support on the lower shelf (remember, the microwave hangs from this) and glued and screwed it on.

Ran the wires for the inside cabinet plug. They will go from the box into the pantry. Once in the pantry, they will be in conduit to the top, then back out and up into the cabinet. Installed the box and wired in the plug. Stopped to put the first coat on the projects. Carried them back in the house to dry and back to work inside.

It's almost 3:30 PM, and I am getting hungry, smelling the food in the crock pot. Found a basic recipe I embellished on: 2 pounds stewing beef, trimmed to 1 inch cubes, two medium onions, sliced, (I added this, as I needed to use them up: mushrooms, cut in big chunks), two cups of dry red wine, two beef bullion cubes and three tablespoons of cornstarch, mix it all up and turn it on low for 10-12 hours or high 5 - 6 hours (I made this at 7:00 AM, so I chose "Low"). I plan to serve it over wide egg noodles, and will let you know how it tastes... But, right now, it smells fantastic!

Sprayed the second coat of paint, carried them back inside. Took a break from everything and went outside to fill the bird feeder and pick up trash I noticed was blowing aroung out back. It stopped sprinkling a while ago, just cloudy. But its over 50 degree F. (10 degrees C.). Saw on the Weather Channel this is an El Nino year, which is holding the jet stream up in Canada (take that, Albertans!) and producing the above average, mild temps.

Cut and installed the all-important bottom shelf. So far, so good! Now to the scary stuff: Opened the box with the stove plug in it and took out the plug. wired the upper box to one of the legs. Punched a hole in the side of the box and ran conduit from the box through a hold in the cabinet where the dishwasher goes. Glanced at the clock and it was almost 8:00 PM! So, I quit for the night, made the egg noodles and ate dinner. Pretty darn good! Complex flavors, only thing I added was pepper. I think next time I'll add the pepper up front and also two or three tablespoons of butter.

Lying down to watch TV was a mistake. I fell asleep about five minutes later and slept through the night. I was BEAT!!!