Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

In the rural areas of at least some of the US, giving someone the finger is quite different from what we normally think of when hearing that phrase.  While Bill and Chris were biking the Katy Trail in Missouri, I spend some of my time on the winding, unexpectedly hilly roads of the verdant country.  There, as in rural Nebraska where my grandparents had their farm, or along country roads in South Dakota, Wyoming, and other states, when you meet another driver, you simply raise the index finger of the hand at the top of the steering wheel in hello/acknowledgment of another person alive and well and driving in the country.

This casual greeting brings back good memories for me and a feeling of kinship with the person or people in the other vehicle.  So go ahead.  When appropriate, give ’em the finger.  Just be sure it’s the correct one.

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There’s no such thing as a perfect horse, but if you’re lucky, you’ll find a horse that’s perfect for you and if you do, it’s a gift.  In my case, it was literally a gift, as my dad bought not only Sunday, but all the other horses we have or have had in Wyoming.  Although Sunday wasn’t, strictly speaking, my horse only, she was, for all intents and purposes, mine.

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Still beautiful at 25 or so (Sunday, not me.)

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When you decide to do your bit to support the local economy by having a beer at a nearby microbrewery, you don’t expect to end up in an industrial park!  When I agreed to meet Bill, I figured it would be easy.  But when I got to the end of the street, I hadn’t spotted the brewery and it took Bill’s call to direct me back behind the line of buildings to Solemn Oath Brewery, one of Naperville’s growing attractions.

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What makes one poem appeal to us and be remembered forever, when all sort of important and useful facts slip away like water through a sieve?  My mother read to us when we were growing up–stories, poems, from the Bible.  We had  a set of World Book Encyclopedias and, even more fun for us as children, a set of orange Childcraft books, put out by World Book.  The volumes that held poetry were especially cherished and the poems read and re-read.  I still have them today.

Last year, I shared one of my best-loved poems from those volumes, “A Ballad of China.”  Here’s another of my favorites, Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman.”  If you can, read it aloud as poetry is meant to be read.  Truth be told, I still  get goose-bumps from this one.

by Alfred Noyes

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
   Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin; 
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh. 
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle,
   His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard, 
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
   Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like moldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter, 
   The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day, 
Then look for me by moonlight,
   Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand, 
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
   (Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
   Marching—marching—
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead, 
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side. 
There was death at every window;
   And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest. 
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast.
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
   Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good. 
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood.
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
   Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest. 
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again; 
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
   Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love's refrain.
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill, 
The highwayman came riding,
   Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
   Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the west; he did not know who stood 
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood.
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew gray to hear 
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
   The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shouting a curse to the sky, 
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway, 
   Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
   Riding—riding— 
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.
Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter, 
   Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

I like knowing you

Posted: October 26, 2013 in Memories, Personal, Poetry
Tags: , , ,

This is another poem from “back in the day”, way back, in fact.   I hope you like it.  It’s not the best poem I ever wrote, but the feelings are what were important and I think I caught those.

I like you.
I like knowing you    
    (not biblically.)
I don’t like everything you do,
    you don’t like some things I don’t do.
But I like you, the person, very much.
I like
    your smile
    seeing your look-alike in a TV movie
    your honesty
    knowing you watch me when I’m not looking
    your consideration
    when you’re a little shy
    often when you’re not
    talking with you
    having a beer with you
    kissing you and getting the bruise you gave me
holding you while you sleep on the couch
    during a football game.
You.

I’ve been hauling boxes around a good part of this week, unpacking, repacking, setting things aside to donate, etc. In my efforts to make sure all the boxes are packed full so that when stacked the contents don’t get smashed, I’ve been going through some of them. Diving into one of my boxes of memorabilia today, I came across some old photos of me. Perhaps you’ll find them enjoyable. I know I did. Lots of good memories.

Top left, B&W: That’s me on the left in my space alien costume for Halloween when teaching at Lutheran East High School in Cleveland, Ohio. I wasn’t all that much older than the seniors. 🙂

Right side with hat: I think that was my senior year in high school, sans my glasses.

Bottom left: My ski pass from Steamboat Springs, Colorado the second of two years I worked there after college graduation and the year before I went to grad school to get my Masters.  Can’t tell if that’s before my nose was broken in an accident where I could easily have died.  It still looks pretty straight!  🙂

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Walk along Grant Street in San Francisco’s China town and you’ll come to an alley that will take you on a trip from one culture to another (in more than one way) and from one time period to another.  At the other end of the alley is City Lights Books, established in 1953 and an icon of the Beat Generation.  As you walk along the alley, you will see paving stones with literary quotes and on the wall, beautiful, sometimes humorous, murals.  Take a trip down memory lane to a time when “beat” mean “beatnik”, not “Just beat it.”

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