Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I have noticed my holiday poems seem to focus on food. This one is about Christmas Eve dinner.

Christmas Cuisine

Sisters scurry
around the kitchen.
Shrimp sizzles
in the skillet
and linguini simmers
in the saucepan.
Scents of garlic,
lemon and butter
fill the air.
The transfer is made
from pans to plates.
Parsley flakes fall
on food and floor,
like the snow
that covers roads
on Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My mother made Christmas cookies before the days of prepackaging. She made the dough from scratch and also did things like shell nuts and even shave some with a potato peeler. She made at least eight different kinds of cookies and each recipe made several dozen.

The Mountains of Christmas

Mountains lined the buffet
and rose from folding tables
setup just for the season.
Brown sugar and nuts
yielded the darkest terrain.
Pinwheels were stacked into
mounds of red and green.
Frosting and sprinkles created
a glittery landscape.
Powdered sugar provided
a snow-like dusting.
Looking up from the
valley of childhood,
I knew I couldn't
scale these peaks,
but I could take
a little off the top.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All of the stories about Pearl Harbor brought back some memories so I wrote the following:

Emotional Ties

I stood in line
on a bright summer day
trying to imagine
the utter bedlam
that took place
in such a beautiful setting.
I read the history and
even saw some of
the physical wreckage.
I heard stories of
those who were there
and those who just
missed being there.
This visit brought
me closer, but
I still only understood
Pearl Harbor intellectually
until September 11, 2001.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I will be participating in a couple of holiday readings this month so I have been working on some poems related to the holidays. I thought I would share them throughout this month.


Some gifts aren't packaged,
wrapped or tied with
a big red bow.
They are unveiled
throughout a day.
Kindness, understanding and support
Company, connection and concern
Laughter, forgiveness and love.
Never out of stock
Available year round
These gifts are best
when they are returned.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

On this Thanksgiving Day, I have many things for which to be grateful. What stands out for me this year is all that has come along through the writing of poetry. I have made new friends and connected with old ones in a different way. I have gone new places within the city in which I live. I have connected with other arts in new and exciting ways. So, the poem that follows is a short (as usual) tribute to the building blocks of poetry.

Word Work

Words you read
Words you write
Words that give insight
Words you sing
Words you share
Words that convey care
Words you hear
Words you need
Words that plant a seed
Words you taste
Words you smell
Words that work so well.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I re-discovered haiku after taking a jazz poetry workshop and found that I enjoy the form. Most of the haiku I have written is related to jazz, but I am starting to use it for other topics. Here are three of those.

Mighty and muddy,
the river exudes power
and elicits peace.

Rivers turnover,
and like neighboring cities,
are revitalized.

Nature demands our
respect, but rewards us by
renewing our souls.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I attended a program about the Kennedy-Nixon Debates, which were the first televised presidential debates. This poem was inspired by remarks about the difference between politics then and politics now.

Give Me a Skillful Manager

I yearn for the days
when politicians were
engineers not ideologists.
Their decisions were not
pre-packaged, but freshly made
as called for by circumstance.
They did not vote against
other people, but other principles.
They practiced what seems to be
the forgotten art of doing
what is right at the time.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Two of my jazz poems were published in the Rusty Truck Poetry Zine. One is a biopoem of Lena Horne called Chosen and the other is three haiku that I combined into one poem titled Trio. Go to and scroll down to find the poems.

Monday, November 1, 2010

This poem was inspired by the same event as Humanitarians. Throughout the presentations and acceptance speeches, the ideas of advocacy, speaking out and finding your voice recurred.


Voices come in
different registers
different volumes
different temperments
different languages
different accents
different genders
different races
different ages
but they are all
made to speak.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I wrote this after attending an event at which a number of people were recognized for the good works they do. One of the honorees is a friend. The poem came from some of the words I heard that evening and from what I knew or learned about the honorees.


Some have the resources
to change the physical
landscape of a community,
but more often, they alter
the social and cultural terrain.
They advocate, exhort and support
and likely are the first to do so.
They will influence some that they target
and some they don't even know exist.
They may be so far ahead of the crowd
that it seems they are talking to themselves.
Yet, the words carry and the crowd catches up.
They know that having rights requires
doing right, of your own accord.
They make us better because
they are the best of us.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Every so often, I come up with something that is a little lighter. This was triggered by a true incident, but the details are fiction. It lends credence to the idea that having the winning ticket doesn't always make life easier.

Can't Get the TV to Oklahoma

Won a drawing in Kansas City,
but I live far away
Thought my daughter
would help me get my prize,
but that'll be the day
Bought the ticket for a raffle
so my grandson could play ball
Now if I want my TV,
I'll have to rent a U-Haul.
The family thinks
it won by default,
but I'll have the final say.
I'll just move in with them
and never go away.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When I started working on this poem, I intended to write about several elements of autumn. As often happens, the piece took its own direction.

Autumn Revelation

Reds and golds and oranges
hang against a blue background,
are caught up in a chill wind
and eventually cover the ground.
Their absence reveals the framework
that is the constant in this cycle
and opens up views
that their fullness obscures.
The way we see our world each day
is altered by the loss.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There are geese near the building in which I work. I get to see some interesting behavior and sometimes wait for them to cross the street.

The March of the Geese

Geese cross the street
in a long line
taking whatever time
is needed for the group
to get to the other side.
Cars sit on the street
in long lines
halted by the birds,
who continue at their own pace
oblivious to the anger and frustration
that simmers around them.
Perhaps, we should take a lesson
from the geese.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This poem came from playing with a word. I thought of several definitions of the word turnover and how different they are. I tried putting them together and got the following.


Sweet as fruit-filled pastry
Comfortable as rolling over in bed
Disappointing as a fumble on the goal line
Uncertain as lay-offs at the office
Devastating as complete upheaval
Which turnovers will touch you today?

Monday, September 13, 2010

This deals with the idea that grief can ambush us at anytime. It doesn't matter if the loss is recent or happened many years ago. When you least expect it, something will trigger the grieving process.
Pop-Up Grief
Notes reach the ears
and freeze the soul.
Dates bring despair
by their mere arrival.
Pictures draw tears
before they come into focus.
Grief pops up
like an annoying ad
on the internet
and insinuates itself
into the intended action.
No click of a mouse
will close down this pop-up.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I have a friend who is a great advocate for girls and women in sport. I have heard her speak to women about seeing themselves as athletes even if they didn't play sports. I guess you could say she promotes "getting in touch with your inner athlete" or drawing on the postivie qualities that we believe athletics promote. This poem came from that idea.

I'm an Athlete

Being an athlete is not tied to play.
It's more about how you approach each day.
Teamwork helps you get along
and provides support when things go wrong.
Resilience means you can come back
anytime life gets off track.
Determination is the strength to try
and trying yields lessons that can help you fly.
Confidence teaches you to see
the best you that you can be.
So, whenever you hear "Are you ready for this? I have to ask."
Just say "I'm an athlete; I'm up to the task."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I do find that the news can be a source of inspiration. Sometimes a comment or word combination I hear will lead to a poem that is independent of the original story. Sometimes the tone of the discussion will lead to commentary. Less frequently, I end up writing about a specific event. I wrote the following last year upon the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, who had come to be referred to as the "Lion of the Senate".

The Lion's Share

The youngest wasn't groomed to lead.
He was last in line; there would be no need.
Order was turned upside down by tragedy.
He became family patriarch in his thirties.
He guided those who were left behind.
He built the legacy; he had the time.
Now, he can rest with the others,
no more fights to be won.
The lion's share of the work is done.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This is my first, and so far, my only attempt to write something with a certain beat. I also used alot of repetition. I'm not sure if that's cheating or not.

Change the Rhythm

Change the rhythm
Need a new beat
Change the rhythm
Want to retreat
Change the rhythm
Life is not neat
Change the rhythm
Feel more complete
Change the rhythm
What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This is another poem about growing older. I think this post and the previous one show you can write about the same theme more than once and come up with very different pieces.

Questions of a Lifetime

How did I get to this place
where the future is shorter than the past?
Didn't Mom just send me off
to my first day of school?
Well, maybe it was high school.
Should I be working on
college or job applications?
No-AARP membership or estate planning.
I hear the news anchor announce
the ending date of a new project.
Is it even possible I will see the completion?
When did I lose so many
friends and family members?
More than 20 years ago, less than 10?
It happens too frequently now.
How did I get to this place
where hindsight is longer than foresight?
By living my life.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sometimes you have to take a lighter approach. That's what I tried with this poem about growing older.

I'm a Senior

Don't need the long-term guarantee.
Reverse the mortgage,
what money I'll see.
Get a discount at the grocery,
but only if I'm there
when they want me to be.
Give me a card that will cut the fee.
The early-bird special,
that's for me.
Keeping track of the offers is the key.
That's the life of a senior,
too bad it's not free.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A scene from the movie "We are Marshall" gave me the idea for this poem. I think we see examples of it everyday.

In a Heartbeat

The muscle shows its strength
by the power of the beat.
Character shows its strength
by the power not to be beaten.
Know the strength that lies within you,
and you will never skip a beat.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In June, I took a jazz poetry workshop and found out that haiku is a large subset of jazz poetry. I remember haiku being part of the poetry unit in school. I wasn't particularly interested in it then, but I am really enjoying it now. In case you need a refresher, a haiku contains 17 syllables broken into three lines of 5, 7 and 5. The two I am posting today have one similar line, but I think the overall ideas are a little different.

Team Up

Transfer the feeling to sound,
feeding each other


Master musicians
express their feelings in sound,
the true jazz poets

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I wrote the following poem after doing some yardwork. I guess it is my version of "take time to smell the roses." In this case, it's lilacs.

I Never See the Lilacs

I never see the lilacs bloom
though they grow in my backyard.
Orange lilies burst upon the scene
yet they don't catch my eye.
The daffodils can wave and wave,
but they'll get no reply.
All this unfolds so close to me,
it seems impossible to miss.
But it's easy to overlook what's near
when you're focused on what's next.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

This poem came from some comments made by a couple of newcasters. They were discussing how time could be both harmful and helpful.

Two Sides of Time

Time takes its toll
but offers its tenderness.
The taking is aggressive,
eroding our skills,
destroying the familiar,
claiming those we love.
The offering is more subtle,
presenting new opportunities,
providing the chance to rebuild,
distancing us from the hurt.
The toll cannot be avoided.
The tender presents a choice.
Both need to be accepted
as integral parts of life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In May, I participated in an annual reading that is a fundraiser for the Crystal Field Scholarship. This scholarship fund assists creative writing students at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Each year, a theme is chosen for the reading. This year, the theme was 129.

Some of the poems have been published in a chapbook. Go to to find "The Road to 129." You also will find an explanation of how the theme was chosen. Thanks to Scot Young for editing and publishing the chapbook and for being the source of the theme.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Late last year, some things were happening globally and personally that reminded me how quickly life can change. I wrote the following.


Life can take a full turn
in an instant.
Fortunes change 360 degrees
with dizzying speed.
Success to failure.
Wealth to destitution.
Glory to gutter.
Life to death.
The change takes place so quickly
that all you are left with is whiplash.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Writers are told that listening is a key to finding new ideas. I would add looking to that because I also find interesting phrases or word combinations when I read. I was reading about Lincoln when I saw the words "accidental instrument". Given the context in which I found these words, I started out trying to write a very serious poem. Once again, I was taken in a different direction and ended up with a lighter piece.

Accidental Instruments

This is for all the accidental instruments of kindess
who pass through my life.
The people who let me in
when I need to change lanes around contruction
or because I'm unfamilar with the route I'm traveling.
The individuals who hold the door
when I'm coming or going with my hands full.
Those who say hello when I'm out for a walk
or give directions when I'm out--lost.
For all the accidental acts of kindness I receive each day,
I want to take the time to say thank you--on purpose.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I volunteer with a grief support group and write poems about grief from time to time. I thought this was an appropriate posting in light of the Memorial Day weekend.

I Keep You with Me

I keep you with me
throughout each day.
I seek your counsel often
and share my thoughts with you.
I hear you in music and laughter
and feel your presence
when I need you the most.
I will always keep you with me
because, unlike people,
love never dies.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This is another everyday poem. The Midwest has been pretty soggy lately. One morning after a storm, I was driving to work and the rain kept dropping off the trees. I had to keep turning my windshield wipers on even though it wasn't really raining. I decided there had to be a poem in this experience.

Residual Rain

Residual rain gathers in the trees
waiting for an opportunity to fall.
This rain doesn't make the long journey
from the clouds to the ground,
but takes a short hop
from the leaves
to the unsuspecting windshields below.
It drops with a plop,
blurring the vision
of the irritated drivers who flick it away
with one swipe of the wiper blades.
Just when we think the storm is over,
this splatter reminds us
that we haven't quite come in from the rain.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I do not write every day, but I have learned to write about the everyday. That is one reason that I am able to write consistently. About a month ago, I had to parallel park for the first time in a long time. Fortunately, the space wasn't too tight! When I finished, I scribbled down parallel parking on my list of things to write about.

Parallel Parking

How well can you maneuver into the available space?
Getting lined up at the start is critical.
Concentrate as you go back,
cutting in at the correct angle.
Make that quick spin of the wheel
that sets you straight.
Now, you are sitting pretty,
at least until the meter runs out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Kansas City Sculpture Park opened in 1989 and contains more than 30 sculptures. It is one of my favorite places to walk and to write. Thanksgiving weekend, there is a luminary walk in the park. I went for the first time this past Thanksgiving and plan to go back annually. I wrote this poem after that event.

The Lost Wax Process

The mold is made
of clay layered on wax.
When heat is applied,
the outside hardens;
but the inside melts,
never to have
the same shape again.
Only then is the figure
ready to be cast in bronze.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I have heard authors of fiction say that the characters take the writers in a certain direction rather than the other way around. I feel the same way about poems. They seem to have a mind of their own. When I began the poem below, I intended to write about flying. That only lasted for two lines. Instead, I ended up writing about getting away, even to the point of escaping.


Journey toward the sky.
Drowning in the blue.
Sprint down the block.
Ease into the speed.
Listen to the notes.
Let the sound surround.
Pick up a pen.
Wrestle with the words.
Empty a bottle.
Slide into the haze.
Take flight.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I think the facination we still have with Amelia Earhart is interesting. I guess I am not the only one who likes a good mystery. I wrote the two poems below after seeing the movie about her that came out last year. As I was walking into the theatre, the usher said "You know how it ends don't you?" I said yes, but we don't truly know how it ended. The possibility that someone will find the answer keeps us interested in the story more than 70 years later.

The Island in the Ocean

The challenge was a passenger on the entire flight.

The key to completing the circle

was finding the island in the ocean.

When the time came,

the pilot called out.

The island barely heard,

yet tried to respond.

They must have come so close.

Still, the connection could not be made.

The flight did not end on a runway,

but in a mystery that would intrigue generations.

Crossing Oceans

We all have oceans to cross.

The vastness of our problems.

The depth of our disappointments.

The sameness of our routines.

The span to reach our goals.

The turbulence of life.

How can we face these journeys?

Follow our compasses.

Navigate as best we can,

and see where we land.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I consider Emily Dickinson to be my "Guardian Poet". For most of the year in which I wrote the two poems that started me on this adventure, references to Emily Dickinson kept showing up in books I read. Now, I read mostly light fiction, especially mysteries, biographies (not of poets) or books about sports. All of a sudden, if an author put a quote at the front of a book, it was from a Dickinson poem or characters would mention that she was their favorite poet or they were studying her in a class. After about a year, I wrote a poem about this.

I haven't heard from Emily in a while, but then she popped up this weekend. So, I am posting the poem today.


You haunt me.
Your appearances jolt,
intrude on my solitude,
inhabit my thoughts.
Your visits puzzle.
I explore your talent,
but the message alludes.
Our encounters continue,
baffling or revealing?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When I am working with an idea, I may end up with a couple of sets of lines that don't fit together. If I am lucky, I can turn the sets into separate poems. That happened this past weekend when the comments of an announcer on a golf tournament triggered an idea. The results are the two poems below.

Right Club-Wrong Player

The club is designed for a specific result,
applied science wrapped in the materials of the day.
Perfection is built in.
The player draws it out by letting the club work,
not making it work.
Rely on the technology; don't interfere with it.
The proper execution always leads to the desired result.
The club is right.
Only the player may be wrong.

Ready to Wear

Everything fits someone,
but everyone doesn't fit everything.
Sometimes, the suitability is obvious.
The difficulty comes
when the match is questionable.
The first thought is
"Maybe I can make this work.
I can change or break this in."
Don't count on either alteration.
If it's not ready to wear,
don't buy it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

When I first decided that I wanted to try to write poems regularly, I struggled with the concept of triggering the process. The ideas for the few poems I had written basically had come to me. In order to write more, I knew I would have to seek out ideas. After writing consistently for about eight months, I realize that the ideas are all around me. I simply have to be open to accepting them when they present themselves.

I wrote the two poems I am posting today after reading a book that was set in New Orleans when Katrina hit.

Approaching a Storm

How do you handle the hurricane when it hits?
Stand your ground.
Take the pounding.
You or the storm.
Winner take all.
How do you handle the hurricane when it hits?
Never again.
Drive away
though you long to stay.
Complete change.
How do you handle the hurricane when it hits?
Recede from the force.
Assess the damage.
Salvage all you can.
Gain despite the loss.

Life in Context

Decisions are not made in a vacuum,
but in the context of other experiences.
Choices are altered by the day, the hour,
perhaps the very minute that they take place.
Each time you ask "What should I do?"
All of your life plays a part in the answer.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April is National Poetry Month. Johnson County Library (Kansas) and The Writers Place (Kansas City Metro area) are partnering to present a poem a day on the library website during this month. Go to www.jocolibrary/poetrymonth to see the featured poem. Click the more link near the featured poem to see the poems that already have been featured. One of my poems, The Women's Interstate Network, was featured Saturday, April 3. This poem was inspired by my memories of the way my mother and my aunts kept in touch by writing letters.

The library and The Writers Place also are promoting Poem in Your Pocket Day, which is Thursday, April 29. The idea is to share a favorite poem with co-workers, family and friends on that day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Uncle John had a great sense of humor. He was kind and generous, one of the first to offer help when it was needed. He had a real soft spot for children and they for him. As a young adult, I met a friend's Uncle John. He seemed to have the same characteristics as mine. I wrote this poem for our Uncle Johns and for all the Uncle Johns in the world, even if they go by a different name.

The Best Uncles

The best uncles are Uncle Johns.
I don't know if it is in their genes
or in their name or just coincidence.
Uncle Johns are funny.
They make you laugh.
They take you special places,
like to the golf course
or out for frozen custard.
They forgive you
when you spoil your aunt's birthday surprise
even if the rest of the family
reminds you about it annually.
They ask you to ride along to the store
just to spend time with you.
When you get hurt during summer vacation,
they make up a special golf tournament
to help you forget you can't go swimming at the beach.
If you ever get the chance to have an Uncle John-take it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I never thought I would write poetry and now writing it is a passion. This adventure started about 2 1/2 years ago after the loss of a friend. After her memorial service, I inexplicably wrote two poems and decided to share them. During almost two years, I wrote only about a half dozen. I was "waiting for inspiration". I finally came to understand that I did not need to wait; I needed to work. In the last seven months, I have written more than 20 poems.

The first poem I am posting is one of the original two. The second is more recent and deals with making the decision to take this journey wherever it leads me. I have come to realize that all of this is another gift from my friend Cynthia.

The Garden

The garden was planted, out of love,
to surround the home of hospitality.
It became overgrown when the gardener
had to fight a different kind of weed.
The garden was restored, out of love,
by the friends the gardener had cultivated.
She left, too soon, to work in eternal fields.
The friendships she planted remain-perennials.

(In fond remembrance of Cynthia Gabel)

New Dreams

New dreams play in my mind
like a movie marathon of some kind.
They call out "Make us come true.
We are what is best for you."
The doubts creep in.
Is this a journey I want to begin?
I remember Grandma Moses' art.
She waited until her 70's to start.
You're never too old to make a change
and let new dreams extend your range.