Boys from Shaw, Kansas by Claudia Mundell

20 02 2014

Lets ride that carpet back to Kansas!

The Coop: A Poetry Cooperative

Claudia Consolidation closed rural township schools,
Brought the Shaw boys to town.
Swaggering down locker lined halls,
Wearing button down Madras and smelling of Brute,
Their flushed, sun freckled faces
Tossed flirty smiles at glancing girls
Like horseshoes shooting for a ringer.

Muscled thighs squatted under football pads
Before skillful sprints took down half backs
And linemen in late summer practices
While wiry arms grappled teammates
Easily, like cottonwood and hedge pieces
Heaved into cords near a farmhouse.

Once afternoon buses rolled them home again,
The young studs threw hay off pickup trucks,
Cultivated standing soybeans,
Checked bulls fenced on a back forty,
Plowed up Osage arrowheads and
Pottery shards hiding in wheat stubble
While riding red tractor stallions
Across Neosho River bottom dirt.
Shaw boys returned to actual life
On the Big Muddy–
Just like before consolidation.

~Claudia Mundell grew up in Kansas with work life in Missouri. She has…

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A Magical Journey

14 01 2014


Are you ready for a trip into the exotic this morning? Well, put on your traveling shoes and fill your  insulated mug  with your favorite tea cause we are going to ancient places filled with the unexpected.

Jimmy Nelson has produced a book filled with exquisite photographs that will transport you to other worlds as surely as any magic carpet.  His on-line site is filled with photographs that are  nearly  3-dimensional – you can almost breath in the icy air  in the mountains of India or smell the yellow paint on the faces of  Huli in New Guinea who say “Knowledge is only rumour until it is in the muscle”. This book, Before They Pass Away, is a glorious documentation of what is while it still is.

Hop on your carpet here:

or here

The story I don’t tell people, ‘cuz I’m honestly not crazy

11 01 2014

This  is Saturday’s first re-blog; something to think about if you are out and about and shopping today.

Good Graciousness

Disclaimer:  I have, actually, told this story to very few people, mostly because I feel like they either won’t believe it, or they’ll think I’m crazy if they do.

God has given me lots of gifts.  I’m sure all of you would say the same.  When asked to list them people usually say God has given them: wonderful spouses, beautiful children, health, jobs, etc.  And I would be no different.  In fact, I believe everything I have is a gift from God.  But sometimes . . . every once in a while, He gives you something in such a way that stuns you.  It makes you think, “Wow, God.  I know you’re always here and all, but you just showed up right HERE and did that . . . for me.”  And it makes you warm and fuzzy, and it makes you realize He really is a Father to you…

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Walking The Dog

10 01 2014

The new year always comes into my life carrying the baggage of renewal, bringing with it the urge to give an old project one more shot from a slightly askew perspective, touting the ever-present enticement of the do-over with its muffled promise that in the doing perhaps I’ll find a better way of being in the world.

Once again I’ve succumbed.

My intention, unsullied as yet in this  new year, is to blog here again not just when the notion strikes me, as I’ve done in the past, but on a regular reliable schedule. The mailman was my first choice as a model for this new re-imagined  reliability. We never know when, exactly, he will appear on our street only that of a certainty he will appear on his appointed days and our mail will be with him.  But you know I realized after a little more thought that the dog owner who loves his dog  is really the better model for the reliability I’ll be needing.  The dog owner walks that dog in the dark, in the heat of a Texas summer, when he’s tired, when he mad, when supper’s waiting and he’s running late, in the cold and the rain, when he has to carry a stick, even when he’d really, really rather not because well, he loves that dog and the dog needs walking.  Simple as that. The dog has no power to compel him.

From this daily exercise of responsibility born of love the dog owner discovers the topography of his neighborhood; where the dogwood’s bloom, where the potholes are, and whose dog you need to watch out for. He breathes in the good fresh air, exchanges pleasantries with old neighbor friends and meets new ones, he exercises lungs and legs every single day which improves his health; all positive but unintended consequences of his love for his dog.  Life is indeed good and full of serendipity.

I love this blog and I’m not  ready to dustbin it just yet, simple as that. Well almost,  my incentive was piqued a tad last week by a friend’s post.  Still ever the optimist, starting today I’m walking this dog again, once a week on a regular basis.  And I’m  hoping you’ll  join me here on these word walks.

Even solitary folks enjoy a little companionship.

I’m  also hoping, dear souls, that this will not be just a one way conversation but that every once in a while the thoughts here will entertain, amuse, surprise, touch your heart, enlighten or annoy you just enough that you will  respond, as surely and in the same fashion, as you might if  you were sitting across the table from me, here in my sunny kitchen, sipping an amber cup of tea, at the end of our little walk.

So here’s the new deal: every Friday a post from me, then Saturday and Tuesday a re-post  from someone else’s  blog that I liked and thought some of you might like too and no politics here, ever.


For a Sonnet Maker

5 09 2013

I was cleaning out files yesterday and smiled when I came across this old poem I wrote (some  forty odd years ago)  for a boss who fancied himself a poet.  Maybe it will bring you a smile too.

One day as your fancy took flight,

Impassioned by Spring’s gay delight

You proposed an iambic dactyl

As a perfectly suitable style

For the small song you’d decided to write.

Innovation resides in the poet

(I’m confident, sir, that you know it)

But a foot with fifth beat

Is a difficult feat,

You’d be better off, sir, to forego it.

The Italians from whom you have borrowed

Might be filled with lament and much sorrowed

If they knew from the start

You had thought to depart

From their classical form, bone and marrow.

Now, you can begin with initial truncation

Or a Pyrrhic quatrain adaptation

But fourteen lines is the curse

That must structure your verse

On that, sir, there’s no vacillation.

So, tho in mysteries I miss where the clue is

And in who-dun-its don’t know who the who is

When put on to the hilt

I do sometimes blink TILT.

It’s not nice to fool Mrs. Lewis.

Mine – Weekly Photo Challenge

1 10 2012

This once was mine – this flat sweet smelling land, haunted by  meadowlark, this land of incredible, incendiary sunsets and luscious sunrises; this land where a man knows just how far it is to the heavens and the difficulty and chooses the journey any way.

In memory it remains mine, always.

My Hero’s Have Always Been Con-Men (Weekly Challenge Stylish Imitation) Sam Spade

13 09 2012
Mickey Spillane

Mickey Spillane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We didn’t exactly believe your story, Miss O’Shaughnessy. We believed your 200 dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right”.  (Sam Spade) Dashiell Hammett

“When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it.”  (Sam Spade)

Dashiell Hammett                ********************************************************************************

I grew up in a dusty seedy little town  where nothing much of anything exciting ever happened, at least not out in the open.  Oh sure we had our share of punk hoodlums and scalawags, the Pharris brothers come right to mind but we chalked  their bad behavior up to a sorry  father who beat them just because he felt like it. When ever he felt like it.  And he felt like it a lot. When they weren’t scaring the pants off little girls like me with remarks like these hissed out to the grocery lady ” Gimme two cents worth of that haaard candy lady, because my teeth are, you know,really, really,  sharp, heh, heh, heh”  they were setting fire to the straw in the upper floor of the shed in the back of their ramshackle house while trying to light the hand rolled cigarettes they took such malicious pride in or jumping out from under the   bridge on my way to town,  in broad day light  at scaredy cats and causing them to lose their mama’s cigarettes, or else they’d be down in the mud along the river  catching catfish with their bare hands.

In the summer the City Library was a big deal, second only to the radio so when I didn’t have my ear glued to the family Motorola I hung out in the musty corners of the top floor of our municipal building where the goods were stored, racks and racks of them. It was here  I discovered Frank Yerby in paperback  just as I was entering the 7th grade.  Now my mama had never read Yerby’s books and I didn’t know it then but  that was a good thing cuz later the next summer she caught me reading the biography of Gypsy Rose Lee out in the shade on the front porch.  Very quickly  she jerked  that book  out of my hands, closing it with a icy glare ” I don’t think this is a book a girl your  age should be reading.”

And that was that.

I was  married  before I knew the story of Gypsy  Rose Lee and even then I read the book with a tinge of guilt.  So, let me tell you, her black hair would of  turned every shade of white if she’d of cracked a Yerby book and I’d probably  have ended up in a convent somewhere  or worse at my grandma’s out in the country feeding chickens and gathering eggs for the summer. No chance of getting in to trouble there. But books like that are  another story.

So what was a skinny  scaredy cat girl  doing, headed towards home  with an armload of Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammet, and Raymond Chandler paperbacks on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of  ’51, with maybe a Yerby  slipped somewhere  into the stack?  Well, she was  jumping into the dark and dangerous  paperback world  of a cynical tough big city detective.  Into a world peopled with smart mouthed women and deceptive partners.  Learning the heft of the disarming come-back and  how to stand your own  ground, how to bluff  and when to fold.  Learning the value of that cynical outlook  or the arching of one brow and how  to look beyond the obvious.  Learning that everybody  has a code  they live by and you can write your own if you’re tough enough.  Learning that things aren’t always exactly as they seem and that even  hero’s have flat feet.  And that’s OK too.

And yeah,  I know the title of this little piece is sort of a con in itself,  but hey it got you this far, didn’t it?

The truth is my hero’s have always been authors and there is a little  bit of the con in every story, don’t you think?

Hammett homage

Hammett homage (Photo credit: Koocheekoo)

 “When you write, you want fame, fortune and personal satisfaction. You want to write what you want to write and feel it’s good, and you want this to go on for hundreds of years. You’re not likely ever to get all these things, and you’re not likely to give up writing and commit suicide if you don’t, but that is — and should be — your goal. Anything else is kind of piddling.”― Dashiell Hammett
To see how other bloggers   handled this week’s theme of  Stylish Imitation,  click here.

Memorable First Lines – Weekly Writing Challenge

11 09 2012
English: Cover of serial "Tale of Two Cit...

English: Cover of serial “Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s writing challenge asks us to focus on the author  who  has   influenced us most, for me an almost impossible task.   So many authors, so many  stories  have influenced me throughout these  years beginning with the ones my mother read or told me on her lap.  How could I choose just one?  So I thought I might  begin this week’s challenge  with a few  great opening lines from some favorite books,  lines  I’d put on my top  100 list and why.

A good place to start is John Irving’s opening sentence in A Prayer For Owen Meany .   If your interest is not pricked by this line  “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice-not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a christian because of Owen Meany.” you were obviously born severely deficient in curiosity.  When I got to the end of the story,  to that very last line in the book, that first line  in the book immediately sprang up  in my mind and I marveled at the serendipity.  “Kudo’s”  I said to the author. I  forgave him for the burden of  his wordiness and any other  small grievances I might  have had as a reader as it was apparent that the ending was known to him from the beginning.  That story was so well crafted there seemed no other reasonable way for the book to end.  Since then I’ve read 5 more of the 12 novels he’s written over the past 40 years.  He remains a favorite.

Recently I read an interview he had given at Good Reads in 2009 in which he explained  his writing process; “For 12 novels the last sentence has come first, and not even the punctuation has changed. From that last sentence I make my way in reverse through the plot, because there always is a plot—I love plot—to where I think the story should begin…..And once I get that first sentence, I can begin writing the novel.  By then I know the whole story and all the important characters; how and where they meet, when their paths cross again.”

Of course.

Another favorite author wrote this  first line “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” in  Love In The Time Of Cholera. The smell of almonds, in all it’s darkest evocations,  permeate the story.  Gabriel García Márquez  leaves no doubt that he  also knew the ending of his story before he ever put the first word of it down on paper.

With this concise, sparse line from The Gunslinger, “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Stephen King  invites you into his unknown territory with a sense of deep  foreboding.  King is the master of a great read with an acute understanding of  people, both as characters and as his readers. He knows how to crook the finger to beckon us carefully  into the dark. Contrariwise it him took 12 1/2 years to finish this dark adventure begun on a ream of bright green paper found at the library.  While the rough outline of this story seems  constant throughout it’s  many revisions I find it hard to  believe the last line had been written in  beginning.

Another concise  line  “My name is Ismael” in Melville’s Moby Dick, gives us absolutely no clue to the story and we are left to pilfer around in the words a little to see if we’ll continue. This first line while widely known would not make my list although the book is a favorite. The fourth line however, “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”  will probably hook you and could have been a great opening line.

Sometimes what I like best about an author is his ability to construct a masterful sentence as quoted above.  Or one like  Charles Dickens  used to open  A Tale of Two Cities    ” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” with it’s cadence and dichotomy.

A more modern opener  is the one  John Hawkes used to launch  his 1964, Second Skin,  “I will tell you in a few words who I am: lover of the hummingbird that darts to the flower beyond the rotted sill where my feet are propped; lover of bright needlepoint and the bright stitching fingers of humorless old ladies bent to their sweet and infamous designs; lover of parasols made from the same puffy stuff as a young girl’s underdrawers; still lover of that small naval boat which somehow survived the distressing years of my life between her decks or in her pilothouse; and also lover of poor dear black Sonny, my mess boy, fellow victim and confidant, and of my wife and child. But most of all, lover of my harmless and sanguine self. ” I’ve included this second line too because I  particularly like the  truth in it.

Many of the best novels don’t have great opening lines of course, relying instead on the force of it’s characters or a story too  compelling to ignore. But those that do are rarely forgotten by readers and are the ones we as writers aspire to.

A Few Of My Favorite Things – An Old Card

5 09 2012

My reputation is that of the ‘keeper’ in my family, the one who keeps way too many things, you know the one with the overflowing closets and the oddest keepsakes.  The one most all  the relatives shake their heads about and cluck over “… whatever in the world was she thinking to keep this silly old thing?” And while I don’t have the first dollar I ever earned  I do have the first Social Security card I ever received.

Back in 1953, when I was still 13, my grandmother wanted to take a small summer  vacation from her job as dishwasher and chief doughnut and biscuit maker in the little cafe in our country town but she didn’t want her boss  giving away her job in the mean time. As always my grandmother came up with a practical solution to her dilemna that we both thought just about perfect.  Come summer  I’d be out of school and while I was not a cook by anyone’s good measure I could wash dishes quite well. The thought of a real job and it’s possibilities made me almost giddy; real wages, thirty-five cents an hour, for a set amount of hours every week.  For three whole weeks.  It was going to be a great summer.

 In 1952 a Kansas hero who’d  grown up in Abilene less than 30 miles from our town was elected  President.  Irving Berlin wrote a song for him.  We wore his ‘ I like Ike‘  buttons.  Heck, we felt like we practically knew him and Mamie.

Folks were in a patriotic mood that year, Ike was going to end the war in Korea and bring our boys back home. We’d had enough losses. In many places that November people lined up at the polls before dawn on their way to work.  Ike won by a landslide.  His inauguration the next  January was followed by “the most elaborate inaugural pageant ever held”, a two and one half hour  parade that included three elephants, Alaskan dog teams and an atomic cannon named  ‘Atomic Annie‘.  The country was closing the door on the old war era and walking right into the cold war era.   Later that year Stalin died, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, Swanson sold it’s 1st TV dinner, the 1st TV Guide was published as well as the 1st James Bond novel  and the 1st Corvette hit the road.  CERN, NASA,NATO,NORAD and a National Highway System were established that year.  In a darker turn GE announced  it would fire any worker who was a communist, Fidel Castro and his brother were  setting the stage for the Cuban Revolution and the CIA sponsored  a panel to discuss UFO’s.

Holding that old card  in my hand it would be easy to fall prey to the nostalgia that the memories of being 13 in that time of such great enthusiasm conjures up. We were full of optimism, the world was full of possibilities, we expected to work hard and succeed, we liked Ike and every good patriotic thing he stood for. Looking back now, through these adult eyes  sharpened  with the cynicism of  time and hindsight, I know the McCarthy hearings  are coming, that polio is not yet down for the count, that the cold war will continue till the 90’s,  that  school desegregation and civil rights  will come only at a high price; and that many things that look like progress are really just another  retreat in disguise.  Our world changes and we make accommodation. My old card could not be used today because it carries the stipulation ‘not for identification’.

None the less progress  was made that was real, that  endures.  The Cold war ended, the Salk vaccine stopped Polio cold and many other childhood diseases are rare.  We have a wealth of devises not even imagined then. In so many ways we are blessed with success beyond our  dreams.  Today the  Americans I know remain  full of optimism towards the promise of the future, believing in the best of  the ideas that unite us  but perhaps not quite  as naively as that long ago teenager.

And they still like Ike in Abilene. This summer they showed that love with another parade.

An Obsession With Hope

4 09 2012
Spitzer Spies Spectacular Sombrero

Spitzer Spies Spectacular Sombrero (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sombrero Galaxy is this huge, magnificent, psychedelic,  galaxy  in the Virgo cluster 28 million light years from earth containing a black hole believed to be one billion times more massive than the mass of our sun.  Think of those numbers for just a moment; 28 million light years away and that is in one of our nearer galaxy clusters. A mass 1 billion times greater than our sun. This is the universe we live in and are just beginning to understand. An understanding  that is in its infancy.

We are just remembering how to crawl.

We have sent Curiosity, a breath-taking feat of imagination and engineering, to walk about on Mars and report back to us; and we are still in the infancy of our exploration of near space. In far space  the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Telescope has found the stunning,  super massive, Phoenix  Galaxy Cluster  5.7 billion light-years from Earth  just as we’ve begun to dip our toes into the  nether of the cosmos.  It is churning out stars at a rate of about 740 a year.  There is music of a sort, a mermaid’s song,  in the formation of stars; the famous Perseus cluster, as it formed stars,  “produced sound waves with an incredibly deep B-flat note 57 octaves below middle C. “

As Dr. Seuss said “Oh, the places you’ll go.”

It puts the concept of infinity beyond the scope of my puny imagination.  It puts the glory of our Creator beyond my pitiful ability to imagine.   I am less than the amoeba gazing up at a man.  I am less than a mote in eye of God.

And yet, in spite of all I know of  man’s inadequacies, man’s limitations, man’s insignificance  in this universe  I am filled with hope because man appears to have been deliberately engineered to possess  an unlikely  obsession with hope. A feeble creature born audacious,  born with blinders to his limitations and the    improbability of his successes,  born to turn his phoenix  face to the shining sun and dare the destruction, again and again; determined to hear the music of the stars and to dance among them.

“I knew the moment had arrived

For killing the past and coming back to life”  Pink Floyd

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