Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dog Food

Of course, children love dogs.  So naturally I spent time trying to instill a fear of dogs into my kids when they were younger.  I may have also written a poem about rabies and foaming at the mouth and those fourteen shots in the abdomen just to get my point across to their impressionable minds.  Caesar Milan I ain't.  I've never whispered to a dog in my life.  What would I tell a dumb animal?

Well, here's another page out of One Strange World.  If you have a dog, watch your back today.  I hear dogs, even the best of them, can turn on you.  And as Bob Barker used to ask at the end of every episode of The Price is Right: "Have you spayed or neutered your dog?" 

Dog Treat

Nice neutered doggie
Licking my hand,
Protecting me from harm . . .
Here's a small bone

For a doggie treat
And . . . oops . . . let go of my arm!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ravelin' Man

And yet another portion of One Strange World:  one of my children's books (unpublished) that helped to warp the psyche of my children.  Naturally, of course, my children think they are normal, as they grew up believing that all dads wrote books about tonsils and tattoos and ten foot tapeworms in habiting their large intestines.  Hopefully, I've instilled some value through the years and my kids can see the odd, the bizarre, and the quirky in the world around them.  All they have to do is look in the mirror.

Ravelin' Man

I had a raveling
In my sweater

And so I pulled
   And pulled
      And pulled
         And pulled
            And pulled
               And pulled
And the raveling
Kept going on
   And on
      And on
         And on
            And on
And now
My sweater's gone!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kid Stuff

About 15 years ago, when my children were much younger and far more impressionable, I wrote a spate of children's books (maybe a dozen total).  No publisher ever jumped at the opportunity or showed the first signs of interest in my illustrated works, despite some rather esoteric titles.  I wrote a book entitled Mike's Moustache (about a boy born with full facial hair), Tiddly Diddly (about a thumb-sized man who inhabits a miniature world) and my favorite, One Strange World (a book of line drawings and poems ala Shel Silverstein) that I often read to my kids before bed every night.  They frequently blame me and this book for any signs of dysfunction in our family (and we have many!), as the book contained poems about tapeworms, hickeys, and a wild assortment of off-the-wall subjects, including one poem featuring a recipe for underwear and dirty sock stew.

The other day I happened upon this heap of children's books and decided I'd share a few more of my line drawings from One Strange World.  This way people can see why my kids are so demented and may fully understand my parenting style.  Here's one I thought folks of any age might enjoy.  Hey, share it with your children!  You might want a warped family, too!


I don't feel so hot today.
I've got a stomach ache.
I had a tasty breakfast, too
As soon as I fell awake:
Twelve hard boiled eggs, a piece of toast,
A tall, thick chocolate shake,
A plate of grits and gravy
Like mother used to make,
A cantaloupe, a watermelon,
Fried biscuits and johnnycake,
A slice of ham with hash brown taters
Beside a T-bone steak,
Cranberry sauce, a glass of milk,
A bowl of sweet corn flakes,
A stack of toast in maple syrup,
A donut I didn't bake.
I ate it all in half an hour
(That's all I ever take)
But I don't want a shot for flu . . . 
Those hurt, for heaven's sake!
But I really have the symptoms,
I swear it's not a fake.
I only want to know the reason
I have a stomach ache. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book Reports

Woke up this morning with nausea . . . so there's nothing to do but write this blog.  That, and reflect on a conversation I had with my son, Logan, about a book report he was completing last night.  It's a wonderful thing when kids get older and can actually converse (even a bit) about literature, and to wit, my son asked me if I'd ever read Bernard Malamud's novel, The Natural.

Logan was shocked when I told him that, not only had I read the novel, but that I had all of Malamud's published works on my shelves ("all of his books are sitting right in there!").  I proceeded to tell my son more than he wanted to know about The Natural, including the fact that it was Malamud's first novel, published in 1952, and that the novel only sold 3,000 copies over the first decade (just like my books!).  I then asked him what he thought of the book.

"It was about some zany baseball players," was all he could muster.

"It's a parable, actually," I told him.  "All of the characters are larger than life, blown out of proportion, so that Malamud can explore the meaning of integrity, relationship, and love."

My son wrote all this down on his book report, said it was "good stuff", asked me to repeat it.

"They made a movie based on the novel," I told him.  "It's actually very good. Some people consider it the best baseball movie ever made.  Robert Redford played Roy Hobbs."

"You mean I could have watched the movie instead of reading the book?" he asked.

"Both are good," I told him, "but the novel has a very different ending.  In the movie, Roy Hobbs doesn't take the money to throw the world series.  But in the book, he does.  Big difference! Hollywood doesn't like flawed heroes or depressing endings."

"Who would take money to throw the world series?" he asked.

"It happened.  Probably more than once.  That's why major league baseball had to ban gambling, and anyone caught gambling on baseball or fixing games was banned from the game for life.  It's still in effect."

"Interesting," he said.  "What else is the book about?  Got anything else for me?"

"Have integrity," I said.  "Don't gamble.  Always be honest.  Take care of your father when he is too old to read books.  Mow the lawn. Save your money.  Don't marry until you are forty-nine."

"Now you're messing with me!" 

Perhaps.  But a father has to try.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Selling Like Hotcakes

Every month I receive an e-mail "newsletter" devoted to selling me the "secrets" that will catapult book sales through the roof.  These emails are usually accompanied by a tag line containing the name of a best-selling author like John Grisham or Nora Roberts.  Most of the emails have provocative titles like:  Ten Tried-and-Tested Secrets for Selling a Million Copies or Seven Sure-Fire Secrets to Super Book Sales. 

Naturally, all of these sales "secrets" cost money and the company won't release the Kraken until I pay up. 

I'm thinking of starting my own newsletter for mid-list authors.  This would be a HUGE market, as 95% of all writers are mid-list authors, and only 1% of books make it to the best-seller lists. That, and the majority of books published lose money for the publisher and the authors who write them.

I've already created my pitch for this newsletter.  Would $9.95 be too much to ask for a publication like this?

The Poor Writer's Newsletter
Your guide to getting dissed and ignored . . . all for a mere $9.95.  And this includes postage and handling (and boy, do we handle it!).  Upcoming articles include:  "Big Jim's Guide to Making Due on $35.00 in Royalties--what you can buy, what you can't, and what you shouldn't expect to buy, especially if you are pregnant or trying to wean an infant with colic" and "Helpful Hints from Herman:  Ten Low-Cost Birthday Gifts For the Editor Who Has Everything."

As soon as I get ten people subscribed, I'll begin production.  Probably print the first edition on latex.  I'll need to stretch production as far as I can.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stones Into (Some) Schools

Several people have asked me in recent days to weigh in on the flab about Greg Mortenson's alleged exaggerations in his two best-selling books, Stones Into Schools and Three Cups of Tea.  I have read (in part) both books and have also listened to the various interviews on 60-Minutes and read other columns by people I respect and who are close to the work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including some of Mr. Mortenson's friends, who are not confirming the accuracy of these books. 

Here's my take.

It would appear that Mr. Mortenson has indeed been engaging in exaggeration of his work in these lands (though he has done great good).  More troubling, however, than the many half-truths and "memoir-like" histories recorded in his two best-sellers, are the indications that Mr. Mortenson has been using school-building contributions to the non-for profit organization to support his jet-set, world-travelling speaking pipeline and further spike sales of his books.  Much of this money could have built more schools.

Okay, but this wouldn't be the first time that books like these, hailed as "memoirs", turned out to be filled with half-truths, exaggerations, or, in some cases, outright fabrications to make the books more exciting and marketable.  I could cite a half dozen recent best-selling "memoirs" that actually turned out to be more appropriately classified as novels (and a couple that were discovered to be complete and total fabrications).

Memoir, as a genre, has always been a sticky-wicket.  And today, now that it is so easy to follow up on facts, people simply can't get away with calling their work a memoir if it didn't happen.  I can think of a couple of memoirs I've read where the author has placed a disclaimer up front that essentially says, "I don't remember the chronology of some events, or complete conversations, but this memoir is factual to the best of the author's memory and research."

I can accept this. 

Mr. Mortenson, however, didn't do this.  And he continues to claim that everything in his books is history or factual (despite evidences to the contrary) and that he is not using non-for-profit money earmarked for more schools . . . but seems to be pocketing a good share of the funds so he can fly around the world representing himself.

This doesn't shock me.  And that's why I always place the following disclaimer on anything I write that might have historical, personal, or memoir-like effect:

I am now 50 years old . . . and I can't remember my own name!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christmas & Easter & Universal Studios

This past week my creativity took a turn toward Christmas.  On Good Friday I wrote a Christmas story that I intend to publish in a unique format at Christmas and today, on Easter, I wrote a second Christmas story along with a signature poem that I will add to the final volume of my Christmas CD trilogy.  All told, I think I wrote something like five thousand words during holy week, including sermons, and I will soon be scheduling studio time for the CD recording.

In the meantime my daughter, Chelsey, informed me that she wrote two 30 page papers this week at Ball State and recently submitted a paper for the Harry Potter convention (this June) to be held at Universal Studios, Florida.  Her paper, an informational piece on modern day slavery (25 million slaves wordwide today) used the Harry Potter books as a tie in to some creative work and theology that she has been dedicated to since her high school years.  Her paper was one of a handful accepted for publication and she will be a featured speaker at the Universal Studios convention this summer.  Holy Hermione!  What a writer!  Proud of you, kid!

And now, as I relax on this Easter afternoon, I am preparing to receive a phone call from my agent on Monday afternoon.  Perhaps all of this blitzkrieg writing will pay off.  I might receive word that one of my old, dusty, dead books has been resurrected. 

Hey, a writer can still hope can't he?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In Memoriam

About a month ago our dog, a pug named "Buster", walked through a hole in our backyard fence and disappeared.  We have not seen him since.  Naturally, we are saddened by the loss. Buster has been with us for more than a decade.  We suspect the dog was eaten by coyotes, as there are many that roam the creek area adjacent to our house. 

Buster was a funny dog.  And he was quite a sport.  Logan and his friends tossed him around like a bag of fertilizer on many occasions and there were numerous times he was duct-taped to the wall for photo sessions.  All in good fun, of course.  In fact, he seemed to enjoy the attention.

Buster was a slug.  Pugs, of course, came from imperial China, and were bred to sit by the thrones of the Emperors.  Buster did his part.  He rarely left the couch.  He rarely barked.  He could not hurt a flea.  He loved everyone.

As I reflect on his ultimate demise, being eaten for dessert . . . it's not at all unnatural.  We've just grown accustomed to putting our animals down by injection, or handing them over the vet to spend their final hours in a sterile room.  We must not forget that dogs, despite their breeding and domesticated role, were originally wild things . . . living off the land, living in packs, part of an underground society that we now only see among wolves and coyotes, their ancestral cousins.

Buster was getting old.  He was arthritic.  Gray.  Sort of like me.  Among all the ways a dog could go, being eaten by coyotes might not be such a bad death.  Still, we do miss him.  We are still looking for his DUKE collar in the woods.  I doubt we will find it. 

Perhaps, here on the cusp of Good Friday and the remembrance of Christ's sacrifice and offering of his life, it is important for our family to count our blessings and remember those who have gone before us . . . and, if there is a redemption for creation (as I believe there is) we might even see this little pug some future day in the coming Kingdom.  Though, I hope, without the teeth marks. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My China Connection

In the fall of 1982 I made my way across country to Durham, North Carolina where, as a first year seminary student at Duke University, I received "pot luck" for my graduate housing roommate.  Incredibly, I was paired with an amazing graduate student enrolled in the school of sociology.  His name was Xiangming Chen, and he was from Beijing, China.  Xiangming was not only the "godfather" for the Chinese students on the Duke campus (because he spoke perfect English) but he was also gracious, hospitable, and a top-flight chef.

Our small apartment became grand central station on the weekends, with Xiangming serving as study-partner, sociological expert and wok-master.  I not only learned a bit of Chinese, broadened my friendships and ate well, but I was also blessed with Xiangming's friendship and his own gifts as a scholar and writer.

Upon graduation, Xiangming served for years as professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and more recently has assumed a deanship and chair of sociology at Trinity in Hartford, Connecticut.  Through the years Xiangming has become the foremost sociological expert on Chinese cities and culture, and has sent me his own books. He's a great writer in his own right, though I don't understand a wit of his vast knowledge . . . still, I am proud to say that I have his autographed books on my shelf.  We don't speak often enough, and I miss him terribly.  I can't imagine my Duke experience without him, and he has added more to my life than he will ever know.

Xiangming, if you read this . . . here's to you, my friend.  You, indeed, are one of my oldest and dearest friends.  May all of your research and writing bring you both happiness and joy, and Becky and I fully intend to spend time with you and your family in Beijing some day.  You know both nations, perhaps, better than anyone on earth . . . and I'm glad to call you my friend.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My First Words

Last week, in a basement storage box, I discovered this 1978 photograph.  The two in the photo?  Becky and Yours Truly before the prom (jr. year).  Even today Becky reminds me that I did take her to the prom in 1978, but I wasn't with her at the prom. She claims I dumped her at the event and spent the bulk of my time watching a Don Knotts movie.  Okay, so some of this is true, but gosh-darn-it . . . she knows how much I like Mr. Knotts.  Why keep bitching about it?  It's ancient history.  I married her didn't I?  And I've learned to enjoy other shows, like Sanford & Son

Still, this photo brought back some writing history, too.  It was around this time, maybe a few months later, that I began seeing some of my writing in print.  I had been writing since I was about 12 years old (I mean, actually writing with the intent to be a writer) and by this time in high school I was sending out some material, mostly poetry about death and mutilation and sexual yearning, to various editors.

The first editor to take an interest in me was a guy by the name of Tim Chown. He edited a poetry journal entitled Wellspring and began publishing some of my poems.  I've still got copies of those journals somewhere, but the poetry, believe me, was rotten stuff.  But I owe him a lot, Mr. Chown.  He wrote kind, encouraging letters. He knew I was young.  He published a nice journal with original artwork.

Still later, while yet in high school, I began writing short pieces that a Mr. Mike Yaconelli published in a newly formed youth ministry magazine entitled Campus Life.  And years later, while I was in seminary, I began writing again for Yaconelli when he became editor of The Wittenburg Door--a magazine of religious satire that, quite frankly, I miss terribly even to this day.  The demise of The Door, just a few years ago, is still one of the deep sadnesses in my writing "career" and, save for Bob Darden, Joe Bob Briggs, Skippy R. and Yaconelli himself, I was probably writing for that magazine longer than anyone on staff when it went belly up. 

Likewise, just a few months after this photo was taken, I preached my first sermon.  I was nineteen years old and it was at an Easter sunrise service.  I preached for all of five minutes, I think, and why the people of my home church affirmed me is still one of the great mysteries of my life.  I've been preaching now for over 30 years.

These were my first words, written and spoken, and most of them were formed in the crucible of this time period of fluffy shirts, bell-bottom pants, and high school sweethearts.  About the only consistent element of my life since has been Becky.  You can see why I married her.  I had to have someone to remind me to cut my hair.  And, quite frankly, she is the only one who will watch a Don Knotts movie with me.  I'd take her to the prom any day.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Coffee & Conversation

Early Monday morning I met another writer at Starbucks for my annual gripe session over the current sorry state of publishing.  In the past year, I've had more than one editor inform me that, while my book concepts were solid and well-written, the firm was only going to publish "sure things" or works by "best-selling" authors.  Since I am neither of these things, they would not take a chance on publishing "good writing."

Okay, I guess that's why I order cups of coffee.  Since I don't drink bourbon, I have to drown my sorrows in something.  I'll just keep drinking java.

Weird thing, in the past two weeks I've had several conversations with the accounting department of one publisher, trying to coax them into sending me a royalty check that, by my figures, I am owed.  But publishers want to hang onto their money, even though they only pay twice a year.  Never mind that we are talking about chump change.  It's hard work cutting a check.

Next week I plan to up the ante.  I'm going to work a new angle, telling the publisher that the utility company is going to cut off my electricity, or that my wife needs braces, or that my cars are falling apart.  Not all of it will be a lie, but a good story never hurts. 

I need to do something to get that $34.50 check . . . the grand total for my two years of book sales.  What is that, by the way . . . twelve cups of coffee? 

And since I give my royalties to God's work, I guess I should just turn this over to the Lord.  Maybe he can talk some sense into them.  God, this round is on me!

Joltin' Joe

Over the weekend, in a series of fits and starts, I read the entirety of Kostya Kennedy's baseball opus:  56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports.  To start out, I read at least 56 consecutive pages of this book, all detailing Mr. DiMaggio's magical summer of 1941 in which he hit safely in 56 straight major league games . . . a record that Mr. Kennedy touts as the one pro sports record that will never be equalled and the most incredible achievement in sports according to various peers and experts.

Now, I don't know much about professional baseball.  I quit watching baseball some years back after the players strike and I've never returned as a full fan (though I do follow my boyhood team, the Detroit Tigers, a bit). I also watch very little pro basketball (rather watch college).  But as I read about the summer of '41, Mr. DiMaggio's record does impress me as having no rivals in other sports . . . not even Wilt Chamberlain's 100 pt. game, or his 50+ points-per-game average, or his 55 rebounds in one game seem as incredible as hitting safely in 56 baseball games.  But I'm no expert, just a lover of people and great biographies, which this book certainly is.

For example, how about hitting safely in 56 straight games while being a 2-pack a day smoker and drinking 12 cups of coffee a day?  Kind of makes the steroid-laced players of today wilt in stature a bit, and perhaps they've chosen the wrong drugs to lift them into the record books.  Mr. DiMaggio also didn't work out, lift weights, or run.  He didn't train at all in the "off season".  He chased dames year round. And he hit safely in 56 consecutive games!

I enjoyed reading this book and for a while it took me back to the spring of 1977 when, as a skinny high school sophomore, I hit safely in every baseball game I played for the junior varsity baseball team.  I also batted 1.000 for the season.  Try topping that one, Mr. DiMaggio.  Mine's in the record books, too!  I was also chasing Becky at the time (though I've never actually caught her!) and I didn't start drinking coffee until I began pastoring and needed extra energy to survive.  I quit smoking when I was five years old.  And as for drugs, I only pop a few Advil to relieve the various stresses associated with writing this blog.  I've never quit, and my streak is still alive.

Friday, April 15, 2011

From Poland, With Love

I spent several hours last night trying to learn Polish.  The reason:  I'd received (serendipitously) some Polish book reviews of my title, The Healing Touch, and I wondered what the book reviewers were saying about me.  I can't stand the thought of people talking about me behind my back, especially in Poland, and so I set out to accomplish some translation work. 

One of the reviews was listed on the Polish version of . . . a site called  The only thing I can read accurately in the review is my own name.  Still, a portion of the review reads:  Dotknieci prez Boga recenzja ksajzki . . .

I hate to think it, but I have narrowed my translation down to three possibilities, none of them pretty.  I suspect this could mean:  "We suspect this guy used to be a Russian spy" or "Look at his author photo . . . doesn't he look like a Hoosier?" or "If you paid twenty Kroners for this book, you paid way the hell too much!!"

Let me address each of these possibilities in question and clear the air with the Polish people (whom I love and I hope they will buy my book in bulk).  No, I have never been a Russian spy . . . although I must confess I did peek in the girl's shower room in 7th grade because Billy Clump bet me a Snickers bar I couldn't spy on Marsha D. and sneak a peek.  I got caught by the gym teacher, Mr. Jones, and spent the day in the principal's gulag.  My spying days were over.

Yes, I do look like a dork, but all Hoosiers look this way . . . we are a rugged people here in Indiana, having to fend off snow and ice and an extremely high percentage of politicians.  Few of us have travelled outside the county of our births and we travel to Holiday World to get a tan.  This may explain our pasty complexions and our lack of zeal.  We would, however, be right at home in Poland.

I do hope you paid at least twenty Kroners for my book . . . most people who bought it in the U.S. purchased it at the remainder table at Half-Price Books for $1.36, meaning I got approximately 2.5 cents in royalty, which I plan to send, by the way, to the U.S. Embassy in Krakow as my token of goodwill and peace-building between our two great nations.

If, however, I have mistranslated any of these book reviews, I apologize.   My Polish is rusty and the only time I speak these tongues is when I am deep in the throes of passion with my wife.  So you see, I rarely speak the language.  One or twice a year, tops!

I do thank the reviewers of Poland for keeping my book on the shelves in the environs of Krakow and if any of you are ever passing through Brownsburg, please stop by my house.  You have an open invitation and I have a pool table in the basement.   

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spiritual Writing

For the past decade, Philip Zaleski has been editing The Best Spiritual Writing series.  The 2011 edition features an introduction by poet Billy Collins, detailing why he abandoned the faith of his childhood (Catholicism), while many of the essays included herein paddle against the current, revealing how people came to faith.

Among the more profound essays is one written by Seyyed Hossein Nasr as an audience with the Pope, a work that is quite articulate, well-framed, and progressive as it unfolds the common heritage and the differences between Christianity and Islam and offers a way forward for peace.  I'll keep this one nearby.

I also enjoyed essays by Philip Yancey on art, work about Flannery O-Connor's fiction, and some great poems by Philip Levine, Billy Collins, and, always one of my favorite poets, Richard Wilbur.

Anyone wanting to be more "spiritual" can't go wrong with this collection (in the broadest sense).  This is the kind of book I might read on the back deck at first light, a cup of coffee in hand, bird song lifting in the air, a breeze cutting the trees.  These collections are always thought-provoking, and prayer-provoking . . . and I might even abandon the book to take a walk in the woods.

Lots of good "spiritual" stuff this time of year.  Redbuds.  Flowing creek.  Daffodils.  Becky and I even made a campfire last night and necked for awhile.  We also saw our first mosquito.  I killed it.  Is this spiritual?  Guess so, since I'm not a Buddhist. But I may have killed somebody's uncle.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Charming Billy

Over the past week, while I've been getting jiggy with the romantic poetry, I've also been reading some books of poetry, including the ex-U.S.-poet laureate Billy Collins.  One of his latest collections, Ballistics, is a smart, snappy, bundle about every-day insights and observations.  Collins writes about most anything--a cemetery, an apple, a hippopotamus--and manages to create a poem that, at first blush, would inspire most anyone to try his or her hand at poetry.

Collins is one of the most accessible poets anyone could read, and he has a sense of humor about life, which I appreciate.  Even when he's writing about death, he's smiling through the words.  Nice touch, Billy boy!

I think I have read all but Collins's most recent collection, and it's always a pleasure to find him in magazines.  That, and old Billy should be an inspiration to men everywhere.  When Billy goes to the barber, he just sits down in the chair and says "shave me."  Billy spends little money on hair gels or trims.  I like that about Billy.  He's got guts.  

I've never met Billy, but I'm sure we would be friends if I ran into him at Starbucks.  I'd buy him a latte and we'd reminisce, and then he'd quickly whip out a poem on a napkin.  Probably something about curdled cream, or the fresh aroma of Verona blend, or how you meet the weirdest people at Starbucks. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One for the Gipper

My seventeen-year-old son also deserves a poem . . . though only God knows why. He NEVER reads this blog, has never read it, nor will he ever read it, given that he reads nothing and never asks to read anything I have written.  And it's a fair bet that he doesn't even know I write.  Still, I've created a fair number of pieces about the kid, including this one on high school football.

Perhaps, some day after I am worm food, he will discover my words and find some good use for them.  Perhaps by then he will have reduced his dietary intake to five meals a day instead of his usual nine.  Okay . . . but I'm proud of the kid nonetheless.  I love you, Logan.

High School Football

Bobby hands the ball to Joe, and Joe hands off to Timmy,
While rabid fans yell from the stands to give the ball to Jimmy.
The coaches scream at referees, the referees at players,
While play-by-play the game unfolds in slowly-fumbled layers.

And every time the punter punts or when the kicker kicks
A few kids stagger off the field with bruised and bloodied nicks.
The cheers are led by leaders, and the players smile at girls
Who smile back through their poodle skirts and soft, alluring curls.

And at the gun, when victory sounds, and spirits running high,
The team assembles in a heap and the fathers stand and cry
To think that on this Friday night their sons, announced by name,
May have learned lessons through their pain, or how to play the game.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The College Kid

Last night Becky finally read my blog birthday poems, called me a weirdo, and then wanted to know what else I had written about her.  Thank God, our house is back to normal today.

I do think my daughter is worthy of at least one blog poem.  She doesn't read my blog, either.  So here's one I wrote a couple of years ago soon after she left home and migrated to Ball State University. Perhaps a parent or two can identify with the sentiment. I love you, Chelsey!

Losing You

Somewhere in these final days
Of games and weekend dances
We lost you to yourself
And to the world's alluring glances.

And now that you are you no more
But all together free
We hope that some day you'll return
To find eventually

That you had never really left
But quietly remain
Within the spaces you once knew
And where we spoke your name.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Last Love Poem

Since Becky will be returning from Texas today, I can stop posting these love poems.  I don't want her to expect this kind of literary treatment daily.  But while she is in-route, I'll offer up one final romantic poem.  This is one of the hundreds of sonnets I've written and is slated to be published in a California literary journal in the fall/winter and I hope I won't spoil the fun by "publishing" it here first.  I like it.  Apparently the editor did, too (thanks, Tim).

Once again, a happy 50th birthday to my wife, Becky . . . she's been driving around Texas by herself this week celebrating a half century.  (You'll note . . . without me!)  Perhaps this sonnet can speak to the connection and the mystery of love vs. location.

Where in the World We Meet

Somewhere on this measured continent
Perhaps our eyes met on a carousel:
Our rendezvous' improbable percent
Since solitudes run often parallel.
Seduced by fate, we may have spoken once,
Or nodded in the grace of gratitude,
Or glimpsed each other for some weeks or months
Before life beat us down in latitude
And broke our fall on some remoter world
Where people do not meet by happenstance
Or other possibilities unfurled.
But in this time and place circumferenced
By love, we beat life's probability.
Star-crossed, perhaps, or just geography.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hot Stuff

(Photo: Becky Beside a Big Ol' Pile of Balls, San Juan, Puerto Rico, before our 25th Anniversary Cruise)

Perhaps this series of romantic poems has given you a sneak peak inside my psyche.  You may not like that peek. Well, now we'll get sneakier.

The romantic poem below shows very clearly that I am a warm and sensitive man.  I am the type of fella who can sit on the couch, stuff his mouth full of Kit-Kats, and listen to his wife's problems without saying a word.  I mean, I can actually look like I'm interested.  Sometimes I nod.  Sometimes I say affirming words like, "I hear ya', sugar!" or "You betcha, honeybun!"  Later, my wife will fawn over me and, in caress, mention how appreciative she is that I have this caring side to my charming personality.  It's poems like the one below that have kept me in good stead for nearly twenty-seven years and made my wife cry before bed.  This is better than her crying after we go to bed.  The previous does wonders for my low self-esteem and makes me feel like I've actually accomplished something.  Plus, I sleep better.

Well, but I do love my wife.  I wish her a happy birthday and safe passage back from Texas this week.  I hope I will have her around many more years.  She's the only one I can write to.


I have decided to love you tonight.
The children are asleep, the dishes dirty,
The glasses empty of ice,
And in this moment I have made my choice
To love you again, to open my hands,
To withhold nothing from you.
Let us forget the misery and despair
Of the world, our work and stress,
And for tonight embrace
The comfort of each other.
I wish to discover
Some secret corner of your soul
Where your pain and heartache hides,
And where our love,
Unspoken, unashamed,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Far Out Romance

Immediately after her birthday party, Becky left for Texas where, for the past two days, she's been driving around by herself in a rented car, talking with a twang, and spending all of her birthday money.  She will return refreshed and eager to make my life a living hell.

But while she is away, I've been thumbing through my hundreds of romantic poems and have settled on this little gem.  I can't remember if Becky read it (heck, maybe I didn't even write it for her!) but I think it's a lovely thought. 

The Cosmic Mysteries of Black Holes

There are points in space
Consuming light and matter:
Dark places science cannot explain
Where galaxies, like a double-helix ladder,
Empty to a pull like a drain.

And in the infinitismal cosmos
Of the heart, which Einstein proved
Is not the shortest distance of a straight line,
You are the point toward which my world has moved . . .
Just in the nick of time.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Old School Romantics

One thing about my wife . . . she has a great sense of humor. Has to have this to be married to me. Plus, we have a history. Our first "date" was with each other when we were freshmen in high school (14 years old). So, now that Becky is fifty, I remind her that she's older than most of the teachers we knew way back when.

Oh, well. Here's a poem that can double as romance or light verse. In this new age of internet dating sites, it's good to know that some love wasn't born digitally. There's still love the old-fashioned way . . . with bribery, threats, and a father standing on the front porch with a shotgun. Happy Birthday, Becky!

The Old Married Couple Reflects on Why They Didn't Need

Ours was not love at first sight
Or born of some insatiable lust . . .
This came later, in hindsight,
And was the plan that we discussed.

Ours was not filtered through the lens
Of jealousy or deep respect,
Nor any online disciplines
Of mutual goals or intellect.

Ours was no love that, prearranged,
Decided probability,
Nor individually estranged
Toward deep compatibility.

Ours was the work of sacrifice
Assuming no love is a given,
And then we touched the merchandise
And kissed our little piece of heaven.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Moonlight Serenade

On Monday night, I had a surprise 50th birthday party for Becky (I thank you for your cards and letters). She was surprised when guests began showing up at the house. I had made her believe we were going out to a very nice restaurant for caviar and Cabernet . . . but I'm sure, if she had thought about this, she would have realized it was a lie, as I have never taken her out to eat at any restaurant fancier than Wendy's. Value menu. No dessert. And she picks up the tip.

But she seemed surprised. She also feigns surprise when I hand over a romantic poem. "You wrote this?" she'll ask. "Or you copied this from a book?" She's often incredulous when it comes to me writing romantic poetry to her. Still, here's a nice sonnet she wouldn't mind if I shared. Happy Birthday, Becky!

(Note: men, beware of using poems like this willy-nilly with your woman. These are powerful forces that cannot be tamed!)

Full Moon

This moon tonight has never shone before,

Nor cast its light among these darkened trees:

No aid to Homer as he spun his lore,

No comfort to the death of Socrates.

There was no moon like this among the flowers

Wet with Roman dew, nor when the rain

Blessed multitudes and kept faith in the hours

Before the golden age of Charlemagne.

This moon was kept in secret for tonight,

For such a time as this, where, idly by

We rest inside each other in its light.

And in embrace, we stare into the sky

Which gives no answer, nor asks the neutral night

To tell us this is love, nor reasons why.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happy 50th Birthday Becky!

Today marks the half-century mark for my wife, Becky . . . and since she never reads my blog, I thought I'd share some of my romantic poetry this week, perhaps even some of the weird stuff she's never read. This might entice her to tune in. I'll also give her some of my best thoughts . . . the real deal, the kind of poetry that editors will actually publish.

It's no secret that I don't purchase birthday cards. I write my own. And I wrote this little dingy a few days ago in honor of her day. Happy Birthday, Becky!

At Fifty

I don't know what you've read

About women in bed

Who believe that their moves are still nifty,

But dear, it's no lie,

I'm suprised you're still spry

And can still do the mambo at fifty.

You've still got the whim

And vigor and vim

To get jiggy wid' moves that are shifty,

And Lord knows I'm no pup

And I just can't keep up

With the fire you're still burnin' at fifty.

But one thing I know

That wherever we go

Your zest will be nothing like thrifty,

And I'm thankful, you see,

That an old guy like me

Still gets loved by a woman who's fifty.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Coming Attractions

On Monday, April 4, my wife Becky will celebrate birthday #50. She doesn't know it, but I've been preparing a special blog series just for her. This will be tricky business for me, especially since my wife doesn't read my blogs, nor much of anything I write. Nor does she care, for that matter.

Starting Monday, I'm going to post some of my "romantic" poetry . . . stuff I've written for her over the years. For some time I've tried to write a poem each week expressing my love or some other base desire. Many of these poems can't be shared, of course, as I don't want to be arrested on obscenity charges. And others . . . well, my wife keeps them rolled up in her panty hose drawer and cherishes them. I can't share any of these, either. (Though I must confess I do send some of the best ones to editors and some of these poems are forthcoming in various journals. I'll surprise my wife when they are published.)

But the hundreds of others I've written through the years are fair game, and I'm going to showcase some of my romance poetry as a gift to my wife . . . and perhaps for all the other lovers out there. To all the gentlemen: feel free to read one of my poems to your wife if you think she is naive enough to believe it and love you for it!

So . . . stay tuned. See you here on Monday for my Romance Poetry Week. I'll try to make Don Juan proud.

Friday, April 1, 2011


There are certainly ebbs and flows to productivity as a writer . . . and currently I'm going through a dry spell. I'm writing (quite a bit, actually) but the synapses just aren't firing. That, and it seems that publishers have all but ground to a halt. This may be the longest period of time I've experienced writing without a contract (two years now). For a writer, it's like being unemployed.

Not that I haven't had interviews and sent in resumes or had acceptances from magazines. I've got more book proposals, books, essays, stories, poems, articles, and satire in my arsenal than ever . . . but no one's giving the nod. Publishers just aren't biting. I've sent more emails, made more phone calls, mailed more letters to editors over the past year than I ever have. My agent is shopping handfuls of my book proposals . . . but it's like the Sahara desert.

And not that I have anything else to do at midnight or four o'clock in the morning. My wife is still in school taking night classes and writing papers, my high school junior son rarely makes an appearance except to eat four plates of food, and two weeks ago our dog was very likely eaten by coyotes. I used to talk to the dog (my best friend) but now there's nothing to do but write. (But I have split and stacked about five ricks of wood too, so I'm still good for something.)

Dry spells always end. But I've been thinking about writing essays about dogs, or perhaps a book about lumberjacks.

Next time I see my wife, I'll ask her what she thinks.