Category Archives: nostalgia

A Decade of Poems

The milestone of a new year is upon us, and it also signals the beginning of a new decade.

To mark the occasion, I wanted to revisit some of the poems I’ve written here over the last ten years. I sought out poems that seemed to resonate (number of views) or were meaningful (due to events of the period).  Plus, who doesn’t love a good list.  I write here because it is an easy venue to share.

So, here goes… My top ten poems of the last 10 years.  I didn’t start regularly writing until 2011.

From 2011, Poet Biographies

From 2012, What to do when there are three heels in your loaf of bread

From 2013, the chnott and the sarborant

From 2014, Gratifying

From 2015, Sonnet for Longing

From 2016, Immersion

From 2017, Puzzled

From 2018, Maybe

From 2019, That’s me

I wish you all the best in 2020.  I hope you will return to taps and ratamacues to read and comment.  I appreciate all of my readers.

Happy New Year!

What Sweeter Music

Traditions start as single activities.

A one time event makes an impression so that it is planned for again in order to recapture the excitement and joy of the first one. Nothing celebrates holidays like traditions.

I had the fortune of growing up in a musical family. Both my father and mother were music teachers and my two siblings and I had lives that were intrenched in music lessons, church choirs, band, piano, choir concerts, etc. No time of year was more filled with music than Christmastime.

At early ages, my sister and I would wear out the phonograph playing my father’s vinyl albums of the Robert Shaw Chorale “Hymns and Carols Vol. 1” and the Harry Simeone Chorale “The Little Drummer Boy.” I don’t remember the first time I heard them, I just remember listening to them every year. This grew into my own tradition of seeking out and purchasing a unique Christmas album each year. My collection on CD is extensive. 🙂

When we were slightly older, perhaps tweens or so, my parents taught us a Christmas carol to sing for our relatives after we made the long car trip to Grandmother’s house – in 4 part harmony. It kept us engaged and perhaps kept us from fighting over spots in the back seat. Our first carol was an arrangement of Deck the Halls, followed in subsequent years by several Alfred Burt Carols. It became a tradition throughout our teens, with my oldest brother contributing the final carol we would rehearse and perform as a family unit (written in a fit of inspiration during his first year of teaching and sent to my parents as a Christmas card – much like the Burt carols).

A most memorable tradition began soon after we had moved to Arkansas in the early 1970’s. My father had become the choral music director at (then) Arkansas Polytechnic College, a place that at the time was known for its band program but never had much of a choir. I suspect that he decided that he wanted to give a grand Christmas program one year. Preparations would always begin the Friday/Saturday before the concert with the search for the appropriate Christmas tree to cut and bring into the main lobby, the crafting of decorations, and last minute rehearsals. The program grew each following year and would begin with small ensembles singing in a pre-concert venue around a Christmas tree.

Antiphonal brass and choirs would perform from the open balconies of the music department lobby. Processional pieces that involved brass and organ announced the start of the program. Unique stage decorations such as large evergreen wreaths of cedar and pine or a mock stained-glass window would adorn the center of the stage.

There were exciting new choir pieces and familiar favorites and the community came out in droves year after year.

My father passed away a few months ago, and these memories have been a comfort these past few weeks. I am fortunate to have a soundtrack for my memories of him, and much of it is Christmas music. Here is a top five (ok, six) list of Christmas musical moments influenced by my Dad.

1. O Come all ye Faithful (Robert Shaw Chorale)
2. Come Dear Children – Alfred Burt
3. Ríu Ríu, Chíu – Anonymous
4. XIV: The March of the Three Kings, from Hodie by Ralph Vaughan Williams (really this entire work, Hodie, is worth a listen)
5. His Yoke is Easy, from Messiah by George Frideric Handel

And finally, a moment of sweetness that expresses my father’s love of music greater than any song, poem, or piece that I could have written.

What Sweeter Music – by John Rutter

I encourage each of you to embrace your traditions, not only during this season of the year, but all year. It might be baking or going to events. It might be meals together or a hike in the woods. It could be singing or storytelling. It could be volunteering to help others. Watch them grow each year. Make something your own tradition and share it with ones you love.

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Images within this post are my own.

Now and then

It was entire durations of a dream, she stood behind me, not a sound.

Then a gleam of light hit the ground, a shadow fell and her voice sang a round.

Now, the memory a more abundant chorus than I recall

with my littered words that clash and brawl – my slumber at an end.

I never saw her face, neither that of lover or a friend.

Another day may bring her near, perhaps with some quieter verse to hear as when it was just then.

An unexpected drive

I saw the sun sparkle between the leaves

just before the outpouring of red and gold,

that moment of flux when everything is not new.

A bird flock undulated in our view.

A tarnished framework bridge sat to cross over

the creek, a connection between us and there:

A rusty reminder of the history of travels.

How many have driven this dirt road before?

Who else remarked upon the aging of the beams, has seen the streaming

brown water beneath.

The near-autumn sun advanced

upon the field.

An apple orchard in neglect to the left.

Weeds stood in contrast with the trees,

yet, apples continued to ripen and drop throughout the field,

leaving a sustaining memory.

The bird flock returned to a billow and thrum

and I drove on, following a ebbing sun.

Keepsake

I’ve been sorting through old keepsakes,
some photographs I’ve found are faded now,
these echo sounds of places where I didn’t go – faces that I do not know
I can’t decide how to store them all –
The sepia memories of what you saw,
The air your family stories hold
should last as long as when you told them.
And what you did is what you wanted
To do, and nothing worse hindered you.
Scenes of travel – and songs of yore
Some motets in your mind’s reservoir.
Carols sung in a cavernous forum
were more than just some Ipsem Lorem.
Choirs of men and women singing
Relationships brought into being
How, lovely – snaps you strived to make
No different than our own keepsakes.
But yours dwelled firmly in His grace –
and dwelling in your family’s place
Devotion and hymn live with us here
Led with your baton, and your voice as clear
as when you walked into a room.
My minds-eye sees you, feels you too.
How lovely, this reminiscence sounds –
Even if an echo now.
Listening to you in my head
puts my thoughts to this poem’s thread
of places where the music soars
and you’re step-singing an angel chorus.
The keepsakes of your melody in harmony with the little things,
And now they’re ours, for all to sing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This poem, a sparrow

I remember counting birds on summer mornings,
before the heat settled in,
I’d circle the house.
and count the sparrows and bluejays,
a robin or two and sometimes a cardinal.

A task that kept me focused
each and every morning – on small details
like the poetry now.
I looked for colors,
with hope that this time
I might see yellow in a warbler, a goldfinch,
the multicolored painted bunting
or hear a gleeful song that the mockingbird pretends.

The ominous black crow was not here, though venturing
near the field behind our house – I would hear caws
that echoed.

Tick marks on the page were used to tally,
and sparrows always led the count.
A swath of greys and brown, with patches
of blue and red, and always hoping for yellow.
The darkness far away.

This, before the summer heat settled.

Abandoned

The abandoned lines are welcome. They collect on scrips and pages.

Writing is something that I can not believe I will have time to do.

My first thought was to go back to the place where I was sitting.  For a time, I was simply there and trying.  Gardening, while a gang of robins followed me about the bed – inspecting my work.

The second thought was you. Somehow the verses always came as if you spoke them. You are not here and the poetry can be seen through; the language is not the answer. The rhythm is listless.

The drumbeats of my favorites are thrumming in the past.

I open up the door and get the mail from the slot.

There is a letter from a woman in Seattle, a postcard from a school friend visiting Niagara Falls, coupons for home improvement tasks, and a form letter guarantee for future savings – if I act now.

I write this all down for future projects, perhaps ones that could be emerald and glistening, for poems about lost souls and overwhelmed emotions.  For times when I need to cover. Maybe build a patio that sees the sky or install block windows to hide.

The abandoned lines are welcome, they fill the page and occupy my mind.