Category Archives: southern

Water Cycle 2019 (after Newman)

What has happened down here with the climate change
Storms built in from the north and it started to rain.
Rained real hard and forever and a spell
And the bottoms filled up ‘round the lake at Dardanelle.

The river rose all day.
The river rose all night.
The bayous backed up in the flood.
Some bridges now are clean out of sight.
The river spread clear from the Ozarks to the Ouachitas,
Roaring water through the streets of Arkansas.

Isn’t it a cryin’ shame.
This is melted glacier water’s way.
The water cycle’s here to stay
Isn’t it a cryin’ shame.

The leader-man came down from that place he reigns
and a yes-man with an i-phone in his hand
The leader-man says, yes-man isn’t it a shame
What the water has done.
Where’d it come from, yes, watch it rain.

Isn’t it a cryin’ shame.
This is melted glacier water’s way.
The water cycle’s here to stay.
Isn’t it a cryin’ shame.

*******
In homage to Randy Newman’s wonderful song “Louisiana 1927.” The song has been rattling in my head for several days, as I continue to see remarkable and sad footage from a region of the US that I am very familiar with. I do not mean to look upon other’s misfortunes lightly or with malice, but I felt the need to say something. I hope and pray for the safety and quick recovery of all of those in harm’s way.

Listen

I’ve spent the week listening to songs
and paying tribute to old movie stars.
Ol’ Gator and the Crewe are gone,
the coffee pot is growling on.

The songs I heard are old and true,
yet still they sound like yesterday.
I send them out from me to you.
The coffee pot is growling on.

Ol’ Gator fought the crooked law
and justice served the Crewe at last.
Even bandits fight against their flaws.
The coffee pot goes growling on.

What could happen, which is worse?
Posed a voice I recognize.
Are our leaders so accursed?
the coffee pot goes growling on.

Where did all our heroes go?
I ask aloud – inside my head.
The lonely people – they all know
the coffee pot’s still droning on.

Songs and stories will often tell
us who we are to be:
Poet, lover, bootlegger rebel.
The growling pot has stopped, it’s done.

Dispatching the Doldrums

It is time to clear the cobwebs and write about anything.  Blog writing for me is  a way for me to exercise my creative skills and (bravely) share what I’m writing.  Every now and again, I like to share what I’m thinking/doing/reading/listening to/watching.

Watching

A week ago, I just finished watching Band of Brothers on Amazon, which was based on the book of similar name by Stephen E. Ambrose.   I  know I’m a little behind ( it first aired on HBO in 2001).  But, I didn’t subscribe to HBO then, and never invested in DVDs of the miniseries.  Wow.  An incredibly well-done set of vignettes from the history of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne during WWII in Europe.  It was produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks – it has much the same feel as Saving Private Ryan.  Each episode centers around a different event and focuses on a different character’s perspective.  My favorite episode involved the Battle of Bastogne, and told the story from the perspective of Doc Roe, the company’s medic.  He displayed courage and a singular ability to keep going in bone chilling cold under relentless bombardment, while keeping the men is his company in fighting shape and providing care to the wounded.  The scenes are graphic and the emotion is raw.  The miniseries drives home the point, that in war- there is no rest.  Even when you think you may get a weekend leave, something happens to call the company back into the fray.  After battles, you move on to the next line.

Reading

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a slow reader and one who is prone to start multiple books to find one that captures my interest.  Right now, I think have five books in various stages of reading.  Most recently, I started reading Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta, by Richard Grant. It is a true tale, a collection of tales actually, of a British travel writer (Grant) and his girlfriend after they decide to buy an old plantation home in heart of the Mississippi Delta.  Stories of Southern tradition, along with the tenuous combination of gentility, race and class, are told without judgement – but with a keen perception of the relationships involved.  This book is a great look into this forgotten region of the country.  Truth be told – I am related to people who grew up in this area of Mississippi, and am very familiar with the themes of this book.  The Delta is a both a wasteland and a land of riches.

Listening

I have eclectic music tastes.  I will listen to almost any genre, depending on my mood and as long as it is well done.  In recent years, I have become interested in Americana/folk styles.  I like the realness of it and how it can impact you emotionally.  With that in mind, I want to recommend music by a friend.  I met Mark Currey in high school, when we both attended a Gifted/Talented Summer Camp.  We were in the choral program, and were introduced to many different genres of music in the program.  We were encouraged to be creative in our free time, and it was obvious that Mark was a songwriter even then. I wrote in my journal in my free time- ain’t life funny.  We weren’t best friends, but we got along well. After that summer, we parted ways (like most everyone does), only to reconnect many years later via FaceBook.  I found out he had recorded an album, his first, in 2017.  The classic story of the Late Bloomer – I can relate.  His record, Tarrant County, is part Country, part Americana – and I encourage you to give it a listen. Mark has a very warm vocal style (he’s a tenor), and his lyrics are real storytelling.  You can download it at the either of the links above, or you can find it on streaming services.   There are some really nice musical moments, some thought provoking lyrics, but never overdone.  You might find something you like.

Thanks for reading.

***

 

 

 

Books and Thoughts

If you’ve happened upon this post – Thanks for visiting. Normally, I post poetry because this is a convenient outlet for expression.

If you’ll indulge me, I don’t feel much like writing poetry today, so I think I’ll just write…

Books I’ve read/am reading

I just finished An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears. I bought this second-hand on my birthday over a year ago. It is an ambitious novel, and the premise is intriguing – to tell the story of a crime from multiple points of view. The story is filled with twists, perspectives, unreliable narrators, and Dickensian description and dialogue – this aspect which made it difficult for me to engage (which is why it took me so long to finish it). The ending was worth the effort. And in thinking back on how the story was told and the details that the author integrated into each account of the tale, the work was well done.

As I tend to read books in batches to find one that latches my interest, the next book I finish could be among these: A Doubter’s Almanac, by Ethan Canin, A Killing Term, by Robyn Sheffield, Bloodline, by James Rollins, or The Shack, by William Paul Young. My reading interests are diverse. 🙂

What to do about Confederate Statues

I find the debate of what to do about statues to confederate civil war icons (note I did not say heroes) and symbols both troubling and cathartic. I will state upfront that I am a southerner, born and raised, though I have live much of my adult life in the midwest. During my childhood, I was enamoured with the romantic view of the south (Antebellum plantations, the Lost Cause, Civil War history). As a young reader, one of my favorite books was the Robert E. Lee biography in the “Who was” juvenile biography series ( along with JFK and The Wright Brothers!). My continued experience and education has helped shape a more well-rounded view of these events. I still have an interest in Civil War history and writers of that period, but do not hold such a romantic view of the South’s intentions and reasons for seceding. Nevertheless, I consider it an important part of our country’s heritage and growth.

Statues are reminders of history and should be contextual in their placement. I think it is impossible to not have statues of some of these figures of history, even if they were on the wrong side of the Civil War. Exclude those explicitly guilty of war crimes (You don’t see statues of Nazi leaders-and rightfully so- for this reason). Statues of Robert E. Lee and others are appropriate in certain locations – war cemeteries, battlefields, museums – but less so in other places – every deep south courthouse or public park (what is the historical significance?). I don’t understand why there are statues to Lee in Montana or Ohio. There is common sense that could be applied by local governments. Confederate flags should not be on display at public buildings, but are appropriate symbology at confederate battlefields and cemeteries (It’s probably OK at NASCAR races, too, because I don’t want to antagonize THAT many people) 🙂

What is troubling is the amount of time being given to extreme viewpoints and attempts to legitimize them, when their only goal is to disrupt peaceful discussion and incite hate and violence. Further, they have taken the iconography of confederate civil war symbols and combined it with the message and symbology of nazism and white supremacy. This is not American, nor does it reflect the context of our history. They don’t get to abduct this part of our history and manipulate it for their ends. Our nation was founded on principles of compromise and civil discourse. There are differences of opinion, and there are cracks in the foundation because we are human. These groups don’t get to weasel in between the cracks and put up walls to divide us. As Americans, we should not stand for hate or divisiveness. We’ve already fought over that and learned good, albeit painful lessons.

American history is rife with right and wrong, and lessons to learn. And too often, I think we place our 21st century perspective on events of the past without first seeking to understand the past. What is most important is how well the history is recorded. I see history as way to learn (as a society) from mistakes as well as point to moments of success together. Is there equal balance in books and essays and can the information be taught to succeeding generations so they have a good perspective of the issues of the past, the philosophy of the era, and what was learned from it. We should never aspire to go back to the way things were, but we need to shoulder our history and learn from it ways to improve moving forward. As long as we have books, and we teach and discuss the historical subjects openly and without bias, our history won’t vanish (as some of our fear-mongering ‘leaders’ have implied). Statues without stories give us nothing to keep the historical perspective and invite bias. Bias invites extremism and silos of isolation (people who think like ‘we’ do), along with walls and media outlets that fuel and inflame. And if we continue to build walls around (literally and figuratively), all we will accomplish is division. Abraham Lincoln had something to say about divided houses.

We are all engaged in telling the story of America much in the way I tried to describe the book I just finished. There are events that are observed and experienced by different people who bring different perspectives. The different stories can be skewed by personal motives, some are unreliable and others rooted in fact. America is still a young country by global standards. Yet, we fight battles as old as civilization itself – and it is important to remember -prejudice and hate have no place in our discourse. Don’t be fooled by prejudice disguised as patriotism – Our history defines our path very clearly on this.

Building

Knocking about the blue Mylanta bottles
we built forts and cities
in the shadow of a giant.
A bear of a man
– his friends called him Bully-
loud snores elevated
from his vinyl recliner
distant thunderclouds-
our war sounds a reminder.

Matchbox cars in play,
my brother and me,
with little green army men
their guns raised high above their heads.
We stormed the blue bottle castle as he slept.
The laughter of Korman and Conway
floating through the room.

He took us crawfishing once-
and to pick pecans.
He was Santa one early Christmas morning,
and I knew it.
But, I never knew what he liked to do,
or his favorite color, whether it was blue.
He built things,
but he tore them down too.
He helped Daddy build our carport,
but he was drunk most of the time,
so Dad sent him home.

He was just a big grandfather man
asleep in his vinyl chair again,
like a giant slumbering in his lair
in the mountains high above the cities fair
and fortresses of blue Mylanta.

*********
I wrote this poem in 2006, and just recently found it again. I reworded a few lines to make it less prose-more-poem. Relationships are sometimes complicated. My grandfather passed away many years ago- just a few years after these memories. And I’ve found that I never really knew him. But I think of him often.

lagniappe

Because mornings emerge from misty bayous
and moss that hangs and touches the sky-
a reflection in glass.
Because the thickness in the air wraps
the sunlight and holds it close.
The moments are a drawl, and a legacy of
stillness waits-
it waits between each drawing breath,
lingers between each morning glory
and rain lily-
a sweet kiss from a drowsy boo
and its momentary entanglements.
Even before the first note sounds
the blues, there is beauty conjured in the
slim to none spell-
and it is some kind of wonderful,too.

a foothold in the daisies

The clouds are just now learning how to speak.
There’s a foothold in the daisies,
and a slow descent of water from the creek
The sun is rising amber, slow and weak.

The melody of morning turns
it’s ear upon the repeat cooing dove
and smells of honeysuckle
wafted in from somewhere down the grove.

A single tuft of flowers out among
the complete scene of hurried traffic,
other places here and in-between-
a foothold in the daisies –
a shared embrace,
devotion to a yellow speck in space.

And safe return to where began this whole mystique,
and I am learning -just now- how to speak.