Editor & Publisher of the St. Croix Review.
With the family inside and the world out
I so happily locked the door at night
Because it felt safe and even though the
Children were quite disruptive somehow we
Became accustomed to the noise — and we
Reasoned with them and I had to learn what
Patience was that as tired as I became
There were necessary chores to do — but
Now we’ve all transformed and our small home was
Left behind and it’s not necessary
Anymore to be protective because
My son and daughter wouldn’t care much for
Continuing instruction as they have
Grown — though I’ll never stop being a dad.
It is a turning
of the wheel of parentage
that children require
and careful relinquishment.
As if I were trying to sneak a look
At his cards to see what he’s doing he
Holds back and won’t communicate how he’s
Considering his options what he wants
To do what he thinks he’s capable of
Becoming — it’s time that he makes his way
That he determines a direction and
I know he doesn’t have to get it right
There’s wide latitude — it’s not a lifetime
He’s planning just the first few steps and then
He may reconsider readjust and
Change course but how can he know what’s best for
Him without testing his abilities
And discovering how the world responds?
Because he’s done it
because he’s reconnoitered
a father may guide his son —
but the son may be stubborn.
So I was in the square in Paris just
Before Notre-Dame Cathedral after
A year of schooling at Oxford having
Scored well with the teachers and being a
Young man with prospects for success who was
Free of responsibilities and yet
I couldn’t be happy — now here you are
Accomplished graduated prepared to
Be an engineer a young man with no
Obstacles except that you’re unhappy —
Is the world to come so threatening so
Imponderable it’s hard to begin
Or is misery merely a habit
You must overcome? You will find a way.
I’m not able to give you
exact guidance as
in matters of the spirit
we each have our own puzzles.
I believe so and I feel so and the
Two cannot be separated — belief
Fires emotion instantaneously
If circumstances so align that I
Am triggered by events — I believed from
Childhood I was unlovable and so
I was disappointed hurt resentful
And couldn’t be otherwise because I
Believed a lie I had taught myself — a
Child jumps to conclusions about himself
About people without knowing and he
Misperceives — how could it be otherwise?
Because a child is only a child and
It’s an adult’s job to reconsider.
So I ask myself
what do I really believe?
Is it factual?
And if I’m deluded
can I believe differently?
A kid is open to believing just
About anything and so giving care
Has lasting implications and even
Love may not be enough to save him from
Unhappiness if there is chaos or
Bitterness within a home — even in
A warm home it’s possible for a kid
To form handicapping beliefs — so he
Will come to conclusions about whether
He’s good lovable capable heading
For a bright future or not and the most
Loving parents may foster a healthy
Kid or maybe it’s his destiny to
Struggle and remember his parent’s love.
They don’t come without
and propensities —
even while wearing diapers
It happened suddenly our cat George died
And I miss him so because there’s not a
Cat as sweet as George in this world — and so
I told my friends of the loss and so Jane
Remarked she let one into her home when
The winter was bitterly cold enough
For the tips of his ears to freeze away —
And he’s been passed among friends because Jane
Has three others but he was returned to
Her — so now we have him and I’ve named him
Henry — he may not understand me yet
Or he may be stubborn independent
But I’ll keep trying when he comes to me
By repeating Henry Henry Henry.
He may not accept
his name yet but he’s chosen
as a cat will choose
all the best places to sleep
and whom to curl up besides.
When the native peoples walked for water
This same valley was here resonating —
They called a section “Stillwater” because
The water spread between limestone bluffs —
Iced-over river and overcast sky
Slopes of bare trees and snow the clean cold air
The quiet settling among the bluffs
Prepare this place for reverberations —
Sioux and Ojibwa fought in a hollow
Lumberjacks floated rafts of logs down steam
A frontier prison held the Younger Gang
And steamboats plied the townsfolk with supplies.
Pioneer Park has a southward view
For sunrises and sun speckled water.
In Pioneer Park
A name is a sacred gift for a life —
To give a name to christen a baby
Is to bestow an intention and a
Wish for joyful life — May you be Kristine —
A parent’s love accompanies a child
Throughout her passage with her name meaning
May you be wise good and loving like Christ
May in all your days you be moved with love —
Kristine is a lovely name a woman
Should cherish because of her parents’ wish
For her but a name is only a word —
The essence of spirit is ours to choose —
May she remember her parent’s wishes
May she do her best to honor their gift.
Each object we touch
is just temporarily
so — it’s transforming —
each thing eventually
vanishes into nothing.
I heard of a child left behind at a
Gas station — she was forgotten — later
Her parents left her at a swimming pool —
In a big family assertion is
Necessary — abandoned — worthless — these
Thoughts created a foundation so she
Can never get enough attention to
Undo the expectation she will be
Forgettable — how easy it is to
Damage a child and how difficult
To heal a mind once the poison has been
Digested — is she exceptional or
Do many carry such burdens? Stories
Reveal the layered depth of suffering.
Childhood traumas are
so easily forgotten
effects may permeate a
lifetime with painful thinking.
Do you remember your first friend beyond
Your family the first intimacy
When you discovered there were secrets to
Share and with innocence you gave such trust
And you discovered how much fun it was
To delve and roam about the neighborhood?
My family moved to Minnesota — that’s
How I lost my first friend — so we do find
New friends many come and go but along
The way come betrayals disappointments
So that we acquire a measuring
Facility for how much trust to give —
We each have layers of experience —
Some preserve a gentle sincerity.
cannot be preserved
but we can be circumspect
and also practice kindness.
A rascal put a
snail shell in a
rumble has rattle
curlicue in curves.
Today Matt’s a six-foot banana on
The sidewalk. He’s standing still but moving
Along the roads of Fridley attempting
To make commuters laugh — he’s driving a
Segway — a T-shaped stick with wheels — sometimes
He’s Gumby Spiderman a Coke bottle —
He was a soldier in Afghanistan
Was shot in the head suffers from headaches
Memory loss and can’t work so he wears
A costume looking ridiculous and
Tries to impart happiness to people
Passing by — he wants to turn around a
A bad day a stranger may be having —
His sense of humor has the best of him.
What do you give your
attention to? How do you
use your energy?
Is there something you can do
To turn bad luck to laughter?
[Matt Burr lives in Fridley, Minnesota.]
He was moved with compassion for the slaves
Declared the nation must choose slavery or
Freedom when none wanted to see the truth
He knew the choice could not be evaded —
Thoughtful and grave with a far-away gaze
Burdens settled on him so he became
The master of himself and of many
Hot-tempered men contesting Civil War —
The north fought to preserve union and law —
Not to free slaves — Lincoln understood the
Temper of his people knew not to waste
The slaughter of soldiers so he waited
Until emancipation could succeed —
He was the only one fit for the job.
Sadness troubled him
compassion moved him to lead
strength sustained him through
thousands of battlefield deaths
may he be honored always.
Before they have leaves again notice the
Branches of trees — some hang limply others
Beseech the sun with rising limbs — naked
Branches have a barren look contrasting
With the greening grass but soon the budding
Leaves emerge again and what today is
A twiggy multitude will be a profusion
Of leaves attuned to the sun and swaying
In the wind — sunlight and warmth and the earth
Persevere— from my childhood the trees have
Communicated to me peacefulness and
Stability — they stand resonating
With the wind creating soothing voices
Succoring my too human frailties.
does undulate through the trees
does resonate through the leaves —
New leaves emerging are like a baby
Absorbing light — we may appreciate
Their new connections but we’re observing
Not experiencing — leaves and babies
Crossing a threshold joining us in life
From roots to leaf from parent to baby
We multiply being consuming light —
What is happening in a baby’s mind?
A warming face a swirl of colors but
When do distinctions emotions emerge?
What comes first emotions or perceptions?
How soon does the baby begin to choose?
A parent loves being holding taking
Care — the tree and leaves simply absorb light.
Along a spectrum
of living beings people
are quite proficient
in seeing comprehending
but we do have our limits.
Words not said are inaudible yet there
Was an impulse — anger not expressed is
Invisible though there was the urge — how
Should I behave when I want you to do
Well but I don’t see you trying? You have
So much talent — why aren’t you moving? Do
Something — I can’t remove the fear myself
Can’t make you move don’t want to compel you
As I’m not God — I don’t see the subtle
Expressions of my face when I’m with you
So maybe my frustration comes across
In minute gestures — I do what I can —
You are so much like I was at your age
And then I didn’t want anyone’s help.
It’s a mixture of
memories and emotions
complicated — balancing
is so important today.
He rests his head on the piano leg
Turns his brown eyes to me — George the house cat —
He yawns and gives me a quivering chirp
A friendly utterance from slouching George —
George is not a kitten anymore though
He doesn’t seem a grown-up either — it’s
Nonchalance and innocence — he really
Has no duties and I impose no chores —
He knows my habits in the night and leads
Me to the necessary room but he
Leads more slowly than I would choose so I
Slow down to his pace — hard to go around —
Because George is large and doesn’t hurry —
He’s much too charming to be upset with.
George hasn’t a mane
isn’t on the savanna
doesn’t have a pride
but he is brown and does have
a complacent majesty.
Again Thomas Lincoln led the oxen
Caravan traveling the fourteen days
To a fork on the Sangamon River —
He hewed a cabin with a saw and ax —
Thomas was a poor carpenter — once he
Scraped a “half-faced camp” a shed with three sides —
They lived no better than bears in a cave —
Abraham’s mother died of milk sickness —
Abraham Lincoln learned arithmetic
By doing sums on a wooden shovel
He shaved off the surface by the fireside
To renew his labor — perhaps he had
A year’s schooling altogether but he
Read the Bible and Robinson Crusoe.
spoke the truth and
told it precisely.
Editor’s Note: The information in these two poems was recorded by John T. Morse, Jr.; he gathered his record of events from many sources. John Morse was the editor of the American Statesmen series published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge in 1899. Mr. Morse wrote Abraham Lincoln, volumes XXV and XXVI; the relevant chapter is: “The Raw Material” in volume XXV.
Is there a triter subject than a rose?
They are mostly just stems and little leaves —
Yes their velvet petals are enchanting
But the contrast with their thorns? Overdone —
As common as the sun or moon in verse
Who hasn’t read poetry belabored
With roses? I’d rather see some other
Flower — peony or chrysanthemum —
Yet I adore the resonance of “rose”
And the certainty that every human
Has beheld the sun and moon and roses
So to become one with humanity —
What everyone has beheld I behold
Too what everyone has loved I love too.
Yellow rose petal
Within this sheet of paper are raindrops
And also the clouds from which rain came
Reside now within this white form that was
Once a tree that has become a poem —
Without the rain drops to nurture the tree
The expression of the tree paper and
Poem could not be — the minerals in
The soil also live within this paper
Because without minerals soil has no
Potency — the magic of the sunshine
Rises off this paper to warm your face
While I communicate to you with words —
The logger the road maker and the mill
Worker each have labored for this paper.
is a fact and the magic
is a mystery
and the mystery is deep
though it happens everyday.
Such things too
take part in
the bloom —
and vine roses.
My mind is a bowl pondering a response
To a friend who has gone missing who said
He has no friends whom he can rely on —
When we meet again what will I say?
My mind is a bowl containing tension
Between a zeal to persuade a woman
To submit to my arrangements while also
Measuring my own too frequent breath —
My mind is a bowl receiving the sun
And amidst the blue sky are moving clouds
But there suspended is the moon
A faint white crescent in the morning —
My mind is a bowl and an offering
Of my best intentions for the day.
Crescent moon in the
blue sky of morning —
a hole in the day
You burst before my eyes and snatch my sight
Swallow swooping rising diving turning
Turning as if you were a whirling blade
Turning and then vanishing into sky —
But you humble bee lumber in the grass
So plodding ponderous and purposeful
Wanting to get your nectar and go home
Serving the manufacture of your hive —
I can’t resist the urge to grab a toad
To turn it over and gently squeeze it —
Is it frogs or toads that give the girls warts?
I suppose it’s either but I don’t care —
I’ve spent an hour playing in summer
And so escaped a dreary winter day.
Cold winter days
and frozen toes and
constantly frozen toes —
a thaw and warmth again.
tastes like banana
only a tongue
can taste banana —
I have the joy.
Asphalt Driveway Co. (1978-1981)
I was privileged in summers long ago
To work on the crews who put in asphalt
Driveways and we came in our tall trucks with
A tractor a roller and a paver
And also our muscles and the skills we
Honed as young men with gusto learning the
Required tasks — like standing on a load
Of asphalt while the soles of my boots burned
And shoveling from the truck down to a
Wheelbarrow because that’s the only
Way to get the stuff to an odd place — I’m
So grateful to have done that work because
Within my layers of experience
I learned simmering determination.
I am proud of the
exertion I expended
disporting a maul
a shovel and a pickax —
I grew a capacious heart.
Willie might not impress you on the street
As he was just too thin and tanned almost
Black and the sun is not kind to exposed
Skin and his brawling drinking smoking ways
Weren’t upper crust but as the chief on an
Asphalt driveway crew he was a master
Craftsman sizing up the job timing the
Arrivals of the trucks and the movements of
The grunts from the seat of his tractor as
He tore up the old and sculpted the ground
With an eye attuned to the drainage of
Water and he raked the underlying
Stones and then the asphalt spreading so as
To lay a perfect surface — state-of-art.
Willie was wicked
with mercurial rages
stupidity or even
for no discernable cause.
Grunts: prideful foolish given to displays of strength.
So Davey folded the plastic rings that
Connected a six-pack of pop into
A single ring and with both hands grasping
Behind his neck he so tore it apart
And Joey spastically shoveled stones
In the correct general direction
And he drove trucks the same way hastily
Weaving in traffic with a hot load of
Asphalt and there came a day I had to
Prove myself so I swung a pickax like
John Henry and the next day they let a
Surplus guy go and kept me and with my
Boot I balanced on an empty pop can
And with my fingers tapping crushed the can.
The chief has mastered
all required skills before
he drives the tractor
and he is the general
A tamper is a steel tool a pole with
A square end that’s used to put a raised edge
Alongside of an asphalt driveway and
I had a good eye for tamping a long
Straight line and the crew chiefs wanted me as
My work was a nice finishing touch — I
Was happy because I kept working and
I’d found a skill setting me apart and
I enjoyed riding from job to job in
The back of those tall dump trucks wearing a
Bandana but not a shirt feeling like
A pirate or gypsy encountering
Curious expressions from passersby
Because I was a member of the crew.
It doesn’t take much
to encourage a young man
to entice him to
work like a raging demon —
just give him some belonging.
A roller uses two cylinder wheels
That we filled with water and it’s about
Twice as big as a golf cart and I went
Forward by pushing a lever forward
And backward the same way and one day I
Was rolling pressing a just laid driveway
Going right to the edge of a ten foot
Drop enjoying an easy interlude
Between hard labor and I pulled back on
The lever but the roller kept on so
I jumped and down it went boom boom and like
A cat I landed with my heart going
Boom boom and I might have been dozing a
Little beforehand but then I woke up.
a mechanical failure
a ten foot drop and
produced a happy ending.
It was a joke we enjoyed — four of the
State government road crew were leaning on
Their shovels as one was shoveling — though
There might have been a little envy too
Because we were like skinny feral cats
From the moment we arrived at the yard
There was ceaseless motion before dawn to
Returning past the evening twilight and
Through the heat of the summer days and the
Only reliable rest I could have
If there was room in the cab was to doze
On the way to the next job otherwise
I’d stand in the dumpster part of the truck
With my arms over the sides holding on.
Such a test of pride —
to lift a wheelbarrow
and hurl it up and
over the side into the
dump truck about ten feet high.
Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .
It is obvious in many who engage in or watch politics and governance: cynicism. My hero/commentator, Charles Krauthammer, is an admittedly proud cynic, expertly honed to see underlying motives. Charles sees motives, goals, and likely results: self-promotion predominates, solutions ignored, Americans without power suffer, and problems accumulate - the veterans who die waiting to receive medical care while VA managers hide waiting lists so that managers win bonuses is a poignant example. The Veterans' Administration is not being run for the benefit of veterans but for the benefit of VA managers, which epitomizes the nature of bureaucracies.