February 28, 2012

"Thomas Browne" by Ueno Wayne

Skull of Thomas Browne

Like the poet of Paradise Lost, I was born 
     in Cheapside,
And I was raised under the shadow of 
     Paul’s Cross.
My father, a silk mercer, from his craft 
I learned color,  pigment, how to pattern 
Style can make an Antiseptick to Decay.
With Thomas Clayton, ornament of Oxford medical men,
I lingered in Ashmole’s Ark. His Cabinet of Curiosities
Showed a mermaid’s hand and the pizzle of a dragon.

By my good wife I had ten children, of whom four lived,
And my delight was planting trees in groups of five.
Geometry and Anatomy were my Theology:
In an age of religious wars I diagnosed disease
Through the color of urine and timed the decay of tissue.
My Religion of a Doctor made me famous.
I loved Antiquities, like that Field of old Walsingham
Where were digged up forty-five urns,
In them two pounds of skulls, jaws, thigh-bones, and teeth.
Time which antiquates Antiquities and hath an Art 
To make dust of all things yet spared these minor Monuments.

I completed my own circle, dying on my 77th birthday.
Came the age of skull-duggery and they dug me up.
The sexton George Potter absconded with my skull,
Sold it to the surgeon Edward Lubbock, who
Deeded it to the Norwich Hospital Museum.
In 1922 Mancroft Church retrieved and reinterred it,
The vicar recording the age of the deceased as 317 years.
Who hath the Oracle of his Ashes
Or knoweth the Fate of his Bones?

February 16, 2012

"Woody Guthrie" by Ueno Wayne

Find a Grave

It was in a bend of the Sacramento River, Redding, California,
I come into camp one night from playing the saloons and two girls, twelve and fourteen, were singing to quiet a baby and strumming a guitar.
I hung mine up on a stub of limb, went down and stretched myself out and listened for a long time.
I just reared back and soaked in every note.
It was so clear and honest sounding, no Hollywood put-on, no fake wiggling.
It was better to me than the loud squalling and bawling I had to do to make myself heard in the old mobbed up saloons. 
And instead of getting you all riled up mentally and sexually, it done something a lot better, something that’s harder to do.
It cleared your head up, that's what it done, caused you to fall back and let your draggy bones rest.

The men who’d been in the saloons come down the trail to where they was singing--then the whole drunk mess of them stood there reeling and listening in the dark. Then they shushed each other to keep quiet and set down on the ground to listen. Everybody got so still that it almost crackled in the air. 
Two little girls were making two thousand working people feel like I felt, rest like I rested. 
Not a one of them talking above a whisper, and the one whispering feels guilty because she knows that ninety-nine out of every hundred are tired, weary, have felt sad, joked and carried on to keep from crying. 
These two little girls are telling about all of that trouble, and everybody knows it’s helping.
These songs say something about our hard traveling, something about our hard luck, our hard get-by,
But the songs say we’ll come through all of these in pretty good shape, and we’ll be all right. We’ll work, help each other, and make ourself useful.

If a cyclone comes, or a flood wrecks the country, or a bus load of school children freeze to death along the road, if a big ship goes down, or an airplane falls in your neighborhood, an outlaw shoots it out with the deputies, or the working people go out to win a war, yes, you’ll find a train load of things you can set down and make up a song about. 
You’ll hear people singing your words around over the country, and you’ll sing their songs everywhere you travel or everywhere you live, and these are the only kind of song my head or my music box has got any room for. 

Men squatted or sat leaning back against tree trunks. It got so quiet you could hear the lightning bugs turn their lights on and off. The old jungle camp was getting a lot of good rest there listening to the little girls’ song drift out across the dark wind.

February 15, 2012

"Albert Katterjohn" by Roger Martin

The Rev. Albert E. Katterjohn ministered at the Evangelical Church of Wright City, Mo., until his death in 1954, of a heart attack.  He was found lying on the floor of his bathroom, face half-shaven.
Wright City Cem., Wright City MO

We went to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play.  I expected it to be the climax of my trip to Europe but I must confess that it made but little impression on me.

I realize that the actors and the people of the community are good Christians; that is, as far as a Catholic can be a good Christian. And yet the play is doing more harm than good. Christ should be the central figure, but he was overshadowed by Judas especially, by Pilate, by John and others.  The man who played the part was not permitted to act and suffer as Christ must have.

He was scourged, the crown of thorns thrust upon his head, then he hung upon the cross. The nails seemed to pierce his hands and feet, a soldier pierced his side with the spear, the blood it seemed flowed out, it all seemed very real; and yet I knew that the man was not enduring pain and sorrow and it left me cold.

The resurrection scene was ridiculous. We read that a heavy stone was rolled before the opening of the tomb and that on the resurrection morn angels rolled the stone away.  But this did not occur in the play.  Instead Christ pushed the stone away himself.  It fell to the floor and one could realize by the sound it made it was only poster board. The ascension was not very good either. 

Anton Lang, the man who plays the part of Christ, put his signature to a postal card containing his photograph and you could have one for 12 cents.

The play may have impressed others in a different way from that in which it impressed me.  I am certain of one thing, and that is that if it is not proper or not right for these people to play, the Lord would put an end to it.

February 13, 2012

"Edd Self" by Michael Bettridge

Thalia Cem., Thalia TX
(Larry McMurtry country)
Click to enlarge

I was at my best,
if my-self only vaguely,
heard him approaching,
– we spoke of the Dodgers,
of listening to the radio, Vin Scully

in the rear
view –

I spoke of feed ranches and cattle,
of cow-boying, steering, branding in Thalia and then in
Pomona, where in-close the boy and I did live –
as nearly close as now on me he stands,
above me, in my ear, nearly,
his feet ground-ing –
trowel-ing, over-turning the mud
as if to un-irrigate the worms –

no, my Grand-son, the dear boy, is not yet up to sustaining
the long-distance narrative of my death

– it still is too early and too close to the bone

in the rear

we spoke of extending, yet –
yet, I entreated him to leave

he, at his pace
to that place at the stone,
where enough said is enough said

– now, let him be with
if even uneasily

February 10, 2012

"Frances S. Dabbs" by Thomas Dabbs

Find a Grave.com
Taken by Alzheimer's, too early, too soon

I remember love and the man,
handsome and spirited, 
easy to love, and more loved,
for the love he returned.

I remember our children,
their wandering spirits,
returning whole beneath
our abundant love.

I remember beauty,
freely given, my beauty
given from his eyes,
when elated, even in despair.

I remember when we understood,
his flaws were not flaws, but sickness,
a flyer's sickness,
a flyer who must crash to land.

I remember medicine,
his wholeness returning, our love,
my memory cracking, slowly,
like a windshield struck by a stone.

I do not remember the medicine
that did not help me remember,
the many years, the broken light,
the abundant tears of undying love.

Can the gentle mysteries
of wholeness and love remain,

February 7, 2012

"Lenna Earp" by Gerry Robideaux


Black Cemetery, Stroud Oklahoma
Lenna Earp, 1895-1914

I was born in Adair County Kentucky in 1895. My parents lived in Little Cake, if you can imagine a name like that. My dad was a day laborer--didn’t have his own farm.

I don’t remember just when it was that Daddy brought us all to Oklahoma Territory, but I do remember we lived on a farm in North Keokuk Township in Lincoln County near the big town of Stroud. I was fourteen and Daddy had his own farm.

On the next farm was a boy named Hughie Earp, which was homesteaded by his parents, and he was seventeen. I liked this blonde, blue-eyed man, so different from me with my brown eyes and long dark hair. He must’ve felt the same way for we married in 1912. He was nineteen and I was seventeen. Our parents thought we were too young to know what we were doing, but Hughie did a man’s work all day with his dad in the fields and raising horses, and I  knew how to keep house and take care of kids. I had little brothers and sisters.

Two years later we had a baby boy, and we named him Kenneth Hugh. He had my brown eyes and dark hair. Then eight days later I was dead from an infection. The doctor had come from delivering a baby calf at a neighboring farm and hadn’t washed his hands good afterward. 

They buried me in Black Cemetery northwest of Stroud. Hughie put up a beautiful tombstone there. It says, “We Shall Meet Again,” and “Gone But Not Forgotten”.

And his sister Coy wrote a nice obituary. It told how I was converted and joined the church, and about my marriage and the birth of baby Kenny. I liked the little poem at the end.

Heaven retaineth now our treasure of earth. The lonely casket keeps
and the sunbeams love to linger where our sainted loved one sleeps.”

I don’t know about “sainted,” but Elder Perkins preached, it said, “in the presence of a large audience.” 


February 2, 2012

"Evalene Blackburn" by Craig Andrews

Columbia, Boone Co., MO

I found each day a time
to pray and count
the bounty of my God.
The Lord gave
three daughters, six sons.
I never thought of times as soft or hard.
The Good Lord saw us through each day
some way though
there were times
I don’t know how.

With Dad, I’d get so riled
when he began to drink
because I had to plan
for all those mouths to feed.

It was not too long after all
the kids got grown,
when Parkinson’s disease
attacked my nerves.
Some days I felt like Job.
God was always there
for me though,
so kind and good.
What a blessing, all the grandkids.
I loved to write the birthday cards

and always put a dollar in each one,
earned from selling eggs.
Bless their little hearts.
The last ten years or so I could hardly hold a pen,
so much I shook.
but I think those little ones could read

what I had written there,

and of my life

those cards

must be
the only book.

February 1, 2012

"Walt Whitman" by Alan Botsford

Harleigh Cemetery, Camden NJ
Musings of young Walt Whitman, Brooklyn, NY, 1835

what do I know?
If I knew would I tell you?
who do I see?
If there be more of this to come would your eyes open?
what do I feel?
If joy were your birthright would pain be jealous?
where shall I go?
If wings the butterfly outspread could carry the earth, would spring be sprung free year-round?
when shall I arrive?
If by this forehead sun rejoiced, would moon approach us and be glad?
what do I do in the meantime?
If music be time, would rhythm be a dream?
who are you?
If I were you I would love me all the night through.
who am I?
If you were Pan panning for gold, you’d be panned.
am I a river?
You are the ocean.
am I a tree?
You are the forest .
am I a stone?
You are the mountain .
am I a student?
You are the teacher.
am I a child?
You are the man.
am I in evidence?
You are the proof.
am I a poet?
The universe is waiting...

Alan Botsford, editor of Poetry Kanto, is the author of Walt Whitman of Cosmic Folklore.
PK's blog is at: http://minandalan.blogspot.com/  and his website is: http://mamaist.com/