Friday, July 10, 2020

"Long Time a Child" by Hartley Coleridge

If you were to ask me to name the one poem with which I identify the most, it would be this one. And it has been, for many, many years. Hartley was Samuel Taylor Coleridge eldest son, so he had much to live up to! For me, with this one alone, he scored his place as a poet. The breaks are mine. The poem has long been presented as one verse. I have taken the liberty to do this for the sake of clarity. It is a beautiful, though sad, sentiment expressed with great skill.

LONG TIME A CHILD by Hartley Coleridge

Long time a child, and still a child, when years
had painted manhood on my cheek, was I,—
For yet I lived like one not born to die;
a thriftless prodigal of smiles and tears,
no hope I needed, and I knew no fears.

But sleep, though sweet, is only sleep, and waking,
I waked to sleep no more, at once o’ertaking
the vanguard of my age, with all arrears
of duty on my back. Nor child, nor man,
nor youth, nor sage, I find my head is grey.

For I have lost the race I never ran:
a rathe December blights my lagging May;
and still I am a child, tho’ I be old.
Time is my debtor for my years untold.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my Mom's 91st birthday. I remember her voice very well, singing and playing the piano, which still stands in my living room/dining area. It was purchased in 1964 and has been with me since she passed in 1984 at the age of 55. I am now 10 years older than she was at the time. So, it's not easy to think of her as old.

She was ill for much of my childhood, often spending 6 months of the year, or more, hospitalized for all forms of digestive issues and cancers. Growing up was like an emotional yo-yo, which of course I didn't understand at the time.

She and my Dad met in February 1947, when he was just 17 and working at the Kingsway theater as an usher.

She had just graduated James Madison, the same school I would attend years later. She was taking voice lessons and auditioning for the chorus of Broadway shows, planning on a career in the theater.

My Dad, a year and a half younger, was still in Maritime High School aboard the SS John Brown, a Liberty Ship used by the Maritime Union to train Merchant Mariners. He was living in Manhattan at the time. My Grandmother had been forced to move from the house on 32nd off Kings Hwy after my Grandfather died. But, for whatever reason, he was still working in Brooklyn on Kings Hwy.  (The Brown currently resides in Baltimore, just near the submarine Torsk,  aboard which he also served in the Naval Reserve out of New London, Connectticutt.)

The whole courtship thing came to a head when my Mom was about to take a job in the chorus of "Oklahoma" in a road company, which would keep her away for months at a time.  Similarly, Dad was about to sign on as an Ordinary Seaman and ship out to ports unknown for months at a time. So they had a lot in common.... they were both leaving to begin their own lives.

But their hearts held sway, and love, not one to be ignored, won out. They were married in September of 1950 and together until her death 33 and a half years later in 1984.

Her last few years were spent in bed writing stories about her illness and also her childhood. Since I'd lived through the illnesses my favorite stories were her childhood ones. I hadn't been there at the time they occurred, so her stories were a window into another time, in the same neighborhood, with some of the same characters I was growing up with.  One of my favorites was the one about the "I cash clothes man", a few of whom still roamed the streets when I was about 4 or 5 years old.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you and the phone calls we shared, with me calling from foreign ports whenever I could. And you, always there on the other end.

Note: Photo cropped from my Mom's girlhood album. She is 13 years old and seated    on the roof of 3619 Bedford Avenue.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Find Me In the Middle

You'll find me in the middle
almost each and every time.
Right there in the bullseye
where there is no yours, or mine.
Yes, you'll find me in the center,
Almost each and every time.

The place which I inhabit
has no me or you,
and if I can't talk to us
then who can I talk to?
The place which I inhabit says
One and one's not really two.

Stop and think about it
and see if you agree,
there is no we in me or you,
'cause one and one ain't three.
It's why you'll find me in the middle,
just as plain as plain can be.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Wise Ould Owl

Wise ould owl;
beady eyes which seem to prowl.
A proud and quiet fowl;
who suffers not - the fool.

Wise ould owl
presiding with a scowl.
Would your verdict be so foul,
t'were you on the Dunce's stool?

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Squirrell Story - 2003

Story time. True. We lived in one house where we had squirrells in abundance and I decided to feed them all. "Bobby Peanuts" would forever be my name, and one long remembered by the squirrells as a Saint of sorts. Well, what do the say about the best laid plans, etc.....? I fear it to be true....

I bought 25 pound boxes of peanuts, raw. Put them by the sliding glass doors in the kitchen which opened to the porch and the woods. Every morning I would feed the squirrells, and they came by the score!

One morning I woke, went down to the kitchen and there they were, peeking in the door at the box of peanuts. I joked with Sue that this was cute. They were probably scheming on how to get in. What do they say about "many a thing said in jest, etc.....? Again, I fear it to be true.....

Fast forward a few weeks. I'm in bed, home from work and there  is a scampering in the attic. I realize it's the squirrells and I'm so happy! Like in the cartoons, a squirrell family safely in the attic for the winter. I slumber awhile, with a smile for my new housemates. What do they say about the best of intentions, etc....? And, once again, I'm about to find out just how true these sayings are....

Another fast forward, about 3 weeks. Snow's gone, spring has sprung, but my winter guests have now become permanent residents in my home. One has even found it's way into the fireplace and hijinx ensue when I have to chase him out of the house, all the while looking at the confusion in his innocent looking but beady little eyes.

It was at that moment I knew that they were working their way through the house, trying to find their way to the peanuts! Plus,by now Sue is aware that squirrells are chewing through walls, wires, etc., destroying our home for the sake of 25 pounds of peanuts. As the one who brought them into our home, I was now in charge of evicting them.

So, I contact a humane, live animal removal service to do the heartbreaking work for me. I'm figuring on bait trap cages, carry them out and set them free. Still another old saying about no good deed going unpunished is about to be poven true......

After 2 weeks we have not caught a single squirrell, and they're still coming and going from the trees to the roof and into the attic. So,the humane animal control guy sets up a trap to prevent them coming in anymore.

The very first night a squirrell is trapped by his tail and left hanging upside down to die. I call the animal removal guy and he says to leave it hang there for a week so the other squirrells get the message.

Now, our house looked something like the gates to the city of London around 1450. They used to leave the corpses of recently impaled, or otherwise similarly executed persons, hanging there as a warning to other would be knaves. Only this time it was for the squirrells!

The whole thing came to an end when we had a carpenter and roofer come over to recap the screens on the chimney and repair all the damage they had done inside the attic. And of course I was forced to stop feeding the squirrells.....

Saturday, May 2, 2020


My world is pretty small these days. Still, I manage to have some amazing things happen to me in this reduced sphere. Take the squirrels as an example.

We moved in here 1 year ago this week. In that  time we've  had deer and all kinds of birds. Then came the squirrels. And of course I have to feed them. And then I need to have one eat from my hand, Central Park style. It took over 8 months but I did it.

One now eats from my hand daily. Just wraps his lips around the peanut and we both let go at the same time. He doesn't tug at all, and never uses his teeth. It's a wonderful feeling of connection as we look right into one another's eyes. They don't  carry rabies so you're risking only a nip.

Now that was cool enough but today he slipped and his paw touched my finger as he got his nut, and we both just looked at one another and then he left. Came back about 4 PM and this time I held my finger out and he took it while he got the nut. It's such a cool feeling because these ain't New York squirrells. Such a light  touch, I can see how he gets around so quickly. Pretty cool , huh?

Sue was there and almost got a picture. We'll keep trying!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Zeus and Hermes

Zeus and Hermes came disguised as ordinary peasants, and began asking the people of the town for a place to sleep that night. They had been rejected by all, "so wicked were the people of that land," when at last they came to Baucis and Philemon's simple rustic cottage. Though the couple was poor, their generosity far surpassed that of their rich neighbors, among whom the gods found “doors bolted and no word of kindness."

After serving the two guests food and wine (which Ovid depicts with pleasure in the details), Baucis noticed that, although she had refilled her guest's beech wood cups many times, the pitcher was still full (from which derives the phrase "Hermes's Pitcher"). Realizing that her guests were gods, she and her husband "raised their hands in supplication and implored indulgence for their simple home and fare." Philemon thought of catching and killing the goose that guarded their house and making it into a meal, but when he went to do so, it ran to safety in Zeus's lap. Zeus said they need not slay the goose and that they should leave the town. This was because he was going to destroy the town and all those who had turned them away and not provided due hospitality. He told Baucis and Philemon to climb the mountain with him and Hermes and not to turn back until they reached the top.

After climbing to the summit ("as far as an arrow could shoot in one pull"), Baucis and Philemon looked back on their town and saw that it had been destroyed by a flood and that Zeus had turned their cottage into an ornate temple. The couple's wish to be guardians of the temple was granted. They also asked that when time came for one of them to die, that the other would die as well. Upon their death, the couple were changed into an intertwining pair of trees, one oak and one linden, standing in the deserted boggy terrain.