Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A Shared Bridge

This was "my" bridge for decades, 
a place where I would roam,
when things got too confusing, 
and I needed someplace to go. 

 Once a ship was tied up there, 
 (for many years it seems.) 
I used to sneak on her of night times 
and I'd sail her in all of my dreams. 

 This was the bridge that I rode across 
 on my bicycle built for one. 
On my way to the beach, or just fishing, 
this was my bridge alone! 

 Years had passed and I'd moved away
 yet still, this was the bridge that I'd see. 
Yes, this was the bridge that I'd lost until 
you came and gave it back to me!

 For Victoria Kanrek - long overdue. With affection and thanks! 
Photo by Victoria Kanrek

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Swan Lives

The swan swims, all alone,
in the pond he once called home.
His love has gone, he feared she might
be leaving all along.

Here, where they once swam, side by side
the pond now seems an ocean. Wide.
In a vacant gulf, filled with cries,
a sadness here presides.

And on he sadly paddles,
but his days alone feel wrong.
For as he swims he wonders how
long it takes to sing a swan's song.

Photo by Wendy Josephs

October 16, 2020


Monday, September 28, 2020

"The First Conspiracy" by Brad Meltzer with John Mensch (2018)


This is Brad Meltzer's first stab at non-fiction, and with the aid of co-author John Mensch, they have penned a truly riveting account of this overlooked chapter of the American Revolution. 

Long before Lincoln, Pinkerton and the Secret Service there was a group of soldiers assigned to guard General Washington 24 hours a day. They were literally called by the name "The Life Guards." They were armed, and stood close to the General wherever he was. Into every room he went, these men went with him. 

New York City, where the action in this book takes place, was a hotbed of espionage, skullduggery and counterfeiting during the Revolution. Governor Tryon, a Loyalist to the Crown, was forced to live aboard a British ship where no one could get to him. The Mayor, a noted Tory himself, was likewise in seclusion. But they were not idle.

Among the plots and sabotage emanating from Manhattan, were a band of counterfeiters from Long Island. They play a large part in this highly readable, well written book. Only out of their bungling does there emerge that there is a plot amongst a group of men who are members of Washington's own "Life Guards" to kidnap, and or kill, the General. The authors of this plot?  None other than the Governor and the Mayor!

This is a highly charged book which takes place on the eve of the Battle for New York City in June of 1776. The outcome is never in doubt. We won the war and Washington became President. The real story in this book is the beginning of espionage and counter espionage in America. It is a history that is still evolving over 200 years later, only now it continues en masse, and on a world wide stage and scale.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Rocks Stand

The rocks stand.
Attached, as if they've grown
to the boulders in the sand.
Always they've been known and seen
at this very lip of land.

The waves crash.
They land ferociously
and mark the anger of the sea.
Evermore they swell and break
as they have eternally.

The people come.
Attracted, as they are,
by the battle of this pair.
The rocks and ocean, locked in time.
Neither going anywhere.

August 26, 2020
Aquinnah, Martha's Vineyard
Photo by Wendy Josephs.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Moving Forward

Moving forward looking back
upstream to the past,
the boat moves slowly, downward bound,
while the current pulls you, fast.

Dreaming dreams of dreams that were,
idle thoughts lay ahead,
moving you forward while you're looking back
at a past you know is dead.

The memories draw you back upstream,
while  the future calls you down,
to a city where you'll live out your dreams
And your life will become your own.

August 22, 2020
Eduardo Cetner-Argentine painter
Photo by Debbie Cawdrey

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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

An Irish Tale

A man retires and moves to small village in Ireland. He finds the local pub and goes in every night. And he always orders three beers at the same time.

After a few weeks the publican says to him, "I can pour them fresh, separately each time and they will taste better."

The man says, "No, this is a family tradition. I have two brothers and whenever we drink, even if we're alone we drink together. And I guarantee you wherever they are tonight if they're drinking they're doing the same." The pulican says what a lovely tradition it is and things go on as usual for about 3 months.

One night the man walks in and orders only two beers. The word goes out to the village and though no one wants to ask the obvious question, anonymous flowers start arriving for him at the pub. The whole town appears to be in mourning, and the man finally asks what all the fuss is about.

The publican tells him, Well, we saw you're  only ordering  2 beers now, and if you wouldn't consider it prying, can we ask which brother has passed away?"

The man replies, "Oh, that? Me brothers are both fine. But I've given up the drink."

Sunday, March 29, 2020

For Aliyah and Trinity

I wish I could show you the seashells 
lying along the shore.
I wish I could show you the oysters 
that lie on the ocean floors.

I'd love to show you the sunsets 
in all the parts of the world,
With all the sunrises and moonsets
and the way the stars shine, just as pearls.

I'd take you for rides on a moonbeam,
and have you home before dawn.
So, when you awaken to greet the new day,
the dream would be lost in a yawn.

But somehow you'll know that I've been there,
the day will feel extra bright.
And, knowing there's someone who really cares
will make all your burdens seem light.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Pokey and Ted

Pokey is the doorstop,
Ted is his best friend.
They love one another dearly,
they're friends unto the end.

They greet me each time I go
through the bedroom door.
Sometimes I pick up Pokey,
while Ted sits on the floor.

I nap with Pokey by my side
and each time I awaken
Ted is steadfast by the door
my faith in him unshaken.

These two guys are really tight
as any fool can see.
With so much spare love to share,
there's even some for me!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Trick of the Light - Morning Sun

The sun comes in the window,

it makes the mirror glare.

Then bounces back across the room,
and warms me in my chair.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Peacekeeper - 1969

The small waste can bounced off of my brother’s head and he slammed into the picture frame, shattering the glass and cutting his wrist as he fell to the ground. The old man stood over him, yelling, “That’s your mother- she’s MY girlfriend and that’s who I care about!”

He was about to strike another blow, he was like that, given to seemingly out of control rages, though I had often suspected he was, at all times, by virtue of his outbursts, in perfect control. My slender, but firm, hand reached out to stay his arm as he arched it backwards. “That’s enough!” I yelled. “He’s bleeding!”

The old man stood back and surveyed the damage he had done. His eyes took in the form of his crumpled older boy on the floor, weeping; and the broken frame and glass which sprinkled the black and white tiles of the foyer, the blood on the wall, and he stared in disbelief.

I began to clean up the mess as the two former combatants, who had only moments before been so bold and loud toward one another, slunk away, as if by doing so they could undo what had just happened.

The glass was cleaned up, and the frame removed to some long forgotten corner of a closet. The old man finished cleaning and dressing my brother's wound, and then we all went to the hospital to see Mom.

It was Valentine’s Day 1969. My brother was 16 that day and wanted to see his girlfriend, whom he would later marry. My father wanted to have a little birthday/Valentine’s Day party in the day room at the hospital for my Mom. I just wanted to see her. And she just wanted to see us.

Why am I writing this story now, after so many years? What point am I trying to make? Only that the simplest of emotions, and the best of intentions, can sometimes both backfire and blow up in your face. There is no explanation for our emotions, sometimes there is only damage control.

Note: The photograph was taken in July of 1969 on a trip to Florida. The flag, at St. Augustine, is flying at half staff. I have always remembered this as being in honor of Senator Everett Dirksen, who had just passed away. Evidently my memory fails me, as Senator Dirksen did not pass away until September.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Bitter Man

'Tis a bitter man I am, man.
'tis a bitter man I am.
They didn't allow all that I can, man.
So, 'tis a bitter man I am.

They left me in a jam, man.
They did this and then ran.
Left me doing what I can, man.
Now, 'tis a bitter man, I am.

NOTE: Illustration by Fred Bernard.                                                                             

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

"The Boy at the Window" - Richard Wilbur (1952)

This is another of my favorite poems. The stark imagery of the outdoors; as endured by the Snowman; juxtaposed against the warmth and love which the boy experiences indoors; breaks my heart each time I read it.

And the sympathy of the snowman as he melts is truly amazing. Being born to die he has no fears at all, while the boy remains trapped, fearing the loss of the things which he only thinks he possesses; but which in reality possess him. (Photo of Sue and her snowman in 2017.)

"The Boy at the Window" - Richard Wilbur

Seeing the snowman standing all alone
In dusk and cold is more than he can bear.
The small boy weeps to hear the wind prepare
A night of gnashings and enormous moan.

His tearful sight can hardly reach to where
The pale faced figure with bitumen eyes
Returns him such a godforsaken stare
As outcast Adam gave to Paradise.

The man of snow is, nonetheless, content
Having no wish to go inside and die.
Still, he is moved to
see the youngster cry.

Though water is his element,
He melts enough to drop from one soft eye
A trickle of the purest rain, a tear
For the child at the bright pane surrounded by
Such warmth, such light, such love,
and so much fear.