Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy Holidays!


I'm writing from the coffee shop this morning. The train is warming up across the street, and after the huge rains we've had over the last few days it is turning into a cloudy and hazy day here in the mountains.


The tourists are gathering in the coffee shop, waiting for friends and having their coffee before boarding the train, or heading up to the shops, to find that last minute Christmas gift.


So here we are, heading toward the huge holiday and the end of the year. Did all your wishes come true through the year? I hope so. I hope you were able to experience your heart's desire, that you were loved, and that you loved in return.


I pray that if you were not able to start that poem or novel you have been dreaming about for so long, that you will be able to make the time to do it next year. Remember, it you don't tell the stories they will fade away and be lost.


My wish for you is that you will be blest during this holiday season, and that you will be a blessing to someone. That you will smile, and that you will share a smile with someone. My greatest gift his season is to be surrounded by friends and loved ones. I’m going to put down my pen, and go and hold babies, and take a moment to thank God for what he has done for me.


Have a wonderful holiday season dear friends, and I’ll see you back on the porch in a few weeks.
My poem for today is from the same assignment I gave out last month. Use a line from a song or poem for a prompt. No reading this time because I’m updating from the coffee shop. Louise Gluck used this first line in one of her poems.


Remember the Days
Acknowledgements to Louise Gluck

Remember the days of our first happiness
when I sailed home,
hitchhiked over Hawks Nest
sea bag full of gifts from far places?

No clothes but those soiled by African soil.


All of our furniture hand-me-downs.
A Christmas tree we had to cut in half to make it fit.


How you worried that I would be disappointed
by your baby bump after being gone for so long,
and all I wanted to do was to hold you both.


Remember how quickly the years passed
and we had more than we needed
our kids had kids, and everything changed.


And now when the silence overtakes me
the one truth that I still know for sure
is that if I were coming from far places,
I'd come home to you,
in these the days of our happiness.
**********

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Staying Warm

As you can see, we’ve had our first snow in the mountains. Another one is sweeping across the country. I hope you’re safe and warm where ever you are. I'm in and staying warm.


I’ve been fighting with my writing. I guess all writers have been through that kind of week or two. It’s all part of the process, but it is frustrating, and you do realize after the struggle has gone on for a few days that the thoughts are correct, and instead of ego you need to use some common sense. It’s not about the poetry.


Poetry and I have a love hate relationship. I’ve fought it, loved it, hated it, even divorced it for a few days, but not to worry we’ve reconciled and don’t need therapy or anything.


It’s about the mystery I’ve been working on. It seems to think I don’t need a location I thought was major to the plot, and some characters have strolled in, demanding attention. So, that’s what I’ve been doing, and I know you understand because you’ve been through those kinds of dilemma with your own writing. So, when I’m not around for a few days, I’m working, and that’s good. I haven’t heard from very many of you for some time. Hope all is well with you and you are putting pen to paper. Send me a note if you get a chance. Of course comments on my poem and suggestions are always welcome.


The poem I’m sharing with you today was prompted by an assignment I gave the Blue Ridge Poets and Writers for the meeting that’s coming up this month. We were to take a line from a song or poem and use it as a prompt for a small bit of prose or a poem. So, here’s my effort.

Michael Makes a List

He moves closer to his drink.
Pulls a fresh napkin from the pile
and whispers,

Even now I can make a list
cover this napkin from front to back
of what the protected don’t know.

1.
It’s not always the bad boys who skip school.
Sometimes the bruises are just too fresh.

2.
If you run away at Christmas
you wont even get a shirt.

3.
You can tell it’s Friday by the
smell of whisky in the kitchen
and the broken glass on the linoleum.

4.
It’s better to be cold on a bus
than warm at home.

5.
If you die tomorrow
most people would say
they knew it would happen.


© Robert W. Kimsey 2009




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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Update

Well, I can once again see that I need to do some catch-up. I always have good intentions with this blog, but it just seems like this time of the year there is so much to get ready for the cold weather, get ready for the holidays, get ready for church activities, and get some writing done, and then getting ready for a nap needs to be put in there someplace.

Anyway, here’s an update. I have finished reading two books over the last few weeks. Dan Brown has done an excellent job on The Lost Symbol. I suspect the tourists will flock to Washington D.C. to see the hidden secrets he has mentioned. Sure did get some insight from him for my own book. All that action in just a few days sure keeps the reader ready to turn the next page. I also finished Patricia Cornwell’s book The Body Farm. I have no idea why I have never read it before, but I can tell you, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As far as poetry is concerned, I am going through a Ryan Adams book called Infinity Blues. You might know him as a singer/songwriter. Some of the poems are raw, very personal, and beautifully written. I also picked up Poetry of the Golden Generation Volume II. Some wonderful writings from southern poets.

The Blue Ridge Poets and Writers had a reading a few weeks ago in a local church. We were given supper, and then we had an hour to read. The room was filled with over 90 people, but the first timers were able to read with confidence, and I was very proud of the group. The feedback has been good, and before we left I think most of the readers gave the poems away to people who asked for a copy.

So, a few weeks ago after all the rain we had here in the North Georgia, and you might have seen this on the weather channel, or read about it, a stone the size of a bus came off the mountain and brought trees and other debris with it, blocking the road a little west of the 1996 Olympic kayak and canoe site. Well, that’s not far from my home, and when I want to go “to town” that’s the way I go to Chattanooga Tennessee for a day of shopping. We are told that it will be closed for at least two months, so there goes any Christmas shopping we had planed to do there. Well, I mapped out another route over the mountains, and that was no good, so I got out the computer and put in all the stores I wanted to visit, and headed south toward Atlanta, but hoping I could do everything before getting that far away. It was a great day, and the wife and I found everything, and finally rested in a bookstore before heading home that afternoon. This will be important to know later.

On a personal note, a week or so ago I was sitting with some men I meet with regularly, and they started to harass me about how sad and morbid my poems are. I informed them that talk like that really bums me out, and I would try to do better. So, on my trip to the “big city” I looked for inspiration, and I think I found it. Here is a draft of my new poem. Would you call it a prose poem, or just prose, or something you’d rather not say? You be the judge. Have a wonderful day, keep smiling, and have fun.

Rant

So, I’m in a book store fifty-eight miles from the house, and I’m at a table close to the magazines reading a poetry magazine because I’m really tired of buying it and then seeing a half a dozen poems and the rest advertisements, and commentaries and interviews by somebody who has no idea how to ask a question without adding words they just discovered from their thesaurus, and someday I just know one of these poets will ask them, are you just stupid or something, and what kind of silly darn question is that anyway?
So, I’m about ready to put it back on the shelf and out of the stacks comes this beautiful woman in blue jeans and a blue pull over shirt. She walks around my table and stands at my elbow looking at bride magazines, and you know how they put the good magazines under that middle shelf, and that’s another pet peeve of mine, but anyway she bends over to see them, and everything separates, and I’m looking at this triangle with straps going in three directions, and it’s red with white stripes, or white with red stripes, and it’s really close to my face, and honest, all I can think about is, that just doesn’t go with that blouse.


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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veterans' Day Thoughts



Well, there I am in 1967. The third bunk up. I didn’t need much in those days, just three meals a day and a place to put a picture of my love.

I’ll write more this week, and I want to tell you about the reading we had last week, but today I want to say a few words about Veterans’ Day.

As I look back over the history of my family I see the names of men who have served this country proudly. All of us knew the truth of the statement, “Freedom is not free.”

It was easy to pack my bags, so very long ago, and exciting to put on the uniform, but I didn’t know the anguish of the loved ones who waited, until I was a parent and my son was the warrior.

My prayers are for all parents of those in the military, and my heart is breaking for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

And to those men who taught me how to be a man, by word and deed, I just want to say that I am proud of you. I love you very much, and thank you for your service to this country.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Time Off




Wow! I can see it has been a few weeks since I’ve been here, and I didn’t mean it to be that long, but as you can see from the pictures I’ve had visitors.

Ladybug and her sister Scooter came to visit, and my house hasn’t been the same since. It has been a year since Ladybug has been here, and she has really grown, and was comfortable to move right in. Soon after the car was unloaded she had an army of dolls and a library of books scattered around like a minefield in the living room. My writing partner Oreo decided that under the table was the best place to be, and was confused the whole week about which stuffed animals belonged to which one of these creatures. That’s how confused she was. To her credit no stuffed animals were destroyed during the visit. And another thing, I never realized there were so many different princess dolls, and of course they all have names and do special things.

Scooter has never visited, but was a good baby all the time. I named her scooter because when she is awake she wants to go someplace, anyplace, but hasn’t figured out just how to do it so far.

After the tears and the last waves goodbye I went to bed with a cold, and relaxed for a few days with some old movies and Dan Brown’s new book.

By the way I didn’t write anything at all during the week, but those kisses and hugs sure gave me ideas and a lot of good memories. I went on a hayride, and we hid behind some giant pumpkins, and fed the donkeys, and walked up the dirt road, and collected rocks. All those good things we forget to do when we are older.

So, I’ll get back to it, but for today I’ll share a poem for all my girls.
Note to Our Girls

There will come a time when the
memory of us will hang like leaf fire
smoke on the crisp fall air.

Swirling around you our touch and kisses will again
brush your cheeks, whispers of love will again
make you smile as you did when we held you
close to our beating hearts.

It is our promise to you, and if on that day you evoke us
with our names you will hear our laughter high up
as we float on loves soft breeze.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writing Lists



In Ray Bradbury’s book Zen in the Art of Writing he makes this statement.
“But along through those years I began to make lists of titles, to put down long lines of nouns. These lists were the provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface.”

I make lists. Lists of words I hear or read, words I hear spoken in the mountains, first lines of songs and poems, and names of towns I travel through. It’s just a natural thing with me. Over the years I’ve made lists for camping trips, bird lists, flower lists and lists of books I’ve read. Filled notebooks with ideas and prompts for writing. The words obsessive, compulsive come to mind, but lists have kept me going as a writer, and have pulled me from times when I thought I couldn’t put another word on paper.

The reason I mention this subject is to introduce the poem I’m going to share and read for you today. It started from a list of scientific terms and branched out from there. What do magnets do? Why do we use mathematics and what is theory? Are any of these metaphors for relationships? How far can one person be from another? All questions that produced a list that walked me into the poem. The last two italic words can be changed to mother/daughter, brother/brother, or may speak of a religious relationship. All would fit, and can make the poem universal.

If you’re a writer, keep lists. They will help when you need inspiration.
Have a wonderful day.

Point of Return

There is a point on the face of the earth
where a person can’t get farther away
without being closer.

Out there, seas and mountains of our
own creation are positioned between
loved ones, and when each moves,
the magnets of indifference
push the other away.

It’s all science, formula,
quotient, similar poles,
until love refuses twisted logic
and in forgiveness
whispers

Father,

and whispers,

Son.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Southern Trail



Well, I’ve been working on the problem of having my poems available to you in an audio file. Maybe I’ve got it worked out.


The poem I’m sharing with you is called Southern Trail. It’s about the road where I lived in Kentucky. For hundreds of years the road had been a trail leading south from the Shawnee Indian lands in Southern Ohio, and continuing on toward the Cherokee lands in Tennessee.


Before I was born the trail had become a road into Kellen Hollow. Many years ago I read about the spring at the mouth of the hollow where a group of men were camped and attacked by the Shawnee with only one escaping.


My Grandfather built our house over that spring. The names of the people in the poem will not be known to many who do not know the history of that region. A wonderful book about that area is called, The Frontiersman by Allan W. Eckert. The three men mentioned were the heroes of the Ohio Valley, where I grew up.


Today the house is gone, the road has been paved, and the name has been changed. The only thing that remains is the Shawnee Spring, still coming from the hillside, still cool and clear.


Southern Trail


Remembering Kentucky,
the Kellen Hollow road,
my first steps there, dirty feet
on the way to the sycamore tree.


The Shawnee Spring had been there,
will be for another thousand years I suspect.
A resting place for Indian and white men
all. Was my first bath and drink,
joining their numbers.


Tecumseh, Kenton, Tygart,
all walked this way along the great trail.


I am just a poet, of no import,
but as a child, and as a man
I have always hoped that I would
someday meet them there
beside that dusty trail.


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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On the Hill


I was looking through some pictures the other day. I’m trying to determine the ones I want to use in my next chapbook. In the process I found some pictures that I have always called On The Hill pictures.

That’s one of them on the right of this entry. They are all taken in Kellen Hollow, and on the only spot with a good background, the hill just above the road, and near the rabbit hutches. The hillside has changed over the years. There was a garden there, an apple tree, and the chicken house stood just out of sight on the right. The building on the left is the garage with Granddad’s workshop.

The house was a brick building originally built for use as a store with living on the second story. It is where I sat on the steps and learned the stories of my family and friends. Where I became a writer and artist.

Whenever the family came for holidays or weekends, and if somebody had a camera, a picture was taken on the hill, more times than not.

The people in this picture are my Father and his brothers. I don’t know who that is peeking around the corner. I’ve written poems about all of them. Two of them are gone. I think this picture was taken just before I was born. If I could, I’d love to step into this picture and tell them all just how much they have meant to me over the years, and hold them in my arms one more time. Each one taught me something that made me who I am.

I’m sharing this prose poem with you today about what I imagine happened with my Uncle Ray (second from the right) when he saw my Aunt again after many years. She was special, and so was he. I miss them very much. As time goes on I’ll share more about these brothers with you.

Whispers To Marge
When tomorrow never comes, I think I will know you when we meet again. I’ll walk up to you on some crowded street, maybe an outside market that we were so fond of visiting. We’ll not speak for a few moments. I’ll tip my hat because men will once again wear fedoras, and you’ll see me as a younger man, dressed in a white suit like in a Humphrey Bogart movie. You’ll still be as beautiful as you were when I saw you that last time in the hospital. For a moment you’ll not recognize me, because I’ll be dressed unlike I was in that other place, but finally you’ll smile, reach for my hand, and we’ll walk around the corner, to the house we always dreamed would be ours.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Looking at My Notes



Hi Friends.

Well, the notes and words I wrote in the mountains have given me some good ideas for poems. I also have spent some time over the last week transcribing the ideas I recorded while I was driving. So, now that I have all of this information I guess I need to get down to some heavy writing.


This morning I was playing with some Sedoka I started in the mountains. Remember, the poem with the 5-7-7 5-7-7 syllable count? They are fun to write, and they keep the words at a minimum, and the pictures sharp. It’s a good way to getting back to writing if you’ve been away for awhile.


While doing that I have thought a lot about this blog, and what I might do to change it for the better. If you have any ideas, please let me know. If something’s not working I need to get rid of it. I’ve been thinking about doing an audio file of each poem I have here, and having that available when you visit, so you can hear the poem as you read it. Might work, so I’ll see what I can do.


I’m working on a new book of poems, and since the first book is out of print I’m thinking about doing an audio book with those poems and stories. I’m keeping busy. I hope you are writing also. I’ll see you the next time.


Coyote


Shifty eyed rascal
Looking over your shoulder
Your reputation follows


Keeps getting closer
I hear you crying at night
Lamenting your shameful life


Storm


Aspen leaves turn up
Elk move to sheltered valley
Wind screams through high pine branches


The storm closes in
A wolf pounding at the door
I dream of you beside me


Monday, September 14, 2009

First Day on the Road



A little over a month ago I packed my “stuff” turned on an alarm that didn’t need to be turned on, and at four in the morning I kissed the wife, patted the dog, and headed west. In an hour or so I was through the gorge and headed for the Mississippi River crossing. In the early afternoon I was in the rolling hills of Arkansas, and by the time I decided to stop for the night I had driven 800 miles. The excitement had resurrected the child in me, and I had made notes for poems and stories all day, and my recorder was full of my ramblings.

There had been wonderful moments during the day. The passing scenery, and the thoughts of loved ones and friends, that I wouldn’t see for some time, brought ideas that had been hidden from me. Birds I had hoped to see sat in the fields and trees along the road, and sang at the rest stops. I met an old man sitting outside a camper reading his bible, and we talked about his trip to see his children in the east, and how his wife had passed a while ago, and how much he missed having her on trips like this, and I knew there was a poem there just waiting for me. Those moments were special, and others stick in my mind like the one time during the day that the world slowed down as a car came at me across the road divider, and I looked into the frightened eyes of the other driver as the wire fence caught him and began to shred his vehicle, and the few moments after when I stopped and gave thanks that the fence was there at just the right instant to save me.

That night I spent time in the worst hotel room I have ever been in, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve been to 33 different countries. I didn’t think it was that bad until I rolled over and fell into the hole in the mattress. It was like sleeping on the edge of an abyss all night, but heck, I was on an adventure!

The next morning I headed for the flat lands before turning north toward the high mountains and trout streams. Driving across the plains I watched the fences flash by, and remembered a poem I had written when I first made this trip, and saw the debris hanging on the barbed wire.

I’m happy to be back on the porch with you, and I’ll have more to share later, and a few new poems.


Barbed Wire

There are some days I feel like a fence.
A strand of barbed wire for every year.
Different debris on each level.

The lower strands almost unseen now,
covered over, or rusted away
all memories back into the weeds.

Many are bent against the other
from someone climbing up the years
taking it all, unbearable weight
unable to keep the tension.

Seems like everything that rolls
everything that could happen
hits me square and sticks there.

They’ve not been all bad.
There’s been great moments.
Golden flags in the solar wind.

I guess that’s life.
Catching moments as they roll,
keeping some, letting others go.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fishing and Writing


Friends,


Sorry I haven't been on the porch when you've come by lately. I'm in the high mountains trying to find some willing trout, and some poems. I'll be back in a little while. I just didn't want you to come by and not find me. I'll see you soon.

Have a wonderful day.

Robert

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Birthday Ramblings



So, it’s my birthday. I’m doing those exciting things that us ancient ones do on that special day of the year. I went to an appointment to get the car lubed and checked out, so the time in the waiting room was pretty special. It was quiet and the others waiting didn’t know it was my birthday until my friends called and sang to me, then it was very funny to the whole dealership.


My wife gave me a card, and as usual it was one that was special and tender. She bought me a new pair of waders for fly fishing a month or so ago. She always knows exactly what I want if I beg long enough.


Looking back over all those years I can only say that these years are all icing on the cake. God has been good to me in all ways. Others had predicted my demise many times, and I agreed with them, but here I am.


I have only been troubled by one birthday. That was the one that I knew I was too old to return to life on the sea as a military man. I had not planned on going back, but it was just the fact that I couldn’t. I was no longer the warrior, and had to move into another phase of life.


I’ve had friends that have stayed in contact all these years, and have made friends that will be special for years to come. I’ve seen wonderful miracles. Seen friends healed and prayers answered. Seen high mountains and flat seas. Loved and been loved.


I’ve been given poems that I am proud of, and have seen people that I have helped go on to be writers and artists.


I have children and grand children, and for my age I am in good health. I have family who care where I am, and what I'm doing.


Soon I will go on my yearly walkabout, because my wife knows that no matter how old I get there is still an adventure to be realized. That is something pretty special.


So today is outstanding for all that and more. Thank you for sharing it with me here in North Georgia, on my porch, on a sunny August day.


I Don’t See

I don’t see as far as I used to.
I remember being able to see past the horizon,
steel ships crossing from one ocean to another,
a young man on the bridge tanned by a southern sun.


Farther still seeing the river of Eden and north to the
great desert, always looking ahead for an adventure.
Seeing dreams coming true.


A wife and children just as I saw them walking out of time,
just as I saw them, and the years passing like a movie
in fast forward up to this day.


Now while I strain to see out past the mountains
it all has become a mystery to me, and I take my glasses,
picking them up with my grandfather’s hands, as the young
man stands in the shadows, and smiles.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Early Morning Thoughts


It’s early in the morning. I couldn’t sleep, but not because I was hungry. These poems need very little explanation. I’m so very fortunate to have shelves of books, a good home, three meals a day, and people who know where I’ll be sleeping tonight. It’s not just the poor that need you today. Somebody you know is lonely, or just needs to hear your voice. Take a minute, and we’ll talk more next time.


Get Up

Get Up
GET...... UP, you’re thinking about the game anyway.
You’re looking sideways at Janet Thompson’s legs
anyway.

Get Up
Walk back the aisle. Don’t think about
the stares, the whispers, or the preacher.
Push open the double doors at the back of the sanctuary,
run down the limestone steps, across the flagstone walk,
past the parking lot full of shiny cars, and up the street.

Run to the corner where the old woman
sits on the grate, wipes the snot from her nose,
cracks the snow from her hair.
Walk up to her and beg her forgiveness,
rip your pocket off, and give her all the
money you have.

Maybe
Maybe
Just maybe then, you’ll really know what
to pray for, and what the truth is.



Hollow People
Cincinnati 1972

The hollow people of the city are kept north of 13th street by police batons and threats, where they wont spoil the store windows and the suits can walk to lunch without seeing reminders of the real world.

Up there above the parkway where the canal used to be they wait for lunch at the Catholic Church and sleep on cots in the mission. Others who know the secret, walk along the Race Street wall and fade from view into the shadows where the transformer vault is hidden beneath the sidewalk.

Under cardboard they are warmed by the green boxes and sleep to the hum of electricity flowing through copper coils. A few blocks away the office workers, cubical sitters, and bank presidents are giving them comfort by just turning on the lights.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Keepsakes


Do you have any keepsakes? You know, a memento, something you hold dear, or something you picked up or was given at a special time. Something you wouldn’t sell or give away, but will pass it along to a special person someday.

Have you ever lost a keepsake? I lost a pocketknife once, and looked for days and then years for it. I whined and cried around so much my wife bought me a new one, but you and I know that just isn’t the same. Then one day I put on a suit I hadn’t worn for years, and there it was. I was like a kid. Just goes to show you how often I wear a suit now that I am out of the corporate world.

Do women have more keepsakes than men? I suspect some do. You wouldn’t think so if you walked into my office. Just inside the door on the left is a shelf full of my treasures. I was a navigator on a ship, and there is a replica sextant there along with my collection of compasses, with one special compass my Uncle gave me when I was a kid.

My Dad’s “spy” camera is there. Never mind that you can’t buy film for it anymore, I cherish it anyway.

Along with the pocket watch my Granddaughter gave me are my shells from the Persian Gulf, and my spear points from Africa, my lighter with the engraving of my ship on it, and a fly I caught a huge bass with many years ago.

Hidden away are my fossil collection and my arrowheads, and in my bedside table is the bible my Great-Grandfather carried with the cigarette papers still marking his place.

Do young people have keepsakes? Maybe it’s something we have to teach them about, like the stories of our past. I hope the poems I write will be a keepsake for my children, and they will want to pass them along.

I guess the reason I got onto this subject is because I talked to my Aunt the other night, and she and her girls are writing a cookbook together. My Aunt is a wonderful cook, and this will be something special. This cookbook will be written from notes on stained paper that have been passed down, and perfected by loving hands. It will be a gift to cherish.

I believe in keepsakes. They are our connection to other times, other places and other people long gone. They help to illustrate the stories that echo over the years and live in our hearts, and are passed from mouth to ear. A keepsake is a poem just waiting to be written.


Where are yours?

The Arrowhead

This shard of pale cream flint
taken from the shallow waters ¾
who dropped this deadly missile,
life or death tool, misplaced or
cast by bow and string
on some far ago day?

Was it stained by blood of beast or man
or forgotten in the frenzy of battle or flight?
Hours of chipping, the craft of a man,
no not savage: a tool maker, a warrior,
holding the pride of his work.

Now he sleeps with other warriors
from this valley, forgotten over the
centuries, but for this moment
he comes near and he and I
together marvel at this perfect gift
he left for me.


Robert W. Kimsey 2005

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Contest Woes



Let’s rest for a minute. I’ve spent the last day or so cleaning my office. I have no idea who came in and messed it up like that, but it’s better now, and I actually found some treasures that have been gone for so long I forgot I had them. Don’t sit there and smirk at me, you know what I’m talking about.

Since I’m dumping on you, I might as well continue. Have you entered any contests lately? The reason I’m asking is that I have spent the last week reading entries in two contests. In the first contest I am judging two categories, and they are poetry only groups. The last is a contest where prose was allowed with the poetry, but there were fewer entries. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to be a judge, and I am honored to be chosen. Now comes the big pause!

When judging I start with the format and contest rules or guidelines. If the contest says 56 characters and not more than 40 lines, why would a person send in a poem that covers two pages? Do you think that they figure that the poem is so well written or that it is such a wonderful and memorable work that the judge will swoon and say, “Let’s just throw the rules away, and give this person first place?” Maybe they don’t know how to use their word processor to find line length, and they think that the spaces between stanzas don’t count.

And what about the ones that have a paragraph written just before the poem telling why it was written, and what a wonderful story I’m about to read? And what about the poem about flowers and the sun rising that’s written in all capital letters, and I get the feeling that Little Red Riding Hood is sitting opposite me yelling at the top of her lungs?

Now you know why I drink decaffeinated coffee.

Deep Breath

Unfortunately at first read these things disqualify many poems and they go on the “NO” stack. There are other things that don’t disqualify an entry, but don’t always have a place in a serious contest, unless the rules specify otherwise.

Having everything centered on the page can be the mark of an amateur, but it can also be an important format for that individual poem, so I always take a look at format to see if it helps or hinders a poem. The poem that is shaped like a bird with the big space where the eye should be deserves no comment.

Some poems I’ve seen only prove to me that the poet was more concerned with getting something in to the contest to beat the deadline, and cared nothing about spelling, punctuation or form. It’s a shame.

Then there are the gems that come to the top of the pile, and I sit and have to turn my head to the wall, in the coffee shop, to hide the emotion I feel when reading a rare and beautiful poem. Those are why I continue to judge contests, and why it is such an honor for me to give that person an award.

If you are part of a writer’s group, encourage the writers to enter contests, and take some time to discuss what submission rules are, and what they mean. Help each other.

After all of that ranting I have no idea what poem to share with you today. Maybe this pantoum will calm us all down. Have a wonderful day, and I’ll see you here again soon.

Sacred Circle

As the medicine wheel turns
my soul walks the spokes.
Mysteries unfold to a seeking heart.
Years passing like shooting stars.

My soul walks the spokes,
while God’s hand turns the wheel.
Years passing like shooting stars
casting brief shadows on the wind.

While God’s hand turns the wheel,
mysteries unfold to a seeking heart,
casting brief shadows on the wind,
as the medicine wheel turns.

Robert W. Kimsey 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bug In The Car


Let’s talk about getting started. It’s never been much of a problem with me over the years. The ideas come from friends, family circumstances, pictures like the one of my Mother and I on the right, and many other places. I’m not telling you anything new here, in fact we have discussed this before. However, reading other writer’s poems is by far my best way of getting started. W. S. Merwin just knocks me out with his amazing, insightful poetry, and here’s a secret. I love women poets.

My collection of books has a majority of women poets, and there is one outstanding reason for that. They are so honest in their writing. They aren’t afraid to put words on paper, and to shed all outward shells, and dig down deep into the true meaning of what they feel.

Sharon Olds, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and others. If you can read those poets and not have images floating around you, well, do something else because this writing life just isn’t your “thing.” And there are many others. I found a wonderful book at a sale called The Oxford Book Of Australian Women’s Verse, edited by Susan Lever. What wonderful poetry! I love to read poetry from different cultures because they bring images to me that I may have never discovered about my own culture.

So, you’ve read, and nothing is happening, and you’re on a trip or just going to work, and there it is, a poem floating around your car like a bug that’s flown in the window. I used to grab a pad of paper from my bag and try to stay on the road while I jotted down crucial words and lines. It’s just like an older version of texting while driving. DON’T DO IT! Now I pull over and jot it down, or better yet I have a small recorder I keep in my bag for just those times. Yes, when stopped at a light people look at you funny, but you can just mouth the words, “I’m a writer,” and they will shake their head and look the other way. Don’t let those bugs of verse get away. You’ll never have them again, and worse yet, they might just fly out and into another poet’s window.

Here’s a new poem. It appeared on a long drive, but I’ve revised it, and read it to my critique group, and now I’ll share it with you. I’m sorry to return to this theme, but I think this is the last poem on the subject. Well, you know how that is.

Funeral Clothes

After 6 hundred and 33 miles, and 2 years
a night time phone call put me on the road.
Her husband’s voice, strained, saying,
your mother has had an attack
and maybe you haven’t heard,
her mind is leaving a little each day.
You might want to come.

So in the growing light of a new day
I packed a duffel, and on the hanging bar
carefully chosen, I hung funeral clothes,
and hummed to myself
as I merged with others headed north.

Two days of mountain roads and city traffic
long minutes before knocking on the door,
then there she was, small, in a printed gown
plastic band still around her black and blue arm,
a little girl’s smile and a hesitant caress.

Hurry she said, settling on the couch
legs pulled under a tattered afghan,
then whispered, see, there’s Roy.
Black and white cowboys on the screen.
A young man she once knew as Leonard.

A moment alone,
and the question burning on my tongue.
Mother, do you know who I am?
And the answer,
I love it when he sings with Dale,
don’t you?

In the growing light of a new day, I stood in the hall
decided not to wake her
afraid of being a stranger in her room.
So I dressed in funeral clothes, and hummed to myself
until I merged with the others, headed south.

© Robert W. Kimsey 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Family Thoughts



Hi,


I’m glad you could stop by today. I haven’t been on the porch for a while. Seems like the days just go by, and then I get to missing you, and think about what we might talk about when you arrive. Today with the wind in the trees, and the end of the storm that came across Big Frog Mountain last night, I have been thinking about family, and wishing they were here.


I am so lucky to have some special people that have loved me for a long time. I’ll always be the kid to my uncles. They have always protected me, and given me wisdom. Each one has a special gift, and I learned so much as a kid and a young adult. Some are gone now, but they continue to whisper to me with poems. Today I miss them more than usual. I want to share a poem with you about one of those special people. He was a troubled man, yet a genius with building and inventing, when the demons were away.


I know there must be a friend or relative who has made a difference in your life, and who you wish would be here on the porch sharing stories with us for just a few minutes. Maybe it’s time you wrote those feelings down. Here’s my poem. Eastern State is a hospital in Kentucky.


Eastern State


We’d drive down to Eastern State
and he’d come into the lobby,
wearing his own clothes,
ready to go home.
The demons left behind in rubber sheets,
cold water, driven away by electricity.

On the way it’s coffee and pie,
How’s Homer and Russ?
Damn Mama stop messin with my hair.
And silence.

Each time I’d watch him being reborn.
The wonder of wide-open fields,
showing in his eyes and
his hand rubbing the car seat.
Lazarus resurrected.

It was as if we pressed the button
on a stop watch, counting down,
time diminishing with each mile
from the hospital.

Time growing short
before the first drink
of this reincarnation.
At home Mama would insist on pictures
and he’d stand, hands in his pockets,
enduring, embarrassed.

An urgency would build in him.
A child sick of the ordinary,
picking at the old wound
as the time ticked away.

When he went out headed to town,
Mama would sit at the window
knowing he could only stay home for awhile,
praying it would be longer this time.

Longer before the call from the jail.
Longer before the burning of clothing,
the curses and the threats—
before the straight jackets,
apologies and tears.

He built the bomb of ruin slowly.
Ingredients of hops, yeast, distilled corn,
copper tubing, and a fuse of pills
was all he needed.

When the stopwatch hit zero
it all exploded around us,
and the litter of hurt feelings,
charred lives and sobs of pain followed him
on the long ride back in the ambulance.

We’d drive down to Eastern State,
and he’d come into the lobby,
and Mama would hold him
while he wept in her arms,
and begged to come home.

Robert W. Kimsey

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fly Fishing Day


The thing I fear about this blog update is that when women see it they will sign off. I hope not, because it is a look into the heart of men.

A few months ago I made a promise to a man I met. Since then he and I have become friends, and he’s just a great guy, one who anybody would be proud to call friend. The promise was that I would take him and his two sons out and show them what fly-fishing is all about.

I’ve been waving a fly rod in the air for forty plus years, and it is one of the great joys of my life. As a boy my father gave me my first fly rod, and I’ve waded cold and warm water streams since. Smarter men have said it, and I believe it, that in the heart of men is the need for an adventure. We still want to see what’s over the next hill, still want to fight the dragon, and still want to save the beauty. Our world has watered that down, and we have let it fly away like smoke on a morning breeze. God has put it in our hearts for thousands of years. Fly-fishing is my adventure, and it is a special time to recharge and listen to the whisper of the wonders of God.

I live within ten miles of a handful of wonderful cold water streams, that hold rainbow and brown trout that test the skill of any fisherman, and quicken the heart. Why wouldn’t I want to share this with others?

So, last Saturday my friend and his two sons met me, and we headed for a spot on a North Georgia River. After a few minutes of talking and some instructions I put the three of them on a grassy area, and they practiced casting for a while. Then I tied on my favorite flies, and herded them into the water. I was pretty busy. The boys, fifteen and sixteen were doing well, but I have a suspicion they doubted there were any fish there, that is until the sixteen year old caught the first fish. A beautiful ten inch rainbow. Then they all realized this fly fishing thing was pretty cool. My friend took to it like he had been doing it for years, and I could see his steady movement as I helped the boys. The fifteen year old caught a nice rainbow, and I couldn’t have gotten them out of the water with dynamite. By the end of the morning everybody had caught fish, and gently released them back into the cool water, and the smiles told the story of men hooked on a new adventure.

There are so many things men can pass on to others, and sometimes those things are more about our dark side. I’d like to see us return to teaching the honorable ways men should act and live, but maybe I’m just an old guy dreaming dreams.

I don’t know what these boys want to be when they grow up, but I know one thing, on a warm day in June they joined a society of men called Fly Fishers, and it is a blessing that I was there to share the time with them.


The Best Days

After the leaves have turned and just before the cold rain that brings them down there are special days. A time of trout. The water is cool and clear as it swirls around my knees. The woods are damp in the mornings and I can smell the bear that walked this path earlier. The fly line makes a sound in the crisp morning air like silk upon silk, and the fly lands softly in the reflected sky. Trout fight harder and are cool in the hand as they slip back into the liquid glass of the still pools. It is a time that calms the heart and renews the soul.


High Spring Water

Some say not to,
I can’t resist.

Ten thousand feet, no one above
to spoil the taste.
Hand numb from snow melt,
letting it flow into my cupped palm.

Clear as poured glass over red stone.
Flowing from the mountain’s soul.
Life from the Earth Mother.
Raised to lips, sweet mossy taste.

Some say not to,
I can’t resist.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Remembering Naomi


On my recent trip to the city I was thinking about the people I had known when I lived there, and one of the special ones was my Mother-in-law, Naomi. She was a person that loved parties, loved stories, and was a very good artist. Naomi lived with us for awhile, and as she progressed into that dark place called Alzheimer’s she went inside herself, and in the end just wanted to leave here.
I loved her, and miss her.
Along the way I wrote a number of poems about her, and want to share them with you. If you are in this situation, my heart and prayers go out for you.

Alzheimer’s
I’m afraid to stop for gas
on the way home.
If I got out of the car
it would explode out of me.
That scream I’ve held since
I walked into your room.
That log of a lump in my throat
tearing at my heart.
It grows when you beg to come home.
It mutates when you cry
and promise to try harder
to remember.
It curls like a lizard around my faith
causing me to doubt my love,
commitment,
promises.
If you could just hear
my whisper.
good bye

Dark Star
So frail, in and out of the present.
At least your window sees the trees,
not the parking lot.
I remember time past at the Playboy Club.
Drinking gin fizzes, laughing at your antics.
Black skirt, white blouse, shaking it,
steady on the dance floor.
Alzheimer’s came between trips to
the beauty parlor and summer walks.
Sucked the air out of your life,
made it the size of a small room.
Time imploding, shrinking in on itself.
A dark star in the end, no light escaping.
Others left to tell the stories.
Others left to remember.

First published in The Scioto Voice

Monday, June 8, 2009


Friends,

It’s been a week since I was here. I’ve been traveling part of that time.

I went back to the city to see my new grand baby. What a joy it was to hold her, and watch her sleep. Her name is Grace, and her sister Chloe is still amazed at who this new person is.

I had some time before I came back, and decided to drive down some of the streets that I walked when I was a kid. There are so many poems there. I see the trees planted by us kids when we were in the first years of school, now tall and hanging over the street, and all those houses that once held my friends, now owned by other families with young children. The toys on the sidewalks, just upgrades of the ones we left there.

Isn’t life wonderful? I was looking through some poems to share with you, and thought I’d share my autobiographical poem with you. The whole story, up until I came to the mountains, is there. It might act as a prompt for you.

Not much more to share with you today. I’ll be back in full measure in a few days. Right now I need to walk in mountain air, be thankful for it all, and listen for a poem.

Paths

Corky was the bare foot runner, dust devil catcher,
Red Ryder black bird killer.
Drinking water from the Shawnee well.
Listened to Mama read poems from the Times.

Robert haunted city schools, talked
“black tar, far tar, car tar.”
Fists stopped the teasing. Camel smoking
scribbler of poetry in the night.

Boot camp, bell bottomed wanderer,
Africa, Asia, Kilimanjaro.
Swimmer of Persian seas, walker of desert rims.
All whispered remember, remember in the night.

Bob, Bob -- Mister Bob.
Blue collar fades to white, run the show,
pay the price, watch your step, kiss the kids and
read, read them poetry in the night.

Life swings on a gold watch chain,
time hides the path.
Corky whispers stories over Starbucks Chai,
Bob decides it’s hard to live here,
leaves his notes on the desk.

Robert — writes poetry in the night,
wondering, wondering if it’s too late.

Robert W. Kimsey

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Music and Poetry

After reading other poets, songs and music are a great inspiration for me. I love to listen to movie soundtracks while I write. I can’t go wrong with the music from Lonesome Dove, or A River Runs Through It.

The other day I was listening to satellite radio, and Harry Chapin was singing “Taxi.” Remember that one? Well, maybe you’re not as old as I am. The story of the song is that this taxi driver picks up a woman, and before long he realizes that she’s his old girlfriend, and they spend some time talking until he gets her home. He remembers that when they were going together they both had big dreams. He wanted to fly, and she wanted to be and actress. It all turned out very differently. I went to utube, and listened to it one more time. Then I looked through my poems for what I had written, after a meeting with someone from my past.

I avoid school reunions. I went to two, but I might not go to very many more. I came to the conclusion that those people who cared about me, and we had things in common, were the ones that didn’t need a reunion to see me, because we still corresponded and saw each other when we could. There is a sadness to those get-togethers. The posers still pose, and the popular kids still point at the not so popular and whisper, even after all those years. I do admit, it isn’t always that way. Small schools seem to be different. The school I attended in Kentucky has an all school reunion each year, and it’s fun to see my father talking to school mates while I do the same across the room. I always leave with a smile and am thankful for such wonderful friends.

Anyway, I’ll share a poem with you about an unexpected meeting of two people, like in Harry’s song.


Bill Collector

It’s not a first-rate job.
Not one you go home and brag about.
You make up rules,
over a hundred dollars and off it goes.
Under thirty, no way.
But sometimes the boss gets wise,
demands you take a hard line.

The arrogant ones are easy.
They curse and insist you
leave the lights on, while they finger
a wad of money and glare at you.
Of course you disconnect the electric,
tell yourself they deserve it.

After thirty years I remember the day
I walked up to that rusted out trailer.
How the half naked kids clung to
the woman’s legs, while I told her
why I was there.
Then I really looked at her, recognized
the girl most likely,
student council president.
I prayed she wouldn’t recognize
the class clown,
the kid she wouldn’t be caught dead with.

Call the office or I’ll be back, I said.
Down the road I stopped in a quiet spot,
wrote on the order in triplicate
Bad dog unable to disconnect
No customer contact,
then hid in the back of the van
until the tears stopped.

Robert W. Kimsey

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Family History Poems


So, it’s raining again. The fog is hanging low in the valleys, and the streams are full. No fly fishing this week for sure. I’m going through pictures that I can put on the blog, and am looking at some lecture notes I’ve had in a pile on the desk, waiting for changes.

I use the questions that are asked at sessions, to generate ideas for the next talk. When I speak to poets about where to find ideas, I do have some favorite things to do that might help. One of those things is to look at family history. Not just your own, but other families that you might know or have been told about. Volumes of books have been written about the history of a particular family. Those types of ideas can feed a collection of poetry also. Remember that the person that’s speaking becomes so very important, and that person isn’t always the poet.

A woman who has done a beautiful book of poetry is Diane Gilliam Fisher. Her book Kittle Bottom takes us back to the time of the West Virginia mine wars of 1920-1921. It is a wonderful book that is written in the voices of the people who lived during that time. Diane researched the book of some years. Every moment in her book is a moment that changes the people involved, and I remember thinking back through my family history to find just such a moment. By the way, a kittle bottom is a flat-bottomed rock that hangs in the roof of a coal mine, and can fall at any time. In my part of Kentucky I always heard it called a bell rock.

I have never written a complete book on one period of time, but it is a marvelous idea. I’ll bet that if you look back over the years, you will also find a moment in time that changed your family forever. Here is a poem that I took from my family, and put myself in the mind of my Grand Father, on just such a day.

Hard Lessons

Daddy said the first day on the job you learn the rules.

If your lunch bucket gets left topside you’re out of luck
unless the next team brings it down, and if the roof starts
to fall, YOU RUN. You run like Billy-be-damned for daylight.
You don’t stop for nothing.

You run like the devil hisself is breathing that cold, damp,
black air down your neck. You run for the shaft
or the outside as fast as you can.

If you ain’t used up all your luck and you make it to daylight
then you can turn around and look who’s behind you, then
you wait for the count and see who’s not.

That day the bell-rock almost got Daddy, blowed his hat off,
he come home after the siren, stood in the door of our house
on the Big Sandy, white eyes staring from his black face.

Then he come over to me and slapped me hard.
I could see the tears making creeks on his cheeks,
and he pointed his finger at me and whispered,
”Dammit Boy, you ain’t never going in a mine.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

Remembering Old Friends


Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died serving my country. This is a great time to honor our veterans, and to remember those we have known, and have made a difference in our lives.

When I look back, I remember some veterans who did not die in a war, but were forever changed. Here’s a poem about one very special man that I will honor this weekend. Maybe someday this day will be a thing remembered from long ago. I pray so.


Old Soldier

Sitting on the loading dock,
some damn fool would always say
something to get him started.
A word or phrase, a headline or jab
would send him down that road.

It was never those of us
who had been in the service.
When it started we’d look away,
down at our feet,
zone out to another place.

His face would go gray, he’d shake
and look across the years and
even in January the sweat
would drip from his nose
along with the tears.
And he’d tell the story again.

You could almost see him in that foxhole,
back in France, fighting for his breath.
The enemy tank above him,
his guys down the road firing everything
they had at it and him screaming
every time the tank shelled their position.

The dirt in his mouth,
the smell of gunpowder and urine all around.
All day buried until the tank moved off
and his pals came and dug him out.

It always ended the same,
him wiping the tears on his sleeve,
embarrassed, gathering his lunch box,
limping back to the storeroom.

The damn fools who started it all
headed back to work, laughing and giggling.
Those of us who avoided crowds,
always faced the door,
flinched at loud noises,
just sat there
struggling for breath.


©Robert W. Kimsey
Kudzu 2006

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Finding Water


I remember when my Grandfather and Uncles decided to dig a well up the hill from ours. We had a wonderful spring that not only gave us clear, clean water, but also supplied a number of other families. Our house was on a road that had been the warrior and hunting path from the Ohio River camps and lead south to the Cherokee Lands. The spring had always been there, and when my family built the house it gave us cool water and gave me my first bath when I was born in the upper bedroom.

On the day they were going to work, the spot was found, and they started to dig. It was hard work, and they struggled, handing out buckets of clay and rock, until the water started to seep in.

Years later I was reading my diary, and started a poem about that day, but mostly about the gift of finding water. I’ve seen men that were able to cut a willow fork, hold it in two hands and walk along until it pointed to the earth. That’s where the water was to be found. I’ve also seen men that were able to take two steel rods and bend them into the shape of an “L.” They held them in their hands and walked, until the rods crossed, and indicated the spot. This was used in place of metal detectors to find iron pipes in the ground.

Anyway, I started a poem about a Water Witch. After 20 stanzas it was so long that I couldn’t take it anymore. I put it away, and decided it was a lost cause. Later, some other poets and I were talking and it was suggested that sometimes a poem chooses the form it should take. I recovered the notes, started cutting the poem, and getting rid of useless words and information. Then, I put the phrases down that really mattered, and decided that it was a Pantoum. I love the way the repeated lines set up their own rhythm. It worked!

You can see the pattern, and the repeated lines in this 12 line Pantoum. Remember, each line in a Pantoum must be able to stand alone, but also must be pertinent to all the other lines. Go ahead, get out one of those poems you are struggling with, and look at it in the light of a different form. See what happens.



Water Witch

A gift passed down by blood.
Hands born to hold a willow fork.
Seeking water hidden under dry sand.
Finding the life giver that cools the soul.

Hands born to hold a willow fork.
Quivering over the earth as he walks.
Finding the life giver that cools the soul.
Giving and giving after he is gone.

Quivering over the earth as he walks.
Seeking water hidden under dry sand.
Giving and giving after he is gone.
A gift passed down by blood.

Robert W. Kimsey

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mountain Stories


Hey, I hope you’re having a great day. I got up this morning and went birding with some friends. It was a good day, with some suspected birds and some surprises. We had wonderful views of a Blue Grosbeak. One of my friends and I wrote a little book on birding a few years ago, and the darn thing is a steady seller. It just goes to show you that if you have something you love, there just might be a book in it.

I’m in the coffee shop this morning. Couldn’t be this close to town and not have a fresh cranberry muffin and a cup of coffee. So, let me tell you what I was thinking about last night.

I’m concerned that you aren’t writing. So many of my friends are having trouble. Me included. With me it’s usually temporary, and happens when the trout are rising to the fly, and I feel the call of cold streams. I want to encourage you, and I hope you will do the same for me. We are the storytellers. I still believe that if we take away the computer, cell phone, and all the other “stuff” we carry on our belts and in our bags, we aren’t that far from the fire. We are at our best when we’re looking into the flames and telling those stories we’ve heard, while we add our own twist to the mix.

When I was a child I remember family gatherings, and after supper the kids played while the adults gathered around the stove and told the same stories that I’d heard for years. I’d sit on the steps and listen, and when I was older they were the fuel that fed the fires of my imagination.

Last night I was going through my poems that I might use for a reading, and came across the poem I’ll share with you today. There are a lot of stories in the mountains, and one of the special ones for me is the story of Jack-O-Lantern. It’s used to explain the lights that drift through the hills and hollows. Some say it is swamp gas, others say it is something else. In the southern mountains I’ve heard the story of a man who was so mean that when he died and went to hell, the devil gave him an ember and told him to go and start his own place, cause he wasn’t welcome. That’s him in the mountains at night, still looking.

In Kentucky we had another story about two lost men. I’ve always had the story in mind. Many years ago I went back to the place where I was born, and the house was gone, and as I stood there looking at the spring, and the hills where I played, this poem started to form. Maybe you have visited a special place and felt the same as I did on that day. If you have, get that paper out and see where it takes you.
Here’s the poem.



Jack-O-Lantern

In the hollow there is a story.
A tale for children, of a man
whose friend was lost.
He took a lantern, went to find him.
Neither was ever seen again.

On crisp fall nights the light from the
lantern can still be seen
on the Kellen Hollow ridge,
down the slopes of Grave Yard Hill.

It is me.
It is me.

It is me out there scanning the dark,
one hand in front hoping for a warm touch,
the other raised to cast the golden light as far
as a fishing line into the darkness.

It is me looking frantically about while
the children down below are told the story.

It is me.
It is me.

Searching for the family that is no longer there.
Searching for the home that is no longer there.
Searching for the fire that has long since gone out.

It is me.


Robert W. Kimsey

Monday, May 11, 2009

I love Trains

Hey, sorry I wasn’t at the cabin when you came by today. Had some errands to run. Seems like you just can’t let the garbage cans go for any length of time. Bears like them full, and raccoons have an eating orgy if the lids aren’t tight, so this morning I headed for town and the garbage transfer station. After I finished that chore I headed for my usual table at the L&L Beanery, and decided to wait for you there.

I’m glad you’re ok with meeting me here and at the house, but you haven’t said much. I’d like to hear more from you, and if you have poems you’d like to share, no problem. That's what writers do. I’d love to read them, and maybe I’ll put one in the blog, with your permission. It’s nice here, the coffee smells terrific, and it’s a beautiful, cool day in the mountains.

Look across the street, the tourist train is idling at the station. It’ll load around eleven, so the tourists will start to arrive soon. Some days it’s comical to watch them, trying to fill the time, and corralling kids who were more than ready for the ride when they left the house in the city this morning. Today’s a school day, so most of the kids are little ones, and asking why they can’t get on the train, and when, and why, and why, and why ….well, you can hear it as well as I can. The retirees will arrive on busses or with friends to see the mountains. All will have a good time meandering along the Toccoa River to the border, then back a few hours later. I often run out and stand at the crossing just down the street and wave at the kids. They must think I am a crazy old man, but I love trains.

When I was in the Navy I used to catch the train in Cincinnati, and ride it back to the coast, arriving the next day in the early morning. When I was a kid I’d sit in the apple tree and look out over the valley and watch the smoke from the train headed down river, and dream dreams about going there. Well, I’ve been there, and what an adventure it has been.

Jumping Trains
Robert Kimsey

Back when boxcars were open it was easy
if you caught it on an upgrade after some curves.
It’s pretty simple if you’re tall and can grab the door

get a good shove-off, and all of a sudden you’re pulling
yourself up, and you realize if you fall you’ll be under
the wheels, dead before you know it,
and the train won’t even hesitate.

Some decades later I’m eating lunch on the square
thinking maybe I slipped under the wheels
been dead for thirty years, and this is just a dream.

If I am, then what idiot would make up a dream
where he is wearing three hundred dollar suits,
working twelve hours a day in a cubicle,
banging on a computer,

instead of climbing high mountains,
wading free stone creeks for big trout,
sitting in a log cabin in front of a fire
listening to night sounds in the Blue Ridge?

Who indeed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Poems About Home

It’s still raining in the mountains. My dirt road is a stream, and it’s chilly on the porch, so we’ll need to sit by the fire for our session today. All this is just not favorable for writing. Well, maybe it is, but I’ve written enough “dark and dreary” poems for now. Why don’t we just have a cup of tea and talk for a bit?

Have you noticed how many poems and stories there are about where we (writers) came from? I was born in Kellen Hollow in Eastern Kentucky, and when I was around seven we moved to the city. I spent the summers and holidays back roaming the Kentucky hills, and I have dear friends from that time still. I think about those times often, and most of my poems in Paths From the Shawnee Spring are from that era, and about the people I knew.

A friend of mine passed a week or so ago. He was one of those men who became your pal after you met him. I worked in his blacksmith shop in the summer with his son. Well, work is pushing it. I really just manned the broom and ran errands for him, and he fed me. It was a wonderful time, and what a treat to be there when the old men came and gathered around, and told stories about the river, town, and the old ways. Their stories still come to me as poems and prompts.

When the blacksmith shop closed he taught in an industrial arts setting, and did welding jobs to keep his family. He was a special person, and I will miss him.

You’ve known men and women just like him. They will feed your writings if you let them. They have so many stories to whisper to you. I was thinking about him this morning, and I have a poem to share that is about my friend Ellis, and others who went away to make a living, but always had a special love for home.

Kentuckians
for Ellis

How many of us crossed the Ohio for jobs and education,
ate in diners and beer joints while searching for our
own people; making little Kentucky communities
wherever we could? Always living in
South something,
West End something,
Lower something.

How many of us sat and told stories about home after
working double shifts at the shoe factories, or sweated
on assembly lines; used our last dollars for gas so we
could spend a few hours smelling honeysuckle and
visiting around the Sunday table,
before heading back north?

How many of us died in coal mines or driving
gravel trucks down snake-back roads so we could
hang onto a small piece of sacred mountain land
that our kin had fought to keep, after riding flat boats
down a river into the unknown?

How many of us would push the dirt off our faces,
stand up out of our graves, put on our boots and
do it all over again?

All of us who call ourselves Kentuckians would.


Robert W. Kimsey 2008

Monday, May 4, 2009

Memories of Rain

It’s been raining in the Blue Ridge. We haven’t been able to sit on the porch for a few days. Today the results of all that are plain, with the leaves so thick the cabin is once again surrounded by the forest.

On Saturday we took some visitors to the airport, and the drive through the Ocoee Gorge was slow and nerve racking with the fog on the road, and the water coming off the cliffs. On the way back the rain was intermittent, but the fog was still thick on the river. The kayakers who were coming in for the day were just gray shapes, there, then gone.

I don’t know why I’m sharing this with you. I guess, just to tell you that there are times that are brought to mind when the rain moves around me. Hiking in the woods as a boy, fishing the high mountains in a mist, almost unable to see the fly on the water in front of me, and special times with friends when I was a teenager in the city.

I wrote about one of those times a few years ago.

1964

The teachers called it the smoking lounge.
We knew it as the back of the gym,
open to the sky, gray brick to lean on.
You had to be pretty hard up to stand
in the rain for a Marlboro.
But we did.

Bad boys and girls and a few fools
that wanted to be, gathered in a ritual
of long draws, suck it up your nose,
run the gauntlet moments.
Acting like we didn’t care.
But we did.

It was the place where bad grades,
detention letters, and lost loves
could all be flipped away.
A burning butt containing hate and fear
crushed under a heel.
And we did.

All pretenders, frightened
that we would be the ones
to hold up the world.
Stories of your uncle, his brother and others
in a jungle bleeding so we could stand here
and cup our cigarettes from the rain,
just like they were doing, knowing
that next year we’d be there too.
Dying like they were.

And we did.


© Robert W. Kimsey
2005 Kentucky State Poetry Society

Monday, April 27, 2009

Imagist Thoughts

I’ve always considered myself an Imagist poet. You’ve probably heard about the movement that started with the noted poet Ezra Pound.

I’m certainly not saying I’m in his rank, but I do believe in plain speaking and striving to use only the exact words that contribute to the poem.

You’ve seen poems that fill pages leading you on and on without relief, and when you’re finished you need to read it over to remember how it started. You’ve also see masterpieces that touched your heart, told a wonderful story, and didn’t go over 30 lines.
And what about the beautiful simplicity of haiku and tanka? (We’ll talk about them another day)

You can tell when a Thesaurus Junkie has been at work, and you know if they had just taken a few minutes to step back and look at what words were really needed, the poem would have been truly memorable.

Here’s what I do. I finish a draft poem, get it from the pen on paper stage to the first draft on the computer, then print it out and hide it in a file I won’t touch for a week or so. After a week, or at least a few days if I just can’t stand the suspense, I take it out and read it over. Many times I walk out on the porch and read it to the birds and bears, and where I stumble in my reading I mark that, and where a word just doesn’t work, I mark that, make a draft number two, then hide it away again. If the critique group is going to meet I’ll take it there, and if not I’ll e-mail a friend to meet me at the coffee shop for sharing. Don’t read it to the dog or cat. You just can’t trust their comments.

You’ll get your own process going, and if you are alone and need some comments, I’m always here on the porch.

Have a wonderful day, and keep writing. How about a poem about the local bears.


The Meeting

The bears know the ancient ways
of hierarchy. The ways taught
to them by their fathers and fathers
back to the beginning of their tribe.

They remember when they were the rulers.
When all others bowed as they hunted
silently through the woodland.

Then we came and pushed them further
into the forest, further into the shadows
with our stone and steel hands.

When he comes near I call him brother
speaking the ancient language between us.
He knows his tribe will never rule again,
and he will not face me, will not stand
as he draws near - turns his eyes away.

And I am ashamed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Writer's Day?

When writers are asked what they do on a daily basis, they usually say things that you’ve heard before. “I get up early and write until noon before I take a break.” Yes, I’m alone in my little corner and the words just flow onto the paper.”
RIGHT!

I’m lucky that I am able to write just about every day, but some days are better than others. Here’s how my week has gone so far.

I came home from a retreat in the mountains, just south of here, and I had filled pages with ideas, and really needed to get them onto paper for a first draft. Hold on a minute! There are just a few things to do first.

That oak tree needs to be removed before it falls on the cabin, and takes out the porch. Friends are coming next weekend, so that faucet in the shower needs fixing, and YOUR bathroom needs cleaning. When were those towels changed? Remember those shelves you promised to build? Better get the wood shop cleaned and ready. Oh, by the way, the tire is flat on the jeep.
Good Grief!

I managed to sail through most of the chores, and even sang along with the radio while traveling the 12 miles to the tire dealer. And now it’s Thursday, and I pulled out a poem I had fermenting in the folder marked first drafts, and realized it was writer’s group night, so I grabbed what I needed and headed to Blue Ridge. We meet in the old courthouse, and when I arrived one of our members was there with a visitor. With the fantastic weather we have been having in the southern mountains, I suspected we might be the only ones to attend. By six o’clock we had eight writers around the table, and I felt energized. We did introductions for the visitors, discussed some books and magazines that had good articles on writing, and an opportunity to read at the local theater. Then we went around the table for the critique session.

Julia started us off with a short piece from her book, and described a wonderful southern judge, and the children who were able to spend time in his library reading books on plants. He reminded me of Burl Ives.

One of the visitors read from her story about a piece of furniture that smelled like smoke, and I had better let it go there. I don’t want to give away the story. Another visitor introduced us to some characters, and we commented about each one, asking questions and giving gentle critique. A great start, we all thought. Kathy read her piece on local history, and Ed read a beautiful poem called, “Oh Really.”

Pete read a poem about drilling for water in Australia, and I pulled out my first draft. The comments on my poem helped me fix something that I didn’t even know was a problem, and reinforced the fact that every writer needs fresh eyes now and then.

Soon we had filled two hours and I handed out the assignment for the next meeting. Take seven random words and write a short piece or a poem using them. Just something to do if we get stuck for ideas.

What a great group, and this morning I was ready to put words on paper. There’s nothing like sharing with other writers. If you’re not a member of a group, or have a writer friend that will give you honest critique, what are you waiting for?

Have a great day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Words and Phrases

I carry a reporter’s notebook with me at all times. I am always on the search for words and phrases I can use. You never know when they will grow into a poem. I hear them from people in the coffee shop. I see them as I read poetry by authors I admire, and sometimes if I pay attention, they come to me in other ways.

I had a dream one night that I was climbing a hill overlooking the ocean. There were others around me, but they appeared as brightly colored ghosts in the air. We were all moving toward a desk that sat on the ridge. When I got there it was full of pigeonholes that contained pieces of paper. I took one and it had a phrase on it. I could see that the others were taking one also, but some were letting them go, and they fluttered over the edge into the ocean.

Today, look for a word or phrase that you like, and see where it takes you. If you can’t think of one, call a friend. Once you have one, don’t let it go. It just might be lost forever.

Here’s a poem using a phrase from my notebook.

Speaking in Tongues
for Kristy

Once I heard the pure sound of prayer.
When a man’s voice could not hold
the exultation from spilling, like cream
soda erupting from a shaken bottle.

It was as ancient, as a holy wind
moving in primordial canyons,
over earth consecrated by God.
The sound was not of that place,

not of any people, could not be claimed.
Could not be corrupted by man.
It was a mystery to me like looking into
a well in the middle of a moonless night.

Until the day my first child was born.
Then I knew there were some joys
that could not be uttered by man,
without the language of angels.

Robert W. Kimsey