(An Ode to Racists)

How dispiriting are all-white bouquets

Compared to colorful flower displays.

How unappealing the all-white plate

(Of cauliflower, rice and fish) to our palates.

Albino animals we don’t think pretty.

We consider them odd; they excite our pity.

Why then do we struggle and plot and connive

To be an all-white, pasty-faced, anemic tribe?

I put this query to ardent racists

Who hate the sight of different faces

And want an exclusive society

With no interesting variety.

Let’s chord the song, let’s add new notes.

Who knows?  We might even like these folks.



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                    Hand Me Downs

My husband was a small town Indiana boy

Who heard the lonely whistle of the train

Just down the street and watched the glowworms

Dance above the seas of cornfields lapping

At his door.  The eldest son, at the age of twelve

He drove a tractor on his uncle’s farm.

In the village school his father was the principal.

His mother put small stitches into quilts

And watered African violets with her tears.

Chickens, bees and gardens fed them for the year

Along with fallen fruit and Uncle Paul’s

Pork and goat milk.  Nothing went to waste.

So when a research scientist, he built a woodland

House, cleared trails and planted raised-bed 

Gardens fertilized by red worm-generated compost.

Gardens and chickens were carried on by his son

An engineer who felt the family heritage was worth

Preserving and perhaps even passing on.





I wish that once more we could walk

Across a wintry parking lot

And I could feel your ungloved hand.

We reveled in a northern land,

Planted our skis on snow-packed trails

And snow-shoe’d over hills and dales.

I wish we could be comrades again.

When pines with snowy mounds are bent

And ice shards crackle underfoot

And overhead a raven croaks

Then I imagine I can see

Your ski tracks up ahead of me.



Our Lady of Liberty, cover your eyes.

Your huddled masses do not breathe free.

They cower in cells, they molder in sties.

Of liberty this is a mockery.

Our Lady of Liberty, cover your ears.

Terrified children torn from families

Are not what you would have wanted to hear.

What justifies these atrocities?

Our Lady of Liberty, what has become

Of our founding fathers’ noble ideals?

We can no longer be rightly known

As the home of the brave and the land of the free.

These are the evils of slavery

Enforced by the power of tyranny.



Why do we sit in our circus seats

Watching a shaggy yellow-haired ape

Swagger and strut his pompous stuff?

Hear all the dissonant noise he makes!

Does he mean us harm?  Is that a stick

Of dynamite or is it sugar cane?

And is that a cigarette lighter

His other hand points and waves

At us?  Why don’t we boo and hiss

Until they drag him off the stage?

We like to play with fire.  We love

To tempt the bull, wave the red cape,

Run our outdated nuclear reactors,

Ignore the winds of a blackening hurricane.






What a beneficent day this is:

Sumer is icumen in,

Lilacs at the door now bloom,

Our time for flowering has come.

Toss the cumbrous coats aside.

Light and lithesome is our style.

We’ll be darkly cloaked no more.

Warmth has reached our northern shores.

From our caverns we’ll emerge,

For frolicking we feel the urge.

Setting out plants and pulling weeds

With gardening fervor we are seized

Old bones step out with vigor and vim

And all the world is young again.






At the age of twelve, why did I

Decide it was time to be baptized?

In our church, full immersion was the rite.

I never experienced an epiphany,

No inner voices spoke to me,

My nights were calm: no vision dreams.

It was a fairly embarrassing sight

To be draped in a tent-like gown of white:

A dunked and dripping young acolyte.

But it seemed like a step toward maturity,

Like a high school diploma, a college degree:

An escape from parental authority.



My daughter has carved a stout hiking staff

For me to carry along Elysian trails.

She thinks that on that journey I will have

A need to warn sky bears to stay away.

We carried bear sticks once in Glacier Park

And bear bells tinkled merrily as we walked

Back when the ice fields still were white and hard.

That they would disappear we never thought.

The river of time runs either slow or fast

Depending on the season and the flood.

How much I’d give to live again the past

And I’d not change it even if I could.






My grandpa taught me to play cribbage.

“Two points for His Nibs,” he’d say

And if I’d wrongly count some cards

He’d take those points away.

He’d carve the turkey in the pantry

The spaniel at his feet.

Some bits of skin and gristle he’d

Let fall for Tippy to eat.

My grandpa smoked a fat cigar.

They said he liked to drink

Take up with women in the bars:

It gave me cause to think.

My calm and literate grandma never

Spoke of his defects.

Like her I’ll give him a measure of credit

But not my full respect.


RiverWoods Poems: Winter’s on the Wane

I thought I heard a cardinal speak

But how could that possibly be?

The temps are in the twenties

And the parking lot is icy.

Every shrub is rimed with silver

Snow has coated every tree.

How does any bird find shelter

Where uncover any seed?

Still I know it’s not much longer

Till he’ll claim his nesting site

And be callng out to warn the

Other cardinals of his rights

Then entice a tawny female

To co-sponsor their new tribe.