Exclamation Point!

A yellow exclamation mark

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Exclamation Point!

I didn’t ask to be like Job,

Whose life took a backward thrust,

Yet here I am with shredded heart,

Arising from the dust,

I’ve lost at love one more time,

But it will not hold me down,

Like a Phoenix I’ll spring into the world,

With a smile instead of a frown,

I’m alone but not alone,

For I believe in a higher power,

Hope is there to guide my way,

Each and every hour,

My arms are bare and empty,

I have no one to hold,

So I choose to embrace the world,

Before my heart turns cold,

This world sparkles despite my pain,

My senses are acutely aware,

I see the beauty in this world,

And feel God’s presence there,

I smile at the turns I’ve made,

And all the times I’ve slipped,

Love will thrive the rest of my way,

It’s still within my grip,

Every day is a bonus day,

Full of meaningful things to do,

Challenges spring up daily at me,

Head on I’ll tackle them anew,

I don’t want to end my life,

With a period at the end of my game,

As a poet I want much more flair,

An exclamation point should mark my name!

Choppin’ Cotton

Choppin’ Cotton

 

 
A chance for self-respect comes but a few times during a lifetime and I have to seize those moments and choose the way I want to be. Once that decision is stamped indelibly on my heart, there is no turning back, nor would I ever want to change. Long ago as a teenager I made one of those decisions that shaped my life.

Shivering ever so slightly I slid out of bed and pulled on my faded work jeans. At 4:30 in the morning the irrigated desert land’s air was crisp and cold even in my room. I pulled my arms through the blue cotton shirt which earlier had been lying limply across the foot of the bed. After tightly lacing my cracked black shoes I stuffed my work gloves into my hip pocket and placed the straw hat with the torn brim rakishly on my head. I tied a handkerchief loosely around my neck.

Stumbling into the kitchen I reached into the cabinet and pulled out a bowl. I didn’t have time to make breakfast so my choice was made. Cold cereal in a cold bowl. That’s all I usually had while my parents, brother, and sisters slept. I made my sandwich, two slices of bread with a slice of lunch meat, no mayonnaise, no tomato or lettuce. I dropped the dry sandwich into a brown paper bag. There was no way to keep the sandwich cold without spoiling so I only used the basics.

I went into the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. I was still groggy so I splashed again. I heard a soft knock on the door outside that brought me fully alert. “Dan, are you ready to go? We have to be there before five.” It seemed I had heard those words thousands of times and yet I jumped every time I heard them.

Rushing out I grabbed my lunch bag and my hoe, which I had placed carefully beside the door the night before. The hoe’s blade, which I had honed before going to bed, looked sharp and ready for the weeds. Wordlessly I walked with Bob to his gray dented sedan which was already packed with other workers.

In the morning mists I could see the car, hoes protruding from the windows, and could imagine a Viking ship with oars ready to explore the world. I leaned through a door and looked for a place to squeeze in.

“Well, you took your sweet time, Dan,” a voice called out good naturedly from the back seat. I recognized Jake Smith’s voice and turned to face him.

“You’re just lucky I showed up at all,” I countered. “Otherwise there’d be no one to help you finish your rows.”

We all laughed and continued the banter as I crowded in and we drove away. For a few moments we sat in silence as the car, trailing blue-black clouds of smoke, coughed towards our destination.

Someone finally asked, “Has anyone heard anything about the new boss, Laird?” We all shook our heads except for Bob, Jake’s older brother. “This is only rumor, but I heard that Laird chews nails for breakfast and he bit his dog last Friday.” We all laughed but Jake got serious again. “I’ve heard nothing but bad news from the boys down at the pool hall,” he said. “I’m inclined to take their stories with a grain of salt but I thought you ought to know.”

It was something to think about but as we turned off the pavement onto a dusty road I had already forgotten Laird. The car sputtered to a stop beside a field of cotton and gave two or three last shakes and coughs before dying. “You ought to get that car fixed,” I said to Bob. “It’s about to give up the ghost.”

We grabbed our hoes from the car and stared glumly at the field before us. The cotton was waist high and had been long neglected. There were clumps of Johnson grass, small white morning glories, and patches of Bermuda grass.

 

While we waited, three other cars pulled up behind us. Two black families and a Mexican family got out. We eyed the other groups cautiously and I wondered whether we could all work together peacefully.

A green and white pickup came racing up the dusty road past the four weather-beaten cars and slid to a halt. Covering my face with my bandana I waited a few seconds for the pickup’s trailing dust cloud to dissipate. Both of the pickup’s doors swung open. A young pimple faced boy crawled out of the passenger side. He slapped on a blue baseball cap over his unruly blond hair. His lean gangly body stretched too long for his jeans and his arms dangled a few inches too far beyond the cuffs of his sleeves. Although we were at first wary, his infectious smile made him an instant hit to our often ill-tempered group.

On both sides of the truck we noticed some fancy lettering. W.C. Laird, Labor Contractor, it proclaimed in bold black letters to the agricultural world. The boss man, Laird himself, worked his heavy body away from the wheel and out the door.

His stogie, a cigar tucked in one corner of his mouth, was moving in circles as he muttered. I could not understand him at first and I noticed the others were also beginning to look puzzled.

His already red face grew redder and I could see his small eyes squinting behind the wire spectacles.

He suddenly barked, “What’s the matter with all of you? Can’t you hear? We’re supposed to start this field at five o’clock and by gum, that’s what we’re gonna do. Now git your asses over to that edge of the field and pick your row. I’ll be along shortly to check your work.”

He removed his glasses, spat on them, and cleaned them slowly with the corner of his shirt. He watched us silently trudging to the corner of the field. He continued to stare until we began working our way down the rows.

 

The waist high cotton was wet from the morning dew and before we had gone twenty-five yards I was soaked from the waist down and feeling uncomfortable. Swarms of mosquitoes rose before us and began their relentless attacks, searching for exposed skin. I slapped at them occasionally but tried to ignore them, afraid I would be accused of doing more dodging and fighting mosquitoes than hoeing.

Quickly and efficiently I chopped out the Johnson grass and the morning glories with the corners of the hoe. I was not the fastest in the group, nor the slowest as I paced myself to last the morning. By eight the sun was already bearing down and the boss was there, checking each worker’s row in turn.

“I don’t think you’re worth a dollar and a quarter an hour,” Laird said to Preacher, one of the black men who was working close-by. “I think I’ll pay you a dollar an hour.” But Preacher just glared at him and began to work faster. After that I noticed that two women who were with Preacher would occasionally step over and help him catch up.

 

As the morning progressed all the groups began to work closer together and exchanged stories. Preacher began telling stories from the Bible and about a boss who was evil and went to Hell. Since he was looking at Laird, who was leaning on a hoe talking to a farmer who owned the field, we knew who Preacher meant. The two women would laugh at his stories and I could hear the older woman’s deep laugh boom out and the younger one’s laughter, which was more like the tinkling of bells.

Another man, Sid, was in Preacher’s group. He hung back, trying to be inconspicuous and out of Laird’s sight but he was clearly interested in what was going on. He appeared to be jealous of all the attention Preacher was getting.

“Preacher,” he said. “I’ll tell the boss man just what you’re telling us and he’ll fire you and you won’t find any more jobs.” Sid rolled his eyes and waited for us to laugh but we didn’t. We could see Preacher and the women getting upset.

 

The Mexican family with their young children continued to work quietly but they stayed away from Preacher and his group. The father had talked to us for awhile and decided he could trust us. He had told us he and his wife were working without permits and did not want any trouble. If they were noticed by anyone they could be shipped back to Mexico. They had to earn money for some of their other relatives who were unable to make a living in Mexico.

All morning long Sid tried out new antics. He seemed to want any kind of attention. As we approached a heavy stand of Johnson grass Sid called out, “Hark, I see a lion in yon jungle. Preacher better use some of his religious medicine to rescue us.”

Preacher kept pretending to ignore him as Sid continued his tirade. Finally Sid realized no one was listening so he stopped talking but I could tell he was still itching to get something started.

By ten the heavy clothes were beginning to stick to our sweaty bodies. Some of my friends had taken off their shirts and tied them around their waists. I had blistered badly the previous time so I kept my shirt on. We stopped for a water break expecting to get cool water. In our experience most bosses put ice in the water to keep it cool. It satisfied our thirst and cooled us at the same time. But this time was different.

I gulped a mouthful and spit it out. “This water is hot enough to boil tea in,” I grumbled. The others thought I was kidding. Each in turn took a mouthful and spit it out.

 

Laird ambled over. “What’s the matter?” he sneered. “Don’t you like water?” As I tried to find words to adequately express my feelings, I heard the youth who had earlier climbed out of the pickup say, “Dad, this isn’t right. I told you to stop for ice this morning.”

Laird grinned as he chewed on his cigar. “Mind your own business, Steve. If they don’t like the water they don’t have to drink it.”

The sun broiled us slowly as the next hour passed. We began drinking the water out of necessity but warned each other only to sip enough to keep going. No one stayed by the water cooler. Once I saw Laird nudge his son and say, “Without ice the water gets warm and the workers don’t spend nearly as much time talking and standing around. The less time they waste the more money I make.”

As we finished one field we drove to the next field and started again. As the heat increased my head began throbbing and I could hear others complaining about headaches and nausea.

A Mexican girl of slight build and in her early teens said she was sick. She staggered to her car and lay down. Laird didn’t notice she was gone and the rest of us kept quiet about the incident. We didn’t want the girl’s pay docked. We were certain he was paying her less than minimum wage anyway and pocketing the difference. We also thought he might accuse us of slacking or playing sick to keep from working.

Laird blew a little whistle and we stopped for our thirty minute lunch. We hardly had time to eat and stretch our cramped backs before he was shouting, “Get off your lazy butts! It’s time to work again!”

We were soon back in the same routine with Preacher telling stories while all of us continued hacking away. By now I had learned that Paula and Hattie, the two women, and Sid were members of Preacher’s congregation. Together they had driven from a town five miles away when money had become scarce. By banding together, their chances of finding work increased.

Preacher, his leg gimpy from the war, was the shepherd, doing his best to protect the women and keep Sid out of trouble. In turn, they would finish his rows and help him keep up. Sid was always trying to get the attention from anybody who’d listen. I could tell he feared, admired, and hated Preacher, all at the same time.

In early afternoon the two brothers, Bob and Jake, had replaced their shirts because they were already lobster red. Laird’s son, Steve, was talking quietly with a cute Mexican girl of about his own age.

Laird walked over to them and tried to eavesdrop. Steve and Carmen, the Mexican girl, began speaking Spanish. Laird grew red and told Steve to “stay away from that dirty ‘wetback’”. “I don’t want any brown grandchildren,” he jeered disdainfully.

Steve looked up and said with defiance, “Go away and leave me alone. I’ll choose my own friends.” Laird began shouting that he would kick Steve’s rear-end all over the cotton field.

He saw us watching. He stormed away sputtering about Steve being a “snot-nose, smart-mouth kid“. Laird walked over to the water bucket and stared off into the distance. We had the opportunity to work quietly and to discuss the father-son relationship.

Sid, took this opportunity to start some trouble.

“Old preacher man is too old for any night action. I’ll take on either one of you ladies after work.”

Preacher, stung by Sid’s insinuations and feeling protective of the women, headed angrily toward Sid. The two squared off. But with all the dancing, shuffling, huffing and puffing, not a damaging blow was thrown. The excitement attracted Laird, who came over to check out the commotion.

Sid sheepishly explained in detail what had happened while Laird stood there mulling things over. He turned and looked thoughtfully at Paula. The top buttons of her blouse were unfastened and I could see him leering at the fullness of her breasts as she bent to hoe. His audacity surprised me when he walked over as she straightened, daubed at the perspiration that was at the base of her throat with his handkerchief.

“I’ve slept with a lot of women, both white and black. You interest me. I want to see you after work. We’ll drink a few beers and have a little fun. What do you say?”

Paula gasped and stepped back, trying to avoid Laird. “No, no,” she blurted. A hoe was suddenly thrust between Laird and Paula. Preacher stood there, a mixture of hurt and anger in his eyes.

“Go away, old man,” Laird snarled. “If you give me any trouble or if she doesn’t come with me after work then both of you are fired and I’ll see to it that neither of you gets to work for any of these farmers again.”

Paula began crying and Preacher stood there stunned at this new turn of events. Then both of them, without meeting the eyes of anyone, turned and went quietly back to work as if nothing had happened. Laird glared at us and we started hoeing again, trying to look really busy.

He swaggered off in the direction of the pickup and I just leaned on my hoe for awhile and tried to sort things out. It was a real puzzler at first but gradually I realized that Laird would have his way because Paula and Preacher were giving in to his demands. After all, I guess jobs were hard to find if you were black.

We still had a few minutes before quitting time but I was burning up inside, full of anger, and trying to decide what to do. I saw him sitting inside, listening to the radio. I walked over to him and yanked open the door.

“Laird,” I said evenly, “it’s not fair for you to make demands on Paula like that. And then to threaten their jobs if they don’t cooperate.”

Laird turned and slid out of the pickup. He pulled a wet handkerchief from his forehead. “Mind your own business or you won’t have a job either. What I do is between me and whoever and I don‘t see where it concerns you.”

“Laird,” I began again, “you’re a mean and rotten sonofabitch. I don’t want to work for you anymore. I don’t like the way you treat people, especially people of color. I’m going to report you to whatever authorities that’ll listen.”

His eyes were squinting in that pig-like face. “They won’t even listen to you. You’re just a kid. It’s your word against mine. Those people aren‘t as good as us. They’re animals and we’re supposed to control animals. Can‘t you see that?”

I know sometimes I’m hot-headed and unChristian. When Laird started spewing words of prejudice and hatred I just blew up. I swung and connected with his belly, and then another to his chin. He toppled over into the dust. He started to get up but he hesitated and said, “You’re fired. I don’t want you to show up anymore.”

“Laird, I don’t want to work for you anymore. I want my pay and I want it now. I’ll make sure the authorities listen. You‘re not going to get away this easy.”

“I’ve a mind not to pay you at all.” I took a step closer. “O.k. I’ll give you your money but get out of here.” Nervously he wrote off a check and thrust it at me.

I grabbed the check and walked over to the car waving it high in the air. Jake and Bob started walking towards me. Laird yelled, “Get back to work! It’s not quitting time yet! You’ve still got ten minutes.”

 

They ignored him and listened to my side of the story. They approached Laird and a few seconds later were carrying their checks high in the air. The results were contagious. Our carload, and then the Mexican family, and finally Preacher and everyone but Sid had discussed the situation. As a group we confronted Laird and he reluctantly paid off the rest of the crew. Even Steve demanded his pay.

Laird seized Steve’s shoulders and said, “You’re not getting your money. You’re not going to be with these troublemakers.”

Steve stood there quietly and demanded his money again. “Dad, I’m going to report you because I think you’re a liar and a cheat. I don’t think you should treat people this way any more.”

Laird got nose to nose with Steve and called him every name in the book and a few choice ones I hadn’t heard. Steve turned and walked away. Laird started to follow but I blocked his way. “You’ll leave him alone, too,” I said. “I’m tired of you bullying people. If you take one more step I’ll hit you more than once and I won’t stop until that foul mouth of yours is silent.”

My determination cut Laird short. He rubbed his jaw and stumbled to his feet. We waited while he made out the last check. Before we could go he said, “Look, today I made a few mistakes. Let’s not have hard feelings. I want all of you back here tomorrow, o.k.?”

Paula, Preacher, Carmen, and Steve were standing close together and I’m not sure who spat first and I don’t really care. I remember looking at him, seeing the spittle clinging to his face, then I climbed into our car, Steve somehow in with us.

 

I still see Carmen sometimes with her family, working in the tomatoes or sugar beets. They avoid working in the cotton fields afraid they’ll run into Laird. Preacher and his group still work the cotton with me, Jake and Bob, and the rest of the gang. Steve has gone off to stay with an uncle in Arizona. I’ve heard Laird and Sid have moved on to better things like pruning grapes in Lodi with Laird still in charge of a crew. I don’t know if Laird’s behaving himself but I kind of hope he’s learned a lesson and I don’t expect him to show up around here again.

As for me, I’ve learned something about myself and human dignity. If you see others get cheated or trampled upon, you too, lose respect for yourself if you let things slide.

Wages are up to a dollar and a half now and I know I’m not as rich as some other people I know. In spite of not having wealth, I know that I can look into a mirror and be proud of what I see. And that, riches can’t buy.

 

 

 

 

 

Dan Roberson

 

 

 
 

 

 

Sons of Thunder

The Sons of Thunder

 

There were early warning signs that violence was on the way.  The two boys were untamed, unfettered, and usually unsupervised.  Their mother had disappeared mysteriously, leaving her husband alone with three children. The father refused any help from the community, insisting that the family would work out their own problems.  Alicia, the beautiful eldest child, reportedly kept the house running smoothly.  She and the boys, James and John, were always clean, fed, and well dressed. Their father, known to drink a bit but not to excess, paid the bills and saved money. Although the father was gone frequently and sometimes for long periods of time there wasn’t anything specifically anyone could point a finger at, yet we all knew there was danger lurking behind the façade.

Alicia never went on dates, although at sixteen she caught the eye of every eligible male in the surrounding areas.  Frankly, they were afraid to ask her out.  Her dad made it a point to seek out prospective suitors and let them know their lives were in danger around his house or around his daughter.  Alicia meekly followed orders, kept the house immaculate, and maintained her straight A average in high school.

John, the middle child, had an explosive temper that occurred with increasing frequency. Often I would confront him in school about some infraction and his face would become contorted with rage.  His voice would shake and obscenities would pour out. Sometimes I asked him to walk around the schoolyard in an effort to cool his anger.  I would watch him pick up a stick, point it at me, and pretend to shoot.  Since I knew he hunted the fields around the school and around my house it was reason for concern.  I knew he would seethe for hours until his anger finally abated.  John was also very intelligent.  He did well in his school subjects and also stayed informed about world politics. He had great plans for his future but I worried about his bouts of anger and how that anger controlled him at times.

John and James were unwelcome in neighboring homes because of their destructive hunting forays and their penchant for breaking things just for fun.  One day they followed their dog down the road and into the driveway of a neighbor’s house.  The dog chased chickens while the boys whooped their support.  Finally the neighbor stepped out of his house.  “You boys go home. I don’t want anything killing my chickens.”  The boys didn’t listen.  Instead they entered the barn and began breaking windows while the dog continued his relentless pursuit of squawking chickens.  The neighbor stepped out of his house onto his front porch, holding a shot-gun.  “Please take your dog home.  He doesn’t belong here. You go home, too!”  “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.” 

The boys left, only to return a short time later with their dad.  He had two six shooters strapped to his sides, gunfighter style.  He confronted the neighbor.  “If you want to have a shoot-out, then let’s get to it.”  The neighbor backed down, uneasy about an altercation with a crazy man.  And so it went, from that moment the community shied away from any arguments with the dad.

The family business was another strange thing that was rarely discussed.  The dad made caskets.  The boys often bragged about their personal coffins, made from the finest materials and ready to be used. “You should see the polished wood and the blue silk.”  “When I die, dad will make mine even better,” the other replied.

James was known for his antics, his infectious smile, and his sudden angelic appearance.  He could be deeply in trouble and yet somehow escape unscathed.  Once, as a fifth grader, he had been caught peeping over a stall in the girl’s bathroom.  He received no punishment because he was so sorry it had ever happened.

One day in spring, after the fire at Christmas had burned the school totally, and we were in school at the church, a strange thing happened.  On this rare day James was sitting quietly in class trying to decipher the big words.  The teacher,  however, could not focus on the lesson.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “but there’s something that really stinks around here.”  She walked from chair to chair but to no avail.  She eventually walked to the closet.  “I think something died in there,” she announced to the class. She flung open the door and peered in, holding her nose.  The children’s coats were hung on pegs, waiting to be picked up.  The teacher went from coat to coat, sniffing and coughing.  She stopped at James’s coat.  “This coat stinks,” she said.  “What is the problem?”  James laughed.  “I slept with my dog in the bed last night,” he proclaimed.  “A skunk had sprayed it.  My dog was still scared so I hugged it all night.”

James was the center of the universe at times.  He could not read any words with more than four letters.  The principal proudly proclaimed he taught James to read.  Later, when James was discovered memorizing the lessons ahead, the principal was deflated and gave up.  He turned the task over to a young teacher who decided James was a worthy project.  For several weeks she toiled and James struggled onward. The reading project seemed a success until one day after school the woman turned her back on James.  He quickly closed the distance between them, reached around and cupped her breasts.  She was horrified and fled to the principal.  “What are you going to do about it?” she demanded angrily.  “You shouldn’t have been alone with him,” the principal snapped.  The conversation was over.  James and the reading lessons were over, but James continued on, oblivious to the fact that anything was wrong. 

In the eighth grade and in high school James proved to be outstanding in sports.  Grades were overlooked as long as James tried.  There were occasions when those in the stands were pleasantly surprised by his adroit moves and quickness.  There were also occasions when those same people were shocked by his ability to get confused.  When he got turned around he might run the wrong way in football or make the winning basket for the wrong team in basketball.  Yes, James was something of an enigma.

We didn’t hear much about Alicia after she graduated from high school.  The boys said she went to college but we didn’t know where.  And John?  He graduated from high school and drifted northward, working one job after another.  Later we heard he had been arrested in Seattle for armed robbery and would be locked away for awhile.  And James?  I had forgotten about James until one night at eleven o’clock I was awakened by the persistent ring of my phone.  I picked it up and was greeted by a familiar voice.  “Mr. Roberson, remember me?  This is James and I just called to thank you for all you did for me.  You didn’t give up and eventually you got me to reading.  I’m now a lumberjack in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  I volunteer at a local elementary school when I can.   I just wanted to thank you but I don’t want to keep you up.  Good-bye!”  And with that James was gone, but definitely not forgotten.  He was one of the more difficult students who had learning disabilities and social problems and somehow had managed to rise out of the murky depths. He had taken the next step and was reaching out to others and giving them a chance to succeed.  His persistence also woke me up.

 Sometimes I forgot that school was more than teaching subject matter.  It was about touching human lives.  I slept easier that night and for many nights to follow because I had made a difference in his life. James didn’t give me a chance to tell him, but he also had made a difference in how I perceived things.  I must have done something right, and to this day I still believe I can touch that invisible spirit, and bring it to a higher level.  Thanks, James, wherever you are, for giving me feedback.

 

By Dan Roberson  2/26/09

IS THIS THE TIME

FORGIVE AND FORGET

 

Time goes by so fast,

And it takes two to let go of the past.

Their lives are not over yet,

If they are ready to forgive and forget.

He’s still got his kids

Though his life is on the skids.

It is not a good time to dump him.

She considers his needs

And why he closes the door.

But she needs to talk, to feel his hurt,

She can’t stand silence anymore.

The children expect presents and fun,

While his life is coming undone.

But it’s not a good time to dump him.

She wonders why their relationship

Is completely off the track

Maybe it is over and done

And they might never get it back!

Birthdays, anniversaries,

All are markers of time.

Is this the time to dump him?

Holidays are coming

And the world is full of joy and peace.

Will wonders never cease?

Is this the time to dump him?

At first she tries to fight

But his barbed words rip her deep.

She thought she could win the war,

But the price for winning is steep.

She stumbles as she walks,

Her voice breaks as she talks.

Her eyes are soft and clear

But her face shows wear and tear.

Her feelings are dripping with hate

Her emotions are burning within,

If he won’t listen

She will find a way to punish him.

Things said are venomous and terse,

As they attack again and again.

But the battle only gets worse.  

There is no way either can win.

Is this the time to dump him?

August 14, 2017

AMPLE ROOM TO GROW

There are many who believe there are no angels,

But I believe angels walk wherever there is light.

When we block the light,

 We are deceived by demons who are quick

To lead us astray.

I make choices, not just to please others,

But to prove who I am, and who I want to be.

I am not deceived to think only good exists,

Or that evil is out of control.

Neither do I believe that evil drives my soul.

I realize that hormonal imbalances, prescriptions and

Drugs not meant for you or me,

Stress to a high degree,

Listening to the beat of different drums,

Persuasions of power or envy,

All take their toll as I struggle to make sense of an illogical world.

I believe there are liars who walk among us,

And sometimes it is me.

I am not a psychologist who understands all I need to know,

I make many mistakes, which leaves ample room to grow.

I am just a simple poet who goes where few care to go.

I walk among you but I am no angel.

My light shines in the darkness but many lights are needed to illuminate the world.

I want laughter, not tears, Wisdom, not fear,

I am broken, needing repair, needing love, not despair.

I walk among you not as an angel, but as a friend.

Give me your hand and we will lift each other up to the Promised Land.

8/5/17

FIX THE LEAKS

FIX THE LEAKS

As I get older I fit into society better than ever.

I think about my health, my finances, religion and weather.

It’s more than finding out what’s wrong

Because it’s been of great concern all along.

I listened to our President and I’m beginning to freak,

Because it’s time that I should fix my leak.

The problem is around me and everything depends

If I have control straight through to the end.

Tires get leaks, roofs leak too,

Leaks keep me awake nighttime through.

Boats spring leaks and become dangerous and sink,

Footballs get leaks and drive men to drink.

All over the country it’s the topic of the week,

Surely someone knows how to fix a leak.

Leaks in government destroy security and trust,

Yet I want our government to be true and just.

Too much power in the hand s of a few

Without restraints concern me and should alarm you.

The President seems anxious to fix his leak.

If he doesn’t fix it soon he could be up a creek.

Leaks in gossip are entertaining to hear,

But leaks without controls could bring destruction near.

I hope it is simple to fix a leak,

And all my words are truthful as I speak.

There is less need to fix a leak,

If I am honest and it’s truth I seek.

August 4, 2017

 

STATUE OF LIBERTY

STATUE OF LIBERTY

If the Statue of Liberty could talk,

What would she say to citizens today?

She might say, “I would not give the keys to my heart

To everyone by capricious whim.

There are those I would keep out,

And those I would invite in.

I would open the doors each day

And smile at those who come to work or pray,

An island greeting those who are ready to share,

The opportunities and love discovered here.

Those who come with bigotry and hate

And those who haven’t learned to celebrate

Differences,

I would ask them to wait.

My land is home for the weary, a place of hope,

A place they can adjust and learn to cope,

A place to shake fear from timid heart,

Leaving violence behind and getting a new start.

The keys to my heart would only be given

To those with new lives to begin.

This country was founded on blood, grit, and tears.

On that basis I have lasted for years.

To those who are here to prey

And steal all precious dreams away,

There should not be left any doubt.

I would select many to come in,

But there are those I would keep out.”

August 4, 2017

BORN LUCKY

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Born Lucky

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I was born lucky.  I would have chosen my parents right from the start.  I was loved and I felt loved. Maybe they chose me and maybe I chose them.  They were a perfect fit.  I would never claim I was better than others or worse than others.  I know that I saw the world around me with a different view than others had.  When my friends and neighbors complained about their siblings or parents, I  remained silent or said I would choose the same two brothers and the  same four sisters and the same parents.

We didn’t always agree on some subjects but I  knew that our parents were special.  It wasn’t about money.  Money didn’t buy happiness. It wasn’t about material things at all.  We learned to enjoy the foods we had, mostly beans and potatoes and corn bread, and occasionally biscuits and gravy.  It wasn’t about the things we didn’t have.  We learned to use what we had and do without the things we didn’t have. Flour sacks became clothes. Hand-me-downs were common.  Time spent with family was valuable time.  Respect and truth and love were important.  Each day was part of a life-long learning experience.

Even though I didn’t have much I learned how to work, how to play, how to enjoy the world every day.  I was not perfect but I didn’t feel mean or rotten.  I wanted to help people who were hurting, sad, or lonely.  I was usually considered “nice”.  I was a good person, willing to help neighbors and friends.  I could change a tire, carry buckets of water, travel across countries, and participate in games without getting angry as long as there were rules to follow.  I believed in rules and fairness.

Lucky? Maybe I should say I was treated fairly in life. When I saw what others had, what they needed, and the conditions surrounding them, I knew I was blessed.  The world around us did not appear fair in its treatment to others.  Perhaps I was so naïve or oblivious to problems that I escaped what could have been painful experiences.

When I compared my circumstances with others, I began to wake up and observe.  When I visited a friend who  made great claims regarding things he owned, I discovered the truth.  His imagination gave him all the things he didn’t have.  He didn’t live in a mansion. He didn’t drive a fancy car.  He was surrounded by problems that he chose not to see.  He was ashamed to invite me inside his house. The house was tiny and crowded. The windows were broken and needed replacements. The floor had holes.  The house was cold and damp.

The worst of it was the human factor.  How could they survive with conditions like this? It got worse.  In another room his brother sat on a bed in dirty clothes. His eyes were glazed over, flies were clustered all over his face, and yet he was smiling.   I could not imagine living in that home.  His parents were sitting at the kitchen table, discussing the weather, waiting for some super cells to hit the area, and wondering where to go.

Maybe that is why I began volunteering, helping out when I could.  I came into this world looking to do something for others and this was my opportunity to quit talking and begin acting.  I am lucky because I got a good start in life. My life has been blessed even though I have physical problems. Physical problems will not hold me back. I am a poet and a writer.  I must encourage others to help make the world a better place. I must act quickly because death is always waiting and I don’t have time to die.

July 23, 2017

 

You think?

Your story reminds me of an incident that happened long ago and far away, and it’s a true story.  I was divorced and dating a woman with three kids.  The oldest child would do some creative thinking when he was bored.  He could be very good but he was bored often and needed attention.  One afternoon I decided we could go to a park and play softball.  It seemed harmless enough at the time.

the kids weren’t ready to play so they began looking for things to rip apart or accidently destroy. I was young once so that seemed reasonable. When they began throwing rocks at each other, I was hesitant about letting it continue. But their mother thought it was o.k. until another family complained about the rocks bouncing off their car.  They suggested we take our family to a quiet place with thick metal bars.

We compromised by letting them throw water balloons at each other.  Harmless, right? It didn’t take long before they were soaked and cold.  They didn’t have other clothes to wear so they began whining and fighting.  Perfectly normal, right? The oldest began teasing his sister.  His mom blew up! She was tired of all the noise.

They were hungry, wet, and cold. I suggested I could buy them lunch at a mini mart close by.  I pulled up, set the hand brake and kept it in gear. The space was slanted but we were all going inside. But, no! Because the oldest had been bad he would be punished by staying in the car. No supervision, one mad child, hungry, cold, wanting to get away……Now it doesn’t seem like such a good idea.  At the time I was very concerned but I went inside with them.

It didn’t immediately dawn on me that customers and workers were running in the same direction for a reason. I wanted to see what was so exciting!  I was almost run over by the crowd so I went to check on Toby. I thought he must have seen the exciting action(whatever it was).  There was a catch! I couldn’t find Toby,  And, yes, the car was missing!

While we were in the store Toby decided he would run away, er, drive away. He was able to take the car out of gear AND release the hand brake. When nothing was holding the car in place, Toby turned the steering wheel and the car went backwards down the hill, up a small ramp, jumped over two cars without touching them, and came to a stop suspended between two large lamp posts. I climbed up and carefully opened the front passenger door.  Two dark eyes in a very pale face stared back at me.

“Toby, are you o.k.?” I asked him several questions before turning him over to his mother. Cars were blocked from using the road so two tow trucks hooked onto my car, front and back, and slowly lowered it to the ground.  I gathered everybody and we returned to civilization. Score: nobody hurt, no damage to car, no arrests.  Just one tired boy with one big adventure. And yes, just like many of my stories, I believe angels always watch over me and those with me.

july 23, 2017

 

 

TRADITIONS OF TRUTH

Traditions

Our family had traditions,

Coffee, morning newspaper, crossword puzzles,

Discussions about upcoming plans,

American holidays, political candidates,

The winners and also rans.

The discussions blended together

And nobody cussed,

But one thing was sure, we sought the truth,

We took pride in knowing George Washington

Didn’t lie when he chopped down the cherry tree,

And Lincoln was known as “honest Abe”,

They were leaders we could look up to.

We believed our country attracted the world’s best,

And with hard work and determination

We could rise to the top with all the rest.

Our leaders were thoughtful and honest,

 We believed in a handshake or giving our word,

To lie or to cheat was simply absurd.

We believed in who we were fighting for or voting for,

And we wanted to be known for  loving more.

But somehow our love relationships and respect

For each other has gone out the door.

There are no more honest presidents like George or Abe.

Our words are not true and our relationships worthless to save.

We are not honest and always true,

Ugly Americans, we are called, and other words too.

Where are the immigrants, natives, and protectors of rights?

We hide in the darkness and run from the light.

It’s time to tell the truth.

July 22, 2017