“And Mr. Speaker, after you leave your position of power, how will you spend your days?”

I’ve probably run into Jim Wright out in public here in Fort Worth more often than I’ve seen the retired conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, John Giordano. All of us live in the same general area of Southwest Fort Worth, near TCU, but the bushy-browed former Speaker of the House seems to pop up here and there more frequently than the talented conductor. No particular significance — I’m just saying…

 

The old congressman

smiles and nods as he passes,

walking his poodle.

 

That’s twice I’ve seen him

in the past few days, so now

I find I’m wondering

 

how to address him.

Since he was the House Speaker,

and he still appears

 

to think he’s on the stump,

smiling and nodding broadly,

those bushy eyebrows

 

lifting in greeting.

What title should I use to

address the old guy?

 

Based on what I’ve seen

and our brief conversations,

I’ll bet all he wants

 

is to hear his name

and have someone ask about

his white toy poodle’s health.

 

 

 

Bird on a string?

As though on a string,

the great blue heron descends

at 30 degrees,

 

straight into the stream.

His wings rigid, unmoving,

add to illusion

 

he’s mechanical,

not really as he appears;

flesh, bones, and feathers.

 

Pink, birds, umbrellas, cotton candy on twin sticks

 

This string is about roseate spoonbills on the Gulf Coast, flamingos in Honduras, and other things pink, all of them, except the drink decorating stir sticks, naturally occurring pink.

 

Cotton candy pink.

Fluffy pink balls of feathers

scattered in bushes.

 

Roseate spoonbills

in their full mating plumage

on High Island shore.

•••••••••••

Flying pink umbrellas

seen from Honduran rooftop,

bishop’s residence

 

Flamingos in flight

crossing over Honduras

Pacific to Gulf

 

in Juticalpa.

There with bishop and my friend,

the photographer,

 

we stand, view the square

 

Scene is bathed in blues

and pinks so rich they defy

my ability

 

to remember them

until I see Rodger’s pics

published on newsprint.

•••••••••••

Standing by bird blind

two hundred fifty miles from

Texas Gulf Coast,

 

a lone pink spoonbill

flies high over arm of lake,

rose-colored and lost.

•••••••••••

Carousel patterned

drive-in restaurant, now gone.

We sit with our drinks,

 

and hanging from their rims,

two hot pink, hard plastic birds

— with umbrella beaks.

 

 

Persistent excitement, thrill of the chase

This piece really marks the beginning of my lifelong love affair with little, pocket-sized notebooks, a love affair every writer and journalist is familiar with. Stopping by the roadside along Yellowstone’s loop road with my folks, we witnessed this wildlife adventure as the mother moose moved to protect her 500-pound “baby.” It all went into the  3-inch wide spiral notebook.

 

The wolf moves downwind

through an arc of a circle,

moving ever closer,

 

toward the young moose calf,

protected by her mother,

now up on her legs,

 

aware of danger.

The wolf, knowing he’s been seen,

silently slinks off.

 

It’s Yellowstone Park,

not far off its famed loop drive,

and I am fifteen.

 

Fifty years later

neurons firing in my brain

still bring them to life,

 

still bring excitement,

stir a charged thrill in my chest,

far from Yellowstone.

 

 

Digging a well of blue

Sometimes days on end of sunless days can generate a kind of desperation for a patch of blue, a break in the gray. This flight of fancy was written in the middle of a string of those sunless winter days.

 

It’s the kind of day

you want to poke a hole in

gray skies overhead,

 

take a cartoon axe

and hack out giant hunks of

cotton candy clouds

 

till you hit blue sky.

At first just a tiny hole,

then you’d hack some more.

 

The hole becomes a patch,

the patch a pool of bright blue,

then lake, then ocean.

 

Then would come the flood,

delicious sunlit feelings,

joy dumped into day.

 

 

Seeking the fox

Memories of my wife and I walking the trail in the park on a summer’s evening with my 11-year-old daughter and her best friend of the same age, looking for a red fox running through the dusk, are still fresh in my mind. Like yesterday’s remembrance of bedtime reading of the Chronicles of Narnia, it is one of the memories of my daughter’s childhood that still brings joy and warm nostalgia.

 

Summer evenings

the sun would just have gone,

the fireflies appeared.

 

We’d head for the creek

where bats flew overhead,

darting at insects.

 

And the four of us

would walk to the creek’s green bridge

hoping to see a fox.

 

Amy, her best friend

—the two were 11 that year —

and my wife and I.

 

Trees above the trail

assured us full darkness there,

adding to the thrill.

 

A twig would snap;

the girls would cling to Susan,

giggling, giddy with fright,

 

to think we might see

a fox emerge from shadow,

a bat swoop toward us.

 

We did, once or twice,

see foxes at a distance

that golden summer,

 

but it was the seeking

and the company that brought joy

much more than foxes.

 

This innocent joy,

moments frozen in the past,

exists forever.

 

Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after

My daughter, Amy, may not have been the first to come up with the formulation of the shortest fairy tale ever — around the age of five — but it was certainly something she came up with on her own, and it’s the title of this piece. As soon as she would sit still to listen, and long before she had much speech at all, we started reading to her. She still loves the Narnia books mentioned here. She still loves to read, and she still loves endings.

 

She loves endings

and I love the beginnings.

We learned through the books

 

and the stories of

Chronicles of Narnia,

my daughter and I.

 

Her favorite book

was The Last Battle, but mine

The Magician’s Nephew.

 

Hers, the coming kingdom,

mine, the beauty of creation,

and each without doubt

 

or hesitation,

each desiring to witness

these crucial moments.

 

Like a coin’s sides,

on one, the promise of Hope,

other, its Fulfillment.

 

Each a nom de plume

for the One through whom it comes,

He who is the Word.

 

 

 

Seven-inch diameter ball of clay

Next door in Guatemala, native peoples’ crafts thrive, form a vital part of the local culture, as they continue at their looms, bright colors and patterns leaping forth. But here in Honduras, the Spanish culture has driven the crafts of natives from the center stage. When I admired a small sconce-shaped vase, hand-worked, hanging from a nuns’ residence’s wall, our photographer sneered when I asked if it were native-crafted, making some snide remark about “No, it’s ours (Spanish culture). Theirs is not so finished.” The Guatemalan woven pieces I picked up at the airport at Tegucigalpa later seemed nice enough. Racism alive and well after four centuries.

 

A ball of red clay,

its surface well worked and scarred

from her cloth’s wiping

 

color to spread here

on the bottom foot or so

of an adobe wall,

 

like those before her

in the flowing stream of years

—her ancestors.

 

She sits inside

the porch-surrounding half wall,

half in sun, half out,

 

here in Honduras,

though Indian lore has died,

its building methods live.

 

 

 

Glimpses of eternity through the obituary pages

From Dr. Seuss and newborns to the obituary pages and the lessons we’d learn if we could gather one day’s group of living biographies from so many different segments of the population, so many different perspectives on life and its joys and sorrows. What would they teach us, what would they share, if we could gather them from here and there?

 

I want a party

attended by those who reside

on pages inside

 

the Metro section,

those whose obituaries

hold our attention

 

for a day or two.

The occasion that draws them

together this way

 

must be just by chance,

but the groups I find gathered

here on either side

 

of the river down

the middle of each two-page spread

are fascinating.

 

White faces sprinkled

with brown, black, and tan ones

(and many between).

 

Captains of industry,

janitors, actors, housewives,

Catholic and Jew

 

and Protestant too.

What would they say if they could

join us at my home?

 

Around the punch bowl,

what would they say? What wisdom

would they share with us?

 

If suddenly their

lips were freed to tell their tales

without restrictions

 

of race or class or age,

just the Truth with capital “T”,

love with a big “L.”

 

Surely we’d learn more

than the books ever tell us

of heaven and hell.

 

 

 

Seuss on the loose, but after the wrong goose

And then there’s pure frivolity — but with purpose. I really do think the adventure of parents being swept along for the ride with the developments brought by their own child or children seeking to grow into their uniquely capable selves is every bit the adventure Dr. Seuss sought to capture in “Oh the Places You’ll Go”. That book was aimed at the children following their own paths of unimagined development. So here, dedicated to new and experienced parents everywhere is “Seuss on the Loose, but after the Wrong Goose” given over to the other half of the equation — the parents traveling in the jetstreams of their offspring.

 

Think he got it wrong

with “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”

— at least part of it.

 

The book is pitched to

kids on the cusp of leaving,

launching their lives.

 

The real adventure

is the one new parents take

as they follow them

 

onto sporting fields,

into new activities,

varied and sundry

 

where their children must go

to bring forth their genius,

creativity

 

and life-seeking drive.

Their offspring must develop

— and there is no choice,

 

only following,

flying, becoming airborne,

like a winged glider,

 

seeking out thermals

to carry them still higher.

It’s an adventure,

 

one the rest of life

can’t begin to compare to,

so unexpected

 

will be the twists and

turns, like the chutes and ladders

of the child’s board game.

 

So get ready now,

before the first night in the crib.

For soon it begins.

 

The book should have said,

“Oh the Places They’ll Take You,”

‘cause that’s how it is.