So bad Even Introverts are Here

Since November, I have struggled to wrap my head around the results of the presidential election, as have numerous others, with very little success.  It all seems so surreal and frightening. I have experienced many sour moods and flashes of depression as a result.

With the news last week of compromising information that Russia allegedly has on President (then President-Elect) Trump, the sense of impending doom took a turn toward absurdity.

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On Friday, January 20, 2017 . . . yesterday, I wore black. I was in mourning. I was distressed, and I was depressed. Then, I made a decision. I could not just sit around, bitching and moaning on Facebook, commiserating with my cyber-friends.

This morning, after I had breakfast with my parents, as I do every Saturday, I drove into town. Houston is a big city, but I used to work in One Shell Plaza, just across the street from City Hall, where the assembly was going to be taking place. Still, I was a little apprehensive, not knowing what to expect. I get like that when I have to face crowds of any size. Seriously, I’m pretty much a die-hard introvert.

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So . . . I arrived early (because that’s who I am), and I found a parking spot about a half a dozen blocks away at Market Square. That’s really not a very long walk, especially for a city this size, but I have recently been having some ankle and knee problems. There was a chance I was taking a bit of a risk.img_0239

Twenty minutes before the scheduled start time there was already a sizable mass of people milling around, and more kept streaming into Herman Park on either side ofimg_0253-2 the shallow reflecting pond.

The crowd steadily grew, and the organizers started playing music. “At first I was afraid, I was petrified, kept thinking I could never live without you by my side. .  . .” People started to dance. There was energy.

Although many individuals were dressed in black, they were not in mourning. They were not distressed. These people gathered together at City Hall in Houston, Texas, deep in the heart of one of the reddest states in the nation, were not depressed. They were determined.

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Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker

The Houston Chronicle reported  that, “The march was put together roughly 10 days ago . . . but still drew what Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo called the largest public gathering of people in Houston’s history.”

According to the Chronicle, over 20,000 people were in attendance.

As a die-hard introvert, being around people exhausts me, but today I reveled in the diverse community of a large city joined together to face a common threat. I fed off their strength, and like the loaves and fishes from scripture, there was plenty to go around.

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Perhaps it is knowing that I am not alone. Maybe I succumbed to the contagious hope and courage I saw in the faces of the people gathered there and heard in the voices of the representatives of the masses who spoke to the assembly, including Police Chief Acevedo and Mayor Sylvester Turner. Whatever the case, the decision to get out of my comfort zone and take some small affirmative action turned out to be a good one.

Today, we the people did not solve the nation’s most immediate problem, but we did take a stand. Along with similar gatherings across the county and around the world, even in Antarctica (thus literally on every continent), we made our voices heard . . . and it got noticed. That is a good beginning.

And there is certainly no denying that I feel better. It is true that action does make a difference. Now, I need to harness this momentum.

“Then the writers went home to write.” —Tree Swenson

Needle and Spoon – the Touch

I am honored to have my poem, “Needle and Spoon,” included in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue (#19) of Touch: The Journal of Healing This was a difficult poem for me to write. (Sometimes, it’s even more difficult to read.) It means a great deal to me to have found it such wonderful home. Thank you, O.P.W., my friend.

Touch is publish semiannually with a lot of love and care by The Lives You Touch Publications. The strength of the human spirit is the bailiwick of The Lives You Touch Publications. You should treat yourself to the entire issue, but here is a direct link to my poem.

In addition to The Journal of Healing, The Lives You Touch publishes beautiful chapbooks from some very talented writers.  We can help support this extraordinary small press by collecting print copies of its publications.

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Conrad’s Corner on WYSO

Conrad Balliet reads a poem for his radio program Conrad’s Corner on 91.3 FM WYSO every Monday to Friday at 7:59 p.m. and another on Saturdays at 2:20 p.m. He keeps in contact with many poets in the Dayton, Ohio area, and often includes their poems in his on-air readings. On occasion, Conrad records an interview with one of them for the WYSO Weekend shows.

Several of my local poet friends have been featured on Conrad’s corner, and some of them have also been interviewed by Conrad Balliet for airing during 91.3 FM’s Sunday morning shows. I am grateful and flattered to be included among the poets Conrad has chosen to share with his listeners.

Thanks, Conrad! Thank you for giving poetry, especially local poetry, a public voice on WYSO.

Poetry for Change

I am extremely honored to have my poem “Peter Pan Must Die” included in the 2012 issue of Vending Machine: Poetry for Change along side many other talented poets, including Dianne Borsenik, Steve Brightman, T.M. Göttl, Marc Mannheimer, Tina Puckett, Eva Xanthopoulos and more.  

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” That quote was the inspiration for this Poetry for Change project, and it really should be the words by which we all live.

Vending Machine is an anthology published by The Poet’s Haven as part of the annual “Poetic Provisions” food-drive based in Canton, Ohio. It is distributed exclusively in exchange for food donations through November and December, while hard copies last. All donations go toward Canton Sunday Picnic and to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank

The anthology will also be published as a free e-book download from PoetsHaven.com in 2013 during Akron Peace Week. In the mean time, I encourage all of you to give whatever you can to your local food pantry to help feed those in need during the holiday season and throughout the year.

Peter Pan Must Die

They are toys-r-us kids lostPeter_Pan
on an island called Neverland—
lost in Afghanistan—with
pop guns and little plastic
swords and bombs. Lost boys,
lost army men, lost children,
fighting pirates off shore.
Lost war, lost in Iraq—
the never ending fantasy.
Lost fairytale. Where’s the
magic carpet? Where’s the
pixie dust? Tinker Bell was wounded
by snipers during an unmanned
drone fly-by. The croc is on time.
Tic toc, tic toc.

Peter Pan must die. LetPoppies
the pied piper of youth be remembered well.
But before we have peace, the poppies
must lie flat. More widows must cry.
More mothers and brothers, more
girlfriends and fiancées and lovers
must cry. Peter Pan must finally become
Peter the man. R. I. P.

Peter Pan Must Die” was originally published in the Summer 2011 issue of Pudding Magazine, along with “And God . . . ,” and has been featured as one of the Recent Pudding Selections on Pudding‘s website.

Shout-out to Elizabeth

My friend, and fellow Wright Library Poet, Elizabeth Schmidt, won 2nd place in the 2012 Judson Jerome Poetry Contest and a scholarship to attend Antioch Writers’ Workshop this year. Congratulations, Elizabeth!

She is scheduled to have her poem, “Acknowledgment,” read on Conrad’s Corner next Tuesday, June 12, 2012, at 7:59 p.m. (eastern time), 91.3 FM WYSO. (Put it on your calendar now!)

Elizabeth Schmidt has already made several appearances on Conrad Balliet’s radio program.  Julie L. Moore read Elizabeth’s poem, “I Thought,” on July 28, 2011, and Conrad read “Etiquette in Snow” on January 4, 2012. Elizabeth read her own poems, “Florida Boy, 1969” and “Her Dementia,” on the program on February 15, 2012, and March 11, 2012, respectively. In addition, she has been interviewed on Conrad’s Corner as part of Conrad’s local poetry project.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Spring 2012 issue (#5) of Mock Turtle Zine includes Elizabeth’s poem “Love on the Road.” Yes, Elizabeth Schmidt has been a busy little poetess, and it has earned her well-deserved recognition.

Congratulations again, Elizabeth! Nicely done.

Jill, the biker chick

So . . . Jill comes home the other day and says she wants to start riding her bicycle to school. Apparently, she read an article in Sinclair Community College’s student newspaper, The Clarion, about a couple of Sinclair professors, Kathleen Gish and Mike Canestaro, who are bicycle commuters. (The article was actually about the annual presentation the two give discussing the benefits of commuting by bicycle.)  Even though Jill had missed the presentation, she seemed super excited.

The first thing I thought was, “That’s great. She’ll be reducing our carbon footprint.” It is, of course, a great idea: save the planet while getting exercise and fresh air. The only problem was she did not have a bicycle. I figured we would do some research and then eventually find her a nice bike.

Yesterday, Jill asked me if I would go look at bicycles with her. It kind of surprised me that she wanted to pull the trigger on this so quickly. I wondered whether she had really thought this through. However, being the supportive boyfriend I am, I hopped online and quickly did some basic bicycle research, just so I could have a clue what we should be looking for.

When we arrived at Kettering Bike Shop, Jill already had some idea of what she wanted. The red-headed pixie who helped us seemed knowledgeable and was genuinely friendly. Jill was not looking to spend a lot of money, and, between the two of them, they quickly found just the right bike. Add on a few accessories to make carrying a stack of school books easy and the commute both practical and safe, and we actually got out of there with our arms and legs intact.

Jill was so “gung ho” about her life-style changing decision that she planned on riding her new bicycle to school the very next day. Of course, riding down that big hill from Oakwood to downtown Dayton was going to be the easy part.  It is about a five-mile trip, and when her classes are over, she will be facing that same big hill . . . going up.

Don’t get me wrong; Jill is in excellent shape. She runs five miles or so a couple of times a week, and we just ran in the Oakwood “That Day in May” 10K this weekend. Last fall, Jill ran a half marathon almost on the spur of the moment, without a serious training period. There was no question she could do it, but that hill looks really daunting to me.

This morning (after running five miles with our youngest dog, Celeste),  Jill was excited to head out to her Tuesday class. Still, I think she was a little nervous; I know I was. About a half hour after she left, I received a text from her: “That was fantastic! Put hedge clippers on the white board.” I was glad she had made it but thought, “We already have hedge clippers.”

When she got home this afternoon, Jill was juiced.  It did not take her much longer coming than it did going. Apparently, the hill was tough but not too tough. She said her butt was on fire. Of course, I had to agree. (She loves my little innuendos.) She really did look radiant.

She’s thinking she will even ride her bike to school in the rain. Yes, Jill likes to venture outside her comfort zone. “Who cares about the environment or your health? It’s a lot of fun.” That is practically the same thing Ms. Gish had said in the newspaper article.

Now, after we cooked and consumed one of our favorite meals, “Yummy Kale,” Jill is relaxing in a well-deserved bubble bath. She has found herself yet another way to enjoy life . . . and I am living with a biker chick. That makes me happy too.