Category Archives: Poetry

Big Brother Turns 40

No, not the Big Brother of George Orwell’s classic 1984, although that work does get referenced below. Nope, I’m talking about my big brother, Pete.

Pete is on the left, hating the camera as always.
Pete is on the left, hating the camera as always.

I wrote a poem for my parents’ 40th Anniversary some time ago, and it was well received.

My sister-in-law called a couple months ago and reminded me that my big brother’s 40th birthday was coming up. “If you want to write something for his birthday, I know he’ll love it,” she said.

“Uh… sure,” I replied. “I can write something.” But what?

For two months, this project has nagged at the back of my mind, with no clear direction of where to go.

Then, a few days before his birthday, I remembered time spent with my brother and my mom, writing various haiku.

We followed the 5-7-5 syllable format for our haiku. My mom and brother would try to write poignant and powerful things about summer, love, the future, spirituality.

I think I wrote about really important stuff: ramen, video games, and my favorite toys.

In the spirit of those fond memories, I started jotting down some haiku about my brother and my relationship with him.

40 of them would have been too many, but 14 seemed a good number.

Big Brother, forty?
I don’t know what I should say
Past “Happy birthday”

You only enjoyed
Two and a half years without
A little brother

My entire life I’ve
Had a big brother, and I
Wouldn’t change a thing

We’d play karate
My villain, you the hero
I’d want to be like

You put up with me
Chasing you and all your friends
You included me

You introduced me
To the wonder and magic
Hidden in pages

Kingdoms like Gondor
Worlds like Narnia, Bespin
Past and future times.

Sentient robots,
Dragons and dwarves and Wookiees
Doctors and hobbits

We spent hours and nights
Combing nuclear Wasteland
Swapping floppy disks

You challenged my faith
Encouraged me to stand firm
When others gave up

You opened the door
Of my first comic book store
And I was drawn in

To art and legend,
Heroes in tales of virtue,
Overcoming flaws

I unlike Winston
Need no O’Brien to make
Me love Big Brother

So much of my life
Was shaped to imitate you.
For that, I’ll say “Thanks.”

Fridge Poems

Sitting at the doctor’s office, and my wait is longer than usual.

I want to be creative but I can’t concentrate like I would to work on a novel.

I played around with haiku:

Words swarm and thrash their
Meanings jumbled wild yet I
Will still grasp at them

But then I remembered an app called Fridge Poems.
You get a standard pack free with the app, and there are several variant packs available for a small fee.

It’s a fun way to pass some time and spur some creativity. You can save your creations as photos too.

But the doctor is here now, so it’s time to go.

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Beneath the Willow

[Found on Widescreen Wallpapers ]
[Found on Widescreen Wallpapers ]

Under the stars, I’ve made you a bed
Forget your cares, find rest now instead
Shoremists your shroud, grass for your pillow
Lay your arms down beneath the Willow

Duty is done, your battle is finished
Fear not the dark, though light be diminished
Under the moon with comrades and fellows
Lay your heads down beneath the Willow

If dreams disturb and peace slips away
Ancient fears stir, no longer at bay
If nightmares come, and shouts of war echo
I’ll whisper a prayer for you, beneath the Willow

When my day comes, I’ll lay my life down
No longer by burdens and memories bound
Say my farewell where the ocean breeze billows
And I’ll join you there, beneath the Willow

Under the Willow, down by the seashore
We’ll be together as we were before
Under the Willow, beneath the moonlight
We’ll sleep under stars forevermore

Restful Activity

I woke up in the middle of the night while on an alert status for the Air Force, and couldn’t get right back to (much needed) sleep. So if nothing else, you all get a poem about the frustration of waiting for a call that may or may not come:

I’m not supposed to be awake
For another four hours or so
When it’s time my boss will make
A call to let me know

I’ll spring up from within the bed
And throw my flightsuit on
I’ll gather up my gear and head
Out to our plane, then–gone

But it’s more likely that I’ll spend
The next day by the phone
Waiting, ready to be sent
Soon as the need is known

Several days of readiness
Yet still not called upon
Have turned my schedule to a mess
Once-peaceful sleep now gone

This leads to an odd condition
Ordered to stand by
Paid for work I haven’t done
Awaiting call to fly

And so, awake, my eyes go wide
And, breath caught in my chest,
I check the time–just past midnight
I still have hours to rest.

If I can just relax once more
And from this darkness wrest
Passage to that dreamful shore
The mind’s release from stress

So I shall embrace the dark
And hope to slip away
Into a land with lines less stark
Where thoughts and passions play
Where cares familiar and unknown
Are considered and released…

But still there is the telephone
Lurking within arm’s reach

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40th Anniversary Poem

My parents married on March 9th, 1974, on a 70 degree day at the end of “winter.”

A while back, my Mom found a copy of a poem I (apparently) wrote in 1996 for a special anniversary for my great-uncle and great-aunt. Mom loved it.

I read it with a few more years experience, and hated it.

So I cringed when my Mom asked, “Could you do me a huge favor and write a poem for our 40th Anniversary?”

After all, it was doubtful I and my family could even attend. We were in the middle of moving overseas for my next duty station.

I think my response was, “Uhhh… yeah. Sure.” Followed by a few weeks of oh crap, what am I going to write?

40th anniversary… 40th… 40… 40, 40, 40… where have I heard something about 40 before?

And then it all clicked. One quick book search for references, a little thought and organization, and about an hour or two of putting words on the screen, and voila!

Icing on the cake – due to paperwork delays, we were able to attend the spectacular party my brother and sister-in-law organized. And after he read a set of touching Q&A responses from an interview with my Mom and Dad, I got up to read this poem to our mostly church-going crowd:

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As I think about this particular date
And we take time out to celebrate
In a day and age when marriage
Has a fifty fifty chance
And eight years is the average length
Of marital romance
I recall Sunday sermons and it strikes me
That 40 is a number of significance
For this anniversary of a special memory
And a marriage that has made a difference

For Forty days and nights rain fell
On Noah’s ark of wood
And no doubt you have tales to tell
When times were not that good
When storms of life brought pain and strife
To toss you to and fro
You clung together, husband and wife
And waited for the rainbow

Forty years of wandering
Before the Promised Land
Like times you’ve been left wondering
If God forgot His plan
If dreams and hopes you once saw clear
Would ever come to be
And yet we now have gathered here
For forty years of marriage, walking faithfully

I think of Moses in his tent
Before the glory of The Lord
For forty days he sought His Face
And trembled at His Word
I think how often as a child
I saw you both in prayer
And learned true peace and wisdom
Will only be found there

I read that 40 days and nights
Goliath mocked and taunted
Until the man you named me for
Stood up to him, undaunted
And I think of those naysayers
Who never thought you’d stay
Who choked or snickered, Joked or bickered
“Those two? What?” They’d say
But you stood your ground on the Rock you found
And the house stands to this day

Like Elijah fed by God’s own care
Who then ran for 40 days
I know you’ve seen His mercies there
Throughout these four decades
To give you strength to run the race
To find by grace a hiding place
A refuge of repair

Our Savior 40 days in desert
Showed us to rely
Not on ourselves or on this world
But Father God on high
And with the ups and downs of life
I watched the way you live
Not choosing safe or easy ways
But trusting God to give
Enough to get through each new day
New mercies for each morn
A living testimony saying
This is life reborn

For 40 days the resurrected Christ walked and revealed
That victory is won and sin’s fatal wound is healed
For 40 years God chose to show His victory in you
A picture of the Bride and Christ, a window He shines through

Yes, it’s clear to me
And I hope you see
That 40 is a number of significance
For this anniversary of a special memory
And a marriage that has made
a difference

Artful Inspiration: Trying Out Storybird

My writers’ group recently posted a link to Storybird and asked if anyone had tried the service.

I hadn’t, but I volunteered to be the creative guinea pig.

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Storybird is a site full of artwork meant to inspire creative writing, both poems and prose. The idea is that you find a piece or series of art that spurs your imagination, and then you write or “unlock” the story contained within the pictures.

It’s meant to reverse the usual process, where a writer has a story to tell and then scrounges around for the right picture to match it.

I tried to do all this on my iPad since my laptop hard drive perished. That decision led to some frustration.

First I explored the site a bit. They have some highlighted submissions from their users, akin to WordPress with the Freshly Pressed. Everything is broken up into genres and categories, and almost everything is tagged for searching.

When you pick a story, you get a flipbook on iPad with pages that turn with a swipe of the finger. On my wife’s PC, she got arrows to turn pages.

When you pick a piece of art, you can learn about the artist and see the rest of their portfolio on the site. This becomes useful when looking for a consistent style of art for a project.

I admit, the grammar nazi in me rose up at the spelling errors and bad grammar in some of the “new and noted” highlighted pieces. But I realize the point is creativity and free expression, not necessarily perfection.

I also found it interesting that everything is moderated. When you publish a story or poem, it gets reviewed before being submitted into the public library. This helps ensure a certain level of propriety and minimizes mean content. Or at least that’s the stated reason behind it.

Signing up is easy and free. There are various accounts based on how you’d like to use the site. Teachers and students can use it for assignments. There are options for professional writers and artists. There’s a “parent” option as well, though I didn’t search to find out exactly what that does.

I chose “regular” as a safe starting point.

I was quickly hit with prompts to upgrade to a premium membership. If you want options for themes and layouts, if you want faster moderation, if you want varied options for responding to people’s projects, then you’ll need an upgrade. It’s $3.99 a month, or $2.99 a month if you pay for a full year.

I held firm to my free membership, and started searching through art. Once I found a picture I wanted, I hit the “Use This Art” button, selected story instead of poem, and found myself at the creative desktop.

I got the picture I wanted, and a set of other pictures by the same artist in the same theme. Then it got difficult.

I had an idea for where I wanted to go, but I was limited by the pictures I started with. Once you choose a set of art, you can’t go back and search for more. The stated reason is this will help you focus on writing the story you unlocked in the picture, instead of looking for just-right pictures to match your already-written story.

Well that didn’t work for me!

I backed up and searched for art in some themes, but it took a while to find a set that had all the pieces I wanted. I ended up with a set of 302 pictures to wade through in order to find perhaps 20 that matched my intent.

They warn users that if you do it the way I did, you will probably be frustrated. They were right.

Now I had the set I wanted… all 300+ pictures loaded into the workspace. I shifted some around, sorted through all of them, and set aside the ones I planned to use.

Then I had to hit refresh, and I lost all that sorting effort.

I had to refresh because my browser became another source of frustration. I used Safari on the iPad at first… but the menu in the workspace kept disappearing. I would have to update a bit, then refresh after waiting around long enough for the project to autosave.

Unsatisfied with that, I tried Chrome. Same result at first, but then I saw the option under Chrome’s menu to “request desktop site.” That made the workspace function properly, and I was able to complete my project.

With all the lost effort due to browser issues and the process of figuring out how to get a selection of artwork that I wanted, not to mention the actual writing, it took me about three or four hours to produce my first effort.

It’s called Not In a Nice Way and it’s a love story of sorts.

Was it worth the effort? Sure. Storybird seems like an interesting way to get creative, something nice to take a break from my usual projects. For someone who writes children’s books, it might be very useful. And it seems like a fun community of people, although I think they’re a little too flattering with their comments on silly or sub-standard work.

At the free price, it’s worth a try.

But a monthly subscription? That remains to be seen.

Give it a shot. If you create a project, post it in a comment. I’d love to see how others use the site. And let me know what you think of “Not In A Nice Way” too.

The Best Lunch

As an aside, I sure do love writing challenges. I discovered the last Daily Post writing challenge a little late in the week, but still enjoyed the creative spark it provided. This week’s challenge seems quite simple: jot down some lunchtime observations. Maybe there will be more of these, but today’s ‘lunch’ was special for me.

It’s 2 PM, or 3, or so.
I’ve lost track, don’t really know.

Teenage Daughter’s at her friend’s house
Watching YouTube videos.

Wifey has a meeting over lunch
And the boys, they begged to go.

That leaves me and Three-Year-Old
Napping in Wifey’s recliner.

Cuddled up, side by side,
I’m sure no lunch was ever finer.

And though no food did I prepare,
I’ve rarely felt so satisfied
Than after this day’s lunchtime fare.

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