Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Childhood Memories Of Winter

(Childhood winter time memories stay with us wherever we go. May these recollections take you back and bring you home.)

"Remembering Winter"
(North Dakota Horizons, 2007)

Silhouetted sentries stare,
Standing leafless, stark and bare.

Snowflakes, on their wingless flights,
Swirl in winter wind that bites….

Silv'ry, golden strings of lights,
Star-filled skies on nippy nights.

Snowsuits, mittens, itchy tights,
Sledding, skating, snowball fights;

Steaming cocoa-whispered sips,
Smiles on children's rosy lips.

Sticky, frosted finger tips;
Scrumptious s'mores and chocolate chips;

Scents of winter in the air,
Sounds of children everywhere;

Stockings filled with special treats,
Stories Grandpa still repeats.

Simply said, though far you roam,
Special memories bring you home.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Done Any House Cleaning Lately?

Quick! What's the first feeling you get when someone mentions "cleaning", as in "we're cleaning this weekend" or "we can't put off the cleaning any longer"? Let's face it. It's a combination of dread, resignation and resistance. I like to call it "dre-sig-nis-tance".

When a wave of dresignistance comes on, suddenly climbing Mount Everest and cliff diving in Acapulco seem like things you ought to be doing instead. Now, if you could only find those travel brochures you picked up last year---as if you thought you'd ever actually do those things in the first place.

I'm not sure what makes cleaning such a chore. Maybe it's because it's almost the worst kind of chore. First of all, depending on how brutal you decide to be, you have to retouch everything at least for the second time---if not third, fourth or fifth---even the stuff you should never have touched to begin with.

Then there's the dust, most of it laying there waiting to explode with the slightest breath, like one of those dandelion seed tufts. How do those little dust bunnies form, anyway? There they are, just lurking in corners and under furniture, waiting to pounce---or escape ahead of your approaching rag or mop.

The worst part may be the mental battle between the left and right sides of the brain, first trying to remember what made some particular thing so darned interesting at the time, then reevaluating whether to delay its immediate demise---a-g-a-i-n.

Cleaning has no gender boundaries either---there's no preponderant male/female claims to chronic collector status. Doesn't everyone have stacks of cherished magazines and catalogs, from Playboy to Pottery Barn, from "O" to "Q", from Real Simple to REI? All of them are so hope-filled and glossy.

Sure, we'll get back to that compelling relationship article eventually or try that recipe for goat cheese-vegetarian lasagna with avocado and a hint of mint. Toss them out? How could we? To paraphrase the classic from Seals and Croft, "these may never come this way again." Hope springs eternal....

But wait. Maybe the act of the cleansing purge (we're talking housework here) has gotten a bad rap all these years. When you get right down to it, cleaning is really just a mini-archeological excavation, with surprises under every layer.

Now I know why retail stores rotate their product lines so often. It's really just a business exercise in cleaning. Much as a fresh, clean store draws the eye and corrals customers, so too will your home, divested of its dust and clutter, be inviting to all those visitors you've been meaning to have over---you know, someone besides your best friend who loves you even with all your warts.

Just think of the fun in the discovery, nay even the reward, that awaits you. Have you browsed through the rows of packages and cans in your pantry which are months or even years beyond their "best if used by" date. What about the caches of expired coupons in that little basket by the phone; the knic-knacs and chotchkys---priceless dust catchers lined up in formation on shelves and hutchtops; and the pages of three-hole punched portfolio reports added monthly and quarterly to the "file later" pile?

Ah, but the true irony lies in the well-intentioned buckets and bags of partially and never used cleaning supplies shoved into the dark recesses of "the under-sink"?

So, what's to be done with the dust and clutter of times past. Can we ever part with our accumulated stash of good stuff which seems to have taken up permanent residence? Isn't it time to toss off the tantalizing tyrany of "too much"? To soundly trounce the trash evolved from treasure? To finally unburden the body and soul?

Come on. You can do it. Compulsion is under rated. Just think of it as turning your cleaning quirks into fashion statements. That damp rag tucked under a rubber band at your wrist will eradicate errant smudges in a flash. White gloves with a spritz of dust spray? Perfect for swiping away new traces of pre-dust on the bannister? And what could be bolder than strapping on a tool belt filled with cleaning supplies?

But the ultimate? A stylish row of easy-reach hooks by the front door is ideal for hanging dustmops, brooms and the afore-mentioned tool belt---all at the ready so you can start cleaning as soon as you walk in the door and keep at it until you leave. Throw caution to the wind. No mercy! This is war! Be the first cleaning fashionista on your block. Are you with me?

Wait. Where's the TV remote? Isn't there a game on now? Dirty Jobs? Animal Planet? Jeopardy? Anything?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Some Things Just Get On My Last Nerve

I may get some critical mail about this. Or maybe not. I feel compelled to write about something I just don't understand. I'm not sure I would lump the basis of my complaint under the general category of corporate greed. But it rubs me the same way.

Here's my issue: The less than altruistic intentions of companies which loudly proclaim support (read create an ad campaign) for a socially compelling movement only to withhold that support unless the consumer public first jumps through unnecessary hoops.

In plain English, a yogurt brand got on my last nerve years ago by creating a campaign in support of breast cancer research. Now before you start clattering away on your keyboards out there, I am not saying I don't support breast cancer research because I do and I have for years. My beef is when a company says for every "this" or "that" you do, we will donate "X" amount to cancer research.

Said another way, not until a consumer does the certain thing (e.g., jump through "hoops") will the company make a donation. And when the "hoops" include unnecessary sanitary missteps and require the additional cost of postage, to me that's just slippery business---a way to get out of making the donation in the first place. Personally, I stopped buying the product and switched to another brand as my own private protest.

Why can't a company accept the transaction at the point of sale as evidence of a customer's support for the targeted social agenda? After all, I'm certain someone in the company has the job of tracking sales volume down to the last yogurt cup. So, why all the roadblocks?

I could be wrong here. But, at the risk of sounding totally naive, does it appear the business side tends to trump good intentions? If an ad is crafted to cast the company as being socially responsible, then why shouldn't the company simply honor their implied commitment to support the good cause from the outset and make a donation based simply on sales volume alone?

If there is a concern about business liability (that is, the unknown and potentially high cost of the donation), couldn't the company simply state their donation limit up front? How about "We will support the cause up to a maximum of "X" thousands or millions of dollars"? Or "Because our company is proud to support the cause, we have made a donation of "X" dollars on behalf of our loyal customers". Both seem like reasonable approaches to the same end.

So, why do I feel compelled to comment now? Well, another company (one competing for market share in the same niche) has designed their own variation of the "lick and mail" campaign. It's a bit more polished and uses the Internet and purchase codes to squeeze out customer "buy in" (pardon the pun). But the approach is essentially the same---jump through these "hoops" or we won't make a donation.

Sure they steered clear of the licking and the mailing. But what does entering a code on a message form do? Potentially, it gives the company a trace back to the computer or smart phone of every customer who sends a purchase code to the company via its website. Forgive my suspicious streak. Maybe companies don't do that sort of thing.

Bottom line is, wouldn't it be easier and much more effective for a company to step up and do the right thing all by themselves? Just wondering.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In Honor Of Halloween

"In The Bone Zone"
by Bill Kirk

Bones! Bones! We all got bones.
They are hard as rocks and stones.

You can feel 'em, thick or thin-
Under muscles, under skin.

In your elbow, wrist and toes,
Even right on top your nose.

Count your ribs. Can you make ten?
Laugh and you must start again.

Feel your fingers, each bone shows.
Easy! They are all in rows.

Hip bones, spine and either knee;
You can find them-one, two, three.

Come on now. Let's have some fun.
Searching for your skeleton.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

All Hail To The Seizers!

All Hail To The Seizers!
By Bill Kirk

Admit it. Don’t you just sit and wonder sometimes?
I mean, just to marvel at all the stuff
That’s bouncing around inside your head?
Try it if you haven’t. Who knows?
You may find it strangely satisfying to ponder
Just how many little rabbit trails
There surely must be inside the old cranium.
And talk about entertaining—that, too.

The number alone of all the thoughts
Zipping through one’s brain
Has got to be virtually uncountable,
Even if we had a stop-action camera
To freeze the brain in mid-think.
Yep. A think-o-meter is what we need, all right.

Of course, some of the thoughts are mere idle flashes,
Almost as if tiny brain segments
Are constantly dropping in and out of consciousness.
Other thoughts seem more productive,
Forming those proverbial “trains of thought”
About a certain something.
But, alas! Even a “train of thought”
May cover way too much real estate
To capture and categorize.

Why, just this afternoon,
I tracked on such disconnected things as
Bits and pieces of garage inventory—some lost, some found;
A favorite grade school teacher
Who regularly pulled unruly kids’ ears to keep them in line;
And whether a tent I soon plan to use has a hole in it.
Then it was onto where the best deal
On a bed frame and mattress might be.

Oh, and what about those boxes—unopened since 1985,
There in the upstairs bedroom closet?
Could that be where those errant bossun heads are?
Hundreds and thousands of questions,
Affirmations and reminders,
Stack up continually and almost instantaneously,
Like so many mental “sticky notes to self”.

Sure, we try our best to catalog
The endless stream of rambling ruminations—
At times in the very moment,
Or more likely in retrospect.
An image of trough upon metal trough
Filled to the brim with key punch cards comes to mind.
Doesn’t it make you wonder whether there might be
A giant queue awaiting cranial processing time?
Ah, yet another idle thought goes to the back of the line—
No cuts allowed. Or are they?

Of course, all attempts to give order to such chaos
Must inevitably be futile, right?
After all, are any of those so-called idle thoughts
Ever really idle at all?

Always in motion and, therefore, just beyond our control,
Billions of thoughtful snippets
Layer themselves one upon another,
Seeming to simmer silently until sufficient heat
Brings them to the surface.
That’s when the action gets interesting
As they bounce around like pin balls
Off the unending undulations of our collective cerebellae.
How could any of us be expected to keep track of it all?

Perhaps the answer to that question
Defines us as much more than
Mere copers and survivors.
Instead, are we not called to exercise
The full measure of our human capacity?
Indeed, are we not to be seizers of the day,
Destined to flourish, thrive and forge ahead
From one stimulating challenge to the next?

But is it the relishers of freefall—
The stimulation seekers—
Who hold human progress in their hands?
Or will those with the power to calmly disregard
The crush of competitive zeal,
Quietly lead humankind to the earthly promised land?

No matter. Either way, all those who grab the moment
And work toward the greater good deserve a cheer—


Sunday, September 5, 2010

On Becoming An Eagle Scout

Parents, Honored Guests, Friends and Fellow Scouts:

I am honored to have this opportunity to speak to you about the meaning of Scouting in the lives of the young men who choose to be part of it and particularly those who persevere on the Trail to Eagle. But I must say, some of you know all too well there is a great risk in giving me a podium and an audience with a whole evening before me and a subject I love. All I can promise is to try to practice the Ninth Point of the Scout Law and be "Thrifty" with your time this evening.

Scouting is one of the greatest organizations in the world to foster the highest ideals of citizenship and service. It is little wonder then that so many of our nation’s greatest leaders had some of their earliest leadership experiences in Scouting. Some aspects of the Scouting program may have changed over time. But one thing remains constant. That is, the total development from boyhood to manhood is still founded on the physical, mental, and moral excellence expressed in and demanded by the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

When most boys enter Scouting, they likely picture themselves as someday becoming Eagle Scouts. But as often happens, many activities and interests clamor for their attention as they enter their high school years and the early Scouting flames and aspirations may dim to ashes and flicker away. After all, historically only about four percent of Scouts have achieved the Eagle Rank.

So, what does the Eagle badge represent in the lives of the young men who earn it? Certainly, it means that a Scout has set his eyes on a challenging goal and has worked hard to achieve it. But more importantly, it is a measure of a boy’s future potential as he grows to manhood. In truth, achieving the Eagle Scout Rank is not an end but simply an open door to the future.

There is much that can be said about the Trail to Eagle, about the challenges along the way and about the accomplishment itself—the what, how and when. But I would like to highlight one point that is often missed. That is, long before a Scout can actually reach this high honor, he has a decision to make. That decision is the fundamental answer to the question, “Do I want to be an Eagle Scout?”

In fact, this very question is the “why” that drives each prospective Eagle Scout forward. It is a decision only the Scout himself can make. That these young men are here before you is clear evidence each one made the decision and stayed the course.

Certainly, their family and friends encouraged them and maybe even gently nudged them at various points along the way. And any Scout would likely tell you that an encouraging word can be like gold when the journey gets tough and a Scout has to dig deep, then deeper still, just to keep going. But ultimately, and by design, the Scout must answer the call of the soaring eagle for himself, just as each of these young men did.

For some the decision may have come early in their Scouting careers. For others, it may have happened much later, after an awakening about what becoming an Eagle Scout means to them. And did I mention there is a clock ticking away in the background? Yes, at age 18, the Trail to Eagle ends for all Boy Scouts.

But regardless of when the decision occurs, that is the moment each Scout truly learns the importance of the Eagle Scout Rank in his own life. It is at that decision point when he accepts the challenge, makes the commitment and maps out a personal plan and strategy to meet the goal.

How many Ranks and Merit Badges do I have left and can I complete them all in time? What will I do for my Eagle Service Project and how long do I need to finish it? Have I completed all my Leadership requirements and have I done my best to be an active mentor to other Scouts in the Troop looking to me for guidance? These are the questions each Scout must answer for himself, often when facing the many other demands of an increasingly busy schedule of school, family, sports and even work activities.

On occasion, the Scout’s decision to embark on the Trail to Eagle may be challenged by others—peers in school, team mates or even friends—who may not fully understand the pull of the spirit of Scouting. No matter, because it is a Scout’s own personal motivation which will carry him across the finish line.

As I thought about each of the young men seated before you this evening, I noted a common theme along their Trail to Eagle. It has been a clear and strong sense of self and, yes, even a bit of a stubborn streak, that has stood them in good stead on their individual journeys. Indeed, I would have no trouble speaking volumes about the strong personal attributes of each one.

Some have left their mark on academics, others in athletic competition. Some followed Eagles in their own families or reached that goal as the first. Some have excelled in math and science, others in the arts. Some have dug snow caves that would match any survivor's story, others have climbed mountains or backpacked for miles for the sheer joy of it.

However, regardless of their individual accomplishments, skills and talents both inside and outside of Scouting, they are now bound together by one common conviction—they are, and always will be, Eagle Scouts who are 100 percent guilty of being Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.

Gentlemen, Welcome to the Eagles' Nest. It is a personal honor and a singular pleasure to be in your company.

And it’s a great day for Scouting!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sometimes You Have To Cut Your Losses

As writers, we often work on a story, essay, poem or other piece of genius that we are certain meets, if not far exceeds, the criteria for publication somewhere, anywhere. In fact, we may be so convinced of our work's merit that we withhold it from public view on the Internet (ergo remain "unpublished") on the off chance that it might get picked up for publication by someone, anyone. Well, sometimes I suppose it's best to just get over it.

So, in the spirit of sharing, here is a bit of an action poem written in rhyme, celebrating picture day at school. I still think it would make a great little picture book. I mean, who can't relate to picture day?

But I'm willing to concede the likelihood of publcation as a picture book is slim. Granted, it was published in a children's magazine back in 2007. But still I'd like to imagine it in between two scuffed up hard covers with dog-eared pages because kids have read it and chuckled, chortled, guffawed and roared over and over.

One can dream, can't one?

By Bill Kirk
(Published in Fun For Kidz Magazine, September 2007)

This morning when my Grandma knocked,
I didn’t make a peep.
She’d never find me underneath
These covers in a heap.

Then, in she came to chase me out
And get me on my way.
“Let’s rise and shine, grandson of mine!
Today is picture day.”

She gently stressed as I got dressed,
“No horseplay is allowed.
There’ll be no kicking rocks and cans,
Or dust into a cloud.”

“But, Grandma…,” “Don’t ‘But Grandma’ me,”
She said with my four names.
That meant that she was serious.
There’d be no silly games.

So, I got dressed and brushed my hair
And even washed my face.
The boys would hardly know it’s me—
With every hair in place.

Then, off I went with good intent,
To stay both neat and pressed.
So, when I finally got to school,
I’d look my very best.

At recess all the kids went out
To run and chase and hide.
But Grandma’s words came back to me.
And so I stayed inside.

When it was time to go to lunch,
I ate each bite with care.
I even tucked a napkin in,
To catch each crumb, mid-air.

Then suddenly, as if on cue,
I heard someone yell, “Duck!”
I should have known, my time would come,
And I’d be out of luck.

At first I saw some gelatin,
Go sailing past my head.
And then two hotdogs—flying by—
Just missed my best friend, Fred.

Soon apples turned to applesauce
And plums to purple goo.
When mashed potatoes hit the floor,
They stuck like paste and glue.

I crashed into the Principal
And almost caused two falls.
By then my hopes of staying clean
Were dashed on doors and walls!

When all the food had finally flown,
The lunchroom was a mess!
Our teachers called our Moms and Dads
So we could all confess.

And did I mention evidence?
Oh yes! There’d be a bunch!
The photographs would say it all—
Our turn was after lunch!

But, wait! Was that my Grandma’s voice,
So faint, and far away?
“Get up, my boy, or you’ll be late!
Today is picture day.”

So, did I hear my Grandma right?
Were things not as they seemed?
Hurray! That whole big mess at school,
Was something I had dreamed!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yosemite Adventures

Prologue: Boy Scout Troop 259 in Sacramento, CA goes out camping or backpacking usually once a month to give our Scouts an opportunity to experience the great outdoors. California has a wealth of natural beauty within a few hours of almost any place in the state. This month, a small group made a trip to Yosemite National Park. The following account documents the trip for the record and to help inform the Troop's planning for future such trips. For the Half Dome portion, here is a link to an informative video to help prepare for the hike:

https://pwrcms.nps.gov/yose/photosmultimedia/hikinghalfdome.htm .

August 20, 2010: We got a late start departing Sacramento at 1:30 in two groups---one group of nine campers bound for Crane Flat campground in Yosemite Valley and the second group of four backpackers bound for Half Dome. The two groups would be separated by several miles between our camps save for a brief encounter along the trail en route Vernal Falls on August 21.

The backpacker group arrived in Yosemite Valley too late to pick up our wilderness permit and tickets for Little Yosemite Valley (LYV) camping and climbing Half Dome. We found our overnight spot in North Pines backpacker campground and set up camp for a short stay---sack dinners followed by turning in early and sleeping under the stars to save time breaking down camp the next morning. Notably, at about 8:30 that evening, park rangers made their appointed rounds to alert all the campers to the possibility of bear visits, usually between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m.

At 4,000 feet, the night was not cold (low 50s) but cool enough that my fleece bag was not quite sufficient for a deep sleep. The boys slept well in their down bags. But tossing and turning was my lot until 4:00 a.m. when a 400 pound black bear wandered into camp as if on schedule, to snack on food in an unclosed bear box and bear cannister left unsecured in another part of the camp. The bear stayed 15-20 minutes before leaving camp, despite the clanging pots and shouts from several campers. Not much chance for sleep after that.

August 21, 2010: We were up for good by 5:30 a.m. for story swapping about the bear and a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and hot chocolate/coffee. I walked one mile to the Yosemite Wilderness Center to pick up our wilderness permit. The four of us in the backpacker party finally got underway by 10:30 a.m. after tying up loose ends and a few false starts. By the time we headed up the three-mile trail from Happy Isles toward Vernal Fall (5,044 feet), there was already a crowd on the trail. Most were day hikers with no more than fanny packs and water bottles and an occasional day pack. The true backpackers on the trail were easily identifiable.

Each of us carried two-to-three full liters of water. And between us we had three water filters to pump water along the trail if needed. It was a steady uphill, 1.3 mile climb between Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. Our 40-pound packs made for slow going, particularly on the long series of steps leading up to Vernal Falls and steep trail up to Nevada Fall (5,907 feet). The "up" was relentless and brief "catch your breath" stops were essential. After a 15-minute layover at Nevada Fall to rest legs and check for hot spots and blisters, we continued toward LYV, pulling off the trail one time along the way to pump water from the Merced River, which was running serenely this time of year.

It was an uphill 1.4 mile hike from Nevada Fall to LYV. But the broad trail made it manageable despite the loose sand in places. Walking sticks were definitely helpful on the steep trails. Once at LYV (6,100 feet), we dropped our gear and set up camp by 3:30 p.m. in anticipation of a late afternoon climb up Half Dome (8,836 feet). After leaving Nevada Fall, the crowds on the trail had thinned out, although there were plenty of day hikers who continued to Half Dome. However, most of those on the trail by mid-afternoon was returning from their Half Dome climb earlier in the day and were on the way down to camp or homeward bound. Only the backpackers were overnighting at LYV.

Despite our fatigue and the lateness of the day, we decided to press on toward Half Dome the same day rather than wait until the next morning. In retrospect, that decision was a good one. Our group felt we might not have it in us to complete the 3.2 mile hike and climb up Half Dome the next morning, then hike all the way back to the valley floor. However, by way of lessons learned, we should have pumped water at the river before leaving LYV for Half Dome. Yes, we still had water from our earlier filtering stop. Just not enough.

Knowing it would be a late return to camp for the night, we packed our day packs with jackets, gloves, flashlights, first aid kit, snacks, water and our dinner supplies (stove, fuel, matches, dehydrated meals). We knew we would likely have to cook dinner on the way down to replace the calories we had used on the trail.

Almost immediately after finding the trail out of camp toward Half Dome, the level terrain around the LYV backpacker campsite once again changed to steady uphill. We proceeded northerly for 1.2 miles. Even without our heavy backpacks, the trail was not easy---perhaps a measure of the fatigue in our legs at that point.

As we switched to a westwardly direction for the final two miles, a quick assessment of our available water supplies illuminated our failure to account for the demands of the 6.5 mile round trip late in the day. Fortunately, and totally unexpectedly, we encountered a very small muddy patch of ground on the side of the trail. To us thirsty hikers, that wet spot looked really good. It turned out to be a surface pop-out of a small underground stream or the exit of a tiny spring.

Although at first the water appeared not much more than a mud hole, we detected a definite flow to the water and clean sand which had collected in the bottom of a four-inch depression. That small water source became cause for celebration as we filtered enough to refill several bottles for the rest of the hike. Admittedly, we got some odd stares from hikers as we tapped our dubious water supply.

It took us three hours to hike the steep trail from LYV to the sub-dome, get up and over the sub-dome and reach the bottom of the cables. By that time all of us were experiencing mixed emotions as we stood depleted at the base of the granite mass above us. Did our legs have one more steep climb in them? Could we push ahead into the 40 mph cross winds, chilling us through our sweat-soaked shirts and jackets? Did we have time to make the ascent, then get off the rock before night fall? We had one hour on the clock to make it to the top, spend a few minutes getting our eyes full, then make it back down. Were we to take longer than that, we knew we would no longer be able to see where our foot strikes would land.

Silently, we voted with our feet and started the ascent, reluctantly at first, then with determination. Each of us had brought ropes and carabiners to thether ourselves to the half-inch steel cables if necessary. That's how it started. Moving step by step on the steep granite face, we pulled ourselves up the cables with gloved hands, clipping and unclipping the carabiners until we no longer felt the need.

Leaning into the wind, progress was slow between the parallel pairs of heavy cable supports placed about 15 feet apart up the rock wall. At last, we reached the top, where we allowed ourselves a "Yes!" moment before contemplating how we were going to get back down. I must admit, a helicopter rescue did cross my mind more than once as we watched the sun setting beyond the distant horizon.

Indeed we did just make it back down at dusk. Darkness overtook us as we arrived at the tree line below the granite subdome base. All four of us were famished and totally spent. Without hesitation, we broke out our dinner supplies and ate our fill by flashlight before our two-hour return hike in the dark to LYV. At 10:30 p.m. we were down for the count until morning.

August 22, 2010: We slept in until 6:00 a.m. (the boys until 8:00) and took our time breaking camp, anticipating an easy five-mile downhill return hike to Happy Isles and our drive home. Indeed, the return hike was easier and we were happy to take an alternate route along a portion of the John Muir Trail out of Nevada Fall. However, by the time we had hit the flats at Happy Isles, we were glad even the downhills were over. Our quads were trashed from steadily putting on the brakes for nearly five miles. After a four-hour ride home, including a stop at In-and-Out Burger, we pulled into the Elks Lodge parking lot at 5:30 p.m. A good time was had by all.

Epilogue: After climbing up Half Dome, I know why I'm not a rock climber. There's something about holding on for dear life that I would just as soon leave to others. Granted, fatigue was clearly a factor in the feelings of being on the edge of my physical capabilities. Nonetheless, making it all the way up and back down was a thrill and I'm glad I did it. At the very least, I can say it's off my bucket list.

And though I suppose it could happen, I'd wait a few days before asking me if I'll be going back to Half Dome....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Technology Bites... I Mean Bytes

Using new technology must be something like tying your shoes. You might understand the concept and even be able to follow the steps in words or as demonstrated. But there is one fundamental moment---a bridge, as it were---in which understanding spans the gap between concept and reality. Until that bridge is in place, true learning won't occur.

Depending on which shoe tying process you were taught, the magic bridge is most likely the part where either the two loops are miraculously joined or where the one string circles around the first loop and finds the "portal" where the second loop is pulled through. After that point, all the rest (size of the loops, tighness of the knot, single versus double knot, etc.) is basically calibration and perfection.

Well, I got the shoe tying part down a few years back, despite the arrival of loafers and slip-ons. And there have been a few other break-throughs along the way as well, such as rebuilding my 1969 VW Bug's engine, installing a new pool filter with new plumbing and building a basic code-based website. But I must say, my learning about how to use most of the new electronic communication technology, has pretty much stalled, awaiting some form of the afore-mentioned bridge to arrive.

I'm OK on e-mail and can manage the basics on Facebook and a few other networking sites. But truth be known, I missed the firing of the starting gun when the whole digital imagery race began. I don't like digital cameras, can't get digital images off my phone (assuming they are still in there), can't deal with transporting stills or video files and I haven't figured out the magic step to make video book trailers, to mention just a few of my technoflaws. And I'm quite embarrassed to say that an uncooperative scanner has blocked even that rudimentary skill.

Perhaps I'll eventually pick up enough technology survival skills to make do amidst the relentless press of the electronic generation. But I must admit a fear that I may have finally reached my electronic end point. Either I will slowly languish in my TV chair, holding my broken remote while waiting for small tidbits of electronic news and imagery from anyone. Or I will have to spend my children's inheritance paying for a teenager to keep me connected.

Then, again, just the other day and even if only by happenstance, I may have inadvertently extended my digital life by untold nano-seconds, firmly securing my position on the up ramp to the slow lane of the electronic freeway of life. Somehow, I managed to get our SKYPE connection working out of the blue---I mean both the video AND the audio. Of course, I don't know exactly how it happened, although plugging in both the camera and the microphone seems to have helped....

The exhileration boggles the mind! Time to break out the bubbly!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Rhyming Tips and Traps Teaser

I've written about rhyme from time to time on this blog, as it is my primary form of children's writing. However, as blogging goes, once a topic is off the main list of blog posts visible on a site, it is literally out of sight and out of mind. Herewith a brief revisit of the topic.

If you have ever tried to write something in rhyme, you may have hit a wall on the road to rhyming self-discovery. Let's face it, being a rhymer is not easy. Rhyme can be relatively unforgiving in its structural requirements.

To do rhyme well, the rhyming sets have to be right on the mark. If you find yourself stretching just to make two words rhyme for no reason, you'll get a thumbs down from most editors. And "near rhymes" can be just as bad. It may work in song writing but in children's rhyme in particular, near rhymes come across as being too casual and inattentive to detail. Many editors won't give rhyme the time of day because they may have seen more than their share of bad rhyme and simply don't have the time to see if a particular submission, no matter how good it may be, in fact has potential.

As for the rhythm thing, failure to establish a clear cadence can be a rhyme killer. For example, whichever rhythmic pattern (the beats and cadence) you choose, needs to be consistent and engaging to capture and hold a reader's attention. Generally, if the beat is off (unless deliberately done for emphasis), your rhyming ship may be sunk before ever weighing anchor.

So let's pick a rhyme apart for a moment to give you an idea of what you are getting yourself into. What comes next may seem a bit cheesy. But to take the next step, bear with me. You'll need to go to my website at billkirkwrites.com and click on the link in the center of the page that says: "Rhyming Resource Center" then follow it via the "Rhyming Tips and Traps" link to the rest of this story.

I know. I know. Website pandering is shameless. But I hope your visit to billkirkwrites.com will be helpful to you and not simply seem a lame effort to increase my site visit count. However it strikes you, I'd like to hear from you pro or con whether the rhyming tips on my site were helpful. Just e-mail me at billkirk@billkirkwrites.com . Either way, best of luck on your jaunty journey in rhyme.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Recalling The National Scout Jamboree---Got GORP?

Below is a short rhyme in honor of Scouting and an often used energy source on our many campouts and backpack treks. But first a brief recap of our recent Jamboree experience in the company of about 45,000 other Scouts and Scout leaders at Fort A.P. Hill near Fredericksburg, VA.

After three years of planning, nearly two years of monthly meetings, two preparatory campouts and hours of gateway construction, patch sewing and packing, Jamboree Troop 640 of the Golden Empire Council left for the 2010 National Scout Jamboree on July 22 and put it in the history books on August 4.

Our departure from Sacramento on July 22 went smoothly after meeting at the Sacramento International Airport at 0430 hours for a 0600 departure. We began our four days of almost non-stop touring of the Washington DC area virtually as soon as we picked up our 40 matching black duffel bags at Washington's Reagan Airport. There were memorials and monuments galore along the full length of the 1.9 mile Capitol Mall, followed by a tour of the Capitol, the National Archives, several Smithsonian museums.

At Arlington Cemetery we watched the changing of the guard and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We couldn't leave the capital without a stop at the National Boy Scout Memorial where a baby bald eagle also stopped by as if to acknowledge our current and future Eagle Scouts. Rounding out three full days of touring in the capital was a special viewing of the evening parade at the Marine Barracks at 8th and I Streets, presented by the "President's Own" band and Drum and Buggle Corps.

Capping our pre-Jamboree touring was a morning stop a Jamestown, an action packed afternoon and evening at Busch Gardens and a tour of Williamsburg before our leaving for Fort A.P. Hill. We arrived at the Jamboree site amidst tight security and set up our home away from home for the next ten days. Reveille at 0530 hours daily and Taps at 2200 hours set the official boundaries of waking and sleeping, although the sleeping part seemed to last much shorter than the clock would indicate. Days were filled with patch trading, meeting Scouts from all over the U.S. and several visiting country delegations, outstanding arena shows, meals at camp and an occasional shower to counteract the products of heat, humidity and dust.

Even the last night did not disappoint as a lightning storm blew in just after 0300 hours to give us a good soaking as we slept under the stars on our last night in camp. Seemingly working in concert, a sister storm in the Chicago area delayed all flights, including our flight out of Reagan National Airport and our connecting flight out of Chicago. Nonetheless, after visiting the Marine Corps Museum at Quantico and the First President's Mount Vernon home, we arrived back home, minus our duffels at midnight August 4th. Despite the no doubt quickly fermenting laundry in our baggage, the misrouted duffels remained in luggage limbo for two more days. From what we could tell, the delivery agent simply dropped the bags at each house, rang the doorbell and ran.

All in all, the 2010 National Scout Jamboree was a memorable celebration of the first century of Scouting in the U.S. and the final National Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, VA. The next National Jamboree will will held in 2013 at the Boy Scouts of America's new Jamboree location at the Bechtel Summit in West Virginia. Planning is already underway for the next Jamboree and the next century of Scouting.

By Bill Kirk

Some Good Old-fashioned Raisins
And Peanuts—that’s for me.
When hiking in the mountains,
It boosts my energy.

Yes, GORP is what they call it—
A strange, odd-sounding name.
But who cares what it sounds like?
I’d eat it just the same.

I’d munch GORP in the morning
In oatmeal, with a spoon,
And later, by the hand full,
I’d nibble some at noon.

I’d scarf it from a baggie—
Or snag it from a sack.
It’s chewy and it’s crunchy;
Just perfect for a snack.

So, when your “let’s get going”
Has gotten up and gone,
Your energy is flagging—
There’s no more forging on;

Forget about your manners
If consciousness goes warp!
Quick! Guzzle down some fluids
And grub a little GORP.

Friday, July 2, 2010

For The "Texting" Challenged Generation(s)

I've been somewhat distracted of late what with school getting out, summer coming on and preparations for the National Scout Jamboree (we're down to under 20 days to departure). But with a few days breathing space in the schedule, I'm getting back to my blog after a month-long absence.

Today's entry is a little something for those of you who may feel challenged by texting and are wondering if there's any hope. For those over age 40 who can figure it out, congratulations. For the rest of you who consider texting some kind of torture that ought to be banned as cruel and unusual punishment, bless your hearts. I'm stuck right in the middle of all of you. My thumbs are too big, my nails are too short and I can't see much of anything on those itty-bitty cell phone screens. But not to worry. An English translation is provided below.

OK. So, I admit to I outwardly professing my intent to one day become a texter. I suppose it could happen. But truth be told, I am secretly waiting for someone to invent a cell phone with a circular dial so I can hear the "skrrridge-tick, tick, tick, tick...." sound of the yesteryear telephone dial coming out of my cell phone.

Realizing the likelihood of that happening any time in the near or distant future is slim to none, I herewith offer this short piece in homage to all those under age sixteen apparently born with texting intuition and thumb nails pre-filed to small points. Remember to show a little sympathy for the rest of us who are happy just to grip our cell phones with what may soon be our vestigial opposable thumbs.


cllN plnz
by bil krk

my dad bawt me a cel ph.
its realy wA 2 QL.
u wont bleev w@ it cn do—
il shO u aftr skool.

it ltz me d/l muzc;
snd pix, gmes n stuf.
it evn hlps me do my math,
n f thts nt nuf,

It hs a dxNre;
n evry countrys map—
jst ask me whr a rivA s.
il fnd it ina snap!

thers O 1 sml prob—
its nm @ ll.
bt sumday mayB I shd lern
to actuly mak a cll.

wrd count: 86


Calling Plans
By Bill Kirk

My Dad bought me a cell phone.
It’s really way too cool.
You won’t believe what it can do—
I’ll show you after school.

It lets me download music;
Send pictures, games and stuff.
It even helps me do my Math,
And if that’s not enough,

It has a dictionary;
And every country’s map—
Just ask me where a river is.
I’ll find it in a snap!

There’s only one small problem—
It’s nothing much at all.
But someday maybe I should learn
To actually make a call.

Word Count: 88

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What A Day It's Been

By Bill Kirk
Bill Kirk's Website

(Published in Scouting e-zine Cracker Barrel, 2008)

You'd think it would be easy,
To tell about the day's
Events and how they happened
In ordinary ways.

But this day wasn't normal,
Though it was kind of cool.
I learned to care for victims
At Boy Scout First Aid school.

At first I was a victim.
I had a "broken arm"
And "bruises" and a "headache"
As if I'd come to harm.

An "accident" had happened
On my "mountain bike."
But soon I was "discovered"
By "hikers" on a hike.

They checked out all my "bruises,"
And bandaged all my "scrapes."
In no time they had splinted
My arm with sticks and tapes.

Soon after I was "stable"
I had another role-
To help a rock slide victim
Impaled upon a pole.

Of course, he was "unconscious."
His "skull" had hit a "rock."
Because we had just "minutes,"
We worked against the clock.

At first we rolled him over
And "stabilized" his "spine."
We did a lift and carry;
In no time he was fine.

Several hours later,
The day was finally done.
Although the lessons were intense,
We'd learned while having fun.

When I got home, exhausted,
My wife said, "How's your day?"
"You won't believe..." then I just couldn't
Bring myself to say.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Penny Saved Makes Good Cents

By Bill Kirk

“A penny for your thoughts”
Is what they used to say.
I think a thought’s
Now worth much more
Than what they used to pay.

“I’ll give you my two cents worth”
Is what they used to say.
Although two cents
Are more than one,
They’re not worth much today.

“Don’t take a wooden nickel”
Is what they used to say.
Were nickels made
Of plain old wood,
Way back in Grandpa’s day?

I guess that’s why my Grandpa,
Saves pennies all the time.
When he has ten,
He trades them in,
So he’ll have one “thin dime.”

A dime times ten’s a dollar,
And each day he adds more.
“If you will save,”
He said to me,
“One day you’ll have a score.”

Then Grandpa made a riddle.
“Imagine if you can,
A single cent,
When multiplied,
Will make a wealthy man.”

“For one month, put your pennies
Inside this treasure chest.
Then you can keep
A million bucks,
If I can have the rest.”

He said that if I doubled
My pennies every day.
Then after just
A single month
Is when he’ll gladly pay.

At first that deal seemed perfect
And something I should pick.
But, then again,
A riddle might
Be just a little trick?
I’d better use a table
To test his penny game—
So we will know
Our daily counts
Are multiplied the same.

1 = $.01
2 = $.02
3 = $.04
4 = $.08
5 = $.16
6 = $.32
7 = $.64
8 = $1.28
9 = $2.56
10 = $5.12
11 = $10.24
12 = $20.48
13 = $40.96
14 = $81.92
15 = $163.84
16 = $327.86
17 = $655.36
18 = $1,310.72
19 = $2,621.44
20 = $5,242.88
21 = $10,485.76
22 = $20,971.52
23 = $41,943.04
24 = $83,886.08
25 = $167,772.16
26 = $335,544.32
27 = $671,088.64
28 = $1,342,177.28
29 = $2,684,354.56
30 = $5,368,709.12

$5,368,709.12 - $1,000,000 = $4,368,709.12

I guess my million dollars
Is really quite a heap.
But look how much
In thirty days
My Grandpa gets to keep.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

From The “Burning Question” Department, What Is Tapioca Anyway?

Admit it. Some of you have been waiting, maybe even decades, for someone—anyone—to ask. I know. It’s almost embarrassing to be the first, like being the new kid in school when the teacher calls on you explain boogers.

Why me, you may be asking. Do we really want to talk about this publicly? I mean, doesn’t everyone know what tapioca is? After all, our moms have been feeding it to us since we were old enough to squeegee a little bolus of the stuff down our gullet. So, how could we not know? Well, as it turns out there’s an awful lot an awful lot of us may not know about tapioca—until now. So, sit back and relax. It might be a lumpy ride. You can thank me later for smoothing things out for you.

You might not have noticed it but there are all sorts of brand names now marketing tapioca products. The best known form is, of course, tapioca pudding—you know, the stuff that resembles vanilla pudding with little bumpy things that look a little like frog eggs minus the black dots. In fact, it’s the little lumps that give tapioca its distinctive character—at least in pudding. Otherwise, it would just be, well, pudding.

So, what is it that makes tapioca what it is? Let’s start with the obvious. And what better way to research the contents of tapioca than reading the ingredients on a product label. The main stuff seems fairly non-descript and plain, what with the non-fat milk, water and corn starch. Pretty much half our food supply has those ingredients. Adding a little coconut oil, cream and several complex chemical compounds still doesn’t make it distinctively different from any other thick, smooth, sweet, puddingy substance currently on the market.

But now for the big reveal. What makes tapioca tapioca is, believe it or not, tapioca. That is, tapioca is what it is, I suppose in the same way vanilla is vanilla. Most sources agree it comes from a starch-rich plant found in South America, Asia, India and several other places. It is most commonly known as cassava. And if you saw the young plants growing as you zip by on the highway, you might even think the leaves bear a uncanny resemblance to another well-known, although illegal plant—AKA weed.

Yes, strange but true. But I digress. With or without a clear description of its genetic make up, I’m convinced the miracle of tapioca is a discovery still waiting to happen—or more specifically, I have made the discovery. Drum roll, please. Tapioca combined one-to-one with none other than yogurt is pure ambrosia. That’s right. To all the pudding and yogurt peddlers out there, remember. You read it here first—call it “tapiogurt” or “yogioca” in all its fruit-on-the-bottom flavors. Either way, I’ve got dibs on the product concept and I’m ready to deal. In the meantime, pass the pudding.

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Heart Of Gold"

In honor of Mother's Day on Sunday, I'm getting a bit of a jump on things by posting this rhyme today, with best wishes to all you moms out there. Boys, it's about time to go shopping for a card or that certain something for your moms....

Heart of Gold
By Bill Kirk

"Dad, I need to do some shopping,
Now, before it gets too late.
Time’s a wastin’; let’s get hopping!
Hurry, Dad! I just can’t wait!"

Clipped the picture of the locket,
From the paper yesterday.
Better keep it in my pocket
For our shopping trip today.

Where’s that ten from Uncle Freddy,
I’ve been saving since last June?
"Got my money. Are you ready?
Let’s go, Dad! It’s almost noon!"

At the store, I knew I’d find it,
Next to lotions, soaps and stuff.
Those things smell, but I don’t mind it.
"Will ten dollars be enough?"

“Just enough,” the store clerk told us,
“For the gift you want to buy.”
In the bag, with what she sold us,
She put ribbons I could tie.

Back at home, I wrapped it neatly,
Taping every corner fold.
Inside, filled with love so sweetly,
Mom will find my heart of gold.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The End: National Poetry Month Is Over

April 30: “For today's prompt, write a letting go poem. The poem could be about letting go of a relationship; it could be about letting go of anger; it could be about letting go of a tree branch; or it could even be about, yes, letting go of this April challenge. There are so many things we can let go.“

Alas, the end has come to National Poetry Month and to the Poem A Day Challenge for April. Writing a "letting go" poem offers many paths. But in honor of squeezing yet another poem into a day, busy-ness came to mind. Today's offering is short and sweet because now I must get busy so we can leave for a weekend camping trip---lots to do. Busy, busy, busy....

Letting Go Of Busy
By Bill Kirk

Busy is as busy does.
So, why are we so busy?
Should busy bees our mentors be
And life be all a-tizzy?

Why not add a little sloth—
Try letting go of busy?
Moderation in all things
Will make you far less dizzy.

Guess I’ll kick back and enjoy
A few things I have missed.
But first I’d better check things off
My daily duty list.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

And Suddenly... There Were Two Days Left

April 29: “For today's prompt, I want you to take the phrase "And Suddenly (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Some examples: "And suddenly we were lost," "And suddenly over," "And suddenly banana," "And suddenly sudden," "And suddenly the poem I was writing turned into a killer robot," etc.“

The first thing that pops into my head for this one is the song “Along Came John” with all the “and then…” lines in the story-song. For those of you who can still remember roller skate keys, that song is probably parked out there in your long term memory under a lonely, flickering mental street light. With that introduction, you're probably thinking this poem will surely be on the lighter side. Alas, no.

And Suddenly It Happened
By Bill Kirk

As with any human endeavor,
For better or worse,
At least one person starts it.

Perhaps a single thought or feeling
In someone’s mind or heart is the genesis.
But until it takes flight,
It is just a secret.

Once expressed, perhaps a common reaction erupts—
A catalyst, inspiring or offending.
You know, like “Windows 7 was my idea” or
“Let’s make anyone who looks like
They ought not be here,
Prove they should be.”
Then, suddenly, the world changes.

Yet what is it about any “and suddenly” moment
That bestows its import?
Could we not say all “and suddenly” moments
Occur only when acknowledged and accepted,
By the some or the many?
And by its logical extension,
Is it not likely any such moments not thusly recognized,
Would simply die on the vine?

Then, just as suddenly,
The waiting “and suddenly”
Would simply fail to materialize,
For better or worse.

May we have the wisdom to discern
Which “and suddenly” moments
Are worthy measures of human progress,
And which would be far better
Never to have seen the sudden light of day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poem A Day Challenge for April 28

April 28: “For today's prompt, write an end of the line poem. Maybe the narrator of your poem is at the end of his or her line. Other possible lines that have an end: assembly lines, phone lines, power lines, rail lines, graph lines, dotted lines, waiting lines, lines of poetry, etc.“

This one seemed to come more easily, maybe because "end of the line" is a phrase I often use myself in the context of telephone (and now e-mail) conversations. It's interesting how certain phrases take on the mantel of artistic expression, conjuring up clear images of times past even in their present day use. Two tin cans and a string anyone?

Language As Art—The End Of The Line
By Bill Kirk

“I hope all are well
On your end of the line.
Everyone’s swell here—
We’re doing just fine.”

Brief conversations
In another place and time,
When mutual assurance of wellness
Was all that was needed.
Especially when the two ends of the line
Were long distances apart.

How was it that threes
Were so important back then?
If it couldn’t be said in three minutes or less,
That’s what a three cent stamp was for.
And three or more houses connected
By the same phone line was a party—
A party line, that is.

Perhaps folks were busier back then
And didn’t have time for long conversations.
Knowledge beyond wellbeing
Was mostly considered frivolous and unnecessary.
And just getting by took
Almost more time and energy
Than most folks had.

Emergencies were a different matter, of course.
Even the party lines had rules—
Everyone had better get off
Their ends of the line
To open it up for a call to the doctor.

But it had better be a real emergency
That couldn’t be handled with a little
Coal oil, snuff, fireplace ashes and
A piece of cloth cut from the hem of Mamaw’s skirt.
Castor Oil took care of most everything else.

Emergencies thus defined were rare.
And because phone calls were how
Emergencies got reported,
No one wanted to get a phone call in the first place.
But if you were unlucky enough to get one,
Finding out if everyone was well
On the other end of the line
Was all that was necessary.

“Everyone OK on that end of the line?”
“Yep. We’re doin’ just fine.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Super Two-fer: Poem A Day Challenge for April 24, 25, 26 and 27

All I can say is the past four days have been a bit jam packed. The writing of the poems was challenge enough, and even more the public posting of them, which I didn’t get done each day. So, here they are, all four poems posted in one fell swoop from April 24, 25, 26 and 27—works in progress, one and all.

April 24: “For today's prompt, write an evening poem. My initial thought is that this poem would somehow involve the night, but upon further reflection, I guess it could be about evening things up or something.”

The Evening Of The Day
By Bill Kirk

When the long day’s labor’s done
And when all but gone’s the sun,
Fatigue wraps itself
Like a heavy cloak
Around the old man’s body,
At long last bound for rest.

His rough, work-worn hands
Weave their calloused digits
In thanksgiving for the
Warm bread and steaming bowl
At table before him.

Now, dusk approaches as
The day invites the dark night.
Even time is near—the end of toil and care.
And in this peaceful moment,
The evening of the day
Brings longed for respite
To body and spirit.


April 25: “For today's prompt, write a poem inspired by a song. Be sure to include the song and artist (if known) with your poem, so that we can all make our own mix CDs to write poetry.”
This one is a challenge indeed, maybe because the possibilities are almost endless in the choosing. Will it be the first song that pops into our heads or a selection driven by mood or genre or our need in the moment? And anyway, isn’t the song is its own poem? So, what makes us think we might say it better? Or maybe we are simply to let the song speak to us and capture the moment.

Oh What Song To Choose?
By Bill Kirk

I listen to the radio of my mind
Wondering what song
Will most inspire the writing
Of even more words
Than those already penned
By the original writer.

But what if the song writer
Takes offense that someone
Might dare to suggest
Enough was not said the first time?

That is, for a song to inspire,
Would it not, by definition,
Have said all that should be said
In the very best way when first written?
And, by extension, if more is needed,
Would that not mean the original song
Had somehow missed the mark?

Unless, that is,
The inspired poem is short and sweet
And written just in such a way
That no one will mistake
The poem’s complimentary intent.

In that case, I’ve already said enough.
Allow me to introduce my inspiration:
“I Write The Songs (That Make The Whole World Sing)”.
And dare I name the original writer
Or only give a clue
To those not from planet Earth?
The by line belongs to
The one, the only artist
Formerly, now and always
Known as Barry.

April 26: “For today’s prompt, write a "more than 5 times" poem. Of course, I'll let you decide what that means. Maybe you'll write a poem about something the narrator does more times than preferrable; maybe you'll write a deja vu poem; or maybe you'll just write the same line and/or stanza more than 5 times. I just know that multiple poets recently said the "More than 5 times" subject line would make a great prompt, so I'm listening to the group. Have at it!“

If I’ve Told You Once
By Bill Kirk

If I’ve told you once,
I’ve told you more than five times:

Call when you are going to be late.
Wash your hands before supper.
Get your elbows off the table.
Don’t go swimming right after you eat.
Do your homework before play time.
Buckle your seatbelt.
No listening to your i-Pod at the dinner table.
No mocking.
Turn off the light when you leave the room.
Hang up your Sunday clothes after church.
Take your hat off at the table.
Don’t tease your sister.
Watch where you’re going.
Stop your fidgeting.
Brush your teeth before bed time.
Eat your vegetables if you want dessert.
Don’t talk with your mouth full.
Wear your helmet when you ride your bike.
Close the refrigerator.
Sit still in church.
Don’t forget to ask to be excused.
Don’t punch your brother.
No running with scissors.
Don’t sit so close to the TV—you’ll go blind.
Put on sunscreen.
Tuck your shirt in.
Tie your shoes or you’re going to trip.
Pull your britches up.
Don’t drag your feet.

Oh, and one more thing---I love you….

April 27: “Today is a two for Tuesday prompt, so you've got two options:

1. Write a hopeful poem.
2. Write a hopeless poem.“

Considering both options, I tend to come down more on the side of hopefulness. So, I took the first option from this two-fer. Hopefully, this will be a hopeful poem….

There Must Be Hope After All
By Bill Kirk

I heard the other day
That some folks
Jes’ don’t believe in hope.
Well how much fun is that?

Without hope,
We’d sure be a sorry lot.
Why, there’d be nothin’
To look forward to.
So I guess we’d be lookin’
Backwards all the time.

Well, if we did that,
We might as well
Turn ourselves around and
Walk backwards.
Then at least we’d save ourselves
The trouble of constantly
Lookin’ over our shoulders.

Of course, if we was
Walkin’ backwards everywhere,
Then we’d prob’ly trip and fall.
And if we fell down a lot,
We’d spill stuff that we’re carryin’.
And we’d prob’ly hurt our bums or crack our heads.
Well, how much fun is that?

Besides, what’s the point
Of always lookin’ where you been
Instead of where you’re goin’?
So, it jes’ makes good sense,
To turn back around and walk forwards.
But if we did that,
Then we’d be lookin’ forward to things, wouldn’t we?

Well, I’ll be.
I guess there must be hope after all.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Poem A Day Challenge For April 23

April 23: “For today's prompt, write an exhausted poem. The poem can be a first person account of your own exhaustion, or it can describe the exhaustion of someone (or something) else. Heck, I guess it even could be about exhaust, huh?“

I must say, getting this rhyme to fall was like pulling teeth. And it may still need a bit of work. I'm exhausted....

Exhaustion Is A Drag
By Bill Kirk

Exhaust is just an output;
Exhaustion? Work’s accrual—
When outputs surpass inputs,
Or work demands more fuel.

To counter your exhaustion
You’ll need to get some rest.
Add ample food and water,
To feel your very best.

But if you keep on pushing—
Light candles at both ends,
You’ll burn out far too quickly
And illness never mends.

It’s better when you balance
Some down time with your zest.
So, when you face a challenge,
You’ll be up to the test.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Green And Blue And Swirly White

April 22: “For today's prompt, write an Earth poem. You can decide what an Earth poem is. Maybe it's a poem about the planet; maybe it's actually the lowercase earth (a gardening or burial poem?); maybe it's just a poem that happens on (or to) Earth; maybe it's even written in the voice of extraterrestrials (that might be fun). No matter how you decide to roll with it, have a very poetic Earth Day!”

Green And Blue And Swirly White
By Bill Kirk

Hello, Earth. I see you there,
Outside my space ship, day or night;
Clear, cool water; fresh, clean air—
All green and blue and swirly white.

I remember when we left.
In giant ships, we all took flight.
Mother Earth was spent, bereft—
Not green and blue and swirly white.

Someone said we had to go—
To give the Earth a chance to fight.
Cleansing tides must ebb and flow
To heal and make our planet right.

‘Til that time, we’ll always roam,
Our distant planet in our sight;
Hoping that we’ll soon go home,
To green and blue and swirly white.

Twinkle, twinkle, earth in orbit,
I wish for you the sun’s bright light.
Change its warmth, as you absorb it,
To green and blue and swirly white.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

According To Steve Jobs

April 21: “For today's prompt, take the phrase "According to (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Example titles might be: "According to Bob," "According to these instructions," "According to the government," "According to the sun," etc. “

I’ve noticed my “poetry” has shape shifted a bit in recent days and I’m not sure if I like the form it’s taking as free verse flirts with prose. Maybe it’s a matter of available time to think and compose—boundaries which hours or minutes impose. To the extent I can get close to a finish product, I will. Otherwise, at least the last few efforts are definitely works in progress….

According To Steve Jobs
By Bill Kirk

We are now poised on the launch pad
To the future of information accessibility.
App control is here,
Right in the palms of our hands.

Just think.
Adding “folders” technology to your phone
Will increase the number of apps
At your finger tips to over two thousand.
And did you know, there is now the potential
To imbed ten ads for you to wade through
Every thirty minutes while app surfing?

I can hardly wait.

We’ve come a long way
From crank phones and party lines.
But, doesn’t it make you wonder
Who or what is in the evolutionary driver seat?
Is technology evolving to meet our needs?
Or, instead, is human evolution
Being driven to keep up with technological change?

Never mind being tall and good looking
As a foot in the door of success.
Stilus-shaped pointer fingers and thumbs
May soon become the most sought after
Physical attributes
As the true indicators of human progress.
Then, again, maybe all we need to do
Is grow longer finger nails.

Who knows? Nail salons for men
May be just around the corner.

Poem A Day Challenge: April 19 and 20

April 19: “For today's prompt, write a poem about somebody and be sure to include the person's name in the title of your poem (no reason to hide the person's identity here). Write a poem about Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickinson, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, your next door neighbor, your child, or the person standing behind you.“

Dylan Christopher Jon Kirk
By Bill Kirk

In times past, life seemed to move
More slowly for kids growing up.

Fast forward to today for proof that
Drinking out of a fire hose is not an
Exaggerated metaphor for learning—
Just ask Dylan Christopher Jon Kirk,
A child of the late 20th century,
And he will tell you….

Information is flowing at light speed
And growing in volume nearly as fast.
Yet today’s youth have been gifted
Only with the same 24-hour clock as olden times.

So, what does that mean for
Dylan and his generation?
Given the same available time
To absorb, process and learn,
Mustn't the learning, of necessity, take place
Far more superficially these days?
Have we now moved to a learn-replicate-dump
Learning reality—take the test, forget it
And move on?

How sad it would be if
Academic content is
Still being presented
With 1950s learning expectations,
While the 21st century learning milieu,
Embued with a constant stream
Of rapid-fire electronic stimulation,
Now forces retention at
Such a superficial level
That little in-depth learning
Takes place at all.

Good luck, Dylan Kirk
And to all who follow....

Is that homeschooling
I hear knocking at the door?

April 20: “Today is a two for Tuesday prompt. Here are the two options:

1. Write a looking back poem. There are a few ways to tackle this one, I guess. The narrator could be reflecting on the past or literally looking back (like over his or her shoulder).

2. Write a poem that doesn't look back. This poem would be kind of the opposite, I suppose. Narrator who refuses to look back or who is literally looking forward (or I suppose another option even is that the narrator is blind or something).”

Given the choice, I am looking back at simpler times in this poem. For me, this turned out to be a bit of a reflective exercise as I considered the challenges facing kids these days compared to olden times.

Life In The Recent Past On Planet Earth
By Bill Kirk

It was 1994 when a young lad
With two middle names
Came into our lives.
Little did we know
How different life would become for
Our grandson, Dylan, and his generation.
It’s just not the same for kids these days
As it was for me back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Oh, sure, there were the usual fistfights
In the alley across the street
From the Junior High School at lunch time.
Out of curiosity some of the new eighth graders
Fresh out of elementary school
Might check out the fight scene.
But once or twice was plenty
To take the bloom off that excitement—
Unless you were in the “in crowd”
Or one of the pugilists in the fight.
Besides, lunch recess was short
And swinging from the monkey bars
Was a lot more interesting—and a lot less risky.

Most of the time, the standard
After school formula was homework first.
Playing outside was all the motivation
We needed to get our school work
And chores done quickly.

The only other widely accepted rule
Was getting home in time for supper—
Without being called twice, that is.
If you heard your mom’s distant voice
Calling your name a second time—
Especially your first and last names,
You had better beat it home pronto.

A two-fingered whistle by your Dad
Meant you had to be standing at the bathroom sink
Washing your hands within two minutes
Or be able to prove a near death experience
While playing hide and seek.

Eventually, we got three channels
On our black and white TV—
And all the good shows
Were early evening—after supper.
Lucy and Desi, The Lone Ranger and
Steve Canyon were de riguer around our house.
And by the time Dale and Roy had sung
“Happy Trails To You”, it was bedtime
Unless it were still light outside.
Then, you might get an extra 30 minutes to play.
It just didn’t get any better than that….

Well, unless it was the super large,
Ten cent, soft-serve cone at DQ,
Which always followed the
Mandatory Sunday Drive
After church and Sunday dinner.

For entertainment, we roller skated
In the street with no helmet or knee pads.
Skinned knees were a badge of honor.
In the heat of the summer,
We chewed the melting tar oozing from
The cracks in the street and
Once every two weeks when the
Mosquito Control truck fogged our street,
Running through the DDT cloud
Was fun until our parents noticed
That we hardly ever got
Mosquito bitten.

It was a simpler time, back then,
Without cell phones and electronic games,
Cable TV, movie rentals and 24-hour stores.
With almost no electronic stimulation,
It’s a wonder we survived to adulthood.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

To Wish Is Its Own Reward

April 18: “For today's prompt, take the phrase "To (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Some examples: "To the left, to the left," "To write or not to write," "To Kill a Hummingbird," "To the Doghouse," etc. There are so many possibilities.”

Indeed, there are possibilities galore for this prompt—just choosing a title that is either a noun or a verb, an object or an action, leaves you with seemingly endless options. And there’s the serious or the silly, the reflective or the quirky.

A single letter can totally change the essence of a title or its poem. Consider the difference between “To Arms” (a call to immediate action) and “To Arm” (a potential question for reflective discourse). No doubt Robert Lee Brewer must toss and turn in his sleep to come up with daily prompts to challenge even the titling of a poem, much less the writing of it.

To Wish
Bill Kirk

To wish,
Whether quietly or aloud,
Is to hope, to desire, to anticipate.

As infinitives go, “to wish” is rare.
It holds a singular optimism that
Who we are,
What we are doing and
Where we are going
Will be as good as, or even far better than,
Our immediate here and now.

And to actually take the step
Of making a wish is a
Self declaration of our belief
In boundless possibilities,
Defined and confined
Only by the wisher.

Indeed, the very existence of
“To wish” in our language
Allows us to think in terms as large
As our imaginations are capable.
And then, we can wish even larger still
For something—anything—that is beyond
Everything which doesn’t yet exist.

Simple wishes are sometimes the best.
A child might wish for a silver dollar
In exchange for a first-pulled tooth.
Or a violinist for the purest of notes
To be called forth as bow meets string.
And is it too grand for a writer to wish
For sufficient inspiration to coax
Just the right words onto the page?

To be sure, certain wishes
Might not be in our own best interest
Or that of others.
Wishing a flat tire for the driver
Who just cut you off
Might slather momentary satisfaction
On a bruised psyche.
But what if your instantaneous mental snapshot
Of such an obvious transgression
Fails to take into account
The sick child in the back seat
En route the emergency room?

Even in the naming of our enemies,
Whether briefly or long term,
Do we not wish calamity for them—
And, in contrast, the better for us?
Yet in so doing, are we not the lesser for it?

Instead, aren’t the best wishes unselfish,
Like a prayerful request to improve our lot
But not at the expense of others?

And in our wishing, is it not best to wish boldly—
To let our imaginings run free?
Or do we fail to wish simply for fear of failure?

Wishing is at the heart of living and
Our capacity to wish is its own reward.
Everything else is gravy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Who, What, When, Where, Why

April 17: “For today's prompt, write a science poem. Science encompasses a lot, so your poem doesn't have to be scientific to still be a science poem. For instance, you could have a poem titled something like "The Science of Love," and then examine a relationship. Voila! A science poem! Of course, it'll be interesting to see how many poets talk about volcanoes and single cell organisms, not to mention finding out how many "mad scientists" are out there." (Robert Lee Brewer)

I must admit to struggling a bit with this one. Partly the modified Limerick format forced me to choose my words carefully. I thought about devoting a separate verse to each of the "W" questions. But each of them is self-defining. So, what more could be said. The result is a short, two-verse poem after a couple hours of work.

Sometimes you're the windshield; sometimes you're the bug....

Who, What, When, Where, Why
By Bill Kirk

The Who, What, When, Where, Why—
Are questions you must try,
To find each clue
In front of you,
Just like a Science guy.

But, wait! There’s one more test
For mysteries solved, not guessed.
Your final task?
The “How” you ask,
Will make your better best.

Friday, April 16, 2010

When Chores Get In The Way, It's Time For A Catch Up Day

April 14: Some days, squeezing out a few minutes to actually make a blog entry of something already written is a few minutes too many. Once again today is a catch up day, pulling the poems from three days into one entry in the Poem A Day Challenge. Apparently, the time hurdle was on my mind as I got the the last of these three. Enjoy. Three prompts from Robert Lee Brewer and my poems for April 14, 15 and 16 follow.

April 14: "For today's prompt, take the phrase "(blank) Island," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. You could do a well-known island, such as "Treasure Island," "Ellis Island," or "Total Drama Island." Or you could make up the name of an island. Or you could even have a long drawn out title….”

Angel Island
By Bill Kirk

Why is it that islands have such allure
And attraction as a point of destination?
Is it simply a matter of
The real estate being in short supply?
Wouldn’t it be odd if it were as simple as that.

But for whatever the reason, islands
Have captured the imagination of
Common folk and Kings,
Of artists and writers and even scientists.
For some, islands have been a prison;
A safe haven for others;
And a guardian at the gate when danger lurks.

Angel Island has been all of those things,
A beauty in The Bay, keeping a watchful eye
On the Golden Gate Bridge.

No one lives there—well, except for
Rangers and caretakers.
What a serene life that must be,
Preserving the history from a distant time,
While being a part of it still.

Wandering amidst the garrison buildings,
The immigration station and detention center,
And the defensive positions of olden times,
Leaves one almost feeling the presence
Of immigrants, detainees and defenders alike—
Ghostly tracings of those who were
Present for whatever purpose.
For those who lived and died
In this water bound isolation,
How did they come to be here?
How long did they stay?
Were they among those who never left?

In silence, the imagined sounds
Of all those souls still resound
Off the decaying walls which had been
Built for permanence so long ago.

In their laughing and crying, their
Moments of sadness and fear,
Did they wonder about the future—
About their future, on this island
Or off?

April 15: “For today's prompt, write a deadline poem. You can interpret what a deadline poem is however you wish. Maybe it's a poem that laments the idea of deadlines. Maybe it's a poem about someone intentionally missing them or who never has problems with them.”

Deadlines—What’s The Big Deal?
By Bill Kirk

How important are deadlines, anyway?
Well, not so important as to have
First billing in Webster.
Indeed, the first choice in defining the word
Tells a tale of those given
A life or death ultimatum—
Stepping over a line in the prison yard
Will make you dead.

I suppose in some way, all who
Fail to submit their written work
By a certain point in time (second definition),
May also feel a measure of death—
As literally their line (of copy)
May be declared dead on arrival
By those in control of such things.

But do deadlines work for those
Marching to the beat of a different drum?
Does being a deadline buster make one an iconoclast
Or just difficult to work with?

Deadlines may be self-imposed
Or established by others.
Either way, a certain pressure is implied
That something will or will not happen
If the deadline is not met—
Work completed,
Postmark applied,
Petition submitted,
Candidacy declared,
Vote cast;
Or even getting to school on time.

It is left to those facing the deadline,
To decide on how important it is for them—
And to accept the consequences
If they are wrong.

What time is it getting to be, anyway?

April 16: “Maybe it's a little too close to tax day, but today's prompt is to write a death poem. You can write about a specific death or consider death as an idea. In the tradition of Emily Dickinson (and other poets), you could even address Death as an entity. Or you can surprise us with a different spin on the subject.”

Ah, Death! Get Thee Behind Me!
By Bill Kirk

On the list of my least favorite things,
Death is clearly out in front of the rest.

Just think of it.
All the things you might ever
Have thought about doing,
Have started but never finished,
Have put off until a better time,
Have saved up for later and
Have actually written into your planner in ink,
Will never get done when you’re dead.

But considering life is terminal,
A time will arrive even before you kick the bucket,
When some of those things on your bucket list
Will never get crossed off because
You waited too long to start and you don’t
Have enough time,
Have enough money,
Have enough energy
Have enough health or
Have anyone left to do it with.
So, dust off your list and get busy.

Here’s to making death work so hard chasing us down,
It will wish it were dead when it does.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another Poem A Day Challenge Two-fer

April 12: “For today's prompt, pick a city, make that the title of your poem, and write a poem. Your poem can praise or belittle the city. Your poem could be about the city or about the people of the city. Your poem could even have seemingly nothing to do with the city. But the simple act of picking a city will set the mood (to a certain degree), so choose wisely.”
La Paz
By Bill Kirk

We once had a house
On Calle Nueve, across the street
From the President of Bolivia.

It’s not every day a kid
Gets to have tea with the First Lady
Or ride on a motorcycle,
Holding on for dear life,
Behind the Captain
Of the Presidential Guard.

Or watch a hundred native dancers in full costume
March through your front gate
To set up a brief rest stop
In the backyard of your house.
My sister and I heard the drums
And horns and flutes
Way down at the end of our street,
Even before we could see the parade.

When the procession turned the corner,
I just knew they would come to our house.
Yet I still couldn’t quite believe it when they did.
Even dad was surprised when he got home.
Mom said they were on their way
To a three-day fiesta in Las Yungas.
Why anyone would want to have
A party in the jungle, I’ll never know.
But they seemed to be having fun.

Then there was the time someone
Gave us a honey bear for a pet.
Of course, we couldn’t keep it.
After all, a honey bear needs to be free.

The river at the end of our street
Raged one year during the rainy season
And washed away the little mud brick shack
Where Mamasita and Papasito lived—
It was the year I was home schooled
To get me ready for fourth grade in the States.
My mom even gave me recess
So I could watch the flood happen.
Two little sheep fell into the water that day
And it took them away,
Never to be seen again.
That was a sad day on our street.
Even the President noticed.

The air is rather thin at 12,000 feet
Which is why fire departments
Hardly ever get any business that high up.
And there’s no such thing
As a two-minute boiled egg—that is,
Unless you like it raw.

Maybe the thin air is why
My memories seem so clear
From once upon a time in La Paz.

April 13: “Two for Tuesday time! Here are today's two prompts:
1. Write a love poem.
2. Write an anti-love poem.”
Given a choice, I’ll take the former. I just can’t seem to get my head into anti-love---maybe if someone has a broken heart, that’s the place they would be.
Spring Is Made For Love
By Bill Kirk

If timing’s your reason
To give love a fling,
The very best season
Has got to be spring.

The summer is super
To heat up your game.
But sunburn and heat waves
Can cool down your flame.

And festive fall fashion
May seem quite the deal.
But hitting the sales
May de-zest your zeal.

A deep chill in winter
Can beg for a spark
But all of those layers
Keep love in the dark.

Although every season
Has lots of potential,
To even your odds,
It’s spring that’s essential.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poem A Day Challenge--Day 11

April 11: “For today's prompt, take the phrase "The Last (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make that the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Some examples: "The Last Train," "The Last Kiss," "The Last Time I'll Give Directions to a Complete Stranger," "The Last Dance," etc.”

Seemingly on the other end of the spectrum of "until" is "the last". While "until" speaks to what is yet to come, "the last" suggests an end of some particular thing and an unknown future, whether good or bad. But what will be the last or, more importantly, who?

The Last Centurion
By Bill Kirk

At the end of days, real or imagined,
Who will be the last
To walk through the celestial door
After turning out the lights?

Would we not expect it to be
The last remaining Centurion
Or someone else of similar ilk,
Whose gift to us is to
Preserve and protect our way of life?

Indeed, someone must be last.
And, anyway, isn’t that the lot of the Centurion,
Volunteer or not?

Whether sailor, or flyer or gunny or grunt,
Medic or teacher, SWAT cop or Rent-a-Cop,
There are many such Centurions among us.
Both former and present,
They have done their due diligence.

They are the ones
Who gave their last full measure
Or were spared to tell the tale
Of how they made it through
Their last day in battle,
Whether fought in jungle or desert or city street;
Or while protecting children in school
As footsteps and the “pop-pop-pops”
Approached from down the hall.

Their recounted memories flash by them and us
Like so many jerky newsreel images.
And still we would ask them
To answer one final call to duty.

And without shirking,
They would willingly step forward on our behalf—
To make sure all others have made it out.
To be the last soldier,
The last hero,
The last Centurion.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Don't Believe All You Hear On The Radio

April 10: “…write a horror poem. Make it scary. Make it cheesy. Make it funny. Whatever you do, link it somehow to horror. Who knows? Maybe someone will write the next great raven poem.”

This prompt may be tough, as I’m not a great fan of horror.

Don’t Touch That Dial—It’s Halloween!
By Bill Kirk

‘Tis a dark and stormy night."
Indeed, the moon is shrouded by low-hanging clouds,
Rolling past, pushed by a howling wind.
Branches dance erratically, all but disconnected
From massive, creaking trunks. Snap! Something breaks.

Momentary flashes of moon and stars
Yield brief hints of what awaits those
Who choose to travel on such a turbulent night.
Will we make it to our destination?
Or only wish we had?

This is not a night for the engine to fail.
Is that why we stopped?
A lone car approaches in the distance.
In a flash, virtually on top of us,
High beams shock shut our wide-open eyes.

Then nothing as tail lights disappear in the distance.
The first drops of an impending storm
Dot the dusty windshield, leaving spider-like reflections
Of the dimming interior lights.
Better turn the engine off to save the battery.

How long can a battery last anyway?
Without it and the lights, the night is impenetrable.
Yet squandering it by leaving the lights on,
Gives the visual advantage to anyone outside looking in.
That's right. They can see us—each one of us.

Turn the car off then. But can we at least listen to the radio?
Anything for a little distraction—even for a few minutes.
Hey, does anyone have a cell phone? No matter. No reception.
Better save their batteries, too. Wait.
Go back to that last radio station. What did that guy just say?

“Mass escape from Ravenscroft…. Two guards killed…
Throats slit; hoisted feet first on the flagpole.
Three others left surgically blind, deaf or dumb.
No sign of where the monsters went
And no way to track them.

“To all who hear this broadcast, stay in your homes
And let no one in, not even if you think you know their voice.
If you are out, keep driving, as far and as fast as you can.
And hope you can find shelter quickly in the company
Of those you can trust for help and safekeeping.

“For there is evil prowling the night,
Looking for a hiding place away from the storm,
No matter what they must do to find it.
And just for entertainment, they will spare no suffering.
Relishing the screams and pleadings of their victims.

“If you are in your car, do not get out. Lock every door.
Turn out every light. Stay out of sight.
If you hear any scratching on your car, stay quiet and do not move.
Dial 911 if you can and give your location to the authorities.
Only turn the radio on for hourly updates from this station.”




Friday, April 9, 2010

Poem A Day for April 8 and 9--Too Much Good Stuff Goin' On

April 8: Today the prompt is “…pick a tool, make that the title of your poem, and write your poem. There are the more obvious tools, of course: hammer, screwdriver, wrench, etc. But there also less obvious tools and/or specialized tools available as well.” It took me a bit of thought to figure out how I wanted to handle this one. There's the obvious tools, how tools can be used for other than their intended tool identity, people as tools and a host of other possibilities. But when it finally came down to it, I realized I was sitting right in front of my favorite tool....

By Bill Kirk

As tools go, computers
Aren’t oft thought a tool—
Not like, say, a hammer—
But indeed they’re quite cool.

For what gives a thingy
Its toolness to claim?
Does its fame rest entirely
On whatever’s its name?

Without a computer
We’d be a sad lot,
Left to pen and to pencil
Each squiggle and jot.

Although those without them,
May write with great zest,
At some point a computer
Makes us good, better, best.

April 9: “…write a self-portrait poem. Other artists study themselves to create compositions (not all of them exactly flattering either), so it is only natural that poets, who are word artists, write self-portrait poems from time to time. In fact, some poets make self-portrait poetry "their main thing." For at least today, make it yours." Talk about a challenge. At first, I thought "piece of cake". But then where do you start and what do you include---or leave out?

A Self-Portrait
By Bill Kirk

What you sees is what you gets;
A happy life with no regrets.
OK, there could be one or two—
Or hardly more than just a few.

There was that time I smoked a pack
In just ten minutes behind the shack
At grandpa’s farm—and I turned green.
But since then, I’ve been strictly clean.

And who knew saki and home made beer,
Would make my vision so unclear?
I thought I’d guzzled fire starter.
After that I got much smarter.

Once I bought some swampland, too.
What a deal—I had no clue.
At last, we sold it ten years later—
Never found the alligator.

Worn some blisters; skinned some knees.
Got stung by some wasps and bees.
Lost my freckles and some hair,
And a few bets here and there,

Found true love along the way
Thank my lucky stars each day.
Life is full of blessings now.
Ask me and I’ll tell you how!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Until Death Do Us Part

April 7: “…For today's (Poem A Day Challenge) prompt, take the phrase "Until (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and write the poem.”

After yesterday’s ekphrastic challenge, I’m ready for anything. At first, writing an “until …” poem seemed a bit perplexing. But then I got to thinking “until” is such a future word and, as such, is laden with hope and promise—not a bad concept to run with. And what better "until" sentiment, especially after 40 years of marriage, than "Until Death Do Us Part"? So, dedicated to my wife on her birthday, here is...

Until Death Do Us Part
By Bill Kirk

Only five words.
What more is there to say?

And what’s not to like about “until”?
Imbedded in the word is the promise
Of a future unbridled and unscripted—
As for the ultimate parting?
That's got togetherness written all over it.

"Until": What better word is there
To suggest life anticipated?
And the death thing?
Well, it's just a matter of time
Until we exit planet Earth;
With luck, the longer the better.

Yet, sad to say,
Many are unwilling or unsatisfied
To allow the meaning of this simple,
Five-word contract to stand as stated.
More is always said—and done—to move the parting
Ahead and trade the sweet for sorrow.
What would be whole and unassailable
Is cast aside, deconstructed.

Why can’t we leave well enough alone?
Is not the intended fulfillment of promises made,
The very essence of human goodness?
Why is staying the course and
Reaping the richness of life interwoven,
Eschewed in favor of far lesser momentary gain?
Is this the prisoner’s dilemma all over again?

As the story goes,
In the absence of communication, trust trumps all.
Yet, lacking trust, ego attempts to claim its share,
Only to sacrifice greater gain, greater good, greater love.

Why is that?
Is reason so hard to preserve
In the face of offended sensibilities?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Another Two-Poem Catch-up Day

April 5: The prompt on day five of the Poem A Day Challenge was to “… write a TMI poem (or too much information poem).” This one gave me a bit of a creative challenge—not so much the poetry part but how to limit the limitless view of the subject, yet capture its essence without writing "too much." Here goes....

Too Much Information—May I Have Some More, Please
By Bill Kirk

I woke up this morning
And what did I see?
Too much information
Surrounding me.

A common lament, wouldn’t you say?
What is it about information
That makes it a problem to solve instead of a gift?

Are we any better off after being assaulted
By TV, radio, print media and other sensory messages
For most of every twenty-four hours?
How many words, images, sounds and tactile tidbits—
Often classified as news—
Are insufficient,
Or too much to process?

Is information simply a stimulant
Which some need more than others?
Are some never sated and others overwhelmed?
Has evolution cyber-adapted the few with filters
To disregard all but the most essential?
Or are we turning off even important stuff
Just to escape information overload?

Alas, perhaps it is only the
Useless or unwanted information we rail against.
Do we really want to hear it announced
On our favorite talk show,
That a trans-gender someone
Is having sex and lots of it?
Or perhaps, instead, we secretly want to know how.

Should we be giddy or feel guilty
Having the knowledge that someone previously anonymous
Has become more comfortable
With their newly recognized
Multi-morphed identity?

In an instant forty million people
Are now routinely exposed
To what was previously private.
Should it still be?

Where is Paul Simon in our moment of cultural need?
Who will be the one to pen "Bluetooth Conversations"?
Who will immortalize the public musings of our
Unknown neighbor on the metro train,
As he shares the results of his colonoscopy?
And what about those pesky genital warts?

“Yeah, the doctor told me they aren’t contagious.
(Now Yelling) No, I said contagious.
Reception in this tunnel is really the pits.
I said pits.”

Pardon me, but that’s more than I bargained for
On my commute to work.

And yet we want more….

April 6: “…For this prompt, write an ekphrastic poem. According to John Drury's The Poetry Dictionary, ekphrastic poetry is "Poetry that imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon, or otherwise responds to a work of nonliterary art, especially the visual." So, I've provided links to two pieces of art, and I want you to pick one (or both) to write an ekphrastic poem. (It would be helpful for you to mention which art you picked.)

1. Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz
2. Flight of the Witches, by Francisco de Goya”

EKPHRASTIC? Who could have guessed? Setting aside the odd name of this poetic form, for me these kinds of prompts (using images as a foil for the written word)trigger a quick creative response. In a way, maybe it’s a bit of the same process (although from opposite sides) an artist goes through when handed a story to illustrate. Artists react to the words. In this prompt, writers are asked to react to a visual image. I chose the image of Pocahontas.

Run, Pocahontas! Run!
By Bill Kirk

Run, Pocahontas! Run! The British are coming!
Your carefree days as a 12-year old princess
Will soon be a distant memory.

Run, Pocahonta! Run! The warmth of
Indian Summer days will soon enough
Be replaced with Northern Virginia snow.

Run, Pocahontas! Run! Two years after
Meeting John Smith, he will be injured and
Return to England in 1609.

Run, Pocahontas! Run! Your marriage in 1611
To Powhatan warrior, Kocoum, at age 16
Will soon end mysteriously,

Run, Pocahontas! Run! In 1614, you will be
Ransomed for English settlers and tools
Held by your native countrymen.

Run, Pocahontas! Run! You will marry English colonist,
John Rolfe, in 1614 and will bear him a son,
Thomas Rolfe, in January 1615.

Run, Pocahontas! Run! In 1616, you will travel
To England, be treated kindly by Queen Anne,
And be reunited briefly with John Smith in 1617.

Run, Pocahontas! Run! In March 1617, you will depart
For Virginia with your family and become ill on the
River Thames—and die at age 22 at Gravesend, England.

Be at rest, Pocahontas. The run is over. In your short life,
You connected two worlds across an ocean,
Making history and sparking myths that live on today.