deep roots

Amish family


This is a long and often tragic story, which I will summarize: My maternal grandfather was raised Amish. He never joined the church as an adult, but instead married my Mennonite grandmother. They had six children , but died within two years of each other when the children were little. My mother was raised Methodist, but became a Catholic after she married my Irish Catholic father.  When I was in my fifties, I discovered I had a small army of Amish second cousins.

Here’s a poem I wrote about that:


An Only Child on the Family Tree


It’s a European Mountain Ash.

Sometimes called a Rowan tree, it likes

light, peaty soil.

Its pale brown wood, tough and strong,

makes tool handles, cart wheels.

The juice of its berries

heals the bowels.

Its magical powers

revered by Druids.

This one came from Switzerland, though.

Sprouted from an Amish seed

rooted in Pennsylvania.


The trunk set deep aggressive roots

in Leacock township, close to Paradise.

Thickened by weather and loamy earth,

the tough trunk sent out

long branches, branching out from each other

with dozens of offspring from each marriage.

Amazing in May

with its spray of white flowers.


People with no electricity,

terse and clannish,

black pants flapping on the clotheslines.

Women with bare feet like cudgels,

walking behind the plough.

Well tended buggies

drawn by dashing horses,

mahogany hides gleaming

along the narrow roads.


One old twig

growing on an orphaned branch

of a larger branch

broken off by a long ago storm,

I’m looking for a way

for the tree to take me back.



ancient oak


<a href=””>Roots</a&gt;


shades of gray

Georgia O'Keeffe

Here’s a poem I wrote after seeing this postcard of Georgia O’Keeffe:


Georgia O’Keeffe Looks Over Her Shoulder

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.


Just when she thinks she’s painted all her fear,

When bleached skulls turn to poppies red as lust,

The sound of something wild attracts her ear.


Black jacket, white soft collar curving near

the place where desert sunset turns to rust

awakens in that neck a prickling fear.


The haunches of dead lovers gleam as clear

in skulls as in the orchid’s velvet crust.

Dry rattling of bone curls back her ear.


Her upswept silken hair declares the year

in shades of gray and tortoise brown as dust

just when she thought she’d painted all her fear.


Her thin pink pearl of seashell curves to hear

the desert’s voice, more fierce, more dry than just

as three fine wrinkles flow down from her ear.


Such gaunt grace turns her, luscious and severe,

containing bones and orchids, fruit and crust!

Just when she thinks she’s painted all her fear,

the sound of something wild attracts her ear.



Published in Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky     Plain View Press 2007



okeeffe skull

<a href=””>Gray</a&gt;

Avid Birder



In the US, the term “birdwatcher” has become “birder.”   It means the same thing:  a person who loves to watch birds.



I am an avid birder, though I don’t travel long distances to see rare birds.  I love to watch the ones nearby.

I also love poems about birds.  I write my own, and also love the many “bird poems” other poets have written.

Here’s one of mine:



The Birdwatcher



Consumed in the sunshine

of a field full of loss,

riding the gusts of memory,

I call to my sorrows,

elusive warblers

who reply

from the tall grass,

occasional flash of gold,

cedar waxwings

calling from deep

in the green glen.

They’re the ones I want to see.

I scorn the more obvious

pigeons and starlings

who scavenge

at my feet.

Abby's hi-five and Bill Thompson



<a href=””>Avid</a&gt;

Singing in Harmony

little flower camp 1961-1


Here’s a poem I wrote roughly 20 years ago about a childhood experience

from 60 years ago:

At Little Flower Camp



At Little Flower Camp

in the summer of 1957,

first time away from home,

She’s nine,


Hates how cold the cabin gets at night,

hates the cold twelve stall toilets,

hates having to go swimming in the cold pool.

But the first night,

before bed,

the counselors herded them

into the large pine gathering room.

All of the campers from six to twelve,

little girls,

on the benches facing the stage.

In the dark, the singing began:

Tell me why…..

the stars do shine…

tell me why…

the ivy twines..

tell me why…

the sky is so blue…

tell me , Little Flower,

why do we love you?

All those girl voices,

trailing off the “Why” in a swooping arc,

and the three part harmony…

all those little girls singing

and their voices took her

somewhere she had never gone,

the only child,

from the quiet house of grownups.



<a href=””>Harmony</a&gt;


<a href=””>Harmony</a&gt;

the world’s pleasure


Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize winning poet from Chile, wrote a book called   Odes to Common Things.

Here is his Ode to the French Fry:


Ode to French Fries   by Pablo Neruda


What sizzles

in boiling


is the world’s





into the pan

like the morning swan’s



and emerge

half-golden from the olive’s

crackling amber.


lends them

its earthy aroma,

its spice,

its pollen that braved the reefs.




in ivory suits, they fill our plates

with repeated abundance,

and the delicious simplicity of the soil.






<a href=””>Fry</a&gt;

Slapstick Comedy


Here’s a poem I wrote about 20 years ago:

After Laughter


Therefore I commend mirth;

so I praise laughter;

after all, I turn to grinning.

In the end, I prefer to chortle, to chuckle,

guffaw, snort, split my sides,

tears of mirth, earthy mirth,

rips of laughter, tides of noise, human breath gasping.

I can’t cry, but I can still laugh

at slapstick,

the foot on the banana, the pie in the face, the butt on the floor,

hit, broom! slice, twig!

I commend mirth!

I award a crown of candy,

reward hilarity!

Laughing wins, winds, winding around my guts,

splashing out my open throat,

tasting so much better than bile.








<a href=””>Chuckle</a&gt;

Opaque, thick, hot



Here’s a poem I wrote a while ago which includes the word opaque. For those in the USA, Garrison Keillor read this one on “The Writer’s Almanac on December 9, 2016:


Strong Coffee


Strong coffee

smells like a current

of warm southerly air

in the climate of dawn.

Strong coffee

gets stronger

when poured back

through the grounds.


thick hot, bitter

for waking up,

the caffeine

pumps through your center,

stains your mouth with morning,

with going to work,

surprises you

with your own



<a href=””>Opaque</a&gt;