Poems by C.R. Schwab

My New Book

It’s been almost exactly one year since my last blog post. As I write today, Boston remembers the terrible marathon bombing that occurred at that time. Meanwhile, I have just recently self-published a book of 63 poems titled “The Act of Free Falling.”

The poems fall into four sections: the first about animals, the second about nature and the seasons, the third are humorous, and the fourth are my thoughts as a nonagenarian.

The book is available for purchase through Amazon.com, for nine dollars.

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Since Spring has finally arrived, here is a relevant poem from my new book:

Crocuses

A salvo of purple bursts

barely above ground;

bright goblets drinking in

the newly warming sun,

preceded by striped grass-like leaves

having found their way

through matted, dried-up patches

in tiny urban front yards.

Closely examined, each flower reveals

a small stigma yielding in some varieties

saffron, that most expensive

of all gourmet flavoring.

At a time when evenings

welcome more daylight,

I am greeted by these heralds of spring

who exclaim in no uncertain terms:

it’s so close you can almost taste it.

 

 

Big News!

All (?) you faithful few followers of my poetry blog have probably wondered what’s happened since my last message, over two months ago– the one about Boston’s notorious marathon bombing. Just a few days ago, we heard about the furor created by the current Rolling Stone Magazine cover photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving bomber. The photo, a “selflie,” was lambasted for making him look too glamorous. A cover line called him guilty, although noting that he was a “promising” student, who was foiled by his family, then turned into a monster. But enough of that!

My big news is that I have embarked on a self-publishing venture, a book of 60-some poems under the title of “The Act of Free Falling.” The cover and interior illustrations will be six photographs, mostly mine. CreateSpace will do some editing before printing copies to order, hopefully starting this fall. Let me know if you’re interested in buying a copy. The price, I assure you, will be quite modest.

Meanwhile, it’s “summertime and the livin’ is easy” (Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess). There are no jumping fish and no cotton, but our yard is growing wild. No longer having the energy to trim hedges and bushes, or to grow a few vegetables, I am content to sit back and let nature take its wild course, except in the case of my old Trumpet vine, which threatened to enclose the entire house in its grass, which I thought I had eliminated, but which keeps sprouting in myriad places within 20 feet of the original planting. I have decided to leave the Honeysuckle vine alone, because of its early summer fragrance. Last year’s Poison Hemlock is no more. In its place is a six foot Thistle plant, which I admire from a distance. Everything else: grass, weeds, and Morning Glories, thrived and spread during our Spring and early Summer. I must remind my grandson (who lives upstairs with his parents) to do some mowing and trimming before he flies off to college.

Exploded Bombs

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Two bombs in Boston’s Back Bay,
exploding in quick succession, one
with a short fuse.
                           Tamerlan,
the same as that ruthless Uzbek ruler
in the second half of the fourteenth century;
Timur the Lame, who conquered and savaged
Central Asia, terrorizing his foes
with pyramidic displays of the skulls
of countless numbers he defeated in battle,
a hero now in Uzbekistan.

 

Tamerlane
                
once the subject
of Bostonian Edgar A. Poe’s
first published poem in which
a romanticized Timur was one
“standing o’er empires haughtily –
a diadem’d outlaw.” Like later works
by this anxious author stemming
from despair over loss
of stable parentage, faded fortunes
and a teenage dying wife.

 

Boston’s terrible
                          Tamerlan,
torn between two worlds –
ours and Chechnyan. Russia.
Doors to both tightly closed:
“I don’t have a single American
friend – don’t understand them.”
Seduced by extremist voices,
going blindly to his doom,
in a hail of gunfire
in a peaceful Boston suburb.

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This poem is an outgrowth of a column written by Farah Stockman in the Boston Globe on April 23rd. She wrote some very thought-provoking comments about the elder Tsarnaev in which she says, “how do we fight terrorism when it springs from the violent fantasies of our own kids?” The answer, according to Marc Sageman, is “to wait for another fashion to come along and inspire these kids.”

Residents’ Day

AbigailAdams_640x400
This old house! If only
These old walls could talk
About those happy-sad happenings
That occurred over a life
Of more than two centuries.
The house that George wanted built
(But John and Abigail were first
To call this Palace their home),
That another George had burned
(After we torched Toronto).
The precious silver saved by Dolley,
Who set a very high example
For future First Hostesses to follow,
Where young Willie played and died,
While his father toiled and died
For the Union and emancipation;
And John–John hid underneath
His father’s desk shortly before
His mother tried to shield the body
Of her shot and dying husband.
A little later an ex-tenant’s son
Was judged the winner in a close race,
Harking back to the beginning
When the initial occupant
Lived to see his heir move in
To the President’s residence,
Though Abigail wasn’t there.
Her words “remember the women”
Echoed down to the time of Eleanor,
The ‘gold standard’ of First Ladies,
And the days of Barack and Michelle,
When this place became no longer
A “whites only” White House.
Will the Executive Mansion
Sometime house a First Husband?

Albinos Need an Azure Sky (And a Touch of Red)

Last Sunday, February 17th, I attended a poetry reading in Capitol Square, Arlington, at which seven or eight poems were read. Participating also were about twenty others in a contest and I was awarded first prize. No monetary award, but I can boast of my first contest win.

albinos picture

An early morn in February.
I plow my way along the pond
In a wonderland created
By the artist’s snowy brush:
Albino trees and shrubbery
Against a clear blue backdrop.

Following hearty winter servings
There is dessert for all tastes:
Whipped topping on the rocks,
On the benches and the fences;
Overhanging marshmallows,
And vanilla icing on a frozen cake.

For the others there is balm:
Suspended here from tree limbs,
Cotton balls to astringe
The open sores of winter’s fury,
Plus shaving cream upon the pond
To soothe the cuts of skaters’ blades.

Finally, daring the blast of winter,
White furry caterpillars
Dozing on drooping branches;
And ermine wraps to warm
The shivering naked bushes.
All nice except one thing:

Suprematists favored white on white;
To this plain albino scene
I’ve added an azure sky and
A hardy winter-staying red bird
Surrounded by snowy lace,
To be sent to all on Valentine’s day.

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Being so close to my house, Spy Pond is one of my most frequent destinations. This poem was inspired by the sight one morning after a heavy, wet snow fall the night before. Every word reflects what I saw and how it made me feel. The blue sky was a bonus, but I threw in the cardinal from my imagination since sometimes cardinals are seen around here that early. Thus, my valentine card to the world.

Interview With Punxutawney Phil

punxsutawney-phil

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Hey, Punxutawney Phil! Mr. Groundhog! A word
Before you return to your burrow.
Huh
What were you thinking when you saw your shadow?
I was th-thinking it’s t-too c-cold out here.
Well, is it any warmer in that underground hole of yours?
Please! My hibernaculum – it’s a three-room suite.
And I prefer “woodchuck” – less porcine.

Woodchuck, woodcharlie, whatever.
Yes, it’s warmer – geothermal heating, you know.
So, what do you do down there all winter?
Mostly sleep, sometimes read, or just contemplate.
Don’t you get hungry?
I stuff myself in the fall.
Why don’t you store up nuts like some of your cousins?
If a woodchuck could, a woodchuck would.
You know, when I was a kid we welcomed the winter,
We played in the snow, went sledding, skating.
Why don’t you?

If a woodchuck could, a woodchuck would.
Besides, there’re predators out there, and
My coat color is too dark against the snow.

Why can’t you ….?
If a woodchuck could, a woodchuck would.
Well then, couldn’t you spend the winters in Florida?
They’ve got predators down there also. Besides, I can’t fly….
If a woodchuck could, a….

Okay, okay. But why do you come out each year at this time?
About now I get hungry. Also time drags.
I can’t wait for winter to end. Isn’t that how you feel?

Tell us, if you hadn’t seen your shadow, what then?
I would still think it’s t-too c-cold out here.
Well, see you in six weeks.
Can you really predict the weather that accurately?
If a woodchuck could, a woodchuck would.

Super Bowl Sunday at Spy Pond

spy pond tree

No hyperbole, the bowl of bowls,
Linear descendant of the Pasadena one,
Pasadena, where hunt club leaders
Once planned parades on New Year’s Day

To promote the region’s perfect climate
Among shivering and shifting Northeasterners.
Dubbed the Tournament of Roses
After the winter-blooming flowers there.

Chilled creatures tied to the seasons
Now receive blooms from each other,
A salve for unrealized escapes
To warmers spots this time of year.

Super Bowl Sunday at Spy Pond:
More than a foot of snow covering the ice
After five separate pummelings
And seventeen frozen days. Viewed

From a bench the lonely scene is broken
By a couple approaching the pond,
One with rolled pad under arm,
Stepping down to a path on the ice.

After skirting the edge, they venture out,
Dropping the pad, then lowering themselves –
One lying flat, the other seated.
They are alone, gazing perhaps

At the slowly disappearing disc,
Talking maybe, or making love.
During the discontent of our winter
They embrace it with open arms.

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Christmas is past, and as I write this New Years is about to happen. I realize that I don’t have a poem specifically about New Years. Perhaps it’s because from childhood I have associated New Years with Christmas as a part of the holiday season, more the end of the year rather than the beginning of a new year.

In my past, New Years was the time to make resolutions for the coming year. But more recently, especially in Boston, the holiday is celebrated by an event called “First Night.” Living in New England, I associate New Years with the beginning of real winter. I think this poem fits that idea.

Doggone

dog-lost.n
“ LOST
German Shepherd
Last seen
On Christmas Eve”

Where, oh where have my keepers gone?
I was tied to a post, but somehow got loose.
They must be lost. Excuse me, sir!
Have you seen where my keepers went?
So many people; everybody rushing.
Why are all the bare trees
Covered with those bright lights?
Hey buddy! What are you doing
Taking that tree inside your house?
And why are there strings of colored lights
On the outside of many homes?
Hark, the herald angels sing!
Wait, I hear the sound of singing.
Shepherds watching their flocks by night.
My cousins sometimes help with this.
Peace on earth, goodwill to men!
Before the peace many of us
Carried messages across the lines.
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!
That’s too far – out of the state.
Away in a manger, no place for a bed.
Check that motel down the street?
Oh, oh, there goes a police van.
Looks like a friend of mine in back.
I’ll chase it. Now, I’m really lost.
Maybe if I follow that bright star,
It will lead me home.

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Some experts say a poem should stand on its own and should not have to be explained. But for what it’s worth, here is how my poem “Doggone” came about. While walking in the center of my town one holiday season, I noticed a handwritten sign on a pole concerning a lost German Shepard dog. Reading that it has last been seen on Christmas Eve lead me to imagine what this dog might be thinking. Reference to the story of the three wise men in an earlier poem inspired the last line.

Hammed Omelet

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To see and not to see!
That is the question. I posed to him:
How did you do it, illusionist?
How did you change the countryside
Into a kaleidoscope of color –
Crimson, bronze, orange and gold?
Then how did you make it quickly vanish?
Do I want to be fooled, deceived no less
Into thinking my eye is as quick as your hand?
Perhaps by following the foliage change
Our mind’s eye learns that all is transient.

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The title of this poem was originally “The Illusionist.” The idea came to me from my grandson’s interest in magic, such as card tricks– a reminder of my own youthful interest in that form of entertaining. “The Illusionist” was one of a longer four-part work, entitled “The Magician,” which included “Indian Summer” (also on my blog), and two others; one about Halloween (“Cinderella’s Pumpkin”) and one about Thanksgiving (a native American story about the story of Indian summer).

Indian Summer

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Penned a Broadway bard of old:
The days grow short when you reach September.
So as daylight dwindles and dark encroaches,
My thoughts turn backwards to sunnier times,
And I wish some wizard would resummon the summer,
Not hot-house warmth, nor night bright lights,
Nor year-round cornucopia.
Does not the seasons’ evidence
By these illusions elude us?
Then Cautantowit, the spirit, replied:
“If you will remember the name of my people,
I will give you the gift of a warm spell in autumn.
When the sky turns blue and the air is calm,
When the light is a landscape painter’s delight,
Days of peace and serenity,
Days that will ease your way into winter —
Without illusions.”

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