Time: Our Most Precious Resource

 

Another poem. I love this one!

Time: Our Most Precious Resource

 

We’re told when we’re kids

To Remember,

For sure,

How time is our most precious resource,

Call it our resource de jour.

More precious than water,

More precious than food.

More precious than everything else that is good.

 

Some may call time an affliction,

Those who can hear

The ticking beat of time

Creeping closer each year.

But, If it is,

There is no cure.

Time will outlive us all.

 

If you can’t beat time, what can you do?

Connect with others

Doomed to the same fate

As you.

Find the people who love you

And spend

As much time as you can

With them.

For, once time is up,

It cannot be spent again.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Future: A Poem

I love poetry. Somehow, it allows you to say just what you want to say and nothing more.

The Future

Would that you could see the future,

What would it be that you’d see?

A bright winter day half a year away,

Your unborn child,

Aged ten,

Up in a tree?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Would you cheer it or would it cause groans?

Would you feel the bliss of your betrothed’s impassioned  kiss

Or cry at the year’s-later scene

When  it was cancer’s choice,

Not hers,

To leave you alone?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Would your family be the one you dream of,

As if they were conjured from your mind one lonely night,

Brought to life in that moment by your very sight?

Or is family something we build piece by piece,

And the most important piece is love?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Your future self would say,

“Of course this is the future.

How could it have turned out any other way?”

 

Would that you could see the future,

Your wife and child smiling back.

“We’re waiting for you in the future, dear.

Confidence that you’ll get here?

Oh, honey, for such confidence we do not lack.

Timmy turns ten this Sunday.

He’s excited for the tree house you’ll build.

Meanwhile, your book just found a bestseller list.

Your publisher is absolutely thrilled.”

 

This last one is the future I see,

Beautiful yet incomplete.

The particulars and minutia have yet to set themselves.

But, as far as I’m concerned,

It can’t be beat.

 

I say that not knowing the truth

Of the future that will stand in its place;

Whether its hallmark will be

A warm southern breeze

Or an Alaskan night cold as ice.

No one can know the future.

Would that you could.

It comes down to chance and choice.

But I hope and pray that the true future day

Will somehow be

Just as nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working On My “Elevator Pitch”

If you’re not a writer, you might think of an elevator pitch as a person’s thirty second attempt–while in an elevator–to sell something. Themselves, a product, a TV show. An exec (or an agent, to put this back into writer-speak) may say, “You have thirty seconds. Go.”

I have been honing my elevator pitch for just this type of moment. (Since I can’t drive, I can’t get to a ton of writer conferences, so I need to rely on queries and any sort of networking I can do.) Those of you who either know me in real life, or read this blog and so know me virtually, will probably also know that I am attempting, with all I have, to sell my book, my labor of love for the past ten years. Recently, said piece underwent a title change. It is now called “Two Lessons For Terrence McDonald.” I love and believe in it with all my heart.

If you’ll indulge me for just a moment, I will share with you my elevator pitch. Here goes.

“When a middle-aged man dies unexpectedly, he must discover the two major lessons in his life. If he fails, he will not be permitted into Heaven and will never see his family again.”

What do you think, reader? I am genuinely interested in your opinions.

There’s a lot more to this book, but if I were going to distill it down to its barest bones… there you have it!

On a slightly different note, as I sign off, today, May 3rd, marks fourteen years since the passing of my beloved grandfather, Papa Dick. To him I say, “You always encouraged me. you never told me I wasn’t good enough, and when you’d hear something like that from me, you called me out on it. I am hopeful that, somewhere up above, you’re watching, and that you’re working just as hard as I am to find my beloved book a home. I love you, Pop. Forever and always,

Your writer and your proud grandson.”

Derek

The Book I Love Most

Why Artists Are Artists

or

Why I Continue Searching For A Publisher For The Book I Love Most

The book I love most is homeless.

Searching for its shelf-home.

The book I love most is written,

But, like a vagabond,

It wanders and roams.

The streets of my mind are dead ends to it now.

For it is fully formed.

Nothing on these roads can aid it anymore;

Not even the bonfire of creativity that is

My newest story,

Unfinished,

Off to the side,

Can keep it warm.

It needs a place where it can be

Fulfilled,

Given autonomy

To achieve its highest and best.

Where it can parade into a reading of itself full of confidence of zest.

Its new lease on life will be courtesy  of

An agent who sees the merit,

An editor who agrees,

A publisher who puts it out

Without calling for any author-paid fees.

It will dance into the hands of readers

Who haven’t lived the story

But who have lived their stories and so,

Through lives that have seen similar fates

Can nonetheless relate.

Story, in all its forms,

Is connection.

It is: You are not alone.

Story invites you

To roam the streets of another’s mind

In search of a new thought,

A retrofitted, better home.

Why Writing Is A Form Of Escape

Some people read books to escape. I have to assume this is why Fifty Shades Of Grey was published at all. Really? That’s your form of escape? Oh, well, to each their own, I suppose. Personally, I had a teacher named Mr. Grey in junior high, so that’s the first thing I think of when someone mentions that title. He looked like Waldo from the Where’s Waldo books. So much so that his resemblance was highlighted in the school’s yearbook.

If you read books to escape, dear reader, than we can also assume that at least some writers write them to escape. I’m in this group, and proud of it! Of course, the reason I write stories is so that my readers can enjoy them, but a not-bad side benefit is the trip I get to take into the mind and body of a new character. What can this character do that I can’t? What does he or she know that I don’t?

That being said, as I live and cope with specific physical and visual challenges, I will sometimes elect to tell the story of a character not unlike myself, as I feel such stories are severely under-told in the book world. Then the question becomes: Where does my resemblance to this character end and their own story and personality begin to shine through?

But what about poetry? Is poetry an escape hatch of its own? I love poetry. For me, a poem can distill a writer’s point down to its essence and communicate it better than a 350-page opus, in some cases.

I may not always be able to fashion a newspaper-column’s-worth of content on this blog (Let’s be honest; that’s just not going to happen all the time.) but I will try my best to offer you at least a thought for the day, and sometimes I’ll have a poem for you. What do you say? If I do that, will you come back and read it? I hope so!

Okay, well, with our new pact agreed to, let’s start today, shall we?

Today, I have two poems for you. This won’t be the way things usually go here. (See above.) Two poems equals a lot of work. But they’re two of my favorites, written following the respective passing(s) of both my grandmothers. If I was escaping anything in writing them, it was the current time at which they were composed. I wanted to travel back to a period less complicated, before my loved ones began leaving this mortal coil.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why I love time-travel stories so much. Who among us doesn’t long for some idealized past?

First a poem for my dad’s mom, who left us in 2009. (Admittedly, this poem’s title lacks creativity.)

Grandma’s Poem

                                               

It is only well after one’s tumultuous birth

When emerges the truth of life’s natural dearth.

At first the education is cursory,

Comes courtesy of the elderly neighbor down the street.

A sirens-whaling emergency.

He was the old man that—with plastered-on smiles–

My parents forced me to meet;

I shook his hand in the eight o’clock summer twilight,

A dusk replete with fireflies and lingering heat.

The old man’s traveled thousands of miles, I think.

But, when it strikes,

Few in my immediate circle weep at the loss.

He was someone the community treated

With a neighborly friendly-frost,

Cordial, yet removed.

A great-uncle goes next.

Closer to home, and

Dad reflects.

As we listen to the eulogy,

There’s a man in a casket,

Whose soul is somewhere else;

A reality check.

My grandmother watched Alzheimer’s take its unmerciful hold.

Saw her sister succumb, and death took her home.

When she asked me—

At the end of a motor-home sojourn—

“What was the toughest part of the trip?”

I should have given it more thought,

But I let the wrong answer slip.

She considered my response for a momentary spell,

Then taught me a lesson I learned well.

The toughest part for her,

She returned,

Looking oddly both serene and morose, and

Discounting my reply as juvenile;

I wouldn’t understand until time ran out for someone I cherished,

Their ultimate demise

A product of God’s larger scheme,

Was saying good-bye to her sister, Jean.

Even with previous forays into funerals,

I never thought death would take the unfazable.

The apocryphally irascible.

But six years ago,

Cancer burst a faith-hewn bubble, and

My spiritual journey began anew.

Aunt Thelma followed,

Joined Jean and Andy,

And her soul mate,

Uncle Lee.

Now here again we sit,

In pews reserved for worship,

Except when the populace of God’s kingdom has an arrival to hail.

This time it’s a mechanically-inclined woman who loved to sail.

She waits on E. dock

To return to His flock.

The party’s already in full swing

As she climbs aboard the Yacht.

Or maybe the parties will come later and

Her passing takes place under a more subdued atmosphere.

Papa’s happy because his mechanic and the love of his life are both finally here.

“It’s time to put the boat in the water, Shirl,” he’ll say.

“But the engine’s been acting up.

Can you take a look at it, ol’ girl?

Want some coffee?

I made ya a cup.”

She’ll tinker and fiddle and get the boat running.

And as they get out on the water the view exceeds stunning.

They sail for a light in which multitudes wait

To say their hellos,

Play cards, or Scrabble,

Or camp by a lake.

“We’ve missed you,” they say in a chorus so clear

The intonation can be heard in every earthbound tear.

All who miss Grandma, G.G., or Shirl

Know she’s a fairly self-sufficient old bird.

She’ll let you know she’s there;

There’s no doubt in my mind she’ll make herself heard.

If you listen long enough

In a room filled with quiet,

Turning your mind off to all worldly romps and riots,

She might say:

“I’m finally free of pain and a foggy mind.

Do not mistake this for a sad time.

It’s a day to celebrate,

And not with boxed wine.

Heck, get the good stuff.

My life is worthy of a toast

And a good hearty singing of ‘Auld Lang Zyne’.”

And now my mom’s mom, who followed in 2010.

Losing Your Voice

           

“Hi, sweetheart,” I can hear you say.

I am on a recovery mission.

Attempting to rescue that phrase.

Three syllables that assured

So much more.

“My door’s always open,” it meant.

“No matter where you go,

Who you meet,

Or what you do,

I’ll love you.”

Movies gone gray with the passing years

You heartily revered,

And I was taught how to love them, too.

When our fine, four-fendered friend

Began to fly,

I cheered.

Then there’s Charlie Kane.

Touched by long-ago pain,

A Rosebud of regret.

The simplicities that make up childhood,

The incidental moments spent laughing,

Are worth the pain

That must be withstood

When the “Hi, sweethearts” are gone

For good

And there can be no more idle chatting.

I’m beginning to forget

What it sounded like.

To have you there on the other end

Of the line.

Your chortles came easily,

Accompanied,

Oftentimes before stories

Had found their strides,

By an “ohoooo geeeeez.”

A treasured response.

Now hearing it once more,

Just once—

I’m not so greedy—

Is all I want.

instead I am faced with a Heavenly taunt

That mocks the thought of free will

Or choice.

We didn’t choose to say good-bye.

Yet I’m here today to admit

I’m losing your voice.

I do hope you’ll return here again and again, dear reader, and that in my words you can also see clearly my heart beating away. Being able to escape into writing whenever I want, being granted the chance to offer you a thoughtful morsel when it might strike me to do so, is one of the ways in which I feel most alive.

The Greatest Man I Ever Knew!

Now that I’m on twitter and accepting the fact that putting myself out there is a must in this day and age, if I wish to attain my dream, I figured this was a perfect time to introduce those of you as yet unaware of him to my grandfather, Richard Kenbok.

I was born a month and a half premature, at four pounds, eleven ounces. The doctors gave me a fifty-fifty chance of surviving my first night.

“You were a fighter,” my dad has always said. I made it!

What did this mean? It meant I was ticketed for a whole heck of a lot of painful physical therapy, foot braces, and kids asking me dumb questions like, “Are you retarded or something?”

Short answer to that question: No. Long answer: If you ask me that, you’re being ignorant, and I don’t think I want to know you. That long answer got me a lot of funny looks, since most kids didn’t know what the word ignorant meant and had to go home and ask their parents. (Thanks, Dad!)

Life wasn’t easy in those first few years. (Is life ever easy?) It turned out I had cerebral palsy and terrible eyesight. But one of the pluses of my life: In my corner was a kind, loving, sarcastic, and downright wonderful man. We called him Papa. Papa Dick.

In my childhood, it was easy to let people wait on me, or do things for me. They wanted to, some might have felt obligated because of the poor hand I’d been dealt, and I wasn’t going to complain. The more they did for me, the less I had to do. Good deal.

It was Papa who told me I was looking at life all wrong.

“I don’t mind helping you,” he said. “I’ll never mind helping you, if you need help. But if you can do something, do it.”

“But I have palsy,” I whined. With everyone else, this reminder earned me favor, a sad look, a hug. (Sad looks became not so great to see, as I aged. People often give me sad or mournful looks instead of coming up to get to know me, and it makes me fume inside.)

But with Papa it got me nothing but a scoff. “Your grandmother has arthritis,” he said. “Hell, she has trouble opening doors. Can you open doors?”

“Yes.” I felt triumphant.

“Then I don’t want to hear any more about what you can’t do.”

“Okay, pop.”

I kept this conversation in the back of my mind always. And when I needed a good talking-to, when I was subscribing too heavily to the “victim frame of mind”, pop was there to put me back in line.

In third grade, my teacher told my dad, “Derek will be published someday.” Whereas math and numbers and, later, geometric shapes, felt almost impossible to grasp, words came easily to me and flowed from my computer keyboard like… hot apple cider at Christmas. (Yeah, let’s go with that. That’s some good stuff.) Papa was one of my biggest fans and my “first reader”. All writers have “first reader(s)”.

He wasn’t a writer himself. No, but he loved to read, and whenever he came over to watch my brother and me, which felt like about once a month while my dad was out of town for work, he’d ask, “Any new stories this time, D?” There were always new stories for him.

He would read them eagerly, and he would always give his honest opinion of the work. He didn’t pull any punches. You need to fix this or You need to work some more on developing that character. I know what you’re going for, because I know you, but it’s not on the page yet. Only once or twice in all his reading did I get: It’s good. I wouldn’t change anything. That felt like winning a prestigious literary award.

As I grew older, my writing grew in sophistication (I hope). By the time his dreaded lung cancer returned for its second time (he’d beaten it once before, losing a lung to the fight), I had a collection of poems ready to share with him. It was called Prose From A Grandson To A Senior Fellow, the title inspired by a suggestion from my dad. I was going to self-publish it, I decided, so that pop might have a chance to read the book. He did, and he loved it. The two of us grace its cover, the photo from the early ’90s when I was young, and he was on the younger side of old. (He’d give me hell for saying that, but I’m right, and he’d know I’m right, so then he’d laugh.)

We all have challenges in life. The key to overcoming them, besides believing in yourself and striving for dreams, is having someone like Papa in your corner. Someone who sees the special-ness within you even when you can’t, because there will be times when you can’t.

I only wish Pop could have read my current manuscript. I think he would have been proud. I like to think he has read it, wherever he is, and he is proud.

A Main Character Leaves In A Huff

I thought, What should I write about today? And I came up with what I think is a pretty good poem. As a writer, I’m always hoping my main character will help guide me through his or her story, leading me to its resolution down what can sometimes be a long and circuitous road. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. When they don’t. it’s usually my fault, and it goes a little something like this.

 

The blank screen of a fresh page mocks

Amid nothing besides night’s darkness and

The tick of a ceaseless clock.

Time travels onward,

A cycle that toys with the mortal,

While my characters, annoyed,

  Sit trapped aboard

A London double-decker.

 

I consider ending them, all of them,

Right here,

The delete button

My own personal wrecker.

“You’re a hypocrite,” I hear the main character yell.

“First you invite us–my family and I–into your  mind.

‘Your story’s fascinating,” you say.

 “One I want to tell.’

And now you threaten us with extinction

Because you have yet to find

Literary distinction,

And you’re not sure we’ll get you there.

Well, fine,

We know when we’re wanted,

And when we’re wasting our time.

We will gladly vacate your mind

And find among your writery lot

Another aspiring writer,

One who’s got

The guts to give us our due,

Who won’t give up

When the edits get tough

Or when the words get stopped up

And won’t flow.”

The Blank Page

There is nothing scarier than the blank page. It can bring on paralyzing fear. And it is a writer’s worst.

“That page is blank. What if it stays blank forever?” Believe it or not, some writers do worry about stuff like this. Most, actually.

For me, the beginning of any piece is its toughest portion (aside from editing, which is a whole other ball game entirely). For only with a proper start will work flourish the way it’s supposed to, in the end.

My go-to when I can’t seem to overcome that endless expanse of white: A poem. Write a poem. Let the wonder of language, its simplicity, complexity, its coarse edges, its smooth underbelly calling for a good vocal rub–let them all dance in concert on your ready tongue. Accept what the Gods of Poetry give you. Throw nothing back. What’s meant to come will come. That’s what I’m going to do, now.

A poem, written without concern for what it shall become, and entitled An Endless Expanse Of White.

 

I come awake to a

Snow-sky gray

Sweet Christmas Day,

Find the presents waiting.

As a child my night

 Drifted away right,

A moment fading from sight,

Replaced by this wonderful morn

Yet to be warm with hot chocolate and cheer,

Nor is it light,

Though the freshly fallen snow shimmers the immediate vicinity.

So that all is clear and bright.

That endless expanse of white.