Step Inside

“Enter when you will, take what you need, leave something of yourself when you go”

I have a friend I met over a bottle of scotch in a Brandywine Valley bed & breakfast some odd years ago who travels constantly and widely, sending me bits and pieces of the world as he goes. Each picture contains a sense of mystery, or surprising humor, and/or most likely the bicycle he rode in on.

I forget where he said he shot this wide planked shack. It is intriguing, don’t you agree? The sun and scattered leaves promise it is a bright, brisk day, yet, I wonder what musty odor fills your nose when you poke your head through the door, what scurrying varmint lives in the corners, what fingers grab your ankle once you cross the threshold and the heavy door slowly shuts out the light, the long, strong boards slide through the door handle locking  you inside…

… you go first…I am right behind you…

THE BRAT DOWN THE STAIRS

There is a brat child who lives down the stairs.

She’s really quite naughty, tho’ she never, ever swears (yet).

She thinks she’s cute. Someone told her, no doubt,

But I find her awful when she stamps about,

Screeching at her mother, pulling plants out the pot,

throwing and leaving her toys out to rot.

How I’d love to get hold of her ratty black hair

and sit her quite firmly in a small corner chair.

And leave her alone there for an hour or two

cleaning all of the mud off each and every shoe

she threw out the door when it started to rain.

She laughed and she stomped, caused her mother great pain

as her shoes filled with muck, her lace stockings were stained.

Yes, if I think I would spank her, and put her to bed.

That’s not what we do now, I’ve heard it said.

Especially a neighbor glaring down from above,

It’s good that her mother showers her with love.

 

rJo Herman  4/6/20  day 6 NaPoWriMo

 

 

PANDEMIC FATIGUE, or pretty close to it, but not closer than six feet…

I have for the most part stopped watching the news.

They list worsening stats ‘bout how many we lose

Every single solitary ever loving day,

So stay inside, wear a mask, do not call friends to play.

 

But then on the other hand work to keep in touch,

Call your mom, write your brother, it does not take too much

Effort to let people know just how you are doing.

Send a joke, or a quick hello, just do not sit there stewing.

 

Well, which is it, Twits?  What would you have us do?

Stay locked inside, and practice crafts,  or learn to make beef stew?

If I order packages to be delivered by someone I don’t know

Do I open them now, or spray them down, or wait a day or so?

 

This too shall pass, crap always does. It’s simply academic.

We shall survive to tell just how we beat this epidemic

Of twenty twenty and beyond by staying away from people

And stores and shops and every church with or without a steeple.

 

rJoHerman

4/5/2020   Day five NaPoWriMo

Ode to the Wort

There is a shade plant called a wort,
Delicate, fragile and short.
It has lovely leaves
and blooms one perceives
make it attractive to bees of a sort.


rJo Herman 4/4/20

4X4

April 4 aka 4/4 and 4/4/2020 divided by 2 is 2/2/1010 divided by 2 is 1/1/505

and there you have it

four evens broken down to an equal number of odds,

all of little use except for the novelty of it all.

Now 505 is the area code for the state of New Mexico

where twice I lived in the course of my life;

once near Roswell before I knew of the bodies of space aliens supposedly kept in a chamber somewhere on base, or in a missile silo, or somewhere out of the way;

once in Portales after I knew that fathers die even if you promise to go to college and the wind can blow even harder and longer and hotter than in Roswell.

New Mexico is parched.  Its water is scarce.  The rainfall averages fifteen inches per year.  The Pecos River near Roswell is rarely wet, except for the occasional flash flood.  Then it is wide and swift and deadly.

The wind never stops, the wind in eastern New Mexico.  It lifts the parched earth into huge rolling clouds of dust that make your eyes water, your skin itch, and the corners of your rooms welcome spots for scorpions and lizards and tarantulas if you’re not careful and clean often.  Always put your drinking glasses upside down in the cupboard, or the sand will fill them.  And your mother will hate it, the relentless, insidious, pervasive sand that pocks the windshields and chips away paint and drives you mad in the night.

Rattlesnakes, now there’s a sound that echoes across the backyard from their hiding place beneath the doll carriage your baby sister should never have left out in the yard.  Never create a space where they can curl up to sleep, and for God’s sake never surprise one.  But if you do, and it makes to strike, chop off its head, no mercy.

And did you know that if you turn over a blue tailed lizard and rub its tummy it will fall asleep?  and it will never bite you, but will lie quietly in the palm of your hand until you move it to the ground where it will swiftly run away under a rock, or a chair, or the arch of your shoe.

 

rJo Herman   4/4/2020

NaPoWriMo  Day four

 

 

APRIL 3RD

One, make that two, big fat robins

skittered across the drive away from me

as though I had caught them up to no good,

which is likely true since they were near the trash bin.  Mmhmm.

I would be disgusted, except that they looked so silly with their puffed up red breasts

and their rush to get away while trying to look cool.  Beaks up, heads back.

I suppose where there are two, there are four, or eight.

From the sounds of things around here, the entire clan has arrived to take up residence

while we are distracted by snowfall and plagues.

Salute, brothers robin!   Glad you could make it.

 

rJo Herman

4/3/20

 

 

THOUGHTS ON “A GRIEF OBSERVED” BY C.S. LEWIS

Have you read C.S. Lewis’s A GRIEF OBSERVED? The Copyright 1961, Restored 1996 C.S.Lewis Pte.Ltd. version from HarperSanFranciscoZondervanPublishingHouse, with the eighteen page Forward by Madeleine L’Engle plus the thirteen page Introduction by Douglas H. Gresham? The book itself is seventy six pages, and stands very well on its own, so I can only surmise that the extraneous words of L’Engle and Gresham were employed to flesh it out for publishing purposes. Though lovely, they were not needed.
For you see, as pointed out in one of the leads, the writing is about A grief, HIS grief at the death of His beloved; HIS sadness, HIS questions, HIS look askance at God and God’s motives. The forward compares his grief over his dearheart to her grief over hers; and the intro weaves that writer’s loss for his mother into the overview. One cannot review another’s grief without it calling up one’s own it seems.  True enough for me.
Illness and death and despair and loneliness and sorrow and screaming anger and silent tears along with hysterical laughter over freshly remembered events visit us all. The words that stick in your throat at that unexpected moment, stick for everyone. The body of this book in and of itself invites a quiet, earnest conversation, a tete a tete over a good single malt scotch, a warm fire, or a lanquid lean against comfortable hot boulder set against the end of the trail to your favorite peak. It is small enough to carry in a pack. I suppose you could read it on your phone, if you are more modernly practical, or you’ve an aversion to print. It is hardly earth shattering, nor does it call out for loud marketing and applause like his MERE CHRISTIANITY, which I’ve read, or CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, which I have not. It is just an observation, just as its title suggests; just a share. Maybe at some point in your journey you’ll give it a read. It is worth it.
rJo Herman
4/3/2020

SCRABBLE IN THE TIME OF ISOLATION

My parents played Scrabble set up in the dining room, or on the coffee table in the living room. We had a little folding game table with a checkerboard painted on top. I do not recall they ever played on it, but aside from the table on which they set up the game it was important to have the board sitting on a lazy-Susan, because then you could turn it to face you when it was your turn. Very important.
They would play for what seemed like hours. Sometimes we kids would play, one or two of us – only four people could play at once. We were held to the same standards as the grown ups: keep accurate score, check the validity of words using the dictionaries kept handy for all (multiple dictionaries, for some contained words others did not). We learned the strategy of playing on the double, triple word squares, striving for the highest scores. No one ever let us win. We had to learn to do it ourselves. Once or twice after Mom was living in her memory care facility, her thoughts scrambling rapidly, I set up a scrabble board in her room. No matter how far her memory wandered, she always, ALWAYS played the double – triple word squares, and beat me soundly every time. Every time…
The most important thing I think I learned from watching Mom and Dad play Scrabble was it was very important to be quiet, so the person whose turn it was could concentrate. If one of us kids started pointing out words, or commented on missed double word squares, or punched each other, Mom and Dad kept their eyes on the board, but they raised their eyebrows, shook their heads and loudly whispered, “Shh, he/she is thinking…” Immediate silence followed. We did not dare interrupt a thinking parent, nor did it do any good to complain about it (part of the bigger parenting plan, no doubt). We could watch quietly, or we could leave the room.
I have been playing online Scrabble a lot in these days of isolation. I admit playing online, just yourself and a bot, is not as satisfying as playing with another person and a glass of Prosecco. Sometimes the bot lets you win, but more often than not it plays obscure (if real) words that double, triple its scores. I try to watch the counting, it seems impossible to lose by 200-300 points. The games move quickly though, and I lose count, and even when I can see the treacherous deceit of the machine, its miscalculations, it does not respond to ranting accusations of cheating. It just presses on. It just keeps on thinking. It totally ignores me!  Blasted Cheater!  But I do know how to end my frustration, to gain a semblance of control and recover an inkling of self respect.
I simply turn off the computer. I win!
Be well.

APRIL SHOWERS

April Second

Today it is raining, and I am delighted.

The old adage April showers bring May flowers?

I am all for that.

I am ready for May, though we’ve twenty eight days to go.

I am ready for sunshine and warmth; freshness and growth.

Forgotten treasures stretching up through the leaves

Living again despite winter’s freezes and frosty kills and plagues.

I am ready to prove unbelievers wrong again.

Those who tell me nothing will grow here; they have tried it all before.

Those who shoot each other knowing looks, and give me weak encouragement

Just to be polite before they shake their heads and yammer about me beneath my balcony,

Thinking I do not hear, or perhaps hoping that I do.

Go about your business, ye of little faith.

You will be surprised, even thrilled, when the Dutch iris bloom,

And nasturtiums fill in between Stella D’Oro day lilies and peonies, pink and red, burst forth.

Bachelor button seeds are waiting to be randomly tossed, and coreopsis, and daisies.

No Vinca, it spreads like kudzu, choking out the competition.

Winter pansies are already blooming in the pot by the stairs.  They have been noticed.

Rhubarb leaves are unfurling, though someone pinches each new leaf as it stretches out.

They do not remove the leaves, they just pinch the stems, leave the head gasping –

A pox on the murderers  of  rhubarb.

Upstairs, looking out over the walk, are miniature roses in pots, already blooming pink and white;

More pansies, parsley, thyme, oregano – no rosemary, as yet, or sage.

I have plans for a large pot of tomatoes in the corner,

And onions and peppers (and then we’ll have some more fried ham, da da da da da da da da – sorry I don’t know what came over me – silly old song)

I even planted some bird seed which is growing like weeds.  The chickadees and finches will like that, and my downstairs neighbor should hopefully not complain.

***and now I see have gone from potential poetry to actual rambling, so I shall cease for now, promising to edit later.

Nonetheless, it is a lovely, rainy April day full of promise and potential.

May we all be well enough to notice.

APRIL FOOL

 

My dear darling April,

I have been awaiting your return.

Counting the days,

Planning for your certain arrival.

I freshened the bed,

Laid out special food,

Chose bright pinks

And cool greens

To complement your verve.

They will get here later.

 

I know, I know!  I am foolish to begin so early,

But I have had enough of the long, musty gloom.

The promise you carry of glorious days ahead

Is worthy of my undaunted exuberance.

Bring on your annual heavy snows and deep rains.

They will not dampen my excitement.

They do nothing but urge me forward

To plant new seeds, to check for sprouts,

and to know that I know that I know

That Life renews

Always.

 

rJo Herman

4/1/2020

To Emily Dickinson on Hope

Dear Emily,

I have been thinking about your poem, “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

Here’s my problem:  some years back after someone or another grew sick, then died, I began to think heavily on hope.   We hope we will be well.  We hope we will have enough food, money, time.  We hope we do not miss a chance to see, hear, love someone.  We hope everything will work out.  We hope, but because we are uncertain we do not expect good results.  We hope, therefore we prepare for the worst, as well as the best.

Hope exhausts me.  Hope offers the chance the opposite might occur.  If we hope the pants fit, but they don’t, what then?

I have taken to the idea that Faith is what is important.  Faith is what makes things true, reliable, solid.   I have faith the sun will rise.  I have faith all things will work out.  I believe all things work for good.   It seems that if I simply hope, I am preparing myself for all contingencies, good and/or bad.  I want only the good.   I expect the good.  I have faith it abounds.

That’s all.   I suppose Faith would not fit in with your poem.   Faith seems less fleeting than hope, hence it has no need for feathers.

I look forward to discussing more of your work with you, Emily.   It shall be fun, eh?

Rox  3/24/2020