Today We Discuss Role Models

From the collection Picture Making, published 2017. The three photos served as the inspiration for the poem. For more information, look here.


Today We Discuss Role Models

A truly functional object. The garbage truck.
Never mind its bright blue paint
its impossible-to-miss oversized barrel of a body.
Never mind the flashing light on the back
the mud flaps
the solid wave of diesel fumes
it sends over your car as you sit behind it at the traffic light.
It is not embarrassed to be hauling around
things that weren’t good enough for you to keep
the plastic wrap you tore off the package of knives.

A truly functional object. The green-painted mailbox.
Flag up, street number clearly visible as is required by the postal regulations
waiting for the messages from anyone anywhere
no matter what the content.
Messages that may not be good enough for you to keep
and may end up in the garbage. Nonetheless,
if you go to the mailbox
to find it empty, it is a disappointment to you.
None of this is the mailbox’s concern.

A truly functional object. The ring bolt on the gatepost.
Partner to the chain that closes off the parking lot
at five o’clock in November, eight o’clock in July –
park hours being sunrise to sunset.
Impartial, the ring bolt does its job.
If you do not leave before the closing time
the ring bolt
will not worry about how you are going to get home
now that your car is penned behind the chain.

A truly functional object
has no ego
has no vanity
has dignity
is to be respected
is to be envied.
Take the time to do so.
Thank you.



Installment Plan Poetry Marathon, Week 46

You may be familiar with my Poetry Marathons – I’ve done them since January, 2015. I take a week, several times a year, and devote it to poetry – writing, editing, all poetry-related activities.

This year I have decided to do one segment of a Marathon each week. Two to three hours set aside for poetry, outside my regular life. (That was the idea – it’s grown now to take over the whole day. That’s fine with me.)

It’s called the Installment Plan Poetry Marathon.

For more background information, look here. And if you want to read previous posts in this series, search this blog under the term Installment Plan Poetry Marathon 2017.

On November 16 I was back at Montco, Brendlinger Library.

I tried to take my now-traditional photo of Butler Avenue in Ambler, but the light was green…oops. Don’t worry, I did not hit anything. Not even close.

So here is one from Morris Road and Penllyn-Blue Bell Pike. As a tourist note, turn right here and you’ll end up at the condo complex my in-laws lived in for many years. We’re only about 5 minutes from Montco at this intersection.

It was a beautiful fall day. I noticed this wasps’ nest, now that the leaves are thinning.

Most of the trees were shocked by the hard freeze we had a few days ago and their leaves have crinkled and browned – their colors gone.

Into College Hall and the library.

I stopped at the desk to return some videos and had a talk with the librarian about 1940’s films – we are both fans.

At my desk I set things up. The sunlight pours in the clerestory windows high above my head at this time of day. The warmth of the rays felt good on my face.

Getting up this morning I was not much in the mood for writing, but having arrived, I found that the routine of coming to the library had soothed me. I appreciated the welcoming environment of the school very much today. I decided to write first and edit last week’s work later.

I wanted to divide my time between poems from notes I had made, poems to accompany my artist sketchbook, and of course I must do some Little Vines. I worked my way methodically through this assignment, giving myself one hour for each. OK, maybe it took a little longer. I did also stop to look around the library for a book to take home.

Here are some examples from today.

A haiku.


Paper made by wasps
to live in not to write on
Bears their signatures.

A poem about a topic I’ve been thinking about lately. How some experiences stay with you. And stay.

The lid of the cardboard box
you pushed down again and again
never closing all the way. You have
force-packed the carton too full
of what’s in it
it just won’t stop
fighting you
the expanding lungs of it
still breathing out and in
all the kinds of things
you’d hoped to forget. The lid
an uncertain barrier at best
You sit on it. Not enough.
The breaths are even and steady
scraping against the underside of
the lid.

A couple of pages from my artist sketch book. I still have a few pages to go. Next week.

The artist sketchbook.


Page 13

There is no crowded
though every spare inch is set in motion
built up
breathing in and out
driving down the street
There is no crowded
where you and I
wait together.

Page 15

On the sidewalk
nine o’clock
humid summer night
hot and still in this city
just for this moment
I stand
at the bottom of the ten steep steps to my house
light in windows across the front
I see the lamp behind the half-closed blinds.
A breath of air
before I go back inside
to air-conditioned rooms
I like to smell the summer
asphalt and a hint of garbage
car exhaust and street-tree foliage
I am at peace.


And some Little Vines.

he couldn’t find a needle in a pincushion
an anonymous tip and still no luck
Keep your chin up, pal

a mop of frizzy hair and a harmless smile
capable of an impressive amount of mayhem
pretzels would untwist themselves for her

assuming that this man suspects nothing
the doctor has prescribed those big red pills
that should wrap things up ASAP

All I have to do is spread the word
about who’s behind this little comedy
then touché, my friend, you disappear

stop screaming you are attracting attention
jump inside the clothes dryer
I guess undercover work really doesn’t suit you

I’m a minimalist
I don’t know and I don’t share
I just enjoy the quiet

I wanted to see the world
a systematic eyes-peeled surveillance
three-continent tour kind of way

the girl wearing fishnet hose
where does she think she’s going in that get-up I don’t know
but she fried my heart like an egg in a skillet

Thank you for reading! Until next time.


Wonky Wizard has added two end lines to each haiku to make a renga, a collaborative effort. I love what he has done and how two minds can combine to make something that neither would have thought of alone. The additions also give me, the original writer, the chance to see how a reader, through his own words, perceives what I have written, something that is not often possible for a writer to know. I value my correspondence with Wonky Wizard – we have written answers and additions to each other’s work for some time.



NOTE: The first three lines of each haiku were composed by Claudia McGill; the additional two lines each were my composition. It becomes a Rengga (two different poets), instead of a Tanka (single poet). Her lines were ordinary and down to earth; but with hidden gems of the extra ordinary, the beauty of life.



 Too restless to sit?

 Step outside instead. Then go.

 Anywhere, but go!

Mind has drifted with the wind

Out of restless thinking box



Yes, I’m quite busy,

 But I’ve time to watch the leaves

 Swirling down the street

Dancers spiral down from sky

Gracefully tip toed on stage



Tree roots claw, grasping

 At the eroding creek bank,

 But it’s not much use.

On path of least resistance

Firm hold to any support


The shelves need dusting,

 And the wood floor is unswept.

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Audio Book

From the collection Picture Making, published 2017. The three photos served as the inspiration for the poem. For more information, look here.


Audio Book

The voice reading to me the book I chose
from all the ones on the shelf I could have chosen
gives no hint as to whether
I made the right decision.
It is a pleasant firm voice,
clear and strong. I shut my eyes –
the ones that don’t see too well
even in bright light –
and listen. What a relief it is just to
to the story
read by the strong firm voice
as a river
tracing a smoothed-out spiky path
flowing in a split between two geographies.
I ride the current of the story
read by the pleasant unjudging voice
and I rest.


Stumbled Into

From the collection Autumn Opens a Door, 2015.

Stumbled Into

When I wake in the night
I am an intruder.
I break in on some process that’s not meant for me,
that requires my absence.
I should be asleep and in my dreams, that’s where I belong.
That’s what the India ink silence of
three o’clock in the morning
says to me
preoccupied with other things
sparing me only the attention it takes to
shove me back toward unconsciousness
with its heavy dark hand over my eyes.
I’m the thief in the night
strayed into a place I should not have been.

Philadelphia, PA, Market Street looking west from City Hall, November, 2005.

Haiku 46-49

Haiku from my archives.

Too restless to sit?
Step outside instead. Then go.
Anywhere, but go!

Yes, I’m quite busy,
But I’ve time to watch the leaves
Swirling down the street.

Tree roots claw, grasping
At the eroding creek bank,
But it’s not much use.

The shelves need dusting,
And the wood floor is unswept.
Take a walk instead!


Here is another of those two-sentence stories with poetry added. (Read here for the first one and explanation of why I wrote it and got started on this idea.) I like doing this form of minuscule story. I can handle two sentences, I think, and it is fun.


The uproarious laughter of a whole classroom of college students could be heard behind the closed door, the sound coming in waves, high notes, low notes, and one world-class female belly laugh that, like a featured soloist, rose above the rest of the group, leading the students into another round, louder and even more uninhibited. What was so funny, Martie had no idea, standing here in the gloomy hall with the fancy-carved wood door staring back at her, its sober dark surface seeming to express disapproval of the hilarity, but suddenly she found she was laughing, too, not in the tight way she usually did, but in great big unrestrained whoops, the sound echoing off the tile floor all the way up to the ceiling, the files of graphs and numbers she carried in her arms just so much paper and ink.

Swept up carried off
Why would you look below you
when you have the sky?