Tag Archives: L. Stewart Marsden

I used to yearn for coming Spring

2 Mar

I used to yearn for coming Spring

(A remembrance of Columbine, Blacksburg and Boston)

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

I used to yearn for coming Spring
Its all-things fresh, and fragrant, and full;
Erupting through thawed earth,
Newly fertilized by cold and frozen things,
The ring of bell-like blooms
Of blue and red and yellow and white
Creating day from darkest night
The New out of the Old.

Yet, as thawed mountain snows
Rush through down-curling arteries
To quench the warmth-starved lands below
They seem to re-deem the time from things that grow
To things that know no bounds;
That do not hesitate to loose their rounds
Of hate and monstrous deeds
Upon young and old alike
They strike — juxtaposed against sweet renewal days —

I pause, while breathing in the newness once again
Renewing, yet knowing, once again why
I used to yearn for coming Spring
Yet remember why I hesitate to bring
Myself to full embrace of that time I used to hold so dear.

 

2 Samuel 11:1
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war …

The man in the valley below is firing his gun once again

2 Mar

 

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The man in the valley below is firing his gun

once again

By L. Stewart Marsden

The man in the valley below is firing his gun once again,
A slow but steady cadence that echoes on and on,
The reports bouncing off the nearby ridges and beyond.

I think — a mountain man —
Angry, preparing for the coming storm,
Or rich and bored, perhaps.

The cost of ammo must be more than I can afford —
All that brass and lead and gunpowder carefully, precisely packed —
Because I have to ask.

He breaks his monotone drip-drip-drip drill
With sudden, quick bursts of blam-blam-blam-blam-blam-blam
Rapid fire.

And I wonder,
Semi-?
Or automatic?

And where do those bullets go?
Slamming into black and white targets hung low?
Concentric circles, flapping in the crisp mountain breeze?

Do they smash tin or glass?
Pulverizing metal or shattering shards into the air
Where they catch the late sunlight like a fragile prism?

Dividing rays into rainbows?
Colorful and beautiful in their own assaulted way?
As the gunfire finally subsides for the day?

He has sheathed his weapon and stowed his bullets
Examined his targets with grimace or grin
The man in the valley below has finished firing his gun

Once again.

Gerry M. Andering

24 Feb

Gerry M. Andering

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Gerry M. Andering was lithe and spry
And could squeeze and bend
Into the smallest of space
With little or no waste
To achieve his desired end
Which was to touch only certain-shaped spots
Where he amassed his great wealth
Through his stealth and his agile turns;

Almost boneless, was he,
Fluid-like and free to jiggle and wiggle
Without any constraints
He did paint such odd shapes
In his Rorschach-like ways
That he guaranteed days
To the kings of the hills
While the rest could just fuss, fume and burn.

Life as We Know It

18 Feb

Life as We Know It

By L. Stewart Marsden

“Life as we know it,”
said the astronomer, searching the vast universe for something familiar;
said the archeologist, knee-deep in dusty layers of time and civilized ruins;
said the preacher, couching expressions in holy-coded phrases for the elect few;
said the white baby boomer, recalling the “better days” of lemonade years;
said the ghetto-garrisoned teenaged mother, already tired of dried lemons;
said the match-hunter, newly-divorced and out “in the market” once more;
said the far-from-home soldier, carefully walking the debris of a war-torn village.

“Life as we know it,”
in an alien land, crossing the street to the other side of town;
wondering how do people live like that?
believe-that-way-say-such-things-behave-that-way-be-so-stupid?

on the one side,
“Life as we know it,”
not concerned with food or rent or transportation — just,
shrimp scampi or filet mignon, which neighborhood and whether gated or not, or which hue Lexus with what latest gadgets, which university — public or private?

or

on the other side
“Life as we know it,”
wondering to spend on groceries or rent or electricity or gas or weed,
or will the next moment bring anger or shouting or drunken abuse,
community college or county jail?

“Life as we know it,”
under the threat of imminent change …
or the more likelihood of no change at all?

Breaking news: The Great Beach T-Shirt Metaphor

4 Feb

BREAKING NEWS!

THE GREAT BEACH T-SHIRT METAPHOR!
(Or, what’s a meta for?)

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Several years ago my DIL did a whimsical thing and designed a T-shirt for our annual beach trip during the week of the 4th of July.

What a great idea!

We all LOVED the shirts, which had a drawing of our cottage on the back, and other really neat stuff.

So, we meet at the beach, and my DIL passes out the shirts, and we wear them on the beach.

“Hey! Where’d you get THOSE?” asked a member of the extended family. (You see, I’m one of four children, and each of us have added children, and many of those children, children … so the number has grown exponentially over the years).

Oops!

An innocent oversight. We forgot to include about 40 others.

Sooooo, the NEXT year we INCLUDED everyone, and the design was somewhat generic and all names were stamped on the back and so forth and so on.

What began as my DIL’s fun, fanciful and serendipitous project had become, in the words of the somber and serious: AN INSTITUTION!

I can hear Zero Mostel singing “Tradition!” in my mind.

Fast forward a couple of years. We’re coming around Winter’s corner and will soon be springing through to summer, where all — with some additions — will once again gather at the beach during the week of July 4th.

I put out a letter to my siblings, asking if there is any interest in a T-shirt.

One of my daughters, who had told me months ago that she and her cousin wanted to design it this year. I had forgotten that one of my son’s had put in a bid as well to design it. Apparently, design it is a big deal. My GKs designed last year’s.

Last year 53 relatives showed up to suntan and play bocci and ladder ball for a week. Not in one cottage, mind you.

So my daughter said she really didn’t want to do it, but I should contact her cousin, which I did to no avail. Still forgetting my son wanted to do it, I began the process. The picture is the design. The line across the belly actually is supposed to go down the right sleeve. CustomInk doesn’t have a template to show that, however.

I sent out a request for sizes to my family portion (those of my branch). One of my daughters said she did not want a T-shirt. Ba-dum! Somewhat hurt, I asked if anyone else did not want a shirt.

You know that phrase, “If you build it …?” Well, it also works for “If you ask it, they will answer.”

Rapid-fire semi-automatic responses. I’m ducking left and right, pretending the wounds are only superficial, but am both surprised and hurt by the unexpected reactions.

So, I do bleed if scratched!

There is a flurry of back-and-forth texts. “What if we tweek the design?” “I don’t want to wear a line of type across my belly.” “I hate the shirt style.” Yadda-yadda-yadda.

Then, in the midst of the firefight comes an aside from one of my SIL’s (actually, he’s the ONLY SIL I have … so far):

“Let’s fix this T-shirt and make the beach trip GREAT again!”

You could hear the drum beat. Budda-bum!

There it was, in all its glory: the beach trip WASN’T the great experience everyone in the family pretended it to be. It was in bad shape. It wasn’t the T-shirt at all.

It was the fact that something I looked forward to as a kid — spending time on the beach and building sandcastles and cleaning blue crabs we had netted at Southport, and going down to Myrtle Beach to ride the rides and then throw up — all of that had morphed into a tradition.

My kids will tell you they love the trip because it’s the only time they get to see their cousins. But has it run its course? Has it lost the old zippety-doo-dah? Is the salt in the air a bit less salty. The waters filled with more sharks than before? The Calabash dinners a bit more oily?

Like the T-shirt, it seems to be something to do because we’ve always done it. Something to look back on. Building memories.

MayBE like the government. “Well, we’ve always done it this way …”

Until someone said, “Make the beach trip GREAT AGAIN!” no one stopped and thought about it and said “Wait! What? It’s NOT great?”

You need to know that the next generation beyond my siblings and me is, for the most part, politically liberal (“Oh, jeesh, Edith — did you HAVE to say THAT?)

You would expect some exciting and different ideas about how to get the extended family together periodically.

Like, a reunion? And maybe not for a whole week? But a long weekend? Maybe in the mountains? Or somewhere else.

AND, we could have a commemorative T-shirt!

Budda-bum!

The metaphor.

OR, mayBE, not have a T-shirt, at all.

GIGO

1 Feb

 

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GIGO

Garbage in, garbage out.

A phrase that seemed to be on many people’s lips a few years back, a nemonic from the high tech industry.

Made sense then, makes sense now.

Perhaps the trick is discerning what constitutes garbage.

After all, one man’s garbage is another’s treasure.

Yard sales, flea markets attest to that.

When I lived in New York City in the 70s I wrote a comedy sketch using that as a central theme.

A man hauled out his bags of garbage for pickup by the city sanitation department.

A rather dapper man who was walking by, stopped, and asked if he could buy the man’s garbage for $50.

The man was no fool, and took the man’s money gladly.
As he climbed the stairs to his building, he turned to see the pristine man rummaging through the bags, oohing and aahing as he did.

“Hey!” Said the one-time garbage owner. “What’re you doing?”

The man replied, “My good fellow, I have learned to recycle things that people throw away. In doing so, I have made my fortune. I shall parlay the fifty dollars I just gave you into $1,000.”

He then pulled items out of the garbage and described their alternative uses, which astounded the dumbfounded man.

“These styrofoam egg cartons? Voila! Bras for Barbie Dolls!” And so forth.

The man suddenly realized he had been had, and came back down the stairs.

“Here’s your fifty dollars back, gimme my garbage!”

“Oh, I AM sorry my friend. All cash transactions are final.”

“Okay,” he said, rifling through his wallet, “here’s another $10.”

“No deal, I’m afraid.”

“$75, then. I’ll give you $75.”

“Once again …”

“OKAY! $100 for my garbage back! That’s my last offer!”

“You strike a hard bargain.” And the gentleman took the $100 and walked away.

Extremely satisfied with himself, the man scooped up his bags of garbage and fairly leaped up the stairs. Opening his front door, he yelled inside,

“Mabel! Look at what I just got for a measly $100 bucks!”

When “Please” Doesn’t Cut It

29 Jan
Credit: fullyalivecoaching.wordpress.com

Credit: fullyalivecoaching.wordpress.com

When “Please” Doesn’t Cut It
(A parenting/political dilemma)

By  L. Stewart Marsden

 

Polite, at first
Then, more insistent …
Please!
(Wanting the best from what seems the worst)
Angered, frustrated
Adding, “I said
To ears that don’t hear;
To someone who’s hell-bent-for-leather
And whether or not they can even abate it —
The weight of their actions
So fearful and ponderous —
Its consequence thundering down and upon us?
The please, being so proper, so very polite
Is not quite enough.
Please doesn’t cut it; it’s too civil — not tough;
And when “please” doesn’t cut it
It’s time to draw lines.
And where lines have been drawn,
And when lines have been crossed,
Please just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The Lonely King

27 Jan

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In 1685, King Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes with the Edict of Fontainebleau. The Edict of Nantes provided certain religious and economic freedoms to the Huguenots, French protestants. With the revocation, Louis came down hard on Huguenots, demanding they recant their religion and convert to Catholicism, or else. The or else included loss of property, imprisonment for males, seclusion in convents for the women, torture and a variety of types of execution, including beheading and burning at the stake.

Numbers are debatable, but between 200,000 and 250,000 Huguenots fled France, many crossing the Atlantic to resettle in America. Charles Towne in now South Carolina was one of those destinations. Those who left represented about one percent of the population of France.

Two similarities strike me from that day and age to the present: the “ramrodding” of power by Louis, and the Huguenot diaspora, which included some of the most intelligent and creative French of the day.

A friend, considering (however seriously) leaving the US for places less antagonistic, got me to thinking. The poem below is the result of that cogitation (I apologize in advance for its poor literary quality):

 

The Lonely King

by Yours Truly

 

There was once a king
Who sat on his throne
Surveying his great and vast kingdom.
From the East to the West
To the ends of the earth
His realm could be equaled by none.

“Jester!” said he
To a motley-dressed clown
“Bring my fiddlers — I’m bored and want sound!”
But the clown,
With a frown, said
“Your fiddlers aren’t here,
Sire, they all have left town
And there’s no more sweet sound
To be found all around.”

“Left town? The lot of them?”

“Yes, Sire. The lot of them, sad to say,
Have amscrayed this place
Which is why there’s no music
To call for, Your Grace.”

“Why would they go and leave me alone?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said the clown to the king on his throne.

“Then bring me my choir, and bid them to sing!”

“Your Worshipful, that, alas, too, is a shame,
For all of your choristers — sopranos to altos,
Tenors to basses —
Have left your vast kingdom for far away places
So remote that some don’t even have names.”

“And my servants and wise men?”

“Please don’t despise them,
But they’ve all left the kingdom as well.”

“But WHY then? Why have they left me here all alone?
To mourn and to moan all alone on my throne?”

“But I am still here!” said the motley-dressed jester,
“And I’ll entertain you so your sadness won’t fester,
And agree with your wisdom and all your decrees
And serve you while groveling down on my knees!
There’s nobody else you need, if you please,
But motley-dressed, dancing clown, silly old me!”

The king sighed a sigh, and nodded,”You’re right.
Those silly old fiddlers, those out-of-tune singers,
Those supposedly-wise wise men,
Those fat, needy people, all stupid and lazy —
Why together they drove this king crazy all day and all night!

“I’m far better off here alone and without them!
Here on my throne with my kingdom about me.

“Who needs all that so-called music? Who needs the riff-raff?
I’m far better off alone on my throne
with my beautiful hand-carved elephant tusk staff
To decree my decrees with a sneer and a laugh.”

To wit, he said, to the clown kneeling there,

“Get me my quill and my parchment post-haste.
I’ve a decree to declare — why there’s no time to waste!”

And he whiled the days on his throne all alone,
(The exception, of course, was his true, loyal clown)
And made his decrees which the clown did declare
To the large empty kingdom, with pomp and with flair.

Disclaimer:
Any similarities between the King and any person living in the District of Columbia on Pennsylvania Avenue are purely, most sincerely, absolutely coincidental. And that’s the purely, most sincerely absolutely alternative Truth!

***

The Coming Storm

25 Jan

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The sun is rising over Grandfather Mountain, as it has for thousands of years. The temperature has already climbed to 32°, and the forecast promises a clear and very warm day. A change in weather approaches slowly from the west, and will bring more winter-like temperatures — good news for the skiers.

I don’t turn on the TV in the morning anymore. Not until around 4 or 5 PM, and then for the local news, then quick to one of the movie channels so I don’t have to be accosted by the various tirades erupting from so many different places.

I know that eventually the storm in the west, as well as the storm 7 hours east of me, will touch my door. But until then I am content to watch the immutable ridges a crow’s flight away from my back deck, and bathe in the warm rays of the sun.

What will I do when the storms hit?

For the one, I’ll dress more warmly. Light the fire and put on a crockpot of slow-cooking beef stew.

For the other, I will continue to wonder what drives people to do what they do.

I am not sure I’ll have any answers. That’s one thing that happens as you grow older. You have fewer answers. But you also have a gut-level feeling — not so much an assurance, mind you — but a feeling that this, too, shall pass.

I can only hope it will pass quickly, and with as minimal damage as possible. But I know that those in our country left in the wake of Nature’s devastation, have somehow been able to stand back up and rebuild. Changed, scarred, but more resolute.

So I sit and watch today’s sun climb and cross the sky, knowing there are storms coming.

Thank God for coffee.

Another entertainer backs out of Trump inaugural events

15 Jan

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Freddy Frog, who had announced he would emcee the entertainment line-up for the Trump Inaugural Ball, has announced that pressure from his fans has forced him out of the frying pan and into the firestorm of anti-Trump sentiment that has seen multiple entertainers re-think participating in the event.

“I was hopping — I mean — hoping that I could bring some kind of healing to the amphibians,” he said. But in light of Trump’s twitters about the species, pressure brought to bear resulted in his backing away from his commitment.

“He’s a lousy chicken,” Trump responded in an angry-orange tweet.

His spokesperson said the President-elect meant to say Freddy Frog “tastes like chicken,” an even more demeaning aspersion.

As he was unaware of the growing political heat of his situation, some projected that Frog’s goose would soon be cooked, which offended the geese, who are in the process of gaggling together to protest in Washington.

“HONK Trump!” Blasted one goose whose gander dander was decidedly up. “He’s the guy who stole the golden eggs, and he has never been brought to justice!”

Frog, whose fame comes despite his inability to perform (that’s what SHE said) once the curtain comes up, wistfully made his return to his luxurious lily pad on the Upper East Side along the East River of NYC.

“It’s sad,” he commented. “But it’s better than having your career croaked by the industry.”