Love Me As I Am

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T. A. Fry – Day dreaming with a twinkle in my eye.

 

love is more thicker than forget

by e. e. cummings

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky

 


It’s Valentine’s Day, a day hopeless romantics unite to eat prix fix expensive dinners with cheap champagne with someone who makes them smile. I hope you’re one of ’em.  Dating in your mid 50’s requires a bit of a thick skin and a sense of humor. If you are one of my fellow 50 something daters, love is in the air if not chalk candy hearts in your dish.  If you haven’t heard, the company that makes those went bankrupt.  This is not a cosmic karmic sign that love is dead.  In fact it is a love success story as a new round of investors has bought the company and plan to have inventory in place for next year so your chalky lite-pink BE MINE candy can wind up in your squeezes tummy.

I do find it just a tiny bit odd, that all of us who are mid 50’s, at this incredible junction in our lives, for most of us helping our elderly parents or parent, watching our 20 something children launch their adult lives and/or ushering in grand children, while still dealing with late stage careers and trying to navigate the last stretch without getting side swiped or down sized, while reeling from watching friends be stricken by cancer, despite dealing with all that stuff on our plates, (not to mention male and female menopause), we then set this preposterously high bench mark to simply go out on a date. You would think with all those stressors we would make it easier to eat Tai food over a glass of wine with a member of the opposite sex who responds in much more human sounding responses than our pets or dead silence in our downsized apartments.  I do laugh at the bios people post on online dating apps and the criteria they have for agreeing to see someone for the first time.  When did we get that choosy?  Answering 438 questions on-line to filter out dates?  Yikes.  It didn’t work that way in high school or college.

Sadly, many of us in our mid 50’s suffer from PTSD – Post traumatic stress divorce syndrome. Or even worse yet, the traumatic loss of a spouse because of death. In both cases we are coping and adapting to the loss of a partner.  If it is because of divorce, we have come through the grindstone of a once successful marriage that deteriorated into something that was no longer successful and have enough bruises and scars accumulated that we’re still recuperating and wondering if we have what it takes to take a run at one last great love affair, preferably one that take us all the way to end of our lives. It can be even harder emotionally to move on for those still dealing with the processing of grief. Dating is daunting, but the alternative of not dating is daunting as well. How do you find that person that can meet you at your level for companionship? On-line multiple choice quizzes? I don’t think so. Probably have to roll up our courage, take a shower and get out there on a date and find out.

Fortunately, I have good role models in my life that you can find love at every stage.  My 87-year-old father is dating an older women for the first time and the two of them bring happiness and fun into each others lives on a daily basis while steadfastly maintaining their independence.  My friend Liz, who is 91 and in an assisted living facility, just moved again so that she could be only a couple of doors down the hall from her friend Jerry. Both are confined to wheel chairs these days, but eat 3 meals a day together and always have something interesting to talk about and a kind word for the other.  For both of these couples there is no screen time intervening, they are 100 percent present in each other’s company and have the most optimistic of spirits.

I wrote Generous Eye – the sonnet below, on a Sunday afternoon, after having gone to church with my Mom, we were sitting next to Liz, her wheel chair parked right next to our pew.  The pastor’s sermon made reference to generous eyes and I wrote it down in my bulletin as a writing prompt and this sonnet eventually emerged. At the time I was dating a french speaking woman and the only thing holding our relationship together was passion and it was obvious that wasn’t enough to sustain a relationship going forward. My writing, I think like most writers, is not autobiographical, it is an attempt to create a reality I hope one day might exist.

Romance is this odd magical trance, where it can’t begin generally without some attraction but as the relationship matures into something lasting, it needs to soften and be flexible, just like our bodies as we age, into a greater focus on companionship, while wanting a partner whose ear is still tuned to hear the ancient lutes and lyres playing the song that stirs our bones and keeps us going. I am envious of those couples, like in the song below referencing Johnny and June Cash, whose love lasted through the best and worst of their lives. We all aren’t so fortunate.  But we should all keep trying, your Liz or Jerry might still be out there waiting for you.  Happy Valentines Day!

 


 

Generous Eye

by T.A. Fry

As salient desires spark like steel on flint,
with generous eye and gentle ear you scold
my broken ways, without the faintest hint
your loyalty sways, nor spite has taken hold.
What’s after passion?  Mon amour, je t’aime!
Will lust be lost amidst our dwindling fuel,
as ancient bonfires cool?  I’ll not condemn
this reckless plight where human hungers rule,.
For sexual desire knows no bounds of youth.
All hear its song from deep within their flesh.
It sings; “Caress me dear….with the naked truth.
Heal from gentle touch as two hearts enmesh.
Savor carnal knowledge, as a worthy goal,
And love me as I am; body, mind and soul.”

May This Season Make You Blessed

 

file-11 (1)
My Inner Boy, 1967

 

Merry Christmas

By T. A. Fry

May this season make you blessed,
Every day with tenderness;
Renew our dampened spirits in its sway.
Rejoice in twinkling candlelight,
Young and old all spry this night,
Cheerful with renewal New Year’s Day.
Hark our dear one’s joy
Rally our inner girl and boy,
Inside our hearts’ a tiny silver sleigh.
Santa’s not gifts beneath a tree,
The true gifts are family,
May each flourish in both industry and play.  
And so I’ve devised a simple plan
Spelled it out in anagram,

Merry Christmas one and all this holiday.


 

Is it naive to want to want the world to be a better place this time of year? Then let’s be naive together in wishing each other the sentiments:  “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.” The words nativity and naivety are french and come from the same Latin root that means just born. Every year, we need to birth anew our understanding of peace. Peace that is an outpouring of compassion, the capacity to empathize with even those we disagree. Peace arises from the certainty that there can never be peace for me, until there is justice for everyone else. Justice is not a means to retribution.  Justice has to be a road to peace, for Justice = Just Us.

May this world find real solutions to the most intractable of conflicts in 2019 and forge a brighter future for us all.

Peace on Earth,

 .          .  Goodwill to All.

 

 

Promiscious Noblesse of a Pharaoh

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A little hitch hiker that survived an hour long ride somehow.
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Tree frog tracks on the window pane.

Promiscuous Noblesse

by T. A. Fry

Longevity has its place. Though frog choirs
sing this night with same voice as tomorrow.
Their sultry hymns sire, future lost empires;
With promiscuous noblesse of a Pharaoh.
Life cleaves brevity from our hands.
Yet communes with creation’s permanence.
Oh, what wonder beyond all reason stands
Before ordinary joy’s eminence!
Wait.  May I speak to my fair Eurydice?
For I feel her presence, too soon bygone.
Her kind speak only through memories
having passed along the dawn’s baton.
I shall follow soon enough through that door.
If breath’s my master, let me be it’s whore.


I enjoy coincidences, or rather the uncoordinated repetition of something that slowly brings that thing from subconsciousness into sharp focus.  A couple of weeks ago I had a frog week. I woke up at a remote hotel an hour east of Tampa, Florida and paused for a moment before getting on the elevator before the sun had risen. On the glass on the third floor several large tree frogs had left interesting tracks making their way through the morning dew to where ever it was they planned to spend the day out of the sun.

A couple of hours later I was checking in my rental car at the airport. While grabbing my stuff out of the back seat, a tree frog emerged from a hiding place somewhere on the back of the car and hopped up to greet me with an expression that said; “oh my god, that was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me!  Did you see how fast we were going?” The National Rental Car attendant and I looked the little guy up and down and surmised that left to his own devices his chances of making it safely out of the concrete jungle filled with cars was not very good. So I caught the frog, took him over to the grass and trees just outside of the rental car return and wished him good luck.

I shared the pictures and the story about the tree frog having survived an hour long car ride with a friend several days later and on her way to work that afternoon she looks down and discovers in the parking lot of her local drug store a tree frog, a plastic tree frog, that looks exactly like the one I had set free that week. The world is a strange and mysterious place.  Maybe it followed me home from Florida.

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I wrote this sonnet several years ago, shortly after my Mother died, an attempt to play with ideas around immortality and mortality, in the sense that frogs singing to us today are no different than the chorus sung 10,000 years ago or 100,000 years ago. Time and experience in many ways are not linear, rather more circular, our common experiences rolling on and on, in the circles we make with other people and the universe around us.

Our Hometown Joe

Joe Mauer
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins Sept. 30, 2018

Our Hometown Joe

By T. A. Fry

The crowd rose to its feet for his final walk,
In blue catcher’s gear, not worn in years.
He strode to the plate, slowly crouched, then caught,
One final pitch to end a great career.
Joe then tipped his cap, left to acclaim.
The win in the balance, three outs to get.
No letting nostalgia disrespect the game,
There’ll be time for laurels, we won’t forget.

But who’ll mark the next fifteen?  My Mother –
Gone, who loved this Joe. Baseball her last one
Great love affair.  Always rooting for our
Hometown heroes; Hrbek, Morris, Mauer
Mollie, Winfield and adopted Puck. All sons
Who rose, beyond the hopes of their mothers.

 


 

Traditions don’t start out as traditions.  It becomes a tradition when its been going on for so long you can’t remember when it started.  I have been to the last home game of either the Minnesota Twins or Oakland A’s for over 20 years.  I can’t tell you the first time but I can tell you the year it became a tradition; 2003.  That’s because the previous year in 2002, the Twins had faced the Oakland A’s in the first round of the playoffs and won the series 3-2, going on to lose to the eventual world series champions the Anaheim Angels in the second round. The next year my Mother and I looked at the schedule in May and I bought tickets for whichever team was home for the last game of the year.  It just so happened that they alternated for a series of years while she was living in the Bay area and a big A’s fan and Twin’s fan. From 2003 to 2015, the year before she died, we would go to the last game of the season together. And what made those games remarkable was the consistency with which either the Twins or the A’s made the playoffs during that 13 year period.

The decade of the 90’s saw the Twins make the playoffs in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010.   A remarkable run fueled by great young players, but at the center of every one of those teams was Joe Mauer.  Justin Mourneau won the AL MVP in 2006 and Joe Mauer won it in 2009, each having a remarkable year that wound never be equaled again in their careers.

Joe parlayed a run of greatness from 2006 to 2009, that saw him win three batting titles, the only catcher in major league history to do so, into the largest contract ever signed by a Minnesota Twin, an eight year 180 million dollar contract that made him one of the highest paid baseball players at the time. It has pained me during the past 8 years to see sports writer after sports writer criticize Joe for not equaling the greatness of 2006 to 2010 during the course of the past eight years.  Yes, Joe never hit as many home runs again as 2009 or won another batting title; injuries, concussions and age finally catching up.  But let’s make no mistake as we look back on Joe’s career – Joe Mauer earned every penny he made in this game.

Joe has been the greatest baseball player that each of us as Twins fans had the privilege to root for over the past 15 years. Joe accomplished things as a hitter during his career that put him in the mix with some of the greatest players of the past 80 years.  Joe’s batting title in 2009 with a season long .365 average has only been bettered since 1941 by Ted Williams, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Nomar Garciaparra and Ichiro Suzuki.  The fact that Joe was a catcher, taking a beating daily behind the plate from foul tips all season long makes that 2009 season stand out as one of the best by any player in the past 100 years.

Joe never changed as a ball player.  He certainly doesn’t fit the mold of today’s MVPs, with all the focus on home runs, launch angle and the hit for power cybermetrics that dominates baseball now.  Joe’s sweet swing never changed from his first game to his last at bat.  He could hit for power once in a while, but it was not his bread and butter. Joe was one of the best 2 strike hitters in baseball history.  Joe seemed to more often than not work the count deep, waiting for his pitch to shoot the ball the other way into the gap or up the middle.  He was not a pull hitter, he was a smart contact hitter and he wasn’t going to change.

My mother adored Joe Mauer.  On a visit to the Metrodome back in the 2000’s she took home a give away Joe Mauer doll.  To this day, that doll rides her trike that she grew up pedaling as a three-year old.  That Joe Mauer doll was her good luck charm during the Twins playoff years, her silly companion watching every single game during the regular seasons and a fond reminder of her unabashed love of Joe as a baseball player.

What makes Joe Mauer a special ball player, is more than what he accomplished on the field. In all the years of Joe’s career he not only had to carry the expectations of on field success, he had to carry an entire regions hopes and dreams of being the hometown hero off the field as well. Although the elusive elixir of winning a World Series alluded the Twins during his tenure, Joe never once disrespected the game. He never once embarrassed the team or the state of Minnesota with an off field or on field issue. Joe played this game of baseball with as much finesse, class and skill as is humanly possible. I will always feel fortunate to have been present to watch him on his last moment in uniform, watch him collect his last hit, a classic hussle Joe Mauer double to the opposite field and take that final pitch and walk off the field.  Thank you Joe for a great career!

Mom Twins Game May 2014
My Mom wearing her Joe Mauer jersey, ready for a ball game at Target Field, Minneapolis!

 


 

© T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Le Cadavre Exquis Boira Le Vin Nouveau

Exquisite Corpse
André Breton, Man Ray, Max Morise
and Yves Tanguy
“Cadavre Exquis”
(Exquisite Corpse)
1927

The Uses of Sorrow

by Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.


 

A couple of weeks ago, an acquaintance asked why I didn’t have cable television as an explanation for why I was sitting in a bar watching a baseball game that was on TBS. When I said it’s because I prefer to spend my free time writing instead of watching TV, she said, “I’m an English major, what do you write?” I said I write a blog about poetry. She proceeded to feign interest and asked if she could read it. I should have said no, as baseball, beer, bars and poetry don’t really go together, but I pulled out my phone, pulled up that day’s entry and handed it to her. She borrowed my glasses, proceeded to read the days poem with complete lack of interest dripping off of every syllable and continued on with my commentary in the same vein and then handed both my phone and glasses back to me, saying as she did, “you do realize you are not the first person to utter these sentiments?” I said yes, I am aware that nothing I write is unique and proceeded to go back to watching the game, smiling as I did. At least she found something I said related to something she considers poetry.

Her comment underlines one of the great questions about my artistic endeavors that I wrestle with; is anything I create original or is everything a derivation or a poor imitation? This is one of the reasons I write sonnets, their strict structure conveys clearly I am not trying to claim I am inventing something new. Rather, I am infusing the poem with a historical backbone that can’t be ignored. Does this mean that because my writing is unoriginal in its form that it is less creative as well?  Possibly. I choose to write mostly in rhyme because I find it more entertaining. If it is a poor imitation of more talented writers throughout history, then forgive my amateurish attempts as simply that; being an amateur. But it doesn’t mean my creative process doesn’t have value to me. My attempts to put to paper my own thoughts refine and sharpens my human experience. The process of writing brings a mindfulness to my daily routine that is worth the effort, even if the end product is mediocre.

I can always point to similarities to other poets in anything I write, the subconscious coloring inside and outside the lines based on what it currently finds interesting in whatever I am reading at the time. I find this to be true even when I have been involved in the creative brain storming process of writing called an Exquisite Corpse,  invented by the Surrealists in France in the early 20th century.  An Exquisite Corpse involves multiple people contributing to a drawing or a poem with only a small prompt to guide them on their portion, but no full understanding of the other’s contribution to the finished work. You would think that this collaborative spontaneous process would create the most unusual end products because of the inter-play between different people, but in hindsight there are always the footfalls of influence of others mixed in along the way.

The poem Eating Glass came about from a modified version of an Exquisite Corpse done online over email with a friend. I can point exactly to the words that are not mine, as I consider her contribution stronger. The start of the poem is based on an actual recurring dream I have frequently since I was a child of eating glass.  The dream always starts out the same. These are pleasant dreams, not nightmares. I am usually outside, somewhere relatively rural and picturesque and I come across a broken window pane, a broken wine glass or a bottle, usually old and I am intrigued by the color and delicateness of it. It feels like the most natural thing at first, to feed my curiosity and take a little bite. I carefully select a shard and remove it from the cracked maze that is broken glass and hold it in my fingers. The first tentative bites are crisp and crunchy, like satisfying clear delicious glass Doritos.  I take another bite, then another and suddenly I am conscious that I have a mouthful of glass and fear creeps in. The remainder of the dream until I awake is not panic, but the careful removal of every shard from my bleeding mouth.

I have not named my co-writer, unsure if she really would want transparent credit. The final stanza contains contributions from both of us but it is her words that another friend told me stops her dead every time she reads this poem; Can we manage this?   We need not be alone they say….

This poem elicits stronger reactions than any other poem I have been involved in writing. People either like it or dislike it, there is no middle ground. What is at the heart of this poem is loneliness. Eating Glass is about the conflict between wanting to be in a relationship and the safety in the intention of being alone during middle age.


Eating Glass

By T. A. Fry and J. M.

Tell me, does my Succubus owe you a favor?
How else, would you come by your knowledge of my dreams
of eating glass?  Each of us wraiths,  if not true to our dreams.  

Pass over, let me slumber this night, content in chewing shards.
Tomorrow shall bring another Exquisite Corpse,
defiant in defiling my larder.

Why do we fear agony or tragedy as companions on this journey?
We fight them, coddle them, while crooning in the darkness;
“It’s unfair!”…Cry or don’t cry…. We fuck with furious fingers.

We have been here before. Liars, drunkards and whores,
swapping omens, conjured from bloody entrails. Not one
ending with: “……happily ever after.”

Can we manage this? We need not be alone they say….
But I am weary, contemplating another’s demons in my crib,
next to my own, mewling to suckle at my tit.

 

 

 

 


© T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Even A Man

wolfman
The Wolf Man (1941)

The Witch

by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

I have walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

Her voice was the voice that women have,
Who plead for their heart’s desire.
She came—she came—and the quivering flame
Sunk and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in at the door.

 


 

Poetry and play are synonymous in my life.  I realize that is not true for many people, the process of reading or writing arduous to those that find little pleasure in it.  I wrote Even A Man several years ago in October as a lark. I was remembering childhood horror movies in anticipation of Halloween and looking back on those movies that had made a particular impression on me.

In the 1960s television consisted of 5 broadcast channels on our black and white tube tv in St. Paul; ABC, NBC, CBS, Public Television and one independent channel WCTN that was local programming. A highlight of the local channel was Mel’s Matinee. Mel Jass a local TV personality hosted a movie in the early afternoon and regularly showed horror movies. Fortunately he mixed them up enough with other movies that once in a while I could sneak one over on my Mom and watch a movie that wouldn’t be otherwise allowed on the rare sick day when I stayed home from school or a rainy Saturday afternoon. These were horror movies unlike today’s genre of horror, which consists mostly of torture porn with prolific gore. These were classic B-movie titles from the 1940’s and 1950’s that were more campy than scary. Movies like The Blob, The Wolfman,  Dracula and one of my all time favorites – Gargoyles.  I was shocked to learn as an adult some of these films were made in color, it was just my TV that was in black and white.

I must have watched The Wolfman 10 times as a kid. It is burned into my brain that there is a witch like character who chants a short poem several times in the movie; “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and Autumn moon is bright.”  I remembered those lines and wondered if it was tied to a longer poem, that predated the movie. Not surprisingly it wasn’t, it was only part of Hollywood horror script writing. So I playfully set out to finish the poem, using only the first line as a prompt.

Happy Halloween!


Even A Man

By T. A. Fry

“Even a Man who is pure at heart and says his prayers at night,”*
May become a wolf among the lambs, when the moon is full and bright.
Beware the growl, a yearning yowl, that sets some men apart.
`Best you fear the danger near that comes from grizzled hearts.

It’s not purity that will restrain a man or subjugate his obsessions.
Nor the piety of his refrains,  a fairer measure of his mind’s possessions.
Many holy men declared a war; righteous virtue as their banner.
And sent to their deaths countless scores while pious in their manner.

For men will slaughter their sisters and brothers to usurp what they desire.
And enslave their children for wealth and power to build their own empire.
If only the moon could show our doom and reveal terror lurking near,
We’d damn their slurs and kill the curs and never evil fear.

But here’s a truth that in this world there is good upon these lands.
For your mirror shows a deeper woe in whose visage wicked stands.
Before you decree that you can see those worthy of your wrath.
Best hold tight and shine a light upon your heart’s true path.

*The opening line is from the 1941 film The Wolf Man.  


 

© T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Past Was Nearer Then

Kids with popsicles
The Final Lazy Days of Summer

The Past Was Nearer Then

By T. A. Fry

Awakening to warbling of a wren,
Remembering when, the future bade
As unending line. The past was nearer then,
A shadowland, where tears were unafraid.
Afternoon shade slipped by on green grass blades
Beneath canvas hammock  as my tent.
No other purpose than to play was weighed.
And orange popsicles were heaven sent.
No divine mystery to be unwrapped.
It lay before me with simplicity.
Choose cool shadows or sunshine for my nap,
And snooze without hint of duplicity.
Then, a long summer evening to be spent,
Devoid of care or thought of where it went.  

Soaked In Our Broken Wave

_seamus_heaney
Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013)

Requiem For The Croppies

by Seamus Heaney

The pockets of our great coats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.


Poetry manifest as a reminder of bravery in the face of injustice has a long history in literature. It is the stuff from which epics and legends arise. Seamus Haney’s poem is about the battle at Vinegar Hill where 15,000 Irish rebels, many armed with only pikes, were outgunned by the English bent on slaughter and extermination. The English deploying a professional army of nearly 20,000 men, replete with cavalary, cannons equiped with newly invented shrapnel artillery shells to more effectively rain death down upon your enemy from afar. To say the battle at Vinegar Hill was a mismatch is an understatement.  Courage and luck were on the rebels side and though 1,200 died that day, many of the dead women and children camping with the rebel army for protection, the majority escaped through a gap in the lines and lived to fight another day.

My daughter spent a semester abroad in England a few years ago and during her spring break I picked her up in London and we rented a car and drove to Edinburgh, Scotland. We rented a flat for five days and tramped our way around the sites on the Royal mile, visiting museums, art galleries, churches and castles packed into the center of that marvelous city.  It was my first time in Scotland and the history of war between the Scots and the English is a bit overwhelming for a Minnesotan.  But the biggest surprise to me was the history of Scottish on Scottish violence.  It would be easy to characterize the long history of conflict between the English and Scots or the English and the Irish as the fault of English domination and cruelty, but the darker truth is much of the history of violence throughout all three countries arose from local conflicts over land, power and control. Religion was not the true root of the conflict during the clearing of the Scottish highlands, it was a shallow excuse for the brutal dislocation of the rural poor.  The conflict was really about power and the wealth that came from it between the landed gentry and the rural peasants who lived on that land.

I had never heard of the clearing the Scottish highlands prior to my visit to Scotland and what was interesting was how little it was discussed in all the museums we attended.  It came to light while visiting with an employee at a Scottish museum on the shores of Loch Ness and once I came aware of it, it helped knit together a more complex history of the United Kingdom.  The clearing of the highlands began about the same time as the great famine in Ireland and in many ways is relatively modern history.  The Scottish peasants were forcibly driven into the cities from the end of the 18th century and continued into the mid 19th Century.  These were poor farmers dislocated from their agrarian cattle based existence not by famine but by force, to be displaced by sheep that did not need a large rural labor force for landowners to make money.  The clearing forced the poor, largely illiterate peasants into slums in rapidly expanding cities to become cheap labor for the industrial revolution.  Industrial factories owned by the same wealthy land owners, industries like fabric mills in Paisley and the ship building industry across Scotland that utilized iron and coal mined locally.  The clearing of the Scottish highlands marked a transition across the region from rural to urban, from agrarian to industrial, from a mix of pagan/Catholicism to Presbyterianism, a change in perspective in the way the average person looked at the world in which they lived and the way they made their living.

It’s hard to walk away from a visit to Scotland and figure out where does justice reside? Each side, (the Scots and the English, the Protestants and the Catholics, the Anglicans versus everyone else) committed so many atrocities over such a long period of time that it is amazing that a United Kingdom ever came to be. Each side lionized their heroes and victories with monuments and poems.  But after visiting at least one castle a day for a week, I got the impression that the past 1000 years were one continuous battle, everybody fighting everyone else that was the  “other” for their one square inch upon which to scratch an existence.

The history of Presbyterianism came alive during that visit, its birthplace the revolutionary Calvinist principles that would supplant the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church with small free kirks (churches), whose seat of power was local and largely democratic.  The protestant reformation changed how many viewed their relationship with their God and alliance to King and Country. Is it any surprise then, that the evolution of the Church of Scotland, which is the Presbyterian Church, would result in bloodshed?  The institutions of religion, royalty and governance so intertwined in Scotland, Ireland and England that change could only come about through violence. It’s a history that is very relevant today around independence and Brexit and the advantages and disadvantages of local populism versus larger economic collectivism.

The following poem wrote itself one afternoon, while sitting in the park on top Calton Hill overlooking the city, the rhymes and rhythms of the past echoing into the present.


Reformation

by T. A. Fry

Speyside.  Wayside.   Go round the roundabout.
Hang’em high!  Crucify!  While women scream and shout.
If it’s my fate to make a date, with a Scottish maiden.
Then bless the martyrs just for starters and send me off to Satan.

In the High Kirk or Free Kirk, we’ll say our common prayers.
Jenny Geddes said “Come and get us, King Charles if you dare.”
But the Jacobites were not affright; took up the Bishop’s cause.
To kill free men and say Amen, to the King’s unholy laws.

Playfair.  Wayfair.  A call from Calton Hill.
“If we’re to die then let ’m try to enforce the conventicle.”
For John Brown was gunned down with polity on his side.
The King’s men shot again and justice was denied.

Claverhouse, a clever louse, the English devil’s son.
He took to killing for his living, ‘till Scotland was undone.
“I don’t need a reason to call it treason,” laughed the Bluidy Clavers.
“So fall in line for the killing time, the dying’s just begun.”

In The Hand of Heaven

In The Hand Of Heaven

 

The Mourning Bride

by William Congreve

(Excerpt from the final lines of the play)

“Whose virtue has renounc’d thy Father’s Crimes,
Seest thou, how just the Hand of Heav’n has been?
Let us that thro’ our Innocence survive,
Still in the Paths of Honour persevere,
And not from past or present Ills Despair:
For Blessings ever wait on vertuous Deeds;
And tho’ a late, a sure Reward succeeds.”


The idea of a muse is very real to me.  I often have had the sensation in the act of writing that feels like an out of body experience, like I am an observer watching letters and words unfold on my computer screen, as if they are being typed by fingers controlled by something or someone else. It is at those times when words flow or entire poems appear nearly fully formed in an initial draft, having been worked out in my subconscious unknowingly and it is just waiting patiently for stillness for them to come tumbling out that I am most conscious of my muse, to the point that it can make the hair stand up on the back of my neck, almost as if someone is watching me from behind.

The sonnet In The Hand of Heaven was not such a poem.  It is an example of good old fashioned hard work, with several failed attempts at starting and stopping. It was an idea that came from multiple sources of inspiration and took a long time to write.  The first source of inspiration was a gift from a friend, a translation of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the second The Mourning Bride by William Congreve.   The first is an easy read, short, intriguing, wise and I found shockingly aligned with my own values.  The second is a slog, the old English grammar and sentence construction both familiar and unfamiliar to the ear, it was not something that I found instantly compelling, but there are short sections that are hauntingly beautiful and pure poetry.  Each of these swirled together and after many revisions, the sonnet worked itself out.

I have not written many things where I have taken a quote from someone else and incorporated it into my writing, transforming it into something new and original.  It is an interesting paradox, because it feels a bit like it makes your own writing derivative, but at the same time it gives your writing a deeper context from which the reader can free associate  to make their own connections or discoveries.

One of the long term projects that has sustained my writing is attempts to capture the equivalent of short prayers as sonnets, in essence, write my own meditations.   Simple Praise is one of the sonnets that falls in that category, (shared in an earlier blog post) and so is In The Hand of Heaven. I often return to reread these poems when in need of contemplation, (i.e. forgiveness), and to be mindful that kindness is at the center of what it is to love and be loved.

 

In The Hand of Heaven

By T. A. Fry

“No longer talk about the kind of man
a good man ought to be, but be such.”*
Who through innocence perseveres to touch
The confluence of my imperfect clan.
To walk their chosen pace, with no less than
The grace of kindness.  To thrive without much.
For no better hour will I find, to clutch
The bone and rattle of my neighbor’s hand.

If in the hand of Heaven I have a choice?
I’ll proclaim Love’s name with unclouded voice.
Send care to conquer as Calvary.
Give self to self – free from self pity.
Take salary and stock in earned goodwill,
Until, I’m square with my begotten city.

*The first two lines come from the George Long
translation Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.  
Peter Pauper Press 1957..


© T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Play Ball!

 

 

“There are three things you can do in a baseball game.  You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain.”

Casey Stengel.

 

Sonnet To Baseball

by Jeffrey Sward

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything;
The aging umpire laughed and leaped with him.
Yet nor the cracks of bats, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the baseball’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion of the glove;
There were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, your pattern sketched in love.
Yet seemed it winter still, and, you did call,
As with your shadow, I with these, “Play Ball.”

 

Shakespearean Baseball Sonnet #25

By Michael Ceraolo

Let those whose teams are favored by the stars
Of public honor and proud titles boast,
Whilst the team I follow such triumph bars,
Their not having won what I honor most.
Great cities’ teams are too often favored,
And have been for a century and more
For reasons already much belabored;
But even those of us who know the score
Are hoping against hope for our team’s day,
Keeping a wary eye on our team’s fight,
Hoping to be surprised at our team’s play;
A championship would be a welcome sight.
One day happy will be the team beloved,
With a title never to be removed.

 


For those of you reading this blog who are not baseball fans, you might not realize that today is opening day;  the start of a new season, the promise of a new year.

Baseball is in my blood.  Not because I ever played the game at a level beyond 7th grade, nor was ever any good, but because its part of the flow of the year, it’s part of my relationship with my Mother, it’s part of my daily existence for 8 months of the year from March to October.  I wake up every day during the baseball season and the first thing I do is read the box score of the game for the Minnesota Twins from the night before.  Baseball is part of my daily ritual.

Baseball is one of those sports that divides the world, into those that love it and those that don’t.  For those that don’t, it’s impossible to explain, I’ve tried.  Baseball is a language, a landscape and a history.   Baseball is tragedy, comedy, hope, misery, a never-ending story, a common bond between strangers and a family drama mashed together. Baseball is a connection to a world better than the one we live in, played on a perfect patch of green grass, with the inevitability of triumph, futility, redemption, action, boredom, ineptitude, dedication, grace, athleticism, clumsiness and sloppiness all rolled into one.  Baseball has first beginnings and the ends of eras, all over the course of another season.

Baseball is different from other sports.  It’s not an event, its a timeline, its a discussion, its a year in the life of a team, a city, a player and a fan.  It’s the most blue-collar of all sports and I’m not talking about their salaries or the cost of a ticket, I’m talking about the work ethic to be good at it.  A baseball season consists of 28 to 30 preseason games, followed by 162 regular season games, followed by 3 rounds of the playoffs, best of seven.   The eventual World Series Champions will play a minimum of 202 games in one year.  It’s a lunch pail sport in which you have to show up and work hard, every day.  It’s a game in which the best and worst team in the league will each win 60 games and lose 60 games.  It’s what happens in the other 42 that separate the best from the worst.  Its a game in which the best hitters will fail .666 percent of the time and be proud of their success one in three times to the plate. It’s a sport where we become attached to the rhythm of the season and individual careers, where you connect to the 20 year veteran or the one year wonder, the career minor league player who is called up in September to have their cup of coffee in the big leagues before starting the rest of their lives doing something else.  Its a game where every year we watch a new rookie phenom launch their yet to be determined hall of fame career and the aging veteran that plays their last game and tips their hat to the crowd.  Its a game, where as I aged, I rooted for the rookie that was my age, then rooted for the oldest player in the league that was my age, and now root for the players that are my children’s ages and someday, if I am lucky, will root for players that will be my grand children’s ages.  Its a game where the retiring veterans mentor the next generation and the rookies inspire hope in the most grizzled cynic.   It’s the circle of life, playing out, year after year. If this sounds grandiose, then you don’t understand my version of baseball.

Mostly, baseball is a game that connects me to the memories of my Mother.  Through thick and thin, the inevitable issues that arise in Mother-son relationships, we could always talk about baseball.  “How about that box score” was a phrase that brought us back round to what was important more than once, not baseball, but our relationship.  It was our secret code to drop the bullshit and get on with it!

Baseball connected my Mother and I when she lived in Saudi Arabia and I called her in the middle of the night to tell her Kirby Pucket and Kent Hrbek had carried the day and won the World Series in 1987.   Baseball tied us together for the 28 years when she lived in New York and then Oakland and we would plan a trip in June to watch the last game of the year in September, either in Minnesota or Oakland, whether the teams were good or not, and were fortunate to watch our team win the division in the final series of the year in more years than we ever believed possible. We went to a game of baseball as part of her visit to Minnesota or my visit to see her every year.  Baseball is a game that regardless of the outcome of the games we went to watch together, we enjoyed each other’s company and the 9 inning conversation that ensued about our lives.   It’s a game that brought out the best in our relationship and reminded us of what fun it is to be a fan of life.

Baseball is just a game in which one person throws a ball and the other tries to hit it where no one can catch it and how ridiculously hard that simple concept is. It’s a game where skill and luck and human fallibility play an equal role in success and failure.  Sound familiar?

Play ball…..Go Twins!

P.S. My mother and I used to have Limerick contests.  She usually won, but here’s one of my few winning entries…


A Pitcher Named Sylvester

by T. A. Fry

There once was a pitcher named Sylvester
Who had trouble with his pants polyester.
When during his windup
His pants would bind up
The parts that make him a mister.

He tried wearing a larger size jock.
And not tucking his pants into his socks.
But the only solution
To stop the contusion
Was to switch from pants to a frock.

His new uniform caused quite a twitter.
The fans jeered and threw at him litter.
But he stuck out his tongue
And won the Cy-Young.
While striking out the leagues best hitters!