a poet on my writers’ block

Just made the remarkable discovery that Richard Katrovas writes and teaches from the Rust Belt. Michigan wordsmiths are a special breed–I’ve been to AWP where they were huddled in their own session trying to process the Lake Effect. It’s very fitting that Katrovas live in the Mitten, at least when he’s not living in New Orleans or Prague, a succulently seasoned place that could only be improved by the presence of my daughter, which it was when during our stay there this summer.

a lovely window dressing in Prague

As for Katrovas, here’s an affable grin (and bear it) of an especially “winning” verse…

Love Poem for an Enemy

By Richard Katrovas

I, as sinned against as sinning,

take small pleasure from the winning

of our decades-long guerrilla war.

For from my job I’ve wanted more

than victory over one who’d tried

to punish me before he died,

and now, neither of us dead,

we haunt these halls in constant dread

of drifting past the other’s life

while long-term memory is rife

with slights that sting like paper cuts.

We’ve occupied our separate ruts

yet simmered in a single rage.

We’ve grown absurd in middle age

together, and should seek wisdom now

together, by ending this row.

I therefore decommission you

as constant flagship of my rue.

Below the threshold of my hate

you now my good regard may rate.

For I have let my anger pass.

But, while you’re down there, kiss my ass.

Welcome, cuzins!

Groom Aaron & Bride Michelle at their trailer-trash bash

No shotguns needed at the nuptials I mean nupchuls for Aaron and Michelle, my friends who decided to throw a big wedding I mean weddin’ bash the likes of which none of us has ever seen. That may be a bit presumptuous on my part as the guests did a shockingly good job of looking like this was just another Saturday night at the Bitely Tavern for them.

The invitations scrawled on the back of a Busch beer carton set the stage…

Friends – I mean ‘cousins’ – were the players…

There wasn’t a dry eye – I mean mouth – in the crowd, including the happy couples’.

If you think you’ve seen the man (a rescue helicopter pilot) and wife (a physician’s assistant specializing in ER and trauma) before, please forever hold your peace about that, and just let them have some well-deserved fun.

…I sure did!

mass comm

Civil War Mass Comm

Among the gems found in my research for my new book commission: a scrap of paper on which A. E. Simons sketched out the music he’d soon memorize for his troop, the 37th Illinois Volunteers Infantry. Simons recruited and organized the brigade, assigning the best offices and commands to those he thought qualified. This magnanimous approach left him without rank himself, but “Every war has to have some privates,” he reportedly said. His commanding officer squelched that, “You’re not going to be a private. We haven’t organized our music; you must take charge of that.”

This is how Simons came to be the Fife Major.

Every regiment had a fifer and a drummer; their tunes constituted mass communications across the rank and file. Everything from breakfast and dinner “Mess” calls to “Taps” (day is done) directed the activities of the men, especially in battle. Simons performed his duties through harrowing circumstances until after the war in 1866. He was left with severely compromised health, dying just ten years later.

His widow, Jennie Bessie, and five small children, bravely set out to claim land on the Kansas prairie that was her “Widow’s Pension.”

All of the children would go onto successful futures. One would establish a successful newspaper publishing company that spanned four generations.

I am writing their story. Have I mentioned how much #Ilovemyjob

Can I buy back some consonants?

PROUD BUT NEVER SATISFIED began its pre-launch today by our publisher, Huron/The Studer Group.

Alas, I’ve typed the surface off some of the keys while writing this book… apparently, writing about healthcare puts a lot of pressure on “H” and “M” and “N.”

#seavercreative #deliverables #transformativehealthcare #leadership #needanewkeyboardnow

the sky inside

Wolfy’s photo taken near Melvaig way up in the Highlands, Scotland. (November 2012)

It would be hard to articulate how I felt when she told me what she’d finally settled on as the subject of her next painting–the one that was for me. After months of pondering, the talented, divinely-inspired artist, Thimgan Dodd Hayden picked the photo that Wolfy took for me.

It was a tough choice, given that she had to pick from amongst a thousand or so images on my photography blog (ask for me for that link if you’re interested) and the only input I gave her was headed in a completely different direction. That she picked this one (only a half dozen or so duly-credited photos on that site aren’t mine) without knowing how special it is to me just blew me away.

Thimgan (pronounced TIMee-yun) is a Celtic name, aptly enough. Of course she’d find that November sky to paint.

That Scottish sky was taken for me by Wolfy, my eternally-present but far-away companion who lives in the UK. I met him when he was fishing off the dock at Cromarty in October 2012; I took this picture of him.

Wolfy’s glorious sunset was taken at Melvaig the month after we met. He was on his way to the lighthouse there because he had this amazing gig where he just drove to these incredibly remote places throughout the Scottish Highlands and did engineering checks and repairs on the BBC radio towers.

The sky inside Swanchurch.

Now it’s hanging in the entryway of Swanchurch above the water pitcher that belonged to Jill’s grandmother and the small red mourning candle I got in Vilnius last October on the table below. The ornately painted Persian mirror with tiny doors from Faegheh hangs on the other side of my office door above Makena’s walking stick from the UU bridging ceremony at People’s Church, and my own (made by Geo from tanglewood) leaning into the corner.

It is understood that nearly everything at Swanchurch (where I live) has a story, including its name.

In a few months, Thimgan says the painting will be ready for varnish then framing.

Last night as I turned out the lights before going to bed, I noted how the painting’s setting sun seemed to hold its own even in the dark. This made me smile and consider a new aspect to my routine . . . smiling at the light of the sky inside the dark each night before sleep.

I’m so utterly delighted and blessed to have it here.

Thank you, Thimgan.

Thank you, Wolfy.

what it feels like . . .

I was trying to explain poetry to someone who is trying to understand . . .

THIS . . . THIS . . .

I wanted to see where beauty comes from

without you in the world, hauling my heart

across sixty acres of northeast meadow,

my pockets filling with flowers.

Then I remembered,

it’s you I miss in the brightness

and body of every living name:

rattlebox, yarrow, wild vetch.

You are the green wonder of June,

root and quasar, the thirst for salt.

When I finally understand that people fail

at love, what is left but cinquefoil, thistle,

the paper wings of the dragonfly

aeroplaning the soul with a sudden blue hilarity?

If I get the story right, desire is continuous,

equatorial. There is still so much

I want to know: what you believe

can never be removed from us,

what you dreamed on Walnut Street

in the unanswerable dark of your childhood,

learning pleasure on your own.

Tell me our story: are we impetuous,

are we kind to each other, do we surrender

to what the mind cannot think past?

Where is the evidence I will learn

to be good at loving?

The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond

for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.

There are violet hills,

there is the covenant of duskbirds.

The moon comes over the mountain

like a big peach, and I want to tell you

what I couldn’t say the night we rushed

North, how I love the seriousness of your fingers

and the way you go into yourself,

calling my half-name like a secret.

I stand between taproot and treespire.

Here is the compass rose

to help me live through this.

Here are twelve ways of knowing

what blooms even in the blindness

of such longing. Yellow oxeye,

viper’s bugloss with its set of pink arms

pleading do not forget me.

We hunger for eloquence.

We measure the isopleths.

I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.

The air is fragrant with tiny strawberries.

Fireflies turn on their electric wills:

an effulgence. Let me come back

whole, let me remember how to touch you

before it is too late.

– Stacie Cassarino, SUMMER SOLSTICE

how my garden grows

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The leeks I planted have gone to seed.

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This pleases me to no end because that’s when they’re most photogenic.

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That’s how my garden grows, and that’s also how writing goes. A thing gets planted . . . but it often produces a different yet related outcome . . . like somewhere along the way, the question I was asking changed because of the answer that appeared.