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Archive for December, 2007

Mailbox Blues

I’ve looked back over 2007 and thought of what I wish I could change during the upcoming year. Besides wishing for peace, health and happiness for one and all, personally, I’d like to bring in the daily mail minus all junk mail and pleas for contributions from one source or another. . . The following poem practically wrote itself.

MAILBOX BLUES

By Mary A. Gallagher Kaufman

My mail consists of naught but these:
besides the bills, a myriad pleas
dunning me for contributions
to aid a host of institutions
who haven’t any inhibitions
when putting on the squeeze.
And then we have the politicians,
from president to bureaucrat,
who promise chickens, but deliver
bits of scandal and chopped liver
and still they beg for requisitions
to aid them in this cause or that.
The following is not included:
in fact, deliberately excluded.
Unless I give, they’ll have to fire
executives from their positions,
from gain and all such acquisitions
and who, deprived, would have to find
another job, though not as kind
to their wallets and ambitions.

‘Tis more blessed, so I’m told, to give instead of to receive.
I’ve given freely all my life and now I’d ready to believe
if only some philanthropist
would hear my prayer, heed my plea,
would take a moment, write a check
and send it off to me!

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A Goal Reached

With another brand new year fast approaching, I thought it time I gave some thought to not only what lies ahead, but to look back upon where I’ve been. I’ve come to the conclusion that the following poem pretty well sums up “me”. Though my skill with oil paint and brushes was modest, I’ve sold my share of paintings and had the pleasure of selling every one-of-a-kind terra-cotta sculpture I created and put up for sale. After my husband and I retired to Florida, he enrolled the both of us in a creative writing class. Between writing and accompanying my husband to a constant round of plays, musicals and foreign films, something had to give. I gladly settled for writing.

A GOAL REACHED

When young, I reached for stars but now that I am old,

star dust satisfies.

Instead of fame and gold, I find serenity a welcome prize.

Dreams, it’s true, somehow eluded me.

Though success, apparently,

was never meant to be my lot in life,

my skies need not be always blue

and trouble need not pass me by

to give me cause for celebration.

I’ve had my share of adulation

and moments, which I testify,

thrilled me to the core.

I might have wished for more:

strove for a distant shore

and looked beyond my own small pond

to fame and to prosperity:

that, I left to others much more talented than me.

I’m elated, glad to be, secure in my tranquility.

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One Path, Two Lives

The following poem comes not just from the heart, but from real life as I lived it, much of the time.

ONE PATH, TWO LIVES

Mary A. Gallagher Kaufman

You thought of me as always by your side
while all the time I followed—often far behind.
When I tried to call I found you blind.
You never knew an invisible divide
separated me from you
and sometimes, almost out of reach,
you triumphantly battled ocean waves.
I was left marooned upon the beach.
You strode undaunted into battle
well-girt with dreams and aspiration.
I put in storage dreams I dreamed
and waited their rejuvenation.
You reached and I was always there:
my hands, my strength, the flesh of me.
My heart and soul I tethered to the air:
the actuality, you failed to see.

One by one the years slipped by,
of life, we drained the cup.
Did you fall behind
or did I catch up?

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Well, folks, another Christmas is past history and a brand new year about to fling open its doors and welcome us in. Knowing I am incapable of keeping New Year’s resolutions beyond a day or so, I won’t even try. Perhaps I might promise myself that the year 2008 will be the year I self-publish my two books of poetry that lie dormant here in my computer and on an old-fashioned floppies . . . I haven’t quite come out of the “Dark Ages”, computerly speaking. I think I shall also promise myself to do my best to write poetry that old folks like me were once forced-fed until we came to both like and appreciate the old masters. The following may be a bit corny, but here goes.

THE THANK-YOU-MA’AMS

An old fashioned ballad.

The road was steep, and long it lay
for a traveler from far away.
His feet were sore and his spirits low
but he knew that he must onward, go.
Alone, unaided, he made the climb.
Worn-out, weary, when just in time,
a farmer driving horse and cart
pulled to a halt as his fainting heart
caused him to pause, to seek relief
in a bit of rest, however brief.
“This will not do.” the farmer cried,
“Up with you Sir, I bid you ride.
My horse is strong, your frame is slight
and he’ll willingly do what I think right.”
Not halfway up the steep incline,
though slack the trace and loose the line,
the wagon rested, fim and still
without a brake upon the hill.
With surging power, the sturdy horse
bowed his head and took his course.
Twice more before the goal was viewed
the animal had its strength renewed.
When the crest of the hill at last was gained,
to a well-earned rest the horse was reined.
“Pray Sir,” the traveler asked at last,
‘just how did the wagon stand there, fast?
I saw the traces limp and sag
yet there was not a backward drag.
From his burden your horse was fully free.
Pray, tell the secret now to me.”
The driver smiled, as good men do
when helping out a friend or two.
He answered thus, “On this highway
there are Thank-You-Ma’ams along the way.
Somebody cared when they built this road.
Somebody cared for a horse and his load,
so they made full sure that a cart can’t slip
by building right into the road a dip
where the wheels of a wagon come to rest
so a weary team might meet the test
on a hill like this, so steep and long
that might weaken a horse, however strong.”

So, ’tis the way on the path of life
when weary of struggle, toil and strife,
there are Thank-You-Ma’ams along your way
to ease your burden as you onward stray.
They are found in quiet hours from toil
in the sun-drenched warmth of new-plowed soil.
They are found in a friendly, helping hand
of those who care how we fall or stand.
If troubles are more than you can bear
and your life’s a dismal thoroughfare;
when your chin’s fair dragging on the ground
and you need a lift, it might be found
in the smile of a stranger passing by,
or the lilt of a songbird singing nigh.
There are many ways to ease your load.
There are Thank-You-Ma’ams built in your road.
There are friendly folk among the throng
who are ever ready to pass along
a glance, a smile, a word to raise
your spirits when in need of praise.
When you’re tired, discouraged, downright blue
such a Thank-You-Ma’am might see you through.

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The Way I Remember It

Every year, my wonderful family gathers for an annual reunion and what a wonderful experience it is. I sat within earshot this past reunion, 2007, and listened to them talking over growing up on a farm. When I arrived home, this is what I added to Butterflies and Bumblebees. O. K., so it’s never going to win a blue ribbon. It’s . . .the way I remember it.

When my children get together
and old times are brought to mind
I sit a’thinking and I ponder
on the memories they find
to be well worth recalling.

While they chat and reminisce,
I’m more apt to muse and wonder
why I remember things amiss;
why I see such days as needing,
a trifle bit of overhauling.

Icy early mornings when routed out of bed
to dress in heatless bedrooms for the chores that lie ahead:
cows in need of milking,
their feeding and their care:
calves and pigs and chicks to tend
regardless of the frigid air.
Mucking stalls, and pitching hay,
cleaning buckets, come what may,
and all with icy fingers.

For me, it was:
One room heaters, chilblained toes,
frozen pipes, and reddened nose:
melted snow inside each door
and boots ajumble on the floor:
the memory forever lingers.

And though I have such recollections,
that I’m finding so regretful,
I’m pleased as punch to know my kids
were happy—now forgetful!

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HAVE A JOLLY CHRISTMAS

In spite of what I included in the following poem I sent out in lieu of Christmas cards one year, I looked forward to each and every Christmas. I really liked visiting crowded stores, and though I did grow a bit weary of Christmas carols by the time Christmas rolled around, I’ve always remained a child at heart come this time of the year. I just now noticed: this poem was written before the term “Merry Christmas” became an obscene four-letter word. I was “politically” correct, at least with the title.

HAVE A JOLLY CHRISTMAS

I’m tired of the tinsel, the glitter, the sham,
of carols, I’m sick to the core.
Of plastic that’s pretty, but childproof it’s not
and the crowds are a pain and a bore.
Our children are sold on gimmicks and junk
by commercials that lure and entreat.
We’re given to think by the merchants in town
that buying makes Christmas complete.
I’d like to return to a fairytale-time
when Christmas meant fun and good cheer—
when toys, the children found under the tree
were cherished and with them next year.
Is it asking too much for merchants to wait
’til the Thanksgiving turkey is eaten?
Just thinking of all the things I must do
leaves me weary, despairing and beaten.
The holidays are a gripe and a pain
from which I would gladly, forever abstain.
The hustle, the bustle, as Christmas draws near
seems to increase with each passing year,
for there’s gifts to be bought and glad, I am not,
with Christmas cards yet to be written.
In spite of it all, I find that I’m smitten
with more than my share of holiday cheer
and ready to share a greeting or two.
Merry Christmas to all
and I do mean to YOU!

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With the 25th of December just a few days in the offing, this morning I pondered over what to select for Meander With Me. Of course, it would have to be something Christmasy but decided to postpone the decision until after grocery shopping. While standing before the luncheon meat and cheese cases waiting my turn, I could not help but notice the complete absence of holiday greetings, not even a Happy Holiday. When I mentioned the fact to the clerk who was taking care of my purchase, she told me it was against the rules. Against the rules? Lest they offend someone, they were not permitted to acknowledge the Season. “Nonsense”, I replied loud enough for all to hear. “Merry Christmas”, I retorted, then added “And I’m an atheist!” I added another Merry Christmas for good measure before proceeding on to other aisles for other purchases. After I paid for my groceries and wished the clerk a Merry Christmas, she came out from behind her cash register, and gave me a hug. I guess the “powers that be” who manage the management, have no say over Merry Christmas hugs.

Here is a Christmas poem I wrote and sent out in lieu of cards a few years ago.

LET’S NOT
Mary A. Gallagher Kaufman

If we did away with Christmas,

as there’s some would have us do,

if we banished Christmas carols,

mistletoe and holly, too:

if the sound of childish laughter

on each Christmas morn was stilled,

if there were no eager footsteps

down the hall to stockings, filled,

if we put away the tinsel

and extinguished each bright light,

if we sent the heavenly angels

back into the starry night,

if we left the cradled Jesus,

with the Wise Men from the East

in their tissue paper wrappings,

Mother, Joseph, shepherds, beasts;

if we overlooked the Season,

all its gay frivolity,

would the world be better for it?

Would it really, really be?

Every Christmas I feel a sense of sadness for the children of a few enlightened, but misguided parents who refuse to celebrate the joy of the Solstice Season for no other reason than early Christians usurped the sun-god Mithra’s birthday and declared the day to be the birthday of Jesus. The sun is on its way back to bless the north with its warmth, isn’t it, and isn’t that reason enough for rejoicing every 25th of December? Does anyone really know when Jesus was born? Does it really matter on what day of what month Jesus was born? Let’s keep Christmas alive—both Christians and non-Christians. Let everyone winnow the commercialism from the occasion and make each and every Christmas a Christmas to remember.

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