And Words Are All I Have

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To Love Life, Just One Thing,

Need to Know Basis.

Some things you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme...
they must be naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.

~~ Philip Levine

to love life ellen bass

The Bahamas from space.
Bahamas from space
phone dusty

I'll Tell You Just One Thing.

It’s not ever who you suspect.
We cannot go back.
There will never be a better time.
Brides wonder if they’re as happy as other brides.
The bully was bullied.

When you clean a spot on a shirt
You’ll leave a bigger one beside it.
You’ll always wonder about the one
Who never called back.

~~ Tricia McCallum
Best joke

What did the Buddhist say to the hotdog vendor?

He said: "Make me one with everything, "and hands the guy a 50 dollar bill.

The vendor gives him a hotdog.

The Buddhist says, "What about my change?"

The vendor answers: "Change, sir, comes only from within."

Best tweets

This is why I twitter (the verb), for tweets like these..

Stop cheating on your future with your past. It's over.
Having seen every episode of “Man vs Wild” twice I feel fully prepared to be dropped off in a remote location and watch them a third time.
Polly Chandler back Eye high resolution

I Want Her to Know

at the tender age of 16
that her father is annoyingly right most of the time,
a thing called wisdom
that seems as unknowable to her now
as the line of grim faced boys
along the walls at high school dances.

That when she is looking for ways to be,
she should look for kindness
and set her course by it.

That no matter the legions of callous lovers,
seismic losses, or senseless slights,
they must each of them be endured.
And always,
there will be more to learn from.

That when she writes,
let it be with the finest pen, indelible ink,
that she clean the dirt from the tin box and
under the cracked paint find the rust.
Scrape to where it’s raw,
young one,
stark in the sun so bright it hurts.

~~ Tricia McCallum

To any who would question poetry’s relevancy in this cyber world,
its raw power to force us to look fearlessly at ourselves, at the world, anew,
I give you the brilliance of writer Dorianne Laux.


When you’re cold—November, the streets icy and everyone you pass
homeless, Goodwill coats and Hefty bags torn up to make ponchos—
someone is always at the pay phone, hunched over the receiver
spewing winter’s germs, swollen lipped, face chapped, making the last
tired connection of the day. You keep walking to keep the cold
at bay, too cold to wait for the bus, too depressing the thought
of entering that blue light, the chilled eyes watching you decide
which seat to take: the man with one leg, his crutches bumping
the smudged window glass, the woman with her purse clutched
to her breasts like a dead child, the boy, pimpled, morose, his head
shorn, a swastika carved into the stubble, staring you down.
So you walk into the cold you know: the wind, indifferent blade,
familiar, the gold leaves heaped along the gutters. You have
a home, a house with gas heat, a toilet that flushes. You have
a credit card, cash. You could take a taxi if one would show up.
You can feel it now: why people become Republicans: Get that dog
off the street. Remove that spit and graffiti. Arrest those people huddled
on the steps of the church. If it weren’t for them you could believe in god,
in freedom, the bus would appear and open its doors, the driver dressed
in his tan uniform, pants legs creased, dapper hat: Hello Miss, watch
your step now. But you’re not a Republican. You’re only tired, hungry,
you want out of the cold. So you give up, walk back, step into line behind
the grubby vet who hides a bag of wine under his pea coat, holds out
his grimy 85 cents, takes each step slow as he pleases, releases his coins
into the box and waits as they chink down the chute, stakes out a seat
in the back and eases his body into the stained vinyl to dream
as the chips of shrapnel in his knee warm up and his good leg
flops into the aisle.

This came from a reader this week, Sandy Joy:

Your writing speaks to me as no other does. You inspire emotions that I had told myself were not important. My heart breaks for that child/young adult in high-school; for that child in grade 6 whose dreams and aspirations were laughed at. I, like many others I am certain, have experienced similarities. I will hug that inner child with love and compassion. She deserved/deserves nothing but love.

The smell of a baby's head is one of life's greatest gifts. To this day, one of my greatest pleasures is kissing my grandbabies heads, even after a sweaty hockey game. My granddaughter is now taller than I. She has begun to kiss my head.
For most of what you wrote, the word that comes to mind is love. Beautiful, sweet, Love. And for those other things, it is the absence of love.

Sending you love, with much gratitude and appreciation for sharing with us your gift of poetry.

Thank you for this, Sandy. Because it means the world to a poet. I write so often in isolation, in the wee hours, and wonder if my words make any difference at all. This encourages me to just keep writing them down. Just keep sharing for me what it is to be human, imperfect, complex, often conflicted and just as often filled with joy.


We call him Our Father, Our Savior, the North Star of Our Lives, the Never Falling Sun of Our Era. Like most women of her generation, the mother is illiterate. Yet unlike others, she likes to look at newspapers, and she saves the pictures of the dictator in a thick notebook. Isn't she the woman with the greatest wisdom in our town? No other woman would ever think of looking at the dictator's face while pregnant with a son. Of course, there has always been the saying that the more a pregnant woman studies a face, the greater the possibility of the baby owning that face. Years ago, young mothers in the cities liked to look at one kind of imported doll, all of them having the foreign name of Shirley Temple.

~~ Yiyun Li (from the Paris Review)

woman 2
tricia handwritten signature

Recent Post

Potential Poetry

The sky. And the sky above that. The exchange of unmentionables between mouths. Other people's shame. My friend says we never write about anything we can ever figure out. For him, it always involves sadness. For me, it's a language I haven't quite found the language for yet. The astonishing smell of a baby's head. Morning coffee perfectly doctored. Clothes …
Potential Poetry

Michael O'Donnell didn't return home from the Vietnam War, but his poetry did. Alum Daniel Weiss was so taken by O'Donnell's work that he spent the last decade-plus learning about its author.

This is from an essay by Bret McCabe, himself a vet, published Spring of 2020.

Helicopter pilot Michael O'Donnell could hover near the ground for only a short time before returning to the sky. On the afternoon of March 24, 1970, O'Donnell had guided his Huey below the dense foliage of Cambodia's mountainous northeast region to retrieve an eight-man reconnaissance patrol that had been inserted to gain information on the size and movements of enemy forces but encountered gunfire early on. Three days into a planned five-day patrol, they needed to be evacuated.

O'Donnell, a 24-year-old from suburban Milwaukee, was part of the helicopter rescue mission involving two unarmed transports and four gunships that were dispatched from an airbase in Vietnam's central highlands. After lingering at 1,500 feet, waiting for the recon team to reach the extraction point, one transport had to return to base to refuel. The transport was on its way back when the recon team radioed that it couldn't hold out much longer. O'Donnell dropped his helicopter into a windy canyon and through a small opening in the canopy, lowered his craft to just above the ground. The recon patrol emerged from the jungle with enemy fire trailing after them. It took about four agonizingly long minutes for all eight men to board, a little longer than the average pop song.

After ascending about 200 feet, O'Donnell radioed to air command, "I've got all eight, I'm coming out," right before his helicopter burst into flames, likely struck by a ground-based rocket. The pilot, his three-man crew, and the recon patrol were officially declared missing in action in 1970. O'Donnell wouldn't be declared dead until February 7, 1978. His remains were discovered in 1995 but not officially identified until February 15, 2001. And on August 16, 2001, he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, which was created as a final resting place for soldiers on land seized from a plantation owner after the Civil War. O'Donnell left behind his wife, his parents, a sister, his best friend and music partner, and a collection of 19 poems, some of which he included in his letters to friends, discovered in his footlocker after his death.

One of those 19 retrieved pieces, printed below, O'Donnell had mailed to his friend Marcus Sullivan in 1970. Sullivan served as a combat engineer in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, and they wrote each other throughout their training and tours. O'Donnell's daily missions transporting the dead and wounded back from the front lines were taking their toll.

If you are able,
save them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own. And in that time
when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes
you left behind.


Book Sales

The Music of Leaving, my collection of poetry, is available to order.
Order directly online — for both Canada and U.S. orders — from Amazon, Brunswick and Demeter.
The Music of Leaving - Tricia McCallum

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