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And Words Are All I Have

Not So Random Observations.

Use curiosity over judgement.

Advice to a friend
from her writing mentor.


My grandfather knew how to share
iron and leather with a horse
sweat turning the earth, the fertile smell
the plodding, the slow prayer.
Knew the seed he planted
back bending the long field.
A man that would listen to the Clare match
swathed in sweet pipe smoke
the fob watch checked by the Angelus.

Granny had a coat made for herself
from the fine worsted bolt that made his suit.
Carefully pinned a pearl in her soft green hat
as he pinned a rose on his lapel and
clasped the silver head of his walking cane.
The one before was shot to just silver in his hand:
Bloody Sunday, Croke Park, the Black and Tans.

He saw Wild Bill Cody in London
with his stagecoach, saddled a Model T himself,
drove tillage laneways of sugar beet for
The Great Southern and Western Railways.
In the war, he parked the car on blocks
saved the tyres, like seeds.
He was stern to his sons
who smoked Woodbines in goods carriages,
fell asleep, woke in the darkness of wild Kerry,
trudged to a mountainside nugget of light
traced relatives, hospitality
and a safe train home.

I saw my grandfather, old,
to a very young girl
pull my granny closer,
kiss her on the lips
and I knew constancy.
I saw granny smile remembering
his intention to give up courtship for Lent
abandoned, with his bicycle, in the bursting spring.
The home they built is beautiful, substantial to this day,
nestled at the Crossroads in Clonlara,
paid for, by both, working to the bone.

She had six living children, and like me, lost one.
I didn’t know then how the loneliness would be
the crying, bereft mysteriously, of the unknown.
Granny, in the dying pain,
took the cross from the kitchen wall
wrapped it in tissue, stuffed it in an envelope
wrote on it my name, closed the drawer.

My grandfather fished trout
cleared the Glen for a playground of sky blue,
taught me the habits of the trees, showed me foxgloves
guarding rabbit burrows. Talked of ferrets.
Put glory from his garden in vases
and in the end, climbed up the valley
into the meadow of the evening sun.

This is the constancy on which I stood naked in the bath,
faced the tirade of my husband’s torment,
claimed, for the first married time, my own space.
Waited for the fist to smash through my face.

Denise Garvey
—from Rattle #79, Spring 2023
Tribute to Irish Poets

Eight years out... astounding.

The European Space Agency's Juice, or Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, mission launched Friday on an eight-year journey to the gas giant.

Once there, Juice will spend 3½ years orbiting Jupiter and three of its icy moons: Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. Juice will be able to determine whether the worlds contain oceans underneath their ice shells and whether those bodies of water could be habitable.

The romance of self-destruction, the longing for victimhood — it’s a long chapter in American history — look at all the alcoholic authors, the children of wealth and privilege who turned to heroin, the addiction of intelligent people to downhill skiing, the grooming of young people to take up wilderness camping.

~~ Garrison Keillor

Herman Melville, who wrote Moby Dick, set sail at 21 aboard the whaling vessel Acushnet in 1841 from a Massachusetts port, bound for the Pacific Ocean. Melville had no experience as a whaler, and not much as a seaman, either, but he loved the sea, and was eager to learn.

Melville learned the ins and outs of whaling, still big business back then, helping to harpoon the whales, harvest them, and process their oil aboard the ship. He also listened to the tales his fellow whalers told, particularly of a legendary white sperm whale called Mocha Dick.

Knickerbocker Magazine had described the whale in 1939 this way: "This renowned monster, who had come off victorious in a hundred fights with his pursuers, an old bull whale, of prodigious size and strength. From the effect of age, or more probably from a freak of nature, he was white as wool! Numerous boats are known to have been shattered by his immense flukes, or ground to pieces in the crush of his powerful jaws."

Melville also met the son of Owen Chase, who had survived a whale attack on the Essex 21 years earlier, and he read Chase's account. It gave him material for Moby-Dick, which begins, "Call me Ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world."

Best tweet
Hope raised in hardship is the most shining light.
While Bono was touring the US following the release of U2’s fifth studio album, he stopped by the Nashville home of country music icon Johnny Cash, who along with his wife June had invited him for lunch.

Cash was a popular performer in Bono’s native Ireland, and the two singers had already formed a friendship, bonding over music and their shared faith. Cash, who had struggled with addiction to alcohol and barbiturates, was a devout Christian.

As Bono sat at the kitchen table, he listened as Cash delivered “the most poetic grace I’ve ever heard.” Then Cash, “smiling under his breath, as if June couldn’t hear or see,” ended his grace with, “Sure miss the drugs, though.”

“For all his deep faith and conviction, he could never be the pious type, and maybe that’s why so many are drawn to him,” Bono writes about the lunch in his new memoir, “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story.”

“Johnny didn’t sing to the damned; he sang with the damned, and sometimes you sensed he might prefer their company.”

The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace
did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way
because shit went wrong and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways, on a thousand different days, but they handled it.
These women are my superheroes.

~~ Elizabeth Gilbert


You could call me obsessed
or a fool. There's no future
turning your insides out
arranging words until they're
comfortable with each other.
And the pay! Just this morning
a check arrived in the mail
for fifteen dollars, for a poem
it took forty years to write.
Standing on the corner
looking hungry and tired, the
Veteran of a Thousand Wars
does better on a bad day.
I show you
how I feel inside, how my daughter
whores for drug money, and my son
ransoms his future for a soul.
I tell you how my father
forgot my name, and my mother
went to the electric table
to have her mind rearranged.
I tell you how I prayed for grace
and was given pain, to show
that all prayers are answered.
I've shown you how I died
three times, yet here I am,
Lazarus and Buddha, my
victim and savior. All this
for fifteen dollars and a year's
subscription. If I didn't have a job
at the factory, sweeping floors
on the graveyard shift
And I've shown
where I buried myself, covered
my walls with books and paintings,
how I talk to them and they say
This is what you've always wanted.
I am my prisoner and my warden.
I tell you how a passing image
makes me rise, and how love
leaves me cold. I sleep alone
in a king-size bed
and spill myself. I confess
in public. I publish my shame.
I don't judge anymore.
I've forgotten how to pray, unless
this is a prayer.
And now I arrange my life
in code, knowing you decipher
more than I show.
They can keep
their fifteen dollars. They insult me!
All I want from life
is sainthood and some poems
that will last. I lied early:
the future is all there is. My gift
is my present to myself, this day's
condensation of memory.
It saves my life.

~~ Robert Funge

Recent Post

The Weight Of It All

Life's not hard enough, so let’s invent a foe so fearless, So shameless, That it doesn’t toy with your dreams So much as mocks them. A tyrant that hands you back, ravaged, After it's done its worst. And even though we call on everything we know In defense, Science, all of it, yes, The tiny powdered capsules of hope, thrice …
The Weight Of It All

his poem of mine is a difficult one. Painful to write and perhaps moreso to share.
But what is it a poet promises her reader if not her most hard-won truths? (After Keats)

His Gift

We were leaving the bar and he erupted,
I had been paying attention to everyone but him,
he yelled.
Who was that guy you kept flirting with?
I hurried ahead, mystified,
realizing how little I knew about this guy.
He rushed up alongside me and with a closed fist punched me so hard on my upper arm
that it propelled me sideways,
sent me down to the hard cold ground with a jolt.
He leaned over me, preparing to strike me again.
Oh, you’re not worth it, he spat out as he walked away.
And left me there that frigid February night
so long ago.
Left me with what I came to see as a bizarre gift,
by letting me feel at his hand for those few moments, utter powerlessness,
the terror of helplessness,
and seeding in my deepest core the determination
to never feel those things ever again.

~~ Tricia McCallum
At a certain point I need to go wandering. My feet need to hit earth, again and again,
that bone-filling drumbeat. I need the sky's colored threads to tangle inside me,
pull me somewhere new.

Megan Harlan, Mobile Home: A Memoir in Essays


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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