And Words Are All I Have

Porch Swing in September

The porch swing hangs fixed in a morning sun
that bleaches its gray slats, its flowered cushion
whose flowers have faded, like those of summer,
and a small brown spider has hung out her web
on a line between porch post and chain
so that no one may swing without breaking it.
She is saying it's time that the swinging were done with,
time that the creaking and pinging and popping
that sang through the ceiling were past,
time now for the soft vibrations of moths,
the wasp tapping each board for an entrance,
the cool dewdrops to brush from her work
every morning, one world at a time.

Ted Kooser
porch swing

On Randomness,Aquamation,

Bad Audiences,and more.

I read about a zillionaire teenager this week who owns a major Silicon Valley software company. He was asked what one piece of advice he would give to today's entrepreneurs. This was it:

He says to be successful you should expose yourself to "randomness" whenever possible. Specifically he recommends:

Do things no one else is doing.
Read books no one else is.
Talk to people no one else does.
Ignore what is fashionable.
Stand apart.
Listen to everything. Then verify.
Go in fear of nothing.

The young man calls it randomness and says he is proof positive that it works.

When Does It Stop?

Have you heard about the eco-friendly alternative to cremation? It's called aquamation and is the reduction of the body by a chemical process rather than fire, as is used in traditional cremation. In aquamation, the body's tissues are dissolved into water.

I just have one question: Can't I stop worrying about the earth even when I'm dead?

Green think-tankers offer other burial alternatives. One is the space-conscious vertical burial plot. People heading for the great beyond via this route will be placed in biodegradable shrouds and buried in cylindrical holes, feet first.

This doesn't do it for me either. I don't want to stand at attention for eternity like I'm waiting on a bus that never comes. (I did that for 20 years while living on St.Clair Avenue downtown.)

Is English Your First Language?

There is nothing worse than hearing crickets after telling a joke. It can be soul-deadening.

Picture me if you will in the office of a new doctor last week:

Doctor: "Do you have any allergies, Patricia?"

Me (lighthearttedly): "Do you have a week?"

Doctor (clearing his throat): "Did you hear the question?"

Me (still buoyant): "Yes, I have several in fact. Let’s start with my nemesis: Penicillin."

Doctor: "What happens when you take it?"

Me: "Doc, remember the end of the original Rocky film when he calls out for Adrian at the end of the fight? Put my face on his body."

Doctor (sighing): "Pardon? Did you say Rocky?"

Me (to no one in particular): "I am only one woman."

Doctor: "Excuse me?"
Me (doing my best Rodney Dangerfield, grimacing, straightening my imaginary necktie): "Gotta say, Doc. It's a tough room."

Doctor (clearly annoyed now): "Ms. McCallum - I think we should start from the beginning."

Why I love children.

I love their whimsy, how they abandon themselves to fun and are able to find it in almost all things. And how they have not the slightest fear of judgment or disdain.

In Tongue years ago, a coastal village in the northwest Highlands of Scotland, I popped in to a local shop. While browsing I spotted a wee girl with her father, beautifully dressed in her kilt and her matching tartan tam. I would guess her age at 5 or 6.

She was curious about me - this was an isolated part of the world - and watched me move about the store. I beckoned her over, crouched down, and pointed tothe shelf where a line of teddy bears stood outfitted in kilts and vests and little ruffled shirts.

"Tell me this," I asked her. "What would bears be doing dressed in kilts?"

The wee one thought about the question seriously - I could hear her wheels turning. Then she announced, deadpan:

"Maybe they're goin' tae a weddin'."

Love. Them.

teddies in kilts

Whenever I get carried away with myself there are days like today when I go to my post box hoping for a publisher's acceptance letter and find instead an envelope addressed to me personally, emblazoned in red with this question:"Is Your Face Collapsing?"

Time Stamps

There are a myriad of ways poets have connected with their readers through the ages in attempts to share their hearts and minds, their very sinew. Ancient poems on love and just about everything else have been found in all corners of the world, in cities covered by the dust of time. The words have been written on papyrus, on parchment, and on scrolls, with reed pens, quills, and fountain pens. Now they are carried forth via tablets and cell phones and thumb drives.

The best pieces among them resonate through the canyons of time, their words ringing as true today as the very moment they were composed.

Emperor and Stoic Philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote these words in 150 BC but we might just as easily read them in this week's New Yorker by a poet from Brooklyn.

"Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”

Here is one of China's most revered poets, Li Po, hundreds of years ago, in 725, poignantly lamenting his lost love:

"Dim is the light from my only lamp,
darkly ablaze my longing for you.
Helplessly, I sigh and sigh, longing
to smell the flower-scent of a woman
who dwells far from me
as the remotest cloud at sky's end."

Catapult forward a millennium to this offering of Germany's heralded Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the 1700's:

"This is the true measure of love
When we believe that we alone can love
That no one will love the same way before us
And no one will love the same after."

This might have been sprayed in neon paint on a broken down wall by some inner city bard only yesterday.

No matter how long ago they walked the earth, masterful poets still hold the power to move us to our heart's very core. They understand that if they write simply what they know to be true, what they see, unvarnished and unashamed, the reader may feel as if she herself was the author.

And now, to present day, and yet another kind of love poem I came upon just last week. Who can resist a line like this: "If you be the head nod, I be the bass line."


Hip Hop Analogies.

After Miguel and Erykah Badu
If you be the needle
I be the LP.
If you be the buffed wall,
gifted I be the Krylon.
If you be the backspin,
I be the break.
If you be the head nod,
I be the bass line.
If you be a Phillie,
I be the razor.
If you be microphone,
then I be palm.
If you be cipher,
then I be beatbox.
If you be hands thrown up,
then I be yes, yes, y’all.
If you be throwback,
then I be remix.
If you be footwork,
then I be uprock.
If you be turntable,
then I be crossfader.
If you be downtown C train,
then I be southbound Red Line.
If you be shell toes,
then I be hoodie.
If you be freestyle,
then I be piece book.
If you be Sharpie,
then I be tag.
If you be boy,
then I be girl
who wants to
sync samples
into classic.

~~ Tara Betts
turntable 2
pencil drawing red heart
And when he told her it was truly over this time,
he looked at her like November light
flung long across a porch.

Hannah Bonner

I am here, listening. Share your own stories with me, gentle reader.
tricia handwritten signature

Recent Post


The test results we await from teachers and doctors are neither good or bad - yet. But we give that time away in worry, the between time. The tent posts of our lives, ever the attention whores, the limelight stealers. But it should count for something. The dense weighty bud of the peony, its tight, shy secrecy before its brazen …
woman solitary

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

Poetry goes social...

facebook twitter instagram youtube