Monday, February 08, 2016

The Boy With The Thorn - a Bronze

At the Getty Museum there was an excellent exhibition of ancient bronzes, all stunning. Amongst the athletes and the gods there was this exquisite piece. It ached for a poem. 

The Boy With A Thorn

There are not many of them now,
Though vacant plinths abound,
Amongst the great antiquities
Where often they were found,
Depicting famous athletes
Who earned laurels at the games,
Or gods and heros, caesars, kings
With long impressive names.

The artisans who made them
Of copper mixed with tin,
Could flow the molten alloy round
So it was light and thin,
Yet strong enough to bear the weight
Of arms and legs in stride,
And at their best they long remain
The Greco-Roman pride.

Each one a distillation
Of God’s gifts manifest,
Capturing that inspiration-
Firing them to do their best,
Preserving for these ages long,
Should plunderers have missed their mark,
A glimpse of the ages far advance
That would but otherwise be dark.
There he sits, a boy absorbed,
Intent to find the sole-lodged thorn,
Cast in bronze he heeds us not
’Till from his foot the barb is drawn.
Head downward cast his gaze is firm,
Fingers set to pry the spine,
His youthfulness forever caught,
Never dulled with passing time.

Thin their ranks of beauty cast
Despoiled by barbarous lowly eye,
How could they dash and splinter thus 
The richest proof of days gone by.
How could the call of cannon or gate
Result in smelting of these forms
Yet this remaining tells so much
And history’s pages thus adorns

Saturday, January 23, 2016

What A Haggis

Celebrating Robert Burns’ Birthday

For the fifth year Nancy I were invited to attend the Cal Tech Athenaeum Club to participate in their Burns Night. Truly it is a premier event in the best traditions, piper, haggis, poetry and song with a fervent audience in a venue of unsurpassed beauty. Chef Kevin Isacsson simply continues to out do himself in his attention to detail.

This year our piper was one of John McLean Allan’s pupils, Megan Kenney. Suffice it to say, she dismissed her duties in fine style.

The stately nature of the venue was enjoyed by us both. We were able to sit ensconced by the Scottish Fiddlers as the guests arrived.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Roi’s Tale - The Visitors

Here is a new Christmas poem I have written for our Sojourners Fellowship Group

A Shepherds Christmas
Luke 2:   Matthew 2:

It was a chilly evening, we were gathered round the fire,
A company of neighbors that we love and admire.
Each were telling stories they eyed me and said “Roi,
Tell us all a good one of when you were just a boy.”

I adjusted my kufiya*, eased forward on the seat,
Arranged the collar of my robe so it was straight and neat.
Then taking one sip from my bowl while thinking out my plan,
I looked around and eyed them back and softly I began.

“I’ve been a shepherd all my life I know these hillsides well,
And now well over seventy I have a tale to tell.
One night like this when I was just  lad of seven years old
My expecting mother said ‘Get your coat, it’s already turning cold.’

“Tonight you’re going with the men to keep watch o’er the flock.
We have visitors staying with us, hark I hear their knock.
They’ve all come to be counted Augustus has said so,
The place is packed, I had to let that other couple go.’

“So I went with my father and my uncle to the hills,
The air was clear and we could see our small town in the rills.
It seemed to be just nestled there so silent and so still
And here and there a spark of light came flashing up the hill.

It was really beautiful as we gazed there alone
Watching quietly by the sheep so they wouldn’t roam.
But that night something happened that we’d never seen before,
So sit back now my brothers and I’ll tell you what we saw.

The wind came moaning through the trees it whistled and it sang
Like a chorus at the temple when the sacrifice began.
The rushing clouds before us transformed to an angel winging,
And this the message that it gave came to us through the singing.

‘Fear not for I bring to you good news for all mankind,
A Savior is given today and this shall be the sign.
In Bethlehem, town of David in a manger all forlorn
All wrapped up in swaddling clothes the baby has been born.’

And there was with that angel a marvelous heavenly throng
And this the message I recall that echoed through their song,
‘Glory be to God on high and peace to men on earth
Who have His favor, for today it is the Savior’s birth.’

“Then we went running down the hill as fast as we could go.
I had a lamb around my shoulder bumping to and fro.
There at the outskirts of our town in a stable bare and small
We found the blessed baby Jesus lying in a stall.

He wasn’t sad or crying he made no alarming sound,
His mother Mary smiled at him, with Joseph looking down.
All the cattle were watching, it was holy they could tell.
We gathered round him on the straw, and on our knees we fell.

“We left there telling everyone what we had seen that night,
Spreading it through Bethlehem with the morning light.
And when I told my mother she remembered with a swoon,
That they were the same couple for whom she hadn’t room.

“The little town was humming but you know it wasn’t long
Before the census was all over, and the visitors were gone.
All except the Holy Family they’re the ones who stayed,
And we watched carefully over them and for their safety prayed.

“Now in the weeks that followed my own mother came to term
And I soon had a tiny baby brother of my own.
One night we had more visitors who came from somewhere far,
They said they found their way to us by following a star.

“When we looked in the sky above we saw that it was true
There was a bright star with a tail shining in the view.
Those visitors came bearing gifts for “The New Born Babe”
Dejectedly my mother explained the big mistake they’d made.

She said, ‘You’ve got the wrong house you want the Messiah,
They’re staying at the cottage by the farm, a little higher.’
Before they left to follow on something strange they told,
“Don’t tell any one again, do not tell a soul.”

We did not realize at that time how our lives would be changing
That with the prophecy fulfilled the world was rearranging.
Soon more visitors appeared in ranks row on row
They were looking for Jesus demanding “Do you know?”

I lost my baby brother and my mother on that day
Soldiers, at King Herod’s behest, marched in to our dismay.
My mother tried resisting she covered the baby she adored,
But they just thrust them to the ground and stabbed them with a sword.”

I’ve been a shepherd all my life I know these hillsides well,
And now well over seventy I have a tale to tell.
I saw my Savior at his birth I knew when he had died
The sky went black and hid the sun, earth trembled far and wide.

But let me tell the good news, He rose and went to heaven,
And I have known the truth of Him since I was only seven.
He is waiting there for us beside His Father’s throne
And if we just but follow Him, He’ll claim us as His own.”

*Kufiya - a head dress worn by shepherds in the middle east

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bringing The Clan Back To Dunvegan

My most recent publication is a book for adults and children alike.
With a foreword written by Chief Hugh MacLeod of MacLeod this accumulation poem is the Clan MacLeod equivalent of “The House That Jack Built” and is filled with references to the principle iconic features of clan tradition that children should know and love. It features the Castle of Dunvegan and the drinking horn, the Fairy Flag, and the great Chief, Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod.

Anne and Seamus MacKinnon have allowed me to use a particularly lovely view of the Cullins from the sea. Likewise Darby Sawchuk’s picture of the castle with the tables behind is about as good as they get. Ruari Halford MacLeod allows me to copy his drawings which so excellently augment the intent of the lines. My old friend Neil R. McLeod the photographer and Penny DeGraff have supplied excellent images of Chief Hugh and the gathered clansfolk. Lynne Leslie acted as liaison with Chief Hugh, and both must be thanked for the endorsement in the foreword.

The book is available from Amazon please review the book when you have read it.  Thank you!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jilly Beans Coffee House Hillsdale

The Coffee Nook

I’m going down to Jilly Beans
I have to take a break,
I need a cup of coffee
And a slice of lemon cake.
I’ll sit there by the fireplace
Or in the corner nook,
Reviewing my last lecture notes
Or reading through a book.

Jill is always smiling,
She treats staff and custom well,
Even when its hopping,
They’re happy you can tell.
Local hand made treasures
Can be conned when you’re in line.
Get your card punched for each cup
One’s free - after nine.

Have you been to Jilly Beans
In Hillsdale by the square?
They serve quiche and turkey wraps
And lovely fresh baked fare.
You can sit there quietly
Or natter with your chums,
The place is quite the watering hole
For Hillsdale College “alums”.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Don't Rush To Brush

The familiar recommendation to brush our teeth after meals has now been proved to be wrong, and that our propensity to enjoy acidic food predisposes us to having slightly etched teeth with their enamel protein matrix exposed. Immediate brushing damages the exposed matrix and prevents recrystallization of the of the external calcium hydroxyapatite crystals. We should wait for and hour or so.

Have you ever bitten into a lemon
And noticed how rough each tooth grows?
Well, they have been etched
And their protein matrix,
Where enamel’s dissolved, is exposed.

But check your teeth two hours later
The feeling of roughness is gone,
Your saliva you see
Quite miraculously
Grows the crystals back all on its own.

A lot of our foods are acidic,
We like that it gives them a “bite”,
But the protein’s exposed
On which enamel grows,
And brushing that off isn’t right.

So don’t rush to brush after eating.
If you must brush then do it before,
They’ve been teaching us wrong
For ever so long,
And we shouldn’t do that any more.

We used to say brush after eating,
Which would ruin the lingering flavor
The reason they grieve,
Was the food that you leave?
On your teeth does the germs a big favor.

Enjoy your food while you can taste it,
Take time to relax when you’re done.
Don’t rush to brush
And make all that fuss,
It isn’t right and it’s not fun.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Marjorie Neely at Ninety

Saturday the 20th of June saw a great celebration for an accomplished age. Family from far and near gathered to pay tribute to Marjorie Neely who has turned ninety.

All her children, Dan from Montana, Richard from Oregon, John from Florida,  Paula from Santa Cruz, Nancy from Los Angeles and Jenny from Redding, Northern California, converged on her grand daughter Christine's home in Woodland just north of Sacramento.  What a throng with grandchildren all around!  The drums were throbbing and their was singing and even a poem specially written for the occasion.  Dressed in blue and surrounded by love, it was a grand occasion.

At Ninety
for Marjorie Neely

Grandma has turned ninety
That’s what we’re gathered for,
With friends and family all around
I’m just a son in law.
But just like every one of you
I feel my life is better,
For she’d not let a birthday by
Without a card or letter.

Grandma has turned ninety
Her children are all near,
To celebrate this milestone
They’ve traveled to be here.
Recently days have been filled
Rifling through box and drawer
To come up with mementos
Of the times we love her for.

Grandma has turned ninety,
Oh! I recall the day
We gathered at the airport
And for Scotland flew away.
At every turn she did her bit,
We were glad that she came,
We had three little ones in tow
In car and train and plane.

Grandma has turned ninety
Her daughter is my bride,
To say I love them, just like you
’s’a truth I cannot hide.
And should you con the snaps we take
Around Thanksgiving time,
They are both together with us all
Standing in the line.

Grandma has turned ninety,
She can’t do all that’s new,
She doesn’t post on facebook much
And e-mail like you do.
But she has got a tale to tell
Which you won’t want to miss,
So gather round and listen,
And give Grandma a kiss.

Grandma has turned ninety,
I recall when as a groom
She danced at our wedding
In that big living room.
With the family all around us
Just like we are today,
Another reason to give thanks,
To bow our heads and pray.

Grandma has turned ninety
Our warrior in prayer,
At every turn for each of us
She asks God for his care.
So when a blessing’s given
Or a bounty that we share,
We should offer thanks for her
And thank Him that she’s there.

Grandma has turned ninety
This is a ripe old age
It may be the last chapter
But what a glowing page.
We don’t count the hours,
I think you’ll understand
But we’re glad she’s with us today
So let’s give her a hand!