COLLECTED WORKS OF PAT LARSON
I searched the ground and caught a glimpse;
pigments changing as I bent;
a projectile, faultless and precise;
to execute my great intent.
Firmly held within my grasp,
the pebble's fate was surely sealed.
With perfect aim and grand finesse,
Through the air it swiftly peeled!
Skillfully I skipped the rock
and broke the pond's tranquility.
I watched the widening ripples
as an odd regret took hold of me
The time I'd spent in seeking
and the shine that brought my eyes to rest,
were lost now to that watery grave;
...is this now shame that I ingest?
What of that little pebble now,
resting on the cold, dark floor?
The beauty that had caught my eye
would capture passing glance no more.
They were beautiful, yellow
couldn't have been more
My shoes sunk into
the wet swamp as I picked
handfuls. Carried them, gently to
not hurry their wilting in
my fists all the way
to school. I was the only
one who gave flowers this
nice to Sister Gertrude.
She smiled, gave me a happy
hug, and put
them in a jar.Water in
the jar up to their first
Sister Gertrude is gone now
I am a grandma and long ago
from that swamp
where bad smelling yellow
weed-flowers grow, that leave
your hands slimy and holding
that awful smell for hours.
four AM quiet
twilight led me to this riverbank
with it's beckoning finger of seducement
night insects sang to me
unknown somethings danced where the moon kissed the surface
I listened to the tales of woe from dark ripples
reclusive reeds played mournfully a verdure harp
shamed, I wept
for I could never contain the sorrow that was theirs,
yea, even as I wept,
I felt their soothing gathering of my lament
reckon with their legends
I love to watch him take his garden hour
His gentle hands feel soothing from afar
Ushered in by kindly ivy bower
I love to watch him take his garden hour
He breathes devoted words to every flower
Laments lost blooms and dotes on those that are
I love to watch him take his garden hour
His gentle hands feel soothing from afar
THE FIRST TEARDROP
The sparrow told the robin and the robin told the lark;
The sun had lost its patience trying to chase away the dark.
The stars refused to gather...the moon had disappeared.
The clouds were spreading rumors that the lightning wasn't feared.
Neptune turned her back on Mars and Venus closed her eyes.
Comets turned their tails and fled in search of higher skies.
The wind, confused, bounced off the ground moving back and forth.
Snowflakes beat the daylights out of hailstones in the north.
Then somewhere out of nowhere came a tiny drop of rain;
Which kissed the face of one and all and made things right again
The master of the firmament who'd watched in great dismay;
Could not believe the magic that he'd seen the drop display.
He was about to forge a creature that would master moon and star;
And he realized that opposition soon would spread afar.
So he held this tiny raindrop that soothed sorrow, pain and fears;
He mixed it with sincerity, creating human tears.
my head when
the soft click
of your door.
footsteps told me
your visitor had arrived.
The tinny plunk
of your drink opening
like the growl of
my hungry stomach.
I took the afghan
from the sofa.
be my warmth tonight.
Passive spring steps aside
to winter's changing mind once more
She pulls her warm and mild arms
around new life she holds in store
Winter screams with frightening force
denying wildly its retreat
while cool earth breathes a restless sigh
having heard of winter‚s sound defeat
Calm and resting, it ignores...
makes plans for what lies up ahead
for on its tongue it savors still
the taste of rebirth spring has fed
WAKE ME IN THE GARDEN
Wake me in the garden, for there shall be my bed
Amid the lilies offering velvet petals for my head
The ever sheltering rosebush lends my fragrant crimson sheet
Coverlet of baby's breath lies ready at my feet
Across the garden, music from the multifarious mum
Sweet William softly rustle, harmonize with quiet hum
Hyacinth stand watching like sentries on each side
While morning glory vespers and the dawning coincide
Dewdrops weeping from the pampas travel in the breeze
To wash my face and leave the scent of sweet anemones
There while my eyelids open from the passing night's repose
The stars give way to daybreak; the gates of darkness close
Flitting dreams escape me as I yawn and come aware
Of my cordial sanctuary and all it has to share
If there was no heaven when the throes of death appear
I know that I have seen it when it let me slumber here
© Copyright PAT LARSON
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
There is a timeless quality to hammered dulcimer music and Rick Fogel and his ensemble of fine musicians take us across oceans and centuries with their album, Through The Looking Glass. ( Whamdiddle, Seattle WA) This is a seamless production but it has the familiar comfort of a live concert. The words clean and clear come to mind with each note. The musical renditions are ageless yet somehow modern. That's a neat trick if you can pull it off. Few can and that is why Through The Looking Glass is such a refreshing experience.
The hammer dulcimer has an origin far enough back in history to be a subject of debate and conjecture. Probably no one disagrees that the instrument reached the Western Hemisphere from Great Britain during the Colonial eras of Canada and the United States. Before that it most likely originated in the Middle East sometime before The Common Era.
The hammered dulcimer is often confused with an unrelated instrument, the mountain dulcimer of Appalachia. That instrument is usually held on the lap and the six or fewer strings are finger picked similar to the way a guitar is strummed. The hammer dulcimer can best be compared to a piano except that the artist uses hammers to coax music from the many strings while the pianist presses keys to activate the hammers that contact the strings.
In the practiced hands of Rick Fogel the hammer dulcimer releases soul stirring music that is at home with a cup of tea before a warm fire on a misty damp night...and the very next daylight, be the source of tunes that will rouse the listener's spirits. There's a mystical aspect in the power of music and Rick Fogel and this talented little group have written more chapters in that phenomenon with this album. Rick is joined on hammer dulcimer by Jenny Linehan. Greg Youmans (Acoustic Bass), Phil Marple (Guitar) and Sheila Tasker (Flute) complete this exciting five person collaboration. A word of warning is in order. Don't try to pick out the various performers from the mix right away. Oh, the individual efforts are quite competent enough. The first few times I listened to the album I tried to isolate on individual contributions only to find myself caught up in the total package being presented. Good instrumental music is like that. The various components blend and merge into a singular experience. This is a quality group effort and the end result demonstrates what can happen when good studio people and skillful musicians give each other something to work with. There will be time enough for focussing on individual performances on later listening. The first few times you'll just have to be content to allow the music to envelop you. Besides, you'll eventually find the individual efforts to be flawless anyway.
There's a driving quality to the opening tune Leyenda that you'll find captivating. There is a flamenco like urgency to the tune...a good choice to get the listener involved from the start. Just when we think they're going to brings us down easy, the tempo builds again and we find ourselves along for another ride.
Port Townsend Lament is a Rick Fogel creation. It's a gentle tune with an almost pleasing sadness. It is paired with a little jig called The Butterfly. You'll need something to tap your fingers or toes on. The Dancing Bear completes the trilogy and was an excellent choice for the spot on the play list.
The remainder of Side One is a smooth effort with guitar, bass, flute and dulcimer blending, supporting and complementing. The entire group comes together on Canon In D. It's one of those tunes you'll get caught up in. Very cool.
Side Two leads off with an almost eerie tune called Snowblind. There is some real magic here. The dulcimers provide some solid structure and strength as a distant flute weaves a suggestion that risks are sometimes worth taking.
Side Two includes some other treasures:Childgrove is a calming interlude before O'Keefe's Slide/Road To Lisdon Varna/Drowsy Maggie get us back on the road to one of those destinations we choose only after we are already on the road.
Bolero was an interesting choice for its location toward the end of the album. This is the kind of effort you'd want to open or close with. Maybe the group just wanted to show off the versatility of their dulcimer players and their instruments one more time. It worked.
The final offering is a Rick Fogel tune called Dulce. Dulce means sweet and it is the root word from which we get the term dulcimer. Roughly translated, dulcimer means "sweet sound." Dulce is a very fitting conclusion to an album that is far too brief. If this were a live concert Dulce would have been the perfect reward as an encore.
It can't be said often enough. There really is magic in music. Through The Looking Glass proves the point quite well. Music can lift and calm...sometimes at the same time. Music can enlighten and entertain. There is a purity and honesty in this compilation. I don't rank or score musical efforts because I don't feel it was ever supposed to be a competition. The album does everything you hope it will. Count me among the growing number of fans for this resurging idiom.
In addition to being an excellent musician, Rick Fogel operates Whamdiddle Co. in Seattle, Washington. (Hammer Dulcimers have sometimes been called "Whamdiddles.") They manufacture a wide variety of highly prized dulcimers and accessories. There is talk of a new album in the future. Information about Rick Fogel, his music and his dulcimers can be found at http://www.geocities.com/whamdiddle/
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THUS THEY CAME
TO STAY A SEASON
By Ron Thomas
"It's a long and dusty road, It's hot and a heavy load, and the folks I meet ain't always kind, some are bad, some are good, some have done the best they could, some have tried to ease my troubled mind, and I can't help but wonder where I'm bound..." Tom Paxton
Just before World War II, the final 10 year war with the Great depression still lingered on the land and pockmarked the landscape with the camps of America's homeless. Most were wayfarers leaving the Dust Bowl and headed west. They were called refugees, and their worn blankets were scattered under bridges and their broken cars stilled in the "Pastures of Plenty" along the Mother Road, Route 66.
But some who had been a lot of places came back, bringing additional family members.
Under a big oak between the location of the present state game farm and the barren lot where the Beechburg store then stood, they came around 1939. And there they pitched a tent and tied ropes around it to make it secure for Georgie, Marvin and Billie. George and Bessie parked their covered jalopy and hung their pans on the tree. Ed and Bonnie, she a Native American, laid their bedroll further out on the grass.
Thus they came to stay a season.
"It was April or close to it because the creeks were running high and I know that we (she and her sisters) always had our dresses wet from crossing the creeks as we walked past their camps before and after school," said Lydia Roberts Thomas, who walked from the present site of the state land to the Beechburg store to catch the bus.
Lydia and Betty and myrtle, her sisters, and a lot of other people, stopped at the camp of necessity. People would come around in the evening and Georgie would play his guitar. "He was pretty good. He'd sing cowboy songs or something that was popular in that day," she said.
"Georgie was sure no dummy," said Betty. "He could speak Latin as well as sing."
The family made do with income from the making and selling of willow sapling furniture. Settees with double hearts formed by the boughs and small tables with big hearts being their specialties.
The hearts of the school girls had become attached to the family. Then one day, in the fall, as Lydia and Betty recall, they came from school and the camp was empty.
"We thought everyone was doing good and getting along. There wasn't a word about leaving," said Lydia.
Someone said that Georgie had run the jalopy into the gas pump at the Beechburg store and knocked it over, and rather than face the consequences the family took to the road.
One source said the family moved to Oklahoma, Arizona, or some other western place. Lydia had heard they moved to Augusta.
"They were gypsy-like people, that's about all you could say. Bessie had been raised around here, and George too. But Ed found Bonnie somewhere away from here. I never knew what happened to any of them after that day we saw them on the way to school but not when we got home."
So, as my mother and her sisters wondered again this week, and as I am preparing God willing, to begin another willing cross-country camping trip, I wonder the fate of the family who perhaps had to camp always and whose images my mother captured with a 116 roll film box camera long ago. If anyone has information about their ultimate travels and lives, please send it along to me via Bay Front Press or the Flemingsburg Gazette.
© Copyright Ron Thomas
All Rights Reserved
RED'S DINER...A Restaurant Review
If you ever have occasion to make the long boring journey across the Southern Coast from Florida to Texas, be sure to stop at Red's Diner off Interstate Highway 10 at the Escammer Landfill Exit. You will find this establishment to have some of the finest dining available from Northwest Florida across Southern Alabama and Mississippi. You'll also get a reminder of those wonderful days of traveling across America on Route 66. That was but one of the things brought up as I visited Red's.
Decor is simple and vintage 50's. Red has chosen off-white formica topped tables with stainless steel legs to carry out his 50's motif. Wooden chairs surround some of the tables. Your eyes are quickly taken to the curled fly paper strips that flutter and flap gently in the loud humming breeze of a more than adequate window air conditioning unit.
The ambience is further heightened by sounds emanating from a small portable radio. It is a bit of chance taking as this part of America is often called "radio hell" because of the almost unlistenable quality of the local stations. They had a radio tuned to some sort of apparent talk show that featured a guy who repeatedly called himself something that sounded like "Rush" or "Russ." The illogical prattle seemed to please a few of the patrons so I will conclude it was some sort of parody or local theater of the absurd. I must admit that at first I thought it was a skit from A Prairie Home Companion or one of those syndicated comedy shows.
You'll want to study the hand lettered menus for daily specials. In my case it prevented a serious faux pas as I was prepared to ask the red haired man at the stove if he was the "Red" for whom the restaurant was named. I motioned another customer to go first as I debated my options. He said: "Hey Blue, gimmee a hambuggah en' fraaas." It was spoken in that wonderful Southern Patois that is so reminiscent of the 60's civil rights resistance where stalwarts such as Faubus, Thurmond, Conner and Wallace stood bravely against the little girls and boys who threatened civilization with their desire to attend good schools.
I realized right away Blue was no stranger to the rigors of board of health inspections. He removed his well chewed cigar stub while managing to drop very few ashes before wiping his hands on his apron. He unwrapped what looked like a prime cut of a semi frozen square patty of a meat like item. Blue's been here before...he deftly scraped an open spot on the griddle before depositing the entree. Fries can be a tricky item for a chef but he had little trouble shaking loose a full serving from a heavy brown bag he took from the freezer. He quickly submerged his fry basket in the vat of roiling, sputtering fat while smoothly kicking an errant fry under the stove. Blue is obviously an animal lover.
I went with the Roast Beef and Potatoes Special and was not disappointed. The chef scraped himself another clean griddle spot and deposited a beautifully formed square frozen patty of the meat like item. I decided to check the menu for drink options while Blue reached for that familiar brown bag of potatoes to complete my order.
Red's has an interesting method of serving drinks. In a novel presentation that should become standard in the industry, patrons serve themselves from a chest style cooler containing a selection of colas and local favorites Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper. I selected a Coke that was chilled to several degrees below room temperature and returned to the counter to be served my well cooked roast beef patty and crinkle cut potatoes. There was one long moment when Blue produced a ladle and mumbled: "Groovy?" Surprised at hearing him say something so out of place but not wanting to create an incident, I responded: "It sure is." I'm now almost sure he may have been saying: "Gravy?"
My particular meat serving was thoroughly cooked and produced little of the freezer burn aftertaste that made the potatoes so unique. It was probably the size of the meal (which was served with a firm slice of white bread and several green beans that had been gently sautéed well past al dente) that kept me from being able to finish everything on my plate. You can usually get yourself a filling meal for under five dollars unless you go with one of the pricier specials. Even at that my bill came to just under $7. I certainly was served quite a bit more than I wanted and dessert was out of the question despite seeing a tantalizing cherry pie that sported what appeared to be several more raisins than I had previously noticed. Interesting presentation!
Red's diner accepts cash and some local checks. It's open from 7 AM until Blue closes up in the late afternoon. A sign advertises a breakfast special but the chef only stared at me when I inquired about what it included. Your better chefs can sometimes be a bit eccentric. I must say I was slightly apprehensive when I was assigned to do this review but it is safe to say there is no better dining in the Deep South.
© Copyright Bay Front Press
All Rights Reserved
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FIVE WOMEN OF 1917
In my hands I hold the brief early public record and artistic expression of five young women who found themselves about to be engaged on the world stage in 1917. As the year dawned there was no way they could have known what the future held for them collectively or individually. 1917 was to be the last year of innocence for them and the world. In this worn, musty high school yearbook from my home town we have a treasure trove of poignancy and promise.
Jessie Clark was one of seven black students in her school. Black?...the term was probably "Colored" or something worse depending on the student's perceived attitude or the classifier's temperament at the time. Even at that, the school was progressive for its era...there was even a black athlete although there is no mention if he was allowed to accompany his teammates to all of the road contests. I came of age in the same town almost fifty years later. White still battled black, emotionally if not always physically. Black people were so highly regarded and evenly treated the town still unofficially reserved three areas where they could live free of white encroachment. A black friend of mine grew up in the same town and school at around the same time except that he lived about 200 miles away. It was a mass culture even in the Fifties. My friend was allowed to buy a hamburger from the only town eating establishment except that he enjoyed the singular pleasure of being "allowed" to go around back and make his purchase through a window. He once mentioned that there were few black girls in his school and a much younger white woman joked: "So you dated white girls!" It was said with a sincerity, purity and sister's care by a person without prejudice or the knowledge of the fights which my friend would have had to endure had he even asked a white girl for a date.
Jessie was quiet and unassuming. She was described as amiable. Behind her sad eyes resided the desire to become a nurse. I hope she made it.
Esther Hill loved to study and someday hoped to be president of a large university. She was described as having a quiet disposition and a love for learning. Her ambitions were a little optimistic given that women were not allowed to vote in 1917. It would be three more years before the US Congress would vote to ratify the 19th Amendment. Even at that more than thirty percent of congressmen voted against women's suffrage. The battle for approval was even more spirited in some of the states before the Amendment became official. Twice elected class vice president, this class intellectual wrote:
The sun is rising above the hill,
A robin is singing loud and shrill.
The Senior Class of seventeen
Looks into life with faces serene.
The four years together have been short and sweet,
And now we will part hoping to meet
Many times on our various ways
And talk of our bygone high school days.
Many are the days we have spent together,
working and shirking in all kinds of weather.
Some to be forgotten as soon as past,
Others to be remembered while life should last.
We will never forget the parties and spreads,
Nor the Senior girls with their curly heads,
Nor the teachers who've helped us so faithfully thru
And have taught us the things we ought to do.
And since our High School days are past,
Let us hold the knowledge we gained there-fast.
And let us work with the utmost zeal
And show the world that life is real.
Be not weary when your task is large,
Remember brave soldiers are the ones who charge;
So let us strive to attain success
And honor our Class and M.H.S.
Velma Heiserman sits between two classmates in 1917. She was sixteen years old. Some forty-two years later she would be my English teacher. She never married. In her younger days a female teacher was announcing her retirement when she announced her wedding intentions. It would be "Miss Heiserman" until the day she died in 1982 at the age of eighty-one. She lived in a rooming house across the street from the old brick school building. She wasn't popular with narrow minded students. I am being kind. I wanted to say "stupid students." She had your mother's smile when you allowed her to use it. She also unlocked the mystery of why literature was such a treasure. I can still remember some of the short stories we read and discussed. The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell and everything by Hemingway...I was already reading some of these things but I would soon see them in a different light. Poetry...Coleridge and Shelley...the sarcasm and satire of Swift and Steele...and so much more remain pleasant memories. The Class of 1963 dedicated their yearbook to her. It was long overdue.
Miss Louise Layne Goodwin was not a good professional role model for Velma Heiserman. Like her young protégé though, she would have a yearbook dedicated to her. Louise Goodwin chose to leave her teaching position in 1917 to become Mrs. W.E. Biddlecome. She moved west leaving behind students who genuinely cared about her. There were many jobs which were not open to women in what so many bragged was a "great experiment in democracy." Even within our lifetime, female applicants could be grilled about marital plans and reproductive issues. As late as the 60's some schools required pregnant teachers to retire or at least take leave lest the sight of an expectant mother elicit some sort of evil thought.
May B. Collum was nicknamed "Beb." Today we would describe her as a social butterfly. She was twice elected class president and enjoyed membership in every important school organization. She wrote a poem called In After Years:
In after years we may not know
The facts and figures that have so
Annoyed us as we tried to whet
Our dull-edged minds; or while we yet
Spur our ambition, sure but slow,
That he may bear us to and fro,
Hither and yon' where we choose to go,
In search of the goal that for us is set
In after years.
From out this hot bed row by row
We'll be transplanted, there to grow,
Into such strength that ne'er will let
Us flinch or quiver at the threat
Of all the adverse winds that blow
In after years.
But in after years we'll not forget
To pay in full the towering debt
Of matchless youthful joy we owe
To these bright days where happy glow
shall be a thing to kill regret
For tight within our memory's net
We've meshed each tiny care and fret,
to recall the days of long ago,
In after years.
Each boone companion we have met,
Each blushing maid, each gay coquette,
Each tested friend, each worthy foe,
Shall have a place in memory tho
Darkest clouds of paths beset,
In after years.
As this poem was being written World War I, The Great War, was about to pull in the United States. She wrote of adverse winds and darkest clouds not knowing of what was just ahead. Hers was the generation of the Roaring Twenties and its excesses. There followed the Great Depression and wide spread misery that continued until World War Two created years of killing, destruction and starvation on a scale never seen before or since.
Five women. A human element caught in time that explains where a civilization has been. A time capsule that shows how the indomitable is in each of us even when the odds are against us. We don't know much about where some of these people ended up. But we know that for a season they triumphed, making the warmth of hope survive in the iciest of stares. May Collum concluded the school calendar with this gem:
Beneath this starry arch
Naught rests or is still;
But all things hold their march,
As if by one great will.
Move one, move all; hark to the footfall,
On, on forever.
Bay Front Press
All Rights Reserved
On the good nature of those who plant seeds...
Crepe Myrtle seeds against a gray sky.
I wish to dedicate this volume of Banks Of The Little Miami to some people who delighted in teaching me to love literature in all of its forms, to write in what style I could muster and to think. Thus it was that Velma Heiserman, Howard Ferguson, Carlyle Cross and Martin Greenman had the faith to plant seeds long ago. These wonderful people live now only in my memories but if I have failed to likewise plant seeds it is not because I lacked instruction or inspiration. I love you. Thanks.
Bay Front Press is interested in publishing artistic expression in any form. Banks Of The Little Miami...A Journal Of The Arts exists to provide exposure for what today's artists want to say or show to the world.
VOLUME ONE AUTUMN 2003
VOLUME TWO LATE AUTUMN 2003
VOLUME THREE WINTER 2003-2004
VOLUME FOUR SPRING 2004
VOLUME FIVE SUMMER 2005
VOLUME SIX LATE AUTUMN 2004
VOLUME SEVEN 2005
VOLUME EIGHT JUNE 2005
VOLUME NINE AUTUMN 2005
VOLUME TEN WINTER 2005
VOLUME ELEVEN SPRING 2006
VOLUME TWELVE AUTUMN 2006