The Old Man and the Nautilus

My grandfather died.

He was 85, a man of the mountains; a man of the sea; a man of family.

I only knew him as an older man, partially crippled by several strokes. Strokes that he worked to overcome, despite odds to his detriment. He walked with a limp and a cane. He once upon a time drove a fiery orange ’76 Corvette with T-tops and a snarling engine, out-racing state troopers from the alpine roads of West Virginia and Ohio through Kentucky to the beach flats of Virginia and beyond.

I only knew he was a sailor. Later in life he would cruise the Ohio river, and yet he never forgot his maritime roots. A plank from a submarine, that once sailed beneath the briny blue, hung above his computer. Nautical themed kitsch littered his house. He served America’s NAVY proudly for many years aboard such mighty ships as the Nautilus, the Finback, and the Daniel Webster. “‘Cat and mouse'” he always said with a wink. “We played ‘cat and mouse’ with the Russians.” There were stories he could not tell, even when I knew him, stories of running silent and deep, of far flung harbors and a cold war now dead. Stories that now sleep with him and Davy Jones.

I only knew him behind large rimmed glasses, with a smile, and a NAVY veteran’s hat. He came from the coal hills of West Virginia, deep in the Appalachians. He was a die-hard fan of the Thundering Herd of Marshall University. A little part of him died in ’70 when a plane crashed and killed the team. I remember him cheering for Chad Pennington, who never made it in the NFL, and Randy Moss, who did, once upon a chilled homecoming. I remember him seated near the gridiron end-zone, watching the boys play football, decked in green and white.

I only knew him as a quiet, thoughtful man. He would sip his coffee with the morning paper and an open bird guide, watching his winged visitors and looking up the ones he hadn’t yet seen. After cutting grass, washing that magnificent ‘vette, and grilling burgers, we sat and watched the sun set behind West Virginia’s hills till dusk was deep and the deer came to forage. He taught me how to complete a circuit and light a bulb, an old salt with some solder and wire. He gave my family our first, and second, computers. A Commodore ’64 that launched my brother’s career, and an old 386 that launched my digital games. It was from his generosity that I first touched the tendrils of the world.

I only knew my grandfather as a grandfather. You may have known a different man than I, and I cannot speak to Charles Edward Martin. But as for me and GrandPaw Martin, I loved him and I will miss his presence upon this earth. I will never look out upon the ocean without thinking of him, that old man and the Nautilus that knew him when.

Solstice

Today’s poem is a focus on duality, inspired by the word solstice. Enjoy.

My soul is halfway in shadow,
and halfway in light.
Standing between night and day,
depending on how I turn,
I can see no end of either.

I behold an enduring brightness,
or I perceive a far darkness.
Either I squint against sunlight,
or I struggle to glimpse in black.

One is not good, the other bad – 
(avoid that trap of understanding) –
They are both as themselves pure.

The long and the short of it is simple:
allow both to orbit as I stand,

preserving the eternal solstice.

Diaspora

I feel more hopeful today, like a corner has been turned. The word of the day is diaspora and I’ve applied that idea personally. I hope you enjoy.

Time to gather my wayward-
thoughts? feelings? emotions?
However I call them, they must answer.
I need the diaspora to end.
I need myself, once scattered,
to be one and whole
for the rest of my days.

Too long I’ve been flung
wide and far on the surface
of many troubled waters.
Time to aim the flotilla home,
time to guide the armada to harbor.
Then I can scuttle the fleet,
and sail no more away from home.

The homeland lies empty, waiting.
I long to return with unity at last!

A Crazy Villanelle

Today’s poem is a villanelle, in which the first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated throughout. It is inspired by the word crazy and I think the poem’s form enhances that idea a little bit.

A note: despite me playing here, I do not think mental illness is a joke. It is real and serious. I suffer from depression and social anxiety myself, and I know others who do as well. Let’s all help one another and do our best to understand the invisible illnesses. Thank you.

Today is a great day for crazy!
Once in a while, I need a break.
My mind just seems to be a bit hazy.

This morning I picked a yellow daisy,
put it in the dough, baked a chocolate cake-
today is a great day for crazy!

Got a little dirty, danced like Swayze-
No music? Guess the band’s a flake?
My mind just seems to be a bit hazy.

Look, I lay around, but I’m not lazy-
Waiter! Need a drink and a rare steak!
Today is a great day for crazy!

I’ve had all the tests from “A” to “Z”,
maybe my doc is the big fat fake?
My mind just seems to be a bit hazy.

Anyway, can’t keep dropping rhymes like JayZ,
perhaps I’ll go jump in the lake.
Today is a great day for crazy,
my mind just seems to be a bit hazy.

Ethereal

Today’s word is ethereal. Inspired by two film quotes: “catch a cloud and pin it down” and “a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts”. Enjoy.

Can’t catch a beam of light
Anymore than rainbows will be trapped.
Clouds always evade grasping;
Air once breathed in is out again.
It’s all so
ethereal.
That’s what makes it
beautiful.

A thing isn’t valuable set on shelves
and dusted dusted dusted.
Value is like laughter
Set loose on the world and enjoyed.
Smile, and laugh, and breathe-
Soak up the world!
Today won’t be here long,
In fact, it’s already half-past.

Petrichor

Today’s word is petrichor, and it is one of my favorite smells: that of a fresh earth after the rain. Enjoy.

Looking out my window, I see:
a tree shakes in the building breeze;
a bluebird sings in exuberance;
a squirrel jumps from branch to branch.

Above, the sky begins to darken:
rain is gathering in the clouds.
I think I should have cut the grass,
it might be too long, now too late.

When the water falls, I’ll watch
as it beats against the panes
washing all clean, leaving in its wake
a fresh petrichor, and world renewed.

This is my favorite experience of spring:
the growth, and frequent baptisms;
the green, and sudden blooms.
I can’t wait for the afternoon’s showers!

Steadfast

Today’s poem is based on the word steadfast. I could only think of one thing to write about. Enjoy!

It’s Frodo marching towards Doom;
It’s Sam lifting him up.
Mordor with poisonous fumes,
Ash, mist, smoke and terror.

They could have turned back,
They could have saved themselves.
The Mountain of Flame would have conquered all,
Ash, mist, smoke and terror.

And yet, Frodo wouldn’t stop,
And yet, Sam wouldn’t leave,
Though Gorgoroth stretched on
Ash, mist, smoke and terror.

At last, when Baggins won the day,
At last, when Gamgee showed his worth-
Small hearts, stalwart, steadfast and true-
Ash, mist, smoke and terror…

….could no longer hold sway
O’re the Cracks of Doom
And Orodruin crumbled to dust!
Love, loyalty, courage and peace!

Frodo the Valiant, Samwise the Brave,
Both stood unconquerable and free.
Middle-Earth was saved-
Love, loyalty, courage and peace!

Upon A Cloud

Today’s poem from quarantine is suggested by the word pondering. Next in a series of poems suggested by words gathered from my friends and family.

“Upon A Cloud”

Lumbering. Perhaps: Burdensome.
That’s what it feels like right now.
It should be light, I guess. Even: whimsical,
made for summer days:
sweet breezes and birds chirping.
But this feels as delicate as…
…as the thunder of elephants.
Perhaps that comes from the word itself:
PONDERING. Sounds like PONDEROUS.
Maybe I’m letting too much me in.
I need to breathe out, let the spring wind
cleanse the baffles, excise the PONDERATION
like so much exhalation.

That’s better.

What? That cloud there?

Looks like an elephant to me.

Ponder too long and now it’s a dog.

Oh? Me?

I’m just pondering the nature of a cloud
and letting all else be.

Extremes

Today I also wrote two poems. These showcase the mental extremes I have been bouncing between since this pandemic isolation occurred. The first poem is based on the word antediluvian

“Antediluvian”

Apres moi, le deluge!”
I shout, in abject narcissism.
Nay, I am less important
But I fear, nonetheless, a flood
Mounting, rising, looming westward,
Desperate to snuff my idealistic world,
This antediluvian paradise in which I breathe.
Oh! That it would not crash
And like some far-off tsunami
Wash away my humble home under-hill.
But may it pass me by
And like some vanquished kaiju
Slink off into nothingness unspent.
This my supplication, sent from knee to heaven.
May some o’ershadowing Eru hear
And grant to me the mercy of ages.
Still stand I on sand-swept shores
Awaiting Morgoth’s doom,
Which seems must fall.

And then, based on the word lasagna

“A Snack”

Garfield?!
Where is that darn cat?
I have but recently sat
A great baked pasta that
When eaten will show what
Great culinary legerdemain (caveat:
Perhaps I cook not so well. A feat-)
Hark! What orange-d fur streaks past!
Garfield!!
That twice-darned cat!!
He scarfed my lasagna! Drat!

I do hope you enjoy.