SPOTLIGHT ON LAWRENCE KESSENICH

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Wild Turkeys

by Lawrence Kessenich

I watch them from my office window

pecking at pebbles on the blacktop,

pink heads, iridescent feathers,

stick legs moving with surprising grace.

 

Living in the woods behind the office

park, they tolerate our diurnal presence,

unmoved by creatures four times their size

invading in steel and glass.

 

Ben Franklin preferred them for our national

symbol, and they act as if they deserve no less.

 

How different would our nation be if we

had chosen these gentle grazers—who

nonetheless defend their nests—over

a bird who scours the earth for prey?

 

American though they are, these turkeys have

no allegiance. They only need a patch of earth

to scratch, a place to raise their pink young. And,

come to think of it, do any of us need more?

 

“Wild Turkeys” by Lawrence Kessenich from Before Whose Glory. © Future Cycle Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)


 

Communion

During Lent, season of discipline,

I drag myself early out of bed, ride

to Mass with Mom and Mrs. Crivello,

warm in the front seat between their

woolen coats, soothed by familiar perfume.

Headlights carve the ebony darkness.

The women talk in low tones

about people I don’t know, the thrum

of their voices reassuring. I doze

for seconds that seem like minutes.

In the half-acre lot, we park among

a small band of cars huddled near

the entrance of St. Monica’s. Inside,

stained glass windows, a feast of color

in daylight, are black. The church is barn-cold.

Candles burn, bells ring, prayers are murmured,

songs sung. The church warms slowly. I sit,

stand, kneel between the two women,

rituals washing over me like soft waves

on Lake Michigan in August.

Later, I carry the sacred mood

out on my route, dispensing papers

like Communion to my neighbors.

 

“Communion” by Lawrence Kessenich from Age of Wonders. © Big Table Publishing, 2016. Reprinted by permission.  (buy now)

 


 

Becoming Bostonian

 

I hear the music of seven languages

on a four-block stretch of Harvard Square,

see the copper glow of the Hancock

Tower at sunset, feel the familiar

bump of cobblestones under my feet.

Mark Twain said people in New York ask

“How much is he worth?” while Bostonians

ask “How much does he know?” That burning

desire to discover keeps the city humming,

yet we’re grounded in history, too,

still treading on sidewalks made of

baked clay. I stand

one night on Beacon Hill, gaze up at the

few stars city lights allow to shine,

feel myself stretched between past and future

the pull of the earth on which

our forefathers stood, the pull of the moon,

which they could not have dreamed their descendants

would visit. Or perhaps they did.

One historian reports that

“there were books on Beacon Hill while wolves

still howled from the summit.” Perhaps some

Englishman closed his book one night and stood

where I stand, dreaming of what we’ve become.

 

“Becoming Bostonian” by Lawrence Kessenich from Age of Wonders. © Big Table Publishing, 2016. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)


 

https://thisibelieve.org/essay/441/

In My Father’s Tears

Lawrence Kessenich – Watertown, Massachusetts

As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, December 17, 2010

My father and I disagreed vehemently about politics and religion in the late 1960s. He was a World War II veteran and a colonel in the Wisconsin National Guard. I was a long-haired student at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, helping to organize antiwar demonstrations. He was a devout Catholic. I was an agnostic. My younger siblings remember all too vividly the violent arguments he and I would have. There was nowhere to hide from them in the small home where we lived. Once, my father ended up chasing me around the kitchen table, intent on hitting me for the first time in his life—and then he broke down crying.

The memory of those tears says more to me about who my father was than the memories of our arguments. He was a man who cared passionately—about the people he knew and loved, but also about people in need he didn’t know at all. He taught me to care with the same intensity. I never doubted that he loved me, even in those moments when I felt least understood by him. And his life spoke eloquently about how much he cared for the less fortunate. He and my mother always did charitable work—preparing and serving meals for homeless people at St. Ben’s parish in Milwaukee’s inner city, for example—but after my father retired, he took his social action to a new level.

He was admitted to a lay ministry program sponsored by the Milwaukee Archdiocese, a program that introduced him to contemporary theology and the history of Catholic social action. This was heady stuff for a man who had never gone to college—one of the greatest regrets of his life, by the way. Suddenly, my conservative father sounded like someone from Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Movement of the 1930s. He became incensed about how unconcerned the wealthy people in his suburban parish were about the plight of the less fortunate. When he graduated from the program, he became the Social Programs Coordinator for his parish, and until he died at eighty-one, he was a thorn in the side of his fellow parishioners, continually exhorting them to give more to, and do more for, those in need.

It is in large part because of the example set by my father, Arthur Kessenich, that I believe I have a responsibility to give of myself—not just to those I know and love, but to those I would never know if I didn’t seek them out: the poor, the disabled, the imprisoned. It is because of my father’s example that I try to tithe, to give 10 percent of my income to charity; that I spend two hours a week assisting a blind man; that I help lead Alternatives to Violence workshops in prisons.

I don’t do it out of guilt or fear of damnation, but out of love. Because I saw love in action, in my father’s tears and in the way he lived his life. Because of him, I believe in love.

Lawrence Kessenich was formerly an editor at Houghton Mifflin, where he encouraged W. P. Kinsella to write Shoeless Joe, the basis for the movie “Field of Dreams.” Mr. Kessenich now makes his living as a marketing writer while spending his free time writing poetry, essays, short stories, plays, and novels. He lives in Watertown, Massachusetts.


 

Lawrence Kessenich Reading Poetry on Poet to Poet Writer to Writer with Doug Holder

 

 

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Lawrence Kessenich

 

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How to Clean an Oil-Slicked Penguin

Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2016, The Writer’s Almanac

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How to Clean an Oil-Slicked Penguin
by Andrew Gent

Like the punch line to a very bad joke
the obvious and actual answer
is: “carefully”.
First, you must learn to hold the penguin
from behind, to avoid the beak,
pressing both wings against the body
until you need to hold each out
(again, carefully) to clean
in and around the extremities.
Next, contrary to logic,
you apply more oil
(cooking oil works best)
to loosen and remove
the thicker crude. Working it (carefully)
into the feathers. Next
you clean what remains
with dishwashing detergent
four, five, maybe even six times.
Careful (yet again) to avoid
the eyes and mouth.
You want to clean the feathers
without removing their natural
protective coating, or else
the penguin will sink like a stone
having lost its normal buoyancy.
Finally, you let it rinse off
in a pool of clean water.
Let the penguin do the work,
preening its coat and reclaiming
what little remains of its dignity.
Do not expect thanks.
In fact, it will continue
to bite and scratch.
But, if you are lucky,
it might survive.
Which is the most
we can hope for.


“How to Clean an Oil-Slicked Penguin” by Andrew Gent from Explicit Lyrics. © The University of Arkansas Press, 2016. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

The Blending of Many

https://joellycameron.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/the-blending-of-many

by Joelly Cameron

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Like snow, you fall around me.
I listen, content to your body breathing,
As we lay covered in flannel.
My fingers caught up in your pectoral curls,
And the way your eyes crinkle when you are content.
I wonder if it is possible to lie between the snowflakes,
And still be warm in this blatant vulnerability?
I have become exposed to this new awareness.This sense of bareness between us.
Yet, I welcome the fall, and the obviousness of you.

We have become like trees, rustling living beings,
That search for things we didn’t know we were looking for,
And aren’t sure that we want.
Like the leftover boxes that still lay on my bedroom floor.
That once contained something we wanted, but maybe outgrew.

Yet, for a time we held tightly to them, because we thought
They were what we needed.


 

See also https://heliosliterature.com/2015/02/16/castles-in-spain/

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Joelle Cameron

A SOLDIER’S STORY

 

 

James_Whitcomb_Riley,_1913,_CincinnatiJames Whitcomb Riley, like Abe Lincoln,  was born in a log cabin. He was born in the heartland of the Indiana farmland near the town of Greenfield eleven years before the American Civil War began.

Poetry was not just an exotic taste in literature in Riley’s day.  It was read by the common men and women of the nation. Poetry offered the reader a form of self-reflection, an expression of  their personal hopes and aspirations. It was printed in of newspapers and read by public speakers.  Poetry served as entertainment for the masses. In Riley’s time, reading poetry was as common as watching television or clicking on Internet websites.  

Riley was known as a humorist and a prankster. One of his pranks may have had the effect of electing William Howard Taft to be President of the United States. President Roosevelt was a friend of Riley’s. A t a famous tea party in Indianapolis, Riley reportedly spiked the punch. The Hoosier Vice President, Charles Warren Fairbanks got tipsy at the party and gained the reputation of being a ‘lush’ during a time of prohibition sentiment. As a result, Fairbanks was passed over as Teddy Roosevelt’s pick for vice president and Taft was picked instead. Taft later succeeded Roosevelt to the Presidency.

Mark Twain ) said James Whitcomb Riley’s “Old Soldier’s Story”  was the funniest story he ever listened to and considered Riley America’s number one humorist.

 

FOR THE ENTIRE DOCUMENTARY, SEE YOU TUBE:

 

 

Today I Weep for my Own Ignorance

 

Originally written by and posted on whoknowswhenwhat:

 

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Today I weep for my own ignorance,

I cradle myself in the warmth of my own embrace,

I bandage my own wounds with a loving, tender touch,

I sing myself soothing words just to ease the pain–

For if I can’t be compassionate to myself,

How can I be compassionate toward anyone else?

Confusion, suffering- they cannot be fully dissipated without the light of wisdom.

However, until the hour of knowledge dawns upon this being,

A love that is so often directed outwards,

Will now be directed inwards,

In order to soften the sharp blades of the stabs rendered behind the veil.

Surrender to love my dear,

To a love that encompasses all that you do not understand,

And all that you believe harms you.

Give it up, my dear,

Your persistent battle with the mind that can never be won.

A mind that is lovingly caressed, accepted and embraced,

Will with time, agree to bid you a farewell,

And reveal the secrets of that dazzling goldmine within.

Jess Michor Writes

Today I weep for my own ignorance,

I cradle myself in the warmth of my own embrace,

I bandage my own wounds with a loving, tender touch,

I sing myself soothing words just to ease the pain–

For if I can’t be compassionate to myself,

How can I be compassionate toward anyone else?

Confusion, suffering- they cannot be fully dissipated without the light of wisdom.

However, until the hour of knowledge dawns upon this being,

A love that is so often directed outwards,

Will now be directed inwards,

In order to soften the sharp blades of the stabs rendered behind the veil.

Surrender to love my dear,

To a love that encompasses all that you do not understand,

And all that you believe harms you.

Give it up, my dear,

Your persistent battle with the mind that can never be won.

A mind that is lovingly caressed, accepted and embraced,

Will with time, agree to…

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THE SALAD

by Don J. Badwin ©2014

Garbage-Disposal-Tips-To-Prevent-Drain-Cleaning-Tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark and unkept,
plates stacked, food crusted
jellified globs in cold water,
the kitchen reeked of vodka
and soured food.
Nearly 2 PM
four hungry kids
picking Cheerios
from the powdery crumbles
of a near empty box,
ones diaper wet,
stinking of urine.
The sounds of Another World
and TV channels flipping
from behind the barricade
of mothers bedroom door.
The house is dark,
littered with broken toys,
strewn with dirty clothes…
Mama’s on a bender again.

Gazing into the refrigerator:
one huge pizza box
one frightened, dried up slice of pepperoni
cowers in the corner next to
an empty mayonnaise jar and
Chinese condiments
and a case of Keystone light beer.

I spy with my little eye
a partial head of lettuce,
a few carrots and limp celery
and what is this?
. . . an onion!
. . . and in the door,
hidden on its side
one-third of a bottle
of Ranch dressing.
Score!

Items gathered,
excavating the funk
from the sink
rinsing plates,
gagging at the mess,
. . .if only there were dish soap.
Four sets of hungry eyes
gather at the table
hopeful for salad.

The garbage disposal chugs
violently gargling,
an unseen fork, perhaps
caught in its throat…
in the quake and thunder
mama emerges,
bottle in hand,
hair in disarray,
bathrobe sloppily tied . . .
twisted to one side
and the sour smell of sic
haunting her breath.

I find a stainless blade
ignoring the bottle waving vision
just inside the door ranting. . .
“Whats all this damned noise?”
I extract a mangled fork
from the disposals throat
and wave it as my answer.

“Thats why we can’t have anything nice
around here. . . you just tear it up.”
I am trying to make my salad,
sinking the stainless blade into the lettuce
gouging out the rusty, rotten pieces.
Four pairs of little legs have scattered . . .
refuge from the approaching storm
more compelling than hunger.
Mama’s ranting knows no pause. . .
I flip on the disposal
sending rank, inedible, lettuce bits
into its hungry throat
it gargles and minces
chewing them to smithereens
the noise drowning out
Mamas liquored soliloquy.

The stale, acrid stench of a cigarette,
the clatter of the bottle, now empty
skittering across the floor,
bounces off my heels.
Mama has found a butt in the ashtray
and turned her bottle into a missile
retaliation for the growling disposal
and the hangover pain it brings her.
I am scraping the dirty flesh from carrots
the sharp edge of the stainless
grating down the orange shafts
peeling away the grime.

Mama retrieves a beer from the fridge
then piles back into her chair
sagging over like a discarded sack of meat.
“Your just like your damned father”
I am sending scraped strips
(of carrot) skin
into the disposals throat.
It rumbles and chatters,
drowning out
the rumbling and chatter
of Mama again.

“I need a fu**ing cigarette!”
The chemical smell of burining fiberglass,
Mamas fingers stagger
through mounds of butts and ashes.
I am peeling an onion,
tearing away the layers,
casting the dried skins
into the hungry disposal. . .
Mama keeps grinding,
the disposal keeps churning,
I am trying to make a salad.

Mama is standing, swaying,
bathrobe falling open, coming toward me
ranting, ranting, ranting . . .
beer sloshes onto the kitchen floor . . .
ranting, ranting, ranting.
knife blade, hacking celery . . .
chop! chop! chop!
The smell of Mama’s breath over my shoulder
screaming, yelling, cursing!
the disposal
grinding, chortling, gurgling . . .
drowning out the drunken harpie . .
grinding, growling, gargling . . .
Mama raging, raving, unrelenting
my head spinning, spinning, spinning . . .
salad now all gone!
poured into the hungry throat
the gurgling disposal chewing, chewing, chewing . .  .

. . . and Mama . . . backing away
mouth open gasping
dropped beer spouting foam rolling lazily across the floor . . .
Mama eyes wide open
shrieking . . .

I can’t hear her . . .
the disposal is grinding, grating, gored
and I can feel nothing . . .  I can hear nothing . . .
my lurching arm, shredded hand . . .
the disposal drowns out everything.

I was just trying to make a salad.

 

 


 

 

– See more at: https://scriggler.com/startclub/post/helios/2687?isclubonly=false#sthash.Pr36wHA3.dpuf

 

Born Donald Joe Baldwin Jr. in Pontiac, MI on June 27th, 1967, the son of Barbara Lee Baker of Marshall, MO and Donald Joe Baldwin of Bono, AR. After his parents divorced at the age of two his mother returned to Missouri and married Carl Henry Stone. Donald spent most of his early youth on the gently rolling flood plains of the Blackwater and Missouri Rivers just outside Pilot Grove, MO. The beautiful sprawling corn and wheat fields of central Missouri’s farm belt provide the backdrop for his poem titled: For Cara and Amy Renee and many other of his works. At age 8 following the tragic death of his step-father life abruptly changed. Donald and his family relocated to Marshall, MO where he continued to live and attend school until his graduation from Marshall High School with the class of 1985. Affectionately known as “Joe” or “Donnie” by his friends and family. He currently resides in the Pacific Northwest where he continues to find inspiration.

 

Links to Orpheus is Bleeding – Selected Works by Don J Baldwin
Follow Don J Baldwin on Twitter @orpheusbleeds

FROM WHENCE COMETH THE SONG

Kenneth Harper Finton

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 A NOVEL IN PROGRESS

©2014 Kenneth Harper Finton

CHAPTER ONE: THE MARE’S NEST

“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.” – Mae West

The child and the boy that Adam used to be was so foreign to him now. Looking over pages that he wrote more, Adam barely recognized his former self as the person who wrote them.

Adam came from a conservative and opinionated small town in rural Ohio. Those who lived in his little town often claimed it was God’s country. Adam supposed that it might good for the spirit to be content and proud of your community. God’s country seemed to be a stretch, though. So many wonderful spots in the world better fit that description.

Life seemed to be so much more idyllic and simple then. Yet, it seems to Adam that this is never the case. Faded memories – the…

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