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Barbara Grace Lake

Poetry & Other Crimes

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Barbara Grace Lake

I grew up during the Great Depression and World War II, joined the WACs at age 18, later married, had 5 children, divorced, and worked in law offices for over 25 years, all the while writing a bit of poetry. I had a short but successful career writing articles for magazines and newspapers, but became tired of constantly trying to impress yet another editor. I've now gone back to my first love, poetry. And that, my friends, is mostly what you will find on my blog, "Poetry and Other Crimes." I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

AN ENDLESS MARCH – (Reblogged)

As relevant today (perhaps even more so) than when I first wrote this in 2016.

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

Let me join the march
Of men still seeking peace
As when primordial man
Put down his weapons
Built a fire
And shared its warmth

Let me join the march
Of men who never heard
The pomp and cant of Christianity
But followed one who spoke
Of sharing bread and love –
And speaks no more.

It is an endless march
Of striving, screaming fools
Whose ardent message clamoring
For justice, sanity
Those fools more practical,
More prudent, would deny

And it is passing by
Let me wear my faded jeans
A scarf around my head
And carry crudely lettered banners,
Sing of days we might find hope
And of a time to care.

Let me join the march
Let me hold my candles high
So that their flames might burn
Into the eyes and hearts
Of men grown calloused
To the world’s despair.

Let me join the march.

NIGHTWATCH WALKING (REFLECTIONS) – (Reblogged)

Barbara Grace Lake © 2000

 

“Night Watchman”

One weary trudging figure bent
Upon his solitary rounds
His lonely vigil night watch walking
Hollow footstep echoes clocking
Pauses ‘tween each breath held pent
To silent guise no furtive sound
Portending ill he needs prevent
Lest in remission guilt compound

“City Lights”

Their orbs contest for glory all
The hacks array of tinseled, massed
Chromatic, pulsing, searing arcs,
Fire branding artificial marks
Upon a teeming urban mall
Whose denizens but hasten past
In bored surfeit of blaring calls
To try or buy – to dine – repast

“Young Couple”

Thin blue-jeaned boy, mascara’d lass
In impudence of non-adults
Enlaced in walking arm-in-arm
Forgetting manners, lacking charm
All clanging clamor cymbal brass
Confusing us with strange new cults
Defying rules of social class
That we’ve enured in stuffy vaults

“Shop Windows”

Set past the lights in musty shops
Their prisms black reflecting nought
Must mutely watch from day to week
Forever destined not to speak
Each pane a brooding dark cyclops
In silence keeping to their thoughts
In life remaining only props
To witness well the human lot

“Dark Alley”

A sound? A cat a mouse has braved
Then scurried off in panic flight?
Or building super working there?
So dark! – Is someone lurking there
Intent to rob or more depraved
Would take my life for morning’s light
To show my form could not be saved
No breath nor pulse but chilling white?

“A Panhandler”

Pray, was this man to whom I gave
In change for what relief he sought?
Or animal? A broken thing?
What life was this for him to cling
Yet ever reaching t’ward his grave
By finding solace in his draught?
Would man not labor, sooner slave
Than drink by drink in hell be bought?

“Parkway Trees”

They challenge all who else might dare
Try pass each darkened silhouette
Tall forward linesmen standing guard
By their abodes against petard
Small breezes whisper, “Who goes there?”
Until assured no harm is meant
For those entrusted in their care
Before low branches nod consent

“Small Nightlings”

So quickly merging into dusk
With peers of nature’s hidden shy
Whose needs await the covering dark
For instinct’s prodding to embark
A timid field mouse under brush
From hunger dares an owl on fly
While faintly wafted scent of musk
Forewarns defenseless creatures hie

“Roses”

Would sight I ever need to view
Fall roses, fragrant, high and thick
Whose dense aroma’s silent shout
Must call abandoned senses out
I need not see their vibrant hues
To feel their armor’s stinging prick
To taste their petals’ moistening dew
Or feel their soft caress of silk

“Stars”

They fashion ebon’s ritual dress
In consecrated altar fires
A shrine of breadth and magnitude
Bestilled in awesome solitude
Transforms the rocky mountain crests
Into majestic temple spires
Impelling man to further quests
Than he’d unhallowed ever sire

 

THE SLIP N SLIDE

© 2018 Barbara Grace Lake

(Pure whimsy)

 

All winter long I lay unused
And hidden in the musty dark
That tiny shed out in the snow
I thought I’d die it was so cold

Big people wrapped me, stowed away
From happy, laughing little hands
They said “you won’t need this until
The sun comes out in warmth again.”

They never thought how I’d need them
A toy, a game if never played
Forgets how little folks have fun
But now it’s hot, we’ll learn anew

Big people take my wrapping off
And pull me out onto the lawn
The brilliant, yellow sun shines out
Against a cloudless azure sky

Then making sure no rocks lay hid
Beneath my tender slippery slide
And, yes, ensuring one small dent
Creates a puddle at the end.

They carefully attach the hose
For ample slide along my path
The little folks excitedly
Await the go-ahead to play

The smallest one, too young last year
Jumps up and down, “Me first!  Me first!”
And down she goes and hits the dent
Kersplash — she giggles, shrieks delight

No more than me when children star
Upon my sliding theater
What joy to have them out again
In sliding, splashing, squealing fun

TUNNELS OF ASPHALT (REBLOGGED)

© Barbara Grace Lake 2015

The race was run between two men,
Two gorgeous, brawny, vital men,
The drivers of a souped up Ford,
A Cadillac Sedan de Ville.

The driver of the Cadillac
Locked rigid fists around his wheel
Demanding every particle
Or power his machine could give.

The other kissed a lucky piece,
A pair of baby shoes; he seemed
Indifferent to the lethal force
His set of wheels held over him.

Each driver sized the other man
For nerve enough to stay or quit
His car’s potential speed, control
To play their deadly game of skill.

The track lay through a city’s streets
To straight and lonely country roads,
Long asphalt tunnels guided by
A single line into the end.

There marked indelibly by black
Deposits, tattered bits of tread,
Dismembered wrecks of prior drags
Reduced to dusty pavement grey.

They jockey for position, first
The Cad in front and then the Ford
Shoots forward shrieking metal gears,
And acrid stench of burning tires.

The Caddie cuts the hotrod off
Spins out, recovers from the edge;
He skids then gains three cars ahead.
I win! Ha ha! I win! I win!

He didn’t see the Ford upend
Or know the paramedics came.
He didn’t hear the siren’s wail.
He didn’t see. He didn’t know.

His face showed only triumph, rage,
Still skidding, laughing, till a truck’s
Sheer mass recast his winner’s grin
Into a ghastly frozen mask.

The race was run between two men,
Two gorgeous, brawny, vital men,
Seduced by speed and winning through
Long asphalt tunnels to the end.

THE CALL OF PAN (REBLOGGED)

© 2015 Barbara Grace Lake

I’m gonna have to do something about my blog page.  Anything I have at the bottom doesn’t get seen.  Doesn’t get read.  Yep.  Have to do something.  This one is one of my favorites … down at the bottom.

I heard a piping in the wood –
Haunting, calling me
To follow if I dare.
I heard it in the dawn
As misty sunlight gently touches
Tips of trees when first aroused
And leaves are freshest.
Mounds of grassy thickets
Crunch beneath my feet
From laden dew.

Was it a melody I heard?
Or did my ears transform
The play of rushing wind
Through forest harps
Into a psychic sense of sound?
There, again, elusive,
Drifting music almost heard
Above a dancing springlet
Leaping briefly, sparkling
In a shaft of stabbing sun.

There, half seen beyond the trees
Disguised by by gloom and mist,
A presence in the mossy coolness
Of a hidden forest alcove,
An impression of a shadowed form –
Tricks of patterned light and solitude
Upon an urban sense
Unguarded and disarmed?
Or bounding figure, demigod,
Seductive, beckoning?

I followed only to the glade
Emptied of all sense and sound
But that bewitching flute.
Inhibited, afraid of life and love,
The siren pipes insistently
Awakened rhythmic chords.
The man/beast dances, arms caress,
His music quickens, throbs
With every pulsing beat
Responding, yielding, ohhh –

And he was gone.
The silence palpable, pulled down the night.
I cried in lonely grief
Not knowing if I cried
For loss of innocence.
And in the day’s new warmth
I stumbled from the woods
Into the arms of future love.
I simply told a worried face
“I lost my way.”

I’ve often felt his presence
Though his fluting calls me not.
Now are my children grown
And theirs are of an age to question,
Hesitate, take fearful, longing steps.
Beware the pipes of Pan
For on that pathway deep within the wood,
So perilously strange,
The bud may open to return
Unharmed – but not unchanged.

RAINDROPS

© 2018 Barbara Grace Lake

 

Cascading sparkling pristine drops
Reflecting ambient light in sheets
So pure and crystalline they fall
Replenishing a garden’s soil

As merry children puddle splash
And pat to life mud pies and cakes
Big brother’s wriggling worm he’ll use
To impishly tease baby sis

While desert harsh aridity
Receives bright drops on drought dried cracks
For desicated plants new life
Mid annual vibrant cactus blooms

High desert’s monsoon rains release
Flash floods endangering low plains
Torrential coastal mountain’s spate
Soon downstream smashes bridges, homes

Conversely brightly sunlit drops
So welcome in my flower patch
In arid lands, in other climes
Will chaos bring, as well new life.

THE PERFECT WEAVER

© 2018 Barbara Grace Lake

 

A perfect web spun overnight
As early dewdrop sparkles glints
Reflecting dawn’s first morning light
Created beauty, killing field
Complacently she sits and waits
The meal she planned for carefully

But I can sit, enjoy her work
So intricately woven cross
Each strand decked out in morning drops
From anchored bush to fence or tree
Magnificent in luster weave
My garden spider’s artistry

SEYMOUR

© 1995 Barbara Grace Lake

 

This isn’t a poem, but is a true episode in my life.  I hope you enjoy it, and then hug whichever 4-legged furry family member you have at your side.

 

“Seymour is not dying,” I wailed. “You don’t know him. He’s a fighter. Tomorrow he’ll wake up and tear into one of his toys.” I was arguing with veterinarian Sherri Wilson, a resident at UCD Veterinary School of Medicine’s Small Animal Clinic. She tried, very gently, to explain that this “wonderful cat” had advanced ketoacidosis. He was not going to wake up tonight or even tomorrow. I knew she was wrong. Seymour had been up against it before and always survived, sometimes through sheer determination. He’d pull through this crisis, too.
I’m remembering now when we first met several years ago. It was a chance accident fated to alter both our lives. A sudden downpour, the drenching kind that often occurs in early spring, drove Seymour to seek shelter. He entered the garage through a partially open garden door, and there hid beneath some cardboard boxes. Since the rain temporarily kept me from trimming winter’s dead branches from my prize dogwood, I came in to flatten boxes for the next day’s trash pickup.
Seymour had all four legs then, but not much else was in his favor. A cursory examination showed one torn ear. Blood oozing from an ugly gash on his side mixed with mud to plaster his fur in ragged mats. Every rib showed through taut skin. Large, round eyes pleaded in a gaunt face.
Already shivering from the damp, he flinched as I came near but stood his ground. He wasn’t begging. Despite his awful appearance he seemed too proud for that. On the other hand, he was too desperate to leave. Somehow we both knew he was staying.
First, he needed doctoring, then food and a bath. Being clean and patched, however, did not turn Seymour into a handsome cat prince. He remained homely – but majestically so, like a lion. He had a wonderful, large, jowly head, a velvety, cream-on-cream tabby coat, and a long tail that he carried ramrod straight, high above his body. His voice (not a meow) was a gravelly “hrrump,” expressing every mood from playful to, “Leave me alone, I’m trying to sleep.” When Seymour purred, the sound was huge, like a battery of tanks chewing up the landscape.
In early October, when the weather turned nasty, Seymour began coming in for meals. The visits were brief: Greet, eat and out. You see, as an unrepentant tom, Seymour knew nothing of household etiquette. An occasional lapse in manners got him quickly ushered out the door.
Still, by late October, we’d settled into a routine: Seymour appeared for breakfast around 6:30. He napped on a patio chair, pounced on a fascinating bug, slept, ate dinner, and relaxed. In the dark hours, he prowled the neighborhood.
One morning Seymour didn’t show up for breakfast. I reminded myself that he was, after all, a tom. He was probably off doing tomcat stuff. I began worrying when he didn’t reappear later that evening or for breakfast the next morning. Seymour was not in the habit of missing meals. After a few more days of no Seymour, I was certain we’d never see him again.
On the eighth day, a familiar “hrrump” told me our wandering tom was home. I couldn’t open the door fast enough. Then I stepped back in horror. A happy shouted, “Seymour’s back” stuck in my throat as I watched him struggle in the door, one hideously mangled leg dragging behind him.
It took a starving Seymour only five minutes to clean his dish. In five minutes more, he was on his way to the first of many, long, pain-filled days and weeks he’d spend in veterinary care.
Only when we saw the x-rays of Seymour’s leg, did we understand the severity of his injury. Where solid bone should have been, the x-rays showed a mass of shattered splinters. Seymour’s doctors could not set or pin the bone. They had to remove the leg. Before surgery, Paula Parker, DVM, sympathetically suggested we consider euthanasia. “He has the look of a sick cat,” she said. “You could be wasting your money with this kind of operation.”
Dr. Parker was being practical. I was thinking of Seymour’s amazing eight-day survival. That alone told me how much he wanted to live. We considered no other option. Seymour had the operation.
After surgery, an impressed surgeon, James Shirey, DVM, recognizing both courage and pride, cautioned “Whatever you do, don’t treat this cat like an invalid. He doesn’t know there’s anything wrong. Seymour wants very much to live. It’s important to him.”
He did live. However, the first few weeks of recovery were not easy. During this time, Seymour lost his balance every time he tensed or tried to use the amputated leg. Then he’d scream and throw his body around convulsively as he tried to right himself. His most defeating experience came the day he slipped out and tried to jump the fence, something he’d always done so easily. Now, he jumped and fell, repeatedly, each time yowling in pain and rage as he landed on his injured side. When finally coaxed into the house, Seymour lay for hours looking out at a world no longer his. He’d chase no more bugs nor scatter colorful fall leaves.
Remarkably, the next day all signs of depression were gone. Seymour daily grew stronger, balancing so well that he was soon running, playing, even jumping for a dangling “bat-a-mouse.” Our other cats only batted the mouse. Seymour started his run from 15 feet down the hallway, and pounced from three feet away. That mouse didn’t have a chance.
Seymour’s favorite game, though, was still with our smallest cat, Tanner. The play: He spotted Tanner and gave chase (you could almost hear bugles). Tanner ran around a chair. Seymour headed her off, and Tanner sprinted down the hall with Seymour a fraction of an inch behind. He never caught her. The fun was in the chase.
In quieter moments, while watching television or reading in the evenings, Seymour sat purring on the couch next to me, nuzzling my hand with that massive head. Although if attention lagged, he quickly jumped down and moved to the end of the couch. Watching closely for reaction, he deliberately scratched the couch just long enough for me to throw a paper at him. He then ran under the coffee table, knocked his head on the underside, and looked up ridiculously cross-eyed. I think he was laughing.
In January Seymour appeared sick. He was thin. His coat was dull and unkempt, and he was drinking too much water. While testing him, Dr. Shirey kept saying, “No. I don’t want this to be, not Seymour, not diabetes.”
Seymour did have diabetes. He also had feline leukemia. By this time, his condition was so critical that Dr. Parker referred us to UCD Veterinary Hospital for emergency and extended care, where Dr. Wilson believed him to be dying.
The following morning, an excited Sherri Wilson called, exclaiming, “Your cat is awake! He’s hungry! He’s great! Seymour’s going to make it!” Now alert, Seymour hrrumped at his attendants. They hrrumped back, and a three-legged cat conquered UCD’s Veterinary complex.
For several months after that, each Friday Seymour visited the UCDVM Small Animal Clinic. Every hour, for 24 hours, he held his leg straight out so Dr. Wilson’s technicians could take blood samples. One tech declared with some awe, “Cats don’t do this! People don’t do this! I only hope I’m half as good if I ever have to go to the hospital. Seymour’s a real champion.”
The champ’s courage held, but his life depended on a delicate balance of calories and twice-daily injections of insulin. At home, as in the hospital, he was stoic about the injections, but was less tolerant about being hungry. The day he jumped up on the table and demolished half a brick of butter, Dr. Wilson increased both food and insulin. Seymour gained weight and his fur became soft and shiny again. For a few months he was the picture of a healthy cat.
Around the second week in October Seymour had the first of several seizures. Dr. Parker found nothing wrong. Since he was no longer seizing, we took him home. An hour later he was chasing Tanner down the hall.
Four weeks later, seizures begun on Thanksgiving Day continued without pause through a sad weekend. In the end, they destroyed the brain that had always willed Seymour to survive. During that time, no doctors in a trauma center anywhere ever worked harder trying to save their patient. It was not to be. By this time blind and unconscious, Seymour’s extraordinary luck finally ran out.
Should we have euthanized him when we first knew of his diabetes? No. Diabetes is treatable. If Seymour hadn’t also had feline leukemia, he might this minute be demolishing his toy mouse or tormenting Tanner (now an old lady of 15). In fact, his successor, Maurice, my companion for the past ten years, is a fat, happy, zany, diabetic cat.
Did Seymour get a bad break? Did we. He didn’t seem to think so, and I don’t. Despite his ills, he lived his time with zest and panache.
Seymour. He loved everyone and he loved life. God, how he loved life!

###

TOMORROW OR TODAY

© 2018 Barbara Grace Lake

 

Why angst and discontent today
What tolls a person’s happiness
Foreseeing pleasure or the fact
A languid Sunday morning feast
Too quickly gone, and dishes washed
Tomorrow then, tomorrow then

When still a child I anxiously
Would sit up late to Santa see
He never came but stockings did
Then Christmas morning ripping gifts
At night-time wondering what they were
Tomorrow then, tomorrow then

When in my teens I firmly knew
That happiness was twenty-one
But that day came there was no change
Adult or minor faces still
Uncertain future beyond reach
Tomorrow then, tomorrow then

A picnic planned, a rainy day
A blanket spread upon the floor
No taste forfeit in chicken legs
Why wait for sun to show its warmth
Enjoy each other till it does
Tomorrow then, tomorrow then

And then tomorrow is today.

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