Saturday, July 1, 2017

Editor's Corner

July 2017

“He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” –Harold Wilson

That quote would be a good lead in to part of Mattie Lennon's "Irish Eyes" this month as he discusses the Clarkes Funeral Home in Dublin. He also tells what is the latest with other poets at Listowel's literary conclave, and mentions quietly that his own play will be performed soon.

 Thomas F. Neill of Pennsylvania who is teaching in Suchou, China, shares in his column "Introspective" how he brings information out to intrigue his young students keeping them interested in education. Dayvid Clarkson who resides in British Columbia, Canada, whimsically gathers his thoughts in his "Reflections of the Day."

 The Cohenours, Melinda who researches for "Armchair Genealogy" so enthusiastically, and Rod who loves cooking and bringing delightful recipes ("Cooking With Rod") to the readers' attention, live in the busy area of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, while LC Van Savage prepares her column "Consider This" and other compositions such as the article "Letters to France Olive" in the northern state of Maine. The other article, "A Strange Journey - on Anxiety" is reprinted from the author Bethany Whitaker's blog "Altogether Beautiful" now composed in the deep South part of the USA.

Our poets speak to us from all over the world, specifically this month, Bud Lemire from Rhode Island, John I Blair from the heart of Texas, and Bruce Clifford from the far southern Florida. Clifford's poem for July is "Falling Apart;" Blair's half dozen are "Basil Bee," Goldenrod Late September," "Last Day of November," "Stress," "Look at This Girl" and "Sitting on The Rail;" Lemire's are "Coma," "More To Everybody's Story," "The Woman of The Rainbow," and the epic story poem, "Filemma."

We have other authors who usually are published in this International eZine, like Judith Kroll ("On Trek") of the Northwestern part of the USA, and poets from the UK, Australia, Germany, Greenland, etc. Over 500 writers have published with Pencil Stubs Online in the last twenty years, some going on to become book authors in the hard back book venue. We appreciate each of them and their compositions, and hope to continue bringing their work the attention it deserves.

Mike Craner, without whom this ezine would have never made the web, deserves credit for his expertise and patience. He has added many of his poems and stories, though none recently with his demanding occupation, but to access his bio and a clickable list of his work here is the link to "Mikes Place" and more of his writings.

See you in August !!!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

Reflections on the Day

      There is part of me that wants to write, a part that wants to theorize, a part that wants to sculpt, a part that wants to teach … To force myself into a single role, to decide to be just one thing in life, would kill off large parts of me. Rather, I recognize that I live now and only now, and I will do what I want to do this moment and not what I decided was best for me yesterday.”

      “I am not interested so much in what I do with my hands or words as what I do with my feelings. I want to live from the inside out, not from the outside in.

New post

      Watching Grand Father Sun and Father Sky painting the canvas again tonight. Brilliant colours of orange, pinks, and azure blue dance across the clouds. A momentary opening and a flash of sunlight strikes me in the eyes. I was briefly disturbed by this as if it was some sort of inconvenience. A disturbance if you will.

      Then, on reflection, I realized it was not an inconvenience or a disturbance. It was as it was and did not become unpleasant till I labeled it and created it as something negative. The waves hold no malice as they beat on the shore it just is. So many times I have categorized something that did not need to be named. I will let this go. I cannot be angry at the rain; it simply does not know how to fall up. ..

      Waiting for the sun to go down, waiting for the moon and a billion stars. I close my eyes and drift away into the miracle of the night. I slip deeper until the wings of an Elder lift me up and carry me to my lessons. The magic of night works powerfully on my soul. I feel the confidence rise that will propel me on my waking journey. I am eternally grateful to the Divine for sharing this wondrous gift.

      Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow, Dayvid

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Armchair Genealogy.

A Much Maligned Man: Sidney Washington Creek

Born: 13 January 1832 in Liberty, Clay County, Missouri
Died: 12 September 1892 in Liberty, Clay County, Missouri

Chapter 3 in the Life of the Much Maligned Man

      The last chapter covering the life and times of Sidney Washington Creek hinted at the most tumultuous period in his life – the events leading up to, including, and following the Civil War. In order to fully understand the man and his actions we must attempt to immerse ourselves into the atmosphere attendant upon his life.

      The impetus for much of the violence that would ultimately erupt was presaged by the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 that called for the issue of slavery to be decided by the settlers of the recently opened land. The settlers had to determine whether Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state or a free state. This option incited open confrontations between the non-slaveholders who envisioned their property rights and future earnings would be seriously degraded by the more powerful, wealthier slaveholders whose properties would be worked by cheap slave labor. It was not viewed by many as a question of morality but of optional competition for land, farm goods, and market!

      From Wikipedia, “ Immigrants supporting both sides of the question arrived in Kansas to establish residency and gain the right to vote. However, Kansas Territory officials were appointed (1854) by the pro-slavery administration of President Franklin Pierce (in office 1853–1857), and thousands of non-resident pro-slavery Missourians entered Kansas with the goal of winning elections. They captured territorial elections, sometimes by fraud and intimidation. In response, Northern abolitionist elements flooded Kansas with "free-soilers." Anti-slavery Kansas residents wrote the first Kansas Constitution (1855) and elected the Free State legislature in Topeka; this stood in opposition to the pro-slavery government in Lecompton. The two Territorial governments increased as well as symbolized the strife of Bleeding Kansas.”

      Out of this turbulence among the next-door Kansans, arose the formation of a group called the Red Legs. Made infamous by Clint Eastwood’s movie, ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales,’ the actuality of their heinous behavior has been obscured by most historians in the interest of subverting the cause of the South in the Civil War and illuminating the morality and heroism of the Union.

      Treated by many researchers, authors, and historians as ‘just another name for the Kansas Jayhawkers,’ it is critical to our comprehension of the actions undertaken by family members and neighbors of Sidney Creek to recognize this group as an actual unique entity – a gang, if you will, with leadership, a credo, and loyal members. Donald Gilmore has an excellent treatise on this era and, specifically, discusses the Red Legs as a band of desperados.

      “In 1862, brigade commander, General James Lane and his regimental commanders Cols. Charles Jennison and James Montgomery led a violent spree up the western border of Missouri. Lane invaded Osceola Missouri, burned it to the ground, robbed its bank, killed a number of its citizens, and looted the town and adjoining farms of everything valuable and transportable, including a large number of slaves. Following the destruction of Osceola, Lane’s regiments pushed north and destroyed Dayton, Columbus, Papinville, Morristown, Clinton, West Point, Harrisonville, and Butler, Missouri.” The Kansas Red Legs in Missouri

      It should be noted that Tony O’Bryan (University of Missouri, Kansas City) dated this outrage as having occurred in September of 1861. He went on to describe the group as follows:

      “The Red Legs were a somewhat secretive organization of about 50 to 100 ardent abolitionists who were hand selected for harsh duties along the border. Membership in the group was fluid and some of the men went on to serve in the 7th Kansas Cavalry or other regular army commands and state militias. They are associated with a lesser-known group that called themselves the “buckskin scouts,” and they served as an auxiliary arm to regular troops, such as the 6th Kansas Cavalry on punitive expeditions into Missouri. The legendary James “Wild Bill” Hickok, then still just a teenager, William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and fellow Pony Express rider William S. Tough are among the few individuals known to have served with the Red Legs. Buffalo Bill Cody admitted that as a member of the Red Legs, “We were the biggest thieves on record.” SOURCE:

      Donald Gilmore pulled no punches. His description paints a picture of vicious outlaws whose violence knew no bounds:

      “We need to know when the Red Legs operated, why they operated, where they operated, and what crimes they committed. But first, we need to know precisely who these desperadoes were. Because they WERE a specific group of armed, named, now-known killers, who swarmed over the western border counties of Missouri and the eastern counties of Kansas, stealing the money of Missourians, robbing their farms of equipment, livestock, furniture, crockery, gold, and jewelry. And they often killed the older men folk who tried to stop them, often hanging them by their necks upon a tree, torturing them to learn where their money and valuables were hidden or just killing them outright.”

George Caleb Bingham, the famous Missouri artist and a Union officer, in his famous painting, “Order No. 11,” shows a Red Leg in Union tunic, wearing Red Leggings, intimidating an old gentleman after murdering his evidently unarmed son. Two other men wearing plumed hats, a Red Leg practice, are evident in the same scene. A fourth Red Leg, wearing scarlet leggings, loads loot on a wagon behind the third-mentioned Red Leg. A fifth Red Leg, more casually dressed, with his white shirt open loosely at the neck, appears at the left of the painting, riding a blooded horse and carrying on his lap the plantation owner’s wife’s traditional basket of valuables, where she hid her keys and jewelry. This Red Leg thief is also wearing red leggings but no black plume in his hat. It’s George Hoyt, field leader of the Red Legs. Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing is shown on horseback at the middle left of Bingham’s painting, fully demonstrating his connection to the Red Legs.
Bingham’s painting portrays a violent, thieving, Red Leg Hey-day

      Sidney Washington Creek, if you read Chapter 1 of his story, was the third son, fourth child born to Jacob Haudenscheldt (Howdyshell) Creek and his wife Virginia Lee Younger Creek. The Younger family was headed by its patriarch Charles Lee Younger, one of the wealthiest men in Missouri at that time, holding large plantations in several locations throughout the state farmed by slaves. He also owned some of the best horseflesh in the state and was an aficionado of horseracing. He came to Missouri with his close friend, Daniel Boone, after the death of his first wife, Nancy Toney, but ultimately returned to Kentucky for a few years because the “Indians were too bad.” He would later return and establish a very successful ferrying operation, providing transport to the many pioneers flooding into the rich Missouri farmlands.

      Virginia’s older brother was Henry Washington Younger who served in the House of Missouri under Gov. Reeder, Pawnee Territorial capitol and in 1859 served as Mayor of Harrisonville. Henry and wife, Bursheba Fristoe Younger were among the wealthiest of Missourians at the start of the Civil War, having amassed a fortune of about $100,000 at that time. (Assuming a steady inflation rate of 1.77% from 1865 to 2017, that would be equal to $1,438,291.87.) Henry owned plantations, racehorses, and a mercantile. He was a pacifist and attempted to quell strife - a significant fact that feeds the current of this story. For, in his role as mayor, leader of the local townsfolk, Henry attempted to avert open hostilities in his area. He and his wife hosted a number of gala parties, always keen to include the officers of the ever-present Union Army. At one of these parties a young married officer, a Captain Wiley, made unwanted and lascivious passes at the young daughter of Henry Younger. Cole, the elder brother, upheld her honor by taking the Captain outside whereupon he dealt justice via fisticuffs. This event would, ultimately, breed its own vicious and unexpected aftermath. For, the young daughter became the target of retaliation. Shortly after this event, she was violently raped by one of the Union soldiers, believed to have been Wiley himself although this fact was never firmly established by anyone other than Cole Younger.

      Cole would later relate the manner in which he learned of this outrage in a rare transcription of a private conversation he held in his elder years with a friend, Harry Hoffman. Hoffman wrote up the whole story and through the auspices of our family historians, your author has been made a recipient of that tale. First, the unwanted molestation. Then, Cole’s lesson to Capt. Wiley. Then, the burning of family estates in Harrisonville and other areas of Missouri by the Red Legs. Then, Cole frustrated by the local Confederate leader, joined up with William Clarke Quantrill in his band of Raiders, along with his brother-in-law John Jarrette and a number of cousins including Sidney Washington Creek, Creth Creek, Abner Creek, and other kin. Shortly afterward, Henry Washington Younger was waylaid by a group believed to have been none other than Capt. Wiley and his band of no-goods. He was robbed, beaten, slain, and left in the dirt as retaliation. Cole heard of the outrage and visited home. There he found his young sister had taken to her room, refusing to speak or otherwise involve herself in the usual home activities. Cole’s tale:

      “When I arrived home I missed my sister, who was about eighteen years old. I asked where she was and was told that she was not feeling well, and was lying down. I went up to her room. She came forward to meet me. Her eyes were swollen and I could see she had been crying. I asked her what was troubling her. At first she avoided answering. I Insisted. She said, “Brother, I am afraid to tell you.” But when I continued to press her for an answer, she told me of the brutal treatment she had received at the hands of that beast. You can imagine how I felt when she laid her head on my shoulder and burst out crying. I said to her, ‘Sister, be as brave as you can. I promise you now that captain will never bother you in the future.’ I had decided that minute to make him pay, and after he paid he would never be able to return to persecute my sister, or any other virtuous girl again.”

      Needless to say, Cole and his group located the Captain and his company of fifteen Federal troops and exacted his revenge. All were open prey to his companions, save and except the man who accosted and raped his sister. He was saved for Cole who summarily executed him.

      This same conversation with Harry Hoffman infuses our understanding of the era by illustrating the role the Red Legs and their atrocities played in the lives of Cole Younger and his Creek cousins, Sid, Creth, Abner, and ultimately my own 2nd great grandfather Absalom. Cole Younger’s words again, as his notoriety caused their preservation and we believe he spoke not only for himself, but for our family – including Sid:

      “Jackson County, Missouri, where I was born was the very seat of the border strife between Kansas Free Staters, generally called Red Legs, and the southern sympathizers of Missouri.”

      “The Red Legs were followers of Jim Lane of Lawrence and John Brown of Osawatomie, both in Kansas. From early in the Eighteen-Fifties the national political question of slavery had been boiling to the point of explosion, which happened in 1861. I was born January 15, 1844. When I was around ten years of age, my playmates and I didn’t play as many other boys throughout the land did play. We formed squads of soldiers; one side would be Red Legs; the other, as we called it, ‘South Side’. We nearly always planned it so that the South Side won. We finally had to quit the game for the reason none of the boys would take the part of Red Legs.”

      “At night, when the family sat around the fireplace, the conversation always drifted to the acts of violence and destruction perpetrated by the Red Legs, and the demagoguery of Jim Lane and John Brown. Neighbors would congregate throughout that section to discuss the outrages perpetrated by these men and their followers.”

      “Early In 1862, I signed up with Quantrill, thinking, as the others did at that time, that we would eventually be taken into the Confederate Army, which never happened.”

      To lend balance we once again turn to the words of Donald Gilmore in his treatise ‘the Dark Underbelly”:

      “The young Missouri guerrillas led by Quantrill were the only defenders of Western Missourians against the Red Legs, the Union Army, and the Union Militias. The older men were back East fighting the Yankees.”

      It was in this atmosphere that Sidney Washington Creek left his little farm and young family and joined The Cause. The final chapter in his life will be related in next month’s column.

Next month, the dramatic end to the story of Sidney Washington Creek. Stay tuned.
Researched and Compiled by Melinda Carroll Cohenour – Spring 2017.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Cooking With Rod

A New Take on Fourth of July Fare

      It’s almost the Fourth of July! Fireworks! Watermelon! Barbecue on the grill, hamburgers, hotdogs, steaks, ears of corn…but this year my lovely wife has a different idea (since Barbecue is sort of standard Summer fare around here).

      So, this year we’re cooking up some Creole – some really mouth-watering, tasty, stomach-filling, give-me-more Creole. We have a love of all things spicy. This recipe brings on the spice in several ways: chili powder, Cajun spice, red pepper flakes, and bottled hot chili sauce. Add a small amount and taste before adding more. Remember, cooking and standing will intensify the heat! The layered flavors of spice result in a gloriously rich and tasty flavor.

      This meal satisfies the eye and fills the tummy at the same time. It goes very well with all the time-honored 4th of July classics: a wonderful crispy salad with avocadoes and tomatoes, ears of corn on the cob fresh off the grill, a side of red beans with ham hock and onion can’t go wrong, corn bread in any of its best loved guises, big cold pitchers of iced tea and lemonade, and a host of desserts (which MUST, of course, include cold, fresh watermelon.)

      Bon appetit! 

Creole Mélange over Rice
(Shrimp-Chicken-Polska Jambalaya)
Recipe by Melinda Cohenour - 2010


  • 2-3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1 Orange Bell Pepper, diced
  • 3-4 stalks Celery, de-string and chop in thin half-moons
  • 1 white or yellow Onion, diced 
  • 4 or 5 cloves Garlic
  • 2 bags Shrimp, deveined and shelled (jumbo about 20-25 per lb, or medium 31-40 per lb)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless Chicken Strips
  • 2 lbs. Polska Kielbasa sausage loops
  • Large can Tomato Juice, unsalted
  • 2 Large can Stewed Tomatoes or 1 Large and 2 small or 4 small cans
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 Tbsp. crushed Basil
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning (Emeril’s is a favorite but any classic will do)
  • Dash of Crushed Red Pepper flakes
  • Dash of bottled hot sauce (Louisiana Hot Sauce, Cholula Hot Sauce, Tabasco Hot Sauce, pick your poison and season to taste – and add only a few drops at a time)
  • 4 cups White long-grain rice, cooked, hot and flaky (Prepare per package directions). This should make at least 8 cups rice.
  • 8 cups Water for rice
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
  • Green onion tops diced for garnish

      Put water on to boil. Add rice, let cook 30 minutes with lid on pot (or follow package directions). Do not lift lid, but remove from heat and let sit while preparing Creole mixture. Fluff with fork before serving.
      Season chicken with spices listed reserving most of the spices for the jambalaya. Broil until cooked through and lightly browned on both sides.
      Saute celery, onions, garlic, and bell pepper in hot oil in large skillet until onion is clear. Add canned stewed tomatoes and continue simmering until bell pepper and celery is tender. Add tomato juice and bring to a boil. Add cooked chicken that has been cut into bite size pieces (each strip cut into 2-3 pieces). Lower heat to simmer.
      Broil Polska Kielbasa 7 minutes, flipping after 5 minutes to brown both sides. Slice into ¼- ½ inch pieces. Add to tomato-vegetable mixture. (Note: sometimes I slice the Polska Kielbasa and cook in a skillet to cause the sausage to burst and release its flavorful juices and braise in those juices. I add about ¼ cup water, cover to steam, then uncover, lower heat and let the water cook off. Permit the sausage pieces to brown on one side, then turn, add a bit more water to loosen the brown bits. Repeat. Then add sausage to large pot. With Jambalaya I do not rinse out and add the pan brownings to the pot because I want the dish to look red and fresh.)
      Add shrimp, after rinsing. Bring back to boil and let cook 5 minutes or just until the shrimp have become pink and curled. Lower heat to simmer. Add last dash of chili pepper, stir and serve over rice. Do not overcook or shrimp will be tough. Add parsley – stir well. Garnish individual servings with green onion tops, chopped fine and a sprig of fresh parsley.

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    Consider This

    Wrinkles? Who Cares?

           I recently read that about 2500 years ago in Greece, wearing unwrinkled clothing was a status symbol. It meant one was refined, clean and probably rich. This article also said that the devices used to remove wrinkles weren’t heated, they were simply pressed against the clothing. Even pleats. Can you even imagine doing that? Talk about labor intensive.

          Irons back then were called “goffering irons” and no I do not know how to say that in Greek. They consisted of an iron bar resembling a cook’s rolling pin. Someone had obviously tired of endlessly pushing down on wrinkled garments, and decided to heat the bar and try doing it that way. Voila! Ironing was invented. Countless women and even some men have regretted this discovery ever since. As for me, I find wrinkles kind of adorable. Cozy. The lived-in look. I intentionally keep a lot in my clothing, and the Force knows I carry lots on my face, unintentionally of course.

           Anyway, a couple of centuries later the Romans invented something even better for pleats—what’s with all the pleats with those guys? Didn’t they just wear togas? Who puts pleats in togas? Well, maybe the very wealthy wore other things that need pleating. Why oh why in the name of fashion do we constantly make so much work for ourselves?

          So, the Romans heated a small metal flattish mallet, and called that a mangle and I also don’t know how to say that in either Latin or Greek, and with that, they hammered wrinkles out of clothing and hammered pleats into them. That too was labor intensive, so they began to wonder what other methods they could employ to get the smooth fabric look they craved without the hard labor? Easy answer. They made their slaves do it.

          Then along came the Vikings, and Vikings being Vikings didn’t want anyone on the planet to look better than they, so they began to sport wrinkle-free clothing and pleated garments too. Their iron of choice resembled an upside-down mushroom they heated and rocked back and forth on damp clothing. Smooth clothing and pleats were a huge status symbol to the snobby Vikings. As they strutted about in their wrinkle free ensembles between pillages, they knew their elevated status was obvious to everyone.

          Moving on up to the fifteenth century, wealthy Europeans had an iron they called a “hot box.” Also made of metal, it was heated with a hot brick or hot coals and they used that to iron their clothing. Their poorer neighbors had it a little easier, and happens that those folks of lesser means were also much smarter; they used what they called the “flat iron”---a name that’s still used today. They heated it over a fire so they could iron out wrinkles, but alas, to their dismay, the fire covered the irons with soot which didn’t add much to the sartorial desires of the owners. Life is so often series of glitches, isn’t it? They eventually figured out how to heat the iron and avoid the soot which I’ll bet was a real eureka moment.

          When gas lighting became the thing, inventors experimented heating the irons with gas. Bad idea. They leaked a lot and what’s worse, they frequently exploded. After killing the ironer, they often then caused the house to catch fire. Gas heated irons had a fairly short history.

          People went back to heating irons on the stove. Those things could weigh 15 lbs. or more. Housewives must have had strong arms, all so that their clothing could be wrinkle free. The irons came in all sizes and designs, some with detachable handles so milady could heat one while another was in use.

          Electricity came along and phew, finally a light weight-iron that heated and cooled at will. It could even blast out steam on command! A miracle! Life was good. Wrinkles were in full retreat. But as far as I’m concerned, irons were—and still are--- instruments of domestic torture.

          Personally, I own several of those old stove-heated heavy flat irons. They make fabulous bookends. Tied to the handles they keep the wires of one’s electric blanket under the bed so someone creeping about in the dark doesn’t trip and fall flat, they easily hold recalcitrant doors open, keep piled magazines piled, and can be used as effective clobbering weapons when some entitled jerks decide to come into your personal space to relieve you of your possessions.

          Do I iron clothes? You’re kidding, right? No. I do however send up short prayers of thanks to the guy who invented clothes dryers. Those lovely machines get out the worst of the wrinkles, and anyway, the people with whom Mongo and I hang out are as wrinkled as we are, fabric-wise and skin-wise. So who really cares? Oh, and we definitely do own a steam iron ---it’s around here somewhere---I’m sure of it...

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    Irish Eyes

    Poets Plays And Funeral Homes

       Last month I told you I was on my way to the 46th Listowel Writers’ Week. And needless to say it didn’t disappoint. The opening was an evening of anticipation, celebration and entertainment. The festival was opened by Richard Ford. The Jackson, Mississippi author and winner of many awards regaled us with a witty and informative speech. We learned among other things that he certainly didn’t vote for Donald Trump.

      The John B. Keane Lifetime achievement award was presented to Brendan Kennelly. Ryan Tubridy didn’t exactly sit still but artist P.J. Lynch painted a wonderful portrait of him in ONE HOUR.

    Ryan Tubridy

       Former Government Minister Jimmy Deenihan has found a connection between Shakespeare and Listowel. According to Jimmy the Character MacMorris in King Henry 5th is based on a one-time resident of Listowel Castle. And . . . he also claimed that the first Writers’ week was not in 1971 as we were always lead to believe but in 1589 when three poets came to the Castle with the intention of staying for three days but left six months later.

       Space doesn’t permit me to even scratch the surface of the action-packed week.

        Listowel playwright Tony Guerin has written another play “Jury PM”. In the words of one journalist Tony “ . . .looks at the workings of justice in the crosshairs of his pen.” The play is about a jury charged with coming to a decision in a Rape case. Perhaps it's down to having worked as a detective on the mean streets of Dublin at a time when drug gangs and junkies were starting to wreak havoc, but Tony Guerin ain't much interested in frying small fish. His first big drama Cuckoo Blue took on Garda corruption long before 'Donegal cops' became a byword for the abuse of power within the force; Solo Run went gunning for the cruellest realities of Catholic dogma based on an horrific true-life tragedy in Listowel and The Laird of Doon tackled paedophilia, to name but three of his hardest-hitting works.

       Now, at 78 years of age, Tony is as engaged as ever with public life and the workings of justice in his latest play.

       It's a hot-topic subject following the recent collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick trial. It's to be staged later this year in Dublin. Meanwhile, Tony has also updated his classic 'Solo Run' for a run early next year with his great interpreters in the Lartigue Drama Group. And he has another two plays on the go at present - it's enough to leave writers even half his age feeling exhausted.

       "I had three novels written, one of them published, before I turned to drama and it was the making of me as I never had much interest in describing colours, or hairstyles or the quality of light on the bog say. It was the human drama of the story I was only after and I can't believe it's more than 20 years now since Danny Hannon produced Cuckoo Blue for the first time!" Garda corruption was at the core of it - 'it was straight from what I'd seen on the force.' 'There were a lot of good people in the guards of course, but you had lads too who abused the 'button power' of their uniforms.'

       Trial by indictment in this State falls under the Guerin microscope in Jury PM. The subject matter sounds overly worthy explained like this, but the play is very much the opposite of dull. Like all his work, it's bursting with brilliant, boisterous dialogue, larger-than-life characters and hilarious exchanges. " Jury 'PM' refers to 'post mortem' and it's about a particular jury charged with coming to a decision in a rape case.

       Just like his earlier play “Cuckoo Blue” “Jury PM” is based on Tony’s experience as a Garda. He says, “I always said 'lucky was the accused who had self-employed people on the jury' as I remember one friend, a builder who was trying to get a number of houses done when he was called, telling me he walked straight into the deliberation room when the hearing was over saying 'he's guilty'. But another juror said 'hang on now, we need to discuss this'. 'Ok fine, he's not guilty' he said. He had fellas working on the buildings and needed to get back to work immediately.” “Jury PM” is a brilliant play; not to be missed and it has the trademark Tony Guerin “twist.”

       Just back from Writers’ Week I was asked to say a few words at the opening of a funeral HOME. Clarke’s Funeral Directors, , was established in 1945 by Michael Clarke. It was always a family- run business. It is now managed by Tony, Regina and Gordon. Three generations have run the business from Main Street, Blessington. It has now moved to a new state of the art premises at Burgage Mor, just outside the town. This new facility offers a large car park and inside has a relaxing foyer, two funeral viewing rooms, family reception room, offices, kitchen, display room which all come with ancillary requirements.

       One of the main aims of the Clarke Family is to work with the bereaved to organize a funeral in a calm, organized and dignified manner. They work hard to carry out all arrangements in a stress free manner tailored to each family’s individual requirements. In addition to religious services Clarke's Funeral Directors can also cater for non-denominational, humanist and civil ceremonies When the ribbon was cut by Regina and Gordon Clarke , with a giant ceremonial scissors, Clergy of several denominations, people who had availed of Clarkes’ services in their time of bereavement and local dignitaries listened as present head of the dynasty Tony Clarke, in a witty and word-perfect speech , thanked all who had been involved in the project. It seemed like the list was endless. Names rolled off Tony’s tongue without reference to notes. (Or as one local wag said, ”without the aid of ropes or pulleys.” As the large crowd dispersed, after copious refreshments, Gordon Clarke took custody of the large ceremonial scissors. No doubt it will be eventually passed on the fourth generation of Clarke undertakers. (I’m told that the towels in Tony Clarke’s bathroom are marked HIS and HEARSE. ) Tony is a good few years younger than me and I called in to let him know about my only remaining ambition. When I shuffle off I want to be brought in, feet first, to the aforementioned established by a ninety-five year old Tony Clarke.

        As George Bernard Shaw said, “Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh. “ Some deaths are commented on in colourful language and at Clarke’s Funeral Parlour opening many colourful stories were told. One fellow told me, “I’m Just got back from my mate's funeral. He died after being hit on the head with a tennis ball. It was a lovely service.” Speaking of which, we, in west Wicklow, are sometimes accused of having a peculiar attitude to death. I don’t think we have and by way of illustration let me tell you the following story which I picked up the same day. Many years ago when English writer John D. Vose was doing research for his book Tales and Yarns of Glendalough, he was interviewing sheep-farmer Bill fanning, in Zeller’s pub in Lacken. Bill related how when he and Paddy Haley were rounding up sheep over Liffey Head they went into Nick Higgins for a “sup o’ tay.” Nick lived with his younger brother John and an older sister who had lived in America for years. Over to Bill Fanning; “Well, Frank asks after the old sister’s health. ‘She’s sick in bed ‘says Nick, ‘John’s just after takin’ her up some tay’. Me and old Haley goes off up the mountain after strays and we’re away for several hours. When we came back Frank asks Nick how the sister was. Oh’ says Nick’ she’s not so good at all. She died two hours ago and John’s gone off to find someone to take her away’. Oh you had some quare adventures in my day along the road.”

        My play “And All his Songs Were Sad” which is based on the life and works of the late Sean McCarthy will be staged for the first time in Ireland on July 08th. See Link;

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    We all want and need to feel valued for who we are and recognized for our
    contributions and accomplishments. It’s important for us to know
    that we have made a difference in someone’s life.

          If a person takes the time to express their heart-felt appreciation for something we have done, it boosts our spirit, passion, and purpose. It builds our self-confidence, self-esteem and our entire self-image. It gives us energy and motivation to work harder and do more.

          It has been said that people who feel appreciated will always do more than what is expected of them.

          We all should show appreciation because what we take for granted can be lost or taken away then we end up missing most what we least appreciated.

          I have found that when I give people a sincere compliment, words of encouragement or just a warm smile, I am making their world a better place. I make them feel appreciated and valuable.

          When you express your approval or gratitude for something others have done, you will not only enhance their lives, but you will enrich yours as well. You will feel more fulfilled because you have done something to make someone else’s life better.

          Our appreciation can literally make someone’s day or change a person’s life for the better. We just need to take the time to put it into words and that is all that is necessary to help others feel valued.

          One of the laws of the universe states that what we give we get in return. It costs little or nothing to appreciate the people in our lives, and it almost always follows suit that people will demonstrate their gratitude for what you do.

          When you show an interest in others by noticing the good things they’ve done, they will be drawn to you like a magnet. It will accelerate the relationship building process and enhance their overall impression of you.

          When you show your appreciation to others, their respect for you will grow and so will your influence as a leader. In today’s world people have choices. They absolutely prefer to work with people they like and trust and who show an interest in them.

          Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

          It’s a free form of currency. People will do more for recognition than they will for money. If you are in a leadership position, remember that people will work harder and do more if they know they will be recognized for their accomplishments. Show them you care and they will be loyal to you, even if better opportunities come their way.

          Make a list of those people who regularly do things for you, friends, family members, and those you meet on a daily bases. When this list is complete, go back over each name and determine how you can express your appreciation for the things they do for you in a way that makes them feel noticed and valued.

          Let me also encourage you to thank 100% of the people for 100% of the things they do to make your life better, even if it’s part of their job description. Whether it’s the hostess who seats you in a restaurant, a grocery clerk who scans and bags your groceries, everyone deserves to be thanked.

          Begin to adopt an attitude of gratitude. People who show their appreciation and gratitude are much happier than the people who never do.

          If you begin to adopt an attitude of appreciation you will also find yourself smiling more and people liking you more for just being you.
      Always with love from Suzhou, China
      Thomas F O’Neill
      WeChat - Thomas_F_ONeill
      U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
      China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
      Skype: thomas_f_oneill
      Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:
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    Basil Bee

    I’m glad to see a bee upon my basil,
    Buzzing from flower to flower,
    Content on this September day
    As if it were July and winter far away.

    The microscopic nectar bits
    It gets from tiny basil blooms
    Seem scarcely worth the effort;
    But I know that in the hive

    The summer’s work, accumulated,
    Amounts to pints or quarts
    Of sweetness, fragrant
    With the basil’s spiciness,

    Rich with all the time,
    The lives of many bees,
    None of which had contemplated
    If what it did, or what the basil did,
    Was worthy.

    ©2016, John I. Blair, 9/9/2016

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    As you walk right by, I know you're here
    If I could talk, I'd tell you “have no fear”
    For once, I did have a voice
    I'm glad that I had made my choice
    You've heard my call
    And I love you all

     I try so hard, but I can not speak
    I can barely move, and I feel so weak
    I wish I could break free
    Yet I can hardly see
    I want to share, what's on my mind
    The words won't come, at least that's what I find

    I don't want another test
    I know I'm not at my very best
    Please, just let me go
    This is something, that you know
    I've seen the world, I lived a great life
    I return to nothing, no more your strife

    Thanks for holding my hand, I knew it was you
    I appreciate all you did, and all that you do
    I can slightly, wiggle my toes
    The things I know, nobody else knows
    I can say, that it's just as well
    That my time had come, on the day I fell
    ©June 28, 2017 Bud Lemire
                             Author Note:
    As most of you may have guessed, I wrote this
    with my brother Clyde in mind. “I Return To
    Nothing” is because he didn't believe in the
    afterlife. Which is something I strongly believe
    in. I believe he will quite surprised when he is
    there and meets up with my Mom, my brother
    Terry, and many others he thought were gone
    forever. I can't imagine being in a Coma, but
    I tried my best here. I put myself in his place,
    and tried to imagine. I believe we are half here
    and half in The Spirit World. Just waiting to be
    set free so we can be fully somewhere. But as
    we are in this state, we do take in the voices and
    the people who are at our side.

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    Look at This Girl

    Look at this girl
    Lacing her own ice skates
    At the age of nine.

    I was fourteen
    Before I learned
    To tie my shoes.

    Every child is a miracle
    Happening before our eyes;
    All we need to do is look.

    All we need to do is love.

    ©2017 John I. Blair, 6/15/2017

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    Falling Apart

    So many times I drifted away
    My dreams at night and in the day
    They can’t take away my lone defense
    Deciding on what will be next

    So many times I drifted apart
    Counting the flashes of nearby stars
    You can’t run through this wall of fire
    Never knowing what I desire

    Falling apart over again
    Taking it to heart again and again
    Falling apart before I can see
    All of these things that matter to me

    So many times I faded away
    Each passing moment on any given day
    Leaving this here and feeling betrayed
    Never knowing what got in the way

    It’s in my thoughts and mind
    It’s with me each and every time

    Falling apart over again
    Taking it to heart again and again
    Falling apart before I can see
    All of these things that matter to me

    So many times I drifted away
    My dreams at night and in the day
    They can’t take away my lone defense
    Deciding on what will be next

    ©6/9/17 Bruce Clifford

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    Sitting on The Rail

    Sitting on the rail alone,
    Hugging himself with tiny paws,
    The squirrel looks indecisive,

    Frigid air blasting past,
    Facing a three-foot gap
    To swaying feeders.

    At last his hunger overcomes
    Reluctance and he leaps,
    Landing safely on the other side.

    A half hour later, belly plump
    With sunflower seeds,
    He’s still there, wondering (I guess)
    Why all the other squirrels are gone.

    I only trust that he, like them,
    Has a cozy grass-lined nest
    Wedged into a treetop
    Where he can rest.

    ©2016 John I. Blair, 12/8/2016

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    More To Everybody's Story

    When I say nobody is perfect, this is what I mean
    Everyone has their faults, making them less than a King or Queen
    You think that you know them, but you don't have a clue
    There's more below the surface, than you ever knew

     A story behind each person, could be good or bad
    News about someone, might even make you sad
    Many times we just know a little, about the people that we know
    Just what's on the surface, but there is much more below

    The story their life tells, is so much more
    To know their whole life's story, better to not ignore
    Get all the facts right, get your story straight
    Then you'll know them better, and that will be great

    Sometimes you have to ask around, just to get it right
    And do a lot of research, to put things in the light
    Yet, there is always the hidden and the unknown
    A childhood friend, may have changed when they had grown

    Some of us grow, with all that we learn
    Others tend to, take the wrong turn
    Life's the greatest teacher, it teaches us well
    The story of one's life, is not always easy to tell
    ©June 14, 2017 Bud Lemire
                             Author Note:
    Each person we know has some part of their life's
    story we may not know anything about. Something
    that is hidden and unknown to us. Some trials they
    have been through in life's journey. Maybe some
    abuse of some kind. Somehow they survived and
    have come to be the people we know and love. And
    through each, they have grown and learned to be
    who they are today.

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    Last Day of November

    It’s the last day of November;
    Trees have just begun to turn
    Red and gold, rusty brown and orange,
    As autumn here in Texas

    Rolls slowly through its changes.
    Cardinals and Redwings
    Cling near the feeders,
    Stoking up for chill nights;

    Goldfinches, my winter guests,
    Are flying down from Minnesota.
    Darkness comes at six o’clock,
    Which makes our clear blue autumn skies

    Especially dear, as are the friends
    I go to see or who come to me;
    Dear just to know you’re there.

    ©2016 John I. Blair, 11/30/2016

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    She didn't know, how she could break free
    And thought being trapped there, was her destiny
    Filemma was special, and yet she didn't know
    She hadn't used her powers, so they didn't grow
    When they came for her, not too long ago
    Shackling her brutally, depressing her very soul
    It's not so much, the cause of what she had done
    Her captors, always liked a little fun
    They blamed her for the uprising, in the southern part
    Rising up against their ruler, upsetting the apple cart
    She didn't see them hiding, around the corner of her house
    They certainly were quiet, these rats were not a mouse
    They had her shackled, tightly against the wall
    Hanging up high, if she got out she'd surely fall
    And yet she had a feeling, that maybe it wouldn't be
    Yet what would break these shackles, and would set her free
    Her mind took her back, thinking of an earlier time
    When her Mother, Fortuana, had given her a sign
    She said “We come from a line, of powerful sorcerers”
    “We covered our powers, by selling many kinds of furs”
    She remembered something as a kid
    But wasn't sure what a sorcerer did
    Maybe something to do with magic, in a way
    Could it be in something, that she would say
    Words were forming in her mind
    Using her thoughts, she let them unwind
    She pushed out at her restraint
    Her shackles flew to the wall, like glitter paint
    It didn't take much of a push, to set herself free
    Now to escape this prison, and then she would see

    As she peeked around the corner, she could see a guard
    If there was only one, it shouldn't be so hard
    She wondered how this sorcery, would work on a living man
    So she once again pushed, while doing a body scan
    She didn't push too hard, she finally had the knack
    That guard toppled over, as if from a heart attack
    Who needed weapons, when you had the power of sorcery
    So powerful this magic, that it had set her free
    This was the easy part, but more enemies were outside the
    She wondered if her magic, would work against them all
    She came to a door, and wondered where it lead
    Opening it slowly, she saw someone sitting on a bed

    A man with purple hair, and eyes the purest blue
    “My Name is Mesco, please take me away with you”
    Mesco was in a prison, and would need to be set free
    She pushed at the door, and it opened without a key
    Mesco smiled, as the door opened wide
    And soon he was looking at the prison, from the outside

    Filemma and Mesco headed down the hall
    A dead end, it had lead them to a wall
    Mesco pointed and whispered, “Out the back way”
    The door that held the prison, brought them to the light of day
    Before them lead a path, that lead to a mass of trees
    A forest at the end, on one branch was a hive of bees
    They followed the path, to see where it would go
    Mesco took the lead, he seemed to know
    He slowed down, and turned to Filemma to say
    “There is hidden danger, if we go this way”
    Filemma asked “what are you talking about?”
    Then a fast movement, brought on a wild shout

    Little people holding spears, behind the trees they came
    “So this was the hidden danger,” Filemma thought without any blame
    They were speaking, with their spears pointing ahead
    So Filemma and Mesco, followed where they were lead
     Following the little people, down the path that twists and turns
    They passed trees, and bushes, and also many ferns
    Little round houses, that looked to be made of grass
    They came across a little woman, she was showing her ass
    She was dancing in the middle of a circle, as people cheered
    Filemma hope that they weren't forced into, doing something that she feared
    They passed the dancer, and stopped by the biggest house
    A little fat man was standing in the doorway, the woman must be his spouse

    They motioned the captives inside, to a chair where they could sit
    Across the room inside, a big candle was being lit
    Mesco whispered “these are the Gitchies, this is a ceremony they hold”
    Filemma was glad to know this, happy that she had been told
    She asked Mesco, what would happen next
    Mesco replied smiling, “Nothing to do with sex”
    Relieved, yet that never cross her mind
    She was happy to know, Mesco seemed so kind
    A man stood up in front, and started to speak
    Mesco with his forefinger, touched her on the cheek
    He said “he is talking about us, to his people's ears”
    Filemma listened, but she didn't have any fears

    Mesco stood up, and spoke to them in their tongue
    Words that flowed together, like a song that had been sung
    Mesco turned to Filemma, and this is what he said
    “Because we are enemies of the Castle men, we will not be dead”
    “These are the Gitchies” said Mesco with a smile
    “They have lived in these woods for quite awhile”
    “They want to know, what brought you here”
    “And to also tell you, you have nothing to fear”
    Filemma looked up, and in her memory
    Found that place, that brought her misery
    “I was bathing , not far from here, in the nude”
    “When the Castle Men, came upon me, and they were so rude”
    “they held my clothes, watching as I came out”
    “They called me dirty names, they started to shout”
    “They let me get dressed, then tied me with a rope”
    “Until a memory came upon me, I had given up on hope”

    Mesco smiled again, as they Gitchies asked how they got free
    Filemma replied “I realized through a memory, I retained sorcery”
    “You come from beyond the Mountains,” said a Gitchy from the rear
    Emotional, Filemma replied “yes,” with a tear
    “I was searching for my sister, wondering where she could be”
    “She wasn't with the same Castle men, so I couldn't set her free”
    “Some men like the Castle men, had taken her away”
    “I've been searching for her, every night and day”
    A female Gitchy stepped forward, “There is a place called Consoom”
    “A big place with many people, but it may cause you your doom”
    “Many Castle men, and people, from all around”
    “They dwell in this place, and here she might be found”

    The female Gitchy pointed to the East
    And said before they leave, they'll join them in a feast
    The Feast with many foods, so many Gitchies from everywhere
    They even gave Filemma, some food that they could spare
    “One final gift, we give to you today”
    “A charmed necklace,” as the female Gitchy walked away
    “Whenever you need help, rub this charm light”
    “It will help you anywhere, whether day or night”
    A Gitchy guided them, to a place to lay their head
    It wasn't quite as comfortable, as their own familiar bed
    But soon Filemma and Mesco, faded into slumber
    Cutting logs so many, they lost track of the number

    Taking a closer look, into a Nightmarish dream
    She was awakened, by a loud noise and a scream
    The Castle Men, were attacking her family home
    She's never seen them before, their features all unknown
    She saw them, taking her sister away
    Her sister Domina, struggling to get free
    They had her face covered, she couldn't talk or see
    Filemma ran out to stop them, but was taken from behind
    That was the last thing she remembered, darkness took her mind
    Dark skinned, dark skinned, as the sun beat down
    Her beauty spoke of royalty, but she didn't wear a crown

    Just a trader of furs, nothing more than that
    Living in her village home, is where she was at
    Just a handful of family, were left to tend the place
    All the others killed, by an enemy that showed no face
    She came to, and she looked around
    For traces of the footprints, and where they were bound
    She'll get her sister back, no matter what it takes
    Already she was feeling, all the familiar aches
    Then she found herself bathing in a stream
    This almost felt like, this could be a dream
    Castle Men grabbed her, and tied her up real tight
    Blindfolded her, and cut off her daylight
    It was so tight, she'd never break free
    She wished, that she could somehow see
    Feeling like someone, was giving her a shake
    It was Mesco, “It's time to come awake”

    Realization, that the two sets of Castle Men weren't the same
    It was from different places, that each of them came
    So she knew the place, had to be Consoom
    With a little luck, it wouldn't be her doom
    They thanked the Gitchies for the feast
    And the provisions to take, as they headed east
    One thing Filemma thought, as they headed down the trail
    They needed to free her sister, and they couldn't fail

    After half a day's walk, they came to more trees
    From inside the Gitchy backpack, she tasted something like cheese
    She broke off a piece, and let Mesco give it a try
    Then overhead, they saw something pass by
    Mesco smiled, “Filemma my friend, you need not fear”
    “They have Flying Squirrels, in the trees over here”
    Filemma asked, “have you been here before?”
    Mesco replied, “Long ago with my family, we came to explore”
    “Mesco, do you know this area very well?”
    “Yes, but the last time I was here, I went through hell”
    “Mesco, do you have an idea where these Castle Men might be?”
    “I recall a large building, that's what I did see”
    'If we keep following the trail, we'll be there in half a day”
    Filemma smiled, as she let Mesco lead the way

    Two hours later, they came to a certain spot
    “Okay Filemma, let's see what you got”
    “Mesco, what so ever do you mean?”
    “Time to practice that sorcery, or you'll be green”
    “See that large rock over there, by that tree”
    “I want you to hit it with your power, we'll see”
    Filemma concentrated, and pushed her power out
    The rock was pulverized, Mesco gave a shout
    “Now let's try it, with a little less force”
    Filemma laughed, yet she sounded a little hoarse
    Mesco pointed at another rock, not too far away
    “Filemma, just relax your mind, and it will be okay”
    She did, and the result she used with her power
    That hard rock was in a shape of a flower
    Mesco laughed, his face was filled with glee
    “My sister use to pick these flowers, especially for me”
    “We called her PinRose, because she did”
    “I haven't seen her, since I was a kid”

    Filemma smiled, because she loved flowers too
    And something else, she just somehow knew
    Then she wondered, how did she know
    Must be a part of her sorcery, as it was always so
    Mesco smiled and said, “Now let's see how you do on a man”
    “Mesco, I'm not sure about this, do you think that I can?”
    “Just use your mind, and think about what will be”
    Mesco went over, and sat under the tree
    Filemma closed her eyes, visualizing Mesco here
    When she opened her eyes, she saw Mesco disappear
    She had no idea, that these powers did anything close
    Then she felt something touch her face, like a ghost
    Filemma jumped up, and turned around
    She looked, but nobody was to be found
    Then she heard a little laughter, and she knew
    As Mesco was in front of her, he came back into view

    “It's a gift of my people, I learned when I was boy”
    “It was something that I use to, always enjoy”
    “Mesco, it means, I still didn't get to practice on a man”
    Mesco smiled, “I've always known that you can”
    “How?” Filemma asked with a questioning look
    “Because, your visualization, is as plain as a book”
    “Remember when we were at the Gitchy home”
    “You knew without saying, that we weren't alone”
    “Yes!” Filemma smiled, “I felt there was someone else there”
    “And there was!” Mesco continued, “You were quite aware”
    “A little man in the shadows, with a beard”
    “Yes!” said Filemma, “and that seemed so weird”
    “What was he doing?” Filemma asked, “because I didn't look”
    “He was writing down everything we said, into a book”
    All of a sudden, Filemma looked up at the sky
    As one of those giant squirrels, went flying by
    What an amazing discovery, Filemma noticed that the squirrel
    Was not really a squirrel, but a small Gitchy Girl
    “Mesco, did you know this was part of their plan?”
    “Yes,” Mesco nodded, “They are the protectors of this land”

    Mesco looked up, then down, and then all around
    “I guess this will perfect, for our sleep in the ground”
    Mesco pulled out two small blanket rolls
    And placed them on the ground, where there weren't any holes
    “The Gitchies gave them to us” Mesco said with a smile
    Filemma replied, “a little bit smaller than our normal style”
    “Yes, but we can't be picky, and we won't get dirt on our clothes”
    Not that Filemma was complaining, not one to turn up her nose
    They heard forest animals, but none came too near
    They slept in rotations, always open with one ear
    At some point, they both were asleep in the night
    Both were awakened, by the first sign of daylight
    Only half a day, and they would be there
    While sleepiness left them, they became more aware
    They ate some of the provisions, the Gitchies had given
    Both came more to life, in the land of the living

    They started off on the trail, before too long
    Mesco was whistling, a cheery old song
    Filemma was smiling, “I know that tune”
    And the trail brought them, all the way to noon
    They arrived at the valley, that lead to Consoom
    If they planned it well, it wouldn't lead to their doom
    “Filemma, I'm going to look around, I'll be right back”
    “I want to see who is where, so we'll have all the facts”
    Mesco headed off, to check it out
    While Filemma, filled her head with plenty of doubt
    It seems we may have troubles, is what she thought
    Getting Domina out, without us getting caught
    All of a sudden she heard a noise, it was Mesco returning
    She was anxious to find out, what she would be learning

    “There's a lot of people, workers around there”
    “It will be dangerous, we'll have to take care”
    “Listen, Filemma, I think I should go in alone”
    “Take a look around, and see what is known”
    “I want you to be my back up, only come if I say”
    “You're telepathic, so I'll send a message your way”
    Filemma didn't like the idea, but she understood
    She'd be prepared, in case he should
    “Mesco, how did you get caught, you seem so wise”
    “They came up from behind, took me by surprise”
    “Couldn't you have turned invisible, and gotten away?”
    “I wasn't quite the same man, I am today”
    “They shackled me, before I could be so quick”
    “What they did to the other captive, made me sick”
    Filemma was afraid to ask, what could that be
    “I have an idea, because of how they treated me”
    “You have no idea, Filemma, I don't want to say”
    “They aren't men, and one day they will pay”
    “Be careful Mesco, I'll be listening for your words”
    High above them weren't the Gitchies, but some gray birds

    Mesco was silent, as he walked down the trail
    Filemma pulled out a flask, and took a sip of ale
    A sudden noise, made her turn her head
    “Look at what we have here,” what of the Castle Men said
    Filemma took in about five of the men there
    Her power came to life, and she was quite aware
    Part of her wanted to kill them, but she tried something new
    Several ideas crossed her mind, and then her powers blew

    So fast, that they hardly saw it coming
    Some of the men didn't get far, when they were running
    The bark from the tree came off, and intertwined them all
    That's when she heard, it was Mesco's call
    “They have me, but they think I'm alone”
    “Good thing these dogs, have themselves a bone”
    Filemma knew, there was a message there
    Oh yes, he'll keep them busy, and I'll do my share
    She kept a branch in her hand, as she walked ahead
    Remembering some words, that her Mama said
    “Sometimes there are things you'll have to do”
    “You have the power within, it'll help you through”

    “These were one of those times, I guess”
    “Well, I'll just have to do my best”
    She sat down by a tree, to meditate
    Get in focus, but there was no time to wait
    She realized with her gift, she was the friend of the tree
    Using her powers from within, she would set her sister free
    She put a few small sticks, up her sleeve
    Tricks to help her plan, then she started to leave
    She held one branch, to get her to the door
    She'd be prepared, for whatever was in store
    She practiced with the branches, a time or two
    She was prepared, and she knew what to do

    She watched the Castle, from the top of the hill
    Everything seemed too quiet, eerily quite still
    “They could have set a trap for me”
    “I'll have to be cautious and see”
    She was at the front door, ready for anything
    Wondering what her entrance would bring
    Small branches ready, she opened the door
    Yet it was absent of life, just like before

    “What could have happened here?”
    Then she heard a small voice, whisper in her ear
    “They were taken away, with creatures with skin of blue”
    “The purple haired man tried to escape, but there was nothing he could do”
    She looked up to see on her branch, a little yellow bird there
    “I'm a Warbler, there's no need for you to stare”
    “The Gitchies are close friends of mine”
    “I knew trouble came, they sent me a sign”
    Filemma had to know, “Can you describe these creatures of Blue?”
    “They looked like giant bugs, there was nothing I could do”

    “Call me Yarby, what do they call you?”
    “Filemma,” she replied, as she thought of the bugs of blue
    “I came from beyond the mountains, from the west”
    Yarby chirped and said “That's where I use to have my nest!”
    “Any idea Yarby, where those blue bugs took everyone?”
    “I have an idea,” Said Yarby, “but it won't be any fun”
    “They live a long journey away, in a giant Hive”
    “Many times their hostages, are barely kept alive.”
    That was all Filemma needed to hear
    Just what she needed, more things to fear
    “You've been to the Hive before?”
    “Yes Filemma, but they don't use a door”
    “Yarby, I think I need to get on my way”
    “You won't want to come along, it'll take more than a day”
    “I think you'll need me to come along”
    “So you don't take any turns that are wrong”

    It took a day and a half, when Yarby finally said
    “It's not too far now, it is just ahead”
    As they came closer, Filemma could see
    Buzzing around the giant Hive, like a Blue Bumblebee
    There were several of them, buzzing around the Hive
    She was hoping, Mesco and her sister, were still alive
    “The only way in, is the the way they fly out”
    She'll have to be captured, without any doubt
    “Yarby, I'm volunteering to be captured, and to be brought into the Hive”
    “I have no plans to die, my plans are to stay alive”
    Filemma spotted a branch, belonging to a nearby tree
    She now knew their freedom, and what would be the key

    She had mastered, the magic of the tree
    Hoping her plan, would set them all free
    Climbing wasn't something, she liked to do
    Yet she had to climb, to make her plans come true
    When she got to the branch, she had chosen to be
    With a thought from within, it grew larger on the tree
    Then the branch stretched, as if it was alive
    Until the branch was over, the entry to the Hive
    Directly over the hole, that would lead the way
    She was just hoping, all would go okay
    She had the branch, bring her through like a rope
    Once she was inside, then she'd have to cope

    These flying blue buzzers, saw her arrive
    Attacked her, trying to defend their Hive
    She pulled the small branches, out of her sleeve
    As her eyes looked around, it was hard to believe
    She saw Mesco, and her sister, up on the wall
    And several others, she hadn't time to count them all
    First she would have to stop the blue bees, who were now in a rage
    It had come to her suddenly, these branches would build a cage
    Next she had to get them, all into one place
    Without them realizing that, that could be the case

    She had them chase her, until there was no way out
    They moved in much closer, until there was no doubt
    She let loose the branches, and they formed a cage
    She watched as the blue buzzers, went into a rage
    She saw Yarby was there, pecking on the wall
    Working her way, to releasing them all
    Filemma went to the wall, helping each one down
    That sticky stuff that held them, was a light brown
    When Mesco came down, there was a smile on her face
    “You've mastered the branches!” as he gave her an embrace
    Her sister, Domina, with tears in her eyes
    Was happy, that she didn't crystallize

    She got down, and embraced her sister so tight
    A kiss on her cheek, they were close to the same height
    Then in the cage, a small fire built to a flame
    In a puff of smoke, nothing was the same
    Those flying blue bugs, had quickly disappeared
    Their threat now, was nothing to be feared
    They all made their exit, out of the Hive
    Glad to know, they all remained alive
    After a journey back to the Castle, they gathered by the Well
    Everyone has so much to share, and so much to tell
    As darkness arrived, and it became night
    There came a glow, of a bright purple light
    “Mesco!” Filemma smiled, “Why is your hair growing so bright?”
    Mesco replied smiling, “It happens when I'm happy, and filled with delight”
    Finally they all turned in, for they deserved a good rest
    While Yarby sang in the distance, as she sat by her nest
    ©Jan 30 – April 12, 2017 Bud Lemire
                                             Author Note:
    At a request from my Cousin Karen, she wanted me to write a story
    poem. I had written some before, and she enjoyed them. So at her
    request, I came up with this one. It's not always easy to write one
    in a rhyming verse, but I think I didn't do too bad here on this one.
    I hope you enjoy this, and please give me some feedback on it. Let
    me know what you think, and if I should write more in the future.

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    Goldenrod Late September

    Like feathers made of foliage
    Goldenrod spikes the sky,
    Pointing at the stars above,
    So bright, so cold, so high,

    So high I cannot hold them
    Within my earthbound brain,
    Which struggles just to grasp
    The grace of flowers, the feel of rain.

    ©2016 John I. Blair, 9/24/2016

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    The Woman Of The Rainbow

    It wasn't so unusual, the woman with three eyes
    But the purple color of her skin, came as a surprise
    Her eyes were a strange shade of green
    And the way she moved, seemed a bit obscene
    As she moved in front of me, there was something more
    I hadn't counted on, the way she moved across the floor
    She took me in her arms, and held me very tight
    And the world I once knew, had changed within my sight

    She whispered to me, “Do not be afraid”
    As I stared, her image started to fade
    Before me stood a woman, who touched my very soul
    All colors of the Rainbow, her skin was all aglow

    I wondered who she was, and why she came to me
    And the reason for this meeting, and all that it could be
    “I'm here to tell you, life isn't what it may seem”
    “There's more to every picture, you've awaken from a dream”

    I couldn't take my eyes off, her beauty in plain sight
    As her body held me tightly, deep into the night
    I was somewhere else, lost in some other place
    But not alone, at least not in this case
    She was by my side, watching the scene change
    The smile on her face, seemed a bit strange

    Then it dawned on me, as I spotted a certain scene
    I could see my future, and what lay in between
    A Rainbow surrounded me, and gave me such a glow
    And the Woman Of The Rainbow, was touching deep my soul
    ©Jan 7, 2006 Bud Lemire
                         Author Note:
    When she showed me the future, I realized I was a Rainbow to
    others. Giving them hope and encouragement to keep on
    going. For each of us has a pot of Gold, which has meaning
    in our lives. It won't be the exact pot of gold, but it will be
    something or someone who means a lot to us.

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    A Strange Journey-On Anxiety

        Hey friends, I'm still here!

        2017 has been a strange year so far. On one hand, it's been incredible to have new experiences in a new city, but I've also been intentionally battling and paying attention to my anxiety and mental health, which has made for some difficult days. This year, or at least since February, I've resolved to take care of my mental and spiritual health, before anything else. I've been doing that, little by little, but I haven't put my full focus on it. I slowed down a lot, became more intentional with my conversations, 'tried' to control how much I was on social media. I'm ready to take it on full-force though, I think. Self-care is so incredibly important, I know this, but it's harder to actually put it into practice. Emotionally, I haven't really been consistent, much like my writing on this very blog. I apologize for that, sincerely, but sometimes you just have to take a step back, even if it's something that 99% of the time brings you joy and relief.

        I have come to the realization that for many, many years, I have been running from my anxiety, hoping to get away, but never actually getting very far. So now, I have stopped running. I have turned to face this giant monster that has made a home in my head. Feet planted, I am going to war every day. Slowly, one step at a time towards it, and it is finally retreating instead of barreling towards me like it has for years. I'm sure it will always be in my field of vision, but now I am hopeful that one day, it won't be close enough to wound me quite as much. Now that the monster is releasing some of its hold on my mind, I am starting to see just how resilient it's been. My mind is capable and brilliant, and imaginative, and so many words that I never saw before because I was so susceptible to fear and anxious thoughts. It's mystifying that I am finally using these words to describe my own brain when I spent so many years in school studying other brains. It's so unfamiliar to have confidence in myself. These are words that other's used to describe me, sure, but I could never form them in my own head. It's quite a beautiful sentiment to finally see your potential after so many years of others seeing it in you.

        It takes quite a toll on you both emotionally and physically, to re-wire your brain after so many years, which is ironic because I'm trying to heal my mind in the first place. But the saying goes "it gets worse before it gets better." That's basically been my life for the last few months, but there is light on the other side for the first time in a while. I read something a few days ago that really hit home. The author compared herself to an egg, fragile, seemingly intact and clean on the outside. Inside, however, was a different story. There was a mess inside that shell. You do everything possible to keep from breaking, because heaven forbid, you crack and someone actually gets a glimpse of that mess. That would be the end of the world inside your mind. My shell shattered a few months ago, and at first, I never thought I could put myself back together. But I have been, and while it's not the perfect egg that it used to be (or seemed to be to everyone else), I think the visible cracks have made me stronger. Those cracks are the vulnerability of sharing about my mental health and not just holding it all inside.

        If I'm being honest, I've questioned God more than once in the last few months. Not my faith in Him or His existence, but things like 'Why would God make me with so many emotions and wild thoughts?' 'Why does He let my thoughts spin out of control?' 'What is the purpose for the anxiety that has had such a strong hold on me?' Those kinds of questions. I think those kinds of questions are okay because I've been challenging myself instead of just staying stagnant. Personally, I think God likes questions like that. He's been patient with me, slowly revealing His plan. Today, I read a quote that made it even more evident.

        "What if what you are going through right now, is God creating in you a story, that someday someone else will desperately need to hear?"

        One of the things I needed the most during the darkest times was to know that I wasn't alone. That is why I tell my story and speak about my own battle; so that one day if needed someone else will know that they aren't alone either and so I will continue to press on and fight knocking the ugly monster back one step at a time. If you are reading this, and are also battling a monster, please reach out to me. I'd love to have a conversation with you about it.

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    Stress is the acid rain
    of the body.

    So my cardiologist said to me.

    He was right.

    Tonight I said goodbye
    To a job I’ve held repeatedly
    And felt pride to do.

    What made me leave
    Was the steady pain I felt
    Just thinking of it.

    And suddenly
    The pain was gone.

    Life has its steps.
    Sometimes I’m impelled to take one
    By logic, sometimes by reality.

    When they coincide
    The step is easy.

    ©2016 John I. Blair

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    Letters to France Olive

    September 14th, 1951
    Dear France Olive: Thank you for agreeing to be my pen pal. I’ve never corresponded with anyone in Europe before and I’m very excited to do this. Weren’t our teachers really cool to connect us?
      I am most thankful to you for agreeing to speak English. I know only a little French. I’m studying it though. I hope I can learn it really well. Maybe I can learn a few words from you, France.
      I can’t wait to hear back from you. It takes a while for letters to go from France to New York, but let’s try to send a letter once a month. And I’ll send you a photo of me if you’ll send one of you, OK? We’re both the same age – 13.
      One thing I do want to ask you is this; is it customary in France to name newborn babies after their country? Your first name is France. Imagine if my name was America!
      Well, I have to study now, France. I can’t wait to get a pen pal letter from you.
      Martha Scott
    November 20th, 1951
    Hello again France Olive: I was so excited to get a letter from you today, and your photo too. Thank you for writing! How pretty you are. I’m not nearly as pretty as you are, France, but I’ll send you my photo too as soon as my father takes it and gets the film developed. I’m so happy we can be friends. I have a few friends --- do you too?
      Do you play a lot of sports? I don’t. It’s not that I don’t like sports---I just don’t get much opportunity to play them.
      I’d really rather read or paint pictures or write stories. I love stories. Do you? I’d rather hear a story than to do almost anything else.
      Well – back to my studies. Please do write again soon. Next letter from me will have my photo enclosed.
    January 3rd, 1952—Hello again France.
      Oh my, it seems we have so much in common. You too don’t get to do sports too often? Or get to the movies as often as you’d like?
      And you love stories too? Gosh, it feels as if we’re already old friends.
      As promised, I enclose a recent photo of myself---just head and shoulders like your picture is. I’m about 5’ 5” tall when I stand up. What about you? We have the same color eyes but your hair is so light and mine so dark. Do you set yours in curlers every night? Me too!
      Do you have a dog? I do. Her name is Abigail and I love her very much. We are together all the time. She is my very best friend in all the world and she helps me so much. I can’t imagine my life without her. c Write soon again France, OK?
      Martha S.
    March 12, 1952 – Hi again France!
      You think I’m pretty? You do? Really? And your dog Juliette is with you every minute too? That’s wonderful. Juliette is such a pretty name. I think Abigail and Juliette could be good pals the way we are, do you think so too?
      Do you train Juliette to do things for you? Abigail does a lot of things for me, too. Aren’t we lucky to have such sweet, clever dogs!
      How I wish we could actually meet someday but, well, I guess it’ll never happen, but we can stay good pen pals, right? Keep writing to me France. I look forward to your letters so much.
    April 27th, 1952
      Hi France!
      I just can’t believe this! I can’t! I finally told you my “big secret” in my last letter and I was so surprised to find out we both have the exact same problem. I don’t think our teachers knew this when they put us together as pen pals, do you?
      Well it doesn’t matter. Now I know we will be friends for life for lots of reasons, but especially because we’re both in wheelchairs! I am so happy you are my pen pal and my new friend, France Olive.
    Keep Writing. So will I!! Merci beaucoup!
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