Amateur Poet

by Robert W Service

You see that sheaf of slender books
Upon the topmost shelf,
At which no browser ever looks,
Because they’re by . . . myself;
They’re neatly bound in navy blue,
But no one ever heeds;
Their print is clear and candid too,
Yet no one ever reads.

Poor wistful books! How much they cost
To me in time and gold!
I count them now as labour lost,
For none I ever sold;
No copy could I give away,
For all my friends would shrink,
And look at me as if to say:
“What waste of printer’s ink!”

And as I gaze at them on high,
Although my eyes are sad,
I cannot help but breathe a sigh
To think what joy I had –
What ecstasy as I would seek
To make my rhyme come right,
And find at last the phrase unique
Flash fulgent in my sight.

Maybe that rapture was my gain
Far more than cheap success;
So I’ll forget my striving vain,
And blot out bitterness.
Oh records of my radiant youth,
No broken heart I’ll rue,
For all my best of love and truth
Is there, alive in you

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Oh, how wonderful that we now have the internet
where we can share our poems with the world
and it doesn’t cost us a mint!

Diners on My Driveway

Mourning doves, prim and proper,
strut along, poke among the pebbles
for windblown seeds.
Their muffled cooing
mellows the morning air
while a jaunty flicker nearby
jack-hammers ant homes.

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May Doings at Our Place

The tree swallows have been back for several weeks and are busy building their nests now. One pair has found our bathroom exhaust fan vent to their liking again so we’re hearing tiny scratching noises in the cavity. A few mourning doves have returned and I think I’ve seen some wrens in the last couple of days, as well as different warblers and the first goldfinches.

A couple of days ago a small flock of thrushes landed in our yard and have been foraging in our garden and on the driveway ever since. There are three kinds of thrush that come through here: hermit thrush; Swainson’s  thrush; gray-cheeked thrush. These are either Hermit thrush or Swainson’s, but it’s pretty hard to tell from pics in bird books.

They are still scattered around the yard this morning. Such cute birds with their pudgy white tummies, speckled at the throats, white eye rings. They won’t stay around; their nesting grounds are in the pine forests farther north, but I enjoy seeing them passing through every spring and fall.

It’s YOUR Face

Photo prompt © Roger Bultot

Time for another Friday Fictioneers tale. This group is hosted by the kindly and ever-smiling Rochelle Wisoff-Fields over at Addicted to Purple. As usual she’s presented us with a picture that should unleash our creative energy — and then it’s cut, cut, cut. A most valuable exercise for learning concision. If you wish to participate, check her blog for details. Everyone is welcome to submit a story.

A special thanks goes to Roger Bultot for supplying us with this photo. Since it’s his photo, lent to the group specifically for this week’s prompt, it must not be “borrowed” by anyone for any other purpose without asking permission.

My mind bounced around on this prompt and finally came up with the following 100-word tale:

It’s Your Face

There she is, conceited, backstabbing brat. Hanging out with my former friends. Probably flirting with that server like she does with all the guys in the office. She makes my blood boil!

I feel a hand on my shoulder. “Too much lemon in the drink today,” Mike from accounts-receivable asks.

I nod toward the giggling trio. “If you only knew!”

“I do know… some at least. Yeah, she’s annoying, but let it go. It’s disfiguring your face.”

I hear her laugh and grit my teeth. “She’s so fake!”

Mike shrugs. “It’s your face,” he says as he turns away.

My Friends 

If you ever wonder what to say to someone who’s grieving, this post is a must-read. While it specifically addresses the death of a child, I think the wisdom here is useful for anyone who’s lost a loved one.

kathleenbduncan

I have friends who have had miscarriages.

I have friends who have had stillbirths.

I have friends who lost a baby to SIDS.

I have friends whose child drowned.

I have friends whose child died from cancer.

I have friends whose child died in a tornado.

I have friends whose child died from suicide.

I have friends whose child was murdered.

I have friends whose child died in a motorcycle wreck.

I have friends whose child died after a skateboard accident.

I have friends whose child died in a freak accident.

I have friends whose child died from heart disease or asthma or diabetes.

I have friends whose child died from drug overdose.

I have friends whose child died in a car wreck.

None of them like to take about the details of their child’s death.

They all love to speak of how their child lived.

When you meet a…

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Love at Second Sight

A middle-aged man was strolling down a street in a merry old English city when he took note of a young lady walking briskly along with her brown and white spaniel trotting beside her. She had the air of going someplace important and the appealing look of someone with a sense of adventure.

Two years later this same gentleman was traveling on an ocean liner when he happened to catch sight of – could it be that same girl he’d noticed walking so spiritedly down the street so long ago? He approached her and asked if she was the owner of a brown and white spaniel.

The young lady was surprised, but she replied that yes, she had a spaniel that was being cared for by a friend while she was on this trip. Then he asked her if she would marry him. This surprised her even more but she must have had a sense of adventure since she didn’t turn him down flat or run the other way. And once they’d made proper acquaintance she accepted his proposal.

The marriage announcement shocked all their friends, because Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts movement, was 55 and his bride-elect was only 23. They had a private wedding and went on to have three children. One “May-September” marriage that worked well.

The Swallows Are Back!

“When the Swallows Come Back to Our Exhaust Fan…”

Did you know that tree swallows have seriously decreased in numbers here in North America, especially in areas where English sparrows have multiplied. Non-native birds, English Sparrows are miserable, aggressive neighbours. They’ll chase adult tree swallows away and hog the food and best nesting sites. They will also invade swallow nests, kill the adult birds, eat their eggs and destroy their chicks. Heartless things, they lay their own eggs on top of the corpses and pick away at the remains.

Swallows may find a remote abandoned building where sparrows don’t hang out, or they may find humans who are blind enough —or kind enough— to let them live close by, where sparrows and other predators won’t venture. All the better if there’s an opening easy to defend. At least that’s what one pair of tree swallows must have thought in the spring of 2010, when they found the cover of our exhaust fan missing.

There’s a small hole in the outside wall of our mobile home just below the roof, where the bathroom fan is vented. It’s supposed to have a covering but this fell off sometime, leaving the recessed pipe about one and a half inches in diameter with one end open to the great outdoors. Tree swallows checked it out and found an entry just their size in a wall warmed by morning sun and a nice interior ledge with ample room for a nest. Thus began our own personal experience with swallows.

They set about furnishing their digs. We took note of their presence when a few straws started falling onto the bathroom counter but since we never used that bathroom fan anyway–it was far too noisy and rattling–it seemed a worthwhile nature lesson to observe this process. (Beside which, there was no way on earth we could get them out.) We taped the switch so the fan couldn’t be turned on by unsuspecting visitors and watched the swallows make forays past our window as they built their nest.

In time we heard tiny peeps coming from behind the fan. We dusted shreds of grass from our bathroom counter and smiled at the baby racket we heard when lunch was served — an all-day affair. Our cat was intrigued but helpless to disturb the birds — as were the outside cats. Weeks passed and peep volume grew.

One day I was in the bathroom brushing my hair when the peeping suddenly hushed. Then I heard the unmistakable tones of marching orders; it sounded like a parent bird laying down the law to indolent offspring just like human parents sometimes do. Followed by tiny feet scrabbling on wood, then the bathroom was silent.

I hurried to the kitchen and looked out the window just as the air exploded with swallows. Back and forth the young birds swooped and dived, getting their bearings in this new world into which they’d been shoved. They still called the nest home and for days after, whenever we passed that side of the trailer, we saw a tiny black head poking out the hole as someone prepared for takeoff.

Then the offspring moved out for good. For the rest of July we watched them zip through the sky or balance on wires, learning the ropes, feasting on mosquitoes and other insects. Swallows are entertaining acrobats and can clean up a fantastic number of bugs, especially mosquitoes, every day.

Shortly after their babies left, Ma & Pa Bird were back behind the bathroom fan scratching around. New peeps started coming through the wall and the cycle repeated itself: comings & goings increased; the peeps got loud again. I happened to be there again when another set of marching orders were issued. I could almost hear a harried parent insisting, “It’s time you were on your own. Get out there and feed yourselves!”

Repeat explosion of swallow swoopers. Repeat dives, twirls, and other aerobatics to strengthen wings. More birds on the clothesline.

The bathroom fan is vented not far from our outside tap, so we were often near their nest, but they never minded our coming and going. One or the other would often have its head out watching as I turned the tap on or off. I’d even talk to it from about two metres (6′) away and it never moved.

The next spring I learned an important lesson: don’t put out inviting bird food (i.e. sunflower seeds & nuts) for larger birds like grackles anywhere near the swallow nest. Our bird feeder, hung on a post in the lawn, was too close to the bathroom vent and the swallows were obviously distressed by the presence of bigger birds at the feeder. Several times I saw them dive at grackles sitting there. That spring the swallows raised only one batch of babies, then left.

The swallows used the exhaust fan vent for two summers, then moved on to other nesting sites. We’ve put up several more swallow nest boxes over the past six years, all of which are claimed every spring and new broods raised.

Our yard can be bad for mosquitoes, but we’ve noticed that as long as the swallows are around, the mosquitoes aren’t as plentiful. Nice! It would be worth the price of a dozen birdhouses if we’re spared West Nile Virus. The swallows usually leave us at the end of July and head over to the sloughs to feast on the multitudes of mosquitoes there. After that we  have to look out for ourselves mosquito-wise.

In the fall of 2010 I read in a gardening magazine that “swallows produce one batch of young every summer.” Well, ours must not have read the rules. Or they felt so secure in their cozy home that they decided on a second family. The ones who occupy the nest we mounted on the garage have raised two broods some summers as well.

Yesterday at leas one family of swallows returned, twittering around and all trying to get into their old nest box just outside my sewing room window. Welcome home, friends!