Here’s this week’s heap of haikus:
“That’s me with Santa”…
“Why are you on a horse and
not on a reindeer?”
Grandma paused and then whispered,
“Dear, no-one sits on Rudolph.”
(My mom with Santa … circa 1927)
bulge my mailbox, addressed to
Sure I felt silly,
but I said to myself, “At least
I’m still in Show Biz!”
( I’m the hungry-looking one on the right. )
You can dress it up,
but a deuce and a quarter
ain’t no Cadillac.
(Levon Helm and Keith Richards … Two of my faves)
This, in essence, was
the plan our moms had for us;
wear us out, we’d sleep.
The writer just smiled;
he knew thoughts were fleeting, but
wet ink would soon dry.
My Sis with Santa;
.Like little Natalie Wood,
she seemed … skeptical.
(Two of my friends had the idea to post this on my Facebook page this week …)
Chained to a small desk,
I’m forced to write short poems …
Free the butterflies!
Please!! Someone help! The
numbers 5-7-5 are
The day after they
lit the tree at 30 Rock,
we’d make a promo.
( From 1983, when I was working in the Advertising and Promotion Dept. of WNBC-TV. The day after they lit the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. we’d get all the Channel 4 employees together and make a Christmas spot. It was a long-standing tradition that continues even today. P.S. I’m the hungry-looking one in the cowboy hat.)
Puddles ripple at
the edge of a lonely street.
A tangle of trees
may clutter the morning sky
but happily so.
Waiting for the dawn,
he lay in somber darkness,
Lunch with an old friend;
laughter at shared history,
tears for tomorrow.
Dogwoods bloom at last!
Spring’s celebration of joy
finds Riverside Park.
Fear is a fabric
that folds under stress, and when
in hot water, shrinks …
One of Life’s perks is,
no matter how you slice it,
Coffee must be ground.
Clouds surround mountains,
evergreens anchor the slopes,
temple bells echo.
barren trees plead for fruit on
snowy coastal dunes.
‘Wow, Freaks!, Really? Freaks?,
I thought they were now known as,
(Actual photo taken by me at the Oklahoma State Fair around 1970.)
I’m sure of one thing;
California beach bums know
where to find Woodys.
( Photo courtesy of Kristina Rebelo )
What night ships do you
sail upon? What adventures
find you in your dreams?
( Photo courtesy of Kristina Rebelo )
He stared at her face,
searching for the smallest sign
that she forgave him.
She stared at the floor
wishing he would go away
for she felt ashamed.
When their eyes met, they
felt nothing but the sorrow
of a love now lost.
Fitful nights will end.
Sleep will overtake sadness.
Things will be alright.
Lying in a field,
my ancestors looked at clouds
and dreamt of my life.
What you are drawn to,
has within it, the lesson
that you need to learn.
Dimly lit streetlamps
dot a snowy path that winds
through Riverside Park.
A cold wind will blow
o’er any innovation
’til it catches fire.
Twilight, cold and wet …
To ease the chill in my bones,
a savory bisque!
Silhouettes of trees
turn my river view into
a jigsaw puzzle.
All men were once boys,
All leaders, once followers,
Wise men, ignorant.
Neither resent nor regret,
all will soon enough be frail.
Seldom will you see
a second thought that dances
in the morning breeze.
If you own a gun,
you’ve agreed to a world where
shooting’s an option.
A formal portrait.
of the fam’ly at Christmas.
(I’m the hungry looking one on the left.)
Bonus Material: Another Spondyville Holiday Classic:
It’s a Wonderful Snowspondy!
By Michael Tracy Smith (c) 2008
It was a cold December afternoon in Spondyville. Xmas was right around the corner. The snowfall had ended, but a gray dreariness hung in the air as Spiffy the Snowspondy sat all alone on a park bench in the middle of Ankylosinger Square. An occluded front had passed through, which, Spiffy recalled, was what had first separated him and his twin brother, Stiffy, just after their birth, so many years ago. Blustery winds are always a threat to very young persons of snow. Few things, in fact, are as feared by snowbabies as much as blustery winds, other than, perhaps, the dreaded, “Spring Thaw”. That long-ago blustery wind, picked up two little bundles of snow, and sent little Spiffy spinning off to Alaska and little Stiffy to Spondyville. Stiffy, of course, went on to become Spondyville’s official mascot, which meant spending his time making people smile and raising awareness of Ankylosing Spondylitis all around the world.
Spiffy remained in Alaska for many years, working as a school crossing guard. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but he enjoyed it. Plus, he got to wave to everyone. (Snowspondys, as a general rule, love to wave.) But even in as remote a place as Alaska, looking exactly like a Snowspondy who was known by so many people was sometimes difficult for Spiffy. Especially since he had no idea that he and Stiffy were even related, much less twins. When he traveled, it was even worse; he found he was often hugged by complete strangers who called him Stiffy. Then they asked for his autograph and wanted to have their pictures taken with him. Spiffy felt a little weird about this, but, was always reluctant to correct people, especially the ones who seemed so immensely pleased with meeting the famous Spondyville mascot. When he reluctantly signed autographs, he made the “p” in his name, look just a little more like a “t”, so folks wouldn’t be disappointed. When Spiffy and Stiffy first met each other in an internet chat room nearly a dozen years ago, and realized they were, in fact, twin brothers, it was a joyous discovery. Spiffy, was, at first, reluctant to leave his home in Alaska and the simple, quiet life he had made for himself there. Eventually, however, his slightly older brother, Stiffy, talked him into accepting a very nice job as the mascot of the Spondyville baseball team, The Fusers. It was a tough gig, (very few Snowspondys work in the Summertime, for obvious reasons, so part of the dugout had to be refrigerated in order to accommodate Spiffy’s ‘special needs’), but on the plus side, Stiffy usually spent a good part of his Summers up in his bungalow in very Northern Canada, reflecting on life and writing his memoirs, which allowed Spiffy to get to know everyone in town as himself, and not just as Stiffy’s slightly younger twin. Even so, he always felt he was living in his big brother’s shadow. On a normal, sunny winter’s afternoon in Spondyville, Stiffy, would be entertaining a crowd of people only a few yards from where Spiffy now sat in Ankylosinger Square. The operative words, of course, being, would be; the snowstorm earlier, had forced Stiffy to move his busking indoors to the vast atrium lobby of the beautiful art-deco Marie Strumpell building, Spondyville’s only skyscraper, taking with him, the crowd that had gathered to see him perform. So, there Spiffy sat, alone, and lost in troubling thought.
The truth is, Spiffy felt despondent, which is something Snowspondys rarely, if ever, feel. Snowspondys by nature are exceedingly cheerful, happy individuals, and are not normally prone to depression or deep introspection. But nevertheless, there Spiffy sat. He did not feel like making anyone laugh or helping them keep a positive attitude, (which is what Snowspondys are naturally inclined to do, and as the Fusers mascot, something he was being paid to do, even in the off-season.) He didn’t even feel much like waving!! But, after all, how could he cajole and uplift others, when he himself felt so, (to coin a phrase), completely lousy? His body ached, and he had so many sad and depressing thoughts running through his head, it felt like it might explode. (But, as we all know, an exploding head very seldom happens in real life, even to Snowspondys.)
The most prominent thought amongst the many that were running through Spiffy’s head, was the fact that he had been to his primary SnowRheumy today, only to have the doc confirm what Spiffy already suspected, that Spiffy was becoming more like Stiffy. He was getting stiffer. The Frostylitis, (the Snowspondy equivalent of AS), which had affected him for so long had gotten worse, and it was progressing at a faster rate. This was in spite of the very fine meds Spiffy was taking and the exercise and stretching which he did faithfully every single day, come snow or come shine.
Spiffy wondered why this was happening. His life seemed to be slowly ebbing away, and he felt as if everything that was happening now was completely out of his control.
To top things off, this morning, he had opened his mail to see a notice from his SMO (Snowspondy Medical Options a.k.a. his health insurance carrier) that it was raising its rates by nearly 100 dollars a month. This was the final straw. Spiffy, like most of the other residents of Spondyville, lived pretty close to the edge. With a sharp watch on his finances, and a concerted effort to scrimp and save, he could just about break even at years end. Of course, the stress of living this way often resulted in flare-ups, but what choice did he have? Life is what it is, isn’t it?
From a distance, someone was watching as Spiffy sat lost in his despair, lamenting his fate. This mysterious someone thought to himself, “Poor fellow. Spiffy has a good heart and does so much for everyone … Maybe there’s a way I can help him.”
Just then a thought went through Spiffy’s head. “I wish my life were different”, he thought, “This disease has forced me to give up so many things I loved doing.” That was very true. Spiffy was quite active as a young person of snow, and had many interests, but gradually, he was forced to give most of them up, as his Frostylitis progressed. “I wanted my life to be so much more than what it’s turned out to be”, he said sadly. “I had so many dreams and hopes which now will never come true. What’s the point of going on, if I’m just going to continue to get worse and worse and be able to do less and less?” Spiffy sighed. Not an ordinary sigh. He sighed a sigh of absolute exactitude. For he had just expressed precisely what it was that was troubling him. “I wonder,” he whispered to himself, “I wonder what my life would have been like if I had never gotten Frostylitis.” The words seemed to hang in the air for a moment, then a quiet breeze rustled through the deserted park where Spiffy sat and there was a clap of thunder in the distance.
“Okay, you have your wish.”
Spiffy nearly jumped off the park bench. He turned and looked in a number of directions before discovering the wizened little man who was smiling up at him.
“My goodness, you scared the snow out of me. Who are you?! Where did you come from?”
“I’m a snow-angel,” the old man said matter-of-factly. And with that, the little man fell backward into a nearby snowdrift and began flapping his arms. Then he jumped up and showed Spiffy his handiwork.
Spiffy was beyond stunned. He knew this was impossible. “There are no snow-angels in Spondyville”, he said to the smiling old codger, “Everyone knows that.” As Officer Crimp, (the cop with the limp who patrols the streets of Spondyville in a handicap scooter), was always fond of telling him, “There ain’t a Spondyvillean alive that could do that … legally.” By ‘that’, of course, Officer Crimp meant fall back down into the snow on one’s back AND get back up again all by oneself. Nobody in Spondyville could do that!! “It’s just not possible!”
And yet … there was the evidence staring Spiffy in the face. “My gosh,” he thought to himself, Mrs Strumpell (That’s Marie Strumpell, the grande dame of Spondyville society and the local historian), said there hadn’t been a snowangel sighted in Spondyville since before the turn of the century, (and, dear readers, she didn’t mean the most recent one.)
The old man spoke up: “Actually, there was a snowangel here, I believe, in 1933. Times were tough, so few people noticed. That snowangel quietly saved a number of lives, but let others take the credit for it.”
“How would you know that?” Spiffy asked skeptically … “Wait a minute, how did you read my mind?”
The old man ignored the second question. “Well, that was my first visit to your fine town. I came to help a troubled young man named Throckmorton. Throckmorton DeMaupassant.”
“POPS?!” Spiffy blurted out. (He was referring to that lovable old curmudgeon, “Pops” DeMaupassant, the town handyman.)
“Oh yes, I believe he is still alive at the moment, isn’t he? Must be pretty old … He was such an interesting, yet sadly unfocused young man. Liked to wear a funny purple beret as I recall …”
“Yeah, he still does! But … How could you have …??”
“ … been here 75 years ago?” The old man chuckled. “I’m a lot older than I look.”
Considering the old guy looked to be about 100, that was saying something. Spiffy suddenly felt a chill up his spine, and therefore, decided to proceed cautiously. “So … now why did you say you were here?”
The old man looked up at him and smiled. “To help you, of course. I’m going to grant your wish.”
“What wish?” Spiffy said, for in the confusion, he had forgotten what he had wished for just before the old man had suddenly appeared.
“You wished to know what your life would have been like if you never had Frostylitis.”
“Oh yeah.” Spiffy recalled. “Wait. Can you do that?”
The old man snapped his fingers. “It’s done,” he said with a smile. And with that, he fell back into another snowdrift and began flapping his arms. He hopped back up with a sprightliness that belied his age. Spiffy rose slowly from the bench. He stretched, and immediately noticed how much looser he felt. He slowly tried to bring his hands up to the top of his head. Why he hadn’t been able to do that for a decade, at least! “Wow, my range of motion has sure improved.”
“Of course,” the old man stated very simply, “You don’t have Frostylitis. You’re a completely normal Snowman.” Spiffy was dubious, but tried bending over to see how far he could go. To his absolute amazement, he was able to place his palms flat on the ground. He grinned and then smiled. Smiled so brightly, in fact, that it almost blinded several passersby. Spiffy gave out a “Whooo-Hooo!” and ran (RAN!!) around the square, doing somersaults and back flips! He yelled out joyously to all within earshot, “Look at me, Look at MEEEE!!” He was so deliriously happy, he could hardly contain himself. He decided to run and tell Stiffy what had happened. He crossed Ankylosinger Square in a heartbeat, and ran up to the revolving doors of the Marie Strumpell building. They were locked. “HEY!!” Spiffy tried the door again … “Let me in!!” “Hey!! What’s the matter with the doors?”
The old man was standing off to his left, leaning on the building. “The building is shut down. There’s no-one in there.”
“That’s funny … I could have sworn I saw Stiffy and a bunch of people go in there, earlier today, when it started snowing.”
“This building has been closed for years. Mrs Strumpell is missing and presumed dead.”
“What?!” Spiffy’s mind boggled. He had just been to her house yesterday and she had given him a couple of her home-made oatmeal raisin cookies. (For which Spiffy, suddenly realized, he had never thanked her.) “I just saw her, how could she be missing?”
“That’s not the strangest thing you’ll see in town. Look around.”
Spiffy performed what’s known as the Spondyville Pivot, and turned his whole body to look around. The town seemed a lot less colorful, more … gray. Dark clouds hung low in the sky, and the clock on the Town Hall looked like it was broken. Spiffy checked the time on his ipod, and sure enough, the clock in the tower high atop the Spondyville town hall was an hour slow. “I wonder what that’s about”, Spiffy muttered.
“Maybe time is relative”, said the old man with a smirk. (Spiffy was taken slightly aback, as he didn’t know that Snowangels could smirk. Then again, he was learning there were, evidently, many things he didn’t ‘know’.) Spiffy shook his head … and then stopped. He realized
that he hadn’t been able to shake his head in a very long time, and now … (He moved his head slowly side to side and up and down a number of times to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.) “My gosh, I can actually …”
“Move your head? Of course you can, you never had Frostylitis, remember?”
“Oh yeah”, Spiffy exclaimed, and with that he began to do deep knee bends just for fun and then went around and picked up all the pennies on the sidewalk. (There are always a lot of pennies on the sidewalks of Spondyville, with so few residents able to bend over to pick them up.) Spiffy began to chuckle. He hadn’t moved with this much flexibility in over a decade. He felt like dancing … so he did. Last minute Christmas shoppers, shuffling along on the sidewalk mostly smiled and cheered him on, although, truth to tell, one elderly curmudgeon snidely wondered aloud what special effects were being used to, “make it look like he can jump about like that.” Spiffy ignored him and continued to do his ‘happy dance’. He felt so good, in fact, that he decided to stop into the Spondy Café and even offered to treat his new acquaintance to a glass of ice-cold chocolate milk.
Spiffy pushed open the door to the Spondy Café, and held it for the snowangel, who hobbled in and sat in the first booth. Spiffy easily slid in to the booth opposite him. “Sorry, I didn’t get your name old-timer.”
“Amariah”. The old man said,
“Are you like an angel second class or something?”
“Oh heavens, no, we gave up all that military terminology years ago. I’m just “Amariah the Snowangel.”
“Well, Mr. Amariah, I’ve been thinking about this wish you said you granted. If it’s true and I’m seeing what my life would have been like if I didn’t have Frostylitis, how come I’m still here in Spondyville and not back in Alaska?”
“What do you think this is, the movies,” the old man grumbled. “Everybody thinks I’m Mr. Stephen Spielberg with the big budgets. Look, you wished in Spondyville, you stay in Spondyville. Jeez, don’t you know there’s a recession going on?”
Spiffy immediately felt embarrassed and was very sorry that he had brought the whole thing up.
“I … I apologize. I didn’t know how these things worked, I’ve never had a wish granted by a snowangel before.”
“Eh, it’s okay. I’m an angel, I forgive.”
“Well, I can’t thank you enough for this wish. I feel great!!
A waiter approached their booth. “What’ll you have gentlemen?”
It was Buck McCall, the manager of the Spondyville Fusers!
“Hello, Mr. McCall”, said Spiffy cheerfully, “Hey, what are you doing waiting tables?”
“It’s my job … what’re you and the old guy having?”
“Two glasses of chocolate milk, please … with two straws.”
Buck McCall went back behind the counter to get their order.
Spiffy was confused …
The old man broke the silence. “Life is full of surprises, isn’t it?”
“I don’t understand. Mr. McCall’s the Fusers manager. Why is he waiting tables?”
“Well, maybe he likes the tips. Then again, maybe because you never had Frostylitis, you never met Stiffy in the chat room, never discovered you were twins, so he never invited you to come here and take the job of Fusers mascot, and since you weren’t here to help draw a crowd, attendance remained slack and the franchise owners gave up on the town and moved the team to Texas. And even changed their name to the Austin Autistics.”
“Noooo,” said Spiffy in disbelief.
“Yup. Of course, now nobody makes eye contact with the third base coach to get the signals, but never mind that. Come to think of it, the players here never did that either …”
Spiffy was shocked. “You mean, they moved the team because I wasn’t here?”
“Why are people always so surprised when they’re told that their lives interconnect to and affect so many other lives?”
“I guess I just didn’t think I was that important.”
“You may be a vital link to someone else’s happiness or survival and not even know it.”
“Me? Ohhh, I doubt it. I’m not a celebrity like my brother.”
“Well, I’ll give you another example. It’s because of you that the town’s clocks are all off and why Mrs. Strumpell is still missing.
“I did that?! How?”
“Remember last month when your pal, “Pops” climbed the ladder to change the clock back an hour to mark the end of Daylight Savings?”
“Yeah, he’s been doing that for over 40 years. A bunch of us always show up to offer encouragement and remind him to either Spring forward or Fall back! Last month, he fell back … literally. It scared everyone. He almost had a bad accident …”
“He might have. if you hadn’t broken his fall …”
“Well, me and that awning on the second floor …”
“An awning alone wouldn’t be enough … which … is, I’m afraid, why the clocks are an hour off.”
Spiffy was horrified by the realization he hadn’t been there to save “Pops” from disaster. He began to do something Snowspondys never do … melt around the eyes.
“There, there,” said the Snowangel, “Don’t get upset. You had no way of knowing.”
Now Spiffy began to sob. “And, I suppose it’s my fault that Mrs. Strumpell is missing and presumed …d-d-d … not alive“ and with that, he burst into slushy ice-cube-like tears, something no-one can remember witnessing in a dozen generations of Snowspondys.
Amariah was a little uncomfortable with Spiffy’s sudden outpouring of emotion. “If it makes you feel better, it wasn’t your fault … directly”, he said, “Remember at the turn of the millennium when Stiffy saved Mrs Strumpell and Spondyville from disaster? … Well, you weren’t there to help Stiffy, so he couldn’t rescue Marie Strumpell from the clutches of the evil Dr. Frederica Von Bechterew.” (As chronicled in the collaborative story, ‘Stiffy2K’, found elsewhere on the Spondyville web site.)
“Oh, God”, Spiffy moaned, “I’ve ruined everything … and everybody in Spondyville.”
Well, if it’s any comfort, you didn’t ruin things exactly. Technically, it was your NOT being here that ruined things.”
“Waaaahhhhh”, Spiffy began to outright wail.
The old man saw that his words weren’t having a positive effect, so he decided to do something drastic.
“Okay, just wait a minute. Now, I’m not supposed to tell you anything that I’m about to tell you, okay? Promise me it’ll be our little secret … Promise?”
Spiffy sniffled, and then quietly whispered, “Okay”.
Amariah the Snowangel spoke slowly and confidentially, “Do you know what my name means? Spiffy shook his head from side to side. “It means, ‘God has spoken’ … The truth is, your life is how God wants it to be, the arc of your life, the direction, the path is one created uniquely for you, and you alone. It was created for you in this way because it is the path in which, God knows that, being on it, you can best express who you are with all your many talents and abilities. You only have to choose to do so. Humans get so caught up in feeling they are somehow on the wrong path or become envious of the paths of others. Trust … Trust that you are on the right path, the perfect path for you, no matter what external forces may imply, and remember that there are just as many rewards and adventures on this path, the one God has placed you on, as there are on the path you wished for, or yearned to be on. You touch many lives and you will find that there are many more that you will touch and be touched by before your life is through, if and when you accept the path your entire life has guided you towards. Don’t worry how you will muddle through it, you will … with help from your friends both here and above. Know that Despair will always give way to a new dawning of Hope. When feeling defeated, don’t regret, re-grow your efforts and re-join the fight. Keep looking forward to see what you can do, and don’t look back at what you weren’t able to accomplish. My friend, being healthy is no guarantee of a better life. In fact, a life without pain and suffering, may seem like an easier, more desirable choice, but know this; nothing great and lasting was ever built on comfort and complacency. It is through struggle and effort and being willing to adapt to change and endure in the struggle, that all great lives are lived and great things accomplished. Be who you are, and you will do what you do and that will have an impact. So says, I, Amariah Snowangel.
Spiffy closed his eyes, to fully inhale and embrace what Amariah was saying. When he opened his eyes, the old man was gone. He tried to turn his head to look to his right, but he couldn’t. He tried the opposite direction and cringed with pain. He smiled to himself. It must have been a dream. He slowly pushed himself up from the park bench. Just as he was about to head for home, he heard someone calling his name.
“Spiffy, my dear, there you are …Don’t move, I’ll be right there,” shouted a spry-looking Marie Strumpell from across the park.
Spiffy, was so happy to see her alive and well, that he walked as quickly as he could to greet her. “I’m so glad to see you” Spiffy said with a smile. “I wanted to thank you for the cookies. They were delicious.”
“Oh my dear”, Mrs Strumpell said with her customary twinkle in her eyes, “You’re entirely welcome. Where would I be without you and your brother? Oh, that reminds me, I hope you and Stiffy will accept my invitation to Christmas dinner. I’m having a few good friends over.”
“Thank you, we’d be delighted to accept,” interjected Stiffy the Snowspondy, who had snuck up behind his brother when he wasn’t looking.
The brothers hugged each other and then walked Marie Strumpell back to her home.
A few days later, at Marie Strumpell’s stately Victorian manor on the top of the hill overlooking Spondyville, everyone was enjoying a lovely plum pudding dessert after a sumptuous Christmas dinner that Mrs Strumpell had made herself. Stiffy and Spiffy were discussing the situation with their health care provider, when Buck McCall, the manager of the Fusers, took Spiffy aside.
“Don’t tell anyone, he whispered, “but it’s my understanding that your contract is being re-worked to give you a cost-of-living raise, which should completely cover your health care insurance increase … and maybe a little bit more … But remember, you didn’t hear it from me.”
Spiffy nodded silently and smiled. In the other part of the room, Stiffy raised his glass of chocolate milk. “Ladies and Gentlemen, a toast; First to our dear hostess and all she’s done for us this fine Christmas day, and second, to my younger brother, Spiffy, the coolest guy in town. What ever would I do without you?”
Ice cold glasses of chocolate milk were then drunk with enthusiasm. Everyone smiled and was of good cheer, and soon everyone began to sing Christmas carols till the wee hours of the morning.