“I Like Rocks” Revisited

November 2, 2020

Back in 2008 I wrote “I  Like Rocks” about the three major types of rocks. At that time I failed to address the formation of rocks of biogenic origin. Hopefully, this poem addresses that shortcoming.

I Like Rocks (Revised)

I like rocks.
I’ll tell you why.
They can’t talk
But they don’t lie.

If you can decode their history
And know how to read them clear;
If you can solve their mystery,
You’ll see the realm that once was here.

It takes three kinds to do the trick:
Sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic.

Igneous rocks enable the birth
Of all the rocks upon the earth.
For every rock on Earth today’s
Descended from the fire below.
Each one carries the DNA
Of an igneous rock of long ago.
The molten Mother mass below,
Ancient cauldron of energy;
The source of all the rocks we know;
The creator of lithology.
All Earth’s rocks derive from it.
Cooled, deformed or bit by bit.

As Nature brings her hammer down,
Pounding rocks until they’re ground,
Resultant pieces, large and small
Accumulate in streams and deep
And as the oceans rise and fall,
As the eons slowly creep,
A new kind of rock begins to form
Of detritus compacted hard and strong
And, when the process is the norm,
A sedimentary rock then comes along.
Fused together by time and weight,
Composed of history and fate,
There, a new rock to be;
Another line of history.

But there is yet another way
For sedimentary rocks anew.
Some of the rocks we see today
Are consequence of a chemical brew.
The source of that ionic mix,
Existing in some ancient sea,
Is igneous rock that once was fixed
But dissolved, paying Nature’s constant fee.
What is, is what’s to be;
The cycle of lithology.

Sea creatures help this course a lot,
Using minerals dissolved in the brine
To build the shells that they have got
That break down to sediments over time,
Or remain whole, compacted there,
As they’re buried to depths unknown,
To appear with paleontological flair
As a fossiliferous stone,
Waiting to be found like this.

The final type is metaphoric;
Suggesting something no longer there.
The rocks that we call metamorphic
Are not formed just anywhere.
To change the character of a rock
It takes extremes of heat and stress
And ageless ticking of the clock,
And Nature’s eternal boundlessness.

All these rocks say the same;
Everything will someday change.

I like rocks.
I’ll tell you why.
They can’t talk
But they don’t lie.

Note: It’s time to start thinking about stocking stuffers. Put a little culture in their Christmas. Consider Poetry That Rhymes, Patriotic Poems, Humorous Poems and Mr. Webster’s Wondrous Attic, all by Lee Austin and available on Amazon.

Ghosts of Gettysburg

October 12, 2020

The Gettysburg Battlefield has to be the most haunted place in America. That is if you believe all the ghost stories. The three days of battle in July 1863 produced more than 7,800 Union and Confederate dead and tens of thousands of wounded. It has a right to be the most haunted place in the U.S. Countless sightings and ghostly battle sounds have been reported in and around the battlefield: the Farnsworth House Inn, Little Round Top, Pennsylvania Hall at Gettysburg College with its Phantom Surgery, Sachs Covered Bridge, General Lee’s Headquarters, the Jennie Wade House, the Gettysburg Hotel, and perhaps one of the unlikeliest battlefields, the Devil’s Den. That battle and one of its persistent ghosts was recently reported by the superb historical blogger, MB Henry, who personally pursued the ghost that haunts Devil’s Den. This poem is about that battle and its enduring phantom.

The Devil’s Den

If you’ve not been to Gettysburg
I urge you to visit there,
Especially a place called Devil’s Den.
(Some call it the Devil’s lair.)

Large rocks and twisted crags,
A maze of geology,
Steeped in a deadly past,
And some say mythology.

For in July of sixty-three,
Death and horror there,
When Blue and Gray bled and died
As grapeshot filled the air.

In the Peach Orchard, on the Wheat Field,
And also the Devil’s Den,
The Rebels mounted ferocious attack
But the Yankees would not give in.

The Devil’s Den was the strangest place
To fight a battle there.
It seemed like Nature had gone mad,
Obstacles everywhere.

Into the welter of canyons and rocks,
Some as big as a shack,
The rebels, confused by twisting ravines,
Continued to press the attack.

Soon, due to fighting in such a place,
Amid canyon and sandstone shelf,
Organization quickly broke down.
It was every man for himself.

Then came the deadly cannon fire.
Plunging shot and canister rain
Brought screams of unbearable agony
And shrieks of insufferable pain.

After the horrible battle that day
The rocks were left blood-red,
And all the cracks and fissures there
Were filled with the blackened dead.

If you visit there today
You may find a surprise.
You may see a specter
Appear before your eyes.

More than few people have seen
A shagged-haired man in ragged clothes,
Wearing a cockled, floppy hat,
Who mysteriously appears, then goes.

He quickly disappears.
Just vanishes in the air.
As strange as it may seem,
That’s what people swear.

He apparently doesn’t like
Visiting cameramen,
Or any other person
Photographing Devil’s Den.

He shows up in images,
Even when no one’s around,
Or causes camera failures.
Stories like this abound.

Is he a ghost of rebel dead
Seeking what they died for?
Was he a local citizen
Marred by the dolor of war?

Or does he want to tell us
To leave our cameras behind
And contemplate the tragedy
Of what happened at that time?

Does he want us to think about
The sacrifice made there?
Not the perfect photo,
But understand and care
About what was at stake
On those fateful days,
Amidst the Minnie balls,
And cannons’ cordite haze?

It was fought for greater good,
And sacred obligation,
To save the Founders’ vision
And preserve the Nation,
So the world would know through the years
America would always be
A land of opportunity
Where all men will live free.

Sources: Based on the excellent blog post, “A Ghost At Gettysburg: No Photographs Please…”  by MB Henry, posted October 5, 2020 at https://mb-henry.com/; “7 of the Most Haunted Places in Gettysburg” by Karen Frazier,  https://paranormal.lovetoknow.com/;  “Gettysburg Encounters: Real Encounters with Civil War Soldiers” by Stephen Wagner, https://www.liveabout.com/.

Note: For more stories about patriotic events see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

A Note About My Last Blog

September 25, 2020

When responding to a comment from my daughter on my last blog, I ended it with $20. I suspect any reader who saw it wondered what that was about. This poem explains it.

How Much Is $20?

It was nineteen hundred and sixty-five.
(Many of you were not yet alive.)
A dollar, worth much more than today,
Before inflation stole it away.

Sandy was eighteen months old back then.
Her favorite doll was on the porch when
A neighbor’s dog tore it to bits.
My wife got as mad as she ever gets.

For it wasn’t just any old toy.
The doll that gave our Sandy such joy
Was hard to replace by any other,
For it was a gift from her loving grandmother.

The next day my wife went shopping to see
If she could find one close enough to be
A good substitute for the little doll lost
That would satisfy Sandy, at reasonable cost.

At a local toy store, there on display
Was an identical doll. Her lucky day!
She parked the car in front of the store,
Fed the meter and walked through the door.

She was so excited! She could hardly believe
She could replace the gift from Nana received.
She thought what a great surprise that would be
For little Sandy, as she sped home to me.

She reported her find with joy and glee,
Before I asked her what price it would be.
She smiled and said in her sweet southern drawl,
“It’s worth every cent, twenty dollars is all.”

“TWENTY DOLLARS!” I cried, nearly spilling my beer.
“There’s no money tree in the back yard, dear.”
That was a lot of money back then.
Wide-eyed, our Sandy took it all in.

Sitting that evening in my easy chair,
(A routine postprandial affair)
Sandy sudden toddled over to me,
Said “I love you, Daddy,” as sweet as could be.

To tease her a bit I asked her, “How much?”
She thought for a moment, lined brow and such,
Gears whirling ‘round in her little head,
Then, an epiphany; “Twenty dollars!” she said.

To her twenty dollars seemed like the most
Treasure that anyone ever could boast.
So for all correspondence we’ve written since then
To loved ones, there’s $20 at the end.

Handshakes and Hugs, Things of the Past?

September 21, 2020

I’ve heard the comment several times that after the pandemic is over we won’t go back to shaking hands and hugging family and friends. Fist bumps and elbow taps will replace these time-honored traditions. I don’t believe that and sincerely hope it doesn’t come to pass.

Fist Bumps and Elbow Taps or Handshakes and Hugs?

Some say handshakes and hugs are gone,
Never to return again.
They say they spread germs around.
The pandemic did them in.

Fist bumps and elbow taps the norm?
And it will stay that way?
Call me salubriously incorrect,
But I will rue that day.

I like to feel a firm, fond hand
That lets me know that there’s
A friend on that arm’s other end;
Someone who really cares.

Or if it’s someone I just met
And didn’t know before,
It may presage affinity,
Perhaps, even rapport.

So when you shake somebody’s hand,
Old friend or someone new,
You communicate with unsaid words.
Elbows and fists won’t do.

You can’t replace a caring hug
With fist bump or elbow tap.
They convey emotional space;
An aloof affection gap.

I love to hug family and friends,
Feel the warmth of their very soul.
It’s that intimate, warm embrace
That makes my being whole.

Humans have need to feel the flesh,
And affection when pulled in tight.
Elbows and fists may be safe
But a handshake or hug feels right.

So let’s put that nonsense away
After this viral outbreak,
And greet good friends and loving kin
With an earnest hug or firm handshake.

Note: For more philosophy in meter and rhyme see Poetry That Rhymes by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

Remembering 9/11/2001

September 11, 2020

I wrote this poem honoring the heroes of 9/11 shortly after that terrible day.

Hail to the Heroes

Hail to the heroes on United 93
Who wouldn’t die in fear.
Hail to the heroes in the fated towers,
Selfless when death was near.
Hail to the heroes who climbed the heights
Loaded with hoses and gear.
Hail to the heroes in the Pentagon
Who saw their duty clear.

Hail to the heroes on the street below
Who charged into burning hell
To search for fellow Americans
Before the structures fell.
Hail to the heroes who manned their posts
Beyond death’s beckoning knell.
Hail to the heroes who wept out loud
When sorrow could not be repelled.

Hail to the heroes who cried the tears
As they stood straight and tall.
Hail to the heroes who left their loves
To answer the Nation’s call.
Hail to the heroes who dare to lead,
And refuse to let us fall
And demand that we continue free
In the face of all we appall.

Hail to the heroes they left behind,
Those who died at the scenes.
They are the ones who suffer the hurt
Of lives ripped apart at the seams,
Trying to look calm and composed
While their every fiber screams.
They are the ones with the terrible task
To mend broken hearts and dreams.

But we are a people who will not yield
To the forces of hatred and shame.
We accept the challenge and pledge to each other
To track down any to blame.
And to those who committed this evil deed,
We’ll tell you the name of the game.
If we bring you to justice or justice to you,
The outcome will still be the same.

Note: Thanks to an American patriot and my good friend, Colonel (Retired) Kevin Vargas, who suggested I pen the next-to-last stanza to complete this poem.

Note: For more stories in meter and rhyme of American heroes see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

Our Sixtieth Wedding Anniversary

September 10, 2020

Today my wife, Sue, and I celebrate sixty years of marital happiness; an exciting journey of adventure, challenges, successes and love. Every year is a celebration of joy in one another. Due to the COVID pandemic we will not be able to take a celebratory trip to some fun location this year so we will stay at home and cherish the 60-plus years we have loved together. This poem is dedicated to Sue for all the wonderful years of caring, sharing and love she has given me and to all those loving couples who have achieved their diamond anniversaries. Congratulations!

The Diamond Anniversary

The sixtieth wedding-year celebration
Is commonly known as the diamond one,
Here and in most every nation,
When those sixty years are done.

How did the diamond come to be
The symbol of that lasting bond;
The solid trunk of a family tree
For sixty years and beyond?

I’m not sure but I can surmise
How the diamond became that token.
It should come to us as no surprise
It’s the symbol of love unbroken.

Diamonds are known for being strong.
They’re formed with a covalent bond.
That means its carbon atoms belong
To its closest neighbor beyond.
Each clings to the other, bonding tight
By electrons that they share.
That gives them strength as they unite,
Stable and resolute there.

But that’s not the only reason why
Diamonds were chosen to be
The symbol of love that will not die.
It’s how they are judged, seems to me.

The best diamonds are certified.
Experts examine and grade them.
With skill and standards applied,
They judge each prospective gem.

They appraise the depth of the stone,
Its facets and sparkle as well.
That’s how its nature is shown;
Where its intrinsic value doth dwell.

They determine the diamond’s clarity
And search for internal flaws.
A perfect one is a rarity.
That violates Earth’s natural laws.

The color is also of note,
As well as the warmth of its hue.
To me these essentials promote
A union of sixty years true.

To happily be married that long
Requires a durable connection.
A chain of love strapping strong,
Forged in respect and affection.

That union radiates depth,
True facets of joy in life;
A sparkle consuming the breath
Of accord between husband and wife.

Like diamonds, no union’s past flaws.
Still, true, it must also have clarity,
Transparency and trust because
That’s the basis of joint solidarity

Rich colors of their long-term bliss
And the warmth of their marital hue
Is reflected in their ardent love kiss,
And considerate things that they do.

So the diamond’s the perfect gem
To signify the consummation
Of sixty years that joined them,
And their love’s abiding duration.

So to my love of sixty plus,
My rock, soul mate and wife,
I thank you for making us
The diamond that is our life.

Sources: Gemological Institute of America, https://4cs.gia.edu; Brilliance, LLC, “Diamond Facts: How to Judge Diamond Quality”.

Note: For more poetry in meter and rhyme see Poetry That Rhymes by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

A Life Lesson from My Older Brother

August 29, 2020

Riding my bike the other day, my thoughts harkened back to when I was a kid learning to ride. My older brother taught me by running alongside holding onto the seat to keep me upright. Once I got going well he would let go and I would ride on my own not knowing he was no longer holding me up. When I started to wobble he would say, “Just keep pedaling.” I quickly learned that the bike will wobble, but if I just pedal through everything will be OK.  When I was teaching my granddaughters to ride, they would wobble off the sidewalk onto the grass. They would tend to stop pedaling when that would happen. I would say “Just keep pedaling.” Even today, when my bike starts to wobble a little, especially when starting from a dead stop, I know if I just keep pedaling  everything will be alright. That life lesson from my brother inspired this poem.

It Will Wobble. Just Keep Pedaling

When I was a lad learning to ride a bike,
My brother taught me how.
He gave me advice that today I still like
After all these years, even now.
“It will wobble. Just keep pedaling.”

That became my mantra through the years
In everything that I do.
I’ve offered this thought to my friends and peers.
Now I give this advice to you.
“It will wobble. Just keep pedaling.”

If you’re on a team or play sports in school
And the coach should chew you out
When you make a mistake or break a rule,
Think beyond the coach’s shout,
“It will wobble. Just keep pedaling.”

In college or career when you fail a key test
And are not sure what to do,
Should you look elsewhere to lessen the stress?
Or stay with the long-term view?
“It will wobble. Just keep pedaling.”

When you get married and start a new life,
And maybe had your first fight,
You may have the thought, perhaps once or twice,
That this life for you is not right.
“It will wobble. Just keep pedaling.”

When you think that you may flounder and fail
When facing the challenge of life,
And question pursuit of your chosen trail,
Heed my brother’s implied advice.
“Life will wobble. Just keep pedaling.”

Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, A Courageous, Heroic Leader

August 8, 2020

Near the end of WW II, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was the senior NCO in a German prisoner-of-war camp. The camp commandant gave the order to have only the Jewish POWs fall in for morning formation. Master Sergeant Edmonds had all 1,275 prisoners assemble the next morning and proclaimed, “We are all Jews here”. He told the commandant if he were to kill the Jews he would have to kill them all. Despite the commandant threatening to kill him, with a pistol to his head, Master Sergeant Edmonds refused to identify the Jewish POWs. He told the commandant that the war was almost over and he would be held responsible for his actions. The commandant backed down. Master Sergeant Edmonds’s leadership and bravery saved 200 Jewish-Americans from near-certain death that day. Master Sergeant Edmonds never told his family of the incident and died on this date in 1985 with no official recognition of his heroism. His son subsequently learned of his dad’s deeds from his father’s old diary and began to seek appropriate recognition for his father. As a result, in 2015 Master Sergeant Edmonds posthumously  received Israel’s highest honor for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust by being designated “Righteous Among the Nations”.  This is the story of his heroic actions that day in meter and rhyme.

The Ballad of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds

“We are all Jews here,”
He told the commandant.
His voice strong and clear,
No intention of détente.

Roddie Edmonds, NCO
In charge of all those
Captured by the foe
And wearing stalag clothes,
Stood before the German
Commander of the place,
Straight, tall, determined,
And stared him in the face.

The commandant directed
Only Jews fall in that morn.
His order disrespected
With bravery and scorn.

Roddie’s counter command
Was all fall in that day,
And just as he had planned,
An insubordinate array.

Twelve hundred seventy-five
Stood in formation there.
Each one to contrive
A disobedient affair.

The commandant, with a shout
And pistol to Roddie’s head,
Demanded Jews be pointed out
Or he would soon be dead.

Showing no emotion,
Gun still to his head,
With steadfast devotion,
Edmonds calmly said,
If they were to kill the Jews,
They would have to kill them all.
It wasn’t exactly news
The Reich was soon to fall.

With combat nearly through,
And war crime trials to come.
The commandant clearly knew
The game was zero-sum.

The German let it go.
Two hundred Jews would live
Because of a Hero NCO,
Whose life he was willing to give.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roddie_Edmonds.

Note: For a more complete account watch Following the Footsteps of My Father at https://player.vimeo.com/video/198357872.

Note: For more stories of heroic deeds in meter and rhyme see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

A Little-Known U.S. Navy Exploit

July 23, 2020

On this date in 1945 a U.S. Navy submarine accomplished an amazing feat that had never happened before and likely will never happen again. This is the story of that action in meter and rhyme.

A Daring Victory for a U.S. Sub

Twenty-four hundred tons she displaced
As she silently swam under the waves.
Many an enemy vessel disgraced.
She sent them to their watery graves.

Seventeen enemy ships dispatched
By the armaments she bore.
One more daring scheme was hatched
Before the end of the war.

Captain Fluckey, commander of the boat,
Along the Japanese coast,
Observed a target that’s not afloat;
More challenging than most.

Observing trains not far on the shore,
He devised an audacious plan.
He’d send a party of eight men, no more;
All volunteers to a man.

They’d plant a charge under the track,
Let the weight of the train cause the blast.
The raiding party could probably get back,
But assurance, no sailor had asked.

All they needed was a cloudy night
To obscure the three-quarter moon.
Four days it took for conditions right.
For the sailors, no moment too soon.

The USS Barb crept up near the shore,
To nine-hundred and fifty close yards.
The captain soon would try to get more,
Hoping not to be spotted by guards.

Small boats were lowered into the brine
And the eight brave sailors departed,
Paddling hard, in a straight line.
Twenty-five minutes after they started
They pulled their boats to the shore.
American sailors on Japanese soil,
With the deadly charge they bore,
And a railroad schedule to foil.

Nearby they saw a lookout tower
But the soldier inside was asleep.
To kill him was within their power
But they had a schedule to keep.

The sailors quickly went to their toil,
Digging a hole ‘neath the track.
They had to quickly establish their foil
And quietly make their way back.

The charge was carefully placed in the hole
And batteries to initiate spark,
And a micro switch to ensure the toll.
Then they snuck away in the dark.

The sub was now closer to shore,
Within just six-hundred feet.
The captain knew he could risk no more;
Beneath the hull, only two meters deep.

The sailors were only half-the-way back
When a crewman saw with alarm,
A train was coming hard down the track.
Afraid his men might be harmed
The captain grabbed the sub’s bull horn,
“Paddle like Hell!”, he yelled.
Suddenly the darkness was torn
By fire surely unleashed from Hell.

The boilers of the locomotive blew
Sending metal high in the air.
The freight cars, following in queue,
Were sent flying everywhere.

Explosions and flames; a fireworks display.
A stunning detonation of note.
The saboteurs had won the day,
And were safely back on the boat.

The sailors achieved through cunning and toil
A feat of legerdemain.
They not only invaded Japanese soil,
The USS Barb sank a train.

Sources: https://www.ussvirginiabase.org/files/A-GREAT-SUBMARINE-STORY.pdf; “USS Barb–SS-220” by GP Cox, https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com.

Note: Thanks to Jay Garner for first bringing this story to my attention.

Note: For more poems about heroic deeds see Patriotic Poems by Lee Austin, available through Amazon.

An Unusual Word

June 4, 2020

Arctophile [ahrk-tuh-fahyl]  n. a person who is very fond of and is usually a collector of teddy bears.*

An Unrequited Love

Jennifer cherished Teddy
With a love beyond compare.
Then she fell for Eddie,
But Teddy didn’t care.
No change in his abiding smile,
Or in his faithful stare,
For Jenny was an arctophile,
And Ted, a teddy bear.

* Dictionary.com.