Today is National Anthem Day

March 3, 2021

On this date in 1931 President Herbert Hoover signed a law making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem of the United States of America. We celebrate that every year as National Anthem Day. A friend of mine became a proud nationalized citizen yesterday. So many citizens by birth take our freedoms for granted. Naturalized citizens rarely do. I’m reminded of the naturalized citizens I know who deeply appreciate our liberty and those who have served in the military to protect it. That perspective inspired this short poem.

The Naturalized Citizen

There are citizens by birth,
And those who speak with patriotic voice.
Perhaps, the most intrinsic worth
Are those who are citizens by choice.

National Freedom Day

February 1, 2021

Today is National Freedom Day. It celebrates the day on February 1st, 1865 that President Lincoln signed a joint House and Senate resolution that later became the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, outlawing slavery. About 10 years ago, my best friend, Phil Park, suggested I write a poem with the famous graffiti from Khe Sanh: “…  for those who have fought for it, freedom has a special taste the protected will never know.” That phrase is usually attributed to an unknown Marine or soldier at Khe Sanh, though a Marine Lance Corporal named Tim Craft claims he asked a reporter to send a slightly different message back to the States. He says the message was, “For those that will fight for it…Freedom…has a flavor the protected shall never know.” (Italics mine.) That famous phrase addresses the ethos required to keep American free.  

The Taste of Freedom

“Freedom” is a simple word,
Comes easy from the lips,
Found in patriotic songs
And motion picture scripts.

You hear it spoken everywhere,
In dive and fine salon,
By people stationed high and low,
In denim and chiffon.

It’s used by politicians,
Up on Cap’tal Hill,
‘Specially when they’re trying hard
To pass some doubtful bill.

You hear it at the football games,
On college campus, too.
You hear it almost everywhere
In everything you do.

But do we truly realize
The value in that word,
So often uttered from our lips,
So ubiquitously heard?

You often hear folks comment
On Freedom’s pure, sweet taste,
But I have to wonder
On what that opinion’s based.

We say that we cherish it,
But if we really know
How valuable it surely is,
Why do we let it go?

Some folks far too willingly
Trade Freedom for Secure.
Do they know what Freedom means?
Are they ever sure?

Our Freedom is eternally bought
With our Patriot’s blood
Spilled on hot, desert sand
And in jungle mud;
Bought by gory sacrifice
In far-off lands and home,
In high mountain’s majesty
And on the ocean’s foam;
Bought on sun-lit battlefields
And in the dead of night;
Bought on deadly beaches
And in frozen winter’s fight.

How many of us are willing,
In air, on land and sea,
To fight for the meaning of the word?
To fight to keep us free?

Freedom has a special taste
That seems so apropos,
Savored by those who fought for it,
That the protected never know.

Sources: National Freedom Day – Wikipedia; http://www.togetherweteach.com/Sayings/TimCraftstory.htm.

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

Martin Luther King Day-1990

January 18, 2021

In 1990 (if memory serves me well), the U.S. Army’s Personnel Command (now Human Resources Command) held a Martin Luther King Day celebration. A gospel singer was on the program. She was very good but I don’t recall her name. Before she sang, she told the audience that singing gospel, while not her occupation, was her testimony; her service to God. She encouraged anyone in the audience who may need someone to entertain at any function being planned to call her. She told us not to hesitate or be reluctant because, she said, ”…before you call, the answer is yes.”

 The Answer Is Yes

Are you near the end of your worldly rope?
Do you sink ever lower each day?
Have you thought about me but never cried out
For fear I would turn you away?

Well don’t hesitate to pick up the phone
And put my friendship to test.
Whatever it is that you want from me,
Before you call, the answer is yes.

Is it money you need or a place for the night
Or some help to get through the day?
Do you require material things,
Or someone to hear what you say?

I’m not far away, wherever I am,
I can help overcome your distress.
Wherever you are, just cry out for me.
Before you call, the answer is yes.

If I’m not the one who can help you today,
If another dimension you need,
If you’re lost in sin and you’re sinking fast,
Your thoughts ever worse than your deeds,
Then there’s a station that’s not of this earth
That provides eternal access.
God is waiting today to hear from you.
Before you call, the answer is yes.

The Secret of a Happy Life

January 10, 2021

Ever wonder why some people always seem happy and are always able to conquer adversity? I’m not particularly wise or that knowledgeable, but I think I know why. The following is my take on that quality that is essential for a happy life.

The Elixir Within


Give me your burdens,
I can make them light.
Open up to me,
I can make things right.

Give me your doubt,
With me you will believe.
Yield your oppression,
I will make it leave.

Give me your weakness,
I will give you strength.
Admit your improvidence,
I’ll give your planning length.

Give me your fear,
I will make you brave.
Give me your folly,
I will help you save.

Yield your indolence,
I’ll help you persist.
Do you feel defeated?
I’ll help you resist.

Give me your apathy,
I will give you care.
Yield your cowardice,
I will help you dare.

Your pessimism?
I will give you hope.
Give me your despair,
I will help you cope.

Give me your prejudice,
I’ll open up your mind.
Give me your hate,
I will make you kind.

What magic potion I?
What power resides in me?
What’s the secret factor?
Simply, Positivity!

You’ll live a fruitful, happy life
If you look up, not down.
And what’s more you’ll realize
You’re fun to be around.

Notable Deaths in 2020

January 4, 2021

We lost a lot of good people in 2020 (and some bad ones, too.) Here are some of the more notable. I apologize for leaving out anyone you think should be included.

They Left Us in 2020

Jim Lehrer and Kobe Bryant.
Kirk Douglas, a movie giant.
Mary Higgins Clark, Paul Sarbanes.
Orson Bean and Herman Cain.

Janet Dubois and Robert Conrad.
Tom Sever made batters sad.
Hosni Mubarak, Curly Neal.
Jack Welch could make a deal.

Clive Cussler and John Prine.
Phyllis George was mighty fine.
Max von Sydow, Stirling Moss.
Don Shula, the Dolphins’ boss.

Lyle Waggoner, Linda Tripp.
Little Richard let her rip.
Kenny Rogers and Hugh Downs.
Bill Withers sang lovely sounds.

Honor Blackman was Pussy Galore.
Edd Byrnes passed through death’s door.
Mort Drucker drew for Mad.
Kurt Thomas gave all he had.

Brian Dennehy, George Floyd.
Chuck Yeager, sound hurdle destroyed.
Harold Reid was Statler’s base.
Jerry Stiller left a blank space.

Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy.
Ken Osmond was “Beaver” boy.
Bonnie Pointer, a Pointer Sister.
Norm Crosby, a language twister.

Wes Unseld, Jean Kennedy Smith.
Johnny Mandel left us forthwith.
Charlie Daniels, Carl Reiner,
Dianna Rigg. Were any finer?

Kelly Preston, Ron “Kahlis” Bell.
Qassem Soleimani is surely in Hell.
John Lewis, civil rights icon.
Regis Philbin has gone beyond.

John Saxon and Gayle Sayers,
One of the best football players.
Olivia de Havilland has gone with the wind.
Wilford Brimley saw his movie end.

Brent Scowcroft and Helen Reddy.
Whitey Ford was pitching-mound steady.
Trini Lopez and Johnny Nash.
Lou Brock was a base-running flash.

Big John Thompson, Paul Hornung.
Chadwick Boseman left us mourning.
Ed Bearrs and Mac Davis.
Like what Eddie Van Halen gave us?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Alex Trebek.
Rhonda Fleming gained our respect.
Tommy DeVito and Jake Scott.
Phyllis McGuire was musically hot!

Sean Connery, the definitive Bond.
Of Marge Champion, we surely were fond.
Joe Morgan and Charlie Pride.
We’re sad that Herb Adderley died.

Bob Gibson and Kevin Greene.
K.T. Oslin, among the best we’ve seen.
David Dinkins and Bob Shane.
Walter Williams, of conservative strain.

Al Kaline. Man, he could throw.
The knuckleball pitcher, Phil Niekro.
Baseball lost so many last year.
Not enough room to name them all here.

Pierre Cardin, designer of fashion.
John le Carré had a spy-tale passion.
And this year, worldwide,
Nearly two million from COVID died.

2020 was not much fun.
Now, at last, it’s over and done.
That year stayed way too long.
I sure am glad 2020’s gone!

The Yellow Rose of Texas

December 29, 2020

Texas became a U.S. state on this date in 1845. Sam Huston’s Texian army defeat of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21,1836 initiated a series of events that eventually led to Texas becoming our 28th state. Legend has it that it might not have happened but for the actions of the Yellow Rose of Texas. Emily West was a free mulatta* beauty captured by Santa Anna when he invaded New Washington, the interim Texian capital. Legend has it that she knew of Sam Houston’s plan to attack Santa Anna’s army at San Jacinto. According to the legend, she seduced Santa Anna prior to the attack to keep him from preparing for the upcoming battle. Although Emily West was an historic figure who was captured by Santa Anna, there is no evidence that she had prior knowledge of the attack or actually distracted Santa Anna from his duties. None-the-less, the legend persists and makes a great story. I tell that story below in meter and rhyme, and with a great deal of poetic license.

The Legend of the Yellow Rose of Texas.


She found herself captive in the hands of a cruel caudillo,
Caught up in the Texas revolt, among the wild ocotillo;
A captive of Santa Anna, the assassin of the Alamo.
He would not let her leave his camp. He would not let her go.

Emily West, a mulatta, with beautiful bronze-hued skin,
And seductive black eyes that enchanted most the men
That beheld her delicate walk and alluring, feminine grace,
As she moved through the army camp, walking from place to place.

She had been captured at New Washington,
The Texian government seat,
When the Mexican army came through
After the rebel’s retreat.

“What can I do while captive here?
Can I help Texas be free?
Free from the grasp of Mexico
And Santa Anna’s tyranny?”

She knew Sam Houston’s Army was arrayed to fight that day.
Could she distract her captor by pretending to be his prey?
She snuck into his tent before he checked his battle lines
And through her sensuality, bound him to his tent’s confines.

At four-thirty that afternoon, with Santa Anna occupied,
The Texians launched the attack. Six hundred and fifty foe died.
When the rebels breached the barricade, the enemy soldiers ran.
“Remember the Alamo! Kill as many as you can!”

Santa Anna captured,
Hiding in a fen.
His glory days over;
A prisoner with his men.

Is the legend true?
Who are we to say
If the Yellow Rose of Texas
Really saved that day?

*Although the term “mulatta” may be offensive to some people, it is not a derogatory term. It captures the ethnic heritage of the subject, as “bi-racial,” “multi-ethnic” or “African-American” fail to do, i. e.: the female offspring of one white parent and one black parent. The distinction is significant in the context of the legend. No offense is intended here.

Sources: History.com, “Who was the Yellow Rose of Texas?” by Sarah Pruitt, updated 10/1/2018 and “Texas” by History.com editors, updated 8/21/2018; Texas State Historical Association, Handbook of Texas, “New Washington, TX” by Seymour V. Connor; Wikipedia, “Battle of San Jacinto”.

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

Christmas 2020

December 25, 2020

2020 has been a dreadful year. It has impacted all of our lives and, seems like, everything we do. Unfortunately, Christmas is no exception. I hope this poem brings you an additional smile on this day.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The COVID Christmas

The day before Christmas, Saint Nicholas’s eve.
(That’s what the kids and some grown-ups believe.)
I’m now retired with nothing to do,
So I thought I would watch to see if it’s true.

I removed the wood from the fireplace cold
And cleaned out the ashes, both recent and old,
And opened glass doors to make entry fain,
So he could come in with no effort or pain.

I made him a plate of pretzels and beer,
That he might enjoy if he should come here.
I placed it neat on the chimney shelf.
(Should he not come, I’d consume it myself.)

I got a blanket and laid on the couch.
For what happened next I really can’t vouch.
Around midnight I drifted to sleep.
Is the rest of this real or from slumber deep?

Around one o’clock, I heard a commotion.
I looked toward the fireplace and got a strange notion
That something was moving and muffing about.
Then I saw Saint Nick come stumbling out.

He was dressed warm, as one might expect
With a furry red coat and a scarf ‘round his neck,
And insulated breeches, held up with a sash.
He stepped on the hearth and shook off the ash.

He also had on, as he took to his task,
Warm Artic boots and a surgical mask.
When I got up to help with his sack
He held out his hand and bellowed, “Stay back!”

He followed that up with robust insistence,
“You mustn’t forget to keep social distance.”
He then quickly said, with jolly good cheer,
“Would you happen to have some Remdesivir?
I have a runny nose and occasional sneeze.
If you have any, I’d like some of it, please.”

I’d been infected, was prescribed it myself.
I opened the cabinet, took it off the shelf.
I ran back downstairs and with a slight heft,
Tossed him the last of all I had left.
With a wink and a nod, he rushed up the flue.
He departed so quickly. He had much to do.

Then up on the rooftop he mounted his sleigh.
As he took to the heavens, I heard him say,
“I have a request for each one to ask,
Happy Christmas to all, and please wear a mask.”

With gratitude to Clement Clarke Moore for that wonderful Yuletide tale, “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Bill of Rights Day

December 15, 2020

Today is Bill of Rights Day. Some of the Founding Fathers were concerned that the US Constitution as originally written gave too much power to the Federal Government and feared that a strong, central government would usurp the power of the people and abuse individual and states’ rights.  They insisted that the first 10 amendments be added to the Constitution. These amendments are collectively known as the Bill of Rights. They were added to the Constitution on December 15, 1791. Here is my rendition in rhyme of the Bill of Rights.

The US Bill of Rights

First Amendment:
The Congress cannot religion dictate
Or prohibit free practice of it,
Or abridge freedom of our speech,
Even a little bit;
Or the right to gather in peace
Or freedom of the press
Or to present a petition
For a grievance to redress.

Second Amendment:
A strong militia being required
To keep us safe from harm
And to ensure a free State,
You can keep and bear arms.

Third Amendment:
No soldier, in time of peace,
Without the owners OK,
May be quartered in any home,
Not even for a day;
Nor even in time of war,
As we once terrible saw,
Can they be billeted in our homes
Except as provided by law.

Fourth Amendment:
For the people to be secure
In persons, houses and stuff
Against invalid seizure and search,
Suspicion is not enough.
If there is no probable cause
That there has been a crime,
No warrant shall be issued
For a search at any time,
But if there does exist that cause,
Authorities can proceed
But only with a warrant
For what’s to be searched and seized.

Fifth Amendment:
Before you’re guilty of a crime,
A capital one, at least,
A Grand Jury must indict
Or you can go in peace,
Except when in the military
And in a time of war
Or when there’s public danger
On our Nation’s shore.
You cannot be tried two times
For the same offense;
Nor be forced against yourself
To give evidence;
Nor, without due process
Lose life or liberty;
Nor, except as decreed by law,
Be deprived of property;
Nor shall private holdings
Be taken for public use
Without compensation just,
For that would be abuse.

Sixth Amendment:
In criminal prosecutions
You have a human right
To a quick and public trial
At a local site.
You have the right to be informed
Of the charges against you,
To call and question witnesses
And have help of counsel, too.

Seventh Amendment:
In suits of common law
Of twenty bucks or more
You have the right to a jury trial
For your honor to restore
And no fact arising there
Can be used in any court
Of these United States
Except by rules of common tort.

Eighth Amendment:
Excessive bail shall not be;
Nor excessive fines imposed;
Nor cruel, unusual punishment
To citizens be exposed.

Ninth Amendment:
The enumeration of rights herein,
Or omission by authors’ slights,
Should not be construed to deny
The people’s retained rights.

Tenth Amendment:
Powers not given to the Feds,
Nor to the States restrained,
Do not default to the US;
They’re by the States or people retained.

Note: This and 54 other poems about Patriots and patriotic events can be found in Patriotic Poems available through Amazon.com.

“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.