Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Poem of the Day: "Cleaning Up" by Tricia Knoll

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "Cleaning Up" by Tricia Knoll.  Ms. Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet with an inclination toward "eco-poetry."  Her chapbook, Urban Wild, looks at the interaction of humans and wildlife in urban habitat.  She is a big fan of online journals for accessibility and has placed more than 120 poems in online journals. Website: triciaknoll.com.

Cleaning Up
Tricia Knoll
Reroll dry dough to shape one more gingerbread man.  
Scatter soggy arugula for the hens.
Line the garbage pail with yesterday’s funnies.
Shake an apron full of flour to the four winds.
At the end of the day, we do-again with leftovers,
cleaning up.
Marble makers working by hand do the same.
They heat a bit of clear glass on the rod,
then roll it in the powder, scraps and crumbs
of unused glass from a day’s fire in the furnace.
A flake of red. A dust of blue. That day’s colors
float like polka-dot clouds in a clear sky.
Each end-of-day-cloud-swirl marble is one of a kind, fruits
that old German craftsmen seldom sold.
They gave them away
to children near the glassworks.

Poet's Notes:  "Cleaning Up" is from a book-length manuscript I'm working on, Gathering Marbles. Gathering Marbles is about aging . . . and about marbles. Not losing them, but holding them up in wrinkled fingers and repurposing them from toys for play to see how glass reflects light. In recent months I have bought some vintage marbles, including old German handmade marbles, on E-Bay. Little glass bowls of marbles sit in several rooms in my house. My favorites are German latticino swirls.

Editor's Note:  The imagery here is vivid, enhanced by the poet's clever use of subtle rhyme and alliteration.  The poetic conceit is interesting, and the message is at once civic minded and instructive.  The ending, with the image of the little children receiving the one-of-a-kind marbles, adds just the right amount of sentiment. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Poetry Review Father & Daughter Special Feature: Poems by Adele & Delbert R. Gardner

From the Editor:  Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present a father & daughter special feature showcasing the poetry of Adele Gardner and her father Delbert R. Gardner.  The poems are herein published as separate, searchable posts.

I have no doubt that readers will savor this mini-collection of poems which so eloquently sing of love in so many of its various forms and settings.  There is the hopeless love of a good girl for a bad boy.  There is the love of an older man for a younger woman who manage to beat the odds.  There is the love of a daughter for her father, remembering him in his prime and on his deathbed.

Sadly, Delbert Gardner is no longer with us and left no notes to accompany his poems.  His daughter fills this gap by providing thoughtful insights into his process and the context of his work.

So, I invite you to enjoy the beautiful words of these wonderful poets.  Have a box of tissues handy just in case.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

PS:  Due to a strange glitch in the blogosphere that has baffled even my tech support specialist (ie:  my college-aged son), the last poem in this collection, "Row Your Boat Ashore," may not appear on some systems without clicking on the link provided.


About Adele Gardner:  Currently cataloging librarian for a public library, Adele Gardner loved being editor for The Mariners' Museum and projectionist for AMC Theatres. Home for her wouldn't be complete without five cats, four birds, a kit harpsichord, and two friendly guitars. 

A graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and an active member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Ms. Gardner is also literary executor for her father, her mentor and namesake Delbert R. Gardner. 

Ms. Gardner's first poetry collection, Dreaming of Days in Astophel, appeared in 2011. With one long and one short poem winning third place in the Rhysling Awards, she’s had over 300 works of short fiction, poetry, art/photography, and nonfiction published in venues such as:  Strange HorizonsDaily Science FictionThe Doom of CamelotLegends of the PendragonChallenging DestinyArcane IIPodCastleNew MythsHeroic Fantasy QuarterlyLiquid ImaginationSilver BladeGoblin FruitMythic DeliriumTales of the Talisman, and Songs of Eretz Poetry E-Zine. Two stories and a poem earned honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. Learn more at www.gardnercastle.com.


About Delbert R. Gardner:  A veteran of World War II, Dr. Delbert R. Gardner taught English literature and creative writing at Keuka College in upstate New York.  His recent publications include stories in Unbridled II and Lamplight and poetry in The 2015 Rhysling AnthologySongs of Eretz Poetry E-ZineTales of the TalismanStar*Line, and Goblin Fruit, among others.  Over fifty of Dr. Gardner's poems and stories have appeared in such publications as:  The Literary ReviewPoetry DigestAmerican Poetry MagazineProvincetown Review, and Christian Science Monitor.  He is the author of An "Idle Singer" and His Audience: A Study of William Morris's Poetic Reputation in England, 1858-1900.  Learn more at www.gardnercastle.com.


Table of Contents

"Deliverance" by Adele Gardner

Adele Gardner

Windy height, second floor prison:
you watched your back yard, safe in a bedroom
muffled in layers of time
while down below, new shoots still pierced bare dirt
to meet the stakes of the picket fence,
sloping down toward spines of cattails on the water's bank,
where plain posts divorce the stubble of lawn
from the tangled freedom of the lake.

Fifty miles away, I sat by my open window
watching raindrops speckle a white sill,
spatter my cheeks while I waited
without any word from you but
distant rumbling thunder.

In the sanctity of your room,
the raucous clamoring of ducks
punctured your still time-bubble,
shredding your meditation, their flying shadows rippling
through your room, crying rumors of my storm
out where time still moved.

You leaned out your own high window
above the circling ducks,
their shadows gliding over those who paddled
in the sharp scent of ozone, air gray as my picture.
You were pondering distance, pondering depth.
What prompted you
to unplug, to sever yourself, cut free,
leaving only white sky
spliced by the black pole of the bird feeder,
the wind shaking trees, until one lone voice 
dropped your gaze down, down, down?

Trapped, you must have seen me as
your one way out, your one highway exit
from the dizzying speed of the brutal freeway,
leaving you, paradoxically, in a backwater, dead-end town,
brackish, closed-lipped, old-fashioned clothes, ingrown,
too shy for strangers, a numbing quiet,
no gambling, no cathouses,
no way back.

But that town worshipped you:
you were a hero, dark gunslinger
with a cigar on his lip, a biting tongue,
a thousand yarns about distant lands,
and eyes haunted by knowledge that
had you by the throat,
a past that wouldn't let go.
What was I to you?
a tongue-tied virgin, a slopmistress of hogs,
innocent Reena of the birds,
a sidekick dressed as a boy, hunting her lost brother,
Joan Crawford guarding her saloon?
We were all tied, all trapped, the whole town
by your looks and your gun-trained hands,
by the heart where it spilled through your eyes.
Bewitched, we let you live our lives,
filling days with the dark clouds of your gloom
while your horse kicked dust as you desperately sought light
everywhere but inside, and we
sank down and down and down

Into the fenced yard where your gaze jerked now,
drawn by lost bleating.
Did you breathe my spell across the miles,
imbibed through ozone? 
Below, a frantic, down-backed baby
fumbled for a fence-hole escape
while your dogs, fanged marshals,
jealous wardens of a limited land,
tore tail-feathers free one by one.

Some sameness sparked you, made you
dive through the door, the ripple of time
closing over your feet as you
hurtled downstairs, grabbed her, pinned her
trembling feathers against your breast,
to feel the bone beneath.

Strange love rushed through you
while you cursed the dogs: joy
burned your throat as you struggled to hold
this wild, winged thing
until exhaustion glazed her eye.
Tamed, at haven, she might thank you,
might paddle at your heels once the dogs were chained,
forgetting to long for sky,
for the lonely stretches of reeds and mire.

Feathers ruffled with the wind
as you stroked her back.
She gazed up with glazed eyes.
You shivered as the clamor of my phone call
pierced the barrier to jangle through your house.

You leaned over the fence,
splinters poking your stomach
as you stretched to release her.
She huddled, too scared, too tame. 
You yelled till she ran, squawking,
flapping stubby wings,
soon lost amid grown ducks and rain.
You watched her go,
the rain prickling your skin,
while dusk seeped into your house
through open windows
with the dark smear of coal
like the candle-ash from the letters I burned in your name.

Later that night, time's steps flitted through the house--
too late to stop that insidious invasion.
You called at last in the dim electric hours,
this story your apology,
no other explanation:
a tired freedom I failed to recognize at first.
I sat numb while your voice released me with a click
and time flowed out of your house
into mine, and I struggled to find
a way to live alone
now that you'd cast me out of Eden.

Poet's Notes:  This poem, one of a series written for an ex-beloved, found me trying to reconcile myself to a freedom I might have needed, but did not want.  His tale of the duck, a true story, which he told to me close to our first farewell, struck me as entirely too apt for the careful way he was releasing me, waiting until I was safe, past the danger of botching my graduation through grief.  But the break in my heart was so sharp it took years to dream what that freedom might be for, and all the while I kept searching for a way back in.

Editor's Note:  My emotions are swirling like the tempest in the poem as I write these comments.  Sometimes sensitive, poetic women fall in love with bad boys.  They see the poet underneath the swagger, the Romeo buried deep within the Don Juan, the gentle soul ruled by a wild, violent spirit.  What woman could resist?  Ms. Gardner tells this age-old story well and captures the conflicting feelings perfectly with her conceit of the ducks.

"The More It Changes . . ." by Delbert R. Gardner

The More It Changes . . .
Delbert R. Gardner

Editor's Note:  Go here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cELsUMcQdc then come back and begin reading.

Early October, a day to spend at the beach
With a lover (who happens to be my wife).
In sweat-shirts and bathing suits and hand in hand,
We stroll along the sand at water's edge.
The wind is constant and brisk, as if with life
Of its own, so this time we don't go
In the water, but the day really is fine--
Sky mostly clear, with a few puff-balls of clouds
Here and there, and a thin ridge
Of cirrus clouds up high.  On the wet sand
We walk, with surf wetting our feet at its will
And smoothing out the prints we leave behind.
The restless ocean is pacing there within reach,
On our right as we walk toward the north,
Changing every minute, but constant still.

Eliot's would-be Don Juan comes to mind,
Walking the beach in rolled-up flannel pants
And wishing mermaids would sing to him their chants,
Instead of to each other.  The poor sap:
If they did call him, he wouldn't dare to go--
Not even if the mermaids left him a map!

There was a time when I felt I heard the mermaid,
One hot July, when she flipped her shiny tail
Before the boat in which I rowed across
A glacial lake with my young love--
A maiden who sang of strawberries and wine--
And when I'd rowed the boat into a cove,
She left the stern and pressed her lips to mine,
With honey taste, and honey was her hair.
Then she took a turn and rowed the boat,
While from the stern I pointed out to her
Some landmarks and possibilities here and there.
We laughed at a green-head mallard male
Who flew alongside and settled down to float
Upon the surface briefly, then took to the air.

These are different waters we walk beside,
Since moving south to warmer shores and sunny,
And full-grown are the children we brought forth,
About whose birth, back then we had no clue;
They've each an individual path to find.
And in the air here soars a different bird--
The seagull--it's a different clime and time
Than what we used to know up north.
But our life together, though ever-changing too,
Is still constant, since the magic song we heard.
Strawberries still are sweet, and lips are honey;
The taste buds have not lost their zest for wine!

Commentary on "The More It Changes . . . " by Adele Gardner in consultation with Marilyn H. Gardner:  Dad and Mom's story begins with water.  They met, but did not date, at Keuka College where Dad taught, overlooking gorgeous Keuka Lake in upstate New York.  After Mom graduated, they wrote to each other during the summer, meeting again at last at a cottage on Keuka Lake for a two-week stay with Dad's brother and his family. This was, in Mom's words, the foundation of their romance.  While boating together, Mom first sang to Dad the beautiful "Today" by Randy Sparks of the New Christy Minstrels ("Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine," whose lyrics Dad alludes to here, became a staple for them, epitomizing their love, their approach to life, and why their age difference did not matter.  From my earliest years, I loved hearing their voices raised together in sweet harmony on this song and others).  

But Mom had already signed a contract to teach that fall in Glen Burnie, Maryland, which was a ten-hour drive from Keuka on winding, narrow country roads in sometimes life-threatening weather.  During a long year of driving and distance, they spent happy hours together at the beach at Sandy Point Park, Maryland, even in October.  

After married bliss by the shores of Lake Keuka, at last life brought them back to another waterside location, Hampton Roads, Virginia, where they again enjoyed visiting many beaches, at which our family swam, or the two of them strolled together.  As an older man rolling his pants to wade in the surf with my mother, Dad found himself recalling "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot; as a further parallel, Dad had linked Mom with the Mermaid of Copenhagen in an earlier poem.  But unlike Prufrock, Dad had the courage to answer the call of the mermaid, despite many obstacles, including their twenty-two-year age difference; the objections of Mom's parents; attitudes at the college; and his own horrible first marriage, despite which he loved and trusted Mom.

Editor's Note:  Mr. Gardner's use of the beginning and ending blank verse stanzas to bookend the lilting interlude in rhyming iambic pentameter creates a special kind of magical world within a magical world.  I enjoy the way the imagery moves between romanticized reality and real romance.  And, of course, I am a sucker for poems that mention seagulls.  

On a personal note, the song "Today" coincidentally has a special place in my heart.  In the late '90s, I sang bass in a SPEBSQSA-registered barbershop quartet called Classic Touch.  "Today" was one of our favorite songs to perform--always a crowd pleaser.  I, too, live by the philosophy so eloquently expressed in that timeless ballad.  "You'll know who I am by the song that I sing."

"WWII Muscles" by Adele Gardner

WWII Muscles
Adele Gardner

Dying isn't easy, even when you have the strength
To lift a B52 and pull the injured from the wreck,
Fly the maimed and dying to hospitals faster than a helicopter,
Or sweep a young woman off her feet, saving her
From a mistake that would have cost her future children's lives.
These feats that helped salvage our side, these muscles
That helped to win a war, this humble heroism that sought no praise--
None of that helps when you're fighting for your life at 85,
Gasping with half your diaphragm paralyzed
As surely as if you'd taken a bullet all those years ago.
Houdini couldn't survive a sucker punch, and even Steel
Seldom blocks modern weapons.  Worse still,
Entropy--that supervillain, unconquered enemy of life--
Holds sway even over the brave and the just,
The compassionate, the strong--especially these,
Who expend their lives, their energy, at a furious pace
In saving others.  At least his children's once-small hands,
Now grown, clasp his with saving grace,
Their sole mission to stand in for his strength--
Not heroes reborn, just concrete, heartfelt proof
That the saving matters.

Poet’s Notes:  I think a lot about the daily lives of superheroes, the trials they face to continue their mission, and the costs of human living that even they must pay.  Dad was always our hero.  From a young age, we knew he'd served in World War II.  The stories he told were few, but he always made a point to praise the courage and sacrifices of others and downplay his role.  But we had other ideas.  When Dad went on his first away assignment to the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) when I was ten, I made him a welcome-home card with a drawing of Dad as Superman (alluded to as "Steel" in the poem).  We were conscious of Dad as an older father as someone extra-special, to be treasured; no matter his age, Dad remained strong and courageous, wise but young at heart.  In Kentucky, when Dad was fifty-nine and they were ten, my brothers coined the phrase "World War II muscles" in genuine admiration for Dad's strength.  We all loved this concept and used it with pride through Dad's eighty-fifth year.  In this poem I decided to imagine what it might have been like if he'd really had these superpowers--but still met his own very mortal end.  

Editor’s Note:  The themes of "WWII Muscles" are universal but told in a deeply personal, moving way.  The conclusion is well done, with just the right amount of poignancy and sentiment--a fine tribute to a fine man.  "WWII Muscles" was first published in the August 2014 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine.

"Hollow Beats the Night" by Delbert R. Gardner

Hollow Beats the Night
Delbert R. Gardner

December blew white tracers past the window,
And somewhere, children would be building snowmen,
Dreaming of the time when Santa Claus
Would prop up Christmas trees with stacks of gifts.
Though Nelson Strong was scarcely forty-five,
With dark brown hair as yet untouched by gray,
And lithe-appearing body used to movement,
He sat each evening in a trance-like manner,
Refusing to take part in conversation,
And stared with hollow eyes at nothing earthly.
Some friends came, after hearing of his illness,
And tried to cheer him up with apt remarks,
Like "Don't kid me, you're only tired of working,"
Or "May, how long you going to pamper him?
I wish my wife would wait on me like that."
But, getting only curt one-word replies,
Unsettled by his pale, unwinking stare,
They fidgeted, already sensing Death,
Afraid to stand inhaling His black air.
They fumbled their goodnights and quickly left;
May walked them to the door and softly wept.
"Poor Nelson, I don't know just how to help him.
For three weeks, ever since the doctor told him
That any kind of labor'd stop his heart,
He's sat and looked like that, and never eats
More than a bite or two of food, that's all
He ever eats.  I don't know what to do."
They tried to comfort her, in awkward kindness;
"This thing has kind of thrown him for a loss,
But he'll perk up within a week or two,
You'll see," they said with hope they did not feel.

The children had been always close to Nelson,
And now they could not understand his quiet.
"Your father needs his rest," May gently told them.
"He isn't well, and we must all be patient.
Let's give him all the help and love we can
And pray to God to give him back his health."
Lucille, at twelve, was eldest of the three.
She sat upon the floor by Nelson's chair
And, smiling, put her hand upon his knee.
"What would you like to get for Christmas, Daddy?"
Tenderness was throbbing in her words.
He looked at first as though he hadn't heard;
And when he turned his head to look at her,
His eyes were prisms of his bitter soul.
"Death," he hissed; then, seeing how the word
Had struck her in the face with freezing shock,
He briefly touched her hand and said more gently,
"I just don't want to be here Christmas Day."
She put her face upon his knees and sobbed,
"Please don't say that, Daddy, please don't die!"
Her younger brothers stood by looking helpless,
Not understanding why Lucille was crying,
But close to tears themselves in sympathy.
May hurried in and pulled Lucille upright,
Caressing her to soothe the wracking sobs.
The man stood up and threw his wife a look.
"If you don't keep those kids away, I'll kill 'em,"
He muttered, and walked slowly to his bedroom,
Shutting the door upon his daughter's wailing.

Lying in the darkness, Nelson listened
To the uneven hoof-beats of his heart;
"Useless-failure-useless," it insisted,
"You almost got your wish, your wish to die;
Just one more crisis, one more strain like that--
I'll end the farce, and stop cold, stop you cold."
"Oh, no you won't," said Nelson, "not that way;
I want it slower and more natural-looking.
Besides, if you won't work, I'll starve you!
No work, no food," he said and chuckled lightly.

How long he slept he had no way of knowing;
The house was lying under heavy silence,
As he became aware that some intruder
Now shared the darkness that before was his.
"Who's there?" he whispered hoarsely to the room.
A soft, soft voice came floating through the gloom.
"You're frightened, son.  It's only me, your Mother."

"It can't be--but it sounds like Mother's voice--"
Then, suddenly he knew it was his mother;
His being was pervaded by a calm,
A quietness he hadn't known for years,
And nothing seemed unnatural or strange.
Silent and unquestioning, he waited.
"I want you to go back to sleep and dream,"
His mother said.  "I want you to remember,
And be again, a boy of twelve years old.
Goodnight, my son, sleep well and don't forget
That every man must be a child first."
The mind of Nelson swiftly bridged the years
To that hot summer when his mother lay
So near the reaching hand of hungry Death,
That every breath he feared would be her last.

            In the close and tiny bedroom,
            Nelson sat beside his mother.
            With a cardboard fan, he fanned her,
            Through the hot and sticky night,
            Dozing seconds at a time,
            Till her gasping "Fan me, fan me!"
            Brought him guiltily awake,
            Made him fan with freshened vigor,
            Saying underneath his breath
            "Get well, Mother, please get well,"
            Praying hard as he knew how,
            "Save her, God, please make her well;
            I won't ask for nothing else."
            Once she felt a little better,
            Looked at him with loving eyes;
            "You're so tired, dear," she said,
            "Go to bed and get some rest."
            "No," he said, "I'm gonna stay."
            Smiling then, she fell asleep.
            Nelson went and ate a sandwich,
            Fixed some beef broth for his mother,
            And fed it to her when she woke.
            Morning brought the scorching sun,
            Making the bedroom like an oven.
            Not a breath of air was stirring
            To relieve the stifling heat.
            Nelson's mother gasped for breath,
            Begged her son to keep on fanning.
            All that day he waved the cardboard,
            Changing hands when one went numb,
            Wishing that some rain would come,
            Wishing that the day would end.
            Evening finally chased the sun,
            But the air was thick as ever,
            Sticky air too hot for breathing.
            "Let me get a doctor, Mother."
            "I've no money for a doctor."
            Nelson's mother wrote a note.
            "Take it to the little church,
            Where we used to go last spring.
            Give the minister the note;
            Ask them all to pray for me."
            Saying this, she lay back panting.
            Nelson was afraid to leave her.
            "Hurry, son," his mother begged him,
            "I'll be all right while you're gone."
            Kissing her, he hurried out,
            Buckled on his roller skates,
            Skated as he never had,
            Jumping curbs and broken sidewalk,
            And the clicking of the wheels
            Matched the pounding of his heart.
            Tears were blurring in his eyes,
            Causing him to pass a street
            Where he should have made a turn;
            Soon he was completely lost.
            Frantically, he dashed around,
            One direction, then another.
            Desperation mounted in him,
            And his breath was coming short.
            Then his eye fell on a sign
            With "M.D." behind the name.
            Knowing that the sign meant "doctor,"
            Nelson stood before the house,
            Wrestling with his indecision,
            Till his worry for his mother
            Overcame his fear and shame.
            Quickly taking off his skates,
            Dashing to the porch and knocking,
            He asked God to help his mother,
            Make the doctor help his mother.
            After what seemed endless hours,
            Someone came and let him in.
            Pushing past the skirted figure,
            "Where's the doctor?" he demanded.
            "Doctor Williamson is busy."
            "What's the trouble out here, Thelma?"
            Asked the doctor, coming forward.
            Nelson ran to kneel before him,
            Threw his arms around his legs,
            Begging him to help his mother,
            Saying that they had no money,
            But he'd work and pay him back.
            "She's so sick, I know she'll die,
            If someone don't come and help her."
            Dr. Williamson was touched;
            Maybe he could see himself
            In the mother-loving boy.
            "Thelma, bring my bag," he called.
            "Come along, son, you can show me
            Where your mother and you live."
            Nelson said he had to find
            The little church somewhere around there.
            "Come, I'll take you," said the doctor.

            Getting out before the church,
            Nelson humbly thanked the doctor,
            Told him where his mother lived,
            Begging him to go ahead.
            Going in the little church,
            Nelson hurried to the altar,
            Gave the minister the note,
            And kneeling down, he prayed out loud,
            Asking God to save his mother,
            Get the doctor there in time,
            Help the doctor make her well.
            Everybody listened to him,
            Feeling shamed before his faith.
            When he ran back up the aisle,
            "Pass the plate for that boy's mother!"
            Shouted someone in the back,
            And the preacher stood amazed,
            Seeing four plates overflowing,
            Emptied out and filled again.

            Nelson paused before the bedroom,
            Hardly daring to go in.
            Then he turned the knob and entered,
            Saw the doctor standing there,
            Saw his mother, pale and quiet,
            Breathing softly in her sleep.
            Dr. Williamson was smiling,
            Leading Nelson out the door.
            "She'll get well, my boy," he said.
            Nelson's knees began to shake.
            Sinking down upon his cot,
            With his face between his hands,
            "Thank you, God," he mumbled weakly.
            Looking at the boy, the doctor
            Mixed a glass of medicine.
            "Here, drink this," he kindly ordered.
            Nelson gulped the bitter fluid,
            Then he settled back and slept . . .

When Nelson woke, he looked around the room.
Daylight slanted through the curtained window,
And May was dozing in a chair beside him,
Her head against the back, fatigue lines showing
Around her eyes and mouth.  Humility
Began to spread its balm throughout his soul,
Crowding out the bitter, useless feeling.
As if she felt his loving glance upon her,
She gave a start and looked at him with fear,
But when she saw his open eyes, she smiled.
"Feeling any better, dear?" she asked.
He nodded.  "Better, but I'm awful hungry."
Surprise gave way to gladness in her face.
"I'll fix some breakfast for us both," she said.

He ate with such a relish it amazed her.
When he was done, he looked at her and asked,
"What day is it?"  "It's Sunday," she replied.
He hesitated, wondering how to say it.
"Mother was here on Friday night," he said.
She nodded slowly as she gazed at him.
"I think I'd like to see the children, May."
Her eyes were searching.  "I'll go get them, Nelson."
Lucille came in with reddened nose and eyes,
Followed by young Fred and Nelson Jr.,
And May was smiling at the door behind them.
He solemnly shook hands with both the boys,
Then, hugging his daughter close, he kissed her hair.
"You're what I want for Christmas," he said gruffly.

Commentary by Adele Gardner on Hollow Beats the Night:  When my father was twelve, during the Great Depression, the family had no money for a doctor.  Sitting up night after night fanning his mother Effie in the heat, Dad was convinced that she was dying.  He roller-skated to the Methodist church and asked the minister to pray for his dying mother; the minister immediately visited and brought a doctor.  The kind Dr. Ella Ritter of Williamsport saved Effie and provided groceries for the family--free of charge.  While Effie battled peritonitis at a time without antibiotics, Dad kept the family together, cooking meals, sewing, mending, cleaning the laundry and house, and taking care of his six-year-old sister--as my mother says, "quite remarkable for a young boy."  Dad wrote this poem in 1953 while studying literature at Syracuse University for his bachelor's under the G.I. Bill (he was the first member of his family to go to college).  Though he never submitted the poem for publication, he wrote an article praising Dr. Ella Ritter that was published in a Williamsport, PA, paper around 1955.  While Dad was always careful to fictionalize any autobiographical elements in his work, I'm convinced that if he'd had the chance to revise this poem in later years, he would have included the actual character of the woman who retained his gratitude all his life.

Editor's Note:  The story told in "Hollow Beats the Night" reminds me of something out of a work of Dickens.  The rhythm is impeccable, and the occasional rhymes make for nice surprises.  The mood created is special and moves seamlessly between the various stages of grief--with particular emphasis on anger and then finally on acceptance.  "Hollow Beats the Night" was first published in the August 2014 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine.