Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Strange

My favorite time during the Christmas season is the silent afterglow — the quiet interlude after the Christmas Eve gathering, after the children (and grandchildren) have gone to bed in search of sugarplums and sweet Christmas dreams. Christmas Eve Mass is over, the pork pie and the homemade treats have been consumed, the television is off, and the fire has burned low, casting deep crimson shadows over the room — giving the softly glowing decorations and twinkling lights a new vibrancy and depth.

I gaze out the front window, and see the lights from our window reflected on the snow. Lights from neighbor's homes gleam through the dark and I know others are sharing the strange peace of late Christmas night.

My recliner beckons and I settle back to breathe in the subtle joy and silent peace of this holy night. My thoughts take flight and soar abroad on the winds of the night, under a canopy of stars above and lights below, adrift and borne aloft upon the peaceful silence of Christmas night.

Mick

Strange

Strange how my heart beats,
In time with twinkling Christmas lights.
Soft falling snow meets,
With brilliant beams in darkest nights.

Strange how my soul flies,
Abroad on wings of Christmas love.
Rapt as my heart cries,
Aloud to distant stars above.

Aloft on wings of gossamer and lace,
I fly in search of Christmas love and grace.

Strange how my thoughts fly,
Away on silver gilded wings -
Drift in the night sky,
To find His peace above all things.

As silently I plead with God above,
To shower us with Heaven's joyous love.

Strange how my tears glow,
And shine in joy with inner light,
For those I love now,
Asleep in peace on Christmas night.

Mick McKellar
November 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bleak and Blue

Frozen feet stomp through the drifting waves of winter's bounty. Frigid fingers vainly try to grasp the slippery handle of a familiar old shovel or scuffed and battered snow scoop. Gloves or mittens inside choppers (leather mittens) make deft hands clumsy and uncertain. Parkas or heavy coats restrict movement of arms and shoulders, making simple work more difficult. Hoods and hats keep the snow and wind from freezing your face and ears, but muffle sounds and create a kind of tunnel vision. It is like dancing in a sleeping bag.

And how does only six inches of fluffy white stuff become so heavy? There are days that I swear the snow propagates after falling on the ground. Wind drifts of white appear over night, filling in all the paths I cleared yesterday, or even a few hours ago. The snow plow opens our street by pushing the snow from the road into yards and driveways, creating new drifts of hard-packed and heavy detritus which must be moved or we will be sealed into our wintry redoubt. Thus begins the daily dance of the bleak and blue warriors, greeting the snowy morn with shovel in hand, battling the icy white breath of winter's curse, and dreaming of warm socks and hot coffee.

Mick

Bleak and Blue

Dark wintry silence pierced by screams of rage:
The roar of mountain lions stomped by cows,
Or snarling sounds produced by those my age,
Who find their driveways filled-in by snow plows!
There in the bleakest hour of early morn,
Though muffled by the falling flakes of white,
The sounds of aging tendons being torn,
Rip through the ragged remnants of the night.
Dark shadows armed with shovels flail about,
Though dimly viewed though curtains pale and cold,
Move countless tons of frozen rainfall out
Of paths and driveways, as we watch unfold
The deep midwinter icy action show,
All bleak and blue and buried in the snow.

Mick McKellar
December 2009

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Flawed, too

When I wrote the poem Flawed, a reader remarked that the story seemed incomplete and wondered how it ended. I thought about it, and pondered on the complex interaction between those we view as "perfect" and the ardent fans that help create that myth of perfection. Is there a price to be paid for profiting from that perfection myth?

Although we have been told that those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, again and again, we build castles for those we consider perfect, and then we evict them when they prove to be just as human as the rest of us. There is, of course, a price to be paid, an often steep and unpleasant price for riding high on the expectations of fans and those who worship at the image of perfection. The higher one climbs the further one has to fall.

It's more than Marley's chains, for he did not understand until after he was buried by old Scrooge. The meteoric rise and sometimes cataclysmic crash and burn of so many celebrities, should teach us something about perfection: It is a marvelous motivator and a grand goal, but anyone who thinks he has achieved it is a fool; an anyone who trades on his perfection is merely polishing his fool's gold.

Mick


Flawed, too

When a perfect man, on a perfect day,
Discovered his life had a tiny flaw,
He greeted the flaw in his perfect way,
Inviting his friends to see what he saw.
He capered about in a perfect dance,
And sang a glad song in his perfect voice.
He sang: “At last, I have a perfect chance,
To make a perfectly wonderful choice!”
He placed the small flaw on his mantelpiece,
In perfect balance with his grand decor.
“And, at last I shall know the perfect peace —
With joy I have never known before!”
For, although he could talk, cry, sing and shout,
He’d had nothing at all to talk about…

His attitude changed when his friends came by,
And they saw his tiny flaw on display.
Some screamed in outrage, and others did cry:
"Oh, how can you disappoint us this way?"
"You were our idol, our role-model king;
We held you up for our daughters and sons,
And now you display this imperfect thing —
A thing from which any perfect man runs!"
Some media pundits made it a joke,
And others called it a conspiracy.
Some assumed he must be perfectly broke,
And badly needed the publicity.
He looked sad at how his flaw was received,
But secretly, was perfectly relieved.

When that perfect man, on that perfect day,
Put his flaw on display for all to see,
He knew there were legends he would betray,
And myths he'd destroy almost perfectly.
Though the myths were not his, he'd let them grow,
And profited from perfection for sale;
But now he had let his ardent fans know,
Of the tiny flaw in his perfect tale.
Rich, lonely, and tired, he had given in
To impulse, and shared the truth of his lie;
For he had discovered to his chagrin,
That perfection's price, was simply too high
To run away from, though he traveled far...
For the gravy train has a baggage car.

Mick McKellar
December 2009

Monday, December 07, 2009

Flawed

No one on this planet is perfect. However some of us think we are or want to give the impression we are, and do not want to hear that we've made a mistake. Just imagine if one were perfect, flawless, peerless...what on Earth could one have a conversation about?

Ask any author about his best or most popular characters. Are they perfect in every way? Nah. They would be so boring, the readers would leave in droves. The best heroes are the flawed heroes. What challenge is there when the protagonist has all the best tools, the best breaks, and never makes a mistake? What does he or she have to overcome? How can I possibly relate to a character too perfect to be human? Even the most alien characters in science fiction or fantasy literature have human characteristics, mostly human flaws. It is what allows us to relate, to understand, and to feel for them. The same is true for parents, bosses, and leaders of all sorts.

Mick

Flawed

When a perfect man, on a perfect day,
Discovered his life had a tiny flaw,
He greeted the flaw in his perfect way,
Inviting his friends to see what he saw.
He capered about in a perfect dance,
And sang a glad song in his perfect voice.
He sang: "At last, I have a perfect chance,
To make a perfectly wonderful choice!"
He placed the small flaw on his mantelpiece,
In perfect balance with his grand decor.
"And, at last I shall know the perfect peace —
With joy I have never known before!"
For, although he could talk, cry, sing and shout,
He'd had nothing at all to talk about...

Mick McKellar

December 2009

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tools

Two native Americans were talking as they passed through a forest glade. The older fellow stopped his young companion and told him a story about two white men who met on a street in town. One white man asked. "Are you hungry?" The other white man looked at his watch.

The two native Americans laughed until they were too weak to walk.

Henry David Thoreau said: "Men have become the tools of their tools." In many ways, those were prophetic words. It seems nearly every aspect of our daily lives is regulated, timed, assisted, or controlled by one or more of a myriad collection of technological tools. I remember starting my work day by turning on an office copier and placing my document in the feeder. I pressed the "Go" button. The machine beeped an incredibly irritating beep, and on the small LCD screen the words, "Not Ready" appeared. An image sprang to mind of tiny workers, inside the photocopier, on coffee break and saying, "Not Ready!"

How often, when my alarm goes off in the dark winter morning, I have wanted to just roll over and say, "Not Ready!" I've lost count. Now, excuse me, for I have to post to Twitter and Facebook, that I've written another poem...

Mick

Tools

How many times do I eat by the clock,
Or stand by the door to wait for my mail;
Or sit with patience of weathered old rock,
And wait for release from my e-mail jail?
Obediently, I watch TV news,
Ensconced in my chair at the proper hour.
When did I give up my personal views,
And grant to the media such power?
My car tells me it needs water and oil,
And the microwave, that dinner is through.
My alarm clock wakes me, in time to toil,
And my calendar tells me what to do.
Perhaps, our technology makes us fools,
For we have become the tools of our tools.

Mick McKellar

December 2009

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Dark Side

Mark Twain said: "Every one is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody." Like the dust we sweep beneath our carpets, the junk food snacks we hold behind our backs, and the tales we tell ourselves when we're alone—we keep our guilty pleasures and self-indulgent treasures locked away in shadow, alongside the unfounded myths and unfriendly monsters we all must master or hide from view.

Throughout our lives, we move among others, orbiting some and capturing others in our own gravity wells. Attracted and repelled, spinning in the midst of myriad points of light, we match rotation with each orbit and show only the one face—the friendly and familiar, or fierce and stormy face we carefully cultivate and swiftly sculpt for each encounter. The shades that lurk among the penumbral confines of our hidden hemispheres dance alone in perpetual midnight, a cursed cotillion rarely shared and shamefully concealed. And yet, within that dark dance are diamonds—crystalline thoughts and clear, starlit gems which, once shared, might save a soul or enlighten a life. Light, even reflected and refracted, can dispel shadows and illuminate the darkest path.

Mick

Dark Side


Within our spheres of influence we spin,
In orbits tracing subtle paths since birth,
And hiding secret memories, within
The shadows that we cast upon the Earth.
As with our queen, afloat in starlit sky,
Rotation-matched, we show but one bright face;
And never think to ask or seek to spy,
What monsters dwell in that dark, hidden place.
Or are there treasures lurking far from sight,
Beyond the bright horizon of your orb?
Perhaps a truth too large to grasp aright,
Or far too many secrets to absorb.
I ask you grant me one unearthly boon:
To let me glimpse the dark side of your moon.

Mick McKellar
December 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Against the Gale

Bertrand Russell said, "In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying." Having the courage to stand up and take action against this grand annoyance is the hallmark of those who have a deep sense of self, and who treasure authenticity and integrity.

Discovery of self is a mantra one of those "tools of power" so often at the center of self-improvement schemes. Yet, I believe we spend a large part of our lives hiding from ourselves, because we cannot or will not face the truth of the evils which live in the shadows around us. It is a perfect storm of suffering which threatens to inundate us all, a tsunami crashing upon us from the ocean of tears we, ourselves, created. Perhaps, in standing against that storm, we can discover who we are and what we are. Perhaps, by standing on the shoals near the dark shore, we can face down the terrible storm and find the beauty of the world.

Dr. Seuss saw the truth of the matter: "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

Mick

Against the Gale

The beauty of the world is testament,
That suffering cannot be at the core.
Yet although evil is not heaven-sent,
Mankind hides in its shadows all the more:
Seeking to deny the truth in caring,
And hiding from compassion in their souls,
Focusing on self, and never daring
To face the tear-filled ocean from its shoals;
These victims of impatience and ennui,
Will seek out those who stand and face the storm
Who understand the challenges they see,
And seek to deviate far from the norm!
Although their feet may rest on shifting sand,
Against the gale they have courage to stand.

Mick McKellar
November 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Voices in the Noise

Tinnitus is the most constant of companions. Though I can ignore it when louder noises penetrate the shimmering curtain of white noise, the hissing—reminiscent of static on old amplifiers and tube radio sets—is always there to fill any void left by those moments of complete and utter silence I dreaded as child. Now they seem a treasure beyond reach, a shadowed memory of the times before noise.

My family tires of televisions and radios set to high volume, so that I can separate the dialog from the music score on movies and television shows, or pick out the lyrics on a favorite song. Mostly, I miss singing reliably, for the notes playing in my head are usually not the ones I am supposed to deliver. It can be confusing.

Sometimes, as I try to sleep, I think I can hear distant voices in the hissing veil of sound, like radio stations just out of reach. They might be there, but I am not certain. Like watching the snow on the television when the cable goes out, ghost images and spectral sounds are created in the overloaded senses by a imaginative mind. I wonder if I could dream about silence?

Mick

Voices in the Noise

The scale of the problem's beyond belief;
The hissing and ringing are far too great.
The realm of dreams is my only relief,
In the true redoubt of unconscious state.
Awake, I embrace life's deafening roar;
Grieving for quiet, so long departed
That I doubt I would know it any more—
For silence left town when this stuff started.
Though sopranos may soar, up to the sky,
With altos swift following, on the trail,
And tenors are wailing, wondering why
The basses have dropped off the bottom scale;
I can no longer join in the singing:
I have to answer—my ear is ringing!

Mick McKellar
November 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some Things Never Change

Foot-sore Fox and Ribald Rabbit are back. My old friends materialized out the dust of forgotten roads and the seldom traveled pathways in my mind. I have not visited with them since 2005, perhaps because I have not needed their council and their peculiar points of view...until now.

Although careworn and ragged, the pair seemed in good spirits and came bearing the gifts of friendship, knowledge, wisdom, and most importantly, donuts. The years and the layers of dust melted away with the flavors of the dark, rich, and bitter coffee and the sweet glazed goodness of fresh donuts. It may have been the breakfast of champions, but it was the bitter-sweet reunion of old souls on their journey.

Mick

Some Things Never Change

The Foot-sore Fox had been hanging around,
And watching me work in my living room;
Just as long as he did not make a sound,
My anger would not encompass his doom.

When he and the Ribald Rabbit came back,
To haunt my house and my breakfast table,
I decided to cut them both some slack,
And help them out, as long as I'm able.

Still, at morning coffee, twas strange to see,
Midst hustle and bustle at start of day,
The small, friendly faces, grinning at me
In their down-home, frazzled, uncertain way...

They'd been on the road, their clothes still dusty;
The Rabbit's old dark sunglasses were smudged,
And the Fox's walking stick was rusty --
So, the pair had seen better days, I'd judged.

For sake of friendship and memories shared,
I welcomed the travelers to my home;
And they seemed surprised that I had still cared,
Because of dark places they'd had to roam.

This morning, they seemed energetic, spry,
Casting conspiratorial glances
At each other, making me wondered why,
And so I asked them, taking my chances.

Incredibly each one started to grin,
Laughing, giggling, and smirking brightly;
Fox reached for a bag that he had brought in,
And brought out a box, which he gave to me.

I thanked them, and said, at the very least,
To survive had taken a lot of guts.
I made coffee, and then we had a feast.
But the two of them ate the most donuts...

Mick McKellar
November 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

I'd Love To...

I remember looking out the back door, early on a summer's morning, when the sun's daybreak fire gleamed and sparkled from millions of dew drops on the grass. The desire to run barefoot through that shimmering sea of light tore at my heart, as I was forbidden to dance in the diamond light and soak my clothes or get my feet wet in the chilly dawn. The rules were clear and enforced. An adventure walking in cold rain led to pneumonia and a hospital stay. I learned.

There are so many things that, in my heart, I would love to do, to experience, to drink in. Yet, there is this small voice in the back of my mind, which warns me about letting go, about releasing preconceived notions about the world which exist to filter and buffer and protect. Nurture suppressing nature, I hesitate, and a moment is lost forever. Oh, I know there are a thousand urges and desires to fulfill, and a million wonders to experience — most of which are illegal, immoral, or fattening. Although my good sense and training restrains me from just letting go
the fact remainsI'd love to...

Mick


I'd Love To...


I'd love to play on the lawn,

But the grass is wet from morning dew:

Bright nervous tears shed at dawn,

By angels crying for me and you.


I'd love to stand in the rain,

But mother said I will catch a cold:

From teardrops falling in pain

The sky depressed about growing old.


I'd love to jump in the snow,

But my boots will fill up with the stuff:

Memories frozen, to sow

Cloud-borne secrets grown heavy enough.


I'd love to walk with the wind,

But it's fingers will push me along:

Barristers sent, to rescind

Whispers voiced by its quicksilver song.


I'd love to lie in the sun,

But its hot touch will redden my skin:

Rivers of light swiftly run,

Softly warming where eddies sink in.


I'd love to shuffle through leaves,

But the wind will just blow them around:

Summer departs, Autumn grieves,

And their thick blanket covers the sound.


I'd love to listen to stars,

But the darkness calls to my spirit:

Music of the heavens jars

Loose the souls of all those who hear it.


I'd love to simply let go,

But I must surrender completely:

Allow my nature to show,

But my nurture simply won't let me.


Mick McKellar

November 2009

In Praise of Curmudgeons

Well, someone has to speak up for us old curmudgeons. Were it not for the groaning and growling, the moaning and howling of noisy old curmudgeons, who would bother to consider that anything at all was wrong? Someone must step up to mention that the latest teen heart throb seems to have the IQ of a turnip. Someone has to point out that the latest fashions are designed for skeletons and stick people. Someone has to tell everyone that the cup is half empty because there is a hole in the bottom.

I have been called a curmudgeon by some folks. Maybe.


Webster defines a curmudgeon as: a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man. Other definitions include:

  • An ill-tempered person full of resentment and stubborn notions
  • A surly or miserly person
  • A crusty, irascible, cantankerous, old person full of stubborn ideas
Yeah, that's me -- although I prefer the adjectives sensitive, candid, and truthful. I guess it's all a matter of perceptions.

Mick

In Praise of Curmudgeons

I live in a world that may limit me,

Whether by custom, by fear, or by law,

If I don't try to be curmudgeonly -

Push others till their tempers are raw.

Although celebrity suffers a fool,

As long as charisma can pave the way

To the far, shallow end of the gene pool -

That swimmer has but a short time to stay.

For eventually that world will swell,

Past the darkling veil of hyperbole,

To touch the place where old curmudgeons dwell -

Who love beauty and creativity;

Who exhibit the wondrous quality,

Blending candor with great integrity.


Mick McKellar

November 2009

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Story of JOB

It is perhaps the most common story in our country now. For me, it was the loss of a companion who traveled with me more than 41 years. We met when I was but 15 years old, and we traveled together with but two interruptions: a one-month forced separation in 2004 and a brutally sudden separation in January 2009, enforced by economic woes and geographic challenges.

Since then, I have contacted and visited with many friends and acquaintances who tell me that, although they have searched, they cannot help me find my friend JOB. I am now attempting to meet and work with new friends, so that I can help them with their needs and they can help me get along without my old friend JOB. Still, I search for him, at least three times each week...

Mick


The Story of JOB

Twas mystical times in the distant past,
In the dark, shadowed winter of my life,
When my old friend, JOB breathed his very last
Breath, and his loss pierced like a hunting knife.
More than mere friends, we were compatriots,
Inseparable during waking hours;
Sharing so much time, folks thought I was nuts,
And soon, I would be pushing up flowers.

But dear old friends soon came to my rescue,
And they helped make my old friend disappear.
They showed me the door, and what I should do,
So the door didn't hit me in the rear!
Yet, within a month, I missed my old friend,
For he made me feel both strong and alive;
And I grieved that our friendship had to end,
For without his support, I could not thrive.

I vowed to search and to find him again,
But he is elusive, so hard to find
That my other friends grow embarrassed when,
My questing words bring his absence to mind.
They know that I miss him, it's in their eyes -
A deep shadow in the dark of the moon;
And I hear it so clearly in their sighs:
They all hope that I find JOB very soon!

Mick McKellar
November 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Something out of Nothing

Why are art and literature important to us and our growth as human beings? When we sculpt, when we paint, when we compose, when we sing, when we write a story, a lyric, or a poem — we create something out of nothing. What I love most about writing is reaching into the shadows in my mind and drawing forth an image to be described, a feeling to be shared, or a story to be told.

Best when shared for the first time and new to those who receive them, or better yet, are new to me as well — they seem to spring from deep inside — from places I have not visited or have no memory of visiting. They are creations: Children of my mind that spring from the only things I truly own: my thoughts, my memories, my feelings, and my imagination.

They can be triggered by the slightest thing, from a whisper to a shout, from the faintest touch to a slap upside the head — springing forth with the explosive energy of a sun gone nova or uncovered only by the patient efforts of a true believer — piece by piece and layer by layer. Is it just arrogance to believe then, that perhaps far within this process lies the gentle hands of a powerful partner — that the creator of the universe still inspires creation among his creations?

The rational mind says there is no proof that God's touch moves within and among us. Reason allows no belief where there is no hard evidence. Yet neither can reason allow for the spark of creation within the human mind, for there is no evidence of its source. There is no rationale for something out of nothing. And yet we create, we write, we sing, we paint, and we sculpt. There is joy in the gift of creativity, whatever its source.

I take solace and find both joy and peace in my arrogance, in creating something out of nothing.

Mick

Something out of Nothing

The faintest spark of light in blackest night,
A glimmer in the shadowed dusk of thought,
The merest feather touch of deep insight,
The dearest treasure that cannot be bought,
A movement in the corner of your eye,
A raindrop in an ancient silent pool,
A tiny speck of life high in the sky,
The sudden rise of wisdom from a fool,
The first time childish innocence asks why,
A single snowflake on a winter's eve,
A silent word that rises in the mind,
A story that your heart says to believe,
And you believe, in what you cannot find:
The touch of God, swiftly and silently
Inspires human creativity.

Mick McKellar
October 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Golden Light

A day like today is a gem in the autumn coronet of the year. Soft and warm after a cool and foggy overture, it soaks like warm water into the chilled and frosty soil. The brilliant sunlight sets the golden foliage ablaze and lends a softly orange and brown patina to drifting and falling leaves.

Autumn's chill touch has spread the earthly slumber of cold nights across the land, but must retreat from the fiery gaze of the sun as its rays churn across the fields. Its tendrils tease the sleeping land to rouse, to once again feel life in trunk and limb and blade and stem. And though I know it will last but a few thousand heartbeats, I cannot help but feel hope for the surging life of spring, after the long sleep of winter. Here, on the very threshold of bitter cold and long dark nights, summer dances its last dance for 2009.

Mick


Golden Light


I love these sunny autumn days so much,
For in their brilliant afterglow, it seems
They reawaken thoughts of summer's touch,
Upon my slumbering and dormant dreams.
That here on winter's threshold, I can chance
Upon a splendid shining sunlit day;
When chilly winds turn wicked warm, and dance
Among the drifting leaves they blow away.
My heart goes forth, where I don't think it should.
I wish these halcyon hours could endure,
And that an ardent mystic artist, could
Paint them in memory both swift and sure:
Breezy, soft, and solemnly sylvan bright -
October's glowing days of golden light.

Mick McKellar
October 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Island

I'm not entirely certain why John Donne's meditation popped up in my head tonight. I think it may have more to do with newspapers than nuanced pondering. We have been bludgeoned by bad economic news, frustrated by lack of solutions, and infuriated by political infighting for so long that some of us may feel the need to just drift away, across that sea of doubt and dismay, to a place insulated from the noise and (at least) seemingly under our control.

Hemingway's Islands in the Stream paints problematic pictures of those who seek idyllic isolation. Then the popular song lyrics sculpt an ideal landscape: Islands in the stream that is what we are. / No one's in between how can we be wrong? / Sail away with me to another world.

Simon and Garfunkel's I Am a Rock resonates with Keweenaw residents: A winters day / In a deep and dark December; / I am alone, / Gazing from my window to the streets below / On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow. / I am a rock, / I am an island.

Perhaps the final words of their song strike closest to home for writers like me: I have my books / And my poetry to protect me; / I am shielded in my armor, / Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. / I touch no one and no one touches me. . . . And a rock feels no pain; / And an island never cries. In the Keweenaw, especially in the winter, it is easy to feel isolated from the rest of the planet -- despite the invasive news broadcasts and the constant links by Internet, phone, and cable. The sheer physical immensity of the snow, the cold, and the winds make you feel small and sealed away beyond a ocean of doubt -- in a frozen, white redoubt.

I guess it is the conundrum of human nature -- to seek isolation and yet be connected to one another -- "because I am involved in mankind." Tonight, I write from my island in the snow.

Mick

Island

I'm an island in an ocean of doubt,
My own little kingdom, where I'm the boss.
There are bridges in, and some bridges out;
I decide who's allowed to come across.
I also decide who's allowed to stay,
To visit, or take up their residence --
Until I tell them to just go away,
Or I let them stay, but behind a fence.
I dug the channel that keeps us apart,
For more control and to keep things cooler.
That ocean of doubt helps protect my heart,
For I used to be so peninsular.
"No man is an island," said old John Donne,
But I know better because I am one...

Mick McKellar
October 2009



John Donne
Meditation XVII: No man is an island...

"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dirt Clods and White Sound

Memories are quicksilver, tricky and shiny and always coming and going. I know not where they reside when they're not visiting me, and I'm not certain I want to go visit them. While daydreaming this afternoon, I was suddenly transported to the bedroom I shared with my three brothers on Crown Street in Westland, MI. It was the end of a long summer day and the last trailing flickers of green and golden twilight were tracing lines on the blue walls of the room.

I was on my side, my head aching and my hearing temporarily replaced by a hissing noise, a white noise that blocked the other sounds of our house. My brothers and I had been waging a dirt-bomb war with a group of neighborhood kids. Near our house was a gravel pit that also had large hills of clay soil -- sun-baked and crumbling into pieces just big enough to throw at each other. They would explode when they hit an object like a rock, a tree, a back, a leg, or a head.

I caught a high-arching clay grenade in the right ear and went down like a felled tree. I was about ten years old, and a casualty of the Cady Street Clay Wars. I walked home, but was sent to bed because my ear was full of dirt and I couldn't hear very well. Mom always cleaned our cuts, scrapes, and various and sundry wounds with hydrogen peroxide, which would foam and help cleanse them. With cuts and abrasions, this usually hurt like the dickens. How was I to know it wouldn't hurt to float dirt clods out of my ear?

Mick

Dirt Clods and White Sound


Long green shadows of twilight on the wall,
Flickered as the sun and clouds collided.
I felt Mom's footsteps -- heard nothing at all;
Nothing but hissing white sound, provided
By a clay-bomb smashing into my head,
And packing my right ear with dusty dirt.
Cool fingers probed my ear, swollen and red,
And I moaned to let her know that it hurt.
She turned me over and smiled in my eyes,
But I saw the brown peroxide bottle,
And the room filled up with my frightened cries,
As my siren roared up to full throttle.
While I squirmed, and I tried to get away
From the foaming touch of peroxide's sting,
She pinned my head on the pillow to stay
Put, and poured cold liquid into the thing.
I stiffened, preparing my shrieks and cries,
As I felt the foam and bubbles billow,
But pain never came, and before my eyes,
The dirt clods fell right out on my pillow.


Mick McKellar
October 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Hole in the Sky

I'll admit it: I am spoiled. The warmth of this September has lulled my winter warning system to sleep, with promises of warm and colorful days, followed by cool and comfortable nights. Open windows have permitted sleep with the whisper of mid-summer's blessings in harmony with the first harvest songs of summer's end. Bright, sunny days tell tall tales of long warm nights that now linger only in memory and seem to promise abundance they cannot deliver.

Twilight shadows come to visit earlier each evening, but carry only cool winds and billions of brilliant stars. That was the dream, drowned in the gray dampness of the first true fall morn, the shadowy billows of moisture laden clouds adrift upon a river of Canadian air. The low gray brows of the scowling sky frown down upon my up-raised eye, and a tiny prayer escapes upon a whispered cry...Lord, let the sun shine through a hole in the sky...

Mick

A Hole in the Sky

On a dreary Sunday, cold-pizza dawn,
An iron gray sunrise slaps the window,
Makes steely mud of the dew on the lawn,
And drives the rain like a wind-blown shadow;
To pierce window pane, and chill my old heart
With darkling thoughts of old man winter's song.
Though Autumn's paintbrush has had a fair start,
The icy-blue rain light makes it look wrong.
The air feels heavy as chilled, soggy sand,
Or cold, wet laundry piled high on my chest —
This is not the morning that I had planned:
The warm, sunny start to my day of rest.
Lord, please warm my heart and brighten my eye,
Let the sun shine through a hole in the sky!

Mick McKellar
September 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Time and Tradition

Understanding the need to reign in the ingrained desires to strike out when livelihood and survival are in jeopardy, does little to assuage the deeply-felt drives to provide and protect that are such a part of the human, and especially the male ego. Many men, myself included, were raised in the traditional system that taught us to judge our worth by how well we provide for our families and how well we can protect them from the elements, from attack, and from oblivion.

Knowing that collaboration, cooperation, and communication are fundamental attributes of the successful person in our current society does little to remove the urges arising from all those hours spent as a child learning and preparing to do battle with a hostile and uncertain world. Change is needed and it will happen, but it will take time to change, especially in a world that still holds dangers that may yet require us to test our mettle against aggression. It will take time to contain the drive to meet economic threats and even deprivation with that cold steel core which cries out to fight back with fists held high -- fueled by anger and fear.

Reason calls for its day in the sun and I hope we are all strong enough to grant its ascendancy.

Mick

Time and Tradition


My mind says I should talk.
My gut says I should fight.
But can I walk the walk
On paths I know are right?
The games I played in youth:
Always rough and tumbled -
Taught winning was the truth.
That losers will be humbled
On the sporting battlefield -
Where young men must excel,
And only weaklings yield;
And winners get to tell
The world that they are best!
Traditions long in-bred,
Are difficult to wrest,
From out the heart and head.

And now my world has changed,
My world-view modified;
My mind-set rearranged;
My prejudice denied.
But, I will need some space,
Some time, and yes, some slack.
For, though change runs apace,
My training holds me back:
I still need to provide;
I still need to protect.
Deep feelings I can't hide,
I'm certain to project.
I understand the needs,
To join the revolution,
But change will come at speeds
Of human evolution...

Mick McKellar
September 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Swim

I wondered what a dolphin must think of the frenetic advance of man upon the planet we share. Are they intelligent enough to make a judgment about us? Is their intelligence so much lower, or simply too alien for us to understand? Science is certain we are smarter, but science was also certain that there were canals on Mars and that nothing smaller than atomic particles could exist. Yet, we stand now on a higher soap box, and can see further over the wall. We talk of terraforming Martian landscapes we have seen through the cameras of probes we sent to investigate and of matter constructed of vibrating strings of energy.

Douglas Adams said, "Humans think they are smarter than dolphins because we build cars and buildings and start wars etc., and all that dolphins do is swim in the water, eat fish and play around. Dolphins believe that they are smarter for exactly the same reasons." Is there perhaps a grain of soggy truth in his whimsy? Do we need to examine our actions, our efforts, our lives with the liquid lens of the minds of aquatic mammals we find so amusing?

Perhaps the world would be a better place if we took time to eat more fish, play around more, and swim...

Mick

Swim

I swim free and answer to none at all.
I spring from depth and dance above the waves.
I greet the sun while spinning in free-fall,
And dive to frolic in deep green sea caves.
You pound the Earth with feet covered in dust.
You build your structures, reaching to the sky.
You drive machines that quickly turn to rust,
And then devour each treasure that you pry
From deep within the mother's mantle fair.
While you rend her dear heart and scar her face,
You foul the water and pollute the air,
Dancing the dark dance of death without grace.
While you make war, believing you must fight,
I swim down deep and fear you may be right...

Mick McKellar
September 2009

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Water

It has been the wonder of my life that I am allowed to savor the liqueur, the small things, the daily cordial distilled from the mighty rush that inundates my mind. For it is in the details, in the tiny flecks of light that dance on the floor when summer morning light shimmers through the leaves and touches the dew on the window pane, and in the small sounds a loved one makes as her nightly dreams come to their sweet closure...in these and in the thousand thousand other whispers in the wind that I find the savory spice of my life.

Tonight, my throat parched and raw from a raucous rehearsal -- I filled a glass with simple, cool water and let the beautifully bland brandy of the sky slowly roll across my tongue and down my damaged throat. The feeling was exquisite -- Milton's luscious liquor in the raw -- aqua vitae for my tired and sleepy mind. Simple water -- simply wonderful!

Mick

Water

I sipped some ice-cold silver from my glass,
And let the lively liquid touch my tongue.
Its fragrance told me tales of wind-blown grass,
After the summer's storm song has been sung.
I tasted sky from which the fluid fell --
The flavor of the summer sun shined through,
A cloud-borne precious gift from Heaven's well,
That sparkled like the sunlight morning dew.
I slowly savored sips of nature's draught,
That flowed and floated, flooded, fell, and froze...
I thought of all this silliness and laughed,
Which forced my liquid treasure out my nose!
I loved it, though I choked, near fit to drown,
Because it tasted so good going down.

Mick McKellar
September 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Disconnected Profundity

I posted these little poems together because they are related...half-siblings with shared alleles from the same frustrated donor. Although I know Facebook , Twitter, etc. are social media watering holes, I cannot help but be reminded of my days on the playground, trying to get the attention of my friends, my teachers, or even my parents by shouting the loudest, waving my arms, or falling off the jungle gym. The competition for attention, interest, and response was challenging. The noise level was deafening. The visual impact was akin to a hundred TV commercials running simultaneously.

Eventually, even falling off the jungle gym garnered no attention, because two other kids just fell off the slide and one did a swan dive from a swing in mid-flight. I remember feeling isolated and disconnected amidst the cacophony, adrift on a sea of noise; invisible in the bright light of frenetic activity. The roar receded and deafened by the clamor, I went about my business of playing -- in a cocoon of my own construction. I could shout that my left foot was on fire or that a chunk of the sky just descended upon my aching head with a Martian martini attached to it, and no one would ever know. I could dance in the daylight, sing of long-lost sunny days, and utter the most profound wisdom available to a first grader -- all without worry of rebuke or even recognition. The only danger was that, occasionally, someone else noticed and then a chain reaction faster than light speed focused all attention on my imaginary flaming left foot.

You know, I miss the quiet pleasure of getting a letter...

Mick


Disconnected


Two fellows stood, with megaphones in hands,
Up on their rooftops, straddling the peak --
Voicing their opinions, making demands,
Reveling in their certain right to speak.
Soon, all their neighbors had joined in the fun,
Armed with megaphones, signs, and flashing lights.
Each competing to be the loudest one,
Or have the most compelling sounds and sights.
The media sensation quickly grew,
Spreading like a virus across the land.
They all broadcasted everything they knew --
Shouting until hoarse, till they could not stand.
The grand cacophony would not abate,
Even though they could not communicate.

Mick McKellar
August 2009


Profundity


My message said I stayed up late,
While trying to communicate,
My thoughts, profound and wise.
I posted them for all to see,
I shared the very core of me,
In front of all their eyes.

I thought, perhaps, a small response,
Would justify, upon the nonce,
My self-effacing boast.
But, hours later, all I read:
That you had risen from your bed...
And you were making toast.

Affronted by this simple snub,
I poured hot water in my tub;
I sat and had a soak.
And later, when I mentioned it,
My tub-soak posting was a hit!
Please tell me that's a joke...

Mick McKellar
August 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ancestors

At crossroads, we are taught to look all ways before moving forward -- primarily to avoid being hit by a great purple bus that somehow avoided detection. At our critical, mystical crossroads, the turning points in our lives, we also look all ways -- especially backwards to see if our ancestors left any helpful life-lessons lying about on the roadway from our past. For so many years, I could depend on whispers from mother and father, echoing across the years since they departed, giving me advice on each new step along the road. However, as the road has lengthened, their voices have become stretched until they are mostly no longer detectable without a special effort on my part to seek them out.

However, as the voices drift ever onward toward silence, misty and hazy images from long ago come into ever sharper focus, as though vision were compensating for loss of sound. Memories of family reunions, weddings, funerals, and anniversaries flood my mind with images that are missing both the soundtrack and the cast list. I can see their smiles, but I cannot tell if they are laughing with me, or at me...

Mick


Ancestors

My mind reaches back to touch your spirit,
And breaching the rift between now and then,
Senses your voice, though I cannot hear it
As once I did, but can't remember when...
I resonate with your silent heartbeat,
Calm reassurance that memory brings,
Of feeling a circle closing, complete
At remembered family gatherings:
Swift visions of those faces and voices,
So long divorced from relation or name,
Leave me to search unlimited choices,
That slowly converge till all look the same.
Facing the past, I stand tiptoe to see,
All my ancestors, smiling back at me.

Mick McKellar
August 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reasons

I've always considered myself a reasonable, rational, reasoning being. Like everyone, I want my world to make sense and to offer a measure of comfort and security. With each news broadcast and with each article I read, I am given reasons to worry, reasons to fear, reasons to run and hide from all the chaos and from the chorus of angry voices. The negativity, anger, and evil are overwhelming if taken at face value, if accepted as the only reality of our age.

Each day, as I review the litany of loss before my eyes and in my ears, I consider the results of blind acceptance and reject those results as not certain...as a self-defeating prophesy. I remember that prophets of doom have always been with us, and despite their despite, the power that created all continues and the love that made us lives on, in us and all around us.

Mick

Reasons

There's a thousand good reasons to be sad,
Sit and cry...
Every one of them is wrong,
For they only bring sad endings to our song.

There's a million good reasons to be mad,
Can't deny...
And yet none of them are right,
For they only cause the best of us to fight.

There's a billion good reasons to be bad,
Want to die...
Not a single one is true,
For they only keep us all from loving You.

My world is not a simple place,
The tides of my future shift and slide,
But with a measure of Your grace,
I'll have no reasons left to want to hide!

There's only one good reason to be glad,
It's no lie...
And it's the truth everywhere,
Our world exists because Your love is there.

And that is my simple morning prayer.

Mick McKellar
August 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Death of a Generous Spirit

There are times I can hardly recognize the old man in the mirror. Just six short months of searching for work and finding only souls more worried than I am about the future, have left an empty cavern, deep inside, where a generous spirit once burned brightly. The once nearly weightless responsibility for supporting my family, so easily borne and haughtily carried, has become a dread companion, a shadowy reminder of arrogantly sunny days gone dark with the threat of misfortune and lack.

As I struggle to meet each new day with a smile on my face and to keep hope alive and faith burning somewhere in the deep -- a silent prayer for freedom from the fear of failure -- I still feel the vast emptiness where a once generous (if a bit thrifty) spirit dwelled in uneasy harmony with my more practical Scottish heritage. I mourn its demise and I pray for its rebirth.

Mick

Death of a Generous Spirit


What happened to my old impulse to share?
I looked, and I can't find it anywhere...
When fortunes changed, and abundance drifted
Away on the tides, my outlook shifted
From focus on bounty to fear of dearth,
Giving Dicken's old Scrooge a second birth --
Tipping the balance to hoard each penny,
Spend only for me, and not share any.
It hurts me almost more than I can bear,
Each time that I bypass a chance to share;
Dark shadows cry constantly in my head,
That the times are tough and sharing is dead.
My heart grieves so, I can't bear to hear it,
For the death of a generous spirit.

Mick McKellar
August 2009

August Eaves

It's morning, or at least I think it is morning. The almost-frigid fingers of the late-August wind touch my face, seem to promise the long twilight of autumn that leads only to the longer sleep ahead. It seems too soon to be feeling this chill touch and hearing the earthy song of summer's end. Our dusty, haughty, distant summer sun did little to warm old bones nor did bright summer clouds do much to soak the parched soil with the nectar of the sky. Yet, here at the peak, when summer's reign should be supreme, the northern winds cry bitter tears upon the leaves and on the roof, to drip steadily from astonished August eaves...


Mick

August Eaves

Rivulets run from the edge of the eaves,
Splash on the puddles and soak falling leaves.
Cold-shower breezes move curtains aside,
Probe with cold fingers from which I can't hide.
Summer's warm voice is nowhere to be found,
And rich with the loamy smell of the ground,
Autumn's dark baritone whispers its song -
Barely heard now, for it does not belong
In Summer's not yet defeated domain,
Should not be hiding in soft summer rain,
Or whispering down from gray leaden skies -
Chanting its promises, secrets, and lies.
Silent remain till it colors the leaves,
And let the summer rain drip from the eaves...


Mick McKellar

August 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nightsong

Do the stars sing? I swear that on winter evenings, calm and clear, a crystal whisper echoes in my ear and I can hear the song of the stars across the barren blackness. Angel voices have been heard from the midnight skies by many who search the heavens for wisdom, or insight, or just reassurance that in all that expanse of shadow and stardust, their tiny flame burns brightly enough to be noticed and treasured.

I have tried to reach out with my spirit, aflame with the need to touch the abyss and know it is not empty, and to hear the nightsong once again — the crystal chorus that ties me to the burning giant, tiny specks of light, twinkling in the night...

Mick


Nightsong

The cry my heart screams, roars in silent tears —
A sigh of fire for scores of silent years.
My thoughts explode, a stabbing brilliant light,
A nova bright, unnoticed in the night.
None come near me, for they can sense the beat
Of heart-fired bellows, generating heat
That thousand suns, in universal fear
Of death of light, can't bring the nightsong near
To where I stand. And silently, I cry —
For upturned eyes search countless halls of sky,
To find the meaning, find the whispered song,
And, in the dark, my heart can sing along.

I seek the nightsong, the music of the air;
The Muse's voice upon the wind up there.
An ancient music — echoes in the mind,
An ageless music lovers sometimes find,
When in the arms of soft and shadowed night,
They dance the dream of their pure love's delight.
And, on occasion, writ in star-lit skies,
The dream appears before the poet's eyes.
But, not tonight — I shall not get my chance,
To race the light and dance the dreamer's dance.
I burn too brightly, seething with the flame
That seeks the nightsong, calls its ancient name...

Perhaps tomorrow's nightly dew and damp,
Will quench my fire and shade my fiery lamp,
And far from TV, game shows, cars and bars —
I'll hear the nightsong music of the stars!


Mick McKellar
August 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shine

Shakti Gawain said: "Evil is like a shadow - it has no real substance of its own, it is simply a lack of light. You cannot cause a shadow to disappear by trying to fight it, stamp on it, by railing against it, or any other form of emotional or physical resistance. In order to cause a shadow to disappear, you must shine light on it." Though I may challenge the concept that evil has no real substance of its own, I cannot fault her insight regarding the best weapon against it.

Even those evils that strike in daylight have their genesis in the shadows and draw sustenance from the night. The economic tragedies that plague us have grown from the moldy shadows in the minds of men and women whose plans hatched in the dim and secret conclaves powered by greed and avarice. The bombings, the beatings, the full panoply of inhumanity portrayed daily in the media are the foliage and fruits of secret gardens, planted in the shadows and succored by the night. It is in our nature to provide the growth medium -- for on the sunniest day, even the most upright and righteous among us will cast a shadow.

There can be no light without darkness and no substance without a shadow, yet all hope is not lost, for we need only vigilantly shine our own light upon those shadows and force them into retreat. We need only shine...

Mick

Shine

Shadows persist near the edge of my day,
Out on the fringe, where the darkness dances.
When I scream and fight, they won't go away -
Frustrating, under the circumstances...
I've heard that the Devil is in the dark,
And that evil lurks just beyond the light,
That the power of evil, strong and stark,
Like shadow, is powered by darkest night.
Great power of arms offers no redoubt,
Blood, sweat, and tears offer no victory,
Yet, sweet is the savage joy that I shout,
As I bring to bear secret weaponry!
I can encompass the shadows' defeat:
When I shine a light, the shadows retreat.

Mick McKellar
June 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Interview

Are job interviews good for the soul? Is it possible to have an out-of-body experience, right in the middle of interview question number three? Why is it that, despite having done umpteen job interviews over nearly a half-century, I still get as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs?

The answers to these tough questions are: I hope so; it had better be (or I am hallucinating); and I guess it's just a mystery...

Now, I'm not saying that this has happened to me personally, but I have a 59-year-old, unemployed friend who has been out of work since January and desperately wants to do a great job on each scarce employment interview. He told me of his recent interview experience, and of the three-ring circus that was performing in his head throughout the entire process. Now, sit back, relax, put your tongue firmly in your cheek, and get ready to commiserate!

Mick

The Interview

This is not my very first interview,
And I know exactly what I should do!
As I walk in the door, I check my breath.
(So it will not cause a reviewer's death.)
I slide my left hand over my grey hair,
To check that what's left is "hangin' in there."
I look down at my pants, and I'm hopin'
That I didn't leave the zipper open.
I look at my hands and turn very pale:
Can that be dirt under my fingernail?
As I say "Hello," the panel smiles back,
And I start praying my voice doesn't crack.
I'm wearing a coat and the room, so warm,
Makes my forehead leak like a thunderstorm...
With each new greeting I have to utter,
I feel terrified that I might stutter,
Stammer, or sputter all over the place --
Or worse, gleek in an interviewer's face.
Can they hear my composure's mewling cries,
Or see the dark terror in my brown eyes?
I finally sit, with knees quaking,
And fold my hands, so they will stop shaking.
They ask a question, and I think, in fright:
"Did I just pronounce my own first name right?"
As questions come faster, I think with dread:
"I can't let my thoughts race too far ahead!"
Three seconds later, they all stand and smile.
I stand and shake hands, thinking all the while:
"Although I know I was not daydreaming,
Somehow I managed to miss the whole thing!"
Then I'll wonder, as I walk out the door:
What was the job I just interviewed for?


Mick McKellar
June 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Look Back, Come Back

I walk a lot -- for my health, for stress release, and to enjoy good music or a good audiobook. Near my home, in Calumet Township, I must walk on the road near the curb, because we have no sidewalks. I usually walk against traffic, and in the winter must often move to the side, and on occasion climb a snow bank to avoid on-coming traffic. I have had several close calls in the winter months, but none in the spring or summer...until tonight.

Two kids on a off-road four wheeler very nearly ran me down on the highway at about 8:05 this evening. They came from behind me, the engine of their vehicle screaming, torqued to the red-line, and weaving in and out of the traffic lane as the driver struggled to control the machine. At the sound, I looked behind me and dove for the curb as they flashed past me. As I hit the pavement, I saw the passenger turn to look back and then turn away as they screamed over the crest of the hill toward Lake Linden, and out of my sight.

Getting back on my feet, embarrassed at my less-than-fluid fall, I looked about to waive off any help coming my way. There was none. It seemed my break dance on the blacktop went totally unnoticed, except perhaps by the pillion rider on the ORV. As I limped home on a twisted ankle and injured pride, I wondered what went through the mind of the 10-12 year old on the machine and if he felt anything at all about the near tragedy during their wild and undisciplined careen down the highway.

The following flashed through my mind in those seconds, therefore I wrote it as free verse.

Mick


Look Back, Come Back

I saw you look back at me.
Just as the concrete rose
To give my butt a gravelly kiss;
And once again remind me,
That gravity's rules rule absolutely -
That it is not the fall that hurts,
But the sudden stop at the end.

I wonder what you saw,
Twisting and dancing,
In and out of the traffic lane,
Astride a four-wheeled wasp -
Its heart screaming and buzzing,
As you flashed past the grey man
Silently pacing the curb.

I saw you turn away,
And wondered, did you see?
Did you see an old man fall,
And hit the pavement's concrete wall?
Did you see anything at all?
I saw you turn away,
As if to say goodbye.

I wonder what you feel...
Does it add to your renown,
To nearly run an old man down?
Is your focus so narrow and small,
That you feel not a thing at all?
I'll not know what you saw or felt -
You did not come back...

Mick McKellar
June 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Name That Tune

In his homily this morning, Father Wayne Marcotte talked about God's relationship with science, and that they are not always at odds. He talked about the theory that all things are, when reduced to their smallest component parts, merely energy. I believe he was talking about String Theory, which posits that all things are made up of vibrating strings of energy, which interact to become the building blocks of the universe...atomic particles and molecules that form all we recognize as matter.

I was put in mind of the creation story as written by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Silmarillion. In the first section of that great work, the AinulindalĂ« (The Music of the Ainur), IlĂșvatar creates the Ainur (eternal spirits) whom he instructs to create great music and harmony from which the universe is created according to his great theme. Of course, one spirit (Melkor) creates his own music and great disharmony and dissonance. In his book, the titanic voices of the great spirits create the universe.

Is this an insight into how God may have created our own universe, or merely a beautifully interesting allegory? Alas it remains a mystery -- albeit a musical one...

Mick

Name That Tune

As the theory goes, at the heart of things,
Matter does not matter -- it's energy
That vibrates, in the form of tiny strings,
Which congregate to create you and me.
To this tired old mind, it seems apropos,
That deep in the heart of this universe -
When you get just as small as you can go,
That music would be there -- chapter and verse...
What an absolutely glorious thought -
Everything made from vibrating strings!
That all of the wonders the Lord has wrought,
Was created when the Creator sings.
That God sang me to life, makes me feel fine,
And to be made of music, most divine!

Mick McKellar
June 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Curious

Recently, I have had considerable time to think about what drives me through my everyday life. Why do I continue to read and question and explore and write? Why do I continue to write in my journal? Surely by now, after living 59 years, I should have run out of revelations and reasons to talk to myself. Yet, something fuels my need to ask questions, to look over the next hill, and to wonder about stuff...any stuff.

The fire in my soul and passion in my blood still warm these aging bones and jump start a mind that could easily have been left in neutral to idle until my reserves ran dry. Maybe it is the memory of so many souls I met while working with Social Security so many years ago, folks I helped to claim their golden years retirement -- only to quickly bore themselves to death. Perhaps they were able to suppress the instinct that keeps so many rising with the sun each day.

At the most basic level, I think I plunge into each day, headlong and hell-bent because I am curious...

Mick

Curious


The pilot light for the whole human race,
Burns silently in the back of our minds,
Waiting patiently through time and space,
Sparking life, as the adventure unwinds.
Though ineffable, we know that it's there,
Teasing us onward to make the next move,
Reaching beyond the dark hundred-yard stare,
Paths to open and restraints to remove.
It frees up our minds, and it lets us dance
With the wind, and with flights of fancy wild,
Fires the will and the urge to take a chance -
Embrace the unknown as a new-born child.
Our most human idiosyncrasy -
Our insatiable curiosity.

Mick McKellar
June 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Grey Interviews

I'm on unemployment benefits for the first time in my life, and I am competing with "kids" half my age for an unbelievably small number of jobs here in recession central -- the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. What is it like for a 59-year old to interview for jobs in this economy?

The experience is difficult to describe because -- in many cases -- it requires noting the shadows that pass over the faces of youngsters interviewing me, the sudden coolness in the air when they note the white hair, and even the delicately dismissive demeanor adopted by those old enough and professional enough not to scowl and glance side-long at each other when they finally notice that my work history spans more than 40 years...

The fear is always there -- that they see -- not the years of valuable experience, not the years of training and skill-building, and not the years of loyal service -- but just the years...


Mick

Grey Interviews

Though passionate, active, and bold,
And just fifty-nine winters old;
The snow on my roof,
Seemed absolute proof,
The furnace downstairs had gone cold.

So, after I danced till I bled,
And all the right answers were said,
I still felt I must,
Shed layers of rust,
And struggled to prove I'm not dead...

Mick McKellar
June 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Critic's Cry

A writer's private nightmare: sharing your soul, only to have critics dine on it. Truly creative writers cannot help but share slices of self in their work. The writer's spark gives life to the words.

I can step outside myself to type words, but until I touch the words with a little bit of Mick, the words have no life -- they are a catalog, not an essay; they are a collection, not a story; they are a pile, not a poem. As I write, the rhyme and the rhythm of the text on the page mimic the measure of my mind and the beating of my heart -- to be shared with you -- my friend of the moment, my companion upon the river of my thoughts.

It is the terrible secret of the creative writer -- my words and my works are the children of my mind. Mock them and you mock my soul. Change them and you are killing my babies. It is why the critic's cry cuts so deeply, and why so many potential writers never let their work see the light of day, and why, when I write, I pour out the dark red blood of my need...

Mick


Critic's Cry

I climbed from the depths to stand in the sun;
An effort for me, and for anyone
Who, in their personal, internal world,
Celebrates silently, with banners furled.
No band fanfare for my personal pride:
An accomplishment felt deep down inside.
And then I thought, well, perhaps I could share,
With family, friends...with people who care!
I poured out the dark red blood of my need.
I decanted the sweet wine of my deed.
I awaited an appreciative sigh,
But instead heard laughter -- the critic's cry.
In response to such cold and heartless pain,
I swore on my soul I'd not share again.

Mick McKellar
April 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trans-Light

How does it feel to write a poem? I am not certain that "write" is the operative word. I try to capture the essence of images that often burst past my inner eye in an eternal instant -- the images are always there, but my capacity to focus on just one is so limited, so ephemeral, it can be agony to grasp it long enough to describe what I see and feel and hear. The ideas are so fluid and their expression is so dynamic, that capturing them is akin to juggling Jello.

Occasionally, I can capture a moment, an idea, an image and the rush is incredible. The images wash over me and trigger thoughts that soar on luminous wings, plummet to depths unimaginable, or instantaneously illuminate the darkest corners of my mind and my soul. When my spirit takes flight, I can only hang on for the ride and try to take notes. Creating, observing, describing, painting what I see, feel, and hear with words...is addicting beyond belief...a magnificent addiction!

Mick

Trans-Light

Leap from the Earth, oh pellucid rapture!
Beyond the sky, past gravity's capture,
A poet's thoughts fly on mystical wings.
Ancient Muse plays my heart's translucent strings:
Seeking my soul's pure light to unfetter,
Singing my spiritual love letter,
Illuminating with shimmering hue,
Teaching the sun of my soul to shine through.
Column of sun-glory spikes through the sky -
White hot as lightning and makes the clouds cry,
Pushing the shadows and darkness away,
Pulsing with powerful, true light of day.
Music that shatters my mind's iron bars,
Poetry transports my soul to the stars.

Mick McKellar
April 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I was watching the news last night, when they broadcast a story about a participant in Britain's Got Talent, a British relative of American Idol. The story was newsworthy because of the contestant, one Susan Boyle -- a 47-year-old church volunteer from a small Scottish village. Her appearance wrought chuckles, sneers, and snickers from the audience, who roared in laughter when she said she wanted to be a professional singer. No one could have looked less like a professional singer in her modest dress and most plain features.

When she sang, however, the whole dowdy image dropped away and the clarity and beauty of her voice rang out across the auditorium. Laughing smiles became looks of startlement and shock, and then warmed into genuine smiles of enjoyment and appreciation. Those whose expectations were based the usual package for a professional singer were flabergasted and for a few moments the inner beauty and talent of the woman glowed on that stage.

It made me ashamed of how I tend to package folks, based on their appearance. And, considering the humility I learn each morning in the mirror, I can understand the courage it must have taken to take that step and reach for the dream. Bravo, Susan Boyle, Bravo!

Mick

Package Deal

A woman walked out to sing to a crowd,
And they snickered and smiled and laughed out loud.
To their eyes she was a dowdy old dame,
Whose appearance was drab and bland and lame.
She was awkward and moved willy-nilly;
When she gestured and danced she looked silly.
Then the crowd guffawed at her next zinger,
She said she wanted to be a singer!

They all thought her reputation was dead,
But the judges told her to go ahead.

She gestured off stage, for music to start,
And we waited, for her to break her heart
When she started to sing, but we were wrong.
The world shifted when she started that song...
Her voice was golden and clear, and it rang
Like a silver bell, as she blithely sang,
And accomplishing her most cherished goal -
Touched each and every listening soul.

Away fell the image of dowdy old age;
Away fell the wrappings on the package,
And to our wondering eyes did appear,
A glorious soul, with a talent clear
And abundant, with a beautiful sound
That had soared and echoed and danced around,
Till the shadow of prejudice grew thin:
At last we could see the beauty within.

Mick McKellar
April 2008

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If You Could See

Recent events have caused me to focus, more than usual, on my own problems. At times, it seems my whole world revolves about my responsibilities and my current set of challenges...just the latest in a lifetime of challenges...leaving me focused on only myself and my personal demons. Sometimes, I want to scream at others and make them see the load on my shoulders.

Then, I see another with an even bigger burden to bear, and I feel ashamed for my self-centered, self-pity party. As with so many from my generation, I was taught that real men don't complain about their problems, they grin and bear it, suck it up and suffer in silence -- until they beat the odds or buckle under the load. The tragic truth is that those who can never share their burdens and fears, only accumulate more until they eventually must buckle under the load.

If I had someone to share the road and the load, I imagine the following might be our conversation, or maybe it's a prayer...

Mick

If You Could See


If you could just see the load I carry,
The terrible burden, high on my back -
So hard to balance, so very scary,
You might be willing to cut me some slack.
I know you carry your own heavy load;
It's probably even bigger than mine.
Yet, it's also true we must share this road -
An obstacle course, long and serpentine.
We must travel together, you and I -
For awhile, and possibly much longer;
And though we may never see eye-to-eye,
By sharing, we make each other stronger.
We can agree to give what we can give -
By doing that, we can live and help live.

Mick McKellar
March 2009