Archive for August, 2011

My recent new poem “How Can You Tell Them” netted two new subscribers to Honey & Quinine within 12 hours of its posting, and reaction at a local poetry speaking gathering where most of the audience had not heard ME recite my poetry before, contributed to a growing feeling that good people who haven’t heard me 100 times ALREADY may find merit in what I say in a way ever sensed of the locals who know me too well.  That’s why I’m posting one of the first poems I wrote in the mid-9os soon after I became a regular writer and reciter of my poetry. This is the first poem I shared when it was my turn,  last Thursday night at the open mic night at The Pharmacy, Pasfield at South Grand.

These Are the Poets
by Job Conger

Their pain is their pro-per-ty
like razor-wired real estate
that keeps out kindred souls with names.
Their pain, their commodity
best shared with strangers’ eyes and ears,
made mythic with contrived games.
These are the poets!
God bless the poets.

The eyes cocked like heron birds
to impale the passing metaphor
that wanders through the shallow tide.
Their eyes search for perfect words
to reprise the poignant, ancient past
in which their hurting hearts reside.
These are the poets.
God bless the poets.

Their minds mark the trail of tears
that starts within the heart and steps
from dim recall to pen to print.
Their minds with their veils of fears
return to haunt the forest deep,
to strike the bonfire borne from flint.
These are the poets.
God bless the poets.


This poem was self-published in my first book Minstrel’s Ramble; to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois.

Not all poets I’ve met have hearts of flint, but I suppose it’s considered an asset by those that do.

Live long . . . . . .  and proper.


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A cooperative visual artists’ gallery has launched a FOURTH THURSDAY event for poets and essayists and hep qats in purple shirts and neck ties to ad-lib pseudophisticated corn jive. The place is called The Pharmacy, located on the northwest  corner of South Grand at Pasfield. The first event took place August 25.

The team of artists who began renting the former Watt Bros. Pharmacy includes Andrew Woolbright, Felecia Olin, Chris Martin, Barnabas Helmy, Casey Richardson, Ryan Sponsler and boy intern Adam Perschbacher –not yet a full patna as they say in Boston.

Most of the artists are young compared with your struly. This accounts for Andrews mother baking some delicious, sweet bread for the occasion. They also served iced tea and bottled water, all for no charge.

For Thursday’s event, the clutter of easels and equipment that occupies the main floor had been cleared to make room for a variety of chairs arranged auditorium style, probably 10 chairs wide and probably 10 rows deep. Almost all of them were occupied when the fun began. Other visitors stood in back, close to the main entrance where they could dodge in an out as the need for nicotine sustenance demanded.

Those who had something to say from behind a microphone or close to it signed up before and during the event. This approach allowed those who wanted to read early to do so and those who wanted to simmer in their own juices for a while to do that before being introduced.

Thea Chesley was first to read, and her poem about New Orleans as poignant and well read as any words that were to kiss the microphone. Other local names, established names — Siobhan, Mark Russillo, Blake Scranton, Lola, Corrine Frische, Paula — joined the cavalcade, following welcoming words from Andrew and a tempered but joyously convivial emceeing by Jennifer Snopko, a talented painter and manager of Prairie Art Alliance’s Gallery II in beautiful post-Lincolnist downtown Springfield. Other readers include Frank Trompeter in word but not tune, Jennifer read a fantastic creation from her hand-held electronic device about what she found using Google image search . . . . Joey, Rachel, Becky Wheeler. . . . I wasn’t taking notes.   The arrangement of chairs allowed people to pay attention to the front instead of chatting at tables when talent was sharing up front. Frank Trompeter who has a jazz band of significant renown in this town, provided lighting and sound, the best I have heard in recent years, though Springfield Poets & Writers has a fine system as well on third Wednesdays at Robbie’s Restaurant. Even people who don’t always remember how to use a microphone were heard, thanks in part to Frank’s deft touch on the sound board. 
The Pharmacy has a website
aaaaaaand presence on Facebook.

The last center-stage participant had finished about 9:30, and many of us took our time saying sayonara and heading fo rhome. There is an energy in the place that will “draw” me back like a swallow to Capistrano.

Every Wednesday, The Pharmacy welcome everyone to their open gallery. If you dig visual art and good conversation you will want to “MOCK YOUR COLLANDER” for next Wednesday, August 31 about 7 ish to visit aaaaand Thursday, September 22 for the next Night of the Spoken Word. I’ll be there. You come too!

Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.

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(INTRO: I’m reading, irregularly and not often enough, a book entitled Today Matters  by John C. Maxwell, a book, generously mailed to me, given by a friend from the halcyon past,  that waits for my attention on my desk where I am employed as a seller of natural stone. It’s less than three feet from my left hand. Probably, I should have spent a good part of this morning reading Maxwell’s silver lessons instead of writing this poem which came to me on my way to spend an hour and a half at AeroKnow Museum at the airport before coming to “work.” Instead, the poem idea came to me as I parked at the airport, and the nugget of the poem was written on a piece of scrap paper in red felt-tip pen before my office computer had booted. I wrote the passable first draft that follows before noon selling stone. John Maxwell says words in effect that happiness depends not on what life gives to you; it’s all about what you give to life. I know this, but sometimes I overlook it; especially when there is a poem to be made from the sorry ignorance of overlooking. Here is the poem.)

How Can You Tell Them
by Job Conger
. . .
How can you tell them how sad they have made you?
For their turning away when you needed a hand,
and your hopes for the future they might understand.
Life decisions that led to regret, despite truths plain.
The loss of your father that drove you near insane.
. . .
How can you tell them how sad they have made you?
Your friend through the decades whose outburst of condescent
mired your feet in a bucket of wet cement
Fellowships fresh as an afternoon in the park
transformed to regrets all alone in the pitch dark.
. . .
How can you tell them how sad they have made you?
The years of camaraderie, peas in a shared pod
crumbled to shards of indifference, dry sod
not to be nourished by waters of dialogues.
Chorus of harmonies now drone in wan monologues.
. . .
How can you tell them just how sad they’ve made you?
as spontaneous smiling affection and trust
were tramped by indifference to bones turned to dust
Your desert of hopelessness, plaintive back tracking
leads to acres of attributes, all of which you are lacking.
. . .
How can you tell them just how sad they’ve made you?
Not by graffiti scrawled with keys into their new cars
not by tales of woe yammered to tenders in stale bars
or by vain allegories in pages of “fiction”
with quaint dialects older than Twain’s airy diction.
. . .
How can you tell them how sad they have made you
through the torments that every day come and go?
How can you tell them how sad they have made you?
No need.
Don’t bother.
They already know.

11:45 Monday, August 22, 2011
Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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I recently posted about the pictures mom and dad took of me and saved for me in a box, later gave to me. Also in that box was this clipping

The news without the names.

What’s incredible about this fragment from the Illinois State Register, the afternoon paper, is that chances are my father made the effort to tear it out of probably page 2 of that September 6, 2947 edition.

In case the resolution of the scan is sub-par, and because I want this post to be a personal revelation, not something scanned and plopped down before your eyes like scrambled eggs from an irritated waitress in a hurry, I’m transcribing the news of everyone mentioned in the BIRTHS . . .

. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. Sigmund Jamrosz, 510 S. State St., are parents of a son born today at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . .Mr. and Mrs. Robert Kuznik, 1028 N. MacArthur Blvd., are parents of a son born yesterday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. Robert Call, 125 N. Parker St., are parents of a daughter born yesterday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. Willard Kuchav, 2040 Clear Lake Ave., are parents of a daughter born yesterday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. George Mounce, 113 E. Reynolds St., are parents of a daughter born yesterday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. John Woods, 622 1/2 S. Spring St., are parents of a son born yesterday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Conn, 908 W. Lawrence Ave., are parents of a son born yesterday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. Mack Collins, Glenn Arm, are parents of a  daughter born yesterday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . .Mr. and Mrs. Job Conger, 2016 Whittier Ave., are parents of a son born yesterday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. William Baird, 1125 S. Third St., are parents of a son born yesterday at Memorial hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. Ernest G. Logan, 1147 1/2 W. Edwards St., are parents of a son born yesterday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs.  Marvin R. May, 2016 E. Jackson St., are parents of a daughter born yesterday at Memorial hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. Harry Moore, Virden are parents of a daughter, born  born Thursday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. Raleigh Hinsey, 2805 S. Thirteenth st., are parents of a daughter born Thursday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. Hayes Lauterbach, 118 W. Monroe St. , are parents of a daughter born Thursday at St. John’s hospital.
. . . . . Mr. and Mrs. Earl Gaddis, 829 S. Twenty-fourth St., are parents of a son born Thursday at St. John’s hospital.

The BIRTHS follow DIVORCES GRANTED, not a happy list and I’ll spare you all but the reasons: four “desertion”s and three “cruelty”s.

Call me a writer with two much time on my hands, but I wonder about the divorced and born, all but Court Conn. I knew Roy Conn, his dad before I knew his son. Roy owned a terrific restaurant next to the Senate Theater on Monroe, just east a few doors from The Bootery, a wonderful shoe store, and a dry cleaner which specialized in cleaning and blocking hats. Court and I met in high school. We had gym class together, and I often ran the track south of school with him. He later owned a restaurant on the east side of the Senate while his dad continued with his restaurant on the west. In high school our Sunday school class met in the basement of Roy’s place. I frequently munched a Club Sandwich on those Sundays. Today Court and his lovely wife Karen own and operate Inn at 835 on S. Second, a wonderful bed and breakfast I have written about in local media but never occupied overnight.  It’s a terrific place for business meeting and social events too.

I knew none of the other families listed. I am deducing the announcements were published in the Saturday, September 6 issue because it mentions a yesterday and a Thursday. Perhaps birth announcement appeared only in the Wednesday and Saturday issues?

If time permits, closer to my birthday this year, I intend to travel to the Springfield addresses noted above and take pictures of the houses or buildings now standing at the addresses. I will most them here at H&Q. If you know any of the families mentioned, the grownups introduced to the world on those three days, comment with what you know in the space that follows.

Who could have IMAGINED that a piece of newsprint torn by hand, raggedly from a newspaper in September 1947 would be shared almost 64 years later?! I am amazed, darn near floored by this!

In my earlier posting with pictures of the newly born “me” and childhood snapshots, I mentioned that I stopped being the beloved and loving  son of Job and Avis Conger and became their adversary in my teens and through much of my adult life. It happened with my sister Dorothy (still alive, I hope) and brother Bill who died last October. In going through the pictures and the clippings I realize what an idiot I was to have evolved that way, because mom and dad MERITED far better from me. My life warranted more from me than I have put into it. Every day I live, at this time of my life, I love my parents more; regret my patent idiocy more, wish I would have been a better son, a better brother more. All just about 22 years too late.

Memo to self: I cannot perfect the past. But I can try harder to perfect the present. May it be the gift of Providence that I hold that mission closer to my heart today and for the rest of my days.

Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.

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This year, I’ve attended Springfield Poets and Writers ( www.pwlf.com ) Poetry at Robbie’s Night — something like that, and coveting the appellation I apply to myself, the appellation of “poet,” and determined to earn it rather than retire on it, vowed several months ago to write at least one new poem to share at these events.

When it’s time to write a poem, when I have a REASON to write a poem, I don’t dread the process; I bathe in it. I come clean with it. Following the necessary revising and tweaking of the poem, I am refreshed and delighted to share it, even though not every poem is a “happy” poem better suited for a Second City production or the Spike Jones Band. Because half of any task is resolving to DO it and giving it maximum focus, most weeks I’ve written “le poeme du Robbie’s” the same day I share it in public for the first time. The poem here is an example of that.

I told a friend Sunday, I was thinking about writing a poem for Wednesday, but at the time I didn’t have a subject in mind; not a word. Late Tuesday, I began thinking of the process of poetry writing and love; the kind Bogey and Bacall had, Tracy and Hepburn, Mickey and Minnie. On Wednesday morning at my aviation museum ( www.aeroknow.com ) putting in a few hours before heading to my employer, The Granite Guy ( www.yourgraniteguy.ccom  ) the movement of the poem and approach became clear. Soon after arriving at work (“WORK?!” — thank you “The Adventures of Dobie Gillis” and Bob Denver as Maynard G. Krebs).  The first line was typed into a Word file about 12:45, and between first priority duties to “employer” (I consider myself lucky to be employed at all.) completed the poem a little after 2:00. I printed a first draft to keep. The rest of the afternoon, I revised it. The first two lines of the poem were almost the only two lines that were not revised at least a little bit.
When I introduced the poem I explained that the names of those mentioned are their real names. In the interest of not whipping up a big fuss, last names would not be revealed. As I slouch toward dust, slogging through my 60s having come up short of hopes in many ways, I’m writing more personal, confessional poems, getting a load off my chest, so to speak. It seems a more meaningful catharsis than changing the colors of my clothes.

My True Devotions
by Job Conger

I liked Linda
but not enough to ask her out to a movie.
A poem idea she left behind came in three words
but nothing worth putting to paper.

I liked Janet;
not enough to try to kiss her,
but enough to be near her with no great expectations.
The poem she inspired was worth
a phrase and a point of view. It was
scrawled in a rush on the back
of a grocery receipt I tucked into my shirt pocket.

I liked Carole and she liked me;
She came to me sometimes without even calling first;
just showed up  on my front porch.
In winter, she warmed the sofa with me —
good times, breathless times!
The poem she left behind came to me
as I waited for the light to change;
caught up with me in the shower,
even in dreams it visited,
and took shape in pen put to a notebook.

I loved Mary Ann
and proved my love in my manners
and attention; affectionate ways over days, over years.
We reunited (and it felt so good) returning  
sometimes, to share something deeper, I hoped.
But it was never deeper, and eventually we stopped
going through the motions,
because she did not love me.
When I wanted to write her lingering embryo poem
I returned to the three stanzas that I jotted on a lonely night;
stanzas destined never to emerge a complete composition.
It might have been, perhaps should have been
pushed out with a little more time in labor, contractions of the mind,
a child born from her whimsy and my devotion.

Penny, my companion after grad school,
gave me love and affection.
She gave me everything but a face I would want to see
in the morning at age 70, as I had appreciated it at 35.
I gave her everything but a shared name and forever.
The poem was stillborn and would never see daylight.
It lives in memory but only mine,
an opportunity denied the necessary communion
that transcends happy coincidence and becomes a prize.

I would have married Ellen
She was the shape and the name of a dream,
mature enough and so nice to my eyes
that if we had walked down the aisle . . .
. . .  my life would have been complete
if shared only in the steps from the church to the car,
my destiny cut short by a lightning bolt or a wayfaring truck.
But my poem, this poem, emerges in the birthing
of a dream, from the passion, from the patient finessing,
the speed-bumps on some lines, some phrases,
burnished smooth with the attention, the love of the creator
who believes in the creation,

And so, on a Wednesday night in August,
the poem speaks, alive, a breathes memory and magic
a gift of true devotions from the past to the future,
and to the moment,
and to you.

— written 2:13 pm, Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.


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Job Clifton Conger, IV in St. John's Hospital nursery Photo by Job Clifton Conger, III

In my early days, they called me 319.

Until I turned 13 or so and became as much an adversary-adolescent,  I was photographed frequently by my father, who was a professional photographer,who  owned a studio and processing lab on W. Adams in downtown Springfield, Illinois.  The picture above was taken in September 1947,  a few days after I arrived — and I mean ARRIVED — in the maternity ward at St. John’s Hospital. It was about 14 blocks away from where Mom, Dad and my 12-years-older sister Dorothy lived.

It still is.

About the time I turned 10, exploring our attic entered through a door large enough for a grownup to crawl through in Mom’s closet in parents’ bedroom, I discovered a Bressmer’s gift box full of pictures taken of me throughout my early years; pictures of my brother who came along two years after me, and Dorothy, born November 9, 1935,  too. When “Dot” moved away, she was given most of the pictures taken of her including a few of her and Bill and me. When Bill moved away, he was given his pictures too. After I had lived away from home about 10 years, Mom gave me the Bressmers’ box (must have been used for women’s scarves, judging by depth and dimensions).

2016 S. Whittier (as in John Greenleaf) about 1950

Growing up there, I saw many changes. When Mom (divorced from Dad in 1967) announced she was selling the family home and moving to Tavares, Florida to be closer to her sister (my Aunt Estelle Anderson, a classically beautiful and wonderful aunt) I considered offering to buy the house from her, but at the time it would have been easier to marry Bo Derek. A predictable reason: under-employed; no money.  After I drove her to her new home and flew back to Springfield, I saw neither her or 2016 Whittier again. The year was 1979, the busiest year of my life.  I knew (from a distance) the fellow who bought it from her. He was a city administrator/bureaucrat. Later a friend from church about my age — Jan Makeslan — owned it and despite my repeated expressions of WANTING to coming over to simply see the house and yards again, she denied me every time!  . . . . . . I know what you’re thinking:  Let it go, Pedro . . . .water over the dam . . . . .

The chair was from the dining room table adjacent to the living room where this picture was taken looking west.

Brother Bill, born September 12, 1949, two years and a week after me, was a “surprise” according to my parents. But during our early days in that home, there were never two sons who were loved more by their parents than we were loved by ours.  Dad took two pictures of me in this setting above. One picture shows Bill sitting on the chair, and I’m standing as you see here. I will share that picture of the two of us in a later Honey & Quinine.

Job was about four years old; Bill about two.

Here we are perhaps a year before. Note the Roy Rogers shirt I was wearing. A few years later, Bill and I saw Rogers perform with Dale Evans in a live stage show with his horse “Trigger.” I would forever remember the horse patting a forefoot on the stage floor when Roy asked him his age.

I still have the Bressmer’s box of pictures and will share more here at Honey & Quinine.

The temperatures are declining at my outlook is on the rise. I saw my accountant a few days ago, we are making s-l-o-w progress toward necessary resolution of concerns in flux. When I sat on my front porch steps Thursday night with my 12-string guitar and a glass of wine, scaring the lawn grubs away, a friend of a friend, on her way home from a friend’s house across the street walked over to say “hello” and see how I was doing. THAT was nice; helped me take my head out of my hindquarters. THANKS TC!

Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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I used to keep an almost daily journal that recorded how my life was going. Early on, when I could read my own handwriting, they were longhand sentences in a spiral notebook. Later I typed the journal and as recently as 10 years ago, typed them, two columns of Times New Roman 12 point to a page and printed them every 10 pages or so from the computer. I have at least a dozen separate binders or hard back daily journals with lined pages bulging with my joys and tribulations since about 1981. Then I began blogging in probably 1994 or so, and I’ve enjoyed blogging ever since, driven partly by the poet in me, partly by the entertainer in me, partly by the journalist in me. I’ve enjoyed it up to now.  I’ve decided that I will not journal again. My secrets not shared at Honey & Quinine will fade with me into the dust. . . . .

What’s to hide? What’s to fear here? Nothing. I’ll prove it.

Since getting a note from IRS about back taxes last May, my life has felt like I am balancing one toe on a stiletto blade above the precipice of Niagara Falls. I am acting,  s l o w l y, (too slowly for the IRS I fear) Almost nothing is fun. My life is a litany of promises to keep and the gentle whispers of destiny to be true to her.  Interactions which have felt like interactions between friends, I can count on the eyes of a cyclops. This is not to suggest there haven’t been friendly looks, nods, smiles, words exchanged up to five or six at an encounter.  It is also not to say that I have become a hermit, a monk, an old fart. Mostly I have been the observer and the thing, the quiet presence who says polite words. I am, by nature, a social person. I like humanity and really like intelligent exemplars of the best of our lot. I socialize, share a few laughs and disappear until next time.

There comes a time when a man needs to consider shutting up and working things out on his own.

In the meantime, any reader with employment to offer is cordially invited to contact me via www.aeroknow.com and send me an e-mail or call me from the information there. If you’re not smart enough to find my info therein, we probably can’t help each other anyway, so as Bob Dylan once sang, “Don’t think twice. It’s all right.”

I’m not shutting down Honey & Quinine.

Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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