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Archive for July, 2012

Here is a story of fashioning a silk purse from a sow’s ear, metaphorically speaking.

Long-time readers of Honey & Quinine recall my posts about my 2011 experience with Arthur F. Humphrey and my providing a “tape” of my reading Part 1 of Vachel Lindsay’s poem “In Praise of Johnny Appleseed” what is now part of an exhibit at the Johnny Appleseed Museum in Urbana, Ohio. Thanks to Arthur Humphrey, museum director Joe Besecker and others, I visited the Appleseed Museum on the occasion of its ribbon cutting and re-dedication in March 2011. Later, during the same four-day excursion, Arthur and I visited the grave site of John Chapman (the real “Johnny Appleseed”) in Ft. Wayne, Indiana where he videotaped me reading Vachel’s entire three-part poem.  Later in 2011 I wrote a book about the experience entitled Confluence of Legends: the Spirit of Vachel Lindsay Meets the Spirit of Johnny Appleseed   and published it myself; sold a few copies at my featured presentation at Vachel’s house last October.

Late that year, I published two special editions with different covers.  One edition cover included the words: Special Edition, Souvenir of the Johnny Appleseed Museum, Urbana, Ohio, and the other said: Special Edition, Souvenir of Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site, 603 S. Fifth St., Springfield, Illinois. The goal was to DONATE copies the Appleseed edition to you know where in Urbana and copies of the Lindsay edition to . . . again, you know where. Arthur Humphrey paid for the printing of both editions. Not a penny was factored in for my writing, initiative or effort. I sent several to Joe Besecker in Ohio who welcomed them warmly.  I also shared the news with a new board member of the Vachel Lindsay Association who passed the word up the chain (no pun intended) to the rest of the board.

There’s a “spoof” of a popular poem that reads:
“I shot an arrow into the air.
It stuck.”

I hand-delivered copies of the Vachel edition to the house — (a house is not a home) and explained to the convivial director, what I hoped would happen: that funds generated from their sale would go to support Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site. I was informed that the State of Illinois, which administers the historic site, sells nothing in what I will call the Education Room which in Vachel’s time served as a bedroom for boarders. All sales of the amazing array of publications, postcards, books, videotapes and more, are coordinated through the Vachel Lindsay Association,  a not-for-profit organization I have supported with membership dues for years.  I shared with friends on the VLA board the news of my delivery of the “Confluence of Legends” books to a closet in the Education Room in January 2012, and frankly, when I visited the home — a few months later — I expected to find them on the souvenir table for sale, $5 each.

I delivered my Vachel books to his house.
They stuck.

I was disappointed. I thought I was dealing with a different kind of organization. But I’m okay.

During subsequent visits to Vachel’s house, I have had the pleasure of meeting some terrific people who share my love the story of the Lindsay family, their talented only son (There were two sisters, Olive and Joy) and the poetry that rings as beautiful today as it did in the poet’s life; in some cases more so. On more than one occasion, while talking to distinguished visitors, I have been able to ascend the stairs to my cache of Vachel house special editions and GIVE them to those who have impressed and inspired me with their own most laudable appreciation in a “Confluence of Appreciation,” so to speak.

Jim and Susie Miller and Marilynn Dunlap of Manitowoc, Wisconsin

On July 28, 2012, I met Jim Miller and his wife Susie from Manitowoc, Wisconsin and their friend Marilynn Dunlap who accompanied their musical presentation to a packed house of new fans. They shared melodious arrangements of Vachel’s “General William Booth Enters Into Heaven” and “Why I Voted the Socialist Ticket.” The presentation was a delight. Here were people who had not heard of Vachel two weeks ago and invited to read Vachel poems in a feature presentation. They were practiced reverence and appreciation. They were in key. They didn’t mispronounce words they should have known how to pronounce. (You’d be surprised if you knew the names of those who  have.) I took pictures and afterwards gave Jim a Vachel Lindsay house special edition of “Confluence of Legends.” I also gave a copy to my friend Hugh Moore who hosts a radio show on WQNA Saturday mornings.  I didn’t have to remember to bring these books; they were waiting for me upstairs!

Marilynn, Susie, Job Conger and Jim.
Thank you Hugh Moore for taking the picture!

I continue to support the Vachel Lindsay Association as I can, when I can.  I serve the poet as I can, and they do the same as they can. Still it’s nice to know that through their decisions, we both serve the memory of the man in a way neither of us would likely have imagined last January. Love is a gift. We are fools who choose not to make the most of it.

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

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A Male Approaching 65 and Single
by Job Conger
8:40 pm Monday, July 16, 2012

Some things fade from memory:
my parents’ best friends,
my brother’s first wife
my favorite Aunt Estelle and Uncle Turner’s street
in Leavenworth, Kansas where I spent a few summer vacations,
the name of  my mother’s father —
I met him one time on his farm in Cochran, Georgia
when I was five —
My dad’s father and my dad’s father’s father were named Job
— that’s easy enough –

I remember my sister Dorothy’s prom night,
all the fuss she and mom made over her prom dress,
lots and lots of petticoats.
She was the queen of the senior prom that year
Nineteen  hundred and fifty-four
and I would soon turn seven

As I look back through the years,
grateful for every one,
trying to remember what I forgot —
and for what positive benefit I cannot imagine —
I am glad that I can’t recall much of the small stuff
which I sweated through at Benjamin Franklin Junior High
I remember my Springfield High senior prom night in 1965
and Joyce Elaine Mitchell from Sacred Heart Academy
and her address on way-south Second Street
and the big band at the Illinois Building at the State Fairgrounds.
We danced maybe once. Listened to the music for half an hour and fled for peace and quiet to be big senior party
at Prairie Run near New Salem,
We watched the sun rise from the parking lot
and we kissed goodnight on her front porch at 6:57 am.

Also long forgotten are the names of those
I dated once or twice
and neither celebrated nor suffered after that.

And as I remember
cataclysmic epiphanies,
I count myself lucky to be alive
and I continue my quest
for Nirvana or Dulcinea or Snow White or a clone of Ellen Mason,
I am no longer harangued by the sleeplessness, the tempest and the yearning through adolescence, the 20s, through the 30s , 40s, lurching through my 50s and half-way into my 60s . . .

Still, I will not concede surrender to the solitude,
which some call defeat, which today surrounds me,
this circumstance evolved from midnight masquerades
and lessons learned,
illumined by the burning wisdom of the sun.
I shall contemplate moonlit truths reflected
through the years and I shall savor them in softer shadows.

Still I shall love that siren song
that moved me to rise from the rubble heartache and try again,
the melodious hopes penned by writers of fairy tales
Still shall I harmonize with them,
a willing accessory to the cosmic roll of the dice for love
and living happy ever after.

It’s easy to acknowledge — now — what I wanted to be close to
to touch and kiss and devote my life to — and I did, all too briefly,
a few times — over the years:

A smile
and
a
few
wet
inches.

===================================
The last four words of the poem have haunted me since they came to me and I wrote them down so I would not forget. “A smile and” came a week before I decided to focus on writing the poem last Monday night, and I’ve re-written it, re-sequenced things, knowing from the start how it would end. Also coming late was the turn to the hopeful resolve to continue playing the game before dropping the phrase that has remained — like a dull dial tone — part of my consciousness daily.  I considered writing a song around the phrase, and I still may do that, but it will not be a reverie. It will be a song about the power . . . . the magnetism . . . . of a few wet inches.

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

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The Conduit Speaks
by Job Conger
7:31 pm Monday, July 16, 2012

Hello stranger. 
Pleased to meet you.
Hope you guessed my name.
I am Microphone, but my friends call me Mic.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the impression
you will always call me Microphone.
It’s been so obvious over the months and dare I say,
over the freaking years,
that you don’t want to get to know me.
You want to keep your distance.
Sometimes I sense
that you do not even know
I’m even freaking here!

Maybe you’ve stood up here often,
Every time I have wanted to get to know you.
Why don’t you want me to serve as a conduit
for the sound of your beautiful voice?
Every human voice is meant to be beautiful
from those who speak it to all who hear it.

 I know you see me at the top of the stand.
What do you think I am; a morkla hongstu?
I want to get close to you, but I can’t.
Hey, you might have noticed,
I’m screwed into a machined metal rod on a heavy base?
You need to get close to me,

Most people at open mic readings
have learned that it’s easier to endure what they cannot hear
and be polite about it
than it is to shout “I can’t hear you!”
between your poems and your paragraphs.
See the hands cupped over ears to make bigger ears,
I mean big, bat, listening-to-poetry-ears?
That’s a clue for you  hint, hint, hint.
Some folks may deduce you don’t care about your audience
or your new friend Mic —
who would be me.

Sometimes it’s most polite not to interrupt you,
so you don’t prolong their distress from not hearing you.
When this happens, they’re not doing you the favor,
they’re doing the audience the favor!
They’re not mad at you.
They just want to hear you
and so do I!
So let’s get close, what do you say?

At most open mic nights,
the people directly in front of you
consider themselves lucky to hear
what reaches their ears as though it is casual conversation 
shared friend-to-friend, across the dinner table.

Your audience did not come here
to hear your casual dinner conversation.
Many of the people watching you read your words out loud
came here to reap your rewards for their coming
gifts from your life in poetry and prose:
like apple pies, fresh from the oven,
your pithy insights from being so damn pithed off,
or the wisdom of writers remembered, who came before you.

I came here to be close to you.
So please know I am here and
why I am here and why your audience is here and why you are here . . .
and please don’t be a stranger, stranger.

Get close to me.
You can call me Mic.

============================
This thing — call it a poem if you want to flatter me — has been rattling around my brain for months.  I hope you like it.

Live long . . . . and proper.

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Sue D
by Job Conger

I don’t want to seem dramatic.
I don’t to seem crude,
But I’ll say it’s a fact:
You either clean up your act
Or you’re going to get sued.

There can be no discussion.
I’m correct, and you’re wrong.
There can be no retort
to a fuse that is short
And a righteous song.

Life is a lesson-filled ox cart
And the angry complaint
From the wheel that needs grease
Mocking respectful peace
Suggests truth where it ain’t.

The riled leading the blind me
Share a voice that is loud.
Shrill in ranting disdain,
They sing a common refrain
And make a mob from the crowd.

It’s graffiti from screamers,
An insidious mood
You must go with our flow
If you don’t, then you know,
Hey! You’re going to get sued.

——
This is the lyric to a song I wrote several years ago. At the next Poetry and More at Robbie’s, starting at 6 pm, July 18, I’m going to try to recruit a “chorus” of three or four speaking, chanters, and we’re going to share this spoken and totally sans instrumental accompaniment. This will be fun. Mock your colanders!

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Yesterday, my friend John Clark, MSgt USAF, retired,  e-mailed me, “Thought you might like the poem written by a friend of mine in Korea. Retired Army Special Ops.  I KNOW July 4 is not another day for thanking those who served in the military. For me, every day is a day for thanking them.  The poem hit me as a salute to the flag that symbolizes our independence.

The flag we know today is not even close to the flag that Betsy Ross made for George Washington; not very close to the flag that Francis Scott Key wrote a poem about during the War of 1812, a poem that became the lyric for our national anthem. But like Key’s words, the poem by John Michael Horan, shared here reflects the perspective of a gentleman who significantly contributed to the cause of the freedoms and independence from injustice and tyranny so many of us assume to be ours; take for having been granted unto us by Divine Right — NOT true, btw) and don’t commemorate  with reverence on Independence Day.

I e-mailed John Michal Horan minutes after reading it and asked his permission to share it in my personal blog Honey & Quinine today. This morning came his permission. “No problem,” he said.

Colors

Strips of cloth in a line
my colors number three
Purity and Valor
— and Justice all for thee.

Field of stars shining bright
a beacon for all to see
We are many, but yet one
Freedom in unity

These colors, they don’t run
They are always flying high
Leading the dove or the gun
No matter the reason why

A symbol of a land
and its pride and loyalty
Willingness to serve, perhaps to die
So others might be free

This simple piece of cloth
With its colors numbered three
Covers all who hold it dearest
While in journey on to Thee

Strips of Cloth, Field of Stars
With its colors numbered three
Liberty Peace and Hope
In God We Trust, our loyal plea

— John Michael Horan

Remember with reverence.

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

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After I shared the news — at Honey and Quinine and my AeroKnow Museum blog — of my interest in learning about John Thornton Walker, Richard and Connie Strouse, key contributors to what I shared about him in my book Springfield Aviation from Arcadia Publishing wrote me to correct some information.

Richard and Connie will visit Springfield to deliver and donate to AeroKnow Museum a 63 lb brass plaque displayed for decades at Fort Monroe, Virginia. It was presented by General Mark Clark and dedicated to John Thornton Walker when Walker Army Airstrip was dedicated after World War II. General Mark Clark, who was a frequent passenger flown by Walker during the Allied campaign in Italy presented the plaque at the dedication. 

Walker’s wife Geraldine (Gerri) was from Indiana and lived in Springfield during the time she was married to John. They had one child, Connie, and following John’s death in Italy,  Gerri returned to her home state with Connie. Walker is buried at a cemetery in Washington, Indiana.

I am writing a book, probably about 100 pages long, that will share the story of John Thornton Walker. Needed for this book are photos, memories of him during his life in Springfield, in the Illinois Army National Guard and his regular Army service. I intend to have all but the final chapter written, at least in a draft, when Richard and Connie come from their home in Delaware to  Springfield later this year to see John’s city almost 70 years after Walker said goodbye, never to return.  The final chapter will be about the Strouse’s’ visit to John’s home town. 

If I can find a publisher for the book, it will be available from the publisher. If I cannot find a publisher, I will publish it under auspices of AeroKnow Museum, the first of what I hope with be a series of books and/or pamphlets about important Springfield area aviation people.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

If you have photos and information to share about John Thornton Walker please call me — 217-544-6122 — or leave a comment following this post. Because I am administrator of this blog, I will see your e-mail address and will respond to your comment.

The book will be written

Thanks for your help.

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