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She came into my life like thunder when I recited my poetry at the Taylorville, Illinois public library, in March 2009. Lenore is not her real name, but I’ve referred to her by that name in Honey & Quinine before, and though she’s been out of my life since May of that year, I still respect her.

After the recital, Lenore and I shared some happy conversation and soon after, she moved into my house just a little bit which is to say clothes in a chest of drawers I emptied to accommodate her, some food she often shared with me, a few towels and things.  She slept on my living room sofa, I slept on my bed, and that was that.

If I had been smart, we’d still be friends today, but I was not smart; I was about as dumb as I could be. We had so many things in common, so many reasons to be friends — love of poetry, love of photography, pretty urbane outlook on life — it took me about two weeks for me to start dreaming of more than friendship. I wrote more poetry and songs about US than for any woman who inspired that kind of ardor. We were connecting intellectually in a way that I had not connected with former sweethearts, and the prospect of a future with her had me panting like a hungry Labrador, pulling on a chain that would keep me “at bay.” That was exactly the wrong thing to do. It became not a passionate interest in affection, though that was a part of it. It became an interest in more time. She had other ideas, told me she wanted me as a friend and nothing more. I should have accepted that, and I didn’t. The parting of our lives was not pretty, and I remain sorry to this hour for things I did which no gentleman should do. Suffice to say I didn’t lay a finger on her, and I didn’t utter an obscene or hurtful epithet at her. She left me. I don’t blame her. I was certifiable shark food for my part in the coming apart.

Since then, I have held on to a part of her.

botwat1

Lenore didn’t care for water from the tap. She drank it from bottles purchased at the supermarket. Since she left, I’ve not touched the bottle, not even to clean the shelf.
botwat-3
Keeping it provided some miniscule solace in allowing me to be close to a small part of who she was. I thought of her — and missed her . . . and thought I was a blithering idiot — every time I opened the refrigerator.  After four years of this angst and regret and absolutely no hope of ever speaking to her again, or seeing her  . . . I decided it was time to say “goodbye.”

How should I say goodbye? Slit my wrists? The thought probably crossed what was left of my mind a time or two in the two or three months right after she left, but it didn’t occur to me on the 4th of the 7th of the 13th. I didn’t want to just pitch the thing into the kitchen waste basket. I wanted to do something symbolic. Plunge a large knife through that bottle and letting it drain into my freshly cleaned kitchen sink? Too violent and not really my style. I know I was less than princely during our parting ordeal. For her anger toward me in the withering tumult, I took my revenge as well, in ways I won’t share here, but I say again, I did not put a finger on that beautiful woman. I did not raise my voice to her. She is right to think that to this day I am pond scum. I had to find a way to say goodbye via constructive outcome of the inevitable.

So I drank Lenore’s water and then threw the empty bottle into the kitchen trash.
botwat=4Yes, there was some concern for the outcome of drinking four-year-old bottled water. If I had writhed in agony all over the kitchen floor as some viral toxin from the water ate me up inside . . . . . I would have been okay with that. Such a fate was not to be. The last trace of Lenore in my refrigerator nourished me. In penance for this act of saying good-bye I have fasted all day today except for four cups of coffee and Lenore’s water. I’ll have dinner at sunset today, about 8 pm, and I’m okay with that.

I’m sorry I waited so long to say goodbye. I hope Lenore is well and happy wherever she is.

This has been my Independence Day lesson lived the hard way. But I am the better man for having lived it the hard way . . . . . . than not to have lived it at all.

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

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So It Seems
by Job Conger

I’ve had me some sweethearts who said they thought me wise,
Traded love for some bountiful baskets of lies.
It was all so mercantile, I recall with a sigh.
It seems I was born to be a single guy.

Hysterical romances all ended in a huff.
I haven’t loved often or even enough.
But I’m done with this fool’s game of wondering why.
It seems I was born to be a single guy.

(refrain)
There were no greater thrills, passions more fine
Than lusty tussles, kisses sweeter than wine.
But those were yesterday’s joys. Now I contemplate
Life chasing different dreams as master of my fate.

Together-forever hopes, duets in the sun.
I had my chances and I blew every one.
Panning for gold in the waste of woe — you know it’s folly to try.
It seems I was born to be a single guy.

No more quilt and antique shopping, there’s more room to stretch in bed.
I don’t have to pretend to like her friends; I just have to pretend to like my friends instead.
I’ve not vacuumed my living room since last Fourth of July.
It seems I was born to be a single guy.
It seems I was born to be a single guy.

=============================================
I wrote this song several years ago, knew I wanted to sing it as one of four pieces I intended to share at a local open mic night. I could NOT find a copy at home, and I could not access my office computer until the next day, so over the course of the day at my employer, I gradually recovered an essential five lines from searching the long-term memory in my brain. I was amazed that I could do it. Then I printed the song at work to take with me to the open mic and practiced the song, with my guitar at work (it’s okay; it was a slow day) but I didn’t practice it enough. The performance of this song was the worst I’ve done in public, and that’s saying something! It’s not easy for me to sing this song — nobody wants to make himself look like a looser — , but I am somehow compelled to share it as I get older. It’s a legitimate part of the man I am. I DO plan to sing it again after I’ve practiced it a hellovalot. Thanks for sharing it here.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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I could not let April end without posting one update, and it’s an update I would not have predicted when I posted the third of three in March. During that month, at my second post-operation visit with my surgeon, I had been given permission to remove the full-extension leg braces. I could keep them, make a sculpture out of them, burn them. They belong to me. This was a burst of sunshine to my outlook.

True, I had to continue with the bulky aluminum walker which was not much of a bother. In two weeks I was spending nearly all of my time carrying it — mostly to impress my physical therapists who wanted me to follow “doctor’s orders,” and a little bit to give an impression that I was experiencing significant discomfort when I was on my feet at my employer. Both efforts were charades, of course. I was still riding the disabled minibus service, Access Springfield, and starting in late March I begam entering and exiting on the steps after the entry door opened. I no longer needed the hydraulic lift that allowed me to stand, stabilized by my walker going up and coming down. On April 13, I took my last Access Springfield ride — home from the airport museum on a Saturday afternoon — and the next day I drove out to the airport in my pickup truck for the first time since January 12. THAT was another milestone in the recovery action! I’ve been driving ever since.

Since I began driving again, I’ve not bothered with the pretense of needing the walker. It’s all been going fine . . . until about April 2 when I began visiting the hospital for hour-long physical therapy workouts twice a week instead of the previous onceas, and things became real serious real fast. Just as I began to see “light at the end of the tunnel” — naiively imagining all the workouts would be over reasonably soon — as I religiously followed the physical therapists’ instructions for a series of excercises at home that took about 30 minutes every morning . . . they made the tunnel longer, adding some standing excercises involving some that involved simple but perilous (to me) squats to strengthen my upper quad area, stretching exercises for the hamstrings and balancing excercises because good balance is mandatory for maximum safety. As a result — and this is what I would not have predicted a month ago — I have begun to lose the sense of pride I had during the early recovery days when I was seeing progress almost every day, gaining confidence.

I’m still a 65-year-old fellow with no love life, fair social life, an employer I allow to drive me absolutely nuts and no real prospects for imporoving either. Also, I cannot BUY help at the airport museum. It’s hard to be creative when my head and heart are mired in disappointment. I’ve not written a new poem since leaving the hospital; haven’t blogged since May 23. The physical therapy and daily regimen at home are creating more physical distress by the hour than in the early days. Why the hell bother with all this theraphy?

At the end of today’s physical therapy session, my sour outlook was obvious. Therapist Alex (a woman) offered to reduce the twice-weekly sessions to one a week again, and I declined. At least I will do the exrcises at the hospital. At home, I’ve become less inclined to do ALL the recommended workouts.

I’m told that on my next visit to my surgeon, he will likely discontinue my sessions at the hospital and advise me to keep excercising and walking a lot. I will miss the visits with Alex and Heather there. I’m missing more than engaging. Missing what is not mine and engaging the surprisingly social life that is . . . all the while wishing I didn’t have so many things on my calendar. They’re on my calendar for a reason: I LIKE to be with people who like me.

So I will continue with this for awhile, try to be more conscientious, and will share a new poem come May.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Reflections of a Single Male Approaching 65
by Job Conger
8:40 pm Monday, July 16, 2012
extensively revised March 24, 2013

Some things fade from memory:
the name of the grandfather
you met on his farm in Cochran, Georgia
when you were five,
The best friends of your mom and dad
who had more than you do —
their “social associates” —
by definition you’re ahead on that score.
You remember your sister’s prom night,
all the fuss she and mom made over the prom dress,
with lots and lots of petticoats.
She was the queen of the senior prom that year
Nineteen hundred and fifty-four or thereabouts.
You would turn seven three months later.

As you look back over the years,
grateful for every one, I might add,
trying to remember what you forgot —,
and for what positive benefit you cannot imagine —
you are glad for what you can’t recall:
the names of those who declined your invitations to dance
at the Ben Franklin Junior High School sock hops,
and that’s okay because you danced with those who said “yes”
almost as much as you wanted to dance.

Also long forgot the names of those
who you dated once or twice
and neither celebrated nor suffered after that

And as you remember mostly
all the cataclysmic epiphanies,
revealed in burning bushes, from trying and failing.
you chew your cud of solitary solace. Your heart remains true as you continue your quest
for Nirvana or Dulcinea or Snow White and, God bless her,
Ellen H, the woman who came closest
to your pre-pubescent, adolescent and post teen and post 30s and post 40s and post 50s and post 60 aspirations . . .
swallowing echoes, stark in truth, inexorably evolved from moonlight masquerades and made plain to see,
illumined by the burning wisdom of the sun.
The lies of moonlit truths reflected
and savored in soft shadows.

That siren song patina, the reason to live until tomorrow,
melodious hopes penned by writers of fairy tales
and you harmonized with them, a willing accessory to the
cosmic delusion: love and living happily ever after.

Underneath the patina, what you wanted to be close to
to touch and kiss and devote your life to:
the heaven-on-earth of a smile
and a few wet inches.

================

As I engage challenges I did not imagine less than a year ago, I’ve decided that instead of “wearing purple,” I’m going to be more of who I am. Perhaps doing this will inspire you, dear readers, to do the same.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Take Two
by Job Conger

(introduction)
For months President Bush fed us lies
Served by pious, righteous cronies sleek and wise.
Some of us didn’t care to dine on their siren soup du fear
.Now digestion time is over, and the truth is odiferously clear . . . .

He’ll sing and dance like few Yale frat brats can
When W’s feces of lies hit the fan.
Though he sold us a war, second guessing is a drag.
It’s amazing what some folks take home when you wrap it in a flag.

He has stained our proud Stars and Stripes true
With new colors of brown, black and blue.
Those who saw through his blow,
We ain’t real Americans no mo
As W’s feces of lies hit the fan.

Front yard PATRIOT signs are the rage
Like armband fashions of an earlier age.
The feared weapons are as real as “the emperor’s new clothes.”
The facts should be clear to all who breathe through their nose.

The Congress feasted on pork barrel pie.
The “sounds of silence” was their battle cry.
They stayed cool and well-fed
While soldiers brave died and bled
And W’s feces of lies hit the fan.

Now he tells us “Saddam had to go!”
“Nobody ever really liked that guy, you know.”
Though the U.N. tried hard, they could not find a trace,
So the “compassionate conservative” threw war in their face.

So, as we hold noses tightly and pray,
It’s time to send CHIEF INSPECTOR O.J.
For gasless, germless blue skies
Can’t match a PRO’s alibis
As W’s feces of lies hit the fan. 

—– written June 26, 2003
================

The song was my “mantra” during W’s ‘rain of you know what,” but even songs, like wars, don’t seem to move folks the way they used to. I will play/sing Page Two in public for the first time in years at Springfield Poets and Writers Group’s Open Mike Night, March 20 at Robbie’s Restaurant on Adams Street — Springfield’s South Side of the Square along with my songs “Watching the Tide Go Out” and the song I wrote about my early days of treatment for my separated kneecap repair at Memorial Medical Center. I’ll also recite a favorite Vachel Lindsay poem as always. There will be talent and awesomeness a plenty, so please attend if you can. The fun begins at 6 pm. I hope to see you there.

live long . . . . . and proper.

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Following the January 17 surgery required to re-attach my upper quad tendons to my kneecaps,   I enjoyed more activity with more friendly, educated and lucid people than I’d experienced in my life. Along with visits from several friends and acquaintances, some of whom I’ve not seen since being discharged January 27, the medical and  housekeeping personnel at Memorial Medical Center  (MMC) were absolutely GOLD in their interfacing with me. I was blessed with several friends who rearranged my living room to that it would be my primary living space — close to the kitchen and front door with my bed relocated so I could watch TV from bed or chair, work at a nearby table, etc. Not knowing how long  it would be before  I could return to work at my employer, these friends and a few more had  packed my refrigerator and cupboards with an amazing array of food. By the evening of the 27th, there was more food in the house than there had been in any previous MONTH. (I am a man of modest means,) Another friend arranged to have a hot meal brought to the house by volunteer cooks/deliverers who visited every three or four days and almost always called before delivering to be sure their timing was good. Some friends volunteered/delivered food more than once: home-made chili, spaghetti sauce and more. For most of a month, it was a minor Eden (minus the Eve, dang it, but I never went naked for an entire day). Every other day for about a month I was visited by Visiting physical and occupational therapists from MMC who changed my dressings, took blood pressure, respiration and pulse. In late February, the staples, which had held me “together” along the incisions (59 on the right leg, 64 on the left) were removed by a nurse who came to my home at my surgeon’s direction. I was amazed by how clean everything looked.

The first “milestone” during what has evolved into a rather LOOOOOOOOOOONG recovery came with my first ride to my new “physician of record” at the county health clinic where we “charity” patients go. It was my first ride on Springfield’s minibus transportation service for disabled  people. I can go anywhere in town for $2.50 per ride to destination. That amounts to $5 per “there and back” round trip, but it is a wonderful arrangement; much more affordable than cabs.  Since that visit, I have returned to work part-time, typically five or six hours a day and 5 days a week. I’ve also returned to my AeroKnow Museum at the airport where I volunteer two or three morning every week (7:30 to 11 am) before riding another Access minibus to work and then home. Since Access does not operate on Sundays, it has been a real challenge to recruit friends who will drive me out at say 8:30 or 9 and come back to take me home about 5 or so. One friend has come through for me every week since I started Sundays at  the museum in late February, and I HOPE I can find another friend or two to share the burden. In the meantime, I am gradually spending more time working on museum tasks at home.  My next door neighbor has been a Godsend, taking me to the barber, grocer, office supply store and more. Again I WISH I knew more than one person, because sometimes my needs and the person’s schedule do not coincide. In the meantime, I’m happy to be blessed by the help at hand.

The one unexpected lesson of this process has been my outlook on life as influenced (with my permission) by my employer. I KNOW I’m lucky to be working at all and that’s why I’m still working there, but the deletable expletive BEFORE my fall is the same deletable expletive AFTER my fall only now I experience it with full-extension leg braces. Every day I work, the joy of life, drains from me like air from a tire going flat. Some evenings I wait an hour for the arrival of the Access minibus after we close, so since I’m the one who “locks up the store” I sit in a dark showroom and listen to the nearby grandfather clock chime every 15 minutes watching the sun go down and drag myself through my front door at 6:40 or so, This routine has nearly drained the creative incentive from me. I’ve not written a poem longer than four lines since I was sleeping at the hospital. This is the first Honey & Quinine I’ve posted in too darn long! I must rise above all this, and in these words we see the first step. I’ve decided my story is a story that should be shared with friends and innocent strangers. I am alive . . . . still.

I write, therefore I am!

Live long . . . . and proper.

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Here’s to the Spirit
by Job Conger
written 5:30 pm, December 21, 2005

(chorus)
Here’s to the spirit of hope in our hearts —
The spirit, the ghost or the flame —
That shows you the world with the gift of a smile,
No matter the credo or name.
In the darkest of winter a warm breath to brighten
Horizons of those who are dear.
Yes, here’s to the spirit that moves us to love
And here’s to a happy new year.

Life is a voyage through tumbling tides
In the quest for safe harbor and land
As we seek sweet surcease from our sorrows and pain,
When the sailing’s not smooth as we planned.
Blame your dad, blame the devil, blame a deck of bad cards,
But they won’t wreck your ship on the shore.
When you stand at the helm, show the world that you care,
And you’ll reach where you’re going and more.

(chorus)

The world will be better from what burns inside,
Not from whining and running away
To a bottle or needle or palavering cult.
What you need, you should be. Show the way.
Let the glow of true passionate dreams light the world,
And the lasting rewards they will sing
As the dawn of each new day to arise to our hopes,
And we’ll know life is worth everything.

Yes, here’s to the spirit of hope in our hearts —
The spirit, the ghost or the flame —
That shows us the sun with the gift of a smile,
No matter the credo or name.
In the darkness of winter, a warm breath to brighten
Horizons of all we hold dear.
Yes, here’s to the spirit that leads us to love
And here’s to a happy new year.
Yes, here’s to the spirit that leads us to love . . . .
And here’s to a happy new year!

===============================
When I have an idea for a poem or a song, it’s as good as written. The challenge is to allow myself to make the time to be open, to let the inspiration come to me as it did December 21, 2005.  For several years, odds were pretty good that if I wrote a poem or song at ALL, it would be written toward the end of the year. I knew I wanted to write an exhortation that wasn’t “preachy.” Instead of saying “YOU SHOULD FEEL THIS” the approach was to TOAST The SENTIMENT in the chorus. Instead of “preaching” in the chorus, I wanted to “exhort,” and I believe I did. Listeners/readers aren’t asked or directed to do anything in the chorus. I’m simply toasting the day. I wanted something akin to an Irish sound to the melody, and that was easy. As the poem’s chorus lyric, the major element which I wanted to repeat, came together the melody came before I had written the first three lines. The verse varies only it words. It has the same melody as the chorus. I will record the song on Sound Cloud, and send it as a document to anyone who commends about the song and asks for the recording. Best wishes to you for a happy new year.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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