Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year of Living Dangerously

To all you bloggy people (especially a certain individual whose name I won't mention, but whose initials are KIMBERLY MASON):

I really can't explain all that's going on with me right now...can hardly type this...but a most difficult year is about to close, and I wanted to mark its passing.  It is ending as it began, with unexpected turmoil, heartache, and uncertainty.  And yet it was the year I met so many of you!  I really don't have it in me to write more at the moment, and so I give you the Christmas poem I authored last year as a tribute to you all, my readers, my friends, my angels unaware.

“The Angel Gabriel from heaven came”

‘Tis the season of angels bright, watching, waiting
Sitting, soaring, causing quite an uproar
On a clear, cold night in ancient Bethlehem!
How they glitter now from treetops, windows, doors,
Front yards and porches, some plain, some gorgeous
All gold and white and all too often blue-eyed blonde.
Yet as we travel on our daily paths to work or town
Or just around the neighborhood, how can we know
That angels, good and true, watch over you and me?
I dare not speculate, for fear of mocking God on high.
Still, I must ask why, if angels are among us,
Do these ill fates befall our loved ones, dear?

It is clear to me: for once, I do not have an answer,
But perchance a revelation, if I may be so bold.
As we live out lives oft racked with pain and sorrow
Where tomorrow is no certain thing, perhaps an angel
Unaware is the one who comforts us and in so doing
Brings good tidings of great joy…perhaps that angel
I now seek, and sometimes pause to listen for
Is at my door, in full view, and looks a lot like you?


Wishing all of you a most fulfilling new year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In the Bleat Midwinter...or something like that

For a certain irreverent reverend :-)

Sheep farm, Lincoln County, North Carolina, December 27, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Tis the Season

Christmas is about traditions, like singing the old familiar songs, or watching Charlie Brown every year, knowing all the words, waiting for your favorite lines.  Our tradition of writing a poem to share each Christmas began in earnest 19 years ago.  There are familiar themes in them, too, and yet great diversity.  See The Bug for our latest!  One constant over the years is that, whether we mention it in the poem or not, we try to return to the manger, to focus on Advent and all that it means to us.  Given that I have been thinking a lot about Mary this season (I blame Willow and her Magpie Tales ;-), I decided to post our first and third poems for you as we head toward Christmas Eve.  I was also inspired to do so by this Nativity post from our dear friend Ann T. Hathaway.  

As for the poems below, The Bug authored the former, and I the latter.  May you find hope and comfort in this season, no matter how dim the days may have grown, no matter the obstacles in your path.  Okay, I almost started to quote _Lord of the Rings_ again.  I get that and the Bible mixed up all. the. time.  Seriously, if I have learned anything from the ongoing quest for knowledge and meaning that is my life, it is this: the Divine works in mysterious ways...and apparently takes great delight in surprising us!  What could be more mysterious, more surprising, than the Advent of Christ: God at long last coming to dwell among us, yet not as a king triumphant, but as a fragile little baby, born of a frightened unwed (initially, anyway) mother far from home and hearth?  Blessed among women, indeed!

It is a season of pregnant hope-- 
Mary, great with child,
wonders what glory
could come from her shame.
It is a season of reluctant faith—
Joseph, bewildered,
accepts the unacceptable,
embraces Mary’s miracle as his own.
It is a season of difficult birth—
Jesus, born a fragile child,
shatters ancient silence,
Immanuel in swaddling.
It is a season of bated breath—
God, through unexpected doors,
comes to us, abundant grace:
Wait!  Watch!  Listen!
It is a season of merciful action—
Take this Christ-child
serendipity into the world.
It is a season of remembered love—
We remember you.

Christmas 1992

It is a season of silent expectation—
Shepherds, shivering in the night,
await the coming of the messiah
Adonai has promised them.
It is a season of ancient prophecy—
Magi, bearing royal gifts,
follow the light of a new-born star
to David’s city, Bethlehem.
It is a season of two-edged terror—
Herod, obsessed with usurpers,
has words of scripture on his mind
and thoughts of murder in his heart.
It is a season of great gladness—
Angels, foretold of the coming birth,
can hardly keep from singing to God
new-written songs of praise and love. 
It is a season of heavenly peace—
Carry Christ-like reconciliation
with you into our embattled world.
It is a season of much rejoicing—
Our Redeemer this day is born!

Christmas 1994

May peace, which is beyond all understanding, be yours this season, my dear friends! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Calling All Birders

Dear Jayne,

I know we just had this lesson, but...which one is this?

In lieu of tuition, I gladly offer you deer at school!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A star-studded Christmas on the bus

Christmas 2003

Strange is this place in which we find ourselves,
From parents’ hearths we two have traveled far.
And yet a home of sorts we have made here,
Still guided by same sun, same moon, same stars.
What fate has spun this unexpected thread?
What weft in some design will our skein fill?
Does Adonai our lives manipulate,
Or do we choose this course of our own will?

Pattern unknown to us, we can but trust,
The gentle weaver’s hand, our Lord divine.
Regardless of what space may separate
Our thread from yours, we’re ever intertwined.

And so with you, our friends from far and wide
We share one hope, one love this Christmastide.

Christmas in Fairfield, OH, 2003

Obviously I had a sonnet in mind that year, but came up short on the rhyme scheme.  Still, it isn't a bad little poem, and it does mention stars, per the Poetry Bus prompt from the Weaver of Grass.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I was at Lowe's picking up a new snow shovel when a lovely bird feeder spoke to me: "If you buy me, he will come."  It wasn't expensive at all...a nice little feeder made in part of recycled material.  I bought it and a hearty sunflower mix.  Today, he came!  And he brought friends...

A fit, fat fellow!
In his holiday finery
With finchy friends!
Good day to you, Sir Finch!
Others join in the feast.
Back for a quick snack.
My pleasure, good sir!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Queen Mother

Mother, invested with crown,
Blood-stain red halo,
Glassy-eyed pale visage,
Lead-solder heavy burden
Cradled in your strong arms,
Still young, but naïve no more.
How often did you cry
“Why?” as that child grew,
Within, beside, without
You, Our Lady?
Did “eli eli lama sabachthani”
Grace your lips as well?

We appeal to you, Mary,
In our times of trouble,
For you are the one
Who brought forth
The Son on whom
We now in wonder gaze.
Pray, should we also ponder
What was asked of you,
Blessed Madonna,
By Adonai, the One
Who made your belly
A swelling vessel of Presence?

This is a Magpie Tale.  For more tales, click here!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Christmas Tradition Rides the Bus

The Bug and I were married December 15, 1990.  That first Christmas our friends and family were lucky just to see our smiling faces - we were, among other things, busy writing thank you cards, not Christmas cards.  The next year, 1991, we wrote personal notes in select Christmas cards, and we think our notes were fairly poetic.  Foolishly, we did not keep a copy of what we wrote.  Who knows - it might have been pure genius!  In 1992, we began a tradition that we continue to this day - sending out a poem with our Christmas cards.  As for the writing, some years have been far more challenging than others, and yet we try.  We alternate, for the most part, who is the primary author (The Bug keeps a score card - of course!), and style can vary significantly.  Some poems get heavily edited by the non-author and are true collaborations, while others go out just as they were first written.  At this point in the game, all we really remember is who wrote the first version.  In any event, with our 20th anniversary just around the corner, I thought I would share with you the Christmas poem I wrote on the occasion of our 10th:

The tree is not so big this year,
A compromise, nothing near the size
Of the behemoth it succeeds.
Hard choices must be made,
Not all our old familiar friends
Can nestle in its finite boughs.

Remember Wake Forest, 1991,
A tree much smaller even than this,
Yet big enough for gifts we shared.
Sitting on the bed, one year wed,
Writing notes in some, not all, the cards,
Who knows what we said?  Please tell us!

House, tree, bed, old friends, now gone,
We hold on to memories, mellowing
As they age in the cellars of our hearts.
“Our First Christmas” couple, as then,
Will swing in their heart from a limb,
Midst penguins aplenty, rest assured.

Foghorn Leghorn and Snoopy
And Hallmark keepsakes, by the score,
And souvenirs from far and near
And balls and beads and bells
And bows, red, gold, and purple,
Will trim the tree once more.

Other treasures we’ll set aside,
The joy they bring deferred,
Boxed up but not discarded.
How could they ever be?
Look at them, they are forever
Part of you and me.

Humbly submitted by an exhausted Dr. Linthead as a ticket for this week's Poetry Bus, driven, of all things, by Titus the Dog (thanks, Joanne!).

Friday, December 10, 2010


Beloved old sled,
Hanging neglected
In the tool shed, waiting…
Like a little boy,
Longing for a sledding snow…
Like a teenager,
Longing for a break from school…
Like a weary mother,
Longing for a carefree morning…
Like an angry nation,
Longing for bygone prosperity…
Like a desperate world,
Longing for a sign that Someone
Hears the prayers of the poor…
Like a careworn writer,
Longing for a story
With a happy ending…
Will this be the day?

This is a Magpie Tale.  To read more, click here!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On the Bus to Old Uncle Woody's

That Guinness-loving Poetikat is driving TFE's Poetry Bus this week!  Along with being one of our favorite poets, she is a wicked good driver, and she wants tales of pubs, where a fabulous time is had by all.  Now you know I seldom frequent such places, but I thought, since she asked, I would give it a whirl. Here's my ticket, Kato!

Uncle Woody’s

I remember an old pub
That served beer, and some grub,
Where we gathered at the end of exams,

Where Babette and young Bill
And ol' Clint, Ted, and Chill
Transformed from staid scholars to hams.

We talked much of Marx--
There sometimes were sparks--
While the smoke swirled thick from Barb's Camels.

Kev and Steve hung about,
One with Coke, one with stout,
As we fretted over grad conference panels.

We drank, by accounts,
Ale in copious amounts,
Sometimes walking out with pub glasses.

Too oft some drank more
Than their wits could endure,
Until loudly they showed off their asses!

I confess, more than once,
Having imbibed too much,
I left there in great disarray,

But The Bug was forgiving,
I'm still among the living,
Though I had hell to pay the next day!

And did I mention the Loo,
Where the moldy stuff grew,
And the tiles sometimes got mighty squishy!?!

From that place oft arose
An offense to the nose,
Akin to a dead, rotting fishy!

Though in that Necessary
One did pee in a hurry,
Lest the smell make one lose all one's goodies,

Still it was such good sport,
To carouse and cavort
In the pub known as old Uncle Woody’s!

Photograph temporarily purloined from the Interwebz (I'll put it back, I promise).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

This Sunday, LC reposts Snowflake for his Magpie

Tis the season of term papers and exams, but the Magpie prompt and that lovely poem with which Tess led off, not to mention the local weather, beg for a response, so I give you Lemuel Crouse's "Snowflake," first posted back in August.

By Lemuel Crouse

Alone, awash amidst this sea of spruce
and pine I sit. Into the rising fog
I gaze as if to see some mystic realm.

Enchantment drew me to this holy hill
by promising a glimpse of heaven's bliss,
but haze and heavy clouds obscure my view.
The gloom, my doom it is, I think, to see.

What is it like to dream of future days
and not of nightmares past? The wintry blasts
come howling through my brain. Yet on the winds
of pain a solitary snowflake floats.

Someday the snow will fall and bury all
my shame beneath its pristine flow, and I
will know at last a season of new hope.

And now I'm off in search of more coffee and a pair of woolly socks...and another red pen!

Monday, November 29, 2010

An Empty Chair

This is a revised version of the poem I submitted to Magpie Tales.  Many thanks to Willow for the prompt and her kind words.  Welcome, One Shot readers, and thanks for stopping by.

Like a tarnished trophy
Not polished since the days
When champion beagles
Bayed outside and gun racks
Lined the back hallway,
I sit on his dusty mantel.

Thanksgivings came and went--
Not one of them spent with us--
The call of the hunt,
The chase, life lived
At his pace, not ours;
An empty chair, his station.

Waiting to go to grandma’s--
Mom stuck with us, again--
A handful, no doubt,
She shouted us down
When she could stand
The din no more.

Dirty floors and clutter became
The hallmark of her sadness.
She turned to knickknacks
To fill the empty spaces,
Hiding pain with pretty,
Reveling in gladness transitory.

Flash forward, too fast--
The old dance now done,
Shoes are on the other’s feet--
Pity him, he cries,
For he lives alone in the house
They shared in their retirement.

So I go home when I can,
Taking my turn with the spoon,
Feeding she who once fed me,
Helping him care for her
In ways he never imagined,
For how long, we cannot know.

And yet our dance goes on,
My father and I--
I arrive, he begs off...things to do
At the empty house...he's gone--
Thanksgiving Day, 2010, I dine alone
At the nursing home with Mom.

A Magpie Tale.  To see other proffered Tales, click here!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wrestling with God

This week, TFE has entrusted the Poetry Bus to my wife of almost 20 years.
What were ya thinkin', lad?
"I'm sure you have wanted to argue with God," The Bug says sweetly...

"Breath of Heaven"
Done knocked me
Into a cocked hat,
Laid me flat out,
Made me shout:
"God? Dayum!
What kinda plan
You got workin'
Here anyway?"
I think Someone's
Got some 'splainin'
To do!
Check out the other, most excellent Bus tickets proffered here!
"Loosely" inspired by "Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)" by Amy Grant.

Finally, here's an add-on that I want to share, from our Christmas poem in 1998:

Far off, distant, beyond:
Divine clockmaker, piecing
Together our universe, setting
All in motion, then hiding?

How strange to build
A clock so grand
And not attend the grains
Of sand as we pass through.

Yet it still rings, Creation’s song:
Listen!  Ere long you will hear it:
A song, carried by the wind.
Did it all begin with God singing?

And look, there, low
In the twilit sky, a strange new star
Signals us with its twinkling light;
We must not fight its call.

But where, how long?
The song does not say.
It only beckons:
Come, follow me and see.

And so we walk, alone, but lonely
No longer, for the song and the light
Grow stronger and brighter
With each passing day.

I think, this time,
We might find the long-awaited gift:
The Promised One whose love
Will lift our hearts and souls to God.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This Sunday, LC presents a proper ticket, if an older one

The Poetry Bus is being driven by Chris at Enchanted Oak this week. She has asked for:

Poems that address your existence on this earth. Good, bad, or indifferent, tell us something, anything, about your life here.

I am too beat right now to compose...I present as my bus ticket and for your reconsideration the very first "Sundays with LC" offering (Getting to know me):

The Desert, I
By Lemuel Crouse

The barren desert of my heart lies scorched
beneath a soulless sun. Now burnt, what love
grew there is dust, blown to and fro on winds,
once friends. By them I am now pushed away.
A famine dry and fierce once pierced my veins.
That drinker, dark and lusty in his thirst,
too deeply drank from teeming pools of life
and sucked away my future. I am dead
or dormant, which I may not learn ’til, ’wake,
I spring from sun-bleached bed or, dead, I rise
no more. If I but sleep, then why can I
not dream? If dead, can I not hope to be
reborn? I do not dream. I cannot hope.
Sous le soleil sans âme je suis, je reste...

Photo from

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pinch-hitting for LC: The Roads I've Taken (Poetry Bus)

The Poetry Bus is being driven by Karen at Keeping Secrets. She has us thinking of Robert Frost and forks in the road, and so the challenge for passengers this week will be to write about one of the following:

(1) a time you had to choose between two clearly divergent paths; (2) a time you were called to walk a path you didn't choose for yourself; or (3) a time you refused to travel the path you were called to follow. If these won't work for you, write anything about a choice you made.

Here is my ticket:

The Wrong Way Home
By Dr. M


Why, given the choice,
Do I so often take a turn
I know will lead me down
A winding path that draws
Me far away from home
And you?

I need to rush right back!
But no, I turn and drive
Past the buffalo
And his goat companion,
Past the big red barn
And the silo covered with ivy,
Near where that old house
Once stood, neglected curtains
Flapping through the open windows,
Where life and hope and love
Once dwelt, but now
Only emptiness abides.

The house, the shell,
Its curtains are all gone now,
Only tumbled stones remain,
But the memory of what was
Still draws me down that road
As surely as thoughts of you
Draw me back, no matter
How far afield I’ve roamed,
No matter how many barns
And farms and cows and sheep
I’ve seen rest or play or graze
On any given rambling day.

It is my way, it seems,
To take the wrong path home,
To dally, drift, explore,
Like a poem that meanders,
Yet remains ever faithful
To the one who inspires it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

What began as a day to commemorate the end of the Great War, which we know as World War I, became in time a day to remember our veterans here in the U.S.  On this day, in cities and hamlets across the country, we will turn out to honor the living, from the newly returned vets of Iraq and Afghanistan to the last of the Greatest Generation.  And we will visit cemeteries and plant flags by graves of those veterans no longer with us.  I think now of Vance and Cecil and Babe and Boots, just a few of the names from my childhood of veterans returned from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific.  But I also think of names you likely do not know, names like Powhatan Beatty and Addison White.

These are veterans of an older war, a war that began as a constitutional crisis and a conflict between states, became a bloody civil war, and in the end was undeniably a war of liberation.  In this, the greatest crisis in American history, men like Beatty and White volunteered even before they were wanted.  Powhatan Beatty, a former slave in Virginia who gained his freedom and moved to Cincinnati, served in the 5th USCT (originally the 127th Ohio), and for his heroics at the Battle of Chaffin's Farm (near Richmond, VA), he was awarded the Medal of Honor.  Addison White, a fugitive slave from Kentucky who escaped to Mechanicsburg, Ohio, in the mid-1850s, served with the famous 54th Massachusetts, immortalized in the Boston monument to its colonel, Robert Gould Shaw (pictured above), and depicted in the movie "Glory."  He survived the war and returned to sleepy little Mechanicsburg to live out his days.  He is buried there in Maple Grove Cemetery.  For more about him click here.

Approximately 180,000 men like Beatty and White served the Union in the American Civil War.  Many of them became the objects of hate and rage at war's end, and some of them were shot down, lynched, abused, and otherwise maltreated by mobs of white men who could not cope with the idea that a person of color was their equal, or perhaps their better.  In short, they became victims of terrorism, and the terrorists were Americans...with white skin...sometimes wearing white ancestors.  When I'm not on Farmville or writing poetry or taking pictures for The Bug, this is what I write about.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about men like Beatty and White, their families, their descendants (I have met some of Addison White's descendants).  I think about what they suffered before, during, and after the war, even though all they were asking for was freedom and equality.  I think about them, and I am sometimes overwhelmed with shame for what my ancestors did to black veterans, their families, and their communities

More often, though, I am proud of a country that could respond, that could ratify the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.  Yes, it took another one hundred years, and the deaths of more Americans, including WWII veteran Medgar Evers, for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to make real the promises in those amendments.  Still, that does not diminish the fact that a great generation of Americans, both those who fought for their own freedom and the freedom of a whole people, and those who fought in Congress and in the states to get these amendments ratified, got it done in the first place.  Women, minorities, indeed all of us, enjoy civil rights today that are protected, not only by our valiant men and women in uniform, but also by the 14th Amendment and all the legislation built on its solid foundation.  All of that was made possible by the brave African-American soldiers who led that "gallant rush" to freedom in the midst of the American Civil War, and who demanded equality after the war was over.  Today, and every day, I honor their memory, and I thank them for service above and beyond the call of duty, and for the cause of freedom and equality for which some of them "gave the last full measure of devotion."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

This Sunday, LC Repurposes for his Bus Ticket

Dear Readers:  I do apologize for the confusing names.  I created this blog with the notion of maintaining a certain distance from my real-life persona: the history professor and (relatively speaking) solid citizen with a growing reputation as an academic (not that the History Channel has come calling, but my work has been published in major journals and I have a book coming out in the near future).  In adopting my blogger persona, I chose a name from my heritage: Carolina (where my people have lived since NC was a British colony) Linthead (a once derisive name for cotton mill workers that became a badge of honor).   

That label is confusing enough, but then there is the matter of the dark and brooding poet, Lemuel Crouse.  I fear I have spent too much time studying the past, as I have adopted rather arcane nuances regarding putting my work before the public eye.  As you may have gathered, much of my poetry is written through the eyes of the mysterious Lemuel Crouse.  I will only say that he was born of trauma severe enough to permanently burn itself into my physiology and psyche.  He walks alone in darkness so I can walk with you, my friends, in the light of day.  He accepts his fate, and all he asks is that you give his work a fair reading.

This week the Poetry Bus is being driven by Jessica Maybury. She has asked us to help her compile a "collection of poetry about bathing. Or the sea. Or swimming pools. Or the layout of your bathroom. I want senses and unwound feelings inside."  Lemuel offers this, an almost lost bit from an old email, thankfully saved by The Bug.

Always to Dream
by Lemuel Crouse

Do you know what it's like
Always to dream?
Oh, not at night,
When mortals dream,
But always.
To dream of making a difference.
To dream of a better world.
To dream of horrors, too,
Past, present, future.
Dreams unceasing,
Sometimes overwhelming,
Always vivid, visceral, evocative.
How easy to lose myself in them.
How hard to know what's real.
How very hard to push them aside
And do what needs doing
Each day.
Without you I am lost,
Adrift on a sea of dreams,
No land in sight,
Slowly taking on water
Until I sink into the void.

This is a Sundays with LC reprise from here.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Halloween Bus: Pardon Lemuel While He Screams!

Liz from Musings has given the Poetry Bus a Halloween prompt this week.

Why I Believe
By Lemuel Crouse

A fool
I did not
Believe. Vampires?
They could not exist,
Said I.  But then one called
On me as I lay dreaming,
Unsuspecting, safe in my bed,
Or so I thought.  I ought to have screamed;
I could not even cry...just swoon and die.
Quiet, unsettling cold crept through my veins
As the fiend, sated, smiling, withdrew.
Swift he flew then, lest someone see
Him lingering o'er his prey.
I lost my soul that night.
Hollow, here I stand,
An empty shell,
Living hell,

Saturday, October 30, 2010

This Sunday (a day early), a haunting Magpie from LC

Little Julia
By Lemuel Crouse

Your day of birth
Falls close to mine,
And so I feel
The intertwining:
Children of a frosty morn
Are we, little Julia,
Though many earthly years
And all eternity
Separate us now.

Too fast you fell
From womb to grave,
No one to save you,
This we also share.
One last cold thing
 I need to say
Before I fly:
Julia, dear, you died...
So, too, did I.

This is a Magpie Tale.  To find out more and to read other Magpie Tales, click here!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This Sunday, LC Howls at the Moon

This week's Poetry Bus theme is "meetings, bloody meetings."  Poetry Bus, meet the dark and brooding poet Lemuel Crouse.  Somewhere early on in this process there was an idea of a chance meeting by the light of the moon...yeah, no, didn't work out so well.  Anyway, this is what you get.  Enjoy (or vote me off the island, er, bus ;-)!

Because I Must (Blood Moon)
A Sonnet
By Lemuel Crouse

Hard frost, All Hallows' Eve is drawing nigh;
And leaves, new-fallen, carpet shadowed ways.
The ink well night, my cloak from prying eyes--
Pray, would you now reveal me to their gaze?

I howl at you, my love, because I must;
The wolves howl with me, sensing I am kin.
Behind stout doors the mortals sleep--or rust--
Tight-locked, believing all is safe within.

Obsessed (repressed?), the younger ones go Goth,
As if your glow they first had entertained:
They first to know the primal hunter's wroth,
They first to revel in the wolf's refrain.

As doe-eyed Twilight fangirls squee and swoon,
My thoughts despair of all save you, Blood Moon.

The Poetry Bus is hosted this week by Argent, who gave us the wonderful prompt!  To read more (you won't be sorry!), click here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Variation on a Theme: Birdbath Saturday!

 To bathe or not to bathe...
 Come on in, the water's fine!
 Cold! Cold! Cold!
 I can't believe you talked me into that!
I feel...refreshed!