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.