POETIC BLOOMINGS

POETIC BLOOMINGS, a site established in May 2011 and which reunites Marie Elena Good and Walter J Wojtanik to help nurture and inspire the poetic spirit.

Archive for the category “Interview”

POET INTERVIEW – RYAN K. RUSSELL

Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

Ryan K. Russell

Question:  What could possibly have prompted the internet to connect a sixty-year-old grandmother with a young NFL Defensive End? Why, a passion for poetry!  Of course!  Please welcome Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Ryan K. Russell on this, the day of the launch of his debut poetry book, Prison or Passion!  (The title is linked to a site where you may purchase the book.  After you read the poem below, I believe you will be heading straight over there with me to make your purchase.)

Overdraw – by Ryan K. Russell

Gold coin. Dollars. Cents.
Money can’t buy me a dad.
Birthday transactions aren’t bank statements but hugs and laughs.
Silver dollar. The little boy holler. No father to calm his cries.
Plastic credit card. Cold and hard like the floor you left me to sleep on.
I was below zero. It only takes one number, and plenty commas to make you love a zero.
Should I pay you to love me?

I prayed you to love me.

I cried for you to love me.

I bled for you to love me.

My deposit insufficient.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MARIE ELENA:
  Hello Ryan!  A warm welcome, and congratulations on the launch of your book!

“Overdraw” is forcefully unsettling – born of your own life.  So very much is said with few words, which is my favorite style of poetry.  I look forward to reading more, getting to know more about the man behind the poem, and introducing him to our poetry “garden.”  Thank you for taking time out of your ridiculously busy, high-profile life, to stop by our humble site.  In my way of thinking, that speaks volumes of who you are.

This book-launch day is also the day of your mother’s birthday. May I assume this is more than just a happy coincidence?  Was this something intentionally arranged, to surprise or honor her?

RYAN: It’s no coincidence that the book releases on my mother’s birthday. Everything about this book is intentional. The font, the cover design, the arrangement, and any pictures were done by me with great purpose. The relationship I share with my mother is the closest bond two human beings can have. The love I receive from her is truly unconditional. Growing up it was just my mother and I. My biological father was not in the picture. I had a stepfather that raised me until I was seven, then he passed in a motorcycle accident. My mother was all I had. Even though she worked three jobs at times and was still a full-time college student, my mother made sure that we had a strong bond. No matter how long or hard her work day was, she would listen about my day with in depth questions. Sometimes she would listen while resting her eyes, and I would doubt she was even listening. When I asked if she had been, she would be able to repeat back to me, almost word for word, exactly what I said. She made sure I always knew I was a blessing and not a burden. Releasing this book on her day is just one of many ways I continue to honor her.

MARIE ELENA:  I am so sorry to hear about your father and stepfather – such devastating blows to a young child.  Obviously your mother is a remarkable woman, raising you so beautifully on her own. What a gift you are giving her, with this book launch.  We are happy to honor her right along with you, with this interview today.  My intention was to shoot for May, but when I saw the book launch and your mother’s birthday were both today, I stepped on the gas.  And I’d like to take a moment to wish her a very happy birthday!

with mom

How cute is this shot of you both?! 

Ryan, one of the things I was excited to learn about you is that you were a product of the Big Ten, having earned a football scholarship at Purdue in Indiana.  What did you study there?  And why did you choose that field of study?

RYAN: I double majored at Purdue. Since I was on a football scholarship I spent most summers at Purdue training. That gave me an opportunity to take extra classes as well. I studied sociology and communications because initially I wanted to be a sports broadcaster. The plan was to have a long successful career in the NFL and then, when it was all said and done, be a big time broadcaster or analyst. Sociology peaked my interest to know the world around me.  Also I have always been an emotional human being but I wanted the opportunity to study people in a more logistical way. Now I do a lot of public speaking at schools, where I talk about some of the struggles I’ve been through as a young man. Writing was more of a personal venture and a therapeutic way of expression. Eventually I realized that football was not the only thing that was innately a part of me, but writing was as well.

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you for using what you have learned in your life experiences to help our youth. What most valuable lesson have you taken away from being a college and professional athlete? Is there any particular coach or fellow player that you would say helped you with that lesson?

RYAN:  God, the lessons I’ve learned through football and the people I have encountered through it is endless. My friends often joke about my ability to relate anything in life to a football analogy. I would have to say the lesson that has resonated the strongest with me is the finite nature of life. When you’re young time seems endless, you feel invincible. Yes, there’s also a power in that, and a boldness that comes with it, but when you learn the finite nature of things though, details start to matter. Things become more beautiful because you understand they are temporary. You take risks because you know you will never have another opportunity exactly like that one again. You hold your loved ones closer and kiss your lovers deeper because you will never be there again, in that moment, at that time, with that person. Things will never go back to the way they were and they will never remain the way they are.

MARIE ELENA:  So much wisdom, eloquently expressed.

RYAN:  My teacher for this lesson was my best friend, college teammate and roommate, Joseph Gilliam. Joe and I were the same age, lived in the same dorm, played on the same side of the ball, but were opposite in a lot of little ways. Joe was mature and grounded with a strong sense of self. I was immature at times, emotional, reckless, and discovering who I was and who I wanted to be. Joe did everything with purpose, he enjoyed all the little things in life, he took nothing for granted. Our final year at Purdue Joe suffered a career ending knee injury, and by this time we were the two closest people on the team. I was devastated my best friend would be missing his final season at Purdue. See life is finite, football doesn’t last, and you don’t know when it’s going to be over. Instead of sulking, Joe poured all his love for the game into those around him. Joe encouraged me every game, talking to me on the sideline, picking me up when I felt down, and watching film with me constantly. Joe didn’t sulk on the past because it was over. He made the most of every moment.  I was with Joe in 2017 when he was diagnosed with stage four spinal glioblastoma. It was much of the same. I was devastated, as was everyone in Joe’s life. By this time I had introduced him to one of my childhood friends, Rachel, and they had married. Rachel and I did everything we could to be there for Joe, but looking back it seems Joe was consoling us. Joe didn’t torture himself with the past, he didn’t waste his moments fearing the future, he made every present moment full. His time was finite but he made an earth shattering impact on all that knew him. My best friend Joseph Marlow Gilliam III passed September 11, 2018. His life is more than a lesson but an example of how I try to live every day.

MARIE ELENA: Oh, Ryan … I’m so sorry about your dear friend.  You have endured so much pain in your life.  Great blessings, coupled with immense loss.  I remember the story of Joe.  Glioblastoma is a horrible thing.  It took my husband’s mother.  Hers was deep in her brain.

RYAN:  I’m truly sorry to hear about your mother in law. Joe’s was initially at the base of his spine, then another developed on his brainstem.

MARIE ELENA:  He sounds like the kind of friend everyone would want to have.  I’m glad he was in your life, even for that short while.

You blew me away with what you consider the most valuable lesson you learned from football.  Now in the reverse, what would you say has been the hardest thing about a life of football, on a personal level?  Especially in the NFL, where I imagine there are temptations that are hard to resist.  Have you found that to be true?  If so, how have you dealt with them?

RYAN: I won’t ever deny that I’m an emotional person. I have accepted that about myself, and in knowing that, I have to protect myself. The nature of the business is brutal. I have been on three teams my five years in the league, and I have made tons of close friends. With every friend I have made, I have had to say goodbye to many more. I know it seems like something small but to me it can really take a toll. I grew up just my mother and I so friends for me are as close as family.  One day a buddy you’ve been hanging out with all camp might roll his ankle. Next thing you know his locker is empty and there is someone completely different in it. That was hard for me to deal with at first. I know it ties into my abandonment issues I have from my father leaving me, and it took me some time to confront the root of the problem head on. After the passing of my best friend, I started going to therapy regularly and learning how to deal with a lot of trauma I’ve been through, including abandonment.

MARIE ELENA: That really doesn’t seem like something “small” at all, to me.  That is an aspect of professional sports I have never thought of.

On the thrilling side of football, you have moments like the one in this photo.  🙂 Oh my goodness, Ryan!  I wish you had been sitting with me when I opened this photo from you!  I literally gasped, and then laughed out loud, all by myself!  When I asked for photos, I never imagined something as thrilling as you tackling Drew Brees!  You totally made my evening!  I was so excited, I mistakenly hit “send” on a question I already knew the obvious answer to:  Of COURSE you did not play at Purdue with Drew.   He is an old man, compared to you! Sheesh!  And I must say, hats off to the photographer.  Thrilling action. Both names clearly shown.  Both helmet decals shown as well.  Excellent “catch!”  (ahem)

Brees

RYAN:  Though Drew and I never played together, he came back to Purdue multiple times to speak, and he was always inspiring. He’s a Texas boy like me, and he was the only reason I really knew where Indiana was on the map. I’ve spoken to him one on one a handful of times and he talked at lengths about the connection of humanity. How you can’t expect to be a good student without being a good son. In his examples he couldn’t be the best quarterback if he wasn’t waking up everyday trying to be the best husband, if he wasn’t tucking his kids in every night trying to be the best father. You don’t pick and choose when you want to be your best and in what fields. You just do it all the time in every way possible.

MARIE ELENA:  Wow.  That makes me glad I asked my embarrassing question.  Thank you for sharing this about Drew, and confirming that he is the man he projects himself to be.

I am used to criticism on matters of athletics, but not on matters of my heart.”  This quote from you touched me.  I do think both require a thick skin. Not that I would know anything about criticism on matters of athletics (I don’t have an athletic bone in my body!). But there is something about putting your “self” out there … the heart of who you are, where you’ve been, where you’re going, what you feel and believe and aspire to … it feels vulnerable.  It is vulnerable.  And maybe that’s where people with lives as different as yours and mine find common ground.  Please expand on that quote of yours.  What prompted you to splay your heart?  And what prompted your use of poetry to that end?

RYAN: Writing has always been personal and football has always been public. In high school on Friday nights everyone in Dallas was in a football stadium. They would cheer and boo during the game but after the game you were always going to hear an opinion. My earliest memories of football come with memories of criticism. It’s funny, when you’re a professional you hear so much more criticism from so many more people, but it barely affects you. I’m not sure if it’s because we are jaded now or because you know 99.9% of the people critiquing you have no idea what it takes to play at your level. On the flip side, I remember writing my first poem around the age of seven when my stepdad passed away. The format was a letter to God asking him why I didn’t deserve a father. Why I was a little boy who had a dad who didn’t want him and the dad who did want him was killed. No one read this poem. No one cheered or booed. It wasn’t the talk of the town and it wasn’t criticized. In my experience, sharing your story with people gives them the opportunity to connect. That part of it is valuable and beautiful. Also sharing gives them the opportunity to criticize. Even more so when you add a monetary value to your heart’s expression, criticism is expected. This quote is me preparing and acknowledging this fact. The noise of criticism grew louder in football when people started paying hundreds of dollars for a seat. The noise will inevitably grow louder for my poetry when people pay money to read them. I focus on the little boys who aren’t ready to share their poems, so they can read mine and know we are on the same journey. And that our journey has a happy ending.

MARIE ELENA:  Again, so much wisdom here.  And thank God for the happy ending.

Ryan, if I may ask … did the little boy who wrote that heartwrenching poem to God ever get an answer from Him?

RYAN:  I think God had always answered that question. I was just too hurt a lot of the times to hear it. I believe he shows me all the amazing things I have that I deserve: my mother, my passion, my art, my career, my friends, etc. I think he also has given me great things I don’t deserve: forgiveness, mercy, hope, etc. God answers me every morning he wakes me up, and every night I fall asleep. He tells me, “It’s not about what you deserve, but what you receive and how you move forward from there. Make the most of it. Love the great, learn from the hurt. Go through the dark so that you may help someone who is stumbling around blind.” I hope that makes sense.

MARIE ELENA:  It makes a world of sense, Ryan. A world.

From the outside looking in, we can tend to think talented people who have “made it” in life have few struggles.  Obviously that is not true, and you have kindly been very transparent with us about some of your hardships.  What or whom do you feel helped you survive, and even thrive, in spite of it all?

RYAN: I love this question because it allows me to shed some more light on the release date of my book. I chose to release Prison or Passion on my mother’s birthday, for the simple reason that I would not have survived the story my book tells without her. When my father passed and my biological abandoned us, my mother was more than enough. She was provider and nurturer, flawlessly. When I suffered abuse from family members, she swiftly removed me from the situation and protected me from harm. She put me in the best schools she could, she listened when I spoke, and she always encouraged my most outlandish dreams. When I suffered injury from football, she was my healer.  When my best friend passed of cancer, she was my shoulder to cry on. When I was cheated on by my first love, she encouraged me to love again. She was the perfect balance of mentor and friend, not knowing she was really playing the role of savior.

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you for sharing this beautiful, strong, loving woman with us.  These photos speak volumes.

 

 

MARIE ELENA:  Let’s talk some more about poetry.  Is there a particular poet you are most inspired by?  If so, who and why?

RYAN: I could talk at lengths about Maya Angelou and the role she played in my life not only as a poet but as an African American Female Activist. Not growing up with a lot of male influence on a day to day basis, I think I was more open to growing close with Angelou and her work. I was used to being raised by strong independent women. I learn that like I, she suffered abuse from a family member. She spoke many languages and traveled the world as I had always dreamed. She recited work at the inauguration of Clinton. She had been nominated for a Tony, a Pulitzer, and won three Grammys. Maya Angelou was like my poetry Mother without even ever meeting her. I also learned a lot about the civil rights movement through studying Maya Angelou.

MARIE ELENA: Your poetry mother.  I’m sure she would have loved to have known that.  Her death was a huge loss to the entire poetry community, as well as the world.

Have you been involved in any poetry slams?  I am so shy, but would love to muster up the confidence to take part, sometime.

RYAN: Slam is actually one of the ways I found the courage to publish my book. One Tuesday night three years ago, my brother and I were visiting Los Angeles during my offseason. My brother was one of the few people who knew I wrote poetry and he looked up a one mic for us to attend. Da Poetry Lounge on Fairfax is a great intimate environment where poets all around the world come to read and listen. My brother ended up signing me up and I performed for my first time on that stage. Since then I have performed several times and go more often to listen and be inspired. My brother was under the impression that if I could read my work aloud it would be easy for me to just publish a book and let others read for themselves. Recently I have performed a poem from my book called Sitting Down at Da Poetry Lounge.

MARIE ELENA:  Performance venues would be a good source of inspiration.  My nearly sole source for rubbing elbows with other poets so far has been online.  But I have gleaned much inspiration from them! Many of us here at Poetic Bloomings met online at Poetic Asides, which is a blog by Robert Lee Brewer (poetry editor of the Writer’s Digest).  It was there that Walt Wojtanik and I met, and later decided to begin this little site we having going here.  A few of us have even managed to meet one another, though not Walt and I as of yet.  We have taken to referring to each other as “best friends who have never met.”  Is there an online site where you interact with other poets? You know you are welcome here anytime to respond to Walt’s prompts.  We are a small, but passionate and encouraging group. I know the Poetic Asides community would welcome you as well!

RYAN: Thank you for the invite Marie. I would love to join some more poet communities. I have been so busy doing everything for my book, so I actually haven’t had time to meet as many poets as I would like. I met one of my idols actually on Instagram. I had been following contemporary poet Christopher Poindexter online for a while and after sharing some of my own work, he showed interest in me. Christopher is the creator of three poetry books himself and was looking to start his own publishing company with his brothers. We met on Venice beach, swapped poems, stories, and ideas. Months later I became his first published poet of his company, Jack Wild. Other poets I have had the pleasure of interacting with on Instagram are Atticus, Tyler Knott Gregson, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Jon Lupin, Danez Smith, and some others. I have been very fortunate to be accepted into this community that I have always secretly felt so connected too.

MARIE ELENA:  You are definitely plugged in! Much of Christopher Poindexter’s poetry speaks to the heart of the, “say much in few words” poet I aspire to be.  I have to admit to snooping around a bit on Facebook, and saw that you actually used typewriters on Venice Beach.  I can’t think of anything more fun!  I bet you drew a lot of smiles from people strolling the beach!

Now for another quote of yours:  “We are multifaceted and phenomenal beings with unlimited capabilities.”  I love this, Ryan.  And you seem to be a prime example of it.  I see that in addition to football and poetry, you are also an artist, a novel-writer, a playwrite, and, and, and!  Please help me enter the mind of one with so many talents, such diversity, and such confidence.

RYAN: Honestly that quote is what I believe of the world. I knew it when I was a young boy. My mother was a mom, my best friend, a probation officer, a sister, a lover, a widow, a writer, a social worker, a spiritual guide, etc. She had so much on her plate yet it never seemed to get full.  My family is Jamaican and my mother is the first generation to be born here in the states. I often heard the joke that Jamaican always had a bunch of different side hustling going on. I always thought that was so cool. When I used to visit every summer with my grandmother I thought it fascinating that the same man renting jet skis in the morning at the beach was the man selling curry goat lunches in the afternoon, and he also owned the club we visited in the evening. I think the perception of Jamaican’s are that we are easy going and laidback, but honestly I believe that we relax hard because we work even harder. I adopted that same mentality when I moved to LA. School is a great way to learn and expand but sometimes I think we use it to limit ourselves in ways. We pick subjects we want to specialize in, curriculum geared towards one subject. I see the need for this and by no means am I proposing a complete reform of formal education, but I think we need to emphasize the importance of informal education. Informal education to me is the education of life and its experiences.  I do what my heart calls me to do, I learn from those I meet, I grow from the experiences I have and the relationships I create. Recently I have started writing songs as well. Hahahah but I do need to focus on finishing one project before starting five more. I have promised myself this offseason to try and focus on three projects as “work,” i.e. my poetry book, my novel, my script. Any other writing I’m doing right now I want to keep as leisure.

MARIE ELENA:  You leave me shaking my head.  So young for so much wisdom.  And a true renaissance man, much like our own Walt Wojtanik!

RYAN:  I think I’m just lucky. Hahaha!

MARIE ELENA:  There is no such thing, in my book. 😉

Getting ready (sadly) to wrap up our chat, there is something I have never asked a guest here, but want to ask you.  I hope you don’t find it a morbid question:  When you pass from this life, what would you most like those left behind to remember you by?

RYAN:  I want them to remember I smiled more than I did anything.  I smiled more than I hurt. I smiled more than I cried. I smiled more than I hated, or judged. I smiled as much as I could through it all and I hope I made them smile more than I made them do anything in life.

MARIE ELENA: I want to just sit with that response a while, and soak it in.  If we all aspired to this, we’d live in a very different world.

This last question is one I end every interview with:  If there was only one thing we could know about you, what would you want it to be?

RYAN: Know that I believe in you. No matter what you’re fighting or what you’re striving for, I believe in you. If you know nothing else about me, know I believe in you.

MARIE ELENA:  Well, you’ve certainly made me a believer in you, Ryan.  Thank you so much for, well, for everything.  For visiting our humble site and sharing who you are.  For BEING who you are.  What a pleasure this has been.  I wish my dad was still “with us.”  He would have loved this.

Take care, God bless, and Boiler Up!

________________________________________________

For more of Ryan, please check out the links below.

Publishers Website:

https://jackwildpublishing.com

My Websites/Social media:

https://rkrelentless.com

https://www.instagram.com/rkrelentless/

https://twitter.com/RKRelentless

Book Available On:

https://www.amazon.com/Prison-Passion-R-K-Russell/dp/0578482983/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=prison+or+passion&qid=1555961924&s=gateway&sr=8-1

https://jackwildpublishing.com/collections/r-k/products/prison-or-passion

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/prison-or-passion-r-k-russell/1131253059?ean=9780578482989

 

POET INTERVIEW – Linda M. Rhinehart Neas

582751_10151847508591777_56026507_n

LINDA M. RHINEHART NEAS

Walt Wojtanik and I take pride in welcoming poets of all walks of life, years (or moments) of poetry-composing experience, ages, cultures, and belief systems.  In this diverse Garden, there is a common thread that even a quick look-see is sure to reveal: many seeds of faith, blooming brilliantly.  But you might need to dig just a bit deeper to discover we have a minister among us.

Come take a moment of your day to duck in and welcome our longtime poet and friend, the Reverend Linda M. Rhinehart Neas.  Grab a cup of your favorite drink, sit down with us, and discover more about this delightful poet whose poems are consistently uplifting and peace-promoting.

MARIE ELENA:  Welcome, Linda!  Thank you for taking time to sit with me among the blooms to let us get to know you better.

There is a lot of ground I want to cover, but let’s start with this:  How did you come to write poetry?

LINDA:  Great question, Marie!  I began writing poetry at the tender age of half-past six. My mother recited and read poetry to me all the time. At about 8, I wrote my first poem:

My baby brother’s name is Matty
and he is such a little fatty.
When it is time to go to bed,
he laughs, and laughs and shakes his head.

The poem was submitted to Horn Book Magazine for publication. I got my first rejection letter, beginning my life as a writer in earnest.

MARIE ELENA: Linda!  That is just hysterically adorable!  I love that you still remember it precisely, and that you sent it off for publication consideration – at 8 years old!  I admire your mother for introducing you to poets and their work at such a young age, encouraging your own writing, and letting you risk and face rejection. That is love.

LINDA:  Yes, it is.  I didn’t know it at the time, but as with all of us, we tend not to see our parents’ qualities of goodness until much later in life. I am glad I had the chance to thank her for all she taught me. ❤

MARIE ELENA:  I’m glad too.  A good lesson for all.

Is there a particular style you are drawn to, or a poet who inspires you?

LINDA:  There are so many poets that I love to read. Early on,  I fell in love with Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, Robert Service, and Rumi, to name a few.  That said, my style is usually free but I enjoy writing haiku and other poetry forms, as well.

MARIE ELENA:  For a moment, imagine you are in your dream writing space.  What does it look like?  Show us around, please.

LINDA: Oh my…well, my dream writing space is close to what I have now – computer by the window with a garden view, books I love close at hand, a cup of tea, plants, stones and angel statues around me. The only thing missing would be the ocean.  In my dreams, my writing space would be in a small cottage that had a view of the sea.  That would be heavenly!

MARIE ELENA:  That sounds heavenly!  Now, you’ve written a poem in that dream space.  Please share it with us!

LINDA:  Love it!  And here you go …

THEATRICS OF INSPIRATION by Linda M. Rhinehart Neas

An audience of gulls and sparrows
catcall and whistle,
as the solar footlights rise along the edge
where horizon meets sea.
The Great Director calls for a backdrop spot
which rises upstage, casting a ribbon of light
on the watery floor.
A soft breeze ripples from stage left to right.
Then, on cue, the selkie raises her head,
looking soulfully at the shore.
In a flash of full sunlit spot,
her diva performance done,
she dives below,
leaving those watching –
breathless.

MARIE ELENA: Thank you, Linda.  Your last word describes what this poem does — leaves me breathless, from title to end.

While doing a bit of digging, I came across this poem of yours I don’t recall ever seeing.

REFUGE by Linda M. Rhinehart Neas

The church was dark,
smelling of incense and beeswax.
Silence spoke from
around the pews and pillars.
This was a blessed place –
Refuge – holy ground.
I sit on the altar steps,
too young to know the
forbidden.

 Mary –
mother, maiden, queen, crone –
hovers above me,
blue mantle, outstretched arms.
Such sad eyes,
I think,
sad perhaps because she knows –
knows the pain hidden deep
within my tiny body –
the pain stuffed deep down
within my soul. 

I wish I could climb up in her lap –
the need for mother comfort
as palpable as the cold marble
on which I rest. 

Outside, rain, children’s voices, seagulls
Create a backdrop for my prayers.
Inside, in the silence,
I hear the softest voice,
“You are safe… rest… you are safe…”
“Momma, I need you…”
“I am here…hush…rest…”

I lean against the altar rail,
eyes closing,
heavy with sleep and burdens
too terrible for a seven-year-old.
Silence, warm and protective,
wraps around me
like Mary’s soft blue mantle.
Fear dissipates like
the heavy incense –
gone, but with a lingering scent,
gone, but ever-present. 

With a start, I wake.
Alone – still –
but for the silence. 

Looking up,
Mary’s eyes,
Soft with mother love –
tell my child’s heart
“You are home.”

*sigh*  This piece touches me deeply, though I can’t pinpoint why it makes me so emotional.  Was this born of personal experience?  If so, may I ask you to tell us about it?

LINDA:  Absolutely!  Yes, this came from a personal experience.

I was raised Roman Catholic – parochial school. My family life was dysfunctional. When things got too difficult for my young heart and mind to handle, I would seek refuge in the empty church. (Our parish had a huge Gothic cathedral-style church. There were downstairs and upstairs worship areas.  Downstairs was used for daily masses, had three altars and was dark wood, marble and stained glass.)

Often, I would simply go kneel/sit at the altar of Mary. The statue had deep, blue eyes that seemed to look right into my heart and soul. As a child, everything is magic, so talking to Mary and “hearing” her talk back wasn’t far-fetched, especially after being raised on Bible stories that I believed and held to be possible, even at that moment.

MARIE ELENA:  Childlike faith can’t be beat, in my humble opinion.

I was interested to learn you are an ordained minister.  My sister is as well!  In this day and age, that still seems to be a relatively rare opportunity for a woman.  What prompted you to seek this career?  Or would you refer to it as your “calling?”

LINDA: For me, it is a calling, which I have had since I was a young girl. I am deeply spiritual. Since childhood, I have known that my mission in this life is to teach and exemplify Love. I wanted to be a priest/minister since childhood.  However, I was always told this was not for women. Nevertheless, Spirit kept calling me to serve. Then six years ago, as I was researching an article for an online magazine, I came across The New Seminary in New York, which had a blended course for Interfaith Ministry. I wrote to inquire about the program and the rest, as they say, is history.

MARIE ELENA:  Speaking as a minister, what advice would you have for the world in which we live right now?

LINDA: Simple!  “Love One Another!!”  These words, although said in various ways, are found in nearly every faith path.

I believe the world needs those who can Love without conditions. This is what I try to share in my poetry, in my writing and in my life.

MARIE ELENA:  That love radiates from you, and is one of the traits I appreciate in you.  I also deeply appreciate that you teach English as a second language to immigrants and refugees!  A woman after my own heart!  I am not a teacher, but I lead two Conversational English classes for immigrants and refugees at the American School for Women and Children, here in NW Ohio.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love doing it, and how wonderful the ladies all are.  But, I don’t have to tell you.  You know exactly what I’m talking about!  I’d love to know what led you to this path.

LINDA: Ah…this was also a long journey.  I will try to be brief.

When I was about 10, our local librarian gave me permission to go to the adult section of the library to check out books on the world’s cultures. I spent hours reading about people – their beliefs, traditions, culture – from around the world.

Speed ahead several decades: I am a young mother, and our church got asked to “rescue” an exchange program that had lost their hosts the day that the students left from Spain to come to Maine for the summer. Because I was one of the local journalists, the organizer asked if I could teach the students English, even though I did not have a teaching degree. Next thing I know, I was organizing classes, creating curriculum and leading field trips for a group of 20 students ages 15-19.

I fell in love – with teaching, but most importantly with the students. They were all so grateful for the experience of learning a new language and culture. The joy they brought to the lives they touched in our community was palpable.

Fast forward again – I leave Maine for Western Massachusetts. I graduate with my BA and master’s in teaching. My first class is at a local college, teaching English to international students. Eventually, I get hired to teach at the Center for New Americans. I have been there for seven years, loving every minute.

MARIE ELENA: “The joy they brought to the lives they touched in our community was palpable.”  Linda, the love you have for them is also palpable. What would you say is your favorite thing about it?

LINDA:  My favorite thing about it is seeing my students grasp the language. When English finally clicks and they can express themselves clearly, it is magic!  I also love that I get to use my knowledge as an ordained interfaith minister.

My students are from many cultures and many faith paths. My training allows me to be there for them when times are difficult, when they have had bad news or are in pain from memories of the past. My knowledge of their beliefs helps me to understand where they are coming from and how best to be there for them.

MARIE ELENA: I’m sure they have a great deal of appreciation for you … for your knowledge, your experience, and your love.

Is there anything about it that bothers you?  Anything you would change, if you could?

LINDA:  There is one thing I would change, if I had the power. This change has nothing to do with teaching, but rather how others see and respond to immigrants and refugees.

Working with immigrants and refugees has opened my eyes up to the vast inequities we live with unaware. I would change the belief that because someone has an accent and speaks a different first language, they are somehow inferior. How egocentric to think this!  Many of my students have terminal degrees from their countries and yet, their achievements and knowledge are not recognized. They are required to start from scratch to be able to do the work they love. They are put into menial jobs to make ends meet – teachers, medical personnel, engineers, carpenters – all washing dishes, cleaning houses or cooking food. This makes me so sad.

MARIE ELENA:  Yes, Linda.  Yes.  Never having heard the term, I must admit I had to look up “terminal degree.”  For anyone else who may not know, this is someone who has attained the highest degree in their field of study.

Okay Linda, now for something different.  You have 24 hours to spend anywhere you wish, with anyone you wish, doing whatever you choose.  Where are you, who are you with, and what are you doing?

LINDA: Oh, this is tough!  So many different people I would love to have 24 hours with – living and dead.  But, if I choose just one, I guess I would say my love and soul mate, Roger. We would go to the Provence in France to walk through the places Van Gogh lived and painted, then go to Costa Blanca in Spain and walk along the shore, perhaps meeting up with some of my first ESL students who live there. We would simply “be” and enjoy the cultures, eat fresh local food and do lots of walking and maybe some writing *wink*.

11260903_10206633942234838_2122829728171939312_n

MARIE ELENA:  That sounds lovely!  And I must say it doesn’t surprise me that you and Roger are soul mates.  It shows, on Facebook (case-in-point, the photo above).  It looks like you have known each other forever.  May I be even nosier, and ask if there are children?  Pets?  Grandchildren?

LINDA: We have been together for 18 years of blessed love and companionship. I have four daughters and he has one. We have had pets, but when our dog Molly died, we decided not to have another pet for a while. I have 11 grandchildren.  They are a joy and delight. Grandmothering is the best!

MARIE ELENA: Grandmothering is most certainly the best!

You may already know that I end all my interviews with this:  If there was only one thing we could know about you, what would you want it to be … and why?

LINDA:  I am (most of the time) a positive person. I work to keep my energy high so that I can be a positive influence in the world, lifting others up with my poetry, writing, photography, and art. I believe passionately that the world needs Love and Hope. I try to personify that in my life.

MARIE ELENA:  Wonderful words with which to end our little chat.  Thank you, Linda!  This has been a joy!

***************************

Linda’s blog, Words From the Heart:   https://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/

Information on how to purchase Linda’s books:  https://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/p/books-by-linda-m-rhinehart-neas.html

THE POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #31

Today we fete self-acclaimed plain folk, David De Jong. Although his self-view is worn on his sleeve, we’ve come to know him and appreciate David as an exceptional poet and story teller, a far cry from plain. Still another man of strong moral fiber and character, a man of faith – you have no doubts who this man is. I envision a gritty cowboy, fresh from the trail who would regale us with his adventures as we surround the flicker of a camp fire. Within the body of Marie Elena’s interview, David shares “Cowpoke Poet” which embodies all of the above. I’m happy to present David, the poet – rider of the rhyme range with his poem, “Words of Thanksgiving” from Prompt #222 also labeled “Words of Thanksgiving”.

 

DAVID DE JONG

Photo by Lindsey DeJong

WORDS OF THANKSGIVING, by David De Jong

The day always began with a trip to church for the Thanksgiving service,
where we sang traditional hymns from the red or blue hymnal in the pew racks.
Pages dog-eared and tattered from countless years of use and licked fingers
from farmers, factory workers, mostly common folk, families, young and old.
Grandpa (Pake) was the janitor and always sat in the back, corner pew so he could
get up to operate the lights and monitor the doors during the services. We
generally sat in the same pew where Grandma (Beppe) would be sitting with her magnifying
glass ready, so she could read/sing along during the service. It was also normal for her
to have her Friesian Bible sitting beside her and another hymnal tucked behind her
lower back because she was in so much pain. Later in life we would get first hand
education on cataracts, osteoporosis and cancer.

The folks, two oldest brothers, grandpa and grandma were all natives
of the Netherlands, true pilgrims in a new land, we now all call home.
They came from world wars, the holocaust, rations, hiding, smuggling
Jews, or whatever else was needed. All their belongings were packed
into a wood crate and a steamer trunk that crossed the ocean on the Queen
Elizabeth. They arrived in America at Ellis Island where they received more
common names. Thanksgiving was much more than a tradition to them. It was
a celebration of life, an honor of freedom, almost sacred, a God given privilege.

Usually the leaves were already raked, burned and gone by the holiday
or just covered from early snow or the latest Midwest blizzard.
I can remember Thanksgiving mornings walking fence-lines, knee deep
in snow, trying to kick up a lone rooster and squeeze in a single shot before
it vanished into the storm. The fence and its gate would be the only guide
back home for the feast. You couldn’t see, due to the cold north wind
and blowing snow. Dad didn’t much like turkey meat, so we would eat
fresh game; pheasants, rabbits, an occasionally ham from the freezer,
or a fat broiler from the chickens harvested out of the coop earlier.
It was always a family affair, brothers and sister, modern pilgrims,
bundled up for the cold, happily walking the neighboring fields, grateful.
Back home, Mom was already busy with the everyone’s favorite pies; pumpkin,
apple, and cherry. When we got back, fresh baked bread, slice of cheese, and
some hot coffee or her special Dutch hot-cocoa topped with real whipped-cream
warmed us up. I think we were weaned on hot tea and coffee, both dark and strong,
always in a cup and saucer, with a spoon on the side, along with
sugar and cream or whipped cream on special occasions and Sundays.

Stuffing and cranberries were not on the menu, but we were definitely
stuffed from gobbling all mom’s wonderful food. It would be many years
before I ever heard of particular things, like yams or sweet potatoes
even though potatoes and gravy were a staple at our table. I can still hear
the steam whistling, escaping mom’s old one handled pot, clicking and
clattering atop the stove, boiling fresh peeled potatoes dug from the rich
black dirt of the garden during the last days of summer.

We were a little envious of friends that had color TV, ours was black and white.
colors were imagined, watching the parades, football, etc. on one of three channels.
Mom and Dad would take naps while us kids sat around the table playing cards;
rummy, spades, canasta and other games. Sometimes the whole family
would go back outside to shoot tin cans and bottles back behind the old Plymouth
in the grove. When we were done, Mom always had more pie and treats
to eat with hot tea or cocoa to warm us up again. Such a rich memory
growing up, that at the time, we just took for granted.
I am so thankful, we were blessed and loved so much.

 

David’s blog is named Rusty Midnight Ramblins

Interview of David De Jong by Marie Elena Good

THE POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #29

I consider this next featured poet, a poet’s poet. Along with Earl Parsons and the late Salvatore Buttaci, he is also truly one who lets his heart fill the page, driven by his love of life and his unwavering faith. He fits in well with the dynamic we’ve created at POETIC BLOOMINGS. Daniel Paicopulos has earned much respect through his work and the story of his life journey is rather intriguing and worth paying attention to (see link to his interview with Marie Elena below). He gives us a glimpse at his view of this poetic life in his piece entitled, “Source Material”. It is a heartfelt testimony to the gathering of like-minded souls here in our “Garden”. Daniel is a beautiful bloom!

https://poeticbloomings2.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/profile-pic.jpg

SOURCE MATERIAL, by Daniel Paicopulos

Some writers
find their words,
buried in the compost of bitterness,
in a field of anger and resentment,
sown by sorrow, raked with regret,
fertilized by vengeance for abandoned love,
ironically giving birth
to beautiful blooms

Other writers
find beauty in everything,
in their children, of course,
and family, friends, and lovers,
but also in the catalog of daily living,
in the exotic rose,
the mundane marigold,
the common fern,
predictably giving birth
to beautiful blooms.

Most writers
have a sadness muse,
prompting great works
of love and loss,
replete in their integrity,
they open their veins,
water their seedlings with blood,
painfully giving birth
to beautiful blooms.

All writers
know, regardless the source,
no matter the topic,
the truth will come out,
honesty triumphs,
love trumps cuteness,
every time,
each wonder-filled heart
generously giving birth
to beautiful blooms.

 

Written for Prompt #53 – Returning to the Soil

 

Find Daniel’s work at his blog Daniel, Living Poet

THE POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #28

The sky’s the limit for this week’s highlighted poet in the POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM. Damon Dean is a genuinely gifted poet whose expressiveness and point of view span the spectrum of life in a very keen way. His work is always a destination, whenever and whatever prompt is offered; you know the quality of work you will discover there. He continues to share his thoughts and splay his heart for the world to take a piece and be enlightened by it. Here I give you Damon Dean’s poem, “Rising”

RISING

Something rises in my heart
but then I know, not only heart,
but mind as well.

And then I know, it’s in my senses
too, and in the things I’ve known
as well as wondered,
and the blend of
thought
emotion
word
constrained,
no, not constrained, but trained,
by syllable and rhyme,
converge, sometimes
like ripples leaping rocks
or gasses from a geyser
or lava from a cone of porous stone,
or like the sigh of morning wind’s first breath
on tender meadow grass,
the early kiss that moves
dew drops to quiver–
and a poem appears.

And poems appear,
like nature’s voice
like commentary on the warmth
or judgment on the cold,
or tunes hummed by the middle seasons,
autumn, spring,
as if they were two grandmas holding
children in their laps,
and poems appear,
and like a kiss,
like lava from the heart
the poet feels
a satisfaction
in the rise.

And something settles in my heart,
but then I know, not only heart,
but mind as well.
A poem appears.

© Damon Dean

Written for PROMPT #219 – THE RISE (AND FALL) OF POETRY

Read Damon Deans work at

https://sevenacresky.com/

An interview with Damon Dean by Marie Elena Good

https://poeticbloomings2.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/poet-interview-damon-dean-sevenacresky/

THE POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #27

Another of the long string of contributors here at POETIC BLOOMINGS is Connie Peters. She had joined us from the very beginning after we first “met” her over at Poetic Asides with Robert Lee Brewer during the April P.A.D. Challenge in 2009. She, the master of Acrostic poetry, has a vision quite refined and defined by her strong faith and her heart for humanity. Connie is also one with an interesting story told in snippets of her poetic wile. She continues to be a strong voice in this poetic community. I am presenting two of Connie’s works, showing her clear vision and her appreciation of the gifts apparent in this life we share. Here are “The Moon” and “Clarence and Marie” by Connie Peters.

The Moon

The moon sat on the mountaintop,
as if it were going to camp there.
Reluctantly, it disappeared,
perhaps searching for poets to inspire
for a romance to rekindle,
or a lake to admire its own reflection.

from PROMPT #192 – THE NIGHT, THE MOON AND THE MUSIC

##

Clarence and Marie

“Tell me what you’ll need,
and I’ll show you how to do without it,”
said the kind old man
who lived across the road.

But he and his wife did a lot for us
(a young couple and a baby)
living far away from home,
our friends and relatives.

They became our second parents,
inviting us over for holidays,
running us to Bible Studies,
offering us help and encouragement.

We lost each other over the years,
but we’ll always be grateful for them.

offered for PROMPT #176 – “THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

Find Connie’s work at 

http://enthusiasticsoul.blogspot.com/

Marie Elena’s interview with Connie Peters is at

https://poeticbloomings2.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/web-wednesday-connie-peters/

A link to Connie’s Memoir Project Chapbook, “The Party’s Started”

THE POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #26

Now, this next poet has been a favorite for quite some time. And the selected poem fits her persona extremely well. She, of the purple pen (formerly of the Great Northwest) and back home in her East Coast digs, Sara McNulty has always been equated with “Alice Through the Looking Glass” (in my mind’s eye, anyway), as you would see on her blog’s background wallpaper. But beyond that, her experiences well documented through her poetry, have made her an inspired poet to say the least.  Sara had held fort as the Co-Host of POETIC BLOOMINGS when life had forced its will on Marie Elena, and quite a partner she had been. She honors our pages with her works to this day, always supportive and gracious. Here in true form, Sara channels Lewis Carroll in her poem, “Into A Tale.”

INTO A TALE

I stepped inside the pages inked
in vibrant shades that seemed to wink.
A caterpillar sat and smoked;
he blew out words, but did not choke.
The March Hare asked me to decide,
did I want tea? I stepped inside.

Such strange creatures I ran into,
a cat that vanished right on cue.
A rabbit who was always late,
a queen whom you could not debate.
Back at home, I told my teacher
of those I’d met, such strange creatures.

(C) Copyright Sara McNulty

This poem was presented for the INFORM POET – WRAPPED REFRAIN

 

Sara McNulty’s works reside at her blog,

purplepeninportland

Read Marie Elena’s interview with Sara McNulty at

https://poeticbloomings2.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/web-wednesday-sara-mcnulty/

THE POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #25

In today’s installment of the POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM, we open the book on one of our longest standing participants here in the garden. His story is a fascinating read when splayed out in his poems and prose, and who knows what else that describes him. He loves his family and his country, and that big eared mouse down Florida (and California) way. Proud of his military background (as are we) and could be considered a patriot. His faith  has been his saving grace and shows itself in almost everything he presents. And his heart is on display clearly in the works of poetry he has offered here at POETIC BLOOMINGS and other sites with which you are familiar. He has traveled a very diverse road and we’re happy he has chosen to share his heart here. In the 25th edition of the PBRR, it is appropriate that I give you Earl Parson’s “The Road”, from Prompt #190 – Going For The Gold”.

THE ROAD

No medal
No trophy
No gold at race’s end
No winners
Or losers
More road around the bend
Through summer
And winter
The road goes on and on
No heat waves
No snow days
A champion must stay strong
Motivation
Determination
A challenge we will meet
Achievement
Celebration
Life’s road will not defeat

© Earl Parsons

Earl Parsons’ work can also be seen at his blogs:

The Outspoken Patriot

Walk ‘n’ Talk’n’ Christian

Marie Elena’s interview with Earl Parsons can be viewed here:

https://poeticbloomings2.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/poet-interview-earl-parsons/

POET INTERVIEW – EARL PARSONS

40321044_2284324821581197_5458162293659402240_n

EARL PARSONS

When we had to close the Poetic Bloomings garden gate, one of the things I missed most  was interviewing our poets.  Though we can learn a great deal about one another from the poems we share, there is something much more intimate about sitting down one-on-one with someone, focusing only on them for a bit.  I get much satisfaction in presenting them to you.

Today, I’m pleased to present one of our original Bloomers and long-time poet friend, Earl Parsons.

MARIE ELENA:  Welcome, Earl!  If memory serves, we met back in 2009 for The Writer’s Digest April Poem-a-Day challenge with Robert Lee Brewer.  Is that right?

EARL:  Actually, I started in the PAD challenge in April of 2008. I may have been an unknown entity at that time, don’t you know. Still, I was there and made it for a few more PAD challenges. I actually made it through most of the ones I started, but it was a struggle due to my job as an Insurance Adjuster who covered a 44,000 square mile area, and never knew when and where I would be from day to day. But, that’s a subject for another book of poetry.

MARIE ELENA:    44,000 square miles?   Yikes!  It’s a wonder you were able to have any life outside of work, let alone a writing life!  Well, I’m glad that isn’t an issue for you anymore, and we can reap the benefits here at Poetic Bloomings!

EARL:  I will say that I was so happy when Poetic Bloomings sprang forth. I feel at home here, and the challenges spark my brain. I’m very happy y’all are back together.

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you for your kind words, Earl.  We love what we do here, and are thankful for poets like you.   So, what was your first experience at writing poetry?

EARL:  That came about ten minutes after I understood that words can rhyme from time to time and a rhyme with time is a timely rhyme. In other words, I started my poetry journey at a very young age. How young? I couldn’t say, but I was told that in kindergarten I could already put rhymes together, and often would, depending on what was happening around me.

MARIE ELENA:  Kindergarten, eh?  I can relate! My “ear for rhyme” was mentioned on my recently rediscovered Kindergarten grade card!  Our mutual claim to fame, Earl!

Was Robert’s site the first on which you posted publicly?

EARL:  Publicly and regularly, yes. I had, however, put writings on the Internet sporadically here and there, starting around the time of 9/11.

MARIE ELENA:  Knowing your love of country, it doesn’t surprise me that 9/11 flooded you with thoughts for which you needed an outlet.  Do you remember what (or who) sparked your original interest?

EARL:  When I was very young, it was just plain fun. When I reached my teen years, it was still fun, but I found that girls really like it, too. The more I got into music, especially what we now call classic rock, I found that poetry was the basis for most every song that I liked. Poetry was one of the things that helped me win my true love’s heart. And as an adult, I find poetry to be a place to release all the passions in my soul.

As for someone that first sparked the interest, I can’t say who was the first spark, but now it is my family, my country, and my God that provides all the sparks I’ll ever need.

MARIE ELENA:  What is your goal in writing? Is it simply to enjoy the experience, or is it to be a published author?

EARL: My actual goal is to arrange words that paint pictures, tell stories, capture memories, stimulate laughter, or produce tears. I strive to draw the reader into the poem and strum their emotional strings into a beautiful song. I want my writings, especially the ones I write for God, to touch those that need to be touched, because I believe that anything written for the glorification of God is intended to be read by someone in an effort to further His kingdom on this Earth.

MARIE ELENA:  I couldn’t agree more.

EARL: That said, I would like to be published primarily for that purpose. Trouble is, I fear rejection, but know it’s a part of the submission process. Hopefully, I’ll get over that fear shortly.

MARIE ELENA:  I suspect many (most?) of us struggle in the same way.  I wonder if it helps if we see ourselves as writers/poets. Do you consider yourself a poet?

EARL: In the real sense of the word, no. I don’t know the forms very well. I couldn’t name but a few poets outside of Frost, Seuss, or Silverstein. In a discussion of poetry, I’m lost. So, no, I don’t consider myself a poet.

Now, when it comes to storytelling or entertaining, maybe there’s something there. I find it easy to write situational poetry, patriotic or political verse, or creative family historical pieces. In fact, I find it easier to put poems together than it is to actually write about things that interest me.

When it comes to writing poetry for children or God, I’m there. In fact, when I finally got serious about poetry about 20 years ago, many of the poems were spawned by the daily devotionals I was writing at that time. My target audience for the devotions, poetry, and dramas back then were teens and children, because I was headlong into the youth ministry at the church I attended. I have enough devotions and poems to fill a half dozen books, if only I’d get the nerve, or the faith, to submit them.

MARIE ELENA:  I had no idea you wrote more than poetry, or that you wrote for children and teens.  That’s fantastic!  I must say I find it very interesting that, as a prolific writer of poetry, you don’t see yourself as a “poet,” simply because you are not (pardon the coming pun) well versed in poetry and poets.  If anyone comments on this interview, I would love to hear their take on the subject. Perhaps we could have a discussion out here on that topic.

Excuse me just a moment, Earl.  Hey, Walt!  What do you think?  A topic discussion someplace in the garden, on occasion?   

Okay, Earl, if there is one thing I know you would call yourself, it would be “devoted  husband.” You’ve been happily married a good long time to your lovely wife, Kim.  How did you meet?

Earl and Kim

EARL:  Kim and I met at the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) Club at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois in the late 80s. We were both working part-time jobs; I as a bartender and she as a waitress. We worked in opposite ends of the club, but her bartender refused to make strawberry daiquiris, so she was instructed to come to my bar and have me make them. And that’s how the whole thing started.

As we became close friends, my feelings went a little deeper. I would take register tape and write poems on the back for her to read after her shift. She inspired me to write more and more and we became closer and closer, until, eventually, we fell in love.

MARIE ELENA: Oh, if that isn’t the sweetest thing!  And how did you propose?

EARL: On one Saturday morning I went to the mall on the way to meet her for breakfast, and stopped by the jewelry counter. I put the engagement ring in a brown paper bag with what I bought from the store, and popped the question when she opened the bag. And, to my total amazement, she said “yes.”  We just celebrated 29 years together, and are hoping for many, many more.

MARIE ELENA:  How fun! Congratulations on your 29th Anniversary! What would you say is the secret to your relationship longevity?

EARL: The secret to our success is definitely our relationship with God. We were both Christians when we met and got married, but we were not living a life that was honorable or acceptable to Him. We eventually realized how much we needed to get back to God and brought Him into our lives. Since then, He has blessed us much more than we ever deserved.

Every day with my wife and family is the best time of my life. I never want to find out what life would be like without them.

MARIE ELENA:   I’m happy for you and Kim, and of course, your children. A contented family life can’t be beat.

Now I’m going to turn the tables on you to ask, what is the hardest issue you have ever had to deal with, and what measures did you take to get through it?

EARL: I would have to say the nissen fundoplication in October of 2016. In simple terms, an NF is a Stomach Wrap, where the top portion of the stomach is wrapped around the esophagus and tied in place. This helps prevent heartburn and reflux, and can reduce or eliminate the need for medication. In my case it eliminated all the meds I was on for the problems I was having. But things just went wrong from the beginning. I spent 12 days in ICU and was transferred (life-flighted) to New Orleans for another 15 days. Kim was with me all the way, and my children were in and out as much as they could. I would write a book about the ordeal, but I don’t remember a whole lot of it. I do know, however, that a lot of people were praying for me, and God heard those prayers. As the prompts progress, you might read a poem or three that spawned from those 27 days and the time during the recovery.

MARIE ELENA:  Many of us “Bloomers” were aware and praying. What a relief, when we finally saw you out-and-about on Facebook again.  And speaking of prayer, I know you are a man of great faith … a believer in Jesus Christ.  How did you come to know Him, and how has your relationship with Him affected your life?

EARL: As a young child, I threw a fit at the end of summer vacation with my grandparents, and ran off and hid in the woods because I wanted to stay in the country with them. Well, my mother signed me over to them and they raised me. My grandmother was a drug addict, in that every time the church doors were open, she drug me with her. And I’m thankful that she did.

In Vacation Bible School at the age of seven, I said the prayer of salvation, and again in the next VBS, and the next VBS, and the next VBS, and so on. Of course, at that age I understood the Bible stories, but didn’t really grasp what it meant to be saved. As I grew older and into my teens, our youth group would cross the border into New Brunswick for good old gospel concerts. I truly loved these concerts, but had problems when the invitation rolled around. I would sweat and jitter and cling to the back of the seat in front of me, but usually I would just walk out into the atrium and check out the records and other merchandise. That way, I could escape the conviction I was under.

And then came THE concert. It was so crowded that when the invitation started, there was nowhere to go. First the group sang, “The King is Coming,” and the sweat poured off of my brow. Then they followed up with, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” and that did me in. The conviction of the Holy Spirit broke me where I stood, and after squeezing through the others in the row, I went forward for real.

A few years ago, I wrote this about that night:

I Wish We’d All Been Ready (by Earl Parsons)

An evening quite some time ago
A concert in New Brunswick
Woodstock, if I’m not mistaken
On a cold Canadian night
The music played
And the crowd praised the Lord
Me included
Although not sure I belonged there
Until the end
When the invitation began

“The King is Coming’ started
And the pressure mounted
My hands began to sweat
Then my brow
And down my neck
My heart rate increased
As they made their case
For heaven or hell
If only I could make it through
This song, I could go home
But then,
It went on
Verse after verse
Word after word
Eating at my lost soul
Calling me to repent
And give in
To a Savior
That I needed to know
But didn’t
Or wouldn’t

Then it ended
The song, that is
And several people bumped their way by me
On their way to the front
Answering the call
The call I was fighting
Could I go home now?

Then the voice over the loudspeaker said
“Now is your time … your time to answer His call”
Then another song started
More powerful than the last
A song that hit me hard
A song that broke me down
A song that started my feet moving
Toward the front
To accept Him
Once and for all

“A man and wife alone in bed
She hears a noise
And turns her head
He’s gone
I wish we’d all been ready.”

“I wish we’d all been ready”
A sad song of truth
About those left behind
When the eye twinkles
And He returns for His own
To take us forever
With Him
On high
That’s where I’ll be
Because thanks to that night
And that song
I am ready
And I pray you will be too

As for how my relationship with Christ has affected my life, He has touched every aspect of it, even in the times that I relied on myself instead of Him. He has blessed me beyond anything that I deserved, and continues to bless me in so many ways. I owe it all to Him, and one of these days, I’ll be able to thank Him face-to-face.

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you for sharing that, Earl.  I also want to thank you in this public forum for your service in the U.S. Air Force.  Look how handsome! I’d like to hear how that came about.

airforce

EARL: Honestly, my time in the Air Force started out of desperation. I didn’t complete the proper courses in high school to qualify for college, and, honestly, I don’t think I would have been a good college student anyway. I wasn’t the keenest when it came to studying and all that, way back when.

It was nearing winter in Northern Maine, and I needed a job. Walking down Main Street in Presque Isle, I came upon the recruiters offices. As I looked at each recruiting poster, I eliminated one branch after the other. No Navy for me because I couldn’t swim. No Marines because I wasn’t tough enough. No Army because I didn’t want to be shipped directly to Viet Nam. But the Air Force … now that’s a branch I could handle. And I did for over 20 years, with most of that time spent overseas.

I served under Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, and Clinton. Serving under President Reagan was a blast because he was the most respected and relatable CIC in modern history. President Carter gave us the largest pay raise. And GHW Bush was respected because of his history in uniform.

MARIE ELENA:  Twenty years. Wow. Did you ever end up being shipped to Viet Nam?  Where else did you serve?

EARL: I enlisted near the end of the war, and actually volunteered to go in country. But, being in communications in the Air Force, I was sent to Okinawa instead. While there, I participated in the setup of communication patches that were used during the evacuation process, which included the ill-fated “Baby Airlift.”

The next conflict came with Desert Storm in the early 90s. At that time I was stationed in Illinois and our unit provided weather data for troop movements. Other than that, most of my time in uniform was during peace time.

My last assignment, however, was working with a joint task force searching and recovering remains from Southeast Asia, Korea, and even China. I was the NCO in charge of the data automation section and never went in theatre, but did work with all of the files and data related to our missing in action and prisoners of war. During my two years in that division, I managed to read just about all of the files on the POWs and MIAs. There were some incredible stories about many incredible people.

MARIE ELENA:  Goodness.  I can only imagine these stories of absolute heroes in our midst.  Please tell me what you struggled with the most.  And can you now look back on it, and see a benefit?

EARL: Maybe I’m weird, but I loved every single day while in uniform. Each assignment brought new and interesting experiences, especially when overseas. My first assignment was in Okinawa, and it scared the living daylights out of this young guy from the country. But after a couple of days there, I loved it. Then came Missouri, Germany, mainland Japan, Illinois, and finally Hawaii. If someone would have told me when I was a young buck in high school that I would be traveling the world, I’d have told them they were crazy. Now, if only I could write that book.

MARIE ELENA:  EARL!  WRITE THAT BOOK! 🙂 And once again, thank you, sir, for your service to our country.

I end all my interviews with this:  If there was only one thing we could know about you, what would you want it to be … and why?

EARL:  I think that there is one thing that most people really don’t understand about me, and that is just how passionate I am, especially when it comes to God, family and country. Most mistake my passion for arrogance or even nastiness. Neither is anywhere close to the truth. My passion is heartfelt, researched, and honest.

Most of all, however, my passion is respectful of others and their passions. That is until things get nasty. I’m not perfect, and sometimes I come back with the same attitude that is pushed my way, but I do try and stay calm and rational. If the dialogue goes south, then I will usually step away.

Much of my passion is contained in my poetry. Some of my poems are direct and to the point, almost to the point of causing angst to the reader. Well, if that happens, then maybe it was meant to happen. The intent of many of my writings is to make people think by seeing the other side of the coin. All too often, however, the other side of the coin rocks the reader’s boat. Hopefully, seeing both sides will spur a conversation and educate at the same time.

In this PC world, I believe more passion is needed, along with more raw truth without the candy coating. And I’m here to write the words that express just that.

In closing, thank you Marie for the honor of being selected for an interview. And, as I’ve mentioned before, thanks to you and Walt for resurrecting Poetic Bloomings. Write on, everyone.

_______________________________

Click here for more interviews

 

THE RETURN OF BLOOMINGS

If poet friends tell me anything, it is how much they miss POETIC BLOOMINGS. It has not been quite the same in all its regenerations. That’s because something important was missing. Correction: SOMEONE important. Well, that’s been rectified. SHE’S BAAAAACK! Starting Sunday, August 5th, 2018, MARIE ELENA GOOD reunites with Walter J. Wojtanik to revive an old, but friendly place to poem. POETIC BLOOMINGS will pick up where it left off and we will reseed this plot of fertile ground to return to posing our poetic pieces. 

Marie and I are simplifying our approach. We will drop the SUNDAY SEED (our prompt) every Sunday. There will be interviews when the spirit moves us and the INFORM POET will be incorporated into a prompt every now and then. So please consider returning to “The Garden,” The Best Garden for Verse, and allow Marie and Walt to host you in this journey. We’d be honored as always.

***

A GRAND RE-OPENING

She did not come to my doorstep,
there was no notification that she was lacking.
All I knew was that we had performed together
admirably, and we knew we could do it again.
I never met her, this friend,
but I always knew in the end we’d still be a great pair.

Here she was, sweet as a ripe pear,
encouraging and nurturing, a light step
and a sledgehammer heart. A friend
indeed when a friend was lacking.
“I miss the process. Can we try it again?”
she messaged asking if we could still work together.

It surely didn’t take much for me to get her
enthused, for we DID make a great pair.
I have no qualms of firing those synapses again.
A garden themed poetic place where we step
in tune with other like minds, not lacking
the ability to find the words to pose. Widespread friends

who, when the day ends
feel better for the time together.
No heart leaves lacking;
a community beyond compare.
And from that very first step
it felt good to walk the garden again.

What did we think we’d gain
by bringing all these friends
to tread here in lockstep?
It becomes a reunion, coming to gather,
to be inspired, to cajole and share.
But mostly because we also needed the backing

of those who both of our lives were lacking.
So here we are again,
Marie and Walt, a somewhat storied pair,
very acquainted friends
who’ve never spent time together,
reveling in every calculated step.

Reconnecting has put the pep in our step that was lacking,
poetic pals together again,
with all our worldly and wordy friends beyond compare!

© Walter J Wojtanik – 2018

Written in honor of this re-commitment as prompted by Miz Quickly’s (AKA BYY) MuhwufSS site.

Repeat and vary, part 3: The Sestina

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: