Poetry Friday: “Can You Saddle Up a Horsefly?”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllAmong the many manuscripts for children’s books that I’ve either completed or am currently working on, is a nature-themed poetry collection. I’m not sure that ‘nature’ is specific enough of a theme to attract the attention of an agent or publisher – these days, everything has to have a ‘theme,’ you know – but for now, it is what it is, and this poem comes from that collection.

I was thinking about bug names and how so many of them could be confused or misconstrued…and after several weeks of writing and revising, I ended up with this! Hope you enjoy it.

Monarch & black-eyed susans

“Can You Saddle Up a Horsefly?”

Are ladybugs all ladies?

Are there gentlemanbugs, too?

Does a praying mantis ever pray?

And if they do, to who?

Why is it every summer, lightning bugs light up the night,
But thunderbugs – they don’t exist! I just don’t think it’s right.

I doubt that dragonflies breathe fire and turn knights into roast.
And what about a butterfly?  Do they taste good on toast?

The June bugs buzz all summer long, not just the month of June;
If mayflies flew in April, would we say they flew too soon?

A yellowjacket’s jacket’s yellow – what about his pants?
And where does one buy uniforms for all the army ants?

We know grasshoppers love to hop, but can they leap or skip?
Can you saddle up a horsefly – then take him on a trip?

A honeybee makes honey; what’s a dung-beetle to make??
It’s questions just like these, at night…

that keep me wide awake.

– © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

Looking for more poetry? Be sure to visit Amy at The Poem Farm for all of today’s Poetry Friday links!

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Did you like this post? Find anything interesting somewhere in this blog? Want to keep abreast of my posts?  Then please consider subscribing via the links over here on the right! (I usually only post twice a week – on Tue. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day!)  You can also follow me via Twitter or on Facebook.

Maturity: It’s like barbecue, but without the smoke rings

I have my wife to thank for this blog post.

For my birthday yesterday, she took me out to a southern barbecue joint – where slow-smoked ribs, chicken, and pulled pork fall from the bones and the aroma of a spicy, smoky dry rub lingers on your fingers all the way home. Where brisket isn’t done until it’s been in the smoker for at least 14 hours, and the anticipation of seeing it browned and sliced is almost too much to bear.

This is where slow, southern-style smoked barbecue is almost a religion. No, come to think of it, it is a religion.

And this is where my wife, the vegetarian, brought me for dinner.

She’s a keeper, that one.

ID-100155010 (B-day candle)45 was a problem; 46 is a bigger one

We were back in the car, driving home, when I told her I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about for today’s post. I had some ideas – about commercials or poetry or whatnot – but the fact that I’m now 46 kept weighing on my mind. I had just posted my thoughts on life and graduation here last week, as well, so ‘maturity’ has been a recurring theme for me lately.

Let’s face it – 45 is smack-dab in the middle 40’s, so even though you’re only 5 years away from the half-century mark, you can say you’re in your “40’s” and still pretend you’re only 41. But 46 is on the other side of 45, which means when you turn 46 you are officially in your upper 40’s. I wasn’t sure I liked that.

I wasn’t in my free-wheeling 20’s anymore, when I was first learning about the world and my career and life. I wasn’t in my 30’s either, when I could put some of the experience and wisdom I had gleaned in my 20’s to use – but still feel young enough to hang around 20-year-olds.

Then, 40 rolled around. I couldn’t even say I was in my 30’s at that point…and working in radio with an entire on-air staff that was younger than me was a bit of a shock.

But 46?  When did this happen??

The vegetarian waxes philosophic

So having explained all this to my wife, I breathed a sigh and continued driving. Ever the positive-minded gal she is, my wife smiled and began comparing my life to barbecue.

She said that, just like brisket and ribs need to spend a long time in the smoker, my past 46 years have been my personal time in the ‘smoker.’ I wasn’t ready for life in my 20’s, and I still wasn’t ready in my 30’s. It was only when I met her – in my early 40’s – that my current life situation began to take form.

I had my two daughters when I was younger – but like most parents, it was trial by fire.  I had no idea what I was doing, so I just winged it and hoped for the best. I worked in radio, in a restaurant, as a wedding DJ,as a dance instructor, and as an advertising sales rep…but all these were learning experiences, too. My wife told me these were the ‘dry rubs,’ preparing me for what was to come.

2979557490_969898059c_b (smoke ring)Last year, I left steady, full-time employment to work on building my own voiceover business (it’s a slow build, but growing). I have more time to audition for gigs. I’m writing more children’s poetry – and better children’s poetry – as well as other manuscripts. I even have the time to write this blog, fercryinoutloud.

I also now have a 3-year-old son and another baby on the way…and I feel like I almost know what I’m doing, having gone through it before. I’m able to experience child development in a whole new light, my wife reminded me, because I’m a stay-at-home dad. I’m not sure how I would have done as a stay-at-home dad 20 years ago, but I’m doing ok so far.

Life is good.

Everything I’ve experienced, everything I’ve done or seen, everything that came before – has been part of the smoking process, my wife explained.  I’ve been slow-cooking this whole time…and now, I was ready to be taken out of the smoker and plated.

Life was ahead of me, and I was now ‘prepared.’

You know, for a health care professional, she’s pretty good at metaphors. I love that woman.

Although the idea of ‘being plated’ unnerves me just a bit.

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Did you like this post? Find anything interesting somewhere in this blog? Want to keep abreast of my posts?  Then please consider subscribing via the links over here on the right! (I usually only post twice a week – on Tue. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day!)  You can also follow me via Twitter or on Facebook.

Poetry Friday: “What Am I?”

Poetry_Friday logoI have to thank Father Goose, Charles Ghigna, for helping me decide what poem to post today. He doesn’t even realize he helped me.

A few days ago, I was reading a poem he posted at his blog and I had to smile.  It was remarkably similar to a poem I wrote way back when I was in high school! Having just written a blog post about graduation, life, and the ‘problem’ with experience, I had been considering posting something I wrote as a student.

Charles made up my mind for me!

I don’t recall exactly when this was written…but it was somewhere between 10th and 12th grade, which would put it in the 1982-85 range. Like Charles’, this is also a riddle poem. Unlike Charles’, this was written by a 15 or 16-year-old – so there’s not a whole lot of polish on it. Come to think of it, I’m not sure there’s anything I wrote prior to this that anyone would even want to see!

See if you can figure out the answer, but don’t post it; that way, others can try to figure it out. (I don’t think it’s that hard – but then again, I already know the answer!) I’ll post the answer in the ‘Comments’ section on Monday, so be sure to check back.

ID-10051444 (Question die)“What Am I?”

I’m part of the trees, but don’t make up wood;
I stay in the city, for I know I should.
People say I’m in metal (well, that’s what I’m told)
But I’m not part of iron – or brass, bronze, or gold.
Now that we’re finished, I’ll say just one more thing:
I’ve helped make a knight, but never a king!

Matt Forrest Esenwine, circa 1982-85

Looking for more poetry? Find more Poetry Friday offerings at ‘Carol’s Corner!’

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Did you like this post? Find anything interesting somewhere in this blog? Want to keep abreast of my posts?  Then please consider subscribing via the links over here on the right! (I usually only post twice a week – on Tue. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day!)  You can also follow me via Twitter or on Facebook.

Dear Graduates: of life, men, and the problem with experience

ID-10046308 (graduate cap)This past Sunday was a busy day. Not only was it Father’s Day, but it was also the day of my youngest daughter’s high school graduation.

As I thought about my hopes and dreams for her, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the hopes and dreams I had for myself at that age, and the hopes and dreams my father probably had for his only son. When you’re 18 and graduating, the questions abound. Should I go to college? Should I work? If I go to college, what should I study? If I go to work, what will I do? Should I do what my parents want, or what I want?

In considering all these thoughts, worries, and concerns, something occurred to me:

Maturity changes everything.

Looking back over my post-high school years, I realize now what I did right and where I went wrong. I can also see multiple instances where there was no right or wrong. Life experience may be great, but it’s also a problem.

They say experience is the greatest teacher; unfortunately, it’s all on-the-job training.  You don’t get a probationary period. You don’t get a chance to learn the ropes, then go out and live your life.  We’re all in the position of tackling the world with only as much information and experience as we have at that moment – and it is only after we fail or succeed that we get our report card.  No matter how much we think we know – we never know what we need to know until after the fact.

Life is a perpetual game of trial-and-error, and I doubt most graduates realize how many ‘errors’ they will end up accumulating over the long haul. This very realization is, itself, one of the blessings of maturity.  Once we accept the fact that we don’t know everything, that we will likely fail as often (if not more) than we succeed, and that we need the knowledge, experience, and support of others to get us through…life becomes easier. And harder.

You see, maturity is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you see things more clearly and understand better how life and the world operate, which allows you to move forward with wisdom and confidence. On the other hand, you see all your past mistakes with laser-pinpoint accuracy – and although it’s helpful, it’s sometimes painful to watch.

Chilli cookoff, apple picking, hair cut October 2010 020The man I’ll never be

I should probably know more about men than I do, considering I call myself one. I don’t know if they have the same doubts, hopes, fears, and insecurities I have…but I’m sure I’m not the only one who believes:

I’ll never be the man my kids think I am, I’ll never be the man my wife deserves,
and I’ll never be the man my father is.

I think it is due to personal inadequacies I have created, based upon the standards I have set for myself…and again, I wonder if other men share this concern. I don’t think I’m a bad person, but could I do better? Could I spend more time with the kids, teach them more, listen to them more? Could I do more for my wife, help her more, support her more? Could I be a harder worker, better-skilled, more involved with the community?

Certainly.

And it’s not like I don’t try to improve myself in these areas. I just keep falling short of those pesky standards I was talking about. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, but I doubt I’ll ever reach them. I’m willing to accept that. But it won’t keep me from trying.

The big surprise awaiting graduates

Taking into account the experience, wisdom, and surprises that come with the blessing/curse of maturity, my recognition of past failings, and my desire to constantly improve myself, I felt it’s important that graduates know one important thing. Whether they go to college or go to work, stay at home or move away, get married or stay single, there is one truth that is universal. It surprised me years ago, and it still surprises unsuspecting young people.

Ready, graduates? Here it is:

Life is harder than you realize.

Are you surprised? No? Well, you should be. If you don’t think it’s hard, just wait. And if you think it’s hard already, it’s actually harder. I’m not trying to scare you or anything – just helping you to be prepared, based on years of life experience and >ahem< maturity.

Life is fun, life is sad, life is exciting, life is boring, life is anything you make it out to be and will take you anywhere you want to go – but it’s up to you to do the driving. Sometimes, life is, indeed, easy. It will often be hard, too. That should never keep you from enjoying it and getting the most out of it.   Hard work can be enjoyable and rewarding, and so is life. Just remember that

Life is harder than you realize.

If you want to do something you think is difficult, do it anyway. Can’t do it? Figure out a way. Never accept impossibility as an option. The best things in life might be free, but the most rewarding ones usually don’t come without a great deal of work, sweat, and perseverance.

shutterstock_132016772 (woman-youth culture)
Are you ready for what’s ahead?

And by the way, if your personal situation is nice and stress-free, what about your neighbor’s? Are they struggling with some sort of problems? There’s probably something you could do to lighten their load. No, I don’t mean just offering them money or food. That’s easy. I mean taking some time to get to know them and actually lending a real helping hand. Being a true neighbor. True, that might be hard to do, but then again…

Life is harder than you realize.

If life is not hard, then you’re either extremely lucky, or you’re doing it wrong.

So be careful out there.

Poetry Friday: “More Than We Are”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllWhere does the time go? One minute your kids are starting kindergarten and the next thing you know, they’re heading off to prom and graduation and the rest of their life.

Whew, that was quick.

My youngest daughter, Katherine, is graduating high school this weekend, so there was no question for me as to what poem I should share today.  Katherine is a very talented young woman, whose photography has graced more than a few blog posts here. She was selected as a New Hampshire Scholar for her above-average course load while in high school, and I’m very proud of her.

I wrote this a little over a year ago – and although it’s not really ‘about’ her, the message was created with her, her older sisters, and all young people in mind.

(Good grief, I just used the phrase “young people.” That makes me think I might not be one of them anymore.)

Anyhoo…for all of today’s Poetry Friday festivities, visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche!

“More Than We Are (for Katherine)”

An astronaut’s an astronaut,
But may be someone’s dad
Who takes his daughter fishing
When she feels a little sad.
A banker is a banker
But might be a mom, as well,
Who shows her son the alphabet
And helps him learn to spell.

A teacher is a teacher
But could be a singer, too;
The janitor at school may wish
He ran the local zoo.
His son might be a doctor
Who is saving someone’s life;
The lady at the store today
Might be the doctor’s wife.

Half of KatieEach homeless person on the street,
Each writer of a song,
Each boy or girl you chance to meet
Has somewhere they belong.
There’s always more than what we see,
And as we learn and grow,
We’re all more than we seem to be –

And you’re more than you know.

.

– © 2012, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Did you like this post? Find anything interesting somewhere in this blog? Want to keep abreast of my posts?  Then please consider subscribing via the links over here on the right! (I usually only post twice a week – on Tue. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day!)  You can also follow me via Twitter or on Facebook.

Direct Mail Can Be Hazardous to Your Health – Your Marriage’s Health, That Is

It was an enticing offer. It seemed so innocent, yet perfectly-timed. Coming from a reputable company, it offered exactly what I thought my wife was looking for.

MH900387606 (mailbox)It was, in fact, the last thing she’d ever want.

The letter that started it all…

One beautiful, sunny afternoon, I walked to the end of the driveway to check the mail and see what goodies the Postal Service had left for us that day.  I opened the mailbox and pulled forthwith a bounty of bills, automobile sales flyers, and oversized, multi-colored envelopes from Publisher’s Clearing House emulating Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and exhorting me to cut, paste, sign, and stamp my way to financial bliss.

Tossing the electric and phone bills aside along with my opportunity to be one of the 10,000 guaranteed potential winners of a chance to qualify to win another opportunity to receive more envelopes, my eyes settled on a blue-and-white envelope from my eye doctor’s office. I opened it and read the letter inside.

Although the message was not utterly compelling…it was intriguing.

It was also, apparently, not completely read. That was my first mistake.

What could be wrong with an eye doctor?

First, a little history. My wife and I were married a few years ago and were still in the process of combining marital things like utility and bank accounts, bathroom supplies, and Christmas card lists. One of the things my wife wanted to do, now that she was living almost an hour from where she had been previously, was find some new doctors closer to our home: a general practitioner, a dentist, and an ophthalmologist.

MH900422196 (eye dr)That’s why this letter from my eye doctor’s practice caught my interest. They had just hired a new doctor! Now, I didn’t know if my own eye doctor, a wonderful fellow, was accepting new patients – but this new doctor was. Both my wife and I had been meaning to call my doctor’s office, yet for whatever reason we just hadn’t gotten around to it. This letter served as a perfect opportunity to call and find out.

Plus – and here’s the kicker – every new patient of this new doctor would receive as a gift a free bottle of high-end, scientifically-formulated, super-duper skin cream…and what woman doesn’t like expensive skin cream?? My lovely wife certainly does; she’s the first to admit she’s as as girl-girl as they come. If it’s pink, sparkly, soft, or cuddly, she’s all over it.

So here it was:  an appointment with a new eye doctor at a well-respected practice, and a bottle of fancy lotion-y stuff I just knew she’d love. I set the envelope and letter, face up, on her desk, so she would see it as soon as she got home.

That was my second mistake.

Ohhh…that kind of eye doctor

My beautiful bride hadn’t been home for more than 10 minutes when I heard her shout out, “What is THIS?!?”  The fact that she was in the living room and I was outside in back of the house should give you an idea as to the sheer volume of that shout.

Unaware of my transgression and oblivious to the reason for her outcry, I came in and asked – in an admittedly muted tone – “errr…what’s the matter, Honey?”

My jaw dropped when the love of my life held up the papers and shook them in front of my face.

“You think I need a PLASTIC SURGEON???”

Reading = good.  Skimming = very, very not good

I was dumbfounded. If she had no idea what I was thinking, I certainly had no idea, either.  I asked, foolishly, “What do you mean?”

“I mean, you think I need a PLASTIC SURGEON???” My wonderful wife repeated her question word-for-word. I’m not sure if it was for emphasis or because she was so stunned she couldn’t think of anything else to say. It was probably for both.

Still not knowing what to say, I took the papers she had been holding – well, actually, she kind of threw them at me – and read more closely. The new doctor was, indeed, a plastic surgeon. He had been hired to do facial treatments, eye lifts, Botox, and that sort of thing.  I had mistakenly figured eye doctor + new patients = good idea.

This was so not a good idea.

“You think I need BOTOX?!?” my gorgeous life partner asked me –  rhetorically, I assumed.  Now, she had mentioned once or twice in passing that she might be willing to try it in the future if she ever got old and wrinkly enough, but I wasn’t about to open up that can of worms.  I just immediately said no, of course not, and tried to explain my confusion.

After a few minutes, she understood that I was not a shallow, demeaning, chauvinist trying to encourage her to change her body or looks to suit my preference. I was simply an idiot.

We both accepted that fact, and have, I’m happy to say, moved on.

ID-10019632 (Botox)Let this be a lesson!

The takeaway from this little episode, of course, is that one needs to pay attention to the messages that bombard us every day.  Conversely, those of us in the advertising industry should take notice and make sure our messages are clear, as well. I’ve written previous posts about things like the importance of knowing your audience and having clear, specific messages.

This is why.

If you’re an advertiser, you have to assume some of your potential customers will be idiots like me and completely miss your message. Can you make your message 100% idiot-proof? Not always. But you can certainly increase its effectiveness by editing, reviewing, and testing.

If you’re a writer, ask others to read your work and see if they get your message.

And if you’re a consumer….read the fine print.

No bottle of free body cream is worth the aggravation.

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Did you like this post? Find anything interesting somewhere in this blog? Want to keep abreast of my posts?  Then please consider subscribing via the links over here on the right! (I usually only post twice a week – on Tue. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day!)  You can also follow me via Twitter or on Facebook.

Crime and Poetry revisited

As part of my month-long celebration of National Poetry Month this past April, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gerald So, webmaster and editor of the Poems on Crime blog, The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly.

5-2-V1-Cover-165It was enlightening, to say the least, learning about this unusual genre of poetry and reading some of the poems that had been published both there as well as in So’s previous eBook series, The Lineup: Poems on Crime.  The different styles of poetry, the unique voices of those writing it, and the varied crimes that served as material for these poems serve to bring poetry to a new audience.

I hoped my interview, likewise, would help bring the poetry audience to the genre.

Having said this, it’s my pleasure to share with you one of my poems that was accepted for publication in The 5-2.  Entitled “Flight,” the poem is a short vignette of ‘flight’ that has been suddenly…stopped. You’ll see what I mean when you read it HERE.

A little different from my children’s poetry, yes?  Hope you liked it, though.  I encourage you to check out my interview with So if you hadn’t had a chance to read it yet – and I’ll be back this  Friday, June 7, with my weekly Poetry Friday offering!

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Did you like this post? Find anything interesting somewhere in this blog? Want to keep abreast of my posts?  Then please consider subscribing via the links over here on the right! (I usually only post twice a week, on Tue. and Fri., so you won’t be inundated with emails every day!)  You can also follow me via Twitter or on Facebook.