Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Carols From Around the World Concert

Around seventy people came to the Friendswood Public Library last night to hear Christmas Carols from Around the World concert featuring pianist Stephanie Poyner and flutist Leslie Engle. The music was amazing with selections from English, Italian, German, Polish, Austrian, French, and American carols.

Stephanie Poyner is the Director of Music at Hope Lutheran Church in Friendswood, Texas. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education Degree from Concordia University, Nebraska and a Master of Church Music Degree from Concordia University, Wisconsin. Leslie Ann Engle is a graduate of Butler University and is a long time Friendswood/League City resident who is passionate about people, music, and writing. For more than thirty years she has been an accomplished performer, instructor and published author who enjoys sharing her knowledge with individuals of all ages. Her background includes membership in choirs, bands, orchestras, and musicals in three states. Leslie specializes in flute, piccolo, recorder, fife, piano, voice; and music theory and composition.

Stephanie and Leslie will be back to the Friendswood library on Thursday, March 22nd at 7pm for A Performance of Johann Sebastian Bach

Leslie Engle on left, Stephanie Poyner on right

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2 poems by author, poet, columnist, and teacher Donna Pauley

Born in a rural hamlet of 200 in deep East Texas, Donna Cozart Pauley grew up with a widely extended family that included ten grandparents, storytellers one and all.  She became a storyteller herself, first publishing several stories about her family and her hometown in the Houston Chronicle’s Texas magazine.  These included “A Nocturnal Visit,” “No Kind of Name to Wear,” and “Dinner of Their Discontent,” culminating in a cover story titled “Death of an Ancestor” about her nineteen-year-old great-great-great-great-great Uncle Henderson Cozart who was killed in the Goliad Massacre during the Texas Revolution, thus bringing her family to Texas to claim the land grant he earned with his death.  She has also published several poems, including first-place entries in Bayousphere and Marrow, and is now a weekly columnist for The Alvin Sun writing “Views from the Left.” 
            A high school English teacher, who was voted District Teacher of the Year and runner-up for Regional Teacher of the Year in the Houston area, Donna is currently head of the English Department at Alvin High School and teaches Advanced Writing in the evenings for the University of Houston.  She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in literature.
            Donna Cozart Pauley lives on the Texas coast with her husband Mark; sons Corey and Cody; dogs Chaucer and Sammy; cats Boudreaux, Thomas Lafayette, and Eula Mae; a sneaky raccoon who likes to steal cat food from the bowls on her front porch; and a mysterious hawk who keeps watch on her roof.

Donna Pauley will be a featured poet at the FPL Poetry Series reading on Wednesday, July 18th at 7pm.

The Wyf of Bath

“Her hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
Ful streite y-teyed, and shoos ful moiste and newe
Bold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe
She was a worthy woman al hir lyve…”

Big Mama
flaming red hair curling close to her head
scarlet lipstick         stark against her pale freckled skin
wire frames circling merry blue eyes
in a round face atop a short neck
rolls of fat almost obscuring her Sunday-go-to-meeting pearls 
wide of hip 
              she was as round as she was t
her chubby fingers and toes accented
with Avon’s siren-red nail polish
she knew all the remedies for love’s mischances
          was well-versed in that old song and dance
her first husband
forty-four years to her fifteen on nuptial day
offered her pappy two mules for her hand
          a fine price for a dirt-poor farmer in Brushy Bottom
in a faded sepia-tinted photo
          little Mattie
          a plump schoolgirl
          with a sad smile on her face
          a giant bow on the side of her head
sits by her new spouse
          graying hair pomaded slick to his skull
          a handlebar mustache tickling his stern lip
          shirt buttoned tight to his brown neck

husband number four is newly dead
          buried in the Timpson cemetery
                    under a cool granite stone
a new four-door Pontiac
purchased with life insurance proceeds
sits outside her corner grocery store
a small wood-slatted building with fresh white paint
precariously resting on cement blocks
                              one lone red gas pump out front
my siblings and I love to go to Big Mama’s store
                    on Saturday afternoons
one entire side of the second aisle
jam-packed with candy of every variety
all of my favorites
          bright pink peanut patties
                    foot-long, thick peppermint sticks
                              candy cigarettes we hold between our
                              index and middle fingers just like Granddaddy
a Big Red or chocolate Yoo-Hoo to wash the sugar down

                    her daughter, our grandmother,
          red-headed and freckled as well
finds her one April morning
                                        dead on the floor
the customers fall away
s  c  a  t  t  e  r  e  d   like the autumn leaves
now that Miss Mattie no longer
mans the antique cash register or
holds court in her rocking chair at the front
          trading stories     belly laughing     chewing the fat
the old store surrenders to somber ruin as
pushy weeds crowd the front steps
paint peels revealing weathered boards beneath
a stray Ruby Red from her neighbor’s coop
          aloose from her Chaunticleer
                    scratches and pecks at the iron-rich dirt
the screen door hangs from one loose hinge
ready to give up the ghost
and join her in the Timpson cemetery
          a solitary stone
          now resting by her first husband
                    under his thumb for eternity

many years later
I will meet Big Mama again
in my senior English class
          on the illuminated pages of
                    Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Harm Junior

                              Black hair slicked down for church
                              the scent of Old Spice haloes his head.
                              Long, narrow feet are stuffed into
pointy-toed cowboy boots.
                              Western shirt buttons tight
                              to the burnt umber of his neck,
                              as nicotine-stained fingers tap
                              on the Baptist hymnal in his lap.
                              The chorus of I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
                              floats in the air around the congregation.
                              Sitting squashed between me
                              and my big sister
                              in the third pew on the left,
                              his Choctaw-dark eyes
                              peer at a slight figure in front of us.
                              He had forgotten how to whisper
                              years before I was born.
                              “See that gal up yonder with
                              the coal-black hair?  It’s dyed
                              that color.  When she turns ‘round,
                              she looks ‘bout like a prune.”
                              The dried fruit turns to glare
                              as sharp elbows hit him
in tandem from both sides.
We have perfected our technique.
His ribs are quilted with
granddaughter-wrought bruises.

                                                  Donna Cozart Pauley

More poems by Donna Cozart Pauley:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ticket To Ride by Playwright and Author Margaret Symmank

Margaret Symmank has enjoyed a life-long career of writing and entertaining audiences. Her work has seen production on school, college, church and community theatre stages for over thirty years. Ms. Symmank is a member of the American Association of Community Theatres, Christians in Theatre Arts, and Texas Nonprofit Theatres. She lives with her husband, J.D., in south Texas. They have four children and five grandchildren.  

Margaret Symmank will be appearing with ANTHEM performing artists in a performance of her play An Odor of Sanctity; or...Something Smells in the Pews on Wednesday, March 14th at 7pm in the Friendswood Public Library Activity Room.



In the summers I never went much farther than I could walk.  I walked to the store for jawbreakers and comic books, to Bible school, where I sang, “Roll away, roll away, roll away – every burden of my heart roll away,” and every two weeks, I walked to the bookmobile.
     The road that led to the store and Bible school and the bookmobile ran three-quarters of a mile from our house to the post office – a narrow, rock-topped, too-hot-for-bare-feet piece of county right-of-way parallel to the Santa Fe Railway.
     From the road, I waved to accommodating engineers who traveled the rails from Galveston to Houston and Lord only knew where beyond that.  Very far, I was certain.  The boxcars swayed along the tracks – clanking when empty, bumping when full – headed for places distant and dim.  Roll away, roll away, roll away.    
     I’d been to Galveston for Christmas shopping, sampled the wonders of the candy counter in Sears, and roamed the endless, shell-spattered beaches in summer.  I’d seen Houston a time or two.  It was fast and noisy, and people wore their Sunday clothes no matter what day it was.  I knew I wasn’t ready for that.  Maybe someday – when I knew things.  Knowing things came from books, and books came from the bookmobile.
     It was an awesome creation.  Huge and square and green and tan, it parked itself in the shade by the post office two Wednesdays a month.  It had wheels and doors that opened like a school bus but bore no other resemblance to that very distant kin.  Inside, it was a room.  Not a vehicle at all, but a real place with shelves of books all the way to the ceiling, and lights and a tiny oscillating fan that stirred the dim air breathed by all the visitors in all the other places the bookmobile stopped.
     At one end of the room was a little set of steps that led up to the driver’s seat.  There was no rail or chain to keep people from going up the steps and having a look around.  Yet, such a trespass was unthinkable. The driver always walked over to the store for a Nu-Grape, then sat leaning against a sycamore trunk smoking Luckies while the line of applicants for library books snaked in one door of the bookmobile and out the other.  Ten, maybe fifteen minutes was the limit allowed inside.  The ever-present press of those behind, waiting their turn, frustrated the brief quarter-hour in the bookmobile world.
     A sustained and reverent hush filled the small cavern, its walls bumpy with book spines.  Visitors shuffled the length of the room, transfixed by titles, offering and receiving whispered counsel.
     “If you’ll check out Anastasia for me this time, I’ll let you get a book on my card next time.  If you get that one, don’t read it before you go to sleep, or you won’t.”
     The books were there for the taking, but choosing was agony.  Four. Only four at a time to keep for two weeks.  One had to choose carefully.  Trouble was, once the book had been read enough to know if it was the right one, there was little left to be read at home.  Yet it was impossible to put the book back on the shelf half-read.  Sometimes, the only thing to do was to act on blind faith, or maybe a word of wisdom from a fifth-grader whose name appeared on the checkout slip in the front pocket.
     My selections made, I faced the trial of the checkout desk.  The librarian sat behind it.  Serious and graying, she embodied all the authority vested in her by the Galveston County Library System.  She wore navy or brown, buttoned and cuffed even in August.  She would sometimes stop, rubber stamp lifted in midair, and peer deep into my soul to determine if the book I had chosen was on my reading level.  A second-grader dared not attempt to pass herself off as going into fourth.
     There were two ways to walk home.  I could trot along in the noontime heat on the dusty, narrow shoulder of the road – the quicker to arrive home and be at the tempting stories tucked under my arm.  Or, I could start reading as I walked, stepping too high or too low over the uneven ground while the words bounced in and out of focus, stark against the glaring page. Neither choice was satisfactory.
     The best stories happened far away, in places real or not so real. Places past the boundaries of the known world – beyond Houston or Galveston.  Places somewhere along the distant reaches of the Santa Fe Railway – across the bumpy brown waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Albuquerque, Shangri-La, the moon.  Places where possibilities were wonderfully frightening, where I might someday be plunked down to live out adventures and do great deeds millions of miles from chores or arithmetic or similar pressing problems.   
     My transport was simple and sure – long afternoons spent stretched on a quilt under the trees, lulled by the sway of leaf-filtered sunshine across the mesmerizing words on the page.  Roll away, roll away, roll away.  The effect was consistent, the results reliable.  Every burden of my eight-year-old heart always rolled away.
     By the time I could reach the top shelves without effort, standing head and shoulders above the better part of the bookmobile crowd, the summers had grown shorter. The world was miraculously reduced to a manageable list of continents and oceans suspended in a universe whose orbs I could comfortably name.  The engineers on the trains rarely waved from their rocking cars, or at least, not that I noticed.
     The books were thicker now.  The far-away places named within their pages were unquestionably real and had come frighteningly close.  Wounded Knee, Hiroshima, Auschwitz.
     More frequently I rode instead of walked.  With friends, with boys, or taking the wheel myself.  Once, during a summer storm, when I drove past the post office, the somber, dark form of the bookmobile sat beneath the thrashing sycamores.  Its doors were sealed against the rain.  It glistened and seemed oddly small.
     I don’t remember when the bookmobile stopped coming.  The last summer before I drove away, over the railroad tracks to places very far and very real, I think it may have parked there by the post office once or twice.
     Then the reading changed.  It was now the means rather than the once glad end I’d come to know in summers past.  I plowed through volumes etched with eye-squinting print – heavy, weighty, bound as though they meant business. Descartes, Kant, Nietzsche.  Sometimes the heavy books would slip onto the floor unseen by eyes closed beneath lids every bit as heavy. In dreams I rode the bookmobile.  Seated in the sacred seat, I steered along the railroad tracks, rocking off to some unnamed land, reading books on any level with wild abandon.  Roll away, roll away, roll away. 
     Through the years, I’ve seen a bookmobile once or twice.  Not mine.  A sleeker, fuel-efficient model, air-conditioned, tinted windows, slipping through the traffic en route to some nameless little town.  There must be children there.  Lined up.  Waiting.  Waiting for the bookmobile to take them far away.
Copyright © 1992 Margaret Symmank   

Friday, November 4, 2011

On Traveling from New Mexico to Houston by poet and essayist Kay Cox

Native Texan, visual artist and poet, Kay L. Cox is a retired art and family therapist.  Her poems have been published in Sol Magazine, That Thing We Do, Map of Austin and the 2010 Texas Poetry Calendar.  She was the winner of the 2008 Robert Clark Appreciation Award and a member of the Poetry Society of Texas, Gulf Coast Poets, the Austin Poetry Society, Spectrum Writers Guild and the Galveston Art League. She loves skinny vanilla lattes, puppy breath, and moonbeams but hates panty hose and housework. 

Kay Cox will be a featured essay reader at Friendswood Public Library on Wednesday, February 29th at 7pm.

On Traveling from New Mexico to Houston
by Kay Cox

          My husband and I love road trips.  Late one spring we found ourselves on the way home from New Mexico through Clayton, N.M. and on into the panhandle of Texas.  It was growing dark and, tired and hungry, we began to look for a place to spend the night.
          Driving along Hwy. 287, we saw the lights of a small town ahead across the plains and soon we were in Kirkland, Texas following the directions on a sign advertising the Three Oaks Inn.  The green neon sign in front announced “Vacancy” and with relief, we pulled in at the russet brick one-story building.  Walking into the small lobby, we found a tiny grey-haired lady in her 60s behind the desk watching the small TV across the room next to a small table with a coffee pot and cups shining in the light of the TV.
            “Hi, cain ah hep you?” she asked.  We explained that we wanted a double for the night as she turned back to the weather report on the TV reporting tornadoes near Amarillo.  “Goodness, I sure hope that it doesn’t come near here.  Let’s see, how about I put you in the back away from the traffic noise,” she said.  “Perfect,” answered my husband.  Handing him the key, the woman told us, “There will be coffee here in the morning.”
            We stashed our bags and turned on the AC to try to clear out the musty smell of the room.  Obviously this motel was not booming with business.  With roaring stomachs, we wandered back to the front desk for a dinner recommendation.  The desk clerk interrupted her TV watching and pondered on what might still be open at 7:30 at night.  She said that there was a good place next door that had good Mexican food and we could just walk over there.  Sounded great to us and we headed for La Benito’s through their crowded parking lot. 
            We were immediately escorted to a booth across from a long buffet with enchiladas, tacos, rice, beans and some salad stuff.  Looking around we saw only a few folk at tables and wondered about all the cars out front.
            As we sat in our booth enjoying the buffet, we noticed more folks arriving, passing our booth and going to a door at the end of the booths and tables.  Each time the door opened, we could hear a band playing.  Something was definitely going on in the back room.
            Finishing our dinner, we got up to pay our bill and asked the waitress about the back room.  She explained that they had a band every Friday night and folks came to listen to the music and dance.  She said we were welcome to go on back and join them, no cover charge.  So we did.
            As soon as we walked in, we were given a warm welcome and found a seat on the outskirts of the dance floor.  The band consisted of 3 older men playing a guitar, a fiddle and drums, respectively, and they sounded pretty good.  Looking around the room, the women outnumbered the men two to one and most were on the other side of 60.  The women were all dressed up in their best dance outfits.  One little woman who had to be  80 plus wore a bright red cowgirl shirt, a denim skirt and bright red cowboy boots.  Another elegant woman with silver hair was beautifully dressed matching denim blouse and skirt with big diamond earrings and an enormous diamond ring.  I learned later she was ninety…definitely a West Texas Grand Dame.
            The group seemed happy to include us even in our rumpled travel clothes.  Ken was especially popular (an “extra male”) and we danced a few rounds and sat down to have a beer.  Some folk joined us to get our story but the dance floor was the focus. 
            As Ken and I two-stepped around the floor, I kept looking for a tip box or somewhere to leave some money for the band since there was no cover charge.  Finally as tired travelers, we had had enough and Ken approached the lead singer of the band and asked him where we might leave some money.  The guy cracked up and said, “I’ve heard of folks havin’ to pay to get in but I ain’t never heard of anyone paying to get out.  You don’t owe us anything.  We just play because we like to do it.”  We left a few dollars anyway in a box of electrical cords.
            The next morning, after packing the car, we went to the front desk to check out.  Now there was a pretty blond woman in her forties with teased Texas big hair behind the desk.  She greeted us warmly, offered coffee and asked about our stay.  We told her about the wonderful time we had at the dance hall next door and about some of the people we met.  She laughed and explained in a Texas drawl to match her hair, “Oh, honey, I know them all.  I’m Billie Ruth, the local hair dresser, and they all come to me to get their hair done before the weekend.  I know all about them, who is dancing with whom, everything.  On Thursdays, they dance at the Senior Center at the church.  Fridays, they dance here and then on Saturdays, they go out to the country club about 20 miles away.  The ones that are still able to drive go around and pick the others up and they dance until about 10:30 and then head home.  Last Halloween they all went to a big Halloween dance at the club and got all dressed up in costumes.  I did their hair and they were something else, let me tell you.  They didn’t get home until midnight and must have had a wild time because several of them called me early the next morning to fix their hair before they went to church.”
            We have laughed over this little adventure and are just so glad that we took the time to meet these folks.  I sometimes envy folks living in small rural towns; they get creative and generous with their entertainment.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Laughing and Learning with Communication Expert Amy Castro

Communication expert Amy Castro presented a 90 minute workshop entitled Communication Skills for Getting Along and Getting Things Done at the Friendswood Public Library. During the presentation, Amy shared some of her favorite communication skills from her book, “Practical Communication: 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done.” Her book will soon be available for check out at the Friendswood Public Library. And look for Amy Castro to return for another communication workshop in May.