Monday, July 30, 2012

3 poems by Robert P. Craig, Ph.D.

Robert P. Craig has earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Loyola University, and a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies from Wayne State University. He has taught philosophy at the University of Houston, and also in Malaysia, Indonesia, Beijing, and Saigon.  He has published 6 books of poetry with numerous other poems in print and online journals. He has also published 7 books in philosophy and has given around 230 professional papers in philosophy in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and China.

The Time Came 


The lowest note
of the organ
at Mass hearing
wonderous melodious
hymns is what I
touch all day. 


Spring moon
we embrace
as if I were a
shadow on the
Shadow Screen. 


Now it is night she
stares into a face
of parchment, dances
with words, praying
nearest the dawn: the
Chapel door is always open. 


A new dimension
manifests with the
wind on my face
and children on the
lawn, all this against
a motionless sky. 


I am time: settle in
with me: we can see peace
and make love together.



The moon
hung sharper 

harder framed
in clouds 

darker against
lights brighter: 

because last
night I 

dreamed of
you: and 

because I
dreamed the 

day was
complete total 

whole, splashed
around again 

and again
and festive: 

tonight we
may be 

electrified with
a pin 

of light
grasping gapping 

its way
back on 

a flat
black sea, 

Later That Afternoon

You are a river
that flows banking
over.  Despite all
adversities you must
stream scream like
Galveston Island.

You are like an
untwisted paperback
novel with empty
sheets of paper,
unnumbered: you fill
fuel it.  I hope I
can catch up. 

Poems by Robert P. Craig

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Small, Unnoticed Crime by 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.  



by Margaret Symmank

     The railroad tracks ran past our house just the other side of a narrow, winding road and a weed-grown gully.  They crossed a trestle over a drainage ditch banked with sour-smelling mud and teeming with minnows and crawfish destined to be seined up in a tow sack – a task my brother and I undertook with religious regularity.  On occasion we’d stop seining and stand stock still, knee-deep in the slow, brown stream for the passing of a water moccasin.

     The possibility that one of us might be flattened by a train, bitten by a snake, drowned or carried off by some rail-riding vagrant was, for our mother, a constant concern.  It was also the force that drew us like small, barefoot magnets to the railroad tracks against her daily warnings.  We were confident in our ability to escape any threat that came our way.  The chance that we might have to held irresistible appeal.

     My brother was six years older than I, and at twelve was admirably reckless and capable of any number of wonderful things.  He could catch crawfish, cook them over an open fire on the ditch bank and eat them right out of the pan.  While he engaged in this remarkable activity, I hung around gathering sticks for the fire and trying to look as though I would eat muddy crawfish if I felt like it – I just wasn’t hungry.  Secretly, I knew I would never be that hungry.  If he sent me back to the house for supplies, more Tabasco sauce or bacon for the frying pan, I’d build one of my special deluxe, double-decker, peanut-butter-and-sweet-pickle sandwiches and eat it as I trekked back, feeling vaguely unworthy.

     My brother made lucky pieces from pennies and dimes he’d stack together on the tracks to be smashed flat by a train. The result was predictable and impressive. In an instant, pocket change was transformed to a tiny silver moon rising against the copper circle of a miniature sun, marked with the name of God  – paper thin and warm in your hand. I’d watch the artistic process from a nearby tree, then scurry down when the train had passed to retrieve the latest creation. It was an illegal act, my brother told me – damaging federal property.  But it was really his money after all, and he wasn’t afraid of any government agent.  He wasn’t afraid of anything.  He once picked a live wasp nest from under the railroad bridge and put it in a cigar box.  I’d seen him haul a snapping turtle from the water, clamp-jawed and hissing, on a stick.  I would have followed him anywhere, and often tried, to his considerable annoyance.

     My sister was sandwiched between us in age, three years my senior, three years his junior, and a stabilizing influence on the both of us.  When B.J. prepared to fry up the crawfish, Millie insisted he sterilize the blade of his pocketknife before cleaning his catch.  Listerine was her antiseptic of choice.  She often stepped in as the voice of reason, quelling my attempts to launch a kitten on a kite, dye my hair with food coloring and eradicate a large bed of ants from under the house by setting fire to them.  The summer I scared myself silly inventing stories of criminals hiding out by the railroad tracks, she did her best to resolve my fears by explaining that there was no suitable place for them to sleep by the tracks; nothing to eat, except crawfish, which we both agreed didn’t count as real food; and surely not even a criminal would wash himself in that nasty ditch water.

      It was a logical argument. But, logic had little effect on imagination gone out of control. I first began to worry when I heard the grown-ups reminiscing one night during a summer storm.  In those days, rain and high wind invariably knocked out the electricity, and we spent many an evening reading comic books or playing cards by the light of a kerosene lamp, waiting for the power company to work its way out to us.

     My parents and my aunt and uncle sat around the dinning room table, talking and eating sardines and crackers, their faces golden in the lamplight, their voices lapping over each others’ in collective memory.  Favorite topics were the wars, both I and II, and the Depression.

     During the Depression, our house belonged to my grandparents.  They built it in the early thirties in Arcadia – a rambling, 1½ story structure with high ceilings and tall windows shuttered with metal storm blinds.  My grandparents struggled through the grim decade of the ‘30’s in that house, selling fruit from a small fig orchard.  After the fig trees froze in a record-setting South Texas freeze, they raised chickens and sold eggs.

     They witnessed boxcar loads of men riding past the house looking for work, or hope, or sometimes just for supper.  They were desperate men, my father said.  Family men, many of them, who had left wives and children and places where there were no jobs and headed off to other places where there were likely no jobs either.

     They would appear at the back door of the house offering to do work for a little money or something to eat.  There was no work and no money.  My grandmother invented odd jobs to salvage their pride and swapped the chores for egg sandwiches.  She always had cracked eggs she couldn’t sell, so she fed the men as many sandwiches as they could eat, then gave them a sack full to take along when they went.

     In time the rail-riders diminished in number, and only a few unfortunates stopped by for food.  By then, the masses of unemployed had dwindled – absorbed by a world busy with war.  Those who were left became a nuisance to many, suspect for not being soldiers or otherwise engaged in the war effort.  They were dubbed “hobos” – of questionable character at best and generally unwelcome.  But my grandmother still fed any who stopped and asked.  She would leave the food on the back porch and step back in the house while the travelers ate.  When they’d gone, she’d collect their dishes.

     Some said that the hobos left markers near the tracks for the benefit of others who came after them, a pattern of sticks or rocks indicating where a meal might be had.  Only one or two came to the house the year before my grandmother died.  Now, in the prosperous fifties, no hobos came at all.

     I sat in the thin spill of lamplight, spellbound by tales that seemed very long ago but not at all far away.  My aunt was of the opinion that my grandmother had taken unnecessary risks and was lucky a hobo hadn’t knocked her over the head for her trouble and then come in to rob the house.  She said they were only common criminals toward the end.  Neighbors had also questioned my grandmother’s judgment, asking her why she would take such a chance.  They were hungry, my grandmother said.

     I tried to visualize those common criminals who had once sat eating egg sandwiches on our back porch.  I’d never seen a criminal, common or otherwise, and I wrestled with the image, until I came face-to-felonious-face with an entire wall full in the post office.  I don’t know how I’d missed them before.  The “Wanted” posters displayed dozens of devious types in front view and profile, charged with a staggering array of crimes.  They stared out at me from smudged, black and white squares, tight-lipped and mean-eyed, their hair in wild disarray.  They looked as though they’d been wakened too soon and were plenty mad about it. There was no doubt – these were desperate men.  Desperate enough to commit armed robbery or kidnapping, then hop a train and turn up hungry.

     As I stood before that wall of would-be hobos, my heart pounded against the smashed penny and dime medallion that hung on a string around my neck – a reminder that I had been party to the destruction of federal property and now stood on federal ground wearing the evidence.  Evidence that could, I suddenly realized, expose me for what I was – a common criminal.  In an instant I saw my school picture, front view and profile, among the “Wanted” posters.  I snatched hold of the lucky piece and dropped it down my shirtfront, praying that no one had seen.  Government agents could be anywhere.  From that moment on, there were two things I wanted desperately.  One was to wipe away my dishonorable past, forget my transgressions and go straight.  The other was to make absolutely certain that I never saw any of those faces I’d seen on the post office wall turn up at our back door.

     I took to combing the railroad tracks and surrounding areas for hobo signs.  Search and destroy missions.  Maybe I’d find rocks laid out like an arrow pointing to our house, or a cryptic symbol etched in the hard, black dirt, some long overlooked message from one hobo to another, a mysterious communication that would bring common criminals to our door.  But there were none.  Only the blackened remains of my brother’s cooking fire and a little pile of crawfish pincers, sun-bleached and closed harmlessly for all time.

     I sometimes thought I saw a distant figure on the railroad tracks, stooped and sinister, moving slowly and steadily in my direction.  It usually proved to be our dog, Madge, trotting casually between the rails or, more often than not, an apparition left from last night’s dreams.

     That year, sometime in October, summer let loose her last hold on fall.  The wind turned sharp and pushed around the eaves and whistled over the slats of the blinds.  The days grew gray and shorter.  One late afternoon, Millie and I lay on our stomachs on the living room floor by the fire, dully turning comic book pages, one eye cocked toward the TV screen.  The Mouseketeers announced their names in cheery salute, one after another, for the one-hundredth time.

     Mother, back from town with groceries to be brought in, knocked loudly on the back door, then rattled it for emphasis.  We detached ourselves from Nancy and Sluggo, and Archie and Veronica, respectively, and scooted through the dinning room into the kitchen.  Halfway across the room, Millie halted abruptly.  I shot past her, stopping inches from the back door.  The red and yellow roosters on the kitchen door curtain framed a face dead center in the door glass.  It was not my mother waiting to be let in.  It was a hobo.

     He was the most remarkable looking person I had ever seen.  He was very, very dirty.  It seemed to be accumulated dirt, a dark olive-gray-brown that permeated his clothes and skin and hair, making them sooty and greasy and all the same flat hue as though he’d been colored top to bottom with some large, horrid Crayon.  His eyes were pinched and his mouth was tired.  There were wrinkles – folds in his skin and in his old, old clothes.  His jacket was alternately frayed and slick.  He seemed to be all but used up from head to toe, but whatever part was left hung on just beneath his skin.  It peered out hard through his glistening eyes, through the window glass and straight at me.

     There were mere inches and a pane of glass between us.  I barely breathed.  Suddenly Millie was beside me.  She reached for the window shade, jerking it down with a swoosh, and the hobo disappeared – wiped away like a drawing on my Magic Slate when the plastic sheet was lifted.

     We tiptoed back to the living room where we crouched behind an armchair and peered out through the lowered blinds.  The hobo walked around the side of the house, across the yard and out the front gate.  He crossed the road, dropped down in the gully momentarily, then came up again onto the tracks, heading on in the direction he had been going.  We were a small detour – a momentary hope, unfulfilled.     

     I only saw the hobo’s face for a few, fleeting seconds, but I see it clearly still.  It’s a face I’ve seen many times since, on the news, in the streets, on old men, young women, babies and children.  The face of want is recognizable in all its soul-wrenching variety.  It’s sometimes edged with sickness or pain, pride or anger, and always an ongoing weariness that feeds on the constant diet of too little, too late.

     Sometimes I recall the hobo’s visit, and in my mind I change what happened.  In the style of my grandmother, I ask him to wait in the yard, and I build a stack of my special deluxe, double-decker, peanut-butter-and-sweet-pickle sandwiches.  I leave them on the back porch for him, along with a sack full to take with him.  I smile at him politely through the door glass.  The smile means that I know a desperate man does not necessarily make a hobo – any more than a smashed penny on a string makes a common criminal.

     The summer after the hobo, my brother stopped making lucky pieces. When he turned thirteen he gave the last one to a girl.  As far as I know, he remained on the right side of the law thereafter and is now retired to a ranch in the Hill Country and leads a reasonably respectable life.  My sister and I never ate any crawfish from the ditch.  I had been right about that; I’ve never been that hungry.

     In my second version of the hobo story – the one that didn’t happen – I always think about giving him my lucky piece.  But I never do.  I know it’s not enough.


Friday, July 13, 2012

In a Town With No Bookstores by Owen Egerton

The essay below was originally published on What She Might Think: web-home of author Erin Pringle-Toungate

. . . I'd sneak a copy of some 
bloody horror or erotic thriller 
into a nook of the children's area 
and wish to God I could read!

Friendswood had one library. Of course, this excludes the pillow-padded, lunch-hour harbor school library which locked its door for the hottest months. In the summer you had one choice: the small, early-70's-style, green-carpeted, pale-walled, nearly air-conditioned public library. My sister and I would tag along with my mother once or twice a month. In a town with no bookstores, in a time with no internet, it was her one outlet for new writings. I found the place mysterious and overwhelming. So many books! And unlike our child-proof school libraries, the public library had adult books with dark, forbidding--and by forbidding, inviting--covers. Flowers in the Attic, Coma, Carrie. These dark books my mother or the elderly librarian (I'm sure she was nearly forty!) would snatch from my palms as if they were hot tubes of black-tar heroin.

But sometimes I'd sneak a copy of some bloody horror or erotic thriller into a nook of the children's area and wish to God I could read! I'd imagine the stories, whisper plot lines to match the covers and wonder at the weight of the pages.

As years went by, I recall other hours spent with my bicycle parked outside browsing science books and old copies of National Geographic. In those days you could check out newspapers from around the country, too. Like the post office, this place seemed to be in conversation with parts of the world I only knew from maps. This one, clumsy building was the town's nerve link to Africa, Australia, Europe. But no one seemed to care. One thing I clearly remember. The library was never crowded.

For a middle-school project, I used the library like an eager post-grad degree candidate, passionately researching how to build a kite, making weak copies from the buzzing Xerox machine and feeling incredibly scholarly. That one project was a heady experience. I had walked in not knowing something and walked out with enough new knowledge to teach my 6th grade science class a hands-on-lesson on kites.

I don't recall any guides in the library, can't picture a helpful face recommending the perfect book or new subject. I'm sure they were there, but I mainly recall the massive amount of options--shelf after shelf after shelf of hardback, mysterious texts.

I went to the library less as a teenager. Looking back, I'm surprised I didn't spend more hours there. At the time, I believed books were serious, quiet things. I believed the customary hush was not so others could read undisturbed, but so the books might sit undisturbed--like ancient, dead gods. I still believe books are serious--but they are also lusty little demons willing to yank, cut, kiss and steal. As a young man, I had yet to balance my reverence with irreverence, yet to learn that the contents of book can sing and scream.

We now live a block from a public library in Austin, Texas. Just a month ago, newly seven-years old, my daughter applied and received her first library card. I let her check out whatever books she wanted for the family. We left with a children's book on space travel, another on dinosaurs and also a collection of Thoreau's letters and Bukowski's poems. Brilliant.


Owen Egerton lives and writes in Austin, TX and Los Angeles, CA. He is a performer, screenwriter, and the author of three books of fiction, Marshall Hollenzer is Driving (Writer's Club Press, 2001), How Best to Avoid Dying (Dalton, 2007) and The Book of Harold, the Illegitimate Son of God (Soft Skull Press, 2012).

Egerton is currently on his book-tour for The Book of Harold.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mary Lou Darst program at FPL

Mary Lou Darst shared many fascinating experiences from her memoir War Ready: in my father’s shadow last night at the Friendswood Public Library. 

Mary Lou Darst has been invited to read from her book War Ready: in my father’s shadow at the Americans in Munich Project in Munich, Germany in October of 2012. A translator will be present to translate into German.  The Americans in Munich Project is celebrating the fifty years Americans were in Munich. Former students of Munich American High School will also be present. Dr. Karin Pohl from the Giesing Museum has organized this event honoring Americans and their contributions to the German people. There are photographs from Americans who lived in Munich during those fifty years displayed in the Giesing Museum.  Mary Lou looks forward to returning to Munich after fifty-three years.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2 poems by FPL featured poet, John Milkereit

John Milkereit began writing poetry after taking a seminar on the poetry of Billy Collins in 2005 at his local church. His poems have appeared in Harbinger Asylum, Swirl, Poetry Revolt, the Texas Poetry Calendar and has been a juried poet at the Houston Poetry Fest the last three years.  He also recorded several of his poems at Taping for the Blind. Pudding House Press published his chapbooks in 2010, and Paying Admissions was a Finalist-of Note in their 2009 chapbook competition. During the day, he is a rotating equipment specialist at a Houston engineering firm.

John Milkereit will be a featured poet at the FPL Poetry Series reading on Wednesday, July 18 at 7pm.  Other poets include Donna Cozart Pauley, Glynn Monroe Irby, and Dodie Meeks.

Because You Requested Poetry About Jimi Hendrix and Eggplant 

A dream must exist,
one about walking under
the flesh of a purple sea
soft and bitter.

The trip is rich and salted.
The sky acts funny as clouds
resemble five-lobed corolla
and shadows of birds oil across

whatever spell is mashed into this
brain dish.  Backstage a riff plays,
the air cries out the yellow flower’s
amplified release which begins the

stew of awakening in you
drifting onto an island
pollen-blotted and curried
for lavender.

--John Milkereit

Disgruntled Tree  

--from Mary Temple’s light installation Northwest Corner, Southeast Light 

No you cannot take my picture for the gazillionth time
or the greatest of insults paint shadows on the wooden
floor so you can trick people with bottle-nosed psychology
and who really cares about a sense of equilibrium I hate magnolias
but you know that even though I’m your neighbor in
Central Park and they’re from a Houston temple which
seems like I’m on an ouija board not a wall so don’t think
I’m calm after applying tiny-weensy brushstrokes of sealant
which is the opposite of your title this swath is the southwest
corner lady and light is from the northeast direction of your
little trompe l’oeil I will live longer than you and the carpenters
I suffer after feeling your nails and sanding what about
a day off when you are not carving or pissing what about
a couple minutes of voir dire to admit I’m smarter than you
and your little thing-a-ma-bob projector I will never visit this
gallery again even though I admit to digging the last exhibit
when the metal-airplane-looking wing jutted through glass
I will not embrace any more silhouettes I hate sucking
up to your “not-knowing” confusion because it is all fake
fake fake I would rather talk to a yam thanks to you I’m all
Alfred Hitchcock now with the birds but I am not like that
I lied about the magnolias I like magnolias and Dominique de
Menil because she hugs I don’t have to pose in your fantastic
fantasy behind a camera if you could just see with your own
naked eyes it is just so psycho and sorry all of this is just
really really sad

--John Milkereit

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

3 poems by poet, Terry Jude Miller

Terry Jude Miller is a published and award winning poet from Fort Bend County, Texas.  A Juried Poet of the 2011 Houston Poetry Festival, his work has been published in dozens of print and online publications.  His poem, "The Diagnosis", appeared in the Birmingham Arts Journal. He has read his poetry at venues throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.  Miller has just published his third book titled "The Butterfly Canonical." His two previous books of poetry are titled "The Day I Killed Superman" and "What If I Find Only Moonlight?" He is a member of the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Society of Texas, and the Gulf Coast Poets Society. Terry is a retired professor of eMarketing and held an Innovation Fellowship at Kaplan University.  He currently works as a marketing communications online systems and support manager for a Fortune Global 500 company. 

The Long Kiss

It is time's most practiced trick to turn what seems like yesterday
into decades of marriage, but here we are in our dog-earred page
of heaven watching the sun slip from its barky hook behind our
neighbor's pecan tree. This is a quiet time with few spoken
words because most of our communication has become telepathic
through practice and the unfolded knowledge of each other.
When we do speak, it's to break the silence with the most
important of all words, followed by a kiss, that for some grateful
reason, is longer than usual tonight.

~Terry Jude Miller

Letters To The Dead

I am east and you are as west as the sun will go. It is April, the
month of your birth. The mornings have learned to sing again
with the trembling voice of first light. I find it easier to talk to
you when I write down what I have to say. There are volumes on
my bookshelf gathering dust and sadness. Reflection is thin stem
ware that breaks at the least provocation; but if I fill it just right
and stroke it lightly with my tear-moistened finger, it sings just
what I desire to hear. Much forgiveness rolled between us in your
final years, followed by acceptance of never being able to change
what sets fast in early days. I imagine standing in your shadow,
then you stepping aside to let the sun reach me, as it does this
April morning when I wish you were here to share one more day's

~Terry Jude Miller


in aqua arc
of the oscillating sprinkler
a mockingbird batons
his smoky wings
like a mad conductor
to keep his feathered being
aflight in the cool reprieve

clouds tearless for two months
hang like socks nailed to a blue wall
the early heat of late spring
pierces tiny creatures
who dare come so close

driven by necessities
risk-taking replaces knowledge
to sate thirsts
that prove the bird
in a partial definition of life

the sprinkler remains on
until the bather has quenched
his body

I am sated too
from a thirst of which
I was unaware

~Terry Jude Miller

More poems by Terry Jude Miller: 
Musician Wife

Video Poems by Terry Jude Miller:
Letters to the Dead