Archive for the ‘Photography,’ Category

Rattlesnakes Are Fair: A New Free Kindle Book

September 16, 2018

My new book Rattlesnakes Are Fair: Stories from Where I Grew Up and Where I Live has just been published on Kindle. The book includes short stories, photographs, anecdotes, reflections, and jokes with a rural-America flavor. The photographs included were taken in Northwest Indiana, where I grew up and in Colorado, Kansas, Ohio and Maine, where I have lived as an adult. Many, including the cover photo, were taken by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Rattlesnakes is available for free on Kindle for five days, September 16 through September 20. You do not need a Kindle machine. You can view it on PC, Mac, or phone. As usual on Kindle, there are many spacing and paragraphing problems that did not show up in the previewer.

Rattlesnakes Are Fair

 

My two previous books will also be available for free, but only for two days, September 16 and 17:

Mikey Works at the Grocery

 

Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders & George Armstrong Custer

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I Dream My Mother Enrolls in Freshman Lit.

September 14, 2018

 

“Why,” I ask, “did Cather superimpose
a plow on the face of the sun?” 

But the sullen guy I call on won’t talk
and you   Mother   you sit next to him
in the front row
smiling

“No doubt she had her reasons” you reply 

“Could the plow symbolize
domestication of the prairie?
Could the sun represent life?”

“Oh, I doubt that, Dear
Now take your words outside”

 

(first published in Taurus)

 

The Teacher and His Mom. Photo by Bernie Smetzer.

The Teacher and His Mom. Photo by Bernie Smetzer.

He Ain’t Barking at the Clouds

September 7, 2018

 

Squirrel’s not happy   He’s
flipping his tail
up and down   He wants to
punch someone out
Look out!   Squirrel’s gone
squirrelly   He’s mad I
tell you   Stay clear!

Keep out of squirrel’s
mulberry tree   Keep away
from his lady   Shit!
This ain’t no time to
go out on a limb

 

First published in Graduate Newspaper, Univ. of Kansas.

 

Checking Out the Noisy Neighbor. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Checking Out the Noisy Neighbor. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Among the Not Included (for anyone who has published an anthology)

August 27, 2018

 

Among the not included
is an angry poet from Somewhere, Kansas
He is stomping on the fields
and bellowing in the clouds
The crackling volts from his eyes
have filled the sky with imminent lightning
Eternal darkness is his shadow
and H-bombs explode in his swinging fists
Sound the alarm from the silos of Kansas!
He is striding out over the hills
It is time publishers and editors left town
for printers to close up their shops
and go to lettering tombstones
The very Thunderhead Poet of the Prairie
is moving in from the west
Editorial advisors had best not be found

 

First published in Graduate Newspaper, Univ. of Kansas.

 

Granddad Smetzer & Frank Aust - The Hog Pays for Its Feed. Family photo.

When the editor’s work is done, the critics’ work begins. (Smetzer family photo. Frank Aust & Granddad.)

You Say You Love a Wife Beater Divorced Three Times

August 20, 2018

 

The saber still rises through the air
in the memory of his third wife
as he chases her from their house
and two blocks down the street.

There he collapsed and you found him,
crying and impotent,
a little boy with a thin wet beard.
So you took him home.

You hung his saber as a decoration
above your sofa.
Each night you rocked and sang
him to sleep.

But he has grown stronger
and he no longer cries and pleads.
He pushes you out of your bed.
Shouts summon you in the night.

One day you return to find
the saber vanished from the wall.
Out back you watch him practice
on the saplings in your yard.

Once a woman who had lost her child
found a baby wolf and brought it home.
She didn’t think of pain
until the teeth began to nurse.

  

First published in Kansas Quarterly.

 

Strangler Vine in Onset, MA. Family Photo from Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Strangler Vine in Onset, MA. Family Photo from Vera Lisa Smetzer.

A Man Who Told the Truth

August 13, 2018


A man who told the truth
wouldn’t say much
He’d sit all day and watch his life
Sometimes he’d pick up a stick
and break it
Maybe he would sit on a log
and watch the oaks
or on a park bench in some quiet town
He might walk around some city
stepping over cracks 

It wouldn’t really matter
If he were to tell the truth
what could he say?
That spring leaves are green
and winter leaves are brown?
That children run in circles
while old men walk straight lines?
That cities are full of cracks?

 

First published in Wind.

 

Dad at the South Rim, 1950's. Sometimes the most important thing about a scenic wonder like the Grand Canyon is just a little bit of shade. Photo by Viola Smetzer.

Dad at the South Rim, 1950’s. Sometimes the most important thing about a scenic wonder like the Grand Canyon is just a little bit of shade.

Going Flat in Bowling Green, Ohio

August 6, 2018

 

“Flatness has a leveling effect,” I said.
“This horizon thins you.
No mountains lift your eyes.
No valleys drop the ground from under you.
Summer melts you over like a candle in the sun.
Then winter freezes you flat with level snow.” 

“Or flatness attracts flatness,” Ann said.
“Eagles nest in the mountains.
Whales sound the ocean deep.
But buzzards flock to Hinckley,
and potato cakes come here.” 

Dan came back from Toledo.
“If it weren’t for friction,” he said,
“you could slap a puck from here to Lake Erie
without finding a hill to stop it
or a natural dip it could fall in.”

 

First published in Red Rock.

 

Ma & Pa Smetzer arrive in Bowling Green, Ohio, from Wichita, Kansas. Flatness to flatness. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Ma & Pa Kettle Smetzer arrive in Bowling Green, Ohio, from Wichita, Kansas. flatness to flatness. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

The Milk House

July 30, 2018

 

The stones are crawling from their mortar
to settle like old farmers in the clay 

Their fields have sprouted puffball houses
Red flags ripen in the orchard

 

First published in Tellus.

 

Family Photo from Bernie Smetzer

Family Photo from Bernie Smetzer

The Old Farmer

July 27, 2018

 

He was lying like a twig in the hay
the old farmer
Dad and I raised him, each on a side
and carried him to his kitchen door 

There, at the top of the steps, we danced
trying to enter the narrow passage
His legs going separate ways
waved apart before us 

The speechless anger in his eyes
was all that age had left
of the dignity of living on his land

 

First published in Cottonwood.

 

Remains of a Farm Wagon Behind Our House. Photo by Mike Smetzer

Remains of a Farm Wagon Behind Our House. Photo by Mike Smetzer

Mikey Works at the Grocery

July 22, 2018

 

My little book of daft humor Mikey Works at the Grocery was published last week. It is now available for free on Kindle for three days, July 22 to 24. You do not need a Kindle machine. You can view it on PC, Mac, or phone. Many of the photographs are by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

Link to Book

 

A 5¢ pay raise! Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

A 5¢ pay raise! Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

 

An Unsettling Day at the Store

I was making jokes like usual, but no one was smiling. Like when you are reminiscing to you wife about some really fun thing the two of you did years ago. But she gets quiet and seems to be listening too closely. And you think, oh wait, who was I with?

 

I told my manager I was getting a colonoscopy. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

I told my manager I was getting a colonoscopy. Photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer.

 

Slime in the Parking Lot

During my first break yesterday I got a phone call from a front end supervisor. I heard her say, “Can you come to the front? There is slime flowing around in the parking lot.” Sounded urgent so I advised her to page my partner who was working in the backroom. “What the hell,” I thought. “Could be a septic pumper with a leaky valve!” I hurried down at the end of my break and asked if my partner was still outside. “Yes,” she replied with great seriousness. I went into the parking lot to help. Couldn’t find my partner. Couldn’t find any slime.

I went out back and found my partner at work. “What was in the parking lot?” I asked, excitedly.  He looked puzzled. “It was just one of the yellow floor cone signs we set out in the fire lane. Someone knocked it over. The front end called for me to “take care of the sign that was rolling around in the parking lot.”

I suppose I could get a hearing aid, but life would be less interesting.