Phenomenal

I read that Maya Angelou will appear on the U.S. quarter. That’s pretty cool. This is my favorite poem by her. I think I read it first in my 20s. It is called Phenomenal Woman and talks about an alluring woman verses a physically beautiful woman. Here is the full poem at the Poetry Foundation. A good and introspective read for young women:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48985/phenomenal-woman

Another great one is the poem And Still I Rise. It has a universal quality, referencing the human condition and tenacity of spirit.

https://poets.org/poem/still-i-rise?gclid=Cj0KCQiA8vSOBhCkARIsAGdp6RQLUwmra2CFqmqFVp-VWGU8HX03J8QeF3VrissVOVTsr3pX1M-CdCQaAqo3EALw_wcB

A Frosty Christmas

We drove to Manchester airport to pick up Mom and Dad for Christmas. We drove northwest through the White Mountains in the thick snow and ice. 2 interstates were closed nearby but we continued slowly onward. Nonetheless, we took the road less traveled to Franconia and the snowy path led uphill to Robert Frost’s home.

Robert Frost is considered the quintessential American bard or poet. He lived from 1874 to 1963. Right before his passing in Boston, he delivered the inaugural poem for JFK.

Robert Frost won 4 Pulitizer Prizes and the Congressional Gold Medal. He was born in San Francisco but moved alot. He lived primarily in New Hampshire and England where he was influenced by Ezra Pound, Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. Frost went to Dartmouth and Harvard. He first published in 1915. He published 2 books called North of Boston and A Boy’s Will. His poetry quickly amassed a great following and by 1920, he was known all over America and beyond.

2 Writing Publishing Opportunities

There is a new climate change-focused website that is publishing prose and poetry. It is called XR Creative and can be found at https://www.xrcreative.org. I got a message from the Joplin Writers’ Guild about the new site so I submitted a story called Golden Child about a young boy during the climate crisis. If you want to submit prose or poetry, they are accepting entries. Check it out! Great stories and great opportunity to get published and share your ideas.

Also, I submitted 2 stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Remember these fantastic books in the 90s? I had several of them and I still have the Mother edition today. Love these books. I wrote a story about Christmas and one about dogs. The submission deadline for most of the Chicken Soup books is around March or May 2022. The website is super easy to use. Check it out at http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story.

Protection

by J. Speer

Terrell had been working at the factory for fifteen years. He had seen a lot of people come and go through the years. He worked at the head table in assembly. Four weeks ago, the supervisor had clocked in another new hire as Terrell worked at his station on first shift. Terrell kept his head down and kept working but he noted the appearance of the new guy. Rough is probably how Terrell would describe him. He wore an old t-shirt and blue jeans with tears and holes in the knees. He was a white guy but had obviously been in the sun a lot. He looked weathered and old with tanned skin and noticeable wrinkles on his face. The guy wore a key chain from his belt. He looked like he hadn’t shaved in days or maybe a week or two.


Terrell kept working. The supervisor brought the new hire to his table and said the guy’s name was Mick. They started working across from each other at the table that morning. Mick was a fast learner, so it was easy to teach him the ropes. What Terrell liked about the guy was he seemed quiet and just did his work…..just like Terrell.


They had worked together for a few weeks now and barely spoke much to each other. There was an unspoken camaraderie though. Occasionally, when the background radio music lulled, they’d exchange small talk conversation. They didn’t talk about much but Terrell was pleased to learn Mick had an avid interest in sports. So they mostly talked about the Browns or different quarterbacks in the NFL. Mick seemed to like more sports than just football so they spent some time over the weeks discussing golf or basketball or even the Olympics. Terrell didn’t mind this much. It passed the time on the 10 hour daily shifts before he could go home to his family. He wasn’t there for a popularity contest. He was there to get paid and go home.


Terrell clocked out at 5 pm like usual and headed to the back alley door. He walked the 3 blocks from the factory district to the local subway station underground. He kept to himself mostly on the subway ride home. When an older woman entered from the platform, he got up quietly from his seat and offered it to her. She nodded thank you and he simply smiled briefly and looked down at his feet and then out of the subway train towards the tunnel walls of the subway system.


From station 26, he walked the rest of the way home to his apartment rental. He took the stairs up to the third floor, passing Ms. Davis on her way up with groceries. He helped her the rest of the way up the stairs to her apartment door with the bags. She smiled at him and said thanks. He smiled back and headed to his apartment door too.


The dogs greeted him at the door first. It wasn’t much of an apartment. The walls were not painted. The furniture was hand-me-downs from family or stuff bought off Craigslist. His wife was sitting at her laptop at the kitchen table. She smiled absentmindedly at him as he took off his jacket and headed to the cabinet for a glass of water. She went back to typing on her Nursing class project for school. She was in her second year at the local Community College preparing to be an RN.


“Dinner ready?” he asked.


“Yeah,” she said not looking up from behind her glasses. “It’s on the stove.”


She called the kids. They had three children ages 6, 8, and 9. Together, the family worked on setting the table. Terrell asked his kids how school was going. He kissed his wife briefly as she put away the laptop and notebooks. At the table, they all paused for prayer. The kids were in a pretty good mood that night. They had been playing Mario Kart on the Play station in the TV room.


After dinner, they cleaned up together. The kids went off to play. His wife sat back down to do homework and Terrell retreated to the bedroom. He took off his shoes, changed out of his work clothes, showered, put on some casual clothes, and then sat down to his small desk in the corner. He opened up his laptop too. By then, it was nearing 8 pm.


A few years ago, Terrell had started a YouTube channel. It wasn’t much. It wasn’t elaborate or fancy. It had grown a small following of steady subscribers over time. At first, he just wanted to share what he knew about Psalms and Proverbs and such from what he had read in his free time from the Bible. Over time, as the subscriber list grew, he would read the comments from his followers and found that some of them were in real need for guidance and help. So he prayed on this and he started writing out little prayers.


Each prayer was generally about 3 to 4 minutes long at most. He did prayers on marriage, on work, on job searching, on pets, on finding apartments, on whatever…you name it, he tried to write it….if the commenters said they needed it. Each night, he’d sit with pen and paper and come up with a good heartfelt prayer. Then he’d record himself saying the prayer and offering words of encouragement and inspiration for the folks that listened. He knew it wasn’t much but perhaps it could help here or there. He didn’t really see it as a ministry of sorts, just as words to help. He re-labeled the YouTube channel with the name, Protection Prayers.


Terrell opened up YouTube to his channel and saw the reaction to his latest video. It was a short piece on protection for one’s family. It already had 1,415 views and about 201 likes. Terrell frowned a little when he saw the few dislikes. He read through the usual comments. Towards the bottom of this video there was a bizarre comment. It was made by a viewer who went by the name Thanatos 669. The message was in another language Terrell didn’t understand.


Curiosity got the best of him and Terrell opened up an online translator. He cut and pasted the strange symbols into the translator and hit send. The words were in Greek. They read, “There was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.”


Terrell sat back in his lamp lit bedroom at his desk. He looked at the words from Revelations.


“Bizarre,”he said to himself and shaking his head.


Terrell spent the rest of the evening going over the videos and comments and working on his next video script. As he did so, he checked every so often on the kids in the other room and on his distracted wife. He helped get the kids to their showers and helped get them to bed that night. They snuggled deep under the covers as he closed the door to their room across the small hallway from his own room.


That night, Terrell and his wife went to bed about 11 am. He woke up with a start around 2 or at least he thought he did. Perhaps it was a dream. He could not tell for sure. Yes, he believed it was a dream. It had to be. A nightmare.


Terrell slept on the right side of the bed by the alarm clock and light. In the darkness, in his dream he became instantly aware of imminent and very near danger. He felt someone or something was in his room. In fact, it was directly beside him….standing next to his sleeping body. In his mind in the dream, he thought a stranger was in the apartment and next, he thought of his sleeping children and wife. The presence, the entity….it felt like death, not the devil.


Then something even stranger occurred in the dream. He was lifted from a sleeping position to a sitting position in the bed by an unknown force. His eyes were closed but his mouth opened and from his throat came a voice that was not his own. It was deep and authoritative. It simply said the same phrase 7 times rapidly in a row. The wording was foreign and strange to Terrell. It was not how he normally spoke. Not how anyone he knew normally spoke. The words were simply, “I compel you to leave this house through the blood of Jesus Christ.”


The words were repeated rapidly over and over again 7 times. Then Terrell felt the entity. He felt it’s reluctance and anger. It got directly physically behind Terrell. Then it passed through the bed frame and through the wall itself and was gone.


Terrell opened his eyes in the darkness of the little bedroom. He was sitting up in the bed. He was fearful for his family. He looked to the left to his sleeping wife. Then, he pulled back the covers and headed straight to the hallway and to his children’s room. He pushed open the door quietly and peered inside. Nothing was disturbed in the room. All three children were asleep in their bunk beds. Terrell watched them for a moment. Then he gently closed the door again to their room.


He turned around in the hallway and looked left to the apartment door. He walked over to it. He peered out the peephole expecting to see something. Outside the door, there was nothing but stairs. He checked the locks again and the chain.


He padded back barefoot across the wooden floor to the bedroom doors. There was a small butterfly night light near the children’s door and by the slight light, he could see something tiny and white on the floor. He stooped down to pick it up. He held it in his hand. It was a small white feather…..must have come from one of the kids’ pillows he reasoned. He put the feather in his pocket and returned to his bedroom. When he went back to bed, he rolled over and held his wife. She sighed in her sleep and snuggled closer to his warm body. Eventually, Terrell fell back asleep.


The next day and the days that followed one after the other at the factory, seemed to drag a bit for Terrell. He kept his strange dream to himself. No one would believe him anyways about such a weird occurrence.


Mick kept at it, working across from him at the workstation. Mick didn’t say much. They talked about the Chiefs game and the Packers a bit. When it was time for breaks, Mick would head out for a smoke and Terrell would head to the break room to check his phone and such. Terrell noticed Mick smoked a lot but that was Mick’s business he reasoned.


The nights went on as usual with dinner, the kids doing homework or playing games, and the wife at the table working on tests or assignments. He would kiss her on the forehead every now and then. He helped the kids off to showers and bedtime as usual but Terrell had sorta stopped writing the prayers and creating the YouTube content for a bit. He still checked his channel and the comments from his viewers. He noted that he had lost a few subscribers in the past few days.


On the fourth or fifth day at work, about right before quitting time, Mick stopped working across from him. He started grabbing his stuff and putting on his jacket across from Terrell to leave for the day, or so Terrell thought. Mick eyed him for a bit.


Then he said, “I think I’m gonna be moving on. This job, you know, I got other things I need to be doing and it’s not working out.” Terrell just nodded. Retention was notoriously low at the factory so he was used to people quitting.

“It was nice working with you, Mick,” Terrell said and nodded. “I wish you well.”


“Thanks,” said Mick and he slung his bag on his side. “You know, Terrell…..you shouldn’t give up writing them prayers…….they’re helping people more than you’ll ever realize.” With that, Mick turned and started walking towards the clock out station.


Terrell stared at Mick’s back. He had never told Mick anything about prayers or his YouTube channel or anything. As far as he knew, no one at the factory even knew he did that on the side.


Mick stood in line to clock out behind the others. Terrell grabbed his stuff and went to stand in line too but he was watching Mick curiously. Mick clocked out. He headed to the back door opening to the alley way.

Terrell thought for a moment………Mick, Mickey, Mike, Michael…..


Mick’s hand reached the door knob, he turned slightly and grinned briefly at Terrell as Terrell’s mind was on the name Michael.


“Be safe, Terrell, and watch out for that beautiful wife and three kids of yours. God bless.” As he said this, he reached into his pocket for his pack of cigarettes. He grabbed his lighter and something small and light and white fell out of his pocket. He stepped out into the alleyway. Mick looked up as he lit a cigarette and the back door slowly closed behind him.


Terrell clocked out. He headed for the door too. He looked down at the floor and found the item that had fallen. He picked it up and examined it. It was a small white feather…just the same as the one he had seen in the hallway outside his children’s room nights before.


He opened the door to the back alley and stepped out. He looked left. He looked right. He looked all around but Mick was gone.

Her Name was Summer

By J. Speer

Youthful Summer turns to wistful Fall that leads to melancholic Winter.
All that is new ages…
Old eventually decays,
Only to rebirth in glorious Spring.

There was a girl.
Her name was Summer.
Hot like the dry blazing suns of August.
Eyes fiery, tinged with yellow flames of passion and cinnamon spice brown.
Brown like her sunkissed, silken skin.
Soft and sweet.
Lips juicy and red as a plump, ripe berry.

But it was her vivid nature,
the brilliant sway of her graceful hips,
the small curve of her waist,
the zestful way she danced with lovers in the twilight and neon glow
of the little salsa club on the south beach of the moonlit island.

The way she laughed, deep and throaty,
wholeheartedly with feeling,
the way she moved to the Cuban beats,
in a small, strapped sundress that brushed the hot breeze,
beaded sandals tapping rhythm to the sound.

Yes, there was a time.
There was a place.
There was a Summer unlike any summer before.

But youth gave way to an older woman gazing wearily out the nursing home window.

There was a girl once.
Her name was Summer.
A Summer that blazed,
A Summer that dreamed,
A Summer that lived.

And she will return again someday…

To dance, to laugh, to sing,
And to sway in love to the tempo,
to the beat.

Summer.
Eternal Summer.
Hot, hot,
Beautiful and gorgeous Summer.

You Cannot Break Love

Love does not come from the heart.

Rather, the heart comes from love. 

The heart may break but the origin of the heart is eternity.

When you understand this,

You understand love. 

For love flows through all things and all times. 

It permeates everything…

The raindrop, the ant, the mountain, the tree.

Why do you cry, silly girl?

Why do you hang your head low? 

Do you think you have lost love?

Do you seek it?

Do you ask yourself when will you find it?

Love is within you.

Love is near, ever present surrounding you

In the winds, the foods, the waters, the books you read, the poems you write, the thoughts you think. 

Love is in all that you do and all that has been done before or will be done in the future. 

Love is life.

Love is reality. 

Love is the past.

Love is the present.

Love is the future. 

Love exists through creation, destruction, and renewal.

Love was there in your first breath and will be there for your last.

Love was there for your ancestors and will be there for your descendants. 

All creations of love will return to the source and then flow out again. 

You cannot lose that which is never lost, never broken, never entirely destroyed. 

Dry your tears. 

Stop dwelling on sadness.

Don’t expect another to provide you this love.

Open your eyes and see love for what it truly is…immortal.    

Connect to that source that flows through you

And no man shall break you anymore.      

Little Pawn

My whole life, I admired the King and Queen.

Serene, graceful, and applauded.

Powerful and strong….aggressive.

Yet hiding behind the defenses of the lesser pieces.

As I became older, I pondered the knight or the bishop,

how they could think outside the box and level the playing field.

But, in my older years, I admire the pawn.

The one to first enter the fray with honest courage.

Who risks much although so little…..

One by one, swiped from the board unceremoniously and yet…

Relentless, undeterred, defiant against odds so stacked heavily against.

Yes, some days even the little pawn sees glory

when faced with such intimidating adversaries.

Pink

It was the 80s.

I loved MTV, My Little Ponies, and Barbie Dolls that never looked like me.

My aunt bought me a Raggedy Ann doll for Christmas but I wouldn’t play with it.

She was ugly with stupid red yarn for hair.

In those days, I was encouraged not to wear pink.

“It clashes with your hair,” I was told.

This was a fashion rule I obeyed

Like wearing pantyhose and a slip under my church dress on Sundays.

White shoes I wore in the summer.

Black shoes I wore in the winter.

And I never mixed a black belt with a brown shirt.

…….but I had gone to a slumber party and seen Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. 

I had my doubts. 

I grew up in a world of yellows, greens, blues, and browns.  Earth tones.

And I became quite the tomboy.

In my late 20s, I gave birth to a blonde. 

She was gorgeous and precious.

She had sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, and during the summer she could tan. 

Just like those Barbie Dolls of my youth. 

The Barbie Dolls that never matched my appearance’s visage in the mirror.

I counted my blessings and could not believe my good fortune.

Such a beautiful creature came from my plain womb. 

I stared at her like she was pink cotton candy.

I admired her hair in my hands and picked it up delicately as if it was gold. 

I bought her pink, lots of pink, showers of pink.

Pink clothes, pink sheets, pink blankets, pink pillows just like Barbie.

She read books about Pinkalicious,

In a world of soft and ultra-feminine pink,

Overflowing pink color from her bedroom.

Meanwhile, across the hallway, my bedroom was green.

Then something began to happen inside of me.

A transformation.

It was slow at first, the introduction of pink to my own wardrobe.

It felt daring and rebellious and wonderful

First in hidden undergarments and nightgowns,

Then a ring,

A scarf,

Pink shoes. 

One day my daughter and I stood at the mall

And she picked for me a hot pink blouse.

It was beautiful.

I remember standing there looking at it and wanting,

Just wanting to wear it.

And with my daughter’s encouraging smile and hand in mine……..I did.

When you think about it, this story about color

And how color controls and dominates what we do and what we don’t do…..

It’s kinda ridiculous. 

We do what we’re told.  We act the way we are told.  And we don’t even know why we act the ways we do.  Just cause somebody else told us to do this or that.   

Really, honestly, this is just a stupid story – as are a lot of stories about color.

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, grey, white…….even pink.

I’m no angel.  I got a lot of learned hang-ups about colors…..just like everyone else.  But as I grow older, I am starting to learn to unlearn them. 

Wear what you like.  Love what you love and whom you love.  Be yourself whomever you want to be…..and the world will go along with your audacity.  Your boldness.  Your confidence.  Your true desire. 

Me, I’ll be pink.  Pinkaliciously pink. 

(This is an excerpt from the poetry book called Moment of Magic that was published a couple weeks ago by J. Speer. The poetry collection is about 60 pages and is $2.99 as an eBook on Amazon at the following link:)

Earth Song

This is a place of magic.

Brilliant beautiful songbirds in hues of the rainbow nest their families in the green trees.

Their gentle music carries on the soft breeze. 

Red cardinals, like angels, gather on the limbs above whispering notes of tranquility. 

The sun slowly rises, lifting her gorgeous head from another night’s slumber.

She graciously shines her light for all and suddenly the sky bursts into captivating watercolors. 

Purple, orange, pink, and blue with clouds so white and fluffy surrounding us comfortingly.

The beautiful light of day reflects and glistens on the shimmering waves of the lakes, rivers, and oceans.

Mountains rise to embrace the sky. 

Valleys dip playfully downward covered in vivid green and wildflowers.

Majestic waterfalls cascading, some powerful and yet others delicately trickling from little wilderness streams.

Everywhere, flowers lovingly planted, contribute their colorful blooms. 

The red, pink, and yellow roses of this garden offer a pleasing scent. 

Think of all the people rising to face this day around this great big globe.

A world of dreams and destinies intertwined.

Think of a world in peace, in harmony with the songbirds.     

Mothers and fathers everywhere waking children to get ready for school.

Parents heading to work every day to build a future.

Millions and millions of boys and girls filled with hope for their day.

Grandparents helping their children and grandchildren,

Nurturing them with words of wisdom. 

Babies being born into a planet of people,

All living for the present moment. 

All together in this moment of magic.