Poems ’93

Poems ’93

Most written in Howard Schwartz’ class in 1993 — thanks for help and inspiration!

 

SPF 30

by Mary F. Garrett

Chlorofluorocarbons,

Docile propellants of hair spray,

Drifted upward, past shape-shifting clouds,

To nibble at molecules of ozone.

Rays of sunlight, now unchecked,

Attack sunbathers in backyard pools

And canoeists on quiet rivers.

Skin cells change to carcinoma and melanoma.

Coppertone gives way to Sun Block;

Sun Protection Factor of 30 is best.

For longer outdoor exposure,

A hat and long sleeves are recommended.

Or just stay indoors.

There is no such thing as a healthy suntan.

How I miss the ozone!

 

The Necklace

by Mary F. Garrett

At St. Cecelia’s Academy,

Where the lockers need no locks

And stamp collections and antique dollhouses

Can safely sit on open shelves in the library,

The Mother Superior called a before-school assembly.

“Girls, we need to pray together this morning.

A gold necklace belonging to one of our students is missing.

We are concerned for this girl in her sorrow.

The necklace meant a great deal to her.

On each of her birthdays, her parents have added one bead

As a remembrance of each year of her life.

Of greater concern is the girl who has the necklace.

She is now feeling the burning pain of one who knows

She has done wrong.

Her soul will feel no rest until she makes amends

And asks forgiveness.

Let us pray now for this girl.

May her contrition make her whole.”

Four hundred heads bowed.

Four hundred hearts sought to help the one who was lost.

Later that morning, the necklace was discovered

In the school chapel

Adorning the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Verna Fussner

Her life is centered around her children,

grandchildren, great-grandchildren.

Though she watches the news and reads the paper,

The current events that really matter

occur within her family circle.

The welfare and happiness of her offspring

are her prime concern.

Trips to the zoo, museums, gardens, storytelling,

and puppet shows with those children

are her major adventures.

Tending her garden and watching the birds at her feeder

are the entertainments of her free moments.

Spring is here, new plants are growing, birds are singing.

New adventures await.

 

Artificial?

by Mary F. Garrett

Life has become artificial:

Non-nutritive sweeteners,

Decaffeinated coffee,

Low-fat ice cream,

Salt Substitute,

Butter-flavored sprays and seasonings,

Low-cal, decaf soda,

Everything light, lite, low-fat, artificial.

Is anything real?  Yes!

Fresh green salads,

Ripe juicy fruit,

Grilled lean meat,

Pastas and breads not drowning in fats,

Ice-cold, sparkling water,

And best of all,

Real size-six clothes

On my now healthier body!

 

Crossing the Washington Avenue Bridge

by Mary F. Garrett

After January, 1972,

Each time I crossed the Washington Avenue Bridge,

I thought of you, John Berryman.

Pausing in the middle of the bridge,

I touched the railing where you waved good-bye.

I looked down at the swirling water

Toward which you threw yourself and wondered

How could you do it?

I could see the coal barges.

What cruel irony that your final flight should end there,

When you aimed for the clean, swift water.

Seeing the young couples walking hand-in-hand,

The craftspeople selling candles and beadwork,

Students carrying books as they hurried to class,

And anti-war activists handing out leaflets,

I felt, because I did not know better,

Smugly superior for being alive.

I thought teachers had all the answers,

And I felt disappointed, cheated,

That you would surrender to death.

I knew nothing of depression.

Now I see that your death was not your choice.

 

Broken Bottle

by Mary F. Garrett

The old man stands on the busy corner,

His faded plaid coat unbuttoned to the cold.

Earflaps hang from his shapeless wool cap.

Deep lines etch his face.

He stares at the precious bottle in its brown paper bag,

Smashed

And dripping

At his feet.

We see the heartbreak in his face

But traffic makes us move on.

We circle the block and return.

We want to help him replace

The lost elixir.

We can’t; he’s gone,

While on the ground the paper sack

Bleeds its last few drops on unappreciative

Pavement.

 

In Surgery

by Mary F. Garrett

Godlike, the voice of authority penetrates

The anaesthetic fog,

“Mary, it’s alright; there’s no cancer.”

I fall back into deeper sleep, blissful relief.

Later, awakening with a smile, tears and fear behind me,

I look to the smiling nurses for reassurance

That it was not a dream.

They offer confirmation and breakfast

And call my friend to take me home.

Still I wonder: when all else,

Even the cutting out and the stitching up,

The invasion in the name of healing,

Was lost beyond the cloud of sleep,

How did that voice find its way

To bring the message of hope?

 

Metamorphosis

by Mary F. Garrett

The sweet and loving child has been replaced.

She once was interested in everything around her.

Now “I’m bored” is her constant refrain.

Once she loved her family; she thought we were nearly perfect.

Now she can’t stand us, and her frequent tirades leave us shaken.

All of the “warm fuzzies” she used to share have been replaced with “cold pricklies”

Hurled at any who dare to invade her space.

We don’t know this new, hostile creature.

From time to time we get a glimpse of the child we knew.

In between the storms she comes out for comfort.

We know the pain and confusion of growing up are responsible for this agony.

Before punishment, my father used to say, “This hurts me more than it does you.”

If one could measure pain, which of us would feel more

The pain of these “growing pains”?

 

On My Desk

by Mary Garrett

On my desk I see,

Pens and pencils and scissors and markers,

In two separate holders,

As if one weren’t enough.

By the end of the day,

Both might be empty,

As I leave pens all over the school.

I see a variety of rubber stamps,

To decorate the “on-time” papers

Of students with “good work habits,”

And, by their absence, brand

The lazy and disorganized.

There’s a box of Kleenex,

My one little contribution

To the physical comfort of my scholars.

The desk is covered with books“ and papers,

Ideas I want to share,

That we never have quite enough time for.

Why do the trivial necessities of attendance and tests,

Have to get in the way of the intellectual gems

That would be so much more worthwhile and memorable?

By the end of the day, there will be a layer

Of miscellaneous papers,

Not handed in at the “proper” time,

Half-read announcements,

Notes from the office, hall passes,

Book club orders, leftover cake from lunch,

And scattered pens and pencils.

I will take the half hour after school

To sort through the papers,

Re-check the attendance,

Put away the pens,

Eat the cake,

And place prominently in the center of the desk

The article I hope to have time

To read to the class tomorrow.

 

Words That Should Be Oxymorons

Working poor

Homeless person

 

Prayers

by Mary F. Garrett

My Catholic cousin and her Jewish husband,

Enjoined at their beautiful ecumenical wedding

To make a warm and beautiful home together

For the comfort of their family and friends,

Did their best to obey.

Fair weather was predicted;

They began work on the roof.

Just as the old roof was removed,

In true Missouri fashion, the weather changed.

Thunderstorms were predicted for that night.

With no time to replace the roof,

No time to move or protect possessions,

They turned to very special prayers,

To female relatives of his and hers

Already departed from this life.

“Grandma, if you do not want to see your dining table ruined,”

“Aunt, if you still cherish the home you lived in,”

“Mother, your linens are in the hope chest,”

“If you love us and want to see us

Enjoy the lovely home we’ve worked to create,

Please help us with this storm.”

That night rain fell on streets all around their home,

But not one drop touched the house with no roof

Save love.

 

Drama at the Baskin-Robbins

Act One

Two Young Women on Children

“I can’t stand her.  She goes out looking all Hollywood and leaves her children dirty and ragged.”

“I know.  My children will be clean, even if I have to be dirty.”

“I told her, your children should always come first.  When you’re old, they are the ones who will still be with you, looking out for you.”

On Husbands

“I’m glad to have been married, but I’ll never be married again.  I just got so tired of calling the police all the time.  They got so they knew my address as soon as I said my last name.”

“Right.  I told them to keep him locked up.  They said, but he seems to have calmed down.  I said, keep him locked up tight and come get his car out of my driveway.”

“He said ‘Baby, don’t hurt me like this,’ and I said ‘you don’t seem to care how you hurt me.’”

“He said ‘don’t go for a knife now.’  I said ‘I’m not going to try to cut you; I’m not a fool, but just put a gun in my hand and see how brave you’ll be.’”

“Yeah, just give me a gun.”

Intra-act

Two couples discussing art auctions.  One woman leaves her purse behind.

Act Two

Older Couple on Honesty

“There’s a purse someone left here.   Come pick up this purse please.”

“Someone’s going to be very worried and grateful to get it back.”

“Couldn’t possibly profit from someone else’s misfortune.”

Young woman returns, offers money as reward.

“No, we couldn’t accept that.  Just pass it along as a good deed for someone else.  A man said that to us when we were just a young couple, and we liked it so much we’ve used it ever since.”

On Marriage

“We’ll celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary next month.”

“It’s been a good fifty years.  I think I’ll keep her for another fifty.

 

Fall

by Mary Garrett

If a Teacher falls in the parking lot and no one is there to hear,

Does she still make a sound? (and if so, is it printable?)

Rushing to a before-school meeting (I do hate those)

and to get out of the cold,

Carrying too many library books (McKissacks’ — I do love them).

Uneven pavement, dark (why are the lights out?)

Suddenly, trip and pitch forward, no time to regain balance,

pulled down by the heavy books. (“Weighted with authority”?)

Stay down a minute to decide how I am.

“You just had the wind knocked out of you.” My thoughts echo my mother’s voice.

No one here to help me up — ah, no one here to see this embarrassing fall. . .

Standing up carefully, picking up the scattered book bags, walking slowly into the building,

Silently cursing that this will make me late.

Inside, I notice my scuffed glove, new and expensive

— guess I won’t be spreading the cost over three years of wear.

Then, taking off the glove, blood!  (I really hate blood).

It doesn’t really hurt, yet, but the meeting will have to wait.

The school nurses prove themselves this morning.

Peroxide, butterfly band-aids, tissues, and TLC.

“Don’t cry,” someone says, but the nurses and I know I have to, for a minute.

Then tissues and Tylenol, join the meeting in progress — get sympathy.

Teach six classes — sympathy.  “I’d have taken that fall for you,” (half-serious).

The bandaged hand my own red badge of courage — even bringing extra dessert at lunch!

Filling out the accident report, “Names of witnesses” — “no one” (thank goodness!)

Arnica for bruises, stretching for stiff, sore muscles,

and new rule for self: No matter what the meeting is or when, I’m not rushing!

 

Plop Quiz

Falling backward in the snow,

What to do?

Accidental snow angel.

 

One O’Clock

by Mary Garrett

Sticky little fingers open and close

The wings of my ladybug watch.

Afterwards, the time vanishes

And then returns as 1:00.

We go to supper at 1:00.

The play starts at 1:00

And ends at 1:00.

I arrive home at 1:00,

Shower and read and am in bed by 1:00.

Tomorrow is my niece’s wedding.

I know I’ll be on time.

It starts at 1:00.

 

Sam

Sam, Sam, Watermelon Man,

Chimichanga, Little Man,

Seeking adventure and affection.

Cuddle and purr, stretch toward the floor —

Yoga expert.

“Chase me, play with me, watch me, walk with me.”

Can’t abide a closed door,

Scratch, scratch, “Why won’t you let me in?”

Our tame Siamese panther, catching crickets,

Stalking birds (but not catching them),

Hopping after rabbits,

Challenging a blue jay from my balcony railing.

I can’t have my own cat —

I’m glad to be your godmother, cat-sitter, friend.

by Mary Garrett

 

Rainbows

by Mary F. Garrett

“Rainbows, class, are formed

When rays of light pass

Through tiny droplets of water.

The white light

Splits into all its separate colors

And spreads across the sky,

Appearing to us as a rainbow.”

“Teacher, no, that’s wrong.

The fairies and brownies,

Coming home from a picnic,

Had to cross the river after the rain.

They took all the flowers

They had gathered in their baskets and

Wove them into a bridge to safely cross over.

My father said that’s what we see

When we see a rainbow.”

Teacher, wise and gentle, only said,

“There is more than one way to understand a rainbow.

Ask your father to explain.”

That night my father taught me the difference

Between the facts of the real world and

The Truth of Imagination.

 

The Child Collectors

by Mary F. Garrett

Dwight and Diane collected children.

They began with one, Dion with the weak heart,

An outcast in Vietnam

Because of his African-American father’s blood.

Then Derek, with one eye destroyed by lack of vitamins.

Dustin had nightmares for weeks, remembering the bombs.

As their hearts opened to more children,

Their house grew crowded; they added more rooms

And more children.

A fourteen-year-old boy found his way

From Saigon to an American ship.

They couldn’t say no.

Two sisters from Mississippi would have to be separated

Unless someone would make a home for both.

One had a heart problem, not diagnosed.

Diane said, “Send them to us right away.

We have experience with heart problems.”

Tenderly, with love and discipline,

They gathered and healed the injured children.

For my friends seeking to adopt children, with much admiration and love.

 

Auto-Mobile

by Mary Garrett

Ray Bradbury, the guru of space travel, will not drive a car.

More die each year from cars than from Vietnam at its worst,

And where are the marches in protest?

Instead, we daily enter thin sheaths of metal, and Auto-propel

Ourselves at impossible speeds over hard concrete.

Only a thin line of white paint separates cars on either side.

We seldom ask if this trip, this job, this play, this class,

This visit is worth the risk.

Highway rules are followed, most of the time;

Defensive vigilance is maintained by drivers, most of the time;

Guardian angels or luck protects us, some of the time.

When those fail, the first law of physics prevails:

Two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

 

Flood

As we sat beside the Missouri River,

I tried to explain the flood to a four-year-old.

I showed her trees with water covering their trunks.

“There wasn’t water there before.  They can’t grow in water.”

We watched the water race by,

Floating branches showing its speed.

A beaver nibbled twigs on a new island.

A young boy skipped stones and we tried to do the same.

He said the Riverfest booths would have to be moved, but

Official word declared them safe until after the Fourth.

I think now of how little I really know of floods.

Volunteers’ shoulders ache from filling sandbags.

A farmer mourns his flooded field, “Those were good beans, too.”

People struggle in the heat to move possessions ahead of the flood.

Homeowners let basements fill with water so the groundwater pressure won’t crack the walls.

It can be as damaging to move a trailer as to have it flooded.

When the waters recede, homes will be filled with silt and critters.

You must sterilize canned goods contaminated by flood water.

Thousands of people have lost everything.

Experts debate whether to strengthen levees or let the river take its flood plain, whether to continue flood insurance or “encourage” people to move.

Out-of-town friends call to see if I’m still above water.

I explain how remote I am from the site of disaster.

Driving over the bridge, I can see the Missouri, a little higher each day.

The flooding of the power station darkened traffic lights on Highway 94, my only personal challenge due to flood.

Truly, I know as little about floods as a four-year-old.

 

The Goldfinch

by Mary F. Garrett

The goldfinch has returned to my balcony.

I saw him today, sipping water from a flower pot,

Nibbling at the plants,

And then darting away to attend to other business.

His favorite treat is the Swedish ivy.

There are two plants,

Kept alive indoors all winter.

By the end of summer,

They will be nibbled down to bare stems.

Our Swedish exchange student

Said they have that plant in Sweden,

But she couldn’t remember what they call it there —

Not Swedish ivy, certainly.

He darts back into sight,

With another golden dynamo in fast pursuit.

They both hit the window and fly toward the trees.

I close the blinds to save them from a second hit

And wonder if two plants will be enough.

 

News of My Death

by Mary F. Garrett

The National Education Association has declared me dead,

And Jim Garrett has been a dues-paying member all year.

My friends inform me after they have corrected the records.

I feel an eerie shiver, but mostly I remember Jim,

A friend and advocate for his deaf students;

He taught my students to sign in his “free” time.

We were friendly, but not close,

Although students were positive, because of our names,

That we were married.

In fact, they said we were “a very nice couple.”

We agreed that at least we fought less

Than any married couple we knew.

Our mail always ended up in each other’s mailboxes,

In spite of my efforts to clearly label and personalize them.

I once received his health insurance claim with one of mine,

My first clue, though I didn’t try to read it,

Of the illness that would destroy him.

It seems fitting that his death

Should find a way to come to me,

Consistent avoider of funerals caught at last.

I decide I’d better tell my mother,

In case official word is sent to next-of-kin.

I joke that if anyone complains about a boring class,

I can tell them it’s the best they can expect

From a dead person.

 

Rorschach Clouds  (for Laya Firestone Seghi)

by Mary F. Garrett

Cloud mother above

Lies on her back

And holds her laughing baby

Above her.

Nearby a stuffed tiger

Stands watch,

Bringing joy to the wind-blown child.

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Uncle John Halloween Stories

Halloween Pranks

One October Saturday afternoon, Grandpa stopped by the blacksmith’s shop to have a tire shunked on his wagon.  As he worked, Ed were tellin’ Grandpa how he were fixin’ up a real nice-lookin’ buggy to put up on the roof of his shop, but he ‘lowed as how he were gonna have to take it apart to get it up there.

Grandpa looked at the buggy and reckoned it weren’t such a big problem.  “Tell you what,” said Grandpa, “you be doin’ just as I say, an’ your buggy will git up there without no trouble or work for you.”

“How you gonna ‘range that?” puzzled Ed.

“I’ve got it all thunk out.  Now every night before you close shop, you put that there buggy inside, and every mornin’ you take it out and wipe it off good so it be all bright and pretty, sittin’ there for all to see.”

As Grandpa was leavin’, he spied some almost-grown boys over in front of the drugstore, watchin’ the ladies go by.  Grandpa ambled over and started jawin’ with them.  “Yep,” he told them, “I remember well when I used to chase after the women, but for the life of me, I can’t remember why.”

Then castin’ his eye ‘cross the street, he remarked, “Ed sure is proud of that buggy of his, so afraid something is gonna happen to it, he can hardly sleep nights.  But I reckon it’s safe enough, even with Halloween just about here.  Now when I was a youngun, given half a chance, we’uns would have that there buggy up on old Ed’s roof for him and the whole town to admire.”  With that, he sort of winked and went to fetch his team and wagon so as to be home in time for supper and chores.

Halloween fell on a Saturday that year, and about sundown Grandpa was back at Ed’s shop.  Ed was fixin’ to close shop, so Grandpa lent him a hand, tellin’ Ed, “Forget about the buggy and let’s be amblin’ over to the Plug Nickel for a couple of beers.”

After a few hours and a sight more than a couple of beers, they departed for the Log Inn for a bit of food.  Passin’ the shop, Grandpa said to Ed, “See, I told you I’d get that buggy up there without no sweat.”

Lookin’ up to the roof and seein’ the buggy right where he wanted it, Ed haw-hawed an’ had to admit that Grandpa was a slick customer right enough.  “Come on,” he said, ” the food and drinks are on me.”

Father’s Day/Story Swap

Last Monday’s McClay Story Swap was full of sharing and connections, everyone participated in stories and schmoozing, so much in common, as stories often show us.  I put off writing about the Swap, which means Father’s Day has also entered my stream of consciousness . . . my father led me to stories, as Michael has done for his daughter Linda, so I’m going to write about both.

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Mike and Linda reported fun, if wet, storytelling at Renaissance Faire, an opportunity that began when Maria Romine Kantor hired me to tell at St. Charles Christmas Traditions.  I had connected with them one weekend at the Santa Parade and began by helping with crafts in the Depot.  Years after, Maria invited me to audition for Faire when she wanted to move on to her wonderful Swords and Roses productions.  Now Flavia organizes the Gateway Storytellers at Faire, and so it continues.

Linda Bennett told of her band teacher asking for a performance of the piece with which she won State . . . at the last minute, with the wrong instrument, and without her music — and she did it despite those obstacles!!

Michael Bennett shared a story of an outdoor concert broken up by a bear, which sauntered in to eat every sausage on the grill.  No musicians were harmed in either story . . . but these stories prove it takes courage to play the tuba!

Jennifer Bennett told a story of her grandparents’ courtship . . . he fell for the sweet and courageous single mother when he saw how she was with her child.

Courtship stories are wonderful.  It reminded me of a story my neighbor’s now departed mother told at Java G’s, of sending all her girl cousins off on a camping trip so she could have a clear field for attracting the man they all liked — long and happy marriage was the result.

Jeannette Seamon told name stories, long beautiful flower names, and (long Chinese name) first son has fallen in the well.  We talked about the difficulty of memorizing long works, and I remembered Jeff Miller’s advice to learn poems from the last stanza backward to the first, to allow for a stronger finish.  I vaguely remember a (Japanese?) story of a father mouse wanting to name his child after (marry his child to?) the greatest thing in the world — one of those circular stories like the stonecutter on the mountain that leads back to the beginning . . . I can’t find it now — anyone? (See below for Roger’s answer*)

Jeannette also brought a books of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, which I had read so long ago and have enjoyed again . . . and will take to the next swap for the Bennetts to enjoy.

My own telling began with unplanned earthiness . . . A comment reminded me of Utah Phillip’s story of cooking for a railroad crew . . .  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zb1qsVqjwg&list=LLQ9fK5KQS4WdeOdVuyPIdXQ&index=6

Mike helpfully explained the difference between deer and moose scat, which led to a discussion of practical jokes one can play with chocolate covered raisins . . . and to Doug Elliot’s Scat song . . .  Couldn’t find that on YouTube, but this is even better   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PeJFbC-_KI  and another https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_b9MVR6k9o

I also told “The Farmer’s Fun-Loving Daughter” aka “Filling the House” and our friend Tony played the flute for it . . .

Here’s a link to Kathryn Tucker Windham, which popped up while searching, and will serve to elevate the tone of this post and remember a good woman. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3CVpuj-Fgk&index=3&list=LLQ9fK5KQS4WdeOdVuyPIdXQ

 

Father’s Day Musings

He was Daddy when I was little and then Dad . . . and on his stories, “Daddy John” for the bedtime stories and “Uncle John” for the tall tales in dialect.  His stories were a gift — and an even bigger gift, he believed in us . . .   When I came home from kindergarten and announced I wanted to be a teacher, Dad explained that college was expensive and “Daddy’s a working man” so I’d need good grades for a scholarship . . . and I listened. ❤

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Father stories everywhere! Barra’s blog reminded me of my dad’s workbench in the basement.  I used to love to visit the shop class at FHN because the smell of sawdust took me back.  I just watched Gnomeo & Juliet, with a loving but over-protective father.  Great fun, with so many stars in the cast and such cleverness — if I were still teaching Shakespeare, I’d find a way to use it in class, maybe a “catch the allusion” quiz . . . and yes, a much happier ending. ❤

 

I’ll share two of Dad’s “Uncle John” stories.  We kids  were allowed to keep a variety of pets, birds, mice, snakes, hamsters, but never a pig . . .

(BTW, dialect is hard to write consistently).

Nuff’s Pet Pig  by Uncle John Fussner  collected by Mary Garrett

One day little ‘Nuff were out in the woods, jest loafin’ an’ lookin’ and listenin’, not to larn ’bout nature but to hide from Grandma.  Well sir, he heard a pig squeal, and lookin’ ’round he spotted a skinny little razorback pig.  He slipped up an’ caught that thar squealin’ pig, tucked hit under his arm, an’ scooted home.

Grandpa was out back cleanin’ the barn when ‘Nuff fetched the pig to him.  Showin’ Grandpa the pig, he allowed as how he’d like to keep him fer to make a pet.  Grandpa took one good look at that thar pig and busted out haw-hawin’ so as to ‘most shake the mountains.  Grandma were gatherin’ eggs nearby an’ come runnin’ to see what were so funny.

Grandpa haw-hawed some more and said, “Look at that poor critter — body like a sausage, legs lookin’ like broomsticks, his head is longer’n his body, and his hind end is so poorly made that iffen he’d pick up an apple in that long mouth of his’n, his tail would point straight up.”

Lookin’ at little ‘Nuff he said, “Well, son, iffen that sorry little runt is what you be hankerin’ fer to make a pet out of, seein’ as how his ears hain’t notched nor marked,  I recken hit be righful fer to keep him.”

A couple of weeks later Grandpa were out near the edge of the woods when he spotted the pig’s hind end stickin’ out’n a hole.  Grandpa give the tail a couple of quick yanks sayin’, “Pig, how long you been rootin’ in that thar hole?’

“Week, week,” answered the pig.

“No wonder you’re so skinny,” laughed Grandpa.  “Been rootin’ thar a week an’ hain’t found nothin’ to eat yet?”

 

Hogs Vs. Swine   by Uncle John Fussner  collected by Mary Garrett

One day little ‘Nuff’s pet pig took bad sick.  Grandpa and Grandma tried fer mor’n a week to make him well, but it done no good.  Grandpa be jawin’ with the professor in town one day, tellin’ him ’bout ‘Nuff’s pet pig bein’ under the weather.  The professor went back to the farm with Grandpa to have a look see.  He worked on that thar pig fer mor’n an hour an’ kept callin’ hit a swine.

He finished up and said to ‘Nuff, “Son, take good care of that swine fer a day or two and he will be fine.”

Nuff turned to Grandpa and saked, “Pa, whyfor does he call my pig a swine?”

Grandpa answered by sayin, “Well son, hit’s this way.  Iffin you sit behind a big shiny desk with a lot of book larnin’ in your head, a hog or a pig is swine, but iffin you be feedin’ ’em, wadin’ in the mud, cleanin’ up after ’em, sittin’ up nights when they be ailin’, then they be pigs an’ hogs.

More stories,books, and CDs    More Daddy John stories

*Roger sent the mystery story . . .
At the Festival I heard Motoko tell (as a Japanese story) about a girl mouse and a boy mouse who wanted to get married. She asked her father’s permission but he said — No, a mouse is small and weak. You must marry the strongest person in the world. And that is the Sun. But the Sun declined, saying the cloud could cover the sun and so was stronger than he. The cloud said the wind could blow the cloud away and so was stronger than he. The wind said the wall could stop the wind and so was stronger. And the wall said a mouse could chew a hole in the wall, so the mouse was strongest. So Father Mouse married his daughter to the boy mouse, which was what she had wanted all along.

Motoko contrives to learn the names of a boy and a girl in the class earlier in the program and then introduces the boy and girl mice with those names. Of course, the kids giggle when she says — they wanted to get married! — At which point Motoko says, No, no — it was the mice who wanted to get married. They just happened to have the same names.

Roger

Quiet — Rest

Quiet — Take Your Nap, Get Your Rest

My sister’s favorite story was the one he told her about nap time and bedtime.  Mom had her own “story” at nap time, “Just lie still.  Even if you don’t fall asleep, the rest will do you just as much good.” (I’m sure our lying quietly for an hour or so did HER much good).

I sometimes told myself that same little falsehood when dealing with insomnia.  I also sometimes told myself, “No, tomorrow’s not a workday, and there will be no 5 a.m. alarm,” and I often fell for it, so gullible!

I so easily fall for good stories that when I had a sleep study done, I fell asleep despite the many wires by telling myself “Sheherazade” — “Long ago, in a kingdom far to the east . . . “

Mom, Dad, Donna025

                                                                           Mom, Dad, and Donna

Donna’s Star by “Daddy John” Fussner

Little Donna was sitting on her daddy’s lap one night.  It was just getting dark.  The sun had said good night some time ago.  the last few rays of sunshine were handing from the bottom of the clouds, as if they were trying to keep from going to bed.  Like all little ones, they at last gave up and were seen no more that night.  Soon the moon was peeking over the hill, very quietly, with a soft, soft light, as if he was afraid that he would wake someone up.  One by one, the little stars took their places in the sky, all clean, bright, and twinkly.

Little Donna said, “Daddy, what makes the stars shine so bright, and who hangs them up in the sky?”

“Well,” said Daddy, “that is quite some story; so if you will get all comfy here on my lap, I will tell you all about it.  A long, long time ago, there were very many little fairies and brownies with nothing to do.  When fairies and brownies have nothing to do, they can’t be happy.  You see, they have to help people and do good things to be happy, just as little boys and girls are happy when they help Mommy and Daddy.  The Head Man Brownie and the Fairy Queen thought and thought about how to find more good things for the idle fairies and brownies to do.

“Suddenly, the Head Man Brownie said, ‘I saw Mr. Stork today, and he said that he’s giving many babies to mammas these days.  Maybe we can think of something there.’

“ ‘Why that’s it,’ said the Fairy Queen.  ‘We can give each little baby a fairy and a brownie to watch over him or her and keep him or her from harm.’

“ ‘So be it,’ said the Head Man Brownie.

“That is why every little boy and each little girl has a little fairy and a little brownie of his very own to watch over him.  your fairy and your brownie are watching you every day while you are awake.  When you go play, they go, too.  You may not see them, but they are there.

“When you lie down to take your nap in the afternoon, your little fairy sits close by, where she can see you.  Your little brownie finds a nice, close, quiet corner nearby, opens a little box which he always carries, and takes out a nice little star.  While yo sleep, your little fairy combs her hair as she watches you, and your little brownie shines your star.

“Of course, as soon as you wake up, they must stop, and if you don’t take a nap at all, well, that’s not so good, because then your little fairy can’t comb her pretty long hair, and she doesn’t like that at all.  Your brownie can’s shine your star if you don’t take a nice long nap, and that’s bad too.  Why?  Because when you go to bed at night, the last thing your brownie does before he goes home is to hang up your star for everyone to see.  Now, you wouldn’t want your brownie to have to hang up a dull, dirty star, would you?”

Little Donna said, “No I wouldn’t, but if my brownie hangs my star after I go to sleep, how will I ever see it?”

Her daddy said, “Maybe you won’t, but I see it every night right after you go to bed, and it’s a beautiful shiny star.  Let’s tuck you in for the night, and I’ll come back out and look for it.”

More of Dad’s stories at

https://storytellermary.wordpress.com/category/stories/daddy-john-stories/

Mary, Joy, & Donna034

Mary, Joy, Donna  — bedtime stories to a new generation

But I wasn’t telling stories then . . .

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But I wasn’t telling stories then . . .

A former student found me online before it was common to search for people online.  He sent a surprise email of the kind that teachers cherish, but one phrase gave me pause, “I’ll always remember all the stories you told us.”

I didn’t think I was telling stories to classes then because I had bought into the notion that junior high (and later high school) students were “too old for stories.”  THEY ARE NOT!!

I realized that I had been slipping in anecdotes as subjects came up.  Instead of “once upon a time,” stories at the older grades begin, “That reminds me of,” and the power of story to capture attention and help learning “stick” is just as powerful.  Students would remember a story for months and sometimes repeat practically word for word.  Worksheets, not so much.  Thanks, Woody Sebastian, for letting me know 😉

More on classroom storytelling https://storytellermary.wordpress.com/programs-and-workshops/

 

Frog and other Videos

Prince the Frog Storybook — a little photo journal of Prince’s stay with me, with vocals by Prince the Frog and music by Mike Anderson.  Thanks, Mike http://www.dulcimerguy.com/

Frog Songs — Prince got so used to my presence that if I was very quiet, I could turn on my old cassette recorder while he was calling.  He never signed a release form for recording, but I think his accepting payment in crickets was de facto agreement to participate.

Frog Prince and Wild Pets
This early version of Prince’s story and that of other wild “pets” was recorded by the lovely people of Cape Girardeau in a parking lot.
http://www.capestorytelling.com/ It’s a spontaneous telling, not polished, the first telling of Prince’s visit to my house. Also featured are many frog photos (including “mailbox frogs”), family photos, my childhood home, the cabinets my father made, and Lucy Grondahl’s finger puppets.

King Solomon
In honor of my coffee house friends, good hosts for storytellers, and the “sacred brew” that keeps us going.

Northern Lights for Lucy

This story refers to Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” and a trip to Alaska with my sister Donna. I recorded it at the request of my storytelling buddy, Lucy Grondahl. It is not “polished” but was made with great love for friend Lucy and sister Donna.

My other videos on YouTube  — Frog stories and wisdom story (separated by You Tube’s mysterious ways)

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