Sunday, January 7, 2018

Reindeer/Epiphany poem--for my Grandson Robby

(Rein) Deer Epiphany
                                                (a poem for Robby Kleppel)

In the little remnant woods behind my daughter’s house,
A buck deer appears in the deep snow, eating the brambles or small trees
In this hungry winter.

Twenty feet behind, a doe reclines in the snow,
Munching on twigs.

I say, “Look at the deer, Robby!”
My grandson Robby, just turned four, sees them.

He says, “They’re reindeer. They’re Santa’s.”

Then he adds, as simply and straightforwardly as
One plus one equals two—

“They can fly.”

I don’t know what to say next.

Then something startles the deer,
And they’re up, just like that, and
Flying over the neighbor’s five-feet tall fence.

                                    Bob Coughlin
                                    Feast of the Epiphany, 2018

Note: The word “epiphany” can mean “manifestation; sudden appearance; sudden insight.”

Friday, December 29, 2017

(Grand-) Child of Mine--Happy Birthday Robby!

Tomorrow is my grandson Robby Kleppel's 4th birthday. I can't tell you how much I love him! Robby is so smart, so much fun--an energetic intellectual and emotional and physical whirlwind. In some ways I think of him as my own son--maybe that's the way grandparents always feel. His mother (my daughter Julia) and his father (Ed Kleppel) have done such a marvelous job raising him. And I guess Robby should himself get some credit for raising his parents--and grandparents.

Robby is full of so many wonderful enthusiasms. He loves his family, he loves his uke and guitar, he loves his grandparents, he loves his trains and trucks, his diggers and excavators (and he is quick to point out--a "digger" is not necessarily an "excavator"). And Robby is amazingly smart. Not yet four, he is deft and precise with language. And his brain is like a sponge (just like his older brother Colin and his baby sister Ava).

It has been such a blessing to be a grandparent to Robby, Colin, Ava--and now, Baby Lillian. I am so full of gratitude and wonder.

Here is a song by the folksinger Bill Staines that expresses some of what I feel about Robby, the day before his fourth birthday:

Robby with his new "Gorny Pig," Mr. Smiles.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Winter Solstice--A Poem

A poem for the darkness and cold, where Hope is a distant memory, a distant hope. Of course you've never felt like this!

Winter Solstice

The chill creeps into the bones:
December 21 and sun gone long before 5 o’clock;
huge gray clouds roll in off Lake Erie
riding the Witch’s gale, spitting sleet and

fears as real and as organized as the swirl
of pin oak leaves down Lakeshore Boulevard.
This day, shaken by nameless fears,
seems to last forever:

I wonder how I will get through the next minute,
and the minute after that,
and the minute after that,

wonder if I can make it
until hope returns

until peace-which-surpasses-understanding,
as mysterious as winter solstice’s fear--
my heart standing still, turning cold,
my spirit abandoned--

until peace returns like grace like unexpected


                Bob Coughlin 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Modest Proposal for a New Constitutional Right: The Right Not to be Murdered . . .

The Right Not to Be Murdered with a Semiautomatic Weapon

In the richest, most powerful land in the history of the world,
You don’t have the right to food, shelter, basic medical care . . .

But you do have the right to own and use a powerful killing machine.
You can carry it in your pocket, your holster,
In your car or pick-up,
You can carry it into a church and murder
15-month-olds, 77-year-olds, a dozen children,
A pregnant woman and the unborn child she is bearing.
The woman you are shooting also bears arms, the arms,
Legs, hands, feet, heart, and brain of the future,
Of hope.

This does not have to be.
And those offering only “thoughts and prayers,”
Forget that we are the hands and feet of God.

“There is nothing we can do”
Is a dangerous lie!
We know what we can do—
Let’s get started right now!

Bob Coughlin / November 7, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Modest Little Poem About September

Sweet September

These days are clear and quiet,
Trees beginning to turn, slowly,
Toward something new.

Mornings the birds are quiet
And I hear the occasional squawk of crows and blue jays,
Not so much the sweet tune of cardinals.

Afternoons the skies are blue, the wind still,
The Big Lake preternaturally calm,
Cicadas singing their end-of-summer songs.

Night, ah the nights are so sweet,
With the great rhythmic concert of crickets—
It lulls me to sleep, nature’s mantra, litany, rosary,

My windows open, the cool night air seeping in,
Me dreaming about auroras.

Bob Coughlin / September 14, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Memory of 9-11

A Recollection of 9-11, written many years ago.

September 11, 2001—A Memory

How I taught that 10 AM class I don’t know. I did mention the tragedy to the class, as if they didn’t know already, and we all prayed in class before the lesson started. Then amazingly, I proceeded with the lesson.

As the class progressed, I grew more and more anxious, until the end, when I practically busted out of the room and ran back to my office. “I have to see if Mom is all right!” I yelled to myself, racing down the hallways from T-Building. I was also worried about my wife Linda and my 3 daughters. Julia was away at college, Miami University. Carolan was at Chardon High School. Em was at St. Mary’s School, where Linda worked. But Mom was 77 years old, blind, and alone at home in Euclid--Dad four years in the grave. I had to go to her right away!

I ran to the faculty-staff lot and cranked up my car—it was almost empty of gas. A thought streaked across my mind: What if the gas pumps go out? What if gigantic lines form at the gas stations? Are the ATM machines working? As usual I had almost no cash in my wallet.

My first step was to get to the Bank One money machine. The machine worked and I withdrew a hundred dollars, a huge amount for me to carry around. Then I headed to Kirtland Road, the back way to Mom’s. I thought maybe the freeways would get jammed up with cars, people fleeing . . . to somewhere, anywhere. We had no idea what was going on yet. So far we knew that both towers of the World Trade Center had been hit; by this time one of the buildings had actually collapsed to the ground, something unheard of! There was a story about a jet crashing into a field southeast of Pittsburgh. The Pentagon had been hit. There were rumors galore flying around. One claimed that Dayton had been hit. My oldest daughter Julia was a freshman at Miami University, not far from Dayton. What was going on? Are we all in danger?

Down Kirtland Road I drove like a maniac, coming to Rt. 20 in Willoughby. West on 20 to Vine Street. Down Vine to Lakeshore Boulevard. There near the corner of Lakeshore and Vine was a gas station without big lines. I pulled in and filled my tank. Would this be my last chance to get gas?

I zipped out on Vine, then left on Lakeshore down to Lloyd. Down Lloyd to Forestview. Then to East 272, then Farringdon, then East 266 and into Mom’s driveway. I pushed open my car door, one knock on Mom's door, then inside.

There Mom calmly sat on the davenport, drinking a cup of coffee, smoking a cigarette, and watching the television’s grim news. Mom was OK; I was the one who was frantic, anxious, frightened to death. I hugged her. She comforted me like I was a scared 5-year-old again.

Robert M. Coughlin
September 11, 2008

A poem for a 9-11 Hero: Fr. Mychal Judge, FDNY, Franciscan Priest

A poem I wrote 16 years ago:

Fr. Mychal Judge, FDNY, Requiescat in Pace
Blunt force facts smack us in the face,

proclaim this martyrdom,
raise up this simple priest—

68-year-old Franciscan, Father Mychal Judge,
at an age when he should be easing into retirement,
maybe visiting hospitals twice a week
saying a couple masses on Sundays
taking long vacations to Killarney and Lago di Como . . .

rushes from St. Francis of Assisi Church
in the shadow of Madison Square Garden,
across the street from Engine Co. 1/ Ladder 24,
to the World Trade Center Towers and Armageddon:

Fr. Mike removes his helmet to whisper prayers,
anoints a dying brother fireman with the oils of the Last Rites,
the final comfort . . .


whacked by flying debris, bodies,
steel, glass, paper,
hopes, dreams,

breath punched out, life snuffed.

When his brothers in the Department
see the lifeless body, recognize Fr. Mike,
their chaplain,

Five of them lift him up on their shoulders,
carry him to a nearby church,
place him at the altar.

They cover him with a white cloth and his stole,
lay his helmet and FDNY chaplain’s badge
on his chest
kneel down and

Thank God for Fr. Mike’s life.

Then they hurry back to the Pile, the rubble, the Disaster,
Ground Zero,
the End of the World.

* * *

Life and love will overcome
the furious hatred and darkness

Fr. Mike will not be forgotten:

“His light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness will not overcome it.”

(Robert M. Coughlin September 25, 2001)