Monday, September 30, 2013

Aunt Carolan and Colin

Carolan and Colin making music with maracas. They were playing so fast that they blurred the camera!

Colin peeling apples with Aunt Carolan. Colin's name for Carolan is a gutteral r trill, something like "RRRRRRRRRR." He can now pronounce Carolan's name, but he still often calls her RRRRRRRRRRR.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Grampa Connie Coughlin and Billy Slusser

My Aunt Kay Coughlin gave me this photo of my grandfather, Connie Coughlin, holding Billy Slusser. I don't know when Bill Slusser was born--I'm guessing between 1915 and 1920. Billy's mother, Mary (Mae) Coughlin Slusser, was my Grampa's sister. I think the photo was taken in Cleveland. Years later, I attended St. Joseph High School with Jim Slusser, a second cousin (son of Gene Slusser). Jim was a champion cross country and track runner.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Great Grandma Lizzie Coughlin's Home in 1923

My Aunt Kay recently gave me a postcard sent by my Grandfather, Connie Coughlin, to his mother, Lizzie Ierg Coughlin in March of 1923. My Grampa was 31 at the time, almost 32, and he had three children, Fran, Jack, and Bob (my Dad). Later that year my Uncle Bill was born. Grampa sent the postcard from Chicago. I can't imagine what he was doing there. I don't believe he was playing baseball anymore. Was he there for work?

The postcard was sent to Mrs. E. Coughlin, at 893 Ansel Road, Cleveland. That home is still there 90 years later. It is just south of St. Clair and just west of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (formerly called Liberty Boulevard) and the beautiful Rockefeller Park that runs from Lake Erie to University Circle. My Grandma Cora Bowers Coughlin and her parents, Frank and Mary Voelker Bowers, lived in this same neighborhood--at the time a solidly middle-class area.

The neighborhood and the house itself can be seen below.

View Larger Map

I drove down Ansel Road yesterday, September 29, 2013, and was astonished at the number of homes boarded up and the number of empty lots where homes have been demolished. This home is about a half mile south of the Gordon Park baseball fields and just a little more than a half mile south of Lake Erie. My Grampa must have played ball at Gordon Park. I myself played there in the mid 1960s.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pope Francis--Breath of the Holy Spirit?

The recent news about Pope Francis is astonishing. A change in the obsessive and offputting focus of the Church on abortion, contraception, and homosexuality? The possibility of ending the thousand-year-old discipline of celibacy for Roman Rite priests? A return to the "preferential option for the poor"?

One thinks immediately of Saint Pope John XXIII. One wonders if this is the fresh air, the Breath of the Holy Spirit, surprising the Church and the whole world!

Poem about Painesville, Ohio and Mike Celizic

I'm going to do a poetry reading October 1st at the wine bar/restaurant in Painesville called "Your Vine or Mine." So thinking about Painesville and my old friend Mike Celizic from Leroy Township, just outside of Painesville, I came up with this new poem:

“I’m from Painesville, with an Emphasis on the Pain!” An Elegy for Mike Celizic

When I first met Mike Celizic
I listened to his funny, practiced spiel:

“I’m Mike Celizic!
I live on Paine Road,
Near Paine Creek and Paine Hollow,
Down the Road from Paine Falls.

I’m from Painesville . . .
With an emphasis on the pain.”

This mad Croatian, harry as an ape,
Politics to the right of Attila the Hun,
Strange mix of confidence and its lack.

Mike invented a persona, one he marketed
With great success:
“The man with the hat.”
“I take off my hat for nobody,” he crowed,
Sports commentator extraordinaire.

It was shtick. It was marketing.
And it worked!

Mike the author of seven books,
A radio sports guy,
MSNBC columnist,
TV sports guy.

Only I and a handful of others
Knew him as the clumsy often fearful
Factory worker’s son,
The boy who cleaned up in his uncles’ Leroy Tavern,

The insecure guy with the fancy fedora,
The guy that we loved
In spite of the bluster and show.

Bob Coughlin
September 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Billy Collins' 9-11 Poem: "Names"

Below is the great 9-11 poem by former US poet laureate Billy Collins:

The Names 

by Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

Billy Collins reads the poem:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Visit to the University of Notre Dame

Our visit to Notre Dame on August 31st for the Notre Dame-Temple football game. The campus was beautiful and full of fun and everybody seemed so happy. We parked at St. Mary's College and walked over to the Grotto, where we met my brothers and their kids. Minutes later I met Chris Cotter, his son Daniel, and Becky Cotter's son Austin. Chris and I, friends since 1966 or so, barely had time to talk, but it was wonderful to see him. At times I felt almost overcome by memories. As we prayed at the Grotto, I especially thought of my mother, who loved Notre Dame and visited it often as a girl. I imagine I went to the school because of my Mom. Below are some photos from that wonderful day.

Linda by St. Mary's Lake

Linda and Bob near the Golden Dome
Bob, with Washington Hall in the background
Hesburgh Library and the mosaic of the Resurrected Christ
Bob, Jim, Darby, Kevin, Tommy

Chris Cotter and Bob
Dillon and Harmon
iI the Grotto, lighting a candle

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Poem Signed by Seamus Heaney

This will be my last blog entry on the death of the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

In 2004 I had the privilege of attending the annual Yeats Summer Conference in Sligo, Ireland. Seamus Heaney was there and recited his poetry and lectured before fairly small groups. In the evening, he'd go out to drink with the participants (and not just with the big deals). At the end of the conference we all received beautifully printed and signed poems by Heaney and Brendan Kennelly. Heaney's poem at that time had not been published. It was called "The Blackbird of Glanmore," and dealt with the accidental death of his little brother while Seamus was away at school. I have tried to photograph the document below (it's not yet framed--it's rolled up and in a mailing tube, so photographing it was tricky):

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hiram Irish Music Session Coming Up Soon!

Got this note from Tina and Paul Dreisbach, music profs at Hiram College:

Fall date:  Sunday, October 6, 2013
Learn tunes: 2:00
Open session: 3:00
Potluck refreshments—All welcome
Frohring Music Hall Room 102 (recital hall)
11746 Dean St., Hiram Village

Other 2013-14 dates:  February 16, March 30

This is one of my all-time favorite things. I'll bring my whistles and guitar. And I hope we'll see other Irish musicians from the area with their bodhrans, whistles, concertinas, flutes, fiddles, harps, guitars, and other instruments (including Robin Montgomery on the piano).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Uillean Pipe Tune Played at Seamus Heaney's Funeral

Below is a video of Ronan Browne playing "Port na bPucai" ("Tune of the Faeries") on the uillean pipes (elbow pipes or Irish pipes). This is the same tune that Liam O'Flynn played at Seamus Heaney's funeral yesterday.

Seamus Heaney's Poem about the Blasket Islands (County Kerry)

The Given Note

On the most westerly Blasket
In a dry-stone hut
He got this air out of the night.

Strange noises were heard
By others who followed, bits of a tune
Coming in on loud weather

Though nothing like melody.
He blamed their fingers and ear
As unpractised, their fiddling easy

For he had gone alone into the island
And brought back the whole thing.
The house throbbed like his full violin.

So whether he calls it spirit music
Or not, I don't care. He took it
Out of wind off mid-Atlantic.

Still he maintains, from nowhere.
It comes off the bow gravely,
Rephrases itself into the air.

Seamus Heaney
from the collection 'Opened Ground, Poems 1966-1996', published by Faber and Faber 1998 

This poem was recited at Seamus Heaney's funeral yesterday. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Seamus Heaney's Poem "Punishment"

The world has lost its great poet, Seamus Heaney. Below is one of his early poems, and surely one of the greatest. He wrote many poems about the "bog bodies"--bodies preserved in the peat bogs of Northern Europe (google "bog bodies" then click on images to see examples). This poem can be found in the collection entitled "North" and can be purchased at,, and at many other places.
I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.
It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.
I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.
Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:
her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring
to store
the memories of love.
Little adulteress,
before they punished you
you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,
I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeuur
of your brain’s exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles’ webbing
and all your numbered bones:
I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,
who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.