Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Poem for Robby on His Third Birthday

Robby's Third Birthday

"Here I am!" you announce,
Climbing out of your crib,
Surprising us in the family room.

Yes, here you are!
And we are so happy to celebrate
You, on your third birthday.

You, so full of joy and energy,
You so full of love for Mommy and Daddy,
Your big brother Colin and baby sister Ava,

For your Grandmas, Nana Gigi, Nana Linda,
Your Grampas, Bumpa and Brrr,
Aunts and Uncles, cousins and friends.

You, lover of music, running,
Trains, trucks, diggers, eating, napping . . .
We celebrate your joyous life!

Happy Birthday, Beautiful Robby!

Grampa Brrr / December 30, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Light Shines in the Darkness . . .

. . . and the darkness has not overcome it."

Christmas Gift at Solstice

If I could give one gift to you,
It would be an infusion of Hope,
Which, powered by your great Love,

Would energize this world,
Pouring Light into this darkness.

We will do this!

Bob Coughlin / December 21, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Christbrand"--a Poem for Christmas--by Frank O'Malley


By Frank O’Malley

Let the Christbrand burst,
Let the Christbrand blazon.

Dartle whitely under the hearth-fire,
Unwind the wind, turn the thunderer,
And never, never thinning,
Forfend fear.
Flare up smartly, fix, flex, bless, inspire,
Instar the time, sear the sorcerer,
And never, never sparing,
Save all year.

Let the Christbrand burst,
Let the Christbrand blazon.

(Frank O’Malley was a beloved English Professor at the University of Notre Dame)

I was a student at the University of Notre Dame from 1966 to 1970 (with my sophomore year spent in a Notre Dame program in Austria). Frank O'Malley lived from 1909 to 1974, and taught at Notre Dame for about 40 years. O'Malley's word choice in this poem is unusual and you might need to look up some of these words. For example, I take "brand" here to mean "fire." The word "blazon" sounds like "blaze," but means to proclaim publicly. I take "forfend" to mean "fend off." So many of the words in this poem relate to fire--the Christbrand. I love the lines, "And never, never sparing, / Save all year." Yes, save all year!

My Notre Dame friend Ron Weisenberger, may he rest in peace, was a student of Frank O'Malley and first shared this poem with me.

A Poem for the Great Darkness and Silence

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


Robert M. Coughlin

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I've written a poem in Spanish about a tragedy at the Mexican-American border.

en la frontera, los inmigrantes desesperados . . .

mujeres y niños llorones,
policía exigiendo documentos, pasaportes--

algunos niños agarran fuertemente los pasaportes americanos--
y las manos de sus madres--

pero las madres no tienen nada,
ningún pasaporte,

ninguna esperanza
para el viaje de vuelta largo a Guatemala,

donde no existe un futuro,
no existe nada.

[on the border, the desperate immigrants / mothers and children weeping / police demanding documents, passports / some children grasp fiercely their American passports and the hands of their mothers / but the mothers have nothing / no passport / no hope / for the long journey back to Guatemala / where there exists no future / where there is nothing]

I wrote this poem in response to a news report I saw two days ago on Univision. Here's a link to the piece:

If that doesn't work click here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Poem for Our Times--by William Butler Yeats ("The Second Coming")

Check out the first stanza, especially the final line.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Game 5 of the 1995 World Series--We Were There

The Cleveland Indians played the Atlantic Braves in the 1995 World Series, losing to them in 6 games. I got to see game 5 at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, along with Linda and two of my daughters, Julia and Carolan. The youngest, Emily was at home that evening.

When you hear about the cost of seats at the 2016 World Series between Cleveland and Chicago, it might seem strange that we could afford to buy 4 tickets back in 1995. But those tickets only cost us $16 or $18 apiece. The Indians had a lottery for non-season ticket holders to buy tickets. I sent in a postcard  to get into this lottery, and won the right to buy 4 tickets to game 5. Today, people are paying $800 for standing room tickets. We had seats, in the upper deck in right field. In the 8th inning of that game, Jim Thome hit a home run that landed not far to the right of us. I jumped up trying to move toward the ball and hurt myself a bit when I landed.

Albert Belle also hit a homer for the Indians and Orel Hershiser was the winning pitcher, with José Mesa getting the save. The final score was 5-4 Cleveland. The fans were ecstatic after the game and you would have thought that we had just won the entire World Series, rather than one game. People were so excited, cars were honking horns for an hour. It was tremendously fun--it was our World Series victory.

The Atlanta Braves had one of the greatest pitching staffs in history, featuring Hall of Famers John Smolz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux. We pretty much knew that it would take a miracle to win the series. Game 6 was held in Atalanta, and Tom Glavine (with the 9th inning pitched by closer Mark Wohlers), threw a one-hit shutout--and that was it.

43,595 people saw game 5--and we were among them. Afterwards, we celebrated our World Series victory.