Category Archives: Memoir

Look Around

Finding myself suddenly with completely new surroundings after 20 years, I wrote this poem to describe my momentary impressions of the neighborhood, its houses and people, the scenic backdrop, and of my own emotional reaction to it all. Moving one’s life from here to there can be an overwhelming experience for even the strongest.  There is no substitute for time when acclimating to a new atmosphere. And wherever we go we can find beauty and positivity. But it took me awhile.

LOOK AROUND

Look over the world.
Look to the west where
the sun has fallen behind
the mountains.
Look to the north where
the lake blends
with the sky,
blue on blue.
Look around:
that shirtless man
in the field throwing
a ball to his happy mutt—
this sulking kid carrying
sacs of garbage to the dumpster—
kingbirds surveying
from gable tops, darting
off to snatch flying bugs—
a small pony-tailed girl inching
her bicycle along, training
wheels rattling, a pink helmet
strapped on—
garage doors opened and closed down
the street, an assortment
of deteriorating cars, and a crammed collection
of the detritus of living—
the stop sign standing red, standing.
All is in order:
look around:
everything as it always
is, as it should be,
I suppose.
Now shuffle
back inside,
look around,
turn off the light
again.

A Day to Rejoice!

I sat in my home recently, contemplating my blessings.  I could see quickly that they abound.  I felt to rejoice on that day and wrote this poem.  I thought it fitting to post the poem on Fathers Day.  I hope that you all find reasons to rejoice today and everyday.

A DAY TO REJOICE!

Today
is a day
to rejoice:
A Rejoicing Day!

Do you see
there
on that wall
those photographs
of young people who
consider
you their friend, who
trust
you with their hearts, who
love
you despite your imperfections, who
call after
you, papa, dada, pops,
smiling from their place
on that wall, who
forgive
you
today:
A Rejoicing Day!

What do you think of these
bratwurst,
tell me:
stadium brats,
beer brats,
smoked brats,
sweet Italians—grilled
on that Father’s Day grill
under flames leaping after dripping juice—
which do you like
best?
You like them all?
A Celebration Day!

No booby-trapped doors.
No roadside IEDs just waiting to rip off your limbs.
No bullets through your windows on a Sunday afternoon.
You can walk
to your church,
you can pray and sing
and lift your hallelujah hands to the heavens
and not get beheaded for it;
you can hold your grandbaby,
almost smiling,
and have
a reasonable hope
in her
prosperity and peace—
a reasonable hope.
Yes,
I declare it:
A Rejoicing Day!
A Rejoicing Day!!

Then
there
is
you:
your wrap-around hugs, tight,
your battalions of butterfly kisses, soft,
your letting go and letting God,
your dogged determination
to forgive
me.
I am permitted to dream,
am I not?
A Jubilation Day!

The sun shines.
The rain falls.
The garden grows its fruits.
The church steeple rises
toward the sun in heaven,
rises,
with your heart, in
a reasonable hope
that the world,
for all its cracks and chasms,
is a home worth living in
on this
Rejoicing Day!

 

(Note: parts of this poem are autobiographical; other parts are aspirational.)

Wood Lamp: Hope

“Hope”

My friend and business associate Randy S. commissioned this lamp, affectionately named Hope, as a companion to our beautiful wood lamp Waves.  Randy selected the wood for Hope from several photographs I sent him in October 2015, seen here from three different views.

Hyrum (15) and I worked slowly over the next year and a half to transform this rough piece of wood into the beautiful lamp featured above.  The first step was, as always, to clean and smooth the wood.  Next we drilled the small surface that would support the bulb socket, stained the wood with several coats of dark Provincial stain, and inserted the nipple pipe and socket.

Preparing the table-top base came next.

We mounted the lamp wood onto the base with wood glue and several three-inch screws, wired the lamp, varnished the base and lamp with gloss polyurethane, and caulked around the lamp base.  We routed the base bottom to house the lamp chord.

The final step was to suspend the lamp upside down between two padded chairs and attach black felt to the bottom of the base.

Randy took the lamp to his home office to join Waves after nearly two years.  He said it was worth the wait.

(Purchase Price: $500.)

Baker Brothers Lamps was founded to help my sons earn money for the 2013 and 2017 National Boy Scout Jamborees and to pay for their high school athletic activities and university studies.  It has been so fun for me to work on this hobby with my sons, transforming rough wood into beautiful lamps.

Red Rock Trail

Living in Utah, I have come to love what we call “red rock country.”  Bizarre twisted shapes dominate canyon landscapes, in every hue of red and orange, remnants of ancient tectonic upheavals and eons of erosion.  On the trails winding through these hills I have found inspiration and wonderment, pondering the forces of creation and nature.  I have held my young children’s hands as we scrambled over boulders and up screes.  We have marveled at the prickly-pear’s crimson bloom and the aromatic sagebrush.  We have laughed at the lizards and cottontails scurrying for cover beneath black brush and Mormon tea.  All, the stuff of awe and sweet memory.  In this poem I look back at an early red-rock-country explorer on horseback.  Enjoy the trail.

RED ROCK TRAIL

shod hoofs
stumble on stones,
leave glintings
behind, sparks,
scramble to rise
to the high red butte;
desert varnish trickles
below, springs
sprout cottonwoods,
beaver chewed,
beaver felled,
feeding, damming
all but flashing
floods from distant rains
beyond, where
snows melt
under desert sun
on the high red butte

Snow Canyon, Utah

Arco-Iris

On a recent evening, the image of a piece of thick chalk popped into my mind, perhaps from an old photo of my daughter’s driveway chalk drawings, perhaps from an web ad for a sidewalk chalk contest.  I decided to see what I could make of it.  The Portuguese word “arco-iris” is one of my favorites, meaning “rainbow.”  For this poem, I imagined my daughter making long, curving sweeps with her pastel chalks, to make a rainbow.  I hope you enjoy it.

ARCO-ÍRIS

make me an arco-íris
a pretty one
take this piece of chalk
here: scrape a long arc
on rough-brushed concrete
a yellow arc
a nice, thick arc
the chalk on its side
take this piece of chalk
here: grind out the green
the blue, nice long injured
arcs
now here the pink, and red
put the purple above
or beneath, either way
just make me an arc
an arc
before
rain


Roger Evans Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The non-fiction book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  Rose Gluck Reviews recently reviewed Rabbit Lane in Words and Pictures.

Impressions of Erda and Enterprise

I visited recently with my good friends Harvey and Mary Russell at their home in Enterprise, Utah.  I had not seen them for years.  Harvey, my humble hero, is a leading figure in my nonfiction book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  Named “Many Feathers” by American Indians, Harv helped me build my chicken coop and lead me through an Indian sweat ceremony in Erda, Utah.  My impressions during the visit were poignant and bitter-sweet, demanding expression in this impressionistic poem.

IMPRESSIONS OF ERDA AND ENTERPRISE

Car window down:
“Is this Harvey’s place?”
A wave to drive in, and smiles:
three mechanics, brown
where I should have seen white:
lost their teeth to the chew.

Engine block rocks
from its rolling crane.
“You’re the one that wrote the book?”
“And you write poems, too?”
“Yea,” I said, “but
I don’t know a spark plug
from a distributor cap,
like you!”

That storm broke branches off
Harv’s old elm. “Shall I cut them
small for the stove, or long
for the truck bed to the dump?”
“Oh, it’s not your mess—
long for the dump.” I cut them
short for next winter’s warming.

Neighbors burning winter’s detritus,
wind-lopped limbs, old stumps.
Pleasant smell of woody smoke.
The whole family shovels
manure over the garden plot;
rich, dry, composted;
like I used to do, before.

Perfect pens for homers,
robust cocks chortling in one,
slighter hens in the other.
At 79, he still races.

“When he finally left,
he took everything, even
the lightbulbs and toilet seat.”

Worn brown leather boots
on the workbench
by the big rusty drill press,
under dust.

“Will you keep an eye on my place Harv?”
“pow pow pow!”
Ducks falling from the sky,
poached from his neighbor’s pond.

“pow pow pow!”
Geese poached from the sky.
“But I called this time;
they think they own all the birds
in the whole country.”

Old Ekins took
their guns, their geese.
One protested: “Too late:
the goose is in the oven.
Sunday dinner!”
Said Old Jim: “Not too late:
take the Sunday goose out!”

Eight hens scratch in the grass,
keep him in eggs.
Two roosters corral and crow.
Ducks waddle where they will.

The garden tool shed:
a secret privy, with shovel and hoe.
“Toss in a cup of wood stove ash.”
(The neighbors, they don’t know.)

Lilac bushes, just leafing,
a long arcing row
next the dirt drive;
promising purple perfume.

Flapjacks browned on cast iron;
butter; blueberries; pure maple syrup;
my first goat milk, creamy and sweet.

Crazy Cliff dragged a trailer house
up a Skull Valley mountain
with a rickety track hoe; by some miracle
the belcher didn’t topple over backwards.

A lightning bolt split:
two fires funneling down
to that trailer. A bomber dropped
red retardant dust,
panicked mustangs plunging through.

Mother made Mary
give away her baby;
only 15. She married
the man at 16, and met
her first-born son 49 years late.

Brussels and yams
roasted soft
in olive oil and herbs;
fresh bread and pot roast.

Third and fourth marriages
for both: married twice
to each other: “We just drifted
apart, until God brought us
back together.”

“Living with someone is just
hard, rubbing and bumping
against each other.”

“He kissed me
tenderly
on the cheek.”

Harvey, Mary, and Roger

Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.

You Showed Me

My assistant city attorneys and I have prosecuted domestic violence perpetrators for 24 years.  I have come to loathe the mentality that allows a perpetrator to use violence to maintain power and control in an intimate relationship.  The very person the perpetrator should love with tenderness he beats into submission.  A cherished friend recently confided in me that her estranged husband had clobbered her in the face with a work boot he was holding, breaking her nose.  As painful as was the injury to her face, the deeper injury was to her spirit and her mind.  That strike caused her eyes to swell and blacken, but at the same time opened her eyes wide to who and what he was, and to what a future with him would bring.  I wrote this poem to honor my friend’s courage to see the truth and to seek a place of safety for herself and her children.  I dedicate this poem to all victims of domestic violence, those who survive and thrive, and those who have not yet broken free.  God bless.

YOU SHOWED ME

You bashed my face
with your boot,
steel-toed,
to show me
who you are:
tough, in control,
powerful.

You broke my nose
with your heel.

Our lambs watched, and
wept.

I am bleeding now,
swollen, my face
red and sore.

Yes, you showed me
the man you are.

But I say
to your face:
You missed!

Bereft I may be, but
I am not destroyed!
Because
you beat me,
you bruised me,
you cut me,
but you missed
my heart
my mind
my dreams
my soul
my will.

Yes,
you showed me.