It starts with a simple click and whirr,
chains pop on sprockets and then a symphony
of gears blur into a low hum and rhythmic cough.
The spin of hairless oiled legs,
the sinewy riders coursing through the veins
of France like bright Lycra blood.
This is the moment before bones break and road rash, before
helmets are cracked and bodies either give up
or triumph. Here, at the cusp of the journey something big is
about to happen. Something totally bananas! Can you imagine
being at the starting line on a bicycle at the beginning of the Tour
de France? Whoa! What are those guys thinking at the start of such
a huge race? And what of their families? Watching that huge flock
of color knowing somewhere down there is a son, a father, a
brother, or a loved one. The absolute nervous thrill of the spectacle
of the peloton and all that follows it: the trucks, the motorcycles,
the show around the caravan, the painted faces, the giant foam
hands, the cowbells, the wine, the helicopters, the pageant of men
as they make their dizzy way through valleys,
up mountains and down again, whizzing, whirring, bleeding,
for three whole weeks. Crazy town! Oh you cynics of the Tour,
please fade away, at least for today. There is no purer delight than
watching fellow humans doing some rather unimaginable things.
Gentlemen, start your pedals!
– Todd Colby 2012
The sun was shining so bright,
having beaten the clouds in fight.
We wanted to go out for fun,
I wish the clouds could beat the sun.
Evening came and the sun went down,
We all went for a walk in the town.
Water was flowing down the stream,
While I was licking my ice cream.
The stars shone brightly in the sky,
they finally showed all their might
– Nirbhay Kwatra
He never looks for praises
He’s never one to boast
He just goes on quietly working
For those he loves the most
His dreams are seldom spoken
His wants are very few
And most of the time his worries
Will go unspoken too
He’s there…. A firm foundation
Through all our storms of life
A sturdy hand to hold to
In times of stress and strife
A true friend we can turn to
When times are good or bad
One of our greatest blessings,
The man that we call Dad.
– Karen Boyer
To all the fathers out there – have a great day!
The sighing surf on sand abounds, and seabirds call, the only sounds
At break of summers day, and yet, within the hour men will have met
Their destiny as war’s shrill chatter ends this tranquil scene. The clatter
Of machine guns spit their hate, as landing craft nose in to grate
Against the shingle to disgorge their human load who wait to charge
Into oncoming deathly hail, but never faltering, nerves taut, pale
Faced, leaping down into the cold wet breakers, seeking firm foothold.
Struggling forward, arms raised clear to gain refuge ahead, so near
And yet seeming so far away as spiteful guns traverse and spray
The killing ground that lies ahead, already littered with the dead
And dying who would never see this bitter, bloody victory.
Then faintly, through the deafening din, an alien sound is heard, the thin
Melodious wailing cry of highland pipes, though bullets fly
Around him, he is unscathed still. Thus starts the tale of Piper Bill.
Bill, who piped for Brigadier Lord Lovat, raised a special cheer
When, leaving on the previous day, took up his pipes, began to play
“Road to the Isles”, as, leaving Hamble river for this costly gamble,
Lifting spirits of the men, calling, cheered and cheered again,
Who as the Solent slipped away, all knew that on the following day
They’d face their own worst fears and doubts, prayed that when it came about
They would stand firm and conquer fear to face the perils that appeared.
And now, amid the smoke and roar of high explosives, Bill endures
The hail of death, which all around leaves him untouched, while yet the sound
Of “Highland Laddie” fills the air as fingers on the chanter dare
To still defy the lethal storm, this awesome hell in all its forms.
Yet death and wholesale demolition, backdrop to this exhibition
Of the art of Scottish piping, even with the bullets sniping,
Will not quiet this hardy Scot, surviving mortar shell and shot.
He marches at the waters edge, still playing, able still to dredge
From deep within his mortal soul the courage to maintain and hold
Himself upright despite the urge to run for safety, then emerge
When all is still and quiet again, escape the trauma and the pain.
But Bill is made of sterner stuff, clutching his pipes he starts to puff
And fill the bag, then with a squeeze, his hands again with practiced ease
Launch into yet another air, lifting spirits everywhere.
And so the legend now is born, as Bill continues to perform
Beyond this strip of golden sand known as Sword Beach, where many men
Have fallen, sacrificed their all in answering their country’s call,
But in this page of history this part of France will always be
Where Highland Bagpipes did their part with inspiration, and gave heart
To all who witnessed Bill that day, who, when he crossed that beach to play,
With all his great panache and poise, gave the Highland Pipes their voice.
– Tony Church
Posted in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice on the beaches of Normandy, June 1944
Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!
Oh for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee’s morning chase,
Of the wild-flower’s time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole’s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape’s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp’s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy,—
Blessings on the barefoot boy!
Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!
Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O’er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs’ orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!
Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt’s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!
– John Greenleaf Whittier (1855)
in your life
more wonderful …
than the way the sun,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance–
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
as it warms you
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world–
or have you too
– Mary Oliver
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze
that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house
and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,
a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies
seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking
a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,
releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage
so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting
into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day
– Billy Collins