Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I said 60, and tomorrow I turn 61.
All year I have whispered to myself--next week,
"Next week I will end my life."
My resolution began at twenty-five
When I watched my grandfather disentegrate
Wiping drool from his mouth he struggled to stand
The smell of soiled pants rising in the air
Inching his way uncertainly across the kitchen
Palsied hands grasping the counter like a child
And I swore in my heart
Swore deep in my heart
That I would never suffer myself to this.
"At sixty," I said. "At sixty I will leave before this comes."
But now sixty is almost over.
Yes, my back aches and my joints are stiffer than before
At night I struggle to stay asleep
And at breakfast I eat mostly pills
But there is still life in these bones.
The will to live is strong
And my balding head is not yet ready to lay down
Or lie in a box beneath the earth,
And the moments of joy were unexpected
The sear of love when I see my grandson toddle toward me
Words blurring on his lips,
And somehow this increased fragility of age
Has only seasoned the world
Made cold mornings more fresh
Each breath of steam a gift
Each scent of burning leaves a blessing.
The old grasshopper dragging himself along the branch
Is more blessed than I imagined.

Poem © 2014 Daniel Routh

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Giant pillars of smoke billowed up from the rails and buildings, and a smell like sulfur was in the air.  Explosions rumbled up as the B-17's began to bank and turn back towards Britain.

"Yeehaw!" shouted Shorty from the tail.  Rudy wasn't sure whether to cheer or weep. He craned his neck left as the plane turned her outspread wings towards home.

Some hours later, Catch radioed back.

"We're over England. You ready to come out of your bread basket, Rudy?"

"Well, I sure don't want to land in this thing," Rudy radioed back.

"Grimy, would you do the honors?" Catch said.

"Roger," Grimy said.

Rudy swung his turret to face rearward, and then aimed his guns straight down, putting all his body weight on his foot stirrups. The metal seat behind him was now the hatch back up into the plane.  There was a creaking turn of a handle, and it swung open.  Grimy's huge smile grinned down at him.  Grease stains covered his face and jump suit, as usual. He held out a hand.

"Welcome back," he said.

Rudy snorted, and took his hand, and climbed back up into the plane's tail.  Then he slammed the hatch back down and turned to find his seat.

"Don't forget to crank the guns up," Grimy said.

"Thanks," Rudy said fervently.

He had almost forgotten, and then the plane would have landed with its belly guns pointing straight down. He'd heard about one ball turret gunner in the 860th who'd forgotten to crank the guns up after he climbed out.  It had torn the guns off and messed up the whole ball turret assembly. The plane had been grounded for a week and the gunner had almost been demoted to infantry.  Instead he'd sat out his crew's missions for a month while a temporary gunner filled his spot.

Might not sound like punishment, but just try sitting in your barracks while the guys you care about most are out risking their lives. And when they get back with stories, you have to sit quiet while they roar with laughter or cry. No gunners since had forgotten to crank the ball turret guns to tuck up just beneath the tail assembly. And Rudy didn't want to be the next gunner to forget.

He sat on a jump seat and stared out the open slot in the side of the plane.  Grimy's gun poked out through the slot, aiming out into the blue sky.  Grimy scanned the skies through the long narrow slot with a casual eye.  They were over England now, but occasionally a German straggler fighter might want to take some potshots before it fled back to England.

Poem © 2014 Daniel Routh

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Standing Up

The pleasure of standing up
After growing restless with repose
(Lying like a bag of potatoes scattered across the sheets)
The joy of stretching muscles knotted to bones
Unfolding legs and toes
To press against the earth
And filling lungs upright with air
As we stand to our feet

Poem © 2014 Daniel Routh

Monday, March 10, 2014

Laying Down

The pleasure of laying down
After fighting gravity all day
(The skyscraper of our vertebra holding us towering into the air)
The bliss of sleeping on the soft belly of the planet
Which spins quietly under us
As we sink down
And gentle mattress hands push up
To hold us motionless
At rest.

© 2014 Daniel Routh

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Clouds Passing
  by Daniel Routh

The skyscrapers could only stare in awe
Holding each other's hands like children
At a Macy's day parade.

Photo by Easten Law

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Loud cries and tears...
All creation is in labor pains
Until the children of God are revealed

Half-sobbing rivulets dribbling from my lips
Eyes thrown back in their wet sockets
Knee ligaments stretched painfully against hardwood planks
Philanges and other finger bones shaking with the violence
Of being born and born and born again today.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A New Chapter

Good evening.

This blog is beginning a new chapter of its existence. For the next month, I'm going to experiment and post snippets of whatever I've been writing that day, or recently. These will often be rough--a first draft at best. That will be rough for me too, sometimes, knowing that if I wait several months and edit the poem, story, or essay several times it will be more effective. However, for the next month, this blog is simply the rough drafts. I'm hoping it will encourage me to keep writing, to have an audience however intimate. And I hope it may draw you into the conversation of what I'm writing. I need you, too. Thanks.


Today's snippet:
(From "Death in the Sky," a historical fiction novel in first draft)

A wave of homesickness washed over him for a moment there, in his ball turret. Angrily he jammed at the microphone button.

"Anybody know how much longer to target?"

It crackled back in his ear. "Sounds like our little friend down below is getting antsy," Catch said.

"Stuff it in your eye," he said back.

"Hang on to your pants," Catch said. "We're almost to the drop."

The plane bucked in the wind. Rudy swung the turret around to face front, looking forward between his legs at the vista before them. Far below, railroad tracks converged out of hills and forests into a giant train depot. Turning his head, he saw that the bombers all around them had opened their bomb bays as well.

"Drop in one minute," Catch said in Rudy's earphone. "Get ready to lay some eggs on Hitler."

The seconds rumbled by as flack puffs began appearing around them, at first silent. Then came rumbles and pops of thunder.

"Ten seconds."

Rudy scanned the sky below them for enemy planes. None.


The plane bobbed up as their eight 500 pound bombs released, dropping in a cascade from their bomb bay like a bandolier of fat bullets. All around them other B-17s streamed strands of bombs. Rudy watched, mesmerized, as the neat lines of bombs shrank to little dots far below them. Then, sudden and silent, explosions erupted all over the landscape below them. Bright flashes, bursts of cloud and debris lit here and there across the hills and train depot. Train cars flew into the air like tiny toys, flipping and whirling far above the ground as more and more bright flashes broke out. Then the sound, a deep, terrifying rumble, reached up to them and shook the plane. Giant pillars of smoke billowed up from the rails and buildings, and a smell like sulfur was in the air. Flashes continued as the B-17's began to bank and turn back towards Britain.