Sunday, December 11, 2016

Friend of My Father (for David McLansky)


Friend of My Father (for David McLansky)

A friend of my Father, is a friend of mine.
Stealth in the shadows, until time to shine,
They would put me in the spotlight, all to see,
Allowing me to join in their camaraderie;
Now past and gone, let this be their shrine.

A friend of my Mother, someone I hold dear;
When I see them now, it is as if she is here.
Envision patchwork quilt, each holds a square,
Catalogued, documented, recall time to share,
Some memories faded, while others shine clear.

A friend of my children will always be welcome.
Even with offspring scattered, not under thumb,
Speaking freely from my side shown, of agnation,
They are free to find solace about this station;
Let them always consider this as a second home.

A friend of my friend, such is David McLansky.
I am grateful, Lainey introduced him to me,
Providing me with a show of strength mentor;
Tried and true, with a wicked sense of humor.
I share this, gratitude from a humble devotee.

Michael Todd (2016)

To read the works of David McLansky, visit his poetry page...

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Aoife O'Donovan Fiddle Camp


Aoife O'Donovan Fiddle Camp

Welcome to the 2016 event of the Minnesota music season;
El Rancho Manana was booked, but not Duluth. The reason
for all the excitement, not seen before here or since is,
Annual Aoife O'Donovan Fiddle Camp is about to commence.

Friday night was set aside for a staged contest for locals,
A talent contest of sorts, to showcase pickers with vocals.
Several bands shone like new money, but still did not win.
The St. Louis County crowd stuffed the ballots once again.

Bertram Haversham and the Bayfront Ramblers took the vote;
with no consolation for second place, that's all she wrote.
For their efforts, the boys will take the stage, authorized
to perform a tune alongside Aoife. Won't she be surprised?

She arrived Friday night, no one knew she was in proximity,
their rented tour bus affording her a measure of anonymity.
Her entourage, Steve, Anthony, and Carl, driver of the bus,
step out, wearing tee shirts proclaiming, "She's With Us."

Saturday morning workshops start promptly at nine, or ten.
Anthony's tutorial on playing mandola is the first to begin.
At another tent, Steve instructs students on Celtic Drums,
Aoife nods in approval, silently rendering Gaelic hums...

At high noon, she takes the stage, fielding random queries.
No question is repeated, until well into the third series,
She explains, moonshine does not come from a crooked still.
Aoife fills in anecdotes of her ride on the music treadmill.

This is the first festival season that she has done solos,
so cannot defer quiz models designed for Thile or Jarosz,
but she is a master of spinning toward her own expertise.
When it comes to song suggestions, "Try a few of these..."

So as to not interrupt, notes are placed at edge of stage.
"Why don't you play a Martin? When did you quit The Rage?"
"Do you know Rabbit in a Log?" (Seems someone is dyslexic.)
"How do you play your guitar so clean without using a pick?"

The game of twenty-plus questions is scattered yet seamless;
most she knows the answers, the rest she hazards a guess.
Shy and unassuming, this girl to the patrons, comes alive,
closing, to their mutual chagrin, "See you back at five!"

After the session, the group leisurely strolls the grounds,
Stopping along the way to sample foods, on their rounds.
The line was long at the Luke's Lutefisk on a Stick stand.
Too bad they ran out of lemonade. This was not well planned.

Five o'clock, the air is filled with an eerie mournful sound
of lawn chairs taking weight, those not sitting on the ground.
Bertram is introduced to Aoife, they step to a microphone;
as soon as his banjo rings, she wishes she was onstage alone.

It seems, "Hot Corn, Cold Corn" was the only song both knew.
Fare you well, Uncle Bert, see you never, when this is through.
As bad as he sang, even to point of misinterpreting a verse,
The Bayfront Ramblers, by any comparison, were even worse.

As the contest winners exited to applause, did a sound linger?
Aoife turned to see Bertram, tuning his banjo, near the singer.
"What key is your next one, little lady?" his question her way.
"If you don't leave, I will kick your shins. You cannot stay."

Ever the consummate professional, she regained her composure,
and navigated through her set. It was truly a magical hour;
her compositions, Irish tunes, sampling Joni and Emmylou,
with an encore sing along of "Oh Mama" and she was through.

At dusk we find Aoife and merry band, walking along the groves,
as parking lot pickers, strength in numbers, gather in droves.
Surrounded by amateur aficionados here in the Land of Prince,
there was one familiar out of tune banjo. That made her wince.

She was approached by a man with a camera, about next year.
Dave, along with committee members, Lia and Deanna, made clear,
come next season, the festival would have a new theme in play.
When revealed, polka was in the offing, Aoife turned away.

She found herself eye to eye with a stranger. In his zeal,
he sounded the news, "She is here. Aoife O'Donovan is here."
As her band mates and bus driver watched in mock disbelief,
Aoife turned and scribbled her name, then gave him relief.

"Yes, I met her, and asked for an autograph. She gave me two.
It is only right that I keep one, and give the other to you."
The mentally challenged fellow meant no harm, and as such,
prized possession in his hand warranted, "Thank you so much!"

That night, she mused, there is a song here, to be found,
and write she did, on the way to Boston, in that Greyhound.
She envisioned Mystic River, fourteen hundred miles to arrive,
thinking, "Hope we don't get lowed bridged on Storrow Drive."

A wake up call from the desk, all is not as it might seem.
Here in Hollywood, California, Aoife awoke from her dream.
At his final Prairie Home Companion, Garrison's reprieve,
She says to Keillor, "I've a story, even you won't believe."

Michael Todd (2016)

Disclaimer: Aoife O'Donovan is a favorite singer of mine. I saw a video of her, and in it, Sarah Jarosz mentioned the song she was about to perform was one she learned from Aoife, early in her career, at a workshop. Aoife responded with something along the lines of "Y'all come to fiddle camp." Well, she probably did not say "Y'all" but you know I tend to embellish. Anyway, that is where I got the idea for this poem. As for the rest, it just all fell into place. 

Aoife was onstage with Garrison Keillor, for his final Prairie Home Companion appearance, in July. That part is real. Also real, is her website, which can be found here...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Petition (Sonnet for Heather)


Petition (Sonnet for Heather)

How can it be, on the surface perceive,
easy to forgive a perfect stranger,
and so hard to forgive a friend? Reprieve
therein lies, estranged; in truth a danger.

Heavy is a heart, predisposed to grieve.
Elusive bonds, chronicled, and as such,
resigned to resort to wear heart on sleeve,
missing motions, glances she once could clutch.

Bury the stillness of a starless eve,
recalling a place in time, he wasn't here;
afford measure of solace, side bereave;
gone, seldom forgotten; dim what was clear.

Extent of waiver, granted final, pure,
relies on her buying in, steadfast, sure.

Michael Todd (2016)

Sonnet written for Heather Brager.

Acrostic written to Heather M. Brager.

You can find Heather at her site, Touching The Art ...

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Hill to Die On


Hill to Die On

Rodney sat behind the wheel of his souped up Chevrolet.
Becky leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek for luck.
"You can take him, Hot Rod," all he needed her to say;
For a second, he ignored the revving engine of the truck,

The one poised beside him, the one he was about to race,
The one who had never lost on this makeshift drag strip,
A rural two lane on the outskirts of town, this place;
Soon "mark set go," steering wheel clenched in his grip.

Speed shifting was a thing Rodney did well, call it skill.
As they approached the finish line, up above, on a grade,
Rodney glanced, saw the truck slacking, time for the kill;
He shifted down into overdrive, seeing his opponent fade.

In an instant, clear as glass, he heard a still small voice,
"Is this the hill you want to die on" was what it relayed.
Losing his concentration, or call it nerve, then by choice,
His foot disengaged the accelerator, his speed delayed.

The truck sped by in a flash, then swerved into his lane,
A successful move avoided a head-on with a blinded raccoon.
Thanks to Rodney, neither driver, or critter, was slain,
No one but that driver saw, but never said, by light of moon.

Seeing his life flash before his eyes, brought sense of relief;
Hearing the cheers of the crowd. that was soon pushed aside.
Hot Rod's shot at teenage glory, as well as Becky's belief,
Vanished in that night; and overlooked, he might have died.

When production comes to town, the locals tend to not stray,
Rodney found good factory work, drawing a machinist wage.
A wildcat strike emptied the factory; Rodney was on his way
To join in with the dissenters, most caught up in a rage.

This all came about by a slacker, being justly taken to task.
Rather than face the music, he chose to disrupt and incite.
He misled his cohorts, seeking to hide behind a union's mask.
In time word spread throughout the plant. It was time to fight.

Taking time to stall his lathe, made Rodney last in the chain.
Soon he found his way to a bay door, above the parking lot.
Something came over him, looking down on this sea of disdain;
A feeling once known, but over time set aside to be forgot.

"Is this the hill you wish to die on, choice yours to make?"
This was all it took to give him pause, and choose to halt.
As violence erupted before him, he did not make that mistake.
Even though he knew some coworkers would condemn his fault.

The police were called to the the plant, security force's aid.
Mob rule succumbed to clubs and steel cuffs on random wrists.
The union failed to sanction the protest when truth was said.
The voice of reason, on this occasion, beat the rule of fists.

Rodney lost some friends that night from a word to the wise.
Deep down, he knew, true friends don't put you in harm's way.
With new positions to train, Rodney was a choice to supervise;
His just reward for maintaining his cool, and not going astray.

For a night shift worker, a family diner is a favored haunt.
Often, Rodney would treat himself, rather than pack a lunch.
A meat and three, with dessert and all the coffee you want;
For a late night fellow, the want of coffee packs a punch.

This was a typical evening, sounds of ironstone and silverware
Tempered the sounds of voices, passing time, enjoying a meal.
The bandits came unnoticed, until one said, "Hands in the air!"
Within seconds, the room went silent, at this scene surreal.

As one man rushed the counter, the other guarded the entrance.
Demands were made to open the register, with a pistol to show.
Rodney had his own, concealed, waiting for his proper chance;
Seeing nervous eyes guard the door, his nerve began to grow.

Sitting calmly at his table, while slowly reaching behind,
That same still voice, he recognized, came to calm his hand.
"Is this the hill you choose to die on? You may soon find,
Innocent lives might well be lost in a fatal foolish stand."

Rodney snapped back to reality, placed his hands on the table,
By this time, pick pocketing was now part of the robber's plan.
He piled as much loot on an empty table cloth as he was able;
When he frisked Rodney, feeling his gun, he turned and ran.

Once out the door, the villains never made it to their ride.
Police had gotten word of the robbery from a passing stranger.
No shots were fired. When "Hands up" arose, the men complied.
Relief came to all, especially Rodney, at passing of danger.

Some men go through life, known as average, if that, at best.
To the average man on the street, no deeds to be revered.
Their comings and goings never noted, or granted manifest.
To some, but not all, a life between shade and shadow feared.

Not all are destined to lead a parade or to win a vaunted race.
Rare is one who leads a revolt and stands above to persevere.
Few ever feel the warm effects of a hero's welcoming embrace.
Valor is its own reward, though seemingly never made clear.

Is the destiny of all accomplishments, great or small, to fade?
Or, are all worthy endeavors subject to a level of acclaim?
Many such exploits go unnoticed along life's passing parade,
But as such, are recorded, for all of those who this way came.

In this scene, we find Rodney, resting in a state of recline.
Lately, it has become a struggle for him to get up and walk.
He is surrounded by friends and generations of his bloodline.
With closed eyes, he tries to hear all said, as they talk...

"Taught me to ride a bicycle, wouldn't hear of training wheels."
"To the lake, would not stop until I caught the biggest fish."
"Showed me how to swing a bat so I'd know how a home run feels."
"Christmas Day at his house was always my best holiday wish."

Such reverence in reminiscing, brings a smile to Rodney's heart,
Interrupted by a still small voice, he's known before them all.
"Is this the hill you want to die on? If so, time to start."
Quietly without fanfare, he sees the gate, his final call...

Michael Todd (2016)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Passion Pit


Passion Pit


Boris von Staadt ... Conductor

Melonie Davis ... Boris von Staadt's Niece

Clancy ... Violinist / Assistant Conductor

Linda ... Violinist / Unfaithful Wife

Genevieve ... Violinist / Linda's Bestie

Doc Stanley ... Himself

Passion Pit

Closing night for the season, time for the final curtain to fall.
My, how time flies, from the time of the initial casting call...
Just for good measure, stage area cleaned by a professional crew;
It would not matter next night, for a movie, but for this adieu,
Stage floor so polished, rolled ice leaves not even a water crawl.

Tonight's proceedings will be afforded an informal added caveat.
Boris von Staadt will conduct for the final time; this sought:
His finest hour to stand at the podium, and wave his magic wand,
In hand. On hand, the finest stationary musicians, set to respond;
That his niece is performing the closing song, adds to the plot.

Members of the press and public dignitaries mingle with the cast.
Backstage in the dressing rooms, pictures taken, questions asked,
Are reserved for the stars to be framed by an overhead spotlight.
While not all the cast would move on to bigger things, tonight,
Each was prepared to render a closing performance unsurpassed.

Meanwhile, down in the orchestral pit, our story set to unfold;
Perhaps, there is a veritable multitude of stories to be told?
Hidden, are those who provide prologue, overture and interlude,
Below the stage, at minimum wage, always present, never viewed;
Casual patrons take them for granted, might they ever be polled.

With it hours before the show, Linda can access the threshold.
Her husband offers enthusiastic well wish. She leaves him cold,
for no apparent reason; would have been better had she conceded.
She nudges the door by the booth. There is no ticket needed.
For Linda, the story is a complicated one that runs twofold.

Linda sees Genevieve, sitting patiently in their string section.
Weaving along, encounters an errant cello bow in her direction.
She was an unintended casualty in a childish mock sword fight;
Cliff and Norton, acting like third graders, neither very bright.
Linda growled disdain, making her way through the intersection.

Requesting a report, Linda passed along a look that implied,
Her fears warranted; according to her doctor, the rabbit died.
"Does your husband know this? How did Clancy take this news?"
Linda replied, "Hubby no, and you won't believe Clancy's views;
He is moving on, and it is a good thing I am already a bride."

Clancy was big in their band, and the most eligible bachelor.
Each season, he was wooed by the women; Linda this year's score.
"When I told the news of the child, he refused to take the blame.
He laughed it off, said I could not prove it was his to claim."
Fact: For Clancy, this was a rite of passage, extending his lore.

Performance impending, each member had an assigned seat to sit.
From strings to horns to percussion, arrangement a perfect fit.
Once each member of the local theatre orchestra's home was found,
Several went into mock practice moves, in silence, no sound...
Such as it is, here in the hidden world of the orchestral pit.

The crowd filtered in, dressed to the nines, veritable potpourri
Of all walks of life, to enjoy acting, singing, and symphony.
Bootleggers, gangsters, constables, lawyers and judges of laws,
Came together in peace for an evening devoted to a common cause.
A homemaker wonders, "Is that the mercantile owner next to me?"

Prologue set to commence, Boris front and center, baton showing,
Those in front take notice, he is overcome, his tears flowing.
From section to section, each musician joins in the music flow,
A subtle beginning, dueling melodies cascade, rousing crescendo;
Finally, rumble of drums ceases, as stage dialogue is commencing.

As Boris von Staadt steps away from the podium, time to dismount,
He falls down to the floor, out like a light, down for the count.
As the entertainment plays on the stage behind, in the music town,
Real drama is underway, a tragic scene of real life is going down.
Finding someone in the medical field takes precedent, tantamount.

Hush whispers begin to permeate, "Is there a doctor in the crowd?"
Old Doc Stanley overheard, and he had his bag, as fate allowed.
He eased out to the aisle and down a ramp, his summon a success.
Seeing Boris, his initial assumption was a matter of his chest.
Doc stood for a moment over Boris, then appropriately bowed.

He had them move the maestro over to a makeshift cot, out of view.
Clancy saw the opportunity before him, knowing well what to do.
Stepping from the keyboard seat, made a bee line to the lectern;
Having studied for years there was nothing left for him to learn.
Getting their attention, "We've music to play before Act Two."

"Do it for Boris," Clancy offered, but really, was for his acclaim.
To the unknowing throng in attendance, it was really all the same,
But to those in the pit, they each played as though possessed.
Of all their performances this season, tonight's would be best;
Caught up in this glorious moment, Clancy unaware of Linda's game.

She had reached into her bag of tricks, and under her shawl,
She extended the open end of an oboe, designed to make him crawl.
She waved a Clancy, eventually getting the rounder's attention.
She pointed what he saw as a gun, at his part we won't mention.
Pointing her free hand as if pulling a trigger, caused a fall.

Clancy crawled in panic, avoiding the shot, to who knows where.
Norton whispered over to Cliff, "Must be something in the air."
Norton must have been a prophet that night, little did he know,
Doc Stanley concluded Boris had an allergy. He was good to go,
With antidote in the form of a shot administered to a derriere.

It seems the stage floor cleaning sweeper had an errant plan.
Rather than scoop debris, he swept to edge then over the span.
The sly old doctor, a bastion of calm, saw grime on a trouser,
Deduced it was dust, and administered what was an arouser.
The entire orchestra was spared, due to a faulty electric fan.

Now picture this: Clancy hiding under a tarp, toward stage right;
Boris' rise from the ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in plain sight.
Clancy was so sure von Staadt was destined to lie under clover,
The same place he was heading, if seen by a scorned former lover.
Even as his moments seemed numbered, he could not feign contrite.

The hall then grew silent as wind on a distant sparrow's wing.
This was the time in the show for the conductor's niece to sing.
Melonie von Staadt, whose stage name was Davis, took spotlight.
She wanted to make it on her own, this was her time for flight.
As violins droned, her voice engaged. Boris' tears now were real.

"Quarter moon lights my path, down this trail I know so well.
Clutching your old love letters, I dare not fear the knell.
I pray your safe return from foreign shores, Dearest Friend,
When, as then, we'll walk hand in hand under Sycamore Wind."
She held last note for half an eternity, followed by a quell.

Granted, it had taken the girl an entire season to get it right.
But, all who witnessed were in unison, a star was born that night.
No adult in that room had been spared the ravages of that war,
Be they good, bad or indifferent, all had a time and place where,
A loved one fought Over There, whose lamplight burned bright,

Not a dry eye in the house, theatre rafters shook like thunder,
As with Beethoven's "Battle of Vitoria," hats flew like plunder.
As an aside, Clancy chose this moment to poke his head curious;
A sailing derby smacked him in the eye, as fate was dubious.
In his warped mind, he'd been shot, and tragically going under.

The stars bowed, the audience countered with a final ovation.
The stars had shone, especially Melonie, overnight sensation.
The lights came up, and the partisans vacated, along their way.
The season was over, and for all intents, what a final day...
Orchestra members gathered their wares from respective station.

Linda made it a point to kick Clancy in the groin, fatal shot,
In a cathartic move, and it worked. She was a little less fraught.
"You're dead to me now. Do you understand, you worthless bastard?"
Never underestimate the power of getting in the final word!
At least she'd not be the only one to deal with a lesson taught.

In time, she would confess to her husband, and he would contend.
By the next season, he would be dating Genevieve, her best friend.
Linda would move back to Des Moine, to her judgemental mother.
Clancy would apply for head conductor and be told, "Don't bother."
Good night for now, from Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1930. The End.

Michael Todd  (2016)