I read 7 poems at the Poetry in the Park event:
“I’m from Painesville, with an Emphasis on the Pain!” An Elegy for Mike Celizic
When I first met Mike Celizic, I listened to his funny, practiced spiel:
“I’m Mike Celizic!
I live on Paine Road,
Near Paine Creek and Paine Hollow,
Down the Road from Paine Falls.
I’m from Painesville . . .
With an emphasis on the pain.”
This mad Croatian, harry as an ape,
Politics to the right of Attila the Hun,
Strange mix of confidence and its lack.
Mike invented a persona, one he marketed
With great success:
“The man with the hat,” he'd say.
“I take off my hat for nobody,” he crowed,
Sports commentator extraordinaire.
It was shtick. It was marketing.
And it worked!
Mike the author of seven books,
A radio sports guy,
TV sports commentator.
Only I and a handful of others
Knew him as the clumsy often fearful
Factory worker’s son,
The boy who cleaned up in his uncles’ Leroy Tavern,
The insecure guy with the fancy fedora,
The guy that we loved
In spite of the bluster and show.
There must be a hundred thousand blossoms
Festooning my Washington Hawthorne trees,
And ten thousand bees buzzing around the blossoms,
A low rumbling buzz you can hear 50 feet away.
I planted these trees for the birds, food for the winter,
The red berries, beautiful to my eye—
And nutritious for the hungry birds of winter,
The sparrows, finches, chickadees, cardinals.
The birds will have their turn, but first the bees!
Pollinating, stirring the powder of life, fertilizing,
Co-creating with the sun, the rain, the tree,
And the Hand of God.
These trees please my eye, but not the nose,
The scent which seduces bees, repels me,
To the human eye or nose,
Creation is not always pretty!
Bob Coughlin / June 13, 2017
Birthday Poem for Linda Rose
Can you imagine this?
We get to celebrate you and your birthday
In High Summer
When the day lilies line the lanes of Geauga County,
And the blue chicory sing out the joy of being alive,
Daisies and black-eyed Susans add their pop to the landscape,
Peace Rose rises,
And Lake Erie sparkles and glows in July sun . . .
And we sing thanks for your sweet life
And constant gifts of kindness and goodness
To your children,
Your grandchildren (who love you to the moon and back),
Your friends and family,
To the hungry, homeless, and lonely,
And to me, lucky dog, so amazed by your constant love and care . . .
We celebrate your birthday
and your blessèd life!
Bob / July 7, 2017
Cat Nation Ghosts
(--the Erie Indians, known to the French Jesuits as "La Nation du Chat," victims of genocide circa 1655 at the hands of the Iroquois Federation)
only the subtle see the signs:
panthers haunt these woods
leave titillating traces:
names, somewhat corrupted--
Geauga, Chagrin, Cuyahoga, Erie,
ambiguous forts, looking like
natural rock formations
on hills overlooking rivers
strangely shaped rocks
chips of flint encrusted
bits of bone and antler
haunt the sugar woods
move about on moonless nights
stealthy like the lynx
like the wildcat
we don't forget:
our blood still soaks the rocks
our bones still quicken
these woods are full of ghosts!
[Robert M. Coughlin]
Lucky (Stones) at Mentor Headlands (1964)
Got my driver’s license a week after June 11th,
borrowed Dad’s ‘59 Pontiac Catalina, big as an ocean liner,
and headed down Lake Shore Boulevard to Headlands.
The drive in mid June is wonderful, windows down,
“Cathy’s Clown” blaring from WIXY 1260,
Everly Brother’s in their perfect blood harmony.
My brother Denny and my buddies are singing raucously along.
We think we’re big deals, going into junior year of high school,
hormones boiling, but a Catholic straightjacket firmly over everything.
We get to Corduroy Road, then north past the Marsh
and east to the park. Hundreds, maybe thousands of cars
parked there, the hottest day of the year.
We hit the broad beach, burning like coals,
and hot-foot it across the sand towards the lake.
Half-naked bodies everywhere. We’re not in Catholic school any more!
The smell the wonderful smell everywhere, sweat and tanning lotion,
coconut, Coppertone, and towels cheek to jowl on the sand.
Transistor radios, tuned to WIXY and WHK, “color radio,” whatever that means!
We run into the lake, and the contrast with the sand is astonishing!
The lake is freezing cold, the sand too hot! But we are 16
and don’t give a good goddamn. We are 16,
Walk the beach toward the Fairport Lighthouse,
pick up luckystones and polished beach glass,
wish the impossible, that we could get lucky,
with the beautiful girls sunning on the beach!
The music is changing this year, Gerry and the Pacemakers,
Peter and Gordon, “Love Me Do,” side by side
with “Chapel of Love” and “Girl from Ipanema.”
Headlands is no Ipanema, Mentor no Rio de Janeiro,
but we are 16, Kings of the Beach, and happy to be here!
[Bob Coughlin / April 3, 2014]
Anne Frank in Painesville
Nine-year-old Bernadette García-Lopez
Her two brothers, her baby sister,
Her parents and her abuela
Hide in the secret closet built into the basement
Of this old Painesville house.
They are totally silent, knowing the US Border Patrol and I.C.E.
Are on her street, arresting Mario Oscar, her neighbor,
A man dying from kidney failure, on dialysis –
He will be deported to Mexico, where he came from more than 20 years ago,
For a misdemeanor committed in 1994: working with a fake ID.
This means, almost for sure, that Mario Oscar will die,
Separated from his two children and wife,
Who are citizens or legal residents.
Everyone on this Painesville street, all the neighbors,
Are also hiding in basements or attics or other secret places.
Hands cover the babies’ mouths, toddlers are sternly warned
Not to make a sound—the consequences can be so horrible.
A stone’s throw from here, the old Rider Inn,
Underground Railroad stop,
Where escaped slaves hid, following the drinking gourd stars,
The subtle signs of the way to Canada, to freedom.
No, this is not pre Civil War America;
This is not 1944 Amsterdam, Anne Frank hiding in a concealed room behind the Bookcase, Holland choked at the throat by Nazis—
No, this is Painesville, Ohio, 2017.
[ Robert M. Coughlin / December 8, 2016]
--names are fictionalized above
The Apex, the Epitome, the Acme, the Climax, the Peak . . .
There, in that glass case at Garman Model Bakery,
Pride of Painesville, the Peak of Pastry,
The climax of American Culinary Art:
A ladyfinger, éclair par excellence,
Stuffed with crème,
Frosted with maple,
Crowned with a six-inch long
Strip of bacon.
What can you say but
God Bless America!
Below: some photos from the Poetry in the Park program: