Writer and editor displays her work and interests

A Cool-Down Exercise

Thursday 16 January 2014 - Filed under Writing

Several years ago, a bunch of us participated in a workshop conducted by Margo LaGattuta. Here’s one of her great ideas, and the piece I generated in response to her prompt.

This idea is from poet Rick Jackson, Vermont College MFA Program. It is based on the idea that this series of opposites, a study in contrasts
(things both near and far, now and then, natural and mechanical, etc.) forces one to draw on the subconscious mind in order to resolve the dichotomies,
thereby generating unusual, startling metaphors one would not otherwise have considered. Write a work of your choice which incorporates:

  1. something from your refrigerator
  2. a historical, exotic location (foreign, not U.S.)
  3. an animal not of this continent
  4. some kind of downtown shop or store (in an older part of town)
  5. a foreign place not associated with the above foreign place
  6. a reference to biology or chemistry
  7. a mythological character
  8. a toy you used to play with
  9. something mechanical—an engine, electric motor, etc.
  10. a body part

Cold and Far Away
Marilyn Brandt Smith

Tomatoes, celery, onions,
Retrieved to relieve my Amana
Of last week’s leftovers;
Pulse-blending they send Me scampering,
My hand in the cabinet,
For those seasonings and herbs
I found in the Falklands
On my cruise to Antarctica.

Not the Antarctica of 1912
And the race to the South Pole.
Scott’s poor ponies were sacrificed for food;
Amundsen’s Lapland sled dogs
Helped him find the pole first.

I never knew much about that continent
Until my mother gave me
A family of toy penguins
She found on sale at Sears.
I was curious, started reading.

I should look for unusual animals
To tease my granddaughters curiosity;
A sea lion, a chimpanzee, maybe even a unicorn?
Kandace already loves “The Lion King.”

Ah! My Gazpacho is ready;
Now where did I put those croutons with garlic?

1 comment  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-01-16  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

Haiku Riddles

Sunday 1 December 2013 - Filed under Writing

One. What’s his Name?

He’s used to the snow;
Lean and lank, he pulls his load–
Uh oh! He stumbles.

Two. What if she drinks too much?

Grandma’s recipe.
Is it safe to use raw ones?
Should I add brandy?

What a sneaky way to get you to read my blog–answers after the recipe!

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There’s a Song in the Air

Sunday 1 December 2013 - Filed under Music + Writing

Music has always been my strongest means for expressing and celebrating the spiritual beauty of Christmas. As a good harmony singer on a school campus at the Texas School for the Blind where music played a leading role, I rose early on our day for going home. In the older girls’ cottage we donned warm clothing and took to the roads on campus to sing beneath windows and on patios at other dormitories. This rite of passage had been our dream ever since we were those little girls, cold from crisp air through open windows, but captured by the magic of Christmas harmony. Anticipating hot cocoa and breakfast served early, we serenaded the superintendent and the men in the boiler room providing our steam heat. The night before, in our annual Christmas pageant, we tried our wings onstage or sang from the balcony, open to the back of the auditorium from the second floor. We got goosebumps as three high school boys with grown-up, handsome voices walked up the center aisle singing “We Three Kings,” and joined the manger scene onstage.

Each line in this collection of haiku is taken from a song celebrating the nativity. Some songs and verses may be obscure, but most are familiar. Some mystery writers in the 1930’s used footnotes to prove they’d dropped clues here and there. I offer a list, ordered by line, of the songs from which I borrowed lyrics.

No crying he makes,
The babe, the son of Mary,
Born in Bethlehem.

Angels bending near,
What your gladsome tidings be?
So, to honor him.

Sing, choirs of angels;
Rise up, shepherd, and follow
The stars in the sky.

Peace to men on Earth!
Go tell it on the mountain;
Come little children.

Come and behold him;
Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
Born on Christmas day.

He shall feed his flock;
The weary world rejoices;
Sheep may safely graze.

Yay, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born to raise the sons of Earth,
His gospel is peace.

Star of Bethlehem,
Guide us to thy perfect light;
Christ was born for this.


  • There’s a Song in the Air
  • Away in a Manger
  • What Child is This?
  • Children, Go Where I Send Thee
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  • Angels We have Heard on High
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • Oh, Come, All Yee Faithful
  • Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow
  • Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain
  • Oh Come, Little Children
  • Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
  • Mary’s Boy Child
  • He Shall Feed His Flock, from Handel’s Messiah
  • Oh Holy Night
  • Sheep May Safely Graze, from a cantata by Bach
  • Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
  • Beautiful Star of Bethlehem
  • We Three Kings of Orient Are
  • Good Christian Men, Rejoice

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Book Review: Whiteout

Sunday 1 December 2013 - Filed under Books

Review of: “Whiteout” by Ken Follett (NLS DB-59331

Mixing suspense with Christmas, Follett’s book is a bio-thriller taking place over a wintry Christmas holiday in northern Scotland, filled with family drama. Toni Gallo is the highly-driven head of security for Oxenford Medical, a research facility working on a cure for Madoba-2, an especially virulent strain of Ebola. She also has a running feud with her ex, a local cop, and is pestered by the attentions of newsman Carl. But she really wants to be with her widower boss, Stanley, whose daughter Olga’s husband, Hugo, is paying unwelcome attention to his sister-in-law, Miranda, herself in uneasy love with a milquetoast boyfriend, Ned, whose daughter, Sophie, is the object of young Craig’s budding affections. Whew!

It is not until midnight on Christmas Eve that all this soap is rinsed away, and the plot kicks into high gear, as a band of desperate, violent thieves, led by Stanley’s son, Kit, take things into their own hands in the midst of a terrible blizzard. Predictably, things go suddenly, frightfully wrong. From here on out, Follett’s high-energy writing, complete with security cameras and secret places for snooping, delivers the expected thrills in zany, scary ways, with few if any threads left dangling.

1 comment  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-12-01  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

Penned by a Friend: The Box on the Porch

Sunday 1 December 2013 - Filed under Penned by a Friend + Writing

The Box on the Porch
by Ed Potter

“They didn’t even care enough about it to come outside and get it. Let’s take it home!” Those were the approximate words from six-year-old Margaret, on the brink of tears. You’ll understand when I tell you what happened.

My wife, Sue, and I thought the children could use a little focus on someone other than themselves at Christmas time. We asked the social services folks to give us the names of a needy family, preferably with children about the ages of ours. Margaret and Edward really seemed to get into the project. They chose presents for the children; they wrapped them, then couldn’t wait to give them out. Sue and I chose a couple of presents for the adults. We also packed the box with some luscious Christmas food that they probably wouldn’t be buying on their limited income.

Well, the big night finally came. We lugged the box up onto their porch. We knocked.

“Who’s there?”

“Uh, we’re the Potters, and we have some Christmas treats,” we said very uncertainly.

“Yeah, I heard you were coming,” the male voice said. “Just set it down on the porch. We’re just too busy now to come out.”

Then came Margaret’s remark. She and Edward were really disappointed not to meet the kids.

We left the box anyway, as we knew we should. It was then my job to explain just what happened.

It could have been that the guy was just a creep. That was the easy explanation. Or it could have been that he hated to have to face people who were, in his view, a bit more successful and wealthy than he, and this was the only way he knew how to deal with it. We’ll never know.

I tried to explain to our children that what they did was good, and that the giving in itself was enough. No one can control how others respond to deeds done for them. That was, of course, all very well and good, but I couldn’t help knowing that the disappointment was still there.

I hope the recipients enjoyed the little presents, and that their children thought about the fact that their Christmas was nicer than it might have been otherwise. I wanted our project to provide an awakening for our children, and it certainly did–just not the awakening we expected. Even though the deed itself is what’s important, and not how others respond to it, somehow we just never did it again, and I really think we should have.

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Taters and Beans: Made Early, Made Early

Sunday 1 December 2013 - Filed under Recipes

Bake or boil one potato for each guest you’ll feed tomorrow, more if you plan a leftover meal. Peal or don’t peal according to your preference. Let them cool, then cut into bite-sized pieces and place in a large microwave bowl. Stir in one pint of cheese dip: cheddar with bacon, bleu, Mexican style with peppers, etc. Gently fold in one drained can green beans. Double these ingredients if you’re feeding an army. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Heat in the microwave ten to fifteen minutes, or until heated throughout. Offer sour cream, bacon bits, and salt and pepper for customizing individual servings at the table. This is what I served for Thanksgiving.

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Answers to Haiku Riddles

Sunday 1 December 2013 - Filed under Writing

Did you get it right?

  1. Bobtail

  2. Eggnog

1 comment  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-12-01  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith

Kentucky Autumn

Friday 8 November 2013 - Filed under Writing

The goblins put their hats and masks away;
Deer season comes in with the waxing moon;
Pecans are ready by the creek they say
And Nelda makes a real mean macaroon.

The weather man sees snow, “Prepare,” he warns.
The harvest over, hay is stacked in bails;
Tobacco now is stripped and in the barns.
We’ll take our chances at the auction sales.

The corn we raised is served Thanksgiving Day
With blackberries and pickles canned in June.
Our autumn garden flourished. Sad to say,
It vanished with the frost that came too soon.

We pause a moment, call our family near
And pray to do it all again next year.

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Penned by a Friend: The Other Side of the Glass Wall

Friday 8 November 2013 - Filed under Penned by a Friend + Writing

The Other Side of the Glass Wall
by Deon P. Lyons

I sat at the gate waiting for a flight from Bangor to Florida on a cold, snowy day in 2007. There was an undercurrent of excitement about the upcoming trip to warmer weather. The huge windows overlooking the airfield gave me a view of serious snowfall. As I thought about the sunshine that awaited me at my relatives’ home, I noticed a huge plane landing and approaching the adjacent gate. It has always amazed me the way something so damn big can jump off the ground or swoop down like these planes do.

While we were waiting for our flight to be announced, several people started walking toward the wall of glass that separated our two gates. When I looked through the wall, I saw men and women in uniform exiting the plane. Some driving force from inside or outside or somewhere told me to get myself over there. I joined the crowd, and as we got closer to the wall and I realized what this meant, I felt proud as hell.

They were all dressed in fatigues, rugged boots and backpacks. As soon as I could get close enough to touch the wall, I put my hand up and touched the glass. A few of the men and women on the other side reached out and placed their hands on mine as they walked by. I could feel their energy pass from them to me. It was incredible! I was all choked up inside and started to cry.

I can’t explain how “American” I felt at that moment. It’s a scene and a feeling I will keep forever. I mouthed the words, “Thank you.” and they mouthed the same words back to me. I had trouble breathing. The pride, the passion, and the gratitude that they were still alive made me humble. I stood there, held in place by smiles and by the rapid beating of my heart. The emotion just pumped through my bloodstream.

When the line finally passed me, I realized there was a welcoming group waiting for them. Yes, they still had another flight to take. They were Tennessee National Guard troops who would be home with their families tonight. These “gate angels” meet our service people at every airport. I was glad to know that such a regular supply of praise and support is always offered to our bravest. I saw joy and contentment on the faces of the welcomers and the people who had been away for eighteen months. I felt so damn good knowing they were back where they belonged; and I could only imagine the depth of the loss for the families whose people should have been on that flight.

The swell of passion I felt on that day was love, hope, thanks, and faith all bundled together. I never felt like this when I was younger; never thought about the sacrifices that have, over the years, contributed to safety and security for me here at home. I have choices I might not have without those heroes on the other side of the glass wall. They give, and they give, and then they give some more. When I write or talk about that day, the feeling comes back, and I find myself unable to express it with the depth it deserves.

As we pay tribute on Veterans Day and the other patriotic holidays, I praise the courage, morn the sacrifices, and nearly burst with pride. I remember that cold day in Maine and those returning troops. My journey was the only thing on my mind until I saw beyond the glass wall and reached out and touched their world for a moment.

Many of my relatives have served and are serving today. A few years back I received a picture of my nephew, Michael. He is standing beside a huge military vehicle in Iraq. He looks just like the strong marine that he is. He is a man I’m proud to call family.

I thank God that I live in this country. I am lucky, and I can’t imagine living any other way. I don’t take my life for granted; I can’t afford to; none of us really can.

The USA owes you men and women in uniform everything we hold dear, and we must never forget it. God bless you!

About Deon’s Book “Sully Street:”

The year is 1973. The place is Fairfield, a quaint, bustling little town in Central Maine with a history that is strong and true. A condemned manor on the outskirts of town , the Merriman Manor, holds a unique story. Its warped timbers and sagging floors cling tightly to a hidden story that has remained a secret for over a hundred years. An unforgettable story from a forgotten time, held captive to our country’s past. Fairfield is also home to the imaginations and curiosities of five teenage boys who, in three hot summer days, unknowingly stumble their way into a forgotten truth about the human spirit, all but lost in time. Journey back to the teenage years of Dustin, Kevin, Wally, Teddy and Frankie as they ride along, pedaling towards those simple joys and pure adolescent passions that are such a big part of yesterday. Pull up your kickstands, check your tire pressure and come with them as their innocence is tested, and pure teenage camaraderie proves to be the glue that binds their friendship and holds tight to the true meaning of the everlasting spirit of youth.

Sully Street is the first novel by Maine author DP Lyons You can find this title, along with other publications by Lyons here

Other Personal Info:
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Friday 8 November 2013 - Filed under Uncategorized

What are you doing Thanksgiving eve? Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincide this year. Some enterprising folks see this as a commercial opportunity, but in my mind, that’s not all bad. A lady designed a t-shirt in her mind while waiting in traffic on her way to work. A nine-year-old dreamed up a turkey-shaped menorah, and with the help of the Kickstarter Internet fundraising platform, he got that ball rolling. I love my friend Robert’s Yiddish expressions and his stories of being misunderstood and sometimes misunderstanding students and teachers in his mostly Christian school in Brooklyn. So I decided to embrace the present opportunity for the blending of cultures and traditions.

First I bought a “Star of David” shaped Bundt cake pan. Sure, I’ll make a cake, but I’ll also make my southern corn bread. I also bought some “Star of David” ear rings. Do I dare wear them to my strict Baptist in-laws’ Christmas dinner?

My son Jay studied the menorah lighting rules with great diligence, and hopefully we’ll get it right, starting the eve of Thanksgiving, and running for eight nights. Ours is electric of course, but it’s beautiful. Jews in Jerusalem before the time of Christ needed to rededicate their temple after it was desecrated by the Greeks. Oil for that purpose was in short supply–only enough for one night’s burning. More had to be consecrated, and that required eight days. The oil lasted eight days. The eight candles on the menorah represent the miracle.

As I read stories about the holocaust, I have always wondered and hoped, had I been there, I would have helped with the resistance–hiding Jews and helping them to escape. This all presumes, of course, that I wouldn’t have been whisked away because of my disability–many people were. Today’s issues are different, but they are still about intolerance throughout the world.

Yes, we bought dreidles, too. We will spin them for the chocolate coins in gold foil bearing the old symbols. Let’s hope we can get better at it in the next two weeks. The stuffed dreidle that plays music, “I Have a Little Dreidle,” has raised symbols, but it’s more a decoration than the wooden ones we will probably use. It sounds like a fun game.

This new twist on Thanksgiving and an introduction to the holidays makes me smile. According to the Jewish calendar, this shouldn’t happen again for nearly 80,000 years. Next year, the last day of Hanukkah is December 23. I hope we do it again.

1 comment  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2013-11-08  ::  Marilyn Brandt Smith