Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Sands of Time in Review

It is that time of year, the time in which we look back at the events of the year and make our resolutions and predictions for the coming year. I have done that in poetic form many times, but this year in every attempt the chaos of the ACA drowned out the subtle notes of other events just waiting to dance on the page in iambic beat. This review is something new, but not borrowed and certainly not Blue. The review is still a poem but includes some very ordinary and non famous people rising up to face adversity. Hopefully, you enjoy it and with apologies to all who are probably fed up with this poet's rabid exhortations a last for 2013 GO CARDINAL IN THE ROSE BOWL!!!
2013 The Year In Review
Once more, Father Time begins to shuffle across the yearly stage
The events of the past year recorded in many a page
The Babe New Year waits nervously in the wings,
Wondering after hearing of the book, what the new 2014 will bring
Far too many events to spotlight in the 2013 parade
Some serious, some comical, some revulsion and disdain, some worthy of charades
While many had only 15 minutes of fame or shame, many images once noted do not seem to fade
Every time you read or listened or watched the news
You could not escape; Obama Care was the consuming witches brew
“Period” in 2013 became no longer a needed grammar tool
But a symbol of repeated, broken promises as a President sought to fool
A government shut down with images of Veterans from monuments turned away
“Arsonists”, “hostage takers”, “Klansmen” et al—any rhetoric, the art of compromise to slay
A national debt continuing to climb at billions daily to new heights
Our children’s future pie consumed in every increasing spending bites
The Reds and Blues unable to even in a photo op to reach across the aisle
A distance to be loathed more than a condemned walking the green mile
A dysfunctional government made for politics in 2013 a state pretty grim
The only purple was the imperial kind our President wanted as his trim
A website that for weeks did not work yet sucked in millions of dollars to build and try to fix
God help those cancelled who think they are covered and next year go to the hospital sick
NSA eavesdropping, as it should, on foreign foes but also on friends and, to great surprise, us
While IRS in targeting the drinkers of tea threw Tax Code independence under the bus
Hilary is seen anxiously waiting in the wings for a race in 2016
The Gray Lady in her support white washes the Benghazi Al Qaeda scene
The heart of Mandela, a truly great man of forgiveness, at 95 finally stops
Yet at the funeral a phony signer for Obama and then a flirting “selfie” photo op
One could go on and on, but here is a better idea that may give us some hope
That from Boston Strong to an hours old groom we Americans can prevail and not just cope
In Boston during the Boston Marathon, bombs exploded to maim and slay
We know the city rallied and in other marathons we held our fear at bay
A victory parade for the Sox ending at the finish line to celebrate a Series win
Boston Strong, a message— we will put the terrorists into the trash heap bins
Joy Johnson at 86 at running later in the marathon on New York City streets
Falling down, helped up, hobbling slowly to a finish, never to admit a quitting defeat
Like the first marathoner of ancient Greece, “Joy to you! You have won.”
Next day in a hospital bed, her running  life complete, her life was done.
A fallen warrior, John Hargis, minus two legs in a coma lying in a hospital bed
When the Purple Heart pinned on his chest, a salute, as somehow the coma darkness shed
An eighth grade teacher of math, Michael Landsberry, a former Marine
Unarmed, a human shield, died protecting students by being in between.
We know from the Bible that Peter was a fisherman as was Francisco Camacho, a father of six
On a December day when the ocean was playing on a breakwater its deadly tricks
Another total stranger father and  14 year swept off the breakwater and trying to survive
No hesitation, no debate, he dove in to help—they made it, he is no longer alive.
A brief hours old  marriage ended far too soon and not by a groom pushed off a cliff
A true Knight, stopping at night to free a stranger trapped in a car in a snowy drift
An ex-Ranger, Riley Knight, then  struck by car while his new bride listened on
A hero who did not make it to the bridal suite and will never see another dawn.
I could go on, there are hundreds more events but the tears fog my eyes.
We are all lessened when a mere mortal, a Samaritan, a hero is wounded or dies.
Focus on the 2013 famous, the celebs, the news magnets and you focus only on immobile rocks,
When the ordinary grains of sand through the hour glass of time were in 2013 and now in 2014 will be the driver of humanity’s clock.
The book for 2014 awaits and has only pages blank, humanity’s and your story to write
May the script be one of purpose, may the palters and wrongs be outweighed by the truths and rights.

© December 31, 2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet


Friday, December 27, 2013

Memorial to Jeanne MacKechnie

I had some weeks ago found the poem I had written for my father's memorial service in 1999 in Petersburg, Alaska. I inputted it into the computer and posted it on this blog. Today with more boxes to open, I found the poem I wrote for the funeral of  my mother who died on Mother's Day, 2000. This poem and the poem I wrote for my father, brought home in stark reality the realization that  I and my Baby Boomer generation, like the generation of my father and mother, many of whom have already entered the late, late winter of their lives, are now feeling the first chills of winter with a hint of snow in the air. I have joined the ranks, like many of my friends and associates, of new orphans, with the invincibility we all thought we possessed starting to look like the sand castle with pennants still flying but the slowing creeping, relentless tide coming closer, closer, ever so closer.

Memorial to Jeanne MacKechnie 
I stand before you in dark and somber sorrow,
To cope with this certain loss today, to somehow find the strength for tomorrow.
I cannot eulogize what I truly, truly miss,
I cannot bring back a final hug or a tender, loving kiss.
A final radiating beam of pride to see her grandson baptized,
Or the irony of "Have some more clam chowder—Mike you should
go down another size”,
A final game of cribbage, or a chance for her to hear my latest poem.
The wishes are too numerous and would make this a grieving tome.
She was a loving mother that overshadows all memorials I might try to paint,
And she said it best—-a most wonderful, happy life with no regrets and no complaints.
 I cannot bury what lives within me—from flashcards to early recitals of Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose
To read, to write, to rhyme, to empathize with an Alaskan mate less goose.
A love of Alaska, wild mushrooms, bagpipes and sautéed fiddleheads,
Always ready to learn, but with independence—very, very hard to be led.
Each of us have different memories and many may be the same,
A dynamo of energy, her red hair like an eternal flame.
Maybe these are only words, but take them for what they are worth.
There must be a God to keep women like my mother for so long upon this earth.
 Each tear that marks today's unremitting grief,
 Is paid back by a river of each joyous memory and this belief...
No matter how hard my spirit may tremble, turn or toss,
An eternal joy is waiting no matter how hard is today's loss.
The boat that was always there to flee any foreboding shore,
Has finally sailed to a place where she is really needed more.
God may be all power and light, but like all healers His writing must make the angels
shake their heads,
 He has probably been waiting to taste a shaggy morel or a soft, tender fiddlehead,

 He's been waiting to hear in person—"Hot nuts--get them while you can,"

© 2000 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas 2013

It seems the more important Christmas has become to insure solvency for retailers, causing them to stay open on Thanksgiving or begin Black Friday at the crack of midnight, the more difficult to see or hear the word "Christmas", be serenaded by Christmas carols at schools, or enjoy Nativity scenes.  For those of you sick of watched commercials of men in tuxes and underwear,  jiggling their "bells" or yet another parody of the Night Before Christmas to sell goods, or being a member of that select group of 40 million Target shoppers who have had their credit information hacked into, take a deep breath and reflect on what Christmas is supposed to be, not the be all end all of being judge by the quality and quantity of the gifts you give, but rather the celebration of the birth of Christ. May peace be with you on this Christmas season and throughout the coming year. I hope you enjoy the poem I wrote for this Christmas. Merry Christmas to all!
This Christmas season much of the nation is held hostage by an arctic front
Chilling rains, windswept blizzards, cancelled flights and stranded travelers to hunt
Even our sunny California is losing its sunny, fair weather charm
Frantic searches for hats, gloves, sweaters, furs to keep us warm
Even in crowded malls with swirling shoppers with temps of 98.6
We are still shivering; even shopping in a frenzy does not do the warming trick
We are in the age of global warming yet huddling against the arctic breeze
It may not yet be a White Christmas at the beach, but healthcare.gov seems to freeze
In this age of global warming, even at Christmas the rhetoric will not melt
Sadly, Red and Blue search for new epitaphs of blame on each other to pelt
Where is the warming as we cruise round and round for a parking place?
Our reservoir of peace of mind collapsing, leaving barely the tiniest of trace
We are creating a warming carbon footprint larger than that of Shaq O’Neal
Caught up in a dog eat dog, all for a space to search for the latest must--have deal
Staying warm in these arctic blasts may even hunts for gifts surpass
But this Alaskan has a warming suggestion that is guaranteed to work and to last
You do not need a furnace, Yule log fire or even politicians spewing hot air
No, here is the key; here is the secret that Santa has asked me to share
No matter the stress, no matter the crowds, no matter the loss of time,
Or even the rudeness in this time of peace or how many hurdles to climb
Take a breath, slow down, close your eyes, listen to the notes in the air,
Listen to the chimes; look at the children in line to meet Santa in his chair
Look forward to listening and feeling the squeals of excitement of children bounding down the stairs
Stopping only for the briefest moment at the empty milk glass and cookie crumbs to stare
Their knowing nod, “We have not become mini, jaded adults we’ve proof that he was there
And this nod that may knock you flat, “Maybe this is the day my gifts with my siblings I will share,”
Then anticipate the feel of the warmth of friction as gift wrappings are torn apart
The feeling of the joy of children and your loved ones to warm the chambers of your heart
The magic of Christmas so easily found in their eyes, which sparkles and reflects
You will feel the cold adult armor shedding and the children’s beliefs you will now gladly accept
You do not need mistletoe on this day or any other to with your partner hold and kiss
Knowing that you have not forgotten the most important gifts upon your list
The Magi braved the cold nights also but in the deserts with gifts of frankincense and myrrh
Today with chaos in the Middle East, those resin supplies are very hard to procure
Now, gold can be found and of course for a loved one, it can be bought
But if maxed out by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, here’s a far better thought
Don’t waste time and dollars roaming in desperation in a retailer’s physical or online shelf
A better use of time would be to look within and give the lasting give of a part of one’s self
Not just to friends and family that is a truism one needs not to state
But also to the stranger, especially one with only crumbs of hope on his plate
For with that comes to both the donor and donee
The desired trinity of peace, tranquility and serenity
Christmas as a celestial path in the heavens comes but once a year
But so given, this trinity will whisper daily in your heart and ear
“To enjoy and keep these gifts, these gifts you must daily exude and give
Peace, tranquility, and serenity are a far better way to live.”
Even the children after a cyclone of gifts to open and begin to play
Know that something more than toys is so precious on this day
Warm hugs and a sense of peace to one’s soul adhere
The gift that keeps on giving on Christmas and each day of the year
© December 18, 2013 Michael P. Ridley, aka the Alaskanpoet


Monday, December 16, 2013

Rangers Lead the Way- a True Knight

Good Samaritans, in this time of legal exposure, 24/7 other concerns, or the social media induced loss of face to face contacts, are hard to find, but the Ranger within a Ranger is not. The news coming out of Crown Point, Indiana is a total tragedy, Riley Knight, a former Ranger of 12 years and a groom of only several hours, is struck and killed by three cars while helping out a teacher trapped in a car on a snow covered street. Brave man, brave husband, and our hearts and prayers should go out to his widow who was with him when he died and heard the impact of cars on his body. Rangers Lead--Rest in Peace Riley Knight.
Rangers Lead the Way--a True Knight
You can retire from the Rangers, but the Ranger within never leaves
Painful thoughts as a new widow, just hours ago a bride now grieves
Riley was a true knight in actions and in name
Who among us would have late at night done the same?
A cell phone call to 911 to others to alert
A car off the road, someone trapped inside could be hurt
But Rangers do not follow or let others do their deeds
No if a Ranger, you lead into harm’s way even to die or if lucky only bleed
Not helping another is simply not within a Ranger creed
Others in harm’s way, you help first your safety you do not heed
Riley Knight you are a hero and for your wife's loss all should mourn
We pray for God's help to ease her sorrow to be borne
For us we all should pray that what you did as a Ranger on this cold, Indiana night
Inspires us in time of danger to ape, and your acts never, ever fade from sight
And to flyonthewall1 with your comment that defies decency and taste
Pray to your Allah for forgiveness for that remark you really need His Grace 
© December 16, 2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Take the First If Continue to Dream

The first if on a hurdle of almost impossible ifs has occurred. In last minute heroics, the Sooners beat the Cowboys. The Ifs of a Buckeye and FSU loss have yet to occur. One Tiger will lose today. Not sure which loss gives Stanford with the most important if of the day-- a win against the Sun Devils the best chance to play for the National Championship on the 6th. First news on the Cowboy loss was speculation on who would benefit. Not a word on Stanford. This poem immediately came to me. Only in America can people dream on all aspects of their life including their alma mater's performance on the fields of play. Go Cardianl!

To be a man to wear the Color, a man of the Muse
Reading sports too often leaves little to amuse
I have had endure the hype and accolades
Of another Color march though weak opponent parade
The fawning and holier than  though attitude of the SEC
While in total obscurity is the team of student athletes of the Tree
If student athletes riding today into the desert on horses of no name
Break the fork and leave the Devils feeling a lot of pain
Stanford smells the roses and plays another S with a greenish hue
If the Buckeyes win and the BCS creates a stew
Sending a Tiger to stalk a Seminole from the swamp
Stanford relegated to on the Buckeyes to romp
A better deal and to honor those who play but also graduate and learn
© December 7, 2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

PAC 12 Stanford Impossible Dreams

Poets by nature are dreamers; we love to dream, to hear the muse course through the inner workings of our brains and souls. We love to dream and to implement in poetry the dreams of all so we can do battle with the logical sides of our brain that seek to banish the creative spontaneous poetic side to replace it with the logical, planning side which is an anathema to the poetic. Unfortunately, the dreaming process is far to easy to be interrupted when the dreams coming out of Washington, D.C. are the nightmares of rhetoric and bias and political expediency. With the Pac12 Championship on Saturday unfortunately at Tempe as opposed to the Farm, and with America's "Horse with No Name" in my ears, and viewing the bias against the Pac12 and the Stanfords of the football world before the holy alter of the SEC, this came to me. Go Cardinal!

Horses of Names
To dream the impossible dream, here is how it starts
Into the desert with horses of name from the Farm to depart
Sun Devils hit with a lot of grinding smash mouth pain
Spartans rise up at no go pass to feed on Buckeye grain
Seminoles worried about prison garb lose to the Duke
Two Tigers claw themselves out but Show Me gets a win
The Crimson becalmed watches its tide go out but does not come back in
The Cowboys are crushed by a Sooner stampede
When the dust clears, Stanford is either number 2 or in the lead
If neither God help the Utes or the men from Troy
Next year is revenge time and those teams Big Red will destroy
And with its legions of Google alums BCS computers sound their last alarm
The Silicon Valley giants will unleash upon you eternal freezeup harm

©  December 4, 2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Away from the Black Friday Crowds

The rush into a Wal-Mart, K-Mart, or Target in the early, early hours of Black Friday morn looks more desperate than the crowd escaping from a theater housing the Blob or running from the Pamplona  Bulls. But a few hours ago these mild mannered Americans were expressing gratitude for their material blessings over another helping of turkey and the trimmings. Now scenes of trampling, fights and even a taser to save a few dollars for things they probably do not need and if gifts will soon be forgotten.  Away from the cameras in Costa Mesa and many other cities in California homeless men and women huddle against the cold, unwashed, if lucky the remnants of a shelter or mission turkey dinner still with them. For far too many the park bench or bus stop bench may be the last stop on the alcohol or drug road to total despair, but until the very end unwilling or unable to put down the bottle or the needle. Terrible diseases ravaging those who suffer and devastating their friends and families.

Barter Not Gin
If you have no future, you are doomed to live in the past
But with drinking or drugs the present blurs and will not last
The scenes on TV are crowds in the early morning Black Friday hours lined into the streets
Frenzy unabated to be first barging through the doors unwilling in quest for deals to accept defeat
Worse are the fist fights for gifts one may not really need
 The gift of peace a blessing in this melee no one heeds
But all pales by the scene of a shopper writhing on the floor being tased
So much for the gift of peace as we enter this new Black Friday shopping phase
For those who believe they are invincible and can shop until they drop
Go to a place without lines, without TV, on a cold winter night---a bus stop
Two homeless men on a bus stop bench slowly drinking rot gut gin
Future, present, and past in word slurring,  mind blurring spin
One man was a man of fifty with a weathered, fully lined  Medicare face
His mental facilities clearly  long since fallen from grace
Muscles leaving his body faster than rats from a sinking ship
Weighed less than a jockey but the gin bottle would not leave his lips
His home a shopping cart with a few scraps of filthy garb
Even in California when winter comes, outside it is somewhat hard
For “a bus” or “a meal” plea, I had no spare change
Another bottle I could not, seeing his vacant eyes, help to arrange
So I handed him some currency of nutrition—granola bars, cheese, bananas and nuts
Anything but money for gin to drive him further into his alcoholic rut
The other had a similar Medicare face but his mind was totally blank
Any attempt at words other than curses went quickly into the tank
After a stream of curses and a guzzle not a gulp, he no longer had to vent
Curled back into a dirty  blanket, back into a stupor totally spent
Neither would admit to needing help to weather the cold night
Any shelter would mean loss of gin, not worth trying to win that fight 
As I walked away, feeling helpless and with some guilt, I could not do more
At least he could not take that currency to barter for gin at a liquor store.
No future, living in the past which fades with each gin taste
Clear example of what alcohol can do and how it can waste

© December 1, 2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day Wish 2013

The ongoing chaos over the ACA, its failed website, failed rollout, and ongoing allegations of deception and misleading by our President and his misuse of "periods" has been a continuing source of poetic responses in the form of blogs (www.alaskanpoetcommentator.com ) tweets (www.twitter.com/alaskanpoet) and comments. Today after seeing the pardon of the Turkeys and smiling over the use of the name Popcorn (a favorite treat of this poet), it seems more appropriate to send the muse out in favor of Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for and we have an innate capacity to give of ourselves, our dollars and our time to those less fortunate and even better to bring to the political table a sense of honesty, respect, civility and compromise to name but a few attributes our politicians on both sides of the aisle are in short supply.
        Hope you enjoy this poem. Happy Thanksgiving to all and to my new found Oregon beating friends, the Wildcats of the University of Arizona, please defeat the Sun Devils this Saturday.

A Thanksgiving Wish
Before the family and friends begin to arrive,
A brief moment to sit down and take a quiet five
As the aroma and warmth fills each nook and space
Before the dishes and recipes begin falling into place
Before the turkey thawed the day before from the oven the table will grace
In those quiet moments on Thanksgiving a time to ponder and reflect
The blessings that troubles and adversities will always reduce and deflect
Much more than the bountiful succulent caloric stuffing repast
No, the blessings for the soul and spirit that were meant to last
To each the blessings are like snowflakes unique and pristine
Gently touching a soul today blessed to be tranquil and serene
We may be a nation still divided and the aisles are like moats
Slowly, surely saner heads will prevail--after all we are all in the same boat
After over 300 years, we possess and practice amazing freedoms still
For the tyrants still in this world to swallow, it  must be a bitter pill
Many of us still suffer across this great land
Yet in times of trouble, we are quick to give a helping hand
For Thanksgiving is not a one  word only on what you receive
But two and without the “giving”, all “thanks” are soon to leave
The world is still a dangerous place, but the Winds today only whisper, do not howl
This day let your spirit and soul be in peaceful smile, no hint of frown or scowl
When the dinner is finally done and the turkey tryptophan excess reigns
Enjoy the pleasures of family and friends, let not that comfort wane
Black Friday will be just another day and in the malls serenity you will not find
Only crowds frantic for bargains and sales, a stress perhaps best left behind
Happy Thanksgiving for the blessings you have and in giving choose to bestow
Not just today, but daily from the early rains of spring to the winter falling snows

Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

© November 27, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On to the Westward Patrick M. Ridley

Today, November 19, 2013, the 150 year anniversary of the Gettysburg Address was a day for the Alaskanpoet to be reminded of his own mortality. After enrolling for Medicare Supplemental Insurance, in going through some boxes containing old files, I found the eulogy for my father  I wrote on the plane from Seattle to Petersburg. As I enter the early winter of my life on reflection, I realize I have been blessed in certain areas--a grandfather was poet and whose works I will publish, a mother and father who were also poets thought sadly I am still searching for examples of my father's work and last but not least a young son, a freshman at Stanford who has received my muse genes and the muse genes of his paternal great-grandfather and his paternal grandfather and grandmother.  Poetry to me is a direct path to one's Higher Power and spirituality. My father's eulogy is below. I hope you enjoy it and whether you live your life in prose or in muse, live it in zest and with a purpose

On to the Westward Patrick M. Ridley
Almost 50 years ago, Thidwick-the-big-hearted moose in this room I did recite
Encouraged by my parents, trying to memorize each day and late into the night
It is only fitting that I should eulogize in verse not about Moose Moss or antlers on a Harvard Club wall
But rather about a man who was admired and loved by us all 

We have had problems with funerals since Antony came to bury not to praise
Whether planned or unexpected, the loss and mortality comes in a misty daze
When a stranger or distant friend, it’s easy to give the hugs and find the right accolades
As a departed’s life passes quickly to a festive wake from a funeral parade 

But if a parent is the one summoned through death’s one way portal,
A link to life is severed, chill whispers that the child, too, is mortal
It may be easy to eulogize a mother who is usually viewed by a son as a saint
But a father is never perfect, some rough edges, a canvas with many shades and hues of paint 

My father’s life has finally ebbed, the tide of life never to return
Now part of the Southeast rains, Sitka Spruce, and muskeg ferns
A station owner, vet, deckhand, cook, accountant, poet, Irish—he led many lives
Not a complete marital cat, he was blessed with only 4 wives 

Around the world as a seaman at 18, the U.S. after the war, fueled by a wander lust
Alaska is where he set his roots; here were the people he would love and trust
My father knew not the meaning of material greed
His only true wealth was the acceptance by this town’s old breed
He never ran a bank, but his wallet would never close
Always proud to be Irish among the Norse and let his shamrock show
Lois W, Ira II, Torun, Rex, Westerly Charles W, Bernice A
Just a few of the wooden ladies plying the sounds, straits and bays 

A brilliant mind, no crossword he could not complete
No misguided tax audit he could not defeat
Big Tobacco could have used him on whether nicotine could addict
60 years of smoking, slowed down by a stroke and he willed himself to quit 
Nobility to him was the fisherman, farmer, and logger without which we could not exist
Anymore than a boat would not capsize with a 50 degree list
To him there was only one major test
Live life as a friend to all with unrestrained zest 

It has been 36 years but there is an image I will hold until the day I die
Landing in Scow Bay with Kurt standing tall and my father nursing a Harbor Bar black eye
A full life of generations of friend and even as some of whom may shed a tear
Think of all the pols and bureaucrats with no more Ridley letters to fear 

Christ was a fisherman, so they must fish on the eternal seas
Whether under power, with strong arms or an ocean breeze
Whether with seine, trawl, pot, net or baited trolling or halibut hook
Listen to the whispers of the passed old breed ‘Patrick, you’ve been away too long our friend and master cook 

On to The Westward, may your soul pass through the Land of the Midnight Sun
To the peaceful tranquility of misting rain, swaying spruce and never-ending salmon runs

©  1999 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Marine Corps Birthday Sparks

      November 10, 1775 marks the founding of the United States Marine Corps in as might be expected in a tavern, Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. One of this nation's first oxymorons must have been that of all people a Quaker, a religion known for among nonmilitaristic ideals such as the refusal to participate in war and its adherence to teetotalism, Samuel Nicholas, an innkeeper, was instructed to raise two battalions of Marines in Philadelphia. The tavern’s manager, Robert Mullan, was the "chief Marine Recruiter." Prospective volunteers flocked to the place, most likely enticed by cold beer and the opportunity to join the new corps.
       Since that founding the Marines have become a warrior legend, the new Spartans and symbols of bravery usually unmatched in the field of human conflict. Of 3477 Medals of Honor that have been awarded, Marines have been awarded 297.  On this day the Marines will celebrate their birthday with a cake, cut by a sword signifying the warrior class with the first piece to the guest of honor, the second piece to the oldest marine who passes it to the youngest signifying the continuation of the training, skills and tradition of the Corps.
        In October of this year we witnessed yet another senseless shooting at the Sparks Middle School in Nevada. Two people were killed and two students were not fatally wounded. The adult who died was a teacher of Math and I won't use the term former or ex Marine as the essence of being a Marine is lost only on the day you pass from this world. A veteran of two tours in Afghanistan Michael Landsberry a 45 old math teacher at the school died trying to protect his students
         This poet does not know what was inscribed on his tombstone, but his surviving wife said it best: "To hear he was trying to protect those kids doesn’t surprise me at all,” she told the newspaper. “He could have ducked and hid, but he didn’t. That’s not who he is.” Thank God for men like Michael Landsberry and the U.S. Marine Corps.  

                 Marine Birthday Candles May Spark But Are Not Blown Out

November 10th is the birthday of the U.S, Marines
Well known as an elite combat fighting machine
We all know about Belleau Wood, Iwo, Heartbreak Ridge, Beirut,  Khe Sanh
Miles of white crosses and stars on too many flag dotted lawns
Semper Fi is not just a slogan or spin but a interwoven indispensable creed
Brave men and women in uniform that for us went to die and to bleed
Who among us knows of the minor battle of Sparks?
Not much of a battle that any history of the Corps would mark

Sparks is not what an army would seek seize and then hold
No tactical or strategic value for Marine lives to be sold
Just a Middle School full of young minds
On the path of learning, leaving childhood behind
Only a few days to go before costumes and treats of Halloween
When a young gunman of 12 with a handgun appeared on the scene
Michael Landsberry, a former Marine with two Afghan tours
Without hesitation, Semper Fi for his students’ safety to insure

Marines even those no longer in uniform and without a rifle
Do not hide, or cower or shake and fear they will stifle
Semper Fi and with his body he gave all that he had to give
He died as a human shield so his students could live

A hero to those children, a hero to us all, a credit to the Corps
A Marine will never run, even if knocked down will come back for more
Semper Fi, you may retire from the Corp but the Corp stays within you deep  inside
Honor, sacrifice, duty, valor, bravery and a never ending sense of unmatched pride!
The Hymn is right and when we mere mortal arrive at Heaven's scenes
We will find its streets patrolled by United States Marines 

© November 11, 2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Purple Heart Price Is Never Cheap

The video appearing on Fox News of October 16, 2013 of a shattered Ranger in a bed with both legs lost, heavily bandaged and supposedly in a coma, broke my heart and when Josh Hargis, the wounded Ranger, suddenly opened his eyes and with great difficulty and pain, saluted the officer pinning a Purple Heart on his chest, I could not hold back the tears of pride. God bless you Ranger. When at the end of hopefully a long life with your wife and child on the way, you visit Washington Mall and the memorials there to our veterans, spendthrift government has not had to shut them down. Even more hope that the War on Terror in Afghanistan is the last war we have to put our young men and women into harm's way to protect our freedoms and sadly add to the Purple Heart recipients such as you. Rangers Lead the Way!

A Purple Heart Is Never Cheap  

A Purple Heart is earned for a combat death or wound
 From the mere scratch or graze to body or mind scarred or ruined
Almost 2,000,000 vets since World War I have had the Heart added to their chest
To the foes of this nation, those vets fought to bring their reign to rest
Behind each Heart there is a story of courage, bravery or just bad luck to be told
Some Hearts ordinary mild mannered soldiers, others raging warriors unbelievably bold
Not necessarily all heroes unless the Heart was for those vets in combat that died
Upon whose sacrifice our freedoms, we mere civilians have too often relied
Unless you take the better view that all vets who put themselves in harm’s way
Against foes driven to capture, with all matter of arms, wound or slay
Were heroes then and with all others who the Heart did win, heroes today
Duty, Honor, Courage, a higher calling and values to seek and obey
There is in all wars the fog of war of men to confuse
 And the hand of God to the wounding and killing to diffuse
A Ranger in a hospital in Afghanistan wounded in a hospital bed
With two legs blown off by an IED, by all rights he should have been dead
Unconscious, drugged up, odds of survival at best somewhat slim
Another casualty of our longest war, blown apart with bandaged and missing limbs
When the commanding officers came to pin his Heart upon his unconscious chest
Eyes suddenly open, a struggled, crisp salute, an American Ranger will always pass the test
Not a dry eye among those in that hospital room
Tears of respect for a man to rise above fatal doom
Brokaw had it right, but also partially wrong
The name Great Generation to this soldier also belongs
The wounded veterans of the Great Crusade,
Met with cheers, GI Bill, jobs and ticker tape parades
While this to-be-father Ranger and his buddies are victims of an appalling budget charade
For dead soldiers of this nation, death benefits crassly delayed and unpaid
He is a Ranger, but could have been a sailor, airman, Marine, or soldier into harm’s way
His country called, he joined and armed did his job and the Heart price willing to pay
Josh Hargis you are a true hero; with men like you we should never be afraid
We should never allow our help to you and your family dim or in the slightest fade.

© October 16, 2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lost Poem Pointe du Hoc

In the fall of 1967 while un etudiant en France a Tours, I was able to visit Normandy and view up close the cliffs the Rangers scaled at Pointe du Hoc. Closing your eyes you could almost hear over the rolling surf the cries of men, the explosion of grenades and the deadly hail of machine guns and rifles. Even the tears of absolute amazement over the courage of those men, streaming down your face sounded like hail on a tin roof.
In 1994 I wrote a poem Pointe du Hoc which not save in a computer was lost and finally found by me today going through boxes arising out of my retirement from the practice of law. I hope you enjoy it. I have a feeling more lost poems will be found which I will post. If any reader would like a customized poem for a wedding, birthday, anniversary or other event worthy of iambic memory or tribute or memorialization, click on my profile and contact me. Reasonable rate beyond belief and satisfaction guaranteed.

                                     Pointe du Hoc 

The gray-haired Rangers gathered at the base of the Normandy cliff,
Glory once and a life of paychecks and stress obscuring the faded drift.
Were we so lucky, brave or only young fools?
No sanity could climb into the teeth so cruel
Who could today charge forward and try to scale,
Surrounded by death and the wounded men’s wails
We didn’t have the simulations, training, diet or improved strength,
Only a sense of right and a Ranger’s need to go to great lengths 

No on sight coverage, only Movie-Tone News to calm our fears,
Without hesitation or the windy drafts, we all volunteered
To cross the ocean and join the Great Crusade
To free a continent one had only across a beach to wade 

Onto a beach of sand, waves and floating lost hopes,
Into the base of the cliffs we tried to cope
Maybe the belief that our God was a better shield
And their Gott was too ashamed to defend the field. 

Maybe all the families forged by the crucible of a Great Depression
And visions of righteousness gathered against repression.
No heroes, no glory, only the basic need to survive,
The base of the cliffs dealt death and left nothing alive 

Up the scaling ladders, steel into flesh, hardened yet soft,
Tumbling companions as we struggled to climb aloft
To against all odds take the high ground and stare into the empty concrete slits
Gun less dangers so feared by the laden, landing ships. 

Wind now blowing gently across thinning white strands,
Memories strong, political accolades today far too tepid and bland
Brave and scared men with a rightful sense
Into a grim reaping hell far too intense 

Could we today repeat if called to the task?
Or would the absence tear off the warriors’ mask?
No family, no morals, only the new gadget’s need,
Drugs, escape, emptiness in ever increasing speed. 

We all know eventually we’ll all lie silent to the patter of tossed dirt
What is important is for one to defy and try to assert
The need to cleanse an enslaved people of an evil scourge,
Even as the lost dreams float silently in the tidal surge.

We pray the cliffs never again test our moral and manly fiber
Or into harm’s way we chopper into an LZ, jump from the sky or crash in gliders
Joined by prayers that this nation’s foes known and yet unknown
Accept facing an American spirit aroused is facing life on a very short loan

                                               © 1994 Michael P. Ridley
                                               a/k/a the AlaskanPoet  

London Tribute

       The Alaskanpoet has been away from his computer too long and is now back and creating poems faster than popcorn can pop at a movie theater. Twitter account at www.twitter.com/Alaskanpoet is active once more with over a 100 followers and seeking more. Second blog  www.Alaskanpoetcommentator.blogspot.com  is also up and running and I am posting comments on the news daily and posting location of such iambic comments on Twitter. 
        Spouses are not like geese--they come and go; jobs come and go; friends come and go; almost everything on this planet is in a state of motion save one, and with apologies to feline owners, that one is the loyalty and affection of one's canine pet. Several months ago a good friend asked me to write a tribute to a dog, a Malamute that had recently passed. Having been raised in Alaska and having learned to read with Robert Service as opposed to Dick, Jane and Spot, I immediately wrote what follows. If you enjoy it, which I think you will and you are fortunate enough to have a dog of any breed or mix, give him a big nuzzle, pet and dog treat.

London’s Tribute
A dog is a man’s best friend and a woman’s too
A joy with each bark and howl to renew
A dog’s love and loyalty never wanes, never aborts
When made by God, a slight err, He made a dog’s life too short
Like novas, fads may come and like novas, fads may go
But a Malamute can run on memory trails longer than the melting of the deepest glacier  snow
All dogs are special, but Malamutes are a special breed
Who else in a dog sled relay of 600 miles to Nome and diphtheria’s grip to be freed
The breed that saved Nome’s children from diphtheria’s rage
Also on all fours on the Bay, a tribute to Oakland’s to revival wage
London was a Malamute and to his owners a very special, special friend
A Malamute with loyalty that would never break, not even in the slightest bend
Like the North Star of Love and Devotion, always there
140 pounds of fur from breakfast to the napkins he would rarely share
Love of snow, love of an owner that would never end
Licks, a petting magnet, a playful tummy rub, to an owner a caring ear to lend
He may not have had a Service or namesake author with a first name Jack,
But in the friend and companion category, Blue Ribbons, he would never lack.
London never ran into the wee hours of the Midnight Sun
Or in any dog sled race with his speed he would most likely have won
Now sadly, far too soon, with too much speed
The finish line crossed, but with a new team to lead
Heaven may be sunny, peaceful, but with a hint of Northern Lights, glacial ice and pristine snow
This poet knows that God and His Angels must be waiting for London in the traces to take Them in tow
“Endurance-Loyalty-Intelligence” words etched forever on a sled dog’s bronze statute
Add for London “and with a love of owners, licks, play, napkins and howls” for a fitting tribute.”

© 6/14/2013 Michael P. Ridley a/k/a the AlaskanPoet

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Last Vaoyage

On the 16th this poet was at his favorite restaurant, Blue Water Grill in Newport Beach one of ther few places west of the Mississippi you can enjoy Manhattan Clam Chowder and to ther best of my knowledge  the only place where  you can savor "Fries with Eyes"  smelt.  Being your typical shyless Alaskan I struck up a conversation with the leader of a group increasing by the moment to depart form the dock and spread the ashes of Chuck on the Pacific Ocean. I immediately wrote a peom and gave it to Henry who read it at sea....For a poet it does not get any better

Dust to dust, ashes to ash but the rivers of life all run to the sea
Today, in the past and in the future for all eternity
Our lives on this speck hurtling through space
Short term leases with expanding memories to embrace
Not a tear in the crowd only smiles and warmth good memories bring
This man unknown to me would have led a full life and full of swing
Monuments tarnish and green
The true memories are those of our genes
And the values and lessons we tried by words and actions to impart
No tears only smiles when the boat with ashes seeks to depart
(c) 2/17/2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet