S: A Goodly Heritage: The George and Retta Stallsmith Family
FC: A Goodly Heritage The George and Retta Stallsmith Family | The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. Psalm 16:6
1: Revelation By Andrew Stallsmith Our father shaved his mustache once. We hardly knew him But crept about to eye the strangeness Of that patch of smooth gray stubble Where the mustache should have been. It seemed as though some stranger Had taken residence Within our father's clothes And there usurped his place in space Complete with voice and mannerisms. Our mother smiled enigmatically And glanced coquettishly From out the corners of her eyes To add to all the strangeness. We hadn't known them well at all. These two we thought were ours Had changed before our very eyes, Become two other people Who belonged only to themselves Or rather, to each other. | This collection is dedicated to my grandparents, George and Retta Stallsmith. Although both died before I was born, I've always been able to read their strength of character and sense of humor in their children. In addition to family photographs, A Goodly Heritage includes poems and an article written by several of those children. What we like to call the Stallsmith writing dynasty! (The flower photos are mine, but many others are courtesy of the generous photographers at stock.xchng.)--Audrey Stallsmith | Who Travels Alone By Marie Stallsmith He travels fastest who travels alone, So the old saying goes. But why all alone and why all the haste On your junket through life? Is a sunset more lovely when viewed by yourself Or not viewed at all? Does a rose bloom more sweetly in Constantinople Than it does here at home? Is moonlight more wondrous enjoyed alone, Or with someone to share it? What do you miss in your jet age speed To get where you're going? Just all of the wonder and beauty that borders your way And the friends never made. The spotted fawn in a field of hay that was naught but a blur In your passing. What do you gain, but a handful of dollars to leave to your heirs, If you have any heirs. And a ritzy funeral with no one to weep When you're laid in your grave. Why not take time to look at the wonders, While you still have the time? Or why not a colleen to add spice to your life, While you're still in your prime? Take time out to pick a handful of stars For someone who cares. So forget the haste and ignore the lone trail And the money's siren call. He travels fastest who travels alone, But he misses it all.
2: Mother Walked to Church By Andrew Stallsmith Our mother walked to church Three miles. In sunshine and in rain Through mud and snow She drew us with her. Tall, saintly, patient Sundays without end she walked And we walked too. We sang, committed memory verses, Learned sweet Jesus' name. We followed Far as we could And wait To follow home again. | The Heritage By Andrew Stallsmith He never said, "I love you," Nor did I The code somehow forbade it But in the years we worked the land together There passed between us A message lovelier than words. That spoke of loyalty and duty and respect Reverence for the earth and all things live Honor, trust, and faithfulness; This was the message that he had to give. He never said, "I love you," yet In all the days I knew him He spoke no ill of any man Nor scorned a neighbor Nor demeaned himself belittling others. I learned somehow that love Is living the best way you know how Giving of yourself when someone needs And caring for your own with sacrifice. He never said, "I love you," not in words But said it every day by caring What I saw him do and heard him say. And so I do not need to say the words To pass the message on unto his grandsons.
3: The Old House By Donald Stallsmith At twilight, as I walked through a wood, I came to a place where a house had stood: A stone foundation, the rotting sill, A rusted saw in the evening still. Being in no hurry and all alone, I sat down on the front door stone. As I sat there, the questions came. Who had lived here? What was their name? Where were they now? Where had they gone? Was her name Mary? Was his name John? Did they have any children? If so, what then? Were their names Harry, Jenny, or Ben? Was there a reason, a reason why, Why they let the old house die? Was it a good home or was there strife? Was he a good husband? Was she a good wife? Did they raise the kids in the fear of God? What kind of path did their feet trod? What did they do to fill their days? Were there fields to tend and stock to raise? Did they sit right here beneath the starry sky While over their heads the pine trees sighed? Did one leave the other all alone In this moldering old pile of wood and stone? The sky grows dark and I’ve a way to go. I’ll get no answers here I know. A nighthawk circles far up in the sky. How long does it take for a house to die? | A Handful of Sand By June Stallsmith Turner A handful of sand on a beach; A handful of words on a page; Each about equal to each After an eon or an age.
4: Children of George and Retta Stallsmith: Elsie Elisabeth, February 23, 1907 Marie Ann, February 19, 1909 Joseph Frederick, August 31, 1911 Alice Ruth, December 8, 1913 LillianJune, June 24, 1916 Eudora Pearl, February 16, 1919 Susie Esther, February 18, 1921 Nellie Irene, 1923 Andrew Paul, December 19, 1925 George Donald, May 27, 1928
5: Do You Remember? By Marie Stallsmith Do you remember The barn loft where we used to play, The smell of the new-mown hay? Do you remember The doves that cooed on the red barn's comb, The long, sunny lane where the cows came home, The cool green woodland where we used to roam In our carefree childhood days? Do you remember the things that we loved in childhood, Each spot that was dear to us from which we were forced to part? In the years that have vanished, each memory comes back to haunt me, Each scene that we loved so well, each place that was dear to our hearts. Do you remember The hill where we used to slide? Do you remember The pony that we used to ride, The fairy dell with its violets blue, The windy hill where the poplars grew, The shining hours that we once knew Way back in our childhood days?
6: In the early 1920's, a young teacher named Alvin Clark taught our small one-room school for a number of years. He was our first man teacher ever and everyone was pleased and excited when he came. He turned out to be a good teacher, full of fun, and all the pupils liked him. Favorable reports of the new teacher were carried home to our parents, but it was not until a strange happening in the autumn of his second term that he earned the admiration of the whole community. A mile or so down the road from the schoolhouse lived an independent old lady named Mrs. Howard--all alone except for her motley collection of animals: several cats, a small shaggy dog, a dozen chickens of mixed ancestry, and a tough, obnoxious old gray ram named Suke. Suke had been around almost as long as anyone could remember and of late years had been making a general nuisance of himself. He sometimes wandered a considerable distance from home, pasturing along the roadside as he traveled. He had learned that most every moving thing was afraid of him, and apparently enjoyed his mastery of the situation. Boys and girls, women berry pickers, and even an occasional man were intimidated by him. And no wonder! He was tough and strong, and when he so desired, he could use his hard old head and big curled horns to deliver a mighty blow. | The Demise of Old Suke By Elsie Stallsmith Boyd | The women of the neighborhood were afraid he might hurt Mrs. Howard herself but he never seemed to bother her, but when for safety's sake they had to be escorted to her very door in order to visit, she sometimes said she wished she were rid of the old fellow. Not infrequently Suke came as far as the school and all of us, even the older boys, had to scurry inside. His whole mien, especially the wicked look in his eye, gave us plenty of reason not to trust him too far. Occasionally, when he was apparently in need of recreation or perhaps in quest of a good time, he'd just station himself in front of the door for an hour or so--greatly to the chagrin of all of us who didn't want to be imprisoned on a nice day! In the spring of Mr. Clark's first term Suke had hurt an eighth grade boy, prompting a member of the school board to call on Mrs. Howard and inform her that Suke would have to be kept at home. Subsequently the ram was observed confined within an old chicken runway behind the house. After the pupil was injured, the teacher said with disgust that the old sheep should be called Satan, so although some of us hardly knew where he got that term, we all began using it. That autumn "Satan" didn't show up a school and in due time was practically forgotten. We had been pestering the teacher to have a picnic, so one Thursday when school was dismissed, he said for everyone to bring something good the next day. Friday was a nice October day so we decided to eat outside. Several older boys carried boards and some old seats to make a table of sorts for the food. It was soon piled with chicken, sandwiches, and potato salad. The teacher had brought a big golden orange for each of us--a special treat for some of the pupils.
7: Amy, the only little first grade girl--with curls tied up in a blue bow for the occasion--stood staring almost unbelievingly at the pan of bright oranges. As we all filled our plates and scattered to eat, the teacher smiled at her and told her to come and get one after she had finished the rest of her lunch. The table had been placed several rods behind the schoolhouse in the shade of some large trees growing beside a deep ravine. An old wooden fence separated the schoolyard from a row of rocks along the ravine. We were never allowed to touch the fence or play under the trees except for special occasions, like today's picnic. Pupils of the higher grades sometimes complained because we couldn't play in the shade near the fence, and a number of times in recent years there had been mention of a new fence to replace the dangerous old one, but nothing had ever come of it. When the last bites of chocolate cake and apple pie had been devoured, the older girls began gathering up plates and sorting silverware--with the boys starting to play a desultory, full-stomach game of tag. All at once screams of "Satan! Satan's coming!" rose above the sounds of the picnic, and urgent shouts of "Run, Amy, run!" filled the air. | But Amy, evidently coming back for her orange, stood horrified. Old Suke was pounding toward her with all his might, burly head down and sharp hooves throwing up bits of sod. Those terrible horns were almost upon the little girl when Mr. Clark sprang forward and grabbed her up as he passed--only inches in front of the attacking ram! Old Suke, unable to halt his mad, headlong rush, crashed through the rotten fence and tumbled eighty feet to the rocks below. While the teacher quieted the sobbing Amy by carrying her to the table and helping her to pick out the biggest orange, the rest of us gathered beside the broken fence and listened. Not the faintest sound from the depths below. As we turned away, one of the older boys summed up the feelings of us all when he softly said, "He's bunted his last bunt. Serves the mean old creature right!" When we arrived at school Monday morning we were not in the least surprised to find a strong wire fence separating the schoolyard from the rocks along the edge of the ravine. When Mr. Clark explained that he felt Old Suke had sacrificed his life for our new fence and that now that he was gone we should try to think more kindly of him, we sort of agreed.
8: For Marie By June Stallsmith Turner You will go by in coming years And never know that I was here For lives can pass and leave but little trace. These fields will spread their blossoms still, in summer, But I will not be missed by Queen Anne's Lace. Trees will leaf out anew, each spring, Along the edges of the brook Where deer come shyly down to drink at eve And, though the one who watched them will be gone, The whip-poor-wills will only seem to grieve. Few will remember where I walked Or that I loved the sunset's gold, No sign will tell the world where I slept, But in the corner, where the violets grow, The grass will listen for my quiet step. | I Remember By Marie Stallsmith I remember April's silver curtain rain, The glory of the apple tree in bloom, The joy of the rainbow that arched the eastern sky, The small gray catkins on the willow stems. So I sit in constant, foggy dusk, remembering-- Remembering the filmy green on budding trees, The places where violets bloom so thick they blue the grass, Remembering the daffodils across the hills, Remembering the spring. I remember hiking all the nearby roads, Wandering endlessly the fields and woods as seasons passed, Back to the time of climbing trees and skipping rope, Going to the farthest corner of the field to fetch the cows. Sitting in this wheelchair, I look back, remembering-- Remembering the pad of running feet along a country lane, The planting of the crops, the gardening, the harvesting, Remembering the sledding on chill moonlit nights, Remembering such happy things. | Rain By Marie Stallsmith Rain drifts along in silver mist Or flies before the driving wind. It sweeps across the dripping porch And torrents down the window panes. It is not April now, but May And weather should be warm and bright, But still the days are dark and gray And still it rains and rains.
9: The Wood Path By Marie Stallsmith The path goes winding, twisting through the woods, Curving among the bushes and the trees. It is a lovely place at any time, Sun-dappled earth and airy breeze-tossed leaves. The leaves of spring are new and soft and small, Making shadow lace for feet that herein stray. Summer's leaves now dense and larger grown Provide a cooling shade for hottest days. Autumn leaves in every garish color Come floating down to drift among the trees 'Till soaked and bleached by autumn's rains, they form The soft brown carpet of the winter's leaves. The flowers of spring edge the path and patch the woods, A vivid bright array from every nook, The summer's buttercups like twinkling gold And scarlet mint aflame beside the brook. Autumn's purple asters and bright goldenrod Produce a joyous shining golden glow As they crowd the fence along the path, And winter's blooms are puffs of purest snow. As seasons come and go with all their change And years slip swiftly by without a sound, So, with each passing year, the footsteps change That wore the path so smooth across the ground. | At first the footsteps skipped across the woods And then still light and brisk but much more staid, They passed to quiet strength and resolute And so to dragging steps that tell of age. Abandoned now, the path is grown with grass And gradually returns to woods once more. Perhaps in years to come some other feet Will wear the path again, much as before. | Trilliums By Marie Stallsmith He said, "There is not time enough. All my days are hurry hurry things. The press of work keeps me from being free. The trilliums are blooming on the bank above the creek, But I have not the time to go and see. As for myself, I would not mind the work, For all my days are empty boring things. I would so love to help with the gardening. Chained forever to this chair, to never more be free, Though trilliums are blooming in drifts along the swamp, I cannot go and see.
10: House of Horrors by June Stallsmith Turner This ain't my favorite memory but it's stuck with me all these years And today, just thinkin' on it can nigh bring on the tears; I know it's gone forever and rememberin' makes no sense, But I can't forget that little house out behind the fence. At first my ma went with me when I was just a tad, But I had to go it on my own when I became a lad; For it didn't look quite seemly for a boy of eight or ten To be beggin' his ma to go with him, out behind the fence. I didn't mind it much at all when the sun was shining bright But I sure hated that long path when it got dark at night, And what was worse, was accompanyin' a sister of three or four And handin' her in the lantern while I stood outside the door. Ma and the girls cut pictures out to brighten up the place, Flowers and dogs and horses and a girl with a pretty face, But it was hard to do a job out there or even try to pee When there was that girl with the pretty face a-starin' down at me. I had to stand so careful-like, watch where I set my feet, 'Cause the girls sure caused a ruckus if I dribbled on the seat; And even though the shiny pages were far between and few, I hated that old Sears catalog that smelled of ink and glue. The winter time was ten times worse, with snow drifts on the seat And on the floor, and me with my trousers down around my feet. I 'most wished I could stop eating and put my kidneys on permanent hold, Then take that path behind the fence in the shiverin' snow and cold. So, if I could, I'd like to forget that part of the good old days, Wipe out the memory of it that in my mind still plays, But it sticks like burdocks in the hair and though it doesn't make much sense I'll see forever that little house, out behind the fence. | "Blank" Verse By June Stallsmith Turner The pale page stares defiantly back Its face unmarked by a single word. The muse is marching to a different drummer And the beat is one I have never heard.
11: Human Nature By June Stallsmith Turner All day long she would sit there rocking Veranda boards creaking and squawking And to the sky she did her talking "Oh, Lord, why don't it rain?" The corn dried up, no grass for haying The cow went dry, the hens stopped laying She sat there rocking, sat there praying "Oh, Lord, why don't it rain?" Then came an end to her awful plight It rained all day and it rained all night She rocked and stared at the lovely sight "Oh, Lord, thanks for the rain!" She still is rocking, boards still creaking But she and God are scarcely speaking She sits and rails to skies still leaking "Oh, Lord, why don't it stop?" | Wanna Be Friends? By June Stallsmith Turner Do you like baby pigs and things, Swimming holes and grapevine swings; Colored stones on country roads, Fuzzy worms and warty toads? Robins singing after rains, Frost snowflakes on windowpanes, Deer tracks, fresh in creek-side mud, Acorns dropping with a thud? Baby lambs on wobbly legs, Fat haystacks and Easter eggs, Green moss covering rotten logs, Katydids and polliwogs? New hatched chicks, a meadow rose, Dust squishing up between your toes, Fresh baked bread and pumpkin pie: Then I guess you're my kind of guy. | The How and Why of It By June Stallsmith Turner "How do I love thee?" the poet fondly asks Then gives her answer in words to make one sigh. I do not ask myself HOW I love thee I only scratch my head and wonder WHY.
12: To Come Alive By Andrew Stallsmith March, raucous month Harsh as crow's returning call Changeling child of two seasons Your boisterous winds impose Tumultuous tyranny. As tuning forks arouse The sympathetic strings So do your wild persistent gusts Excite the soul to desperate yearnings. Winter's stoic pattern of survival So long endured with frozen patience Gives way to wrenching hope. Is it as hard for trees to wake? To feel that first great burning surge Of stinging sap Drawn by a burgeoning sun Up, up through winter-shrunken pores? Are daffodils in their dark beds Of death-like slumber Loathe to awake, to start again The hectic, painful task of living? And crocuses, those bright and jaunty Harbingers of spring, Do they sometimes malinger-- Reluctant to begin another season? You grant a short reprieve to living In spates of returned winter To all but snowdrops, Those heirs of ancient discipline, Who needs must bloom beneath the snow. | Easter Cross By Andrew Stallsmith We sand the cross And varnish it To make it shine In wood grained beauty. It glows in candlelight Against rich velvet. No splinters here, no knots To scathe a back Laid open by a scourge. No stain of blood, no bits of flesh Ground by agony Into the very grain of it. But that was long ago And now the golden chalice gleams And lilies nod in silken splendor.
13: Progress By Andrew Stallsmith They came and straightened out the brook And drained the pools Where devil's darning needles (If you tell a lie they sew your mouth shut) Darted their iridescent stitchery Through boyhood's timeless afternoons Beneath a sapient sun. Men walk dryshod where once Toads' tapioca-stranded nursery puddles stood Where lowly crawdads Reared their mud-tiered towers And peepers shrilled their mating songs To usher in another spring. "We need the land," they said, "To feed a hungry world. Skunk cabbage will not fill an empty belly. We must wrestle with the earth To make her yield her bounty." While down below they built a dam That flooded half a county. | Prayers By Andrew Stallsmith His children Are a disappointment to him, Lord. He says they steal and drink and lie. He is bitter and resentful Not for what it does to them But for what it does to him. How can I tell him They have just fulfilled his Real expectations? How can I tell him that They learned it all from him? | He brought a present when he came Whether an excuse for stopping Or as a kind of bribe, a payment For something he imagined I Could get from you on his behalf. I accepted it with grace. O, help me make him understand That everything was paid for In the gift you gave. | At Risk By Andrew Stallsmith "Play for keeps?" I would not play for keeps. My marbles were too precious To hard won, to risk the loss Of even one within the ring Of hard-packed earth. In passionate possessiveness I clutched my meager hoard And backed away. "Play for keeps?" I would not play for keeps. The talents just discovered In my young manhood years Were much too fragile yet, to risk Within that ring of hard-packed earth Where men still play their games Of get and keep. "Play for keeps?" I had to play for keeps For time was running on And would not wait for safer games. The risk, once taken, proved To be an end within itself. I lost. But now I cannot wait To find another game.
14: Ups and Downs By Donald Stallsmith He was six-foot-two in his seed corn hat, Kind of long and lanky, not given to fat. He had a long nose and his ears didn’t match, Looked like he’d been thrown together from scratch. But he could fix a tractor in his farm workshop, Butcher a hog and raise good crops. He could calve a cow with practiced ease, But he lacked the social niceties. On Saturday night he drove into town To get some ice cream and look around. It was early in the evening; he never stayed out late, But, nevertheless, it sealed his fate. She was tall and slender, a pretty lass. You could tell at a glance she’d been raised first class. She had a lot of poise and a beautiful smile. She outclassed him by half a mile. They never would have met; there is no doubt, But he was going in as she was coming out. Big as he was, you could see he was shook, And she was thrown back like a fish on a hook. She came off the floor like a stepped-on cat Just as he reached down for his hat. There ain’t no reason, no why nor when, But somehow he knocked her down again. He wanted to run; he wanted to hide. She simply sat on the floor and cried. What did he do then? Gosh, I don’t know. This happened almost ten years ago. He ain’t no better looking, ain’t improved none since But she can drive the tractor and fix a hole in the fence. They have three kids, two boys and a girl. They say life ain’t bad if you give it a whirl. ‘Cause, like everything else, there’s ups and there’s downs, And you got to be careful when you go to town. | Good Pages Are Hard to Find By Donald Stallsmith There was a good king long ago Whose name was Wenceslas. He had a page who had no name. I guess that shows who was boss. The king stared out the window. He'd nothing else to do. The page was working on his blog. He'd missed a day or two. "Come now, page, and tell me What's that light out in the night?" "Only a spaceship, Your Excellency, Or perhaps a satellite." "No, no, page, a man I see, As the moon is mounting. He seems to be gathering firewood Beside St. Agnes' fountain. "Come now, page, we must be gone. We've many good works to do. Grab some logs and a bottle of wine. Better make that two. "We ourselves might need a nip Out along the track. We will be fresh on the way out. Could get nasty coming back." The page was thinking many things, None of which he said. You didn't argue with your king If you planned to keep your head. It was easy for King Wenceslas To step out in the frigid night. The page was packing all the load. The king was traveling light. It wasn't the good deeds he could do. It was the snowdrifts the page was counting. They might even meet his mother-in-law Beside St. Agnes' fountain. As for that man gathering fuel, Poor though he may be
15: Bill and John By Donald Stallsmith Two men started out farming side by side, Their family tradition to carry on. Bill lived up on the rocky hillside. Down in the valley lived John. Bill was a hard-driving, ambitious man, Very set in his way. John thought you could do tomorrow What didn't get done today. Bill never took a vacation. He worked sixteen hours a day. John liked to go hunting and fishing. Work never got in his way. Bill hauled manure all winter, In spring lime and fertilizer spread on. But, every time they got a big rain, It all ran down the hill to John. Bill's crops were nothing to brag of, Hard won from that rocky ground, But John with his deep black valley soil Had the best crops around. Bill's boys left home as soon as they could, Too much work and not enough pay. John's boys stayed on to help him farm. Seems they got bigger every day. Time rolled by as it usually does. Bill was thin, wrinkled, and worn. John was plump and jolly With skin as smooth as the day he was born. They found Bill dead with a spade in his hand. He'd been scratching that stingy soil. His eighty years had come and gone With nothing but heartache and toil. John lived on to be ninety-five And died peacefully in bed. Instead of a spade on a rocky hillside, He had a feather pillow beneath his head. Now there may be a moral in this story, This saga of Bill and John. But, if there is, I can't see it. If you can, carry on. | The Old Church By Donald Stallsmith The old church stands on a hilltop high, Its steeple a shadow against the sky Where only the bats and swallows fly. Rain blows in through the open door. Leaves are scattered across the floor. The windows are shattered, the plaster cracked, And church mice build nests in the hymnal racks. Briars cover the graves out back, The wrought iron fence has gone to wrack, And bricks are fallen from the chimneystack. Once this church stood square and white, Its windows agleam in the morning light, And the bell rang loud from the spire above To tell the world of redeeming love. Will the old church ever revive again And minister once more to the needs of men, Or will it the sands of life discard, Till it lies in a heap in the old churchyard? | He no doubt blew all his public assistance check On the lottery. The page wheezed like a wind broke horse. The cold had numbed his mind. "Come on, man!" shouted back the king. "You've fallen way behind!" Did they do any good that night Out there in the snow? As no one thought to Facebook it, We will never know. So, as you travel here and there, Live your life according. Be the king and not the page. It's so much more rewarding.
16: Moment of Truth By Andrew Stallsmith I slept I woke I slept again Or did not sleep I cannot know. But in some half-remembered state Of fancy, acquiescent To nebulous ideas and effervescent notions Unacceptable to incredulous reason And wholly present, I drifted. With uncritical acceptance I gradually perceived a Presence. I spoke, no, did not speak I merely thought, Who are you? I did not hear; I simply felt the answer Come. Swiftly then On silent wings we lifted Through boundless realms of time and space To some far place. . . Or was it near at hand, With but an opaque curtain drawn Between it and the furthest reaches Of the conscious mind? We came at last to some fair field Of curious wonder. We moved through paths of beauty unalloyed, With plants and trees so exquisitely tended A loving care was manifest On every side. In awe-filled fascination I turned inquiring eyes To my companion Who proclaimed quietly what I Had only half dared to surmise: "The Garden of the Lord," And to my unasked question answered "Aye, the souls of man." | They stood in groves Well-tended and serene: Some veritable giants, Some of stripling growth, Some gnarled and twisted, Ingrown upon themselves. But there were open spaces ,too. When I inquired The Voice With matchless sadness said, "These never grew." As on we moved I bolder grew And knew contempt and scorn For all the stunted, twisted ones. "With all the care With all the infinite loving care They have," I said, "Surely they could grow Much better than they do! Observe that poor misshapen thing In that small open space, How well the earth is loosed About its roots, How moist and rich the humus is. The ones so near about it Have grown beautifully. Surely it could make Some progress too. I looked to my companion for agreement And perhaps some commendation For my zeal. I saw instead a look of pity, A look of such compassion As I have never known, A look that pierced my heart And then I knew. . . That wizened, dried-up thing, Unresponsive to divinest care, Ungrateful, stunted specimen, That stubborn, unproductive soul. . . Was mine.
17: Swahili Boy By Donald Stallsmith There was a small Swahili boy in a far and distant land. There were many things he didn’t know and didn’t understand. He didn’t know why the rebels came and took his father away. Her didn’t know where his mother went. They said she died of AIDS. He didn’t know why he had to hide and his little sister too When the rebels or the soldiers came, no difference between the two. He never had a pet to love; there was no food to spare. He never had a plastic toy or a child’s rocking chair. He never saw a shopping mall or blazing city lights. He never saw a Christmas tree or heard carols in the night. Then some aid workers passed that way who really seemed to care. They gave him food and medicine; they gave him clothes to wear. He couldn’t understand these people who gave and never took, But the very best thing they gave him was a Bible picture book. He couldn’t read the stories or the captions up above. But it really didn’t matter much; it was the pictures that he loved. There was Moses in the bulrushes, the parting of the Red Sea, A picture of the disciples mending nets by the Sea of Galilee. A picture of shepherds and angels in the sky, A picture of wise men and the star that shone on high. But the picture that he loved the best was Baby Jesus in the hay With Mary and Joseph beside him on that first Christmas day. But each day food grew scarcer and each day someone died. When his little sister went, he didn’t even have the strength to cry. And when it came his time to go along with all the rest, They found him there with his Bible book held tight against his chest. | Faith By June Stallsmith Turner The branches of the trees reach up Black-etched against the winter sky And grasp, like fingers, scarlet wings Of a cardinal not inclined to fly. His feathers puffed against the cold And limned against that trackless gray, Fearless of what the night may bring One solitary blue-barred jay. Such trust must put our own to shame Who plot and plan for heat and light, While they, who worry not at all, Are just as precious in His sight. | Peace By Marie Stallsmith Broken, bewildered, beaten, and crushed, I sank into a fog of black despair, Lit only by the shreds of foggy light That drifted slowly through my weary mind. No path of hope led from this dark morass. I thrashed around and threw my arms about And in my efforts to be free, I touched His hand. A quiet peace was dropped on me, And all Eternity was now-- And now was all Eternity.
18: Warning Sign By June Stallsmith Turner When a day shall find me sleeping still, at noon, With no interest in getting up to check the dawn, Then know that, for all time, I have decided To pull up my earthly stakes and move along. For if I do not rise with joy, at first light, To watch the sun's gray gold push the dark away: Unmoved by the stirrings of a rousing morning, Oblivious to the raucous notes of a waking jay, Then I might as well be numb, and deaf, and blind, Wrapped in my earthen grave, heaped high with solitude, Then not to feel daybreak, or know its gladness Or see the beauty of rising sun on wood. | Beyond the Veil By Marie Stallsmith Once my days were carefree times And often gay. Though clouds were sometimes dark-- They passed away. The golden bowl is broken now Beyond repair. Now my days are all lonely things Of dark despair. Will there be happiness for me And joy once more, Could I but see beyond the veil, The keyless door? | Graceful Exit By Andrew Stallsmith When I am gone And left some things undone Fragments of dreams perhaps Lying helter skelter Let no one say, "Too bad He didn't get to gather up The tag ends of his life." I want to go while life Still calls me on And love yet holds some warmth As one who lays his toys Aside a moment To chase a whim Expecting to return But is caught up In other things.
19: The Old Farm by Donald Stallsmith I returned today to the old farm, To the paths our bare feet once trod, But now all the hills and valleys Are covered with goldenrod. Sumac grows thick in the pasture Where the cowbells used to ring, And aspen chokes the meadows Where the larks no longer sing. Even the stream seems smaller Where the peepers first heralded spring, And we caught tin cans full of tadpoles And mushrooms made fairy rings. The Wolfriver is gone from the orchard, The Spies and the Sheepnose gone too. All that’s left is one scraggly Baldwin Where once a dozen grew. The lilac still stands in the dooryard Where at even we used to play, But the initials carved in the dinner-bell pole Are almost faded away. The old house is a ghost in the twilight With eyes that vacantly stare From windows shattered and broken, And dust lies deep everywhere. Windows that once gleamed with lamplight On cold winter nights long ago, When we came in from the barn and the milking To the supper that steamed on the stove. The old barn is quiet and empty, No longer filled with hay And its ribs protrude like a skeleton’s Where the siding has fallen away. No stalls filled with horses and cattle, No puppies or kittens at play, No chickens scratch in the barnyard; All is mold and decay. I too am old and feeble now, The others all gone before, For time with its wicked warning Has closed and locked the door. | I am no longer afraid of death. I don't fear its long arm. But, Lord, If you would grant me one last request, I’d like to die on the farm. | Whippoorwill By Andrew Stallsmith Summer twilight sibilance Sounding from the swing tree Too near my boyhood window Rouses nameless terrors Stirs an unknown instinct. "When whippoorwills call," The old adage says, "You may go barefoot. . ." Free to run lightfoot Through sunsweet meadows Wade among tadpoles Scare water skippers. Whippoorwills's answer, Softened by distance Sounds with sweet urgency Faint melancholy: All life is waiting You're free to go.