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Don Locke: Lookin Thru Bifocals

I don’t know how you feel about poetry. As a schoolboy we were made to stand before the class and recite from memory lots of it, I really rather had been outside playing marbles.

But then, I thought with a kid’s brain. Now at 86 I’m no longer a kid. I no longer can get down on both knees in the dust with, “knuckle-down, venture-dules, lag for the line, and birdseye…” with my favorite “taw” (shooter).

Now, I like poetry better than marbles. Recently a friend ours gave us a book of One Hundred and One Famous Poems. Some I remembered from my schooldays. One in particular was, SEA FEVER, by John Masefield. 

This one reminds me of another John, John McCauley’s, wife Bett’s uncle John. John went to the Navy in World War Two. After the war he obtained his college degree under the G.I. Bill, but the REA kept pulling at him and would not let go… “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky. And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…” (Masefield).

John McCauley, now a civilian, signed on as a merchant seaman; a common deck hand with a college degree. He was single; he stayed some few years.

‘Came home, worked as a policeman; ran for jailer – one day his promises were, “to keep the public restrooms at the county courthouse open on the weekends.” This got laughs – but not from talks with kidney trouble.

After losing the race for jailer, John ran a foul room, became a farmer, married a beautiful woman, had a house – full of kids, all boys. One became a lawyer, one worked in the U.S. Department of Agriculture – the rest of the boys farmed. 

John told me the last Captain he sailed with at sea was 83 years old, John died in his late 70’s.

TREES, by Joyce Kilmer, is also one of my favorites…

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.


Sergeant Joyce Kilmer, 165th infantry, World War One, A.E.F. – killed in France July 30, 1918.


Kindest regards…


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