“John Leslie Richards – Dad”

A Series of Haiku

Old John Richards has

a flat-top now mostly skin

and the grin of a kid

hard man to like

why mom did a mystery

belied with aplomb

flew back-seat to war

coral sea, midway, ‘canal

and then more horror

shared few true stories

and worked each day to provide

‘pay his taxes’ pride!

his plane sat below

jimmy doolittle’s that day

“the galloping ghost”

happier he was

to sit his riding mower

he built to mow his own

he found his new home

flying hurricane hunters

in B-Twenty-Four

he said sanford’s lakes

brought minnesota mem’ries

without all that snow

hunter, fisher, wrench

he quit smoking to add cash

to his growing sons

he dropped over-drink

to stay out of jail – both jails:

one with bars, one mom’s

he beat me but twice

once rightly, both my own fault

and cried when recalled

when he found out how

much money his wife had saved

was floored: guilt and shame

had a game we played

a bunch of them, actually:

two stubborns and true

he ate like a pig

i europeaned fork-and-knife,

argued everything

and he’d wait for me

to go fish on our days off

both mid-week affairs

taught me how to hook

bait minnow through one eye

and skin a catfish

and i taught him how

to say ‘i love you’

just before he died

(June 8 would have been his 100th Birthday. Mom left us a number of years earlier. He was lost without his rocking-chair buddy and best friend, and of my two brothers I was the one privileged to come home to Sanford and spend mom’s last seven and dad’s last eleven years in daily contact. Much gets understood during those days. When dad asked me about mom’s savings – which floored him, he said to me: “why didn’t you ever tell me?” I replied to him: Dad, I never told mom about the deal we had: when I’d come home from Titusville I’d swap out those $100s I bring for all the $10s and $20s you got on your side jobs or from the allowance mom gave you each week. That was all he needed to know. Those two kept secrets from us boys; and now he learned they kept some secrets from each other. Once, when dad went to The Fleet Reserve (lounge and clubhouse in Sanford) he came back to her with a tale of being asked where Sally was. “Tied up to an orange tree out back,” he grinned to cronies. Mom heard about that and asked me to get her some big rope with a frayed end. I got a hawser – ’bout nine-inches in diameter – section at the marina in Titusville and brought it to her. She said to hide it behind the back of dad’s pickup’s seat. I later heard the story three times: his, hers, and a pal’s at The Fleet: Each was a hoot. “You go on ahead, John,” Sally said after they had pulled up into the bar’s parking lot. “I have something to do. Only take a minute.” Dad was into his “tied up out back” routine when mom burst through the front door to the lounge, the hawser looped around her neck and he holding the frayed end, semi-shouting: “John Richards, just what do you think you are doing.” Woulda paid money to be around them when “they” were courting each other in Manhattan and The Bronx when Dad met this hot little number who was working at her sister-in-law’s beauty shop above Battery Park. He never had a chance. And after a near dozen trips to Murmansk and Arkhangle in Russia flying enlisted crew chief from his escort carrier (CVE-11 Card), the invasion of Morocco in North Africa, and the invasion after D-Day of Southern France, he came home to Patuxent River, Maryland and the Navy’s Test Bed for aircraft and began flying hurricanes in a converted US Army Air Corps medium bomber…and got this hot little number to come down to Maryland and begin making babies. She had to have numerous operations just to do that – the results of childhood polio – infantile paralysis – and then more procedures as she was Rh Factor negative and he, positive. And their three boys didn’t let up in the excitement department.

“Mistaken Non-dentity”

(June 5, 2019)

old man hunched over

funereal signs, reading

no – just sun-slants now*

*(Under a quartering afternoon sun, the shades and splashes of diffuse graying light, the signposts along Veterans Memorial Park’s “memory pavers” depicting various signposts of Sanford’s Martial History, stretching back to honor one Revolutionary War sergeant to much more recent times, both living and dead, looks like an old man hunched over a lectern reading as he peers across the slender greensward wherein the names of many of the town’s veterans from all its wars and peacetime services are inscribed, and each Memorial Day after the parade people come to honor those who’ve gone and recognize those who yet remain. The angle of the sun sometimes from across the street, perched high on the concrete slab under City Hall were a few benches proved a shaded vantage, illusions such as old men reading pages to the planted sometimes may arise. It gets hot and buggy out early this time of year, and memorial day speakers self-leash their enthusiasms. Besides downtown has a softer slant wherein sodas, suds, sandwiches and such are to be found for the sweltering celebrants.)

“Lickety Wave Runner Splits”

(June 5, 2019)

low mid-lake ‘runner

beats wind-ripple waves to froth

streaking through the stream*

*(Faster’n most, a low-slung wave runner tames the gentle troughs – ripples, really – and beats them to a feathery froth sprinting across Lake Monroe’s eleven-mile width at The Saint Johns River mainstream channel, the towering grey-and-sometimes-somber-black clouds closing in from the North. Seen from a safe – he hopes – perch under City Hall’s comfortable viewing deck. Breezes aplenty, little sun, a perch above the road and roundabout and Veterans Memorial Park, the old city Bandshell now repurposed but still a muchly martial mien. A splendid people-watcher perch.)

“Frog Hallelujah Chorus”

(June 7, 2019)

frog hallelujah

chorus comes sounding with rain

love is in the air*

*(Orlando-Sanford International Airport reports .66-of-an-inch of rain yesterday afternoon and evening, though I suspect a bit more my-patch. However, what fell was more than enough for our gray frogs who have supplanted our diminutive green tree-frogs. But there Cuban cousins do croak their happy delight over the wet-stuff. They began their near non-stop serenade about twilight, hoping to woo a prospective gal-pal to their piece of water, thereby to amorously spread procreation’s pursuit. Never yet have I wondered if some of the bigger hoppers would taste as good as a bullfrog – and for the same reason I have not delved into Taiwan’s offerings of its version of escargot: I stick with what I know when it comes to victualizing arthropods (and else). But I do like the charm – however cacophonous at times – of a Perry Como Chorus in a rain barrel.)