Pipe Tobacco and Memories

A collection by Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)

Pipe Tobacco and Memories

Today I smelled tobacco from a pipe
Although there was no one around except
Perhaps the ghost of the hardware store savant
Whose wisdom filled the air along with smoke

That honest, manly incense from long ago
When the thinking man smoked a Peterson’s pipe
Dunhill could brag of a royal warrant
And Dr. Grabow was a sovereign cure

No, no, we must not smoke anymore
But we can remember those golden days

More Real and More Beautiful
“This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door!”
-Lucy in C. S. Lewis’ The Last Battle

More of the old family land is to be sold off
Forests of my childhood and happy fields
Where breezes still ripple the summer grass
Soon to be beaten and carved as lots and plots

The bales of hay, each barefoot day – all lost
And down the hill where runs a magic rill
My Sherwood Forest will be cleared of good trees
Its dreaming paths overlaid with sewers and streets

And along the fence little tufts of grass
Where all those noble dogs of long ago lie buried
My companions in all adventures
Awaiting my whistle to roam with me again

Well, I will pack them and all my childhood up –
And someday pour them from a golden Cup

Anti-Tarnish Silverware Container
-a sticker inside the box

A cheap wooden box nailed together long ago
All scratched and patched with mismatched nails and screws
And lined inside with stained, decaying felt
With slots for long lost knives and forks and spoons

Part of someone’s treasure in the Depression time
A dollar or two a month on a layaway plan
At Montgomery Ward or Penney’s or Sears
The “good” silver for Thanksgiving and Christmas

The silverplate has been garage-saled and lost
But there was love, and somehow love remains

A Master’s Degree from the Dairy Queen in Huntington, Texas

For The Ataman, Dr. Barbara Carr of Happy Memory

Well, not exactly, but the Dairy Queen
Was my late-night coffee stop on the way home
From all those evening classes in Nacogdoches
I should have asked the girls to sign the diploma

(Is the juke box still broken?)

I worked on that degree for seven years
One class at a time, sweet Jesus, oh, yeah
And God bless Dr. Carr for all those extensions
And the fluorescent-lit journeys through Mother Russia

(Does the ice cream machine still make that funny grinding noise?)

Seven years! I’m not all that smart
But persistence is its own kind of art

Participation Ribbons

John Wayne as Steve Williams: “How’d you do last season?”
Charles Coburn as Father Malone: “We showed up for every game.”
Steve Williams: “I’d say that was raw courage.”
-Trouble Along the Way (1953)

I’ve heard of participation ribbons
But I’ve never seen one. Do they exist?
People seem to disapprove of them
But participation means showing up

There are those who wake up every morning
Feed the kids breakfast, fire up an old car
Make the school run, and then are off to work
At the cafe’, the store, or the auto shop

That’s participation, all right, and courage
A ribbon? Most folks deserve a medal

Author’s Note: As a farm boy, a university dropout, a brown-water sailor, an ambulance driver, an offshore worker, a factory hand, an LVN, a teacher, and a father I have never seen a participation ribbon. If you, dear reader, were ever given one of those mythological constructs I’d sure like to hear from you. And I do mean you, about the one you received, not what you’ve read or heard.

The Bank That Used to Be

This temple dedicated to work and thrift
Is mostly empty now; its marble floors
Feature sticky yellow feet to keep
Errant capitalists away from each other

The offices are vacant; the lights are dim
A lonely teller in chemical-purple hair
And painted, rhinestoned, clawlike fingernails
Counts not deposits but her MePhone keys

There is no line along the yellow feet
Only one communicant with a deposit slip

Whatever Happened to Ol’ What’s-His-Name?

Whenever I want to know about my old classmates
Those friends of youth, those moral supports
Their lives, their careers, their families, their fates,
I check the news for the arrest reports

The Empires That Could Have Been
“The empires of the future will be empires of the mind.”
-attributed to Winston Churchill

Empires of the mind – what a glorious dream
A world of laboratories and libraries
Of beauty through truth, music, words, and art
The free exchange of ideas and discoveries

Ministers of state might have launched missives, not missiles
In polished meter instead of heavy prose
And the worst of enemies would have shared
Champagne and verse on a veranda at dusk

While their children scampered in search of fireflies
Then giggled secrets on the porch of St. Michael’s Church

The Mediaeval Project

Let us progress to the Middle Ages
Those centuries that anchor us in love
Oh, yes, we’ll take along our antibiotics
Our printing presses, eyeglasses, and pocketknives

But we will progress to a living world
Of well-tended fields and chapels of ease
The daily mysteries of the Rosary
Following the mysteries of the plough

Let us progress to the Middle Ages
Each life a Word written on sunlit pages

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