Thoughts at a Vermilion Crossing Tuesday, Nov 18 2014 

I drafted this piece after running across the digital photo below that I took last May after crossing the Bayou Vermilion on the way into downtown Abbeville.

Vermilion’s Bayou Current
(Composed November 2014, based on a visit to the Bayou shore at Abbeville in May 2014)

Vermilion’s Bayou current
ripples by
in milk chocolate swirls
beneath the bridge
at Abbeville:
A Cajun channel
coursing prairie and marsh,
bearing fables and tales,
her banks retaining
equal measure of the
tears and joie de vivre
of  generations past,
ancestral spirits that
ride her tide,
murmuring softly,
Dieu, il est bon!”
when the scented spring breeze rises
along her
lazy, winding course.

Bayou Vermilion from the downtown side in Abbeville, Louisiana

Bayou Vermilion from the downtown side in Abbeville, Louisiana

Among supermarkets, Rouses Rulz Wednesday, Nov 12 2014 

I have married friends who hang out in night clubs.  Some who frequent flea markets and garage sales.  Some whose delight is festivals and fairs.  Shopping malls.  Even casinos.  Or hunting and fishing in woods and on lakes.

Where do we hang out?  Supermarkets.

And what’s our favorite supermarket?


The franchise has expanded with stores along the coast in Mississippi and Alabama, but pas d'erreur, Rouses is a Louisiana brand.

The franchise has expanded with stores along the coast in Mississippi and Alabama, but pas d’erreur, Rouses is a Louisiana brand.

So we were excited yesterday as we accidentally came across the newest Rouse’s (Store 48) in Acadiana.  We were taking back roads out of town when “Voila!”  There it was, open for business.  I knew a store was under construction at that location, but I didn’t know it was already open.  We can hardly pass a Rouse’s store (that big red “R” on the marquee evokes a hypnotic attraction that draws us into the parking lot), so we pulled in and dilly-dallied at least an impromptu half an hour.  We loved it.  This will be our new “favorite” store.

We like Rouse because the chain’s stores are distinctly regional.  They’re similar to other supermarkets in that they sell regular groceries, but they’re unique in the availability of a long menu of ready-to-eat dishes—from pizzas to specialty sandwiches to full-course meals to exotic bakery fare—all available for in-store eating or take-out.  And, their seafood, produce, and meat markets are remarkably more diverse (with fresher stuff) than the run-of-the-mill national chains’ markets.

We can get wild-caught seafood of just about any species, especially Gulf Coast critters.  I find comfort knowing that the shrimp on my po’boy were harvested recently in Gulf waters rather than imported from South America; or that the oysters on my po’boy came from Terrebonne Bay, not Puget Sound; or that the crawfish in my etouffee came from a cultivated aquaculture pond in Acadia Parish rather than a drainage canal in China.

Humble rewards of the profession: The guiding light of inquiry! Friday, Nov 7 2014 

In the cycle of teaching second-semester English composition, my favorite season rolls around  this time of every term: Learners begin their bio-critical investigations into the lives and one or more works of an author they read earlier in the course.  We’ve read, discussed, wrestled with, cussed at, and written about so much.  Now the course leads to this ending project in the semester’s closing month where their curiosity takes over from the syllabus’ unit by unit litany of obligatory readings, quizzes, and writings.  Even  though the most onerous project of the term lies before them, a research paper, they enter the library with a sense of liberation now that the search is their own, their curiosity their guide.

The work of inquiry is messy in the beginning, but scholars don't mind: It's theirs!

The work of inquiry is messy in the beginning, but scholars don’t mind: It’s theirs!

I love watching them work, as they prowl the stacks with a scratch sheet of titles and call numbers and then open their eyes widen in amazement as they arrive at their author’s section and find not just the 3 or 4 books they jotted down, but rows and shelves of books by and about the object of their search.  I wonder if the gold-hungry Fortyniners of old Californy  had more joyous expressions on their faces when specks of gold flashed in their panning screens than these scholastic fortune-hunters show when they discover those mother lodes of and books and volumes arrayed before them.

The students use searchable online databases to find articles and information, too, but nothing prompts the old-school in me more than a group of students seated around a reading-room table with a messy stack of books and journals spread before them, their notebooks open and pens poised as they pore over indexes and tables of contents and pages of books, mining out the knowledge they seek amid the overwhelming information they’ve found in their search.

As a teacher, the process reminds me that the student’s self-directed critical inquiry leads to the highest order of learning.  I can lecture and demonstrate and remonstrate for hours on end, but at this point I shut up and stand aside as they assume ownership of the task.  They flatter me by occasionally asking questions, but for the most part, they’ve “got it.”  And so do I as I stand aside, available to intervene if necessary, but mostly admiring the fruition of pedagogical labors that led to this hour.

“Come away, O human child, with a faery by the hand . . . “ Tuesday, Nov 4 2014 

A photograph can tell a poem.  This one sure does.  It shows my granddaughter with my grandnephew and grandniece romping through the cemetery on the day of my Daddy’s funeral in 2010.Cemetery Romp

Aren’t those kids disrespectful?  Why doesn’t someone yank them by the arm with a stern reprimand to show some respect for the deceased?  We should teach our children the values of our forefathers, that we respect the deceased among us!

But one person that I know who would have said, “Leave those little kids alone” was Daddy, even though he was one of those older ones with traditional values.  To have seen those innocent little ones dancing among the tombs, oblivious to the sting of death and the solemnity of that graveyard, would have drawn a granddaddy smile to his face.

As the Irish poet Wiliam Butler Yates wrote in a poem, “Come away with me, O human child / with a faery by the hand. /  There is more weeping in this world / than you will ever understand.”

Yes, I believe some gracious, sweet faery had those little children by the hand that January afternoon at New Zion, knowing that grown-up reality will come to their lives soon enough.  On this day, not of death but of life, may they play!

Monday’s Un-Devotion Monday, Nov 3 2014 

Boast not, Blue Monday: Your days (and your daze!) are numbered by the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana.

Boast not, Blue Monday: Your days (and your daze!) are numbered by the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana.

Last Night’s Lament

(Composed on a Sunday evening, August 2013, in the back yard Happy Place)

Monday, oh wretched Monday!
How untimely thy hideous head reareth
as weekend’s pinkened light
doth fade
in the western sky,
foreboding sorrow
on the morrow!

Country Roads, Acadiana: Breaux’s Grocery Tuesday, Oct 28 2014 

Over the years, I’ve posted pix of quaint, rural grocery stores that dot the Cajun countryside.  Most of them are no longer open, though, recalling former posts  about the Octave Fontenot store at Prairie Ronde and Sibille Brothers Grocery in the Bristol

Breaux's Grocery: A throwback to the retail past of the Cajun prairie.

Breaux’s Grocery: A throwback to the retail past of the Cajun prairie.

Community.  Those buildings still stand, but the groceries are no longer in business.

Not so Breaux’s Grocery in the Leroy community on Hwy. 699 in Vermilion Parish. The store is very open, advertising the coldest beer, hottest boudin, and best sandwiches on the marquis.  I couldn’t stop to go in since I was on business, but I hope one day to get back to Leroy to see how the store looks and feels on the inside.  I’m sure it’s an establishment with a strong Cajun accent, steeped in the fragrance of smoked meat and steamy boudin.

In Memorium, for the Family and Friends of Clemile Suire Wednesday, Oct 22 2014 

Composed on the South Louisiana Prairie
October 22, 2014

The Cajun prairie
with golden waves spreading away

The Cajun Prairie receives its own, but the earthen grave is not the end!

The Cajun Prairie receives its own, but the earthen grave is not the end!

beyond reach

received one of its own this day.

Dazzling blue hemisphere,
cloudless, bright and windswept,
arched overhead as a crystal dome
from whence angels sang and danced
a happy soul’s homeward flight.

Those left behind
gathered at the graveside,
remembering a life of

devotion to right matters

and the good times that attend life well lived.
After the priest’s hopeful amen,
the soldiers’ stirring rite,
the piper’s soulful strain of Amazing Grace,
those left behind attended one another
with much tender embrace,
holding one another close
as this mortal creed must,
because in such hours,
we know we need
oh so much
one another.

And as we cling to one another,
even more,
we cling to the glorious hope of faith
that dulls sorrow’s sharp edge:

“Just a few more weary days, and then . . .”

Gumbo Weather Wednesday, Oct 15 2014 

We are enjoying our first really strong cool snap of the season this mid-week, so yesterday Sarah enacted the perennial Cajun tradition of making gumbo to go along with the colder weather. Gumbo was a common meal of the common country Cajun throughout the cold-weather months, because its preparation on a hot stove for hours and hours helped keep the house warm, just as its steamy juiciness warmed the inward parts of the Cajun’s tummy as well as his soul. It’s one of those dishes that has more than culinary value, since its preparation in South Louisiana so often relates to celebration of all kinds of things, beginning with celebrating the first north wind’s relief from summer and continuing to celebrate throughout the colder months with weddings, holidays, and birthdays. I don’t know of any other regional dish in America that has such rich social and communal tradition associated with it.

The Cajun traditions were foreign to me, growing up in the un-Cajun side of South Louisiana. We only ate gumbo ever’ so often. And the only kind of gumbo Mama made was seafood gumbo. Because seafood ingredients can be exotic (and expensive!), gumbo cookin’ was really a special event. I doubt if we had it more than once or twice a year, and I don’t remember associating gumbo with cold weather. Gumbo-cooking, in fact, usually coincided with our catching a few Lake Pontchartrain crabs on a family outing–not enough to boil for the whole family, but enough to add some flavor to a roux, ergo Mama got out the gumbo pot, bought some oysters and shrimp, and fired up the stove.

Later I married into the Cajun culture and came to the Cajun’s distinctly cultural understanding of gumbo. Cajuns do fix seafood gumbo, but the real staple (and I DO mean staple!) for the prairie Cajuns is chicken and sausage gumbo. Those earthy ingredients, of course, correspond to the dietary constraints of the more inland-dwelling Cajuns who, in the old days, didn’t have shrimp, crabs, and oysters as did the bayou-dwelling Cajuns farther south and east. But they had chickens and they had hogs, and they had spices to make any dish exotic, and they knew how to put it all together. The result: the rich, sensuous flavor of chicken and sausage gumbo is hardly diminished by the humility of its ingredients.

Exotic fare for the common man: chicken and sausage gumbo.

Exotic fare for the common man: chicken and sausage gumbo.

Allons manger du gumbo, mes amis.

Composing more and writing less: The irony of the technological age Thursday, Oct 9 2014 

This was my grandfather's mode of composition.

This was my grandfather’s mode of composition.

I ran across a writing exercise I did in a writing group sometime in the early 1990′s. One of the questions asked about my preference for a writing place. Here’s what I wrote those decades ago:

“I like to write in a quiet, comfortable place holding my work on a tablet or in a notebook. The sofa in the living room is fine because I can prop my feet on the coffee table in a semi-reclined position, using my knees as a desk-top.”

Whoa! What a different meaning desk-top had then compared to now! And sitting on the sofa, writing on a notebook with a pen? I haven’t composed that way in 20 years. In fact, I could never duplicate the penmanship-award-winning calligraphy that characterized my graceful handwriting style in college years, simply because those pen-gripping muscles of writing control have atrophied from non-use.

I still write, certainly, but for probably 20 years now, my preferred tool for invention and composition has been the computer keyboard. I sit before a monitor, at a desk. Maybe some would argue that it’s not really writing, but it’s certainly composing!

Composition without writing?

Composition without writing?

I still use a pen and paper for the grocery list or for doodling on an agenda handout during a boring meeting, but if what I’m writing counts, I have to commit it to the screen so I can really “see” what I said.

Poetic License Tuesday, Oct 7 2014 

I can’t remember if I ever posted this piece or not. It comes from an activity in the 2013 Word Up youth writers camp where I stole a few minutes of office time to sit down with the young writers.

Poetic License
July-October 2013
(From a Word Up! youth writing camp pre-write)

Freedom of mind, freedom of verse!

Freedom of mind, freedom of verse!

I write; therefore I am
unenslaved to form or convention,
dogma or creed:
I can write
blank verse,
free verse,
open form,
Sonnet or doggerel,
Stanzas or not:
For free words flow in fragrant streams of Logos,
Truth inspired,
the Measure of Meaning
ushered from the Source of invention,
spilling through canyons of eternity.

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