Maggie’s Sonnet

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Dark silk fur flows
’round her soft body,
perfectly curled
for lapdog duty

but fumble the leash
and she’s a black flash,
low to the ground
like a chubby hovercraft.

I run in futile chase
fueled by dual fears
of distracted automobiles
and short-tempered gun-nuts.

Maggie runs, knowing only the joys
of freedom and speed.

 

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Parody Poetry

20160821_172401Having a poem published online is great but I get a certain thrill to see my poems made flesh on the printed page. Today my copy of Parody arrived in the mail and with it Chocolate Sonnet 18! I’m honored the folks at Parody wanted to publish my poem and doubly honored that it appears on the middle page, where the booklet naturally opens.

Chocolate Sonnet 18 is a poem that I never thought would be published. I wrote it for a chocolate open mic at Matthew’s in downtown Hillsborough and since it’s just a rip-off of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” I figured it would only get performed there a couple of times a year. It wasn’t until I saw the call for submissions from Parody that I imagined some other fate for this work.

I hope all my readers to will rush to the Parody website and buy a couple of copies of Volume 5, Issue 1 then meet me at the next chocolate open mic so I can sign them.

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Juno Arrives

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Photo by Mikhail Gordeev

Last Thursday was another Science Cafe at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science. This time we heard a talk about the Juno space probe which went into orbit of Jupiter on the Fourth of July. After the talk Tara Lynne Groth, Angie Kirby and I read the poems we’d written during the presentation. The text of my poem appears below but I recommend watching the whole event. If you want to skip to the poetry, advance the video to the 62 minute mark.

Juno Arrives

We humans, we puny humans,
have known about Jupiter
for thousands of years,
the brightest star wandering
the night sky.

But it wasn’t until Galileo
focused his first telescope
on the King of the Gods
that we met Io, Europa,
Ganymede and Callisto.
They didn’t erupt
fully formed
from his mighty head
four hundred years ago.
They were there all along.
We humans, we puny humans,
just couldn’t see them
with our poor animal eyes.

Now we send pioneers and voyagers.
We weave a cocoon of orbits
with a beautiful robot
in a titanium dress,
whose eyes see below infrared
and past ultraviolet
until she’s ripped apart,
flying too close to her man.

From a bright light
in the night sky
to touching another planet
in just a few hundred years.
We are clever monkeys,
aren’t we?

 

 

 

 

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I read the news today, oh boy…

Every Wednesday I get my local newspaper in the mail. I know, how quaint, but there is something satisfying about tucking a paper under your arm and walking to a diner for lunch. As I’m reading this week’s edition of The News of Orange County, I find one of my poems on page 10!

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I wrote The CEO’s Testimony before Congress on April 13th, 2015 as part of the April Poem-A-Day Challenge. The version printed in the newspaper is substantially the same but I still want everyone to run out and buy their own copy of today’s paper.

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Hampden Park

20160714_145939To conclude my trip to Scotland, I visited the national stadium, Hampden Park in Glasgow. They have a lovely museum of Scottish Football in the basement which has lots of fascinating exhibits of the early days of football in Scotland right through to the present day. The museum is the home of the Scottish Cup, the oldest football trophy in the world.

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I also took a stadium tour which included the luxurious changing rooms, an indoor training pitch where I successfully kicked a penalty at a blazing 38mph. They also took us out to the pitch through the tunnel that the players use and the tour guide turned on some recorded crowd noise and I will admit to feeling a wee thrill as we emerged into the sunlight this Scottish summer day.

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Research Findings

I believe travel, especially abroad, is a virtue unto itself, so this trip to Scotland would have been well worth it even if I’d been konked on the head and forgotten everything I knew about Mary Milligan and her husband Robert Littrick. Fortunately, I am as yet unconcussed and have made good progress with my research.

Mary Milligan was born February 16, 1773 in Balmae, Kirkcudbright, Scotland. She was the daughter of Anthony Milligane and Elizabeth Raphael. While our 21st century eyes see “Raphael” as the name of an Italian painter or mutant turtle, I’m pretty sure she pronounced it “raffle”.

Anthony and Elizabeth were married May 6, 1768 in Kirkcudbright. According to the Old Parish Records, Anthony was a laborer from Kirkcudbright and Elizabeth was from Crossmichael, a parish just north of there. They had at least two other children besides Mary, Helen born September 27, 1770 and Basil born March 2, 1785.

Mary Milligan next appears in the records when she gives birth to Joseph Sorbie, the illegitimate son of John Sorbie, November 13, 1808. This is my connection to the Sorbie family whom I met over the weekend at their family reunion.

Two years later, she marries Robert Littrick in Dumfries on December 23, 1810 and they have a son William about three years later on January 20, 1814. Then, at some point later, at least Mary, Joseph and William emigrate to the United States and Mary dies in Hancock County, Ohio on September 27, 1850.

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Her husband Robert Littrick has been more of a challenge. All I can write with any certainty is that he was married twice. His first marriage occurred around 1794 to a Margaret Kirk. I know this because on August 27, 1802 he appeared before the church and confessed to having been “irregularly” married eight years earlier and was rebuked. That means he and Margaret did not go through the proper procedure of issuing banns so that someone could have objected to the marriage. Margaret was still around in 1802 and unable to write so she signed the “confession” with her mark. Margaret dies at some point before 1810 because Robert Littrick is noted to have been a widower in his marriage record to Mary Milligan.

And that’s all I know about Robert Littrick. His name does not appear in the road tax records, nor the court records, nor the jail records. One of the many kind librarians and archivists who have helped me summarized him thusly, “He must have been poor but honest.” I was really hoping to find a tombstone with his name on it and thus visit my first ancestral grave in Europe but his name appears in no index of memorials and no death records. My best guess is that he was buried in the paupers section of St. Michael’s Kirkyard, a lawn of green, far in a back. Although I did not succeed in finding his grave, spending three days walking around old Dumfries, the same streets he walked, admittedly 200 years earlier, visiting pubs that he may have visited, hearing the nagging cries of the distant descendants of the gulls that composed the background music of his life, all this has made my trip to Scotland a resounding success.

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St. Michael’s Kirkyard Paupers Section

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Kilmarnock F.C.

20160712_110256I took the day off from genealogy and instead took the train from Dumfries to Kilmarnock to visit Rugby Park, the home of my beloved Kilmarnock Football Club.

This was my first trip on ScotRail and I was very impressed. The stations conveniently located, the trains were exactly on time, clean and comfortable and the fares quite inexpensive. I wish we had this sort of transportation infrastructure in the States.

Taking the train also meant I could enjoy the lush Scottish countryside as I traveled rather than being focused on the road, white-knuckled driving. I watched quaint stone villages pass by, framed by distant hills and wandering rivers. One reason that Britain is so picturesque is because most of the trees have been cut down so it’s easy to see further. I’d rather keep the trees but the views are a consolation.

20160712_115904My tour guide of Rugby Park was no less a person than Ray Montgomerie, the former captain. We walked out on the pitch, one of the best artificial pitches I’ve trod upon, it felt much like grass and dirt. I got to observe a first team training session, though I was sworn to secrecy on the tactics. We visited the spacious and comfortable home locker room and the claustrophobic and dingy visitors locker room. Ray told me some horror stories of his time in away locker rooms around Scotland.

To tie this in with the rest of my adventures here, I was also shown lots of memorabilia from Killie’s illustrious past. They are the first professional football club and I was shown lots of old photographs and records.

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Robert Burns

20160710_160655Dumfries has made a minor industry from Robert Burns living his final years here. After checking into my hotel yesterday, I took a wee walk around the various Burns sites. Intuitive readers might assume that my first stop was the Globe Inn based on my previous poem and they’d be right. I also hit the Burns Museum which details his time here. On a Sunday afternoon, I was one of the few visitors and the docents were eager to chat. I mentioned that I was heading to the Burns Mausoleum and they told me to visit his residence first and ask if they’d let me into the Mausoleum and sure enough, since I asked, one of the lovely lasses working at Burns House grabbed the keys and escorted me to St. Michael’s Kirkyard.

Burns’ final resting place is guarded by iron fencing and clear plexiglass so I thought it wasn’t like I hadn’t already seen inside on my previous visit until I actually got inside. The hollow sound of the key in the old iron lock and the door creaking open, echoing within the mausoleum sounded like it was straight from a Hollywood foley artist. Then I looked up at the ceiling and found myself staring at a golden angel and stars on an gorgeous cerulean field.
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20160711_140925I’ve long been a fan of Burns’ poetry but now that I’m walking these same streets with the knowledge that my fourth great grandmother, Mary Milligan, was in her late teens and early twenties, living very near here while Burns was in his heyday, I’d like think she caught his eye, if only for a moment.

 

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Haggis at the Globe Inn, Dumfries

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Haggis at The Globe Inn – Dumfries

Down an alley
called a “close”
not much wider
than a crack
in a wall
they say this pub
was frequented
by Robert Burns
two hundred years ago
rough hewn walls
painted white
a failed attempt
to brighten a room
built long before
parking was thing
flat screen televisions
and laminated menus
the custom
they’ve gained
over the centuries
has more than made up
for any bar tab
left by the Bard of Ayrshire
taking selfies
there in the corner
with adoring female fans
like my great grandmother
in a mini skirt
and belly button ring

The best part of supper
was discovering
that I enjoy haggis

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Haggis, Mashed Neeps & Champit Tatties

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Sorbie Family Reunion

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Today was the family reunion that provided the excuse for me to return to Scotland. As we introduced ourselves we also described our connection to the family. I said that my great great great great grandmother was knocked up by a Sorbie. Got a big laugh.

The reunion was organized by Andy Potts and Muriel Sorbie and they gave excellent presentations on Mitchell Sorbie, a soldier who died in the first world war and the efforts to keep his service medals in the family after they appeared on eBay, and the mysterious origins of the Argentinian Sorbies.

We also had a member of the local historical preservation group tell us about what they’re doing to maintain the 17th century cemetery in the nearby town of Stonehouse. He shared some pictures and so once the reunion festivities concluded I took a little walk.

20160709_182633Of course, I got a little lost. I went to the current St. Ninian’s since the really old cemetery isn’t listed on the internet map I consulted. Fortunately, there was a helpful Scotsman nearby who directed me. It was much further than I expected and I ended up putting five miles on my shoes.

But it was worth it! Presiding over the cemetery are the remains of the original church. Just the gable in end survives, like a giant tombstone. The earliest burial there was Alexander Hamilton in 1663. (Obviously that’s not the Alexander Hamilton who appears on the U.S. $10 bill.) Most of the stones that were still legible were from the 19th century some with very interesting engravings.

Overall, it was a great day. I explored a wonderful cemetery and made several new wonderful friends.

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