Our Little Secret


This month’s Contemporary American Voices features the poetry of Bruce Lader, my workshop fellow and friend. When they selected him to be the featured poet, they asked him to recommend a few other poets and I’m honored that I was among those he chose. Many thanks to Lisa Zaran at C.A.V. for publishing three of my pieces, “This is class warfare and we’re losing”, “Our Little Secret” and “A World Without Eyes” and to Bruce for letting me ride his coattails!

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Knights of Essex

20161009_220057At the Sorbie reunion I attended a few months ago in Scotland, I learned that one of the “cousins” I met there lived in Colchester, England. I had suspected that one of my great great great grandfathers, Sebborn Gonner Knight, was born in Colchester so I asked her to take a look at the records when she had a chance. Since just about everybody at the family reunion was an enthusiastic and skilled genealogist, she was happy to oblige.

No stories from my Knight ancestry made it to my generation because Sebborn Gonner Knight and his wife Mary Elizabeth Parsons both died before their eldest son, the future Dr. J. C. Knight of Jonesboro, Indiana, was seven years old. I’m descended through J.C.’s little brother Charles who was orphaned at the age of four. All we knew was that Sebborn arrived on the ship Ontario in 1841 at the age of 21.

While no stories survived, one small book did, The Court of Persia, viewed in connexion with Scriptural Usages by John Kitto, D.D., published in London by The Religious Tract Society. It was given to S. G. Knight from his affectionate sister, S. A. K., February 20th, 1851. Yes, that’s my great great great grandfather’s autograph on the left.


Thanks to my cousin Maggie, I now know that S. A. K. was Sarah Ann Knight, one of Sebborn’s older sisters. She was the fifth and he the seventh of eight children of George Knight and Sarah Gonner. George was a seedsman when he married Sarah in 1809 at St. Peter’s Church in Colchester. Sarah Gonner was listed as a spinster in the marriage record.

Maggie also discovered that George was born on January 20th, 1784 in Messing, Essex, to Joseph and Hannah Knight. His birth was listed in the Quaker meeting records and his father Joseph, who died in 1810, was buried in the Friends Burial Ground at Coggeshall, which is not far from where my kind and diligent researcher lives.

I am very fortunate to have so many Quaker ancestors who kept such detailed records and to have met so many good friends on my recent trip to Scotland. Thank you again, Maggie!

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Well Desserted

20160821_172401That chocolate sonnet of mine that Parody published last month just appeared on their blog. Check it out!


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Maggie’s Sonnet

maggie running.JPG

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


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!


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.

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.


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.


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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