About Me

My photo
Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, United States

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas 2009

Did Christmas come too early this year?
Perhaps we need a little Christmas
To forget for just a few weeks
War, pestilence, unemployment, foreclosures, etc.

The food pantries are running low.
Needy funds ask for more.
Service at stores and restaurants is super,
From our young neighbors who really need the job.

Yet for some old people, blessings abound.
Marry me, I asked; she said yes, and she did,
On February 14th, on St. Valentine’s day.
Honeymooned two weeks in March in Palm Beach,

We were featured in the chronicle of significant events
Announced at the 60th reunion of my class at West Point:
Pat Kimball married Barbara Rockefeller,
Bringing a silent cheer in the chapel from my classmates.

We drove to NYC again in May, after the reunion.
Saw South Pacific and the American Ballet Theater,
Visited the Metropolitan Museum at leisure,
And strolled Central Park on a delightful day.

Two weeks in Tuscany in August, in a rented villa
With three families, including four teenagers.
The group dynamics were difficult, and lack of
Our own transportation limited our reach.

But Barbara finally got to the Uffizi in Florence.
We spent full days in Arezzo and Siena,
Where I had been to on earlier trips
And made some short visits to neighboring sights.

Fortunately, we secured the penthouse,
Which shielded us from late night hoohah.
The swimming pool was a nice treat
At the end of some very hot days.

Two more reunions in October: A gathering of former
Members of St. James the Less in Scarsdale, including
Cocktail parties, banquets, an elaborate service
And a day at the Westchester Mall.

A reunion of 40s classes from Tenafly High School;
Four of the original 903 girls in attendance.
On the way home from both, we sought shelter with
Sue and Frank Millard in Old Greenwich.

I suggested to the director of the Cape Cod Museum of Art
That a retrospective of Barbara's work would be
A fitting tribute for her 80th birthday,
And her years of voluntary service as registrar of paintings.

St. David's is now mainly a social club for old folks like us.
Theological controversies never rise to the surface.
Barbara goes off the vestry, as a new rector arrives.
And I lead a book discussion group of The Reason for God.

Work on the house in Yarmouthport is mostly complete.
The general contractor decided that since we are now both
In our eighties, we have no business cleaning house,
So we hired some hard-working Brasileiras to do so.

Hiking and biking much slower, but getting out regularly.
I have a wonderful companion for local walks.
Tippy is a border collie who begs me to take her out,
Then simultaneously protects me and herds me along.

May God be with you, for Christmas and the New Year!

Barbara and Patrick

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Surprised by Joy

A year ago May, I bought a single ticket to the Cape Cod Symphony.
I wanted to hear the young pianist written about in the papers.
Amy in the box office said she would sell me a ticket to the left,
So that I could see his hands during the performance.

So up in the nosebleed section of the Barnstable Performing Arts Center,
I was seated next to a regal looking woman of imposing stature.
Naturally, I did not speak to her as we were not properly introduced.
Until an usher came along to tell both of us that we were sitting in the wrong row.

Thereafter, a desultory conversation ensued.
Obviously, she knew more about classical music than I did.
She promoted Philip Glass; I plumped for John Adams.
I was stuck on the composer of an encore; she said it was by Chopin.

Sometime in the exchange, I said that I had seen her before, not exactly an original line.
She replied that it was probably at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.
We traded names, and departed separately.
I remembered her name well enough to look her up in the phone book.

Not having her email address, I sent her a letter by snail mail,
Inviting her to join me for the following year at a symphony subscription.
I was just hoping to save gas by car pooling, nothing else.
I did write that I was eighty and utterly harmless (I lied).

She replied by email, suggesting that we meet for coffee to talk about it.
I called and asked her to have lunch with me at Jack's Outback in Yarmouthport.
The subscription was agreed upon, adding a third seat for her friend.
Fine with me, I said, and was later invited to her home for dinner
So that the friend would have an opportunity to check me out.

Well, I guess I passed muster with both
Because a lot of dating followed during the summer.
In October, I put my house on the market and moved into her house.
And on February fourteenth, we married.

We have been to three reunions this year.
All comprising people our age, many with varying degrees
Of illness and unhappiness.
We are the smiling couple whom everyone admires.
Because we radiate how surprised we are by joy.
God sometimes smiles on older people.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Visit to Tuscany - Return

Nadia drove us expertly to the airport in Florence,
Where we waited twice in line to check bags.
The airport is too small to take them early.
Had lunch at a ratty little snack bar.

In Paris, we rode a bus to another terminal,
Went through passport check and security again,
Waited in line forty minutes to board a huge Airbus,
Then spent seven hours crammed into a tiny space.

Welcomed to the bureaucratic horrors
Of returning to our native country,
We waited forty-five minutes in line
For a passport check, whatever that was.

Next time we travel overseas, if we do,
I will put Barbara in a wheelchair
To avoid having her stand and walk so much,
And also ace the waiting lines.

Fortunately, we were spared the indignity
Of a baggage search, at four in the morning.
Then we proceeded to the Boston Airport Hilton
For a much-needed return to civilization.

A Visit to Tuscany - Problem and Disasters

The expense of the whole trip was unknown to us
Until the penultimate week before our visit.
Our British leader had remained incommunicado,
Pleading stress on the job and lack of time.

If we had known the total, we would never have gone.
We were charged for two rooms which we really did
not need.
Insult was added to injury with nuisance charges for
gas and elecricity.
Fortunately, the group expenses for food were
managed agreeably.

When I complained about the noise, we were removed
To the penthouse suite, a more felicitous location.
Thereupon I accepted graciously the added expense,
As we could retreat early for quiet and sleep.

Thus we missed the uproar when the fridge
Shorted out and blew out all the lights.
And also missed the late night tantrums, when whoever
Was denied whatever he or she wanted at the moment.

Hardest for us was to be at the mercy of others
For transportation to all venues, save Arezzo.
Stuffed into the rear seat of a van,
We saw more of banks and supermarkets than we
cared to.

The final dinner at a ristorante in Poppi was a
ghastly affair.
At our end of the table, everyone acted out
Until we could stand it no more,
And left the table to view the lights in the surrounding

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Visit to Tuscany - Siena

All of us convoy to Siena, a lengthy drive.
Forced to park at the Stazione di Treni,
I repeat and repeat, take the bus.
Finally everyone listens, and we do,
Grinding slowly to the centro storico.

Amidst hordes of turistici, we wade through
the narrow streets,
Clamber up the steep stairs to Santa Caterina,
Wait in line in the hot sun to enter
Into a dark nave with magnificent art treasures
And view the fabulous frescos in
the Piccolomini Library.

We find a dark, cool cave to have a leisurely lunch:
Antipasto, zuppe pomodoro, tagliatelle con
funghi porcini.
Then explore the vast outdoor mall on the Via Citta,
Buying crosses, earrings, souvenirs.

Rendezvous in the Piazza del Campo, home to the
famous horse race.
Thousands are here, in various disarray.
The Principessa insists on climbing the tower,
Thus delaying our departure for an hour.

A Visit to Tuscany - Arezzo

The hot days send us to pool.
The commune unravels for a time,
Then reassembles on a schedule of tasks.
Sightseeing trips are organized into separate parties.

We have seen the Castelo in Poppi,
Barbara to the Uffizzi in Firenze,
Patrick to the mountain monastery of Camaldoli,
We escape together for a train trip to Arezzo.

Inspecting the art in all the churches,
Puzzling over Marian worship in Annunziata,
Sitting in the Vasari loggia,
Awestruck at the decorative paintings in his house.
Lunch at Buca di Francesco,
Where we dined with the Smiths in 2000.

Unable to find a taxi from Poppi to return to Borgo,
A kind lady in her Alimentari calls one.
A little gnome chauffeurs us to the festa in Borgo.
We walk through a lengthy mercato and art show
to the villa.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Visit to Tuscany - The Commune

Renting a villa in Tuscany breeds multiple experiences,
Of man-made scenery in valleys and hillsides,
Of red-tiled roofs in centuries-old habitations,
Of dark, silent churches lit by devotional candles.

Tuscany is a mixture of ancient and modern.
Route 70 is being widened to four lanes
On the plain between Poppi and Bibbiena.
The mountain road to Eremo was etched by the monks
in the eleventh century.

Neighbors in the country build high fences around their fields,
Letting their dogs run loose to bark at the perimeter,
Reminding us of their ancestors in castles and walled towns
Who butchered their neighbors in the name of religion.
The people are dour and suspicious of strangers.
Expressionless, averting their eyes from one another,
Chattering endlessly in a sharp-tongued dialect,
Impatient at having to wait in queues.

The owner of the villa is an absentee.
He entrusts all his dealings with the guests to a maintenance man
Who speaks no English, and demands the balance due in cash.
We scramble to cash travelers checks and hit the ATMs.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


A demigod stumbles;
Icarus flies too near the sun.
Deep seated problems are intractable.
Support begins to crumble.

You cannot rob the rich to save the poor.
Even Robin Hood could not convince the nobles.
Our nobles are upper middle class professionals,
Or semi affluent retirees; they all vote.

You cannot take away what people already have,
Or hit them with a tax on benefits they now enjoy.
Benefits go with the job; that is the bargain.
Otherwise, their wages would have to be a lot more.

You cannot tell the old folks that you are limiting care,
That they will just have to check out sooner.
You cannot cure cancer and heart disease
With weight loss programs.

Medical care will always be distributed unevenly.
The down and out will always be with us.
King Canute could not command the waves.
Nor politicians achieve equality of outcome.

There is still room for charity at the local level,
Where charity should always begin.
Let the support bubble up from the bottom,
And health care for all will be closer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Kander and Ebb wrote a show-stopping number
for Chicago, called Mr. Cellophane.
You can walk right by me, see right through me,
I'm Mr. Cellophane.
In short, he is a nobody, a man of no distinction.

Obituary writers find it difficult to pad the
resumes of nobodies.
Yet the world functions by the efforts of nobodies.
They get the job done, with no glory,
and little praise.

Sometimes a nobody is in the course of history,
Like Neil Armstrong, who credits
The people who got him to the moon,
But avoids personal attention.

A nobody finishes school, gets a job, marries,
stays out of jail.
Psychologists call that normal behavior.
A nobody wakes up, gets to work on time,
does what is asked.

If a nobody lives long enough to retire,
He or she looks back at life, and says,
I did that, whatever it was,
That made the world a better place.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sarah Palin

A fire which cannot be contained.
Ambition burning within a beautiful exterior.
An infuriator of educated women, who say
She should not be allowed to be what she is.

Politician, straight shooter,
Too close to God, too close to the people.
She sees the reality of our lives,
And tells us we should manage ourselves.

Sarah is a danger to the glitterati, the cognoscenti,
And all other shades of hypocrites.
The people are not fooled by empty promises
That cannot be fulfilled without fearful cost.

Think of all the the public figures
Who were ridiculed when they emerged.
They said things can be done that others gave up on.
Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush.

Ignored as simpletons for proclaiming simple goals.
And vilified for achieving them.
Get out of the way, Sarah Palin is at large.
An extraordinary talent is about to be unleashed!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tie Wall

Do you know what a tie wall is? Neither did I.
It is a retaining wall composed of interlaced railroad ties.
Installing or replacing a tie wall seems to be a lost art.
Finding someone skilled in doing so is a challenge.

Given the economic conditions of homeowners,
Landscapers are desperate for business.
So they express interest in performing work
That they don't really know how to do.

We have a tie wall, next to the driveway, that has collapsed.
Phone calls to some landscapers went unanswered.
Some have looked at the job, then were not heard from again.
A few quoted a price, but did not describe what they would do.

We received deep lectures from the knowledgeable,
Who did not exactly agree with one another.
Personalities ranged from the servant of the rich,
To the scaggy workman who would himself get down and dirty.

Most charming was the little brown Brazilian,
Who spoke very little English.
We were concerned that he might vanish in the middle of the job,
And be unreachable thereafter.

We accepted a bid, and received a reply:
Hi, Barbara, you will love the results,
Bobby is phenomonal (sic) at rr tie wall.
Thanks, Jen.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Try And

Try and
Try and what?
Try what, and?
Try and do what?

Try and something,
And do something else?
Or try to do something,
And try and do something else?

Is the try superfluous?
Can the do stand alone?
Is the try sufficient?
Never mind the do.

Are we a nation of try anders?
Or a people of doers?
Do we try and, only,
But never do?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bicycle on Cape Cod

Ride a bicycle on Cape Cod.
It is the most friendly bicycle area
you're ever going to find.
From Woods Hole, or Bourne,
to Provincetown
A continuum of bicycle routes
traverses Cape Cod.

Some routes are on dedicated bicycle trails.
Some are on back roads, or a combination of both.
Most important, the terrain is flat.
Well, maybe a little hilly in some spots.

Locals are good about sharing the road with bicyclists.
Tourists are most often bicycle riders themselves.
Wear a helmet; wear bright-colored clothing.
Ride single file to the right, on all roads and trails.

If you live on Cape Cod, buy a good road bike.
Don't even think about mountain biking.
There are no mountains on Cape Cod;
The few dirt paths are deeply rutted, and illegal.

If you rent a bicyle, rent a helmet, too.
Have the seat adjusted to fit your frame.
Families should only ride bicycle trails.
Never pull a kiddie cart on a road.

Plan where you're going, see:


Monday, June 22, 2009

I Love New York

New York, New York, it's a wonderful town!
I'll make a brand new start of it, in old New York.
Some come to work, some come to play, some to stay.
And another hundred people just got off of the bus.

Everyone should live and work in New York some time,
As did parents, children, and their spouses.
New York University awarded degrees to Patrick,
Barbara, David, Dorcas, and Timothy.

We go back to New York, to gambol in old age,
To see the shows, to hear the music, to watch the people.
Walk into Lincoln Center to buy a ticket for today;
Pick one of five Italian restaurants on 56th Street.

Go to the Met early, before the schoolkids arrive.
Spend hours inspecting just a few wings.
Hear the highest of Sunday services
At St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue.

Walk Central Park in the spring or the fall.
Watch the skaters at Rockefeller Center in December.
Ship out of Battery Park to visit the lady of liberty,
And the new citizen's gateway to America.

Everywhere in the city accessible by subway or bus.
A fleet of a thousand yellow cabs cruising the streets
To take us in style to our next entertainment.
New York lives; it regenerates the spirit!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


She was not an accident; the story is this:
Junior members of the Winnetka Womens Club
Had to fly up to senior status at thirty-five.
So a lot of them had babies that year.

Amy was seven years younger than her sister
Had two brothers ten and twelve years older.
She was the family pet;
Nicknamed boo by her siblings.

She was too young for kindergarten;
We should have held her back.
And did for seventh grade.
In high school she blossomed as an actress
and choreographer.

I taught her how to drive, cool and confident,
Sometimes driving boyfriends on dates.
Drama school in college was a mixed success,
Never quite achieving a stage personality.

She was a beautiful young woman,
Romanced by one suitor after another.
All she turned away, never seeming
To be able to commit to married life.

She lacked the fire in the belly that acting requires,
Drifting along as a waitress and paralegal.
When into her life came a newly minted M.D.
With issues of his own in relationships.

He damaged her psyche, but inspired a resolution
To become a doctor herself, a pediatrician.
Moving in with her sister; she took difficult pre-med courses
Until another episode derailed her plan.

Perhaps she couldn't face the reality of medical school.
A third mental episode ended her life.
There is no greater anguish than that suffered
By couples who lose an adult child; a life's promise is gone.

Do I regret that we ever had a fourth child?
Never, our lives were enriched by her presence.
Not a day goes by that I do not think about Amy,
And be glad that she was our daughter.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

General Contractor

My house in Brewster was sold.
I'd already moved to Yarmouthport.
With a little money in the bank,
I offered to finance some capital improvements.

Nothing had been done for twelve years.
We started from the top down;
Woke up one morning to see ten men in the driveway
Who installed a new roof in one day!

The deck was power washed and refinished,
Three portable ACs set in windows,
The plaster walls in the studio and the loft
Primed and painted with ceiling white.

When the garage doors creaked and groaned,
They were replaced in one day.
A new stationary awning covers the deck,
Making a summer room for dining outside.

I built a raised bed garden,
Five trees came down,
A new entry door to the rear was installed.
The tie wall in the driveway will be rebuilt,
Six outdoor light fixtures replaced,
And the space under the deck stairs enclosed.

Then -- a happy summer!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Red Sox Nation

Being a Red Sox fan is belonging to a religion.
One may be born to it, or converted.
Fans don't just live in New England;
You see them in grandstands wherever the Red Sox play.

Headlines of obituaries often contain, Red Sox Fan.
No adjective is necessary; one is always fanatical.
Some old-timers lived just past the oh-four world series;
Saw the team win for the first time since nineteen-eighteen.

No matter who wears the uniform; he has to be a team player.
If he's not, get rid of him.
A prima donna must change, or be changed,
To an ardent supporter of his teammates' efforts.

It takes more than local pride to root for the Red Sox.
Conversations following a game day begin with a critique
of yesterday's results.
We all know what the speaker is talking about;
We started the day reviewing the box score.

When the Red Sox win, our day is off on the right foot.
When they lose, we are philosophical.
For St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans,
Suffering builds character, and character brings hope.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Medical Care

The appointment was made a year ago.
A chirpy voice on the telephone reminds you a day before,
Calling you by your first name, of course,
as though you were ten.

The waiting room is filled with persons
in varying stages of decrepitude.
How do they communicate with someone
who has lost his marbles?

Do you have your insurance cards?
Has your name, address, marital status changed?
Take a seat; you'll be called.
And you are, loudly, by your first name.

Recite your medications to the technician.
She records test results, vanishes.
The door is closed -- silence.
Time to sit and worry.

Contemplate your sins.
Anticipate an early demise.
Rehearse your account of symptoms.
The door opens; the great man enters.

Some live examination, without comment.
Rapid fire instructions: what to do, what to take.
Get your prescriptions on the way out.
See you in a year.

You forgot to tell him all you planned.
Your answers to his questions were vague.
You wanted to talk about your lifestyle.
You're a chart with checked-off entries.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Our Songs

It Had to Be You
Well, you're eighteen already, aren't you?, she asked me.
Not exactly. How old are you, then? Seventeen in March.
She lived fifty-eight years more, mother of four,
Grandmother of seven.
An interior designer; she decorated my life.

Where or When
One of Scarsdale's beautiful people,
Private school and trust fund, and two failed marriages.
She started an email romance, but lost her nerve.
Laid down no touching rules on weekend visits.

I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face
She wandered in to my Alpha class; said little.
Heiress, benefactor, author, founder of a homeless shelter.
Her life is a constant pursuit of Jesus, always dashing to
another religious event.
She is a devoted church friend; a younger sister in Christ.

You'd Be So Easy to Love
A tiny blonde, spreading pixie dust to whomever she met.
Captured my heart, a diamond ring, and held them tight.
Soured by family problems, she broke the engagement.
Said she didn't want to bury a third husband. Kept the ring.

Some Enchanted Evening
You never hug me, she said. So I did.
Stay overnight, she said, instead of driving home so late.
Sold my house, moved right in. Marry me, I said.
So she did. We are a handsome couple.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My First Name

Old enough to be everyone's father or grandfather;
Everyone calls me by my first name.
I never did like my first name.
My mother ran out of names for a third son.

Disappointed that she did not produce a girl,
She tagged me with the handle of her grandfather.
To be sure, Patrick was a worthy saint;
Preaching, evangelizing, converting the heathen Irish
To a religion they never learned to practice.

The name conjures up a stage Irish-American;
Blarney, drink, Pat and Mike jokes.
I should have been named Richard.
Is it too late to change?

Male Kimballs are always named Richard;
After our progenitor who emigrated from Sussex in 1634,
With his wife, five children, and his mother-in-law.
A sturdy yeoman, he built wagons and houses,
And left his seed all over New England.

Why can't I be called Mr. Kimball by anyone?
What is there in our culture that demands
Familiarity on a first name basis?
Maybe I should insist on Professor Kimball;
To awe the natives with my erudition and pedagogy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Old Men and Guidons

Old men stand together on Thayer Walk,
Spending an hour in reminiscences of kaydet days,
of Army years.
The Hellcats sound assembly, we shuffle into ranks,
Four abreast this time, not sized as before.

We march off slowly, trying to keep in step.
The band plays Army Blue and Auld Lang Syne.
Coming to a halt between lines of cadets;
We sing Alma Mater and The Corps.

The oldest man lays a wreath on Thayer's monument.
Classes scatter to their respective guidons.
Cheers from the stands as each is announced.
We salute the anthem and honor the colors.

Cadet companies emerge from the sally ports to
march to their positions.
Then review past the old men, guidons lowered.
At a dinner that evening, an old company guidon
lays on a table.
Four men and a widow assemble on the old guidon.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Force of Nature

Color! Profusion! Abundance!
Define the structure of her life.
Her walls are filled with paintings, half her own.
Her artist's eye guides their placement, from floor to ceiling.

Her private rooms overflow with artifacts, pictures, keepsakes.
The public rooms are the embodiment of elegance.
Tall, regal, imposing-looking to the world;
Everything she wears makes a statement of purpose.

Her gardens are still life compositions,
Each bed and planter tells a story of its own.
She gains strength by plunging her hands into the earth,
Becoming a force of nature in everything she does.

God brought her to church to find a family of believers.
She listens to them; she sees people as wounded souls.
Her love for them is evident to all.
And wonder of wonders, she loves me!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Memories for Sale

House for sale; memories for sale.
Realtors tromp through an open house.
Is it staged; does it need to be staged?
Does anyone live here; who lived here?

Why is the living room painted yellow?
Was she a decorator; did she mean to be so bold?
The rugs are threadbare; they sink into the carpet.
The furniture is dark; the windows are open to the light.

Is that her picture; how young she looks!
Her dress is plain looking in black and white.
She smiles as she contemplates a life ahead.
Husband, children, grandchildren are still a dream.

Antique desks, tables, dressers, cupboards fill the rooms.
A four poster bed dominates the bedroom.
She was ill here; she did not die here.
Before she died, she said, "I want to come home."

Blog Archive