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Boiling Springs Fire

(x = space)



Boiling Springs Fire


I caught some

Of the story


A fire burned



(fourth floor)

Smoke and water through

All the floors

Of the apartment building

A converted mill

In the town of Boiling Springs

One town away


I hear details of the fire

Nothing yet about the people

I’m sure I missed

That part


I used to drive by the building

Hoped about living there,

Each time

Now it’s gone

Or at least

Forever changed

Now sorrow for

All displaced


The town is small

An unincorporated village

It will be affected

Me, too

And you, too,

As you know about

Such things


(after reading)

Everyone got out

One cat

The headlines say

Eleven displaced,

Which includes ten people

And the cat

The Red Cross has been

At the scene


There was a fire

In the village

Two years ago

One person was killed

Welcome that person

To another home


God bless the town

And all the towns

That gather loss


C L Couch




Photo by Daniel Tausis on Unsplash

“Fighting Fire”

Sundsvall, Sweden

not the Boiling Springs fire (the photos of that fire are copyrighted, sigh) but a fire


Degrees of Incarceration

(x = space)



Degrees of Incarceration


I don’t know what to say today

To students, peers, siblings, or anyone

I keep thinking about

The Pennsylvania woman on spring break

In Florida, who was raped and left

For dead

And who died

Whose credit cards were stolen,

The proceeds to sponsoring more partying

By her rapists, now incarcerated


I keep thinking about the images

I’ve seen of spring-break partyers in Florida

At night and looking young and fit,

Drinking from cups on lawns and in driveways,

No doubt parking lots as well

And in many, many rooms

And there is not a mask in sight

And there is no safe distance in between

For any reason


I keep thinking about the places where

People are fighting, virus (also) notwithstanding

Syria and Yemen


Hong Kong where leaders and speakers

Are arrested

And all the acts of violence in my land

The land about which Woody Guthrie wrote

And sang

Irving Berlin and Kate Smith, too (respectively)


There is too much to think about

But no sedative or anesthetic for me,


I have to deal with side effects from

What I take each day


I ramble but around a theme

And I’m revising, too:

What do we think about what threatens to

Close us off from normalcies

And niceties?

It’s all right, you know

(I know)

There is no Sunday best required

For thinking spiritual thoughts

Or wondering how the Spirit as we know

That Spirit might be enlisted

Might be involved, anyway


If not our neighbors or our friends

Though maybe our neighbors and our friends

And family people

Encouraging our say

As we encourage saying

For all the times I want

To shut up, and that is right

For all the times there is something pressing

And I

And we

Should release it


And, yes, I wonder if poems

Should have messages and morals, but then I think

I’d have to say that poems aren’t for less


Maybe poems are

Things we have to say

That can’t be said better in

Any other way


C L Couch




Photo by Rajesh Rajput on Unsplash




(x = space)




(3 February 2021)


It’s Wednesday

Phil is back inside the keep

All is well


Yes, it was done

In a cyber way

Phil was social-distanced

Fans were turned away

Tourism dived

Beneath the radar

Of spending consideration


Something again next year

Pity the small towns of

Western Pennsylvania


C L Couch



by Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States – Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, uploaded by GrapedApe, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania


Emergency Calls

Emergency Calls

(remembering 9/11 in the USA)


Today in my part

We are remembering

A horrific attack on innocents

By crazy people

This kind of murder happens


My country is not the battleground

So often

Syria, Yemen, Colombia, Myanmar

The Philippines, Somalia


We’ve sometimes had a hand in these

That might have made the crazy

People crazier

Enacting their cause here


On this day, we remember here

Where death came to passengers,

Firefighters, office people, and

The rest

Companies of normal people

Noncombatants, we would say

If this were anything like war

Between fair nations


I suppose on planet Earth

Wars and war-like actions must

Happen in someone’s yard

The playing fields, business places

Farm, and town

We have few dedicated battle zones

The DMZ, maybe ocean surfaces

And depths

Air and now we think to weaponize

Space, above and beyond


So war must happen close to home


And things warlike, if not war

Which then we call killing

We call it murder

And I suppose on someone’s ugly surface

There is a plan to do it again

Pray that we stop it

And praise those who do


But as we honor peace

So may we honor them:

The victims, those who ran toward

The concussions of air and sound

And matter

Turned into explosion and horror

Metal, blood, and bone

All those who died first

First helpers

And the many who were saved

Who are with us, still


We are here



Pray for cessation

Pray for profusion

The horror gone

And peace prevail


C L Couch



By United States v. Zacarias MoussaouiCriminal No. 01-455-AProsecution Trial ExhibitsExhibit Number P200066Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by User:Russavia using CommonsHelper., Public Domain,



Aleppo, Pennsylvania

Aleppo, Pennsylvania


Neighborhood is

Near three rivers


Reminding us that

Syria, native or

Immigrant (like the

Rest of ours), has


Been America for

A long, long time

(going west, going east)

(driving out)


Misty Mountains, Pennsylvania


I travel west on I-76, and it is there:

The Lonely Mountain


Higher and set apart from the ridge

That falls away, behind


A dragon set atop, searching for

Prey gone to ground


Orcs lurk below, ready to battle

Dwarves who stand ready ‘round

The deep tomb of their king at rest,

Diamond earthstar guard upon

His chest


I see these shadowed and

Foreshadowed parts of epic



Tolkien, the literary mentor, first

Saw his



(driving back)


Rainbow World


I drive east on a four-lane reach

Of road, not an interstate so I

Have concerns to watch out

For local traffic


It has been raining, now mostly

Stopped with dark clouds in

The distance


Yet there must be a band of

Spectrum light somewhere

Because before me is a rainbow


That, against grey background,

Shines with every ordered

Color distinct and bleeding

Into from each other


Purple into blue into green

Into yellow in orange into red

From blended shades



It arches, and I see both ends

Where it leaves the hillside,

Arcs before my car, lands on

More dimly-toned earth in

My direction


Of course, I think of Irish

And of argent pots inside with

Their own hills, sun-colored



And the folk who keep it,

Minding with angry magic any


Burnt Cabins, Pennsylvania

Burnt Cabins,



We’ve suffered

A local tragedy

That might never

Be explained

Even if a reason’s



We have a super



First “super


Is the Pennsylvania

Turnpike, and

A retired trooper

Of the state

Police tried a

Robbery at one

Of the stations



Between small

Towns in the

Allegheny Mountains,

Two workers

Are taken, held

By his gun,

Until the truck

Arrives to gather

Monies from the

Turnpike tolls


The theft occurs

And fails, the

Captives shot

And killed; the


Suspect is killed,



Serving troopers

Prepared and

assigned, had

Arrived to restore

An aberrant,

Criminal scene

Back to ordinary


Nothing ordinary

Anymore here:

With tears, the

Deaths are told


Each word

Sounding like

The heavy note

Of a mourning



Sadness ringed

Round sadness,

As voices split

To tell


It will be a

Story of


And the sorrow

Brought to many

Kinds of

Families, and

It might pass

From focused



But here was a

Neighbor tragedy

On persons who

Will not

Appear in their

Expected places

At work or at



And others living

Who will never

Be the same


A chance for

Money maybe

Too easy a

Reason for all

That befell

Close by—I

Tend to believe


Something else

About surrendering

Life happened


Keystone Groundhog’s Day

Keystone Groundhog’s Day

Tomorrow—that’s 2 February—
Is, well, Groundhog’s Day

And since I am in Pennsylvania,
Maybe I should say something
(Maybe not)

The groundhog is a creature
With variants: prairie dogs out
West (USA), like Texas
Armadillos in attitude and in
Treatment, so I’m told

Nuisance-being that somehow
Makes a hole we all attend to
On this day

Origins are fought over (the day,
That is, not the groundhog
Itself, made in the perfect,
Chortling humor of the mind
Of God), though likely it’s a time
And rite of spring brought up
Into present cultural moment

There is a town, and here it is
(Here’s how it’s spelled)

Punxsutawney (too bad—Spell-
Check defeated me again, this
Year by only one letter)

Here in top hats people (not
The beast—and I don’t know
Why anyone wears the hats)
Will withdraw the toothy animal
From its artificial den atop a
Hill in or near the town (pardon
Me, the borough, there being
No towns in Pennsylvania,
Municipally speaking, save one
Town for another day)

And then winter’s prophecy-
Predictor takes over the day via
Shadow—and that’s all

But I like the day because, unlike
Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving
Or Memorial Day, we have not
Wrecked this one

There are no Groundhog-Day cards
(I know of), so you must make your
Own—and thus enjoy the day (or

Maybe not) in whichever way you

(Legend has it that on this morning, if a groundhog can see its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it cannot see its shadow, spring is on the way.

ShenandoahNPS / / CC BY via Google Images

On the Cusp of a Nor’Easter (prose poem)

On the Cusp of a Nor’Easter
(prose poem)

So my friend calls from Indiana. I tell her of my sister’s new job. I am relieved and happy, because my friend’s been struggling with sufferings that would drive me mad. She sounds well and has a chance to tell me some about her family on her way to church to help lead (in technical matters) a Bible study there. It is cold here. It is colder there (single-digit degrees for many days). When she must ring off, she does. I am at the coffeemaker and place the backside of the phone on a spiral burner on the stovetop (everything turned off). While the coffee’s cooking, I clean out some plastic bottles into which I put tap water to drink throughout the day. Not thinking at first, I place the cleaned-out bottles just outside the burner circle set upon the stove. When I’ve done this four times, I have four empty bottles cornering a phone set on a burner plate of labyrinthine form. I’m sure there is a deity for winter (generally, Persephone, though I’m thinking there’s one for winter only), and have I not built a small, strange contemporary altar to her. A narrow receiver (wireless) offered up inside four plastic monoliths keeping in their stillness their own kind of sentinel watching. Is this supplication? I want my friend to be well. I want her husband to enjoy retirement and her daughter have success at school. I want the cold to move on, over there, though for a Midwest winter season, I guess what is endured is rather normal. (Still too cold.) My temps in southern Pennsylvania still have two digits. But we are called to be ourselves storm-ready against a coming, miles-wide soon-arriving gale. It smacks the South and later rounds out to sea—on the way releasing slivering ice and snow and the season’s other dangers onto our regional metropoles: D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. And in my small town? I pray for navigable roads. In my small place, I pray for electricity’s constancy—that it might faithfully provide sufficient heat in rapport with the thermostat. And now I guess I wait. We wait. I clear the stove and leave on the burner now a single cup, ready for coffee. The empty ceramic vessel a suburban symbol of encouragement and also, I think, of supplication.

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