Have you ever read and enjoyed poetry? What brought poetry to mind is that a couple of weeks ago I got a real surprise when learning that Mike Spillman writes it. No kidding. He was born in Sandusky in 1930, joined the Navy after high school, qualified for a 44 week training class in aviation electronics and from there to an experimental squadron, served in the Korean War, worked in Saudi Arabia for years, traveled the world, and now lives in Roanoke, Virginia.
Mike has written several poems, but below is one I especially liked.
“The Wild Ride”
Whose bike it was, I did not care. I only knew that it was there.
The bike and hill called out to me, steep Pollard Street, six blocks to see.
A sign was there, NO BIKES ALLOWED, but I intended to stand proud.
Those traffic cops were not so tough. They could be beat by my young feet,
and everyone at school would see’t. The bike was old and painted red
with barn paint found in some shed, the seat was loose, the fenders gone,
A frenzied madness drove me on. No traffic bumps, no lights, no cop,
could slow me down or make me stop. As speed increased, I shouted loud,
with hope, I guess, to draw a crowd. I passed a car as I zoomed on.
The driver swore and hit his horn. The Baptist church was on my right;
the corner drug came into sight. Adrenaline ran through my veins,
peddling fast, my body strains What’s that I hear? What’s that I see;
a big blue light catching up with me? The siren’s wail, it drives me wild.
That traffic cop sure wants this child. The policeman yells, I try to stop,
the chain falls off, I nearly drop. What can I do but play the fool
and try my best to make the school. I cut across three lanes of cars
creating several traffic snarls. Race up the drive and drop my ride.
I will be safe once I’m inside. But who’s that standing in my way?
Mr. Cathcart? Oh, woesome day!
Mike said he started reading and memorizing at an early age when he found an old book of poems that belonged to his father.
“Nowadays, the way poets get noticed is to submit their work to various contest and anthologies. When enough get published or otherwise recognized they can put them together in what is called a chapbook and enter them into contest put on by institutions, colleges etc. That takes them national. No poet gets rich, but some get recognized. I’m too lazy to care about that,” he said.
Here is another one that I especially like.
“High School Reunion”
The party’s over, turn out the lights. It really was the best of nights.
Go on home now; the way is long, The talk was fun, what was that song?
I danced a lot. That guy was cute. He said he was wearing his uncle’s suit.
I see the sun as it tops the rise a familiar sight seen with new eyes.
People say that you can’t go back, but it was fun, so what the heck
“There is a poetry sub-culture.” Mike said. “We are a nation of sub-cultures. People may belong to several. For example, there are veterans groups, anti- and pro- abortion groups, gun nuts and anti, etc. I’ll bet that there is a newspaper sub-culture that supports one another. The poets are mostly college professors and old ladies with a few scattered former hippies and assorted unconventional people,” he said.
I fit right in that old lady spot, but not sure where he fits in.
Poetry isn’t popular now but some do enjoy reading it. Maybe it’s gone out of style, but some of us may like it because it’s a way to say a lot using few words. Once I wrote a sermon based on one of Langston Hughes poems: “Let America Be America Again.” And in 1976, I wrote a kind of poem for my church. You can see it at www.fpcgburg.org, then go to Our Church, then tap on Our History. The title is “For You, My Visitor.” It is the only poem (or whatever it might be called) I’ve ever attempted.