January 3, 2022
Around this time, I usually post a list of muscians, writers and others that have died during the past year. This time around I just can't do it. It's all too much. I'm emotionally exhausted from the pandemic (on the rise after 2 years) and the climate crisis (my brother's house is Louisville, CO, is okay, by the way, but many of his friends and neighbors lost everything) and the political crisis (will democracy survive? I think so, but I'm not sure.) And a million other things, at home and far away, that weigh on my mind. And then the list of dead people who were important to my life in some way. Too many. Enough.
June 25, 2021
May 18, 2021
"Pedersen's choice speaks to us essentially of a common experience, a state of exile that manifests itself in many ways, from one place to another, from one age to another, from one human encounter to another, even from one self to another self. His exile confirms the almost-physical residency of a poetic voice in whatever country/language he migrates to, with verses of rare lyrical quality and effective communication, through the idyll and the epos, memory and self-analysis, blues and irony, by which readers feel not merely involved but recognizable in their own movement through their inner lives. That's the choice that chooses us."
Enrico De Lea
"This collection of selected poems highlights Martin Pedersen's gift for keen observation and quirky description of the ordinary and the poignant. Writing on a boundary, with one leg in Sicily and the other in California, Martin Pedersen watches relationships as they unfurl and then takes a photo of a moment, capturing it with a phrase, and inviting us to see and feel something new. These poems/stories/life encounters are so vividly expressed that they will linger with you once you're finished with them, simply because they're not finished with you."
Thanks to all three for the wonderful reviews.
To order Exile's Choice go to: Amazon, Kelsay Books or write me at email@example.com
April 6, 2021
The Big One being my latest book of poetry: Exile's Choice. I published two small books of small poems recently, and I hope you liked them or will like them, but now here is my super-sized, loaded, extra-large book of recent published poetry. Actually, it's a chapbook, so it's not as big as the collection which should be coming out later this year, but I'm excited and thrilled to have this already available in a beautiful edition by Kelsay Books. The people I worked with there, Karen Kelsay and Delisa Hargrove, were very friendly and professional.
I got another big boost from some friends who were willing to write blurbs for the back cover or Exile's Choice. I'll print them for you in another post. Elli Sandis, Enrico De Lea and Mike Bausch are all great writers and did me a huge favor. I owe them tacos.
Exile's Choice is a group of poems obliquely centered around my experience as an ex-pat. I've lived in Sicily for over 40 years and have always planned to return to California. Now that plan is on hold, and since I moved to a small house near the beach with the birdsong, the rolling breakers, and a garden to tend, I might not return to the city, here or there. We'll see.
As I said in the introduction to Exile's Choice:
They say that the difference between exile and expatriation is the choice. When I came to Sicily in 1979 and stayed and stayed until today, that was my choice, right? Or did the island choose me? Between Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens sing: run from/run to, familiar/strange, stay/leave, shoobie doobie. So, when living out of the red backpack lost its charm, I easily slid into a family-home-job so cozy that return became impractical, undesirable, near impossible. In a sense, I exiled myself. The choice I made made me.
"To go native" -- is that the passage from ex-pat to exile? Am I denying my daily decision, imagining myself a victim of fate, the starry-eyed wanderer who can't find his way home? I don't know. The expression I hear most often from the locals here in Messina is: 'why don't you go back?' Back? Back in time, you mean? The San Francisco of my youth no longer exists. Neither do I as I left it.
March 22, 2021
Mourning # 30
I mourn the people I know and the people
I don’t know, the people I care about
and those I don’t give a damn about
this death is not legitimate death
it is a cheating death, that creeps up
and takes the strong and bold, the best
of us: doctors teachers nurses preachers
whole families gone in a cyclone
flying bodies like loose plastic bags risen up
into the atmosphere. I mourn you all
the grandparents aunts uncles cousins
fathers mothers brothers sisters friends
all whose time had come, most who were
not given a chance to complete their
self-actualization, their journey. It is
so sad. And it’s not over yet.
---- Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, infectious disease
specialist in Bowling Green Kentucky used to tell
everyone: “This isn’t politics, this is science.”
Dr. Shadowen was hospitalized with SARS CoV-2
for four months before she succumbed. On Face-
book she wrote: “If you could save the life of another
person without harming your own, would you?”
Dr. Shadowen advocated for mask-wearing and social
distancing, hand-washing from the beginning, hoping
Bowling Green would be a model for the rest of KY.
Dr. Shadowen was working as a member of the Bowling
Green-Warren County Coronavirus Workgroup when
she became ill. Her husband, David, took her to the
hospital because she was having trouble breathing
for four months she was on and off ventilators, in
and out of ICU, when she was lucid she worked from
her hospital bed, sharing what she was experiencing
several times she seemed to be recovering, thought
David Shadowen, also a doctor. Rebecca Shadowen
died on September 11th surrounded by her husband
and two adult children. She was 62.
David and Rebecca were college sweethearts in the 1970’s
they decided to go into medicine together and specialize in
infectious diseases. She worked at the Medical Center at
Bowling Green for 30 years and mentored many students
and residents. After she became sick she begged the county
authorities to adopt a local mask ordinance without success.
After her death the governor tweeted that Dr. Shadowen was,
“a front line hero.” She had probably contracted covid from
a home health aide that infected her mother, her husband and
her daughter. Her son Jesse tested negative. Before she got
sick, Rebecca Shadowen, went into the empty Broadway United
Methodist Church to pray. She was aware of the risks and
responsibilities of health care workers. At the memorial service
former patients said: “I am alive today because she saved my life.”
Her daughter Kathryn remembered that when they went out
around town together people would stop her mother to thank her.
“It was really powerful to be the kid of someone who saved people.
A lot of kids think of their parents as heroes. Mine actually was.”
END OF THE MOURNING POEMS
NOT OF THE MOURNING
March 21, 2021
Mourning # 29
I’m so sorry you’re gone
not sure how we carry on
I wasn’t there when you passed
because we were governed by a psychopath
when history tallies all the sums
we will realize what we have done
the dead will still be dead
the living filled with regret
I’m so sorry you’re gone
not sure how we carry on.
---- Art and music,
art and music teacher, Melinda
Roellig, 37, of Clarksville, Indiana
homemade Christmas gifts for family prepared
including her own paintings, personalized
"she put her heart into it and it just makes you
smile because you know how much she cares"
now will they be opened, will they be loved
Melinda died one week after getting a fever
without telling her relatives, her mother a nurse
when she checked on Melinda she called 911
Melinda died in the ambulance, she feared her
insurance wouldn’t pay, instead when others fell
sick she’d take care of them, she had perfect
pitch sang as a kid, played in the marching band
trumpet and painting at University of Louisville
she loved Harry Potter, got a Master’s degree
taught music at public school and art at the
charter school, her students adored her, she
taught choir after school, former student Carey
Walls said: She changed my life.
Melinda Roellig, art and music teacher, is survived
by her mother, stepfather, step-siblings, father, step-
mother, half-sister, brother, two nieces. And her art and
music students, whatever they wind up doing with that.
Art and music.
March 20, 2021
Mourning # 28
The gulls and crows had picked
the kitten’s head and guts out
it lay soaking wet in the road
on our evening walk we turned away
when we saw how dead it was
that it was a mess, a kitten no more
one tiny soul like a puff gone on
in the seabreeze in January
during the worst pandemic we’ll ever see
two million souls and rising
collecting the puffs together would create
a permanent fog we’d live in the rest
the foggy rest of our lives.
---- Carole Brookins, 76, a financial consultant from
Palm Beach, Florida died of the novel coronavirus.
Her firm, Public Capital Advisors, was only one of
Carole’s many activities. She founded First Alliance
Foundation to bring together US and French military
leaders. She had just returned from Paris, her favorite
city, when she became ill. Carole Brookins was a member
of the Council on Foreign Relations. She was a former
Wall Street executive and director of the World Bank during
the George W. Bush administration. One of her passions
was to help developing countries build infrastructures
because, “if you don’t have roads you can’t get to the health
Carole Brookins had no family, but many close friends.
She had, “amazing enthusiasm for people, places
March 19, 2021
Mourning # 27
dressed all in red
collecting the dead
I beg you to leave me
I beg you not to set me free
life is a gift
though I don’t let it show
give me another breath
I’ll tell you when I’m ready
into a new dimension
---- Fire chief of Ludlow, Vermont,
Robert Kirkbride served as an infantry-
man in WWII and a military policeman
in the Korean War. He was a police
officer in Burlington, Vermont, then he
served for 60 years as a firefighter and
fire chief in Ludlow. He was 93.
He still drove his own car and mowed his
own lawn and appeared in full uniform in
the annual Memorial Day Parade.
Last year his wife of 67 years died, and then
his son of 56 died suddenly as well.
In March 2020 Chief Kirkbride developed
bronchitis and was admitted to White River
Medical Center where he died two weeks
later. No funeral could be held; the family
is hoping to hold a memorial for Robert
Kirkbride when possible.
March 18, 2021
Winter weeds are taking control
of the territory around the dormant
flowers, but I can’t be bothered.
I lost my father yesterday, and I can’t
cry. When I was young he made me
cry a lot, but now I’m numb, stunned.
I got a call from the hospital admin-
istration asking for disposition, if I
had already made arrangements.
They wanted to release the corpse.
It’s raining so hard outside right now.
Two million people died before old Dad,
but they were only data. Now the virus
is solid. Like it’s always been solid to
the doctors and nurses. I could go
to the hospital, but I can’t see him
anyway. And it’s still raining.
---- Gary Young, customer service rep-
resentative for Lowe’s Hardware from Gilroy
California, famous for the annual Garlic
Festival, died of Covid-19 on March 17,
2020. He was 66.
Gary was a talker, he loved to chat with
everyone, he loved to make people laugh
by telling jokes, everyone in town knew and
liked Gary because he was so garrulous.
The wait staff in restaurants where he ate
remembered him by name. The customers
at Lowe’s always got a friendly chat with
Gary Young. He engaged; he made connections;
he created human networks. We need that.
Gary seemed too young and too exuberant
to die. Now everyone who ever knew him feels his
March 17, 2021
Mourning # 25
Driving down to County General
to see my dear old Ma
stopped at a light in the crosswalk
an ice cream cone on the ground
I thought that was so sad
they honked at me to go
an ice cream cone had fallen
some clumsy kid had lost a cone
I’m staying at Ma’s house while she’s
laid up, wondering if when she’s done
could I have her spoon collection
whether burial or cremation
they let me look through the tent
all we can do is wave
I’m thankful for the doctors and nurses
and all the people they can save.
---- Shirley Bannister, 57, and her daughter
Demetria Bannister, 28, died weeks apart in
South Carolina. Demetria, who died first was
an elementary school teacher while Shirley
was a gerontology nurse for 30 years before
becoming head of nursing at Midlands Tech.
Both were described as loving, caring, generous
helpers. Demetria was called “a spitting image
of her mother.” “She loved mentoring kids and
making learning fun.” She was known at Windsor
Elementary as “Windsor’s Songbird” because she
loved singing and organized student productions.
Initially she showed no symptoms and followed
all safety protocols. On Sept. 4 she was admitted
to the hospital and died 3 days later. A double
funeral was organized. Dennis Bannister, Shirley’s
husband and Demi’s father called them, “The
light of any room.”
March 16, 2021
That magpie has a bit of string in its beak
guess they’re building a new house, here comes
the missus they’re so elegant in white shirts
and black suits but they sure squawk a lot
couples create their own dynamics
the magpies mate for life you know, my cat
is afraid of them but they mean no harm
magpies like two planes coming into SFO
here comes one, here comes the other right
behind, if you ever went out to Coyote Point to see
them you know, maybe that bit of string
I saw was actually a worm – dinner for two
with a coupon, magpies are tightwads.
---- Gerda Garbatzky escaped from Nazi-occupied
Austria at the start of WWII. The home she fled to in
Birmingham was bombed. Her father, grandmother and
other relatives were killed by the Nazis. She settled in
New York. Then she got breast cancer. She survived.
Her grandson, Geoffrey Sorenson, wanted to grieve
with his family for Grandma Gerda but he could not
because he had COVID too. When he posted an obituary
online he got thousands of responses. His grandmother,
he said, would have been honored.
Gerda Garbatzky, a retired bookkeeper, was 90 years old.