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June 25, 2021

Our Real Work by Wendell Berry

Our Real Work

Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

May 18, 2021

What They're Saying About Exile's Choice:

"In a time when more of us than ever know what it feels like to experience an impossible distance from our own normal lives, this collection provides a nostalgia for a familiar former life with the joyful normalcy of growing at home within a new country. Pedersen explores the merging of cultures and memory through every-day experiences: the sharing of meals, memories of childhood moments that feel as alive today as they did then, the introspection and bargaining that comes with grieving the loss of a dear friend our own age. Pedersen captures these moments like snapshots, allowing us to travel with him through the touching, simple moments and memories that make up a life."

Elli Sandis

"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."

Mike Bausch

Thanks to all three for the wonderful reviews. 

To order Exile's Choice go to: Amazon, Kelsay Books or write me at

April 6, 2021

Shameless Self-Promotion Again

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.

I hope you will buy this book. Not because I receive any monetary reward but because I want as many people as possible to read it. It's cheap. Buy some copies for your friends too. It's a young book by a young poet just learning to ride a bike. Push me along those first meters, and I'll wave and smile later when I come around the block smoothly cruising by. Thank you.

Go to the Amazon or Kelsay Books (.com) or write directly to me and I'll sign your copy ( 

March 22, 2021

Mourning # 30

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.”







March 21, 2021

Mourning # 29

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

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

care center.”

Carole Brookins had no family, but many close friends. 

She had, “amazing enthusiasm for people, places

and issues.”






March 19, 2021

Mourning # 27

Mourning # 27


Spirit woman

dressed all in red

Spirit woman

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

to go

with you

into a new dimension

Spirit woman.


---- 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

Mourning # 26

Mourning # 26


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

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

Mourning # 24

Mourning # 24


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.