Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sonnet 19

 "It Is What It Is"

When, the real cast of actors leaves us down
Acting out their personal part in life's schemes;
Will we seek what we wish to see come around
Finding the play's truthful to all Man's dreams :

Then, as a slap across the face would bring a welt,
We pause, feeling hurt, we reach out for answers.
"It is what it is". The plays are similar, actors melt
Into history, but in life only seven scenes, my sirs :

And then, accepting that which only we can control,
We look, listen, interpret, we respond with an action.
Finding our bearings, speaking out, always on patrol,
Each day surveying "The Field Of Dreams" for traction.

Accepting early enough in a lifespan your limitations
Makes time pass more easily bypassing complications.

Ronald C. Downie

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sonnet 18


"When in the course of human events", do we stray 
Or remain in a direction that speaks to our resolve ?
Is making a mark in life, resolve?  What is the way?
Ancestry commands that all its strengths must evolve :

Then, from the fringes into the middle, a line's struck
Marking the optimum course to achieve desired goal.
Familiarity captains ship, reads charts, exudes luck,
All the while the groove is ground etching the soul :

And then, the die being cast, you put your shoulder 
To the task ahead committing yourself into action,
Finally realizing, an unexamined life's not only bolder,
But one swinging widely poised to gain more traction.

Life marked to succeed, by person's true grit, gathers
Many followers. Desire to win, with a winner, matters.

Ronald C. Downie

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Price Of Ignorance

History records many declines of an imperial power who thought they would rule their World, as they knew it, forever. Inevitably, the decay of their governing system for an ever increasing accumulation of knowledge failed. This marked the path leading them to their demise.

Fitting this definition - is this the USA of today? Ever since our inception as a nation, we have gained military, financial, and education superiority throughout the world. Our educational system was once, by far, number one. 

Ignorance, I contend, is the harbinger of things to come. This morning, I learned of the latest comparison between American students and students from the rest of the World's industrialized nations. Our students are fading fast in competitive testing with no end in sight as they spiral down.

No answers have I ; comments though, are much easier to come by. 

For what it's worth, reading has always been considered the premier process in the learning cycle, but I've changed my mind on its prominence over the years. Now, I think, writing must be the ultimate provider of knowledge leading one toward wisdom. It is wisdom we must urge the young to attain. It's not enough to be able to accumulate facts and regurgitate them on a test, but the learned, must be able to put to use whatever knowledge they've acquired. The young, even those well read, need what writing forces them to accomplish. 

Writing well is a learned exercise. It requires the writer to pick a theme, introduce the theme, expand a discussion of it, and finally sum up what information the writer thought relevant. The nature of writing's structure, I believe, imprints on the brain of the writer in ways reading, even of the highest caliber, does not do. In fact, good writers are excellent readers, look at their bookshelves. By their efforts, they encourage a real lust to gain wisdom thru writing.

Acquiring knowledge is commendable ; utilizing gained wisdom results in supremacy.

Ronald C. Downie

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sonnet 16

Our Home

Beyond these hellish heated days, late spring,
Pigments deepen their hues, colors surface.
Chlorophyll's still working, life's force she'll bring
To dominate landscape is green's purpose.

Spring gives way to summer's growing season :
Warm nights, warmer days, occasional rain ;
Sap flowing up new formed stalks, the reason,
Plants create oxygen, Man's outright gain.

The browns of fall loom horizons over
A bountiful Earth spent of production.
Energy accumulates in sober
Soils building up for next year's growth action.

Why life ? Why us ? Life's process ours alone ?
It works ! We're here ! Planet Earth is our home !

Ronald C. Downie

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sonnet 15

The Art Of Listening

When we lean on the cluttered din of the day
Few sounds can escape chatter's deafening wake.
Sharp piercing sounds squeal loudly, far away,
The rest, cloud like, low muffled sounds make :

Then in conversation which guides this very day,
From clouds back to Earth, beckons our own reply.
Uptempo, finding why's and wherefores, we may
State truths and falsehoods out loud to the sky :

And then, do we really wait for an answer returned ?
Or, have we retreated back into the heavens cloudy,
Not hearing the din nor if the responder's concerned,
Which has bearing living silently, if not, then loudly? 

Lost is the "Art Of Listening" basic to Earth as sod,
But, grown so closely, are we just "Pees In A Pod"?
Ronald C. Downie

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sonnet 13

My Body Of Work 

When my finger becomes a stump from pecking away
On my iPad, with just the right hand pointing one ;
I look at my body of work, shrug my shoulders, pray
That I'm not as lame in ability as thought by some :

Then gathering myself, I think, -What The Sam Hell-
Am I doing out in this arena of original thought ?
Me, a boy of the soil, with pulsating words to tell
Audiences about education's purpose, as it's taught :

And then, a Scottish Highland stubbornness invades
My innards and rescues an inbred arrogance for life.
If not me, who the hell will write of grand parades,
Of awakening flowers, children, theirs, and my wife ?

However menial the task, it's the full effort given
Which measures a person's metal, sung by the liven.

Ronald C. Downie

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sonnet 12

To War As Boys

Broadly speaking, the story teller sighs,
Before laying out his theme's apt reply.
In a small town, it's tough not knowing guys
Who'll make a difference with their goodbye.

Oft in swarms on trains, they to war so soon.
Hardly roughed on chin, their pompadours wait
Floating to the cutting floor, shave by noon.
Marching, left-right, straighten the lines, eyes right.

To war as boys, their return home as men
Knowing unthinkable things, mums the word,
Until authors seek them out, use their pen.
Some relate, some not; some true, some absurd.

Effecting maturity, a war's theme,
Discounts beauty found in "The Golden Mean".

Ronald C. Downie

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sonnet 11

Verdant Valleys

West, from a bluff, I see a verdant valley
Clothed in varied greens that eyes sight.
Unfolding leaves wishing deep green, dally;
They wait for high skies, warm days, sunny bright :

Producing chlorophyl is their desire,
Multiplying in numbers to pump breath
Onto Earth. Exchange is what leaves require:
Plus sunshine, water, and food from soil's depth :

Life's food, pressure squeezed into fossil fuel
From deep down, this carbon now seeks release;
For what ? Pollution, climate change, storms rule: 
Twentieth Century found power, not peace.

Advance walks giant strides, mostly thought blind ;
Words state facts, time arbitrates for the mind.

Ronald C Downie

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sonnet 10

Gain Mastery

When in a crush of many misled men
Our World scunners of horrible deeds,
A counter is born by all strong women
Who bear our children, birth new seeds :

Then, fresh generations gain the wheel,
Trims the sails, set the compass to steer
Vessel into clear waters. Where they feel
Gaining mastery is something not to fear :

And then, we of a lesser state, find comfort 
In understanding life on Earth gains in merit
From vitality pent up with genes of this sort,
Wishing for a more perfect union, to inherit.

Be these, the dreams to set aside our own misery
Of discontent or discarded woes, gains its mastery. 

Ronald C. Downie

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sonnet 9

Trial And Error

When in the surge of history, we brace
Against the breadth of inane ignorance,
Which permeates those persons seeking grace
From worship, instead of, perseverance:

Then the tide swings toward understanding
Limits of man's faith in a modern world.
Scribes write their definition of meaning,
Describing the shackles, flags are unfurled:

And then, the inquisitive seek science
As it builds upon trial and error,
With preponderance on thought not seance,
 "This I Believe" just's a broken mirror.

Faith's failure leaves many disconsolate,
Though science, may they all repatriate. 

Ronald C Downie

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Modern Sonnet

These days the sonnet has taken on a modern perspective; unlike in the days of Shakespeare, when sonnets spoke mostly of love in all its particulars. Sonnets written these days are capturing every aspect of life and thought. 

They're written with a rhyming fourteen line scheme and swagger to foot and meter. But, the true beauty of the modern sonnet lies in the shortness of its length, about a minute's time to read a standard one.  

These days poets are promoting their books by this notion of shortness, calling them, an hour of verse. Sixty poems at a minute each creates an hour of reading if done with no interruptions, that's the hook. Who reads a poem just by mouthing written words ? Sonnets are as addictive as most other types of written verse; they too draw the reader in, to read again, to capture a reader's mental state, to pause and reflect a proposition the author presents. 

Authors are not fools, neither are publishers. They know purchasers of poetry books are looking for writings that have a chance to jog their minds and titillate their emotions. The sonnet tries to do this in only sixty seconds, at least by those, who read quickly.

Ronald C. Downie
Sonnet 6

Writing's My Play

When I'm caught up in national political chatter,
I retreat to my front porch, weather permitting.
There, enjoy brown leaves dropping without clatter,
While squirrels chase and birds wing, rarely resting :

Then, comfortable on my rocker, I turn on the radio
To NPR or, if they're rehashing gotcha's of the day,
I dial in a classical music station. Walkers say, Hello!
My universe expands from this rocker, gone is play :

And then, birds catch my eye, with swop and flit
As they move from tree to tree, kind of like chase
When I was young. A large hawk glides in to sit
Tippy top of the steeple pointing to heaven's place.

The older we get, memory enlarges to fill our day,
Now I can't physically engage, so writing's my play.

Ronald C. Downie

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sonnet 5

Long Night's Activity

When, in the wake of dreams unfulfilled,
Looking back, reaching for past memories,
Stirring hidden hollows, hiding strong willed
Thoughts left for a long night sleep pleasantries :

Then, with tossing and turning, sweat arrives
From body heat captured by layers of covers,
Deepened sleep slacks as the mind's eye drives
Piercing nerve endings toward thoughts of others :

And then, over and over we relive day's events,
Real or are they derived of fiction or of facts ? 
A deep night's sleep would have provided vents
For the escape from rewind or rewrite of acts.

Into this netherworld of super active long days
Take deep breaths, relax, quiet, chilling out plays.

Ronald C. Downie

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sow's Ear- Wishing It -A Silk Purse

What do you all expect ? Train a bird to sing, and sing it will. Train a dog to fight, and fighting becomes his style. Train a boy of eight to be aggressive, and continue his training in the ways of thuggery each year after year and what should society expect ? 

Couple the youths' training with a lifestyle of stressed, if not absent, traditional family structure and the child has little chance to fall back on a positive roll model to emulate. All through middle school, high school, onto the beginning of college these young men, trained in thuggery, are now expected to be pillars of our society. But, how would they know what it takes to be a pillar ?

It takes more than wanting to make "a sow's ear into a silk purse." When one experiences a lifetime of a drug culture, then add to this lifetime, a societal acceptance of unlimited, uncontrolled alcohol use, and what remains in a young man's mind ? Train him in football thuggery, feed him on a lifetime of televised killings, promote to him the honors of cage fighting and what are your expectations ?

"We reap what we sow" rings in our ears but seems easily forgotten. Football has become so prominent in modern day life that a few indiscretions by a few players can be easily overlooked. Television revenue makes learned men forget a lot of things, as does, office pools and tailgating. Yes, we are a Football Nation having a little hiccup right now but it will be sweep under the rug soon enough. Don't fret, young men trained to be aggressive fit right in to a military society. They'll be quite ready for War when it comes.

Ronald C. Downie

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Bard's Sonnets

Champion, in the world of writing plays, William Shakespeare also became the master of the sonnet, and all of his writings ring as meaningful today as when he wrote them. One hundred and fifty four sonnets were compiled and printed in 1609 under his name. 

His sonnets had structure: written in rhyming iambic pentameter of ten syllables per line divided into five feet per line, each of these feet were composed of one unstressed syllable and one stressed. This rhythm can be heard by the reader or listener in it's drumming of "baBoom" five times over in each line. His rhyme scheme, in poetic lingo, was : abab,cdcd,efef, and gg.

William wrote 14 line sonnets configured in three quatrains of four lines each, in which he developed  a problem or a theme and then followed them with a couplet that resolves or sums up the issue. Definitive were his sonnets while holding on to a confining structure. Shakespeare was the sonnets' master and  was rewarded by having sonnets written in his style named after him these past centuries, they're called Shakespearian Sonnets.

Except for the difficulty of writing in iambic pentameter, the other constructs of his style of writing sonnets are not too difficult to master. I have struggled many years to write a well constructed Shakespearian Sonnet but they seem not to cut the mustard for many people. Poor as they seem to those, I still publish them, because they ring well in content to me. I am competing with no one but myself and for those few who may read them for their content. I may only hope you are one of those who are willing to join me in my folly.

Ronald C. Downie

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sonnet 26

The Emperor's Cloths

When an overwhelming argument must come out
To bolster an awfully weak set of made up facts,
A candidate must keep a straight face, no pout.
Voice must not quiver or sound lower, stage acts.

Then, if the voting public has bought into the guise 
An artful candidate, though deceitful, may survive.
Today's voters, under assault of Big Money, a prize
For billionaires, the difference, voters are yet alive.

And then, if the time comes to govern the country
A charlatan starts to show weakness of an ingrate.
Core convictions fail the test of governance, clumsily 
Undoing that which made this Country so very great.

Voting must be an effort to best educate yourself,
So you see through the Emperor, who cloths himself.

Ronald C. Downie

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What - Never Ending

What blots the sun, bloats the moon;
What from a seance gains us sense;
What tricks the heart as if at run ?

What causes short breaths to heave
From a chest that wrenches above
The climaxed tourniquet of flesh ?

At dawn of eternity, life's river spawned 
Of an ionic maelstrom, primal ooze fresh.
Joining cells abound - Jehovah yawns -

"In a twinkling of an eye", green mould, us,
Lusting past reason, while rutting in acts of 
Desire, yet will and wisdom woefully wanting.

Ruinous the occult of carnal appetites 
Transcending an entire life bent mainly
On nocturnal pleasures of human flesh.

Hopefully not forgotten is pure, true love
Since penetrating  passions will never end,
But subsiding with age, memories drift on.

Ronald C. Downie 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Long Strides

Born into this World from an overt act
Each our fellow beings resulted from.

None of us can reach back and undue it,
So the dye's cast, the future's our soul's path.

Gestation, those 266 days of formulation, 
Is only the rehearsal for life's play.

It's a child's parents through their union 
Which transcends generations, leaps forward

Quickly, as the child gains raw knowledge
And takes positive steps in their own world.

They prepare for their own future linage
Drawn from family, spirited through time.

History's long strides can be best measured 
Not by duration of gestation, nor 

By abundance of productive unions, 
But thru the result of the best coupling.

Then a spirited offspring, receptor 
Of knowledge, an ambassador of life

Enters the World to make a mark on life,
Indelible as a tattoo, it's not.

Ronald C. Downie

Thursday, September 11, 2014

          September 11, 2001
-Another Date Which Will Live In Infamy-

The twin tower's three thousand dead
- Never, ever, shall they be forgotten -
Every eye a tear, each heart bleeds red,
Homage paid to ground zero, Manhattan.

On polished brass plaques, every name
Etched true to last time immemorial.
Hero rescuers ignite their own fame
And join in their special ceremonial.

The dead laid to rest now mute and silent.
Their epitaphs cut by hammer and chisel
Onto headstones of grey hardened granite.
Each word tears through rain, snow, drizzle.

Unlike these three thousand today so honored
Are dead from past wars and gross genocides,
Who are known by count only. Acts abhorred !
Man killing man while the whole world sighs.

Iraq,  Afghanistan,  Sudan,
Rowanda,  Croatia,  Vietnam,
Dachau,  Auschwitz,  Treblinka, 
Omaha,  Normandy,  Iwo Jima,
Bataan,  Pearl Harbor,  Korea,
Hiroshima,  Nagasaki,  Libya.

Man killing man.  When ? Oh when, will it end ?

Ronald C. Downie.      

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

To Our Son, Ronald

We live out our time on this Earth
In a segment of living called "Half Life".

At forty five, Half Life seems realistic, 
A great time in life to golf your age.

Your offspring grown, beginning to move out, 
Finished school, Casey's settled in an apartment.

Evan, approaching twenty one, still studying hard,
While manhood gains on him, will find him soon.

Vested in yours, the continence of our Downie name,
With Evan, our line could end or be forever sustained.

Your first Half Life, filled full of trial and tribulations,
Tempered you, as steel gains hardness through fire.

At least forty five more years to experience life
That may elude reasoned thought, in a new World.

You'll be ready more than the rest of society to
Exist into the future. Your edge honed by hard stone. 

Birthdays set a date certain, a calendar fact.
Life evolves: past dims, future uncertain, today ?

Please accept our wish for a heartfelt birthday,
You have earned it through the riggers of a past.

With Love,

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Property Taxation

It's kind of unnerving for me to read responses to my piece "Shameless in Pottstown" without reading one comment about property taxing for education being the most egregious wrong of all the ills facing Pottstown residents. The thrust of most of my writings about Pottstown lately has been about taxing property for education in all its inequities, especially, for elderly owners of homes who have little way to earn extra money to pay increases in taxes. These placid elderly who bring stability to a town are forced to sell which then changes the wants and needs for the new citizens who move in. 

It will take a vocal, energized electorate to get Harrisburg to change the tax structure. Most importantly it will take a new governor; specifically, voting out Tom Corbett, once and for all. Secondly, it will need new people in the legislature, ones who can see the needs of older communities that are encumbered with the old agrarian concept of property taxation paying for education. Ones who see, a broad based tax most likely based on consumption as the new method for financing of education, are needed.

A country, unwilling to change as the needs and wants of its citizenry change, is a country headed toward decay not unlike grand empires that history records their eventual demise. Change is good just as life evolves on a constant scale. Are you up to change or are you stuck in the past ?

Ronald C. Downie

Monday, September 1, 2014

Shameless In Pottstown

No ! I have no, or, to say, little shame. Less than a year until I'm 80, I've put in a lifetime of apprenticeship in this, my hometown, Pottstown. "Been there, done that" wouldn't be unreasonable for me to answer you, if you asked me about conditions found in our town.

If asked about the ongoing latest debacle, the patching up of outdated buildings we refer to as our elementary schools, makes me shudder each time an additional oversight surfaces, escalating the cost, raising our taxpayers' responsibilities for more and more taxes. 

The right to tax, remains today, the opportunity to impoverish. Pottstown has little to offer but a robust desire to tax for education disproportionate to the ability for residents to pay. Instead of an all out assault  on our legislature to change to a broad based tax for education, our school administrators and directors, complacent in their right to levy taxes, are like a shuttle cock knocked back and forth over the net as over runs and under designs assault them monthly. Directors' responsibility is projection, the distant view, it's not being a daily scorekeeper. 

In a shameless pronouncement : I was a proponent for the Elementary School Campus projected for the Washington Street revival area. This was a well designed, inclusive complex which took into account the total town, taxes included. Most school district are unlike Pottstown's. Here the boundary for the town is exactly the same boundary as it is for the district. Until that changes, both the borough and the district are one, and they are beholding to the same taxpayers, the property owners.

 School Directors and Borough Councilors have the same responsibility to improve the town. I believe, both directors and councilors should extend every effort to change the method of taxing for education from property taxation to a broad based income tax. One of their prime responsibilities is to maintain the financial vitality of the town. 

We have to finally forget forever the idea of "walkable  elementary schools". This concept, narrowly accepted, has been used too often to impede a unified vision of our town. An impoverished town, when sinking, needs a more comprehensive planning module to buoy it up and send it into the 21st Century. Stop being duped by the more vocal zealots among you, you the leaders. Someday you may be old enough to become shameless, too.

Ronald C. Downie