Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 9.38.49 AMIn a year marked by images of families displaced by war and a little boy washed up on a Turkish beach, pause to be grateful for the precious things in life; those glorious obscurities we take for granted, like freedom, drinking water, ample food, shelter and health.

Following is a version of a poem I read at a poetry contest in West Philly this past fall that I thought was appropriate for today. Be grateful for the little things in life on this Thanksgiving Day.


Wildflowers On The Shoulder Of The Road In A Traffic Jam

jim brennan

You brag that you are grateful for your four children and five grandchildren

like you should win the Noble Peace Prize for loving your loved ones,

as if the Prophet never said love your enemies, and those who persecute you,

or something like that.


Rather, be grateful for the glorious obscurities in life,

Those latent mysteries that catch you off guard and lighten your burden,

bring a smile you can’t suppress in spite of the traffic jam at rush hour,

like the café cashier who can’t tell the difference between a latte and an espresso, while you wait impatiently in line all judgmental

deciding the dark lenses in the barista’s glasses are for show,

just like the Gaelic knots tattooed on her wrists,

until you notice the silver stick leaning against the counter to her left,

which draws your attention to her determined expression

as she walks to the counter confidently and places your espresso down

with such care you feel as though the café is empty except for the two of you,

and her smile strips you of your inhibitions

as you reach out and lightly touch the back of her hand with three fingers,

and when she lowers her head you see behind her glasses

glossy eyes peering blankly into the back of those dark lenses,

a sight that reminds you that you are watching the gaze of the sightless

with your own two eyes,

and you say to her, “Thank goodness for each good last breath,”

to which she replies,


“Or something like that.”



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Let There Be Light

“… love of life begets a love of life.” – Natalia Ginzburg

In a time of darkness…Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 10.07.30 PM

Let there be light!





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Inspired by Vincent’s Shoes

“Writing novels, to me, is basically a kind of manual labor. Writing itself is mental labor, but finishing an entire book is closer to manual labor.” – Haruki Murakami

Photo inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's "A Pair of Shoes."

Photo inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s A Pair of Shoes.

"A Pair of Shoes," 1886, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

A Pair of Shoes, 1886, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Van Gogh’s Pair of Shoes struck me the moment I saw it several years ago at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The beat up old shoes told a story. Story was that Van Gogh bought them at a flea market and wore them on a long walk in the rain before he painted them so they would look worn and beaten. The image stuck with me, like I knew I would one day do something with it, I just didn’t know what.

Fast forward a few years, and I was given an assignment to write a poem about a still life. I decided to hammer out a poem about Van Gogh’s shoes, but it just wasn’t working. Sometimes I find the best way to progress a story or poem is to get away from it and get busy doing something else, so I went to a house my wife and I are rehabbing and tiled the bathroom. I changed my clothes after I got done tiling and when I turned and saw my work boots, it was suddenly easy to imagine the story of Van Gogh’s shoes. The verses began to flow–where the shoes had been, the type of day the person who wore them had, his challenges, what he’d accomplished, how his muscles felt.

Now I can see why Van Gogh took that long walk in the rain before he sat down at the blank canvas.

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Quotes For The Road

“Every child is born an artist. The problems begin when they grow up.” – Picasso

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

“After changes upon changes we are more or less the same.” – Simon & Garfunkel                                                                                                                                        from The Boxer

“What I look forward to is continued immaturity followed by death.” –Dave Barry

“Never lose the child inside.” – jb


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Covered Toes… Absent Prose

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Toes at the edge of a cliff at Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania.

Toes at the edge of a cliff at Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania.

Toes above a fresh water spring somewhere along the Appalachian Trail.

Toes above Bella getting a cold drink at a fresh water spring somewhere along the Appalachian Trail.

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No Prose… Just Toes

“You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some with you.”                                                                                                          Joseph Joubert


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The Enduring Divine Lorraine

“Boys will be boys, and so will a lot of middle-aged men.” – Kin Hubbard

IMG_5295My fascination with the Diving Lorraine Hotel began in the early 1980s when I’d pass it during the annual Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. Thirty years passed, and the abandoned hotel on the corner of Broad Street & Fairmount Avenue so captivated me on my early morning runs with my friends at Back on My Feet that I shot some photos and posted a story as part of my Art of Running series. Only now do I admit that I must have a love affair with the building, so much so that it is featured in the current online issue of the Schuylkill Valley Journal

Read about the history, abandonment and revival of the The Divine Lorraine: A 19th Century Victorian Fortress at Broad & Fairmount here.


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