What is Normal


Our free range playgrounds of childhood have died.

We no longer live connected, but rather side by side

We know each other by first name only

Some live isolated and feel quite lonely

Gone are the days of front porch swings

Where friends may gather as evening begins

And lovers sit swinging hand in hand

It was wonderful // Life was grand

Our doors never locked and curtains seldom pulled

Kids ran free and no threat while at school

Played in the woods // climbed trees without nets

Disappeared all day and played with their pets

And if we ever needed help from a friend

We knew who to call // that neighbor round the bend

Seems the new normal arrived long before Covid

As life had already changed  // no matter what we did

Photo: Dwight L. Roth


This poem came to me after reading Reena Sexons poem:


Thoughts on Childhood

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How fast they grow leaving childhood behind;
Once a beloved toy, the wagon sits tangled in weeds…
A place to store tomato baskets from the garden.
Back wheels missing, it sits all alone // a discarded wallflower.
Children full of love and laughter soon grow up;
Becoming young adults full of hopes and dreams for the future.
They gradually move on  // like fledglings from the nest.
Leaving childish things behind, they become young women and men,
Carrying our hearts with them // and our unending love…

Photo: Dwight L. Roth


Black Walnuts

George Boyer with Nelson Paul & Priscilla 001 (2)

Black walnuts always take me home
Back to the place of my childhood
And to the black walnut tree growing
On the side of the hill above the driveway
Each fall a bushel full lay in crushed array
Uncracked by car tires driving over

59 Chevy at Masontown 001 (2)

Today at d’Verse, De Jackson asked us to write a quadrille of 44 words for our prompt, and use some form of the word Crack. The word crack brought back memories of collecting, shelling, and later, cracking black walnuts to pick out the meat for cookies and eating. The nuts have a tough husk around the outside and need to fall on the ground and deteriorate some before they can be removed. We poured them on the driveway and used the car tires to shell them out. Then, we put them in the basement next to the coal furnace to dry. The shell of the actual nut is very hard and had to be broken with a hammer.

The photo above shows my siblings, with our neighbor, before I was born. You can see the walnut tree on the hill just to the right of the old water pump. The actual drive was created after I was born.

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Mom’s Kitchen

Pop cutting Phils hairLittle Brother Phil getting a hair cut on the kitchen table

At my house growing up, the kitchen was the center of daily activity. It was barely big enough to house a stove, a fridge, a cabinet, and a table.  The kitchen was a hum with my mom cooking, canning, or baking. I loved licking chocolate off the spatula and beaters after she mixed up a cake.

In the winter, it became the laundromat, where underwear hung on a wooden rack. like spokes on a wheel. My mom and sister sprinkled clothes from the basement and placed them rolled up into the wicker basket to be ironed. The ironing board was set up in the hallway between rooms with steam hissing all morning long as they pressed the shirts, slacks, and dresses.

Off to the side was the pantry with a large porcelain sink and a tall set of cupboards for storing dry goods. I can still see my father cleaning chickens from our pen in that sink.  It was a grand time to be alive.

Sleet strikes window panes

Winter clothes pressed and hanging

Pressure cooker sings


Photo from the family album

Today on d’Verse, Lillian asked us to write a haibun following the strictly traditional Japanese rules. It includes a short prose reading followed by a haiku that eludes to something seasonal.  She asked us to go back in our memory to the house we grew up in and pick a room to write about. I chose our family kitchen.

Come join us at: https://dversepoets.com


A Hershey Bar Day


A Hershey Bar Day

Cousin Doug’s Pay Day came today

After sixty plus years //and minus a few sweet curls.

He was a cute baby perched on the hood

Munching that cookie in his little Butter Fingers

Birthdays come and go each year

Chuckles for some // Snickers for others

But for us who are seniors // we get no Kix

Awaiting our preplanned Milky Way trip

Birthdays // reminders of times gone by

Living on Fifth Avenue next to old Mr. Goodbar

Just down the street from the neighborhood Mars Bar

Screaming Baby Ruth was really adorable

Oh, Henry // He was a pistol with the boys next door

Those 3 Musketeers  are chasing Kit Kat again

Till she coughed up that hairball of Charleston Chew

Our knees now Krackle and our stomachs Mound

As we count the years Twix  fat and thin

For better and for worse // we have no choice

Waiting for that birthday to come around again


Photo:  from our Family Album

Today Lillian, at d’Verse suggested we “noodle” with candy bar names and write them into a poem. We had the choice of Candy, Perfume, or Cereal. Since this was my cousin Doug’s birthday today I decided to include him in my fictional poem. How many candy bars can you count in my poem?

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Childhood Innocence

Sweet innocence.jpg

          Childhood Innocence

Sweet undefiled childhood flowers

           Into naked innocence //emerging

From her teacup fairytale life

          Dreaming // of one day fitting the

Glass slipper… held by a handsome prince

          Unaware of the ominous flood

Just beyond the dawn’s horizon

          For now // pixey dust and Bieber

Fill, thrill, and bring goose bump chills

          Sweet // undefiled // ephemeral childhood


Poem created from one of four of the art Image by artist Catrin Welz-Stein, featured at:  https://www.redbubble.com/de/people/catrinarno?ref=account-nav-dropdown&asc=

Used with permission given to d’Verse~Poetry Pub, to use it as our prompt for today. Lillian challenges us to write a response poem to one of Catrin Welz-Stien’s art images.

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Publishing the Past Pt 4


Here are a few more of the stories from my father in laws childhood collection from the 1930s. They were written when he was sixty-five. He is now eighty-nine and suffering from Alzheimer’s, I have transcribed them so they could be passed on to my grandchildren and beyond. He grew up near Ephrata, Pennsylvania. His mother died when he was four and his father remarried two years later.


11.Playing in Grandpa Snavely’s Mill

Grandpa Hurst was a miller before I knew him. Grandpa White was a train conductor, but I never knew him. Grandpa Snavely was a miller also. I never really learned to know him because he never talked to his grandchildren. He was sort of a loner and did not converse much with anyone. He owned a large stone gristmill along the Hammer Creek.  Hammer Creek was so named because a hundred years ago or more there was a forge upstream from the mill.

First, let me tell you about the old mill along the Brunnerville-Clay Road. It still stands today (1992), but when I was a boy in 1935 it was already closed up and the machinery removed. The mill was three or four stories high and had wide expanses of hardwood flooring. The windows were all intact so it was well preserved. It was later converted into apartments.

Across the road is an old farm where my stepmother was born and where she spent her childhood, until her family moved upstream about a mile to the better mill.

The farmstead had a whitewashed two and a half story stone house that was rather small for such a family. Attached was a large, never painted, wash house summer kitchen.

Nearby was an old bank barn which was never painted and looked sort of black, especially when it rained. Uncle Charles Hollinger and Aunt Katie lived there with their family. When we visited Russel and Pearl and Jean and David, I sometimes went into the old mill or walked along the bank of the creek, but not often.

I learned to know about the Snavely Mill when my father married my stepmother in 1934. It was a prosperous place and was in operation for a very long time. The mill had a reputation for manufacturing very fine flour.

They also had two portable hammer mills mounted on trucks and four men went from farm to farm grinding cowfeed or “chop” for the farmer’s cattle.

The four and a half story stone building was very attractive and in complete repair. Behind it was a metal-clad granary about four stories high.

The Snavely family often came together for Sunday Dinner or just to visit. I think that may have happened because aunts: Nora, Jenny, and Anna still lived at home. With them lived a cousin Warren Snavely and a worker Lloyd Wideman.

When we went to visit them, there were many cousins and many interesting things to do. We could take walks along the dam or go swimming in the race. In the winter we went sledding down the road at a really high speed. Now I think it was very dangerous, but we grandchildren had such good times.

Many times after our big Sunday dinner, my cousins and I would play hide and seek in the mill. It is surprising that none of us ever got hurt. I think we all realized there were dangers there to avoid.

Grandpa Snavely also had a player piano. That seemed like a modern thing. They had many player rolls which could be loaded into the piano to make it play different songs.

A special time each summer was when everyone came home for “Snapper Soup!” Snapping turtles lived in the dam and if you put a stick in the water and teased them they would bite the stick and hang on. Only the uncles did that!

Another yearly event was when we went to see the night cactus bloom. It only bloomed once a year and did its blooming at night.

Beside their house were three unusual trees. They were persimmon trees, which were not very common in Pennsylvania. We tried tasting them once, but never again!!

Boat Rides on the Mill Pond
Grandpa Snavely’s gristmill was picturesque and so was the mill pond we called “the dam.” The mill was a four and a half story limestone building of good size, with a slate roof. I wish I could remember which year it was built, but it was old and had hardwood floors throughout.
The dam was wide and tapered down to twenty feet wide at the narrow end. It reached up and around the curve to the floodgates which could divert high water when a flood came.
In the winter we grandchildren sometimes went skating, but not very often. Perhaps once each summer or every other summer the grandchildren wanted to ride in Grandpa’s old wide bottom red and white boat which was always docked under the chicken house, which extended about ten feet over the water. There was always supposed to be a responsible adult along.
On a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon, about ten or twelve children climbed into the boat and we rowed up from the dam. I was about eleven at the time. I sat on the edge, the gunwale. The smaller children sat on the bench boards in the middle. No one had life jackets. Maybe they weren’t invented yet?
We were going slowly along the bank and the person up front, who was supposed to guide it, let it bump a lump of ground. The boat stopped immediately, and I rolled off into the water! I was scared and flailed about until someone grabbed my arm and pulled me up into the boat.
They said I was yelling, “Help me! Help me!!”
I climbed onto the bank all dripping wet and walked back around the pond to the house. I was embarrassed about it and just a little disgusted at whoever was supposed to be guiding the boat.

The Swimming Hole

In the old days there were no swimming pools. Even towns didn’t have them. When they did get one, we “Christians” wouldn’t think of going there. There were various swimming holes or dams where people could splash around in the muddy water and feel refreshed.

There was such a fun place about two miles from our home on Middle Creek, across from the Ivan Stauffer’s farm. A small dam about three feet high made it a nice place to swim. I only ever saw men and boys there. A rope hung from a high tree branch and there was a kids’ diving board from which we jumped into the three feet of water. One could hardly swim in this place, but it was special when Father took us there, perhaps three times a summer. Maybe that is why I never learned to swim as a boy.


Photo of Dayton Mill: Dwight L. Roth


Sour Beer and Apple Pie

Smells, like songs, take us back to a particular place and time. Amazing how important smell is to our quality of life. I can’t imagine life without smell. The good, the bad, and the foul smells all are part of life. As I think back through my childhood there are many smells that trigger memories. One in particular is the smell of souring beer in empty bottles in my friend Little Henry’s basement. We would pass through from time to time and go past a partial case waiting to be returned for money or exchanged. I never forgot that sour smell and to this day I have no desire to even taste a beer!

Sour Beer and Apple Pie  (Childhood Details)

Smells like songs takes me back

Calling up forgotten files in my brain

Bringing up times gone by

Two little boys running through his basement

Case of fermenting bottles on the floor by the door

Carling Black Label his dad’s beer of choice

Waiting to be returned for an exchange fee

The smell of dirt under the back porch

Powdery dry never feeling rain

Freshly plowed ground turned over each spring

Disked fine and ready for garden planting

Wafting from the chicken house

Ammonia strong enough to clear a head cold

Even stronger when it came time to clean the floors

Fresh sheets with fabric softener windblown dry

On long clothes lines stretched like cobwebs

Across the back our yard

Fresh alfalfa hay lying lifeless in the field

A unique aroma when baled and stacked in the barn

Coal in the mine damp and dank

Waiting to be dug and hauled to the surface

Creating sharp and acrid smells when turned to ashes

Coke ovens belching out untamed gasses

Gray black clouds rising into the sky day and night

Creating acid rain and burning our eyes

Dropping soot on the roof as water runs into our cistern

The earthy smell of wet clay squishing between my fingers

Shaped into bowls or creatures unknown

Fresh out of the oven Mom’s homemade apple pie

Making me salivate like Pavlov’s dogs

Apples sweet and sour rotting on the ground under the tree

Drawing bees and wasps to savor the fermented juices

Yeasty smell cutting into a fresh loaf of bread

Still warm soft as a memory foam pillow

Spread with fresh yellow homemade butter

Purple lilacs blooming on the bush each spring

Better smell than any fifty-dollar perfume from Paris

Smells from the trash we burned in the back yard

Out next to the pit hole where cans and bottles died

Fresh green mint tea leaves pulled from the stalk

Brewed into iced tea sweet and refreshing

A one of a kind smell the outhouse at church and school

Stinky stalactites building rain and paper decorate them

Hot scalded chickens ready for picking in the back yard

Burnt singed hair burning off of bare chickens in the flame

Smells of the locker room after gym class at High School

Baskets of sweaty gym shorts tee shirts and a jock strap

That new car smell brought home for the first time

From Fike Cheverolet in Masontown

Smells are so important in our experience of living

Without them life would be not nearly as pleasant


Beer Ad Photo: Bing Clip Art

Pie Photos: ipkitten@blogspot.com













Childhood Details

GeorgeH&kids1953 & Dwight

I decided to begin writing a series of poems that I am calling Childhood Details.  The sentiments of childhood go deep into everyone’s soul. For some, it has been blocked out for various reasons, and like Pandora’s Box is never opened for fear of what unwelcome memories might come out!  For me, my childhood memories are like sea shells at the beach, each unique and different. They are ones which I want to collect and keep in my bucket to look at over and over again. The photo above is of me on my tricycle when I was probably seven years old.  It takes me back to all the details surrounding that time and fills my mind with memories of good times and good people. I will see what this inspiration brings. I hope you will enjoy them.

Childhood Details

Childhood details lost in the cobwebs of time

Still linger there like a rolled up moth in a spider’s web

Waiting to be opened and devoured

So well preserved that the resurrection of such

Rings true and clear in visions in my mind

Of toys and playthings tricycles and bicycles

All coming  back as I unwind the web

Amazing what one can remember

When the cobwebs are pushed aside

What gems of preciousness can be conjured up

Simply by taking time to revisit what has been saved

Like time capsules the content preserved

For a time of opening

And that time is now


Photo: from the family album




When we moved to our home a few years ago, I felt like I had come home. The location, the farm land, the trees and rolling hills all felt like home to me. The painting above was done for a friend whose home not longer existed. He gave me a photo of the house and asked if I could paint it.  Two years later his Aunt asked me to paint one for his Uncle who had grown up there. Nostalgia and feelings all converge to remind us of the home or place we grew up in. Sometimes it is unexplainable, but one just knows.

Home is a Feeling

Home is a feeling you’ll know when you’re there.

No matter how far you go no matter where you’ve been

That feeling slips in and lets you know…

Home is a feeling when you’re there


When you’re driving through the cornfields down a long and duty road

And you see the evening sun sinking slowly out of sight

That feeling slips in and lets you know…

Home is a feeling and your there


When you’re far away and all alone wondering how long you’ll be gone

And a song comes on the radio it takes you back and you’re right there

That feeling slips in and lets you know…

Home is a feeling and your there


Though mom and dad are gone and the old house stands no more

The place is still just as real you can feel their presence there.

That feeling slips in and lets you know…

Home is a feeling when you’re there


When you’re loved by those around you and they all reach out to you.

Nothing else matters now… You can see it in their smiles.

That feeling slips in and lets you know…

Home is a feeling when you’re there


Painting #2 by: Dwight L. Roth