my grandfather’s amazing life

Ok, so this is not a poem (it’s technically from the obit that I helped my uncle edit). But, I feel like posting it anyhow. I just want the whole world to get a small taste of what I’m trying to live up to….////

Charles (Chuck) F. Burrows was born August 15, 1915 in Cleveland, Ohio, to his parents Ethel M. and Harry O. Burrows of Shaker Heights. He graduated from Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland with a BS in Metallurgical Engineering in 1937 and a Masters Degree in Metallurgical Engineering in 1939. He was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity.

Thanks to a fortuitous trip to Baltimore, Chuck found the Glenn L Martin Company. The rapidly growing aircraft company was seeking young engineers and offered to hire Chuck on the spot. He started work there in December 1939 and watched the company grow to over 50,000 employees during the war and then downsize to 600 before he retired. Chuck spent a combined total of 45 years with the Martin Company, most of which was spent in the AMT (Advanced Manufacturing Lab). He retired from what was then called Martin Marietta in 1984.

During part of his career with the Glenn L. Martin Company, he worked at the Omaha, Nebraska plant from 1941-1945. There he worked on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb during WWII. He led a team to structurally test the bomb carrier assembly on the plane and had no idea at the time it was for an atomic bomb. At one point, he almost lost his life when a window exploded out of a B-29 during a pressure test, missing him by inches.

One of Chuck’s most notable achievements was the Granting of Patent for the Martin Hard Coating Process, which is still in use today.

Martin Hard Coating is a non-metallic oxide resistant coating applied to aluminum, which provides exceptional corrosion wear resistance. An excellent example of this technology can be found today in Analon Cookware. Chuck’s expertise in metal finishing techniques was world renowned and this was only one of many patents he was responsible for during his career as a metallurgist. Chuck was an avid member of and lecturer with the American Welding Society.

In the late 1950’s, Chuck started his own business, Metal Finishers, Inc., on Franklintown Road in Baltimore. His company was the first Alcoa-Certified, Martin Hard Coating licensee in Baltimore. The business grew to about 50 employees before aggressive union tactics eventually forced him out of business. With partner Bernie Bandelin, another metallurgist who worked and retired from Martin Marietta, Chuck also started B&B Services, a metals joining and consulting service.

Chuck owned his own airplane for many years, a 1940’s Ercoupe, which he flew all over the country. He had plenty of hair raising stories to tell of landing in corn fields, leaking fuel tanks, and flying without instrumentation. But this was before meeting the love of his life Florence, who gave him an ultimatum: her or the airplane…. Chuck chose wisely, and he and Flo were happily married for over 58 years.

Another major aspect of Chuck’s life was his passion for sports, in particular ice hockey and skating. He was on an ice hockey team destined for the 1940 Winter Olympics in Sapporo Japan; however, these games were cancelled due to the onset of World War II. Tough as nails, he had a hard slap shot and even stitched himself up on the sidelines in order to finish the game.

Chuck was an avid bowler in one of the oldest established men’s leagues in the country, the Drug Trade. He bowled over 50 years in that same league, with 20 of those years shared with his youngest son, Rick. Golf and tennis were other passions. He played as often as he could, especially after he retired. Chuck had an excellent short game, always giving friends and family a fit.

An active Shiner, Chuck was a member of the Waverly Lodge and a longtime member of the Boumi Temple Harem. He most often paraded in full Harem Costume. He and Flo attended all sorts of functions with the Shrine: dances, the famous Shrine Circus, and of course, the wild Shrine Conventions. Many longtime friends were made in the shrine.

Vacations with the family were cherished events that took place every summer starting out in Ocean City Maryland and eventually moving to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Playing with his grandchildren, golfing with the boys, playing horseshoes on the beach, relaxing with a newspaper, and going out to eat were Chuck’s favorite pastimes.

During his retirement, Chuck spent many hours building various woodworking projects that he enjoyed giving away at Christmas time. The family displays them proudly. He and Flo were also active members of St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church for over 50 years.

white-out conditions and memories

There are white-out conditions outside my window! Heavy gusts of snow so that I can barely see the townhomes across the street (with their classic Baltimore marble stoops now completely buried again). Not much to do but remember the past. As you will grow to notice, I have many “RIP” poems. It seems I’ve said goodbye to many; some might say too many for a person my age. But no one gets to choose. I just try to write my memories so I have them for later (perhaps sunnier) days.

To Shawn:

When you were riding,
You could feel the day’s warmth
Easing into the night sky
Dissipating like a quick sigh of resignation.

Dust to dust.
You sped down the highway,
The smells of the road and Maria’s pizza
And the summer’s last cut grass
On the wind in your face.
Ash to ash.
In the headlights you saw it all and
Then the realization:
A lifetime’s worth of dreams and thoughts
And love
Shattered into a thousand colorful pieces
On the asphalt.

(9/20/07 RIP Weasel)

Remembering Spring Break 2002

South of the Border coffee
during the bleary night time morning, we
lost a bumper along 95
and sped our way like fast and furious
rebel riders. We were,
with walkie talkies, heading
to spring break.

Salty breezes
and some fat keyboardist with
fuzzy beard peppered gray
singing political satire and no one cared.
Dane, you, and I were
sitting sipping ritas in sloppy golden
honey sunshine famous in Key West.

Cool night, we
drank grain alcohol from odd angles
for prized smiles of being cool amongst
all our shiny beaded friends.
Your naked moments won us
a free frozen drink koozie
and jet ski ride we never took.

Long hours after the karaoke,
you and Sush found a credit card and brought home cold waffles at 5 am.
I sat in the trailer writing frantically, high on caffeine pills and palm tree fingers:

the blurry street lines, the charcoal miles, the hot rum, the mac and cheese, the seafood buffet, the southern girls, the scooter scars, the trailer smell, the Chicago gospel, the Hemingway cats, the frantic hunger, the ephemeral buzz….

Your car gasped for air when the week ended but there was none;
we were overheated, belly-up fish in Miami rush hour.

Sunburn behind and
and dark interstate miles ahead,
we sat on the dented hood.
Our sweaty hungry friends
waving at prudish traffic
a “honk if you’re horny” sign,
reminiscing and waiting to move on.

(r.i.p. Sekula 2003)

Sip n Bite

While I should be job searching, instead I’ve been reading back through a lot of my old writing. It is an interesting journey. Almost like reading someone else’s diary (were those really my words? did I dream those things or live them or a combination of the two?). For those who don’t know me, I used to be a bit of a “night crawler” … Late nights live music drinks friends who also couldn’t sleep like me… There are many under this category. Here is just one, more to come.

Sip n Bite

Florescent haze on our
two booths with an aisle between
the seats dressed in
that scrappy orange color
famous in diners at 3am.

You breeze
through the door and effortless
slide into the booth across
from our crowded one,
and instantly the waitress
with the long dark ponytail
and chocolate brown sweat suit
divines that you want coffee.

What else
does she know? Does she know
I want to sit over
next to you
and stroke the tan corduroy covering
your legs?

Seems not.
She is dealing with the drunks at the
counter, one a dirty-minded man
in a sweater of wine, whispering
in a public voice
his intentions for her.

Eggs arrive that match
the florescent pale that has seeped
into my eyes and hair.

We nibble on our separate islands
and reminisce the night across the
sullen pale tiles. Our words
make sense in this insipid lighting, at this
domestic breakfast
Rockwell would have understood
had he enjoyed Fells Point as much
as us.

Leaned back, full, I see you freely gaze
at my collarbone in the comfort of your sunglasses.
It sends a shudder
racing through the blues of my veins.

looking back (political)

I have so many poems already written (Try over 100!). Some stretch back as far as college (that first exciting writing class sophomore year!). I wish they were already posted. But, I have to be patient… here are two political ones. More to come today. I’m feeling motivated. [First one: Spoils. Second: Saddam Hussein]


We photographed ourselves
around the naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib
with thumbs up.

As we’re told, all is fair
and it felt so good to indulge. We were all smiling.

Then in a dream voices spoke
of what we are told not to speak.
I was told by some
that the casualties of war are
other people’s brats
who are expendable
and born to be.
Told by others
that the casualties of war are
decent folks who become
beasts with red eyes
and calculating cold fists.
I was told by the Ministry of Truth that
there are no casualties in a war
that results in victory and peace.

Then we woke up.

We nod our heads yes
to the talking heads mouthing
our shock and dismay of mistreatment on film.
How unfortunate that a few bad apples
went and spoiled the bag.
We do apologize for them.

But history will prove us right, despite the setbacks.
We will write how we liberated the shiny gold road of freedom
in such a god forsaken desert. We will write how we
selflessly gave the spoils to the poor people
like a patriotic Robin Hood. It is all so simple.

We will devour the photographs with our smiling white teeth.
We will wipe our mouth with a napkin of self-righteousness.

Saddam Hussein

They got him.
He was wallowing in a hole,
a spider hole,
six feet by eight feet,
and the walls were dusty and steep.

Doesn’t it seem strange,
to find him there, trapped as a rat.
A murderer taken with
no shots fired;
he acquiesced and was pulled into enemy arms.

The shots and shouts of those freed
alerted tentative neighbors
something in the desert was gone,
something was different today than before.

Those restless souls, those tortured and in pain,
those paranoid, scared,
starving and hot,
thirsty souls might get a chance after all
to feel a rain, so unimaginable.

They got him
he was living in a spider grave,
bearded and tired,
he did not flinch when the enemy
examined him.
He was in good physical shape despite the humiliation.

Years before in Vietnam,
those Vietcong waited in spider holes despite
the venom bites.
They waited to kill.
They knew battles might be lost,
but that war rages on.

He looks like a tired defeated old man.
He looks happily forward to his genocide trial,
his place in history,
his name, his glory—
see his bearded face on TV.

Will tired ghosts finally sleep? Will revolution mean change?

Can spiders in hiding ever disavow his name?

He imagines the back page headline: a car explodes in the desert.
War rages on.


I wrote this today, actually just about 30 seconds ago. I probably should give it time to marinate, time to revise and reflect… but nah, not today. Not with cabin-fever setting in (Baltimore is a wintery sink-hole!)


With gentle whisperings soft
snow creeps ever higher
Onto windows, doors,
Piles high on cars,
Rooftops, and chairs left outside.

Snow seems to come
From every direction, white
Crystals so light and
Yet how they pile, how
They trap us with every inch.

My mind is covered in
The ceaseless display of how
Many many small things
Can add up to a great power,
Can create an entire alien world.

The Spring Will Come Again (Alice B.)

Another piece from my great-grandmother Alice B. Johnson from her book “Where Children Live” (1958)

The spring will come again–
To every war-torn land. Winter’s gloom
Will flee each hill
Where children still
Will seek the violets that bloom
Beside a country lane.

The spring will come again–
Shell craters will be grassy hollows where
The quail will nest
And wild fowl rest
While lifted wings of swallows there
Will brush the gentle rain.

The spring will come again–
And stately trees will leaf and shield
The trunks stripped bare
That mutely stare
Across bleak meadows that will yield
A wealth of golden grain.

The Goodbye Party (John Mackey of the Baltimore Colts)

The Goodbye Party

While some were swirling drunk on the dance floor,
Holly cried goodbyes into
empty beer bottles and tipped wine glasses, and
half-eaten cake,
some smeared on her jeans.
She was in disbelief of
such a dreamy move to Key Largo
John Mackey of the old Baltimore Colts was
signing autographs.

The song was “Satisfaction” and Ron
clutched and gasped like Jagger back then
and sang it from the floor dirty.
He didn’t care.
He had already slid across it with Coco and Sylvia in a dance
that seemed primitive and animal and
private except for obstinate clothes. We were all watching mouths open.
It was really just another exhibition. He had already swung across the rafters just to make the crowd go “Oooh” like
I imagine all the young girls said when he was

Holly grabbed the microphone. Over the hip hop,
she cried “Thank you, oh, i love you” to those
still hot jiving on the dance floor, fast and boogie feet,
and holding each other up with hugs and clapping for Holly.
She didn’t think about the move,
only the flashing moment,
the blood bursting in the arteries of her heart from the heat of it.

Ron slow danced alone
and friends thought to steal his keys.
Holly slurred more goodbyes to the scattering crowd of ten.
They would miss her in the morning,
after the hangover and back in the reality of it all.

John yelled “Touchdown”—
his Alzheimer’s making the tavern seem unfamiliar
and the field
much closer and more brilliant.

Now that I have a Window

Now that I have a window
it seems I am aging faster.
I resemble a family member who has
already died.
I see the sun set and it drops into
the dirt faster every day.
I imagine that is me. I am the sun,
scorching orange fingernails
scratching at the dusky sky
trying to remain relevant.
And what if this time,
there is no morning?

But then,
after the dark night there are
blushing hints of sun. I may be my great aunt reborn.
I am the promise that
the universe crackles at its tips
into yet another big bang.

Look at the man walking, cold breath rising.
Look at the trees bare to their necks.
It is winter…
but only for now.