The Second Half: Poetic musings for the mature

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

I’m not a poet. I know lots of folks in their Second Half who write poetry—some for their kids/grandkids/great-grandkids, some for publication, and some just to feed that creative spot in their soul.

Second-Half pal Tom writes a Christmas poem every year, to share with friends and family. They are sweet and lovely, and full of charm, the kind of poem that makes the listeners go, “Awww!”

Here’s an excerpt from his 2010 poem, “Ole Santa”:

There’s a man in every department store, the children know his name,

Though he’s not there most of all the year, they love him just the same.

Twinkly eyes, a big white beard and laughter that fills the air,

A bright red suit, a large green bag and a smile that brings you cheer…

You get the drift: charming, upbeat and full of the Christmas spirit. I wait every year to hear Tom recite his poems for us, poems that offer a warm, old-fashioned look at the holiday season. They are rich with the sights and smells of my childhood Christmases, and I love them.

I was celebrating with the Rockford Writers’ Guild recently. The December meeting is often more a food fest, but we do have holiday readings and prizes. This was the poem that won for “best capturing the spirit of the season”:

“Season of Giving,” by Rebecca Kojetin

‘Tis winter

‘Tis the season

Season for celebrating

Season for giving

Giving of time

Giving from the heart

Heartwarming hugs

Heart-felt thanks

Thanks from those you know

Thanks from those who have not

Not the food

Not the money

Money for a celebration

Money for necessities

Necessities to feel cared for

Necessities to feel warm

Warm from those fortunate to share

Warm from hope

Hope for future generations

Hope that life will be better next year

Year to get an education

Year to find a job

Job to support the family

Job to pay back for what was given

Given in time of need

Given because someone cared

Cared for someone else

Cared to make another’s holiday special

Special with a Christmas meal

Special with presents

Presents for the young

Presents for the old

Old enough to question Santa

Old enough for understanding

Understanding the generosity of others

Understanding the Karma

Karma returns the good

Karma rewards

Rewards those that help others

Rewards those who are generous with what they have

Have the job and the family

Have the home and the material possessions

Possessions that are not necessary

Possessions that reflect wants

Wants of things that sparkle and glitter

Wants of lessons and experience—

Experience not the life of poverty

Experience the warmth of giving

Giving of money, food and gifts

Poverty extinguished during this holiday.

Now that’s poetry—moving, timely and written in a special poetic form called The Blitz, invented by poet/teacher Robert Keim in 2008. The Blitz form is described here by Yahoo’s writer, Jack Huber:

“…The format is unique—24 couplets, each line beginning with the last word of the previous couplet, ending with two single-word lines, the last word of lines 48 and 47, respectively. … There is no meter or rhyme used in a blitz. Though fast-paced, the concept that the poet wants to convey will be revealed slowly throughout the piece, as less meaningful phrases give way to those more relevant when taken in total. … The ending tends to be a poignant comment on the concept delivered. …”

I thought it was amazing.

My poetry, on the other hand, is not fit for regular folks. Any poetic effort on my part comes from a darkly sarcastic place, usually written for a handmade greeting card or even just for a laugh—this dysfunctional attitude I attribute to being the middle child, something I clearly never outgrew. Take the following Christmas poem I wrote for my granddaughter Kait, penned to make her laugh and, it is hoped, to think:

Toys for Christmas

Santa came to see me

And left a lump of coal;

I never liked him anyway,

That silly red-faced troll.

I’m gonna get some presents

If I have to rob my brother;

I’ll snatch his ball, his airplane—

Some great gift or another.

Momma says I’m naughty

When I treat the kids unkind,

When I grab the last big orange

And leave them just the rind.

But I think I’m the smarter one,

The one who’s really bright;

No one likes me anyway

So I steal their toys—good night!

I wonder, “Who writes stuff like that?!” I’m pretty sure 9-year-old Kait will get it, though. After all, who doesn’t know a bad little kid like that, or at least remember one from childhood?

I find the poetic inspirations of others much more delightful. Some of the best and most heart-warming treasures come to me in the form of e-mails and texts. My recent favorite digital prose was a text sent by 20-something son: “WHOOHOOOO! SHE SAID YES!”

Now, that’s pretty poetic.

As a kindness to my readers, I tried to rein in my natural tendency to be snide. Here goes—my gift to you for the coming new year:

Live Well

Your Second Half starts when you see fit:

Where is your life-goal set?

Do you see yourself fit to one-hundred and ten

Or not really pondered it yet?

Eat healthy food, breathe purest air,

Dance and eat chocolate aplenty!

That is the way I see my last day

When it comes at one-hundred and twenty.

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the Dec. 29-Jan. 4, 2011 issue

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