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Chuck Toll

Bedside Photograph

For nearly four score years and ten our mother
Found joy exploring what her world could give.
She knew first-hand the hells that one can live
But always felt that life was worth the bother.

She kept a childhood photo near her bed.
In it a young girl with two dogs smiles out
And waits to learn what life is all about.
She looks expectant, shows no sign of dread.

Folks sometimes asked where mother found the skill
To play on with those reconstructed knees.
How does one, bludgeoned daily by disease,
Manage to hold the smile, dismiss the ill?

At night, while her gnarled body struggled on,
She frolicked with her childhood dogs till dawn.

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Coyote Visits a Fort (Native American)

Coyote and Dog watched the fort from the hill.
“I have everything I need in my new home, ”
Dog said. “Come, I will show you what to do.”
They walked past the guard at the stockade gate.

The fort was dusty and full of human noise.
They had to be alert for hooves and boots.
Dog drank from a muddy puddle, then showed
The stables where he slept. A boy threw a rock.

Coming to the kitchen, Dog wagged his tail.
He gazed up hopefully at a man cutting meat.
He whimpered and rubbed against the man’s leg.
The man gave Dog a scrap and shooed him away.

Coyote watched more, then grabbed a slab of bacon,
Left by a hole in the fence, and returned to his family.

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Coyote and Frog (Native American)

Coyote and his friends walked to a pond
But found Frog and his clan now living there.
“This pond is small for all of us, ” Frog said.
“ Find water of your own. We cannot share.”

“If you will let us drink our fill and bathe,
I’ll get you a warm blanket and a blue stone
That’s bigger than your fist, ” Coyote offered.
When Frog agreed, Coyote went for them alone.

Frog took the gifts and led them to the pond.
Later as they left Frog laughed, “Good trade! ”
In fact, Coyote stole the gifts from Thunderbird,
Now furiously tracking prints the thief had made.

Coyote returned next day to find the Frog clan dead.
He took his people to the pond. “Good trade, ” he said.

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Evil Child

Evil Child is clearly learning
With her body slowly turning.
My new teaching methods
Have gained her full attention.
Dangling all day from a rope,
Bereft of help or hope,
Shows what may befall a lass
Difficult in class.

Evil Child is loudly shouting,
Her lips no longer pouting.
Suspended out the window
So high above the ground.
Smile, I say, not smirkle -
Mouth a semicircle,
That's the proper style,
Innocent of guile.

Evil Child now reads and writes
Without acting up or gripes.

[...] Read more

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Boe the Cat

Boe the Cat was not an easy cat to like
But then he did not like others either.

Blandishments carried no weight with Boe,
He bit or scratched at all who drew close
Believing the entire house to be his domain,
He considered a carelessly unprotected ankle
anywhere as fair game for attack

There was, in truth, little endearing about him.
“The Cat from Hell” my daughter pronounced
As he rebuffed yet another of her overtures.

He was in indoor cat, and quite mad.

Boe’s one redeeming virtue I could see
Was his unqualified devotion to my wife
And the joy his exclusive adoration gave her.
He had arrived with her, a dowry of sorts,
Or an inscrutable prenuptual agreement.

[...] Read more

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