“Lent” – a Verse by Steve Shoemaker

Steve Shoemaker (1942-2016) shared equal time on Views from the Edge until his untimely death. Steve’s genre was poetry. Often his poems and verses led readers by the nose through his lines to the surprising last line that shed a humorous light on all that had come before. Steve was a 6’8″ gentle giant who lay on his side at night, quietly typing a new inspiration into his iPhone in the dark so as not to disturb his wife Nadja at 3:00 A.M. Poems like this one were waiting in my in-box in the morning.

Steve lived to write and craved desserts (especially his nightly bowl of ice cream) and sex, matters about which, so far as I could tell, he hadn’t lied. Nor did he brag or exaggerate. Of the seven friends who knew each other well over four decades, Steve was the least self-centered with the wryest sense of humor. He never denied himself a bowl of ice cream!

LENT

I will give up writing poems for Lent

I will give up eating desserts for Lent.

I will give up sex for Lent.

I will give up thinking about sex for Lent.

I will give up lying for Lent.

I will give up bragging for Lent.

I will give up exaggerating for Lent.

I will give up self-centeredness for Lent.


I will give up self-denial for Lent.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL

March 5, 2014 (Ash Wednesday)

In this era of ill-humor and self-indulgence, Steve’s tongue-in-cheek verse again rings the bell on the betrayals of our best intentions, and our common need for repentance and forgiveness.

Verse – Healthy as a Horse

Profs have found that it helps cancer’s pain
To take puffs of that old Mary Jane,
And our State says it’s great,
Docs write scrips for our trips,
But what cancer symptoms can I feign?

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 16, 2016

Verse – Ol’ Fuzzy Head

The nurse said I had “Chemo Brain”,
From writing, I just should refrain;
But I have the notion
That writing’s the potion
To retrain the brain to be sane.

  • Steve Shoemaker, two days after Chemo treatment, Urbana, IL, Feb. 26, 2016

Verse – But when…

tuhmb_refugee

John Dixon/The News-Gazette Steven Shoemaker, a retired pastor who attends the Philo Presbyterian Church, wrote a letter to the editor saying the Philo church leaders would be discussing hosting a syrian refugee family, despite Gov. Bruce Rauner’s stance on the issue. Shoemaker was photographed at his home in south of Urbana on Wednesday Nov. 25, 2014.

But when…

But when will you die? asked my two kids.
In sleep, my Doc said, are the best odds.
But I will not die,
I’ve propped open each eye,
But the toothpicks keep hurting my eyelids!

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, 11:58 p.m., Feb. 11, 2016

Two hours after Steve posted this on his CaringBridge page, one of his old friends with an equal sense of sardonic humor commented:

I think it is sly
to prop open each eye
and frustrate the doctor’s prognosis
What a wonder to see
that the powers that be
can be limited in their diagnosis

Death and dying are NOT fun or funny, but humor is one of God’s greatest gifts.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 12, 2016

Verse – Bending Down, Looking Up

As readers of Views from the Edge (VFTE) may know, Steve Shoemaker, my poet colleague on VFTE has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His sense of humor remains strong. This verse recalls a moment with Steve and four other seminary classmates following a rare Cubs’ win at Wrigley Field in Wrigleyville, Chicago.

wrigley-field-2014

BENDING DOWN, LOOKING UP

A towering 69 year-old figure standing
six-feet-eight, Steve saunters slowly
through the post-game crowd outside
“the Friendly Confines” of Wrigleyville
like a watchtower on skates, looking
far and near for who knows what.

A very happy young woman as high
as he is tall pulls on his sleeve, asking
a question only he, bending far down,
can hear. He smiles but shakes his head
to whatever offer threatened to bring
him down to a lower happiness high.

Two years later at 72, he might be
looking again for the Wrigleyville fan
for something to ease the pain, settle
his stomach, give some relief from
the newly diagnosed cancer, a pill
or toke or two to raise him back up
to the watchtower, now six-feet-seven.

We who couldn’t hear the question
now smile, bend down low, and look up
beyond Steve’s lofty height with prayers
for courage, strength, whatever will keep
him tall in the game where everyone wins
and loses, and quite unexpectedly,
feels a gentle tug on an old shirtsleeve.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Dec. 8, 2015

Verse – Kansas

on the prairie
the wind turbines
can be seen
for twenty-five miles

after dark the red lights
in unison
seem to blink
as blades slowly turn

a football field high
the inscribed circle
is a full acre
echoing irrigation

from the air
only the green circles
can be seen
windmills disappear

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, September 12, 2015

Verse – ?

Question Mrk

Question Mrk

Sending a son or daughter off to college is hard for a parent.

Steve captured the sentiment in this piece “written in 1988 when my son, Daniel, left home to go to Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.”

 

 

 

To choose a title first is such an act
of pride (as if one knows just where a thought
will go.) Is “Saying Goodbye to Our Son”
a better choice than “Letting Go?” And when
is specificity superior
to breadth? Do only parents know the fear
of being left behind when children leave?
Is every parting death, a tiny grave?

A title should invite…entice…alert
the reader to the text. But what comes next?
That is the question. Eyes will open wide
and see new truth. Will truth lead to the good?
We hug and hope and wave goodbye. The path
twists back and then away (“A Brand New Birth?)

  • Steve Shoemaker [Published in Presbyterian Outlook]

Verse – after a 7-day party

the torah says the world was made
in 6 days then g_d rested our
big family gave gifts of food
& drink & games & laughs & more
for 7 days without a break
because for 5 decades my wife
& i were too stubborn to make
a split of course there had been strife
im often selfish or a jerk
so get a spouse who will not talk
& have 2 kids who always look
at the best side of what they see
give thanks for generosity
& for the worlds best family

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, August 24, 2015

NOTE: Happy 50th Anniversary, Steve and Nadja.