Sunday, March 16, 2014

Triskaidekaphobiacs of the Dance Fear the Mustangs!

      The brackets have been announced; 68 teams are ready to go to the Dance. All with dreams and hopes of victory, though based on records, very few have the Final Four chance. There are many teams with 20 plus wins and winning records but only one team with almost 20 games in its column and that team is the Mustangs of  Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, one of the students at that campus is none other than the oldest son of the Alaskanpoet. What makes the Mustangs appearance so special, their fist in NCAA history, is that the 19 alluded to is not the number of wins, only the number of losses, such that even with the three wins in the WAC Tournament to win the WAC Championship their record is 13-19.
        This poet, a herald of the human spirit is rooting for the Mustangs. Since 1955 some 21 teams with losing records have earned a berth in the Dance; save Bradley in 1955 as the first team ever with 19 losses also and ended up losing in the Elite 8, all have lost in the first round. Will the Mustangs overcome that history? Even if they beat Texas Southern to join the bracket, they will meet undefeated and number 1 seed  Wichita State in the first round. A tough row to hoe, but the human spirit and the spirit of the underdog can do wonders, just ask David.
        Here's hoping that all the teams the Mustangs will meet in their unlikely quest to the Final Four are superstitious and latent triskaidekaphobiacs to their very dribbling and shooting core. Go Mustangs---the underdogs of the nation are behind you!
Triskaidekaphobiacs of the Dance Fear the Mustangs!
Everyone loves an underdog; especially one with a losing record that barely knows how to dance
Mustangs as a symbol of the West to run free unreined, part of our history, our cowboy romance
By all rights going into a tournament with but 10 wins and losses 19
The Mustangs should have faded quickly from the B-ball scene
The player who is 7’5 and against whom no drive to the basket will survive
Is your own self, who does not believe, quits and whose faith is more dead than alive
In the human spirit there can lie within those that believe the magic arc for the three
Or the magic springs within to grab the bound and start the break to run free
Teams with losing records dancing may almost be ashamed
Do they belong, have they the dignity of the  dance defamed?
Cal Poly may be the Cinderella team but even if it wins its first match
An undefeated Wichita State from the jaws of dreams is waiting to snatch
Mustangs, though midnight may come sooner than you would like
With the pumpkin changing with the chimes a dream ending strike
Then again, many a player who awaits the sound of your hooves or fearless neighs
Might be superstitious and be fatally rattled when a 13 game winner comes to play
May the round ball gods look upon you with favor; do not ever quit
You have earned the dance card and the upset chance for you is a very well fit.
© March 16, 2014 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet   


Friday, March 7, 2014

March Madness The First Is The Iditarod

     In March in addition to being blessed with St. Patrick's Day and to honor one of the truly great signs Pisces, we have not one but to two cases of March Madness. One, the NCAA college basketball tournament with its rabid fans and office pools is well known. The other not as well, but is a tribute to the human spirit and endurance far surpassing the thrill of a last second three or 360 dunk. I am of course talking about the Iditarod, the Last Great Race on Earth, almost 1000 miles of human and dogs versus the Alaskan wilderness and the freezing cold, snow and ice and topped off with a good dose of exhaustion.
      Today as I post this the two leaders have just left the Galena, Alaska checkpoint 545 miles from the start and so highly appropriate give this post about Cindy Abbott from Irvine who competed in the Iditarod last year, the musher in the lead is a women, Aily Zirkle of Two Rivers, AK. Mush on Aily, may the iambic gods propel you to the streets of Nome. I read about Cindy who in my mind symbolizes what being a human is all about, the ability to with drive and determination to overcome all obstacles. " I can" is a phrase that is almost reflex and "I can't" is a phrase that does not exist.
     Cindy was 54 in 2013, an extreme scuba diver and underwater videographer and at the age of 48, she took up mountain climbing with the single goal of standing on the top of the world. A few months after she began training, Cindy was diagnosed with a serious and rare disease (Wegener’s Granulomatosis). Did that stop her? No! On May 23, 2010, after 54 days of working her way up the mountain, Cindy stepped onto the summit of Mt. Everest.
      I wrote this poem in pencil on March 15, 2013 after reading an Orange County Register account and found it late last night. All of us have endured pain, loss, or disappointment. The secret, and it is really not much of a secret, on how to overcome, is to  purge the phrase "I can't" with "I can" and do it get back up at a time, one try at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time, or if lucky enough to be mushing either in or out of Galena, one checkpoint at a time.

A Woman’s Place
Time to toss the myth of members of the Golden State
As laid back surfers with waves and sun only to motivate
Go to Silicon Valley or here along the Tech Coast
To find hard work and creativity as a common host
Put to bed the myth of women as frail, not strong but only weak
Marathons, channel swims, Transpac sails, mountain climbs, and even combat women seek
Add to that growing, grueling list, the Iditarod Race
Where dogs and humans are fused in a freezing 1000 mile embrace
Irvine’s Cindy Abbott should be a hero to all although maybe out of her mind
At 54, a mother and prof she enters the Last Great Race although half blind
With special gear to see at night, a lot of weight to top the sled scales
Maybe her children canines were  already looking tired at start of trail
No vials of vaccine to spur her on to sick children near death’s bed
Only awareness of a rare disease that must not life’s spirit cause her to shed
Briefly near the top ten, only to slowly fade
Facing a never ending mushing up and down icy grades
Onward, onward, “can’t” is a word only for fools
A thousand miles of solitude where to find the finishing tools?
Global warming or a fluke but on slush her balance on the first day failed
Broken pelvis, hand swollen, no one but her dogs to hear her painful tale
Forced to on hands and knees her dogs to tend
A wrist so swollen it would barely bend
Bone pounding on bone with each step, yet she refused to quit
New meaning for the phrase chiseled into the Alaskan ice—True Grit
After 600 miles and close to 400 left to Nome
Dogs fading and her being chilled to her inner bones
Shivering and throbbing more each hour, losing the hypothermia race
With frostbite eagerly awaiting the chance to shape her face
“I have scaled Everest, mush on, mush on, as long as my “children” last
Must link awareness for my disease to the serum run’s lifesaving past”
Dreams die slowly, but reality 25 miles from Kaltag finally sank in.
After 24 hours resting on the Yukon, denial of pain no longer to spin
A race checker found her and her dogs almost totally spent
Scratched her from the course and to a clinic she was sent
Iditarod once again has lived up to its name—the Last Great Race
But in the halls of heroes this woman has earned her place
Broken pelvis, blind in one eye, mush on one checkpoint at a time
Shed from the vocabulary the word “can’t”, almost all goals you can climb
Pity those jihadists who women’s achievements block and belittle their brains
About as smart as racing the Iditarod in T-shirts and shorts with parkas to deign
© March 15, 2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet    

Monday, February 17, 2014

Olympic Alpine Skier Bode Miller Wins Gold For Spirit, Bronze In Super G

    Today February 17, 2014, is World Human Spirit Day and after watching Bode Miller at 36 become the oldest Alpine skier to win a medal at Sochi in the Super-G, it seemed fitting to post this. Athletic competition at a professional level is primarily the province of young men and women. There are exceptions to the rule in sports like golf, bowling, sailing, curling, horseback racing, darts, lawn bowling, shooting, dressage (noted because even mature horses can excel) or NASCAR where experience gained by maturity has a chance to trump the strength, speed and reflexes of youth.
    In most sports it's the other way around and the adage that 60 is the new 40 does not apply, 30 is the new 50 does. Look only to gymnastics, track, hockey, basketball, football and alpine skiing to see proof of that. 36 year olds competing at the elite status are the exceptions with most of the same age having retired because of injury, burn out or refusal to collect a paycheck or endorsement and not be able to win. Alpine Skiing where skiers race down a slope at speeds reaching 80-90 miles an hour, go airborne, and put g forces on their knees similar to a fighter pilot in a dogfight is certainly a sport where youth's speed, strength and reflexes are at a premium. But yesterday at 36, Bode Miller, knee surgeries and all, proved that with training, conditioning, desire and dedication coupled with a relentless and fearless will to win, the human spirit we honor today, no matter the chronological age of the body in which it resides, can prevail. Congratulations Bode Miller on your 6th Olympic medal winning a Bronze in the Super G and missing the Gold by a mere half second and a Silver by only three tenths of a second. He became the oldest man in history to win a medal at the Olympics in Alpine Skiing.

Will To Win Bodes Well Bode Miller
60 for mere mortals may be the new 40, as we do not seem to age
Living longer as the aging genes hibernate and from the body disengages
With diet, stem cells, new joints, or a surgeon’s skill
We do not seem to empty the currency from in the youthful till
Even at 70 one’s face is so hard to do the chrono read
Even as the golden year eggs become less than we need
There are Masters runners, swimmers, bikers and iron men
Entering their bodies into the race again and again
But for many the goal is just to finish or a personal chrono age best to achieve
No longer glories of winning against all others, all ages to retrieve
You can win against members of your own chrono age clan
But against the youth often your winning chances will not stand
In many sports the aging is just the reverse
Age and experience not a blessing but now a curse
20 is the new 30 and 30 the late 40’s or worse
Experience can no longer to the platform the body coerce
Alpine skiing may be for the fearless and young at heart
But after mid 20s those decimal second edges begin to blunt and depart
Imagine an Alpine skier at 36 with knees still able to even get the down the hill
Imagine harder a man of 36 in the hunt for an elusive Olympic Gold Medal kill,
Burdened by knee surgery in 2012 that took him in 2013 off the slopes
While in the same year, losing a brother but somehow not losing hope
We all know that we enjoy this life on a short term lease on unknown terms
Try as we might the expiration can come with no warning signs to discern
The athletic talent lease in an injury second can end, but the aging part seems in a slow drift
One moment you’re on the podium, the next year you’re barely on the hill with winning talent off the cliff
At Sochi in the Super G, Bode Miller at an age of 36 when most had hung up the skis
Once again racing down the hill, oldest body, but a young spirit that still believed
When the last skier had flown down the Super G hill, the oldest skier would win another medal for his neck
A mere half second from Gold, a closer .3 from Silver, leaving him tied for a Bronze to collect
His record as the oldest Olympic Alpine medal winner may stand but most likely naught
For one absolute rule, the Olympic creed has, without exception, always taught
The spirit no matter the age of the body in which it resides
Its will to win despite that age will not be denied
At 36 two more Olympic Alpine events to go
Two more times to push young spirit old body through the mushy snow
If that was your last medal, Bode, you go out on the proverbial mountain top
An icon for the mere mortals that the will to excel with age does not need to stop.
© February 17, 2014 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet


Friday, February 14, 2014

Cupid Never Misses On Valentines Day Nor Do Poets

One of my favorites especially as we become more dependent on technology to enable us to find our way in all matters of life, even sadly in the one area that makes us human--the art of romance and love. Hope you enjoy! A Mothers' Day poem from the Alaskanpoet would be a perfect gift.


Can you believe the skill that puts a probe on Eros 190 million miles in space?
Or the GPS that finds you within an inch of any given place?
Yet, when it really counts, when love must do its part,
Cupid uses only a bow and arrow to find a romantic heart.

In a sea of missed encounters, how does a single arrow find its mark?
There's no laser to guide it through the cold or cynic's dark.
Is it a shaft of graphite or a flowered or candied head?
Is it the bow or the strength of the archer instead?

Maybe the string when drawn back and the bow fully bent,
Guides Cupid's calling card that forces all to relent.
Maybe it's the alignment of the feathers
To push through all manner of nonromantic weather.

Actually, it is so simple and not really that mysterious or even that profound.
What is needed to prevent the arrow from missing and falling wasted upon the ground?
Only this, to make Cupid's arrow run swift, lasting and true,
Words truly meant and softly spoken, Valentine, I love only you.

 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet  © February 14, 2001      

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cory Demsburg- a True Mr. Relevant

Like many of the 30 plus million Americans who watched President Obama deliver the State of the Union Speech last night, I was disappointed.  Not so much as to the content because I could not foresee anything he could say that might resonate in an America that feels their President has deceived them. He had a moment, he had a chance, a live audience in the chambers that would have gone into ovation overload if he would have given us an apology, a true apology, for his absolute falsehoods and deceptions with respect to keeping one's doctor and keeping one's health insurance. To make the sound even more deafening he could have apologized for the millions unwisely spent on the premature rollout of and to give that apology meaning and not just empty words, when the camera panned to a smiling, everything-is-just peachy Ms. Sibelius, added "I am asking Ms. Sibelius this moment for her resignation, effective immediately". Sadly, he did not and omitted the that the health care system which he is trying to fix was broken in large part by his administration.
     Unusual for him,  his delivery was at best a C+ but the images especially the images of Ranger Cory Demsburg defending our freedoms went off the charts. The sound of the applause was deafening and seeing Ranger Demsburg slowly stand supported his father and giving a thumbs up could not have left an eye dry across the millions who watched this moment. No words, no promises, broken or otherwise, only acts, only deed, only sacrifices, only proof the motto "Rangers Lead the Way" still thrives--last night Demsburg was the true Mr. Relevant. Our President could have been but was not.
Cory Demsburg-A True Mr. Relevant
The State of the Union address reminded me of Mr. Irrelevant honored at Newport Beach
Plenty of applause, reporters and cameras to record, but little chance of success to reach
For words no matter how well prepared, no matter how well put fourth
Are silenced by the prior history that has run and continues to run its course
Facts are like diamonds they cannot be sliced. diced or shaped with mere words
And like diamonds eventually they sparkle of truth and the voters will be lured
In a speech by a soon to be feathered Mr. Irrelevant, one very relevant man was to be observed
Represents the best of us mere mortals and how this nation can continue to be preserved
Cory Demsburg, a wounded Ranger with 10 tours was the real and only star
A hero who wounded severely kept coming back, not allow the rehab pain to bar
He among those who the uniform don
And into harm's way so near to Reed's beds  and Arlington lawns
They are the true Mr. Relevants whose opinions I would like to hear
On the meaning of courage, duty, sacrifice and true meaning of fear
And the sanctity of contract that D.C. that D.C. seems no longer to share
Cutting vet pensions while billions of waste, pleading our cupboards are bare.
Obama's speech should fade into history, forgotten without the slightest note
But your image, wounded, standing erect with thumbs up, will forever emote.
©January 29, 2014 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Heroes Come In Small Packages, Young Ages

In the early morning hours on January 21, 2014 in Penfield, a suburb of East Rochester a fire in a crowded trailer home, killed three people.  The death toll could have been more--nine people after all were sleeping there that night. It was not because of the acts of one eight year old boy, Tyler Doohan who was spending the night with his grandfather because Monday was not a school day due to the Martin Luther King Day holiday. Six people were woken and led out to safety by Tyler. He went back in through the smoke to try to save his uncle, confined to a wheel chair. Sadly, he was not able to rescue his uncle and he and his uncle died. Tyler Doohan was a hero!

Tyler Doohan, a Hero in a Small Package at a Young Age
A fire sweeps through a crowded trailer home and three people die
Nine people sleeping there seems a number way too high
The cause of fire not yet completely known
One thing clear is an act of heroism was shown
For a change not by a passing Good Sam or trained firefighters or police
Expected when fire rears its head to burn out lives’ short term lease
No, this time by a fourth grader, all of eight years old
He acted that early morning as a hero, selfless and bold
Sadly, we all know from the lyrics that "the good die young."
Now we learn of lyrics for the heroes until today unsung
Heroes sadly can also die way, way too young, before their time
Even an eight year old who to save ignored the risk to put his life on the line
Tyler Doohan, a young "man" at the tender young age of eight,
You are a hero, saved six then died trying to save an uncle crippled by a disability fate
To your two saved cousins aged four and six who may grow up but not remember this sad night
May a loving God watch over you and may you both live with a purpose, full and shining bright
As tears slowly flow down my face as I look into Tyler’s smiling full of life face
I pray that the God in whom I believe, for you, Tyler, has a very special, special place.
 © January 23, 2014 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Dream Lives On

For a high school graduate member of the class of 65, a college graduate class of 69 and a law school graduate class of 72, those 11 years are seared forever in my memory bank. Out of the fog of protests over the Vietnam War and the iconic struggle for equality epitomized in the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. is almost a legendary figure rising above the violence to pursue nonviolently the end of racial discrimination. It is right that we honor him on tomorrow's  January 20, 2014. I only hope this poem in a small way extols the virtue of the man and his nonviolent policy.

The Dream Lives On
We honor all the warriors like Cincinnatus who left the plow to wield the sword,
But only the few—Christ, Gandhi, King and Mandela who bent the sword into the plow we should forever reward.
Each city has its faded, green, moldy statutes, swords held high by past warriors on a bronze horse,
Or weathered markers of epic battles where for a moment the rivers of history turned course,
Too often, the monuments are flags and eternal head stones on well preserved lawns,
Row after row of young men in eternal rest, never to see again the morning dawn,
Cross after cross, star after star and even a few crescents, all gleaming white
Standing mute, silent lives ended too soon in a barely remembered Martian fight
What of the battles not for gold, oil or lands to reclaim?
But rather for a simple seat on a bus to the work cramps tame
What of the battles not for resources or taxes to forcibly extract?
But rather for a simple seat at a counter instead a lunch shoved into a sack
What of the battles to claim minds and souls not by reason but by torch or by sword?
But rather for a simple seat in class with enough books for the learning train to board
What of the battles where human lemmings raised the bridge and widened the moat?
But rather for a simple seat in a curtained booth to pause, reflect and cast a vote
What of the battles not to claim cities and residents into ghettos to evict?
But rather for the freedom to live where one desires and by covenants restrict.
Our land of Camelot and Cities of Lights on a hill
Has sadly been also sheets in the night to burn, maim and kill
Separate but equal Jim Crow at its crushing, demeaning unequal best
How many years did it finally take us to such discrimination arrest?
Wrong battles, wrong glory, wrong hell to honor, even if then for the right reasons
But rather a simple song to overcome without guns even if to the warriors seems near treason
Battles somewhat alike in innocence lost and civility left to bleed
But King’s nonviolence proved to be in the end more than a slender reed
Who among us seeing the dogs and water hoses and the church burnings in the dark of night
Could turn the cheek and as men not drop the plow and charge head long into the fight?
Who among us could upon hearing the injustice and oppression screams?
Stay the nonviolent course and instead share to millions “I have a dream”?
Spied on and wiretapped by the FBI to discredit the man to hinder his cause
In so doing the FBI discredited us all with acts beyond the rules of law
Such a shame and such a waste for him to be taken from us far before his time
But even as his aides pointed from a balcony, something is far worse than such a crime.
God save us all if after so few years of progress, a Black President, we go lax and forget his deeds
Turn our backs, close our hearts, let racism on both side revive and shed his nonviolent creed.
But if on his day we carry within our hearts an oral, beating monument to his dream,
Where only character, honor, and integrity will determine the members of a team,
We will have a chance to put more minds and swords into the productive plows
More men to see the character dawn, and the growth that their Creator has endowed.
                       © January 19, 2014 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet