In Praise of Small Notebooks

While out for a walk this morning, I saw two deer bounding across a lawn. I also jotted down some lines that came to me, once again realizing the importance of always carrying a small notebook and pen. You never know when inspiration will strike, and my fingers are not deft enough to text the words on my phone.

It’s not the greatest poem in the world, but I’m glad it came out fully formed in the course of a morning.

Image Reconciliation

Take a look
at the photo.
See your face
in the picture.
Don’t hide
from the image.

Think of the
kid you were
so many
years ago.

Now look again.
This is who
you are.

This is who
you were
meant to be
all along—

The person
you see
right here,
right now.

Say hello
to yourself.
Be kind
to the human
before you.

This is
the only you
you’ve got.


External Stimuli

So much of my time is spent inside my head. Thoughts ricocheting in all directions—fears, goals, ideas, projects, timelines, and more rushing at me. I have multiple “To-Do” lists with many tasks that never get done (one list for work, one for life and family, and one for writing and art).

And because I am so scatterbrained, I often instruct myself to “slow down, look outward, pay attention, and observe.” In other words, to pause the internal conflict by seeking external stimuli.

And recently I was rewarded by discovering some visual and verbal creations in the course of my daily meanderings.

While walking to work one day, I saw artwork installed in the window of the former business Eureka Crafts on Walton Street in Armory Square. Numerous pieces were on display, but two large-scale, mixed-media objects caught my attention.

Enjoy Art 2 / Life (POJ) by not_miscellaneous.

The style reminded me of Andy Warhol silkscreen prints—most notably the Mick Jagger series.

Mick Jagger series by Andy Warhol.

The dynamic colors and composition of the works captivated me, but what kept me at the window for a few minutes was the intentional gaze of the subjects looking at the viewer—giving me the sense of the “observer being observed.” In this sense, the artwork connected to its audience.

Enjoy Art / Trades Only by not_miscellaneous.

I didn’t see an artist’s name or titles listed. But there was a QR code that read “WINDOW ART AUDIO TOUR,” with the word Midoma. I did some research and found a Midoma website with a heading that reads: “A Curated Selection by New York Artists for Fashion, Art + Beauty Lovers.”

The artwork is for sale here.


My second discovery came in one of the lobbies of the Nancy Cantor Warehouse in downtown Syracuse, home of the School of Design at Syracuse University, and where our SU marketing division is housed.

I saw a few copies of the student-run publication Perception spread out on a small, circular table. I grabbed a copy of the Fall 2022 issue.

The cover of the Fall 2022 issue of the student-run literary magazine Perception.

I haven’t had time to read the entire magazine, but the first poem I flipped to hit me hard with its brevity, rhythm, and raw language. I call this kind of verse a “thunderbolt poem,” because it slugs you in the gut and flings an arrow to the heart.

A classic example—Langston Hughes’s poem “Suicide’s Note”:

The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.

Though not in the same style as Hughes’s masterpiece, the poem “Rapacity” by Madeline Rommer provides the same effect. It drew me in because I don’t know what a “carbon dioxide sunset” is, but I love the imagery. And the power of the last two lines stuck with me.

The poem “Rapacity” by Madeline Rommer.


Post-COVID Winter Walk

I went out for my first real walk since testing positive for COVID, after completing the required isolation.

Branches, sky and building. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

I’m still not at 100 percent, but on this Sunday I was grateful for the combination of sun, sky, snow, air in lungs and limbs moving freely. I’m also thankful I didn’t slip and fall on the sidewalks packed down with ice and snow, resembling a Lake Placid luge track. I’m not taking any days or moments for granted.

A stick in the snow. Photo by Francis DiClemente.


Sidewalk Cutoff

While walking home along East Genesee Street in Syracuse, I encounter a man seated a bus stop located between Phoebe’s restaurant and South Crouse Avenue.

He has long, curly black hair, bronze skin and he’s dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, with a roll of flesh hanging over his waist.

He spots me as I stride toward him on the sidewalk, then flicks his fingers in a “come hither” motion. “Hey buddy, come here, can I ask you a question?”

I cut him off right away. “I don’t have any money,” I say and keep walking.

And I hear him say, the words trailing behind me, “How’d ya know what I was gonna ask you?”

And as I continue walking, I realize he’s right. I feel guilty about not giving him the chance to ask his question. In my defense, he caught me off guard and spooked me with the quick motion of his hands. But I could have stopped, stood at a distance from him and listened to what he had to say.