Sherry: Robert, it has been a long time since we visited, back in 2013, when you were writing at Wrapped in Solitude. As we have many new members since then, and you have been away for a while, let’s reintroduce you to the good folks at Poets United. Would you tell us a bit about yourself and your life? Are you still in Smugglers Cove? I recall you were a long haul truck driver during your working life, till you retired. How is your family doing?
Robert: Still retired… :) although I did dabble in some bus driving a time or two. I have shuttered Smugglers Cove for the time being. My Father passed away leaving my Mom on her own. She is 91 and not in good health, so I picked up sticks and moved into civilization to help her out. I still venture up to the old homestead on a regular basis when I can.
We live in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto. It used to be a nice, quiet place, but has been swallowed up. Big Box stores, condos and traffic now.
Sherry: I am sorry about your father, Robert. What a good son you are, helping your mother through this time of her life.
You have been away from blogging for a time. Were you writing during that time?
Robert: I stopped blogging because the internet service up North was very hit and miss, which was frustrating. I went back to pen and paper, putting in a concerted effort to finish my second novel which has sunk into the quicksand of the publishing world.
The one thing about being down at my Mom’s is that internet service is quite abundant, so I started blogging again.
Sherry: We're so happy you are back! And way to go, getting that novel finished and submitted! A major accomplishment.
When did you begin writing, Robert? What do you love about it / why do you write?
Robert:I have been writing since childhood. I just find the feeling of expressing yourself soothes the soul, so to speak.
Sherry: That it does. Do you still have some stories you want to get written?
Robert: Definitely. Two novels down, and one fermenting in the background… :)
Sherry: Is there a story from your life as a truck driver? Did the poems and stories come to you as the long miles disappeared under your wheels? I can’t imagine driving in Canadian winter conditions!
Robert: A lot of what I write comes from the road. I have over 3 million miles traveling, so there are quite few stories that go along with that. Even now I still get the itch to venture off somewhere.
Sherry: I imagine you do! Would you like to share three of your poems, and tell us a bit about each one?
Squeaky wood floor
Booths with faded color
Table tops marked by generations
Hum of voices
Clatter of cutlery
Mixed with heady smells
Of breakfast cooking
In a chipped old mug
Daily ritual in play
Robert: This poem comes from all the time I spent in truckstops and diners over the years.
Sherry: I can imagine how welcome that coffee must be, on a long haul. And pie, right?
The Wandering Vagabond
Once a man of youth
Now a man of age
His path through life
A twisting road
Through the lives of many
Some saw him pass
Others barely noticed
More than a time or two
Standing in the shadows
All the while
Until the empty feeling sang
Pushing him onward
Along the trail
Once lingering extra long
Held by the ache
That filled his heart
Until he realized
It would never be
And he let that song sing once again
A wandering vagabond
He would always be
Robert: This poem is basically my life on the road.
Sherry: I can feel the loss of that one time you lingered a while. Me, too.
We both sat on lonely islands
In the middle of crowded classrooms
Along bustling hallways
As the swirling currents
Of social interaction
By passed with a nudge and whispers
Our only solace
Those moments in the maple grove
Behind the football field
Where we shared the pain
Bonded by a thread we shared
As my eyes watched
Her curly red hair wave in the breeze
Her freckles crinkle as she smiled
Emotions played like a movie
In her blue eyes
Together we got through
Those turbulent times
Until next semester
When she never returned
Robert: This poem brought back memories of school days and all the mental turmoil you have as a teenager.
Sherry: I remember! When the heartbreak feels as if it will be forever. Never dreaming there would be more to come. Smiles. Thank you for these, Robert.
What do you like to do these days when you’re not writing?
Robert: My best friend has got me hooked on golf which I am stubbornly passionate about. I had never played until I retired and now it is an obsession for which I firmly place the blame at her feet :).
Richmond Hill Golf Course
Other than any golf course close by, I spend a lot of time up in Tottenham at the South Simcoe Railway, as a volunteer, working on the rail cars at the moment.
Sherry: That sounds interesting, Robert. I love trains! Are they a passion of yours? What do you do, as a volunteer?
Robert: They all need service and touch-ups from wear and tear. I have been fascinated by trains since I was a kid. I remember dashing out the door in the morning, so I could see the morning C.N. freight train go by before school.
Sherry: I loved riding trains in my childhood, when such things were affordable. When I lived in Port Alberni, we had an old steam train from days gone by, refurbished, which takes tourists on rides through spring and summer. I LOVED hearing its whistle as it plied back and forth from town to the old mill.
I so enjoyed your poem about trains, and would love to include it here, if I may.
SCREAM OF JOY
A gem revived from yesteryear
It sat upon iron rails
Majestic steam billowed forth
As the scream of joy
Tore through my soul
A chance discovery
Opening a dam
of childhood memories
As it stood
Before my eyes
With haste I strode
Ticket in hand
As the conductor bellowed
Ticket punched, up the stairs
I lightly sprang
Settling on a wooden bench with anticipation
For what would transpire
That lovely sound
Of the whistle
Set many things in motion
The train with a "chug chug chug"
And my mind
Down memory lane
As we bumped through
Green country scenes
In a cloud of steam and cinders
All with sooty smiles
Sherry: Oh, how this takes me back to those wonderful train rides of childhood, the comforting clickety-clack underneath, taking me to my grandma's house every summer. Thank you, Robert, for this visit, and for sharing your very relatable poems, and your love of golf and trains. It has been such a pleasure! Give our best wishes to your mom!
I don't know about you, my friends, but this visit leaves me yearning for a train ride. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!