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After my wife, Joan, and I published our second book, Whistling, I just kept on writing and before I knew it, I had accumulated , much to my amazement, enough material for a third book which eventually became Blue Cow. Originally I was going to follow the theme and entitle it Whispering but I never came up with a suitable poem with that name. I did write a poem entitled Pssst! but it is addressed more to bakers than to the general reader although you will find it within these pages. I settled on Blue Cow which is the title of the lead poem. It is named after my favorite car wash located on Highway 20 between LaConner and Anacortes.
Like the other two books, Blue Cow is an effort to provide a paper trail, the kind I never had, that will give our children some sense of what our lives were like, what we were like as seen through poems and prose. Beneath the effort to leave a trail is another: to share with others my take on reality in the hope of getting a response. If something I wrote in Blue Cow elicits a reaction of any kind, laughter, sadness, anger or a nod of the head, I am bound to be satisfied, even more so when the reaction leads to further conversation or exploration of an idea or value dearly held. Writing has its rewards. Hearing back from readers, having ongoing conversations about this pet or that story, is one of them. It keeps me alive and thankful to be part of a thinking and creative community however far-flung.
After a morning of making bread at the Bridgeside Bakery in Mount Vernon, twenty years ago now, I still remember the immense satisfaction I derived from seeing eighty loaves of bread, loaves which I personally mixed, needed, shaped and baked to a golden brown, lined up before me on the chrome cooling racks. Of course, the bread has to taste good for the baker to be proud. It is the same with poetry. It has to taste good with just the right amount of sugar and salt, and a flavor and texture that calls you back for a second bite or a second serving to savor later.
Are the loaves of poetry and prose fresh out of the oven and cooling on the racks at the Blue Cow Bakery going to make the baker proud? I hope so. You, the readers, are herewith invited to partake, to break off a piece of bread for yourselves and in the process of munching it, to think with me about what constitutes a good poem or a good story for that matter.
I am mindful how easily things can go wrong. I recall one morning at the bakery when one batch of loaves I had so very carefully baked looked good, so brown and round, cooling on the racks. It turned out, they were not good at all. I had mistakenly substituted salt for sugar.
15 thoughts on “Blue Cow”
In the pasture of life, this blue cow ruminates fearlessly and chews a most engaging cud.
Bob Skeele’s new book of poems and short prose pieces, Blue Cow, is perhaps his best yet. Bob looks at the world in much the same way as Georgia O’Keeffe, with her paintings of the ‘faraway, nearby,’ or James Joyce, with his epiphany that the ordinary is the extraordinary. His eye and his attention are on the particular, the commonplace, with the goal of capturing in words a specific thing—a person, a moment, a landscape, a memory, a feeling. And he is terrific at finding the precise words and rhythms to do that. But his poems and stories do much more. They reveal, gradually and cumulatively, in their different ways and tones, something we had not noticed before about the enduring mystery of our existence. These poems sneak up on you. All of a sudden you realize his amiable voice and his quirky connections have got you thinking about life and death instead of bull trout, or the Jungle Girl, or the Blue Cow Carwash. A good poet always takes you by surprise.
Dad writes the way Gene Kelly dances: with precision, dexterity, and a humanistic exuberance that warms everything it touches. After having read Whittling and Whistling, the highest praise I can give Blue Cow is to say it just might be the best of the three!
Your revelations of everyday life and life’s experiences are heart warming. Your ability to combine these experiences with the local history and uniqueness of the La Conner and Skagit Valley area and population are delightful—I can hardly wait to get to the next page of Blue Cow even as I read through it for the fourth or fifth time.
I quickly read Blue Cow, stopping only to note the many selections I would soon reread and savor and share with Joyce. As usual, your sharp observations are astute and ferret out so many insights that so often go unnoticed by those of us who have less perception. Your good writing and poetry bring it all together. You have brought us delight and we are proud and pleased to be aging in such good company.
It’s the kind of story telling that makes Blue Cow difficult to set aside. I read most of it in one sitting and found Bob Skeele’s touches of humour and light seasoning of pathos very enchanting stuff…The story “Joan, Where Are You?” was spellbinding. I have reread that portion several times and consider it my favourite. It’s a reflection, I believe, of the intensity that makes Bob’s writing so very special.
In Blue Cow, Bob captures common life in the most uncommon ways. He sees what we miss, and brings those moments to life. He dances his words through each rhyme with humour, philosophy, and love. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy a good read in Blue Cow.
Thanks, Dad, for sending me an inscribed copy of Blue Cow! I love it! It has already caused me to laugh out loud and cry and marvel and ponder, so you have certainly hit the mark. I am so happy you have put your thoughts together—in these books—they are very meaningful for me.
I can’t tell you, Bob, how much fun I’ve had with Blue Cow. Since I only got it two days ago I won’t kid you that I’ve read it all but I have enjoyed Samantha and the ones about the 4-way stop sign and the town turkeys. Of course, The World’s Longest Reunion was, for me, the best… I took a copy of the reunion story to show at a gathering of some of our old friends. It turns out all wanted a copy which I have produced and emailed. I’m sure enjoying the book.
Blue Cow sits on the coffee table in the family room and everyone picks it up and reads sections from it. What a joy! … I think you both have tremendous “dignity and grace.” You are teaching me how to deal with growing older ….Thank you for sharing your life with me in poems and stories. Tell Joan I love her humour in poems like Slow.
Thank you for your new book, Blue Cow. Magel would have loved it. Her picture hangs in my dining room so I read a few poems to her each day….Since the 4th of July is coming, the poem There’s Only One Flag for Me is very appropriate. And, yes, When Ink is Made of Tears is so true.
Much to my surprise, I received another beautiful book of poems and prose. Blue Cow I absolutely love. I read a good part of it but I didn’t want to wait too long before thanking you….I felt such warmth reading your thoughts and it came at a good time when I was feeling a little low….
I dip into Blue Cow now and again. Each poem seems to have a kernel of true life and love. I have really enjoyed them. I am nowhere near finished but relish what I will find next…
Happy 4th of July. You made my day! I read about 3/4 of Blue Cow last night and this morning. I couldn’t put it down… Thank you so much for the wonderful book. I was so glad you included a Piece of Peace. You have a wonderful, creative use of words…
I am totally amazed by the beauty and thoughtfulness of Blue Cow. I especially loved “Joan, Where Are You?” as a testimonial of your long, luscious love affair with Joan. The end notes, cover, name and subject matter testify as well to a life well lived. I’ll cherish our copy and our family.
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