I DIDN'T INTEND TO WRITE A POEM
by Leonard Kleeman
I started to write some poetry while I was in college. I was an English and mathematics major at the same time. That was an odd combination but they were the two subjects that I liked the most. Many of the professors thought that the combination was weird but they also found out that I was a musician and had my own band. That really did it. I was almost labeled "an odd fellow" and they didn't mean the lodge. My English classes were outstanding but my math classes were only average. I was writing all kinds of things then and even wrote and directed the college Varsity show as a senior. The poetry did entice me and my favorite poets were Robert Frost (especially "The RoadNot Taken"), Emily Dickinson (amazingly) and more strangely, Ogden Nash(funny, funny). I really didn't have much time to write poetry (it does take time to make things rhyme) as I played gigs with my band, worked part time in the college shop (I was the sign painterand even dug ditches) and did some homework and studied.
The Korean War had started then and the draft was grabbing guys left and right. I had been in the Marine Corps reserve through High School so I transferred to the Naval reserves and signed up for Officer's training. It was held for 3 summers at 6 weeks each in Long Beach, California. I had my first experience flying (TWA in a Constellation, prop-driven, four engine plane) and I sweated out the 8 hour flight all the way. Upon graduating from college and the last session at Long Beach, I received my commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. I had various tours of duty during the next seven years including two years with the National Security Agency in D.C. and a year at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. During sea duty trips to the Mediterranean I would write home in verse and thus had my practice writing poetry. There was no reason for doing that other than sheer enjoyment for me. I had almost two years extra sea duty living in Villefranche, France (French Riviera) while on the Sixth Fleet Flagship. The poetry flowed like French wine then but I didn't save any of it (no computers, just pen and ink). My music was also done and I never played again (Clarinet, saxophone, and bass violin) except for my playing around with a harmonica (not much money in that).
After I left the Navy, I was too busy earning a living to write poetry (or prose for that matter). I didn't write again for publication until many years later when I knocked out two books in a row for Prentice-Hall. They were basically textbook types. I retired in 1996 after a full lifetime of work as a general contractor, builder, construction and environmental consultant, inspector, teacher (high school math and a construction/design course for 25 years at Temple University), and just about anything else you can think of.
My wife, Fran, and I bought a home in a 55+ community after living in a nice suburban split-level for 40 years. Fran had also retired (from teaching) at the same time as I and we settled into a nice quiet life-style. Then, tragedy struck and Fran passed away suddenly while we were taking a music course at Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. I was devastated. I wrote my first piece (not counting the books) in about 50 years in dedication to my beloved wife ("Ode toFran"). I wanted to deliver it at her funeral but was unable to without breaking up.
A ladyfriend of mine from many years ago (65 to be exact) and I renewed an acquaintanceship through a mutual friend. Through emails (she lived in Florida, 1,200 miles away) she helped me rebound from possible depression and she became my muse. I called her my comfort angel. I started to write poetry again (I don't know why) and resumed writing a book I had been putting off for years. As expressed in the preceding poem (Reading a Poem) and the following poem (To Write a Poem) the words just came and the rhyming followed. Sometimes the poems just come to me as I am trying to go to sleep. I keep a tablet and pencil handy as sometimes I will awaken with some kind of poem on my mind. I have collected my poems in this little booklet and dedicate it to my late and beloved wife, Fran. I really didn't intend to write them, they just came out and happened to rhyme. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Note that these poems are not memorable, remarkable, rewardable, nor were they meant to be. They are simply snapshots of my random thoughts about things that happened or that I realized and observed during the past 81 years or so of my life. They simply reflect my joy of living and my love of humankind. All the poems here were written after my lovely wife, Fran, passed away. This book also contains a few pages of prose that contain the amazing story of the renewed friendship I have now with my Comfort Angel and my Muse.