Gary Lehmann - Author

Author's Publications and Upcoming Appearances

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Foothills Publishing releases American Portraits by Gary Lehmann

American Portraits


Gary Lehmann

Home Guard Dance, 1917

The dance took place in the ballroom of Valentown Hall
to raise money to support the Home Guard,
a motley assembly of those too young or too old for the draft.

Thus, a great number of teens elbowed each other for access to a few girls
while a great number of old couples sat quietly their hands in their laps
or danced sedately around the Hall showing the youngsters how it’s done.

As this was a military event, a guard was posted out front
consisting of an armed man at either side of the entrance.
Every half hour, the guard changed, dancers relieving guardsmen.

Through most of the dance they maintained their stiff military demeanor, but
after a while, as the dance started to break up, soldiers and their sweethearts
drifted outside into the moonlit summer night for a little spooning.

A Jar of Pickles

Jerry McKay had been working all day
as an archeological excavator
on the site of the sunken riverboat, Arabia.

On September 5, 1856, it hit a submerged log,
was badly holed, and went down hard
at a bend in the Missouri River.

The work of recovery was dangerous.
Shifting currents buried the boat 300 feet
below the surface of a Kansas corn field,

far from today’s river channel.
Jerry’s trowel struck a bottle.
Carefully, he revealed it in the wet mud.

Against all the odds,
the bottle was whole,
and the pickles looked perfect.

Everyone gathered around.
Jerry pried loose the corked top.
“Anybody want a pickle?” He laughed.

No takers. Anticipation hung in the air.
“Well, I’m starving,” said Jerry smiling.
He fished a pickle from the jar.

Everyone took in a breath.
Jerry bit off a good chunk.
“That’s one good pickle.”

presenting Lady Jane Seymour Fonda

When Jane Fonda attended Vassar, so the story goes,
a daily tea was held in the Rose Room to which each girl
was required to wear pearls and elegant white gloves.

One day, Jane arrived without the necessary accessories.
She protested that the habit was a stupid formality.
The head mistress insisted. “Pearls and white gloves!”

So Jane complied. Minutes later, she reentered the Rose Room
showing off the body that millions paid to see on screen,
wearing nothing -- but pearls and long white gloves.

Now a septuagenarian, she vigorously denies the story,
but then that’s just exactly what she would say,
now that she’s attained the age of discretion.

What Adam wants for Christmas

“I saw you cuddled up with Adam earlier on the sofa.
Did you ask what he wants for Christmas?” my wife inquired.
“He says he only wants one thing this year,
but I’m not sure we can get it for him.”
“What can a 5 year old think to want?”
“He wants an elf – a real one. Raising a finger of warning,
he made that very clear. It has to be real.”
“Did you ask him how he defines real?”
“Yes, he said you can tell an elf by his long pointy ears.”
“How tall is a real elf?”
“About 6 inches shorter than Adam.
Then I asked him “What does a real elf do?”
“Whatever you ask him, daddy,” he said impatiently.”
“Do you think he’s trying to tell us we don’t answer
his demands fast enough any more?
He needs his own personal slave.”
“Well, he looked at me with one of those blank expressions
as if I ‘d just fallen considerably in his estimation.
He could tell I was struggling.
“My friend Nick has one—a real one,” he offered.
I thought I’d cracked it now.
“So where does your friend Nick live?” I asked,
thinking we might call his parents to get the story.
Adam just looked at me again, sadly, and replied,
“Elves live at the North Pole, daddy.”
“Now, what do we do?”

Settling Down

The American painter, John Singer Sargent was born in Florence,
but he traveled around Italy and France for most of his early years.
As a teen, he showed a love of painting, but due to their nomadic life,
his mother insisted he work quickly to complete a painting every day.

As he accompanied her on morning walks, where ever they might be,
Mary Newbold Singer Sargent sketched in the open air with her son
teaching him the pure joy of rendering the surrounding countryside
in rapidly executed bright watercolor sketches of stunning beauty.

“No matter how many works are started, one must be finished each day.”
In the end, it was her abiding legacy to him and a useful one at that.
The world little values the unfinished work of artists. It is best if they
can learn to work fast and true – with an eye toward the uncertain future.

Getting the News

It was an early winter day with snow lingering in the air.
I walked out to pick up my mail from the box by the curb
when I heard this clatter of squawking overhead,
a bomber squadron of geese resolutely flying -- North.

You crazy geese, I thought.
You’re in for a nasty surprise when you get there.

I pulled the newspaper from its holster.
The headline told of troops being killed in some foreign land
not worth fighting over. More deaths and more suffering
as if the world had not had its fill of that already.

You crazy fools, I thought.
I’ll bet you never thought you signed up for this nonsense.

I pulled out the mail and leafed through the bills and circulars.
Everyday the post man brings me ads for things I never buy.
Most of it goes directly into the trash unopened.
Somehow the world rolls on despite our inefficiencies.

You crazy people, I thought.
Don’t you know you’re in for a nasty surprise one of these days?

What Sarah Said

After reading the news of his wife’s death,
Sarah Goodridge, notable Boston miniature painter,
decided to paint something very special
for her long-time client, Daniel Webster.

In her studio, she positioned a mirror by the window,
took off her blouse and proceeded to paint on ivory
a perfect watercolor likeness of her bosom,
plump and full, the envy of Aphrodite.

Some woman at 40 may have blanched at such a challenge,
but Sarah produced a small, exquisite image
which shone with a luminous quality that
reproduced very well the glow of breathless flesh.

Each nipple stood out in bright pink contrast
to the creamy flesh around it, all
framed by drawn white curtains of fine lace.
She called it Beauty Revealed.

Sarah rarely left Boston, but for this occasion
she boarded a coach for Washington DC
to present her likeness to the great man herself.
Oh to have witnessed that interview!

Evidently, no clerk was available to sit in or take notes.
Were there tears? Recriminations? Or passionate embraces?
Did she throw herself melodramatically upon the protesting Puritan?
Or did he secretly admire her all those years of fruitless marriage?

We know he kept the miniature for the rest of his life.
In fact, it stayed in the Webster family for over 150 years,
locked away from prying eyes and inquiring minds until
no one can quite recall the true character of either party.

The Ice Man

My Uncle Frank drove his truck on the ice every year.
Regardless of the weather or what the boys said
at the Chat and Chew about ice conditions,
he just laid out two planks and drove
his red truck right out there on the ice.
Damn you all!

He was always the first with his shed on the ice,
because he refused the hard labor of pulling
it manually when he could drive out.
I think after a while the bigger thrill
was tempting fate each year.
Damn you all!

He was an arrogant cuss
and you’d be excused for anticipating,
even wishing, that sometime
he’d drive his red Ford truck out there
with his damned shit-eating grin
and go right through with a quiet blurp!

But you’d be wrong.
Much as every man on the lake
wished it secretly, that bastard
drove his big red Ford truck out on the ice
year after year in confounded redneck defiance.
Damn you all!

The Inheritance

Fingering through
this careful assortment of objects,
accumulated over a lifetime,
I see many were well-worn with hands
not unlike mine.

Now I stand here like a barbarian at the gate
demanding gold of these objects
so I can buy new objects
which I will wear down
over my score of years

to pass in time
to some other stranger to sell
and reforge into
a new life --
not unlike my own.