Pre-Order My New Chapbook Today!

My poetry collection from Finishing Line Press, That’s Life, is coming out late this summer. Life happens. As a teen-ager, you’re told you can’t go to the mall because your aunt from out of town is visiting, and the family is planning a trip to see The Nutcracker. As an adult, you hear news on the radio about an airport bombing in Los Angeles. Your husband suffers a debilitating stroke, and you spend the last six years of his life caring for him at home.

Not all the poems in this book are about tragedies. Some are humorous, others serious. Topics range from school to love to death and everything in between. Here is what others have to say.

“Abbie Johnson Taylor’s book of new and selected poems, That’s Life, speaks to both the small and momentous events in our lives. She writes of a picnic in Florida where she eats fried chicken, and she writes of her husband’s stroke and then death. In between, we see a woman who appreciates her foldable cane, and who offers advice to teen-age girls. Taylor’s language is simple and clean. She doesn’t get distracted by trying to make her poems sound “poetic,” but rather uses clear, everyday language to convey her thoughts to her readers. I know that many readers will find solace in Taylor’s plain-spoken, but heartfelt lyrics.” Jane Elkington Wohl, Author of Beasts in Snow and Triage

That’s Life is a collection of poems that celebrates the normal, the ordinary. In this book, beauty, peace, and happiness are found in everyday events and situations. Abbie Johnson Taylor also emphasizes the strength of the human mind and heart. Faced with difficult, stressful, and tragic circumstances, the subjects in this book nonetheless endure, thrive, and bask in happiness and hope.” Allyson Whipple, author of We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are

If you order before August 29th, you can buy the book at a reduced shipping rate. It’s not available as an eBook yet, but it will be IF the publisher sells AT LEAST 55 copies. For those of you who need the book in an accessible format, at some point, I’ll try to record it and make it available on my Website as a free download along with a text version. In the meantime, I’ll post excerpts here. Please share this with others who might be interested. Thank you. Order Form

(Please mail all orders to the Finishing Line Press address below or order online at https://finishinglinepress.com/product_info.php?products_id=2081.

Please send me ______ copy(ies) of That’s Life: New and Selected Poems by Abbie Johnson Taylor at $12.00 per copy plus $2.99 shipping. Enclosed is my check payable to Finishing Line Press for $__________ Name Address City/State/Zip Please send check or money order to:

Finishing Line Press P.O. Box 1626 Georgetown, KY 40324

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

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Exploring the Deep

Tongue River Cave is located in the Bighorn National Forest west of Dayton, Wyoming, which is about twenty miles north of Sheridan, my hometown. When I was a kid, my family explored it once or twice but didn’t get very far. In our last Range Writers meeting a little over a week ago, we wrote about the cave. Our facilitator gave us maps and a list of rooms inside the cave. We each picked a room and wrote a description and story or poem about it. The rooms had such names as the Sand Room, the Dead Cowboy Room, and the Rain Room. The Dead Cowboy Room struck my fancy. Due to my visual impairment, I couldn’t see on the map where it was located so I used my imagination and vague childhood memories. Here’s what I wrote.

A small chamber with a high ceiling, the Dead Cowboy Room is actually the entrance to Tongue River Cave. A cowboy named Phil actually died there. He worked on a nearby ranch during the late 19th century.

One wintry Saturday night after drinking too much at a tavern in nearby Dayton, he was returning to the ranch on horseback. Something spooked the horse, and the animal took off. Phil couldn’t control him and couldn’t stay in the saddle. By some miraculous twist of fate, he wasn’t seriously injured when he fell, but being inebriated, he still had trouble walking.

To make things worse, snow was falling fast, obscuring his vision. He somehow managed to climb the steep slope to Tongue River Cave. After crawling inside, he passed out. Needless to say, he froze to death and wasn’t found until spring. That’s how the entrance to the cave became known as The Dead Cowboy Room.

Now, here’s a little information I found on Wikipedia. Mapped in 1969 by the National Speleological Society, Tongue River Cave is noted for rare cave formations and animal species. With a depth of 106 feet and containing 1.23 miles of passages, it is composed of two river channels: one active and one abandoned. The active passage is an underground portion of the Little Tongue River that resurges farther east down the canyon, beginning in a sump and ending in a fissure. The abandoned channel is mostly dry and ends in a sand-filled chamber. Both channels intersect approximately half a mile into the cave in a large chamber called the Boulder Room. Exploration efforts have been hampered by low water temperatures and difficulty hauling adequate scuba gear through tight passages.

In recent decades, Tongue River Cave suffered from vandalism and theft as result of unrestricted traffic. Closed in 2010 and deemed beyond preservation, it is now managed by the U.S. Forest Service as a “sacrifice cave.” To learn more, click here.

Have you ever explored a cave? What was it like? How far did you go?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Eight-Track Memories

Thanks to author Bruce Atchison for inspiring this post. When I was eight years old, Dad gave me an eight-track player for Christmas. Because of my limited vision, I was delighted at how easy it was to use, just slid the tape into the slot and pushed it in and the music started playing, no messing with records and needles. The tapes didn’t need to be turned over, and as long as I left one in the machine, the music kept playing until I got tired of hearing the same songs and wanted something different.

Once I became familiar with an album, I usually listened to it from beginning to end. After the last song played, I pulled the tape out of the player before it started at the beginning. I was intrigued by the fact that although the machine was called an eight-track player, the tapes only had four tracks, each track containing several songs. There was no way to navigate between songs, but I could push a button to move from one track to the next. If I had a favorite song on a particular album, I often navigated to the track that contained the song and waited for it to come around.

One of my first eight-track albums was Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. One of my favorite songs on this album was “El Condor Pasa.” When I was twelve, I discovered that I could sing my favorite songs and accompany myself on the piano. I sang “El Condor Pasa” in this fashion at a talent contest. I didn’t win, but the experience launched my junior high and high school singing career.

A couple of years later, my younger brother Andy took an interest in playing the drums so needless to say, we formed our own band. At first, Andy didn’t have a drum set so he used an old paint can and a chip of wood for a drumstick. Because Mother wouldn’t let him bring the paint can into the house, we pretended the front porch was a stage. Andy found another wood chip for me to use as a microphone, and I stood on our imaginary stage, holding that chip to my lips, and singing. My only accompaniment was Andy banging away on that old paint can. It was crude but exhilarating. Years later, I wrote a poem about this experience, and you can click below to hear me read it.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/when%20star.mp3.mp3

The eight-track machine wasn’t the only way I listened to music. After we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, and my father took over the family’s coin-operated machine business, we had a jukebox in our home. Again, because of my visual impairment, I was delighted not to have to mess with a record needle. I just pushed a couple of buttons. The desired disc was deposited onto the turntable, and the needle positioned itself. Because the print in the display window was too small for me to read, I memorized the button combinations that would play my favorite songs. Andy and I spent many happy hours with our friends around that jukebox.

I never pursued my dream of being a singer, but I continued singing and playing the piano through high school and college. When I decided to go into music therapy, I learned to play the guitar. For fifteen years, I worked in nursing homes and other senior facilities, and part of my job was singing and accompanying myself on the guitar or piano. My music was a comfort to many people during that time.

When I got married and started writing full time, my husband Bill, who fell in love with my voice, asked me to play and sing for him from time to time. After he became paralyzed as a result of two strokes, my music was a comfort to him as well. When he died, I sang “Stormy Weather” at his graveside, accompanying myself on the guitar.

Now that Bill, my eight-track player, and the jukebox are gone, I listen to music on compact discs and cassettes. I don’t care for a lot of today’s popular music but enjoy listening to my favorite songs that were popular when I was growing up. My taste has expanded to include classical music and jazz.

Most of my singing is done with a women’s group called Just Harmony. We perform at conventions, parties, and other venues. Some of our music is accompanied on a keyboard by our director. Other songs are sung a capello. Every once in a while, though, as you’ll hear if you click below, I’ll sit down at the piano and play and sing one of my favorite songs.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/bridge%20over%20troubled%20water.mp3.mp3

How did you listen to music when you were growing up? Was there a song that highlighted a pivotal moment in your life?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Dad and Wanda

Dad didn’t like cats. Mother attracted them like a magnet so needless to say, we had several of them when I was growing up. The first feeline I remember was a stray we called Mother Cat, even though she didn’t have a litter. We were living in Tucson, Arizona, and I was about eight. Mother Cat was gray with tiger stripes.

Soon after Mother Cat arrived, another stray showed up at our door, very pregnant. Mother took pity on her, named her Rosemary, and the cat had three kittens in my baby brother’s closet. Mother thought two of the kittens were males and one female so she named the boys Howard and James and the girl Wanda. When we later took them to the vet for the first time, we found out that Howard and James were also females, but the names had stuck by then.

James died, and Mother Cat walked off one day and never returned. Mother took Rosemary to the local humane society. Through the years, Howard and Wanda stuck with us. Howard was gray with tiger stripes like Mother Cat, and Wanda was white with black spots.

When Wanda was old enough to understand relationships between humans and feelines, she picked up on Dad’s dislike of cats and decided she didn’t like him, either. The following poem which appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders is written from Wanda’s point of view. It illustrates how she expressed her dislike of my father. For a rare treat, click below to hear me read it. This link will be available for a limited time.

FROM YOUR FORMER FEELINE HOUSEMATE

 

I’m the one she put to sleep

when life’s pain was too great.

You told her you didn’t like me.

Maybe it was a guy thing,

but the feeling was mutual.

 

She insisted on calling me Wanda,

thought I could be a witch

so as far as you were concerned, I was.

 

I peed in your shoes at night

then stood by in the morning when you put them on.

The look on your face was priceless.

You swore and threatened to throw me twenty feet.

Believe me, if I could have,

I would have done the same to you,

right out the second story bedroom window,

then stood on the sill and watched you fall.

 

When you brought that big, red dog home,

I hated you even more.

I could no longer pee in your shoes

because the dog slept next to the bed

so I peed on your favorite love seat.

Imagine your shock

when you sat down with the latest issue of The New Yorker

to discover a wet cushion.

 

After many years,

we’re reunited in the hereafter,

you, her, me, and that big, red dog.

Oh well, I’ll have to make the best of it.

Hmmm, I need to pee.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver