Winter meant no harm last Sunday night
when she stormed into our little town.
She was just having one of her days.

She misses her luminous friend, who
moved away suddenly, mumbling
about a long South American vacation.

Friendless and lonely, there is no telling what
she’ll do this time of year.

Sometimes her tears freeze on descent, then pile up
like great pillows of sorrow, or she howls away the
night until the house creaks, joints aching from the cold.

Winter forces us inside, next to the fire—
the sun’s small ember—who whispers
urgently: “We just have to wait her out.”

The warm room stills our passion for movement,
quiets the mind so, at the moment sleep begins, we
hear a lone snowflake descending, finally able to
decode the mystery of its fragile message.

Michael James Fitzgerald


Leaves, beautiful in death,
lie scattered on the ground like
memories fallen in battle,

The voice of color
lighting up the earth with the
last plumage of the dying year.

They clatter in the golden breeze,
in language too old to remember,
too familiar to forget.

Mother tree, drowsy with cold,
sings a lullaby to her windswept children,
a tender farewell that only they can hear.

Lingering sunshine eases the pain of days.
The light’s constant purpose
draws our eyes forever to the sky.

Michael James Fitzgerald

There Once was a Hand Named Dale

I spoke briefly at the funeral of Dale Castagno (1935-2009) today. After the service, Dale was carried to the cemetery in this horse-drawn hearse, built in 1805, and driven by two of his sons.

In honor of Dale, I wrote this poem last Sunday—Easter morning—the day before he died.

I will dearly miss you, old friend. We will do our best to take care of LaRae.

There Once Was a Hand Named Dale

There once was a hand named Dale
Who rode a long, lonely trail
A trail of sadness and grief
But blessings, too, beyond belief.

He was tough as an ox, you know,
He’d ride in the rain and the snow.
But he’d always get the job done,
Long after the setting of the sun.

He could flank a calf with one hand,
And give ‘em shots with his teeth.
And if a bull ever came charging,
Boy, were they in for a lot of grief!

He could saddle two horses at a time,
And he never committed a crime—
Well, at least he never got turned in,
You see, he never was much on sin.

One day he roped a calf and a cougar
All in one, giant loop.
That night he ate a heap of veal
And a bowl of mountain lion soup.

One day he rode alone in the hills,
Far above the din and the crowd,
When he heard a still, small voice,
It wasn’t very loud.

It spoke of a story long ago
Of a Man, a garden and a cross,
A Man of many sorrows, who
Knew of sadness and loss.
Who walked alone up a hill
Where he gave His life for all.

Dale told himself that day,
“I’ll walk up that hill, too,
And give my all for You.”

Life has come hard at Dale since then,
But his toughness has served him well.
He has seen a lot of heaven,
And a little too much of hell.

But he’s made it through it all,
With a prayer on his lips, and a
Song in his heart—oh, the goodness
Of that man is way off the chart.

There once was a hand named Dale
Who rode a long, lonely trail
A trail of sadness and grief
But blessings, too, beyond belief.

Michael James Fitzgerald

"The Guy in the Glass" by Dale Wimbrow

You might have heard or read it before, but here’s a great poem to think about today.

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf [riches],
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.

To My Son: It’s Your Move

I’ve been digging through my file cabinet, and purging old files. I found this today, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you. It’s a letter from a mother to her son.

To My Son: It’s Your Move

I gave you life, but I cannot live it for you.
I can teach you things, but I cannot make you learn.
I can give you directions, but I cannot always be there to lead you.
I can allow you freedom, but I cannot account for it.
I can take you to church, but I cannot make you believe.
I can teach you right from wrong, but I cannot always decide for you.
I can buy you neat clothes, but I cannot make you nice inside.
I can offer you advice, but I cannot accept it for you.
I can give you love, but I cannot force it upon you.
I can teach you to be a friend, but I cannot make you one.
I can teach you to share, but I cannot make you unselfish.
I can teach you respect, but I cannot force you to show honor.
I can grieve about your report card, but I cannot make you study.
I can advise you about friends, but I cannot choose them for you.
I can teach you about sex and the facts of life, but I cannot decide for you.
I can tell you about drinking, but I cannot say no for you.
I can warn you about drugs, but I cannot prevent you from using them.
I can teach you about goals and dreams, but I cannot achieve them for you.
I can teach you kindness, but I cannot force you to be kind.
I can warn you about sin, but I cannot make your morals.
I can love you like a son, but I cannot place you in God’s family.
I can pray for you and your future, but I cannot make you walk with God.
I can teach you about Jesus, but I cannot make Him your Savior.
I can tell you how to live, but I cannot give you eternal life.

Thanks for listening. Good luck with your future. I love you, son.