Saturday, March 26, 2016

On Railings

Ah, so I'm not the only kid who slid down the banister. 

So did John Jacobus, Orphan Train rider from Brooklyn.

Now his daughter is heading to visit Ottawa, Kansas, where her father grew up—and slid down the banister.

"I had the great good fortune to have the dad I did," Judie Jacobus said.

She's planning quite a trip, not only to Ottawa but also to the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia where she'll cut the ribbon on a new train car exhibit named after her dad.

For an engaging story full of pertinent details, go to:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Tech Whiz

The Tech Whiz

I decided to upgrade, so I traded in my flip phone for a smart one. 

It was neat. It had a calendar I could use, and did. I liked its calculator and its stopwatch. 

Its camera never shot what I wanted it to shoot, and what it shot instead came in sideways, but that didn't surprise me. Cameras and I never got along.

However, I couldn't figure out how to use the phone.

I knew how to answer a call and how to hang up. But I couldn't figure out how to hear what the caller said.

That didn't matter much. The only person who ever called me on my cell was my chum Paco, and I usually knew why he was calling so I could answer what I thought he might have said. We carried on precariously like that.

Then one spring day striding into Caffeine Dreams, I passed a gal talking on her cell phone, and guess what. She held it to her ear.

To hold my phone to my ear had never occurred to me, it seemed so old fashioned. Besides which, I use my landline's speaker phone 100%, so I never put that phone to my ear. 

I could hardly wait to call Paco. I whipped my phone out, punched his face, and heard the ring.

"Paco," he said. I barely heard his familiar voice, so I plopped the phone on my ear.

"Say something!" I cried.


I heard his loud question just fine, so I replied, "Oh never mind." And hung up.

My phone's working just fine now. And I have only myself to thank, me, the Tech Whiz.

Warm wishes,


from: a JoLt of CoFFeY 
 An Intermittent Newsletter
by Marilyn June Coffey



Author of:
JackJack & JuneBug, A love song in steamy poems and poignant posts
Thieves, Rascals & Sore Losers, A cheeky account of Nebraska's power grabbers
Mail-Order Kid, An orphan train rider's story
Great Plains Patchwork, A memoir featured on Atlantic Monthly's cover
The Battle of Orleans, An illustrated documentary about the Marcella Marathon
Marcella, An internationally published novel
Pricksongs, Tart poems from the sixties
A Cretan Cycle, A feminist poem retells the Greek myth of the Minotaur
Mas - tur - ba - tion, A rollicking tract

Buy Coffey's books 
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In memory of Jack Loscutoff
co-author of JackJack & JuneBug

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Belly Up, Part II

On the subject of pelicans, Greg Kosmicki send me what he called his "Goose and Pelican" poem. It's a neat poem. The part that particularly struck me was this pelican description:

when I saw the pelicans with their gangly necks
pursuing their strange preoccupation with being birds
when they obviously have not been designed for it
with rain slicker beaks and driftwood-chunk shaped bodies.

See below to read the whole poem, "Migration." It's from Greg Kosmicki's book "We have always been coming to this morning." Enjoy it!



"See Dad there they are!  There's some more of those birds!"
"Ah, yes! The geese!  I thought  it was the geese
you saw last night!"
It must have been like a vision to her--


have you ever seen them, flying at night over a city
their bellies lit from the glare of lamps
a surreal procession of distracted birds
looking for a place to land
where community memory must tell them
here is our place to land
here is where the fathers and mothers slept and fed?
But it is night, they are tired
there are no marshes, no bogs
no fields full of grain leavings, no water
but only flat concrete parking lots
house tops, rows of lights,
some flicking on and off,
car tops, flat roofs, sloped roofs, angled roofs
no place to land, so they stay
they stay where they can stay no longer
like tired moths beating their wings
against the memory of a flame at a dead light bulb,
they cannot land, they can't come to rest
and my daughter has seen them
as an apparition, a sighting, a seeing.


We saw the geese again this early fall morning
and she says
"See they're flying in that shape!
See that dad!"
I read somewhere once about the mechanics of the vee,
how the lead goose takes the brunt of the wind
works hardest in cutting a hole into the air
the others magically pass through,
flies in this position for a while
maybe 15 or 20 minutes
then drops back and another
takes over so the other geese work less
but still get to come along,
that eventually perhaps several others will take the lead.


I tell her all this stuff
and she listens politely as she always does
she knows I tend to ramble
and then I start to tell her about the bison
in the snow storms but she changes the subject
gently guiding me like the lead goose.                     


Just before we turned off the hiway
towards the school building where I took her
so that some other members of our species might lead her
I remembered a moment some years ago
as I drove across the sand hills of Western Nebraska
but I didn't tell her.
She was already talking about something else
some little girl topic, her curiosity about the geese
fulfilled miles ago by my earnest bombast
but I was stuck on migration


and I thought of that rain swept afternoon
in my UPS package car
as I whipped across the ageful Sand hills--
these dunes of sand
stopped in mid-storm, mid-sentence almost,


when I saw the pelicans with their gangly necks
pursuing their strange preoccupation with being birds
when they obviously have not been designed for it
with rain slicker beaks and driftwood-chunk shaped bodies.


I slowed down my brown van
almost to a stop and somewhere the dust
I had disarranged in my haste in passing fell behind me
into a neat pattern onto the blacktop.
I watched as the pelicans flew.


Their flight as a flock one continuous integrated movement--
the lead pelican pumps its wings three times,
rises to a peak,
the tip of a swell,
then does not pump,
slowly drops down. 
The one behind the leader pumps
three times,
rises up to the peak,
then slowly drifts down.


This motion repeated  
the length of the flock
so that you will witness pelicans' flight
as a stunning wave-like motion,
each bird so ungainly
that when you think exactly
there is no hope,
the bird must  crash down
it can't possibly pull itself out of this one,


it pumps its wings again to follow up the wave
made by the one in front of it,
each bird                                             
rolling up to the crest
and down through the trough

of this sacred living together on earth.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Belly Up

It's true what they say about pelicans, their mouths can hold more than their bellies can. 

It must be true; it's on the Internet. So I know that a pelican's stomach can hold no more than a gallon, but its bill can hold up to three gallons.

For other curious pelican matter, some symbolic and others dating to the 1600s, see

Why am I writing about pelicans?

Because it's spring (or almost) and cranes aren't the only birds skimming through the air.

So are pelicans. Migrating. Big ones. Up to 20 pounds with wings spreading up to 10 feet.

Where? Oh, I wish I were there. At the Harlan County Reservoir, south central Nebraska, right next to where I grew up in Alma.

The Harlan County Lake Association is offering free birding boat tours to see the pelicans during the last week of March.

Maybe I'll just up and go.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Titanic Riders

When the unsinkable British ship THE TITANIC hit that iceberg and sank, she ejected children destined to become Orphan Train riders when their parents drowned.

Read all about it in

The writing is uneven, but the subject is fascinating, especially if you read clear to the final sentence.