It’s Up to Me

Poem from “LABORS OF LOVE” about the loneliness of tasks when suddenly living alone again.



It’s up to me to pay the rent.

It’s up to me to fix the dents.

It’s up to me to clean the house.

It’s up to me to catch the mouse.

It’s up to me to fix my food.

It’s up to me to chop the wood.

It’s up to me to feel the plants.

It’s up to me to mend my pants.

It’s up to me to drive the truck.

It’s up to me to make my luck.

It’s up to me to mend my socks.

It’s up to me to set the clocks.

It’s up to me to clear my head.

It’s up to me to make the bed.

It’s up to me to make a wish.

It’s up to me to wash my dish.

It’s up to me to rub my ache.

It’s up to me which road to take.

It’s up to me to make my mind.

It’s up to me to schedule time.

So much to do, so little time.

How do you do? It’s up to you.

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by Kenneth Harper Finton







Maybe I am jaded now

or just too old to cry.

All the tears I’ve shed before

Have left my eyes quite dry.

Friends have come and friends have gone, 

how bittersweet is nature.

Work is really never done,

wars are really never won, 

lives are always left undone,

success is never measured.

Blisters used to pain my hands

’til callouses replaced them.

Caring always filled my days,

’til lack of it displaced it.

Friends have come and friends have gone, 

how bittersweet is nature.

Work is really never done,

wars are really never won, 

lives are always left undone,

success is never measured.

Living always pleasured me

and sorrow seldom ailed me,

but Father Time has dried me out

and left no room for wailing.

Friends have come and friends have gone, 

how bittersweet is nature.

Work is really never done,

wars are really never won, 

lives are always left undone,

success is never measured.


By Kenneth Harper Finton ©2015

An imaginary trip into the mind of Andreas Lubitz

   A French helicopter departs for the site where Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed.                  CREDITPHOTOGRAPH BY MUSTAFA YALCIN/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY

A French helicopter departs for the site where Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed.              CREDITPHOTOGRAPH BY MUSTAFA YALCIN/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY

Tired of living, spurned in loving, deficit in compassion,

Andreas Lubitz and his crippled amygdala

Donned his smart uniform and climbed aboard the plane.

A pretty stewardess smiled at him,

Bid him a good morning as he passed.

She smelled of a musky perfume

That reminded him of the sex he often craved with her.

He found sex to be an animalistic and ludicrous practice.

Love had always been a dream that faded away to sorrow.

He returned to her a faceless smile without meaning.

He took his place in the cockpit beside Patrick, his pilot.

It was less that two hours to Dusseldorf from Barcelona.

Patrick was loquacious, almost collegiate in manner.

As they bantered back and forth, Patrick’s banal conversation

Bored Andreas to death. He could only fake a smile for reply.

Andreas thought about how he hated God for giving him life.

An aching desire for release from the prison of time

Had overcome him. A dull ache of depression swept over him

As he remembered all the hideous assaults he had endured.

It was as though he wore glasses that saw only

The evil of time and hid away the pleasant moments.

When Patrick left the cabin, Andreas pushed the button

To lock the door so that he would not have to bear him any longer.

Alone in the cabin, with only the sky in his eyes and the engine noise

In his ears, Andreas was at last alone with himself.

He hated his aloneness. “Everyone is suffering in their meaningless

Lives just like I am,” he thought. The future brings nothing

But more disappointment, times filled with melancholy,

Nights filled with helpless thoughts, days filled with foolish actions

That try to mitigate the absurdity of living a desperately miserable existence.

Dog eats dog, life eats life, panicked schools of fish swirling

In circles as the sharks attack the outer layers of their being.

The images consumed him. The irrelevance of his very being

And all those around him felt like the beating drum of a hated heartbeat.

Mushroom clouds raining death, pits with decapitated bodies killed

By fools who thought themselves righteous appeared in the gray sky

When he adjusted the course of the plane to fly at one hundred feet.

“It will soon be over,” he thought to himself. “I am finally on control.”

He heard a frantic knocking on the door as Patrick tried to gain the cabin

His gut tensed, his breath came hard and fast. He could hear

The hysterical screams of the passengers behind him.

No sympathy for their plight crossed Andreas mind.

“They are all going to die anyway,” he thought.

“Today is as good a day to die as any other. Today is better.

It will save them from through suffering their ignorant lives.”

Adrenaline rushed through Andreas veins as the mountain

Loomed before him. He felt like a soldier entering battle.

“It is a good day to die,” the voices around him exclaimed.

He remembered the stewardess with the sexy perfume

Who greeted him when he stepped onto the plane.

Her voice was among those screaming behind him.

“I will not fuck her,” he told himself. “She will not tempt

Anyone to fuck her now. I can make sure of that.”

There was power in the thought; power had always escaped him.

The remembered scent of her perfume hung in his nostrils.

His own breath came hard and deep as he thought about

Having sex with her. Death, he thought, would be like conception,

One timeless contracting orgasm would begin the journey

To another useless, meaningless and painful life.

Another contraction would snap the miserable body away from experience

And into the vast nothingness of the universe.

He could picture himself letting go after the shock of impact.

It would be his final orgasm, his final statement, his final action.


by Kenneth Harper Finton ©2014





When I was very young, I did not know the world.

The world made itself known to me quite gradually,

in small steps that I can now only imagine.

I cannot remember these steps.

They happened before memory was born.

I felt these steps.

Discomfort was a feeling that I learned quickly to correct.

My first feelings were those untenable positions

which caused me to turn away from irritation

into a position of familiarity and contentment.

I kicked and moved to find my snugness

not knowing or caring that my attempt to find relief caused pain to another.

The experience of the world of the womb was lost to me.

The world was making itself known, but I knew nothing of the world.

I knew nothing about myself for I was not a self.

I was as close to bring nothing as I have ever been.

Yet in this nothing there was feeling.

There was touch. There were senses.

I could hear the world making music

and the sounds of the body in which I was immersed.

Because I did not breath, I could not smell.

Because I had no smell, I could not taste.

Because I had no eyes I could not see.

But there was touch and there was sound and there was feeling.

The rest would come later.

The world makes itself known to us slowly.

The distress that I felt at the moment of my birth was sudden and momentous.

I left the familiar world of water and warmth,

felt the pressure of extreme movement that I had never felt before.

The world made me know of constriction and limits.

I felt movement and the pressures of my movement,

then release to an alien place that made me feel misery

I longed briefly to return to what I had forever known

and felt the strange coldness that I had never felt before.

Air replaced water.

I opened my mouth and tasted of the air.

The air forced its way into me and I smelled the horrid stench of it for the first time.

I became so agonizingly uncomfortable that I cried.

Since that first forlorn cry that expressed both my surprise and extreme distress,

the world has continued to make itself known to me.

That process has not changed much.

The instinct to recoil from aggravation and hurt

and return to a known luxury has been retained,

but the added senses produced a curiosity

to know more about that which caused me displeasure.

In giant strides of courage, I accepted some irritation

and began to realize that there was more to everything than I had learned.

Some learning produced not only pleasure,

but sensations that I welcomed with bright smiles.

I knew nothing of time and little of space.

I was immersed fully in the now.

Then I opened my eyes

and the world came roaring in.





Grandpa chewed on the butt end of his cigar as I read him my poem. His eyes rolled a bit beneath the thick wire rimmed glasses and the smoke from the cigar chaffed my nose.

“It’s a good one, son,” he told me, “but it ain’t much to my liking.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Poems were good in my day,” he replied. “You heared a lot of poems back then, The folks who wrote them did not indulge in themselves the way they do now. They didn’t cry over their spilt feelings so much. Your little story is about what you lost out on. Everybody loses out on something or someone. You can’t get through your term on earth less’n you do.”

He placed his cigar on the ashtray that stood on a pedestal near his chair. It raised waves of smoke, then went out.

“They told stories back then,” he continued. “Sometimes they dressed their words up in fancy duds … least wise, they did if they went on for further schoolin’. They learn you to use big words at universities.”

“So you didn’t think it was good?” I asked. I felt disappointed. I thought it was good enough to show him. Becky had just told me she wanted to go steady with Fred. I wrote about it, telling how Fred was a homely bastard who has too many pimples. I could not understand what she saw in him and I wrote about it my poem.

“Love poems are fair to middling,” he said. “Everybody falls in love. It drives you crazy for a while … wanting this and wanting that. Get to your age and it’s passion and infatuation. It feels strong, but it ain’t a lasting thing. A good story is a lasting thing.”

“What makes a good story?” I asked.

“It ain’t so much what you say, but the way you say it,” he replied. “If you say it good, then people will understand it.”

He took a book from the table beside the ashtray.  “Now here’s one I always liked,” he said. He began to read.




The Ballad of William Sycamore’ was originally published by Stephen Vincent Benét in 1922.


by: Stephen Vincent Benét 

My father he was a mountaineer,

His fist was a knotty hammer;

He was quick on his feet as a running deer,

And he spoke with a Yankee stammer.

My mother, she was merry and brave,

And so she came to her labor,

With a tall green fir for her doctor grave

And a stream for her comforting neighbor.

And some are wrapped in the linen fine,

And some like a godling’s scion;

But I was cradled on twigs of pine

In the skin of a mountain lion.

And some remember a white, starched lap

And a ewer with silver handles;

But I remember a coonskin cap

And the smell of bayberry candles.

The cabin logs, with the bark still rough,

And my mother who laughed at trifles,

And the tall, lank visitors, brown as snuff,

With their long, straight squirrel-rifles.

I can hear them dance, like a foggy song,

Through the deepest one of my slumbers,

The fiddle squeaking the boots along

And my father calling the numbers.

The quick feet shaking the puncheon-floor,

And the fiddle squealing and squealing,

Till the dried herbs rattled above the door

And the dust went up to the ceiling.

There are children lucky from dawn till dusk,

But never a child so lucky!

For I cut my teeth on “Money Musk”

In the Bloody Ground of Kentucky!

When I grew as tall as the Indian corn,

My father had little to lend me,

But he gave me his great, old powder-horn

And his woodsman’s skill to befriend me.

With a leather shirt to cover my back,

And a redskin nose to unravel

Each forest sign, I carried my pack

As far as a scout could travel.

Till I lost my boyhood and found my wife,

A girl like a Salem clipper!

A woman straight as a hunting-knife

With eyes as bright as the Dipper!

We cleared our camp where the buffalo feed,

Unheard-of streams were our flagons;

And I sowed my sons like the apple-seed

On the trail of the Western wagons.

They were right, tight boys, never sulky or slow,

A fruitful, a goodly muster.

The eldest died at the Alamo.

The youngest fell with Custer.

The letter that told it burned my hand.

Yet we smiled and said, “So be it!”

But I could not live when they fenced the land,

For it broke my heart to see it.

I saddled a red, unbroken colt

And rode him into the day there;

And he threw me down like a thunderbolt

And rolled on me as I lay there.

The hunter’s whistle hummed in my ear

As the city-men tried to move me,

And I died in my boots like a pioneer

With the whole wide sky above me.

Now I lie in the heart of the fat, black soil,

Like the seed of the prairie-thistle;

It has washed my bones with honey and oil

And picked them clean as a whistle.

And my youth returns, like the rains of Spring,

And my sons, like the wild-geese flying;

And I lie and hear the meadow-lark sing

And have much content in my dying.

Go play with the towns you have built of blocks,

The towns where you would have bound me!

I sleep in my earth like a tired fox,

And my buffalo have found me.


Stephen Vincent Benét

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Stephen Vincent Benét (July 22, 1898 – March 13, 1943) was an American author, poet, short story writer and novelist. He is best known for his book-length narrative poem of the American Civil War, John Brown’s Body (1928), for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1929, and for two short stories, “The Devil and Daniel Webster” and “By the Waters of Babylon”.

Benet’s fantasy short story The Devil and Daniel Webster won an O. Henry Award, and he furnished the material for a one-act opera by Douglas Moore. The story was filmed in 1941 and shown originally under the title All That Money Can Buy.

Benét was born into an Army family in Fountain Hill, Pennsylvania, near Bethlehem in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. He spent most of his boyhood in Benicia, California. At the age of about ten, Benét was sent to the Hitchcock Military Academy. A graduate of The Albany Academy in Albany, New York and Yale University, where he was a member of Wolf’s Head Society and the power behind the Yale Lit, according to Thornton Wilder. He was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for “Western Star”, an unfinished narrative poem on the settling of America.

It was a line of Benet’s poetry that gave the title to Dee Brown’s famous history of the destruction of Native American tribes by the United States: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

He also adapted the Roman myth of the rape of the Sabine Women into the story The Sobbin’ Women, which in turn was adapted into the movie musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

John Brown’s Body was staged on Broadway in 1953, in a three-person dramatic reading featuring Tyrone Power, Judith Anderson and Raymond Massey, and directed by Charles Laughton.

Benet’s brother, William Rose Benét (1886–1950), was a poet, anthologist and critic who is largely remembered for his desk reference, The Reader’s Cyclopedia (1948).


1. Mare’s nest: a complex and difficult situation; a muddle

2. an illusory discovery such as “the mares next of perfect safety”


©2017 Kenneth Harper Finton


When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.” -Mae West

   The child and the boy that Adam used to be was so foreign to him now. Looking over pages that he wrote years ago, Adam barely recognized his former self as the person who wrote them.

   Adam came from a conservative and opinionated small town in rural Ohio. Those who lived in his little town often claimed it was God’s country. Adam supposed that it might be good for the spirit to be content and proud of your community. God’s country seemed to be a stretch, though. So many wonderful spots in the world better fit that description.

   Life seemed to be so much more idyllic and simple then. Yet, it seems to Adam that this warmer view one has toward the past is never the case. Faded memories—the exclusive warm selections of chosen recollections—give the illusion that daily life was richer in the past than in the present. This is the mare’s nest. We are born in illusion and live most of our lives in a delusional fantasy with the blessings and approval of those who surround us.


   Religion and conservative politics were the mainstays of community belief when Adam was being raised. He was brought up to believe in things that were not real, but Adam had a problem with these beliefs. To suspend rational thought and dive into the unproven waters of belief was much easier when Adam was a child.

   Adam’s parents were good to him. They did everything they were supposed to do with a minimum of complaints and resentment. They were neither rich nor poor, neither too conservative nor too liberal.

   These were the days when a mother was expected to stay home and raise the children. The father was expected to bring in a paycheck and support the family. Yet, even then, the very ground of these expectations was trembling.World War II had shown women that they could manage without a man in charge. The experience of hundreds of thousands of years had proven to be false. The seeds of personal independence had taken root in even the most dependent of women. A new world was being born before Adam’s eyes. Only a very few seemed to realize that this was so.


Social taboos confuse men and women alike. A natural curiosity about the difference between men and women develops early in life. Adam remembered when he was four and took the train from Ohio to Colorado to visit his grandmother. He had little experience with the female sex. His curiosity got the best of him. His grandmother lived next to a family that had a daughter Adam’s age. She was deliciously blonde, wore a taffeta dress, and smelled of Ivory Soap. Adams’s play was often defined by guns and cowboys, trains, and fortifications. Society wanted him to grow up to be a good soldier. He was trained to defend his family and national interests while little Susie played with dolls and tea parties. It was the normal thing.

Adam had no idea who thought it up, but one warm afternoon they decided to explore one another’s bodies. Adam had no sister, so he was very curious to see what lay beneath that taffeta dress. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” he said.

She was every bit as curious as Adam. They went behind the shade of a weeping willow and she pulled up her dress. She wore white panties that were different from Adam’s jockey shorts. She eagerly pulled her panties down and Adam saw a vagina for the first time in his young life. How wonderful it looked to him—almost puffy and so very different from what he possessed. She took her hands and pulled the labial folds apart so that Adam could see the inside. He could see little curds of a cheese-like substance.

“I get that, too,” he said.

“Let me see,” she replied.

His penis quickly grew stiffer and larger. He pulled down his pants and showed her what he meant. Adam had never been circumcised, so he pulled back the foreskin and exposed the same little white curds that she had proudly displayed. “Do you want to touch it?” she asked.


“Well, you either do or you don’t,” she said.

“Yeah, I guess I do,” he said.

“Then go ahead. Touch me. I like it when I rub it right here. You can try if you want.”

Adam took his index finger and rubbed her there. It felt very good and he had a tight feeling come into his groin, the same feeling he had when he climbed a rope.

“See,” she said. “This is fun. Do you want to kiss it?”

“Not really,” he said. “Boys don’t kiss girls.”

“Yes, they do,” she said, “my Daddy does that to my Mom.”

“Well—what if I just touch it.”

“That’s okay, but I want to know what it feels like to be kissed down there.”

“How do you know your Dad does that?”

“I’ve seen them do it when they don’t know I can see them.”

“Oh,” I said. “My Dad doesn’t do that.”

“How do you know?” she said. “I bet he does. Then he takes his thing and he puts it into her and they wrestle around on the bed.”

“Why?” Adam asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

A voice from the house could be heard calling her name. “That’s my mother,” she said. “I gotta go.”

She pulled up her panties and ran off to the house. Adam had the feeling that he was in deep trouble. Something told him that he was not supposed to do that with her. Suddenly, he felt panicked.

He crawled up an apple tree as far as his limbs and legs could take him, Sure enough, within ten minutes his mother’s voice could be heard in the distance. “Get in here this moment,” she said. “Susie’s mother told me what you did.”

“What did I do?” he asked, knowing full well that he was in deeper territory that he had never before explored.

“You damned well know what you did,” mother said. “You were bad.”

Adam was totally embarrassed. His head hung low. If he were a dog, he surely would have put his tail between his legs.

* * *

Though childhood lasted more than a dozen years, Adam’s recollections of it seemed to reduce it to a few weeks. Almost all of it was learning and play and Adam loved both equally.

He had the best of many worlds. He lived on a couple of acres in the country, but his family was still close enough to ride his bike to town. Adam attended the city schools. He could ride his bike to visit friends and he could explore the creeks and wooded lands that surrounded his home. He felt so very much alive and so very happy to be.

Later, he would versify these feelings:

The Veils of Time

How often down these gravel roads my bike and I would roam.
Downhill like the lightning flash, up with winded moans …
Mapping streams and woods about me, finding spots where no one came.
Africa could be no stranger than the place in my dreamscape.

Ghosts of dead forgotten Indians, birch canoes and forest game,
hidden in the brambles forest, there beside the fields of grain.
Tadpoles swam among the minnows, dragonflies would dart and play.
Water bugs and prickly nettles, part of each midsummer’s day.

As it was in the beginning, so remain these things today,
in the places man’s forsaken, wilderness, ten feet away.
From a child’s imagination, pterodactyl seeks his prey.
Ages past still live forever when the veil of time is raised.


Adam was always in love. Girls were so pretty and different from the boys with whom he camped and hiked. Their skin was more clear, their hair so long and shining, their dresses rustling and clean smelling. Their grace seemed like music in motion.

Every day was a new adventure. Every person Adam met filled him with curiosity. Everything he learned about the land and customs around him filled with satisfaction. He has never experienced the like since.

In kindergarten, he met Mary with her striking long brown pigtails. Mary owned a pony. Even though she lived in town, she kept the pony in a shed back by the alley. Since cowboys and horses are inseparable and Adam was a young cowboy, she attracted him much as moths seek out the flame. Mary came to visit Adam often. When she could not come to see him, he rode to town on his bike to see her.

Mary and Adam never made experiments and explorations such as he had with his grandmother’s neighbor some years before. Neither the need, the desire or the curiosity ever arose. She made certain of that. Once when Adam had hitched a ride with her on the back of her bike, he reached up to hold onto the seat and she told him, “Watch where you put your hands.”

Her words, though, had the opposite effect. It called attention to her khaki-clad shorts that loosely held her shapely buttocks. Adam wanted to put his hands around her and hang on for life. To this day, Adam is left to wonder if that is what she wanted as well.

There was a television show in the afternoon in the 1950s that featured people being married before the camera. The bride, dressed in white and lovely as a sunrise, came slowly walking down the aisle to her betrothed. Mary and Adam would secretly watch it and play out the parts in front of the TV. He would spend many a lonesome night snuggled with his pillow and dreaming that the long length of her lay warm beside him.

Of her, Adam was later to write:

My love, she wore a gingham dress.
She wore her hair in braids.
Far too young for sweet caress,
our love was heaven made.

We spent a thousand idle hours
together in our dreams,
We wandered near the ancient oaks
and napped beside the stream.

I thought we might be married there,
and then, when time be lost,
side by side, eternally,
we’d rest beneath a cross.

But childhood washes from us all,
and dreams seek other fancies.
Soon she walked with someone else,
this lovely, freckled lassie.

Sure enough, I moved away
to seek some higher labor,
and to this day I’ve not returned
nor seen my long-lost neighbors.

When finally this childish love
grew up and found some others,
I know when I lay down to rest,
they’re one with one another.

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