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Poem by Francis Smith

COME to me in the days of a summer sky,

Come to me in the scent of an autumn fire,

Come to me in the sough of the winter wind,

And in springtime, come!

        Come when blossoms deck the boughs,

        Come when sunbright warms the vales,

        Come when fledglings try their wings,

            And with children, come!

Come to me in the shining of the sun,

Come to me in the drumming of the rain,

Come to me in the sifting of the snow,

    And in fog, come!

        Come, come to me;


Poem by Francis Smith

Emmitsburg Poet Laureate

Lonely as the cloudless deep

That yawns with breathless sleep

I gasp the night-time-air

And with scarce-muted stare

Behold the lonely-vigiled night

And watch the stars take flight

Across the azure trove

Wherein the winds have wove

A wealth of patient peace

To deck the frontispiece

Of mine own vacant state

And perhaps to animate

The stupor of my soul.

God’s Favorite Son

~ Poem by John C. Costopoulos of Waynesboro, PA

He used to think

He was God’s favorite son,

Protected by a blissful

Shelter of heavenly amber.

Favored, cultivated

To blossom into

The perfected

Flower of compassion.

To succor the poor,

The sick, and the afflicted.

Who suffer occupation

And humiliation

By the shock-troops of greed.

Now he ranges

Over naïve, sullen landscapes.

His holy armor chipped away,

The power of his weapons Dulled by the predators

Of humanity.

Now, God’s favorite son

Wanders in search

Of his father,

Slogging through the muddy

Ice of strange, wasted acreage.

So he looks for shelter,

A place to heal, to prepare

For the next campaign.

In desperate prayer

That by merely returning

To the fight

His Father will

Welcome him back home.

Back to life’s fatted calf.

Children do their own thing:

Jump and play and scream

Baby dolls, lollipops

Dress and eat and scream

Fire engines, baseball bats

run and chase and scream

tag and hide-and-seek

Come-in-free and scream.

They must have wondrous lungs

With exercise supreme

They need them all their lives

Just listen to them scream!

Everywhere I go

When I seek rest and peace

Everywhere they go

Will their screaming ever cease?

Everybody loves those kids

Babies, youths and teens

Sometimes I think I’ve had enough

You know what I mean?

It’s to the point that I’m afraid I’m going to scream and scream.

Frances Smith’s oldest dated poem that he has is dated 1946, more than seventy years ago. Over that time, he has penned thousands of poems.

“I enjoy words and how they sound,” Smith said from his Taneytown home, which is filled with notebooks of his poetry and more than a few loose scraps of paper with his poetry on them.

As essential a part of his life as his poetry is now, it wasn’t always that way. When he was a young man studying to be a priest in the seminary, he had a hard time catching on to what is so wonderful about poetry.

His poetry instructor was a patient Catholic priest. Each day he would come into the classroom and begin by reading a poem. Then he would look at Smith.

“I would shake my head to tell him that I didn’t get it,” Smith said.

Day after day, poem after poem, Smith struggled to understand. Then, one day, the priest read a poem; Smith doesn’t recall what it was titled or who wrote it, but he remembers one line: “Meekly no angels fancy.”

Something about the poem touched him, and he understood. When the priest looked at him that day, Smith nodded. The priest went to his desk and picked up a large list of names and checked off Smith’s name. Apparently, Smith wasn’t the only seminarian who didn’t get poetry.

From there, his understanding of poetry multiplied, and he was soon tutoring a friend in it.

During his years at the seminary, he majored in philosophy and also taught at St. Joseph Prep School in Philadelphia. This served him well, because when he decided not to become a priest, he instead became a Carroll County teacher. Smith taught English in Sykesville High School, Taneytown High School, and Francis Scott Key High School, for forty years.

When he finally retired, Smith’s poetry and painting became his life’s pursuits. He is a cancer survivor, but it left him weak and unable to do strenuous activity. However, he can create pictures from word and paint.

“Writing and painting are my life,” Smith said.

He is poems are regularly published in The Catoctin Banner, and some of his collected poems have also been published in limited-edition books.

Frances Smith is shown with some of his own artwork.

James Rada, Jr.

Many Emmitsburg residents have the soul of a poet that is striving to be released. On the third Friday of each month they gather in the Holy Grounds Café inside St. Philomena’s Catholic Books and Gifts on the square in Emmitsburg. They order a drink and then settle down to read poetry or to simply listen to it being read.

The members of Catoctin Voices, Emmitsburg’s local poetry group, come from all walks of life, but they all share a love for the rhythm of words.

“I am always amazed at the different styles and voices we have reading to us,” said Lisa Cantwell, the group’s founder. “And the more we have, the better it will be.”

Catoctin Voices met for the first time in November 2013, and has been going strong ever since.

“Word is getting out,” Cantwell said. “Poetry needs to be out there in the public eye.”

The meetings begin at 7:00 p.m., and after a few short announcements, members read a couple short pieces to the group. Sometimes it is a poem the member has written, but other times, it’s simply a piece that appealed to the reader. The pieces may be short or long, humorous or serious. Some of the subjects at a recent meeting were seasons, photographs, love, diets, and dead cats. Often there is a guest speaker at the meetings.

“We’ve had Virginia Crawfort, Maryland’s Poet in Residence, come from Baltimore to speak with us, as well as Sis. Ann Higgins, who has been featured twice on National Public Radio (NPR),” said Cantwell.

The guest speaker at the meeting on February 20, 2015, will be Mark Greathouse. Greathouse not only writes poetry, but has published a self-help book and young-adult novel. He is also the president and managing partner of Strategic Capital Partners, LLC, a business that connects early-revenue-stage, technology-based ventures with the private equity capital necessary for growth.

Catoctin Voices is not meant to be a critique group. Some members meet separately to critique each others’ works. The group was set up to give poets an outlet where they can read their work and to allow them to inspire and delight each other through their works. 

“Poetry speaks to the soul,” Cantwell said. “These mountains seem to speak out and tell stories.”

Poetry group 2 - by James Rada, Jr.

Reader is Martin Malone from Mount St. Mary’s University.