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The Lathe-Meister Wordsmithing

I was compelled to address a question that is often asked of many artists and craftsmen, particularly those who do intricate, detailed work, which doesn't generally apply to me. My response has since been published in many woodturning circles throughout the world. It is reprinted here for your enlightenment, and entertainment:

How Long Does It Take To Make One Of Those?

Do you mean...

not plant the tree, but find the wood,

just ‘see’ the piece, (as if I could)?

to find a highly figured burl,

a crotch, an eye, or pearly curl?

And once I spy it, perhaps buy it,

inventory, store, and dry it?

Then saw or cut it, possibly I kiln it,

glue, imbue with fill, or drill it?

You mean, that once I’m satisfied

it’s stopped the warps, checks, cracks, once c c c c c dried?

And mounted on the lathe, to turn it,

(which takes much practice, just to learn it;

and then employ a gouge, or two,

or use a skew, which I don’t eschew,

to mold it, shape it (what’s your pleasure?)

by all means, I’m sure to measure,

then sand it smooth, please wear your mitts,

from coarse to fine, 10,000 grits,

then braze, or burnish, paint, or polish,


(the goal: enhance, and don’t demolish)?

Is that your question, start to end,

how long’s that path, its way to wend?

Or do you merely want to know how long it turned?

Ten minutes, or so.

  © John A. Styer, The Lathe-meister


I have been associated with a loose-knit group of poets, who meet the first and third Tuesdays of each month, at noon.  We call ourselves Lunchlines.  We give assignments to ourselves for each meeting, share them, and occasionally generate a collaborative poem on the spot.  We have compiled compendia (a word I may have just made up, since it is used so infrequently) entitled "Lunchlines...a mixed brown bag of poems".  There are presently 6 of these anthologies, available through the Cecil County Arts Council (  Following are some examples of my exercises:

Sorry I'm Late

"Sorry I'm late," said Joe,
(who, a half hour earlier had whined to his wife
about those stuffy board meetings where people drone
on and on...
about matters of no importance outside of their personal realm,
and the meetings never start on time, and go
on and on...
rarely impeded by the sounds of snoring,
and the fact that most of the people don't even like each other, and he went
on and on...
until his wife interrupted him,
"but honey, you're the chairman of the board, aren't you?")

"Sorry I'm late," said Earl,
whose ONLY job was to disable the alarm system
which is why, as soon as he bounded through the door,
found himself and his band of fellow thieves
surrounded by cops with drawn weapons.

"Sorry, I'm late," said Emma, for the ninth time,
to her husband, who was quite handy in furniture making,
and had recently finished bunk beds for numbers 7 and 8.

"Sorry, I'm late", said the coffee to the customer,
who, with pronounced irritation,
stated that he had specifically ordered latte.

"Sorry I'm late," said Ted,
who was wearing blue suede shoes,
pink and gray argyle socks,
lime green polyester leisure suit with bell-bottom pants,
wide lapels and a wider, and ugly tie,
and topped with a sombrero.
The dock master, eyeing him up one side and down the other,
responded, "That ship has clearly sailed."

© John A. Styer
December 17, 2013



Perhaps subconsciously thanking the man
For flinging him from the scorching sand
Back into the sea,
The starfish concentrated on the only
Firm thought he had ever had:
That involved a smattering of oceanography knowledge,
Ability to withstand constant current change,
Internal salinity adjustments,
Recognition of global boundaries,
Commercial fishing seasons and limits,
Favored species identification,
Regulatory restrictions,
Size standards,
And a whole wad of other concerns that would
Challenge the wordiness of an artist’s statement.
Thankfully, the starfish is capable of addressing
Each of these matters,
Whether trifling, or substantial,
Without so much as a thought,
Somewhat like many voters in a polling booth,
And nearly all who don’t darken the doors of same.
And the starfish seems to maintain its existence,
Even thrive, on its own.
Intervention would, of course,
Based on popularly misguided belief,
Vastly improve the well-being of starfish,
If only some well-meaning experts,
Perhaps a governmental panel,
Would address this potential problem,
Which surely must exist,
Lack of evidence notwithstanding.
A small fee added to boat sales, or fishing licenses,
Or pony rides, or peanut butter,
(What difference does it make?  A fee is a fee!)
Should serve the desired purpose,
After which we can do a more credible job
Of studying the starfish,
Rather than throwing him back in the sea.
But even the starfish,
Certainly not cunning, nor wily,
Is expressive with the only
Two words it knows:
Wait.  What?

© John A. Styer, July 2, 2013

Under the Asphalt

It was the worst news in centuries:  King Richard, III’s body (certainly not body, probably not even bones, but wormy fragments, given the finest mortuary skill the 15th century had to offer) was found beneath an asphalt parking lot.  As implausible as that sounds, breathtakingly invasive research has confirmed that it is, indeed, implausible.  The upshot of this story is that, all over England, perfectly good earth, and parking lots, are being upturned, in search of who knows(?).

A retired dog catcher was found behind the Spar Store in Stow-in-the-Wold.  Three carcasses of no importance whatsoever were discovered in front of the Theatre-on-the-Thames, still waiting in line.  And Hervey Jones located his wife out back of the shed, in a covered over rut.  He had thought he had murdered her.  But it turns out he merely accidentally backed over her with a back hoe.

So all of England is a bit of a mess presently, what with all the digging, and a minimum of the covering back over.  It is thought that the great majority of influential bones have now been laid to rest – possibly at the side of the road, rather than under the parking lot, and there are few to yet be unearthed.  But body uncovering is a little like gold mining – a little goes a long way.  King Richard’s family is apparently satisfied, since they now have (and this is a word I would never have thought to use) “closure”.  A nephew was quoted as declaring, “I knew he was dead all along.”

© John A. Styer, February 19, 2013



I couldn’t be atcher poultry thingee ‘cuz I was at the craft show in Flarda, and I’m telling you, I thought I had seen every possible size and shape a human could be, but then along come Halbert.  He moved in between a shuffle and a waffle – sorta a wuffle.  It was a mystery to me.

They have spatial days here, one for kids, one for farmers, I guess, one for square dancers, one for the Scots, and apparently one for wheel chairs.  I call ‘em weapons on wheels.  They’re all self propelled, some by idiots.  They have unannounced races for the opening that temporarily appears in an aisle full of the unsuspecting.  It’s a mystery.

I have turned wood in my booth.  I’ll answer some of yer questions:  “No, I don’t turn the wood myself, I send it out for someone else to have all the fun so it frees me up to answer stupid questions.”  “Where do I get my wood?  It grows on trees!”  “How long does it take for me to make this?  So far about 27 years.”  The other half of the folks who aren’t customers are all other woodturners.  I’m sure I’ve met all there are here in Flarda.  Then, there’s Marvin, whose neighbor turned a bowl out of “hon, what’s that wood that Claude turned that bowl out of?”  And, of course, I said, “She doesn’t know, and I don’t care!” in my mind, while watching potential customers walk off because Marvin was blocking the entrance.  A mystery.

In the wide arena of marketing, name choice usually plays an important role.  Certainly it is used to appeal to a potential buyer, not the opposite.  And given a choice of opportunities when hunger pangs began to set in, I paid just a smidge more attention to the selections available to me.  I am not sure how close to starving I could get before succumbing to pig-butt-on-a-stick, and I intend for that to remain a mystery.

© John A. Styer, February 5, 2013


If I ever had a mission,
it was just to write nonfiction
(you know, something with conviction),
not a single contradiction,
stirring accurate depiction,
matching my own disposition.

More and more, though, I write fiction,
sometimes causing an infliction.
I don’t think that’s an addiction,
but it might be script affliction.
Since there is no jurisdiction,
I write all with no restriction.

Could this be decomposition,
or just my predisposition?
If I had a mere volition
just to try a new position,
in the field of some edition
of a written composition,
that would make me a magician
with at least some intuition.

But, I think not (my prediction).
I just have a premonition
that the effort for that mission
would put me out of commission.
Then I’d need the house physician,
or at least a good technician.

Do you yet wish interdiction,
or a writ of prohibition?

Very well then, here’s more diction:
useless banter, ammunition,
dulling you into remission,
or apoplectic condition.
I could draw out this rendition.
What’s the point though, demolition?

Maybe, now, you have cognition
of this pointless dereliction,
though, I’m guessing, your suspicion
has confirmed this exposition
is but just a recognition
of my rhymezone’s acquisition.

Shall we move for crucifixion,
or just say the benediction?

© John A. Styer, January 17, 2012


Please let me wallow in my pity, as I write this little ditty;
don’t you dare to interrupt my train of thought!
The world’s beset with smirches as it turns, and sometimes lurches,
heading headlong down the path towards which it ought.

Though the outlook’s rarely sunny, don’t you think it’s kind of funny
that the optimists persist with happy faces,
when surrounding them is eerie bleary news to make one weary,
way more than enough to cover all the bases?

Surely sensible elitists, like myself, the very sweetest
thinker with the most discriminating taste,
recognize dissatisfaction running rampant through the masses,
which, of course, shall never be let go to waste.

I demand a call to arms, quickly now, before the harm’s
done to my psyche and turns my id into a dope.
My advice?  Spread the darkness!  Don’t be nice, but blunt the sharpness
of these dreadful cheery scoundrels.  Smite their hope!

© John A. Styer, December 2, 2008

Beyond Expectations

I once had great expectations
for idealistic legislation,
that which gave much affirmation
for my private aspirations.

But there’s been a slight migration
of congressional gyrations
and, much to my consternation,
I think it’s a complication.

What I thought best for this nation
turned through purposeful striations
and some evil concentration
into mindless obfuscations.

Unnamed secret delegations
heaped upon me regulations,
meant to cause great perturbations,
hoping for my resignation.

Though I have had great frustration,
and some bits of irritation,
with these legal ministrations,
I must voice my protestations.

So, with no more explanation,
here’s my final proclamation:
Though you think this verse is terse,
trust me, things will get much worse.

© John A. Styer, February 3, 2009

This poem addresses morning vs. afternoon, or
ante-meridian vs. post-merdian, or
AM vs. PM

Not a Morning Person

If I’m feeling kind of randy,
with a pen and paper handy,
and I want to quote some Ghandi,
or perhaps a girl named Mandy,
I might stroll a beach that’s sandy,
or go visit with a panda,
just to write a little ante

I’m not the kind to boast,
though I can write from coast to coast
(I’ve been the victim of a roast).
Sometimes I write as ghost
and for some poets I’ve been host.
When I want to write the most,
it will always be a post

© John A. Styer, May 6, 2008

We were asked to write on a ticket stub,and this was my offering:

Admit One

He was picky to a fault,
though his mistakes would fill a vault,
in spite of all that he’d been taught.
He was no fun.

He drove perfectionists to shame,
whether gentleman or dame.
He could be crude by any name.
From him, most run.

You would think he had no mother,
or got beat up by his brother,
and his breath you’d like to smother –
his dead last one!

On the entire world’s behalf
(and it would give us all a laugh)
if from his daily gush of gaffe
he would admit one!

© John A. Styer, August 19, 2008

Fear of Flying

He wants to go home.  He needs to go home.
There’s no place like home, he is thinking.
He may be concerned, alert, not afraid,
and he likely has no feelings sinking.

He checks off by rote, every switch he must note
which, to many, may seem quite demanding.
His only concern, you’ll eventually learn,
is to ultimately have a safe landing.

So I have no fear, a belief I hold dear,
while I’m up in the atmosphere flying,
unless I hear, through my very own ear,
“Let’s drink up, co-pilot, I’m buying!”

© John A. Styer, October 7, 2008


I cannot bring myself to write about sheep.
No poem comes to mind.
Not about ship-shape sheep,
nor shifty sheep,
And sure as shootin’
No sheep named Shirley.


I give short shrift
to cheap sheep shots
and sheep shank knots.
So don’t expect a woolen ode.
Or a mutton pun.
Or a lamb limerick.
Or a ram rhyme.
Not a single veal vowel.


© John A. Styer, October 21, 2008


In keeping with the presumed intent of the title,
I have chosen to let the rest of this poem write itself.

Something, something, something malleability,
something, something that rhymes with malleability.
More words here, followed by ‘not quite a quatrain’.

And, out of the blue, she hit the ground with a splat,
proving once more that poems needn’t rhyme.

© John A. Styer, December 16, 2008

Precious few
people have ever
heard about my hobby.
There isn’t a huge market for flathery,
one of the reasons it’s a hobby, not a career.
My fascination with it is purely personal, in nature.
The search for raw material is part of the calling of flathery.
It can be found in some of the most enchantingly
out-of-the-way places, like down at Mitch’s,
or next to the neighbor’s rose trellis.
Assembly is quite simple,
and the results can
be stunningly

Over time, flathery may cause wrinkling, dementia drowsiness or wasting.  Do not practice with machinery or small relatives.  For detailed information on side effects consult wwwdotorg, or call the number of your choice, followed by the pound sign.  Prepare properly beforehand, with appropriate concentration on vestiges, remnants, and evidence.  A complete list can be found on many sites, or by following your local consultant.  Use precaution with arugula or pasta.  Alcohol may intensify the effect.

© John A. Styer, February 17, 2008.

Invasion of Privacy

He was a farm boy
in a farm-sized family
out in the country
surrounded by farms.
He did what all farm boys do;
played in the hay mow
shooting the bad guys,
helped in the fields
throwing stones at pigeons,
explored places that had never been discovered.
He also did something else that all farm boys do;
when he had to go, he went,
wherever it was convenient.
On this particular occasion,
it was behind a tree.
As he stood there, preparing for the baptism,
he caught some movement
at the very edge of his peripheral view.
e His typically “bashful bladder” froze.
Eventually, as his bodily needs
overcame his psychological hurdle,
he plotted his confrontation
with the unwelcome company.
He had no weapons, not a pebble.
And he wasn’t sure if he was big enough
for a real tangle.
So, as he finished his business
and turned around,
he blared, “ya gettin’ an eyeful?”
The small cedar was, of course, speechless.

© John A. Styer, March 3, 2009

This  poem, written for the Tourism Department's poetry contest, names as many locations in Cecil County, Maryland as I could find.


Andora arrived Earleville, not expecting

her Blake for a few minutes.

Feeling a little Bohemia, and looking very Sassafras,

(she had just Colora her hair and was wearing

something ‘special’ from Fredericktown of Brantwood),

she passed the time with a glass of Port Deposit,

and a serving of Elkton and Frogtown

from down on the Farmington,

while giving the West Nottingham

to a game of Blueball.

Perryville and Glen Farms were at Warwick

with Calvert and Cecilton, both Frenchtown,

who won with four consecutive shots in the

Cayot’s Corner, the Cathers Corner,

the Kilby Corner, and the Barnes Corner.

Game, set, Mechanics Valley!

The Principio reason the Farms boys lost

was they Hacks Point too many of their shots,

but perhaps the Bay View of Andora’s

Chesapeake City had something to do with that.

Or maybe her inopportune sneeze.  Octorara!

Her Fair Hill was the Appleton of Charlestown’s eye,

but, nevertheless, she wasn’t waiting around

until Rising Sun for him to arrive,

Pleasant Hill compliments or not.

I mean, what would be the Turkey Point in that?

Sometimes he could be a pain in the Elk Neck.

Just because he had taken the Liberty Grove

to buy her a Rock Springs

didn’t obligate her to Spencerville

all her time with him.

Belvidere and Leslie had raised no fool.

She had to bring home the Bacon Hill,

from her job down at the Elk Mills,

one of a string of part time jobs

she has had, from Arnold Point to Zion.

She was hoping her current job would

Leeds to much Providence,

unlike some of those others

which were either a pain in the Lombard,

or truly Susquehanna.

She doesn’t Cowentown to any of that.

And, by Conowingo (and the grace of St. Augustine),

she was Blythedale leaving now,

Singerly like a Childs through the Woodlawn,

before that North East blows in.


Poems don't have to rhyme.  Here's one that doesn't even try, on the subject of March.

Forward, March!!!

You march right in there and demand a raise!

March your butt over here and sit, buster!

March comes in like a lion.

Forgive me if the word doesn’t

conjure up positive images,

but I’m less than impressed

with its inclusion in the English language.

It is harsh; abrupt; brusque.

So many words are more colorful; poignant; alluring.

Consider sashay.

Forward, sashay!

Or ramble.

You ramble right in there and demand a raise!

Or stroll.

Stroll over here and sit your butt down, buster!

Or Iliad.

Here we are, the 1st of Iliad.  Iliad came in like soup.

© John A. Styer, March 1, 2005


This one is probably self-explanatory.  The assigned subject was actually ground hogs, but I, quite naturally, went askew:

Ground Hog [Day]

I woke up this morning to a raging blizzard,
necessitating strenuous exercise with a snow shovel. Several minutes into the chore, I saw brilliant lights, flashing inside my eyes, but I felt no pain
as I fell unconscious.

I woke up this morning to a raging blizzard,
necessitating strenuous exercise with a snow shovel.
As I was cleaning off the edge of the sidewalk,
my foot slipped, throwing me under a passing bus.

I woke up this morning to a raging blizzard,
necessitating strenuous exercise with a snow shovel.
My wife decided to help by shoveling the sidewalk,
as I did the driveway.
The snowplow never saw her,
as it buried her in its torrent.

I woke up this morning to a raging blizzard,
necessitating strenuous exercise with a snow shovel. Before I even starting breathing heavy
I felt a crushing pain in my chest and left arm.

I woke up this morning to a raging blizzard,
necessitating strenuous exercise with a snow shovel. But a large tree had fallen across the driveway.

I woke up this morning to a raging blizzard,
necessitating strenuous exercise with a snow shovel. But it was snowing and drifting
faster than I could shovel.

I woke up this morning to a raging blizzard,
necessitating strenuous exercise with a snow shovel.
Little did I know that the holes in my glove would lead
o to frostbite, complications thereof subsequently resulting in the amputation of my right arm.

I woke up this morning, noticed it was 4:31AM,
and rolled over and went back to sleep. 

© John A. Styer, February 1, 2005


A Bulwer-Lytton Treatise on Electricity

Bert McLaren impatiently thrummed
next to the teller's window.

Next in line was Amy Feldman,
bouncing little Aaron on her hip,
trying to console him as he was cutting another tooth.

Behind them stood wide-eyed
(and lavishly tinted with hotrod metallic blue)
Crystal Lawrence, fawning over
bedenimed Donnie Adkins,
to whom she had become engaged…..last night…..late.

In strode Ralph Swayze,
wearing his personalized union jacket,
a scarf over his nose and mouth,
waving an air-gun in one hand,
and holding a plastic(!) bag in the other,
announcing "This is a stick-up!  Don't nobody move!
Fill this bag with money, Karen(!)!"

Bank Manager Chuck Dardon, Ralph's high school coach, rolled his eyes, tapped the steel barrier button,
buzzed 9-1-1, then called out to Ralph,
who promptly wet himself.

It was this moment that the bald tire
on Jake Warner's pick-up,
limping along in front of the bank,
decided to explode.

Electricity was in the air.

 © John A. Styer, May 7, 2002














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