Posted in inspirational, music, profiles, stream of consciousness writing

Poem for Nina Simone




who played
the black and white keys,
the piano, the only friend of a lonely, dreamy, fervent
child from across the tracks.
grew prophetic, classical,
little, lilted and black
yet she couldn’t strike back,
a husband who pretended to love her
with a mean hitting hand,

sought to ease her sorrow
looking with improvisation
for tomorrow.
Turbulence shackled her shoulders, her soul
and at corners she circled not knowing
which way to go,
raging, performing, shining on and on,
stage to stage,

stairs up and down,
the days of lights, laughter, and neighbors
and inky-deep indigo nights,


played and traveled and looked for a home.
We bid you only comfort, dearest,
darling with your righteous fingers

did what she could.
Sail on, ebony goddess, you are
forever bound in our endearments, twinkling
you settle, settle,
settled down
among the clouds of the comforting place
where you are
free, free, free.
Free to just be.


Copyright © 2016 by Susan E. Rowland

Posted in inspirational, memoir, music

Blog Challenge Four: Songs with an Impact


The prompt today is to write about three songs that have significance in my life. I changed up the prompt in order to get it done.

 How do you write about something as vital to life as water? Music is water. I decided to do a free write keeping in the memoir genre. These are my early visceral feelings about music with societal change/cultural undertones. I can’t do just three. No way. Born to be wild.


Swing low sweet chariot,




to that Lonesome Valley…




My head almost reaches the top of the piano. Someone buys a record player and my switch is turned on. Feet squiggle, legs swag, hands open and close, I’m shakin’ with the age five jitters.  The running base and melody of ragtime make the world spin. I can’t stop. The big people stop and watch. Their eyes become bright, but why aren’t they all dancing too? Why don’t they jiggle right along with me? Take me to heaven because I have arrived with a song called “Down Yonder” by Joe “Fingers” Carr. When I learn that people want to be entertained, I keep  moving. But then it all has to stop and the dancing ends.

I move and then I move away.

The Twist” and Chubby Checker get us all up. The times are changing and there is nothing any of the parents can do about it. They seem to breathe more easily after the Dick Clark show is over and it’s lights out. In high school all the kids dance at lunch, all the black kids that is, and a few of us white kids that can’t resist the beat. I’m there. Every day.

 Every chance I get, I’m at downtown churches or the houses of my classmates. One time  I’m allowed to go to a Thanksgiving with Tyrell. His mother says, “Come here Sue, babe. Help me with these trays.” I am fourteen. They accept me. They take me under their wing. Somewhere, over the rainbow, I belong. I am melted like butter. When I go back home it feels like I’ve done something wrong. There’s a skipped beat in the record somewhere.

Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Taj Mahal. Little Walter. BB King, Freddie King, Albert King, Albert Collins. Tina Turner. The Persuasions. Bonnie Raitt.

Then I find the crooners and sail into the future,  my ears up to the big speakers on the stereo and I wail along, oozing and dripping with emotion… “Where is Love” from Oliver! or anything by the Temptations. James Brown, Gladys Knight. Chicago. Ry Cooder. Sly and the Family Stone.

Please, Please, Please.

I am sixteen when the “the moon is in the seventh house” and we are overcoming.

To be continued.

Copyright © 2014 Susan E Rowland


Posted in Gratitude, memoir, music, parenting

Perseverance: Gratitude Post 20, Baby!

eight ball copy.jpg with blair's name

Dear readers, I hope you guys are doing well! Thank you for stopping by. It’s day 20 of the November gratitude journal. Woo-hoo! Here’s a quickie free write, free association blogpost.

I am grateful for tenacity and perseverance and not being behind the eight ball or between a rock and a hard place, or stuck in the middle, or down in the dumps or  any of that.

Understand what I’m saying?

My son, Blair did the above cartoon when he was in middle school, if I remember right. Blair drew and tapped his way through life and is now a professional drummer. He started out with a practice pad at about six. He stayed with that darn pad for a year, never complaining. Slowly, piece by piece, a real  drum set moved in. I was always involved with music, his bio dad was a guitar player, and  Jesse, a gospel singer. Music was in the woodwork.

This kid was always into rhythm. During my pregnancy, I played James Brown, Duke Ellington, early  jazz and classical standards. We sang all the time.  In his  second and third grade years, I would get notes sent home about him, something to the effect of “Blair gets bored easily and constantly taps his pencil on the desk…” What’s the mother of a drummer to do? How did I ever survive it? How do kids survive it all?

From our experience, independent study during senior year in high school saved the restless forward- focused lives of both my kids. They wanted to be in the adult world ASAP. Living at home was not at the top of their priority lists. Living in a small town meant there were lots “aunts and uncles” to help with the task of transition during their busy lives.  Somehow, through sheer tenacity, a lot of demanding on my part-ie-you WILL  graduate high school-and fervent pleading with the man upstairs, our kids made it to adulthood and beyond. I still marvel at it.

 Both my kids got jobs as soon as the ink was fresh on the work permit and not because anybody “made them.” The deal was if you wanted to drive, you paid insurance, which back then was almost affordable with an after school job. Driving was a privilege that had to be earned. About jobs, we had three of us in the same family who worked at the local Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, which was owned by a local fishing family.

This post is dedicated to parents, grandparents, and great-grands everywhere who are raising kids or involved with care-giving. The sheer will to persevere is more than a line from the I Ching.  Perseverance is the ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’

Journal prompt: How are you feeling lately about challenges? What does perseverance mean to you? Do you have children or are you involved with their care? What stories inspire you about overcoming adversity?

Copyright © 2013 text by Susan E. Rowland

Art credit: Blair W. Rowland-Mullen

Posted in inspirational, journal prompts, music

November Gratitude Post 13: Music!

                                                music tree copy 1

I am grateful for music.

Healing energizing soothing

Drumming singing syncopating

Melodic synthesizing blended


And rhymes of life


With grace, supplication and release.


Journal prompt: Write about music. How do you use music in your life? What styles impress you the most and do you play any instruments? Feel free to share!

Copyright © 2013 text, art, and photos by Susan E. Rowland