Creative Writing

Bitter Cold

Ice BlockBitter Cold

by Rick Stoltz

It was bitter cold inside.
It had been so for months.
I could have stirred the fire.
I should have revived the flame.
Instead, we opened windows.

Too late I offered,
“Please let me stir the embers.”
But the fire had gone out.
The chill had taken hold.
She was bitter cold inside.

If I can find one ember
That emits a feeble glow,
I’ll fan it till it snaps and sparks,
Until joyful flames dance and play
And our hearts are warm again.

If I cannot find one ember,
If only ash remains,
There’ll be no glow, no spark, no fire,
No warmth within my soul.
Only bitter cold inside.

© 2013, Richard D. Stoltz

Creative Writing


"City Life," by Victor Arnautoff, 1934.

“City Life,” by Victor Arnautoff, 1934.


by Rick Stoltz

I love the rhythm of the city.
The spirited pace and hopeful expectancy.
The innovative brilliance and unfettered creativity.
The ever-evolving kaleidoscope of humanity and symphony of sounds.
The never-ending menu of cuisines and libations,
routine and opportunity, activities and events,
music and art, recreation and sports,
bobbles, bangles, and bling.

With limitless resources, one could live a lavish lifetime,
having drawn little from the well.

But for the painter, the sculptor, the photographer,
the composer, the poet, the writer,
one should not drink so deeply.
One should only dabble now and then,
noting not only the event,
but the people on stage and in the stands.
Not just the crowds, but the individuals.
Not just the bling, but the blankets.
The postures, the faces, the eyes, and the wrinkles.

The artist should stealthily follow a partying couple home,
then listen outside their window.
Or linger after hours in a metropolitan hot spot
to observe the dishwasher, the custodian,
and the wasted waif shivering in the alley by the dumpster.

He should sit on a public bench and absorb his surroundings.
He should engage his neighbor
in honest, non-judgmental conversation,
taking her pulse and listening to her heart.

He should stand alone at his high-rise window,
examining as a scientist and a shrink,
all that transpires below.
He should make sketches and take notes,
then retire with a drink
to immortalize the light and the dark of his city.

© 2013, Richard D. Stoltz

True Story

An Unlikely Encounter


When I was six or seven, and living in Denver, Colorado, my parents and brother and I visited Manitou Cliff Dwellings—apartments, kitchens, conference rooms, waste areas, etc., carved into the rock face by the ancient Anasazi tribe. One of the attractions on that Saturday was two young Native American boys, about my age, performing a few of their tribal dances.

More than three decades later, I returned to the cliff dwellings with my wife and son. Again, young boys were demonstrating their tribal dances. In the small crowd that had gathered, I noticed a Native American man, approximately my age, wearing a Cal State Fullerton sweatshirt. Since CSUF is my alma mater, I went over to speak with him. As we spoke, I told him about my earlier visit, and that I had watched young dancers perform, just as they were the day of our conversation. The gentleman smiled and said, “Probably I was one of them.”

It’s a small world after all!

Creative Writing

Rick’s Limericks et al

Several months ago, I joined an online poets’ group. That is to say, I was grafted in, since I consider myself a writer of prose. Here are some of my attempts at poetry writing. Limericks and haiku seem to be my forte, I suppose because they’re simple and fun. 

Owed to Starbucks

At Starbucks I ordered a “Tall.”
But the cup wasn’t tall, not at all!
Tall’s supposed to be big,
But one has quite a gig
To charge grande prices for small.


On Starbucks it finally dawned
Some people might truly be fond
Of a titch lighter brew
But I laughed through and through
When I ordered myself a Tall Blonde.


There once was a man from La Habra
Who found he could rhyme “candelabra.”
But not much else rhymes,
So in difficult times,
He’ll use Spanish words like “palabra.”

NOTE: The Spanish word for “word” is “palabra.”

Resounding Silence

Night falls without a peep.
Dawn cracks while I’m asleep.
If trees fall, and no one’s ’round,
Will the deafening noise make the slightest sound?


Drizzle wears me thin.
Feels like life is drizzling, too.
Wet. Dank. In the tank.


Some use mushrooms to get high,
But that’s not wise, and so not I.
I just eat
‘Cuz they’re a treat
And ‘cuz I’m a real fungi.

Someday Maybe

She wants me to write her a sonnet
To carry under her bonnet.
I don’t want to at all;
Perhaps in the fall,
I’ll consider a date to think on it.

All poems on the page © 2013, Richard D. Stoltz

Creative Writing

50 Years Ago Today


Remembering November 22, 1963

by Rick Stoltz

NOTE: On this, the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s assassination, I have chosen to display this official portrait of our 35th President rather than a photograph more closely associated with his death. I much prefer to remember him as a young, vibrant world leader, carefully steering our nation through treacherous waters, rather than the bloody, unwitting target of a mad man, cradled in his wife’s arms with half his skull blown away. 

On this date 50 years ago, I was in my 6th grade classroom at Ladera Palma Elementary School in La Habra, California. I believe it was Social Studies period, and we were studying Latin America. Ladera Palma was a new school equipped with many modern innovations of the day, the most impressive to me being an intercom system in every classroom.

Every morning, our principal, Mr. Maza, would lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance and make general announcements. The intercom was occasionally used for unscheduled announcements, as well. On this morning, shortly after 10:30 Pacific Time, Mr. Maza, speaking over the intercom, interrupted our studies to announce that President Kennedy had been shot while traveling in a motorcade in Dallas. Mr. Hailey, our teacher — generally a tough-skinned old coot from Mississippi — stood silently at his desk and dabbed his reddened eyes with a handkerchief. A short time later, Mr. Maza somberly announced that the President was dead. And then, over the intercom for all the school to hear (except perhaps the lower grades), he prayed for our nation and the President’s family, and requested God’s guidance for the difficult days ahead.

In any era, that would be a bold, somewhat risky act. It was particularly so on this occasion, due to the Supreme Court’s recent (1962) decision declaring public school prayer unconstitutional.

If there was fallout from the incident, whether from faculty, staff, parents, or students, I was not aware of it. However, on that morning five decades ago, Mr. Maza could not predict what the outcome of his prayer might be. Nevertheless, he obviously believed that the gravity of the situation warranted a public statement of trust in God. Though today I do not support mandatory, audible prayer in the classroom (for reasons I will not discuss here), I will always appreciate and respect Mr. Maza’s bold, potentially costly decision to pray in the wake of such a tragic, world-shattering event. I salute you, Mr. Maza.

November 22, 2013 • © 2013, Richard D. Stoltz

Creative Writing

Vietnam Blues

War Is Hell

Vietnam Blues

by Rick Stoltz

There’s a murky white cataract over Steve’s left eye / making it almost impossible for him to see / and difficult for anyone, even drinking buddies, / to look at him. Some find it repugnant. / Me? I find it sad. Remembering.

He coughs and snorts almost constantly now. / Still he smokes like a chimney. Like there’s no tomorrow. / Truthfully, there aren’t many. “You need to quit,” I tell him. / I don’t wait for the answer. “What for?” he responds. / No point in saying. He knows.

Two wives. Three kids. Possibly more by other women. / He doesn’t know where any of them are. / Not one cares where he is … or if he is. / Having served with Steve in Nam, however, / I see someone they don’t. Someone they can’t see. A hero.

I see only a determined young man with piercing blue eyes / and clear vision. Even in intense fighting, Steve could see / plain as day what needed to be done. / Never an officer, he would muster the men and equipment / necessary to take the high ground. No one pulled rank.

I don’t remember the battle now. Tangled in undergrowth / with a broken ankle, I was a sitting duck. “Cover me,” / Steve shouted to Kenny, who was sure to become / the best damned blues singer in Dixie. Dragging me to safety, / Steve took two in the back. Kenny got one in the throat. True blue.

Except for the ankle, I was unscathed. But I knew / Steve and Kenny had traded their lives for my sorry existence. / Kenny died a young, silent beggar. “Mr. Blue Eyes” lingers on / with excruciating pain and mean sucker demons. / I’ve tried to save him from demons and war and self. But I know …

Steve died in the jungles of Nam.

November 4, 2013 • © 2013, Richard D. Stoltz