Tag Archives: Poetry

Columbia Crew R.I.P. 2/3/2003. A song…

Creative Commons. Phot by Jtesla16.
Creative Commons. Photo by Jtesla16.

Five days ago I posted a poem I’d written for my daughter who was born on the fifth anniversary of the Challenger’s explosion on take-off. These are the lyrics to a song I wrote on the day the Columbia broke apart on re-entry.

My notes on the lyric sheet: Begun on the way home from work as I was sure we would enter into an Iraq war.  Finished as I sat stunned with the news of the Columbia Shuttle.

Waiting for the Fall – Eve of War

Driving home on the eve of war, can’t see far ahead
The rain it falls in sheets and blankets us, I long for home and bed
Are we right or merely righteous?  How and who decides?
Will our leaders lead us into battle or stay on the sidelines?

Waiting for the fall to come, but not the season’s change
Just like it came to Rome, collapsing under strain          

I awoke to hear the news, seven more are lost
They were living all our dreams, I can count the human cost
“Would they do it all again?” you ask. I can almost see them nod
For the chance to break these bonds and touch the face of God?

Waiting for the fall to come, just like it came to Rome
Prayin’ that the angels are coming to carry them all home

Everyday now, I hear the words. They say the end is near
But all we have, all of us, is one day in one year

Waiting for the fall to come is such a waste of time
Utilize the everydays, to do not is a crime

February 3rd, 2003


30 years ago and 25 years ago today…

As a preview for April, National Poetry Month, when I will share ShuttleNasaPDmore poems.

I don’t write a lot of poetry, but I do write it when inspired. I wrote this six years after the Challenger loss. This was near another more pleasant anniversary, the first birthday of my daughter, Sheridan M. M. Slater. When the Columbia Seven lost their lives I wrote a song. I suppose these were intended to be song lyrics, too, but no music ever came. Columbia was eighteen years later, also in January, but I don’t recall anyone mentioning it two weeks ago. [Author note: Oops. 1/16/03 was the launch date, and the accident occurred on reentry 2/3/03.] I remember where I was for that, too. I will post the lyrics and hopefully a recording of the song.

Happy birthday to my daughter and Ad Astrato the stars for the astronauts. May their service not have been in vain.

Rocket Tears – January 28

I remember the day quite clear as if it were yesterday
A day that had dawned bright and clear, soon would be torn away
I walked into a room, full and hushed, stunned into silence and sorrow
Their spirits were broken and crushed as the blast took away our  tomorrow

Smoke clouds of billowing white; next few moments flash by in a blur
We see the fire as the engines ignite, then the unthinkable occurs
I see the flash and then hear the sound as it replays again on the screen
There I stand and ask why as she crashes down into the sea

There I stood and I cried. . . rocket tears
Sorrowful tears in my eyes
As rain from the skies
Obscures the clouds and our fears

Five years later on that January day, I drove to see a new life arrive
The clouds have now drifted away and now we once again strive
The birth of a baby brings hope of a renewal of life and of dreams
As for death use the pain for our growth, see what the future reveals

From death there will come life again as the phoenix arose from the fire
Please don’t let our dreams fade with the flames of the funeral pyre
Tell the story to daughters and sons of the lives that people have given
In the dream of pursuing the sun they’ll remain in our memories living

Here I stand and I cry. . . rocket tears
Hopeful tears in my eyes
As rain from the skies
Obscures the clouds and the years

January 1992.

Author’s Note: Yes, this is where my publishing company name, Rocket Tears Press, comes from. 

What comes around… Mad Max lyrics from 1982

Crossposted to my personal blog.

I haven’t been able to shoehorn the time into my schedule to go see the New Mad Max movie, but I am anticipating the event something fierce. So, for a bit of a flashback, here are some song lyrics I wrote in Mr. Gregory’s Geometry class at Hoquiam High School. Since my 30th reunion is coming up this summer, I’m thinking a lot about those days.

These are from the embarrassing lyrics era, but transcend that trend a little. Derivative? Hells yes, but fun. Sort of like I hear the new Mad Max movie is… And two different publications liked them enough to pay me to publish them! Rock on!

Highway Rider

The flatlands are burning in this land we’ve turned to hell
The world keeps on turnin’ inside this fragile shell
We’ve got to get away from here before we start to rot
We’ve gotta get to somewhere else, this hell is all we’ve got

Off in the distance about to top the rise
The noise of tortured metal the smoke just fills the skies
I jump into the cockpit the mighty engine roars
The tires spin, the gravel flies, my foot is to the floor

Gasoline is life, it’s the blood in my hands
It’s the only ticket out of this cruel and battered land
My tank is full I cannot waste a single precious drop
The race is run my time is done, if I can’t make him stop

The law of the land is the fittest survive
The only thing I’m working for is tryin’ to stay alive
Across the desert wasteland his fate he comes to meet
His car is getting closer burning through the blazing heat

I power brake and spin around and slow to catch my breath
The warrior is coming, running for his death
A deadly game of chicken means the fittest survive
The only thing I still can do is close my eyes and drive

Accelerate, my tires spin, my posi grips the road
The RPM’s are runnin’ up – about to overload
The nerves of steel come in play, the chaser now the chased
His fault he realizes now, his car a flaming waste

The smell of burning gasoline mixed with burning flesh
I slow my car to watch the scene and sigh a weary breath
I must escape this savage land, I cannot stand the pain
My son becoming just like me with all my work in vain

I leave the flaming hulk and drive into the setting sun
One day I’ll make it out of here, today is not the one
Some think our lives are fixed, left to the hands of fate
But I believe I shall escape, I hope it’s not too late

Appeared in the Spring 1994 issue of The Galactic Citizen.
Appeared in the February 1999 online issue of Jackhammer E-zine.

Teaching Creative Writing to Teens.

This advice goes to 11!

I love to work with students on their writing. Poetry, fiction, screenplays, essays… I love their ideas, their growth over time, but not so much their ability to self-reflect. But I was a young writer once, too. Nothing is ever as brilliant as the thing you just finished five minutes ago. This is a rule.

What do I teach them in room #11?

#1. You can’t fix a blank page. Get words on paper [even if it’s virtual paper now.].

#2. Write everyday. When you miss a day, start over.

#3. Don’t put yourself or your fellow writers down.

#4. Everything can be improved with rewriting.

#5. Read. Read a lot. Read some more. Reread a favorite. See what the author does.

#6. Don’t worry if its been done before. It has but everyone is doing it again anyway.

#7. Stop. Look. Listen. Just like you’re going to cross the street. What do people do? What do they sound like?

#8. Make notes, you think you won’t forget it, but you might. You might even forget it if you do write it down. There are lots of random scraps of paper with phrases on them in my files. Some don’t make sense.

#9. Write for yourself. Then share it with others as soon as you’re ready.

#10. Keep going. Persevere. Rewrite. Reread. Rework. Eventually it will lead to reward.

#11. Find people who you can trust to tell you what your bad habits are, tell you when you’re shouting your message when you should be whispering.

What advice would you give young writers?

Write on,


Oh, the Places I went on my Spring Break

A poem by Robert L. Slater, inspired by Theodore Geisel

In the spring of the year of twenty fourteen
There was found a kind author with a penchant for green
He printed his novels on backs of DOOSpaper*
And tried to recycle all of the newspaper

When to his hometown he returned for a read
His welcome surprised him, too true, yes, indeed
Old friends and family called him all Robbie
And they sat and they talked in the library lobby

After the show, many books he did sell
Then off to the pizza place still feeling swell
He met with his editors, partner and friends
And they talked and he bubbled all over again

Then back to the motel, dingy and old
To wait till the sun came to check for the mold
The innkeeper was sorry, but not sorry enough
To give any discount, oh, boy that was tough.

The next day was better, a run on the beach
And a trip to the bookstore not far out of reach
The bookstore was closed on the Sunday and Mon
So back to the drawing board where he’d begun

He found a drugstore that sold books, drugs and gifts
The fact that they knew him gave him quite the lift
They took six new books to sell to more people
Then off Robbie went avoiding the Fleepell**

He went to a high school, to students he read
Though loving of Zombies, none were undead
They paid good attention and asked many queries
Till after an hour the author was weary

He headed north and did battle with Seattle traffic
But good news awaited at home, wait a tick,
The school wanted 30 new books signed right quick

He quoted a price that would fleece his accounts
Then hoped he could send the books south on a bounce
An ex-wife said no, I am already here
But a cousin, a niece said, “I’m going, no fear.”

So the author, our friend, settled in to do flooring
Replacing old fake wood with tile’s not boring
But hard work it was and tired he got
So watched he Star Wars movies with his youngest daught-
er or something like that.

The second Star Wars that was numbered Part Five
Was really refreshing for those still alive
A swim at the YMCA was quite cool
But, boy, was tired when he crawled from the pool

He mowed the high lawn ‘fore rain started to fall
[And yes, I know this bad grammar is all]
The spring break did end with a film that was Bella
And then some more pizza—what a happy fella

When he got back to school he found students galore
Awaiting to tell him ’bout the week gone before
So Kevin and Gabe did not know what to do
So they sat and made fun of Rob’s writing too

* D.O.O.S.paper is Dirty On One Side or the paper formerly known as scratch paper.
** I had to make up at least one proper noun!

Path to Indie Publication: Part I–Born a Writer?

My Path to Indie Publication Series is a companion series to Marshall Ryan Maresca’s Path to Publication. I have been avidly reading Marshall’s posts since I discovered his blog.

Born a Writer? *

As I eagerly await the official release of my debut novel, All Is Silence, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my personal path to publication. I’ve been writing short stories, songs, and poetry practically since I could place pen to paper. I am a third generation writer. My mother released a book of poetry that included poems by her, my grandfather, myself and two of my children. I’ve released a CD of my own songs, Some of the someofthepartsParts, and seen some of my plays performed. I’ve had my phases, song lyrics, plays, short fiction and poetry.

Science Fiction and Fantasy have been a huge part of my life since the golden age of 10, but I hadn’t considered writing it. At the age of 23 in 1990, during an all-night study session, I started my first novel. I should have been writing a Research Paper for my Russian Literature in Translation class. The paper got a D. The novel probably deserves a similar grade. Not long after I read a Spider Robinson novel, Time Pressure, and I sat down the next day and wrote my first speculative fiction story.

That first novel, Jack and the Beanstalk set in 2050-something, was a rambling series of events that happened to Jack told in order of occurrence and later reworked so that it started en media res. A kindly local novelist and short-story writer, Rick Gauger, took pity on me and read part of the manuscript. He said it was picaresque. I had to look it up. He also told me some other issues and carefully avoided saying he had read the whole thing! I submitted it to a small press magazine, The Galactic Citizen, edited by Deb Houdek, and she accepted it and serialized the first several chapters. It was a phenomenal feeling to see it in print and even have some talented artists contribute very cool 50s pulp-style illustrations. I shopped the manuscript around in the traditional way: synopsis, first three chapters, Courier New font and tons of $ in postage and handling costs. Thankfully, it did not make it through the slush pile.

At Vikingcon in Bellingham I met Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith and did the young author stalk. I heard them read, I listened to their panels and I bought their signed books. Then I followed them to a Rustycon workshop in Tacoma. I think it was 1996. There I learned THE SECRET of breaking through in publishing. It was so simple. Too simple. Write a short story or a novel chapter each week. When you finish it, edit, then send it off. Lather, rinse and repeat. They promised that if I did that for a year, I would get published.

Coming next week: Part II-First Sale

* Adapted and expanded from the Foreword to Outward Bound: Science Fiction & Poetry, a collection of some of my published and unpublished works. Top

Photo for Serial Story article and new story

Got my picture taken in the bowels of the Bellingham Herald building for the Serial Story: Memories of Light. Also, we will be doing a reading of the serial at Village Books at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct.12.

Finished the 2nd draft of the opening story for my Fiction and Poetry collection. It is a Deserted Lands short short story. I haven’t written a ‘writer’ story as such, so this is a first. What would a middle-aged writer faced with the end of the world do? This story provides one answer.

E-Book of Fiction and Poetry nearly ready.

Outward Bound_1

Completed 90% of this e-book using Scrivener. It was more difficult to figure out, but when uploaded to Kindle reader, Scrivener gives me so much more control. The e-book should be up in early August. It includes most of my sold fiction (PG rated) and poetry, as well as, some unpublished fiction and poetry, a BRAND NEW Deserted Lands story and the first chapter of my debut novel: All Is Silence. Nothing like three days with limited internet to ensure progress is made.