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Former finance commissioner turns to poetry

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Miles Dean has been at the center of things and he has been at the edges of things.

For eight years, he was at the center of Jay Rockefeller's governorship of West Virginia, as finance commissioner and director of economic and community development.

"I worked for a pretty spectacular guy. Very generous and very helpful in terms of allowing a finance commissioner to do what a finance commissioner should do and a development director to do what was consistent with his objectives for the state."

Whether it was removing tolls on state roads, clearing impediments to the construction of the West Virginia University stadium or aiding the creation of Weirton Steel's employee ownership plan, Dean had his hands full in state government.

He has also worked as a financial executive for some big companies, did a stint in the Peace Corps in Poland, raised sheep because his granddaughters were delighted by some lambs, and worked in a soup kitchen.

"My career has never been much based on some orderly progression," he said.

Now, at age 72 and living in the woods in Fayetteville with his wife of 50 years, he has studiously turned to poetry. He has self-published "Furrows on Parchment" (available through Amazon.com) and will have another collection out at the end of the year titled "Musings After Midnight."

His mindful reflections on family and daily life were initially spurred by hearing former Poet Laureate Billy Collins read on National Public Radio. "I thought: 'What a beautiful picture!' I started exploring that. I loved putting together words that made pictures. So I started writing and went to some workshops and joined a writers group."

He has been writing steadily now for more than five years and has had some success, winning multiple awards for prose and poetry from the West Virginia Writers Inc. group. He has read his poetry four or five times at Greenbrier Valley Theatre, in Lewisburg, and elsewhere.

He still has his hands lightly in government as a member of the Fayette County Planning and Zoning Commission. But he doesn't miss being a regular in the headlines of the Gazette during the Rockefeller Statehouse days.

"We all pass through this life, and we have various points where we're important and other times when we're not important, and if we don't get hung up on the process, there's much to be gained. When I stopped working, I went to a soup kitchen and said, 'Can I help you cook?'

"Being at the center of anything is not of any real importance. Having a good and rich life is important."

• • •

Poems from "Furrows on Parchment":

When I Was a Little Boy

Grandma Gallagher had no small children

my mother her only child

  • o toys in the yard
  • one allowed inside
  •  

    tough to visit her

    behavior disturbed tranquility

    led to banishment

    to the side yard

     

    Once, I found a branch in the lilacs

    began dragging it around

    running it against the fence

    using it as a sword

     

    After awhile, I settled next to the oak tree

    digging in the dirt with the heel of the branch

    deeper and deeper it went, and

    then my stick broke through

     

    peering down, I saw masses of people, and

    tigers, bears and monkeys all welcoming me

    With certainty from a bedtime story,

    I was sure I'd arrived in China

     

    Climbing through the hole, we danced and played as noisily

    as tigers, bears and monkeys and teeming masses might

    then my mother called from the porch, and

    we went back to the kitchen to say goodbye

     

    I said nothing of my adventures

     

    House For Sale

    Warped porch boards, split corner posts

    broken spindles, missing railings

    weathered paint streaked with age

     

    A sag in the roof, shingles missing

    others by a nail

    chipped bricks on the chimney

     

    Windows that would not open

    latches that would not close

    leaning frames, cracked window panes

     

    Vines creeping over the railing

    climbing skyward with the chimney

    the house a trellis

     

    Old truck

  • inking in the soft earth
  • by the apple tree

     

  • ign in the yard
  • "For Sale, By Owner"

     

    car on the road in front

  • lowed
  • hesitated

    drove on

    Reach Douglas Imbrogno at douglas@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.


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