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Poems from the heart


Clifford Bell is a former Buffalo Council member at Large, but more important, he is a poet at large. Bell, pictured above in a Buffalo News photo, has become known to local radio listeners over the years through his inspirational poetry readings on WUFO-AM. Now he has come out with a new book of his poems, called "Clifford Bell: A Full Life."

A longtime member of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior, Bell has a direct, unpretentious style that can be funny and prove useful in confronting matters of faith and principle. He is disarmingly sincere, and he helps us laugh at ourselves.

"The other day when someone asked/ Can you help me at the church / I had a hundred things to do / Cause I was sitting on my perch..."  begins a poem called "Busy."

And "Faith" runs, in part: "It is not that I've solved my problems / They always will be there / I now have someone to share them / Jesus and I what an awesome pair."

Bell, who turns 80 this November, fills a poem called "Seniors" with tongue-in-cheek wisdom. "As seniors, we're special people / We deserve all we can get / The dues we paid when we were young / Is collectible without regret."

And he even carries you through the week with a cycle of seven verses. "Midweek now I'm in the groove / Just rolling right along / I've warmed up to the spirit / And my life is full of song," starts out the poem for Wednesday.

The book comes with a bonus CD of Bell reading his verses. You can order it or read more about it on Clifford Bell's Web site.

Once, I got to interview Brother Bell, as he is affectionately known, about his poetry. That was — I just looked it up — in 1994. Fifteen years ago! It makes me think of a poem of Bell's, called "Time." "Time is not just the clock on the wall / It's an opportunity to serve / It passes before you know it's gone / Sometimes it wrecks your nerve."

Visiting with him in his City Hall office, I was struck by the councilman's sense of humor, his old-fashioned, gentlemanly ways. On that occasion, Bell breezily admitted to not reading much poetry written by other people. "You know what I do?" he said. "I write."

Amen to that.

— Mary Kunz Goldman



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