One night, years later, after his wife had passed away, Clarence awoke alone in the middle night at the sound of that train passing by. Unable to fall back asleep, he sat down and did something he had never done before - he wrote a poem.
That was two years ago, and since then, Mullins, now 95, has written 451 more poems with no plans of stopping.
Like many of Emily Dickinson's poems and Shakespeare's sonnets, all of Mullins' poems are numbered, rather than titled.
“If there's a certain one I want to read to somebody, I got an index here that I can look up and read that one to them. I can't remember them all,” he said.
Mullins said he enjoys the expression of poetry, and writing about whatever comes to him. Some of the topics Mullins has poeticized about include global warming and the war in Iraq, but he speaks more from personal opinion than political statements.
He said he always has enjoyed reading poetry, but can't always remember the names of those he's read in his life.
One of his favorites, Mullins said, is a poem written about the poet's grandfather, that inspired him to write about his own grandfather also.
“I only got an eighth-grade education, so I can't get into classical stuff,” Mullins said. “I read it, but some of it is over my head. But none of this is over your head.”
Mullins said his goal is to reach 500 poems by next year, and hopes that someday, someone would be willing to collect them all and publish them as a devotion to the Portsmouth area.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.