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journal

from the siren

On the other side

of the singing,

where no one

understands there was ever resistance

or doubt –

that is where I want you

to stand.

 

Not just before you hear

the song that is my name,

but the moment after –

when you cannot

remember

the time before you loved me

and all that you breathe is me.

 

What is the color of your fear?

I will weave my gown of that

true shade –

Stand by the edge of the sea.

Wait.

For Father’s Day

My Father passed away in the fall, two years ago and since that time I have written several poems and a couple of short memoir pieces about him. He was a remarkable man and was filled with knowledge and stories and songs. It is amazing just how many things one single man can encompass and when he passes, those things are no longer a part of the world. They cannot be accessed through some kind of archive and even though another person may remember  , it is only through that person’s filter that it is reported and so diluted, forever changed and altered. I have decided to gather all these pieces together in a Father’s Day tribute as I remember my Father, and in doing , I hope that you can find a bit of yours and if he is still on this earth I hope that it inspires you to cherish him and forgive him and thank him.

 

 

First October Without My Father

 

The Autumn smells of

dark damp earth

like potatoes kept in cellars beneath houses

or apples stored for Christmas pies,

chrysanthemums that seem to open the pores,

expand the air,

the fragrance of late season roses,

and during a walk in the woods,

embraced by the smell of cedars,

I turn my head and recognize the scent of my father,

caught in the denim jacket

that I borrowed to shield myself

from this  Fall rain.

 

 

My Father’s Poem

 

I gave my Father sticky notes.

He was enchanted.

He wrote “gone to store”, or entire letters on pale yellow.

“There was a male Rosebreasted Grosbeak

at one of my window feeders this morning.

I have only seen two hummingbirds so far.

The Orioles are back.

I long to hear the Whippoorwills.

Love Dad”

 

His search ended, mine begins.

His yearning over, mine never-ending.

 

I long to hear the Whippoorwills

(my heart’s peace).

 

 

The Road

 

Miles and miles of road to come here

but before that ,

dirt roads

brought me to here.

 

Roads

traveled by my father

with his father

in a wagon pulled by horses

brought me here

 

dusty hot roads

edged by cotton fields

brought me here

walking with my mother along

red clay lanes

edged with blackberry bushes

brought me here –

 

My mother walking with

her mother as men

passed on horseback

That road brought me here –

 

both before that and after that

brought me here

where all time combines,

the past,

the present,

the future.

 

Here.

 

 

To Thank Him

      My father died in September and this is the second time I have been back to his house. The first time was a test of will. I cleaned out the refrigerator, threw out the last of the petrified lasagna that someone had brought the week before he died and put in a fresh box of baking soda to absorb the odors of soured milk which I poured down the kitchen sink.

      I sat on the couch where I always had, facing where he always sat in his brown lazy boy rocker recliner that he had kept covered with a large green towel in order to slow down the wearing process. He would settle down in the recliner and have to rock back a couple of times before kicking out his legs and using the handle to extend the recliner platform. I thought of all the times and hours we spent like that, him telling stories of his childhood, how he had grown up in a family of nineteen siblings and the hard days of survival. His voice would deepen in the description of his father and there were funny stories like when he blew up the powder keg after being scolded by his mother for playing with matches but he had not learned his lesson. He would read  Robert Frost and Robert Service, and I would listen as if hearing it all for the first time asking the same questions over and over.

      This time I sat and looked at where he should have been and maybe still is really, as the house is so full of his presence and I thought about his life and how even a couple of months before we knew how sick he was we were arguing about him dying.

       “I was going to go to the dentist to get this cussed tooth removed but I figure there is not much point, Mr. Death will be taking care of that.” 

      “Dad, why in the hell do you have to keep saying that? You put off getting cataract surgery for two years and Mr. Death did not show up…go to the dentist for god sake” , and that would go on and on….

” Dad don’t you think you need to get the roof fixed?”

       “It will last me out.”

       He always said he was going to die, he was convinced of it several times but he had always proved himself wrong and this last time we argued about it he was even surer. He was not sick, he just thought himself old and he was ninety-two. But then he made it through to his birthday and he kept driving his old Jimmy car and feeding his geese and riding his four-wheeler and singing as loud as he could through it all, “Roll on Buddy, don’t you roll too slow….” always singing his songs. 

      He died to prove he was right.

      In my father’s house the clocks were always wrong and they still are, you never really knew what time it was but after all, was it really what you needed to know? Or wasn’t what you really needed to know that it was too late or that you had wasted precious time that could not be recaptured.

      So I swept the floors and took out the trash and emptied a little bit of him out of the house. I fed the geese and they looked at me with a slight twist of their head and their where-is–the–old-guy-who-feeds-us-bread-and-sings-to-us eyes. I read in his books the places he had marked, his favorite passage of The Rubaiyat and the places he always searched for in his genealogies. I drank his Irish whiskey and decided to forgive him for what he did not teach me and for what he did not give me and to thank him for teaching me instead what he thought I needed to know and to understand that he did the best he could.

      When our parents die it feels as if we are going to float away, as if our roots are gone. We lose our grounding but the time we spend adrift is time also lost.

       My father would wind up the clock with those little keys and they made that windingup noise and then he carefully carefully closed them up but they were still always wrong and that makes me think of when I was four and I sang “My Grandfather’s Clock” in a talent competition and then on a local television broadcast and my father teased me saying that he almost took a hatchet to the television to get me out and I thought he actually believed that but even at four I was too kind to say anything and when my father died in this very house where we cared for him in a bed in the living room surrounded by his tall shelves full of books and records and his walls full of clocks my brother carefully opened the clock case and stopped the pendulum and that reminds me of  the song which if you know it , was a very strange song about an old man’s death, “ and the clock stopped , never to run again when the old man died” , a very strange song for  a four year old girl with her shirleytemple curls to sing, but I had no idea what the song was about then and no one else cared, in relation to the cuteness factor, the meaning dimmed.

      So now the geese remain puzzled, the clocks are still wrong and the time is all wound down anyway, but even so, it will not stand still.

 

 

A Daughter Unguarded

 

Dust grows thick on towers of books

left by absence ,

now untouched.

 

Faded titles hint of

eastern forests,

woody plants,

herbal lore,

their bindings cracked and taped.

 

He schooled me in defenses of the flora;

itch of poison ivy

pucker of green persimmon

pain of stinging nettles.

 

Now, will I fall victim,

unaware of dangers all about me,

weaving garlands out of hemlock

wearing nightshade

as a crown ?

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

many years ago I forgave my father for his absence of a sort and now I continue to miss him in his true departure……

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A Daughter Unguarded

Dust grows thick on towers of books

left by absence ,

now untouched.

 

Faded titles hint of

eastern forests,

woody plants,

herbal lore,

their bindings cracked and taped.

 

He schooled me in defenses of the flora;

itch of poison ivy

pucker of green persimmon

pain of stinging nettles.

 

Now, will I fall victim,

unaware of dangers all about me,

weaving garlands out of hemlock

wearing nightshade

as a crown ?

 

7299959064 d50f1daf57 z A Daughter Unguarded

 

Once More Of the Wheel

He showed me clay

to feel and smell its essence

to bring life to the form

knead out all the air

keep it from exploding in the kiln.

 

I admired him

almost feared him

as he gruffly barked his orders

harsh with disapproval

I timidly obeyed

 

I wanted to become a potter

create something out of nothing

feel and free my spirit

 

“You”, he once said “will be a great potter”

his voice was nearly tender

his eyes looked deep into me

 

I have given up the clay now

words spin beneath my fingers

fill with air and

explode into a million pieces

Trailing Clouds of Glory

 

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

 The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home”   William Wordsworth

It was the summer of my eighth year, the year that I discovered joy, an independent spirit and a certain self sufficient nature. I was bombarded by sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings that would never be forgotten, a hodgepodge of images that are as fresh and vibrant today as during that summer, the summer of awakening to myself.

I remember Grandma’s house with that odd odd hallway that seemed so unnecessary, the stairway leading up from the front door with its steps covered by a rubber runner, the smell of cigars mixed with smells from the kitchen, a smell that I have never experienced since. And up those stairs to the floor full of bedrooms with wardrobes and dressers with those big big mirrors and in one room there was a certain door, a door that opened slowly squeaking squeaking and that attic smell would come down, a dark dark musty mothball cedar smell. And up the stairs one would go only quietly quietly stopping with your head level to the floor, the wooden floor, and then up, on up to view a room full of beds under the slanted eaves.There was the buzz of wasps in the air and on each end of the room the wasps beat against the two small windows. On either side of the windows was hung a still somber photo of some unknown ancestor, a person long since gone but whose soul seemed to linger still in the very image on those walls. Their eyes would follow you through the room, always watching watching, always knowing. The beds were covered with the dark wool blankets brought home from military service and there was always always in the room the cigarette smell of furtive secret renegade cousins, cigarettes gotten on the sly, nabbed from packs with coupons on the back, cigarettes stolen from so many many aunts.And up the stairs the cousins would go to steal a moment of smoky adventure.

I remember Grandma’s house and the bright cheery kitchen with the small white enamel top table, the table where some early mornings, by what chance incident I am not sure, Grandma would make me oatmeal and she and I alone would sit at that table. She and I alone would sit and I would put sugar on my oatmeal from the sugar bowl that looked like corn with the husk still attached and she would make me toast with real butter.

I remember the dining room with the long long table where we would eat and where the uncles would play cards and smoke. I would sit and watch and wonder what “trump” meant and talk to the many many aunts with their hidden cigarettes , hidden from their mother.

And down the dark dark stairs to the basement, damp and cold, where the canned goods were kept, the smell got in your mouth and lay in your throat, the smell of wet concrete and dirt and potatoes.

I remember Grandma’s front porch and the cool feel of the metal glider on my bare legs and the squeak squeak squeak it would make as I moved it back and forth by rocking. The smell of the spicy sweetshrub would fill the air and there was the hum of honeybees. Grandma’s heavenly blue morning glories would climb up the porch where mischievous hands would pop the closed flowers and Grandma would fuss.

And in my bed at night I heard the sounds of the crickets, the peep peep peep of the frogs and the che-ump che-ump che-ump of the nearby gas well pumping pumping pumping.

That was the summer that bonds were formed with cousins that never will be broken, a certain secret understanding that still comes when you look them in the eyes, the eyes of children still. There you see remembrances of that certain summer – - that summer of epiphany.

Garland, Terry , Pat , Sandy and I , and sometimes Tim and Doug, and sometimes Laura, and sometimes Jeff, and sometimes Debbie and Jim, and Jill and Mike and Margie who were mostly the “little kids” and were to be avoided if at all possible, but they usually tagged along – these made up the cousin band. This outlaw band of cousins with all the freshness and newness of our young age and boundless energy and imagination would take adventures to new heights that summer. And up the road from Stumptown to Normantown we would go, always stopping to straddle the boundary line and always going up the steep steep concrete steps to the cemetery along the road to sit on the grave stones and sing — -” when first you see the hearse go by then you will be the next to die, they wrap you up in a big white sheet —the worms crawl in the worms crawl out the ants play pinochle on your snout “. And then on to Aunt Toots’ house across the long long swinging bridge where Pat would jump up and down and try to scare everyone and Terry in his role as protector of ladies fair would reprimand him. We would sneak into Aunt Toots’ kitchen and make a towering stack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread and off we would go – - to slide down the slippery sloping rocks in the creek, to wade in the muddy waters of Steer Creek – - or just to play and talk and ponder the meaning of our identities while gazing up into the sky and laying in fields of grass and clover. And in the twilight hours there were games of hide-and-seek and bloody murder and there were nights spent in the treehouse where the moon and stars shone down through the roof and we would whisper whisper secrets and dreams and feelings and Pat would eat marshmallows.

That summer stretches on for months in my memory but passed as quickly as our youth. And when that summer was drawing to a close and on my last day I knew a certain heart break and heart longing that I would know and return to several times in my life. That summer of my eighth year, I understood what all the poets write of in remembrance – - the passing away of the wonderment , the glory days of that magical summer that would never return, never be revisited , only recalled in memory and dream.

 

my views, my moments

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Being The Scribe ( or ) Lines ” Stolen” from writing class with Kim Stafford, April 15, 2012

Pressed into books
I found photos of a woman,
not my mother,
drunk on martinis
and a note that said
I want to kiss you- -
( room – 100 )

I am schooled in my own solitude
with no space to fill
and was born in a slow hot, midsummer.
Now feel what’s underneath;
unhurried, improbable,
it looks like fireworks,
beckoning bees -
releasing life.

( thanks to Susan, Jason, Janeen, Kim, Gene, Sylvia, Bill , David, Phil and Abby )

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