Both are long dead, my parents, may they rest in peace.I look forward to meeting them again, and knowing them as I never have before, as they truly are in that place of no more tears. Their memory is a steady companion nowadays. So, in a way they are never gone from me.
Now a friend has written to tell me of writing a novel about growing up in a hard place; yet for all of that my friend finds a “miracle” in the “works”. I believe it, too. This correspondence got me thinking about some of my own experiences, and since I have no ability to do more than write about what’s happened to me, I’ll bore you with something of a sequence of “works” about my family and me. BTW, that’s me in the middle…
There is always the delete button…
MY GODS, MY GODS
His eyes were brown. I remember them
Brown and soft, deeply soft.
Her eyes were blue. I remember them
Blue and bright, love and life.
The sky god had earth eyes.
The earth goddess eyes of sky.
He had a Gothic face, long and thin,
Full lips over a firm chin.
His hair had gone from red to brown
Like fallen oak leaves and ripe acorns.
He sang to me before I was grown.
I remember her darker richer hair
Thick about her white face and fair.
Sometimes a strand fell before her eyes;
As mine does now, but mine is white.
Her hand, pale and slim, gave chase.
She spoke and watered my growing heart.
Laughing, lifting me like wind through curtains.
Her long legs and his long ear lobes
I pulled on them when I sat young
On his shoulders while he walked and sang,
And all his songs were hand made poetry
Of wild words and never ever words;
While she made magic in the kitchen dressing
Ordinary dishes with love and blessing.
Looking great in dress up clothes
From the closet where they hung
They greeted everyone in all the world.
His one suit, his hat, his overcoat,
His public face, his public smile;
Her silky dress her slim beguile
Of all I’ve since seen still catches my throat.
My first love was me,
But I soon abandoned self for these
Two who smiled and sang my days
Crooned the quiet nights and prayed
Broad rivers of harmony and peace I sailed on.
I lay awake in my creaky bed one night
Brother beside me in his, awake too,
Our sister in the other room, so dark.
Darker, too, the once crooning voices.
The singing voices now loud and coarse,
With tears and curses. Where were the smiles,
The songs they sang, the dancing, and the prayers?
Over all the world they had ruled, then went away
In the dead night stealing Paradise and day.
APRIL 25, 1969
Nine weeks into life isn’t much you know
It had barely started for this one and you go
To join your father I never had a chance to meet
And rob this one of any chance to use your lap for seat,
Platform for pulling hair or launching pad
For leaps into yonder. Wonder? Where?
Did that make you glad?
Years ago you came to me smiling on legs unsteady
To show me your hackman’s license. You were ready,
After years of disabling drink, for responsibility
And then descended into cancer and senility.
Your legs? What fools we were! It was your mind
That could not hold you up who could not find
His forgotten will in the wash of alcohol
The crush of deep depression on the soul
As holes were eaten in your head by cells gone mad.
Who could have known that would make you glad.
No chance for him to let your memory to grow dim.
Have you since…I wonder. Have you seen him?
The day before you died I stood and called
Your name into the strangled sheets, “Dad.”
Not once but more than once I said that word
Until at last from somewhere dark you heard
Me calling and returned, a little smile
Of recognition on your face. And, while
I stood, looked and mourned what had been it was
Again as it had always been with us.
In seven last words of love we spoke
Light once more into you, life, faith and hope.
I sat your lap. You hugged with all you had.
Then you leaped from me. I know that you are glad.
My Last Visit
Your particular madness amused us all at first
When you would read the paper twice
And not remember that you already had
Commented on scandals, gasped at disaster.
We all smiled, asked where you had left your mind
And you smiled, too, absent mindedly
Glancing around as if it might be in some
Corner of the couch, on a kitchen chair
Or with your cigarettes in your misplaced purse.
I saw you last alive in your room propped
On pillows in your bed, toothless, mouth agape,
Moaning or mourning or just waiting patiently.
I could not understand what was on your mind
Or what you said until I saw your eyes,
Wide in wonder, wider still in surprise.
You had lost all speech yet called my name
As I entered that room that had become
Your world, your final earth bound home.
Your tired old arms lifting from the sheets
Opened wide to embrace me, to greet
Me as you had done so many times before
When I came walking through our old tin door
That never had been locked in all those years
On Bailey Avenue. “Any burglar
Coming into this house would leave something,”
You used to say, smile, brush your hair away,
Sip your beer and stand one hand on hip
In the kitchen beneath the bare light bulb,
Between the bright yellow walls.
I bent and felt your arms around me, thinking
Of that old kitchen and you there late at night
Losing your mind bit by little bit
And the Old Man passed out, “dead”, on the couch
In his underwear, no pay this week,
And me with homework to do, tests tomorrow,
Barely enough time to hope it would end.
Then backed away and looked at you in bed
Your fingers moving of their own will,
Your eyes trying to tell me what you could not.
“I love you, Mom,” I said,
And prayed you’d soon be dead.