Saturday, June 17, 2017

No Small Hole



No Small Hole

It was the last day of August, but the heat made it seem like mid-Summer. We sat in the shade of an old maple tree in the side yard of the house my father and his 3 brothers had grown up in. There was me, my father, and my two uncles, Don and Herb. The other uncle, Bruce, the oldest of the 4 boys, had died about a year before. We sat in a circle of green plastic lawn chairs, facing each other. I felt like I was looking into a mirror of my future self. The three brothers were sharing stories of the old days, when they were boys in this yard. 

“There were two apple trees right here, one on either side of where this maple is now.”
“Used to be a hammock strung between the two apple trees.”
“Remember the wild blueberries over there by the fence?”
“Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries………there were berries all over the place down there.”

This was in the 30s and 40s that they’re remembering. “War time” my father says. I say, “It’s always war time, when is there ever not a war going on somewhere?”

“Yeah, but this was a big war. WWII (he says it like Archie Bunker used to say it, “double u double u two”), everything was different.”
“They stopped making cars for a few years there…everything went to war production.”

And I know they’re right, everything was different then. I stay quiet from here on.

My Dad:  “remember when the old Henderson place burned down?”
Herb: “yeah, that was a hot one. Lots of smoke”
“Old man Henderson was burning some brush or some leaves or something….right next to the house. Next thing he knows the whole place is in flames.”
“The fire spread quick, too. Through the woods down there. They were worried about old Ed Landry’s place. Ed said he lost a few shingles to the embers flying down there.”
“Dad loaded a bunch of us kids from the neighborhood into the back of the old dump truck and took us down there to see what was going on. What a lot of smoke. I remember it was a hot day to begin with, and the fire just made it seem even hotter.”
“Old Man Henderson claimed he had gotten permission from the fire department to burn brush there, but there was talk afterwards that he didn’t have a permit.”

There’d be these periods of silence between stories, just quiet, listening to the birds and to the traffic passing by on the main street behind us.

“Do you remember that story Dad used to tell about one of Grampa’s cows getting sick, or choking on an apple or something? Grampa was working over in Mansfield, and Gramma was home alone. When the cow got into trouble she hitched the old horse up to the wagon and rode over to where Grampa was, full speed. She tells him the cow is in trouble and he says, ‘well that’s no reason to kill the horse’. The poor horse was about worn out from the run down there. That was a story that got told a lot of times.”

“Grampa used that horse and an old scoop, not more than 3 feet across, to dig the foundation hole for this house. He used the stones they dug out of there to build that fence below the south chicken house. Of course there were no chicken houses then. What a job that must have been, though, digging that foundation hole.”
“It’s no small hole, that’s for sure.”
“That scoop wasn’t more than 3 feet across, I don’t think. It’s still in the barn over there at the old house. That and an old circle harrow. If you ever need one, it’s over there.”

He looks at me with a smile in his eyes, Uncle Herb does, when he says this. 

“I can’t recall the last time I had a need for a circle harrow, but that’s good to know”, I reply, trying to match the glimmer in his eyes.

This feels good, being out here. I feel like I’m part of something. It’s been awhile since I felt that.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Dead Are Holding Something Back



“The dead are holding something back”, he said,
But I knew not what he meant.
Do those who have departed harbor secrets they won’t share?
Or did he mean to say that they stand on guard, preventing
Some evil from entering here within?
“Holding something back”, the way a dam holds back a flood,
Or the way a spy refuses to divulge his source,
The way a curtain blocks the morning sun from intruding on my sleep too soon,
Or the way you don’t tell me the bad news?
Do we, the living, owe the dead a debt of gratitude
For sheltering us from some devastating disaster,
Or do they conceal from us some truth that would
Ease the pain of this tragic existence?
Or is there, perhaps, no difference between the two?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Perspective



It may have been treason,
or it may have been a great escape,
depending on your perspective.
He might have jumped out while the
flight was only halfway to its destination,
or he might have been ejected before the
inevitable crash, depending on your point of view.
Standing on the outside it’s easy to judge,
but sitting on the inside nothing is clear.
What seems profound and life-changing
in the moment that it occurs can be revealed
to have been inconsequential with the passage of time;
while the seemingly mundane things that happen
every day only reveal their significance after the fact.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

In Any Language



Mi Corazon bonita
Makes everything sweeter
And every time I meet her
I sing, “mi Corazon bonita”

La mia bella donna
You’re the only girl I wanna
Don’t need no Joan or Donna
Only you, La mia bella donna

Mein schönes Herz
I miss you so much it hurts
My heart beats in fits and starts
Mein schönes Herz

Ma belle femme
I don’t know where or when
But I’ll love you til the end
Ma belle femme

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Caressed by the breath



Caressed by the breath of her
lover of a million kisses, her
lover of a thousand and one
nights, nights without end, and a
story for each
(stories upon stories,
piled like the pillows on her
bed, or nested one within the
other like Russian troika dolls with
a beating heart in the center
of the smallest)
she answers him
as an equal
(though he looks
at her with the worshipful eyes
of a pilgrim at the end of
a holy quest who gazes at last upon
the face of his goddess/queen,
for royalty and holiness are as much
in the eye of the beholder as is beauty,
and in his eye when he
sees her there is that, and more)
and she breathes herself back to him.