Giving & Taking

I am writing a poem based on Louise Gluck’s line from “Nostos,” which is also the opening of my memoir I’m really making progress on. So here goes. Check out more poems at Real Toad’s Tuesday Platform.

 

“We look at the world once, in childhood.

The rest is memory.”

 

 

A small chubby foot, bare on the splintered fence, a heave and hoist.

Then my curled fingers reach for the top wooden rung;

wobbling and steadying, I have climbed the outside

of my father’s fence,

the lush expanse of yard all for my eyes to see.

Like a bird.

I bet I see what the swallows and hummingbirds must see.

 

The flowering crab hangs its pink blossom-laden boughs

low to the earth. Its sweet honeysuckle fills me

and the petals tickle my bare shoulder as the breeze lazes in.

Through the menagerie of blush and branches I can make out

the white dirty hamper of a farmhouse, the purple

of the lilacs slipping in and out of view.

The dirt drive where my sister pedals the Big Wheel in jerky circles.

The screen tent where Little Great Grandma sips lemonade.

I like her. She gave me sour sugary sips out of her

real glass, the ice long melted. She wears a sunhat

with a scarf around the crown every afternoon.

From my perch on the yard’s perimeter I can hear the zip-zip

of the tent’s door as my little sister tumbles in to see her.

 

My father is somewhere. He is always here. It is the one solid thing–

an unquestionable fact. When we are here on the weekends,

he never leaves us. Read More

Hurt

The sun is bright in my windows, warm in the curtains. Spring blooms outside the glass. I am content in my life. And this song plays, Hurt, and an old pain comes back, overwhelming in these lyrics. I still hear his voice, strange, how you don’t forget the voice of a loved one that died. And his smell.
The facts are I spent my life hurting him. I hurt him bad. Because I thought he’d live forever, as we all hope parents will do.  I wanted to because I told myself he was an alcoholic, so he wouldn’t feel it. Because I told myself it was his fault I wasn’t safe at home with my stepdad and mother. Because I was so screwed up and had so many bad memories I couldn’t place, so I placed them on him. I’m sorry dad. I’m sorry for blaming you. Even when I broke into your house, your room I found upstairs shocked me, stopped me from breaking things, because you had pictures of us up on your cracked walls, because you had our letters from when we were little in a pile next to your bed, because you were so poor and alone, because the tape of me singing Patsy Cline when I was five was on your nightstand, because the same old blankets were on your bed from when we were little and spent weekends with you. You lived in your car for awhile, and I’d walk by it all the time and look in the windows. All the times I’d see you walking downtown and I’d ignore you, look the other way. The time I found you and yelled at you for hurting me and what did you do and you were so gentle and kind, asking me what was wrong. That was an opportunity for me to be held by you, and you would have, but I missed it, I was so angry, blaming you. I didn’t tell people you were my dad, because everyone knew you were in the bars starting at ten in the morning. Old Style, that’s what you drank with Pa out at the dadandusfarmhouse when we were little, and you were so gentle and shy. And after you died, my sisters and mother and I had to go through your house (we didn’t know where it was) and pick out what we wanted. We were 20, 21, and 22. Your house was empty of everything except garbage and old pictures and beer. Not even towels in the bathroom. It was cold. It smelled. Your mattress didn’t have sheets. We were numb and cold too. And then we opened your closet, and we could smell you, as if you were there and we were those little girls again, playing at your feet. We took out your shirts (the same ones you’d had 17 years ago) and buried our faces in them and finally wept for you. Our own private hurting, I remember smelling the shirt and crying into it, with a whirlwind of thoughts in pictures going through my head–how I’d wanted you to save me Read More