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,
“I broke my own heart too. It’s broken and gone. Everything I believed in and everything I cared about I left for you because you were so wonderful and you loved me so much that love was all that mattered. Love was the greatest thing, wasn’t it? Love was what we had that no one else had or could ever have and you were a genius and I was your whole life. I was your partner and your little black flower. Slop. Love is just another dirty lie. Love is ergoapiol pills to make me come around because you were afraid to have a baby. Love is quinine and quinine and quinine until I’m deaf with it. Love is that dirty aborting horror that you took me to. Love is my insides all messed up. It’s half catheters and half whirling douches. I know about love. Love always hangs behind the bathroom door. It smells like Lysol. To hell with love. Love is you making me happy and then going off to sleep with your mouth open while I lie awake all night afraid to say my prayers even because I know I have no right to any more. Love is all the dirty little tricks you taught me that you probably got out of some book. All right. I’m through with you and I’m through with love. Your kind of pick-nose love. You writer.”
–from Hemingway for his first love; read by Derek Walcott at New York Public Library (“Hemingway and the Caribbean“)–well worth the listen. This part was my favorite thought. It sorta choked me up one winter morning when I was walking.