Elbow grease and my life…

I spent hours one day when just a boy
searching through the shelves of cans
and tins and tubs, of liquids and oils and
paints and lubricants with numbers
and names of weights and uses from
maintenance to remedies for sticky,
stubborn or stuck things in search of something
called elbow grease which I had never seen
or heard of until told by my father
that was what I lacked to loosen or tighten
or tinker with my bicycle’s training wheels
which I desperately wanted to remove although
warned that I’d fall because I wasn’t ready.

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When children have cancer…

 

 

 

 

Can it be what is deserved
by a four-year-old child?
The cells distorted and
deteriorating inside, from
inside her bones still soft in
youth, but fragile from birth;
some signal isn’t working,
white cells that won’t mature,
too full and crowding life;
and the word everyone
uses is ‘acute’ – a bad and
unwelcome thing with too
many synonyms to count,
all troubling and painful things
with a mysterious origin than
no one knows so there’s no
one to blame except God;
she only has strength to
smile through dry, cracked lips,
her skin is taunt over thinning
features and only her cheeks
show her adolescence, while
adults are masked to protect
her from what’s always worse,
more tiring, more frightening;
it hardly seems right she is
unafraid and just needs to
rest, while everyone around
her is just terrified and can’t.

Why God made ears…

If for no other reason than to hear
the constant, tireless, angelic voice
of my daughter singing her way
through each and every day, hitting
and missing and finding new notes
for songs which filled the air,
refusing to be kept by closed doors,
stopping passersby through open
windows, and never failing to delight;
if for no other reason than this
had all the wisdom and wonder
of God created ears to hear it would
have been well worth the effort.

 

I knew he’d live forever…

Knob of Pearl

I was eight, maybe nine, and it should have
changed my world to see that my father was
a mere mortal – flesh and bones and blood,
but it only made him more of a superman
to me, impervious to torn flesh and oozing
blood – deep red and opaque seeping from
the gash on his knuckle, layers of skin torn
away by a trowel as he gardened and I played
nearby; “Look,” was all he said and I peered
into his wound to see the bright white of his
bone exposed, a little knob of pearl between
the serrated opening, he bent his finger
and it danced, and for once I said nothing,
for almost fifty years; such a display should
cure the myth of paternal immortality,
but it’s effect was the exact opposite.

The day my Dad died…

June 28

It was a Monday,
hot and humid and still
while I slept away the morning
unaware of the dawn screams, begging,
the ambulance, and slowly gathering family
as everything in my young life fell apart.

I had a new clock,
plastic, yellowish, with numbers
that would flip to the next minute
and I woke to the arrival of 11:28 am
looked out my window to see a dozen cars
I didn’t not recognize or care to care about.

Everywhere I looked
people were whispering,
standing and listening and careful
and when I appeared they turned to look
but didn’t acknowledge that I was the last one
to know, to hear all that had happened.

Even before Mom
could get the words out
I started to cry, but must admit I
just knew it was Nana who had died
because she was old and getting older
but never thought it could be Dad.

He was just 49,
and important and busy,
and when he was home he was home,
with us always with him, but no more,
and an Aunt fed me weak tea and dry toast
because somehow that would help.

When Mom said that earlier…
I felt guilt, of course I loved him,
but with my last words yesterday
I’d cursed him for refusing me something,
kicking and promising my hatred,
now unchangeably my testament.

That was in 1971,
and I was young, naïve,
now wondering if I can still remember
his face, rubbing his whiskers at day’s end,
cooing love instead of what I did,
praying every day he’s forgotten my words.

When your child leaves to change the world…

She Will Not Always Come Home

From the very first there were clues
that she saw the world as her own,
her realm, home, hers to rule
with benevolent whimsy alone.

Off she’d go to play, learn, fly
charming allies, everyone’s queen;
every hello with an attending good bye,
assembling delight in her daily routine.

More she wandered, more she went,
the more she loved as she explored,
new and old with equal content;
a gypsy girl for journey’s reward.

Proud and pleased, by her she swirled,
unapologetically she’s set to roam;
off to change this amusing world
and she will not always come home.