When family photographs mattered…

Before everything was photographed only
certain things were, special occasions and not
people laughing uncontrollably or our lunch,
people posed, not candid or cute or coy, but
smiling practiced smiles at the prompt ‘Say cheese!’
and we did because it would be weeks before
we knew if someone’s eyes were closed
or Mom would say ‘You didn’t get my good side’
and Dad would be obliged to offer, ‘You don’t
have a bad side, honey’ and that was about
as public as their romance was allowed to be,
sulky children, on the other hand, only had
sour sides, pouting or nonplused standing
stiffly in uncomfortable shoes you couldn’t
even see in the photograph (‘but I know you’re
wearing them’ Mom would say), and they were
primped in starched ‘outfits’ instead of ‘everyday
clothes’ that they were never allowed to ‘play’ in,
as in, just do what it was that a child did, and
this photograph would be pressed into a book,
the corners tucked into those sticky darts
attaching it to the parchment to be viewed on
special occasions or the day after someone in the
photograph died like Dad did and some old Aunt
looking over Mom’s shoulder would say something
like, ‘He always looked so handsome in that suit.’

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The rest is up to him…

A Notebook

In 1922 John wrote on the first page
of a one hundred page notebook
that his boy had been born that morning;
he was fine with ten toes and fingers,
a good, strong cry easily silenced by feeding,
and a shock of jet black, fine hair atop,
and mother was well as well; each year
on the February day he jotted such
observations – brief, some would call terse,
taking just a few lines of the entire page;
walking now and into trouble often,
always asking questions – unanswerable,
outgrew pants before ruining them,
doing well in school, likes math the best;
all through the hardest of human days
for those who care for their own,
but no words about such things,
and never an explicit word of love,
just the obvious things of appetite
(insatiable and costly), growth (average),
friends (just a few), baseball (likes),
school (better than most, he supposes);
then the army when everyone did the same,
letters home and a photo in uniform
from the Atlantic, then France
and so many were lost but he was fine
and coming home; back to school, a girl,
he’d proposed, they were married
and the notebook stopped just
a quarter way through;
the rest was up to him, obviously.

You might not need to go home again…

A Wilderness Called Home

Most just stay put, where they began,
through no choice of their own,
except to stay of course, an accident
of birth and even that seems consolation
enough to sleep each night and rise
each morning without wandering,
calling it home; sometimes it’s war that
makes you move, but not here – our war
is for money, for a living, for a life; those
are the only movers today, no more
nomads, vagabonds or hobo’s riding the
rails, driven by the voice of God
even, to live in tents or tenements,
looking for something. anything better,
which is to say, just a little more than
now; there are those brave souls who
leave just to leave, some out of adventure
but most from desperation, escaping what
hurts too much to stay near because
the world’s a wilderness, unless home is.

What Nietzsche knew about babies…

NietzscheWow!

Nietzsche said “Love, too, has to be learned”
and we started with our first by teaching her
to say, ‘Wow’ – kissing lips opening as a fish
with a slow, drawn-out ow-ow-ow between
the magical w’s; it is a word that goes around
itself, a palindrome to embarrass all others
and she loved, absolutely loved, the joyful
surprise on adult faces as she so carefully
pronounced, over-and-over again, her word
of wonder until she broke into a smile and the
wow’s had to stop because upturned corners
of the mouth break into the world of wows
as if competing for delight, and it took her
learned discipline to recapture the lips which
would say her wonderful word ‘Wow’ and we’re
awed, every day, she knows what it means.

We don’t understand what we don’t understand…

The Nelsons - Ozzie & Harriet, David & Rickey. DESERET NEWS MORNING ARCHIVES

The Nelsons – Ozzie & Harriet, David & Rickey.
DESERET NEWS MORNING ARCHIVES

Maladaptive Adaptive

We don’t understand normal anymore,
don’t understand what’s happened, before
we’ve became the new black, the new average,
and maladaptive became all one could salvage.

Making-do and not expecting too much,
a reasonable way to cope – a sacred crutch;
lest any be forced to act out of compulsion,
a violation of will leading to convulsion.

The mushroom cloud of the family,
looms large on the horizon of the latchkey;
and any invocation of is dripping with guilt,
a poor rendering of the intricate human quilt.

This was not always our social affinity,
but an industrial product of economic viability;
accommodative adaptivity in a pragmatic vein,
we collect round the character campaign.

From Ozzie and Harriet, Ward and June,
to the village it takes to raise this tune;
we’re better off not asking too much of any
for disappointment weighs upon all heavy.

When I am old…

The Business of My Business

One of those fascinating oddities
I find so thrilling and my family mocks
blurted out of the radio the other day;
it’s about the paper-products industry
and real life all at once—announcing
its fastest growing and largest segment
is no longer bags or cups or even
plain-old-paper, as anyone would imagine,
but incontinence products, as in,
adult diapers, and much to the enjoyment
of my family, I can’t contain my excitement
over this development; it’s because
we’re getting older, not younger, I say,
and they laugh at me, again,
so I remind them (because I still remember
enough to remind them of certain things)
that when they were children we played
a game I called ‘When I’m old will you…’
as I pushed them on the swing, asking
in a serious voice, ‘When I’m old will you
bake me cookies?’ and they’d giggle
and promise, ‘Yes,’ and I’d ask, ‘The ones
will little chocolate chips and nuts?’ and
they’d agree, ‘They’re the best!’
and I’d go on, ‘When I’m old, will you
cut up my meat into tiny little pieces
so I can chew it when I’ve lost all my teeth?’
and they’d laugh harder and promise,
‘Of course I will,’ and then would come
the best one yet, ‘When I’m old, will you
change my diaper?’ and they’d belly-laugh
and gasp for air just to swear, ‘I will,
I promise!’ and I remind them today
that I knew what I was talking about
when they were just little kids.