A Mother’s Son

When I was a boy, I was a boy
and this exasperated everyone
but my mother,
for she understood the ways of boys
and I was her third, with her own three
older brothers; her patience
was limitless,
or so I thought until I tried to become a man,
failed, but refused to admit failure
and discovered we were both navigating and
negotiating a new way together; for each
boy is alike, but boys become men differently.

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In a Good Story…

In every good story someone dies
(sometimes, but more frequently,
in bad ones as well); not always
tragically or poignantly, not always
sadly or in a timely fashion, usually
importantly a death is required.

It may be that it’s a way to make
tales more authentic, but it ironically
renders death’s severity a mere ploy
in the hands of desperate dramatists
longing for gravitas yet in failure;
simply turn dust back to dust.

Occasionally it’s accidently but
unexpectedly; and if the desire is
manipulative – the death of a child,
boy or girl, either will do – to tweak
the emotions of even the hardened
with an appeal to the weak.

Now multiple deaths are a waste
to an author and thus school bus
fatalities (a kindergarten field trip
tragedy) are typically avoided
and mass murders’ victims aren’t
the story in the first place.

Too many tales are funereal,
too many yarns come undone
and too many wakes begin stories
of too many things gone wrong;
dramas of dads and mamas
until death do everyone part.

Narrators, of course, play God
knowing, seeing all, all at once
what’s in heads, hiding from light
but telling us only part of a story;
this or that reason for lost life,
providing knowledge we lack.

The human story’s author
has wasted over a hundred billion
anonymous deaths littering lands,
mocking prophet amidst dry bones;
the deity’s wonderful plan for life
trumps all novelist’s narratives.

Da Yu

Yu-the-Great_proj-copy-700x420

This is the story of Da Yu, who we saw walking along a roadside on the early evening of one Sunday – Easter Sunday of all Sundays – and a child asked “What’s that man’s story?”

So this is Da’s story.

Yu the Great was the founder of the Xia Dynasty over four thousand years ago. Yu’s father attempted to control a great flood that threatened land and life. He built dikes and damns of soil and rock to hold back and contain the waters. He failed.

The great flood continued. Yu was conscripted to do what his father could not. Instead of restraining the great flood, Yu dredged deeper channels in rivers and valleys to carry the great flood to distant rivers and distant seas.

He opened waterways, unearthed damns and removed dikes with hard labor in long days. He was covered with the same dirt and mud his father struggled to amass, but Yu was washed clean in the rushing flood he did not resist. Yu succeeded in the task his father failed, and he was given the name Yu the Great – Da Yu.

Today Da wears his suit. The blue one He has just the one and he’s only ever had just the one. So, Da wears it. As dusk begins to cover this late April afternoon, along a road he’d built, Da Yu walks in his blue suit and white shirt – his shirt as white as his full head of thick hair – he walks home, alone.

As a young man Da Yu was pushed in one direction and pulled in another – he didn’t want what his father demanded for him and yet would not refuse what he must do.

Mr. Yu – Da’s father – insisted, “You will not be like me.” The hard life of manual labor had strengthened the father’s back and his resolve as well, and he was determined that his son would not live such a hard life because he didn’t have to live like his father had to: “I work so you can learn to do better work; not so hard work, and you will be happy and not tired like me.”

On his eighteenth birthday Da received just one gift from his parents – a blue suit. It was as expensive for Mr. Yu as it was important, “You will wear a suit and not dungarees.”

But this changed the day Mr. Yu came home lame.

Mr. Yu would not cry in front of his wife and son – he would yell and stomp and curse, but Da knew his father cried when Da was forced to give up on his father’s plans and dreams. The boss of the road crew Mr. Yu worked said that Da could have the work until Mr. Yu was healthy. Mr. Yu barked “Never!” but he never was healthy again. As a man of hard labor, he withered each day he was lame, and willed from his bed – fighting back the inevitable – the victory that eluded him. Mr. Yu never worked again and Da worked every day for forty years from that day.

Not long after Da wore the suit to his father’s funeral.

He wore it when he asked a sweet girl named Sarah to marry him, and he wore it when they married in her church.

He wore it when his boy Sun was christened for Sarah’s sake, and he wore it the Sunday he went to church each year on Easter. She didn’t ask much and he knew this was to please Sarah’s family because they were concerned about Da, and that Sarah was settling for a man who lacked dreams; a man who did not fight back, a man who simply nodded. All this Da knew but it was never spoken of – there was nothing to be gained and little that would change if he protested. He would work his hard work and wear his dungaree, and save his blue suit for special days to be remembered.

In his first years, Da’s skin became tanned and leathery from summers and winters, the cold, rain and heat of long, hard days. His hair was black and thick and covered his head, and a cap only made him sweat so he avoided his. The crew chided Da that he yellowed in the sun. Sarah worried that he worked too many hours, but a was happy to work and he was healthy and would do whatever was asked and he worked hard. When asked he would simply nod; he was glad to work. He did not refuse hard work.

Da didn’t get bigger or fatter or stooped like the others with whom he worked. Younger men took their places and the next generation took up the same lament – work is hard and the best work is no work.

But Da was healthy and quiet and bosses wished they had a dozen Yu’s but hired more of the others instead. Da’s hair did turn white; not gray – white and pure.

When his child, Sun was a young boy he would asked his father what he did, why his skin was so dark and rough, and why his hair was white like snow. Da always answered that he worked in the sun and rain and snow, so his skin showed he worked hard, and his hair just showed outside what was inside. But the boy didn’t understand.

Sarah was kind to Da; gentle and affectionate – she called him Yu-Yu, lovingly, and she was understanding of his labor. What he earned he gave his family and took little for himself. She worked herself when Sun started school, and she’d ask him to take a day to rest, but he’d always refuse, “What would I do if it wasn’t working?” he’d answer.

When they had time they’d take walks together, with Sun in a stroller, then the three on foot; always just walks that took different paths, along different roads and streets and returned them to their small home. It was the home Da’s father and mother had, the home Da had grown up in, the home Sarah and Da moved into after they were married to care for his mother, and the home she died in one night and their home since the day Da wore his suit to his mother’s funeral.

Da didn’t dream dreams of a different life, and he refused the nightmares of his own son’s life. There was only discontent in such dreams, and Da’s way was a nod and not a dream. He never bought Sun a suit – he could afford to, he had the money, but the thought never occurred to him.

When Sun grew, his mother and father helped when they could with clothes and books and papers that proved their modesty, but Sun grew embarrassed. The very things that showed their love were too modest for their son. Soon Sun was off to school, but Da and Sarah didn’t visit their son until his graduation when Da wore his suit and Sarah coughed through commencement. It was a cough that came one day and stayed, keeping her away from work, in bed eventually being cared for in the evenings by Da who stopped taking the walks.

The next time Da wore his suit it was to Sarah’s funeral.

Sun moved away and stayed away, but Da kept working, now less with shovel and more with a sign that read Stop and Slow. And he again walked at the end of each day, retracing the same paths and same roads and streets he’d walked with Sarah and Sun. He lived in the same home but it became more of a house. He washed his clothes, his own dungarees, made his rice and worked only his own hours until they told him he’d worked enough and not to come back tomorrow.

And then he’d wait each day until it was time to take the walk at the day’s end, walking the same paths and same roads and same streets he’d walked with his Sarah and Sun. And on Easter Sunday each year he’d put on his blue suit and leave it on all day, until the day’s end and he’d walk along the street he’d paved.

Every time I look at the moon…

Now we lay them down to sleep
with soft words and
warm water to wash away their day’s
fun and soil, and our toil;
and pray as if to
capture what shouldn’t
be washed away – the day full
of family and friends,
walks and flowers, breezes
and sun, falls and laughs and food,
with gratitude – always – we
each begin: ‘Thank you, Lord Jesus
for everything,’
and everything we rehearse,
is good, in detail,
as if the Almighty
was enjoying this as much
as we; the sun
has retreated slowly and
warmly, the moon
is rising outside the window
and we all need to see
it waxing or waning and
tell each other to look, ‘The moon!’
we each say
as if it’s always special,
and somehow it always is.

On this day in history…

On This Day

On this day in history
absolutely nothing of consequence
happened, to anyone, anywhere;
no ships sailed, no princes born,
discoveries in science, medicine
just didn’t happen on this day,
yesterday and tomorrow are
filled with life-changing people,
events, battles that turned great
wars into peace, even the subtle
alterations to the fabric of everyday
life made by once anonymous people
which reverberated into time and
made history; remarkable things,
great consequences, overwhelming
tragedies and brave exploits
all happened on other days, just
not today; of course some were born
on this day, babies loved, wanted,
even prepared for, but they remain
nameless to all but their mothers,
unknown to school books and
will never fill-in-the-blank’s of
literacy exams for they just were
and are no more; and the closest thing
to notoriety they’ll enjoy is that on
this day in history they’ve been
written about, sort of.

Grocery shopping alone…

old-ladyA Lady
An apple, carefully chosen,
two small bananas
picked from others’ bunches,
one ripe and ready to eat,
maybe half of it will be cut-up over
bran cereal in the morning,
the other is green – at least
two days from ripeness; no bread
because the loaves are too big,
too wasteful, but one Kaiser roll
will do, and then
to the meat counter for two
chicken breasts, individually wrapped,
a lot of time in the freezer section
for just a small bag of green peas
good for two meals at least,
a pint of skim milk, and a single vanilla
yogurt that will be dessert,
all in a cart pushed by a woman
who is alone; her fingers
have rings on them,
gifts from someone, her nails are done,
she wears make-up and
her hair has been set
because she still cares, out of pride
or it was how she was raised, or
it was the way he liked it,
and now she’s in front of me in line
and it’s sad because she seems so,
or at least her groceries do.

Life’s a hoot…

Who…

In the Night
Why is it always and only in quiet,
owl-guarded, and ungodly hours
that meaning and providence shape
everything of consequence and
marvels and mysteries float by
as we sleep an uncomfortable night
unawakened by the what’s real,
meaningful, and the stuff of poetry?

 

 

Living forever and all that…

fingers crossedIt could happen! (That’s my only hope… if I live long enough that is….)

Dumb Luck
If you live long enough you won’t die
because they’ll come up with something,
but it probably won’t happen because
they’re trying – it’s more likely through
dumb luck; like the two greatest
discoveries of this lifetime, or any
for that matter: Super Glue
made for battlefield wounds
and now it sticks anything together
especially fingers, and Viagra for
blood pressure and now we all know
what it does, plus it introduced the word
priapism into our vocabulary
and its effect is truly unbending;
all it takes is time and luck and someone
in a lab somewhere will be trying
to discover a way to make cat litter
smell like chocolate or looking for a way
to stop ingrown toenails and, poof,
just like that, we’ll be living
for hundreds of years, healthy and erect;
and it won’t be much longer,
if we can just live long enough.

The guy who brings in the grocery carts…

grocery cartsYou know him… sort of… probably not by name… but sort of… the guy who is sent out into the parking lot to bring in all the grocery carts because there aren’t enough carts for the new shoppers (except, maybe, the carts with bad wheels or the two carts stuck together). Yeah, that guy… you know him… sort of…

Edward and Charlie
The bright orange vest is florescent
and carries a nametag, ‘Edward’ in bold
block letters drawn with permanent
marker but he answers to Charlie with
a blank, silent gaze and simply, slowly
begins the task requested by a manager’s
learned gentleness of kindly caution
not shared with others; there’s a story
to Charlie’s life, maybe even a family
of Mom or a sister and probably some
disappointment or settling for what
came their way and fighting with this
strange, foreign thing called gratitude;
his anti-social shyness earns him an
odd reaction from most because he’s
almost seven feet tall with an uneven
haircut and only parts of his face carry
a beard of Pollock-like design that’s
mesmerizing, they stare up at Charlie
who gathers their emptied carts strewn
about the lot on a frigid, wintery day,
over and over again as shoppers justifiably
leave them wherever inconvenience
demands in haste and frustration, and
Charlie is, again, in the far corner
as he’s paged from inside the warm store
to no avail because he’s already set to the
task and because they’re calling for
someone named ‘Edward.’