Saturday, June 20, 2009

For my Father


My father was a writer before I was born. I can picture his dark head leaning over paper, his long tapered fingers holding a pen. I’m sure he sat at the yellow Formica kitchen table, while my mother hummed at the kitchen stove, the smell of meatloaf around him. He wrote of a war that he never saw except in his imagination; story after story about brave men, men who were like him. His hazel eyes dreamed to life a reality that was published in magazines called War Stories, but his personal war was inside. I know now that he wandered away from his family of English Professors, took the road around the school where diplomas are carried ... yet, he was one of the smartest men I’ve known. He fell up and down a bipolar ladder before there was a word for it except crazy. What I remember is asking him for words, to say what was needed in my growing up paper essay. He had them, and gave them to me mixed with his love. Thank you Vincent Clark for my muse, and for throwing me in the air and catching me with your love of words.

Sweet Pea

I was his sweet pea even then,
after the slamming door
the scream within my pillow,
the radio’s love
where I took a breath of dying.

He gave me that in his waiting,
listening as my mirror broke.
My tendrils slide beneath the door trying to find the sun, around and about, folding and folded, and still I climb the whim of his shoulder moving toward the light of him.

See that curl of hair on forehead under the jaunt of cap, grinning, yes, and leaning into the sun with a tease of freckles? That's my dad. He could write a minute if you asked him, could tell you carefully facts of newsprint and time with his face somber and his long fingers wrapped around the thought.

Stories were in him, some fashioned by the brotherhood of war and some by humor. His small quips were published in The Saturday Evening Post. I didn’t know then to be proud.

"Ships were always landing in pairs," he wrote, on the yellow paper that falls apart now and drops pieces of time on the hardwood floor. An envelope tucked inside the l932 book called, War Aces, requests three dollars for a doctor’s visit.
The address is one that tells me that he lived before I knew him, before I was his sweet pea, he lived this piece of time without me.
I realize today, that I have lived even more time, without him.

Cave Filled

Across the curve of southern coast
eroded time has left a mark
in caves that centuries have birthed
from rise and fall of breathing earth

Yet there I touch the little child
who only yesterday was caught
barefoot in clear water's troth
that families with children sought

She scrambled up the cliff just now
surrounded by the scent of sea
and watched the sea lion’s lazy lay
drenched by salt and sea and day
In that cave of which I spoke

some words engraved on rocks I saw
as timeless as the wind blown tree
and ageless as serenity
There carved boldly in the stone
etched with my breathless watch of youth
my father’s name right next to mine
now fifty years since that dear time

So I filled my heart with memory
that time can’t take nor days erase
and I swear I heard the echo still
my father’s love the cave did fill


Willing to Take on Dragons

Some memories are the color of your eyes
in others I feel the rough side of your face
against the soft paper of me
your cheek like sand

You understood my bare feet
even though you were not the one
the one who applied sunscreen
or combed out the snarls

Apart you played a part

listening with your earphones cocked
to the symphony that built walls
keeping your monotone safe
where there was no need to sell anything

I know now
that you were willing to take on dragons
when I didn’t even know you had a weapon


Picture This
All torn up the grass is bent
and heavy with the sweet smell sent
by something love that passes time
like crickets singing on a line

It moves across dimension’s map
the door gets opened just like that
The old push lawnmower had a song
sleeves rolled up to half past long

And a hat let's not forget the squint
those fine lines turning up by flint
from touch of sun so many times lit
that it wore you or you wore it

The sparkler is still in the street
put on your shoes you’ll burn your feet
can here it echo past the end
where the garden hose and sunburn blend

‘til nine o’clock and a sound like thunder
when horizons fill with the same old wonder


My Very Only (My daughter Michelle loved her grandpa!)

My very only she called you
just a bit of girl stretched along arm of recliner
next to your snoring self

A presence felt along your left side
like sight to the cataracts of your eyes
full of whim and crinkled questions

Read to me she told the paper
folded over your face she took a peek
under the largest letter (it was an M)

My name starts with that she whispered
Grandpa listen listen the paper is loud
it will wake you if you move don’t move

Only while you’re sleeping could you
cross your legs
let me sit on your foot
be my horse now please I’ll hold your knee
make that sound the clop clop with you tongue
sing me the song that horses strum
I’ll close my eyes and we will be
just us two and the prairie

They ride the clouds to the far beyond
on the horse of that recliner wings are drawn

A Certain Degree of Attitude

Here I go again on that wind of road
the one with the precipice on one side
and the sharp rocks on the other

you know the one

where continuing on takes courage
and a certain degree of attitude

So I close my eyes
and I remember how my father taught me
to cross a river on the rocks

You just do it
like you were not in danger
of tumbling into a raging current

You do it with a meadow of grass below you
and your father’s smile


 I Drink in the Light of You

I am remembering the driveway
where the sky burned my eyes,
and your tapered long fingers
that enclosed me in a twirl,
up into the fragrant blue
in delicious giggles.
Your hair and my fingers
smelled like sunshine,
our black curls shined
tight and delightfully alike.

The skin on your freckled brown arm,
colored by the sun and sea,
so caught you
that I listened for waves
in your breath
and could feel my bare feet
nestled in the quick of sand
that oozed with wiggling
in the cement of your love.

I was summered in your knowledge
of the ocean’s magic swirl
and I was drenched and beached
with the sureness of your hand,
though thrashed and twirled
against a might that twisted me
and tried to loose this grip
cemented there by your dear heart,
I tasting with salty squeal
so much of your heart’s delight
that it ignited my ocean lust.

You were like the tide,
your ebb sparkled in green eyes
loving this squirmy blur of girl
and then your flow
was the storm and sail
where my fathoming was drowned.

You have been lost
to this woman who ponders
whether the birds sing
on dark and rain-swept days,
‘til now
when I became full of you
and the memory was so sweet
that I could almost smell
your sun drenched hair
flowing across the bay tree,
delicate and sure as love.

I  hear your laughter now,
as the hummingbird’s twit
in delightful pleasure
at the profusion of nectar
in this gold and blue day
that milks the sky,
and is infused
with your spirit
as I drink in the light of you.


  1. I almost believe I can see him they way you do, coloured in so many ways: joyful, bittersweet, wistful, courageous, loving. What a wonderful tribute.

  2. I'm completely overwhelmed, Martie. So after saying that I will just say . . . This is incredible.


  4. bookmarking this treasure trove to come back and savor later ;) the pics are pricelessly wonderful