There’s no way to know when our time will come. I sure didn’t.
Would I have done things differently if I did? Probably not.
Life teaches as it tests, so we do the best we can with the time we have.
Who am I to say whether you learned your lessons well?
I had my own lessons to learn, but those days are long gone.
Yes, my life was cut short, but, hell, my family was cut short.
A brother I never knew, gone almost before he could breathe.
My mother gone before I was fifteen, when I had to learn to breathe
all over again for myself and my father, devastated for the rest of his life.
I learned early on not to expect something for nothing,
that hard work brings rewards. Life may be cruel, but it can be
just as generous. Your love, even since I’ve been gone, is proof.
You’ve had your own lessons to learn. Those that were easy balanced
with trials. One at a time, you’ve managed. Life is meant to be lived
one day at a time. Live it. Don’t dwell on the past. Continue to learn.
This poem may not be quite on prompt for Day 8 of napowrimo.net, which challenges us to “read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead.” Mine is definitely not in the same style as those by Edgar Lee Masters. I chose to write it in the voice of my father – therapy for myself, probably, since it’s more in my “voice” than his. I suppose it could be an epilogue to my Day 6 poem, “Instillation.”
~ Day 8 ~
Blue collar, with roots deeper than any walnut or oak.
I remember those black walnuts from Uncle Bill’s farm.
Shells as hard as the hammer to break them.
And bitter, but hard work can be that way. Even if
a vacation on his dairy farm was more work than play,
it still made great memories.
He wasn’t a man to shy away from work.
Neither was his brother, whose lessons carried me through life.
Even before I worked beside him on a loading dock,
there was work in the yard, digging a trench for a foundation.
Pulling the transmission out of one of my first cars and replacing it.
Building a barn when he finally bought his own piece of land.
The years I put in on the dock after he retired.
The many years after that driving a truck, making deliveries.
The lesson that got me through all of that was simple.
There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
This poem is my response to Day 6 of napowrimo.net, which asks us to use a quote from a favorite book as inspiration and as the title for a poem, and then to change the title of the poem. The term TANSTAAFL (“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”) was a theme in “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” by Robert Heinlein, (1966). The complete phrase was already in use by the early 1940s.
~ Day 6 ~
Blue Is All I See
How to spell a loss that returns year after year,
casting a pall on a season of joy?
Words do not suffice when every carol
is shadowed by the blues, without
the light in your eyes, gathered
from those who gathered around you.
I gather that blue and imagine you here,
your light shining upon us, the blues
the farthest thing from my mind.
This is my response to MTB: Synesthesia, the prompt from Grace at dVerse ~ Poets Pub, which is to incorporate music in a poem from the perspective of a synesthete.
How I held your counsel dear,
missed now in your absence –
the talks we shared,
the lessons learned.
Long years have passed
since we last spoke,
each trial faced reminding me
of the advice you gave,
each time leading to
that never ending question.
~ Which is the right course to take? ~
No words I might provide
would hold the answer you seek.
It is not mine to give,
but yours to divine.
Look not to my past,
but to your present.
There is hope and despair
in all that you face.
Know the difference,
and all will be revealed.
The prompt for MTB: O Apostrophe! from Amaya at dVerse ~ Poets Pub is to use the poetic apostrophe – not as in possession, but in reference to something absent. When poets direct speech to an abstract concept or a person who is not physically present, they’re writing apostrophe poetry. Historically, poets often began their address to the absent party with the interjection “O.”
The is my first attempt at writing a puente. Its form seems perfect for my purposes, as this poem contains a response to the opening stanza.
The puente has three stanzas with the first and third having an equal number of lines and the middle stanza having only one line which acts as a bridge (puente) between the first and third stanza. The first and third stanzas convey a related but different element or feeling, as though they were two adjacent territories. The number of lines in the first and third stanza is the writer’s choice as is the choice of whether to write it in free verse or rhyme.
The center line is delineated by a tilde (~) and has ‘double duty’. It functions as the ending for the last line of the first stanza AND as the beginning for the first line of the third stanza. It shares ownership with these two lines and consequently bridges the first and third stanzas, essentially resulting in two that overlap.
Behind the lens,
seldom in front.
So I search,
frame by frame.
Through weddings, holidays,
And there you are,
your love in every frame.
Other video poetry can be found here.
Omission ~ Remission
What follows is a free flow of thoughts – and not very cheerful, at that – looking back more than fifty years. It’s not something I’ve ever written about, for myself. I thought it was time. I learned a lot from my father, and we had a good relationship, but this is about letting him down, which was a lesson in itself.
Those who are familiar with my writing will know that it’s a long piece, for me. To the right is a distillation, of sorts – again, not very cheerful.
Trying to be involved, but always
self-conscious. That was me, in school.
Except as an athlete, which wasn’t me, at all.
Until I was told I was fast enough
to run track. So, a ninth grader walked
to the high school every afternoon.
When an athlete’s dinner was held
at the junior high, I was clueless.
I wasn’t an athlete. But, yes, I was.
At the last minute, I attended,
only to find out it was a father-son event.
How could I tell my father?
I didn’t have to. Two days later,
my mother said, “Dad was at the bank
for the car loan. The president said
he saw you at the father-son dinner,
and he was sorry Dad couldn’t be there.”
Flash forward three years.
I remember her words like it was yesterday,
“You know, Dad went to your track meet
and you never acknowledged him.”
The one time he left work early
to see me run, and I didn’t see the one face
I’d always wanted to see there.
Too self-conscious, I would stay
away from the bleachers,
except to talk to my girlfriend.
It had to look like I was ignoring him.
Not a word was said afterward, but I knew.
He was disappointed. I would have been.
Did I feel as bad about it as he did?
It sure felt like it. It took me another week
to tell him I never saw him at the meet.
And he never went again.
Remission of Self
Class within class
Wanting to be unseen
Student or jock
A father’s expectations
Wanting to be seen
Guilt by omission
Too little, too late
Linked to Write me some treats! from Lillian, for Open Link Night at dVerse.
Years of absence taking
their toll. Distance traveled
without regret to fulfill
a heart’s wishes becoming regret
at separation from those left behind.
Always missing them,
of course. No real concern,
other times. Phone and video.
Travel. All more than enough.
Most times. Must be the years.
This day is different.
From the Heart
This sorrow knows no loss.
Decades mean nothing
when it wells at the light
in your eyes, your image
a reminder of all we share,
my face more like yours
with each passing year.
My own eyes could be yours,
but moist now with memories,
my smile just as tentative,
until it beams with laughter.
When I smile. But for now
I think of your heart. Would I
give you mine instead, spare you
the pain you knew, only to give you
the pain I feel at this moment?
The prompt for NaPoWriMo.net Day 18 is to write an elegy, with the abstraction of sadness portrayed through physical details. Grief is not something that weighs on my mind every day, but memories such as this are just as hard to write about as they would have been twenty-five years ago.
If you were still here, your days would be numbered.
But that means nothing to the number of days you’ve been gone.
I think of the thousands of times I could have heard your voice,
seen your face. Or the thousands of times you could have heard
my children laugh, seen them smile, seen the sun rise one more time.
Not all has been darkness since you left us, but the light
you would have brought is unforgiving in its absence, your absence.
Eclipsed, you had robbed from you the one true sunset you deserved.
It’s been 25 years since my father died, way too early at 60.
The challenge for Day Four of NaPoWrMo 2019 is to write a poem of sadness, achieved through simplicity, with the suggestion of a sonnet for compactness. Mine is short, though not necessarily simple, and definitely not a sonnet.
Piece-by-piece, laid out
carefully, just as you explained.
Float, gaskets, fittings. New parts arrayed
to the left of the damaged carburetor.
Screws turned, separation, methodical
disassembly – after all, part of
the recovery process – parts placed
to the right to be cleaned, reassembled.
You coming by every few minutes,
to check my progress, give a reminder,
less hands-on than when we replaced
a transmission the year before.
Glancing beneath the back edge
of the upraised hood, starting the engine
and seeing your smile as you pull the throttle
and those barrels come to life.
Life, and those lessons. We do our best
to build. Sometimes, we need to rebuild.
No more reminders, but I still remember
those lessons and feel your presence.
Twenty-five years ago from today, we lost my father.
I prefer to focus on his birthday, but this came to me last night, a silver lining, of sorts.
Image source: hotrod.com