In my teenage years, writing poetry kept me moderately sane. Building strings of beautiful words was how I understood my world. Now, I am mother to a poet. A poem, to anyone in love with words; is a robin's egg blue box tied in a satin ribbon. There is something wonderful inside! As you push aside the tissue layers and go deeper, more is revealed. Lift the lid and begin.
This is a poem I wrote for my beloved Grandpa Zehner's 80th birthday.
Grandpa in Harrisburg
Dear well-loved man of hats and lessons,
wheat-smelling Renaissance man of turkeys and potatoes
and school lunches.
In time's wild flight you are with me
the privileged listener-nodding my head,
anxious to run off and play.
Lessons and little stories and questions,
Admonitions that grated small ears
school-deary ears innocent ears.
Wonder of wonders: my principal knew my Grandpa far far away
that was importance.
HE OWNED A LAKE!
that was importance.
We baiting hooks with twisting worms
leaving no loops for clever fish to nip off.
These worms were 'not in pain'
nor the fish who lay gill gasping in puddles at our sneakered feet.
He held my hand and explained the order of things
and the promise of my life to be
the goodness of Work
the lore of the precious Land.
Digging in the moist pine earth
treasures of worms and sleepy toads
The rituals of banana apples and cupping spring water.
He plowed the brown dominion with empathic flow,
knowing the earth: loving the earth.
he made piles of paper behave
he fed legions of shrieking school children
by signing his name.
He watched me nod my head,
a nestling so smug.
What miracle neurons would blaze from his words?
These were lessons for Other Children--
my life held no ditches, no puddles.
Time keeps all things for new discovery,
and patiently waits.
you planted wise seeds in me.
A girl and a boy
shiver and laugh at the absurdity of wearing
sneakers in the creek.
We slip over slimed stones,
trickles of disturbed water blowing behind.
(every year we went a little further up creek).
Magic, powerful water; flecked by sunlight and fallen leaves
This expansive world was ours!
Our fish, our crayfish, our muddy shore
presented by Grandpa.
on our empty slates:
the delicate charms of Nature.
At dark, the night wind
parted by owls and secret running things
tamed with Grandpa's metered breathing.
The path of his life without us was unthinkable--
he is our Grandpa!
We apprentices to Time and Understanding
Oh learning, learning to be more than children.
We thought our days were endless sun-bathed rhythms.
Erosion, the enemy never showed its blank face to us--
We were the raspberry-eaters, the fisher-children
dipping our hands to the silver creatures in the water.
Time waited for us.
Time furrowed our lives.
Puddles and ditches came in locust waves,
poor irrigation left us gasping at the bottom of the boat
We could not see the falconer.
History mowed our adult lawns of ground ivy--
so tangled, persistent and pungent
and the promise of our future
made by a now slight man with paint-freckled glasses,
This dear children,
this is what the Love is for.