Thursday, November 29, 2012

Poem 27 - Wrist-wrestling father

I’ve been digging up some fabulous poems lately. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

We host Thanksgiving every year, and this was our second in our new house. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s about the food, not the house. And if there’s one room to clean, it’s my study. Sure, we clean the bathroom, wipe down the kitchen, mop the floors, vacuum, but the room that gets the best treatment is my study. Why? Because that’s where my mother wants to go after the dishes are done and before the desserts come out.

I grew up on a big old farmhouse. There were plenty of rooms—even a room or two we never used—but Mom (like most moms) never felt that she had her own space. When my parents left the farm for their new house in town, she had the luxuries we’d only dreamed of on the farm—a laundry room! a fireplace! a garage! a spare room! But alas, my brother moved back in and between him and his boys who visited every other weekend, the “spare” space was eaten up again.

When I ran upon this poem again last night, it made me think of my mother asking if we could go to “your room.” I still can’t believe I have something my mother doesn’t and that she’s envious of it. It’s like the son in this poem. No matter how grown and accomplished a child is, the moment that means the most to them is the moment they “win” over their parents.  

Wrist-wrestling father
Orval Lund

for my father

On the maple wood we placed our elbows
and gripped hands, the object to bend
the other’s arm to the kitchen table.
We flexed our arms and waited for the sign.

I once shot a wild goose.
I once stood not twenty feet from a buck deer unnoticed.
I’ve seen a woods full of pink lady slippers.
I once caught a 19-inch trout on a tiny fly.
I’ve seen the Pacific, I’ve seen the Atlantic,
I’ve watched whales in each.

I once heard Lenny Bruce tell jokes.
I’ve seen Sandy Koufax pitch a baseball.
I’ve heard Paul Desmond play the saxophone.
I’ve been to London to see the Queen.
I’ve had dinner with a Nobel Prize poet.

I wrote a poem once with every word but one just right.
I’ve fathered two fine sons
and loved the same woman for twenty-five years.

But I’ve never been more amazed
than when I snapped my father’s arm down to the table.

from Casting Lines

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Poem 26 - Thanksgiving

I’m off to check the turkey, peel the potatoes, boil the eggs for my son’s deviled eggs, bring up the card table, set out the serving pieces, and do some last-minute cleaning before my second-favorite day of the year (my favorite is the day after then the Christmas tree goes up!). Here’s a sweet old Thanksgiving poem. Enjoy!

Edgar Albert Guest, 1881-1959

Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,
An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;
An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they
Are growin more beautiful day after day;
Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,
Buildin’ the old family circle again;
Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s all.
Father’s a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin’ our stories as women an men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we’re grateful an’ glad to be there.
Home from the east land an’ home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an’ best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We’ve come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an’ be frank,
Forgettin’ position an’ station an’ rank.

Give me the end of the year an’ its fun
When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Poem 25 - And This Just In

For those, like me, who enjoy looking into the seemingly insignificant, who ask why and how come, who pause more often on the tiny spaces between small things, this poem is for you.

And This Just In
David Tucker

Those footfalls on the stairs when the night shift went home,
the sunlight fanning through the dinosaur’s rib cage,
the janitor’s sneeze—we’re asking questions,
we’d like to know more.

The moth in the clock tower at City Hall,
the 200th generation to sleep there, we may banner the story
across page one. And in Metro, we’re leading
with the yawn that traveled city council chambers
this morning then slipped into the streets
and wound through the city. The editorial page
will decry the unaccountable boredom
that overtook everyone around three in the afternoon.
In Features we catch up with the young priest
as he climbs the long steps to his church,
his arms full of groceries.

A watchman humming in the parking lot
at Broad and Market—we have that story—
with a sidebar on the bronze glass
of a whiskey bottle cracking into cheap jewels
under his boots. A boy walking across the ball field
an hour after the game—we’re covering that silence.
We have reporters working hard, we’re getting
to the bottom of all of it.

from The Missouri Review
Volume XXIV, Number 1, 2001

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Poem 24 - Afternoons

Here is a somber little poem about the disillusionment of young married women. I believe it was written in the late 1950s, before the sexual revolution, women’s lib, and personal fulfillment through outside employment. In this regard, it’s quite an insightful poem—ahead of its time.

Philip Larkin

Summer is fading:
The leaves fall in ones and twos
From trees bordering
The new recreation ground.
In the hollows of afternoons
Young mothers assemble
At swing and sandpit
Setting free their children.

Behind them, at intervals,
Stand husbands in skilled trades,
An estateful of washing,
And the albums, lettered
Our Wedding, lying
Near the television:
Before them, the wind
Is ruining their courting-places

That are still courting-places
(But the lovers are all in school),
And their children, so intent on
Finding more unripe acorns,
Expect to be taken home.
Their beauty has thickened.
Something is pushing them
To the side of their own lives.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Poem 23 - Air Hostess

This is a poem that turns from flirtatious and light to dark and foreboding. It’s a testament to how we sometimes wear our pasts on our faces.

Air Hostess
Yehuda Amachai

The air hostess said put out all smoking
materials but she didn’t specify cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.

I said to her in my heart, you have beautiful love
material and I didn’t specify either.

She told me to fasten and tie myself to the seat
and I said I want all the buckets in my life
to be shaped like your mouth.

She said she would like coffee now or later or never
and she passed by tall as the sky.

The small scar high on her arm showed that she
will never have small pox and her eyes showed
that she would never again fall in love.

She belonged to the conservative party
of souls who have only one great love in their life.