what i recall

dear friends…
i wrote this in the car, coming home from our
trip to our farm 2 weeks ago. i’ve been holding it
back because, well, there is a lot to digest here,
a lot of words and a lot of details you don’t know
because i haven’t written about them, except in
metaphors. if you choose to read this, and i will
understand if you don’t, just know that there is
healing and reconciliation, of so much of the
tragedy that is my childhood and family history.

there are no metaphors in this writing, everything
written here is true. there is also a larger message
about how we live now, versus how our parents did just
a few decades ago, a message that’s close to my heart.
.
.

the farm 016
.
.
and driving down the simple gravel road, our recent visit done,
slowly…past the tall rows of corn standing their sentry post
this once random parcel of land, hidden amidst 1000’s of acres
that felt like Home to me the minute the white clapboard house
suddenly appeared in the surprise clearing, over ten years ago

…and I recall what i heard then,
.
the easy after dinner conversations
and commitment, a family reciting
its oral history to their children.

the southern rooted melancholy
of the music, this east coast boy
never could appreciate until now.
.
and as we took one last last look
down the gravel road road towards
the house, before driving to Chicago

both our hearts so tethered to this farm
Scout with her memories and me with mine
so we sang in harmony to our favorite road trip song
Patty Loveless singin’ ’You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive’

‘But the times, they got hard and tobacco wasn’t selling
And old grandad knew what he’d do to survive
He went and dug for Harlan coal
And sent the money back to grandma
But he never left Harlan alive’

that Scout could get this shy one to sing…
that this scared kid, did manage to escape Brooklyn alive
that no other house I owned, spoke Home like this farm
that it’s just all too much to absorb sometimes

i recall what I heard listening to Carl
a retiree now, still living in the next farm over
in the brightest moonlight he could ever remember
stroll his field, just to hear the snap of the corn grow

i recall Aunt Shirley, who’s not even my blood
on the phone that afternoon, ask which I wanted
should she make apple or peach cobbler for dessert
and then apologizing, ‘‘cause the edges they were burnt.’

that this family has so folded me into their clan
that an orphan with no family of his own…now does
that it’s all been done without a single word about it
that it’s all just too much to absorb sometimes

i recall what i heard listening to Bob, Scout’s gentle father
sharing his childhood memories, working his own daddy’s fields
at 12, hitching horses to a wagon to glean the left over corn
and milking the cows everyday at 4, so his family could survive

i recall what I heard Sue, married 50 years to her beloved Bob
say on the phone last year driving home from the lawyers…
smiling, ‘Well the papers are all signed, it’s finally complete.
We called you first, ’cause we know how much you love the farm’

that none of the many siblings showed any interest
that Scout, her brother and I, were gifted this farm we treasure
that this poor Brooklyn boy, might breathe his last breath here
that it’s all…just really too much to absorb some days
.
.
.
and i recall what I heard last night, when I walked the clearing
a bird I didn’t recognize was singing his melodic night calling
i just had to stop this walking, to listen to his every pretty note
.
and I thanked the universe
.
.
from my very core..
.
.
that I was there
.
108
.
.

banner of innocence

thCAP42ZV1
.
‘There is a light inside you
To shine if you choose it to
There is a light inside you
To light up the world for you
Light up the world with you
As only you can do’
.
.
.
oh wounded heart, and how many years
have we walked this journey you and i
the dead ends and aborted beginnings
just how many understandings have
been set aside for yet another day?

only i know your tragedy and depth of despair
because i was there with you every painful day
deflecting the blows hoping i could protect you
covering these ears not to hear words slice so deep

oh wounded heart,

please hear the words i have found for you
forgiveness, love, acceptance and healing
hear them because the bruises they all faded
it’s the words you heard and the cuts remained

these clouds and shadows you live in
the dark and silence where you reside
there is a parting, an unmistakeable stirring
is it the light you’re drawn to or the words you hear?

because i swear

by everything holy in this world or the next
no hurt will ever again reach your gentle shore
and if the ferocity of my sword somehow misses its mark
this man will stand before you, accept the blows, every one

because the days of this silence and this fear are done

so let us swipe away those darkening shades
and open all the windows each and every one
this ambivalent world has missed your tender voice
it’s time to speak in steady words of love and light

my wounded child, this world is nothing to fear
because i have found ears that will listen
because i have found arms that will hold you
because i have found words spoken waiting to heal

here, take my hand and hold it tight
let’s take these first tentative steps
together, side by each other’s side
believing in each other along the way

sing your sweet lullaby’s of love and light
and i will unfurl this banner of innocence
because ours is only a righteous cause
a flourishing, protected and fearless child

my little boy, this world is nothing to fear
as long as we are always loving and caring
and always together, side by each other’s side
and always believing in ourselves along the way
.
.
.

There is love inside you
To love you if you choose to
There is a love inside you
To love the world and you
Love the world and you
As only you can do.

Light of You
Emer Kenny
.

Mary of thorns, of roses

Mary you’re covered in roses
you’re covered in ruin
you’re covered in secrets
you’re covered in treetops
you’re covered in birds
who can sing a million songs
without any words.

‘Mary’, Patti Griffin

roses 5-14 007

For as long as anyone could remember she was there every spring in the same spot, her own safe corner of the garden center answering questions about the roses she tended wearing her familiar garb a uniform, the well worn wide brimmed straw hat circled with a thin black silk ribbon, an oversized faded to almost white denim shirt sleeves twice rolled neatly, the tail of the billowing shirt reaching mid thigh her torso hidden, loose fitting, faded and frayed Levis folded to just above her ankles showing white cotton socks, black canvas Keds the white rubber banding forever soil stained. When she wasn’t wearing her trademark flower imprinted canvas gloves her right hand held a cigarette and it was only then you might notice her hand trembling slightly as she slowly brought it down to rest on her knee as she sat low on her small stool as the smoke slowly exhaled and curled up around her head.

From a distance her narrow face barely visible hidden behind the once flaming red loosely curled hair now muted with grey rested shoulder length, the wind occasionally blowing stray ringlets sideways across her dark perfectly round faux wood framed sunglasses never seemed a bother, never elicited a wipe away response as if it was all planned that way. She moved slowly as if scripted, gestures planned in advance leaving no room for error with her graceful posture she didn’t walk as much as she glided, a pale shadow sliding across the pavement and between crowded containers of the tender young rose plants she adored.

She was a carefully crafted enigma carving out a living doing what she loved, talking of roses to any who would listen even as she did her best to become invisible. No one knew where she lived or where she came from, a human without a history even to the many longtime employees she was simply known as The Rose Lady and that’s exactly how she wanted it be.

No one knew she wrote either but him, writing page after page of tightly composed hand penned black inked script, the penmanship so disciplined almost machine like and impossible to decipher except by her, exactly how she wanted it to be. Her stories each accompanied an intricate impossibly detailed companion pen and ink drawing, the technical skill beyond reproach.

roses 5-14 009

They would meet once a week during that spring and early summer sitting on the roughed granite steps to her favorite place, her refuge, a tribute garden full of only roses perfectly designed in the classic formal English style she went there often to wipe away the world and disappear, become invisible again. This almost secret place was in plain view on a busy street but there were rarely any visitors except for the old man who tended the roses and meticulously manicured the gravel path before he left leaving it perfect placing every small grey rounded stone where it should be.

It was there amidst the safety of everything that was familiar, under the protective cloak of the expected and the perfect order that never disappointed that Mary took a chance and did the unexpected which for her was nothing less than a blindfold leap into the abyss. It was there, sitting side by side with her pages and drawings between them their eyes adjusting to the dimming light, that uncertain bright to near dark transition that Mary began revealing her story to him slowly, inaudible at first as he gently cradled the drawing she could barely hand him. Even as her voice slowly gathered it’s strength it was never more than a low single note monotone effortlessly reciting her stream of conciousness testimony as if rehearsed daily and committed to memory, the only punctuation her breathing, a brief pause as her narrow frame rose to meet the next paragraph.

Staring straight ahead sitting on the steps that late spring afternoon as the noise of the busy street behind them faded he heard nothing but the soft floating sound of her voice, like the smoke from the cigarette that she held in her unsteady hand it enveloped them both. It was only when he began focusing on the drawing, the twisted bodies and anguished expressions represented in painful detail did he emerge from his own trance and begin to hear her words.

Mary did her very best to disguise the pain and trauma contained in her passages, her controlled emotion a rage compressed, the matter of fact delivery another possible detour offered but nothing could hide the horrible truth when he finally listened through it all to hear her words, listened as she told story after heartbreaking story of the violence and torment she experienced first by her father and then an abusive husband, finally leaving him her destination a secret.

In awe of her courage, her truth rubbed raw his own childhood wounds never revealed, he felt helpless so close to her pain when he could never confront his own. Wanting to help in some small way reassure, struggling to find words he found none so he sat there on the steps beside her and simply listened thinking he had let her down, that he’d failed her somehow. He couldn’t know it then but there was nothing more healing for them both than his silence.
.
one of her favorite songs…..
.

written March 2012