Some people read books to escape. I have to assume this is why Fifty Shades Of Grey was published at all. Really? That’s your form of escape? Oh, well, to each their own, I suppose. Personally, I had a teacher named Mr. Grey in junior high, so that’s the first thing I think of when someone mentions that title. He looked like Waldo from the Where’s Waldo books. So much so that his resemblance was highlighted in the school’s yearbook.
If you read books to escape, dear reader, than we can also assume that at least some writers write them to escape. I’m in this group, and proud of it! Of course, the reason I write stories is so that my readers can enjoy them, but a not-bad side benefit is the trip I get to take into the mind and body of a new character. What can this character do that I can’t? What does he or she know that I don’t?
That being said, as I live and cope with specific physical and visual challenges, I will sometimes elect to tell the story of a character not unlike myself, as I feel such stories are severely under-told in the book world. Then the question becomes: Where does my resemblance to this character end and their own story and personality begin to shine through?
But what about poetry? Is poetry an escape hatch of its own? I love poetry. For me, a poem can distill a writer’s point down to its essence and communicate it better than a 350-page opus, in some cases.
I may not always be able to fashion a newspaper-column’s-worth of content on this blog (Let’s be honest; that’s just not going to happen all the time.) but I will try my best to offer you at least a thought for the day, and sometimes I’ll have a poem for you. What do you say? If I do that, will you come back and read it? I hope so!
Okay, well, with our new pact agreed to, let’s start today, shall we?
Today, I have two poems for you. This won’t be the way things usually go here. (See above.) Two poems equals a lot of work. But they’re two of my favorites, written following the respective passing(s) of both my grandmothers. If I was escaping anything in writing them, it was the current time at which they were composed. I wanted to travel back to a period less complicated, before my loved ones began leaving this mortal coil.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why I love time-travel stories so much. Who among us doesn’t long for some idealized past?
First a poem for my dad’s mom, who left us in 2009. (Admittedly, this poem’s title lacks creativity.)
It is only well after one’s tumultuous birth
When emerges the truth of life’s natural dearth.
At first the education is cursory,
Comes courtesy of the elderly neighbor down the street.
A sirens-whaling emergency.
He was the old man that—with plastered-on smiles–
My parents forced me to meet;
I shook his hand in the eight o’clock summer twilight,
A dusk replete with fireflies and lingering heat.
The old man’s traveled thousands of miles, I think.
But, when it strikes,
Few in my immediate circle weep at the loss.
He was someone the community treated
With a neighborly friendly-frost,
Cordial, yet removed.
A great-uncle goes next.
Closer to home, and
As we listen to the eulogy,
There’s a man in a casket,
Whose soul is somewhere else;
A reality check.
My grandmother watched Alzheimer’s take its unmerciful hold.
Saw her sister succumb, and death took her home.
When she asked me—
At the end of a motor-home sojourn—
“What was the toughest part of the trip?”
I should have given it more thought,
But I let the wrong answer slip.
She considered my response for a momentary spell,
Then taught me a lesson I learned well.
The toughest part for her,
Looking oddly both serene and morose, and
Discounting my reply as juvenile;
I wouldn’t understand until time ran out for someone I cherished,
Their ultimate demise
A product of God’s larger scheme,
Was saying good-bye to her sister, Jean.
Even with previous forays into funerals,
I never thought death would take the unfazable.
The apocryphally irascible.
But six years ago,
Cancer burst a faith-hewn bubble, and
My spiritual journey began anew.
Aunt Thelma followed,
Joined Jean and Andy,
And her soul mate,
Now here again we sit,
In pews reserved for worship,
Except when the populace of God’s kingdom has an arrival to hail.
This time it’s a mechanically-inclined woman who loved to sail.
She waits on E. dock
To return to His flock.
The party’s already in full swing
As she climbs aboard the Yacht.
Or maybe the parties will come later and
Her passing takes place under a more subdued atmosphere.
Papa’s happy because his mechanic and the love of his life are both finally here.
“It’s time to put the boat in the water, Shirl,” he’ll say.
“But the engine’s been acting up.
Can you take a look at it, ol’ girl?
Want some coffee?
I made ya a cup.”
She’ll tinker and fiddle and get the boat running.
And as they get out on the water the view exceeds stunning.
They sail for a light in which multitudes wait
To say their hellos,
Play cards, or Scrabble,
Or camp by a lake.
“We’ve missed you,” they say in a chorus so clear
The intonation can be heard in every earthbound tear.
All who miss Grandma, G.G., or Shirl
Know she’s a fairly self-sufficient old bird.
She’ll let you know she’s there;
There’s no doubt in my mind she’ll make herself heard.
If you listen long enough
In a room filled with quiet,
Turning your mind off to all worldly romps and riots,
She might say:
“I’m finally free of pain and a foggy mind.
Do not mistake this for a sad time.
It’s a day to celebrate,
And not with boxed wine.
Heck, get the good stuff.
My life is worthy of a toast
And a good hearty singing of ‘Auld Lang Zyne’.”
And now my mom’s mom, who followed in 2010.
Losing Your Voice
“Hi, sweetheart,” I can hear you say.
I am on a recovery mission.
Attempting to rescue that phrase.
Three syllables that assured
So much more.
“My door’s always open,” it meant.
“No matter where you go,
Who you meet,
Or what you do,
I’ll love you.”
Movies gone gray with the passing years
You heartily revered,
And I was taught how to love them, too.
When our fine, four-fendered friend
Began to fly,
Then there’s Charlie Kane.
Touched by long-ago pain,
A Rosebud of regret.
The simplicities that make up childhood,
The incidental moments spent laughing,
Are worth the pain
That must be withstood
When the “Hi, sweethearts” are gone
And there can be no more idle chatting.
I’m beginning to forget
What it sounded like.
To have you there on the other end
Of the line.
Your chortles came easily,
Oftentimes before stories
Had found their strides,
By an “ohoooo geeeeez.”
A treasured response.
Now hearing it once more,
I’m not so greedy—
Is all I want.
instead I am faced with a Heavenly taunt
That mocks the thought of free will
We didn’t choose to say good-bye.
Yet I’m here today to admit
I’m losing your voice.
I do hope you’ll return here again and again, dear reader, and that in my words you can also see clearly my heart beating away. Being able to escape into writing whenever I want, being granted the chance to offer you a thoughtful morsel when it might strike me to do so, is one of the ways in which I feel most alive.