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Posts Tagged ‘childhood innocence’

The one thing I need to leave behind is good memories. (Michael Landon)

So many things clutter our attic. I find my wedding dress, yellowed with age, and remember a poem I wrote after my parents died:

LAST VISIT TO THE HOUSE I CALLED HOME

Dust encases the old homestead.

Encyclopedias from 1963,

boxes of unused pencils,

 

skeins of yarn with faded fifty-cent

mark-down stickers,

a broken clock.

 

Most of the saved items are gone,

Dumpster and shredder items wait.

Bags of cancelled checks

 

on Mom’s closed account.

She died years ago.

Dad’s will to maintain dissolved, too.

 

In the back yard his loss leaked

into the naked, open space

leaving it flat, withered.

 

Before the property grew sullen,

I planted seeds for annuals that sprouted into

a tiny-stemmed miniature garden.

 

They dwarfed next to tomato vines

Dad tied to hand-cut posts.

Sunlight coaxed

 

white blossoms into green and then red fruit.

Inside the house Mom made soups that

took all day to blend the chicken

 

with onions, carrots, celery

into a fragrance that filled every nook.

I try to recall an ancient, lingering scent

 

but it was taken for granted

too long ago. I find my wedding gown

in an eaves closet,

 

zipped in plastic.

I had changed my name and moved on.

The yellowed department-store receipt

 

remains attached to the wire hanger.

I wipe off the grime and carry what-was-me

into what-is-me now.

 

The door locks for the last time.

The sun leaves a sliver of itself

on a pink horizon,

 

a visible color beyond reach,

like memories, both dark and light,

locked inside things left behind.

 

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Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.
(Erich Fromm)

Human animals think too much—without questioning the truth of their source. Unfortunately, we upright-moving creatures are born with ego and an overdose of certainty, based on experience in a tiny section of the world.

I wrote this poem more years ago than I recall. My granddaughter was a toddler. She is now in fifth grade. A ballerina. Grade-A student, She also happens to be significantly taller than I am.

These verses are based on an incident that occurred at the Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. My beautiful girl may have grown up, but she chooses her friends based upon inner qualities, not incidental skin tone. I am proud of who she has grown to be.

Naked Baby Dolls

 

Child-proof dolls

with painted black hair

and eyes forever open

 

lie on the floor

of the toddler room.

Figures identical, except for

 

brown or peach plastic bodies,

the dolls are naked.

The children don’t care.

 

Bare babies and honesty

fit the simple ambience

of parallel play.

 

I watch as each doll

passes from child to floor,

and back again. The brown babies

 

get picked first.

My toddler granddaughter pouts

as another child grabs

 

the dark doll she had been cuddling.

I try to hand her the paler version.

Her frown deepens. On the rug

 

the dolls that wait

look anemic, pale.

I think about human skin shades

 

from ivory to licorice, and mentally

list a larger number of darker tones.

Nutmeg, cinnamon, chestnut, bronze

 

chocolate, mahogany, coffee, umber.

Strange that at this age

the little people choose the toy

 

with the richer complexion.

Yet only a few of the children

resemble darker hues. The toddlers’ choices

 

contradict the prejudiced

adult majority. Someday I pray

these children see beyond the exterior.

 

The dolls wear a paint layer

thin enough to be chipped off.

Their differences can be altered with a brush stroke.

 

People share diverse histories

and cultures, but living hearts beat

a common rhythm.

 

May we grow

together

as one human race.

 

(This poem has been published in the anthology, FOR A BETTER WORLD and in the online magazine PIKER PRESS.)

 

 

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Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of love is lost. (Kahlil Gibran)

My grandmother died when she was almost

a decade younger than I am now,

old enough for us to trade places across the centuries…

If time could allow a trespasser to

break its borders. I recall how she spoke of hurts

while I remained mute. In those days

generations separated more than years,

free-speaking limited. Peers only.

 

My aunt put Grandma in her wheel chair.

She took her to the kitchen to wash her hair.

I crawled over the bed rails,

and lay next to the smells

of my grandmother’s presence.

 

The parts of her a stroke couldn’t steal.

 

 

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We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days. (Jane Austen)

Sure, anyone who has stepped beyond kindergarten knows the kiddie pool closes when summer ends. I suspect most of us cherish the daydream about an escape route, a charmed life—long after planned recesses end. Bullies, putdowns, and early traumas. They unsettle the water early and intensify a longing for a smoother ride ahead.

When I grow up…

I’ll tell the kids who called me Ziggy the niggy

they need a good eye doctor and some listening ears as well.

Ziegler, my family name, is German and means tile mason.

Hardly aristocracy. As if that mattered.

And my skin is pale to match

eyelashes and hair color common in Ireland.

A connection unknown if connected at all.

The insult you intended is learned ignorance.

You see, human refers to a wholeness.

Of body and spirit.

Dark and pale outsides can hold spirits made of sun.

And I revel in the possible housing color of spirits:

Chestnut, cinnamon, charcoal, peach, olive.

Perhaps I speak only to my own written word.

To a long-gone past.

You are busy with your own agenda.

Yet, I speak to you with respect.

Only love can make churning water

a place possible to maneuver.

Peace.

 

 

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Do not measure your loss by itself; if you do, it will seem intolerable; but if you will take all human affairs into account you will find that some comfort is to be derived from them.  (Saint Basil)

This poem has been in my file since my oldest granddaughter has been small. Yes, I choose the positive. However, it is a choice, not a feeling. An uphill climb is a sweaty uphill climb. Lately, I notice a lot of jagged rocks. Peace to all. Eventually.

EXPERIENCE

It contains puzzle parts made of fear, pain,

celebration, growth, loss, gain. The parts leak

inside, swell the pores and form leathery ripples

as time passes. They are never fully decoded.

 

I recall the last warmth of a friend’s embrace.

Buried now, she can no longer speak in earth terms.

I read the notice too late and never said goodbye.

Experience can’t fit inside a single life time.

 

Over generations, it mingles, swells. I watch

my granddaughter play. And pray she sees

more joy than sorrow.

Time embraces all, teaches few, keeps no one.

 

Love makes experience worthwhile.

I kneel, bless my next generation, and join

my first grandchild as she discovers the world,

one bright colored block at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are. (J.K. Rowling)

My grandson and I color together. He notices how difficult it is for me to maneuver my fingers. Arthritis and a fractured-metacarpal-that-healed-crooked make smaller crayons a challenge.

“Here, try this big fat one he says… And Minions are yellow.” He is certain about that fact. My lucky guess.

I thank him since my adult world rarely mentions animated characters. Grownups talk about world concerns, family problems, sports, the rising cost of gasoline.

Dakota notices both my gifts and deficits. Neither changes his love for me.

If only every relationship could be this simple.

Perhaps simple and easy are not the same reality.

Loving my young friend is easy. Any opening into the heart makes the spirit capable of growing—into accepting the light, into discovering who I really am.

 

 

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Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied. (Pearl Buck)

More than a half-century ago I remember walking home from a day of bullying in fourth grade. I silently prayed to become a saint, the only survival-answer possible to a child born in an ultra-Catholic environment.

Saints fit so ego-free into pages of old books. Little dialogue necessary. No smiles or frowns. They wore halos without alterations. I remembered a story about St. Lawrence, burned on something like a barbecue grill. “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.”

Darn. I wondered what I was going to have to do. With my red-hair, sunburn had caused enough suffering.

Perfection never arrived. Yet, somehow on those book-laden, ego-smashed walks I found beauty in the clouds, the shapes of rocks. Words to describe nature appeared, stories, a rich imagination, a gift given instead of some lofty grownup concept.

The next day always appeared in full ugliness. My parents expected me to combat the world with the ten commandments; the advice remained in sterile print with no feedback. I was on my own.

One day a neighbor on a parallel street smiled at me. She knew who I was. “You have a long way to walk,” she told me. “You can cut through my yard.”

A small gift. The neighbor across the street from my house saw me crossing his yard and called out a hello. “Hello,” I called back, my grin causing his to grow larger.

Two syllables. They beat burning on a barbecue grill any day. I could do that. Maybe not at school. But, I could in my own neighborhood. A beginning…

 

 

 

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