"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Friday, January 31, 2014

Poetry Friday: Re-creating My Grandparents

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone!

Today's poem is all about my maternal grandparents: Grandpa Mac and Grandma Sallie. I am one of those past-pickers who loves to marinate in the stories, details and even dates of my ancestors. I have drawn up family trees and dug around in the great, stale stores of The Internet for immigration records and am always pressing relatives for little stories and anecdotes. I think one of the key reasons why I am so fixated is because I long for a sense of connection of human understanding, of familial community that stretches deeper and farther than my varied cousins and my several aunts. I want to know what "we" as a clan were like in the Great Depression, how we cook, how we were in The Old Country, how we hold our liquor, how we walk, how we all tell jokes and what kinds of things we do in times of stress. I wish I could interview all my ancestors but instead I am writing a poem for them and for myself. 

My grandpa, the year the stock market crashed, 1929.
My grandma as a young woman with her first child, my aunt Nancy.

My Roots Are Showing

Odd how I run my fingers over and over
The many strands of my family roots,
Harping, my husband calls it when I go on.
I especially think about my grandparents:
I know I am lucky to have hugged them,
Had their wrinkled hands stroke mine
And to have felt their hair with sleepy fingers
But I know my versions of them are pale
Flickering, silhouettes sketches of people.
I remember old snatches of my grandpa:
Rag wool sweaters, pipe tobacco and his back
Bent in the sun over the stone garden wall.
Grandma is the scent of geraniums, solitaire
And glasses of water with crossword puzzles, 
A chic tip to her head, her feet curved and shuffling
I have these little torn, scavenged memories
And I have fashioned them into frozen collages
The two of them, stiff and quirky: static human art.
I know they gasped along like I do, their lives
As thumping and real as mine and my husband's
But sometimes I have to write to really feel them,
Cracking open the trunk of words in my mind
To enliven them, breathing in their realities
How it truly felt...in the bones, to have:
A cascade of preemie daughters, a house-fire,
A war hero ghost for a brother, an ex-wife,
An explosive temper, a yen for pink pistachios,
A college crush, a wry joke over gin,  a first art sale,
A master's degree, a quiet breakfast in Paris,
A job in another state, an absent spouse, a broken nose,
An alcoholic father, a museum you helped found,
A fear of gaining weight, A obsession with saving bags,
Or a commitment that sticks there through it all
Stubborn and eternal and lumpy like all real things.

My grandparents are the elegant couple on the left, my aunt and uncle on the right.
 You can go browse the other submissions for Poetry Friday tonight as a celebration of the weekend or tomorrow morning (like I will) with a mug of tea in hand. There is always a huge buffet of delicious offerings to pick through. Trudy is hosting this week over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Happy Weekend!


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