Oddments

In search of story


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January 30.21: Coping

Grandma’s kitchen clock

ticked crisply like a snare drum,

by day blended in the rhythm of work,

by night echoed

through the bedded house

while the rite of springs squeaked under me,

percussive, brassy,

objecting, it seemed,

to my child’s weight.

A bare light bulb

dangling on thick black cord

hovered

over the bed,

beyond my reach

even when I stood

jiggle-kneed

on the jello mattress.

Grandma reached up

and turned it off herself,

then slipper-padded out.

Her bedroom a whole dining room

and kitchen away,

sly-eyed shadows deepened

around me

in borrowed bed

where once my aunts were little girls.

In the sleep breath of her house,

Ivory soap.

Now, as COVID blurs days into nights,

and nights into days,

my clock ticks crisply like a snare drum.

 

 


15 Comments

January 8.21: Coping

A reflection, dear reader.

Today I turn 78. One becomes reflective when one turns 78 in a year of chaos and disease, when fear and rage, loneliness and grief dominate the human stage. But I was born into World War II. How can I not ask if anything has changed?

Food was rationed, bloodshed headlined daily newspapers, freight trains crisscrossed our lives carrying tank parts and spewing cinders, radio was high-tech, my mom and grandma walked to the corner store, a can of bacon grease ennobled every kitchen and bobby pins every dresser. Coal shoveled into furnaces. White shoe polish a household staple.

You have met my cell phone, humble flip-top that it is. You know it stopped working last month and then mysteriously started working again. Then, a couple days ago, it developed new problems. You may congratulate me vociferously: this time I did what any kindergartener would have done and googled the wretch. I learned that the trick was to put the phone into Airplane Mode and then toggle it out again.

Dear reader, who in the name of heaven would have the least inkling to do such a thing by way of problem-solving? I was irrationally proud of myself and at the same time miffed that I live in a world in which my life experience and hard-earned education seem useless.

As you know, this week has been hideous here but obviously something this mortally serious doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. And so I become 78 in a country with its principles in tatters. In a world where I need to know about Airplane Mode to have a working phone.

I have decided to look at it this way: 78 candles is a lot of light.

 

 

 


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September 29.20: Coping

Long, long ago,

when I was very young,

there was a folksy ballad

plaintively sung.

“One meatball!”

was the soulful refrain,

and now it recurs,

stuck in my brain.

One rudbeckia

is all that I got,

a full-throated solo

in one flowerpot,

brass grand finale

in luminous ONE

as my garden is close to

officially done.

There’s hint of embrace

in this radiant burst,

a hug for the elders

that all blossomed first,

a farewell to the summer,

and hail to the fall,

singular reminiscence

of one sorry meatball.

 

 

I didn’t ask for this old song to pop into my head,

but my head often does things without my permission.

Besides, for those (few) of you who know this old song,

one ear worm deserves another, yes?


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September 4.20: Coping

The world is too much with us,

so let us find some sticks,

and build us walls more sturdy

than paltry stone and bricks.

We’ll build a fort so mighty

that it will long endure,

then we can crawl inside

and all the mean abjure.

We’ll hug our knees and revel

in a world of let’s-pretend,

and make believe our hide-out

is where the rainbows end.

We’ll think of things so perfect

the world will be reborn,

and, while we’re at it, capture

and tame a unicorn.

 

With thanks to William Wordsworth,

to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to Ritchey Woods, Fishers, IN.


6 Comments

April 7.20: Coping

“Lavender blue”

and “lavender green”

a few “dilly-dilly’s”

and “you’ll be my queen.”

I never could figure

the words to this song

but that didn’t stop me

from singing along.

I find peace in my garden

and old-timey words

where twitters and tweets

come only from birds.

 

 

Family update: my son had “a bit of a relapse” yesterday.

He is being careful.

 


4 Comments

February 22.20

Look both ways

our parents told us,

and if we didn’t

they’d yell and scold us,

but a harder lesson,

heaven knows,

if cars and trucks

drove over our toes.

A lesson for life,

to look aft and fore,

then run like the wind,

wide-eyed and full bore!

 

Thanks yet again and a rousing HAPPY BIRTHDAY

to photographer S. W. Berg!


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December 12.19

Many the Christmas

has faded away,

but here are a couple

preserved for today.

The curly-haired toddler,

a bit knobby of knee,

recalls the first Christmas

for cute little me.

The other, my parents,

with some of their caucus,

a nefarious bunch,

unruly and raucous.

A time to be serious

about four-in-hand,

and to mutter at tinsel

hung strand by strand.

Life wasn’t perfect then,

but still I hold dear

the Christmases seen

in life’s rearview mirror.

 

That’s my dad in the middle, and my mom is the one looking down at him; I can’t tell if she’s thinking what a great guy he is or his collar needs more starch. You will notice, dear reader, the Christmas tree in the far right of the photo. If you can remember the insanity of hanging tinsel strand by maddening strand, then you also remember the days when ties were what you could always get your dad for Christmas.

 

 


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November 1.19

Apple walnut cinnamon pie,

winter oven, my, oh, my.

Syrup’d slices, cinnamon dust

rise through nose to memory’s must:

oilclothed table, rolling pin,

floured apron, floor and chin,

pigtail peelings, glowing stove,

maybe nutmeg, maybe clove.

Coming in from bitter world,

boots well stomped and scarf unfurled,

amber warmth starts deep within

like radiator through my skin.

Kitchens of the long-ago,

swathed in early evening snow,

hug me still because I spy

apple walnut cinnamon pie.

 

Huzzahs and thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and kudos to dessert chefs at McCormick and Schmick’s, Virginia Beach, VA.

What memoried fragrance arises from this photo!

As this hectic season hurls us into next year,

I wish you, dear reader,

some sanity from a warm and spicy kitchen.

 

 

 


8 Comments

August 4.19

Sometimes

if summer is old enough

and the leaves heavy with heat,

continuo of cicada

tricks me, and,

for so brief an instant,

I am back

in the time of bikes, grass prickles,

summer sleighbells of the ice cream man,

clothespin dolls,

clover braids,

a time when we had not yet heard of

mass shootings.

But it — that time — knew of nooses

of word and of rope.

To go back is to ask —

how could a country of lynchings

not become a country of mass shootings?

There is no perfect then.