I’ve been sorting through old keepsakes,
some photographs I’ve found are faded now,
these echo sounds of places where I didn’t go – faces that I do not know
I can’t decide how to store them all –
The sepia memories of what you saw,
The air your family stories hold
should last as long as when you told them.
And what you did is what you wanted
To do, and nothing worse hindered you.
Scenes of travel – and songs of yore
Some motets in your mind’s reservoir.
Carols sung in a cavernous forum
were more than just some Ipsem Lorem.
Choirs of men and women singing
Relationships brought into being
How, lovely – snaps you strived to make
No different than our own keepsakes.
But yours dwelled firmly in His grace –
and dwelling in your family’s place
Devotion and hymn live with us here
Led with your baton, and your voice as clear
as when you walked into a room.
My minds-eye sees you, feels you too.
How lovely, this reminiscence sounds –
Even if an echo now.
Listening to you in my head
puts my thoughts to this poem’s thread
of places where the music soars
and you’re step-singing an angel chorus.
The keepsakes of your melody in harmony with the little things,
And now they’re ours, for all to sing.
I remember counting birds on summer mornings,
before the heat settled in,
I’d circle the house.
and count the sparrows and bluejays,
a robin or two and sometimes a cardinal.
A task that kept me focused
each and every morning – on small details
like the poetry now.
I looked for colors,
with hope that this time
I might see yellow in a warbler, a goldfinch,
the multicolored painted bunting
or hear a gleeful song that the mockingbird pretends.
The ominous black crow was not here, though venturing
near the field behind our house – I would hear caws
Tick marks on the page were used to tally,
and sparrows always led the count.
A swath of greys and brown, with patches
of blue and red, and always hoping for yellow.
The darkness far away.
The abandoned lines are welcome. They collect on scrips and pages.
Writing is something that I can not believe I will have time to do.
My first thought was to go back to the place where I was sitting. For a time, I was simply there and trying. Gardening, while a gang of robins followed me about the bed – inspecting my work.
The second thought was you. Somehow the verses always came as if you spoke them. You are not here and the poetry can be seen through; the language is not the answer. The rhythm is listless.
The drumbeats of my favorites are thrumming in the past.
I open up the door and get the mail from the slot.
There is a letter from a woman in Seattle, a postcard from a school friend visiting Niagara Falls, coupons for home improvement tasks, and a form letter guarantee for future savings – if I act now.
I write this all down for future projects, perhaps ones that could be emerald and glistening, for poems about lost souls and overwhelmed emotions. For times when I need to cover. Maybe build a patio that sees the sky or install block windows to hide.
The abandoned lines are welcome, they fill the page and occupy my mind.
This past week I celebrated another birthday. It was a milestone, being number 55. This year events coincided that made the day just a day. My wife recently had back surgery and is recovering at home (doing well, but still has pain). My eldest son is busy with work projects and a new baby. My youngest son lives elsewhere and had to work (though he did call and we had a great conversation). Good friends had other family obligations or were traveling. I worked all day. In fact, this is one memory of my birthday that will go down as being one of the most unremarkable. For that alone, I will probably always remember it.
I will count the small kindnesses/gestures along the way: The balloons shared by coworkers who recently turned 55 this month and like to tease each other about who is older. We now have a special club – and I will always get used balloons because of it. The blueberry pie made for me by a family friend who was looking in on my wife as she recuperates. The phone call from my youngest son to wish me a happy birthday. The adorable phone call from my parents singing “happy birthday” in different keys. Note: My parents are career musicians and are never off-key. Greetings shared on social media (FB) from friends and family – far and wide- hoping that I had the greatest day – the best day. Yet, it was just a day, and I guess there is nothing wrong with that.
I reflected on past birthdays and wondered what made a day the best day – the greatest day. I’m not sure I have the answer, but I did dredge up some good memories of birthdays.
On my eleventh birthday, I received my first vinyl album as a gift from my parents. It was Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles. I had recently been introduced to their non-mop-top music by a school friend, and was immediately smitten with the lyrical genius of John Lennon on I am the Walrus. It would be the first of many vinyl albums I would receive on my birthdays/Christmases.
On my 13th birthday, I had a sleepover party with 8 friends. I think this was my first and only sleepover birthday party. We ate hotdogs and hamburgers, played badminton, wiffle-ball and touch football, then roamed around the neighborhood after dark – playing ghost in the graveyard.
On my 27th birthday, I received my PhD.
For my 40th birthday, my wife purchased third base line tickets to a AAA baseball game in our city. We went with some dear friends (one each of our children share a birthday) we had recently reconnected with.
On my 50th birthday, I was traveling in Germany with my eldest son and my father. We were in Nuremburg on that day and visited Coburg Castle. Facebook likes to remind me of that day every year and I smile.
There are memories of other birthdays, but all the things that make days special are there in that list: meaningful gifts and gestures, landmark events, good food and fellowship, and exciting adventures in new places.
They are still just days – though, and I hope you have a great one.