There is something to be said for not sharing a poem that is just hours old. Like all newborns, perhaps it should be sheltered from the outside world for a little while. And there certainly is something to be said for not sharing a poem that made the poet cry before she had even finished writing it, a poem so fraught and wrought with emotion that a Wordsworthian cooling off period is advisable. In fact, it would not surprise me to learn that all those “somethings to be said for not” such a sharing are right in line with conventional wisdom. Well, as I like to say about writing sometimes, “Rules were made to be considered.”
I was in need of a catharsis today, and this poem provided it. Likewise, something makes me want to share it with you, even if it is too new, too sentimental, too unworthy.
A little background is in order. 5 years ago last month, my first cousin, Janet, passed away. We were about 6 weeks apart in age. She left behind a family, including a beautiful daughter, who misses her terribly. On September 8, 4 years ago, our grandmother passed away. She was the grandmother who inspired many of the poems in my chapbook, String Quilt. It is odd to me that remembering loved ones who have gone on is so much harder some years than others, but most everything about mourning is odd to me. Please understand that I am fully aware that grief is not unique to me or my family. We all experience it. But an experience doesn’t lack profundity or even mystery just because it’s common. In fact, experiences are often rendered more meaningful or mysterious by virtue of being shared; at least, poets certainly think so. I seem to be stating the obvious. Maybe there is something to be said for not blogging just after an emotional catharsis …
It is difficult to think of my cousin Janet without also thinking of Mammaw; it is impossible to think of Mammaw without thinking of all my cousins, and my brother. So, really, this is for all of them. Consider it a work in progress. As always, thanks for reading.
(for Velda and Janet)
My grandmother was a grandmother
four times over by the time she was
my age now.
I should be spreading an old quilt
on the fragile spring grass
for the two baby boys, laying them
on their bellies, or their backs,
making them laugh with a tickle
or a smile or that funny face
that always works. And while
the babies are cooing and laughing
the five year old girls, cousins,
are begging me
for a hiding place, a tent.
So I should be dragging chairs
out of my kitchen
and into the yard, as one father
or another shouts from the door
and shakes his head, You spoil them!
When I finish carrying chairs
into the shade, I should get more old quilts
carry them out in my two loving arms
as the girls squeal with excitement
and promise to watch over their brothers
while I work
draping chairs with the coverlets
patchwork from patchwork.
I should be using a rake and a broom
as stakes for this quilt tent I am making
for those two little girls who look
down at the babies now lying
on their backs; both girls
trying to make that funny face
that always works, but only for me.
And after my hard work
I should be listening to little girl whispers
inside that cotton wigwam., gossamer whispers
that go well with babies’ coos and thin white clouds
floating above our heads like ghosts.
Of course, the other little girl,
the one with the jet black hair
who looked like she could have been born
in a wigwam, should be here now,
helping me remember, waiting
for her turn to be mammaw too.