I hope someone is listening

Duck Pin Bowling

My memories of the man are very murky.  I do not remember much. He took me duck pin bowling when I was 7.  A thought that is so vague and so minor in the whole of my life that it is represented by a vision of me from behind carrying a tiny bowling ball to a lane while wearing borrowed shoes.  Did it really happen?

He was thin, very very thin and grew a super bushy mustache that covered his mouth. The kind I was sure had tiny creatures hiding in it.

Once when I was a young adult, and I was in his town and his ex-wife was dying of cancer in a hospital nearby, he took me out to brunch and spent the entire time talking about himself and getting drunk.  It was a monologue of self-importance and self-pity.  I was bored. I hated him. I was indifferent.  His ex-wife was someone I loved, and I needed to go to her.  Instead he yammered, and I patiently listened. He was defending his decision to leave her or something.

I see him waiting in the wings at my high school graduation. He was afraid to be seen because there would be fireworks, but he needed to come to see his son graduate.  His son was my cousin. I see the man waiting at the end of my driveway.  He wore a grey suit.  I didn’t pay attention in the way that 18 year olds don’t pay attention. He gave me a gift and I cannot for the life of me remember what it was, but I think it was inscribed.

He tried to friend me on facebook, and I ignored it.

He died of cancer earlier this month.  He had several large brain tumors that eventually stopped his ability to speak.  I don’t know if he could hear or understand.  At the end he stopped drinking. Stopped talking about himself.  I can’t even tell you that it was sad. It just was the end. His end.  Not many people were there to witness the end.  A caretaker.  His son a few weeks prior.  I didn’t even feel a wrinkle in the wind when he died. 

Yet, somehow there is a quiet grief in my heart.  He hurt people. I know that because he hurt people I love.  He had a lot of money and then he didn’t.  He drank a lot. He took up a lot of space. He was someone. He was no one.  I decide that my grief is over all the lost opportunities.  All the ways he failed, and how no one saw he tried.  My grief is that he died alone and no one heard his last confession. He had no chance to apologize or make amends. Perhaps there was a man there who tried to love the best way he knew how and just failed.  Perhaps this is what he would have said if he could.  I tried.  I took you kids duck pin bowling.

Wherever you are in the cosmos RH, I hope someone is listening. Rest in peace.

~ALC for the PGM

Dull Old Three-Hole Punch

What you do is repetitious:
paper goes in,
lever is pushed down.
Ka-chunk!
and three holes appear on the edge of the paper.
Over and over and over.
You have served this special purpose
for many years now
the boring task of boring holes.
But to me old friend
you are my historian.
You have punched 300 pages of dissertation.
You have organized seminar after seminar
for more than 40 years
helping me to organize the readings
I selected and assigned
for hundreds of graduate students
from all over the world.
Students who came to learn
and to return to their universities
caught up on the latest ideas
in sociolinguistics
ideas they would pass along to their own students
and which would become part of their own work.
You have punched thousands of pages
of my own work:
Three holes for every page of how
people learn foreign languages.
Three holes of every page of
analysis of international political speech.
Three holes of all the drafts for publications
on how English is developed and changed
around the world as the world owns it
takes it and colors it for its own.
Three holes
Three more holes.
Then, one day, it seemed
your work must be done.
I retired.
No more seminars.
No more publications.
I thought of letting you go
but I couldn’t.
We had been together too long.
And so I kept you idling on the desk
A well-earned rest from all that punching.
And then,
and then,
I slipped into a different world of writing.
Writing about my life
Writing about my fears and loves and musings.
And I wanted you again
my friend.
I write on the computer
but I want,
I need,
those pages of paper
with three holes
to touch and to revisit
that tangibility so lost in the computer world.
And so, old friend,
you’re back to your work
Even this page
will be a part of it
and I am happy to
wake you from your idleness
and have you join me in these new
adventures.

Bev Hartford

Fences

We aren’t native to this land.
 It’s time to plant what is. It’s time to go home.
from “Poem for a Daughter” by Lynn Melnick

They weren’t native to this land.
Their footsteps trod unfamiliar ground,

disappeared behind them into
the flat nowhere way back when.

Time came to plant, they built
poor man’s fences horse high,

bull strong, hog tight
Osage orange. strange shrubbery,

prickled their sleeves splintered hooves
that no machete could cut no

matches would burn so
there you have it:

miles and miles of hedge apple
borders left to us – squirrel mash

prairie fruit be-dashed.

Come October I feel a pull to ancestral fields,
thorny edge along

the 20 acre woods, and then remember
my grandmother’s Botany thesis:

Maclura Pomifera
those wrinkled balls

brain-like but dumb
and picture her young again,

seated on a felled log
a ray of sunlight warms

the inedible fruit in her hand
releases its citrus scent, and she sketches

what she sees until the light fades.
A supper bell rings,

beckons her back
over the new split rail

as she tosses her mysterious
litter to the ground

useless autumn fencerow
ornamental, bright green

against bending
yellow grass

Beth Lodge-Rigal