I’m making a list of 1001 things that make me happy.
Because somewhere along the road,
I have forgotten how.
To be happy.
Its not your fault.
I would not have you back
To suffer the indignities of the last two years-
The bed, the diapers, someone washing you and feeding you,
Bob lifting you up because your legs forgot how to hold you.
We held you
and I would not change a thing.
I don’t grieve your death
Only your absence.
I want to remember your eyes and hands
And that you were ready for fun and ice cream and new birds calling to you from the cedars
And the sound of your voice singing
And laughing with Daddy laughing.
And laughing when we were all laughing.
And singing and laughing.
I am from breakfasts in the watermelon shed
Dr Pepper and pear preserves
made of the knobby fruit from the side yard tree
Hot humid summer nights with pallets on the floor
populated by long legged, freckle nosed cousins
From sturdy Texas stock and dog people, mostly English setters
and crazy long tailed pointers
I am from Baylor homecomings and tearful home goings
I am from Albertine and LeeRoy
I am from tall pines, dark swamps
and paper mills with their pungent smell
Fish fries in Crossett Park and tea parties with delicate china cups
I am from church on Sunday crowded with great aunts and uncles
and quarters to place in the collection plate
From armadillos, white tailed deer and tail-less blue jays
And from trips to the graves at Promise Land
I am from the kids table at Thanksgiving
I am from John Henry and Marie
I am from prairie dog towns and bluebonnet Springs
From family dinners and station wagon road trips
Moving boxes and new school rooms
From brothers and beagles and capture the flags
I am from swimming pools and man made lakes and creosote creek
Home movies and John Wayne and Swiss Family Robinson
I am from Tammy and Old Rugged Cross and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
From special occasions and occasions made special
I am from her songs and his laughter
I am from Rose and John L.
*** I publish this poem again today in memory of my parents,
John L. Gresham 8/1/30 – 4/10/94
Rose A. Gresham 6/1/31- 4/26/16
I miss them everyday but I am proud of their legacy of love for their family and friends.
Driving along the ridge,
Bright sun in a cold sky,
The bar ditch is filled with the first blush of spring.
Effervescent purple henbit covers the ground,
Weeds of childrens delight,
First bouquets of the season.
When my nieces were babes,
These weeds were their favorite flower until their father
Mowed the yard,
Decimating their wild flower garden and bringing bereft tears.
Did my grandfather tell me the tale of why we call the ditches
Along the roadside ‘bar ditches’?
The dirt was borrowed ‘bar-red’
To raise the road, flattened for the wagons then model Ts
To travel above the fields.
Memory sometimes obscures the truth.
I remember that my father died on Palm Sunday,
Though it is not the truth.
But that is the memory I preserve in my life’s mythology.
And it is Palm Sunday once again,
Not the date of his leave taking
But still the day I grieve.
And it is the first day of spring,
The day I remember my nieces’ grief
Over the heaped green weeds across their yard.
On this day, memory, unreliable and exact,
Borrows the joy before the grief…
Its the first of spring and all the birds sing
And little children palm frond process
Waving welcome the King into Jerusalem.
One brother is spending the week in silence.
One brother is spending the week in Amsterdam.
These are not metaphors.
I am spending my week in an alley amongst the dumpsters and broken glass and who knows what that is on the ground
Somewhere between weeping and not weeping.
This is metaphor
And knowing myself like I do,
Since I have spent a good portion of my time in this alley,
It has been swept clean and the dumpsters have been lined up just so and the whatever that was has been washed away.
And I have probably made friends with a cunning rat or two and helped some homeless dude find lodging.
All this is metaphor.
Grief puts you in unexpected geography,
Locales not usually associated with your life.
And you spend a lot of time there,
Weeping and wishing you would stop weeping then thinking, okay, I have stopped weeping
Just to start all over again.
Some of this is metaphor.
And the alley is someplace.
I mean alleys are always the in between places.
The places that separate there from over here.
And all that may or may not be metaphor.
I’m not sure.
Hers were small and china cup delicate
though powerful enough to create our universe.
Her fingers, slim and incandescent, resolving into perfect oval nails.
She scoffed and dismissed those fingers as not enough,
lacking the reach for that next ivory key
reserved for the true concert pianist.
That not good enough created all the sounds of my childhood-
Schubert and Haydn,
tin pan alley,
Lennon and McCartney,
I miss her strong hands, pale and translucent,
I miss my mother’s hands holding my hands.
Blowing hot and cold, angry lovers
rush into each others arms, sparking
into existence their lightning filled
children, giants towering over the land.
Cumulonimbus pillars roiling with winds
and voices of thunder deep
shaking the still naked trees, pounding
aprils warming ground with vernal
tantrums and hailstones, cold and blue.
All this begatting and begetting
awash in the fundamental forgetting
of winters just passed
and springs just springing.
April’s hallelujah of re-creation intones
warming air saturated in pheromones.
Shedding my skin, casting off
the detritus of all winters,
I scrub the windows of my eyes
to reveal what was once true.
Marked by a blue streak
across my forehead, tattooed
no more by the past,
with merlin, I grow younger
I am spring!