From a branch of the family tree

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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

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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

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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.

The Moon Makes Me Laugh

November moon
The moon makes me laugh.
Her face pink-gold with exertion
Pushing past the horizon,
Filling the constellations,
To rise in her nights journey.
As she climbs, she prays
in the voice of my mother,
“I see the moon, the moon sees me.
God bless the moon and God bless me.”

The moon makes me laugh.
Her bright face silver with light,
Gracefully easing into space,
Moving in celestial dance.
As she rises, she sings
In the voice of my father,
“Don’t the moon look lonesome,
shining through the trees.
Don’t the moon look lonesome,
when your baby packs up to leave.”
The moon makes me laugh.

From the dark bedroom
My sleepy voiced husband calls,
What are ya’ll doing? Come to bed.
We can’t, I answer.
We have moon sickness.
As the dogs and I moon-bathe,
Naked on the back porch.

*** this is a poem written a long time ago But I thought with the lovely moon this weekend, I would dust it off and share it again.
The lyrics are from
Sent For You Yesterday by William Count Basie, Eddie Durham and James Rushing. Warner Bros Music, publisher.

always

Nov night

The clouds stand still in the early winter sky
As if a breathless wind held them close
Looking to see if you withdraw your hand
I reach for you and always find you
There
Red maple leaves scattered across the path
Dried bits of life once vibrant
I search your eyes to see if our love
Has dried to dust
And I always find it
There
Winters chill settles deep into the landscape
Sharp frost rings the rattling grass
I lean in for protection against the cold
Longing for your warm embrace
And I find it
There
Always

We were walking – a poem for Advent

Angels of Childhood

We were walking with friends
behind their Minnesota farmhouse,
fields of cornstubble stretching to the winter gray horizon.

Suddenly from under our feet-
a heart stopping flash –
all feathers and noise and wings,
a vision of gold calling in alarm.
With our pulses pounding,
we watched the pheasant disappear.

We laughed at our fear
and marveled at the beauty and wonder
of what we had seen.

This must be what the shepherds felt
in a field a long time ago,
when they flushed
a covey of angels.

***This is a poem written many years ago but still one of my favorites. May you be surprised by joy and wonder during this Christmas season – K

Dove Season

dove

The first of September has always been the opening of dove season in Texas. So all of my young life, that week before was the time Daddy got his shotguns out to clean and rummaged around to pull his hunting vests out of the closet. And many times it meant heading to my grandparents in Waco for the weekend.
Daddy, his dad, my Pampa, and maybe an uncle or cousin, and my brothers (when they were old enough) would wake and head out in the dark of the morning to the leases – property where they had permission to hunt. I imagine they would begin their day at a truck stop or small cafe for a big breakfast, stock up on vienna sausages and saltines for lunch – the beer and cokes were already in the coolers-and then head down a dusty dirt road to a likely spot to start the day.
The dogs would be let out of the cages or the trunks of the cars, given a drink and turned loose to scent the birds. And they would find them.
Dove are ground feeders, so the best leases were grain fields with stock ponds, where there would be plenty of food and water. And doves make a whistling sound as they rise up from the ground. The sound of their wings, loud and furious, as the dogs startled them from their hiding places.
And so the hunt would begin.
It would be dark thirty, as we say in our family, before the sweaty and dusty hunters would be back from their day. And I loved that smell (I know its an odd thing to love) the dust and sweat, the smell of stale beer and cigarettes, the heavy canvas bags, the dead birds, the blood. I would sit on the concrete steps and watch the tiny feathers float in the air as the men cleaned the birds.
Mom and Mamma, my grandmother, would always do the final cleaning, trying to get the very last piece of birdshot out of the meat (though most of the time somebody would bite down on a tiny piece of lead!)
Then it was time to start the cooking. The birds were pan fried with just salt and pepper and a dusting of flour. Mashed potatoes, cream gravy, biscuits and fruit salad rounded out the feast.
On a good hunting day, everyone would get their fill of dove – with the hearts a choice treat. It was a special time for our family.

I guess I am telling you this story because its that time of year and I miss my dad and that sense of belonging in that particular autumn ritual of our family.

And the dove are feeding in my yard.

Here is a poem I wrote years ago about –

Dove Season

My people were dog people.
Hunting dogs, mostly,
Shorthaired pointers, lemon and red,
With royal names, Duchess and Princess-
English setters, liver and white,
Each successor named Zip.

September was dove season-
Guns would be cleaned,
Trips to the leases planned.
Daddy and PamPa, with uncles and brothers in tow,
Leave in the dark morning
With dogs, guns and coolers in the trunk.

Late afternoon in the deepening dusk,
The hunters arrive home
Smelling of fields and gunpowder and beer.
Small still birds spill from canvas bags,
Tiny feathers and the scent of blood
Float in the air–
A pitying of dove.

(revision)

Easy in the Going

She waits
for the word to come down
her train is leaving soon –
ticket purchased
and held tightly
in her beautiful hands.

(parchment pale hands,
thin and strong,
that once held such powerful music.
And in all the keys,
she played our lives
so that we were formed
by the sound of her heart)

She waits for the bells to toll
and for the band to start –
she is easy in the going
and longing
for the gentle rocking of the rails.

… My mother caught her train yesterday morning and arrived in heaven as the angel band played a loving welcome. She was easy in the going and for that we are eternally grateful.

Our Lenten Season

Early Spring Morning

Our Lenten season continues.
Daily rituals of sacrifice and penance are observed
as we struggle with the mysteries of life.

This life filled with –
well, with those things life is filled with –
things that we love and suffer-
faces of loved ones, song, sun and moon,
food and warmth, the aching of need
and want.
We hold fast to breath
and heartbeat, far past the time our legs
and body have become undone.

I repent of all the sins I have committed
against her.
Just as each child is guilty and must be forgiven,
I also forgive her
for all those common sins that mothers commit
against their children
out of habit
or frustration
or love.

We both repent
and with ashes marked on our foreheads
continue on with her morning ablutions
and daily baptism of water
and life.

Blessings of the Day

Nov moon

Blessings of the Day

It’s quiet,
just the creaking of the old house
in the cold wind.

The kitchen is warm,
filling with the satisfying scent
of cornbread baking
and pumpkin spiced with cinnamon and ginger
and just a hint of clove,
ready to meet the oven.

The furnace clicks on
masking the white noise of the monitor
as she sleeps through another episode of Law and Order.

After dark, he will come in from work, tired and dirty,
but ready to make a pecan pie, his specialty.

And then,
as the moon rises,
a beloved child will be here
with husband and new baby in tow
(he of the most definite dark hair and happy countenance).

Tomorrow, we will cook and laugh
and welcome friends
and tell stories
and feast
on love.

I have too many blessings to count.

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*** Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating in the U.S. And to all my Dear Readers, my friends, thank you for your continued friendship and thoughtful reading of my writing. You are all blessings in my life.

September 11

September 11th

How do I explain the rupture
between Then and Now.
When no Safe was Unsafe
and a September morning wasn’t filled with
Cremains and loose paper,
when only Bird Wings fluttered in the blue sky.
How do I tell you of the Fear and Grief,
Personal and Communal,
of people spirited away in dust falling from the sky
mixing with Tears that streaked on all our faces.

I wish I could explain how
our Country’s shifted Foundation
was filled with that Ash and then with desert Sand.
How we were all struck mute
as Doves became hawkish
and Hawks became harsh Patriots.
We all averted our eyes and covered our ears
as Rendition and Enhanced Interrogation
and Warrantless Wiretaps
were wrapped in Patriotic bunting.

I wish I could understand how the new normal
is now just NORMAL –
the shoeless shuffle in airports,
the suspicion of brown skin,
the lilting accents that are now ominous.
And how that September morning,
‘The War against Terror’-
(And it was our TERROR)
is now just another chapter
in high school History books,
dry as Ash and hot desert Sand.

*** A reposting from several years ago. 9/11 still brings me to tears.